Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Didact's Top Ten Posts of 2016

Before anyone says anything, yes, I know, this is some serious navel-gazing, but I don't do it very often. And it's my blog anyway.

As with past years, the idea here is to present a selection of what I think was my best writing from all of 2016. The posts presented here aren't necessarily the ones that got lots of page views or comments (though some did); they are simply laid out, in descending order, based solely on my opinion of their merits.

If you are a longtime reader, and you've got your own candidates, stick 'em in the comments below. I would be interested to know what kinds of posts my readers enjoy.

And that's it for 2016, lads. I'll see you in 2017, once all of our hangovers have subsided and we're fit to be called human again, with new material, rants, reviews, and so on. It's going to be a great year for us, but first we have to kill off the old one- so uncork the champagne, break open the kegs, pour out the hard spirits, and let's get STARTED!

At long last, brothers, it is done. The God-Emperor has triumphed- and so too have we of the #altRight.

I was up until like 2am keeping up with the electoral college votes that were slowly trickling through, but in reality, by about 11.30pm, it was clear that Donald Trump was going to be the next President. He had taken Ohio and Florida; Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire were in play, and with Michigan leaning red and vast swathes of America turning solid red already, it was clear where the wind was blowing.

It was at that point that I knew he had won. All he needed to do was pick up either Michigan or Wisconsin, and Alaska (which of course he would), and that would be all she wrote.

And it was at that point- at, like, midnight- that I offered up a prayer of thanks to the Almighty. As He proved in 1980, and again in June this year with Brexit, He showed once and for all that He has not abandoned America and the West- even though the West seems in an awfully big hurry to abandon Him.

These people are some of the most successful one-percenters in America- on the surface, at least. My uncle and aunt came here and made the most of the opportunities that they received. They became wealthy and very comfortable. (Much of that wealth, I recently learned, was founded ondebt, which I absolutely loathe- and they are now paying a very steep price for that.)

But they have spent so long among people like themselves- rich, successful, liberal to the max because they have eliminated much of the need for competition and struggle in their lives- that they have forgotten the realities of the ordinary American.

My friends, the simple fact is that the West is dying.

Its people have ceased to breed. Its greatest cities are being flooded with hordes of immigrants, legal and illegal. Entire neighbourhoods of London and New York and Paris are no longer recognisable as being distinctly "English" or "American" or "French"; the people who inhabit these locales speak every language on Earth except for the one known as the mother tongue of their host nation. The most glorious ancient cathedrals of nations that were once proudly Christian are empty; I have personally seen, not far from where I live, a former church building now being used as a mosque.

The Men of the West no longer have the will to fight for their civilisation. They have forgotten all the good that it brought to them. They have failed to learn the lessons of the recent past.

Whether we like it or not, it is distinctly possible that you and I will live to see the final destruction of Western civilisation as we know it today.

As for the alt-Right being a supposedly "white supremacist" movement, there is a diversity of thought and opinion within it that makes an utter mockery of the Left's much-vaunted claims to a monopoly on the concept of plurality. (Yes, this is a massive contradiction in terms. Spend more than ten minutes trying to figure out how a Leftist thinks and you'll realise that their entire philosophy is a mass of mutually contradictory nonsense.)

Within the alt-Right, you will find a complete melange of people and ideas, who often disagree quite violently with each other on a very wide range of subjects. It is perfectly normal to have a 1488r (or Stormfronter), who is openly and virulently anti-Semitic, arguing hysterically with natural conservatives and the intellectual types about the Jewish Question, just as it is perfectly normal to have an ardent Zionist arguing with a paleoconservative of the Pat Buchanan mold about the best way to secure America's borders.

My honest opinion is that the next generation after me is in for an extremely rude awakening. As bad as Millennials are, the next generation is even less well equipped and intellectually prepared for the world as it is, rather than as they would wish it to be.

I have more than a passing interest in this question, by the way. The age gap between my sister and me is significant, and in terms of attitudes and values, she is far more liberal and progressive than I have ever been. Our differences are so large that I do, in fact, consider her to be from a different generation than mine. Don't get me wrong, I love my little sister unreservedly and I'd do just about anything to keep her safe and provided for, but she is very, very different from me.

So I do have some anecdotal evidence, based on my sister's attitudes and behaviours, that gives some idea of just how bad things are going to get.

Here's the hard reality of being in your early twenties that very few people ever tell you: you know precisely DICK about ANYTHING of ANY importance. And the sooner you accept this cruel but inviolate fact, the happier you will be, and the easier your life will be.

It's just that simple.

A 22-year-old kid who has been told all her life that she is special and wonderful and bound for success in this world- as virtually every Millennial these days is- will suffer a very harsh reality check very quickly. Lord knows, I did, when I was in my early twenties. Reality doesn't care about what you've been told growing up. It only cares what you can actually do.

And the fact is that, when you're just starting out, you can't do much of anything. You're a barely functional adult in any real sense. The fact is that a new employee is a massive net cost in terms of resources for the first 6-12 months of his or her working life. It takes roughly that long to train a fresh-faced but clueless kid into a reasonably competent person who won't sink the team and the company by making a carelessly stupid mistake in a spreadsheet that goes out to a client, for instance.

Most Americans have never known what it means to live in a country where the simple ability to sit in a public park with your family is fraught with danger because security is not guaranteed. Most Americans cannot imagine having their right to walk wherever they damn well please being restricted, because certain areas are not "safe" to wander into. Most Americans take it for granted that they can sit in a marina without metal detectors, without heavily armed private security, without having to worry about some Islamist loony wanting to blow himself up and take dozens and hundreds of them with him on his way to his so-called "paradise".

I pray to the Living God every day that you people will never have to learn what that is like.

It is a fundamental, axiomatic truth that men and women do not age the same way; not for nothing has it been written, only half-jokingly, that men age like wine, while women age like milk.

For women, their best years are between the ages of 18 and 30- and that is it. From the age of 30, a woman's looks begin to deteriorate quite rapidly; it becomes much more difficult for her to control her weight and appetites; her fertility drops precipitously; her ability to bear fully healthy children declines just as fast.

By far the most devastating consequence of this loss of youth and beauty is the fact that, just as women begin to lose their value, men begin to gain in ours.

For men, the years between 18 and 30 are often filled with suffering and hardship. Those of us who are not naturally gregarious or sociable find it extremely hard to make friends and find dates. Our time is often consumed by work and the daily struggle to simply get by. Our finances are weak and our relative status is poor as a result.

But from the age of 30 onward, things rapidly begin improving for us.

To conclude: is 4GW a complete theory of warfare? I do not believe it to be so. It has tremendous explanatory power, to be sure; I have yet to see a better way of explaining the victories won by #Gamergate, or the Rabid Puppies, or even Donald Trump's Presidential campaign, than the paradigm of 4GW conflict. But there are simply too many gaps and holes, too many questions left unanswered, to trust in it blindly. The careful and thoughtful student of war must question all of its assumptions, repeatedly and thoroughly, and must not accept its easy explanations at face value, if one is to make the most of its ideas and applications.

The fact is that confidence creates its own reality. When you are at peace with yourself and the world around you, things seem to just... happen the way they should, almost without conscious intervention on your part. When you have the confidence that comes from total knowledge of your strengths, from mastery over your weaknesses, from complete ownership over your present and future, things simply work for you. That confidence creates its own reality, in a way.

The Didact's Best Albums of 2016

Now that we've gotten the best books of 2016 (in my ever-so-humble opinion) out of the way, it's time to tackle the best albums that I've listened to all year. Now, the thing is, I actually listen to quite a lot more than just heavy metal- but for whatever reason, virtually ALL of the new music that I buy at any given time is metal.

So if metal really isn't your thing... well, in the immortal words of MANOWAR
Now the world must listen to our decree!
We don't turn down for anyone, we do just what we please
Got to make it louder, all men play on ten
If you're not into metal, you are not my friend!
Heavy metal or no metal at all
Wimps and posers leave the hall
Heavy metal or no metal at all
Wimps and posers I said,
Leave the hall! 
So there.

1. AMON AMARTH - Jomsviking
To absolutely nobody's surprise, my favourite album of this year is of course by Viking metal stalwarts AMON AMARTH. The first concept album of their long and storied career, this is a dark and bloody tale of lost love, vengeance, and death. The story starts with an unnamed anti-hero fleeing his native lands after killing a jarl's servant in a dispute over a girl. Alone and lost, he eventually finds his way into a company of Viking mercenaries, becoming a warrior of great skill and renown. He makes his way back to his homeland after many years away, and finds that his girl has grown into a woman who is happy with her life and refuses to go away with him. The album ends with one of AMON AMARTH's signature epic tracks in an orgy of battle, slaughter, and death. There is not a single bad track on this entire album; every one of its eleven songs bristles with power and fury.

While this album isn't quite as good as the legendary With Oden On Our Side, it is still better than every one of the albums since that monumental release and stands on its own as a classic moment in the discography of this great band.

Killer Kuts: First Blood, One Against All, The Way of Vikings, At Dawn's First Light, Vengeance is My Name, One Thousand Burning Arrows, Back on Northern Shores

2. SABATON - The Last Stand
The Last StandI don't call SABATON "the Pacific Rim of heavy metal" for nothing. These guys are silly, absurd, and completely over the top. They are also utterly lovable because they play everything with conviction and balls. They specialise in what we might as well come to call "war metal", which means that all of their songs are about war and history of some kind or another. This album is loosely based around the concept of a "last stand", and as such is all about honour, glory, valour, and resistance in the face of impossible odds. Once again, there isn't a single weak track on the entire album- which is actually kind of unusual for a SABATON release. And if you think the songs sound great on the album, wait until you hear them played live- they simply slay.

Killer Kuts: Sparta, The Lost Battalion, Rorke's Drift, The Last Stand, Shiroyama, The Winged Hussars

Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos WizardsYou wouldn't normally think that a "side project" would amount to much in terms of quality output. And normally, you'd be correct. But this band, which is the brainchild of ALESTROM main man Christopher Bowes, is highly unusual. While ALESTORM's music is straight-up silly pirate metal, GLORYHAMMER's music is pure cheesy power metal- and it is unusually good power metal at that. There is no question that this band is ridiculously silly- every one of the band members has a persona, and the band takes the stage in full costumed regalia not unlike the way GWAR used to do things- but they are also very skillful and they have lots of great ideas.

This album is a continuation of the concept established in the previous release, Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife, which takes place in an alternate timeline Scotland and which features the rise to power and eventual defeat of the evil wizard Zargothrax. The newer release kind of tells a similar story, set 1,000 years afterward in the year 1992, in which an intergalactic space empire is assaulted by the forces of Zargothrax after he is freed from his magical prison. Well written, performed with conviction and skill, and highly entertaining, this is definitely a top-notch power metal album.

Killer Kuts: Rise of the Chaos Wizards, Legend of the Astral Hammer, The Hollywood Hootsman, Victorious Eagle Warfare, Questlords of Inverness, Apocalypse 1992

4. GRAND MAGUS - The Hunt
The Hunt
I discovered GRAND MAGUS as a side effect of listening to AYREON's superb The Theory of Everything. The vocalist of GRAND MAGUS, Janne "JB" Christofersson, did such a superb job in his role as "The Teacher" on that album that I eventually got around to listening to the work of his main band. This Swedish outfit started out in "doom metal", as shown by their first two albums, but eventually migrated over to a more conventional style that is nonetheless quite unique. This album is, in my opinion, their best, as it is the one with the most consistent level of quality. The songwriting is superb, the musicianship is excellent, the production is tight and dry, and the overall effect is one of unrelenting power and precision topped off by a great vocal performance. A solid album that can be enjoyed at virtually any time.

Killer Kuts: Starlight Slaughter, Sword of the Ocean, Storm King, Silver Moon, Iron Hand

5. VOLBEAT - Seal the Deal and Let's Boogie
Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie
VOLBEAT is another one of those bands that defies easy categorisation. They play a mixture of so many different genres that it's very hard to pin them down on any one particular strength. But they are exceptionally tight, talented, and fun to listen to whether they are playing straight-up hard rock, thrashy metal, rockabilly, blues, or any mixture of these. Their last album, Outlaw Ladies and Shady Gentlemen, was not quite up to the standards that I expected of them, but they sure as hell redeemed themselves with this one. Solid from start to finish, uncompromising in quality, yet flavoured with all of the variety and experimentation that marks this band out among its peers, this is an excellent album and continues the band's trend of well-crafted, enjoyable, memorable work that will win fans from multiple genres.

Killer Kuts: The Devil's Bleeding Crown, Marie Laveau, The Bliss, Let It Burn, Goodbye Forever, Seal the Deal, Battleship Chains, You Will Know, The Loa's Crossroad

Honourable Mentions