Greetings! Welcome to the Chateau!


Within its corridors you will find insight into the books I have written, the books I am writing and the books I am thinking about writing.

It is also a place where I can offer insights into my favorite authors and - in the case of my game Conqueror: Fields of Victory - I can explain my rules and offer new variants.

Scroll down or check the sidebar for my latest posts.

Nonfiction:

Long Live Death: The Keys to Victory in the Spanish Civil War

Fiction:

Three Weeks with the Coasties: A Tale of Disaster and also an Oil Spill

Battle Officer Wolf

Scorpion's Pass

The Vampires of Michigan

The Man of Destiny Series:

A Man of Destiny

Rise of the Alliance

Fall of the Commonwealth

The Imperial Rebellion

Wargaming:

Conqueror: Fields of Victory, Revised Edition

Other Writings

Bleedingfool.com features

 


The cruel irrationality of scientism

A common feature of human behavior is for people to take positions that are the exact opposite of their stated morality.

This isn't necessarily hypocrisy because hypocrites are necessarily aware of the contradiction.  The fact that the practicioners of what I shall dub "scientism" are blissfully ignorant of the truth of their position only makes them that much harder to convince.

It should go without saying that science is never "settled."  Science is a process, a method of truth-seeking and its core tenet is taking nothing for granted.  There are endless examples of "settled science" being overturned by subsequent discoveries. 

True scientists are constantly attacking the status quo and never resort to appeals to authority to settle disputes.

As a method of explaining the natural world and solving problems, science has done wonderfully well, but it is simply incapable of being turned into a philosophy or worldview.  When people say they "believe science is real," that's a statement of faith, not logic.

Nothing I'm writing here is either new or original (well, other than my peerless prose styling), and if one goes back a couple of hundred years one finds the Cult of Reason making all these mistakes in Revolutionary France.  Tens of millions of people have died thanks to "Scientific Socialism" in the 20th Century. 

It's interesting that people who blame religion for war seem completely unaware that in so doing, they're making a new religion - which is far more murderous.

I should also mention that "religion causes wars" is garbage warmed over.  People cause wars and they will sometimes use religion to justify their greed, wrath or other sins.   Wars happen because people want and enjoy them.  Violence is fun, as all of recorded history demonstrates.  Having decided to make a war, people will then try to appeal for divine assistance or some other cause.

This is not to say that some wars aren't necessary or justified, merely that picking a single factor as the reason for most of them is either ignorant or dishonest.

It's also unscientific.  To make that statement one would have to have a means of sifting through conflicts to determine the exact degree of religious scruple held by all the (long-dead) participants.

Since science needs extremely reliable data, it's always tentative at best.  Since data can shift, science can never provide a steady moral compass, and it's interesting to see that each generation brings new revelations on the horrors that science can inflict.  In fact, the more we empower science for its own sake, the most extreme these horrors become.

One doesn't need to go full-on Luddite and hate technology to understand that there are some experiments we shouldn't be undertaking.

That lack of any meaningful moral restraint is what makes scientism so scary.  Not long ago, there would have been near-universal horror and massive federal investigations of allegations that abortion mills were doing a thriving trade in infant body parts.  Instead, the investigators turned on the whistleblowers for exposing the enterprise and we were told that such grisly commerce is necessary for science to move forward.

Thus we come to the point where the same people who claim their opponents are Nazis have fully embraced the scientism of the actual Nazis.  History has a strong sense of irony.


Some "think pieces" at Bleeding Fool

So far, I haven't gotten much in the way of complaints about abandoning (temporarily?) the Geek Guns project.  I found having a weekly deadline really restricted me creatively, and since I wanted to start doing another book, I needed to clear some space for that.

At the same time, I also wanted to clear out some of the drafts I'd left lingering around the place, and so I've put a new (and somewhat long) piece at the other site about the role of fear in making brave characters.

Having written that article, I was inspired to do another, and I foresee at least one more musing on the elements of good writing and compelling storytelling.

Of course, I'm not exactly a smashing success myself (although I am technically a best-selling author, if only for a day), but most of my negative reviews deal with poor editing, not the actual content.  Alas, I fear that as grammar and spelling continue to be condemned by the educational establishment, things will only get worse in those respects.

I think a good story can overcome those defects - even if it takes multiple post-publication revisions.

To put it another way, the craptastic character development of Anakin Skywalker wasn't the result of a typo.

 

 


Conqueror: Siege Assault - basic concepts

Over the next few days I will be posting some of the working rules I've developed for Conqueror: Siege Assault.  These are the trial versions and obvious need to be firmed up.

Feedback is much appreciated.

The Fortress

Fortifications over time have varied greatly, form simple earthen mounds to wooden stockades and finally stone castles.  It is impossible for one set of rules to cover all of these materials in detail (and foolish to try) so instead we will focus on the essential structures and provide rules to support attacking (or defending) them.

Curtain Walls

This is the building block of all fortresses, and their height and materials are entirely up to the players’ imagination.  For convenience, however, we shall assume that they are at least twice the height of models being used to attack them and created in sections six to twelve inches long.  They should have some form of parapet along the top where the defenders can stand and this should be wide enough to support two models.

The key features of curtain walls for our purposes are that they can be scaled using ladders and breached with greater ease than any other section of the fortress.  We will look into this in greater detail later.

Towers

Towers are self-contained defensive works that overshadow the curtain walls.  Towers are much smaller (no more than four inches on a side) and too high to be reached by ladders.  Breaching a tower is more difficult (due the deeper foundations necessary to support their immense weight) and also more dangerous to the defenders.

The Gate

The gate is the most vulnerable and therefore important point in the entire fortress.  The gate may be simply a gap in the wall or a complex building featuring a portcullis and multiple doors.  Either way, possession of the gate is usually tantamount to taking the fortress.

The Keep

Some castles may be built with a keep, which is rally just an enlarged tower.  The keep is too high for ladders, too difficult to batter down (since it is often inside the curtain walls) and it serves as the last refuge for the defenders.

Rally Points

In field battles, routed units have plenty of room to try to make good their escape, but within the confines of a castle, there are less options.

Troops outside the walls will fleet away from the enemy as normal, with defending troops attempting to reach the (relative) safety of their fortress. 

Within the walls, defending troops will attempted to reach a rally point, that is a spot within the castle selected before the game begins.  This will usually be a tower or the keep (if there is one).

Attacking troops will attempt to escape and will only rally outside the walls.

Special Morale Rules

Limited Outranking

Because the tight confines of a fortress do not lend themselves to fighting in close order, combats will generally not see the outranking bonus applied.  Thus units scaling walls, using siege towers, etc. will not receive this bonus.  However, where space permits (such as a breach), the extra weight of numbers will be felt.  The simple rule is: if both sides are fighting from a position where normal ranks can be utilized, this is included, if either side cannot benefit from it, no one does.

Desperate Defenders

Troops defending a fortress are under no illusion regarding their chances of escape, and typically will fight with greater determination than in the open field.  To reflect this “backs against the wall” mentality, defending troops gain a +1 bonus to all their morale rolls.  Note that this applies even to units outside the fortress (since the sortie may be their best hope to survive).

Special Shooting Rules

Full Cover

Units within a fortress generally benefit from a -2 to hit modifier for being in heavy cover.  However, if the walls are properly battlemented (which they should be), units may take Full Cover, that is stay below the parapet or step back from the arrow loop to avoid any risk of taking missile fire.

Units within a fortress may start the game in Full Cover (and it’s a good idea to assume that they do), and may only emerge from it during their own movement phase – they may not “pop up” during the opposing player’s turn to participate in their portion of the shooting phase.

Once out of Full Cover, they may not return to it until it is once again their Movement Phase.

Overhead Bombardment

Models on the top of walls or towers are assumed to be equipped with copious amounts of missiles (rocks, boiling liquids, darts, pianos, kitchen sinks) that can be dropped on the attackers below.

These weapons make missile attacks as normal during the Shooting Phase using their unmodified Shooting Skill.  Unlike normal missile attacks, the resulting hits are not halved (because the targets are so closely packed together) and have an armor save modifier of -2.

Models may only target models “beneath them” aligning as if they were to engage in Melee Combat.  Just as with Melee Combat, only a partial overlap is needed to conduct the attack.

Models may move into position (either up to the wall or along it to reach a troop concentration) and still attack without penalty.

 


When the actor defines a literary character: Alec Guinness and George Smiley

I'm not generally a fan of the spy genre.  When I was in middle school I started reading some of the James Bond novels - not the originals, the later ones that were current at the time.  They were quite similar to the Star Trek adventures, which is to say palatable only to someone who didn't know better.

I bring this up because I've never read a John le Carre novel and don't think I ever will.  I have a sense it would likely be a let-down because the Alec Guinness adaptations are simply so good.

Indeed, Guinness inhabited the role of the protagonist, George Smiley, to such an extent that the author himself modified his character based on the portrayal.

Basically, Guinness had the definitive take, not le Carre.

It happens from time to time.  I'm told that Tom Selleck basically defines the Jesse Stone literary character because of his superb portrayal. 

One could of course mention Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable defining Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, but even in our modern age a well-done adaptation can shape the source material.

So it is that I'm watching Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and will then move onto Smiley's People, both of which I own on DVD.

The plots in both are intricate and interesting, but the actor's performances are what really get me to watch it again and again.  They are superb. 

I think that's really the biggest factor in the success of a film adaptation of a book.  The plot being mulched is also a risk, but it can survive if the actors are compelling enough.

Remember, the Golden Age of Hollywood wasn't about superior stories, it was about larger-than-life performances.  Sometimes, as in the case of Clark Gable or John Wayne, you weren't looking to see a story so much as a known actor do his thing.  Gable didn't have immense range, but the man had vast reserves of presence and charisma. 

Guinness is the opposite - seemingly unassuming, he can shift form like a chameleon, equally at home as a brash British officer, a Soviet KGB general or an Arab sheik.  In George Smiley, he gets one of his best roles, because Smiley himself is a master of deceit, and can be both quiet and meek as well as cunning and vicious.

It's a pleasure to watch and the written version just can't compare.


A double dose of Easter

Okay, the headline may be a little misleading.  Don't think that I went to the vigil Mass and am now going to the Sunday one.

What I mean is that this Easter is really the culmination of our year-long Lenten journey.  It's been two years since an Easter Mass was said in our diocese and I'm really looking forward to it.

I think I mentioned that the turnout on Good Friday was impressive.  I suspect today will be even better.

Of course, it is still imperfect.  My extended family won't be getting together and my parents are still hiding out from the COVID, which appears to have targeted Michigan in particular.

Weird that we should be doing worse than "open" states what with our mandatory masks, limited capacity and other oddball measures the best people assured us were necessary to prevent exactly what's happening.  Must be wreckers and saboteurs. 

But enough about that, today is a day of celebration.  Christ is risen.   That's all that matters.

Have a blessed Easter.


A Very Good Friday

Today was the first time in two years I could attend a Good Friday service.  Traditionally these are somewhat punishing - longer than a normal Mass and with a lot more kneeling.  My kids refer to it as an endurance contest.

This year was different.  Yes, there were certain COVID-required expedients that shortened the duration, but I think in terms of hardship the mask-wearing more than compensated.

No, what I'm referring to is the joy at being able to participate at all.  As the songs say:  "You don't know what you got till it's gone," and that's certainly true in this case.

Our clergy seemed to feel the same way, and thanks to COVID spacing, we had a spillover crowd - not bad for noon on a Friday.  It was the most upbeat Good Friday I've ever had.

In many ways, the Lenten season of 2020 never ended, yet the promise of Christ's Resurrection remains.  No power on earth can change that.  I see this more clearly now and it is contributing greatly to this feeling of calm I've had over the last couple of months.

Easter is coming.  I can't wait.


Geek Guns on hiatus

After 23 consecutive installments, I've decided to take a break from Geek Guns over at Bleedingfool.com.  The decision is based on a thinning of material to work with and also declining feedback.  People used to comment on the articles and now they're not.

I'm not writing this stuff for my health, so I figure I'll take a break, recharge, and maybe write more later.

There's also a sense that in trying to sustain a weekly column, I'm siphoning off creative energy that could be used for bigger projects.   When I was writing Long Live Death, I basically abandoned that site, and I started writing again only after the book was published.

So I'm going to take a break and see what happens.  I've got some ideas for a book and I know I'm being horribly indecisive, vacillating back and forth between projects.  My hope is that if I dam up the creative energy for a bit, it will cut a new channel and I can roll with the flood.


Battle of the Bulge is objectively awful

My survey of war movies brought me into 1965's Battle of the Bulge and it's a terrible film.

Setting aside the fact that the whole story is fictionalized, there's simply a point where so many technical details have been compromised, the movie loses any historical relevance or feeling.

I was pretty sure I saw it before, but re-watching it, the first thing that struck me was that it was filmed in Spain.  The Germans are using Patton M-47 tanks and the Americans M-24 Chaffee light tanks.

So none of the equipment is accurate.

The terrain is also wrong - the Ardennes is heavily forested and the Battle of the Bulge took place in deep snow, but the climatic tank battle of this movie is resolved on a dusty, open plain.

In Spain.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really into Spain for some reason, and that's why the locations were like a giant red blinking light telling me that this movie was wrong wrong wrong.

The wrongness is just pervasive.  The German HQ is like a Bond villain's lair, complete with doomsday clock. 

Don't get me wrong, I know that sometimes period films (especially war movies) have to make do.  For example, I went easy on Tora! Tora! Tora! precisely because so few Japanese aircraft survived World War II and likewise the available ships for live-action shooting are more modern.

But if one shot a Pearl Harbor movie with jets and set it in the desert, people might complain.  And that's the big issue with Battle of the Bulge.

The acting is also really weak.  In fact, the whole thing's weak.  It's the kind of movie where if you don't know history and watch it hoping to learn something, you'll end up dumber than before you started.  Even the voiceovers get stuff wrong. 

Given that there were three people credited for the script, you'd think at least one of them would know that the British Eighth Army was in Italy, not France.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong.


An end to our year-long Lent

A year ago I saw the COVID lockdown as a month of Good Fridays.  I now see the past 12 months as a year-long Lenten observance.

The pews at my local parish are filling back up with the faithful.  The social distancing (which apparently has no evidentiary basis but was a SWAG* imposed on a nation), is making it challenging to find a seat, but in time that restriction will also be lifted.

Michigan's restrictions on religious observances were comparatively mild, likely due to the considerable size of the various faith communities and the precarious political balance that exists.

I also credit the leaders, particularly the Catholic bishops, who attacked the problem of restrictions aggressively and invoked sound science whenever possible.  This made it very difficult to claim clearly arbitrary or anti-religious restrictions were based on some sort of science.  The Diocease of Lansing notes with some satisfaction that there are no documented cases where COVID spread through Mass.

My faith has ground throughout the ordeal, as this blog has perhaps illustrated.  What was a "zen room" in our home (a combination exercise/mediation area that used to be a formal dining room) has now been made into a "petit shrine" and filled with icons and Christian religious art.  We even added some holy water for daily use.  We still have the exercise equipment, but the floor mats do excellent service as kneelers as well.

A year ago, Michigan Catholics were reduced to taking "spiritual" communion, and while we can now partake of the Host at Mass, the Precious Blood is still being withheld and the holy water founts remain empty.  Not quite there yet.

But just as winter's grip is inexorably weakening, so are the restrictions.  Schools are coming back into session and I noticed that one-way signs at the grocery stores are gone.  Legacy media are still trying to keep the old panic alive, but no one cares.  Lockdowns didn't stop the spread a year ago, and they won't stop it now.

Lent is almost over, and so I think is the year-long Lent of fear and overreaction.  It brought a lot of stress and hardship, but as with all evils, God ensured that goodness was brought forth that otherwise never could have been.  For that we can be grateful.

 

*Scientific Wild-Ass Guess. 


The Crow is a profoundly Catholic movie

I have to say that the Lord of Spirits podcast is fundamentally changing how I think about everything, not just religion.

I've got a post up at Bleedingfool.com comparing Deadpool and The Crow.  Both in subject and structure the two are strikingly similar, but I want to dig a little deeper into the moral aspects of The Crow. 

Previously, I always thought of it as a spiritually-tinged revenge movie with proto-emo imagery and music.  That's still true, but the broadly Catholic-influenced themes and actions really stood out to me.

From a this perspective, Brandon Lee's character isn't a ghost bent on revenge so much as a soul in Purgatory who is cleansed of sin by carrying out divine judgement on unrepentant sinners while also helping those capable of redemption to find it.  The titular crow is his guardian angel, guiding him on the path to salvation and peace.

The late Brandon Lee did a great job in this film, and one can't help but see similarities in his fate and that of his character, Eric. 

On the face of it, Eric isn't a paragon of virtue.  He's a rock and roller who has a live-in girlfriend - not exactly a poster child for the Holy Family.

And yet, he intends to marry her, proposing in the proper way.  Even the wedding dress is modest and traditional.  The date - Halloween - seems like a hipster conceit, but that means their first morning as husband and wife will be All Saints Day.

Okay, maybe I'm reaching there, but it's interesting to look at how he approaches his task.  Each one of the guilty party he approaches has the opportunity to seek mercy.  Only the pawn broker asks for it, and so he is spared (though his continued sinful behavior inevitably catches up to him).

The bag guys aren't just bad, they are objectively evil.  The witch practicing blood magic?  Yeah, that's a big call for some divine retribution there.

Finally, there's the big confrontation between Lee's character and the arch-villain, Top Dollar.  As is customary, the villain gets the upper hand and seems sure to triumph but our hero suddenly turns that tables - in this case by summoning the memories of his fiancee's suffering and giving to the bad guy all at once.

What's interesting here is that Eric does the only after Top Dollar has admitted that yes, he was ultimately responsible for the double murder.  He may as well have said mea culpa, mea culpa mea maxima culpa.

In fact, the fact that Eric is able to obtain those memories at all is another Catholic 'tell.'  Officer Albrecht stayed with Shelly throughout her ordeal - a corporal act of mercy.  Albrecht also looks after Sarah, buying her dinner when they meet, which is of course an act of charity.

Throughout the film, these moments knit together a tapestry of religious symbolism that may appear purely spiritual, but all have a basis in Catholic theology.  Note how Eric purges the heroin from Sarah's mother and then tells her to go forth and sin no more.

When the mother then tries to be 'motherly' and her daughter gives her grief, the film could take a darker turn, but Sarah chooses the path of mercy, and accepts her mother's repentance.

The final scene where the again-dying Eric sees a vision of his fiancee approaching in a luminescent white light may appear to be simply traditional good vibes, a vague spiritualism, but a Catholic would note that her ordeal had already purified her, and that she was waiting for Eric to cleanse himself of sin as well.  Having done so - offering forgiveness to some, justice to others - Eric is now able to ascend with her.

Make no mistake, the film abounds with Christian symbolism, right down to the showdown in what appears to be an abandoned cathedral.   From my view, the entire film is permeated with not just religious themes, but ones that make the most sense if one views it from the Catholic perspective.