If you didn't know, there's a new movie out with Brendan Fraser called "The Whale" where he plays a 600lb man. Suffice to say, from a health and wellness standpoint, this brings a certain conversation to the forefront. Tune in as Jon & Marc discuss fatphobia/fat shaming, how fitness professionals can utilize things like this in pop culture to draw attention, and how it's ok to draw a line in the sand as long as you're being true to yourself and the message you desire to put out in the marketplace. Enjoy!
David Woodley joins Michael Rasile on For the Love of Sports to discuss his background in content creation, ad sales, and driving revenue by giving the people what they want. David is a vet of the ad sales space working for The Onion back in the late 2000s. He then was the VP of Ad Sales at WatchMojo.com, a huge YouTube network that dives into all things pop culture. He now resides as the President of Playermaker which is a sports media, talent & merchandise company with over 18 million followers, 50+ athletes and creators under management, and more than 30 shows on Snap Discover. Suffice to say, a sprawling sports business that creates revenue from multiple channels. While content creation is at the core of the business, David and I also dive into the partnership and advertising side, all the other streams of revenue they are creating, and what getting into the sports betting space is like. And just for context, David finished in the money for the Circa Millions content. https://playmakerhq.com/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-woodley-69043878/
While there seemed to be a consensus that U.S. Equities will struggle through the first half of the year before finishing strong, views are now varying on the degree and timing of a potential recession.----- Transcript -----Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, January 23rd at 11am in New York. So let's get after it. Coming into this year, the number one investor concern was that everyone seemed to have the same outlook for U.S. equities - a tough first half followed by a strong finish. Views varied on the degree of the drawdown expected and magnitude of the rebound, but a majority expected a U.S. recession to begin sooner rather than later. Fast forward just a few weeks and the consensus view has shifted materially, particularly as it relates to the recession view. More specifically, while more investors are starting to entertain a soft landing for the economy, many others have pushed out the timing of a recession to the second half of the year. This change is due in part to China's reopening gaining steam and the sharp decline in European natural gas prices. While these are valid considerations for investors to modify their views, we think that price action has been the main influence. The rally this year has been led by low quality and heavily shorted stocks. It's also witnessed a strong move in cyclical stocks relative to defensive ones. This cyclical rotation in particular is convincing investors they are missing the bottom and they must reposition. Truth be told, it has been a powerful shift, but we also recognize that bear markets have a way of fooling everyone before they're done. The final stages of the bear are always the trickiest. In bear markets like last year, when just about everyone loses money, Investors lose confidence. They question their process as the price action and cross-currents in the data create a hall of mirrors. This hall of mirrors only increases the confusion. This is exactly the time one must trust their own work and ignore the noise. Suffice it to say we're not biting on this recent rally because our work in process is so convincingly bearish on earnings. Importantly, our call on earnings is not predicated on the timing of a recession or even if one occurs this year. Our work continues to show further erosion with the gap between our model and the forward estimates as wide as it's ever been. Could our model be wrong? Of course, but given its track record, we don't think it will be wrong directionally, particularly given the collection of leading series and models we published that point to a similar outcome. This is simply a matter of timing and magnitude, and we think the timing is imminent. We find the shift in investor tone helpful for our call for new lows in the S&P 500, which will finish this bear market later this quarter or early in the second quarter. Getting more specific, our forecasts are predicated on margin disappointment and the evidence in that regard is increasing. When costs are growing faster than sales, margins erode. This is very typical during any unexpected revenue slowdown. Recessions in particular lead to significant negative operating leverage for that very reason. In other words, sales fall off quickly and unexpectedly, while costs remain sticky in the short term. Inventory bloating, less productive headcount and other issues are the primary culprits. This is exactly what is happening in many industries already, and this is without a recession. It's also right in line with our forecast and the thesis that companies would regret adding costs so aggressively a year ago when sales and demand were running so far above trend. Bottom line, after a very challenging 2022, many investors are still bearish fundamentally, but are questioning whether negative fundamentals have already been priced into stocks. Our view has not changed as we expect the path and earnings in the U.S. to disappoint the consensus, expectations and current valuations. In fact, we welcome the change in sentiment positioning over the past few weeks as a necessary development for the last stage of this bear market to play out. Bear markets are like a hall of mirrors designed to confuse investors and take their money. We advise staying focused on the fundamentals and ignoring the false signals and misleading reflections. Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show.
BE PREPARED FOR MORE STUPIDITIESI considered ignoring the British Government's exclusion of the Sinn Féin President from the recent talks. Then I thought why should I? Stupidity like this needs highlighted. For me it is proof, once again, of what democrats here are up against. This column could analyse the statements from the current British Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister - With – The – Wonderfully – Inaccurate - Surname. But I will let you do that yourselves if that is your want. Suffice to say that every statement was even stupider than the one which preceded it. FRANCIS JOSEPH BIGGERFor the last few months I have been revisiting many of the oul words that used to be in common usage in times past. My source for many of these was a copy of a book of Montiaghisms written by William Lutton in 1923. The title of the book comes from a district close to Lurgan – the Montiaghs – where Lutton picked up many of the Ulster dialect words. He wasn't alone in this. Other writers of the period – especially Francis Joseph Bigger also had an interest in and made use of words that today are no longer used.
Today's conversation discusses why resilience is not a quick fix, how to develop cognitive agility, and anti-fragility, the power of daydreaming, and how to grow after trauma. Joining us is Dr. Gabriella Kellerman, our guest, who has served as chief product officer and chief innovation officer at BetterUp, founding CEO of LifeLink, and an advisor to healthcare, coaching, and behavior change technology companies. Trained in psychiatry and fMRI research, she holds an MD with honors from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a BA summa cum laude from Harvard University. Her work has been published and featured in The Atlantic Online, Harvard Business Review, Inc., Forbes, and many more. Suffice it to say, her expertise in today's conversation is sure to add value to you. Dive Deeper: If you enjoy this episode with Gabriella, I'm sure you'll also enjoy the following: 319: Dr. Alison Cook on The Cocktail of Codependency, Learning Surrender, and the Dysfunction of Spiritual Bypassing 320: Dr. Casey Halpern on Understanding the Roots of OCD and Compulsive Behaviors and How They Relate to Anxiety and Trauma ++++++ Episode Links: Gabriella's Website | Twitter | Buy Gabriella's new book on Amazon! Subscribe to #WinTodayShow on YouTube. Join the conversation wherever hashtags are welcome using #WinTodayShow. Get the "Win the Week" email newsletter here. ************************** This week's show partners: Get LMNT and a free gift with your purchase here! Save 25% on the Abide Sleep and Pray Meditation app. Text WIN to 22433 **************************
I can't find the right words to do enough justice to Yusra Mardini's story. I think it's best that you just listen to the episode. Suffice it to say, she's one of the most impressive people I've ever met. Yusra grew up in Damascus. When war broke out, she and her sister embarked on a perilous journey to Germany to seek asylum. En route, they nearly died when the dinghy they were using to cross the Aegean sea had an engine failure. Yusra and her sister Sara - both competitive swimmers - jumped overboard and helped to pull the boat to safety, saving all 18 people on board.Yusra went on to compete in the 2016 Olympics, to become the youngest ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and to publish a memoir that has now been made into a Netflix movie, The Swimmers.Listen now to hear Yusra telling her story. It's unbelievably powerful.--The Swimmers is available to watch on Netflix--Choose Love does amazing work for refugees. If you'd like to donate or learn more, please visit their website here.--How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted and produced by Elizabeth Day. To contact us, email email@example.com--Social Media:Elizabeth Day @elizabdayHow To Fail @howtofailpodYusra Mardini @yusramardini
Take a look back at 2022 as we deliver a new spin on the Video Game Awards. Expect our games of the year, but also more interesting discussion on the most disappointing games, favorite moments, and our favorite piece of gaming bling. Suffice it to say, it was a good year for almost any gamer, but let's talk about it.
Suffice to say that Hannah will not be buying golf clubs any time soon... BUT, there is something that Joel has bought and he decides the best time to share it, is once the microphones are on! If you'd like to suggest an activity, you can! Email: Hello@NeverEverPod.com Instagram: @NeverEverPod You can even take the conversation to the OFFICIAL Never Have I Ever subreddit.... https://www.reddit.com/r/NeverEverPod/ Thanks for listening. Please subscribe and leave a five star review!
“Suffice it to say, humans need a tremendous amount of fuel.” This episode is going to highlight a book titled Glucose Revolution - the life changing power of balancing your blood sugar by Jessie Inchauspé. First I begin by sharing the story about my mom and son's struggle with sleep and how I learned that it can be related to regulating your blood sugar. In part one of this 3 part series I am sharing the part of the book that helps us understand glucose and how our bodies process glucose for energy and what we do with the extra. And what an excess of glucose can do to our bodies. As many of you may be picking some health goals I am hoping this book and the information will help you with your goals and also it can help you as you regularly sharpen the saw. (Habit 7 from 7 habits of highly effective people by Steve R. Covey)For more information come by www.findingthefloor.com/ep122Come and say hi - I am on Facebook or Instagram @findingthefloor or send me an email Camille@findingthefloorThanks to Seth Johnson for my intro and outro original music. I love it so much!
Curt Anderson is a CPA by trade, but a serial entrepreneur by spirit. He co-founded his accounting firm, Fair Anderson Langerman, in 1988 and he co-founded my company MDL Group in 1989. On this episode he mentioned that he has been involved with 23 partnerships over his 40 + year career. Originally from South Bend Indiana, Curt of course graduated from Notre Dame with his BA in Business Administration with an accounting emphasis. From there he accepted an opportunity to move to Southern California as a young partner of a national accounting firm. Curt calls himself “lucky” to have this experience at such a young age. And as the conversation continued, perhaps the luckiest thing that ever happened to Curt was meeting his wife Sue on a blind date while they were in college. Make Your Life Decision Based on What You Want, Not How Much Money You Want Curt is someone who likes to help people figure out what they want to do and how to get there. He is classically trained as a CPA, but in reality, he was never built to be just an accountant. His approach with clients has been unorthodox in that sense. Rather than focusing on finances he starts with getting clients to describe the kind of life they want to live and what they want to accomplish. Then he helps them achieve those things through their finances. Key Takeaway: Embrace Change Curt has been blessed with opportunities. He explains it as simply being in the right place at the right time. However, he was ready for the opportunities and smart enough to take the risks. When his CPA firm was expanding to California, he accepted a promotion to partner and relocation to Los Angeles. His wife was eight months pregnant and his daughter was born shortly after the move. After 13 years as a partner and board member of a national accounting firm, Curt sensed a change was necessary again. This time Sue was pregnant with their second child. Still, Curt followed an opportunity to partner with clients to start a development company in Las Vegas. Listen to the episode to hear the rest of the story! Suffice to say that after 50 years, Curt has learned to ask “why not” when it comes to change. Out of all his successes, the number one thing Curt says he got right was marrying the right woman for him. With every major step he's taken in his lengthy and successful career, she's been by his side to embrace change with him through thick and thin. Takeaways from this Episode - Partnerships are doomed to failure, so plan accordingly. - Ideas don't work if the people aren't the right people. - Listings are not opportunities, they are responsibilities. - The rule of three 8's - an accountant's explanation of how to get balance in life.
Live with The Cowsill on Game Changers With Vicki Abelson There's so much wonderfulness and fun packed into this 1:15 Live, I'm woe to break it down and give any spoilers. Suffice it to say we talked about their avid, loyal fans, me being one, since kneesocks, their group dynamic, how the 7 came and went, family auditions, oh yes they did, how the harmonies stack, how the songs on their new album, Rhythm of the World, got written, recorded, and out there in spite of the pandemic and a stroke of someone's bad business, the hero who saved the day, meet & greets, how they genuinely love their fans and invite all to join them, even when they're eating, their podcast, Peter Noone for one, The Flower Power Cruise this March, another Happy Together Tour this summer, and always, Bob, Susan, and Paul, loving being together, whether taking a “snow day,” continuing to thrill their fans and make musical magic, or just chatting it up with the likes of me. I've been blessed to present Bob a few times over the last decade, and stay close sending him the constant onslaught of comments that still post almost daily from his visit to my living room for Women Who Write years ago. I've met Susan a few times and attempted more than once to wrangle her here, Paul I've only gandered onstage till today, yet they all felt like family almost instantly. It's who they are, what they do. I adore these three, all The Cowsills family, and have put in my request to be adopted. Rhythm of the World https://cowsill.com/home/music/rhythm-of-the-world/ TheCowsills Live on Game Changers With Vicki Abelson Wednesday, 1/11/23, 5 pm PT, 8 pm ET Streamed Live on my Facebook Replay here: https://bit.ly/3QzHCwT
Dear listeners, there are quite a bit of minutia regarding the interrogation of Robert Pickton after his arrest. To be honest with you, it is a bit tedious. Suffice to say that the detectives, mainly detective Don Adam, used all the technniques in the book to get Pickton to talk. It was not easy. The police were impressed with Pickton's ability to go hours upon hours without food, water or going to the toilet. He just sat relaxed in his chair and never really answered the questions and statements put towards him. This went on for over eleven hours. During this time, Pickton went far in insinuating that he was responsible for several murders, but he never flat out admitted to it. As stated in earlier episodes, Pickton was not stupid.Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/theserialkillerpodcastWebsite: https://www.theserialkillerpodcast.comFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/theskpodcastInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/serialkillerpodTwitter: https://twitter.com/serialkillerpodSupport this show http://supporter.acast.com/the-serial-killer-podcast. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
It's the fourth annual CineMAC & GUvie Awards - celebrating the best & worst of 2022 movies & television!Join the conversation on Twitter: @MACandGUpodcastFill out the categories and send us your results!Trailure Failure AwardTeaser PleaserThe Pirate AwardThat Was This Year!?The Pantsless AwardPants Off/Dance Off!Best Dildo FightCg-Why AwardDameo the Cameo Cost What?Sleepy Joe AwardThe MCU, Who, Suffice to Say, Was A lot…The “Take a Knee” AwardI'll Get Around to It AwardThe Karl Malone/Mailman AwardNeeds More
According to Wikipedia -- which has supplanted the Oxford English Dictionary and Encyclopedia Brittanica as the world's definitive source of information -- an Atmospheric River consists of narrow bands of enhanced water vapor winds that form over the oceans. In plain English, Atmospheric Rivers are windy rainstorms that dump a huge amount of water in a relatively short time. They account for about 50% of annual precipitation – so these storms are critical to reducing California's current drought conditions. Since our crews work on rooftops, we're very concerned about rooftop safety. As a result we always look at forecasts when planning rooftop work for our customers. This morning I noted that significant rain is projected for eight of the next nine days. In over 22 years of installing solar in Silicon Valley I have never seen such a severe and extended series of storms. The National Weather Service is predicting that this next atmospheric river storm will be as bad or worse than the recent New Year's Eve deluge. You can look at the detailed forecast yourself. Suffice it to say that wind gusts will be in the 35-55 mph range, with rainfall estimates ranging from 2 to 10 inches. With storms like this one -- especially when the ground is soggy -- it's reasonable to expect many power failures due to downed electric lines and flooded underground wiring. Storm drains will clog, leading to widespread street flooding. And some local creeks are already at flood stage. But there is some good news. Reservoirs and aquifers are filling up, reducing drought conditions. Sierra snowpack is growing, so there should be more water available for summer hydroelectricity — and the skiing is terrific. Your rooftop solar panels are getting cleaned from these downpours. If you have a solar-powered battery backup system, please take note of two features available on most systems. First, we recommend that you increase your minimum battery reserve to 50%. Second, enable the Weather Guard or Storm Preparation feature on your system, which will automatically keep your battery at 100% state of charge if there is an imminent bad weather event or PSPS. To learn more about these crazy atmospheric river storms and how solar and battery storage can keep your lights on, fridge cold and family connected, listen to The Energy Show.
@GullyTrotter (IG & YouTube) returns to the ThyGap podcast with Brut! In this episode: Physical and mental aspects of solo travel | Combating momentary bouts of loneliness on the road | How GullyTrotter got started with her journey | Best practices for female solo travelers | What is slow travel? | Managing the challenge of a large online following | solo vs. group travel dynamics | A pitch for trekking | Tips on Travel essentials | All this and much more...!Suffice to say there was even more banter between the hosts than GullyTrotter's previous episode with us. Disclaimer here that we do not generally antagonize our guests, make them interview us on our own podcast, or constantly plug ourselves in their presence, except if they're also friends and they make the mistake of accepting our invitation. If anyone has complaints about Brut, feel free to write to us at our socials below, but please be aware that he is much worse in person. Having said that, an episode on travel that ends with the hosts swearing their lives to never travel with each other has to be interesting, to say the least. It's a good thing (for all of us) that these two are only sitting across the table for a harmless conversation, and not deciding the fates of millions over diplomatic negotiations. Dont let anyone say ThyGap is not making the world a better place. Subscribe, and Share!Instagram: @_ThyGap Twitter: @ThyGap Vero: @ThyGapEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It's quite a niche piece of advice this week, but you never know who might need to hear it. Suffice to say, that if you have a ballet dancer lodging in your house, make sure you're very up front about who should be doing their laundry... Make sure you're subscribed! Don't forget! How To Survive Family Holidays by Jack Whitehall (with Hilary & Michael Whitehall!) is now available in paperback, at all good book shops! You can email your questions, thoughts or problems to TheWitteringWhitehalls@gmail.com
Season 7, Episode 12. Marlene and Nicole met and became friends in Freiburg, where Marlene was getting her master's degree in the Global Studies Program. Shortly after finishing the degree, she moved to Berlin, and from the end of the program until today, she's faced a series of serious challenges: housing insecurity, job insecurity, visa insecurity, health and mental issues, relationship difficulties, and financial problems. Plus, Marlene struggled with depression, and she also got diagnosed with ADHD. And she's one of those people who gets joy and happiness out of making someone else's day, but she lives in a country where the culture tends to be a bit more suspicious of strangers. Suffice it to say, she's been faced with plenty of problems, and then some, and she shares how she managed to push through to today, when things are starting to slowly look more stable. 4GEPADFO One last change to donate to Krisenchat Ukrainian FIND Marlene On Instagram REVIEW On Apple Podcasts On Podchaser On my website CONNECT theexpatcast.com Instagram @theexpatcast Twitter @theexpatcast
It is not so uncommon these days to come across non-Japanese sake brewers, indeed we have featured many on this show, but in the case of this week's guest, sake is quite literally in his family's DNA. Having been raised in the US, George Briant Inoue Parsons is now preparing to take over from his uncle to run Inoue Shuzo, makers of Hakoneyama brand sake, a 100 year old sake brewery in Kanagawa. It's a role George never expected would fall to him, and he needed some persuasion to take up the family mantle, but he gave up a career in the hotel industry in Hawaii on hold to answer the call.As the 8th generation president in-waiting, he now faces the challenge of keeping his family tradition alive while exploring new frontiers to take the brewery into the modern age. In an industry as old as sake with so many traditions and rules, it is a tough task for any non-Japanese to adapt, but George has had the added pressure of family expectation. Suffice to say, it has been a huge learning experience, and this is just the beginning of his journey. George might be half Japanese, but having spent such a long time outside Japan, he has that natural outsider appreciation for the deeper elements of Japanese sake culture and he is able to take a fresh perspective that people who have grown up in the country perhaps cannot. He is in a rather unique position of being able to look outwardly at his brewery's heritage and this may provide hints on what direction to steer it in the future. Perhaps following in the footsteps of his great grandfather who was something of a pioneer in promoting sake overseas, George is also trying to bring his family's sake to an international stage. Join Sebastien Lemoine and Christopher Hughes as they explore George's sake beginnings and his vision for the brewery.We'll be back in a couple of weeks with more Sake on Air.Until then, kampai! Sake on Air is made possible with the generous support of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association and is broadcast from the Japan Sake & Shochu Information Center in Tokyo. The show is brought to you by Potts.K Productions with audio production by Frank Walter. Our theme, “Younger Today Than Tomorrow” was composed by forSomethingNew for Sake On Air.
The vast majority of stories are told by one narrator. But not at NPR's Planet Money. They regularly have co-narrators. Why? Why have two narrators when one will suffice? Reporters Erika Beras and Sarah Gonzalez have the answer.
Whether you're an egg donor now, if you're considering it, or you know someone that is — I'm glad you're here. Young women are donating eggs at the time they are most fertile, often times not realizing the implications of what that means. I've had patients come to me in their 40s without enough healthy eggs of their own to conceive. When they share with me that they themselves donated their young and healthy eggs in their 20s or 30s, but that none are available for them, I feel frustrated and sad for them. Frustrated enough that I'm doing something about it. Freeze & Share is a program that helps young egg donors save some eggs for themselves should they need them, while helping another family conceive when they can't on their own. Suffice to say, I don't want anyone to look back at their egg donation and wish they'd known more. Here is your chance — I want to give you all the information I have so that you're equipped with the knowledge to make the best decision for your personal situation. Read the full show notes on my site by clicking or tapping here. Click to find The Egg Whisperer Show podcast on your favorite podcasting app. Watch Dr. Aimee on YouTube Sign up for The Egg Whisperer newsletter to get updates Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh is one of America's most well known fertility doctors. Her success rate at baby-making is what gives future parents hope when all hope is lost. She pioneered the TUSHY Method and BALLS Method to decrease your time to pregnancy. Learn more about the TUSHY Method and find a wealth of fertility resources at www.draimee.org.
Welcome to Harry Potter Theory. Today we're discussing the 10 LARGEST magical creatures- the behemoths of the wizarding world. This list was particularly difficult to make as the exact specifications of each creature (height, weight etc) are not easy to come by. Suffice to say, the honourable mentions list following the main list is pretty long as well. I don't think you'll be able to guess all 10, but leave a comment down below before you start and see if you're right at the end. Anyway, I won't dawdle, here are the 10 most ENORMOUS magical creatures from both Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts.
Today’s guest is Dr. Lisa Strohman, whose story is as fascinating as her career. Dr. Lisa Strohman has gained widespread recognition for her work advocating for and educating people about mental health’s ever changing role in our digital lives. She has worked with thousands of parents, schools, and kids all around the world as a lawyer, clinical psychologist, and author, and founded the Digital Citizen Academy: a nonprofit program offered to schools with an in-home plan that encourages balance and prosocial relationships to technology for students. Dr. Strohman has over a decade of experience dealing with individual, family, and adolescent clients coping with issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and technology usage, and co-founded the Technology Wellness Center with Dr. Melissa Westendorf JD, PhD in 2014. She’s an author of three books about the relationships that young people are developing to technology in the modern world, and is also regularly featured in the media as an authoritative source for concerns concerning technology usage and behavior, including a weekly feature on Dr. Drew's radio show and a role as an expert on Dr. Oz's ShareCare website. Suffice it to say, Dr.Strohman is an accomplished and impactful figure in modern society, and her experiences in youth reflect a tenacity and resilience that has carried her throughout. Our conversation today covers everything from homelessness to the FBI, and we have a chance to hear about Dr.Strohman’s experience of having an organ-saving radiation therapy initially rejected by her insurance company. She’s an incredible woman with a lot of wisdom to share, and a compassionate perspective on the world, and I’m delighted to be able to share her insights with you. Are you ready to connect?
Today's Listener Takeover pick comes to us from John G. Forget what you think you know about the Hannibal Lecter movie series. Did you know that Anthony Hopkins wasn't even the first actor to play the famous cannibal? That's because a little movie called Manhunter came out in 1986 which officially kicked off the Hannibal series of films.Suffice to say the Anthony Hopkins Hannibal movies are the standard today, how will this grandfather of the series stack up? Was it done right the first time, or was Red Dragon totally necessary?
Kris Kringle opens up about his sexless marriage.By cb summers. Listen to the Podcast at Steamy Stories.“Kris!” she snapped, as if I was the biggest idiot in the world. Was I missing something? Mary always had a great mind for business, but I had a hard time following her sometimes.She calmed herself and said with exaggerated calmness, “Okay Kris, we've talked about this before. I've always said that's a stupid policy. Okay, it makes sense for minors. Parents wouldn't like us just sending stuff to kids who don't believe in you anymore. They have enough broken toys lying around the house as it is. But we're talking about adult women here. If we send them something they want, instead of something they asked for, well, who'd be upset? Who'd be hurt? Who'd complain?”She could get so impatient with me sometimes. “Okay, Mary, okay! I get the point. But if they don't ask for something, how do we know what to give them? They'd probably want clothes, but what sizes are these women? Who's going to take their measurements? I know who's naughty and who's nice, and all of their names, but not their bust sizes!”Mary gave me an icy look. “No, no, you don't understand what I'm getting at. We don't need to send them highly individualized gifts. We just need to come up with something that every woman wants. What every woman needs… something with that essential Christmas quality. What is it that we make here?”“Toys?”“Toys! Precisely. We don't make clothes! That's what parents give. Not Santa Claus! You give toys.”“You want to give toys to grown up women?” I asked.She smiled and stood. Her dress was not only low cut, it was short too! Wow, she had some gorgeous gams. She was wearing high heels. I hadn't seen her in anything but sneakers since the sixties. Boy, they made her legs look great! And I don't think I'd seen such a gleeful expression on her face since ‘Santa Claus – the Movie'. She clapped her hands and the female elves turned the cranks again, raising the projection screen out of sight. Mary walked over to a large table I hadn't noticed before. I couldn't take my eyes off her ass. She'd been dressing so dowdy for so many years, I barely recognized her backside. She directed my attention to a table which was covered with a large draped piece of red silk. I could make out the lumps of maybe twenty or thirty objects under the material. She took a corner of the silk in her hand and looked at me.“Kris, I want you to try to keep an open mind here.”“Uh… Okay.” I saidShe whipped away the silk cloth, revealing a bunch of bizarre objects. I didn't know what I was looking at. But suddenly it dawned on me that a few of these items looked suspiciously like male genitalia! On closer inspection, some of them looked like female genitalia too. One of them was nothing but a big pair of disembodied breasts, painted with amazing realism. I also saw a large box next to the table that was unopened, but had pictures showing what was inside… a freakishly realistic female sex doll.“Mary,” I said. “You… uh… want me to deliver… these things as Christmas presents?”“Not these things, Kris! I bought these out of a catalogue for research purposes.”“Research?” I thought I misheard her.“Well… I don't know which of these items are actually… you know… most effective. I've never actually used a sex toy. So we'll need to test them a bit and use the findings to design our own. We really only need one or two designs, manufactured here with the superior quality only we can achieve. But by restricting it to one or two models, you won't need to kill yourself remembering which present to give to which woman. You just need to make sure that you separate the children's toys from the women's toys. Besides, we only have a few months until Christmas so we need to assembly line these things to get them out in time. But maybe next year, if things go well, we could expand the line.”By that time, my mind was officially blown. A hundred thoughts were whirling through my noggin. It was an insane idea, but it made a perverse kind of sense. And Mary's ass looked so luscious in that short red dress… her breasts were almost falling out of the top. I kept thinking, ‘research?' I wondered if she meant… that she and I would do this research together? Gulp. That was really an exciting idea to me. Not just having sex with Mary, but having sex with this new, sexy, energized Mary. It could be just the thing to reinvigorate our sex life.That's the moment I drank the Kool-Aid.“So… Okay… Research… yes, that sounds like a good plan… uh, how, uh, do you suggest this research thing would be, uh, accomplished?”She smiled at me, relief transforming her often-severe features. She threw her arms around me and kissed me on the lips… for a second. “Oh Kris, I knew you'd get it! Don't worry, I have it all planned out. What are elves for, after all, but for working out this sort of thing?”Elves? Shoot. “But, Mary… the elves aren't human. If they tested these toys… well the results would be unreliable.”She thought about that for a while. But the way the thought about it, so cutely, holding her elbow in her hand and tapping the tip of her nose with her finger, told me she had the answer to my question already in mind, but wanted to pretend she was thinking it up on the spot.“Good question, Kris. Good question. You're not Santa Claus for nothing. I suppose… I suppose that since I'm the only woman on the North Pole, I'll have to test these toys myself.”I smiled, “That's a good idea, Mary. I'll be happy to help…”“Oh, you're too busy for that kind of thing. My elves can help me.”“But…” It was a crushing disappointment.She saw the look on my face and realizing that I might call off the whole thing said, “But of course, you'll need to look in from time to time. You know, observe. These toys will be used mostly by women for their own pleasure, so I need to see how well they work without a man in the room… other than, perhaps watching through a window or something. Yes, that would be good. We'll set up an observation room for you. But you shouldn't interrupt the tests. That wouldn't be… scientific.”It wasn't what I had in mind… and I could always call it off later… but the thought of watching her test these toys… well it was still pretty exciting. And she looked so happy, all I could do was give her a thumbs up sign.Later that week her tests began.But first, let me tell you a little about elves.Elves are magical, immortal creatures, who have their own language, culture, and customs, most of which are a mystery to me. The elves of the North Pole were bound to me in ancient times by… well, maybe I don't need to go that far back. Suffice it to say that they are literally Santa's elves. They pretty much do my bidding, selflessly and eagerly. I have always had a joyful, loving heart, therefore so do they. You could say that they're linked somehow to my psyche, though not all of them. I've noticed over the centuries that a small percentage of female elves are more loyal to Mary than me. Perhaps the ancient forces that bound the elves to me, made a provision for my future wife. But for whatever reason, Mary had complete command of a group of thirty female elves. The other ten thousand and two were mine.Still she put those thirty female elves to good use during her tests. When she first told me her plan I was worried how the elves might react, but I needn't have worried. Elves don't think like humans.Elves are about four feet tall, more or less, but aren't stocky like human little people. No, they are proportionally similar to humans, just smaller, but with disproportionately larger heads, hands and feet. Their fingers, in particular, are quite long and nimble, which makes them so good at toy making. They're ancient creatures, but if you saw one, you'd probably think they were in their twenties or thirties. In spite of their size, they don't look anything like children. Even those with youthful faces have something in their eyes that makes them feel ancient. They have long pointy ears, as you might already know, and slanty elfin eyes. Their bodies come in a variety of shapes, but all of them, no matter how fat or muscular, are really quite delicate and beautiful to behold. They have blue skin, of various shades and hues, ranging from snow white, to indigo blue. Some of them are almost green, but those ones are rare. Their skin sparkles, as if there are tiny flecks of glitter all over their bodies, but this glittery stuff is actually luminescent and appears to move about under the surface of their skin. They glow faintly in the dark, the glitter rippling with pale colors. It's kind of eerie to behold so I usually keep the factory brightly illuminated.Elves have long white hair, which they enjoy braiding up in various ways, based on ancient Celtic knot patterns, or maybe Celtic knots are based on elfin hair… I'm not sure which came first. It's really the only art I never taught them. Everything else: the factory, the toys, their clothing, those were all my designs. Left to their own devices, elves would go nude and live in holes in the ice, but they were happy to dress as I wanted them to and live in the village I designed for them. Back when I set those rules, I was a bit of a stick in the mud myself. I didn't like them walking around naked, probably because they were temptingly beautiful. Both male and female elves are quite… sexy, I guess, in a weird alien way. Particularly the females. So, from the very beginning, I made them were silly red and green lederhosen with the big pointy shoes and jingling bells. I did this, essentially, to desexualize them and it worked. I'd pretty much stopped thinking about them as sexual beings long, long ago. Actually, I didn't know, or care to know, anything about the sex lives of elves. All I knew was that they didn't have babies very often. Maybe only one or two a year, more if the demand for toys was increasing. But after toy demand slowed down twenty years ago, the elves stopped reproducing entirely. Now the entire elf population were adults. That wasn't a problem. Accidents aside, they were immortal.It's difficult to befriend an elf. They are so eager to please, there's no back and forth with them. I thought my status as their eternal boss was an insurmountable social barrier between us. We understood each other's languages, but I really wasn't part of their personal world after closing time. I'd hear them whooping it up in their little village, having parties that I was never invited to and feeling generally left out. I guess that's why I befriended the reindeer. They're more open to conversation, though they enjoy talking about hay way too much, and I really don't like playing their reindeer games. They can get pretty competitive and mean. Well, you probably heard how they hazed Rudolph that time.And since Mary and I had drifted apart, I'd sort of gotten used to living a lonely life of isolation in which every year was the same as every other.Mary's sex toy experiment was a welcome change of pace. I could feel the energy spreading through the factory as word got out of what was going on. Mary set up a special test room on the fourth floor, where we used to make cowboy toys, before they went out of fashion. I tried to visit several times that first week, but Mary's elves told me the tests were only beginning and Mary was too shy to share the results just yet. But after my third attempt, I pulled rank and pretty much barged in. The elves apparently were prepared for that contingency, so they led me to a special viewing room that had been set up just for me, where I could watch the proceedings through a sound proof two way mirror without Mary seeing me, hearing me, or even being aware of my presence. The room had a great big plush couch for me to sit in, and Mary's elves asked if I wanted any refreshments.I didn't even hear the question. My eyes were riveted by what I saw going on in the test room. Mary was naked, on her back, in a big fluffy bed, working a vibrating rubber cock in and out of her vagina. She was enjoying herself immensely. Three female elves, dressed in white robes, were sitting around her. One was taking notes in a little book. The other two were just watching, their heads cocked to the side with fascinated expressions on their faces.I got weak in the knees and sat down in the big overstuffed couch. I had a perfect view. I could see every detail of Mary's amazing body… she was only five or six feet away from me. I couldn't remember the last time I'd actually seen her totally naked in a room as brightly lit as this. We used to shower together a long time ago, but I'd forgotten how perfect her body was. Holy holly, she was hot! My cock, which had been virtually dormant for years, suddenly began to stir. I told the elves to leave me alone, and I just watched Mary please herself. She couldn't hear me, but I could hear every sound she made. Her gentle whimpers of pleasure were as beautiful as any Christmas carol ever written.My growing cock began pressing insistently against the fabric of my pants. I was wearing lederhosen that day… a tight pair that I'd grown a bit too fat to wear. After a while, I heard the fabric ripping, and my cock emerged, all fifteen inches of it. It hadn't ripped through my pants in the longest time! I had a pretty powerful penis… I don't mean to brag. It's just a fact. I'm not sure if all demigods are thus blessed, but I am. Oh, it could be problematic from time to time. It's embarrassing to get an unexpected boner when you're wearing tight pants. But this time, at least, I wasn't in public. I was in a private room… with my beautiful sexy wife performing a porno just for me… and a handful of elves.I wrapped my fingers around my cock and let out a moan of pleasure. I hadn't masturbated in centuries. I'd done it a lot during the second century of my marriage to Mary, after she stopped sleeping with me. I'd never really enjoyed it. It just made me feel naughty, and you know how I hate naughtiness. But this… this was just too erotic to ignore. My hand was dry, but it felt good to rub it while looking at Mary's wonderful pussy. Her brilliant red pubic hair was dripping in her juices, as she worked the rubber cock in and out of her engorged vagina. The sex toy, I noticed, was only a third the size of my cock, but she seemed to enjoy it immensely. Perhaps that had been our problem all along. I was too big for her! It was a bit of a relief to finally figure out the reason for our unhappy sex life after all these centuries.One of Mary's female elves appeared at my side and said, “Glad tidings, Santa.”I yelped in surprise and scrunched forward to cover my erection. “Can I help you, Snowbell?”Snowbell looked at me quizzically, “Would you like some lubricant, Santa? That doesn't look very pleasant.”That was just about the last thing I ever expected to hear an elf say. But elves are very adaptable and eager to help.Snowbell looked down where I was hiding my cock, but of course it was much bigger than my hands. I wasn't hiding much. She said, “I've been studying human sexuality for Mrs. Claus. I've read that human males often prefer lubricant when they masturbate. They don't excrete it like male elves.” That was a bit more information than I really wanted to know about male elves. But she was right about humans, and since I was born human, that applied to me too. I looked at Mary again. She started really hammering her pussy with that dildo, and lord help me, I wanted to jerk off in the worst way!“Okay, Snowbell. That would be nice.” She nodded, but instead of running off to fetch some petroleum jelly, as I thought she'd do, she reached out and lifted my hands off my cock.“Please, Santa, lean back and relax.”I did, though it seemed weird to be exposing my naked cock to a female elf. Male elves sometimes helped me bathe… you know, washing my back and handing me towels. There was nothing sexual in that. But Snowbell… she was really quite pretty. Although small and pure of heart, there was nothing childlike about her. She looked like a beautiful, miniature woman with pale aqua blue skin. The tiny magical glitters in her flesh had a distinct magenta hue to them. I'd never noticed before. It was quite enchanting. She was wearing one of the furry, white robes that Mary dressed all her elves in. It was loosely belted around her narrow waist and exposing quite a lot of cleavage. Wow. Snowbell had pretty nice boobs, for an elf. They were about the size of baseballs. Although small, they were firm and round… very womanly.After I sat back in the couch, and my big cock was standing up straight in front of little Snowbell, she looked at it with interest… perhaps even more than interest. “If I may say, Santa, your penis is quite… impressive.”“Well… thanks.” I said.Snowbell reached through the slit of her robe and between her legs. Before I knew what was happening, she brought her hand out, dripping with her own vaginal juices and spread it on my cock with the long, agile fingers of her right hand. I hadn't felt anybody touch my cock in so long that instead of shooing her away, I just froze in lust and let her stroke me. It was an utterly unexpected pleasure. She spread the juices all over, top to bottom, taking her time and being thorough, which is the elf way. I felt a tingling in my cock that was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before.She took her hand off me and said, “Okay, Santa, that should do.”“Are you sure?” I asked, breathlessly, wanting her to touch me again. I felt so naughty!“Would you like a bit more lubricant, Santa?” I noticed how pretty her ancient eyes were. She had emerald green corneas, flecked with a rainbow of jagged little sparkles, and her pupils were quite large.“Yes… that would be nice, Snowbell.”She reached down again, this time opening her robe enough that I could see her long elfin pussy. I'd seen naked elves a long time ago, but I'd never really looked at them as closely as I did now. Snowbell's pussy was like a work of art. A beautiful little sculpture which was more perfect than the most exquisite human vagina in history. It was longer and larger, proportional to her body, than I expected. There was a small puff of fluffy white fur above her well-defined clitoris. She delicately spread the glittery lips with her fingers, and a shimmering drop of liquid fell into her palm, like a dewdrop. It broke apart only after she squeezed it between her palms. Then she spread it on my cock, and this time I definitely felt a tingling sensation that could only have been caused by elf magic. She spread it all over, looking up at the breathless expression of pleasure on my face.“Does this feel good, Santa?”“Yes.” I replied.“Would you like me to keep doing this?”“Yes… if you don't mind.” I admitted.“I don't mind at all. It's quite enjoyable, actually.” She smiled.I was definitely being naughty! I knew I should stop her, but I was so horny! So I watched Snowbell's long fingers stroke my cock, my heart thumping in my chest at the sight of those sparkly blue fingers wrapped around my beautiful meaty shaft. I really hadn't thought about my cock in decades, but I had to admit, it was an impressive thing to look at. It was no wonder that Snowbell's eyes were filled with such intense interest.Then Mary began to have a huge, screaming, weeping orgasm, and my attention was drawn to her. I'd never heard her cum like that before. Never. Even on our wedding night.Since the last time I looked, the two female elves who'd been observing her had moved in closer. Greentree and Flicker were now kneeling on either side of Mary's legs, gently petting the inner flesh of her thighs. She had the dildo in one hand… but with the other hand she was fondling the naked elf that had been taking notes earlier. Jingle's little white robe was open, exposing her pretty blue body to my eager eyes. Mary began to squeeze and knead Jingle's modest, but beautiful breasts. I could tell the elf was enjoying the sensation immensely.The scene was intensely erotic… far more erotic than anything I'd ever seen or imagined in my life.Well… actually that's not true. I deliver presents to millions of homes around the world on Christmas Eve. I've stumbled into many strange situations; people having sex in front of their fireplace, even orgies around the Christmas tree. On more than one occasion a wife had mistaken me for her husband in a Santa suit and had tried to make out with me. Sometimes they were naked. But I'd always shown enough restraint to avert my eyes and make a quick escape.But this time… I just couldn't look away. Snowbell was stroking my cock with both hands. Although she had small hands, her fingers were long enough to wrap around my considerable girth. She was starting to grip me quite tightly. Elves are deceptively strong. Her pussy juices were so slippery and tingly, it felt almost like being inside Mary's vagina… but maybe even a little bit better, if memory served. Snowbell was smiling, really enjoying this. I began to moan uncontrollably and shots of pleasure made my whole body quiver. Then a few little spurts of pre-cum came out of the tip much to Snowbell's delight.“Oh, Santa! You must be enjoying this!”“Snowbell…” I panted, breathlessly, “Snowbell…” I couldn't say anything but her name. But that really seemed to turn me on… and it seemed to turn Snowbell on too, because she began to moan a little and started rubbing her crotch against the couch between my legs. Her little white robe came undone, and the front opened up enough for me to see her pretty belly button and little flashes of her dark blue nipples. They were transparent, like little blue gumdrops. Oh… fuck. Snowbell was such a sexy little elf!After a while, I looked at Mary again. She wasn't holding the dildo anymore. Greentree was holding it now and pushing it in and out of her, while Flicker was fingering her clitoris expertly. Jingle was now sucking one of Mary's nipples with her lips and pinching her other nipple with long those long elfin fingers. Damn, those three little elves were sexy too, almost as sexy as Snowbell! Their little asses, so shapely, so blue, so glittery! Mary's hands felt down Jingle's body, until they were between Jingle's delicate legs… then I saw Mary stick her thumb up into Jingle's vagina! I felt something shooting up my cock at the sight. A small gush of pre-cum flooded out of the tip as if my cock was a volcano. It rolled down over and into Snowbell's hands, mingling with her magical juices. Mary was definitely going on the naughty list for thumb-fucking that elf!After a few minutes, Mary stopped screaming, her orgasm had become so powerful and prolonged that she could barely breathe. Her eyes were wide open, looking at the little elves between her legs and on her breasts. They were bringing her from orgasm to orgasm, as if they were playing her like a musical instrument. She looked like she was undergoing the most pleasant torture imaginable. The elves continued their relentless manipulation until Mary put out a quivering hand to stop them. She'd taken all she could take. When they stopped, Mary collapsed, with a long drawn out laughing groan of joy and release.Snowbell was working like crazy to bring me to release as well. The tip of her blue tongue was out of her mouth, licking her pretty little lips… she was really turned on stroking my big cock. She was grinding her crotch against the front of the couch with great insistence and started having a little orgasm of her own. It wasn't as loud or ecstatic as Mary's but it was intense and intimate nonetheless. I had a sudden, but long-overdue realization… am I having sex with an elf? I am! After all these centuries the unimaginable was happening. Santa was having sex with an elf!! So was Mary! It was beyond naughty! I had to stop this, but I was unable to move! I was in Snowbell's power! I could feel my orgasm building deep inside my pelvis. It was a transcendent sensation… something I'd forgotten after so many years of bad sex and celibacy. And when it exploded, it nearly reached the ceiling and rained all over Snowbell, who laughed as if she were in a snowstorm. The long looping trails of my cum fell in her elaborate hairstyle, on her glittery turquoise face, across her long ears, and on her little aqua breasts, as she looked at my cock, her eyes full of wonder. Her powerful hands felt like they were drawing the cum out of my deepest reservoirs. Her last upward stroke was so strong that a jet of semen shot five feet up in the air, before coming back down. She leaned back, opened her mouth and caught it all, as she might have caught a piece of popcorn thrown in the air. It was quite a feat. My cum splashed into her little mouth filling it up like a glass of milk. Then she swallowed it all down in one big gulp and looked at me happily, licking her lips.“You taste just like eggnog, Santa! I didn't know that!”“Neither did I,” I said breathlessly, amazed and astounded by the sheer naughtiness of what had just transpired. I thought, vaguely, that I should probably put my cock away and go pray for forgiveness or something. But instead I just lay there and looked at Mary's naked body and let Snowbell kiss my cock gently and stroke me until I started to grow hard again. She touched my balls, as if she were petting a little bunny. It felt amazing. I knew Snowbell would keep doing this until I told her to stop. That's the way elves are. Tireless, helpful, eager to please.Mary was snuggling Greentree, Flicker, and Jingle against her large, perfect breasts, a smile as wide as a river on her satisfied face. Greentree and Flicker were gently rubbing Mary's pussy, not even using the dildo any longer, their fingers entwined in her red bush and dipping playfully into her wet flower.I felt an almost instantaneous surge of shame grip my heart. We were both fucking around with the elves in ways we'd never even imagined. It was wrong! Moreover, I was cheating on Mary, if having sex with an elf counts… and it probably does. I'd never thought I was capable of that sin. And if I was cheating, so was Mary, masturbating Jingle and letting Greentree and Flicker touch her pussy. It was just wrong all around! I sat up and snapped at Snowbell to stop. She looked at me, perplexed, her face still decorated with garlands of my cum. I said, “I didn't mean to snap, Snowbell. But I have to go… business to attend to. Thank you very much for… your help.”She smiled a beautiful, innocent, ancient smile, “No, thank you Santa.”“Thank me? For what?”“For anointing me,” she said, gently touching the cum in her hair. Her expression was almost religious. Good lord, what had I done?I ran out of the viewing room, holding my big cock up under my long coat so nobody would see it. My heart was filled with shame… but all I could think of was Snowbell's little aqua face covered with my cum. My cock throbbed for more. I was so hot and bothered, I had to jump into the fishing hole to cool down enough for my cock to soften.Later that night, Mary and I ate dinner together, as was customary. She looked beautiful, in a low cut white gown and a lovely icicle necklace decorating her décolletage. She'd been dressing more attractively ever since I'd agreed to the sex toy tests. It was a welcome change, and I tried to flirt with her, but she showed no more interest in me sexually than before. I had no idea if she knew I'd watched her test earlier, but she acted as if everything were perfectly normal. She certainly didn't seem to know that I'd cheated on her with Snowbell. That was a relief.I had been intending to talk to Mary about the need to maintain boundaries between us and the elves, but the more I thought about it, the more hypocritical I felt. So I decided to let it go. Surely Mary must be as ashamed about what happened as I was. Also, I didn't want to have a fight. Seeing her naked for the first time in years had rekindled my interest in having sex with her. I tried to think of something to do… some present to give her that would earn my way back into her heart.But then I saw something in her eyes that bugged me. Happiness… real happiness. I hadn't seen that look since… actually, so long ago I couldn't even remember. It kind of pissed me off. She seemed to have derived more happiness from a simple sex toy than from Santa Claus!The little serving elves bustled about bringing food and drink. I found myself looking at them… searching for Snowbell's face. But these were my elves, not Mary's. Snowbell didn't work here. But some of these little elves were quite pretty. I'd known them for centuries, but I'd never really taken notice of their individual assets. One in particular, Icicle, really caught my eye. She was one of the rare green elves. She was a little taller and chubbier than the others, and I could see her extremely large breasts bouncing about inside the ridiculous uniform I'd designed so many years ago. It was such an unflattering costume. The warm red and green fabrics clashed terribly with her cool green skin tones. I imagined how much more attractive she'd look in Snowbell's white robe. Then I thought about how beautiful Snowbell looked in that fuzzy white robe Mary's elves wore… “Um,” I hummed under my breath.“Did you say something, Kris?”I suddenly felt bad for making the elves dress this way, even though they'd never once complained. Then I thought of a present to give Mary! It was perfect! “Mary, what would you think about redesigning the elves' clothing?”Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and stared at me.“I'm getting tired of these ugly old outfits. Maybe you'd be interested in giving the elves a makeover?”Mary smiled, her face showing deep surprise. She'd asked for this a thousand times, and finally I was giving in. She actually got a little choked up. “Kris. I'd love to.”The elves gave a little cheer. I guess they were pretty tired of their outfits too.“I want you to have total control. All I ask is that you keep the jingle bells.”“Of course,” she said, “Everyone loves the jingle bells.”To be continued..By cbsummers for Literotica
his week we dive into an article thats been published in the metro about the latest UK census and why there has been a 10 fold increase in those identifying as Shamans. Suffice to say, this article has some real gems to dive into.Article - https://metro.co.uk/2022/11/29/census-2021-thousands-converting-to-shamanism-in-england-and-wales-17845260/Support us on patreon a get extra bits and pieces - https://patreon.com/wovenenergy
Today we are excited to welcome back Sony Kapoor to the podcast, and we're talking about the Bridgetown Initiative, a new plan - an exciting new plan - to overhaul the international financial system to unlock huge flows of finance to the global South for the energy transition.Now disagreement between the North and the South on how to finance the latter's exit from fossil fuels provides a useful lens on a wider problem about the geo-economics of today's world of multiple, intersecting crises.Sony outlines the nuts and bolts of this new plan - championed by the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, to “unlock the trillions” for the global South. But, more importantly, he explains why this approach is far from sufficient.He questions whether headline-grabbing news that focuses on big numbers instead of the quality of the finance, is the answer. And raises the issue of which economic model the new engines of global growth - India and Indonesia - can follow in a world where we no longer have the carbon budget to replicate China's carbon-intensive trajectory.Now Sony has a plan for a new “grand bargain” between the North and the South for a new development model led by services and virtual delivery of services that respects global environmental boundaries. This is arguably one of the most important policy conversation of our times, so stay tuned.What we talked about:0:57 Stocktake after COP27 3:47 The loss and damage fund is for now an empty shell5:31 Why the Bretton Woods system is well overdue for reform8:01 Note that World Bank/IMF played big role in opening up of China in 1980s and liberalization of India's economy in 1990s10:03 But today these bodies are not tackling the urgent debate about which economic model the new engines of global growth such as India should follow, as replicating China's carbon-intensive model is not an option11:00 Climate change still doesn't feature in the IMF core function of macroeconomic surveillance. World Bank calls itself the world's bigggest climate finance lender, but this is only because it is the world's biggest lender. 12.19 Enter the Bridgetown Initiative: what's good about it 14.15 Why the ambition of Bridgetown falls short16:43 Bridgetown - short term aspect seeks to reduce the outflow of money by extending the suspension of debt repayments agreed during peak of COVID crisis.22.55 Medium-term - how Bridgetown proposes to allow lending up up to a trillion dollars of cheap money to developing countries29.37 If climate risk is properly assessed and taken into account by markets and credit rating agencies, the poorest countries will see their already sub-par credit ratings go down several notches because they face many physical risks from extreme weather.31.04 Why the quality of finance matters more than the quantity. Too many discussions about climate finance focus coming up with the largest headline number.32.55 Sony's Grand Bargain, explained. This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit thezeroist.substack.com
IntroductionToday we are exploring one of the most important topics in human history: the Incarnation of the Word of God. What we celebrate on the Solemnity of the Annunciation and then nine months later on December 25th is the most marvelous of mysterious miracles. What does the Church definitively teach about the Incarnation? What is the Hypostatic Union? Is Jesus half-God and half-man or fully God and fully man? How does that work? What are some of the heresies about Christ?This week's episode will exclusively focus on the fact, nature, and truth of the Incarnation. There is far more to say about the nature of Christ than I can cover in one short episode. So, know that there is more to say, more distinctions to draw, and more fruitful reflection to be had! Next week, in a second part, we will explore the effects of the Incarnation on Christ Himself as well as the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on the fittingness of the Incarnation. As well, we will look at the effects of the Incarnation on humanity and the world. In other words, what is the significance of Christmas for you and I personally? The Marvelous Fact of the IncarnationTwo thousand years ago, the Eternal Word of God took on Flesh. In the Nicene Creed, Christians acclaim that: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” Belief in the Incarnation of the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is distinctively Christian. No other religion claims something so seemingly outlandish: that the Almighty God would condescend to share in His creation. Yet, this is the truth. The Incarnation is a marvelous fact, a “unique and altogether singular event (CCC 464)” to borrow the language of the Catechism. This marvelous reality is not simple to understand, nor is it something intuitively grasped by our feeble human intellect. However, there is much that God has revealed to us and unpacked through the guidance of the Holy Spirit over the centuries. The “Incarnation is… the mystery of the wonderful union of the divine and human natures in the one person of the Word (CCC 483).” We will walk through the Divinity of Jesus Christ then His human nature, and then we will be able to talk with some level of clarity on the Hypostatic Union. I am going to try hard to keep this simple without watering anything down. I will also try to define any technical terms that I use. My hope is that this will remain accessible while faithful and accurately explaining the Church's perennial teachings on the nature of the Incarnation. The Divinity of Jesus ChristTwo thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was conceived and born, a real person of history. Historical consensus confirms this reality. We also have the faithful witness of the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Wisdom Literature, and the Prophets all speak of the coming Messiah. The Jewish people at the time of Jesus were waiting for the Messiah, an anointed one, who would take the throne of King David and rule as a militaristic warrior to expel the Romans from the Holy Land. In the New Testament, St. Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam and St. Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back to God Himself. St. Matthew's genealogy also particularly centers Jesus as the expected heir of David's throne. From the perspective of today, we, of course, know that Jesus did not come as a militaristic warrior-king. But, how do we know that Jesus Christ is God, that He is Divine?In the beginning of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, there is no genealogy. Instead, the prologue of John identifies Jesus with the uncreated Word of God through which all things were made: the Logos. The Word of God has become man and pitched His tent among us. He is the Emmanuel foretold by the Prophet Isaiah. The Gospels firmly show that Jesus is not merely another anointed one (messias), He is the Divine Messiah (cf. Mt. 1:23, 2:6; Mk. 1:2, Lk. 7:27). He is God's own Son (cf. Mt. 16:13; Jn. 10:36; Mk. 14:62; Lk. 1:35). And, finally, He is God. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… (cf. Jn. 1:1).” There is a phenomenal exploration of the claim to divinity of Jesus in the New Testament by Dr. Brant Pitre entitled: The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ. I highly recommend reading that book, if you are interested!The remainder of the New Testament further solidifies the Divinity of Jesus Christ and this fact is upheld by the Fathers of the Church in the first millennium of the Church as well. By a singular miracle, the uncreated Son of God, consubstantial with the Father was made man and dwelt among us. He is, thus, truly and appropriately called a Divine Person. As the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. put it: “We confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same only-Begotten Son and Word of God (Chalcedon, Part ii, act. 5).”Modern academics of all stripes will try to poke holes in the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. This makes sense for those who wish to conform God to their viewpoint rather than be conformed by Him. If Jesus Christ is God, then everything He said carries the full authority of Almighty God.The Human Nature of Jesus ChristJesus Christ is fully God. But Jesus Christ is fully man, with flesh supplied from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is a Divine Person, not a human person. However, He possesses a full and complete human nature: body and soul. As St. Thomas Aquinas puts it: “Although Christ is not the human nature, He has human nature (ST III, q. 10, a. 10, ad. 1).”The human nature of Christ is difficult to wrap our minds around. Some in the history of the Church, for example, have tried to claim that Jesus' human body was an illusion. To this, St. Augustine answers: "If the Body of Christ was a fancy, then Christ erred; and if Christ erred, then He is not the Truth. But Christ is the Truth; hence His Body was not a fancy' (Augustine, QQ. lxxxiii, q. 14; P.L., XL, 14).”Just as we acknowledge wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ is truly God, we also acknowledge that a true human soul animates the truly human body of Jesus. St. Thomas Aquinas explains:“The body is not said to be animated save from its union with the soul. Now the body of Christ is said to be animated, as the Church chants: ‘Taking an animate body, He deigned to be born of a Virgin' [Feast of the Circumcision, Ant. ii, Lauds]. Therefore in Christ there was a union of soul and body (cf. ST III, q. 2, a. 5, s.c.).”The Hypostatic UnionFully God and fully man, Jesus Christ is the God-Man. The central mystery within the mystery of the Incarnation is how the divinity and humanity of Jesus interact. This mystery is called the hypostatic union. Hypostasis is the Greek word for person. St. John Damascene teaches that “In our Lord Jesus Christ we acknowledge two natures, but one hypostasis composed from both (De Fide Orth. iii, 3, 4, 5). The Catholic Encyclopedia explains of this union:“We speak here of no moral union, no union in a figurative sense of the word; but a union that is physical, a union of two substances or natures so as to make One Person, a union which means that God is Man and Man is God in the Person of Jesus Christ (CE).”St. Thomas Aquinas speaks at length about the nature of the hypostatic union, but one insight that I find most helpful is the difference between assumption and uniting. He speaks of assumption as an action - the Word of God assumed human flesh. This is not wrong to say, but St. Thomas prefers the idea of uniting or becoming. The Word of God became flesh or united with the human flesh of Jesus at His first moment of existence. Here we can already run into problems if we are not careful. Did Jesus have a beginning? Yes! Did the Son of God have a beginning? No! He is begotten, not made, eternal and consubstantial with God the Father. As St. Thomas concisely explains: “Whatever has a beginning in time is created. Now this union was not from eternity, but began in time. Therefore the union is something created (ST III, q. 2, a. 7, s.c.).”There is a true union of divinity and humanity in Christ. But we should not think that the divinity of Christ overpowers and consumes the humanity of Christ. Pope Alexander III, in the 12th Century, quipped: “Since Christ is perfect God and perfect man, what foolhardiness have some to dare to affirm that Christ as man is not a substance?" In other words, the metaphysical substance of the human nature of Christ is real and persists, completely and perfectly united to His divine nature.How did this happen? How were the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ united, in time? It is by God's grace! It is a true miracle, a unique and singular event. St. Thomas Aquinas echoes St. Augustine when he teaches: “Augustine says (De Praed. Sanct. xv): ‘By the same grace every man is made a Christian, from the beginning of his faith, as this man from His beginning was made Christ.' But this man became Christ by union with the Divine Nature. Therefore this union was by grace (ST III, q. 2, a. 10, s.c.).”Thank you for reading Will Wright Catholic. This post is public so feel free to share it.False Natures of the Incarnation - Heresies about ChristThere is no shortage of false teachings about Jesus Christ. Catholic orthodoxy is a thin line which has been guarded as a precious jewel from apostolic times. Without the authentic measure of orthodoxy provided by the Catholic Church, then any opinion would be fair game. In fact, this is unfortunately the state of affairs in many Protestant communions. Before we further clarify what the Catholic Church teaches truly about Jesus Christ, it is helpful to look at some of the heresies about Christ in the early Church. By looking at what the incarnation is not, we can come to a better understanding of what it is. There is a lot to be said about these heretics and heresies, but I am going to try to keep it brief.ArianismArius was a priest in Constantinople in the late 3rd Century and early 4th Century. He believed that God the Father was uniquely God and Christ was subordinate in every way to the Father. He denied the hypostatic union and believed that Christ was the highest of the creatures of God. No small historical issue, there was a time when the majority of the Church's episcopacy was Arian in belief. Suffice it to say, Catholic orthodoxy was victorious. The Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., led by the great Saint Athanasius formulated the first version of the Nicene Creed that is professed on Sundays. We believe in “one Lord Jesus Christ… true God of true God… Who took Flesh, became Man and suffered.”NestorianismIn 428 A.D. the Patriarch of Constantinople was a man named Nestorius. He called the union of the two natures a mysterious and an inseparable joining, but would admit no unity in the strict sense of the word to be the result of this joining. The union of the two natures, to Nestorius, is not physical but moral. As he put it “the Word indwells in Jesus like as God indwells in the just.” There is not a true, physical and lasting union of divinity and humanity. To explain his view he said that Mary is the Mother of Christ (Christotokos) but not the Mother of God (Theotokos)Nestorius denied the hypostatic union but, unlike Arius before him, did acknowledge the divinity of Christ. He just did not believe that there was a physical union or substantial union of humanity and divinity. So, to Nestorius, when Christ suffered, He did so in His humanity, not in His divinity. On the contrary, Saint Athansius taught (against Apollinarius) that: “They err who say that it is one person who is the Son that suffered, and another person who did not suffer ...; the Flesh became God's own by nature [kata physin], not that it became consubstantial with the Divinity of the Logos as if coeternal therewith, but that it became God's own Flesh by its very nature [kata physin] (Contra Apollinarium, I, 12, in P.G., XXVI, 1113).”The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. condemned Nestorius as a heretic and defined that Mary was mother in the flesh of God's Word made Flesh. In this way, it is right to call her Theotokos or God-bearer. The specific anathema against Nestorianism was written by St. Cyril of Alexandria who wrote extensively on the nature of Christ. He said:“If in the one Christ anyone divides the substances, after they have been once united, and joins them together merely by a juxtaposition [mone symapton autas synapheia] of honour or of authority or of power and not rather by a union into a physical unity [synode te kath henosin physiken], let him be accursed (can. iii).”MonophysitismThe Christological heresies, so-called, did not end with the Council of Ephesus. Eutyches took part in that Council of Ephesus and was fiercely opposed to the teachings of Nestorius. However, he went too far in the other direction. He developed the heresy of Monophysitism which held that there was only one Person in Christ (which is true) but he only held one nature in Christ (which is heretical). His denial was that Christ was “consubstantial with us men” as St. Cyril of Alexandria held. Eutyches was stressing Christ's uniqueness, not intended to deny Christ's full manhood. The error of Eutyches is the cautionary tale of not swinging too far in our refutations.This heresy was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. It was formulated in this way:Jesus Christ remained, after the Incarnation, “perfect in Divinity and perfect in humanity… consubstantial with the Father according to His Divinity, consubstantial with us according to His humanity… one and the same Christ, the Son, the Lord, the Only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures not intermingled, not changed, not divisible, not separable (cf. Denzinger, n. 148).”MonothelitismThe next heresy of monothelitism began orthodox enough. The monothelitists defended the union of two natures in one Divine Person. They went off the rails in saying that this Divine Person only had one divine will - they denied the human will of Jesus.Sacred Scripture teaches us that Jesus Christ has a human will. He performed acts of adoration, humility, and reverence. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed to the Father that the “cup” of His sacrifice and death pass without His drinking it. Praying to the Father in this way, He showed His human aversion to death but also the human act of the will of obedience in saying: “not my will, but thine be done.”Monothelitism was condemned by the Third Council of Constantinople in 680 A.D. They defined that in Christ there were two natural wills and two natural activities, the Divine and the human, and that the human will was not at all contrary to the Divine, but rather perfectly subject thereto (cf. Denzinger, n. 291).The Truth About the Incarnation - Catholic TeachingBy way of summary, what then does the Church authentically teach about the nature of Christ and the hypostatic union? Jesus Christ is a Divine Hypostasis - a Divine Person. The unique hypostatic union of Jesus Christ is the complete union of two natures, one divine and one human, in one Divine Person without change, division, separation, or the like. When the Eternal Word of God took Flesh, there was no change in the Word. All the change that took place was in the Holy Flesh of Christ. At the moment of conception, in the womb of the Blessed Mother, through the forcefulness of God's activity, the human soul of Christ was created and the Word became the man that was conceived. Next Time on WWCNext time on WWC, we will explore the second part of this series on the incarnation. Namely, we will be looking at the effects of the Incarnation on Christ Himself, on the world, and on us! We will also look briefly at what St. Thomas Aquinas had to say on the fittingness of the Incarnation. For example, if mankind had not sinned, would God have still become incarnate?! Stop on by next time and see what the Angelic Doctor had to say. The next part of the series should also be a fruitful reflection for us entering into Christmas! Thanks for reading. See you next time on Will Wright Catholic!Thanks for reading Will Wright Catholic! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work. This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit willwrightcatholic.substack.com
Back in their high school days, Austin and Trebor were the victims of intense bullying. Suffice to say, they're still not over it. The Beautiful Boys trash talk their decades-long rivals, come to terms with the death of their loved ones, and describe their less-than-stellar relationships with religion on an all-new episode of The Ice Cream Sunday Podcast.
Gaming has been smashing Hollywood's earnings and in 2021 the global ‘games market' posted $180 billion in revenue – which is more than Hollywood and music combined. Suffice it to say: Gaming is huge. Today we're speaking with Jamin Warren, CEO and founder of Twofivesix, about how brands can engage with audiences in the world of gaming. Topics include: Why understanding your audience's gaming affinity, activity and identity is core to success. The questions businesses need to ask if they're engaging a company to create a campaign that targets gamers. Why brands don't necessarily have to be in a game to effectively reach gamers.
Matt McGinley entered the music industry over 15 years ago as the drummer for the band Gym Class Heroes. Nowadays, Matt's a contributing music producer for hit radio shows and podcasts, like This American Life, Serial, Nice White Parents, and S Town. Suffice it to say, he produces a lot of music. And it's all part of an ever-growing global library. By Google's count, between 97 and 230 million songs exist worldwide. It makes you wonder…haven't all the possible songs been written by now?CreditsCurious State is a Quick and Dirty Tips podcast hosted and produced by Doug Fraser.Find Curious State on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates.Podcast Manager - Adam Cecil Podcast and Advertising Operations Specialist - Morgan ChristiansonDigital Operations Specialist - Holly HutchingsMarketing and Publicity Assistant - Davina TomlinIntern - Kamryn LacyThe Quick and Dirty Tips network is a division of Macmillan Publishers in partnership with Mignon Fogarty, Inc.Have a question? Or a topic you'd like covered on the show? Maybe you just love sending emails? Whichever shoe fits, tie it on and send me a message at email@example.com.
The common language of those at Babel is the worldview that comes from a universe emptied of the oversight of God, and replaced by a lower-case god. As a result, the idea of sin gets a total makeover. The Gate is a big trick to turn ourselves into the god. This is not just how pagan worship worked, it's actually how all habitual sin works. It works exactly the same today as it did for Sargon of Akkad. Perhaps I am Sargon and so are we all.In a universe where we are the god, we can do whatever we like. In fact, in that universe, we'd be fools not to go get our full share of pleasure, power, wealth, and honor. You can make all the appeals to morality you like, but there is no reason for the lion to lay down with the lamb if the nature of the lion is to dominate the lamb. To dominate then becomes divine. History is written by the victors. The innocent lamb stands no chance because it is there for the taking, and it is delicious. All arguments about fair play and human dignity become academic. In the animal world, the lion will only eat until its full and content. But in the human heart, the lion cannot be contented; it wants all lambs that ever existed and ever will exist to be his own forever, and no one else's. Animals do not have this problem. This is the broken spring in our machinery, as described in the Garden and in the wrath and envy of Cain. This is what Richard Dawkins' doesn't understand. The Selfish Gene in a four-legged mammal plays out very different from those of us walking on two legs who happen to suffer from Original Sin. A universe that lacks a living God is one where sin makes far more sense than repentance. In that universe, man is above God, because God is no longer watching. If you frame your life in this language, you speak Babel. And you speak Babel. We all speak Babel. The state of the world today is mostly the same as when the story of Babel was being written. I say mostly, because there is one major and all-important difference, from an event that happened to a construction worker who was executed around the year 30 A.D. Have you heard this one before? This man did not stay dead. He returned from the grave in a risen and glorified form that could be touched yet could also pass through walls. In other words, he defeated the ultimate secret fear that is sunk deep within every one of us. He defeated death. As a bonus, he takes away our sins and transforms our suffering. That little event changes a lot of things for all of us who speak Babel, and it's extremely important that we understand how the world of Babel was changed by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Tower of Babel story, God observes people building a tower that will “reach the sky.” Once again, ancient people were not dumb enough to think that a Tower could be built tall enough to reach heaven, and anyone who thinks that's what this story is about needs to put their Unconscious Bias aside. We have a lot of Present Privilege and Enlightenment Fragility that we need to face when we encounter the Tower of Babel story. The Tower is meant to be a place where the supernatural can be pulled down to earth, like a magic act. Our presentism mindset asks, “How could anyone be so primitive as to believe that?” Yet, we know that millions of people today, if not billions, read horoscopes and pay for people to interpret Tarot cards. We have faith in many odd things today. We check our fitness watch “body battery” and go to GNC to buy pseudo-science fitness supplements. We get lost in our fantasy worlds of Dungeons and Dragons and Hogwarts. We watch sports and pray to the TV as the football soars through the air toward the uprights as time runs out. Suffice it to say, we have ample superstitions and spirit worlds circling all about us yet today, they just aren't always as obvious as a Tower or a Ziggurat. Some of the worst examples are in our own backyards - literally; there are Catholics who bury a St. Joseph statue upside down in the yard to help sell their house (please stop this superstitious nonsense, Catholics, and immediately go read CCC 2111-2117). At last, let's get into the Tower story a bit more. Seeing this project underway, how does God respond? He confuses them. In trying to access heaven, he stops them from proceeding. What's interesting is the approach to God. Because the builders at Babel are trying to manipulate God, he stops them. But God, uninvited, reveals insights into heaven later on in Genesis, and those who he offers a glimpse of heaven to react very different from the builders of the Tower of Babel.This is the hilarious thing about our attempts to manipulate God. Whenever we yell, “Why God, why?!” he shows us later on. When we demand God listen to us, he ignores us on purpose, but when he wants us to know something, he reaches down and taps us. The difference between humility and humiliation is this: humility is when you voluntarily surrender to God. Humiliation is when God does it for you. This is gold in addiction recovery meetings, and everyone laughs together, knowing exactly what that means. This stairway to heaven is being built for the people “to make a name for themselves.” Contrast the Tower of Babel to Jacob's experience later in Genesis, chapter 28. Jacob is tapped by God, but he hasn't built anything yet. In a dream, God sends him a vision. Jacob merely sees a ladder upon which angels are ascending and descending to heaven. Rather than build a staircase on a ziggurat and try to reach God, Jacob is freely given the vision. What does Jacob do? He does not wake up and start building the ladder, or the stairway to heaven. No, what he does the very next morning is the opposite of what happened at Babel. Jacob builds an altar, to worship God, with humility. He even calls it the “gateway to heaven,” but it is not built to “reach the sky.” It is about three feet tall by the way it's described. His response of humility is nothing like the builders at Babel. This act by Jacob happens at Bethel, which means “House of God.” Now, “House” has a very different connotation than “Tower” or “Gate”. There is very different symbolism in a house than in a massive Ziggurat. Jacob says:“How awesome this place is! This is nothing else but the house of God, the gateway to heaven!” Early the next morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head, set it up as a sacred pillar, and poured oil on top of it… “This stone that I have set up as a sacred pillar will be the house of God. Of everything you give me, I will return a tenth part to you without fail.” (Gen 28:16-22)Jacob sees the stairway to heaven, or the “gateway to heaven” that the Babylonians were trying to build! Also, notice that he is able to pour oil on the altar or pillar, so it's short. He's not trying to reach the sky. But he doesn't try to build a tower, he offers what little he has, gives praise, and asks for nothing in return. He even promises to tithe, just for the glory of God, for the rest of his life. The difference may seem subtle, but this is central to the theme and story of the entire Old Testament and how it ties to Jesus in the Incarnation and the Resurrection. We bring what little we have, and God provides the rest. He comes to us, we do not lasso or wrangle or capture him. God came to Jacob, while the rulers at Babel tried to go up to seize God. What's happening at the Tower of Babel is not praise or worship of the one true God. It's an attempted coup to replace the Most High God. The Tower is an attempt to leash and control God, ultimately to dictate rules using God and thereby remove all “sin” from whatever those in power desire. The people are using their minds and hands to perform the ultimate merger of magic and science, so that they can get God to come down to earth. This would be like all the characters in Macbeth building a giant staircase to kill Shakespeare.With that image you can recognize the absurdity easily in what Babylon was attempting to do with this Tower, or Ziggurat. It is a ludicrous project from the start. Even if Macbeth and Banquo and the rest of the dramatis personae were building a a tower in the story, the tower would be as flat as the page itself, and Shakespeare would still be the author who wrote the tower into the story. If anyone ever tells you they know the mind of God, prepare to run. They could be playing Babel games, or they might be a real prophet. In either case, be very careful. Remember, Iago seemed nice at first, too, before he ruined Othello's life, and that was all done on purpose by Iago's and Othello's creator, Shakespeare. God knows our path, we do not. We must follow his will, or conform our heart to whatever outcome. Repeat after me: I am not the author, I am a character. I am not the potter at the wheel, I am the pot. I am not the Creator, I am a creature. What the Macbeth characters would fail to understand is that building a staircase cannot escape the pages and the story they are inside. They live in two dimensional paper while Shakespeare lived in three dimensions, in our world. Shakespeare is on a different level, a different plane that cannot be ascended to, and furthermore, Shakespeare is the Creator, so anything the characters do was allowed by Shakespeare in the first place. Likewise, the Babel construction company doesn't realize that God cannot be pulled down, and what the people are actually doing is a self-destructive stunt that will pull the Tower down upon themselves because of their arrogance. The lesson here is that you cannot control God, because he created us. He's not on the same plane as us, but he lets us know he is there in some mysterious way. But he doesn't need us, we need him. We cannot reach up and pull him down, we can only reach up. So the story of Babel goes on and gives us God's response. Keep in mind that figurative language must be used here because the sacred writer is conveying something that goes beyond this Tower project. Then the LORD said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another. So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. (Gen 11:6-8)This scattering is the origin story of where the idea of “the nations” comes from in the Bible. In the previous chapter, the nations were listed in the Table of Nations, so there's this odd sense that everyone was living together in harmony until this event. But we already know that Noah's sons were at each other like a family on Jerry Springer before that. This is one place where the sacred writer seems to be instructing us on a few things: * The nations formed when they took up false gods. (Straight outta Lord of the Flies) * The different languages created different cultures, triggering communication breakdown.* Thus, the nations do not like one another. * Instead, we have hatred, distrust, treachery, and war. This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.whydidpetersink.com
You might not believe it, but Luke Chapter One is one of the most theologically, doctrinally, and prophetically packed passages anywhere in Scripture. To thoroughly exegete it would involve going from book to book, passage to passage, and cross-referencing. This video covers just Luke 1:26-30, where the Virgin Mary meets Gabriel. Subsequent videos will cover more of Mary's response to Gabriel's news, that she was selected to bear the Messiah, Jesus Christ. There is detail here that should edify and challenge us in our faith. First, the name Gabriel, means “Hero of God. It's very interesting that in Luke 1:19, Gabriel says of himself that he stands in the presence of God. This leads a lot of students and scholars to believe Gabriel may be one of the four angels that surround the throne in Revelation Chapter four. But one thing we do know, whether we're looking at Gabriel, whether we're looking at Michael, all the angels reflect God. Their job, their task, their purpose for existence is to reflect God in different ways. Michael is a warrior angel. Gabriel is a teaching and an encourager and exhorter. Note that whenever Gabriel appears, he appears as a man. And when Gabriel appears, the only thing he delivers is information about the coming of the Messiah. We only have three people in the Bible to which Gabriel appears. There may have been more, but he's not named otherwise. He appears to Daniel in Daniel, Chapters 8 to 12 where Daniel stands there listening, and Gabriel is basically teaching and explaining (and in some cases giving visions) of the Messiah. And then, of course, he appears to Zacharias in Luke 1:11-20, where he revealed the miraculous birth of John the Baptist. Why is that important? Because John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah. And then of course, shortly afterward, Gabriel appeared to Mary, who would be the virgin mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so Luke 1:26 says “that Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth.” That's very important. This is the town in which Mary lived. It's significant because it fulfills a prophecy that you might have pondered or maybe wrestled over. You'll remember in Matthew 2:23, when Jesus' family comes back from Egypt, it says that Joseph led them to Nazareth. “He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called the Nazarene.” There are no real passages that say, “he shall be called a Nazarene.” You'll search in vain. You can't find it. And yet Matthew said that this was a fulfillment of the “prophets,” plural. You'll probably remember that there are several passages in the Old Testament that refer to the Messiah as “the branch” (Isaiah 4:2, Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, Jeremiah 33:15, Zachariah 3:8, and Zachariah 6:12.) The word branch in Hebrew is “Netzar,” is the root of Nazareth. Is it amazing? God named a town just so a prophecy could be fulfilled concerning the Lord Jesus Christ Our passage in Luke goes on to tell us that “Mary was betrothed to Joseph of the House of David.” This is going to become significant, but I'm going to save that for the next video. Suffice that it is the fulfillment of a prophecy. “Mary” is derived from the Hebrew name “Miriam,” which goes all the way back to the sister of Moses. It's very interesting that Miriam is probably derived from the Egyptian “Meri,” which means “beloved.” Isn't that appropriate? In Luke 1:28, Gabriel identifies the character of Mary using three phrases. These should be a challenge to us. First though, many scholars have suggested that probably every generation of young women in Israel dreamed that possibly, maybe they would be the one who bears the long-awaited Messiah. Well, here of course, it came down to Mary. And I think Gabriel explains something about why she was chosen. He says that she was highly favored. Now favor, of course, refers to Grace. And we'll see that in a moment. She was highly favored or highly great, highly blessed. This shows me that she was living in intimate association with the grace of God. Her life was enveloped in grace. How does that happen? This fellowship and Grace are available to every one of us. The Apostle Paul amplifies this when he says in Romans Chapter 5, “grace upon grace” and “much more grace.” Much more than what? Much more than anything you've known up to this point. There's more grace available. How do we get it? Well, it's very simple. In 1st Peter 5:5, Peter said, “God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. Also, Jesus began his public teaching ministry with the Beatitudes, and he began with the statement “Blessed,” or you could say “Grace.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The word for “poor” here in the Greek language conveys a person is so poor, so destitute, so helpless that when people walked by, they would just spit on them. They were what you would call the dregs of the earth. God gives grace to we who realize how poor we really are in comparison to our God Luke 1:28 continues, “The Lord is with you.” This indicates that Mary was living by faith. You must realize that Mary is likely just 14 or 15 years old, the typical marriage age in her time. How spiritually deep could she be? Let's not deify Mary, which is idolatry, but let's give her a rightful place, because she was a very magnificent young woman. She was living in fellowship with God, living in the sphere of grace. Gabriel said, “blessed are you among women,” indicating that she represented the ideal woman. Notice he did not say “above other women,” but, “among women.” Mary represented one half of humans. Immediately our mind goes to Genesis 3:15 where the first promise of the Messiah that tells us essential that “the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent.” Now in Luke 1:29, Mary responds within herself in two ways. She was “troubled,” and she “considered.” First, the word “troubled” is actually an intensified verb, which literally means “terrified.” You know, there's an interesting reaction that you will find in everyone in the Bible when the invisible, unseen realm intersects with the human realm. They're terrified. If you want to see a vision of angels or the Lord, prepare yourself to be terrified, because the spiritual realm is something that we're not qualified or capable of taking in. Second, I love this word “consider” which in the Greek is the word “logizomai.” It's a mathematical term. What a magnificent young woman! What kind of facts do you think she's adding up here? She's had an appearance of an angel that calls himself Gabriel who tells her that she is highly favored and she's standing there dumbfounded, terrified, and she's in her mind casting about with what? Scripture! She's beginning to add up the facts she knows of scripture. Being a young Jewish woman, you know, there wasn't a lot of training. A young man, on the other hand, was trained in the law. Before a young man's bar mitzvah, he got some intensive training, but not so much a young woman. Something interesting, however, is revealed in the Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55). There are 15 direct references and allusions to Old Testament scriptures. Off the top of her head, she begins to sing a song composed of fifteen Old Testament texts. Anybody here want to try that? We might get John 3:16 and a couple of others. Mary was obviously a scholar of scripture, and likely, because she was not pushed into knowing the law like a boy would be, she was probably searching on her own. To me this means she loved the word of God!
Ash Men, Sins and the Will of the Ancestors.By FinalStand. Listen and subscribe to the podcast at Steamy Stories.Do you think you know who you are? Step outside your comfort zone. (11:00 p.m. Thursday Night)Rhada stood by the Lily Pond. She’d looked at her phone once. A couple had walked past, causing me to delay my approach and heightened Rhada’s unease; an unexpected bonus. It wasn’t too difficult of a shot with my air pistol. The only light functioning in the area went out in a crash of light.She jumped slightly then crouched and scanned the surrounding overgrowth. The light had robbed her of her night vision which allowed me to get close. I snapped the air pistol off into its three parts. Running around with any kind of gun in NYC wasn’t wise. In the same vein, the ‘stun gun’ I now brandished was all light and no shock. It was all theater for Rhada’s imagination.With the flash of my weapon, Rhada’s eyes bore in on my location. Her small knife was now over-matched, so her only option was flight. A smart 'victim’ would race for the well illuminated road close by. Hunters who hunted hunters did what Rhada did; she raced into a geographic feature in Central Park called the Ravine.It was tough, uneven terrain off the beaten path. I had walked it once before, in dim light. This night I was aided by a half-Moon and the faintest clue of where the chase was leading while Rhada was having to figure things out as she ran. At the last second, she sensed she had lost the race. She spun around to slash at me; she was playing for keeps.I swung down, losing my false stun device while I knocked her knife free. I had lashed downward so that I could find her knife later; it was important to her. My tool cost $3.00 and I could live without it. We struggled. Rhada tried to scream so I covered her mouth with my sweater-covered forearm.Dutifully, she bit down. More close body wrestling ensued and I could tell Rhada was truly famished for the attention. I cuffed her hands behind her back, slapped some Christmas tape over her lips; I swear that stuff has no adhesive; and retrieved her knife.“What is it going to be, little Sweet-meat?” I taunted her softly as I caught my breath.I had Rhada pressed face-first in the loam. Despite her strenuous efforts to keep her legs together, I rubbed my hand between her legs and over her cunt.“Fuck it,” I mused. “You are a real whore. You are soaking wet over some guy running you down and making you a fuck-hole.” I wasn’t sure she was wet and being called 'fuck-hole’ really excited her.“You are probably so loose I couldn’t feel a thing if I did fuck you,” I kept up the pressure. “Maybe I’ll strip you down and leave you tied to a lamp post; write 'Free Slut’ and see who is desperate enough to screw you. If I said ’$5 per hole’, do you think anyone would leave some sort of payment?” She whimpered.Soon enough, I located her knife. Without warning, I slipped it past her waistband and began sawing/cutting her pants down past the crotch. She was wet alright. I loudly unzipped my pants and readied my rod. After slapping my cockhead against her molten labia a few times,“What? You don’t want to be used by every diseased homeless deviant and drunk rapist roaming the park?”Rhada shook her head rapidly in the negative.“Do you really think you can do a damn thing to make me want to keep you?” I egged her on. Rhada thrust her ass back. My cock rose up, Rhada whined, repositioned and managed to capture my penis on her second attempt. She wept with rapture as I began pushing in.All I had to do was lean forward slightly and let Rhada do all the work. She hammered her pussy into my pelvis with a voracious yearning. I was rather concerned what she would have been like if it had been a whole month. Rhada was sobbing and shuddering as pleasure wracked her body. I almost missed the soft crunch of leaves right behind me.I snatched up Rhada’s knife and rolled halfway over. Oneida, tears in her eyes and her face etched in horror, was poised to strike me.“No,” Oneida groaned in a small, devastated voice. Yeah, this was going to be hard to explain. Rhada, on hearing the noise, rolled on her side so that she was mostly shielded by me.Do not scream 'this is not what it looks like’, or 'let me explain’ to a traumatized girlfriend. Wait until they are not traumatized to escape the disaster.“What are you going to do?” I whispered. Suggest that she make a decision because, guess what, she needs to make decision, not stew in the madness of the moment.“How could you?” Oneida lowered her attack stance and took a half-step back.“There is no way I can explain this,” I sighed. My legs came up to shield my exposed crotch plus I dropped Rhada’s knife. “Even if I could make this sound rational, I wouldn’t put you in that spot. This is an impossible reality.” Okay, that last bit was bullshit.“Is Rhada okay?” Oneida began to focus on the immediate and relegated the past five minutes and the forthcoming repercussions to 'things to do later’. I freed Rhada’s hands and then removed the tape. Rhada picked up her blade and readied it.“Ask her yourself,” I suggested. Sensing Rhada’s insanity rising up. “No Rhada, you cannot stab her. I won’t allow it.”Rhada glared pure, un-distilled hate at Oneida, something the poor girl couldn’t understand.“Rhada, I came here to save you,” Oneida gasped. She also prepared to fight.“You came to take my Cáel for yourself,” Rhada spat. Oneida was back to not understanding anything. It would come soon enough. Women are women after all.“I need to…get something from my backpack,” I warned them both. No one attacked me so I pulled out a set of black jeans and black panties for Rhada.“You brought a change of clothes for her?” Oneida was still playing 'kinky games’ catch up.“Of course he brought me clothes, you insipid fool,” Rhada seethed.“How could we bind our souls into one if I had to walk around…?” Rhada stopped. The idea of walking around naked in my presence appealed to her.“None of this makes any sense,” Oneida protested. It didn’t matter.“Oneida, are your guardians close by?” I asked. I knew the answer, but getting that information out to these to ladies was relevant.Oneida nodded.“Rhada, get dressed and go home. Oneida, go home. I’ll try to have this make sense to you one day,” I said.“No!” Rhada yelped as if I’d stuck her. “I cannot wait any longer.”“Rhada, unless you want Madi to find out and then have ringside seats as starving dogs tear me to pieces, you have to go,” I insisted. I wasn’t afraid of hungry dogs. The Amazons wouldn’t waste the time when they could slit my throat and be done with it. We all three heard a rustle of footsteps maybe fifteen meters away.Rhada looked at me as if she’d witnessed the murder of every kitten on the planet, then shot venom Oneida’s way and finally snuck off, new clothes in hand. Oneida gave me a different look, one etched in sadness and unspoken heartache. She went off to bump into her bodyguards. I holstered my 'junk’ and sat back, wondering why I dated crazy women. The answer was always the same; the sex was fantastic. I’d pay the bill later.(Friday Morning)I was damn tired getting into work. I locked my bike, walked into the lobby and realized something was horribly wrong. A dozen pairs of eyes riveted me with their aggression. The security chicks were in their usual places and unsettling in their nervousness. The dozen sets of eyes; those were Full-Blooded killers, not the standard 'Runner’ security types.Adding to my discomfort, there was no Constanza, or even Naomi. A few of the normal ladies from the Security Detail where there; sadly, I had never caught their names, but they didn’t look like they were waiting for me specifically. I walked up to the security booth, took out my ID badge and offered it up.What followed was mere formality. Of all of the hundreds of males in biker clothes coming into this masculine version of the Sixth layer of Hell, they needed to be absolutely sure it was me.“Cáel Nyilas,” the women at the guard station intoned and in they swarmed. Armed with personal defense weapons (read: SMG’s) with hair-triggers, I had a split second to decide who I really was.A few were clearly SD. The rest; House Guard for families I didn’t recognize.“Have I just won Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes, or what?” I grinned foolishly. I’m sure you can be very cool, calm, collected and rational while you laugh at death. I’m not that guy. One of the brutes tried to run off with my valise, a quick tug of war developed and four gun barrels were pushed into me.“Let go,” one of them hissed.“Do I at least get a claim check?” I countered. What I got was a gun barrel slammed down on the back of my hand. My fingers automatically flexed and my carrying case was taken away. The remaining seven members of the Welcome Wagon hustled me to a stairwell…not an elevator and down I went.Two proceeded me into a moderately sized conference down two levels with the rest following behind. We were doing fine until the coffle chains came out. That was my 'fuck it’ moment. It took me two seconds to realize they were no longer going to shoot me. I came to this revelation when I smashed the face of the guard right behind me.She stumbled into guards four through seven behind her. Guards one and two, already in the room, holding my chains, rushed in. One came in with a low sweeping kick. I went even lower, caught her leg and whipped her into the wall. I was on my back as number two advanced. Our legs tangled up, we both grappled, but I had strength and leverage. I pounded her temple against the corner of the table twice; hard.Then came the pain. The rest flooded the room. Number two was down, number one was momentarily stunned and the other five were deadly serious and coming on fast. To all our credits, they didn’t try to overwhelm me with numbers. They closed in from both sides of the table, backing me against a wall.I was pretty good at fighting. I had damaged three of them striking from surprise. Surprise was gone now, as was their sloppy arrogance. This was all business and there was no way I could take on even two of these skilled warriors at the same time. Any advantage I gained over one, I’d lose to the other one so down I went. I was chained up before I could stop seeing double.Collar, hands cuffed at the back, leg shackles and all linked by twin chains. I wasn’t going anywhere fast. I wasn’t done yet. I tried to squirm around to a sitting position.“Stop that,” one of the guards stated.“I’d like to sit up, please,” I requested.With barely a pause, two guards came up, put my back to a wall then went back to their positions.“Thank you,” I responded. Several guards looked at me and smirked. Huh?“They all said you would fight,” the leader grinned.“We were getting a little disappointed then you chose that chokepoint to make your stand. That was clever,” she informed me.“Actually it was the sight of the chains that set me off,” I said. “Against seven of you I had no realistic chance. If I let myself get chained up, I knew I was completely out of options.”Several of the women nodded. Were any of them pissed? Apparently not. Even the one I’d cold-conked rubbed her temple and smiled at me. I worked in an insane asylum.“Is there any way I could make a video message?” I inquired.“No,” was the reply.“Please. Aya of the Epona is at Summer Camp and I want her to know that I’m okay, but won’t be able to see her for a while,” I pled my case.“You will never be able to see her again, so why bother?” another asked.“I love her. Better to give her the illusion I may one day return than the harsh reality that she is doomed to end up like the rest of you,” I explained.“Save some of that defiance for your relocation,” the leader snickered. “You’ll need it.”“Thanks. I will,” I sighed. There was a pause. They were being rather gregarious.“You’ve accepted your fate?” the one I’d knocked out questioned.“The fate you want for me? No. That this will mean my death; yes,” I shrugged.“Bravado,” a different Amazon snorted.“You think so? Once I am relocated I have nothing left to live for. Every ounce of my being will be devoted to ending the hollow parody of an existence I’m left with,” I stared at her. “I’ve beaten your ilk enough times to know I’ll escape that life before too long.”That earned me some silence. They began talking amongst themselves. The group was a mixed group of House Guard and Security Detail reinforcements from other facilities. They either knew each other, or knew someone in common. An hour in, this had become incredibly boring.“When is the meeting?” I asked a women temporarily not in a conversation.She didn’t look surprised. She hid it well.“What meeting?” she countered. I lowered my chin to my chest.“Do you know where I work, what I did yesterday, or how easy it was to figure this out?” I looked up.“What do you know?” she prodded. The others were now watching.“I work for Executive Services, I spent much of yesterday making housing arrangements for a ton of emergency visitors, and since I’ve been doing so many stupid things, plus my reception this morning, I assume the New Directive is under attack,” I laid out my case.“If you figured all that out, why did you show up today?” the leader wondered.“I work here. I have a 6:00 am session on the firing range. Work starts at 7:00 and normally goes to 5:00 with a 3:00 pm break for knife training. Then I either bike home, or work out in the gym, or the pool. Barring being called back to work on a special order, I get a date, a meal and then sex until midnight,” I mused.“I came to work today for the same reason I came in yesterday and last week; I work for a bunch of homicidal lunatics, a few of whom I care for,” I answered. “Their friendship and affection is pointless. I’m good-looking and amusing, a passing distraction in their lives and none of that matters one iota to my survival. I face my condemnation alone and I am okay with that.”“You sound angrier than your words indicate,” an Amazon noted.“I am angry. I don’t desire death,” I shrugged. “I don’t think I deserve this fate yet here we are. Personally, I know I put my hope in karmic rewards for all of us.”“What would that be?” the leader said. She was making small talk to alleviate the boredom.“Today; today I think you deserve a lingering, 24 hour torturous death. Starting with the very youngest followed by the next youngest and the next youngest proceeding in quick succession so that the oldest of you watch your lineages waste away. I want you gripped with hopelessness and despair as you are rendered powerless to control your futures. That’s a fitting ending for the Amazon race today,” I stated.“Does that fantasy make you feel better?” she pressed, somewhat amused.“Of course not,” I laughed. “That is surrendering to hate and that would make me as bad as all of you.”“You know nothing of us,” she said and the others laughed.“Yeah…right. So, how many of you have murdered your paternal unit? Did you herd them into gas chambers, shoot them in the head, or slit their throats?” I grinned. “Do you dump those men and your sons in a massed unmarked graves, or burn them like rubbish? Those poor bastards have gotten the last laugh,” I chuckled. “Sterile females, deformed babies…you taught those men a lesson alright.”“You are all such epic bad-asses, you’ve butchered your way to extinction. But, hey, you’ve got your racial superiority, right?” I chortled.“You should shut up now,” the leader’s eyes narrowed. I shrugged. This time, I had killed the mood so we sat in silence.An undetermined time later, Constanza stormed in and threw my clothes at me; no sign of the rest of my gear, or valise.“Get dressed,” she ordered.“Why?” I asked. She kicked me. The kick was aimed at my ribs, but I able to set up a knee block up in time.“You will do it because you’ve been told to do it,” Constanza snapped. I stayed where I was. “Help me get him dressed,” she addressed the room. I lost the fight if there was any doubt. I looked like a re-dressed corpse. No one would think I’d dressed myself. A few minutes later, the whole troupe plus Constanza frog-marched me to the elevators. I was shackled up thus taking small steps.I ended up farther down that I’d ever been before. Along the way I was given several quick examinations before being taken to two massive wooden doors with two SD guards, one being Naomi. She looked at my chains speculatively.“He has been summoned,” Constanza informed the door guards.One of my initial capturers began unlocking my restraints. I debated putting a knee to her head. That seemed rude so I refrained from violence. Naomi took me by the elbow while the other guard opened one of the doors. She led me into the nearly empty, cavernous room. Eight SD troopers were along the walls and Elsa stood at attention close to what I reasoned was Hayden’s chair.“Stand there,” Elsa pointed to a large piece of slate with a rune upon it.“Sure,” I did as I was instructed. “Why am I here?”“Your only real hope is to be quiet and well-behaved, Cáel,” Elsa told me, resuming her statuesque stance. I honestly figured this was it for me.My jacket came off. I threw it to the closest chair. The tie came off next, looping it through my belt…because it looked weird. I kicked off my shoes and removed my socks, stuffing the socks in the shoes and tossing them to the chair with my jacket. Then I started my morning warm up routine.Sure enough, groups of paired women began entering the room, giving me odd looks before taking their seats. I was doing some handstand push-up (thanks Yasmin) when Katrina walked in with a woman I didn’t know.“Good morning Cáel Nyilas,” she said. “This is my cousin, Arwen.”The push-up, tuck, flip and finishing up with landing on your feet ain’t easy. I added to the difficult by successfully landing on my designated piece of slate floor.“Did your clothing magically fall of, or did they fail to finish dressing you?” Katrina smirked.“Cut me some slack, Boss. I’m three insults away from slinging poo,” I grinned back.“Nice to meet you, Arwen,” I offered my hand. She looked at it, but didn’t shake. “She’s your apprentice?” I groaned to Katrina. She nodded. “That is so not good for me. What did I do wrong this time?”“She thinks I have invested too much of our House prestige in this New Directive and you in particular,” Katrina enlightened me.“What is her survival stratagem then?” I ignored Arwen while addressing Katrina.“Have her cake and eat it too,” Katrina mused. “She thinks we recruit males then kidnap them and make them our slaves…because that has worked so well for us until now. To be fair, she favors genetics while ignoring such things as spirit, courage and loyalty.”“I’m about to die so any insight I might provide is pointless,” I shrugged. “Take care Katrina.”“Male, we are not here to kill you. You will be taken to a facility for breeding,” Arwen 'clarified’ things for me. Katrina and I both broke out in laughter. Arwen didn’t get it. More and more women came in. With them arrived more House Guard. Soon the once vast room seemed to not be big enough.Among other fans of yours truly was Ursula, the woman who sent Leona to kill me with her bow. It didn’t take me long to determine there were four distinct groups. The smallest group hated my heart for daring to beat. The largest group seemed uncertain that me having a functioning cerebral cortex was a good thing.The second largest group was worried; about their very existence, but weren’t sure I was the answer. The final group, nearly as big as the next largest group, was Hayden’s pro-New Directive faction. As a plus, they also weren’t afraid to show me some affection personally. When there were only seven chairs left unfilled, Hayden rose for the opening prayer.The 'junior’ members started the chorus as the last 'senior’ joined the main intonation. When the chanting ended, everyone but Hayden sat back down.“A small number of issues necessitate this unheralded meeting,” Hayden began. “A male knows our language, our nature and the secret. I seek guidance.”And then the shit-storm began. The only people not involved were Hayden, Saint Marie on Hayden’s right, and an unknown older Amazon I didn’t know. My life was being debated and I was losing in a bad way. Beyoncé rallied support for me. She was sadly outnumbered but persistent. Among the oldest houses I saw Oneida sitting junior with house Arinniti.Her house was the only one silent, which seemed rather odd. A consensus was reached. I would get to live, but I would be imprisoned for the rest of my existence; not even a breeding male. That was my 'reward’ for channeling the ancestors thus saving Oneida’s life. Hayden rose once more, took a hand count and raised her hand for quiet.“I will consult with the ancestors on this matter,” Hayden announced. “Does anyone have other salient points to add?”That was perfunctory. Everyone had already spoken so when the head of House Arinniti stood up, everyone around her whispered in confusion. She lightly slapped her hand on the table for attention.“I do, High Priestess,” the woman stated. Even Oneida looked worried and confused.“I recognize Shawnee, Head of House Arinniti,” Hayden nodded then resumed seating.“My sisters, I seek your agreement that you refrain from comment before I have made my three key statements,” Shawnee requested. She looked around the room, getting nods; some reluctant.(1)“First, I must confess to a crime against the Host and the Council,” Shawnee began. There were hushed murmurs. “At the end of the Second Betrayal, my house argued tirelessly for the salvation of the males who remained loyal. The Council voted against us so the head of my house defied the council and spared three of our sons.”Murmurs became shouts of outrage. Hayden used a subtle voice of menace to restore order.(2) “Second, Two Ash Men arrived after the rest; a veteran fighter of three and a half decades and a young man of twenty years. Knowing there was no hope for our sons, we took these two aside and instructed them to take our sons south, to a dubious future. That was our crime and it might never have been revealed if it wasn’t for the New Directive.”“As you now know, Oneida, my granddaughter and heir, gave her Death Pledge. Cáel Nyilas intervened and, acting as a vessel for the Ancestors, he showed Hayden that her pledge had been rejected; for the first time in 3000 years,” Shawnee looked around the table. “At first I was simply grateful for my granddaughter’s life.”“As that euphoria faded, I began to ask why he acted as he had. I began wondering why, while in dire pain, Cáel refused water and comfort, instead asking for songs in our tongue? That made no sense…unless,” Shawnee’s face deepened in thought as she let the implications of that thought hang in the air. “Thus I had Cáel’s genetic identity tested, to see if…”“To see if he was one of your bastard male offspring returned after all these centuries,” Ursula stood and seethed. Hayden slapped her palm on the table for order.“Oh Ursula,” Shawnee smirked, “the ancestors are wiser than you, or me. Had I received my heart-wish and had one of those boys return, they would be condemned by Arinniti’s sins and the Council’s decision.”“But…” Shawnee persisted. Several Amazon’s looked my way, clearly bewildered.“We had to check the skulls of the ancestors for that,” Shawnee stated. “We took a tooth and it confirmed his lineage. He is the descendent of the young man. He never broke faith with the Host. He was unaware when ordered by the Arinniti what the Council had decided, thus he was guiltless.”“Who?” Hayden demanded. Shawnee looked down the table, but not far.(3)“Cáel Nyilas is of the blood of Ishara,” Shawnee stated. I waited to see which house leader freaked out. None did. Then I realized they were all staring at an empty chair and it just happened to be one of the chairs closest to Hayden. NOT good.The screaming, shouting and yelling began. The house leaders were standing up, shaking fingers and launching threats at one another. Me? I was trying to recall who Ishara was. She eventually became Ishtar, Goddess of War. In the Old Kingdom Hittite she was also the Goddess of Oaths, Love and Medicine. The only three people at the table not going nuts where Saint Marie, Hayden and the woman at her side.That woman was looking at her tablet intently. Once more the group reached consensus and I was still boned. I was still a male, so my lineage meant nothing. I wasn’t part of the Host. Hayden took another deep breath, acknowledging this second decision.“You are all incorrect,” the unknown tablet-reader spoke.Everyone looked at her and nobody was yelling.“Elsa, who is that?” I whispered.“Krasimira, Keeper of Records,” Elsa quietly informed me.“What…what do you mean?” Messina, Fabiola’s Mom stammered.“Only nine males went unaccounted for at the end of the Second Betrayal. The rest are recorded meeting their deaths in battle, or death by our hand. Of those nine, only one was of House Ishara and he would have barely been of mating age,” Krasimira related.“So?” Ursula remarked. “He’s still a male.”Krasimira looked at Ursula as if she was talking to a five year old.“He was a member of the Host. If Shawnee of Arinniti is to be believed, Vranus, Cáel’s ancestor, lived and died in service to the Host. He was never removed from our records, so he died a member of the Host, so his descendants are also members of the Host.”“He married without permission of his house, thus he is illegitimate,” an old enemy from Egypt chimed in.“Perhaps,” Krasimira nodded. “That is a matter he must take up with the Head of House Ishara.”“There is no Head of House Ishara!” Ursula stated the obvious and pointed at the empty chair.“Again, you are incorrect,” Krasimira shook her head. She half turned in her chair. “There is a Head of House Ishara and he’s standing right there.” Even Hayden had a problem with that.“But he’s male,” Hayden declared.“That is Irrelevant,” Krasimira said.“To be the head of a house, one must either be elected by the peers of your house, succeed in accepted ritual combat, or, in extremis, it shall be the eldest surviving member of the Host of that house. Cáel Nyilas is clearly the oldest member of House Ishara currently in the Host,” she quoted Amazon law, “so he is House Ishara’s head.” Silence reigned.“Gun,” I extended my hand to Elsa. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “Don’t make me repeat myself.” I growled. Elsa didn’t look for guidance. She wasn’t that type. She drew her .45 automatic and put in in my hand.“The safety is engaged,” she enlightened me. I left my spot and began rounding the table to 'my’ seat.“One more step and I’ll shoot you where you stand,” Ursula threatened.“No you won’t,” Saint Marie stood. “I’ll kill you first.”“Ursula of Marda, you have no justification to attack House Ishara,” Hayden explained. “I don’t like this anymore than you do. We do not pick and choose which laws to follow. Accept the will of our ancestors.”There were between fifteen and twenty women close by aching to put bullets in me. I didn’t stop because that wouldn’t be me. I ended up by the chair and absorbed the essence of this tiny shard of reality. Was I the son of some lost 'First’ House? Without a doubt, the placement of this chair was in the top ten on this side. The ones across from me were all clearly 'First’ Houses as well.The chair was old; maybe two hundred years. It held a sadness to it; no one had ever sat in it. It had been built knowing no one would ever sit on it. I thought about Pamela. I thought about holding Oneida up and refusing to let her die. That effort was me, physically conditioned over years, but I had never discounted willpower.It was possible that man could indeed be found back somewhere in my ancestry. Few invaders wipe out all the indigenous inhabitants. Usually they intermarry with the invading culture overwhelming the previous one. I couldn’t forget my present and future while examining my past. I put the gun down. Hostility washed over me in palatable waves.I pulled back the chair. The room was about to explode. I kept moving it back, farther and farther until it was clear I wouldn’t be sitting in it.“I will stand for House Ishara,” I announced. “I will not vote though I will speak my thoughts on matters. I will hold this spot until I have a daughter of age.”“No man of House Ishara has ever voted in the Council of the Host and no man will now,” I kept going. “Outside of those concessions to my Mothers, I am House Ishara. I am right here. If you have a problem with me, I will be easy to find. I have never hidden from you bitches and I’m not going to start now.”“You insult us,” Messina stood up. Five other women joined her.“By all means,” Katrina stood, “we eagerly await your challenge.” Eight other women joined her. I hadn’t suddenly become more popular. Between my refusal to vote, the bizarre revelation of Shawnee and the gravitas of the 'First’ Houses, the more conservative women were retiring to regroup.Messina’s backing down lasted only seconds. She immediately proposed that no male be allowed to be a member of the Host; disqualifying me by fiat. Krasimira wasn’t going for that. Amazons could not legislate a member of the Host, or a House, out of existence. That’s why they had killed the Ash Men in the first place. Technically, they had been Amazons.They couldn’t make them 'not-Amazons’ and there was no exile in this society. Eminently practical, they made them dead instead. That was coming back to bite them in the ass now, because they killed them; they’d never taken them off the rolls. Poor, young Vranus had loyally led his charges away on orders. Had he fled, they would have put him under a death sentence; which I would have to fulfill.No, my ancestor was unsurprisingly pig-headed. One senior warrior and three children…sure, let’s walk off into the wilderness with hostile tribes all around. Why? They told him to and like a loyal little mutton-head he’d obeyed. If I believed in magic, or mysticism, I’d worry about how I ended up in that first board meeting speaking this fucked-up language.I’d re-examine how Leona had missed that crucial first shot because Aya had missed hers. Aya herself and the same spiritual twist that caused Oneida to hurl her life into my unsteady hands. I’d like to put that to accident and genetic abnormalities. Then there was Pamela. I’d like to think she was delusional, suffering from an acid flashback, or whatever.Shawnee slid a wooden box; a meter by 70 cm; to me. Whatever parliamentary etiquette Amazons followed was unknown to me. I opened the box. Inside was what looked like a lamb, or sheep, skin pressed in some kind of glass. The artifact looked horribly old and was faded to the stage where it was barely legible.I let the buzz die down around me as I squinted at the picture. There were five figures; from the left was a tall one with a shield and spear, three small figures, and another tall man…with two axes. That was…no I couldn’t accept that, not right now. Along both sides and the top were prayers of some kind, though they were too faded to make out accurately. On the bottom were five names. The right-most was Vranus.Oneida hadn’t been trapped by madness and pride. She’d been a slave to destiny. She had seen this skin, I was sure. She’d seen me with my two axes and when it turned out to be more than show, she’d had to save me and she couldn’t tell anyone why because of the Arinniti sin. Perhaps she had some delusion we were distantly related. Now wasn’t the time to ask.I closed the box and slid it back. In my absence, the verdict for House Arinniti was narrowed down. Some wanted Shawnee’s head because she was the inheritor of those lies. Others wanted Oneida’s head because it would be a more terrible lesson for her house. I didn’t like those ideas.“Are you seriously arguing about the paint on the doghouse while your home is burning down?” I mocked them.“You don’t…,” a different, yet still hostile, Amazon choked out.“They didn’t sell your sisters to the Roman coliseum,” I glared. “They valued bravery and loyalty over conformity. Did they defy the Council? Yes. I think we all agree with that. Put in context though, the rest of you fucked up.”Tons of 'how dare you’ and descriptive insults to my family, gender, species and intelligence.“Answer me this; Ursula, can you turn around right now and slit your 'apprentice’s’ throat?” I posed. I could see the 'no’ forming on her lips before the Great Wall of Implications fell on her head.“Everyone in this room that voted for the slaughter of the Ash Men broke your own laws,” I explained. “You had every right to kill your sons. They were legally and physically helpless. The Ash Men; they were members of the Host…and there is every indication you butchered them without trial, or attempt at redress. Correct me if I’m wrong, but those men did not break the law; you did.”“You are correct,” Krasimira said. “All members of the Host must be informed of their crimes and seek trial if they disagree. Any sentence of Death can be appealed to the High Priestess, who can commute the sentence, assign an ordeal of some kind, or have it carried out.” What doomed Leona was the obvious nature of her crime in front of the High Priestess.The only person who protested was Ursula, the Mistress of Leona’s house. Looking back on things, Ursula had acted insanely sending Leona to kill me. Yes, she would have derailed the New Directive for a few years. She would also have alienated every neutral member of the Council. The vote for the New Directive was distasteful yet deemed necessary by enough houses for it to pass.The vote at the end of the Second Betrayal…that was the issue now. Ms. Senior Egypt made one last end-run around the process.“What is to stop him from bringing more men into the Host?” she muddied the water. Me? I pulled out my shirt and looked down at my chest.“Is someone making fun of my A-cup sized breasts?” I appealed to Hayden. A tiny smile crossed her lips.“I am not sure Cáel,” Hayden responded. “Fatima, be precise with the nature of your worries.”“He should not be allowed to recruit into his house until his status is decided,” Fatima stated.“His status is not in question,” Hayden purred. That was the 'I’m about to lose patience with you’ purr.“I would never recruit anyone into House Ishara who was not qualified. It is insulting to think otherwise. Is there a specific male you are worried about?” I inquired.“I don’t know you, or your ways,” Fatima spat.“You need to think about what you just said, Fatima,” I snorted. “So, not knowing anything about me you are making assumptions about what I might do? As you said yourself, you don’t know me.”“If you did, you would know that while I wish virtually every Amazon alive would drop dead, thus making the world a much better place, I would never embarrass Katrina, or betray her. Now, are you going to keep looking stupid, or are you going to accept that House Arinniti not only acted in accordance to Amazon law 2500 years ago, they continue acting so today,” I stated.“After all, they risked everyone’s anger for the restoration of one of your eldest houses. When I turned out not to be one of Arinniti’s long-lost sons, they could have kept quiet. They did not. Arinniti bravery means one day a daughter of Ishara will bring her voice to this council once more. They certainly didn’t do this for themselves. Ask yourself if you would have the courage to bring such possible shame to your family prestige,” I challenged the Host.“You trained your monkey well,” Messina mocked Katrina.“Ah…” I mused as I picked up my pistol. “Safety.” I got a feel for the weapon. “Messina, what’s the name of your 'apprentice’?”“You wouldn’t dare,” Messina hissed.“You dare to insult me and my House, Whore-Bitch,” I smiled insanely. “Why do you think I’ll let you get away with that? I’m not going to kill her; just gut-shoot her.”“Pull that trigger and you will die,” Messina spat. Her junior looked far less pleased with the turn of events.“Not relevant. My House Prestige is too great to suffer such an insult. You did call me, the choice of a hundred generations of House Ishara ancestors, a monkey,” I pointed out.“Cáel of Ishara, put the gun down…please,” Saint Marie sort of asked. I clicked the safety and put the gun back down on the table.Messina was looking terribly pleased with herself, ignoring 'The Golden Mare’ coming around her side of the table. The hair-yank Saint Marie inflicted made me recoil in shock and I was some distance away Messina. Slap-backhand-slap-backhand. Saint Marie released Messina’s hair. Messina stumbled back, fearful and furious at the same time.“Are you going to exert some common courtesy, or shall we continue?” the Marshal of the Amazon Host glared at Messina. “I don’t like him, or where he stands, but I am far more embarrassed by your behavior. At least the male exerts some restraint. The rest of you are acting like he is a weakling-idiot. He is not. Know your opponent dammit.”“Wait! Hayden, now that I’m…” I got all excited.“No, Cáel, you still may not refer to the Marshal of the Amazon Host as 'Pony-Lady’,” Hayden scolded me. I snapped my finger over the lost opportunity. A pregnant pause was suddenly vacated by a snicker and then several more until half the table had to hold their hands over their mouths.“Did you really call (dead word spoken) Saint Marie, 'Pony-Lady’?” this unknown House Leader asked. She wasn’t one of my fans.“Only after she kicked my ass, totally humiliating me,” I revealed. “I got one punch in. Next thing I knew I was wondering how regularly they changed the fluorescent lighting in the Firing Range while I was on my back, soaking up the cold comfort of the concrete floor.”It took them a second to figure out what I meant. Saint Marie was already marching back to her chair.“You are very poetic,” another commented.“That is how I learned your tongue; I was taught Old Kingdom Hittite erotic and love poetry. I know the same in nine other forgotten languages, as well as four current languages,” I informed them.“Hayden, you would not dare chastise any other Head of House the way you treated; him,” Ursula griped.“In what possible universe would Cáel Nyilas be considered normal?” Hayden countered. “He is not like any other Head of House. He forgoes voting because HE values our traditions.”“He does not sit in his designated seat at our table because he takes into consideration our sensibilities. This from a man we all decided to imprison forever not five minutes ago. If any of you think he does this out of fear, you are sorely mistaken. He is a person of many failings without question yet he is courageous to a fault,” Hayden lectured the room. “Saint Marie, what was the first thing he said to you after you crushed him?”“He said 'What. Had enough already?’” she snorted. “Those were his exact words, lying on his back, looking up at me. I thought I had concussed him.”“This is not a humorous matter,” Egypt Senior was still cranky.“I don’t know about that,” Saint Marie reposed. “I found it to be fun actually.”“Even the part where he had the gun pointed at me was interesting. I was certain he was about to shoot me,” Saint Marie continued.“Pity he missed you,” Messina glared.“He didn’t miss me, Messina,” Saint Marie sneered. “I told him to give me the gun and he gave it to me. He’s not disloyal, just pugnacious.”“What of Arinniti’s crime?” Beyoncé prodded. She wasn’t feeling self-righteous. Quite the opposite; the mood had shifted away from bloodlust to uncertainty. Amazons liked decisiveness. They also liked only having to do something once and being done with it. That was the riptide of the New Directive; some houses couldn’t let go of the fact they’d lost.That constant pecking away at the plan were the half-measures Katrina was complaining to Hayden about. From my experience, the Ash Men was Katrina’s goal all along. Had she been open and honest with this desire, there was no way any aspect of the New Directive would be implemented.If you believed in conspiracy theories, Katrina had groomed me for some time. If you believed in luck, Katrina was cosmically lucky our paths collided. If you believed in mysticism, I was fucked. Let’s not forget that there were three millennia of bad ass bitches on the other side of the spiritual divide who thought nothing of guiding me into a life full of fear, heartache and pain.A lengthy debate ended in a classic Amazon compromise; they forgot about it. Literally, they erased the crime against the Ash Men and Arinniti’s 'omission’ of sparing three of their sons. What had happened to all my 'Ash’ brethren? Whoops; they were misplaced. They weren’t erased from the rolls; that would make my existence inexplicable, so we remained honorary Amazons.I was sure their angry ghosts were totally mollified. I was sure me and the first female Pope would get it on too. As the meeting was breaking up, one of the 'unfriendly’ Amazons shot me a remark.“I supposed you are elated,” she grumbled.“Really? You think so? Here, let me sell all your underage daughters to Romany gypsies so that you never see them again and you’ll have an inkling of how I feel,” I smiled serenely.“You should be happy you are allowed to stand in our presence,” she got truly pissy.“Lady, I won’t be happy until I get to hunt hate-filled monsters like you for sport,” I kept smiling.“Until then, I’m afraid we are both going to have to live unsatisfying lives,” I added.“Perhaps we should handle this with a blood feud?” she salivated at the prospect.“Sure. I’ll get the Neutron Bomb we have in the Armory. You chose whatever you like. I’ll meet you downtown at noon,” I proposed.It is much better to make a nuclear weapon joke and not have every authority figure in the room glance at you nervously. Did we really have a nuclear warhead in the basement? Fuck if I knew. They’d have never told me if there was. I felt a hand on my shoulder and recalled the touch.“Cáel Nyilas, you are forbidden from engaging in blood feuds; in your case, feuds of any kind until one lunar cycle is completed,” Hayden instructed.“Thank you. I appreciate that,” my honesty, heartfelt reply slipped forth.“My judgment wasn’t for you, Cáel. You’ve caused catastrophic trauma to our society as an outsider. I tremble to think what you can do now that you are one of us,” Hayden gave me a truly serene response. “Give me a little time to prepare.”“Oh! Great idea,” I exclaimed. “Gotta go!” and I raced for the door, tossing Elsa her gun.“Should I shoot him?” Elsa suggested. “Only to slow him down a bit.” I made it to the elevator carrying my jacket and shoes. With me were four sets of Amazons that wanted me dead and one set who were rather ambivalent about the whole matter.I caught one of the 'hater’ juniors looking at me. I turned my head enough so we could make prolonged eye contact. I smiled. Reluctantly she smiled back. I leaned in slightly.“Can I borrow your phone? SD beat me up earlier and stole all my stuff,” I innocently requested. I was pretty sure she was as surprised as every other man-hater in the box that she handed it over.Like shooting fish in a barrel. I began making a few quick texts to the three crucial people in my scheme.“What did you do that for?” her senior hissed. With my brand new Stinky Pooh-Bah status, she couldn’t knock the device out of my hands.“I don’t know,” she pleaded to her superior. I finished up then handed it back.“Your 'apprentice’ has rendered House Ishara an important service that shall be entered into our records of boons and debts,” I nodded gravely. “What is your name?”“Gale,” she batted her eyelashes. “What did I do?”“What are you doing for lunch tomorrow?” I magically conjured up her hand in mine with my fingertips coursing over her palm and wrist. “I’ll explain it then.”“You may not spend time with this…person,” Senior insisted.“We should not overlook an opportunity to make an alliance with a First House,” Gale countered.Bang! Looking like trout for lunch. Gale won, I won and we were meeting at my place so we could figure out where to eat; yummy. Somewhere in the episode, I’d introduce Odette into the mix. It was only fair. I was asking her to hide in Timothy’s room until I got Gale warmed up after all.I was the first one of the 'team’ to arrive. I was nervously pacing Katrina’s office when Desiree and Paula showed up. Desiree took a casual seat on the sofa while Paula hovered around my desk.“Is this going to be really bad, or really good?” Desiree mused.“Why should you have to choose?” I laughed. “Besides, we are aiming for epic status today.”“Why are we here?” Paula worried. I stopped. I had a 'Eureka!’ moment. There probably was a Bible for what I was planning to do, but they hadn’t given it to me. I ran to the bathroom and came back with a glass.“Desiree, I need two things. I need your sharp, pointy thing and for you to slap me until I cry,” I looked at her expectantly.“My pleasure,” Desiree rocked up from her seat. “Slapping then knife?” I nodded. I was still in the painful smacking process when Buffy and Violet entered.“Can anyone join?” Buffy asked Paula.“I…I don’t think so,” Paula shook her head. “He’s got a plan. I don’t know what for.” I dodged Desiree’s final swing. I had gathered enough tears; I hoped.“That was truly therapeutic, Cáel,” Desiree stated. “Let me know if you need a repeat performance.” She handed me her small knife.Helena and Daphne finally strolled in. I wove past them, retrieved a piece of paper which I tore in two and two pens.“Helena and Buffy, please write your names down on these pages,” I requested.“What the hell?” Buffy growled. “What is this about?”“Trust me,” I met her gaze.“Buffy, Cáel is an ass, but he’s not crazy. He’s up to something,” Desiree intervened. Helena stepped up and wrote her name. Buffy followed suit. I took the pages to Katrina’s desk.“Come forth and kneel before me,” I commanded.This was the point in the ritual when I figured my death was most likely. Buffy shot an evil look at Desiree then very reluctantly complied. Helena followed. Hmmm…Amazons kneel with both knees on the ground. That puts their mouths almost…I had to keep with the program. I burned the two autographs and scattered the ashes.“There is no Buffy DuBois. There is no Helena Shultz,” I began. I dipped a finger into the shallow pool of my tears. I ran one down under the left eye of each lady. “With this, I open your eyes to the joys and sorrows of our ancestors.” That brought on a hush and the anger in Buffy’s eyes evaporated.I cut my left forefinger then motioned them to do the same. First Buffy: I linked our bloody digits.“With this, our blood is mixed. You are Buffy of House Ishara from this moment forth. You are the first of this House. You are our spear and shield,” I met her gaze. She started crying.“You are Helena of House Ishara from this moment forth,” I continued on. “You are the second of this House. You keep the records of our Host, keep track of our deeds, sins and accounts.” Helena began weeping too. Had I said 'just joking’, the cleaning team would have been finding torn pieces of me weeks later.“House Ishara is dead,” Daphne stated the obvious.“Suffice it to say, long ago, House Ishara brought a male into their ranks as a member of the House,” I started. I motioned for my two House-mates…members to rise.“The Second Betrayal,” Violet interrupted.“Yes. During the Second Betrayal, some males remained loyal. My descendent was sent on a mission for the Host. The mission took him past his lifespan. His offspring continued on until you end up with me; being here; today. Suffice it to say, he was never removed from the rosters of the Host, thus every offspring was a member too,” I recalled recent edited events.“By Amazon law, House Leaders are selected by their peers, victors in a challenge for leadership, or…” I continued.“The eldest of the house,” Daphne gasped. “Since Ishara is…since all the female members of the Host are dead, you are the eldest member of the Host.”“You don’t have to be a female?” Desiree muttered. “That’s insane. We are Amazons.”“There hasn’t been a male in the host for over 2500 years,” I explained. “It never came up. Back when they had them, there simply weren’t enough men to worry about. Afterwards, there were NO men to worry about. Apparently your ancestors thought writing down 'eldest female’ was redundant.”“That had to have gone down like a mouse passing an elephant turd,” Paula muttered. We all looked at her. “What? Since I met Cáel, I’ve been writing down little phrases to use in situations like now. This was the first one I could recall.”“Actually, they wept tears of joy, lifted me up on their shoulders and sung paeans to my glory,” I lied.“So, when do you think the first assassination attempt will be?” Desiree shook her head. This was a lot for her to take in. Not only was my tale fantastic, Buffy was her friend and Desiree knew that Buffy bled for a chance to join the Host and had done so for years.“Why do you think I called Buffy first?” I snickered.“I won’t let you down,” Buffy declared with grim determination.“Calm down, Buffy,” I assured her. “I don’t think me being casually snuffed out is on their agenda. They’ve already gone through a torturous compromise to end up with this screwed up situation.”“So why did you pick me…and Helena?” Buffy studied me.“Buffy, you are the most amazon-Amazon I know,” I told her. “You like Helena and she said nice stuff about Daphne which showed her character, so I chose her next.”“Hey, this means I can finally slap Fabiola around,” Buffy’s eyes grew bright.“Which reminds me; can I get any volunteers for Old Kingdom Hittite lessons for these two,” I begged my 'new hire’ companions.“I’ll take two nights a week,” Daphne offered.“I’ll take one night,” Paula added.“I’ll take a fourth,” Violet completed the set.“Damn it,” Desiree cursed. “This means Buffy must be taught the Prayer of the Ancestors.”“You are right,” Buffy gasped. “I accompany Cáel to Council meetings now.”“One note; I don’t vote,” I informed them. “I made that decision. House Ishara has never had a male vote for it and I’m keeping that tradition. I can speak, but not vote. When my daughter comes of age, she will have full rights.”Desiree, Buffy and Helena were confused. Daphne, Violet and Paula, on the other hand, were enraptured. This was the only life; only tradit