Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Political Rant: Huh

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.

Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Political Rant: Iraq revisited

Its been a while since I've posted and unfortunately things in Iraq are just as bad as the last time I posted a political rant. However, instead of rehashing the same old same old I was struck by what one user on fark.com said and thought it was very interesting and something that hadn't been said before:

User KIA (from Virginia) had this to say "This war is absolutely different because our entire strategy going in was to remove the existing government - you know, the people who can start a war and end a war by surrender. Germany, Japan, every nation previously fought had a capital and a governing structure which was left with enough authority to surrender when they were beaten. Our plan precluded that type of result in Iraq. This is why it was absolutely crucial to either a) have enough boots on the ground to completely subjugate and pacify and entire nation of some 25 million or b) to have a darn good replacement of power plan so that someone effective stepped into the void to take control and keep things under wrap. WE HAD NEITHER. The generals who argued for more troops were fired or forced to resign in disgrace. Turns out they were right. Oops. However, there is no way this administration can claim that it had no idea of this problem without admitting that they were 1) ignoring competent advice from military leaders of many years experience or 2) just not thinking a major war and invasion through. Either is, at a minimum, gross derelection of duty."

I found that interesting. Its also interesting to note that while Bush touts Democracy as something common to all free and peace loving nations. This being said by a nation with an overflowing criminal justice system that pre-emptively attacked another country. Oh the irony.

There are some significant issues we need to address before we can hold ourselves up as poster children of the wonders of democracies.

The Republic of Cascadia is looking very good again.

So here's a question for you all, who do you think is the most promising 2008 Dem candidate?
Hillary Clinton

Barak Obama

Russ Feingold

John Kerry (again)

Or Other?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Movie Review: War of the Worlds.

Caution this post contain's spoilers. I'll let you know when I get there tho:

Non-Spoiler: Josh's review of War of the worlds: D maybe a D+. Kat asked if I'd rather see Revenge of the Sith again or this. I had to think long and hard about it. The answer: Probably Sith. But it was a long hard debate.

Pros: Speilberg at least doesn't suffer from Lucas's obsession about putting Computer Graphics into EVERY scene. So I'm thinking that's a plus. Dakota Fanning was good, she can scream on command. Ummmm The Martian craft were creepy and the aliens themselves were suitibly alien. Not guy's in rubber suits.

Cons: I was impressed with Speilberg's lack of attention to deail. There were many times where you the viewer would be sitting there going "Huh? Wait I thought..." Horribly graphic scenes of people dying. An overall sense of doom without redemption. Tom Cruise... well that's another blog entirely. Awkward character interactions, and, being a fan of both the book and the radio show... Why don't directors stick with the book? It was a good book in 1915, its a good book now.

***********************************SPOILER ALERT*******************************
Read this at your own peril for finding out key points about the movie!!!!!

We ahve seen over and over again that when an outside force hits an area (i.e. tsunami, earthquake, hurricane) that people for the most part band together. A "We'll make it through this all right" attitude seems to take over. Sure there are a few that will loot, and become lawless, but for the most part people do seem to come around and help their fellow man. This movie had none of that. The Hand of God (aka the Author) smited (word?) us: the Aliens attacking and the Hand of God saved us: Bacteria, naturally found on earth is what saved us. Not humanity coming together to defeat a common foe. Not a leader rising through the ranks to protect his or her own. It felt random and forced. Granted that's how the book ended too. But, as a parable to WWI that the book is, I'll give HG Wells for not seeing the best in people. Spielberg on the other hand has had 90+ years of history to decide that an outside force seems to have a different affect on people than a problem caused by humans themselves. Over an over Speilberg shows us how petty we are, how dimunitive we are in the face of adversity and above all how poorly we fare when push comes to shove. I just can't belive that. Maybe that's the result of his being significatly older than me and much different expereicnes but I'm glad I don't share his view.

Problem 2: Tom Cruises character. His character (the point of view the movie is told through) is a dispicable human being. He is an absentee father (common enough to Speilberg movies) unconnected to everyone around him. He's somewhat selfish, but that's as far as anyone goes to make him truly "Dispicable". He's not abusive, he's not an alcoholic, he doesn't have too many foibles. As such, he has no catharsis from which he can improve upon his life. He's a jerk at the beginning of the movie and by the end, he's still a jerk but now he's actually killed somone. WHOOPEEE There's a roll model for ya! He doesn't use his past experiences to lead. He dosent draw himself up by his boot straps and save the day (at least for his family) he just happens by chance to do the somewhat right thing ath the somewhat right time. He's lucky. Luck doesn't always equate to a good hero. And, at the end of the movie, his kids still like their step-dad better, and since the step dad is still alive, there's no chance of a romance rekindling with his ex-wife that he just walked 200 miles to see.

Also, in the first 5 minutes of the movie we find out that Ray (cruise) is a giant Crane operator. Aparently he's the best. The aliens come in ships that look like.... You guessed it, Giant Cranes. Do the two seemingly connected facts ever meet up? Nope. That would have been too convienient.

Problem 3: The little things. There were so many inconsistancies it was mind numbing. An electromagnetic pulse takes out everything. Even watches that aren't electrical (now THAT'S a pulse!!!) but still some convienient electrial things still work at times. Too much luck, too much hand of God/Auther saving his subjects.

Problem 4: The aliens. Apparently from what we learn the aliens have been planning this invasion for Millions of years. They're just biding their time. They bury their spaceships here (why wipe us out when we're just apes when they can wait and take us out in cities once we have nukes!). While the aliens themselves are creepy, they are just creepy. Independance day we learn that the aliens need resources and planets like ours are hard to find. Sure I'll take it. Signs: the aliens are advanced scouts and they need subjects to experiment on. Sure I'll take that one too. BUt these aliens seem content to fly half way across the solar system (Surprising that all our Mars missions never saw this coming huh?) to take us out 1 person at a time. Yes you read that right ONE AT A TIME. I was sitting there thinking "Ummmm at this rate were still going to out number you by the time you're done with New York... You had 5 million years to come up with a plan and this is it? To kill us one at a time? Give me Bruce Willis and Jackie Chan any day and we'll kick your ass!"

And, if the alien ships had been here for millions of years, you'd think that they would have discovered microbes and bacteria? I dunno. Maybe interstellar travel doesn't equate to common sense. They are Aliens after all. They do strange and Alien things. Like needing to make the earth a slurry of human blood and entrails. You'd even think that after the first tripod got "Sick" the others might figure somethign was up. But aparently inter-tripod communication got left back on mars.

So there you ahve it. Some decent acting. Some decent special effects, but for the most part, not worth the time and money I paid to see it. And now I'm sure I'd rather see Revenge of the Sith again...

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Movie Review: Revenge of the Sith pt. 2

All right so I have now actually seen it. My first impression: Having 0 expectations weren't quite setting my sights low enough. I will admit, it was somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy. I didn't think I was going to like it and lo and behold... The New Yorker I think sums this movie up best: "Saying this movie is the best of the Prequels, while true, is like saying that Death by natural causes is better than crucifixion."

George Lucas has done an admirable job of setting his audience's sights so low that he could have had 3 hours of a tap dancing hippo in a tu tu and it would have been an improvement over 'Phantom' and 'Clones'

Emotion was conveyed via background music more than dialogue or acting. And possibly the most annoying trait of this movie is that EVERY scene (100%) had some sort of computer effect in it. There seemed to be no untouched frames in the entire movie. As Greg said, the whole movie seemed contrived so that all the setup that was created in IV, V and VI isn't too blown away by the failed setup of I and II. We knew the plot points going in and at no point does Lucas throw us a curve ball. "Here is the plot" he says in IV, V and VI, and sure enough. There was the plot in I, II and III.

While many reviews have gone Pro or Con Sith, you have heard where I stand. From here on will be spoilers so don't read any more. But what these are, are egreious film errors (continuity or plot) or pieces of the story that just don't make sense. If you have answers please let me know. Until that time I will hold to my original thought: Piccard and Data could have come in and mopped everyone up! TREK RULES!!!!

Spoiler Alert
Spoiler Alert

1. Are all the Wookies dead? How come the Gungans (Jar Jar's people) at least had force fields and blue exploding bowling balls. You want all the wookies to go up against the droid army with just crossbows? No wonder Chewy went from Captain of the Wookie forces to 2nd fiddle co-pilot of a spcae smuggler in 30 years....

2. General Grievous was in charge of teh Droid army. Count Dookie was in charge of Grievous. Palpatine was in charge of Dookie. Why the hell, since he's a sith lord, did he need so much freakin' subterfuge to take control of the senate? He was in charge of the Droids, of the Clones, of the Sith, and one quick wave of his hand and he'd be in charge of the senate... He could have had it all if he just took it by force in about 1/2 the time and 1/8th the aggrivation...

3. The Death star. It takes 30 years to build the first one, but 2 months to build the 2nd?

4. They have the power to go from one end of the galaxy to the other in a matter of minutes but they forgot how to use ultrasounds or even stethoscopes to tell Padme was carrying twins?

5. They have the power to re-attach arms and legs bionically, but they can't do skin grafts?

6. The jedi's have lunch with the most evil sith lord EVAR. They meet with him every day and Yoda is the only one who feels a little uneasy around him? But still not uneasy enough to figure out where he goes to train these hoards of siths running around (Darth Maul and count dookie)

7. the Jedi masters have been practincng their craft for how long? and Yoda is the only one who doesn't get shot in the back? Not a single one of them "senses a disturbance in the force?"

8. K, Why just wipe C3Po's memory. Why not R2D2 too? How come in Episode IV (the first movie) we don't get within the first 10 minutes:
C3Po: "Oh dear, this planet Tattoine looks positively dreadful..."
R2: "beep beep"
C3P0: "What do you mean I've been here before?"
R2: "Beep beep"
C3P0: "I was not built here. I can't for the life of me remember where I was built but it certainly wasn't here..."
R2: "Beep beep"
C3Po: "I was built by Anikin skywalker? Now that's rich R2... I should remember if I was built by Lord Vader himself... And I'm sure Vader has never been to this back water planet."
R2: "beep beep"
C3Po: "We're here to meet Ben Kenobi.. And don't you start in again on how you knew him... You've never met him..."

9. If Leia's mother dies during childbirth then how come Leia can reminise about her in IV?

10. Palpatine tells anikin: "Shut the droids down." He doesn't tell him to destroy them or erase them... How come the rebels don't go and find themselves a huge friggin Droid army and take on the Clone/stormtroopers?

11. Glad to know that a molten moon of some freaky planet has a breathable atmosphere...

12. All right that one was a low blow

13. If the Jedi's use their powers for good and only defence, how come Obiwan and Mace both drew and lit their lightsabres first?

14. Did Palpatine actually create Anikin via mitichlorians?

15. The Most powerful sith EVAR (Palpatine) and his Apprentice who's even more powerful (Anikin) can't feel that Luke and Leia were A) born and B) know where they are? These two infants who are even more powerful in the force than Palpatine and Anikin

16. Obiwan and Anikin have just captured General Grievous's ship. General Grievious, the 3rd most evil person in the universe, but the #1 most publically hated person. With his capital ship on a collision course for the senate, no one decides to blow it out of the sky? Not even that, they come to the most evil person's rescue and put out fires. How come the droids manning the guns didn't keep firing at the 'enemy' ships?

17. If these ships have gravity plating in the floors, how come people slide "up" and "down" depending on the orientation of the ship relative to a planet hundres of miles below?

18. The dialogue between Padme and Anikin:
A: Padme you're so beautiful
P: Only because I'm in love with you...

There was one interesting scene, image-wise. It was on the Wookie planet (special relationship with the wookies I have...). When the Wookies were riding in the Heuey, er, Dragon fly copter, and the wookies were hanging out the side with their gatling guns... er laser Blasters and shooting the Viet Cong... I mean Droids. I've seen the old newsreel Vietnam footage that scene was taking from and it was interesting to see it 100% recreated with Wookies and droids on a computer.

That's all I can think of, but I reserve the right to add more. All in all the most entertaining part of the movie was when the guy three rows behind us woke himself up by snoring too loudly...

So out of 10 stars this movie gets a 2. Not as bad as 'Clones' or the other aweful benchmark movie: Wendigo. But it was pretty bad nonetheless. Shame on you Mr. Lucas. Shame on you.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Movie review: Revenge of the Sith

So I haven't even seen it yet but I'm going to judge it by the first two films of the prequel: Its going to SUCK! I've only been a mediocre fan of the original series and these newest installments have made me re-think even that tenous allegience. The only thing that could save this movie for me if the internet rumors are true and that Lucas got my favorite playwrite Tom Stoppard to indeed, ghostwrite the dialogue. But, alas, the more you dig the more you see that Tom Stoppard was supposed to ghost write the first two as well. I can just image that Lucas succombs to fan preassure and gives Tom Stoppard a call. It might have gone like this:

Lucas: Hey Tom, how's life? Doin' much since that whole Rosengill thing?
Stoppard: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead? Why yes actually I've
written several Tony award winning...
Lucas: Right right, whatever. My publicist says I need someone to take a
look at my masterpiece here and he says "Tom Stoppard will give you the
legitimacy you're looking for, plus he works for peanuts these days..."
Stoppard: Ah, thanks I think...
Lucas: So as long as you don't make any changes would you once over my
script here let me know how brilliant you think it is?
Stoppard: I'm a little bus...
Lucas: Great I'm faxing it now.
3 hours later
Stoppard: Yeah George, about this script here...
Lucas: Pure gold every last word isn't it?
Stoppard: Gold wasn't the pure substance I was thinking of. Mind if I send you some suggestions for dialogue?
Lucas: Sure as long as you don't change anything...

Lucas: Stoppard you hack, you couldn't write dialogue if you were, ah, reading it in a book or something...
Stoppard: Mr. Lucas please.
Lucas: Look I was thinking about giving you a writing credit on this but now... What the hell is this? I can barely read your scribble... Senator
Palpatine as King Lear? Who the hell is King Lear? And look at this, you are such a one trick pony Stoppard... This note here: R2 and C3PO are
actually Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? C'mon, you made a couple of bucks from that movie move on... You can't keep reliving the glory days buddy... Greek chorus in the senate? People don't want that sh#% they want classic themes and blowing sh#$ up.
Stoppard: Sure, sure they do George. Why don't you leave it as is and I'll talk to you,ah, say never?
***************** fin ****************************
I bet that's how the ghost writing went.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Writing Exercises: Fall of Frontherealm

This is the other story I submitted to Black gate magazine. I'm several pages into the new story. Hopefully they'll accept that one. In the mean time here is The Fall of Frontherealm copyright 2004 by Josh Rosenbaum

Fall of Frontherealm

King Fronthir sat on his throne five steps above the rest of the council. The high back of the chair easily ten feet above the tallest elf’s head. At only 400 he was the youngest king of Fronthirealm in seven thousand years. The King’s dais formed the bottom of a triangle with 10 council members on each side. Shouts and yells drowned any individual trying to regain control of the meeting.

“What you say is ludicrous and flies in the face of three thousand years of tradition and established fact, Especially since the Orcs themselves bowed to us at the Great Understanding. If the Orcs could govern themselves they would not submit to us! They would have left centuries ago to form their own cities. But we all know they have not the wit nor the facility to think for themselves let alone survive without us. They constantly squabble amongst themselves for table scraps! His majesty would have us set loose our horses and have hunting dogs sitting beside us at these proceedings! What would your grandfather have said to this madness?” And with a sneer Polan sat down, his comrades cheering loudly.

“What about Rozanx?” Came a shout from the King’s right. “He can reason to a stalemate the brightest and most gifted among us!” Davren rose. He was the king’s minister of philosophical thought. He flushed slightly when all eyes turned to him and the room suddenly silenced.

“That is not saying much if you are involved in the debate Davren.” Snorted the older bishop, Tathal, standing up. “I knew a horse that could add numbers faster that a guildsman. Any creature can learn a trick or two. It does not mean they are able to govern themselves or to resolve their petty differences without ripping each other’s arms off or even to build cities with more forethought than the shantytown in the hills. Remember when that charlatan gnome came through with his chess machine? There was merely another gnome inside working the levers to move the pieces. Orcs can be manipulated as easily as that machine! Name me one great Orc artisan who can build a statue out of something other than mud? One Orc Poet who knows something other than a crude limerick? An Orc Scientist? An Orc Statesman? To spout back platitudes like parrots does not indicate a reasoning mind!” Another round of cheers resounded from the king’s left. King Fronthir tried to hide his unease behind clasped hands. Davren was too flustered to speak. Tathal continued:
“You there. Server. Come here.” He said to an Orc who was avoiding eye contact and holding a pitcher. The Orc looked up to Tathal’s chin then quickly behind him to make sure he was indeed the unfortunate one being addressed.
“What is your name?”
“Gahnnnrk?” it mumbled. The Orc looked puzzled. The crowd knew it could barely understand the question.
“What… is… your… name good Orc?” Tathal said, much more slowly. Adopting the tone he would take with his favorite nephew. The King tried not to cringe at the condescension.
Tathal grinned and looked around feeling empowered by those sitting near him. In the same tone he continued speaking server, moving closer.
“Tell me, good orc Gahnnnrk” he exaggerated, knowing full well Gahnnnrk was not a proper Orc name. “What poems have you composed recently? There once was a dwarf named..? Can you speak even?” Tathal’s head ducked and weaved as he walked, arms outstretched in mock obsequiousness. Tathal’s Voice rising like he was talking to a slow child. Tathal’s group grinned.
“Have you created anything besides a full pitcher of water recently? Anything? Created the Daudna out of your own feces perhaps?” The last question ended in a rasp of sarcasm.
“That is enough!” King Fronthir said. Looking very tired, he sighed. “Go!” he commanded the Orc. The Orc’s eyes immediately returned to the ground. He began to shuffle to the door, past the guards. He paused at the door and turned slowly.
“My… name… is… Sondek.” He said. The words coming haltingly as he tried to make his mouth create the high lilting elfin sounds. He turned back to the door and continued to leave. Davren looked disappointed. He truly had been hoping the Orc would say more.
Jarn stood up next to Tathal and said “See this foolishness. The creature barely even knows its own name, and you propose to make them equals. They are beasts of burden who will usually come when you call them and frequently soil themselves before they leave.”
“Enough” King Fronthir said again. You have made your points. All of you leave now.” The council members became quiet, stood and bowed their exits.
“Ollaan, stay.” The Sergeant-at-arms stayed behind.
“Do you have news for me Ollaan?”
“None good sire. The Orcs are restless and they are becoming more tight lipped to my spies.”
“As of last census two days ago there are four Orcs for every Elf in Fronthirealm.”
“But last year there were only two Orcs to… Were there that many births this winter?”
“No sire. As of yet my sources cannot say where they are coming from.”
“The tunnels? They are still sealed?”
“Yes, as of yesterday noon they were.”
“Very good.” The king sat back on his throne. Looking at the candelabra hanging from the ceiling. The narrow arrow slits around the throne room did little to cast aside the gloom even tho the setting sun shown clearly through several slits. He looked at the old Sergeant for a moment before he spoke.
“Ollaan, you think this is foolish don’t you?”
“It is not my place to doubt you sire.”
Fronthir suddenly looked angry.
“I am asking for an opinion Ollaan. My father may have wanted you to be agreeable but I need you to be honest with me most of anyone in this court.”
“Sire, it is your will. I served as Captain for your father and your father’s father. I serve the will of the people and that will is you. Lead me my King, and I will follow. It is not my place to subject my own will to yours.”
Fronthir sighed heavily again. He and Ollaan had had these discussions before.
Ollaan looked at the King and continued: “I will say your approach is novel sire. While your father may have had the idea of granting rights to the Orcs, organizing them, your father was far away from making them full citizens.”
“We have never lived in as dangerous times Ollaan. The Orcs are restless. More reports come to me every day of an Orc ‘Society’ forming in the shantytowns. I fear for my men because they are becoming so outnumbered. Never has Fronthirealm faced this. And now I look to you, eldest of all council members, to help me make a decision.”

Four figures rode horseback in the fading sunlight. Long beams filtered through the tall pines dappling the riders in gold as they moved by. The riders were on a stamped road near a gurgling creek. Princess Sitre of Fronthirealm rode next to her brother. They were talking quietly, discussing the fine points of the hunt. They rode low in the saddles. It had been two long days on the hunt, but tomorrow there would be a feast. Sitre never felt more alive than when she was hunting, or at least in the forests surrounding the Kingdom. She loved the forest’s mystery but also felt at home. More at home in the saddle amidst the pines than she did in the close dark walls of the castle.

Her brother was competent in the forest, could find his way home, but had always been much more at ease reading books or shadowing their father. He reveled in a good debate in the court while he sat quietly in the back of the throne room.

Sitre looked back at the Orc guards behind her. They were closer than they had been a few moments ago. Even with their horses loaded down with game the Orcs closed ground.
Sitre could smell the shantytown before they left the clearing. Strong smells of pine trees smoke, intermingled with open sewage, cooking spices, and body odor of thousands of individuals. Sitre’s brother Imhran’s eyes were watering.
“Oh good lord, I forgot this road passes through here” He said grimacing and raising his arm over his nose and mouth.”
Sitre concentrated on picking out the lingering pine sent from the milieu of other smells. She was fighting an uneasy feeling as the edge of the forest approached. Her arm slowly moved towards her bow, which hung from the saddle. She wasn’t sure if Kalk had heard something or not but his horse now flanked her on her right. Kalk’s horse strained to keep the large Orc and all the game at an equal pace with the Princess.
“What is it Kalk?” She asked. Kalk merely grunted an answer and kept his small black eyes forward, his pointy little notched ears whipping back and forth as if to shoo a fly or to locate a sound.
With Kalk on Sitre’s right, Imhran was forced behind his sister and beside Krevek. Imhran’s hand was reaching towards his javelin and short sword.
The four exited the forest and saw the castle walls and spires glinting in the distance on the valley floor. The creek next to them fell twenty feet to a waiting pool below with other small waterfalls falling off that pond meandering down to the base of the hill. The cliff wall was eighty feet above the golden green valley floor and the switchback trail was only wide enough for one horse at a time.
Between the cliff and the castle, Sitre could see open fires close by turn to tents, turn to shacks further on, turning to more and more permanent structures the closer to the castle they were. The nice Elf dwellings were closest to the castle walls.
Orcs were everywhere. They came up the switchback but pressed themselves flat against the cliff face as the horses went by. They huddled around fires roasting vermin and insects on skewers. Small Orc children ran up and down the rocks near the pool.
Sitre smiled at each Orc they passed. But every Orc would never make eye contact and look at the ground instead of return the smile. Besides the smell there was a din. Thousands of voices laughing and screaming, thousands of voices talking and shouting surrounded them and reverberated off the valley walls. She knew from what people said that the din would get louder and louder as the night progressed until the Orcs fell asleep sometime just before sunup and their chores and work began. This was the first time in several years Sitre had ventured through the Shantytown. She was surprised by how much it had grown. The rumor was the Orcs multiplied like rabbits.
Every group Sitre and her brother passed would become very quiet. Eyes concentrated on the ground. Hands in plain sight. Even the children would stop running and stand perfectly still until the group had passed.
One group caught Sitre’s eye at the base of the cliff. They stood near one of the sealed tunnels. Permanently sealed after the Great Understanding. There were ten large Orc males. Dressed in tatters. While they didn’t make eye contact with Sitre, neither did they look at the ground. They kept their long greenish brown, dirty arms at their sides. Sitre noticed Kalk staring long and hard at them. She’d seem him doing it before. He was memorizing their features. As they rode past she thought she heard one of them mumbling something.
They continued to ride in their bubble of silence amongst the din along the road that led to the castle gates. Sitre and her brother still had 3/4s of the valley floor when Kalk’s arm was in front of Sitre’s face. The large Orc’s arm almost moved faster than she could follow, but a split second later she heard and saw a large rock ricochet off his forearm and above her head. Had his harm not been there, the rock would have hit her square in the forehead.
Kalk had tied his reigns to Sitre’s saddle and was off his horse running into the crowd before Sitre could say anything. Krevek sandwiched Imhran next to Sitre, eyes wide searching the crowd. He kept Kalk’s horse on Sitre’s other side so only directly in front and behind the group was exposed to a potential attack.
Krevek scanned the crowd, lance at the ready. Eyes-to-ground Orcs were trying to back away, hearing that something was amiss, fearing repercussions.
A few minutes later, Kalk returned, shaking his head.
“Sorry” he grunted to Sitre in Orc.
“That is all right. Thank you for protecting me.” She responded very quietly…

“Your own daughter, an heir to the throne, a Direct descendent of Fronthir the First HIMSELF was attacked, and you still want to make those animals equals.” Tathal said. “If you continue down this path of madness…” Tathal stopped. He swallowed briefly and took a deep breath. “If you continue down this path of madness, the council may need to take action.” Realizing what he had just said, he added a supportive “Sire”.
King Fronthir sat forward on his throne. Up until this point he had thought Tathal was words and bravado, the most vocal against he and his father’s ideas, but just words nonetheless.
“You tread on dangerous ground Tathal. I could have you banished for such talk.”
“And what would you gain sire? I give you a… The… voice of reason in this council. Please pay heed. They are animals pure and simple. Rutting in the mud till dawn, living off of trash and scraps, they don’t even build houses to stay out of the rain without our help and guidance. Like dogs and horses and falcons, they do not want rights. They do not want responsibilities. Otherwise they would have asked for them millennia ago. All you need to do is look at them and see their shantytown!”
“Sometimes, especially during moments like this I almost envy them.” Said Senthya, a councilwoman seated next to Thahal.
The last sentence got questioning looks from Tathal’s side of the room. She continued:
“Living care free, not being bothered by running a kingdom. Not worrying about tariff imbalances with Valsendale, Soldier movements of Etkingshire. No, they are the lucky ones sire. Please see them for what they are and what they’ve shown you they are capable of but more importantly what they are truly not capable of. I implore you to not do anything that weakens the kingdom, which leads us down a dark path. With respect sire.” She finished.
Thahal continued with the King.
“Your own daughter sire. Remember that. They have no care for order. They probably would have ripped her apart and eaten her right there in the street had she not escaped.”
The king looked over at Davren. The younger elf, he could tell, was trying to organize his thoughts, but Thahal’s side of the room represented a unified front.
“I know who is not my staunchest supporter in these matters. Is there any among you who would come to my aid besides Davren?”
An older elf stood slowly.
“Sire, we follow your will. Your orders. You are our king and that we do not question. But please, do not act on your ideas until you feel you know the entire truth.” And with that she sat again.
“Thank you Rallah.” The king almost sneered. “Thank you for your resounding note of support. All of you may leave if that is all you have to say.”
Ollaan stayed behind after the doors were closed. The King hadn’t noticed because his head was bowed. The bridge of his nose was resting on his thumb and forefinger.
“Sire.” Ollaan said gently.
“What is it Ollaan?” the king asked, not looking up.
“Sire, your daughter was attacked. Let me relieve Kalk and replace him with my own men. She needs proper elf protection.”
“I have spoken to Sitre about it. The answer is Kalk will not be relieved.”
“But sire…”
“The two have a rapport. Add your men to guard her if you feel she is in danger but Kalk will not be relieved.”
“Even the best hunting dog needs assistance with the bear my lord.”
“All this talk of dogs, and horses. Ollaan, can you not see that they are thinking creatures?” The king still looked at the floor. Ollaan swallowed and took a deep breath and said very quietly:
“Let me cull the herd sire.”
“What did you just say?”
“Let me cull the herd.” Ollaan said slightly stronger. “They grow too numerous. Even if you do have your way there will not be enough food in the kingdom to feed all of us. Let me just remove the sick, the infirm and the old… Let me make sure the numbers remain in balance.”
“Like cattle? I had thought you a different man Ollaan. I really had. You disappoint me today. Place two extra guards on Sitre and Imhran, but you will not relieve Kalk and Krevek. Am I clear Captain?”
“Yes sire.”
“You will go now.”
And with that, Ollaan left.

Sitre, Kalk and two elfin guards rode towards the shantytown on the way to the forest. Hunting had been poor north of the kingdom the last few months so they rode to the south, through the shantytown, up the cliff and to the fresh air and freedom beyond.
As usual, Sitre attempted to make some connection with the Orcs and have them smile back. As usual she smiled to the tops of heads, uneasy with the bubble of silence around her.
The elfin guards rode through town with their hands on their bows, ready to bring them to bear on any Orc who made eye contact. Kalk rode confidently through the crowd, hands at his sides, reigns loosely held. Sitre tried to appear as calm as Kalk but kept as ready as the other two guards. Three elves had been mugged and beaten in the last week. She knew Ollaan would not approve of their route and have them ride half a day around the outskirts of the valley.
Something caught Sitre’s attention. On a nearby hill a shorter cleaner Orc was still speaking. Even as their party drew within twenty feet the Orc continued his monologue. Other Orcs around him held their eyes down. Sitre saw the small Orc make eye contact with Kalk and his speech seemed to sputter to a halt. Kalk remained impassive and unreadable. Then, for a split second the Orc made eye contact with Sitre. She tried to smile at him but before she could the elfin guards had their bows raised and aimed at the short Orc. She saw the standing crowd around him tense. They all heard the bows being strung.
With Kalk in the lead, Sitre stopped, causing the other two elf guards to stop as well. Quickly Kalk turned in his saddle. He stared at Sitre’s chin and with the slightest motion shook his head. The four continued on their way.

Ollaan charged into the throne room with Tathal in tow.
“Yes captain?” The king answered looking up from several scrolls he was reading.
“One of my scouting parties noticed changes to the sealed tunnels. There was an opening. They went to investigate. They have not reported back.”
“When were they supposed to report back?”
“This morning sire. They did not report for duty and no one remembers seeing them in the dining hall last night.”
The king looked concerned.
“Captain, go with a contingent of men and report back what is at the tunnel. Make sure it is sealed.”
“Very good sire” Ollaan left.
“Sire, please let Ollaan take the armies and cull the Orcs. The levels of violence against elfs have been growing. We need to discipline them. They grow soft and lazy. The Orcs have heard rumors of what you are trying to do. They nip at their master’s heals sire.”
“You may leave now Tathal.”
“As you wish sire.” Tathal said, feeling cut off. “I do hope Ollaan’s men return. However, we need to make an example of the Orcs responsible before things get out of hand. You know the tunnels were sealed for their protection as well as ours. If they somehow think they will have a better life underground… Sire you must take action!”
“Do not make me repeat myself Tathal. You may leave. NOW!”
“Yes sire.”

Sitre emerged from her revelry late in the night. The moon had just set and low clouds blocked the stars. The normally quiet castle was filling with shouts, muffled by the walls. An almost inaudible thud reverberated through the stones, then seconds later another one.
The din outside from the shantytown was a different pitch. More shouting. Individuals could be heard. Quickly Sitre dressed and went to her door. It was blocked from the outside. She ran back to the window. In the darkness and the distance she could see large bonfires burning all across the shantytown. Fires were burning brightly near the cliff, near the sealed tunnels.
She could hear shouting from the hallway, deep grunting shouts of Orcs and the higher barked commands of elves. Sitre grabbed her bow and quiver and ran back to the door and tried it again. It was still blocked. She sprinted to the window and climbed out, fifty feet above the ground. Mobs of Orcs stood at the wall with torches raised. The Elvin army doing their best keeping the advancing throngs at bay. She could see one area where the outer wall had been breached already. Bricks still tumbling down the ragged ‘V’ shape in the wall.
Her brother’s room was next to hers, but the windows were easily ten feet apart. She looked to the likelihood of prying her fingers in between the stones and crawling over. The stones were tightly mortared. A rainspout, however, did hang almost equidistant between the windows.
Running back in side she grabbed a blanket from her bed. Sticking half her body out the window she was able on the third try to snag the blanket over the spout. She mustered her courage and swung to the next room over. Three quarters of the way across the blanket slipped off the spout. She felt a heart lurching drop, but only for a second. Looking up she saw her brother with Krevek holding onto the blanket and hauling her up. Kalk’s large head poked through Sitre’s window, mere feet away. She heard the large Orc swear as only an Orc can and disappear back inside. As she was halfway in the window she saw Kalk storm into her brother’s room. Kalk’s speech was short and terse but it was unmistakably Elvin.
“You scared me Highness. Even your father would have my head if anything were to come of you. Krevek, make sure the hallway is secured. We don’t need any more soldiers coming up.”
Sitre looked at her brother. He seemed just as confused as she did. Kalk continued in elfish:
“We need to get both of you out of here. The outer wall has been breached and your father’s army won’t last long against Larek’s Pack.”
Imhran looked at Kalk stunned. These were far longer sentences than he’d ever heard Kalk, or any Orc for that matter utter. Another deep reverberation shook the walls. Sitre regained her composure first.
“Who is Larek?”
Krevek answered:
“Larek calls himself the ‘finder of lost tribes’. He claims we were lost three thousand years ago and has come to deliver us. He tracked us through the tunnels to here.”
“Deliver you from whom?” Imhran implored. Kalk’s eyes narrowed.
“From you Imhran. Sitre you come with me. Imhran go with Krevek.”
“Where are you taking us?” Sitre asked, but still walking with Kalk.
“Highness, you are in great danger here. The Pack will not leave many survivors, if any, especially ones such as you. Your father’s army may slow them but the pack has been coming in through the tunnels for months now. Priests of Grummsh have been poisoning the minds of Orcs here, stirring them to action. Getting them ready for tonight. Inciting them to rise up tonight, to rise up and claim their place. I had hoped for more warning but I did not know tonight would be the night.”
“But my father and grandfather worked so hard to come to an understanding?” Sitre said, her world beginning to falter.
“Not enough and not soon enough. The Pack found willing ears too quickly in the valley, in all of Fronthirealm.”
“But you aren’t with them tonight are you?” Sitre stopped, trying to read the Giant Orc.
“There are a few of us who saw the wisdom in your father and your grandfather. With luck we can protect you and your brother and try again somewhere else. Unfortunately Larek does not listen to dissenting opinions.”
The two elves and two Orcs reached the great circular stairwell and started down. Any elf guards they encountered Sitre would bark orders too and have them flank Kalk and Krevek. The main hall was chaos. Skirmishes broke out in every corner. Quickly their swollen ranks dwindled and soon it was just the four figures skulking from shadow to shadow trying to avoid contact.
Outside they had almost reached the stables when a deep and moist thunk caused Kalk to pause. Sitre turned to him and saw an arrow protruding from his shoulder, buried up to the feathers. The large Orc gnashed his lower tusks in pain and tried to reach around to pull it out.
“Guards, seize them. Return the prince and princess to me immediately!”
Ollaan sat atop his horse, bow at the ready. Fifteen elves stood on either side of him weapons raised. Two broke off and went to retrieve Sitre and her brother.
“Go save my father Ollaan!” Sitre shouted. “He needs your help more than we do!”
Ollaan looked confused at the tableau. Sitre and Imhran didn’t seem to be trying to escape their captors.
“Kalk and Krevek I have no idea what you two are planning to do with the prince and princess but it is not too late for you to join us. Let them go and I will make sure your punishment is short.”
“You buffoon! They are protecting us!” Sitre shouted, but she didn’t get farther. At that moment a large group of Orcs swung around the corner of the stable and began to charge. Their breath coming in huge gouts of rancid steam as they ran. Two Orcs rode dire wolves, Some on the ground carried spears and double bladed war axes. The rest of the mob carried pitchforks and scythes and torches. The ones with plowshares slowed when they saw Kalk and Krevek, assessing the situation. Kalk, Krevek, Sitre and Imhran grouped with the other elf soldiers. Several elves had already formed a vanguard of swords in front. The two dire wolves leapt and were downed almost instantly by arrows.
“If we get out of this alive, your father will have my head for not posting more guards on you two.” Ollaan said, notching another arrow. Sitre turned.
“Kalk and Krevek are protecting us. Like they swore to do. Like you have sworn to do.” She spun again and released another volley into the crowd. Picking her shots carefully. Sitre only shot at Orcs with a militant weapon, and then only in the shoulder, or leg. Her brother was more lethal in his shots but he kept to weapon wielding Orcs as opposed to farmers. The rest of the elves were not as picky.
Kalk and Krevek stood at the front of the elves letting their armor stop crossbow bolts, and smashing swords in vicious blows. They snarled in delight as the battle got closer.
A battle horn blew and at once the decimated Orc group beginning to retreat was joined by a much larger Orc battalion. Their ranks came around the corner of the stables, Fifteen Orcs on Dire wolves, twenty Orcs carrying pole arms. Several larger Orcs pushed a battering ram, and tens of Orcs carried swords.
Ollaan called his troops to regroup and begin retreating to reinforcements at the main hall. He stopped one of his generals on horseback and motioned him to dismount. The general looked confused but followed orders. He took both horses over to Kalk.
“You swear on your life and the future of the kingdom that you will protect the princess and her brother?”
Kalk looked up to Ollaan and looked him in the eye. Ollaan cringed looking down into the yellowed bloodshot thing.
“The King, the prince, the princess and yourself have always been fair to us. I swear I will protect them as a subject of this kingdom.”
Ollaan was stunned; he had been expecting a gruff yes, like all Orcs gave, an indication of bare understanding of the task. He was not expecting to be answered in Elfish. Without showing his surprise, Ollaan leapt off the horse and handed the reigns to Kalk.
“Go, protect them. Protect the kingdom.” Ollaan said, drawing his sword and backing away from the advancing horde.
“Yes sir, captain.” Kalk answered. The Orc lifted Sitre roughly onto the horse and jumped on as Krevek did the same with Imhran. They galloped off as fast as the horses would go, past the main hall, towards the wall and finally through a small rarely used gate.
They emerged in a staging ground for the third assault. Orcs saw the horses and reached for their weapons but then saw that the elves seemed subdued by Kalk and Krevek. They were almost through the staging area riding full gallop when the shouts were heard behind them. An Orc scout from the stables had made it past the elves and was sounding the alarm that the elf Prince and Princess were riding through their midst, escaping. Crossbow bolts ricocheted around them. Other Orcs came charging at them, swords drawn. The horses weaved through smoke, around fires and around large groups of angry orcs. Sitre and Imhran fired arrow after arrow until they were through.
Seconds later Sitre turned to check on her brother. The other horse was nowhere to be seen. She shouted and Kalk slowed the horse to a trot as he peered into the darkness as well.
Sitre’s heart sank as she saw the horse, riderless, fifty yards away. Its haunches on the ground, she saw several bolts in the horses flank. Krevek, running, was pushing Imhran in front of him as Imhran looked around for Sitre. Their eyes met and even in the gloom she could seem him nod to her. She could barely make out his shout above the noise.
“Go on!” Imhran had shouted. Kalk had heard as well and redoubled his efforts to get speed out of the horse. They bee lined toward the cliff wall some two miles away. Sitre saw Krevek and Imhran running towards the cliffs to the north, trying to put darkness and confusion between them and the advancing horde.
Twenty minutes later they were at the top of the cliff watching one of the many castle spires fall. Fires dotted the landscape. Sitre felt nothing except tightness in her chest, a fundamental sense of loss.
“We have to circle around the cliffs to find Imhran.”
“No, highness. Larek knows you escaped, or will soon. His scouts will flood the countryside by morning.”
“Where will we go then? We should stay and fight! We should find…” She paused as images of her father and mother and Ollaan and Davren flooded through her mind. Her friends, her family, all were back at the castle.
Faintly on the wind, above the din of fighting and fires, they could hear one speaker, shouting to his people.
“What are they saying? I don’t understand enough. What are they saying Kalk?”
Kalk paused.
“What? What are they saying?”
“They have the king.” Kalk said quietly. Sitre let out only one deep body-wracking sob and then was quiet. Kalk gently put his massive arm around her.
“Highness we must go, so you can be protected and your father’s legacy can live on through you.”
Sitre said nothing but followed Kalk back to the horse. They rode past sunrise, only until the horse was physically unable to run any more. Kalk got off the animal and lead it and a stunned Sitre through the dense forest until almost sundown.
As the sun had just dropped past the horizon Kalk stopped by a clearing next to a river. Sitre dismounted as she heard twigs cracking. Someone was just coming into the clearing. Another Orc much smaller than Kalk entered. Sitre had her bow raised and ready when Kalk put his hand on the arrow and forced her aim into the ground.
“Your highness, this is Verak. She will lead you for a while and protect you, as I am unable to now. She knows these forests and the lands beyond better than I. Stay ahead of the Pack and I will keep in contact with you.”
“What?” Sitre asked incredulously.
“I cannot stay with you.”
“Where are you going?”
“I sent word to Verak two moons ago for help. She will protect you. I will look for your brother and any other of your Dynasty while I am still able.”
“I’m going with you!” Sitre demanded.”
“You are not…” he looked down. “Your Highness. You cannot even begin to think you could slip into the Pack unnoticed. Maybe someday, but not now. I will update Verak to my findings.”
And with that Kalk mounted the horse and rode back in the direction they came. Verak smiled gently at Sitre, large lower tusks pressing into her cheeks.
“I’m supposed to go with you then?” Sitre said. Verak smiled back, not responding.
“Do you speak my language?”
Verak continued to smile.
“I don’t speak much Orc.” Sitre said in Kalk’s tongue.
“That is okay, young one. I will teach you.”

For the next seven years Sitre stayed with Verak. She became used to Verak’s company and regarded her like an aunt. A large, smelly but wise old aunt. Kalk sent word of his findings for several weeks. Sitre didn’t know how, but Verak would, occasionally, over a dinner fire, tell Sitre Kalk’s progress. Her brother had survived that night. However she didn’t know in what condition. Some of the other council members had fled as well, but Kalk didn’t know of their current status or whereabouts either.
The Pack dogged Sitre’s trail for almost two years after that. Verak would show Sitre how to evade them. They forded rivers Sitre wouldn’t have attempted by boat much less the ways they did cross. They climbed peaks and traveled across valleys. Sometimes they could hear the Pack howling at the moon two valleys over. Sometimes the Dire wolves would pass within inches.
Three weeks after Sitre had last heard the howling of the Pack she realized just how large her world had become. No longer was she a few days ride from the castle walls. She looked around as the sun rose. The two of them were sitting on a small mound in an ocean of grass as far as the eye could see. Nothing but a green horizon in the direction they came from. In the other, a solid sea of green stretching to faint blue mountains to which they were heading. Winds blew and made dark green waves. Verak came up to her and stood next to Sitre, easily two feet taller than Sitre. Verak merely stood there looking into the distance. Sitre knew this to be a test.
She relaxed and concentrated. There on the wind was the scent of the Pack. They must have picked up her trail again. They ate their breakfast in silence. Sitre could tell than they were many leagues away, but they were getting closer. They packed up their camp leaving no trace of their stay and walked casually towards the blue mountains in the distance.
Seven years Verak protected Sitre. They hadn’t heard from Kalk in five, and more than once Sitre vowed to go back only have Verak hold her down and talk sense into her. However now, Verak was getting older. Sitre noticed that Verak worked harder to keep up with her. They stopped more and broke for camp earlier in the day. Sitre decided that she had a long time to plan revenge. It would need to be perfect and in the mean time she would learn all she could about The Pack and Larek and the world around her.

One morning Verak awoke to find Sitre gone.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Political observation - Josh's New Deal

I'm just astounded by what's going on in our government these days and am more sure than ever that what this country needs is a benevolent dictator for 8 years. I will happily step into that role and will easily hand power back to the 3 branches of government at the end of that time. I have far reaching programs that need 8 years to flourish and become established, so without further ado, let the proclimations of Joshland commence:

1. Public works. I propose to bring back the public works projects similar to what Roosevelt did in the 30s. My public works projects would include: A. Dismanteling most hydroelectric dams in the US. B. Create Wind and Solar farms from North Dakota, down through New Mexico. C. Create a Mag-lev transit system from coast to coast, border to border.
1a. Nuclear power plants will be revitalized, and the nuclear byproducts produced will be rendered inert by the now cumbersome and inefficient system of radioactive depletion. However the more we use this emerging technology the more efficient it will become.
1b. We will rejoin the world in the Tokomak fusion project and live up to our end of the bargin that Reagan signed off on in the 80s.
1c. NASA will get significant funding for a permanent research base on the moon, vast array orbital telescopes and perhaps a manned mission to Mars.

2. A reduced military budget. taking 10% off the top of the military should be enough to fund all my projects. Our military's goals will be DEFENSIVE only. We will become a second strike nation. Only if someone strikes us first will we retaliate. We will defend ourselves to the death at the limits of our own borders.
2a. Our current and future armed forces will work close with the UN.

3. Significant Prison reform. Prisons will become real places of rehabilitiation and not just storehouses for humanity. Real skills will be taught, real psychiatric help will be availible. Real followthrough will be attained.
3a. The use of "Chain gangs" will be implimented again to help construct the public works projects and other civic projects.

4. Significant School reform. With the money saved from defense spending I will pump it back into the public school system giving them the money, and the wherewithall to truly teach our children without worring about over crowding or lack of resources. And destroying the stigma of being kept behind a year or two. Children will understand the curiculum before they are passed on to the next level.
4a. Significant funding for Secondary education be it College, trade school, or what have you.
4b. Civics will be taught starting in Kindergarten. The curiculum will be approved by Senator Byrd.
4c. The length of the school day will be restablished and presumiably most of summer break will be replaced by more frequent, but smaller vacations.

5. Tax Reform. A graduated flat tax where your percentage of payment increases with income. Abolishing most corproate tax loopholes. I will get Warren Buffet to help me on this one.

6. Mandatory Civic service for all 18 year olds. One year Manditory service is not limited to the armed forces but will include: Americorps, PeaceCorps, Jobcorps, National Guard, Coast Guard, and many more. etc. etc. etc.

7. Create strong ties with the U.N. to work with them and eradicate corruption in that institution. With the U.N. we can then wipe out poverty in our country as well as others. Eliminate genocide in fair and even handed ways. Making the U.N. a truly global dispute resolution forum.

8. Resource sensitive industries will be given incentives for environmental change. I.e. Lightbulb manufactuers will be encouraged to only produce compact flourescent. Plastic producing companies will be encouraged to use environmental "Citrus" plastics as opposed to petrolium based plastics. Paper companies will be encouraged to find other resources such as cotton or bamboo.

9. There will be a true division of Church and state. In god we trust will be taken off currency and Under god will be taken out of the pledge of allegiance. The founding fathers wanted freedom of religion for worshiping alternate Christian beliefs. Those views have needed to change over time. America will welcome all religious beliefs but absolutely will not endorse any.
9a. Civil unions will be granted to all above the age of 18: M/F, M/M, F/F. "Marriage" will be a religious institution that will be afforded by a couple's church but will not be recognized by the state.

10. Gun control. Hunting licenses must be issued at the time of gun purchase. Rifles and "resonable" (reasonible as defined by me) guns will be availible to hunters and collectors. However, responsibility of any crimes committed with that gun will come back to the gun owner and perpetrator of the crime. There will be a 3 month no exemption waiting period for all gun purchases.

11. Lawsuit reform. We will adopt the British model in that the prevailing party will also win Attorneys fees. This should have a significant chilling effect on baseless or "fee less" claims.

These are my basic 11 tentets. Although as your new benevolent dictator I reserve the right to create more programs that benefit all Americans, not just a select few.