Review: HONOR AT STAKE

 

The review you’ve all been waiting for…

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The closest thing you could describe me as in high school was a Goth. I played Vampire the Masquerade, both tabletop and LARP, for 15 years. I read both Anne Rice and Barbara Hambly, and liked the latter better. Hell, I even watched My Best Friend is a Vampire, probably one of the most underrated teen films of all time. I even watched that brief flash of awfulness they called the Masquerade tv series. Hint: we called it “The World of Noon”. I watched Forever Knight, Buffy, and Dark Shadows. Hell, I was weaned on The Munsters. Morticia Addams hosted one of my favorite B movie horror shows back when I was watching a hick station from a 60’s Zenith that had technicolor and a fish eye lens. Fortunately, her show was done in black and white. Then again, it flickered back and fourth from color to black and white, so I’m not sure which it really was.

..But it was my best friend who was obsessed with vampires. Yeah, that’s what I kept telling myself.

By the time the books that True Blood was based on hit the shelves, I was a bit burned out. I read them, and enjoyed them. The TV show lost me when the actor with the best southern accent became the supervillain. Sure, I saw it coming, but it still galled me.

Oh, then there was Twilight. Sure, an enthused friend handed them to me. She did a fine job of convincing me they were awesome.

They weren’t.

I was pretty sure, by the time I put the first book down, scraping my gray matter with a paint scraper was too kind a way to get rid of that drek. I felt DIRTY because of that book, and no, not in a good way. I was pretty sure I was done with vampires. For good.

Then Declan Finn comes out with Honor at Stake. Dammit, I thought I was over this. I’m even hauling out my Rasputina and Black Tape for a Blue Girl thanks to this guy. He already knows he’s responsible for all the Cruxshadows appearing in my playlist. And, he’s not sorry at all.

That’s a good thing.

It will be all his fault if I start wearing black lipstick again, I swear.

Okay, I’m joking about that last part. No, seriously, this guy writes about… ahem, real vampires, not the sparkly fucked up Jar Jar Binks of the vampire world. They are deadly hunters, with vestiges of humanity that make them more frightening.

And yet, it is one of the most powerful love stories I’ve read in a long time. For a wonder, he’s not all angsty and whiny and whatnot. The Goth movement whine came later… thanks to Morresey and those Emo wannabes who can’t see out of their own pain. The whole point of Goth is to celebrate the darkness of life, because it is short. And, Declan gets it. He really gets pretty much everything we loved about vampires by displaying an impressive knowledge of the classic repertoire. Then he brings in his own contributions, turning it up to 11. He uses both Thomas Aquinas and advances in modern science to give a whole new dimension to the moral, ethical and medical possibilities behind the beloved predators of the horror world.

There is plenty of action and Things Going Boom, this being penned by the Mighty Finn. But this is more meditative, more emotional, and the raw feeling he wields like a master is something to exult in.

I’m sure you’ll fall in love with Amanda, and Marco is a fun character to follow. His life is a very real look into an outcast with a unique set of problems. He’s a PA. And he likes killing people.
In fact, that goes back quite a ways into his personal history.

He’s not a serial killer. Yet.

He’s a lethal weapon with a brain, and that makes him even odder than most nerds. Fortunately for him, patching people up is much harder than taking them down, so that scratches his itch for a challenge, and being up to his elbows in blood. Mostly.

Marco practices fencing, because he always needs a new challenge. That’s where he meets Amanda, who is just as good as he is. But there is something… off about her.

He knows killing people is wrong, and there are even people out there he likes, But… look out if he has to defend himself. Most of the traditional big city predators in his neighborhood have already found this out the hard way. He also has a secret that makes his problems a bit hard to deal with, or even talk about them.

Is there anyone out there who might understand?

Well, then he meets Amanda. Who has– shall we say– good reasons to understand.

They meet (not quite cute, but meet flirt?) at a late night college fencing class. The tension crackles, the steel flies, and soon they find themselves in a class of their own.

When they aren’t trying to lop each others’ heads off.

Though clearly wealthy, she has what seems to be more than a lifetime’s store of sadness in her past… and is so far passed jaded she is a smooth and graceful sculpture. Yet in battle is quick, clever, and vicious… So they get along excellently. The statue discovers she can be moved.

Why should such a splendid creature be alone? Seems to be the question each of them asks.

Until Marco finds himself bound and gagged on an unfamiliar Brooklyn roof…

And no, I’m not going to tell you how it ends.

Suffice to say, there is a lot of heat, a lot of fang and the action spirals ever upward to a innuendo/confrontation that has to be read to believed. Advisable to turn up the AC before proceeding.

Let’s just say, as excellent as they both are in the dojo– or in the street, a great deal of backup needs to be called before this train gallops toward a breathtaking finish. You will see vampire bars explode, gang on gang action, Vatican ninjas and some very heavy firepower.

Did I mention that the FBI gets involved? Merle Kraft isn’t exactly what you’d call a normal FBI agent, he specializes in the strange, and the exotic. He’s a short Asian cross between Penn Jillette and Fox Mulder, with piercing blue eyes. Like any magician, he brings a bit of baggage with him– which blends wonderfully into an already explosive mix.

He has questionable, nay diabolical relatives and a dubious past.

Can Amanda and Marco trust him?

And… even that is not enough. After all, something evil is not only creating murder and mayhem in NYC, but seems to be emanating from the UN building.

Trust me, it’s an enjoyable ride. Highly recommended.

 

Plus something fun I found on G+. Why is it here?   Um… no reason… 😈

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Behind the Moon Door: Part 14

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“You can’t have it.”

I blinked. His voice was sharp, when it had been so reasonable before. I opened my eyes to see if he was still the same man. I folded my arms and narrowed my eyes. I tried to read him– mostly as an experiment. The emotional equivalent of static burned my nerves, even causing physical pain. I willed the chaos to end. All was quiet, but I realized my new found senses were blocked. I sighed. Trajan looked like he’d just swatted away an annoying insect.
“Why? Need a fancy trinket for your collection?” I asked out of nowhere.
He flinched and his eyes narrowed, though his face was as bland and pleasant like vanilla pudding. The beard did not help.

“For your sake. For the sake of the universe I’m sworn to protect.” His voice had gotten a bit deeper like crunching gravel. Despite this shift I knew it to be true.

“I’m not just some damsel in trouble.” I snapped, exasperated.

“You are that, and you carry a weapon you do not understand. My lady, I don’t’ understand it. As a wizard that makes me highly uncomfortable.”

“I need more than that. The wizardly “because I said so” is not helping”

Because it is inimical to life– especially yours.. For another thing, your powers are rogue. We don’t’ know what would happen. As for walking the labyrinth, you are but a child. That… process quails– and kills — wizards more powerful than I. A slip of a girl like you with Deep reality changing magics? You could destroy the natural order, including this place you love so much.”

I frowned and flopped back on the ugly brown flowered couch in the apartment just over the carriage house. He would not come into the house proper, and wasn’t especially clear on why. My head was still bandaged, and hurt. The lights were low, but the wizard seemed to glow of his own subtle radiance. I leaned my head against the curved edge of the couch, squinted and looked away.

I stared at the strange yet humorously antique looking painting of what looked like a Sargent– if he’d ever painted one of his lovely brassy sea going vessels being attacked by a Kraken. I hadn’t noticed the strange disk shaped UFO figure in the clouds before. I wanted to laugh, but the hole in my heart was already aching too hard. The wound ached, seeming to suck all the hope out of my heart.

I pulled myself together and looked back.

“The drow said…”

“And why on earth did you believe her? The Drow have their own agendas, and it is not often you can trust them. The last time the Summer and Winter court worked together doesn’t bear thinking about. Trust me. I was young then, but I was there.”

“Did you or anyone else hear what she said?! I read her. She was speaking the truth. I could even feel her broken oath. She really wants to work for us now… or anyone who will stop this tihing.”

The wizard sighed. “Yes, we heard her story. She appears to belive every word, and indeed everything she describes, much has already come to pass. things even she does not know. But she still works for Drack. IT may be that she is doing his bidding even as she is fooled into thinking otherwise.”

“I know she hasn’t been tampered with. I can tell.” I said stubbornly.

The wizard cocked his head. “Could you? That is a rare talent. Cosciba had it… long ago. But he has passed in to the depths, and we are poorer for it.” he paused and looked at me pointedly.

“I’m sorry to hear that. But, okay?”

“He was killed by the winter court,” he said, voice low. “The house of Cerese are assassins for the king.”

I shook my head, both filing away the information and shoving aside my feelings about this. I turned to look at him. I knew what she said was true, I knew her version of things were accurate
… but I had no proof. I had to get the wand back. But I didn’t know how to go it when it was imprisoned for my own good.

“But I need to see that wand. Efen just visit it?” I asked.

He shook his head. “It appears we are at an impasse. Anything else before I go?”
“Yeah, okay. I guess.”

The wizard narrowed his eyes as I appeared to concede.

“What were the Rye wars?”

“That was the war over the ownership of the portals to this world. The winter court had a stronger claim, but the Summer court said that no one being should control them. So… we have this modern arrangement.
I blinked. “Which is?”

“Each portal is owned by the currently reighning monarch. In winter, it is the Winter court that controls the gate. in the Summer, it is the Summer court’s gate. In spring and fall, they are owned by no one, so as to satisfy the Summer court.”

“Lilly fought in them. She said I should ask you.”

“Lilly is the only Unicorn in that battle– in the whole war– that survived. yes, there are still unicorns, but none of those with ties to your world survived, save her. The rest went deep into the labrynth and haven’t been seen since.”

I was stunned.

“Unicorns were the first birth when the paths between worlds was established. It is their job to steward the magics of earth”

“That’s gotta be big job for one unicorn.” I said.

“Lilly tells me there are those who never fought, who stayed on Earth, who renounced Arcadia for attempting an invasion. But no tales of their works have come across into Arcadia– or even to the In Between. Lilly doesn’t even talk to me about them.”

I I shook my head. “My brain hurts.” I begged.

The wizard smiled, warm despite the words. “Do not attempt to read my thoughts. Blocking such is the first thing a wizard learns.”

I sighed. “you are exasperating.” I said.

“One could argue that is my job.”

I closed my eyelids, feeling their weight like irresistible gravity. Before long a blaze of light turned my inner darkness red. By the time I blinked my eyes open again, he was gone.

The lights were off and a light blanket I did not recognize was draped across my body. Though now it was night, and the porch light was on. I heard someone banging around in the kitchen.
I suddenly realized I had to feed the animals.. hours ago. Fortunately, most of the entourage that didn’t use the attic literboxes were already outside or paddocked. I still managed to fall on the floor instead of slip gracefully out of my impromptu bed.

Patrick appeared with a flashlight. He was even handsome in the half light.

“You shouldn’t be trying to move too quickly.” he advised. “Remember you have a concussion. Don’t worry about the animals, Grace. I took care of them that the help didn’t already tend.”
Hello Kitty slinked past Patrick and lept onto the edge of the couch arm rest. She sat regaly on the edge, tilted her head and looked at my pitifully. Then dangled her tail down just past my reach. I tried to grab it, and she yanked it away. She turned away haughtily, then turned back towards me, leaping to the cushion next to my head. There she crouched, as if to say, “you need someone to keep an eye on you.” In her crouch she looked very intent, but still at rest, with all four paws tucked under her body, like a white puddle. She was part Japanese bobtail, with the white coloring and a couple of black spots on her flank, but she actually had tail intact. The last third of it was black. But her face was more apple than wedge, and her body was rounder and her fur was denser. She had one yellowy green eye, and one deep blue eye, which in the wrong light made her look like a pirate. Her delicate pink collar with a bow competed the picture.

She watched me with incredulity as I attempted to get back on the couch. Patrick actually picked me up and carried me back to the couch, taking a bit longer than was strictly speaking necessary. I’m not skinny by any stretch, but I’m not fat, either. Just… a bit curvy in places. Mom would nag me into oblivion if I turned out like her sister Joelle. But I’m not light as a feather either. He seemed to have no trouble at all hefting me to chest height and swinging me over my sprawling distance from the couch. He set me down gently next to hello kitty, without disturbing her. Once it was clear I wasn’t moving, she padded closer, purred and nudged me with her pink nose.

“If you’d take care of yourself, I wouldn’t have to.” he said, but didn’t sound particularly displeased by it. My heart was screaming something, but I was too tired to hear. I drifted off while Patrick was still smiling.

Gata blanca con ojos de distinto color

Gata blanca con ojos de distinto color

Favorite SF Books

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ED: Here’s an old draft that I published elsewhere. Stuff is busy today, so I’m bailing on blog posts that are actual work.

There’s supposed to be a short snippet at the OWG about your favorite SF novel. I can’t do it. I just can’t. 50 words about a single title is just too confining.

I guess I will have to settle with which changed me the most in a lasting way. With this, I have narrowed it down to three.  They are… Fairy Land, The Diamond Age, and A Brave New World.   Fairy Land is a book I read in 2001. It broke my head.  Beautifully written, a compelling story with a gut wrenching twist at the end. The style is reminiscent of “When Gravity Fails” except the world is even more layered vivid and intense.

The Diamond Age is a wonderful character driven story that happens to be about how people socialize and learn.  Expect the usual zany Stephensonian world features, and the death of cyberpunk.  But, it was a good death.

I don’t even have to write about A Brave New World. So I won’t.

Woah, wait! That’s not fun!  We can’t have what’s good for you be The Best Science Fiction ever.  It’s about which was the most exciting and engrossing SF, right? I guess I could come up with three.  Fun is a big category, and it’s hard to measure, let alone rank.  Those are– man, do I have to choose?  There are a fist full of Bujold, so I will arbitrarily pick Brothers in Arms.  Weber gave us Honor Harrington– we’re up in the 20-30 range? Pick one. Take two, they are that good.

I’m also partial to Cherryh, from The Pride of Chanur to The Foreigner series.  One of my favorite Elizabeth Moon SF stories is “Remnant Population”.  Then there’s Sarah Hoyt.  Her short stories are overlooked, but let’s make our life simpler and stick to novels.  What, you mean I have to pick… one?!

Oh, no, it’s about mind altering worlds and strange concepts and the wonder in the universe. So Count to A Trillion by John C Wright tops that list.

Should it be all dancing about architecture? well, maybe not. We are storytelling about science. Science in real life is filled with great stories, many of whom are never told.  This is why the System of the World trilogy is technically science fiction. Even if its’ also historical fiction,and a swashbuckling epic romp through at least eight novels woven together into three great ox stunning books.

So… you see the problem?  Wait… this is a PROBLEM?!

Music: That Terrible Freedom

The song is actually called “Trial by Fire” by a ThouShaltNot… not to be confused with “Through Fire”..a forthcoming novel by Sarah Hoyt.  I do have to wonder if this song inspired her… for various reasons.

My musings lead me to wonder what Ariel’s life was like after he was released by Prospero.  One of my many story ideas is about what happens when a magicians apprentice is loosed on the world after his master died.  Because the Green Angel Tower series pissed me off that much.  But I can’t say that Tad Williams didn’t warn me.

But it may be why so many young people seem terrified of freedom. If you are coddled and protected all your life, and have no freedom at all– it eventually becomes threatening. It evolves into a spectral variation on Fear of the Unknown.

It doesn’t help that they are trained from birth to know that power over others is more valuable than personal freedom– while being taught they believe otherwise.

But do you trust freedom that was designed by people you don’t even understand?  But if you don’t know the unintended consequences (and these poor children don’t even know they exist, apparently), how can you know that what you design yourself through will gives you what you really want?

 

 

The Phyrric twitter Barrage

JW with script

From my last post… (Age of Ultron Review, for those just arriving)

Speaking of gauntlets, I guess I have to talk about the Pyrrhic twitter barrage.

Joss is so not one of my political compatriots. Yet these women… can’t even wrong properly. Seriously. Why attack and devour one of their own? They call that a win? If they think they scored points in the culture war, well, let’s just say they were engaging in some deliberate friendly fire, just because.

Hell of a way to lose, mon cheri. God Speed, and enjoy those ashes in your mouth. If this keeps up, those of us in the “leave me alone” contingent won’t have to fire a shot.

So I said above, “You can’t even wrong properly” as if a retrograde reprobate such as myself knows what I’m talking about. Well, you see, just because I’m not flinging poo from across the isle does not mean I have always been what I am today. I have a fair degree of experience with the whole feminist culture warrior shtick, and I took my leave based on experience. I was also not born in an echo chamber. My family spanned the culture war from both ends, so I had a good look at the best and worst of both worlds.

In order to fisk these criticisms, I don’t even have to dip into the well of my knee jerk libertarianism– or probe the depths of my Catholic sympathies. Logic and reason don’t even have to enter into it. All I have to do is channel my mother, who was also a second wave radical feminist. Compared to these people, she had nuance. She had read a bit more history. But it is still the putrid foundation from which their culture springs.

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She would have given him points for quoting Abigail Adams at a critical juncture, when we learn that a certain character with leadership qualities gets many of them from his SO. We have seen Black Widow be nothing but a strong, dispassionate warrior for two or three films, and now we see what is behind those eyes, what she struggled against to overcome. When she shows some sign of regret… how can you truly struggle without it? We are informed that she is insufficiently strong, because she did not celebrate a decision that was forced on her. Excuse me? So now we aren’t pro-choice, but no choice?

Well, at least you are being honest for a change. And I guess the fact that she has rescued several heroes and has the massive Hulk wrapped around her little finger means nothing.

Now for a place where they really fell down on the job. The Red Witch. Oh, sure, she’s the bad ass who brings the strongest heroes down low, and is the only reason why her unassailable speed-demon brother bothers to get up every day. She even catches Ultron unawares and manages to get her and her sib away alive, which is a real accomplishment when dealing with that cruel and vindictive robot.

But she had a massive breakdown in the middle of a critical battle– and has to get a pep talk from a strong male character to move on. And guess what? He’s the closest to the straight white male the whole movie has. Burn. Aaaaannnnd, they miss it completely.

Where are the haters when you really need them? Do they have the true courage of their convictions, or do they fling poo because that is all they know how to do? They can’t even do it particularly well by their own standard.

You need a flipping Catholic libertarian to school you on how it’s done. You had one job…

Age of Ultron, the review

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So I went with some friends to see Avengers. We went full hog and saw it in 3D with excellent front and center seats. The screen curved around our location… so I had an optimal view of the action.

Yes, I have good friends.

Unlike most Hollywood ventures, I went in with high expectations. The original was a truly excellent movie. And so is about everything that Joss has set his stamp on in the Marvel franchise. As a matter of fact, everything the Marvel studio has put forward has an enviable track record for quality storytelling. There has been some sideline noise and nonsense that will be addressed on, but I’m mostly focusing on the work itself.

The first scene drew me in with a sense of deja vu, yet tinged with tension. Yes, we’ve seen this set before in previous movies, but there was more. The fight scenes were… different. I don’t know how someone watching this on a conventional screen would see it, but there was a fourth dimension to battle that I hadn’t noticed before. It stirred older memories, those of me reading this very sequence in the comics as a child. He’d captured them so well the panels they were based on flickered in my brain. The fight scenes were as punchy, smooth and vivid as if I’d imagined them. This is the best use of 3D technology I have ever seen. There was no color bleed, there was no gratuitous projectiles grazing the audience. Never the less, you felt a part of the action. Granted, I had the front and center seats of platonic ideal, but even in the back the framing was so perfect it was seamless.

Right away we introduce two new characters, and with a stab of your heart you realize they are villains. Yet you want to like them, you want to identify with them, even as they side with Hydra–, that is, nifty Nazi analogues. For a while I thought it was because of my fondness for Eastern Europeans, especially Croatians, but it was also the deft way the characters were defined through the way they used their abilities in the fight scenes themselves. Quicksilver and The Red Witch are fun both to watch both as an audience member and from the writer’s perspective, so much potential for harm, and trouble.

These storytelling assets were used powerfully throughout, and with deep seated plot based consequences. This is a bold, refreshing move. With mind altering characters, they most often come off as cosmetic, a bald excuse for character development that skims the surface of the plot, or as a diversion. Any similarity between a red herring and the Red Witch is entirely coincidental.

And this is not just the usual “beginning fight scene to whet your appetite and draw you in” either. This is a setup for a twist of the knife that directs the thrust of the entire rest of the film.

Because our mind meddling witch twists the perceptions of all of our heroes, and curses them with premonitions that reveal their darkest fears. The tone is prophetic. The results are devastating.

Stark is racked by self doubt, a convincing reversal of his cocky nature. Because of that nature, his introspection powers are… crippled.

Though Bruce Banner is stronger with introspection, he literally becomes his fears and destroys a neighborhood– and a building. Stark –with all his resources — can only stop him by literally dropping a skyscraper on him. I know you are screaming about spoilers at this point– but seeing how he does it is the real payoff. Trust me.
Stark taps on the fourth wall by proclaiming themselves mad scientists, and furthers his journey into dubious territory, by building the solution to “all our problems”… and quotes the great Quisling proclaiming “Peace in Our Time”. Those scare quotes should be scary. These troubling words echo the peace treaty undermined by Adolf Hitler. Funny how comic books are more culturally literate, yet tell better stories than many ‘sophisticated’ arthouse efforts.

The secret: Joss hasn’t forgotten that strong characters have to overcome difficult circumstances. They have to move past thwarted hopes, broken dreams, and tear free from some serious shit. The development of Black Widow through out the film, happily spurred on by meddling courtesy of the Red Witch. Her addition to the mosaic is a dark lace throughout the film. The flashes and implications of her history make La Femme Nikita – or even Dark Angel — look like a jaunt through happy land.

The effect on Captain America is subtle, but has strong implications for later movies. He becomes more introspective, less receptive to friendship from his compatriots, and gives up hope on ever finding love. Yet this is subtle background to the “Empire Strikes Back” of the Avengers canon. Like the original Empire, it is even better than the first film. Yet the film owes it’s stunning success to the effective build up from it’s predecessor.

We could not understand the mayhem or it’s consequences, or even the dramatic shift in Stark’s character– had we not had the previous movies giving us a clear picture of the limits of his introspection. The companionable bonding between him and Dr Hulk makes no sense without the tension they fought through earlier in series. Even Black Widow’s apparent insanity– falling for Hulk– is a dramatic non-sequitur had we not seen her flirting with Captain America. Indeed, it doesn’t make sense until we start thinking about the effect of her nightmare journey through her past, and remembering the path she was denied.

Though these choices, we start seeing the character of the Red Witch in stark relief, as a wounded shadow in the background of every hero. Between this and her playful banter with her beloved brother Quick Silver, we know she is not only likable, but disturbed. And this carries through to the end game, where we see her innate fragility that allows her to sniff out weakness behind the toughest exterior. Look out for the scene where we see a brilliant stroke from the only hero she did not damage– that affects her deeply, likely for movies to come.

For all that it is a wide ranging ensemble piece, Joss is very good at ensembles. This is tightly written, and not a single detail goes unused throughout. I haven’t even started on the movie’s namesake… who, as mostly a voice and a rendered CGI figure, whose skillful delivery and clever dialogue would have stolen the show in a lesser film. Though he did get close more than once. You won’t find a stereotypical, emotionless AI here. He is snarky, alternating hot and cold in stunning vivid fashion.

Even through crippling and betrayal, he manages to score one last gambit.

Despite plenty of foreshadowing it comes as a surprise. It gives plenty of scope for both kicking ass and heroics– and is utilized to it’s fullest. They do things that they would have only hinted at in any other film. The final fight scenes have the same 3D quality to them as the beginning, except on a grand scale. The action is so fast you are afraid to blink, lest you miss something. Each and every detail pulls you closer to a satisfying finish.

There is a bit of a hint at the end of the film, that I’m afraid only comic book nerds would get the reference… and I’m not one of those nerds. I did not follow the whole Marvel opus closely, and my access was sporadic at best.

One last bit I’d like to highlight is the development that goes into Hawkeye, that comes as a great surprise, even to fans of the comic books. Well, I hate to destroy the surprise, but, well, let’s just say you see him in his home environment. Had the timing been better, I would have snarked that Joss’s choices hinged on the popularity of American Sniper. Yet… it couldn’t have. The timing on production is literally impossible for this to be true. No, it is just Joss’s innate knowledge of character chemistry and delivering exactly what our pot of heroes needs to function. That is, a leader, someone who knows what they were fighting for, and came home to it when work lets him. You see that leadership shine in several beautiful and unexpected moments, but it is never contrived, or spelled out in a definitive scene. Also look for a surprising but pleasing quote from one of the greatest unsung feminine heroes in American History, Abigail Adams. Joss’ degree in Women’s studies has some meat.

The last thing to mention was the eminently likable scientist, and her girl crush on Thor, and how you desperately hope she’ll come back in a different film. She played a small but vital role in the mosaic. It would not hold together without it.

Oh, and I haven’t seen such great use of parties to build character since True Lies. The sort of drunken games that men and women play are used to great effect, and a surprising cameo leaks some nerdy goodness that refers back to the original comic source. It is even used to pull in some old friends in the form of side kicks, and adds a little tension and humor later on– in the middle of a fight scene.

Stay tuned.

Suffice to say, a cosmic Gauntlet has been thrown.

infinity-war

Speaking of gauntlets, I guess I have to talk about the Pyrrhic twitter barrage. Update: Not chased.

Joss is so not one of my political compatriots. Yet these women… can’t even wrong properly. Seriously. Why attack and devour one of their own? They call that a win? If they think they scored points in the culture war, well, let’s just say they were engaging in some deliberate friendly fire, just because.

Hell of a way to lose, mon cheri. Godspeed, and enjoy those ashes in your mouth. If this keeps up, those of us in the “leave me alone” contingent won’t have to fire a shot.

I have more to say. Same blog time, same blog topic.

WW I, & WW II– or Godwin’s Post

H. D. Girdwood [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

H. D. Girdwood [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m mostly reflecting on what’s going on on this post. For some reason, she turns off her comment box after a little while. Because she gets hundreds of comments, maybe? 😉

I was a strange little girl. The moment I heard about WW II, (I was quite young, since my grandfather served) I would stage mock battles of the Battle of the Bulge with stuffed animals and make dioramas punishing Hitler. It is a satisfying war, because there are clear villains.

But really, it only gets more complex when you get older. You know that certain beliefs are evil, but it was harder to know that Germany was, in great part, a country held hostage by power–hungry mad men. These hungry men were also very good at seduction. It was the state-level equivalent of marrying a charming sociopath who turns out to be a serial killer. The sad irony was that the Wehrmacht were very good at providing what they promised– but at a terrible cost.  If one is desperate, and guided by circumstance rather than principle, one can overlook those sorts of horrors.  At least, until one has dispensed with the trivialities of  eating. Though a very sophisticated country, it was very desperate country thanks to the ‘concessions’ of WWI.

I learned more about WW II than anywhere else in a mental institution.  There I met a boy who believed that Hitler was the greatest man who ever lived.   What might surprise people was that he was not a racist, or even an avowed member of some organization based on racial superiority. He did not even think that white people (or, let’s face it anglo saxons–or nordic races:  there are plenty of us who are ‘white’ that a self-respecting Nazi would spit on.) were necessarily superior. He thought that particular part of Hitler’s “grand vision” needed some refining. He always said that making Jews the enemy was brilliant– but only because they had all the money one needed to jump-start the German economy.  And jump-starting a whole society is more important than a small, isolated and self-serving  group of wealthy businessmen, right? So, why not?

If this logic doesn’t chill your blood… I don’t know what to tell you. See a doctor– or a priest.

Nope. He really wasn’t a racist. What he was, was a well-read pragmatist who had no moral qualms about eugenics. Basically, his argument was that Hitler was closer to any other leader in history to delivering to his people what they wanted– whatever the cost.  And, until his mind started deteriorating from syphilis, he was brilliant at it.  He turned the function and admiration of the State into a well honed state religion. There was a time, when living in Nazi Germany could be a pleasant thing. Especially if you had been starving, out of work, and paying great bundles of cash– if you had it– for a loaf of bread.

The Jews didn’t see it coming, because the Renaissance took place even before heads started to roll. They were used to ugly looks and bad words in their direction, and there was nothing on the visible platform that bothered them.  Keep in mind, what Sarah said also applies, but I think there were a complex of factors that are worthy of examination.

Also, because there weren’t instantaneous communications, it was easy to hide– for a while at least– that some people just didn’t make it home.  Sure there was propaganda, but everyone told themselves that it was only the extremists rattling their sabers, needing someone to blame for what happened. This charade was drawn out by saying that these undesirables were being shipped out of the country.  Most Germans– and most Jews believed this. So they went willingly  onto the cattle cars, figuring that it was an efficient way to avoid the problem.  Except… it was a lie.

It will shed much light to recognize that this boy was also a BIG fan of Machiavelli.  Indeed that is his whole modus operandi for loving Hitler. Because he was the most prominent, most faithful follower of this criminal mastermind, who wrote the book for leadership by criminal masterminds.  If there was ever a justification for book burning, his how-to manual for being an awesome, well loved, yet brutal and totally dishonest autocrat is one of them.  You will note next to no similarities between this and reading Wealth of Nations.  Just saying.

However, if you want a truly evil villain and are running low on inspiration, it’s a great read for seeing evil in action “for the greater good”–his. Or hers, even. There are all sorts of great gems here about decision making. So now that we now know what truly ostentatious evil looks like, lets go for something a bit more subtle.

Who was the real bad-guy in WW I ? Those in Europe would probably say royalty as a concept.  My husband would say Woodrow Wilson. I would point out that he didn’t start WW I. He would say, “Yeah, well he ended it by setting up WW II.”  Ol’ Cold Willy’s actions do inspire one to declare lifelong fealty to Franz Josef of Austria.  Or who knows, maybe I read too much Zmirak to be quite sane.  I’m not actually a monarchist– yet. I still believe that a Republic can work. But we must return to something closer to what our Founding Fathers intended.

Because, in case you haven’t read “Extraordinarily Popular Delusions  and the Madness of Crowds”, an unruly democracy will, if left unchecked, becomes indistinguishable from tyranny in the worst sense.  I argue we are mighty close to that, if he haven’t fallen off that cliff already. That’s what happened in France during/after the Revolution. The unruly Founding Americans managed to avoid this because they were already well versed in statecraft and also had seen the worst mob rule had to offer.  Many of them were on good terms with France, and had seen the ugly result while struggling with these questions. They lived on the border between civilization and chaos– chaos being defined by the fact that they were 13 tiny colonies clinging to the edge of a vast frontier messily divided up among hostile foreign powers.

The Founders were dealing with realities. The French were inflicting ideas on reality, convinced  the grand design would just work. Also, the Founders, by and large, wanted to create a place where one could just go back to farming. In reality they were conserving a life they already knew from the incursion of an outside other.  That, being “the madness of King George”.  The French, while they chopped off the heads of the old empire, still dreamed of replacing it with their own new utopia. This is an undiscovered country, even more so than the future– because you can generally count on the sun to rise in the morning with an ordinary future. But utopia is ultimately a stranger, an alien thing where anything seems possible.  Our naive culture thinks this is a good thing. Let me put it this way. Thomas More gave us that term. It means “no place”, and much greater suffering results when people forget those small, ugly facts. It is arguable that he was killed for it.

Nazi Germany was merely the reanimated corpse of the Weimar Republic.  It fed off the life and treasure of it’s own people, and it’s entire economic structure required  expansion, the pilfering of other nations and empire to keep the goods coming.  Going back to the insane assylem for a minute. Because the poor boy was insane and not especially good at economic logic, he did not recognize that the greatest disease of his hero was not his misplaced hatred or even his ravening insanity.  It was using a destructive,  unsustainable financial system to save a starving people.  By bribing some of them and killing off others. This is the ultimate zero sum game.

You may be screaming at me that of course the death camps were the worst feature. Certainly they are the worst outward sign. We have confused the most terrible symptom for the disease. But I tell you what made Nazism so terrible was that it required death camps.  The endless stream of cash required to keep the National Socialist engine running was the lifeblood of every productive human being within reach.

Hating Jews was just an excuse to get the public sanction to remove them from view so they could be taken a part and squeezed for every drop of monetary value they had.  Whatever taxes a given population would willingly give couldn’t be enough for the level of redistribution they used to buy the loyalty of his constituents.  Sounds disturbingly familiar, doesn’t it?

That is how top heavy the economic situation was, and it was mostly a vacuum of any economic value inside the country– save it’s people, and whatever wealth they may have.   Once those become the state’s responsibility, every one of those becomes another mouth to feed. In Germany’s case, the total absence of any kind of monetary value was due to the crippling sanctions demanded from them by the rest of Europe– notably the French, the English, and the United States.

These demands  came out of WWI.  Europe had lost her innocence, a whole generation of good men and energetic women, and her great hope in an optimistic future. The full brunt of the horrors of industrialization were made painfully evident, and sucked out the soul of the whole continent.  For this catastrophic loss,  they made Germany pay. They merely demanded all of her output for themselves.   Woodrow Wilson especially pushed for the punishment of Germany– but then he wanted everyone to suffer. But at least it gave him some ammunition to use back home.

One could argue that our shuffling Democracy is still suffering the consequences of his rule.  Europe certainly has, for WW II nationalized Germany’s great despair. Europe stared too long and saw too much in that abyss. Thus she give up all hope for humanity- or God.  Though I argue that she was set up for this devastating blow by having talked herself out of hope and God by the time WW I rattled to it’s universal defeat. All that was necessary was to verify the most cynical conclusions derived from the previous war.

But these two wars helped define modern life in ways the brainiacs of the Enlightenment could never hope to understand.  Because while some were indifferent to the God of Hosts, and referred him to stay remote and unknown, they also knew that an absence of such would lead to great horrors.  The modern nihilist says, “we already have horrors. What’s a few more? What does it matter?” It did not seem to occur to them that the specter of the primacy of words (with variable meaning) could ever return to primacy in the mind of mankind, after her thorough inculcation of Right Reason.

Perhaps someone needs to send Europe the memo.  While we did kill God (so Nietzsche did get something right) , but God did not die.  We just casually decided He didn’t exist.