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Monthly Archives: May, 2015

I have some amazing friends

The saga of the child-raping, thieving squatters continues. David and Pamela Cooper continue to infest my house without paying rent, as if somehow they’re entitled to my property – and apparently with the judge’s blessing.

This has been a tremendously difficult time – both financially and emotionally. The stress has been unreal. The thieving, lying child rapist and his wife don’t care about any kind of grief they cause others. They’ve stolen my house, and continue to refuse to leave.

As I mentioned before, my friends have been an incredible source of support! I have a network of beautiful, talented, passionate, supportive friends and acquaintances, who have picked up this cause to help me fight this horrid injustice. They’ve restored my hope, and that’s pretty difficult to do, given the fact that I’m paying 80 percent of my takehome pay for housing (my rent, two mortgages, etc.) and have to rely on the kindness of others to ensure I don’t lose my credit rating and my career.

Between my friend Amanda who started this incredible fundraiser to help me with any legal bills, and all the incredibly kind people who have offered not only financial, but also emotional support, and the enormous outpouring of good wishes, and my buddy Dennis, of Dragon Leatherworks, who auctioned off a pair of truly incredible “Sad Puppy” holsters to help me, and the numerous friends who have blogged this issue, the Internet truly restored my faith in humanity.

For those of you who don’t know Oleg Volk, he’s an amazing photographer and artist. Oleg and I have been friends for close to 15 years now. He’s an incredible talent! Oleg decided to help by doing a fundraiser for me, and if you know anything about his work, this is a huge deal! Oleg is offering a poster print of your choice to the highest contributor between now and June 1, inclusive. Just donate to the cause and let him know when you have, and your choice of photo in print form is yours.

Not even kidding!

Check out Oleg’s blog for details. It’s pretty amazing!

Thank you, Oleg, for being an incredible friend. And thank you to all of you again for your help and support!

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Mad Max – not feminist, just dull

I’m not a men’s rights activist. As a matter of fact, I’m quite feminine and the proud owner of a vagina. I love strong female characters in movies – women who are smart, savvy, strong, great shooters, role models…

I loved “Hunger Games” (the movies and the books – yes, I read them!). I love the strong female in Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies” series. I love “Divergent” and its sequels. I loved “The Help,” and I watched its graceful, strong, classy, rebellious female leads absolutely burn up the screen.

So it’s not that I’m some kind of anti-feminist, downtrodden little girl. I’m an Army vet. I’m a gun rights activist. I’m smart. I’m strong.

I just happen to define “feminism” in a somewhat different way. I do not believe the development of a strong female character has to come at the expense of a strong male one. I believe the two can coexist and complement one another.

Enter the new “Mad Max” movie. “Fury Road” is bad writing, lengthy, irritating action sequences seemingly without rhyme or reason, tedious visuals, and thinly veiled social justice rhetoric hiding behind a transparent veneer of “feminism.”

Let’s start with the title character, Max, who spends much of the first part of the movie as a human “blood bag” to a radiation-mottled, white (VERY WHITE) “war boy” who basically uses the universal donor to stay alive as he and his VERY WHITE compadres imprison and subjugate the populace by controlling the water supply.

The cult leader – another VERY WHITE fat man named Joe or something – has a bunch of really pretty, really small, really helpless waifs whom he enslaves for breeding purposes. Pool little ones are completely helpless.

Enter Charlize Theron – the one-armed kickass Imperator Furiosa and the hero of this so far dull, loud, tiresome flick. She helps the really pretty, small, helpless waifs escape EVIL VERY WHITE Joe. Joe and his “war boy” army chase Imperator Furiosa through the desert, with Max strapped to the front of one of the vehicles, so he can continue to be a “blood bag” for the radiation-mottled VERY WHITE “war boy.”

Blah… blah… blah…

Chase scene, action scene, dull visuals of ugly, deformed VERY WHITE men chasing Imperator Furiosa and her cargo. Chase scene culminates with a bunch of twisted metal. The reticent Max winds up with the helpless chicks and the one-armed Imperator Furiosa. At first he does little other than grunt and point guns at them. The helpless chicks squeal in terror, and one of them – because she’s oh-so obviously the victim of Stockholm Syndrome or something – actually wants to go back to EVIL VERY WHITE JOE, because he might forgive them… or something.

Blah… blah… blah… Chase scene. More twisted metal and fire.

Somehow the sick VERY WHITE “war boy” winds up as cargo in Furiosa’s rig after said chase scene, where he’s promptly rescued by a hot redhead whose kindness transforms him and allows his true nature to shine through, despite his EVIL WHITE MALE upbringing. See what happens when a man’s environment changes and he’s surrounded by the glorious goodness of women?

Blah… blah… blah… They reach Furiosa’s supposed birth place only to find that it’s nothing but a handful of women who all somehow look like displaced Chippewa.

After some weird vision Max convinces them that what they really need to do is go back and take the water and resources from EVIL VERY WHITE Joe.

Blah… blah… blah… yet another car chase. Blood. Twisted metal. Fire.

Some of the Chippewa women are killed. EVIL VERY WHITE Joe is killed. Furiosa is mortally injured. She begins to die from blood loss. But guess what! Max turns himself into a “blood bag” yet again to save Furiosa. Because really… that’s all he is in this movie – a foil for the heroic, one-armed warrior, who despite her disability manages to kick way more ass than anyone else, and only really needs the normally hot Tom Hardy’s Max to be a “blood bag” for her. Nothing more.

They get back to EVIL VERY WHITE Joe’s lair and toss his bloated VERY WHITE carcass out of a rig. Everyone rejoices. All the VERY WHITE boys look confused, because, after all, they were raised in that VERY WHITE male hegemony! A rather large platform raises the one-armed Furiosa and the remaining no-longer frail, no-longer helpless waif chicks clad in white gauze up to the heavens like some kind of Goddesses, while the water flows to all the great unwashed.

The End.

Seriously. This is what the critics are raving about?

Rob asked me as we walked out of the theater today what I thought. “This was the biggest, most tedious bunch of social justice crap I’ve ever had the displeasure of wasting more than two hours of my life on,” I replied.

I hadn’t read anything about this movie when we went. I was just hoping to see some fun action and excitement. Apparently, there was some stink recently, because some Neanderthal complained about this being a feminist propaganda flick disguised as a guy movie to dupe unsuspecting knuckle draggers into the theaters. Because WAAAAH! We were tricked! I found this out after we just got back from the theater, and I had to giggle a little at the poor, helpless nerd-cum-meninist’s labia being all chafed at having to listen to Charlize Theron actually bark orders at Mad Max.

But now, having sat through this dreary, tedious, thinly veiled social justice statement on the evils of VERY WHITE MEN, I have to tell you. It sucked.

Rob disagrees with me that it sucked more than “Chernobyl Diaries” – that abortion disguised as a horror flick that came out a few years ago. I think it did. At least I could make fun of the acting in Chernobyl or something. But this… I think I would have rather sat through a bout of diarrhea brought on by those Haribo sugar-free gummy bears they sell on Amazon. It sucked that bad.

It sucked so bad, that I spent the next hour ranting about how much it sucked as we did some grocery shopping!

Don’t not see “Mad Max: Fury Road” because it’s an attempt to spew feminist propaganda. It is, but I would have happily sat through it if the movie was actually interesting.

Don’t see it, because it’s a dreary, soporific, badly written mess of a movie that attempts to elevate the Goddess character by reducing a strong, inherently good male title role into nothing more than a grunting, unimportant secondary, while pushing a badly developed plot, dull characters, and a whole lot of gross post-apocalyptic deformities.

Save your money for something useful and more pleasant. Like a colonoscopy.

A Different View

As many of you know, I’m an amateur photographer. And by “amateur,” I mean “I sometimes take photos, and they’re sometimes good.” Yes, I was public affairs in the military, and yes, I got some basic training on how to take good photographs. That said, I’m nothing compared to my buddy Blake.

Blake Powers travels a lot, and takes a lot of photos – more and better than I ever could. I provided some edits for the text in “A Different View: Travels with Team Easy, Iraq 2007,” and I was really impressed with the depth and texture of the photos.

His latest is beautiful as well, and it includes an introduction by Sarah Hoyt, an award winning science fiction author. “A Different View:  DJ, Doura, and Arab Jabour” is another in a series of Blake’s travels in Iraq. It’s not combat photography. It’s not action shots. It’s an intricate look at life beyond combat – the textures, designs, glances, and tastes of Iraq that don’t make the news through the lens of a very talented photographer.

And starting tomorrow, you can get it at a discount price as well!

Give it a look. I think you’ll enjoy it, as well as the short Flight of the Fantasy, which is also great storytelling at a bargain price.

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A Long Time Until Now

As many of you know, sci-fi author Michael Z. Williamson and I have been friends for well over a decade now. My memory is faulty, so I can’t remember exactly how we met. I do know that Mike and I have nearly identical political views, and the conversations we have – whether in person, or online – are always fun, sometimes weird, but always interesting in some way. I provided some basic feedback and edits on his novel “Freehold” before it was published and edited by real professionals, and since then, I’ve read every novel Mike has written, as well as reviewed quite a few.

Mike’s latest novel, “A Long Time Until Now” is by far one of his best. It showcases his superb storytelling ability, as well as his knowledge of military operations, and his ability to turn what I consider to be dry research into something readable, fast-paced, and exciting. From the description on Amazon:

Ten soldiers on convoy in Afghanistan suddenly find themselves lost in time. Somehow, they arrived in Earth’s Paleolithic Asia. With no idea how they arrived or how to get back, the shock of the event is severe. They discover groups of the similarly displaced: Imperial Romans, Neolithic Europeans, and a small cadre of East Indian peasants. Despite their technological advantage, the soldiers only have ten people, and know no way home. Then two more time travelers arrive from a future far beyond the present. These time travelers may have the means to get back, but they aren’t giving it up. In fact, they may have a treacherous agenda of their own, one that may very well lead to the death of the displaced in a harsh and dangerous era.

Is the concept new or unique? Probably not. But the style, the writing, the characters, the story… I was hooked from the first page, much like I was when I first read “Freehold.” I understood the characters. I didn’t like some of them, and that’s a sign of a remarkable author – an author who can make characters seem real enough and human enough to make the reader have actual personal feelings for them.

The knowledge of military operations and the need to build an op from the ground up with few resources and a small number of personnel. I’d forgotten how important admins were to a unit. We sometimes look at them as REMFs who sit in their offices playing solitaire and lose our leave paperwork. We sometimes forget that they serve a critical function. Mike reminds us.

Cross training. We sometimes forget how important being a Soldier – first and foremost – is. We focus on our MOS, thinking we probably won’t need to use all those skills they taught us in basic training… combat aid, shooting, all the common tasks every troop should know. But what happens if you’re thrown into an unfamiliar environment, and you have to survive? How much will you remember? And beyond the basic skills of knowing how to put on a tourniquet and starting an IV line? How much do you know about astronomy, land navigation, basic sanitation, cooking, erecting a shelter? Do you know a foreign language? Do you know enough about its roots to adapt that skill to a completely unknown method of communication? Do you know about other cultures – enough to establish a respectful relationship with them, even though they may be something completely foreign compared to anything you’ve ever seen?

All these fields… medicine, history, sociology, foreign languages and culture, geography, astronomy… Mike demonstrates in a stark and emotional way just how critical it is for the modern Soldier to become a well-rounded individual. There’s no skill that our troops should eschew as unnecessary, especially with the current deployment tempo.

The research done for this novel is quite staggering. Mike describes it in an essay on Baen’s site, and it’s enough to make my head spin.

I sought professional papers on the subject. They’re sparse. Still, I read what there was, and quite a bit on other parts of Eurasia. I found one academic in the field who’d respond to my requests for help; Michael Williams (no relation) of the UK was helpful with some other sources and papers. His site is http://www.prehistoricshamanism.com/. My friends Jessica Schlenker (biologist) and Dale Josephs (research librarian) found a few more. Ross Martinek (petrologist) had some information on terrain and climate. I gathered what I could from all these.

[…]

Next, I started experimenting. I learned or refreshed quite a few skills while writing this. I made fire by friction with a firebow and fire plow. I tried several types of bugs, and prefer them cooked. Emily Baehr brought a bag of weeds (that’s plural, okay?) and showed me how to find an entire salad’s worth of greens in temperate biomes, even in residential lawns. I used primitive weapons to bag a few targets. I use bows regularly, and have thrown spears. I tried atl-atls and slings. I knapped some bottle glass.

Then I developed several recipes that will appear in my next collection of stories and articles. How do you cook a tasty meal with minimal spices and no cooking utensils? Well, it turns out you can create quite a few spices and seasonings from plants in the carrot family.

There are a lot of edible plants and quite a few spices in the Apiaceae family. In fact, almost all edible plants come from about six families, and do so in the last 7000 years or so. Before that, there’s some evidence of rice and wheat, and occasional possible evidence of fruit domestication (versus actual agriculture).

If you think any of this is easy, I would urge you to think again. Research in and of itself is a laborious process, but try and synthesize dry scientific data into a fascinating look into what could happen when a group of modern warriors is thrown into a frightening environment that challenges them to utilize every skill they have, as well as develop new ones, while throwing into doubtful chaos some very basic religious and social mores, and you have something special.

That’s what this book is. I’m not saying this because I have a personal relationship with the author. I’m saying this because it’s true.

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