Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Game of Thrones" Season Two Videos

Here're some videos for Game of Thrones Season Two.

This one is the introduction of Stannis Baratheon making his claim for the Iron Throne.  Very grim and flat and Stannis-esque. 

This one is a more general teaser here, featuring the burning of the idols of the Seven by Stannis after he allies with the priestess Melisandre, Joffrey being the evil brat he is, the riot in King's Landing, Theon going back to his Ironborn roots, Arya Stark at Harrenhal, and I wonder who that woman getting naked and then taking some fellow for a ride is?  I'm guessing it's Jeyne Westerling, since the man she's offering herself to vaguely looks like Robb Stark.

Given how raunchy and violent A Song of Ice and Fire is, only HBO or some other premium network could produce it how it should be.  However, I'm loathe to spend that kind of money on a channel just to watch one show.  Luckily the Season One DVD/Blu-Ray comes out in March.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pennsylvania Legislature Hails Lord Bacchus...

Now that I've gotten your attention with the inflammatory (and a bit misleading) post title, here's what really happened...

The Pennsylvania state legislature just passed a bill declaring 2012 "The Year of the Bible" in the state.  Here's an article about it, and here's the text of the bill.  It's rather constitutionally dubious, to say the least--it's non-binding, but at the same time, it's a fairly explicit endorsement of Christianity and/or Judaism by the Pennsylvania state government.

A member of my alternate-history forum whose handle is Skokie created the following parody:


Declaring 2012 as the “Year of the Bacchanalia and Our Lord Bacchus” in Pennsylvania.

WHEREAS, Lord Bacchus, he of the trees, God of unmixed wine, has made a unique contribution in shaping United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people, especially in terms of viniculture; and

WHEREAS, Deeply held religious convictions springing from the loins of Bacchus led Benjamin Franklin to be really awesome;

WHEREAS, Bacchic-preserved concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, Many of our great national heroes, among them Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and William Jefferson Clinton paid homage to Bacchus;

WHEREAS, The history of our country clearly illustrates the value of wine production, sexual liberation and associated ecstasies; and

WHEREAS, This nation now faces great challenges that will test it as it has never been tested before; and

WHEREAS, Renewing our knowledge of and faith in Lord God Bacchus through his holy sparagmos of chicken hens can strengthen us as a nation and a people;

therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives declare 2012 as

the “Year of Bacchanalia” in Pennsylvania in recognition of both the formative influence of Lord God Bacchus on our Commonwealth and nation and our national need to perform holy rites that ensure his continued blessing.

Lest anyone say anything, I'm a Christian, but I'm just as much of a fan of satire as anyone.  Not only is this really funny, but at the same time, it makes one think.  Many Christians would pitch an absolute fit if the state of Pennsylvania passed a resolution honoring a pagan god, even if it were non-binding, but many Christians don't mind this bit of state sanction for our faith at all.

The Bible has been a massive influence on Western Civilization in general and America in particular, but this resolution isn't stating that people should know the Bible for its historical value or to be more literate, but because it's the Word of God.  The former is the "clear, secular purpose" permitted by the Supreme Court Lemon vs. Kurtzman; the latter is not.

Let us Christians remember that a state that endorses our religion over others can easily endorse another religion over ours.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 says to pray for kings and others in authority, but it's so that they leave Christians alone to pursue holiness, not to impose Christianity on others.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV).

Newt's Space Comments and the Military-Industrial Complex

While campaigning in Florida, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has been a vocal proponent of space exploration, to the point of promising a permanent American moon base by the end of his second term.  Here is one article describring what he's been doing.

I'm not one of those people who thinks we cannot have space exploration because we have poor people at home, home being our own nation or other countries on Earth.  There are enough places where there's wasteful spending already to cut to free up money for space-related stuff without reducing funds for things like literacy, AIDS prevention, etc.  Farm subsidies come to mind, while the government could take the "weed is illegal but enforcing marijuana laws are not a priority" route that wouldn't save as much as full-blown legalizing it would but would cut some costs.

However, the U.S. financial situation is so dire with the debt and deficit being as huge as they are that the amount of spending needed to build a lunar colony, even a small one like the research stations in Antarctica, would be massively unjustified.  The American Colonies weren't founded "just because," but for economic or ideological reasons.  The Puritan colonies in the north were founded by people who wanted to create a godly society far away from the Church of England, Georgia to give debtors a new start, Maryland as a refuge for persecuted Catholics, South Carolina as a slave-based agrarian center, the French colonies in Canada to buy furs from the Indians, etc..

Much has been made of the Moon as a possible source for He3 to feed fusion reactors (the film Moon depicts an oil-rig-like colony mining He3 for this purpose), but we don't have that type of fusion yet and might not for quite while.  Viable fusion always seems to be 40-50 years away and although I'm an optimist where scientific progress is concerned, one must be realistic.  Fusion occurs in nature in the stars, but that doesn't mean it would be easy or cheap to do here on Earth.

And I'm not aware of any religious or cultural groups that want to establish their own ideal society far away from everyone else who've got the scientific training and resources needed to actually do it.  Let's remember how dangerous this will be, especially given the recent laming of the American space program.  One thing goes wrong in an attempt to establish a new Zion on the Moon (say a meteor smashes the greenhouse or the cosmic-ray shielding isn't thick enough) and the people back on Earth will be watching everyone up there die and be unable to do anything about it.

So not right now, Newt, however awesome it would be to do it.

However, thinking about the whole "space versus the poor" scenario has got me thinking.  Many areas in the United States are poor due to industrial decline.  The decline of the automobile industry is one of the reasons why Detroit is so awful.  Georgia's political representatives have pushed for continued production of the F-22 fighter, despite us already having nearly 200 of them and very little that can face us in the skies, due to Lockheed being a major employer in my neck of the woods.

Some more left-wing people have claimed the U.S. government uses military spending as a kind of Keynesianism, to create jobs and keep the economy going.  I admit being ideologically prejudiced against that kind of argument (it smacks of the U.S. being unable to sustain itself without an artificially-large war machine and international responsibilities to justify it), but given the defense of the F-22 program by Georgian politicians, I really can't argue against that being true in at least some cases.

So here's a thought for the long run.  Instead of a military-industrial complex that with the defeat of fascism and Communism is no longer as necessary, how about orienting as much of it as possible to a space-industrial complex?

Lockheed, for example, was experimenting with a single-stage-to-orbit called the VentureStar that was canceled after running into some problems.  If there was more demand for such technology, I imagine they wouldn't abandon it so easily.  After all, it's (potentially) jobs and money that might not be so readily available if there are more defense cuts.

And then there's the space elevator, which would cause launch costs to drastically decline.  If you're going to have space-Keynesianism instead of war-Keynesianism, this could lead to jobs in and around centers where materials research is conducted.  The LiftPort Group, for example, managed a smaller-scale elevator test on Earth before deciding to focus on a lunar elevator for the time being.  They're also engaged in other materials-science research that will bring immediate profits while allowing them to focus on their long-term goals.

Gingrich suggested prizes to provide incentives for private entities to work on this rather than simply increasing federal spending.  This makes sense, given the financial constraints everyone is operating under these days and the slowness of many government agencies.  The Ansari X Prize has shown promise.  However, let's not forget that the Manhattan Project and the goodies that have emerged from the National Labs were government programs as well.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I May Go Kindle...

Jeff Baker, a member of my Lawrenceville writing group, has self-published a story he'd written for an anthology to raise money for earthquake relief in Japan on for Kindle.  He set it to be free for five days, to build up buzz and end up on the "People Who Bought This Also Bought..." lists and ended up moving 400 units.  Then he started charging $0.99.  As of a day or two ago, he'd sold 15 units and made just over $5, since Amazon gives 35% royalties for $0.99 material.  Hopefully this figure has increased since then.

Although he has defended his decision in terms of retaining rights and the story never going out of print, he said the real purpose of this exercise is not to make money.  Instead, it's to pave the way for him to Kindle-publish a young-adult fantasy novel he is working on now by generating an online fan-base.  I've critiqued the first two chapters and although YA is not my cup of tea, it's a good story.  He does not think he can get a good deal from traditional publishers and wants to hop on the train to the future, so to speak.

I admit I'm somewhat prejudiced against self-publishing because it smacks to me of someone taking their ball and going home because their stuff wasn't good enough.  However, this might be somewhat outdated--thanks to E-publishing and E-readers like the Kindle and Nook, the publishing industry has greatly changed.  And the industry's reluctance to take on new writers or invest much in promoting them (so they fail and then are judged not good, never mind that biggies like Stephen King and Dean Koontz get promoted like hell by their publishers) likely means some really good voices are going unheard.

I don't plan on Kindling Battle for the Wastelands and its planned sequels except at extreme need--say, due to major Values Dissonance between prospective publishers and I leading to them wanting unacceptable changes to the characters.

(I wanted to introduce some moral grayness to the world by making the hero rather racist and the villain as someone who has brought peace through conquest a la Aegon the Conqueror from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, judges his minions on merit rather than ethnicity, and who married a non-white woman to unite his homeland.  However, in some people's moral universes, being a "bigot" is the primary if not the only sin.  Given how many cultural institutions tends to be more socially left-wing, they might assume the book is an endorsement of racism rather than giving the hero a flaw and the villain a virtue.  Plus I have no problems with heroes killing villains.)

However, just because I don't want to take overmuch risk with my soon-to-be-finished first original novel doesn't mean I'm not inclined to give it a try. 

In 2005-2006, I wrote a short story called "Nicor" about a teenage Dane on his first Viking raid who encounters the titular water-monster.  Although it's an action-packed monster story with bloodshed aplenty, there's substance to it as well--it's about disillusionment with war and even a coming of age. 

One of the earlier drafts, although it escaped the slush pile at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and was rejected by none other than the editor himself, wasn't all that good, and so I sent it to various other places, improving it at every rejection.  Although now it's the best it's ever been, I am rapidly running out of markets to submit it.

(I did manage to sell it to the fantasy magazine Flashing Swords and was even paid $0.01 per word for it, but the magazine went under before the story could run.)

It is currently under consideration by Beneath Ceaseless Skies and according to, there's a new professional-level publication called Buzzy Mag (whose web-site was active yesterday but is down now due to server-switching).  However, at present, that's about it.  The number of semi-professional publications that would pay, say, $0.01 per word has dwindled with the economy.  I could send it to a web-site or print publication for free or for a token payment, but these are smaller publications that don't have the same kind of prestige a larger publication will. 

Given the choice between publication by someone else with no prestige and a small payment (sending "I am the Wendigo" to Chimaera Serials got me $20 and the status of a published writer, but I doubt it impressed many editors) and the possibility of making a few dollars a month for years with no prestige, it might make more financial sense to go with option #2 in the long run.  Plus I can build up my author page, which exists only because of "Coil Gun."

However, J.M McDermott, also from the Lawrenceville writing group, has advised I hold onto my assets and wait for new publishers to appear.  He has published some short fiction for Kindle, but the monetary returns have not been stellar.  He has sold several books (including a new one entitled When We Were Executioners that just became available) and many short stories, so I am very inclined to take him seriously.

So here's the plan, all this rambling aside.  If I cannot sell "Nicor" to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, I will seriously consider commissioning some good cover art (one of my beefs with self-published books is they tend to have really awful illustrations) and putting it on Kindle.  Commissioning cover art will be a big cost that will take awhile to pay off, especially if the returns are low ($5-20 per month), but it might be a good long-term investment, since people do judge books by their covers.  If I cannot sell it to Buzzy Mag and no new well-paying markets appear, I'll definitely dip my toe in the Kindle water.  It's a good enough story that I'm not ruining my reputation by putting crap out there, but my options for it are rather limited at this moment.

Jeff says with my blog and it's 39,000 hits, I've got a substantial built-in fan-base.  So what say you?  If I put "Nicor" out on Kindle, would you be interested in reading it?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

False Prophet Coming To America

I found the link below on Facebook courtesy of my friend Gary.

Ignore the anti-Christian bias in the article--although it's there, that's not a good reason to just write it off.  Here are some more "friendly" or neutral sources that describe just how destructive this belief system is.,2933,568140,00.html

Although the writer of the opening article and others have used this idiocy as a club to beat Christianity in general, this kind of thing goes against the Bible itself.

For starters, although there are Biblical accounts of possessed children, the child acts in truly bizarre ways--not like someone who has malaria or is simply undisciplined.  Even Pat Robertson's people call this a bunch of nonsense.

As the CBN article pointed out, exorcism consists of invoking the name of Jesus, not anything remotely resembling physical abuse.  And not only are these so-called preachers abusing children, they're charging the parents for it.

Compare them with the Apostle Paul, who did not covet anyone's silver (Acts 20:33).  In fact, he worked as tent-maker to sustain himself while he preached (Acts 18:1-3).

Furthermore, Jesus said to let the children come to him (Mark 19:14) and said anyone who caused them to sin, it would be better they be drowned in the ocean (Matthew 18:6).  I remember an account from an Irishman who abandoned believing in Christianity in the midst of being molested by some Christian Brothers and I can imagine children victimized in the name of these "Christian" teachings reaching the same conclusions.  And let us remember Jesus will judge humanity on the treatment of "the least of these" (Matthew 25:31-46).  And although Romans 2:24 in context refers to Jews whose bad behavior brought the worship of God into disrepute, it can also be applied to bad behavior of Christians as well.

Lest any Christian defend this kind of thing or any anti-Christian say that this false prophet is Biblically correct by pointing out the Bible describes witchcraft, let's examine some translation issues.  The word in Galatians 5:16-23 translated as "witchcraft" is the Greek word pharmakeia, which pertains to drugs.  Exodus 22:18, which says to not permit "witches" to live, has also been translated as "poisoner."

And let's look at the history of the church.  Up until the early modern period, the more typical teaching in Christianity was that witches in the supernatural sense did not even exist. This view began to change and that is what spawned the witch-hunts that killed up to 100,000 people in Europe.

Jesus said "by their fruits you shall know them" (Matthew 7:16).  The "fruit" of this belief in child witches is destructive to children (to say the least) and the good name of our Lord, and furthermore, it is not even Biblically based.  Based on that verse alone, we can judge Helen Ukpabio a false prophet.

American Christians should not support Ukpabio or her belief system.  In fact, the persecuted "witch children" of West Africa surely count among "the least of these" we are commanded to serve.  Stepping Stones Nigeria is assisting children who have been driven away by their families due to their supposedly being "witches" and they deserve our support far more than a "ministry" that sows only bad seed.

And we can join the protest against Ukpabio and her ideas here. There's a petition to deny her entry to the U.S., which you can sign here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Amusing SG-1 Fan-Fic Scenario For Your Consumption

Yesterday I had an idea for an interesting Stargate SG-1 fan-fiction scenario.  It's inspired by a thread on my alternate-history forum's "Alien Space Bats" section in which the newly elected Pope Benedict is possessed by a Goa'uld named Jehovah who had apparently possessed Moses, then Jesus, and then all of the Catholic Popes starting with Peter.

(The show depicted the Semitic gods and the mythical Emperor Yu of China as being Goa'uld and the Norse pantheon as being the Asgardians, but the Abrahamic religions were left alone.  I imagine it would have led to protests and boycotts if they depicted our God as being an alien snake with delusions of grandeur.)

However, instead of Catholicism, the religion under Goa'uld control is...Scientology.  Imagine the cult of Seth, only with most of the cultists in Hollywood.  Given the science-fiction aspects of the upper levels of Scientology's belief system, it could be ruled by a Goa'uld named Xenu or something like that.  Tom Cruise could be the Goa'uld's First Prime or even the Goa'uld himself, given his devotion to Scientology.

Heck, here's an idea.  Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are both Goa'uld and Suri Cruise is a Harcesis.  Creating a Harcesis is bad even by the Goa'uld's low standards, which might explain why, like Seth, the Goa'uld in question are living in hiding on Earth.

(If Cruise, Holmes, or their attorneys are reading this, this is a joke.  Nobody sue me.)

So your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to write an SG-1 fan-fic featuring SG-1 investigating Goa'uld activity on Earth and discovering the for-real alien connections of the Church of Scientology.

Monday, January 2, 2012

If Paul Winning Will Marginalize Iowa, Santorum Will Do Worse...

I recently noticed a slew of articles taking shots at the Iowa caucuses that seemed awfully coincidental with polls showing that Ron Paul had a good shot at winning them.  Here's one.  Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Iowans will suffer if they vote for Paul, such as this one, from the New York Post, along with another from Yahoo.  Here's Chris Wallace weighing in.

Now it seems that Rick Santorum is rising in the polls, as an alternative to Romney.  Politico confirms this.

The whole "Iowa better not vote for Paul" meme is based largely on how Paul supposedly isn't going to win the general election against Obama or even the Republican primary.  However, that argument applies even more strongly to Santorum for the following reasons:

*Santorum lost his U.S. Senate seat by a huge margin in 2006.  Read all about it here. I remember a lot of mockery about Al Gore losing his home state in 2000.  If Gore had won Tennessee and its 11 electoral votes, he'd have beaten Bush, Florida or not.  Come the general election, Obama can bring this up to attack Santorum.  And all the stuff Casey used to slam Santorum can be used by Obama for the same purpose.

*Meanwhile, a surprisingly successful Internet campaign has made the top search for "Santorum" a rather gross sexual thing.  Check out the Wikipedia article for more.  That's going to make it even harder for people to take him seriously and can you imagine all the awkward questions kids who do an Internet search for him because he's the presidential nominee are going to ask their parents?

*Santorum said he would launch a military strike on Iran if they did not admit inspectors to their nuclear sites.  Given how Obama got elected in part because he said he would end the Iraq War, even threatening to launch a new war (or even something equivalent to an old-school punitive expedition and not an outright invasion/occupation) is not going to go over well with the electorate at all.

*Santorum's very socially conservative views cost him in Pennsylvania and they're going to cost him in the general election.  For example, the public is growing more supportive of gay marriage, something Santorum is strongly against.  I am willing to say that a decade ago, a show like Modern Family featuring a gay couple adopting a child and being generally liked by everybody wouldn't have been made, and neither would the show Glee.  Meanwhile, he has advocated against contraception.  Given that Santorum is a conservative Catholic, him holding that view makes sense, but I don't think someone who intends to use his role as president to denounce contraception is going to be all that popular with female voters, especially since hormonal birth control is used to treat menstrual cramps and other conditions.  Santorum has specifically criticized the mandate for insurance companies to cover birth control, but this is something that's proven rather popular.

The United States has been growing more and more social liberal in recent years, something that's backed up by The Emerging Democratic Majority and Whistling Past Dixie: How the Democrats Can Win Without the South.  Santorum's social conservatism, regardless of whether it's morally right or not, is going to be lethal in the general election if he gets the Republican nod.

Now, I am not suggesting someone be so unprincipled as to decide on their morals due to opinion polls, but the purpose of the Republican primary is to choose the best candidate to defeat Obama in 2012.  If Ron Paul's views, the racist newsletters that went out under his name, etc. make him unelectable and if his un-electability will discredit the Iowa caucus, then electing Santorum will do the same thing--only worse.

A WWI Alternate History Scenario for the New Year

Here's my first post of the New Year: A WWI alternate-history scenario courtesy of the message-board I'm a member of.

The gist of it is that the Germans build a larger number of submarines, which the British did not take seriously (unlike the surface fleet, which ratcheted up tensions between the two states), in addition to their historical naval buildup.  This strategy of asymmetric warfare (in this context following a totally different strategy than the expected one of matching Britain battleship-for-battleship) bites the British really hard on the behind when WWI comes as it did in our world.

Here's the link:

Prince Henry of Prussia: The Rise of the U-Boat

This world's version of the German raid on the British fleet base at Scapa Flow just got a lot worse for Britain.  I get the impression the roll-up of Germany's overseas colonies is going to be a lot harder--for starters, the U-Boats just foiled the attempted blockade of Germany's Chinese outpost Tsingtao.

I don't think this is going to turn into a one-sided German rampage, although the comments in an in-universe history book seem to indicate ultimately Germany eclipses Britain as the world's premiere naval power.  Let us remember that every action has a reaction...