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06 December 2009 @ 03:17 pm
Friday night, I introduced hrafntinna (always up for zombies) to the joys of Dawn of the Dead. We ate macaroni in red pasta sauce while we watched, which seemed appropriate.

Last night, we watched This is England, which has nothing to do with zombies, but instead relies on two amazing actors and a host of great supporting roles. It's England's North in 1983.
09 August 2009 @ 01:01 pm
I'm in Uppsala, Sweden, making use of free wifi in a cafe. Yesterday, I flew here from Reykjavik, Iceland, and the difference is like going from Butte to Boston.

Iceland is frontier country. It fits tiny cities in fjords and by bays, between blasted heath, basalt cliffs and long rifts in the earth. History starts in 871 A.D. (+-2 years), when the first settlements coincided with a local volcano's deposit of ash. Then, for almost a thousand years, the state of the art in architecture was sod. Sod.

Sweden is big, flat and full of resources: granite, iron, timber. The history section in the guide book starts with, "10,000 years ago, when the glaciers retreated from Sweden...." Serious history here. Much of the architecture in Uppsala dates from the 17th century--facades, bronze cupolas and thick brick walls. The biggest cathedral (now Lutheran, natch) in Scandinavia is here. This being a seismically stable place, the cathedral is built primarily of brick.

Iceland is fiercely proud of its early parliament, apparently the first in Europe, while Sweden seems just as proud of their king. (Crowns on everything.) While Sweden doesn't seem to have gone all empire-mad in the 19th century, tradition holds that Swedes founded Russia, so they get around.

hrafntinna  has been a valuable guide, and she cushioned most of the culture shock, especially in Iceland. This would be a much weirder trip without her: flying to Iceland felt almost like going somewhere familiar. Sweden is a bit stranger to both of us, but her company still makes all the difference.
28 May 2009 @ 10:10 pm
I'm trying to read 50 pages a day of my 900-page tome on ActionScript. Today was Day 4. We'll see if I can keep it up.
19 April 2009 @ 03:06 am
Today (well, yesterday, technically--it's late), I put the finishing touches on my most ambitious website yet: www.neilmacfarquhar.com. (The alias that Neil bought for it, www.happybirthdayfromhizbollah.com, is probably more memorable.) You can't really see the ambitious part--I wrote extensive database queries, in the interest of giving Neil the ability to add his own news and events. So I have to say I'm well chuffed, even though that part is invisible. Please take a look if you get a chance.

I just got back from a wonderful, late dinner with Rev. Crawdaddy, who hasn't been seen much on lj lately, and his charming lady friend.. They generously treated me to an evening out. We had a great, rambling conversation about punk, post-punk, Repo Man, and all the country's best war criminals from LeMay to Kissinger to the recent pack of idiots.
19 March 2009 @ 01:14 pm
So, I saw the movie. Here are my thoughts, repeated from a comment on DaveRogue's lj.

Reading Watchmen changed my life, back when I read issues 1-11 in one sitting--on Ben Rosenbaum's couch if I remember correctly. I've had opinions on how the movie should be made for about fifteen years...but even if I hadn't, Zack Snyder's movie would still be ass.

More ass behind the cut...Collapse )
22 February 2009 @ 12:48 pm
I envy Daverogue for being able to see this at the Yerba Buena Center:

...The yellow furry one would, in a way, make a good costume for the Creeper--in the stage production by that name.
07 February 2009 @ 07:45 pm
Random phrase generators like this have become so common, but I found this one especially hilarious. Maybe anyone who has seriously considered hanging out their shingle will, too. It's seductive, is the thing--you almost want to find a real slogan generator. You know, something with punch, with pizazz, with wow--something with monkey.
07 December 2008 @ 10:05 pm
hrafntinna and I have taken up playing chess. A few of those games, hilarious for their morose march toward death, have led to the idea of "zombie chess." Today, we worked out a set of rules for the game. You will need at least three cheap plastic chess sets. You can see why, partly, in the way you set it up:

The object for White is to get the king to the far end of the board. The object for Black is to checkmate White's king. White moves first. All white pieces move normally, except for the rook, which moves as usual but can neither take nor be taken. Black can move only one square at a time, even on the pieces' first moves, but moves and takes in the normal directions.

When Black is in a position to take a piece, it must do so. (If it ever became possible to take more than one piece at a time, then you could choose which one.) But the big difference is, when Black takes, the black pawn doesn't move into the taken white piece's square. Instead, the taken white piece becomes a zombie pawn. For example:

Move 1: White has opened with a pawn. Black responds by opening with its own--

Move 2: White makes some other futile move (in this case, moving a second pawn). But since White didn't move its first pawn, Black is forced to take it--

As you can see, things get ugly fast. Since we had only three cheap plastic chess sets, we had to resort to black bishops, knights and rooks to swell the the zombie horde. While there is a certain Romeroesque quality to replacing a white queen with a black queen, making the other white pieces stare in the zombified face of their old buddy, it's easy to forget that the black queen moves like any other zombie pawn.

Once a zombie pawn has advanced to the end of the board, then, on its next turn, it can move to the first square in the same file so long as that square is unoccupied (i.e., the board wraps around for Black).

White basically sacrifices most its pawns right off the bat to keep Black from advancing too quickly. Just like in "Dawn of the Dead," the living player faces the problem of keeping track of all the zombies and not underestimating them for being so slow. The zombies (not exactly like in "Dawn of the Dead") have to support their forward pawns, spread their pieces out more or less evenly, and avoid letting any white pieces get to your back row. The rooks can be useful, but since they can't take any pawns, they easily get boxed in.

Hrafntinna mostly played White. She's a very careful player, and she won all four games, but it looked horrifying and even impossible most of the time. That sounds like your basic horror movie. The one time that I played White, I died quickly and gruesomely--but I had a hard time changing gears after having played Zombie twice already.

Hrafntinna dubbed the white queen "Last Girl," i.e., that girl in all the slasher movies who (hasn't had sex and therefore) survives. But since the king is the one who has to get to the other side, not her, that basically made him "wounded boyfriend." The rook is the truck, and the knight is no doubt the helicopter.

Letting zombie pawns wrap around the board in the advancing direction took away a relatively easy strategy for White, i.e.: surviving until the wave of zombies passes you by, at which point they're completely unsupported and vulnerable from behind. Playing without a wraparound board is "Shaun of the Dead" rules.

For more zombie realism, I thought of starting with just two ranks of zombie pawns, then letting them move in all four directions (and taking along the diagonals). But it starts to distort more and more of the original shape of chess, and chess could never literally recreate a George Romero movie. (Maybe that's where the "Zombies!!!" game picks up.)

If you do play zombie chess, I'd like to know how it went for you, especially if the game is too easy or too hard--within the bounds of the horror-movie-chess-game genre, that is. After all, it was fun, as Hrafntinna said, to play a game that had no illusions of being fair.

On the way home from the cafe where we played, she and I talked about alternate games: For instance, you could play a sort of inverse version of zombie chess, modeled after "Alien": Only White's pieces are on the board, in their usual places, except that White is missing its queen--who is replaced by a black queen (the alien)--and its king, who apparently crawled into the air ducts early on to kill off the alien with a flamethrower but died painfully instead. The black queen can move like a regular queen, and also like a knight. White moves first, not that it will do you any good. Last one standing wins. The board is the Nostromo: there is no way off.

04 November 2008 @ 10:05 pm
In large part thanks to Hrafntinna, we're well set up for election night: A brazier flaming outdoors, with the "plains states" and "pacific coast" logs already on and burning, s'mores, bacon wrapped around dates, and equal parts Columbus and Hood River beers. Ohio is (perhaps prematurely) called for Obama--the way it stands at this point in the night, McCain has to get Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.
04 November 2008 @ 08:34 am
It's ridiculously early here, and my polling place was already hopping. The college student in front of us in line had to go outside the room and turn his "McCain - Palin" shirt inside out, because no partisan messages are allowed. That said, another student with the brilliant "Joe" sticker (the one in the style of a plumber's name badge) on his hoodie got off Scot free. Voting was uneventful--like most Americans, I trusted my ballot to a computer, so I won't be surprised if Max Headroom wins by massive write-in campaign tonight.

Then there's the drinking game...Collapse )