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a book cover


alChandler's Halls

Serving dozens since 1999!

Locke and Key

Here's the premise, courtesy of Wikipedia:

After Rendell Locke is murdered at the hands of former student Sam Lesser, his wife Nina is forced to move with her three children Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode from Seattle to Matheson, Massachusetts and take residence in Rendell's family home, Keyhouse. The children soon discover a number of mysterious keys throughout the house that can be used to unlock various doors in magical ways. However, they become aware of a demonic entity that is also searching for the keys for its own malevolent purposes.

The Netflix show is based on the comic book by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez. I never read the comic and I put off watching the show because of mixed reviews. But it's actually not too bad. It's not The Expanse or The West Wing good but it is good. Perhaps small g good verses big G good sums it up. And while watching it I realized I've gotten out of the habit of fantasies set in the present. I still read 'em from time to time but not as often as I used to. So watching Locke and key will get me out of a rut.

I'm enjoying it more then I thought I would and if I weren't going away I'd probably by some beer and binge watch the other seven episodes this weekend.

February 28, 2020

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Nebula nominees for best novel are out and this year I've read three of them A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir and The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. I liked all three of them but to my shame I remembered nothing about The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I'm not sure why that is but I'm rereading it and it's almost like reading it for the first time.

February 25, 2020

Motesquiou and des Esseintes

In the 70s I read a book called À rebours, in English it's Against the Grain or Against Nature, written by Joris-Karl Huysmans in 1884. The hero is a decadent French aristocrat named Jean des Esseintes. There's no real plot, Huysmans just goes on about the shit des Esseintes is into, perfumes, Latin literature, art, that sort of thing. The book was considered scandalous by mainstream critics but guys like Oscar Wilde loved it. I liked it because the hero was in serious decay and for some reason I'm drawn to that in literature, William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land, Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique stories and Gormenghast Castle. Of course they were places and des Esseintes was a person but even so I was into it. So I read the book and I've reread it a few time and there we are.

Currently I'm reading The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes. It's about France in the Belle Époque, which lasted from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 until WWI began in 1914. It follows three people, Prince Edmond de Polignac, Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac and Doctor Samuel Jean Pozzi, they sometimes hung out together. And the book mentions that Comte Bob was Huysmans' model for des Esseintes. Sort of like the way Hunter Thompson inspired Gary Trudeau to create Uncle Duke. Here's a picture of Montesquiou painted by Giovanni Boldini in 1897:

It was on the cover of the Penguin Books edition of À rebours for a while. So I bought a new translation of the French book, Against Nature and I'll dip into it after I finish the Barnes. That should satisfy my taste for decadence for a bit.

February 25, 2020

Last and First Men

Last and First Men was written in 1930 by Olaf Stapledon. The idea of the book is that two billion years in the future on a terraformed Neptune a member of the 18th human species telepathically infuences the mind of a 20th century writer, one Olaf Stapledon, to write a future history of humanity. The fictional Stapledon thinks he's writing a novel but he's actually writing history yet to come. I've read the book several times and I figure I'm due for a reread soon. And for those of you with Kindles, it's in the public domain.

Whelp, the Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who died in 2018, directed a movie based on the novel. I'll be honest, I don't know how you can compress the book into a movie, a ten week miniseries would be pushing it, but it's not really a film version of the novel, according to Tor it's:

Tragically, Jóhannsson died in 2018, but before his death, he had an acclaimed career as a musician and composer. One of his final projects before his death was his take on Last and First Men, which began as a multimedia project in 2017. The film featured imagery of Brutalist architecture, and was accompanied by an orchestra and a narration from actress Tina Swinton. Jóhannsson directed and scored the project, and the full score for the film is set to be released on February 28th.

I'd like to watch that. And here's a teaser for the film with Tina Swinton narrating.

February 24, 2020

Cats and Photo Filters

Cats are thought not to recognize themselves in the mirror, unlike chimpanzees and elephants. But they recognize their owners on the phone and if the phone's image changes they look up at their owner's face. For some cats the contradiction is too much and they run. Which brings up the question, do they recognize themselves? Perhaps, perhaps not but something is going on in their twisty little brains.

February 23, 2020

A Small Gaming Update

I'm 40 hours into this playthrough of Divinity Original Sin And I think that I'm further in the game then I've ever gotten before. It's barely possible that I just might finish. My party has just hit level 15 and alChandler is now able to use master level pyrokenetic spells. That's never happened before.

You know, back when I lived in Somers Point I started putting self made gaming trophies on the walls. When I moved to Galloway I moved the trophies and started adding to them. But in the 00s I started buying my games from Steam and stopped putting those things up. But if I finish this one I'll put something up for the first time in nine years.

February 20, 2020

Larry Tesler

Larry Tesler died at the age of 74. You might not have heard of him but he worked on the Alto computer that Xerox created. He developed the cut copy paste function we all use. Steve Jobs wanted to imitate the Alto with the Mac and Bill Gates wanted to imitate the Mac with his Windows shell (that's what it started out as, a shell not an OS) and we all use cut copy paste today. But I can still remember learning how do use that tool in the 90s and how awesome I thought it was.

February 20, 2020

Newton on Nip

Yesterday I bought Newton a catnip cigar. The folks at the store claimed that the catnip was unusually potent and Newton seems to be in agreement. By the way the alChandler's Halls media empire can't monetize this video because of the music playing in the background. There goes our first quarter profit.

February 17, 2020

Phylogenetic Tree

I have a strange sense of humor. I can watch situation comedies with nary a snicker, on the other hand the movie The Death of Stalin never fails to crack me up. Today I looked at this XKCD cartoon and after about ten seconds I laughed out loud. So this is one of those quirky things that amused me.

February 17, 2020

Barbara Remington

Barbara Remington did the covers for the Ballantine Books paperback editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. On 1/23/20 she died at the almost hobbit like age of 90.

I have to admit it was her covers that made me want to read Tolkien, to a ten year old they promised wonder and for me the promise was fulfilled. Eventually the three covers were stitched together a poster and in honor of my childhood I'm using it as wallpaper.

To be honest the icons are a little hard to see but that's a small price to pay. By the way, Remington didn't have time to read the books before she did the covers. In the NY Times' obituary they quote from an interview with her:

“Ballantine was in a hurry to get these books out right away,” she said in an interview for the literary journal Andwerve. “When they commissioned me to do the artwork, I didn't have the chance to see either book, though I tried to get a copy through my friends.

“So I didn't know what they were about,” she continued. “I tried finding people that had read them, but the books were not readily available in the states, and so I had sketchy information at best.”

I wish I still had that those paperbacks, I read them over and over again until they just disintegrated.

February 16, 2020


When I started this page some 20 years ago I posted pictures of my friend's computers. They're still up there out of sentiment, even though computers have become just another household appliance, and not necessarily a vital one. Lot's of people use tablets or their phones for email, banking and the like and eschew dinosaurs like Kosh altogether. So don't expect Our Computers to ever get updated. But I have a program called Prisma on my phone and I used it to mess about with this picture and I like it enough to post it here. Besides, for me my computer is a lot more then an appliance.

February 15, 2020

Frank Zappa Reads The talking Asshole

Below I mentioned that Frank Zappa did a bit with William Burroughs. Open Culture brought it to our attention. So here's Frank Zappa reading a bit from William Burroughs' Naked Lunch called The Talking Asshole:

Sometimes I think I should read that book.

February 15, 2020

Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings

First of all, the players, in the first row are Gollum and Bilbo. The second row consits of Boromir, Sam, Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Gimli. Bringing up the rear are Aragorn, Gandalf and Legolas. Bakshi's film was released in 1978, it covered The Fellowship of the Rings and The Two Towers. Bakshi never animated The Return of the King and for a very long time I figured that Bakshi's work and Rankin-Bass' Return of the King were going to be the only filmed versions of Tolkien's work (Tolkien conisdered the three books one novel).

I haven't watched the annimated version in years and while it had its quirks, such as Bormir as a viking, it was a faithful version, as faithful as Jackson's anyway, and I really should trot it out and watch it again. If you've never seen it, here's Frodo, Sam and Pippin ecountering Aragorn at The Prancing Pony>

February 15, 2020

Today I Learned

Today I learned that Frank Zappa, William S. Burroughs, Philip Glass and Brion Gysin (I admit that I never heard of Brion Gysin until now) collaborated on this record in 1979.

I learned about this from Wil Wheaton's tumblr, and like him I'd very much like to hear that record.

February 15, 2020

A Hopeful Sign

It's hard to make out but the guy at the top if the picture is a blacksmith named Bjorn, the woman is his wife, Mara and the big animal is called Alfie. I encountered them in Luculla Forest, their home had been destroyed and they were trying to make their way to Silverglen where Bjorn will set up as a blacksmith but they need someone to heal Alfie, their beast of burden. They also need an escort. They had been attacked by bandits and were only saved by Alfie, that's why Alfie needs healing.

Escort missions suck and this one was no exception. Right before you get to Silverglen the bandits attack again. Alfie can defend himself, provided somebody gets close enough, but Bjorn and Mara are useless and generally die quickly. I know I've saved Bjorn in past playthroughs but I think this is the first time I've managed to save all three of them. In theory that means Bjorn will have better items to sell me at better prices. It's also a good omen for my admittedly low chances of finishing the game this time.

February 14, 2020

Red Dead Redemption 2

After waiting for Red Dead Redemption 2 to get its shit together and then plonking down $60 on Steam to purchase it I can say that for me it's the most excruciatingly boring game I ever played. I've had it on my drive and since making it out of the tutorial, which took me ten hours, I haven't fired it up once. I'm not going to remove it form my account or anything but it will have to be a long dry stretch in gaming before I put it back on Kosh again. As always, I'm not saying it's a bad game, but I am saying that it's a game I don't want to play.

February 13, 2020

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

First the trailer for The Green Knight, based, I'm presuming, on the 14th century English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

It's been ages since I read the poem and after I finish The King at the Edge of the World I think I'll reread Tolkien's translation. Don't know about the movie though.

February 13, 2020


Last year my right eye developed macular degeneration, the wet form. It was getting worse and I curtailed driving. But to my surprise, at the end of January my vision started getting better. I'm now almost back to normal and can drive at night again. I don't know how long this happy turn of events will last, I'm creeping into the age bracket where things have an expiration date. But for now I'm enjoying driving as I haven't in many years.

February 13, 2020

Huon of Bordeaux

Huon of Bordeaux is a 13th century French poem. Huon kills Charlemagne's son in combat, Charlemagne gets pissy and sentences Huon to death but commutes it to exile. He can return if he:

He must travel to the court of the Emir of Babylon and return with a handful of the Emir's hair and teeth, slay the Emir's mightiest knight, and three times kiss the Emir's daughter, Esclarmonde. All these Huon eventually achieves with the assistance of the fairy king Oberon.

That's from the Wikipedia article on Huon. I was reading an English translation done in 1540 by John Bourchier, Lord Berners and edited in 1895 by Robert Steele. This version had its quirks, Huon is sent to kill the Admiral of Babylon and it took me a bit to figure out that Bourchier used that instead of emir and Berners decided to leave it that way. I would have preferred a better translation but there are no better translations, at least none in English. And I think the reason it that Huon is a complete and total asshole. We're not talking about Sir Lancelot having an affair with Guinevere behind Arthur's back assholery, we're talking a guy who is told by Oberon the Fairy King, "Look Huon, I'm giving you this magic horn, when you blow it I'll come with an army of 100,000 warriors. But don't use it unless you're in peril of death." Houn blows it half an hour after Oberon leaves just to make sure it works. Huon also massacres people, old men, women children, he's cool with wiping out the entire population of a city. So there may be a reason the poem hasn't been translated since Steele cleaned up the 1540 version.

I've wanted to read this poem since Lin Carter included a bit from it in his anthology Golden Cities Far back in 1970. I've read other stuff from the book but Huon was hard to find, no ebook version, just a hardback that consisted of scans from the 1895 book.

But I'm not complaining, it was readable. And for all its weirdness, Huon of Bordeaux was an action packed read. And you know what? After reading about impossibly noble heroes like Amadis, or Aragorn for that matter, a complete and total asshole is sort of refreshing.

February 12, 2020

Reflections on RPG Combat

Most RPGs have real time combat these days, although you can generally pause the game to contemplate your next move. When I started playing computer games RPG combat was exclusively turned based. This wasn't a stylistic choice, computers in those days simply couldn't handle real time combat.

When I'm playing a game with real time combat I get frustrated because I can't handle the pace. But now I'm playing a game with turn based combat and the slow pace of my enemies is killing me. I find myself cursing the monitor, demanding that the computer hurry the fuck up. The human condition is to never be satisfied with what one has.

February 11, 2020