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BLOT: (12 Sep 2014 - 08:29:45 PM)

Friday Horror Short 14, Still Life

I am a bit sick in the real world, so let's get this done. I found Jon Knaut's (by way of Brookstreet Pictures) short, "Still Life", through Youtube recommending to me a version posted back in 2006. This, however, is the short as linked by the studio's website. Turns out its by the company behind both Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer and The Shrine, two movies I can recommend with only a mild amount of guardedness. So, watch this, and then go and find and watch those, in the order given.

As for this one, pill-popping cross-Canada driver [played by Trevor Matthews] drives into a town at the end of his consciousness and gas-tank. When he distractedly hits someone, his panic turns to confusion when he realizes that it's a mannequin. And the people in the diner he runs inside are mannequins, too. Except, as he turns his back, the mannequins move, and they are reacting to his vehicular killing. This is only the start of his troubles.

Generally well shot with everyone's favorite scary trope—the old The Shining topiary trick now better known for being associated with the Weeping Angels—it is a nice little horror short that looks at a different sort of vulnerability, As stuff starts growing out of control, you begin to side with the man who plowed down someone on the street, plastic or not. And while it ends on perhaps the least interesting twist that such a story could set up, it does so by encroaching on real world horror that I suspect will be appreciated more by those not quite so much into Ligotti-esque weirdness as I.

Friday Horror Short

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: September 2014


BLOT: (11 Sep 2014 - 08:01:49 AM)

Day in the Life 13618, Minecraft Woes, Bathroom Wasps, and The Scary Little Girl Thing

Since it hasn't been confirmed, I won't link to it or anything, but the news came out yesterday that Microsoft was in talks to buy Mojang for two billion dollars. Since it is not confirmed, there are no details about what the talks would entail, but since no one from Mojang, a general public and vocal company, has said anything, this means it seems likely that whatever they are doing requires at least an NDA.

I don't blog a lot about Minecraft, but it really is a life-changing game for me. I've put in hundreds of hours, probably nearing a good thousand hours, into playing it across a half-dozen worlds this past four or five years. Partially, that is from me playing podcasts and audiobooks and Big Finish audioplays and going for hours of building or digging or mining or terraforming and listening to content. Partially it is because it is a game that my wife and I play together and we'll get on and do four or five hours of mindless stuff and just hang out. While I do play other games, Minecraft is my go-to game, and the one that I look forward to playing years from now.

I'm not sure what will happen after this, but I should theoretically be able to do something like keep the current jar and files and just play it offline indefinitely. I'll keep my eye out for solutions to do this, if needed. Or this might be all for nothing. Even a buy out might leave the original Minecraft team mostly in place. C'est la vie and we'll see.

On to real life woes, Sarah's bathroom (technically the master bath and I use the hall bath which is also our guest bath) got infested with wasps as they got into the vents. Occasionally an angry wasp would fly down from the vent fixture and dive-bomb into the wall. We called it in, and I think we managed to get most of them out, but even still. It will probably be weeks before she feels comfortable showering without freaking out at every little buzz. It's the kind of thing that seems kind of funny until you spend any length of time thinking about it.

One of the modern horrors of civilization is coming to grips with the idea that right behind our facade of painted walls and picket fences are the same vermin that came before us, living in hives and warrens, getting ever better at staying out of sight. Right now, behind the dry wall of my study, how many clowns live, slithering up and down the cracks, with their horrid red noses and their oversized feet? The mind boggles.

As something of a cheer up for these two woes, we went out and got some bagels and then walked around a couple of costume stores shopping for masks. Most of the masks I like, the old school Venetian style, work alright on my face but those slightly modern variations like the solid-white-face masks are too small. I will probably have to make my own. The latex ones fit, but latex masks aren't my style. Early days yet, so we have time to keep shopping around. I want a plague doctor mask and I want a Venetian raven mask, and I think we've found me one of the latter. The former is what I may have to make for myself.

The highlight, though, was this scary little girl thing that when you activate her, she crouches down and goes, "Mommy...help me...Mommy..." and then after a random amount of time flies up and screeches and then slowly drifts back down. The first time I was looking at it, I was all, "I love her...that's amazing..." and then I realized what was about to happen because I saw the legs start to spring, but Sarah was talking and not paying as much attention and when it came up, she screamed and jumped back and flushed in the face. From that point on, she wouldn't get near any of the other displays, just in case. So...um, maybe we won't be taking her to an hardcore haunted house this Halloween.

And while I don't have footage of that first authentic jump, I do have some footage of the display because I kind of want one. Sarah is standing nearby, so you have a little teaser of what her more legit reaction was. The sound and video quality sucks, but you can get the gist from this video:

Oh, and completely unrelated to everything except it happened yesterday: I got to teach what I think is the first ever library instruction session in a philosophy class, yesterday. I think I did ok. Some of us philosophy sorts can be reticent to go through actual research, but I think it's good for us. Hopefully I helped a few.

Until next time!

Me in 2014

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: September 2014


BLOT: (09 Sep 2014 - 08:59:08 PM)

Of Anal Clefts and Alcohol in Alabama

This past Saturday we were in Earth Fare, getting some food, and then Sarah spotted some pumpkin ale and that's a big deal for her so she got her first six-pack of the season. We had a 70% full wicker basket, with stuff on the bottom, so we had the six-pack out on its own. While checking out, the cashier seemed at first confused about putting groceries into the basket, and then she really wanted to make sure the beer fit inside. It probably would have, but would have made some of the other things fit oddly, and so I said that she could leave that out. She immediately snatched it up and shoved it into a paper bag.

"It has to be bagged! It's a state law!"...and then I wondered if it was.

Because that is exactly the sort of thing that someone will claim, vehemently, is a law for a long period of time without being able to cite the actual law itself. In this case, though, it is a law about booze in Alabama and so it might be on the books. Does anyone know which law it would be? I looked through the Alabama Code and found a mention that alcohol has to say in its container, and it include words like "bag", but I think they meant more that if alcohol was sold in a bag (like bagged wine or some such) then that would count. Maybe not. Or maybe its not in the alcohol laws at all but in something about being grocers, I'm not sure.

What I found in the midst of that search, though, made the mild annoyance all worth it:

It shall be unlawful and no person shall expose to public view his or her genitals, pubic area, vulva, anus, anal cleft, or cleavage or any simulation thereof within an establishment dealing in or permitting the consumption of alcoholic beverages or within 500 feet of an establishment dealing in or permitting the consumption of alcoholic beverages. [45-35-20.04 (a)]

Heh, anal cleft. Try and think about some dude in a suit arguing with some other dude in a suit, both having law degrees, and debating this in the state capital, with some strip-club lobbyist dropping campaign funds to have someone try and imply that nothing is wrong with a little dime slot.

It's the gift that keeps on giving, Alabama law is, and thank goodness for it.

Now, note that it also says that it can't be simulated, so no fake anal clefts.

There are other bits of the law that continue to induce the giggles:

[People who sell booze, etc etc...] shall [not] allow or permit any nudity, partial nudity, erotic bikini dancing, erotic conduct while partially nude, simulated nudity, topless dancing, or any other type of similar live entertainment including, but not limited to, erotic bikini dancing, or other entertainment where the entertainers, employees, dancers, or waiters appear nude or semi-nude or in the simulation thereof. [45-35-20.04 (d)]

They said erotic bikini dancing twice. They must really like it.

And then there is the strange redundancy of not allowing cleavage to be shown in bars [look out, Sammy T's!] but then specifying, in (c), that it's not lawful in a bar to "allow or permit any female person to expose to public view any portion of her breasts below the top of the areola or any simulation thereof." So...are they not talking about breasts? Is there some sort of special kind of cleavage that my mama never told me about?

Kind of disturbing is this line:

[I]t shall be unlawful...to intentionally cause... [nudity, etc, anything where they are] not completely covered with anything other than a full and opaque covering. [45-35-20.04 (e)]

The "cause" wording, like forcing someone to expose themselves is crossing a line when you do it in a bar. From that same bit, though, comes perhaps the funniest line of them all...

Attire which is insufficient to comply with these requirements includes but is not limited to, those items known as G-strings, T-backs, dental floss, and thongs. Body paint, body dye, tattoos, latex, pasties tape, or any similar substance applied to the skin surface...is not full and opaque covering as required by this part. [ibid]

Damned dental floss1 is not good enough. Game over, man, GAME OVER!

Again, though, it's best to picture two men in suits, red faced, one backed by strip-club cash, arguing this out in an official setting.

1: Yes, I Urban Dictionary, so I know what it means, but you need to stop letting the truth get in the way of a good joke, fella.

Alabama at Large

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: September 2014


BLOT: (29 Aug 2014 - 09:16:23 PM)

Friday Horror Short #13, The Quiet

Way back in my last Friday Horror Short, I mentioned the single-female-in-an-apartment as a common metaphor for vulnerability and tension, and so I thought as I bring back the old FHS for another twelve or so shorts, I might try and focus on those twin concepts: how some horror shorts shortcut building up a creature by breaking down the protagonist into archetypal victims.

In I'm With Them's "The Quiet", we see both elements played off by the protagonist dealing with being deaf in one ear and having severely limited hearing in another as she navigates some tricky situation where even a person with full hearing would be missing some vital cues. After being taunted by classmates on the bus, Alice gets off without getting her phone. This leaves her unsure whether her mom is coming to get her. Setting off alone, she is soon confronted by a blue van and an unknown occupant inside who seems to be watching her. After the van drives off, she starts home again, only to see the van simply stopped further down the road. Running into the woods, she has her hearing aid ripped off, leaving her almost entirely deaf and trying to avoid being captured.

I'm picking this one because it represents so well how a short horror film can skip certain elements of establishing the monster by establishing built-in weaknesses in the protagonist [note, it is described as being part of the "Vulnerable Female" trilogy, which makes me wryly chuckle]. It does this part well, though almost entirely by playing off built-in sentiments. You see a bullied—and possibly neglected—Alice cope with her issues while initially retaining an outwardly cool demeanor, forcing a contrast to her on-display vulnerability. A distinction that crumbles as she feels her situation grow more dire. She knows that she could just walk past the van but cannot bring herself to do it. This establishes doubt in the viewer's mind that was not there before. Suddenly, the van represents conflict. If it contains a determined rapist or a child-murderer, her hearing issues would not very much matter, but since we are watching her stripped away layer by layer—first the loss of her bullying but watchful classmates, then her cell phone, and eventually her hearing aid—we buy into her notion of confrontation. As she enters into the woods, surely she knows the quickest way home, but we buy into her being disoriented and directionless. She is our guide in this film, and our guide grows increasingly flawed.

It loses some traction by a combination of a weak twist—mean-spirited at best, and easily guessable, at least for me—and a lackluster ending which mistakenly tries to pop the already deflated tension bubble with a surprise that is more a headscratcher than anything; but it does have the weird vignettes involving a doll and the phrase, "I will always love you," and the act of hair cutting that leads to the swap in the speaker's voice from female to male. Perhaps a symbol of a loss of innocence, or maybe of a loss of decorum. These odd shots essentially give the film meat it might have otherwise lacked, and make it through without any easy throwaway explanation.

Friday Horror Short

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (22 Aug 2014 - 07:09:41 AM)

My first Who regeneration experience and some thoughts about the latest one...

My first regeneration experience was Tom Baker turning into Peter Davidson. I was...I don't know, young (note: this would have been something like 1986, on PBS re-runs). The Doctor is crushed by a long fall from a satellite dish, having just protected the Universe itself. "The Watcher" approaches. They blend together and form into the Fifth Doctor. At the time, I had no real grasp of what Doctor Who was. I had been watching Tom Baker since "The Face of Evil" [so something like a year and a half of Saturday night TV between the two]. I was probably too young [and it came on too late at night, being something like 9:30-10:30pm] for me to quite understand the storyline, so some of the stories ran together. I thought Cybermen were in more episodes than they were, and I remember thinking Davros was a oft-recurring character, even though I had only seen him a couple of times (during the middling "Destiny of the Daleks" episodes). My first thought on seeing the Doctor regenerate was something like "That's weird..." and it quickly changed into "That's NEAT!". A hero who can escape death by reshaping himself into a whole new body? Who becomes a cousin to his former self in exchange for the power to keep going? That's crazy talk. I remember my brother Danny not quite liking it, though he only watched a few episodes with me. For me, a person obsessed with the mercurial nature of things and the ungraspability of infinity, it filled an itch.

I partially say this because I know people are going to lose their shit tomorrow and be all "BUT HE'S NOT MATT SMITH!!!!" and I've never quite gotten the hang of these new Doctor Who fans who don't embrace one of the central weirdnesses of the show.

I am more curious to see how the show goes forward and regenerates itself, again. The subtle shifts in tone has generally been overlooked in comparison to the distinct shifts in actors, but are just as important. The show has, over the past few seasons, developed a reliance on deus ex machinas and the mythological importance of the Doctor and cosmic crisis every seasons and I'd like to see all three moved away from slightly. Part of the as-a-whole fun of Doctor Who has been that he is this uber-professor-adventurer but has limits and doubts, all the way back to Hartnell's First ready to kill a caveman in cold blood because he was scared of the complications of letting him live. I got the feeling that Matt Smith was often wanting to tap into that in ways that the story lines weren't allowing (occasionally reaching moments of brilliance in scenes that should have been cheesy). Maybe Capaldi can have a bit more luck. Or maybe not, because the show might try a completely different tack and confirm Lungbarrow, who knows...[well, presumably Moffat knows...]

Doctor Who

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (14 Aug 2014 - 07:28:21 AM)

Ah, the joy of having an advertisement 4 times longer than the video you about to watch

Remember a few months back when AdBlocker's crowdfunding campaign to buy ads to promote an ad-free world ended up creating a lot of ire from folk who said stuff like, "It's a 15-second advertisement, jackass, why don't you support your favorite YouTubers?!" And it was sort of proof that those people use AdBlock, because while there are 15-second ads, there are also ads like this:

And while that is definitely an outlier, let's just say that I clicked the hell out of that "Skip" button when it became available.

Has there been any study about how many longer ads there are and how they are distributed and how many are actual successful? That has to be some sort of psychological experiment, right, seeing if people will sit through 10 minutes of advertisements to watch a 2 minute video?

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (13 Aug 2014 - 08:50:12 PM)

Ass...es...es...

Oh look, an article about book culture and plagiarism and book buying scams and...

giggle.

The crazy thing is that I kept trying to power through: "while it asses...es...developments?" [read as a synonym for "butts[s] developments"]. I'm just dyslexic enough that (a) I read it wrong twice and (b) assumed somehow it was meant to make sense if I just kept wondering what the ass had anything to do with the claim. It was kind of surreal. I would liken it to someone reading about hexagons and wondering what the hell Deadlands-style magic had to do with anything.

Wait, hell, has someone trademarked/etc hex-a-gone? *goes off to search*...oh, right...Harry "Asseses" Potter.

Seriously, though, that's not just some British version, right? Damn, now I'm doubting myself. Giggling and doubting myself...

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (12 Aug 2014 - 10:38:26 AM)

Jesus, Buzzfeed

With nearly no comment...

As for my nearly not a comment? Welcome to Costco, I love you...

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


Written by Doug Bolden

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