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Fealty

“The promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise to never have a headache or always to feel hungry.”

—C.S. Lewis

Artist Credit: The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederick Burton

The First Warriors of Europe | Bronze Age Warfare

Dan Davis Author has put together this informative documentary on “The First Warriors of Europe”: “In the late Neolithic and Copper Age, clans from the Yamnaya, Corded Ware, and Bell Beaker cultures raided others. They were armed with bows, copper daggers, and battle axes but the extent to which these men were ‘warriors’ is debated. By the time of the Late Bronze Age, warriors served chiefs and kings from Mycenaean Greece to Nordic Bronze Age Sweden and Denmark. They guarded trade routes like the so-called Amber Road and fought pitched battles like at the Tollense Valley battlefield. So when and where did a class of dedicated warriors emerge? What weapons did they use? And how and why did they fight?”

Byzantine Reconquista – Siege of Chandax 960-961

Kings and Generals historical animated documentary series on the history of the Eastern Roman Empire continues with a video on the beginning of the Byzantine Reconquista against the Muslim conquered lands in the X century AD, as the emperor from the Macedonian dynasty Nikephoros II Phokas begins his reconquest with Crete, leading to the siege of Chandax of 960-961.”

How the pandemic shutdown upended the American economy.

      One of the things that have become incredibly confusing is the mixed signals regarding the health and vitality of the American labor market, and the overall economic health of the United States. We’re told again and again the labor market is hot by know-nothing scribblers online from Business Insider to Time. We’re told by establishment media employers are finding it difficult to find workers. The reality is the labor market participation rate is the lowest it has been since 1977. It’s not an employee’s job market regardless of all of the confusing articles posted by writers who draw far-reaching conclusions because they drove past a few restaurants with signs declaring NOW HIRING and SIGNING BONUS. For Americans that formerly had health insurance and decent benefits for years, the plethora of entry-level jobs is unappealing and not truly a sign of economic recovery.

      There are many other reasons to reject the misplaced optimism of journalists and politicians that boast of an economic recovery. For starters, the pandemic up-ended the stability of many metroplexes associated with a high cost of living. In all reality, many workers regardless of familial ties may simply not be coming back to these areas. Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Saint Louis, and many mid-sized cities in the Rust Belt are all shrinking and have suffered a net exodus of people for many months. Why? When these urbanites lived in their former urban homes and were actively employed, they were already flying out of the seat of their pants, coping with an exorbitantly high cost of living, and diminished credit rating as their debt-to-income ratio climbed precipitously. They were despondent with stress from sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic to office politics to rising grocery prices. Politicians and busybody city councils greeted them with ever-increasing taxes. Resultantly amid the pandemic labor market recession, urbanites fled to rural and small-town America seeking to downsize their costly metroplex lifestyles, nevertheless remaining insecure in some temporary vocation afterward. They are now introverted to family life. Some working spouses even opted to take off and embrace childrearing and homeschooling as public schools continued to shutter their doors. Countless others opted for remote work making their relocation more tenable given that rural and small-town America aren’t awash in locally-sourced jobs. 

      In rural tranquility, these urban emigres have embraced frugality, penny-pinching, and a simple calculus of a lower monthly rent or mortgage payment. Many Americans from Gen X-ers to Millennials are opting out of urban life. What this doesn’t mean is that their new lives are necessarily one of prosperity, but supposed “higher wages” and “signing bonuses” are unlikely to attract them back to the big costly metroplexes.

      After years of struggle, stress, and hardship, urban emigres have come to value the simplicity of life, and the little things like their domestic life and family relationships. Given the current labor troubles, many industries in urban areas are on the cusp of being upended, facing closure, and it’s a portent of a coming economic recession, regardless of the inflationary paper ledgermein games that Uncle Sam plays with stimulus spending and subsidizing idleness. The major urban hubs have been disrupted in America’s longstanding trend towards disruptive innovation, and they’ve proven themselves inhospitable to an ideal quality of life.

      The other thing is regardless of how dissimilar Americans are on politics, collectively everyone is sick of the neoliberal policies of the elites and political class. Urban industries too face higher taxes and a higher cost of labor, so their already fragile urban ecosystems desperately need to sustain beneficial economies of scale related to their labor inputs and outputs, and interim if they cannot obtain enough workers to stay profitable, failure of these enterprises is inevitable. Labor market recession thus is a genuine prospect.*

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has a dubious methodology in its often cited U3 unemployment metric that merely shrinks the official labor pool among the working age population nationally for statistical reporting purposes, the more meaningful Labor Market Participation Rate (LMPR) reflects the on-going deterioration of the American labor market. Neoliberal economic policies and the government’s voracious appetite for spending are common culprits.

Related Articles:

Job Openings Are at Record Highs. Why Aren’t Unemployed Americans Filling Them?” – Wall Street Journal

Urban Emigration: A Worrisome Outlook for American Cities” – Epoch Times

Imjin: The Japanese Invasion of Korea in the Middle Ages

One of my favorite undergraduate history classes was East Asian Civilization. It’s not my specialty but I excelled in it primarily because I studied so hard to compensate for my ignorance of it. I find these documentaries as well as the Osprey military histories on the order of battle to be intriguing.

Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series will cover the Imjin War – the Japanese invasion of Korea between 1592 and 1598, as the unification process started by Oda Nobunaga was continued by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Japanese daimyo and samurai needed new land and so they attacked the Joseon Korea, planning to then invade Ming China. The first battles of the war were the siege of Busan and the battle of Chungju.”

Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series on the Imjin War – the Japanese invasion of Korea between 1592 and 1598 continues with a video on the rise of Korean admiral Yi Sun-Sin and turtle ships. Admiral’s whose naval prowess and ships changed the course of the war against the proud daimyos and their samurais. This video will cover the battles of Hansando, Imjin River, Sacheon and Okpo.”

Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series on the Imjin War – the Japanese invasion of Korea between 1592 and 1598 continues with a video on the aftermath of the rise of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and the battle of Hansando, as the Japanese forces are pushing deeper in Korea. At the same Chinese Ming Empire starts a counter-attack led by Li Rusong, leading to the siege of Pyongyang of 1593.”

Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series on the Imjin War – the Japanese invasion of Korea between 1592 and 1598 continues with a video on the aftermath of the first invasion, as Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s armies leave Korea after the allied Chinese-Korean counter-attack. However, this wasn’t the end of the invasion. The Samurai attempted the second one in 1597 and met the admiral Yi Sun-sin at the battles of Myeongnyang and Noryang.”

The First Horse Riders | Horse Domestication on the Eurasian Steppe

Dan Davis Author offers this insightful video on the First Horse Riders: “Who were the first horse riders in history? We know about horse domestication but knowing who were the first horsemen is more difficult. The idea of the Yamnaya Bronze Age horse warrior riding down a fleeing Neolithic farmer is a powerful image but is it true? Were the people of the Botai culture the first horsemen? Was it those of the Sredny Stog or perhaps the Khvalynsk culture? Or was it even the people of Bronze Age Mesopotamia?”

Ainu – History of the Indigenous people of Japan

“The Kings and Generals animated historical documentary series on the ancient civilizations and history of Japan continues with an episode on the history of Ainu – the indigenous people of the Japanese islands. In this video, we will learn about their culture, society, religion, economic activity, traditions, as well as their struggle against the Japanese Empire.”

Ainu House Photograph
Ainu House Photograph
An Ainu warrior with an axe in traditional Ainu clothing

Why Paramount’s Yellowstone series really is bad.

I was introduced to the Yellowstone series by my father. He had heard the hype. We watched the first episode as he suggested I do the same in 2018 which I did. Yet he never ironically watched it again. Nevertheless I watched every episode that followed through the end of Season Three. It stars recognized actor Kevin Costner (of Dances With Wolves, Waterworld and The Postman fame) as rancher John Dutton along with a cast of actors and actresses of lesser notoriety that are basically earning their notoriety through the series itself. I initially had some superficial attraction to the show from the onset. After all, it was thematically set in Montana, a state I called my home away from home from 2014-16.

I am disappointed with the fact that this supposed prestige television drama is so bleak, dark, and nihilistic. It’s a neo-noir Western-themed television series for the twenty-first century. I ascertain that life itself is a checkered, pox-marked affair full of violence, sin and depravity. I could see a theologically-rich Augustian statement in the 2018 series trailer from Chief Rainwater about human nature: “All men are bad, but some of us try real hard to be good.” So I don’t have to decry everything that’s not family-friendly nor religious-oriented in the entertainment world. With that being said, Yellowstone is thematically set in what amounts to a conservative state, and the overwhelming majority of its populace of 1,000,000 souls claim adherence to a religious faith, typically one of the major Christian confessions. The series revolves around a protagonist family of ranchers that soon turn antagonist towards one another after fighting off their earlier antagonists, spanning the chasm from greedy unscrupulous land developers to criminal casino owners.

The Yellowstone series from the onset has the lead characters making bleak nihilistic statements all of the time. In the pilot episode, during a fight over cattle, Kayce Dutton shoots his brother-in-law dead after his brother-in-law shot his brother dead. Just before dealing the coup de grâce head shot, Kayce has to sneak in this snarky nihilism-tinged line: “In case you don’t already know, there’s no such thing as heaven.” My father lamented how the Hollywood media always has to sneak in their stark godlessness into everything after that scene. He never watched another episode of the show.

Yellowstone Series - the Dutton men and Rip Wheeler (far left) on horseback
The Yellowstone Series – the Dutton men, Jayme, Kayce, and John (center left to far right) and Rip Wheeler (far left) on horseback.

Later in the third season, Kayce’s sister, Beth Dutton, is having a philosophical discussion with her lover, Rip Wheeler, about what she believes, and she relays influence from Friedrich Nietzsche in order to quell his guilt over murder. The two then concur morality doesn’t really matter. Earlier in the series, the family patriarch John Dutton was having a conversation with his priest (implying the fictional Dutton family has a nominal Catholic-Christian pedigree,) and John was telling the priest that he “didn’t regret a single sin he had committed.” These people are supposed to be ranchers, and ranchers in a rather conservative religious state, namely Montana. Montanans, and most normal American folks for that matter too, don’t prowl around muttering bleak nihilistic lamentations all of the time nor espouse disheartening ruminations of existentialist philosophy. The show briefly hinted it could have been rescued from its dismal descent into the dark Nietzschean bloodbath it ended up becoming. It had an early morning scene with a coffee-drinking John Dutton giving a faint glimmer of a mustard seed of faith whereby Kevin Costner’s daughter Lily sung a Gospel song entitled Heaven’s Gate in the background soundtrack. But alas the show’s writer seems determined to crush the possibility of the Dutton’s rapprochement with God and faith.

The chief culprit for the show’s underlying nihilism is really just the show’s director and lead writer, Taylor Sheridan. He’s an outspoken atheist trying to turn the series into his bully pulpit soapbox for his dark worldview, and wants to put his own black heart on display for the world to see. Sheridan’s claim to fame was the nihilistic 2015 Sicario film about the U.S. national intelligence community’s morally compromised handling of the illicit international drug trafficking trade along its southern border with Mexico followed by the gritty 2017 film Wind River.

Who else is to blame for the show’s failure? None other than A+ List actor Kevin Costner. Costner could reign in on Sheridan if he so desired. Yellowstone is a mass-market entertainment franchise. And Costner himself could dramatically influence the direction it takes as a condition of his participation. But well, it’s glaringly obvious by now that Costner dropped the ball and decided he wants to be associated with such sleazy soap opera trash.

The series too has a remarkable lack of originality. When actor Neal McDonough was cast as one of the evil Beck brothers, Malcolm Beck, it seemed to be little more than a conjuring of McDonough’s casino crime boss character Jay Hamilton in the 2004 film Walking Tall. Sheridan too mirrored a kidnapping scene of a young Native American girl from Wind River in an episode of the series.

The alliance of convenience that formed briefly in the Yellowstone series as the rivals square off with the Beck brothers.

The Yellowstone series had a lot of potential and promise, but has ultimately failed in its execution precisely because of this crass nihilistic writer Taylor Sheridan. Some of his writing was just cheesy like a bad episode of the 1990s Fox TV show Beverly Hills, 90210.

Chief Rainwater: “I will erase you from the future.”

The other factor to consider too is that the writing and plot of any show really are critical to its success. It’s taken for granted Hollywood filmmakers can do a superb job with cinematography, transitioning between scenes, and musical soundtracks, but substance ultimately is at the heart of good film. Substance of any film is found in the scriptwriting and storytelling at the end of the day! Thus Yellowstone‘s excellent cinematography cannot redeem it nor can its alluring TV show trailers. It’s a colossal disappointment and one I doubt I will reengage in Season Four. The show has fallen flat on its face in spite of its mystery suspense ending in the third season to rival an episode of Dallas in the 1980s.

Make no mistake. Life is full of violence, heartache, and betrayal, and the culmination of all of these things gives us cause for reflection upon man’s depravity in a fallen world. J.R.R. Tolkein’s epic novel The Lord of the Rings too was full of violence, but it had redemption in its meaning and is a profound morality play. Without morality, and without God, we flawed humans will never make any sense of the world, nor draw any true meaning from it. The Yellowstone series fails to offer a meaningful morality play in its senseless bid for ratings with its gratuitous violence and nihilism-tinged statements from its protagonist characters. Nihilism, the philosophy of Nietzsche is an omnipresent reality amid today’s banal entertainment. As Nietzsche said, “if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

Origin of Horse Domestication: Botai, Yamnaya, Sintashta

Survive the Jive offers a documentary on the domestication of the horse which was likely brought to fruition by Indo-European steppe riders.

“Professor Alan Outram, Head of Archaeology at University of Exeter is one of the world’s leading experts on ancient horse DNA and the domestication of the horse. In this interview he explains how his views have changed since his 2009 paper on the Botai domestication of the horse. Prof. Outram contributed to a paper, published in May 2018, entitled, “The first horse herders and the impact of early Bronze Age steppe expansions into Asia” in which the Yamnaya, most likely the Proto-Indo-Europeans, are posited as the potential domesticators of modern horses, rather than the Botai who were pushed out of Kazakhstan by the Yamnaya or related steppe pastoralists. He also discusses the role of the Sintashta culture in developing horse based warfare and chariots, the related Andronovo culture’s contribution to Indian DNA and the Afanasievo culture’s spread into East Asia.”

Bronze Age Warfare // Koryos

Dan Davis Author offers an insightful video that puts the listener in the point of view of an ancient teenage boy among the Yamnaya people on the cusp of manhood, and he explains the initiation of the warrior known as “Koryos.”

“In prehistoric Europe and Western Asia the people of the steppe waged war against one another and settled peoples in the form of the raid. Bronze Age warfare was like that. There were no armies in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Conflict between groups was waged by small warbands stealing cattle and abducting women with which to strengthen their own tribes. The youths would undergo a long and complex warrior initiation on their path to manhood and the koryos was the climax of that process.”