Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Expectation and Waiting

I'm taking a vacation from blogging to work on a major update of my Reviews site (with a tonne of movie reviews) and/or try to push forward more on my second novel. For now I'm going to say the break will be from today until and including the May 10th blog. That is 4 editions of this blog (5 counting how short today's is).

Thank you for reading this blog, take care of yourselves and you'll hear from me on May 14th.

Mood: frantic.
Music: While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles and Survivalism by Nine Inch Nails.

The Beatles: White Album
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Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Objects May Appear Further Than They Are

For a while now I have been looking for a way to visualise things for gaming purposes. For example, if your character is sitting out three thousand feet from a cave and a figure comes out of the cave how "big" does that figure appear to be? Likewise, how big of a target is a robot coming in from a mile out? You can do it in the inverse too. Your character is stranded on an island. They want to make an S.O.S. on the beach out of rocks and branches. How big do you have to make the letters to be seen by a search plane?

To solve this dilemma, since I have great difficulty visualising distances and heights and such, I got together with a friend and we developed a formula to determine how "big" something is at varying distances. To make it useful we did the calculations to determine what font size would be the equivalent of the perspective height for an object. The results are available at www.rmtp.ca/images/fontsizes.htm as well as a several examples. Below the examples is a JavaScript that calculates the font for you. Also, I have added an internal frame that takes the calculation and displays an example of how tall the object will appear.

The work to make the calculator took me some time and definitely a good bit of brain wracking. First I found a place with an example script that calculated house payments based on factors the user supplied. It was important that anyone could come in and plant numbers into a form and then the calculator function would do its thing. The math is of course easy as pie. However, when you don't really know how to pass variables in and out of functions there is a bit of a learning curve to modifying an existing script. I did, as can be seen, sort it out. The form even disallows for either of the fields to be zero.

The work to make the visual example took about the same mount of time, which is not very good. It ran into two snags. First the zero checking will not work. Second, if you clicked the button to display the text at the calculated font size the web page would change. While you got your example you couldn't see what the font size was, which is useful if you want to take that number and use it in another program. Also, being a new page you had nothing to compare it to, such as the examples I have higher on the page. The answer was of course to use a frame. I don't mind the IFRAMEs so it was a good solution. There you have it.

Mood: conflicted.
Music: April Ethereal by Opeth and Always by Bon Jovi.

Opeth: My Arms Your Hearse
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Bon Jovi: Crossroad

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Monday, April 16, 2007

More Power and Shifting Responsibilities

I have been working on a little game related project using HTML. The game is Rifts®; the project is to make a more powerful character sheet for one specific character type in the main book of the game. That class is called the Shifter. It's a re-imagining of the classic Summoner from PFRPG®, which is a pretty easily imagined type of character just from the name and the fact it exists in a fantasy game.

Throughout the span of time that Rifts® has been out there the Shifter class has undergone some changes. The most important of these changes has been the addition of the Minion rules. From the outset the Shifter has always been able to, and meant to, summon up creatures and put them to use for whatever task the Shifter had in mind when deciding upon what to summon. However these helpers were fleeting and finding the time to summon things could be an issue, especially with some unhelpful GMs.

The Minion rules, and this is just a name I've given them to easily reference them, allow the Shifter to collect "permanent" helpers at select levels. I won't speculate on where the idea did or did not come from because I don't care. The importance is this addition gave the Shifter a leg up as the Rifts® world became tougher and more dangerous. As a matter of personal preference my first choice for a Shifter character's minions is entities. Two imp-like beings, or two entities count as one minion.

My project then was to include as much information about the Shifter's minions on the HTML character sheet as possible. To that end I built in an inline frame to contain the list of minions and linked to that IFRAME (for those knowledgeable about HTML) a second one where descriptions of the powers can be read. It's quite excellent. Of course this is a purely personal resource, because any distribution of that level of information would be a breach of Palladium Books®'s copyrights. However this is a good exercise in co-ordinating information and using higher level HTML and similar coding. Otherwise I wouldn't have brought it up.

Mood: exhausted.
Music: Wicker Man (1997) by Bruce Dickinson and Obsolete by Fear Factory.

The Best of Bruce Dickinson
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Fear Factory: Obsolete

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Greatest Fear

This series of blogs has been a blast and I've said some interesting things I think and asked some good questions. Like all good things it must come to an end. However I think I've left the best for last. There is always one thing that will forever cause more fear than anything else. It may be trite, but it definitely nails things right on the head. There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Another one is, "Fear is the Mind Killer". Perhaps a great example of that is the anecdotally backed belief that if you were to dream that you died, by whatever means, that you would indeed die. In story terms this is a wonderful idea. The idea goes that the brain cannot tell the difference between reality and a dream, and that when it thinks the body should be dead it sends out the signal, stop everything, we're dead. Then real death comes when the brain no longer gets enough oxygen.

In a similar vein there is the idea that indeed fear can kill you. If you fell from a cliff and panicked all the way down the "story" goes that you could give yourself a coronary and die. Mind you, for people with definite heart conditions it's not hard to imagine that emotion can lead to a full failure. The idea that someone in good health with a strong heart can die in such a manner needs a little something more added to make scared to death work, something like a supernatural effect.

Lastly we come to maybe the best part in fiction about death caused by fear. We have the wonderful tales of actual physical manifestations or incarnations of fear as a being. As strange as this may sound my favourite example of such a thing has to be a pseudo incarnation, and it comes from a fairly unlikely source. My favourite comes from Star Trek: Voyager where Captain Janeway faced off against a computer program/entity that believed itself to be Fear incarnate. It all came down to, "What does Fear fear?" The answer? Fear fears being conquered, it fears when the fear is passed. Fear fears no one to push around. Fear fears the end.

Mood: down.
Music: Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) by Queen and Big Man With a Gun by Nine Inch Nails.

Queen: A Day At The Races
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Nine Inch Nails: Downward Spiral

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Send in the Horror

...err... I mean clowns. Really, in the minds of many what is the difference between clowns and horror? Nothing. I am not one of the one's who sees the fear that clowns engender, but neither will I be one to dismiss is either. When all you need is some white paint, to spread lipstick too far, and people will wilt and/or wet themselves, who am I to not do it to them?

The name clown doesn't seem to hold much power. People need to see them to fear them. It is an interesting phenomenon. Luckily with some description they can be used in writing to frighten the reading audience. Perhaps the best use for a clown is when its presence is incongruous to the situation. Imagine this if you will. You sit at a stoplight with several other cars. Your vehicle sits right at the mouth of an alleyway. There is a scream and a figure comes running out of the alley.

If the figure is a man in jeans and a t-shirt even if he's covered in blood and wielding a knife then you feel as if you have just been witness to a horrible crime, a tragic event. Now imagine the same scene, except the figure coming out of the alley is wearing large red shoes and a yellow and white striped outfit, and has a white grease painted face with a huge red painted smile and wild crazy hair. Suddenly you have been witness not only to a crime, but also to a great horror that will haunt you for weeks to come, if you ever get over it. That is the power, the terror, of clowns.

One thing that can actually lessen the fear impact of a clown is to make it some kind of supernatural creature. Devil clowns are just never as scary as the real thing. For one thing they can never fit as many of themselves into a compact car as clowns can. Cannibalistic aliens that look like clowns can fit in the tiny car, but something makes them less scary than the human variety. It's a mystery, but it's as plain as the rubber nose on my face.

Mood: festive
Music: Rock 'N' Roll Junkie by Motely Crue and Hangar 18 by Megadeth.

Motely Crue: Supersonic and Demonic Relics
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Megadeth: Capitol Punishment

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Fear Relegated to Thrillers

Sorry about the last two times. I was sick and then I was trying to get over the after affects of being so sick. I thought it was only fitting that coming back I should talk about illness as one of the fears used in horror stories. For some reason, as frightening as real illness is and the fact that there are some really horrific diseases and medical conditions out there, illness is generally relegated to thrillers instead of more mainstream horror.

Some illnesses certainly lend themselves to thrillers, such as those spread on purpose as a biological weapon. Others like mysterious plagues could go either way depending upon on the nature of the plague. Certainly supernatural plagues or diseases lend themselves to horror stories better. A stand out in that arena would be a book like Graham Masterton's Night Plague. Of course we cannot forget the absolute biggest disease in horror, though only select stories refer to it as such. That disease is called vampirism.

Diseases of the mind crop up in horror stories now and then. The most famous of these toes the line between mental disease and actual supernatural phenomenon. That illness of the mind is called possession. The best thing about the novel over the story for The Exorcist is that novel never really settles on whether or not Regan is actually possessed or if it's all in her head. Certainly the telekinetic goings on do not prove anything given that in the framework of the story it could be either the demon or just a case of RSPK (recurrent spontaneous psycho-kinesis) presenting itself as just another symptom.

It is apparent that sickness can go either way, so we are left with the question, just why is it that it doesn't appear in horror more often? Does the audience—readership or viewership—prefer to avoid it because it's too real (excepting when it isn't) or do the writers—authors or screenwriters—just not want to craft such stories? What do you think?

Mood: animated.
Music: A Tyranny of Souls by Bruce Dickinson and Fright Night by Stratovarius.

Bruce Dickinson: Tyranny of Souls
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Stratovarius: Fright Night

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