Thursday, June 30, 2011

Music: Epic Video Game music

Yesterday, I started a series of music clips that should have gone with an aborted Babylon 5 video game. However, it was over an hour of music, and even what I posted yesterday was a little much.

I hope you enjoy

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Music: Epic Video Game Music

In the world of video games, there are some really stupid decisions.

And then, some ideas that are dumber than others.

Babylon 5, created by J. Michael Straczynski, inspired a video game. It even came with an entire soundtrack.  Multiple soundtrack cuts, as done by why sounds like a full orchestra (I haven't looked up the data to see how much was done with Christopher Franke and the Berlin Symphony orchestra )

And then Sierra games cancelled it.  Pulling it from the shelves entirely.

Ahem .... Morons.

However, I've found over an hour's worth of the soundtrack on YouTube. It might be the whole thing.


Fighting and Writing 2: Where to find Krav Maga.

Yesterday, I mentioned Krav Maga.

What sort of person would I be if I didn't point out places to go?

In Los Angeles, you have John Whitman, as I mentioned yesterday. He has literally written books on the subject of Krav Maga. Two of them. And his school is where the LAPD learn to defend themselves, so I don't think you can get much better than that.

In New York, there are a whole slew of people popping up who teach Krav Maga, especially in Manhattan. However, since, contrary to popular belief, Manhattan is not the center of the known universe, I should really focus on areas that are not Manhattan. While there are some fine places in the city, dragging gym equipment on the subway is so annoying.

Protection Fitness—open for two years, no accidents or injuries. One of my favorite instructors from my second Krav Maga school, KMLI (see below), owns and runs this particular institution. The first time I went there was the first time I went to a Krav class after a seven-month hiatus. I went into it whole hog … then I fell down. You would have thought that there were EMTs on call, they got to me so fast.

Why did I fall down? Note to self: don't fast during Lent on days you take Krav classes. Just a thought.

Since then, I have learned to defend myself against knives, and handguns, and baseball bats, and shotguns, and chokes on the ground, and knives against a wall and ...

It's fun

Recently, we went through chokes on the ground – when an attacker is both mounted on top of you (pluck the hands, buck, then roll, honest), and when the attacker is on the ground next to you, trying to kill the defender (pry the hands off of you, and unleash kicks to the head as needed).

It's filled with a lot of good stuff, and I'd suggest it highly to anyone who wants to go try Krav Maga, but doesn't want to try Manhattan.

Top Gun Karate.” This was my first foray into the world of Krav … I'm sorry, no offense I was worried as hell.  Having “five levels” practice in the same space is problematic enough. Not to mention that all of the “lower level” students are managed by an assistant instructor who doesn't even have a teaching certification in Krav Maga. It made me nervous.

However, Dariel Williams (above) praises the owner. And I can say this for it: the week I was there, I did not see one, single injury.

KMLI (Kombat Masters of Long Island)– I went here for two years. I loved this place for quite some time.... then things started going weird. My ankle was severely sprained because of one student who got reckless. Other students started getting injured. Not through any fault of the instructors, but through sheer recklessness. Teeth were lost, corneas were scratched, shoulders dislocated. It started to look more like an ER than a training studio.

One particular moron had taken MMA, and felt compelled to show off; it took months to get rid of him, and even one instructor I respected who didn't know MMA guy by name—just as “Oh, the @$$h01e.”  Guess who helped me sprain my ankle.

I liked four instructors and took them religiously. Dr. Michael Blitz (owner), Bill Primavera, Dariel Williams, and Amy Morgenstern. Kevin Reid I had as instructor once or twice, and while I liked him, my timing sucked.

Then, Dr. Blitz stopped teaching anything below level 3. Dariel Williams now runs Protection Fitness. Bill Primavera, an excellent teacher, was put on the rotational schedule with other instructors who I disliked, which made training like Russian roulette. Or is that more like Israeli roulette?  It's been corrected since then, but I'm wary.

Either way, weird things started happening with the schedule. Unfortunately, now, I can't in good conscience recommend KMLI. I can't tell you to go there without health insurance. Even morning Krav Maga classes were replaced with … yoga?  And then the entire schedule was rewritten twice.

Nothing personal to the folks of KMLI, I like most of you all quite a bit, but you have some instructors who should be fired, and better safety regulations.  Put Amy and Bill, and Dr. Blitz in more places in the schedule, and it would be a good start.

Krav Defense …. “Long Island's Leader in Krav Maga.” Um, ahem …

I did a review for on this fellow. You can read it here.

The short version: This guy is a joke. He is a bad joke. Told by a arthritic mime with Tourettes syndrome.

Have a good day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Music blog: E Nomine, Doctor Who

I couldn't come up with a theme for this blog.  I was going through my iTunes list, and discovered that it basically looks like it was developed by someone with undiagnosed schizophrenia.

But, I try my best.

The song in this video is Mitternacht (Midnight). The song is by E Nomine, and the visuals are from a video game in the Resident Evil franchise.  You've seen another video with them before, with their far superior song Unser Vater.

Fighting and Writing, what is Krav Maga?

In one of my DragonCon reports, I noted that various authors have various reasons to have fight scenes in their novels: to honor those who have fought, to get realism in the writing, to come to grips with wars they've been in.

I'm not so high-minded.

There are some situations my characters won't be able to talk their way out of … in the case of A Pius Man, when there are people who start shooting up the Spanish Steps with a full-on assault with automatic weapons and RPGs, then there is only so much good harsh language can do for my protagonists.

The same goes with my theories on close-quarters combat. Unfortunately, most of my early fight scenes were developed by watching stuntmen dancing in various and sundry TV shows and movies. In fact, one of my characters, Sean A.P. Ryan, was a stuntman before going into the mercenary business—which is the only way that I could justify some of his crazier stunts.

Why not just use a real martial art?

Really? Which one? Tae Kwan Do, which has been referred to as a sport, even by black belts I've met? Karate, with kata dance routines that have about as much to do with an actual fight as ballet (I should know, I went for that when I was ten)?

I had come across penjakt silat, an Indonesian martial style, in Tom Clancy's NetForce novels; it was very practical, but overly complicated for writing purposes. MMA hadn't been popular when I started writing, and that, too, is merely a sport (high kicks are nice, but MMA doesn't have to deal with being kicked between the legs).

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell ConvictionHowever, a few years ago, I was exposed to a system called Krav Maga. Not in standard media, but in a video game—Splinter Cell, to be exact. Yes, for you video game nerds, Sam Fisher is using an actual style of combat. They didn't just make it up as they went along

24 Declassified: Veto PowerLater, I picked up novels based on the series 24, written by John Whitman. And, wow, it was practical.

And Krav Maga kept popping up in things I read. After a while, I took a hint, and I did some research into Krav Maga. I started by doing some research into John Whitman.

I discovered he was a black belt in Krav Maga. And he was more than an authority. He was apparently The authority in the United States.

Complete Krav Maga: The Ultimate Guide to Over 230 Self-Defense and Combative Techniques
For me, Krav Maga worked from a writing standpoint. It was simple, it was straightforward, and, most importantly, it used weapons. Not to mention that it was a style that was practical—a kick to the groin is a standard weapon, one that's practiced repeatedly; eye gouges are another tactic, one that I've never seen in a standard sparring match.

It was so much better for my writing, where all of my characters are … very practical. MMA is nice, and the fighters are all real athletes, but I don't recall the last MMA match that required having participants defend themselves against a knife, or one where someone is bleeding from bite marks.

I decided to look into Krav Maga a little.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Image Comics & The Big Lie

But I Digress (Comics Buyer's Guide)The first time I had ever heard of Image Comics, it was in a column by Peter David called But I Digress.  It was all mostly a matter of the strange and wonderously stupid things done in the comic book industry, as well as writing, and structure of stories, and why doesn't anyone ever stay dead already?

What I recalled of Image Comics was that it was art-focused. Essentially, all of the artists decided that they didn't need anything stupid like, oh, writers, for example. Because, after all, writers are just those people who fill in the word bubbles after the artist is done with the pictures, right?

Tell it to Joss Whedon, or JM Straczynski, or Peter David.

Now I digress ....

The Twilight Zone: The Complete Definitive CollectionAnyway, with this background, I read about Image Comics trying to do a Twilight Zone episode.

Okay, goody.  I always like it when people try to imitate better writers. It's worked for some people better than others.

The Twilight Zone episode they wanted to mimic was one of their few hour long episodes, No Time Like the Past. A time traveler named Paul Driscoll tries to stop major events in history from going wrong.

Driscoll tries to evacuate Hiroshima.  The Japanese take one look at this anglo, and throw him in jail.

Driscoll tries to shoot Hitler. He is stopped because an annoying cleaning lady just won't leave him alone, and then becomes suspicious and calls the men in black trench coats on him.

He even tries to stop the Lusitania from being sunk.

At the end of the day, Paul Driscoll says to heck with it all, goes back in time to the old west. He knows a tragedy is about to happen, and tries to stop it ... but by screwing around with events, he is actually the cause of the tragedy.

Okay, great. If a comic book is going to mimic this, then great.  This looks like an interesting idea.  So, what does image comics do?

September 11th, 2001

Gay Marriage: So What?

Gay marriage was deemed legal in New York State over the past weekend....

As someone who's spent a lot of time on this blog doing Catholicism for dummies, I guess I would be expected to comment on this sort of thing.

To which one part of my says ... "So what?"  My personal politics says who cares. I don't care what anyone else does as long as they don't harm anyone else. I'm a little libertarian that way.  In fact, I had proposed a few times that we just make all "marriages" properly labeled.  Atheists and gays can have civil unions (because, really, marriage should be something religious). and anyone who can get married in a church can get married in any church that will have them. The End.
[More below the break]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Week in Review: 6-25-2011

Monday was my Father's Day post. All about my father.

The music blog was one part Two Steps from Hell, one part Tom Smith.
Fool's Bargain

Tuesday was my review of the man who should be running all of Star Wars: Timothy Zahn. So the post was called The Wrath of Zahn.  There's a bonus if you can ID what the blog post title references..

The music blog for Tuesday had a super villian in love, and muppets.

Could I make that up?

I have mentioned in a few other places my character Hashim Abasi. He shows up in A Pius Man, and he's a cop ... from Egypt.  The post is about writing with current events.

The music was an interesting counterpoint: with evil pizza, evil computers, and a body count.

And, for a bonus: my friend Jason discusses leaving Afghanistan.

My week ended with an Index: if you wanted my Lenten and Easter series, it's all here. Have fun. Or try to.

Then, we enter: The Eye of the Storm.

And, if you've been keeping track, my self defense columns from the week are

And a review of a local, New York self defense school.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Music: the Eye of the Storm: Fenton

If you are allergic to strangeness, you might want to play the first video last. If not, play in whatever order you like....

First up....
Eye of the Storm (The Legacy of Aldenata)
Cruxshadows, the Eye of the Storm. They've been mentioned before on this blog. They're a little weird. I'm not sure if they want to be a Goth band when they grow up (to go by their costumes) or if they wanted to write Greek mythology (to go by some of their song content.)

For this song, you can enjoy the eye candy based around the Final Fantasy VII franchise, you can enjoy the music, or both.

If you can, guess where I discovered this song from.....

Next up .... Have you ever gotten annoyed with horror franchises? How they seem endless and they never, ever go away?  Tom Smith takes a whack at it.

And then, the sequel you saw coming.

Index: Atheists, Lent, and Evil Religions

Throughout Easter and a Lent, I did a lot of what my friend Jason called "High Intellectual" articles.

I'm never making that mistake ever again.

However, since it did have some interesting fan support.... if "fans" could be people screaming for your blood ... I figured I'd put it into a nice, compact little section on the blog. Think of it as a season in review that, with luck, I'll never inflict on anyone ever again.

The Snarky Theology series. My way of translating dogmatic theology into something that human beings can understand.

Snarky Theology 1: Catholic Cannibals. Looking at the theology of Swallow the leader. Eating your deity.

Snarky Theology 2: FAQs about Lent. Some fun facts about Lent that turned into a minor war.

The Flame war is postponed While I was busy having a flame war with an idiot on the blog, someone did soething stupid online. I fought back in the name of all sane people everywhere.

Snarky theology 3: Evolution, Creationists, and other Irritants. Evolution, what is it good for? My answer: who cares?

GOD H8TS JAPAN; Twitting with Phelps & Co.  Hint, it was published on 4-1-11

Snarky Theology 5: The Passion, Jews, and Good Friday. 

Snarky Theolgy 6: Easter: HE IS RISEN

Murder in The Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes
The Guest Blog Index -- "Catholic fiction"

-- I had two weeks off from Snarky theology for two virtual book tours. One was a bit of Sherlock Holmes with Murder in the Vatican, and some Catholic science fiction from Karina Fabian's Infinite Space, Infinite God II

Murder in the Vatican Author Margaret Ann Lewis.

Guest blog (on writing historical figures in fiction) and Interview (on writing a book on Sherlock Holmes and Pope Leo XIII), and a Review of Murder in the Vatican, which can be found at

Infinite Space, Infinite God III did the same for Karina Fabian.

The Guest blog: where she talks about writing religion and science fiction

The interview, where I unleash my inner nerdom ...

And a review.

I think that was the most fun I had had that Lent. They were both a joy and a pleasure to have.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Axes and Allies: So, we're leaving Afghanistan?

This is a post from my friend Jason, over at Axes and Allies. He's either a bit more left than I am, or a bit more Right than I am, depending on the day of the week.
In case anyone wants a blog on the whole Afghanistan situation, I give you Jason's article... at least the opening. Follow the link if you're interested.
Axes and Allies: So, we're leaving Afghanistan?: " Today, President Barack Obama called for a gradual draw-down of military forces in Afghanistan (Obama Exit Afghanistan ). I’m to..."

Music Blog: Domino Death, Still Alive, Let the bodies hit the floor.

This one is just going to be pure strange. You may want to run.

First,a song from Tom Smith .... Have you ever had problems with your pizza delivery?

The end of the video game Portal was done by Jonathan Coulton; as sung by the evil computer that's been trying to kill you throughout the entire video game.  By this point, it had been broken to pieces, and incinerated in order to disable it's ability to flood the installation with nerve gas.

Johnathan Coulton's "Still Alive"

And after the break is the closest thing to "normal" .... the song that I play when I have a bad day.... a really bad day.

Current events and Writing. The Problems of Hashim Abasi

Part of the problems with writing a political thriller is that geopolitical situations change all the times. Sometimes daily.  Some writers find their ways around it easily.
American Assassin: A Thriller
Vince Flynn, for example is the creator of Mitch Rapp, CIAssassin. He apparently decided to skip over the Obama administration by writing American Assassin-- I guess he didn't think that having a hit man on the payroll would be compatible with the 2008 election results.

American Assassin was essentially an origin story set soon after the Lockerbie bombing, and showing how his main character got into the business of killing America's enemies.

Full Black: A Thriller (Scot Harvath)With the author Brad Thor, he found away around policy changes by taking his main character, Scot Harvath, out of the government altogether. Harvath, a Secret Service agent with a license to kill, had actually been alienated by the federal government well before 2008. Harvath went out to become a private security agent, occasionally pulling jobs for the Department of Defense.

However, the author has been interviewed by Glenn Beck repeatedly, so you can guess where his politics lie.  But, for his novels, the only politics that matter are "People who try to kill Americans wholesale need to be killed."

And then there's my case.  In A Pius Man, you might notice from time to time that there is the name of Hashim Abasi.  Hashim is in the story to bring in various international elements. He is a brilliant street cop, he has a political science degree from Oxford, and he specialized in international politics before being sucked back into his home life. He has a dark secret in his past, but aside from that, he serves as a neutral party in the world of Vatican politics and religious griping -- it's not his religion.

What could be the problem? What could possibly go wrong?

Hashim Abasi is an Egyptian cop.

Want to guess what happened to mess that up?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Coulton and muppets.... What?

Skullcrusher Mountain, by Jonathan Coulton ....

It's a story of an evil genius in love....

And now, the antidote ... well, the parody: Muppet Laboratories

I think that's enough for now, don't you?

Author Review: The Wrath of Zahn

Timothy Zahn will always be marked as the man who resurrected the Star Wars series from it's unholy grave. He wrote three books in the early 1990s, and the Star Wars book series was born.

Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, Vol. 1)Starting with Heir to the Empire, it was one of the few modern novels at the time I had encountered protagonists who thought. Not just a passing thought, covered in Italics, but whole paragraphs of tactical thought and maneuvering. And sometimes for entire pages. Shootouts in space and in infantry tactics had become chess games with lasers and missiles. And the antagonist of the piece was brilliant; the conversations between him and his side kick looked like Sherlock Holmes and Watson with a tactical manual.

 Though, to be honest, Zahn is the only person in the Star Wars world I'll read ever again.  There are only so many books about X-Wing pilots, and trashing the universe before it gets tiresome.  With Zahn, All of his books are well thought out, and no one is stupid. There are some cases you can probably say that everyone thinks too much, but a smart book is never a bad thing, as far as I'm concerned. Every time George Lucas entered into the world of Star Wars, Zahn followed, and improved it.

Zahn created a planet called Coruscant -- which appeared in the first "prequel" movie. Lucas made droids with little shields, Zahn came up with a way to out-maneuver them. Lucas went back in time, Zahn went back in time, and, while Zahn couldn't make Anakin Skywalker interesting, everyone else around him was.
Star Wars: Choices of One
And, in true George Lucas fashion, he took everything that Zahn created, and promptly ruined it ... read the most recent Star Wars novels, and you'll see why. Zahn and an author named Michael J. Stackpole had come up with a concept to expand the Star Wars novels into a kind of Next Generation series ...

It went ahead without Zahn.

Let's just say that there's a reason Zahn's latest Star Wars novel is set in the past, before the first and second movies.  I would rather read his take on the rise of the most brilliant tactical leader the bad guys ever had, than read one more petty, pedantic, grim novel set around Lucas's regular Star Wars novels.  It also includes the funniest group of rogue stormtroopers you've ever seen, and possibly the only ones who have the ability to shoot straight.