Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas to All

Good [insert time of day here],

I know that this blog hasn't been up for very long, but I would still like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate. I hope you all have a wonderful time with your families and have a peaceful and cheery time.

Enjoy Joy to the World as recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (I told you I liked these people).

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In Praise of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Good [insert time of day here],

This isn't a serious post about actual issues. Not in the slightest. But given it's almost Christmas I figured I might as well write this.

A lot of people don't like Mormons, for some reason. I think this is silly; disliking people for their religion is just sort of a bad thing. I've met wonderful people who were Mormons. And I think it was awfully dumb of people to dislike Mitt Romney because he was Mormon due to the presence of a whole slew of far more rational reasons to dislike him.

But the thing I like the most about the Mormons is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. These people are awesome. Last December I found their recordings of Christmas music and was utterly, utterly blown away.

To demonstrate, take a listen to the only recording of Jingle Bells that can be described truthfully as 'epic.'

It sounds amazing and the arranger, James Pierpont, gives the song an almost Wagnerian grandeur to it. The modulations make it sound absolutely eerie at times.

They also do great things with Joy to the World and the Ukrainian Bell Carol, among others. Leaving Christmas music, they also do the best version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic I've ever heard, and also a great Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.

That's it. Happy [insert end of year holiday of your choice here]

Monday, December 21, 2015

So I've been Interviewed, and other stuff.

Good [insert time of day here], ladies and gentlemen.

Just wanted to let you know, if you've been wondering what the hell is going on in my mind (which I seriously doubt, but whatever) I was interviewed on Alternate History Fiction about the stuff I write on Enjoy.

Also, on that note, I've been moving a lot of my work over to Althistoria, so if you make an account there (which takes a lot less time than; so far as I can tell you don't need administrative approval) you can see them, and I'm moving more over soon. It has a better interface (i.e. one that wasn't last updated in 2004).

So yeah. That's this update. Enjoy some Brian Setzer Christmas music.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Not Good or Bad, but Blitzkrieg

World War II: the Good War, the Great Patriotic War, the war that made the modern world; we like giving sobriquets to that war. We also like setting a lot of fiction in that war, and especially a lot of video games. For a time in the 2000s there were so many first person shooters that there was something of a glut of them, so prevalent WWII is in gaming. The question is, why?

There is the main argument about morality, which I tend to agree with: that Nazis, Italian Fascists, and Imperial Japanese make very good villains. This is completely correct, for these governments were among the most evil in human history, as is common knowledge. It's also still in the public consciousness; there are people alive now that saw that war, that fought in that war. It's something that is still deeply ingrained in our culture.

As much as I do support the above arguments, there is one key reason that I, personally, believe that WWII is so prevalent in video games, and by extension films, less so literature.

It's fucking awesome.

You don't have stuff like this in war anymore.

Before you start excoriating me for downplaying the terrors of the Holocaust and other mass killings (I had family who died in the Bataan Death March, so I know the stories) or for being coarse in an otherwise dignified post, let me explain.

World War II was the last big war, the last war between large industrial powers. This brought the intensity of war to a wider scale and to a magnitude that simply has not been seen since. There were weapons that were flashier and more imposing than anything after it; weapons conducive to video games and movies.

For one, you have tanks. Lots of tanks. Nowadays, tanks are mainly used to fight insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan, but in WWII you had a significant part of the fighting between armored vehicles. The Wehrmacht shocked the world with blitzkrieg, storming through Belgium past the Maginot line. On the Eastern Front, you had perhaps the finest tank of the war, the T-34, produced en masse, engaging German mechanized horrors in the tundra of Russia. Nowhere else was this more apparent than Kursk, the largest tank battle in history.

Related to this is the mobility of warfare during that war, even with infantry and with armored vehicles that were not tanks. Men were going hill to hill fighting for ground, not searching for an invisible enemy nor ground to death in the trenches by machine guns. Movement makes excitement, and a moving war creates anticipation; it makes large sieges, like Leningrad, Stalingrad, or Berlin more harrowing than any battle in recent memory.

In the Pacific, you have the potential for massive naval clashes between the Americans and the Japanese, and their allies. It is telling that the only ship in the United States Navy, the U.S.S. Constitution, to sink another ship last did so in the War of 1812; the only American naval vessel that has seen ship-to-ship combat is a museum ship.

Air warfare, likewise, was different. It was a warfare of mass, not of surgical strikes. Now, what is done by drones or by the most precise of strikes was accomplished by fleets of bombers flying over enemy cities and unleashing hell upon them. It was far more random, and perhaps more importantly, more vast. There was also more plane to plane combat, unlike the modern insurgent threat from Iraq or Afghanistan. There was more daring, more heroism in the skies rather than just simply going on isolated bombing runs.

And this is the crux of the argument; WWII is so much more dramatic than modern warfare. You have no massive invasions nowadays, no Battles of Britain, no Stalingrads, no Kursks. The rise of a irregular enemy for the United States and by extension the rest of the West has, ironically, sent those wanting entertainment longing for a more powerful enemy who does not have to resort to trickery to oppose its opponents. There is more excitement in modern wars.

Most would rather be in a tank when an enemy is a tank, and as such there is a degree of equality of power between the two sides. There is much more suspense when there is a closeness of power projection ability; nobody thinks a one-sided fight is fun to watch. As such, seeing drones pummel terrorist caves in the middle of the Kalahari is boring; you know who has the advantage and you know who is going to win. Not so in WWII battles; there is horrifying effectiveness on both sides.

This is fundamentally why WWII is popular in media in general; equality of force. Gamers can go head to head in a T-34 or a Sherman against a King Tiger or Panzer IV and expect either side to win. There is a deal of awe in seeing multiple lumbering metal monstrosities firing explosive rounds at one another; likewise, there is as similar sense of awe seeing pilots dogfighting over London, or ships in combat at Midway, or the harrowing building-to-building, hand-to-hand combat of Stalingrad. It's more interesting to see almost equal forces fighting, rather than something so lopsided as the War in Afghanistan or subsequent wars. It's why we won't be seeing any less Nazis anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Evil vs. Wrong: a Problem of Language

Growing up in that little bubble of existence that seems to be somewhat contradictory towards actual reality, you see politics. You see dysfunction. Growing up, I saw the liberal anger to Bush II and the conservative anger towards Obama. They are fundamentally the same thing: angry mobs seeing the opponent as the enemy.

And it's not just Washington. It's endemic on the Internet. GIFT is in full effect. Police violence, feminism, US foreign policy, other countries' foreign policy, terrorism, and just about anything else you could imagine are subjected to the most vitriolic debates where anyone that disagrees is a heretic to truth, decency, and morality. It is utterly, utterly counterproductive.

What worries me greatly is that many causes I can support wholeheartedly are succumbing to the same trap of overemotional demonization of the opponent. For example: a reasonably large Skype chatroom of which I am a member fell victim to this. A transgender member of the chatroom was talking about how she had been harassed online by a transphobic bigot. The chatroom comforted her, as was proper and kind; the bigotry as expressed by her harasser is disgusting and the highest form of prejudice and immorality.

My tacit objection was when a member of the chatroom started loudly calling for the mass execution of social conservatives who shared such abhorrent beliefs. As committed to equality I am, I cannot support such language. It casts the bigots as evil; this is a defensible position but not one that those on the fence are likely to heed.

What must be avoided is what TvTropes calls "Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy," which, in media, is when two conflicted sides are both so repulsive that the audience ceases to care about the problems of the characters, as just as they may be. At worst, the audience will actively cheer on violent conflict between the two sides, believing that the more of each die, the better off the world will be.

Look at what that member was calling for: political violence on the scale of a totalitarian state. This is what will have activists branded as extremist, murderous loons. People are not as discerning as they ought to be, unfortunately, and tend to led bad apples spoil the bunch.

The common frame of debate in Washington's morass of gridlock is that the other side is completely, utterly evil, and not worth cooperating with or compromising with on about anything. Republicans call Democrats baby murderers, gun-grabbers, and Communists, while Democrats call Republicans religious authoritarians, extremists, corporate lackeys, and allege them of engaging in a 'War on Women.' What these various terms serve to do is merely to alienate those on the fence from the political process, driving American (and I would imagine similar phenomena in other countries) voter turnout to an embarrassing low.

Rather than blatant demonization, those who engage in debate or political discussion in general must see the opposing view as incorrect, not evil. They ought not to be crusaders for their own definition of justice; they must think logically, debunking, not branding as heresy, the opinion that they deem wrong. This is the key to balanced discourse; the last time we had a Crusade, those on the other side were less than enthused.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Good [insert time of day here], everyone, I'm Alex Wallace and I have no relevant credentials to anything.

This blog will be my dumping ground for whatever musings, political or otherwise, that I have nowhere else to post. You'll see stuff about music, Minecraft, and anything else I feel like posting about on this blog. It's my blog, I can post whatever I please.

I grew up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. and within the Beltway at that. Politics was everywhere growing up there, and so I think about it a fair bit. I am roughly right of center on the American spectrum with liberal social views, but the left-right axis only means so much so it's a hell of a lot more complicated than that.

I write on an alternate history site,, and go by the name SpanishSpy there. You can see my works here but you need an account to view a lot of them. I have also written articles for Matt Mitrovich's Alternate History Weekly Update.

So yeah. Ecce Homo. Do what you will.