Wonder Wednesday

99 Percent Invisible just did a great episode looking at the birth of phenomenon No Name Brand(R)* products, and the evolution of sorts towards the birth of the President’s Choice brand and, even more amazing, its eventual spread to create ‘gourmet’ store brand labels throughout North America (and likely beyond).  A whole branch of the modern supermarket landscape started right near my hometown of Toronto.

And that latter part is what made it all the more amazing to me; while I certainly knew about both No Name Brand and PC products**, I had no idea that it was the instigator for the myriad of high-profile store brands that proliferate today.  A cool and fascinating little piece of design and shopping history.

Give the episode a listen here***, and I heartily recommend checking out their other episodes!  They’re all great, full of design (including plenty of architecture) and curiosities and sociological reflections and history and more.  99PI is a go-to listen for me every week.

 

* Yes, No Name Brand is indeed trademarked… something that has brought me no end of amusement over the years!

** Before I moved out of the country I’d say at least half of my shopping every week was President’s Choice products…

*** You can also read the webpage, but the podcast is the much better and more in-depth format!

Architecture Monday

It feels a bit weird posting about a school design in the midst of a pandemic where school just isn’t a good idea for many areas.  That said, this school is very airy and has plenty of outdoor areas, all perfect for the local climate in which it sits.  One quick look also tells you that it’s fully embracing its context not only in terms of the sun, but also of its people and traditions.

Reminiscent in many ways of the Fass School over in Senegal, this school in Burkina Faso embraces the students in a circular form to create a strong around which the classrooms, office, and lunchrooms reside.  The repetitive peaked form of the undulating roof is reminiscent of a circle of tents, with the largest being a grand open-air entry into the sanctum.  They also funnel and collect water into underground cisterns.

The heavy surrounding walls provide a thermal mass to help keep the insides cool, along with ventilator blocks along the upper half that allow hot air to escape and cooler breezes to enter.  The whole of the perimeter is panted by local craftsmen with traditional patterns.  Louvered walls on the inside allows additional light and air to flow through while connecting each room to the courtyard.

I dig it.  It’s expressive and built with care, something of the place built for the place and it’s community.

The Sabou School by 3RW Arkitekter

Gaming Thursday: GM Advice – Preludes

Last weekend our group wrapped up the first part of our Star Wars campaign (and the first part of my Aurora RPG Engine playtest).  Though, in reality, it wasn’t really the first part of the campaign, for the campaign I’ve got planned to run is the Dawn of Defiance campaign, a massive 12-part adventure.  Instead what wrapped up was three prelude adventures, which, originally, I meant primarily as a shakedown cruise for the new ruleset, to fix any egregious problems before we began to play in earnest.  But what I’m realizing now is that these preludes provided so much more than just that, enough that for any epic-length campaign I run from now on I will always run a series of preludes.

Big-ass campaign modules are kind of in vogue right now.  Whether they be termed “adventure paths” and bought as a series of interconnected modules, or whether they come in a single and big 256-page book, there are plenty out there that promise to take the characters through a big, grand, and heroic adventure arc.  Which can be great!  But if the campaign starts with beginning or new characters, there’s no time for the players to get settled and feel out and inhabit their characters before they get plunged into that big narrative.  Which can weaken the feel and excitement and visceral experience right at the most crucial moments of the game: those events and those hooks that are intended to serve as the fire that carries the campaign forward.  If those moments fall flat, or the investment isn’t there (because the investment isn’t yet there in the character(s)), then the feel of the entire campaign can suffer.*

Hence, running a series of preludes to give the players a chance to feel out and develop their characters before the inciting incident of the campaign proper.  This goes both mechanically and RP-wise.  Sometimes a certain build doesn’t play out at the table as well as, or as interesting, as we’d thought it would.  Or, as our character’s character settles down, maybe what we built no longer suits this new direction.**  And getting that direction itself is critical.  While we may come with a backstory and thoughts on how they behave, often that shifts during game time as we explore and play and let things bubble up… often seemingly from nowhere, but it fits and feels right and so it becomes part of the character.  Through the chance to play and develop the players get to know their characters, the characters get to know each other, and the builds get settled, all so that once they begin the adventure path there’s nothing left to hammer out and they can immediately fully inhabit what’s to come.

So that’s my little epiphany and cheerleading for always running a few introductory adventures before embarking on the grand adventure path voyage.

 

* Of course, for campaigns that consist of independent and smaller scaled adventures this isn’t required – in effect, every adventure is like a prelude.  And sometimes the adventure path/big book/etc already does this, with a series of small things to deal with before the big hook, in which case great, the work’s already been done for you.

** Or, equally important, if the campaign starts with very experienced characters (ie, starting at a higher ‘level’), then there’s the added layer of just learning how to run that character and all their abilities.  Plus, there are more abilities and combos to tweak and try out to find the fit that suits the vision and the evolving character.  Nothing is worse than having an epic start to a campaign grind to a halt as each player tries to figure out what their character can do or how to do it… and yes, very much speaking from experience here).

Architecture Monday

This is a fun little take on the ‘typical’ shipping container house.  By slicing some of the containers along the diagonal (like they were the target of some giant’s sword practice) before stacking them the house gains a strong geometric form that rises from the ground and strikes out towards the sky.

As a bonus, this sculptural move also creates a series of open air decks and patios, giving every level of the house its own garden (or pool!) along with plenty of light, all culminating in a roof deck that overlooks the surrounding neighborhood.  On the flipside, the rising form also allows for a subterranean garage which further allows the property to be free for living space.

What I really appreciate in the house are all the little bits that take advantage of the shipping container as a module and as a material:  The slit windows that fit between the corrugations and create dramatic lighting patterns on the floor and ceiling.  The electrical outlets hiding within the container’s C-channel frames.  The brightly painted sleeping pods nestled within the perfect with of a container module.  And how the parking cut on the underside is leveraged to create raked seating for a home theatre.

But the house goes beyond being just cute and inventive, it’s got a great feel to it with plenty of light and texture, especially from the wood floors and ceilings (which also appear to be from recycled materials).  I like it lots, great stuff.

Carroll House by LOT-EK

Wonder Wednesday

There is a new full-length documentary out on Halyx, the “space rock band” that Disney created for Tomorrowland in 1981, and it is amazing (both the band and the documentary):

If you want more, the user Bangoe has been posting on his channel recordings of the band’s performance that he himself recorded as a guest at Disneyland in 1981.

And for those of you who are not familiar with Defunctland, the Youtube channel who made this, the above is only the tip of the iceberg of the great videos they make not only about old and removed rides and attractions (the ‘defunct’ part of their name), but also deep dives into Disney and general theme park history, old children’s TV shows, an incredible multi-part series on the life and art of Jim Henson, and more.  If any of that piques your interest, I highly, highly recommend a subscribe!

Philosophy Tuesday

To make it very, very, clear:

“Yesterday’s Transformation

Is Today’s Ego Trip

That is to say that just because you know something about how our brains operate – whether about fallacies, or cognitive dissonance, or ontology, or psychology, or sociology, or ANY of those – just because you KNOW that they exist, and that we can fall prey to them, does NOT mean that you are IMMUNE from them.

And I want to make this hyper clear, because I have seen far too many posts recently from people who I think would “know better”, who are not only falling prey to these very things but are also accusing others of it. Using their knowledge as a cudgel* while simultaneously through its use exhibiting the very blindness they claim against the other.  They are using their knowledge to ensure they don’t see their own foibles and failures of the very same thing.

The knowledge makes no difference on its own. Quite the opposite. It’s just a tool, one that can be used well and properly, or, not well and in the most destructive fashion.

Being present is the key, using the tools on our own self, our own views, and our own actions.

That’s when the truth can begin, and the delusion(s) can end.

Along with the lies, and hurt, and ruin.

 

* In a completely ignorant, stingy, vindictive, harmful, division-inducing, and worldsuck-creating kind of way.  The kind of way that doesn’t create a world that works for everyone, the kind of way that instead seeks to perpetuate harm and, moreover, inflict pain and suffering on others.