I didn’t read that much this year in terms of volume of books. I found an old book on Davey Crockett I read as a kid and plowed through that, finished a book on early colonization called The Barbarous Years and a few manga here and there which don’t really count. I did get through a big one this year which was really rough going but extremely solid and worth the effort: Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. This is the first novel in the Lymond chronicles.
Normally, I would never even look at this series of books based on the covers, even when when I was in my heavy reading phase of life (so far). But I saw a reference to it when reading about Pax Renaissance that it was a large influence on Ecklund when he was designing the game, so I gave it a shot. I had no idea what I was getting into. Instead of a light Bernard Cornwell historical romp– this is an absolute BEAST and took me all Summer to read.
Note that while the modern cover of the book is extremely bland, the older versions look like cheap medieval romance novels!
Later books in the series double down on the Romance novel cover action.
Is that the Disney castle in the back there?
Despite the fantasy romance covers, this book is nothing of the sort. It is an extremely challenging historical fiction about an exiled lord who returns to Scotland after being wrongfully imprisoned in France, starts up a band of thieves and rogues and starts messing with the coming conflict between England and Scotland over the hand of Mary Queen of Scots (who became the queen of Scotland 6 days after she was born!). This was the author’s first novel, and is nothing short of remarkable. While extremely difficult to follow due to Dunnett’s overly-liberal use of character’s other/landed names*, the plot is both one of conflict between nobles, a war novel (of the Rough Wooing) and a mystery all in one. Sound familiar? If this didn’t influences Game of Thrones, probably one if it’s main influences, call me a one legged cat trying to bury a turd on a frozen pond.
While this is a 600+ page beast and a very slow read in parts, it all comes together in the end with an exciting and intricate finale and builds up the main character, who seems at first like a complete arsehole and a Mary Sue ninja as well, to simply have had secret motivations and a brutal existence to explain both. Highly recommended if you can get through the name issue. Maybe you can find a cheap copy in the used book store with the romance novel cover!
*for example, the main character is called Francis, Lymond of Crawford, the Master, Crawford, Master of Cutler, not to be confused with his brother, Richard, the Baron of Cutler, Lord Crawford, and so on. This happens with ALL of the landed characters and sometimes I couldn’t tell if Dunnett was referring to the father or the son in some scenes. Anyway, you get used to it.
You read that right, 13th Age in Minaria— the campaign setting from TSR that never was, and could have been.
For the non old-person, Minaria is the fantasy world created for the Divine Right board game, which many of us had as kids in the 80’s. While the game was a bit labyrinthian for a 9-12 year-old as a hex and counter, the map board was on the wall of my bedroom for at least 15 years. The map and counter art is by Dave Trampier, and is amazing. The Tower of Zards, Invisible School of Thaumaturgy and all the awesome mercenary units (like Hamhara the dragon) were incredibly fertile ground for the imagination as a young and now older mainge.
The mystery is why this was not turned into a Greyhawk style campaign setting by TSR as all the assets were right there– just needed someone to start writing modules for it! There were multiple articles in Dragon Magazine on Minaria and it’s environs. Anyway, time to redress this issue!
13th Age and Minaria are a great combo as the 13th Age world itself is godless and pretty generic fantasy, especially since it has no gods which I’ve always found very strange. While Runequest has a bit too much to do with the gods for me, the 13th Age world just doesn’t seem grounded. The Icons in 13th Age are really just basic concepts and with Minaria, there are oodles of Icons that are far more interesting and engaging than the stock 13th Age ones. Yet on the plus side, you have the amazing 13th Age system, which is probably my most run RPG in the last 5 years or so. While Minaria is not explicitly high fantasy, it has enough of those elements to fit well with the more gonzo fantasy of 13th Age. Minaria and Divine Right are still products of the Gonzo TSR age.
I’m not GMing this one, which is a great break from almost always GMing and I get to play a rogue, so far my favorite class for the game (among many awesome class selections). The fun part about the rogue is that you can bounce around the combat area almost at will, you rarely get stuck, and you can hammer enemies.
I’ve only been in two sessions with the group so far and we are in some rather familiar house by the sea near Port Lork at the moment… and we’ll see where this goes.
Ah World War 1, there is truly no end to the horrors that one can discover while plumbing it’s gory depths. It’s especially horrifying as no one except for a few Generals from the American Civil war and possibly the Prussians after the Austro and Franco Prussian wars knew or could have even imagined it would be this sort of conflict. The following short film has ghastly English dubbing, but is worth watching (it’s short). It references this horrifying battle.
And just for historical reference, the Russian army DISINTEGRATED near the end of the war, you have to imagine if the soldiers were willing to fight like this, what the scale of that really meant.
I want to do a long post about CK3. This is an amazing game. Here’s the TL:DR.
FIRST: it’s much easier to get into than CK2, which I gave the good colleddged try a few times and failed to figure out what to do and it definitely failed to pique my interest and I just yearned for Stellaris… this one is totally smooth. SMOOTH.
SECOND: this is not a conquest game like Total War, this is a medieval FUCK simulator with war-like…um… consequences. It’s all about relationships, both hierarchical and personal, hereditary and romantic. You don’t have winning goal– you set that for yourself which is extremely different than Total War or Stellaris. As a strategy buff, this seemed odd to me, but it’s great. It’s a sandbox and it’s huge.
THIRD: The things you can do are absolute madness. Eating prisoners, seducing relatives of either gender, creating a naked, satanic religion and then forcing it onto your subjects, running a bene gesserit style breeding program with your children and grand children to create what later amounts to a kwizatch haderach (or transalpine dwarfs….).
So what the hell is this game?
CK3 is a game where you play as a single person, specifically a landowning noble of some kind. When that person dies, if they have kids who can inherit their wealth and status and holdings (not just spawns that can’t inherit anything), you play as one of those children, otherwise it’s game over. You are incentivized to continue your bloodline and make sure you have enough heirs, so that with the high death rates of the early medieval period, you don’t lose the game.
You can start as anyone: a king, a queen, a count or a duke but not Barons or unlanded nobles (ie: no banking families— yet). You can start anywhere in the ‘old’ world (Europe to the western edge of China) as well as amazingly, Africa. You can play as nobles in the Califates, in the late dark age Viking kingdoms or as leaders of the Hausa in Africa. The scope is nuts.
Once you start, you will have a holding, house you belong to, family and a court that you need to manage. This comes with a small or large military, alliances, a current religion with all of the rules and complexity that goes along with these.
And here’s how this fucking madness can play out.
On my first play, I chose Malika of the Hausa, a matrilineal, tribal area in Africa. I got a husband and other mating partners (totally OK in Hausa culture, not at all OK in most others) and started the full auto birthcannon, just firing out kids. The issue was, they started to try to kill each other as there were no laws of primogeniture. Eventually my first character had about 7-8 kids– quite a horde and 2 of them died early. When my first character died, I thought: ‘Ok, I’ve built quite a power-base here and my oldest daughter is going to continue to kick total ass.’ NOPE! The rules of succession split everything among the female heirs equally and my main daughter immediately had to go to war with two of her sisters to reclaim (or claim rather) the lands that were rightfully hers. Meanwhile she racked up the consorts and started firing out kids of her own– but NO girls. So if she got killed, she I would end up playing as one of her sisters that I was now at war with, or at the last minute would have to switch to a patriarchal culture. Fan, fucking, tastic.
Being my first play with no clue as to what I was doing, I quit to start over. After running through the tutorial that starts in Ireland, then I began as Eudes, a little kid count in Western France, beset by enemies all around him with a couple of powerful uncles, one of which is his liege who has bigger problems to worry about.
Other than making sure I was not going to get immediately destroyed by the Vikings nearby, the first thing I had to find was a good woman just like the Hausa lady finding a set of good men to breed children, this is essential, and in Catholic France, you likely get only one shot at this. I have a certain… uh… type of lady that I like so I was like: why not let’s go look at Spain/Portugal and I found a similar age kid that fit the bill and had a positive congenital trait as well– boom! Betrothed which gave me an instant ally across the Pyrenees and some claims on some counties in the Basque region. I married off a sister which gave me another ally nearby. Then…
… I got– distracted. The map is gigantic, just mind-bogglingly large. I started looking at India and environs on a whim and BOOM: there were tits. Granted they were on a lady with dwarfism… Then the deep dive into the mystery of the naked rulers in India began– and then I found one in Eastern Europe. Why? What the hell and how can I get everyone naked?? How? I won’t spoil anything, but this led me to some deep respect around the religious aspect of this game. There are 15 Islamic sects alone and I have no idea how many Christian ones, including the Gnoscists, your leaders can, of course, create their own religions. These each have different mechanics and change the rules of the game, including, you got it: NUDITY.
I played as Eudes until he passed away happily having quite a few children and a few un-legitimized bastards and then the madness and obsession really began. When you start with one of the ‘try this first’ factions you feel a bit like you are on rails (you are not) but when that guy or gal dies, you know everything can and will change drastically, a lot like some of the better Total War games. Eventually, France collapsed under the constant conflict between rival counts and dukes, meanwhile raided from Vikings in the north and pressure from the south from the Islamic empire that had rolled across Spain. Eventually ALL of southern France was part of a massive Islamic empire who had also encroached into Italy. The only thing for it was for the Pope to call a Crusade and madness began again.
While the urge is to get the biggest Kingdom/Dukedom or solid heirs, sometimes, you just need do things out of spite. A few generations down I had an absolute rake seducer as a duke as well as some unruly vassals and they went and rebelled. The rebellion was crushed and I captured a couple of the rulers, most of which I tortured and then let go. But one of them had a comely lass for a spouse and no children yet! I left him to rot in jail, seduced his wife who must have been oh so lonely (she hated him anyway) and as soon as she was impregnated, I turned him loose from jail to cope with the fact that his primary heir was not his own child. This did nothing to advance the cause of my realm, but real good fun.
Another event was that I needed a good spymaster. I found some Teutonic broad in the low countries with a shockingly high intrigue stat, seduced her to my court, then my rakish duke had some kids with her. Over the years, I noticed one of her daughters had some amazing congenital traits and seduced her too (this was her daughter from a previous husband/lover) and when the Duchess died, married the duke to the daughter. Eventually, since her mom was the spymaster, she exposed the secret to her daughter that the duke had also humped her mom and there was an incident… luckily my duke had a high likability, otherwise you start to see murder after murder of your dynasty members from inside your own court.
Eventually my dynasty was stripped of all other Duke level titles and was stuck with just a Duchy of Provence (between Italy and France) and even though I had kidnapped my liege multiple times to get concessions, due to disease, murder and accidents at war, I was down to a barren duchess with zero male heirs in her line of succession and it was game over.
Again, this game has no ‘winning’ goal: you make your own goals and it’s just brilliant. You can play as a warlike Richard the Lionhearted, a foppish lout who whores and drinks, or a Bathory style torturer and murderer and anywhere in between. Then, next generation, you get to decide how to play again.
Lastly, I love how small, seemingly insignificant decisions later become massive problems or boons. Marrying off an ugly, scaly daughter to some bastard child of one of your vassals ends up accidentally with you controlling the province as the father murdered his bastard and a month later his son and heir, one of your knights, is killed fighting in a crusade.
They really knocked one out of the park and this will be played all Winter…I can’t wait for expansions: especially if there are BANKING expansions where you can play as the FUGGERS, etc. and not worry about all the owning land stuff.
My biggest regret out of this election is not seeing the two populist candidates go at each other. Biden is weak and a waffle on all issues (abortion, crime, gay marriage) and Trump is… getting mad at tweets to drive policy. The debates were high comedy, but nothing serious: just two rich corrupt men tearing into each other about mostly non-issues (including Covid, which is both a global health issue and high political theater). This should have been Bernie Vs Trump. I was almost written in the stars that it should have been so, and yet, we were denied.
So yeah, I blame the DNC for not putting up the populist candidate again this time in the same way I was shocked that the Republican populist, bully pulpit candidate destroyed his field last time.
Let’s see how the day goes. In recompense for a political post on a gaming blog, here are some hotties.
Hopefully the last one (sorry, this shit pisses me off). I was pretty pissed off when they closed schools, and even more pissed off when they extended the closure to the full Spring semester. We got lucky where we live that we have experts from both the local children’s hospital and parents that recognize the critical need to get kids in school and we opened full 5 days. While one of the local schools is closed due to an outbreak for 2 weeks, everything else is full steam ahead in our area, and it’s working fine. Many, many children aren’t so lucky and their school districts have given in to fear.
I urge you to understand this epidemic outside the media and their experts and especially as a multivariate problem. Independent scientists have been the only ones actually applying the scientific method, and in many cases, very basic math. Most of them are retired so they are not beholden to anyone’s budget nor any tenured position. Settled science is not science at all. We start with the original problem: being primed to panic due to ridiculous modelling by the Imperial College and the University of Washington and somehow, this bullshit stuck and stuck hard.
“Neither Vallance nor Whitty outrightly challenged Ferguson’s model or predictions. By contrast, in a series of messages from Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor who would correctly predict the pandemic’s initial trajectory, Ferguson was warned that he had overestimated the potential death toll by ‘ten to 12 times’….“
When the prediction was made, the UK went from the Swedish approach to hard, fear-driven lockdown and the US followed suit in most states due to Fauci’s using the model to stoke the Trumpster fire. Fear was rampant, on twitter, on facebook on reddit. I was banned from the WI reddit for posting that the University of Austin projections for deaths in WI were only 600 by May, while other cranks estimated with their napkin math deaths in Wisconsin into the hundreds of thousands. Days later the dire UK-Imperial College projections went down from 2 million to 500 thousand in the USA (still a big number). Then Fauci was pressed on the news and gave 65K as his estimate in April. And yet, Fear became law.
We have seen revealed some critical problems with ourselves, our government and our media via this pandemic. There are no clean hands, everyone is in the same plague pit on this, the Left should have never accepted lockdowns and all the upper middle class are pretty much all hidden in their houses because this financially doesn’t effect them (only to go out and protest systemic racism) instead of protesting the lockdowns and school closures that have crushed the lower middle class and poor. Republicans denied it was a thing at all, which was stupid, yet they ended up much closer to right that it is not severe for younger people statistically. Lucky for us because early mistakes were made by our federal government’s response (Fauci is square in the sights on this again). When someone said it’s the flu, they were wrong, but not nearly as wrong as the Left which constantly compares this to the 1918 Flu, which it is nowhere near. And yet, this is a pandemic, it isn’t fake and it isn’t a full casedemic (though it’s becoming moreso every week this goes on). The shit is real and it’s nasty but, it’s nowhere, nowhere, nowhere near as serious as we were led to believe and at no time was there any justifications for the horizontal lockdowns or school closures after March.
C-19 is a largely nosocomial (there is no vaccine that nurses/doctors can take to minimize hospital spread) and nursing home (50%+ of casualties were from the nursing home population so far) disease that primarily effects people over 65, which is not smear spread, but may spread via aerosols (like farts and shit air from toilets with no lid) and certainly from droplets. It spreads very easily but is barely noticed in the general population until hospitalizations and deaths spike (primarily among the elderly) and by that time the peak of the epidemic is likely already past. Lockdowns only work to slow the spread, but the outbreaks will come as soon as the lockdowns end. If there was a quick vaccine that prevented spread, this might be a viable tactic, but it won’t be quick and the vaccines in process only target reducing symptoms and not spread.
This hits your ACE2 receptors in your nose, forms a coagulate mass and then drops into your lungs where it creates a gel out of stuff leaking out of your infected cells. For most people, they don’t even notice or it’s just a crappy cold and extremely mild compared to the flu. For some, especially the elderly and infirm, it can causes horrible problems and the disease gets into other organs and causes issues. This was thought to be a cytokine storm (where your immune system goes crazy) but it’s now thought to be a bradykinin storm. There’s a lot being learned about treatment for the disease even as it disappears from European countries that didn’t lock down and, strangely, almost all of Asia. I’m stating this here because it’s important that I note that this is not the flu, it is much milder in the young and much worse for the elderly. It’s not some made up thing because the rest of this may read like I believe this is nothing or completely fake. It is not fake, people that would not have died of something else have died of C-19 and healthy people I know got very sick for a couple of weeks, a few for longer, yet as a society: our over-reaction to it is the actual problem.
The second issue after completely failed modelling, is internet and social media fueled panic. We started hearing about this and seeing videos in December and it was pretty scary, but so was SARs and MERS and Ebola and Swine flu (which was a fake pandemic). Data was already coming in that this 1) primarily effected the elderly and 2) spread like crazy 3) was novel (it’s not as novel as we thought). A torrent of social media posts, and people who’s entire existence is social media were crying out for attention with the most apocalyptic and dire nonsense, and they got plenty of what they wanted. I remember confronting someone with data that completely refuted their claims that there was exponential growth (this never had sustained exponential growth, and if you think that, you can’t math) and would kill millions in the USA. Their response: the scientist that authored the report was a conservative. This is basically social contagion. The Word Virus. Due to this and probably some crafty information creation out of China, we were primed for panic, and we did. We basically let our governments run a playbook of shutdowns and school closures en masse that was straight from an authoritarian regime that everyone should hate. Blue states were completely closed and shuttered and their children are still not back in school. This is absolutely horrifying and again, something no one on the Left should ever have accepted. School closures for a few weeks is absolutely understandable, Japan does it for the flu here and there, but for 6 months? This is a social experiment in fear that went horrifically wrong.
‘Flattening the curve’ turned out to be complete horseshit: first, because except in some extremely specific places and times, the curve never needed flattening, there were always enough hospital beds, and no one that needed a vent couldn’t get one, and secondly, some cities are still under total lockdown after 30+ weeks. Let that sink in: 30+ weeks, few overflowing ICUs. This is in order to go to complete suppression or ‘zero covid’ which is about as flat earther as you can get. Goalpost shifting basically forever, and for what purpose? If lockdowns work to suppress, as soon as you open up again, boom: virus gonna virus. What have we allowed to happen?
Take what you think the deaths are going to be if you can do basic math, add a zero, and that’s what most people have been led to believe it will be. To put it simply, you had a fuckload of real life and internet Karens who put enormous pressure on local governments to do ANYTHING to allay their fear, however ridiculous. Almost all governments panicked, some regained composure quickly, others did not and have not.
The second huge issue we face as a culture is information suppression due to tech companies that now control information. HCL treatment with Zinc, The California Doctors video to their LOCAL news agency, Prof. Wittkowski, Prof. Ioannidis (?!) and now the President’s advisor on Covid have been and are currently brutally suppressed by technology companies, including Google, Twitter, Squarespace and Facebook. They allow flat earthers and innumerate idiots that predicted 10 million deaths in the USA to keep posting their trash, yet these Doctors and professors who predicted a much less lethal course for this disease, or suggested a treatment that has now shown to have good effect for some patients (however odd one of them turned out to be), have been censored. Now that the evidence is in it would be almost comical that the tech companies picked the wrong horse, because they are imbeciles right? Nope, this was done deliberately. Why? The answer is simple. You sitting in your fucking house on your ass with nothing to do makes money for the above mentioned companies, TONS of money. The longer the lockdowns, fear and panic last, the more money they make.
For the tech companies, this is not about protecting the public, especially since shortly after the Ioannidis study came out the CDC itself showed very similar data in their planning documents on May 15th, and the WHO have now published one of Ioannidis’s papers themselves. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Squarespace are led by evil people and are terrible companies that are out for one thing and one alone: your data and your money. They don’t care about your politics and will happily allow posts of funny videos of antifa people embarrassing themselves (no wonder they don’t want to be filmed anymore), fake scientists like Eric Dingledong along with detailed reasons why rampant capitalism is going to be the bane of human existence and lead to and environmental catastrophe. Like the news media, they need your eyes glued to their product and your ass glued to your chair. That’s why they leave flat earther videos and remove anything on Covid that doesn’t cry out: stay home, stay home, stay home. And look at you, you are staying home. Guess what, Ioannidis predicted the Infection Fatality Rate to be 0.26, another paper came out last week and what was their IFR? 0.26 or less. You’re still at home because scientists like him were banned. You think you should stay home for a disease with an overall IFR of 0.26 where 80% of the deaths are over 75? Google thinks you absolutely MUST, not for your benefit, but for theirs.
“Accept the truth from whatever source it comes.” –Maimonides
But who they didn’t delete, except for one interview with Toby from Lockdown Skeptics, which is shocking to me in retrospect, was probably the most brutal critic of the lockdowns, fear and media panic because he did it with just college level math, not some bullshit Nate Silver ‘model’: Nobel Prize winner Michael Levitt. I did some digging and one of the principles at Google was one of his students at Stanford along with his son. Otherwise, I believe he would have been absolutely repressed for his views by google, twitter and youtube. Levitt predicted China’s case and death toll almost exactly in March, as well as Sweden. He made some statements about Israel that turned out to be a bit off and easily taken out of context to pillory him. He basically stated that most of the major outbreaks (not the entire pandemic) follow the Gompertz Curve rather than a Sigmoid curve and there was never exponential growth at any time (a big bunch of bullshit the media kept playing up). When you have a trickle outbreak (like where I live) it doesn’t really work as we don’t have the population density to even have a curve at all, but places like Sweden, New York, UK, France, Italy, Spain all have very distinct Gompertz curves. He destroys everyone in this short clip.
Unfortunately, while he had an incredibly important paper on China in March, it did not get out and about soon enough to allay the panic except for very few people. He made statements that he felt the Pandemic would be over on August 25th in the United States, which is now looking very close as people are examining quite the case and death rates data as much of it right now is extremely sketchy. When the CDC announced that only 6% of the casualties were directly FROM C-19, all death coding became even more suspect. PCR tests are another huge issue, as the PCR test is a diagnostic test that is now being used as a screening test(!?).
The more traditional news sources are awful as well, and their motivations are the same as the technology companies: create panic and people buy our newspapers or view our web pages. This everyone knows instinctively, but it’s been at a fever pitch during this pandemic. MSNBC has gone back and deleted articles where it predicted mass deaths– you can’t find them anymore unless they have been mirrored by other new sources. CNN and Fox are mirrors of the orange man bad, orange man good. Neither should be watched or listened to at any time, though I was shocked as the panic narrative on Fox ceased abruptly and they, the right wing conservatives, were the first to question the lockdowns– not the left anti-authority mavens, but the Right. What, the, Fuck. Trust in the scientific community, the CDC and Virology as a whole has been completely lost, and deservedly so. Yet now even opinion journalism CNN has started to turn against the liars and imbeciles.
Bhattacharya: “Very, very disappointed with the scientific community… also the press as well. There have been open calls by fellow folks here at Stanford to establish, in effect, a censorship board over open science, published in the New York Times. I’ve seen my colleague, Dr. John Ioannidis, one of the very top scientists, epidemiologists, infectious disease experts in the world, his videos that he’s done, suppressed…
I’ve seen… respected scientists descend to attack in the ugliest ways. I’ve been trying to understand what is motivating it, and almost always, the complaint is that if you have dissent on this issue, you’re endangering the public…
I don’t understand how having open scientific debate could possibly endanger the public. Science is not a mechanism of population control; it’s a mechanism for learning true things when you have a very complicated situation, and everyone in science gets things wrong…
That’s why we have open scientific debate, to correct one another. That has fallen away in service of this idea that as a scientific community, we should convey a single message, so we get the entire public to do the set of things we want them to do…
That itself is an error and has really poisoned the scientific debate… I think it’s going to take a long time to repair.”
What’s the biggest tragedy through all of this is the collapse into fearmongering and tribalism of the New York Times. In both their editorial section and articles, they have been the worst journalists and flat out look like they are funded by Big Pharma (buy our vaccines) and big tech (stay at home and use our product) at this point. Their panic laden editorials, biased covid coverage of the non-lockdown countries (Sweden, who have an extremely nuanced approach–not simply “no lockdown” as people claim), their support of total virus suppression, their lack of questioning lockdowns beyond 2-3 weeks and their lack of investigative reporting into hospitals, nor Cuomo’s horrifying, yet understandable at the time, mistakes with nursing homes in the state with the largest city in the country. They should be ashamed of themselves. As a primarily left wing person politically, it’s tough for me to say this but while Fox and CNN don’t pretend or hide their extreme political bias, the NYT puts itself forward as actual journalism. They are, like CNN and Fox, opinion journalism masquerading as something else. The New York Times is no longer of any value to our country nor the city that they have helped eviscerate.
This is probably the best video I’ve seen on the situation, worth watching all the way through.
So who was right? Belarus, Sweden, (Brazil), Japan.
“Nothing would be more fatal than for the Government of States to get into the hands of experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man, who knows where it hurts, is a safer guide than any rigorous direction of a specialist.”
My advice out of this is to look at the data itself from the primary sources, some of which may be dubious, but I really think people are trying their best. I use the CDC site linked above and COVIBES— a site out of Hong Kong that is outside our sphere of political biases. If you are feeling scared about local increases in C-19 mortality, read your coroner reports. While morbid, it gives a very solid indication of who is vulnerable to this disease.
From Prof Levitt:
1) Ignore cases, use number of hospitalizations, deaths.
2) Beware of reported death: many ‘with’ not ‘due to’ COVID19.
3) All-cause deaths bias-free but ambiguous & badly delayed.
4) MSM is rarely right. WHO often right but timing off.
5) COVID19 is a contrast agent revealing what is wrong with society but was invisible.
6) Make errors: exploring the unknown cannot be correct. Learn from errors.
7) Use common sense. Think.
(8) Stop being scared. World reported COVID19 at 1,050,000 is 7 days of natural death. [Just be cautious]
Vote against any candidate using COVID as part of their platform. This will likely force you to vote third party. Do so.
Support getting rid of the WHO and get another Pandemic office that is properly staffed in the United States. Remember the WHO said there was no evidence of human to human transmission, and then went from not recommending masks except if you were sick, to 100% recommendation, to recommending lockdown, and now against lockdown. That there was very little asymptomatic spread, to it being a vector of the epidemic. They are not to be trusted and seem to have left the H out of the WO.
Masks. Wait for the worm to turn on this one pretty fast. Follow the WHO guidelines from April. Remember, masks are attached to people who struggle with them constantly. Regardless of the material, there’s still a person (or FFS, a child) under there most of the time not wearing or using it properly. Based on some anecdotal with people I know that wore masks all the time and still got sick, I personally think it’s all bullshit, but I’m willing to read studies that say otherwise– still can’t find them.
I watched some movies during our quarantine, which luckily didn’t last very long, and after as there was a week or so when I had to the house all to myself and could watch…. bad things. And so, I did.
I do not watch a lot of movies, and have very little interest in drama films because why not just go watch My Dinner with Andre again instead? My taste for films is definitely on the trash side and I think if you don’t enjoy trash films, you are rarely going to find anything worth watching. All of the films on this list are trash except the last one. There’s a vast amount of films that lie between amazing art films and trash that is not worth bothering with. Mission Impossible with Cruise are trash, and they are awesome films. Dredd, trash, totally awesome. John Wick, trash and amazing. I encourage filmmakers to make trash films above all else. In these films, humanity will find their redemption.
Let’s start out with a favorite out of the lot: TROMA’s WAR.
Within minutes I was absolutely hooked on this film. Shitty effects, tits right away, dead bodies, snappy dialog, cliche 80’s characters and then the killing begins and it is amazing. This must have been incredibly fun for Kaufman and crew to make, and they invite you INTO the fun with them. Absolutely highest recommendation and if you watch one movie off this list, this is the one.
Return of the Living Dead
To be perfectly honest, I wanted to watch this again to see the naked dancing part, which effected nearly all teenage boys in a positive way in the 80’s. The outfits and manner of speech seem odd these days, but when I saw it in the theater as a kid, they did not– at all. We can talk at length about Lena Quigly’s naked body and about how she is never fully dressed after that scene, but the rest of the film deserves just as much attention. When I first saw this, I think it was on HBO, I was a little depressed at just how nihilistic it was, but that grows on you, especially through the horror films of the 90’s that all seem to have some sort of happy ending. Just an absolute classic that should be watched every Halloween at least. Red Letter Media did a long retrospective on the movie and I don’t want to repeat them here. Despite it’s humor and that it is a basic zombie horror film, at the end of this you will feel great melancholy.
KUSO KUSO is a film by Flying Lotus. He set out to make a film by a black writer and director that wasn’t about black folks rising up out of the ghetto in yet another cliche movie on that subject. He wanted to show that a black director could something different and holy shit he did. This is Naked Lunch 2, without anything held back. While this is harsh and quite grotesque, I really enjoyed this movie and I think you should give it a chance, it’s beautifully shot, the acting/casting is excellent, and all the individual parts are carefully directed. The only description of it I can give to try to make sense of it is that after an earthquake in L.A, rifts to different dimensions open up as well as cracks in the earth– letting loose cross-dimensional beings that seem just as lost, benevolent and malevolent as we are. I don’t want to say much more because it’s quite an experience (much like Naked Lunch). Lexington Steele should do more uhh…normal films. His speech cracked me up and he had the best line in the film. This is trash that becomes high art (ala Gummo). “Hello Dispatch.” At the end of this you will feel great melancholy.
LAST AND FIRST MEN This is a film by Jóhann Jóhannsson, the guy who did the music for Mandy (which you should see as well), Let the Right One In, Sicario and the Arrival. If you like sci fi and Brutalist architecture, this is certainly a film for you. It has only narration by Tilda Swinton and no other actors or characters. Certainly a unique visual experience, interesting story and the music is fantastic. Everything Johannsson did was fantastic and his early death more tragic for it. Don’t do cocaine is a lesson here. The film is based on a book from 1930 by the same name, which now I have to go and read. At the end of this you will feel great melancholy.
More by Johann Johannsson if you’re not convinced yet:
Both because Sweden won Covid and I’m bored with Stellaris at this point (great game, just played out after 100 or so hours) and have gotten back into my true love: Attila Total War. Why do I love it? It’s a FUCK FEST. If you play on HARD (which you should), any faction start difficulty level listed as ‘normal’ or above is going to be a knife fight in a phone booth. I wanted to play one of the Nordic factions, either the Geats or the Danes. While the Geats start in what was Southern Sweden, I went for the Danes which have one of the best special abilities in the game, just beg to be played. They are considered to have a ‘hard’ starting position and it really, really is. I think they have the hardest start of any faction in the game.
The Danes have absolute trash starting units (these are many hundreds of years away from when they were viking), no way to create more cavalry in the beginning of the game and a pretty mediocre fleet. They also do not start with a walled city, but a mere village right around where Copenhagen is at. It appears at first that they are more protected than the Saxons, who are surrounded by enemies, but what I’ve found is that the AI factions seem much more afraid of the Saxons (which they should be) than the Danes, and attack constantly. I was in 3-5 wars constantly. The piling on the AI did when I was already beat down by another faction was amazing to see.
Later game, the Danes do not have great units either. They have good close combat infantry, but SHIT cavalry. Except for the special power of no sea attrition, Danes are like a shit version of the Saxons due to the lack of medium shock cavalry (Saxon Lancers) in a game that is all about cavalry.
The one thing they have going for them is that Danes do not give a fuck about being on the ocean for any amount of time. That means they don’t have deep sea attrition nor do they get sea sickness in battles when they attack from the sea. This means, pound for pound, you can destroy any army from any faction on the ocean and you can subsist with a massive army anywhere on the seas. For example, if food is short and your armies are taking massive attrition, just put them on some boats! This allows travel to strange places on the map no other faction from Northern Europe could get to and raid, pillage and subjugate. Think that many of the satrapies of the Sassinids are weak and soft and weakened by the Huns? They are– go sail there and kill them!
In many Total War games, you sort of sit back a bit, maybe make an opening aggressive move and then pounce on your neighbors who sort of sit there waiting for you to attack. Not so in Attila. There is massive pressure on all the AI factions to destroy nearly everyone nearby because of the threat of the hordes (Vandals, Ostragoths, etc.) even before the Huns even arrive in force. You have to be very careful. If you leave your capital undefended or take the L in a large battle that leaves your army decimated, others nearby will immediately attack. In this way, Attila is closer to Shogun 2 than the other Total War games. You make a mistake in Shogun, you get hammered.
I had like 4-5 starts with the Danes, sometimes attacking the Geats, who have a major city, sometimes attacking the Jutes (who are mostly friendly and get steamrolled by the Angles or Saxons) and sometimes taking out the northern German/Polish factions (Varnians and Rugians). ALL lead to destruction by one of the bigger factions nearby so that I needed to horde up (factions that lose their last city can horde up) or was just eliminated from the game outright.
This last game where I actually survived FTW. I immediately attacked the Varnians to the south, subjugated them (a mistake) and the Geats instantly attacked my capital and didn’t just take it over or loot it, they RAZED it to the ground, putting my remaining fleet and army into Horde mode on turn 3 or so. The Burgundians instantly took over my new subject (the Varnians) so I was left floating in the Baltic with a pretty big army and medium navy but nothing else and no territory. Instead of quitting I said “Freya’s bryst!” I’m going to see if I can make this work. I sailed all the way over to northern Scotland where a completely empty Pict city sat (right around modern Lairg) ripe for the taking. I snagged it quick and lo and behold I could recruit actual units that weren’t total shit! I made friendly with the Caledonians to the south as there are larger fish to fry in England, Ireland and Wales before squabbling over parts of Scotland.
This is where it got odd but fun. There’s a lot of water between myself and the Geats and Rugians at this point and one figures they would be too busy fighting themselves to come at me. Yet, a few turns later two stacks of Geats and their navy show up and land in my new Pict-provided province in Scotland! By this time, I have a city and a couple army stacks so they don’t attack– they raid around and I am able to catch their armies apart from each other and destroy them. Just as I am done sweating the Geats, the Rugians show up with the same thing! I rushed my fleet back which had been scouting the situation in Southern England as Rome collapses: seeing that both the Franks and Saxons had destroyed the remaining Romans on English soil already. I barely got my armies back together enough to make the Rugians siege but not attack. They sat outside and froze for a couple seasons and then set to raiding like the Geats did. I baited them with a small army and got their armies separated and then separated their heads from their bodies in the same fashion.
Meanwhile, I sent my fleet over to check out what was going on in the Nordic countries and someone had been very naughty. After the Geats razed my province and came to attack me in faraway Scotland, someone had attacked them and razed their province! Razing cities is a very rare thing to do for any AI faction other than the Huns, so someone must have been very angry at the Geats, which were now a very weakened horde that I would deal with in time.
So there I sat, with the Geats gone, the Rugians defeated, for now and of course, the next turn the Ebdanians (Irish) declare war. I have dealt with these guys before as the Saxons and they are nasty, but can’t hold up well to heavy infantry or massed cavalry, relying instead on hiding and TONS of archer units.
I tried to sneak around the West side of England with a large force, only to have the Ebdanians show up marching through the Caledonian lands to the south right towards my city. While they didn’t siege the city, they destroyed some buildings and then I had to chase them down through the Scottish highlands for a few turns before slaughtering them. Now, I was mad. I took everything I had and headed across the sea between Scotland and Ireland, caught the Ebdanians king and trapped him in a city which I seized and occupied, on the same turn crossing back to Wales and driving the Ebdanians out of there as well.
The Ebdanians had been busy and had exhausted their armies taking out the Saxons and Franks in southern England with both London and let’s call it Canterberry all controlled by the proto-Irish. It usually takes a huge fight to get London as England is a mosh pit of Romans, Saxons, Franks, Jutes and Angles until someone settles it down by sword point, but I was able to sneak in and capture it against the weakened, Kingless Ebdanians. At this point I have taken Ireland, most of Southern England, Wales and the northernmost tip of Scotland. Unless the Franks or Saxons come calling, I should be able to mop up or ally with anyone that’s left, which, after having been routed out of Denmark by the northern German tribes and backstabbed by the GEATS, is quite a come back, which is what this whole game is about. From this point it’s just about keeping everyone else away and building up a super strong economy in England while the continent burns due to the Huns and the hordes. Once things settle down a bit, as long as you can cripple or destroy any invasion fleets that come near, you can invade pretty much anywhere on the continent and walk over everyone. The rest of the campaign, while moderately exciting from time to time– isn’t worth detailing as it’s just wait, build up the economy… and crush.
Next up for me is the Himyar. They have the crazy Age of Sigmar masks!
Maaaaattt and I tried to go to the movie theater Friday and it was great: we were just spaced out and had to wear masks when going into the theater itself. If we skip the masks, it would be a fucking AWESOME experience as it is a completely non-crowded theater by design. I recommend going to see movies now before things get back to normal as you will not have crowds.
However, our attempt to see New Mutants failed as Mother Nature had other plans. A GIANT supercell went over the top of the movie theater before floating angrily out over the lake and knocked the power out all over the area, including the theater.
And, of course, it was right when the movie was starting to get interesting.
As far as I can tell seeing only about half the fim, New Mutants is a horror movie with super heroes, which due to my love of BPRD (Hellboy), Call of Cthulhu and CMON’s The Others, is right up my alley.
This is not an advertisement, but it’s going to read like one. I will readily admit, I totally fell for the Dr. Squatch video ad years back fronted by comedian James Schrader as it was hilarious and subsequently started up a small soap subscription. I want to say a couple things because I think it’s an EXPENSIVE but excellent product.
First, I don’t think about soap, well not until now. I grew up with Irish Spring, Ivory and Yardley’s of London soap as a kid as an adult I would just get those bottles of ‘soap’ from a pump and never thought about it.
Of course, special soaps were for womenfolks! When you see the little soap places at the mall or at county fairs or farmers markets, it’s ALWAYS marketed to the women. Therefore, I never thought about this type of soap as a guy except as gifts for gals and me mum –and it all smells super girly anyway. The Squatch stuff is marketed specifically, and humorously, towards men. Never having thought about it before, I figured, what the heck. This turned out to be a good marketing ploy to fall for, the shit is GOOD and I did give a few bars to my mom even though they are MANLY SOAPS.
The Dr. Squatch stuff showed up and smelled great. I used it for a week or so and while still thinking about soap, called it already as the best bar soap I’ve ever used. Skin doesn’t feel all dry (I never noticed before that it was, but it was) after or later in the day. It has great lather, and a good variety of (manesque) smells. All of the bars were great, but the Pine Tar made everything in the shower black for a bit, so I wasn’t the biggest fan of that one. Some of the bars last longer than others, but generally they last awhile. It sorta depends who else is using your shower. My kids get in there and I think they lather up with the shit for a LONG period of time because that’s what this soap wants you to do: lather the shit out of yourself, which, thinking about soap for probably the first time in my existence, is likely the mark of good soap.
That said, it’s 6$ PER BAR. This is expensive. Realistically I’d like to be paying about 3$ per bar of soap, but I really cannot fault the quality of this stuff. Try it– and you probably don’t ever need to think about soap again.
Lastly, this is a gaming blog so for me to take the effort, as fucking lazy as I am, to post about soap, I have to say I REALLY like the soap and when I use of my favorite scents down to a nub and it falls to the floor of the shower, sometimes, I feel sad. Otherwise, I pretty much will never think about soap again other than which scent to grab next.