If you have been under a rock or haven’t decided to jump in on the Netflix train ride to glory, then you might have missed one of the best series to be produced in the last decade.
I’m talking about The Haunting of Hill House, an original series produced by Netflix that is gloriously eerie where it needs to be and is generally a spooky experience.
I guess if you’re not into horror, then maybe the series isn’t for you but overall, I’d say you should still give the series a shot because I’ve heard it described as “This is Us, but horror.”
Warning, there is no non-spoiler section in this one. Sorry.
The Haunting of Hill House, which is apparently based off of the novel by Shirley Jackson, is the story of the Crain family and their experience with Hill House. There are a ton of layers to what is going on and this review isn’t going to do the series justice but should be enough to get you interested in checking it out.
Just like This is Us, the story jumps around between the present and the past. The past is around when the Crains bought Hill House to flip it, with five kids to live while the process was going on. There are things that don’t make a lot of sense at first when you’re watching early on but will make you go “I didn’t see that coming” as the season wraps up.
Again, I said that there are many layers to this show.
The present is about everyone all grown up and how they have developed over the years having experienced the house and are dealing with the consequences of what they’ve experienced.
Here’s where the spoilers come in.
The oldest son has written a book about their experiences and no one else in the family is real happy with that.During the flashbacks we learn that the mother has died, and you find out why in the last few episodes, but you also come to understand that the House is really the main reason why things are happening.
Each of the kids is dealing with the loss of the mother, dealing with how their dad has turned out, and is coping with the whole experience in their own little ways.
Needless to say, everyone is severely screwed up.
We, along with the family, start piecing together what actually happened in the house as the series progresses, learning about the history and events that have taken place in the past from both the past and the future perspectives.
A careful eye will find all the hidden ghosts in the series, too, though I haven’t rewatched the series yet to find them for myself.
Yes, this is something you’re going to want to rewatch at least a couple times because there is so much going on!
When my wife and I were watching, we made some guesses about some things and got just as many right as we got wrong. There are layers to this story and I’m so glad Netflix poured cash into this project.
This review isn’t as long as the last one because, though I have not bothered hiding spoilers, I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds here. Go watch the series.
I’m also excited for season 2, which I’m hoping will explore more of the past BEFORE the Crains get to Hill House!
Starz has had a stellar TV series that I happened across about four years ago and the show was Black Sails. If you like pirates and are interested in HBO level quality of a show about them, then you are in luck.
This is my review of the entire series (as the fourth and final season has long since ended). We (my wife and I) just finished watching the last episode a night or two ago (as you read this).
Black Sails is the story of how Long John Silver got to the point where he’s at in Treasure Island, along with a good mix of actual historical events as well as actual historical pirates.
Yes, Black Sails is a prequel to Treasure Island.
The non-spoiler review is actually pretty short. You get introduced to all of the “main players” right off the bat and some new ones straggle in after a season or two, then you see where the background of Treasure Island gets built, and finally we end up in a place that (for those who have read the book) is more familiar to us.
Starz, as an HBO-like channel, also went and added all the wonderfully adult language as well as plenty of nudity just like one would come to expect from a big budget production like this.
And now, I should move forward into the spoiler review.
Your warning is now, this is the SPOILER section.
Captain Flint (fictional, from Treasure Island), Billy Bones (fictional, from Treasure Island), and the crew of the Walrus (fictional, Treasure Island) end up with a passenger named John Silver (fictional, Treasure Island) who ends up becoming part of the crew.
They are all pirates from Nassau, a city in the Bahamas where the pirates have built their Republic (this is fact). In charge of the island is Eleanor Guthrie, the daughter of a man who organized the pirates into something less random and something more civil. Eleanor, as well as her unseen father, are real.
Among the other pirates that hang out in and around Nassau are Charles Vane (real life pirate) of the Ranger (his real ship was called Lark), Jack Rackham (real life pirate, known as Calico Jack), Anne Bonny (real life pirate), and Benjamin Hornigold (real life pirate and mentor to Edward Teach… Blackbeard).
Nassau has a brothel where a lot of scenes happen (both for the gratuitous nudity and the story development for meetings between characters) and Fort Nassau is under the control of Hornigold, who uses it to fend off ships who aren’t welcome on the island.
There’s a Spanish ship carrying a lot of gold, known as the Urca de Lima (real ship), which is discovered by the pirates and becomes the focus of their attention… because they’re pirates.
The whole while, John Silver is slowly becoming the scary and powerful pirate we know he is in Treasure Island, which is a transformation worth watching as the series goes on.
There are spectacular naval battles, political intrigue, examples of what kinds of things people at sea faced in the 18th century, and for those who need a little nudity, there is some in every season (though, as is typical with HBO shows, the amount decreases as the seasons progress, giving way to the actual story).
As a series, this was surprisingly excellent in a way that I hadn’t expected Starz to produce. HBO has a track record of producing content like this, and I’m sure if I subscribed to Starz I would find more interesting content there (I watched Black Sails through my Hulu subscription).
If I had to give the series as a whole a star rating, I’d give the series a 5 out of 5. Sure, there were some slow parts and drawn out pieces that took away from the spectacle. Some of the historical stuff isn’t accurate, either (like Blackbeard’s final appearance didn’t actually happen the way they showed us), some of the integral pirates necessary to be more historically based were missing entirely, and after we’re given some examples of what pirates dealt with we’re pushed into pure story instead of noting how those things didn’t go away. Overall, though, I’m still giving the series a 5.
There is so much awesome packed into this series that I can’t even contain my enthusiasm. I wanted more than 4 seasons but I understand that the story didn’t have more story in it… I would have been less happy if there was a season 7 that just sort of padded itself to last to get to the “good stuff” in a finale.
That’s the one thing I wasn’t disappointed in at all: there is very little stretching of the story for the sake of stretching the story.
If you want to know why columns aren’t coming out like they used to then you should be aware that November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I have decided to participate this year… that basically eats up the extra spare time I had to write a column.
So where is this one coming from? Well, the subject of my NaNoWriMo novel this year is basically SpecterChess. I started writing and came up with some wonderful ideas that I’d like to revisit on this site, and perhaps alter SpecterChess with… so, let’s not waste anymore time.
I have an issue finishing writing projects. No, really, I do.
Yes, I know that isn’t a surprise… that was sarcasm.
Anyway, I was challenged by my friend (and author) Jason Brick (of BrickCommaJason.com) to write something I “wasn’t married to as an idea.” I chose to write about someone who wants to set up a chess league and that basically meant I was writing about SpecterChess, in a nutshell. Along the way, though, something happened.
Some writers will tell you that they aren’t necessarily in control of their characters. Non-writers will be baffled by this statement but writers understand that sometimes the characters are really the ones who are in charge of the dialog, meaning they can sometimes start talking about stuff that you hadn’t expected them to talk about at all. Sometimes, even, they bring up subjects that are completely out of left field, and in my case they can actually unveil things you weren’t sure that you wanted to do.
My characters have done that very thing.
The character who came up with the idea for SpecterChess (it’s called ICE for International Chess Experience in the novel) pitched the whole idea to his friend and unbeknownst to me came up with some formatting changes that I didn’t really take into consideration when I launched SpecterChess. The biggest one is the “divisional breaks” I used for SpecterChess: my character broke them up more evenly and with a better overall vision for them.
As I write this, SpecterChess has 10 rate divisions that are between 100 and 200 Elo points apart (with no room for being at the top of the rating maximum and going over). I initially just named them after the weight classes that the UFC uses with the addition of the unified rules of MMA inclusion of Cruiserweight. Using the names and weights, I literally just added a “0” on the end of the weight to create an Elo maximum for each division.
Sounded good at the time.
My character, though, broke them up differently and excluded anyone above 2200. Why 2200? Well, the reasoning is that anyone above that rating will be focused on “traditional chess improvement” and wouldn’t really be interested in playing in ICE at all. These players would be the ones attending all kinds of tournaments and winning prize money.
The new “Rate Classes” are as follows (with the maximum Elo in parentheses): Kilo Rate (1200), Mega Rate (1400), Giga Rate (1600), Tera Rate (1800), Peta Rate (2000), and Exa Rate (2200). If someone won their division’s championship, and they were already at the maximum rating (or very close to going over), they are given a 50 Elo buffer to defend said championship. ONLY 50 Elo points and ONLY for championships. If you’re a non-champion player and you stray over the rating limit, you’re in the higher division.
Another caveat that I came up with, which I do not personally have the funding to do, was being paid a salary for playing in ICE. The salary varied based on rate division and would only apply to those who were “ranked” contenders. That means that the champion and the top 15 players under the champion are under salary, while the rest of the competitors are not salaried players. This gives anyone a reason to try to get ranked in their divisions and gives a reason for ICE, or in my case SpecterChess, a reason to be a draw to players.
On top of a salary, every win you achieve under the ICE (or in my case SpecterChess) banner would be a bonus of a flat fee (let’s use $25 for this example). Regardless of salary, you could earn an additional $25 per win (meaning the win over the opponent and not the win of individual games). There would also be bonuses for outstanding game/match and other possible bonuses.
The characters in the novel started by forming a single division first and expanding out from there. Now, I’ve only written into the beginning of their first event, so Tera Rate is the one they started with and they established a KO tournament in order to determine a champion and 15 ranked contenders. After another event of only Tera Rate competitors, they will be starting in on another rate division (I’m thinking “down” would be smarter to go with initially, so they’d be introducing the Giga Rate division next using that line of thinking).
When I use the word “tournament,” I am speaking specifically about KO tournaments. Chess is rife with round robins (it is THE norm) and the whole point of SpecterChess is to go back to match play.
Why match play?
Well, there is no scarcity in chess anymore. Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana (the two World Chess Championship 2018 players) have played each other more than 50 times already… where’s the mystery in that? Also, with only tournament play in chess, they haven’t gotten a chance at a long run of match play like they are about to enter. There isn’t really any match play other than the WCC.
Sure, that allows all kinds of kibitzers to download all their games and overanalyze things. I also agree that tournament play isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My concern is that with ONLY tournament play, chess is becoming more an endurance product than a player v player game. Players are more concerned with their overall tournament performance and less about “that one game they drew” early on.
My goal with SpecterChess isn’t to eliminate “normal” chess tournaments, it’s to add a feature for those who aren’t in some sort of contention for the WCC. I’m creating “chess competition for the rest of us.”
I’d like to play in tournaments, sure, but I’d rather concentrate more on a single opponent at a time with a focus on seeing if I can outmatch them rather than endure an entire tournament.
The last thing that ICE is doing that I hadn’t really considered before is game time. Each game is 15 minutes per player, meaning we don’t need to worry about achieving that “perfect game” in a traditional time control. It also eliminates the stress of needing to be spectacular at blitz chess, which in my estimation can be overrated as the alternative. With 30 minute games, players have their entire set of four games (per match) in a single day, leaving the multiple day event format in the dust.
SpecterChess would literally be like the UFC in that they’d only be happening on single days.
I would like to thank my characters for coming up with most of this and though I’ll be altering SpecterChess’s format/rules in the near future, I wanted to point out that sometimes writing takes you in weird directions.
I’ve talked in the past about getting over bad habits and though I’ve been working hard to avoid mine (the time wasting ones with zero benefit), I’m having a devil of a time staying focused on the prize: progress.
I have caught myself at least five times starting to slide into a rabbit hole of time wasting this past week. In fairness, I am off from work (for the last day until my next one) as I write this, which means I’ve had the extra time to stray from productivity.
There isn’t an official medical opinion on this, but I’ve self diagnosed as ADD (no “H,” I am too old to be hyperactive). The reason for this is because even though I can really dive into tasks and get them done, my mind wanders and I often get distracted really, really easily.
A good example of this is that I took a 10 minute detour to work on Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes because I haven’t done my “dailies” yet.
When I was play testing the original BuJoRPG, I was hyper focused on getting that done… and earning XP the whole time, I was motivated to get to the end of the testing phase. I was leveled up.
During the testing I gained some good habits around the house, I learned the basics of Vietnamese (the language), I was more than willing to do things that I found distasteful (like I have to clean the bathroom later today and I’m not excited about that). I am excited about a cleaner bathroom, though.
Yeah, adulting isn’t the best.
I’ve said all that to say that I have bad habits creeping back in and I need to break that up and get that out of my life again. What I need is BuJourneyRPG testing and to do that I need help with development.
The reaction from the first episode is in: Jodie Whittaker is a hit.
I was interested in seeing if people would react to her as the Doctor simply because she’s a woman and I actually heard responses that evaluated the episode and her for the merits of the show rather than evaluating her woman-ness.
That makes me happy.
The biggest thing that makes me happy is all the “New Who” fans can stop whining about the classic bent we had with Capaldi… because, you know, Doctor Who started with Christopher Eccleston (eye roll here).
I’ve been a Marvel zombie in the past. There have been some DC titles sprinkled in there, too. I was a super fan of the CrossGen universe right up until the place closed shop (and really wish Marvel would have allowed it to continue without attempting to “reboot” it). When Image popped up, I was all in (with all the titles I could find). More recently I’ve been all in on Valiant (until they started ending titles and restarting with #1s) as well as going all in with Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime universe.
What does this all mean? It means I give things a try because retreading the same stuff over and over again in the “Big 2” is no longer interesting.
There is a bunch of stuff I am actively waiting for or reading, and I’d like to take a few minutes to highlight what those are with a little reason or two why.
Top Cow’s God Complex is, in a word, awesome. There is a mystery abound, a strange world to explore, and I’m very interested in learning more about “the Gods.” If this one is in my read pile, it rises to the top automatically.
A quirky horror series, Image’s Ice Cream Man is an anthology situation and you can literally pick up an issue without worrying about a “through story” in the series. There might be more going on in this one, but I think if it interests you enough, check it out.
I am still reading Marvel’s Champions, because it’s fresh and has characters in it that I’m interested in (Miles Morales, Riri Williams, Amadeus Cho, etc) and doesn’t have a history to retread. Things are new and interesting… I know I said that twice, but it’s twice as true.
I’m reading DC’s Doomsday Clock, too… mainly because I’m 7 issues in and I love the Watchmen, so hopefully if DC is going to be bringing in the Watchmen, they don’t do it to drive me up the wall. I would really like a Watchmen ongoing but I’m 99% sure that HBO’s Watchmen series is the closest I’m going to get to that.
I was also reading Avengers, mainly due to the Final Host storyline and that because it contained the Prehistoric Avengers. There is still a tangential connection to the Final Host storyline and as long as there is a chance to see the Prehistoric team again, I’ll give it a little more rope.
Why am I reading Avengers? Well, first, I have been a long time fan of team books, with a special place in my heart for the Avengers. This was the one team book I loved getting when I was collecting “back in the day.” With all the reboots, though, I’m not as pleased with how Marvel and DC are doing things, so I’m not giving them as much a chance to entice me into buying these.
The Prehistoric Avengers, though, are new and interesting. If you think you’ve read that in this segment already, then you should be aware that is the theme of this comics segment. I’m interested in new and interesting.
Aftershock has been doing a ton of interesting stuff, too. I’ve checked quite a bit of it out and I’ve either passed by continuing or haven’t really liked the story being told. Beyonders, though, is right up my alley. This is a conspiracy mystery with a bit of a treasure hunt feel to it… and if there is one thing I like, it’s treasure hunts!
If you aren’t reading Dark Horse’s Black Hammer, I have to know why. This is an epic tale of Golden Age superheroes that get trapped someplace else and their lives they live trying to get out of wherever they’re at… and that is just the tip of the iceberg! Black Hammer is not high on my list for art, but the art has started to grow on me… the story, though, is just too much to miss.
I believe I’m going to be including more comics in my columns because it’ll help me justify why I would want to keep reading a title or move on. There are certain characters that I am interested in following (like the Fantastic Four and Moon Knight) but don’t jump on (or stay on) because of a poor issue. I’d also like to have a solid “yes or no” on new #1s I give a shot (mainly from independents and Image), because everyone deserves a shot.
Look forward to more in the future… I am not putting out a Specter Show yet but a Greatest Show is on the horizon with two returning hosts! Stay tuned!
Life is a mess of crap I’m trying to wade through in order to get to the stuff that I actually want to do. If I could just get winning a couple of million dollars out of the way, I could do all the things that I’d really like to do.
When I discovered bullet journalling, both through a friend and because I stumbled upon it, I started getting better at life in general. My wife would agree with my assessment that I went from being a scatter brained pseudo-help to actually helpful. While I have retained some of that helpfulness, I’ve also did quite a backslide as far as personal progress.
My weight has also launched itself upward and that does not make me a happy camper. When my wife and I changed our eating lifestyle, we both lost weight and were much happier with how things were going. We’ve slowly been introducing back some of the crap we used to eat (i.e. sweets up the wazoo) and as I just weighed myself before writing these exact words, I’m up to almost 300 pounds again.
That is highly depressing.
All the projects for this website and related thereto have been sidelined as per the last column. Well, not all of them, but you get the picture that I’ve swept a good many things aside to make room for changes.
That’s where the title of this section “philosophy” comes in. I’ve adopted all the bad habits right back and I’m not pleased with how things are skewing in life. I need to make changes, again.
First and foremost, I need to get back to eating healthy. Cereals for breakfast need to be replaced by our new “omelet in a jar” concept that we recently came up with… having stolen the idea from OreIda.
We’ve loved the ones we made before as our “test” and haven’t made them again since my bag of dehydrated marshmallows arrived… which, yes, is not a healthy choice, especially paired with the bag of frosted flakes that I got from he grocery store. Delicious? Yes. Healthy? No.
Along with that, eating out needs to return to the level we were at when we were still in North Dakota. That means we go back to “once in a while” rather than deciding whether or not to go out on a nearly daily basis. While Portland has a massively wonderful bounty of food options, making things at home is still the best option. (Although, we could do just as well if we weren’t eating American foods and instead sticking with Indian, Vietnamese, actual Mexican, and other ethnically available choices here.)
My route at work has changed from a walking route to a driving route, also. I have a hip issue that prevents me from really doing a ton of walking now and I needed to get off my 15 miles a day walking route. I’m really happy with my new route but I also am not getting the extensive exercise I was before, so I really need to start working out.
Before the switch, I was discussing going to the gym with some of my co-workers… who are all now at my old office and not the new one. They gym in question also went from being “on the way to work” to “completely in the wrong direction.” I have SelecTech weights but I know that I need to start out differently and work within my new capabilities… so that means I’m going to start with bodyweight exercising and move up from there. The weights themselves will get reintroduced but I don’t want to have them sitting in the house (as opposed to the storage unit) while I’m not actively using them.
What I feel bad about was that I was really working in the right direction with exercise… and I’ve not only fallen off the wagon, but the wagon drove away while I was standing in the road watching.
Motivation is the key to success in this aspect. I was following all kinds of bodybuilders on Facebook, watching the Mr. Olympia actively annually, and I was seeking out tips for doing healthy things whenever I could. My Facebook feed has completely degenerated into political posts and memes, I missed the Mr. Olympia this year for the first time in almost five years, and I haven’t sought out healthy information in more than three years…
Seriously, I look like the before picture of the before picture of the guy who ends up looking like Hulk Hogan. I’m closer to “round” than any other shape.
There then comes the point of writing, something I’ve tried to do all my life and have failed at doing all but when I was attending college. I used to write all the time, I wrote all kinds of stuff in high school, and none of that exists anymore (destroyed in disasters). I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo and have even won twice, as I’ve mentioned before, but I need to climb back on the horse and actually accomplish something.
Because if I’m sure of one thing, if I can’t be rich at least I can enjoy creating.
All of that leads to one thing to help me out in day to day life: bullet journalling. I need to get back to journalling and I should probably do that sooner rather than later.
I’ve been creating myself a digital journal and I’ve been fighting my old habits to keep making progress on finishing it before the end of the year. I honestly need the damn thing right now but as long as I’m still advancing forward, I’m happy. Currently, the journal needs the links created and then I can start putting the basic pages together to start using the journal.
My bad habits keep creeping up on me, though.
I used to create spreadsheets for all kinds of things for no reason. I’ve made elaborate schedules for work, elaborate fantasy football trackers for fun, and I’ve even just dinked around trying out formulas to see what else I could do… that has also led me to using the spreadsheets to track fictional things like the ESPL, the unseen ESFC (Emerald Specter Fighting Championships), the ESFL (Emerald Specter Football League), the ESBA (Emerald Specter Basketball Association), and the list goes on… some of the things I’ve done dinking around with those spreadsheets have led to some of the things that I’ve put out on this website.
Habits keep dragging me back towards dinking around in place of actually accomplishing things, like finishing my digital journal. I’ve spoken aloud several times over the course of the last couple of months to finish something rather than dink around. It’s been an uphill battle.
I’m on the tail end of my week off and I wanted to finish the week by finishing the digital journal. I have a few more days to do this and if I write this down and put the column out I have dedicated myself to getting it done. If the thing is done, I can start actively using it and then I can start getting other things done, too.
My wife has been enlisted to help me with BuJourneyRPG. I’ve got a different approach to how I was initially going to complete the system and she’ll help me make things less “combat heavy” and more “goal oriented task” friendly. Working on this still needs the digital journal and that leads me back to getting it done.
See? I’m already making some progress.
Organizing myself will help things get done. Is there room for dinking around in Excel? Yeah, but not right now. I need to buckle down and start accomplishing things because I don’t want to be a 70 year old who has a bunch of unfinished projects laying about.
“I’m doing what I need to do in order to get things–“
“No, you’re overloading yourself with crap that you don’t need to be messing with right now. You’re stressed out, fun things aren’t getting done anymore, and you’re losing your hair.”
“My hair is already gone.”
Yeah, I just talked to myself. Deal with it. I did raise a great point, though, and that is about putting too many things on my plate… shoving aside anything I hope to accomplish, period.
What I’ve put on my plate so far: writing Revelation to release as serial fiction, working on BuJourneyRPG, working on BuJoRPG, working on SpecterChess, working on the Emerald Specter Chess Club, working on digital bullet journals, pushing to get the Specter Show back up to normal, pushing to get the Greatest Show running again…
That’s a lot of stuff to be working on.
The important part of what I’ve accomplished in that list: nothing. I’ve got so many irons in the fire that I can’t even keep on a task. I write this column on a regular basis because I need something to keep me writing, but I’ve got hardly a drop in the bucket written in Revelation (or anything else for that matter). I have an alarm that goes off every Sunday at about 5 pm to remind me to podcast the Specter Show… and I end up skipping it because I’m usually busy working on helping my wife out in her business. I’m about ready to start emailing people for the Greatest Show… and I’ve put it off because I’m overwhelmed.
I need to make things really simple.
NaNoWriMo is coming up… that’s National Novel Writing Month, for which I’ve participated in almost seven times. I’ve “won” twice. Those were my first two participations. With the help of a friend in the Iron Writer Challenge Facebook group, I’ve been challenged to write something… anything, and we’ve both agreed that due to NaNoWriMo coming up, that is when I should write it. Jason, the owner of BrickCommaJason.com, has told me to write until the book is finished. We will see how that works out with me just doing this as a NaNo novel.
That means Revelation is sidelined… because Jason also said that whatever I ended up writing needed to be something I’m not “married to, as an idea.” Revelation is something I have been kicking around, so I’m not writing it.
The Specter Show, I can tell you right now, isn’t going to be recorded until I’ve got the correct time and figure out what the show needs to become… because what I’ve been doing isn’t enticing to anyone, I’m guessing. Updating things week after week isn’t a show I wanted to rely on… so now, it is on hold.
The Greatest Show is a different story. That has a reason, that has a format, and that has a reason to keep being made. So, rather than continually wait for things to smooth out and figure out what the hell I’m waiting for, the instant that Nurmagomedov-McGregor is over, I’m setting up shows so that we get back on the air.
Having looked around the Internet a bit, I’ve seen that I’m nowhere near the first one on the digital journal creation train. I can’t possibly have a digital journal with BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG built in before 2019, so I’m finishing my own digital journal and I’ll decide what I need to do to get fully operational ones on the market when I can…
Which leads me the BuJoRPG and friends… I need a chance to clear things off my plate and look at this with fresh eyes. BuJourneyRPG is my top priority and that needs to be stepped back from and evaluated a little better. I want it to be everything it can be and I can’t do that the way I’m going forward.
I’m sorry if this was a downer. I’m sorry if you can here looking for inspiration and hope that something was getting done.