Brazil’s Child Sex Trade

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36 NKJV

The title of the report as posted on the BBC News page, “The dark side of Brazil’s sex trade,” seems rather odd to me.  One is left wondering what the “bright side"of Brazil’s sex trade might be.    In any event, please watch the video before proceeding to read the rest of this post.  I’m sorry it isn’t available to be embedded here.

Click here to watch "The dark side of Brazil’s sex trade.”

Disturbing though they are, reports of this type help shine a light on a grim reality that is completely foreign to most of us.  It’s hard to imagine mothers prostituting their own children and little girls having sex with strangers so they can buy crack.  This is the unfortunate life of many young people in Brazil and elsewhere.

What children in the Brazilian sex trade represent is not so much the desperation of extreme poverty but the enslavement to sin that breaks down human dignity.  Having lived for a few years in Brazil and being married to a beautiful Brazilian-American woman who grew up in difficult (though not in the favela) circumstances, I can say with a fair amount of insight that children being “driven” to prostitution out of dire necessity is rare.

When extended families fail to help (or grow weary of doing so) there are still public and private entities available to provide assistance. Evening begging is an option better than the sex alternative.  It isn’t uncommon for children to hit up bakeries in the evening for leftover bread.  It isn’t ideal by any means to resort to asking people for help, but it is far better than the easy money to be made in selling a child’s innocence.

“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” – Ephesians 4:18-19 ESV

That said, I have to insist that no body is better equipped than the church to confront the underlying societal, familial and personal ills that create these circumstances.  When I say that Brazil needs more solid Christian community development efforts, this is the sort of thing that comes to my mind.

Did you notice in the video how Patricia’s mother seemed much more concerned about the money her daughter wasn’t bringing home that with the child’s well-being?  That’s a family in complete breakdown and disarray.  A mother who needs to be called to repentance and a little girl who needs drug intervention, recovery assistance and counseling.  Who will provide that?

The women prostituting their children in broad daylight…who will summon them to justice?  Who will provide a way out and a future for the children?  Who will report the “Johns” to the authorities and then demand that the powers that be take action?  Governmental agencies need to be active and responsible, but no one can provide the moral basis for change and Good News of forgiveness and restoration that the church has in its possession.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

If anyone reading this knows of Christian-based community development organizations that are dealing with child prostitutions and other societal ills in Brazil, please post the information in a comment here.

For my part I continue committed to seeing educational programs, chemical recovery and other practical works of ministry fostered in poor Brazilian communities.

The image of those little girls walking the streets will haunt my waking memory, compelling me to act.

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”2 Timothy 2:24-26 NRSV

See Also:

Panel Discussion of “The New Evangelicals”

This evening I’m attending (and mobile blogging) a panel discussion hosted by the Riverside Church in NYC on Marcia Pally’s book, “The New Evangelicals.” I only learned of this gathering last night through a post Peter Heltzel made on Facebook. So glad I saw it.

Hearing people talk about prophetic ministry being done among the last, least and the lost makes my heart beat faster. This is beyond theory. It’s about real work being done.

There is a definite political angle here, particularly in the repudiation of the right-leaning ways of evangelicalism in the United States in recent decades. This has certainly not been the evangelical stance I’ve seen in Brazil, where social justice ministry has been alive and well in those circles for some time.

In her opening remarks Ms. Pally talked about a move away from “Bibles for bacon” in world missions.

“The obligation on Christians is to serve, not on recipients having to believe one way or the other.”

To be honest, for a while now I’ve harbored a lingering dread that the uptick in interest in ministry to the poor and marginalized may be just another evangelical fad, and I suspect it may still be the case. At the same time, participating in an event like this and hearing from people deeply committed to social justice gives me hope that a vibrant core of the truly committed will remain and perhaps even grow (albeit more slowly) once the popular glow around this subject fades.

Another excellent point made by Ms. Pally made was regarding the extension of separation of church and state to personal faith in the public sphere. It is as though there is a belie that perspectives that do not appeal to the divine are somehow more just. However, the history of the 20th century is one of terrible massacres perpetrated by atheistic powers. Yes, evil has been done in the name of God, but secularism has no valid claim on superiority in public discourse.

Listening to the author and the various commentators, I’m gaining a new appreciation for why the conservative political turn took place. People had sincere concerns about what they perceived as hand-out programs, a moral slippage and the legalization of abortion. In their eyes (and I can’t blame them) it looked like the house was on fire.

One of the panelists talked about the false goal of helping “poor black and brown folks” become better consumers. She stated doubt that this is what someone like Mother Teresa had in mind, as though the suburban white middle class lifestyle in the United States is what God wants of us all now. To me, the challenge is in figuring out what ministry to the poor is if it doesn’t include helping them out of poverty. How to do it without promoting more consumerism?

An important clarification provided by the author is that by saying “new evangelicals” she isn’t suggesting that there are or were “old evangelicals.” With 500 years of history and so many sub-movements within the larger movement, “old evangelicals” doesn’t make any sense. She uses “new evangelicals” because it is a term already in use among evangelicals, and she narrowly identifies a distinct group with it.

The book sounds very interesting, telling the stories of “new evangelicals” throughout the country. I hope to be able to read and review it in the coming month.

Teen Pregnancy in Brazil

Last night my wife and I watched an episode of Profissão Reporter that focused on teen pregnancy in Brazil.  The stories of several young ladies were featured, but I’d like to share just three of them here.

The first is a 15-year-old who had just given birth as the report began. The pregnancy was unplanned, but she commented that she wasn’t sorry because “everything has a reason.”  This quasi-fatalist view is fairly common in Brazil, in my experience. Natural disaster or human error takes place and someone says “God has a reason for everything.”  Every time I hear it my blood boils, because it simply isn’t true. Although we can say that God has at times brought tragedy or suffering for a purpose, no one can say authoritatively in our times when this is the case.  Furthermore, saying something like this really shifts the blame back to God, when in fact it is often sin that has brought the pain.  This girl got pregnant because she had sex without adequate protection and the sperm made it to her awaiting egg. However, God most certainly can bring good out of a bad situation, something I have seen time and again in my own life, and the child that’s born is not guilty of the parents’ fault.

The second case that caught my attention was a 13-year-old “married” (I’m not sure about the legality of it) to a 23-year-old man. The pregnancy was wanted, as it provided a means for the young lady to get out of her mother’s house. Living just down the street from her mother in the same community, her husband is building the house around them (something that is very common in Brazil). They have very simple circumstances, including not having a refrigerator, but they are making do.

Most disturbing of all was the third example I’ll share, an 11-year-old girl who is pregnant. She lives with her mother, who has no intention of letting her move out. This little girl explains in very childlike terms that she thought about making a baby and decided to do it. At her age and with her explanation, I really doubt sexual desire was involved in the process, at least on her part. The father? He’s 14.

In all these situations the young mothers are from poor families with limited education. Although of course teen pregnancy can and does happen to those in the middle and upper classes, it seems statistically more common for this to occur with those of lower socio-economic standing.  One factor in why many – though certainly not all – teens in northern Brazil in particular become pregnant really surprised me: to gain status.

Apparently in the generally poor northern regions of Brazil girls see no particular advantage to remaining children, and are said to become mothers to be respected or at least treated better. It can be a means to leave  parental authority.

Whether  the motivation is rooted in poverty, sexual desire or a strange (to me) attempt at a better quality of life, the answer to this situation seems relatively clear to me, although not simple. Faith-based, youth-focused community development projects that involve both vocational training and individualized mentoring can go a long way towards helping young people to set their sights higher in life. If a genuine way out of poverty can be shown, the discipline and the self-respect to practice abstinence imparted, many teenagers would be able to realize their potential in life, rather than be trapped in perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Just recently I was very encouraged to read in The Christian Chronicle about a partnership between the local government and the Church of Christ in Vitória, Brazil that has resulted in a job training program that includes lessons in morality and results in internships for young people. You see, Brazilians don’t have quite the allergy to church-state cooperation that afflicts U.S. citizens and others. This is precisely the sort of program that can help make a real difference in the lives of Brazilian youth.

Now, am I picking on Brazil? By no means. I’m discussing what I saw in a Brazilian news journal, and this is a problem in the United States and in other countries as well. It’s simply that my heart is with Brazil and my aim is to help.

If you are able to understand Portuguese, the full episode I’ve discussed here is available in the two videos below.

21st Century Third World Gehenna

“Serpents! brood of vipers! how may ye escape from the judgment of the gehenna? Because of this, lo, I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and of them ye will kill and crucify, and of them ye will scourge in your synagogues, and will pursue from city to city; that on you may come all the righteous blood being poured out on the earth from the blood of Abel the righteous, unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar: verily I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.” Matthew 23:33-36 (Young’s Literal Translation)

Gehenna is a real place that exists in our world. It’s a valley located south of old Jerusalem’s walls. This, “the valley of the son of Hinnom,” was where Israelite children were sacrificed to the god Moloch. That was centuries before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. In the days of Jesus it was a garbage dump. It seems dead animals and even the corpses of disreputable criminals were thrown there, where smoke was constantly rising and worms devoured corrupt things.

Throughout his life, Jesus warned those in power and all who failed to embrace his way of peace that their end would be Gehenna. In the nearly two millennia since those days his words have been reinterpreted to be speaking of another place, a “hell” in the afterlife. Although certainly the Bible does teach consequences and judgment beyond death, as well as speaking of an end of this present age and the inauguration of a new one, this was not the point of what Jesus had to say.

Gehenna, first a place of cruel sacrifice and then a fetid, smoky dump, was to be the resting place for the cadavers of those who rejected the way of non-violent resistance. Those in power who stirred up the masses against not only the Roman oppressors but also any who refused to go down their bloody path could expect, according to Jesus, only to be consigned to the shameful landfill of history.

There are still Gehennas in our days. In more affluent countries, like the United States, it is practically unheard of for people to find their way into landfills to make a living. In other countries, particularly those of the Third World, one can go to virtually any dump and find people eking out a living. They search the garbage for recyclable materials to sell and anything of value that may have been tossed out carelessly. Yes, they even look for food.

One year while I lived in Brazil I read about a teenager who got up every morning well before sunrise to meet the trash trucks as they arrived at the landfill. He would search the garbage for food and take what he found back home to his mother. He didn’t want his younger siblings to find out where their food came from. If you watched the video above, you know that this is an experience shared by others throughout the world. In the movie Slumdog Millionaire there is a scene in a dump in India that bears further testimony to this sad international reality.

People around the world are surviving, barely, on the margins. A naive North American might suggest that the solution would be a big fence, sort of like the one they are trying to build to keep people from crossing the northern Mexican border into the United States. The thinking would be that if people were kept out of the dumps, the problem would be solved. Actually, a lot of people would die. As the video above points out, a sweatshop would be a definite step up from a filthy hell. Think about how unimaginably bad a step down would be!

In the eyes of the rest of society, those scraping bottom to survive appear damned, but they are not the truly accursed. The wicked are those in power who are complicit with systemic evil. Corrupt systems and complicit powers put the poor and weak in the garbage and Jesus on the cross. This latter was to their own undoing:

“And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross; having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:13-15 (American Standard Version)

Through his death and resurrection Jesus exposed the powers for what they really were (and are) and overcame them. The ultimate tool of the tyrant is death, and once Jesus faced that and came out the other side into new life, there was no more cause for fear.

“Since therefore the children partake of blood and flesh, he also, in like manner, took part in the same, that through death he might annul him who has the might of death, that is, the devil; and might set free all those who through fear of death through the whole of their life were subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14-15 (Darby Translation)

In his appearing at the conclusion of this present age, the New Testament Scriptures testify that tables will be turned. Those who have engaged in persecution and oppression will be thrown to the bottom, overturned and obliterated by fire from the presence of God:

“…if so be that it is righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day.” 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (American Standard Version)

The task of followers of Jesus in our times is one that has never gained wide acceptance, even though it is found throughout both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. We are called seek out the marginalized and stand with them. A sweatshop may be better than a garbage dump, and a garbage dump preferred over death, but disciples must not, cannot, leave human beings in those conditions without help and without hope. Acrid smoke and bitter anguish is better suited to the corrupt powers than the world’s poor and weak.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:11-12 (American Standard Version)

A Week of Service in Jamaica

For just over a week in November – Thanksgiving week in the United States – it was my privilege to be part of a 17-member team sent out by HOPE worldwide – Central Jersey Chapter to Jamaica. Although mission in Brazil remains my first calling and priority, Jamaica is not far behind.

In the not-so-distant past HOPE worldwide had a strong presence and ministry to the poor in Jamaica, especially through a clinic. Last December the clinic closes due to insufficient funds on the part of the international organization, and there has been some question about what the future holds. There is a certain expectation that through the efforts of the Central Jersey Chapter there will be both more volunteer mission trips and greater involvement from Jamaican-based volunteers.

Our group this past week was the first of what we hope will be many to head to Jamaica to help out. In many ways it was really a calibration trip, measuring the opportunities to serve and sorting out the best way forward. That makes repeat volunteers all the more important for the knowledge they’ve gained and can utilize in further trips.

Our main focus over our few days of service was loving and caring for children in a “place of safety.” This location is a sort of foster home, supported by the Jamaican government, that takes in both children without parents (true orphans) as well as those whose parents have lost custody for a period of time due to alleged abuse, neglect or incarceration.

At this children’s home we really mostly held and played with small children who rarely receive much individual attention. The staff is caring and provides for the children, but with so many children (around 60) it is difficult for them to do much more than feed, bathe and clothe the little ones. Our role was to provide semi-structured social interaction…and a lot of hugs.

Although we were originally to spend four days at the home, we ended up going on Friday as well. Shortly after we left the facility on Thursday night there was a fire in the adolescent girls’ dorm. The fire brigade responded quickly but in the chaos several girls fled and a few of the small children were missing for a few hours. All the preschoolers were eventually returned, and it seems that one in particular was the motivation of the fire. Some girls set the blaze to create a distraction so that they could remove a baby from the nursery and take him to his mother. They grabbed the wrong kid, though, and brought him back later.

In order to be there for the children and staff, we dropped our plans to go site-seeing and went back for a fourth day at the home. We’re all very glad we did. It was a chance to see the children again and also to show our solidarity with the staff.

It it my hope that next year I’ll be able to return to Jamaica and further assist in the efforts of HOPE worldwide to minister to the poor and marginalized in that country.

Related news (videos):



The Value of the Diaconate

About that time, while the number of disciples continued to increase, a complaint arose. Greek-speaking disciples accused the Aramaic-speaking disciples because their widows were being overlooked in the daily food service. The Twelve called a meeting of all the disciples and said, “It isn’t right for us to set aside proclamation of God’s word in order to serve tables. Brothers and sisters, carefully choose seven well-respected men from among you. They must be well-respected and endowed by the Spirit with exceptional wisdom. We will put them in charge of this concern. As for us, we will devote ourselves to prayer and the service of proclaiming the word.” This proposal pleased the entire community. They selected Stephen, a man endowed by the Holy Spirit with exceptional faith, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. The community presented these seven to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:1-6 CEB)

As I write this I’m in Jamaica on a volunteer trip with HOPE worldwide. Something that’s been on my mind for a while but is becoming clearer is the importance of churches seeking to have a healthy diaconate that does more than pass communion and possibly run the benevolence ministry. Deacons and deaconesses can be and do so much more.

Many Christian Churches and Churches of Christ value having “biblical” leadership – elders in particular – but treat the role of deacon as secondary and somehow a step before the eldership. I disagree.

Deacons and deaconesses are servants who minister to the needs of the church first, and then the wider community. To prepare them and discern the best leaders for this role, what could be better than look to volunteers working with a ministry like HOPE worldwide?

More on this later.

International Day of Giving 2011

November 20, 2011 has been designated as this year’s “International Day of Giving.” This is a time for churches and individuals to contribute to the ongoing work of HOPE worldwide. Although much is done through chapters and with other funding sources, administrative and logistic expenses need to be covered as well to keep operations going around the world. Watch the video below and click here for more about HOPE worldwide and the International Day of Giving.

By the way, in just a few short days I’ll be flying to Jamaica on a trip with the HOPE worldwide Central Jersey Chapter. For those of you who pray, please pray for me, the team I’m going with and the children we’ll be serving in an orphanage there.


The Top 100 Things I’d Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

The following was brought to my attention by my boss, and I thought it was pretty funny and spot-on. It isn’t showing up at the link in search results, so I pulled it from a cached copy– AG

This Evil Overlord List is Copyright 1996-1997 by Peter Anspach. If you enjoy it, feel free to pass it along or post it anywhere, provided that (1) it is not altered in any way, and (2) this copyright notice is attached.

This Evil Overlord List grew out of the exchanges on what is now the Star Trek mailing list “”, beginning in 1994 (when it was still “”). We were kicking around cliches that appeared on “Deep Space 9” at the time, and I started to compile a list of classic blunders they were making. The list came to about 20 or so items. In 1995, I decided to try to make it into a Top 100 List. I attached a copyright notice, some friends of mine posted it to a few newsgroups, and the contributions quickly poured in. In 1996 I revised the list entries to their current form, the Web page went up, more contributions were solicited, the list expanded beyond 100 and I had to open up a dungeon. I continued to contribute items; my total is around 40 or so. So while I am the originator, editor, and principal contributor, I certainly did not write the majority of the items on the list – as may be seen by the sheer number of individuals who are listed as contributors. Around 1997, as the final contributions were coming in, a couple contributors mentioned that this was similar to a list of things not to do if you capture James Bond that had appeared on a sci-fi newsgroup. I’d never heard of or seen this list, so I assumed it was parallel development or perhaps something I had inspired.

On November 12, 2002, I exchanged some emails with Jack Butler who has a list on his website. Sayeth Mr. Butler: “This list has its origins on the now-nonexistent FidoNet Science Fiction and Fandom (SFFAN) email echo, in a discussion regarding a sketch seen on an episode of Saturday Night Live sometime in 1990. In the sketch, several Bond villains were appearing on a talkshow touting their new book, "What Not To Do If You Capture James Bond”. The discussion on SFFAN was specifically regarding what advice might be found in that book. The instigator of the discussion was Alesia Chamness; other contributors included Jason Welles, Brian R. Williams, Merideth Knepper, and Alexi Vandenburg. I was also one of its contributors. When I originally posted this list to the Internet in 1994, I did so without any awareness of Mr. Anspach, the Star Trek mailing list on which his version of the list appeared, or (later) his website.“

Apparently both lists were compiled during overlapping periods of time. Comparing the two, some items appear on one list but not the other. Other items appear identical to those on this list; since many are the result of my writing or editing, I believe they were taken from this list and posted to that list without permission. But other items on that list appear identical to contributions I received before I edited them. Those items may have been taken from that list and submitted here under false pretenses, or they may have innocently been submitted to both lists by their originators. It appears that as a result of this "cross-contamination”, the two lists have arrived at a point where there are variations on each other and it is probably impossible to untangle them. (I would still like to talk with Alesia Chamness. If you know her, please ask her to email me.)

I believe Jack Butler when he says the list on his website is the current form of the James Bond Villain list, and I thank him for helping to clarify matters. Let me state that I had nothing to do with the FidoNet SFFAN list which is firmly in the public domain, and I lay no claim to it. The copyright statement attached to my list applies only to this list, in the form it appears.

    – Peter Anspach

Attention all Evil Overlord List Aspirants: Contrary to popular belief, taking over the universe is not as easy as it would first appear. Due to the complexity of this task, Peter regrets that he is currently unable to give the list the attention it deserves. The list is therefore going on a temporary hiatus. This is a temporary condition. As soon as he is able to respond in a timely manner – or until he becomes unquestioned lord and master of all things, whichever comes first – the list will not be updated and no new suggestions will be considered. He would sincerely apologize for this inconvenience, were it in character for an Evil Overlord to do so.

Being an Evil Overlord seems to be a good career choice. It pays well, there are all sorts of perks and you can set your own hours. However every Evil Overlord I’ve read about in books or seen in movies invariably gets overthrown and destroyed in the end. I’ve noticed that no matter whether they are barbarian lords, deranged wizards, mad scientists or alien invaders, they always seem to make the same basic mistakes every single time. With that in mind, allow me to present…

The Top 100 Things I’d Do
If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

  1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.
  2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
  3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
  4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
  5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
  6. I will not gloat over my enemies’ predicament before killing them.
  7. When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, “Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?” I’ll say, “No.” and shoot him. No, on second thought I’ll shoot him then say “No.”
  8. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks’ time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.
  9. I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled “Danger: Do Not Push”. The big red button marked “Do Not Push” will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.
  10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum – a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.
  11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.
  12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.
  13. All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.
  14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.
  15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.
  16. I will never utter the sentence “But before I kill you, there’s just one thing I want to know.”
  17. When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.
  18. I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.
  19. I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero’s rugged countenance and she’d betray her own father.
  20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it’s too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.
  21. I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original uniforms for my Legions of Terror, as opposed to some cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes. All were eventually defeated and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.
  22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head.
  23. I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way – even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless – my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
  24. I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line “No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!” (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)
  25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.
  26. No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bedchamber.
  27. I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.
  28. My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.
  29. I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
  30. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.
  31. All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.
  32. I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.
  33. I won’t require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.
  34. I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.
  35. I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.
  36. I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.
  37. If my trusted lieutenant tells me my Legions of Terror are losing a battle, I will believe him. After all, he’s my trusted lieutenant.
  38. If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring anywhere, I will find them and have them killed immediately, instead of waiting for them to grow up harboring feelings of vengeance towards me in my old age.
  39. If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army.
  40. I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.
  41. Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.
  42. When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.
  43. I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.
  44. I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.
  45. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say “And here is the price for failure,” then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.
  46. If an advisor says to me “My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?”, I will reply “This.” and kill the advisor.
  47. If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.
  48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.
  49. If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.
  50. My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard IBM and Macintosh powerbooks.
  51. If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions in the beautiful princess’ cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people-oriented position.
  52. I will hire a team of board-certified architects and surveyors to examine my castle and inform me of any secret passages and abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.
  53. If the beautiful princess that I capture says “I’ll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!”, I will say “Oh well” and kill her.
  54. I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.
  55. The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.
  56. My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.
  57. Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner’s manual.
  58. If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.
  59. I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.
  60. My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used. Note: this also applies to passwords.
  61. If my advisors ask “Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?”, I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.
  62. I will design fortress hallways with no alcoves or protruding structural supports which intruders could use for cover in a firefight.
  63. Bulk trash will be disposed of in incinerators, not compactors. And they will be kept hot, with none of that nonsense about flames going through accessible tunnels at predictable intervals.
  64. I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.
  65. If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.
  66. My security keypad will actually be a fingerprint scanner. Anyone who watches someone press a sequence of buttons or dusts the pad for fingerprints then subsequently tries to enter by repeating that sequence will trigger the alarm system.
  67. No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.
  68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they’d better save my life again.
  69. All midwives will be banned from the realm. All babies will be delivered at state-approved hospitals. Orphans will be placed in foster-homes, not abandoned in the woods to be raised by creatures of the wild.
  70. When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.
  71. If I decide to test a lieutenant’s loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.
  72. If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.
  73. I will not agree to let the heroes go free if they win a rigged contest, even though my advisors assure me it is impossible for them to win.
  74. When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk “Project Overlord” and leave it lying on top of my desk.
  75. I will instruct my Legions of Terror to attack the hero en masse, instead of standing around waiting while members break off and attack one or two at a time.
  76. If the hero runs up to my roof, I will not run up after him and struggle with him in an attempt to push him over the edge. I will also not engage him at the edge of a cliff. (In the middle of a rope-bridge over a river of molten lava is not even worth considering.)
  77. If I have a fit of temporary insanity and decide to give the hero the chance to reject a job as my trusted lieutentant, I will retain enough sanity to wait until my current trusted lieutenant is out of earshot before making the offer.
  78. I will not tell my Legions of Terror “And he must be taken alive!” The command will be “And try to take him alive if it is reasonably practical.”
  79. If my doomsday device happens to come with a reverse switch, as soon as it has been employed it will be melted down and made into limited-edition commemorative coins.
  80. If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.
  81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.
  82. I will not shoot at any of my enemies if they are standing in front of the crucial support beam to a heavy, dangerous, unbalanced structure.
  83. If I’m eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.
  84. I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.
  85. I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. “Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse.” Instead it will be more along the lines of “Push the button.”
  86. I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.
  87. My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.
  88. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.
  89. After I captures the hero’s superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.
  90. I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.
  91. I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.
  92. If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)
  93. If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first.
  94. When arresting prisoners, my guards will not allow them to stop and grab a useless trinket of purely sentimental value.
  95. My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it’s an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.
  96. My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.
  97. My dungeon cells will not be furnished with objects that contain reflective surfaces or anything that can be unravelled.
  98. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others’ lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.
  99. Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.
  100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

Book Review: The Book of Deacon

One of the most pleasant surprises to me in acquiring first the Android Kindle app, and then a full Kindle device, was the discovery of so many fantasy books available for free through At the same time, I’ve learned that while there’s a lot of “chaff” and the “wheat” can be tricky to sift out. Some of the titles I’ve downloaded were barely worth the effort. It’s also interesting to me that offering the first book of a series for free in Kindle format is apparently a gimmick for hooking readers to pay for the rest of the series. Not a bad deal, given that most of the following titles I’ve seen tend to go for only $2.99 or so. “The Book of Deacon” is one of the good free titles, first in a series, convincing me to spend a little money on the following books in the series.

Author Joseph Lallo tells most of the story from the perspective of a woman on the run, Myranda. She’s in a struggle for survival, trying to keep her opposition to a war that’s raged for over a century to herself, but not succeeding very well. Moving from town to town as her welcome runs out, she stumbles into an adventure that pulls her along to uncover unexpected truths about herself, the war and the world she lives in.
In any fantasy novel the source and methods of magic are of interest. For the world in which Myranda lives, spirits, crystals, mysticism and meditation appear to work together to enable supernatural effects. There are elemental magics as well as white, grey and black magic. Rather than the colors of these latter fields of magic indicating alignment, they signify the effects. White magic is healing and restorative, grey is of neutral impact, and black is destructive. None of these are inherently good or bad in moral or ethical terms.
This story really moves along. The first couple of times the narrative shifted from Myranda to some far-off general it was disconcerting, but as I continued reading I realized it was necessary. The protagonist goes from one event and experience to the next, and as I neared the end of the book I was impressed at how much story had actually been told.
The author of The Book of Deacon has a new fan with me, and I’ve already bought the second book, “The Great Convergence.”

See Also:
Book Review: Smallworld

Vida Maria

The animated video below is grim, depicting the endless cycle of poverty that follows a lack of formal education. It doesn’t need to be this way.

Although the small amount of dialogue is in Portuguese, the overall message should be intelligible to anyone who watches, regardless of language.