Friday, January 28, 2011

In Support of the Egyptian Protesters...

We're now several days into the protests in Egypt and things are not looking good for President Hosni Mubarak's semi-dictatorship.  The ruling party's headquarters in Cairo has been looted and set on fire, police stations have been looted of arms, some policemen have defected to the protesters, and the soldiers seem remarkably unenthusiastic about restoring order--they're letting protesters climb around on their vehicles. Mubarak has demanded his Cabinet resign, I imagine throwing them to the wolves to protect his own skin.

On Neal Boortz this morning, Boortz and a caller who was a Navy vet discussed how they think the fall of Mubarak could lead to the takeover of the country by Islamist theocrats and this new regime would control the Suez Canal, "the most important waterway in the world."

However, it seems to me the Muslim Brotherhood has mellowed since the days when they assassinated Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president who signed the peace treaty with Israel as part of the Camp David Accords.  If I recall correctly, they even have representatives in Egypt's parliament and have denounced al Qaeda and been denounced in return.

This CNN link indicates that the Brotherhood is weakened and hasn't been involved in the protests.  This MSNBC link quotes the protestors' Facebook page describing their demands.  Basically they want to be rid of Mubarak and his son, whom he wants to succeed him North Korea-style, have free elections, and end the state of emergency that has been used to justify repression of dissent and judicial torture.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a more detailed article about the protestors' demands, but I cannot find it right now.

The link also describes the protests as including both Christians and Muslims and rich and poor.  One Muslim man tried to shout an Islamist slogan and was hushed up by the protesters, indicating that most of them aren't interested in a theocracy.

This link indicates the protests are about freedom and democracy, something we as Americans should get behind. U.S. President Barack Obama has told Mubarak not to order the protests crushed and I think the $1.5 billion per year the U.S. has been paying Egypt since the Camp David Accords were signed is at risk.  Good for him.  If the U.S. is seen as backing a corrupt, oppressive regime in this time of crisis and said regime falls, it will give "street cred" to the most anti-American elements of Mubarak's opposition.  And that, controlling the Suez Canal, is not something we can afford.

Hopefully Mubarak, like the ruler of Tunisia and his mafia-like family, can take the hint and scram.  One of the links mentions several limousines went to the airport and several private jets took off afterward, so perhaps the rats are abandoning the sinking ship.

Go freedom!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Two Alternate Draka Timelines and Machiavelli

This morning, I added an update to my alternate Draka timeline "Limited Alliance-Draka War in the Late 1940s or Early 1950s," which is available in the Alien Space Bats forum of

This update described a massive effort by the Roman Catholic Church to rescue the illegitimate children of Citizens and their high-status servants (such as the Janissaries) and the women of conquered nations, who were in danger of abuse in the areas where the Domination of the Draka had been driven out, and find adoptive parents for them in the West.

(In our history, the children of American soldiers and Vietnamese women were often abused.  These children would be subject to even more outrageous behavior, considering the more brutal circumstances of both the occupation of their countries and their own conception.)

Think Operation Babylift from the end of the Vietnam War (3,300 children removed from South Vietnam before it fell to the Communists), only on a much bigger scale--750,000 children in three or four months.

The next update will focus on the liberation of Tibet from the Domination, a feat largely accomplished by the Indian Army and the Gurkhas, and the beginning of the Sichuan bombing campaign from bases in Tibet and eastern China.

(The Sichuan Basin is incredibly defensible and has been under Draka control since soon after WWI and democratic governments don't spend soldiers recklessly--I intend for the region to be heavily bombarded using nukes and conventional weapons before the ground invasion, if there even is one.  This will enable a relatively cheap Alliance for Democracy victory manpower-wise but sow the seeds of discontent for later relations between China and the Alliance--later generations of Chinese might not remember Draka rule firsthand but they will know all about residual fallout, high rates of cancer, birth defects, etc.)

This is the second alternate Draka timeline I've written for  The first one, "The Dragon and the Bear," features General Lavr Kornilov realizing the danger from the Draka the Russian Empire would be in if the Bolsheviks were to stage a coup and a civil war break out--in the canonical Draka timeline, the Draka took Russian Central Asia during the Russian Civil War--and manages to successfully pre-empt the October Revolution.  From there, Kornilov and Alexander Kerensky industrialize Russia using both capitalistic methods and a kinder, gentler version of Stalin's technique (exporting grain to fund industrialization, only this time without starving several million people to death) to prepare for the inevitable war with the Draka.  The non-purging of Russia's best commanders and better development of "deep operations" also helps.

In both timelines, as long as the Domination can keep the war on other people's territory, it is a terrible foe.  However, once enemy armies invade the Domination itself, the Draka quickly find themselves in trouble--the presence of foreign armies provokes massive slave revolts that, even if crushed, require the presence of troops needed elsewhere to fight the invaders and in some cases overwhelm the Draka and their serf loyalists.  Plus the masses of slaves that will take the opportunity to run away rather than jump the master and the strawboss will make good laborers and (with training) soldiers for the invader. 

In "Limited Alliance-Draka War," it takes roughly a month for the Draka to be driven out of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, three months for the Draka to be ejected from Korea (due to their ability to mobilize anti-Japanese Koreans to fight Japan-based invaders), and maybe two or three months for Western Europe to the Rhine and China to the Sichuan and Gobi Desert to be liberated.  I don't remember "The Dragon and the Bear" well, but I think from the beginnings of the Russian invasion of Draka-occupied Afghanistan to the arrival of Russian forces on the Persian Gulf and Shatt-al-Arab, it takes maybe six months to a year and when the Final War comes, it takes around two years for the Domination (at this point all of Africa and the Middle East to the Taurus Mountains and Shatt-al-Arab) to be completely destroyed.

When I was a student at the University of Georgia, I had to read "The Prince" (which I think I had in The Portable Machiavelli--I don't have the book with me right now) and I remember Machiavelli discussing in either "The Prince" or "The Art of War" that a weak state is strong on offense but can be easily beaten on its own soil but a strong state is stronger at home that it is abroad.  He used the examples of Carthage and Rome--Carthage's army under Hannibal was strong enough to win many victories in Italy but was beaten at Zama when the Romans invaded North Africa, while Rome weathered years of Hannibal rampaging through Italy, raising new armies as the old ones were beaten, and eventually took the fight to Carthage itself.

According to the Wikipedia entry on Zama, the Roman general Scipio Africanus was able to recruit many "local defectors" and Numidian cavalry to fight the Carthaginians, who were very reliant on mercenaries to man their armies.  The Carthaginians, who had waged war in Italy for years, crumbled fast.  The Draka are in a similar situation--any invader to their territory is likely to pick up a lot of local support, especially if the people in the area remember a time in which they were free, and their support base is going to consist solely of Citizens (outnumbered 9-1 by their slaves) and higher-status serfs and probably not all of those.

For those who are interested, here're the links to "The Dragon and the Bear" and "Limited Alliance-Draka War."  I posted the first one on (well, most of it--I still have a few entries left) on, but in order to see the second one, you'll need to be a member of

The Dragon and the Bear: The Domination vs. Russia

Limited Alliance-Draka War in the Late 1940s or Early 1950s

Although the site has consumed a huge amount of time that could probably be better-spent, being a member there has taught me a whole lot of real history (in order to know what might hav happened, you need to know what did happen and why), provided me with a place to receive criticism for my own alternate-history scenarios, led me to read a whole lot of books I wouldn't have even heard of (such as The Lost Legion, stemming from a discussion about a Roman army that may have ended up in China), and even inspired my Afrikanerverse, in which I have written two stories I've been trying to sell.

(Neither has been sold yet, but the editors do like them--one wasn't bought because it didn't fit with the other stories in an anthology, not because it wasn't good.)

I also met up with several members when I studied abroad in Britain in 2006.  Maybe I should find that photo of the group at that pub and post it on Facebook...

For those of you who need background on the Draka fictional universe, here's a link:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Productivity Update: Jan. 23, 2011

Crashing with my parents right now because I've gotten a new job (not saying where) but haven't found a new place to live.  Because my computer is at my old apartment, the writing I have gotten done is either when I'm back there packing things up to move or on my parent's computer--basically, a lot less of it.

As far as Battle for the Wastelands is concerned, I've lately fleshed out a few characters and relationships thereof (which will be important for Battle and the sequel, Escape from the Wastelands) and, in the outline, consolidated a few chapters. 

The former is important because character development is one of my weak points--the consensus of the Lawrenceville writing group I'm going to head out to in an hour or so is "make us care about your characters before you kill them."  The latter is important because publishers are reluctant to buy very long novels from first-time writers.  My goal is for Battle to be around 100,000 words long, if not less.

Most of the consolidation has taken place toward the end--content that would have been its chapter has been added to other, more developed chapters, and there will be *** scene breaks.  This means more multi-point-of-view chapters--for much of the story, it has alternated POVs between protagonist Andrew Sutter and antagonist Grendel, with an occasional chapter from the POV of Alonzo Merrill, a rebel leader.  Although there was one dual-POV (Andrew and Grendel) earlier in the story, now there're at least three, one Andrew/Grendel chapter and two Andrew/Alonzo chapters.

Now, the fact I've jammed multiple chapters together doesn't in-and-of-itself mean the final word count will be significantly affected.  However, I don't want individual chapters to go on too long, so I'll try to keep them limited to 5,000 words maximum, with most of them being significantly shorter.

(With 31 planned chapters post-consolidation, each chapter would need to be an average of 3,225.806 words to hit 100,000 exactly.  Obviously there's a bit of fudge-factor to be taken into account, but still.)

I'm going over the second version of Chapter 12 with my Lawrenceville group this afternoon.  I'll try to finish Chapter 13 in time for the next meeting of my Kennesaw group in two weeks.  Basically need to flesh out a relatively small battle (company-sized units on both sides) and its aftermath.  Considering how the chapter includes a substantial revelation about the character Owen Gollmar, it might be getting on the long side.

I did add some extra material to the next chapter of The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot, although I haven't posted a new chapter since I think November or December.  Only two chapters and an epilogue left.  At this point, the Fallen has risen from his North African tomb and all hell is about to break loose.

For those of you interested in the Transformers, here's the story:

Hopefully I'll have it done by Spring.  Maybe a quarter of the next chapter is done and I can write fan-fic chapters extremely quickly, as the readers of my Harry Potter stories can testify.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Tom Hardy as Bane, in "The Dark Knight Rises"

Hmm...good to see Anne Hathaway taking on a unique role.  Playing Catwoman (or perhaps the pre-Catwoman Selina Kyle) is certainly rather different from any role I'm aware she's played.

I don't know much about Tom Hardy, although I do own the comic book where Bane "breaks" Batman.  I remember someone online saying that they thought the next logical story in the Nolan Batman movies was "Knightfall"--Bane's defeat of Batman.  Plus Bane would be an interesting character--he's physically powerful enough to take on Batman, but he's also extremely intelligent.  He deliberately tired Batman out by breaking all the criminals out of Arkham before he attacked, after all.

Another Piece of Interesting Fan-Fiction

Behold "Breaking Strain," a piece of Draka fan-fiction I found today.  This is the sequel to "Proof Through the Night," which I blogged about earlier, and takes place around 20 years after the U.S. back-stabbed their Draka "allies" at the tail end of the Eurasian War and brought down the Domination in two days.

(The Domination's core territories were stripped to the breaking point of Citizens to sustain the war and they got nuked, along with the logistics hubs supplying the Draka armies in Europe, armies representing a substantial part of the Draka population of childbearing age.  Within a week, 1/3 of the Draka population is dead.)

Eric Von Shrakenberg is the ruler of the "Draka Archonate of Madagascar," where the surviving Draka and serf loyalists were exiled and which is subject to all sorts of armament restrictions, including no heavier-than-air aircraft.  This leaves them with only blimps and dirigibles (and the international force quarantining the island) to defend themselves against raiders from the restored Sultanate of Zanzibar, who want revenge for centuries of Draka oppression.

(Although the first story has FDR telling Eric that the U.S. will divide the fallen Domination into states based on tribal groupings, I don't think after centuries of Draka rule there would be tribal groupings left.  Like African-Americans, the black population would be post-tribal Anglophone Christians, especially since the Draka would deliberately try to destroy tribal identities.  Early in Marching Through Georgia, we see the plantation where Eric grew up and it seems more like something from the antebellum South than anything African.  Plus the Sultanate of Zanzibar is a pretty random thing to restore, instead of simply establishing something neutral like an East African Republic.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. and the Empire of Japan--which made peace in 1944, joined the Draka backstab, and still retains its mainland territories like Manchuria and Korea--are in a Cold War with each other and the Japanese are playing an enormous gambit involving Draka bitter-enders building forbidden weapons.

The story is in progress, so I can't really write a full review of it, but it's a fun read thus far.  It has some clever turns of phrase like a Draka bitter-ender threatening to use nerve gas on Zanzibar if its fleet attacks Madagascar using a pest-control metaphor that's both clever and shows how some of the Draka still retain their in-group/out-group mentality (he views the Zanzibaris, both the raiders and the civilian population, as insects) and some very clever scheming by both the Japanese and their Draka proxies.  I also liked how Eric tested the loyalty of a man he intended to send to check out the Draka bitter-enders--he gave the man his gun and told him to shoot him, on the grounds that if he were out of the way, the bitter-enders could pull off their scheme without provoking the Alliance to nuke Madagascar.

Other than the Zanzibari quibble I mentioned earlier, the only problem is that Eric remembers reading to Tyansha, the serf concubine he had as a teenager and the mother of his daughter Anna.  I don't have my copy of The Domination with me, but I definitely remember Tyansha could read and write--she was a trained courtesan intended for sale to the richest Draka (like Eric's family), not a field hand, and it's explicitly described how Eric allowed her to read his books and she asked a lot of disconcertingly-sharp questions.  That's why in my alternate Draka timeline "The Dragon and the Bear" (available at, I depict an elderly Eric stating that had she been a Citizen, she could have been a Senator or even Archon.

For those in need of background, here's the Wikipedia link:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Four Writings I'm Most Proud Of

Decided to list the four completed works I've written that I'm the most proud of, in order of pride. Here goes, with spoilers contained therein...

The Skirmish at the Vale's Edge (BattleTech)

When I visited DragonCon in 2008, I found a booth for Catalyst Game Labs, the company that current produces the BattleTech game and licensed fiction, and figured this would be a good writing opportunity. However, I let the project sit by the wayside while I worked on other projects until spring/summer 2009. I decided then that I ought to have the story done by DragonCon 2009, so I could find the Catalyst people again and tell them I'd submitted something.

I purchased some BattleTech source-books online and went to work. I remember watching the BattleTech animated series when I was in elementary school (it was on UPN on Sunday mornings, before church), so I remembered the Clans. Given how new writers are encouraged to start out far away from the important characters from the books and games, I figured the Clan invasion of the Periphery was a good place to set a story.

The Clan Wolf conquest of Drask's Den reminded me a lot of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which I'd researched extensively for my Gates of Vasharia project, so I went to work. I like to think my future biographers will have a field day with all the inside jokes--there's a city on Drask's Den named Carrollton, after the town where The Griffin Daily News is printed, while the protagonist shares a surname with my coworker at the Griffin paper.

I finished the story over the summer of 2009 and ran it through my Kennesaw and Lawrenceville writing groups twice and ended up submitting it to BattleCorps, the online BattleTech fiction compendium, a few days before DragonCon. After some tinkering, it went up on in early October 2009. Since it's an older story, it can probably be purchased for $2.00 or so.

Four cents per word is not considered a "pro rate" (that's $0.05/word plus), so I can't count this toward membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America. However, it still came out very lucrative for me and I intend to write more. The protagonist proved to be very popular with the BattleCorps denizens, so I think we'll be seeing him again.

Best of all, my story is now considered BattleTech canon.  For those of you who need some clarification, that means it is now considered as valid as any of the source-books, gaming manuals, or novels as far as the history of the BattleTech fictional universe is concerned.  I've made a mark, albeit a small one, on one of the biggest gaming franchises out there.

Lord of the Werewolves (Harry Potter fan-fiction)

Although this is fan-fiction and therefore I cannot make any money on it (unlike my original story, "I am the Wendigo," which we'll discuss later), I do like this one. But before I describe why, some background.

In 2008, I wrote a novel-length Harry Potter fan-fic entitled "The Wrath of the Half-Blood Prince," which took place during the First War of the Dark Lord (in the timeline, the 1970s) and was about Snape.  More on that later.

In order to get ideas and share my own thoughts, I joined the FictionAlley web-site.  While I was there, I made the acquaintance of Kyli Ann Rasco, who was an active poster in the threads critical of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I did not agree with all criticisms of the last book, but one of the better arguments was that Lupin and Tonks were underused. All they did was get married, have a baby, and die (offscreen, no less), and Lupin acted like a total tool when he learned that Tonks was pregnant. Both of them could have done so much more--Tonks, a shape-shifter, could have been a hard-core Order of the Phoenix assassin, while Lupin, a werewolf, could have challenged the terrorist Fenrir Greyback for control of Britain's werewolf community.

Kyli and I started corresponding and so "Lord of the Werewolves" was born. We both came up with ideas, I wrote the chapters, and then sent them to Kyli for revision and approval.

I'm proud of this for several reasons. Firstly, it's probably one of the most character-centric things I've ever written.

Remus Lupin starts out the story the way he is in canon--a nice guy who doesn't have a lot of moral courage (werewolves are treated similarly to how those with AIDS were treated in the 1980s and he was so glad to have friends that he never stood up to them, even when they did bad things like bully the nerdy young Snape). However, there is a dark, violent side to his character (we see hints of it in the earlier books) that is unleashed when Tonks, injured in a battle with her mad aunt Bellatrix Lestrange, is denied medical treatment by prejudiced doctors and miscarries. After killing the two Healers, Lupin is forced to kneel before Fenrir Greyback to escape the vengeance of the wizarding legal system, now under the control of the Dark Lord.

Once he's realized how thoroughly he's screwed up, he begins planning something resembling Operation Valkyrie (the plot to overthrow Hitler)--he'll assassinate Fenrir Greyback, blame the Death Eaters, and turn the werewolves against the Dark Lord. In the meantime, as a rising star in Greyback's outfit, he becomes more assertive and aggressive, or as one of my readers described him, "darker and edgier." As another reader said, he ultimately "finds his backbone" and is able to stand up to both the Forces of Evil and the often-prejudiced Forces of Good.

I did not put as much thought into Tonks' characterization, but it's there. She starts out her usual spunky self, ends up in a very dark place as a result of her miscarriage and her husband's apparent abandonment, and pulls herself back together. She ends up using FiendFyre as a weapon of assassination, and is back to normal by the end of the story.

I also got to indulge my penchant for making truly awful puns. Here's a selection from a chapter taking place on Valentine's Day...

"Oh Merlin," Tonks said from underneath him. "Professor Lupin, I didn't think you still had it in you."

Lupin smiled.

"Well, you could say I was just hungry like the wolf."

Tonks giggled. That warmed Lupin's heart. He decided to keep the jokes rolling.

"Who knew Miss Tonks liked it on all fours?"

She laughed. "I admit, not my usual cup of tea. But damn."

"So nice, we did it twice."

Tonks laughed again.

The "hungry like the wolf" pun provoked much groaning from those who heard it. This selection also reflects character development on Lupin's part--in a chapter taking place during their honeymoon, it's Tonks who is the sexually-dominant one (due to being younger and much more energetic). However, in this one, some months after kneeling and swearing allegiance to Greyback, Lupin has shown himself much more willing to take charge, so to speak.

Here's the story, for those who want to read it:

I am the Wendigo (original)

I wrote this one when I was a senior at the University of Georgia. In December 2006, I sold it to the webzine Chimaera Serials and it went up in January of 2007. I was ultimately paid $20 for it, which is somewhere between $0.01 and $0.02 per word.

Chimaera Serials died later in 2007 and the web-site ultimately went down within the last year. Somebody has posted it on an Internet forum and let it sit there for years as a free "calling card" to give out to people. I had to take it down in order to self-publish it on Amazon and it's available here.

I think "I am the Wendigo" is probably the scariest thing I've ever written. I think that's something to be proud of.

The Wrath of the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter fan-fiction)

I started writing this one after reading Sindie's "The Moment It Began," which I found via some fan-art on It started out as a one-shot in which the Death-Eater-to-be Mulciber attacks Lily, not Mary Macdonald (as was the case in the canon timeline), and Severus Snape unleashes the titular wrath. However, there were enough people who wanted more that I continued the story, to the point that when finished (it took all of 2008 to write), it was longer than the first three or four Harry Potter books combined.

One reason I'm proud of this is how popular it is. It's gotten over 250,000 hits, it's been included in over 40 collections, and hundreds of users have included it in their "favorite stories" list. This means there are hundreds if not thousands of people who will remember my name when, someday, they see my original novels for sale.

It's also my first finished novel and showed me how to avoid letting projects fall by the wayside--I had a large number of fans who read, wrote reviews, and were expecting more. When you have people waiting for your next chapter, it provides an extra push to write it. I've put this principle to good use with my original fiction, using my two writing groups.

Although character growth and development was not my original concern when writing the story, there was enough of it that one member of FictionAlley pointed it out, in a most unexpected place--the Marauders!

For the record, I don't like the Marauders. I think they were a bunch of thugs, with James Potter in particular being the Gryffindor equivalent of Draco Malfoy. Only Lupin gets any sympathy because he was less involved with their bad behavior and went along with it because he was desperate to have friends, not because he was truly a bully or sadist.

However, this member of FA (whose user-name I cannot remember) said I did a really good job depicting the transformation of the Marauders "from bullies into men of character." I believe Rowling's intent was to depict James as having abandoned his cruel ways as a youth to become a heroic fighter against Evil and although this isn't portrayed very well in the books, I figured I ought to include it in the story.

Of course, at one point in their school days, Snape gives him a good working-over with Sectumsempra in a midnight-mugging-gone-wrong.... :)

I did give Snape a character-arc too. He starts out as being concerned only about Lily and his own position in Slytherin (in that order) and his initial breach with the Death-Eaters-to-be was, like his canon break, the former taking precedence over the latter.

Once away from the bad influence of his evil friends, he slowly detoxes from their selfish and racist ways and, seeing his abusive Muggle father's treatment of his witch mother, firmly represses any controlling attitudes he has toward Lily (although he immediately backs down when she calls him on "I won't let you..." in the books, that attitude is still there). He ultimately grows to the point he protects James from Arnold Trigg, whom he had taught Dark Arts and who had gone progressively insane as a result of his fiancee's death at the hands of the Death Eaters.

Lily gets a character-arc too. In a snippet in Deathly Hallows, when she criticizes Snape for what Mulciber did to Mary, she focuses on the fact it was "Dark Magic" more than what Mulciber actually did. The events of the war push her to be more flexible and less moralistic. After all, I could argue aggression using "Light Magic" (James' bullying of Snape, seen in flashback in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix) is worse than self-defense using Dark Magic (Snape's retaliation using Sectumsempra).

I also tried to make Tobias Snape, Snape's abusive Muggle father, into a more complex character. Rather than making him an alcoholic vagrant, as is often done in Snape stories, I depicted him as a war veteran (the Suez Crisis and the Malayan Emergency, which would have taken place when he was a young man) self-medicating his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with alcohol and as a mill-worker whose livelihood is disappearing as British mills lose market share to cheaper foreign producers. He's also on some level insecure and frightened of his wife's supernatural powers, which explains why, when he's been drinking, he berates her and puts her down. He also has a secret love for musical theater.

(He's still a colossal jerk and I admit I teared up writing a scene depicting him drinking and ranting--it was that depressing.)

Here's the link if you want to read it:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some More Thoughts on "Camelot"

The more I think about the trailer for Starz's upcoming new show "Camelot," which I included in my last blog entry, the more I think about how well-thought-out some of the stuff depicted in the story is.

Firstly, Arthur's speech about how he will rule for the sake of the people.  One could argue this is some anachronistic proto-democratic attitude intended to create a more sympathetic protagonist (realism be damned), but there is another part of the trailer depicting Morgan dismissing Arthur as being "from common clay" and not from royalty.

If Morgan, despite being a woman, has the support of much of the nobility, Arthur appealing to the common people of the land makes sense.  The Byzantine emperors tended to support the peasantry against the aristocracy to keep the aristocrats from threatening the monarchy, even though the Byzantine Empire was a divine-right dictatorship.

Secondly, Morgan is depicted as being publicly Christian, wearing lots of crosses on her clothes.  Although she was raised in the royal court and is probably more politically savvy and well-connected than Arthur, the fact that she is a woman in a patriarchal pre-modern society makes her position somewhat weaker than if she were a man.  Public religiosity would make her more popular, especially with the commoners, and strengthen her political position.

Thirdly, Morgan is also depicted as getting freaky with someone, although I don't know enough about the supporting cast to make a judgment as to who it is.  If it isn't Arthur himself (the whole incest-to-produce-Mordred aspect of the story), it might be one of her noble supporters.  Her position as a successor to Uther Pendragon would be strengthened if she had a powerful consort.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Starz's New Arthurian Drama: "Camelot"

The TV network Starz already (at least to me) capitalized on the success of HBO's Rome by releasing Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its upcoming prequel Gods of the Arena.

Now it seems they've got another entry into the "historical drama with lots of sex and violence" sub-genre with Camelot.

Here's the trailer:

This seems to take place in fantasyland Britain (think Excalibur or First Knight) and not historical post-Roman Britain (King Arthur).  I liked King Arthur and would like to see more historically-inclined Arthurian stories rather than Malory-esque fantasy, but that's no reason to prejudge this one.

From a casting perspective, it looks impressive--Morgan is played by Eva Green, who was Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.  Joseph Fiennes, who played The Bard himself in Shakespeare in Love, plays Merlin.

Arthur looks a bit young, although at least he's not 12 like he was in The Sword in the Stone.  Perhaps that is important to the plot--the trailer has some enemy of Arthur claiming that Merlin has installed "a child in a ruin" and Arthur's courtship of Guinevere seems like a major part of the storyline.

It looks like they've expanded Morgan's role--rather than making her some random witch who seduces her half-brother in order to bear his eventualy destroyer Mordred, she's a rival claimant to the Pendragon throne. 

I wonder how they'll manage to incorporate that aspect of the Arthurian story if the two of them end up at war with each other?  The trailer and some of the promotional material indicate Morgan attempts to use evil supernatural forces against Arthur and The Once and Future King does depict her seduction of Arthur as being facilitated by sorcery, so maybe she'll try that if open war doesn't work.

It premieres April 1.  I'm not going to get Starz just to be able to watch it on TV--if I want to shell out for any premium channel, it'll be HBO so I can watch their adaptation of A Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and True Blood all at once--but I'll certainly try to snag the DVD.

Another "Battle: Los Angeles" Trailer

This one is longer than the one I posted before.  It gives us more clues about how the alien invasion actually works--it seems like the rain of meteors are infantry drop-pods a la Starship Troopers rather than orbital bombardment weapons, although the trailer does depict ships and helicopters being destroyed by them.

Perhaps the "meteor shower" consists of rocks or projectiles of some kind as well as infantry drop-pods.  After all, using your infantry as bullets or artillery shells strikes me as a really bad strategy.

On my alternate-history forum, in which I found the trailer, someone theorized the aliens were semi-aquatic.  This could explain an invasion of Earth--which has an ocean--rather than worlds where there are resources but no population to fight (think Mars).  It's also more creative than a lot of invading aliens, which seem to be land animals if not humans-in-suits.

(However, the end of the trailer features something coming out of the ground, which seems to indicate the aliens had something on Earth before they invaded, something fairly big.)

I do like the helicopter with some of the Marines and the refugees getting smashed as soon as it takes off--in real life, death often comes suddenly and brutally rather than in a predictable fashion.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Tuscon Shooting Aftershocks...

Now this is interesting.  U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) would like to introduce a bill that would forbid bringing a gun within 1,000 feet of a government official.  He's a Republican, which makes him somewhat different from most gun-control supporters.  I don't know enough about him to make a judgment call on what sort of Republican he is, so I'll restrict my commentary to the proposed bill.

I assume since the article refers to "carrying" a gun, this wouldn't mean those who keep guns at home wouldn't need to remove them if a politician came to their neighborhood.

However, this law wouldn't have stopped Loughner from perpetrating his rampage.  He was already intending to commit murder, which is already illegal.  It would only deter law-abiding citizens from bringing their guns within 1,000 feet of certain officials, which would mean the only one at a future assassination attempt who is armed is the criminal.

(Now, you could say this would avoid the police accidentally shooting an armed citizen trying to stop the would-be assassin, and I will concede that.  However, there have been incidents, like the Pearl High School shooting in Mississippi in 1997, in which armed bystanders have subdued attackers before they can do more damage, so this solution too has its problems.)

Also, is it reasonable to expect those who openly carry guns or have concealed-carry permits to call ahead everywhere they go, lest a politician be there?  That strikes me as an unreasonable infringement on the rights of those who carry guns.,8599,2041448,00.html

I dislike the title, since not all mentally-ill people are potential mass-murderers and therefore shouldn't be denied their right to bear arms, but the article made a really good point.

However, the article does have a solution to the problem that isn't knee-jerk idiocy like the measures proposed in the last blog entry I wrote or the non-solution I mentioned earlier in this one.  Pushing the states to make sure that people who, due to dangerous mental illness (not PTSD or Asperger's Syndrome, but something like Loughner's or the Virginia Tech shooter's) are on the lists of people who cannot legally buy guns and that these lists can be checked by gun salesmen is an actual solution to the problem.

That is the sort of reform that should be implemented, not banning everybody from purchasing high-capacity magazines, using crosshairs in political imagery, or carrying guns within a fifth of a mile (roughly) of a politician.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Political Hay-Making Attempts from the Tucson Shooting Have Begun

The attempts to exploit the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords for political ends has already begun.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), who first ran for political office after the death of her husband and injury of her son during a shooting, announced she will introduce legislation intended to target high-capacity magazines.

In support of this measure, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) said the following, according to Politico:

"'The ability to buy a weapon that fires hundreds of bullets in less than a minute,'” said Quigley. "'He had an additional magazine capability. That’s not what a hunter needs. That’s not what someone needs to defend their home. That’s what you use to hunt people.'"

How knowledgeable is Rep. Quigley about what sort of guns people "need"?

For the record, high-capacity magazines probably aren't necessary for run-of-the-mill burglars, muggers, home invaders, would-be rapists, violent crazed exes, etc.  However, I remember an account of a Korean-owned small business during the 1991 Los Angeles riots that was besieged by a large number of rioters.  The proprietors attempted to defend their business with their personal arms but found themselves outgunned and were forced to flee.

(I saw a CNN special about the riots long ago and I think it was a jewelry store--I remember seeing an older Korean lady later berating passers-by about their lack of human dignity from the ruins of the shop afterward.)

Higher-capacity rapid-fire guns would have been useful about then, since the proprietors were dealing with a much larger number of opponents who also had at least one superior weapon.  Situations like that don't happen very often, but in at least one case, such a weapon would have been helpful in defense of one's business if not one's home.

If any gun-control measures should be implemented as a result of this incident, it should be a tightening-up of the existing laws preventing those with certain degrees of mental illness from getting guns.  And "mental illness" should be defined very tightly, lest some Iraq or Afghan vet with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder be banned from owning a gun.

On a more sinister note, Politico reports Philadelphia Democrat U.S. Rep. Robert Brady said he intends to introduce a bill criminalizing the use of threatening language or symbols directed toward federal officials or members of Congress.

On my alternate-history forum, someone posted the image of a map Sarah Palin created depicting crosshairs on states whose representatives voted for Obama's health-care reform package.  I heard the map was taken down from Palin's web-site, but it can be found here:

However, the map does not call for any kind of violence--I think the red markers are for representatives who lost elections, not their lives or personal health.

Furthermore, although certain parties (some members of my message-board, for starters) tried to pin the shooting on the Tea Party, right-wing extremists, etc., it's not just them who use allegedly-threatening imagery.

DailyKos also used gun-related imagery re: Giffords.  Scroll down to post #65 to see it:

Given how the shooter Jared Lee Loughner is a 9/11 Truther (among other conspiracy theories), using the same standards the loopy-lefties (not all lefties, just the loopy ones) used to blame Palin and the Tea Party for the shooting in Tucson, one could blame DailyKos and the "netroots" in general for the shooting.

However, according to the more recent events, the shooter had a personal grudge against Giffords because she didn't answer some nonsensical question about how the government is controlling people through grammar a few years ago.

I don't see how it's really fair to blame any political faction, be it the Tea Party or the netroots, for this episode, and it's NOT cool to start infringing on people's freedom of speech as a result.  I don't claim to be a mind reader, but I'll bet Brady had Palin's "crosshairs" imagery in mind when he proposed this bill.

There are already laws against actually threatening politicians and crosshairs imagery in the context Palin's group and DailyKos used it is NOT a "true threat."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Egyptian Muslims Serve as "Human Shields" for Coptic Christians

Wow.  I'm impressed.

For those of you who don't want to follow strange links, thousands of Egyptian Muslims have attended the Coptic Church's Christmas Eve Masses (I assume the Coptic liturgical calender is different from the Western Church's) to serve as human shields and deter attacks against the churches by Islamic extremists.  Those doing so have included various Egyptian celebrities, the son of Egypt's president, and many others.  And it doesn't seem like the terrorists have dared try anything.

Good for Egypt's Muslims to defend the Copts, who have been subjected to lots of horrible things over the last few years, and good for Egypt that there's a resurgence in an Egypt identity independent of either faith in which everyone can live together harmoniously. 

I hope the Egyptian Islamist loonies who have been preying on the Copts for years and bin Laden and his ilk all have a collective stroke.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

First News Article Round-Up of 2011

Here's my first news-article round-up of 2011...

Cobb and Gwinnett Counties rejected participating in MARTA back in the 1970s and Gwinnett rejected it once again in the 1990s.  This is a significant turnaround.  Whatever concerns there are about costs and importing hooligans via train (crime around Lenox went up soon after MARTA connected there) must've paled in the face of the possibility of $4 per gallon gasoline starting next summer.

Given Atlanta's notorious traffic, anything that will take cars off the road will certainly be beneficial.  Although the project paying for itself via fares is unlikely, reducing congestion and air pollution will be a major benefit and in my opinion, worth paying for.

And including Cobb and Gwinnett in MARTA might improve the governance of the organization, which has been plagued by boneheadedness and corruption in the past.

Of course, there's the issue of finding money to pay for MARTA expansion, especially in a time of budget deficits.  I don't think monies from the TSPLOST voters will vote on in 2012 can be used to pay for MARTA operations, but they could be used to pay for building the lines.

This is good news.  Considering how the alternative to reprocessing nuclear fuel is burying it somewhere for 10,000 years (and making sure our descendants know not to mess with it) or letting it pile up at the nuclear plants themselves, this is very good news.

One quibble: The article states that the National Research Council found that Bush's reprocessing program would have been uneconomical.  Here's the actual report and it's much more nuanced--the technology is not at the point needed to justify an accelerated timetable for building reprocessing sites.

That does NOT mean that reprocessing in the United States is uneconomical.

Now this is interesting.  It reminds me of something that Richard Nixon proposed back in the 1970s, a guaranteed minimum income.

I'm not a big fan of handouts, but in the countries where this has been implemented, they've imposed all sorts of conditions on it like making sure one's children are educated and giving the monies to women rather than men. 

(Lest anyone accuse me of bashing men, I read about micro-financing in Haiti and how they gave the money to women because the men would gamble it all away on cock-fighting.) 

In the long run, this could break the cycle of poverty, producing a net gain in income (from educated workers rather than vagrants) and savings (lower incarceration and law-enforcement costs, for one).

However, IF such a thing were to be implemented, I would make it conditional on not drinking, smoking, and especially doing illegal drugs.  Drug- and alcohol-testing is surely doable.  Including classes for the adults receiving the monies would also be a good idea, since lack of education contributes to poverty and related problems, plus there is a "culture of poverty" that makes things worse for the poor that needs to be eradicated.