June 29th, 2008

Zombie Attack Simulation

To see the G-rated simulation above, you need Java installed on your system.

Built with Processing by Kevan Davis, Zombie Infection Simulation is not a game but a simulation: the act of simulating something means representing key characteristics or behaviours of a selected real or abstract system.

Zombies are grey, survivors are pink. Zombies move slowly. If something moves in front of them they move towards it. If a zombie finds a survivor directly in front of it, it bites them and the survivor immediately becomes undead. Survivors are pink and move faster than zombies. If a zombie is directly in front of them, they panic. Panicked survivors are bright pink and run twice as fast as other survivors. Note: these survivors clearly have no weapons.

(You’ll need to click on the Java window before it’ll accept keypresses.)
* Press g to toggle between grey and green zombies.
* Press s to alter the simulation speed.
* Press space to uninfect all but one zombie.
* Press z or reload the page to reset to a new city.
* Press + and – to adjust population (this also resets the city).
* Press p to toggle complete panic.

June 28th, 2008

American Hardcore’s Cameo Appearance

american hardcore

A few nights ago I watched American Hardcore, a documentary film about the hardcore scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I didn’t ever consider myself a hardcore fan but did listen to the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and especially Bad Brains. I just didn’t know they were a scene, or what it was about – I listened to it after it was over. The film is good, and gives a nationwide perspective on the nuanced scene – from San Diego to New York and Boston to Washington. It even credits Vancouverites for coining the term “Hardcore” – go Canada!

Somewhere along the line was a 6-second or less spot featuring artist Matthew Barney as himself, who as far as I can tell was not in the hardcore scene (he was 16 when it pretty much fizzled out in 1983). He is given billing as one of the film’s stars, and his reason for being in the film is strangely not explained via Lower Thirds. Band members, their friends, promoters, journalists, and a photographer who documented the scene all figure prominently. Barney seems plopped in without any context. He grew up in Idaho, a state which didn’t figure prominently in Hardcore, and the scene’s violence and angst seem at odds with Barney’s public profile of football player – turned J. Crew model – turned sculptor. As far as I can tell, his only relationshp with it is from Cremaster 3‘s scene in which 2 hardcore bands battle while Barney climbs through the Guggenheim. Frankly his entrance into the film was so distracting that I didn’t pay attention to the next few minutes while I waited to comprehend what had just happened. Once a star, always a star.

Speaking of Matthew Barney, New York artist Eric Doeringer has a funny mock fan site called Cremaster Fanatic which I always secretly want to call “Cremaster Fantastic”.

June 27th, 2008

Bloody / Blood


Review of a video game (unplayed):

Petri Purho is a computer science student in Helsinki who writes a game every month. Bloody Zombies is one of them, where your goal is to rescue Barbara from the zombies. Conceptually, a very low resolution horror themed game is at both humourous (“is that an axe or are you happy to see me?”) and utterly ridiculous (“is that blood on your head or is that your hat?”). Exercise caution or you might find yourself executing the lovely Barbara instead of a hideous zombie. It is this precise combination of hilarity and absurdity that piques my interest.

From the Kloonigames website where Purho archives his efforts, Bloody Zombies is “the goriest game ever made in glorious 128 x 96 resolution! Fight zombies with your lawn mower! Solve levels with your opponents blood!”

Sadly Bloody is only available for PC and/or XBox. Download it if you have one of those systems. Other games include Planet of the Jellies and Crayon Physics – even their titles are delightful.


In related news, Guthrie Lonergan, a young artist from L.A., invites you to cover any Youtube video in blood – thus creating a horror film from any old clip. The screen shot above is one of my videos, Screen Kiss, raining blood.

[An aside: Screen Kiss is on Youtube without my consent, but that is another story.]

June 26th, 2008

Horror Creature

The Big Dog – begging to star in an upcoming horror film – is the latest Frankenstein Robot of Boston Dynamics. They also brought us DI Guy, (get it?) a human simulator that includes soldiers, vehicles and “men, women, and children with a wide range of cultural appearances” for your shooting pleasure. Among their major customers are the US Armed Forces, Ford, and Boeing.

June 23rd, 2008

My Goodness, My Jillian


Made with an online slogan generator.

June 23rd, 2008

Say Something Meaningful

1944 new yorkers

I don’t expect all advertisements to be truthful or even transparent – no ma’am. I am not easily fooled by animated cars that are made of skin, reflect the landscape, chase down wildcats, and fold into my pocket. Fooled – never; enchanted – absolutely. Jeanne Randolph in Ethics of Luxury: Materialism and Imagination points out smartly that in advertising, “reasoning is assailed by unique rhetorical charms: Cherry, Strawberry, Grape. Three reasons to buy Froot-Loops” (pp 9 – 10).

But who does the MTA think they are kidding? 1,944 people saw something and said something, meaning 1,944 incidents – some percentage of which were non-incidents – were reported and processed and counted. It’s reassuring that there are people watching out for us, or at least themselves, here in the Big Apple. But cradled in this false assurance are only more questions – how many saw and said something the year before this snitch campaign urged commuters to remain ever vigilant? Did any of those sightings and sayings avert disaster, or do we simply have a tiny army (1,944 is not that many in this city) of slightly paranoid individuals who reported suspiciously abandoned plastic bags and soda cans to the already harassed MTA workers? [An asside: I assume they are harassed since they are so nearly impossible to locate when I am lost and need answers to why the L, G, and 7 trains are simultaneously not running, and how I can get home from my stranded position. Far be it from me to criticize the MTA - I know their employees are very hard at work strategically posting informative signs about transit changes in the most clever hiding spots.]

“If you have nothing useful to say, say nothing at all!” – That’s my proposal for next year’s campaign.

Speaking of advertisements, I am mesmerized by the animated ads for the current roster of anxiety drugs – the animations are so inert and relaxing as to lull me into a dreamy state where I do not hear the speedily spoken list of side-effects including death, stroke, and heart attack. I feel the drugged sleep of poppies coming on, à la Dorothy en route to Emerald City. I feel myself slowly curling up on the train tracks with a speeding train hurtling towards me – i’m…just…so….sleepy……
sometimes it is all I can do to change the channel before I start to drool and mumble incoherently.

Artist Justine Cooper, whom I blogged about before, has a great piece called Havidol which is itself an ad campaign for a fictional drug using the methodology, language, and gentle imagery favoured by the pharmaceutical industry. Also check out this group who wants to end such pseudo-educational drug campaigns.

June 20th, 2008

Scream Wilhelm Scream

In Halifax last month, my friend David Clark showed me this video on Youtube. Having screamed my heart out for days while recording sound for my Screaming video, I find the story fascinating:

In a scene from the 1951 Warner Bros. film Distant Drums there is a scene where soldiers are wading through a swamp in the everglades. One of them is bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator! Six short screams for that scene were recorded later, and the sound effect was labelled “man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams.” One of those screams was used for the scene.

After Distant Drums, the recording was archived in Warner Brother’s sound effects library, and re-used in many of their productions. Up until the mid-70′s, the scream recording was used exclusively in Warner Bros. productions, including Them!, Land of the Pharaohs, The Sea Chase, Sergeant Rutledge, PT-109, and The Green Berets. In A Star is Born, the scream is heard twice – one of the times because a scene with the scream in Charge at Feather River is playing in a screening room.

Sound effects fan Ben Burtt noticed the same distinctive scream reoccurring in a lot of movies. He made a film with friends, called The Scarlet Blade, borrowing the scream from another film’s sound track and including it on his own. Years later Ben Burtt was hired to create sound effects for Star Wars, and had access to the sound effects from several movie studios. While at Warner Bros. he found the original Distant Drums scream – which he called “Wilhelm” after the character that let out the scream in Charge at Feather River.

Ben adopted the scream as a personal sound signature, including it in all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, among others. Richard Anderson, another sound editor, also continued the tradition, including the scream in the films Poltergeist, and Planet of the Apes. Other editors have used it in Toy Story, Hercules, Pirates of the Caribbean, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Fifth Element, and Tears of the Sun. It became an easter egg for film junkies.

Although it has never been available in any commercial sound effects library, the recording has made it around the sound community through editors who appreciate its history. Only a few studios have the master of the Wilhelm, but because the clear scream can be found in a few films – such as the Judy Garland version of A Star as Born, it has been borrowed for projects by other studios. It also has been used in TV shows – including The X-Files, animations including Family Guy, commercials for Dell and Comcast, video games, and theme park attractions.

The Wilhelm Scream – listen for it in films near you!

You can see a massive list of films featuring the Wilhelm Scream here.

June 19th, 2008

The Tune of Hockey Night in Canada

hockey night in canada

CBC is offering a prize to the tune of $100,000 for the winning song in an upcoming battle for the new Hockey Night in Canada theme. I’ve read a lot of blog posting about spec work lately. Working on spec, in the design field, means doing the work without being paid, in the hopes of getting business in the future. Except for the winner in such a contest, no one gets paid a cent for their efforts. Creative people are already underpaid and undervalued for their work. Contests like this are one of the worst offenders, adding insult to injury.

June 19th, 2008

Chicago Dreaming

dream is over

Since I hate alarms more than most things I have to live with, The Dream is Over by Caleb Jones Lyon terrifies me. It was in Chicago at ThreeWalls this past March – the standout in his solo show. That is a stack of outdated clock radios – you can imagine the horror.

June 19th, 2008

Total Bummer

I didn’t get in to the NYC marathon, but maybe I’ll crash it. I’ll definitely need a costume for that – open to suggestions!