Select Page
A Reminder

A Reminder

VOTE!

And now, some content.

In this election, I have seen a lot of things I never expected to – and I think we all need to remember one core fact.

We are all Americans.

Let that sink in. Regardless of who wins tomorrow, regardless of the bluster, remember we are all Americans.

I have seen people I respected devolve into raw assholes, I have seen what it looks like when someone is being mocked and attacked for simply disagreeing. I have seen people be their worst. All over the election.

All of you, and I suspect none of you actually read this stuff, need to grow the ever-loving fuck up. You have lost much of my respect, which may or may not have value to you. And that will be hard to regain. I have seen people I thought of as friends be petty, cruel, vicious, and hateful. I can’t unsee that. You can’t un-say it. Can’t undo the hurt you’ve caused. All over what? An election.

In a way, I hope you follow through on the threats to leave if your side loses. I know you won’t, that threat is infantile, and considering the side that makes it, as honest as the rest of their lies. But this time, go. Leave. If you have to act like this, we will not miss you. At. All.

I have friends on all sides of the spectrum, and have managed to have civil conversations about politics with them, without devolving into insult and bullying. I know it is possible. But it isn’t happening. Not this time. Really, not since sewers like Facebook and Twitter took over our interactions. In those echo chambers, the more hate and bile one spews, the more attention you get. And it feeds on itself like a demented ouroboros. I suggest that if you feel you need that kind of validation, you do need therapy. And to be urged to remove yourself from the platforms.

Politicians are, by the very job they seek, malignant narcissists, and among the worst of humanity. In no other avocation, vocation, or profession do we see the sole defining factor being a child-like need for approval from total strangers. Even actors don’t seek approval this desperately. Our enabling of this is why we are where we are – shit floats to the top, and as we have enabled these individuals over the centuries, well, shit floated.

So, I urge you to vote. For someone. For a ballot initiative only. For the least worst. But vote.

And then, once it is done, apologise to the people you have hurt. It won’t undo it, but they deserve it, and you damn sure need to.

Blind Lemur Conservative Endorsements

Blind Lemur Conservative Endorsements

Ok, I want to make this one official. As the head of the Blind Lemur Conservative Party (motto: Vel Caeci Facere Maius Lemur [Even a Blind Lemur Could Do A Better Job]), here are the party endorsements for 2016. Since I, and thus the Inner Party, are in Crook Cook County, that’s what you get. While some snark is present, the points are sincere.

U.S. President/U.S. Vice President

Hillary Clinton & Tim Kaine – Democratic Party ; Donald J. Trump & Michael R. Pence – Republican Party; Gary Johnson & Bill Weld – Libertarian Party; Jill Stein & Ajamu Baraka – Green Party

Nope. None of them. Not. A. One. Even the Great Corporate Hope, Evan McMullen is a nope. And he isn’t even on the ballot in IL. Seriously, this is the worst field since…well, any in North Korea. We have a dishonest career politician and lawbreaker running against a small-handed vulgarian. With a side of clown show and hippies. Yeah, this is bad. This is one of those points, I hope, that is described in future history books as ‘the moment the people began taking back their government, and replaced the inept and corrupt system with one that was not only truly answerable to the voters, but required to be so’. BLC Endorses None Of The Above / Sweet Meteor of Death.

U.S. Senator (Illinois)

Tammy Duckworth – Democratic Party; Mark Steven Kirk – Republican Party; Kenton McMillen – Libertarian Party; Scott Summers – Green Party

While I wish I could endorse Cyclops, the Green Party is something I cannot ever support. This is another nightmare, since Kirk has to run as a Democrat to win, Duckworth is one, and that leaves McMillen. Who I, honestly, never heard of. But he is the only sane choice. BLC Endorses McMillen.

U.S. Representative (Illinois’s 1st congressional district)

August (O’Neill) Deuser – Republican Party; Bobby L. Rush – Democratic Party

Another ‘vote against’ race. Rush needs to go. He has been in office far too long, but, like most leftist, can trust the minority voters to know their place, and will be reelected. It doesn’t matter, Cook County is owned and run by the Democrats, as the multitude of failures here shows. Plus, I know someone named August. BLC Endorses Deuser.

State and Local below the fold… (more…)

Book Review: Silent Clarion

Book Review: Silent Clarion

Silent Clarion CoverOops. I started this, and was instantly slammed in the face with a bunch of unfamiliar terms, and the distinct feeling that this was, in fact, part of a series. The subhead ‘A Starbreaker Novel’ was also a hint. So, wanting to be fair, I hared off and downloaded ‘Without Bloodshed‘, the first Starbreaker book, released in 2013. And moved through it as fast as possible, while noting a lot of missing details that I thought I would find.

Then I downloaded the cover, and saw that this takes place seventeen years before Without Bloodshed. A prequel. Thus, oops.

Silent Clarion introduces the reader to the world of the future – some years after the event know as ‘Nationfall’, which is pretty much what it sounds like – the fall of nations around the world. What Graybosch does with that is a new approach – his post-nation world is not only far reduced in population, but is not controlled by various mega-corps, as the cyberpunk genre tends to be. That is an interesting change. In this world, the Phoenix Society offers some level of order, as a sort of trans-global watchers of the watchmen. With the total focus on the rights of the individual, these watchers, known as Adversaries, have nearly limitless authority within strict boundaries. One such is our protagonist, Naomi Bradleigh. Young, brash, and very good at her job, we open with a look at the divisions in the society when her boyfriend explains to her one morning that he will be marrying the woman his parents chose, but wants to keep her as a mistress. Seems at his social level, being with someone who has congenital pseudofeline morphological disorder (referred to in the rest of the book as CPMD or being CPMD+) is unacceptable. CPMD is a not-uncommon condition that results in the carrier having above-average physical and mental abilities (see a WAY more detailed breakdown from the author here). Being depressed, angry, and overworked, Naomi takes a semi-forced vacation, originally to New York, and from there, based on an overheard conversation and (spoiler), up to Clarion, NY. Strange things are indeed afoot, and here the book hits a snag.

It is, simply, too heavy-handed with the metal references. I know this is the point, I know this is meant to be a form of rock opera type novel. And believe me, I like that idea a lot. I just wish it wasn’t so…

nudge-nudge-monty-python-115

That is why I can’t stand Gotham…just saying.

Same applies, but with the character commenting on it, to the events in town. Like some other books from CQ, this is one that has a lot of spoiler moments fairly quickly. That makes going more in depth a bit of a challenge. Let’s leave it at there is a conspiracy, another conspiracy, and a third, all like Russian nesting dolls, focused on Nationfall, Clarion, CPMD+, and going even further back. This is a great intro to the Starbreaker series, and would make Without Bloodshed make more sense if read first.

Let’s do some background. The novel is set in 2095, and does describe some of the accelerated technology that is common in science fiction – the usual suspects mostly, such as AI, neuroimplants, colonies off Earth (but still in the system), etc. What is interesting is that the tech does not extend much to weapons – AK-47s are still common, and the preferred weapons across the board are swords. Even for the police. That seems a bit anachronistic, to be sure, but it does make for a better story, fits the Adversary concept, and serves the author’s purpose well. Ever since Batman: The Animated Series premiered, I have loved the idea of advanced technology coexisting with older tech and methods, and Silent Clarion does that flawlessly.

Silent Clarion does, albeit belatedly, explain some of the things that are fairly confusing in Without Bloodshed. Such as the nature of the Phoenix Society, asuras, Nationfall, and so forth. That is welcome, especially to someone who, like me, is often more interested in the background than the story itself. That is a compliment, as a compelling (but absent) background keeps me interested, seeking to know more of how things came to be.

Overall, this is a solid book, with a lot going for it. I have had trouble divorcing it from Without Bloodshed, as I read them back-to-back. I do look forward to more in this world, and hope to see the sequels soon.

Below the fold is a hint of the musical connections found in the book. Graybosch uses song titles as chapter subheaders, and the titles relate in some way to the events in the chapter. Lots of good songs, and a nice breadth of artists. Click to check them out.

(more…)

Crowdfunding Hobbies

When is it acceptable to use a crowdfunding platform for personal use? I don’t have a good answer to that – it seems like if there is a medical or other emergency, then it is ok. But is there a line? If so, where? And are these platforms really there to be a ‘get out of my own problem’ card?

In some cases, I see the use need. Medical issues, sudden deaths (funeral, survivor’s funds, etc.), unpreventable life events that need money (pending evictions as results of job loss, car repairs to prevent same). And I support that without reservation. This is why places like GoFundMe exist after all. And the use of them shouldn’t come with any stigma. I suspect most people would be somewhat emotionally traumatized enough at being in that position that piling on some inappropriate social stigma is not only unneeded, but unkind as well.

I have a bit more hesitancy at these being use for self-caused situations. Quitting without a job lined up, for example. I understand not everyone thinks like I do (mechanism of thought), or holds the same opinions. I just have a hesitancy when it comes to using a platform that in my opinion was intended to help those in need when you caused it yourself. I did apply this to myself, when I was trying to get a new laptop, and couldn’t afford the one that would work best for my job. I created, and never launched, a campaign to pay for the computer. I couldn’t (literally) commit to asking others for help with something I didn’t need, even though it would have made life much easier.

I am, however, outright opposed to using a crowd platform to fund your hobby. Completely. I have seen a lot of this lately, and it just seems to do nothing but annoy me. Look, it is a hobby – of you cannot afford it, either do it at an affordable level, or find another one. Really. I see people committing money I know they don’t have to things that they don’t have to do, and I wonder how that mindset works. I honestly just cannot understand it.

Book Review: Land Locked

Book Review: Land Locked

land locked by jessica gunnLand Locked is the sequel to Gyre, reviewed previously. In that review, I mentioned some pacing issues, and that things would be slow, then suddenly shift into hyperdrive, causing a bit of confusion.Land Locked starts out with a remedy to that…it is fairly sedate for about a third of the book, then things start happening. Literally. My Kindle listed me at 33% when it picked up some more interesting story aspects.

Not to say the first third isn’t interesting, it just feels like it is looking about, trying to find where it needs to head. As before, we have a lot of branches shown, and seemingly discarded. While that is, I think, somewhat realistic, it is also (for me, at least) a difficult read. I see a branch, it looks good, and then we are off in a different direction. As we all know, the imagined is often better, being our own custom reality, than the written; and that is in evidence here.

We start two years later, with Trevor and Chelsea still working with the Waterstar Map, looking for lost Link Pieces, and an advantage in the Atlantean / Lemurian war. And the missing SeaSat5. And where their potential relationship went. With much moping about, and a bit of exposition, we shamble through the first bits.

But then, things pick way up. It begins with a mission that is forward in time, not backwards. And that’s it. Honestly, the book becomes a long list of spoilers after this. From characters reappearing from Gyre, to new powers (which double as bad things), a psycho or two, hidden messages, new enemies, a different view of the war, and all the stuff I liked from Gyre itself. The second two thirds is totally the payoff for the slow beginning. It took me weeks (and I read like three other books in the process) to get through the first third, and a matter of a few days to finish…it’s that different a pace.

Land Locked is far more focused on relationships than Gyre, which does change the tone of the book. That change can throw some readers, and did throw me. But if you continue, the payoff is there. Be patient, it will appear, and while not losing focus on the relationship piece, there is more happening to drive the book forward. I looked at it like so: if The Empire Strikes Back was book two of the Star Wars novel series – no movies – what kind of reaction would it receive on first read? Action opener, then is just fall off a cliff – scores of pages about fixing a hyperdrive! Chapters of running in the swamps! Snore.

This may be the ESB of this series – don’t stop just because it feels slow to start, it gets really good. Promise.

Eagle Sports Range

Eagle Sports Range

eagles-sports-range-logob-600x190So the long-delayed Eagle Sports Range is finally open. And, of course, I took a bit of time to check it out. This has been ‘coming soon’ since early last year, and while I fully expected a gun shop and range to have a lot of hoops to jump through, and a nervous town leadership to reassure, I was about ready to consider it another Oak Forest almost-business. For those not living here, Oak Forest has a bad reputation when it comes to businesses, and several businesses have closed before they even opened. I was worried this would be one.

Nope! While much-delayed, Eagle is open, and busy. Occupying a former auto dealership, Eagle has a large showroom area, with tons of firearms, ammo, and accessories for sale. A large staff of friendly associates is on hand to answer your questions, unlock the cases to show the weapons, and talk up the benefits of each. For the casual shooter, there are several pistol options under $500, and for the collector, there are a decent amount of both ‘sci-fi’ and ‘evil black’ rifles and carbines. Several AK-look rifles, some FN-P90s, and the usual collection of AR-15 based rifles. I am not a rifle guy, so I can’t comment on the prices there, but they didn’t seem totally out of line. The pistol and revolver prices seemed in line with other prices I have seen at Cabella’s and BASS Pro. Which is to say, in my opinion, overpriced. Now, some of these are damn nice, including a CZ-owned 1911 build that is way too expensive for me, but just a work of art. The selection is, frankly, massive.

In the back are the pistol and rifle ranges, VIP Member lounge, several bathrooms (like 3 sets I think), a waiting area for the ranges, offices, meeting/class rooms, and vending machines. The pistol range is nice, divided into two sets of lanes, to help keep noise down (unless you are that dude firing the hand cannon when I was there – I literally felt the shockwave). The lanes are staffed by safety officers, and there is always at least one on hand, often two.

Overall, this is a great place for the gun hobbyist / enthusiast, and once the classes get going, they are sure to be popular.

There are two issues I had, and they are why this is not a 5 star review. They are both safety related, and both should be corrected by the ownership. There is too much anti-gun and anti-shooting sports mentality out there to let this go unremarked.

  1. Showroom Carry: While I didn’t see every holster close up, every employee holster I did see was completely insecure. Nothing holding the weapon in place, no strap, nothing. Not even a bad strap. Nothing at all. Again, I did not interact with every employee, so there may be some doing it right. But the ones I did interact with (and no, I don’t know names) had an insecure holster. One employee went further, and like a stupid TV character had the hammer of his automatic back. That’s right, he had manually pulled the hammer back on his pistol, and holstered it. This is way uncool, and needs correction.
  2. Pistol Range Carry: Less of an issue, but the ‘range safety officer’ with the shoulder rig should rotate that revolver 90 degrees. Instead, the barrel is pointing at everyone behind him. Shoulder holsters have their own issues, which make them less than ideal, and by pointing his weapon blindly behind him, he is breaking one of those core rules of using a gun. Just point that barrel down, thanks.

So that’s it. Great place, solid pricing, and helpful staff. If you are interested, I cannot suggest enough that you take a look.

Book Review: The Hand of Raziel

Book Review: The Hand of Raziel

cover1000-6-678x1024Sometimes I mention that a book feels like a collection of short stories, bridged together more or less skillfully by the author. Often, this is because there is a combination of the book feeling like I have been in it forever, and then an end point happens. In this case, that happened enough to get that mental label – The Hand of Raziel feels very much like a couple of shorts compiled into a novel.

Well, not exactly. The common thread of the ‘novel from short story’ sub-subgenre is that the characters are, often, constantly reintroduced, the background reexplained, and the whole thing feels like a money grab from the publisher (see Black Library’s ‘Gotrek & Felix’ ‘novels’ for exactly this). This feels far more like a story composed in fits and starts, without a clear end point, but with a sort of broad mental outline.

In the main, this is the story of Risa Black, an operative for the Martian Liberation Front. She is a cyber-enhanced spy / fighter who receives guidance from an angel, Raziel (an archangel within the teachings of Jewish mysticism who is the “Keeper of Secrets” and the “Angel of Mysteries”). Needless to say, no one else sees / experiences Raziel’s presence. The novel explores the fairly stock ’emotionless killer / highly depressed and broken person who shuts off feelings’ trope for all it is worth. With a lot of the usual stuff you expect from this kind of exploration.

There is a lot of action here – mostly spurred by the revolution. In an interesting take on the idea of ‘freedom from a distant Earth’, this is less about an oppressive government (or a UN-like body) than freedom from dominant mega-corporations. With one being far more obviously evil than the other. There is a limited amount of background there, which is a frustration for me, but it seems that several other novels / series serve as a distant prelude (by maybe 400 years) to this series. Since I haven’t read those, that’s not much help. This lack of background does keep me from being fully ‘into’ the book, as I was often found things a bit murky, especially with the way settings and environments were being described. In many ways, Mars was presented as near-Warhammer 40K levels of oppression and drudgery, but without the social controls keeping people from revolting. Here, the downtrodden masses just accept it. For reasons I can’t claim to understand.

What is even more interesting is that there is a sense that no one knows the MLF is fighting to free Mars, and sometimes no one seems to know who the MLF even is; but they all know Risa. While I have no problem with the idea of a single stand-out figure in a revolution, having that figure be as shadowy an operative as she seems to be intended to be is off, as is the idea that she so vastly overshadows the organization. Again, my take.

The real quandry here, as a reviewer, is that while I think some work was needed before this saw print, it wasn’t bad. Just long, and with a lot of good end-points before it finally ended. Several points I did like were the character development and backstory revelations, the fact that Raziel was not what I first thought, and the final direction everything went. Those make the book worth a read, and worth a look at book two, when it is released.

Vote

Vote

I know, you hate your candidate almost a much as you hate theirs. I know, your candidate was robbed in the primaries, colluded against, maligned, whatever. I know, you really want to support that third-party candidate, but it feels like a wasted vote, and you worry about the other party winning because your party fractured.

I get it.

But you have to get out there and vote anyway.

Look, it doesn’t matter if you can’t stomach the Presidential candidates, vote down-ballot. Vote for your representative at the state or local level. Vote for a Congressional representative or senator. Vote on ballot measures. Vote on whatever there is on the ballot past the Presidential race.

Just vote. It does matter.

Over It

Over It

When I started blogging, back in 2003, it was about politics. Mostly about John Kerry being unfit to be President due to his self-confessed war crimes. Yes, really.

But that was a long time ago, and now we are faced with the reality that the next President will be, regardless of who wins, manifestly unfit for the office. I am more fit, by far, than any of those appearing on the ballot. Mostly because I am not actually seeking the office. I think we lost a lot when we moved from the original style – the candidate didn’t campaign, their friends and supporters did. This allowed the winner to claim, even if no one quite bought it, that they served at the behest of the people, and not for any self-aggrandizing motives. Modern campaigns, by way of comparison, are nothing but rampant self-aggrandizement, at the expense of clarity, honesty, integrity, and any other positive traits.

The other reason I am over it is that the rise of social media has turned so many people into raging assholes. People attacking their friends over who they support, mocking people for not being qualified to have X opinion, then continuing to offer their equally unqualified Y opinion. Frankly, this is as good a reason to boycott social media as any I have ever seen. We all have opinions, and I have had long, friendly, productive discussion with people holding political views a full 180 from mine. But I see Facebook…and people just need to stop. Stop virtue signaling, stop lowering yourself to the level of the brain damaged on the far ends of the spectrum, stop intentionally misconstruing metaphors (and similes, and analogy, and simple phrases you know you understand perfectly well), stop encouraging the false dichotomy that says your candidate embodies pure virtue while the opponent is pure vice. Stop encouraging and reinforcing the echo chamber. Just stop.

Stop. Acting. Like. Fucking. Children.

Start remembering that you are supposed to be friends with these people, and insulting their beliefs is a great way to lose them. Start remembering that no one, even you, is perfect, and that we all err. Start remembering that you need to forgive to be forgiven. Start acting like adults.

And so, here we are. With no good choice for the office. Obviously, this is my opinion, but let me lay this out a bit… (more…)

Some years ago, a friend of mine, on reading the then-new Harry Potter book’s line about a ‘wretched American President’ declared he was done. And that Rowling had, in intending to insult Bush, instead insulted Clinton, the whole of the series (excepting Philosopher’s Stone) being set in the Clinton administration. Seems she forgot her own timeline.

Anyway, I then expressed my opinion that a liberal bent in an author is not exactly a shock. Wedging in an attempted insult for no good reason is a sign of being a hack, to be sure, but the political leaning is to be expected.

And it continues. Every election cycle, we get the hoary trope of the current crop of popular actors making the usual impassioned plea to elect whomever the Democratic party is running, lest the world end, movies all become ‘Birth of a Nation’ (the original), and art wither and die. And, like a Pavlovian response, conservatives decry this as spoiled, irrelevant, and likely highly uninformed twits mouthing whatever pabulum they have been instructed to. Which isn’t wrong, but is very, very tiring.

Look, unless you live in a fantasy world, which far too many conservatives seem to, you can safely assume that every single actor, writer, singer, dancer, artist, et-fraking-cetera is a leftist. Seriously. It is like assuming fire is hot. You just do it.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. The political left is usually aligned with the concerns of the arts community, so it makes sense to support those who support you. Duh.

Can we stop pretending this is a surprise, and move past it. Constantly rehashing the same tired nonsense is one of those things that hurt the conservatives more than anything, and we, as a body, need to stop. And to those in the arts, please look critically at the policies and practices of the Democratic party before doing as they ask, and blindly supporting them. You might be surprised at just what it is they are supporting…