Confessions & latest news

Despite careful proofreading, the sample copies of ‘Confessions’ revealed several typos. I really, really hate typos. I corrected all of them n reposted the file on Amazon. ‘Confessions’ should be typo-free now but the book may not be available for shipping until Tuesday, Sep 5.

My sci-fi novel The Glow has been carefully proofread n submitted to a major sci-fi publisher. It will be a few weeks before I get an answer. It might be helpful if I had an agent to help open some doors, but I have an issue with NYC publishers anyway, so maybe not. One of my queries to a NYC publisher received a reply roughly in the vein of “How dare you propose that we publish a book such as you described in your query. Don’t ever contact us again!” That was likely ‘Cross-Dressers From Pluto’ which I finally self-published. Originality and humor just cannot find an audience among agenda-driven Woke NY publishers. That’s why I am open to publishing similar creative works by others. No one else will do it. Agents tend to be in bed with publishers anyway–literally.

‘Confessions’ spy book published – comments

After months in preparation, my latest book, Confessions of a CIA Spy in the Soviet Union, is finally out and available from Amazon. For many years I kept to one side the journal that the CIA requested me to keep, thinking that with the Soviet Union gone, no one would be interested in what it was like to live, or more accurately try to survive, daily life in that Communist country. With the current war in Ukraine and people of all factions and convictions splitting on whom to support and why, or having no interest in the matter under the impression that what happens over there has nothing to do with what happens over here, I thought this little book might be educational as well as entertaining. ‘Over there’ is a lot closer to ‘over here’ than it used to be. I am also finding that many young people today seem to have no idea what the Soviet Union was like, some even advocating similar conceptions to be implemented in this country. Such–to me–is simply astounding.

This is not strictly a political work, but in a sense an exploration of cultural anthropology by a trained anthropologist and historian of Russian and Islamic history. On the other hand, it was quite impossible to refrain from observations and conclusions after many surprising personal experiences and unexpected encounters. Perhaps my most surprising observation was not why the Soviet system did not collapse sooner than it did, but that the S.U. did not so much ‘collapse’ as simply fail to improve over 70 years, and its people simply could see no reason why they should continue with it. When the majority of the people learned the reality of their situation, the regime was doomed. Many people today also seem to equate modern Russia under Putin with the Soviet Union, believing there is little difference. I invite such people to read ‘Confessions’ first and then make the comparison.

Despite my best efforts, today I found several typos in the text. Having promptly corrected them, I hope Amazon does not postpone any deliveries as a result. I did the cover using Amazon’s new cover creator. It was clumsy but seems to have worked. As for the price, it’s just about impossible to put out a substantive book anymore without a $16 price. Even then, given the time and $ that it costs a publisher to do so doesn’t come even close to genuine compensation. There really is no profit in book publishing these days unless one sells tens of thousands of copies, which only the cellophane megacorps have the marketing resources to achieve, which does not include Yours Truly. I hope readers find my latest effort entertaining and informative.

Update on ‘Confessions of a CIA Spy’

I am now in the editing phase, correcting typos and verifying facts. It’s fun relating all the parties I had with friendly Russians and their ever-present vodka even if some portions of my journal aren’t as sharp in my memory as I would like. The journal has much detail so luckily I don’t have to rely much on my memory. Some scenes, of course, stand out clearly even after 33 years. I relate much about what it was like to actually live in a Communist society. I tried to blend in as a common Soviet citizen as much as I could and I learned many lessons.

More Peculiar English Etc

Perhaps the most puzzling to foreigners is ‘ou’. While spelled similarly, pronunciation varies wildly.

‘Though’ is pronounced ‘long O’, as ‘throw’.

‘Through’ however is pronounced ‘u’ as in ‘you’.

‘Could’ is like ‘good’.

‘Thought’ is like ‘awful’.

‘Thorough’ is like ‘throw’ again.

‘Ouch’ and ‘couch’ are pronounced like ‘cow’.

‘Tough’ and ‘enough’ and ‘couple’ are pronounced like ‘stuff’.

Biblical ‘thou’ is pronounced again like ‘cow’.

‘Imminent’ is pronounced almost the same as ’eminent’ but have opposite meanings.

‘Sanction’ includes opposite meanings, either a boycott or an endorsement.

This one confuses every foreigner striving to learn English: ‘straight’, ‘strait’, ‘weight’, and ‘wait’ are all pronounced with a long A, as in ‘state’.

‘Truth’, ‘roof’, and ‘booth’ are usually pronounced the same, as in ‘moo’. But ‘roof’ can also be pronounced ‘uff’, as in ‘hoof’. But ‘hoot’ and ‘poof’ are back to ‘truth’!

‘Break’ is pronounced like ‘brake’, but ‘creak’ is pronounced like ‘eek’.

‘Pipe up’ means speak louder. But ‘pipe down’ means shut up.

Who can make sense of all this? There is no sense to it. English needs to be radically reformed in its spelling. Very few languages have such inconsistencies.

Words ending in -tion, -cian, and -cion all are pronounced ‘shun’.

‘Owe’ as in owing money is ‘throw’ again. But ‘how’ is like ‘cow’. No sense at all.

The ‘ach’ in ‘stomach’ is pronounced ‘uk’. But ‘ache’ is ‘long A’ pronounced like ‘eight’ (!) or ‘ate’. While ‘cache’ is pronounced ‘cash’.

‘Epoch’ in the US is pronounced almost like ‘epic’. But in the UK it is pronounced ‘ee-pock’.

‘Wreck’, pronounced ‘rek’, means destruction, especially of cars. ‘Wreak’ is to inflict a wreck, to destroy something or create disorganization as in ‘to wreak havoc’. ‘Wreak’ is pronounced ‘reek’ as in ‘Greek’.

‘Infer’ and ‘imply’ are often confused, even by native speakers of English. ‘Infer’ means to extract or induct information, while ‘imply’ means to suggest something not obvious.

‘Eunuch’ is a castrated male, sans cojones. Pronounced ‘you nik’. Contrary to ‘Reuters’ which is pronounced like ‘oysters’.

Then there are the homonyms:

‘Peace’ is pronounced the same as ‘piece’. ‘Survive’ the same as ‘serve’. ‘Rush’ the same as ‘Russia’. ‘Scene’ the same as ‘seen’. And ‘worse’ the same as ‘curse’ and ‘hearse.’ How can anyone explain this to foreigners wishing to learn English?

This is why foreigners learning English often can speak it but can’t write it well, or write it with many spelling errors. Not many languages besides English have spelling championships because most are spelled exactly as they sound. Only the chaos of English requires this kind of memorization.

But then there is Arabic! In Arabic Fusha, the classical tongue, almost all nouns are ‘broken nouns’. Like ‘man’ and ‘men’ in English. Every Arabic noun must be memorized therefore in pairs: singular and plural together. Plus most Arabic nouns have multiple plurals that are broken in different ways. That is a prodigious task.

Not to mention Russian. In Russian, the nouns are rational, but every verb comes in pairs and must be memorized together. That’s another kind of chaos requiring more prodigious memorization. But I’ll give Arabic the top score for difficulty due to its hard grammar on top of its required memorization. Russian is not so bad with its cases which are similar to Latin and Greek, tho some Russian words are utterly bizarre in their case construction and require more sweat memorization. Arabic is not so detailed in its cases, but its sentence structure is utterly unlike any Western language typically beginning with the verb, followed by modifying clauses, then the object with more modifying words, and finally the subject of the sentence. But word order, as in Russian, is not important in Arabic. Why do I bother reading these three crazy languages and just learn Esperanto?

No ChatGPT here!

ChatGPT is the latest proof of the collapse in public literacy. The proof is that some so-called “publishers” are using ChatGPT to write “books” and the public is buying them. ChatGPT can never write original quality literary fiction. I offer $1,000 to anyone who can prove that any AI program at all has written a novel of fiction equivalent in quality to mine including original plot and characters and in my writing style. Will never happen.

Language Lovers

I am giving a new byline to Equus: “Books for Language Lovers” since that is more in tune with the real substance of the books that I write and my writing style. My books are about language, its beauty and its poetry and are not really aimed at a particular audience. As I often say, my books should be read aloud since the sound and meter of the language is part of the message. If one is reading rapidly then s/he is missing much of the book. Unlike most people today, I am not focused on the image of the moment, or videos, or media, but I am “perpetually floating on a sea of script”, on meaning as revealed by scrawls on parchment.

The Thing with Slogans

I am constantly amazed at how Americans seem to judge everything by first impressions. On occasion I hear people comment about clothing, for instance someone might see a T-Shirt that says Astros and they immediately assume that one supports the Astros. Or they see a hat with a big A on it and assume one supports the Atlanta Braves. I have zero interest in organized sports and I was only barely aware that the Astros were a baseball team or that an A signifies the Atlanta Braves or that the Braves have anything to do with baseball until people waved and smiled or yelled “Go Atlanta!” Is the “Braves” even correct? I’m not sure. To me, these are just a T-shirt and a hat which I change often with no regard for what is printed on them.

Same with usernames online. I find that people often completely misinterpret online names, assuming they mean something when usually they don’t mean anything at all having been randomly selected. I once selected a username that sounded a bit like marijuana and people would–mysteriously to me–leap to the conclusion that I must smoke pot. I don’t. Now it has become almost impossible to tell a joke online. People often miss the joke entirely and conclude that the statement was serious and that I was trying to insult someone and they go berserk. Very puzzling to me since I never deliberately insult anyone and certainly not online.

Visual impressions are also typically wrong. If people see a person in a wheelchair, they often conclude that the person is crippled and cannot walk. Movies often use this as a trope where the person in the wheelchair suddenly gets up and stands and the audience is supposed to be surprised and realise that the person was completely normal and doesn’t need the wheelchair. Whereas in real life there is rarely such a thing as someone who is so disabled that s/he cannot take a single step and from what I have learned over the years is people in wheelchairs just need assistance and can often walk for short distances. There is nothing deceptive about this at all, only the short-sightedness and ignorance of observers.

Now to books. I have seen books that advertise that by reading the book one can reliably come to conclusions about people from a single glance, like Blink. This is total nonsense! It only reinforces the tangle of misimpressions that unthinking people have. I have read so-called  ‘reviews’ of books that are themselves genuine works of art and when I looked at the book itself I discover that the book is trash written by the equivalent of a six year old. Perhaps Equus should publish a collection of reviews because that were written better than the books ostensibly reviewed.

Book covers are the same. The most beautiful book covers I find typically camouflage trashy books. Plain vanilla covers often cover intelligent, well-written ones. Why don’t book readers take the extra step and go to Amazon and click on the Look Inside button before they buy? They would immediately see that reviews and covers may be irrelevant. I knew a novice writer of little talent who threw together a Kindle in a couple of weeks, put on a sexy cover, and sold large numbers of his ‘book’ for .99 each. He made a lot of money, tho he did have to pay a lot more to a team of promoters who talked up his ‘book’ on FB. More fake reviews, which paired with the fake cover, tricked many into buying his product. Who will read such after he dies? Or even next month? How has he contributed anything to civilization with his Kindle?

Slogans suffer from the same defect. Given the small ability that most people seem to have in perceiving value or facts, and their tendency to focus on short slogans of little meaning, the voting public seems obsessed with slogans and respond to them as if they were responding to a new-colored toilet cleaner. Programmed to buy something bright and shiny, they are always disappointed when the election is over.


Update on Confessions

I have finished the section on Central Asia. Some events I recall clearly even after 33 years. Many I have completely forgotten. I rely on my journal to describe those events. Many more events coming up, including a train trip across Ukraine which, like my entire trip, I undertook alone.

Updates on ‘Confessions of a CIA Spy’

My stay in the Soviet Union was back in 1990. I had just finished a Master’s degree at an Ivy League University in Russian-Muslim relations and I was in a hurry to expand my Russian language and go to the Soviet Union since it was clear to me that it was on the verge of collapse, contrary to what my academic advisors thought. My chief advisor, now long dead, told me that the SU would last centuries, slowly declining like the Ottoman Empire. I could not persuade him otherwise. This was probably because he was a devout class-war Marxist so he could not see the problems. It was like he had blinders on. Although he taught me Russian history, he himself had never been to Russia, which was something I found odd.

He also tried to persuade me to abandon my study of Arabic. “They speak Uzbek in Uzbekistan, not Arabic,” he insisted. I tried to inform him that all places within the Islamic cultural zone had pious Muslims who would absolutely know classical Quranic Arabic. Again I could not persuade him of this. He did not know that I had applied to the CIA and had been recommended for employment. This was only due to my specialty in the history of Russian-Muslim relations which was virtually unknown at the time there being almost no specialists in the US on this topic. My goal in the SU was not only to do graduate research on this topic but to make contact with pious Muslims and ascertain what they thought and what their plans for the future may be.

Writing the book is bringing back many old memories. Today’s youth have little understanding of what the SU was and how Russians in the SU lived. Few Americans did in 1990, even fewer now. If my advisor on Russian history did not know, how could the general public? This book details my daily interactions with Russians and their Soviet institutions. It was quite an eye-opener. Readers who buy the book will likely find it equally informative. This book is proving very easy to write. While I was in Russia I kept a daily journal which I am using.

I also spent time in Kiev where I came to learn much about how Ukrainians regarded Russians. This too is informative on current events there. More updates later.

More Bad English

Instructional and some pet peeves.

There are many subtle differences in English, both as written and when spoken, which not only foreigners don’t know but many native English speakers get wrong. For instance, lay versus lie: one lies down but one lays an egg. Yesterday I lay down while my chicken lay an egg. Both are correct.

Foreigners often confuse “mean”. For example, “I think you mean to say” intends to say “I think you intend to say”, but “I think you are mean” changes the meaning entirely. This says “I think you are a bad person.” Foreigners often get insulted when one says “I think you mean to say”, when one only is trying to say “I think your intent is something different than what you are saying” and no insult is intended.

“Hold” and “held” is also confusing to foreigners. “Holding up” means raising something or being restricted in some way. A “hold up”, OTOH, is a robbery. While “being held up” can be either being lifted upward or being restricted in some sense but does not imply that any robbery occurred.

Even English speakers often don’t seem to know the difference between “laser” and “lazar”. Lazar is a name with emphasis on the second syllable. But a laser is an intense beam of light. I can only infer that many young people today are functionally illiterate since they often don’t know the difference.

“Who’s” is not the same as “whose”. “Who’s” is a contraction of “Who is”. “Whose” refers to ownership.

I have also seen people confuse arrogant with ignorant. True, some people are both. But arrogant means unjustifiably proud while ignorant is not knowing what most educated people know.

Then there is “counsel” versus “council”. To counsel someone is to give advice. A council is an official collection of persons. A counselor is a lawyer or similar; a councilor is someone who sits in a council. But in Britain I think a councilor or councillor may also counsel. I’m not sure.

Foreigners often don’t realize that “have” in the sense of possession is pronounced H-A-V. While “have” in the sense of “one must” is spelled exactly the same but pronounced differently: H-A-F. As in “I have to do this”.

Similarly, “they’re” means “they are”, while “their” is possessive, but “there” refers to a location. All are pronounced the same.

Many also confuse “revise” with “review”. To revise something is to change it; to review something is to inspect it before revising it. But in Britain “to revise” may also mean “to review”. Again I am not certain. Maybe someone could enlighten me.

Then we have “homogeneous” versus “homogenous”. Homogenous refers to milk. Emphasis is on the second syllable. Homogeneous refers to people. Emphasis is on the third syllable. Even very educated people often confuse these two.

Educated people also often confuse “prescribed” with “proscribed”. Doctors prescribe prescriptions for medicine. Governments proscribe criminals from voting, which means prohibiting them from voting.

Technically, “per cent” is more correct than “percent” but everyone writes it as percent anyway.

Just as technically, the correct way to pronounce “Armageddon” is to emphasize the third syllable, but sometimes informed people will pronounce it as Ar-MAG-eddon, emphasis on the second syllable. The latter way is equally correct but will likely trigger someone to “correct” the pronunciation to the third syllable.

And “pronunciation” is correct while “pronounciation” is not. I often hear even educated people say “pronounciation” which is never correct.