20 May 2006

A Vision of the Future

I was browsing at Borders last night (as usual... Friday nights, I'm such a creature of habit) when I stumbled upon this visually striking cover. It is, of course, an imaginery vision of a city of India in the future.

The book description of Ian McDonald's 'River of Gods':

"As Mother India approaches her centenary, nine people are going about their business—a gangster, a cop, his wife, a politician, a stand-up comic, a set designer, a journalist, a scientist, and a dropout. And so is Aj—the waif, the mind reader, the prophet—when she one day finds a man who wants to stay hidden.
In the next few weeks, they will all be swept together to decide the fate of the nation.
River of Gods teems with the life of a country choked with peoples and cultures—one and a half billion people, twelve semi-independent nations, nine million gods. Ian McDonald has written the great Indian novel of the new millennium, in which a war is fought, a love betrayed, a message from a different world decoded, as the great river Ganges flows on."


How is the book? I don't know. I didn't browse. I didn't buy it either.
The Wars of German Unification

I was browsing through 'The Wars of German Unification' by Dennis Showalter at Borders last night. It is a detailed account of the unification wars including the bid to unite the states of the North German Confederation and the eventual wars against Denmark, Austria and France.

I was looking for details of the military campaign of the Schleswig-Holstein conflict of 1864 against Denmark. This book describes the political machinations of Bismarck and the different policies adopted. It clearly wasn't what I was seeking.

I read a post on the Consimworld forum describing a book that has the order of battle, campaign details and more. 'Bismarck's First War: The Campaign of Schleswig and Jutland 1864 by Michael Embree. This book is published by Helion & Company. This book would, of course, be more promising.
Wargames: After Action Reports

Here are a series of after action reports for our wargames. I wrote some of them while Tim wrote the others. I wrote only for the game sessions which I was present and I was a participant.

08.10.2005 - Thirty Years War Quad - Nordlingen

22.10.2005 - Thirty Years War Quad - Rocroi

29.10.2005- Thirty Years War Quad - Nordlingen

05.11.2005- 'Sword of Rome'

01.04.2006- 'Friedrich'

01.04.2006- 'Friedrich' (Tim's report)

13.05.2006- 'Here I stand' (Tim's report)


"And in the fury of this darkest hour we will be your light
You've asked me for my sacrifice and I am Winter born
Without denying, a faith is come that I have never known
I hear the angels call my name and I am Winter born"
'Winterborn' The Cruxshadows

19 May 2006

Floodlands: A View of the Danube

Here are some images from someone* I know on DuneMUD. She said that the Danube had flooded many villages in Romania. Breathtaking images. I can't imagine the power of the Danube.





Flood? What flood? I think these images demonstrated her superpowers. She's a vampire. She flies at night! And she's powerful! Don't mess with her!

*Alma the Evil Fremen Vampire. Okay okay, she's Virginia, the teenaged adolescent boy masquerading as a girl like all girls on the internet.

The Da Vinci Code

I watched the movie last night at Lido. I would say that it is relatively faithful to the book and fans of the book would likely enjoy the movie.

I can't say that I'm impressed. It's fairly watchable. However, it is two and a half hours long. Two and a half hours is quite a bit for something this trashy.

At the end of it, my verdict? Highly forgettable. (Both book and movie)

I had read the book some time ago when I was in camp for my reservist training. I was bored and someone had the book. So, I borrowed it and finished it swiftly. The prose was pedestrian and the plot convoluted, not unlike a Robert Ludlum novel. The conspiracy theories in it are fairly standard fare. And like my friend would describe it, 'it is a conspiracy theory novel for people who don't read books'. I think his description is fairly apt.

As for the religious angle, it is obviously lifted from that other book, 'Holy Blood and Holy Grail', nothing new really. I think it is not unlike the many crackpot theories of Jesus Christ out there, for instance, one that Jesus was an alien. Nothing interesting really. It's like something out of News of the World or National Enquirer. I am surprised that people would get bothered by this.

Oh well.

People will always seek out a cause. Any book, any movie, whatever. And they will rage.

Life's too short. Like Big Brian was saying, you can only read so much before you die. Likewise for movies, you can only watch so much. Frankly, I think one can spend or waste one's time on more enjoyable or fruitful pursuits.
Unfinished

I put up this unfinished piece to give everyone an idea of how I would construct a piece. Sometimes, I start with an idea, sometimes, I don't. When I don't, the idea will be developed as I put ink on paper. For instance, this piece is started without an image in mind.

Like all decent compositions, there should be a central focus, a foreground and a background though there need not be. There can be an indirect means of focus. For a panoramic scene, the entire span can be the focus.

This piece has the path as a central focus. Then, I work backwards by drawing a tree in the background to give an illusion of depth. On the right side, I added steps and a path. This creates a foreground.

The path in the foreground then leads to a small waterfall and a pond. I place objects as I go along.

To begin, one can start by focusing on a single object. The path. This is followed by two trees that frames the path by being there.

It helps if one has a spatial sense. In other words, one places objects three-dimensionally in one's mind. So, I place one object after another, further creating depth.

Details can be added as needed.
Taliban TV

Source: http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?8@251.PRtHbTe42GP.3@.ee6eadf

18 May 2006

A Change in my Creative Muvo Player

A box of CDs just arrived from Amazon, CDs from Negative Format and God Module. Time to change some stuff in my Creative Muvo Player. Here is what is in it now:

Clan of Xymox - Weak in my Knees MCD
Covenant - Ritual Noise MCD
Covenant - Skyshaper
God Module - Artificial CD1
God Module - Artificial CD2
God Module - Perception
God Module - Victims among Friends
God Module - Viscera
In Strict Confidence - Where the Sun and Moon unite
In Strict Confidence - Seven Lives
Negative Format - Moving past the Boundaries
Negative Format - Static
Negative Format - Cipher Method
Xymox - Twist of Shadows
Hearts of Iron II: Doomsday

The latest in the series based on the Europa Universalis game system. Hearts of Iron II: Doomsday is a game based on a hypothetical scenario of a war between the Western Allies of World War II and the Soviet Union after the defeat of the Axis powers.

This, of course, is a real-time strategic level treatment of the subject.

Intriguing.

17 May 2006

London

I'm planning a trip to London in July. My planned destinations include the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Tate, Victoria and Albert and a few more places.
Kitten on my lap

She has grown considerably since a few weeks. This was taken a few weeks ago.

16 May 2006

'I'm with Stupid' Pet Shop Boys, 'Fundamental/Fundamentalism' Pet Shop Boys


'I'm with Stupid'

1. I'm With Stupid
2. Resurrectionist (Goetz B. Extended Mix)
3. Girls Don't Cry



The new Pet Shop Boys single 'I'm with Stupid', heralding the release of the new album 'Fundamental', is out in the UK! Woo. The three track single is an Australian pressing and is available from Amazon. The normal single is two-track. From what I have heard from the talk on the internet, this is a return to form. A return to high-NRG disco/synthpop, hopefully, there will be no more of those Beatle-esque rubbish found in the last album.

The limited edition album 'Fundamental/Fundamentalism' will have a lot more additional tracks.


'Fundamental/Fundamentalism'

Disc 1
1. Psychological
2. Sodom & Gomorrah Show
3. I Made My Excuses & Left
4. Minimal
5. Numb
6. God Willing
7. Luna Park
8. I'm With Stupid
9. Casanova In Hell
10. Twentieth Century
11. Indefinite Leave To Remain
12. Integral

Disc 2
13. Fugitive (Richard X Extended Mix)
14. Sodom (Trentmoller Mix)
15. Psychological (Alter Ego Remix)
16. Flamboyant (Michael Mayer Kompakt Mix)
17. I'm With Stupid (Melnyk Heavy Petting Mix)
18. In Private (Stuart Crichton Club Mix)
19. Minimal (Lobe Mix)
20. Gomorrah (Dettinger Remix)

The single and album were leaked and have been around on the internet for months. I haven't heard them though. I will eventually. The reviews have been great.

Addendum

The second single in 'Fundamental' will be 'Minimal'.

And of course if you are into anti-Bush anthems, 'I'm with Stupid' provides the perfect pop accompaniement. A quote from the Times:

"Fundamental’s political content is coming under scrutiny. Their current single, I’m with Stupid, addresses the relationship between Bush and Blair, and the track Indefinite Leave to Remain uses a phrase from current political terminology and fashions from it a song that is about ID cards and asylum-seekers, and is also a love story. Very PSB, again. But they’re wary of being labelled too narrowly."

I finally heard 'I'm with Stupid' on the Pet Shop Boys website. It's a pop gem! A fantastic 4-minutes of pop.

Rules of Engagement

William Friedkin simply seems to have lost it since 'The Exorcist' and 'The French Connection'. This is a run of the mill kind of fluff that Hollywood regularly churns out. Highly predictable.

Badly framed and unimaginative shots. Yes, he's using his little handcam again.

It's yet another honourable men kinda of flick.

What a waste of time.

15 May 2006


Auto Assault

I am so tempted to play Auto Assault. No thanks to Evil Wilson. I shall resist!

I may purchase this and start playing in two months' time or so.
Here I Stand: Wei Yi's game

This is the 'Here I Stand' game Wei Yi and the others were playing on Saturday. They halted in the middle of the second game. These are the mid-game positions. I didn't join them at Sembawang as I was playing German games.

Taegukgi : 1950 Korean War (Brotherhood)

Taegukgi is supposedly the all-time box office hit in Korean box office history. I have high expectations as I have watched several entertaining Korean films previously like 'Shiri', 'Joint Security Area' and a few others.



These Korean films are not art films in any sense of the word. They are highly commercial affairs, not unlike the Michael Bay vehicles. In fact, I think they out-do a lot of Hollywood action films.

'Taegukgi' is a war movie about two brothers who were drafted. The elder attempted to win a medal by volunteering for dangerous and suicidal missions as to see the younger released from service. His love for his brother would see him put everything else after it. His love was boundless.

The movie had the initial communist invasion in 1950 as a backdrop, followed by the US marines landing at Inchon, the advance up Pyongyang, the Chinese offensive and finally the stalemate at the 38th Parallel.

In short, 'Taegukgi' was full of cheap sentimentalism, not unlike those often seen in Spielberg films, except here, it was clumsily executed. The script was linear and unsubtle. The drama was flat with the additional of pointless hysterics. The direction was like that of TV serials or soaps. Hardly inspiring fare despite the addition of grown men crying, people in agony with blown limbs, blood-splattered soldiers engaged in hand to hand combat (this happens a lot for dramatic reasons) and other over the top emotional scenes.

The film only started to get interesting when the South Koreans began purging communists and civilians indiscrimately when they found that the communists have slaughtered people indiscrimately. This had the protagonists, being the two brothers, fighting the Anti-Communist Federation. What an interesting bit of moralising, seen from a safe distance of half a century! That was about to get interesting but somehow, the war caught up with those two again and the elder switched sides believing that the younger had died!

All in all, an overly long drama with little to recommend.

I guess this popular movie, catering to the lowest common denominator had actually connected with the Korean psyche, thus filling the cash registers in Korea. It is not hard to see why. Themes like brotherhood above patriotism, the love of the Korean nation, ideological fanatics (anti-communists and communists), love of family, abound... Pretty much universal themes.



Regarding realism, as a disclaimer, I have never seen any action in war or otherwise. However, I have seen gunfire, MG fire, grenade explosions (I was hidden in a hilltop near the grenade range and I have seen the effects and shockwave generated by a grenade.), and I have heard mortars and stuff. I have been in field exercises and so forth. Now, the scenes of military action in this movie is not realistic at all. Not that 'Saving Private Ryan' is that accurate either.

The grenades blew up like petrol bombs, setting stuff on fire, the artillery bombardment hardly affected people unless a shell landed on them, Chinese human waves (doh!) and more. Ridiculous. The only bit was the chaotic feel that could be the result of incompetent direction or a real desire to create such a feel.

Equipment spotting. Now, that is interesting. On the communist or North Korean side, I thought I spotted Japanese Type 99 MGs, Maxim M1910 MGs, possibly Degtyarev DP MG, PP Sh SMGs (Burp Gun), a Mauser C96 pistol. On the South Korean side, I spotted M8 Greyhound armoured cars, M4 Shermans, a M10 (An open-topped tank), F-4U Corsairs, M1 Garands, a M1 Carbine, a M3 SMG (Grease gun), and possibly M3 75mm howitzers.

For those who like war movies (I don't at all), this may just be their cup of tea. Similarly, for those who suffer from war lust, there is gore aplenty, hand-to-hand combat, large explosions and other effects. Bah.

I am waiting to watch the Japanese film on the battleship Yamato which was supposedly a box office success.

14 May 2006

Here I Stand: Wars of the Reformation 1517-1555

The new card-driven wargame from GMT Games. This Ed Beach-designed wargame came in the mail a few weeks ago.

A quote from Ed Beach's website:

"Here I Stand: Wars of the Reformation 1517-1555 is the first game in over 25 years to cover the political and religious conflicts of early 16th Century Europe. Few realize that the greatest feats of Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, Ignatius Loyola, Henry VIII, Charles V, Francis I, Suleiman the Magnificent, Ferdinand Magellan, Hernando Cortes, and Nicolaus Copernicus all fall within this narrow 40-year period of history. This game covers all the action of the period using a unique card-driven game system that models both the political and religious conflicts of the period on a single point-to-point map.Here I Stand! is an innovative game system, being the first to integrate religion, politics, economics and diplomacy in a card-driven design. There are six main powers in the game, each with a unique path to victory."

The box. The rulebook and scenario book are hefty volumes.


There are rules for Henry VIII and his many wives and his attempt at producing an heir. Hilarious!



The initial reports from Wei Yi and Timothy are that this is a fantastic game for six.