Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Jomsviking


The almighty AMON AMARTH's latest studio album was released a few days ago. This is their first album without longtime drummer Freidrik Anderssen in something like 17 years- since Once Sent From the Golden Hall, I think.

I'm about halfway through the album right now, and all I can say at the moment is, by Odin's Beard, this is AWESOME.

The riffs are absolute skull-crushers. The lyrics are epic. The bass is thunderous and brutal. The signature guitar sound that makes these guys so unique is still there, but heavier than ever thanks to Andy Sneap's awesome production. And as with the last four or five releases, Johan Hegg's rage-filled roars are much better placed within the mix, so that you can still growl along to the lyrics while actually understanding what the hell he's saying for a change.

And the drums, by Thor, THE DRUMS...

I don't know what the hell Tobias Gustafsson, their session drummer for this album, is taking along with his morning multivitamins, but whatever it is, HE NEEDS TO KEEP TAKING IT. I haven't heard an AMON AMARTH album this fresh, brutal, and epic since With Odin On Our Side, and that was released 10 years ago.

I'm going to give this plenty of listens after I see IRON MAIDEN play live tonight. (Yeah. That is actually happening. I am beyond stoked.) The Vikings will descend upon my part of the world in a little over three weeks, so I'll be able to see them live (for, like, the 8th time) then and see just how well this album's music stacks up live against their storied back-catalogue.

But so far, the signs are very promising indeed. This one looks like it's going to be an album for the ages.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Preach it, Novak

Yeah. Totally equal in terms of achievements.
The world's greatest tennis player at the moment- who is increasingly becoming a real threat to Roger Federer's peerless status as the "Greatest Of All Time"- recently made some quite innocuous comments about equal pay in tennis between men and women which were immediately blown completely out of proportion by the world's media:
World No.1 Novak Djokovic has questioned equal prize money in tennis, suggesting men deserve to be paid more than women. [...]
"Obviously it's a very delicate situation," he said. "Women deserve respect and admiration for what they are doing. You know, equal prize money was the main subject of the tennis world in the last seven, eight years. 
"I have been through that process as well so I understand how much power and energy WTA and all the advocates for equal prize money have invested in order to reach that. 
"I applaud them for that, I honestly do. They fought for what they deserve and they got it. On the other hand I think that our men's tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men's tennis matches. 
"I think that's one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more. Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve. 
"As long as it's like that and there is data and stats available upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed."
The backlash was immediate, and vicious. Mr. Djokovic was pilloried by his peers in both men's and women's tennis, and by past legends of the female version of the game. He backed down a few days later and- foolishly- apologised for his comments.

Even The Man himself, Roger "GOAT" Federer, let the side down very badly when he decided to toe the politically correct line:
"I'm happy that tennis has produced some of the greatest female athletes in the world," he said. "Equal prize money is a good thing."
Uh, no, Rog, it's bad. "Good" is the OTHER one. You sure having those two sets of twins didn't cause something to short-circuit in that noggin of yours?

It should not come as any sort of surprise that the SJWs of the tennis media immediately held a victory parade.

It would appear that Mr. Djokovic's (quite pretty) wife needs to get him a copy of Vox Day's SJWs Always Lie just as soon as she damned well can get away from changing their son's diapers. If he had the first idea of how to handle the SJWs of ESPN and the rest of the tennis world, a perfectly legitimate debate would be reopened to the greater benefit of the entire tennis world.

The problem for the Narrative is that, if any kind of honest debate were ever held over the question of equal pay between men and women in tennis, the equalitarians would lose.

They wouldn't just lose, actually. They'd be humiliated so badly and so thoroughly that, when schoolchildren of the future need to figure out what "utter crushing defeat" means, they would be able to figure it out just by looking at a picture of any tennis equalitarian. Like Andy Murray. (His picture could be shown right alongside one of the French Army in 1940.)

I don't even play tennis anymore, and I can easily come up with several simple reasons why women absolutely DO NOT deserve to be paid as much as men in professional tennis.

1. The Numbers Just Don't Add Up

It is a well-known and well-understood fact that women's tennis simply does not attract the same number of spectators, or the same number of TV viewers, as men's matches do.

One can come to this conclusion using several different methods of assessment.

The first and most useful is ticket prices. Now ticket prices are, always and everywhere, a function of supply and demand. In any tennis match, there is a physical hard limit set on the number of tickets available- this is obvious, since any tennis stadium has a physically limited number of seats available. Therefore, if the supply of tickets is capped or set at a specific number, the price of those tickets must, by definition, be determined entirely by the demand by the tennis-viewing public for those same tickets.

There is a further distinction to be made. Several venues host both ATP (men's tennis) and WTA (women's tennis) events in parallel- Indian Wells, for instance, does this for the BNP Paribas Open. Many tennis tournaments of this type offer "packages" whereby you can buy a ticket for a block of "sessions" or matches, and you basically just show up and watch whoever is playing at any given time, either male or female.

The Grand Slams, however, are a bit looser about ticketing. And that's where you really see the differences begin to emerge.

The US Open does things in terms of packages, like many of the ATP and WTA pro-circuit events; tickets are offered in "package" terms, rather than for individual matches on individual days. But Wimbledon and Roland Garros operate on a per-match basis from the quarters or semis on up.

And in those tournaments, where there are distinctions between men's and women's matches, from the quarter-finals up, the prices start to diverge. Dramatically.

Here is the list of available ticket prices from Roland Garros for 2016, from the quarters to the semis:


And here is the list of available ticket prices for Wimbledon 2016 for the quarters to the finals on Centre Court:


Notice anything?

Another way of coming to more or less the same conclusion is to look at TV ratings differences between men's and women's tennis.

From Statista.com- a very useful and helpful site which all of you aspiring nerds should bookmark right away- here are two graphs which illustrate the considerable differences between men's and women's tennis viewership numbers:
ATP Tennis Viewership in the USA

WTA Tennis Viewership in the USA
The simple fact of the matter is that men's tennis is more interesting than women's tennis by 2.48 million viewers on average, or about 11.33%.

If we go strictly by TV viewership numbers, this means that male tennis players should, on average, get paid 11% more than their female counterparts.

Don't you just love maths?

There are outliers to these trends, to be sure. There are recent examples of Grand Slam finals- particularly at the US Open- where the women's event actually topped the men's for viewership. However, those tended to be under very special circumstances.

In 2015, Serena Williams was well on her way toward a single-season Grand Slam. She had won the Australian Open, Roland Garros, and Wimbledon in emphatic and dominant fashion, crushing all opposition before her. As a result, when the US Open rolled around, tickets for the women's final sold out faster than the men's one did. (It is worth noting that the same ESPN article also points out that, even given the historic nature of that women's final, there was still a gap between the men's and women's final ticket prices.)

Then Serena got her ass kicked by Roberta Vinci, AKA "some Italian bird that no one has ever heard of". And all of a sudden, ticket prices went into free-fall for the women's final.

(I actually watched the replay of that match when I was back home in September last year. For all of her strength and speed- by female standards, anyway- Serena has absolutely no clue what to do when someone has the ability to return her shots deep to her. She has no footwork moving backwards, very little by way of lateral movement, and virtually no ability to hit the kinds of crazily-angled shots that make Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic such joys to watch.)

The fact is that Novak Djokovic was right. Any halfway honest appraisal of the statistics would reveal that, on the whole, men draw more money, more viewers, and more interest to the sport than women do.

2. Women's Matches Are Boring

Looking back over the past 25 years that I have been involved with tennis in any capacity, I can think of any number of terrific men's matches that I have watched and enjoyed.

I can't even count the number of times that I have watched Roger Federer and Pete Sampras playing on TV. (I even saw them play each other at MSG a few years back- which was, of course, amazing.) The epic battles that Federer has fought over the years, whether in the ATP pro-circuit matches or at the Slams, have always been incredible to watch. Even his most heartbreaking losses, like the one to Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open, showed incredible displays of jaw-dropping virtuosity on both sides of the court.

And of course, there is the Wimbledon final of 2008, which many argue is the greatest tennis match ever played. That includes people who watched the titanic battle of wits and wills that was the 1980 Wimbledon final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.

In the present day, the top 10 men's seeds are all incredible athletes of astonishing skill, fitness, strength, and willpower. I may not particularly like watching Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal play- and I absolutely cannot stand the former- but I greatly respect their athletic abilities.

Now let's see how many great women's matches that I can think of.

Uh...

Umm...

Hey, how about- oh, no, wait, that one was actually only fun because Serena lost...

Need another minute here...

You see what I mean?

With very, very few exceptions, women's tennis just isn't fun to watch. The pace of play is slower. The shots are less technical. The movement is considerably less fluid. And don't even get me started on the goddamn grunting. You cannot even watch a women's tennis match with a proper surround-sound rig anymore, not unless you want your neighbours to be asking you some very uncomfortable questions about just what kind of weird public-fetish porn it is you're watching.

There is very little by way of tactics and strategy to enjoy- if you watch Serena Williams play, her entire style of play essentially revolves around hitting hard and deep, while Maria ShriekaSharapova largely resorts to porn-actress "grunts" and fist-pumps after serving pretty much the same way every single time.

As Alexander Boot pointed out in a classic article from about 5 years back, about the only tennis player that was, shot-for-shot, equal to any man once physical strength was taken out of the equation, was Justine Henin. To that extremely short list, I would add Steffi Graf.

And that's it.

3. Women Cannot Compete With Men One-on-One

Here's a simple question.

If you were to put the World No. 1 female tennis player on the same court as a World No. 1 male player, and had them play a best-of-3-sets match, what would happen?

Unless you're a rabid third-wave feminist, you know the answer. The woman would be destroyed.

I would go so far as to put actual money down on Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and even Simona Halep being double-bageled by Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.

If it were Mr. Federer playing, even these days as his once-godlike skills are now somewhat on the decline, I suspect the entire match would be over in about 40 minutes.

If it were Mr. Djokovic playing... well, he's at the absolute peak of his abilities right now. His playing style is so formidably powerful and athletic that I've simply nicknamed him the "Great Wall of Novak". Putting him on a court with Serena Williams would be like putting a starving tiger in the same enclosure as a tethered goat.

Now obviously, given what I've written above, it should be no surprise at all that the top-ranked man would simply beat the stuffing out of the top-ranked woman. The top-ranked men are faster, stronger, leaner, far more athletic, and far more skilled than any woman in tennis.

But what about lesser-ranked and lesser-skilled men against top-ranked women? Surely the top female tennis players in the world would have a very easy time against men ranked below, oh, about 150 in the world?

What matters is that Althea Gibson was never appreciated or feted by black leaders because she refused to play the victim. She never made any money despite being No. 1 in the world, and was never recognized as a great champion, which she was. Today she would have made millions and been elevated to Olympian heights because of her color, but not back then. I remember practicing with her in Rome and Paris and people looking at us curiously. I was among the weakest players on the circuit, she was tops. We made a bet once, with me insisting that no one could watch—to go all out against a woman then seemed awfully unmanly—and I won. Just.
Oh, but it gets better.

Remember a guy named Bobby Riggs? He lost the (in)famous "Battle of the Sexes" with Bille Jean King in 1973- immediately after beating the crap out of the greatest female tennis player ever, Margaret Court. It turns out that there is a distinct possibility that this most famous of male-female tennis matches was, well, "rigged".

Time and again, the top female tennis players have played against male also-rans- and lost. Badly. Embarrassingly badly. Yet this ridiculous myth that female players are somehow equal to men lives on.

4. Equal Pay for Less Work

In most professional-level tournaments, both men and women play best-of-three-set matches. Therefore, at least on the face of it, for most of the year (except during Grand Slam tournaments) men and women spend roughly the same amount of time on court.

Right?

Wrong.

Statistics on the average length of a tennis match vary depending on source and on the tournaments involved. But if you take the average length of time that women spend on tennis courts during matches versus what men spend, even in the best-of-three format, women will spend a good deal less time on the court than men will.

As a result, they will run less, exert less energy, and as such will have lower fitness requirements by far. Not for nothing did 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek once (very uncharitably but largely truthfully) state that "75 percent of the top 100 women are fat pigs".

The difference becomes even more lopsided once you move to the best-of-five format for men in the Grand Slams. Men spend much longer on the court during Wimbledon finals than women do- roughly 60% more time, actually.

Female players have routinely countered this argument by saying that they would gladly play best-of-five matches to prove that they can compete on a level playing field. But I have heard women claiming this going at least as far back as Lindsey Davenport in 1998. Nothing has ever come of it.

If women were serious about actually earning their equal pay- which any halfway-decent statistical analysis would reveal to be completely unjustified- then they would have instituted best-of-five matches long ago. Instead, they are content to have their cake and eat it too- and men are more than happy to let them get away with it.

On top of these very clear disparities in physical endurance, stamina, athleticism, and time-on-court, we have the fact that men and women react in fundamentally different ways to pressure on the court. Put simply, women crack under pressure in a way that men simply do not:
Women are significantly more likely to hit unforced errors at the most crucial stages of the match, while men exhibit no significant variation in performance. Specifically, about 30% of men’s points end in unforced errors, regardless of their placement in the distribution of the importance variable. For women, about 36% of points in the bottom quartile of the importance distribution end in unforced errors, but unforced errors rise to nearly 40% for points in the top quartile of the importance distribution. What is remarkable is not the difference in the levels (men are more powerful and therefore more likely to hit winners at any stage). The interest lies in the differences in the way men and women respond to increases in competitive pressure.
Is there really any sense anymore in pretending that men and women should be paid the same if they cannot do the same job to the same level of skill?

Making Sense of the Senseless

No matter how one tries, any rational and reasonable look into the question of equal pay in tennis will lead to one very simple answer: male players SHOULD be paid more. This nonsense of equal pay needs to stop, and both Novak Djokovic and former Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore were correct to bring it into question.

Unfortunately, the white knights and useful idiots of the tennis media- and not a few of the male players themselves, including feminist crybaby and perennially annoying superbrat Andy Murray- insist against all evidence, logic, reason, and simple common goddamn sense that equal pay is Right and Good and Therefore Must Be The Law.

The likely result of this equalitarian nonsense is pretty much the same no matter where it happens: declining interest and participation, followed by stagnation and eventual collapse. This delusion of equality is downright dangerous, and it is well past time that we stopped giving it sustenance in the form of our time and money.

Stop watching women's tennis- with one rather talented and thoroughly likable exception, of course. You'll be doing yourself and the game a considerable favour.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Happy Easter 2016

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” 
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
-- Matthew 28, The Holy Bible, New International Version
For four years now, I have written to celebrate Easter and what it means. Yet I am not a Christian. I do not pretend to follow the Christian faith- mostly because I cannot yet claim to fully understand it.

Why, then, do I write to celebrate an event that, by rights, I should be viewing with extreme scepticism? Which I did view with utter disdain for over ten years when I was an atheist?

The answer is simple: ever since I turned away from atheism and slowly came to accept the presence and power of a Living God, the harder I look at Christianity, the more sense it makes.

A very large part of "making sense" of Christianity, at least for an outsider, involves reconciling events that seem impossible to an otherwise rational mind. The most important such event is, of course, the Resurrection of Jesus.

The notion of a man rising from the dead should be flat-out ridiculous. No rational mind would accept such nonsense- that which is dead, and in the case of Jesus Christ, has been dead for days, must by rights stay dead. That which is inanimate cannot suddenly be brought back to life and then disappear. There is no rational explanation for such a thing.

The only way to explain such an event is to resort to the supernatural.

This is where a great many atheists fall down and are unable to proceed further. Claiming- correctly- that no mortal man could survive crucifixion, they claim further that resorting to the supernatural simply shows Christianity to be a poorly thought out sham, a fairy tale that no serious mind should accept. There are atheist arguments aplenty that the Gospels essentially fabricated the entire story of Christ's return in order to provide a fig leaf of cover to a faith that does not make sense.

I have even seen and heard arguments that either Christ didn't actually die and that some other poor bastard took His place on the Cross and was then sealed away in the tomb (which by the way is the Islamic take on the Crucifixion).

What they fail to appreciate is the background to the Lord's Resurrection, and the formidable pile of evidence that we have before us that confirms that Christ did, in fact, rise from the dead.

The physical tortures and ordeals endured by Jesus were appalling beyond measure. If we are to apply the filter of reason to what He went through, the only reasonable conclusion that can be made is that the very fact that He lived long enough to die on the Cross is astonishing in and of itself. There is simply no way that a mortal man- even one with a spark of the Divine within Him- could possibly have lived through what Jesus went through.

Even if one takes the absurd at face value and assumes that Christ somehow survived the scourging, the beatings, the extreme physical toll of carrying His Cross, and His crucifixion itself, how does one reconcile His Resurrection with the fact that His tomb was sealed with a boulder?

No matter where one looks, one is confronted with precisely two outcomes: either the Resurrection was the greatest fraud ever perpetrated upon Mankind, or it was the greatest miracle that this world has ever seen.

The very impossibility of the Resurrection, combined with the evidence that it took place, is the strongest possible confirmation that one could have for a rational case for faith in Christ.

The most important thing about the Resurrection for me, though, is the fact that without it, the entire construct of Christianity falls apart.

Nothing about Christianity's past or present makes sense without this one pivotal event. Without, it makes no sense that one man could possibly overturn centuries of Biblical Law and be taken seriously for doing so by hundreds and thousands of followers.

Without, it makes no sense that the Apostles, who started out as weak and fearful men who crumbled under the first sign of pressure, could become lions among men, who went forth and preached the Gospel of Christ, and died in terrible and painful ways with smiles upon their faces and His name upon their lips.

Without, it makes no sense that people could possibly believe that their souls could be redeemed by following these rituals and observances and codes of moral behaviour instead of those. One might just as easily ask why it would be better to follow Christ's teachings instead of picking one of the Hindu Vedas- hell, if you want a "pick-and-choose" religion that you can tailor to your own personal needs and desires, just go for Hinduism. Why bother with Christianity at all, what with its uncomfortable talk of sin and persecution and whatnot?

But with the Resurrection, Christianity makes complete sense.

With the Resurrection, Christ gives us both hope and certainty. We are given the hope of eternal salvation through His Word, but we are also given the certainty, the absolute and indisputable proof, the irrefutable evidence, that He was right.

And with the Resurrection, we know that, no matter what else happens, no matter what manner of evil Man inflicts upon Mankind, no matter how the enemies of Christ seek to brutalise His followers, they will not win.

Christians are being persecuted for their faith as never before in history. They are under attack everywhere. There is no safe haven for Christians anymore. A terrible, heretical perversion of Christianity, which we call Islam, threatens the very gates of Jerusalem every day. To be a Christian- a real Christian- in the modern world is to be spat upon and derided for following a faith that the globalist elites of this world see as outdated, outmoded, and dangerously divisive. The very Mother Church herself has been infiltrated by sodomites and Marxists to the point where the Gospel as taught by the Magisterium is itself being corrupted in the name of "social justice".

And yet... the promise that Christ made remains true. He fulfilled that promise at the cost of His own life, and proved beyond any shadow of doubt that He was right.

What then is there to fear?

The darkness is coming. Of that, there can be no doubt. But always remember that the light will follow it. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

May the Father and the Son bless you and yours on this day, and every day to come.

Christ is Risen!

'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go!!!


Fellow Vile Faceless Minions, take heed and make haste, for the time to nominate works for the Hugo Awards 2016 is upon us!

Ballots for nominations can only be made up until midnight, March 31st, so get your ballots in as soon as you can.

Here is the list that I nominated for the Hugos this year:

BEST NOVEL
  • Seveneves: A Novel, Neal Stephenson, William Morrow
  • Golden Son, Pierce Brown, Del Rey
  • Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm, John C. Wright, Castalia House
  • The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass, Jim Butcher, Roc
  • Agent of the Imperium, Marc Miller, Far Future
BEST NOVELLA
  • Fear of the Unknown and Self-Loathing in Hollywood, Nick Cole, Tales of Tinfoil
  • Penric's Demon, Lois McMaster Bujold, Spectrum
  • Perfect State, Brandon Sanderson, Dragonsteel Entertainment
  • The Builders, Daniel Polansky, Tor.com
  • Slow Bullets, Alastair Reynolds, Tachyon Publications
BEST NOVELETTE
  • Flashpoint: Titan, Cheah Kai Wai, There Will Be War Vol. X, Castalia House
  • Folding Beijing, Hao Jingfang, Uncanny Magazine
  • What Price Humanity?, David VanDyke, There Will Be War Vol. X, Castalia House
  • Hyperspace Demons, Jonathan Moeller, Castalia House
  • Obits, Stephen King, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner
BEST SHORT STORY
  • Asymmetrical Warfare, S. R. Algernon, Nature Nr. 519
  • Seven Kill Tiger, Charles Shao, There Will Be War Vol. X, Castalia House
  • The Commuter, Thomas Mays, Amazon Digital Services
  • If You Were an Award, My Love, Juan Tabo and S. Harris, Vox Popoli
  • Space Raptor Butt Invasion, Chuck Tingle, Amazon Digital Services
BEST RELATED WORK 
  • Appendix N, Jeffro Johnson, Castalia House blog
  • Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, Marc Aramini, Castalia House
  • The Story of Moira Greyland, Moira Greyland, Askthebigot.com
  • Safe Space as Rape Room, Daniel Eness, Castalia House blog
  • SJWs Always Lie, Vox Day, Castalia House
BEST GRAPHIC STORY
  • The Divine, Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, First Second
  • Full Frontal Nerdity, Aaron Williams, Do Gooder Press
  • Erin Dies Alone, Cory Rydell and Grey Carter, The Escapist
  • The Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III, Vertigo
  • Invisible Republic Vol 1 (#1–5), Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, Image Comics
BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM
  • Jerry Pournelle
  • Vox Day
 BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM 
  • Anne Sowards, Penguin
  • Jim Minz, Baen Books
  • Mike Braff, Del Rey
  • Toni Weisskopf, Baen Books
  • Vox Day, Castalia House
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Until Dawn
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • The Martian
 BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM
  • Supernatural, "Just My Imagination" Season 11, Episode 8
  • Grimm, Season 4 Episode 21, "Headache"
  • Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5, "The Vault of the Traveller"
  • Life is Strange, Episode 1
  • My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic, Season 5, Episodes 1-2, "The Cutie Map"
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST
  • Larry Elmore
  • Michal Karcz (Karezoid on Deviant Art)
  • Abigail Larson
  • Lars Braad Anderson
  • Rowena Morrill (Checking to see if eligible)
BEST SEMIPROZINE
  • Abyss & Apex
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Daily Science Fiction
  • Sci-Phi Journal
  • Strange Horizons
BEST FANZINE
BEST FANCAST
  • The Rageaholic by Razorfist
  • Hello Greedo
  • 8-4 Play
  • Cane and Rinse
  • Tales to Terrify
BEST FAN WRITER
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Morgan (Castalia House)
  • Shamus Young
  • Zenopus
  • Douglas Ernst
BEST FAN ARTIST
  • Rgus
  • Matthew Callahan
  • Disse86
  • Darkcloud013
  • Kukuruyo
BEST NEW WRITER (Campbell Award)
  • Pierce Brown
  • Cheah Kai Wai
  • Sebastien de Castell
  • Brian Niemeier
  • Andy Weir 
Let me make it very clear that under no circumstances was this a direct copy-paste of the list of nominations created by our Supreme Dark Lord, His Unspeakable Evilness, Lord Voxemort of Day. I am totally not acting on any orders, under any compulsion, of any kind, to work the Dark Lord's will.

And as for my fellow Minions:

To war, brothers- TO WAR!!!!!

WAAGH!!!!!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

You can do better than that, Gunny

Now normally I would not be inclined to argue with a certain Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant by the name of R. Lee Ermey, but I stumbled across a video taking him to task for certain inaccuracies regarding comparisons between Japanese katana and old-school European longswords that made me sit up and take notice:


The criticisms here are accurate and valid. It is very difficult to compare Japanese swords with European ones and conclude unequivocally that Japanese weapons are categorically better.

When it comes to ancient and mediaeval weapons, there are a number of popular misconceptions that have to be dealt with and then put aside. Foremost among them is this notion- inculcated through decades of popular films about samurai and ninja in feudal and imperial Japan- that katana do not break or snap. The objection to mediaeval European swords that is often raised in this context is that such swords are used for brute-force attacks, wielded like clubs and spears, and are prone to chipping, flaking, and breaking when used with too much... enthusiasm. The argument is often made that Japanese katana, being altogether more refined weapons and forged by truly superb swordsmiths who know how to work a piece of steel (a sentiment with which I do agree), are better, stronger, and more effective weapons.

This is in fact untrue. It is quite possible to break a Japanese katana; the weapon is made for very specific types of strikes and is only truly effective when used in those contexts. If you try to use a katana like a club, you'll very likely end up breaking it.

From what I remember of a quite fascinating special on the subject from several years ago, katana are made using two types of steel. The key thing to remember is that the carbon content of steel alloy is what determines how well the resulting steel weapon will hold its edge. As with everything else in life, there are trade-offs here. High-carbon steel holds an edge beautifully- but is very brittle; if you apply enough force, and it doesn't necessarily take much, you can actually snap a high-carbon blade in half. Low-carbon steel cannot hold an edge very well at all- it's "soft" and bends easily (relatively speaking, anyway), but it isn't brittle.

What makes Japanese sword-smithing unique is the way that these two types of steel are combined into a single weapon.

The katana starts out as a core of low-carbon steel, around which is "jacketed" the high-carbon blade itself. The result is a blade that, when made with skill and used with care, can retain its edge and quality for decades after it was originally forged.

Like any weapon, a katana has its strengths as well as its weaknesses- as does the longsword. To understand why the comparison between the two isn't a very good one, you have to delve into a little bit of history.

What interests me about sword-fighting- purely from an amateur's perspective, mind you- is the way in which sword-fighting techniques have evolved over the centuries.

Back in the days of the Greek phalanxes- basically, the assault troops and shock infantry of their day- the primary weapon used in combat was a whacking great spear, which was perfectly adapted to the othismos or "pushing" tactics of the phalanx itself. The hoplite sword, typically called a xiphos, was a pig-sticker of a blade- maybe 60cm long at most, designed to be wielded in close quarters within the confines of the typical pushing match that was the phalanx engagement.

And thus swords stayed for quite some time. The Roman legions used a short sword known as a gladius, about 60-80cm long and designed, again, for close-quarters fighting. As far as I can tell- and I could very well be wrong- the concept of using long, heavy swords with two-handed grips and heavy, powerful swings didn't really come into common practice until the Dark and Middle Ages.

Sword-fighting tactics, though, seemed to stay more or less the same for centuries in the West. The basic idea was to close with your enemy and then use your sword to hack, slash, stab, or bludgeon him to death. If you read the works of certain blademasters of the past- such as Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings, for instance- you'll find very heavy emphases placed on diagonal slashes and these concepts of "circles"- in the air and on the ground.

It really wasn't until the advent of gunpowder that sword-fighting techniques changed, and infantry soldiers starting using longer, heavier swords that were really better used almost as clubs and spears. This is where we get the infamous European longsword.

The problem with comparing that longsword to the katana now becomes immediately obvious. The two weapons are in no way intended for the same uses or tactics.

The katana, and its shorter, dagger-like counterpart, the wakizashi, are primarily slashing weapons. They are extremely effective when used at specific angles against specific parts of the body, which maximise the velocity of the sword-edge as it makes contact with the target.

But that is not to say that a European knight in full plate-armour, chain-mail, and leather bodkin using a longsword could not defeat a heavily armoured bakumatsu samurai wielding a katana. There are certain specific ranges and tactics that are optimal for each weapon.

While we're on the topic- there is something rather interesting to be noted about sword-fighting in general. The concept of simply poking hokes in people with refined, light, thin weapons designed to be more flexible and useful in combat has outlasted all of the other sword-fighting techniques in the West, while Japanese sword arts (kenjutsu) still revolve primarily around the same types of hack-and-slash techniques used when katana were the primary bladed weapons available.

You know who we have to thank for that particular style of fighting?

Mostly the French.

Yep. That's right. The Frogs. The world's most useless laughingstock of a war-fighting culture gave us the style of sword-fighting that basically made everything else obsolete.

And that is how knife-fighting is done to this day. The goal of modern knife-fighting isn't to bash your opponent into a bloody ruin; it isn't to pick up your knife and hurl it at him like a spear; and it isn't to shove a two-foot-long double-edged sword through his guts.

Instead, the goal is simply to poke holes in him, in as many vulnerable places as you can, as fast as possible.

Whoever would have guessed that the French were responsible for giving us that approach to fighting?

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Alpha and Beta political philosophies

Several years back, Bill Whittle produced what I consider to be one of his all-time classic video commentaries, on the difference between Alpha and Beta males. In that video, "Beta Nation", he outlined precisely why it is that, no matter where you look, no matter which entertainment medium you care to consume, Alpha-male qualities are always and everywhere instantly more attractive and more interesting to audiences than Beta-male ones.



As usual, Bill Whittle nailed it. The reason why Alpha-male qualities are such a hit, both in fiction and in real life, is because the Alpha qualities of confidence, strength, discipline, control (and controlled aggression), and ambition are qualities that we all admire and seek to emulate.

Mr. Whittle uses the example of the classic 1970s TV show All in the Family, which I have never actually watched at all. But the stereotypical conservative in that show, Archie Bunker, is the character that viewers across three generations have identified and sympathised with- while "Meathead" Mike Stivic (played by uber-liberal Rob Reiner- life does indeed imitate art) is the character that very few people actually like.

The modern-day version of All in the Family is a truly terrific family show called Last Man Standing, starring Tim Allen as the "modern, educated Archie Bunker", Mike Baxter.

I have sung the praises of this show many times on this blog. If you sit down and actually watch some of its best episodes- the first four seasons are streaming on Netflix right now, and the fifth will be up in a few months- you will understand precisely why.

The funny thing is that my sister- very much a liberal- doesn't see the point of the show. She finds Mike Baxter's conservatism to be almost cartoonishly silly, and thinks that most of the time the show is dedicated to making fun of the conservative philosophy and worldview. And actually, she sort of has a point; several episodes in the show revolve around the ways that Mike Baxter deals with conflicts between his paternal, conservative attitude to life, and the monkey-wrenches that life throws into his philosophy.

One good example would be the episode about midway through the first season where the city council mandates that all softball teams must be co-ed. Mike Baxter, being a manly man of righteous manliness, is rightly outraged at the notion of being forced to play alongside women in a man's sport. Yet, his youngest daughter, Eve- played superbly as a strong-willed, independent-thinking young conservative by Kaitlyn Dever- has an absolute cannon of a pitch, and when his male coworkers are all tied up in voting for or against the idea of having to share the field with women, Mike secretly casts his ballot in favour of the notion.

His reason? He doesn't like it when people tell his daughter what she can and cannot do.

And yet, for all that my sister has a narrowly defined point, she misses the much broader reality of the show. Because of this, she also completely misunderstands its appeal- and it is a well-regarded show, judging by the ratings if nothing else.

Unlike All in the Family, where liberal Norman Lear used Archie Bunker as, essentially, a foil for Meathead's airheaded nonsense, Last Man Standing espouses clear, family-values, bedrock-conservative messages. Mike Baxter's arguments with his liberal eldest daughter Kristin, and her atheist, Vegan, socialist Canadian boyfriend and then fiance Ryan, are great to watch because he almost always ends up winning them.

As for Ryan Vogelson, Mike Baxter's frequent punching bag, many is the time when I have watched him on-screen and raised my eyes to the heavens and said, out loud, "Lord, I know You have that whole Sixth Commandment prohibition on murder and all, but would You please consider giving me a mulligan, at least as far as this DIPSHIT is concerned?!"

Why is that? Why is it that I- a former atheist and squishy right-leaning centrist- regard a character written by extremely liberal screenwriters as the leftist's leftist, to be so annoying as to be worthy of being "accidentally" shot in the foot with a crossbow?

The answer is pretty simple. It doesn't matter where you encounter the progressive mindset, or in what fashion- the sheer limp-wristed weakness, the mincing effiminacy, the "swishing faggotry" of it, as Ann Barnhardt would say, is distasteful in the extreme, even to liberals themselves.

The Beta ideology that is progressivism is not built on logic, reason, or facts. It is built on feelings. Progressivism in all of its forms casts aside tradition in favour of novelty; discards what works for what does not; refuses to distinguish wrong from right; and, worst of all, insists against millennia of evidence to the contrary that the flawed and fallen nature of Man can be "corrected".

The Alpha philosophy of (traditional) conservatism, by contrast, is built on a simple recognition of facts.

Those of us who reject the lies of progressivism do not agree with each other on everything. Why should we, after all? We are individualists first and foremost, and highly territorial ones at that. But we do agree on a few basic things.

First, we agree that Man is what he is. There is no point in trying to fix him. All we can do- the most we can do- is attempt to work with and around the flaws of Man, by giving our fellows incentives to appeal to their better angels, and doing whatever we can to restrain their worst vices.

Second, we value individualism, personal responsibility, and integrity. Those who have these qualities are immediately worthy of respect. Those who seek to leech off others, who eschew notions of honour and loyalty, are immediately branded, justly, as cowards and fools.

Third, we respect strength, courage, loyalty, and honour. We know that these are the fundamental building blocks of a strong and healthy society; we instinctively understand that men who possess these qualities are worthy of our time and attention, and that men who embody these virtues are the kinds of leaders that we want.

Progressives loathe all of these things. They reject these notions as outdated and reactionary. Yet, when things go pear-shaped, guess who they instinctively look to in order to make things right?

Yep- they look to a strong, masculine, heroic, Alpha-male type to set things straight.

The liberal ideology is a Beta way of life. It celebrates weakness and applauds cowardice. But the traditional conservative philosophy is an Alpha mindset. It understands the dangers of an unchained and unchecked Man, and seeks to prevent those excesses using the only methods that actually work- the same ones that have always worked.

And that is why, no matter where and when and how you look, you will always find that it is the conservative characters in our culture- whether in real life or fiction- that live on in our memories, while the liberal ones fade into obscurity.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Don't cut your damn hair: Trump Derangement Syndrome Edition

Image courtesy of El Capitan:


If Megyn Kelly is trying to make it clear that she is totally not affected at all, in any way, by The Donald's quite devastatingly effective attacks on her personality and competence... well, she's doing a thoroughly piss-poor job of it.

It is no coincidence that, even as her hair shrinks, so too does the once-fetching Ms. Kelly's appeal. Her personality has become more grating. Her tone of voice has become more shrill. Her conservative "street-cred", so to speak, is plummeting. (Not that she ever had all that much, mind you.)

And despite the very best efforts of the various white-knight Betas at Fox News, who have tried mightily (and utterly in vain) to paint Donald Trump as some sort of unhinged loon who cannot take criticism, she continues to descend ever deeper into the foul and dank alleys of SJW skankdom.

Judging by her less-than-appealing current appearance, and her rather considerable efforts to maintain her looks and her increasingly tenuous grasp on an audience that appears to be tiring of her antics, it won't be long before we see a Megyn Kelly who looks indistinguishable from... um... who is that short-haired lesbian with her own not-very-popular cable TV news show on a not-very-popular cable TV network that keeps getting thrashed by Fox in the ratings?

And that is actually quite sad, considering what Megyn Kelly used to look like at the peak of her fame:


There are actually two useful lessons to be learned here from the sad fall of a once-beautiful and (apparently) charming woman.

First, don't mess with The Donald.


And second, DON'T CUT YOUR DAMN HAIR, lady!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Good causes

If you're taking the advice provided (for free, mind you) by blogs like mine, I certainly hope that you are saving up your money, spending less than you earn, and living comfortably within your means. If so, well done you. You're already way ahead of at least 80% of your fellow Americans- especially the ones living in the big cities who are chasing lifestyles that they cannot afford with money they do not have.

If you ARE following that advice- and I sincerely hope that you are- then chances also are that you have a bit of cash saved up for which you may not have an immediate need. If so, I respectfully ask that you consider donating some of that money to certain useful campaigns and causes.

This isn't about virtue signalling, for which I have less than zero patience; this is simply about making sure that some good people get money to do good work.

So here are a few useful causes that I think are worthy of receiving a few bucks if you have no other need for them.

And since I am not overly fond of telling people to do things that I would not do myself, you can be sure that I, personally, have put in my own cash for these same ventures.


You know what has been happening around you. You have seen it with your own eyes. You have watched as a once-free and proud culture has debased itself so greatly that once-unalienable rights are now considered dispensations of our moral betters. And those rights can now be taken from us- not by governments, though Lord knows they would like to- but by ourselves.

Mike Cernovich and Loren Feldman are working hard to create a film that documents just how bad this tendency towards censorship in a supposedly free society has become, and what it means for the future. A society that censors itself has no self-confidence, no maturity, and will likely not 

This is critically important work that needs to see the light of day. But it cannot happen unless ordinary folks like you and me are willing to put our trust and money into their hands. They need our help to show the world just what it is we are in such desperate danger of losing.

SWAT KATS: REVOLUTION

THIS. JUST THIS.


If you were watching Cartoon Network in the early-to-mid-Nineties, you will remember this show. And what a great show it was.

Two fighter jocks engaging in vigilante justice in a world populated by anthropomorphic "kats", and the coolest fighter jet of ALL TIME.

Yeah, all right, it was silly and cheesy. But it had THE BEST intro soundtrack of any kids' cartoon show this side of Thundercats. I still watch the old episodes from time to time, just for the nostalgia kick that I get out of it.

Sadly, the Kickstarter for this project is currently closed- the project blew way past its original goal of raising $50K to begin production of a new cartoon series and animated film. Sooner or later, however, I suspect that there will be a second round of funding requests. And when that happens, you can be sure that I'll be right there to pony up some cash to make this happen.

Project REDACTED

If you are a Vile Faceless Minion, you know exactly what I am talking about. I won't say any more on the subject. Either you've contributed to it, or you haven't. If you haven't, get in touch with our Supreme Dark Overlord, His Unspeakable Evilness Vox Day himself, and get in on the action.

Let's just say that, when the rubble does bounce, it's going to be SPECTACULAR.