Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wadda Ya Gonna Do?


Around 1983, a truly wretched quartet of 14-year-olds shared five minutes of stupidly glorious, utterly trivial punk rock notoriety, belching out an unforgivable, nerve-rending cacophony from the assembly-hall stage at Vancouver's last-chance educational alternative - "City School". 

Awash in the testosterone-driven euphoria of schoolgirl attentions, I and my three misfit band mates couldn't have guessed that among our hapless audience sat the real talent - the gangly, politely affable Ziggy Sigmund, a guitarist destined to one day score international hits with glam-emo rockers Econoline Crush:

But long before that day, Sigmund would participate in something even more amazing - helping to launch an entirely new global musical genre.

I was lucky enough to catch Slow live at a snug little brick-walled Vancouver nightclub called the Savoy. When they hit the stage, it was if I'd been awakened to what rock and roll meant for the first time. It felt like my scalp peeled back from sheer experiential awe. No big-ticket act before or since - Queen, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Aerosmith, AC-DC - has been as REAL and as RAW as those guys were onstage. 

Singer Tom Anselmi was utterly engrossing - a sinister, snarling, squealing, slithering harbinger of doomed rock and roll glory and decay, crawling, writhing and rolling everywhere, on, over and under the stage, floor, and overhead monitors.

Behind him, holding down the sonic apocalypse with a thunderous, tight and relentless groove were bassist Stephen Hamm and drummer Terry Russell.

Sigmund and fellow string-slinger Christian Thorvaldson rode the sonic crest, knife-sharp chords growling from the guts of their amps.

It was a great night to be a young rocker. 

But fame, it seems, is a fickle bitch: Sometimes she abruptly flings the mediocre to the apex of superstardom; and sometimes she boots true geniuses into the dirt of obscurity.

The latter fate awaited Slow - one of the most astounding acts ever to hit the west coast alternative music scene. Their nova-like flash of brilliance would trigger the grunge movement, soon to be co-opted by an obscure young American misfit named Kurt Cobain, who shared stage appearances with them, taking copious mental notes.    

Had it not been for their public meltdown at Canada's 1986 Expo, Slow would unquestionably and easily have eclipsed Cobain and his crew. This is no exaggeration; listen to their first recordings, made while the members were still in their teens:

As remarkable as Ziggy proved to be, Slow's other members were and are no less formidable artists. Vague adjectives don't suffice to describe this eclectic group of quintessential, mad artistic geniuses.

Singer Tom Anselmi and guitarist Christian Thorvaldson would go on to land a recording deal of their own with Geffen Records in Circle C/Copyright, another band doomed to die, this time strangled by lawyers.

Next, Thorvaldson would go on to back Canadian alt-rock megastar Matthew Good:

Drummer Terry Russell and bassist Stephen Hamm joined forces in  punk-metal Tankhog:

Hamm would also create some utterly Canadian homespun videos as part of the charmingly bizarre musical comedy duo Canned Hamm:

Then there's Terry.

Years after Slow's legendary burnout, I had managed to weasel the Canadian government into sponsoring me for a computer technician certification.

The slightly dodgy technical school into which I was admitted was a rather odd hodgepodge of international students and eclectic instructors.

The PC lab was tucked into the far left corner of an otherwise typically sterile looking, blandly carpeted office floor. There, amid a Lego forest of circuit boards and copper spaghetti, like some bespectacled latter day Wizard of Oz, sat Terry, his expression alternating between boredom and private, puckish glee. I recognized him from ten years earlier, and was a little awestruck.

He was a patiently gifted instructor, though he enjoyed breaking the boredom by pranking students - he thought it knee-slappingly funny to instruct me on wiring a circuit that exploded when I switched it on. 

At the end of the semester, Terry invited me to his gig at the rocker's cult favorite nightclub, the Railway. I was thrilled when Simone - the lithe South African who looked like a cross between Brook Shields and Natalie Portman - agreed to be my date.

Hoping to impress her, I pulled her up to the front of the stage. Terry showed up in a white zip up jump suit. He launched into a creditable version of Alice Cooper's "Be My Lover", and when the chorus hit, donned pink bunny ears, then climbed out of his outerwear to reveal a matching pink leotard. 

The look of utter shock on my date's face was priceless, but the crowd went insane and started bouncing around enthusiastically. 

Terry and his equally brilliant musical partner Stephen have just launched a fascinating window into west coast Canadiana, with the podcast "Wadda Ya Gonna Do":

It's already great fun, and I predict it will be huge. God knows, these guys have paid their dues and earned a lucky break.

Friday, June 14, 2013

So THIS is where we're at now.....

So why do we keep getting games with shitty graphics?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon Bomber in Video Footage

Officials have begun releasing videos showing suspects in the Boston marathon bombing. If you live in the area and know anything, please contact the police. Somebody knows something - a friend, relative, acquaintance. This horrible creature needs to be brought to justice:

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Just in time for Easter, Archaeologists Discover the Gateway to Hell

The Ryugyong Hotel: North Korea’s Deathstar

A fascinating look inside North Korea, by the Rugged Gentleman:

Let’s try to imagine the cityscape of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. The buildings are grim and utilitarian, a sprawl of identical decaying apartments and mostly idle factories. Everything here was built since the war, when American bombs obliterated the city that had existed before.

It’s a quiet town. Fewer people live in Pyongyang than you would expect for a city of its size. Those empty factories don’t need many workers so most North Koreans live in the rural parts of the country eking out a living as farmers or working for the state’s largest employer, the North Korean military.

The city streets are also nearly carless due to the country’s lack of oil. The broad avenues that run through the center of Pyongyang still occasionally serve as venue for the epic military parades by which the regime seeks to demonstrate its might, but most of the time their eerie lack of traffic betrays the severity of North Korea’s economic trouble.

Read the rest here:

Friday, March 29, 2013

More from the aMAZing Activision tech demo!

The folks at Activision have created the most stunningly lifelike characters ever, unvieled at this year's GDC. If you haven't already, check out the breathtaking video in the previous post. Here are some additional screenshots. I can't wait till we see this level of realism in games. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Bravo, Activision.

Click to enlarge and get the full, unbelievable effect:

Activision had the following to say:

Our talk in GDC 2013, Next-Generation Character Rendering, is a few hours away. On it, we will present what represents to us the culmination of many years of work in photorealistic characters. We will show how each detail is the secret for achieving reality. For us, the challenge goes beyond entertaining; it’s more about creating a medium for better expressing emotions, and reaching the feelings of the players. We believe this technology brings current generation characters, into next generation life. At 180 fps in a Geforce GTX 680. The team behind this technology consists on Javier Von Der Pahlen (Director of R&D), Etienne Danvoye (Technical Director), Bernardo Antoniazzi (Techical Art Director), ZbynÄ›k Kysela (Modeler and Texture Artist), Mike Eheler (Programming & Support) and me (Real-Time Graphics R&D). You have a teaser of the slides here: Next-Generation-Character-Rendering-Teaser.pptx

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Yay! They've finally done it!

Activision's developers have finally achieved photorealism for the human face. 

 Should go well with hyper realistic environments like these:

Oh man, we are going to see some amazing games after this! Hoorah!