Philosophy Tuesday

“Aside from the animals, there are nearly a thousand abstract signs and shapes we cannot interpret and also several negative hand stencils, as they are known by art historians. These are the paintings that most interest me. They were created by pressing one hand with fingers splayed against the wall of the cave and then blowing pigment, leaving the area around the hand painted. Similar hand stencils have been found in caves around the world from Indonesia to Spain to Australia to the Americas to Africa. We have found these memories of hands from 15,000 or 30,000, or even 40,000 years ago.

These hand stencils remind us of how different life was in the distant past. Amputations, likely from frostbite, are common in Europe and so you often see negative hand stencils with three or four fingers. And life was short and difficult. As many as a quarter of women died in childbirth. Around 50% of children died before the age of five.

But they also remind us that the humans of the past were as human as we are, their hands indistinguishable from ours. These communities hunted and gathered and there were no large caloric surpluses so every healthy person would’ve had to contribute to the acquisition of food and water.

And yet somehow, they still made time to create art, almost as if art isn’t optional for humans.”

John Green

(from this episode of his great podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed)

(which was animated into this amazing video by Kurzgesagt)

Architecture Monday

In the midst of all the ongoing tumult and turmoil, a little ride among the trees to re-centre seems like a grand idea to recenter ourselves.  So how about riding up into the treetops?

Very possible with this delightful little idea.  A continuous circular path that guides one up to a rarely experienced lofty vantage point among the upper boughs before gently guiding us back down and back on our way.  All made out of slender weathering steel that seeks to fade inconspicuously into the surroundings.

Lovely.  Cycling Through the Trees by Burolandschap

Architecture Monday

This little folly deliciously straddles the line between sculpture and architecture.  Situated atop a hill, it’s a meditative spot from which to gaze out over the picturesque valley while also being a fun little object to observe from everywhere else.

And that’s pretty much it (in a good way)!  A simple splaying concrete base into which is integrated a wood lounging bench, capped by two bent sheets of weathering metal that rise from the open embrace of the bench to form a kind of open tent.  Though the metal panels are quite thick and rigid, their scale and the random deformations make them look delicate.  It’s not a design that dominates, accentuating the hillside in both directions.

I dig it.  Nice little piece of work.

Sonnenklang Installation by Christoph Hesse Architects.

Let’s get down to business…

In an amusing way, I feel “compelled” to review the new live-action Mulan, if only because my review of the original animated version has been archived for decades at IMDB for the whole world to see.*  But this was also one of the only Disney remakes I was actually keen on seeing.  When they announced that they would not be doing a near shot-for-shot remake and would instead be shaking things up (not making it a musical, the removal of Mushu, etc) my interest was piqued.  As long as they had good writing, I figured, this could be a good thing: a chance to tell the story in a new way, opening up new avenues to explore and to play in.  And even though I have very much disliked most of the remakes thus far, as long as they nailed that one, crucial, thing of good writing, it could turn out well!   Continue reading

Gaming Thursday

“The way we played it — the way my teenage friends and I read ourselves into the world — was as small-time operators, always. The corporations were behemoths, the system so massively corrupt and powerful that no one could win against it. You fought to survive around the edges of it, living off the scraps. “High stakes, low impact” — that was our house rule. Because punks don’t save the world. Ever. They just try to live another day.”   — Jason Sheehan @ NPR

That little bit from a review of the new CP 2077 computer game drew my attention because it both mirrors how we also played the Cyberpunk RPG back in the day and because it captures so well what I’ve noticed in the current crop of cyberpunk releases.  So many of them seem to hew strongly towards the cyber and the glitz and the machine gun prophecy, while steadfastly avoiding the punk and any deeper implications or explorations.  More than one of the games I’ve read even begins with their premise as “you are elite mercenaries, plying your trade for the endless corporate wars.”  CP 2077, at least as as Jason’s review describes it, also seems to push towards that side of things.

But the essential bit to our old Cyberpunk campaigns was always being on the edge of being quashed.  And of the perils and impact of living within a complete corporatocracy.  As we got older, ideas of the dehuminising aspect of it all got incorporated into our games, a subtext to the more foreground and obvious reduction of one’s humanity through cybernetics or braindance.  Along with the questions that comes from being under that constant state of duress:  what is considered winning to us, what does family or friendship mean, to what levels are you willing to go, is there an escape of sorts, and so on.  That was the vital bit that made our cyberpunk games cyberpunk and therefore different from our other games.

Here we weren’t the mighty adventuring party, or the team of elite spies, or the superhero group, or the gritty commando unit, or mecha pilots, or slinging around in a space opera.  (And to note, we played those games too and loved them!)  In Cyberpunk, we were local, caught in the cogs, and eking out what we could, step by small step.  And rather than just grabbing the neon and the cyber for the aesthetics, that to me remains the essence of what a good cyberpunk game should embrace.