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!

Soulcraft

You could watch the above with a rational heart and announce “what a load of crap”; I couldn’t argue with you in any logical sense. Still, I’m willing to admit I have cried watching Speed Racer in the past. There’s a scene in the end – and unfortunately not on Youtube – where the car dies and he needs to restart it, ignoring the Grand Prix around him and just listening. Feeling. There is something to these vehicles that transcends the mere logic of metal bits moving about and propelling us forward.

I never understood, having a younger sister, why girls liked horses so much. They are, to my mind, ugly plodding things that emit noxious fumes and are generally impossible to control. They are uncomfortable to be on or around and grossly underpowered compared to the vehicles in the stable’s parking lot. But there is something – and I haven’t experienced it myself – that I assume happens: you become one with the horse and it stops being two free-willed animals attached to each other and starts being one machine, one connection of control. I look at my car, at my seat that fits my back and the steering wheels that bears my thumb prints and I can’t help but think that sometimes it is an animal of it’s own. Somehow, these parts come together and create something better than a mere metal sculpture.

My car (above, photo taken by my father before I was born) is not impressive to most, boasting a whole 70 horse’s power when new (and surely many have run away in the meantime) coming from the ’88 E16s 1.6L engine. It was my parent’s car when they were first married and will be an antique next year. It was a car that I rode in the back seat of as a small child and the one I learned to drive standard in, eventually just buying it outright. I love her.

I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past my love for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I just started Shop Class as Soulcraft yesterday – two books that compliment each other really well both in terms of message and application. I don’t yet own a motorcycle, although the lessons transfer to not only other vehicles but life itself. That’s why they’re in the philosophy section of the bookstore, I suppose. The medium of machinery is a very good metaphor for the machines that are us, the being of human. I appreciate that in both cases the underlying text is that we as people have sort of detached, like a rider and horse, into separate beasts. Mind and body and white collar and blue collar and emotional states and our very perceptions of things are all in these broad divides. I think the case they’re trying to make is that we need to mount the horse or get in the driver’s seat and become one with ourselves again. That we almost look at the things around us with that same cold calculation that we look at cars as just hunks of metal when really, they are a thing to experience and identify with.

The scene at the end of Speed Racer is the perfect metaphor for our internal, personal divide. The protagonist asks of the car, “What do you need?” and although getting no explicit response, proceeds to listen and to know. To be intuitive about the smallest things. I think we ask ourselves this every day and find ourselves frustrated when we aren’t in tune enough to find the answers. We don’t trust the gut enough to act on those little, unspoken ideas and feelings that pour forth.

Is it silly that I treat my search for a new car much like I’d treat the search for a new stallion or a good German Shepard? Maybe. Is it silly that my eyes get a little watery over the course of a kid’s movie? Yeah. Will I sob violently when I have to say goodbye to my darling Pulsar? Definitely.

But I do think, and I say this as an extremely logical, meticulously practical person, that we need to simply feel and listen more and act on those gut instincts. That we can look at ourselves and know things are wrong much like a mechanic on a motorcycle can feel when the gas mixture is too lean or when a spark plug has build up. The sounds and smells and vibrations are all there, but we have to not only learn to identify with them but to act accordingly and fearlessly.

White Rapids

I was riding the train back home today following a gorgeous longboard ride and couldn’t help but be drawn to this comic over some guy’s shoulder. It’s astounding!

Now, I can’t comment on the story having not actually read it, but the pictures review very highly on the Acrylo cool-o-meter.

It’s called White Rapids and was done up by a Pascal Blanchet five years ago. Also: it’s Canadian. Fortunately for us it’s a comic and not a film. The word comic is used – there is text and visuals on every page together – but there are no real panels, no grid, which makes it read more like a Dr. Suess picture book than anything. I’m entirely fine with that, actually, given that it’s more about the visual history of the town than a dialogue-based plot. It works.

It’s $25 on Amazon and just over 150 pages which makes it a pretty thin book for that price. Shame. If it were, say, $10 I’d be on that like white on rice.

Images via (and a review, it seems)

Canadian Museum of Making

A few of us went on tour of this private collection which seems to have one of every machine everĀ conceived. Since we’re nerdy steampunk fanatics and mechanically-minded industrial designers, we mostly wandered around with mouths agape, pointing and squeaking at each other to “lookit this one!” like Christmas morning in Disneyland.

The cool thing about it being a collection is it’s less stuffy than public museums because the invitees are usually our types who are deeply fascinated with the machines, which means we were allowed to play with them and watch them move and see how they work. For me (us) that’s the best way to learn: experimenting and finding out what really makes it tick.

The bookshelves were fantastic. Everything from engineering Tesla turbines to steam engines to playing billiards like a gentleman (complete with illustrations featuring tophats and monocles!) to bird watching to botany. I commented several times that I would just stay there and read the shelves end to end, top to bottom, forever – if I could. As much as I could easily download all the texts into my iPad, there’s just a magic to reading leather bound tomes with grease on the pages from a hundred years ago, with little notes scribbled in the margins from some machinist at some point. It just feels like it has wisdom trapped inside, you know? And you trace your finger over the gold embossed title text and can’t contain your excitement to learn all about the topic contained within.

Anyway, the photography is mediocre and really doesn’t do the place justice. I had to skip posting entire sections of the collection in photos because there really isn’t a good way of making such massive galleries.

Still, definitely check out the part one and two of the gallery I did post – about 40 photos in total.

Space Oddity: a book, animated

Space Oddity from Andrew Ruttan on Vimeo.

So the fictional book about David Bowie’s classic song has been floating around cyber space and it’s all very brilliant and illustrated in a style reminiscent to that one episode of Samurai Jack where he goes to space with the astronauts which is sweet. In fact, I think it’s called “Jack in Space” which, I guess, sort of makes sense. It’s in season one. Great show. You should definitely watch it.

Anyway. There’s an animated version of the book! In case you haven’t seen, above. Basically the same thing but you can listen to the song while the book moves for you.

Epitome of lazy? Why yes, we have reached it, and it is fantastic.

Check out the book illustrator
Check out the animator

Via

Evil Supply Co.

I loveĀ this site if for no other reason than it shares my sense of humor.

Since as you know, I’m well on my way to taking over the world with my chair, my world map and my secret mountain lair.

Now I need the death ray notebook so I can reminisce about my Paris afternoons. Most excellent.

House of Leaves – Architecture and Psychology

First off, I have to say I have not yet finished the book. In fact, I’m probably closer to a third complete, so in no way is this commentary a definitive thing or a retrospective overview.

Possible spoilers. I don’t even know the ending myself, though, so it can’t be that bad.

But, some thoughts while I journey through the experience:

Typography

I definitely advise you pick up a printed copy of the book, because it does contain a lot of very specifically placed typography and I’m not sure how ebooks deal with that sort of thing. At the very least, get a PDF which holds each page as an image and therefore very close to the author’s original intent.

As it is a horror novel, typography lends itself well to inducing horror: margins that aren’t quite vertical make things feel uneasy, for instance. It’s subtle, but it trips your mind just a little bit. Sentence / line length is varied throughout the book by incorporating other page elements (text boxes or blank areas within the page are sometimes just there) which really has an effect or reading speed and can change how you read certain things. This is effective as a tool since a lot of the book is a commentary on spatial awareness and the sheer relativity of everything to the human mind. I have no doubts these parallels are intended.

There are definite patterns in things. When people are in certain areas, some things are added or removed or changed or in a different direction altogether. Sometimes the additional text boxes in the middle of the text slowly grow from page to page which displaces the story into ever decreasing space, a sort of typographic closing in, just as the monster draws closer to the characters. It’s a typographic claustrophobia, really. And I’m not sure if it’s just me as someone who notices these things, but it’s actually fairly effective. As you decrease space, the lines get shorter and therefore your eyes are moving faster and more fervently from line to line.

There are several authors, so to speak. It’s sort of a traveling document that was penned by an old man, reviewed by drug using young man and finally found by the editors, who we’re lead to believe assembled the very novel you’re reading. Since each layer adds footnotes to things (and goodness, half the book is footnotes) it sort of weaves the various commentaries in and through each other, since although we read them simultaneously, we know they have a certain chronology applied to them as the document is passed from hand to hand. Each author uses a different typeface, which is handy for intuitively separating things. I’m not a huge fan of either Times nor Courier for body text, but it works, I suppose.

Architecture / Psychology

Of course, the house itself is questioned. I appreciate the multi-layered authoring approach because we see not just a horror novel and left to quizzically rationalize it ourselves, but instead we read the notes of the old man who saw the tapes of the event and rationalizes it to himself, drawing on a near infinite number of sources and further research. In this way, we see not only the event but also what the true author wants us to draw from that event. It’s unique, certainly, because so rarely do we get to see what the authors are trying to pen into the story, whereas now the story is the description of the underlying story, which I actually really appreciate. It’s also a subtle way of effecting the reader’s emotions: since the reader would most likely be rationalizing it on a superficial level, by writing to that level directly it can also tug the reader a bit, but not enough to make the reader jump out of that level again (which would ruin the immersiveness) and so creates a sort of horror because it can effect the reader’s conscious mind itself, which ultimately is our last stand of rationality, the very thing the book comments on.

The house shifts and moves and they briefly go into an explanation that it does so in a pattern relative to the occupant’s mind – that is, it becomes what they think. The staircase is endlessly down on the first trip because they aren’t sure if there even is a bottom, and yet the second group (who do know there is a bottom) reaches it in a matter of minutes. This is covered in a lot of science fiction stories (Michael Crichton‘s Sphere comes to mind) and ultimately is a fantastic way of not actually explaining anything at all. I do appreciate the quotes pulled in from authors both real and imagined with explanation, questioning whether spaces not observed are inherently one thing or another until they are in fact explored (again, simply narrating the things the reader would be justifying themselves anyway) which brings open ended questions that no one can answer (which thus adds to the mystery and chaos).

It is interesting the results the house has on the explorers, and how they deal with them. It’s very much a character study; showing how each person reacts to the same set of known and unknown things. I’ve been on several spelunking trips / cave tours and there are those times when the guide tells everyone to turn off their lights – it’s exactly how the book describes: a darkness that takes on a physical mass, a weight to it. You do imagine things, even in the couple minutes we sat in silence. The guides have stories of people who before the cave was properly explored became stuck or lost, and when finally found days later were utterly mad with delusion. I understand how easy that would be.

Darkness is often used as a cop-out for horror. Obviously, your imagination is far more horrible than any monster, any seen thing, and so the unknown becomes the antagonist in a lot of stories. I suspect sometimes that’s just because the author would fail miserably if they did try to pen some unspeakable beast and so choose not to claiming the reason above. However, this is above that, I think. It’s deliberate and genuinely good at describing the nothingness, revealing what the characters are seeing in the nothingness and how they’re responding to it individually.

Architecture, really, is just as much about space as it is the lack of it. The concept is brought up a few times in various footnotes, and how foreign the space is because of it’s lack of human features (although it has doors with door handles and so far they seem human sized) or evidence of construction. We only understand things based on origin, we seek to describe thing’s beginnings as a solution to that object’s existence. And so, to find these seemingly infinite hallways and rooms is sort of terrifying in itself with the simple question “Where did it even come from?” – a source of horror in the unknown.

The exterior is explored. Not explored like examined but explored as in explained. As explained as anything inherently unknown can be, I suppose. Where is the exterior? Are there any walls that lead to somewhere that isn’t another room or hallway? Which means, logically, like a hotel floorplan, all of the walls are shared and all of the hallways run congruently to support the geometry, and yet everything shifts which makes it a sort of physical impossibility in the most literal sense: some spaces are occupied twice. Which is, as a rational person trying to navigate, utterly terrifying. Also, begs the question: Can people get stuck in a double space? Which would also imply a sort of quasi-teleportation concept as space is traditionally thought of. I wonder if the book will touch on that at all, later on.

This has become a lot longer than I thought it would.

Anyway. Some thoughts as I read.

 

Max Huber

Max Huber, well known Swiss graphic designer (1919-92).

What’s more (to me) than the art itself is the book it comes in. This is the format I would have love to see a yearbook made of: big pictures, little text. Grids. Elegance. Bright colours, big typography. Really, it’s not like yearbooks need to write those little “This is a picture of Suzy doing such and such” comments. People just look at the pictures.

“Back to simplicity, back to purity.” -Dieter Rams

Photos of the book thanks to Wallace Henning via his Twitter (but also, seriously check out his work, fantastic stuff.)


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