January 20, 1977 — The end of the Ford administration temporarily returns Henry Kissinger to obscurity

Henry Kissinger once received the Nobel Peace Prize for failing to negotiate a peace treaty. Which tells you close to everything you need to know about the man: he is lauded out of all proportion to his actual achievements. Realistically, his single greatest achievement is avoiding prosecution in the downfall of the Nixon administration.

I’ll back up. Kissinger was Nixon’s Secretary of State and later his National Security Advisor. As such, he was a major architect of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War (and thus, of America’s defeat in the Vietnam War). A proponent of Realpolitik (which is basically the doctrine that morality comes second to winning in politics), Kissinger was not a bloodthirsty man, but a callous and indifferent one. If other people had to die for him to get what he wanted, so be it.

He remained in office throughout the Ford administration, while he largely disappeared during the Carter years, Reagan relied on him for advice, as have almost all his successors in the Oval Office. Kissinger is still seen as an authority on US foreign relations even today – in 2016, Clinton boasted that he was one of her advisors (and Sanders boasted that Kissinger was not, and would never be, one of his advisors).

TD12

TD12 is a drug mostly used by dentists in England. It’s an anesthetic and sedative, which has the side effect of affecting memory formation. It was used one time by Culverton Smith to allow him to confess his planned murder to some of his nearest and dearest without them remembering it.

January 16, 1920 — Prohibition officially begins in the USA

One of the most expensive and counter-productive intrusions of the government into the private sphere in human history, Prohibition was enabled by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution. It banned the sale, production and consumption of alcohol throughout the United States. Naturally, it was immensely unpopular with the kind of people who like to drink alcohol, and these people, if they could not obtain their tipple legally, would do so illegally. The new law – which was also rather more heavily enforced on the poorer classes than than the richer, often by police known to drink themselves – lead to an incredible increase in the number and wealthiness of criminals, with a corresponding increase in violent crime.

Ultimately, Prohibition failed and was written out of law with another amendment to the Constitution, but the hand of organised crime had been strengthened in a way that, nearly a century later, law enforcement has still not brought back to pre-Prohibition levels.

Changing Changeling: A Selection of Historical Resurgences

According to the Changeling: The Dreaming rulebook, the phenomenon that made the return of the Changelings possible was the one of the first truly global media events: the landing of the Apollo 11 mission on the Moon. The collective energy of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of all humanity (or at least, a very large majority of humanity) combined with the event to set free a rush of Glamour, the energy that powers dreams, and thus, the Dreaming itself, and returned the Fae to the Earth they had abandoned six centuries earlier.

There are five assumptions implicit in that account:

  1. Technology – and specifically communications technology – somehow empowered these dreams.
  2. Only uplifting dreams could be the source of such an event.
  3. It took the collective energies of a majority of humanity to achieve this.
  4. The Shattering took place when it did.
  5. All the faeries came back at once.

Tinkering with any of these assumptions can lead to some very different Changeling games. In the spirit of wonder and imagination, then, here are some ways to use a different time and type of Resurgence to shake things up in a new Changeling chronicle.
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Hair-Raising Potion

Few details are known about Hair-Raising Potion. As the name suggests, the potion causes the imbiber’s hair to stand on end. That’s about it.

Oh, and one of the ingredients is an unspecified number of rat tails. No one knows why, and we’re all happier that way.

Much happier.

Priapism Formula

Developed by a Dr. Duran of Hopkins University and her faithful assistant, Calvin, the Priapism Formula is a highly effective aphordisiac – as the Dr and Calvin discovered when she accidentally inhaled the fumes from it one day.

From there, the Priapism Formula next turned up as the secret ingredient in the sauce used on burgers at Pop’s – a start-up operated, not coincidentally, by friends of Calvin’s who had stolen the formula from Duran’s lab. Somewhat more dilute in its effects when consumed with a burger, fries and a milkshake, the Priapism Formula remained a mild aphrodisiac and something of a euphoric.

November 20, 1965 — “Mike D” of the Beastie Boys born

Michael Diamond was born in New York City, a member of a Jewish family. In the late Seventies, he was a founding member of the band then called The Young Aborigines, in which he was the drummer. In 1981, Adam Yauch (better known as MCA) joined the band, followed in 1983 by Adam Horovitz (better known as Ad-Rock). By this time, Diamond, now performing under the stage name Mike D, was the sole remaining original member of the band, which had renamed itself The Beastie Boys after Yauch joined.

As a member of the Beastie Boys, Diamond has enjoyed creative and commercial success. Their breakthrough hit was 1987’s “You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party)”, with subsequent hits “So What’cha Want”, “Sabotage” and “Intergalactic”. The band broke up in 2012 after the death of MCA, a.k.a. Adam Yauch.

November 16, 1965 — Author Alexander King dies

Alexander King was born Alexander Koenig in Vienna in 1899. A troubled man, he went through multiple marriages, bouts of addiction and eventually moved to America. Here, he became popular as a frequent quest on Jack Paar’s “Tonight Show”, loved for his irascibility, his wit and his disarming honesty about his life’s ups and downs. He also became a writer, publishing several well-loved books of memoirs.

King died at the age of 66.

Polyjuice Potion

Polyjuice Potion is an alchemical preparation that allows a human drinker to temporarily assume the form of another person – although only a particular person. In particular, it cannot be used to take the form of any non-human – although numerous attempts have ended in the potion drinker being stuck in some sort of in-between form.

The potion is a difficult and time-consuming one to prepare – among other things, it needs to brew for a month after its final brewing – and one of the most difficult to acquire ingredients is a sample of the target person, usually hair, although other substances will work just as well. Polyjuice Potion is also highly variable in the duration of its effect, with the quality of the numerous ingredients and the skill of the brewing both influencing the outcomes.

November 5, 1979 — Russell Hoban finishes writing “Riddley Walker”

Russell Hoban was always somewhat peripatetic in his writing interests. While he tended to return to the same themes, he was far less loyal to genres. “Riddley Walker” is one of his best known novels, and as the only major work of science fiction he wrote, is representatively unrepresentative of his oeuvre.

It concern a young man in a world (ours, about two millennia after a nuclear war) who stumbles on a plan to build a super-weapon. The novel took Hoban more than five and half years to write, and won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel in 1982, as well as an Australian Science Fiction Achievement Award in 1983. (It was also nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1982, but lost to Gene Wolfe’s “The Claw of the Conciliator”.)

Australia Federal Election 2016: What Happens Next?

The short answer is “counting continues”. The long answer is that “counting continues, and it’s a much more complicated process than you might think”. But before I go into how votes are counted, it’s worth taking a look at how they’re cast, because understanding that is important to understanding why counting takes as long as it does.

Starting at the Start:
Voting actually commences before polling day, in several different ways.

There are pre-polling centres across Australia (and the world, but I’ll come back to them) where you can vote ahead of time for whatever reason (say, if you have to work on polling day). Many, but not all, of these are also polling booths on election day. In the cases of those that are also polling day booths, these pre-poll votes will have begun being counted by now, after the polling day votes are counted on election night. In the cases of those which are not, these votes will have been sent to the divisional office to await counting.

There are also mobile pre-polling booths, which primarily exist to serve people in hospital who cannot physically attend a polling booth otherwise. These booths operate throughout the pre-polling period and also on polling day, finally reporting back to their respective divisional offices. (If you look at the results for nearly any division across the country right now (that is, on this Sunday after election day), you’ll see that the majority of votes from these mobile booths have not yet been counted.

There are postal votes, for people who can’t get to a polling booth. These are individually addressed: for each division, postal votes go back to the divisional office for their division. Postal votes are allowed two full weeks – up until the second Friday following polling day – to arrive at their divisional office.

Finally, there are international votes, which are chiefly held at Australian embassies and consulates across the world. Most of these operate pre-polling and polling day services. These votes will be sent back to Australia, and then separated out to their respective divisional offices.

The Big Day
Polling day is when the majority of the country votes and eats sausages (or the local and/or dietary equivalent). According to surveys, it’s also when the majority of voters decide who to vote for, which implies that the gut rather than the mind drives a lot of our electoral results. After the business of voting finishes – it runs from 8AM to 6PM in most locations (and if you go too early in some of them, you’ll be there before the sausages are ready) – the business of counting the votes begins.

Spare a thought for the poor bastards doing the counting on election day, because they are the unsung heroes of this story. The AEC hasn’t updated its staffing practices in a long time – and unfortunately, what we have doesn’t scale well. FT employees on election day start at 7am, and work until they’re allowed to go. They do get some breaks, but they’re not allowed to leave the premises during their entire shift. (They also get paid a fixed amount, irrespective of how many hours they work – this year’s crew got ripped off there.) It’s a pretty shit job, no matter how many sausages you eat.

On election night, the only votes counted are those cast at the physical polling booths on that day for the division the booth is in. (Some few polling booths serve more than one division – counting is particularly slow at those booths, because the staff have to split up and each of them works on only one division’s votes). Very few divisional offices are also polling booths (they mostly lack the space for it), so votes that are sitting at the divisional office do not get counted on election night. This year, with a very high pre-poll vote, that means there’s a good chunk of votes still to be counted – 25-30% in most divisions – so this election is still, potentially, anyone’s game.

Also, on election night, Senate votes are barely looked at. This year, we have a count only of first preferences of above the line polling day votes only counted on election night. I’ll come back to this.

They don’t work the Sunday, never have. No idea why not.

You Keep Talking About Divisional Offices
I do, and it’s because they’re very important.

Divisional offices are where all votes are centralised for counting. So not a lot of counting gets done on Monday, because the Monday is largely taken up by logistics. Monday is when all the polling booths return their votes to the divisional offices, and they each need to be checked to make sure that the numbers match. (A counting of ballots, rather than votes, if you follow me.) From these, the absentee votes (votes cast in one division that belong to another division) have to be separated out, and sent on to where they should be. In most divisions, this means nearby and intra-state votes get sent directly to their divisional offices, while votes for divisions in other states are bundled separately, but sent to their respective state head office to be dispatched to their divisions (which usually means an extra day for the travel and sorting).

From Tuesday onward (sometimes late Monday for the smaller urban electorates), divisions start receiving their own absentee votes, which must also be checked off and then added to the counts.

Throughout this period, postal votes will continue to filter in – the AEC allows until the second Friday following the election for all of them to arrive – they are also each checked off and added to the count.

International votes, like other absentee votes, go to state head offices first, then out to divisional offices. They usually take longer to arrive due to the vagaries of travel times and international freight schedules – some of them will take more than a week to arrive, and the AEC cannot declare a count completed (which is different from declaring a result) until they are all counted.

Plus, all of this is complicated by human error – which is less about votes miscounted than mislaid. It’s not uncommon for a division to receive votes intended to go to another division with a similar name, and these need to be redirected to their correct location.

What About the Senate?
The Senate votes take much longer to count than the lower house votes, for a number of very good reasons:

  1. Before you can even begin counting Senate votes, you need to separate the above and below the line votes, because these two groups are counted apart from each other (and totalled at the end of each count). Currently, all Senate votes go into the same ballot box on polling day – the AEC could save quite a bit of time and money just by putting them in separate boxes.
  2. There are a lot more candidates. Even the simpler above the line vote usually has twice as many candidates as a lower house vote, and below the line there can be more than a hundred candidates.
  3. More candidates mean more eliminations, and thus, more rounds of counting. A lower house seat might have a dozen candidates – at most, it gets counted 11 times. A Senate vote, with over a hundred candidates, is likely to get counted more than twice that.

And because the Senate does not determine who forms the government in our system, it is also generally given a lower priority in counting than the lower house. Each day at each divisional office, there will be at least one count for each house, but the lower house will inevitably be counted before the Senate – although towards the end of the count, the pace picks up, and the Senate votes will be counted multiple times each day as candidates are eliminated.

But Wait, There’s More!
And all of this does not take into consideration the possibility of recounts, which are certainly going to be demanded by a variety of parties in some of the seats with narrow margins (Batman and Cowan, for example, are both very likely to go to recounts based on what we’ve seen so far in the count). There is no set number at which the AEC must have a recount, but generally any result with a margin under a hundred is going to be recounted.

And then, of course, there’s still the possibility – at this point, the likelihood – of a hung parliament when all the counting’s completed in any case. In which case it will be up to the crossbenchers – projected to be at least six of them right now, with possibly more to come – to decide who they want to back. If anyone.

Which means we might go back to the polls yet again, and who knows how that will come out. Probably an even closer result.

Oh, and after all this, the joint sitting of both houses that’s required to try to pass the bills that served as the trigger for the double dissolution in the first place will still need to be held, and will quite likely result in those bills being defeated anyway, because on current numbers, there’s no way that the LNC – even if it wins the election – has the combined numbers in both houses to get it through.

Is Aiwass really Galactus?

So I was reading some old Silver Surfer comics the other day, and I found something… odd. Really odd.

It’s this panel:
"Every man and Every Woman is a Star"

In which Galactus, the Eater of Worlds and generally one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, speaks a line of philosophical gibberish. Except that it’s not just any line of philosophical gibberish. No indeed. It is, in fact, a direct quote of Aleister Crowley’s Liber vel Legis (or The Book of the Law, in English). Specifically, chapter one, verse three. (See for yourself.) And it seems rather unlikely that Steve Englehart, who is a very deliberate sort of a writer, used the line by chance. He at least was no doubt aware of its significance and origins (unlike his editor and a large number of his readers).

Funny thing about Liber vel Legis: Crowley always claimed that it was dictated to him by a spirit across April 8, 9 and 10, 1904. A spirit that Crowley referred to be the name Aiwass, and claimed was his own personal Holy Guardian Angel (caps in original).

Now, many later occultists have theorised that Aiwass was simply a part of Crowley’s subconscious (and I lean toward that interpretation myself). Maybe that is the case – in our world! The Marvel Universe, on the other hand, is considerably weirder than our world, though, and since it seems rather unlikely that Galactus would be reading the works of human occultists, I have to assume that the causal relationship runs in the opposite direction, and that it was Galactus who dictated Liber vel Legis to Crowley. Which might explain why Galactus is always finding reasons not to eat our particular world.

So there you go.

Except that there’s more.

You see, Aleister Crowley claimed that Lewis Carroll – the pen name of Charles Dodgson, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Jabberwocky and Through The Looking Glass – was a holy seer of sorts. Robert Anton Wilson took this one step further, claiming that the Alice books were dictated to Dodgson by a spirit he called Lewis (in case you’re wondering: Carroll because the spirit allegedly sang, or caroled, the books to Dodgson), and that Lewis and Aiwass are one and the same.

So there’s a case to be made that in the Marvel Universe, this guy:
Galactus
is the true author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Jabberwocky, Through The Looking Glass and Liber vel Legis