Last night, the first episode of the reboot/sequel to Carl Sagan's acclaimed series Cosmos premiered on FOX and National Geographic Channel. I'd been anticipating this show since it was announced last year, as the original Cosmos is one of the best educational programs that has ever been produced. This show is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose passion and charisma makes him an excellent communicator of scientific ideas (right up there with Bill Nye) and fitting successor to Sagan.
The new "cosmic calendar".
In this premiere episode, Tyson gives a brief tour of the solar system, recounts the story of Giordano Bruno, and introduces the viewer to Sagan's classic "cosmic calendar". The information presented in this episode is very high-level. I'm hoping that this is due to the introductory nature of this first episode, and that the remaining episodes will go into much greater depth and detail. However, I fear that the one-hour format will be too constraining for Tyson to provide any information of substance. Sagan's original series was made up of thirteen episodes each two hours long, and that format gave him the opportunity give more than just an introduction to a given topic, providing specific details on the evidences and experiments that lead to the discoveries he presented. Will Tyson have the time in later episodes to provide more information than one can get from the first paragraph of a Wikipedia article? I hope so. [More]
I was going through the comments on my posts a while back, and I came across a doozy of a comment by user Maiden T. I'm not going to replicate the entire post here, but you can review the comment at the link provided. In summary, the user asserts that Silent Hill, as a series, was never about occultism, and that all the games were "repressed-memory morality tales". The first Silent Hill and "to an extent the third one" are the exceptions (according to Maiden T).
Totally unrelated image of a demon god...
My mind just about exploded when I read this comment, and I started typing up a response, only to realize that I had written a whole blog's worth of counter argument. So, I decided to just turn it into a new blog. So I'll continue my series of analysis and interpretation articles about Silent Hill with a write-up about how the series is most definitely about occultism.
What is Silent Hill about?
I've already tackled two common myths about Silent Hill. The first was about the sexual nature of Pyramid Head, and the second was about the realness of the Otherworld. Now I'll address one of the most fundamental misunderstandings about the series: what is it about?
The repressed-inner-demon myth
Probably the most core and fundamental myth about the Silent Hill series is the continued propagation of the idea that the series (as a whole) is about characters dealing with repressed inner demons - typically a repressed memory of guilt over a perceived sin which they have committed. This idea is rooted in the popularity of Silent Hill 2, and it is so pervasive, that the designers and producers of newer installments of the series embrace it, while dismissing the other critical elements of the games' stories:
"[My favorite SH game is] Silent Hill 2. I didn’t really care for all the heavy occult based storyline in SH1 and 3. I felt SH2 had the best stand alone storyline, and provided the best atmosphere of all the SH games by far. [More]
I find all the in’s and out’s of ‘The Order’ to be overly intricate and rather uninteresting, but that’s just my opinion."
- Devin Shatsky (producer, Shattered Memories, Downpour), in an interview with Hell's Descent (Nov 5, 2010).
Halfway through my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's new civilizations, we have Poland.
Poland is a Slavic nation in Central Europe that can trace its origins to the 10th century AD, when Mieszko I united the pagan tribes that were ruled by his ancestors and was crowned the first King of the Polans. He was baptized during his reign and the young Polish kingdom quickly became part of the Catholic sphere of influence. During the late Middle Ages, the rulers of Poland began putting increasing focus on educational and social reforms, and Poland became one of the best-educated nations in all of Europe, which may have contributed to it becoming a popular destination for immigrants - particularly Germans, Jews, and Armenians. The high level of education may have also helped protect the Polish population from the effects of the plague, as Poland had one of the lowest mortality rates of any European nation during the time of the Black Death. The combination of large numbers of immigrants and the popularity of Protestantism during the Reformation helped Poland to become a very tolerant culture. Its central location in Europe made Poland a subject to many wars, particularly with Germany, Prussia, and Russian. The nation was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, and was firmly within the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, but eventually returned to a democratic style of governance based on a market economy after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Casimir III was the last King of Poland from the Piast (founding) Dynasty, and is widely regarded as the nation's greatest leader. He inherited a nation that was crumbling due to a war-blasted economy, and the legitimacy of his claim to the throne was questioned by his political rivals. In order to gain the favor of the landed elites, he reformed Polish law to grant special privileges to the higher castes; and he gained the favor of Jewish immigrants by granting them unprecedented protections under the law that allowed them to maintain their religious and cultural identities during a time in which other European Jews were being forced to convert to Christianity. During his reign, he founded Poland's first major university, and promoted an educated society. Casimir remarried several times, and since all of the children from his first and fourth (final) marriage were daughters, he left no lawful heirs; thus, he named one of his nephews to be his heir. By the end of his reign, Poland had doubled in size and had a flourishing economy and growing educated classes.
Lead by the bearded and intimidating Casimir III, Poland was an immediately attractive Brave New World civilization due to Solidarity. Free social policies you say? Yes, please! Give me those policies so that I may conquer the world! Poland is Chichian's favorite civ in the expansion (and maybe the whole game) due to her fondness of social policies. I can't really argue against her.
Discuss this strategy on Civfanatics:
or on the official 2K Civilization V forums:
Listen to the discussion on PolyCast, Episode 194, 23m08s (Mar 8, 2014):
Continuing my series of Civilization V strategies, the fourth installation will cover the African trading empire of Morocco lead by Ahmad al-Mansur.
When the area of Morocco (north west Africa) was first inhabited about 100,000 years ago, the land was a fertile savannah, rather than the arid desert and mountains that it is today, and archeological remains of several Paleolithic proto human cultures exist in the region. During the classical era, Phoenicians established colonies on west Africa, and eventually it was conquered by Carthage and then Rome, and then by Muslim Arabs around 670 CE. The earliest independent Moroccan states were the Berber kingdoms which dates to at least 110 BC, and after the repulsion of Arab rule, the Berbers resumed control. Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States as an independent nation, and their fleet protected U.S. merchant ships from assaults from barbary pirates. The friendship treaty with Morocco is the United States' oldest non-broken friendship treaty.
After the assassination of the Saadi Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh, his oldest son, Abdallah al-Ghalib sought sole rule, and Ahmad al-Mansur and his brother, Abd al-Malik, had to flee to the Ottoman empire. When Ahmad al-Mansur eventually gained control of Morocco, he resisted Ottoman annexation and maintained Morocco as an independent state, he established friendly relations with many Christian European nations, and began playing the Ottomans and Europeans against each other in order to secure his position of power. Later in his reign, he launched a military campaign against the Songhai empire, which had been weakened by civil strife. The campaign was successful, but Ahmad's heirs couldn't manage the vast territory that had been conquered, so it was divided into smaller kingdoms, and the Moroccan empire went into decline. Ahmad died of the plague in 1603
Morocco was the first civilization that I played in Civilization V: Brave New World. I chose them because their trait is very general-purpose and emphasizes the new trade route mechanic.
Discuss this strategy on Civfanatics:
or on the official 2K Civilization V forums: [More]
Grand Theft Auto V is a game that does not get off on the right foot at all. The intro tutorial is a complete mess.
Remember how in Grand Theft Auto IV, the protagonist was introduced in a cutscene during the opening credits? We learn about his personality and motivations, and why he is coming to America. Then you get off the boat, gameplay begins, and you are immediately given a simple driving tutorial in which you taxi your drunk cousin two blocks to his shithole apartment, all the while learning more about the characters and the game world itself. Then you do some simple taxi missions that let you practice driving while simultaneously letting you learn the layout of the city and soak in the environment. Then you start getting asked to beat people up and throw bricks through store windows and get tutorialized on how to fight, shoot, and do other advanced mechanics. And during all this time, the game slowly builds up a hatred and distrust for the criminals that you are working for while simultaneously laying the foundations of the game's depressing-but-exceptionally-introspective plot.
Remember all that? Remember how well that game was paced? Remember how the tutorials always showed up at appropriate times, explained a mechanic during non-interactive cutscenes so that you can pay attention to the instructions, then lets you practice the mechanic while it's fresh in your memory? Remember how well it slowly built up the important mechanics one at a time - as they became relevant - while also immersing you in the game world and building up its story to a climactic closing of the first act? Yeah, that was great game design, wasn't it?
Well, GTA V has none of that.
An almost unbearable tutorial.
The intro tutorial literally throws the player into the middle of a bank robbery in progress. You have no idea who your character is, why he's robbing a bank, who your companions are, or what the "plan" that everybody keeps telling you to "stick to" is. Then it puts an assault rifle in your hands, and a tiny little box pops up in the corner of the screen with 6-point font telling you what to do while you're trying to do the thing that it's telling you to do - and hopefully not doing the wrong thing. And then they stick you in the middle of a gunfight with an entire small army of police, and these barely-visible text popups try to tell you how to use the cover mechanics, switch weapons, and trigger super powers - all while you're being shot at. Then you go for hours before using many of these mechanics again, so you forget them all because you had zero time to practice and remember them, and they were all thrown at you at once.
Table of contents
|12|| || || || || || ||60|
|11|| || || || || || ||55|
|10|| || || || || || ||50|
|09|| || || || || || ||45|
|08|| || || || || || ||40|
|07|| || || || || || ||35|
|06|| || || || || || ||30|
|05|| || || || || || ||25|
|04|| || || || || || ||20|
|03|| || || || || || ||15|
|02|| || || || || || ||10|
|01|| || || || || || ||05|