Monday, February 8, 2021

Mixology: Introducing "The Beach Boy"

Hello again, and welcome to yet another intrepid journey into creative mixology here on the Gauntlet, and the introduction of what I'm coining "The Beach Boy". 

I'm not trying to cast any aspersions here, but let's face it, the time-honored stereotype is that beach boys are "simple", but nice enough, and are in general "easy". Saying that, this tasty greenish-white foamy concoction attempts to capture just that.

I personally find this mix surprising delicious, and I would almost wager that it could easily replace one's "go to" summer drink of choice - and by summer drink I'm talking about the obvious ones such as the Pina Colado, a Margarita, or the Mojito.

So here's what you'll need:

5 Ounces of Fresh Pineapple Juice (none of that concentrated swill)

1 Twig of Mint (about 5 Leaves, and only fresh Mint - not dried, and certainly not Spearmint)

I Thick Slice of Lime Squeezed (once again, only an actual Lime - not concentrated Lime Juice)

2 Ounces of Bacardi White Rum (I don't think fruit flavored or spiced will work here)

2 Ice Cubes

Blend (I used a Magic Bullet)

Serve on the Rocks (2 or 3 Cubes) in an Old Fashioned Glass (or if you're making a "double" in a Highball Glass) with a Lime Slice Garnish

I think it comes out pretty balanced, but I guess one could experiment with variant quan- tities of lime juice, or rum, or consider adding a splash of simple syrup - if you've got a persistent sweet tooth. Regardless, the end product should be about one-third foam at the top with the frothiness giving way to full liquid as you move south. I don't recommend using a straw on this one, as the bubbles are just awesome to sip - kinda like the fluff on the top of the Pumpkin Creme Cold Brew at Starbucks, but uh, boozy, of course. 

Well that's about it for now, so enjoy, and as always - till next time.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Facebook Doubledown: The Gauntlet's New Business / Fan Page

Hi all. This is just a brief note to those of you who might have found "following" the Gauntlet a little too daunting, but might be more comfortable with continuing the conversation on Facebook. And while I have many, many, reservations about the ways in which big tech manipulates "presence" vis-a-vis external concerns, I am nonetheless doubling down and have recently added a Gauntlet of Balthazar Facebook Business Page.

As I just started a Parler page when it got knocked offline by dear Mr. Bezos in the vindictive partisan purge of January 2021, and I refuse to engage on Twitter-cancer, I think going the FB route (where I already have several other business pages and groups, such as: https://www.facebook.com/nevekari and https://www.facebook.com/StubbornGod) might be a nice way for people to comment about articles and features posted on Gauntlet without much bother. 

So here's how it would work. Should you lay down the Gauntlet, you would be notified on Facebook of new posts on the GOB Facebook page, which primarily would be links to articles on the Gauntlet. This is of course quite circular, but commenting about the post would be very easy, and interactions would be geometric and not require Facebook friendships, following the Gauntlet, Google account login, etc., etc. 

So, anyway, if you are so inclined, come on and jump aboard at: https://www.facebook.com/GauntletofBalthazar and let's chat. 

Till next time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Mixology: Introducing the "Darth Vader"

Welcome back to the Gaunt let of Balthazar for another foray into dipsomania, and the creation of a brand spanking new beverage, which I'm coining "The Darth Vader". Copyright infringement here we come.

As it turns out the drink is intentionally black or dark-grey / black with tinge of red - obviously to match Darth Vader's shiny black armor and bright red light saber. My daughter and I made it with no condiments or accoutrements, but just to match the theme if I were to picture it, I might want to add a red straw and maraschino cherry.

Anyway, here's what you'll need to make this cloying, yet harsh, concoction:

One-and-a-Half ounces of VSOP Brandy

Three-Quarters of an ounce of Blue Curacao

Three-Quarters of an ounce of Creme de Cacao

Three-Quarters of an ounce of Raspberry Syrup

One to Two Tablespoons of Chocolate Syrup (Toriani, Hershey's, or Fox's - your choice)

Shake with Ice and Serve in a Rock Glass with ice, and as I said, maybe a Red Straw and a maraschino cherry.

 

I personally think it came out nicely, but there is a caution here that the chocolatey and fruity sweetness might obscure the alcohol content. So plan accordingly if you're going to have more than one. 

Enjoy.

Till next time.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Tightening Noose: Technocracy Versus Liberty - China, Davos, the Left, and the Tactics of Fear

Hi all and welcome to, or back to, the curious yet disquisitive Gauntlet of Balthazar for some speculations and observations regarding our fellow citizens - the enablers, the compliers, the globalist utopians, the authoritarians, and the malevolent, around the world.

It seems like just yesterday that the Gauntlet made the happy announcement commemorating this blogs 40,000th page visit - a situation that had been a slow climb since we first went on- line in early October of 2016. In fact, it took just shy of four years to get there, and admittedly, the last push from 25,000 to 40,000 was in no little way aided by the emergence of a sizable block of readers based in Hong Kong, and secondarily from users in mainland China.

This swell seemed to me to just happen to coincide with the emergence of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, which alongside Catalan and Kurdish Independence, the Gauntlet respects, admires, and supports. In fact, as a general rule, and for the most part, any group or movement that supports freedom, liberty, egalitarianism, and endorses national sovereignty and local governance over the globalism of Davos and blocks like the European Union (but not necessarily global- ization), and disdains all forms of Marxism, just tickles me to no end.

But, as you may know, the Chinese Communist Party, in violation of their stated respect for the institutions and traditions of Hong Kong, began to crack down heavily on the leaders of the Pro-Democracy groups, and arrested Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam, Andrew Wan, Sam Cheung, Wong Ji-yuet, publisher Jimmy Lai, and pretty much any notable figures in the movement. By early January 2021, 55 such activists were in police custody.

Not that the Gauntlet's plight is comparable to that of political detainees, but those once respectable page visit numbers very quickly came to a grinding halt around the time of the US Presidential Election, and views plummeted not just from Hong Kong and China, but from all over the world. I'm sure that there are those who would advise the Gauntlet to not look to outside forces, and instead to assume that the content here suddenly got really, really poor and the audience screamed in unison, "Enough of you, dirty Gauntlet!". Yeah. Right. 

As you can see from the analytics graph depicted to the right, this drop off was both sudden and severe, and visually is really striking - with the decline starting in the last couple of weeks in October. Hence why I am divulging such otherwise proprietary information here, so you can see the crystal clear example of suppression as it is.

Regardless, I also find it incredibly coincidental that this new wave of CCP crackdowns in Hong Kong also occurred during the contested period following the most recent US Presidential election. Given, the CCP through their operatives in the Hong Kong police force, did a 15 activist roundup beta-test as far back as April 2020, but this new wave was methodical, unilateral, and was clearly designed in purpose to break the back of the movement.

While we in the US (at least 80% of Republicans and 30% of Democrats) wrestled with the suspected maleficence of the Presidential, and even the Georgia Senatorial races, little did we realize that political leaders on the left were lying like a pack of dedicated predators, biding their time for the right moment to push their advantage with a vindictive glee that can only be described as psychopathic. But, this is what happens when the basic agreement to disagree in a civilized society is abandoned by one side in an argument.

As someone once said, and I've stated here before: "the right plays by the rules the left established, and the left plays by no rules at all". I also like this playful slap against post-modernism I feel originated here: "Republicans long ago ceded the moral high ground to a group of people who argue that there is no such thing as morality".

Anyway, back to the issue at hand.

Just in the last few days US President Donald J. Trump; a friend to the Hong Kong activists, was unilaterally de-platformed by literally every single Silicon Valley Tech company (Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Snap, Shopify, etc.). And it did not end there, a great number of individuals connected to the President (such as lawyer Sidney Powell) were also banned and some were even served with lawsuits listed to be in the multiple billion dollars range.

The Democrats, now boasting a super-majority in the Oval Office, House and Senate, jump-started the wheels of a last minute impeachment (we can only assume in a gambit to ruin Trump's chances of a second-term return in 2024), and some radical operatives in the House even vied for the forced removal of outspoken Conservative / Libertarian Senators like Ted Cruz, who btw, I voted for in the 2015 primary against Trump. Message received loud and clear: it's our way or highway, so never question the state, Winston.

Enter the tech-oligarchs: Dorsey, Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Pichai; who mercilessly, and possibly illegally, summarily removed the President of the United states from all of their platforms as swiftly and simply as they did Alex Jones (another beta-test). The reason was for nothing he said (though the excuse was the Capitol Assault), but because he is Trump, and they don't like him, Democracy, Free Speech, or his followers, and he's on his way out, and so they can do it with impunity (or so they believe). 

Personally, as a right-leaning Libertarian / Republican it is hard sometime feeling like you're always working defense against an opponent whose playing by a different set of rules, but the one thing I can say with complete confidence is that the Democrats in government, their Communist street thugs (Antifa & BLM), their allies in Silicon Valley, their mentors in Davos, psy-op legacy media sycophants, and the Chinese Communist Party all share a disdain for liberty, and have fixed their stars on holding and gaining authoritarian power, while feigning actual liberal values with buzzwords like "equality" and "inclusion".

Their means are simple, and are taken right out of Karl Marx: A Planned Global Economy highlighted by Government control of large swathes of the private sector (including health care), Diminished National Sovereignty, Forced "Equality", and Wealth Re-Distribution, all highlighted by Orwellian new-speak PC language policing.

In the west at least, this is all held in place by pitting victim narratives against one another in an endless Race, Class, and Gender War (now known as "Critical Race Theory" or technically, "Intersectionality"). China gets to stay racist, 'cuz, hey, whatever they want, right?

Even if I can wrap my head around the fact that a non-entity such as creepy corporate shill Joe Biden received more of the African-American vote than any Presidential candidate in modern memory, including the first African-American President Barak Obama (really?), and notwithstanding that Trump took more African-American male votes than any Republican in 50 years, one would have thought that with their victory and transfer of power imminent that there would have been a modicum of grace coming from the Democratic side. But alas, They've Won! And now heads must roll.

Sadly, I tried to warn people of this eventuality, here on the Gauntlet, on social media, in my art, and verbally in person, but the control that these forces hold over our shared narrative is holistic, pervasive, and almost insurmountable. They control you completely, and if you don't believe me, ask your tracker (I mean cell phone) why you've been under house arrest for the past year. Yes I know it's a horrible plague, with sniffles and a 0.02% death rate, and California with a hard lock-down is faring worse than Sweden and Florida with none, buy hey, it's "The Science". I personally believe in "Science". I also believe in "Truth" - not "Your Truth" or "My Truth", just Truth, and it's in short supply. But I have news for you - this lock down was put in place so that your perception of reality could work out that Biden, who barely left his basement and never broke 6,000 attendees (even this is contested) at one of his rallies was able to fully trounce Trump, who regularly broke 30,000 screaming devotees all over the country.  

Indoctrinated far-leftist radicals in the US engaged in terroristic activities throughout most of the year and the entire summer, burning several cities to the ground while setting up makeshift anarchist / dictatorial compounds, all egged on by the notion that Blacks are inordinately targeted by Police, when ten times the amount of Whites, and all other races in America meet their deaths at the hands of law enforcement every year. Not a great stat, and unnecessary deaths are always a shame, but hey, I've got a crazy idea - if you don't want to die, don't attack a couple of guys who spend their time looking for trouble, and carry guns and tasers. Just shut your mouth and comply. Yet, after all of their "peaceful protests" i.e. riots, it took the first instance of Republican violence, uh EVER, (the storming of the Capitol) for them to use it as an excuse to crack down.

A friend of mine recently explained the left's psychological tactics in a metaphor that I find so cogent I feel I must share it here.

You're in a room with your wife, kids, and dog. A stranger arrives and murders all of them, except for you. He then leaves and returns to the adjoining room where he tells his friends that in a minute a crazy person (you) will be coming through the door after him. In due course, you enter beside yourself with grief and anger. See, I told you - that's the crazy person. This is a tactic that abusive spouses regular use on their partners, and frankly, Republicans and Democrats need a divorce. The problem is, who gets the country?

In the end I must point out that the left will fail, as is their nature, and hey, friendly warning to you guys - if you couldn't stand Trump because of his demeanor, or he wasn't like the Neo-Cons, Rinos, and Squishy Republicans you got used to pushing around and who never punched back because you and they were too busy being corrupt war-mongers, just imagine what sort of an uncompromising monster you'll get the next time if you continue to refuse to play fair. 

I know we will.

Till next time.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

From the Writer's Studio: The Vacuous Morality of Wonder Woman 1984

Welcome back to the inscrutable Gauntlet of Balthazar for yet another foray into the depths of screenplay writing and media review - and a hard look over the perplexing filmic disaster known as Warner Bros. & DC Comics Wonder Woman 1984.

For those of you who may stumbled upon a Gauntlet superhero review before, you may have noticed the repeated disclaimers specifying a general preference for Marvel over DC comics and films, but in this the self-titled Wonder Woman (2017) was head and shoulders above most of the other recent films in the DC universe, and easily stands alongside Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy and The Joker as the top drawer of DC outings. 

If anything the first Wonder Woman presented a morally principled hero who literally felt that she, and everyone else, should endeavor to make the world a better place. While she focused her energies on the wrong target for much of the film, and her dualism was a little too on the nose, the film was in general such pleasant surprise, and was so incredibly likeable, that its train-wreck of a sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, makes the latter all the more disappointing.

So what, pray tell, is just the matter with the damn thing? Well, the list is pretty long, so let's begin. Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Wonder Woman 194 begins with a flashback sequence depicting a very young Diana competing in a Olympic game of sorts on her home island of Themyscira, with the point of showing her disqualification from the event for taking a shortcut in the race and effectively cheating. The entire point of course is that Diana must learn to play by the rules and accept the consequences of reality. This is the polar opposite message the Star Trek franchise promoted when a young James T. Kirk reprogrammed a computer simulation designed to test student's reaction to a "no-win situation" because he "didn't believe in a no-win situation". Anyway, while the admonition against cheating is morally correct, there's a fine line between acceptance and conformity. Given, we saw in the first film how hard Diana's mother wished to keep her daughter a perpetual child, but ignorance should never be mistaken for a virtue.

Regardless, not counting that the first film was a reminiscence from the perspective of the story now prior to the events de- picted in Batman Versus Superman & Justice League, we quickly move ahead some 65 years to the 1980's. Apparently little has changed, and Diana Prince is still pining for her lost love, Steve Trevor, and we can only assume, she's been celibate for the seven decades since the couple spent one dreamy night working on deflowering her in a dingy room upstairs from a pub in Alsace-Lorraine at the end of World War One. In suiting fashion, Diana now works in antiquity acquisitions at the Smithsonian, where we expect she puts to good use her ability to sight read ancient Hittite and such. Not bad so far, right? Wrong. 

While I can admire the romance of a couple falling deeply in love at first sight, as well as respecting a bereaved widow who mourns eternally, it seems to me that Diana's focus on Steve, her incapacity of moving on - to the point of her choosing to not fight crime, not only undermines her moral agency, but also her agency as a female. While I'm sure director Patty Jenkins would assert that the arc of Diana coming into her own at the end of the film is one of feminist self-empowerment, I would argue that Diana is just one step short of failing the Bechdel test. In fact, if she had a friend to chat with, I'm pretty sure that dialogue would break the 85% male-centric content ceiling and betray the overall lack of character and story development.

Enter Barbara Ann Minerva, otherwise known as Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis "Cheetah" in the illustrated versions. Babs is played here by mostly comic Kristen Wig; who does a suitable job at playing the newly-hired homely nerd-girl who immediately looks up to, let's face it, the accomplished and gorgeous Diana - played again by the accomplished and gorgeous Israeli soldier-turned-model-turned-actress, Gal Gadot. 

Soon after her arrival, fast-friends Diana and Barbara become aware that the Smithsonian has come into the possession of a mythic relic referred to as "the Dreamstone" - a crystal that supposedly grants wishes, and was created by the "Duke of Deception", or Dolos, an operative of the God Ares - introduced in the comics in Wonder Woman issue #2 way back in 1942.

Barbara of course wishes to be more like Diana, and thus, unknowingly attains super-powers. Likewise Diana, following her focus, wishes that Steve was still alive, and presto, he returns. While this is all very Aladdin's lamp, Steve's return is the most problematic issue of all. If only Steve had returned in the flesh, this would have not created the moral vacuum that follows. Instead, what we have here is that Steve's soul has come to inhabit the body of some other young man, and only Diana can see him, because I guess, the power of her love.

Aside from the opportunity to get Chris Pine into this film, and have him humorously gawk at 1980's mall culture through the eyes of someone whose last memories are of the Edwardian Era / Gilded Age, Diana and he never question where the spirit of the man whose body they've stolen is. In fact, all considerations go out the window, because, hey, they're in love. I guess that makes it's okay to use a stranger's body (without his consent) as a conduit to have sex with one another.

I personally believe that this situation qualifies as a rape, but I'm sure Ms. Jenkins would contest that notion, 'cuz hey, he's a dude and he should only be so lucky to have Wonder Woman have sex with him, even if he isn't aware of it. Uh, okay, Cosby. Definitely not egalitarian, but maybe ass-backward third wave feminist thinking. I guess what's good for the goose is what's good for the, uh, goose.

Anyway, Barbara / Cheetah isn't really the villain here, it's Maxwell Lorenzano a.k.a. Max Lord, who is a "fake-it-till-you-make-it" cheese-ball motivational speaker played by Pedro Pascal - the actor who currently plays the lead in Disney+'s The Mandalorian. Jenkins revealed in online interviews that she based Lord's character on President Donald Trump, not because he was in his heyday in the 1980's, but because you know, he's just really, really horrible, and it's a requirement to virtue signal to your peers in Hollywood, and alienate half of your potential audience. Cudos, point made.

The crux of the issue is that Max realizes what the stone is, somehow, and long story short, ends up possessing it, and ultimately, wishes that he "becomes the stone" (actually a good element). He soon after puts the "kevorka" on the unnamed but Reagan-like US President, and gains access to a web of government satellites that are extremely reminiscent of the "Star Wars Defense System". Lord then uses the technology (analogue frequency to beta wave conversion?) to read everyone's mind across the earth, and grants their wishes - but apparently only negative and violent ones, except for Diana and Steve's incarnated love of course. Very convenient.

The motif that is presented here is that for every wish given, something else must be taken, and thus in due course Diana slowly loses her powers, making her increasingly helpless to fight the bad things that Max's wish giving is creating, including Cheetah who keeps increasing her power. Why hapless Steve just can't wish for Diana to have her powers restored is just beyond the Gauntlet's scope of understanding I guess. 

As a result of her weakened state, Diana then dons the golden (and magic) armor of Asteria - a super-sexy skintight covering that they just so happen to have laying around the office and btw, fits her like a glove. As a side note I should point out that Diana never once uses her sword in any of the battle sequences in this film, even though it was featured almost non-stop in all her other appearances, and the fans loved it. It was clearly intentionally removed, and we can assume it was done so as a method to make Wonder Woman appear "less violent". Sadly, no one in any of the production meetings bothered to point out that this was supposed to be a superhero movie and that there's generally a fair amount of fighting and violence involved. I also think that this might originate in a subconscious, internalized regressive feminist notion that swords are "just too phallic", and thus, not female. Good job robbing more agency from women, as well as negating the iconic image of Amazons going back to ancient times. In fact Patty, you probably should have added a bow, as Amazons were reputed for that. But, I digress.

In the end, Diana uses the lasso of Hestia to make Max see the truth that his son is actually the most important thing in his life, and he renounces his wish of embodying the stone. One would think that this would cascade and cancel everyone else's wishes, but it does not, and Diana has to use the President's satellite system to convince everyone who cast a crappy wish to voluntarily renounce it. Of course, everyone complies with her request quite readily, which is ridiculous fantasy element. But, whatever.

Max, or rather Pedro Pascal, has perhaps the best screen moment of the film as he reunites with his little boy, while on the other side of town Diana bids Steve a bittersweet farewell as his soul vacates the body they have hijacked.

Freed from the shackles of the past, because of learning and stuff, Diana suddenly develops the power of flight, ('cuz she's liberated now), and voila, Wonder Woman is finally ready to get back into the game, in uh, thirty-five more years or so. 

In a cute touch in a mid-credit scene, we learn that the hero Asteria (the one from the armor) has been living in secret among humans and doing good. She is played by 1980's Wonder Woman television series star Lynda Carter, so very nice tip of the hat. The end.

I must say that throughout the film it felt like characters simply surmised situations without much information, which in turn made the script feel much more light-weight than it probably seemed.

Generally, there are only a few ways to effectively relate through coherent writing how dots are meant to connect in a story. The first is that we the audience watch the protagonist piece together a series of clues and methodically arrive at the answer or solution. The answer he or she comes up with can often be wrong, and presents a false conclusion (as in Wonder Woman 2017 or The Usual Suspects), setting up a further reveal. The second mode is that the audience is given the truth up- front, yet takes enjoyment from watching the protagonist discover it after the fact (like in Colombo). Deconstructed works might possess a more fluid structure, but Wonder Woman is no art film. Instead, it makes use of coincidences and happenstances which suggest an overall simplistic and childish feel, which I assure you was not the intention.

In fact I should just take the Gauntlet off and remind everyone that Ms. Jenkins repeatedly went on the record that she wanted the film to stand not as just a superhero movie, but rather as a drama, a comedy - a life lesson. That is all very good in intention, but the drama is frivolous, the comedy is clumsy and minor, the morality is shakily deviant, and the life lesson (or moral) is as simplistic as the main character's arc. 

Therefore, due to the substantial capabilities of the actors, the likability, the slick eye-candy, and the overall capable technical aspects of the film in contrast to the story and script, the Gauntlet gives Wonder Woman 1984 five raised Gauntlets out ten. If you've seen it and you think this is an under-estimation, I would suggest that the film will not fare better over time. And if you haven't seen it - hey, don't listen to me, check it out yourself. 

Till next time.

Friday, January 1, 2021

From the Writer's Studio: What We Learned From Disney+'s Star Wars: "The Mandalorian" Season Two

Greetings and Happy New Year, and welcome back to the Gauntlet for a new media review, and a continuation of sorts.

Literally twelve months ago, give or take a couple of weeks, Season One of Disney+'s / Lucasfilm's epic space-western, The Mandalorian, was rapidly approaching its climax, and in suiting fashion, the Gauntlet put in its two cents, and added to the general online flurry regarding this wonderful serial as well as to the abundance of articles addressing Star Wars here.

The Gauntlet's review for that season was broken down into several categories, including; "The Creative Team", "The Structure", "The Appeal", "Setting, Era, and Connection to the Rest of the Canon", "The Social Circumstances", "Enter the Moral Dilemma", and lastly, "The Review". Overall, I think it's a pretty fair analysis, has aged very well, and I stick by everything in there. 

Therefore, "why go on?", one might ask. And in that, the answer is very simple. Some very interesting reveals, developments, connections, and relationships, came to light over the second season of The Mandalorian and which addressed a number of long standing questions presented in other parts of the Star Wars franchise - notably the original films (particularly Episodes IV-VI), as well as two of the animated series -The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.

So let's head in, shall we?

Episode I: The Return of the Gunslinger

The western motif presented from the start was back with a vengeance from the first episode of the season, "The Marshal", where the Mandalorian arrives at a town on the outskirts of civilization, of course troubled by an looming threat of a creature familiar to Star Wars geeks as a Greater Krayt Dragon. In turn, he offers his aid in freeing the citizens of the municipality from their impending doom. This of course further verifies that Din Djarin; The Mandalorian, is indeed a "good guy". To push it further, in Episode Two, in exchange for information that might be useful in locating a Jedi who will raise his charge, i.e. "Baby Yoda" (revealed to actually be called Grogu) the Mandalorian transports a pregnant woman to be reunited with her husband. While he is still presented as "generally morally ambiguous", his position as an anti-hero is solidified all the more in the second season, but very cleverly, the writers and directors counter this by raising questions about his deeds in the murky past.

One such issue presented to further this angle was seen in Episode Seven, "The Believer", where we find out that for some reason dear Mr. Djarin seems to possess an Imperial profile that grants him security access to their databases, implying service in the Galactic Empire. 

Episode II: The Attack of the Real Mandalorians (This is the Way)

At the very end of the first episode we are shown a brief glimpse of Temuera Morrison viewing from afar the Krayt Dragon incident. For anyone with a memory, Morrison was the actor who played Jango Fett, and all of the Clones, in Star Wars Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. According to Star Wars lore, Republic Clone Troopers, ex- cluding a handful, were annihilated by Emperor Palaptine in the aftermath of their role in slaughtering most of the Jedi. A "no loose ends" principle brought to the umpteenth level. Thus, the appearance of Morrison suggested to fans that either the beloved Captain Rex or perhaps Boba Fett was entering the series, but with the facial scaring, and his presence on Tatooine, it seemed the latter choice was the operative one. And so it was. Star Wars canon had always posited that Jango and Boba Fett wore Mandalorian armor, but were "not Mandalorian" - a situation that served as a prequel for Din Djarin's position as a "foundling" - indoctrinated into a Mandalorian cult. 

Stellar (pun intended) Episode Three, "The Heiress", marked the introduction of disenfranchised Mandalorian royalty in the form of Lady Bo-Katan Kryze, played suitably harsh by the infectious Katee Sackhoff - reprising her Clone Wars animated series voice role. As a result, the Gauntlet and the rest of the audience was treated to upper crust ethnic Mandalorians, a Mandalorian by creed, and a fallen crypto-Mandalorian, all appearing on screen at the same time.

I would suggest that the single best line of script dialogue which appeared in the season, and maybe the series, was uttered by Din Djarin as he snippily deemed Bo-Katan and her entourage: "You're not Mandalorians", because they're ethnic Mandalorians and do not hold to the martial-religious creed in the same way that he does. A case of the convert out-believing the genuine article - absolutely darling!

Episode III: The Phantom Jedi 

One the most beloved Star Wars characters never seen before in live action is Ahsoka Tano (played here by Rosario Dawson). Ahsoka first appeared in the Clone Wars animated series as Anakin Skywalker's cryto-padwan. She serves as not just a protege but also as yet another person close to Anakin who just doesn't see his descent into becoming Darth Vader. We are meant to almost pity Ashoka for her obliviousness, as she is presented as spending even more time with Anakin at the battle front than he does his wife, Princess Amidala, who is pregnant back at home. 

If you recall from the Gauntlet's article addressing the final season of the Clone Wars, Ahsoka was responsible, in league with Bo-Katan, for the invasion of Mandalore in a gambit to retake the planet for its legitimate royal line as well as to capture Darth Maul. The upshot of course, is that Mandalore fell to the Republic cum Empire, and in their resistance, the planet was largely destroyed, the population massacred, and Mandalorians were scattered throughout the Empire. Sort of like ancient Judeans after the Roman-Jewish Wars of the first and second centuries. 

Of course the similarity doesn't end there, since in the first century the culture of the Judean Kingdom was highly militarized and radically violent. Yet, it was also a period that set the stage for the more insular, pacifist, religion focused communities that sprung up as the Jewish diaspora spread. The Mandlorian in effect fits right into this cultural paradigm, regardless of the fantasy element. 'Cuz hey, Mandalorians don't really exist, right?

Episode IV: The Grand Moff Awakens

So after a little Samurai team up, a teaser that Ahsoka is searching for Admiral Thrawn, and ergo the missing Jedi, Ezra Bridger, not to mention the recurring appearances of burly, yet super-sexy, Gina Carano as Rebel Jumper Cara Dune, former Imperial bad ass Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) suddenly returns, and soon after absconds with little Grogu, much to the Mandalorians dismay.

This of course leads to the "heist" phase of the season, where Din gets the band back together. He and Boba Fett, the assassin Fennec Shand (Ming Na-Wen), Cara Dune, and Migs Mayfeld (played convincingly by comic Bill Burr) as well as Bo-Katan and her aides (but curiously no Ahsoka), locate where Moff Gideon is holding Grogu, board his Cruiser, and basically slaughter everyone. But hey, they're storm troopers and stuff, I guess.

In the Season Two finale episode, named "The Rescue", some really interesting elements were introduced, and warning: spoilers ahead, they involve the future of Mandalorian culture.

If you recall at the end of Season One we learned that Moff Gideon somehow possessed the "Darksaber", which was / is a defining qualifier of rule within the traditional martial culture of old Mandalore. In the Clone Wars it was taken from Pre Vizsla, the leader of Death Watch (note: Mandlorian foundlings like Din Djarin are referred to as "Children of the Watch"), by Darth Maul, and Bo-Katan would not accept a non-ethnic Mandalorian as ruler of Mandalore. Hence the beef.

As it turns out, Bo-Katan must have had it at some point, because when Moff Gideon is defeated by Din, it effectively makes Din leader of the Mandalorians - much to Bo-Katan's frustration. Though Din does not want the blade, it can only be won, not given, which sets up a nice conflict for Season Three. 

In the end a CG-morphed Luke Skywalker (and R2D2) circa Return of the Jedi arrive, and after a legitimately tearful farewell with his erstwhile father-figure, Luke takes little Grogu with him - we can expect to the school that Kylo Ren later destroys. Thus ends Season Two, setting the stage not only for The Mandalorian Season Three, but an Ahsoka series, a continuation of Star Wars Rebels, a Cara Dune series, etc., etc.

Episode V: The Rise of Directors and Writers (The Force is With Them)

This season of the Mandalorian was marked not only by the appearance of notable guest stars like Timothy Olyphant, John Leguizamo, Titus Welliver, Horatio Sanz, and Michael Biehn but some really great writing and directing by series co-creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni. Likewise, a crop of talented guest directors such as Peyton Reed, Bryce Dallas Howard, Carl Weathers, Robert Rodriguez, Rick Famuyiwa returned or arrived to lend a hand and joined the ranks of Taika Waititi and Deborah Chow as talents behind the camera. 

I have suspicions that the lead actor in this series, Pedro Pascal, might be prone to overdo it at times, but fortunately he is often cast as taciturn or introverted characters. In this case he's still for the most part obscured by helmet, but in the three times or so we've seen him on screen this season, he is awesome. In fact, to Pedro's credit he probably can boast the best on-screen moment in Wonder Woman '84 - though the Gauntlet will dissect that train wreck in the next From the Writer's Studio review.  

All in all, it was a great, great season for the Mandalorian. The Gauntlet gives it 4.9 Gauntleted lightsabers out of 5.0! (the .01 is for the metachlorians, of course).

Till next time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A Gauntlet Celebration: The Gauntlet's 200th Post Post - A Look Back, and Ahead

Hello all to, or back to, the spurious yet genuine, taciturn yet verbose, elusive yet findable, Gauntlet of Balthazar.

It seems a small celebration is in order today, as this very post marks the 200th entry since this blog was initiated (relatively) way back (by internet standards) on October 3rd, 2016.

Certainly some months, and even years, have seen a greater volume of content here than others, and as the site has evolved some subject matter has very obviously come to dominate a greater share of posts than others. Overall, the "From the Writer's Studio", "Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away", and Political Philosophy posts have some- what overwhelmed Media Reviews, "From the Design Studio", "Sculpture Garden" and "Mixology", let alone Photography, the "My Dictionary; Word of Day", and Product Review features. 

Perhaps it was a presumptuous task to attempt to tackle all of these fields in equal measure in the first place. But, nonetheless, even if the ratio continues as is, the initiating premise for the establishment of the Gauntlet was for it to not just to serve as a marketing tool for Nevekari Enterprises and Stubborn God Productions projects, but equally to be an outlet for "excess" artistic expression, as well as to provide a safe place to posit philosophical polemic away from combative keyboard warriors on the established social media platforms. After all, arguing with those who frankly haven't really familiarized themselves with the implications of their own positions is clearly a grand waste of time, and if they don't grasp their own philosophy, how could they ever be capable of allowing themselves to understand the deeper motivations and causal factors of the powers-that-be?

Therefore, while I'm very pleased that it seems a fair percentage of the Gauntlet's readers are liberty-minded, anti-authoritarian individuals, pro-democracy protesters, and I suspect even civic nationalists from around the globe, I certainly hope that even if there are many others who disagree with the sometimes uncompromising positions stated here (I'm clearly referring to the Globalists, Marxists, and Communists out there of course), I trust that even those mired in those camps might find some redeemable value in the various arts posted here. I mean, hey, on some level, art is all about exploring a deeper understanding of humanity at its core - and I'm pretty sure we all need that. 

I like to feel that this blog has been very helpful tool in spurring on the creation of content - providing a framework of self-imposed "release dates" and a clear litmus of audience appreciation by topic through the analytics. As I've stated more than a few times lately, readers in beleaguered Hong Kong have recently stepped up to supply the overall top user numbers, once dominated by the US, and followed by Russia, China, Germany and dozens of other nations, and either way, that's just great. Obviously, the Gauntlet wants everyone, from everywhere, to enjoy the content here, and ideally to support the source of that content by subscribing to Nevekari Enterprises YouTube Channel, following 391 & the Army of Astraea's Bandcamp page, and "liking" the Stubborn God Productions Facebook page, among others.

I can't express enough how far these frankly simple and cost-free little acts go in support struggling artists, but in a world dominated by media giants and companies with seriously massive marketing budgets, every organic view, every play, and every "like", serves not just to edify the self-esteem of the creators, but more so aids in bolstering the image of the company in the eyes of more influential creators. Overall, this can only lead to growth and point the way to collaboration with those who can aid a project in finding a true universal audience to scale. 

Well, I guess the mighty Gauntlet is off for now - plasma oozing out of its golden seams and strange appendages, so look forward to more groovy tunes, more wry observations, and more insightful reviews - including a followup in the Star Wars universe looking at The Mandalorian Season Two. Thanks so much again.

Till next time. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away: "Virions"

Welcome back to the Gauntlet of Balthazar for another great Tuesday morning record release day. 

Today's recording (unlike the last two releases) is entirely a solo affair, and represents possibly the most minimalism-focused of all of the recent 391 & the Army of Astraea projects. 

"Virions" is a Three-Track Extended Play Single that addresses the loss and isolation people have, and potentially will, feel when experiencing the consequences of global viral pandemics. By this I'm not referring to Flu's with a 99.5 recovery rate, but more so instances such as the Black Plague, Ebola, and hypothetical species die-off illnesses, such as presented in the 2018 Nevekari Enterprises penned series, "The Immune" - which is currently being shopped for production. A demo episode of the series, "Isolation Room", can be found online.

Through the process of recording I realized "Virions" might just be the first installment in a series that explores this theme - so uh, stay tuned. Also look for the first 391 & the Army of Astraea Singer-Songwriter Folk-Rock release - which is quite imminent.

Anyway, as specified on the issue's Bandcamp page: "In light of the overall Spatial / Stereophonic nature of the recordings, as well as the inclusion of certain Sub-Tonal elements throughout, the use of high-fidelity headphones as a listening medium is encouraged". So yeah, that's the best way to listen. 

As usual the embed is below, so enjoy, and if you can, please follow 391 & the Army of Astraea on Bandcamp, and share if possible. Thank you all. 

Till next time.

 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Republicans Versus the Race Party...I Mean the Democrats Part III - 1854-1877 >>> [re-issue]

Salutations and welcome to, or back to, the Gauntlet of Balthazar for Part III of the revised "Republicans Versus the Race Party...I Mean the Democrats (1854-1877).

I'm guessing that if you did read through the earlier post in this series, you either fully take my point, or are in such a state of the current left-right partisan denial that you either perceive the facts, yes facts, presented here as "fake news" or "lies", or that you have rationalized that "it was all a very long time ago", or that there was such a mythical political occurrence often referred to as a "party switch".

I know that unlike real liberals, or I guess I should say, moderate Democrats - an ardent Marxist might even add that it all of this history stuff really doesn't matter because it's all about the post-modern "now' and that all truths are subjective, and besides, both of the major political parties of the United States were founded on an oligarchic and exploitative racist premise rather than a set of lofty philosophic and Constitutional goals, so it's all moot, and the entire system should be destroyed a.s.a.p - ideally replaced with a Socialist "utopia"...that they of course will run.

Well, pull up a chair and stay a while because in this installment the march of history will take us from the founding of the Republican Party in 1854 till the end of reconstruction. Surely the same rebuttals to this overview can and will be logged, but I believe that by the end of the series in total you will see that my central thesis will be fully illuminated: which is, that the Democratic Party has for the most part consistently focused on a lurid race-based platform through its history. I will show, and have shown, how from the DNC's founding that Democrats sought to pervert a liberal aspect of Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party in order to bolster not only the continuation of African-American chattel slavery in the south, but to encourage it's growth in newly acquired states.

In the aftermath of the Civil War we will see how this Anti-Republican / Anti-Northern sentiment contributed to the founding of ethno-identitarian movements such as the Klu Klux Klan, and the diminished rights of free African-Americans under the Jim Crow laws through the "Gilded Age". I will then show how the Progressive Movement in the early part of the twentieth century was forced to find a home almost exclusively among Republicans due to the bane-fullness of the Democratic platform, while contrarily in Great Britain, Progressiveness was clearly a left-wing phenomena. Lastly, we will examine period movements that the Democrats did indeed come to embrace and fuse into their platform in the WWI era - these being namely Trans-National Globalism and the highly questionable Eugenics Movement - a precursor of German National Socialist race theory.

Looking forward to the next part of this article to the 1921-1974 time period, we will look at Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and the emergence of the Military-Industrial Complex, the so-called "party switch", President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" program and Nixon's "Southern Strategy", and eventually, we will look at the current year - where we can now all plainly see the Democratic Party platform rife with the "woke" politics of racial identity - wrapped in a nauseating veneer of Socialist class, race and gender warfare.

Whether being hawkish on appropriating Native American land after the War of 1812, to seeking to keep Catholic immigrants out of America, or oppressing blacks in the nineteenth century, enfeebling them in the urban ghettos in Civil Rights era, and plying Marxist race, class, and gender warfare theory in order to exacerbate victim-hood identity and racial animosity - this, is par for the consistent course of the left, or I should say, the Democrats.

So let's get started, shall we.

Part Three: 1854-1877 (The Civil War Era and Reconstruction)

As previously mentioned in the prior installment many Southern Whigs, reflecting the adversarial underbelly of the party among it's Anti-Masonic constituents, rather than joining one of the two parties straight out opted to join the xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic American Republican Party (not to be confused with National Republican Party of John Quincy Adams). Perhaps to forgo confusing the populace with a similarly named entity, it was soon renamed the Native American Party - as in Native-born Americans, not Native Americans as in indigenous Indians. The party was soon after renamed the American Party (in 1855), but was commonly referred to as the Know Nothing Party (1844-1860). They even had a oath-bound secret wing know as the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner created by Charles B. Allen in New York City. Conflicts involving the Nativist movement and their adversaries took place in major US urban areas, and can be seen in historical dramatic form in films such as Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York".

I find it highly ironic (or is it a telling precursor?) that this movement was based in otherwise free-wheeling, liberal New York. Perhaps what is even more ironic was that the Know Nothing Party was founded by a man who holds the distinction of being the first American Jewish Congressman - Lewis Levin; often referred to as "Uncle Sam's youngest son" and "Citizen Know Nothing".

Born in 1808 in Charleston, South Carolina, Levin was quite the unusual character - an activist, a lawyer, a congressman for the First District of Pennsylvania, a frequent duelist, anti-alcohol crusader, clearly not a religious Jew who intermarried, and spawning from a family rife with mental illness. While Levin himself did not seem to possess particular personal animus toward Catholics, he nonetheless appealed to those who despised them, and it was this ethno-religious identitarian constituency that served as his power base. If I had to find a current parallel for the Know Nothing's it would probably be the "Alt-Right", though generally speaking, Alt-Righter's are not really best described as "right" as they are anti-Constitutional, economically Socialist, Ethno-Fascists.

But, carry on...

Of the somewhat collectively unremarkable mid-nineteenth century U.S. Presidents who served in the period following Andrew Jackson up to the Civil War, their names, states of origin, and party affiliations are as follows: Martin Van Buren 1837-1841 - New York (Northern Democrat), William Henry Harrison - Virginia (Southern Whig), John Tyler 1841-1845 - Virginia (Southern Whig), James K. Polk 1845-1849 - North Carolina / Tennessee (Southern Democrat), Zachary Taylor 1849-1850 - Virginia (Southern Whig), Millard Fillmore 1850-1853 - New York (Northern Whig / Know Nothing Party after 1856), Franklin Pierce 1853-1857 - New Hampshire (Northern Democrat), and James Buchanan 1857-1861 - Pennsylvania (Northern Democrat).

As you may note, these officials were for the most part Southern Whigs or Northern Democrats (and one Southern Democrat and Know Nothing switcher) with not a single Republican in sight. On some level this only made sense as Washington D.C. was firmly in Democrat establishment territory (Virginia) since Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican days, and as slavery was "their" issue, their base was fired up to hold onto the institution. Republicans had been pretty much "pushed out", and their increasing abolitionist sentiments garnered quite the adversarial response from their Democrat opponents.

As I pointed out in Part One of this article, the Democrats did indeed absorb many of the Libertarian notions that were part of Thomas Jefferson's Anti-Establishment derived party, but while Jefferson held a firm disdain for religious authority, Democrats of the mid-nineteenth century period utilized their Protestantism to bolster the moral justification of holding other humans in bondage. If you are unaware of this phenomena, I'll explain just how they managed to do this, philosophically. You see, in their reading of the bible, or more specifically the "Old Testament", otherwise known as the Jewish Torah, they observed that slavery among the Jews of ancient times was sanctioned - as long as the Jewish slave-holder did not hold another Jew as the slave. Islam later incorporated the same motif, and thus, Muslims were quite eager about slavery in the Middle Ages, as long as their slaves were culled from Pagan (Sub-Saharan African and Eastern European) stock.

Anyway, in one tale (in Genesis 9, I believe) regarding the descendants of Noah, his three sons - Japheth (the Aryans - such as Greeks, Persians, Anatolian's, etc.), Shem (the Semites - such as Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, the Ethiopians, etc.) and Ham (the Hamites - such as the Egyptians, Berbers, Nubians, etc.) are catalogued. As punishment for a frankly obliquely mentioned infraction of "mocking" his father's nudity, God declares that the progeny of Ham (the Hamitic peoples) would be forevermore forced to serve his brother Shem's progeny. As Christians, the mantle of being a Semite through philosophical emanation or transference via Jesus Christ was a common notion, and thus, Hamites were destined to serve as slaves, by the order of God. As an aside I feel I should mention that in a very real historical way this did indeed become a truth in that the ancient Egyptians, after falling to the Islamic conquest, had undergone the slow process of Islamization starting in the eighth century, and could be views as a Hamitic population "submitting" to a dominant Semitic language and religion.

Be that as it may, these post-colonial goyim were no Semites, nor were their African slaves of Hamitic background, as they were prior to their importation to the new world, predominately of West African (Bantu) origin. Regardless, this was the applied religious thinking utilized to philosophically fortify the institution of slavery, and thus, the more religious the better. In fact, it almost goes without saying that convincing your slaves to buy into this religious paradigm was ideally the first order of business.

And so, with a bible in one hand and a sword in the other, this same rational fueled the Indian Removal Policies of Andrew Jackson's Democrats onward, and bolstered white ethno-identitarianism, anti-immigrant xenophobia, and anti-Catholic sentiment. It was this thinking, most earnestly expressed in the ranks of the Southern Democrats, that urged those Northern Democrats and Southern Whigs who sought to temper the slavery issue, to  create a number of Pro-Union parties that came about immediately predating the outbreak of the American Civil War.

It should be noted that the abolitionists - embodied almost exclusively in the ranks of the Republican Party (and their allies among disenfranchised "Barnburner" Democrats), held the reins of state almost exclusively from the Civil War onward in the 1861-1933 period. Turnabout being fair-play and all that. The only exceptions to this golden age of Republican dominance was the National Unity Party Democrat Vice-President Andrew Johnson - who finished out and followed Abraham Lincoln's term after his assassination (1865-1869), Grover Cleveland's two interrupted stints (1885-1889, 1893-1897), and Woodrow Wilson's two terms (1913-1921). Needless to say this only made sense, as the Federal government was after the war firmly Republican ground, and Democrats had to slowly gain Republican trust in order to be part of the national government and dialogue once again. 

But let's get back to the years immediately leading up to the Republican-Democrat / North-South fracture that broke the Union - otherwise know as the American Civil War.

While many citizens aligned with either the Anti-Slavery Republicans or the Pro-Slavery Democrats there were indeed many smaller parties that hoped to forge a compromise between the two, or in some cases to push the envelope further. One such third party came into existence solely to push the extreme wing of blatant Pro-Slavery thought. Known simply as the "Opposition Party", the OP was exclusively represented in the south from 1858-1860. However, their fire was short-lived, and they, as well as the American Party (or Know Nothing Party) soon fused with many Southern (Cotton) Whigs and Unionist Democrats and became know as the Unionist Party (1852-1866).

Strange bedfellows they may seem, but as all were Pro-Slavery, but also Pro-National government, and Anti-Republican, the old civic nationalism of Thomas Jefferson persisted and molded all three into the core of the the successor of the Unionist Party, know as the Constitutional Union Party (1860-1861). In many ways the CUP was the last entity that sought a true compromise between Northern Republicans and Southern Democrats in a final effort to avoid the increasingly clearly forthcoming war between north and south. However, it can't be mentioned enough that Jefferson's libertine values were largely lost on these fallen Whigs, who had become little more than slavery apologists. In fact, their party can only be described as a Southern Unionist religious center-right party - far more Conservative than a libertine like Jefferson could envision.

Perhaps members of the Constitutional Union Party thought that the imminent war could be averted, and that tempers would cool and the status quo of ignoring the slavery issue would be the order of the day once more. After all, there was indeed a "stall" embedded in the US Constitution deferring the legislature from confronting the contested issue of slavery for fifty years from the signing, so perhaps they weren't completely unrealistic, only if not for retrospect. But this compromise codicil was specifically included by both sides as a balm for the nation to come into existence as one unified entity, capable of focusing on forging a nation free from the British yoke rather than immediately fighting a Civil War at the founding. Surely, that would have only supplied the means by which the British would re-take their lost colonies.

As the war increasingly took it's bloody toll and compromise fell away, the only third party to survive was the successor of the Unionist Party, re-dubbed the Unconditional Union Party (1861-1866). Formed in Missouri, the UUP was ideologically Classically Liberal as well as being both Federalist and Pro-Union, so it should come as no surprise that in the aftermath of the Civil War their members merged into, you guessed it - the Republican Party. Once again the push and pull of Jefferson's Libertarian civic nationalism and John Adams' Federalism was firmly represented an internal counter-point within the Republican camp - not on the Democrat side of the aisle. 

Thus, as we can plainly see, the majority of those holding abolitionist, pro-union thought invariably ended up Republican, while the majority of Democrats through the nineteenth century firmly held to secessionist thinking and race politics - endorsing the aggrandizement of slavery, the diminishing of Native American territory, and thereafter adding a pinch of Nativist anti-Catholic immigrant sentiment to their repertoire.

Obviously the war served to crystallize the Republican party, and ever since the GOP has been referred to as "the party of Lincoln", but for the purposes of this article, Lincoln's well-known life, and minutia about Civil War combat is fairly superfluous. So, I'll just press fast forward...  

After the War, only the two familiar parties survived the once fractious American political landscape - the Republicans and the Democrats. This period, know as the Reconstruction (until 1877), could easily be described as the "de-southification" of the South. In essence the national government - almost entirely dominated by Republicans, administered the South as a territory of conquest. For thirteen years Republican's sought to mold the eleven former Confederate states back into Union states, meanwhile insuring the rights of newly freed African-Americans.

The more radical the Republican Senator, the more extreme those rights were sought to be insured and implemented. The more earnest the Democrat the more those rights were sought to be undermined.

On July 9th, 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution was ratified as thousands of Northerners still flooded into the south in order to build schools for the freed slaves, as well as to fill government posts and Church pulpits, while others assisted the U.S. Army administration and the Freedman's Bureau in re-shaping the African-American community. These Republicans, often pejoratively called "carpetbaggers" by the "occupied" Southerners, often promoted and elected freed blacks to local and national government offices, much to the chagrin of the humbled secessionists who lived below the Mason-Dixon line. Boo-the freak-hoo! 

Till next time.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Mixology: Introducing "The Frost"

Well, it seems it's time again for another visit to the Gauntlet's colorful but not frequently visited mixology feature.

Today's creation is somewhat seasonally inspired, and I think, came out fairly well, especially in light of the fact that there was a distinct danger that this drink could have turned out absolutely atrocious.

However, it did not, and my daughter coined its name as "The Frost" - due to it's shimmering silver quality. In general it's a light, dainty, fruity, and whimsical, sort of cocktail. 

So let's get right to it.

You will need:

1 ounce of Peach Schnapps

I ounce of Butterscotch Schnapps

I ounce of Vodka (preferably Tito's)

1/2 ounce of Simple Syrup

3 drops of Vanilla Extract

Shake with Ice

Mix with 4 ounces of Club Soda

Optionally garnish with a Slice of Light Syrup Peach

Enjoy!

Please feel free to try out the previous beverages presented in Mixology department - "The Emerald City", "The Brookside", and "The Island Leprechaun".

Till next time.

Monday, November 30, 2020

From the Writer's Studio: Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White...and Sometimes Bad Guys Do! - Writing Complex Villains

Welcome back to the often loquacious Gauntlet of Balthazar for another foray into the deconstruction of literary archetypes, and hopefully a growing primer of techniques that will enable you to arm your growing screenwriting palette with the "oomph" necessary to craft the greatest possible scripts your abilities will allow. For all the rest, if you prefer only to consume art, then hopefully this post will just make for some compelling reading.

In this installment of the Studio I'd like to take a look at the hero versus villain duality, and how the grey areas even within seemingly polar opposite foes, can be laced with nuance and counter-indications which will help make those characters come alive off the page. In this, I'm talking about full extremes - not just moving the characters into the protagonist versus antagonist zone. So, you're welcome!

Back when I was a kid, my father used to take me to the movie theater, and afterwards would sometimes announce, "The quality of the hero is defined by the qualities of the villain", and in this he was for the most part correct. I say that he was mostly correct only because in my mind if all that defines the hero is his or her opposition to the villain, then while this is a motivation that can be easily understood by audiences, oh what a cardboard character must he or she be. 

Saying that, the audience has to in general understand what has driven the villain to "evil", or the character will appear to them as a melodramatic caricature, and in the worst cases will seem all but comical. To address this an element of loss, suffering, abuse, or a slow change over time can be inserted to justify the reality of the character.  Notwithstanding, evil for evil's sake does have an appeal. But even the most archetypal baddies - the prideful Christian Lucifer, Shakespeare's scheming Lady MacBeth and Hamlet's presumptuous Uncle, Star War's tragic hero cum villain Darth Vader, The Manchurian Candidate's manipulative Eleanor Iselin, the despicably self-motivated Colonel William Tavington of the Patriot, Disney's mysterious Maleficent, the Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West, Batman's chaos-psyche filled Joker, Harry Potter's sinister Lord Voldemort, and any other looming figure in print or on celluloid all possess a history of causal events, sometimes justifiable doctrinal beliefs, and / or personal motivations that can be easily understood by everyone - even if their actions and machinations are revolting to the average person.

One practical exercise that could serve as a technique for building nuance into your villain might be to think of superhero costumes. Yes, I know. Silly. But yet, we routinely find both sides donning masks. The hero has only two reasons for obscuring his or her identity. One, to protect the identity of his or her loved ones from being drawn into his or her conflicts and and suffering reprisals, and two, to appear as symbolic of an ideology, such as Captain America, standing for, uh, the American way - liberty, freedom, individuality, and all that.

Villains on the other hand, wish to conceal their identity so they are harder to identify by the authorities, right? But this is simplistic approach, since the majority of masked malefactors are in positions where their evil persona is all that they are, or have become. Sure they can wear their costume as a symbol of their ideology just as some heroes do, but true villains - especially the very worst of them, don't really care about the fate of their loved ones, right? So why bother with a mask? Well, it could be that the villain is aware on a deeper level that what he or she is doing is absolutely repugnant, and so the mask is worn out of shame. 

Shame is the fulcrum on which a villain teeters - the miasma between the actual human part of their personality and the persona they have adopted. It is this conflict in which you can explore the grey areas of these sort of characters souls while maintaining their status as your book, script, or film's overarching threat.

Of course, implied or overt threat can be presented without malevolent intent - such as the shark in "Jaws", who merely hunts, as is her nature. But it is that lack of malevolent intent that defines a threat generator not as a villain, but as an antagonist. You might fear or hate the shark, and project intent onto her, but the feeling is not mutual. Sharks don't feel hate for you. They are what they are.

But back to characters who possess malevolent intent and have an overarching plan - the two main definers of villainy. If the character you have designed appears to pursue his or her "plan", with consistency and malevolence, then by default, they will not be perceived as simply an antagonist - no matter how much shame, introspection, sympathy, regret, or even likability, you imbue them with.

I personally really enjoy writing compelling villains, (especially in an serialized context), who present the trifecta of "P" motivations - personal, philosophical, and plan. Add to this the malevolence, and all you need is back-story, interpersonal relationships, and the power structure in which they enact their villainy. 

It has often been said that a villain believes he is the hero of his own story, and this is absolutely not only true, but it is essential in designing a nuanced and layered villain. Marvel's ultimate bad guy, the Mad Titan Thanos, is a great example of this, in that he fulfills all of the requirements listed above. However, I should point out that in the comic books and graphic novels of yore, one of his primary personal motivations for his proposed "universal reset" was that he was in a relationship with Mistress Death - a personification of death itself. Thus, he was in it for love. This element was unfortunately removed from the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, probably because it would have presented as "too weird" for the average movie-goer, and the writers instead shifted his Thanos' love relationship to his adopted daughter, Gamora. I personally would have included the original element in some way. Then again, I would have also included Thanos's brother, Eros (the embodiment of love), as well as his anti-hero nemesis, Adam Warlock, as well.

But hey that's just me.

Well, that's about it for now. So go out there and craft your protagonists, your heroes, your antagonists, and even your out-and-out villains. But remember, if sometimes good guys don't wear white, then sometimes villains do!

Till next time.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Great Electronic Music of the Day Give-Away Catalogue Reconfiguration

Hi all, and welcome back to the wily and wordy Gauntlet of Balthazar.

I have to admit that I've been holding back on penning several fiery articles here, mostly political in nature, probably because they're not based in fact or historical events. Within reason I sort of despise just ranting about personal feelings regarding larger issues, so let's just leave it at that for now, and let me get back to the point of this post - which is what I'm referring to as "The Great Catalogue Reconfiguration".

For quite some time I've been vexed by the past releases in the Gauntlet's "Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away" series. Not that I have a problem with the tracks themselves or releasing them piecemeal online, but more so how they were compiled into albums on Bandcamp and elsewhere.

Therefore, I've made some changes to the "filing system" and extracted a number of tracks from the three 391 & the Army of Astraea compilation albums issued in 2018 and have retroactively released them as "singles" (and EP's). In all, these extracted tracks now supply five issues, and the compilations are, obviously, somewhat shorter and more focused on covering periods of releases rather than being "best of" samplers. 

The albums, "Sweetmeats for Little Turks", "Battles and Realms: Catalogue Vol.1", and "Battles and Realms: Catalogue Vol.II", are still available on Bandcamp, and the original "best of" version of "Sweetmeat for Little Turks" has been left as is (for the time being) on Soundcloud. 

The retroactive singles are now: "The Aeon / Anaapotheosis" (2016), "Bipedal Locomotion / Urbitariot" (2017), "Clara and Natalia / Nine Hostages" (2017), "Veritas" (2017), and "Easter Fool / Subway Hat" (2018) (pictured above). While they're in no way pop music, I'm pretty sure they each deserved individual release status in the first place, and besides, I think the cover art came out quite nice for the most part. 

Anyway, the embed players for the five releases are directly below. So enjoy, share, and please, please, please, follow us on Bandcamp if you can. Thanks so much.

Till next time.