Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Covid, and Palsy, and Myocarditus, Oh My! - And Why you Probably Shouldn't Mutate your RNA.

Welcome to, or back to, the omnipresent, yet absentee, Gauntlet of Balthazar for a post regarding the global pandemic.

As you may have noticed, the Gauntlet has been extremely silent for quite a while regarding Covid-19, and not just because of the legitimate fear of social media / governmental censorship for posting any notion that varied from the establishment’s consensus de jour, but more so because the hope remained that sensible Gauntleterians would eventually see through the often contradictory and decidedly un-sciency dictates that have cascaded across the world over the last two years, and get off their knees and wake up.

Hey, remember when they told us they needed just fifteen days to slow the spread? Hilarious.

Perhaps also humorously bittersweet, we now finally have confirmation of taxpayer-funded N.I.H. gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Virology Research Center, thereby verifying what many of us already suspected - that Covid’s genes were manipulated by the hand of man, and this was not some random happenstance of bat-to-human transmission. But, I digress...  

Now, as a disclaimer I should mention that I am neither a scientist nor a medical doctor, and there are many who will probably assume that because I predominately veer to the right politically that I am “anti-science”. As a note I should insert that historically Republicans in the U.S. have far and away bankrolled endeavors like space exploration much more than Democrats, who have always been more interested financing race and gender issues, as well as climate alarmism. That being said, those topics have much more to do socio-psychological issues than anything actually fully concrete. Unless, that is, you’re talking about divisiveness, micro-identitarianism, and the politics of fear.

Anyway, just to put things in perspective, let’s step back in time to and era before the Gauntlet was the Gauntlet. To a time where there once was a young lad who was fascinated by all things science-fiction (and fantasy) in the halcyon days of the 1970’s (yes, I’m dating myself). This young fellow was well-known in his predilection, and consumed films and series, book and comic books, and yes, he even joined his high school science club. The boy soon became a man, and as such, he worked with computers extensively, downing cup after cup of coffee (or tea) while trying to figure out artificial gravity on endless scraps of paper. His writing and screenwriting advanced too, and his science-fiction occasionally became hard-sci-fi as he created synthetic languages, and devised hypothetical formulas for illicit drugs, fuels, and yes, diseases. While designing the latter the Gauntlet just so happened to study how viral structures worked, genetically.

Perhaps you are unaware, or don’t recall, but for many, many, years the medical establishment routinely encouraged doctors around the world to prescribe less and less antibiotics to sick patients, out of the fear that viruses would adapt and make treatment less effective over time. They proposed a gambit of diminishing returns, where our own natural immunity would be replaced by a reliance on prescription drugs that could only cause Big Pharma to dream. They told us that this would undermine our “herd immunity” and weaken us, as a species.

Fair enough. This only made sense, since once you’d had an illness, most of the time your body learned how to beat it, or in the case of something like chicken pox, it just sort of stayed with you, forever.

But, people forgot this simple paradigm, and played into the fear that the powers-that-be were peddling, and started to get annual flu shots, shingles vaccines, and injections for whatever illness they were told might possibly kill them, cause them pain, or even make them uncomfortably unhappy. The fear of imminent death caused by some lurking viral agent soon came to pervade our popular culture, and zombie-themed films and series proliferated hand-in-hand with the delusion that the earth would most, most definitely not be an environment fit for human life in just decades to come.

Like the Protestant millenarian preachers of the early twentieth century who believed that the rapture was imminent and encouraged their flocks to sell off their worldly goods in preparation for the end, the climate extremists likewise oriented, predicting one event or the other as the benchmark of environmental apocalypse – all of which never came to pass, except for a fractional increase of one percent of the earth’s average annual temperature. Even now, a few towns flooding in the northeast brings out every dingbat available. These brainiac’s assume that torrential downpours are a new thing, even when the amount of annual rainfall in the region is the same or less on the aggregate. But, hey, I’ll bet they were too busy running for class president than actually working out weird sciency stuff.

Philosophically, thinkers like Thomas Malthus, Karl Marx, and apparently Thanos, and the simpletons-meets-psychos who follow them see certain environmental, social, economic, and political outcomes as inevitable, with little to no capacity for allowing variables such as math or inventions to rise to the occasion and solve specific problems. Food production is a perfect case in point: where Malthus hypothesized that humanity would soon go extinct from starvation due to the exponential growth in global population, today less and less farmers feed more and more people each and every year. Old Tom was apparently incapable of foreseeing advancements in agricultural technology. What a genius! To sum up - Thomas Malthus was wrong, is wrong, and always will be wrong. The same for "scientific" Karl.

Leftist thinking on the gun control issue is similar. When asked, the average gun-grabber not only doesn’t understand the actual wording of the second amendment, they truly think that confiscating legal weapons will stop crime, when something like 97% of almost all criminal violence is statistically engaging in with illegal weapons. In the rare happenstance when a legal weapon is utilized in a criminal act, I’d wager that in a huge amount of those cases the gun was “borrowed” from the licensed owner, probably a close relative. They also imagine that the Founding Fathers could not envision, or were not aware of, advancements in firearm technology. Little do they realize that there were multi-fire weapons even in the 1770’s, and while they themselves are capable of picturing the future creation of phasers and lasers, they actually think that the founders – the smartest men of their generation, some of whom were quite impressive inventors, were incapable of envisioning the future of weaponry.    

So, will there be wars fought over water in the coming years? Maybe. But it’s just as likely that two countries with a contentious issue might instead finance shared desalinization projects. I know that seems like a glass-half-full coming from the often pessimistic Gauntlet, but if two nations spend their time pitting army against army with no immediate concrete water-territory gain, I don’t really think that war will last very long. People can only live without water for five days max after all.

Anyway, back to viruses.

As you may not remember, the brain trust at the World Economic Forum at Davos at the start of the Plan-demic waxed rhapsodic about the wonderful opportunity a viral outbreak WOULD (yes, they talked about it even before January 2020) be for the “global reset” that they proposed. The “reset” of course was their way of referring to forcing the world into the mold of utopian globalism that they envision. This is a Kleptocratic-Marxist-Globalism that will eventually install a one world currency (preferably intangible), one world government (run through an urban, probably European Bureaucracy), and hold complete social control (Credit Scores / Big Tech) over a “diminished human population” (as Bill Gates likes to say), of ideally about 500 million. Sounds kinda like the Hunger Games, huh?

And so, the race was on. Gates and Davos with John Hopkins popped out hypothetical pandemic film scenarios such as “Event 201” - feigning concerned preparedness as their motive, when it is obvious what they’d prefer as the outcome. The W.E.F. now cries wolf that the pandemic has led to "de-globalization", when it has only encouraged governmental controls and oligarchic wealth. Just ask Jeff Bezos how his company has fared in the pandemic. In fact, low-and-behold, the top ten biggest companies and the richest men in the world have skyrocketed in earnings over the last two years.

Even their language is deceptive. Oh no, “de-globalization” – that sounds terrible, ‘cuz like were a global world, MAN! News flash: you can accept or believe in globalization with out believing in the demented faith known as globalism. This is a similar ploy to the one BLM engages in. By naming their movement after the agreeable sentiment that black peoples lives are as important as non-black peoples lives, they obscure the fact that they are a horrible Marxist organization with a fairly horrific agenda that goes far past simply being an African-American civil rights movement. It’s sort of like if the Gauntlet started a non-profit called “Unicorns fart Love”, but we were actually were a cult of weirdos who proposed the genocide of some ethnic group or the other. One could say that sort of tactic is a tad disingenuous, in my opinion.

So as CNN and their ilk do a bait-and-switch and shift from displaying a running Covid death count to a running case count, we are told that 99% of people who are hospitalized for Covid are unvaccinated, when this is a blatant lie. 60% of people don’t even display symptoms, and the lion’s share of death is still among the very old and unhealthy who possess multiple co-morbidities. The survival rate of those who display symptoms - hospitalized or not, vaccinated or not, varies only with in the 99 percent range.

Regardless, some 3 million people have died from Covid and that is indeed very sad, but in a world with a population roughly 8 billion, that doesn’t seem like a whole lot. Likewise in the U.S. there have been just over 300 deaths among the very young. While losing kids is a particularly tragic thing, mind you we are a nation of 325 million or so, which makes those sad losses account for about 0.000000001% of the population.

We are told that vaccines are safe when thousands have died from them (about 6000), or then immediately came down with hospital grade Covid. Many others have developed Bell’s Palsy, Guillaume Barre Syndrome, Myocarditus, Pericarditus, abnormalities in women’s menses, and a host of other symptoms that belie the problem of undercutting natural immunity with over medication.

As an aside it should be mentioned that there are some subsidiary issues as well. These include the fact that in recent tests children under the age of four have dropped on average 22 I.Q. points over the last two years. This is due to them suffering from inhibited social interaction and their inability to see faces due to universal mask covering. News flash - apparently humans are social creatures. 

All of the vaccines, regardless of their manufacturer, have in common that they are RNA based - meaning that the genes in the lining of the Mitochondria take on a mutation in order to learn how to manage and dispose of the new virus. Mutations are what define our evolution, but these changes are meant to occur naturally over time. We’re not the X-Men. So, important note here – probably not a good idea to allow a thoroughly unimpressive President, an entrenched shadow government, a complicit media, and IPO-driven Big Pharma to mutate your genome.

In fact, mutations to the Mitochondria (instituted by vaccines, environmental factors, and genetic inheritance, or the interaction of all three) are believed to the causal factor in a number of increasingly common diseases and conditions, such as autism, which has risen steadily in incidence over the last forty years.

But hey, don’t worry, while those crawling in their brainwashed knees will still fret about the unmasked being within six feet of them, and wring their hands at the imminent danger of…well, LIFE, we normal folk will be the “bigger men” and I promise we won’t judge you for the mutant freaks you’ve become. I just hope it doesn’t come back and bite you on the ass.

Till next time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away / New Release Tuesday, uh, Wednesday

Welcome back to the Gauntlet of Balthazar for a slightly delayed "new" release Tuesday by 391 & the Army of Astraea. Between the lazy days of summer, a number of unfortunate distractions, and juggling far too many projects, it's clearly been fairly slim pickings around here, but nonetheless, voila, a music upload.

Today's track/s are packaged as an A & B side of a single updated from their original and unreleased mixes - extracted from a 2015 six-track demo EP. As such, these two moody pieces, "Rain Will Be Flood" and "Blizzard of Scallions", have been updated in order to "fill the gaps" in the Army of Astraea's back-catalogue.

As far as the tracks go, "Rain Will Be Flood" is broken into three distinct parts and attempts to aurally capture the "feel" of an impending rain / thunder storm, moving from lackadaisical moodiness to aggressive persistence and finally to the manually triggered percussion solo that makes up the last minute-and-a-half, or so. On the other hand, "Blizzard of Scallions" was partly inspired by my late father, as well as (probably) early 1970's Pink Floyd. It was part of the soundtrack to the 2018 documentary video; "Nevekari Talks: The Supplicant" - an interview reel that promoted the award-winning script of the same name. www.youtube.com/watch?v=grQy5CfWY5E 

The cover art is in the same vein as several other 391 releases, such as the "False Flag" and "Space Force" EP's, and features similarly augmented vintage Soviet propaganda poster art presented in an ironic manner. 

Anyway, the embed is below, so please do enjoy, share, and follow 391 & the Army of Astraea on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, as well as Stubborn God Productions Page on Facebook. Heck, you might want to visit the Gauntlet's Page on Facebook as well. Till next time.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

An Abbreviated User's Guide to the US Presidents: What’s to Like, and Dislike, About Each? (Part One of Three – the First 15)

Welcome to, or back to, the mighty, and often verbose, Gauntlet of Balthazar, for a review of sorts – in anticipation of the 245th Independence Day of the United States of America from Great Britain. So, uh, patriotic, I guess.

Obviously, there are occasional flurries of political content here on the Gauntlet, but having previously examined the social and philosophical evolution of the various political parties over time (yes, I know, that series isn’t complete yet), it seemed like it might be a good idea to simplify the matter by compiling a list of all the Presidents, and giving a brief take on each - looking at 15 at a time in 3 neat installments.

For those of you who like your history simple, this just might do it for you. But disclaimer: I’m clearly biased, and this is pure opinion. However, I think it’s part of an historian’s duty to look at each man’s legacy in retrospect, or in the present case, to forecast with as much perspective as possible, how the person will be perceived after time has passed.

If you’ve visited here before you probably have seen the description “Neo-Whig” thrown around as a general synonym for the right-leaning Libertarian inclination, but the original Whigs get no special quarter in this review. Likewise, Republicans and Democrats do not lose points just due to their party affiliation, but because of their support of bad policies, or other failings. To be fair, it should be noted that the Gauntlet considers Globalism, Socialism, Elitism, Ethno-Nationalism and / or Racism, Neo-Liberalism, and Neo-Conservatism, Kleptocracy and Corruption as part-and-parcel of bad policies and failings.

The rating system is more intuitive than data driven, but positive accomplishments; such as the passage of sound and enduring laws, economic prosperity, effectiveness in war, infrastructure development, and overall growth, are the key components. Since the United States has rarely been at a complete state of peace since the founding, it’s probably not a fair litmus, but domestic tranquility could mean something. Then again, that has been in short supply since the late 1960’s. 

So let’s begin at the obvious place – with the first 15 Presidents, who collectively held office from 1789 to 1861.   

1. George Washington (1789-1797) – George was not the greatest General, made some questionable decisions, and was known for his self-motivated business savvy. I guess it is somehow fair that he held both black, and white slaves, but, ugh. However, he was wise enough to turn down a kingship, and smart enough to grasp that the new nation required a symbolic figure to bind disparate voices together, and that figure might as well be him. Thus, he very rightly would not back either the Adams or Jefferson camp's, and stood as a true Independent as well as a staunch isolationist – both essential stances for that embryonic period. Oh, and wonderful public relations and media influencing. Gauntlet Rating: 8.5 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

2. John Adams (1797-1801) – for all of his seeming lack of social grace, John was instrumental in setting up how the Republic was to work. As the founder of the Federalist Party, he was a rule of law sort of guy, who required justice (admittedly, the Alien & Sedition Act went a tad too far), philosophic accord, and felt that the American people were at heart moral and good. His belief system was the starting point of the various threads that would lead to the formation of the Republican Party. Oh, and it's definitely weird that both he and Jefferson died on the same day - July 4th, 1826. Gauntlet Rating: 8.25 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

3. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) – Jefferson was a stone cold genius (for goodness sake, he designed the office chair and edited his own version of the Bible), who penned the Declaration of Independence, the Freedom of Religion Act, and Banned the Importation of Slaves. Bonus – the Louisiana Purchase more than doubled the size of the nation. Jefferson was also the first President to tackle injustice abroad by giving the North African Barbary pirates a solid beat down. Given, his reason was that they had taken Americans and Europeans as slaves, and he did not want to pay ransom, and did not free his own slaves till he was on his deathbed, but still, his unbridled support of liberty with civic responsibility can be seen as the foundation stone of Libertarianism. Gauntlet Rating: 9 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

4. James Madison (1809-1817) – Old Jimmy was the “Father of the Constitution”, and saw the United States through the War of 1812. ‘Nuff said. Gauntlet Rating: 8.5 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

5. James Monroe (1817-1825) – Well, this is the first shaky one. Monroe signed the Missouri Compromise, which admitted Missouri as a slave state, and thus, appeased the growing pro-slavery block that eventually led to the Civil War, even though he was theoretically against slavery. The Monroe Doctrine was a good potential starting point for New World unity, but generally, Monroe is a mixed bag. He was allied with Aaron Burr, so against Hamilton, and by extension, Adams, so, blah. Then again Hamilton was a tad prickly. I guess his support of free slaves colonizing Liberia was something. Gauntlet Rating: 6.25 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

6. John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) – the son of John Adams, and the first, non-founding father to serve as President, the best thing about old J.Q.A was that he co-founded the Whig Party (though he was not elected as a Whig). Later the Whigs (named for the wigs the founders wore), absorbed not only most of the Federalists, but the Jeffersonian Republicans as well, into one party that was on one side Conservative and on the other side Liberty based. While Northern and Southern Whigs had some variant ideas about how to oppose (or ignore) the institution of slavery, they eventually founded the National Republican Party, which under Lincoln re-minted itself the "GOP". Gauntlet Rating: 6.75 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

7. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) – Oh, Andrew, there are so many good things, and so many bad. Such spirit! Such force of will! The first populist President - the will of the people had spoken, and they wanted a no-nonsense war hero, who opposed the power of banks, and particularly, the creation a national private bank like the Federal Reserve. Under Jackson the budget was balanced and we had almost no debt. But, the Democratic Party, created to ferry Jackson into office, was firmly founded on a pro-slavery platform. So there’s that. Jackson also killed the hell out of the Native Americans. Gauntlet Rating: 7 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

8. Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) – Marty baby, as a native New Yorker I hate to be against the first President hailing from our shared birth state, but his policies where more or less a continuation of Jackson’s, including a ton of Indian Removals. His best moment seems to be his opposition to admitting Texas to the union as a slave state, which in retrospect was a middle-of-the-road stall. While his positions angered many, including Southern Democrats, Martin did eventually support Abolitionism and President Lincoln. Gauntlet Rating: 5 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

9. William Henry Harrison (1841) – This Whig candidate designed to oust Van Buren didn’t fair so well as a President, and died of pneumonia just 31 days after his inauguration. Thus, it’s hard to have an opinion of W.H.H. Gauntlet Rating: 1.25 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

10. John Tyler (1841-1845) – John Tyler was W.H.H.’s Vice-President, and was inaugurated after his sudden demise. Unlike many pre-Civil War administrations, Tyler was part of the same party as his former boss and was a Whig. He was initially a Virginia Democrat, but opposed Andrew Jackson, and moved on. Tyler was a full Nationalist, a proponent of State Rights, and a firm believer in Manifest Destiny, which led him to later side with Confederacy. The general take: all-in-all a just above average prez. Gauntlet Rating: 4.75 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

11. James K. Polk (1845-1849) – A disciple of Jackson and a Southern Democrat, Polk was another pro-slavery Democrat (what a shock!), and is chiefly remembered for his victory in the Mexican-American War, which added more states to the union. Somehow this guy beat Henry Clay, (the Whig Party founder), for the Presidency. Most historians rank him fairly highly for the amount of achievements he tallied in his one term. But, he's another "shouldn’t have been", might be a better assessment. Gauntlet Rating: 5 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

12. Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) – A Taylor after a Tyler? What are they trying to do? Confuse us? Anyway, another military man, and a Southern Whig, he was in office for just over a year, and died of some kind of stomach infection. The Gauntlet’s take: all in all, totally forgettable. Gauntlet Rating: 3.25 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

13. Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) – Weird name, and the second New Yorker on the list (well, at least from rural upstate), Millard Fillmore, Like John Tyler, was a Vice-President who finished out a term of a President who passed away unexpectedly. Sounds like something in the works right now, huh? Regardless, he was a member of the Anti-Masonic Party, and was favorable inclined to the Mormons, (though not a Mormon himself), so let’s just assume a nineteenth century conspiracy theorist. He passed the not very nice Fugitive Slave Act, which is weird (and uncharacteristic) for a Northern Whig, but on the good side of the ledger he opened friendly diplomatic relations with a number of up-and-coming Far Asian nations. Gauntlet Rating: 4.25 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

14. Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) – Franky, Franky, Franky, between Whigs trying to sweep slavery under the rug, and Democrats decidedly defending it, the Presidency had been dominated by the South for years. Increasingly, the Republicans (or, okay National Republicans) and Abolitionism were becoming one-and-the-same. Saying that, though born in the north, Franklin Pierce was decidedly anti-Abolitionist in his leanings. A drunk, he is remembered, or not remembered, as one of the least impressive Presidents. Gauntlet Rating: 2.5 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

15. James Buchanan (1857-1861) – An absolute puppet of the slavers, this douche was thoroughly unbearable, and it’s no surprise that he was the last President before the Civil War. Gauntlet Rating: 1 Raised Gauntlet’s out of 10.

Well, that's about all for now. I hope you enjoyed this brief bio-based post. Stay tuned for Part Two - the next 15, from Lincoln to Hoover. 

Till next time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

New Release Tuesday: 391 & the Army of Astraea's "Music Inspired by Primordial Insects & Extremophiles Sampler EP"

Good morning, or afternoon, or evening, depending where you are, or um, when you're reading this, oh hopefully recurring visitor to the Gauntlet's little den of iniquity. Regardless, I'd like to welcome you to yet another Tuesday record release. 'Cuz Tuesday is the right day!

Today's issue is a part of a recent, and I suspect forthcoming, effort to retroactively release a number of recordings that were completed a number of years ago, but are just sitting there, like a lazy, lazy dog. While many of these recordings are fully "archival" - in that they were made far too many years ago than I'd like to admit to (such as "Stubborn God Productions: Working Backwards '84-'96"), the others are from just a few years ago, like today's collection.

The first issue in this phase started with the release on Bandcamp in November 2020 of the "Partisan Earth Soundtrack Sampler EP". First recorded in 2012, the Partisan Earth DVD / CD soundtrack originally came in at 22 tracks, and so, rather than re-issue the full album, four pieces were selected and remixed as a Sampler EP. Likewise, 2014's "Music Inspired by Primordial Insects & Extremophiles" also boasted 22 tracks, but for the sake of the sampler I've picked just four of the tracks and remixed them for this release. Whether or not the four tracks I've selected are a perfect representation of the diversity of the original album is left to be seen, but in general, I think they go together and follow each other well. 

I must admit that a good chunk of the original recordings are fairly atonal, and as the name implies this is an extremely experimental concept piece of industrial-electronic music that goes in some very eclectic directions. While they are definitely heavy on synth & rhythm programming, there are good amounts of guitar (sometimes de-tuned) and bass present as well, and influences jump from dreamy nursery rhymes to Throbbing Gristle, and from classical music to Robert Fripp and Brian Eno.

Anyway, I hope that at least some of you appreciate this small glimpse into another project resurrected from the oblivion of computer storage. Obviously if you do, please feel free to share, and follow 391 & the Army of Astraea on Bandcamp, or on Soundcloud, and to like Stubborn God Productions Facebook page

The player is embedded below so you can listen here, but if you go to Bandcamp, you can download the "Music Inspired by Primordial Insects & Extremophiles Sampler EP", or other recordings, and even donate to the cause if you so choose to.

Anyway that's about all for now. Till next time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

From the Graphic Design Studio: Algorithm Assisted Art - Ancient Judean Portraits

Welcome to, or back to, the so very wicked, yet surprisingly do-gooding, Gauntlet of Balthazar. 

Today I'd like to address a recent fascination I've discovered - Algorithm Assisted Portraiture. Initially I explored these sort of programs as a tool to help coalesce pre-production visual design for characters featured in the scripts and projects my company, Nevekari Enterprises, had / has been holistically developing.

While this is only half "art" (meaning not from scratch), I soon realized that the programs (such as Artbreeder) could be applied to historical personalities and the like. Of course, as a fairly Zionistic chap, I always bemoaned the fact that the Jews of ancient times held to a strict human images=idolatry policy, and thus, rarely depicted themselves in the graphic arts, with the exception starting with the stylized figures found in the Dura-Europos Synagogue mosaics from 3rd century C.E. Parthian Syria. 

But, what of the Judean homeland before the devastating occupation, enslavement, genocides, and dispersal of the First (66-73 C.E.) and Second (132-135 C.E.) Roman-Jewish Wars? While there are human figures represented on coinage found in the Levant in the period, it almost exclusively depicts notable Greek and Roman religious icons or political figures, or in the case of Nabatean silver, their very, very stylized monarchs. 

So, being left only with Roman busts of prominent Jews who assimilated into Roman culture, I looked to see if the algorithms could assist me in creating what amounts to as more or less real life portraits of Judeans of the First Century C.E. Obviously two portraits do not a diverse population make, but I think these are pretty good representations of a general "look". Heck, if DNA extracted from Galilean skeletons is any evidence, there was a fair amount of genetic homogeneity in the region as the result of prolonged intra-cultural endogamy.

The two personalities that stood out the most were the Jewish General turned historian Yosef ben Matiyahu - otherwise known as Titus Flavius Josephus, or simply Josephus (above left), and the other was the Hasmonean King Herod the First, otherwise known as Herod the Great (below right). Ethnically it should be pointed out that Josephus was purely Judean, and a Kohen (priestly caste) at that, descended from Jonathan Apphus - the brother of Judah the Maccabee, and by extension through a long pedigree to Phinehas, the grandson of Aron, of Exodus fame.

King Herod on the other hand was the son of Antipater - a high-ranking official from Idumea (around Beersheva), whose mother was a Nabatean Arab woman named Cypros (probably from the other side of the Jordan River). The Idumeans were an ethnologically very closely related people to the Judeans (i.e. descended from Esau), who do not appear to be linguistically or physically that distinct from Judeans, Galileans, or Samaritans, and prior to Herod's birth, the tribe was en masse in the process of being absorbed into mainstream Judean culture. At times this acculturation was consensual, but at other times the less compromising zealots of Judaism would sort of, well, force the issue, with swords and stuff. The Nabateans (who wrote their language in Aramaic characters) were a "Judean-friendly" pagan Arab tribe, and who for the most part eventually opted for their own version of Christianity, before being absorbed into Islam. Their genetic descendants are today any Arabs affiliated with the Al-Azd tribe - which is spread throughout the middle east. While this technically makes Herod a convert to Judaism - and a Hellenized one at that, rather than an ethnically "pure" Judean, it should be pointed out that great numbers of Idumeans fought and died alongside ethnic Judeans in the Roman War, and were from all reports more or less indistinct from one another (at least, I suspect, from a foreign perspective). Overall Idumeans played an important role in the evolution of First Century C.E. Jewish culture and Judaism, and supplied such stellar visionaries as Akiva ben Yosef, otherwise known as Rabbi Akiva - one the key contributors to the Mishnah, or Rabbinic law.

All in all I think the two portraits came out fairly well, but if you are interested in the reference material of the original statuary it's easily available through a quick web search of Josephus or Herod. Some other images I looked at were Nabatean coins bearing the image of King Malichos II from 40-70 C.E., as well as a Neolithic mask found in the Judean desert that dates from about 9000 B.C.E. Neither is exactly Judean, but the latter does shine some light on what the folk who lived at Jericho in pre-biblical times might have looked like.

I'm fully interested going even more forensic in building out features from period skulls excavated in the region. And hey, some Philistine faces would be quite nice to recover.

Anyway, that's about it for now. 

Till next time.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Gauntlet Speaks: The Return of John Galt?

Welcome back to the quaintly out-going yet introverted Gauntlet of Balthazar for more of the usual musings and minutia.

If you've frequented the Gauntlet before you may have noticed that there haven't been very many posts of late, and certainly not as many opinion pieces as there were when visceral civil unrest was more upfront in the U.S., the E.U., the U.K., and elsewhere, over the last couple of years.

Yes, yes, the Gauntlet had been donned, and had much to say about such complex subjects as Brexit, China's clampdown on Hong Kong, Catalonian Independence (and Spanish statism), Kurdish nationalism, Israel and the Palestinians, and of course the overarching triple threat of Neo-Marxism, Post-Modernism, and Corporatist-Globalism, as well as their unwitting but all too willing facilitators in the mainstream media and corporate sphere. 

Surely, these were, and are, arenas where philosophic combat could, and can, be waged in print against these otherwise wonky "religions", but in the end it's a very hard nut to crack in freeing people's minds who are thoroughly convinced that the beliefs they hold near and dear are homegrown, especially when they themselves don't really fully grasp the history of the ideas they are so earnestly espousing. As genius economist / philosopher Thomas Sowell once rightly stated - "being Democrat in the U.S. is the default position", and no matter how much the Gauntlet has gone out of its way to illuminate the long, dirty, hypocritical history of the party of race and the myriad failures of the far left, this battle has long been a defensive one - with the fate of our shared culture hanging in the balance. This slow fall of our republic has led to the civic virtues and the principles of the American founding fathers as embodied in John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, as well as the political parties derived from them - the Federalists and Whigs, and their offspring - the Republicans, serving as whimpering bastion of largely complacent facilitators of those who would wield power with no hesitation, let alone moral qualms or remorse. In fact, it is quite the opposite, and those power hungry statists generally label those who defend the basis of our nation as socially weird outliers, collaborators with foreign powers, hateful racists, conspiracy theorists, what have you.   

Sadly, the so-called "right wing" long ago ceded the moral high ground to an opponent who debates if there even is such a thing as subjective morality, and with the shift of 1960's radicals easing into the endemic kleptocracy of the 1990's, the so-called small L "liberals" soon supplied the lions share of the entrenched political class (Deep State), as well as the corporate elite (Woke Capital), adding those spheres to an arsenal which already included the arts, the press, and academia. At this point they've even co-opted many traditional religious institutions, imparting "woke" ideology to a bevy of well-meaning reverends, priests, and rabbis, not to mention the current Pope, who I suspect is a tad more Communist than he lets on. 

Generally, when an election is lost, regardless of suspicions of foul play, Republicans, Right-Leaning Libertarians, Conservatives, etc., tend to take it well, and usually just pick up their ball and go home, yearning for their next time up at bat. They picture a return to sitting around grumbling complaints with their chums over a cup of tea for four, maybe eight, years max. But our most recent past election presented a new phenomena in the history of American politics. The aftermath was a skirmish of revenge, which included not only a change in the dominant political party, but one in which one side clearly viewed their "victory" as carte blanche to undo what had been done, as well as an opportunity to entrench their party's power indefinitely, and to alter society to match their utopian vision of the future.

You gotta admit, it is indeed a wonderful vision, filled with ideas lifted from the likes of Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Saul Alinsky, the World Economic Forum at Davos, Progressives going back to the vexing Woodrow Wilson, and even some ideas borrowed from Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt. Sadly, their goal is to install these ideas, many of which are racist by the way (yes, read about Wilson), regardless of how much they doth protest. In the guise of corporate human resource managers paying aggrieved, generally Socialist, "NPO" guest speakers (out of our tax dollars) to lecture employees about "inclusion", "equity", and other really nice sounding buzz words that de facto promote race, class, and gender warfare, and are cut from the pages of any old street corner Communist shouting at the bourgeois passerby.  

I have to admit that when I saw the Capitol incident on television I was initially tickled pink, as the words of Thomas Jefferson rattled through my head - "A government should be afraid of its people and not the other way around". But even at that moment I knew that this event would be soon weaponized by the DNC (and their allies) as a ready tool to destroy those that they deemed fit to be "cancelled". The fact that Republicans from their start have never been part of a riot, while Democrats had been having them since 1832, ramped them up starting in 1968, and topped them off with the BLM / Antifa-fests of the summer of 2020, meant nothing - 'cuz, what's good for the goose is good for the, uh, goose.

Nonetheless the result was to be expected. Algorithms suddenly changed, content de-ranking was rampant, videos were "age restricted", YouTube channels and legit social media platforms such as Parler were suddenly offline (but hey, I'm sure they were horrible 'cuz, you know, "they" said so), monetization dried up, as the empty suit know as Joe Biden took the White House as the most popular elected Democrat IN HISTORY. Yes, historians will marvel at this in the future - a man everyone took for at best a too touchy-feely non-entity, received a larger number and larger percentage of the vote, and even more of the Black vote than Barack Obama. (Honk!, Honk!) Sure he did. What's that you say? How can that be if Trump took more of the Black Male vote away from Democrats than any Republican in over sixty years? Yeah, somehow Blacks just had to come out and give Awesome Joe a hand. Wow, what a powerhouse!

Anyway, I digress, but as I've always contended, this was never about Trump versus Biden, or the prior's "personality", this was / is a about a point in history where the left reached "critical mass" and said, "it's now or never". They needed to push their agenda through, get rid of even good things that always worked, they needed to tear down the past with regressive glee, and "reset" society using the Covid-19 psy-op fear-demic as their cudgel. Trump, and any Conservative who were / are a threat to the left, and punched back, were on the enemies list - because only those that they sanctioned would be allowed to speak. We (everyone who isn't them) are just supposed to stand there and take it. Hey, maybe even apologize, like all the media personalities who we've become used to watching race to save their careers with useless excuses after they get trounced on by twitter demons just before their corporate masters turf them out to the unemployment line.

Just a note to everyone out there who might fall into one of their sticky traps. When tangling with a liberal mob, never, never, ever, apologize - for anything. The only viable tactic is the turnabout. A swift punch back, followed by inverting the narrative that it is they who function as the racists and fascists that they oh, so profess are their arch-enemies. As the old saying goes: Scratch a liberal and you find underneath an elitist, or a self-hating aristocrat. Scratch a Conservative and you'll find a person who is frightened of change. We don't need to change, but as any descent General would tell you, tactics must be adjusted to fit the circumstances.

On the upside - in the end the leftists will inevitably fail, as is their nature. They confuse the egalitarianism of the Classical Liberalism of the enlightenment with anarchy and licentiousness. They conflate well-meaning intentions for virtues, and generally don't grasp the distinction between liberty and equality. They claim to be the party of science, while spouting contradictory and decidedly un-sciency statements. Their progressive antecedents did the same thing when they endorsed phrenology and eugenics in the WWI period. They even used this sort of highly questionable "science" in the 19th century when they defended the institution of slavery, as well as the implementation of wide-spread abortion under Margaret Sanger, whose goals for her organization Planned Parenthood was to limit the number of Black, Jewish, Italian, and poor white babies from entering the gene pool. Race science was even promoted in the de-segregation era of the early 1960's, and frankly, the current inter-sectional racial equity gambit is loaded with heaps of race science quackery and social science theories that more often than not flat out ignore demographic and statistical data. Is it a surprise that many green activists talk about limiting population growth to save the earth - as if they're demented parrots of Thomas Malthus! 

While I'm no fan of Neo-Cons or Neo-Libs, at least traditional moderate liberals could get some things done. Sadly, as the far leftists have become dominant, the co-opted liberals have clearly entered a phase in which they form a notion with no means to move it to next step, let alone see it to its ultimate outcome. Intentions and objective are blurred. As Nick Fury says to Loki in the first Avenger's film: "Yeah, you say Freedom, but I think you mean the other thing."

With Biden's election the leftist puppet media touted "a return to normalcy" and "reconciliation". But this is a lie. Their normalcy is just another version of "their way or the highway" and vilifying their opponents. Their "reconciliation" is endless witch trials. While Conservatives burn pandemic masks in protest, they ban and burn books that have fallen out of their favor. These are the worst sort of people and I shudder for the Republic, and all republics everywhere. 

In the long run, their attacks will just create a stronger counter-reaction, and the more they suppress dissent, the more extreme the reprisal will be later. I imagine if things keep going the way they are that you might hear a leftist say one day, "Hey that Trump guy wasn't so bad...not like this new guy...what a monster!"

But, for the time being we can build and prepare, while they rest on their very plush, and self-assured laurels. While it is best that we do not hide, we must be aware that the playing field is neither even, nor fair, and that while we accept that those to our left have the right to believe what they believe, the same quarter is not extended to us. In fact, not only do they not understand the why and what we believe, they have no interest in debate, and go out of their way to incorrectly characterize, suppress, and mock our arguments before the fact. 

Thus, at least from where I sit - this is the return of John Galt - the patient, elusive, symbolic, Conservative-Libertarian "protagonist" of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". Building alternative platforms and conduits, and sharing our notions only with trusted friends, while we sadly hold our tongues around those who are rest assured to strike back upon the realization that we have another viewpoint. And then, when the moment comes we must hold our leaders responsible to not betray the principles that define us. 

First things first, of course we must stand by our beliefs, speak the truth, but in policy I suggest that when we are in the position to do so we move to change the classification of internet social media platforms to that of regulated public utilities rather than private businesses who regardless maintain biased publishing and editorial oversight over their users. Secondly, we need to move to nationalize specific server farms, so someone like Jeff Bezos can't just decide at a moments notice to purge anyone he doesn't like without a trace.

This is not to say remove ownership and private property - quite the opposite. These are measures that are no different than how we as users interact with out telephone service providers. Sprint doesn't cut into my phone calls and tell me that I can't say something they don't like. Obviously, calls to violence and the like should be monitored, but I think these measures would be a good start, and maybe when there's at least some semblance of a level playing field, actual civility may return to our public discourse.

So I guess that what I'm saying is that I've been laying in wait, surveying the lay of the land while I continue focusing on my artistic endeavors. A break, or if you will, a cease fire, at least for me - though I can't imagine the other side ever relenting. 

As previously mentioned, there's more content on the way, but that's about it for now.

Till next time.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

New Release Tuesday: 391 & the Army of Astraea's "I'm Not Van Gogh" Extended Play Single

Hello my fellow Gauntletarians, I know it's been quite a while, and as such I've been working on a very wordy sociopolitical post as well as a mixology installment to upload really soon. But in the meantime, it just so happens that I recently finished mixing (at least as much as I can stand it) a new 391 & the Army of Astraea three song Extended Play Single. 

Unlike many of 391's earlier digital releases this single is not Industrial-Electronic or Soundtrack work, but instead is in the Alternative Folk-Rock / Singer-Songwriter vein of things. Titled "I'm Not Van Gogh" / "Love Not Lost (Live)" + "The Tattooed Lady (Dreamland Park Mix)", this vocals & guitar-driven trio of ditties have been in the works for quite a while, and contains elements that reach as far back as 1988. 

Interestingly, all three cuts on this extended play are composites of either old lyrics with new music, or new lyrics with old music, or additional tracks added to existing recordings made a couple of years ago. Thematically they're also all over the place, with the title track standing as a lyrical coping mechanism for the vagaries of the writing process, the second track lodged in the middle as a lovelorn ballad, and the last tune noticeably summoned from 1920's retro-kitsch.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these songs, and hopefully those to come. Feel free to let me know what you think (hopefully nicely), and obviously, you are very welcome to follow the 391 & the Army of Astraea page on Bandcamp and / or the Stubborn God Productions page on Soundcloud, and to like and subscribe to the Nevekari Enterprises YouTube channel as well as the Gauntlet of Balthazar, Stubborn God Productions, and Nevekari Enterprises pages on Facebook, and of course, Nevekari's home page.

Thanks as always. Till next time. 

 

 

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 a 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 1984 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 the 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, and 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 magical) 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 deeds. 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, and 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.