Flotsam: Of Kings, Clothes, and Inspiration

1. Yesterday was the anniversary of the martyrdom of King Louis XVI, so I made sure to go to Mass to ask his intercession, and that of all the royal saints, that we might have good leaders in Church and State. Or, failing that, at least leaders who aren’t brain-dead swine.

Appropriately enough, the first reading was the incident of King David sparing Saul in the cave, cutting off a piece of his cloak to show him that he had no intention of “harming the Lord’s anointed”. This even though Saul was actively seeking to kill him. An image of true nobility and proto-chivalry from the origin point of Christian Monarchy.

2. By the way, some of you might wonder why I’m asking King Louis for good leaders when he himself was, well, not a very good king (from all I can tell, he was undoubtedly a good man and cared for his people, but was weak, indecisive, and let himself be influenced into some very poor decisions). No, but one, I’ll take a weak, vacillating fool who understands his duty to his people over cunning, opportunistic sociopaths who see their role as a chance to glorify themselves any day.

More importantly, of course, he’s now beyond the point where second-rate abilities really matter. And anyway, as Americans, the poor man lost both his throne and his life largely because he made the mistake of helping us, so the least we can do is pay homage to him now.

3. Speaking of leadership, Larry Correia gives his typically moderate and gentle take on the first year of the phony President of the United States (Language warning).

Biden has accomplished exactly one thing. And that’s demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt to all reasonable, thinking Americans that democrats are total shit at governing. They talk a big game, but it’s all just platitudes, wishful thinking, and magic unicorns farting free shit. Their claimed philosophy is childlike and disintegrates when it touches reality, exposing their actual philosophy, which is draconian control freaks who are compelled to meddle in everything. And the less they understand something, the more they feel the need to fuck with it.

Even with big tech and the media doing everything in their power to cover for Biden’s multitude of failures, it’s so bad that the most technologically advanced propaganda engine in human history simply can’t keep up.

Okay, actually to be fair, Biden has accomplished two things. He’s been so shitty that he’s also forced the media to shoot their wad, and destroy the tiny bit of credibility they had left with the most gullible Americans. Everybody else wrote the media off previously, but even the low information mushy moderates know they’re getting lied to when the media says things are great, but they go to their empty stores to pay outrageous prices for basic essentials.

Read the rest here and enjoy

4. One thing that a lot of people miss is that the experience of viewing a photograph is actually very different from seeing a thing, or a person, in real life (and this includes moving pictures). The photo or film is flat, while the real object is in three dimensions. This means that things or people that look good in photographs do not necessarily look good in reality and vice versa.

At my work place, a number of women seem to be putting on an object demonstration of this fact by wearing leather pants. It should be said; these do not work in real life nearly as well as they do in pictures. Though just look uncomfortable, tacky, and odd, more like bits of costume than real clothing. In fact, they have the exact same flimsy, out-of-place appearance as most costumes do, rather like wearing a cape about.

I mean, I can conceive actually, substantial leather pants looking good, the kind you’d wear on your motorcycle, but not mixed in with otherwise ordinary clothes.

5. Clothes, remember, are part of language. What you wear expresses, in part, your personality and your place in society. Most of us, it seems to me, convey an “I don’t know what my place is and I don’t care” message, while many women convey a message of “my place in society is ‘sex appeal’.” (And no, unfortunately, I’m not an exception in this)

Though to be fair, I have met one or two people who knew how to dress really well; not ‘look at how sexy I am!’ but actually wearing clothes that were vibrant, interesting to look at, and complemented them well. Alas, it’s a rare skill. We today are mostly clothing illiterate.

6. Inspirational message from my company message board:

“A closed curtain doesn’t mean the show is over. The next scene of your life is getting prepared! Don’t Quit!”

I really, really wanted to comment:

“A closed casket, on the other hand….”

7. Though really, sometimes a closed curtain does mean the show is over. In any case, how am I supposed to know whether this particular set back in my life is only a closed curtain or the chandelier falling and crushing the whole cast and half the orchestra pit, while a theater critic is scribbling ‘highlight of the performance’ in his notebook?

I don’t think I’m the target audience for inspirational messages.

Kaiju Appreciations: Iris (Updated)

My latest appreciation video is now up. This one’s a remake of the very first one, a tribute to Gamera’s most vile and sinister opponent, Iris.

Iris is a very interesting figure among the kaiju. He’s pretty clearly based on Viras from the Showa Gamera films – an alien squid monster – but they took him in such a different direction that he became a distinct character in his own right (the same thing happened with Legion in the previous film, who was based on Zigra). The story of Gamera III centers on Ayana, a teenage girl whose parents were killed during the climax of the first of the trilogy, partly, if I remember correctly, because a medical condition that she had prevented them from evacuating sooner. Ayana blames Gamera for their deaths, and when she discovers a cute, squid-like creature in an ancient cave, she decides that it will be able to enact revenge for her.

Except that the creature, which she names Iris after her dead family cat (symbolically incorporating it into the family she lost), has its own agenda; to use the psychic link it forms with the girl to become ever more powerful, and eventually consume her entirely.

(At times there’s almost a twisted sexual undertone to their relationship, especially in the scene in the woods. Yikes).

So, yeah, this is a really good movie (the whole Gamera trilogy is great: a shining example of making the most of unpromising material), and Iris is probably one of the best and certainly most vile kaiju villains out there. Remember what I was saying about how Lovecraftian influence is everywhere? Iris is a textbook example (no, not just because he has tentacles, but because he’s an ancient, eldritch being of uncertain origins and purposes brought into the present to corrupt and destroy the very mind and soul of the people he encounters).

He also shows off the then-increasing use of CGI to supplement the suitimation, and it holds up surprisingly well, largely due to the fantastic art direction on his design.

I made the original video over a decade ago (which is depressing to think about), and then I could only record with demo software, so the quality is awful and there’s a distracting ‘Unregistered Hypercam 2’ notice in the top left corner. I always meant to go back and re-do it in better quality (literally said I would in the introduction). Looking back, the editing choices are kind of odd and out-of-step with the rest of the series, focusing as much on Ayana as on Iris himself. She of course needs to be present in the video, but looking at the old one it feels like half the video is about her. So for the new one I used more footage of Iris wherever possible, in the process finding a lot of really impressive shots that I somehow missed the first time (or didn’t think I could use with the rotten film quality).

Original

“Poor Unfortunate Souls” as rendered by the Jonas Brothers is a lighter and, well, cheesier fare that I would have liked, but at the end of the day I decided that I didn’t want to open up the rabbit hole of swapping out songs on these ‘remakes’, as that would kind of mean they were simply completely different videos, whereas I think of them as just updates or remasterings (there may be one exception down the line, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it).

(Also, I had to try to recreate the title animation by hand, since that particular ‘style’ doesn’t exist on Final Cut).

Talking Bitcoin at ‘The Everyman’

My latest Everyman article went up last week (I was on vacation visiting relatives so missed sharing it ‘out of the box’). This one delves into the topic of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general.

The short version is that I think paying actual money for meaningless bits of data that only have value because people expect it to rise in value in the future and which is constantly run back-and-forth across the internet is a really, really bad idea.

Apart from the security and centralization issues (of which admittedly I’ve only scratched the surface), and assuming the points I mentioned were or have been corrected or accounted for, it really wouldn’t matter. For in my estimation there is a much more important problem I see with cryptocurrencies, and that is that it is simply a meaningless strings of data that has no value apart from the fact that people expect it to rise in value. In short, it is a 100% speculation market, the bubble of all bubbles.

Now, the answer may come back “well paper money doesn’t have value either.” But, in fact, it does. The value of fiat currency lies in the fact that it is backed by the State. If I acquire a genuine five-dollar bill, the State guarantees and legally enforces that it will always and everywhere be worth five dollars. The value of the five dollars comes from the fact that any seller under the authority of the issuing government is legally required to accept it as five dollars (things get a lot more complicated when you ask “and what is five dollars worth?” but that’s a tale for another day).

However, the entire point of cryptocurrency is that no one is backing it. It is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. Thus, something like bitcoin only exists relative to actual currency; its value is expressed in terms of being worth so many dollars only because there is someone who is willing to trade that many dollars of backed currency for that many bits of un-backed crypto (or pseudo) currency.

Say I sell a portion of bitcoin to someone for a hundred dollars. If he has any sense, he will only buy it if he expects that it will either be worth more than a hundred dollars in the future or that he can trade it for something that is worth at least a hundred dollars. In short, he expects at least that much value from bitcoin, and the only reason anyone would trade him something for that bitcoin is if they think they can get at least that value in backed currency. In either case, the backed currency is still the standard by which bitcoin is judged.

This means that bitcoin will never be a viable currency in its own right, but will always exist relative to backed currency because the backed currency has a guaranteed value and bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies does not. This also means that bitcoin doesn’t work as a hedge against inflation, which are usually things like bonds or works of art that always retain roughly the same level of inherent or guaranteed value regardless of the state of the currency.

However, when it comes to bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, its value keeps changing based on speculation and based on how much backed currency someone thinks he can get for it. If the backed currency loses its value, then so will the amount of bitcoin you expect to be able to get it with, even assuming the bitcoin market doesn’t crash in the meantime. Thus a Monet’s monetary value rises and falls with inflation because people will always want the Monet to roughly the same degree. Nobody wants the bitcoin except for the chance to exchange it for a certain amount of backed currency.

Read the rest here. Then go pick up some tulip bulbs.

‘Twas the Dark Knight Before Christmas

The YouTuber It’s Just Some Random Guy was, for me at least, a staple of the early and high days of the superhero renaissance. Entirely using action figures, he’d put out comedic sketches where a DC and a Marvel character compare notes on their latest films (e.g. the first round was Superman Returns and Spider-Man 3, which indicates how long he’s been going).

In addition, he also ended up putting out more narrative-driven stories that, while still very funny (“Why did you let [Iron Man] drink? He’s an alcoholic!” “I gathered that about the fifth round of Jaeger”), actually managed to pack legitimate dramatic punch (certainly moreso than anything in the DCEU), aided by a solid grasp of the characters and some really quite fine voice-acting skills. All with nothing but a bunch of action figures.

For tonight, I offer a Christmas special from way back in 2007 (which explains the mangled aspect ratio). To say more would be to spoil it.

Merry Christmas!

Friday Flotsam: Free Thinking, a Review, and the End of the World

1. One of my co-workers has a sticker on his computer that says ‘Danger: Free Thinker’. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, and he seems like a decent guy, but in my experience legitimate ‘free thinkers’ (to the extent that such creatures exist) do not proudly identify themselves as such.

‘Free thinker’ or ‘think for yourself’ tends to be nothing but a form of branding; a way to lend unearned weight to opinions. It’s the intellectual equivalent of ‘organic’ or ‘made with natural ingredients!’: usually not true and of dubious utility when it is.

When someone describes himself as a free thinker, he usually means that he is free of long-outdated forms of popular opinion and instead follows one or another contemporary trends without realizing it’s a trend.

2. It is one of the odd traits of a culture such as ours, which prides itself upon its advanced nature and defiance of ‘established modes’ that its people usually fixate their critical faculties, not on genuinely established opinions or current dogmas, but on those that were or are supposed to have been held several generations before.

This, of course, is inevitable; a society needs an established creed to guide its actions and values, and you can’t have the populace legitimately in perpetual revolt against the current climate of opinion, otherwise it wouldn’t be the current climate. So a society that holds independence of thought and rejection of dogma as its defining characteristics and feeds its people on myths of bold reformers who courageously stood against tradition will have to have a kind of false bogey ‘establishment’ for the people to feel they are boldly defying.

Hence the phenomenon of ‘free thinkers’ who all think according to how those in power wish them to think. Hence too the even more ridiculous assertion that children do not learn to think for themselves from their parents, but from the paid indoctrinators of the State.

3. I’d say I’ve only encountered a few writers whom I would class as legitimately independent thinkers. That is, who actually appear to me to subject all or most of the ideas that come under their view to critical examination and draw conclusions from that. They tend to draw the ire of both ‘sides’ of the actual establishment and to critique those assumptions that are held to be unquestionable by all.

In any case, they do not usually boast of being ‘free thinkers’, they simply offer their observations and let them stand or fall on their own merits. Rather like how if you get freshly-slaughtered pork from a homesteader, he doesn’t feel the need to put ‘organic’ on the package.

(By the way, none of that was meant as a back-door attempt to assign myself the label. Though it is hard to declaim it without seemingly invalidating everything I say. “One cannot be too careful not to think about it,” as Prof. Lewis put it).

4. If I were to tell you that I spent some time watching an old man spreading goop around, you would come away with the idea that I had perhaps spent time with a senile relative, or even in a mental institution. You’d likely feel pity and sympathy for me.

If I were to tell you that I had spent time watching M. Bouguereau paint (ignoring the time factor for the sake of the example), however, you would react with awe and envy to find that I had been privileged to see a genius artistic hand at work.

Yet the two statements are both true versions of the exact same subject. Indeed, the first one is a more factually specific, describing the action rather than containing it in the more abstract concept of ‘painting’. Nevertheless, the second is the more accurate way of describing it, because it conveys the nature of the event more correctly and evokes more appropriate responses.

Similarly, I think that, whatever the factual sequence of events that made up the creation of the world and the descent of species, it will always be more accurate to describe it as “in the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth,” and “God formed man out of the clay and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”

5. The Terror has gotten an entirely-too-flattering review from Caroline Furlong. Read it and then check out her blog if you haven’t already.

6. Some people say, and have been saying that it’s the end times. Technically, it’s been the end times for 2000 years now: with the coming of Christ we’re in the final age of the world regardless. But as for whether we’re approaching the actual Last Judgment, well, my own thoughts are, why would that matter? What difference does it make? We’re all heading for judgment, final or personal, and it can come at any time for any of us. We’ve been told that repeatedly. Worrying and wondering about the end times seems to me a waste of time. The important thing is to be ready and have our lamps timed and full of oil when the time comes.

(For what it’s worth, personally I don’t think we are, but again, who cares?)

Talking the Eternal Trio at the Everyman

No, not that Eternal Trio. Not that one either. I mean the eternal trio of romance: the hero, the princess, and the dragon:

Chesterton explicated on this while discussing Charles Dickens’ novel Nicholas Nickelby, as the most basic form of romance: a princess is menaced by a dragon and a hero fights the dragon to save her. “There is the thing to be loved, the thing to be fought, and the one who does both loving and fighting,” as Chesterton puts it. In this case, Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and Mario battles him and his armies to save her. It’s simple, straightforward, instantly engaging, and endlessly reusable.

Of course, with literally hundreds of games over its nearly four-decade existence, the series has played with the formula many, many times, including having Peach rescuing Mario or having Mario, Peach, and Bowser teaming up against a larger threat. But for our present purposes the important point is the eternal romantic trio of hero, princess, and dragon. The hero – whether it be Mario, Perseus, St. George, or Nicholas Nickelby – fights a dragon – whether it be Bowser, Cetus, the nameless dragon, or Ralph Nickelby – to save the princess – whether it be Peach, Andromeda, the nameless princess, or Madeline Bray.

To put it even more simply, the fundamental pattern of romance is that a hero confronts something horrible and endures danger and suffering in order to save something precious. Put it that way and it should remind us of something.

This basic pattern of melodrama is, at its core, an image of Salvation History: Christ comes to Earth and battles the Devil, enduring the Cross and grave, in order to save the souls of the faithful from sin and death. The imprisoned princess is an image of a soul in sin, the dragon an image of the Devil. The eternally repeated pattern is a whispered repetition of the Creed: “For us men and for our salvation, He came down from Heaven, was Incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was Crucified, Dead, and was Buried, and on the third day He rose again from the dead.”

Romance thus comes with a natural kind of sanctity all its own, however humble the guise (which again, ought to remind us of something). Consequently, it is more significant than we might think about how this enduring pattern has been attacked in recent years. The most frequent reaction we meet with from our modernist contemporaries when the above formula is brought up, is to chafe at the role of the princess.

This is sometimes couched in terms of respect: that the princess is a ‘weak’ and ‘demeaning’ role. Actually, looked at objectively, it’s the reverse of demeaning. The princess is the most important figure on the board, the motivating force to bother the hero and the dragon, the very thing for whom the hero undergoes such struggles. It may or may not be a well-written or interesting role, depending on the skills of the author, but it is not demeaning.

The issue, in fact, is not that the princess is a demeaning role but simply that it is not an active role. The modernists don’t like the image of the princess being rescued. They prefer a version where she takes up a sword, slays the dragon, and rescues herself. They want to see Andromeda unchaining herself from the rock and stabbing Cetus without any help from Perseus, or Peach laying the smackdown on Bowser the moment he shows his face. I remember once seeing a photoshop image of Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty wielding a sword and confronting the dragon Maleficent in place of Prince Phillip.In short, the modernist version of romance has the trio become a duo, and the hero more or less vanishes altogether to make way for the princess to take his place.

In short, the most basic form of a modernist romance is ‘a heroine faces oppression and vindicates herself by overcoming it’. The analogy naturally extends itself from there, for these tend to be the same people who believe in ‘Progress’, who see human enlightenment, science, and so on as the keys to solving the ills of the world and bringing about utopia. They are also the ones who regard God as an obstacle rather than as a goal and Christ as, at best, a vaguely supportive and positive figure wishing nothing but to avoid trouble for all concerned.

If the hero rescuing the princess from the dragon is an image of Salvation history, then the princess kicking butt and slaying the dragon herself is an image of modernism: humanity saving itself by its own efforts and its own ingenuity, needing Christ like a fish needs a bicycle.

Read the rest here

Adventure Stories for Young Readers or I Have Been Negligent

Alas, in the hurry and burry of moving I missed that another anthology was published with me in it!

Please help rectify my mistake and immediately go purchase a copy of Adventure Stories for Young Readers

Quoth the Blurb: These tales of family, discovery, and virtue bring the thrills back to reading. Derring-do, hope, and excitement all come together in each author’s take on what it means to have an adventure. From science fiction to fantasy, explore worlds with stories!

My own story, Fate of a Rider serves as the final entry, telling the tale of a boy whose only dream was to be one of the chosen few who ride upon great monstrous beasts to defend their island home. But when he comes to receive his mount, he finds it is a small, underpowered, and seemingly useless creature. Is he doomed to a life of obscurity and menial toil? Or does fate hold something greater in store for him and his companion?

But that’s just one of eleven stories of excitement and adventure by talented authors. Pick it up today and see what adventures are in store!