Cover of Uncanny X-Men #141:
Days of Future Past.
So, what's the deal with the "Days of Future Past" X-Men story, anyway? Sure, it's a great storyline, but other comics also have similarly great storylines. Yet, I can't think of any other comic story that is treated with as much reverence as this particular one. No other comic book story that I can think of has been directly adapted as often as this one. Not "The Night Gwen Stacy Died", not "The Death of Superman". These comic stories have been reference in numerous media, particularly Gwen Stacy's death, but rarely are they adapted. But I've yet to see an incarnation of X-Men that does not include a version of the "Days of Future Past" storyline. It's been featured in multiple animated series, video games, and novelizations.
Of course, all of the various retellings of this story take their own creative liberties, and the new movie from 20th Century Fox is no exception.
This film is designed to be a sequel to both the First Class and Last Stand movies in the X-Men franchise. I was kind of surprised that the studio took this particular approach, since there were some nagging inconsistencies and continuity issues with the two timelines. But I guess Hollywood never cares as much about continuity as the nerdy fanboys do... Fortunately, these continuity issues don't come up or interfere with this film.
In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The creative liberties were generally positive, and the combination of the two timelines actually works surprisingly well. I wasn't terribly thrilled with the depressed, brooding depiction of the younger Xavier, but I don't know enough about the character's comic book history to know whether this is anachronistic, and it definitely wasn't to the movie's detriment.
I only have a handful of criticisms of this movie, and a few of them are really just personal annoyances rather than genuine flaws in the film's production. [More]
16-year longsnapper Patrick Mannelly has retired.
The Chicago Bears have lost a lot of veteran leaders and stars this past couple seasons since Marc Trestman took over as head coach. I wasn't terribly surprised when Brian Urlacher became a free agent and retired, although I was extremely disappointed that he would not be back in a Bears' uniform. Earlier this offseason, return specialist Devin Hester was released and signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Hester was one of the most electric players in the league in his prime, and he was a huge factor in making me watch football (and specifically the Bears) on a more regular basis. These guys were probably my two favorite players, and neither of them is a Bear anymore.
And now, yet another elite veteran leader has departed from the team. 16-year veteran longsnapper Patrick Mannelly has retired.
Longsnappers are unheralded players. You won't find any action figures or jerseys for Mannelly in sporting goods stores, nor would you even find Mannelly in the rosters of some Madden NFL video game (that I can recall); although, I would always add him to my roster every year before starting a franchise. But whether he's a household name or not, Mannelly was a cornerstone of the Chicago Bears' special teams for 16 years! His precision has been a key factor to the success of the special teams unit, which has been widely considered an elite unit during Lovie Smith's era. In his 2006 Pro Bowl acceptance speech, kicker Robbie Gould praised Mannelly specifically for his role in Gould's kicking success (Gould is currently one of the most accurate field goal kickers in NFL history).
Patrick Mannelly practicing longsnapping with holder/punter Adam Podlesh and placekicker Robbie Gould.
Mannelly had suffered from injuries the past few seasons, but when he was playing, he was as good as perfect... [More]
Concept of the IXS Enterprise
Recently, a NASA physicist Harold G. White made headlines in the science and technology media by showcasing a 3-D artist's render of a "real life" warp drive starship (affectionately named the "I.X.S. Enterprise" - not sure what the "I.X.S." stands for). The starship model poposed is based on mathametical calculations that suggest that the Alcubierre warp drive could actually work!
In the 1990's, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, mathematically demonstrated that a warp field could be created which could contract the space ahead of an object and expand the space behind said object, allowing the warping of space to effectively propel the object faster than the speed of light. The theory does not violate the "cosmic speed limit" imposed by relativity, since the object isn't being accelerated past the speed of light. Instead, the space around it is being manipulated to reduce the distance between the source and the destination by taking advantage of the fact that space itself is permeable and its motion is not constrained to the cosmic speed limit. Best of all: astronauts inside such a ship would not be subject to relativistic time dilation effects. A one-year trip for the astronauts would also be only one year for the people of earth!
One of Matt Jefferies' original concepts for Star Trek's starship Enterprise.
Alcubierre freely admitted that his ideas were inspired by concepts from Star Trek, and considering that no similar theory of warp propulsion existed at the time of Star Trek, the concept and designs of the show are surprisingly prophetic. Alcubierre's models were met with early excitement when they were first proposed, but examinations by other physicists exposed certain flaws that made the effect impractical for human space exploration and travel:
- The drive would require a tremendous amount of energy ranging from the equivalent of the total mass of Jupiter to the more mass than is contained in the observable universe! This, by itself, made the theory a non-starter.
- The drive also may not be steerable or controllable from within the ship.
- Also, there were concerns that a build-up of particles along the front of the bubble during travel would be shot forward when the drive slows down or stops, potentially destroying anything in its path (including the destination, whether it be a planet, another ship, or a space station).
- There were also concerns about whether Hawking radiation inside the bubble would destabilize the bubble and/or kill the crew.
But that hasn't stopped physicists from thinking about the possibility... [More]
Rounding out my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's new civilizations, here is the Zulu. But first, I want to take a moment to thank the readers and everyone who has provided feedback and constructive criticism for these posts. When I first started with Assyria, I wasn't sure if I'd bother doing any other civs at all - let alone all of them! But people read the posts and encouraged me to keep writing them, and now they are among the most popular posts on this blog! I have been very humbled and gratified with the responses that I have received. I'd like to specifically thank all of those who posted suggestions and feedback on the forums. I really appreciate your participation. Many of your ideas and strategy alternatives have been incorporated into revisions of these posts, and I've taken your criticisms to heart in writing the subsequent posts. I'd also like to thank the fine folks at PolyCast, who have taken the time to discuss and publicize these posts, as well as provide additional feedback. Keep up the good work!
As for my future plans: I expect to take some time away from Civ to catch up on some other games, like Dark Souls II and some Steam games that I've had sitting on my computer for a while (like Europa Universalis IV). I also intend to get back into modding and some other personal projects. This does not mean that I am completely done with Civ V strategies though. I do intend to look at some of the civs whose strategies were significantly changed by the Brave New World expansion (particularly France and Arabia, whose uniques were redesigned). I will continue to write strategies as time permits, and will continue to check the forums and comments and possibly update these posts if readers provide new insights. Thanks again, and keep on Civin'!.
Now, without further ado, the Zulu!
Little is known about the regions of southern Africa prior to European invasions and colonization. The region was divided up into small tribes and kingdoms, but they kept very few written records of their histories. In the early 19th century, the Zulu Kingdom (lead by Chief Shaka) came to dominate large chunks of the eastern coast of southern Africa. Shaka's successors expanded the kingdom through wars with rival tribes and European settlers for almost a century before the British offered an ultimatum in 1878 to King Cetshwayo regarding a territory dispute between the Zulu and the Boers (Dutch settlers in Africa). Cetshwayo rejected the terms of the ultimatum, leading to the Anglo-Zulu war. The Zulu won an early victory, overwhelming the British with their tactics and sheer numbers, handing the British their single worst defeat to a native African fighting force. In the long-term, however, the Zulu were incapable of standing up to the British army that was equipped with firearms. The British sieged the Zulu capital, Ulundi, exiled King Cetshwayo to Cape Town, and divided the Zulu Empire into 13 "kinglets". This lead to internal conflict between the kinglets, forcing the British to reinstate Cetshwayo as the King of the Zulu. But conflict continued, and Ulundi was again sieged by one of the kinglets and Cetshwayo was killed. When the Union of South Africa was formed, the Zulu Kingdom stopped being recognized as a sovereign power, although several Zulu kings did retain significant influence in the region through the middle of the 20th century.
Shaka kaSenzangakhona was the first King of the Zulu Empire. He united several small tribes and then initiated significant military, spiritual, and cultural reforms. He used innovative and highly-aggressive military tactics to conquer neighboring tribes and establish the Zulu Kingdom as a dominant force in the southern Africa region. He was a brutal and efficient leader and introduced the iklwa stabbing spear and large cowhide shields that allowed his soldiers to quickly surround their enemies and engage in visceral close-quarters combat. His impi soldiers employed a novel "bull horn" formation consisting of three parts:
- the "chest" was the main force composed of senior soldiers who would engage the enemy to keep them pinned and immobile,
- the "horns" were squads of young, fast warriors who would flank the enemy that was engaged with the chest,
- and the "loins" were a reserve force behind the chest and with their backs to the battle who would defend the army from flanking maneuvers and chase down escaping enemies.
These tactics proved incredibly useful to Shaka and to his successors (even against the muskets of European invaders), and it was even used to crush the British in the opening battle of the Anglo-Zulu war. However, these tactics could not survive against the killing efficiency of more advanced firearms and cannons and were eventually abandoned. [More]
As any reader of this blog can probably tell, I consider myself a fan of old-school survival horror. There haven't been too many big-name survival horror releases lately, and the few I've played haven't been particularly good. Indie developers have done a decent job of scratching the survival horror itch, but there's only so far that indie games can go. It would be nice to see AAA developers and publishers regain some faith in more traditional survival horror gameplay and experiment with the genre on the newer generations of consoles and PCs. It looks like that might finally be happening, as there are several survival horror titles that I am eagerly anticipating!
Among the Sleep, The Forest, and Dreadout have already been released on Steam, but I have not played them yet. But these are relatively minor titles. The two big-name games that I'm looking forward to are The Evil Within and Alien: Isolation.
This game is under the creative leadership of Shinji Mikami, the original creator of the Resident Evil series. Despite my well-established passion for the Silent Hill series, I'm also a strong fan and defender of the classic Resident Evil games. Resident Evil 4, however, was not my cup of tea. Despite being a well-designed action game, I harbor a deep resentment towards it for single-handedly killing the survival horror genre and shifting all action games towards third-person shooter gameplay. But that's a discussion for another time...
The Evil Within looks to be a return to more traditional survival horror styles...
Click here to read more of my impressions about The Evil Within.
I am cautiously optimistic. This game looks much more promising than Colonial Marines in both concept and execution. As far as I can recall, this is the first time that any game has been based on the first movie in this franchise...
Click here to read more of my impressions about Alien: Isolation. [More]
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