Monday, August 31, 2015

An entirely different sort of cat-fish!

Two men went fishing on the Black Warrior River in Alabama over the weekend.  What they caught wasn't what they expected.

Who the hell would be so cruel as to abandon kittens in a place like that?  I hope their rescuers took care of them, and found them new homes.


Watch out for new charges and fees

The Planning And Foresight blog has a useful warning for those of us who may not read all those e-mails and circulars from our banks with enough attention.

The slow collapse of our economy will bring about new fees and taxes so that the government and companies can maintain their cash flow. For example, my ... local bank decided that all savings account that have been dormant for 6 months or more will be assessed a maintenance fee of $6.00/month. While $6.00 a month is a small amount, the total cost for one year is $72.00 for digitally maintaining an INACTIVE account.

There's more at the link.  It's a very timely heads-up to us all.

Note that the $6.00 'maintenance fee' is for doing nothing.  The bank doesn't incur any extra cost to let your account sit in its electronic records.  It's just trying to milk you for every penny it can suck out of your pockets. With money getting tight for almost everyone, look for more businesses - not just banks - to try tacking on additional fees and charges.  I'm already seeing that in, for example, vehicle service centers.  Their bills now often add a few dollars here and there for 'consumables' or 'disposal of waste products' - things that used to be non-itemized, covered in the overall charge.  (I note that the latter hasn't gotten any smaller after those line items were separated out . . . )


The calls to kill get louder

As a grimly relevant adjunct to my previous post about crime, cops and communities, the voices calling for racially-based violence (especially against police) got louder last weekend.

Members of the #FYF911 or #F**YoFlag and #BlackLivesMatter movements called for the lynching and hanging of white people and cops. They encouraged others on a radio show Tuesday night to “turn the tide” and kill white people and cops to send a message about the killing of black people in America.

One of the F**YoFlag organizers is called “Sunshine.” She has a radio blog show hosted from Texas called, “Sunshine’s F***ing Opinion Radio Show.”

. . .

During the show, callers clearly call for “lynching” and “killing” of white people.

A 2:39 minute clip from the radio show can be heard here. It was provided to Breitbart Texas by someone who would like to be referred to as “Hannibal.” He has already received death threats as a result of interrupting #FYF911 conference calls.

An unidentified black man said “when those mother f**kers are by themselves, that’s when when we should start f***ing them up. Like they do us, when a bunch of them ni**ers takin’ one of us out, that’s how we should roll up.”  He said, “Cause we already roll up in gangs anyway. There should be six or seven black mother f**ckers, see that white person, and then lynch their ass. Let’s turn the tables.”

They conspired that if “cops started losing people,” then “there will be a state of emergency.”

He speculated that one of two things would happen, “a big-ass [R’s?????] war,” or “ni**ers, they are going to start backin’ up.”

“We are already getting killed out here so what the f**k we got to lose?”

Sunshine could be heard saying, “Yep, that’s true. That’s so f**king true.”

There's more at the link, and at the provided link on YouTube.  I hardly need to add that there's a serious profanity alert at the latter link.

Remember what I said some years ago about the changing urban self-defense environment?   Those words are more true now than they were then.  Don't think that these people are just talking about criminal violence.  Some of them are committing it as well.  The crime figures demonstrate that, the latest tragic example being Deputy Darren Goforth in Texas last Friday.

Please be prepared, and be careful.  Don't become a crime statistic yourself.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cops, crime, corruption, communities and violence

I was terribly saddened to read of the pointless, senseless murder of yet another peace officer last week, this time in Texas.  It's the latest in a string of deaths on duty for the 'thin blue line', and there's no end in sight.  Sheriff Hickman said of the latest tragedy:

Hickman said Goforth was apparently singled out only because he was wearing the uniform of a law enforcement officer. The sheriff made it clear he felt the shooting was tied to a national backlash over several recent killings of unarmed black people by police officers.

"When rhetoric ramps up to the point where cold-blooded assassination has happened, this rhetoric has gotten out of control," he said. "We heard 'black lives matter.' All lives matter. Well, cops' lives matter too, so why don't we drop the qualifier and say 'lives matter' and take that to the bank."

There's more at the link.

I think we're approaching a point where there has to be a fundamental re-evaluation of what we - society as a whole - expects and wants our law enforcement officers to be.  There appear to be two widely differing perspectives on the matter.  One side wants minimal law enforcement commensurate with civil rights and liberties.  The other wants much stricter law enforcement, even if it violates civil rights and liberties, on the grounds that public safety necessitates it.  (Unfortunately for the second approach, crime in cities and areas with that approach to law enforcement appears to be at least as bad as anywhere else, and frequently worse.)

There's the issue of police themselves.  We expect them to be paragons of virtue;  but then we send them into situations where their daily interactions are usually with the dregs of society, where they're exposed to violence, threats, lies, filth and the worst that people have to offer.  Is it any wonder that they become hardened and cynical, viewing most people (including the 'good guys') as potential law-breakers, regarding everyone as a potential threat until proven otherwise?

There's also the problem of police becoming primarily fund-raising machines for themselves and their localities.  I've experienced this myself in Nashville, TN, where I live.  Last year I was stopped and issued a ticket for speeding, without the Metro PD officer providing any proof at all that I had, indeed, been speeding.  When I protested, he informed me that he wasn't required to do so.  He agreed that I could take the matter to court if I wished, but pointed out (rather smugly, I thought) that even if I won, I'd still be required to pay more in court costs than the fine he was issuing me.  I was basically in a no-win situation.  I thought very seriously about fighting the ticket in court, as a matter of principle;  but that would have meant going into town, waiting a full day (possibly longer) for the case to come up, having to come back again if the officer couldn't be there, and all sorts of bureaucratic hassles (as well as having to pay the aforementioned court costs whether I won or lost).  It wasn't worth the trouble.

As far as I'm concerned, this was nothing more or less than legalized robbery, and my opinion of Metro PD and of its officers has plummeted. Anyone willing to work for an agency that practices such extortion has already branded himself as worthless, IMHO.  As a result, I've lost almost all respect for Metro PD and its officers.  Unfortunately, there are all too many such agencies out there, and all too many officers willing to work for them, and all too many local governments eager to use their law enforcement agencies as fund-raising machines.

St. Louis County in Missouri is a classic example.  Read these reports to see what I mean.

It's not just there, either.  It's all over the country.

Answer me this:  how are we supposed to have any respect at all for law enforcement officers (or their agencies) who engage in these shenanigans?

I suspect this is a major part of the problem with certain elements of society who resent, distrust and fear law enforcement.  Some are just plain criminal, and deserve no consideration.  Others . . . no, others have a real problem.  They've been treated so badly, for so long, that they've lost sight of the fact that the law is there for a reason.  They see it - and those who enforce it - as more of a burden, more of a threat, than a blessing to society.  In time, they come to see peace officers as active enemies . . . and they respond accordingly.  I have to struggle against this myself, now.  When I see a Nashville Metro PD officer or vehicle, my immediate, unspoken reaction is, "Oh - another jerk looking to rip me off."  That's probably very unfair to the officer(s) concerned, but it's also entirely rational and logical, considering my experience last year.  That's unlikely to change anytime soon.

The trouble is, there are good law enforcement agencies and officers out there.  I'm privileged to have some of them among my friends:  JPG, Matt, Lawdog, Murphy's Law, Captain Tightpants and a number of others.  I know that all of them treat good citizens as such, with respect and professionalism.  I've worked in the law enforcement field myself, and tried very hard to do the same. To this day I carry retired LE credentials.  I know there are 'good cops' out there . . . but there seem to be a whole lot less of them than there used to be.  That's a tragedy.  What's worse, those good officers are now the targets of criminals who see all police, good or bad, as their enemies, to be shot on sight for no other reason except that they exist.  That's what seems to have happened in Texas a few days ago.  I live in the daily awareness that it could happen to one of my friends at any moment, for no reason at all except that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  That's scary as hell for me, and even more so for them and their families.  Many of them are angry about it, and I don't blame them.

Sir Robert Peel put forward nine 'Peelian Principles', which have been the bedrock of community policing in democracies throughout the world.  The seventh of these Principles reads:

To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

I submit that far too many law enforcement officers and agencies have lost sight of that truth.  It's certainly honored far more in the breach than in the observance, in my experience.  That's perhaps the root of the resentment, anger and bitterness directed against police by so many today.  They're no longer seen as members of the public, but as oppressors of the public.  If we want to change the relationship between police and public, we've got to re-establish a right relationship between them.  At the moment, police all too often portray themselves like this:

How do we get from that, back to this?

How do we get police to respect and uphold the rights of citizens, when they so seldom deal with citizens who respect their rights in return?  I just don't know . . . but I do know that what we're in right now is a no-win situation.  Things can't go on like this, because if they do, the good cops will leave.  Their lives are worth more to them than the risks they'll have to face to continue as peace officers.  That will mean the dregs take over . . . those who don't give a damn about citizens or their rights, and will lord it over everyone and throw their weight around behind the authority of their badges.  The more they do that, the more of them will die, and the worse the situation will get.

What's the answer?


The Cinder Cone

Courtesy of a link at Miss K's place, we find this very interesting video of a group of friends building their dream in the hills of Washington state.  The music's nostalgic, the fun they're having is obvious, and everything's laid back.  I enjoyed it.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

I wouldn't want to live in a tree house myself, but a cottage on one of those headlands . . . that might be very nice indeed.


When a win isn't a win after all

We've spoken several times before about the parlous financial situation in various States, including Illinois.  It looks as if that parlous situation is having wider effects.

After years of struggling financially, Susan Rick thought things were looking up when her boyfriend won $250,000 from the Illinois Lottery last month. She could stop working seven days a week, maybe fix up the house and take a trip to Minnesota to visit her daughter.

But because Illinois lawmakers have not passed a budget, she and her boyfriend, Danny Chasteen, got an IOU from the lottery instead.

. . .

Under state law, the state comptroller must cut the checks for lottery winnings of more than $25,000. And lottery officials said that because lawmakers have yet to pass a budget, the comptroller's office does not have legal authority to release the funds.

. . .

"The lottery is a state agency like many others, and we're obviously affected by the budget situation," Illinois Lottery spokesman Steve Rossi said. "Since the legal authority is not there for the comptroller to disburse payments, those payments are delayed."

While Rossi said winners will eventually receive their money once a budget is in place, the promise is cold comfort for Rick.

"You know what's funny? If we owed the state money, they'd come take it and they don't care whether we have a roof over our head," Rick said. "Our budget wouldn't be a factor. You can't say (to the state), 'Can you wait until I get my budget under control?' "

There's more at the link.

The budget impasse in Illinois is because the Democratic Party-controlled legislature wants to continue to borrow billions upon billions of dollars to fund entitlement and social spending, while the Governor wants to curtail borrowing and live within the state's means.  This is what happens when those priorities collide;  and I'm willing to bet that it won't be long before the same conflict arises in other States too.  Meanwhile, it sucks to be a big lottery winner there.

(Hey - if the State can pay your winnings with an IOU, why can't you pay your taxes the same way?  Seems only fair to me . . . )


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Around The Blogs 2015-08-29

Time for another collection of interesting posts and articles from around the blogosphere.

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Nicki at The Liberty Zone fisks an idiot who objects to an NRA sticker on a vehicle.  It's superb!  Go read.

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Jill Kandel, who works with prison inmates, reflects on 'The Doors We Walk Through'.

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Reflecting on the Sad Puppies campaign for the Hugo Awards this year, Brad Torgerson talks about what he's experienced and learned.  It's not pretty . . . but it's real.  I think he did a great job under the most trying of circumstances.

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Sipsey Street Irregulars has a useful series of talking points about local supply preparedness in an emergency situation.  Food for thought.

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Shona Walker brings us an anonymous plea to exercise extreme care when putting chili oil or Vicks Vaporub anywhere near delicate portions of the anatomy.  (Not safe for work, but very funny!)

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The Silicon Graybeard thinks the stock market's woes aren't yet over.  I agree.

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Something of importance to all self-published authors:  John Doppler alerts us to the existence of Kindle counterfeiting, where someone copies the entire text of a book, puts it up on Amazon or other retailers, and pockets all the royalties.  I hope this doesn't become more prevalent, but it's all too easy in an electronic age like ours.

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The Feral Irishman provides a graphic illustration of the importance of diet soda.  (NOT!)

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Never Yet Melted brings us a timely reminder about truth in advertising.

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Last but not least, Mr. B. urges us to 'Have confidence in those who administer your children's education'.

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That's all for this weekend.  Enjoy!


I didn't know there was a Mexican version of Yosemite Sam . . .

. . . but there is, and he meets up with Speedy Gonzales too!

Ah, life's simple pleasures - Saturday cartoons.  Remember them in the good old days?


Friday, August 28, 2015

Losing our moral direction?

Four events over the past week have made me think long and hard about the moral mess in which we find ourselves in this country.

First, there was the Hugo Awards debacle, in which two sides with widely differing opinions, having harangued each other for months, finally had at it in a no-holds-barred award ceremony that left one side triumphant - and the other infuriated and energized to come back at them even harder next year.  There were, ultimately, no winners in the fight;  only the guarantee that the Hugo Awards themselves would be the ultimate losers.  Civility and common decency seemed to have vanished.

Second, there was the frantic effort to repair the damage done to Planned Parenthood's image over the recent undercover video scandal.  The organization hastily commissioned its own investigation into the videos, which concluded - surprise, surprise! - that they'd been heavily edited and were unusable as evidence.  As The Nation was quick to point out, "The forensic analysis should clarify that the scandal is not Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation for medical research. It’s the surreptitious campaign undertaken by CMP to attack the healthcare provider, possibly in collusion with some members of Congress."  Nice to have no conscience in matters like this.  Clearly, the dismemberment of just-aborted but still living children for their organs, for profit, is nothing to worry about.

Third, country musician Charlie Daniels wrote an open letter to the US Congress.  Here's an excerpt.

Your ratings are in the single digits; your morals are in the gutter; your minds are on self-preservation; and somewhere along the way, you’ve traded your honor for political expediency.

You've violated your oaths; you've betrayed your country; you've feathered your nests; and you've sat on your hands while an imperial president has rubbed your noses in the dirt time after time.

You're no longer men. You're puppets, caricatures, jokes, a gaggle of fading prostitutes for sale to anybody who can do you a political favor.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

There's more at the link.  It's worth reading it all.

Finally, following the tragic murder of a television journalist and cameraman in Virginia, Matt Walsh lays it on the line.

We look at the darkest, most disturbing actions carried out by the most hateful people, and rather than face the terrifying reality that, in fact, rational people choose to do evil, we retreat back into the comfortable fantasy that only crazy people do bad things.

We want to reduce everything to chemicals and neurology and synapses, but we leave no room for a man’s soul, his will, his desire, his choice. And what has that achieved? I suppose it’s achieved quite a bit, financially, for the pharmaceutical industry, yet the rest of us are still left to grapple with the hatred and despair they told us the pills would cure.

Of course, I don’t discount mental illness completely, nor do I suppose Flanagan would have checked all the boxes on a “mental health” checklist. Obviously, the man had “issues,” as they say. But my radical theory is that his deepest issues were spiritual. And the same could be said for all of us.

Flanagan grabbed that camera and that gun and shot two people in the head because he was consumed by his sin, and he was consumed by his sin because he chose to follow his bitterness, loathing, and contempt all the way down into the darkness, away from the light, away from God, away from Truth. He pushed God out and let evil in, and this is the result.

And there is something even beyond Flanagan and his individual choices. There isn’t any one person who caused this attack more directly than Flanagan himself, but our whole country, our culture, is in a desperate spiritual state. Spiritual health, not mental health, is the real crisis of our time.

We have rejected God as a country, and I believe we are seeing, every day, the hideous fruits of our godless civilization.

. . .

Once you take the first step — rejecting God, embracing evil — there is simply no telling what you’ll do next. That’s the horrifying truth. Time to face it.

Again, there's more at the link, and I recommend you read the entire article.

I entirely agree with Matt Walsh.  What's more, I think you could apply his thesis to every single one of the four cases I've mentioned above.  At the root of all of them is a turning away from any moral lodestone, any objective yardstick against which to measure our conduct as human beings.  Once we remove that authority, that reference point - whether you wish to call it/him/her God or something else - we become anchorless, drifting at the mercy of the wind and the tide . . . neither of which is either moral or ethical.

I'm a man of faith.  To me, the moral lodestone is God and His revealed will for us.  Others of different faiths may disagree on precisely what that will might be;  but there's a surprising amount of agreement between the great faiths on what constitutes moral conduct, so much so that all major religious and philosophical systems of thought more or less agree on the existence of the Golden Rule.  The problem today is that many people are no longer exposed to these systems of thought, and/or are used to seeing them denigrated and 'dumbed down' in popular culture, to the point that they are no longer afforded any higher authority at all.  They're just another human viewpoint.  If that's the case, then they have no more validity than one's personal opinion - so why pay any attention to them?

The Bible tells us that God made us in His own image.  Today, far too many of us have chosen to see God as no more than another human being.  In so many words, we've reinvented Him in our image.  Many people of (alleged) faith now honor the Ten Commandments and the Great Commandment more in the breach than in the observance.  That failure compromises the moral authority of the Christian message as a whole.  If people see Christians failing to practice the morality they preach, why should they pay any attention to the preachers?

For those who acknowledge no God, I'd like to suggest that religion nevertheless served at least some historical purpose by providing the moral framework for our system of laws.  Now that the historical framework has broken down, what's to replace it?  We still need a moral and ethical lodestone to guide our decision-making.  If that's not of divine origin, what is it?  I can't answer that question, so I'll leave it up to you.

Whatever the truth of the matter, I submit that the root of all the problems outlined above is that we've arrogated to ourselves, as individuals and as a society, the right to do as we please, without let or hindrance from any form of higher authority or ethical or moral norm.  I believe that only when we turn away from that, and admit that such norms are, in fact, a necessity rather than an imposition, can we find ways to solve these problems and others.  If we don't do that, the situation can only get worse.

What say you, dear readers?  Let's hear from you in Comments.


So you want more Zatoichi action?

I had a couple of e-mails protesting that the video clip I put up last night, when talking about the newly remastered DVD edition of Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman, was not a very good sword fight at all, and made no sense.

I'm not sure that many of the Zatoichi sword fights make any more sense . . . they have more bodies and blood and screaming going on than you can shake a stick at, and they're clearly way over the top.  Nevertheless, they're immensely entertaining, and fit the Japanese culture that produced them.  Here's another video:  the sword fights from the first five Zatoichi movies, all put together in a single clip. Watch it in full-screen mode for the best results.

Yep.  Gore all over the place . . . and not the climate change variety, either!


A Presidential election hypothesis . . .

Just thinking aloud here.  Bear with me.

FIRST:  Donald Trump seems to either scare the crap out of, or piss off, most of the Republican Party establishment.  So far, so good.  Anyone who does that to those ***holes can't be all bad.

SECOND:  I suspect the Republican Party establishment will move heaven and earth to nominate anyone but Trump as that party's Presidential candidate for 2016.  They'll use every trick in the book, and a few that no-one's ever written down, to accomplish that.  They want someone they can control, who'll parrot their message and be faithful to the moneybags that fund them.

THIRD:  I suspect Trump will be pissed off enough that he might just do a Ross Perot and run as an independent candidate for the Presidency.

FOURTH:  I suspect most Democratic Party establishment figures now agree, whether openly or not, that Hillary Clinton is 'damaged goods'.  She's carrying so much baggage, actual and potential, that she can be taken down by any one of a number of scandals spinning out of control.  She's also 'old guard' Democrat, out of step and out of touch with a growing liberal/progressive surge (that's behind the rise of Elizabeth Warren and other further-left figures).

FIFTH:  I suspect the Democratic Party establishment will move heaven and earth to nominate an 'old guard' Democrat (for example, Joe Biden) as that party's Presidential candidate for 2016, because they're afraid of someone they can't control.  Elizabeth Warren is unlikely to get their nod, as is anyone wanting to move out of the path set by President Obama (who's been reliably controllable on most issues).

SIXTH:  I suspect an 'establishment' candidate will piss off enough Democrats that an independent left-wing candidate becomes a real possibility.  What about Michael Bloomberg?  He, like Trump, can afford to spend what he likes of his own money to get into the White House, and raise a middle finger to the establishment in doing so.  He'll also attract a lot of left-wing/progressive support, particularly if he asks Elizabeth Warren or someone like her to be his running mate.  The liberal urban enclaves, where most Democratic voters are concentrated, would be a shoo-in for them.

So, we may see a match-up between two main political parties AND two independent, rich, self-made candidates who don't care what their respective party establishments think - a four-way fight.  Wouldn't that be interesting?  Both Trump and Bloomberg have very high name recognition, and very large pools of voters who are probably favorably disposed towards them.  I wouldn't be surprised if both of them polled higher than the 'establishment' candidates in an election - and with 'spoiler' candidates on both sides of the fence, the result would be very hard to predict.

The 2016 elections might become a whole lot more interesting than I'd thought . . .


Cleanliness as an art form?

I've never viewed a bathtub as anything other than utilitarian, but it seems Russian designer Alexander Zhukovsky has other ideas.

We're not talking about your traditional marble tub, affixed to the floor, suited to your regular Joe Blow here. Oh no, no -  this is a hanging, clear glass sphere that acts as both bath and shower, with settings for you to alter its internal temperature, humidity, light, sounds and smell. It even simulates rain. How fancy! I mean, who doesn't want to expose their bits while trying to float in a glass bubble, smack-bang in the middle of the lounge room?

There's more at the link.  You can see a more technical diagram of his BathSphere here.

A perspex bath globe, suspended from the ceiling.  Hmm . . . I wonder what it would do in an earthquake?  It might turn out to be a wild (and wet) ride!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

A rare treat for fans of Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman

I recall the classic Zatoichi movies with great affection.  The lead role was played by Shintaro Katsu, who became inseparable from the role.  They were iconic films, perhaps not in the same league as those of the incomparable Akira Kurosawa, but possibly even more influential because there were so many more of them - 26, to be precise, plus 100 TV serials.  A later movie came out in 2003, starring Takeshi Kitano, but that's not considered part of the 'Zatoichi canon' by sticklers.  (I've seen it, and he does his best, but I think Shintaro Katsu made the role his own.)

Many of the episodes are available on YouTube, but not in very high quality reproductions.  Here's an excerpt from 'Zatoichi Challenged', a 1967 film, showing one of the lead character's most famous sword fights.  (Remember, he's blind, fighting only by what he can hear and pick up using his other senses.)  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

I was delighted to discover that Criterion has produced a remastered set of 25 of the original Zatoichi movies (excluding only one of them).  They're vastly improved from the earlier versions I saw on TV or on videotape, and provide both Blu-Ray and conventional DVD copies of each film.  The set includes:

  • New digital restorations of all twenty-five films
  • The Blind Swordsman, a 1978 documentary about Shintaro Katsu
  • New interview with Asian-film critic Tony Rayns
  • Trailers for all twenty-five films
  • New English subtitle translations
  • A book featuring an essays, short stories and 25 new illustrations

My set arrived today, and oh, my, is it good!  I obviously haven't had time to watch all of them yet, but I can already tell that the picture quality is far superior to earlier versions, and while the soundtrack is still badly worn or scratchy in parts, they've done their best to make it much more listenable.  The booklet adds a great deal of background information of which I wasn't previously aware, and increases my enjoyment of the movies themselves.  Overall, a huge improvement over my earlier copies, and money well spent, IMHO.

If you, like me, enjoyed the Zatoichi movies, this boxed set is a must-have.  Highly recommended.


I'd never heard of this stunt before

In 1979 stuntman Kenny Powers tried to jump across the St. Lawrence River between Canada and New York in a rocket-powered Lincoln Continental.  In a contemporary news article, he later described his attempt as "the wildest ride of my life".

Another stuntman, 'Mad Mike' Hughes, announced earlier this year that he planned to try the same jump in May, but I've heard nothing more about it.  Does anyone know whether it was attempted?


Has racism jumped the shark at last?

A prime collection of social justice warrior racist nonsense is on display in an article at National Review.  Here are a couple of examples.

3. Liking white meat is racist. Writer Ron Rosenbaum said in Slate that racism accounts for the popularity of white-meat turkey over more flavorful dark meat. “White meat turkey has no taste,” he explained. “Despite its superior taste, dark meat has dark undertones for some. Dark meat seems to summon up ancient fears of contamination and miscegenation as opposed to the supposed superior purity of white meat.”

6. Complimenting America as open and fair is racially hurtful. “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” is officially listed as a micro-aggression that the University of California wants eliminated from its classrooms. Also banned are “America is the land of opportunity,” and “America is a melting pot,” because some students may regard those ideas as controversial.

There's more at the link.

White turkey meat is racist?  WTF???  If any grievance industry warrior tries to foist his or her taste in poultry on me, they'll experience a damn sight more than a micro-aggression in response!  Idiots!  When are these racist twits going to get a life, and realize that not everyone - in fact, hardly anyone - is obsessed with skin color or anything remotely related to it?


Thinking with the lower brain rather than the upper . . .

I'm cynically amused to find that Ashley Madison ("Life's too short. Have an affair!") was conning its male customers into spending untold millions of dollars in the hope of finding willing female partners who mostly didn't exist, except in the shape of fake electronic profiles.  Gizmodo reports:

When hacker group Impact Team released the Ashley Madison data, they asserted that “thousands” of the women’s profiles were fake. Later, this number got blown up in news stories that asserted “90-95%” of them were fake, though nobody put forth any evidence for such an enormous number. So I downloaded the data and analyzed it to find out how many actual women were using Ashley Madison, and who they were.

What I discovered was that the world of Ashley Madison was a far more dystopian place than anyone had realized. This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.

Those millions of Ashley Madison men were paying to hook up with women who appeared to have created profiles and then simply disappeared. Were they cobbled together by bots and bored admins, or just user debris? Whatever the answer, the more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.

When you look at the evidence, it’s hard to deny that the overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren’t having affairs. They were paying for a fantasy.

There's more at the link.

I could almost (but don't really) feel sorry for the duped men involved.  They should have seen this coming from a mile off.  Any Web site that takes your money and promises sexual fulfillment in exchange is basically a rip-off.  After all, what does it have to offer except electrons?  In order to get you to part with your hard-earned cash, it tries to disguise those electrons in the form of shapely would-be partners, or hot and sweaty on-screen antics, or heavy breathing and passionate sounds . . . but all of them reach you as electrons.  None of them are real.

I'm not surprised that the operators of the Ashley Madison 'service' made up so many fake female profiles.  I sincerely hope they'll face criminal trial for fraud - quite apart from the mushrooming civil lawsuits being filed around the world by men who've just found out that they were being taken for a ride (and not of the sexual variety, at that).  Perhaps now the latter will realize that they need to get a life instead of a computer . . . but I won't hold my breath waiting for that.



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Doofus Of The Day #855

Sometimes Doofi self-select themselves.  I only had to read the headline in this case to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I'd found the candidate for today's award.

A Lake Elsinore [CA] man was bitten by a rattlesnake Monday as he picked it up and attempted to take a selfie.

Alex Gomez, 36, spotted the four-foot rattler in a field by his family’s ranch on Cielito Drive, shortly before he made the potentially deadly mistake.

. . .

Alex’s nephew, Ronnie, was with him when the snake was discovered, and says the reptile gave plenty of warning.

“It was really think and had ten rattles on it, it was rattling,” Ronnie said. “It was pretty mad.”

. . .

While Gomez is being treated with anti-venom, his mother says he may lose his hand.

“His skin is already rotting away,” Deborah described.

. . .

Gomez’ mother, meanwhile, says sharing his “embarrassing” story is the best way to teach her son a lesson she thought he already knew.

“I told him the news people had been calling, and he said ‘Mom, you better not’, and I said ‘I’m going to’. I’m going to teach him a real good lesson when he gets home. No mercy for him.”

There's more at the link.

A selfie?  With a rattlesnake?  Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .

I think his mother is going to milk the situation for all it's worth - but then, in that situation, so would I!  That's the sort of idiocy that will make anyone who knows anything about critters do a double-take, then a facepalm (while uttering a very long-suffering sigh).


Your feel-good video of the week

This baby appears to be madly in love with the family cat.

Unfortunately, the affection appears to be a bit one-sided . . . but at least the cat didn't bite him!


Africa wins again

I was saddened, but not surprised, to read of the death of a professional guide in Zimbabwe.

A Zimbabwean guide has been killed by a lion after escorting tourists on a walking safari in the country's Hwange National Park, where Cecil the lion lived before he was killed.

Quinn Swales, 40, from Harare, was savaged by what is believed to have been a male lion as he followed it on foot in the centre of the 14,000 square mile park.

Sources in the wildlife industry suggested the lion was called Naka and had been behaving aggressively towards humans and vehicles for some time. A professional hunter is believed to be seeking the lion to put him down.

. . .

Other guides in the area said Mr Swales would have been carrying a hunting rifle of at least .375 mm to protect his clients and himself.

An employee of Camp Hwange, who did not wish to be named, said they were still trying to establish what happened.

There's more at the link.

The journalist who wrote the article does the usual abysmal job of identifying the caliber of the rifle.  It was almost certainly chambered in .375 Holland & Holland Magnum, a standard 'medium' cartridge for African hunting (ranking right at the bottom end of 'major caliber' for the big stuff).  It was one of my favorite cartridges in Africa.  When I came to the USA, it was on a working visa rather than an immigrant 'green card', so I wasn't permitted to bring my firearms with me.  My .375 is now owned by a friend back in South Africa, who's had some good hunting with it. (*Sigh*)

I've never understood the urge to go on a 'walking safari' in Africa.  Those who know (including most locals) are all too well aware that there are things in the bush that regard a human being as a tasty aperitif before the main course of buffalo, eland, kudu or impala.  We don't have horns or hooves, our skin is very thin and easy to penetrate, and we move very slowly compared to four-legged animals.  As far as the predators are concerned, what's not to like?  Africans tend to leave the walking safaris to foreigners who don't know any better.

Speaking of that, I'm reminded of the well-known African joke about the European tourist attending a 'walking safari' briefing by a game ranger.  The latter was telling the participants what (and what not) to do in various circumstances.

The visitor stuck up his hand and asked, "What happens if I come round a bush and see a lion standing on the other side?"

The ranger replied, as patiently and politely as possible, "Just look him straight in the eye and in a firm, commanding tone, tell him to go away."

"Oh . . . and what happens if he doesn't go away?"

"Then bend down, pick up some dung off the ground, and throw it at him. That usually does the trick."

"Oh . . . and what happens if there isn't any dung?"

"Not to worry, sir.  By then, there will be!"


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A fascinating look at the (shrinking) value of higher "education"

We've spoken before in these pages about the growing lack of value in so-called 'higher education'.  Tonight I came across a fascinating guest article by Matt Baldoni over at Aaron Clarey's blog, Captain Capitalism.  In it, a musician looks at how he learned the trade, and what he's experienced in dealing with the 'big names' in music education.  Here's an excerpt.

I believe that being a full time musician who plays live (and/or in the studio) is the greatest badge of honor a musician can bestow upon himself. Why? Because it's proof you can beat the odds. It shows you have no need for the “stability” of teaching music. See, we all think we need to be teachers because that is what MUSIC SCHOOLS tell us. They have a large stock in keeping interest in becoming a music teacher, for it keeps them employed, and the cycle continues. As of today, it's spiraled out of control. Our families all want us to be teachers because they figure it's the closest thing to a “real job” that a musician can have. It's a lot safer than playing in bars, touring, and all of those “lifestyle” things that many people think are part of a music career.

When the recession began in 2007/8, things got interesting. All of the music schools, even the most prestigious ones, lost a lot of revenue and interest from young musicians. They were (are) far too expensive. So, young players began checking out smaller, cheaper, less prestigious state colleges like the one I went to. Well, the A-league schools said “We can't have that!”, so they began slowly lowering their audition and testing standards while their tuition prices have continued to skyrocket, just like their skyrocketing endowments and assistance from state and federal governments. Today, they have more money coming in than ever, and lower audition standards than ever. They are now at their most expensive in history and are turning out the least talented and equipped musicians they ever have. And I am laughing my ASS off, because this whole thing is hilarious. They have literally dug their own grave, and they are a ticking bomb.

The music business itself has also changed drastically in the last 20 years. No one makes money selling records anymore, so everyone has to play live and stay out on the road more than they used to. The steady stream of studio work is gone, it's no longer a requirement to have good musicians on your recording. The computer can fix everything, and the digital world turns talentless hacks into international stars. The ProTools engineer is now at the top of the music business food chain. Every two-bit asshole with a macbook and garage band software can call himself an “artist” or “musician” or “songwriter” or “producer”. The DJ, the karaoke bar, and the football game on large plasma screens now stand where the live band once stood.

Is there still room for highly skilled musicians? Absolutely. There is great demand for a good live band in thousands of places all over the world. Artists need sidemen to play behind them for their concert dates, churches need musicians, people need a band for their wedding or Christmas party, and the list goes on and on. These types of gigs are the bread and butter for a musician's work throughout the year. Does music school teach you what you need to know to get these jobs? Absolutely not. I make a very good living at what I do, and I got 100% of my abilities from the street. I did have a few good teachers, yes, but even they aren't making what I make or playing as much as me. Are there musicians better than me? Faster? Richer? More able to raise a family? Of course there are. But none of them are turning down as much work as I am simply because they're always booked.

There's much more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.  You can read more from Matt Baldoni here, and visit his YouTube channel, and learn more via an Internet search.  He seems like a interesting character.

The article is a truly interesting perspective on how reality meets academic theory - and the latter loses, almost every time.  If you have children considering post-school education, it might be a good idea for them to read this, even if they're not interested in music and are considering a completely different career field.  Challenge them to research their chosen field in the same way as the author of this article lays out what he learned.  They might be surprised at what they discover.


A vastly underpriced gun

I was shocked to read this advertisement on Armslist yesterday, only minutes after it had been put up by the seller.

I have a very old colt 45 that I'd like to sale. It's from around 1881. It's non-working, but physically in good shape. Don't know what it's worth but I'm sure it could be fixed.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Colt Frontier model of 1878.  The advertiser was asking - wait for it - just five hundred dollars for it!  I nearly freaked out on the spot.  It's worth much more than that, even in its broken condition.

I e-mailed the seller at once, pointing out that while I wasn't interested in buying it, his gun was potentially worth much more than his asking price.  Fortunately, I was able to do so quickly enough after his listing went up that I beat most of the sharks to the punch.  He was grateful for the information - he had no idea what he had.  I was able to point out that a much 'younger' Model 1878 (shown below) was currently on sale at Collectors Firearms in Texas for $3,750 . . . just a bit of an increase over his asking price!

A place like Collectors Firearms can advise him on where to get his gun repaired with original parts, so as to retain its value (it'll probably do that on his behalf and sell it on consignment, if he's interested).  He may not make $3,750 out of it, but I'll be very surprised indeed if he doesn't clear more than $2,000, even after paying their charges and commission.  Just goes to show - when you list something for sale, it really, really helps to know what it is and what its value may be.  If you don't know, find out before you act!  In this case, the seller nearly lost out on a lot of money.

I'm also frankly disgusted at the ethics and/or morals (or lack thereof) among respondents who blithely offered him his asking price, or tried to beat him down from $500, without ever telling him what he had.  What happened to honesty and fair dealing?  Are there truly so few of us left who still value such attributes?


In honor of the season

Suggested by reader S. O., who says she can't wait:


A valuable lesson in surviving Mother Nature at her worst

I've often been . . . not surprised;  astonished would be a better description . . . by the number of people who build homes out in the country and then complain bitterly when the realities of country living intrude on their 'citified' expectations.  A good example is a family that builds a McMansion near a farm (particularly something like a pig farm), then complains that the smells make their lives miserable.  What did they expect - eau de Cologne?  Another is people who build a traditional frame-and-siding or log-cabin style home in an area prone to wildfires, then bitch and moan after a fire comes along and destroys their property.  It's a known risk in many areas, but they seem to feel as if Mother Nature has personally targeted them with malice aforethought.  I've even heard of cases where families threatened to sue local fire departments or state firefighting authorities for failing to protect their property.

However, occasionally one reads of someone who has the right approach, and builds to suit his environment.  One such report comes to us this week courtesy of ABC News.

John Belles said he was prepared for the inevitability of a wildfire when he built his thin-shelled, concrete dome in 1999 surrounded by dry fields in Okanogan County.

Earlier this week, Belles just happened to be working 30 miles out of town when he received a voicemail from a friend warning him about a fire approaching his home, he told ABC News today.

After shuttling three vehicles off his property, Belles said he realized he had to hurry as the fire was only a couple hundred yards away.

. . .

“I grabbed the hose, soaked my clothing down and doused the north side of the building as much as I could. [The fire] got close enough that it was super heated and getting uncomfortable out there in the smoke. I went inside, shut the door behind me and watched it move by.”

Belles said he waited out the flames for about a minute as the fire passed by his home.

“The fire just roared across my property. I could see the flames dancing up over the windows,” Belles said.

The only damage sustained was a service pole, which resulted in a loss of power.

There's more at the link, including a photograph of the smoke-stained (but otherwise undamaged) home.

Well done, Mr. Belles!  That's the way to do it.  I wish there were more homeowners like you - and I bet your local fire department will now use you and your home as poster children in how to build in fire-prone country.

Here's a video report from Oklahoma about another dome home that survived a fire there four years ago.

Monolithic domes are not only largely fireproof;  they're also very resistant to earthquakes, and to severe weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes.  I saw several that survived direct hits from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana, virtually undamaged.  According to Wikipedia, 'the US Federal Emergency Management Agency rates them as "near-absolute protection" from F5 tornadoes and Category 5 Hurricanes'.  I believe it.  Those I saw often had garages in the form of a second, smaller dome next to the primary residence, connected by a concrete-covered walkway, making the entire complex completely fireproof.  (The biggest had three domes:  a big residence in the center, a smaller garage on the left, and a similar-sized dome for a workshop, "man cave" and guest quarters on the right.  It was a pretty sweet setup.)

If I ever build a home in an area exposed to such hazards, I'll look very hard indeed at a monolithic dome design.  It makes an awful lot of sense, particularly if one puts a cupola on top of the dome to let in more light.  To cap it all (you should pardon the expression), it's no more expensive to build than a conventional house, and sometimes even cheaper.  As for the 'disadvantage' of living in a round building, that's no disadvantage at all, IMHO.  I've spent plenty of nights in traditional African mud huts, all of them round.  One simply adjusts one's expectations to fit the building.


Monday, August 24, 2015


Received via e-mail, original source unknown:


A submarine reconnaissance drone in China's top-secret submarine base?

I'm intrigued to read this report at Foxtrot Alpha.

A few years ago a Chinese fisherman from Hainan Province caught something totally unique: a torpedo-like device that was about three feet long and metallic. He took pictures of the contraption and called the authorities, who swiftly came and took it away for examination. Now, the Chinese Government has confirmed it is an elaborate spying device. reports that authorities know what this silver torpedo-like device was used for and disguised to look like:

It is now confirmed that the unmanned underwater machine, disguised to look like a torpedo, is an intelligence device capable of taking pictures with fiber-optic and satellite communication. It was secretly placed in the water by a foreign country to obtain information on the Chinese navy fleet’s operations at sea.

Experts worried that the acquired information may have been sent back and that there are many other similar devices that haven’t been detected in the water, which pose great hidden dangers to information security in the South China Sea.

There's more at the link, including pictures of the 'torpedo-like device'.

This is very interesting.  Yulin Naval Base can reportedly accommodate up to 20 submarines.  In the photograph below, one of the entrances to the submarine tunnels (ringed in red) can be seen above the stern of a Type 094 ballistic missile submarine moored alongside a nearby pier.

Over and above the submarines, the base is a regional power projection base for the Chinese Navy.  As such, it's a very logical target for intelligence gathering by any and every other power in the region.

The thought of a 'swimming' intelligence drone, that could slowly and silently make its way towards (perhaps even into) the submarine tunnels to see what's going on there, and eavesdrop on the acoustic and other signatures of nearby vessels, is intriguing.  I suspect it's been going on for a while - the images provided with the Foxtrot Alpha article showed what I consider to be older technology, nowhere near as miniaturized and up-to-date as I've seen in other marine intelligence applications.

I don't suppose we'll learn any more about what this thing was doing there, or who sent it;  but I think anyone with two brain cells to rub together can make the appropriate deductions.


Aloha Snack Bar: an update

Two weeks ago I asked for your support on behalf of Jonathan LaForce, a former Marine who's trying to establish a truck-based barbecue business to earn a living for his family while he starts on a writing career.  He's running a KickStarter campaign to get things going.  As of this morning, he's almost two-thirds of the way to his goal - $9,677 raised out of $15,000 needed.

I'd really like to see Jonathan succeed, because I have a very personal perspective on his efforts.  Ten years ago a neurosurgeon told me that I would be permanently partially disabled, I'd never be able to work at a 'normal' job again, and I should resign myself to living on disability benefits for the rest of my life.  I decided on the spot that I'd never do that, and began teaching myself the craft of fiction writing.  I'm now earning my own living once more, no longer 100% dependent on handouts from the public purse - which gives me immense satisfaction.  It's therefore no surprise that I support and encourage those who seek to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and earn their own living.  Jonathan LaForce is one such person, and I commend him for that.

Jonathan's also been included in the final episode of Declan Finn's 'Puppy SWATting' blog posts, which we've mentioned here before.  (Miss D. and I appeared in Episode XI.)  Here's Jonathan's entry.

Logan, Utah

[SWAT trots up walkway, stops dead at the door.  They are hit with the smell of barbecue.  SWAT #1 looks over at the other team members, thinks it over, waves everyone to lower their muzzles.  SWAT #1 knocks on the door.]

[Jonathan "Gunny Mormon" LaForce answers, decked out in his tactical apron]  Can I help you guys?

[SWAT #1]  We had a report of a guy waving a gun around?

[JF rolls his eyes] I've been cooking all day.  Gotta get the snack bar up and running.  As for my gun ... [JF turns to one side, showing the cops his gun, securely on his hip, the holster strap still over it]  Now, if you guys are done, I have to get back to my business. Ribs need cooking.

[SWAT #1 frowns]  Mind if we join you for lunch? We were about to call in before we were told to roll out.

[JL chuckles] I guess.  You know, I'm the son of an LAPD officer. The guy who walked me through my enlistment process was a former marine turned SWAT officer.

[Female voice from inside.]  Honey, are you done yet? These canning jars won't fill themselves!

[JL smiles, the chuckle turns slightly evil] As for lunch, sure fellas, come on in.

[SWAT steps inside, making sure to wipe their feet. A blonde woman steps out of the kitchen and gives a broad grin to her guests.]  Oh, Jonathan! You brought help.  Everyone, into the kitchen! We have a hundred jars to fill before the ribs!

[SWAT looks at each other like they were suckered.  They take a deep breath, smell the ribs, and they all trudge into the kitchen, willing to work for their lunch]

[JL chuckles] If this is what it's like, I should get SWATted more often.

There's more at the link.  I still think Jonathan looks like a shaved, younger version of Gimli in that picture . . .

Be that as it may, I'd really like to see Jonathan succeed in this venture.  Please, dear readers, would you consider contributing to his KickStarter campaign?  Give enough, and you'll get free BBQ ribs for up to a year, delivered right to your doorstep.  There's an incentive for you!


The ultimate male security blanket?

I had to laugh in appreciation at this paean of praise to the so-called 'Woobie' or poncho liner, US military issue since the 1960's.

There have been some amazing military innovations over the years: freeze-dried food for MREs, jet aircraft, rail guns, and the soul-sucking website, Army Knowledge Online. But none of these compare to the simplest, most wonderful invention known to mankind: the poncho liner, affectionately known by all those who have felt its life-giving warmth as the “woobie.” Ask any soldier or Marine, especially those in the infantry, how he feels about his woobie, and his eyes will light up and then mist over as he waxes lyrically over the virtues of this item. Hard-bitten combat veterans grow poetic and wistful, declaring their love for this piece of equipment. If you don’t believe me, read the Amazon reviews. It is perhaps the single most-loved item in the armed forces.

. . .

No matter what you call it, is it really like a security blanket?

The answer is a resounding, “Hell yes!” A mere glance at veterans’ internet forums show a myriad of uses for this simple item. It can be used as a blanket, pillow, shelter, hammock, camo hide for concealment, jacket liner, seat cushion, mattress — when you are sleeping on the ground, anything helps — and something soft to hold onto when you’re far away from home and everything’s going to … well, you know, the stuff that hits the fan. It is remarkably resilient to extreme heat and cold, dries quickly when wet, and most importantly, can be squished up into a tiny ball that takes up barely any room in your rucksack and adds virtually no weight. I am still convinced it is magical.

Veterans often hang on to their woobies well after they leave the military, preferring to claim it as a “field loss” and pay the charges rather than turn it in. One vet claimed his woobie had outlasted several marriages, which probably says more about the stresses of military life than it does for the woobie, although many claim that woobies go missing in divorces. Young men in the military claim that “girls love it and think the term woobie is cute,” and so it is often used to begin a romantic relationship. Kids love the woobie because it is light, soft, reminds them of their mom or dad, and can be used as a cape when running around pretending to be a superhero. Many woobies get passed on through generations of veterans, with some troops deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan with their dads’ woobies from Vietnam.

. . .

Simply put, it is the greatest thing to ever be issued by the U.S. military.

There's more at the link.  There's also this video on YouTube illustrating the point.  (Slight language alert on the video.)

I didn't have a similar piece of equipment in the South African military, but I learned to appreciate the woobie when I met up with US veterans after coming to this country.  There's also great appreciation for Kifaru's aftermarket poncho liners, in Woobie (insulated) and Doobie (double insulated) versions, as well as their Arctic Woobie for cold weather extremes.  I keep telling myself I really need to get some of those . . . but living in a temperate climate like Tennessee, it would be overkill (of my wallet as well as my body).

(On the other hand, while courting Miss D. in Alaska I made very good use of a military-surplus parka to keep me warm.  That would have been just the place for an Arctic Doobie . . . but unfortunately, at the time I didn't know they existed.  If we ever go up there for a second honeymoon or something, I'll take one along!)


Sunday, August 23, 2015

A second look at the 2015 Hugo Awards

Since setting out my initial thoughts on this years' Hugo Awards this morning, I've had the opportunity to read many other responses, reactions and opinions.  With very few exceptions, they've been profoundly troubling to me - on both sides of the fence.

Let me state bluntly my point of departure for this discussion.  Most of my readers know I'm a man of faith and a retired pastor.  It therefore probably won't shock you to learn that my foundation is the Golden Rule.  In the Christian faith this is found in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, and can be paraphrased in the time-honored expression "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".  In the context of this debate, if I look for courtesy and reasoned discourse in others, I need to conduct myself accordingly - otherwise my expectations are invalid.  I know many on both sides of this debate will scoff at that and call it wishful thinking (or something less polite).  That's their privilege.  I'll adhere to the standards by which I try to live (not always successfully, I fear).

My overwhelming emotion in this whole mess is sadness.  I'm watching people tear apart one of the great institutions of science fiction, purely because they can't bring themselves to agree that every fan of the genre has a place within its tent.  It's not one side doing it - it's both.  The SJW's, who consider themselves 'true' Fandom, insist that SF/F is their genre and they alone get to decide who and what belongs to it.  Those of a more conservative and/or orthodox bent disagree, and say that political correctness should not be the standard against which works of imagination and literature should be judged - but they can be very disparaging of the other side in how they go about that.  (Perhaps that's not surprising.  Mutual tolerance and respect have been largely conspicuous by their absence in this field for many years.)

Last night the SJW's triumphed - for now - and deliberately shut out the 'other side', not on the basis of literary merit, but because they regarded it as 'Wrongthink' and unworthy of a hearing.  My friend Larry Correia summed it up very well.

“I said the Hugos were dominated by cliques that cared more about an author’s identity and politics than the quality of their work,” Sad Puppies founder Larry Correia told Breitbart. “Tonight they proved me right.”

Brad Torgerson pointed out:

Toni Weisskopf pulled over 1,200 first-place ballots. That’s amazing. Consider that Lou Anders got 207 first-place ballots in 2011. So, Toni Weisskopf rocked the professional long-form category. Unfortunately, the Trufans and their politically-aligned allies decided that destroying the village was necessary to save the village. It was more important for the Trufans that people lose, and get nothing, than that the “wrong” people win. If that’s worth gloating over — you who gloat — look into yourselves and see the black, shriveled, grinchy hearts that beat.

That's sickening - and he's absolutely right, IMHO.  The invitation from the MC to cheer, but not boo, the 'No Award' results says it all.  The bias evident in the entire presentation was beyond caricature.  The perspective of these self-described 'true Fans' is perhaps best summed up by this comment from a reader at

... the Puppy campaigns are just another tendril of a shoggoth we’ve seen many times over. It surfaced in GamerGate and the SFWA Bulletin flap, it rampages across Fox News, and its glazed eyes peer back at us from the MRA, PUA, KKK, and Tea Party movements. It howls with the screech of every toddler ever forced to share his toys and speaks with the soft words of every sexual predator who has slipped something into a drink, of every employer who has seen an employee’s skirt as reason enough to deny them a promotion, and of every abuser who’s shed crocodile tears while promising never, ever to do it again… right before picking up another couple of six-packs. Their arguments are flimsy because they only exist as recognition signals and cheap disguises. The reality lies underneath, in their privileged sense of entitlement: This belongs to me, and you can’t have it because you’re not one of us.

I, for one, am very glad to see fandom standing fast upon this bridge, facing the Balrog with those immortal words that nobody here needs me to repeat.

On the other hand, it's both a Biblical phrase and a readily observable truism that "those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind".  The Puppy campaigns now know beyond any doubt that the other side will ignore the rules and expressed expectations of their own awards, disregard the actual individuals and/or works nominated for awards, and vote against them solely on the basis of ideology rather than merit.  The SJW's need not be surprised if the same tactic is now employed against them to an ever-increasing extent . . . and it will be, in future Hugo campaigns.  There's no doubt about that at all.  As Vox Day pointed out:

No doubt George Martin, John Scalzi, David Gerrold, The Guardian, and the rest of the SJWs will try to portray this as a resounding defeat for us, but keep this in mind: the side that resorts to a scorched earth strategy is the one that is losing and in retreat. All they have accomplished is to convert many Sad Puppies into Rabid Puppies.

They have talked about sending us a message, and we have heard it. I don't know about you, but the message I heard was "bring more Puppies."

I'll give the penultimate word to my friend Sarah Hoyt.

I have my disagreements with Beale [Vox Day], as in most of the things we think are diametrical opposites and I often disagree with everything he writes, including 'the' and 'a'.

Until today I viewed him as a mirror of the SJW posturing.  I retract that and I give him full measure of applause.  Yes, his views are still repulsive and he still makes my skin crawl as often as the Marxists do, but you know what?  At least he has a brain and uses it.  Those of you celebrating might want to take a deep breath and wonder — for just a minute — if you did anything more than what Theodore Beale wanted.  Because from where I’m sitting, the man that set out to destroy the field and prove that everyone calling themselves its leadership were mannerless and brainless children not only won last night, he won walking away. He won without DOING anything.  He won by convincing yourselves to hit yourselves repeatedly with the obvious hammers of partisanship, lack of care for quality and INTEREST in the health of the field.  And before you died, you gloated you had won.  The mind boggles.

Well done, Vox Day.  My laughter is tinged with tears because I don’t know if the field I loved will ever recover from stupidity displayed in such an open manner. I think today I prove the Valentine Michael Smith adage that sometimes you laugh because it hurts too much to cry.

. . .

So while I am not upset at the results (except insofar as it proves a large number of my field is running the Marxist malware to such an extent that it will vote a slate to avoid an imaginary slate) I am upset at the display of infantility or senility or perhaps roboticity in my field yesterday (Though who would program robots that way?)  No one watching that live stream — and there was a lot of it captured and it will be replayed — can imagine that those who proclaim themselves the “intellectuals” of our field have an IQ above room temperature.  And certainly no one can imagine they have an emotional maturity above that of a toddler displaying to one and all the magnificence of the turd just deposited in the middle of the floor.

I would not have been so blunt in expressing my opinion . . . but I can't disagree with her.

I believe that writing to entertain my readers is more important than trying to indoctrinate them with my ideology.  I'll try to remain true to that in my books, and in my interactions with others.  However, that's going to be more and more difficult for all of us in the science fiction and fantasy field.  We're going to be inundated with shouts and screams from both sides:  "You're either with us, or against us!", and all that sort of partisan pressure.  The challenge for all thinking persons, whatever their ideology or way of life, is going to be to keep their sanity and objectivity in the midst of the chaos.


Thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Awards

This year's Hugo Awards were presented last night.  It's been a vicious, biased, socio-political-cultural-oriented campaign, and the results reflect that.  No fewer than five categories (Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, Best Editor: Short Form and Best Editor: Long Form) were not awarded - in other words, the electorate deliberately voted not to present any award rather than give it to one of the nominees (many of whom were put forward by the anti-Hugo-establishment Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies campaigns).  To put that in perspective, that equals the previous total number of 'No Award' winners over the entire 62-year history of the Hugo Awards.

I've written about this years' award controversy on several occasions.  My personal response is summed up in these two articles, and I also endorse Eric Flint's perspective on the matter.  However, I didn't actively campaign for any candidates, either as individuals or as a 'slate' presented by either the Sad Puppies or the Rabid Puppies.  That's because I believe that voting should always be a matter for the individual's informed judgment, not something tied to political, social, economic or other perspectives.

Last night saw both triumph and defeat for both sides of the Hugo debate.  Consider:

  1. The anti-Puppy side (variously known as Social Justice Warriors or SJW's, Puppy Kickers, and so on) clearly dominated the voting for the major categories, out-weighing Puppy voters by a massive margin.  They mobilized all their support, and did so impressively.  Five 'No Awards' in major categories where their preferred nominees had been 'shut out' was a clear demonstration of their determination to defeat the 'other side' at any cost.
  2. Unfortunately, it also illustrated their determination to ignore the letter and spirit of the Hugo Awards.  They clearly did not vote for the nominated works based on their literary or other qualities, but voted on the basis of a partisan perspective, a determination to 'punish the other side' for daring to interfere with what they consider to be 'their' awards.  Many of them openly campaigned for this to be done, and proudly admitted their intention to disregard the quality (or otherwise) of the works or individuals in question.
  3. As far as the Puppies are concerned (whether Sad or Rabid), their slates dominated the nominations in several categories, but clearly could not command enough support from a mobilized, partisan and highly motivated electorate to actually win them.  This, of course, may change.  The Puppies have now seen the extent of the opposition confronting them, and they realize that it had to mobilize almost all its resources, on an unprecedented scale, to defeat their slate of candidates this year.  If the Puppies can organize their supporters and come back five to ten times stronger (an entirely achievable goal, IMHO), then future Hugo campaigns may be even more divisive, disruptive and negative than this year's.  Indeed, I suspect that the scale of their defeat may drive many of the formerly-more-moderate Sad Puppies into the more radical Rabid Puppies camp.

The big losers in this years' Hugo controversy have been civility and reasoned discourse.  The open bitterness, bias and confrontational attitudes expressed by some individuals on both sides during and after last night's awards is mind-boggling.  This was evident at the award ceremony itself by jokes at the Puppy campaigns' expense, and loud applause at the announcement of 'No Award' results.  I'll pick out a couple of the more polite responses (I'm darned if I'll demean this blog by sinking to the level of some of the more vitriolic commenters).

Speaking for the Rabid Puppies, Vox Day said:

I understand that Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books walked out of the ceremony after hearing all the jokes about this being the year of the asterisk. It is just as well, because the no-awarding of her, John C. Wright, and Jim Butcher is conclusive proof that the Hugo Awards are no longer fit for purpose and need to be burned down in their entirety. That was my original position, but this year we Rabids followed the Sad Puppies lead and pursued the "fair play" approach.

Now we know the result of that. This is a cultural war, not a literary sport. They are practicing a scorched earth strategy, and we can certainly assist them in that since we do not value their territory. I still think it was worth trying to take Berlin and end the war in one fell swoop, but even though our attempt [to] break them once and for all failed, that only means that the victory was less than complete. What the Puppies accomplished was incredible when you look at the numbers involved and clearly indicates that the Rabid strategy, not the Sad one, is the only viable strategy. There will be no reconciliation.

For the SJW side, let John O'Neill sum up their reactions:

In short, the Puppies insisted that their team had been unfairly shut out of the game for too long, and gamed the system so that their superstars could finally take the field. And when they did, it became painfully obvious fairly quickly that this team simply couldn’t play ball.

The Puppies have stayed in their echo chamber for long months, and to be honest, I don’t expect even this stinging repudiation of their selections to penetrate it. My guess is that they will lay this burden at the feet of another liberal conspiracy, or simply claim that the vast majority of the Hugo electorate voted against their slate without bothering to read it (just as I did).

But when your only defense is to convince yourself that the electorate spurned you because they found what you did to be against the very spirit of the Hugos and your ballot to be wholly illegitimate, then you’re hiding sub-standard taste behind moral bankruptcy.

I can see it's going to be a long, hard winter until next year's Hugo campaign . . .

Several months ago I said:

Some argue that if one side won't compromise, there's no point in the other side being 'gentlemanly' or courteous or civilized, because such approaches won't be reciprocated.  Rather, the other side must respond just as forcefully (if not more so) in order to overcome resistance to its 'legitimate demands'.  To them I can only say, look at human history in any sphere you like:  academic, literary, cultural, economic, political, military, whatever.  When such attitudes prevail, breakdown and destruction tend to take over.  What is lost - often irretrievably - is some, if not all, of the good that existed prior to the breakdown.  The baby is thrown out with the bathwater.  The good is destroyed along with the bad. I'm trying very hard to prevent that happening here.

I fear it may be a losing battle . . . but that doesn't mean it's not worth the effort.  I only wish some of the more partisan elements in this debate could see it that way ... Now it's up to those on both sides to decide whether they're going to go to the mattresses, or behave like civilized people.  If anyone isn't sure who needs to take the first step in that process . . . look in the mirror.

I saw and heard nothing last night to make me reconsider that perspective.  I can only hope and pray that others share it, and will work towards realizing it.  If not, I daresay the Hugo Awards will be mired in controversy, libel, slander and mutual distrust for years to come.  I don't think they can survive that.