April 29, 2006
Baby Suit, by Phillip Toledano
Legskirt, by Phillip Toledano
April 28, 2006
Me and Deja Vu
I saw this photograph and I was at first taken aback. For an instant it seemed eerily familiar, like I'd been there in another life or I'd scraped out that lava tube with my own hands (or at least watched someone else do it). And then I realized why...
Riven. This was one of the first scenes we did in the game.
The lava tube photograph was taken by the intrepid Bryan William Jones (two posts in a row). Amoung other things, he's also a photographer. I absolutely loved his Volcano National Park photos (Hawaii) – I'm completely there – I can just smell the plants clawing their way out between layers of lava. You should definitely take a look; with his heroics in the face of 600 bison and all... well, I think you owe it to him.
April 26, 2006
Of Bison and Bryan
I am very proud to announce that loyal tinselman reader Bryan William Jones has at last overcome one of his greatest phobias: buffalos. Imagine poor Bryan, such a frightened baby wimp that he would stoop to faking a buffalo photo just to impress tinselman readers. And we were actually impressed! Until he was overcome with guilt and admitted his offense.
His crime was a tinsel-atrocity. The vast majority of tinselman readers are proud to be friends with the buffalo and other frightening cattle creatures (as is demonstrated by the below photo of two tinselman readers – they are not faking their huggy love for the Watusi Steer):
The good news is: Bryan William Jones has finally redeemed himself by seeking out a herd of 600 bison and prostrating himself on the ground before them. That's 2400 legs trampling toward him, the ground shaking. As he explains in his blog, he had just finished watching that scene in Fight Club where the main character guy is convinced by the Brad Pitt guy (who's really just the dual part of the main character guy) to let go of his fears by letting go of the wheel of the car. Bryan explains how, suddenly he started sobbing like a like a little baby and saw visions of himself dressed as a female dracula. A transvestic "Draculina". I don't know what that has do with buffalo but he was inspired! This is when he knew it was time to confront the herd (thank you Brad Pitt). Something like that. It's a very interesting post. Kinda weird.
Fortunately he remembered to bring his camera and got a great snapshot of just one of the bison as it rushed past, missing his delicate head by only inches. But he was full of tinselman love for that and all the bison... no fear... a true tinselman reader! Thank you Bryan for your incredible inspiration! Now the nightmares are gone, you've beaten back your terror and, in so doing, you inspire us all.
Note: If we find out your story was not true, or that you used a telephoto lens to take the picture, we'll be totally angry and might have to resort to drastic measures. Just don't even disapoint again... please.
April 24, 2006
War + Pink = Peace
What is it with the color pink? It seems to be so heavily laden with meaning; tenderness, feminity, love, sex, warmth. Add all this up, throw it on a tank or any other weapon of war, and what do you get? Peace? That's right, peace. War (or tank) + pink = peace.
Let's apply our simple equation to a few real world tanks and watch the magic happen.
If you had taken a walk to the corner of Pages Walk and Mandala Way in London in 2002, you would have been greeted by the threatening view of a a large green/gray T-34 (a tank). There it is before you: a menacing ghost of battle, of death – a monster waiting (hiding) in the weeds. Children walk by quickly. Old men look away with hands over old wounds. And so you turn and leave and never return. Too bad. You will never see what is about to happen.
Later that same year the tank is painted pink by artist Aleksandra Mir and is dubbed Pink Tank. Instantly it is transformed. It becomes cute and small. Approachable, funny, sexy. Above all, it becomes a statement of peace.
And now people flock to the tank. There it sits, a virtual playground for graffiti artists, a work in perpetual
progress. A weapon transformed into a statement of peace, love and open mindedness...
London's tank was not the first to become pink. Perhaps the pink tank that started it all was Prague's tank No. 23. In 1968, the Soviets had just entered the Czech capital with loads of big mean T-34s. They mounted one up on a pedestal in the city square (just to let everybody know who was boss). And there it stood until 1991, after the fall of the Soviet empire, when David Cerny, a local artist, decided he that wasn't crazy about the whole thing. So he painted it pink.
The Czech Army had a difficult time figuring out what all of this meant but they knew they didn't like it and so they repainted green. Too late. This whole pink thing had already caught on big and parliament deputies re-repainted it pink, in support of David Cerny's original statement.
Cerny's pink tank was clearly something very un-Soviet. They were big and powerful but their residual tank became diminished and pink and pretty (flowery-pretty). In this case, our equation, again applied to a tank, became a powerful statement: powerful enough to get Cerny temporarily arrested and powerful enough to cause the stubborn Czech Army officials to eventually throw up their hands and remove the Soviet symbol (which was a delight to almost everyone).
Other Pink Tanks
It turns out that the symbol of a pink tank has become such a powerful statement that protesters will go to great extremes to come up with one, as can be seen in this parade (below), where those involved constructed their own fake tank. This is obviously second best; the contrast between the harsh realities of war and the color pink can be mostly lost.
War + pink may also equal Gay Pride. This equation is much more complex. I'm not even going to approach it...
And now for one of my pink tank favorites; the pink form-fitting blanket-wearing tank! I really love this one, it's absolutely weird and spectacular and it adds so much to the pink tank symbology. A hand knit blanket – here's something we cozy up under at night. It brings us warmth. Comfort. It has rich sentimental value and our maybe our grandmother has made it for us. We hold it and think of her. Negatives: the blanket can be easily destroyed or removed. Also, it takes a very time to crochet this sort of think; I can't imagine making one for a battleship. Or the Pentagon (though Christo did wrap the Reichstag with cloth and it was freakin' amazing)!
So What Can the Equation Do For Us?
If we like war, I suppose we should stay away from pink (no one's going to take a pink infantry very seriously). But if you don't agree with war, or a particular war, then you may want to get out your buckets of paint (or crochet hooks) and get to work! The equation works. It may even be as symbolically as powerful as tea+indian costumes+Boston Harbor=really pissed king (but probably not). War + pink = peace. So paint. And prepare yourself for the coming peace (keeping your pink fingers crossed).
The above image is of the USS Balao, painted pink for the Blake Edwards 1959 film Operation Petticoat, starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis (thank you, Alli).
Note: War + pink = peace is only a simplified equation. The real equation is much more complex but I'm not smart enough to figure it out. It involves levels of power and complexity of symbology. For example, a pink missle is effective but if the Little Boy atomic bomb were painted pink... this would practically yell and scream peace (though unfortunately, it would clearly be an act of vandalism). If we raise the bar even more, a pink oval office might instantly end any war. But a pink American flag? Though the flag may imply military strength, it also implies a complex mix of other things; coloring it pink might diminish all of these complex meanings, diluting any desired impact of the pink in the first place. Conclusion: one needs to be methodical when one is dealing with pink.
Note 2: The top-most Land Rover is the Pink Panther British Special Air Service's Desert Land Rover, one of the few real pink military vehicles I was able to find. Another was a flotilla of destroyers painted Mountbatten Pink in WWII. Know of anymore pink military vehicles? Let me know.
(many of these tanks came via the incomparable: boingboing)
April 12, 2006
I just returned from Philadelphia, the city where most of my family was born and raised. Many of them still live there, including my grandmom who's still sharp as a tack.
My grandfather died a number of years ago. He was very well loved and his machine shop under the house has been kept almost a shrine in his memory. Though my uncle uses the shop for small projects, for over ten years not much has substantially changed; my grandfather's toolbox rests opened, his scrawled notes and plans are scattered all around, even his smell – machine oil – is everywhere.
It's strange to say that the shop was always a magical place for us kids. Grandpop would invite us in, show us a strange mechanism (usually his lathe) and begin to create a trinket right before our eyes. A miniature baseball bat. A plexiglas lightsaber! Then he'd invite us to try our hand at it. I'd watch him shape metal as if it was puddy. Turn square blocks into curved cyclinders. Nothing seemed impossible.
Now, whenever I visit I always go down and poke around, but not too much. It almost feels like he's still there. This time I finally took photographs. I love them! (click to enlarge)
Note: If you have a browser that resizes images to fit the window, don't forget to zoom-in to see the detail. Also, the high-res images are slower loading.
(cc) Robyn Miller, Some rights reserved.
April 10, 2006
Pattern Languages in the Cyberverse
A pearl of a book in my library is A Pattern Language. Every student of design but especially every set designer, game designer and architect should ingest the contents of this invaluable bible of architectual patterns.
It's difficult to summarize A Pattern Language. The patterns themselves can best be described as those qualities of human or evolutionary design that function together in the style of a network, whether one is observing the most minute flourish or standing back and observing from afar... either way the patterns are still present, working seemlessly together in a sort of language (or vernacular). In nature, that which is not fit enough to function correctly within the parameters of the patterns dies. But humans can tend to keep oppresive architectural and design trends alive – billboards, fast food restaurants, above ground parking garages – despite their various malignancies. So in order to live harmoniously within the context of a city, building or structure, humans can artificially create (or evolve) their own pattern languages based on careful [intuitive] observation of what has and has not worked in structures throughout time and around the world. They then can apply this language to future city-planning, building or structural designs.
Or they can haphazardly throw things together, without any planning.
Though anyone can come up with their own pattern language, A Pattern Language presents the authors' version of a language, laying forth many well researched patterns as varied and practical as "Four Story Limit", "Lace of Country Streets", "Promenade" and "Windows Overlooking Life", each of which is described in detail and well-illustrated by sketches or photographs.
If I have any complaints about the book, it's that the patterns seem to be built on inspirations from quaint old world towns and villages; the tastes of the authors are decidedly old world. Perhaps this is forgivable; the authors' research has led them to seek out those patterns which have proven (to them) to be the most time tested. But it's really not too much of a problem: many of these age old principles can easily be applied to even modern and post modern design.
There are probably other faults with the book; which is why it all has to be taken with a grain of salt and run through one's personal grid, with the end result of forming one's own pattern language. In fact the authors openly encourage this.
I'm not a city planner; I can only guess how architects or city planners might utilize information like this, but I've found it all very useful and I'm certain that game designers who routinely create large environments would stand to profit greatly by reading or at least referencing A Pattern Language.
Second Life is a great example, and I don't mind picking on it because it's so poorly designed. In fact, it's a designless environment. The Second Life world physically evolves as the combination of inhabitants desire it to evolve; the players are the authors of the content. Which sounds wonderful... in a way it is a unique experiment. But it could be much more than this; it has the potential of attracting a much broader audience: all ages and in all walks of life. It will never do that until it has a overarching "point of view" given to it by the Second Life staff. It is seriously in need of a pattern language.
For example, as a newcomer to Second Life, one is lost against the endless flat megapolis, cramped with flashing buildings and more flashing buildings. There's barely space to move: one must fly to get away. Perhaps that's because there are no paths or greenways in the city (do I dare call it a city?). Trees are instantly mowed down to make way for more flashing buildings. Not once did I ever encounter a city park or city forest, though I always enjoyed resting on random spots of unsold land (which would quickly be bought – the trees soon mowed down). Nowhere is there a Second Life sponsored monument or memorial. Not even a sponsored Town Hall or city square. There are not housing hills or house clusters or seperate shopping promanades and markets. Instead, everything is thrown together in one endless chaotic clutter.
Second Life is not even a visual circus: it is an endless trash heap of a city. It will never achieve true cyberverse status because it can't really compete with the real universe for our attention. In the Second Life environment, even the most unfit structures survive... in fact they seem to thrive. Discarded structures survive (my own land and it's pile of half-built experiments sits there... no one cares). It is a world with hardly any ground rules, no limits, no divisions; it is not an evolutionary design, it is cancerous growth.
(click to enlarge)
Second Life is just one example of a cyberverse that could greatly increase its audience by an increased understanding of the classic patterns that make life itself livable. These are the same patterns to which we are naturally attracted in cities such as San Francisco, Kyoto or Calcata. They are also very often present in classic, visually immersive works of fiction, such as Disneyland, Star Wars or fill-in-the-blank.*
A Pattern Language is obviously just one reference tool out of many. But an invaluable one. I recommend it. If you're a designer, you won't be sorry.
Reader comment: gfburke says,
Pattern language is excellent stuff and indirectly spawned the object-oriented programming discipline of design patterns. Are you familiar with Christopher Alexander's other works, such as A Timeless Way Of Building and especially the recently published four volume masterwork The Nature of Order?
Update: Thanks gfburke! I just received my copy of The Nature of Order and am shocked (and thrilled) to see that Christopher Alexander's philosophy is based around nature and life (I hadn't clearly understood this until now). I can't wait to dig in.
* Walt Disney or the visual designers of A New Hope never read A Pattern Language (the first edition was released in 1977), but many of the book's principles are intuitively sound. Many designers have intuitively used many of these same patterns long before this book ever existed (they're often that intrinsic), not only utilizing the language but also intentionally misusing it for dramatic effect.
Note: There is a Pattern Language website, but it cost money and doesn't have a clear interface – it's jumbled – which is ironic given the nature of their book. A Pattern Language cost around $40 at Amazon.
Treehouse From Space
Here at tinselman, we love treehouses, especially if they look like giant robotic eyeballs, humming low and keeping a hovering vigil above the heads of the furry little squirrels and mice.
[Tom Chudleigh's] beautiful tree spheres evolved when an original plan to build a boat didn't quite take off, and he put what was effectively the cabin up in a tree in his native British Columbia instead. Since completing the first prototype called Eve, which was made out of yellow cedar wood, Tom has perfected his techniques. Now, he also constructs the spheres out of fiberglass, fitting them with plumbing, wiring and the all-important windows. Prices start at around US$45,000.