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

If you’ve been keeping up with current events, you’ll know the odious FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently decided to punch freedom in the teeth when he shut down Net Neutrality nationwide in the interest of getting more bribes deregulating things to make it safer for companies to make more money. To keep it light and fun, he referred to it as his “Restoring Internet Freedom” initiative.

It should also be noted that the idea of Net Neutrality was hugely popular with everyone except service providers.

For those not familiar with Net Neutrality, it deals with the idea that all network traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. Think of it as a kind of social equality for TCP/IP packets. In a net neutral world, it doesn’t matter what kind of underlying data structure you’ve got, where it came from, or how many packets are going to the same place, they all get full speed for the brief time between when they leave the server and hit your device. That means packets coming from Netflix get the same treatment as packets coming from the White House.

By striking down Net Neutrality in the guise of freedom, the FCC has allowed service providers to treat each packet differently. For instance, your HBO Go packets could be throttled just when Game Of Thrones starts up because HBO forgot to bribe their ISP upgrade their account. Got a website that generates a lot of traffic, but pisses off a lot of people (I’m looking at you, 4Chan), your packets might not make it to where they need to go. Hey, sorry, these things happen.

In other words, the FCC just handed full control of your Internet content and speed over to a bunch of corporations who have never shown any interest in wielding that kind of power responsibly. To make things even more fun, Ajit and his network thugs also wrote a provision into the ruling that said states cannot implement their own version of Net Neutrality because reasons.

Fortunately, not all of the states in the Union bought into that. Montana’s governor, Steve Bullock, signed an executive order that any ISPs with state contracts need to abide by Net Neutrality rules if they want to keep their contracts. Sure, it’s a bit heavy-handed, but so was the FCC’s flimsy justification for handing the keys to the Internet kingdom over to the service providers.

Now, there’s no guarantee Montana’s executive order will stand, especially in the face of the rule the FCC handed down that said states can’t do that, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Way to go, Montana

We Are The World Blogfest is a collection of bloggers who take one day a month to drop a little good news on the world. This month’s hosts are:

Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Lynn Hallbrooks, Eric Lahti, Damyanti Biswas and Guilie Castillo.

So go check out their blogs and see what’s shaking all over the world.

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.


1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.

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 signup, 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.


My Style Is Better Than Yours

I actually saw this in the theater. It was awesome seeing Chuck get his ass kicked.

There’s a saying in the martial arts, “It’s not the style, it’s the stylist.” The gist of the saying of the saying is there’s no one system that’s inherently any better than any other. They all focus on different aspects of fighting and emphasize different theories. Some people are drawn to the high kicks of Tae Kwon Do while others like the joint locks of Jiu Jitsu. Some people, myself included, appreciate the varied approach systems like Kenpo, Krav Maga, and the various forms of Kung Fu take to fighting.

So, why are there so many martial arts styles out there? It has more to do with the practitioner’s preferences and predilections. I’m not a stellar kicker, so Tae Kwon Do is right out the window and Jiu Jitsu just doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve always gravitated toward the hand arts because they appealed to some part of my brain and I had a measure of skill with them to begin with. That’s not to say the other systems are inherently flawed, they’re just inherently flawed for me.

The masters that developed these various systems had certain things they were good at – stuff that worked well for them. For whatever reason, those systems prospered and grew into what we have today. Although, new systems pop up all the time and some of them catch fire. Kenpo was born in Hawaii in the 1940s. Krav Maga grew out of the ashes of World War II. Heck, even Aikido was born in the 1920s.

I guess what I’m trying to say is there are dozens – if not hundreds – of various martial arts out there and they’re all pretty good at what they’re trying to do. In the final analysis, though, it really comes down to artist more than the art.

I’ve seen black belts in Karate that couldn’t win a street fight. I’ve also seen Karate students break 2x4s over their shoulders. I’ve seen Tae Kwon Do students who can do amazing kicks get slammed to the ground by one punch, but I also saw one break someone’s back with a side kick. It’s all about the student and the way they approach the art. If you walk into a school hoping to look good throwing high kicks, you’ll probably be less successful than the student that looks at the system as a way of getting out of life or death situations more or less intact.

None of this new thought, though. So, you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing it up. Funny story, really. The other night, my son and I stopped off at Walgreen’s to get milk after Kenpo. We’d just spent the last hour learning to deal with multiple attackers. We were both sweaty, tired, and sore. So, as we get to the checkout counter, the guy running the cash register mentions that he had done some Kenpo back in the day. He then continued on to tell a story about worthless it was and how he only learned to fight once he joined the army.

Nice. Thanks, asshole. Not only did I not need your life story, I didn’t need you to shit all over the last twenty years of my studies. I just needed milk.

But, his feigned badassery got me thinking. There’s a pervasive belief that most traditional martial arts systems are useless for real fighting and only things designed from the ground up for actual combat are any good.

Here’s the thing: Army combatives are designed to be simple and effective. I believe the Army is currently using a system that they’ve put together over multiple years. It’s called the Modern Army Combatives Program and it’s derived from various martial systems around the world. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to the Marine Corp Martial Arts Program. Both are tough, effective systems and, at least according to a Marine buddy of mine, all stem from a single night during the Vietnam war.

Back in the day, military fighting was limited in scope. It incorporated a handful of things like punching and stabbing people with bayonets because that’s what most people could adapt to. It was something that had to be taught effectively during the six weeks or so of basic training so soldiers would have a measure of survivability on the battlefield. Of course, some soldiers already came in knowing some classical fighting styles. Michael Echanis, for instance, was skilled in the little-known Korean art of Hwa Rang Do (Hwa Rang Do was born in the 1960s, by the way) and used it effectively during his stint with the US Army Rangers and later as a soldier of fortune.

Anyway, according to my Marine buddy, there was a particularly bad night where the Viet Cong were desperately trying to overrun a gun position. The Marines guarding that position couldn’t let it fall, but they ran out of ammo. They held that position all night long using hand-to-hand techniques cobbled together from various systems. The brass noticed that and thus was born what would eventually become the various US military martial arts programs.

All born from classical martial arts.

And there’s nothing magical or special about the way the military is training these arts. Someone does this, this is how you respond. Don’t be afraid to get mean, there’s no such thing as a cheap shot. All things that are common in Kenpo. Sure, we have some people who are just there for the belt, but most of our students are pretty damned effective because the instruction is still based on the idea of not pulling punches.

When you look at martial arts through that lens – surviving the encounter – they take on a whole new meaning. Sparring isn’t so much about how to get the point as how to take the hit and find the targets. Bowing and being respectful are just good things to do. But, ultimately, it’s all about how to break an attacker with a minimal amount of effort and keep yourself alive.

So, Mr. Walgreen’s Badass, the problem was never the system. It was always you.

How about you? Got a favorite martial art? I love talking martial arts.

Book Review – A Stitch In Time by Senan Gil Senan

I like story compilations. Some people hate short story collections for various reasons, but I’ve always enjoyed them. Short stories are a great way for authors to flex their creative muscles and readers get a vehicle to see what an author is capable of. Senan Gil Senan’s newest compilation follows on the heels of Beyond The Pale and The Fifth Seed, both excellent books in their own right, but with A Stitch In Time, Senan has delved headfirst into the magical mysteries of time.

Rather than take the easy way out and wax philosophical about what happens when you change the past or getting into the weeds of the multiverse, he takes the opportunity to examine how time can create and change reality like the loom of a mad-genius weaver. There are six stories in this collection and all of them play with time in some brilliant ways. From the curious case of a man who may or may not be mad to the dark choices that lead an officer to play with time to cover up her mistakes, A Stitch In Time takes you for a ride.

That ride isn’t always easy, but the destination is worth getting to.

Six thought-provoking stories from six different genres bound by one principle – Time.

This is a heartfelt story of a child that is left feeling disassociated from life following the physical impact of an explosion and the resultant emotional trauma from the death of his mother. The story of his life unfolds as he recounts it during his final timeless moment, one of the many that befall him, causing the world around him to slow to a standstill. All these timeless moments seem to be inextricably linked in his life and anchored to one seminal event. That being the moment he first falls in love with a soul mate that makes him feel included and at peace with this heartless world which he has always despised.

A bizarre corruption in his consciousness leaves a man experiencing his life in a non-sequential jumbled order. Despite not being able to remember his name or even where he lives, he manages to get by living only in the moment. Until he encounters a particular girl who by just being in her company, allows him to make sense of his confused existence. This is a love story set against a background of distorted time. The non-sequential order of the chapter numbers reflects this, although this story can also be re-read by following the 11 chapters in sequential number order. It then becomes a completely different story; it is a matter of perspective.EPSILON:
An exorcist encounters a man of whom it is unclear whether he is possessed or suffering from some kind of psychosis. This is a modern horror story which shows how distorted reality can be just as frightening as the depths of hell.HELLO FRIEND: 
When the world’s leading social network rolls out an artificially intelligent App aimed at engaging the lonelier and more socially challenged people in society, strange results enfold. Is this just a clever program or has the artificially intelligent computer program become sentient and is directing events in their lives?
This tale tells the story of a disparate set of characters who without knowledge of each other, become entwined in each other’s lives, like pawns being moved by a chess-master.HOLD THE BRIDGE: 
A female officer is unexpectedly awakened from deep stasis, two and a half years early on a long distance space voyage. She is joined by another crewman who is also oblivious to the reason for their premature awakening. They can return to stasis sleep but decide instead to investigate first, searching for any anomalies or problems that might need their direct intervention. Events induce a sense of paranoia when it becomes evident that they are not alone and an alien entity might be onboard and impersonating both of them. As the senior officer, it is imperative that she secures and holds the Command Bridge of the vessel against all odds.

The EL is an advanced race of timeless spiritual light beings that think and act collectively and have been assigned a protective role over a particular solar system. They must initiate and oversee the restoration of a frozen planet which once supported much life. Once its ice has retreated, their stewardship requires many of their collective to descend substantially in vibration and take up mortal physicality in order to carry out their duty on the dense planet below. However, divisions in their unity and purpose arise after they opt to manipulate the genetics of one particular species in order to turn them into a helper race of infertile automatons to which they can delegate much of their menial tasks. The heavy density of this world causes the EL many difficulties, one of which is a growing sense of individuality which threatens their collective consciousness. This individuality also threatens to infect the helper race who have been infused with DNA from the EL.

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Could It Be…Satan?

Back in the mid 1980s, I was walking in the ass-end of nowhere with a pastor from one of Farmington’s local churches. I had gotten suckered into going on a “retreat” with a buddy’s church group. At the time, I had no idea this meant driving into the desert and drinking Kool-Aid. You can derive your own subtext to that statement.

At the time Farmington was largely run by the Baptists and they ruled it with an iron fist. Most of my friends were involved to some degree or another with one of the churches, so I wound up going on the odd retreat or spending the night at a lock-in, or any number of the other wholesome activities they ran.

Anyway, I was walking with this guy and we were chatting while the rest of the kids were off doing whatever it was they were doing. Now, I’m going to stop you right here: nothing untoward happened, so if you’re looking forward to a juicy rape scene or something, it didn’t happen. He was a nice, if strangely devout guy.

The moon that night was so full you could walk across the mesa and see every speck of dust. So, we just kind of wandered away from the group and talked. In time, he guided the conversation to the church and ongoing war that Satan was waging against the world. He told me a story that’s stuck with me over the years. It seemed some concerned parents had brought their son to his church because they were worried he was falling into Satan’s charms and were hoping this guy’s church could bring him back to the light of the Lord. “This kid,” he told me, “wanted to curry favor with Satan so badly that he sacrificed a rabbit by putting it in a box with a bunch of maggots. The maggots ate the rabbit alive.”

That’s the kind of thing that belongs in a horror story somewhere, so needless to say I was shocked. But the story got better.

He was driving the kid to a church somewhere to drive the Devil far from him when he put some clean Christian rock in the car stereo. The kid, probably used to heavier fare, was apoplectic. Without warning, the tape erupted from the tape deck and flew across the car! The power of Satan had flooded this young man and the Christian music was painful for him to hear.

When you’re sixteen and walking through the desert under a huge full moon with a guy who’s not supposed to lie – ever – stories like that take on an amazing gravitas.

I know what you’re thinking; there’s no way any of this happened. It has to be just another story I made up to sell books or something, but I assure this conversation took place. I can’t vouch for the events in the car or the existence of the kid, but this pastor actually took me aside and told me this story. It ended with a warning about the power of the Devil and an admonition to go his church and be safe.

I never did find out what happened to the kid. I suspect they read the Bible at him until he cracked. Fuck his religious rights; those only count if you’re following the right religion.

In retrospect, with thirty years of experience under my belt, the whole event was nothing more than the usual brainwashing attempts. Get someone separated from the pack, feed him some scary stories, and get a quick and dirty convert.

But at the time, it didn’t seem all that out of place. The whole country was nuts about Satanists. They’d become the new commies now that great Communist empire of the Soviet Union was cracking at the seams we needed someone to be scared of. Someone, somewhere, trotted out the old standby and started blaming everything that went wrong in the world on devil worshipers. It probably wasn’t a difficult thing to pull off. This was, after all the heyday of hair metal and plenty of bands were turning to evil for the shock value.

What? You thought Marilyn Manson was the first person to use shock music? Fuggedaboutit.

Satanists were even the main antagonists in movies.

The threat, back then, was very real and in deeply religious Farmington, New Mexico, we actually had school gatherings about the dangers of Satanism. Our dress codes at school extended to ban shirts that were evil or in any way promoted Satan. Basically, any shirt Iron Maiden ever made.

Nowadays, in the enlightened 21st century, most people have forgotten those time and Satanism has faded into the background noise. The idea of sacrificing animals to the Devil to get favors is pretty much gone, and if you tried to tell the story of a Christian rock tape getting pushed out of a cassette deck people would think you were bonkers.

Except Jack Chick; he’d think you were totally onto something.

All that mania, all the paranoia, and the sheer bonkers madness of the time has stuck with me over the years, even as I over-analyze the meaning of it all. Sure, it was another power grab by the religious right, but it was a fascinating time and it got me wondering what the world would be like if all that craziness was real. If sacrificing a rabbit – in an admittedly gruesome way – would net you the power to forcibly eject Stryper cassettes, what other things could be lurking under the covers?

A few years ago I scrounged up a copy of the Satanic Bible and actually read the damned (get it, double entendre there) thing. It was interesting – a bit over dramatic, but it had some good zingers in it.

Don’t try this at home. It’s impossible to get the smell of brimstone out of your drapes.

The Satanic Bible, 80s hair metal, and the general mania of the time all congealed late last year into a story. Any of you following me on Twitter have probably seen the tweets about Roadside Attractions; that book is a direct response to all of those things I grew up with.

It also got me thinking about the way we tend to blame groups for our problems. No jobs? Must be the Mexicans. Things seem out of place and scary: Liberals. Anything bad happens in the world? Smells like Muslims. I’ve lived through the ever-present threat of Communism, the existential agita of Satanism, and enough made-up threats to know it’s all just another bullshit power-grab by someone or another. Keep people scared and you keep them in line.

Or maybe it’s always been Satan. He is the father of all lies, after all. All I know is, I’ve got a kick-ass book in the works and I learned to avoid blaming The Other for all my problems.

Got any good stories of the 80s? Let’s hear those comments.