Grg Lstr's linkdump and thoughts on science, family and things in the ocean that would kill you if given the opportunity.

Category: Uninformed Critic (page 1 of 2)

New to Me in 2018: Camera Thief

So, I get to cheat a little with this one. Joe Duffey and his brother Brendan aren’t new to me. I see them all the time all over town. Joe saved my [soccer] life this year as we started up a new U11 travel team. Joe’s music isn’t all that new to me either, as his previous band, Underwater Window Garden, released a fantastic album a few years back entitled The Greatly Divided, which you should buy.

Joe is a great guy, and I’d be a fan of him whether or not he played in band. As it is, his new band Camera Thief crushed it at the local arts fest this year. They’re working on a new album, but its increasingly looking like it won’t happen in 2018. Fortunately, they’re on SoundCloud with a handful of songs now.

This one, Starting Fires, legitimately gives me chills:

I love this video because a) public domain Superman from Fleischer studios,  b) it is a good tune and, c) Joe did the editing himself. See for yourself:

New to Me in 2018: The Beetle

Hey kids, what was the top-selling horror novel of 1897?

No, not that one…the other one: Richard Marsh’s masterpiece, The Beetle

Like this but bigger, is occasionally trying to kill you and is often a person

What? Never heard of it? Don’t worry, outside the UK, which occasionally reinterprets it as a radio play, it really hasn’t lingered in the popular culture.

The Beetle is a complex telling of a simple revenge tale with a whole lot of themes of sex and gender identity running throughout. It will remind you of Dracula, but I think it is a tad easier for modern readers to grasp. Instead of ancient vampires you get an ancient Egyptian pagan cult prone to orgies, human sacrifices, and werebeetlery.  It begins with mind control, nerve gas and a comedy of errors, and ends with a chase that must have made British trainspotters squeal with glee. I enjoyed it, and I suspect you might as well, if you are into this sort of thing.

Structurally, it is told as four entangled tales told in the first person. Marsh does a good job of developing unique voices for each of the characters, although the story threads are interwoven functionally but not necessarily smoothly.  In fact, each narrator is a fun little archetype: the doomed, noble bum; the mad inventor; the rebellious young woman trying to find love, identity and purpose in an honor-driven patriarchy; and a hard-boiled detective. Good stuff, generally well told.

You can find it in a variety of formats on   Project Gutenberg and listen to it on LibriVox. I have a fondness for public domain fiction, particularly that of the horror, scifi and weird variety, so this ranks right up there. One of my goals of 2019 is to start up a podcast on the topic. Of course, that was also a goal of 2018.


Review: Hotel Transylvania

This past Sunday, I called in the rainy day option and took the kids to see Hotel Transylvania.


Here’s the capsule review:
Did the kids like it? Yes. There was decent slapstick, with no real violence or scary shocks.

On the plus side, it was directed by Genndy Tartakovsky with music by Mark Mothersbaugh, whom I know from DEVO and whom my kids know from Yo Gabba Gabba.

On the negative, despite what GeekDad thought, I couldn’t get beyond the fact that it was Adam Sandler doing a Bela Lugosi impression throughout. Sorry. The essential Sandlerness was reinforced by the presence of his comic cronies David Spade and Kevin James.

I think my enjoyment of the flick was colored by two unfavorable comparisons. First, a DVD preview of Arthur Christmas, which was a fantastic Aardman production from last year, served to remind me how good computer-animated films Not Made by Pixar can be. (I enjoyed their recent Pirates! movie–a clay stop-motion affair–more than my kids did, despite their love of Shaun the Sheep.) Hotel Transylvania wasn’t poorly animated, by any means, but it just didn’t sell itself as anything special. It was serviceable and not awful, and that’s the best I can think to say of it.

Second, the animated end credits–done in “traditional” (I was going to say non-computer, but it was likely done on computer somehow) style–served to remind me how masterful Tartakovsky works traditional animation on TV.

That aside, it was a nice effort, story-wise. After the death of his wife by angry mob (which we are shown briefly in flashback-form), Dracula builds a hotel refuge for monsters where he raises his daughter. Now, on her 118th birthday, she wants to get out and see the world, but her goofy old man is a mite overprotective. Enter a young American backpacker Dude and, oh boy, movie happens. There are some fun sequences and all the monsters are cute. Dracula is non-threatening (they even go out of their way to tell how he drinks blood substitute…yet for some reason still eats mice), despite the fact that all of his servants are reanimated corpses. Most of the goodwill generated by the movie is taken back by a gratuitous song at the end that, while not as awful as when everyone sings a pop tune at the end of a Shrek flick, uses much too much autotuning to be enjoyable.

Handwriting recognition on the iPad

A new app claims to answer the one major objection I had to buying an iPad: where’s handwriting recognition? So this means I’m buying an iPad, right? No, are you kidding? They’re expensive. I’ll manage without…for now…

…and when I get one, it’ll have this:

Hokey smokes!

Massive Bat Die-off in NJ? Maybe…and another fungus to blame!

The Star-Ledger reports that 95% of NJ bats died off this winter from a fungal infection known as “white-nose syndrome.” That sounds pretty damned scary, until you read the article and find that the headline was taken from a single reported hibernaculum (cool word meaning place where critters hibernate), the Hibernia Mine in Rockaway Township. Still, that doesn’t mean this isn’t serious. While Hibernia Mine might be an exceptional case, who knows (yet) how often this is repeating?


Hibernia Mine doesn’t appear to be an active spelunking site, but you never know what desperate cavers might do in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger report fails to mention that the Fish and Wildlife Service has asked for a voluntary moratorium in the northeast to prevent the further spread of the disease.

So, like the frogs and bees, we have another fungal infection at the root of an animal die-off. With the bats, however, it seems decidedly linked to human activity, but there still could be a climate connection. (After all, why are people suddenly carrying fungi?) This press release from Cardiff University suggests climate change is causing fungi to grow more rapidly and “fruit” more frequently.

So, if you are doing math at home, is it:

warmer/wetter climate = more fungi + disease + accelerated decay (fungi hasten wood rot) = more CO2 = climate change


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