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Bad songs say so much

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I like a fair amount of pretty unpopular music. I also dislike a fair amount of music that is largely considered to be classic and timeless. This has led to years of defending the songs and artists I like while I was running down the ones I didn’t. Talk about a waste of time.

This is all pretty self-evident, I guess. In retrospect, none of this should be very meaningful since the songs we like don’t, or shouldn’t, be any sort of commentary on what kind of people we are, with the exception of overtly political or religious themed fare.  Even those who take pleasure in putting down the artists I like don’t generally know if this music has any kind of deeper personal meaning to me, any more than I know these things about them. Therefore, It’s John Denver or Justin Hayward, but it’s not me. What it is, though, is time to start trying not to take it personally and stop contributing to the conflict. Having made this great breakthrough, I have come up with the kindest, most generous response I can make to a song I don’t like: “It’s not for me, but I’m sure it brings happiness to somebody”.

Now, in celebration of my long-awaited emergence into the light, I would like to offer, for your amusement or bemusement, this beautiful song from a truly excellent, though much maligned band, The Moody Blues, along with a little bit about why it is special to me.

During the winter of 1985/1986, my soon-to-be wife and I were in the middle of a long distance romance. I was scared. I knew that if I failed I would lose the best thing that could ever happen to me. I was back at square one, which was a little heavy, but I had sort of a plan.  I caught a ride into Atlanta during the week with a neighbor who left early, like city bus driver early, waited a couple hours before work and hitched a ride back home, which sometimes took hours. On all those evenings of cold windy weather, walking backwards into the setting sun, this was my song of hope.

All-righty then. There’s a big steaming spoonful of guts for you to wipe off your screen, so now it’s your turn. You don’t have to get super personal, just a song you like that your friends and family don’t seem to get, and a little bit about why you like it. We could be on the verge of compiling a YouTube playlist for the ages. But we can’t do it without you.

As you read this, 634,826 people of all ages, social groups and ethnic backgrounds are in danger of forgetting the music of Buddy Holly ALONE. Why? Because good people do nothing. So post a song in the comments and strike a blow to make the world a better place, or at least a scary, angry, evil place with better music.

Oh, and Nick, I know you’re reading this so don’t try to hide. You need to put that Air Supply disc in your car, turn it up to an appropriate volume and rip the knob off.

Can’t wait to hear what everyone has to offer.

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Business? What Business?

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I commented on a blog recently and received a deep stealth trolling from someone who felt the poster should tell me to mind my own business. I wasn’t offended, I just had to wonder about it. If someone posts something personal o a public blog page, has that not just become everybody’s business?

We Loved Them, too

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a tree in front of a window: Opponents say the massive Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution; supporters say the memorial honors service members and the constitutional ideals they died to defend.

I don’t follow religions, and that includes the religion that teaches there is no God. That said, I don’t begrudge others their faith either. Sadly, there are those who think their beliefs are the only ones that should be allowed to stand. These people come from all religious backgrounds, I know, so don’t get any bad ideas.

So today on my news feed I see that some group of loveless malcontents has decided that our nation (The decreasingly) United States of America, can’t survive unless a monument, in the shape of a cross, erected to honor our fallen soldiers in World War One is removed from its location in Bladensburg, Maryland. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear this case on the 27th of February. The decision of the justices is bound to have a profound and far reaching effect.

It has been my experience in my relationships with atheists, agnostics and secular humanists over the years, that they feel our country is under siege from fundamentalist Christians who seek to turn their religious teachings into the law of the land. In large part I agree with them, but not this part.

I’ll bet we all know people of whatever religion who are, let’s say, not very receptive to new ideas. They’ll wave the flag and talk about freedom but by all indications the only freedom they care about is their own. It’s been that way for as long as there have been Europeans in America and it’s time we stopped.

Two points I think are most salient in this stupid, STUPID argument: 1). If you visit the United Kingdom you can find monuments to Scotsmen, Irishmen and Welshmen who stood against English rule over the centuries, and the English are not offended. These Monuments, as well as those like them here and all over the world, are reminders of the courage and sacrifice of our forebears. Not their religion or their politics, their courage.

2). Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, I’m sure you know his story. He went to the cross, willingly, as a sacrifice for the redemption of all mankind. As I have made clear, I am no Christian, and that’s all right. You don’t have to follow any particular religion to understand the meaning of sacrifice. To me, the cross is a symbol of sacrifice. When I see a place where soldiers died or were buried, I don’t look at or for the religious or political symbology. These places, these pieces of metal and stone, represent people who stood up for something they loved, be it the South, the Fatherland, the British Empire or the Land of the Rising Sun. They don’t exist to oppress anyone or to advocate ethnic or racial genocide, but to honor those who loved their land enough to die for it. That sterling Human quality is worthy of honor, no matter the heart in which it burns. Those I know who have been to war tell me that the blood washes away the idealism and that, in the end, you’re fighting for your friends. I believe that with all my heart, but that makes no difference. One of the truths of Jesus’ teaching, one that extends easily beyond the doctrines and dogma of the church, is found in the gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 13: “Greater love hath no man than this: That a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The assertion that the form of the Peace Cross, as it is known, is an insinuation that all the soldiers who fought in the great war were Christians is nothing more than putting words in other people’s mouths. I say that the days of pandering to the chronically offended must end. There are many far more important things to think about.

 

Saint Crispin’s Day

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St. Crispin is the patron saint of cobblers. Here’s a pair of his shoes. Nice, huh?

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The world will little note, nor long remember, (thanks mister Lincoln) what shoes he made, but his day will always be covered in glory.

1415: Battle of Agincourt

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Henry V was, and is, renowned as one of the greatest heroic figures in the history of Britain. In Shakespeare’s play, The bishops of Canterbury and Ely discussed the merits of the young king, saying “The strawberry grows underneath the nettle”, a reference to the subtle maturation that occurred during his irresponsible youth. This portrayal of Henry as some callow brat is disputed by some, but apparently not by the French, who disdained his leadership and his resolve. On this day, at the field of Agincourt, the French would learn the price of their hubris.

Hungry, sick and clearly overmatched, Harry the King, with what was left of his army was making for Calais, and then England, but was overtaken. Seeing the great army of France, well fed and healthy, Harry knew the odds were clearly against him. The French could see it too. The following morning, St. Crispin’s day, they set their lines of battle in anticipation of a complete, overwhelming victory.

This is the part most of us know. “We happy few, we band of brothers”. No one knows the actual words he spoke but, at least in my eyes, Shakespeare did the great man justice. Even faced with the steel clad flower of French chivalry, the courage of the lowliest English peasant did not, would not, break. Long odds or no, the English victory was complete and devastating.

“If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.”

There is no telling how many times this story has raised people up from despair and helped them find their courage.

 

1854: The Charge of the Light Brigade

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If’ you have ever said “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die” then, know it or not, you have quoted the Charge of the Light Brigade. Well done.

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem is a tribute to six hundred seventy courageous British soldiers (Tennyson reduced their number to six hundred for poetic purposes) at the battle of Balaclava during the Crimean war.

Whether due to miscommunication or lack of situational awareness, the Light Brigade was sent in on the point, ahead of the heavy cavalry and infantry, to drive off Russian artillery crews, who were moving their guns to another position. They weren’t.

When it became clear that the Russian artillery was not only not going anywhere, but they were locked, loaded and totally open for business, the infantry and heavy cavalry were called back. It was too late for the light brigade.

“Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.”

There was no victory for the Six Hundred this day. Roughly 270 were killed or wounded for an objective they had no chance to achieve.  The Russian officers who took part in the day’s action commented in their reports about the courage of their enemies. Soldiers are good that way.

Tennyson’s poem Immortalized the Light Brigade, but their valor was met with ambivalence by the British government. This point was not lost on Rudyard Kipling, who wrote a sequel, titled “The Last of the Light Brigade”.

“There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.”

That’s the unhappy end to this tale of glory. No reward for the ultimate risk, no rest from the good fight, just knowing what they and the Six Hundred did that St. Crispin’s day.

 

1942: Bloody Ridge, Guadalcanal

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This handsome devil is PFC Harry L. Nines, United States Marine Corps.

Seven hundred Marines were stretched out pretty thin along the ridge. Most of them hadn’t slept in days but there’s no sleeping now.

The Japanese counterattack started around 1:00 AM. Heavy machine gun fire, courtesy of Sergeant John Basilone, who won the Medal of Honor, and his crews, took down a hundred or so just as they were coming out of the jungle, but then they were everywhere.

This is the part where I want to make some stuff up to tell a good story and make my grandfather a big hero, like he would ever need that.  I do know this: He was on the ridge, in a foxhole, with a rifle and, at least once, he had a visit from a Japanese soldier with a bayonet. More important than that, he survived and came home to be my grandfather.

“This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered.”

May we all do so well.

Godawful Monsters/Spam and Victory: The Shop, Weaverville NC, September 15, 2018

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My name is Milton.

I am here to tell you about the game but I just remembered I have to sprint to the other end of the house right now. The guy who feeds me will take over from here.

Goodbye.

The Table

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Thanks Milton, here we go. This is the 4’X6′ mat from the pic after painting. Three different shades of green dabbed on with a paper towel followed by a bit of raw umber, I think.img_20180914_232730972.jpg

I kept this stuff after an unsatisfactory outcome with a terrain project. The black stuff at the bottom is some anti-fatigue mat and the purple stuff is Yoga mat (Be sure to wash them.) Now that the introductions are out of the way, it’s time to build the hill. Do you ever watch cooking shows where they put the turkey in the oven, go to commercial and it’s done when they get back? Well, BING!
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Lieutenant Washington stops by to survey the scene (Future neglected miniature submission).

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The wall sections are made of clay, which I couldn’t get fired, so I put them on a cookie sheet the last time I cleaned the oven. They’re super dry and hard, but they don’t stick together all that well. No worries though, you can never have enough river rocks and/or rubble. The stockade fence and gabions came from Historicon in 2017img_20180915_141648488

The trees are from all over. I got the pine trees from a guy I used to game with. I think they came from a cake decorating website. They are just rings of foliage stacked on a wire, which makes them awesome. I cut the wires so they stick out about 3/4″ below the bottom branches, then I push them into the foam mat. They never fall over so they’re great on a slope. They’re not really big at 28mm, but they look pretty good.

Some of the deciduous trees came from my late father-in-law’s model train layout, others came from Curtis, this evening’s master of monsters. The rest I made myself from wire, floral tape and foam foliage.

Meet the Players

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This is Curtis, as mentioned above, our master of Monsters. He’s an engineer, so he’s oriented toward precision and efficiency, plus he’s got a great eye for detail. He turned a handwritten list of monsters and a rectangle of graph paper into a comprehensive monster management system in about ten minutes, a big improvement to the game.

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Here are Ray(Left) and Paul, the Yokel commanders. Both have been gaming hard since the seventies, as has Curtis, for that matter.  The Yokels aren’t as complicated as the monsters, so I’m looking for some help from these guys with tweaking the Yokels themselves, to refine the balance and make all the sides fun to play.

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Okay, here we go. As the Yokels advance toward the village, or what’s left of it, YE GADS! By my troth ne’er have I seen the like of that before! Yep, it’s a Godawful monster all right.

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Here come the reds. They incapacitated that big disgusting grub with their muskets but it was still thrashing around and nobody wanted to go finish it off so they left it. Brutal.

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Here we have some yellows, including an officer, being accosted by none other than GUG! Unfortunately for our Yokel friends, Gug is about the fastest monster in the game so far, twice as fast as a man, which makes him hard to evade. The two nearest Yokels have been killed, I need some really messed up casualty markers for this game. The officer has failed to make his nerve roll, so it’s looking like Gug will be having a frozen dessert.

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We had to improve the nerve roll on the yellows from 5+ to 3+ due to their bravery. Those mad, impetuous lads. They are about to attack this ankheg,. You remember him, right, AD&D Monster manual, page 1. If they can get inside, things might go their way.

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Not lookin’ good, boys.

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Well, the yellows got one tacked on ’em, but the reds stayed on mission and got back to tell the tale. Next time we will have some British regulars to help things along, but for now, it’s time for some Spam.img_20180915_200800196

I love Spam! I’m having Spam Spam eggs bacon and Spam.

Well, that’s this game. It’s getting better as we go along. More later, thanks for looking.

We Loved Them

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Louisiana monument, Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania

I didn’t want to write this, I never did. I’m sure it will start a fight I don’t want and I won’t be surprised if it costs me some friends before it’s all over. For that I will be sorry but, whatever the price, I can remain silent no longer. Last night an angry howling mob in Chapel Hill, North Carolina perpetrated an egregious hate crime. They will say they did not, that it was for justice and to do away with our despicable racist past. It wasn’t and I’m going to tell you why. They chanted “Stand up, Fight back”. All right, I will.

First, let me say how much I sincerely admire the courage of Ms. Maya Little, the UNC student who openly defaced the statue with her own blood and faced the consequences of it, unlike the spray can commandos and the ones behind the curtains who will show you their ignorance but not their faces. Shame on every craven, cowardly one of you. Courage is a thing to be respected and I do, even the courage of my adversaries. In just the same way, cowards deserve no respect and I have none for them. Throughout my life it has been my experience that people become disdainful of things they can’t have, like my respect. They think it’s easier and safer than standing up for what they believe in, saying their piece and putting their name on it, in other words, acting like someone who deserves respect. What do you think?

There are forty thousand Silent Sams, give or take, who never came home from the war. Some are buried here in North Carolina, others were blasted into irretrievable fragments on battlefields all over the south, never to be seen or heard from again. Some are enshrined in family Bibles, their honored names bestowed upon their sons down through the generations while others, most I guess, are only remembered as part of some larger memory. No matter how their memories are honored, the bravery and fighting spirit of these men, men like you and me, is worthy of recognition and respect. It’s fine if you don’t want to believe me, I’m not here expecting to change anyone’s mind, just to speak my own.

It is a convenient argument to say that these forty thousand, as well as the almost three hundred thousand boys and men from other states who laid down their lives, did so to preserve the institution of slavery. This is not true, and it doesn’t take years of scholarly research to see it. You just have to be willing to look at something you may not like seeing. So show some courage and take a look. I’ll respect you for it.

There were a number of premises that aroused the south to war: The first was slavery. True that, but it was more of an inducement for the union to go to war, and it wasn’t going to be enough to get the job done. All those hardscrabble farm boys who did their own chores every day couldn’t have cared less about the problems of rich people with slaves, just like most working people today. Jeff Davis needed something to motivate all those who didn’t care, but were going, like every footsoldier in every war in history, to be called upon to do most of the dying. In other words, Silent Sam. That motivation was provided courtesy of the Union Army, massing for an invasion that would and did bring terrible destruction to the homes and families of people all over the south. I submit to one and all that there can be no more worthy cause for a fight than the defense of one’s home and family and that, dear friend, is what Silent Sam was fighting for.

So they cast a statue and put it up on a pedestal in memory of the forty thousand, a symbol of their grief, the pain of their loss and their love. That’s right I said it: Their love. The symbolic meaning of Silent Sam, or any monument, is the meaning given to it by those who set it up and no one has the right to take that away, so I say the cowardly vandals need to check their privilege.

So now I want someone to tell me how a thing that was conceived and manifested from love can be a symbol of hate. Give up? I’m here to help. It takes a person who thinks everything is about them. It simply makes no sense to imagine the grieving mothers, wives, children and siblings of Silent Sam contemplating the downfall of their enemies while bringing this monument into being. Still this person has to believe Silent Sam represents how much these people hate him rather than how much they loved their honored dead. If you want to see more such gross naked arrogance I say you need look no further than the White House.

I love my family and you love yours and the love I bear them is no more or less precious than the love in your heart, whoever you may be. I think we could all think about this thing and gain some benefit from it.

I’m not blind, I know there is hate and injustice, I know that our country is filled with people who believe they can know someone just by looking at the color of their face. I know there is deep anger, I’m feeling it right now myself. But I’m not so angry that I will not enter into a discussion of beliefs in the spirit of good will and with an open mind.

Yes, we loved them and we love them still, the forty thousand. We carry their names and their blood, they are part of us. I will only speak for myself in this matter, though I feel certain many others share my view. When I got up this morning and saw the wretched hateful thing those bastards did, not to a piece of bronze, but to me, it was like a part of me was murdered, violently and for no reason. Regardless of this I will not hate. Hate is for weak, intellectually lazy people who prefer to view people as stereotypes rather than as human beings. What kind of person do you want to be?img_20150916_142048

North Carolina monument, Gettysburg Battlefield, Pennsylvania

 

Godawful Monsters test game 1

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Mephiston painted by Michael Counts

Howdy folks, Mephiston here.

I wasn’t in the game yesterday evening but I watched it from the shelf with a bunch of my pals from Kenny’s wargaming hall of fame. I’ve got to say it was pretty good, more balanced than I expected.

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Hall of Fame members

Welcome to the neighborhood

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The mat is 4’X4′, just the right size for a 28mm intimate encounter. Captain obvious just called to remind me to say it’s made of 1/2″ interlocking play mat. I love this stuff. It takes paint beautifully, it doesn’t slide around and you can build it up from below to get a smooth terrain contour. I built this one up with an earlier experiment I called Flapjack landscaping. It’s basically cut up yoga mats. There are spaces with no support but the mat is pretty well stiff enough to span a small gap.

The little black rectangles represent open graves. These graves were not excavated from above, but undermined by, you guessed it, Godawful Monsters! The hill has been turned into a warren of tunnels and pitfalls, sort of a bit of home court advantage.

Meet the Teams

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The Monsters: This font really isn’t sending the message I’m trying to put out there, but here they are anyway. They’re all reaper minis, they carry a good selection at my local game store and they’re a fair price. They make the game a bit more complicated because there are so many different ones, and they all have positive and negative characteristics but they will make the game more interesting and unpredictable as my collection grows.

 

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The Yellow Yokels: These guys are teenage boys learning the trade, sort of. They hit on a 5 or 6, not so good, and they get one die to roll in close combat, also not so good. They pass a morale, or nerve, test on a 5 or 6, once again not so good. I guess you could say these guys are, well, not so good.

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The Red Yokels: These guys are veterans. Not old campaigners, they’re farmers and such, but they’ve been in a couple of fights and they’re tough. They hit on a 4, roll 2 dice in close combat and keep their cool on a 4 as well. Much better.

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The “Don’t call me a Yokel”s: Officially these guys are called Rangers and it’s OK to call ’em that. They hit on a 4, but get an extra 6″ on their range because they have rifles. They also stay frosty on a 4 and they get 3 dice in close combat. That’s why you only get two of them.

The officers vary from game to game. Their basic skills, shooting and close combat, remain the same but players roll for their leadership ability, which affects their nerve and the nerve of others near them.

The Yokel miniatures are from Galloping Major and are of excellent quality but are only available in a very limited range. The Rangers are from Warlord, also great quality and a good variety of army options.

 

The Battle. Well, some of it

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We’re getting ready for some action here. Notice the Yokels are in a mixed unit. Smart.

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Here’s Gug chasing down a couple hapless Yokels. Good times.

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The Yokels are looking pretty good here, except for the fact that they are about to die a horrible death. They fought their way up to the entrance of the place they would really rather not go but that is no victory, especially since they are the only Yokels left on the board.

It’s really pretty close, closer than it looks, but the real winner is me. The game ran pretty smoothly, my wife and friends made good suggestions and asked pertinent questions, so it should be a much better game next time I run it. Anyway, there you go. Be on the lookout for Godawful Monsters vs. Roman Legionaries (Republican and Imperial), Gauls, Ancient Britons featuring Boadicea, Carthaginians and more. Thanks for stopping by.

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