It still looks less fake than the original fight: Continue Reading
When I am not in the law mines, attending to family matters or blogging, I can often be found playing grand strategic historical computer games. I have gotten quite a bit of enjoyment out of the Europa Universalis games put out by the Swedish game company Paradox, which allows you to lead virtually any country on the globe from the Fifteenth Century up to the Napoleonic period. Go here to download a demo of Europa Universalis III.
On April 1, 2013 those wild and crazy Swedes at Paradox released a video, above, detailing their plans for Europa Universalis the Musical! Ah, if twere only true. Nerd Heaven!
My co-blogger Darwin has a good post at his blog, Darwin Catholic, expressing his irritation at three laws proposed by the late science fiction writer Arthur Clarke. Go here to read it. The proposing of laws seems to often go with the territory of being a science fiction writer. Asimov had his laws of robotics, for example. Reading Darwin’s post propelled me into imagining the ten commandments for science fiction writers, and here they are:
1. You are a science fiction writer, and will write only science fiction: no fantasy, no (spit) urban fantasy, no (gag) romance novels disguised as fantasy. This rule is subject to being overruled if you really, really need the cash.
2. You will not bow down to the idols of popular taste or to what will sell in the mass market. Kindle and e-publishing will have your sole worship.
3. You will not take the name of science in vain and have more than three scientific absurdities in each story that you write.
4. All the rest of creation labors for only six days. For science fiction writing wretches remember the words of Heinlein: “Six days shalt thou work and do all thou art able; the seventh the same, and pound on the cable.“
5. Honor your father and your mother as they may well be the ones supporting you as you seek fame and fortune by scribbling endlessly for a living. Continue Reading
As faithful readers of this blog know I am a Star Trek fan. Therefore I am doubly offended that the IRS decided to spend $60,000 bucks on a Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island parodies:
Yes, the IRS goes boldly where no man has gone before. And like a space tourist, the IRS wrote a check to do it. Some headlines suggest the price tag was $4 million. Actually, the IRS studio itself cost around $4 million but the Trekkie movie was around $60,000. Continue Reading
I have wasted endless hours of my life playing historical strategy games since 1970, first as board games and then on computers. Troy Goodfellow at Flash of Steel has a fascinating look at games which involve the Papacy:
Popes are also generally not playable characters, and when they are, they come with major strings attached. Papal power is a spasmodic interference in play, either through the mechanics of being a Trump (a power that players compete for so they can use it against their enemies), a Vendor (a mechanic that distributes tasks and rewards to stimulate certain types of play and progress) or a Disruptor (a mechanic serves to keep games challenging or hasten resolution of stalemates.)
Medieval Total War II is probably the best exemplar here, and the one most familiar to readers of this blog, though certainly not the first. You can’t play the Pope in MTW2 – and you can’t even easily direct who assumes that role once the old pope dies – but he is always in your face, both in good ways and bad. First, as a Vendor, the Pope is one of two sources of “missions” for Catholic rulers (alongside local nobles). The Pope’s missions are connected to religious stuff, generally – build a church, convert a province, etc – and rewards for accomplishing his minor missions are on par with those nobles will provide. The Pope is a Disruptor by calling Crusades and then demanding your king or princes participate, drawing resources and armies away from where you would rather have them (you can always say no, but there’s a price). And the Pope further disrupts through Excommunication, putting leaders beyond the protection of the church and freeing you to act against them. Continue Reading
Ah, TAC tackles only the big burning issues of our day! Travis D. Smith over at The Weekly Standard raises a philosophical question that has always intrigued me: who is the greater hero, Batman or Spider-Man?
Reservations about technology are at the heart of Spider-Man’s story. Peter Parker gains the proportional strength and agility of a spider when a high-tech experiment goes awry. His webshooters and spider-tracers are products of his own ingenuity. His rogue’s gallery, by contrast, comprises a testament to the dangers inherent in modern technological science given the myriad ways it can be misused and lead to unintended consequences. With few exceptions, Spidey’s foes can be categorized as either (i) good guys who were transformed into villains (or ordinary thugs who were made much worse) by technological mishaps or unexpected side-effects (e.g., Doctor Octopus, Electro, Green Goblin, Lizard, Morbius, and Sandman; Venom, too, indirectly), or (ii) crooks who specifically invented, obtained, or otherwise employ technology for the sake of doing wrong or becoming worse (e.g., Beetle, Chameleon, Hobgoblin, Jackal, Mysterio, Rhino, Scorpion, Shocker, and Vulture; Kraven is the noteworthy exception). The young Peter Parker is corrupted by the culture around him no less than any other young man. His first instinct is to use his newfound powers in a selfish, though harmless, manner: He plans to make it big in showbiz for the sake of supporting his family. But after he internalizes Uncle Ben’s message, Spider-Man stands out as a marvel precisely because he is both the victim of science gone wrong and a manufacturer of technological wonders, yet neither makes a monster of him—if we set aside that brief period he had six arms.
Modern society, marked, if not defined, by our devotion to technological science and premised principally on theories of rights, explicitly rejects classical ideas that emphasize virtuous character and duties that transcend individual will. Assessing all relationships in terms of power, defending subjective rights as absolutes, and replacing interpersonal duties with collective responsibilities, preferring the indirect benefactions of impersonal institutionalized mechanisms, modernity is a breeding ground for tyrannical souls and a recipe for tyrannical regimes. It is in this light that Spider-Man can help us to see that modernity’s capacity to turn out relatively well depends on habits and ideas that precede it.
When I teach introductory classes in political theory, I am grateful for the example that Spider-Man provides of Glaucon’s model of “the man of perfect justice” from Book II of The Republic, one who always does the right thing (in terms of complying with conventional morality) even though he always earns a reputation for doing the wrong thing. Nobody who would wield great power intending to work on behalf of justice can avoid earning a bad reputation. Spider-Man is sure to be accused of being an accomplice in any bank robbery he thwarts. The headlines of the Daily Bugle regularly prompt readers to ask themselves whether he is a “Threat or Menace?” Nevertheless, Peter chooses to keep up the good fight. The language of “choice,” however, falls short here. Whereas Bruce decides to become a costumed agent of vengeance, acting on an internal compulsion, Peter regards what he does not so much as a choice but as a responsibility, a duty he must meet irrespective of his preferences and desires. This accords with the classical notion that virtue is demanded of us by our very nature; it is not something that anyone can opt in or out of indifferently. Continue Reading
I am immensely looking forward to seeing this. My family and I will not see the film until next weekend, after my son finishes up finals at the U of I. That is a good thing, because when the trilogy came out we saw each portion on the weekend before Christmas, so we will be keeping up a family tradition. Feel free to post here reactions to the film, although no plot spoilers please. Continue Reading
I am on vacation this week with my family. My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent. I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example: Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or Obama dumps Biden and picks his teleprompter as his running mate, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.
Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds. If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled. If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are. Last year’s attendance was in excess of 36,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events. A good symbol of the holy grail of nerdiness that is Gen Con is here. Below is a Gen Con video from 2011 which gives a nice feel of the convention.
I saw the film The Dark Knight Rises with my family last week. I thought it went on too long, some of the various plot threads were confusing and the film required too much suspension of disbelief, above and beyond what is usually required in a superhero film. It will not make my top ten list of favorite films for the year. However, what is stunning about the film is that it conveyed fundamentally conservative messages. Andrew Klavan tells us how, and the usual spoiler alerts apply: Continue Reading
The reviews of the film had been dismal, but I felt duty bound to watch it, and give the film a review. On July 3, having closed my law office for the afternoon, my family and I went to the movies. While the rest of my family, not sharing my duty to report on the film, joined the folks seeing Spider-man III, I strolled over to see the Great Emancipator dispatch vampires. The viewing was rather like a private showing. The audience in the vast theater consisted of me and one individual in the back. I found this aspect of the film quite pleasant. Alas that is the first and last positive aspect of this film that I can report. Intrepid souls who wish to can follow me into the bowels of ALVH below, the usual spoiler caveat being in force. Continue Reading
Born in a valley in Ken-tuck-ee
Greenest state in the Land of the Free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree
Kilt him a vamp when he was only three.
A-bie, A-bie Lincoln, King of the vamp free frontier!
After the book Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, one had to know the movie was inevitable! It is being released on June 22. Historically, Lincoln was portrayed as a vampire in some cartoons by critics during the Civil War, but I do not believe that he was ever accused of killing one! Here is a video that was done to promote the book when it was first published:
Time to refresh my creds as Chief Geek of the blog. Season 2 of the series Sherlock is debuting in America on Mystery tonight on most PBS channels at 8:00 PM Central Time. The series is a grand bringing of Sherlock Holmes into the present century. It is wittily written, part send up of the original Holmes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and part homage. The improbably named Benedict Cumberbatch is superb in the title role, playing Holmes as a genius as a detective and a moron in dealing with all of humanity, but for Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson, Martin Freeman, is a British medical officer, fresh from traumatic injuries due to his service in Afghanistan (yes, the more things change, often the more they stay the same), who blogs about Holmes’ exploits as part of his therapy. I highly endorse the series for anyone who likes to either think or laugh.
Sherlock Holmes is a prime example of a literary creation that completely escapes from his creator. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle grew tired of Holmes and attempted to kill him off, only relenting to bringing him back after his “death” at the Reichenbach Falls due to unceasing demands from Holmes’ devoted, if not crazed, fans. Doyle tended to look down his nose at Holmes: “If I had never touched Holmes, who has tended to obscure my higher work, my position in literature would at the present moment be a more commanding one,” he once wrote, which is a hoot since his other writings were the most forgettable drek imaginable. Doyle wrote the last of his Sherlock Holmes stories in 1926 and died in 1930. Since that time not a year has gone by without authors trying their hands at new Holmes stories, and placing Holmes in every setting imaginable including the distant future, outer space, fantasy realms, etc.
The continuing popularity of Holmes is something of a mystery, which is appropriate. It is hard to attribute it to simply love of mystery stories, since most mystery sleuths are dead as soon as their creators shuffle off this vale of tears. Perhaps it is because Holmes, through his powers of observation, can so simply and swiftly glean the truth. What an all important ability to possess! Alas the same could not be said for his creator, Sir Arthur. He deserted Catholicism for spiritualism (seances and that sort of rubbish) which is akin to feasting on a rich mud pie and then developing a fondness for eating actual mud. GK. Chesterton, who drew illustrations for an unpublished, during his lifetime, edition of the Holmes story, upon learning of Doyles’ conversion had this memorable quip: It has long seemed to me that Sir Arthur’s mentality is much more that of Watson than it is of Holmes. Continue Reading
Remember, check all umbrellas, treat all gatherings of birds with suspicion and never trust anyone with constant herring breath.
The movie itself will not be released until December 14, 2012 (!), but the trailer is just in time to add to our Christmas cheer!
One of the best of the original Star Trek series was the episode Bread and Circuses. First broadcast on March 5, 1968 during the second season, it was one of the parallel worlds episodes involving an earth like alien world, caused by Hodgkin’s Law of Planetary Development and Roddenberry’s Corollary:
The “Parallel Worlds” concept makes production practical by permitting action-adventure science fiction at a practical budget figure via the use of available “earth” casting, sets, locations costuming and so on.
The episode contains a sharp satire of the world of sixties television:
ANNOUNCER: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Live and direct from City Arena, and in colour, we bring you Name the Winner, brought to you tonight by your Jupiter Eight dealers from coast to coast. In just a moment, tonight’s first heat. We’re in a taped commercial, Proconsul. Forty seconds, then we’ll be back live.
(Claudius, Merik and Kirk take seats on a raised platform. Kirk is manacled, and there are two armed guards behind him. Spock and McCoy are brought out by two guards in full traditional dress.)
ANNOUNCER: Stand by. Ten seconds. And first tonight, ladies and gentlemen, a surprise extra. In the far corner, a pair of highly aggressive barbarians. Strong, intelligent, with strange ways, and I’m sure full of a lot of surprises. And facing them, two favorites here from previous encounters, Achilles and Flavius. (The canned applause is turned up by a bored sound effects man) Victory or death? And for which of them? Well, ladies and gentlemen, you know as much about that at this moment as I do because this is your programme. You name the winner.
FLAVIUS: I don’t mind fighting, but why you?
VOICE [OC]: Begin!
(Achilles takes on Spock. They are well matched. McCoy is against Flavius, and doesn’t know what to do with a short sword.)
ANNOUNCER: Flavius may be getting off to a slow start, but he’s never disappointed this crowd. A close one. The barbarian with the pointed ears seems to be in trouble.
SPOCK: I tell you I’m well able to defeat you.
ACHILLES: Fight, barbarian!
MERIK: Most of my men went the same way. I hoped I would feel it less with yours.
SPOCK: I do not want to injure you.
(The cat-calls and hisses are amplified. Flavius gets a taste of the whip.)
MASTER: Fight, you two. You bring this network’s ratings down, Flavius, and we’ll do a special on you. Continue Reading
Time to refresh my credentials as Chief Geek of TAC!
A condensed version of my favorite Star Trek episode Balance of Terror. Originally broadcast on December 13, 1966, I have always found it riveting. It introduced us to the Romulan Star Empire, an offshoot of the Vulcans. Mark Lenard, one of the most underestimated actors of his generation, gives one of the best performances of the Star Trek franchise as the commander of a Romulan Bird of Prey vessel, equipped with a new cloaking device, making a foray into Federation territory. Destroying Federation outposts along the Neutral Zone, his mission is to test Federation defenses. If his mission is successful it will be the signal for an all-out Romulan invasion of the Federation. Lenard portrays the commander as world-weary and tired. An extremely able commander, he has seen too much of war, and dreads the massive interstellar conflict his political masters will unleash after he successfully completes his mission. A Romulan of honor, he will do his duty even though he hates it. Continue Reading
Apparently it is all the rage at conventions where geeks, my people, gather, to engage in the Khan scream of Captain Kirk from The Wrath of Khan (1982), the best of the Trek movies due to the superb performance of the late Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh. Here is Shatner giving the Khan scream at the Los Vegas Star Trek Con 2010: Continue Reading
I am on vacation this week with my family. My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent. I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example: Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or there is an alarming outbreak of common sense in the government, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.
Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds. If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled. If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are. Last year’s attendance was in excess of 30,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events. A good overview of Gen Con is here. Below is a Gen Con video from 2010 which gives a nice feel of the convention.
My wife and daughter participate in the live action dungeon at Gen Con. Here is a trailer for True Dungeon 2011:
A trailer for the Captain America movie coming out in July. Two superheroes have managed to become symbols of the nation: Superman and Captain America. One of the first of the comic book heroes, Superman first appeared in 1938 and helped establish the whole concept of a superhero. “A strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of a mortal man”, Superman was a hit from his first publication and rapidly achieved fame around the globe, as World War 2 GIs carried Superman comics with them throughout World War II.
Captain America was another favorite comic of American GIs. He first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 dated March 1941, which was actually on sale in December 1940. It told the story of Steve Rogers, a classic 98 pound weakling, but with the heart of a lion. A student of fine arts, he desperately wanted to fight for America in the war he saw coming against Nazi Germany, but was rejected by the Army due to his physical weakness. He was offered an opportunity to serve his country by volunteering to be a human guinea pig in an experiment by Dr. Josef Reinstein. Reinstein injected him with a formula that transformed him into a perfect human specimen: muscular, quick and agile. He was to be the first of many volunteers who would be injected with this “super-soldier” formula, but a Nazi agent who had infiltrated the project shot Reinstein to death, before being subdued by Rogers, and therefore he would be the one and only “super-soldier”. The first issue sold an astounding one million copies, an indication of just how popular Captain America would be with the American public. However, not all of the public. Writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby also received hate mail and death threats from isolationists and Nazi sympathizers in the country. I guess Captain America punching out Hitler on the cover of issue # 1 was a clear indication of where Simon and Kirby stood as to the Third Reich. Continue Reading
From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion. Actually I am a Green Lantern fan from way back. When Abin Sur, Green Lantern of this sector of the galaxy, crash-landed on Earth, he willed his power ring to find a successor to take over his position as Green Lantern. The ring chose test pilot Hal Jordan. Green Lanterns are basically intergalactic cops established by the Guardians of the Galaxy who live on the planet OA. Each Green Lantern has a power ring which has been decribed as the most powerful weapon in the Universe. The rings can do almost anything, limited only by the will of the user. Due to a necessary defect in the rings, and to make the Green Lantern comics much more interesting, the ring cannot affect anything yellow. The rings must be recharged every 24 hours in front of, what else, a Green Lantern which each green lantern possesses. The Green Lantern recites this oath as the ring is being recharged: Continue Reading
The Galactic Empire Times brings us news of a stunning development:
The compound, only about 50 miles from the base of operations for the Imperial Storm Squadron, is at the end of a narrow dirt road and is roughly eight times larger than other homes in the area, which were largely occupied by Tusken Raiders. When Imperial operatives converged on the planet on Saturday, following up on recent intelligence, two local moisture farmers “resisted the assault force” and were killed in the middle of an intense gun battle, a senior Stormtrooper said, but details were still sketchy early Monday morning.
A representative of the Imperial Starfleet said that military and intelligence officials first learned last summer that a “high-value target” was hiding somewhere on the desert world and began working on a plan for going in to get him. Beginning in March, Lord Vader worked closely with a series of several different Admirals serving onboard the Death Star to go over plans for the operation, and on Friday morning gave the final order for members of the 501st Legion (known commonly as “Vader’s Fist”) to strike.
Kenobi and a group of his followers were eventually captured while fleeing the system, and taken aboard the Death Star, which was in the midst of surveying the recent environmental disaster on Alderaan. Darth Vader called it a “targeted operation,” although officials said four tie fighters were lost because of “mechanical failures” and had to be destroyed to keep them from falling into hostile hands.
In addition to Kenobi, two men and one wookiee were killed, one believed to be his young apprentice and the other two his couriers, according to an admiral who briefed reporters under Imperial ground rules forbidding further identification. A woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant, the Admiral said. Two droids were also reported missing.
“No Stormtroopers were seriously harmed,” Lord Vader said. “They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, I defeated my former master and took custody of his body.” Jedi tradition requires burial within 24 hours, but by doing it in deep space, Imperial authorities presumably were trying to avoid creating a shrine for his followers.
A sad day for Dr. Who fans everywhere. Nicholas Courtney, who brilliantly portrayed the Brigadier in over 100 Dr. Who episodes, has died at age 81 of cancer:
Nicholas Courtney (born William Nicholas Stone Courtney on 16th December 1929) played first Colonel and then Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, beginning in “The Web of Fear” and finally in “Battlefield”. He reprised the role for the fan video “Downtime” (later adapted into one of the Virgin Missing Adventures), and for several audio dramas for the BBC and Big Finish Productions.
He was born in Cairo, Egypt, the son of a British diplomat and educated in France, Kenya and Egypt. He served his National Service in the British Army, leaving after 18 months as a private, not wanting to pursue a military career. He next joined the Webber Douglas drama school, and after two years began doing repertory theatre in Northampton, and from there moved to London.
His first appearance in Doctor Who was in the 1965 serial The Daleks’ Master Plan, where he played Space Security Agent Bret Vyon opposite William Hartnell as the Doctor. The director Douglas Camfield liked Courtney’s performance, and when Camfield was assigned the 1968 serial The Web of Fear, he cast Courtney as Captain Knight. However, David Langton, who was to play the character of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, gave up the role to work elsewhere, so Camfield recast Captain Knight and gave the Colonel’s part to Courtney instead.
Lethbridge-Stewart reappeared later that year in The Invasion, promoted to Brigadier and in charge of the British contingent of UNIT, an organization that protected the Earth from alien invasion. It was in that recurring role that he became most famous, appearing semi-regularly from 1970 to 1975. Courtney made return appearances in the series in 1983 and his last Doctor Who television appearance was in 1989 (in the serial Battlefield). Continue Reading
My credentials as Chief Geek of this blog need refreshing. The smartest, and best written, science fiction show currently on the air is The Fringe. The show relates the adventures of a team working for the FBI that explore fringe events involving advanced science, extra-terrestrial aliens and other paranormal events. It is a much better written and funnier X-files. The team consists of two FBI agents, a mad scientist, the mad scientist’s son and a cow. John Noble does a superb job as mad scientist Walter Bishop as indicated in the above video where he engages in an inflora experiment on the friendliest of fruits. Go here for some of the best of Walter clips. Continue Reading