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Architecture Monday

January 15, 2018

Oooo, this nice.  A former barn/shelter for goats, nestled against a cliffside, refinished with local materials, and expanded with a lovely addition, all to become a cottage available for travelers to rent.  With bonus sheep that graze right outside the doorstep!

There’s lots to be said for the tactile beauty of rough plaster walls, and the feel of being ensconced within their thick confines.  Check out how the plaster curves to meet the doors and windows, accentuating the natural feel.  One long room divided only by furniture, the loftyness of the open rafter roof overhead coupled with the white walls make for a grand and glowing space in the day, and a cozy nestled up by the fireplace spot at night.

The new addition is also quite sweet.  Mirroring the cottage’s form without being a slavish copy, the rough, board formed and ground-coloured concrete fits nicely into the lush and earthy surroundings.  Even the chimney gets into the act, adding a nice fine point to the overall composition.

The view from the bedroom, wow.  And while that huge window by itself would be quite amazing, paring it with that smaller one in the corner adds that extra je ne sais quoi to make for an even more stunning experience.  The pure white (and again softly rounded) room also enhances the verdant colours, saturating the beauty of the surroundings.

And those seemingly glazed side alcoves you may have noticed in the outside pictures?  One’s the entrance to the addition, and the other, well, I present to you a sunken tub with a perfect platform for sky and star gazing.

Nicely done, a fabulous example of adaptive reuse.  Lovely.  Adding it to my list of places to visit and stay.

The Lost Cottage

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Wonder Wednesday

January 10, 2018

If your hopes scatter like the dust across your track

I’ll be the moon that shines on your path

The sun may blind our eyes, I’ll pray the skies above

For snow to fall on the Sahara

Surreal and amazing and fleeting and beautiful…

 

 

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Philosophy Tuesday

January 9, 2018

There’s a phrase in the writing community:  “You have to kill your darlings.”*

The gist of the phrase is that, when we author a story, we may come up with moments, scenes, plot twists, dialogue, characters, or any of a host of things that are, taken by themselves, absolutely perfect (at least to ourselves).  They are so damn inventive, clever, emotional, poetic, powerful, or poignant that by the gods, those are going to be the shining keystone and/or the golden pillar of our story.  They are the masterstroke.

And maybe they are, indeed, great.  In evoking something.  In their singular glory.  In their isolated grandeur.

They are not, however, isolated.

They are moments within a larger arc, a larger narrative, a larger story.  They need to work within this larger story.  And quite often… they just don’t.  And while at best they can turn out to be a dud within the larger whole, more often they instead end up being downright detrimental and counterproductive:  they push the story into convoluted knots, they place limits on where the story can go, and they force the introduction and inclusion of elements and passages that are downright poor.   They can even subvert the very thing we hope to achieve with them.  Far from being the shining moment, they instead make the whole endeavour crash and burn.

And that’s why we need to kill them.

It can be so hard though!  Those darlings can be downright seductive… look at them, they’re so perfect!**   We want to hold onto them, we want to make it work, we feel that without it our story will be nothing but a hollow shell.  Those darlings are the heart and soul, they give things meaning.

But that’s not accurate.  We do need to kill them. ***

Because, once liberated from their leaden weight, the story is free to journey to new places, to take on its own identity, to fulfill on its intentions.  Setting the darling aside is what lets the story soar.  It lets us see new avenues, lets our creativity back into the game, and gives us freedom to write and fulfill on our, and the story’s, intention.

Rather than a singular moment, the whole can become a masterpiece.

Never can this be more important than when we look at the story we all have, and are, writing called “my past, my present, my future, and who I am.”

For there are moments from our past that we cling tight to, events and decisions that are so foundational we can, without a moment of preparation, tell a grand story around.  Wild, raw, powerful, stories, filled with pain and despair and loss and love and triumph and a definite understanding of the world around us.

As short stories, they are compelling.

As a chapter in the long unfolding story of our life though, they can be huge impediments to achieving all those things we actually want in life – being related, making a difference, fulfillment, self-expression, and peace of mind.

Sometimes those darling to which we hold so dear and so foundational do not, in actually, serve us.  Sometimes we need to kill those darlings, those truths we cling to, in order to let ourselves and our story grow, expand, reconfigure, and get better.   To broaden and lighten ourselves, to unleash our abilities, to expand our experience, our moods, and our place, and to re-guide our path forward.

And then, within that freedom, we can write our lives into our personal masterpiece.

 

* For the longest time I thought the phrase was “You have to murder your babies,” which, while similar, is a bit more, shall we say, macabre and dark?  A writer friend fortunately set me straight on what is the actual phrase…

** I think this is totally why the Zootopia story writing team held on so long with the taming collar idea/version of the script.  The (deleted/tossed out) scene at the taming party is bonafide pure powerful stuff, landing with a masterful one-two stroke of the pain the young polar bear’s eyes followed immediately with Nick’s forcibly placid expression, the light on his collar glowing yellow.  It’s a masterpiece.  There’s no way they wanted to get rid of that scene.  But it destroyed the movie as a whole.  They tried five full screenings to get it to work, but it never could.  Everything around it that needed to be in place to lead to that scene brought the story and the viewers to places that could not be recovered from.  It didn’t do what they wanted to do.  And that’s why they made the crazy, nearly last minute (just over a year from release!) choice to kill that darling, throw out that script and two+ years of work, and start writing anew.  And with that, they gained way more than they lost in setting aside that one scene.

 

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Architecture Monday

January 8, 2018

OK, so this one isn’t even complete yet, but I’m too excited to not share about it right away!  Not the least of which because it is by my perennial fave, Snøhetta.  It’s also a library!  Given their first project ever as a firm came through winning the competition for the giant Alexandria Library, it’s cool to see them design another one on a much more intimate scale.

And it’s a beaut!  Rising from the street level, terraced hillsides lead to a broad covered plaza, forming a big portico towards the city.  Overhead, the iceberg-like form curves together to create a prominent prow.  The crystalline patterns that adorn its side is nice both because it reinforces that ice-like quality, but also as it allows a seamless and sculptural transition between the windows and the solid bits of its face.  I also especially like how it straddles the new light rail line!

I’m even more excited for the inside, with its rising spiral of floors encircling a generous atrium.  It’s light, airy, and keeps everything visible, making multiple floors all a part of the larger community within the building.

Spaces get quieter and more intimate as you go up.  This pic of what I’m imagining is the top floor really sells it for me, with its curving platforms of books and seating, the light coming from up on high, and the mix of spaces for studying, reading, computer use, and more.

I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like when it’s done and open.  Tucked into Calgary, it’ll be much easier for me to visit than the one in Alexandria…

Central Library for Calgary, by Snøhetta

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Gaming Thursday: The Mouseguard Wrap-Up

January 4, 2018

And so it is that winter has embraced the mouse colonies, the white blanket bringing with it times of tranquility and reflection, both for the members of the Mouseguard and for the players of our gaming group.  Mouseguard was quite the different game and experience for us, and very much not what I expected when I suggested we give it a try (likewise equally suggesting it as the first foray into GMing for one of our group members).  As I noted earlier, Mouseguard is a rather different animal (pun semi-intended) than most other RPGs, which is what surprised us.  It turned out to be a good surprise.

I would describe Mouseguard as the most narrative of the narrative-RPGs I’ve played, and I call it as such because (answering my question in that previous post) it lends itself very well towards more past-tense and third-person style storytelling than the first-person-immediate and extemporaneous play of “traditional” RPGs.  It also focuses on wider world building and longer-term storytelling, with links and interlinks that weave themselves together over time.  This includes factors outside of the characters as well as following through their failures and successes.  It asks you to think not only of the present moment but also how could this write something that, were it a novel, the reader could see the various lines all coming together.

Which proved to be very cool.  There was a lot of pleasure in riffing back and forth across the table, crafting how the scene was narrating itself out and about how we (as the characters and party) arrived at the end state dictated by the test roll at the beginning of the scene.  Much satisfaction was had when it all came together into a nifty story.  And while it might appear less personal than typical in-character RPing, it still left us feeling in control of and, more importantly, feeling connected to our characters.

This also spread beyond our characters and led to a lot of collaborative worldbuilding, writing further bits that wove themselves into our stories.  As an example, en route to the seaside town of Darkwater, we were ambushed by, and defeated, a set of ruffians.  We chose to take them to the town for justice.  What transpired next was an amazing exercise of extrapolation (from the little information provided by the rulebook) and invention.  Turns out, these ruffians were the children of the Primarch, where the Primarch is the head of one of the two councils that rule Darkwater:  the Sea Council and the Land Council (who’s leader is called the Primus).  Each of these leaders are chosen based on which mouse on the council made the greatest profit last season, and together they are supposed to make decisions about the town, unless they deadlock, like they frequently do… and then enter our group into this situation, and a large (in-game) debate ensues between us and Sea Council and the townsfolk about leadership and justice and independence and eventually leading to intervention by the Land Council…

That was the short of it and it’s even more involved and nifty than that.  Inventing the way the town worked was fun in of its own right; getting to blend it with our story and all the complexity that came with it (and the potential for future hooks and repercussions) was incredibly exciting and satisfying.

I also very much enjoyed the way the game’s “Player Turn”* worked to further encourage the well-roundedness of your character and their story.  Whether we used it to tie up loose ends from the GM turn or used it for entirely personal reasons, it always brought something new about the character, and/or the world, to the fore.  And sometimes, when we messed up here, complications could arise in a later GM turn were all the more fun because of that long narrative tie.

Good stuff.  While we labored a bit at first to wrap ourselves around Mouseguard’s structure (in retrospect, that the GM was completely new to GMing was a boon for us here, for they came unhindered with any “traditional RPG” baggage) we all came away enjoying our time with it.  For myself, I can say without hesitation I am quite smitten with it.  I still do very much like the method-acting/extemporaneous style of RP, and so games using a Mouseguard-like system won’t become my primary gaming outlet anytime soon, but I am most certainly keen on adding it to our campaign rotation and looking forward to when we play it next.

 

* It’s a bit long to explain, but the basic gist is that the game is structurally split into two turns: a turn (which usually encompasses one segment of a mission, involving one to four challenges) where the narrative is led by the GM and turn where the narrative is led by the players (which usually encompasses a night or a few days, and at the end of a mission, a few weeks).  It took me a read or three to begin to grok it, and it took us a few sessions to get comfortable with what to do and how to fully use our player’s turns.

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Wonder Wednesday

January 3, 2018

“Bien sûr, dit le renard. Tu n’es encore pour moi , qu’un petit garçon tout semblable à cent mille petits garçons. Et je n’ai pas besoin de toi. Et tu n’as pas besoin de moi non plus. Je ne suis pour toi qu’un renard semblable à cent mille renards. Mais, si tu m’apprivoises, nous aurons besoin l’un de l’autre. Tu seras pour moi unique au monde. Je serai pour toi unique au monde… ”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”

lovely image by Samrath Kaur

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Philosophy Tuesday

January 2, 2018

You are whole and complete

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You always have been

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And you always will be

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You may not experience it

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And you may sometimes take actions that don’t reflect it

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But it doesn’t change the truth of who and what you are

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There are just barriers to your experiencing it

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Welcome to the New Year

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Whole and Complete