Friday, November 30, 2007

In the Far Future... There Can Be Only War!

I'm featuring two different games today. Both are sci-fi strategy games. The first is the new Warhammer 40K video game due out for the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP called Squad Command.

The other is a rival offering to 40K by the French game company Rackham. It's called AT-43.



"AT-43: No one Escapes War! is a science fiction tabletop wargame using 28mm miniature figures and terrain to scale developed and published by the French company Rackham.

Released in December 2006, the game features pre-painted plastic miniatures of mechs and infantry units with corresponding cards showing the stats and gameplay options for each unit type."

Here's the newest expansion army. They're called Karmans:




Friday, November 23, 2007

Robot Thanksgiving

Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday in the United States in 1863. In honor and in celebration of the holiday, here's the funniest 'virtual' robot fight in film history:

Movie: Eurotrip

Friday, November 16, 2007

Der Golem: Ancient Jewish Folktale, Opera and The Simpsons Did It

In conjunction with friend and comrade in nerdiness J. Ho, today he and I are posting about golems. I challenged him to a timed drawing, giving him scant few minutes to draw a golem. He posted the end product on his blog today.

For my part I'll be posting a few things about the golem, its history and pop culture references.

Perhaps through video games (most specifically role-playing games) we know the golem today as a humanoid creature made of stone or other such earthy materials. Here is the 'classic' image of the golem creature from the Dragon Quest video games:

The origins of the golem are similar to our modern idea of what a golem is. defines the word 'golem' as: "an artificial human being in Hebrew folklore endowed with life". It is from this folklore that we get our modern golem.

The most famous and one of the earliest mass-media representations of the golem creature is the 1920 film The Golem: How He Came into the World and preceded by the 1915 film Der Golem (translated from German as 'The Golem' but originally released here in the United States under the title 'The Monster of Fate'). I found this on YouTube:

The basic plot of the golem tale is this: An antique dealer buys an old humanoid statue made of clay that was created by a Rabbi centuries before. By placing words written on paper into the open mouth of the golem, the golem will come to life and obey the written command. When the golem is brought to life by the antique dealer, it falls in love with the antique dealer's wife. Saddened the antique dealer's wife does not requite its love, the golem begins murdering people.

Here's an original poster for the film:

And here's a picture of how the golem was portrayed in the film:

If that picture looks familiar, it's probably because (in the immortal words of General Disarray): "The Simpsons did it!" In the 2006 Treehouse of Horror XVII episode of The Simpsons, one of the segments parodies the film. The segment was called "You Gotta Know When to Golem".

John Casken also wrote an opera called Golem that premiered in 1989, retelling the story of the creature with original music.

On a last related note: While looking for video of the golem, I found this on YouTube. This golem costume was hand-made from about five foam mattresses. Rad!



Friday, November 9, 2007

Voyage Dans La Lune -- A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès

Today's offering comes from the earliest parts of film history. "A Trip to the Moon" is widely acknowledged as one of the first, if not the first, science fiction film. Made in 1902 by Georges Méliès, a stage magician, the film was then hailed as a technological feat with astounding special effects including its blend of animation and live actors. The story is loosely based upon From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells, both being very popular at the time.

A Side Note: The band The Smashing Pumpkins made a relatively famous homage to the film with their music video Tonight, Tonight which can be viewed here.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Vikings vs Zombies Part 2 -- "Hunter of the Dead"

Sorry for the belated post today. My disrupted sleeping schedule has really thrown me off.

And now for Part 2 of "Hunter of the Dead"!

“Ordak!” Haffdann’s cries went unanswered. His hands had found the grip of a short sword and it was working well against the horrors raiding the huts for flesh. Strapped to the other arm was a shield he used to bash and push away the offending monstrous raiders.

Haffdann estimated the creatures’ numbers to be thirty, perhaps more, but seemed as a hundred score for no matter how he worked the blade against them, Haffdann could not send them to their graves.

Oil had sparked into flame. Great billowing black clouds roild before Haffdann’s eyes until he could make no sense of direction.

From out of dark mists came a form without features or with features hidden by the dark, curling fingers of smoke. Haffdann gripped his prized sword and shield, readied himself. “Come ye beast! Come be met by the steel of Haffdann the Frenzied!”
“Ho, Haffdann!” came a booming baritone from the shadows in shadowy smoke. “When last we met you were Haffdann the Pig-herder!”

Features resolved into view. Haffdann straightened, relaxing a bit, recognizing the insane Siggurd the Berserker.

“I do not know what these men are,” he said to Haffdann, “but by Tyr I’ve not had so much fun killing! They’re better than slaying Saxons!”

“You would like ‘em. They fight back.”

Siggurd stood over seven feet tall and had blazing red hair made redder still by blood and reflecting fire. His beard, as fiery as his braided mane, was shaved only at the chin and neck so as to appear his sideburns had overrun the sides of his face and hung low, braided beyond the jaw into two pointed horns that hung to his chest. In his hand he carried a war axe.

Siggurd used his free hand to slap Haffdann on the shoulder in a friendly gesture. Haffdann nearly fell over from the playful blow.

A creature melted from the darkness. Siggurd readied his axes and eyed Haffdann. “Choppy-choppy!” he said as he charged, swinging, not waiting for Haffdann. The beast’s head was cleanly separated from its body and fell to the snow, its mouth biting at the air. The headless body groped aimlessly.

Siggurd swung again. The blade sliced down through the shoulder of the headless body, cleaving through the chest and out the side of the torso. Ribs cracked and popped and half the torso fell away, its lone arm clawing desperately at the frosty ground being tainted red with what little blood the body was spilling.

With a third swing the legs came free, kicking helplessly.

“What wonderful enemies!” Siggurd bellowed. “Tyr blesses us this day with enemies that never stop fighting!”

Haffdann followed reluctantly as Siggurd pressed into the smoky shadows, spilling seas of blood.

* * * * *

Ordak stepped out of the hut, his face and furs stained with small splotches of red. Few of the monsters remained and through the choking smoke he could see Siggurd happily tending to them. Haffdann came running to his side.

“Thank the gods,” Haffdann huffed, his face now smeared with the gore of unholy battle. “Your woman… how fares she?”

Ordak said nothing. He did not so much as look at his friend. He stood silently staring at his feet, wondering.

Haffdann understood. He placed a gentle hand on Ordak’s shoulder and said, “Your sorrows are mine.”

Ordak found a wood pile and sat there. Ovbjorn approached a bow in his hand and a quiver strapped to his back. Siggurd, laughing, finished his dismemberings and joined them.

“A bow will leave you in want of a blade,” Siggurd told Ovbjorn.

“I didn’t get the chance to make that discovery myself.”

“Off hiding behind a yew tree, no doubt,” Siggurd frowned in disgust.

“Avoiding an enemy to discover the nature of my kin,” Ovbjorn defended.

Siggurd spit.

Ovbjorn gave no retort.

Siggurd looked to Ordak. “What weighs on him?”

Haffdann approached, speaking quietly, “His woman was taken this night.”

“All our women were taken this night and half our Viking brethren!” Siggurd replied in a not-so-soft tone.


“Bah!” the berserker approached Ordak and squatted before him. “Ordak, friend, give me your ear. Now is the hour of lamentation, but in the hour that’s to follow we must choose what destiny to follow. There’s likely more of these creatures. Even if not, their origin must be discovered and our fallen brethren avenged, though they may be riding with the Valkyries to Valhalla as I speak this to you. Siggurd Saxonbane does not intend to allow this night’s bloodletting to go unchallenged. Those… beasts we met fight well and I love it. I must find more. I must find their origin.”
“There’s no reason we must think there could be more,” Ovbjorn said.

Siggurd stood, “And if we do not prepare for the possibility we will join our fallen kin. If that is your wish, then so be it. But if I am to fall to these creatures, it shall be in their hunting.”

Ordak grabbed Siggurd’s wrist and caught his attention. “What manner of beasts are they?”

Siggurd shook his head unknowingly.

“My grandfather,” spoke Haffdann, “if his tales are to be believed, told me once as a child of a creature that did not die outright for it was already dead. There are many variations on them, but they are all called draugr.”

“The walking dead,” added Ovbjorn ominously.

With that we know why they do not die,” Siggurd said. “We know our enemy better already.”

“They can never die,” added Haffdann. “except by fire and then drowning the ashes.”
“Then let’s start throwing the bit and pieces on these fires!” Siggurd called.
As they worked to pile the body parts of the draugr and their own dead kith and kin onto the fires, Ordak thought quietly.

As they watched the bodies burning, rags across their faces so they could more easily breathe, Ovbjorn spoke. “We have offended the dead. In some way we must have tread upon the sacred, now they hunger our flesh.”

“We don’t know that,” Haffdann replied as he and carried one last half-body to the flames. “I know this man,” he indicated the body as they threw it, wiggling, onto the fire. “I bartered with him for his daughter’s hand for my now dead son before the heavy snows came. These are not monsters. They were once men.”

“Who were his people?” Siggurd asked.

“The Danir over the moutains.”

“The creatures that attacked us this night, were they all once Danir?” ordak asked.

Haffdann did his best to peer into the flames and find faces. “Perhaps some, but not all.”

“Then we seek out our vengeance against the Danir. Over the mountains we go,” said Siggurd.

“No,” said Ordak, “We have a good ship and strong winds approaching to fill our sails. We ride the waters.”

“The winds will not last,” Haffdann said. “They never do. We four cannot row alone.”

“I will not leave my ship,” said Ordak. “And the waters will be safer.”

“What’s this? Does Ordak wish to run?” challenged Siggurd.

“No. Vengeance is poison curdling in my throat, but in these snows the mountains will kill us before we meet with the Danir.”

“As would four men at the mercy of Aegir.”

“I go the way of the mountains. If you three wish to join me, I ask only that you keep up,” Siggurd issued.

Haffdann lowered his head in thought, then looked up at Ordak. “The way of the mountains,” was all he said.

Ovbjorn looked upon Siggurd’s mass and his bloody axe. He wondered if they could stay instead, but knew they idea would be argued down. “I go the way of the mountains,” he spoke.

The burning pile of corpses and undead reflected in Ordak’s eyes. He watched, defeated. “I cannot fare the seas alone. Make the duties light upon yourselves: Load the rest of the bodies onto the ship and set it adrift and aflame.”

* * * * *

They worked into the early hours of the morning loading the longboat. They first unloaded every provision they could carry before piling on the bodies and ashes. Siggurd spilled oil all over the hull and bodies. They then waded waist-deep into the icy sea, pushing the ship free from shore and setting her adrift.

Ovbjorn stood on the shore with an arrow wrapped in rags soaked in oil and set afire. He shot into the air. His aim was true. The ship burned.

The four stood on the shore a long while, not speaking. They watched only.
After some times Haffdann spoke, “We should use our final hours of night to rest before we set out for the mountains.”

They all agreed.

Each turned from the shore except Ordak.

“Ordak, come,” said Haffdann.

“All that I was is now dead and gone,” Ordak spoke. “I, too, am now dead… or gone. Ordak’s people are all slaughtered and burned to ashes; his mate eaten alive but unholy monsters that were once men; his ship sinks, burning.

“I am no longer Ordak. Ordak is no more. Call me Ordak no more for he has died this day.”

Haffdann, fearing his friend losing his mind much in the way Siggurd does in battle, approached slowly and spoke softly, “Then what name takes you?”

“Call me now Urdgar, Hunter of the Dead.”

“Urdgar,” Ovbjorn’s voice was a whisper of misty morning air. “‘A Fate of Blades’,” he translated.

Siggurd slapped the now-named Urdgar on the back. Urdgar rocked under the weight of the loving blow. “Come Urdgar,” Siggurd said, “We must rest for tomorrow we slaughter.”

The mountains loomed in the distance. Cold snows began to descend in frozen fury. High on those mountains, speckled against their frosty peaks, yellow, dead eyes peered out of the darkness.

I hope you enjoyed! Watch for more tales of Urdgar the Hunter in the future!