ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms

February 2008

Games and News and Software17 Feb 2008

It’s finished.

You can go here to download “The Trials of Soscaides”, a mini role-playing game. If you tried it out before, you can now finish the adventure. With any luck, you won’t even run into any bad bugs, because I think we caught all the major ones =)

After spending a fair bit of my free time over the last couple months creating and testing the game’s adventure, and ending up with about two hours of playing time, I have a new appreciation for people who make full-length games. It’s a lot of work!

Special thanks to Jamie for finding some bugs and of course to Gaelan for going on this crazy adventure with me.

Books and Musings16 Feb 2008

I’ve just read Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and The Hunting of the Snark. The Alice stories are much beloved by Martin Gardner and others of the same mathematical ilk, in no small part for their word-play and logical puzzles. Apparently I’m not of the same ilk? I nearly gave up after Wonderland, but I was on the bus when I finished it and so had little else to do but plough into Through the Looking Glass.

Looking Glass, with it’s overall metaphor of a chess game, seemed more coherent, unified. Wonderland seemed a little too, well, nonsensical. I don’t have much stomach for nonsense unless I grasp there is a reason for it, and I didn’t really find one in Wonderland. It just meanders from one clever/silly episode to the next without any real sense of why it is going anywhere. I’ve always found such things increasingly frustrating as they go along: if I can’t see some logic, I can’t get into it. (Yes, Carroll was a logician. Ponder that one). It’s too arbitrary.

Besides the relief of having some internal structure, Through the Looking Glass also has better episodes. For example, Humpty Dumpty’s take on the use of language and his explanation of “The Jabberwocky” poem (which originates in that story) is amusing and revealing. (“Well, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy.’ ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active.’ You see it’s like a pormanteau – there are two meanings packed up into one word.”) Some of the characters, especially Humpty, the White King and the White Knight, seem like somewhat pleasant people, rather than just frustrating hindrances put in Alice’s way (see: pretty much everyone in Wonderland, from the hatter to the various card people).

I liked Snark (“An agony in eight fits”) the best. It’s goofy, but the verse-form gives it the rhythmic coherence that nonsense needs to be organized within. It was, to me, the best of the three.

I won’t say really disliked these stories, but I didn’t really see what all the fuss is about. It’s odd, because I thought I would like them; wanted to like them. I almost feel like I’ve failed some kind of test.

Music05 Feb 2008

Let me introduce you to the hippest brass band leader you might ever meet: Zack Condon, young American formed in the Balkans, leading his tumultuous gypsy musicians on the trumpet and the ukulele.

My introduction seems a bit familiar, but I’ve only read his wikipedia entry and heard some of the music of his band, “Beirut”. I believe dependable Mr. Frank arranged my first introduction, and at that time I bought one track, “Elephant Gun”, from iTunes. I’m not normally in the habit of buying single tracks, but I wasn’t sure about Beirut at that point and didn’t want to splurge $3.96 for the other four tracks on the short album. I did like his airy voice, even if I have no idea what he’s saying, and the more I listened to Elephant Gun the more it grew on me. I really like the layers of sound created by the various instruments as they come in against Condon’s voice.

I went back and bought the rest of his short album and realized by not doing so before I had violated my own maxim: songs need context. The whole album works as one extended performance, starting with Elephant Gun and meandering through other themes. Track four is just a minute-long reprise of the accordion line from E.G., tying the whole piece together.
There is something moving about this music’s gypsy excesses. Some heavily layered music invites you to live inside it, but Beirut instead directs you outward, makes you aware of the world turning around you.

Play us out, Zach.

Photos03 Feb 2008

Ottawa has a month-long winter festival in February called “Winterlude”. This weekend featured an ice-sculpture contest. We took pictures.

Even the sign was made of ice.

Some of the sculptures were very intricate.

Shen and a giant snowflake.

This one was impressive not least because of the tenuous wrist holding the big heavy sword.

Shen on the hanger deck.

Sadly, his arm was a casualty of global warming.

This one was our favorite.

John Cabot arrived and promptly froze.