Sunday, February 19, 2012

Miss D Abides

I haven't done an update on my cat, Miss Daisy, for a while now. She was diagnosed with kidney disease a few years back. Hard to believe how long its been.

Happily she's still hanging in and going strong. We do subcutaneous fluid treatments every night. Just takes a few minutes with an IV drip. She forgives that and sits on my lap afterwards. 

She's less forgiving of Oliver, the first rescue cat from the woods behind our home. Him, she keeps on a short leash. Infractions draw hisses. 

She's done far better than we expected when we first received the diagnosis. As I write this, she's strolling past me, headed back to help Christine work on the household budget. 

She has opinions about everything, and she's happy to express them.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Awake Early

I heard talk of "Awake" a few weeks back. It's an NBC series starring the great Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter etc. Until recently it didn't have a slot on the network's schedule.

That's changed. It's due now March 1, or you can watch the pilot ahead of time on Hulu.

Seems to have a cool if complicated premise. Isaacs is a cop who has the misfortune to crash his car. When he awakens after the wreck, he faces two realities, or perhaps a reality and a dream state that seems real.

In one, his wife is alive, his son a victim of the crash. In the other, his son lives, and his wife is gone.

Amid the confusion, he solves crimes.

Watching the opener, you start to see how it call all work, and how you can follow it. It's not as hard as it sounds.

The realities are just different enough, and there are enough cues to help you keep things straight.

Couple the slightly surreal set up with stunning visuals and Isaacs on the side of the angels, and it makes for interesting viewing.

Will it catch on? I'm afraid odds are against it, but it certainly would be fun to see it get a decent run. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Claustrophobia and a Little Imagination

Years ago I was in St. Louis to cover a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention as a reporter. I didn't make it to the arch because I stayed in neighboring Frontenac. It used to be hard to get a room in a town where they had a Southern Baptist Convention. 

Last week I had to go to a conference in St. Louis, and I stayed a short hike from the arch, so I finally got see it. And make the trip to the top. 

The small tram cars sure are tiny. With just a little imagination, it's possible to envision many things that could go wrong. I have more than a little imagination.

What if this gets stuck?

What if there were a nuclear strike while I'm locked in here?  

How long would it take to gnaw through the door and climb down the elaborate network of metal steps, ladders and spiral stair cases?

While I was at the top, something came up I hadn't thought of. "What was that?" a staffer asked when something sounding like a plane flew over.

Then they explained that the arch is a no-fly zone.

That gave me a whole new cause for sweating on the way down, but I'm glad I got to take the trip, plus get the view of the Mississippi and the City of St. Louis from above.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

What I Like About Haunted Manor HD: Lord of Mirrors - A Quiet Horror Game For iPad

A lot of hidden object games exist for the iPad and tablet universe. I've picked that up even though I'm fairly new to this magical land.

They seem perfectly suited for the devices since they lend themselves to tapping the screen a lot and require a time-killing level of engagement by the brain.

I've become a bit enamored with one of the many games offered by Big Fish Games.

Haunted Manor HD: Lord of Mirrors has the same impressive and eerie graphics found in other Big Fish Games. Unlike some titles from other companies, it also features something beyond spotting things mingled among other things: a story.

Poor Stan Riddle
The tale focuses on Stan Riddle, catchy surname, who has the misfortune of running afoul of the title villain. Stan's image is captured in a mirror, and he's forced to travel through a number of rooms and puzzles in order to reassemble the shattered shards of his image and escape.

That means a series of beautifully realized graphics plus encounters with a host of spooky characters also trapped in the manor. Think of this as a participatory Hammer Film.

I find it superior to some other found object games in another way. The business model seems to be toward unit sales, so you can play a level or two for free to decide if you want to spring for the full game.

Some other hidden object games rely on sales of in-game currencies and totems with play becoming increasingly difficult or unsatisfying without some sort of purchase.

The flat-rate theory
I like the flat rate approach, and I'm sure after I've found my way through the manor, I'll be making some other purchases from Big Fish. That's a nice way to earn repeat business. It's available for PC and Mac as well as the iPad, by the way.

It's not as immersive as the old Infocom games, which had no graphics, but it still draws you in. Can you escape?

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Woman in Black - a ghostly thriller

I was fortunate to see The Woman in Black in a Carmike Cinema "BigD" theater, offering a big screen and enhanced surround sound.

That meant the haunted house Danial Radcliff was exploring filled one wall of the cinema, and all of the creaks and bumps were right next to me.

It was a good way to see a ghostly thriller that puts some of the eerie tropes that have been making audiences jump anew,in flicks like Insidious and Paranormal Activity, back in the Edwardian era in creepy style. 

The tale focuses on Radcliff as grief-stricken lawyer Arthur Kipps who's sent to an isolated seaside village to organize the papers of a recently-deceased client. Despondent over his wife's death, the assignment is sort of a last chance from senior partners.

He finds most villagers unreceptive to his presence and is soon working to unravel a dark mystery that ties the history of his firm's client to contemporary deaths that appear accidental. His one ally is the great CiarĂ¡n Hinds in a non-villainous role.

The film's at its best when Kipps is alone in the house, piecing together past events amid encounters with strange presences including the title figure, a well-realized image of darkness.

Eerie moments including the sudden gaze from a ghost through a zoetrope device deliver real chills even to a jaded film viewer.  Other period toys in general are used to great effect.

It's all wonderfully unsettling, with some intense moments and a period set-piece that provides a tense climax.

In the end, the plot may not be 100 percent satisfying. I've not read the Susan Hill novel nor seen the original BBC adaptation, but I wondered if the ending was from the page.

It's still a great ride, though, especially for those who appreciate the roots of the modern horror genre. It's also a great chance to see Radcliff transition to non-Harry Potter roles with a character that shouldn't disappoint fans.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Boy Who Shoots Crows

The Boy Who Shoots Crows by Randall Silvis is set in a small Pennsylvania town, but its style and grim tone make me think of atmospheric British crime fiction, or perhaps a little of Patricia Highsmith.

Silvis, author hisotrical thrillers including On Night's Shore and other novels, introduces his small cast of characters quickly, starting with Charlotte Dunleavy, an artist who's fled a bitter divorce to recover in the quiet countryside.

She's familiar with the boy of the title, a sullen youngster given to taking out frustrations in nearby woods by blasting at crows and shattering Dunleavy's peace, especially on days she suffers migraines.

When the boy, Jess Rankin, disappears, Sheriff Marcus Gatesman arrives on Dunleavy's doorstep, to begin an investigation that opens a study of dark  places within each character's soul.

Dunleavy is damaged by her divorce, Gatesman by the deaths of his wife and child years ealier. Loss, regret and sadness are explored as the disappearance triggers grief and suspicion.

Perhaps, under other circumstances, the two might have become lovers, but life has dealt them different cards. Silvis explores the depths of regret as he sprinkles clues about what might have happened to Jess throughout the narrative.

It makes for an immersive reading experience that may not be for fans of action-packed mystery thrillers, but it's a rewarding for those who appreciate a literary tale with dark shadows.
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