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BLOT: (11 Apr 2015 - 09:45:44 PM)

Five reasons to listen to Jon Padgett's "20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism"

If you have to listen to one audio short story about puppets and ventriloquism today, you should listen to Jon Padgett's "20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism" via Pseudopod. Why? Let's give you five reasons (note: number might be arbitrary, the fact that you should do it is still a fact).

Reason #5: It's Free. Perhaps the weakest of reasons, still a valid one. You can download and listen (and share!) the mp3 for free (through a CC3.0-BY-ND-NC license).

Reason #4: It Is Read by the Author. Author-read audiobooks can highlight different patterns and underlying frequencies than those you get from reading the text on the page, and this is a good case of that. Padgett sped through some lines I read slow, and slowed down some lines I read fast. For author intent, this would be the definitive way to experience the tale.

Reason #3: It Makes a Good Introduction to Grimscribe's Puppets. This was one of my favorites from The Grimscribe's Puppets (LGT: My review of the collection). "20 Simple Steps" is a good example of what is good about the collection, a tribute that is also a bit different than something that Ligotti would ever write.

Reason #2: It Reverses the Uncanny Aspects Associated with Puppets. Cleverly, the story is not about how puppets are just like us, but about how we are just like them. It is about being afraid not of the glass-eyed stare nor the wooden teeth but of the fleshy hand in the back, pulling the levers as though it was the most normal thing in the world.

Reason #1: Because the Voice in Your Head Is Telling You To... Sure, it sounds just like static, but let us stop pretending that we do not know what it means. Give in, give up, enjoy.

Photo Credit: Paul Winchell Jerry Mahoney 1951, by James Kriegsmann, listed as public domain at link. Manipulation by me.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2015


BLOT: (04 Apr 2015 - 09:40:05 AM)

Lovecraft's 1912 poem, his first published, "Providence in 2000 A.D."

Over on /r/Lovecraft, someone asked to see the full-text of "Providence 2000 A.D.", a poem the redditor described as "HPL's early xenophobic writing", which, spoiler, is a damned apt way to describe it. You can read it, in print, in the 2001 The Ancient Track, put out by Nightshade Books and edited by Joshi. It is the first poem under section IV - Satire - and shows up on page 191. Or, you know, you can read it, below. I said to the redditor I would type it up when I had time, and I had some time this morning.

Some precursor notes, the text below is taken from the 2001 edition in all cases but the superscripts and the footnotes. The paranthetical introduction is, I assume, part of the original. I typed this in by hand and have done a couple of pass-throughs. I might have a typo here or there, but I think I've caught most of them.

"Providence in 2000 A.D.", by Howard Phillips Lovecraft1

(It is announced in the Providence Journal that the Italians desire to alter the name of Atwell's Avenue to "Columbus Avenue".)

For years I'd sav'd my few and hard-earn'd pence To cross the seas and visit Providence. For tho' by birth an Englishman am I, My forbears dwelt in undersiz'd R.I. Until, prest hard by foreign immigrations, Oblig'd they were to leave the old Plantations, And seek a life of quiet and repose On British soil, whence our fam'ly rose. When on my trip I ventur'd to embark, I stepp'd aboard a swift and pond'rous ark Which swimm'd the waves, and in a single day2 Attain'd its port in Narragansett Bay. I left the ship, and with astonish'd eyes Survey'd a city fill'd with foreign cries. No word of discourse could I understand, For English was unknown throughought the land. I went ashore at Sao Miguel's Cape, Where cluster'd men of ev'ry hue and shape. They say, this place as "Fox Point" once was known, But negro Bravas have that name o'erthrown. Upon a shaky street-car, north I flew,3 Swift borne along O'Murphy's Avenue. Long, long ago, this street was call'd "South Main", But such plain titles Erin's sons disdain. At Goldstein's Court I quit the lumb'ring car, And trod the pave that once was "Market Square". At the east end, close by a tow'ring hill, There stands the ruin of a brick-built pile: The ancient "Board of Trade", the people say, Left from the times before the Hebrew's sway. Across a bridge, where fragrant waters run, I shap'd my journey toward the setting sun. A curving junction first engag'd my gaze; My guide-book calls it "Finklestein's Cross-ways",4 But in a note historical 'tis said, That the old English nam'd the spot "Turk's Head". A few yards south, I saw a building old; A stone Post Office, waiting to be sold. My course now lay along a narrow street, Up which I tramp'd with sore and weary feet. Its name is Svenson's Lane, for by the Swede "Westminster Street" was alter'd thus to read. I next climb'd on a car northwestward bound, And soon 'mid swarthy men myself I found On La Collina Federale's brow, Near Il Passagio di Colombo. I then return'd and rode direclty north; On rusty rails the car humm'd o'er the earth. Loud near my seat a man in scorn decry'd And easy plan for reaching the East Side.5 Thro' New Jerusalem we swiftly pass'd; Beheld the wealth that Israel amass'd, And quick arriv'd within New Dublin Town, A city large from small "Pawtucket" grown. From there I wander'd toward Nouvelle Paris, Which in the past, "Woonsocket" us'd to be Before the Gaul from Canada pour'd in To swell the fact'ries, and increase their din. Soon I return'd to Providence, and then Went west to beard the Polack in his den. At what was once call'd "Olneyville" I saw A street sign painted: Wsjzxypq$?&%$ ladislaw.6 With terror struck, I sought the warf once more, But as my steamboat's whistle 'gan to roar, A shrivell'd form, half crouching 'twixt the freight, Seiz'd on my arm, and halted short my gait. "Who art though, Sirrah?" I in wonder cry'd; "A monstrous prodigy," the fellow sigh'd: "Last of my kind, a lone unhappy man, My name is Smith! I'm an American!"7

Notes

[1] According to Joshi's notes in The Ancient Track, this poem was Lovecraft's first published poem, and was in Providence's Evening Journal on 4 March 1912 [Section 2, page 6].

[2] In the year 2000, giant ships will travel across the Atlantic ocean in a single day! This is one of the rare cases of "future tech" showing up in Lovecraft's writings.

[3] This is the first of a handful of descriptions that this "Non-English" Providence is starting to crumble.

[4] For those keeping score, the poem comes across as slightly more racist against Jews than others, linking them with the destruction of the "Board of Trade" and having them amass wealth in New Jerusalem. By the way, unlike the other places, New Jerusalem is not linked with renaming something else, but based on the travel descriptions, seems to either be part of Providence itself or a renaming of North Providence.

[5] I feel like the "passage to the East Side" is a reference to something, but I do not know it.

[6] Yes, those characters are in the original. Tee hee.

[7] A later poem, "On an Accomplished Young Linguist", has a sort of similar vibe, as a young polyglot who can speak many languages, including classical ones, is chided for not knowing proper English.

Lovecraft

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2015


BLOT: (04 Apr 2015 - 12:31:22 AM)

Holy crap, a blog post?! My talks this week, visits home, concerts, and other various sundries

I think one reason it has been a month since my last blog post (give or take, you know, a week), is me trying to avoid the "long time no post" cycle of "I should post more" followed by a blog being deleted a month later. You know what I'm talking about. Yes, you [I'm writing this since about half of my regular readers have done this]. Really, though, the big reason is that I have been super busy for about three weeks, with most of my creative juices aimed at some work stuff and some home stuff and whatnot. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but a lot of current events and online arguments recently have been so far down the rabbit-hole that any commentary upon them seems redundant. There is only so many times you can write, "This stance is dumb because it is clearly dumb," before you reach the heights of post-modernism; the "This page is intentionally left blank" of social commentary.

In no particular (except, you know, maybe chronologically, but probably not even that) order, some things!

Ok. That'll do. Time to embed the Prezi an get some sleep. Later later...

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2015


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


Written by Doug Bolden

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