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I feel “compelled” to review the new live-action Mulan, if only because my review of the original animated version has been archived for decades at IMDB for the whole world to see.*  But this was also one of the only Disney remakes I was actually keen on seeing.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.

Philosophy Tuesday

We are always piercing things together to form a reality.  Everything we experience, whether personally or through stories or through both passive and active observation becomes fodder for our automatic, unconscious, reality-deducing machinery.  We piece together all these bits of information and draw inferences, see cause and effect* and craft a strong sense of what things are.

This includes things that people can be or can become.  Even if we are not it right now, or don’t use it right now, and maybe don’t even see ourselves ever becoming it, we know it and know how it operates.

So that in that moment when we become it, all that ‘knowing’ comes to the fore, because our mind grabs what it already ‘knows’ as a predictor for how to behave and, thus, as the way to succeed.

And there are many moments like that in our life, where we weren’t something and suddenly now we are:  student, employee, citizen, on our own, driver, homeowner, significant other, spouse, parent… if it can be a label, it can be an it.

When that proverbial light switch flips and we find ourselves – suddenly! – in that new situation with that new label, being that it, we end up acting out just like things were done before.

Even if they’re not productive.  Even if they’re not helpful.  Even if they don’t represent the best expression of who we can be.

But we do it because that’s realityIt is how it is.

And then we laugh (or recoil) and say, “I’m just like my parents,” or we later say, “I understand what they were saying now.”

Except that it’s not really that way at all.  Instead, it is just that we’ve fallen into it by the virtue of not being aware of not being aware.  Instead we’re asleep with no agency, just repeating the past, ad nauseum.**

Bringing mindfulness to the situation (even years later) lets us interrupt that cycle and interject ourselves into the now of our it so that we regain our agency and choice.  We allow ourselves to be informed by what came before without needing to become it.  We get to think about things complexly, rope in our other experiences, and create.

By bringing our central selves to the fore, we can truly make it our own.

 

* I’m sure it goes without saying that we see cause and effect supremely often where no such relationship exists… yet we form our realities as though it is so.

** It’s important to get how insidiously powerful and prevalent this is, how much we become subsumed into that already always knowing to become the thing, that it, forever being perpetuated into the future.  We don’t even get to have our own experiences.  The experiences of others we’ve gleaned over the years are instantly our moment-by-moment experience of that it, shaping our behavior, actions, and experience going forward in a cycle.

Architecture Monday

Oh wow, the funkitude is strong with this one!  The curves, the copper, the protrusions, the sinuous shingle work, the way hit juts out from its sloping site to fly into the trees…

This is a house that is very much tailored to its owner, with little bits all over designed to support their lifestyle, from the meditation apertures (with wild circular glazing) to the acoustic ceiling for chorale singing to the gardens and the flow of inside and out.  Whether you like its particular stylings or not, it’s definitively got flair.

I dig it.  Very unique and fun and I bet the owner is super happy in it.  Creatively fantastic.

The Wilkinson Residence by Robert Harvey Oshatz.

Gaming Thursday: More on the Bell

Something came to me recently that’s worthwhile adding to my earlier thoughts on why I am in favour of bell-curve dice systems:  With the clustering of results, and their lack of swinginess, they greatly reduce the dreaded “streaks of suck” where one poor roll is followed by another… and then another… and then another…

With a linear die system, such as a d20, you’ve got the same chance as rolling a 1 as you do a 10 as you do a 20.  Rolling a bunch of bad rolls in a row isn’t all that difficult to do.  And sure, sometimes those strings of bad rolls can be kinda funny in their own, peculiar, way.  But more often than not it creates, at best, difficulties for your character and, at worse, puts them into great peril.  And it can be frustrating as heck, a thwarting of self and an affront to the idea of competence.

(What about the opposite end?  That can also be annoying… rolling several great rolls in a row where they are not useful, or having a string of them and then not having them for what feels like a very long time…)

But with a bell curve of results, even if your chance of failure may be the same on the whole, the distribution of those bad rolls is much more evenly distributed over time.  Because the results cluster to the middle, rolling a bad roll is more likely to be followed by a middling roll than having an equal chance of having yet another bad roll.  Which leads not only to less frustration but also to that greater sense of competency as well as confidence which allows for greater planning and, ultimately, more meaningful choices.