Books I’ve Published – 2013

I already have these books listed on My Book Shelf page, but most of you folks don’t visit that (the numbers don’t lie), so I figured I’d do something I rarely do these days, and actually post a link farm. I apologize for those hoping for a new, proper post from me, but I’m a little out of sorts and not feeling too chatty. Included with these links are the brief summaries I wrote for these books a week or two ago:

THE BACK ROADS OF LIMBO
A series of short stories and novellas about spies, sultans, genies, detectives, bad angels, a man’s best friend, the God of Squirrels, Christmas dinner for two, thieves, sorceresses, lost children, working while you sleep, writer’s block, soul-eating vampires, and a giant squid.
PRINT | KINDLE

TERMINAL MONDAY: a Dream of New York City
A man meets an old girlfriend who convinces him to return to novel writing, but not before his wife leaves him, he gets his old band back together, and suffers a nervous breakdown.
PRINT | KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

TERMINAL MONDAY: Under Observation
A man has a mental breakdown and wakes up to find himself under observation in a New York City hospital.
KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

ASHES: Infinite Redress
A scientist becomes infected by a space-borne virus that contains the soul of an alien missionary who bonds with her and draws her into solving the mystery of how the aliens all died.
KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

The BRIDE of WAR
A knight falls in love with a young woman designated to be sacrificed to a mystical dragon, and undertakes a quest to learn how to defeat the dragon and break the centuries-old pact.
PRINT | KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

LINKTALES volume one
(excerpts from The Dark Guild) A series of mysterious events lead to the old city of Londonis being invaded by soul-eating vampires.
KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | SMASHWORDS

You know what I’m asking you to do. Please. Thank you.

Lee.

Posted in Books, One a Day, Writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

You Never Give Me Your Money… You Only Give Me Your Funny Paper

STATE of the LIMBO ADDRESS(es):

I write fiction. You can find it in the following places:
KINDLE | KOBO | NOOK | SONY | APPLE | PRINT | SMASHWORDS

I do Graphic Design, cartooning and painting. You can see a gallery of some of my work here:

http://blog.clearvisionstudios.net/about/clearvision-studios/

I also also make music. You can hear it here:

and you can buy some of it here:

http://etceterathesismusic.bandcamp.com/

I can be followed on many social networks. I don’t have a Foursquare account or an Instagram account, but I subscribe to just about everything else. I don’t IM much anymore, so don’t ask.

I post these things for you because I am told people don’t like using mouse buttons. This is alien to me, but I don’t want to alienate any of you aliens, so voilá. Don’t say I never did anything for you. And don’t say I don’t do anything for you now. I already know that.

Lee.

Posted in Art, Canadian Music, Etcetera Thesis Music, Graphic Design, Station Identification, Writing | Leave a comment

The Gates of Doom: #GamerGate and the Growing Fallacy of Geek Chic (part 1?)

Okay, I didn’t plan to write this, but it seems that there is a need for some mediation and some declarations on the subject of (video) gaming, its oversensitive male proponents, and the state of sexual politics in gaming in the western world today.

A COUPLE OF CAVEATS
First, I am not, strictly speaking, a feminist. I believe wholeheartedly in total equality of the sexes, and I acknowledge that there is great disparity that needs to be redressed before we can ever hold our heads up and declare ourselves a just society. But I am not a social activist for feminist issues, and I am not good at making such arguments, not because I disagree, but simply because I am a middle aged white male who grew up in the 70s and 80s, and my view of sexual politics is skewed. I would be at best an unreliable narrator if I tried to argue for feminism, because I simply can’t truly feel and think out the arguments as strongly as many women and some men I know of can do. I’m not an apologist for either side, and I straddle the fence on most of these issues. I sue for greater understanding and balance, but I disapprove of guerrilla tactics and shaming on either side of the fence. I truly believe this stuff will never improve until the sexes come together and realize they are working at crossed purposes.

Second, I’m a gamer, but I’m not what I would consider to be a Hardcore Gamer. I’ve played most genres of video and board game at this point, and I find that most of them aren’t that appealing to me. For one thing, I’m a pretty well known non-competitive player. I like teamwork and solo play, but I’m not fond of PvP, and my ePeen is at least as small as my real penis. Sorry, them’s the breaks.

STAKES
So what is my stake in this argument? Well, I’ve argued some of these points before, and more importantly (to me), I have friends (who shall remain nameless) on both sides of this debate that need to get their heads clear to see what’s really at stake, and while I may not be a big enough feminist-sympathizer to satisfy some folks’ requirements, I think I can see the actual goal line a little more clearly than those that are fighting the hard line and just want to decimate their opponents at any cost.

SPIT IT OUT
Okay, so that’s your fair and balanced portion of the article out of the way. Time for the argument itself.

We need one another. And I don’t mean ‘me man, you woman, we need each other’. In this day and age of Transgender politics, that paradigm is becoming increasingly inaccurate anyway. I mean, ‘me human, you human, we need to coexist’. This stuff where men and their female supporters have been arguing unsuccessfully for the freedom to remain sexually dominant just doesn’t cut it. Their failure to recognize their male priviledge notwithstanding, these people have a very small point about wanting to be in a politics-free state when indulging in their favourite pastime. It’s a weak point, and I don’t hold to it myself, but I recognise that these people are working through some stuff, and taking refuge from being told endlessly that they are wrong. Invalidating their views isn’t going to get us there, folks. Right or wrong, these are deep-seated views, and they need to be mediated, not punished (or rewarded, for that matter).

(SOME OF) MY GAMER FRIENDS
Without naming specific people, I will now attempt to briefly spell out just a little bit of what might be seen as an apology for my pro-gamer friends. One is an old high school friend who, through no fault of his own, grew up with a fairly rigid sexual identity based on upbringing and environment. The other is an internet friend I have been friends with for a number of years, who is to my mind a fellow traveller in the debate about women’s place in gaming, in that he knows several strong minded women who can play circles around most male gamers, and he gets along with all of them pretty well. However, just lately, he’s been making skewed arguments that for all the world make him look like the #GamerGate folks.

The thing about both of these guys is, they aren’t particularly political. I don’t mean savvy; I mean they simply don’t function in this arena. And that might seem like a cop out, until you consider the state of political discourse in North America today. We’re very absolute, zero sum here in NA, and we don’t like middle ground very much. All or nothing, pass or fail, in or out. It’s hard to want to play when the rules are so dire, so complex and often misleading.

The thing is, I know these buddies of mine, and I know them to be pretty alright, if basically ignorant of the real issues at stake. They mostly perceive the feminist argument as an inconvenient imposition and, let’s face it, a fairly nakedly aggressive condemnation of everything they say or do that isn’t ‘on-message’. It’s hard to reason with a recalcitrant political activist of any cause in any arena, because argument is generally their stock in trade, and at any given moment, you’re likely to get an intellectual boot to the head for failing to take the argument seriously, which basically comes down to being uncomfortable when confronted by one’s shortcomings and being challenged to change immediately or else.

THE FAIRER SUBTEXT
Now, on the opposite side of the equation, there HAS been a lot of patriarchal ‘sit down and shut up’ feces being thrown around, and it has to stop. Women’s Rights may seem utterly alien to those of us still ensconced in machismo and purely patriarchal traditions and institutions, but that doesn’t invalidate them. This is a small world, and we all have to live on it together or expect more heartache and condemnation. I can’t claim to be on the inside track of the patriarchy (despite my sex), but I’m aware of it, and I do think it’s mostly archaic crap that only helps those who are comfortable subjugating half of the population. It’s not right, in other words. Male identity should not tie itself to these ideals and tactics, because they will take us down with them as they sink into the metaphorical tar pits of history. You can be strong and brave without being an asshole.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s time to accept that change is here. In fact, it’s about 100 years overdue; the suffragette movement was about a hundred years ago, guys. Women’s Rights have been in the public discourse for all of our lifetimes. They weren’t dismissed by a handful of arrogant, sexist comedians in the 80s, and they weren’t discredited or dismissed by anything our fathers or grandfathers said before that. Sexual equality isn’t even up for debate, guys. Those ‘women are too…’ arguments only reveal what an asshole you are. It’s not something to crow about. It’s something to shut up and let go of. Your children (or nieces and nephews) are listening. Do you want them to respect you, or dismiss you?

All you really have to ask yourself is: how would you feel if someone sent your girlfriend, wife or daughter to prison, simply for wanting the right to speak and be heard in public? It may seem a little overstated, but if YOU had to live in a society that ignores your thoughts and feelings, you’d probably feel psychologically imprisoned, too. Maybe that should be the question: How would YOU feel if you were imprisoned for speaking your mind? Because that’s what’s going on. Maybe you feel that argument goes just as well for you as it does for women, but the ugly truth is, men have already had their say, and what they’ve had to say on the matter is what has kept our society in bondage for centuries. We ALL need to be liberated from the demands and expectation of the dinosaur patriarchy. Our society and our sanity depend on it.

GAMING?
But what in the blazing blue balls of heck does that have to do with gaming, Lee? Well, take the twin facts that: 1) most male protagonists in games are portrayed as independent, largely self-sufficient, sexually-confident archetypal heroes who can take a punch and dish it back, 2) and most female protagonists (when they aren’t token) in games are usually portrayed as fairly sexualized, passive, often-dominated victims of circumstance (except Lara Croft who, let’s face it, is basically a highly masculine character with guns, a pretty face, a cute butt, and big breasts attached; not exactly a feminist superstar, even if strong women’s roles are just as valid as any other) who stumble in and out of trouble or are ‘saved’ by some male counterpart. The prevalence of female protagonists is a good thing, but the dialogue still needs to shift more to women being able to cope on their own, because, news flash, boys: they can. They do it in real life, either by cooperation with men and one another, or by toughing it out and doing without. Those are the options they have been presented with, and they take them.

So, do women have the right to expect change in the gaming industry? Hell, yeah! Do women have a right to critique games based on their sexual bias? Hell, yeah! Do women have the right to make men feel like crap for not being 110% on board with feminist issues from the outset? That I can’t quite agree with.

Women have been patient. Asking them to wait longer isn’t fair. But asking them to be nice might be too much to ask. They HAVE waited a long time, and endured a lot of BS in the meantime. Swallowing more of the same might be what’s in store, but you can’t ask them to like it.

But guys, you have to admit, things are generally a lot more fun when men AND women are having a good time together. We just have to learn to share the toys, and expect to learn new rules as our old games go the way of the dodo. We’ve come a long, long way from the days when men felt safe and secure beating women until they agreed. Some of us still think it’s appropriate to lash out at women, and a few of us even feel justified in making horrendous threats when our worldview is threatened. But ultimately, I think most of us can agree that such arguments are losing ground, and I say, good riddance. I grew up with male violence, and it’s ugly and terrifying and despicable, and no man should ever feel justified in hurting (or permitting the hurting of) a woman for any reason. There is never an excuse. Ever. ‘The Bitch Had It Coming’ is no longer recognised in our legal system as a legitimate defense.

Again, you might think I’m overstating, exaggerating the facts to make a skewed point. I don’t think so. There are extremes being played out here, threats being made, and the extremists might be lone wolves or they might not, but the rest of us are effectively colluding with them, complicit in their wrongfulness, if we don’t order them to sit down and shut up. They may bark louder, and they may even have a bite, but they can’t hold the entire conversation hostage because they refuse to come out of their cocoons and see reason.

END?
Time to end this rant. I haven’t addressed every issue, and in typical fashion, I’ve been too general for my own good. But I do believe with all my heart that this problem will never go away until we learn to listen and to let go of any thinking that tells us we have the right to attack one another over the debate of sex. We’re born this way, folks. The rest is conditioning, and it takes decades to get to the point where we’re sitting on opposite ends of the internet hurling threats and invective at one another for failing to agree. In any other arena, this would be called a discussion, a debate, an argument. Here in this highly politicised society, we’re instead calling it a battle, and we’re escalating the situation way out of proportion to what it’s about.

Get some perspective. And whatever else you do, don’t shut down the conversation. It’ll only get better if we keep talking and listening to one another until we find common ground.

Lee.

Posted in Games, Games People Play, One a Day, Relationships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Once and Future Things

WHAT IT IS
A couple of days ago, I responded to an article posted in Raise The Hammer about the cable TV debate on LRT, and how misrepresented one of the panelists was. My comment was addressed more generally to the whole Light Rail Transit (LRT) vs. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) argument that has become one of the key wedge issues of our municipal election here in Hamilton, Ontario. That comment, which was article-length (and a bit heavy on the polemics) was picked up by RTH to become an article in itself. Very flattered, though of course, I didn’t say anything that hasn’t been said by the likes of Brian Henley, Ryan McGreal, Graham Crawford, Chris Cutler and Mark Richardson, to name a few, on the various points that I made. I just put them all together in one place. So Ryan titled, subtitled and reposted my comment here.

PAST FORWARD
The thing is, I’ve been reading about this stuff for the last couple of years, since before the BRT argument reared its ugly head. Dawn and I attended the Metrolinx study a couple of years ago at the AGH, and we’ve been staunch supporters of LRT ever since. For me, it goes back to a conversation I had with my friend William Ferguson, whose father, I was told, worked at City Hall back in the early 80s, when a monorail project was offered to Hamilton… and we passed on that, too. I believe it wound up going to Vancouver instead. This was back when our steel mills were still going pretty strong, and this city’s economy looked sturdy enough to handle just about anything. The recession that followed in the 90s, and the political upheaval of two wildly divisive and unpopular provincial governments (one I gladly voted for; the other not so much) turned most of us off of the idea of provincial politics, and Hamilton’s municipal political scene was largely perceived as a morass of backroom deals and shady associations. Whether they were true or not, rumours of mafia money and graft were rampant back when I was a boy growing up in the East End of Hamilton (Barton and Kenora, to be exact; the ‘White Survey’). Heck, I actually knew some of the big players back then. The 70s and 80s around my house were fascinating times.

RABID TRANSIT (BRT, pt 1)
Getting back on topic, what can I possibly add that wasn’t already said in the RTH article? Well, for one thing, I haven’t given my view of the BRT side of things. And for another, I haven’t declared for a mayoral candidate, or a ward 2 candidate, or even the ward 1&2 school board trustee. I haven’t even voted yet. I’ve been saving it for the 27th. Advance polls are nice, but I like the rush of going out, voting, going home, and waiting for the results. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, as Howard Cosell used to say on Wide World of Sports, which my sister’s dad watched faithfully in the 70s. Along with ABC News, Dirty Harry flicks and Kojak.

So, what about BRT? Well, if it’s all we end up getting out of this deal, I’ll use it. But I won’t like it. And I certainly won’t expect it to be game changing in any sense. And nobody else should, either. See, we’ve already got something like that. It’s called the A and B Lines. And they are fast becoming completely inadequate to our needs. We need better, safer, more frequent routing; we need our ailing bus line to be repurposed to feeding the B and A lines; and we need to send a clear message to commuters that the downtown core isn’t their personal, not-so-private shortcut to the outer boroughs. See, we live here. The downtown core is where we live, worka nd playa lready. Our kids are in those streets. Our shops, our institutions, our livelihoods are tied up in this ailing inner city infrastructure, and many if not most of the people driving through the downtown have absolutely no intention of stopping to buy one single thing. Bus Lanes have nothing to do with it, folks, and they never, ever did. In fact, many of these ‘single occupant vehicle’ owners have openly stated in the comment sections of the Spectator that they want nothing to do with the downtown… except for a shorter commute. And that’s just not good enough.

Aside: I didn’t approve of the Red Hill Expressway, and I still don’t use it, but it horrifies me that too many commuters still drive through the city at speeds exceeding a sensible inner city limit, as if they’re still on the QEW or the 407. That needs to stop, pronto, folks! It’s there, and it gets you across town and around downtown traffic faster than anything we’ve ever had, so bloody well use it already!

Burlington Street and Industrial up to Wellington were the fastest routes through the city for decades, thanks to the favouritism we lavished on our industrial sector, and especially our steel twins, Stelco and Dofasco. But Wentworth and Wellington were never built for that kind of traffic, and Victoria Street looks like hell as well. All three of those roads flank or run through my current neighbourhood, Stinson, where I’ve lived for over twenty years. And in the last five to ten, I’ve seen a steady increase in through-traffic on Stinson, from people coming off of Wentworth from either King, Main or Burlington streets, or Charlton to the south, and driving as if they just came off a major highway. Stinson is almost 100% residential, but they have this dirty little phrase they like to trot out on such occasions, called ‘Arterial roads’.

Then we built the LINC and finally the RHE, and wreaked untold environmental (not to mention historical) devastation in the process. So we’ve got the Expressway now, which helps people NOT drive into Hamilton. For a long time, that thought flummoxed me. I was deeply offended that people wanted to essentially bypass our great city. But as I get older, I kind of wish they would. Our streets would be safer and last longer if they would. Barton, Queenston, King and Main, even Cannon… these streets all drive through low-to-medium density residential and multi-use commercial zones. We neither want nor need heavy through-traffic on these routes. We want residents and shopper on these routes. That’s the way I remember it from when I was a boy, and that’s clearly what the old photos from the 50s through early 80s show: a thriving downtown core loaded with pedestrian shopping traffic everywhere you went. Cars, buses, trucks, yeah, we had ‘em, but they weren’t the sole focus, even though our 60s era makeover pretty much guaranteed they would be.

FOLLOW THE MONEY
See, we have a funny equation that we’re all taught subliminally in this city; it’s certainly taught elsewhere, but I’ve lived in Hamilton my whole life (minus that three months in Oakville in 1991, which really doesn’t count, since I was couch surfing), so I’m a not certain. The equation works like this: Wide/Fast One Way Streets = $$$!

We learned this equation from the likes of NYC’s former high muckamuck, Robert Moses, who taught the Western World of the 50s and 60s the nouveau philosophy of car culture city planning, though I’m pretty sure he got the idea, ironically enough, from the Nazis (see: Autobahn). My point, all Godwinning aside, is that the guiding philosophy that lead us into this mess was paved with asphalt and good intentions, because we really believed it, and we still do. SOLD! We still think cars and trucks are the only way this city can function. We’ve gotten rid of some of the train tracks that used to crisscross the city, but we’re still making new roads to nowhere with alarming speed, and having to rebuild them at an alarming rate because of increased traffic and inferior construction. We’re just beginning to get the hint and build more stable, concrete-based roads in the East End, but you’d better believe it’s expensive, time-consuming, and disruptive, not to mention a breathing hazard. But hey, it keeps people in work, right?

RAPID PANTSING
So, why NOT BRT? We’ve had a pretty good bus system for decades. Or rather, we used to. Provincial downloading of transit costs in the 90s all but murdered the HSR, and it’s been limping along ever since. And in that time, the vague feeling that there was something unsavoury about taking the bus has just bloomed into a whole anti-bus culture. We literally cast our votes against anything to do with improving the buses in this city. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but it’s true. Look at how long we’ve been limping with this substandard bus system that almost nobody is happy with. Even if it’s better than they say, the fact that nobody sees it speaks volumes. Changing the culture is key, but that takes time. Years to fix what takes minutes to undo.

So what we need is to change the conversation, and the best way to do that is simply to cut the knot in half and present a new solution: dedicated transit lanes. And nothing says dedicated more clearly than a fricking rail line that cars and trucks can’t use. You won’t find parked cars or idling trucks accidentally occupying an LRT line, because no one wants to see the untold mayhem–not to mention legal fees–caused by that.

LRT may be expensive and time-consuming to build, and it’s not a one-size-fit-all silver bullet solution, either, but it’s well and truly past time Hamilton stopped looking for every new idea to be a universal panacea. We’re building an ecosystem, here, not a Wal-Mart. We want sustainable development. We want new housing and affordable housing and new jobs and living wage jobs and health and safety and Complete Streets and Bike Lanes and affordable post-secondary education and adult reeducation made widely available and we need a lot–if not all–of it yesterday.

BRT isn’t going to do any of that for us. It’s a bandaid, and not even as cheap as we’re being told. The upgrades, upkeep on roads and the repair fees will keep ballooning for years to come, where LRT will be a sustaining, affordable upkeep issue that won’t even need to address the issue of rebuilding roads every five to ten years. I’m not saying LRT is going to solve everything, but when you consider what it takes to sustain inner city density growth and development (don’t forget the development dollars that City Hall has been courting), you can’t convince investors OR residents that adding a few faster buses to a line that already has fast buses is somehow going to miraculously change the way people get around. Nobody actually believes it. It’s a way to shut down the larger conversation about making radical changes to the way we live, work, play and get around in Hamilton.

Change is expensive and scary, and people would rather blurt out some nonsense to shut the conversation down than have to change their world view. Naysayers know that, if we keep investing in the uncertain future, we won’t be able to go back to the way things ‘always’ have been. And they’re right. But where they get it wrong is this persistent feeling that, if they stall long enough, the steel mills, or perhaps some other big, dirty industrial-based business (see also: Gasification Plant), might come in and rescue us all from the scary future. Heavy Industrial manufacturing and processing are leaving North America,for good. We still make things, but not on the scale we used to, and that trend has been happening since the late 70s… heck, since the post war era of manufacturing and world trade, really. Can you remember how far back you saw your first Toyota? I can. It was lint he late 70s, around 77 or 78, and we all laughed, just like they did in that movie with Michael Keaton and George Wendt, ‘Gung Ho’. And just like that other movie with Danny DeVito, Other People’s Money, every attempt we make to turn back the clock and save the old factory is met with increased indifference and futility. The trend is not reversible, folks. World market forces are in play. They are slow and inexorable, and they happen over decades and centuries, and nothing we do today or tomorrow is going to make Hamilton back into the lunch pail capital of Canada.

But if we invite new development, remediation dollars, and new clean manufacturing in the green sector, we can remold Hamilton and grow in ways we never dreamed possible. Maybe we’ll even get my wife’s glass elevators up the escarpment, or perhaps mayoral-hopeful Crystal Lavigne’s gondolas, or perhaps we’ll just stabilize and grow up the side of the escarpment using a combination of old and new technologies and good old Mother Necessity. Things can change. They will change. We just have to get our heads back in the game and start thinking forwards instead of backwards. We have to welcome the change. Invite the change. Start dreaming about what could be, instead of remaining chained to the past.

DECLARATIONS
So, I’m doing what I can to make change in Hamilton now. I’m a staunch supporter of LRT. I’m a staunch supporter of the lobby registry, of environmental protection, of affordable housing, of poverty reduction, of transparency and open dialogue with our three levels of government. I’m 110% for equal rights and equal pay for all of our residents, regardless of age, race, sex or creed. I believe wholeheartedly in Direct Democracy, and I believe with religious fervour that we all need to be allowed to live our lives as comfortably and as safely as possible, regardless of our financial class status, BUT that we ALL have a duty to uphold the values that make our city, our province, and our country great.

We all need to get in the game and make this work, whatever this is going to be. There is no opting out. There is no moving forward without also putting real effort into making the changes needed, and the way we do that in this society is with our vote. Representational Democracy is a fossil, and we need to get rid of it, but until it’s safely buried, we need to use it to make the changes that will guide and inform our future political landscape. Give it the send off it deserves. Vote for new government, and vote as frequently and as steadily as needed until the change comes. Never waver. Never lose hope. The future will either claim us, or it will devour us. We mustn’t hesitate. We mustn’t drag our feet. That way leads absolutely nowhere. There is no reverse on this train.

Go Big or Go Home.

On the 27th, I’m voting for Brian McHattie, not because I think he’s the best person for the job, but because he has a track record of fighting for the progressive things I care about, and we need that kind of thinking right now, more than ever. Maybe that’s the same thing. I don’t know. I like a few of the mayoral candidates, and I really like Crystal’s vision of the future, and I like Mike’s philosophical take on the city’s needs (plus, he’s a neat guy), and I think Fred’s alright, if a bit over-cautious, but Brian’s platform most resembles mine, so I’m going to back him this time. If he fails to keep promises, he’ll learn what happens to disappointing politicians in Hamilton, soo enough.

I’m also voting for Chris Erl for School Board Trustee, because I know him, I trust him, and I believe he’ll fight for what the city needs from the school board right now, instead of this monolithic, faceless beast we’ve been lumbered with that is tearing apart our schools and our communities.

And I’m still undecided about Ward 2. Jason Farr has the experience and the contacts, and we have a kind of working relationship, which I appreciate, but Terri Wallis would bring a new perspective to council, which it could surely use right now. At this point, I could go either way. I’d like to invite them both to contact me privately if they would like to discuss the matter. Obviously, the 27th is the cut-off date.

Time I wrapped this up. My mother’s internet needs fixing, and I’ve got other fish to fry, metaphorically speaking.

Thank you for reading. Have a good day.

Lee.

Posted in Hamilton, One a Day, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts of the Past Week

I think that maybe I’ve been courting success a bit too long. All I want now is to feel like I’m making something I’ll enjoy later. It would be nice if other people liked my work, too, and I could certainly use the money if I sell something people like (poverty, contrary to popular belief, does not make you a better artist; it makes you a better whore, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not what art is supposed to be about), but I think it would be quite nice just to write or paint or draw or design or record something that I don’t wind up feeling disappointed with–or guilty about–later.
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Good Morning. This is the album that I was listening to as a little boy. I’ve never really needed hallucinogens to understand psychedelia, because I was steeped in it right along with HR Pufnstuf, Sesame Street, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, Readalong, Ludwig, and The Electric Company. It’s part of my DNA, really. The concept album is how my brain tells stories to itself. This more than just about anything defines how my brain functions.

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Sooo… a couple of weeks ago, I posted this update of the intro track to the Etcetera Thesis – Steep Inclinations album, and as far as I can remember, almost nobody commented. This leads me to believe I am doing something wrong.

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I feel like it’s time to get to work on some music, but it’s too late to start recording a new tune. I’ll have to spend some time on it tomorrow. All I can say is: BIG PHAT F#$%ING SYNTH SOUND!!!
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This looks like a good article on the ‪#‎GamerGate‬ issue. It might not cover every aspect of the issue, but it’s important that we recognize the issues being brought up before we do a knee jerk reflex and shut down the conversation prematurely. More I’ll say in my own blog later, if I remember. So many hot topics, and I’ve been so tired and quiet, lately…

http://wp.me/p3JAa-iT

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Not everyone on my friends list will agree, but the downtown core is in dire need of green space, to reclaim the barren, lifeless, underused parking lots behind the facade of our downtown core. Don’t believe me? Go up the Stelco Tower during open Doors next time and look out over the core. Take in the huge grey wasteland behind King William and Hughson. It’s a blighted eyesore, and the land could be used for so many much more productive reasons, if we’d just move the parking into a proper modern parking facility.

http://chn.ge/1nliSsa?share_id=KOXLJvzYAC

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See, the thing is, you don’t love somebody just because it comes easy. That’s nice when it happens, but it’s probably not a ‘forever’ thing. Real love is about acceptance, even when it’s not comfortable. Even when you know what an asshole the person you love can be, you stay, because you UNDERSTAND (even if you don’t agree). That’s when you know what Love is really about.
That’s not an endorsement of ‘staying for the kids’ or ‘staying despite the abuse’. It’s just an advocation for loving when the chips are down. You want to see what real love is? Look at a couple when one of them is deathly ill, or when they’re flat broke and it’s days until the next cheque. That’s what love is like. If they can get through that, then it’s real. If not, maybe it’s time to call it a day.
But in the meantime, Love is the greatest magic there is. Perhaps the only magic we’ve ever had. When it works, it makes light of all the hardships and struggle. It makes us thankful for the tough times, because they reminded us why we chose this person (or persons) to be with.
____________________

Just a few random thoughts for you to peruse. Enjoy.

Lee

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Winter Is Here Again, oh Lord… Haven’t Been Home In A Year Or More

Happy Thanksgiving, all my Canadian friends. To everyone else, I hope you have a splendid day. It’s actually murky and wet here today, but hey, it’s a big country; I’m sure there is sunshine and warmth somewhere.

I’ve been doing some office keeping today, but there is still so much more to do. I’m hoping to have a little coffee and chat with Rebecca C, my sometimes-partner in Operation: Mango. I also have emails and phonecalls to make, which I may even do, but personally, I’m not sure what I can do at this point, because the apathy levels are pretty high, and there is family to attend to for most folks. Not me. I did family stuff yesterday. It’ll be time to contact folks throughout the week and find out if ANYONE knows what’s going on at this point. Even our Councillor seems out of the loop, though perhaps understandably so, given his preoccupation with re-election.

I haven’t made much progress on the game in the last few days. I trust you don’t want an explanation. I’ll try to get back to work on that in the next day or so.

I have writing to think about again. NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us, and I don’t like missing it, because in the last few years, it’s the only time I’m able to get a significant body of work written in one go. It’s not ideal, and it’s not exactly like I’m told I can or can’t do all of my serious writing in November, but it generally just works out that way. Fortunately, November is a good month for me to be writing. December isn’t bad, either.

STEEP INCLINATIONS isn’t going to happen this year. Hopefully next year, but to be frank, I need a number of things in place to make that a reality, and money for new gear is one of them. I need one or two smallish keyboards I can sit on my desk and record. I need to purchase some software so I can record vintage keys from VSTi’s, since I will never own a Mellotron or a Chamberlin, or a Hammond or a Moog or an Oberheim or a Yamaha CS80… But I’m gonna need a boatload of instruments with decent performances for this next album. It’s going to be heavy on instrumentation, to compensate for the fact that the music is mostly pretty primitive, even when it evokes progressive vibes.

At least I have most of the guitar stuff under control. My playing still needs a lot of work, but i HAVE been playing a lot more lately, which has been helping my recording and arranging considerably. When you need a soloist, it’s good to have an instrument or two to hand that you actually can play well enough to solo on, even if the solos aren’t earth-shatteringly good.

I don’t know what I planned on doing today. I still have a boatload of dishes to clean, but I think I was hoping to get some creative stuff done today. Instead, it was air conditioning and emptying boxes full of paper into one box, to cut back on the clutter in the storage lockers. I guess I’ll go take care of the dishes now, but know that I could have been amazing today.

For lack of that, here’s some music I did a few weeks ago with/for my guitar student:

Lee

Posted in Canadian Music, Etcetera Thesis Music, Music, One a Day, Steep Inclinations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What Do You Mean, King Crimson is Unacceptable as Morning Wake Up Music?

Okay, so I AM actually listening to 21st Century Schizoid Man as I type this. So the title doesn’t lie. Good thing I have good headphones, or I’d be living alone again.

In other news, the Autumn Issue Harvest Special (aka Issue #004) of the StinZine is out:
StinZine 004 cover clr fin sml
Within its hallowed pages lurks a sort of advertisement/PSA for the Stinson Creative Lab, a little idea I came up with to unite and activate our local art talent.

I also put in some time this past week getting the Stinson Mural Project page back up on its feet. You can see the results by clicking the image below:
Carter Park Mural concept 008 - LEMc 2014 sml

And finally, I plan to attend the October 2014 ArtCrawl on James Street North tonight. If any of you locals still want to buy one of my abstract buttons, you should find me tonight and get one while I still have them. The price for them is still $10 (five if you know the name of the series). I’ll probably be wearing Arthur, and I may have a guest or two who have been offered one each, so that means I’m down to eleven. Did I mention HURRY?
IMG_0185-13

Right, the Court of the Crimson King has started. Good time to end the post. Good morning.

Lee.

Posted in Art, Art For Sale, One a Day, Stinson Community Association, Stinson Mural Project, StinZine | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Genesis – Calling All Stations – Lee in Limbo’s Deluxe Edition

Okay, so I did a review of the 1997 Genesis album, Calling All Stations a few years back. The thing is, I really do like the album and think it is a sorely underserved album. But back when I wrote the review, I hadn’t decided there was something I could do about it. Now, there might be one thing I can do to improve the memory of that album:

Calling-All-Stations-Deluxe-album-cover-001

Now, you may be asking what a rushed bootleg album cover can possibly do to rehabilitate an album. I know I would. In fact, I actually did a few times while surfing Youtube and seeing the reimagined album orders that did little more than rearrange a few deck chairs and put up some bunting. This version, if you care to look closely, is demonstrably different. For one thing, I included all of the B-sides, and not just as bonus tracks, but as fully-fledged album tracks, helping to contribute to the narrative, such as it is. As well, there is a wee bit of story to suggest that the album is and always was a concept album in disguise.

Now, I could have played around with the songs and running order a little more, to make sure the idea that it is (or at least could be) a concept album more obvious. But really, it shouldn’t be necessary. If you have all of the tracks listed in the image above, try making yourself a songlist in the order I suggest, and see if the almost two-hour trip doesn’t feel more rewarding and fulfilling than the official album release originally did.

And that’s my little toy for today. Stuff to do. Back to work.

Lee.

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More Linkage

Okay, I’m frighteningly sick today, so don’t expect much from me. That said, here’s part of where I’m at and what I’m up to:

page 08
Grid 08

Now, I’m not actually already up to page 8. Boy howdy do I ever wish. I’m actually just in the rough stages of designing the most obvious structures, so I can make sure there are enough pieces to do respectable structures with enough options that you can make it up as you go along. I see this involving more tiles than I’ve planned for, but I’m gonna try my darndest to keep it to 16 tiles per genre for the base game.

Anyway, not much to see so far. Got laundry and dishes to do, a guitar practice to cancel, and a nasty chest cold and accompanying headache to shake off if I can. There’s other stuff, but it will have to wait, I guess.

Thanks for reading and sharing and whatever else you do. You make this worthwhile.

Lee.

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Link World Game Supplement: The Logos

Okay, this might not interest everybody, but I spent a fistful of hours at my computer devising logos for the expansions to the game, which ought to have their own separate packaging, because that’s how it’s done in board games, as far as I can tell. I actually want to just package the expansions in a couple of smaller boxes like Apples To Apples and Cards Against Humanity do, but it may be necessary to make mini packs for future expansions, which I see as a necessity not because I want to milk the cow, but because I can’t possible include more than 8×88 tiles in one game that also has to have a comprehensive manual, a handful of small decks of cards, some funky gaming dice (probably akin to Fudge dice, to keep it simple, but we’ll see; I really love classic RPG dice, and in particular, percentile dice. It’s just that modern gaming seems to require as much simplification as possible to appeal broadly, and there’s no point in doing this if half of my board-gaming friends are just going to say it’s too complicated to play and enjoy; a game with time, space and alternate reality travel is going to be uber-complicated no matter what you do, so simplification of the gameplay tools is a must) and probably playing tokens and such. My copy of Arkham Horror is a really densely packed monster of a game, and I’m holding that as the standard bearer for maximum gaming paraphernalia. If my packaging gets heavier than AH, I figure I’ve failed, so I’m going to have to plan expansions before I even start designing the tiles, just so I know roughly how many I need.

Carcassonne’s base game has 72 medieval setting tiles plus 12 River tiles. I figure that means the standard for my opening game should be 84… so I’m going to more than double that for each season, because the total of each genre will only be 16 tiles. Then I’ll go back and design optional expansion tiles for each genre and distribute them in season sets and deck packs.

All of which means, packaging, which to this little graphic artist means logos, and lots of them.

So here are the preliminary logos I devised. Most of them utilize fonts I didn’t design, which doesn’t sit well with me, but necessity is what it is. I’ll probably devise more original typefaces as I get closer to release time, but these should at least evoke some of the qualities of the genres I’m toying with. A few of them may seem like variations on the same theme, but it’ll make sense when the back stories are revealed.

Okay, enough chatter; here are the logos. Let me know which ones you like, and which ones you think should be different:

LWBG Logos 001c-01

Lee.

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Nostalgia – The World’s Most Expensive Cologne

Okay, so, other than a small handful of years in my childhood that I find myself oddly drawn to relive, despite my faded memory and the impossibility of me travelling to the 1970s to witness them once more, I mostly live in the murky twilight of the present as it tumbles into the unknowable future. I am unfortunately never content to live for today alone. My wife often complains of my inattentiveness. I probably retreat to the future to defend myself from the disappointments of today and the deep embarrassments of the failures of yesterday compounded.

Basically, I’m not a very healthy human being, mentally or spiritually.

It’s not that I lack the tools or the understanding. I believe in learning the lessons of yesterday today, so I can cope with the uncertainty of tomorrow. It just doesn’t always work.

Now, today’s title stresses the problem with nostalgia, but for those who don’t get it, let me explain:

The thing about nostalgia is, it’s something we yearn for when the disappointments of today and the uncertainty of tomorrow become overwhelming. It’s pretty much part of the hard wiring of our brains (if hard wiring in the brain is even possible, which it seems it isn’t) that we retreat to the good times of the past to help cope with our lives. Perhaps it’s part of the desire to learn something we’ve forgotten, or perhaps it really is a ploy to envelop ourselves in the safety of disasters already averted; I don’t know for sure.

What I do know is, my almost painful desire to relive specific moments in my life can’t be because I want to relive my successes, because I have so few to relive, it hardly seems worth it. But in infects a great deal of my mindset, in that I yearn for the idealism and innocence lost forever, in the hope that regaining that white heat will enable me to power through the problems before me with vigour and conviction.

Too much to ask, I know.

But really, don’t most of us do this at one time or another?

I blame the advent of television reruns.

Just a bit of fluffy nonsense for you. I may be back later today with work stuff. Thank you for reading. If you want ideas to think about, see yesterday’s post.

Lee.

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LINK Worlds 2014

Okay, so I’m designing an interactive storytelling/role playing board game, and I’m trying to define the numerous settings I eventually want to design tiles and cards for. The game is still coming together in my head, but that’s not where it needs to be, so I’m going to do a little bit of blurb writing to fill in some of the gaps in my plans:
______________________________
LINK Worlds: The Game – SEASON ONE

1) LINK: Pangaea – Prehistoric environments and mostly-sentient species with eerily familiar problems and drama, as they work to prevent mass extinction.
2) LINK: Empire – Classical Mediterranean world history turned on its ear. History is written by the survivors, and not necessarily by the ones who knew best. Secret societies and cults galore.
3) LINK: Discovery – The Age of Discovery and Enlightenment was never quite like this. Historic figures leading double lives and engaging in arcane experiments and power struggles.
_____

4) LINK: Nightmares – You think you love vampires and zombies, spectres and werewolves, but you’ll learn to fear and loathe them again when you find yourself living in the World of Dusk.
5) LINK: Mysteries – The clock turns back to the classic age of parlour murder mysteries, with fine dining, luxury vehicles, snappy dressing, and of course, a generous dash of murder.
6) LINK: Secrets – The Cold War may be a thing of the past, but not for you, as you are trapped in an unending web of lies, terror, intrigue, and of course, the occasional assassination.
_____

7) LINK: Retropolis – Remember those 1950-1960s ads and exhibits that encouraged us to dream about that World of Tomorrow that never quite materialized? Well, here it is, more or less.
8) LINK: Constellation – Space travel and alien encounters on countless planets, colonies and satellites, as you work to uncover the secrets of the ancients that once ruled the universe.
9) LINK: Tubeways – In the Industrial Age, huge locomotives were built to move people and commodities across the land. But how they got from one place to the next was another matter.
_____

10) LINK: Shadows – In the gritty world of the dimestore detective novel, the Good Guy didn’t often wear white, and didn’t always get the girl. But at least he understood his world. Until now.
11) LINK: Kingdom – The World of Veil is actually series of Broken Worlds patched together into one continuously-changing planet, where sentient species from many medieval societies coexist.
12) LINK: Oceanea – A victim of interdimensional flooding that changed the nature of sea travel, which is very nearly the only way to get around. Magic, flying carpets and Djinn abound.
____________________
SEASON TWO

13) LINK: Regency (?) – In a world of genteel manners and rigid social structures, something new. dark and dangerous had been set loose upon the world that threatens to envelop it in darkness.
14) LINK: Frontier – Settlers on the new continents met with numerous hardships, but perhaps the worst was the ancient, forgotten Darkness that was returning to reclaim the world.
15) LINK: Century – Euroboran civilisation has achieved a level of success that will not soon be forgotten. But ancient forces have arisen to drag it back into the murky depths of prehistory.
_____

16) LINK: Faerie – The Fae realms have opened and closed to the worlds of mankind many times throughout time and space, but never has it opened to a more inhospitable, troubled world than this.
17) LINK: Freesia – The Ice Age has come once again, but much faster and more brutal than recorded history can recall. Perhaps this will be the last Ice Age, from which we never return.
18) LINK: Pantheon – Mankind has died off, and Earth returned to wilderness. Now, the gods of old have returned to raise up new societies from the sentient species of animals that have evolved.
_____

19) LINK: NüTopia – In a futuristic world of hypercomputers, holographic structures and artificial everything, an alien presence now challenges the population to adapt once more or perish.
20) LINK: Pulp – The fictional worlds of mad scientists and archeological explorers has come to life in the modern world, but how can a dull society force-fed fake Reality television cope?
21) LINK: Nova – Superheroes and faithful sidekicks explode from the pages of the comic books to confront a world that has never known the concepts of good or evil. Hijinks ensues.
_____

22) LINK: Aeronius – The Age of Flight has descended gloriously onto the world, with every imaginable invention of flight working better than intended, until the dark secret is revealed.
23) LINK: Absurdia – In a world hidden in a perpetual 1950s time loop, strange truths surface, and the pleasant facade of this perfect society begins erode in kaleidoscopic chaos.
24) LINK: Morphous – The world behind the door, between the walls, and beneath the cupboards isn’t just occupied by insects and vermin; it’s the secret, mystical world of the Morphous.
____________________
SEASON THREE

25) LINK: Euroboros – Ancient Euroboros has a secret that it may take to the grave: It was originally engineered and controlled by a city of alien sorcerers.
26) LINK: Avalon – The Mystical Isles have hidden history and geography that have been forgotten by the world of man. Soon the Gates of Avalon will open once more, but to usher in what?
27) LINK: Wystria – The empire of Wystrus, the greatest king of medieval times, is under attack from unseen forces that threaten to undo all of the great changes he has wrought.
_____

28) LINK: Zahara – A mystical world stripped of its healing waters ekes out a meager existence, until the discovery of a vast underwater ocean leads the tribes of Zahara into world war.
29) LINK: Ægypt – In the world of the Ageless Ægyptian Empire, which has ruled for countless millennia, a new paradigm is changing the nature of reality, and Ægypt must adapt or fade away.
30) LINK: Æternum – The Roman Empire never fell. You may have heard this strange conspiracy theory uttered by lunatics, but now you too have the Sight that allows you to see it for yourself.
_____

31) LINK: Allegiance – The Last War brings entire nations together to fight a common foe, but when that foe is revealed to be controlled by forces beyond reckoning, what will mankind do?
32) LINK: Backroads – The Highwayverse is ruled by Truckers, Bikers, and Smokies, and the people who live up and down its great expanse are all fair game, until a new breed takes to the road.
33) LINK: Superpowers – The Cold War is nearly over, and economic prosperity is on the rise–for the rich. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has yet to feel the recovery, until aliens arrive.
_____

34) LINK: Dynasty – In the ancient lands of the East, entire dynastic orders have come and gone when the Western World is still new. Then a great man builds a pleasure done, and it all changes.
35) LINK: Steppelands – Revolution is fomenting in the streets, and the Tsar fears for his family and his loyal subjects. Then a stranger makes him an offer he can’t refuse, and it all changes.
36) LINK: Tropica – The world is growing hotter. So much so that the seas are rising as the polar ice caps melt, and ancient monsters are returning from the permafrost to reclaim the world.
____________________
SEASON FOUR – Extended Specials

37) LINK: Spiritus – In the desert outback, the last survivors of a planet ravaged by disease, famine and environmental disaster find themselves guided by ancient spirits into new realities.
_____
38) LINK: Mystica – In the last days of the High Sourcerors of Ætillan, their home island is threatened with arcane disaster. But their greatest Sourceror has one more trick up his sleeve.
_____
39) LINK: Tourista – The civilisation of mankind has flourished and spread throughout the stars and even through time and into other realities, but the cost of their travels is about to arrive.
_____
40) LINK: Continuum – The final installment of the LINK Worlds, where the most singular minds in all of Reality have to work together to prevent the Entropic Dissolution of All Reality.
____________________

And there you have it; the most complete list of ideas I can think of at the moment for the game series. A lot of it is adapted from what Rodney Brazeau and I were going to do together with Link Worlds as an RPG series, but I think this might be a new, cooler, more interesting way to implement the series. The art may take a while, but I may surprise myself… or find some relatively inexpensive illustrators to help me get things done.

Three things I debated with this concept, and those were:
1) Whether to incorporate strategy into the mix?
2) Whether to incorporate Deck Building into the mix?
and 3) Whether to incorporate Civilization-building gameplay into the mix?

Ultimately, I decided those would be too much. They seem like good ideas, and maybe I’ll conceive of some alternate rules that allow such gameplay variations for those who enjoy that sort of thing. But in the end, what I really want is that mix of Clue (suspense), Carcassonne (setting building and exploration), and Arkham Horror (teamwork and dangerous encounters), all rolled up into a game that rewards creativity and good roleplaying. The rules I’ll devise to implement that gameplay are almost beside the point. I didn’t get into this because I want to inhibit people. I just want to give them a fair chance to tell a story interactively, and this sounds like a good way even the least confident of storytellers can get started dreaming up gonzo adventures and visiting strange new places.

I may decide to start a crowdfunding campaign to fund the manufacture of this.

Well, I’ve been writing this for a while, so I think it’s time to stop and take care of other stuff. Thank you for reading.

Lee.

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Catching Up With…

Okay, so, the thing is, I’ve been trying to get a lot of things done in the last few weeks, and doing a terrible, TERRIBLE job of it. Now, I’m a Capricorn, and we’re supposedly really into lists. Personally, they make my brain itch so bad I want to claw my own skull open, but I do occasionally resort to them when nothing else will do. So here’s a (probably incomplete) list of the things I am trying to do that aren’t getting done at the moment.

– PBW2_2013 proposal updates &/or initiations
– StinZine #004 final proof (almost there)
– Link Board Game (basic design started; finished demo months away; playtesting next year?)
– LinkTales, volume 2 (Fantasy collection; lots of planned stories left to write)
– The Approximate Distance To Limbo (acts 2 & 3)
– Steep Inclinations album (plot and re-recordings coming along slowly)
– Tarot painting series (on hiatus again)
– Kismet OGN (stalled)
– Perpetual Tuesday (next Richard Burley novel; postponed to 2015)
– Customs and Road Songs of Limbo (taboo collection; not finished)
– Poison Pen-Letters From Limbo (horror collection; not finished)
– Hot Nights in Limbo (erotica collection; not finished)
– The Flickering Lights of Limbo (free TV fanfic collection; still not ready)

Oh yeah, and while I’m at it:
– Dishes
– Laundry
– Vacuuming
– Change Cat Litter
– Buy Groceries
– Take Dawn for (late) Birthday dinner
– Order books to sell
– Burn my jury duty notice (okay, not really, but seriously, like I have time for this)
Promote art, writing and music (no time, and no interest, really)

Probably missing some stuff, as I said before. But that’s what I could remember off the top of my head.

You folks like seeing art on this page; don’t argue with me: the stats don’t lie. So here’s Art:
Arthur 001
Art is short for Arthur. Arthur lives on my orange polar fleece shirt, which I wear as a jacket. Arthur is pretty much mine now. No one bought him, and no one has shown the slightest bit of interest in him, except me. Arthur caught my eye on day one, for reasons I can’t explain. That’s the way it is with my abstract art; either a new piece grabs you instantly, or it doesn’t, and you move on to find one that does. Of all the twenty buttons I did that day, six of which have been sold, this is the one I’m disinclined to sell. It’s not that I don’t think I can do better. It’s just a funny thing about abstracts. We connect with them in funny, very personal ways.

So, where the rest of the series is on sale for ten dollars apiece, (five if you know the series title; look it up), this one is now special to me, so I’m raising tit o $25. That should keep the punters away, while still avoiding the trap of letting my work get too precious to sell.

Time to get dressed and change the litter.

Posted in Art, Art For Sale, One a Day | Leave a comment

StinZine cover Harvest Issue (#004)

StinZine 004 cover clr fin sml

So much stuff to get done before i can get back to work on my stuff. Hang in there.

Lee.

Posted in Graphic Design, One a Day, StinZine | Leave a comment

Thinking About Linking

Okay, not a lot of work has gotten done on the game, and the truth is, I’m so pressed for time, it’s a wonder anything got done at all:
LBG Tile Sets 01-12C
The thing is, it’s starting to feel a bit derivative to me, and I still haven’t gotten to the part where I add buidlings and such. There’s still a LOT of work to do, and usually, I’m much faster at this stage. But anyway, I’ll press forward when and as I can, but don’t expect monumental progress for a while.

In other news, I also have this:
VFMD-2014-09-24a
It’s not the only site where the book is available, but it’s the most ‘successful’ page, where this book is concerned. Which means…

And in still other news:
VFMD-2014-09-23a
IMG_0185-14
Anything
Steep-Inclinations-vinyl-001B
Kismet-cvr-5sml

And I’ve got a StinZine cover I’m working on that I have to finish (before I can show you), along with some haunted house doodles for the latest revision of the StinZine map I haven’t completed yet, and the paper is overdue at the printers *sigh*.

On top of that, I still haven’t posted my list of PBW2 2013 proposal updates.

Oh yeah, and it’s my anniversary today:
wedding invitation 005b sml

So yeah, really busy. BIAB.

Lee.

Posted in Art, Art For Sale, Book Covers, Books, Books of Limbo, Comics, Ebooks, Etcetera Thesis Music, Games, Graphic Design, Hamilton, Interactive Storytelling, LinkTales, Music, my wife, One a Day, Participatory Budgeting Ward 2, Relationships, Sequential Arts, StinZine | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Link Game Progress – 2014 09 22

Progress is a funny word in this case, because it’s yet another solo project that almost certainly will never see the light of day. Anyway, here’s wher I was at a couple of days ago, befoer I got busy with meetings and errands and chores and illness and such:
LBG Tile Sets 01-12A

The idea is for the tiles to build the locations, so I need to make more tiles that have defined spaces within them, like sections of modular rooms and other constructs, like ships and such. I don’t want to limit players in what they can create with the tiles, so I’m trying to integrate all of the gameplay into the storytelling, and the gameplay starts with a genre map. I just need to work out how smooth it goes if people are placing tiles, placing figures, and then roleplaying their actual moves across what exists of the board to interact with one another. It will be a very unusual game, whatever form it finally takes. All I know is, I’ve played a number of interesting board and card games recently, but I keep thinking that the way I would to it would be to incorporate those ideas into a new kind of role playing game.

Anyway, I say it may never see the light of day, but only because I already have so much stuff on my plate, and time seems to be getting away from me. I hate to say it, but I need help.

Back to work. Got an incomplete PB proposal status update list to compile.

Lee.

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But Lately There’s No Give Or Take With Darkness In The Way

So I’m sitting here, in my customary control station, surveying the internetz, refusing food, medicine, or clothing, sipping lukewarm coffee, and listening to Canadians make Zeppelinesque hard prog noises. It’s gloomy outside. My wife is sleeping. I’m in an almost-but-not-quite zen-like state. And thinking I have to conjure up some illustrations today. I’ve been procrastinating. My mood is improving, but it’s not optimal. I have a sore throat that worries me a little. I don’t have time for illness.

I also have a little organising and idea polishing to do for PB. Notionally, I need to gather the clans and see if they agree that we need to get the ball rolling again. The approaching holidays and the election complicate this, but it’s always something. You can’t let the obstacles daunt you. If they catch you blinking, they’ll fucking eat you alive. So, I need to set aside My Creative Stuph™ for a while and focus on PB. The many PBW2 2013 proposals still have to break ground to get their funding. The list is daunting. The support… is lacking. Everyone is tired of hearing nothing, and I don’t have a complete list yet. The Councillor is expected to produce a list of the proposals and their current status, and if he doesn’t, I’ll publish my list instead, come what may. I need everyone to see that I’m working here, and I’m trying to make the connections and get the work done.

So far, I’ve been in exactly the wrong frame of mind for this kind of work. This summer has largely been a wash, but in particular, August and September have been a dead loss for me. And PB needs a LOT of help right now. Norman can’t really help right now. Rebecca can’t really help as much as she used to. Mike can’t really help either. No idea about the rest of the volunteer base. Karen can’t help either, but she advises taking a year off of PBW2 to retool. I think a year is impossible to come back from, for many reasons, but starting the year with a retooling commitment would be about right. I think four months is good. We’ve had two summer votes. Might was well go for a hat trick. Let the vote happen in July or August, after spending a few months hammering out how PBW2 2015 should run, and who all should be involved. We’ve been at this a while, and there are ideas we still haven’t tried. And there’s the rest of the city to think about, now.

I basically want to package this as the PBHamOnt Service, full on city-wide budget proposals with all the public engagement you can handle, and independent of City Culture unless and until the proposals need honing. Norman has the right idea, having professional-laden charettes to get useful input before engaging the City Staff to get permission to break ground. I need to take a page from his playbook on that. I’ll also need to find funding for consultation fees, I fear. Not many folks will feel good about offering professional advice for free.

A planning stage was called for in the original process, and it probably still needs to happen. I can see this because what’s sitting right in front of my nose IS a ‘planning’/implementation cycle. I have all of about a month and a half to get these projects on the ground before the frost kicks in and everyone buggers off home to hibernate with their families. Getting them back out for more meetings in January will be tough. It’ll take a PR campaign and good will visits and phone calls and other fun stuff I don’t enjoy.

The more I work on this, the more I realize, I have entirely the wrong mindset for this kind of work. I love Direct Democracy, but I really don’t enjoy trying to convince people to do stuff they aren’t prepared to just jump in and offer freely. I can be persuasive, but not to the degree that is needed here. Once again, I am confronted with the uncertainty of being the right monkey for the job, whatever this (unpaid) job is.

Okay, so that’s what’s been eating up brain space. Sorry for the info dump. Most of this probably belongs on the PBHamOnt page, but I’m trying to save that for news posts.

In other news, I have quite a lot of personal creative projects that are all on hold while I sort myself out. Even without PB, I’d be having trouble turning work out. The second act of TAD2L is overdue. The third volume will probably have to wait until November. Maybe I’ll do it as a NaNoWriMo thing. Kismet is not even fleshed out and I’ve started drawing it. Tarot is starting to happen again. I still have fourteen Personal Space buttons to sell or get rid of. The Big Book of PB needs fleshing out. Steep Inclinations is starting to happen, slowly, but it’s definitely not getting done in 2014. The Link Roleplaying Board Game is coming together, slowly. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I hope I live long enough to clear my long list of projects.

Time to stop babbling and consider (just consider) clothing. Dawn won’t be up for another half hour, at the earliest. O solo mio. Well, me and the cats. They don’t care if I’m naked.

Have a good day. Stay dry. Thank you for reading.

Lee.

Posted in Art For Sale, Books of Limbo, Canadian Music, Comics, LinkTales, Music, One a Day, Participatory Budgeting Ward 2, Politics, Steep Inclinations, The New Hamilton | Leave a comment

Logo Madness

Possible logos for the fourth issue of StinZine, for which I am trying to design a cover:

StinZine Logo 01

StinZine Logo 02

StinZine Logo 03

Heading back to bed now.

Lee.

Posted in Graphic Design, One a Day, StinZine | Leave a comment

Button Update – 2014 09 17

IMG_0185-17-16

Lee.

Posted in Art, Art For Sale, One a Day | Leave a comment

Linkletter Latterly

LBG Box Cover-01

Another teaser from the game concept I’m developing. NOT the final cover art, but it’s the basic concept that I have in mind.

Thanks for reading.

Lee.

Posted in Games, Graphic Design, Interactive Storytelling, LinkTales | Tagged | Leave a comment

Linking Game Ideas

So I’m currently gestating a hybrid role-playing game [RPG]/tabletop board game [TBG] concept, using modular tiles to ‘build’ the board ingame, like Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan, but with information/conflict cards like the Arkham Horror games (or like Magic, the Gathering, I suppose), and using those six-sided Fudge Dice for probability factors. I’m still piecing it together, but I’ve started mashing together the very basic graphics of the tiles and cards I will be printing for the playable demo version, which will include twelve (12) genres of storytelling style, and approximately three hundred (300) tiles designed to build basic sets in those twelve genres. It’s like having the base game and three or four expansions built into the demo version. I really want to see how I can make this genre hopping concept I’ve actually had for decades work.

When I get it done, I will start trying to figure out how to port it to a video game for PC and various tablet devices. I’ll need to talk to some coder-types to figure out what I need to run the engine, so to speak. But that’s later.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:
LBG Tile Sets 01-12a sml
LBG Card Sets 01-03sml

As you might imagine, there is still a LOT of work left to do. these graphics are not the final graphics; they just help me to think strategically while I devise the actual graphics, flavour text, and numbers of cards in each set. I’ll be developing this concept more int he days to come. If you have any questions, or would like to take part in some test play when I get the working demo finished, leave me a note.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Lee.

Posted in Games, Games People Play, Interactive Storytelling, LinkTales, One a Day | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Wreck – Ghosts – an album review

Big Wreck – Ghosts (2014) – an album review

Waitaminute, didn’t these guys release a new album, what, last week or something? No? It was 2012? Dayam, time flies. Anyway, I did a review of Big Wreck’s 2012 comeback album, Albatross, and the very next week, (sorry, I’m still not over the time dilation thing, here), they have a new album out. Let’s see if it measures up.

Big Wreck Ghosts cover

tl;dr Version: Big Wreck? 11 out of 10. Automatic proprietary scoring system for any album released by Ian Thornley, really, but Big Wreck deserves it.

‘Splain, Lucy Version: Okay, you got me. Yes, I still have to review the album, and no, I’m not going to start ranking the albums. These reviews are still free, you know. Get your own frame of reference, already. But yeah, new Big Wreck album, and only two years after their last. It’s a good time to be a music fan, I tell you.

Boring Version: The thing is, new Big Wreck albums are, by their very nature, worth celebrating. This is a band that was pretty much killed stone dead in the prime of life by an ambivalent record company that couldn’t be bothered to support a great act. That they got back together in any configuration and are making great music again, supplied by one of Canada’s premier singer/songwriter/guitarists, is nothing short of a modern day media miraclw. You have to appreciate that, whether you’re a Big Wreck fan (like me) or not, there aren’t that many truly legitimate comeback stories in rock and roll that don’t involve gobs of money, coming out of retirement, coming out of drug rehab, or making a tribute to someone’s death.

So, where did we leave off? I did a review of Albatross back in 2012. It was pretty well received. I probably ended it with ‘I hope they make another album really soon’, or words to that effect. Guess Christmas came early for me, huh? ;)

Thing is, I’ve had this album for a couple of months now, but haven’t really had time to review it properly. I still don’t have time, but it’s almost 7 AM, I’ve been awake since 4AM thanks to our new kitten, I have my Beats by Dre Studio headphones on, and I can’t have any scotch this early in the day without my wife looking at me funny, so, let’s write a record review instead, shall we?

THE REVIEW:

A Place To Call Home starts super slow, with a moody, detuned guitar riff that eventually gets a wall of Brian May guitar harmony that brings in the meditative vocal chorus which is the antidote to the intro of Albatross, until the chorus proper kicks in and lifts to a great place before shifting to become a gritty rock verse. The verse is good. The chorus is classic Big Wreck/Thornley material. It’s also a great set-up for the album, despite being mid-tempo. The intro riff returns to escort us out and into the rest of the album. I wish I could say more about this tune, as it’s an important one for the album, and I’ve heard it several times at this point. I really like it, but it’s such a meditative number, it’s hard to compare it to anything else they’ve done.

I Digress opens big and brash and dirty, starting as it means to go on. It’s got more in common with Thornley than Big Wreck, but it’s a great song, nonetheless, with at least two or three great hooks holding it all together (which, if you know BW/T music, is pretty much Thornley’s MO in a nutshell; Hooks! And damned be he that first cries, hold, enough!) There is this great little bridge that stretches the chorus over a chasm of space, and then builds back intot he gritty riff, giving Ian a chance to wail in classic BW fashion, before going into a classic piece of guitar work. Two parts Jimmy Page, two parts Randy Rhodes, and and very articulate, right up tot he Brian May wall-o-guitar finale.

Ghosts is the title track, and it’s got a strangely familiar ring, if you know your Canadian AOR rock from the early 80s (Turn Me Loose, Ian? ;) ). Ian has never been afraid of stealing a classic riff or two, so long as he can warp them to his will, and this song’s verse is no exception. It also gives new bass player Dave McMillan a chance to shine with a classic sinuous bass line that carries the tune while the guitars work their magic over the top. It goes out on the bass groove, with more wailing guitar in a low, minor key, all the while that metronomic rhythm guitar plucks away at the bass strings. Great song, and a great title track.

My Life is carried in on a big piano riff, and just soars. The production on this one is spacey and huge. It feels like classic Big Wreck without actually sounding like any Big Wreck tune you already know. I guess that’s the best way to describe the shift in Ian’s writing: it’s more economical than it was in the 90s, but it’s still incredibly melodic and moving. This is a wonderfully expansive piece, and the guitar solo soars in Jimmy Page glory.

Hey Mama is a deep Mississippi Delta blues number with some sinister Ozark-meets-Bayou vocals. The tune has even more in common with classic Led Zeppelin than the last few tracks, and you can definitely hear it in the instrumental section, which sounds like it fell off the back of Physical Graffiti. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think I was listening to a Tea Party album (soon). Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this tune is derivative. Anyone who has read my reviews before will know that my musicologist tendencies don’t go so far as to dismiss ernest homage, when done right, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is note perfect.

Diamonds strums in like a boat on a river, again evoking Led Zeppelin, this time along the lines of II or IV, until the soaring verse arrives, when Ian’s voice carries it to someplace slightly more… positive? It’s uplifting, even though the lyric is contemplative and reflective, discussing a relationship in some decline. It’s a classic Big Wreck song. It just head faked you with the Zeppelinesque intro. This one could have been right off of The Passion and the Greed. The slide guitar solo lilts and soars in that way that slide rarely does it its articulation. Beautiful song that grows on you with repeated listens.

Friends floats in with some mandolin playing quietly over an AM radio sound effect, until the main riff intrudes and clubs it like a baby seal. It’s another massive Zepplinesque riff, but the song structure and verse/chorus are pure Big Wreck. That double neck with the mandolin that Brian Doherty picked up comes in pretty handy on this number. Such a great groove. The rhythm section has really melded into a fine-tuned machine, switching genres and tempos and rhythms without missing a beat. The instrumental section presages the outro, which comes back after the reprise of the bridge and chorus, and takes us out on a great wave of disjointed guitar histrionics worthy of a King Crimson solo. Very nice, in a not so nice way.

Still Here washes in on a waves of distorted sustain joined by an echoey guitar riff that ushers in a troop of marching guitars, before making way for the bass and a load of chiming acoustic guitar and washy. Very evocative vocal arrangements and performances, again sounding for all the world like a classic Big Wreck song. This is the longest song on the album, but it doesn’t really feel like a long number. The melodic groove and hook are so compelling, it just won’t let go of you. This one is growing on me. Big wall of washy, 90s alt-rock guitars, supported by that great combo of bass and drums that gives it a quality that those no-fi bands didn’t have. Nice hand percussion punctuates the outro.

Break slides into first with a slow waltz of a rhythm with even slower, breezier guitars, and an elegiac chorus. Who do they think they are? U2? ;) Just teasing. It’s a gorgeously-produced number, just this side of overdone, but in a welcome fashion. If my ballads were half this lush, my wife would smile more. The instrumental is another Zeppelinesque piece, and welcome. There is a bridge that takes us back to the instrumental section, and it’s just as good the second time around. Nice bridge hook, too. Another quiet refrain, just a bit of keening guitar underneath an acoustic, with Ian over top, and then the rhythm section slowly meanders in. Big finish, and if this were Albatross,it would probably be the closing number.

Off and Running is all classic rock, like something off of a Lynard Skinnard/Allman Brothers album, complete with Hammond through Leslie cabinet. Not quite Southern Rock, but a very close approximation, and perhaps even an improvement, for me. It eventually breaks into a huge Bonhamesque drum-heavy bridge section that just takes the song to a whole other place. The return of the verse/chorus is warm and heartfelt, and just makes you feel good for having been on the journey, even if it feels like a trip down a long open country road. It feels like the summers of my childhood at my grandparents. Very nice feeling. Hammond in church organ mode for the outro.

Come What May is a return to Thornley territory, and not a moment too soon. This album has already ended twice, but we’re going for a distance record, folks, so it’s time for some big guitar hooks and aggression. Gorgeous chorus with all the trimmings. The more of these I hear, the more I think Ian’s sensibilities span a lot of the same music collection I own. The vocal arrangement is straight out of the Beach Boys-by-way-of-Yes. And then it ends like something off of a strong Foo Fighters track, all hard edges and switchblade sharpness on that intro riff.

War Baby is a classic 80s Tom Robinson social commentary pop song redux. I liked the original, though it hasn’t aged well. The Big Wreck treatment makes it otherworldly.

A Place To Call Home (Reprise) bookends the album with big acoustics and some resonating madness, along with an entire wall of Ian Thornley singing. It’s an old trick that gave classic 70s albums the patina of Progressive Rock grandeur, and fell out of favour in the last couple of decades. For me, it’s a welcome element, and makes me think I must have missed something revelatory about this album, like the subtle underlying theme of the album that just puts it square in the middle of my taste zone. Well, whether there is one or not, the Beatles taught us that reprises make albums smarter, and this one is, too.

SUMMARY
Well, folks, we have the second album in the rebirth of the band called Big Wreck. They’re still not charting the way they should be. This stuff isn’t quite as immediate as 1997’s In Loving Memory Of…, or some of Ian’s solo work, but it’s a finely-crafted and produced album with layered performances and lyrics that invite repeated listening. I know this album works, because a girlfriend of ours borrowed the album off of me back in June, and I only just got it back a few days ago (September). It’s a great album. Please go out and buy it. Let this band know they count. Don’t let them fall apart due to record industry indifference again.
And enjoy.

© 2014 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

Posted in Canadian Music, Music, One a Day, Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment