It Follows

It Follows poster from wikipedia
It Follows poster
from wikipedia

Yesterday, Cam and I went to the movie theater. There’s just something special about date night seeing a horror flick that puts you on the edge of your seat and pays homage to old school horror. It Follows was everything we expected and hoped it could be.

For starters, the soundtrack is amazing. It’s fresh, but still has the feeling of horror from the 70’s – 80’s. It’s reminiscent of John Carpenter. To be honest, the music alone creeps me out and puts me on edge.

If you’re not that familiar with the movie or haven’t seen the trailer, It Follows is about a young girl who has a seemingly innocent sexual encounter with a guy she started dating. After her encounter with him, It begins following her. It is visible only to those it is following, appearing in various human forms. Its movements are slow, but it doesn’t stop.  In your typical horror flick, having sex generally means you’re probably going to die.  This movie plays on that premise.  The force will start to follow you once you have sex with the person it is currently following.  You can pass it along by having sex with someone else.  The film doesn’t demonize sex, but it does desensitize you.

What we really enjoyed about the movie was that the tension never let up. You were never sure when it was going to appear again or what form it took. Its form was human, but its movements and actions were inhuman. It never spoke. It never deviated from its chase. It didn’t seem to have any motive.

We did read a few bad reviews, with criticisms ranging from “it’s just a girl and her friends running away the whole time” to “there is no explanation of why it is happening.” I always hate with a decent little horror flick goes on to explain every little detail of why something is happening and how it came about. This movie does not. If you need an explanation, don’t watch this movie. Providing any explanation or motive of the force following her would ruin the mystique of the film. The horror that the movie invokes is fear and confusion shared by the protagonist and the viewer.

The answer to whether we highly recommend this film is a thousand times yes.  The fact that the film offers no explanation allows multiple interpretations.  In fact, we are still debating it.

Agricola – A Farming Game for Non-Farmers

Agricola, designed by Uwe Rosenberg and published here in the US by Z-Man Games, is a German-style (Euro game), agriculturally themed board game for up to 5 players including a solitaire variant. If you’re not familiar with the Euro game distinction, they are often abstracted, low luck, high strategy games with oftentimes simple rules and short to medium play times.
As a basic overview, Agricola is played across 14 rounds, organized into 6 stages. Before the game begins, players are dealt a hand of 7 occupation cards and 7 minor improvement cards that can be applied to their farm. The players take actions, the number of which corresponding to how many family members they have (starting value of 2). There are basic actions like collecting clay or reed, or collecting seeds. Then there are randomized actions that become available as play progresses through each round, such as collecting sheep or cattle or sowing grain. Only one player can take a particular action each round. The object of the game is have the most points, achieved by building the best possible farm, utilizing as much space as possible. It is also important to not have your family go hungry, as players will accrue negative point cards if they are unable to feed their family members at the end of each stage.
Tab was very excited when I borrowed my friend’s copy of the game so we could play. She grew up on a farm, and so was intensely curious as to how the designer would implement crop and animal management in the game. The excitement slowly morphed into an amused frustration. Tab expressed again and again how the mechanics used in the game were next to nothing like actual farming, and would verbally berate the board at multiple opportunities. It became one of the most enjoyable negative experiences of gaming we’ve had, as Tab grew increasingly emphatic that “that’s not how it’s done!” to my continued quips “but it’s a game.”
I am, admittedly, not a big fan of Euro games in general. While fine in low doses, I find the lack of variance fairly off-putting. The first few plays feel novel and engaging, but increasingly become same-y and dull. Agricola doesn’t break the mold, but does what it can to keep you playing with the randomized actions across the stages. Tab, however, is big fan of Settlers of Catan, another game under the Euro cloth, and I’ll assume her take-away was tainted mainly by expectations in the theme. Ultimately, Agricola is fun and challenging game, but past the 4 or 5 plays I’ve had it loses it’s appeal.

Big Dreams

Today was a fun day out at your typical big box hardware store. We left with nothing more than a handful of paint swatches and big ideas for that home we haven’t purchased yet. Everything is in the works; we are still patiently waiting for that closing date!  We are fully prepared with those visions of how everything will look and reflect both of our tastes perfectly balanced.

Our place now isn’t quite as balanced, since it was Cam who moved into my place. It was hard for me to compromise. Now, it’s exciting to hear Cam’s input on our Steampunk bathrooms, our video game and zombie movie themed office.  AND of course the game room!! Well, the library/game room/dining room. Of course it would be us to convert a formal dining room into a geek’s paradise of books, comics, and tabletop games.

We can’t wait to include all our DIY projects on the house once we are settled in.

The Handmaid’s Tale

classics-club   I’ll start off by saying that I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood. It’s a bit embarrassing that I haven’t read this book yet. I thoroughly enjoyed it of course.

Our protagonist is Offred, or Kate as she was known before the government was overthrown by a religious totalitarian regime. She lives in what used to be the USA, now the Republic of Gilead. She is a handmaid. Handmaids serve one function in this regime. They are placed with elitist couples who cannot have their own children in hopes that they will become pregnant by the male head of household. In this society, population is dwindling and people are unable to reproduce. The book doesn’t go into much detail about this, other than perhaps it is due to hazard environmental health mishaps from nuclear plants or pollution.

Offred’s story is told from the beginning of this regime. She remembers what life was like before. She remembers having freedoms and taking them for granted. The story skips around from her new life as a handmaid to memories of before. She tells of us her husband, her daughter, her mother, her best friend Moira. She often thinks of them and wonders what has happened to them, hoping they are still alive somewhere.

There are a few criticisms of this books. Some found the story that jumped around too disorienting. I find that it fits perfectly with the story of someone whose rights have been stripped away, being left with nothing to fill her time other than reflect on her memories. She spends her days in boredom. She is constantly being watched. She only exists for the one goal of creating life.  All she has are these memories.

Another criticism was the lack of answers. I’m not clear on why everyone wants answers and wants everything to fit so neatly in a story. Offred herself is not given any answers. She needs none. This must be frustrating for all the women who go through this. In turn, it is frustrating for the reader. Imagine living in a society where knowledge was something that someone else decided you couldn’t have.

Some have cited inconsistencies. An example that has been cited stems from the nebulous reasons why the population is dwindling and people are unable to be conceived. The controlling regime’s entire rationale for the new way of life and creating the role of the handmaid was because births were dwindling. Towards the end of the story, Offred finds herself in a sort of brothel, where she learns that the women that work there have had an operation to ensure they don’t become pregnant. Why would both of these things exist and be encouraged in the same society? Do any totalitarian regimes really make sense? It’s never about the principle of the thing—it’s always about control.

I highly recommend this book. I highly recommend any book by Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale is a glimpse into a possible scary future. Not only is it a glimpse into a future without feminism, it speaks volumes about women’s rights today. When we give up and are content with gender inequality, what rights we have already fought for can still slowly erode away.  There are many that believe feminism is overrated or unnecessary anymore.  Atwood proves we need it now more than ever to hold on to what we have already achieved and to continue to fight for inequalities still prevalent today.

Fiction Friday: Kid’s Edition

I sort of hit a block on the the ending for last week’s story.  I did find a little story I wrote a while back when I thought I would see just how difficult writing for children would be.  It was quite difficult for me to say the least, and something that I should probably avoid in the future.  Anyway, here is Fiction Friday’s Kid’s Edition.

The Visitor at the Window

Keegan woke up to the sound of scratching on his window. He got up to look outside his window. It was still dark and he was half asleep, but he could see bushes rocking back and forth from the wind. The wind was causing the bushes to hit the window.

Suddenly, a dog jumped up at the window, pawing at the glass. Keegan ran outside in his pajamas. The dog was gone. There were faint tracks, but it was too cold to follow them. He went back inside and crawled under his covers. He tossed and turned, listening to the wind before falling back asleep.

When his alarm went off, he could hear his mother calling him to breakfast.

Scratch, scratch!

He ran to the window. The snowfall stopped. The sun was shining. Looking down, he noticed something had been digging under the bushes. His eyes followed a trail of footprints out of the yard and to the street.

“Keegan! Come eat before you’re late for school!” His mom called.

He got dressed and dragged his backpack to the kitchen. His brother, Michael, was already finishing breakfast.

Keegan swallowed his food as fast as he could before the three of them piled into the car. As they pulled out of the drive, Keegan noticed a moving van across the street. He searched for the footprints. He saw them leading out of the yard and across the street.

“I think those new neighbors have a dog,” he exclaimed. Keegan always wanted a dog, but Michael was allergic.

“I noticed movers yesterday and a boy your age, but no dog,” his mom said.

He couldn’t stop thinking about the dog all day at school. That evening, Keegan sat at his desk trying to study, but he kept looking at the window.

Scratch, scratch. He pressed his face to the window. There it was again! Keegan grabbed his jacket and bolted outside. It was dark and cold. He followed footprints across the street. A small beagle was on the porch wagging its tail. Keegan knew he shouldn’t go into someone else’s yard. An older man opened the door to let his pet inside.

The next afternoon, he saw a boy playing in the neighbor’s yard. Keegan walked over to the street. “Hi, I’m Keegan.”

“I’m Matt. I saw you a couple of times,” Matt answered. “We just moved here.”

That afternoon, Keegan and Matt became fast friends, building a snow fort with the melting snow.

“What’s your dog’s name?” Keegan finally asked.

“Um, we don’t have a dog,” Matt answered.

At that moment, his mom called the boys inside for hot chocolate. Gladly, they rushed inside.

“It’s nice to meet you, Matt,” his mom said. “Keegan was worried about your dog the other day.”

“We don’t have a dog. Maybe it’s a stray,” Matt replied quickly.

Michael came to the kitchen for hot chocolate, too. As soon as he came, he started sneezing. Outside, it was getting dark, and Matt panicked. He quickly excused himself, saying that his parents might be worried about him.

“Strange kid,” Michael observed, scratching his itchy eyes.

That night, Keegan couldn’t sleep. He stared at his window. Suddenly, he heard scratching. The dog was pawing at the window again. Keegan put on a coat and went outside.

He was a friendly dog, but had no collar. He licked Keegan’s face as he petted him. He wondered where the dog came from since Matt insisted it wasn’t their dog.

The next morning, he woke up early, but didn’t find the dog. His mom handed him a pair of gloves when he went for breakfast.

“Matt forgot these. Can you take them over to him before school?” His mom asked.

“Sure,” he grabbed the gloves and raced out the door.

It was early morning. The sun was still rising. Instead of knocking on the front door, Keegan got curious about some footprints going to the neighbors’ backyard. He saw the dog walk into a shed. He knew he shouldn’t, but he peeked into the shed. As soon as Keegan got closer, something happened.

Before Keegan realized it, the dog changed into a boy. It was Matt!

“I’ve just always been this way. We always move when someone gets curious. I guess we’ll have to move again.”

Keegan shook his head. “No! You don’t have to. I’m still your friend, and I’ll keep your secret. You just have to be careful around my brother. He’s allergic to you.” They both laughed.

The Geek’s Guide to the Gym

The gym is not my favorite place to be.  Don’t get me wrong, I love working out.  I just find the gym dull and crowded.  There’s no variety there. Without a lot of room to work out at home, we were stuck running and walking along the treadmill and fighting the crowd to use any machines.

Cam and I prefer the park on a warm day.  I refuse to exercise outside in the winter time.  I’m freezing unless it’s at least 70F outside.  We finally got out at a nearby park recently.  The warm air and the breeze blowing just lifts my spirits more than staring at the TV in front of me, counting down each dull minute on the treadmill. 

Over the winter, I employed a few little tricks to help get me through until warmer days allowed for the pleasure of our local park trails.  

First, I always took a book or my e-reader with me.  If I have to be working out with a stranger next to me, it’s easier for me not to be self-conscious if I can loose myself in the book I’m reading and ignore my crowded surroundings.  Most people prefer their music and headphones to tune out the world.  I do that sometimes, too, but I can transport myself to an entirely different world with a book.  It’s often the only time I have to read these days anyway. 

Second, it can also be a social gathering for me.  If I can’t tune out the crowd, I’d prefer to have my friends there to chat with.  Sounds like I don’t get a lot done if I’m busy socializing with my workout buddies, right?  On the contrary, we would get so caught up in a conversation while on neighboring leg machines that we actually do a bit more than we originally intended.

Third, I try to go to the gym at 5 or 6 in the morning.  It’s not as busy and I usually have full run of any machine I want.  I always still take my e-reader to get a couple of chapters out of the way.

Now that spring is coming along nicely, I doubt I’ll find myself at the gym as often.  Over the weekend, we started back on the Zombies, Run! 5K app while we were at the park.  We have both the Zombies, Run! and the 5K trainer.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a great motivator to picking up the pace during your workouts, especially when it tells you that zombies are right behind you and you have to run faster to evade them.  It tracks your steps and pace to encourage you to run faster at various intervals.  There’s a bit of a storyline that goes along that you can keep up with, too.

Do you have any workout tips or favorite workout gadgets you’d like to share?

Magic Lesson 2

We focused on the cards themselves for lesson 2 after a round on Magic on the Xbox. I find the cards themselves to be the most interesting part of the game. There are numerous types of cards and the art work is beautiful. We spent an evening looking through Cameron’s boxes of cards. He has kept them all since he started playing in high school. The art work has changed from the earlier expansions to the most recent editions.

Here’s what I learned about the cards in this lesson:

There are 5 colors that make up the color wheel, or as it’s often called, the color pie: White, Blue Black, Red, and Green. Each color has it’s own theme, strengths, and weaknesses.

 

White – White can be identified by a white sun on the cards. It’s characteristic creature type is human and/or soldier. White’s iconic creature type is angel. The iconic creature type is the flagship representative type of the color. The characteristic creature type is more general. The lands that you use to cast spells are plains. White is the color of community, law, peace, and harmony. The strengths of white cards include healing, life gain and protection. It’s weaknesses include inability to draw cards as quickly as other colors and inability to focus on singular enemies when attacking.

 

 

counterspellBlue – Blue can be identified by a water droplet on the cards. Blue stands for seeking perfection through knowledge. It’s characteristic creature type is probably drake or merfolk, and it’s iconic creature type is sphinx. It’s lands are islands. Cam doesn’t care for the blue cards. It’s weaknesses include being reactionary by extension slow. He also says it’s strengths include drawing cards, countering spells, and flying creatures.

 

 

vampiric tutorBlack – Black can be identified by a skull. Black is the color of selfishness, ambition, and amorality. It’s lands are swamps. It’s iconic creature type is a demon, and it’s characteristic creature type is a zombie. Black isn’t above doing anything, but you will always have to pay the price. For example, in addition to tapping land, you may have to sacrifice a creature or pay with a certain amount of life. It’s good with bringing creatures back from the graveyard (discard pile).

 

 

Lightning Bolt http://magiccards.info

Red – Red can be identified by a flame on the cards. It is the color of passion and chaotic. It’s lands are mountains. It’s iconic creature type is a dragon. It’s characteristic creature type is a goblin. Red is fast and known for haste. It is known for doing direct damage to players. Red’s goal is to kill you before you can do anything to stop it. It’s weaknesses include not being able to destroy enchantments because it only deals in what is tangible. It can also run out of steam really fast if you’re not careful.

 

rampant growthGreen – Green is Cam’s favorite, and not because green happens to his favorite color. (And the color of our future game room.) Green can be identified by a tree on it’s cards. It is the color of nature, growth, and co-existence. It’s iconic creature type is a hydra. It’s characteristic creature is an elf. Green’s strengths include being good at getting lands out more often and at destroying enchantments and artifacts because they are artificial constructs on nature. It is also good at making really big creatures. It’s weaknesses include being very non-confrontational and can’t deal with creatures beyond hoping you block with them.

Overall, lesson 2 was pretty informative. I probably feel that way because we didn’t actually play a game. I got to learn more about the cards and the different expansions that continue to change the balance of the colors and how the game is played. We’ll probably go over the cards more in my next lesson.

 

Card images courtesy of magiccards.info

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