2020/12/31

The Libertarian Experiment

,,, Has been run, and as everyone who has kids warned for years, making a false idol of freedom has been a disaster.

The Z Man looks at the data:

US Marijuana Laws by State

There are fewer people in the court system for possession charges now, but no reasonable person doubted that claim. If we stopped arresting people for murder, the courts would see a drop in murder cases. The argument for or against legalizing drugs was never about courts of prisons. It is about the overall quality of life. If a big robust criminal justice system is what we need in order to have a high quality of life, only crazy people will complain about that trade-off. Life is nothing but trade-offs.

When you look at what has been happening in the country in total since states began to experiment with drug legalization, a pattern emerges. We have seen a sharp rise in taxes at the state level, some owing to taxes on drug sales, but also a sharp decline in the rule of law. The Western states, where marijuana legalization first started, has seen a collapse in civil order. You have massive homeless camps in Los Angeles, anarchy in Seattle and Portland. Anarcho-tyranny is the rule out west now.

Another point worth mentioning is that the states rushing to legalize drugs have also been some of the worst offenders of Covid lockdowns. California is operating under a bizarre form of martial law. Criminals and bums can run wild in the streets, but normal businesses are being shuttered over Covid. Maine has wrecked their tourist industry over Covid, despite few cases. Massachusetts is operating under a curfew. Maybe these states did not legalize weed for libertarian reasons.

The numbers don't lie. In the past year, the number of murders in Portland rose by 51.5%. Minneapolis saw a 72% rise in the murder rate, and Seattle had a 74% explosion in murders.

It is important to underscore that the collapse of civil order in drug legalizing states is not caused by drug fiends running the streets. The bums, drug fiends, petty criminals and bourgeois revolutionaries are symptoms of a larger decline in civil order. The image that is beginning to emerge is that drug legalization efforts correspond with a collapse in the willingness of state government to maintain order. The Covid hysteria is probably just another indicator of this collapse in civil order.

The decadent, incestuous ruling class that closed down the churches didn't legalize weed because they love liberty. First and foremost, they've renounced any duty to protect us and now seek to actively harm us. Just look at how they let the opioid crisis run rampant.

Second, our rulers see the cracks forming in the current order and need bread and circuses to keep the masses distracted.

Third, the elites want anyone who might object to their tyranny kept dull-witted and weak.

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

And take this sad state of affairs as another lesson in the hierarchy of cultural warfare. For decades now, Libertarian and Conservative opposition to Leftist totalitarianism has relied on appeals to freedom. The result: They lost their liberty and conserved nothing. It was a foregone conclusion that anti-lockdown protests based on the same appeals would be utter failures.

Freedom is moral currency. Its worth wholly depends on the intrinsic value of the goods you can get with it.

To win, it will be absolutely necessary to abandon transactive relativism, stop pushing negatives, and champion the common good.

And Disney, Netflix, and AAA gaming are the circuses half of the equation, so it's also necessary to stop giving money to people who hate you.

Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier

2020/12/30

The Village Troll

The Village Creature 2

My recent reviews of M. Night Shyamalan's Eastrail 177 Trilogy sparked a discussion of the controversial director's other films on and off this blog. One movie in his catalogue that proved more contentious than most was 2004's period thriller The Village.

On the meta level, The Village is noteworthy because it marks the point when general audiences started to turn against Shyamalan. After getting four movies in a row with twist endings, moviegoers began to question whether the golden boy had any other tricks in his tool box.

The Village has always had its defenders, though. I readily admit to being one of them. True, I wasn't crazy about what I thought was the twist ending at the time, but the cinematography, performances, costuming, and score worked so well that the finale didn't spoil my good time.

Last week, I revisited The Village for the first time since I saw it in theaters. And I noticed an apparent discrepancy that inclined me to wonder if the critics haven't been missing something for years, and Shyamalan has successfully pulled one of the greatest cinematic trolls of all time.

We'll exhume the movie for a new autopsy in a moment. First let it be known that there is no in-depth discussion of any M. Night Shyamalan film without spoilers. If you haven't seen The Village, proceed at your own risk. 

Though it's not the risk everybody led you to believe it is.

Synopsis

Lucius Hunt, Noah Percy, and Ivy Walker lead idyllic 19th century lives in the rustic village of Covington. When they're not reaping wheat, sewing fancy shirts, or burying villagers that died of infections, they occupy their free time with hide-and-seek games and whimsical footraces.

wholesome.jpg 

Only one storm cloud darkens the village's doorstep: the tribe of flesh-eating monsters dwelling in the surrounding woods known only as Those We Don't Speak Of.

The village elders, foremost among them Ivy's father, tell everyone not to worry about the clawed, fanged monstrosities surrounding them. You see, the first settlers who founded Covington cut a deal with the creatures--a sort of mutual nonaggression pact. The terms are simple: The villagers don't go into the creatures' woods, and the creatures don't cross the village's borders. Good fences make good neighbors.

Problems arise when Lucius, moved by a young boy's death from illness, starts lobbying the elders to let him venture back to civilization and bring back medicine. Lucius has learned that his mentally retarded friend Noah has entered the woods and returned unharmed. He reasons that the creatures will let the pure of heart pass unmolested, and his purpose is pure.

The elders dig in their heels and deny Lucius' persistent requests. In the meantime, he strikes up a budding romance with Ivy, who went blind at a young age. But not even pointing out that Ivy's sight may have been saved if she'd had access to the latest medical advances moves her father to change his mind. No one from the village goes into the woods, period.

Mr. Walker's stance is vindicated when skinned animals turn up in the fields. This grisly calling card foreshadows a night raid on Covington by the creatures. No one is hurt, but the villagers emerge from their cellars to find their doors marked with crimson--the "bad color" associated with the creatures.

The attack quells talk of venturing to the towns beyond the woods. Lucius and Ivy announce their intent to marry. Skinned livestock continues showing up, despite the elders' peace offering to the creatures. The rising tension snaps when Noah stabs Lucius out of jealousy, proving his heart isn't so pure after all.

With Lucius dying of his infected wounds, the elders reluctantly agree to let blind Ivy make the perilous trip through the woods to town in the hope of saving her beloved. Before she sets out on her quest, her father privately reveals a terrible secret.

Her whole world shaken, Ivy leaves the village and enters the forbidden woods. Both companions charged with escorting her to the road soon forsake her. Freezing rain, darkness, and loneliness assail her. Yet Ivy presses on.

But she's not as alone as she thought, and that chilling fact soon dawns on her.

Here is where Shyamalan reveals what many take to be the movie's twist. In a flashback to the hours before her departure, we see Ivy's father showing her a shed full of monstrous costumes. Those We Don't Speak Of were fabrications all along--bogeymen cooked up by the elders to keep the villagers from leaving.

That's not the only surprise Shyamalan has in store. As she's stalked by something unseen, Ivy recalls her father's admission that he based Those We Don't Speak Of on old legends of strange creatures in the woods. Here we have a classic misdirection that casts doubt on the first twist.

It turns out that Ivy really is being followed. One of the monsters she was raised to fear rushes her, and she tricks it into falling to its death. Shyamalan then pulls a double reversal: Ivy's stalker was Noah in a stolen creature costume.

Ivy makes it out of the woods, and the audience gets another surprise. Covington lies at the heart of a modern-day game preserve. The entire village is a well-meant ruse devised by the elders, each of whom lost a loved one to the rampant disorder of the urban hive, to spare their children the corruption of Clown World.

The main theme of The Village was white flight all along. This plot is so based and red pilled, I have to believe it motivated Disney to give Shyamalan the Barton Fink talk and put him in career time-out until he got with the Cult's program.

But not even that stunning turn is the masterful troll I referred to at the start of this post.

I'm convinced that the double reversal is really a triple reversal deliberately hatched by Shyamalan to thumb his nose at critics.

And befitting a master of the visual language of film, the director left pictorial evidence.

Exhibit A

Here's what Those We Don't Speak Of look like in the movie:

The Village Creature 1

This picture shows the general appearance of the creatures that raid the village, the costumes Mr. Walker shows Ivy, and the costume Noah steals. Note the long claws, porcupine quills, boar tusks, and most importantly, the cloak dyed the "bad color".

Exhibit B

This is the rock painting which Lucius states, and which the elders don't deny, depicts the creatures in the woods:

The Village Rock Painting

It doesn't match at all. The painting more closely resembles a bear or lion rearing up on its hind legs than a clearly bipedal sloth-hedgehog-pig-thing.

And in telling contrast to the fake monsters, the creature on the rock is entirely rendered in the "safe color" used to ward off Those We Don't Speak Of.

Exhibit C

The pit where Noah falls to his death:

The Village Noah Death

Ivy almost falls into the hole herself while she's being stalked by a hidden presence in the woods. Later, when Noah chases her in the creature costume, she runs back to the pit and jumps aside at the last second. He falls for the trap, with lethal consequences.

This sequence of events raises the question: If Noah was tailing Ivy all along and saw her slip into the same hole, why did he run headlong into it a couple minutes later?

No use pointing to his mental disability. He'd proved spatially aware enough to come and go from the woods undetected multiple times; catch wild animals, skin them, and leave them around the village without getting caught; and break out of a locked room with a stolen costume. He also shanked the strongest guy around. Noah might be a bit dim and have trouble regulating his emotions, but he's quick on his feet and cunning.

The logical conclusion is that it wasn't Noah watching Ivy from hiding when she had her near-fatal brush with the pit.

But then who or what was it?

Ivy's ears playing tricks on her? Highly unlikely to the point of undermining her character if true. Ivy's been blind since childhood. The movie establishes her other senses--particularly her hearing--as especially keen to compensate. Logically she'd be more likely than a sighted person to sense a stalker hiding from sight.

Something was following Ivy in the woods. It wasn't Noah. Again, what was it?

This production still gives us a pretty big clue:

That's an official creature costume from The Village. It is clearly not, however, one of Those We Don't Speak Of.

The Village Creature 4

Which means there were two different kinds of monsters in The Village.

Two pieces of behind-the-scenes trivia from the film's production shed light on this dichotomy. The original script for The Village was leaked months before release. As the story goes, Shyamalan reshot the ending to head off internet-spread spoilers. Some account for the two sets of monster costumes with the explanation that Shyamalan found the originals unconvincing and had his costume department replace them with the quilled, red-cloaked versions we see on film.

I submit a modified theory. Shyamalan took advantage of the reshoots necessitated by the script leak--he may have leaked it himself--to confound his critics. The leaks already had them complaining about the twist ending, so he did what skilled craftsmen have always done: He worked discarded material back into the finished product to create a secret twist.

It turns out there were real monsters after all. These were the beasts from the old legends that inspired Walker, and which the Indians who'd preceded the white settlers painted on rocks.

Shyamalan is known for using color to convey meaning in his films. So meticulous a director wouldn't leave frames of creatures painted in the safe color by accident. What this detail tells us is that the real creatures aren't dangerous predators. Instead, they're elusive, retiring beasts much like popular depictions of Bigfoot.

Would a man as concerned for his family's safety as Walker move from the urban jungle to the middle of woods infested with man-eating monsters?

Again, not without undercutting his whole character.

It's much more fun to think that Shyamalan baited his critics into griping about The Village's twist--Roger Ebert placed it on his Ten Most Hated list--as a setup for the real twist, which is a 180 degree subversion of what critics mistakenly believed.

And he's kept it as his own private joke for sixteen years.


If you'd like to pull that kind of galaxy brain head trip on your readers, hire me to edit your book.

2020/12/29

Falling Down the Stairs

Pusher Robot stairs

Spend some time hanging around dissident circles online, and you'll soon be introduced to the concept of the Collapse. Though formulated by philosophers of history a hundred years ago, the idea that civilization now faces a great decline is popular with ex-Trump supporters discouraged by the MAGA program's failure. Embracing the Collapse, they say, is the ultimate red pill.

Not that you can really blame them. A fixed characteristic of our age has been Clown World's baffling resilience in the face of every mitigation effort. The Tea Party failed. Attempts to take back old media failed. Online movements failed. Building new platforms failed. Sending Trump to reform the system failed--and spectacularly, in a frenzy of election fraud that effectively ended representative government.

The heralds of the Collapse see these signs and correctly conclude that the current system is broken beyond repair. Or perhaps, a system originally designed to enact the will of the people has slowly been replaced with a machine engineered to squeeze all value out of the middle class and siphon it to the elite.

Mistaking the problem for mere corruption was where Conservatives went wrong. Corruption denotes that an institution has been perverted from its original purpose. There's still time to set it back on the right track. Our present kleptocracy was conceived to immiserate us. 

When someone replaces your La-Z-Boy with a torture rack, no amount of adjustment will turn it into a recliner. Such a system cannot be reformed from the inside. That is why every self-styled reformer Republicans send to Congress immediately becomes a uniparty stooge.

Another disastrous mistake Conservatives make is assuming the gangster state is the cause of our woes and not a symptom. They should know better, too. The Founding Fathers warned us what would happen if the people's moral character dipped below the minimum level needed to maintain the system. You can look out your window and see the results.

The truth is, barring a miracle we don't deserve, the divine chastisement we've richly earned will come upon us. It's gonna happen. You can't stop it.

Now, most people speak of the Collapse as falling off a cliff. A look at history shows that's not how societal decline happens. Wiser heads than mine have observed that civilizational collapse is more like falling down the stairs. It's a long flight, but you only tumble a little ways before there's a sudden stop. 

People mistake this respite as a return to normal, but it's really just one of many landings on the descent. A people can stay on one of these plateaus for a while, but eventually they tip over the edge again.

What does this process look like in real life? Not like Mad Max--not at first.

The first thing to go is social trust. Shared understandings and the ability to trust one's neighbors are the fuel societies run on. "They took our jobs!" was exactly the kind of lame economic argument Conservatives were conditioned to lose with. The real threat posed by diversity was the documented erosion of social trust and cohesion evident in neighborhoods as they diversified.

If you're Generation Y or older, you remember how neighborhoods where men borrowed each other's lawnmowers and kids played outside after dark gave way to blighted tracts of rentals with barred windows. Now magnify that to a civilizational scale.

We're already seeing processes everyone took for granted slip out of the sphere of knowledge. It's more than Apple stripping features from each new iPhone. Planes are falling out of the sky, and ships are plowing into each other at sea. We could not go back to the moon if we wanted to.

See Author David Stewart for more on the coming Dark Age:


Even the loss of social trust is just an instrumental, not a primary, cause of the Collapse.

Before we lost faith in each other, we lost faith in God.

Just as Jesus Christ remedied the original and worst Fall, He alone can save us from the loathsome state we've dug ourselves into.

It's all downhill from here unless we each stand up, take up our cross, and make the penitential climb back toward the state of grace.


How far could we fall before we repent? For a vision of the post-Collapse future that's proving more accurate every day, read my mecha thriller Combat Frame XSeed

Combat Frame XSeed - Brian Niemeier

2020/12/28

The Plural of Omnibus

Del Arroz Wright Omnibus

It's often remarked in the dissident art scene that right-wing creators don't support each other. Authors like Jon Del Arroz are making a conscious effort to cross-promote more likeminded artists, which is a hopeful sign.

Jon recently did me the honor of inviting me on-stream with science fiction grandmaster John C. Wright. As is customary on streams where Mr. Wright is involved, the conversation covered several topics ranging from the plural of "omnibus" to why otherwise normal people join the Death Cult

Give it a watch.


By way of a spontaneous encore, I crashed author David V. Stewart's Newpub Gaming stream on Saturday.  If you have more of a literary interest, our fielding of audience writing questions may be up your alley.

Watch my appearance on David's stream now.

If you're an author in need of professional advice to realize the best version of your book, you can hire me as your editor.

2020/12/24

The Eastrail 177 Trilogy: Part 3

Glass 2019

The following is a review of the third movie in a trilogy of films, all of which have twist endings; all by a director who only knows how to write twist endings. Be forewarned: spoilers ahead.

Confession time: I didn't know that M. Night Shyamalan had released two sequels to Unbreakable until Red Letter Media reviewed Glass, part three in the Eastrail 177 Trilogy.

This series started strong with what is arguably Shyamalan's best film. Unbreakable showed the origins of two types of superman--the Christian and the Campbellian--and explored the moral implications of both.

Moviegoers had to wait sixteen years for the first sequel. By all metrics, they were not disappointed. Split treated audiences to a tour de force portrait of a third superman archetype--painted on nine different canvases. In contrast to the glorified man upholding the natural law and the posthuman who is above human law, Split chronicles the birth of an ├╝bermensch who makes his own law.

Split was a critical and commercial success hailed as a return to form for the once-celebrated director. As one commenter has pointed out, it probably helped that Split was based on unfilmed scenes cut from the Unbreakable script. It feels like early aughts Shyamalan because early aughts Shyamalan wrote it.

Fresh off Split's success, Shyamalan decided to conclude what is now known as the Eastrail 177 Trilogy with 2019's Glass.

Unlike its immediate predecessor, the third Eastrail 177 film was conceived after the director stopped taking criticism. It presents a viewing experience that markedly diverges from Unbreakable and Split, and the title hints at how.

Astute readers will recall that my reviews of the first two films in this trilogy focused on the characters. That won't be the case here because unlike them, Glass is mainly plot-driven.

Three weeks after Kevin Crumb attains his final form as the Beast, vigilante David Dunn, AKA the Overseer, tracks the murderer down. Their stalemate is broken by a SWAT team and a mysterious civilian woman. The officers subdue the Beast with strobing lights--a weakness never mentioned in Split--and the woman exploits Overseer's reluctance to harm the police in order to secure his surrender.

The mystery woman is soon introduced as Dr. Ellie Staple, a self-described specialist in treating delusions of grandeur. Staple confines Kevin and David to the same asylum where Mr. Glass has been kept confined and drugged since his arrest at the end of Unbreakable.

Dr. Staple endeavors to convince Kevin and David that their superpowers are mere delusions. She nearly succeeds, mainly because the plot calls for Kevin and David to momentarily doubt themselves.

Staple's efforts are spoiled by Mr. Glass, who has been faking his drug-addled state. In a series of meticulously calculated moves, Glass manipulates everyone and everything around him into freeing Beast and Overseer and broadcasting their undeniably superhuman brawl to the world.

All three supermen are unceremoniously killed off during the battle, but Dr. Staple--who is revealed at the eleventh hour as an agent of a secret cabal bent on suppressing superbeings' existence--has her plans utterly frustrated.

And that's about it.


The good

As before, James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson are a joy to watch as they reprise their roles. The Beast and Mr. Glass are even more fun when Kevin's 24 personalities and Glass' schemes interact.

Speaking of which, Mr. Glass' scheme is worthy of the greatest chess master villains. The movie sets out to prove that the mastermind is the most dangerous type of villain, and it succeeds convincingly.

It's also cool to see David Dunn go two rounds with someone on his power level, but it should have been ten rounds.

There's also some satisfaction to getting closure on this three-film story, though Glass' ending is the least satisfying of the three.


The bad

Unbreakable and Split managed to avoid fully succumbing to the realism trend that's ruined superhero movies. Glass falls right into the plausibility pit--and does it on purpose. Shyamalan even boasted that Glass is the first truly grounded superhero film.

Why anyone would want a truly grounded superhero film is never explained.

Whereas Mr. Glass and the Beast respectively inject intrigue and energy into the story, the other two main characters don't measure up. Overseer is a comparative nonentity who spends most of the film either getting pummeled or sulking. His lowly death manages to be gratuitous and prosaic at the same time.

Dr. Staple is even worse. She looks like a post-wall dead egger trying to navigate the singles scene, but she sounds like a midwit's misconception of how smart people talk. Think Sex and the City meets Big Bang Theory.

Sadly, her character rings true, because condescending schoolmarms backed by the state's guns are who's running our lives now.

Score another one for realism.

Then deduct one for the borderline fantastical opening scene of two ginger kids subjecting an Asian man to the Knock Down Game, only to be chased off by a black pedestrian.

Glass Superman Punch
The face of street crime in Glass' fully grounded setting

Intersectional fantasies aside, Glass' main demerit is how it retroactively undermines a main theme of Unbreakable.

The first Eastrail 177 film was the best because it showed the triumph of an everyman who discovers his true calling as a superhero in conflict with another superman who's definitively established as evil.

Glass overturns David Dunn's victory, and in a way that strips him of moral agency. Mr. Glass wasn't Overseer's equal after all. It turns out he was superior to all the other supermen the whole time. They might be superhumans, but he is the maker of superhumans.

In the end, both Overseer and the Beast are just puppets dancing on Mr. Glass' strings. For what purpose? To thwart Dr. Staple and her secret society--who are evil because Ellie sets off Overseer's sin sense right before his death.

But the same sin sense identified Mr. Glass as evil, so why exactly are we supposed to root for him against Staple? Yes, she's trying to deprive the world of a superhero by convincing David he's just a normal man, but she's also trying to contain a murderous cannibal and a terrorist responsible for 500 deaths.

Shyamalan falls into the same trap that makes X-Men ridiculous if you take a minute to think about it. If there are people who can throw cars around and shrug off bullets, maybe we'd better keep a handle on them for the sake of public order.

But supermen are cool. And besides, David sensed that Ellie is evil, so Mr. Glass is right to stop her. Except David also sensed that Mr. Glass is evil, so it's a moral wash.

"Ah!" the Reddit ethicist will say, "There's only a moral equivalence between Staple and Glass if you presuppose David's Christian morality as the default. The movie's real point is that Mr. Glass is indeed above outmoded ethical standards. In the final analysis, the Eastrail 177 Trilogy sides with the Campbellian superman."

To which I respond:
  1. Christian morality is the default, so the movie's point is evil.
  2. It never succeeds in making that point, since the only proof it presents that Dr. Staple is evil depends on an appeal to David's morality. But if Glass is right and Christian morals aren't universal, binding even angels and devils, then we must disregard Overseer's sin sense, and the film's moral conflict is a wash.
Based on the foregoing, I have to agree with commenters who've asserted that something befell Shyamalan last decade that threw off his internal compass. The man who produced this moral relativist fable is not the same one who said the scariest part of Signs was a good man losing his faith in God.

In the end, the Eastrail 177 Trilogy was sucked into the mainstream cape flick singularity.


For a reenergized genre done right, check out my mech thriller Combat Frame XSeed: S!

Combat Frame XSeed: S

2020/12/23

The Eastrail 177 Trilogy: Part 2

Split 2016

"Spoiler-free M. Night Shyamalan review" is an oxymoron. Read on at your own risk if you haven't yet seen Split.

The first decade of the twenty-first century saw director M. Night Shyamalan burst onto the scene with back-to-back hits. Unfortunately for his fans, the auteur's curse would strike Shyamalan at almost the same time it struck George Lucas.

After finishing the aughts with a string of one-note, onanistic vanity projects, the former whiz kid was reduced to directing hackwork Brand X tie-ins and other stars' vanity vehicles. As the 2010s rolled on, Shyamalan found himself in a rut most careers don't escape from.

Then he remembered a character cut from 2000's flawed but brilliant gem Unbreakable.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The plot of Shyamalan's 2016 picture Split is deceptively complex and would falsely come off as "The Silence of the Lambs as told by Buffalo Bill's victims," so this review will focus on Shyamalan's greatest strength: his characters.

Kevin Crumb is a Philadelphia man suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. For years, he has worked with maverick psychologist Karen Fletcher to integrate his 23 personalities, or alters. Kevin's original identity fragmented due to physical abuse inflicted from a young age by his mother.

Brief references are made to Kevin getting into trouble due to the actions of his undesirable personas, who call themselves the Horde. But under the leadership of main good personality, Barry, Kevin has found regular work and a place of his own.

All is not as it seems, however. Dr. Fletcher slowly comes to realize that Dennis, a member of the Horde, has taken control of Kevin and started impersonating Barry at his therapy sessions to throw off suspicion. Dennis is a meticulous and highly intelligent schemer with a history of sexual impropriety involving young women--three of whom have just gone missing from a local mall.

This being a thriller, of course Dennis and the rest of the Horde are keeping the three girls locked up in an undisclosed basement. One of the abductees, Casey, builds a rapport with Horde member Hedwig. Despite being a perpetual nine-year-old, Hedwig alone has the power to give any other personality control of Kevin's body at will. It was he who overthrew Barry and freed Dennis so no one would make fun of him anymore.

As if being held captive by a certified madman weren't trouble enough, Casey soon learns that she and her friends are in truly dire peril. The Horde have a nightmarish motive for the abductions beyond Dennis' degenerate proclivities. The undesirable personalities have formed a cult entirely within Kevin devoted to a theretofore unknown twenty-fourth personality known only as the Beast. The girls are sacrifices intended to make the Beast manifest.

Dr. Fletcher confronts Dennis in therapy and questions him about the Beast--out of professional interest as much as concern for her patient. In her years of studying Kevin's disorder, she has developed a theory that the lesser changes evident from one alter to the next--one can be righthanded and another lefthanded; their IQs differ; one of Kevin's alters is even diabetic while he is not--could be a key to the next stage of human evolution.

The Horde see the Beast as the validation and ultimate expression of this theory. They revere him as superhuman; practically a god. Those who have been broken by suffering are superior, not inferior, to those who've never known pain. When the Beast emerges, he will devour the impure and avenge the broken.

And emerge he does. Casey is spared from the Beast's rampage only when he sees the scars from her own childhood trauma. Telling her to rejoice in her superiority over her lessers, the Beast vanishes into a maze of steam tunnels and leaves Casey to contemplate the wondrous horrors she's witnessed.

But that's not the twist ending. The real surprise is so subtly hinted at as to be unforeseeable before the final scene cameo that gives it away. All Shyamalan gives the audience to go on is:

  • Split is set in Philadelphia.
  • Kevin was left to his mother's torments when his father boarded a train and never returned.
  • Hedwig describes the Beast as extremely muscular with a flowing mane and long fingers.
Observant Shyamalan fans may remember seeing something matching that description before ...

Active Comics

Exceptionally observant fans may have taken note of this blink-and-you-miss-it sequence from the same movie:

Kevin Crumb

It occurs in Unbreakable when David Dunn's sin-detecting clairsentience pings a woman in a crowd whom we're given to understand abuses her son.

And indeed, as the last scene in Split reveals, it is a sequel to Unbreakable, filmed sixteen years after its predecessor.

What is now the Eastrail 177 series has its third superman, and just as David Dunn is the antipode to Mr. Glass, the Beast stands apart from them both.

To recap, David's superhuman archetype is that of the unfallen man still gifted with the preternatural integrity and knowledge everyone else lost to original sin. He enforces the natural and divine law.

Mr. Glass is the posthuman supergenius of Campbellian science fiction. He believes that he acts in mankind's best interests while holding himself above ordinary human judgment since the masses cannot comprehend his advanced thought process.

The Beast represents a third type of superman--Nietzsche's ├╝bermensch with a twist. While he claims liberation from society's morals and sets himself up as his own god, the Beast dedicates himself to avenging the broken. After all, it was the trauma which caused what society considers an infirmity that unlocked the Beast's superhuman power. He sees the abused and the tormented as other potential superbeings like himself. Therefore, he acknowledges a duty to protect them.

Viewed in this light, the Beast is less of a pure villain and more of flawed hero or villain-protagonist. Like David, he protects the weak according to a code. Like Mr. Glass, he believes that his self-made morality justifies behavior that society at large considers evil.

Another parallel with Unbreakable is Split's reliance on a virtuoso acting performance to suspend viewers' disbelief in an inherently silly magic system. James McAvoy's Horde beats the odds and tops Samuel L. Jackson's turn as Mr. Glass. Through voice and mannerisms alone, McAvoy is equally convincing as a repressed stalker, a patrician Englishwoman, an exploited young boy, and an atavistic superman.

Split doesn't quite hit the heights of Unbreakable, though. The sequel's main premise is murky and frankly nonsensical. Partly as a result, its plot is rather convoluted. The glut of viewpoint characters may further confuse casual viewers. Happily, the excellent performances help maintain interest.

Few lapsed artists achieve a glorious return to form like Shyamalan crafted with Split. If you liked Unbreakable but haven't seen its belated sequel, I advise you to remedy that oversight--preferably via the used DVD bin.

With a $100 million hit on his hands for the first time in too long, Shyamalan set out to film a third entry in the Eastrail 177 Trilogy. We'll examine Split's sequel tomorrow.

In the meantime, please enjoy Hedwig's breakdancing.


And don't give money to people who hate you.

don't give money to people who hate you

2020/12/22

The Eastrail 177 Trilogy: Part 1

Eastrail 177 1

They say that when you've got it, you've got it. Then, at some point, you lose it.

That would have been an apt summation of M. Night Shyamalan's directorial career in the mid-late aughts. After an early hit that invited frequent comparisons to Steven Spielberg, Shyamalan was widely perceived as having squandered his promise on a run of self-indulgent schlock. The man who'd been the toast of Hollywood became joke fodder for a late-night puppet show.

Shyamalan kicked off the 2010s with a critically panned live-action cartoon adaptation and a Jaden Smith vehicle nobody asked for. Everybody thought the ex-golden boy had peaked too early. He seemed fated to serve out the rest of his career doing the studios' scut work.

Before Shyamalan's fall from grace--and after, as we'll see in the coming days--he gave moviegoers just cause to conclude that his success wasn't a fluke after all. Fresh off the cinema sensation of The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan followed up with what would retroactively become Part 1 of the Eastrail 177 trilogy: 2000's superhero thriller Unbreakable.

As with its direct predecessor, Unbreakable played its marketing campaign close to the vest. The teaser trailer and television spots gave only scant clues that it was a superhero movie at all. What the ads did reveal of the film's premise was nonetheless intriguing.

A passenger train derails outside Philadelphia. There is a lone survivor, miraculously unharmed. He turns out to be a middle-aged everyman who's as baffled by his situation as the medical experts who confirm the disaster left him without a scratch.

Ask any professional writer, including yours truly, and you'll hear that a good story is 1% premise and 99% execution.

Damn, but Unbreakable has a solid gold premise, though!

Unbreakable breaks another screenwriting convention in that its plot synopsis doesn't sound dumb. It immediately stokes curiosity that practically compels viewing of the movie, just to find out how the miracle happened.

That same driving need is shared by one of the film's major supporting characters, which is a brilliant feat of characterization. But more on that later.

For now, be warned that discussing the movie further without spoilers is effectively impossible. This is a twenty-year-old flick, so if you haven't seen it, that's on you.

Getting back to our protagonist, David Dunn--played by the newly cueballed Bruce Willis--is a working class stiff on the wrong end of a midlife crisis. His marriage is on the rocks, and his career has hit a dead end. In an eerily prescient nod to the film's director, the college football glory days of David's peak are many years behind him. Walking away from the trainwreck is the first extraordinary event to befall David in decades.

News of David's miraculous survival brings him into contact with a man named Elijah Price--portrayed by a pre-Nick Fury Samuel L. Jackson. Elijah is an art dealer who escaped from the agony of a rare bone disease by immersing himself in comic books.

Mister Glass

In a meeting at his gallery, Elijah reveals his theory to David. Comics are the last vestiges of a pictorial history dating back to cave paintings. Their four-color panels preserve a secret history passed down through Egyptian hieroglyphs, stained glass windows, and 15th century woodcuts. Elijah's life's work has convinced him that comic books stand at the end of a millennia-long telephone game, transmitting garbled but real information about the human condition.

This is the part they didn't tell you about in the ads, which was smart, because this is where the movie almost stops working. If anybody other than Samuel L. Jackson had delivered the spiel about a bunch of nice Jewish guys from New York unwittingly carrying the torch passed down from ancient Greek poets and Mayan high priests, Unbreakable would have gone the way of The Happening

Thankfully, Jackson makes his speech with unflinching sincerity and actually manages to sell the audience on it.

He's not as successful at selling David on the notion that he survived the crash because he's a real-life superhero. Or rather, he's the reality that cape comics only glimpse in a mirror darkly.

Speaking of which, yes, the character names "David" and "Elijah" are thematically significant. More on that in a minute.

David goes home convinced that Elijah is a crank. His son, on the other hand, isn't as skeptical. Elijah's influence begins having subtly positive effects on David's life. Asking his boss how many sick days he's taken, at Elijah's suggestion, earns David a small raise for perfect attendance. In a proto-red pill moment, the mere hint that her husband might be the superman rekindles his wife's desire for him.

In this act, Shyamalan does a fine job exploring the mystery of whether David might really be superhuman. He presents the evidence with just enough plausible deniability and red herrings to keep viewers guessing. Even Elijah has reservations upon learning that David suffered a bout of pneumonia as a child and lost his shot at the NFL due to an injury suffered in a car accident.

The one bit of misdirection that comes off as cheating is the unexplained false positive returned by David's crime-sensing ESP. It's not clear why he flagged Jai--director Shyamalan in a recurring cameo--as a drug dealer but failed to turn up any contraband in a subsequent patdown.

Anyway, Elijah manages to prove David's powers at great personal cost to himself. David uses his abilities to rescue two children held hostage by a madman. It is when he and his friend and mentor Elijah finally shake hands that David's ESP reveals the twist that Shyamalan has become notorious for.

David is not the only superhuman. Elijah engineered the crash of Eastrail 177--as well as two other mass murders--to find his polar opposite: an invulnerable man to balance his extreme vulnerability.

Elijah at last has proof that his birth was not a mistake. He, too, is a superman--but not a superhero.

"I should have known," Elijah calls after David as the stunned hero leaves to summon the police. "The kids--they called me Mr. Glass."

The revelation of a second superhuman retroactively introduces one of Unbreakable's main themes at the end of the movie. It's ground previously trod by the likes of Watchmen and The Wrath of Khan, but Shyamalan's fresh perspective makes revisiting the morality of the superman worthwhile.

One reason Unbreakable has had such staying power is because of the questions it leaves viewers with at the end. What if superhumans were real? Would they be forces for good or evil? Can ordinary humans even fit superhuman behavior into categories like "good" and "evil"?

David Dunn and Mr. Glass represent opposing answers to these questions--in every detail of their characters. David, as his messianic name implies, is a savior character. His powers--physical integrity and infused knowledge--are the same which prelapsarian man possessed in the garden and which the blessed will possess at the resurrection. He embodies the Christian concept of the superman: a saint who undergoes theosis by grace.

Even David's weakness to water--which sucks for someone living on a planet whose surface is 70% covered with the stuff--alludes to baptismal immersion as a type of death prior to rebirth in Christ.

Also like the saints, David has a mission. This aspect of his character is poignantly handled when he confides in Elijah about waking up each morning haunted by sadness he can neither shake nor explain. It is only taking up his mission to save the innocent and punish sinners that exorcises this sadness.

Skipping ahead a bit, David's superhero name turns out to be the Overseer. The Greek word for "overseer" is episkopos, which the Church renders in English as "bishop".

David's awakening to his mission by a man named Elijah further testifies to his divine election. David is a divinized soul given special gifts to enforce the precepts of natural and divine law. He exercises his appointed role of Overseer by serving those in his charge.

Mr. Glass, in contrast, is a wholly different type of superhuman. He represents the Campbellian ideal of the superman as posthuman product of evolution. Like the typical evolved humans of sci fi's silver age, Mr. Glass' frail body is more than made up for by his superior mind. Unbreakable only hints at Glass' genius. The third film in the trilogy demonstrates what a mastermind truly is.

Like Star Trek's Khan Noonien Singh, Mr. Glass believes that his superior status exempts him from moral judgment by lesser men. By his calculus, murdering 500 innocent people to discover the Overseer was not only an acceptable loss--but morally justified.

Glass is more than an ends-means consequentialist who sees the good David will do as proportionally greater than the loss of life he caused. He transcends mere lists of pros and cons with his theory of emergent human evolution. Derailing Eastrail 177 uncovered two supermen and proved Glass' theory. Since he and David are special, there must be more people out there who are oblivious to how extraordinary they are--perhaps many more.

To Glass' way of thinking, he's not just giving the world a superhero, he's ushering in the next stage of human advancement. What man is fit to judge the maker of supermen?

Mr. Glass shares another trait with other superhumans who fancy themselves above human morality: hubris. David has the power to detect evil, and this power judges Elijah guilty. Since his own superhuman status is contingent upon David's, Mr. Glass can't deny David's judgement without destroying the internal consistency of his own theory.

It's not clear if that implicit condemnation of Mr. Glass' actions is deliberate. If it is, a great many critics have grossly underestimated M. Night Shyamalan.

In the final analysis, Unbreakable is a flawed--but not that flawed--masterpiece. Its call to cast off the mediocrity and fear that too often keep us from realizing our potential is sorely needed today.

That analysis isn't entirely final, though. Tomorrow we'll take a look at the belated second film in the Eastrail 177 Trilogy.

Split

Until then, here's some reading material to keep you entertained.

Combat Frame XSeed: S - Brian Niemeier

2020/12/21

Hiding Wealth

Hidden Wealth

*Disclaimer: The following is not intended to be, and should not be taken as, investment advice.*

Perhaps the greatest disservice done to inmates of the American educational system, besides teaching them to hate themselves, is keeping them ignorant of wealth.

This ignorance isn't limited to the means of wealth creation. Most people have a false notion of what being wealthy really means.

Here's a test to see if you're one of them.

Andrew earns a salary of $250,000 a year at his corporate job. He leases a new Nissan Murano and rents a 3,000 square-foot house. Subscriptions to Disney+, Netflix, and several MMOs keep him entertained. He orders from Uber Eats most nights. After rent and student loan payments, credit card bills, utilities, insurance premiums, and video game DLC fees, he has $400 in cash at the end of each month.

Bill makes $48,000 a year as a writer. He doesn't earn a wage but draws royalties from his 21 published books each month. He cooks at home, only buys new clothes when the old ones wear out and doesn't have Disney+ or Netflix. Unlike Andrew, Bill drives a 10-year-old pickup he paid cash for, owns a house valued at $60,000 that he bought for $45,000, and makes regular contributions to an indexed mutual fund and a Roth IRA. Like Andrew, Bill ends up with $400 in his pocket after monthly expenses.

Who is wealthier--Andrew or Bill?

Most people, upon first meeting Andrew with his fashionable clothes and cool ride; and Bill stepping out of his decade-old Tundra in a Wal-Mart jacket, would assume it's the former.

And they'd be dead wrong.

Because except for the clothes on his back and a collection of rapidly depreciating home electronics, Andrew doesn't own anything.

Cue the objection: "But Andrew pulls down 250K a year!"

Yes, and he's got no more to show for it than a coke dealer who funnels all his money up his nose.

Rule 1 of accumulating wealth: Don't get high on your own supply.

Rule 2: Know the all-important difference between wealth and income.

  • Income: Cash flow derived from some activity
  • Wealth: Appreciating assets that generate passive or semi-passive income
In the two examples above, Andrew's work gives him respectable cash flow. Too bad for him, he spends that cash on perishable consumer goods, recurring charges that don't create equity, and depreciating liabilities.

Bill, on the other hand, has multiple sources of wealth. His books, once published, continue to earn royalties which constitute a modest but passive income stream. They also include bundles of rights which Bill could license for additional royalties, residuals, etc.

Note to authors: Do you think of your books as long-term investments? If not, start now.

Vehicles depreciate, so Bill's truck isn't his biggest asset on its face. He could still borrow against the pink slip if he gets desperate or sell it for a little quick cash. More importantly though, it's a truck. As Nick Rochefort says, if you've got a truck, you've always got a job. 

Say Bill's friend needs a load of tools hauled across town. Bill can take the gig for gas + 50 bucks. People need stuff lugged around even in the hardest of times. Absent other income, Bill won't be putting on the Ritz, but he won't starve, either.

You are not allowed to go car shopping until you watch this video:

Then there's Bill's house. It's probably his most versatile asset. For starters, he's got equity in it. Let's get creative, though. Say he decides to rent the place out for $1000 per month. That alone increases his cash flow by 25%. That's not all, though. The house's value increased by $15,000 since he bought it, raising his net worth. Maintaining a rental property affords him certain tax breaks, as well.

In light of the preceding, it shouldn't be surprising that home ownership is the single biggest contributing factor to household wealth.

If you've been following this blog for a while, you probably aren't surprised that Generation Y has the lowest home ownership rates of any extant cohort, either.

Gen Y were the first test subjects of the global elites' current indoctrination scheme. That long-gestating plan is now coming to the fore as our rulers unveil their aim to prevent their subjects from owning anything.

Mass media and the schools spent decades hiding wealth creating knowledge and conditioning everyone to mistake conspicuous consumption for wealth. Hence the disturbing lack of opposition among people under 40 to being reduced to neo-serfdom.

All the more reason to learn about and start obtaining wealth while it's still relatively easy. Author David Stewart expands on these concepts in his recent video. Give it a watch.


If you're an author, publishing your own books is an often overlooked way of generating wealth that's now totally within your control. If you're ready to go pro, take advantage of my professional editing services. I used the same skills to write and publish my own best selling books.

Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier

2020/12/18

Newpub Marketing Manual

Boomer Laptop

Embarrassing admission time: I have a chronic case of Boomer tech when it comes to social media.

Longtime readers know I relentlessly advocate for elevating publishing out of the oldpub tar pits and into the newpub promised land. I'm the first to ditch obsolete publishing bromides and embrace newly emergent best practices.

Yet is was recently pointed out to me that my Twitter game was amateur hour. In effect, I'd been using the platform without reading the instruction manual.

The first step is admitting the problem. Many people forget that you then have to take the other steps.

I'm pleased to report that I have at long last entered Twitter noob recovery with the help of savvy creators like Adam Lane Smith, Jeff Putnam, and Zac Small.

Which Twitter vices have these gentlemen helped me identify and overcome?

First and foremost, they made me realize I'd been stuck in the Oldpub Marketing Department Mindset. My approach to Twitter used to be mechanistically tweeting A, B, C, & D type tweets X times per day. Straight out the legacy media marketing playbook.

What my fine colleagues helped me realize was that by taking this approach, I'd been talking at potential readers instead of talking with them.

Hang around the indie publishing scene for any length of time, and you'll hear authors--even some big names--swear on a stack that Twitter is death to book sales.

Try an experiment and check out the timelines of authors who say they can't sell books on Twitter. Nine times out of ten, they're not engaging with readers in optimal ways for the platform.

If, like me, you've heard it said that the key to Twitter success is authentic engagement, but you didn't have the first clue what that meant, allow me to expand on the concept.


Authenticity is key

Most importantly, but perhaps counterintuitively, you've got to be genuine in how you present yourself.

People are so inundated with fakes and prefab personalities that they're starving for interactions with real human beings.

A lot of brand gurus will tell you to put up a slick front that portrays you as some kind of infallible ubermensch. That kind of public image comes off as dull. In storytelling terms--and marketing is storytelling--it's the Mary Sue of branding.

Flesh-and-blood human beings who encounter everyday challenges--and sometimes fail--resonate with people far more than unblemished bronze idols.

If you want to build trust, you have to present yourself on the level, warts and all.

Converse, don't dictate

As for the nuts & bolts, you foster engagement by adding value.
  • Retweet quality content.
  • Don't just RT. Include our own insightful commentary. It's gotta be more than, "Agreed" or "Concur".
  • Like and RT anytime someone comments on and RTs your tweets.
  • Don't be afraid to tag in users with bigger followings than yours.
  • Don't argue with users whose followings are smaller than yours.
  • Talking politics is a double-edged sword. You'll gain followers, but they'll expect you to talk politics all the time.
  • If you do go the political pundit route, stake out a position, be willing to change your mind when new information presents itself, and be up front with your followers. Don't shill.
Most importantly, social media is just what it says on the tin--media for your art and ideas. Author marketing starts with writing books your audience loves to read. 

99.99% of new authors don't know the subtle but crucial techniques for writing gripping, unputdownable books. You won't pick them up at writers' workshops or by osmosis, either.

Hardly a day goes by without an author client thanking me for bringing out the best version of his book. If you're serious about reaching an audience; if you're pro enough to work with an editor who'll give it to you straight, I can take your 3 star book to 5 stars.

And I do author marketing consults, too.

If you want to get serious, get in touch.

2020/12/17

The New Speakeasy

speakeasy

An old Libertarian axiom dictates that government crackdowns on undesirable transactions don't destroy those markets, they just create black markets. The Roaring 20s speakeasy was a classic example that emerged in response to Prohibition. Today in the Whimpering 20s, illegal commerce is seeing a resurgence as the continued lockdowns are making ordinary activities illegal. This is a digital age, so much like meetings have been replaced by Zoom calls, live streams have replaced backroom dive bars as the new speakeasies.

This is why Republicans' latest effort to shame their base into voting for them rings hollow. We're supposed to envision a two-seat GOP Senate majority as Liberty Prime defending America from Chinese communism. In reality, Big Tech has been steadily imposing a social credit system on us while Republicans do nothing.

Not exactly nothing. When the people elected the first President in decades who made countering China's economic warfare a priority, the GOP worked tirelessly to thwart his mandate. Trump will leave office with none of his agenda passed into law, despite having House and Senate majorities for two years and a Senate majority for four.

People who are red-pilled on the ruling monoparty like to invoke the Harlem Globetrotters vs Washington Generals meme to call out the GOP as controlled opposition. Everybody knows the Generals get paid to take a dive. What many overlook is that they're paid to make it look good. When Republicans saw their numbers falling in Georgia, they hastily mobilized an eleventh-hour token defense of Trump they knew would fail.

Therein lies the real fruit of the Trump administration. Outsiders like Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot had long issued wake-up calls about the bi-factional elite. They even managed to attract serious followings and influence elections, but exactly what would happen if an outside candidate won remained an open question. Trump gave us the answer and opened millions of people's eyes.

The red pill that Trump dispensed at great personal cost is final and indisputable proof that the game is rigged. The Republican Party does not work for the ordinary people it pretends to represent. Just recently, McConnell & Co. prostrated themselves before Puppet Pal Joe on national television.

Our elites may not be the brightest crayons in the box, but they possess a certain unctuous cunning. They know that public outrage over their betrayal of Trump has an expiration date, thanks to the fruit fly brain news cycle. Hence their immediate pivot to the earth-shaking importance of the Georgia runoff and the Yellow Scare spook stories.

Traitorous Republicans are counting on the media memory-holing Trump so they can lull us back into the sheepfold. Reptiles like McConnell, Perdue, and Loeffler are sure they've got it made. With Orange Man gone, they can go back to promising the rubes that they'll make infanticide inconvenient while they're actually busy doubling Apple's net worth again.

In a democracy, even a sham democracy like ours, the people have one bit of leverage over our rulers. Elected officials derive their authority from the people's vote. Denying them that fig leaf places their claim to legitimacy on thin ice.

One hope of a peaceful resolution to this farce remains. The voters who reelected Trump, only to see their will spurned by the ruling class, must primary every national Republican who failed to defend the President. Any GOP turncoat who can't be primaried out must be defeated in the general in 2022. Unless we inflict consequences upon this party of traitors, they will have no incentive to stop betraying us.

For a discussion of these and many other engaging topics, watch my recent live stream appearance hosted by leading Hispanic author Jon Del Arroz:


An excellent companion guide for the XSeed franchise

Combat Frame XSeed Illustrated Tech Guide - Brian Niemeier

2020/12/16

Combat Frame Data: Claviceps

Claviceps
  
Claviceps

Technical Data

Model number: N/A
Code name: Claviceps
Nickname: Clav, glass crab
Classification: ground assault combat frame
Manufacturer: Ynzu
Operator: Ynzu
First deployment: Unknown
Crew: 1 pilot in full-immersion cockpit
Height: 18 meters
Weight: 70 metric tons
Armor type: Fractal diamond isomer armor
Powerplant: cold fusion reactor, max output 3646 KW
Propulsion: EM impellers: 5x 17,800 kg, 4x 35,000kg; top speed 2890 kph; maneuvering impellers: 26, 180° turn time 0.73 seconds; legs: top ground speed 200 kph
Sensors: gravitic, radar, thermal, radiation, optical array; main compound cameras surrounding central "eye”
Fixed armaments: x2 gravity claw, mounted on arms; x2 graviton cannon, power rated at 1.2 MW, one mounted between each claw; x2 anti-vehicle cannon, power rated at 0.75 MW, one mounted on each side of central eye 
Special equipment: full-immersion cockpit, ion field projector, TC/D drive


General Notes

Named for the grain pestilence that caused hysteria among pre-Collapse agrarian populations, the Claviceps formed the core of the Ynzu ground forces.

A Clav resembled a cross between a giant humanoid and a crustacean with a jade-green carapace. Its entire structure was composed of adaptive diamond isomers capable of absorbing EM and thermal energy even more efficiently than an XSeed's carbyne laminar armor. The Claviceps' ranged weaponry exploited only partially understood graviton-manipulating effects to weaken targets' molecular bonds. As a result, Clav plasma bolts could penetrate any known armor despite their rather conventional power outputs. Even XSeeds could only withstand one or two direct hits from Ynzu energy weapons.

In close combat, Clavs employed their powerful claws to crush and rend enemies. Whereas their energy weapons manipulated gravity to soften targets, their pincers inverted this effect to harden their blades, granting them irresistible strength and incredible durability.

The Claviceps boasted defenses at least as formidable as its armaments. Not only could its fractal diamond armor absorb and repel energy attacks better than "1D" carbyne armor, the addition of an ion field granted extra protection against plasma weapons. Clav armor's only known drawback was its relative brittleness compared to carbyne laminate. The Defender XSeed exploited this weakness by specializing in kinetic attacks, but the Clav's adaptive isomers enabled it to quickly regenerate damage.

Though its main mission function was ground assault, the Claviceps was an able space combatant. Its EM impellers granted superior acceleration and response time compared to old-style chemical rockets. Thanks to these advanced drives, its fractal diamond armor, and its ion field, a Clav could survive unaided atmospheric entry. Its TC/D enabled a Clav to follow the Ynzu swarm on its planet-hopping swath of destruction. Standard Zue procedure was to send an advance force of Nidulans to sweep away a target world's orbital defenses before dispatching Clavs to clear the surface.

Individuals familiar with HALO Conflict history noted parallels between the Claviceps, Togi's Harvester, and Kaeri's Jigoku. The Martian Empress remained evasive on the matter, but CF engineers and UC Military strategists alike speculated that the Clavs were mass-produced versions of one or both Secta units. A further disturbing similarity known only to the top brass and ISBC researchers involved the Clavs' full-immersion cockpits. Whereas Jigoku's cockpit contained nanites capable of breaking down its pilot and storing her memory engrams for later reconstitution, a Clav's similar apparatus served only to dissolve the Ynzu inside. This effect seemed to be triggered automatically in the event that a Clav became inoperative. As a result, no Claviceps pilot was ever known to have been recovered.


See the Claviceps in action in Combat Frame XSeed: S! Read it now!

2020/12/15

The XSeed Tech Guide Is Live

You demanded it, you got it! The gorgeously illustrated Combat Frame Tech Guide is now available on Amazon in digital and print!

Indiegogo backers already got their digital tech guides, and their deluxe paperbacks are on the way. Now's your chance to get this groundbreaking book before the general public!

The eBook is a handy reference for the novels' blistering mech action that's ready to go whenever and wherever you are! For mech connoisseurs, the striking 8.5" x 11" paperback makes an excellent conversation piece for your coffee table! Help us move the needle on Amazon. 

Buy the tech guide now!

Illustrated Combat Frame Tech Guide - Brian Niemeier

The future is over

Yet weapons technology marches on, reaching its pinnacle in the mighty combat frame! The Combat Frame XSeed saga chronicles the battles waged by these and other awesome war machines!

Get the official specs on every Coalition era CF, plus fighters, ships and more!

Learn the histories of these futuristic weapons and their pilots!

See your favorite combat frames illustrated in full color!

Access exclusive mech data you won't find anywhere else!

Get the secrets of every SOC and EGE mech at your fingertips. Buy the guide now!


Reader Review

An excellent companion guide for the XSeed franchise

This reference guide is the perfect supplement to have around while reading the series. You can keep track of what each mech and vehicle are capable of and where they came from, complete with background information and illustrations. The nitty-gritty tech specs and weapon details are all here, covered in loving detail.

My favorite section breaks down each manufacturer and lists every mech they've ever created.

If you enjoyed the XSeed series, or if you're currently reading it, this is an easy recommend.


Bonus!

Not only does the tech guide include luscious full-color illustrations of every Coalition-era mech by ArtAnon and Todd Everhart, plus original line drawings, it features three exclusive mechs you won't find anywhere else!

XSeed Plasma Tank Page

Get a useful desk reference and an attractive coffee table book all in one. Buy the tech guide now!

2020/12/14

Christmas Isn't Pagan

The return of the Advent season brings with it fresh invitations for Christians to undergo temporal mortifications and perform works of charity. Living as we are in the narrow sliver of history when glib mockery of the Almighty is tolerated, those mortifications temporarily include suffering high school-tier attacks on Christmas from atheist redditors. Happily, their fedora-bedecked antics give us occasions to do the merciful work of correcting their ignorance.

In light of the above, I thought it a good time to pull the following viral post out of the archives. Use it in a spirit of good will.

Christmas

December 25 really is the date of Jesus' birth.

Zechariah was in the priestly course of Abijah. Thus he served in the temple in the 8th and 32nd week of the year.

Luke's Gospel has him serving on the Day of Atonement (at the end of September) and conceiving John the Baptist right when he got home.

This places John's birth in late June.

The Catholic Church has traditionally celebrated the Nativity of John the Baptist on June 24, which fits Luke's time line perfectly.

The Protoevangelium of James flat out confirms St. John's late September conception. Sure, it's apocryphal, but that doesn't disqualify it as a source of historical data.

Luke clearly states that Jesus was conceived when Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John.

Scriptural, traditional, and historical evidence place John's birth in late June. Adding 6 months puts Jesus' birth in late December.

This is nothing new, either. The Church Fathers knew the evidence & reached the same conclusion.

St. John Chrysostom preached his famous Christmas Morning Homily on December 25, 388.

St. Hippolytus, who died in AD 235, wrote, "The first advent of Our Lord in the flesh occurred when He was born in Bethlehem on December 25."

But the tradition goes back even further than that!

St. Theophilus, d. AD 181, wrote, "We ought to celebrate the birthday of Our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen."

There you have it. The Bible, eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry who knew and loved Him--including His mother--and His Apostles' early successors, give strong testimony that Jesus really was born on December 25.

There are really only 3 objections to affirming December 25 as the actual date of Christ's birth. I'll answer them in turn.

Objection 1: Luke has shepherds tending their sheep on the night of Jesus' birth, but shepherds don't graze their flocks in winter.

Answer: Bethlehem has a similar climate to Houston. You'll find sheep out in the pasture in both places year-round.

Objection 2: The Church "baptized" Saturnalia, an ancient Roman feast, by setting the celebration of Christmas to the same date.

Answer: Saturnalia was held on the Winter Solstice, between December 17 and 23. The dates simply don't match. Close only counts in horseshoes & hand grenades.

Objection 2: OK, if not Saturnalia, then Sol Invictus.

Answer: The Emperor Aurelian did decree the feast of Sol Invictus in 274, prior to the first documented celebration of Christmas on December 25, 336. But there's no record of Sol Invictus' celebration on December 25 until 354, when Julian the Apostate moved it in the original War on Christmas.

TL; DR: Scripture, tradition, & history attest to December 25 as Christ's actual birthday. Pagans got nothin'. Merry Christmas!

Looking for fun adventure fiction by an author who doesn't hate Christians? Look no further!

Combat Frame XSeed: S - Brian Niemeier