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BLOT: (11 Mar 2015 - 08:41:32 AM)

Working on identifying the sound cues from the old Infocom IF game, The Lurking Horror

It has been some years (I think about seven), since I've written my somewhat user-friendly walk-through of The Lurking Horror, which ended up being not only one of the more popular pages on my site but also one of the more popular walk-throughs of the game. Rarely do I get much correspondence from it, nowadays, but I have fond memories of writing it and talking about the game to folk.

Recently I *did* get an email from a Stephen asking me to help him identify the sound cues in the game. If you do not know, The Lurking Horror had a series of sounds that would play at key events, to add some flavor to the text-based adventure. It also had a manual that was a combination of a short "how to play" and story-text and was even required to play: mixed in with the fun notes on the setting there was a password that you needed to progress in the game. These two elements helped to give it a "beyond-the-console" feel to it and has made it a favorite of mine.

Back to Stephen's question, he was curious about where specifically the sounds show up. It has been too long since I've played for me to know this off the top of my head, but I decided to start digging. I found someone had packaged a blorb file of the sounds as AIFF. I extracted that and listened to them. I wrote up my impression of what the sounds sounded like [divorced from events in the game]. Stephen had sent me a list of the sound effects that he identified, and with the sound files and my descriptions, matched up the lists. See the following table (note, mildish spoilers) (bonus note: Stephen's descriptions were sent first, but I tried to keep them out of mind when writing my description, so I've put them second here):

Sound #Doug's DescriptionStephen's Placement
3 Sort of a squishy/gurgle sounds Maintenance man removing the axe from his chest
4 Screaming, as a group Rats
6 Musical Hook Opening the hatch in the tomb
7 Sort of a rumbling sound, with what sounds like an elevator ding and a crash Brick wall ripping in concrete box
8 Very short rustly sound Getting the stone (to end the game)
9 Squeaky wheels followed by a scream? [Probably the forklift]*
10 Drums Nightmare chant
11 Electricity Putting the line in the connector
12 Long screech Creature screeching after the stone is thrown at it from the roof
13 Chant Alchemy lab chant
15 Robot voice sound Encountering the wire urchins in the Large Chamber
16 Not sure...sort of a "aaaaah" sound [Cutting the wires in the Large Chamber]*
17 Sort of a cross between mechanic clicks and insect screeching Entering the Inner Lair
18 Sort of a gurgling laugh sound Gurgling from under the plate at the altar

Two notes. First, there are no sounds with the numbers 1, 2, 5, or 14, which makes 14 total sounds even though the last one is #18. Second, sounds #9 and #16 were guesses by Stephen (they are in brackets and marked with *). He says these did not play in Winfrotz.

If you want to try and help, you can download The Lurking Horror sounds as AIFF in a zip file.

If you do want to play along, I'm looking for the following information:

Happy hunting!

The Lurking Horror

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: March 2015


BLOT: (23 Feb 2015 - 09:38:51 PM)

Got a mix-bag of WizDice dice, 15+ complete sets for $19.99. Pics and some thoughts.

Was going to be posting the first actual vid to my Doug Talks Weird series, but realized that for me to achieve what I want—5-10 minute videos with an informative-in-a-fun-way bent involving weird fiction (etc)—that I am going to require a script. Not one that is word-for-word, but something that lays out the quotes and points I want to make along with some possible side-notes and whatnot. Trying to organize a discussion about a story, a genre, and a genre concept in 5 minutes is just too rough. Maybe after a few eps I will be able to do it, but not right now.

Curious as to what I'm talking about? You can watch the the "pilot" episode where I talk about a few of the concepts, my history with horror, and etc. It is fairly rough and not the sort of thing I want for the actual series, but it shows that I can ramble for hours on the topic just fine, it is simply getting down to brass-tacks that takes some planning.

Instead, I am going to talk about the 100+ dice grab-bag set by WizDice I ordered. The set is $19.99, and eligible for Prime on Amazon. It comes in a pouch that weighs about a pound. Doesn't look like much. Surprisingly, a 100+ dice fits in a quart zipper bag quite easily.

On opening, I found 15 complete sets of polyhedral dice—by the reckoning that each set is 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10 (0-9), 1d10 (00-90), and 1d20. One set was a match of another (a sort of pearl-glitter dice with golden flecks, what was labeled as "forbidden treasure"). This makes for 14 unique sets, generally a combination of solids, glitters, swirls, and translucents. One last set was incomplete, missing the d20 and the d12 (in the pics below, it is the yellow translucent set to the bottom left). My favorite two are the bright translucent pink set (which shows up sort of orange in the pictures) and a sort of glitter/swirl green grey set up in the top center (looks sort of grey in the pictures).

Most of the dice are good quality, with some a great mix of colors and numbering. A few are mediocre with the numbers already partially rubbed off or nicks or other irregularity. None of them are exceptional, but they make a nice filler set and would be a good stocking stuffer or travel set. Even ignoring the duplicate set and the partial set, it still comes out to be only $1.43 per set (or, per dice, at a 110 dice total, $0.18). Though not exceptionally so, that tends to be cheaper than one-at-a-time method or the pre-made-set method. I would generally rank the overall dice-quality as fair and the overall value as good. Just don't expect any amazing surprise.

Ok, here are the pictures. The last one is me putting them into my dice tower.

A zipper bag full of dice

Different sets of dice laid out on floor

Different sets of dice laid out on floor

Dice stored in a dice box

RPGs

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: February 2015


BLOT: (21 Feb 2015 - 09:23:22 AM)

For my bookstore friends, "honest" labels for Barnes and Noble style displays...

Working in a bookstore, I have four or five years experience. Shopping in a bookstore, I have three decades. And one of the most fascinating failures of flow is the endcap display, generally designed around a ersatz category such as "Books containing people eating peanut butter" or "This person died" or "It's Superbowl weekend, here are books somehow related to Friday Night Lights because...I don't know...sportsball". Because they are a blend of employee/manager driven and corporate driven, you get a glimpse into the mind of the people who make up the chain. Here is a Lovecraft-themed one designed as a package by corporate, skipping over the good titles and going straight for the ones they think they can sell. Here is one about fun travel adventures, dictated by corporate but left up to employees, that has a copy of Jon Krakaeuer's Into the Wild right in the front and center. Like I said, fascinating.

The problem with them is that they do not seem to work. People's eyes gloss over them. Maybe if they see a book or name they like, they might stop and browse, but unless the theme really resonates with them they usually don't stick around very long, especially since your average display looks increasingly like this...

a scattering of rectangles representing the layout of encaps

...and the full, lush, organic vibe that seems to attract people to book displays is weeded out to make sure the books, and other non-book items blended in, have as few titles as possible and those titles are glimpsable from a distance. Space in between books is one of the least attractive thing in a book display, unless carefully balanced, and it is rampant nowadays.

Secondly, bookstores only stock 1-2 copies of a book, so these displays eat up every copy the store has, meaning shoppers have to play "guess the endcap" to find books sometime.

Thirdly, while these endcaps can be a passion project for some workers, I've spotted, from the manager-of-a-bookstore side, how it can break down when one worker has a vision and some other worker, driven by a belief that all displays should have the same flavor or the same level of neatness or that worker #1 missed some obvious choice, constantly interferes. And shoppers use them for the "quick-shelve" option. This is assuming, of course, that the display is not already littered with trash as people have dropped off half-drunk, humidity-sweating Frappucinos® along the way.

Finally, their most damning characteristic is simply an overall lack of vibrancy. Little about them really scream, "Come in and SHOP!" and so they interact with only casual browsers who stumble upon them while a) wasting time or b) trying to find some specific book they want. Had stores set it up so that people knew, from the front, that there was an EXCITING DISPLAY ABOUT X or an INTERESTING DISPLAY ABOUT Y, ALL THIS MONTH, it might actually drive book sales instead of being one of the things-bookstores-do. This is not always true. Some bookstores have amazing ones. Just, you know, in general.

That rant aside, I came across a Tumblr post where Obvious Plant [I assume] has worked out a few "honest" ones, and it made me chuckle. Such as "Dudes Who Lost Their Shirts" and "Women with Short, Professional Haircuts". See those samples below, or click the link above for full.

bookstore display with the kind of romance covers where men are shirtless

bookstore display with books featuring professional women

Book Publication and Industry

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: February 2015


BLOT: (15 Feb 2015 - 09:10:04 AM)

As Spotted on Tumblr...How, Why, When? Demons.

A ring made of branchs with a caption describing it as demons

spotted on marmalade.tumblr.com.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: February 2015


BLOT: (12 Feb 2015 - 09:27:27 AM)

To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

Christopher Lee leers while others look on in dismay

Why not finish up my Hammer-made-Dennis-Wheatley-movie-adaptations theme week with the other one? To the Devil a Daughter—a title displayed with various degrees of punctuation—is a 1976 movie and one of last movies put out by old-Hammer (sometimes called the final Hammer movie but there seems to have been another). As a sum of its parts, the overall film is a fair failure scraping whatever degree of fame it has through a few key moments, generally due to shock factor: a drawn out painful birth scene, an uncomfortable orgy featuring Christopher Lee's ass and Denholm Eliot's o-face, the actually sort of excellent bloody hand puppet, and having a young teen's nudity as a temptation for the hero (spoiler: the sexual titillation in this movie is almost all down to said young teen, with her near-see-through nightie in a few shots and a "reverse birth" played up semi-sexually). The direction is intriguing, hitting a few Suspiria-like moments a year before Suspiria, and the odd timing helps to slam hone a nightmare consistency, but pretty much any character not played by Christopher Lee, Richard Widmark (who was the best bit for me, with his American-no-nonsense delivery), or Nastassja Kinski feels unnecessary. And Lee hams it up. The plot melts down and is unnecessarily padded—even though it doesn't make it to the 90-minute-mark—and the direness of Satanism is muddled by unconvincing New Age babble that should have been better constructed. Had they worked on the plot some, made the characters a bit more necessary, and figured out which philosophical flavor of Satanism they wanted to go with, it could have worked. As it is, it's a few good elements held down by the weight of its bad.

Horror Movies

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: February 2015


BLOT: (11 Feb 2015 - 08:46:07 AM)

The Devil Rides Out (1968 Movie)

Christopher Lee, as the Duke de Richleau, is meeting with his old friend, Rex Van Ryn (played by Leon Greene) when the question of where Simon Arin (played by Patrick Mower) is at comes up. Turns out Simon has been ignoring the Duke and friends, so they stop by...and find an international "astronomical society", lead by Mocata (Charles Gray) having a meeting. After some chickens are found near a telescope, the Duke realizes that a black mass is afoot, and so kidnaps Simon to save his soul, a kidnapping that fails when Simon is mentally controlled to rejoin the group. The next day, a second kidnapping occurs, this one of a young lady that was part of the group (Nike Arrighi's Tanith), and it likewise fails. Cut to an orgiastic mass in the woods, and an inevitable magic battle, and you have a movie that is essentially urban-fantasy-meets-estate-adventure with a Christian mysticism flair.

Purple robed cultist summons the Devil

I grew up in a part of the world—Lower Alabama—where there is a belief in actual demons coming out at night, in cults meeting in the woods and sacrificing animals to Satan (debatable whether or not these cults are more than just bored teenagers1), in the idea that Satan can trick you out of your soul, and that damnation can occur almost incidentally. Even they, these folk I grew up with, might have trouble with 1968's The Devil Rides Out with its hypnotically-eyed Satanic cult leader and his cadre of international devil worshippers tricking impressionable young folk into giving up their soul at white-robed blood orgies that feature Satan-himself. I mean, it's all good fun in the modern-fantasy sort of way, right down to a pair of damsels-in-distress and a young squire being saved by noble knights with a protracted magical battle, but it feels as though it crosses the double-line of being questionable by both believers and non-believers alike. Essential to its enjoyment is the ability to take a mystical Judeo-Christian paradigm and to accept quasi-corporeal entities that can be summoned to attack and control others, to then not take it too seriously, to accept that kidnapping and breaking-and-entering are alright for the right cause, and to not to get too mad when Chief Badguy-Grey-Eyes quips that he is not evil but simply a scientist who is beyond good-and-evil2.

It is entertaining, and I don't mean in a camp or a "so-bad-it's-good" way. I had a great time watching it. Christopher Lee and Charles Gray are great adversaries. The simpering romance plot is endearing despite itself. You find yourself almost caring what happens to the young friend, Simon. There are a small handful of scenes where the epicness is dialed up as the music blares, appropriately contrasted to scenes of an idyllic country-side with old houses and barns and trees. And if the notion of a white-magic spell that can bend time and space but can only be used when your very soul is at peril is a bit over-the-top, well, by the time it is mentioned it is the perfect literal deus-ex-machina. Recommended, but perhaps with a little bit of salt to throw over your shoulder and smite the Devil in the eye.

1: Jocular tone aside, one such pair of bored teenagers did brutally murder an old woman near where I grew up, back in the 90s, and tried to imply Satan was involved, though that's a different story.

2: I gave an entire talk—From Lovecraft to the Thing from Outer Space—about how scientists often show up in speculative fiction as moral-warnings against the rest of us. Had I watched this before said talk, I would have included the clip.

Horror Movies

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: February 2015


BLOT: (06 Feb 2015 - 07:01:12 AM)

Day in the Life #13766, Going through some 1-star horror on Netflix, my copyleft talk, upcoming talk on the future of books, and to share-alike or not

It would be wrong to say that I am in some sort of mental malaise, but I am in the kind of mindset where it can be hard to actualize anything, to use corporate-speak, except those things that are sort of immediately needed. Case in point, I owe you all a follow-up to my blog post about Wrong Turns 6, 1, and 2, featuring 3, 4, and 5. I didn't watch those for my health, nor exactly my enjoyment. Speaking of horror-movies-most-people-look-away-from, I've also recently watched the 2014-or-so Beneath and the 2005-or-so Venom, both sporting something like 1.5 stars on Netflix, and I kind of want to talk about them, too, but not right now, besides to say that I enjoyed the first half of both films more than the last half of either, which I think is significant since this seems to be a trend.

This past Tuesday, I had an event/talk: "The Left Side of Copy[right]", which talked about copyleft and some of the issues of copyright. It went ok. I didn't pack the room but the people there had good questions, good follow-up questions the next day or two, and people who have read the notes afterward have been interested. That link, there, can take you to a post on the library blog about it (by me) where you can see the whole thing. Well, the parts that are on the Prezi. I might try giving it again, or turning it into videos, something like that, because I think part of the reason that more people didn't turn up is because I'm not sure if people quite understand what it means. Some of the pre-talk feedback I got gave me the impression that people thought I was promoting piracy or that it was just a talk about copyright in general. If you do not know what copyleft is, take a look at the talk. Or maybe read the Wikipedia page. It's good stuff.

Flyer made to look like a test sheet, having items that are either book-like or books or might be considered books. Talk will be February 26. 5:30pm.

Speaking of which, I have a talk coming up towards the end of the month: Welcome to the Future History of the Book. That flyer, above, is one of the promotions for it. It's sort of slightly smart-assed, but the talk will deal simultaneously with the question of what constitutes a book and how does the book—whatever that mean—fit into the history and future of information technology. I'm generally going to bring up the fact that the book will probably be here for centuries, but that elements of "bookness" will likely change if the book industry is to survive. If you are interested, feel free to attend. If you know anyone else who might be, feel free to send them that link or that flyer.

Finally, looping back around to copyleft, I have been debating the Creative Commons license for my site. I have been CC-BY-SA 3.0 for a bit. I'm going to go ahead and switch up to the 4.0 soon (at least for newer stuff). I just can't decide if I want to keep the -SA (aka, the share-alike clause, meaning that people who use my stuff through the Creative Commons license must also release their stuff through Creative Commons or a compatible license). I'm not exactly a fan of viral free culture—feels a little like having a charity that forces people to join a church—but at the same time, I understand the history and philosophy of it. Even more so, now that I have spent a few weeks reading the old debates. Any thoughts? I'll make my decision probably this weekend, but would be curious to hear feedback.

Me in 2015

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: February 2015


BLOT: (26 Jan 2015 - 09:21:33 AM)

The man behind Berberian Sound Studio has made a strange, stylish erotic domination love story featuring lesbian entomologists...The Duke of Burgundy.

Berberian Sound Studio was one of my favorite movies to watch last year (or did I see it the year before). It was stylish, strange, almost ethereal. The ending is odd and unclassifiable, and the sense of dread and despair is eked out of simple moments, largely tied into the spectre of loneliness and confusion. Toby Jones is a delight, and it immediately made me want to go on the lookout for more by director/writer Peter Strickland. Looks like that time is now, with The Duke of Burgundy.

Two women in bed in an embrace with head turned to feet

It appears to be stylishly-erotic, strange movie featuring two women in a lesbian relationship mostly marked by domination and doubt, and at least one of the women is either an entomologist or has a hobby of moths (even the title refers to a type of butterfly), and there are some questions of identity as hinted about by some wigs and changes of costume. I think. From what I can tell with the brief reviews I've glanced at, it involves no nudity and only hints of sex, and assuming it follows Strickland's formula in Berberian Sound Studio, I have a feeling that there will be moments of loss-of-coherence. I'm excited for it, and not entirely in the wa-hey! sense. Berberian Sound Studio is possibly the most Aickman of any movie I have seen, an ode to the absurdity of life from someone trickling towards the edge of normality with a hint of something like fear but not quite, not always. That might not be the case, here, but I sure hope it is.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: January 2015


Written by Doug Bolden

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