‘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.

On the Stonewall Attack

Mind, all the times I have tried have also led it to develop into a position where I have no good moves left, but it’s worth it.

Bird’s Opening is in general a fun non-standard way to start, and I have tried going for other options. It’s just that sooner or later the Stonewall formation becomes one of the wiser positions to adopt, and I can’t fault that. What comes naturally, must be right, eh?..

As said, my success with it is perhaps not the most amazing because the standard openings are stronger, especially against a more equal opponent. I don’t plan on leaving the Stonewall behind entirely, but I do want to try more options in the future…


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.

‘Yes, Minister’

Well, “under consideration” means “we’ve lost the file”; “under active consideration” means “we’re trying to find it”.

This is a true British classic which I feel one has to appreciate at its basic level. Beginning with the very first episode, and running through all of the episodes in both of the series (the new one isn’t considered), the characters epitomise some of the inherent contradictions in British society.

Now, Minister, if you are going to promote women just because they’re the best person for the job, you will create a lot of resentment throughout the whole of the Civil Service!

The caustic quips throughout by Bernard and others are absolutely amazing, as is Bernard’s overall concerned nature at the state of the society. Sir Humphrey Appleby is the other character that is always in the minds of everyone, convoluting the procedure and the message both. Meanwhile, he comes across as the very nature of the person taking the piss out of the system, which was no doubt the intent of the writers. Further, Hacker’s attempts at imitating Churchill are especially amusing given the apparent difference in the character of the two notable men. I can’t help but feel that the writers did a superb job of describing from life, a principle which Masaoka Shiki would definitely appreciate.

The ship of state, Bernard, is the only ship that leaks from the top.

The series is worth watching for anyone how wants to understand either the British political system or British life in general. Well worth watching!

Notwithstanding the fact that your proposal could conceivably encompass certain concomitant benefits of a marginal and peripheral relevance, there is a countervailing consideration of infinitely superior magnitude involving your personal complicity and corroborative malfeasance, with a consequence that the taint and stigma of your former associations and diversions could irredeemably and irretrievably invalidate your position and culminate in public revelations and recriminations of a profoundly embarrassing and ultimately indefensible character.

‘Wrapped Up in Death’, ‘Castle’

There’s no upside to screwing with things you can’t explain.

That’s very much the takeaway from the ‘Castle’ episode ‘Wrapped Up in Death’. A very good and meaningful phrase uttered by the Captain Roy Montgomery after relating a story from his early detective years, it’s hard to argue with.

Things you can explain with, go ahead. Things you can’t, be aware…


Assynt is a loch in northern Scotland that I have not been to. What I have done is seen the video Rapha Continental did to promote cycling, and it was filmed at Loch Assynt. The backdrop to the video is the Shipping Forecast to begin with which changes into a Scottish legend. I hope by this point you understand that there are very few things as amazing as this video.

The video has made me want to visit the far north, including Assynt, to see it all with my own eye. And it has made me want to cycle there.


I just noticed a hnefatafl game… and it sounds interesting. For those who do not know, hnefatafl is an old Norse game, which focuses on a small number of units from the centre of a board trying to break out against a greater number of surrounding units. It is definitely an interesting concept, and one on which games such as Thud are based on now. However, as the interesting bit, contrary to a modern game called Thud, hnefatafl rules are slightly uncertain. We do not know how it was played, and all we do have is our guess — even though the basics are what we are fairly certain in.

If you, the reader, have tried Thud, you will know that games of this kind are fairly interesting and gripping. Though, in comparison to Thud, hnefatafl as all pieces equal to other pieces (excepting the King of the defenders) which means that everyone moves the same way. The King is the key — it is interesting to think of this game as a breakout. The King has to escape to the border of the map, and hope for freedom, while the attackers (the surrounding team) needs to capture the King.

Apparently, this game fell out of use due to chess though… and when I think of chess, the equality of the sides is sometimes infuriating. By which I mean that there is less of the positional advantage to begin with and more when you go into the game. But, if one is interested in such a game, why not go with go which is far superior on many other levels…

As a sidenote, looking into chess, it is interesting to consider the Persian variation, which is considerably slower than the European one. In the Persian game (shatranj), the Queen moves by one diagonal only and the Bishop by two diagonals only. Naturally, I have used the Europeanised names; the Persians called them the Ferz and the Pīl.

In any case, chess is so different the games are of a different league — but if this small extract has sparked your interest, take a look here and here. I will get back at some point if I do end up going with hnefatafl.

Note : It is wrong to take the above as me being anti-chess. I am simply of the opinion that more strategic board games is the better option to have, and chess is up there in the top of them, with hnefatafl. Go rules supreme!

‘Anne Boleyn’, H. Brenton

I had the great pleasure of going to theatre yesterday — the play I saw in the Maddermarket Theatre was ‘Anne Boleyn’, written by Howard Brenton. This was the first time I went to this theatre, but quite definitely it shall not be the last. I enjoyed the play very much indeed, quite possibly the main reason for this being the wonderful character of Anne herself. She was brilliant, there is no other way to describe it.

Of the surprises that the play cast towards me, a definite one was bringing James I into the action. Thinking about it slightly more made the overall setting fit though. It was an interesting way of looking back at the tumultuous period of Henry VIII, and, from my perspective, definitely an unique one.

What enthralled me most was the way in which Anne was characterised; she was a Queen in name and deed, and as Cromwell’s character muttered later, he had had enough with politicking women. Anne definitely had her ideas and did her best to carry them through, and I think that was for the best, if not for the best for her. Missing a head can generally be considered a problem…

However, with the vision that the play suggests, would Anne truly have minded the loss of her own head for the progress that England achieved in the direction she hoped it would?

The play is probably rightly called slightly too ‘kind’ in Anne’s direction and with her character (I dug up a review to see what others think), but it is incredibly difficult for any of us now to divine the motives of people from centuries ago. There is nothing to say that Mr Brenton’s approach is not the more correct one from the generally demonstrated ‘woman on the prey’.

As a piece of alternative thinking, therefore, if in nothing else, this play is worth the time. And if the character of Anne you see is as envigorating and strong as she may have been in real life, as was the case yesterday, that much better indeed!

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