Did you hear that? Summer vacation version.

Did you not see the moon?  I heard there was some sort of eclipse or blood moon or blood moon eclipse.  I didn’t see it.  The sky was full of clouds.  Rain seems to be the go to thing for Chicago these days.  It even followed me to Florida, though it at least had the decency to do it late afternoon and night.

Speaking of things I didn’t see, I didn’t see a bunch while roadtripping the eastern U.S. The first evening started off fairly well.  I managed to get a tent up before dark and went on a half-mile hike.

A six-mile long half-mile hike.  I zigged when I should have zagged.  I didn’t bring water or a flashlight.  It was dark by the time dog and I got back to the tent.  I was sweating profusely and parched.  On the plus side, the exercise was good and I hoped it would bring sleep early.

It didn’t happen that way.

There I was, laying in a tent in southern Ohio.  Awake. Lying there not sleeping on rock hard ground, thinking about how it isn’t really that cold as long as no part of my body escapes the confines of my sleeping bag sarcophagus and that I’ll probably fall asleep at some point.  Probably.

In fact, I did.  If only briefly.  I was wakened by noises around half past midnight.  Strange snuffling noises.  Noises I am not used to.  Nevertheless, I could identify the sound as feral pigs rooting.  A bunch of them.  I listened for a while.  Naturally, I had left all the camera equipment in the car, so I didn’t bother getting up to peek.  I just listened until the sounds dissipated and I tried to let sleep take me once more.

Before that could happen, I heard a horrendous cry in the night.  I was disoriented, in that not-awake and not yet asleep head space.  The immediate impression I had was that of a drunk monkey, taken by surprise in the worst kind of way (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).  It was indignant and clearly unhappy.

The noise echoed silently.  The sound repeating only in my head as I worried over the poor, drunken monkey assaulted in the woods by a group of Ohio Grassmen with banjo accompaniment.

Upon reflection, I would have to guess it was the  hoarse scream of a Black-Crowned Night Heron.  A sound I am intimately familiar with from my picture taking along the Chicago River for the tumblr blog.  Nevertheless, out of context, it is enough to make you question your sanity.

Birds can make quite a few heavy metal screeches.  Winged demons bring the forest to life after the sun sets.  For instance, the screech of a Northern Hawk Owl, the high intensity alarm of a Long-Eared Owl, the screech and chuckle of an Eastern Screech Owl, the bark of a Great Horned Owl, the female rasps of the Nighthawk or the fledgling call of the Barred Owl.  Allaboutbirds.org has a really good catalogue of bird sounds.  If you’re into that sort of thing.

It was almost comforting when the coyotes began to howl.  A band of them giving voice to the despoiled monkey’s physical and emotional sorrows.  It was 3 AM at this point.  You know what they say about three in the morning.  A bunch of nonsense, that’s what.  Don’t listen to them.

Four in the morning is so much worse.  Four is too close to sunrise.  When you are disturbed at 4 AM, you can never recover.  The accusatory hooting of a Barred Owl made sure of that. I did try to regain oblivion, but I finally gave up at 4:30 AM, packed up the tent in the dark and headed out.

Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle” was on the radio when I fired up the car.  The Hocking Hills were shrouded in soup thick fog and I drove on edge until the sun burned it off.

It would have made the worst episode of Supernatural ever written. Season 13, episode 6 “The Hills Have Ears…Because Nobody Can See A Damn Thing in this Freakin’ Fog”

I hope that’s not Sheriff Bullard.

Not suspicious at all.

Looks kinda dark…

You think it’ll be fine?

Is this on the map?

The light is fading fast!

This might have been a mistake.

I really hope this is the right way.

Are there pirates in that fog?


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Amityville: The Awakening? I might just hit snooze

Who am I kidding, I’ll watch this new pile of Amityville crap called Amityville: The Awakening.  It is scheduled for January 2015.  No reason to rush this work of art for an October release.

English: The house from the film The Amityvill...

English: The house from the film The Amityville Horror, built circa 1924, at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York, United States. By the time this photo was taken, the address had been changed to discourage curiousity-seekers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched The Amityville Haunting after all.  That was a real piece of work.  By piece of work, I mean the worst of the Amityville and related films.  That is worthy of some kind of prize.  Like a boot to the head.

This new one is based on a real story, of course.  Like Cars is based on a true story about a red car.  I can assure you that a red car was in a race once.  However, this movie is based on the true story of how the owner of the famed house killed his entire family in 1974.  As opposed to what actually happened.  Details.

You have a guy stuck in his bed with a computer communication device, a teenager who didn’t want to move to a new place and a little blond girl with dollies.  Revolutionary stuff.

Paranormal Activity was apparently bludgeoned to death enough, so the producers of that franchise have moved into Amityville!  I’m sure someone out there thinks that’s awesome.  That someone isn’t me.

Red Forman is in it, so that’s a positive.  He’ll give those flies what for, mark my words!

Without further delay, here’s a look at the trailer that came out a few days ago.  It has Spanish language closed captioning for those that are into that sort of stuff.

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Some Assembly Required

A story out of Southern Sweden has a woman finding the bones of 80 skeletons stored in Ikea bags in a church.

The guy that dug up the bones (but who denies putting them in the bags) notes that it’s not as bad as it looks.

This sounds like a mildly morbid sitcom.  I can imagine Swedish metal band Grave doing a jaunty little intro tune featuring the sitcom cast tooling around in Ikea shopping carts laughing and waving their arms about.  Reminiscent of The Monkees show intro.

Turns out archaeologist Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay was right.  It isn’t as bad as it looks.  At least, nothing truly nefarious went down.  Just your garden variety red tape snags coupled with some as-yet-undefined amounts of laziness and incompetence.

As part of some renovation, as many as 80 skeletons that had been buried under the church (some very old) were disinterred.  The resulting hassles of documentation and reburial were ditched in favor of the blue Ikea bag methodology, which turns out to not be an accepted reburial technique.

To really nail the absurdity of this story, my browser chose this story as an optimal time to sell me a happy meal.

I’m lovin’ it!


I took a crack at the sitcom theme song for Ola Lindgren.  (Any resemblance to The Monkees tv show theme song is whatever whatever)

Here we come, walkin’
Down the street.
We get the funniest looks
from all the other Swedes.
Hey, hey, we’re the flunkies
And people pray we bury in-ground.
But we’re too busy singing
To put anybody down.

Laid low wherever we want to,
blue bags or under the pew
We don’t have time to get restless,
There’s always something askew.
Hey, hey, we’re the flunkies
And people pray we bury in-ground.
But we’re too busy singing
To put anybody down.

We’re just tryin’ to be friendly,
Come and watch us sling decay,
We’re unsung desecration,
And we’ve got nowhere to lay.

Any time, Or anywhere,
Just look over your shoulder
Guess who’ll be standing there

Hey, hey, we’re the flunkies
And people pray we bury in-ground.
But we’re too busy singing
To put anybody down.

Hey, hey, we’re the flunkies
And people pray we bury in-ground.
But we’re too busy singing
To put anybody down.

We’re just tryin’ to be friendly,
Come and watch us sling decay,
We’re unsung desecration,
And we’ve got nowhere to lay.

Hey, hey, we’re the flunkies
Hey, hey, we’re the flunkies

Hey, hey, we’re the flunkies,
You never know where we’ll be found.
Best make peace with your dead, see
We never really keep them down.



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Ruble Maps?

I have a real knack for bad titles, but it kinda sorta has a ring to it.

OK, maybe not.

Let’s move on, shall we?

For those of you that feel like taking a walk through Pripyat, you can check out this Russian map version of a Pripyat “Google” street view map.

Take a stroll.  The snow gives it a placid feel.  Look for the famous amusement park that never had a chance to amuse (slated to open May 1, just days before the April 26, 1986 disaster and having opened for a few hours on the 27th before everyone was evacuated).  Blunt Force Clue – it’s right here.  The power plant is over here.

The Polesie State Radiation and Ecological Reserve is to the north of town.  It’s a closed nature reserve covering roughly 507 square miles.

I have a fascination with abandoned buildings and locations.  Pripyat definitely fits that bill.


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Zombie, Rick and Balls

OK, that title was bad.  I stand by it nonetheless!

Zen Studios and The Walking Dead are combining forces to create a pinball game.

We at Zen Studios are so excited to announce our latest pinball collaboration! We have partnered with Telltale Games and Robert Kirkman to create a digital pinball table based on the award-winning The Walking Dead game series! This new table will bring the story and choice-driven gameplay of The Walking Dead: Season One journey to the playfield.

I love me some pinball.  The sound of 70s porn ‘stache bigfoot hollering in Williams’ White Water pinball game is no less awesome when I play on the tablet.

The table will be playable at this year’s E3 Expo and those in attendance can get a sneak peek at Telltale’s booth in the Concourse Hall.

The Walking Dead Pinball table will be available for download later this summer on Zen Studios pinball platforms across console, PC, and mobile stores.

I will definitely give this a shot when it comes out later this summer.  I’m currently giving The Forest a go.  So far, so good.

The preview for The Walking Dead Pinball doesn’t show much, but it exists.  Enjoy!


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Run, run, run and don’t look back


They never seem to go away.

There’s a new iPhone app that combines running and zombies.  Two things I tolerate.

I don’t actually bring a device with me when I run, but I know tons of folks do.  I do have a little arm holder doohickey I don’t use.  You know, just in case.

I could see this being interesting enough to try once or twice.  I would probably be virtually caught by zombies because the dog follows her own plan.  Our running style is certainly interval training.  We are training for the paleopocalypse.  This involves sprinting after squirrels at top  speed with very brief targeting periods in between.

I’m waiting for the next-gen version.  The one that comes on the Google Glass Sunglasses I don’t have.  It will have zombie visuals out front that I must dodge and the sound of footsteps increasing behind me when my pace slows.

I won’t turn and look.  That’s how you trip.  Ask any horror movie scream queen.  They would tell you if they hadn’t tripped and drown in their own tears waiting for some lumbering oaf to catch up and axe them for their autograph.

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Lend me your ear

A German museum, The Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, is displaying an ear grown from one of Vincent van Gogh’s ancestors.

Self-Portrait, Spring 1887, Oil on pasteboard,...

Self-Portrait, Spring 1887, Oil on pasteboard, 42 × 33.7 cm., Art Institute of Chicago (F 345). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From an article in The Guardian:

The Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe says the replica ear consists of living cells grown from samples provided by Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo.

The museum says Lieuwe and Vincent van Gogh share about one sixteenth of the same genes, including the Y-chromosome that is passed down the male lineage.

Artist Diemut Strebe told the Associated Press on Tuesday that she wanted to combine art and science.

I suppose the goal of combining art and science was achieved.  There was definitely science involved.

Should we expect this trend to continue?  Will museums be cloning famous people parts for display?  Would the regrown version of the various parts already on display around the world be better than a wrinkled mass preserved in a jar?

Galileo’s regrown middle finger would certainly more forcefully carry the message to the house of those great men that sought to keep his science hidden.

Perhaps there is some combination of art and science that will result in regrown versions of famous penises.  Rasputin could continue to spread his own message through the miracle of science.  In a very artistic manner, of course.

Who doesn’t want to see a bunch of regrown parts.  How about an interactive museum feature where children can mix and match to create their own patchwork historical figure.

Sounds great doesn’t it?  DOESN’T IT?  Can you hear me now?

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Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication

NASA has a free e-book available entitled “Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication” and edited by Douglas A. Vakoch, the Director of Interstellar Message Composition over at SETI.

C G-K - DSC 0442 (by)

C G-K – DSC 0442 (by) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t read it yet, but I put it on my Kindle app.  Do I get points for that?

The book boasts awesome chapters such as “Learning to Read: Interstellar Message Decipherment from Archeological and Anthropological Perspectives”, “Speaking for Earth: Projecting Cultural Values Across Deep Space and Time”, and “Inferring Intelligence: Prehistoric and Extraterrestrial”.

It should provide some interesting food for thought with regards to decoding language and symbology.  Despite what some folks want to believe, the book does not claim that ancient rock art is communication with or from aliens.

What this collection of thought is likely to do is give readers insight into their own locked perspectives and how that hampers communication across cultures, not to mention what that might mean for communication beyond any conceivable shared or even relatable language or culture.

Of course, I’m just guessing.  I’ll let you know after I read the damn thing.

Addressing a field that has been dominated by astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, the contributors to this collection raise questions that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence. These scholars are grappling with some of the enormous challenges that will face humanity if an information-rich signal emanating from another world is detected. By drawing on issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology, we can be much better prepared for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come.

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Camelopardalids! What? Maybe…

There might be a new meteor shower.  It might happen tonight and into Saturday morning.

It might have a ridiculous name that gets stuck in your craw like a fish bone.

Please welcome your new heavenly rock show, the Camelopardalids!

This afternoon in Chicago, there was not a cloud in sight.  This probably means it will be 100% cover by the time this possible shower should show itself.

Read everything you need to know about this new shower in this EarthSky.org article.

Best viewed between 1 and 3AM CDT, the shower will radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis.

That bumblefuck of a name represents that greatest of beasts, the camel-leopard hybrid.  Camel-Leopard hybrid sounds way better than Giraffe, I guess.  This could have been the Giraffedalids Shower.  Easier to say, but not quite as mysterious.

Comet 209P/LINEAR could produce a meteor storm with wild predictions upwards of 200 per hour.

If you’re out stumbling home drunk tonight and happen to fall into a ditch, relax and watch the sky for a spell.  You might see something fantastical.


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Toad Road – No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white

I have been trying to watch a backlog of movies lately.  Movies that I had really meant to watch.

As opposed to movies that I put in a queue.  Or those currently sitting on my DVR that I have no desire to watch.  Movies that provoke deep soul searching about why I would ever have taken note of them even while I am desperately searching for something to watch.

Toad Road falls into none of those categories.  It is something I saw mentioned in passing over at Dreadit.  I thought I hadn’t paid attention.  The title did nothing for me, giving me images of a poor attempt to emulate Frogs.  There was no other information in the post and I didn’t pursue it further.

However, I did see it listed on Netflix while I was studiously ignoring my queue and flitting through the rest of Netflix on the TV.  Putting things in queue and flipping through movies seems to be what I do most with Netflix.  I hear it is also used to watch stuff.  Rumors, huh?

The cover image intrigued me.  At least more intriguing than whatever I had been looking at previously, a long list of shitty films about demons and zombies and zombie demons.  The description did nothing for me, but it did mention hell and that was what I was looking for, though I wasn’t aware of that before I powered up the TV.

Disaffected James and town newcomer Sara decide to go to Toad Road — and risk whatever may happen as they pass seven gates that lead toward hell.

I assumed the movie wasn’t going to be about shape-shifting toads in a nuclear waste-contaminated forest.  With only that to go on, I fired up Toad Road.

It wasn’t what I expected.

It started out as I may have expected.  This could be due to my having watching a series of really sub par independent horror films in the last couple days.  My view was definitely tainted.

It seemed a badly filmed movie with no substance other than a bunch of asshole younger folk getting blasted on various drugs.  The very first sentence annoyed me.  It hung there for a few moments by itself.

Flaccid penis showed up within the first five minutes, followed quickly by ass hair lighting.  Drugs and booze and nothing of interest.  Nothing unusual, really.

It dragged.  I got annoyed with these people.  I wondered what the fucking point was.

That was the point.  That was the atmosphere the film intended to create.  The very real fucked up ennui that this type of young person falls into.  Friends due to proximity and the false camaraderie of a good buzz as much as any real connection.  The drab coloring and low light in the beginning was a reflection of what I’ve seen every day for months now — cold.

It was gritty and real.  Almost too real.  The slow roll sucked me in and I didn’t see it coming.  The sudden awareness of arriving somewhere without realizing it is important to the sense of the film.

By the time the female lead, Sara, started to fall down the rabbit hole of drugs, I was hooked as well.  She had been the bit of purity in the beginning.  Her fall was harsh.  We could all see it coming, including her male love interest.  None of us could or would stop it.

The camera work here is good.  The angles are tilted and a bit dreamy.  This is the entrancing side of drug use, when everything seems a bit livelier and the darkness is still hanging back.

There is a moment exhibiting how Sara is caught in between.  The little devil on her shoulder won out.  In the same scene where Sara notes that it is a nice day and probably a good day for a mushroom experience, the group heads into the darkened, graffitied caves for their experience.

Sara’s first trip interrupts her attempt to go back into the light.  In that few moments, her world shatters.  For the rest of the movie, we watch it tumble in pieces to the ground.  In her mind, Sara is seeking something more, something special and deep.

Sara is abusing substances in an attempt to pull back a curtain.  James is coming to realize that there is nothing behind that curtain but yourself, and there is only one road to escape yourself.

Much of James’ early exposition is an explanation of just what it’s like to wake up one day and realize you’re fucked up and in a ditch you can’t climb out of.  Sara is not really listening.  I heard him explain what the Toad Road really was and I started to see this film in a new way.

All of these characters are lost.  Some don’t care, some don’t know.  Our two leads know they are and seek opposite paths toward salvation.

The nagging feeling in my mind that there shouldn’t be seven gates to hell is resolved as I watch Sara and James and see that I am watching the story of addiction as played out in those seven gates, as explained by Sara.

  1. A feeling of being watched.
  2. Hearing things.
  3. Seeing things.
  4. You pass out.
  5. Time is warped and you lose your mental grip on reality.
  6. It takes over you.  Your veins boil.  You must leave your old self.
  7. Nothingness. Black void. The ultimate solitude.

According to the legend of the Seven Gates of Hell that Sara recounts, nobody has been beyond the fifth gate.  Sara wants to see it through to the end.

With some LSD as their guide, Sara and James head into the woods.

James comes back six months later, alone.  He has no idea where Sara is or what happened.

We, the viewers know.  The story of addiction was played out.  One of them emerged and one of them didn’t.  The movie doesn’t necessarily resolve this for you and some reviewers called the movie unsatisfying and aimless.

If you recognize the horror theme for what it is, this sense of aimlessness, and even a lack of satisfaction, is as it should be.  Of course James is guilty, but not for anything so simple as a slasher flick death.  He is guilty of taking her hand and leading her down the path to ruin.  He also knows that he is merely circumstantially guilty as just another thing Sara used in her search.  Sara’s nature brought her to this end.  This is reality horror and the tone and sense of it was captured beautifully.

The final dedication at the end of the movie brings it home in a surreal way.


[That last link is worth a look into the brief story of Sara Anne Jones.  

To wrap up, I like this song better than the video Sara Anne Jones appeared in, Death Cab's "Stay Young, Go Dancing"]

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