Movie Review: Justice League

justice_leagueAfter the really impressive showing with the standalone Wonder Woman movie by Patty Jenkins, my wife and I were really looking forward to Justice League. How excited were we? We decided to organize a family movie day with relatives visiting us for Thanksgiving, and we took the time out of our PTO to watch this movie with my brother-in-law. My other relatives went to see Murder on the Orient Express (which is good, btw, and very faithful to Agatha Christie–worth seeing, but Jenny and I had already gone the week prior). Before going, we discussed the Rotten Tomatoes score for Justice Leagure (currently 39%), and I read some reviews. This allowed me to temper my expectations a lot.

It didn’t help.

Justice League is simply irredeemable on any level, as a movie. Before we even get started, this is a solid 2/5. If there is a 3 hour Director’s Cut, I might watch that to see if Zach Snyder had even tried to do enough backstory before the editors cut out too much. How bad was it? When the movie finished, my wife and I looked at each other and just laughed. She left after watching the first end credit scene (which was really early in the credits). She asked me to watch and tell her if anything interesting happened. The thing was, I was already leaving my chair after we had exchanged a look.

So why a 2? Flash’s humorous one liners for me, maybe. For my wife, we talked about Jason Momoa’s naked torso. You know what? If that’s what you need, here are some images. You don’t have to see the movie.


Henry Cavill also gets shirtless screen time. The Cyborg gets shirtless but his body is metal, so you’re not getting a treat for that, sorry. Some of the Amazons have stomachs showing instead of breastplates, but the media frenzy over this is hardly worth mentioning. It’s not even close to what kills this movie. So what’s the problem here?

Zach Snyder is the problem. Now, before I go on, I know that Zach Snyder is still dealing with a family tragedy, even months later, and he will always be dealing with this tragedy. As a fan of movies, and as someone who has literally watched every DC movie to date, that shouldn’t impact my ability to like this film.

I’ve also watched all Zach Snyder films. I loved 300. I really, really liked Watchmen, which many people do not. I did like Man of Steel also. But as far as pacing and exposition go, he just seems overwhelmed in many of his recent movies especially. Justice League is an absolute train wreck of storytelling.

If you watch this movie, please try to tell me what Steppenwolf’s actual powers are. It’s only in hindsight, and after reading people who love the comics describe Darkseid, that I had any idea that Darkseid’s potential arrival was the real menace. Do you remember the Batman fantasy of Darkseid in Batman vs. Superman? No? Me neither. There’s no reintroduction of the threat.

The only flashbacks you’re going to get is to a previous fight with Steppenwolf where he actually had these three devices that when put together cause a mystery scenario, and that apparently did nothing. It literally just called in a Green Lantern who apparently got killed with no backstory, united the Atlanteans, humans, and Amazons and they beat back Steppenwolf. So, you find out Steppenwolf is defeatable by lightning-wielding Atlanteans, but he apparently didn’t get afraid then. Why is that important? I don’t want to give that away, if you’re actually going to watch this.

As with many Zach Snyder films, he gets too engrossed in the original material, and his editors can’t chop, cut and frame the movie in a way that makes cohesive sense. The villain is not at all menacing enough to warrant this team. This is not in any way an equivalent matchup to Loki and the Avengers or anything else really. Steppenwolf attacks a random deactivated nuclear power plant in Russia, instead of a major metropolis to make this seem like a real threat. Sure, he was going to destroy the world… or was he? It was only after the movie that I realized the Darkseid threat. There was NO introduction of this threat. There is no cutscene of Darkseid. There is no real ominous warning about Darkseid. Apparently, Zach Snyder and his editors believed that we all know the comic source and we understand the real threat is bigger than Steppenwolf.

No. No, we do not. My poor brother-in-law kept turning to me and asking me questions. Who is that? Where does he come from? What is going on here? That’s Cyborg. His dad appears to have made him, but we don’t even get a minor genesis story. He’s apparently mad at not knowing what’s going on with him. I’m mad about not knowing what’s going on too, and I’m an author who prides myself on being able to predict and understand things quickly. It wasn’t that I was completely lost during the story. I got a lot of what was going on, but I was also super disappointed in the lack of storytelling, drama, suspense, or anything else.

Everything seemed forced. Did Superman struggle with his rebirth? No. He came out, no holes, ready to fight with good guys, despite the fact that he obviously remembered some of them. And the Batman thing? Remembering him and what happened and not remembering that they teamed up? The whole Louis Lane thing? For it to work, it would have needed more time, and it’s not like it needed a lot. Maybe some very dramatic pauses where she is looking at something and is interrupted from dreaming about Superman. Just constantly. Then this would have been more emotional. It seemed forced though. The whole movie seemed forced. One bad transition after another. No backstory.

You kind of needed origin stories for both Aquaman and Cyborg. Even a short 5 minute backstory for each would have done this. My brother-in-law shouldn’t be confused about who the heck this guy is. Neither should I. I don’t read the comics. Why should I HAVE to read the comics to understand what is going on? Guide me through it. “What’s Aquaman’s deal?” I’m not even sure he was introduced as such. I just knew Jason Momoa was going to play Aquaman because who hasn’t watched trailers and read into this before seeing it. And even with all of my research and understanding of the basics here, I wasn’t just lost, I was really, really disappointed.

And remember, I had tempered my expectations. If this would have just been spectacle and fun, then I would have been fine. That was literally my expectation, but it wasn’t even that. The grave digging scene was a bit chuckle-worthy with Flash. Him tripping over his feet was funny. He was basically the affable side kick in comics–the humorous guy. But like my brother-in-law said later,

“Wasn’t he in X-Men?”

“No, that was Quicksilver, but Marvel and DC have many similar characters. I mean, even Deadpool has a counterpart in DC.”

“Oh, really? Who’s Superman’s counterpart?”

“Um… maybe Hulk or Thor? The problem with Superman is he’s just all powerful. He gets more and more powerful as his adversaries grow powerful.”

And this is a REAL problem in this movie. Holy Geez. In Man of Steel, Superman has some vulnerability. He’s taken to his limits and he is even taken to a moral/ethical limit. Like it or hate it, it was a powerful scene at the end. In this movie? Superman is not at all kept in check in any way. Even Flash can’t keep up with him in terms of speed, his real gift. Superman can’t even be distracted. That’s why there really hasn’t been a pure Marvel counterpart to Superman. You created something ridiculous, and although Superman has faced real challenges in comics, it doesn’t translate in this movie. This was a laughably hollow climax.

I’ve seen reviews from “critics” or “average reviewers” who claim that everyone stood and clapped at the end of their showing. That absolutely did not happen with ours. No one clapped. Most people left without staying to watch the final end credit bonus screen where you learn that a man with no name is showing up. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this works. The X-Men ending where the four horsemen and the Apocalypse preview? That was actually really interesting. I wasn’t as interested in Lex Luthor’s vision of the future. I didn’t even know why or what he was doing.

Apparently, staying true to the comics means you have to just view Lex Luthor as chaotic evil and just against Superman no matter what. In the original Superman movies, you at least understood what Lex was doing. He had a plan, and it was self-serving. Even in later movies, you still felt something for Lex. Now? I feel nothing for Lex. He’s not menacing. I don’t understand him, and I really, really don’t care.

The next Justice League might be the first DC movie I don’t see, and that’s saying something. I sat through Batman vs. Superman. It was ok, but I didn’t like it and won’t watch it again. Suicide Squad I would watch again for Harley Quinn, who is an amazing character, and some of the other characters were kind of fun. After so many Zach Snyder films that I’ve been disappointed in, though? I don’t find myself very interested. Maybe if Rotten Tomatoes has a great rating for a movie he does, I’ll take a chance. Even Uwe Boll had Rampage, and I haven’t been able to make it through any of his other movies (never tried to see one in theaters, only at home when I was bored).

Again, Justice League is a solid 2/5, and it is really rare that I can’t find enough good in a movie to give it at least 3/5 score. Pros: Jason Momoa shirtless for the ladies. Flash is a fun character and should get his own standalone without Zach Snyder. Cons: Zach Snyder. Poor exposition. Bad storytelling. No backstory. Most people will be lost. Bad guy not very menacing. Team not really as interesting together as they could have been. So much lost promise. I mean Superman’s resurrection? Why is that not amazing? Movie not what it could have been.

Stranger Things and the Demogorgon

First, the obvious. My wife and I love Stranger Things. Season 2 might have even been better than Season 1, and we’re very much looking forward to Season 3.


Demogorgon in Stranger Things Season 1 (Photo: Aaron Sims Creative)

However, there’s one thing that’s been bothering me about the mythology surrounding the show, and it revolves around “Demogorgon”. The reason why this warrants a blog post right now is because Demogorgon is not only a specific Dungeons and Dragons reference (which makes sense for Stranger Things), but D&D actually lifted the character from Biblical discussions (and even discussions of the Greek pantheon before that). There’s actually a lot of history around the Demogorgon character, and I thought readers might find a discussion of its roots and how it relates to the show interesting.

Demogorgon in Stranger Things

First, let’s talk about how Demogorgon has been used in the Stranger Things Netflix series and why this is a bit confusing. For those unfamiliar with D&D, the name Demogorgon is being thrown around and tagged on many things. The kids are using the name as a catch all for basically the worst evil that they are currently laying eyes on. In Season 1, it was the face-splitting monster that drags people into the upside-down. In Season 2, the kids start calling the feral dog-like creatures mini-demogorgons. These creatures appear to be controlled by the Shadow Monster.

So what’s the problem?

Demogorgon in D&D

Demogorgon[1]The problem is that as far as baddies go, Demogorgon is generally the baddest of the baddies in D&D and beyond. In D&D, Demogorgon is literally the Prince of Demons. He fights with other demon lords for dominance, and he always wins. He’s the Big Baddy, with capital Bs. The Stranger Things kids are D&D enthusiasts, so with that understanding, each time they invoke this name, it almost needs to be something bigger. However, in Season 2, they actually label subservient creatures (the feral shadow monsters that Dart turned into) mini-demogorgons. This is going backwards a bit. Demogorgon is something you really need to save up for, in my opinion, rather than wasting it on the little guys.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the name “Demogorgon” might stick with the first monster we see in Stranger Things Season 1, which as you may have noticed in Season 2, is nowhere close to the biggest bad guy we’re likely to see. Things tend to get bigger as seasons progress. The Shadow Monster in Season 2 is a lot scarier and more powerful than Demogorgon. In fact, the “Demogorgons” in Season 1 seem like they are controlled by the Shadow Monsters.

Demogorgon in Human Mythology

What are the origins of Demogorgon? Believe it or not, it’s not Dungeons and Dragons. It’s from ancient Greek and was typically used to describe the chief deity in the Greek pantheon. The only surviving scrolls and works we have from this period (BCs to early ADs) have the term first show up in the works of Lactantius Placidus (350-400 AD). In his work, he said “Dicit deum Demogorgona summum, cuius scire nomen non licet“, which translates to “He is speaking of the Demogorgon, the supreme god, whose name it is not permitted to know”. When Christianity first took hold, this could have been taken to mean that Demogorgon was not a demon but another word for the Almighty God, whose true name we’re not supposed to know. However, that’s not what actually happened.

By the tenth century, Demogorgon was cited as a primal god and the chief primal god in various texts, including Adnotationes super Lucanum to Lucan’s Pharsalia. By the Middle Ages, it begins to morph from the Super God over Pan and Hermes to “Demon-Gorgon”, “Terror-Demon” or “God of the Earth”. It’s these former two labels that really stuck, and some would argue was a targeted campaign to demonize the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons.

Demogorgon was associated with such things as being “Master of Fate” in Hell’s hierarchy by Johann Weyer (~1560s), and it was kind of finalized in its transition with Milton’s Paradise Lost (~1674 AD), where Demogorgon is named with Orcus and “Ades” (Hades) as a “dreaded name” in “Hell”. It’s all downhill from there. Demogorgon became not the “supreme god, whose name it is not permitted to know” but instead became the “Prince” or even “King” of demons, which got kind of confusing when comparisons were being made to Lucifer/Devil. Most Christian scholars appeared to make Demogorgon separate from the Devil, and Demogorgon was somehow placed underneath the Devil, in whatever hierarchy was appropriate.

And this is where we come full circle to D&D and the mythology of Stranger Things. In D&D, Demogorgon is a self-styled Prince of Demons who fights with other demon lords for dominion over the levels of the Abyss. In the biblical scholar realm, Demogorgon is at the very least a powerful prince of Hell and at the very most the Devil himself. So, you kind of want to save this label for something really, really bad.

I’m kind of hoping Stranger Things relabels a creature even worse as Demogorgon in Season 3 so the show eventually ends up pointing at the real Demogorgon from D&D and mythology. In D&D, Demogorgon can mesmerize anything by looking at it with one of his two heads. In mythology, he’s a supreme god and maybe even the creator, or a prince of Hell, depending on which point of the historical arc you are looking at. There’s a lot of possibilities here. I think the creators of the show have great talent, and I’m excited to see where they take this thing. Demogorgon or not, Jenny and I will definitely be watching Season 3!

Demogorgon and The Age of Magic fantasy series


Wrath and Ruin Box Set

Why have I researched Demogorgon? I’m a fan of Stranger Things, but I’m definitely not a fan of him.

Demogorgon is actually a character in my new high fantasy series The Age of Magic, and he’s not a puppet or subservient creature of anyone in my books. He’s the most powerful demon in the Void or the Abyssal Plains, and he fights with Orcus and the mysterious demon lord Mekadesh under the world of Nirendia. He’s such a big baddy that he’s never been defeated, and you really almost have to trick him into leaving for him to ever be defeated, especially by mortal hands.

Book One, The People’s Necromancer, introduces the fight of the demon lords but focuses on the interactions of humans and elves in their squabbles outside the battle raging in the underworld between the demon factions. Book Two, The Dark Paladin, talks about the influence of Mekadesh and Orcus and really introduces them to the human population of Nirendia (the world this takes place on). Book Three? That’s where Demogorgon is going to be first presented to the readers, because this is an ancient, powerful creature that is really unrivaled in the demon world. He’s a physical, imposing threat that is really a final boss for humanity, the elves, and even the orcs of this world.

If you’d like to read the first novel The People’s Necromancer, it’s being released for 99c as part of the fantastic Wrath and Ruin box set with 23 other fantasy and science-fiction novels. This box set will be released on January 2nd, 2018, but it is available for pre-order. There are USA Today Bestselling and award-winning authors in this set, and it’s especially a great deal given the preorder price.

As for the Age of Magic series? The second book is being drafted. Both novels should be released in 2018. Stay tuned on this blog or my newsletter.

Upcoming 4th Novel up for Preorder

wrath_and_ruinMy 4th novel, The People’s Necromancer, is with beta readers and will be released exclusively in the Wrath and Ruin box set (Amazon | B&N | Apple | Kobo). I’m so excited about this high fantasy and the series it is going to start. As I’ve mentioned on other places, the entire box set is going to be 99 cents throughout preorder, and there are 24 novels in this thing from many USA Today Bestselling science fiction and fantasy authors, several of whom are also including brand new novel releases with me in the set.

I’m extremely humbled to have been invited to the box set. You should definitely pick one up and recommend to friends to pick one up! You’re going to find hundreds of hours of imaginative stories, worlds and characters to interact with. It’s a steal!

Anyway, enough with the box set plug. Let’s talk about my baby, The People’s Necromancer. What is it, and why are you going to love it?

Here’s the skinny.

Amidst the darkest days of antiquity, mankind discovers a new kind of hero.

For thousands of years, mankind warred without magic. Peculiar abilities were buried in history along with the storied paladins and the mysterious dark elves who rarely ventured into human towns.

That all changes at the end of the Tranquility Era, when a young man named Ashton accidentally raises his murdered best friend Clayton from the grave. Because of his mistake, Ashton becomes the focus of manhunts, armies, and the King’s judgement, but Ashton is not the biggest problem in the Kingdom of Surdel.

The golden age of man is coming to a close and enemies surround the civilized world. Lulled into a false sense of security by isolation and pervasive peace, human lords hatch petty schemes to weaken their rivals and gain favor with the throne. Meanwhile, an ancient darkness stirs beneath the Great Northern Mountains and the orcish hordes grow restless just beyond the Southern Peaks. Out of the chaos at the end of the Tranquility Era, a new breed of hero arrives to forge an age of sorcery and mayhem. And into this chaos comes the Necromancer!

Surdel (Map: B&W | Color) is a small human kingdom built on the remains of a catastrophe, a meteor that impacted the world of Nirendia hundreds of thousands of years ago. There is a built-up history involving dark elves, wood elves, humans, orcs, and even demons who are working their way up through the underworld, trying to incorporate Nirendia into the Abyss–the planes of existence that demon lords fight over.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to discuss the major characters and why you’re going to love them, the fragility of heroes in Surdel, and the schemes and quibbles of the southern lords. We’ll dive into the history of the dark elven kingdom of Etyria, and the plight of Prince Jayden and his people. Then, I’ll talk about Cedric Errington, the focus of the sequel The Dark Paladin, which should be released late next year. You’ll find out more about the enigmatic Holy One, and the fight between the three demon lords vying for supremacy in Nirendia.

This is one of the most exciting and fun stories that I’ve ever written, and I think you’re going to enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. If you want to know more, keep following this blog or feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Movie Roundup (Bladerunner and Thor)

My wife and I try to catch a movie at the theater every weekend, when we can. Sometimes, movies disappoint, but Rotten Tomatoes has definitely helped us find the movies that are going to entertain us. I haven’t done a movie review in a while, but I need to catch up.

For now, let’s talk about Bladerunner 2049 and Thor. We’ll start with Bladerunner and why you should see it.

blade_runner_promotionalThe original Bladerunner flopped at the box office and only gained recognition after its box office run, when people began to watch it at video rental stores in the 80s. It gained a cult following and has been consistently named one of the best science fiction films of all time.

What may surprise you is that Bladerunner 2049 beats the original in every conceivable way. Bladerunner 2049 is simply one of the best science fiction films I think we’ve ever seen. It is that rare sequel that is better than the first.

The plot of the 2nd movie was actually surprising to me, while the plot of the original was not. The casting was really well done, and each actor made their characters, even the androids, very relatable. The central theme builds on the premise of the value of android lives but in a new and unexpected way. There are intellectual elements of the movie Her in here, but twisted in a way that relates the issue to how Androids might fall in love with technology. It’s actually quite amazing. This movie is a solid 5 stars. It will make you think. It will make you feel, and if you love science fiction, you are almost certainly going to love the look, feel, and smarts of this film. I know Jenny and I certainly did!

thor_ragnarokThe second movie absolutely worth talking about that is currently in theaters is Thor: Ragnarok. One of my wife’s and my favorite comedies is “What We Do in the Shadows.” It was an absolutely hilarious mockumentary about vampires dealing with the modern age. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out. Why is “What We Do in the Shadows” relevant? Because the director for Thor is the same one who directed and starred in both films. The guy is hilarious.

And that’s what makes “Thor: Ragnarok” really special. It’s not as deep as Bladerunner. Very few films are. However, it takes the concepts in Thor, especially all of the craziest sci-fi concepts in the Thor universe, and it makes them fun and relatable in a way that the previous two Thor films simply did not do. The first two Thors, I still enjoyed, but they were often very dark and very pure blockbuster format. “Thor: Ragnarok” sticks to the blockbuster format but then makes fun of itself and invites the audience along for the laughs.

Thor gets captured. Busts out. Beats the bad guy. Thor gets captured. Fights with a friend, is betrayed, busts out, and beats the bad guy. Loses part of himself but also gains new power in the process. Formulaic right?

The keys to this film are in the details and its execution. The supporting cast bolster this film even more than Thor does, but Chris Hemsworth also gets to show off his comedic timing–which is spot on throughout. Taika Waititi makes a fun supporting character with a voiceover that is just so wildly different from what the character would usually speak like, and he’s also got the bumbling supercharacter shtick that he had in “What We Do in the Shadows.” Powerful but hopelessly socially awkward and a bit thick. It makes for some very funny stuff.

And Cate Blanchett? Amazing job. Powerful and oddly sensual. She conveys this dangerous, beautiful, and strong bad character that is easy to understand and empathize with (she’s been wronged by Odin).

I’m sure I would have seen this movie, with or without Taika Waititi directing it, but man, am I so glad that Marvel took a chance on him. That risk definitely paid off. I can’t wait to see what he does next!

Definitely another 5 star movie in my opinion, but for very different reasons. Bladerunner is topnotch sci-fi. Thor is fun and very humorous. If you’re in the mood for a comedy, especially, Thor: Ragnarok will not disappoint!

wrath_and_ruinNow, back to books briefly. My fourth novel is in the hands of beta readers. It’s going to be released as part of the Wrath and Ruin limited edition box set, and right now, the set is only 99 cents as a pre-order.

This set has 25 authors and 24 novels in it. Some of these guys and gals are USA Today Bestselling Science Fiction and Fantasy authors. Authors like Isaac Hooke, Nicole Zoltack, Lydia Sherrer, Cortney Pearson, Ali Winters, and Pamita Rao. You can click on the image to the left to find some preorder links to all the major vendors. In case the link isn’t working, here is another page that has links to all vendors as well.

For 99 cents, as it’s priced right now, this is an absolute steal. When I heard about this set, I knew I wanted to be a part of it, and it was a great forcing function for me to finish The People’s Necromancer. I can’t wait for you guys to read this book. If you weren’t able to make the Facebook Launch, you missed a great time. You also missed some fun giveaways (I gave away all of my books for free, for a limited time).

I’m now working on The Dark Paladin, the sequel to The People’s Necromancer. I’m hoping to release it in 2018.

Author Meet (Facebook)

Interested in talking with me and dozens of other authors in the upcoming Wrath and Ruin boxset for fantasy and science fiction? We’re all going to be on Facebook on October 21st to chat and share stories and fun.22424254_1900534546862447_197940755966492414_o

Click on the image above to see the times that authors are going to be online. Many of us will be online for hours to chat, so feel free to stop by any time!

U.S. Education and the Unlikelihood of Upward Mobility in the U.S. in the Next Era

For those of us working in academia, these are trying times. For futurists, like myself, who try to predict trends and impact of social pressures, emerging technologies, legislation, economics, etc., these are truly alarming times.

There are three converging forces that will impact capitalistic countries in remarkable ways. The first is the increasing technological requirements that jobs will require. Technology, including robotics and AI, are extending human reach, increasing efficiency, and essentially allowing a single person to do the jobs of potentially hundreds of people through automation and autonomy. This puts a downward pressure on job demand because there is less need for more workers to produce the same amount of goods and services. It puts at least an equivalent if not greater upward pressure on supply of products and it also tends to make businesses far more profitable. This results in cheaper products (great for consumers) and higher profits for companies. I know this area very well because I work in software for autonomy and distributed AI. I see what’s coming in a way most people don’t or can’t.

The first converging force noted above causes a second force to amplify a problem here. Businesses have been rewarding executives and management persons with increasingly larger shares of corporate profits. This has caused a pretty massive wealth divide in the U.S. The ratios of corporate executive earnings are absolutely phenomenal in the U.S. and have changed dramatically over the past century. CEO to an average worker pay tends to hover around 350:1 now. There are exceptions, and that’s great, but in general, companies are looking at their executives as the profit drivers. With the first force, automation, they’re not exactly wrong. If you can automate your entire work force, the only people who matter are the people who are managing the autonomy. Everyone else is essentially replaceable and can be paid low wages. A famous infographic based on recent surveys became a viral hit and is worth watching

The second force is exacerbated by the lax corporate merger environment and the willingness to accept oligopolies and even monopolies that discourage competition and increase profits. This is a very anti-capitalist situation because the entire idea of capitalism is to encourage diversity in the market place, not to centralize entire industries in everything from steel to sunglasses, from cable TV to radio, from newspapers to military contractors. John Oliver did a really good job at describing the current corporate merger and acquisitions environment in his segment here:

The third converging force is an effect of the current budgeting for education and outsourcing. Education in technology and automation, especially, can help offset the effects of the second force (profit concentration in executives and management) by creating a skilled workforce that make companies more diverse in skills and more effective and efficient at creating and maintaining new products or business services. In the U.S., this has, so far, been a sort of saving grace in hubs such as Silicon Valley, Austin Texas, etc. However, we see a major assault (sorry, but I can see no other way to really characterize this right now) on Education funding.

In preparation for the proposed tax cuts for wealthy persons, especially, in the current FY18 congressional agenda, the House and Senate are looking for places to cut spending in order to make the Republican tax cuts have a smaller bottom line effect on budget. There does not appear to be any real economic driver in the current plans, as far as I or anyone else can tell, that would reduce our actual debt. This is really more about maintaining the status quo of gaining debt about as quickly as before while also providing for a truly massive tax cut to the wealthier segments of the U.S. You can read more about the recent House bill to cut Education funding here.

I am in the current middle class but I grew up in the poor and lower middle class. I earned my PhD through a variety of helpful public programs and working multiple jobs waiting tables and applying for my own research scholarships. One of the programs that greatly aided my ability to attend university when my parents could not afford to pay my tuition was the Pell Grant system. The current Republican plan approved in the House will cut 78.3 billion dollars from Pell, directly, to remove this education option from the poor and middle class and would reacquire 3.3 billion from the Pell surplus that helps pay for the program.

The latter would remove Pell Grant availability for an estimated 900,000 students in the U.S., putting greater pressure on social mobility and removing many poor and lower middle class, especially, from entering the skilled worker workpool. It essentially contributes to a growing wealth inequality in the U.S. It also removes the possibility of a majority of the U.S. workforce participating in the skilled labor force, will impact U.S. GDP since we will have a much less educated workforce to create new small business or realize technological innovations, and will ultimately force us into the absolute requirement to outsource nearly all of our technical innovation and high skilled labor. The results of cutting Pell, especially, will be to put more students in debt, so that they are less likely to leave their first job and are beholden to student debt payments. It makes them more likely to accept pay cuts and disproportionate incomes compared to upper management.

I cannot stress enough that as a futurist, the current legislative agenda, especially as it pertains to educating the next generation of scientists, engineers, teachers, manufacturers, and skilled labor force, is remarkably appalling. I’m very worried about where our workforce is going to be in the future, and with where we are heading in regards to barriers of entry for business and growth. We are entering an era of technology, automation, and even growth into space. If we continue down this path, we will not be as competitive on the world stage in an age of technology and automation, and we are going to be especially non-competitive in anything other than investment and wealth management for expansion into new areas like space. This will be largely due to the fact that we’ll have fewer skilled labor to compete in technological areas.

What can we do?

Ultimately, all we have power to do right now is vote, protest, and make our voices heard. Contact your congressman or congresswoman and ask them to fight for a skilled technical workforce. When it comes down to the next election, try not to allow yourself to be pigeonholed into single issue voter categories such as abortion rights or gun control. Instead, look toward the future, and try to make sure the candidates we are electing are on the right track in regards to the economic mobility and happiness of our future generations. Otherwise, we’re all just spectators to history and the progress of other countries who value education and a skilled workforce.


GoT Predictions (Season 7)


We’ll get to the significance of this poster later

So, as a reminder, I made a list of predictions back in Season 6. I wanted to revisit those, see what I predicted incorrectly and also post what I think is going to happen in the rest of Season 7 and onto Season 8.

First, I’ll speak to my previous predictions, some of which were wrong.

Season 7 Predictions (from last year)

Past prediction #1. People with Valyrian weapons are going to be setup as heros. Brienne has one. Jon has one. Arya now has one. Everything is being setup for these men and women to be the tip of the spear in the defense against the whitewalkers. Still on track with this prediction, but we’re not going to see this in full bloom until Season 8.

Past prediction #2. Jon and Dany did team up, even if the alliance is looser than it will eventually be. Jon and Dany will eventually marry. That’s mine and most people’s predictions and has been mine since probably season 4 or so.

Past prediction #3. Neither Tyrion nor Jaime has killed Cersei, and I don’t think it’s going to happen this season. I think it will happen next season, and I’m still rooting for Tyrion to do it, but Jaime is the more logical candidate.

Past prediction #4 (with new direction). My wall prediction is changing due to the posters that have been released. My previous prediction was that the wall would be compromised by Bran passing through it with the mark (the same mechanism that doomed the previous three-eyed raven when Bran passed through the door and doomed Hodor). I think this is going to get a bit more complicated now that we’ve seen episode 5. Essentially, the northern hero group is going to kidnap a white walker to show Cersei. Their plan is hopelessly flawed and dumb. This is obviously not going to go well and is very poorly thought out.

The Night King is going to catch Jon Snow’s group in a melee (as you can see from the preview). What happens next is the prediction. I think at least 2 people are going to die here and possibly 3. At least Thoros (the drunken Fire God priest who has been bringing his friend back to life). Don’t worry, Gendry is going to survive. He is the Baratheon connection to the Starks and I think he’ll survive the series and be one of Jon Snow / Aegon Targaryen’s closest friends.

There should be two people joining this battle to save the day. The first should be Daeny. She’ll be joined by at least one dragon and possibly two. She wants to see these whitewalkers for herself, and she gets more than she bargained for. Look at the teaser poster above. That is not one of Daeny’s dragons. Not anymore. That’s an ice dragon.

I think during this melee with the Night King, Jon Snow is joined by Daeny who helps them whisk away a white walker, but she loses something very precious to her. I don’t think it will be Drogon. I think we’re going to lose one of the smaller dragons to the Night King.

And I think that this dragon is going to be the thing the Night King uses to down the Wall. I’m not sure if the books are going to play out this way, but I do think the show is going to play out this way based on the production materials and general direction.

I have a feeling Jon Snow is going to continue on to Winterfell to see how things are going. I’m skipping ahead of things though. Let’s just stick with the past predictions and how we’re moving along.

Past Prediction #5. Arya’s kill list will become complete by the end of Season 7 was my original prediction, and I was wrong. The remaining list when I made the prediction was: Cersei, The Hound, The Mountain, Ilyn Payne, The Red Woman, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr. I feel like Beric and Thoros might die in the melee with Jon Snow and the Night King in episode 6 or 7 of Season 7. The Red Woman seems safe for now, but she has already told us in a talk with Varys that both he and she will die soon. I think they will both die in Season 8, and the Red Woman may die bloodily to Arya to show the power of the old gods to kill each other and new gods (The Stranger over the Fire God).

I still think The Hound and The Mountain are going to kill each other in combat. And I really, really want The Hound to embrace the Fire God and burn his brother The Mountain to death (bringing their arc full circle). If The Hound survives the Clegane Bowl, good on him, but it should complete his story arc.

Ilyn Payne was the executioner at King’s Landing. I believe Arya will kill him before all is said and done but that will be in Season 8, not 7. Cersei will die at the hands of “the younger brother”, as Maggy the Frog’s prophecy predicted. BTW, I believe Cersei is going to lose the baby in a miscarriage (the prophecy was very specific about the number of children she will have), and this is going to drive her even further into crazy town. Again, Cersei is in Season 8 at this point.

But I don’t think the list is the end of the names for Arya. There’s a big name on her list. She just hasn’t voiced it yet, and I think you’re going to see that this season. Let’s talk about that next, because it’s going to be fun!

New Predictions

New Prediction 1. Littlefinger is going to be added to Arya’s list. His chaos games are simply not possible in Winterfell. He’s vastly overestimating his ability to drive a wedge between Sansa and Arya, and he doesn’t quite seem to grasp that Arya is especially dangerous. She’s not just someone who can fight Brienne to a straight-up draw. She’s the kind of person who would never intentionally get in the fight in the first place. She’s a faceless one, and she will be Littlefinger’s killer. This is going to happen in Season 7. This is too juicy and fun for them to hold off on this one, and let’s face it, it’s time. Littlefinger’s game is played out.

Why? I think Bran is going to have something to do with this. Chaos is only a ladder if everyone is clueless. If you have someone omniscient thrown into the mix, then that person isn’t susceptible to chaos. If a plan requires chaos, then an omniscient slices through it. Bran bumbles his way through social interactions. He’s going to reveal Littlefinger and Sansa has never completely trusted him after he gave her to Ramsay. The three Starks will all turn on Littlefinger, but it’s going to be Arya who kills him. It’s her role. Sansa will sign off on it though. She’s the leader of the Stark family (Jon Snow is unlikely to remain “Jon Snow” for much longer and his real family name will switch to Targaryen, likely Aegon, since it’s a popular name in that family to signify power, conqueror, etc.

New Prediction 2. Dragon battle. No, I’m not talking about Dragons vs. the Lannister army. That was obviously a mismatch. No, I’m talking about Drogon against at least 1 of his siblings (Rhaegal and/or Viserion). I’m not sure which will be the one to turn into an ice dragon. We may see Drogon have to battle both. Rhaegal and Viserion are inseparable. If you remember, they were chained together in a dungeon while Drogon got to go around eating sheep and children (you remember this scene, right?)

It would of course make more sense for Drogon to be chosen by the Night King since he is the bigger and stronger one, but I think opportunity presents itself and the Night King gets to keep one of the others. My best guess is Viserion. Why? Because he/she is named after Daeny’s crazy, power hungry brother. This is one of those names that never should have been given out. What was Daeny even thinking here? Anyway, I think we’re going to see Drogon kill a sibling dragon in melee. We may even see Drogon have to fight both Viserion and Rhaegal, and I think maybe even all three die by the end of the series. If the latter happens, I think you’re going to see three new eggs lain by one of them though (whichever one chooses to be female, as dragons can apparently choose their gender, if you remember).

Again, due to promotional materials, I believe the wall in the TV series will fall to one of these converted dragons. I do not believe that Bran will accidentally bring the wall down, and I do not believe that the Night King will do it with his own powers. I think Daeny’s participation in the kidnapping attempt on a white walker will result in her losing a dragon.

New Prediction 3. Tormund and Brienne. It’s going to happen. Too fun to pass up, and it’s a fan favorite pairing at this point. This has to happen. It just has to. Unfortunately, it is not going to happen until Season 8 though.

New Prediction 4. Some more characters that are middling characters will die off. Benjen Stark (the guy with the flaming flail and Ned’s brother) will die off heroicly, probably saving someone in this melee north of the wall. He’s been due a good death in his state of undeath. Beric is going to survive the same melee, I think, but I don’t know why. His flaming sword trick is supposed to be saved for Azor Ahai, but the TV series is using this for effect for some reason.

In the legends, the original Azor Ahai plunged his sword into his wife’s chest to create that flaming sword that was used to smite the white walkers. Now? You can just turn it on like a lightsaber. This could have setup some really intense drama. Imagine if the only way Jon Snow/Targaryen could activate his full Azor Ahai powers was to plunge his sword into the heart of the woman he is destined to be with–Daenerys, and that she would offer herself willingly and with love, as this woman did 10,000 years ago with her husband, the original Azor Ahai. Well, you’re not going to get that–for better or worse. Maybe Beric’s only purpose will be to teach Jon how to do the sword trick or something–not that he really needs it since he can just use his Valyrian steel sword to kill whitewalkers without even needing a flaming blade.

As I mentioned before, Gendry will survive the series. I think he’s necessary to keep the Baratheon line going.

New Prediction 5. Jon will declare his undying loyalty to Daenerys by the end of Season 7. I don’t think they will be married yet, but I think he will pledge to serve her in some way after she saves his butt in the North (and loses one of her children/dragons doing it).

That’s enough for now. When the season is over and I see how far off I am, I’ll make another prediction/wrap up post. Really great season. Short but really great! 😀

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