Influenza Major

I’m currently reading the Great Influenza by John M. Barry. It is a book about the epidemic Spanish Influenza that killed nearly twenty-five million worldwide during and after the Great War. One thing that strikes me as poignant is the overriding hubris of the government in censoring news about the disease.

It was war time, yes, but that does not justify an executive branch to infringe on a first amendment right as granted by fiat of the legislative and by popular accord of the people. Wilson took other measures in hand, securing an almost autocratic control of the homefront in service to the battle front. Intimidation to ensure sales of the Liberty Bonds, censorship put in place to ensure that no news would be released if it might affect the morale of the people or the troops.

Most relevantly, this last, led to a serious failure of leadership during the fall and winter of 1918, when the Influenza was at its worst. Newspapers reported that nothing was wrong. Look at the reassurances of public health officials. It’s going to be all right, the government will protect us. Others simply remained silent, saying nothing about the influenza virus.

This censorship proved to cause more problems than it solved. As Barry points out, and as is relevant today, it created a breach of trust between the people and the government. The lies bandied about by Wilson’s appointed health officers was evidenced by a simple walk in the street. Bodies lay on porches and in hallways. Morgues and cold stores overflowed with bodies. How could this much death lead to so little concern on the part of the government? It must be a farce.

This wouldn’t be the first time the government lost the trust of the people, and it wouldn’t be the last by any means.

Noy And Her Ungrateful Husband Khamsouk

I’m excited to finally announce that tonight, come midnight, Noy Andrew Her Ungrateful Husband Khamsouk, will hit the Kind,e digital store. I set the pre-release date for June1, and then proceeded to promptly forget what day I took was, all week. Sothe night has finally come. The day is here.

Noy and Her Ungrateful Husband Khamsouk is the story of a Lao couple who are trying to navigate political corruption, desire, and paranoia. It’s a story authentic in its inspiration, many of the instances cited I experienced in some way, though the objects may be entirely different. The characters are fictitious but the events are entirely plausible.

When I worked in Laos, we contacted a political machinist company. They not only provided high level information about the politics and power of Southeast Asia, but they also related a story. In Vietnam, their client was the victim of false registration of land in the cadastral records. He had bought a strip of land with promising mineral deposits. But a clerk found out about this value and switched the registrations. This company then used connections furthermore up in the hierarchy to restore the land to it so iriginal owner.

That was in Vietnam, in Laos such corruption is even more endemic. Ministry Parkin gloats full of minimum wage earners taking home a hundred dollars are filled with Lexus, Mercedes, and SUVs. Where they get the money. . .i don the know, but there is a long and fruitful history of corruption in the country.

That’s why Noy And Her Ungrateful Husband Khamsouk is something that reflects my genuine experience in a country I love. And it’s  available for download on starting at midnight tonight, June 1st.

Military Commitments and Republicans

“Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s (Frederick Lewis Allen) – Highlight on Page 27 | Loc. 494-98 | Added on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, 11:07 PM Lodge rose in the Senate to express his preferences for national independence and security, to insist that Articles X and XI of the League Covenant gave “other powers” the right “to call out American troops and American ships to any part of the world,” and to reply to Wilson: “We would not have our politics distracted and embittered by the dissensions of other lands. We would not have our country’s vigor exhausted, or her moral force abated, by everlasting meddling and muddling in every quarrel, great and small, which afflicts the world.”

I’m currently reading the above contemporaneous history of the 1920s. The above is a recital of some of what Henry Cabot Lodge said in the Senate in response to the Versailles Treaty. Now, while it is sound and in fact exactly what George Washington said in his going away speech way back when, it is odd to hear these words come from an ardent Republican.

Especially in light of the Republican Party now. They have become the party of the military-industrial complex, funding military research and expansion. Furthermore, they have become the Party of military commitment, as under Reagan we fought covertly in Afghanistan and Grenada, but committed ourselves to countless bases and containment policies which meant commitments of armed forces. And then under Bush we committed ourselves to a policy of containment against Iraq, imposing a no-fly zone under his leadership that continued through to Bush W.

I also have had conversations with diehard republicans who would much rather fund a military so big we can’t even use it all, and for which there is no need, than universal healthcare of any other policy of humanity and human rights. It is ironic that this is such a concrete difference between the two parties, that the military is so much a part of the Republican agenda that it isn’t even an issue during elections. It’s unassailable.

Guns and butter. There is only so much money to go around and if you buy guns with the money then you can’t buy butter. Buy butter and you can’t buy guns. The key is finding a balance between the two, something which has not occurred yet, and which may not occur until we have a major makeover of the politicians and their drive for money and power.



Psychotisicity (I know it’s not a word)

I am crazy. When I first went to Vietnam in 2003, I had a psychotic episode that resulted in me believing, for eight years, that I had been the victim of a very well concocted scheme to drug me in my hotel room, rape me, and then spread the news all over Vietnam. This I believed for a long time, especially as I was delusional as well. For eight years I regularly experienced related hallucinations and delusions.

I went through the horrid process of “repentance” in the Mormon Church and then left the church. I even went through the events with a psychologist in California and no one had the idea that it might be a hallucination. I suppose I was that lucid.

I probably was, because in 2010, while living and working in Cambodia, I went crazy again. This time the psychotic episode caused me to focus on three possibilities. I was either being gaslit by my employers, the government of Cambodia, or the Mormon church. But there was so much more. There were incidents of knee pain. I thought for a good long time that I was dying from internal bleeding caused by the disintigration and separation of my knees. This left me bedridden over and over. I tried to kill myself with a torn Coke can, and I broke my glasses to try to get something sharp with which to kill myself. I figured a quick bleedout would be much preferred to a lengthy, painful death caused by internal bleeding.

None of these things worked and I continued my psychosis unhindered. I went to the American Embassy several times, once in my boxers, wandered around the city, going up and down from the embassy to my hotel and back. I had no money. I begged for green tea to drink as it was free and water cost money. I ended up in the hospital where they gave me pot pills for the pain, and where I hallucinated that I had to die for every sin I’d ever committed. I pulled an IV out of my arm and shoved a male nurse back with a fist. I’m not sure if I hurt him.

My cousin, who lived in Bangkok at the time, came to help me, but I quickly lost him in the city that I had walked through for nearly a year. It wasn’t until I got sane enough to wander back to the embassy and claim my passport missing that we got my final payment from my employer, paid for my hospital stay and got my passport back, and escorted me to the airport.

That’s a bit of my craziness, I’m sure more will emerge later.



A Bit of Laos

Laos. I suppose I should write briefly on that subject considering I have a book set in the country coming out next week. I lived in Laos for nearly three and a half years and during that time made some of the best friends of my life. I also consumed an unholy amount of alcohol, tried to kill myself twice, and in general mucked things up by performing at the level of a delusional alcoholic who thinks he’s functional.

That said, there are amazing things and terrible things about the country. To touch on the latter, first, my employer lost his entire investment to business partners and the government over the period of several years, despite efforts to bring international powers to bear.

The good, though, are the people. Those who have not been corrupted by power or money or cars or prestige tend to be good and genuine people. They are friendly and will share a beer if they have one. They like you even more if you buy the beer and share it with them. And the beer . . . Beer Laos is amazing. It’s a lovely lager with the taste of mountain spring. If that’s a taste.

After dating a guy intermittently, he told me that it cost a thousand dollars to get a job in a ministry, which paid him the same amount of money as he was currently making, a hundred dollars a month. But shortly after he got the job, he started posting things on facebook about cars and houses and property. A really interesting anecdote concerning the way that money and power works in Laos.

Why did I try to kill myself? Well, one time, the first, I was coming down off a trip on Ketamine. That just riddled me with depression and as I was sitting at my computer at work, the idea of trying to off myself just seemed like a good one. So I tried it. Luckily, you can’t really kill yourself with Valium, a small dose of Ketamine, and copious amounts of Beer Laos. The second time, I think I was drinking so much that the alcohol overcame the meds and I went whacko.

Luckily I had an understanding boss.

But Laos is a great place. I would like to go back, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to resist the urges of drugs and alcohol for very long. I plan to visit, but that is all I can promise at this point in time. Until I know I can live without the booze in those triggering atmospheres I must abstain. Otherwise I won’t write, and I won’t accomplish the things I want to accomplish.




State Controlled Buddhism

For years I’ve thought that the Confucian beliefs entered Vietnam as a result of efforts by Le Thanh Tong, second emperor of the Le Dynasty in the fifteenth century. While it is true that he was raised in Chinese courts and learned the tenants of Confucianism, and he later did his part to embrace the philosophy and spread it as not only an administrative tool but a way of life among his people, he was not the only emperor with such aspirations.

Ming Manh, the second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, used the ideas of Confucianism, particularly the peasant’s attitudes towards the emperor, as a way to control his country. Not only did he seek to use Confucianism to unite a country divided by internal differences and rebellions, but he used the Sangha as well.

This, perhaps, is one of the more interesting points of what I’m currently studying. Ming Manh and the Nguyen Dynasty–begun at the birth of the nineteenth century–used Mahayana Buddhism to replace the Angkor Theravada Buddhism. Throughout the south of Vietnam, Dai Nam, Ming Manh replaced Buddhist temples of one sect with another, imposing his imperial spirits on the superstitions of the people in the Mekong Valley.

Not only did he harness Buddhism for his own means, but he fostered the animism of the people as something unique to Vietnam, something that was supported and endorsed by the government. More than anyone since Le Thanh Tong, Ming Manh was the emperor who used religion to control the state. Even though much of what he and his father accomplished came from the import of Chinese style, Confucian laws, and the Mandarin state sponsored tests that promised advancement on merit, he still felt it necessary to stamp down on hostile religions and impose his own beliefs in an attempt to unify a divided Vietnam.

One of the reasons I find this interesting is that during my tenure in Laos (where I read extensively) one of the major themes of Laos’ nationalization under Kaysone Phomvihane was his use of the Buddhist Sangha to spread Nationalistic propaganda through the monks to the people. Have other countries outside of Asia used the church in such a way? I don’t know. I do know that I need to reread Benedict Anderson.


I did not know that Germany after the end of the war was Red. This little tidbit of information I learned in the last chapters of The Stillness Heard Round the World by Stanley Weintraub. It is a well written book, though many of its pages are devoted to celebrations around the world, there are also poignant concerns and chapters devoted to political machinations among great powers.

What interests, me, though, is in the last few days of the Great War, the German home front not only saw the resignation of the Kaiser and his sons, but also the reformation of society into Citizen and Soldier Counsels. These Counsels were formed in the heritage of a commune, and decisions for each Counsel were made in the Counsels themselves. If a Soldier’s counsel wanted to return to Munish, or Berlin, then that decision had to be made together. It was an inefficient process at the time, forcing a new form of rule on a confused and worried populace.

This process came beneath the more well recognized formation of the Weimar Republic that replaced the Kaiser and his mates from their kingdom of Prussia. The soldatenraten, as they were called, wore red crepe on their arms to symbolize the red in their hearts. It was a conflict that created something of civil unrest in the war torn country, and the people, many of whom preferred a republic to a socialist state, while not necessarily raising weapons against the soldiers who came back from the front disillusioned and hardened by their experiences, the citizen counsels did their best to encourage those soldiers who hadn’t already, to don red crepe and join a soldatenraten.

The book ended with a brief account of Hitler’s first attempt to gain power in a coup held on the five year anniversary of the Armistice. By 1923, then, Germany was still a place where extremists could provide inspiration to a people adrift in political agony and shame from the Great War.


Sleep Inertia

So sleep. It’s the thing that causes me to lose more productivity than anything. I end up sleeping most of the day, or until I have to go to my minimal wage position at Office Max. And previous searches on the internet have led me into the same bullshit advice about getting up early.

So here’s what I found.

First off, Prozac and Tricyclic anti-depressants can affect the body’s natural Circadian rhythms. This is simply a side effect of the meds and is something that an ambitious mental freak will have to deal with. Being freakish myself, well, that’s something I have to deal with too. But the way in which these meds affect the sleep process is in the NREM phase of sleep.

NREM is non-REM sleep, or non-rapid eye movement sleep. This is a three phase part of sleep that is where the deepest sleep occurs. NREM sleep takes place before REM sleep and though REM sleep is the brain’s way of dealing with processing events and physical reactions from the day, NREM sleep is deep sleep, and without it you are left with a groggy and cognitively whacky lack of ability. It affects cognitively challenging actions more than physically repetitive actions. Sleep Inertia can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to several hours depending on the individual and the point at which deep sleep was interrupted by waking.

One more point before I discuss possible solutions, and there are some promising homeopathic solutions, is the nature of this sleep pattern. Each cycle of sleep, including both NREM and REM sleep is approximately 90 minutes long. Thus if one were to take a nap, the ideal times are thirty minutes (long enough to get some rest but not so long as to be submerged into deep sleep), or 90 minutes (long enough to cycle completely through a sleep cycle.) Naps are actually one of the recommended actions, though the timing is vital lest you awake and empower the Sleep Inertia.

And now, a few recommendations.

Napping, as discussed above, though it is important to awake at the right times. Sleeping in multiples of 90 minutes. So if you wake up at seven, you’d want to go to sleep at either ten or eleven thirty pm. That way you time your wake-up to match your body’s natural rhythms. Then there is the waking up gradually, using something that lulls you out of deep sleep before waking you up. Soft music that grows slowly in volume, or natural light–meaning keep your curtains transparent enough to allow light in.

And then there’s the regular tips. Keep a regular sleep schedule, going to sleep and waking up at the same time, even though it may mean an early night and morning on the weekends.

Now, I don’t know how well these tips work, though I’m going to experiment with them over the next few days and weeks. I will return with results once I have them.






Soldiers in Drag, WWI Style

Short one today. I’m still reading the Weintraub book about the end of the Great War (WWI). An interesting anecdote arose as I was reading this evening. Apparently, days before the armistice was signed, troops began to retreat on the power of rumours and innuendo from other soldiers. One squad found themselves in a practically untouched village.

The squad entered a house to find a room full of beds and a chest of drawers full of women’s things: underwear, dresses, etc. Without hesitation they proceeded to strip down from their Army uniforms, full of lice and insects and stink from the trenches, and proceeded to lay on the beds and pass out immediately. They didn’t care that they were dressed as women.

Homosexuality during the Great War is little understood or known. (See this article from the Guardian reviewing a Forgotten Voices of the Somme, by Joshua Levine). As with Imperial British protocol, buggery, or homosexual sex, was forbidden by law–something which was enforced even more in the military. Another article in Vada Magazine adds detail to the plight of homosexuals during the war.

I am a big fan of Patrick O’Brien and his Aubrey and Maturin series of books. They follow the continuing adventures of two characters in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Era. They frequently mention buggery as a charge against members of the crew and discuss it as a posting offence–essentially worthy of a whipping and possibly a rationing of their rum allowance. Whether this was the actual policy of the military I don’t know, but it makes for an interesting side note.

As a gay man in Trump’s America, I worry that the culture wars will end up with a world far more liberal than the one I live in. It is especially worrisome as Trump and the Republican Congress could easily pass laws threatening workers rights and other hard won civil rights for queer men and women.

But that’s for another discussion.

Photo appears here. Along with the caption that this is apparently Brigham Young’s son in drag. Who knew?


The False Armistice

i have read a great deal about the Great War in my research for my, as yet unpublished novel, Nobody’s Heroes. While I focused on the African-American experience as that was the focus of my novel, I have also read widely about some of the lesser known detail she of the war.

for instance, the armistice was not signed in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It was signed several hours earlier and went into effect at the eleventh hour. This myth of the Great War is possibly the most egregious and wide spread, especially as reference Tom it ha she become idiom. It is not the only piece of interestingly information regarding the ending of the war.

ive just started reading A Stillness Heard Round the World, by Stanley Weintraub. The first chapter is a recital of a myth in formation, though it goes unknown today. Four days before the armistice was actually signed and became effective, a reporter for the United Press issued a wire to the effect that an armistice had been signed Andrew the war was ended. It would take later investigation to uncover the truth behind how this rumor started, but it spread like wildfire. From New York where a ticker tape parade happened impromptu (and this before ticker tape parades existed) to Pennsylvania where the mayor of Philadelphia rang the liberty bell with a small hammer, the rumor flew on wings of electricity.

the celebrations moved west, though Chicago was raine out and the parade turned intimate a muddy mess. In California the celebrations were just as rowdy as those along the east coast. Hell, even the President came out to wave and smile at the crowd of excited citizens. His waving white handkerchief gave vehemence to the rumour of armistice, and kicked the roaring and celebratory throng into high gear. It was pure luck that a riot didn’t start when news of the false story hit the streets. There was some minimal rioting in New York where a few windows were smashed and a few goods stolen, but nonetheless the crowd stood dispersed with equanimity and depression.

The war wasn’t over, not yet.