#WATWB – Your Monthly Shot Of News That Doesn’t Suck

For those who hadn’t noticed, the United States underwent a bit of a cold spell last week. NM got a lot of wind, cold temperatures, and some snow. Overall, it wasn’t that bad although it was weird seeing snow on the ground for more than a few hours. Normally, we get a snow storm and the white stuff takes a hike by late afternoon. When the ground was still covered a couple of days later it kind of freaked us out.

We got off pretty light. Power and gas stayed on and we stayed inside and ate hearty green chile chicken soup and drank thick beer. Don’t judge; it’s our way of handling adversity. The central part of the country didn’t fare quite as well with temps dropping toward 0 K. Most of the midwest shrugged itself into a parka and went about its business. Texas, on the other hand, turned into a frozen hellscape.

The problem was multifold. Partially, Texas just doesn’t see those kinds of temperatures very often and so they didn’t entirely know how to deal with all the weird solid water or the fact that the air was like breathing daggers. It’s a southern US state, more known being temperate than Arctic. As a result, most Texans don’t have the experience of dressing in layers, bundling up, and generally using the tricks that the northerners use to stay warm. Some people in parts of Texas don’t even own winter coats.

Now, when the temperature gets that cold and you don’t have a jacket, the best bet is to stay inside where it’s warm. Unfortunately, Texas had problems besides just the extremely cold weather outside. What started as rolling blackouts due to high demand rapidly turned into a Texas-sized clusterfuck with some homes losing heat and power entirely. The blame for that debacle is still being sorted out but despite some of the propaganda coming out it wasn’t caused by windmills. Natural gas supply appears to be the main culprit, but time will tell.

So, subzero temperatures plus no heat equals bathtubs filled with water were frozen solid. Pipes exploded. People resorting to setting up tents in their living rooms and huddling together to keep warm. In other words, it was a disaster. And no disaster would be complete without salt in the wounds in the form of massively overpriced energy bills, in some cases as high as $17,000. So, not only could you not get your lights to stay on, when they were on they cost a fortune.

So, yeah, total disaster. The final fallout from the winter storm will likely be in the billions plus the cost of lives lost.

In the midst of all this, Texans kept going. It’s one of the things they’re really good at. But in the face of a natural disaster, everyone could use some help. Lots of people have set up funds to assist those in need and some politicians even stayed in the country to help however they could instead of fleeing to Mexico. Even an Austin bakery got in on the action and gave away thousands of dollars in groceries. In other words, people came together. Just not the people who stood to make a massive profit off the problem. For those scavengers of human misery, one can only hope the federal government will issue a pride-obliterating smackdown.

Read the original story here

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are: Roshan Radhakrishnan , Shilpa GargSusan Scott, Sylvia McGrath, and yours truly.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

This is a Blog Hop!

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And now your moment of Zen.

Book Review – The Heron Kings by Eric Lewis

I haven’t read much fantasy since I was in high school. Somehow or another, sci-fi knocked it off my reading list and then urban fantasy knocked sci-fi off the reading list. Eventually something will come along that will knock urban fantasy off. Probably crime-based horror erotica or something equally disturbing.

Anyway, back when I was reading fantasy, it was a different world. It was very much good guys in shining armor taking on the bleakest bastards the author could think up in fight to determine the fate of the whole planet. The good guys were really good and the bad guys were excruciatingly bad, so throughout the whole book – or series, those guys were big on series – you knew exactly who you were supposed to root for.

Those were fun books in their own way, but the meat in them was closer to supermarket bologna slices than a good slab of steak. Not to say they were bad, and I’m definitely not knocking the fantasy genre. Remember, I also spent a lot of my formative years reading Mack Bolan books, so I’m not exactly in a position to complain about someone’s literary choices.

Anyway, fantasy stories seemed like they were all about the good kingdom versus the bad kingdom and all the characters had high-minded ideals like “preserving love and freedom” or “making sure only good magic is used” or “slaughtering those insipid fools while they sleep”. Mighty armies march on each other, good is almost defeated but at the last minute someone who’s really, really good saves the day. Then it’s mimosas and brunch for everyone!

Meanwhile, there are a bunch of dead guys on the battle field and probably a whole host of folks on the bad guy’s side got roped into a bad situation and now they’re dying, too. The production capabilities of the countries in question were converted to wartime footing since arming and feeding the armies was of paramount importance and that left a lot of people with decaying infrastructure and no food. Even though the good guys won the day, they left a trail of wrecked lives behind them on their march.

That’s the fundamental reality of warfare: It wreaks havoc civilian populations who really couldn’t give a rat’s ass that Evil King Rottenbastard was insulted by Good Queen Gorgeouscheeks. Or that Good Queen Gorgeouscheeks repeated called King Rottenbastard a lard ass on the more than one occasion even though he repeatedly and politely asked her to knock it the hell off.

Good guys and bad guys. Kinda boring if you stick to the formula.

Eric Lewis understands this. He understands the toll war takes and he understands that the best stories aren’t the ones about Good Queen Gorgeouscheeks fretting away from her ivory tower. The best stories are the ones on the ground. Move a few pieces around on a map, worry about the outcome, and then retire for brandy by the fire. Way less interesting than the poor schmuck who’s sleeping in the mud because Good Queen Gorgeouscheeks’s army set fire to his house when they needed to stay warm.

The Heron Kings is a tale about royal courts going to war, but it’s less about the courts and more about the boots on the ground. Or, more specifically, the folks who not only weren’t soldiers but actively didn’t care who won. This is the story of the forgotten people of war, the ones pressed into corner and doing anything that can to survive another day so they’ll have the opportunity to survive another day. It’s the story of how far down the rabbit hole they go and the decisions they choose to make. And let me just say, that is way more interesting than which dress the queen chose for the ball.

Lewis threw me a curveball. I was basically expecting another gleaming armies bashing each other story. What I got was not only an exciting change of pace, but a well-thought pondering of the human condition in times of extreme stress. He doesn’t pull punches, either. And to make things even better, Lewis takes human nature into account. There aren’t many high-minded ideals in this book nor are there any people you can point to and say, “That’s the good guy.” This book is a shot of whiskey and a punch in the gut and it is worth every damned minute I spent reading it.

After a warlord slaughters her patients, Sister Alessia quits the cloister and strikes out on her own to heal the victims of a brutal dynastic conflict. Her roaming forest camp unwittingly becomes the center of a vengeful peasant insurgency, raiding the forces of both sides to survive. Alessia struggles to temper their fury as well as tend wounds, consenting to ever greater violence to keep her new charges safe. When they uncover proof of a foreign conspiracy prolonging the bloodshed, Alessia risks the very lives she’s saved to expose the truth and bring the war to an end.

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#WATWB – Your Monthly Shot Of News That Doesn’t Suck

New year, new you and all that.

It’s December 60, 2020 and things are slowly converging toward normalcy. Our politicians are back to quibbling over funding, hopefully leaving violent attempted insurrection in the past, vaccines are rolling out quickly enough that everyone should be fully vaccinated sometime in 2025, and a group of peasants took to the Internet with digital pitchforks and torches to burn the American oligarchy at their own game.

In other words, still pretty much the same old world. It’s just that it’s trending back to a less bonkers version of itself. Kind of like someone released a patch – World 2.1 – and it bricked the planet so we had to roll it back. Don’t worry, we promise we’ll get the code working this time.

That’s not to say good things haven’t happened. I mean, a vaccine rollout is a great thing and I’m happy with the results of the recent election even if it did feel like we had to move Heaven and Earth to get January 20th.

Normally, these posts are supposed to be about some treacly feel-good story to prove that the world isn’t a giant ball of suck, but I think anyone who just looks around can feel that the dawn of a new day is slowly rising. You can dig through the news these days without feeling that knot in your gut that spells apocalypse and that’s good enough for me.

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are: Sylvia McGrath , Simon FalkShilpa Garg, Mary Giese, and Belinda Witzenhausen.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

This is a Blog Hop!

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

And now your moment of Zen.

It Didn’t Have To End This Way

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, under a rock, with your fingers in your ears, you probably know the US has a new president. While I, for one, am extremely happy about that, there are millions out there who are less than pleased and hundreds of thousands who feel like they just got punched in the gut. The millions are the regular Republican voters who like conservative ideals. While I disagree with them, I don’t bode them any ill will. The hundreds of thousands are a somewhat different story. And there’s one person to blame for it all.

QAnon, those lovable conspiracy theorists, who believed the country was run by Satan-worshiping cannibal pedophiles suddenly found themselves on the wrong end of a stick Wednesday morning at about 12n eastern time. Yes, that is the moment Joe Biden became the current president of the United States. While many of the QAnon adherents probably have philosophical differences about the role of government, taxation levels, immigration and so-on, their underlying fever for revolution was primarily built on Q’s message that before Biden could be sworn in, the military would swoop in, arrest the Satan-worshiping cannibal pedos and usher in a new age of peace and prosperity.

As the minutes ticked down to zero hour, they got more agitated. Jittery with need. Where was the revolution they were promised? What was going on? Why was Trump on a plane to Florida when he was supposed to be lurking in the DC shadows managing the Storm?

Noon came. Biden got sworn in. The Storm never materialized. And the ranks of QAnon were thrown into chaos.

Now, I was never a Q adherent; the whole thing seemed far too silly for my tastes. Cannibals and pedophiles? Satan-worshiping. It all seemed a little too desperate for my tastes, like over-talking the villain in a bad novel. “He hates freedom. He wants to enslave you. He worships evil. And, and, and, he also eats babies and wants to ban any kind of fun whatsoever. And he hates dogs and kittens.” But to the QAnons, it was all real and they believed with the fervency of the devout. And it had to come as a gut punch when Biden got sworn in and none of what they believed came to pass. It would be liking coming home early one day and finding Jesus banging your wife. Or husband. Whatever. Ugly scene no matter who’s involved in it.

Through it all, the QAnons had stuck to their guns. They lost friends, they lost family, and in some cases – like the riot at the capitol – they lost their freedom. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were suicides coming down the pipe. Yes, it’s that bad.

But it didn’t have to be that way. The one person the whole thing revolved around, the one guy who knew with absolute certainty it was all bullshit, could have ended the madness before it left a trail of broken lives in its wake. All it would have taken was for Donald J. Trump to say, “Sorry, none of this QAnon stuff is true.”

The fact that he didn’t speaks volumes about just how much he cares about his most devoted followers.

Book Review – Fate by Ryen Lesli

About a year and some change ago Ryen’s first book, River, found its way onto this site. River was the opening salvo in a series about a young woman plucked from normalcy and dropped into a fantasy setting where she finds out she’s a princess. Some people would say this kind of thing happens with alarming regularity, but I’m still waiting for my tiara. All I’ve got is this lousy paper crown I fished out of the dumpster behind Burger King and my subjects are a bunch of drunks and meth-heads. But, yes, it’s a commonplace story in YA fiction because I think almost everyone looks around and asks, “What is that beautiful house? Where is my large automobile?” It’s a universal thing but, let’s face it, just because something’s been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be good. “A Fistful of Dollars” was an excellent take on “Yojimbo”, even if Akira Kurosawa was less than impressed.

So, put all that aside and focus on the story itself and how it plays out.

Fate, like River before it, is a coming-of-age story set in a world where magic is a thing and our would-be princess absolutely does not get along with her mom. Lesli’s tales do not paint a pretty picture of ballgowns and easy life in the castle where the main conflict of the story is which china to use for the big gala. They’re grittier and Lesli has no qualms about getting into the muck with her characters. And that’s another thing – traditional princess stories focus on the princess and maybe her interactions with royalty and that one cute boy who sells potatoes and is secretly a foreign prince only he didn’t know it because his evil grandmother sold him into potato farming to cover her gambling debts. Lesli’s River – the character, not the book – spends most of her time with warriors and running from demons. It’s a YA romance at its heart, but the story and the character could easily be pushed into the adult world like some kind of awesome new Princess Punk genre. And River would probably be right at home hanging out with the spud-slinging prince of Potatostan, even if he wasn’t a prince. She’s that down-to-Earth.

Fate’s tale picks up almost where the events of River took off. She’s beginning to come to grips her new reality, even as that reality spirals out of control as the main plotline of the series takes off. We’re talking pairing, demons, trapped mermaids, and a whole lot of folk shuffling off the mortal coil. Frankly, as an action writer myself, I was more drawn in by the intrigue and fight scenes, but I understand some people get into that whole “romance” thing and there’s plenty of that to go around, too. All this in addition to River’s fun, snarky character.

So, if you like the idea of a hidden world that you secretly belong in but loathe the idea of glass slippers and chastising the help for minor infractions, check out Fate.

Secrets always lie…It’s only been a month since River’s world was destroyed and she was forced home to the ebb. Held prisoner by her uncontrollable power, River struggles with the long buried secrets of her forgotten past. When the Demon twins sneak into the Banyans clan, hunting for a sacrifice, Cat and Wolf must fight to keep River safe. After one of them falls to the deadly blade of fate, River spirals into darkness, one that brings her face-to-face with the Reaper. River must make a choice. Either drown in her pain or claw her way back to the light.

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Dumpster Fires & Shitshows

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to a history lesson. Not of times I never saw, but of times I lived through. History is the final judge of the character of an era. It’s what will stick in the heads of people from the future as gospel truth and forever taint their views of the time in question. It is when lies and mistruths are carved in stone and we close the book on the era in question with a disappointed sigh and wonder how could people live like that?

2020 has, in most important ways, been a shitshow. Interestingly enough, “shitshow” is in the dictionary which I think technically makes it a real word. It’s defined as “a situation or event marked by chaos or controversy.” Based on the definition and the general crass nature of the word, I’d like to nominate it as 2020’s official word of the year. It’s perfect.

In addition to massive unemployment, corrupt and incompetent national leadership, and generally selfish behavior, we got murder hornets, wild fires, drought, QAnon, and endless lies about election fraud. In a way, it’s a perfect ending; a wonderful, pride-obliterating karmic bitch-slap for our choices. Oh, and there’s still a pandemic going on with a new and exciting strain of virus that appears to be easier to spread.

Yay, us.

Looking at the world through those eyes, shitshow is the only accurate descriptor of the year even though dumpster fire comes in a close second. But, here’s the thing: We’ve been through worse and pulled through. There are scars and torn muscles, but as a species we’ve survived. As of this writing, the worldwide death toll for Covid is about 1.79 million. Now, granted, that’s 1.79 million people that should still be with us, but after a couple of years of running roughshod over the world, the Spanish Flu had whacked 50 million. We learned from it. Well, most of us did, anyway. Some dumbass motherfuckers still think Covid’s a hoax and their religious freedoms trump your right to stay alive. Worse, apparently it’s illegal to punch those jackasses.

But we’ve seen economic collapses before. We’ve had natural disasters and incompetent leaders and wars and pandemics and general strife. At the end of the day, we survived. The sun goes down, the sun comes up. Gravity still works. There are still good people out there and the world still has a lot going for it. We may hear endless tales of the bastards and all their dirty dealings, but there are more good people quietly doing good things than there will ever be of the bastards.

To quote Colonel Bill Kilgore from Apocalypse Now, “Someday this war’s gonna end.” It’ll leave some scars, sure, but scars just mean you’ve lived. And, hey, if it means we get to keep working from home, that’s a good thing. After all, I’ve spent too much time in comfortable clothes to ever go back.

Right now, I have to believe there’s still magic in the world. This is just us living through history. Some day, the movie theaters and salad bars will come back. Some day we’ll put the masks safely away and do our best to make sure we never need them again. The world will likely never be the same normal as before, but we can make it a better normal because we’ve lived through it and now know how to deal with it. Go out there and write the history. Include all the blemishes and horrors. Tell the truth, no matter the cost.

Goodbye 2020. You were a vicious bastard but in the end, we beat your ass.

Read Me Shrugging

I’ve got a master’s degree in speech communication with an emphasis on rhetoric and persuasion. Basically, this means I spent a lot of time and money learning how to analyze you while you’re talking and figure out the best way to warp you into doing what I want. What can I say, my college offered a degree in functional supervillainy and I took ’em up on it. Although, if I were to be truthful, I’d have to admit I had no idea what to study and the communication department gave me a scholarship for speech and debate, so why not speech comm?

Oddly, it’s proven to be a useful degree, largely due to the supervillain-level tips and tactics for interaction and manipulation. So, if you’re still trying to figure out what you want to study, it’s a good degree to have because even though I’m a programmer and author, I still deal with people regularly and getting an understanding of how they communicate has been a nice tool to have.

It’s been said, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it”. People pay far more attention to the nonverbal cues than you’d think. The way a person stands or how much eye contact they give or whether they’re wringing their hands can tell you volumes more than what they’re actually saying. Those nonverbal cues can also completely override the verbal message or at least drastically change its meaning. I’ve told people no one likes them and since I had a smile on my face at the time, they thought I was joking and we were now best buddies. Narrator Voice: No one, in fact, liked that person.

That’s our good buddy nonverbal communication coming to visit. And the people who like point out how something was said are absolutely correct to make note of that. Estimates vary, but somewhere between 70% and 93% of communication is nonverbal. I’m not sure how anyone arrived at these numbers – especially the strangely precise 93% – but there are people who get paid to study these things and I don’t really have any good reason to doubt them. Maybe I could find a YouTube video put out by some huckster that supports my viewpoint, but I’m lazy and most of the hucksters on YouTube are busy putting out videos trying to prove Covid is a liberal hoax and Donald Trump won the election. When you’re working that hard to promote that level of complete bullshit, there’s very little time left to conquer nonverbal communication statistics. That and, frankly, no one cares that nonverbal communication is a Chinese hoax perpetrated by the liberals to, uh, do stuff. Bad stuff. Very, very bad stuff. Trust us, we have mountains of evidence.

So, non-existing propaganda aside, we send a huge amount of communication through our nonverbal channels. The cock of the head, a wink, a raised eyebrow, a subtle cough, a red face, a finger shaking with rage. These things color the verbal message and, in many cases, completely override the verbal message. Image a man, red faced and shaking, his right eye twitching and he stabs his finger in your face over and over while yelling, “YES! I AGREE WITH YOU! FRIED OREOS ARE GREAT!” Narrator Voice: Fried Oreos are, in fact, great.

The verbal message is one of total agreement: Fried Oreos are great. Taken on its own, this describes a person who you could probably hang out with, happily munching on fried Oreos until the saturated fats clogged your arteries and shut down your hearts. Maybe in the afterlife fried Oreos will be waiting for you. Unless you wind up the bad afterlife where all you have fried knock-off Oreos that are far inferior to the real thing and you have to enjoy them while discussing the finer points of international banking with doddering idiot who keeps stealing all the cookies for himself.

Put yourself in the position and think about what you’re seeing. That verbal message about the Oreos will be completely overridden by the angry guy stabbing his finger at you. The takeaway is he’s pissed as hell and is right on the edge of going physical with it. He could be shouting nonsense. “MAN! WOMAN! PERSON! TV! CAMERA!” and it wouldn’t matter one bit because the part you’re going to focus on is whether or not it’s a good idea to just drop that fool right then and there before things get out of hand.

Nonverbal communication is the ultimate representation of that age-old writing adage of “show, don’t tell” because no one is going to shout “I’m very angry right now” without getting laughed at. And, let’s face it, stating the obvious is major boring shit. For instance:

  • “I agree with you! Fried Oreos are great!” he shouted angrily.
  • He was angry. “I agree with you! Fried Oreos are great!”

Booorrring.

But let’s toss our good buddy nonverbal communication into the mix:

Jacob’s finger shook inches away from my nose. His eyes, beady under the best of circumstances, twitched and pirouetted above his beet-red face. Sunlight danced on the flecks of spittle erupting from his mouth. “I agree with you! Fried Oreos are great!”

The takeaway? Never once mentioned anger or rage, but it’s obvious from the context. Jacob agrees with me, but he hates himself for it. And let me just say, self-loathing is an apt feeling after a couple of deep-fried Oreos.

Nonverbal cues aren’t rocket surgery to write. Some things – cadence, for instance – can be tough to put into words, but describing what an angry person or lust-filled Medusa or even nervous people who’ve been tapped to have sex with lust-filled Medusas is easy. Watch people for a while. Next time you’re in a conversation pay close, conscious attention to what their body is doing while they talk to you. Some people have grandiose hand gestures that come out when they’re excited. Others scrunch into a little ball and mumble when called on in Zoom meetings. Some people pound tables, others click ballpoint pens frantically. Everyone has a tick, all you have to do is remember it and apply it to a character.

Or you could just, you know, state the obvious, he said, sad that no one paid attention.

Comments, as always, are welcome and appreciated. Especially if they come with fried Oreos. Narrator Voice: Please do not send fried Oreos.

This Symbol Does Not Belong To You

Last year, Nike planned on introducing their Betsy Ross shoes. They were basically a variety of fancy red, white, and blue sneakers with the original Betsy Ross flag on them. Kind of cool idea; the sneakerheads dug them. Since they were Nikes, they were probably going to cost a small fortune, but be good shoes. That came to halt because of, among other things, a comment from Colin Kaepernick about the unintentional message of slavery and racial divisions that had become linked to that original flag.

Kool in an “I need orthopedic shoes” kind of way.

Now, I won’t debate Kaepernick on that. He’s probably got a lot more first-hand experience with racism than I ever will. Being a white guy in America, the closest I ever came to being on the receiving end of racism was when a truck was backing up and someone said, “Better move, white boy.”

That was it.

So, for me to say I have some in-depth understanding of racial division in America after one off-handed comment would be a lie. That’s why I’m happy to listen to the guy who found a way to protest systematic racism in this country in a peaceful and respectful way and lost his career over it.

There’s been a growing movement in this country for racist fuck-wads to adopt traditional American symbols – such as our flag – and claim they’re the only ones entitled to it. To claim they’re the only “real Americans”. But, the country was supposedly founded on freedom and equality and, in my mind, that means knocking other people down to feel better about yourself is anathema to being an American.

And that’s a problem because at the end of the day, we’re all Americans and you don’t get to point at someone and say, “You’re not American enough”. And, yes, I am fully aware that right now I am pointing at people and saying, “You’re not American enough”. The difference is, I’m not pointing at people because of the color of their skin or their sexual preferences or what religion they belong to. I’m pointing at all the motherfuckers that have managed to turn the flag of my country into a manifesto of white nationalism. I’m pointing at every dipshit who thinks only people in his or her party love the country. Yes, I’m pointing my finger straight between your beady little eyes and reminding you that I’m a liberal and I was proud of my country before every two-bit, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing pieces of double-smoked butt-jerky decided it was theirs.

So, no. You assholes don’t get to keep the flag. That flag belongs to everyone in this country whether you like them or not. And I think it’s time we took it back from the bastards who want to keep it from us.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to remember what our country is supposed to stand for and be able to wear its symbols without giving handouts to the Nazi swine. We’re not a perfect country and we have a long way to go before we get the “Liberty and justice for all” part of our nation’s story. Until then, I’m going to at least rip that flag out of the hands of the ones who’d use it to beat the rest of us down.

WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all.

Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator

It’s Thanksgiving in America, that magical time where we slaughter turkeys to celebrate something or other. Honestly, it’s usually just a good time to hang out with friends and family and enjoy a shit-ton of food. 2020, of course, had to change all that. The sane among us celebrated only with close family or alone or wised up and used some of the many tools we’ve used this year to stay together while remaining apart. The insane, or at least the completely uncaring bastards among us, got together and threw monster parties because reasons. Maybe a bit of luck will shine through and we won’t see a massive spike in sickness and death just in time for them to repeat the trick around Xmas.

But beyond the pandemic picking away us like the rats in Johnny Got His Gun. Even beyond the fact that economies are teetering on the brink and idiocy is still running rampant in Washington. Even beyond all the madness of 2020, there is still a shining light out there.

We live in a magical world.

I tweeted earlier today that I should Microsoft a thank you letter for XBox Live. Now, I don’t much care for online gaming, but it’s saved my son’s sanity in a time when seeing his friends in person means yelling across the park at each other. Now they can spend all night shooting each other or racing each other, hooting and hollering, and still keep safely apart. Seriously, if it wasn’t for online gaming, he probably would have lost his shit by now.

We all would have. Twenty years ago video calling was relegated to specialized setups that cost a small fortune. Now, you can do it on the phone in your pocket. I’ve spoken to people who set up Zoom meetings and had Thanksgiving dinner with their families even though they were scattered all over the country. We’re connected eight ways to Sunday and none of this technology is brand new; we’re just discovering how important it can be.

Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator was released in 1940. It was the first time he spoke in a movie and that last speech was amazing. It was a time when radio and airplanes were the same approximate age as teleconferencing is now. They were still magical things. Game changing things. Things that helped people come closer together. Flash forward 80 years and we have our game-changing things, our own ways to bring ourselves together.

Normally, this would be the point where I’d bust out some feel-good story to prove that the world’s not going to shit. That, after all, is the WATWB way; share a little love through some happy news. There’s plenty of that, too. Not one, but three possible Covid vaccines. A new era in Washington. A bit of new hope on the horizon. But I didn’t become a writer to follow the rules. Here’s your bit of happiness: Even though we’ve been pulled apart, we have ways to bring ourselves back together. All we have to do is use them.

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Check out this month’s co-hosts: Lizbeth HartzInderpreet UppalShilpa GargDamyanti Biswasand Roshan Radhakrishnan 

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

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And now your moment of Zen.

Book Review – Timberwolf: Symmetry by Tom Julian

I really love sci-fi that doesn’t pull punches. All too often, sci-fi stories show a humanity that’s evolved beyond our petty differences and everyone comes together to fight some alien monster that represents our past prejudices or fears. Reality will probably be far different. We’ll likely upgrade our differences along with our tech and entrench our worst natures even further in the face of an emotionless void.

Back in 2015 – in the before times, in the long, long ago – Tom Julian released the first installation of what would become the Timberwolf saga. Now, five years seems like a long time, like Julian was pulling a Martin and painting his house, but the extended cook time has yielded the beginnings of what looks like it’ll be a great space opera. Think Peter Hamilton’s Reality Dysfunction series or Alistair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series. Gritty, nasty stories filled with less-than-stellar people doing what less-than-stellar people do best.

The basic gist of Timberwolf was a war between religious zealots, giant spiders, and everyone else who just wanted the religious zealots and giant spiders to go the hell away. Like all good wars, the war of Timberwolf didn’t end, so much as shift in ways no one expected it to. Now, in addition to the religious zealots and giant spiders, new elements have been added: the last remaining brother of Highland and a race of giant cats that were stuck in time for a few million years.

While Timberwolf itself was a complete story, it really worked as an intro to the larger story arc. It set up all the pieces and got the conflict going. Timberwolf: Symmetry points the car at interstellar war and stomps on the gas.

But it’s not just god, guts, guns, and glory. Julian takes the time to flesh out the characters and put them in positions that help justify their actions. Old enemies will become allies, at least for the time being. This is the gritty, nasty kind of sci-fi I love to read.

Civil war rages!

Between those that want peace with the rest of the galaxy, and those that want to conquer all they can see. As humanity tears itself apart, the Symmetry awaken – an ancient force that knows nothing but obliteration.

The question is… who woke them up and why? Timberwolf Velez has to figure that out and bring the fight to the most dangerous enemy the human race has ever known.

Action, twists, turns and great characters will keep you turning pages. Book two in the acclaimed Timberwolf series.

Rig up and buy a copy!

Get your copy on Amazon

Check out the Timberwolf FB page