FORWARD BASE B

"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Category Archives: Entertainment

A Season For Gloating

For everything there is a season.  Normally, we are magnanimous in victory knowing that we may be the defeated ones tomorrow.  But this time we are dealing with the vanguards of a decadent movement that spent over 50 years in power and did its absolute best to destroy us.  For the entire duration of the election, they were smugly secure in their imminent victory and spared their opponents no mockery or indignity.  They had no honor, they deserve none.  If any thought of mercy were to creep into our heads now that they are beaten, we need only think for one second about how they would have behaved if the tables were turned.  Since the beginning their strategy has been to guilt trip and play the victim while thinking with snide condescension what idiots we are for actually believing them.  But they’ve wasted their social capital now and no one believes anything they say anymore.  Their tears and tantrums are just a hilarious joke.  No mercy or safe spaces this time.  I don’t normally spend much time on social media.  No facebook and just recently started a twitter, but I’ve been after them on hashtags like #notmypresident slapping them around.  It’s mostly a waste of my time, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to spend hours laughing so hard that tears are about to stream down my face, while they are crying for real.  As I tweet, there’s a shit-eating grin pasted on my face.  So this is what it feels like to conquer.  What Conan said about the lamentations of the women, lol.  Now that they are broken and demoralized, the cavalry sweeps in to mop them up.

Sci-Fi Inspired By WW1: Future Best Shown Through The Past

As science fiction grew beyond comic book and serial adventures in the 40s and 50s, it took 2 basic directions.

-In one school we see pristine white interiors, skin tight jumpsuits, uptight space academy scholasticism, no need for money, and neutral female voices waiting to answer every query.

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-In another school we see worlds that are gritty and lived in, with throwbacks to empire, swords, and knighthood.

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Guess which school has had the more enduring grasp on the human imagination?
Guess which has better predicted the trajectory of human societies decades into the future?

As it turns out, the latter has aged much better across the decades and resonated with the sensibilities of new generations.  The squeaky clean sci fi of perfection in contrast seems a faded dream by comparison.  Ironically, it’s the disco age amorphous eggshell swivel chairs with ugly rust orange cushions that no longer look otherworldly to us, but like relics.

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Unsurprisingly it’s the sci fi that borrowed from the past to describe the emotional feel of the future that has both outlasted and out-predicted the other.

The utopian school of sci fi thought we’d have pristine Moon and Mars colonies and solved the problem of poverty by now.
The dirty and gritty sci-fi successfully predicted the social upheaval and dark age we actually live in.

One vision saw humans progressing to be something “higher” and therefore different than they were before.
The other simply projected that no matter what technologies you make, people keep on being people with Empires, wars, and famines like there have been for the last thousands of years.

I will also explore a deeper reason why the gritty, humans-will-keep-being-humans sci-fi/space opera settings win.
They communicate the feel of the future viscerally by heavily borrowing from the past.
They take motifs from a time period where advances changed everyone’s lives forever to give us that feeling of a strange new reality.  Unsurprisingly, I notice WW1 is perhaps the dominant influence.  It was the period that more than any other severed all ties to the thousands of years that came before, that saw the destruction of all the world’s implacable empires in a few years, that saw the apocalyptic slaughter with inhuman new weapons plowing mechanically through countless thousands of lives.
There is also a lot of borrowing from WW2, Korean War, and Vietnam, but WW1 has the advantage of being just distant enough in the collective memory while retaining certain terrible visceral meanings in the collective subconscious.
Some of the most dissonant and disturbing images of WW1 are those of men on horseback or with machine guns wearing gas masks that render us unable to see their humanity underneath.

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It perfectly shows us the modern world we take for granted was being born right then and there, a juxtaposition between the familiar and the foreign country of the past.

One of the Best Examples Is Star Wars:

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Imperial walker vs. a WW1 tank

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Imperial Snowtroopers vs. WW1 machine gunners

Also, with Star Wars, one of the reasons it resonates is its very retro sound design.  It sounds like a failing piston engine when the hyper drive doesn’t work(same sound for airplane engine running out of fuel in Temple of Doom).  A lot of the ships fly through space with a grindy noise, like they’ve got V8 engines or they knock about like they have old diesel engines, not hard to believe from the maker of American Graffiti.
The WW1 tanks that inspire the walkers even make an appearance in Last Crusade.  With lightsabers you can just hear that circuit click into place before the blade hisses out.  The high pitched metallic groans of the carbonite freezer sounds like some sort of real life hydraulic compressor or compactor.
One of the most memorable sounds for me has always been the sinister rushing/zooming/fan noise of the tie fighters.  In THX 1138, one of Lucas’ first films, the robot enforcers drove high tech motorcycles that sounded similar.  In the clean and pristine worlds of sci fi the sound design tends to be smooth and soothing or else made to sound strange and unfamiliar.  It’s the very familiarity of the visual and aural universe of star wars that gives us an immediate connection.
What caps it off of course is setting the mood from the beginning with the words “long ago.”  Lucas deliberately studied the structure of Western mythology and this background served him well.

Next I will talk about Dune 1983.  The film didn’t live up to its potential as a story but many of the design elements show they knew what they were trying for.  The monolithic design of the palaces echoed Ancient Mespotamia, Ancient Egypt, Byzantine/Ottoman architecture brilliantly conveying the feel of an interplanetary civilization that’s been stagnant for thousands of years.
The military uniforms, I will point out, were almost straight out of WW1.

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House Atreides Officer vs. Imperial German Officer

We can also compare with some other officers and enlisted…

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And while we’re on the subject of uniforms it’s impossible to pass up another Star Wars Example

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Galactic Empire officers seem like they’re made from a variety of WW1 influences.

And after all these,  I hardly even need mention Starcraft or Warhammer 40k which for Terrans and Imperial Guard are basically WW2 in space.
Or for that matter, the Colonial Marines from Aliens who came straight out of Vietnam.  Yet James Cameron did do something unique with the design of the marines’ pulse rifles.  Some of the best weapon sound design ever, a gritty sound, almost like a growling motor filtered through some kind of sound distorter so it sounded electrical and futuristic at the same time.  It perfectly bridged the gap between old and new to create the atmosphere.  As if that weren’t good enough, they made the pulse rifles out of tommy guns so there was badass muzzle flare spraying everywhere as they sprayed down rooms with bullets.

I will close with one last example.

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In Warhammer 40k, the Space Orks have an aircraft that’s pretty much a Korean war era MiG jet fighter with a machine gun turret taken from a ww2 bomber.  A completely impractical idea but somehow, it’s still cooler than handheld phasers resembling electric razors that can vaporize boulders in a few seconds.

See Also: Gustav Holst: Inventor of Modern Sci-Fi Music,Why Star Wars OT Appeals More To Men: Aesthetics

A Documentary: Diving Under the Antarctic Ice Sheet

I sometimes watch documentaries about far off things and by following my curiosity feel struck by a spiritual sense of wonder.  It’s the total opposite of the heavy ashen feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when someone is watching one of those “reality” shows or a sitcom with a laugh track.  One feels divine, the other feels banal and dreary as snack cake wrappers on the sidewalk.

I recently found this documentary about diving under the Antarctic Ice.

There’s a smoldering black volcano, frosted in white, Mount Erebus, looming over their wind-savaged ice sheet.
There’s the cozy McMurdo base that feels like a colony on another planet.

The film shows what the crew has to deal with trying to film there, it’s not just nature footage disconnected from their struggle.
There’s logistics we’d normally never think about.  Because the ice changes constantly, a route that was safe for vehicles at the last survey might not be anymore.  Even getting to the locations they want to shoot at comes with substantial dangers.
Their leader seems extremely patient and after decades of experience pretty much unflappable.  Even when being told bad news he just respectfully listens.  They have a task to accomplish, not make-work, so whining doesn’t help.

Once they start diving, it’s amazing how there’s plenty of life below thriving in an eerie glow of light filtered through tons of ice.  I’ve been fascinated by these creatures ever since I read as a kid that they actually have anti-freeze in their blood.   Growing like coral on the ocean floor are these formations of ice crystals, the points where freeze battles thaw.  They find actual tubes of ice formed by sea water passing through currents of melting fresh water. The divers can only spend about 20 minutes even with heavy duty suits.  And again there’s details we’d never think about—even with all their gear, their lips are still directly exposed to the sub-freezing water.
There’s just a short time they can do their work in the spring when they have enough sunlight and the waters are still among the clearest in the world, they can see a quarter mile in the dim light!  They don’t have long before plankton and algae blooms cloud up the water for the summer.

I looked up some things on life in Antarctica and discovered that McMurdo base always has at least one bar open and signs in each building telling people the conditions outside, whether it’s even permissible to go out.  Mount Erebus actually has a volcanology lab on top.

The skyline of McMurdo base at night, lit up it seems like a real town.

The skyline of McMurdo base at night, lit up it seems like a real town.

 

Apparently something like 5000 people live in Antarctica in the summer, closer to 1000 in the winter.  There is still no such thing as an Antarctican, there have been 10 people born there since 1978, as close as we get for now.

It’s obvious watching this film that these people are operating in environments almost completely hostile to human life.  Suddenly all the talk of moonbases and mars colonies seems quite silly.
Even life in Antarctica right here on earth is impractical.  Or look at all the uninhabited deserts and mountains in pretty much every country on Earth.  Not that many people are willing to live in Montana let alone on Mars.
I suppose the next frontier might simply be to develop technologies that open up marginal lands and make people less dependent on centralized grids.
At present all the trends point to urbanization and the more people are forced to live in the center to find jobs and mates, the more control the rulers will have, just as Pharaohs had over peasants stuck on a narrow fertile strip by the Nile surrounded by desert.

Life Lessons from Starcraft 2

Computer games can be time wasters when we’re just playing against a computer. MMOs tend to be a waste in the absence of an end goal in an environment that’s deliberately designed to be aimless and addictive.

Games of strategy, however, tend to exercise the mind and spirit, especially when your opponents are other humans. This is a role Starcraft II fills admirably with its server packed with thousands of people, a game against fresh opponents always ready to play in a few seconds. Each match has clear objectives and an ending, unlike MMOs. In an hour one can play 3-4 different matches finding out what works and what does not.
One quickly finds even at the lowest level of play human opponents are far more dangerous and unpredictable than any AI.
About every 15-25 minutes you can go through life’s conflicts in miniature. It doesn’t take long to see certain patterns emerge, that certain philosophies work optimally while others are mediocre or fail outright.
I will try to list some of the lessons I’ve learned from starcraft that have proved valuable in real life:

1. Experience trumps wits.   Some idiot who’s simply spent more time playing the game will beat you when you’re new, no matter how fast and clever you think you are. You might think you’re smart, but it’s not as much an advantage as you think if you haven’t put in the time and effort.
Coasting on raw ability alone fails miserably in a contest that relies on learned skills. An ordinary guy who knows an optimal build order to execute a sound strategy will destroy a genius who’s trying to figure everything out for the first time.
This is why there’s plenty of average joes doing well in life while everyone knows that “smart” guy who’s losing at life.
Starcraft 2 teaches there’s no such thing as “potential” only results.

2. Success is a numbers game. You have to lose (a lot) to ever be a winner. As you get better the matchup will try to move you up the ladder to people who are your equal or better in ability.
You lose your ego fast when you constantly go up against opponents who you’ll lose to half the time. You’re never allowed to just stay comfortable crushing people who are below you. Every time a new game begins, you’re up against someone you can’t take lightly. By the time you learn enough to play even half decently, you’ve suffered dozens of humiliating defeats and know what it feels like when the winner decides to be an asshole.
Even if you get good, you know there’s no shortage of people who can slap you around effortlessly. You realize gloating in victory is for children who know little of life. A real life Big Man is above such silliness.

3. Time is the most important resource. A dumbass who’s simply faster than you will destroy you every time. If you aren’t ready when he comes for you, if you can’t react fast enough, that’s it, you’re dead. All your boasting and bragging how you’re a master strategist is for naught. Knowing kung fu makes no difference if you’re dropped right away by a swift punch to the jaw.
Imagine getting extra moves in chess! You’d be able to destroy players monumentally smarter and more skilled than you. The day is often decided simply by getting there first with the most.
The importance of time in deciding conflict can’t be doubted if we glance at the American Civil War. A bit more speed would have prevented the rebel armies from uniting at Manassas. A bit more speed could have threatened Washington after First Manassas. A bit more speed could have destroyed Lee’s army at Gettysburg. Longstreet saved Lee from defeat at The Wilderness by arriving at exactly the right time. A little more speed and there would have been no months-long siege of Petersburg…
Starcraft drills this lesson into your head mercilessly. If you’re playing terran and that bunker is completed just a few seconds too late before that zerg rush hits, it’s game over.

4. To everything there’s a golden mean. Goldilocks and Aristotle had the right idea. Too aggressive, you die. Not aggressive enough, you die. Starcraft teaches you the hard way to have a feel for exactly what kind of approach a situation calls for. When we’re first learning to drive a car, we sway back and forth in the lane, compensating then overcompensating. Soon, we drive straight.
In real life, though, we tend to make a major mistake that causes us to overcompensate to an equally faulty extreme. Then we waste years of our lives compounding our error until continuation becomes so painful we’re forced to re-evaluate our strategy. A few decades later, the lucky among us are finally able to drive that car somewhat competently, the rest never learn.
With starcraft, it becomes possible to see a model of that grand learning process in miniature.

5. Your brilliant ideas mean nothing until you try to execute them. Even a simple plan falls apart when you’re under pressure. Being adaptable in the moment is more valuable than making grandiose complicated plans. This is why armchair generals fail. A game like starcraft becomes a laboratory to test your hypotheses about what will work and what will not.
In real life, we can’t formulate a philosophy and then have a series of 20 minute tests to see if it really works as a guide to our actions. But starcraft allows us to come somewhat close to that. Through trial and error we learn that some approaches are objectively better than others. After trying something 20 times and getting your ass kicked every time, you’re forced to stop rationalizing. That approach doesn’t work. Now, no demagogue, ideologue, or politician will ever convince you otherwise; you’re immune to their poisonous talk of relativism because you’ve experienced objective truth for yourself, often painfully.
In real life, winning conflict requires the same principles as engineering. You want the simplest, lowest investment solution that effectively solves the problem. The more complexity, the more points of failure. Evolution shows us this philosophy is one of the underlying laws of reality. A “fit” living thing accomplishes its goals as efficiently as possible with as few points of failure as possible.
The pages of history are littered with egotistical generals who broke this universal law, thinking themselves military geniuses to the bitter end.

6. Always go for decisive objectives that put your opponent under mortal threat, which forces him to try to stop you with all his resources. As with chess, you want to risk your army for proportionate gains. A new player might wreck his opponent’s new expansion base only to find his own main base is now being gutted. Dealing a painful but not mortal blow allows the opponent to retaliate—and they might well kill rather than wound you. If the opponent is constantly forced to prevent unacceptable losses, you control the game. It’s hard to be aggressive in chess when the King keeps getting put into check! If you can seize the initiative, you’ll usually win.

7. The line between defeat and victory is a narrow one. If you forget detectors, that could cost you the game when cloaked units show up. One small oversight and you instantly lose the game, even if you were otherwise in a position to finish your opponent. In real life, battles both literal and figurative are often decided by the smallest mistakes. This is another great lesson that crushes the ego. It’s hard to be an arrogant victor when you’re keenly aware one small mistake would have reversed the outcome.

8. Decisiveness wins. Even the poorest strategy will sometimes succeed if someone commits to it completely and without hesitation. With indecisiveness, we divide and conquer ourselves. In real life, a weak faction like the North Vietnamese can defeat even an overwhelmingly strong faction that is indecisive, uncommitted, with no clear objectives. Without a clear mission to fulfill or a clear course of action to achieve it, there is no such thing as victory.

9. Starcraft teaches us to be less critical of those who have great responsibility. Even a mere game that shows how easy it is to screw up teaches perspective. Bad luck and small mistakes can easily bring disaster even to the competent. Even those who prove incompetent at the highest levels often stand far above the average guy on the street. You begin to realize that herdbeasts who mock and complain endlessly about their betters are just misbehaving children. They have never known leadership or great responsibility themselves yet deign to criticize as if they were equals.

Conclusion:
Starcraft 2 is certainly not a perfect microcosm of real life. For one thing, the playing field is far too orderly and predictable. We never have that much information when making real decisions. If two opponents played 100 different strategy games against each other for the very first time barely knowing the rules, that would be much more like real life. In fact, I think sloppy bronze league play may simulate real life best. But the controlled environment of starcraft allows us to test ideas more extensively. It invites us to reflect on our own lives and contemplate how the mindset we learn playing battle after battle applies to real conflicts we face.
Looking over the battlefield, what are the most effective actions we can take to defeat the obstacles before us? What objectives are vital and which are distractions?
Many now seem to view life as some kind of sentimental TV drama, but to me it is perhaps just another game, the Great Game.

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Terran wall blocks early game allins such as Zerg’s “6 pool”. The SCV stands by to repair any attempts to make a breach. Reacting quickly and keeping cool under pressure is critical to survival.

What Martial Arts Does Batman Use?

“Possessing no super-powers and using no weapons (save for what he carries in his ‘utility belt’), he instead relies on his cunning, vast fortune, and, above all, his skills in hand-to-hand combat to defeat his opponents. It has long been known Batman is one of the – if not the – most skilled unarmed combatants in the world, but just how good of fighter is the Dark Knight, and in what disciplines?”

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

Best Movie Swordfight of All Time?

No flashy laser swords.

No shaky cam in the middle of the fight.

No background music.
Just the sounds of breathing, the guttering of torches in a cavernous hall.

Both guys staring each other down, faking each other out, engaging in psychological warfare as much as physical.

Movie Swordfights nominated by commenters:

AND

Final fight in Robin Hood:
Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report: Orcs vs. Skaven

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