We Will Never Know

Models.

Don’t talk to me about models.

When the world doesn’t quite work the way you want it to work, you can always rely on the models to tell you what you wanted to hear.

The thing about mathematical models is that they are tools.  Not sacred writ, and not fool-proof methods of communing with the underlying laws of nature.  Their use is limited to certain very specific goals, and limited by the skill of the person wielding them.  The best one are so vastly complicated, with dozens of inputs and throughputs and outputs, all of which must be carefully calibrated and checked and refined over multiple iterations, that they are virtually impossible to verify for anyone who isn’t getting paid to do so.

Which means that it is vitally important that modelers who want to use their models to win friends and influence people to lead the charge for limiting their application to those narrowly defined areas where they can be of some use.  When they do, then the amount of trust that the unskilled can place in mathematical modals, and trust in the models’ predictive powers can grow over time.  This trust is a fragile thing, easily destroyed.  A wise mathematician would loudly police those who do calibrate models based on political and financial considerations rather than purely mathematical ones.

The wise mathematicians, being learned in the ways of probability, would recognize the possibility of the occurrence of an outlier, a clear and present danger that necessitates the need for trusted sources of information and a public faith in predictive models.  Say, a world-wide plague, just to pick one at not-so-random.  In that event, those who spent decades calling upon the deuses in the machinas with careful reserve rather than reckless abandon would be positioned to serve as reliable guides in the here and now.

The cunning and the selfish, climate modelers, would ignore the possibility of an outlier event and squander the hard-won faith in science built by the Enlightenment scholars.  They would grab the short term gain by using models as a bludgeon – one predicated on far-flung predictions of unprovable harm decades in the future – to win enemies and influence the credulous.

And that’s the world we live in today.

It would be nice to have reliable models.  Models we could trust.  But given that models have only proven as reliable as the media who report on them, we don’t live in that world.

Which means that any think-piece explaining how many lives were saved by self-quarantining early vs. late, or by locking down borders vs. leaving them open, has as much credibility as a street-corner witch-doctor looking at the livers of freshly slaughtered chickens.  Both might be right, but don’t bet your life – or that of your nation’s economy – on them.  Instead, look to the immediate past, and the present for nations that were first in line for a visit from the Batsoup Avenger.  Your own sense of conventional wisdom, survival instinct, and intestinal intuition will serve you better in this crisis.

And for God’s sake, wash your damn hands.

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Spreading the Love: Hard and Thick

Do you have the fever for adventure?

Clocking in at nearly 200,000 words, 241 full-sized pages, and with a title so nice it had to colon twice, now you can get a dead-tree version of Corona-Chan: Spreading the Love: Infectious Tales of Fantasy and Suspense Designed to Spread the Pulpdemic.

And it’s only $6.24 per copy – the lowest that Amazon would allow.

This independently crafted collection of high-T adventure hit number one in a couple of Amazon categories, even beating out viral anthologies by major NYC publishing houses.  You’re going to love it.  And when the power goes out because the guys at the power plant and the linemen and ruffnecks are all laid out with the Wuhan Wiggles, you won’t even need to recharge your hard copy to enjoy the ride time and time again.

In addition to a complete copy of my own Adventure Constant, it features works by some of the most successful pulptastic authors working today.  Jon Del Arroz, Brian Neiemeier, Alexander Hellene, JD Cowan, and a whole lot more.

Get it here.

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Squirmish!

There’s really only one way to spend the extra time granted by the hiatus in my daily commute: gaming with the kids.

We’ve had Squirmish sitting around for a while, but no chance to get into the nuts and bolts until Coronachan paid us a little visit.

It is an odd duck of a game, mixing elements of card games with tactical wargaming with the complex management of a collective car game.

Each card features a different creature that gets played on the table in a grid – hence the square shape to the cards.  Once you’ve played enough critters on the table, they can attack adjacent creatures using a simple 1d6 and comparing to an attack table printed on the card.  A roll of 6 triggers a special attack, and each card has at least one special ability.  Some cards (noted by the border color) have a second ability that only unlocks when members of the same faction are in play (and they don’t have to be controlled by the same player).  To complicate matters even further, cards can move on a player’s turn by swapping places with an adjacent card. Naturally, some abilities allow more than one move per turn, or “leaping” over cards.

An example of a three-player game in progress.

The winner is the player that knocks out three cards first.  Normally, this would mean a mix of opponent cards, but some backstabbing critters can kill allied cards instead.

It’s a bit of a mess, and after the third or fourth critter dropped on the table, it can take a bit of concentration to remember all of your cards’ abilities.  The first time through expect to take your time, make a few gaffes, and either reset or just plow ahead.  The game sets a conservative age range of 10+, but most reasonably intelligent seven year olds can have fun with it, with just a little help and a few reminders from their parents.

Overall, the balance seems to work out well.  Some of the most powerful attacks in the game belong to low-HP glass cannons.  Most of the healerbots are tough as nails, but force the player to choose between saving a card and earning a kill.  The most powerful special abilities don’t show up until late-game, and rely on your opponent playing cards that complete a set, which unlocks those attacks for the both of you.  The result is that a mid-game stalemate can quickly turn into a rapid bloodbath with cascading effects allowing multiple players to make a sprint for the finish.

The art manages to be cute and unintimidating without being twee or try-hard adorbz.  All too many games these days get a hard pass from me based on the art alone – hipster cutesy and ironic detachment stylings are automatic disqualifiers for me.  The “LOL so random” replacement for wit and humor is also mercifully absent.  Yes, most of the names are puns, but the lightheartedness of the game helps counteract the combativeness and the every-player-for-himself nature of a skirmish like this.

Squirmish is good light fun, and for the ten and under crowd, makes for a great stepping stone to more complicated fare.  And right now Amazon has it for just eight bucks.  That’s a great price for a game with significant replay value.

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One Dynamighty Boi

Jon Del Arroz has a knack for tickling my adventure bone. His latest successful KickStarted comic, Dynamite Thor, hit my inbox over the weekend, and made for a glad respite from the pressure of being half-an-ocean and full continent away from my ladies.

For those unfamiliar with the property, Dynamite Thor is a public domain character from way back in the earliest days of the comic book industry.  He cannot be harmed by explosives, so his solution to every problem involves dynamite.  When that doesn’t work he shifts to Plan B – more dynamite.  He is a fun character, and Jon updates the story to our modern era, replacing the ubiquitous Nazis of yore with the seldom seen Middle-Eastern terrorists of today.

Couldn’t get around to a review until now because of the pressures of a complicated dayjob project (now on hiatus) and shouldering the go-no-go decision followed by a race against sealed borders.

That’s over now, so I can report on my findings.

The writing snaps writing along, with larger than life characters presented in broad and efficient strokes.  The mostly self-contained stories in the copy given to me eschew long and convoluted relationship drama with hints of backstory slowly delivered over time.  Jon wastes no ink getting right into the action or moving things along.  Here’s our characters, here’s our dilemma, aaaand GO!

It’s a nice change of pace, this reversion to and older, efficient, and yet far more dense style of story-telling.  Even if you find the Big Bad of issue one a bit hokey, and the solution to its defeat a little over-used, they do exactly what they need to do in order to drive the plot and get the reader into the larger world.

Not a huge fan of the art. It does what it needs to do without being obtrusive, but doesn’t elevate the writing. It hits the level of detail/vagueness just right for comics, with neither too much detail nor too little. The characters are all well defined and unique, and the action easily understood. The colors are great? I’m not an art guy, so can’t get into too much depth on this.  The two issues do show a couple of flashes of brilliance – I really liked this sequence, for example, with its casual disregard for collateral damage.

What Jon has done here is turn take the attitude of many indy comic creators (“we have to go back to the nineties”) and turn that up to eleven (“we have to go ALL the way back!”).  And it works.  Thanks to an appreciation for pacing and characterization, and a devil-may-care attitude towards both PC and alt-right culture, Jon delivers a worthy successor to the unabashed fun of the Golden Age era of comics.

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Spreading the Love

When David V. Stewart put out a call to donate works to a free anthology of stories to distract people from the current Big Hoopty, I jumped at the chance.  It’s not often you get the opportunity to offer some escape from the horrors of modern germ-warfare to a billion people.

Within two days he threw together this incredible collection of works from some of the heaviest of the heavy hitters of the pulse-pounding, pulp-astounding subculture retaking genre fiction from the ossified and sissified writers who publish from Snoozeville on the Hudson.

My own offering of Adventure Constant represents just a fraction of the 200,000 words you can grab for free, and has been re-written, just a touch, to include a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo by the eponymous s CoronaChan her own infectious self.

Click the image and grab a copy while you can.  This represents a short-term deal to give those facing a looming economic crash a chance at some entertainment.  It has also been priced right where readers can take a risk-free chance on some new names in genre writing, just on the off chance that they find a new source of great reads.  A lot of others have already taken the plunge, with the title reaching number one on Amazon’s free reads.

Hope you enjoy it – stay safe out there everyone!  I’m praying for you.

 

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Corona(4)Chan

This smells like an op.

A number of calls for this flitted through the haze of social media earlier this week.  Most of them coming from exactly the sort of people who love to burnish their “one of the good ones” bona fides by demanding other people make an effort to make the world a better place.  On its surface this looks like a great idea.  The olds are vulnerable to illness, so why not give them the first hour of the day to shop without fear of the youngs infecting them with the big C-chan.  Reduce their exposure, flatten the curve, and all that.

On the one hand, if this isn’t paired with steep rationing at the checkout stand, I can see some unsavory types using this policy as a means to jump the line.  Send mee-maw in at eight o’clock to clear the shelves of battled water and any paper product softer than the newspaper front page.  Hire gramps out on a per-trip basis: “This old man can guarantee you two extra large bottles of hand sanitizer and he only charges forty bucks for each trip through the store.”  Maybe we’ll get a few Boomer fights and World Star: The Nonagenarianizing videos out of the deal.  Seems like this policy alone would be rife with avenues of exploitation, but maybe that’s just the wargamer in me looking for all the angles and second-order affects.  We can’t let second-order effects get in the way of a feel-good policy.

So forget all that stuff, let us think about this a little deeper about the first-order effects.  We all know that one of the scariest things about this slow burn apocalypse is that the gene code responsible lingers in the infected body for two whole weeks before ravaging the host with symptoms.  Two weeks between infection and symptoms means that anyone could have already had their cells hijacked and be spreading the nasty piece of work around right now!

The sneeze-stapo is coming!

And that doesn’t discriminate based on age.  All you’ve done is sequester the Boomers into a small space where they can rub elbows and share the virus amongst each other for an hour every day.  All you’ve done is create a safe space for transmission from senior to senior.

Which is why I think this is an op generated by the kinds of people who call this dance with the fourth horseman the Boomer Remover.  Like so many other policies, it looks like compassion, and the sub-115 IQ crowd will never notice the actual effect doesn’t match up with what the policy was supposed to do.  Better yet, it is a suggestion tailor made to tickle the virtue signaling bone of those who pat themselves on the back for tweeting at Target that they should do something.  It’s the “managed health care will reduce costs” of flattening the curve.  Just float the idea, and let the dimwits lead the charge for daily cough-a-thons for the Only Generation That Ever Really Mattered.

To be fair, maybe I’m the idiot for revealing the magic behind the curtain, but unlike most of my generational cohort, I kind of like the Boomers.  Yeah, they are pretty smug and self-absorbed, but so were their parents.  The Boomers might have been derelict in their duty to turn around the destructive policies of their forebears, but as an X-er myself, I’ve got too many glass walls in my house to go lobbing stones around willy-nilly.

Anyway, maybe I’m wrong.  It’s just a thought.

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A Possible Sniper in the Guerilla Cultural War

Here’s a strange thing for you.

Somebody published a book – now unavailable – about how to use the current “Believe All Women” social and legal framework to remove any man from power.

From the description:

In How to Destroy A Man Now (DAMN), Dr. Angela Confidential (a business psychologist, consultant, and human resource professional) empowers women with a step-by-step guide for destroying a man’s reputation and removing him from power.

In easy to understand terms, the handbook reveals and explains the fundamental dynamics between allegations, the media, and authority as they relate to male misconduct in today’s society. It also unveils and details practical real-world methods for leveraging allegations, media, and authorities to dethrone a man from power.

On its face, this looks like a chilling glimpse into the mind of a psychopath.  And yet, the sheer brazenness of this approach instills in me a deep uncertainty.

The message at the core of this book – that you would be a fool to believe all women – is one that has gotten a lot of earnest writers into hot water over the years.  Pointing out that some women lie for money and fame and power Simply Isn’t Done in these modern times.  It is a good way to earn a permanent label as a cisheteropatriarchalexpialidotious, and to be banned from entire nations for calling for the legalization of rape.

On the other hand, if a fella were to present the same information, but to dress up such MGTOW concepts in a gillies suit made out of fempowering rhetoric, he might slip it past the clique of SJWs that act as cultural goalies by dominating key positions in tech and publishing today.  Most of the Madame Defarges who have slithered into those positions lack the self-awareness and second-order thinking skills to understand how ripping the mask from the con risks exposing more of the masses to the way they are being fleeced.  A book like that, written by a man using the obvious pseudonym “Dr. Confidential”, might last for a good long while on the shelf.  It would take a rumble of protest from those not in on the deeper effects of such a book for them to realize that their sacred rite of “believe all women” was under assault by what they had thought of as an ally.

They thought the post-double-ironic culture, in which nothing was as it seemed and everyone could plausibly deny any harm from their words by hiding behind entendres and sarcasm, would shield them.  But today’s guerilla cultural warriors did not adopt those tactics, they were born into them.

Which is why I half-expect that this book was written as a missive against the prevailing conventional wisdom that rules our clownish world.  A way to wake up a few normies in a way that allows the author to continue hiding in the crowd.  To lurk unseen until his next shot strikes another critical node in the edifice of lies.

And no, I didn’t write this book.

But I kind of wish I had.

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Panfilov’s 28

My discursion into Russian cinema in search of a high-T alternative to Hollywood’s low-T offerings has had mixed results.

The Guardians is Moscowood’s answer to the Avengers by way of a plot reminiscent of an Asylum film without the cheeky self-awareness.  The  opening twenty minutes offers a largely “as you know” block of exposition and backwards narrative presentation that comes off as clumsy and just plain dumb.  Smart writing can overcome a host of production limitation, while dumb writing can make the even the slickest productions look cheap.  What we get in The Guardians is writing as cheap as the CGI and obvious movie-sets.  To make matters worse, the film is only available in the English dub, and efforts to match English words to the Russian lip movements make and already bad script worse.  Well worth a miss.

Panfilov’s 28 on the other hand provides everything a guy could want in a war film.  A plucky band of brothers serve as the last line of defense standing between the German mechanized juggernaut and Moscow herself.  I can’t recall a single actress in the entire film, which revolves around how men bond and fight as much for the man next to themselves in the trench, and how they reconcile themselves to death as a hopeless gesture of defiance.

The English dub works well, though I remain on the fence as to whether the British accents featured throughout add to the drama or distract from the Russian-ness of the piece.  I bounced back and forth and recommend that works best to go with the subtitles during the slow burn first half of preparations for the battle, and then switch to the dubs during the massive second-half battle.  Then the words are few and the visuals stunning enough that you want your attention focused on the screen and not the subtitles.

It is a strange thing to watch so honest a film come out of Russia.  Several moments come across as jarring to sons of the Cold War, as much for meta-narrative reasons as for in-narrative reasons.  For one, the film acknowledges that the Soviets failed utterly to stamp out Christianity.  The political officer makes a reference to throwing those black and white crosses out of the motherland, but one soldier pauses to mutter a prayer in the quiet moments before battle.  Panfilov’s 28 also includes a number of Asiatic soldiers, Kazakh’s who question their orders to fight like Russians.  They are told that when the time comes to fight for Kazakhstan that they will all fight like Kazakh’s.  Both scenes provide a rare glimpse into the daily lives and workings of the minds of men under the Soviet boot-heel.

The film features stunning battle scenes with dozens of tanks belching smoke and shaking the earth, and blasting the holy hell out of an entrenched platoon.  The effects are fantastic, and no amount of suspension of disbelief is necessary.  The director manages to introduce the geography of the battle, and stick to it.  This gives the viewer several ‘hooks’, or ‘checkpoints’, to monitor to determine how well the battle is going at any given moment.  Is that anti-tank gun still operational?  How is its crew faring?  What about that heavy machine gun?  Why is it so quiet?  How close are the foremost tanks to the entrenchment?  How many improvised bombs do the Russkies have left at their disposal?

All of this helps to create a single narrative where the status of each side is laid bare.  You never lose sight of how close the Germans are to their objective, nor how little the Russians have left to halt them.  You also see how deadly the battle is for both sides as the bodies pile up in and before the trenches, and the field of blackened tank hulls sprouts more and more wrecks.

Although the early stages feature a heavy dose of “as you know” exposition, it comes across much more naturally than in Guardians.  These consist mainly of stories swapped by soldiers as they lay out dummy placements, dig the trenches in which they plan to fight, and trade with the locals for badly needed defensive gear.  Or just while away the hours before the German assaults.  It shows soldiers in their natural element, while providing a first-hand description of life in the Red Army.  It works, and helps establish characters and relationships, and the stakes while illustrating the taxing amount of labor that goes into preparing defensive positions.

If you are into war films, definitely give it a look.

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A Very Special Episode of Geek Gab

Tomorrow, yours truly will be making an appearance as a very special guest on a very special episode of Geek Gab.  We’ll be talking about all the usual stuff: films, games, books, and more!

Here’s last week’s episode:

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Hawaii Five-Uh-Oh

If you’re into network action/dramedy shows, you’ll want to give tonight’s episode of Hawaii Five-O a look.  For one thing, the show has not been renewed for an eleventh season.  Ten years is a pretty good run for any show, and this revival is one of the few to come close to matching the original.

Jack Lord’s ran for 12 years and set the standard for its day.  Alex O’Loughlin’s run anchored a network for a decade, and the audience numbers justified another two years of production, but his body just couldn’t keep up with the demand.  He has admitted in interviews that doing his own stunts had led to injuries that have plagued him for years.  Like a boxer or running back, he’s walking out while he can still walk under his own power, and good for him.  After beating himself up for a decade for our entertainment, he has earned some new adventures, and adventures without the physical risk.

As for myself, I will be sad to watch the show go.  They have kind enough to allow me numerous days on-set as moving scenery, and even allowed me and my children a few chances to play at professional acting.  The cast and crew have been universally kind and welcoming.  Tonight, for the last time, you can catch me in my last appearance on Hawaii Five-O.  As the show rides into the sunset, they let me slip in almost at the finish line with one last speaking role.  Trust me, you can’t miss me in this one.

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