Who is the Man in the High Castle?


Mrs. The Paladin and I just finished watching Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle and to be honest we only really like half of it. Based off a Phillip K. Dick of the same name, this is a world where the Allied Forces lost the Second World War and now the United States in divided between the German Reich in the east and Japan in the west with a Neutral Zone between them in the Rockies.

Adolf Hitler is still Fuhrer in 1962 but he is aging and the world seems on the brink of another war. Our plucky protagonists obtain a film that show the world as we know it (‘MERICA!) and one of them embarks on a journey to discover how they are made and who is the Man in the High Castle; the other is a Nazi tool or a tool that also happens to be a Nazi or both. There are other characters and some of them are interesting, but for the most part they all run around and yell at each other for making stupid mistakes while making stupid mistakes of their own – all while not really doing anything.

The first half is the more interesting as it deals with more of the intrigue between the two powers and the uneasy truce between them. There is also more danger and intrigue in the “main” story line this first half as well.

What kept me watching was less the main story and more the world. The supporting cast is excellent as well, especially the phenomenal performances by this excellent actor:


Cary-Hiroyuki “Zylyn Tagawa as the peace-loving Trade Minister of the Pacific States

and of course this guy:


Rufus “Dark City” Sewell as Obergruppenfuhrer Smith of the Greater Nazi Reich, New York.

I wish the show was more about them and their plans than the other people.

I expect this will get picked up for a second season that hopefully will be more balanced and make a little more sense. Its of course not all bad and we wouldn’t have kept watching if we didn’t think it was worth our time, we were just left annoyed with the main characters and scratching our heads about others. I think there is gold here, they just need to dig a little deeper.

Wait… I Know That Voice

I-know-that-voiceHave you ever been watching a cartoon/anime/video game/commercial/movie trailer and thought to yourself… Hey, I know that voice! That voice, if you didn’t know already is connected to a human body sitting in a  booth somewhere in Los Angeles and that body is fascinating.

John DiMaggio, known for such voices as Bender from Futurama and Jake the Dog from Adventure Time, wanted to celebrate and document the varied talent and effort that Voice Actors put into their work. The film simply allows them to talk, strangely something Voice Actors like to do, and over the course of the 1hr 30min runtime you get to put a face to that voice you are always hearing.

The film gives you a greater appreciation for the work that they do and the effort they put into each roll. They show and explain how Voice Acting is more than talking with a funny voice or accent; really breaking down how Voice Acting is different from stage or film acting. The real attraction is the cast of characters whose voices grace our ears. All of them are passionate about their work and proud of their skills, but you get the sense that the community is fun, tight-nit, and humble – there is little ego on display.

The film takes some time to develop, introducing viewers to people but not really establishing who they are; sort of just throwing viewers into the deep end to figure things out themselves. Overtime however you get a sense of who each person is and what they do or more aptly who they voice.

If you are a fan of cartoons, anime, video games, or voice work in general I highly recommend I Know That Voice. Its on Netflix and you’ll be talking funny for a week just to see if you have what it takes to a Voice Actor.

The Paladin also Watched the Skies


This is a follow-up to Shmee’s Watch the Skies post. Reposted here from my blog Ex Nihilo. Hopefully it gives you a little more insight into the game. -The Paladin

Running a country takes having the right mindset, having the right team, and a lot of luck. It’s never easy or simple – are the Russians for us or against us? Did an element of the United States kill their own President? Why does the U.K. want our blood? Aliens is the best answer to all those questions and you’d think being one would help make those answers more clear, but I see I’m getting ahead of myself.

Saturday, three friends and I played the MegaGame “Watch the Skies” with about 40 other people – each serving in different roles in different countries, or as news reporters, or even as aliens. The setup of the game is that aliens are real and each nation needs to deal with that fact. Will they fight the aliens? Join them? Underhandedly collect DNA from cards you handed out to figure out who is an alien and who is not? The possibilities are endless as each team can define its own agenda – even if it breaks the “game”; in fact you are encouraged to break the “game”.

We were Team Japan; Shmee our Head Scientist, Black Raven our Military Commander, and Swashbuckling Samurai our Foreign Secretary, and I was Prime Minister leading the “Calm is Strength” Government. Each of us had our own game to play within the game itself. As PM I held the purse strings, deciding where to place our precious resources each turn therefore setting our nation’s agenda. As Head Scientist Shmee was tasked with collecting research and completing our nation’s primary goal PROJECT GUNDAM (more on that later). Black Raven had the difficult task of placing our Advanced Interceptors and Advanced Tactical Squads on response to flying saucers and abduction squads; he also tasked our Secret Agent who turned the U.K. spy the very first turn, disarmed a nuke in Angola, and double-crossed the British when he assassinated the U.K. PM after he paid us to kidnap the Russian Military Commander. Last but not least was our Foreign Minister Swashbuckling Samurai, who sat through grueling United Nation’s meetings serving as Japan’s public face on the world stage.

The game started slow, our plan was to remain neutral yet helpful in the world, but to acquire alien technology to complete PROJECT GUNDAM. Our agent found 100 special candidates within our borders that we started training in special high schools. We were starved for technology though; while Black Raven shot down an alien craft his operatives failed to recover any tech. The first two rounds were disappointing in this regard, so we went to the Gray Market to buy alien tech. That allowed us to jump start our research. Meanwhile Swashbuckling Samurai learned of a plague in Uganda which he pledged our willingness to take in refugees – who we shifted through for more special pilots.

In proceeding turns the other nations’ actions became difficult to decipher. The U.K. wanted to test people’s blood to see if they were aliens. Russia wasn’t fighting the aliens. The U.S. declared to the world that aliens were real. It was difficult to know who to trust and with what information. You learned to not only appreciate the worth of information, but also the cost – does revealing this information reveal my intentions or imply something I didn’t consider or intend. Decisions were made by implication; for example: failing to shoot down a saucer one turn implied to the rest of the world that we were far more complicit with the aliens than we actually were.

Eventually Shmee succeeded in creating détente and collected the much needed power source for PROJECT GUNDAM from the Brazilians. Sadly here is where we made our misstep though – we announced the completion of PROJECT GUNDAM to the world and then we failed to anticipate foreign agents being used to sabotage them. Had we used our agent to protect our mechs the final battle would have turned out very differently. Despite this Japan was left on excellent footing, the Gundams could be repaired, we were masters of Science, and Swashbuckling Samurai had usurped the UK’s position on the Security Council in the UN gaining Veto power. Sadly Swashbuckling Samurai was vaporized when the escaping saucer was destroyed with him in it.

Some advice I would give future Watch the Skies players is to have a goal to work towards; whether that is giant fighting robots, secretly assassinating every Head of State, or building an undersea lair have that plan in mind and go to the game controllers with it. The unscripted, improve nature of the game means no-one is there to hold your hand, so you need to take charge and at least have a starting point. Secondly, use Whats-App or another messaging app to stay in the know. I don’t know how many times we collectively knew things before the other teams (like when the US President was assassinated, Swashbuckling Samurai actually gave his condolences before the US Foreign Minister had heard the news). Finally, look the part. Team Japan all wore suits and red ties to create a united front. It made it easy for us to be identified and it gave us an air of credibility. The paper lantern and home-made mochi also helped sell the fiction. You’re not going to get the chance to be the Prime Minister of Japan any other time in your life, why not live it up while you can?

So final highlights that probably make no sense out of context:

  • Black Raven’s brilliant play to turn the U.K.’s agent on the very first turn. We didn’t get a lot out of it, but we knew when their agent was killed.
  • Still having no idea who nuked China.
  • Still being clueless about who assassinated the US President.
  • Revealing that I was also an alien right after Shmee did and after I had been funneling money and interrogating a live alien for my own ends.
  • Getting a Haiku published in the GNN Newspaper
  • Brazil becoming a world power right under everyone’s noses
  • Seeing the biggest smile on Control’s face when I told him we’d built Gundams piloted by unstable high schoolers.

If you get the chance to do a MegaGame, any MegaGame really, get your friends together, make a plan, and sign-up I think you’ll enjoy it.

The Paladin crosses the Bridge of Spies


Mrs. The Paladin celebrated another trip around the sun, so I gave her the option to see either MATT DAMON IN SPACE!!!! (The Martian) or Tom Hanks as the diligent every-man (Bridge of Spies). My wife loves Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who directed, so we left our children to see what these two had for us in Bridge of Spies.

The setup is simple. At the height of the Cold War, the FBI has caught a Russian Spy – Rudolf Abel played simply and honestly by Mark Rylance. Tom Hank’s James B. Donovan is an Insurance Lawyer who is asked by his government to defend Able at his trial to show that he is given a fair trial. Donovan defends Able with far more vigor and determination than anyone expected from him, so his patriotism is called into question by just about everyone. However his determination is grounded firmly in seeing the Constitution and the American Way(TM) actually acted out.

Meanwhile Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down over Soviet Russia in his U2 Spy plane in a very exciting scene. The Russians now have someone they are willing to trade for their own spy locked away in an American jail. Donovan is asked to facilitate the trade, but without official government status. To add an extra wrinkle, a American student is captured by the East German government on suspicion of spying. The US government says Powers is everything, focus on Powers, but Donovan sees a way to get everyone home.

The movie is not a tense thriller with twists and turns at every corner – instead it is a personal drama about how far one man is willing to go, to sacrifice, to see the ideals he believes in lived out. Bridge of Spies shows what happens when a good man does something, risks everything, and sits across the table from their enemy and tells the truth. Spielberg doesn’t use big set pieces with huge crowds; rather small sets, long lingering shots, and one to two people to create a tense drama that is relevant to today’s issues. I’d recommend you see it.

The Paladin is laconic with Longmire


Mrs. The Paladin and myself settled in over the weekend to watch the Netflix resurrected 4th season of Longmire. As fans from the show when it was an A&E show it was a joy to see the same quality, locations, and actors as before. The life of the Sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming is a hectic one and Robert Taylor is excellent as the title character. The supporting cast of Katee Sackoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, A Martinez, and Adam Bartley breath life in a diverse cast of character that have grown from scene one to interesting and dynamic personas. Like any great show, its the characters that bring you back for more. Of course for Longmire the best character of all is Wyoming. Few shows have made me want to travel to a place and just soak it all in. The vistas are epic and each “set” is sweeping.

Season 4 completes an arc that has been looming since the beginning of the series and begins a new arc that leaves the last episode on a cliffhanger. Hopefully Netflix OKs Season 5 because my wife needs to know what happens next. We both felt the later half setting up that arc weren’t as strong, but the last episode was satisfying enough to leave us both with a better impression of the series than if it had ended on Episode 9.

If you haven’t watched Longmire yet give it a try. Its all on Netflix for you to binge or nibble at your leisure.