Still Rolling on – U.S Government v. Kim Dotcom

Kim DotcomI’ve written about the now almost three year saga of Kim Dotcom who was arrested in New Zealand at the behest of the U.S. government who in turn was working for their corporate masters the RIAA. Whew.

I wrote here how the arrest itself was largely illegal, based on illegal surveillance, and he was mistreated while in prison.

I followed up with a misleading headline that called Dotcom a cyber-fugitive. More on this in a moment.

The story continued when a judge ruled that the nation of New Zealand is not allowed to keep his possessions indefinitely.

As part of the deal returning his possessions the United States now argues that Dotcom is a fugitive and not entitled to use his money to defend himself in court. It’s a ridiculous argument because Dotcom is exactly where he was when he was arrested. The United States wants to Extradite him but he is opposing this which is completely legal. Government stooges working for the recording industry are simply throwing every procedural obstacle they can in the way to further bankrupt their enemy. No one really cares about “winning” the case. They are punishing their opponent financially.

I called the government’s argument ridiculous but I want to explain why. Dotcom is trying to sell his car to help pay for his legal defense. The government wants to say because he’s a fugitive he can’t do so. I want you to imagine a world where government forces can arrest you for anything they desire and without a trial seize your money and possessions for years and when forced to release some of it simply claim you are not allowed to use it for legal defense. To sum up. The government can come by your house, take almost everything, and not allow you to use what’s left for legal defense despite the fact that you haven’t been found guilty of anything.

The original raid was madness. The seizures despicable. This application of the Doctrine of Fugitive Disentitlement is frightening. It is an extension of police force that is essentially unlimited dictatorial power. No one can be secure from such power. Even the wealthy can easily be curbed of their rights when the government simply make it illegal for them to use their money without even a trial.

I rightly worry about the extension of police power at a local level and I’ve written about seizures laws on a number of occasions and this is merely an international version of the same thing. At what point does the government and particularly their police arm present more of a threat to the population than criminals? I honestly think we are there.

I’m a 50 year old white man with enough money to not worry about retirement. When someone like me is honestly afraid of the police there is a serious problem. When I see police at every level doing the work of the highest bidder and far more concerned about seizing money and destroying enemies than preventing crime there is a problem.

I worry that someone in power might decide I’m the bad guy. Charge me with a crime and take my things. To all apparent appearances such could easily be done and there is almost nothing I could do about it.

Maybe we all should be worried.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Of Bananas, Fruits, and Bunches

Dear readers,

I just read this story. You tell me. Real or fake.

Man Faces Felony Charges for Pointing Banana.

For those of you who don’t want to read, I’ll sum up.

A man named Nathan Rolf Channing from the town of Fruitvale, CO went up to a police officer named Joshua Bunch (and one other) and pointed a banana at them. The officers mistook it for a gun and arrested him. He is facing felony charges.

So, I ask you, loyal readers. Is it the Onion? April 1st? Or just an astonishing series of coincidences?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
The Black Sphere Coming Soon!

 

Claims and more Claims

Walking on MarsI’m not sure I can actually file this one in the Misleading Headlines category because the headline pretty much tells it the way it is.

Walking on Mars. Former NASA Employee Claims Men Walked On Mars In 1979.

The story is exactly what the headline purports it to be. An anonymous person claims to have been working for NASA in 1979 and seen live footage from the Viking Lander in which two human figures walked by the lander. She ran upstairs to another room which was covered up and was denied entry. She asked supervisors if what she saw was real but they refused to answer her questions.

With the recent landing on Rosetta and several Mars rovers and Mars orbiters going about there business there seems to be a plethora of stories pretty much like this one. Rocks look like something and are thus evidence of life on Mars. Figures are seen on Mars. It is simply one story after the next. I can only assume that people, besides me, are clicking on these stories and therefore there is an interest.

Are people clicking out of curiosity to see how ridiculous the story is or do they actually believe the headline? I’m sure a bit of both but the sheer volume of such nonsensical stories does surprise me. Yahoo news has at least two or three new ones every week.

I think it’s great people are interested in space and Yahoo has many hard-science stories as well. This is encouraging to me because it means people are clicking on them.

I suppose I’m curious. Do you click on these crazy stories just to see the level of insanity they reach? Do you not click on them? Do you click on them because, hey, it might be true?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
The Black Sphere Coming Soon!

Is a Boy with Long Hair a Bad Thing?

English Boy 1871I just read an interesting article written by a mother whose son prefers long hair and is often mistaken for a girl. My own opinion is that young boys and girls haven’t begun hormonal changes and are largely the same from a physical standpoint anyway, so who cares? I expected the comments to be along the same lines and I was sorely surprised.

It appears that a healthy percentage of people think it’s wrong for a boy to look like a girl when young. That long hair on a boy is a bad thing. I wonder what they would make of the fact that until modern times it was pretty common to put boys in dresses until they were older. I suppose nowadays we’d be criticizing mothers who did such a thing as turning their children gay. At least that’s what seemed to be a fairly widespread point of view among those commenting. That and the poor boy would be traumatized for life.

I think the problem largely rests with a sexualized society in which people apparently judge a young child by the length of their hair. It’s ridiculous because they are merely children. As I mentioned earlier, hormones have yet to kick in. Except for a boy’s penis and a girl’s vagina there’s hardly an outwardly observable difference between the two. You’d pretty much have to do a blood test to see the difference. They are interested in things that interest children. Sexual roles aren’t part of the equation and when we try to force them on these children I don’t think we’re doing them a service.

Be a man? Girl’s are supposed to be pretty? How about be a child! Enjoy it. Play with your friends. I can’t believe that forcing a young male child to look like an adult man is good for his long-term mental health. It’s society that is somehow embarrassed by a boy who looks like  girl or a girl who looks like a boy. The reality is they pretty much look the same until hormones begin to turn them into adults.

I’m reminded of the recent incidents where a man smacked a two year old boy for wearing a pink headband that belonged to his mother and then verbally abused the woman and the airport brawl where a drunken traveler attacked a man for wearing a pink shirt.

The problem is not with the child, it’s with the person who has an issue with long hair or a ribbon. How many boys with older sisters didn’t play dress-up or wear their mother’s heels and clomp around the house? It’s not a matter of gay or straight, boy or girl, man or woman. It’s a matter of pre-pubescent child.

We are far too interested in other people’s business in this country and the politicians we elect reflect that misguided ideology. Back when men were men, as we like to say, no one gave two rats asses about a boy wearing a dress and having long hair. No one! It doesn’t make us more manly to care about it now, it reveals our own insecurities as a society. Our own paranoia and fear.

It seems the more we care about things that just don’t matter the less we care about important things. That can’t be good.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
The Black Sphere Coming Soon!

 

What was Dodge Ball Really Like?

Dodge BallI was watching one of my favorite shows, The Goldbergs, on Hulu this evening and sighed when I noted the oft used theme of Dodge Ball. It seems to be an ubiquitous episode for every show which has school aged protagonists.

The only purpose of my blog today is to educate those who probably have the wrong impression about what Dodge Ball is and what it is not. I do not pretend that my description of the game is the only interpretation. I played dodge ball from elementary school all the way through high school but that doesn’t mean I played it in all its forms. My experience might well be different than others.

Dodge Ball is portrayed in the media as largely one of two things. A sadistic exercise invented by gym teachers to hurt and humiliate weaker children or a strength building exercise that helps children gain character. It might well be a bit of both but first a quick perusal of the various rules by which I played.

Most versions of the game have the following rules.

  1. Teams line up on both sides of a divide with a limited number of balls to hurl at one another.
  2. Anyone hit by a ball is out.
  3. Anyone who throws a ball that is caught by someone on the opposite side is out.
  4. The team that loses its last player loses and the other team wins.

An optional rule that was often invoked during games I played was that after a period of time a signal would extend the dividing line between the teams so there were fewer places to hide. If a game proceeded long enough another whistle invoked essentially a free-for-all where anyone could run anywhere and throw their ball at an opponent. This usually ended the game quickly.

Balls came in several sizes with the most dangerous being smaller and easily held in one hand. These could be thrown with fairly significant force and cause a moderate amount of pain although little in the way of serious injury.

So, what was Dodge Ball to me? A game to be won. I wasn’t the fastest, strongest, or quickest athlete on the court but I was far from the least coordinated. I could throw a ball with good velocity and excellent accuracy. My hand-eye coordination was my biggest strength and I was dangerous to throw against because I could catch almost anything hurled my way. I can understand how others were perhaps terrified by Dodge Ball but the same look of fear was in their eye during a kick ball game when it was their turn to perform. Those rubber balls could sting, particularly the little ones, but I suffered far more pain in other sporting endeavors. Those who were frightened allowed themselves to be hit early and retreated to the sidelines. I was not one of them.

My experience is that it was simply a children’s game and a lot of fun was had by at least this participant. I remember a few free-for-all sessions where bigger and stronger players, upset that I had put them out in earlier matches, simply knocked me down and bounced a few balls off me but the anger I felt was in losing the game.

I’m not discounting the terror that some surely remember from the game but I don’t think it was any worse than other gym class endeavors. The humiliation of waiting to be picked was probably far more damaging in a psychological, if not physical, way. Yeah, I got popped in a face by a few of those rubber balls but no harm was done. As I’ve said, it was a game to won, and I wanted to win!

So there you have it. One man’s memory of Dodge Ball. I don’t think it built much character for me but it didn’t terrorize me either. I hope I’ve helped dispel some of the myth. Your experiences may have been different.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
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Heddon Street Kitchen No Shows – Rude and Rude

Heddeon Street Kitchen and Gordon RamsayThere’s an interesting story in the news this evening about celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay and the opening night for his new London restaurant.

On opening night his restaurant endured 100 no shows out of a total of 140 bookings. The inference that Ramsey makes is that a rival restaurateur was behind all the false reservations.

When I perused down to the comments, as I always do, I anticipated a lot of people expressing their joy and this comeuppance for Ramsay. The reason I suspected as much is because Ramsay comes across as arrogant and cruel on his various television shows. He yells at young chefs and calls them names when they fail to prepare a dish to his standards. He is harsh and abrasive to say the least.

According to those who know him, this is somewhat of a facade to generate ratings and interest in his various restaurants. I don’t have any doubt that Ramsay is somewhat of a perfectionist who doesn’t tolerate stupidity. He also seems very loyal to those who are good at their jobs and it is well-documented that he has helped other chefs in their careers. So when I got to the comments I was prepared for the worst.

I was quite surprised that the comments were largely along the same line as my thoughts on the subject. Whoever pulled this “prank” is a selfish prick. In addition to hurting the owner of the Restaurant they also financially hurt every employee. Ever person who worked very hard to get that place open on that night and was hoping to be rewarded for their hard work. That’s what a Libertarian like myself believes is one of the most important societal events. People who plan, work hard, and accomplish something must be rewarded.

It’s entirely possible the new restaurant will fail. Perhaps Ramsay was counting on his reputation to carry Heddon Street Kitchen to success and he cut corners. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible the restaurant will be a great success. That the employees of that restaurant will go on to create their own dining establishments. That they will learn from Ramsay what it takes and eventually create dozens of great restaurants; and thus we all benefit. That’s Objectivism.

This action, by whomever took it, was not a prank. It was a violation of everything a Libertarian holds dear. It was also theft and not just from Ramsay and his employees. There were surely many people who wanted to go that night but couldn’t because it was booked. They were robbed of a meal. They were robbed of spending their money willingly and happily.

If you want to beat Ramsay then open a better restaurant next door. That’s the Libertarian way. This? Rude and wrong. For shame!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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Rams Fans Taunt Broncos Fans? Really?

Denver+Broncos+v+St+Louis+RamsAs most of my loyal readers know, I’m a huge sports fan and living in St. Louis that means when it’s football season I’m all in on the Rams. I know, I know, it hasn’t been good for a long while but I just love going to the game and I have Rams season tickets. On Sunday the Rams played, by far, their best game of the season and defeated the heavily favored Denver Broncos.

The Broncos were 7-2 going into the game while the Rams were 3-6. Broncos fans arrived early and in very strong numbers. I sit near the 40 yard-line on the Rams side of the field and generally there aren’t that many opposing team’s fans in my area as they prefer to be on the other side of the field. Yesterday was an exception as thousands of Broncos fans were everywhere in the stadium including a woman right next to me and two young boys behind me.

During the game they cheered their Broncos on, as should any fan, but they did it in what I would describe as a respectful way. As the game entered it’s final minutes they began to file out of the stadium and that’s when what I want to talk about today happened. A couple of fans not far from me started to taunt the Broncos fans. Really?

Just a quick recap for those of you who aren’t football fans. The Broncos were in the Super Bowl last year and have made the playoffs the past three seasons and it’s looking quite likely they will make it again. The Rams last made the playoffs in 2004 haven’t had a winning record since 2003 (they went to the playoffs with an 8-8 record in 2004). The Broncos have a tradition of winning and while the Rams do as well, it has been a bad ten years for the team.

When I heard those taunts I saw red. I mean, really? Here we are, sad-sacks of the NFL for the last ten years, and we manage to win one game against the team that lost in the Super Bowl last year and you’ve got the nerve to taunt their fans for leaving in the last couple of minutes of a game? Believe me, I’ve dragged my sorry behind out of Dome after losses on many occasions and when I hear a fan on the winning team taunting it gets my goat.

I turned around and yelled, “Be a gracious winner”. I wanted to yell something with a little more sting but I seem to have made my point as the taunting stopped, at least in my section.

It brought something to my mind though. What is it to be a gracious winner? What sort of person wins and then, unsatisfied with being victorious, has to taunt the losers or their fans? What does it say about the character of that person? When you win you should be joyous, not filled with rancor. It don’t even see how it’s that difficult to be magnanimous in victory. It’s a natural feeling to say something along the lines of, “well, we just played better today but you’ve got a good team“. Certainly fans from other cities have said something like that to me as I filed dejectedly out of the Dome on any number of occasions.

Defeat with dignity? That’s tougher. You’re mad your team got beat. You hate the other team and their fans. That’s a true test of character. Hold your head up and say “Darn the luck, we’ll get them next time.” That’s not easy but that’s what people with character do.

I don’t have a lot of room in my heart for Rams fans who taunt their opponent in victory. I suppose you could say our fans just aren’t used to winning but I don’t buy that excuse.

To all those Bronco fans at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday I say this: Thanks for coming to St. Louis. I hope you had a good trip. You’ve got a great team and despite the outcome I’m sure many good days lie ahead.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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Matt Taylor and the Woman Hating Shirt

MattTaylor ShirtI spotted a headline the other day but didn’t get around to clicking on the story until just now. It’s a doozy.

A fellow by the name of Matt Taylor is a member of the Rosetta team that guided the Philae lander onto a comet. During the hours leading up to the landing a number of news outlets were interviewing the various scientists. Taylor chose to wear an interesting shirt to work that day and his choice is raising some questions.

My initial reaction to the headline was that some feminist organizations were over-reacting to a relatively harmless shirt. Then I clicked on the story and saw the shirt. I do think Taylor should be able to wear whatever shirt he wants and if his employers have no problem with such attire in the workplace, so be it. However, if I wore a shirt like that to work I’d be sent home. I’d be told to change it. It’s clearly inappropriate for the office and to wear it on the day you know news media is coming in droves is clearly a poor judgment call.

I’m sure Taylor is very good at his job and that should outweigh what shirt he chooses to wear. However, there are dress codes for a reason. I’d certainly be uncomfortable if one of my co-workers chose to wear a shirt like that at work.

I’m certainly not saying that Taylor views women solely as sex-objects. He could be, and probably is, a great guy. He could love women and be turned on by intelligent, attractive, and powerful women with an attitude; I know I am!

He is probably not in the slightest bit misogynistic. That’s why it’s a shame he chose to wear that shirt to work on that day. He portrayed himself in a certain light. By choosing to wear that shirt on that day, he presented himself in a particular fashion willingly and knowingly. If people are offended then he only has himself to blame. If people have no problem with it then that’s their business as well.

Certainly only his employer has a right to enforce a particular dress-code. The media has no say, nor does anyone offended by the shirt. If I find it inappropriate it has no weight with Taylor or his bosses. It’s their company, it’s his shirt.

Now, off to go find some hot pictures of Supergirl. (I prefer my intelligent, attractive, and powerful women more towards the trim and athletic side, but hey, that’s me).

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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We were Blindsided – Misleading Headline

School District Bans HolidaysI just read an interesting article and was “blindsided” by the blatant and disgusting misleading blurb that accompanied the headline.

The story  comes from Yahoo news and involves a Maryland school district that decided to remove all religious holiday references from their calendar rather than include references to Muslim holidays.

The headline itself is accurate: School district strikes Christmas from calendar. It’s the blurb that is an example of the vile reporting that causes stories to enter into my Misleading Headline posts. “We were blindsided,” it states authoritatively.

I want you to think for a moment about the intent of that quote in this blurb. It’s an absolutely accurate quote. One of the parties involved in the situation said those exact words.

Ready?

It was the Muslim organization’s representative. They are dismayed that the other religions had to have their holidays stricken from the calendar. They simply wanted Muslim holidays mentioned on the calendar. That’s it. Mentioned. Instead of mentioning a Muslim holiday the school district decided to strike all references. The reason is, of course, because they are not comfortable listing Muslim holidays but are keenly aware that they cannot exclude one religion while including others. Their solution is to remove all such references.

That’s certainly the choice of the school district and as an Atheist I’ve got not problem with such a decision. Good riddance, I say. If they wanted to include the Muslim holidays along with Jewish and Christian I wouldn’t have a problem with that either. Frankly, I don’t care either way.

My problem is with the blurb on the headline. Completely and totally misleading. It’s clearly designed to make people think the school board was somehow blindsided by the request from the Muslim organization. It’s not even misleading. It’s really just a flat-out lie.

Congratulations Yahoo News. You win Misleading Headline of the Week!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
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666 is not the same as 6 – 6 – 6

Monster Energy DrinkI’m rather ashamed I’m even posting this. The great Monster Energy Drink is Satan debate bores me to tears. Honestly. It’s so stupid that even talking about it makes me feel dumber. Just a quick fact and I’ll let you go on your way.

The Hebrew numeric system was not like the Arabic Numeral system we use. I’m going to go with a Roman Numeral equivalent just so it’s a little easier to understand. Hebrew numbers were like Roman numbers. They didn’t go by base ten. So the number eleven was not the same as two number ones next to each other.

Let’s examine the number six expressed three times in Roman Numerals.

VI – VI – VI

Now let’s examine the number six-hundred and sixty-six in Roman Numerals.

DCLXVI

There you have it. Not the same.

Does the number six-hundred and sixty-six have any meaning? No.

Is Monster Energy Drink a sign of Satan? No.

Are we all dumber for having discussed this? No. Hey, at least we learned something about numbers!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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Marketing Power – Alex from Target

Alex from TargetAn interesting social media phenomenon swept through twitter when a young employee from Target had his picture posted on Twitter and immediately began to get tens of thousands and now millions of view. #Alexfromtarget is a good-looking young man and these tweets and retweets were largely pushed by a highly desirable marketing demographic called Fangirls. These tween and teen girls tend to be high purchaser and thus attract a great deal of marketing attention.

A Social Media marketing company now claims they were, to some degree, responsible for the explosion of tweets. At this stage there are some doubts about the claim and the company has modified its initial statement. They now say their various employees retweeted the picture of Alex, which was taken and initially posted independently of any marketing ploy, and spread it to likely Fangirl twitter pages. From there the picture gained momentum organically.

The people at Breakr claim it was merely an experiment to see what might be done. I have no way of knowing if what they are saying is accurate but I also have no problem believing that what they claimed happened, could easily happen. We’ve seen the same thing with microcap stocks with what are called Pump and Dump schemes. A social buzz is generated by a company with something to gain and the instantaneous nature of social media takes over from there.

It is clear in this case that Target and Alex knew nothing of the scheme but the implications that stem from this event are intriguing. I’ve known for some time now that a large number of reviews for self-published authors like myself are bought and paid for by the authors themselves. I wrote about this some time ago. It is also well known that companies solicit and repost good reviews for their various products in an attempt to generate sales.

Marketing buzz is highly desirable and can lead to millions of dollars in sales. If a marketing company is adept at generating such buzz then it is clear that businesses will beat a path to their door. How much good publicity has Target received in conjunction with the #AlexFromTarget twitter viral sensation? While it might seem difficult to quantify it is actually a trivial exercise. Target is well aware of their sales from week to week and month to month at various stores. They can now look at the numbers and tell us exactly how much of a boost in revenue that particular store received based on what has happened. It is bound to be significant.

Other companies will look at this increase in revenue and consider generating such viral campaigns. While the Alex from Target event brings such manipulations into the eyes of the mainstream population it is something of which businesses have long since been aware. What makes this story fairly interesting to me is that a third party company picked a tweet not started by the company to publicize. Had Breakr gone to Target with this plan before they implemented it, it is almost certain they could have realized some revenue. In this case it seems to have been an experiment. But what about next time?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Breakr did anything wrong. I don’t think if Target had contracted with Breakr to instigate the viral sensation that anything would have been amiss. It is in a company’s best interest to promote sales. It is in the job description of a marketing agency to create buzz. Alex remains a handsome young man who works at Target. The vast majority of those who fed the viral sensation were not on the payroll of Breakr. They did so willingly.

It does make me consider contracting with Breakr to promote my books!

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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What’s in a name? Ask Spider-Man

 alt=During lunch today we were having one of our typical highly technical, web-development, database intensive discussions when it occurred to us (Mainly Mike and Kerry) that Spider-Man has a hyphen in his name whereas Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and others with a similar two-part names do not. What’s up with that?

Search Engines provided the answer quickly enough but what I want to talk about is why a name is important. The reason the topic is interesting to me is that as an author I’m often coming up with names for my characters. I think it’s important to name them appropriately and Stan Lee (who named Spider-Man) seems to think about these things himself. Anytime I can compare myself to the great Stan Lee is a good day for me, although possibly not for Mr. Lee.

When I name a character in my novel Murray Finkelbein it brings forth certain images to mind. There are a number of philosophies about naming characters. It many cases a character is named the opposite of his actual physical traits. Slim Jones might be an obese man. Sometimes a name is meant to more accurately display their traits. Big Ralph might be a large man. A name carries with it certain expectations and for a major character in a novel or comic book, it’s an important consideration.

Stan Lee chose to give Spider-Man his unusual hyphen simply to more clearly distinguish the cover of the comic on the newsstand from that of the very popular Superman. It was a perfectly logical choice and clearly has proven successful. One is not surprised. Mr. Lee has a track record of good judgment in this sort of thing that is undeniable.

My latest novel is currently at the proof-reader and will be out in a few weeks and our discussion about Spider-Man and my subsequent research got me thinking about the names of the character in the upcoming book, The Black Sphere. The book is somewhat of a sequel to the Staff of Naught and thus several of the characters did not require any thought in regards to their names. Ariana, Lousa, Tenebrous, and Shamki were already named. However, one of the other main protagonists, Aydon, was not. Aydon is opposed by his brother Jaylen. I did actually put a fairly significant amount of time thinking about their names.

Truth be told they had different names originally and as the novel progressed I altered them. I don’t know how interesting it will be for my readers, few though they are, but I thought I’d give you some insight into how they were named.

I knew the brothers were going to serve an extremely important role in the novel in that although brought up in the same household they were very different young men. They thought differently about life and this contrast between the two is meant to display my Objectivist and Libertarian ideology. Suffice it to say that I think they are important characters in the novel. Thus getting their names right was important to me.

I wanted their names to be similar but not too close. I ended up with sort of a combination of Aaron and Ryan for Aydon. I thought it was solid without being pretentious. Easy to remember and say. Jaylen went through several permutations (I hope I caught them all in the book). I started with Jaydon but that was too close and might cause confusion, as Stan Lee surmised with Spiderman. Eventually I settled with Jaylen which is also simple but also distinct from Aydon.

No earth shaking revelations with this blog. Just a quick look into the minds of a very successful author and one not so much so: Stan Lee and myself. It’s good to know Stan worries about this sort of thing also.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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Best Whiskey from Japan – Subjective or Objective

yamazaki-sherry-cask-2013I just read an interesting story about a whiskey tasting contest which is adjudicated by a panel from the Whiskey Bible. The winner in past contests has often been a Scotch Whiskey and usually at least one brand from Scotland makes it into the top five. That was not the case this year, and at least judging by the comments, there was some consternation over this result.

The winner is called Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 and it is from Japan. As I wrote about earlier, Japan’s Suntory recently purchased Jim Beam and there was a lot of tumult about a Japanese company owning such an iconic U.S. whiskey brand. I don’t really want to discuss why Japan is now producing some of the most delicious tasting whiskeys in the world and if this is a good thing or a bad thing. What I’d like to discuss is the nature of the comments below the article. I’d say about 80% argued that either there was bribery involved or that no one could tell if a whiskey was good or not because taste was subjective.

I can’t tell you if bribery was involved and certainly the whiskey that is ordained as the best tasting will certainly enjoy a large increase in sales. This would indicate the potential for financial shenanigans. I can tell you that while there is certainly a subjective view about what whiskey tastes good to you there is also, absolutely, a difference in the quality and taste of one whiskey over another. What is determined to be a good whiskey is objectively good. It is not a matter of personal taste preferences.

Let’s start with extremes. I have a bottle of urine and a bottle of Virgil’s Cream Soda. One is objectively better tasting than the other. That’s a fact. Subjectivists will argue that if they like the urine better that it is better. This is the argument of those who prefer a different brand of whiskey to that chosen as the best. If this argument is true, if best is a completely subjective idea, then there really is no such thing as best. I would even argue that there is no such thing as good and bad. Urine and Virgil’s Cream soda cannot be compared at all. I think this is nonsense. It is clear that one thing is better than another.

In a more nuanced argument, like the one between the Yamazaki whiskey and it’s competitors, the judging becomes more difficult. A panel of experts samples the various whiskeys based on certain criteria and they vote. The votes are tallied and one whiskey emerges as the best. It can certainly be argued that the panel used inaccurate judging methods. It is possible that financial incentives swayed the vote. It can even be argued that the scoring methodology was flawed. What I say cannot be argued is that this year the Yamazaki whiskey was victorious. That it is better than its competitors based on as good an objective rating system as exists. What else is there?

This same argument can be made for any food, television show, or business decision. You must weigh the various factors and make the best decision possible. If you do so then you will generally succeed in life.

It’s undeniably true that people personally prefer one brand of whiskey over another but that does not mean that particular whiskey is, in fact, better than its competitor. I reject the notion of a subjective world. This doesn’t mean I’m taking away your right to love Evan Williams over Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013. That’s your business. I’m just telling you that the Yamazaki is better, objectively.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
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