Lessons from Long Live the Queen

I’m busy preparing a princess for her fast-approaching ascension to the throne. She’s doing fairly well: she can recite the religious texts, understand ciphers, handle a bow, and waltz without tripping over her own feet. I’ve even grown fond of young Elodie…

Priestess_robe

…even if she refuses to implement my wardrobe advice. Yikes.

Then she gets the munchies and decides to open the chocolates that just arrived at the castle without a proper return address. One cherry cordial later, she’s green and crumpled on the floor.

Poisoned

“Idiot!” I yell and mash the escape key. I fleetingly wonder if this is how Anora felt when Cailan did something stupid.

Welcome to Hanako Games’ Long Live the Queen, the cutest political strategy game I’ve found. Elodie must avoid assassination attempts, civil rebellion, foreign conquest, forced marriages, and the courtiers’ determination to undermine her authority.

She died, and she died a lot, as I worked out what skills a leader needs to be effective. She and I finally made it to her coronation, a lovely affair…

Coronation

…that masked her (and my) disillusionment and frustration with national politics. Long Live the Queen taught us:

  • An effective leader must possess some degree of self-control and tact when dealing with other nobles and ambassadors. Truth doesn’t always matter.
  • An effective leader must be well-versed in public speaking. Few people care about sincere intentions.
  • An effective leader must have a large information network both at home and abroad. Spying on everyone is essential.
  • An effective leader must keep the masses on her side either by favoring their cause in court or by funding state-sponsored programs. Loving animals and being “spiritual” also wins her points with the commoners, but it isn’t necessary.
  • All the other lessons one can focus upon – martial skills, history, economics, military strategy, and a strong faith – have very little impact on a leader’s surviving and continuing as ruler.

Great. Queen Elodie is now Bill Clinton, and I’m her James Carville.

Excuse me while I restart the game and shape Elodie into an empathetic, studious ruler. She may not last long, but at least we won’t be so depressed. Besides, if she has to die, at least I can make sure she goes in style. I’m leaning toward this:

Monster

Robert E. Lee

Robert E. LeeOnce, while working as superintendent of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, Robert E. Lee said, “I consider the character of no man affected by want of success provided he has made an honest effort to succeed” (25).  Not many years afterwards, he lived those words out as he “made an honest effort to succeed” in fighting for the Confederate States of America.  Lee not only fought hard, but even when his work was, to put it gently, unsuccessful, he did not regret the choices he had made or see dishonor in the task he had done.  Robert E. Lee was a leader whom nations admired, a general whom soldiers loved, a man whom history immortalizes, and in Robert E. Lee: Virginian Soldier, American Citizen by James I. Robertson Jr., this man and the events of his time live again.

In a concise biography, James Robertson masterfully details Robert E. Lee’s life, from his birth on January 19, 1807, to his death on October 12, 1870.  One sees the opinions of those who encountered Lee and the way in which he earns the respect of both his friends and his enemies.  In war and in peace, Lee was honorable, charitable, compassionate, humble, and discerning.  As one New York City newspaper put it after his death, “In him all that was pure and lofty in mind and purpose found lodgment.  He came nearer the ideal of a soldier and Christian general than any man we can think of” (143).  One of the most important parts of Lee’s life that Robertson focuses on is his life after the Civil War.  Lee kept the best interests of the South and of America at heart in the years succeeding the war.  When offered a tour of Europe, he turned it down.  Book CoverHe saw a different vocation for himself and knew that, as the man his countrymen so admired, he must be the one to lead them in the paths of peace and the restoration of union.  One of Lee’s best and most lasting legacies is the time he spent in his final years serving as superintendent of a tiny college, now known as Washington and Lee University.  Not aspiring to greatness, Lee served in whatever capacity God placed him and dispatched each task as well as he could.  Lee said, “The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, [and] that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged.  It is history that teaches each of us to hope” (140).  Despite the fact that Robert E. Lee suffered grievous defeat during the work of his lifetime, he did not despair, but put his trust in God.

Learning Vocabulary from “The Raven”

Edgar-Allan-Poes-The-RavenWhile surfing the internet the other day I came across a shirt with the image of a raven spelling the word “nevermore.” I immediately recognized the reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem The Raven, and being the owner of the complete works of Poe I went and grabbed my copy off of the shelf. However, whenever I opened up the book a small piece of paper fell out, and upon looking closer I realized that I had written a bunch of words on it. The paper was a list of vocabulary that Poe had used in his various short stories that I did not know the meaning of and had meant to look up later.

Long-words

One of the great advantages of reading older books is the expansive use of vocabulary found in them. While by no means a universal truth, many older authors had a much stronger mastery of the English language than people do today. This makes old books a great way to learn new English words. However, like with just about anything, vocabulary growth cannot be obtained in a desultory manner, because then we end up writing words down to reference later and stick them in a book (like I did with Poe).  After discovering my neglected list of unknown words I have decided to be more intentional about reading, and thereby learning, new words, and I would encourage you to join me in this venture. Words are the way the world communicates, and the more accurately and efficiently we can communicate the better chance we have of being successful in our interactions with others. In fact, it has been said that CEO’s of major companies have a very high vocabulary knowledge, and although correlation does not equal causation by any means, it is generally understood that the better a person can communicate the more successful they will be professionally.

After rediscovering my list of vocabulary from Poe’s book, I continued on to reread The Raven. It took me all of 5 minutes, but in the process I discovered several more words to add to my small piece of paper. So, find a good book, and whenever you get a chance, read and learn. There’s a whole wealth of words out there that the majority of people do not know, a whole treasure chest just waiting to be discovered. Here are some of the words that I found on the small piece of paper inside my Poe Anthology:

  1. Quiescence –adj. in a state or period of inactivity or dormancy
  2. Asphodel –n. an immortal flower said to grow in the Elysian fields
  3. Desultory –adj. lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm
  4. Nepenthe –n. any drug or potion bringing welcome forgetfulness
  5. Castellated –adj. having battlements
  6. Surcease –n. cessation; relief or consolation

Wasteland Ethics: Part 3

 Piotr turned over on his side, shivering and convulsing. What little thought flitted through his mind was screaming that he was in deep trouble. He could feel the wound in his side, the hot blood pulsing out with every heart beat. Kit, he thought, wracked with another wave of pain. How had it come to this?

* * * * * *

The train tunnels and sewers below them by the science station were no place to take tourists. Everyone knew that. Even dogs and the smarter bandits kept away from them. But that was where all the evidence had been leading Piotr, and he was finally willing to admit he was scared. He had nimbly worked his way through a whole field of electricity anomalies while being surrounded by those unfortunates who hadn’t. It had been a shame on more than one level, some of those who were lost had some good equipment on them, but it would be a fool’s errand to try and retrieve any of it.

Piotr let out a sigh of relief as he moved past some of the abandoned rail cars in the tunnel, knocked askew years ago, and found the door to the maintenance tunnel. It was unlocked and slightly ajar. Curious, the stalker thought, I suppose all the electricity fried the circuits. He pushed the door open further with his boot and enter the room with his AK raised. The tunnel was dark and musty, and up ahead a pipe coughed out clouds of brown gas. Piotr wasted no time and slid his gas-mask into place, ensuring there was a tight seal. The heat and compression of the mask’s rubber covering could quickly become unbearable, but he’d rather be uncomfortable than dead.

The tunnel snaked on and on, eventually leading downward into what looked like a parts storage facility. The path led out onto a catwalk which descended into a dimly lit room with row upon row of shelves and a set of heavy doors on either end of the room. He descended the staircase, sweeping his weapon from side to side. Satisfied at the bottom that there were no immediate threats, he removed his gas-mask. He could hear his footsteps echo in the large room, and stopped immediately as he heard a growl. He slowly turned his head to the left, and saw a human foot disappear behind a row of shelves.

Chyort!” Of all the things that could be in here, it had to be snorks, those poor souls who had gone into the immediate disaster zone and been foolish enough to have their gas-masks improperly sealed. No one knew how, but they had been twisted so they could no longer stand properly, but could leap like cougars. His headlamp swept the room as he sought the creature. He turned around as a blood-curdling screech filled the air, just in time to see a pair of rotting teeth peeking out from underneath a ruined mask. Claws raked across his face and chest, and his rifle was pinned down against him. Piotr tried to cover his head as a rain of blows came down upon him, seeking to tear out his eyes. He screamed as he felt warm blood escaping from jagged cuts in his face and felt a new, deeper wound in his side. Getting purchase on the monster’s face and pushing, the stalker pulled his rifle free just enough to blast the creature in the chest. With a moan, the snork fell on top of the stalker and gave its death rattle. Pushing the beast off, Piotr sought to rise. He fell back with a cry. He reached over and felt the handle of a knife. The creature must have remembered some of its former life, because the stalker recognized the handle as his own. With agony he pulled out the blade and turned towards his unwounded side. He fumbled with a medical kit, removing a packet of sulfa drugs and tearing it open with his teeth. He had to hurry. Everything was…going…bla…

Piotr awoke later lying on a bed, his gear removed and wounds bound. He was in a small concrete room with metal shelves lining the walls covered in supplies. A clock ticked impassively on the wall opposite him, and a man sat sideways at a desk underneath that clock. The man was reading through what Piotr knew was the assignment that Sidorovich had given to find Wicker. Piotr cleared his throat.

“Ah, you are awake my friend,” the man said with a smile. “I’m glad to see you pulled through. I was worried for you there. It’s not often I get visitors. My unwitting guards make sure of that.”

“You are Wicker,” Piotr said. It wasn’t a question.

“I am. And you are Fox.”

“Why did you help me?”

Wicker smiled. “I knew you wouldn’t understand. Fox, this is my chance. My chance to disappear again. I have some new adventures planned, but they will be easier if people believe me to be dead. Angering Sidorovich seemed like a good way to ensure that a death of mine would be publicized.”

Fox shook his head in an attempt to clear the headache he awoke with. “So, you wanted me to hunt you?”

Wicker laughed. “Well, not you specifically, but yes, I wanted to be hunted. I want to disappear, Fox. Surely you know what that’s like. You may not remember me from the outside, but I remember you. We used to work for the same people. I think we can help each other, you and I. You need money and a flash drive.”

Wicker opened a drawer of the desk and pulled out a large wad of roubles and a data stick. “Here you go. This is all you need to get your payment from Sidorovich and rub the name of Wicker from the history books. Your reputation as a ‘good stalker’ will undoubtedly go up. You will be looked kindly upon for this. As for me, I’ll disappear. I’m never going back to the Cordon or the Garbage. I’ve better plans.”

Fox nodded. “Why are you trusting me with this, Aleksei? You thought I wouldn’t remember you, but I do. You’re a good man, but I know you don’t like loose ends.”

Wicker leaned forward. “Because I know you have a conscience. You are in no condition to kill me, but I am in perfect condition to kill you. Neither of us want that. Help me, Piotr, help yourself.”

Piotr thought to himself for a minute. “Ok. You have a deal.”

* * * * * *

Fox went on to claim Sidorovich’s bounty, secure in the knowledge that he had not only helped himself but someone he once knew. He hoped that Aleksei – once known as Wicker – would find what he was looking for. For as far as everyone else was concerned, Wicker was now a ghost, and Sidorovich was happy. Well, relatively. The conversation they had kept going back and forth.

“Are you sure this was the only flash drive Wicker had on him?” the grumpy merchant kept asking.

“Yes, Sidorovich. How many times do I have to tell you?”

“And you didn’t take anything off of it?”

“Sidorovich, I have no means to do so.”

Once Sidorovich was satisfied with his money and his disappointment in what he was looking for being missing, Fox went on his way. New gear and new adventures awaited him, all thanks to his “dead” friend saving his life. Fox resolved that as far as he could, in the future, he was going to do for others what Wicker had done for him.

The Faces of Evil

Overview:

Title:  The Faces of Evil: Interviews with Individuals on the Scale of Evil

Rating:  Three-and-a-half to four stars (good to excellent)

Director:  Deborah Renope

Writer(s):  Tiffany Ship, Deborah Renope,  more

Contact:  View contact information here

Release Date: March 2, 2010 (USA), 1st Cycle of Spring (Harbold), more

Genre:  Documentary

Tagline:  The faces of evil are manifold…are you one of them?/  World-renown reporter Tiffany Ship’s last assignment was her greatest./  From those that brought you Blood Magic: Cannibalism and Spells more

Awards: Giant Slayer Honor™, Academy Award for Best Documentary™,  more

Also Known As:  Burzum (Mordor), I Thaur (Rivendell), more

Parental Discretion Advised:  See why here

Runtime:  Ninety-six minutes

Country:  Many-earth

Language:  Common Speech.

Filming Location(s):  Thornfield Hall

Company:  Juniper Tree Entertainment™: Dedicated to Discussing Nasty Topics

Synopsis: World-renown reporter Tiffany Ship seemed to have done it all.  Mighty warriors had admitted to their dark pasts, daredevil monster hunters had revealed their shadowy techniques, charming princesses had determined to defy their cruel fathers, and enchanted frogs had finally come to grips with their form—all this has been accomplished under Tiffany Ship’s persistent questioning.  But now, she tackles her toughest guests yet amidst the scenic, haunting environs of Thornfield Hall in Hathersage, in the county of Derbyshire, England.  In her final assignment before her tragic death, Tiffany Ship interviews a Dark Lord, an Evil Queen, an Assassin, and an Enchanted Thrall for their insight into the world of evil.

Cast: 

Tiffany Ship………..Herself 

The Dark Lord……..Himself

The Evil Queen…….Herself

The Assassin……….Herself

The Enchanted Thrall…Itself

Deborah Renope……(Voice) Herself

Trivia:  Tiffany Ship reportedly had nightmares concerning her death in the weeks before filming began more

Goofs:  Deborah Renope’s name was spelled incorrectly as “Debra” in one of her credits  more..

Quotes:  Tiffany Ship:  “Do you have friends?”  The Assassin:  “Well, yeah, of course I do…” more

Soundtrack:  The original score was composed by Eithne Brennan more

Plot (Spoiler Alert!):

The audience is first introduced to the interviewees:  the Dark Lord, the Evil Queen, the Assassin, and the Enchanted Thrall all make their appearance.  Tiffany Ship then asks their names.  The Dark Lord, seated majestically in his dark robes, claims that his has been forgotten.  The Evil Queen smiles, adjusts gold and ruby crown, and simpers: “Oh, call me Brianna.”  The Assassin stretches out her legs and says: “Well, I can’t tell, you know, security reasons.  Just call me Melissa.”  The Enchanted Thrall plucks nervously at the chain round its neck and states, “Master would kill me if I told.”  Tiffany Ship then proceeds to inquire more basic facts, e.g.: Where do you live?  “In mine fortress,” replies the Dark Lord.  What about your parents?  “Oh, I disposed of my parents years ago,” frankly admits the Evil Queen.  What’s your favorite color?  “Oh, I dunno,” says the Assassin, “Black, navy, browns, greens…whites…anything that blends in.”  What’s your favorite food?  “Um, well, um,” hesitates the Enchanted Thrall, “Well, um, ham sandwiches, not that I get it much.”

Tiffany Ship embarks on more personal questions aimed at discerning real character.  For example, she inquires, “If you had to take over a kingdom, how would you accomplish it?”  “Why, I would send mine armies to pillage and slaughter and burn, of course,” says the Dark Lord.  (“What if you didn’t have an army?”  “Uh…” meditates the Dark Lord, “Then I would send mine demons to terrorize and tear apart.”)  The Evil Queen’s scheme is a little more complicated: “I would enchant the king, marry him, and then stab him in the heart after the wedding.”  (“What if it was a queen?”  “Then I would have her murdered, or do it myself, which, I can tell you from experience, always saves trouble.”)  The Assassin thinks a moment, then replies: “Well, I would have to know more about the situation, of course, but I would probably poison the royal family’s food, or perhaps the guard’s food, or even influence a weak-minded vassal to aid me.”  (“Does it make a difference if the target is a faerie king or queen?”  “Well, you have to be a lot more careful…” the Assassin begins.)  The Enchanted Thrall sighs: “Well, my master would tell me the kingdom he wanted, then I would do the usual: worm my way into the king’s confidence, then poison his mind.”  (“Do you get any reward from your master for doing this for him?”  “Oh, not ultimately,” is all the Enchanted Thrall reveals.)  The questions become more and more soul-searching.  “Would you kill a baby in order to gain your ends?”  “Why wouldn’t I?” demands the Dark Lord.  Tiffany Ship eventually asks:  “Why are you evil?”  The Dark Lord inquires: “There’s something else?”  The Evil Queen embarks on a lengthy speech on the benefits of sorcery.  “It pays the bills,” the Assassin states, matter-of-factly.  “I am enchanted,” says the Enchanted Thrall.

Finally, Ms. Ship asks: “If you could be immensely wealthy, I mean, if you had the opportunity to be good, you would have riches and power and happiness, but you would be good, would you take it?”  The Dark Lord says immediately: “No.  It is an incomprehensible thought.  I can’t even think it.”   “Oh, I would take the riches,” confides the Evil Queen, “but ultimately you can accomplish so much more being evil…wait…are you suggesting that I am somehow imperfect?  Everything I do is good and wonderful, you know, and for my own ends.  You are insulting me.  Do you know what I do to people who offend me?  Well first I…” (View Parental Content Advisory)  “Well, I dunno, I guess so…yeah, maybe…I guess,” says the Assassin.  Then, watchfully: “Why do you want to know?”  The Enchanted Thrall puffs up its three-foot-six body and proclaims: “Though I be punished for this with three weeks of bread and water, I must speak the truth.  I WOULD.  I’m sorry, Master.”  However, the Evil Queen has been offended, and she storms out, proclaiming her desire and determination to have revenge.  Even the brave Tiffany Ship grows pale.  At this point the interviews cease.  The director’s voice cuts in, and narrates how a few weeks after the interview Tiffany Ship fell down dead at on a park bench while eating a fruit salad, which upon investigation was found to be poisoned.

It is the general consensus that the Evil Queen was behind the tragic occurrence.  Of course, the Evil Queen was never brought to trial as it is difficult to enact human’s justice system in the Other Lands.  Additionally, it was rumored that the Evil Queen had the support of the Dark Lord and his massive army, and authorities were unwilling to risk a war, despite support from many Other-Worlders themselves. The audience is then reminded of the risk of evil, and how they should never give into it, along with a reminder of the great work Tiffany Ship did, and ultimately died for.