Category Archives: Happenings

We shall defend our islands, whatever the cost may be.

I finally saw Iron Maiden tonight. They tour only every other year, and they play the humongous venues that foment irritation. So, I’ve never been.

Sea of Madness

But they are not going to be playing or living forever, so you really should see them. I’m glad I did. Despite the many obstacles to my enjoyment I hit en route to Maiden’s performance, I ended up having an ecstatic time.

They were spotlighting stuff from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, which is not my favorite Maiden album. Yet they totally sold all these long-ass progressive ragas just on the power of their sound, which is very vivid and very robust live. They made me believe that anything would sound good coming out of them.

I can’t recite a set list, but here’s the songs I remember them playing, in approximate order:

Moonchild

I don’t know the song well, but it was exciting. Very nice build-up. I shot a few clips of the show here and there. They sound bad, as expected, yet they’re surprisingly intelligible. I guess I was far back enough. Here’s one of the opener.

The Evil That Men Do
Two Minutes to Midnight
The Prisoner

The Trooper

The harmonies really breathed and felt richly “wavy” like they were maybe playing them a bit rubato. At the same time, the song seemed to whiz by. I was on the edge of every note, headbanging like nuts, and it seemed like it was over in two minutes.

Also, Bruce went the whole nine yards. While wailing about Russian guns, he waved the Union Jack and wore the traditional red suit of the British. Throughout the show, he was running about and climbing all over things. It was not unlike Method Man’s stage craziness.

Number of the Beast

So ridiculously exciting. Certainly, part of it is yelling 6! 6-6!

The Phantom of the Opera

Afraid to Shoot Strangers

Bruce dedicated this to America and Charlton Heston. I had never heard this song, but it ruled. Lots of abrupt tempo changes, which they played off as no big deal, and so did not seem at all song-breaking. I’m going to have to check it out.

Fear of the Dark

I sang along with this loud enough to hear myself and realized I sounded like Anton Maiden. Kept going anyway! Such is the strength of its anthemic call.

Can I Play with Madness?
Wasted Years
Iron Maiden

“Encore”

Aces High

I was not surprised by the melodrama that is the encore, but I was surprised it was this. That Churchill intro is so goddamned epic that it makes the first fast riff in the song seem ten times bigger. Kinda lost my shit over this one.

Run to the Hills

For years, I heard Metallica’s parody of this intro riff in my head every time I heard the real one. Even after I came to like the song overall, I didn’t think too much of that riff. Tonight, they brought it to life, and it sounded anything but silly.

Throughout the show, you could tell Bruce Dickinson is a great singer, but here, you really felt like he was commanding perfectly a very powerful thing.

Also, remember that episode of Beavis and Butt-head in which they get taken to jail to be “Scared Straight,” but end up singing “Run to the Hills” with some inmates? Quite a few guys there looked like those inmates (and quite a few didn’t, of course).

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Running Free

Other Notes

  • Iron Maiden is a very “ringing” band. The vocals ring, the bass clangs, and the vocals sing. They’re also very punchy, but something is always ringing. The metal bands I listened to most in my formative years favored crunching, dense percussiveness over extended reverberating when it came down to it, so it’s striking to me.
  • Steve Harris is the most commanding bass player I’ve heard. First off, he’s loud enough in the mix that he easily cuts through three guitars. Then, he tends to play riffs that are like metal rhythm guitar riffs, and the guitars sometimes end up playing more melodic and less percussive stuff. It’s not important that the bass lead, and it’s not possible at certain tempos, but it is salient.
  • As I mentioned above, the guitar harmonies seemed to flourish live. I wonder if it’s the third guitar. (Janick Gers, their third guitarist, did not record on their older, classic albums.)
  • If you’ve ever wanted an opportunity to sing “Whoahhoahoah!” a lot, a Maiden show is probably just as good for this as a Misfits show.

Gathered on foot, just for you.

For a previous blog, I had a script that collected all of the links I bookmarked on del.icio.us that day and put them in a post. As time went on and I wrote less and less, those link roboposts became about 90% of the content.

That was bad for the blog, so I stopped doing that. Here, I’m doing something that feels similar, but it’s game stuff that happened to be presented to me in person. So, it’s as if I went out and physically gathered these links for you. Appreciate!

Summoner Wars

I discovered this at PAX East. It looked like any other card game, except it was played on a grid. There was a lot of orcy fantasy art on it, with the fonts that customarily accompany that kind of art. My friend Tim and I were walking by its booth, and the game’s designer invited us to try it out. I said sure but was skeptical.

The designer, Colby Dauch, did a great job of walking us through a first turn, and it did turn out to be a very good game. It’s an elegant tactical combat game that centers largely around positioning, as most tactical combat does, but also involves resource management and acquisition. Like in chess, you win by defeating the enemy’s key piece. Like in Magic and Dominion, you have a deck of cards that provides your guys, all of which have different abilities that can be coordinated in many different ways. The guys in your deck can be summoned using your magic points, which are obtained by killing your opponent’s guys.

You can build your own decks, which adds another dimension to the game, but we played with the prepackaged decks, all of which had a very distinct flavor. We played the hell out of this game at PAX, and I think it’s the best game I played there. Colby said an iOS version was in the works, so I’m looking out for that.

Spell Tower

Spell Tower’s another game I saw at PAX. It’s an iOS game in which you make words out of a tower of letters. When you connect a string of serially adjacent letters to make a word, they pop off and the rest of the letters fall to fill the void they leave. It’s vaguely Tetris-esque. You have to consider where you’re making words because you can cause letters to pile up in concentrated spots. A tall pile is bad because when a pile reaching the top of the screen ends the game. Making words in this context is fun, but also compelling. And by “compelling,” I mean it can create compulsion, which I’m ambivalent about.

The developer, Zach Gage, talked to me for a bit about its development. He got a working version in a surprisingly short amount of time using Open Frameworks. This was a surprise to me because I didn’t even know there was an iOS port of OF. Zach’s made a wide variety of software art with it and has a library for working with sprite sheets.

I was tempted to get into it, but I have enough fluency in Objective-C right now to express myself fairly well and am generally short on time. If ofxiPhone had been around three years ago, I would have been all over it, the same way Ruby people are all up ons RubyMotion. If you’re coming to iOS development from a C++ background, you should check it out.

Letterbrush

Finally, a couple weeks ago, I went to a Game Dev Night where I met other people making tile-based game maps with ASCII in plain text. The host, Greg Smith, presented us with Letterbrush. Plain text is relatively easy and simple to work with, but it does involve some annoying arrow key-dancing to specific columns and rows. Letterbrush gives you well-known drawing tools so you can skip all that foofawing.

Well, I think there were more, some non-game ones, but I’ve forgotten them. So, I hope you enjoyed those.


A new kind of work

I completed my first week as a full-time independent developer. Things I learned:

1. It’s easier to get solid concentration going in the morning if I work somewhere outside of the home. Concentrating in the afternoon is not as hard at home, especially if I have momentum from the morning. I still need to learn how to get going in the morning at home, though. Coffee shops cost money.

2. Having a broad plan for each day of the week helps. This way, you don’t spend too much time thinking and re-thinking what you should be doing. (I had guessed as much from my experience with meal planning, which severely reduced our decision fatigue.) You also cut career existential doubt out of the loop completely.

3. I can kill ideas that are unlikely to work by starting to plan out the work for it. It might not be a true death, though, as they keep popping back into my head. But at least I didn’t spend time on them.

4. I thought I liked listening to podcasts and music while working, but that turns out to only be for work that I have to push myself to start. I think they distract me from my resistance to starting. If I don’t have a problem starting, though, as is the case with a lot of what I worked on this week, podcasts and music are just distracting. The sounds I’ve enjoyed the most this week are near-silence and background chatter that’s busy enough that I can’t distinguish individual conversations.

5. It is really good to have an “American dream”-style weekend in which you don’t expect to do much work and thus are not disappointed when you don’t. When you’re a part-time indie, concerns over whether or not you really are getting as much as you should out of the weekend hover over you like a cartoon stink cloud. They’re a lot easier to dismiss when you know you’ve put in a solid week.


I guess it’s a pretty small upside, really.

On Todd Glass coming out on WTF (a good episode, BTW):

Katt:
Came out like he’s gay?

Me:
Yope.
He’s an established comedian/podcaster.
I’m always amazed people can be secret gay for that long!

Katt:
It must be really hard.

Me:
OTOH, it’s probably sorta cool to have a surprise to unleash on people.

Maybe I’ll come out as Batman.

Katt:
You’re not Batman, honey.


Today’s nonsense

I figure that, without context, this works as some kind of William S. Burroughs thing.

Me:
Yo, you gotta crush a lot of content if you wanna be cool like Bowser!

Katt:
Don’t they mean Middlebury?

Me:
He crushed it up into a berry!

Katt:
Also, I guess if your name is Gomer, you feel pressure to be even more cool.
Dragonair ate his Middleberry! His Critical Thinking skill goes way up!

Me:
Oh, man, we gotta play that!
Well, once we get a TV.

Katt:
Pokemon Education Revolution!

Me:
Also, a pro-Bowser blog written by the candy stand guy would be good.

Katt:
Oh yeah. I wonder if Bowser ever visits his stand.

Me:
What? Squirtle is getting a master’s degree?
Probably just to pick up from the vault.

Katt:
What? Ivysaur is evolving!

Me:
He’s, like, yeah, yeah, crunch some candy. Let me see the receipts.

Katt:
Congratulations! Your Ivysaur evolved into UNEMPLOYED MFA!

Me:
deer yahoo answers how come my iveysor power went down

Katt:
u sent him to art scool dumass he needs to be a laywer

Me:
loyer stone is xpencive tho


The continuous hacking of the human spirit

There was a time when the forests of the Niu Mountain were beautiful. But can the mountain any longer be regarded as beautiful, since being situated near a big city, the woodsmen have hewed the trees down? The days and nights gave it rest, and the rains and the dew continued to nourish it, and a new life was continually springing up from the soil, but then the cattle and the sheep began to pasture upon it. That is why the Niu Mountain looks so bald, and when people see its baldness, they imagine that there was never any timber on the mountain. Is this the true nature of the mountain? And is there not a heart of love and righteousness in in man, too? But how can that nature remain beautiful when it is hacked down every day as the woodsman chops down the trees with his ax? To be sure, the nights and days do the healing and there is nourishing air of the early dawn, which tends to keep him sound and normal, but this morning air is thin and is soon destroyed by what he does in the day. With this continuous hacking of the human spirit, the rest and recuperation obtained during the next are not sufficient to maintain its level, then the man degrades himself to a state not far from the beast’s. People see that he acts like beast and imagine that there was never any true character in him. But is this the true nature of man?”

– Mencius, via Lin Yutang.

No, Mencius, it is not! No way, man. (Although I’m not sure all the beasts are in such a bad state.)

I think we all know that getting rest is valuable. However, I often think of it as valuable in the sense that it is good for regaining productivity. Work productivity, artistic productivity, organizational productivity, or physical productivity. You rest, then once again you are able to dig and work toward some goal or other.

Mencius values rest in a different way. He’s talking about how resting helps you be yourself. And now that I think about it, he’s right. When I sleep as late as I’d like, and I don’t have an overwhelmingly packed day ahead of me, I notice more things. I am more amused by what I notice. I am more amused by myself. I’m more inventive because I get to act, rather than react; I think thoughts that can be said to be “from me” instead of thoughts that would most likely be thought by others because we are all forced to react to similar situations. Music tends to sound better, too.

I think we all understand the value of hard work and sacrifice. If there’s aspects of your life that you wish to change, you have to upset its balance. If there was an easy way to alter the equilibrium of your life, you would have used it by now, so all you have left is work – extra work beyond what you do to pay the bills. This work might be fulfilling, but it’s going to be taxing. Otherwise, it’s not work.

Ultimately, you’re trying to change your life so that you are more satisfied. You may create your greatest art or earn enough money to buy your house, boat, or truck packed with explosives, but you can end up less satisfied than when you started because you’ve crushed your natural self under constant toil.

Your “natural self” might not be any more “natural” than your toiling self, certainly. Perhaps “unencumbered self” might be a better term? Whatever the term, it’s a worthwhile side of most people.

I took some time off from work a while ago, and I didn’t accomplish as much as I had hoped I would during that time. Still, I was very satisfied with that time overall. I lived without pressure or weight during this period, and just that itself was surprisingly satisfying.

I can’t rank the importance of living unencumbered against the importance of reacting and sacrificing to change one’s circumstances. I don’t even know how often you really need to be in this state to be sufficiently satisfied. I am sure, though, that it is important enough to not forget completely, and that rest is not just for re-upping one’s productivity.