Sunday, January 16, 2022

From the Writer's Studio: "I Am Charon" - A Collection of Short Stories

Hey everyone, welcome to, or back to, the impecunious yet opulent Gauntlet of Balthazar, for a brief announcement regarding a new literary outing that will be uploaded piece-meal to Wattpad. 

The book in question is titled "I Am Charon" - A Collection of Short Stories by Ira Aron Rosenblum. The first tale was posted on Friday, January 14th, 2022, and will be followed by additional stories every Friday, as opposed to other works - which will drop on Tuesdays. I imagine that when I run out of back catalogue it may encourage me to pen some new stories just to keep the project growing. But we'll see. 

Anyway, the "Story Detail" Page on Wattpad describes the book as: "I Am Charon" is a collection of Dystopian, Horror, Science-Fiction, and other short stories penned by multi-nominated and award-winning screenplay writer Ira Aron Rosenblum. A number of the tales included in this collection date back well over twenty years, and many have been utilized as the narrative voice in short films while others have surfaced in series episode scripts that have been developed by Nevekari Enterprises. The first post is The Dark Wood which became a Nevekari Enterprise's Short Film in 2017, and it will be followed by other tales which address such issues as: liberty, freedom, conformity, collectivism, cultural memory, isolation, surveillance, sovereignty, authoritarianism, and of course, death.

Please enjoy and share, and comment here or at my profile page on Wattpad. 

Till next time.


 


Monday, January 10, 2022

From the Writer's Studio: How to be a "Re-Constructionist" Screenwriter

Welcome to, or back to, another installment of the "From the Writer's Studio" feature here on the Gauntlet of Balthazar. 

Obviously, whether or not you are a writer, and if you've checked out posts in this category, you might have noticed that we often tackle dissecting a specific piece of media (or a franchise), and occasionally, we look at a singular aspect of screenwriting such as the story, dialog, etc., etc. Most of the time failings such as unsatisfying arc resolutions or plot inconsistencies are highlighted, and more often than not these attributes are hashed out by looking at projects where substance and architecture have been sadly sacrificed in preference for social messaging. News flash: even if making a point is your most important motivator, you might want to make a better project, so that the message will be received.

A good example of this phenomena is when the Gauntlet took a long look at Toy Story 4 and noted that for all of the inclusion of cardboard cutout feminist attributes of outspokenness and capability (which btw can also be male attributes), the writers conversely omitted giving their supposedly strong female protagonist (Little Bo Peep) an actual story arc to parallel that of her male co-star (Woody the Cowboy). The Gauntlet interpreted this as "feminist screenwriting" (regardless of whether it is created by a man or a woman) in opposition to "egalitarian screenwriting", which in philosophic premise designs to present all characters as equally valuable and essential parts of the overall story.

I think that this is what feminism (at least the first wave) was all about in the first place - equal representation and validity, rather than some kind of global Freaky Friday gender role reversal. 

Regardless, over time this problem has persisted and virtue signalling reboots molded into cringe-worthy lectures are still glutting the media marketplace. In fact, who doesn't expect the worst when you hear that something like an American version of the gritty and moralistic Korean series "Squid Game" is on the agenda. Yeah, sure, they'll make the thing, but you can be fairly certain that they'll remove all the realism from it. Every comment characters made  - which in their circumstances were totally apropos in the original will be excised in the name of fear of offending a few delicate snowflakes out there. In the original the male characters often worry about having a female on their team since they don't know if the next game will be strength based. Well, that will just have to go, 'cuz the narrative is that women are just as strong, hell, even stronger than men, and to suggest otherwise is just so sexist. Newsflash, in a life or death contest, and forgoing the fact that it is only in rare instances that a woman turns out to be physically stronger than a man, this is exactly the concern those characters might have. The question becomes: do you want to write realistically, or are you writing as part of some external social post-modernist subjective agenda. 

Now, clearly there are reasons to write in line with a dominant narrative. One; people that share the same narrative will relate to the writing, and two; if you are perceived as all being on the same "team" its not hard to imagine that more work will easily come your way. After all, pushing against a consensus can get you into trouble, and for all the talk we hear from celebrities "standing up, taking a chance, and being brave", we all know it when they are merely parroting an approved party line.

I personally believe that most folk, even the gatekeepers who run and work at the major distribution studios, don't really think about this sort of stuff, and are far too busy keeping their head down as to not run afoul of their own Human Resources departments, their cocktail party (and political party) associates, and of course, the mob on Twitter. 

In general, here's a rule of thumb - while a vocal minority might appear larger and more powerful than it actually is, these people are not really your audience. They only tune in to find some issue they can crucify a project with on social media, and poof, they're gone. 

So what are the options for you as an artist if you want to create quality work that transcends ever-shifting narrative-influenced screenplay writing. Well, over the last few years I've begun gravitating to the description "Re-Constructionist" Screenwriter for myself.

What does that mean? You ask. Well, let me explain. 

One can easily look at all writing prior to the early twentieth century as "traditional". From Gilgamesh, to the Bible, to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, to Shakespeare, and even the realists and moralists of the 19th Century, these works present their very, very different narratives and stick to that style. They all understood character and story arc, even when promoting an agenda, and these works held to format so much at times that we can see Freytag's Pyramid and the Hero's Journey embodied in them to the point that you can mathematically see the plot elements fulfilling that criteria step by step. 

But, then de-construction came along. Spearheaded by the Dadaists, abstraction in story structure broke the previous synthesis and followed painting and poetry into screenplay writing and film making. While many of these films from the pre-code Silent Era to the French New Wave are wonderful experiments, they reflect a film school ethos that was heavily influenced by Marxist Critical Theory, and any "artiste" worth his or her salt was a deconstructionist - not some corporate capitalist hack. While this was all fine and good for the art students, starting in the 1980's, as the neo-liberals moved from the counter-culture to the board room, this penchant for deconstructionism was dragged along, and the quest became how to play ball with the money boys while still signalling that you had "street cred", or at least art cred. 

Thus, commercial Hollywood film makers who self-consciously addressed their work through this de-constructionist lens such as Paul Verhoeven, and later, the Wachowski's and Quentin Tarantino (among many others), where hailed as "smart" and "edgy", and were precursors of what we now call "meta" - the acute self-awareness of process versus suspension-of-disbelief. However, as time progressed and Marxist-inspired virtue signalling ramped up its "critical" rhetoric as social capitol, it became clear that embedding elements of identity politics in media was crucial in securing screenwriting accolades from the "powers-that-be". Therefore, placing verbally abusive dialogue in the mouth of a so-called "marginalized" character, say, a black, gay, handicapped one against say, a white, straight, non-handicapped character, became not the statement made by the character, but rather by the writer and filmmaker as an indictment of the general society. Hence, this is why a typical critique of modern entertainment over the last few years has been that the audience complains that they feel like they are being lectured to. Well, guess what? They are.

Now obviously this can't go on forever, since regardless of political narrative, art is a business - the music Business, the art Business, the writing Business, the film Business, and businesses need to eventually make money, or really, what is the point? For a while it might be okay to take a hit to propel some narrative the company wants to get behind, but eventually the checks need to be signed. Likewise, narratives change as society changes, and with western culture being effectively driven primarily by classical liberal thought since the 1960's, by leftists starting in the 1980's, and far leftists in the 2000's, this period could easily come to a close shortly and be replaced by a neo-traditionalist wave. 

I personally think it is a very good place to be, or will be soon, for a "Re-Constructionist" writer. You can be critical, you can be philosophic, you can be meta, you can present diverse characters, and you can be wholly egalitarian, yet, you will know above all else that the story is more important. You will know that you are telling a good tale, with sound act structure, with complete story and character arcs, and realistic dialogue, working together to form something of true merit. The antagonists you will design will present philosophic polarities to your protagonists rather than just pitting your hero against "space" or "climate change", as seen in so many recent Science-Fiction outings, where the inherent dangers of an environment are in effect the villain of the piece. You will have your diverse cast, but it will be a manifestation of the story, not based on some kind of grand victim "checklist" that some twitter goon demanded. 

As a "Re-Constructionist" you will see the universality of motifs within multiple forms of literature and it will enable you to forge more complex adult material based on theatrical ideas that go back thousands of years. Mind you, at the start of the Dada period modern art painters like Picasso were fully capable of rendering Renaissance-like realism, but chose not to, and this was dedication to experimentation. The problem is that I doubt that many contemporary abstract artists possess the capability to produce such works, and overly rely on deconstruction to supply the infrastructure for their painting. I see this paralleled in popular music, with atonal hip-hop leading the way, and in screenwriting with preachy virtue-signalling scripts being pushed to the fore.

Don't misunderstand, what I'm proposing here isn't for a functional artist to just imitate the master works of Van Gogh, The Beatles, or a film like Casablanca, but to create work that indeed experiments, indeed has something to say, and yet, retains sound traditional structural elements. So, break down your act and scene structure dispassionately, see if you are (within reason) following Freytag's Pyramid and the Hero's Journey structure. Imbue your characters with "real" and evolving (yes, that's an arc) personalities that have something to teach the audience as they drive them toward catharsis. And don't let notions of using characters to deliver someone else's messages dictate your art.

Do all this and you too can be a "Re-Constructionist Screenwriter". I tend to think this is one of the reasons my company, Nevekari Enterprises, has won so many nominations and awards for our scripts. But hey, what do I know?

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

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Mixology: Introducing the "Ahsoka Tano"

Welcome to, or back to, the mighty Gauntlet of Balthazar for another brief foray into creative mixology.

Today's cocktail is "the Ahsoka Tano" (named for the Star Wars character of the same name) and it was originally invented shortly after "the Darth Vader" in April 2021. It was obviously designed to be part of an ongoing theme, but silly me, the original recipe was lost. Regardless, I decided to post it with as much of an approximation as possible, so here it goes:

3 ounces of Hero Apricot Nectar

I ounce of Ketel One or Tito's Vodka

1 ounce of  Cuarenta y Tres liquor 

I ounce of Simple Syrup

2 Tablespoons of Original Cool Whip 

Shake and Serve in a Martini / Cocktail glass 

I have to say it is quite good, and man does it look like the character it was created as a homage to.

Anyway, enjoy, and as always, till next time. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Gauntlet Celebrates its 75,000th Page Visit Post

Welcome to the Gauntlet of Balthazar for a brief post celebrating 75,000 unique visitors to the site. 

From the meager beginnings and low traffic of the earliest posts at the end of 2016 through the boosts and subsequent "drop off" of readers based in Hong Kong, we have slowly amassed an audience that has arrived here for a wide variety of reasons. Some of you might have stumbled upon the page accidentally - never to return, while others come back regularly. Others were attracted by a social media "share" that spiked their interest in a specific post, while others "page down" over the gambit. Some people come for the political commentary, while others comb the media reviews and screenwriting observations. Some check out the music uploads, while others take in the other arts, and maybe, just maybe, there are a few of you out there who like find a new drink recipe once in a while.

Regardless of the cause, we have slowly marched on with periods of frequent uploads, and just as much, by phases defined by a relative famine of material. This has mostly been due to a variety of personal and business concerns, not the least of which has been finding the time to hammer out the sometimes very lengthy articles. But still...

There are some big reveals coming up here; such as a new full-length album, story uploads, and hopefully the trailer for a new scripting project, but it's probably better to hold off and just release them as they are completed. 

Anyway, thank you all, and I hope you continue to find some interesting fare here on the Gauntlet, and as always...till next time.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

From the Writer's Studio: New Release Tuesday Upload Schedule

Hey out there!

As you might have noticed a few posts ago, my first still unpublished novel (at least by traditional channels) - The Forest Kingdom of Drisnia; Book One: The Spell of Forgetting (from 2008) is now in the process of being uploaded online chapter, by chapter, by chapter. Be that as it may, I thought that it might be an opportune juncture at which to take the time to blog-out a release schedule of what's gone before and what's to come. Likewise, I'd additional like to promote some other forthcoming literary outings that are also set to be hosted by Wattpad in the near future, so see those near the bottom of this post. Anyway, here's the release schedule:

Preface (September 28th, 2021)

Effluvium - Chapter I: "The Syrup Harvester" (October 5th, 2021)

Effluvium - Chapter II: "Foggad and Routhuni" (October 12th, 2021)

Effluvium - Chapter III: "The Sainonix" (October 19th, 2021)

Effluvium - Chapter IV: "In Royal Chambers" (October 26th, 2021)

The Prince and the Wizard of Doren  - Chapter I: "Departure" (November 2nd, 2021)

The Prince and the Wizard of Doren  - Chapter II: "Morning on the Aldapix" (November 9th, 2021)

The Prince and the Wizard of Doren  - Chapter III: "Lehenia and the Zhorigix" (November 16th, 2021)

The Prince and the Wizard of Doren  - Chapter IV: "Tailarechask" (November 23rd, 2021)

The Prince and the Wizard of Doren  - Chapter V: "Journey to the Mishketaan" (November 30th, 2021)

The Oracle of Sheshlu - Chapter I: "The Audience" (December 7th, 2021)

The Oracle of Sheshlu - Chapter II: "The Oracle's Bargain" (December 14th, 2021)

The Oracle of Sheshlu - Chapter III: "Keh'dadach" (December 21st, 2021)

The Oracle of Sheshlu - Chapter IV: "The Fallen of the Oroigix" (December 28th, 2021)

The Oracle of Sheshlu - Chapter V: "The Battle at Erofir" (January 4th, 2022)

The Oracle of Sheshlu - Chapter VI: "The River Rem'biokah" (January 11th, 2022)

The Vanquishing Reflection - Chapter I: "Soritir"(January 18th, 2022)

The Vanquishing Reflection - Chapter II: "The Report" (January 25th, 2022)

The Vanquishing Reflection - Chapter III: "Laguxigh" (February 1st, 2022)

The Vanquishing Reflection - Chapter IV: "Reunion" (February 8th, 2022)

The Vanquishing Reflection - Chapter V: "The Alterer and the Horseman" (February 15th, 2022)

The Vanquishing Reflection - Chapter VI: "Life and Death in the Land of Doren" (February 22nd, 2022)

Addendum / Biographic Glossary / Geographic Glossary / Linguistic Glossary (March 1st, 2022) 

As you can see it takes quite some time to put out an entire multi-hundred page book in this way, but then again, doing it like this means that the manuscript will at least benefit from yet another fresh revision before the general public lays eyes on it.

Upon completion I'm fairly certain that the first Drisnia Series novella; "The Song of Umeztad" will follow immediately after, as it was written as the abbreviated follow-up to the sizable novel and features events that pick up from where the main story-line leaves off. One of the distinguishing factors of the novella is that it features the solitary tale of a secondary character (Umeztad) coming into his own. Personally it's my favorite work in the series, and if you like very nuanced and psychological adult Epic Fantasy I urge you to give it a whirl. 

Also set to go up on Wattpad (with dates still forthcoming) will be a number of Short Stories turned Film Scripts (I think at least three), as well as an actual copy of a Nevekari Enterprises Spec Script for an Existing Series that won a minor screenwriting award. The latter script was penned as a sample episode of the then hit Sci-Fi-Tech-Crime-Thriller Series "Person of Interest", and obviously, now that the show is off-the-air it can pretty much just serve as an example of scripting prowess, or maybe high-level fan-fiction.

Anyway, I hope some of you out there click on over, and if you're more interested in the Gauntlet's take on Media, Culture, Politics, a new drink recipe, or are waiting for a new music release - never fear those are not far behind.

Till next time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A Sad Day in the Politics of Fear

Welcome to, or back to, the stalwart yet pusillanimous Gauntlet of Balthazar, for some riffing on a theme that's been addressed here frequently as of late (or at least when I bother to get off my gauntlet-wearing ass and comment) - and that is the theme of fear  being used as a political weapon. Fear of disease, fear of race, fear of surveillance, fear of non-compliance, fear of interacting with society, and the fear of incorrectly defining sexual identity or partaking in sex, are all plied in the targeted quest for power that is highlighted by "cancellation" and the routine Orwellian re-working of our language and thereby our societal psyche.

One might think that some of the thoughts I'll be addressing in this post are unrelated, but what inspired me down this path was the removal of the iconic statue of the U.S.'s third President; Thomas Jefferson, from the vestibule of the New York City Hall Council Chambers just a few days ago after resting on its pedestal there for over 187 years. 

As you may know if you are an American, or even as a citizen of another nation, is that far leftist activists across the USA have pitched hard for the removal of a plethora of historical statues over the last few years. Of course, they first directed their ire toward those works of art that even many of those on the right had a hard time arguing represented paragons of past virtue. 

As a historian (yes, I have a degree), I object in premise to the removal of pretty much any monuments (yes, even a Stalin in post-Soviet period Russia), for in my opinion, and in most respects, I believe that doing so does not succeed in removing bad events from the past, but turns a blind eye to such mob-born initiatives and generally opens the door to societal anarchic chaos which can only lead to further acts of random destruction and civil unrest. So yeah, it's a slippery slope. As an old Punker / Post-Punker, on some level I appreciate the anarchic impulse as an unbridled form of liberty, but as Jefferson himself reminded, liberty must be coupled with civic responsibility in order to create a safe environment in which one can pursue happiness. The French didn't quite get this lesson right in their revolution and, voila, their zeal and intemperance led to guillotines, the reign of terror, book burning, etc., etc.

Case in point, I found it ridiculously idiotic, if not wholly tragic, when the Taliban...rather than accept cash for the transfer of a giant statue of the Buddha located in a public park to a museum in the west, felt that the object must be destroyed as an offense against Islam. I should remind you here that there had not been a single practicing Buddhist in Afghanistan for literally a thousand years, and that this statue reflected a period in the nation's history prior to the arrival of Islam. Anyway, they blew up the ancient statue leaving piles of rubble where it once stood. Why would they do this, you might ask? Well, the answer is simple - it's fear. Firstly, by leaving the statue it would have undermined the retroactive Muslim notion that Islam preexisted, well, everything, even though it occurs in history after Judaism and Islam. Secondly, by leaving the statue as is, it would have served as a de facto acknowledgement that there are competing belief systems out there in the wider world, and thus, both of these notions are based in the fear that Islam will not appear as all-encompassing and as normative as it "should", even when it is a numerical fact that many billions of other humans don't practice that faith. If the members of the Taliban were actually strong in their faith, they wouldn't be afraid of an old statue "luring" Muslims from their faith, nor would they be afraid of acknowledging the actual history of their nation, instead of a fantasy. But it is these sort of fantasies, subjective truths, utopian quests, and internal constructs, that we see riddling the west, and the east, and often stand-in for actual facts, science, logic, and well, reality.

But back to the U.S....

During the civil unrest that was spurred on by George Soros and DNC-backed operatives of Antifa and the deceptively named BLM, many a historic statues were dragged off their pedestals. At first the premise seemed to be that they wanted to remove Confederate War monuments as they virtue signaled their so-called "anti-racism", but I knew the minute it began that their scope would not remain limited to just that.

In fact, I would propose that the best thing you can do with a monument dedicated to even with a thoroughly despicable historical figure is to leave it standing, erect an explanatory plaque that explains the context of why, when, and the bad and good things about the figure, and have teachers use this as an educational tool for young school children. What's the worst thing that could happen? A kid learns about person and walks away saying: "What a douche that guy was!" To me that sounds like the reaction the statue-burners actually want, isn't it? If it's just deleted from sight there is no example to learn from, just ignorance.

Anyway, before long statues of Abraham Lincoln were under assault, and pardon me, but while Lincoln might have possessed a few flaws he is generally viewed as literally the best President in US history; ending slavery, preserving the Union, etc., etc. Obviously, if your premise is not just to destroy selected parts of history, but all of it, in a Pol Pot Year Zero Utopia thinking, then hell, damn the torpedoes and take it all down, man.

So, when they came for Jefferson a few days ago, it only made sense. Of course these modern day iconoclasts only know one thing about T.J., and that is that he owned slaves. Sure, that's not an ideal look, but if you study him in general, you find a man who was born into that institution from birth, and did most everything in his power to aid in the demise of slavery. Aside from penning the Declaration of Independence, upon being elected President Jefferson almost immediately banned the importation of slaves, effectively ending the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. We know he was in a long-term romantic relationship with one of his family's servants, Sally Hemmings; who was technically also his cousin. On other fronts he fought the Barbary pirates in order to stop the enslavement of Europeans and Americans, and was the ultimate champion of a multi-religion, multi-ethnic, civil state. Hell, he even designed the office chairs million of people sit on every day. Lastly, as the statue grabbers might not remember, he eventually freed all of his slaves. "Why didn't he do it earlier?" they would ask, and I'll tell you why. Picture that you are born into a family which held such human property at the time. Let me guess, you imagine that three-year-old you would have the power to do just what? Beat up papa and tell them to run off? Okay, let's say that was possible. What happens to the slaves you say you care so much about after they run off? Simple, they are grabbed by another planter a few miles up the road who treats them far worse than the gentle environment offered at your estate, which by the way, was loaded with slaves, many of whom were only 1/16th African after multiple generations of cross-breeding with the family. Regardless if these relationships were either on the up-and-up or had some nefarious origin, the fact remains that even back in the 1770's a person who is only 1/16th African visual appears in most cases as "not black". Indeed many writers in the period who visited Monticello specifically commented that the distinction between the Jefferson family and their servants was very hard to discern.

On a related note, when they come for statues of George Washington - who will be next, someone should probably point out that Washington held both black and white slaves (not related to him), and was know for having them killed (regardless of race) if they attempted to run away. So I guess the question is - is this about the time period, the institution, the character or acts of a specific person, or about race now? I mean, old George was a tough guy, big on military executions at Valley Forge too, but it is his refutation of a kingship and his status as a non-partisan leader was an essential factor in the creation of the republic.

As far as I understand it the next statue to be removed in NYC is that of Teddy Roosevelt's monument outside of the Museum of Natural History. As a turn of the 20th Century Progressive Republican he was a pivotal figure in the establishment of the Conservation movement (i.e. we call that "Green" now), he was a crusader for labor unions and racial equality, an advocate for children, busted on big banking, and established important Federal bureaus such as the FDA and the EPA in order to safeguard the public. It seems almost ridiculous, but the racist powers-that-wish-they-were are now attempting to depict T.R. as a racist, while only the contrary stands as evidence. Face it, they don't like this particular statue because he sits on his horse "above" a Native American and an African, and it is their own internal race narrative that works on the assumption that even this is "White Superiority". Hey, here's an idea - why not think of this image as T.R. being an advocate for these groups in a time when almost no one else was. In removing this tribute they should be ashamed of themselves. But this is the same destructive impulse that dis-empowers non-whites and encourages them to depict themselves as eternal victims in a sick, ongoing "story".

This is why "Schindler's List' is considered the most notable "Jewish Film" made by Hollywood. Nothing against Mr. Spielberg, and his many fine films, but that work upholds the Jewish victim narrative no less than how African-Americans have inculcated such initiatives as Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" program; which frankly dis-empowered their communities and destroyed urban areas for numerous generations. This was done by literally enfeebling traditional black family structure, creating dependence on the state, and enforcing the idea that only the state could help the community.

By utilizing fear as a tool to gain power, and redistributing economic dominance to specific entities, the globalist manipulators have forged a generation of young people who are afraid to stand up for themselves. They are afraid to pursue wealth, to have relationships, and to reproduce. Hence the up-swell in the number of young men who admit to "not having regular sex" and a great mass of youth suddenly describing themselves as being part of the "LGBT" spectrum, simply because they are so sexually under-powered that they believe that they are "Asexuals". This, friends, is not another "gender". Even if you accept the semantics of switching the perfectly fine "sexual identity" for an established biological term, Orwell. Ace (Asexual or Aromantic) people like to say that they are "not broken", but clearly, they have been "sexually retarded" by the powers-that-shouldn't-be. This massive flood of people identifying in this way should come as no shock, what with food additives and the like helping to cause widespread erectile dysfunction and "frigidity". This, plus the destruction of all gender norms through a wing of Marxist Class, Race, and Gender revisionism has contributed to the rise of disinterested men and unhappy, cat-ensconced women with jobs they are really invested in, but in eschewing all traditional norms are riddled with depression because they can't find a man to be in a relationship with, and probably don't even want to have kids 'cuz that would be hard work and interfere with their ability to watch Netflix undisturbed. Then again, these sort of folks truly believe that the sun monster (climate change) will end life on Earth in just a couple of years from now, when it certainly will not.

Well, news flash, if you are afraid to leave your house, if your gender is so confused that it can only be explained by an elaborate psychological construct, if you are afraid to take off your mask-muzzle regardless of "The" science, if you prefer to use the robot checkout machine in the supermarket instead of, gasp, having to interact and say hello to the cashier, and when you only date by swiping on an app and through text messaging with no intention of really forging a relationship with a future (i.e. kids), then you know what buttercup? You're not going to find it, and eventually, you'll end up wallowing in the failure of a selfish life, invested in what the social media platforms, the state, and the globalists at Davos want you to be instead of what you could be. For me, the idea of being dependent on the government, any government, is an utterly repugnant notion, and giving control of anything to such unimpressive people as politicians is quite terrifying. I mean these are ego-maniacal, power-drunk, world class idiots, and we all used to know it. What the hell happened? 

So, fake-immunized mutants, confused modern eunuchs, misguided iconoclasts, utopian zealots, and supporters of the nanny state, rise up and shake off your cloth muzzles (and cowardly balaclavas) and act like you're actually alive in the real world. This is not a video game, and life is actually quite dangerous. But if you look at it only like that, you should never drive a car for fear of an accident, you should never take a shower for fear of slipping, and most definitely, you should never, ever date. I mean you're risking both germs AND a broken heart, right?

Anyway, have a Happy Thanksgiving and Hanukah if you celebrate either, or both. Oh, and of course - Let's Go Brandon!, and as always, till next time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Double New Release Tuesday: From the Writer's Studio and Electronic Music Album of the Day

Welcome to, or back to, the puzzling and yet puzzled Gauntlet of Balthazar for a Tuesday smack jammed with new releases. 

Firstly, in the Writer's Studio, the second chapter of my previously unpublished 2008 epic fantasy book, "The Forest Kingdom of Drisnia; Book One: The Spell of Forgetting" has now posted to Wattpad, joining the preface and first chapter. It's a psychologically complex yarn that's extremely prosaic and even though it's fantasy / "sword & sorcery", it's by no means designed with little kids in mind as the main reader demographic. Succeeding chapters will continue to post every Tuesday morning for the foreseeable future, and shortly, I expect that some other hidden tomes, as well as a few short stories will probably start to appear there as well. So please take a look, and of course, enjoy and share!

Secondly, in the music zone, today marks the release of a 391 & the Army of Astraea full-length album titled "Fuaim Redux". With the original instrumental tracks recorded between 2014-2016, these pieces were either remixed or re-imagined over the last few months...hence "Redux". Featuring guitar, bass, and live drums, in addition to synthesizers and rhythm programming, these tunes capture a transition between the analogue and digital phases of 391 & the Army of Astraea's evolution. It should also be mentioned that many of the tracks included on this album have appeared in films and promotional videos created by Nevekari Enterprises, or were inspired by Nevekari script treatments.Thus, the writing tie in!

Anyway, enjoy the book and the record, and share if you can. The embed is below as usual.

Thanks, and as always - till next time.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

From the Writer's Studio: Introducing...Yes, it's a Book...an Entire Book - One Chapter at a Time!

Welcome to, or back to, the prosaic yet often verbose Gauntlet of Balthazar for a post long in coming. If you've visited here before you may have noticed that aside from the politics and philosophy, there has always been an abundance of like links to music, embedded art images, and usually, videos or web pages related to script & film projects that originated with Nevekari Enterprises - the award-winning and multi-nominated screenwriting and creative content producing entity that I'm a part of. However, today I'd like to slip on the Gauntlet and introduce an earlier solo work in the form of a manuscript that was completed in in late 2008 - yet has remained unpublished, till now. So as I opt into the digital world, please excuse any shameless self-promotion from this point on.

"The Forest Kingdom of Drisnia; Book One: The Spell of Forgetting" is the first in a series of six epic-fantasy novels (and accompanying Novellas) which chronicle the inter-generational saga of a royal family and it's closest intimates. A pervasively visceral tale, it is set in a hypo- thetical alternative history that introduces an ensemble cast of characters, who, through their navigation of a series of internal and external conflicts are tested and in the end overcome adversity and evolve into heroic archetypes. Written in a style laced with alliterative prose and psychological nuance, this literary novel stands reminiscent of such classics as Virgil's Aeneid, Mallory's L'Morte D'Arthur, and Tolkien's Ring Trilogy.  

Featuring the Prince of Drisnia and his intended; the Princess of Lyndium, the tale relates how the Kingdom is beset by a mysterious and amorphous magical being referred to only as "The Effluvium". Imparting a dreadful form of amnesia to all those who come into contact with it, this is symbolic of the denial psychology of the main character, and the destruction the creature causes spurs the story into action. With that premise established, the ensemble moves through a series of harrowing adventures, historically accurate incidences of martial arts in the western tradition, tragic losses, uneasy alliances, and eventually come to the capitol of their ascribed enemy, where the Prince finds that many of his deepest long-held assumptions have been incorrect.

Based on the author's strict adherence to a limited Nostratic theory of languages, and the mytho-folkloric Euhemeristic philosophy of history, The Spell of Forgetting is told in a restricted third person omniscient style of narration, and is presented as being ostensibly written by an association of court scribes who have been employed to encapsulate the events therein in order to preserve their innate historicity for posterity. 

I've chosen Wattpad as the host, but so far only my profile page, a detail page for the book (where most of the descriptive above is from), the preface, as well as the cover art and a map graphic are up. However, the first chapter will be coming October 5th, and from that point on, a new chapter will appear every Tuesday until its available for a read in its entirety. 

Of course if you think Epic Fantasy influenced by the likes of Yeats and Joyce might be up your alley, please feel free to take a look, and / or to share it with others who you suspect might appreciate it. Oh, and here's the link: https://www.wattpad.com/story/286660062-the-forest-kingdom-of-drisnia-book-one-the-spell 

Thank you all for any support you can offer! And as usual - till next time.

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 engaged 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 within 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.

The most onerous news outlets now tout that "fully one-third" of those hospitalized for Covid are not vaccinated, playing a psychotic word game attempting to not describe the same situation as that two-thirds of hospitalizations are of people who ARE VACCINATED! 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 on 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.