Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pumzi



Pumzi is a Kenyan short movie by Wanuri Kahiu, set in a world where there is no water and the few survivors live underground because the surface is radiated and no longer safe. Made with a budget of only 35,000$, the movie looks striking precisely because there are no flashy effects and it does a lot of world building in only twenty minutes. There are a lot of details that make me curious about this world and I'd love to watch a longer film set there.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

7th Sea: Underground

last time

cast of characters:
Aidan - member of the Exporer's Society
Gregor - fighter and bodyguard and maybe something more
Marinus - son of a rich vendel merchant family, travelling after completing his journeyman's piece

5. Octavus 1668
Susa showed us where the two boys has gone and we followed the same route. There were not side roads, so we were confident that they were somewhere ahead of us and indeed did Gregor spot some tracks in the afternoon, going up the first branch in the road we came upon.
At the end of it, we found a tunnel or mineshaft, hidden behind some boards. But someone had already broken down enough of the boards to make a comfortable entrance. Aidan also noticed torn reins loped around a tree, similar to the bridle the horse we found had been wearing. We decided to walk a short distance into the tunnel to see if we could find anything more, but to leave all further exploration until the next morning.

There were some marks on the tunnel walls, clearly someone had been here recently. We stopped when we came to a junction and returned outside, scaring a huge swarm of bats along the way. After a fairly restful night, we packed food and water to last us a couple of days, our lamps, some tools and set out into the mine once more. Whoever had been here, had taken the tunnel on the right and we followed. After quite a long while, Gregor claimed that he could see light. He went ahead alone and the lights moved or vanished. Apart from the quiet sound of rushing water, nothing was to be heard. We went on together and the light appeared again. I moved my lamp and one of the lights followed my movement - we had found a mirror.

Not a mirror, as it turned out, but an enormous slab of extremely smooth quartz that barred our way further into the tunnel.A small opening lead down into a cavern and that's where the sound of water came from. While investigating the quartz, I found that it moved when I pushed it and we could open it like a door with out combined strength. Unfortunately, we could not open it again from the other side, although it did move and it was just our lack of strength. It is not a pleasant feeling to be shut in deep under the earth. We decided to explore further and see if we could find another way out or maybe even the boys.

A few hours of climbing through naturally grown tunnels that were a good deal narrower and lower than the mineshaft turned up nothing of consequence. Except a well-made empty water skin and a variety of precious stones that would fetch a fair price on any market. We guessed that it must already be evening and settled down in a small cavern to spend the night before going back and trying our luck once more with the quartz door.

next time

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Deadlands: Dead Man Walking

last time

Cast of Characters:
Alan Trehorn: Half-Apsalooke/Crow scout who might be taken for a greenhorn, but at your own risk.
Etienne DuMont: Texas Ranger. He used to be dead, but he got better.
Kenneth Lake: Professional poker player and reluctant participant in these events.
Dr. Frances Gray: Doctor and a strong believer in science and natural explanations.
Sister Elisabeth: A nun of maybe questionable past, but unquestionable faith.
Eliah Davis: Black cowboy who has seen some weird shit in his life. He spins this tale for you, somewhere at a campfire on the prairie.

We made it to Dodge without problems, probably because all the problems were waiting for us there. Last time we were there, we caught a murderer and we found out that he had been possessed by some kind of spirit. He had a cursed knife and it turned him evil, it used him. We killed the man and we tried to destroy the knife, but it didn't work and then we lost the knife along the way. It simply was gone, maybe the spirit took it back.

Anyhow, might be this is the same thing happening all over again. Someone kills people and takes parts of their bodies. We heard all about it by the time we got to the Occident Saloon and we also heard that Frances Gray was in town, the lady doc we had met a couple of months ago. She had almost been killed by a dead man, if it hadn't been for the help of this card sharp, Kenneth Lake.

The deputy marshal doesn't seem too eager to even talk about the case, so we did some digging of our own. Etienne and me went to see the undertaker, to get a look at the latest victim. We got the man to show us the corpse alright and then Etienne started to act real strange, jeering and taunting the dead man to get up. When he did, Etienne looked about as flabbergasted as I did. I don't think he remembers a thing he did. I won't forget in a hurry, though, and I won't forget the sight of the claws Etienne sudenly grew, like he was a mountain lion. Shit, no animal I know has claws like that. Didn't hurt the corpse all that much, neither did my knife. In the end, Etienne simply ordered him to be dead again and he was. And stayed it. I cut off his head to make sure, put it face down into the coffin like you do with vampires. No idea if that helps, but it sure doesn't do any harm.

We fed the undertaker some wild story and he didn't believe it, but he'll keep quiet, if only to make sure we don't come back. When I asked Etienne about his little trick, he said that it will happen again and that we should just leave him alone then. Yeah. Didn't need him to tell me that. Didn't make me feel any better about his company, neither. He's my friend and all, but he scares me worse than almost anything else I've seen. And that's sayin' something.

next time

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Strandbeest

The Dutch artist Theo Jansen creates huge mechanisms from PVC tubes and lets them roam freely on the beaches. He calls them Strandbeests and they really are a sight to behold.

Compilation from Strandbeest on Vimeo.


Some of them have stomachs to store wind so they can walk even when there's no wind and some can even tell when they are walking into the water. I would love to see one in real life. Until then, I'm the proud owner of a mini-Strandbeest. You can buy those kits off Ebay or from Jansen's own site I linked above and even for someone with as little patience as myself, they are easy to assemble.

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Just don't be intimidated by the number of parts. It's basically just six steps, repeated a lot of times.

Part of the legs:
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The two main parts of the beest:
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The finished beest:
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It walks really well. You can just blow on the wind wheel, you can crank shaft by hand, you can of course put it outside or you can use a hair dryer, like I did here:




It even manages small obstacles. The tray slides a bit on the floor or the beest would have just walked over it without the slightest problem, but even so it walks on and off.



The construction is really simple, but ingenious. I'm probably going to get myself the second kit Jansen sells as well and I wish he'd sell his others beasts in miniature form as well.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sharp Note: Soar Away



Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The tradition is called Shape Note


Friday, March 7, 2014

Places: Paternoster

There still are a number of paternoster lifts in the city. I'm not going to tell you which one in particular I'm talking about. The time doesn't matter, but wait until someone gets on the lift in the cabin before you. A young man preferably, but any human will do. Get on the lift, cut yourself and use your blood to draw that S-shape everyone drew as a kid. It has to be your own blood and it has to be fresh.

Ignore the screams. Ignore any blood that may run down the walls. It's probably an illusion anyway. Yeah. An illusion. Don't touch it to make sure. You can get off then and you'll find yourself on a tropical island with very friendly people who will make you their king. Should they offer you any meat that night, it might be better not to eat it.

Make sure to mark the place where you first set foot on the island. Stay as long as you want. If you want to leave, return to the exact place you arrived and you'll be taken back. You cannot return.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Scorpionfly

IMG_8208

It's, I believe, a male scorpionfly, Panorpa spec. They are so called because of the sting-like tip of the male's abdomen (it's his genitals) - it's even more pronounced and scorpion-like in other species. But they are harmless creatures, for humans at least. Two more interesting things in the photo: the lovely feathery antennae (another sign that it's a male) and the tiny knobbed appendages behind the wings. Most flies have those - they are called halteres and they are the second pair of wings, modified into gyroscopes to tell the animal how its body is orientated during flight.

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A while ago Mr Bookscorpion dumped his ficus tree into water because it had dried out and three huge larvae crawled to the surface to keep from drowning. We had no idea what they were, but this week, two scorpionflies buzzed or rather crawled around our kitchen, a female and two days later this male. So now we know.

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The reddish-black colouring is striking and so is their face with the long 'snout'. But they are the most ungainly animals I have ever seen as soon as they move. They throw their six legs in twelve different directions and seem to move forward more by accident than anything else. I get the feeling that they only survive because their flight is just as unpredictable, making them hard to catch.
If anyone can identify the exact species, let me know please!