Anthology of Alternate Calgarys

Anthology of Alternate Calgarys Cover

You can now officially buy my first foray into fiction: Anthology of Alternate Calgarys on Amazon!

Pretty exciting.

It’s $2.99 and is a collection of 24 alternate universe looks at the real Calgary. If surrealist architecture was a literary genre, this would be it. Introduce a twist and look at the social interactions it would create within the world, within the city. From the Amazon description:

Calgary in multiverse. A collection of short, short stories and a surreal look at what might be if everything was different: Calgarys with space programs, shambling buildings, city-wide games of Tag with dire consequences. Floating Calgarys, sinking Calgarys, Calgarys that don’t exist at all except for our nostalgic yearning and coming together every year for a ritualistic Stampede. Underground speakeasies hidden away from the police zeppelins overhead. Herds of malicious deer regrettably armed with flamethrowers.

I can’t say this enough: thank you everyone for your continued support of this blog, of my various experiments into different mediums and ultimately allowing me to continue to explore them with you. Your email letters and questions are always welcome. Buying the book itself would be appreciated of course, but the fact that you’ve brought me to a place where I can even make and get it out to you is beyond words. Thank you!

Oblivion

OBLIVION GFX Montage from GMUNK on Vimeo.

I’ll keep this short, it’s less a review and more about what the movie is.

I had a chance to see the movie last week and was really impressed. The visuals are led by a director with a background in architecture and design and it shows. Like Tron, the movie is as much about it’s style and it’s world as anything else. I went into it with no real expectations and left pleasantly surprised but it’s depth and the little details that usually derail these sorts of movies. I really appreciated that they built the sets and the vehicles – the fact that they shot the cloudscapes and projected them just seems so caring to me. There was a video about Akira that talked about the sheer level of detail they put into it, that there’s a scene that’s only a few seconds long, but they matte painted an entire cityscape to parallax through the buildings behind them. That’s the sort of obsessive vision that I really appreciate. Even if the movie is terrible – and Oblivion isn’t – I appreciate the people who made it so much more.

The soundtrack is M83 and unlike Tron’s Daft Punk score, was actually pretty generic. Save for the credit song and a few of the ambient bits it was the traditional cinematic style found everywhere. It wasn’t bad, it’s just that I wish M83 had more reign to do something awesome.

So. Go see it. Notice that there’s dirt on the pedals of the flying machine from adventures previous. Notice that it feels lived in instead of being a greenscreen soundstage.

Goods and Services

I was reading the other morning about the rise in my generation with renting houses / apartments and having no desire to own them. I fall under this demographic, and I tweeted that the reason I’d buy my own anything is so I can design / customize it to my liking.

My car, whatever I end up getting in spring, will be ridiculous. I want to vinyl wrap it and buy ridiculously bright coloured rims. I want it to be silly and unique and fun. I want to smile to myself whenever I walk up to it. That ability is one of the few advantages to buying your own car. I’m not sure what the numbers are for Uber and the Car2Go system, but I’m willing to bet owning a car is more expensive. That ability is a luxery that I’m willing to pay for. That and Car2Go doesn’t yet include my work or grocery store’s areas in it’s zone which means I couldn’t use it anyway. But I would, if I could. I think it’s brilliant, as do everyone that I’ve talked to about it.

We are a generation, as it’s been pointed out, that doesn’t really value owning things for the sake of owning them. I own a car so that I can be assured that there will be one waiting for me when I wake up in the morning, but with the abundance of C2G cars you’ve solved the same problem. Now, I happen to live right at the fringe of the okay zone, so they’re less common on my street vs. say, downtown core (where the whole walk up and go thing really is that easy) so I’d probably have to walk a few blocks in search of one in the morning. Not really ideal in the dark Canadian winters, stressing about finding one before work and freezing to death. So, it’s practical for me to own a car but I don’t see the ownership as a pride thing in itself.

Okay, so we have a problem and a solution for transportation. In fact, adding taxis and buses and trains, it’s pretty well covered. What about living.

I rent and love it. I honestly don’t understand why you’d buy a house other than equity, which is a fancy word for not being able to move ever. I don’t mow the lawn or shovel my walks or worry about re-shingling my roof when it hails. I don’t worry about property taxes or a half of the kinds of bills home owners would. I’m not sure what the mortgage comparison would be, but I can’t imagine I’m paying more in rent than they are in paying down and I can trade up or down with relative ease as personal finances demand. It’s simply flexible. So it’s funny for my friends and I – a collection of mostly designers, science nerds and architects – when we read articles like this one, we see it as “Uh, yeah. Obviously.” Our generation simply doesn’t see the big deal in it. These are the ideas we see in the movies made in the 80’s, before we were born. Even then, those ideas were being recycled and upscaled from the older mid century “American Dream” mentality. That was 30-60 years ago, we just can’t relate anymore.

If predictions can be made, and this is mixed with personal hopes and dreams, I would say that we’ll see a rise in prefabricated and highly customizable houses that are more efficient in both space and energy and are subsidized somehow. We don’t want to own them. Our lives are messy and varied. We can be living in a bachelor pad and then move up when married and maybe kids and maybe back down when they move out and all of this can take place in a transforming, flexible environment. Gone should be the days of paying a large chunk of your life’s wages into a mortgage for a house that, by the time you pay it off, is too large for you after your kids leave. Divorce rate is hovering around 50%; I don’t condone it, but that’s a lot of shuffle for families and the architecture as it stands simply isn’t suited for it.

TL;DR all of the problems that we’ve solved around us: transportation to food to housing is moving from being a static good to a flexible service and we’re the generation pushing it how we want.

Unrelated: Happy 12/12/12, which is 12/12/12 for you Americans with the silly backwards date system.

Cars as Temporary Architecture

There’s an idea that’s been in my head for a while now for an Alternate Calgary but I haven’t written it yet – here’s the real-world spin off of it:

Cars are a space, a volume, that moves between two other spaces, say, your house and work. They’re relatively permanent in state – the seats move forward and back but the car’s architecture, so to speak, is generally unaffected – while their position is not. They are a very brief tunnel, essentially. Imagining that all the air around you was a thin pink mist that you could dig away as you moved through it, walking down the street would essentially create a vacuum behind you, right? A tunnel. Now drive through that same volume in your car and we see the same thing but slightly wider. A car is a tunnel that only exists in a certain place at a certain time. A true tunnel is a space that exists between two points all the time.

The neat thing, of course, is this is a tunnel you get to control. You can drive it anywhere you want! This is a room between a room and a nearly infinite supply of other rooms. Not instantaneously, of course, but nonetheless. So when we talk about architecture as a volume, as a space that exists separated from all the other space in the world it’s really just a bubble in our imaginary pink cloud. It’s a bubble that doesn’t move, usually. Buildings, typically, hold their bubble still and contained; trapped inside their walls and ceilings. Cars are a smaller bubble that goes between them. As such, cars are architecture.

Now – and this is where we venture into Alternate Calgary’s worlds – what would a city look like if we took that pink mist pocketed by bubbles and lifted it up, removed all the actual infrastructure? Are there patterns in the tunnels that we could map and re-network? Yes, we could. Now, let’s look at the human interactions:

Say there’s a family of four. The two parents work in different places and the two children go to school in different places. What if the house they lived in broke into chunks and were transported by some means, say, a crane, when required. Let’s say that the chunks could be transported into other areas and re appropriated into other uses. If you put enough children’s bedrooms together you could make a classroom. If you picked up dad’s room (or study or whatever) and moved it to connect with another room containing machines he could work…

You get the idea.

So the tunnels between bubbles aren’t other, smaller, mobile bubbles (cars) as much as they contain the space themselves and are reconfigured. Because that’s the goal of cars, really: to rearrange humans on the planet.

Love the Beast

It showed up on Canadian Netflix a little while back which means, I can only assume, it’s available everywhere. Definitely this post put much more eloquently than I ever could have. It’s a topic that’s coming up more and more lately in not only my interactions with cars but also my observations of people’s interactions with their objects and even the introspective reasoning of who I am and why I design.

One of my favorite bits:

Just briefly:

It’s interesting to me, now that I’m writing for LTKMN and working in fiction more, how much of my writing tends towards objects and spacial relationships. Coinciding with my love for architecture, even when given unlimited range to create things I create spaces, not people. I’d never really thought about it in such a direct way before, but I truly am bored with mere people. It’s a terrible thing to admit aloud but it’s true – I simply don’t find any interest in the people themselves outside of their relationships both with other humans and with other things. I look back to all of my favorite movies and books and stories and music and they’re all about a shift in paradigm that breaks and reforms those relationships. Those are interesting, those are the ones worth watching for me. Because the characters themselves are just tropes, just patterns based on the equally boring and predictable humans in real life. It’s how they collide and spin that’s fascinating.

And so, I write about spaces. I write about alternate histories and futures yet to come. It occurs to me that the few storylines I’ve written about people (or anthropomorphic robots) are all about the splitting and rebinding of relationships towards external things. Internal events, sure, that some might call character change, but that are inherently externally forced.

There’s that Debussy quote “Music is in the space between the notes” and it’s apparent: humans, like notes, simply smushed together is just a cacophony. Architecture, and that of a car’s space, is the physical separation required to generate story. My writing, then, is more a reflection on silence than anything, following the metaphor. Obsessed in the other direction.

Caring for Your New Designer

The following is an excerpt from the guide I’m writing:

Preparing Your Home for Your New Designer

Noting what kind of designer he or she is will be essential for setting up a comfortable environment for them. Is your designer a minimalist? A brutalist? Perhaps removing all furniture and covering every surface with board-formed concrete would be best. Are they a cross species half-artist? Perhaps leaving cords of sticks around for them to use in the construction of their nest would be ideal. No matter what type of designer they are, though, they’ll probably want some area in which to make a mess. This is called “a studio” and is essential for the ownership of any young designer. Although they’ll never admit it, most designers would like a little bit of softness in their life, so large, well worn patchwork quilts are often sold at local shops for them to snuggle with. (Any sort of bedding material will do, however). We suspect this has something to do with their occasional bouts of soul crushing loneliness, which is an ancestral thing left over from the cave dwelling designers of the olden times – around 1998.

Designer Ancestry

It’s believed that they first arrived on North American shores as stowaways on Viking ships. Scientists differ on true origin but we suspect they were either the weakest Vikings who couldn’t make it socially and were outcasted or perhaps very large marsupials who developed opposable thumbs and the ability to draw with Copic markets. In either case, try not to bring this up with your designer! They might relapse into more primal behaviour, listening to the musical stylings of The Skrillexes and/or barricading themselves inside their nest for weeks at a time.

I Think My Designer is Broken

What you’re finding is most likely just the effects of their introverted personality and is completely natural. Leave them alone for a few days and DO NOT attempt to console or cuddle them. Yelling seems ineffective as well, but gosh is it fun to watch them scurry in fear. They will likely retreat to the comforts of social networking to stay connected to people without actually having to deal with the dull and inane personalities of their followers (often mistakenly referred to as “friends”) – this is acceptable as long as the brooding index doesn’t get too high (and we recommend picking up a broodometer – they’re like, $5 and will save you a lot of grief).

My Designer is Filling My Spare Room with Chairs

Oh, you bought a furniture designer. Yes. Well. That is unfortunate. Maybe you should have read our other guide “Choosing the Right Designer” where we explicitly recommend against that. Much like their cousin breed called ‘Architects’, they are adorable when dressed up with those cute little black turtlenecks you can get but are terrible with children and insufferable dinner party guests. If you are looking for a much gentler species of designer, might we suggest a young Modernist?

Conclusion

With some careful attention to the proper care of your young designer, he or she will grow into a life-long companion and with the proper training, if you’re extremely lucky, might make some money to recoup the costs he / she has wreaked on your home. They might seem cute and harmless but trust us – no matter how much they beg – don’t feed them after midnight.

Gallery WIP

It’s a rainy saturday morning so I made this and decorated a cake I made yesterday.

Things to do:

  • Populate the shelves with neat things.
  • Render with more samples
  • Fix the bump map on that wooden box
  • Maybe add some pendant lights or something; continue adding interest.

But, it’s a start.

The Fault in Level Design Architecture

This is something rampant and widespread in level-based games, don’t get me wrong. I’m picking on Tomb Raider specifically because I know exactly why it has to be this way, it still bothers the player’s subconscious. It happens a lot in Dues Ex: Human Revolution too, but that at least could be explained by, say, defense turrets and other devices unseen but dangerous until you deactivate them from the inside when you’re ready to leave. That’s plausible.

So the levels are generally something like this:

You start at the bottom there and grapple up some mountain or have your butler in a helicopter or yacht drop you off, then you figure out the puzzle to open the door and proceed through this gauntlet of traps and trials, killing the animals that have been sealed in the tomb for countless years waiting just for you to come. Maybe that’s why they’re so ferocious: they haven’t eaten in a long time. After dispatching all danger and overcoming all ridiculous odds, you finally come to the main room containing the crystal or amulet or key or whatever and proceed to grab it – here there’s two options: one, a secret door in the back opens up and you just run out happily. Two: the temple starts to shake and crumble and you go back through all of those traps again until you get back to the front door where some bad guy with a terrible fake accent thanks you for retrieving the goods for them, proceeds to knock you out and takes it.

Now, I’m entirely happy with this. The games are still entertaining and I quite like them. The puzzle rooms are often clever and that side of the level design is actually fantastic. If you can ignore the very obvious and conveniently placed ledges and gaps that are perfectly sized for Lara, the environments are actually very cool. The way some of the rooms fit together to allow you to do some things while certain areas are activated / switch when not are nothing short of brilliant on the designer’s part – commendable.

But then there’s the bit that bothers me.

All of these tombs, save for some of the darker corridors, are naturally lit by huge chasms in the ceiling. Looks cool, sure, sunlight streaming in. Makes for a workable game, since it isn’t completely sealed and black, which is, you know, nice. But it raises the question: if you have the helicopter there, why don’t you just drop in, grab the crystal amulet of cosmic power and activate the winch to pull you back out. It’d be so much easier!

The better question is why the bad guys don’t do that. They thank Lara for retrieving it because they know the traps would kill them, so they just wait for her to come back out – I would too – but they have helicopters and winches – go for the huge skylights.

Now, it’s a petty nit to be picked but I’d argue that it’s this sort of subconscious disconnect that hurts video games’ realism without you even ever fully knowing it.

Image sources via clickthrough.

Abandoned Waterslides

This place was open and running when I was a kid. I wouldn’t say thriving, but busy enough.

The slides were horrid, the fiberglass worn thin from however many years of summer riders and Canadian winters. I remember sitting in the hot tub and with a raw back, not quite bleeding but probably close, shredded by a long day sliding. I’m not sure, in hindsight, if it was really as dubious as I remember or if, being a kid and all, over the years my imagination has made it that much worse. I do remember the milkshakes were fantastic.

Fast forward to me as a teenager. The park closed after some property deal or other went sour. In truth, I suspect they simply weren’t getting the paying traffic anymore. A few years after that there was a big thing in the news papers that it had been vandalized by some punks. Windows smashed, the empty pool filled with remnants of beer bottles. I remember wondering why anyone cared; it’s not like it’d ever open again without a pretty major overhaul anyway.

A few years after that I found photography and in the following summers we found ghost towns and toured all the neat old places we could find. This was, admittedly, the first and only place we ever ‘trespassed’ into to get photos. I say trespass in the sense that we hopped a small fence to get inside, but I doubt anyone would have raised any big deal about our being there; it had been abandoned for a long time by the time we came up.

They demolished the whole thing the summer of 2011, some years after these photos were taken. Other than those my friend took while exploring beside me, I’m not sure if many others exist out there. So that’s sort of cool. A surviving record, and a good memory of warm days spent with awesome people and then-brand new cameras.

You can see more here

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Concept Art

As I continue learning speed painting I continue to be humbled by the masters.

Painting in colour, as I’ve now found out, is much more difficult than originally thought. So even more respect for works like those above.

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