Review: Sekigahara (2017)

It was with pleasure I noted during the opening scenes of this film that it is based on a book by Ryotaro Shiba, a true favourite of mine amongst writers. It was even better, therefore, that the movie jumped to a scene where the author narrated a story about the meeting of Ishida Mitsunari and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. These original scenes piqued my interest and turned this into a thrilling story which continued in a similar way. Continue reading “Review: Sekigahara (2017)”

Review: Hamilton the Musical

Rating: 5 out of 5

Absolutely loved it — but to be clear, I haven’t seen it but just listened to it. There is so much to enjoy in the rich world it creates though of course some ahistorical notes also creep in. I feel, however, that any deviations from the truth as we know it are thoroughly warranted by the virtue of making another Founding Father accessible to the modern public.¬† Continue reading “Review: Hamilton the Musical”

Review: Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record, Carl Sagan

Rating: 3 out of 5

This was a weird one: a book dedicated to explaining why we sent a certain selection of our combined arts into space instead of other options. While I wholeheartedly stand beside the reason for which the people described within went through these actions, I found that aside some anecdotal stories (such as that of the Georgian evaluating traditional music as well as the numerous accounts of Beethoven) the book itself did not compel me to learn more. Continue reading “Review: Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record, Carl Sagan”

Review: This Sceptred Isle, Collection 1, Christopher Lee

This Sceptred Isle: Collection 1: 55BC - 1702: The Classic BBC Radio HistoryThis Sceptred Isle: Collection 1: 55BC – 1702: The Classic BBC Radio History by Christopher Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a delightful history, a lot more complex than I would have expected from my first impressions. There were some good inconsistencies that get promoted quite often (such as “The Unready”) which this series also delightfully corrected. Furthermore, the show included a number of illustrative stories of the time (such as the dialogue between Edward I and Roger Bigod on each others’ rights). Continue reading “Review: This Sceptred Isle, Collection 1, Christopher Lee”

‘Kingdom of Heaven’

‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is one of those mid-00’s films which for many people, I am sure, has achieved some sort of an iconic status. Mind, it is not terribly accurate historically or in any other way really, but it’s a very interesting view into religion and conflict in a time where the combination of the two is far too common.

I have known the basic version for a long time, and it often felt to me that something was missing. I have now watched the Director’s Cut, and that, by everything, is incomparably better than the standard one.

In the normal version, there are so many topics which come out of nothing and have no background, starting with the very first scene where Godefroy comes to the French village. In the extended version, the extra information helps create a story. We got a beginning and an ending, both of which were cut short by the shortened cinematic edition. The scene where Ibelin is bequeathed is especially rewarding for the people who thought Balian and Sibylla just rode off into the sunset (literally, here, though, as that’s where the Levant is).

Lastly, the music is perfect. The themes centred around Ibelin are my favourite, with the Arabic lyrics making this song absolutely perfect:

What I have not yet mentioned is the original topic. Both Saladin and Balian are deep in thought in this film about the underlying causes of their warfare. Baldwin IV comes across as a kindly and good king as does Saladin. Guy de Lusignan is a malicious fool, and Reynald de Chatillion is a ¬†warmongering tool. One of Saladin’s lieutenant’s is also in the warmongering camp, but in general the Muslim side looks a bit more peaceful. The Templars are merely an extension of Guy’s hand, and the Hospitallers are represented by someone who both a) takes orders from others in the order, b) travels on his own volition, and c) eats with the King of Jerusalem. These three feel slightly contradictory and I wish more had been thought about making the Hospitaller sensible.

I have been driven away from the topic again. I like the quiet pondering of morality versus victory, of the peacefulness and the righteousness of religion. I find it very calming that even though the film depicts the Crusades, it can also depict religious peace between various sects. Maybe some hope is still out there.

What is Jerusalem worth?

– Nothing. And everything.

Stonewall Defense

Bird’s Opening leading to Stonewall Attack is one of my favourite chess openings these days. Admittedly, all of my friends know this now and are well aware to defend against it (and how to defend against it), but I like it nevertheless. The emphasis is on such a strong offensive defensive position the opponent really has no good moves left. Continue reading “Stonewall Defense”


I find Risk to be an entirely invigorating game. The standard methodology of the World map is, however, not nearly as interesting as the full spread on ConquerClub which is where I play most of my games. The other alternative, of course, is in-person games; however, these are uncommon in my experience mostly due to the large time requirement playing a game requires.

The other benefit of an online environment is the ease with which maps can be added to the game mechanic. Hence, CC has options for the War of the Triple Alliance, Europe, Eurasia, the North America, and other places & times. The plurality of these choices, while it doesn’t quite replace the option for ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ or Middle Earth maps, is enough to give one quite unlimited options for replaying the game without getting bored.

Indeed, the standard World option is one of the more boring ones in my mind and the ones I mentioned above fit the format quite a bit better. Or, perhaps, not fit the format per se rather than make it more fun for me. And, this obviously will be personal because everyone will have their own map they like more than the others.

I am quite happy to have my own sturdy crowd of Risk enthusiasts, and playing the game with these people makes it even more fun. If only there was a Middle-Earth map online…

Of course, a good question is how good this game is in developing tactical or strategic understanding, at least as that is the basis on which the usefulness of go and chess is often ranked. I like both of those two, and I believe them to be quite good for different reasons. However, Risk fits into the same category: as the main principle on which the game revolves is luck, one cannot ever be certain in winning or losing. I have won battles of 5 against 10, and lost 14 against 3. However, one might think in the end these even out at 50-50. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. What’s certain is that one can gain an appreciation for the fickleness of luck by playing Risk.

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