Aug 292016
 

Some hours ago, when it was only slightly after midnight, I went outside to check on some things and noticed that the air was *really* dusty. I noticed this artistic imprint in the dust on the back window of my car:

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It’s now just about 5:30 AM, the cars are starting to zip by carrying people to their jobs. Let it never be said that I don’t put in the hours to get my work done. But I suspect it might be about time to crash.

 Posted by at 5:26 am
Jul 282016
 

It’s fun to watch the Bernie Sanders fans tear into Hillary… but it’s *terrifying* to realize that a sizable fraction of the US electorate actually wants the guy and his policies. Policies that are, at their core, every bit as delusional as those that have brought Venezuela low.

Animals go hungry in Venezuela zoos due to shortages

Not just “going hungry,” but around 50 animals have simply starved to death. Zookeepers have taken to trying to feed mangos and pumpkins to the lions and tigers… obligate carnivores.

 Posted by at 12:08 pm
Jul 272016
 

World’s Saddest Polar Bear Dies After 22 Years In Argentina’s Zoo

This poor critter lived a pretty hellish existence, and was driven insane by it. The video below shows that fairly clearly. And… you might not want to watch it. It’s not uplifting. This, by the way, is not some reverse psychology to *make* you watch it; it’s like, some years ago, when I told people “don’t Google image search ‘goatse’,” and they did anyway and got all pissy about it. When I say you might not want to watch the sad video of the majestic polar bear that has been driven mad by loneliness and a bad environment… you really might not wanna watch.

When I was a kid, I loved zoos. Since sometime in the mid 1990’s… I freakin’ hate ’em. You’d have to pay me to go. This came about after I visited the National Zoo in D.C. and saw some lonely male rhino that had lost it’s mind… all it did, all day every day, was pace out a path around it’s little dirt yard. It had ground a groove into the ground several inches deep and a couple feet wide. Just… nope. Done.

There are two exceptions to this. One is exemplified by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, which is several shades of awesome. But then, it’s full of fish, and fish ain’t mammals. Second, the type of zoo I’d build.

Instead of the animals being in small enclosures surrounded by walls and gawking goobers, the animals would be in *large* enclosures. The visitors would be *in* the enclosures, not *around* the enclosures. This would be done by having the visitors walking through tunnels criss-crossing the enclosure; the tunnels would be armored and camouflaged concrete and steel structures that would randomly dip underground, and when above ground would be equipped with big, thick, armored windows. The outside of the tunnels would be equipped with good microphones, the inside with good speakers, so visitors could hear the critters… but the critters wouldn’t hear the hairless apes and their screeching offspring. Bang on the window all you want, you’re not going to annoy the tiger or the bear or the T-Rex because it can’t hear you.

Really good zoo designers could have an entirely underground human infrastructure, with above-ground observation posts built into the trunks of fake trees. The trees could even have narrow elevators taking people a few stories up to overhead observation posts.

This would be kinda pricey, I’d imagine

 Posted by at 2:09 am
Jul 222016
 

The irony is that at the same time I bemoan the loss of stores that sell interesting stuff, more and more interesting stuff is being made. When I was a kid, a “dinosaur toy” was a cheap, stiff hunk of plastic. Nothing moved; it was merely an immobile statue… and not a very accurate one. Half my lifetime ago, the movie Jurassic Park came out and the marketing juggernaut that came with it produced a vast pile of new dinosaur toys… these were more accurate, had more moving bits. And now with the combination of rapid prototyping and the rise of nerd culture (specifically the rise of people willing to spend a whole lot of money for “toys” that are incredibly detailed and complex, filled with features, that will probably not leave the box but instead will be put on a shelf and never played with), there seem to be some damn fine dinosaur toys out there. Behold:

Beasts of the Mesozoic: Raptor Series Action Figures

Twenty years ago, I thought it was pretty neat to find a toy of *one* type of raptor, in no particular scale, certainly not in scale with anything else. Now… a whole range of 1/6 scale raptors are in development.

 Posted by at 10:08 am
Jul 222016
 

So last night around midnight I dragged the garbage can out to the road for pickup this morning.  I swept the area with my flashlight, on the lookout for things like coyotes and wild dogs and raccoons and shoggoths and socialists and other such rabid monsters, but only found one cat. This I took as a pleasant surprise, given the dearth of cats around here the last few years. He’s a juvenile siamese-patterned cat, and was *reasonably* friendly: he came to within about 4 feet when I called to him, and didn’t overly object as I accompanied him as he hunted the wheat for mice and such. He was.n’t interested in letting me pet him, so I went about my business

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This evening I had a rare visit from Junior, who’s looking rather the worse for wear… pretty skinny. He wants *nothing* to do with me, though he will of course eat free food when available.

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Tonight around midnight I went out again to check the weather and look at the stars; the sky kept flashing from lightning so I hoped there’d be a show (there wasn’t, sadly… the lightning was much too far away). But I saw the pseudo-siamese from last night, and realized that he was a she, and that she had at least three kittens… one all-black, two more siamese-colored. One of the siamese skittered off and didn’t come back, but the other two were reasonably brave. Mom there is barely bigger than her kittens.

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While I was out there watching the cats I heard a nearby rustling sound in a tree near where the one kitten had skittered off. I figured it was the kitten coming back… but it was actually a full grown racoon. I don’t know if it threatened the kitten (or maybe even got it), but lil’ mommacat wasn’t having it, and the two rumbled. And even though the racoon outmassed the cat by several times, I’m happy to report that she successfully drove off the racoon. It was a short battle, but in the end the racoon hightailed it for the tree and the cat stood there hissing at it.

 Posted by at 1:33 am
Jul 172016
 

H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos has been remarkably influential over the decades. It is thus not surprising that if you do a Google image search for “Cthulhu” you will find a *vast* array of depictions of the terrifying Great Old One, along with various other of Lovecrafts creations. But here’s the thing: most of them fail.

There are two reasons why there have been, so far, no real efforts at making a faithful adaptation of a Cthulhu story into a  big-budget movie, despite their popularity. Firstly: Lovecraft almost never described the appearance of his monsters in great detail. When he did, like the “Deep Ones” in “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” the monsters are fairly mundane… fish-people, essentially.  The biggies like Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth are described vaguely at best. Secondly: the monsters often don’t even put in a visible appearance; or those few characters who see them promptly go insane at the sight.

And that’s what stomps on most of the artistic depictions of Mythos Monsters: no matter how skilled and talented an artist is, painting or sculpting a vision of Cthulhu that drives the viewer insane is pretty much impossible (not to mention unwise). Critters from the Mythos are some of the best examples of things that work great in your head, but not so great visually.

So, if you GIS Cthulhu, you’ll find a myriad of sketches, paintings, sculpltures, CG renders. A lot of them are exquisitely rendered and detailed with great clarity… and are just not terrifying. “Winged Squid Guy” just doesn’t really come off as a particularly spooky vision.

But there are a few exceptions. The image I posted yesterday from “The Cthulhu Wars” with Cthulhu getting nuked is all kinds of awesome, but it’s still not *quite* there with the terrifyingness. I think what you really need to do to make a truly effective depiction of Cthulhu is to render it so that you *can’t* see Cthulhu with any clarity. The creepiness comes not from clarity but from obscuration. Here, this one is good:

“Awakening” by Russian artist Alexander Andreev. Cthulhu paying a visit to St. Petersburg; nothing good is going to happen to that town. I assume that TU-160 is going to unload a thermonuclear “howdy” onto the visitor.

And this one I think *really* nails the right way to depict a Lovecraft monster:

Here, rather than seeing Cthulhu clearly, it is depicted vaguely. If you look at the image full-rez, it’s pretty clearly a fairly quickly Photoshopped image; the artist, Bulgarian Andrey Nazarov, took a photo of a road in his native country he found on Google and added the Cthulhu figure. Since this in the Internet, enough people actually *believed* this to be an actual photo that even Snopes had to get involved. Particularly amusing/distressing are the claims that this photo was shot during a tornado outbreak… in Oklahoma. The mountains of Oklahoma. That’s madness.

The distinctly Lovecraftian movie “The Mist” was at its most effective when the monsters remained shrouded in the obscuring mist. The bugs flying around attacking people inside the grocery store? Yeah, that was bad, but it was comprehensible. The things outside just yoinking people away? Bleah!

In short… you *can’t* do cosmic horror justice. And the more detail you show, the further you get from it.

 Posted by at 12:50 pm