Published in Grotesque Quarterly

My horror story “Food for the Fish” is featured in this quarter’s issue of Grotesque Quarterly. The story is about a recently unemployed and broke man who has a half dozen aquariums and several dozen fish to keep fed. He must employed unconventional tactics to keep his pets’ bellies full.

Visit their website or download it from Amazon.

 

Changing

Changing

Times were changing. Soon Ronald would be off to a new school with tougher classes where he would probably make new friends. He worried his best friend, Lucas, would be assigned to a different school, or at the very least different classes. Both of their interests would soon evolve and perhaps they would part ways. Ron had grown his first chest hair a week before, after all, and had just begun another growth spurt. His voice had deepened a little, as well.

            One could feel a change in the air, too. Ron felt it on the walk over to his friend’s house. Autumn grew near and the smell of dead leaves hung heavy in the air. Only the juniper shrubs maintained a green hue. Ron ripped a few of their remaining berries off and skipped them down the sideway as he walked to relieve a little anxiety. It wasn’t Ron’s first sleep over, but it was the first time he had been allowed to stay over at his friend Lucas’ house. Though he considered Lucas to be his best friend, he’d never actually seen him anywhere besides the schoolyard and classroom. Not on the weekends, rarely after school—and if so, only for a few minutes—and certainly not after dark. It wasn’t an easy task to get Lucas to agree to the sleepover either. Even after talk of scary movies, popcorn, and sodas Lucas seemed hesitant. It took a lot of pleading and guilt trips over several Fridays at school to get him to agree to the sleepover and that was only because Lucas’ parents were out of town for the evening.

            When Ron arrived at Lucas’ house he had his Nintendo Switch and a six pack of Mountain Dew tucked under his arms. It was not without challenge to ring the door bell, but when the button had been pressed, the door opened almost immediately. It might have been assumed that Lucas had been eagerly awaiting Ron’s arrival if not for the apathetic bend to his face. As the door opened, the hinges squealed, startling Ron. He dropped a bottle of soda, which exploded. Lucas did not look pleased but he didn’t say anything about it, even as the can hissed and thrashed about, spraying sugar water all over the entry steps.

            “Come in,” Lucas said instead. Then seeing the dirtiness of Ron’s shoes he pulled a large plastic bag from the entry closet. “No shoes in the house.”

            Ron nodded and after setting his sodas and gaming console down, he untied his shoes and slipped them into the bag that Lucas held in his outstretched arms. Once sealed, Lucas put the shoes on the shoe rack and guided Ron into the kitchen. Together they put the sodas in the fridge and then hooked up the gaming console to the TV.

            “Full moon tonight,” Lucas said after he’d lost his third video game match against Ron. Ron didn’t know what that meant. He thought it was perhaps an attempt to suggest that they stop playing video games and go outside. It would still be a couple hours before nightfall, though, so he didn’t know why Lucas had mentioned the  moon.

            “Do you want to go outside?” Ron asked to be sure.

            “Oh?” Lucas seemed as if he’d just stirred from a daydream. “No. Sorry. Playing games is fine with me. I was just thinking out loud. I’d rather stay inside, actually.”

            “If you say so.”

            Seeing that Ron had finished his glass of ice and soda, Lucas grabbed both the can and the glass from the coffee table. He wiped the glass down with a towel before putting it in the sink and tossed the can in the trash after wiping it down as well. It was a somewhat strange thing to do, but Ron didn’t bother to ask why. Judging from the cleanliness of the rooms, it was within reason to assume that the family simply had strict and thorough cleaning habits. Besides, Ron was engaged in selecting what character he wanted to play in the next match of the game. The rules of the house we’re not of particular interest to him unless he was breaking a serious one.

            For the next couple hours the two boys played more games and snacked on chips. Then, when they tired of playing games, they decided to watch a movie. A classic monster movie played on the SYFY channel, so they decided to watch it. Ron had never been frightened of movies—monsters, aliens, clowns—it didn’t matter, they were all too abstract and distant to raise concern. He kept joking about the poor special effects. By the end of the movie it had grown dark.

             As fun as all the games and movie were, Ron found himself most excited that night about being able to help start a fire in the fireplace. Lucas had insisted they do so. When he brought out the matches, how could Ron say no? It took them a few minutes to get it going. Ron had never started a fire before and he felt quite proud of himself having now done so.

            Together they watched the fire blacken firewood. They listened to the crackle and split of logs. After a few minutes of this, Ron excused himself to change into his pajamas in the bathroom. When he returned, he sat on the couch with Lucas.

            “I’m going to change now,” Lucas declared.

            “OK?” Ron said, a little confused. It didn’t seem to be something that needed to be declared. You just go to the bathroom and you do it. Lucas didn’t go to the bathroom to tear off his shirt, though. He just stripped right there on the couch. Because of how strange it seemed, it took Ron a minute to look away, embarrassed. If Lucas’ disrobing had been done at a beach or poolside, it wouldn’t have been an issue. This though—this was a suburban living room! It just seemed odd. It wasn’t until Lucas undid his belt that Ron shielded his eyes and turned way.

            “I thought—” Ron began to explain how he thought Lucas meant he would change in the bathroom, but decided to just drop it.

                The couch creaked and it felt for a moment as if the side that Ron sat on suddenly rose from the ground. He supposed Lucas was in quite a struggle with his pants.

                  “I’m changing now,” Lucas said again. There was a hint of alarm in his voice this time and Ron realized he must be embarrassed.

                   “I’m aware…” Ron said. “Have you got anything to eat?”

                  While he was a bit hungry, Ron asked this mostly to change subjects and also have something cover up the sounds of Lucas changing. Lucas must’ve gotten his clothes straight from the washing machine as there were wet sounds coming from his direction; tearing too. How anyone could wear wet clothes was beyond Ron, but he’d only ask once Lucas was fully clothed again and he’d gotten a good look to see if it wasn’t just his own mind or ears playing tricks on him.

            “Yes,” Lucas said. “For once I do.”

            Ron heard the crinkle of a plastic bag and then a thud. The thud came from over by the fireplace. This was followed by another thud. Both thuds were followed by the smell of burning rubber and canvas. Ron turned and looked into the fireplace. There he saw his shoes burning atop the firewood.

            “What the—” Ron began.

            “I’ve changed!” Lucas interrupted in a voice that sounded much, much deeper than his normal voice.

            Ron turned to his friend for an explanation of why his shoes were on fire, but that quickly became a secondary question. Ron’s mouth felt dry in an instant and his organs felt as if they all collapsed into the pit of his stomach. His skin became gooseflesh and his hair stood on end. He tried several times to speak, but his tongue seemed almost frightened to make itself known. He became suddenly aware of how alone he was and how foolish he’d been to stay over without Lucas’ parent’s permission. He knew now why they’d always firmly said “No!”

            It wasn’t Lucas sitting at the other end of the couch. At least not the Lucas that Ron knew. He had instead changed into a very large mass of slimy flesh. His eyes were no longer brown. They were a piercing yellow. They didn’t glow, per se, but they did reflect the light of the fire vibrantly. His fingers were sharp, skin covered claws. His teeth, too, had grown. Lucas always had a bit of a crooked smile, but now it seemed he had the mouth of shark. Several rows of sharp yellowed teeth glinted in the firelight. On top of the smell of the burning shoes, there was another smell. It took all Ron had not to double over from the scent alone and puke.

            “I’m hungry now,” the ogre said. His shark mouth curled up at the edges as if he’d just told a joke. An algae green tongue ran across the teeth. It was a lumpy tongue—lumpy with boils; one of which popped on a tooth. It splattered and some of it got on Ron’s hand. It burned as if acid.

            “I’m very hungry.”

            There was no mistaking what was for dinner.

 

Changing was originally published in Schlock! Webzine.

 

Skeleton in the Closet Now an Audio-book

Skeleton in the Closet Now an Audio-book

Skeleton in the Closet and Other Scary Stories, my collection of twenty-three tales of middle-grade horror,  is now available on Audible, Amazon, and  iTunes. Read by the talented Gene Blake, the stories really come to life. While listeners lose out on seeing the creepy illustrations that are available in the print and e-book versions, they get an eerie reading instead. The audio-book runs at 2 hours and 47 minutes and includes all twenty-three scary stories and creepy songs/poems. Click below to reach the store pages:

AMAZON

AUDIBLE

ITUNES

If you enjoy it, please leave a review. Thank you and I hope my tales will chill you to the bone, make your skin crawl, and spoil your appetite.

 

What people are saying:

 

 “In the tradition of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, Skeleton in the Closet aims to spook with folklorish lessons and succeeds. Recommended for fans of Alvin Schwartz’ Scary Stories to tell in the Dark and Shel Silverstein’s darker poetry and songs.” – Grotesque Quarterly Magazine

 

“Wonderful read to scare the bejesus out of a horror fan!”  – Voracious Life, Amazon

 

“Great campfire stories. No one will be sleeping.” – Wanda, Audible

 

“Skeleton in the Closet was such an awesome listen. The stories were scary but not too scary.” – Teresa, Audible

 

“Chilling! Treat Yourself to an Early Halloween” – Myztikal, Audible

 

“Perfect collection of tales that would be good for younger kids to be told around a campfire or maybe right before bed.” – Muraenidae, Audible

 

“This was a great set of short stories for kids. I’d say best for 4-10 years old.” – Mary, Audible

Money Grubber

Money Grubber

This was back when live burials were common. Bells would often be placed above a grave with a string leading into the coffin so a person could ring for help should they wake up from a deep sleep, buried. Alive. Bells were made of metal, though, and not so easy to come by—and it certainly was not cheap in those days as there were wars going on and metal was needed for bullets. John, being a stingy man, refused to pay for a bell in the case of his burial.

     “I’ll be dead,” John said gruffly to the attorney helping John write his living will. “What need would I have of making music?”

     “Very good, sir,” the attorney said looking oddly pleased as he jotted a note down.

     With that, the two finished for the night. John’s office was all but buried in paperwork because of the time he had taken off to work on that blasted last will-and-testament. By the time he finally got out of the office the sun had set. He realized he hadn’t seen the sun all day, being cooped up in the office as he was, discussing the grim topic of his inevitable death.

      John decided to walk home since the trains had stopped running for the night and he refused to pay for a carriage. He passed a hungry looking child and though his pockets were full of more coins than he could spend in a month, he didn’t give the child any money with which to buy food to eat. John simply flicked a coin in the air and caught it again. The boy’s hungry eyes followed it as John placed it back in his pocket.

      John laughed and said, “Get a job, boy.” He passed closed businesses and dark houses until he heard a gathering just ahead. Just down at the bottom of a very large flight of stairs there was a party going on. Wasting coin on food and drink for rotten company and music—John scoffed. He’d never spend a penny on entertainment.

       The city bells tolled to signal that it was midnight. The sound startled John. His loafers had little grip, so when he came upon a puddle just before a steep set of stairs, he slipped, distracted by the loud bells. He stumbled and tumbled and plummeted down those stairs. For so long he fell that he was met with the blackness before hitting the bottom. He was knocked out cold.

      Those who saw and the doctor, too, must’ve thought John was dead, for he awoke in a small wooden box. It was too dark to see that it was wood, but he could feel it with his finger tips: the grains, the knots, the solidness of it. He’d picked the coffin out himself just the week before, so he knew it at once. It was cheap and bare.  Suddenly it set in: the realization that he had been buried alive!

     Hours passed, or so it seemed. It felt like so very long with so very little to do. Every now and then, John would shout for help, but thought better of it after a few tries. No one would hear through six feet of dirt and he’d just waste his air. The only sounds John could hear were his breathing and the twiddling of his thumbs. Besides this there was only silence.

      He thought the silence was the worst part—worse than the cold, worse than the hard walls that hugged his shoulders too tightly—that is until he heard the slinking of wet bodies and the nibbles of toothless mouths at the coffin walls. As time wore on, he heard more of the sounds. Wet, disgusting sounds and nibbling. Every so often John heard the loud crack of splitting wood. He feared that the earth would collapse on him at any moment.

     After a particularly loud crack he heard a light, soggy slap on the coffin floor. Then another, then two more, and so on. He felt small, slimy bodies climbing up his arms and onto his chest, and then, to John’s great surprise, they spoke.

      “We are the worms and we’ve come to feast on your flesh!”

     “Please don’t!” John said, terrified, for he could not move in so tight a space. “I’ll give you money.”

     “Money! Money! What use have we of money?” they sang in chorus.

     “I’ll give you my time, then.”

     “Your time?” they asked, confused. John could hear one stifle a laugh.

     “Yes,” he said. “I’m a lawyer, an important man up there.” He tried to point up, but couldn’t in the tight space. “If you wish to sue someone I can lend you my ear and my advice. Time is money after all!”

     “Pff!” The worms spit mouthfuls of dirt and wood on John’s face. “Money! Money! We have no use of money!”

     “What, then?” John asked the worms. “What do you want?”

     “We want to devote our time to your soft flesh. It’s the only thing of any value that you have left down here.”

     John had saved a lot of money—never being charitable, never paying for luxury or entertainment, or even a hot meal with friends—and now it would do him no good. He hadn’t even fond memories to look back on to distract him as he was devoured. He wished he had spent the money on the coffin bell after all. At the very least.

     He screamed a few times before he realized once more that no one would hear. It was then that he heard it: the bells. Tiny, muffled tings. The whole rest of the graveyard seemed to be resounding with the bells. They pealed with their calls for help. It was a lot of graves to dig up and the gravedigger wouldn’t think to unbury John with so many bells all ringing out at once. Perhaps the bells wouldn’t bring help at all. Perhaps the others had wasted money on them. Perhaps, John thought, not without a little cruel pleasure, the others were just making music to fall on deaf ears.

     No, that wasn’t quite true. The worms would have music to eat to. In any case, John thought, the bells tolled for him.

Did you enjoy this story? If so, you’ll probably enjoy the other twenty-two stories in the collection, as well as the creepy illustrations for each. Find the e-book on Amazon. Please leave a review if you enjoy the e-book. It would greatly help us out. Thank you.

amazon-icon-21118

Vincent’s Transfusion

V incent Durant was a prolific painter in his time. His work received high praise and made many appearances in galleries across the country. Painting in only shades of red, he made a name for himself. Of further note, he also mixed the paints himself to, in his words, “Infuse more of myself into every work.” It is unknown whether this was meant literally as of all the paintings tested after his death, only his final painting which he left untitled tested positive for blood. Still, many critics and fans believe he did in fact add blood into his earlier works. This however, is contradictory to both the DNA testing and the fact that only his final painting, a self portrait, turned brown from oxidation. Thus the idea that he bled for every painting remains unfounded and is simply an urban legend likely meant to boost the selling price of his earlier pieces. The suspicious deaths, and surrounding misfortune that have occurred since Vincent’s untimely demise; however, have at the very least circumstantial evidence to support the idea that he painting is cursed. At least it’s a phenomenon that science has yet to disprove explicitly.

Because Vincent Durant bled out during his final portrait, the piece has been informally titled “Vincent’s Transfusion.”

As for the death of the artist: Vincent Durant is thought to have cut his left arm after running out of actual red paint in order to finish his red portrait with his own blood. He bled out in his studio, having become overzealous while painting his final piece. His passion, or as many other would say, his obsession led to his own death. Because the slitting of his left palette forearm cannot be dismissed as unintentionally life threatening for the sake of art, his death has been ruled a suicide. Since being found three days after his death in 1889, rumors have spread as to the painting being cursed. Indeed three owners of the painting perished shortly after purchasing the piece and many more report ill fortune after having merely touched or seen the painting in transport. The painting was stolen in 1937 and has yet to make an apparent reappearance.

Only one known photograph of Vincent’s Transfusion exists today. Before viewing the photo of the portrait, be warned: many report feeling nauseous or even dangerously depressed after seeing it. To the left of the photo is a recreation of the painting; what it might have looked like before it oxidized and turned brown.

“Vincent’s Transfusion”

Vincent Durant Portrait Picture Painting - Vincent's Transfusion Blood

 

A Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

A Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

This Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween themed compilation is comprised of a list of songs intended to get you started in creating a list of the greatest horror-punk and psychobilly songs. While the genres are inherently tied to the themes of classic horror monsters (swamp monsters, Frankenstein, vampires, werewolves) some songs are more closely tied to the Halloween season and were thus prioritized. There are, of course, plenty more bands and even more songs that are great for Halloween in both the horror-punk and psychobilly music genres; these are simply the top thirteen that made the list. The Brains, Nuke & The Living Dead, HotRod Frankie, Dr. Chud’s X-ward, Kitty in the Casket, The Creepshow, Horrorpops, The Meteors, The Quakes, Calabrese, Nim Vind, The Matadors, The Hillbilly Moon Explosion, and Dick Dynamite and the Doppelgangers are a few others that nearly made the list. Those bands are certainly worth looking into if you want a longer playlist. Again this list is meant to get you started. If you have any others you think deserve to be on this list, please feel free to post in the comments. The following are not in alphabetical order, nor in order of least-greatest to greatest or vice verse. The list is in completely random order:
Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

Zombie Ghost Train – RIP

Zombie Ghost Train is an Australian Psychobilly band. The band formed initially with members  Stu Arkoff on vocals and guitar, Azzy T on drums, and Captain Reckless on bass guitar as well as backing vocals. In 2007, JM was replaced when he left to pursue other musical ventures. The band released an EP and the two albums, Glad Rags & Body Bags and Dealing the Death Card, the former of which RIP is a part of. The song RIP is one of the band’s most well known songs and more importantly, it’s the quintessential psychobilly song with references to the horror movie genre, such as Frankenstein and ghosts. There are plenty of other gems from the band, including Graveyard Queen and Step into my Coffin, but RIP is best suited for this list, since it is perfect for sitting back on Halloween and resting in peace.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

Blitzkid – October 31

If the name Blitzkid rings a bell, it’s because they are not the new kids on the Horror-punk block. In fact, they formed in 1997 and played their great music until 2012 when they disbanded. Blitzkid released five albums and also made appearances on numerous punk compilations, plus they toured both in the United States and internationally. Argyle Goolsby  provided vocals and played bass, TB Monstrosity played the guitar and provided vocals, and Ricko Mortis beat away on drums. While many of their songs outshine October 31, October 31 is perfect for Halloween for obvious reasons and it is great despite, perhaps, not being Blitzkid’s best. 

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

Corpse Show Creeps – Werewolves

You can’t have a howling good time without a song about werewolves. Corpse Show Creeps have just what we need to remedy that potential problem. The four member psychobilly combo hail from the corpse cold land known as Minneapolis, MN. Blackblood Call is there debut album, and with the quality of their songs, it’s clear they have a talent for producing some great psychobilly music.Click the album cover image to the left to have a listen on the Amazon page.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

Misfits – Halloween I & II

You couldn’t have a Horror-punk list without including at least one song from the Misfits. Strangely enough, the Misfits fit. So here’s two: Halloween and Halloween II make the list not only because of their incredibly relevant titles, but because they’re such incredible songs in general. Great enough to be covered by other, newer, big names in music, including AFI, Alkaline Trio, Cradle of Filth, Drop Kick Murphys, and Samhain. Whether you’re in the Danzig or Graves camp, or if you side with neither vocalist, you’ve got to admire Danzig’s voice and idea for the band. Personally,I think Danzig started something amazing and Graves polished it to perfection. The Misfits would not be what is has become today without either vocalist, nor without Jerry Only or Dr. Chud.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

The Koffin Kats – Vampire’s Curse

Just as a Halloween song list would bite without werewolves, it would suck without vampires. This can help explain why Vampire’s Curse appears on this list over the other psychobilly masterpieces composed by the talented Koffin Kats.  These cool cats currently consist of Vic Victor on the upright bass and lead vocals, Johnny Kay on guitar and backing vocals, and Eric “E Ball” Walls on drums, and began near Detroit, Michigan with Vic and founding members Tommy Koffin (Guitar), and Damian Detroit (Drums). The band has put out several albums and played far more shows. As for Vampire’s Curse, it offers some of the best instrumental work of all the songs on this list, certainly some of the most expressive upright bass playing, and the vocals are unique as well.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

The Lurking Corpses – Maggots ate her brain

When it comes to The Lurking Corpses, they’re really hit or miss when it comes to the horror-punk genre. This is likely because half their songs seem to be in a different genre of music altogether–perhaps best labeled as Horror-Metal? That doesn’t stop the the slower tempo half of their songs being more punk and even psychobilly. Whatever genre they fall in, the band is great, and Maggots Ate Her Brain incorporates all the best aspects of the band. Plus, we’ve all witnessed the Halloween food scares of “Brains,” “Worms,” and “eyes” which were really only Jell-O, cold spaghetti, and peeled grapes.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

 The Murder Weapon- Walking with the Dead

From their Facebook: “Since 2004, these 3 broke musicians from Mid-coast Maine have been performing their unique blend of punk, rockabilly, and horror that is unlike anything else you’ll hear or see in New England. Their lightning fast speed and precision will melt your face and kick your ass.” The Murder Weapon certainly stays hidden from mainstream sight as most murderers would hope their murder weapons would, but the only screams The Murder Weapon summons are not those of terror but of delight.With their unique songs The Murder Weapon could soon be a common name in the psychobilly scene. Walking with the Dead brings zombies to our list and a music so good it will turn listeners into mindless shells as they enjoy the song. Download the song on band camp here: Walking with the Dead and help spread their name (click the image to the left). Their other songs are a delight, as well, such as Dead Light and East Bumfuck.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

 Nekromantix – Haunted Cathouse

Many consider Nekromantix to be the kings of psychobilly, having recieve international attention and success, and whether or not them being the king of psychobilly is ever objectively proven, the band is certainly worthy enough to make the list of some of the greatest Psychobilly Halloween bands/songs. Nekromantix songs are as well crafted as Kim Nekroman custom built coffin upright bass and the pompadours and quiffs of the band members including front man Kim Nekroman.  The Danish-American psychobilly band formed in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1989. The band’s music is generally structured around monster and horror themes, as is considered a staple of the genre. Haunted Cathouse is one of their softer songs, but it also best incorporates the horror genre monsters in one monster house party. The song is in someways reminiscent of the classic Halloween song, Monster Mash.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

 12 Step Rebels – Banshee’s Wail

12 Step Rebels have a younger sound to them, much like Blitzkid, especially in comparison to to some of the deeper voices of bands such as the Koffin Kats and Nekromantix, but they are no less skilled in the art of making music. The Horror-punk band utilizes the legend of the uncommonly used banshee for their song Banshee’s Wail. It’s a real scream! The whole Go Go Graveyard Rockin ablum is great, but Banshee’s Wail mixes things up with a haunting song about a horrific creature that feels right at home on Halloween.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

 Reckless Ones – Dead and Gone

While perhaps more rockabilly, the lyrics do bring this band into the haunted realm of psychobilly. Even the video of this particular song screams psychobilly, but it’s comes down to opinion, really. There’s no denying that the Reckless Ones are talented though. From their site: “Reckless Ones hit the ground running in 2009 with the vintage style and modern sound of their debut record, “Make Your Move.” Following the album’s release, the band took to the road — in a big way. Touring extensively across much of the United States and as far as the UK, Reckless Ones gained themselves a reputation and loyal set of fans within their first year as a band.” The song Dead and Gone is one perfect for pulling your ghoul-friend close and is a great addition to any Halloween playlist.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

The Howlers – Watch the World Die

The howlers are one of the lesser known bands on this list. As such, they’re perfect for any hipsters reading… Really though, most everyone will love this band. The song Watch the World Die was good enough for the band to make it the title of their debut album and it’s more than good enough to make this list of the best songs for making a perfect Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween. The band falls in the horror-punk category and the song Watch the World Die is perfect for anyone angry at the injustices of the world or those who simply want to get the blood pumping.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

 Dead Vampires – Closed Casket

The Dead Vampires know how to ham it up and how to do so in the most fun ways. From their stage costumes to their lyrics, the band has completely embraced the horror aspect of their music. This particular song is on an album that is a duo effort with Harley Poe, but is well worth purchasing if you want a full album and not just a song, and both Harley Poe and the Dead Vampires have plenty of great songs as well. Closed casket nods to the darkest moments in most every decade while creating a motivating song. If you never want your party to die (and lay down in a closed casket) then add the song Closed Casket to your roster. Harley Poe is a great artist as well and you shouldn’t be disappointed in buying the half-and-half Dead Vampires/Harley Poe album as both groups are talented.

Psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween

Bathory Boys/The Nasties – Wolfman

The Bathory Boys / The Nasties (two names for the same band) are perhaps the most obscure band on the list and certainly the hardest to track down as far as their music mp3s go, but if all else fails just type “The Nasties – Wolfman” or “Bathory Boys – Wolfman” (or click the image to the left) in on YouTube and the video should be the first result. The horror-punk band has a more rugged sound to them, but that’s likely from less production opportunities, and yet the music is still wonderful. Their sound is akin to Blitzkid and The Howlers, and Wolfman is a fantastic addition to a psychobilly & Horror-Punk Halloween song list.

 That’s it for my list. Happy Listening, boys and ghouls!

Combating Suicide in the Nevadan Youth Population with Aquaponics

DEATHGARDEN

[linebreak]

Background information: Suicide is the third leading cause of death for Nevada youth, between the ages of 10-24. In fact, according to the Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 survey, it was found that 34,955 Nevadan youth attempted to commit suicide one or more times, annually. Overall, every sixteen minutes someone in the United States attempts suicide, and a large number of those attempts take place in Nevada [1]. There are more casualties related to suicide than the number of Nevadans who are inflicted with HIV/AIDS, or are victims of homicide and automobile accidents. On top of those discouraging statistics, Figure 1 details the fact that Nevada’s average suicide rate is more than double than the Country’s average.

graph1

To take a step back from the emotional aspect of this, the financial cost of suicides and suicide attempts is immense. The United States as a whole could save an average of one million dollars in medical expenses and lost productivity for each suicide [2].  Thus costs are heavy on economy stimulating corporations of 100,000 or more employees. In fact, PhD. Paul Quinnett calculates that corporations of this size 1.) lose one employee or family member of said employee every seven days, decreasing productivity; and 2.) deal with an average of three suicide attempts every day in that there are about approximately 25 nonfatal suicide attempts for every reported suicide.

Depression has been determined to be closely tied to suicidal tendencies, and several methods have been employed to deal with depression in children. The Office of Suicide Prevention has teamed up with the crisis Call Center to provide twenty-four hour support to anyone who calls their Suicide Prevention Hotline. However, many do not call, as is clear with the high rate of suicide. Suicide Prevention Awareness training has also been offered to over 900 Nevadans. Furthermore, using the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Memorial Act federal grant award, the Office of Suicide Prevention has partnered with Nevada PEP to provide youth mental health screenings in schools and primary health care settings. And while Screenings have proven somewhat effective at identifying many youths at risk of suicide, and protocol ensures referral to, and follow up with appropriate mental health service, many are still misdiagnosed to have ADD or go completely undiagnosed. Moreover, this method of therapy is expensive, often unaffordable, and more often than not, not fully covered by insurance. Children affected by depression have little to no idea of the Suicide Prevention Hotline, have likely had little to no contact with the small ratio of trained Nevadans, and have little energy, let alone the experience, to seek help.

Those who are identified as children affected by depression are typically sent to therapy or placed on expensive medication. The preferred treatment for severe depression is both medication and psychotherapy [3], as psychotherapy alone is unlikely to prevent suicidal individuals from attempting to kill themselves. In addition, the FDA warns that antidepressants may pose risks that are not worth the benefits when prescribed for children or adolescents affected by depression, with adverse side effects of aggression, further withdrawal, or even an increased risk of suicide.

While recognition of childhood depression is growing, the majority of the attention is on teenagers fifteen years and older.  This is reasonable as the risk of suicide is higher in this age group, however children still suffer from neglect in the lack of effective treatment.  The entirety of the symptoms, ultimately including suicidal efforts, does occur in these groups as previously mentioned.  While the prevalence isn’t as great in children as it is in teenagers, it is reasonable to assume that many teens suffering from depression also suffered undiagnosed episodes of depression at an earlier age—at an age when treatment may have been more effective, as it is the time coping skills are best learned. So, while the Crisis Call Center’s Suicide Prevention Hotline continues to increase in call volume with 28,051 calls in 2009 to 29,370 calls in 2010, perhaps signifying victims slipping through the cracks, there remains an opportunity . For as figure 2 demonstrates, the number of Nevadan youth that turn to suicide is tragically inflated.

graph 2

Solution: To combat this growing issue of suicide and its underlying contributor depression in Nevadan youth, I offer a solution that will nip the problem in the bud: the use of aquaponic greenhouses on elementary school grounds.

Starting in fifth grade and continuing to sixth, students will be given access to a greenhouse on their school’s campus in which to grow plants from seeds and raise fish. This would ultimately provide children with an opportunity of increased access to sunlight in an age with an ever stronger reliance on indoor computers, and with a chance to grow something that relies on them, as this will help the individuals feel more important utilizing increased responsibility, including those who go undiagnosed as affected with adolescent depression. In addition, the calm, group environment will better allow them to attain the ability to manage their stress and emotions.

The reasons: Sunlight has been shown to balance moods and keep sleeping patterns stable as has been proven with those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. While children spend more and more time indoors, with video games, TV and computers, sunlight exposure naturally decreases. In this vein, the lack of exercise they practice with be supplemented, too, which in itself is highly effective and recommended way of preventing depression (Carnacho, 222). Diet is a third basic issue that will be address as studies have shown that growing one’s own food helps with depression and will encourage healthier eating habits. In fact, one study found that thirty minutes of gardening decreasing cortisol (stress hormone) levels more than staying indoors and reading (Van Den Berg, A.E, 11).

Children will be given the chance to grow their own maize, beans, and squash. The idea of this also lends itself also history class learning, and offers hands on learning at that. The agricultural methods of The Three Sisters or the companion cropping of these three aforementioned vegetables will be utilized, in which the maze stalks serve as the climbing frame for the beans, the beans add nitrogen to the soil, and the squash block sunlight to avoid unwanted weeds (Phil Dudman). To be a lucrative venture, local demand of produce such as lettuce could be grown as well, by the younger age groups of the first through fourth grade. In fact, an aquaponic owner, Rob Goodier had stated that, “One five-foot tower can produce more than 200 heads of lettuce per year. And it uses a small fraction of the water needed to grow crops in soil.” This can be sold for approximately $0.50 a head. Meager, perhaps, but the real values come in with that saved with the prevented suicides.

This companion gardening in conjunction with fish tanks, in which the plants and fish form a symbiotic ecosystem, will minimize water need, eliminate soil completely, and the only real cost after initial construction with be fish food. But growing tilapia can pay for this if as an agreement with restaurants and retailers in the local market can purchase the fish and the vegetables. The time needed is a brief thirty minutes a day and the program can be utilized by both the science and history departments varying classrooms responsible throughout the year, leaving lasting knowledge on ways to cope with stress and emotions.

The blanket approach of this method eliminates the issue associated with misdiagnoses and those that elude identification, as all children are involved, not just those children affected by depression. It also gives more chances for socialization in a calm environment, and can ultimately fund itself after the initial construction of the greenhouse.

Costs:  The cost for the initial construction of the greenhouse is approximately $25,000, including labor. With the construction of solar panels, crop output would increase, electricity cost would disappear, and energy could be sold back to the city. In addition with a 30% federal tax incentive, as well as state and local incentives, the cost for the panels drops significantly.diagram1

The consumption per kWh of power in Reno, NV is $0.15 taken from of average of summer peak, summer off-peak, and the pricing for October through May. No more than 4,500 kWh are expected to be consumed annually, as the average household consumes, 8,900 and are much larger in square footage and furthermore, more diverse and plentiful in their electrical appliances. Thus only $56.25 would be expected monthly to pay for the energy consumption of the greenhouse to run the aquarium pumps and the strip lighting which the profit of selling fish and crops to local markets would more than cover. Thus this cost can be eliminated all together, and at the same time protect crops from over exposure to the sun. The sun provides 1,000 W/m² while plants only require 250 to 350 W/m². This excess inhibits plant growth rather than lending itself to it. The solution to this problem is the Chinese lean-to greenhouse with partitioned solar panels. Figure 1 illustrates the set up of the Chinese lean-to style greenhouse.

Staffing costs are not a concern as while the children learn and benefit from the greenhouse, they are tending to it. Teacher will provide supervision just as any P.E. teacher would. As mentioned the program has ties to both science and history classes, and can also be utilized to demonstrate healthy eating habits in health classes, and serve as subject matter for writing projects for English classes.diagram1

[linebreak]

Cost of cabbage towers and larger system organics: Addition towers could be constructed to grow heads of cabbage rapidly to keep up with the demand of local markets and create more monetary flow. The breakdown cost of these system’s initial construction follows along with the starting seed costs and fingerlings prices. Ultimately the Tilapia will breed new generations and the crops will produce more seeds.

Conclusion: With the construction of an aquaponics greenhouse on elementary school grounds, a strong foundation will be laid for every child that participates. The project will eventually pay for itself and these funds could go to create additional greenhouses at surrounding schools, or into other non-profit programs.  No participating child will fall through the cracks as too often happens with mental health screenings, as all will be given equal access granting a sense of equality, a calm environment, and a sense of responsibility.

Children will be cutting crops rather than their lives short.

[1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[2] Research America, www.researchamerica.org/uploads/factsheet21suicide.pdf
[3] Cytryn &McKnew, 143

Le Chat Noir: Crooked World

I have written a family-friendly noir story, featuring a cat protagonist, called Le Chat Noir: Crooked World. It’s a two-parter, so the conclusion is yet to come, but the book features a catnapping and a subsequent search. It is written with noir terminology,
but without drugs, guns, or violence that is typical of the noir genre. Wes Noyer, alter-ego of Wesley Richards the cat mayor of Toonstone, is the protagonist of Le Chat Noir: Crooked World. He has an undead brother by the name of Waldo, who appears to the right as the skeleton cat. David created four images, one for each segment of the story, as well as the cover. You can read the story for free on the Felipe Femur website, or purchases the e-book version on Kindle. The e-book will be free January 12th – 14th and 19th – 20th. The antagonist is a group of characters that also appear in the demo of Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures by the carousal. I don’t want to ruin either story, so I’ll leave it at that.

Several illustrated works of noire art punctuate each of the four chapters of part one of La Chat Noir. Guest appearances by Felipe Femur and the Skeletones before their tour in Paris, France.

A darkly funny mystery without murder, guns, or drugs. Appropriate for older children and young adults.

Below is the Amazon description of the book:

Le Chat Noir—that’s French for ‘The Black Cat,’ and nickname of hardboiled Detective Wes Noyer. This cynical P.I. is also literally a black cat…

Wes Noyer INC., Noyer’s private investigator office founded after his leaving from the police force, is in the business of solving mysteries and a new one has just fallen in his furry lap. The Addams family is short one member. Lucy, Mr. and Mrs. Addams’ beloved white cat, has gone missing. Private Investigator Wes Noyer takes the case and begins his search at The Lion’s Share cabaret where trouble always seems to find him. His case takes him through shady alleys, into the sleazy businesses of The Wander’s Launderer Laundromat and Bizarre Bazaar, as well as seedy motels, and the dark recesses of his own troubled mind.

The monsters, crooks, and other horrors of the underworld city of Dead End are also explored. Femme fatale, Hannah Barbara, adds a mysterious widowmaker personality to the colorful cast of cat and monster characters. She appears in Detective Noyer’s office, searching his furniture for secrets. This book explores other aspects and mysteries of Wes Noyer’s life, such as where’s Waldo Noyer, his lost brother? Plus, the mystery of whether or not Detective Noyer’s whipping cream addiction will ever be kicked and how fast he is on the draw with this trusty yo-yo.

Beneath the Bathtub

Beneath the Bathtub

Thomas enjoyed baths—the water, the bubbles, the toys! With his duck float around his waist there was nothing scary that could grab him, unlike in the deep water of an ocean, lake, or even the deep pool at school, which was said to be home to a great white shark. Thomas was safe. He thought that, at least… until it happened.

It was a school night and Thomas was taking a bath after finishing all of his homework. He was playing with his favorite toy pirate ship and a new rubber duck. In his imagination, Captain Bluebeard was exploring the bubble islands with his first mate, a rubber duck.

Thomas’s mother and father had gone out to do some grocery shopping, so he was all alone. He likely wouldn’t have been as frightened as he was if his parents had been home. He’d have probably thought it was his parents calling him from downstairs when he heard the muffled voice. But it wasn’t from downstairs. The voice that said, “I want to play,” came from the bathtub drain! A wet and longing voice—it was muffled by the plug and the water, but Thomas heard it again.

It said, “Please let me play.”

Thomas scooted to the far side of the tub, furthest from the drain plug and the voice.  He was too scared to do anything. The smart thing to do would have been to get out of the tub and hide under his bed covers, he thought, but he stayed in the fast cooling water, paralyzed with fear.

“I know you can hear me,” the voice said. “I want to play, too.”

Finally, Thomas worked up the courage to speak. He said, “Where are you?” It was the more important question at the moment; more important than asking who it was beneath the bathtub.

“Down here, silly,” said the muffled voice. “Shh! Don’t tell mommy.”

“Down where?” Thomas looked, searching madly for a speaker or some other explanation for the voice. Surely this voice was not in the drain. It was then that he heard scratching along the bottom of the tub.

“Come play,” said the voice and it sounded scary now, like a fountain of water came out of its mouth when it spoke instead of air.

“I’m done playing!” Thomas cried. “Who are you?”

“Why, I’m Tommy,” said the voice, thick with water. “Mommy didn’t like me playing in the tub.”

“But my name is Tom. Thomas. My mom calls me Tommy.”

“We’re both Tommy, silly,” the voice said and laughed.

The scratching at the bottom of the tub moved towards the drain plug. After a moment of quiet, the drain plug moved up. The thing under the tub was poking it! Poke. Poke. Poke.

Thomas wanted to rush over and push it back down, but he was still frozen in terror. Water suddenly started rushing down the drain. Captain Bluebeard steered his ship into the whirlpool and disappeared down the drain, and the new rubber duck followed. After the water had drained completely, Thomas stood up. It appeared the owner of the voice, Tommy, had disappeared just as quickly as he came. Thomas grabbed his towel to dry off.

Then he heard the squeak from the new rubber duck.

Squeak, squeak, squeak.

His heart dropped into the pit of his stomach.

“We haven’t finished playing yet,” said the voice and it was clearer now that the water was gone. “Mommy didn’t like me playing.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t play then,” Thomas said and since the voice cared very much what its mother thought, he added, “Mommy wouldn’t like it if we did.”

“No. Mommy doesn’t like playing,” the voice said, sadly. “Is mother there?”

“No.”

“Then we can play!”

Thomas moved closer to the drain and peeked down it. He saw blackness and the faint shine of light reflecting off of water, and an eye. Yes, an eye was looking up at him!

“What if she catches us?” Thomas said, very much not wanting to play with the thing beneath the tub. He thought if he scared the owner of the voice into thinking its mother would find out, it would just leave him alone.

“There’s no water left,” the voice said. “She can’t drown you if there’s no water and she can’t kill me twice. So we can play all night!”

“She drowned you?”

“She didn’t like me playing in the tub,” the voice sobbed.  “Wait—” The voice paused as if it heard something. Thomas too heard something. The front door. His father and mother were home. At least he hoped it was them… It could be the voice’s mother.

The voice said, “Mommy says to go to bed. I’ll give your toys back next time you take a bath.”

A knock at the bathroom door made Thomas jump. His mother’s voice called through the door, “Don’t be playing around in there, Tommy.”

Thomas never took a bath again despite his parents and friends pleading him to. His mother wanted him to bathe most of all.

“Better dirty than dead,” he’d always say until he got an infection from the filth and died.

Read More

amazon-icon-21118

A Midnight Snack

A Midnight Snack

When summer came along the heat came with it, and Jacob would go to camp where he could swim to cool down. There, he bunked with his best friend Chris, and a heavyset boy named Andrew, in the cabin furthest from all the others. Their cabin was nearest the local graveyard, which was actually quite pretty in the daylight with all the grass and old trees. Still, it was scary with all the rumors of ghouls making it their home. Ghouls like to eat little boys, you see, so you can understand why this might scare Jacob, Chris, and Andrew. It would scare you, too, if you had to sleep there.

At night the cabin got hot with the windows closed, but the boys were too scared to keep them open for fear of a ghoul slipping inside as they slept. The heat bothered Andrew even more than it did Jacob and Chris, for his mother only packed him sweaters to sleep in. No T-shirts, just lumpy, thick sweaters. To combat the heat, Andrew lay on the floor between the bunks. He was a nervous eater and would snack on jerky and fruit to soothe himself. Jacob didn’t mind the sound of lip smacking too much. Chris though would sometimes get so annoyed he’d go for a walk to get away from the sound.

The hottest day of the year proved too much. The boys’ discomfort beat out their fear of ghouls and they opened a window. Jacob strung up a cord strung with tin cans to serve as an alarm in the case of an intruder came in through the window. With the wind, though, they served more as wind chimes. Still, Jacob managed to fall asleep to Andrew licking his lips and eating jerky. He awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of clanging tin cans, but it seemed it was due to a gust of wind and he went back to sleep to the sound of Andrew’s growling stomach.

Perhaps an hour passed before Jacob woke once more. This time to the sound of Andrew’s stomach growling very loudly. Jacob thought he’d might tell Andrew to not eat too much, but he was too tired and quickly fell back to sleep. If Andrew got a stomach ache, it was his own fault.

It wasn’t long after that Jacob was woken once more, this time to the sound of a peach being eaten. Sounded like a peach, at least. Very wet and sloppy. Jacob heard Andrew’s stomach growling and knew he’d be eating for a while longer yet. He stood to use the restroom.

He thought he’d have to step over Andrew and felt around in the dark, but he didn’t feel him on the floor between the bunks. He wasn’t in his bunk either. Jacob figured he must’ve slipped into the space beneath the bed where it was cooler and thought nothing more of it. He felt his way to the restroom in the dark.

There was a window just above the sink and, when he was washing his hands, Jacob looked outside. In the moonlight he saw a figure and became very afraid. A ghoul! A ghoul! He felt like screaming, but he didn’t want the monster to know he was in the cabin and it already seemed to be heading in his direction. Jacob ran to the open window and shut it. Just as he did, he heard a bang at the cabin door. The ghoul was trying to get in!

Jacob jumped into his bed and covered himself in a blanket. He felt around for Andrew as he didn’t want to make a noise, yet he needed to wake him. Then he felt fingers. It was a comfort to hold Andrew’s hand thought he’d never normally do such a thing. He wasn’t alone. Andrew heard the ghoul, too. He was prepared. More prepared than he would be fast asleep, at least.

“Chris!” Jacob whispered to wake his friend. It was more of a hiss than anything resembling a name. “Chrissss!”

Chris stirred in his bed. Hearing the rattle of the door, he sat up. The door knob rattled. Then the door opened. The shadowed figure in the doorway was huge and lumpy, like the boys were always told a ghoul was. Jacob held his breath as Andrew held his hand, limply.

Then the light in the cabin suddenly turned switched on. After Jacob’s eyes adjusted, he saw that it wasn’t a ghoul at the door at all, but rather Andrew holding a bunch of food he’d just raided from the cafeteria, wearing his lumpy sweater.

Andrew’s eyes went wide as he followed Jacob’s arm down to the hand he was holding. If Andrew was at the door, then whose hand was he holding?

Looking down, Jacob saw why the hand he held felt so limp. It wasn’t attached to a body! Something huge and lumpy scrambled off Chris’ bed before Jacob could get a good look at it, but he knew it wasn’t his friend. It had to be a ghoul. A ghoul with a full stomach.

It left only Chris’ hand and a set bloody sheets behind.

Read More

amazon-icon-21118

Audio Stories

With the help of Keely’s narration, my brother videos and art, and my scary stories for kids, we have produced a couple of audio stories that were uploaded to YouTube. Each audio story runs about six minutes long and showcases some scary, immersive sounds in addition to Keely’s character readings. Basic animation and opening are included. Take a listen if you’re not chicken. If you enjoy them, please consider thumbs upping them on YouTube and perhaps leaving a comment. I’ve included the text stories below each video. The text might be slightly different in some places as this is the text I’m using and have edited for the new Monster Under the Bed & Other Spooky Stories anthology, a collection of scary stories for children. It will serve as a lighter, less scary companion to our first book, Skeleton in the Closet and Other Scary Stories.

The Voice Beneath the Bathtub

Jericho the Scarecrow

Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures (DEMO)

logo_2016_1

A new Felipe Femur game is in the works. Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures–this time in the vein of No Proper Thief. The game will be reading base, and not rely as heavily on graphics. Guide Felipe Femur through three spooky choice-enabled stories. A reading based game for kids and adults, made in cooperation with Choice of Games LLC, that has gif images throughout. Choose from three classes: Fighter, Detective, or Jack of all Trades, buy weapons and ponchos, wage battle on a variety of enemies, and then lead Felipe Femur the introverted skeleton through a carnival, a haunted bathhouse, and through a creepy neighborhood for a night of tick-or-treating. Enjoy three interactive stories in Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures. Help Felipe Femur the skeleton make choices and proceed through each nightmare. Explore Carinval Caper, Trick or Shriek, and That Old, Haunted Bathhouse as either a detective, a fighter, or a jack of all trades. Each class allows you to explore stories in a different way. So try all three classes and get exploring!

Professions

In Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures, Felipe will have the choice between three professions, Detective, Fighter, and Jack of all Trades. Before one of these is chosen, Felipe will appear in his base form with a black sombrero and poncho. The detective class was based on the famous Sherlock Homes, the fighter off a lucha libre wrestler, and the Jack of all Trades a construction worker. See below:

felipefemur_nomal

Base

sherlock_250

Detective

felipefemur_lucha

Fighter

jackoat_250

Jack-of-all-Trades

felipe_femur

Bard

Detective: Skilled in uncovering secrets. Wise, cunning, and perceptive in addition to being skilled in talking to people. Asks questions first and fights only as a last resort. The detective class grants increases in the Intelligence, Luck, and Perception stats; and decreases in battle stats such as Attack and Defense.

Fighter: Skilled in combat. Fights and asks questions later… or maybe never. The fighter class grants increases in the battle oriented stats such as Attack and Defense, but also decreases in Speed, Luck, and Perception stats. Has access to Heavy Attack ability.

Jack of All Trades: Master of none. The Jack of All Trades (or rather “Traits”) class grants a complete balance of stats. Where as the Detective and Fighter class are highly skewed to promote different play styles, the Jack of all Trades track allows for the participation in both worlds, without being able to fully excel in either.

Bard (Tentative): Not yet in the game. This would be an expansion pack if anything that would allow players to join forces with Felipe “The Artist/performer/musician” Femur. Would be able to distract enemies with music, earn money with performances, and empower allies as that is something that is planned for the Trick or Shriek adventure.

Join the Adventure

Click the buttons below to play the demo in your browser or head over to the Choice of Games Forum post where you can discuss the game. Likes, dislikes, suggestions, typos, and bugs. There is also a link to play the game on the forum post.

Play Demo

Discuss the Game

This is a copy of the original forum post for Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures. It explains a little bit about what I wanted to achieve with this game and how it is different from both my first Hosted Games project, No Proper Thief, as well as most Choice of Games / Hosted Games projects.

Hello everyone,

I’m the author of the Hosted Games story, No Proper Thief. I’m making this post about a new project that I’m working on called, Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures. It’s directed towards a younger audience, but should also appeal to adults who want a light-hearted adventure. It currently doesn’t have a romance aspect to it that I know many of you enjoy (sorry) and expect with the Choice of Games productions. Instead, I wanted to add something new to the Hosted Games selection: A fun, family-friendly series of text quests that might encourage children to read. I may add a mild romance option for the Trick or Shriek and Ole Haunted Bathhouse quests, as I will be adding a character creation section to those two storylines, but not in Carnival Caper.

Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures (WIP) currently features a mystery in a carnival that readers have to collect three clues to solve. They guide Felipe Femur the skeleton around and choose if he’s to be a Detective, Fighter, or a Jack-of-all-trades. Each profession offers a slightly different series of events and each has a different culprit to increase replay value. This project has taken me quite a bit longer to make than I originally anticipated, but it’s been a fun experience so far. Rather than be linear–as was a legitimate complaint about my first project, No Proper Thief–I made this game a closed circuit that you need clues to escape from and finish the quest. I think of it as an almost physical map of the carnival setting that players can guide Felipe through. With Felipe, readers can search sections of the fairground, go on rides, play carnival games, explore the circus tent, food court, and speak to other characters to gather clues. Two other features that added to this project taking me a long time are the “random” features and the fight sequences. I placed random selection code in things such as name generation, Felipe Femur’s responses in conversations, carnival game results, and generation of Clowns, Tall men, Strong men, and Ringleaders appearing to fight Felipe Femur in various locations and after various events. By random I mean an average of 10+ outcomes that the code selects. There are options to fight certain characters and each fight has many possible outcomes, including Felipe getting injured. He can also run out of energy and go home. But, no worries, one stop at the traveling caravan and you can heal him right up, so stock up on those Mortal Energy Drinks and Slender Tenders.

Overall, I think this project is quite different than most on Hosted games, including my first game (NPT). It still provides a story, but it is more of an open arena than a straight track to run on.

Skeleton in the Closet Released

3dbook-1I’ve released a Kindle E-book consisting of twenty-three stories and twenty-three images to accompany the narratives. My brother David made the cover and half of the illustrations inside. I wrote the stories and created the other half of the illustrations. David’s illustrations are his unique blend of children friendly illustrations and pure horror with blood and flesh and guts. Several can be seen below. Mine are more inspired by Stephen Gammell. Though no one can compare to the creepiness of Gammell’s illustrations, and my pale in comparison, I did my best to leave things to the imagination and utilize shadows. My illustrations are digital and use public domain images Frankenstein’d together and edited heavily to create eerie pictures. The stories are a mix of short stories and long poems. Below is the Amazon store description.

If you like tales that will chill you to the bone, make your skin crawl, and spoil your appetite, Skeleton in the Closet and Other Scary Stories is the collection of horror stories for you. These twenty-three tales of terror are sure to thrill, as are the eerie illustrations created for each narrative. Find out what happens when you try to keep the skeleton in your closet a secret, when you clown around too much, and when you are too loud in the library. Included here are stories about getting too much sun, finding yourself in the dark surrounded by water, listening too closely to the whispers in the walls, as well as the fate of those who take candy from a stranger when it isn’t Halloween. What happens when you’re buried alive? What if you were to wake up as a giant bat? What if a person were to cross paths with a witch in the woods or a pirate crew of skeletons on the sea? Read about these frightening dilemmas and find out what’s really in that plum jelly. All this and more is here in Skeleton in the Closet and Other Scary Stories. Are you brave enough to read all these horror stories?

Below are a few of David Vincent Dorn’s illustrations for the book, Skeleton in the Closet and Other Scary Stories:

extra_skin library2 clown

The bloody skeleton is for the story Money Grubber, about a selfish money hoarder who is buried alive. The woman in the middle is The Librarian from the story, The Library is Awfully Quiet, a tale about what happens to children who break the rule of silence. The clown on the right is from the closing story titled, Clowning Around, about a boy who takes his pranks too far.

The book is $2.99, but we will have periods of it being available for free. It is also available for free trough the Kindle Unlimited program. Eventually, we hope to have a print version as well.

BUY THE BOOK:
amazon-icon-21118

New Scary Stories for Kids

Scary stories to tell in the dark, chilling tales, more Halloween horror

I’ve been writing a good number of scary stories and poems for kids to prepare for Halloween 2016. ZebraFox Games is developing a new Halloween app: Felipe Femur: Scary Stories for Kids 2, and I wanted to really flesh it out with a healthy volume of new stories. The biggest complaints of the first edition of Scary Stories for Kids (for Android) were that there were too few stories (only three) and they weren’t scary enough. I’ve strengthened the new app on both fronts.  The new Halloween/ campfire story app will have nineteen brand new scary stories in addition to the original three, bringing the total to twenty-two. While the original scary stories app only had three characters tell a story (Felipe Femur the skeleton, Sunny the vampire, and Gummy the werewolf) the new campfire boasts a company of eleven monster characters. Twelve if you count Choral the musical crab. Each character delivers two stories or poems. Each story has already been uploaded to the Felipe Femur & Friends website. As a special treat, I have created a scary image for each. Click on any of the images below to be taken to their corresponding stories. Below are ten of the twenty-two stories. Some old, most new.

The Chilling New Tales:

New Scary Stories for Kids Scary Halloween stories  Wet, Toothless Mouths

Sunny the sun-loving vampire’s original tale of clammy terror. Appeared in the original scary stories app; is making its return. Read as Sunny tries to worm his way out of a tight situation.

Vampire story for kids scary

 Emergence

Sunny the sun-loving vampire’s new tale of terror. Inspired and written in Kafka’s Metamorphosis fashion, Sunny wakes up as a giant bat beast. Read how he keeps from going batty.

how to hang a witch scary story for kids

 Wind in the Tree Tops

Runny the witch is one of the original four characters, but she was sadly left out of the original story app for lack of room and data resources. This is her first of two tales that is wickedly eerie. ‘Beware the wind that blows towards home!’

 

captain no beard and skeleton crew of pirates  Captain No-beard and the Skeleton Crew

One of the lighter of the new scary stories, this one follows newcomer Oscar Burlin, the mundane magician, as he serves as a ship’s potato peeler in his youth. A run in with the infamous captain No-beard leaves him rattled.

Dentist horror stories  The Depraved Dentist

Gummy the toothless werewolf served up a tales about slender tenders and a cursed can-opener the first time around. This time he explains his fear of dentists in a tale inspired by unfortunately true tales of greed and horror.

Spider poems for kids creepy  In a Room Thick with Darkness

In a Room Thick with Darkness is one of two scary poems/potential songs included in the lineup. This one is a bedtime story Melody heard going up, recited by Choral the musical crab as Melody the banshee is mute. The poem is supposed to have a bit of a twist at the end and leave reader’s skin crawling. It’s a quick read.

Killer vacuum vaccum story for kids children  Dust Destroyers

Dale the profitless salesman is so consumed with the acquisition of money and being shady that he can be hard to relate to. In this tale of inanimate horror he plays the hero… sort of. See if Dale can clean up his act and save the world.

Bathtime stories for children and kids bath time  The Voice Beneath the Bathtub 

Perhaps the creepiest of the new tales, The Voice Beneath the Bathtub is story from Gilli Fishel’s perspective. Now knowing how to swim is a problem, but he thought he was safe in the bathtub with his duck float Tate.  He was wrong. This story has also been narrated by Keely Nesbit and uploaded as an audio story to YouTube. You can listen to it here: The Voice Beneath the Bathtub.

Scary campfire stories to tell in the dark ghoul cabin  The Sound of a Hungry Stomach

Felipe Femur’s second story shares a theme with his first: being eaten. While his first story ends with a twist, on a humorous note, this second story is far more grave.  Read about Felipe’s experience at camp in the cabin nearest the cemetery.

on the menu scary story cat can we do it now?  Is It on the Menu?

Wesley Richards (Wes Noyer – in the noir series, La Chat Noir) serves up a creepy tale of foreboding. Is it on the menu and what exactly is ‘it?’ Find out in Wesley’s story and check out is earthworm of a song, as well. Read all these and many more in the scary stories section of Felipe Femur & Friends.

 

The Spooky New App:

The new app version of these scary stories to tell in the dark (for kids) is now available for Android devices. It is avaible to download on SlideMe and for browser play on Gamejolt, Newgrounds, and Felipe Femur, where it seems to be faring better than it is on GooglePlay. We have very few download on Google Play for now, but hopefully with Halloween coming and the new screenshot on the original, more popular app directing attention to the new app, we will get more downloads soon. Below is the trailer video for the new Scary Stories for Kids 2 with a little parody of the Nightmare Before Christmas to start it off. Download the Android version here: Scary Stories for Kids 2.

 

Continue Reading

Felipe Femur: Postcards

postcards

I’ve started a new series for kids on the Felipe Femur & Friends website called “Postcards from Felipe.” Starting from Toonstone, the fictional hometown of Felipe Femur the skeleton, Felipe and a crew of monsters will set out into the mortal world, traveling to Nevada and moving through Arizona, California, and beyond. Each postcard will be a short letter addressed to “friends” and tell readers a little something about the area, as well as a brief story concerning the RV crew’s exploits and adventures. I’ve started writing about places I have personally been so a lot of my personal experiences serve as inspiration. Nevertheless, I will eventually move on to places I have not been and rely more on factual research to craft the stories. I hope to have fans send in places they want Felipe Femur to visit.

As of now the crew consists of Felipe Femur the skeleton, Sunny the vampire, Runny the witch, Gummy the werewolf, Joe Miller, an average Joe, and Melody the banshee with her pet crab Choral. Other Toonstone characters will likely show up throughout the series, and new friends will be made. There is an overarching story related to aliens, so many of the places Felipe and his RV crew visit will be know for UFO sightings, such as Rachel, NV, the mortal world starting place. Several of the bigger cities will see several postcards dedicated to them. Below are the nine postcards that I have for the launch:

FelipePostcardgreen

Rachel, NV

FelipePostcard_grand-canyon

Grand Canyon, AZ

FelipePostcard_ROADSTOP

Beatty, NV

FelipePostcard_shark

Las Vegas, NV

FelipePostcard_VEGAS_2

Las Vegas, NV

FelipePostcard_ufo

Nowhere, CA

FelipePostcard_Baker, CA

Baker, CA

FelipePostcard_Cecil_hotel

Los Angeles, CA

FelipePostcard_universal

Los Angeles, CA

Clicking on each will bring you to the related post on the Felipe Femur & Friends website. The banner above is linked to the main Postcards from Felipe post on the same website. If you enjoyed these postcards, stay tuned for more. Felipe Femur and his RV crew of monsters have lots of places to see and plenty of adventures to have. We have also developed an Android app version of the postcard stories that has postcards 1-13. Fore the Android app click here: Felipe Femur:Postcards. The app provides vacation-esque music, a smoother interface, and a great title screen that you can see in the demo video of the app below:

Social Media Links

icon_banner

The following is a set of Twitter accounts and website links that I have had some involvement with. This involvement ranges from being the primary holder of the account, to being the creator of the idea such as Felipe Femur, to being a staff reviewer, to simply serving as editor/photographer/logo artist/or providing some other small contribution. Beside each image is a brief description that gives a link to the account or website, as well as an overview of what the link might provide to viewers. Click any image to check out the related Twitter account or website—they have been linked as well.

TWITTER

WEBSITES

Russell_500 Personal Twitter account: @DornRussell. RT. Literary fiction focus with elements of the horror genre. Mostly retweets of literary magazine Twitter accounts, with occasional posts about personal stories, projects, or interests. wordsofwolfman3 Personal website. Gives information on myself, my work, and my future projects. Post work from Felipe Femur, ZebraFox Games, as well as academic papers and literary fiction writing work.
UcoZK0hz_400x400 Twitter account of Indie Game Designer and Artist (Graphic Design, UI Design, 3D Development, Animation) David Dorn: @daviddorn Artistic director of ZFG. Posts and RT only ZFG, Felipe Femur, and Personal interests. UcoZK0hz_400x400 Personal Website of the Indie Game Designer and Artist (Graphic Design, UI Design, 3D Development, Animation) David Dorn: http://hugyu.com/life/ Artistic director of ZFG. Links to all his previous work for Felipe Femur, ZebraFox Games, 5000 Ft, and freelance work.
MhVr8veP_400x400 App Apes app review account: @Appapescom. Only original content. Updates on current reviews, information about App APes articles, and calls for submissions. MhVr8veP_400x400 Free app review website: http://app-apes.com/ Provides free reviews of iOS, Android, and Windows game and apps. Uses unique rating system and free platform. Produces articles and compiles lists of indie game developers and other app review websites.
sIhTdBpT_400x400

Felipe Femur the skeleton with a lot of heart, character account: @FelipeFemur. RT. Children/cartoon focus. Posts crafts, stories, and updates, as well as retweets humorous and educational tweets from other kid friendly Twitter accounts.

sIhTdBpT_400x400

Felipe Femur & Friends children’s website: http://www.felipefemur.com/. Provides children with free games, stories, word searches and other puzzles, meet and greet, character bios, contests, coloring sheets, articles, and craft ideas.
LOGO ZebraFox Games App development company Twitter account: @ZebrafoxGames. Posts only original content, including ZFG game news, promotions, and throwbacks. Also posts content related to the Felipe Femur game line. LOGO ZebraFox Games is a two man production. Website: team http://www.zebrafoxgames.com/ offers information on the creators, their projects, and press received, as well as upcoming projects and ideas. Links to all developed games can be found on the front page.
KAKE Kake cosmetic and hygene startup company Twitter account: @Kake_Co. RT. Retweets and posts content about related products, promotions, and updates. Products include salt scrubs, soaps, lotions, lip balms, and candles. KAKE Etsy shop page for Kake an upcycling canadle and hygiene startup company with products such as soaps, candles, and lip balms. Website: https://www.etsy.com/shop/KakeCo. Two longtime friends hand-making products for you!
msQWr58k_400x400 어패럴, 패션잡화, 쥬얼리를 비롯한 다양한 품목의 트렌드를 주도하는 컨템포러리 브랜드 악토눈. Twitter account: @Actonoon. Not very active given it’s a Korean company and doesn’t use Twitter. msQWr58k_400x400 South Korean e-boutique website: http://actonoon.com/. Posts jewelry products, including necklaces, braclets, and rings, as well as Korean celebrities wearing said products, published in professional magazines.
logo (1) Twitter account of the company Choice of Games LLC.: @choiceofgames Produces and hosts high-quality text-based multiple-choice interactive fiction games Android, iOS, PC, and Amazon. logo (1) Website for the company Choice of Games LLC./ Hosted Games: www.choiceofgames.com. Produces and hosts high-quality text-based multiple-choice interactive fiction games Android, iOS, PC, and Amazon.

Making Kombucha with Keely

I decided to try making Kombucha at my girlfriend Keely’s suggestion. Kombucha is any of a variety of fermented, fizzy sweetened black or green tea that are commonly intended as functional beverages for their supposed health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast otherwise known as a the acronym SCOBY. Contributing microbial populations in SCOBY cultures differ, but the yeast component generally includes Saccharomyces, a probiotic fungus, and other species. The bacterial element almost always includes Gluconacetobacter xylinus , as this oxidizes yeast-produced alcohols to acetic and other acids. We named our first SCOBY Scoby-doo in a play on the famous name, Scooby-doo, the talking great Dane in Mystery, inc. To start, we purchased a SCOBY and a couple cheese cloths from Amazon. While we waited for this colony and cheesecloth to arrive via the post, we stopped by the store and picked up two 1-gallon jars, opting for the kind with the faucet built in for ease of draining. I liked the turquoise one as it was like that of the Mystery Machine. We had plenty of tea and raw cane sugar already, so once the SCOBY and cheesecloth arrived we had everything we needed to begin the two-week process.

Making Kombucha

We started by boiling a dozen black tea bags on the stove. We chose to use distilled water, but tap water supposedly works just as well, and since you boil it, all bad bacteria should be killed off regardless of what water you use. Once it was well steeped, we added a cup of raw cane sugar. After we made sure the sugar had dissolved into the tea, we took the pot off the heat, fished out the tea bags, and allowed the tea to cool to room temperature. This took around an hour. Once the tea was cool, we opened our packaged SCOBY and placed it in the bottom of the one gallon jar, followed by the sugar tea we just brewed.

IMG_2677

Placing the cheesecloth on the lip of the jar, we secured it with a rubber-band. It’s important to make sure nothing (flies, pets, etc.) can get into the jar, but also important that the pressure created during the process has a way of escape. Thus the cheesecloth rather that the secure metal/plastic lid. Tucking this mixture away in a dark cupboard, we allowed it to ferment for a week. By the week’s end, the SCOBY had feasted on the sugar in the tea and grown two fold. Where it started as a same circumference as a can of soda, it now stretched all the way to the walls of the glass jar.

Making Kombucha

After a week of fermenting, we were ready for stage two. We used a juicer to make a about a half gallon of kiwi and orange juice. (You can use pure fruit juice from the store if you wish). Using a dozen mason jars we added the kiwi and orange juice to the jars, and filled them about a third of the way. We then used the built in faucet to fill the jars an addition 50% with the fermented tea. As we had a batch of strawberries, we added a whole strawberry to each of the jars, as well.  We screwed the lids on, making sure not to seal them completely, as again the fermenting process produces gases that could cause the jars to crack or even explode if there is no escape for the gases. We let the jars sit for another week before trying one. After chilling a jar in the fridge and then straining it, we tried it. It has a very vinegary taste to it, with a light, fruity flavor.

IMG_2711

We strained the remaining jars and added them all together in a large jar, which we refrigerate to prevent further fermenting, as this could lead to a higher alcohol level. For fun, we had everyone at a party take a shot of the stuff and had no complaints other than the unique, abrasive flavor. Below is the final product. It’s quite red as the strawberries we striped of their color.

IMG_2713

It is also interesting to note that each mason jar seemed to form a new mini SCOBY and we decided to add all these to a second 1-gallon jar with more sugar and tea to see it it works out. You can see a pile of the new SCOBYs two images above on the right side. The original SCOBY, Scoby-Doo, will produce new layers that are actually new SCOBYs, which is why we bought the second 1-gallon jar to begin with. The second SCOBY is to be called… I can’t remember, actually. It was something related to Lord of the Rings, I believe. Another pun, no doubt.

IMG_2664

The Making of ‘Carol’s Song’ – Music Video

 

 

Lyrics:

Verse one:
She takes love, and warps it,
inks you in next to her scribbles.
Names her child for you, and hits him.
I squeeze the memories from my pores,
and she precipitates acid rain.
Chorus:
For she never loved you until she had use for you,
see we’re always waiting for something.
Even a beautiful song anticipates its crescendo.
Was that sky always so dull?
Verse two:
I fear that a soulless house is not a home.
Holidays are gone now, never to return.
Television never stops.
Please don’t let my Bee fly away.

Felipe Femur Contests

We’ve decided to run two contests for the Felipe Femur website: a fan art contest and a design your own character contest. Both are open worldwide and to all ages. We wanted to raise awareness of the Felipe Femur website and hoped a contest with prizes might encourage people to visit the site and see what it has a to offer. The Felipe Femur Fan Art contest has one prize of a $50.00 gift card and a $127.00 Budsies® stuffed Felipe Femur. The Monster Maker: Design Your Own Monster prize is less tangible but the winner also receives a $50.00 gift card to Toy “R” Us. The winner also gets their monster transformed into a Felipe Femur universe character with a bio page on the website. This contest opens up more space for creativity so the two will be judged slightly differently. The two Felipe Femur contests are free to enter. Click the banner below to learn more on the official contest page on the Felipe Femur website.

Fanart_Contest

Felipe Femur Fan Art Contest

The Felipe Femur Fan Art contest is here!  Participate from April 9th, 2016 to October 31st, 2016 for your chance to win the grand prize of a $50.00 Toys “R” Us gift card and one of a kind 30″ Felipe Femur the friendly skeleton Budsies® plushie. To enter, simply submit an original work of art based on the Felipe Femur universe, and you’ll be entered in the contest for a chance to win the 30″ Felipe Femur Budsies® ($127 value) as well as the $50.00 Toys “R” Us gift card. Send us your best effort at coloring one of our many character sheets found below or try your hand at free hand drawing, painting, sculpting, or utilizing any form of artistic media (film, writing, photography, cooking, etc.) to depict one or more of the characters found in the character corner of this website. All ages are welcome to participate; children are encouraged to. After all, Felipe Femur the skeleton believes that age shouldn’t matter when it comes to making art and using your imagination. All entries must be received by October 31st, 2016 and meet the image formatting guidelines. Check out the prizes below or read the official rules for more information. By submitting you confirm that you have read and agree with our Official Contest Terms and Privacy Policy. For children under the age of eighteen (18) in the USA or under the legal age of consent in their country of origin, a consent form must be filled out by a parent or legal guardian and submitted with entry. Find out more and submit your entry/entries here: Fan Art Contest.

designownmonsters-1

 

Monster Maker: Design Your Own Monster Contest

The Monster Maker: Design Your Own Monster contest is here!  Participate from April 9th, 2016 to October 31st, 2016 for your chance to win the grand prize of a $50.00 Toys “R” Us gift card and the opportunity to have your monster made into a Felipe Femur universe character in the Monster Maker: Design Your Own Monster Contest with a bio page in the character corner section. To enter, simply submit an original work of art based on the Felipe Femur universe, and you’ll be entered in the contest for a chance to win a $50.00 Toys “R” Us gift card and opportunity to have your monster creation made into a Felipe Femur universe character. Try your hand at drawing, painting, sculpting, or utilizing any form of artistic media (film, writing, photography, cooking, etc.) to depict your original creation. Feel free to include a a brief bio and name for your monster. All ages are welcome to participate; children are encouraged to. After all, Felipe Femur the skeleton believes that age shouldn’t matter when it comes to making art and using your imagination. All entries must be received by October 31st, 2016 and meet the image formatting guidelines. Check out the prizes below or read the official rules for more information. By submitting you confirm that you have read and agree with our Official Contest Terms and Privacy Policy. For children under the age of eighteen (18) in the USA or under the legal age of consent in their country of origin, a consent form must be filled out by a parent or legal guardian and submitted with entry. Find out more and submit your entry/entries here: Fan Art Contest.

The Evolution of Felipe Femur

The Evolution of Felipe Femur - original sketch The Evolution of Felipe Femur The Evolution of Felipe Femur

I’d like to think that Felipe Femur has come a long way from being a mere idea in my head for a Halloween themed children’s story character to a developed set of bones with a cast of friends, a website, and series of mobile games. I’d also like to believe that he still has a long way to go. The introverted skeleton with a lot of heart, I think, remains an interesting character and an anchor for his ironic and quirky friends. As such, there are many stories to be told with him and his friends. But Felipe’s future would be nothing if not for his past.

It is perhaps best to begin with a description of Felipe Femur for those who are new to the character: Like most skeletons in the closet, Felipe tends to stay hidden away. In other words, he’s usually a lone wolf, as his friend Gummy the toothless werewolf likes to say. In his closet he loves to build things: forts, houses of cards, and he also loves to solve puzzles, but sometimes he grows bored of these things. On occasions he yearns for time with his friends.  And so he invites them over to pull up a coat hanger and hang out, or he walks to find them. Being the health nut he is, Felipe loves to walk, and in doing so, he meets many new friends, and he meets up with old friends, too. Maybe someday, if you’re out and about, he’ll walk into you! When Felipe doesn’t feel like walking, he’ll sometimes use his magical closet door to travel. The door’s origin is as elusive as Felipe’s past. All that is known is that with a couple twists of his skeleton key, his closet door can open in any location where a closet is found. He never does this uninvited for he has accidentally scared people when they open their closet in search of a sweater and find a surprise skeleton. Felipe loves music and can often be found playing a pair of maracas. He also sometimes plays the bongos and sings in his band, The Skeletones.

We at ZebraFox Games chose to create something that would better the lives of those who stumbled upon it, no matter how small that betterment might be. This was the idea behind the website, but also the original story.  The theme of Felipe Femur came naturally for I’ve always loved the theme of monsters, the thrill of reading spooky stories starting with R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series, and the ironic nature of things such as Alanis Morissette’s song Ironic ironically not being ironic and physic medium conventions being canceled due to unforeseeable circumstances. With an initial idea of an introverted skeleton living in a closet, I brainstormed with the artistic director of ZebraFox Games, David, to get a general idea and the desired direction of the work. With this base idea, I went about writing, struggling with rhymes, alliteration, and the length in order make the original story appeal to children, but making sure to avoid dumbing it down by any means. I believe the original story still carries a very real message: Felipe is an introverted, not shy, protagonist, who shouldn’t be afraid to rely on others once in awhile. In an extroverted world, introverts often struggle. Felipe is all bones with nowhere to hide is inner self for his inner self is his outer self. With the absence of a stomach, nose, and skin, Felipe and his friends illustrate that no one person can do, or at least not be great, at everything, and we must all rely on one another. Making it clear that Felipe has friends challenges the stereotype of introverts as being antisocial weirdos, and depicts them as those that still need social interact, but simple recharge in private, and have solitary hobbies. Felipe Femur was and is intended to be the base upon on which many more related stories may build upon. The original story itself follows Felipe as he helps three of his friends: Gummy the toothless werewolf, Runny the woozy witch, and Sunny the sun-loving vampire. While I had initially imagined it being a print and picture children’s book, it evolved during production to be an interactive bedtime story. The story was paired with a jumping platformer game and made into an Android app. The original title screen for this app can be seen below. It was changed slightly before release, using less colors and showcasing Gummy’s crescent moon shack more than Felipe’s face. This was a decision made by artistic director, David Dorn (I was a fan of the colors myself).

title Screen The Evolution of Felipe Femur

Early on, Felipe Femur had three friends with rhyming names as rhymes are a tool used to get a child’s interest and encourage them to read. Rhymes can be fun, but this became a bit of a problem when we decided to expand the Felipe femur universe to include new friends. I’d already run out of rhymes, save for Mummy. Thus the rhyming friends became Felipe’s inner circle and the new ones settled to be more acquaintances or fair weather friends or even adversaries. Several of these friends made appearances in other ZebraFox Games productions, such as Wesley Richards the cat mayor in City Blocks, as a human nicknamed Zebra in No Proper Thief, and the upcoming Blame (which began before the idea for Felipe Femur was ever conceived). Clyde Lamm the ghost was the protagonist in No Proper Thief, and Oscar the main character of Rock, Paper, Wizards! Dale the profitless salesman makes an appearance in the upcoming Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures app. Perhaps the first character to really get back to the ironic motif of the Felipe Femur universe was Gilli Fishel, a young lagoon creature who has a fear of water. Gilli appears in the Digital Dreidel app, and a couple stories were written from his perspective: The Yawning Deep and Surf Session Lesson. He also appears in the Felipe Femur & Friends neighborhood meet and greet app along with all the others. Melody the mute banshee followed Gilli and became a love interest to the charming Clyde Lamm, making her first appearance in the poem The Theremin’s Melody and a subsequent appearance in Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures. Beyond this, David and I have several characters in mind that includes an idiotic disembodied brain, a humorless clown, a hydrated mummy, a down to earth alien, Joe Miller, who makes his first appearance in Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures, Dale’s competitor, Lucy and the Unicorns, Lurking Larry, and a vegan wendigo.

Since the release of the original Felipe Femur story app, we have released several other games. The popular scary stories app, Halloween Campfire Stories, that features spooky tales from Gummy, Sunny, and Felipe; Dr. Sweet Tooth that is both sweet and gross; Rock, Paper, Wizards! that showcases Oscar Burlin’s story and cameos Runny the witch; Present Danger that has cute plushies of Felipe, Dale, Runny, and Gummy; Digital Dreidel with Gilli Fishel; and Gummy’s Thanksgiving Feast with a very hungry Gummy the toothless werewolf. I took care to make each character have an ironic nature. The four originals have been mentioned, as have the ideas for upcoming characters and Melody the mute banshee, but the newer, presently available, characters are equally ironic. For example, Oscar is a mundane magician. It’s ironic because magicians are all about showmanship and excitement and Oscar is dull. Another is Clyde Lamm who is a spirited spectre, which is unusual as he’s full of life but also dead. Dale is a profitless salesman, and was one of the more difficult characters to think of an ironic quirk. He was a character created by David Dorn long ago for a 100 day 100 painting challenge. He was a good character, but needed something ironic to fit into the Felipe Femur world. After many hours of thinking, I finally had something that worked. He’s profitless because Lurking Larry, a behind the scenes type of character who is never seen but always present, is always stealing Dale’s clients and sales by undercutting his prices.

Below are several of the characters introduced in the original or after. From left to right: Gilli Fishel the lagoon creature, Gummy the toothless werewolf, Clyde Lamm the spirited spectre, Runny the woozy witch, and Oscar Burlin the mundane magician. After Felipe, I’ve found that Sunny the sun-loving vampire was always my personal favorite. David took a particular liking to Gummy the toothless werewolf, as do many people.

gilli gummy Character_Clyde_front runny Oscar

As we had a large and growing cast of ironic monsters and quirky weirdos, we thought it would be a good time to do a meet and greet. Thus the idea for the Felipe Femur & Friends Android app and HTML5 file were born. David and I spent hours visiting children’s sites to see what would be engaging to children and found that besides games, videos, music, that explorable settings like the Beverly Cleary website’s Explore the Neighborhood section were engaging. We wanted to go above and beyond that simple point and click neighborhood; however, and make something where kids and parents could really get a feel for the characters we created. This project was admittedly more in the hands of the artistic director, David, as it is heavily art based. I simply had to write scripts for each character and find voice actors to voice the characters, submit ideas and suggestions for residences, mini games, and touch ups throughout the three month period it took to complete, as well as compile sound effects, promote the app, and write up a press release and app store description. It came out better than expected in my opinion. Now children and parents and even curious adults can hear Felipe and his friends speak, play several mini games, learn more about each character, get links to other free games, and discover plenty of craft and recipes related to the Felipe Femur universe. I must say I was also quite impressed with the voice actors. Felipe Femur and Clyde Lamm, voiced by Dave Soltura, came out particularly well, I think. Check it out in the video below.

Beyond Felipe Femur’s neighborhood, we have plans to expand the music section for the Skeletones and Melody on the website. We frequently update the website with crafts designed by our craft and recipe coordinator, Keely Nesbit, as well as new holiday word searches, coloring sheets, and stories. Educational articles and character corner updates also appear frequently. In addition to the website, I have been working on a word based Felipe femur game titled Felipe Femur: Choice Adventures. This began with the title Felipe Femur: Choice Scares, but I learned from my mistake with the Halloween Campfire Stories app that I shouldn’t imply it’s scary as players are prone to exclaim that they weren’t scared and rate it poorly as such. Even though it’s clearly for kids, as the Halloween Campfire Stories app was, I didn’t want to imply that the game will impart a universal feeling of fear. This new word and choice based app has proven to be quite time consuming. The coding is far more complicated than my sophomoric effort in No Proper Thief, especially given that the first of the three stories is open in exploration rather than linear. On top of the upcoming games, crafts, and activities, we are considering a Felipe Femur Fan Art competition with a small but considerable prize.

60897_126650090719100_2151469_n Felipe_classic dfgsadfg

In conclusion, I believe it’s clear from the images presented alone that Felipe Femur has matured. From a mere sketch in my journal, to a computer painting done by David Dorn, to a more rounded and kid-friendly face with eyeballs in the original Felipe Femur story app, to the short and cute skeleton he is today with a boyish voice (David Soltura) and a library of games and stories, Felipe Femur has grown. In a literal sense he has shrunken two fold, sure, but as far as depth and approachable appearance, he has developed greatly. Above from left to right: myself during an early brainstorming session; early depiction of Felipe Femur; the current official portrayal of Felipe Femur courtesy of David Dorn. Play the new Felipe Femur & Friends app; enjoy free crafts and recipes; print free coloring sheets, bingo cards, and word searches; play games; listen jazz music; and read articles and stories on the official Felipe Femur website.

31 Great Horror-Comedy Films

moviesj

The following is an alphabetical list of thirty-one of the greatest movies in the horror-comedy genre. What is horror-comedy? It’s a film, or type of film, that has a horror theme: aliens, monsters, serial killer, but doesn’t take itself as serious as a traditional horror film such as The Ring (2002), or Insidious (2010). I’ve provided a pair of meters for each movie. The meters (horror and comedy) are balanced, but separate for a quick metal understanding, so when one goes up the other goes down. If you’re not a traditional horror movie fan, perhaps go slow and wade into this list starting with the films that possess higher comedy scores, such as Elvira or Dracula: Dead and Loving it. For everyone else, watch one a night all October to get in the mood for Halloween, or pick one or two to help put on a great Halloween party.

The pictures and titles have been linked to Amazon for your convenience.

Looking for kid friendly Halloween movies? Check out my list of 31 Halloween movies for youths here.

Horror-Comedy List:

Altered (2006)

1. Altered (2006) – [R] Altered starts with an A making it number one, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the best movie on this list. However, for alien enthusiasts, this may very well prove to be their favorite, as it does the alien genre well, with some jump scares and a healthy probing of humor. The action starts immediately in a forest with a spear gun, a need for revenge, and an arsenal of alien traps, and doesn’t let up except to allow a hearty laugh here and there. On the horror-comedy scale it falls more towards the horror camp, with an 8 in horror and a 2 in comedy. Its alien costumes, manners of death, and feeling of the unknown instill dread. This alien film is sure to please, unless you’re a non-believing skeptic, like X-files’ Dr. Scully.

HORROR 08
 COMEDY 02

Army of Darkness (1992)

2. Army of Darkness (1993) – [R] The kings of Horror-comedy, Director Sam Raimi and leading man Bruce Campbell, team up for this masterpiece of the genre. Transported to 1300 AD with a chainsaw-hand and a shotgun, Ash (Bruce Campbell) must teach a group of villagers to survive an approaching skeletal horde attack. More intentionally humorous than its predecessor Evil DeadArmy of Darkness lands itself an 8 on the comedy scale, and a 2 on the horror for the classic Raimi scares.

HORROR 02
COMEDY 08

Bad Milo (2013)

3.  Bad Milo (2013) – [R] A horror-comedy centered around a man who comes to learn that a demon living in his lower intestines is the cause of his stomach pain. The movies illustrates the man’s attempts to tame the demon, and stars a great cast including Peter Stormare in an unusual role. As the Demon, Milo, is ten times cuter than E.T., and the protagonist’s mother pitches some awkward table talk, Bad Milo gets a 8 in comedy and a 3 in horror, mainly for the blood and idea of that thing crawling up somebody’s ass.

HORROR 03
COMEDY 07

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

 4. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) – [R] And you thought Elvis was a goner. Not in this film. He’s alive and residing in a nursing home. Together with a man who claims to be JFK, they fight for the souls of their fellow residents, battling an ancient Egyptian Mummy. Bubba Ho-Tep maintains a good amount of tension granting it a 5 on the horror scale, and is humorous to boot, landing it a 7 on the comedy scale.

HORROR 05
COMEDY 05

cabin

5. Cabin in the Woods (2012) – [R] A group of young adults spend a weekend in a secluded cabin, but something’s not quite right. One of the few horror-comedies that was met with massive mainstream attention and praise. I can’t say much about the film without ruining it, other than it’s a group of horror cliches doing not so cliche things. You’ll just have to take my word for it and watch it.  5 in horror and 5 in comedy.

HORROR 05
COMEDY 05

Cursed (2005)

 6. Cursed (2005) – [PG-13] A brother and sister find themselves cursed with the mark of the beast. The sound track is great, with an opening cover by Bowling for Soup. The werewolves are incredibly agile and surprisingly scary, but there is definitely comedy mixed in with this one. Overall, this has your typical werewolf movie aspects, such as new found strength and sensitivity, but Wes Craven keeps it feeling fresh, interesting, and altogether satisfying. There are a few twists to keep you guessing, as well. More horror than comedy, the film gets a 6 in horror and 4 in comedy.

HORROR 06
COMEDY 04

Dead End (2003)

 7. Dead End (2003) – [R] A family car ride takes a turn for the worst. Ray Wise and Lin Shaye play a great bickering couple in a car with their two adult children and their daughter’s boyfriend. On their way to a holiday dinner, Frank (Ray Wise) takes the scenic route, but it seems to never end. The longer the family travels the more apparent it becomes something is terribly wrong. The twist ending rivals The Usual Suspects (1995) and Psycho (1960), and the feeling of dread is palpable. However the cast delivers believable, yet hilarious performances as well, and there are plenty of genuine laughs to be had at their expense.  Dead End lands right in the middle of the scale, half horror, half comedy.

HORROR 05
COMEDY 05

Detour (2003)

 8. Detour (2003) – [R] In search for cannabis a group of attractive teens find cannibals instead. Ignore the opening scene that looks as if it were shot on a handheld camcorder. The production value of the rest of the film eclipses this tarnish on an otherwise awesome film. This movie has surprisingly well done character arcs, if you can roll with the ditsy girls and the gangster white boy for the first half. The gore and deaths are well done, and the cast of characters are a fun group, so the horror is balanced out by their comical reactions with lines like “That girl’s got a ba-donk-a-diezzy,” and of course the eye candy that is the majority of the cast. As such the film receives a balanced horror-comedy score of 5-5.

HORROR 05
COMEDY 05

Dog Soldiers (2002)

 9. Dog Soldiers (2002) – [R] A military exercise in Scotland goes to the dogs. These are the best looking werewolves on this list, and the terror is intense with all the action in this film. Paper beats rock, Scissors beats paper, Wolf beats automatic weapon. There are some great moments of comedy in this film, as well, for humor is a way of coping with the horrors of the world. And the dog soldiers top that list of world horrors. Mostly horror with a bite of comedy, Dog Soldiers gets 7-3 horror-comedy score.

HORROR 07
COMEDY 03

Dracula Dead and Loving It (1995)

 10. Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) – [PG-13] A classic Mel Brooks parody, this time a lampoon of Bram Stocker’s Dracula, starring Leslie Nielsen as Count Dracula. This remains one of Mel Brooks’ most underrated films, and i think it is one of the best comedies of the 1990s, far better than the more modern spoof movies, such as Superhero Movie and (2008) and Epic Movie (2007), although i must admit Vampires Suck (2010) made me laugh. The jokes in this work are timed perfectly, and Leslie Nielsen is on top of his game. The only horror this film contains is the vampire theme, some enthusiastic bug eating, and the suggestion of death. It’s mostly humor not horror, thus it gets a 1-9 on the horror-comedy scale.

HORROR 01
COMEDY 09

Drag Me To Hell (2009)

 11. Drag Me To Hell (2009) – [PG-13] A young loan officer evicts a gypsy from her home and finds herself the recipient of a curse. Director Sam Raimi delivers another masterpiece with Drag Me to Hell, starring not Bruce Campbell but the beautiful Alison Lohman. There are quite a few disgusting and horrific moments in the movie. The horror in this movie is both an immediate searing, followed by a slow burn when days later you’re still wondering if a gift is really a gift or perhaps someone is trying to curse you. The film has comedy as well, though most of it has to do with Lohman’s desperate choices and animals. Drag Me to Hell scores a 7-3 on the horror-comedy scale.

HORROR 07
COMEDY 03

Elvira (1988)

 12. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) – [PG-13] Horror hostess Elvira drives to an uptight town when her Great Aunt dies, in order to claim her inheritance: a haunted house, a poodle, and a witch’s cookbook spellbook, but her creepy uncle proves to be a problem. As do some local prudes. Cassandra Peterson delivers a pun filled, fun performance as Elvira, and the whole movie is lighthearted and enjoyable. Some implied horror is all this movie provides, so like Dracula: Dead and Loving ItElvira get a 1-9 on the horror-comedy scale.

 HORROR 01
COMEDY 09

Evil Dead (1981)

 13. Evil Dead (1981) – [NC-17] Five friends plan to spend the weekend at a cabin in the woods, but they unwittingly release demons. The special effects in the 1981 Evil Dead are laughably bad, and yet there is something to be said for a movie that  takes it to level Evil Dead does, especially with a lack of resources. Probably the weakest of the three Evil Dead movies as far as humor goes, and while it does have scares,  the real humor in this one is that it pretends to take itself seriously, and mocks the horror genre of its time. For a real good time, Watch this, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness consecutively and see how Bruce Campbell really develops the Ash character. An even 5-5 on the horror-comedy meters.

HORROR 05
COMEDY 05

Feast (2005)

 14. Feast (2005) – [R] A deadly family of monsters attacks the patrons of a seedy bar. The patrons must fight for their lives. What makes this movie great is that it pokes fun of the horror genre, much like Evil Dead. It leads viewers to think the classic horror movie tropes are going to take place, then flips the cliched events on their heads. It’s an unpredictable gore fest, with plenty of creative deaths. The entire trilogy is worth a watch, but the original Feast is the best of the bunch. This would be higher on the horror meter if it weren’t for the constant lampooning of the genre. So while yes, it does provide plenty of scares, it also delivers a monster amount of laughs. 6-4 on the horror comedy meter.

HORROR 06
COMEDY 04

Ginger Snaps (2000)

 15. Ginger Snaps (2000) – [UR] Two gloomy sisters must deal with the fact one of them has been bitten by a deadly werewolf and is acting a bit strange. This remains my all time favorite horror-comedy. It’s got  an interesting take on werewolves, beautiful scenes and lead actresses, and the best opening montage of any movie. The film met with some success and spun off both a sequel and a very loosely tied prequel, but the original Ginger Snaps is the sharpest film of the three. The events of the film all take place around Halloween so it really captures the feel of the season, and there is blood and gore enough to satisfy horror movie fans, and enough laughs to keep the rest entertained. 7-3 on the horror-comedy meter.

HORROR 07
COMEDY 03

I Sell the Dead (2008)

 16. I Sell the Dead (2008) – [NR] An 18th century grave robber recounts his often times bizarre crimes before his execution. This is really a creepy, Odyssey-like adventure, with unbelievable encounters, and a journey of discovery. There are certainly some scares to be had while watching, but the charming cast and whimsical sound track tone even the scariest of events down into mostly humorous time. You might “never, ever trust a corpse,” but trust me when i say, this is one of the greats in the Horror-comedy genre. 2 on the horror scale for the depiction of otherworldly beings, and 8 and the comedy scale for the fantastic humor.

HORROR 02
COMEDY 08

Idle Hands (1999)

 17. Idle Hands (1999) – It’s that awesome movie you saw that one night on the SyFy Channel and could never find again (until now). You know, that one with a beautiful, young Jessica Alba, and a hilarious Seth Green as a zombie, and the clever title you couldn’t remember for the life of you. More specifically, Idle Hands is about a lazy stoner’s hand becoming  possessed by a murderous spirit. “Idle hands are the Devil’s playthings.” See, it is a clever title. And a clever movie at that. It does have some truly horrific moments, but is mostly funny… Unless you watch the alternate ending, then just bump that horror bar up to a 7 from its 3. It will suck the humor right out of the rest, which probably explains why they changed it. 7 on the comedy meter, as is.

HORROR 03
COMEDY 07

Jennifer's Body (2009)

 18. Jennifer’s Body (2009) – [R] After being separated by a terrible concert house fire (inspired by true events) and an even more terrible pop-rock band, best friends Jennifer and Needy are reunited, but Jennifer has a new found hunger for young men. A totally different appetite than the promiscuous cheerleader flaunted before the accident. If you saw Transformers and didn’t really care for Megan Fox, this movie might very well change your view on the young actress. The performances are all great, the effects too, and the story is well written. If you’re anything like me, and didn’t even realized this was not a porno but rather a clever horror-comedy, definitely give it a shot. There’s no nudity, but the entertainment value is top notch. 7 on the horror meter for the demonic nature, and 3 comedy for the narration by Needy (Amanda Seyfried).

HORROR 07
COMEDY 03

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

 19. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) – [PG-13] Aliens disguised as creepy clowns come to earth in a circus tent space craft and terrorize a small town. It’s easy to see why this movie would score so high on the horror meter: it’s killer clowns! Clowns! You can’t ask a group of five people to name their top fear with out three of them hollering out “Clowns. Definitely clowns.” This movie is made of nightmares, with cotton-candy cocoons for their food, like spiders.Spiders! And their food just happens to be people. Supposedly a sequel is coming to theaters in the near future, so get your washing machines ready to clean your whitey-tightys. 9-1 on the horror-comedy meter.

HORROR 09
COMEDY 01

nigh

 20. Night of the Living Dorks (2004) – [UR] Three loser friends get into an accident, but when they wake up on cold metal tables at the morgue, they aren’t quite dead. German with English Subtitles, and an English dubbed version if that floats your boat. This movie provides an interesting twist on both the origin and nature of zombies. Overall, it has only a few spooky moments, making this lean far more to the comedy side of things with a 2-8 on the horror-comedy meter.

HORROR 02
COMEDY 08

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

21. Return of the Living Dead (1985) – [R] When a couple of warehouse employees accidentally release a strange gas into the air, the vapors lead to the raising of the dead in a nearby graveyard. Not part of George A. Ramero’s living dead series of films, despite what the name might lead you to presume. At best it’s an unofficial sequel to the 1968 Night of the Living Dead, but really it stands alone as a great horror-comedy. It falls right in the middle of the horror-comedy scale.

HORROR 05
COMEDY 05

Satan's Little Helper (2004)

 22. Satan’s Little Helper (2004) – [R] A young boy, obsessed with both a video game and his older sister, unwittingly helps a serial killer on his night of Halloween mayhem. Also features Katheryn Winnick of the The History Channel’s Vikings (2013), in a revealing Halloween wench costume. It’s a one of a kind gem in the horror-comedy genre, and also has a great poster.  I have it in my living room, as a matter of fact, and it’s a great conversation piece. The sheer degree of murders and and the methods of each are what make this movie more horror than comedy, thought there are still plenty of laughs. You might feel a little urge to punch the lead kid as well, but that will pass. Eventually. A 7-3 on the horror-comedy scale.

HORROR 07
COMEDY 03

Serial Killing 101 (2004)

 23. Serial Killing 101 (2004) – [R] To impress his Gothic-beauty crush, Sasha (Lisa Loeb), Casey Noland wears Marilyn Manson shirts, acts aloof, and submits serial killer at his profession of choice in class. Together they plan out his perfect first murder, until something else comes up: a real murder. This is a dark but charming movie about young love and feeling lost as far as direction in life goes. Thomas Haden Church appears in the film, as well, as a hilarious gym teacher and bane of Casey’s existence, as he’s not athletic. The film gets an even 5-5. Of course 5 is an odd number… Odd like this film. There. Salvaged that slip up.

HORROR 05
COMEDY 05

Shawn of the Dead (2004)

 24. Shaun of the Dead (2004) – [R] Shaun wakes up to a world of Zombies and journeys to save his mother, ex girlfriend, and her roommates, then holds up in the Winchester pub. Most everyone has at least heard of this one, if not seen it. After all Simon Pegg went on to do the popular movies Hot Fuzz (2007), Paul (2011), and The World’s End (2013). As such, there isn’t much more to say other than there is a gratuitous amount of blood and gore, but far more humor to outweigh the heaviness of such imagery. So grab a pint, and watch this fine film.

HORROR 02
COMEDY 08

Slither (2006)

 25. Slither (2006) – [R] A small town is plagued by a horde of slug-like parasites, which turns residents into all forms of mutants. Nathan Fillion of Firefly (2002-2003) costars in this fine horror-comedy. There are plenty of disgusting moments, and many scary ones, with humor sewn throughout. You’ll never be able to ask your uncle Clevis to pass you that possum (bowl of mashed potatoes) without laughing ever again. As most people are afraid of body disfigurement and gruesome deaths Slither scores an 8-2 on the horror-comedy meter.

HORROR 08
COMEDY 02

Stitches (2012)

 26. Stitches (2012) – [R] A clown rises from the grave to seek revenge on those who took his life during a fatal party accident. Don’t judge a movie by its cover, or description for that matter. This proves to be good advice, at least for this movie. At first glace it appears to be another generic slasher film, but the pulpy content within is something far better. This film has a unique sense of humor, and while featuring a clown like Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Stitches the clown is far more earthly and relatable, while remaining frightening. The used of the clown nose is particularly good. 6-4 on the horror-comedy meter.

HORROR 06
COMEDY 04

Suck (2009)

 27. Suck (2009) – [R] A horror-comedy centered around a rock band, which will do anything to become famous. Anything. This film features some very interesting camera techniques and music, as well as travel transitions, and has a fascinating cast. While not jump out of your seat scary, the lengths the band members go to, along with the blood and gore that entails, lead this to have a real horror aspect to it, especially with the “What happens on the road, stays on the road” mentality they all adopt.  Alice Cooper, Moby, a Iggy Pop make cameo appearances. 2-8 on the horror-comedy scale.

 HORROR 02
COMEDY 08

Trick 'r Treat  (2007)

 28. Trick ‘r Treat  (2007) – [R] Four loosely interwoven stories, which all occur on Halloween: 1.) A high school principal has a skeleton (or a few) in his closet; 2.) a young virgin girl might just lose the big V; 3.) a group of kids pull a mean prank on a handicapped girl; 4.) a bitter old man faces his past, and a little something more while he’s at it. This is perfect film to play at an adult Halloween party if music just isn’t enough, or you have a room of movie lovers. As it’s four fully encapsulated parts, there’s no need to miss the plot points of a typical linear movie in order to use the restroom, or to grab refreshments, or mingle. Great acting and great fun. 8-2 on the horror-comedy meter.

HORROR 08
COMEDY 02

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

 29. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) – [R] Tucker & Dale are on vacation at their newly purchased  mountain cabin when a group of college kids stumble upon them and think them dangerous. While there’s plenty of gore and blood in this movie, there just happens to be a lack of a true hacking-and-slashing antagonist. Stereotypes and paranoia do all the work. This is really a full on, roll on the floor with laughter, comedy wrapped up in a horror movie skin. The funniest film on the list, but again very bloody. 1-9 on the horror-comedy scale.

HORROR 01
COMEDY 09

Warm Bodies (2013)

30. Warm Bodies (2013) – [PG-13]  A still-living girl and a zombie boy form a relationship that sets in motion events that might transform the dead infested world as they know it. A reflective, introspective zombie with a heart… you know, a heart actually capable of love, not just a shriveled up organ, makes even the scariest moments funny with his comments. 2-8 on the horror-comedy scale for the bonies.

HORROR 02
COMEDY 08

Zombieland (2009)

 31. Zombieland (2009) –  When a zombie apocalypse happens, a shy young man teams up with a shotgun-toting tough guy, and joins him on his quest to find Twinkies until they run in two sisters and a large horde of Zombies. Features an all-star cast, including Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and possibly the best cameo of all time. This is the theme-park to the carnival of all other zombie movies, and a must watch. 3-7 on the horror-comedy meter.

HORROR 03
COMEDY 07

 

“Average” contemporary Japanese women in contrast to Kogals

japanese_women

“Average” contemporary Japanese women in contrast to Kogals

Makeup, Media, and Language

 2009

Japan may be the land of the rising sun, but the sun has yet to truly rise on gender equality.  There is in fact, perhaps surprisingly, an abundance of gender discourses for both Japanese men and women; however, anything that deviates too far from the “norm” is pressured to conform by means of social control tactics—peer pressure for example. Various subcultures challenge these gender ideologies, such as the Kogals.

Japanese women usually remain situated in domestic roles (Childs 1997: 446). This is the case in that conventional understanding of gender relations within Japan has separated spheres of work and the home—men into the place of work and women in the home (Manrique 2008: 245).The gender ideology of men outside and women inside the home originated and developed from the Meiji nationalist gender ideology. Furthermore, this line of thought still dominates gender relations in Japan “… regardless of drastic changes in the social, political, and economic domains (Ashikari 2003: 13).” Moreover Ashikari (2003) affirms that “[a]nthropological studies of Japanese society point out that the terms soto and uchi…” or outside and home, “… are frequently used to describe gender relations (13).” For instance—as Ashikari (2003) states—“men work soto and women manage uchi.” The “rigidity of the institutional sex segregation (Ogasawara 1998: 166),” is personified in the hardworking sarariman (salary man) and the OL (office lady).  In the “typical” job track, women are treated separately and differently. This is namely in the “masculine” business world of the company, where women are expected to be “feminine” employees who are referred to by the well known title “OL”—”Office Lady (Ashikari 2003: 17). In fact women are often criticized for not wearing makeup in the office, especially board meetings, in that to not wear it is to challenge the characteristically feminine gender role and thus the norm. In fact Ashikari (2003) mentions a few women who were “…asked to wear makeup by their male bosses, because they looked “cheeky” or “rude and asocial” if they did not (11).” This inflexible set of roles remains the norm despite any formal or informal changes in women’s employment circumstances (Ogasawara 1998: 166).  In addition to this professional level pressure to conform, there is the personal relationship level as well.

The majority of men “… continue to seek traditional homemakers to cook, clean, and rear children…” while “… women seek a more equal partnership (Borovoy 2002: 1036).” The former is further explained in that within “…Japan there is a negative association between 1) educational attainment and attitudes towards the gendered division of labor, 2) these attitudes and employment and 3) educational attainment and employment (Manrique 2008: 245).”

It is important to note that most women, even office ladies, remove themselves from the work place after having a child. This is for several reasons including a type of social and peer pressure as well as finances. Indeed “… Japanese society forces women into living up to the ideal of constant nurturer by threatening a barrage of criticism if they seem inadequate to the task (Napier 1996: 359)” This sort of pressure appears to be a constant throughout Japanese society concerning anything deemed “abnormal,” as will later be discussed. Financial issue arise as well, for example Japanese women have “…been supported as housewives through a system of family wages, and they enjoy a great deal of financial stability and independence in their marriages that American stay-at-home wives and mothers do not (Borovoy 2002: 1037).” This seem appealing to many, especially given the fact that women are paid less. In fact, one government survey taken in 1991 demonstrates that a female teenager is paid an average of 91.2 percent of her male equivalent’s wage; this falls to 82.3 percent in her late twenties, and finally to 52.4 percent in her late forties (Ohashi 1993: 102). Even so, many women opt to remain active in the work force and thus lead a dual life in a sense of managing both the work and home spheres. Government policies reflect this gender inequality in that they “… place the burden of caring for the elderly on individual women (Childs 1997: 446).” While there are obvious similarities between Japan and the United States in certain aspects, such as the pay gradient and women being expected to care for the home, there remains the difference of increasing equality of gender roles in America.

Japanese women have constructed “… an imagined America…” as being “… a looking glass for an imagined Japan… (Borovoy 2002: 1037).” These women utilize the West as a means of criticizing gender relations in Japan. This is distinctively the case in the concept of using women primarily as temporary and low-skilled labor as well as the notion of marriage as being founded on a gendered division of labor (Borovoy 2002: 1035). These women also challenge the ideology that women should be submissive and thus not express their opinion. In fact “[i]n popular conduct literature, women are told that expressing their ideas too directly is bad etiquette (Miller 2004: 238).” One young woman describes, in an example that truly exemplifies this notion, that “… in Japan I had no confidence in myself… [b]ut after I went to America I experienced freedom! For the first time I discovered my own opinions about things. By being in America I became confident” (Kelsky 2001: 122). Understanding how Japanese women can abide by these rigid gender roles is further compounded by the “phenomenon of ‘internationalism’ (Borovoy 2002: 1035).” This is especially bizarre in that Japan is an advanced industrialized country, though Japan may have its reason as the following quote on the birth control pill reveals:

“Japan remains one of the few industrialized countries not to give women access to the Pill. Japanese feminists say the underlying reason is the dropping birth rate among women–now at 1.39 children per woman. Officials worry that there will not be enough young people to look after the older population (Anonymous 1999: 5).”

Internationalism, in this sense, represents a sort of access to a global view of the world. A crucial component concerning this contemporary internationalism is women’s exploration of their sexuality as well as the “fetish of the white man (Kelsky 2001: 133).” Just as the White woman is an object of desire for Chinese men (Schein 1997: 481), the Caucasian male—also sometimes black men—are often objects of desire to Japanese women. Borovoy (2002) makes this clear when stating, “In internationalist discourse white men function as a key signifier of male potency and upward mobility, whereas Japanese men are portrayed as infantile, tasteless, selfish, and provincial (1036).” This seems not to be the case for Japanese men and White women. While white men and Japanese women are consistently paired, white women and Japanese men are typically “written out of the global rainbow (Borovoy 2002: 1036).” This could be for various reasons including Japanese male insecurities and especially the gender roles they participate in and even embrace.

Another important factor in describing the contemporary Japanese women is makeup. While makeup may seem to be an aspect that celebrities influence in America, in Japan the poorer classes sometimes define the look that the wealthy try to achieve (Martinez 2002: 37) such as the middle-class Kogals, as to be discussed later. As the previous discussion of women in the workforce alluded to, make up is essential. Ashikari (2003) puts it best when affirming that “[t]he un-made-up middle-class woman in public gives the impression, regardless of her intentions, that she does not appreciate the values of traditional feminine virtues and that she is challenging not only social norms in general but also the gender ideology (11).” The only place some women feel secure in not wearing makeup is in the home. Outside the home is basically the physical sphere where a middle-class woman feels that she needs to wear makeup, though this “varies according to persons and contexts in everyday life (Ashikari 2003: 12).” Nevertheless, this pressure to conform seems to be effective in that the greater part of women—more than 95 percent of them according to one survey—wear makeup in public places. Thus if a woman appeared with an unmade face in public, she would without doubt be making a statement (Ashikari 2003: 5). Table 1 demonstrates the number of women surveyed that wear makeup on a regular basis—the results clearly show that the majority of the time, a minimum of a foundation is applied. A specific type of foundation is white face which is essentially a type of foundation that, when applied, makes Japanese women appear whiter than they are. And though this style transcends modern Japan a more discreet form of it “… is still used as a means of representing the dominant forms of femininity based on the gender ideology in the everyday life… (Ashikari 2003: 9).” And while makeup seems to be a mechanism in which Japanese men can objectify women, it can “… also be used to make political statements (Martinez 2002: 37)” such as in the case of the Kogals which will now be further explored.

As Japanese society advances and changes, it is greatly influenced by a highly globalized world and as such relationships are gradually shifting (Manrique 2008: 245). Furthermore, young Japanese girls have developed into a recognizable presence worldwide, “… as conspicuous consumers of high-end fashion goods, as students at major private universities, and as workers in global finance corporations (Borovoy 2002: 1035).” Though in the midst of the many subcultures existing within Japan, perhaps the one that has become the focus of such “mainstream anxiety and voyeuristic interest (Miller 2004: 224)” is the young women known as Kogals (kogyoru/ こぎゃる) This name is the “… mainstream media label used to describe young women between the ages of 14 and 22 who project new types of fashion, behavior, and language (Miller 2004: 225).” It is believed that Kogal is derived from the morpheme ko/ (“small” or “child”) and gyaru/ ギャル (the borrowed English word “girl”.) This is a name that outside sources gave them—they typically refer to each other and themselves as simply gyaru (‘Girl’).

Kogal fashion puts emphasis on fakeness and outlandish behavior “… through playful appropriation of the elegant and the awful” and this sometimes“…yields the ganguro (‘blackface’) style (Miller 2004: 227).” The ganguro (がんぐろ) audaciousness challenges the norms of feminine beauty by means of her anti-pretty aesthetic, which thus questions the naturalness of gender stereotypes. This is portrayed in image 1. This Kogal identity is not simply a fashion but a performance as well, which embodies “… various forms of resistance, from language use and behavior to body display (Miller 2004: 228).” In fact, “… her gender-transgressing identity and language style challenge longstanding norms of adolescent femininity (Miller 2004: 224).”

This subculture is not a huge percentage of the teenage population; however, the significance of the Kogal trend is not in the numbers, but in how “… Kogals symbolize the ongoing redefinition of women in late capitalism (Miller 2004: 225).” The Kogals treat ethnicity as a performance, and this is apparent in their utilization of racial symbols, such as skin color, eye color and hair. Kogals are not the only women who criticize the salary man image (Miller 1998), but they are of interest in that they seem much more overt and active in their expressions of disdain for these men and what they represent. But while other Japanese women do this without anyone knowing, Kogals take some enjoyment in their blatant explicitness

In addition to Kogals, there have been many other subcultures that have challenged gender stereotypes. For example, throughout the 1920s there were Kiss Girls who traded kisses for a small fee (Nakayama 1995). In addition, there was the 1986 term Three-Beru Girl (三べる・ギャル), derived from three words ending in beru, (taberu “eat,” shaberu “talk,” and toraberu “get in trouble”) and the 1991 term Old Bag Girl (おふくろ・ギャル), which is in reference to a young girl who is completely dependent on her mother (Yonekawa 1996: 152)

Furthermore, “a recent type is the Pajamas Girl (jinbei gyaru), a young woman who lazes around the house wearing old-fashioned old-men’s-style pajamas (Miller 2004: 227).” Nevertheless, the most similar group to the Kogals was the pre-war Moga, derived from modan gyaru/ モダン・ギャル or Modern Girl. “Moga were a new social class of working women who shocked Japanese society with their independence, fashion, and suspected promiscuity (Silverberg, 1991).” While the Moga and Kogals are similar in that aspect, they differ in that while the Moga challenged Japanese society by seeking independence and economic self-sufficiency, the Kogals threaten the contemporary gender organization through their personification of criticism of modern society such as misuse of the traditional language and being outspoken with their opinions. So while they do attribute their look to a performance of ethnicity “…they do not consider the English-based Japanese they use as something that belongs to another group of people (Miller 2004: 235-236).” The Kogals thus challenge contemporary demands of femininity by speaking in outspoken and surprising ways. This sort of slang is controversial in that “[i]n Japan, the notion of a singular women’s language was a longstanding ideological construct stemming from Meiji-era social and educational reforms (Inoue, 2002: 392).”  While the Kogals are changing part of the language and thus the definition of femininity, they “… are not attempting to be masculine… (Matsumoto, 1996).” Nevertheless, Kogals and other young Japanese are blamed for partly ruining the country’s language or of having forgotten how to converse in it (Sakurai 1985). An example of what Kogals do is in cultivating“… riiman from sarariiman (‘salaryman’) (Miller 2004: 232).” Even in this simple twist and use of language it is apparent that Kogals feel a need to express themselves and in fact “… Kogals like to read about one another’s opinions (Miller, 237).”

Part of the concern over the Kogals group is that they—along with other young girls—are assumed to be the next generation of Office Ladies as well as salary men companions, who are being tarnished by the Kogal lifestyle (Kuronuma 1996). And this notion “… stems partly from the fact that Japanese orient to a model of society in which everyone is thought to be middle-class (Kelly 1986: 603).

To combat this deviation from the norm, the Japanese majority exerts social pressure in order to coax the Kogals into conformity. This is clearly parallel to the concept of makeup and the previously mentioned Office Ladies. This social pressure includes derogatory name calling and negative labels such as yamanba/山姥 (mountain ogress) in reference to the white rimmed eyes and dark face that are reminiscent of the noh play and folklore monster. However, ganguro girls have coped with this particular derogatory term, in that they “… cynically adopted the term yamamba and use it to refer to themselves, often in the cheeky form mamba (Miller 2004: 240).” However, the oppression remains a powerful factor in Japanese society. In fact Miller (2004) affirms that “… [w]hen famous Kogals do abandon the fashion associated with the subculture, the media celebrates this as proof that the trend is only a transitional adolescent stage (241).” However, this use of the media to discourage—as in most aspects of life—varies. For example, television tends to instill domesticity and contemporary gender roles as the key to women’s happiness, while in the case of magazines as heartening women to enjoy themselves (Childs 1997: 446). In fact, regarding television, popular drama shows “… about domestic life initially seems to present a variety of possible life styles for women, but ends up overwhelmingly reinforcing stereotypes of women’s proper place within the traditional family system (Napier 1996: 358).” Furthermore, television women are habitually depicted as lazy shufu/しゅふ (housewives) in the Japanese mass media (Ashikari 2003: 14). And though the media influences the Kogals, they remain “… agents in the creation of their own subculture even (Giddens 1979).” Furthermore, and in contrast to the bulk of the populations’ beliefs—apparent with the praising of stars getting out of the Kogals look—is more than just an aesthetic style—it is a total life style, much of which they retain. Miller (2004) reveals the “… term datsu gyaru (‘give up being a Girl’ or ‘Girl-culture dropout’) indicates that being a Kogal is a lifestyle or an identity and is not simply fashion (241).” So while Kogals may relinquish their unique sub-cultural identities, it is doubtful that they will choose to live merely for the sake of their families and the home when they enter adulthood.

Tamanoi suggests that Japan is considered to be deficient in “the scholarly prestige of cultures” and thus it is “hardly expected to contribute to the theories of anthropology” hence the stereotypes imposed on the totality of Japanese people still dominate (225).” Nevertheless, it has been seen with the Kogals that “… there is no simple image of Japanese womanhood. In fact, the range of images can sometimes overwhelm the reader (Napier 1996: 360).” So while there are obviously numerous gender discourses and gender depictions in modern Japan, the “traditional” gender ideology—namely men working outside the home and women managing the home—keeps its prevailing place among them (Ashikari 2003: 3). Thus the most significant role of Japanese men is to work meticulously for a corporation, while that of women is to care for their families and home (Allison 1994). Furthermore—as explored previously—the “career woman” who refuse to be stay-at-home mothers provide the “… stereotype of women who are not ‘feminine’ and thus not desirab+le as wives (Ashikari 2003: 15).” In addition the stereotype of young girls and housewives consists of exaggerated idleness, egocentricity, unreliability, and extravagance as consumers. This “…ideology fosters dominant and pervasive gender stereotypes—a hardworking sarariman husband and a lazy shufu (housewife) (Ashikari 2003: 14).” As a result, Ashikari (2003) suggests, that the gender stereotypes characterize the concept that men with their duty of providing financially are more important than their female counterparts with their task of managing the family (15).

In conclusion, the contemporary Japanese woman is in reality a multitude of different types and subcultures of women, but one stereotype—that of a submissive and self sacrificing woman, who relies on the man’s “superior” intellect—remains the “norm.” This leaves many Japanese women in a paradox in that men want them to be this way, but they also want an education and to be more independent. This can be seen in their desire for the independent Western culture as well as the white man.  It is further realized in the example of Kogals—the valley girls of Japan— who challenge gender and social norms through performance of ethnicity and the breaking down of the traditional Japanese language. Japanese society continues to try to quash these deviations from the “norm” using tactics such as peer and social pressure as well as praising for what they deem proper behavior—as seen with the Kogal stars and their abandoning of the aesthetic style. And while Japan may be an advanced and industrialized culture, it still has quite a way to go before gender equality is a reality.

 Citation:

Allison, Anne
1994 Night Work: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Anonymous.
1999 Japan protests over Viagra. Off Our Backs. Washington: Vol. 29 (3): 5.
Ashikari, Mikiko
2003 Urban Middle-Class Japanese Women and Their White Faces: Gender, Ideology, and
Representation: Ethos Volume 31(1): 3 – 37.
Borovoy, Amy
2002 Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams American Ethnologist
Volume 29 (4): 1035 -1037.
Childs, Margaret H.
1997 Re-Imaging Japanese Women, Anne E. Imamura. ed. Berkeley: University of California
Press, American Anthropologist. Volume 99(2): 446 – 447.
Giddens, Anthony
1979 Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure, and Contradiction in Social
Analysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.
 Inoue, Miyako
2002 Gender, Language, and Modernity: Toward an Effective History of Japanese Women’s
Language. American Ethnologist 29(2): 392 – 422.
Kelly, William
1986 Rationalization and Nostalgia: Cultural Dynamics of New Middle Class Japan.
American Ethnologist 13(4): 603.
Kelsky, Karen
2001 Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams. Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, IX: 122-133.
 Kuronuma, Katsushi
1996 Enjo kyosai (Subsidized Companionship). Tokyo: Bungei Shinjyu.
Manrique, Cecilia
2008 Gender and Career in Japan Journal of International Women’s Studies. Bridgewater:
Vol.10 (2): 245.
Martinez, Luz Maria
2002 A Second Look At Make-Up Women in Action. Quezon City. (3): 37
Matsumoto, Yoshiko
1996 Does Less Feminine Speech in Japanese Mean Less Femininity? In Gender and
Belief Systems: Proceedings of the Fourth Berkeley Women and Language Conference.
Natasha Warner, Jocelyn Ahlers, Leela Bilmes, Monica Oliver, Suzanne Wertheim,
and Melinda Chen, eds. Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group.
 Miller, Laura
2004 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology Those Naughty Teenage Girls: Japanese Kogals, Slang, and
Media Assessments: Volume 14 (2): 225 – 247
Miller, Laura
1998 “Bad Girls”: Representations of Unsuitable, Unfit, and Unsatisfactory Women in
Magazines. U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal 15.
Nakayama, Yoshigoro
1995 A Collection of Dictionaries of Modern Terminology. Manga Dictionary
of Modern Language. Volume 19. Tokyo: Ozarasha.
Napier, Susan I.
1996 Re-Imaging Japanese Women. Anne Imamura, ed. Berkeley: University of California
Press, (xii): 358.
Ogasawara, Yuko
1998 Office Ladies and Salaried Men: Power, Gender, and Work in Japanese Companies.
Berkeley: University of California Press. 166.
Ohashi, Terue
1993 Sociology of an increasing tendency to stay unmarried. Tokyo: NHK Books. 102.
Sakurai, Tetsuo
1985 Kotoba o ushinatta wakamonotachi (Young People Who Have Forgotten Language).
Tokyo: Kodansha.
Schein, Louisa
1997 The Consumption of Color and the Politics of White Skin in Post-Mao China in the
Gender sexuality Reader by Lancaster, Roger N. & Micaela di Leonardo. 1997 Routledge. 481.
Silverberg, Miriam
1991 The Modern Girl as Militant. In Recreating the Japanese Woman, 1800–1940. Gail L.
Bernstein, ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. 239–266.
Yonekawa, Akihiko
1996 Analysis of Contemporary Youth Language. Tokyo: Maruzen.
 

graph

TABLE 1: Number of Women Answering That They Wore Particular Makeup Products on a daily basis

2C143C6600000578-3227082-image-m-10_1441754638755

Image 1: A ganguro woman

Image 2: Trio of Kogals

 

Clear and Present Danger

Clear and Present Danger

 

Present_Danger

ZebraFox Games has released a new Android app just in time for Christmas. Present Danger combines the elements of a classic clicker game and the chance of a slot machine, which is apt given that David worked on designing art for slot machines in Reno, NV for several years. The app is free with occasional ads, and allows players to collect weapons, armor, food, and toys in preparation of battle against Krampus. Toys include plushies with perhaps familiar faces: Felipe Femur the Skeleton, Gummy the Toothless Werewolf, and Runny the Sniffling Witch.  Below is the store description I wrote with more information on the free holiday game. Download: Present Danger.

Warning: clear and present danger of holiday fun!

With the clear and present danger of the holiday season—cut throat shoppers, deadlines, monsters—one can never be too prepared. Stock up on swords, boomerangs, and weaponized yo-yos this holiday season as you wage battle against the dangers presented to you in gift form: killer spiders, xmas tree ents, enraged elves, combative fruit cakes, and of course the fearsome Krampus. Strategize as you fight your way to victory on the score boards. Collect weapon stats or sell them for precious gold, being sure you’re always strong enough to defeat an endless stream of enemies.

Krampus is coming with his army of Christmas minions. In Present Danger you must search through piles of presents to arm yourself with gifted weapons and armor in preparation of Krampus’ grand entrance. Feast on food to boost your health, collect weapons to increase your damage output, don ugly sweaters and chainmail to bolster your defense, or sell everything and watch your pile of gold grow. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and come across a golden nutcracker from Santa to boost all your stats, or maybe you’ll be so unlucky as to come across a golden Dale plushie from the loathsome Dale the Salesman and have to make the choice between losing a chunk of your compiled gold or your fine tuned stats. Part luck, part strategy, Present Danger presents unique game play, a holiday theme, and a little bit of Krampus to cramp your style with surprise visits. Play again and again and have lots of holiday fun!

Features:

  • An Arsenal of Weapons at Your Disposal
  • Armor That Fits All
  • Collectable Plushies and Toys
  • Dozens of Enemies to Defeat
  • Endless Presents and Enemies
  • Feast of Health Boosting Food
  • Krampus the folklore devil
  • Scoreboards to Conquer

Collect weapons of increasing damage including yo-yos, slings, dreidel tops, maracas, rubber band guns, toy swords, snowflake shurikens, boomerangs, snow globe hammers, wreaths, ‘Tis the season swords, candy scythes, Ax-mas axes, and eight crazy spikes menorahs. Suit up with armor and shields including sombreros, ponchos, knitted socks, gingerbread aegis, cauldron helmets, season’s greave-ings leg armor, ugly sweaters, Christmas chainmail, December defenders, and sled shields. Feast on candy canes, turkey, pumpkin pie, peppermints, mistletoe, frosted fruitcakes and much more. Prepare yourself and fill your pockets.

There’s no time like the present to have some fun!

In other news, No Proper Thief and Rock, Paper, Wizards! have both been nominated for SlideDB’s top 50 apps of the year. Both are in the running for the number one app, so vote for them if you get a chance. We thank you for it. No Proper Thief has been placed in the role playing category, and Rock, Paper Wizards! appears in the arcade section.

Top_50

No Proper Thief has been nominated as one of the top 50 games on the mobile and tablet gaming community website, SlideDB, and was selected from more than 15,000 games. It appears in the role playing category. Vote here.

Rock, Paper, Wizards! has been nominated as one of the top 50 games on the mobile and tablet gaming community website, SlideDB, and was selected from more than 15,000 games. It appears in the arcade game category. Vote here.

Felipe Femur’s List of Kid Friendly Websites

Felipe Femur’s List of Kid Friendly Websites

bestkidfriendlywebsites

The Felipe Femur website has been updated with a comprehensive and alphabetically sorted list of great kid friendly websites. Felipe Femur’s List of Kid Friendly Websites includes the big household names such as Club Penguin, Cartoon Network, Disney, Dr. Suess, Neopets, PBS, Sesame Street, as well as some less well known educational websites, with knowledge, crafts, and/or fun to share. Here is the updated website description without mention of the Zebrafox Games umbrella name, as well as the kid friendly website list blurb:

Felipe Femur Website Info:

Felipe Femur is a website devoted to providing kids with fun, free, and fascinating activities on the web.

Felipe Femur the friendly skeleton knows the internet can be a scary and dangerous place, so he and his friends created a safe hub where children can play games, listen to music, print activity sheets, read recipes and articles, and find recommendations on movies, TV shows, books, and even other kid friendly websites all in an ad free environment. Felipe loves to share, after all–share time with his friends in character corner, share spooky stories, share free activities, share knowledge, and share fun and creative websites outside his own home page. That’s why he provides an alphabetical list of the greatest kid friendly websites. He believes the internet should be used to learn and have fun, for the betterment of everyone, and he knows that goal is better achieved with everyone working together.

The Best Kid Friendly Website List:

Most parents understand that the internet can be a dangerous place, especially to those who are still quite impressionable, such as children. If it exists, the internet most likely has a page dedicated to it, after all. And there are plenty of terrible things out there! Even typing in seemingly innocuous URLs can lead to unsavory and unwanted images and content, spam, and computer viruses! Felipe Femur and his friends want to help parents make healthy, safe choices when it comes to their children’s web surfing activities. Therefore they have compiled an alphabetical list of fun websites that provide wholesome, educational content to children. Enjoy the following list of approved children’s websites, and make surfing carefree and easy again! Felipe Femur always loves to learn new things, so if you come across a cool website on your own wanderings, send him an email and he and his staff will review it. If it fits within the guidelines of safe, fun, and educational, he’ll add it to the list of The Greatest Kid Friendly Websites.

Take a look at Felipe Femur’s List of Kid Friendly Websites by clicking the link provided or the image above. If you know of any kids that might enjoy such a thing a list of fun websites, please let them know. And please let me know if you find any other lists that felipefemur.com might be a good fit for, or any websites that might make a nice addition to Felipe’s list, for that matter.

Gilli Fishel and Felipe Femur Website Updates

Gilli Fishel and Felipe Femur Website Updates

Felipe Femur stories Gilli Fishel

The Felipe Femur website has been updated with new articles, characters bio pages, stories, and even a lyrical music video for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Starthe first of many to be made with Youtube’s royalty free music for children. David and I have renewed our efforts to create a kid friendly hub on the internet, one without ads. We will likely be making new word searches and coloring sheets as the old coloring sheets of Felipe Femur, Gummy, Runny, and Sunny were designed using the old shoulders up images, and David has since designed the full bodies of each of these characters for the production of Felipe Femur: Choice Scares. Felipe Femur: Choice Scares will most likely be published through Hosted Games LLC. just as No Proper Thief was. It will be reading based, and not rely as heavily on graphics as our other Felipe Femur related games, including Scary Stories for Kids. Here is a brief description of the game: Guide Felipe Femur through three spooky choice-enabled stories. A reading based game for kids and adults, made in cooperation with Choice of Games LLC, that has gif images throughout. Choose from three classes: Fighter, Detective, or Jack of all Trades, buy weapons and ponchos, wage battle on a variety of enemies, and then lead Felipe Femur the introverted skeleton through a carnival, a haunted bathhouse, and through a creepy neighborhood for a night of tick-or-treating. Enjoy three interactive stories in Felipe Femur: Choice Scares. Help Felipe Femur the skeleton make choices and proceed through each nightmare. Explore Carinval Caper, Trick or Shriek, and That Old, Haunted Bathhouse as either a detective, a fighter, or a jack of all trades. Each class allows you to explore stories in a different way. So try all three classes and get exploring!

Creature
Theatrical release poster by Reynold Brown (Wrong side of the art)

We’ve created a new character, Gilli Fishel. Gilli’s appearance takes inspiration from the classic movie monster, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. As GIlli is making a first appearance in a digital dreidel app, it will probably be obvious that the creature is of the Jewish faith. If not, there’s the  kippah (skullcap) to make it clear. Like most monsters in the Felipe Femur universe, Gilli has an ironic flaw. Like Sunny the vampire loving the sun, and Gummy the werewolf not having any teeth to help him with his favorite pass time of eating, Gilli has a problem as well. Gilli can’t swim.  Here’s a brief bio of the new character with a little more information: Gilli is a young lagoon creature. Raised Jewish, Gilli Fishel cultivated a love for Hanukkah, skullcaps, and dreidels.  Being from the swamp, Gilli stands out as the only one in the area who can’t swim. As such, Gilli is almost never seen without a flotation device, usually the duck float show here, which was given the name Tate. With Tate, Gilli is not afraid to wade into water, but tends to stay in the shallow end in case Tate should go flat.

gilli fishel jewish
Gilli Fishel art by David Dorn

On top of our new Digital Dreidel app, Gilli Fishel will also make an appearance in our Android story app, Scary Stories for Kids (Halloween Campfire Stories for Kids). Gilli’s story can be read now on the Felipe Femur website with a story titled The Yawning Deep. Runny the witch’s story, The WInd in the Treetops, is also available now on the website. Both should be added to the app in short order. Read both anytime for free. Also, keep an eye out for both the new Digital Dreidel app and the reading based Felipe Femur: Choice Scares. To learn more about Felipe Femur:Choice Scares, follow the link to the Felipe Femur official website.

Vending Machines: a Window to the People of Japan

Vending Machines: a Window to the People of Japan

A vending machine a device that offers various refreshments and other products to consumers, with the idea being to sell and provide products without a cashier in attendance. They are thus very convenient, yet there is also a darker side, a troubled side, to the modern day, brightly lit facades of the convenient devices. This is deeper than around the back of the machine or inside its mechanical parts.  Part of the problem, in fact, is in the bright facades themselves, explicitly the high energy costs, but the other part of the problem is the easy accessibility to products not suitable for all ages. Alcohol, pornography and cigarettes are available to everyone including, of course, children and adolescents—underage youth. The following will discuss these issues, some plausible solutions, and a brief history of the machines along with other effects of vending machines on the culture and society of Japan.

Heron of Alexandria is believed to have created the first vending machine, consisting of a lever that when weighed down by a coin would dispense a fixed sum of holy water until the coin slipped off the lever. This was circa 215 BC and used in Egyptian temples. Vending machines in Japan are a far way off from Egypt both in time and distance, in fact the first modern vending machine of Japan what invented in 1888 around the same time that the Thomas Adams Gum Company introduced Tutti-Frutti gum in a vending machine for a New York subway (gumballs.com). It was made of wood and dispensed postage stamps and postcards.  Though vending machines are part of American life as well, Japan has made vending machines a major marketing instrument. With half the population and a fraction of the size of the U.S.A., Japan has the same amount of Machines and reaps more than twice the profit (Sterngold, 1992).

There are approximately 5.5 million vending machines in Japan—one for every (23-25) people (McCaughan, 2006). Additionally, in America, vending machines typically provide reasonably priced snacks and beverages; however, in Japan, you can acquire gifts and more expensive items, which one would not expect, such as insects, lobsters, meat, rice, fried foods, cell phones, jewelry, batteries and so on. Some machines have even begun dispensing free drinks for customers who watch a thirty-second commercial. Furthermore, more mature and unique products can be purchased, for instance used schoolgirl’s panties and pornography. Some rural food markets even have a pseudo-vending machine type system in which customers grab the vegetables they want and slip their money into a box (Mann, 2006). This honesty based system would likely not work in America because of the culture and value differences. As a Takashi Kurosaki states, “‘the companies [in Japan] have virtually no losses due to vandals or thieves’” (Sterngold, 1992). Regarding culture, convenience and honesty are not the only reasons for the success of vending machines. The always polite, ritual laced and humble culture of Japan is perfect for the devices, for within a country in which every social encounter is “governed by obligation” many would rather buy from a piece of equipment than from someone they have to communicate with, by means of ritual dialogue (Sterngold, 1992). Two final components, illuminating as to why vending machines are so big in Japan, are time and embarrassment.

Most Japanese commute for an average of four hours a day and work long hours on top of that, thus the convenience of the vending machines complements a nation with little time. Moreover, the Japanese are reserved and shy in some aspects of life such as dating, pornography, and cigarettes, thus vending machines offer both a speedy transaction and more private one as well. A spokesperson of Otari Inc., which makes vending machines that dispense bouquets of flowers, Nobuhiro Shirakawa, states how the machines allow people to avoid the awkwardness of admitting to a clerk that they are buying something for their partner, an apparently “unaccustomed gesture” in Japan (Sterngold, 1992).

Vending machines obviously bring a great level of convenience and comfort, but with the good come the bad. Up until recently vending machines had no way to card underage customers for alcohol and cigarettes.   This is a problem because the legal drinking and smoking age in Japan is 20 years old. According to Ian Rowley vending machines in Japan sell about 60% of all cigarettes, and there is very little to prevent underage smokers from obtaining them. In 2006, there were roughly 565,200 cigarette vending machines obtaining about two-trillion yen annually. (Masamiito, 2007) Many machines provide a recycling can, and some even return deposits or even pay customers to recycle; however, chances are underage drinkers are not thinking of recycling nor do they stick around long enough to do so. Aside from the underage substance abuse problem there is an even more non-earth friendly problem: energy.  This problem particularly concerns vending machines that sell cold beverages in the summer. The machines are simply coin operated refrigerators that are left under the smoldering sun. A single vending machine, of this kind, uses 3,500 kilowatts of electricity per year—this surpasses an average household, which consumes around 3,100 kilowatts (Japan, 1996). Despite the looming dimness over these issues there is a possible light at the end of the tunnel—though it may be flawed.

Having an attendant at every machine to check IDs would not only defeat the purpose of the private machines, but it would also be impossible due to the shortage of both labor force and money. However Fujitaka, a Japanese vending machine designer, plans to implement a device that will scan the customer’s face with a built-in camera. The camera and internal computer scan the face the compare the feature to a large databank of similar faces, and ask for an ID if the customer is judged too young. Another solution is to distribute a special ID called a “tobacco passport (taspo)” or “タスポ,” to those 20 or older. Critics chastise both solutions because IDs are easy to borrow and many adolescence and even younger children appear older than they look, and thus both would be a waste of time and money (Rowley, 2007). Never-the-less the taspo card was implemented in 2008. The effects of this are likely not fantastic, because while the underage smokers may be stupid when it comes to choosing to smoke, that is not so when it comes to getting around barriers of the law. Perhaps a better solution would be to implement better anti-smoking education.

The second solution—the solution for reducing energy consumption—is naturally more apt for success since the unpredictable and rebellious factor of young Japanese persons is not present or applicable. Since the majority of cold-beverage Japanese vending machines are outdoors the notion of solar batteries is a plausible solution to the energy predicament. Ten percent or roughly 190,000 of the existing 1.9 million beverage-vending machines, around Japan, are to be fitted with solar panels and batteries. Two types of outfitting will be used:  if it is a row of machines they will be outfitted with batteries and accompanying solar panels will be placed on nearby rooftops, and personal panels will be given to solitary machines. The cost for installation and maintenance is more than covered should the batteries last their estimated life span of twenty-four years (Japan, 1996). Another solution deals with the idea of sea energy, perhaps in wave farming, though solar power seems more reasonable. In addition to the solar energy, presence sensors are a suggested solution to saving energy when not being used; however, the bright lights and colors of the machines are designed to draw customers in, consequently it may save too much energy in that no one would be able to see the machines at night and thus not purchase, losing the machines money. Conversely, a form of scheduling combined with increased instillation does work to save energy. The machines cool the drinks in the morning when it is the coldest, and turn themselves off between 1-4 pm (CNET, 1998).

In conclusion, Japan is leading the market with vending machines, so much so that it has become a powerful and effective advertising tool. Just below the surface the simple machine inadvertently sheds light on a culture of people refined and humble, revealing issues of embarrassment, time management, adolescent criminal offences, and much more. In view of that, a window to Japan is opened through vending machines. And though there are various problems—solutions for each—the future of Japan looks bright, except perhaps between the hours of one and four pm.

Citation:

CNET. (1998). Vending machine as energy hog. Retrieved April 26, 2008, from Electric
            Perspectives Networks, Inc. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/
Gumballs.com. History of Vending Machines and Chewing Gum. Retrieved April 26, 2008, from
gumballs.com. http://www.gumballs.com/history.html
Japan Echo Inc. (1996). Solar Batteries to Power Vending Machines. Retrieved April 26, 2008,     
from Domestic Japanese news sources.  http://web-japan.org/trends95/95.html
Mann, Douglass S. (2006). Vending machines of Japan. Retrieved April 26, 2008, from Photomann travel photography.  http://www.photomann.com/japan/machines/
Masamiito. (2007). Stroll the streets of vending-machine heaven. Retrieved April 26, 2008, from
The Japan Times Ltd.  http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070415x2.html
McCaughan, Dave. (2006). “The vending-machine wars.” Advertising Age. 77 (Issue 42) 24-24.
Rowley, Ian. (2007). “NO SALE, KID.” Stead, Deborah Business Week. Issue 4041. 14-14.
Sterngold, James. (1992, January 5). Why Japanese Adore Vending Machines. New York times. http://query.nytimes.com/

 

 

No Proper Thief Now Available on Android

No Proper Thief Now Available on Android

 

No Proper Thief Now Available on ios and Android

No Proper Thief

In cooperation with Choice of Games, or more specifically their Hosted Games division, we at ZebraFox Games present: No Proper Thief. The gamebook is now available for download on Android and iOS (see below for the links). There are obviously some changes in the game in comparison to my previous posts on the topic. The biggest change is perhaps the user interface, including the audio that has been removed. The game now has a more readable, basic off-white back and black text interface, as is typical of the Hosted Games (HG) productions. It also has a different, less visual-heavy set up for the stats. I have also added many of the HG forum users’ suggestions to the game, including the option to run off without the team. You can check out the HG forum post by clicking the link. I did ultimately decide against the gender option after getting a mostly working option to choose gender, as I felt the choice distracted more than it added. I wanted Clyde to be a unique and memorable character as he will continue on in the non-game-book sequel, BLAME. Adding gender options also opened up a can of worms. The issues aren’t worth going into, but collectively they made the game less fun and memorable according to myself and those who tested the gendered version. On top of this, being a short story and novel writer, I fall in the camp that readers are capable of putting themselves in the protagonist’s shoes even if the story is written in second person and the character is not exactly like them. Fear not, those who are adamantly for gender options. I have learned a lot from writing a coding No Proper Thief, and though it will not have gender options, I do expect to work with Hosted Games again in publishing my ongoing project Gone Pockets. In Gone Pockets, I will make the protagonist more flexible in appearance and gender, to cater to those who really desire such choices.

OLD

NEW

NPT_title_1 NPT_03 NPT_PR_4 NPT_PR_5

Game Description

Attempt to survive your first bank heist in No Proper Thief! Befriend or betray your team of bank robbers (Zebra, Marlin, and Stag), make difficult choices, survive, possibly go insane, fall in love, and get rich if you can, where every choice you make has a consequence. You never wanted a life of crime, but it’s all you know. That doesn’t mean transitioning from a life as a cocky con artist to a rookie bank robber doesn’t scare you.  In No Proper Thief you are Clyde Lamm, the Rooster, and you have a choice to make. In fact, you have plenty of choices to make throughout your upcoming adventure. Every choice has a consequence, too. You and your team, consisting of the leader Zebra, the muscle Stag, and the heart Marlin, have many obstacles to overcome. Still, in the midst of all the dark chaos of the initial robbery, there is a flame of positivity: an attractive young bank manager. Sure you stole her gold heirloom ring a while back, but it’s a fair trade because that fox is stealing your heart. Can you  make the hard choices and survive your first bank heist?

lin

Above is the opening animation and song we had originally intended to use for the opening of the game with the animated title screen (scrolling drops of water, flashing police lights, as will as the sound of sirens and dripping rain): Danse-Macabre Violin Hook by Kevin MacLeod.

“Danse Macabre – Violin Hook” from Danse Macabre by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2008. Genre: Classical.

We at ZebraFox Games decided to go with Hosted Games for their audience, as we feared that with our thus far very limited audience, we wouldn’t have the chance to share the game with as many people as we wanted. With Hosted Games we have a dedicated, supportive audience. Anyway, I hope you get the chance to check the game out, especially if you are interesting in the ZebraFox Games upcoming project, BLAME.

No Proper Thief available now on Android, Amazon, Chrome Store, and the iOS App Store:

Google-Play-Badge-250x851 appstore-button Amazon-Appstore-Badge-250x85 ChromeWebStore_Badge_v2_496x150

Invisiblity

invisibilty_banner_2

I was driving back from the grocery store this afternoon, into the sun, when a thought came to me. As I shielded my eyes with the shade of my raised hand, I thought of that scene in Hallow Man (2000) in which Kevin Bacon’s character first wakes up after being turned invisible and is met with the pain of bright light. He can’t shield his eyes. The thought I had today was why would he have to? If he was invisible the receptors in his eyes were, too. Therefore, light could not reflect off them and give his brain sensory input. He would be blind. So, ironically, the power (invisibility) that made it so no one could see him, would leave him blind.

I thought I might write a short story on this idea at a later time. I also thought it would be interesting for you to think about, as well. It also seemed well timed–this thought and related post–as I made the choice a short while ago to make several posts invisible–those concerning project: NPT. Making these posts private doesn’t help in anyway but to help assure that it won’t be considered an existing or taken idea, even if it were just on the author’s (my) blog website. Better safe than sorry. Those posts will resurface, hopefully soon, as all the assets are delivered to those in charge of the publishing party. Fingers crossed for an April release.

David did a good job with the promo art and the several splash screens for the different platforms, and I hope you all get to see them soon.

In other news. I have been continuing work on House Arrest. The story is coming along and I have created several unique personalities from the forum characters. It’ll be awhile until David starts working on the graphical components of the game. He’s busy with work in South Korea, and we’d like to finalize the story before he begins anyway, as changes could be in the works.

Another reason this invisibility idea has good timing is because of its possible inclusion in my other new game that is in the works: Gone Pockets.

I have done some work on my second choose-your-own adventure game: Gone Pockets. With project: NPT, I wrote it as a prequel to BLAME, so I had a rigid character without gender choices that many who enjoy reading based games enjoy and demand. I wanted the lead character in project: NPT to have a real voice and not be a puppet–I needed him to be memorable, so when I tried adjusting the story to allow gender choices and sexual orientation options, I felt it feel a bit flat and made the character a lot less memorable. In Gone Pockets I’m making these options a reality straight out of the gate. The story will be the most important part, and the world I’m creating, and not the lead character. It will be written in second person like project: NPT, but make much better us of that fact. Stay tuned for updates on House Arrest, Gone Pockets, and project: NPT.

Arcade Go Publishes Rock, Paper, Wizards! Video

Arcade Go Publishes Rock, Paper, Wizards! Video

 

ArcadeGo.com has publish our ZebraFox Games release video for Rock, Paper, Wizards!, which you can see below. Arcade Go has a large number of followers and fans, and has a YouTube channel with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, as well as a website that provides a large catalog of free games. In the first twenty-four hours the YouTube video has received nearly 5,000 views. That’s double what our video has gotten since it was published in January. These views will hopefully translate into a large wave of Google Play downloads for the app Rock, Paper, Wizards!

Arcade Go Video

There is a strange occurrence/side effect, in that typing in “Rock, Paper, Wizards! Offical Trailer,” in the YouTube search no longer brings our video up, but still brings up the App Apes and Maximumandroid gameplay videos of the app, as well as an upload by Funny Fun TV. Perhaps it’s something to do with the Arcade Go video having a collaboration tag with hugyucom, the account we published the trailer on.

House Arrest (Game/App) in Development

 

house_arrest

House Arrest:

House Arrest / (House Unrest?) is a new smaller scale project that I have begun work on. Smaller scale than Blame, that is. Note: I am still polishing up NPT, and have temporarily taken down posts related to it, but I will update on that soon. House Arrest is a game with three major components. 1). A forum style dialogue and story – players follow a member of the Sleuths Without Suits forums, ocTOPus-8, as he/she (probably keep the gender ambiguous) deals with being under house arrest for stealing maracas as a birthday present for his/her younger sister at a Felipe Femur themed party. ocTOPus-8 is left alone as the rest of the family goes on vacation and that’s where the story picks up. in boredom, ocTOPus-8 begins talking on the Sleuths without Suits forums, a forum for amateur, non-official detectives and mystery lovers. Component 2). of the game is a grid for walking around the protagonists home and the alley/ditch just outside. There he/she stumbles upon a dead body, and returns to the forums for help on how to solve the mystery (can’t call the cops because he’d/she’d go to jail for leaving the house). Also utilizing this grid walk will be the night mode in which the protagonist astral projects and has to battle spirits. This leads to component 3). a battle system. This component will be mainly based on what David wants to do with it, but I’m imagining something similar to either Rock, Paper, Wizards or Frenzy Fighter style.

Also in development is Dr. Sweet tooth 2, a sequel to Dr. Sweet Tooth. You can learn more by clicking the House Arrest IN DEVELOPMENT banner above. Here is a brief description I wrote up for House Arrest on the ZebraFox Games new In Development section.

House Arrest Description:

A forum, a finding, a fight for freedom. House arrest is a game that follows forum user ocTOPus-8, who is under arrest for trying to steal maracas for a birthday gift. Left alone over the weekend, ocTOPus-8 recruits the help of the other members of the forum Sleuths Without Suits to help solve a mystery. Alone, ocTOPus-8 explores home and a small perimeter, has conversations on the forum, and fights spirits during his nightly astral travels.

I other news, ZebraFox Games finally got a game accepted on the YoYo Games showcase. David had gotten the game Pacman Pachiko accepted years ago, before the company really got big, but our others have all been rejected since. Until Rock, Paper, Wizards! You can read more by clicking the link I provided or clicking the image below. We also won the Indie Game round up #68 on Super Game Droid with Rock, Paper, Wizards! winning a front page add on their website. This is the same reward we received in round up #65 with Dr. Sweet Tooth. 

Rock, Paper, Wizards! Marketing:

yoyo_page
YoYo Games Showcase Post

SGD_RPW
Super Game Droid Review

Super Game Droid Review:

From the makers of previous round-up winner Dr Sweet Tooth comes a bizarre new arcade puzzler called Rock, Paper, Wizards, that takes the classic playground game to fantastical heights. As a down on his luck children’s magician who’s become disillusioned, players will embark on a wacky quest for redemption as they compete for ethereal glory in the local wizards and magical creatures tournament which in this case takes place in the form of a rapid fire rock, paper, scissors tournament. In order to survive players need to react on a dime to the moves their opponent makes with each progressive magical foe upping the challenge even more.

Other Rock, Paper, Wizards! ratings and articles around the web:

I will keep you posted on progress with House Arrest. It is mainly just a story as of now. David is leaving for South Korean soon, so graphic and programming work will be on hold for a bit. This gives me time to finish up the new House Arrest story–make it really surreal and great–NPT, and also work on some literary short stories, as well as send them off to publishers.

Bad Reviews on Google Play

“★✰✰✰✰”

Rating systems can be flawed. That’s not surprising, seeing as they are managed by people who are flawed (we all are) and done so without the checks and balances of many other rating systems. Perhaps one of the most flawed rating systems, though, given the mass amount of apps uploaded daily, is that of cell phone and tablet applications–particularly Google Play.

The Google Play system seems to put a good amount of weight into an app’s overall rating, and for many apps, a single, uninformed, terrible rating could sink it, insuring that no one who might enjoy it, will ever find it. This issue will only grow worse over time, as two other big factors for an app’s ranking are 1.) the time it’s been in the app store compared to the 2.) number of downloads. It’s clear that an app sunk into the depths of the second pages, the ones that no one bothers to check, early will not have a good ratio and will therefore not enjoy visibility.

So what’s the real issue? The biggest issue with the Google Play rating system is that there is very little control over who can speak their mind. Anyone with a free Google+ account and phone can leave a comment.  Even very young children have access to smart phones and tablets and are leaving reviews. You can spot these particular reviews by looking through the reviews of most any app. Unlike movies rating sites that have respected critics, absolutely anyone can review an app, and that’s why you get millions of single word comments like “cool,” “lame,”  and “eh,” despite Google Play’s policy stating that reviews should talk about pros and cons and be constructive. There is very little policing of this. And unless we suddenly found ourselves in some dystopian future like in Idiocracy (2006), those one or two word “reviews” are not going to cut it for a critic. Think about it this way, a movie critic doesn’t go to American Sniper and rate it bad because it wasn’t Selma. A food critic doesn’t bash of a signature dish as P.F. Chang’s because it isn’t KFC on a fancy plate. So why should app critics get away with saying some of the things they do, such as what one individual said in example 2 below?

Furthermore, there are some things out of the control of the developers that they are expected to deal with. For example, there are plenty of cases of “reviews” saying something along the lines of (★✰✰✰✰ 1-star) “Cannot download. Phone says there is insufficient space on my device.” How is it the developer’s problem to fix your phone or tablet? Delete some apps or programs so you have room on your device. That should be common sense. This happens constantly if you look at top reviewed games and apps such as Clash of Clans. It also happens on smaller time developers, but has a much bigger impact. 10,000 great reviews for a few hundred “insufficient space” posts is arguably nothing, but when you have only a handful of reviews, that one crap review is very hurtful. In fact, ZebraFox Games had an certain individual post a similar comment on one of our apps and had to politely direct him to an article that a simple Google search brought up, on how to fix this issue. This particular individual upgraded his score from a 1 star ( ★✰✰✰✰) to a 5 star (★★★★★), but only after we, the developer, had to do something for him that he should have done himself in the first place. The real question is, why rate or allow ratings at all if the rating has nothing to do with the actual game, but rather the fact that the user is too dense to even get it downloaded?

Examples

Here are some examples that we found on our ZebraFox Games apps that reflect some of the issues found in Google Play reviews on a larger scale.

Bad Reviews on Google Play - rude
Some reviewers nitpick to the point that no developer can please them. Rather than mute his/her phone, this reviewer decided to reduce their score by two stars, simply because they did not like the music, which was a song written by Kevin Macleod. Who can dislike Kevin, a man who has helped thousands of indie game, app and film developers by offering free music?The individual also admits that they didn't play for long, and yet their rating/opinion is weighted just the same as those who did give it a good run.
Bad Reviews on Google Play  - unfair
Others, who cannot grasp what the app actually is and cannot fathom why it does not fit into their rigid expectations, go directly to 1-star hate. None of their "reviews," such as the one to the left, offer any constructive criticism, but rather say something along the lines of the app is stupid and "yuk," which we are assuming is supposed to read "yuck." The app this was written in response to is a free interactive children's book with zero (0) ads. We, the developers, make nothing and ask nothing. It's a gift in that way. Yet, this reviewer felt a need to bash it.Do people often criticize tangible gifts they receive? Like "Thanks, dad. This brand new Ferrari you bought me is crap..." Maybe some super sweet sixteen spoiled brats. But surely not the normal person. Maybe it's just the safety of hiding behind a keyboard and the anonymity of the internet that makes this people feel safe in being ungrateful and rude. Really saying this is not unlike me taking the ketchup off a restaurant table, chugging it, and then complaining it was a terrible beer. It wasn't a beer! And this app isn't a game. It is an interactive storybook, as it says in both the title and the description several times. "Game" is not mentioned once. Maybe this individual doesn't speak English well enough to comprehend that, but then why are their downloading an English language story in the first place? Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.
Bad Reviews on Google Play uninformed
Still others offer even less."So stupid To bad." Apparently the game in question is so stupid that someone who's never heard of punctuation of the word "too," finds it dumb. The only thing we could really do was correct their use of "to" as the word "too." Remember, too many O's in too. Even that response is more constructive that the original comment, as the original response doesn't indicated what they thought was bad about it.This trivial little "review" is not so trivial to the developers. We put a lot of effort into our games, try to make them new and original, and offer them for free, often ad free as well, and if they have ads, they are limited, only to have individuals like this make an vague insult and slap us with a 1-star ( ★✰✰✰✰) review, thus turning others who might enjoy it away.

Perhaps even worse than all these are the “reviews” that have users threatening developers. These threats typically go like this: 1 star ( ★✰✰✰✰) “Add more content/offer it in Spanish and I’ll give this 5 stars.” And these “Reviews” are allowed to stay up and haunt developers. You’d think that the number of these terrible “reviews” would have them become meaningless to users reading them, but that is often not the case. Look at the Yelp reviews. A few bad reviews written by angry, usually out-of-line customers and the restaurant loses business. This is no different with apps. I avoid Yelp, and I would avoid Google Play rating if I could, but as a developer, I can’t. The majority of app users do use the rating system to some degree.

The solution? Awareness, maybe?

Most of the apps on Google Play and also on Apple’s App Store as well as Window’s Phone app store are made by independent developers working hard in their free time. So in the end, what we need is for users to stop using the rating system as their customer support forum, because seriously every developer has an email available on each game profile. Using private emails for asking about fixes, and using the rating system for what it is intended for: discussing the pros and cons of the game/app, is the first step in fixing this issue. Ideally, a system like Rotten tomatoes has with a Critic and user rating, would be great. Admittedly, there are far more apps than there are movies, but getting a feel for an app doesn’t usually take the length of time it takes to watch a movie. If not this, a system that punishes those who comment but don’t add to the conversation with their take on pros and cons of an app might help. A time ban from commenting, perhaps? All I really know is that something needs to change, because there are a lot of a great indie developers out there, creating great games and apps, only to be buried in the mass accumulation of Angry Bird clones because someone can’t get an developer’s app to run on their fossil of a cell phone, or because it wasn’t what they think, it should have been.

Rock, Paper, Wizards! Released

1024x768_2

Rock, Paper, Wizards!:

If you follow me on ,Twitter, you’ve almost certainly heard me mention ZebraFox’s new game, Rock, Paper, Wizards! It’s a simple game that takes the original classic that we’ve all played to either resolve a disputes or or have a little fun on the playground, and puts a new mythical face to it.

David had the initial idea for Rock, Paper, Wizards! as he’s always been keen on the idea of making a rock, paper, scissors game, hence the Rock, Paper, Scissors the Card Game that the BLAME battle system is to focus on. After creating a few possible stories for Rock, Paper, Wizards!, I wrote one that we both agreed would best fit the game, making Oscar, once the villain, into the burly mustached hero. Everyone loves a good mustache, after all. The surname Burlin is a mix between Burton and Merlin, as in the stage magician of modern day, Lance Burton (2010), and the legendary wizard figure, Merlin (1136). Plus it just sounds like Burly, which Oscar Burlin is. I wrote an app store description, and did a short one page story board for the origin story of Oscar Burlin’s quest to prove himself which will most likely appear in the release of the app. I’ll post the store description below.

SS_003 SS_001 SS_004

App Description:

In Rock, Paper, Wizards! players follow Oscar Burlin, a loving father and magician who lives modestly and literally pulls rabbits out of a hat to make ends meet. An unfulfilled, gentle and hairy potter during the day, but a magician at heart, it seems only natural that he perform at his daughter’s birthday party, and provides the entertainment to save a buck, rather than hiring another entertainer. Unfortunately, he is shamed and humiliated when his daughter, Bellatrix H.P. Burlin, and her friends claim he is not magician at all and is rather a hack who relies on cheap parlor tricks and a beautiful mustache to “entertain.” Echoing in his head are his daughter’s words, “Mom, can we get a real magician?” Oscar is truly haunted by his spoiled daughter’s words, but rather than turn to bad habits, he decides to cope another way–by proving himself. In an effort to regain his daughter’s respect, and prove to himself he’s a true wielder of magic, Oscar enters a contest of magic, the main event for the annual magical carnival: Magicians, the Gathering.

Oscar’s power of split second foresight was never enough to allow him to dodge a punch, but it might be enough to give him the edge he needs while playing rock, paper, scissors.

How far up the ranks can he climb? The number of contestants seems endless, and seeing as it’s a magical contest, it could truly be never ending, but Oscar will stop at nothing to be the best and make his embarrassing failure at his daughter’s birthday party all but disappear.

HOW TO PLAY: Players battle an endless stream of mythical creatures, such as will-o’-the-wisps, goblins, gnomes, hippalectryons, tiny minotaurs, tarot card people, enamored rabbits, smiling spiders, wicked witches, and pint sized wizards.

Players choose (tap) either rock, paper, or scissors and wage battle against opponents with the same options. To their advantage, Oscar’s power of foresight shows players what their CPU opponent will choose three seconds to a split second before the reveal, decreasing in duration as the player climbs the ranks. The challenge lies in recognizing what the opponent will choose (Rock, Paper, or Scissors) quickly and choosing the correct option to defeat it in the time allowed. When the red health bar drops to zero from its five ticks, the game is over and the player must restart from level one.

Health can only be gained by defeating a goblin king and looting his treasure chest for a single health bar segment. Stingy like Scrooge, yes, but it adds to the challenge. The goblin king is also randomly generated.

If you like challenging games such as Anicrush and HexaLines, and would appreciate a world a fraction of the adventure of Oceanhorn and Panthera Frontier, then pocket this wizard adventure where all kinds of monsters are throne together. A 2D style similar to Skelly Rider and endless as Kalpana-Incas lost city, there are infinite possibilities of new monsters to come–an evolution such as in phage genesis of a virus, if you will. Use your imagination, enter your creative mind and comment on what you’d like to see. Maybe something with tentacles, tiny wings, long legs? Cthulhu?

Leaderboards allow players to see where they stand in the ranks of the fellowship of other talented magicians and wizards.

FEATURES:

  • A Beautiful Mustache
  • An Animated Cast of Characters
  • Crisp, Paper-Like Graphics
  • Fun voices and Motivational Phrases
  • Leaderboards
  • Many Mythical Creatures
  • Music by Kevin Macleod
  • Power Of Foresight
  • Professional Voiceovers
  • Story of Betrayal, Defeat, and Love (of Magic)
  • Super Challenging Game Play
  • Three Magical Powers (comet, gale winds, blades)
  • Updates with New Enemies to Come

Language:

The app has also been translated into Korean. Apparently Rock, Paper, Scissors is even bigger over there than in the United States.

korean_RPW

mock_up_SS mock_up_SS2_korean

If you’d like to give it a try, it’s free on the Google Play marketplace. Give it a download, and if you like it, please rate it. Thanks for reading and good luck unlocking all the achievements in the game. It’s much harder than you would think.

appstore_button_google

No Proper Thief – Story Component Completely Finished

No Proper Thief – Story Component Completely Finished

NO PROPER THIEF:

No Proper Thief has taken longer to write than I had hoped. With 51+ choice occasions in the game, each being a multiple of 2-4, with a different outcome for each choice, and negative or positive changes for each on the Identity, Trust, Health, and Conscience meters, it took quite a while to fill in each scenario in the grand web that is No Proper Thief. Having finished, I must say I feel particular good about the ending. It’s bittersweet, just the way I like to end my stories. Plus, it ties in well with the upcoming, even more ambitious project, BLAME, which is what I intended from the outset. With my stories I tend to let them lead me where feels natural to a large extent, so the fact that I had to tie so many scenarios together limited me a little in that aspect. I had to think of not only the best outcome for each scenario, but also ones that would lead to dead ends, less that favorable consequences, and also other decent outcomes, which was a new experience for me.

No_Proper_Thief2

The manuscript still needs to be edited, and I’m letting it sit a couple days before I read over it. I’m also looking into getting someone else to edit it, as I tend to look over some of my more subtle typos.

Rock, Paper, Wizards:

In other news, David came up with the concept for another new game, Rock, Paper, Wizards! as he’s always been keen on the idea of making a rock, paper, scissors game, hence the Rock, Paper, Scissors the Card Game that the BLAME battle system is to focus on. After creating a few possible stories for Rock, Paper, Wizards!, I wrote one that we both agreed would best fit the game, making Oscar, once the villain, into the burly mustached hero. Everyone loves a good mustache, after all. The surname Burlin is a mix between Burton and Merlin, as in the stage magician of modern day, Lance Burton (2010), and the legendary wizard figure, Merlin (1136). Plus it just sounds like Burly, which Oscar Burlin is.  I wrote an app store description, and did a short one page story board for the origin story of Oscar Burlin’s quest to prove himself which will most likely appear in the release of the app. I’ll post the store description below.

rock_paper_Wizards

App Description (subject to change):

Rock, Paper, Wizards!

Rock, Paper,  Wizards! puts the magic back in the classic game of rock, paper, scissors, and provides an endless adventure.

In Rock, Paper,  Wizards! players follow Oscar Burlin, a loving father and magician who lives modestly and literally pulls rabbits out of a hat to make ends meet.  At his daughter’s birthday party he provides the entertainment to save a buck, rather than hiring another entertainer.  Unfortunately, he is shamed and humiliated when his daughter and her friends claim he is not magician at all and is rather a hack who relies on cheap parlor tricks and a beautiful mustache to “entertain.”  Echoing in his head are his daughter’s words, “Mom, can we get a real magician?” Oscar is truly haunted by his spoiled daughter’s words, but rather than turn to bad habits, he decides to cope another way–by proving himself. In an effort to regain his daughter’s esteem, and prove to himself he’s a true wielder of magic, Oscar enters a contest of magic, the main event for the annual magical carnival: Magicians, the Gathering.

Using his power of split second foresight, Oscar plans to win the Rock, Paper, Scissor’s magic contest. With his trusty magician’s wand, lucky leprechaun shoes, and cape of compromise, Oscar joins the ranks of wizards, witches, and magical creatures all struggling for the title of best magic wielder in the world. How far up the ranks can he climb? The number of contestants seems endless, and seeing as it’s a magical contest, it could truly be never-ending, but Oscar will stop at nothing to be the best and make his embarrassing failure at his daughter’s birthday party all but disappear.

HOW TO PLAY: In Rock, Paper,  Wizards! players control Oscar Burlin, as he battles an endless stream of mythical creatures, such as will-o’-the-wisps, goblins, gnomes, hippalectryons, witches, and wizards in the annual Magicians, the Gathering contest. Oscar’s power of split second foresight was never enough to allow him to dodge a punch, but it might be enough to give him the edge he needs while playing rock, paper, scissors. Players choose either rock, paper, or scissors and wage battle against opponents with the same options. Oscar’s power of foresight shows players what their CPU opponent will choose a split second before the reveal. The challenge lies in recognizing what the opponent will choose (Rock, Paper, or Scissors) quickly and choosing the correct option to defeat it in the time allowed. Note that  in hard mode, Oscar Burlin does not have this ability and the game is therefore more about blind luck and chance rather than quick reflexes. When the red health bar drops to zero from its five ticks, the game is over and the player must restart from level one, using what they’ve learned and their more developed skills to last even longer in the contest the next play through.

FEATURES:

  • A Unique Story
  • Challenging Gameplay
  • Crisp, Paper-Like Graphics
  • Many Mythical Creatures
  • Power Of Foresight

You can see below a full body shot of Oscar Burlin, but also a familiar face to those who have followed my work with ZebraFox Games from the beginning, or have played through the Android Marketplace archive. Namely, Felipe Femur. That’s right, Runny the witch. Felipe Femur the skeleton will likely also make a very brief cameo appearance in Rock, Paper, Wizards! as I put him in the story board as a very minor character. You may have notice that the art style has evolved a little–no black lines and a paper texture replace David’s usual graphics of harder, more defined lines. It fits the paper theme, and we agree that people seem to appreciate the new type of style over the old when researching successful games.

 Stay tuned for more updates on both No Proper Thief and Rock, Paper,  Wizards! Also, head on over to the ZebraFox Games website for some more screen shots and information on both upcoming apps.

Oscar_character Witch_character
No Proper Thief – User Interface Update

No Proper Thief – User Interface Update

ZebraFox Games took inspiration from the popular Zombie High choose-your-own-adventure games, amoung others such as Necklace of Skulls, but mostly Zombie High when deciding to make a similar type reading game, however we wanted to improve it anyway we could, as well. Now, we are aware the stories of the Zombie High series cater to teens, as they follow a teen girl as she attends school and fights zombies, plus there is a lot of love interest going on in the angsty broth of the tales. I’ve written my fair share on love, but the relationships in my stories tend to be more dysfunctional, yet still more mature than teen romance, so i wanted to avoid that to some extent when writing No Proper Thief. I believe I’ve stayed true to my style with the story, but it’s more about staying a free man, than it is about love. There is still a love interest, but I tried my best not to make it seem forced.

The main aspect i wanted to talk about in this post, however, is that of the user interface (UI). The title screen shown in the top left will likely stay that simple. It is animation, with music and sound effects added as well. We might decide to add a social media share button, an options button, and perhaps an achievement tab, but the simplicity appeals to use, and the game has not sound besides the title screen so as to not distract those reading. The other options can be added to the end screens that have yet to be fully developed.  The top right image was the original user interface for No Proper Thief. it is similar to Zombie High in it’s simplicity, but with purple instead of black and colored stats. I was never happy which this, and after some pestering, I got David to re-imagine the UI with what i had in mind. The background is not textures, as you can see in the bottom two images. The states each have an icon that is hopefully easy to understand at a glance. if not, we plan to have each icon open a brief description window when clicked. David went above and beyond my expectations with the animation of the chains linking the stats, which represents hope if even only stat falls to zero–the weakness link–they all go down. The icons themselves are also animated and flash as if hit by a light every fifteen seconds or so. Overall, the new user interface is much cleaner, and far more professional.

User Interface

No Proper Thief update
Title screen (subject to change)

Old User Interface
Old User interface

No Proper Thief User Interface
New user Interface

NPT UI
New user interface (glare)

No Proper Thief – Progress

No Proper Thief - Progress

Here is a little bit of the progress on the reading based game I’m working on titled No Proper Thief. I’ve written most of the story, added the choices, deaths, and so on. Meanwhile David has been busy working on an animated title screen. The first two images below will give you an idea of that title screen. Upon loading the game, two gunshots are heard, and the Os in “No” and “Proper” become bullet holes. Immediately after the word Thief appears on screen, written in red blood. This blood leaks from the H, I, and E of the word Thief until it stretches to the position in the second image. On top of this, there are slowly flashing blue and red lights in the background to give the impression of police sirens. The water blobs that look to be on a window slowly rotate down giving the impression of a forever rising view of an endless window.

I collected royalty free sounds for the gunshots, a passing police siren, rain, and a short musical piece by the talented and generous composer Kevin MacLeod. I also collected quite a few other songs, and David and I are still unsure which one we want to use. We lean towards a jazz lounge hall vibe, for a noire feel, but have inserted the shortest song (26 seconds) to save space, and it falls more in the classic genre of music.

Below you can also see our initial set up of the text pages. It is subject to change, but it will be similar to what you see. The Identity, Health, Trust, and Conscience sections are also visible.

No Proper Thief - Progress NPT_title_2 No Proper Thief - Progress - layout

 

I’ve written a Google Play description for the ZebraFox Games website that you can read below:

You never wanted a life of crime, but it’s all you know. That doesn’t mean transitioning from a life as a simple, cocky con artist to a greenhorn bank robber on your first bank heist, doesn’t scare you. In No Proper Thief you are Clyde Lamm, the Rooster, and you have a choice to make. In fact, you have dozens of choices to make throughout your upcoming adventure. Everything has consequences, too.

You and your team, consisting of the leader Zebra, the muscle, Stag, and the heart, Marlin have many obstacles to overcome. For one, you have to convince them, as the new guy, that you’re trustworthy, and that you’ll watch their backs, for if one of you goes down the rest of you will too when the cops come knocking at your doors. Still, in the midst of all the dark chaos of the robbery, there is a flame of positivity: Bonnie Loren, a pretty young bank manager with flowing red hair. Sure you stole her gold heirloom ring a while back, but it’s a fair trade because she’s stealing your heart.

As a reading based game, No Proper Thief encourages the quickly vanishing pass time of reading. It’s a choose your own adventure style with plenty of choices to be made, making it an interactive story. With plenty of ways to lose and only one way to win (if you could call it winning) it’s sure to keep players on the edge of their seats. If any one of the player’s four stats (Identity, Health, Trust, or Conscience) fall to zero it’s game over. After all, you can’t get away with a crime if everyone know you’re face, if you bleed out, if your team turns on you thinking you’re a rat, or if you can’t live with an awful choice or choices you’ve made.

Written in second-person, making the player the protagonist, Clyde Lamm, No Proper Thief serves as a prequel to the ZebraFox Games upcoming project, BLAME, which will pick up where No proper thief leaves off, but over a different medium.

This, too, is subject to change.

I’ll share with you an in development banner with the app icon that’s in the style of the up coming game and sequel to No Proper Thief, BLAME. We has first thought to release no proper Thief with this logo, but thought it too cute later on, and instead decided we should try using the old art work for Clyde Lamm. The new (old art) icon is in an anime style, which some will love and some will hate, but it comes across much more serious and not as a kids game and fits with the transition from No Proper Thief to BLAME. As the material and situations in No Proper Thief are adult in nature, we thought this important seeing as the rest of our games are aimed more towards children. This icon is still bloody, but obviously has a cartoon, kid like look to it:

No_Proper_Thief1

Finally, here is a side by side comparison of the tone and look of No Prper Thief (left) and the subsequent RPG game, BLAME (right). All art by David Dorn:

Clyde Lamm - No Proper Thief
Clyde Lamm – No Proper Thief

Clyde Lamm - Blame
Clyde Lamm – Blame

Stay tuned for updates and keep an eye out for Twitter posts. No Proper thief should be in the the Google Play store very soon. See more at ZebraFox Games. Learn more about BLAME by clicking the banner above or clicking HERE.

Blame Prequel in the Works

blame_new1

No Proper Thief the Blame Prequel

As those who follow me or ZebraFox Games closely may know, David and I have been working on the RPG mystery game, Blame, to varying degrees for a couples years now. We’ve had a talented programmer pull out to deal with personal issues (unrelated to the game or us), and other projects come up. One such project just so happens to be a Blame prequel in the vein of the popular windows phone apps, Zombie High, in which players read a story and make certain choices at various junctions in the story-line that determine the outcome. It’s like the choose your own adventure books, such as some of R.L. Stine’s later Goosebumps books.That’s right, there’s a Blame prequel in the Works that’s in a completely different game genre and style. The lead character, Clyde Lamm, will be about the only similarity,but the story will end where Blame is to pick up. Blame is, of course, a far more ambitious project, the most ambitious David or I have ever had the pleasure of working on, in fact. By far.

I call the prequel No Proper Thief , a working title, but one I like enough to most likely keep. I got the name from a poem I wrote a girl I loved fresh out of high school, Stacie Knittle, titled Lunch at Our Personal Roswell, a title I liked so much it has also inspired me to write a novel by the same name, which I started even before my completed novel, Ostrich. My time with Stacie was short, but passionate, truly the one who got away. This poem still rings true in my heart when I read it–a bittersweet sound for I know she’ll never read it, that I’ll never stop regretting my choice, and yet I’m forever thankful for the experience of seeing her smile, learning from her young wisdom, and for being held dearly in her heart for longer than I deserved. Anyway, the poem holds a lot of meaning to me, and I believe the passion that it invokes will help me create the best prequel possible.

Poem and Mock-up Novel Cover

Below, to the left, is the poem I wrote for Stacie Knittle, and on the right is a mock-up cover I created for fun for the novel I’m working on. The cover represents the protagonist’s interest in aliens, a road trip that the main characters take during the story, and the protagonist’s depression (i.e. the noose).  As for the poem, I wrote it after a difficult break up around 2006 when I still wrote poetry to express my feelings and creative side.  I soon after turned towards prose, dropping poetry altogether. The poem references the Home Town Cafe where I had lunch with Stacie once, and how it felt like our (surprise!) personal little Roswell. I had just read a poem that Stacie had written me for me on orange paper, and got inspired with regret and sadness to write an homage to her, and my passion towards her. She of course id the angel mentioned int he poem, and by murder I mean not that she literally pulled a gun a shot me, but rather that with her personality, happy demeanor, and beauty she captivated me in such a way as to become the standard on which I measured all others. She changed me more than most, and losing her double fold, but I believe that she did so in the kindest way possible. Anyway, that’s enough about the past. This post is about the future of the past of the future game Blame. If that makes sense.

Poem:

poem

Novel Cover Mock-up:

 

roswell

No Proper Thief, the Blame prequel, will be mostly text, but David has agreed to make me six images: four that correspond to the four ways to fail, one title screen, and one icon. We’ll probably stick to the black and white format for the test to make it easy to read, and there will be dozens of possible endings. It’s a new type of game for us, and I’m sure it will present its fair share of hurdles and issues, but I have faith… that I can Blame David for those. But really, I’m sure we’ll figure them out, so keep an ear out for No Proper Thief.

Dr. Sweet Tooth on Super Game Droid

Super Game Droid Voting

Super Game Droid selected Dr. Sweet Tooth to be a part of their 65th indie game Friday night round-up, along with 24 other great indie apps for the Android platform. From Friday to Monday morning, patrons of the website voted on their favorite of the 25 apps by reading the brief description, seeing images from in-game and downloading and playing the apps themselves. Below is the Dr. Sweet Tooth blurb. Each of the 25 apps had a similar blurb tailored to their game play, and the writer even mentioned ZebraFox Games first app attempt Felipe Femur. Those at Super Game Droid, a popular world wide app review site, especially in Australia, stated that “Dr. Sweet Tooth has an interesting story, inventive gameplay, and a humorous tone,” to which the users must have agreed. Also below and on the right is a screen shot of the voting poll, that illustrates just how many voted for Dr. Sweet Tooth. Don’t Tap the Police Car came in at a close second, but Dr. Sweet Tooth still took more than fifty percent of the vote.

Dr. Sweet Tooth on Super Game Droid Dr. Sweet Tooth on Super Game Droid

 The Prize

The prize for winning was a week’s worth of advertisement on their website, in the way of an image on every page. You can see the image for Dr. Sweet Tooth below in the right side of the home page, which leads directly to the Google Play page. Well see just how much traffic that brings the app by the end of the week. What ever the case, it’s nice to know that Dr. Sweet Tooth was chosen as the favorite of the twenty-five that were involved in Super Game Droid’s 65th Friday Night Round-up.

Dr. Sweet Tooth on Super Game Droid

Thanks, Super Game Droid, and thanks to everyone who voted for Dr. Sweet Tooth!

Thanksgiving Game – Experiment

 

Gummy's Thanksgiving Feast Words of Wolfman Android app Thanksgiving Game

Thanksgiving Game

We’re getting a head start this month by releasing the new ZebraFox Games Thanksgiving game app, Gummy’s Thanksgiving Feast,  early on rather than waiting less than ten days before the holiday, as David and I did with the Halloween app, Halloween Campfire Stories. Admittedly, I had less to do with this app than previous ones, as Thanksgiving isn’t my favorite holiday, and there isn’t much story involved, but I still exercised my writing skills and helped as creative co-director.Overall, I helped make gameplay changes and decisions, collected all the sounds and music for the app, requested graphic tweaks, and of course wrote the game description.  You can read my description below or on the Google Play page. I utilized the space (4,000 characters) to tie the game in with the others. Of course the choice was already made to include Gummy the toothless werewolf of the Felipe Femur story line early on, but I also made the events of Gummy’s Thanksgiving Feast take place directly after the  Dr. Sweet Tooth ordeal, once Gummy has recovered enough from the evil Dentistry to feast of food.

Description

Gummy the toothless werewolf is back with a big appetite, just in time for an all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving feast. He’s recovered from his trip to the evil dentist Dr. Sweet Tooth, now hungrier than ever… and with a king complex. He wants to be served. As his attendant for the night, you need to help Gummy satisfy his hunger by feeding him whatever he desires. Feed him as much Thanksgiving turkey, ham, green beans, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and corn as you can in 60 seconds in the Full Course mode, or try out the Selective Eater mode and feed him only green beans, being sure to avoid tapping any meat, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, or corn.With leadership boards soon to come, players can challenge friends and see who can stuff Gummy with the most Thanksgiving food in 60 seconds, as well as who can click the most vegetarian friendly green beans without tapping any other plates of food.

How to Play: both the Full Course and Selective Eater modes feature 5X5 tabletop grids of food on plates. In the Full Course mode of play, players are encouraged to tap the prompted type of Thanksgiving food–turkey drumsticks, ham, green beans, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, or corn–as fast as they can in the 60 second time limit. Gummy the werewolf will prompt players on what he wants popped into his mouth with a speech bubble, and the food will wiggle. Selective Eater on the other hand offers the unique challenge of having to click only green beans. No time limit will be given, but the game will be over if any other type of Thanksgiving food is clicked or if each individual course is not cleared within ten seconds. There are other customers to attend to, after all. No lollygagging. Eat, or beat it. Retry again and again for a better, higher score.

 Screen Shots

Gummy 2

Gummy 1 Gummy 3

Thanksgiving Game – Experiment

In addition to the description and the food themed features, I added a paragraph that mentioned other popular games with similar themes or puzzle like qualities. The hardest part of app development, after all, is getting the attention needed for downloads, ratings, and reviews. I noticed that when I added the title “Ani-crush,” a puzzle game for the Windows Phone platform, but not a Google Play game, to a game’s description, that views started to increase. I want to test my theory, that in doing do I’ can increase traffic and so with this newest app, I’ve decided to take this a step further and crafted a paragraph that stuffs as many non-android popular games in as possible, while still portraying some information about Gummy’s Thanksgiving Feast. Of course, the traffic is likely from those that are looking to download one of the titles in the paragraph I crafted, but I have faith that David’s savory graphics can entice some wayward searches to give the game a try. The following is my traffic-increasing paragraph experiment, one of many in my self-titled guerrilla marketing schemes.

If you like puzzle games such as Anicrush, TwoDots, and Hyspherical, combined with food imagery more savory than the fantastica Bakery Story, Streetfood Tycoon, and Fair Food Maker Game, in which you can take care of a werewolf like you might a Wildagotchi and shovel food down Gummy the werewolf’s throat quickly like Krashlander racing down a ski hill or a Godus empire building crumbling under attack, than this game will likely appeal to you, with its TanZen like, immersive repetition and relaxation.

As always, thank you for playing! Reviews and ratings are always welcome, as are any concerns you may have. Feel free to drop the developers at ZebraFox Games an email. Learn more about the developer at www.zebrafoxgames.com. You can also find more about Gummy the toothless werewolf and his friends Felipe Femur the skeleton, Runny the witch, and Sunny the sun-loving vampire at www.felipefemur.com where spooky is done so subtly that even Halloween w eenies can enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Climbing the Indie Game Hunt Ladder

Halloween Campfire Stories - Climbing the Indie Game Hunt Ladder

Climbing the Indie Game Hunt Ladder

I’ve been trying to promote ZebraFox Games Android Apps with attention and increased visibility with a strategy I like to call Guerrilla Marketing. This particular simple venture I like to call, Climbing the Indie Game Hunt Ladder, in which I located a website that allows for Indie developers to view , like, and enjoy other indie developers games, but also submit their own. Now, I noticed straight off that this wasn’t a huge name site (Indie Game Hunt), but it was neatly designed and to my liking, and the top post had gathered nearly a thousand views in a months time. This may be a drop in the bucket for giants like King with their Candy Crush Soda Mocha Latte Saga, but for small time developers like myself and my brother, this was a good, large number. Certainly you have to cut a mere fraction of the number of views to get those who will actually download the game, much less play it, much much less rate it, and much much much less review it, but any view represents a chance that someone will play it, enjoy it, then spread the word to friends.

I went through view, played, enjoyed, and even rated a few of those games already up. Then I submitted one of the ZebraFox Games I helped create. It was nearly ten days until Halloween, so the logical choice was Halloween Campfire Stories, in which I wrote three spooky kids stories from the points of view of the characters I created for the Felipe Femur Story. David created great imagery of the characters circling a campfire, and together we added sounds, timed ourselves reading up until the key words on each page several times and took the average to add well-timed scary sounds such as a suspense sound when Felipe Femur leans over the side of bed, or an unsettling wail every time Felipe’s antagonist says the eerie line “Hungry! Hungry! I wish to eat of you.” Granted, the Halloween Campfire Stories app didn’t have the herculean effort put in that Dr. Sweet Tooth did (our most ambitious game in terms of game play), but a lot of effort and time still went into it, and two days before Halloween gave me just enough time to get it up to the front page.

I mHCSFFade an account wrote a brief description, then a catchy Halloween themed title, then, knowing that people respond to images, and knowing David created an eye catching icon, I uploaded the Google Play square icon. Most developers on the site didn’t take the time to do this one simple thing, or uploaded a picture of themselves and I believe it hurt them. Except for the guy at the top obviously, for even with a picture of himself he made it to the top, although her did bend the truth putting [FREE] in his title, when a quick few minutes trying it out and it’s obviously heavily based on the [FREEMIUM] business model in which the game is free to download, but the majority of items and services are locked behind a steep pay wall.

The first day, with the catchy title and picture, Halloween Campfire Stories made it to page six of the trending games:

Climbing the Indie Game Hunt Ladder

By day four I had gotten Halloween Campfire Stories from page six, to five, to four, to three, to two. But it took a little while to do so. So I realized that the climb required more effort on my part, more nurturing it it was to get to page one. Now page two was where it started to get a little harder. It was no longer considered new,so the people who view and voted on not the trending games but the new no longer saw it. The views  stagnated as I saw those on the front page’s numbers climb and climb. Unlike page one in which each app had around 200+ views, page two only had about 30 each. It’s obvious most people’s interest ended at the end of page one. I needed outside help to get my post out of purgatory. That’s were friends, Facebook, and twitter came into the picture. I certainly only wanted enough to make the leap page two to one, as many friends had already been to the app store to see the app and I wanted stranger views from around the world.

Here you can see the top post with the personal photo in use in lieu of the game image. [FREE] HabitRPG – hack your life creating epic quest! It sounds interesting and potentially life altering, explaining its reign as number one. However its reign was coming to an end for the site removes it from trending at day 30. One month.

As I said, by day four I made it to page one, from which point the views started rolling in and even got a view ratings (five stars) and a review stating he found out about the game through Indie Game Hunt.

rating

Again, it was a tiny step, but the site did lead to plenty more downloads on top of the small fraction who rated the game, and the one generous soul who took the time to play , rate, and review it.

Climbing the Indie Game Hunt Ladder

I had originally “liked” or up-voted my own post to help get it to page one for visibility, as you can see above the up arrow is highlighted red/orange, but from there I retracted my up-vote, wanting more honest representation interest. Each day I saw that the well timed app (Halloween, though made for kids and on an adult indie game site, got more and more up-votes, views and even a couple positive comments stating that the Skeleton’s Story (Felipe Femur) had a nice humorous twist to it.

Climbing the Indie Game Hunt Ladder

As if perfectly timed, Halloween Campfire Stories make it to the Number one spot on Halloween.  The HabitRPG had been on for more than a month and was thus removed, but Halloween Campfire Stories overtook every other app on the list including the contended TinyWords. With still two thirds of a month’s time to go before getting removed from the trending games list, I hope many will get to enjoy and read the Halloween Campfire Stories app, and extend Halloween if only for a short story session.

Climbing the Indie Game Hunt Ladder Halloween

Download the Android App Halloween Campfire Stories buy clicking the link.  Don’t forget to play Dr. Sweet tooth and ZebraFox Games other apps as well. We value every download, rating, and review. Thank you for reading the app, and thanks for reading Climbing the Indie Game Hunt Ladder, as well.

Update!

Dr. Sweet Tooth has made the front page, and in about half the time. Experience was on my side and I used my techniques to get in to the front page double time.

IGH_DST_HCS

New App Halloween Campfire Stories for Kids

A Digital Halloween Treat for Kids – Campfire Stories for Kids

For Halloween, David and I created a spooky Halloween treat–a scary short story app for children. Halloween Campfire Stories for Kids contains three new, original stories written by me from the point of views of Felipe Femur the skeleton, Sunny the sun-loving vampire, and Gummy the toothless werewolf, with art by my brother David Dorn. Together David and I added timed sound effects to make the experience of reading each story more immersive and a bit scarier. Don’t worry, there’s some humor, as well. If you or your child are a real lightweight when it comes to horror, start with Felipe Femur’s spooky story, Hungry, Hungry! It’s the shortest as the following description of the app suggests and contains the most humor. That will give you an idea of the level of scares, explaining why the app is more often described as spooky than scary.

Download Halloween Campfire Stories by clicking the link, or by clicking on one of the images below. Thank you if you give it a try and please feel free to rate it and review it if you like it.

New App Halloween Campfire Stories for Kids

Features:

• Free to Read
• No Advertisements
• Engaging Content
• Three Spooky Stories
• Suspenseful Sounds
• Link to Website

App Description

Felipe Femur & Friends are back just in time for Halloween and the Day of the Dead! They’ve come prepared with three spooky, never before heard scary stories that both kids and adults will enjoy: Wet, toothless Mouths; The Cursed Can Opener; and Hungry! Hungry! In the Halloween Campfire Stories app, Felipe Femur the Skeleton, Gummy the toothless werewolf, and Sunny the sun-loving vampire each have a unique, scary story to tell around the camp fire and are more than happy to tell it again and again. More friends are slated to join the campfire Halloween party at a later time (future updates with more scary stories) including Runny the sniffling witch.

The three current short scary stories range in size, as do the storytellers’ bodies, from Felipe’s brief, skeletal story, to Sunny’s slightly longer but still gaunt one, to Gummy’s plump tale of horror that’s sure to please kids who love to be afraid or to scare their friends. Each story comes complete with spooky sounds that are guaranteed to send shivers down listeners’ spines, and each is perfect for a scary night in or a spooky, scary camping trip out in the wild. For the best experience, gather around a campfire and read each scary Halloween story aloud.

As always, reviews, comments, suggestions, and ratings are welcome and appreciated.

 

New App Halloween Campfire Stories for Kids

Felipe: Hungry! Hungry! Sample:

Years ago, I was to spend time at a summer camp in the woods…

…but I missed the bus.

It was a long walk to camp, but I didn’t mind it. As you all know, I love walking.The breeze felt nice blowing through my ribs, and the walk was nice, too. That is until it grew dark.Suddenly, the owls hooted, the trees rattled their leaves, but scariest of all was the whisper. Yes, the eerie, hungry whisper.

No louder than the wind, it said, though I couldn’t then be sure, ‘Hungry, hungry! I wish to eat of you.’

Full of terror I ran through the forest. I ran until I found the camp.

Everyone had gathered around the fire, just as we are now. I found the lead counselor, but being the skeleton I am, he did not see how white with fear I was, and with my teeth chattering I couldn’t tell him.

‘The beds are all full, I’m afraid.’ He pointed to a far cabin, the one nearest the tree line. ‘You’ll have to stay there.’

‘Alone?’ I asked.

‘Alone.’ The counselor nodded.

So alone I went and found my bed. It felt warm and comforting, though I still wished I were home in my own room. Some time after lights-out, I heard a scratching. I figured it was tree branches rubbing the side of the cabin…That is until I heard the whisper once more.

‘Hungry, hungry!’ it said. ‘I wish to eat of you.’

My bones shook.

Then the whisper disappeared after a crinkling sound, and I fell asleep.

The next night I felt better about sleeping alone.That is until I heard the whisper once more. This time it seemed to come from the closet, and a growl accompanied it.

‘Hungry! Hungry! I wish to eat of you.’ The voice said, for it was now indeed more than a whisper.With the crinkling sound it faded, and being too afraid to rise, I hid under my blankets until morning.

The third night the voice called once more, ‘Hungry! Hungry! I wish to eat of you.’ This time it came from under my bed. I grabbed my flashlight, and worked up the courage to look. My hands trembling, I came to the edge of the bed.

‘Hungry! Hungry!’  the voice said, and then there came the crinkle and a wet growl.

I swallowed and held my breath and peeked over the side of my bed, but lost my balance and tumbled off.

‘Hungry! Hungry!’ I heard the voice say loudly just in front of me. ‘I wish to eat of you. Eat you whole!’

I scrambled for my flashlight and pointed it under my bed. And you know what I saw?

I saw sharp teeth. I saw feral eyes.

I saw… [Trick! Continue the story by downloading the app]. It’s free and ad free!

 

 

 

Malignant Beauty and Other Highschool Artworks

Here is a small gallery, featuring a few of my surviving still images in 3D work from the high school art program taught at the the Regional Technical Institute (RTI). I would have added my 3D animation work, a collection I was more proud of and that was more advanced than these images, but the digital portfolio was lost somewhere in the transferring it to disc and subsequently deleted when the class came to a close before this was realized.

The top image is titled Malignant Beauty and is based on the first poem I ever wrote by the same name (read below), which was in turn based on the images I saw during a night in which the chimney filled the house with smoke and forced me outside. It was also heavily influenced by the punk-rock band A Fire Inside (AFI) and their artistic album Sing the Sorrow. Malignant Beauty (the image) won a gold key award in the Scholastic Arts regional award contest. 

Malignant Beauty Poem:

On that night the moon was bright and in full maturity,

and the stars twinkled with their majestic and malignant beauty.

A lone ever changing cloud drifted silently across the vast night sky,

and the tree tops fortunate enough to have been caught in the moons radiance

leaked shallow pools of blood into their unmistakable luster.

The insects were captivated and speechless, leaving me to feel alone and forsaken by the world.

The other images demonstrate my interest in both Halloween and dark imagery in general as well as young love. The center-left image, Halloween’s Garden or 11:00 PM, illustrates a field with a cement tube segment (out of place), vandalized with the word Halloween, and a gust of wind blowing both leaves and a postcard, featuring three roses in color, as well as a wilted bouquet of roses mixed in with the tall grass. It’s heavily infleunced by my first love, my high school sweetheart, a mysterious, beautiful gothic girl. We’d meet up in similar places, and this Halloween Garden struck me as a perfect place for us,along with a series of other images that helped make up our perfect overcast world. A couple others can be found on my old DeviantArt page, though many were removed after the break up. 

The image in the center-right position is titled Reflection Unwanted, and shows a cartoonish black widow spider seeing its reflection in the water as the grim reaper, or death.  In a way it was a dark (almost goth) version of saying “The Thug life chose me,” and dealt with my feelings of inadequacy in being a twin, and a disappointment to my parents, resulting from my angsty attitude and choice in girlfriend. 

Finally, there is the piece titled Halloween House, which is simple a rushed exercise in shadows. The lone house was influenced by the lone farm house in the cartoon Courage the Cowardly Dog, and of course the Halloween season. There wasn’t much more to it.

On top of the award I won for Malignant Beauty, I won a  local Lumiere film award for my Science Fiction animation, Schizophrenic Operation, but this was lost, as was the AFI tribute video animation I did for the song Now the World, which received a honorable mention. 

Malignant_Beauty____picture_by_Mr_Halloween

 

Halloween__s_Garden_by_Mr_Halloween Reflection_Unwanted_by_Mr_Halloween

Halloween_House_by_Mr_Halloween

Dokkoisho Boys – Parody

In a previous post I discussed Soran Bushi, a traditional Japanese dance, practiced by countless Japanese students and professionals. I linked two videos in that post illustrating my participation in the Soran Bushi dance group for the Night of All Nations back in 2008, a multi-cultural event held annually at the University of Nevada, Reno to promote diversity and cultural enlightenment. You can find that brief post HERE.

This video is representative of the lighter side of the story. The fabricated one.

The above video is a Japanese class project from 2008 that follows the fictitious lives of three of the four Dokkoisho boys. The Dokkoisho Boys consisted of myself, my brother, David, Edward Kumar, and Zane Ricks—the only four in the dance group that were not from Japan, but rather Americans. While we took practice and our performance in the NOAN group very seriously and did our best to pay homage to the great country of Japan, we also had some fun when group projects came up for our Japanese class. This spoof video is one such example, and while it is entirely in Japanese (No subtitles, sorry), one does not have to speak Japanese to find the humor in it.

The nine minute video showcases Edward as the coked out member of the Dokkoisho boys, David as the ex member of the Yakuza, and myself at a rooky CIA agent, in a parody of an E! Hollywood Story.

Hope you enjoy it!

Contingencies and Chairs

377

Contingencies and Chairs

2008

The American people have been conditioned to associate comfort with excessive padding and throne-like frames rather than a mesh fabric and slim frame that the Aeron chair embodies. “Comfort in America is very much conditioned by La-z-Boy recliners” (Gladwell, 2005, p.169).  Therefore, the presentation of the Aeron or “chair of death” may have first served as an S-delta for wanting to sit because it was “ugly” and seemingly hard looking. To understand this effect it is again important to realize that the discrimitive stimulus of a comfortable looking chair was the opposite of the Aeron. Accordingly, the non-beautiful soft bulbous chair was not associated with characteristics of comfort and quality—a positive reinforcer—but rather discomfort. It can thus be assumed that there was a reflexive or respondent conditioning taking place (S-R), both in the chair’s softness causing comfort and the biological need of rest, and the visual stimulus of the mesh and plastic causing the by-product feeling of ugliness and dislike, then associated with weakness and discomfort. Another major factor for the initial dislike of the Aeron and the eventual popularity was culture and how that culture was spread via media. Culture to a behavior analyst is defined as, “all the conditions, events, and stimuli arranged by other people that regulate human action (Glenn, 1988; Skinner, 1953). In this case there is operant conditioning, in that the Aeron mesh chair became paired with respectable, authoritative positions through the winning of awards and appearing in television commercials and in films, hence serving as a positive reinforcer (praising). Beauty is relevant, not absolute, and is conditioned by society and culture, via media and marketing, thus the Aeron became beautiful. This describes a positive reinforcement contingency, in which the chair was presented, after being operantly conditioned to be an SD for sitting and associated with greatness (awards), and hence increased the behavior of sitting producing reinforcement with non-sweaty comfort. This could also be a negative reinforcement paired with a history of reinforcement, in that—whether directly or by observing others—the removal of discomfort and fatigue with sitting in the Aeron reinforces the behavior of sitting when the SD (Aeron) is presented.

In carrying out the research on the Aeron, the design team altered the prototypes of the Aeron in an attempt to increase the rating, thus the design of the chair became the independent variable and the rating of comfort and aesthetics became the dependent variable. The external validity was high since it was very relevant to the outside world, yet this means the internal validity was lowered, meaning that many factors could have ultimately affected the rating, including acquisition of familiarity, perhaps even a deprivation of sitting, hence the context of behavior could have been a major factor. Consequently, the researchers may have manipulated the participants by having them stand for an extended period of time, thus inducing a negative reinforcement contingency.

The same event could have also induced a negative punishment contingency in that when the chair was removed the behavior of rejecting the chair would decrease. Therefore the S-delta (Aeron chair) for sitting would become a SD for sitting.  Furthermore the setting or environment could have affected the rating of the chair, because chair was unique while most others, at the time, were very similar, therefore it is likely the participants in the trials were in a situation (such as home) with chairs other than the new Aeron, in which certain environment cues (TV, hot tea) could serve as SD for comfort, and thus the chairs are operantly paired with another stimulus that produce comfort such as the ingredients in the tea they may be drinking while sitting.

This raises issues and the question of whether or not familiarity—or the concept of exposure effect—has an effect on the rating or dependent variable. “The mere repeated exposure of the individual to a stimulus is a sufficient condition for the enhancement of his attitude toward it” (Zajonc, 1968). Furthermore the questions of whether or not culture, deprivation, as well as the environment have an effect on the rating (of the chair) are raised. It is likely that all these variables have a great amount of influence on peoples rating of a chair, therefore it is hypothesized that deprivation will lead to the changeover of an S-delta to an SD, that culture or others opinions will increase or decrease ratings due to conformity and whether or not those opinions are favorable or not.  In addition a familiar environment is expected to increase favorability and rating due to familiar objects being associated with comfort and thus possible SD’s for it, and finally mere exposure should increase familiarity and thus rating due to the exposure effect.

To test these propositions several experiments should be done—separately for validity since the less variables the easier to attribute the results to the independent variable; single subject designs should most frequently be used as well. Two issues able to be addressed—or hard to separate easily—are the effect of the environment and other or group opinions on the rating. These could be tested with the use of surveys and five groups, one  control in lab setting, two additional lab setting groups and two home stationed groups, of a fairly large number each (>30) in order to better represent the entire population. The control group 1 would remain alone in a lab to observe, test and rate the chair—a new Chair design should be used since the Aeron is now popular—meanwhile control group 2 would consist of a group or family of observers to tackle the concept of group opinions influence on rating. Control or lab group 3 would consist of 1 participant and several (>3) confederates to say they like the chair or do not, thus control group 3 would be broken into 2 sub groups: like and dislike. The experimental group 1 would be allowed to take the chair home and observe, test and rate it on a survey while surrounded with the possible SD for comfort (i.e. hot tea, TV, etc.) however, this would have to be accomplished alone. Home group 2 could have family and friends present to offer opinions—this survey would first ask the participants rating and then a rough idea of what other’s opinions were.

In addition to the previously stated experiment, a second experiment to address culture would be established as well. Since culture is an issue that is not easily controllable, simply showing a video of people exhibiting verbal behavior in the direction of favoring the design of the chair or not, would shed light on the factor. Only three groups would be needed, a control and two experimental. The control group would again be placed alone to observe, test and rate the chair, while the experimental groups would do the same only they would be primed with a video either containing positive opinions or negative from other people, perhaps celebrities or authoritative figures (endorsements).

To attend to the variable of deprivation only two groups would be needed—control & experimental. The control group would simply be alone in a lab setting and allowed to observe, test and then rate the chair. With the experimental group the independent variable would, of course, be the deprivation of a place to sit, thus inducing a negative reinforcement contingency. The removal of chair may increase the behavior of sitting when the chair stimulus is again presented, therefore the SD (presentation of Aeron chair): sets the occasion for R (increased sitting) and produced reinforcement (comfort), hence putting the single association between excessive padding and comfort on extinction. This however raises ethical issues, and therefore may not be able to be accomplished.

Finally, the exposure effect on rating could be studied in much the same way—with an experimental and control group. The control group would be permitted to observe, test and rate the chair in one go, while the experimental group would observe and test the chair several times before finally asked to rate the chair. Therefore the only differing variable would be the amount of exposure—more experimental groups could also be added with varying amounts of exposure.

The results are predicted to reveal a notable amount of difference between the experimental and control groups in each of the experiments. Familiarity, both in the aspects of environment and exposure are predicted to increase the rating of the chair. The deprivation of rest/ sitting is expected to increase the rating of the comfort of the chair, as is other’s or group opinions of a favorable nature. An unfavorable opinion (dislike) is expected to decrease the rating of the chair, perhaps due to the notion of an echoic relation or a form of imitation in that the chair is unfamiliar because it is a new design. After all humans frequently learn from observation—it saves valuable time.

 References:

 Gladwell, Malcolm. (2005). 4. “the Chair of Death”. Blink: the power of thinking without

            thinking. (pp.167-173) New York: Hachette Book group USA.

Glenn, S.S. (1988). Contingencies and metacontingencies: Toward a synthesis of

behavior analysis and cultural materialism. The Behavior Analyst.

(pp. 11, 161-179). New York: Hemisphere.

Pierce, David W. (2004). Behavior Analysis and Learning. Third (Ed.) New Jersey:

Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social

Psychology Monographs, 9(2, Pt. 2), 1–27.

Felipe Femur’s Future

hirez_iconApp review sites reviews of Felipe Femur:

“96/100” – AppBrain

“Felipe Femur™ will most certainly fall into your pile of favorites.” – App Apes

The  online app reviewers for Apple, Android, and Windows games, AppBrain and App Apes, have reviewed Felipe Femur™ and given it positive scores. An overall 96/100 and eight out of ten, respectively, with perfect scoring graphics, and a near perfect (nine out of ten) in Game play/story. App Apes prides themselves on being an app review website created by app developers for developers, and also for being honest in their reviews; not to mention completely free. Felipe stood up against their rigid grading criteria and survived with a very positive review. It would seem that with the free review Felipe Femur™ got, that App Apes were both honest and free and without a corrupt trick up their sleeves. Very refreshing. The reviewers also had this to say:

“The ironic nature of the characters (Sun Loving vampire; toothless werewolf) make the characters quite endearing and the leave the reader wanting more of their adventures.” – App Apes

Luckily for the reviewers at App Apes, I do plan on continuing Felipe Femur’s adventures. In fact I am currently working on a sequel in which Felipe Femur travels to Mexico to visit his family and celebrate the Day of the Dead. Whether this will be publish as an interactive game or a traditional printed children’s book has not yet been decided. See below for hints at the future of Felipe Femur.

Anyway, if you have not already done so, please check out the game, Felipe Femur™, in the Android marketplace, a.k.a. Google Play. Don’t be afraid to leave a review and perhaps even a comment if you enjoy it. It really helps us out. You can, of course, also find free printable activities here at Felipe Femur’s website, including bingo sheets, crossword puzzles, hangman templates, and print-out the new Felipe Femur and Friend’s coloring book sheets. Here’s one such highly appreciated review:

★★★★★

“Cute game and story Wonderful children’s story about a skeleton and his friends, along with small game segments to allow kids to interact with the story and follow Felipe on his journey. :)”  -Samantha C.

THE CHARACTERS (Hints at future stories)

temp_felipe FELIPE Like most skeletons in the closet, Felipe tends to stay hidden away. He’s usually a lone wolf, as his friend Gummy likes to say. In his closet he loves to build things: forts, houses of cards, and he also loves to solve puzzles, but sometimes he grows bored of these things. On occasions he yearns for time with his friends, as well. And so he walks. Being the health nut he is, Felipe loves to walk, and in doing so, he meets many new friends, and he meets up with old friends, too. Maybe someday, if you’re out and about, he’ll walk into you.
gummy_still

GUMMY

A beefy werewolf who can no longer enjoy his favorite food: meat. He learned the lesson of good oral hygiene too late and lost his teeth for it. Like the moon, Gummy feels his brightest when he’s full, so having no teeth proves to be a problem. Currently, he lives in a crescent moon house. He invites his extended family, the Whowolves, Whenwolves, and Whatwolves, over for moon viewing feasts. He has considered Felipe Femur part of his pack ever since the skeleton bought him a corndog at a carnival, and is Felipe’s oldest friend. He remembers fondly nipping at Felipe’s ankles way back when he was a pup.

runny_new

RUNNY 

 A talented potion master, Runny graduated as class valedictorian from her high school of witchcraft. Her twin sister and broommate, Bunny, went on to become a magician in Romania, and Runny became a recluse in her absence. They had been close–so close that they dressed alike, and many couldn’t tell which witch was which, until Bunny traded out her steeple cap for a top hat. Living unaccompanied in a grotto proved to be lonely, until  one day a skeleton stumbled through a sun roof while on a walk. When her potion temporary gave him hair, Felipe encouraged Runny to return to witch college to fine tune her skills. Before returning to school, she struggled as a baker, so the idea quickly brewed in the cauldron of her mind and she pursued it.

sunny_2

SUNNY

A sun loving vampire. Yeah. Once selfish and called “a pain in the neck,” by Felipe Femur, Sunny has since changed his life for the better. He works in public service and volunteers all the time. Being a banker at the local hospital by night (a blood banker) and an volunteer umpire at an indoor stadium by day, Sunny now rarely sees the sun. He misses it. He’s always loved the beach and currently resides in a coffin at the shoreline, but remains sensitive to the sun.

One more thing with App Apes (besides the written review posted below): Felipe Femur has been entered into the App Apes Halloween (and Day of the Dead) contest, so be a Femur Friend and go vote for Felipe Femur for Android by clicking the App Apes Halloween Contest banner below. Help Felipe Secure the Users’ Choice award this Halloween season! Be sure to vote using the five star system for Felipe Femur:

halloween

 As for the App Apes review, you can read it below:

APP APES VERDICT

  • Graphics -10/10
  • Gameplay – 9/10
  • Replay Value – 5/10

felipe_femur_2014_badge

SUMMARY

Felipe Femur™ is an enjoyable interactive story book intended for children, but adults can have fun reading along with their kids, as well. The characters are very original, quirky, and illustrated beautifully, as are the backgrounds. The ironic nature of the characters (Sun Loving vampire; toothless werewolf) make the characters quite endearing and the leave the reader wanting more of their adventures.

The gameplay runs much smoother on the iPad, as the iPhone version does not allow the double jump feature, but both offer enjoyable gameplay mixed in with the story. It’s simple, but given the audience and the fact that this would work well as a bedtime story, the simplicity works fantastically.

Finally, given that Felipe Femur™ is a linear story, the replay value is drastically diminished; however, if you or your child are ones to reread your favorite story over and over, then this will not prove to be a problem, for Felipe Femur will most certainly fall into your pile of favorites.

Overall, a very well done story/game, with a charming cast of characters that we at App Apes hope to see more stories from.

Ratings for Dr. Sweet Tooth

dr. sweet toothAccording to the free app review website, App Apes, Dr. Sweet Tooth for Android has a near perfect rating. David’s graphics fetched a perfect score, as well as the gameplay which includes the story I wrote, developed, story-boarded, rewrote, edited, scrapped, rewrote, story-boarded, and trimmed. We simply lost points with the replay value, a 9/10, which is still great!

Please, check out the game, Dr. Sweet Tooth, and download the free version with advertisements, or the paid version without. Also, don’t forget to try ZebraFox Games first digital venture, Felipe Femur. You can, of course, find free activities and informative lists for the Halloween season at Felipe Femur’s website.

Finally, developers, don’t be afraid to put your best work forward and submit it to Ape Apes completely free app review site.

App Apes Review:

 App Apes Verdict

  • Graphics -10/10
  • Gameplay – 10/10
  • Replay Value – 9/10

dr_sweet_tooth_badge

Summary

Dr. Sweet Tooth is as addictive as sweets seem to be to the crew of competitive eaters that stands in the way of the evil dentist’s plans for revenge. The story is unique and beautifully rendered in comic book style, and the square tiles and eaters are crisp, clean, and colorful. The characters are interesting, and the gameplay diverse with the various challenge levels, a tutorial, and an endless mode.

The graphics are at once delicious looking and disgusting, with the tiles of various sweets (donuts, peppermints, gummies) and the roaches and vomit. The latter really serves as a deterrent to failing, and the endless mode offers a chance to get the top score, in order to brag.

With the inclusion of endless mode, the replay value is solid, and the various challenge levels are a great way to mix things up.

Another app review site, appszoom, reviewed Dr. Sweet tooth suggesting it is Great! at a score of 7.7, and extremely fun, well-designed, and unique.

Appszoom Review:


 

DSTappzoom

Android Market Reviews:


★★★★★

“Guess i’ll be the first to review this At first i was not sure about this thinking this would be some random boring game,but i was shocked. The gameplay is very smooth, the controls are very responsive and the game itself is difficult but addicting. No IAP’s or annoying mid game ads make this even better, so yeah, 5 stars from me. Great work dev!” – Aurimas U.

★★★★★

“I don’t normally like … I don’t normally like games like this. Being one who is picky about stuff like that. I am crazy about this. It’s a lot more addicting then you would think, it’s difficult and different. It’s perfect in my book…” – Desiree H.

★★★★★

“Pretty good. Me and my daughter both love this game. Sometimes, she fights with me just to play this game. “Dr. Sweet Tooth” really an enjoyable game, cute characters with beautiful details. And music also charming.” – Rehan K.

[More]

Dr. Sweet Tooth Design Process

The mobile phone and tablet game app,Dr. Sweet Tooth, was designed by ZebraFox Games. While the game is simple and fun to play, it is as difficult to master as it was to design and create. Many hours went into the first brainstorm session and concept designs, and many more went into story-boarding, programming, creating the art, and writing the story. On top of these efforts were the efforts of testing, tweaking errors, adding sounds and music, formatting for the Android marketplace, marketing, and there are even plans to translate the story into Korean.

The unique square style of the game echoes the look of the game’s predecessor, Zombie Diggers. As is clear from the following screen shot, Dr. Sweet Tooth continues the line of square characters from Zombie Diggers, and before that, City Blocks, both early creations of ZebraFox Games.

ZOMBIE DIGGERS

FELIPE FEMUR

011 07-Copy

As is apparent from some of the following note pages, skins that would cost money were considered, but ultimately ZebraFox Games chose to make the game completely free with to pay-to-win features nor pay to look good options. As apparent in the following images of original Dr. Sweet tooth notes is the change in story mid way through production. We wanted to make the name Sweet tooth fit better and what better way to do that than with a character with the ironic profession of a dentist. On top of this, we wanted to tie Dr. Sweet Tooth in with a previous game, Felipe Femur. In the Felipe Femur story, the werewolf Gummy tells the protagonist that the dentist took his teeth. This dentist was Dr. Sweet tooth. In fact, in the finished comic style narration, one can make out Gummy the toothless werewolves home just behind Dr. Sweet Tooth’s office building.

The original story board shows a mere mad scientist with a ray gun invention that cloned food and would clutter the world with sweets. But to the dismay of Dr. Sweet tooth a group of competitive eaters stand in his way of the world’s destruction by sugar. In the second iteration, Dr. Sweet tooth is made a dentist, a victim himself to cruel judgement, and he also has motivation for targeting a competitive eating contest. While he is a victim of circumstance, Dr. Sweet Tooth makes the awful choice to seek revenge by teaming up with the shady King roach. In this way, the roaches that appear on the rotting tiles in the game are accounted for.

STORYBOARD & NOTES

COMPLETED STORY

GAMEPLAY SCREEN SHOTS

CCI09032014 dsafsgdfw 10898246_10152997314168624_6461079929134317621_n

 

Technological Unemployment and the Basic Income Model

robot

The following is a simplistic, anecdotal intro to Technological Unemployment and the Basic Income Model:

When I first started college in 2005, I got a part time job at an independent video rental store. Before that, in high school, I would spend many weekends wandering the pleasantly musty aisles of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video with a group of friends, looking for the perfect movie to watch. Typically we’d stick to the horror section looking for a film that looked so bad it just had to be good, or an intentionally comical horror, like Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness or the classic Ginger Snaps. The thing is, I can’t wander those aisles anymore. I can’t seek a nostalgic walk to remember those times with my friends, or the my awkward first date of renting a movie with my high school sweetheart. The video store is dead, and along with it: the jobs it provided for stockers,  customer service representatives, supervisors, and managers. Red Box, the automated little video vending machine, is partly responsible for the end of the video store, and so are Hulu and Netflix. Even though they have been caught red handed in the slow murder of the Video store, who would complain about having to only pay one dollar at a Red box as opposed to four or five at Blockbuster, or better yet, eight dollars monthly for unlimited Netflix streaming? Only those who lost business and ultimately their jobs, I suppose.

As a little anecdote, my brother worked at video store for a time as well, Hollywood video, and witnessed an employ break down in tears when she found out that VHS’s were being faded out. I wonder if she didn’t fade from the world after the video stores completely disappeared. Whether she did or didn’t, it’s clear that the death of the video store doesn’t go completely without grief.

Now i’m sure there are some mom and pop shops still chugging along, such as the independent video store on Lemon drive attached to a a gas station and restaurant. And I’m also pretty certain that the owner of the store I used to work at had something to do with it shutting down, as he’d take all the ones from the register to go to strip clubs with his buddies several times on my watch, and bought an emu farm, but even if he hadn’t, it was inevitable: this decline of video stores. Netflix, Hulu, Red Box, etc. simply saw an opportunity to provide a convenience and we as the american people ate it up. I did, too. It was easier, cheaper, and I could wear my pajamas while browsing Netlfix’s catalog of movies. I never thought I’d miss those aisles of Video Maniacs and Blockbuster. But i do.

While the population growth is certainly slowing, due largely to the aging baby boomers and decreased birth rates, it is still nevertheless growing. Meanwhile, as is clear with the video store example, the number of jobs is declining. It could be argued that new forms of employment will spawn, and they will. Jobs such as drone pilots will sprout up, but these new jobs do not cover the number of jobs lost.

Technological UnemploymentWhen my parents worked at a grocery store in their youth they were making about $18 an hour each. Today that average wage has been cut in half, as has the total number of employees at facilities such as Wal-mart. Even ignoring inflation, this is a drastic cut in pay. These corporations seem to care only for profits and not their people, as more and more is expected from each employee, hours are cut often, and full time work is a rarity.  If you never see anyone manning the fabric counter, or see that out of the thirty registers only two are open, this is why. Jobs are being systematically cut to fatten the wallets of those on top. Capitalism, sure, but also an unrestrained greed, and certainly cruel to the people of this nation on the bottom. Think automated self check outs where one cashier is now expected to keep an eye on 4 to 10 registers instead of 1. On top of that, we’re losing many, once stable jobs.  Taxi cabs may soon be automated; and McDonald’s is experimenting with automation to replace workers who cannot live on the low wages, effectively lowering those worker’s wages to zero.

Looking back to the automobile revolution–changing out assembly line workers for machines–it’s clear robots, computers, and machines were intended to make the workplace safer and the jobs easier. And yet, who is really benefiting from these innovations? Not the general public.

Then there are the schools. Not the public high schools, but the colleges…

Where are you go with a degree these days? Practically nowhere, except for a minimum wage job, and as mentioned, even those are becoming harder to come by. College tuition is inflating at an alarming rate, as are student debts, and even with a degree a job is not a guarantee upon graduation as it once seemed to be. Colleges raise tuition to fund additions to their campuses in order to attract more students, and the perpetuation that cycle of isolated wealth and widespread student debt continues. Sounds like a scam, and in a big way it is. There are certainly things to learn and passionate teachers who love to teach, but the cost is too extreme for so little payout. The fact is, most employers never even glace at your schooling, and certainly not that 4.0 GPA you sweated and lost hundreds of hours of sleep in order to maintain, but they’ll notice your lack of degree in a heartbeat and won’t skip a beat before tossing your resume in the circular file (trash). They only care about making money and how the experience you didn’t get because you were too busy researching for your thesis paper and powering through your readings and homework to experience will make them richer (or in your case won’t). So while you were balancing a meager social life so you didn’t lose absolutely every ounce of happiness in your life, and spending so many hours shivering with panic and contemplating your pitifully small place in the universe before bed each night, you were only being set up for failure, not setting a foundation for a great future, because then you would be competition…

It’s clear something needs to change; that the benefits of the informational generation, as well as robotics are far from seen or felt by the majority of us. Perhaps it’s time we admit something hard to admit. Perhaps it’s time to admit that the cause of this ever growing problem, and the cause of growing unrest of the American people, is strict Capitalism. Now I was spoon fed the highlights and and sweet goodness of Capitalism since grade school like most people, hearing stories of those who made it big and being told that with hard work that that would be me, but perhaps that gnawing feeling in the pit of our stomachs, the one  that smelt of inherit flaws, and that bitter taste of it, was not a nutrient as in broccoli, but rather foul rot. We can’t all be the top dogs after all, and those who are have to climb and step on everyone below them. The system is spoiling. Once it worked. When there was enough for everyone and room to expand, it was seemingly a perfect system, but the space to expand is running out. What happens when all of China has I-pods, and Laptops, and double shot mocha frappuccinos every morning, and cars, and personal libraries full of the latest books, music, and movies? There will be no one else to sell to; no one else to bolster the bottom line. The profits will stagnate, never increasing. Capitalism relies on an even expanding playground, but we live in a finite world.

So, what about an incentive driven basic income model? PTechnological Unemploymenteople are abusing the system in the United States anyway, and we all know someone who is, so why not have everyone benefit as was intended with a society instead of just the dishonest? Give everyone time to actually enjoy their short lives, debt free and comfortably. Give people time to read, and learn, and create. Give them time to socialize and play. We weren’t always obsessed with the forty-hour work week after all. Do a little digging into the typical life of a Native American. Doesn’t sound bad at all until… well, you know, that whole western expansion thing. Then, for those who really want to work, can work for both funded incentives and for their personal satisfaction. Innovation will be celebrated, not manipulated beyond recognition into profits for the few, or worse: destroyed to maintain the profits of something like the fossil fuel gas companies, at the detriment of the environment. No more money in politics by means of lobbying and corruption. No more hurting the race for a large pay check as with the lumber industry and hemp.

Until then, or until a better solution is thought of and not silenced by those who would stand to lose profits, the few are killing the rest of us softly with no hands, just robotic claws and automated voices asking if you want fries with that.

Felipe Femur is Out!

Felipe_Femur_Banner_2

Felipe Femur is out and free to play now at felipefemur.com, or you can go directly to the Google Play Marketplace and download it to your Android device.

The interactive story book follows an introverted, selfless skeleton named Felipe Femur, and illustrates how he helps his friends, but never thinks to ask them for a thing. I wanted to have the protagonist be an introverted individual–participating in hobbies that did not require a social group–in that the real world, as we know it, is an extroverts’ one. People who recharge with alone time, play video games, watch movies, write, etc., alone, are often perceived as socially awkward, shy, and sometimes creepy. I believe this is a misconception. Most introverts crave social interaction, the same as extroverts do, simply to a lesser degree, and this is clear with the introduction of Gummy, Runny, and Sunny, Felipe’s friends. Felipe sets out when boredom overstays its welcome and seeks out his friends. So while he is an introvert, he remains a friendly, likable character.

russells_site_banner
(Image: Sunny the vampire. Felipe Femur’s good friend.)

Clearly the story has a Halloween theme to it, with characters such as a skeleton, a witch, and a werewolf, but the story remain cheery and positive, to the contrary of popular opinion that such themes should represent dreary material only. The challenge to opinion is particularly clear with the character Sunny, shown above. According to popular culture, and myth, vampires detest the sun. Typically sunlight destroys vampires, or at least, in certain stories, makes them glitter horrifically, and even then the vampires avoid the light. Not Sunny though. He loves the sun, and though somewhat sensitive to it, he enjoys its warmth. This confronts the stereotype of vampires in the same way the introvert protagonist does the notion held by many. So in the end, the story develops these anti-norm ideals, and places a small stone in the cobblestone path to acceptance for introverts in society.

On the Felipe Femur website, there are several fun activities for kids, including hangman printword search jpeg outs, bingo, and also word searches I create myself.  Some small, such as the one to the right, and some much larger. All of it is free to download and use, so please feel free to throw a Felipe Femur or Halloween theme party, even if it’s in July.

We, at ZebraFox Games, plan to make more extensive additions to the activities section in the future, including a “Runny’s double-the-batch,” matching game which will have colorful graphics and a computer based, interactive interface, with a boiling cauldron, and a dozen or more ingredient card that need matching. We also want to have an animated Felipe teach simple Spanish words, and provide praise while users complete computerized puzzles and hidden object pictures.

Keep an eye-socket out for updates, enjoy the game, and spread the word if you want to help Felipe Femur get noticed. Be a true Femur Friend.

The Evolution of Dokémon (2.0)

CCI05142014_0023CCI05142014_0027In an earlier post, i explained the start of Dokémon, and how my brother, David, and I used printer paper, cardboard from toilet paper rolls, and an arsenal of pens and markers to create cards depicting family members and friends in more bestial forms. For example, in the Dokémon world, the Russell Squirmy represented me, and the Wild David represented my brother.

As time went on, we got our hands on actual Pokémon cards. Real, tangilble, impossibly beautiful Pokémon cards! This only occured after an early blunder, in which we bought Pokémon info cards at a 7-11, instead of the Pokémon playing cards we desired. But we finally got a starter set each, spearheaded by a holographic Machamp.

Before getting our hands on the playing cards, we had the Pokémon television show, which aired every Saturday. Using the show proved to be an effective, but much more strenuous way of collecting information about each of the characters, for at the end of each episode a segment played, which flashed each of the 150 original Pokémon. David and I had our pens and lined paper ready for this segment. When it aired, we plucked various types of Pokémon eyes out, hacked off limbs, wings and tails (figuratively, of course), and jotted as many as we could down.  The two images of line paper, shown above, illustrate a small portion of the notes we took froHollow_Shellm these sessions of butchery. From these sheets we selected pieces and Frankenstien’d them together to create new Dokémon.  The image of Hollowshell to the left is an example of one of the many early Dokémon that came from the combination of pieces taken from the notes we made. You can see the turtle-like shell, the jagged teeth, the beaver tail, and the claws, each of which came from a different Pokémon.

These earlier Dokémon continue the genetic line of the original toilet paper Dokémon. However, by the time we upgraded from hand crafted 2X3 cards to 3X4 index cards, we had exhausted our list of relatives and friends in which to name them after. SticeButter_SlugThus we came up with literal compound names such as Hollowshell and Butterslug, as he looks to be a mix between a butterfly and a slug, and variations of descriptive words that portray the particular Dokémon, such as Stice, from the English word Slice, as the Dokémon is very sharp and able to slice victims, which its basic 40 damage attack attests to.

After this period of using parts of Pokémon, as well as the animals of our world, to make unqiue Dokémon, David and I entered a period that i like to describe as the dark ages of Dokémon. We took a step back with the knock-off card game, as it became exactly that: a knock-off–a clone of the popular Pokémon franchise. This period in time came with the introduction of real Pokémon cards. As i mentioned, after the 7-11 mistake, we received real Pokémon playing cards, and began to make copies of them. We often changed the creatures’ abilities, and letter of their names, but the look of the creatures changed little when being translated from the polished Pokémon cards to the matte index cards of Dokémon. sarasardcandraAs you can see, Sarasard is a copy of Charizard, even having a very similar name, and Candra is a clone of Ekans, except with antennae and cartoonish eyes. In these early Dokémon we also used not only odd numbers, but obsure ones, such as Sarasard’s 51 HP (Health Points), and 45 Flame tail, as well as Candra’s 36 HP. During this time, David and I, also fine tuned the look of the cards. Comparing just these two cards you can see the plainer Sarasard solid red border, in comparison to Candra’s two toned blue one, with the gray thumb slot. Both cards illustrate the simplicity of early Dokémon with the very basic names for their skill sets. Flame tail and Fire breath for Sarasard, and Tail whip and Vangs for Candra. In addition, Candra’s card includes a box for its weakness to fire, which is ironic, in a way, for though Sarasard is a fire Dokémon it remains a weaker card in terms of aesthetic design.

As time went on, we slowly crawled out of the Dark Ages of Dokémon and into the golden age of Jokémon.  Jokémon brought  Dokémon back to its comedic roots, but clung more to the  Pokémon franchise than to the family members and their representative creatures such as the Russell SquirmyRatitape RapetrashJokémon were largely based off puns of  Pokémon names. For example, Rapétrash (Rap as in rapid, not rape) was a play on Rapidash. Rapétrash is also a fire horse, like Rapidash, but with half eaten pizza and candy wrappers stuck to his coat. While perhaps not the knee slapper you would hope, it gave us a laugh at the time. Similarly, Ratitape is a play on the name Raticate. Ratitape, too, is hamster/rat-like, but he has tape stuck all over him. Surely, puns were not comedic gold in comparison to SNL and The Hangover, but the Jokémon represented a positive shift in the Dokémon evolution.

After the Jokémon period, David and I, continued with a mix between Pokémon pun characters and more unique original Dokémon creatures. During this period we experimented with different, colorful backgrounds, and more complex functions of attack abilities, such as Macroc’s  Zap that required the flip of a coin. Many abilities now had the risk of self harm, but the HP values went up consistently, which offset the effect of the self destructive abilities. As you can see, even these two basic Dokémon have higher HP values than the final evolved forms of the earlier Dokémon, such as Hallowshell. Macroc ElectpickElectpick represent the continuing line of Jokémon, being a “funny” version of Voltorb, while Macroc was likely pulled form a real world alligator/eel, if not a dream I had.

It’s clear that David and I figured out that odd and obscure numbers in HP and attack power did not work, by this time. We rarely actually played the game, but when we did, we did not like feeling we were in a math lesson. We wanted it to be fun, though we spent the majority of the time feverishly churning out card after card. The cards lost their novelty with our parents early on, so the rare occasion that we had to show a new friend our work became the only reward we received. And yet we continued making hundreds of the cards.

One day we got our hands on a collection of patterned foil. I forget if they had been a gift, or part of some delectable treats wrapping, but seeing as we loved holographic Pokémon cards, we did not miss our opportunity to create holographic, or foiled, Dokémon cards. Cutting and gluing squares of the patterned, colored foil to an index card, we then clipped out the Dokémon we had drawn on a separate piece of paper and glued it on top of the foil before laminating the whole thing. It added a lot of time to each card we made in such a fashion, but the result seemed worth it. Clebeary and Spearaghost are two examples of Holographic DokSpearaghostémon cards. ClebearyIt seems that Spearaghost‘s foil might even be run-of-the-mill aluminum foil, perhaps the first or last of its kind. The first if the idea of foil struck us before the colored foil came into our possession; and the last it represents the exhaustion of our colored foil resource. The characters, as you can see, are clipped from  printer paper and pasted on the foil, which in turn it pasted to the complete index card. Clebeary’s tail even hangs over the edge of the foil, illustrating perfectly the multiple levels of these cards.

Also clear from these two foiled cards, is the continued growth in complexity of the Dokémon. Spearaghost again illustrates the use of a coin in its first ability, and Clebeary furthers the decent into darkness with the suicidal ability Double edge, which may damage an opponent a whopping 80 HP, but also does the same to itself.  Furthermore, Cleabeary is clearly injured, as is made clear with the scuff marks and the Band-Aids. This demonstrates the ultimate path Dokémon took, which is far different than the kid friendly Pokémon franchise. In Pokémon nothing ever died, nor did anything ever get as injured as Clebeary even. Perhaps these minor injuries hint at the ultimate downfall of Dokémon, for the cards became far darker and more violent in the end.  GorgSnowcane With additions such as the murderous Gorg, and the vulgar Snowcane, i wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t capture our parents attention once more, only not in a good way. It’s clear the wounds were deeper, requiring stitches even, and the kind nature of the early Dokémon had been replaced with a malevolent one. By this time the HP counts had risen to the maximum 100, even for the basic Dokémon, so we no longer had room to grow, only stagnate, and create morbid shadows of the once fun, humorous card game cards. I imagine hormones were beginning to brew deep within us, angst too, and puberty crouched on the horizon.

In the end, we put Dokémon away, as we all must do with childish things. The cards remained in a toolbox, in the crawlspace beneath a house, until just recently, when I retrieved them in order to share them with the world.

If you’d like to see a more complete gallery of Dokémon cards please visit my brother’s website at Hugyu.

Empty House Invites Unwanted Guest

Empty House, written by Jax Davis, is the longest Lost in the Fog Production film. Originally written to be a horror film, one inspired by creepy events in Jax’s own life and the lives of some of her close friends, the film ultimately transformed into a horror comedy. The thrill just wasn’t there come time for editing, so with the help of Ryan Baker, the sound guy, the film took a turn towards humor. The gobble of the demon, the “oh snaps” of Jacob (Russell Dorn), and the record scratch halts were never in the script, but rather added post filming. Seeing as movies such as Satan’s Little Helper (2004), Santa’s  Slay (2005), Dead End (2003), and Ginger Snaps (2000), enriched our weekends and brought us together with laughter resulting from the films’ dark humor, it seems fitting that we made a film in the same vein–only with a fraction of the budget. A fraction meaning the gas money it took to drive to Jax’s relative’s house in Grass Valley, California and rent a hotel room while we filmed.

With the help of friends, we filmed Empty House over several months, using not only the Grass Valley house, but also another house in Reno, Nevada.This is apparent with the strange angles of the house resulting from the splicing of two houses to make one, and the change in character appearances. Viewers might notice that the length of Jacob’s (my) hair changes, from mid length to shoulder length, such as in the final garage scene.

While certainly not a Hollywood production, some of the effects throughout the film turned out to be impressive. David Dorn spent hours making the ghost (Jessica Pacheco) transparent, and creating the creepy movements of the spirit, as well as removing the color from the Demon while it manifested itself as Jacob’s girlfriend, Sasha (played by Leah Madison).

Still, despite the humor, the film seems to have presented a very unfunny problem. Strangely enough, the owners of the Reno house, where the pentagram scenes were filmed, maintain to this day that the fabricated summoning rituals opened a doorway and let something in. They claim to have heard furniture being dragged across the tile floor at night, and bumps from the crawl space.

They have since sold the property and moved out of state.

Luckily for them, they never had to hear the eerie demonic call of the turkey throat terror. Gobble gobble.

  Watch Empty House here.

 


 

Schizophrenic Operation – Winning Sci-fi Film

Schizophrenic Operation - Winning Sci-fi FilmSchizophrenic Operation is the title of a short Sci-fi film I did in high school while attending the 3D computer imaging and design course at the Regional Technical Institute. It follows a nameless protagonist as he journeys through his own mind, confronting his demons, after undergoing a brain operation intended to cure him of his debilitating Schizophrenia. He wanders a field of gray, lifeless flowers, climbs strange hillsides, even meets himself, and finally awakes under a mobile of prancing sheep, in a four poster bed, draped with crimson curtains, as a phonograph plays sad, almost eerie music. In the end, the protagonist and viewer remain uncertain if he dreamed it all–the operation and journey–or if the operation actually occurred, but damaged his memory.

Speaking of memory…

The files and original DVD have been lost, unfortunately, and the short film was never uploaded as a digital file. It is sadly lost forever. The only thing I have from it is a simplistic concept-art still and my memories.

The piece was entered into the Reno Lumiere 2005 Film festival and won first place in the Sci-fi film category.

Here are the various categories and the participants (finalists) in the competition:

Schizophrenic Operation - Winning Sci-fi Film lumiere2

Dokemon Cards

As an earlier post on the nameless card game mentions, Dokémon (Dokemon) is a parody of the popular Pokémon anime and card game. My brother, David, and I  watched the the show religiously every Saturday taking notes on the different features of the original 150 Pokémon, and used the various arms, faces, legs and tails to create parody versions of the characters. While influenced strongly by the Pokémon franchise, most of the early Dokémon we created have names that relate to our family members. For example, there is the Russell Squirmy, which was supposed to be a Dokémon in my image; and the Wild Garth that related to our uncle Garth. When we ran out of family members to name Dokémon after we moved on to friends, such as the Wild Clifford, and also our stuffed animals, finally creating characters like Can and Supreme Can from everyday objects. Each of these cards was constructed with the cardboard of a toilet paper roll sandwiched between two pieces of printer paper. Approximately 2X3 inches the original Dokémon cards that you see below are roughly the size of the real Pokémon cards. Eventually we moved on to using 3X4 index cards and laminating them rather than go through the effort of flattening toilet paper rolls to utilized their rigidity. We continued making more than 300 3X4 Dokémon cards, including holographic foil cards, while the below gallery is the the entire collection of the  67 original toilet paper roll Dokémon (Dokemon) cards.

dokemon dokemon CCI04232014_0017 CCI04232014_0013
dokemon dokemon CCI04232014_0015 CCI04232014_0016

Children’s Card Game

[ezcol_1half]

A children’s Card Game. The following pictures are a few examples of the many cards my brother, David, and I designed for fun in our childhood. We had started with a parody on the popular Pokémon franchise, using the name Dokémon, in which the D came from our surname Dorn.  After creating a good handful of Dokémon cards, we realized that Jokémon would have been a better choice name given that the cards were a joke version of  the Pokémon card game, but we had crossed the point of no return: we had laminated them. After literally creating hundreds of 3X5 Dokémon cards we moved on to more original card games.

Card_Charm

David had the idea for this particular nameless game during a family vacation to Florida. The first card he created was that of the white cat Charm. It reads:

CHARM

You will have good luck until you see

a black cat cross your path or

if you get the bad luck card.

The use of the fractions as representation of the the card’s health and attack damage potential eludes both of us in the present day, but at the time of creating this game, we played one another effectively and understood it perfectly. [/ezcol_1half] Also, there is in fact a Black Cat card, but as to what luck entails, we do not know that either. The diamond and, later on, the star indicated the imagined rarity of the card. “Imagined,” because we only made one of each, so they are all equally rare. All one-of-a-kind.

At the time of creation, I had no interest in helping David use a heavy hand to marker in the index card, then lick and tear printer paper and fashion it into the base of the cards, only to then come up with a non-Pokémon like character and tidbit of information on the character.The fractions and cards suits looked complicated, and I was busy fearing for my life. For before returning to the hotel (where David crafted the first card on a letter desk near the front door) a pair of young men, with backwards baseball caps and driving a black truck, slid their thumbs across their necks while glaring at me. Stuck at the light with the two idling in the next lane,  I imagined they had plenty of time to memorize the rental car’s plates and general look. I trembled as they saw my dad pull into the Holiday inn. I didn’t swim, want to eat, or do anything that required leaving the safety of the room with the curtains drawn. And I didn’t feel like making cards with my life on the line, feeling like a fragile 1/1 in game statistics.

Eventually the fear passed and I did help created many of the hundred or so cards for the nameless game. As is clear looking at the difference from the the original Charm card, to the other, and finally the far more polished and partly computer manufactured Debris Shield card, we evolved the ascetics of the game as we went along, lightening the background and bettering the art.

A fully collection can be found at my brother’s site. Check out David Vincent Dorn’s portfolio here and see how much further he’s evolved his style beyond childhood card games.

Here are a few more:

Card_Sand Card_fight Card_Time_Base
Card_debris Card_Orge Card_Worm

linebreak

 

 

Sōran Bushi

Sōran Bushi (or in Japanese, ソーラン節) is perhaps the most well-known and frequently practiced, traditional song  in Japan. It is said to have been originally sung by the early fishermen of Hokkaido, Japan, much like the the song What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor  was in the 19th and 20th centuries by  British and American sailors .

The accompanying dance echos the tasks of sailors such as bailing water and tugging on ropes, and is performed regularly by students at schools in Japan.

I had the honor of being part of the University of Nevada, Reno’s first group of Sōran Bushi dancers. We called ourselves The Dokkoisho Dancers. Dokkoisho being a shout of encouragement, chanted throughout the song and dance number.(Left Photo) You can find me in the bottom right of the group, crouched down. (Right Photo) i’m on the right in the back.

Soran Bushi - Sōran Bushi Sōran Bushi

We practiced for weeks, in preparation of our performance of the Sōran Bushi at Night of All Nations, a multicultural, annual event, and the following videos I found showcase the performance at N.O.A.N., and the preparation and after performance photo shoot. In the first video you’ll see me in the back row, right side. Middle.

Sōran Bushi Sōran Bushi

Lost in the Fog Productions

 

My brother and I, along with a long time friend, had been driving during an unusually foggy night in 2005 when we filmed a short video for a competition that our school, The Regional Technical Institute, entered us in. We entitled it Lost in the Fog, and later made that our group’s production name. We didn’t win the competition, but we did form a love of video and continued to write, film, and edit films well into our college careers. We continued this for years before we pursued our other interests. For me, that was writing.

This is a spoof of MTV’s Real World, and was created as a project for a Japanese language class. (Bad) Japanese with English subtitles. [/ezcol_1half] Feel free to watch part 2 as well, in which the majority of my parts are located, or any of our other short films on and the lfproductions youtube channel.

       

 

Here is an image of the article journalist Jessica Pacheco wrote on Lost in the Fog productions in the Nevada Sagebrush, a student newspaper at the University of Nevada, Reno:

CCI04232014

 

And finally here is a small gallery of the LFProductions website reiterations:

 

For more rebirths of the old Lost in the Fog Productions website take a look at the web designers portfolio page here.

Model Behavior

Model Behavior

I’ve always considered myself to be well behaved. I listened in class, never got in a fist fight, drove the speed limit. That’s not the model behavior I’m talking about, though. If you couldn’t tell from that suggestive painting of me holding a banana above, I mean modeling. I haven’t done much and usually it’s at the request of others. The painting above is part of my brother’s 100 paintings in 100 days challenge. We wanted something that would make those who visited uncomfortable when spotting it on the hallway wall. I think David achieved that. Don’t worry, I didn’t actually model naked for my brother. I wore a bathing suit, swimming trunks to be exact. I also don’t have those Pan Labyrinth’s feast monster stomach ridges, nor did I have a mustache at the time.  Besides modeling for this comedic piece, I have modeled with a far more experienced model, Tina, in a park. She wanted to do a shoot and was short a male model, so that’s where I came in. Here are some shots from that session:

Model Behavior Model Behavior
free_balloons_iii_by_daviddorn-d4rud3j let__s_play_iv_by_daviddorn-d4s223o

The shoot was suppose to be indicative of a young lost boy and a playground bully girl, hence the Mickey Mouse and Batman shirts I’m wearings, the balloons, as well as the bright orange shoes. i titled the top left one myself: Batman Rising, which i liked to think was clever especially given that the Batman Rising movie was just coming out then. There were quite a few others shots of me and Tina, as well as Tina solo, and those can be found on the photographer’s website.

These last few photos are from several separate photo shoots. Make of them what you will. I was once told my face was built for aviator glasses explaining the same style of sunglasses in both shoots on the top.I would classify the left photo as a hipster, and the right as a government agent of suited gangster. The bottom left was for an emo vs beatnik shoot, in which I was an emo. The bottom right is simply another shot from the photo shoot above with Tina.

MG_9995 Cameras_Everywhere_by_daviddorn1
1923209_60056993623_300923_n 462010_10150644679953624_629504710_o

 

 

Adventures in Cosplay as Cid Highwind

Back in 2011 I joined my brother and friends in a Final Fantasy XII cosplay (costume) group for Sac Anime, a mid size, bi-annual cosplay event. I learned that it can be fun and that there are plenty of great people and fun things to do and see at such events, including video game rooms, craft and product booths, live bands, a rave, a dance, a cosplay fashion show, and pictures. Lots of pictures. I was even introduced to a great band while there, The Slants, and still listen to them today. I must say seeing The Slants live and up close, with acoustic instruments was amazing, and in turn the experience makes the electronic version of the songs on the CD I bought from them seem to have less heart, but it’s still great. And while it was fun, I can’t say it was it was exactly my cup of tea. I got plenty of compliments on my costume and quite a few hugs from giddy young fans of the video game character, but I’ve never been one to enjoy or thrive in the show lights. i would have picked up acting not writing if I was interesting in such things. Even when making films for Lost in the Fog Productions, I enjoy being behind the camera more than in front of it.

Here are some photos of me in my Cid Highwind Cosplay:

296256_10150298776318624_1155982_n 376255_10150461597881558_946362356_n 333815_10150298831088624_4559446_o

I decided to go as Cid Highwind for three reasons, 1. I had to be a Final Fantasy 7 character to fit with the group (Tifa, Cloud), 2.Cid was always my favorite in the game followed by Vincent, 3.like a lot of beginning cosplayers, I wanted something relatively easy, and with a blue T-shirt and Green pants I was already half way done with the costume. I splurged on the boots because i liked them so much, and I knew i would use them often afterwards, and I do. You probably recognize those goggles as Harry Potter Halloween quidditch goggles, and the gloves were motorcycle gauntlets i got on clearance. The pack of Pall Malls as well as the decorative cigarette were courtesy of my grandfather. The sweater around my waist is one I used frequently beforehand, and the dog tags were an arcade prize i won a decade before.Finally, rather than craft a spear out of foam, paint, and a PVC pipe, I decided to purchase the cheapest mop possible and paint in brown. The mop is a joke weapon of Cid’s in the video game, and while some people at Sac Anime got a kick out of it, others were left confused. The picture in the middle, is actually a second attempt at cosplay for a Las Vegas event. My second and last cosplay event. You can see I wore a crappy wig the second time, as i didn’t want to bleach my hair a second time.

My brother David got a little more artistic with his photos, Photoshopping smoke and such, making them have a narrative element to them:

Cosplay_1
cid_highwind_sacanime_2011_by_daviddorn-d4905m6

As i mentioned, there were lots of hugs to be had. Here are a few we got on camera:

sacanime_2011_42_by_daviddorn-d490d8b 317541_10150298781688624_6282000_n 327446_10150298846243624_510177_o

Like i said, cosplay was fun and I have a lot of great memories from the event, but in the future, if i attend, i think I’ll stick to plain close and enjoy all the work people put into their costumes.