19 8 / 2014
"There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher."
01 8 / 2014
"if you consider a woman less pure after you’ve touched her maybe you should take a look at your hands"
17 7 / 2014
09 7 / 2014
John, assigned by Russ:
- The Island
Russ, assigned by John:
- Speed Racer
- Master & Commander: Far Side of the World
- Tropic Thunder
- State of Play (BBC Mini-series)
- How to Train Your Dragon
- Kung Fu Panda
- I Heart Huckabees
18 6 / 2014
Depends what you mean by “biggest.” Do you mean the fraction of original material lost? Or total amount of information lost.
Baghdad was the intellectual capital of the ancient world when Europe was in the middle ages- the sacking of Baghdad in 1258 marked a major loss of written material when the Mongols destroyed the House of Wisdom, a library which had translated a lot of Greek material, by now lost in Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire, into Arabic. It was said the rivers ran black with ink.
Similarly, the overwhelming majority of written material in the Americas were destroyed by the Spanish- we know of only three surviving Mayan codices, which made it back to Europe as souvenirs and survived in private collections until their rediscovery. We have no idea how much was lost, but the codices we do have give us a huge glimpse into their religion and astronomical observations. Feynman once said, “imagine our entirely civilization destroyed, with only 3 random books left.” This leaves massive gaps in human history on two continents.
Lastly, the ancient Qin dynasty destroyed countless books and scholars when they consolidated power. Read more here.
These are significant both because of the volume of material destroyed, and it’s uniqueness. The ancients didn’t have printing presses or hard drives to make backups, it was all hand written by scribes, so the odds for some obscure government record having a second copy somewhere outside the capital archives was pretty low.
For comparison, a modern server failure can loose terabytes of data, which makes Alexandria a drop in the bucket, but again, at least for those we often have backups. The Nazis and other fascist groups similarly burned books on a scale much greater than the ancients, but many (but not all) of those existed outside Nazi Germany.
Anyway, here is a long list of lost libraries, and this page gives a breakdown of known lost works because other works referred to them as a source or to make a commentary… now think about how much was lost that we don’t know about.
18 6 / 2014
16 6 / 2014
i will forever be dumbfounded by the SHEER SIZES of some prehistoric animals
i still think HORSES are big but
cOULD YOU IMAGINE
11 6 / 2014
08 6 / 2014
I’m (re)reading a pulpy scifi series now, in the Warhammer universe. This is material that is licensed to promote tabletop games. It has no right to be good, but it’s some of the most fun fiction I’ve read. I’m re-reading it now while I rock my daughter to sleep and this passage stood out to me.
Our hero, Gregor Eisenhorn, and his party have been kidnapped an tortured by a family that worships evil. Like no shades of gray here, real tangible evil, with demons and bloodrights.
And of course, the woman’s been assaulted, her dress torn. Probably raped. Because that’s what you do when you want to be dark and gritty, right? This is the series that spawned the term “grimdark" after all.
06 6 / 2014
Most video games are power fantasies, especially in the action fantasy genre. Developers want you to feel powerful, effective and for success to be effortless. This can be fun! But it’s also not the only way.
In D&D, there are two kinds of magic users, sorcerers & wizards. Sorcerers have innate power. They need no preparation, just go. Wizards have infinitely more flexibility and equal power, but they must read scrolls and prepare spells. Put in (slightly) less nerdy terms, you’ve got Superman who embodies unassailable natural power and Batman, who can stand toe-to-toe because of his intelligence and preparation.
So how does this relate to the Witcher? Well, the game doesn’t hold your hand or bombard you with tool tips. Does fire kill that monster? or a should I create a special potion? Where do you even find it? Well, you’d better read, better prepare. This monster lives in the dark? Better prepare a Cat’s Eye. Comes in swarms? Better use Aard sign. The Witcher is the best monster killer not because he’s some superhero, but because he learns and gets ready. The Witcher is Batman. Most games have you as Superman.
A lot of my friends haven’t enjoyed The Witcher. They said the combat was too hard or too obtuse. Well, The Witcher is a game that asks more of you. It asks you to pay attention. To invest. More games are doing this these days, like Dark Souls, but I think it always needs to be pointed out and praised.
And as a bonus, here’s how The Witcher taught me I need to prepare…
So in Witcher 1, you get a quest to help some farmer kill some nocturnal flesh-eating plants in his backyard. I show up at his house at dusk and get to talking to the guy. He lives alone. He offers beer since he’s already drinking. I drink too and he gets friendly. He tells me about his missing family. There are inhuman cries outside. As I stumble outside, there are three giant stalks filled with teeth. They’re angry, but I slash into them and take care of the problem. The farmer gives me my gold and I go on my way. Quest completed.
Two chapters later I’m skimming through lore books and see an entry on the plants that I killed. Turns out they only grow on the graves of the murdered innocents. I totally helped that guy get away with killing his family.
The game didn’t use a morality scale of paragon vs. renegade. It didn’t even tell me. It trusted me to find out or not. And damn, that moment sticks with me.