Game Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution

Last week I took some time to play a few games, notably The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.  Once my niece and nephews arrived, though, I didn’t have time for much else (although we built some cool planes and helicopters with a big bin of LEGOs).  They love Uncle Portly’s “devices”—my Nintendo Switch Lite (the “big device”), Nintendo 3DS XL (the “medium-sized device”), and Nintendo DS Lite (the “small device”).  My older nephew will spend hours building levels in Mario Maker 2 if left to his own devices.  My niece usually ends up with the “medium-sized device,” leaving my littlest nephew to play whatever I happen to have that will run on the DS Lite.

In digging around for games a two-year old could grasp, I found my old copy of 2008’s Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution.  It’s an interesting, almost “abridged” version of the full Civilization experience—what would now be a cellphone app.  The game contains the major elements of a Civilization game from the Civilization IV era, and the game bears the stamp of many of that iteration’s innovations (as well as one of the major contributions from Civilization III, culture borders).

Naturally, my nephew wasn’t going to be playing that, but I popped it in one evening after the kids went to bed and found the game highly entertaining.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

I’m coming off a dizzyingly long Thanksgiving, and while I enjoyed quite a bit of unstructured time, I surprisingly did not have much time for writing.  Posts from the past week indicate the amount of phoning in I’ve done lately, and this week’s Monday Morning Movie Review will likely be no different.

The idea for this review came from my good buddy photog over at Orion’s Cold Fire.  On Halloween he wrote a large double review of the 1922 silent film Nosferatu and the Werner Herzog remake, Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979).

After reading his review, I found that Shudder had the Herzog remake—which photog correctly identifies as a tribute to the 1922 F. W. Murnau film—and watched it.  I will say that photog’s review really does an excellent job of detailing the highlights, so I’d encourage you to read it.  As he goes through much of the plot, I’ll leave that alone, and instead will give some of my thoughts on the film.

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Lazy Sunday CXLI: Thanksgiving Stuff(ing)

Another glorious Thanksgiving Break has come and gone, so yours portly will have to struggle through another three weeks of work before enjoying another ridiculously generous break at Christmastime.

In keeping with the spirit of doing a lot of “rerun” posts this past week, here’s a Lazy Sunday dedicated to various Thanksgiving posts from yesteryear:

Apparently, I write a lot of posts about Thanksgiving, and I recycle almost all of them every year.  I think a good bit of that is because I am usually worn out by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, and rather than tax my weary brain with fresh material, I just reuse the treacly tripe I wrote in prior years.  Also, pageviews are way down during the week, chiefly because people are enjoying time with their friends and family, rather than wasting time at work reading the angry screeds of a portly man.

Regardless, Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: 2021 Election Analysis

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Elections all over the country on 2 November 2021 (and run-offs on 16 November 2021) came back with some surprising results—and results that, with due caution, should give conservatives hope.  Popping all those black pills was premature, but all of our problems aren’t magically solved just yet.

Winning elections is one thing.  Governing in such a way that honors the reasons voters gave you office is another.  But the results from the 2021 elections are very encouraging.

Today’s post will be slightly delayed, but should be posted to SubscribeStar by this afternoon.

To read more of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Flashback Friday^2: Brack Friday Bunduru: Workers Need a Break

It’s Black Friday today, so everyone is rushing out to get whatever picked over sales items they can.  In the spirit of Black Friday, I’d be remiss if I didn’t hawk my bookThe One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard, and my music.  Inspector Gerard is the perfect White Elephant gag gift, and at $10 for the paperback, it fits perfectly into the price point for most such novelty gift exchanges.  I’ve also got some weird merch for sale.

I first wrote “Brack Friday Bunduru: Workers Need a Break“ back in 2019, at a point when I was feeling immense amounts of burnout at work.  I stand by my original assessment—that companies shouldn’t gobble up Thanksgiving Day to offer increasingly early doorbuster sales so their workers can enjoy some time with their families—though now I would probably add some more caveats.

I realized that I never really explained the name “Brack Friday Bunduru.”  I lifted it from an episode of South Park in which the kids heat up the console wars between the XBox and Playstation:

Ever since, I can’t help but say, “Brack Friday Bunduru” in an exaggerated Japanese accent ever Black Friday.

With that, here is 2020’s “Flashback Friday: Brack Friday Bunduru: Workers Need a Break”:

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TBT^16: It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle!

In the tradition of the past few Thanksgivings (2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017), I’m reblogging my annual “It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle!” post, originally from Thanksgiving 2017 (and on the old blog).  The Saturday before that Thanksgiving I fell from a ladder and broke my left wrist (and also got a nasty gash in my left leg).  I was thankful to be alive, and to have avoided brain damage (my head, thankfully, was unscathed).

Usually this part of a TBT post is italicized, but to help keep it clear which year’s post you’re reading, I’m alternating between italicized and non-formatted text.  I’ve also added some headers to keep the prior year’s posts straight.

It’s a been a good year—a very busy one, but a good one.  It seems that life is beginning to resume its usual rhythms (and tempo—mine is, apparently, prestissimo).

In looking back at last year’s commentary, I see quite a few changes from 2020 to 2021.  For instance, last year I enjoyed distance learning; the few times we’ve done it this year, I’ve found it unsatisfying and ineffective (but I still like working from home—ha!).

On a brighter note, my private lessons empire has come roaring back.  From a low of just one loyal student, I am back to teaching around ten to fifteen lessons per week—sometimes fewer than ten, rarely more than fifteen, and often somewhere in between the two—which has been fun, lucrative, and exhausting.  I love teaching private lessons; the problem I am running into now is that, in order to accommodate the maximum number of students, I’m having to eat into time spent on other things—writing, lesson planning, and grading.  It’s worth it financially, and lessons have become the highlights of my days, but it’s definitely created some time constraints, especially when tacked on after (and, increasingly, during) a busy school day.

Regardless, I am thankful for the opportunity to work with these students, and for the funds that come with teaching them.  I now have two students who take lessons twice a week, which is fabulous, and I’m looking to add two or three more in January.  I’m looking into shifting students at comparable levels into group lessons to lighten my load a bit, but also out of sheer necessity—I’m literally running out of times to slot students.

Beyond lessons, it has been a very eventful year.  I was elected and re-elected to Lamar Town Council; wrote and published a bookThe One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot; and got a dogMy SubscribeStar page is up to ten subscribers, though two of those are inactive; at one point, I’d reached eleven!

That’s all to say that I have much to be thankful for this year.  I’m also very thankful to you, my readers and commenters.  The comments thread on the blog has really come alive in the past few months, and has brought a refreshing energy that motivates me to keep writing.  Thanks to all of you for your continued support, in whatever way that support comes.

With that, here is Thanksgiving 2020’s “TBT^4: It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle!“:

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Morrowednesday: Back to Vvardenfell

Finding myself with a good bit of unstructured time this week, I decided to revisit a game I haven’t played in nearly sixteen or seventeen years:  The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.  The game was released right at the end of my junior year of high school, in May 2002.  I was familiar with The Elder Scrolls from picking up a copy of the first game, Arena, in the used games bin at Electronic Boutique in the Aiken Mall sometime back in middle school.  Arena came out in 1994; it was probably around 1997 or 1998 when I picked up my copy—including a mousepad map of the Tamrielic Empire and two fat instruction booklets.

That was back when the Internet was not so readily available (I don’t think we had it at home until the year 2000 or 2001), so playing big, open-ended roleplaying games like those in The Elder Scrolls series required a great deal of study before and during play.  That also meant actually reading the information characters imparted, and learning by a great deal of trial and error.

When Morrowind released I’d preordered it based solely on how much I enjoyed Arena.  Arena is very clunky by today’s standards (it was made for MS-DOS, after all), but the breadth of the world, as well as the game’s roots in tabletop roleplaying games, really drew me in.  I figured that if Morrowind was built on the same dedication to pen-and-paper roleplaying, it would be a blast.

Well, I was right.  Morrowind is, perhaps, the best game I have ever played.  That doesn’t mean it is flawless; indeed, Elder Scrolls games are notoriously buggy.  Morrowind is no exception.  But bugginess, clunky combat, and a steep learning curve aside, Morrowind delivered on the promise of an open-ended roleplaying experience, while also delivering an incredibly dense story, and a world jam-packed with characters, locations, quests, and lots of random oddities.

Somehow, though, I haven’t touched the game for any significant length of time since probably 2006.  The release of two follow-ups, Oblivion (the only time I skipped a class in college—a University Band rehearsal—was the night this game was released) and Skyrim (which came out on 11 November 2011, the year I began teaching again) would continue the series, but see it lose much of its depth of mechanics to become a more streamlined action RPG.

To further indicate this blog’s slide into pop cultural irrelevancy, I’ve decided to chronicle my newest playthrough here on The Portly Politico, doing so on Wednesdays when there is not a sonnet scheduled and when I have played enough to write something of interest.  In other words, the second and fourth Wednesdays in the month, and the fifth Wednesday when one appears in a month.

I’m dubbing these posts Morrowednesdays.

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Retro Tuesday: Thanksgiving Week!

It’s Thanksgiving Week, which means I am really going to be phoning in some posts this week.  I love writing, but even I need a break from the constant output that my insatiable readers demand.

In the original post from this thread, I spelled out my argument in favor of an entire week off for Thanksgiving, in exchange for some lesser holidays.  With districts caving to reality and giving students the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, families have just moved the start of their break back to Tuesday, with mass absenteeism the norm the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  Indeed, many families take the entire week off.

Well, my school—and many public schools in my area—took my sage advice:  we are off for the entire week.  It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle!

However, I also predicted that, with an entire week off, the siren song of leaving for an extended vacation even earlier would be hard to resist.  I was right:  last week, we had a few students leaving town as early as Wednesday—a full eight days before the bird faces the executioner.  Whoa!  The trend only intensified Thursday and Friday.

Of course, it strains credulity to argue for any more time off.  At this point, I think it makes far more sense to increase Christmas Break than to lengthen Thanksgiving any further.

One downside to this newer, longer break:  with losing some other days earlier in the semester, everyone is completely burned out.  We teachers are not a hardy breed:  we’ve grown soft with cushy vacations.  In all seriousness, though, we get pretty worn down, as anyone would corralling and attempting to mold young minds all day.

Well, enough of that.  Now I’m enjoying the sweet life.

With that, here is 23 November 2020’s “Memorable Monday: Thanksgiving Week!“:

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Prisoners of Ghostland (2021) and Incident in a Ghostland (2018)

Today marks the official start of my glorious Thanksgiving Break.  My sage advice—to sacrifice Columbus Day as a day off in exchange for an entire week of freedom for Thanksgiving—has apparently, via osmosis, found its way to my school’s administration, and after slogging it out for three months, we’re finally reaping the benefits of that sacrifice.

This past weekend was also the first time in a few weeks I did not have to travel out of town for one reason or another, so I have watched a lot of movies on Shudder—the good, the bad, and the forgettable (I also managed to get in a late-night session of Civilization VI, eschewing my most recent playthrough as the Celts and cranking up a new run as the Incan Empire, which is slowly expanding across South America at the time of this writing).  I managed to catch two flicks with the word “Ghostland” in their titles, one memorable and somewhat good, the other absolutely terrible:  2021’s Prisoners of Ghostland and 2018’s Incident in a Ghostland, respectively.

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