The Special Hell

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I found another category of “specially damned” individuals rampant in modern times. All those people who morph the faces of their friends or famous people (who can tell) on classic paintings. If that weren’t bad enough, they share them to the point it uselessly pollutes Google image search with the world’s most wretched and ugly Photoshop.

For goodness sake, what did Velasquez ever do to you?!  Just search for Velasquez if you really want your eyes to bleed.

OK, Fine. This is by far the best of the lot. It’s even funny.

So I guess sentence reduced to eating desert first and purgatorial probation.

diego-velasquez

Review: HONOR AT STAKE

 

The review you’ve all been waiting for…

Honor-at-Stake-n

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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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…

artists without audiences

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So, I was reading this, and it got me to thinking.

How can there be art without an audience? To whom do you speak? Sure, you can just write or draw and put it in a desk drawer and it never sees the light of day. But… is that really being an artist?

Without an audience an artist is as isolated as a corpse. Sadly, he is not fertile to other forms of life, because he gives nothing of himself but shock and vitriol. At least a corpse is made of the same basic chemistry it is surrounded by, and is eventually reclaimed to the firmament. Modern art is indigestible even by the composting forces of culture. This is why we have had little more than zombie art for the last 100+ plus years.

But seriously– an artist without an audience, who yet earns bread, is less natural than a unicorn. At least the latter is self sustaining and has the virtue of treasuring purity.

By Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Shrine: Cathedra Petri

By Ricardo André Frantz (User:Tetraktys) (taken by Ricardo André Frantz) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

 Today is the feast of the Seat of St Peter. “Upon this Rock I build my Church.”  Ahh Bernini.  So glorious!  (Yeah, I needed a break from Lent, too. 😉 )

  ⇓Yes, this image depicts an on-going mass.  Dude, taking pictures during mass? Really?  But it is a nice picture, and gives you a sense of scale.

But  I can understand why some people go, “but why all the stuff? Wasn’t Jesus a humble carpenter? What are you people on?”

Well, it’s like this. Jesus is your buddy, (which is a pretty radical position for a deity) and I’m not denying that. But he’s also GOD. And God is the omnipotent omnipresent creator of the universe and everything in it. He is Existence Itself. The culmination of All that is Good. He is Love, yes, I can go on and on about this all day… even all eternity. But the point is… think about when this was built.  What was it’s purpose?

⇓⇑Nice closer image of the chair. 

By Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“To glorify the Pope?” snarks the peanut gallery.  Well, I’m sure the man who commissioned this had an ego problem or two, but it was designed, built and dedicated to the Greater Glory of God.  At least some people here had intent, and it was meant not as a palace for a king, but a palace for God HImself. Meaning it should surpass the beauty of all palaces, the personal wealth of all kings, both in the past, in the present, and in the future.  And that is why Bernini made it as he did. Even if you question the Pope’s motives… will you question that this artist did not want to give his absolute best to God?

⇓Below here, is the altar of sacrifice. That is why the pillars have a vaguely abominable appearance. This is Cavalry.  Cuddly putti aren’t called for in that context. That is why the angels on top of the roof cornice are mourning..

By Dnalor 01 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 There were holy men working for the church, even back then. And they did not question it. It was built for the Faithful, and for God.  A church was the only establishment where ordinary people would see this kind of thing.

Furthermore, comparing a Pope to a king is ludicrous. The Papacy is the longest standing democratic institution on Earth.   How so? Look at the first picture.   It’s a shot from the Papal enclave that ultimately voted in Pope Francis.   Also, the Pope only teaches what Christ teaches, and cannot make up new teachings. He can reformulate rubrics and how things are done, but it must always conform to what Christ taught, or his teaching is invalid. So he does what Christ says, and is a servant of his Church, mostly to proclaim unity, arbitrate squabbles and represent her in the global theater.

Returning to the topic of elaborate and gilded churches, I have one last point. There is a tradition and teaching that a church is where heaven touches Earth, a place where God dwells amongst his people. (Hint: This is my body.) SO it reflects not only the glories of Heaven, the presence of God’s Glory on Earth, but also the Temple on the Mount. (Hint: He shall return in Glory.) If that isn’t reason to have glorious surroundings, I don’t know what is.

⇓Another attempt at scale and impact, backing off, trying to soak it  all in.

By Michael Day (St Peter’sUploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Not Dead Yet: The Final Chapter

 

By 04ashplantc01 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Zombie dancer from Spamalot.

I suppose I should have explained this series sooner.  Occasionally I am wowed by the wide array of images that comes across when I search a word or phrase in Wikimedia commons. Then I decide to do a series of web posts about them.  In this case, it was “I’m Not Dead Yet”.  The fact that I turn 40 in a few days is entirely coincidental.  I’m not used to having age related stuff matter to me, so please have patience while I sort it out.

What struck me more is how it all seemed to tell a story that was related to the phrase– more or less. I mean, sure, I stuck in a ‘random’ collapsing galaxy (that was yet another hit on the search), but who doesn’t like pretty NASA images? And even a collapsing galaxy seems small and artistic when seen in contrast with a small part of the greater universe. Call it perspective on the bigger questions. Yet even that was not the end.  Okay fine, the last image being a zombie is my sense of humor getting the better of me. (As well as being true to the search. At least it’s a relatively attractive zombie.)  Ending on the theme of resurrection was not an accident.  But beyond that I don’t feel the need to spell it out.