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20100509

The Case of the Painted Floorboards

Entry 1683 posted in: The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit


Summer 1969.

Harvest hotshots ask Hipgnosis to design a sleeve for Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs album that is in its final mix. Storm Thorgerson goes to Syd's flat to take the some shots, but decides later, for whatever reason, to use the (Mick Rock influenced) pictures that have been taken months before.

Alternative titles for this intriguing and spectacular blogpost could have been:
Of toy planes and dirty feet...
Still life with daffodils and pot of paint...
The great madcap laughs swindle...
but eventually the Holy Igquisition settled for...
The Case of the Painted Floorboards

Read it, at your own risk, at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit!

20100513

Matthew 19:14

Entry 1684 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash


the body of christ A few of years ago there were a couple of racist attacks from right-wing skinheads in Belgium. Basically the skinheads, having been drinking far too much lager at their local skinhead pub, saw a passing stranger with a different skin colour than theirs and decided to kick or stab the victim into hospital.

Television crews and newspaper journalists tumbled over each others to cover the news. Prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, ministers of interior, ministers of justice, ministers of equal rights and even some ministers nobody had ever seen before all had their say on prime time television and on the first page columns of the serious newspapers.

Some of them uttered the kind of stupefied arguments that one would normally only expect to hear from the skinheads they were reacting against. Like: we will immediately forbid skinheads and their skinhead pubs. When confronted with quotes like these the quite cynical man behind this blog thinks, in his own uncensored way of reasoning: "Oh yeah, you silly cunt. Just tell me how?" As long as there is freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Belgium you can't simply stop people to wear silly outfits and to shout Oi! at each other. This, my dear politicians, is what we call democracy. It is a system where any single person, even very stupid ones, can become a politician and you are the living proof of it.

The Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism obviously condemned these vicious attacks in very harsh words and quite rightly so. But when a few weeks later some brown-skinned Islamic youngsters, although it is not considered politically correct to say that, kicked a passing girl into hospital because she didn't wear a traditional headscarf the same institute refused to describe this as a religious inspired discriminatory attack. The centre called this an unhappy incident and politely instructed the boys that their cultural and religious habits were not always appreciated in the laic state of Belgium. But that is not what this post is about.

The Belgian catholic church, as in a couple of other countries, is momentarily under fire because of their strange way to deal with paedophilic priests. Newspaper De Morgen revealed past week that five priests, who committed sex with minors between 2000 and 2008, are still on the job today. In some cases the catholic church has paid the victims huge sums of money to buy their silence.

Since bishop Vangheluwe had to resign, a couple of weeks ago, 270 claims were entered at the sex abuse commission of the catholic church, but 353 other complaints arrived through other channels as some victims simply don't trust catholic organisations anymore. This is understandable: asking the catholic church to investigate its own sins is like asking the Cosa Nostra to investigate its own murders.

What is even weirder, not one single politician of any importance dares saying before the camera that it is about time to have a closer look at the institute Church (one notably exception is Marleen Temmerman).

Not one single member of parliament proposes to throw a few bishops in jail until they confess that they have neglected to inform justice of these criminal acts and actively tried to minimise and cover-up the abuse.

Not one single minister dares whispering that we could, at least as a temporary matter, (partially) withdraw the yearly subventions the church receives. The catholic church gets the yearly amount of 550 million euro. This amount isn't based on the actual percentage of practising Catholics in Belgium (about 12%) but on the assumption that 70% of all Belgians have been baptised and that out of a silly traditional habit. This means that the catholic church, for the past 30 or 40 years, has been over-subsidized with at least a factor five.

I am not preaching to burn down some churches (although to paraphrase novelist, poet, painter, playwright and movie maker Hugo Claus: a burned down church is a good one), but we can at least sell one for each abuse and distribute the money to the victims. And paedophilic priests do not have to contemplate their sins in a monastery but in prison. Just like skinheads.


If you liked this post, you could maybe try this one next: The Cross and the Maiden 

20100521

Penumbra Overture Open Source

Entry 1686 posted in: 3. Gamebits


Penumbra 2006 TD 2006

In June 2006 a minor incident upset my dreary life. Some people reach for booze, others for drugs, I downloaded the free Penumbra 2006 (tech demo) and started playing like hell.

As usual the story doesn't matter that much, a man takes a boat to Greenland, walks around in a snow blizzard (a rather stupid thing to do if you ask me), gets lost, nearly freezes to death, but luckily finds a deserted underground army bunker where he can - at least temporarily - shelter.

But shit usually comes in twos and the protagonist finds that the door from the secret base can't be opened from the inside. He is now obliged to investigate all the underground rooms and tunnels until he finds a possible exit (this is roughly the same technique Ikea uses to lure its customers in its shops) but apparently some blood sucking creatures roam in the shadows as well (that also applies to Ikea, as a matter of fact)…

More than a first person shooter, you don't even own a gun, Penumbra 2006 TD was an exploring and puzzle solving game and when, at a certain moment a vampire bat flies at your throat, the only solution is to lure it in into a trap or to run away from it, but only after you have stopped screaming out loud. (Theoretically you can also kill the flying critter by throwing a stick of dynamite towards it, but all I ever managed to do was to blow my virtual self up into a million of pieces.)

The horror theme, the makers confessed they tried to imitate a Lovecraftian atmosphere, is omnipresent: creepy noises, dark corridors, long shadows and only two monsters that make you jump into the air when they appear. It is an old trick that unfortunately has been forgotten by game and movie makers: the horror is not present by the abundance of monsters but by the lack of it. (If you know that thirty bloodthirsty zombies will attack you whenever you open a door, there is no element of surprise, and thus no horror, anymore.)

Probably you have realised by now that I was a great fan of the game. I became an active member of the forum. I even published a walkthrough and made a Dutch localisation file (use 'save as' if the link gives a 404 error) that can still be found somewhere on this domain. More a player's guide, than a walkthrough (for instance: I decided not to reveal the different number codes to open the electronic doors but lead the player to the place were they could find the code instead) it rapidly got a few thousands of hits and was the immediate trigger to start with the Unfinished Projects blog (unfortunately I don't have any statistics how many times the Dutch version of Penumbra was downloaded). The first half dozen of posts on this blog were obviously all about Penumbra as I had frankly nothing else to write about…

The Penumbra 2006 Tech Demo was, as its title already declared, a technical demonstration of the Penumbra physics engine. It allowed the player to interact with several object in the game, like opening drawers or stacking crates from different sizes on top of each other to create a rudimentary staircase (I had first seen this kind of game play, but in a less sophisticated way, in William Shatner's absolute stinker Tekwar). This also meant that most puzzles had more than one solution.

Overture

Although short (with the proper guide one finishes the game in less than fifteen minutes) Penumbra TD was a huge success and Frictional Games started, thinking big, on a commercial trilogy. You will not find a review of Penumbra: Overture on this blog as I was a bit dissatisfied when the game came out. It suffered from the Blair Witch Project syndrome where the first, cheap and cheerful, instalment suddenly hit the market in such a way that its sequel could only disappoint.

To name one example: the flying bats, I used to call them critters, that suddenly jumped at your throat in the demo had been replaced by zombie dogs, but rather poorly drawn and programmed zombie dogs. Basically it was just a 3D representation of a dog, sliding or tilting towards you, as its legs had not been programmed to move realistically while running, nor did its mouth open or close when biting. Probably the makers, originally a bunch of students who decided to start a game company, didn't have the time, nor the budget to make this more realistic, but graphically it felt a bit as being attacked by a plastic action figure. Rather than frightening the dogs were considered annoying by the game community. (I do understand it is much easier to maintain the horror, the suspense and the surprise effects in a 15 minutes demo than in a 6 hours game.)

The successor, Black Plague (part 2 of the trilogy) was apparently much better, so I read in the specialised press, but I never tried it as I had lost my interest in Penumbra anyway. The third and final part of the trilogy was not to be, although an expansion pack Requiem was made that ties the two previous episodes together (so it is rumoured). So one could really describe the Penumbra trilogy as two games and a half.

2010

I had completely forgotten about Penumbra but The Humble Indie Bundle action from Wolfire that offered 5 games for any price you wanted to pay made my appetite come back. With the bundle I got a Frictional Games reduction coupon offering the complete Penumbra 2 and a half trilogy for the staggering price of 5 American dollars. Even with plastic dogs this is what I call a bargain. So today I am playing Overture again, its atmosphere still is haunting as hell although I am getting pretty seasick by the wobbling effects while running through the many corridors (the game makers have always said the aim of the game is to avoid or sneak past the monsters rather than to confront them, but alas that is something I never managed to achieve).

Open Source

The aforementioned Humble Indie Bundle experiment has been a massive success as nearly one hundred and fourty thousand downloaders donated over a million dollars (1 273 345 $ to be precise) to the game makers and two charity organisations.

If a million dollars was reached Frictional Games had promised to release the source code of Penumbra: Overture and that is what they did last week. So anyone (with the proper knowledge obviously) will now be able to mod the game, create new episodes or even build a brand new game out of scratch.

Frictional Games are currently developing Amnesia, another first person survival horror game.+


The other games that participated in the Humble Indie Bundle were:

Aquaria
Gish
Lugaru
World of Goo

and as an extra the quite amazing Samorost 2 was added as well.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Machine Shrink