Rabbits Full of Magic

23 February 2015


Cult Hit

I am doing research for a videogame I am making called Super Madrigal Bros., which is based in medieval times. Mostly this is Googling images of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, opening them in Photoshop, and cutting out parts that look interesting, filing them in a folder for later. Today I ended up in a Wikipedia wormhole about someone who is definitely going to be in this game:

Paracelsus was born Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim in 1493, the son of a Swiss German chemist and physician. By age 16 he was considered a prodigy in Alchemical studies and began started studying medicine at the University of Basel, moved to Vienna, and eventually finished schooling at the University of Ferrara when he was 25. Thus began a charmed life of travelling -- first around Europe, attempting to hold official positions. He considered himself a Revolutionary, and publicly criticized traditional methods while rebelling at authority. "All they can do is gaze at piss", he sneered.

This won him many enemies and his cantankerous nature led the rest of his life to be spent travelling. He travelled around Europe as a Plague Doctor, at a time when trained physicians stayed out of that profession. Indeed, he displayed a lifelong commitment to the impoverished and suffering, of which there were many. Europe experienced nearly half a millenia of plague outbreaks occuring once a generation, and the population was consistently devastated.

One of his contributions to science was considering the health of a person as result of something bad ingested from food or the air, rather than the Four Humors of Hippocratic Medicine which were commonly accepted at the time. He devised a tincture of opium that became widely used for hundreds of years, primarily as a cough suppressant (it is related to codeine). This substance and others were packed into the beak of a strange mask, resulting in the surreal bird-like costume of the Plague Doctors. Doctors began wearing these outfits while attending to plague victims, so much so that the sight of one could terrify an unsuspecting villager. The sight of a plague doctor foretold nothing less than a local apocalypse.

It is difficult to consider this kind of life, from the 21st century. The plague continued to decimate Europe until the 20th century, and medical practices were for a long time unable to have any positive effect whatsoever. In the face of such hopelessness I'm sure any success, however incidental to procedure, would be seen as a sign of hope. If the plague doctors were powerful enough to inspire fear (their presence so often coinciding with the plague) no doubt their powers were looked up to, however fanciful. A successful plague doctor was tirelessly self-promoting, perhaps not adverse to inventing an Initiation to Grand Mysteries upon visiting an exotic location. Certainly if you were travelling around Europe, surviving while watching thousands of people die around you, granted the anonymity of a mask, and intoxicated on potent narcotic mixtures you yourself were experimenting with, you would have quite a high opinion of yourself!

In 1526 he bought the rights of citizenship in Strasbourg to establish his own practice. But soon after he was called to Basel to the sickbed of Johann Froben or Frobenius, a successful printer and publisher. Based on historical accounts, Paracelsus cured Frobenius.

Paracelsus was one of the first medical professors to recognize that physicians required a solid academic knowledge in the natural sciences, especially chemistry. Furthermore, he allowed for the access of medical academic work to learned people. Surgeons for example often were not academically trained and ranked with the barbers and butchers in the same guild.

Paracelsus is also a folk legend, and bizarre tales about his life circulated Central Europe for centuries. In the minds of many, he became a wonder-healer and spiritual protector of health. His aid to villages during the plague in the 16th century was for many an act of heroism, his works and achievements therefore often abused and falsely copied.

While attending the sick bed of Frobenius (see above), Erasmus of Rotterdam witnessed the curative powers of Paracelsus' therapy. Deeply impressed by his skills, he must have recommended him to his humanist friends at the University of Basel, one of the most progressive schools at that time. Paracelsus' contact with Erasmus also initiated a letter dialogue between them.

He died at the age of 47 in Salzburg, and his remains were buried according to his wishes in the cemetery at the church of St. Sebastian in Salzburg. His remains are now located in a tomb in the porch of that church.

After his death, the movement of Paracelsianism was seized upon by many wishing to subvert the traditional Galenic physics, and his therapies became more widely known and used.

His motto was "Alterius non sit qui suus esse potest" which means "Let no man belong to another who can belong to himself." -- Wikipedia


Digital Baroque

Had a huge brainstorm last weekend and decided to make a Super Madrigal Bros. videogame. If you don't know, SMB was a chiptune band started by Momus in 2001. I had been working on electronic music based on Gameboy samples for an album dedicated to Bjork (I was ~18) and impressed him with a demo enough to qualify for a spot in the duo, which was a conceptual idea he had had that was really quite flexible and naturally put together. I think at one point he may have even been singing, but he was organizing a tour and running a label and this was perhaps a concept he could have followed through had he not had all of that to deal with in addition to being an brilliant post-rock pervert DIY David Bowie. At any rate we put out an album and went on a tour in 2002 across the USA with three other additions to his personal label American Patchwork, inspired by Harry Smith-style and eclectic electronic folk people like Bruce Haack. The additional bands were Rroland, Phiiliip, and The Gongs, who all released some of my favorite music of all time during this period. Phiiliip was described as an electroclash version of early Beck, and had a Van Dyke Parks-meets-T-Rex thing going for him. He brought along some of the dancers from Fischerspooner and they performed during our sets in the New York shows. The Gongs were like third-album Velvet Underground-meets-The Incredible String Band, and they all played custom-made instruments with silly names like The Chucky, or a home-build drum machine made from a log found in Lake Eerie. Peter Blasser still makes futuristic analog-electro-acoustic instruments at http://www.ciat-lonbarde.net/. Rroland joined us for some dates in California, where he was a cool married middle-aged man (to us teenagers) who played amazing bubbly synth landscape expressions of his past lives. All incredible stuff.

Anyways back to the videogame I am making. The original idea was to use old art, because during the reign of SMB (2002-2004?) I made a great deal of sprite art, stills for websites, video art, etc, and of course we had all these songs and sounds and remixes and stuff. Plus it would have that pixel look that people love. I mean, I love that stuff, who doesn't. But my HD wouldn't work! I plugged it in and it said "File system not recognized."!!! It asked me if I wanted to format!!!

Fear not, I figured it out, cos I am a huge nerd who knows to how hack RAW file systems. Luckily that means my entire life's worth, all the music I have recorded, all the bands I have played with, all the videos I have made, have not been lost! That's kind of cool.

Transferring everything will take hours, probably all night long, so I can't access any of that stuff until my computer finishes up. It doesn't matter, I have this inspiration, I have wanted to make a videogame for a long time but just never had the right spark, so here I go. I have access to Unity and am programming in that, which is nice because (1) it has some great youtube tutorials and (2) can output to more or less any format, from Windows and OSX to Android and iPhone and even PS3/4, and the XBones. Nintendo is still out of reach but that's ok, they are wizards from the future and I wouldn't want to dilute their magic.

By the end of this week I aim to have a demo up for download. It probably will not be much, maybe a half dozen screens worth of level design that is mostly just pretty backgrounds layered on top of each other like a diorama. At first the desire was there to make a Castlevania clone, but the more I think about it the more I think it should be about exploring these strange lands and listening to this strange music instead. There can be enemies, but maybe they can hurt you but you can't hurt them. The game controller has a really sophisticated physics system built in, so I think you could build sliding puzzles or something. I don't know, I'm still learning. Right now there is a main character, who can walk left and right, and who has 2 different jumps with a single button. The sprite flips horizontally when you move from right to left and back again, so it does not look like he is moonwalking. There is a camera and it follows your movements, which is handy. The ground is a bit from a painting stretched out and colored green, it's only a placeholder. The background is from an idyllic landscape by Salvator Rosa, and the main character is from a Jan van Eyck, both Renaissance painters. I am not sure I will stick to this style the whole time or if the whole thing is going to be a mishmash of styles. I really want to do pixel art so there may be some levels like that. I also am interested in incorporating woodcuts, because lots of important books and grimoires from that time period used those. Then again since I'm digitizing it I may as well color and shade them myself. As you can see, I have my work cut out! I think art/sound is going to be 90% of this game!

Stay Tuned

19 February 2015


Flying Hack

I've been playing a lot of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, a prelude to a game that is coming out this year which is one of the most looked-forward-to games in a long time. See, the Metal Gear series is known for having an auteur behind it named Hideo Kojima. The games switch the classic videogame situation of shooting-everything-that-moves by penalizing you for being spotted, and penalizing you for kills, turning a war game into an anti-war game, turning a game of Tag into Hide and Seek. In between all of this is storytelling that spans all of Western pop culture from James Bond to Rambo, Sacco I Venzetti to Twin Peaks, Escape From New York to the New York Times and back. For the first time the games will be coming out on PC as well as consoles, and they look to really take advantage of that graphical power. The game is being built in something called The Fox Engine, and the result is some breathtaking action-movie-style graphics that take Kojima closer and closer to his possible dream of a playable action movie. The great thing about Konami (best game company of all time imo) releasing these games PC is the possibility of mods, which are much harder to do on a console, if not impossible. I have been playing around with mods, trying to figure out the file structure of this game, swapping things out here and there, making little tweaks and hoping nothing breaks the game.

Above is a video from my favorite creation, a mod where I swapped out what were ravens and in their place put human bodies. This game takes place in Guantanamo Bay (actually an alt-history Gitmo in 1975) and you are tasked with rescuing prisoners. Those very prisoners have been giving the power of flight in my mod, so you can watch them soar through the air with a kind of surreal grace.

This mod was wholly inspired by this amazing video of lead character Big Boss soaring through the air.

If you want to try your hand at modding I highly recommend this Steam Community forum which hosts tools such as file unpackers, texture extraction software, and some other useful utilities.

15 February 2015


Discover America

Listening to Motorhead ("Orgasmatron"), Van Dyke Parks ("Discover America"), Bruce Haack ("The Ghost With the Most"), Klaus Nomi ("Rubberband Lazer"), Bobby Conn ("Free Love"), Log Bomb ("Boob Scotch"), etc.

01 February 2015


2015 New Music

I've uploaded a new song to the Dust Bunnies bandcamp. Last year I had a goal to write original music and come up with an album's worth of material. Well I hit some equipment/location snags during the summer, but I'm back on track and recording/writing new material as well as polishing up old songs and putting them up for download. So I decided to put them into a new album, which is now the 2015 album. The album is sort of classic rock inspired at the moment. "It Doesn't Cost a Thing" sounds more like a call-and-response Black Lips MTV Unplugged recording imo. And old bandmate of mine (Jack, from the Kiwis) is in that band now, touring around the world, which is the coolest thing ever.

It's another spiritual punk song so in an alternate universe picture a Space Rock Opera 2xLP with interludes that sound like a Coasters cassette in low orbit.

This song is sort of inspired by the girl group covers on the very first Beatles album. Like everything I do the vocals are crap and everything is sort of out of tune, but it's got soul! I'm not completely sure I like my own music, to be honest. If you are a musician: have you ever listened to something you made and afterwards wondered what you would think if you hadn't personally made it? Is it like this because the music is a pure expression of the ego? Or does this illustrate the 'channeling' aspect of songwriting, where it feels like the creation is something not entirely authored by you?

02 January 2015


2015: In Search of Graphics

Mellotron Inspired Stereolab-Beatles Mix

There are still a lot of songs from last year I have yet to finish, but I am moving on already. Mostly playing too much Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. But check out Dust Bunnies bandcamp page for a new track, a near-instrumental song built out of mellotron loops. I was recently successful at eliminating any lag I had been experiencing through my USB MIDI keyboard, by plugging in an additional USB music interface first. I have always wanted to use mellotron in an epic psychedelic song about dragons or magic or something but didn't feel like sitting down and constructing such an artifice. Took a cue from Stereolab and started layering keyboards, starting with a droning 60's studio band miming swinging cocktail lounge music, improvising some mellotron flutes for accents, and laying down some nice warm vibraphone melodies to go with the crooked timing of it all. It's structured like a Devo song or something, or maybe early Danny Elfman.

BONUS Instrumental punk shell

28 November 2014


Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! The more years fly by every moment with my family is more and more special. Not just family but friends, loved ones too. It slowly becomes more and more clear that we are all variations on the same person/genetics/relations and it leads to things like time loops and cycles. I hang out with my niece and it is like hanging out with my brother again when we were kids. What I'm saying is life is like some kind of intertwining Bach piece or something, layers of harmony resulting from absolute chaos, and when we see or hear a pattern it is pleasing and often sublime.

I like Thanksgiving as an American Folk Tradition, and one of the few left in existence. Christmas is there but is a capitalist beast that seems to take all the consumerist aspects in like a black hole at the end of the year. Thanksgiving isn't exactly corporate. You could say it's consumerist but try to find anything that ISN'T in society these days. All it requires is a state of mind, maybe some reflection, some friends or family, and some food. The Native Americans opened their hearts to help the pilgrims and it's cool it is THIS spirit that is remembered today. The spiritual truth revolving at the Event Horizon of New Years Eve is that from now on there is a need to help others and reflect on how good you personally may have it and maybe try and give something back. Thinking beyond oneself is not just an arcane esoteric truth buried in religions the world over, it's a practical example of how to be a good Human Being Traveler on Spaceship Earth.


04 November 2014


Symphony of the Night

If Mario is the Beatles and Zelda is the Rolling Stones then Castlevania is the Velvet Underground of video games. Typical of games coming out of Japan, it takes non-dogmatic view of world religious history, introducing characters and monsters and concepts from many different cultures and mashing them up into something very unique. The unique monsters in Castlevania games can number in the hundreds, evolving into the kind of zoological/tactical bestiaries that were kept in medieval times by men of science (by the way back then science was called "magic"). These undead creatures reside in gothic horror atmsopheres of castles, clock towers, graveyards, underground caverns, great cathedrals, etc. Symphony of the Night was a unique entry in the series as the entire game took place inside a single castle, presenting the most spectacular experience of Impossible Architecture one could hope for. It's a shame that video games gave up 2d for 3d because this is easily one of the most beautiful games ever made.

Here I've presented my first-ever Let's Play, which was prompted when I finally verified my youtube account and wanted to test and see if I really could upload videos that were hours-long. They are presented without commentary, so if you like this kind of thing, enjoy!

Let's Play Symphony of the Night LUCK MODE 1/3 Beating the game in 1 hour
Let's Play Symphony of the Night LUCK MODE 2/3 My life as a bat


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