Igor! Jumpstart the Heart!

A gang of my friends attended this year’s Global Game Jam 48-hour game-making competition at Carleton University in Ottawa this weekend, to see who could make the best game. Most participants opt to build a video game, but the bunch of us went oldskool and chose to make a traditional board/card game. The mystery theme for this year was revealed on Friday afternoon – the sound of a heart beating, which inspired a huge range of neat stuff from the Carleton teams. There were some really awesome games submitted, and I honestly don’t know how most of them made their 48-hour deadline, because some of them had multiplayer networking, dynamic-generated play areas, particle effects, awesome art… it was crazy. I think next year I might brave trying to make a video game.

Lorry Moller and I had a prolific brainstorming session in the first sitting (with a lot of ideas worth exploring later), then settled on a kid’s monster-building game called “Igor, Jumpstart the Heart!“. Ultimately the game is a lot simpler than we’d intended (Lorry and I are fans of complex euro-games) but the fun factor is definitely there, and at Sunday’s Demo time we could play through the game with visitors quick enough to fit a little kid’s attention span.

So the idea is that you collect bits and pieces of your monster from the “Morgue” and the “Graveyard” card piles, and use the monster-eating piranhas to nibble off parts of your competitors. My first round of art was a bit gory – we toned that down early on into fuzzy monster components, and so far nobody’s reporting nightmares. πŸ™‚ Once the monster is complete, you roll a die to electrify it, bringing it to life! Muah ha ha ha ha!

If you grab the downloadable cards, send me a note and let me know what you think of the game! If you’d like a physical copy printed up for you, shoot me an e-mail – I have a heap of card stock, and maybe you’ll get a few custom hand-drawn components I didn’t include in the uploaded game. πŸ™‚

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan in Ottawa

So I posted recently about how I longed for a chance to see Yamantaka//Sonic Titan in concert, and apparently my blog grants wishes because last night they were in Ottawa to completely rock my world.

I have been disappointed by much-hyped bands who have a great sound but no stage presence, so I was a little scared to wear my heart on my sleeve for YT//ST, but everything I’d read was true. Oh my gosh did they put on an incredible show. They came out of the green room (and brushed past me! I’ll never wash again!) with a black and white Chinese dragon that swirled around in the crowd for a few passes, before Ruby took the stage in robes and Chinese opera makeup. Ange Loft (Edit: I had her confused for Alaska.) was wearing what looked like quilted armor with YTST written in silver studs on the back. The band were all in black layers of fabric with their faces painted with lightning-bolts and animal spirits, and they lunged right into Reverse Crystal off the top and never slowed down.

Image ripped from Stephen Carver’s Flickr (click to see his awesome shots!)

Amid the thunder and cacophony there was always something going on. A fan-dance, native drums, twisting and twirling costumes, flashing lights and a ton of chanting, screaming accompaniment that just never let up. So much energy, so much sound, SO AMAZING. You can see the influence of Ruby and Alaska’s visual arts background inΒ  every moment on stage, the visuals and music working in sync, choreographed to overwhelm. It was half rock concert, half otherworldly ceremonial experience.

It’s only January 12, but I think I just saw the best show of 2013.

Life Before Refrigerators

Our fridge broke down on the weekend, so we’re doing without until our new one gets delivered on Friday. We tried having it repaired, but the repairman admitted that replacing the compressor with his labor factored in would end up costing more than a new fridge. It kills me to landfill it (hopefully some part of it is recycled when they come take it away). We didn’t really lose anything, our freezer downstairs held the lion’s share of the meats, we’ve got a cooler full of snow holding our daily-use stuff like milk and eggs, and our little shed outside is safe-harbouring all our ketchups and pickles. Luckily it happened in winter!

Intellectually, the timing couldn’t have been better, because we were just discussing a documentary last week called “If Walls Could Talk” about the evolution of the kitchen, and now we have a bunch of meaningful questions about food storage at the turn of the century that we’re keen to research.

If the milkman came in the morning, what did you do with the leftover milk for the rest of the day? My mom suggests that freshly pumped well-water would make a pretty cool bath for keeping it in a couple of hours. Maybe a sealed glass bottle (delivered cold) would keep for longer than our flimsy cartons. You could drink mostly tinned milk… or maybe I’m overestimating their appetite for dairy? Is that a recent thing? (fed the leftovers to the cats?) (Edit: You could use sour milk for baking!)

Daily visits to the market make sense for things like meat – but how would you keep meat safe on the counter in the hours up until dinnertime? What did they do with leftovers of big meals like turkeys and pot roasts and stews? I guess a lot of meats were sold dried, smoked, salted and tinned, and the fresh stuff was cooked until super well done to kill bacteria. I get the impression that the key was only preparing as much as you can eat, and making the most of garden vegetables and pantry foods (beans, grains, preserves) so you wouldn’t have anything “taintable” sitting around before and after meals. (Edit: Since you were leaving your woodstove running anyhow to heat your house, you could leave things to cook indefinitely rather than letting it cool off)

I’ve had to refill and drain our cooler pretty often (about twice a day) since we started using it – I read that iceboxes were pretty labour intensive too. If you weren’t home for a day your melt tray would start overflowing and flood your kitchen. It must have been super annoying to be chained to the fridge! Electricity and gas refrigeration would have been so liberating!

Unit 1 and 2 Polyhedrals

Some tetrahedral structures coming together for a project I’m building. Working at 30 degree angles took some thinking and a few false starts, because we seem to live in a world tooled for right-angled structures. πŸ™‚ I finally figured out a way to connect the ends of my beams (using wire-wrapping and jewellery jump loops) and the structures, particularly the unit-2 tetrahedrons, are pretty rigid!

I’ll post some more detail pics once the whole thing is together… I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag too soon. (Especially if it self-disassembles in the cold) The method I’m using is taking forever, but it’s nice to watch a movie or something while I absentmindedly connect beams and edges.

The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night

Time for another music post! I have a friend with particularly excellent taste in obscure Canadian indie bands, so I trusted her intuition and followed her out to a Besnard Lakes concert in the fall. Something happened to my brain at that concert, and I don’t know if it was the beer or the smoke machine or the wall of rolling, surging, falsetto-accompanied steam-engine pounding sound that they created, but I found myself totally lost in the music for the full set, it’s incredible. I was completely hypnotized.

I’m discovering how crap I am at describing music. Imagine a band that cribbed singing notes from Brian Wilson but layered it over an epic movie soundtrack full of harmonic experimentation and set in a gothic train station. Is that helpful? Listen to it for yourself! Turn up the volume, the sound is really rich and layered and the harmonics will move through your brain in waves.

The album is about spies and trains and love and war – all set to Olga Goreas’ deep mellow base and her husband Jace Lasek’s crazy smooth falsetto voice and a cacophony of accompanying horns, violins, drums and rhythm. It’s a really solid and consistent work, and the album demands to be listened to the whole way through. I’m particularly fond of Chicago Train – it’s got a big and powerful turn in the middle that fills my brain with imagery of big steel train wheels pulling out of the station amid clouds of steam.

I’m obviously a big fan! Can’t wait to hear what’s next for them!