You Don’t Deserve This

Dear Officer,

You don’t deserve this. 

Sure, you may rally around men accurately accused of wrong-doing.  You might stand by and allow Trump supporters to be viciously attacked on a regular basis.  You may even repeatedly fail to protect the rights of assembly and freedom of speech,

but you don’t deserve this.

We all know that at the end of the day, you’re just a guy making his way through a difficult world in a difficult time of upheaval.  We know that at the end of the day, you don’t answer to the people you’re sworn to protect, but to the political leaders who control your ability to feed your children.  We know that when you when you take sides in the culture war while in uniform that you’re just following the orders of the political class,

but you don’t deserve this.

You gotta look out for you and your brothers in blue.  Tribalism is very important, and your first loyalty should be to those most like you.  Believe me, whether they admit it or not, everyone understands that.  Those of us on the alt-right sure understand it.  So no hard feelings on our part.  You might fail us all too often,

but you don’t deserve this.

In these moments when the ER is filled with your brothers in blue bleeding red, and social media whipping information in every direction, and the establishment media gathering information while they wait to learn of the narrative that the facts must be spun to fit, just remember this.  We on the right want your support.  Not your suffering.  Not your lives.  Just your support.  We might not like that you won’t, or you can’t, give it to us,

but  you still don’t deserve this.

Blue Lives Matter

This post was written the night that four police officers were killed in an ambush in Dallas following a Black Lives Matter protest.

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Congratulations, Cirsova

Yesterday the best little SF/F magazine that could, completed a successful Kickstarter for Issue #2.

The first issue was fantastic, and that was done on little more than a wing and a prayer.  It’s going to be great to see what P. Alexander can do with some extra financial backing.  It didn’t make the cut-off for any of the stretch goals, but most of those relate to “collector’s edition” goodies, which don’t have much appeal to those of us that are only in it for the stories themselves.

A $2 backing nets a copy of the PDF, which is a steal for the amount of content for the pirce.  It’s looking like five short stories, a novella, and the continuation of Hutching’s excellent long-form poetry retelling of John Carter’s adventures. I threw down at the $10 level, more for the encouragement than the hard copy, as my reading has shifted over primarily to digital media.  Can’t see me lugging around a hard copy magazine when the same thing is tucked right there in my cell phone.

Can’t say either of the alternate covers tickle my fancy, but a glance at an uninteresting cover is more than outweighed by the hours of reading enjoyment that this magazine is sure to bring.

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Google Doodle Fun

Yesterday NASA’s Juno probe reached Jupiter.  Google Inc., as a hotbed of science-loving goofballs, saw fit to mark the occasion with an animated banner showing Team Juno celebrating the event.  This is what the world looks like to Google:

The Google Doodle, an irregular feature of the world’s most trafficked search engine is one of those annoying little features of this modern life used by Team SJW to rewrite history to suit their own needs.  While some of the criticism of the Google Doodle Team can be laid at the feet of hyperventilating attention whores – Google doesn’t have to celebrate every major Christian holiday every single year, people – concrete examples abound.  They routinely ignore major historical figures in favor celebrating of figures who barely rise to the level of a footnote.  They rarely mention an Edison or a Bell or a van Leeuwenhoek (too white-maley), but don’t miss the chance to remind us all of the important contributions of astronomer Caroline Hershel who…discovered a couple of comets.  To say nothing of its recent celebration of Yuri Kochiyama, an activist who has expressed support for Osama Bin Laden and Mao Tse Tung, serves as a concrete example. The American Thinker has a more detailed write-up for anyone who needs more evidence.

At any rate, something struck me as odd about yesterday’s Google Doodle.  That dancing team of NASA drones.  It features the obligatory rainbow coalition of scientist types that you’ll find in any Disney Channel show, what with a perfect sex split and two African Americans.  Frankly, it looked to me like Asians were under-represented what with that lone guy dancing there. 

Being a scientifically inclined sort of guy, I used Google itself to check up on Google’s representation of the Juno Team, and found several photos of the Juno Team.  It’s a lot whiter and more manly than Google’s own picture.  Here’s a few photos of the celebration as it happened in real-world space:

A case could be made for highlighted bit–part scientists as a means of encouraging kids who don’t fit the traditional demographic to go into STEM fields.  Not a good case, but a case.  This sort of reverse white-washing, though?  This is anti-reality.  It’s rejecting empirical evidence that doesn’t fit the theory.

What could be less scientific than that?

Here’s a meme-ified version for social media:
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Fight Stories: Homecoming

I’m just a regular guy, you know?  Half of what I know about boxing comes from experience a little of it firsthand and everything I could tell you about boxing comes from reading about it.  All those deeper meanings and insights into man’s internal struggles have been noticed and written by men more experienced and eloquent than myself.  The only two things I bring to the table are cheerleading and confirmation.
Homecoming, by Francis K. Allen is a damn fine story that deserves both.


It starts with our hero, Joe Corey, returning to his hometown a pariah.  Five years earlier Joe had succumbed to pressure, temptation, and greed, and thrown a fight.  Nothing proven, but you can’t fool your own manager, and it’s inly now, when that manager needs a proving ground for his new contender, Baron Dulaney, that Joe has a shot at redemption.  Crooked or not, Joe can build up Dulaney’s claim to a title shot.

Most of this story presents Joe’s nerve wracking wait in the days before the fight.  His ex-wife reaches out to him, but his nerves blind him, and the local kids and sportswriters serve as a constant reminder of his shameful past.
Then, the night before the fight Joe is approached by a businessman with an offer.  He provides the key to beat Dulaney by taking advantage of a psychological trick – not cheating per se, but not boxing, either.  Thanks to the magic of gambling, Joe can win the fight, earn his share of the purse, and make bank on top of it.  All he has to do is take advantage of his opponent’s World War Two related PTSD.  Simple.
Halfway through the fight, Joe has done so twice, but his ex-wife – and everyone else in the arena has realized Joe isn’t winning as a boxer, but through dirty pool.  What’s more, Joe realizes it, and puts everything on the line to finish the fight as a boxer, on his own merits.  Whether he wins or loses the bout becomes irrelevant once he wins back his own self-respect.
That may sound cheesy, and in the hands of a lesser writer it would come off as cheesy. Francis is up to the task, though, with a terse story that is as evocative as it is emotional.

In today’s too-cool-for-school world, one where Ali ushered in an age of extravagant pre-fight psychological gamesmanship, the notion of throwing away an advantage for something as ephemeral as honor might sound antiquated, but perhaps that is more an indictment of our own cynicism than it is a criticism of the naiveté of the past.

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Fight Stories: Celebration or Cry For Help?

The conventional wisdom states that when it comes to mens’ adventure magazines in general, and magazines with a sweaty guy on the cover in particular, they simmer with barely disguised homoeroticism.  The counter culturalists of the red pill argue that this modern day conventional wisdom was drafted and promulgated by an elite that has thoroughly hitched its wagon to the feminine-centric worldview.  Their poor understanding of the masculine perspective results in an analysis tainted by that confusion and fear.  Thinking themselves empathetic, they project their own insecurities (and their discomfort with their own masculinity), which leads them to the erroneous conclusion that the male virtues celebrated in mens’ magazines are just a way to cover for the common man’s insecurities and a way to remind men of the “masks they are supposed to wear”.
Brief aside:  A half-smart man who never learned to be comfortable in his own skin assumes that everyone feels exactly the same way, and that any masculine expression is a false front behind which men hide.  That’s not empathy, that’s the exact opposite of empathy.  But I digress.
Just as kind souls have difficulty understanding cruelty for its own sake, and the selfish assume everyone is always grasping for every little edge, the trigger-warning crowd that gets to decides these things has decided for us that there is no real virtue in courage, blood, sweat, or brotherly love.  Good men don’t really take such things seriously; after all, the college professor safe in his sinecure doesn’t experience or value these, and he is a good man.  It’s logic that doesn’t even approach circular, but instead makes a straight line from the gut to the page.
So we are stuck with two competing theories, mens’ magazines as morality plays reinforcing traditional forms of masculinity or as unsubtle cries of insecurity and helplessness with a side helping of gay subtext.
The only way to know for sure is to read it for yourself.
Which brings us to a new title in this highly unscientific and nonacademic survey of men’s magazines, Fight Stories.  The June 1928 issue, to be precise.
The next few posts in this series will review of few of the stories in this issue, available here.

One last quick observation: The best boxing movies are really about relationships.  Rocky without Adrian or Mickey is just a meaningless fight.  It is safe to assume the same is true of the Fight Stories.  If true, it will be interesting to see the sorts of relationships they feature.

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DMM: Express to Hell!

The second offering in the April 1938 issue of Dime Mystery Magazine is a short revenge story by Julius Long called Express to Hell!.  On a foggy night, four railroad executives are summoned to a meeting on the railroad owner’s yacht.  The meeting is certain to be a discussion of the events leading up to a train collision that cost the lives of nineteen passengers.  Inside the yacht, the eccentric millionaire (it’s the late 1930’s remember, the dollar hadn’t been devalued to the point that a billionaire was necessary for this important plot point) meets with the four inside a specially constructed railcar.  The rail car has been mounted on rollers, and the use of phonograph sound effects and special lighting – the windows are frosted, not transparent – provides the illusion that the car is in motion in a sort of  low-tech virtual reality.

During the meeting, it becomes clear that the virtual reality built by the rail mogul is set to replay the events of the night of the recent train collision, which was the fault of the four executives.  They indirectly caused the wreck by skimping on safety to protect profits.  Plus ca change.  After reassuring the boss that the company and the executive board had covered all the angles, that no legal repercussions were possible, and that the four executives felt no guilt over the deaths of the nineteen, the billionaire reveals that one of the nineteen was his own wife.

A debate rages as to whether the train car is really in the yacht or had been coupled to an engine and was actually hurtling towards the still mangled tracks at the site of the wreck.  They have no way of knowing which it could be, as the railcar is built of steel, and locked up tight as a drum.  The four men know that they are in the hands of a madman. He has locked them up either on a yacht steaming through fog shrouded harbor or on a train hurtling towards badly damaged tracks.

At the precise moment they would have reached the site of the accident, the yacht is inadvertently rammed by a large cargo vessel and sinks.  They were steaming through the fog the whole time.

The setup is great, but the deus ex machina ending is more punchline than anything else.  This one is a definite miss.  At least it was short.
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World Star! 1938 Style

One of my personal goals in re-reading old pulp adventure magazines is to study the way writers of the first half of the 20th century described high-adrenaline moments.  One of the most frequent high-adrenaline incidents being the classic fist fight.  Let’s take a look at a fight written by James Francis in the story Arms of the Flame Goddess, which was published in the April 1938 issue of Dime Mystery Magazine

Our hero and his allies, a stolid Dutch lawyer and the town sheriff, confront the towering and burly old leader of a sect of flagellants inside an isolated farmhouse.  When they accuse him of being a cult leader engaged in demonic practice, he attacks them

“For a long moment the man stared at me in such frozen silence that I thought he had not understood what I said.  Then suddenly he leaped at me, clubbed fists beating like pile drivers.  The came down on my shoulders and one smash of them beat me to my knees.  I tried to jump backward, but they found me again.  They pounded on my head and back of my neck.  Their blows rang my cranium till they filled it with shooting starts.

Paave and the sheriff weer after him now.  He drove his great knotted hands into their faces like rocks at the end of piston rods.  They staggered back, gasping through spurting blood.  They rallied and charged him again and he beat them like puppets.

They were gone now, taken to flight, and he whirled to where I was just staggering up to my feet.  He blasted me down again.  His fists were hammers of Thor beating the life out of a squirming pygmy of mortal man who twisted and groveled this way and that to escape from their punishment.

Finally he paused to get breath.  Like a mouse fleeing a torturing cat, I dragged myself, half crawling, half running, into some bushes.  He didn’t follow me.”

As a longtime fan of Louis Lamour, my fight scenes have always followed in his example.  They are blow by blow accounts filled with the technical aspects of boxing: footwork, defensive stance, balance, which hands do what, and what effect they have on the fighters.  It’s a literal account meant to convey the mechanics of the fight. We describe what the fighters do and what happens to the fighters.  One of the few things I have in common with Louis Lamour is that we have both spent time in the boxing ring.  No doubt my boxing skills pale in comparison to his as much as my writing skills do – the larger point here is that we both understand the intricacies of the fight, and as such write as fighters for fighters. 

Francis James on the other hand writes to describe the fight itself.  Although written in the first person, it manages to convey the overall sense of what the fight would look like to a bystander.  That’s a neat trick.  Notice how he conveys a sense of the heavy and indomitable destructive force of a big man’s fists with phrases such as, “like rocks at the end of piston rods,” and, “hammers of Thor”.  That’s some evocative language that really drives home the weight of impact.

In just four short paragraphs, James describes a fistfight involving four men that includes multiple attacks and retreats.  Conventional wisdom is that the pulp writers, having been paid by the word, wrote long winded stories full of embellishments in an effort to maximize their payday.  This passage suggests otherwise.  He leaves the details – how did the lawyer and sheriff attack the man, by grappling, hitting his back – up to your imagination.  You can fill those in for yourself.  It’s the difference between describing a bunch of individual trees that are near each other and describing a forest. 

That’s a valuable lesson –spend as much time describing the fight as you do describing what happens to the fighters.

There’s another valuable lesson in the quality of this fight scene.  It’s as fun and exciting as any I’ve ever read, and I found it between the covers of a trash dime magazine.  Maybe these aren’t such trash after all.
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Dime Detective: Arms of the Flame Goddess

The February 1911 issue of Adventure magazine was grounded in the real world.  It featured the real world exploits of a real-life adventurer-pirate and the inventor of the machine gun.  Even the fiction stories took place on a contemporary earth within the realm of the natural world. 

This magazine would have been written for the parlors of blue collar men who had never left Long Island, former soldiers and sailors who served in the Spanish-American war.  A full generation into the Industrial Revolution, these men would have experienced the last gasp of the age of sail, and been looking forward to the age of the atom.  Some of the readers could very well have been the children or grandchildren of actual cattle-driving cowboys.  To put that in perspective, the men of 1911 were as far removed from the golden age of cattle drives as we are from the golden age of disco.  Manned flight was in the stage of social media today; it had been around for a decade, people were finally starting to find a real use for it, but it was clunky and for the uninitiated, kind of scary.  The tales in Adventure reflected that more sedate pace of technological change, with an emphasis on what was, what is, and what might be next year, rather than the fantastic and far-flung futuristic.  There was simply no real need to look too far ahead because every tomorrow still looked pretty much like today.

Fast forward to 1938, on the eve of the Second World War, and now commercial flights are available.  Hitler’s Luftwaffe and the Jap Zeros are fearsome flying machines the likes of which the world had never seen.  They cooperate with ground forces to alarming effect.  The men of the Allied forces are engaged in a furious technological race that forces their whole society to start looking further and further down the road in a desperate attempt to get there first.  Science fiction enters the scene, and suddenly the average Joe doesn’t see ‘fairy tales’ as something for the kids, but something for all of us.  Somewhere in there, a shift occurs, and magazines start incorporating more and more elements of the fantastic.

Enter the April 1938 issue of Dime Mystery Magazine, and it’s lead story, Arms of the Flame Goddessby Francis James.

Three married couples, having invested a few years back in a large patch of undeveloped land out in the rural countryside, embark on a scouting trip.  A logging company wants to clear cut the land, and they want to be sure that they don’t underbid the contract.  While hiking they encounter a near naked flagellant, a strange Christian cultist who whips himself bloody in a savage mockery of Christ’s suffering on the cross.  When he flees, they pursue, only to find him charred to a crisp amid unburnt grass.  The lone clue, a ring of paper dolls linking hands accordion style.  They immediately leave the area only to discover a second ring of the paper dolls on the windshield of their car.  Then things get really weird.

The town isn’t home to a cult of flagellants, it’s held hostage to a cult of flagellants with the power to make you spontaneously combust.  They also command pale dancing girls wreathed in fire who entice men Siren-like into the woods where the cult sacrifices their victims to the flame goddess.

In the end our hero rescues his wife, and the mysterious events turn out to have a perfectly rational explanation.  The cult leaders are only out for the money and power.  They only targetted the protagonists and their party to stop the land deal that would upset their little con job.

The story itself, is unsettling and creepy in a very Lovecraftian sort of way.  The final confrontation involves human sacrifice and graphic violence around a forest bonfire that is a bit surprising to a 21st century reader expecting more Victorian fare.  

This is a Detective magazine, though, not Weird Tales, so mundane explanations are the order of the day.  Things are changing, but men are still rational creatures, and everybody knows that there aren’t really such things as flame goddesses and hexes.  It might be nice to pretend once in a while, but at the end of the day, fairy tales are for kids.

Is it any good? 

Yeah, it’s pretty good.  It sticks pretty close to a pattern that modern day slasher movie fans would recognize with a band of six couples slowly whittled down over the course of events.  It isn’t particularly earth-shaking, but as far as light entertainment goes, I’ve read a lot worse.
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Jolly Good Show, Brexit!

Congratulations to the good people of Great Britain for pulling off a neat trick that we Yanks couldn’t – you’ve regained your independence without firing a shot and without bloodshed.  Must have picked that up from a few of your other colonies.  From this side of the pond, we watched you stand tall the last time somebody tried to unite Europe under a single government, and now you’ve done it again.

Jolly good show.

A quick spin around the Twitsphere revealed three primary reactions among the Britishers who favor foreign rule.  Let’s take a look:

1. Brexit voters are racist.

Psh.  Whatever.  Not an argument.  Next!

2. Brexit voters are old.

Those with more experience, the wise and crafty, did reject foreign rule.  Bear in mind that they recognize all the cool countries are doing it these days.  They know that it’s a lot more fun in the short term.  They also recognize the long term costs, and while eating your Brexit vegetables might not be a whole lot of fun now, someday you’ll thank them for being grownups and expecting you to act like grown-ups, too.  Now run along and play, Junior – the grown-ups have a nation to run.

3.  The markets hate that Brexit won!

About that.  You know those global multi-national corporations that it’s trendy to hate?  They are the ones shaken to the core by Brexit.  They want one market because it is good for their bottom line, not because it is good for the average Briton.  That they are rattled is a good thing.  Britain has sent a warning shot across their prow that the path forward for the multi-nats is not going to be as easy as they thought it would be yesterday.  The people are waking up and looking out for their own interests – not for the interests of the global crony capitalists.  That’s got them shook.  Good.

The huge plunge in Britains index that “wiped out 140 billion” (or whatever the number is up to) was a very useful correction.  That money wasn’t real money – it was bubble money waiting to burst.  Whatever short term pain Britain experiences will more than be offset when that bubble bursts in a big way on the Continent, and the island economy is relatively shielded from the shock by taking their medicine early.  You should be celebrating that dip because it is a sign of return to normalcy.

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Adventure: Looking for Trouble


We now return to a slow progression through the February 1911 edition of Adventure magazine, available online for download in a variety of formats.  This time, we look to the very non-fictional Captain George B. Boynton, a globe trotting sea captain who served under eighteen different flags, writing about his exploits as a gun runner, field marshall, prisoner, and all around adventurer in the 1870s.

Run the numbers.  In 1911 he would have been 40 years older, perhaps in his seventies or eighties, making these the first hand tales of a pirate on the high seas under full cloth sail.  Perhaps one of the last.  Further evidence of the veracity of these tales is available through the magic of the internet, as the full length biography of Captain Boynton, published in 1923, is available online at

According to the preface of that biography the rascal died in bed on January 18, 1911, just a month before these particular tales were published.  If the author is to be believed, these stories were something of a death-bed confession told by a man in the waning months of his life.  As first person tales spun decades later, some embellishment is to be expected, but to readers looking for high adventure, betrayal, daring escapes, and quick witted thinking in the face of death?  Embellish away.

The timing of his death is also interesting.  As the stories in this February issue represent the first time his tales had appeared in print – his biography wouldn’t appear until twelve years later – and his death occurred in January of that year, he would not have lived to have seen them published.

The Captain’s storytelling is pretty much the opposite of Ian Fleming’s.  He wastes very few words on unimportant things like setting, environment, and the five senses, instead preferring to get down to brass tacks as fast as possible.  His rapid fire list of exactly what happened, where, and when, is refreshing to read as a break from a steady diet of inner monologues, character growth, and rambling descriptions of elements that have no impact on the story itself.

Instead, what you get is a bare-bones adventure on and around the high seas very much in the spirit of a Jack Aubrey – it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a few of Aubrey’s adventures are based on those of Captain Boynton – the sort of adventure that sees a simple arms delivery turn into a robbery and impressment in an army fighting against the general who had ordered the guns in the first place.  The stories include big battles, assassination attempts, and fist fights. 

Everyone should have at least one grandfather like Captain Boynton.

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