Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What I did on my summer vacation.

Part 1: Architecture

In July I was in Saint Petersburg, Russia (also spending some time in Tallinn, Estonia by the Baltic Sea). While I do have a few wacky experiences and anecdotes that I could tell, I just want to write a series of posts about the art adventures that I had in that city.

One of the first things noticed in Saint Petersburg is the huge amount of Baroque architecture in the city center. I have never been much of a fan of Baroque architecture as my experience with it has generally left me with a sense of decadent and crumbling colonial empires and frankly I find cherubs to be disturbing, but this was the first city that I have been in that sprung up during a time when the Baroque aesthetic was dominant. Peter the Great moved the capital to Sankt-Petersburg when the Russia of the czars was at its apex in wealth, his goal not only to build a great port city on the Baltic Sea for greater commercial access to the west but also to literally impress his royal peers of western Europe, specifically in France, Holland, and Prussia with the grandeur of his architectural project. Designed by invited German architects, the city was built on a big swamp, and giant granite blocks had to be dropped into the bogs to hold up the foundations of the city, this required a ban on stone construction in the rest of Russia for about sixty years and by some estimates as many as 30,000 serfs died in the construction effort.

Among the many canals of the city, the density of Baroque styled buildings, palaces, and orthodox churches with the characteristic onion towers gives you much more of a sense of what the point of all the cherubs, flower like moulding, and candy coloured paint was (much of which has been recently restored). Something which I never understood very well in its manifestations in Spain or France which were usually stuck on top of an already impressive Gothic structure with cheaper materials and less sound construction techniques. The interiors are an exercise in visual excess in which every surface is covered in decoration while the exteriors try to continually draw your eye to sweeping architectural details on otherwise rather smooth buildings. You begin to be able to imagine the characters of War and Peace wandering between gossipy galas in their gigantic dresses and ornate Napoleonic military uniforms surrounded by frivolous Rococo paintings.

The city is also famous for its Neoclassical architectural achievements but I found those, while individually impressive, to be scattered throughout the city and the 19th century was more a time of internal political upheaval in Russia than Empire building glory projects.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The self-(dis)assembling chair

Link to Science Daily write-up.
Link to the lead engineer's art-site w/ video page.
Link to Discovery Channel segment.

Jean Tinguely's "Homage to New York" was a self-destructing machine set off at the 1960 garden party at the Museum of Modern Art. It was first conceived of as a drawing machine.

Pete Townshend of "The Who" destroys a guitar.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

If you thought Abandonia was waisting your time...

...then you're going to just love LibriVox! And if you haven't (at Jason's suggestion a looooong time ago) checked out Ubuntu yet, you should. After all, it's free!

A good /. thread...

...about a somewhat silly article. Enjoy...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Into the Uncanny Valley

For your consideration:
A NY Times article about a recent application of facial recognition technology to animation.
The Wikipedia entry on the "uncanny valley" phenomena.

Let's Get Mugged!: Fantasy Edition

The server will be up tomorrow (Sunday, the 15th) from 2pm to 10pm EST. I'll be posting a small hakpak tonight or tomorrow morning (link). Also, here is a link to the site where I got this wonderful title screen.

The hakpak is up, it only weighs in at 58k but will have a large impact on the game as I have removed the conjuring time from all spells. Casters will still have to wait for their place in the initiative order to come around, but the waving of hands and mumbling is all gone. Also, characters will no longer be able to finagle the merchants with glowing trinkets. Here is a direct link to the required file.

Update #2: Dammit. I greatly underestimated my work-load when I proposed squeezing in a pick-up game next weekend. I am currently the bottle-neck in three major projects, all of which have major milestones coming up in the next three weeks. Our next scheduled bi-weekly game is canceled because I will be in Boston celebrating Halloween with Scott & Erica. That makes the next game day the 12th of November. I'm not happy about that, but the ramifications are too great if I fall behind at my jobs or school. I'll post some design notes for the Shield Lands in the near future; big-idea game mechanics and such.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Another "Toy" Game...

...which I've been playing recently. The sad part is that the game doesn't seem to have a "free build" mode ala-Blockland. Here's a review via Gamespot.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Revolt is a racer-game that is reminiscent of the beloved game Toy Commander, in that you race remote control cars through suburban neighborhoods and supermarkets. Many things about the game are highly enjoyable, such as the spot-on physics engine and the environments. It isn't nearly as complete in scope or particulars as Toy Commander, as it is a fairly modestly sized game. Even with a joystick, I found the controls somewhat flitchy, though I insisted on playing in "simulation mode". It's a good way to kill an hour or three, and is free to download and play.
Link to Abandonia.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

God be praised!!!

The Foley scandal is so perfectly tailored -- one could even say artistically designed -- to expose every character flaw of this country's Republican leaders (and their followers), and it has evolved so flawlessly (like the most brilliantly coordinated symphony), that one is almost inclined to believe that it was divinely inspired. It is difficult to believe that human beings (let alone Democrats) could create something so perfect (as Billmon wrote in comments here the other day, the relentless efficiency of this scandal is proof positive that Democrats had nothing to do with it).

Friday, October 06, 2006

La Jetée

La Jetée, the montage movie by Chris Marker about mental dissolution, love, and the apocalypse, is available on Google Video in its entirety. Phenomenal science fiction.
"Nothing tells memories from ordinary moments. Only afterwards do they claim remembrance, on account of their scars."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

last minute installation

hi guys
i installed nwn on eric's computer so i can play today but i need the new i.p. address and where do i go for the critical rebuild. it says i need to do that before i can update the most recent version! please help so i can play today.
i'll leave msn messenger on and skype too so i can at least get pete's i.p. and talk on teamspeak. i hope we can figure it out but i think you guys are already deep in the sandbox.

i wan to play too!