Music of the Month; Guilty

A rare guest spot strikes again, since Aaltomies is busy moving to his new place! Congratulations! On the flipside. that means I have to find some subject to ramble about a little, so bear with me.

Let’s start with the new Digimon series, a reboot of Adventure. Honestly, when the series was announced I expected Toei to just remake the series whilst cleaning it up a fair bit, but those expectations were shattered fairly quickly with the Bokura no Wargame (Our War Game) opening. Instead of the summercamp, the events of the movie are brought all the way to the beginning without even introducing the whole main cast. We’re stuck with just Taichi and Koushiro who’re trying to figure out why the world is getting nuked.

During the first episode I was worried with the first villain, as it really resembled the Applimon series designwise. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, but it does show that the new series isn’t afraid to put new designs in, for better or good.

Game-wise, I’ve been playing Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid after Aaltomies generously bought it for me because of my skepticism towards it. While I did watch some Power Rangers during my childhood (and I did own one or two toys) I was never fully enthralled by the world. Since then I have watched a couple loose of Super Sentai episodes with the ultimate goal of watching that one anniversary crossover where a bazillion rangers team up. Alas, that moment is still far away from me but it does help me a little with placing when which rangers appear and the changes the American version made. This isn’t a criticism, Power Rangers is very much it’s own thing with its own stories and characters.

Now, back to the game. Fighting games usually have some barrier of entry for new players, the most famous one being able to throw a hadouken (fireball) with the quarter-circle input. Things will usually get more complex from there. With PW:BftG that barrier is lowered dramatically, where the input difficulty is only slightly higher than any Super Smash Bros game. You have the light, medium and heavy attacks, sure. But then you have the ‘special’ button which has three variations by holding left, right or no direction.

This makes the game incredibly easy to pick up, even when you have no fighting game experience at all and it’s what makes it a lot of fun right off the bat. Gameplay wise (or as Aaltomies would say, play of the game) it has been described as a Marvel VS Capcom lite and one cannot fault that comparison when both players employ their assists filling the screen with mayhem.

In short, the game can very much be enjoyed without any real knowledge of the series. Sure, the story mode might not make a lot of sense, but just roll with it.

Music of the Month: Drill Domination

I’m writing this post, though I should be sleeping. I’m using the excuse of eating to stay up enough to write this post, while in reality, my food is still in the microwave because I didn’t feel like cooking chicken risotto this late in the middle of the night. Sudden shift changes due to a robot being programmed have thrown my daily rhythm to hell, which doesn’t really jive well with me exercising. Despite my utter hatred, dislike and sheer abhor towards exercising, I decided against my better judgement to start it again, as your body is the best investment you can have. That’s one more thing that eats two hours of my daily life away from hobbies and other stuff I should be doing. Then again, my scanner/printer just broke down thanks to a part that’s designed to break down in time due to its smaller than necessary contact points bending easily under normal ink cartridge usage. Don’t buy Epson.

With food in front of me and half a litre water in my mug, I’m wondering why the hell I didn’t do enough food for the whole week. I’ve noticed that salads don’t keep me full for the whole day. Eating before I go to sleep might cause some mishaps according to some, but at least I’m not hungry and I have the energy to exercise in the morning.

That doesn’t change the fact that I hate exercising in the morning, it makes me groggy for the whole day. Pissed off, unsociable, and generally about as enjoyable to be around as a bear shot in the ass. I guess that also makes me want to do my job as fast and as efficiently as possible so I could be done with it. I’ve picked up reading again due to some of the downtime (that may be increasing in the near future thanks to the whole Chinese originated flu floating about) and the series I’ve picked up again is A Certain Magical Index and its numerous spin-offs.

The problem with me and reading is that I’ve taught to think through the prose I read. Turning your brains off can’t be done, unlike with other media. This is partly why I prefer science fiction to fantasy, as fantasy doesn’t handle concepts as SF does. An exception to this is Japanese Fantasy, which blends SF into itself to a far larger degree. If The Lord of the Rings was a science fiction work, the concept of the ring and its abilities would have been explored further and in far greater detail. However, for fantasy work, it isn’t necessary or even desirable at best. Some of the Japanese prose has a tendency to stop the story in its track and explore a concept through a wholly different lens, sometimes citing actual studies or experiments. Some works turn this into a whole dialogue and explore the extent of the concept as a whole or its possible branches before putting it into proper use within the story. Purple’s Qualia does this to the point of fault, as a friend mentioned the work’s like the author was masturbating about these subjects. Funny that thing, he doesn’t like Science Fiction all that much. Another friend agreed the works’ pretty dang sweet, so what’d I know.

A Certain Magical Index is a series that’s a rarity for me anyhow. Both its literary and animated versions have their own strengths and pacing. Sometimes the books work out things better, sometimes the animation adaptation takes the lead. Going through both, even if I’m already familiar with the other, seems like a worthwhile effort. Reading through all these books will take me ages, but I’ll squeeze a book or two in some slots whenever I have downtime and haven’t planned on doing a scan-marathon. I should try to have one this Saturday.

What I find interesting in the series is that outside the whole practical exploration of concepts within the work’s setting, it goes to town with them. Often I end up questioning a pathway of a story or author’s decision to have events and concepts turn out in a manner that ignores their secondary characteristics. With A Certain Magical/Scientific series I’ve found constantly that these secondary characteristics, even tertiary in some cases, are weaved straight back into the whole story not thirty seconds after I’ve raised a question. That is mostly because the characters aren’t written as dimwits or idiots as most of their fellow genre characters often are, as they often stop and think. An example of this whole thing would be something like as follows; a concept of a person split into two cyborgs with different halves is introduced and explored. The two halves are clearly distinct beings that live their own lives despite being sourced from the same person. AI and advanced cybernetics have been helped to realise this (Academy City, the main setting of A Certain Magical Index is a scientifically hyper-advanced self-governing city with everything being tested and examined from weird mixtures of food to creating false deities). After living as two separate beings, the two halves are rejoined together. The rejoined human has two different sets of memories, but the overall acceptance of the situation and the participant’s psyche hasn’t been damaged or has rejected two sets of memories from the same time period. My first question after this was straight up What about the mechanical parts? and ‘lo and behold, the main point of the story ends up being these secondary elements, where the experiment also brought the cyborg halves into one whole, resulting in an android that considers itself as the same person. It just lacks any memories before the patient was turned into two cyborgs.

The series is full of these What about this thing? moments. It’s an effective use of a relatively short length of the books themselves, and the series is almost wholly consistent with itself. When a series runs a decade and then some, there are bound to be some small issues here and there, but nothing major. For an ever-expansive series, a franchise really, the overall story hasn’t really let go of its interesting characters and slowly building plot that keeps raising the stakes. I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that the series also crossed over with Virtual-On, which is why the series experienced a short, but oh so sweet, come back.

I guess that covers things what’s going on. I’m certain you’re able to read between the lines that the current situation where I am is somewhat dire, and despite my personal feelings and wants, I’m still returning to write an excessively long post about nothing to start the month with in order to get some steam out, as well as forcing myself to get rid of some fat again. It doesn’t matter regarding the blog itself, but things aren’t… well. That will, sadly, be reflected in the future posts but hopefully not in their amount. I doubt things will get better towards the new year either. I’ve got to start prioritizing. Maybe I’ll start writing more about single entry series or things that I’d like to have covered like I’ve done with Muv-Luv and Purple’s Qualia. Ah well, just wait ’til I start spouting shit about compact cassettes.

Cultural revolution be damned

There’s no real soft way to say that toppling statues and journalists calling for cancellation of police shows is nothing short censorship. Misguided and well intending censorship, but censorship nevertheless. These rioters destroying and defaming public spaces and statues set in there are robbing culture away from the future generations, encouraging a lacklustre, unpolished and one-sided view on individuals and events. Not only that, but destroying individual masterpieces, sinking them into local bodies of water. That’s close to a cultural genocide, erasure of past. The world should’ve learned from the Chinese Cultural Revolution and steer far away from repeating that mistake. No matter how much Mao Zedong destroyed Four Olds, the incalculable amount of antiques from literature to paintings, from murals to statues, were hacked, burned, defaced and utterly decimated. Vandalism against cultural relics was rampant, something that’s happening still in the name of cultural reform, or in case of Middle-East, in name of religion. Yet modern China will loudly boast about their thousands of years of history and culture, despite the only place where you can see pre-Mao Zedong era China untouched is in Taiwan.

Of course, when it comes to the video game industry, journalists don’t want to do their job as independent news reporters or do investigative journalist. The video game journalism is activism for the industry, and people like Mitch Dyer supposedly already are having conversations with developers what kind of content games should have. Guessing if these are the same journalists who said being objective is impossible, being independent is as impossible as well. Media people like Dyer aren’t journalists, they’re activists gunning for a simple-minded message without any sides. Then again, Kotaku’s Imran Khan wants to change how police is being depicted in the games and they can’t be window dressing for game mechanics any more. That is, of course, loads of bullshit. Apparently, the American police can only be depicted as neutrally and as raw as possible. Majority of video game consumers don’t have issues with differentiating between reality and fiction, and thus the escapist vision of paladin-like police is what they should be. Khan’s example of a game with this sort of depiction is the recent Spider-Man game, which has far more fantastical elements than ideal police officers. Spider-Man himself, for one. Khan seems to be under the impression that all games need to represent the police as realistically as possible, which is of course is driving an agenda rather than trying to stay objective. Escapism demands fantasy.

Khan holds the major misconception that games are the ones telling the story within these products, that the framework overrides what is the true story in games; player’s play. The use of Earthbound as an example of an evil, threatening police is weak at best, grasping at straws. There are no sins in telling fiction in manner the creators want. No amount of political pressure or other should be inflicted on creating a product. Wait, aren’t you exerting a pressure for the developers and publishers to cater to the audiences? No, that would be a misunderstanding. Game developers should be free to create whatever they want, but reality is that the decisions they make have consequences when it comes to selling games. Just as anyone is free to create anything within allotted laws, nobody is forced or required to buy these products. Market dynamics decide what sort of decisions are most fruitful and what dries on the shelves. Even when journalists are exerting their authoritarian pressure on game developers and publishers, the end line will still be on the store shelves and digital markets. If a developer wants to make a game that depicts reality, it must be set in proper manner in an overall realistic game. Sure, the NYPD has chased Spider-Man for years in the comics and have taken shots at him, though always fitting the books’ tone. Every time a Spider-Man story makes a whiplash in content, like having Peter Parker making a deal with the devil, it gets riled into the ground.

Public personas, from journalists to whatever hell influencers really are, want to promote themselves as patrons of culture and arts, as people who deliver you the best world can offer. Their activism breaks this illusion the moment they enforce their double standards and see both of the as equals. We can talk about art and artists as much as we want, but even these people will gladly downgrade their views on the subject whenever applicable and resort on assuming they have a say in what creators should be doing. Certainly loud public pressure will help, even when its only momentary and comes from relative minority. Often even from audience that isn’t buying their products. The less you spend time on popular media and entertainment industry, the more you will see normal people and proper customers voicing their displeasure on what these companies are spending their time and money on. Social media forms bubbles around us, making us see our own views as much larger entities than what they truly are. We consume media supports that bubble even further and get our news that further shield that bubble. Hell, with the riots and vandalising statues we’re seeing people go their way out and forcing that bubble unto others rather than exiting their own. The censorship, authoritarian attitudes and pushes we’re witnessing is destroying whatever bridge between the bubbles we could’ve built. There has been a push, and there will be shove. It may not be now, it may be six months later. It might be next year or even during the next generation, but there will be a push. There is no right side of history in current time, in the moment. That is only for the future generations to decide. Some of now-growing generation has seen their neighbourhood ransacked and burned down, homes lost and livelihoods destroyed. No amount of dabbling with the history studybooks can change a child’s memory of city on fire.

Escape from politics

Some hubbub pops up whenever you see someone saying they don’t politics in their video games or such. Naturally, there’s someone to point out that you have politics in these works by their nature as narratives. Especially in role playing games, where the framing device often sets the player in the thick of things. There is a false equivalency, as to what politics is being referred to is real politics. Video games is a method to escape the mundane life for a moment, and if it has a setting that’s interesting, the better. To say a product contains politics is not the same as to say that it is political. Even then, the best of these works tend to handle politics through the veneer of fiction and paint issues with different strokes in order to entertain ideas rather than force them down your throat.

Despite Star Trek not being a video game, the sentiment does extend to every field of entertainment media. It was said that Trek handled political matters of its time. Very rarely it ever pointed out at a topic in straightforward manner, but disguised with a veneer of science fiction, with alien races, androids and whatever situations were build from there. However, they never drove before the stories themselves, they were part of the whole work. Rather than say that Star Trek was political, it was about politics, often entertaining more than one view and exploring topics at hand. It didn’t just sit in one corner and preached about one singular truth over all others. Even in message shows, where things like racism or prejudice against homosexuals, where clearly the topic, the shows explored the topics under its guise. Sometimes with not exactly what you’d call a happy end, sometimes utterly failing. However, that’s not what modern Trek is, with showrunners and writers explicitly stating what their agenda is and what they intentions were. The franchise has become political and its lack of diversity in ideas and views makes extremely poor content.  In ST Picard, this has gone far enough that the show is completely unrecognisable, characters having been rewritten to be completely different. There is no more hope, only booze, darkness and death. Killing off characters in brutal ways just because their actor has different political views is degrading the franchise even further.

It’s understandable that many see comparative points in fiction related to real world events, more often where none has ever been intended. Humans like to recognise patterns, especially patterns we have a bias for and wish to find. This has gone to the point of some comparing politicians and events to characters and situations found in things like Harry Potter or whatever the current popular boom cartoon is. Hell, there are even those who can’t understand historical events or political intrigue without putting into a pop-culture context first, like putting one of those My Little Pony ponies into a photo about the Holocaust. Spending too much time on social media and the like will soon yield less faith in humanity the more you see any given leader compared to Voldemort or Emperor Palpatine. Not only it betrays how what media and how much these people consume, but also how limited their world views are. If you only consume media that are painted in strong black and white strokes, your world view won’t be much different.

While some might scoff at wanting to escape for a time being into video games, taking a break from all this that we have to face in our daily lives is ever-consuming. It eats away our hearts and minds if we can’t break from it every now and then. Our 24/7 news cycle keeps bombarding us constantly, often with clickbaits and with titles that aim to infuriate us. The more mad you are as you click, the more likely you’ll engage with the site more. Ragebait makes money, but only for the time until the we’re spent. Like a friend put it just now while I was writing this post, You can only take so much cancer in a day. When the media you want to consume to let your soul rest becomes about all the same stuff with as gentle message as a hammer blow to the head, you turn away from it. This can be see in the success of the product, and to use Star Trek as an example again, Discovery and Picard have been failed experiments that have done nothing but marred already patina tarnished franchise. Fixing this ship will take replacing parts of it, instead of just throwing some polishing agents at it.

Maybe getting off the grid for a while would do some good for all of us. Turn off your phone, go outside to take a walk in the forest or whatever you have near you, a park or something. Breaking the cycle of constantly having a screen present in your life, in your pocket or otherwise, builds better health. Thank God we can make educated choices and not consume media we don’t want to see, read or hear. They can be forced on us only so much.

Music of the Month; Dividual Heart

You can check Satellite Young’s album for this piece on Bandcamp

Ah, music of the month, free to vent stuff.

I feel that I need to apologise for the recent Integral Works entry. While my aim was to clarify what the book is alongside its companion pieces, looking back at it I see it nothing but as a piece of advertisement. I’ve admitted that I can’t keep my usual writer’s persona with Muv-Luv. The entry won’t be removed, but I completely admit that it was out of the line to post it. If it clarified things for you or you generally enjoyed it, then that’s all good. It still doesn’t stand up to the guidelines I have for the blog.

Nevertheless, Muv-Luv’s Kickstarter has been a sound success, making well over one million. Hell, it was such a success that it made a million more than what its initial goal was. Its funding is 500%. It broke all expectations.

I hope those three fours won't jinx this project
I hope those three fours won’t jinx this project

The Kickstarter has beaten both Grisaia’s and Clannad’s, two names that were considered as the definitive titles to draw in crowd. Muv-Luv has a far more larger fandom than what I estimated even in my wildest dreams. It’s almost a small miracle, seeing how Muv-Luv is a franchise that had exactly one mediocre television animation released in the West in Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse. That has caused bunch of misconceptions, as it has not been uncommon to see people thinking that Total Eclipse is based on these visual novels, or dropping the Alternative notation from there.

All this is to say that, by looking at the raw data we have, Muv-Luv as a franchise is far more popular and loved than either previously mentioned. Does it mean it is considered better than the previous two? The numbers again say Yes.

Nevertheless, this Kickstarter is a rather good example on what this blog is partially about; customer service. Degica’s Muv-Luv staff has been in a cross-fire between the backers/fans and ixtl/âge. They have managed to meet customer demands rather well while keeping the producer’s side happy. That has been the key to the success; seeing what is demanded, mitigating between what can be done what can’t be done, and aiming widen the consumer base. Western localisation itself will expand the consumer base, and while it’s not a Blue Ocean product, I can testify that people who have not been into the franchise before have actually pledged some. Now this entry is in the afterglow from the Kickstarter, and I do feel like I’ve coined something in by helping Degica’s Muv-Luv team here and there with stuff, but it’s Degica’s humbleness during this whole time has served them well, and while advertising has been bombastic and almost slightly aggressive at times, that’s par for the course. They’ve kept information flowing most of the time and actually came on-mic for an interview with me and Gabgrave of Alternative Projects. They’ve done well, and this sort of success may be hard to replicate with any other franchise. I hope they will rake in some nice profit out of all this on the long run.

There will be no video game reviews for the rest of the year. I will aim to review something different. Lords of Shadow 2’s review was a Halloween special of sorts, even thou I wanted to find something else write about. I am actually thinking of dabbling into toy review, or if I’m stupid enough, reviewing Degica’s Kickstarter run. I have a week’s worth of bumper material currently, which is why some subjects will come seemingly late. Perhaps another quickly build model review or something else. I really don’t have any set strict theme for the reviews.

I intend to create further bumper material when if I can manage to find the time. This weeks’ second post will get back to Guilty Gear comparisons, so be sure to check it out. It’s a bit more expanded and in-depth on the character’s visuals than previously. This is mainly because this character was my main for a long time when I played Guilty Gear at a higher level back in the day. Now I’m just another run of the mill untrained schmook.

There’s going to be one more TSF comparison chart for Su-37m2 Terminator. I will be using the basic SU-37 Flanker-F as a comparison point. Due to the lack of coloured back picture, I’ll be using the 3D images provided in the Total Eclipse World Guidance. IW on the other hand has a nice frontal picture.

Music of the Month, late on everything edition

AH, music. Usually I think a theme beforehand, about a week or two and plan it out properly. Now I’m just completely bringing in nothing of worth. So, nothing out of ordinary CRAM IT WESS.

Anyway, lessee. I must’ve listened something pretty good as of late that could give me a theme. Nope, nothing good on my playlist history!

In cases like this, I just hit random on my “Listen these sometimes” folder. My original song would’ve been Communication Gap, but goddamn ‘tube failed me again

If you’re wondering, I am few beers and glasses of whisky in this evening, so the stream  of consciousness and grammar may be somewhere out there out of my reach, and my editor, whenever she wants to get back to work, will crucify me, ’cause goddammit.

But some more personal jargon out of the way. I’ve been working on few projects all summer, and nothing has come from them. I’m almost literally being faced by a goddamn wall of blank, and I’ve got deadlines in few weeks. So, until those are sorted out, I may have to drop posting for once per week. If I was jobless, I could update this every day, but in that case I might as well start asking for money, but screw that. This is a hobby, not a work for me and I simply refuse to start making money on things people enjoy me doing.

OK, that may be a bit bad philosophy but let’s just stick that with the block and stick other things to other holes, ‘kay?

Secondly, the third podcast will be late because of the same projects being pushed closer and things need to be ready faster. Gotta pick priorities. Those who have been listening to those, do give some feedback because it’s really damn hard to deduce what we’re (as in I) doing wrong just by the amount of listeners. Sure, we could just speak of Muv-Luv, âge, ixtl and Degica all day long and have Evan sing songs like a pro (that’s an idea) while I caw like a goddamn shot crow with him. But then, it would be pretty much unrelated shit when it comes to this blog, the initial five are just to test waters here. After that, I will make a separate page, most likely somewhere in this blog, where all updates are then made. You’d better be following shit on Twitter or Souncloud for updates when we re-launch it. I promise I try to plan everything better in the future, edit things better and speak more coherent goddamn English. I know I flubber everywhere and my voice is grating, but that’s why I’ll make all other people talk more. Ha!

Anyways, I hope you liked the first three ones. I had no idea what the hell I was doing during the first two, and I barely knew what the hell I was doing during the third one. Here’s hoping for the fourth! Cheers!

I usually do some sort of handicraft projects on the side, and if there’s any interest in them, I could post some pictures with some sort of descriptions and guidelines. These would range from how to tie a yarn to a half a litre glass mug’s ear, how to make a hammock for your feet while you’re working or how to install a new board under your kitchen sink because your shitty janitor never fixed the water damaged piece he promised six damn months ago.  If you’d like that idea, drop a comment or just like this post. If not, then… well, scream bloody hell at me on Twitter for not doing any work.

After I hit 700 games on my library (digitals excluded) I pretty much ran out of room to house them. Next to the few thousands books I have (most of them are in garage because of no room), models and âge altar, the space I have is more than a bit limited. I need to build some kind of rotary system or a miniature record cabinet where to stash my stuff. Not that there has been any games that have been must buy lately, and with the Muv-Luv /Alternative Kickstarter upcoming, the dough needs to flow to my account, not to import stores. Why import stores? Because the games we have here on the shelf are still at high price. Goddamn Mario Kart DS sits at 40€, Starfox 64/Lylat Wars 3D sits at full 60€ and so on. So, you can imagine that local prices don’t really come down until they’ve been shelfwarming for multiple years, but there are some exceptions. Lollipop chainsaw is something like 9,90€, but it looks more or less something that I’d enjoy five minutes and then just throw a boot at it. I’ve started to select games a bit more careful, because random OH THIS LOOKS CHEAP attitude netted me uselessly large PS2 game collection collection.

And goddamn I want to drink C.C. Lemon. If any of you know where to buy import sodas in Europe, drop me a link willya?

I need some water and something distracting.

Music of the Month; Don’t stop me now

Enough with this Japanese shit, let’s have some proper rock!

So OK, I completely admit I’ve been on wrong kind fire this whole week and today hasn’t been any different. Actually, it’s been worse but let’s get to that another time. Thanks for allowing me to have this moment.

It’s monthly music time, so we go freeballing!

Whether or not the blog is starting to be bogged down with âge related matters is an issue which I should address. It is true that it has been a relevant theme going on here since late October 2011, but that’s not what the blog really is at its core.

However, it’s the blog has evolved and keeps evolving with natural growth, balling from subject to subject as time goes by. There has been numerous articles about video games during these two weeks I should address and discuss, but as you might’ve noticed, they went pretty much to deaf ears. I can’t blame if people are getting shit tired of me talking about certain eastern franchise, and down the line I will keep myself in check. However, whether or not some matters warrant a discussion is another thing and they will be further addressed if they fall closer to the whole customer-provider and design dynamics.

As for the giant Tactical Surface Fighter and Jet fighter comparison posts, they’ll float around. I’ll aim to limit them to maximum of two per month, but depending on situations they may be less or more. Now that I have a basic template and resources at hand for them, creating them isn’t all too hard, thou the template does look drabby and isn’t all that nice.

I’ve got some feedback that my posts tend to go too long. As I’ve mentioned before, I aim to keep posts in about thousand words for balance. From now on I will aim to edit them to ramble less and not go may way out to make the text bulkier to handle. I may ask some outside help to achieve this. I won’t say that I won’t drop the limit down, but rather pack things in a righter package.

Another idea that was thrown around that I latched on to create a podcast. My voice may not be the sexiest radiovoice out there, but I have thrown the idea around to certain people, and it would appear there would be people willing to do it. The question is if people would have interest to listen any of them? We never know if I don’t put up few recording sessions and give it a try. No promises thou, international conversations can be slightly difficult to manage at proper quality.

 As of now, enjoy that Queen and go have a nice cold drink.

Review of the month; Artidee XOR Crystal Polyester Casting Resin

When working with steel and stone, it’s not too uncommon to combine it with multitude of other materials. Wood and steel go together like butter and bread. Stone and wood too as the two give a nice accent between the two natural materials. I’m not sure if I’m glad that leathers and fabrics are more familiar as materials than plastics. Nevertheless, it’s better to dip yourself into unknown regions from time to time and do something new. You’ve most likely noticed that I’ve been rather absent from writing posts during the last few weeks, and that’s because I’ve been working on projects that simply took most of my time. One of the projects I just finished was to produce a replica of a cocoa fruit for the local botanical garden for exhibition purposes.

Whether or not the project was a success will be left to dark. The customer was happy and that’s all that matters. Nevertheless I strongly feel that it was my inexperience with resin casting caused more troubles that the final product was ultimately worth, but it’s all a process of experimenting and learning with these kinds of things. While resin casting is very much similar to other forms of casting, sand and vacuum casting being most familiar methods to yours truly, polyester resin has its kinks one can’t really see beforehand before without experience.

The resin used in this project was as mentioned in the title, Artidee’s XOR Crystal Polyester resin. As with other materials like it, it comes in a composite form with the resin as a separate canister and hardener in a glass bottle. You don’t need much hardener with XOR to engage the curing process. This is very similar to stone plaster, in which one of the best ones I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to use required some 3% of the overall volume. There was an incident few years back, where a younger craftsman in training used too much hardener with the stone plaster, causing it to release fumes, heat up to a point that it broke the glass jar he mixed it in. I didn’t try this with XOR, because I doubt the customer would’ve been glad to see their product being completely fucked up by simple curiosity. Nevertheless, the fact is that often adding slightly more hardener than needed can cut hours from the curing time. This is not all too universal, but we all need some sort of placebo at times.

The curing process in XOR requires that its cut from air contact. If it is air cured, then the surface will remain sticky. This is a crux with the resin, and this is something that needs to be taken into notice when selecting the resin you want to use. In principle, it should be pretty easy to cut all air circulation from the plastic, this isn’t always the case without proper built. After handling all sorts of chemical throughout the years, it’s not all too hard to simply see and smell chemicals that would be able to kill you. XOR is one of those, and I intentionally tested using a plastic cover to cut off the air from the casting. The results were that the damn plastic began to bubble and melt even going to the extent of dripping tiny droplets of running acrylic into the casted surface. Now, logic would dictate that it wouldn’t be the best idea to make a mould housing out of plastic, but I just needed to be tested to some extent to know it myself with solid, undeniable proof. It’s for the experience and firsthand knowledge, and nothing can replace that.

With any casting material, the finish is important. The better the finished surface, the less work you need to do with it to make it presentable. In all honesty, the unrefined finish of the XOR is pretty good if your mould has good, smooth surfaces. Depending on the geometry of your mould, the resin may have some difficulties on invading every nook and cranny you have in there. While the resin has arguably a high viscosity, it is more similar to slightly runny honey, so to speak. It can handle high geometry just fine. The cocoa shells are strongly dimensional with high amount of details due to the uneven surface of a fruit. XOR did a good job at replicating each and every of those details.

Of course, if the casting has been in contact with air, it has that sticky surface as mentioned above. In this case, it would better to just take few millimetre layer off with whatever tool you want to use and polish the actually hardened surface. If you’ve ever polished plastic with manual labour, this option may sound absolutely awful. Polishing any plastic is tiresome and one of the dullest jobs out there. Nevertheless, I must say that even with the best possible circumstances the surface of the casting will be slightly cloudy. It’s transparent for sure, but it’s not crystal clear by any means. It would be a good idea to bring some plastic polishing paste of similar with you when casting with XOR, just in case. It’s a whole another matter whether or not you want to actually go through all that polishing, and let’s be frank; you sure goddamn might as well. You’ve put a decent money into this, you might as well spend an evening with a bottle of beer and keep scrubbing the plastic until it shines like Picard’s bald head.

But you know what’s the problem with that? XOR doesn’t really polish well. If the surface isn’t what you wanted when you took it from the mould, you’re going to have some work ahead of you to get it shiny as hell. As my comparison point is with hard materials with stones, gemstones, jewels and different metals, it just might be that I am expecting completely wrong kind of result on how the polished surface should come to.

As with most standard quality resins, XOR is pretty high grade. Obviously not the best of the best, but to say that it works just fine for its price category would be apt. It can take some mechanical stress, but not to the same extent as the harder acrylics. I wouldn’t use this to make gear parts or similar, I would go for harder resins.

That’s the bottom line; for a 20€ resin it does its job, but there are better options out there. It’s good for prototyping and all that, but if you have the chance and budget to go for something better, go for that.

We’ll be back next week, hopefully more in schedule with Monthly Music.

This blog is not for self-promotion, and that's why what I've done has not been posted. Here's an example of the resin shows itself, having replicated all irregularities on the surface and all that
This blog is not for self-promotion, and that’s why what I’ve done has not been posted. Here’s an example of the resin shows itself, having replicated all irregularities on the surface and all that

Electronics don’t really like the cold

Recently I’ve had some car troubles. Well, I always I always have in some form, but when the car you’re driving decides to leave you standing in the yard of your customers’ factory, then something is wrong.

Living in a colder region of the world has its share of problems when it comes to modern day products. The amount of electronics that are put into anything nowadays is rather mind boggling. Cars are a good example how a simple product is filled with unnecessary electronics, relatively speaking. I can’t state that driving computers, power steering, ABS system and Lord knows what else is standard nowadays in cars, as those are things most customers seem to want. What I can state is that when the car has relies far too greatly on the electronics to function, then there needs to be a concern about different climates during the very design process of the car.

Middle-European car designers don’t really think of other regions than their own while designing a car, or at least so it seems from a northerner’s point of view. When I was in a driving school, I noticed that most cars at the time were well sealed, were warm to drive and had little to no troubles in starting. This was because most of them were automatic and less reliant on the driving computer. Nowadays the standard has changed that every car has a driving computer. This poses a problem, and as I was being towed away, the tow truck driver did slip information how most of the jobs they have during coldest frosts are cars with high amount of electronics. That, and the occasional people who have driven out of road into a snow bank.

It is true that not all cars fit every environment. They can be modified and adapted for sure, but that’s often extremely expensive. Sometimes regional laws may prevent you from even making some of the needed modifications. I know that local laws are so strict that deviating from the factory-ready models can’ really be changed. Some people have troubles with the legality of imported cars and I know few cases where a person had to fight against the government to get his German car noted street legal due to some minor differences between the local and German variants.

There used to be a saying that a Lada will start even in -40 Celsius around here. This doesn’t apply anymore, as even Russian cars have become more or less electronics driven. The market for cold region cars exists for sure and it is explored without a doubt, however I have always felt that having your driving computer to freeze and making the car a huge pile useless scrap has always been a mistake in the design of the cards. The electronics have become an irreplaceable part of the cars themselves, and if they fail the cars usually lock themselves down. I would imagine that a certain degree of separation between the digital and analog parts of the cars should exist, where you could have the driving computer utterly fail and still be able to drive the car just fine. Without some of the smart systems, but it’s never the computer that drive the car; it’s the driver. Much like in Zone of the Enders, it’s the Runner and not the Frame.

One could argue that cars have become too electronic and that nowadays the Joe Everybody can’t really go in and fix these things by himself without any specific tools. More often than not I hear that somebody needs to reset a car’s driving computer so it shows no errors. I was taught by my neighbour some car mechanics 101, but nowadays those are somewhat moot as you can barely lift the hood without the car going berserk. Actually, I know a case where two different sensor would prevent the car from running. This is because one temperature sensor is near engine oil that is heated via wall socket, and the other has no pre-heatable components near it. The driver has a cold spray with him in the car so that he can cool down the heated sensor. This sort of thing is absolutely stupid and unforgivable from consumer standpoint.

Then there’s the whole thing that batteries seem to hate cold places with a passion. There are stories about the frost shortening the life or even killing all sorts of batteries. I can say that this is true, as experience has taught me that certain batteries just can’t stand negative degrees. However, if you hold pocket electronics inside your jacket and near your body, they shouldn’t experience the cold. Still, using an iPhone or any other smarts electronics that is easy to damage anyway isn’t really recommended. Ultimately, cold climate demands robust design coupled with somewhat low level but well designed products, not the likes that consume the battery even when shut down.

I have a bias against cars with high amount of electronics. I prefer manual cars over automatic in real life and most of my driving life I drove a Ford Escort mk4. It was a rough car that required the driver to be able to handle its somewhat stiff steering. The time had done its deed to it as well as the trunk door didn’t keep itself up anymore, the seats were well loved and the gear shaft didn’t recognize the positions all that well. Nevertheless, it was a car that responded to the driver’s skills and intentions very well and the driver knew everything the Ford was doing. No bullshit suspension or power steering here, sometimes it felt like driving a tractor on an icy road. Many times I was able to save the car from a crash because I could tell how the car behaved because there was nothing in between me and and the wheels. This doesn’t apply to cars with ABS systems or other stuff. The electronics are in-between the driver, and driving an automatic makes me feel like I’m playing OutRun arcade cabinet with an actual danger. It’s a horrible feeling when you realize how little control you have over the car your driving when you switch from the Escort mk4 to any automatic. No longer I could tell what the car was doing or thinking, which meant that I had learn the finer aspects of driving an automatic car.

Sometimes we need to stop and look around

The sun doesn’t rise too much over the horizon during winter here. Up north there are times when the night doesn’t end or the day sleeps. Just before the sun sets, it turns into a sphere of golden fire, painting the sky with vivid reds and oranges. On the other side of the horizon, colours of blues and purples take shape.

As the sun sets just beyond the horizon, the reds have vanished only to be replaced  by the ever vanishing shades of burning pinks and hot purples met by almost white blue, which tells the foreboding night sky. The snow on the ground reflects this cosmic masterpiece. A lone star becomes visible, twinkling it’s message.

The sky takes one shade of deep dark blue, punctured by the starlit light.

It all happens fast and there’s no picture that could do it justice.

I am always amazed by this world and how we live just far and close enough to the Sun so we can live, how we have the Moon just at the right distance it to affect us as it does, and how we as living beings managed to evolve they way we did. It all has been a huge gamble against impossible odds, and yet somehow we are here.

There’s beauty in there. After the sunset, I walked home and kept seeing things with new eyes. Old, tried and tested car shapes, the same angular roofs and windows and the flickering lights of the streetlamps. Things that we don’t understand or can’t even start to see how these things come to be and function, we are left with very few words to describe them and most of us rely on the word art.

We need to stop and see how world is built and how it functions and marvel its machination. To see the natures shapes in the hood of a car, the transparency of a window and all that is an everyday thing for us. I know the machines and the power that are needed to bend and shape the steel into the wanted shape, and how a window is formed in fire of changing components. Even the fact that I hit this keyboard and make words appear on-screen is a small miracle. I know and understand what happens and why, but I barely comprehend it.

Then I realize something that millions before me realize, that all the small things people make by their hands have a value and marvel in them. To someone who cuts diamonds every day will know the angles and lines through and through. The live behind the marvel and for them it has become just a chore. The beauty is lost for some time. The same is for me, where I always wonder why my customers accept their products with a smile and newfound wonder.

Ignorance is a bliss, a fact that too many are blissfully ignorant about. The more you of some subject, the more you lose that initial wonder and beauty it has and it becomes an everyday thing. However, there will be a point where you go over that and start to find those wonders again. You find the beauty again.

It’s a wonderful feeling to realize again how much there is to this world, and how much we can convey them to each other through our jobs and overall behaviour, how we are able to use mechanical marvels and technical wonders that do every small and large feat. It seems to simple to order a product from the other side of the world and have it on your doorsteps a week later, when twenty years ago was far more rigorous thing to do and at could take months. The fact that I am talking to people via Skype and e-mail all over the world in an instant boggles my mind.

They’re no small feats.

And what we have now? An adult generation of early 30’s and late 40’s reminiscing their childhood and teenage years, the toys and TV series, their games and music. This storm of nostalgia has been controlling industries for years a now, and it has done nothing but disservice. From the late 90’s we’ve seen all the major industries getting stuck and reusing existing materials rather than making the effort to make something truly impacting.

The problem I see with the 00’s is that the only thing we will see making a cultural impact is the iPhone and that’s sad. We haven’t see any new pop-culturally important phenomena from films, games, music or any other entertainment industry that would leave its mark in the annals of history as Apple’s iPhone has. There’s no game that will continue to be a punchline or a character that would pop up here and there, not to mention the occasional used soundbyte. At least in films and television we have movies that will be quoted in the future, but most of these are based on existing sets like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I haven’t heard one single piece of music said that has been said to have staying power for years to come.

Of course, cult following will create longevity to various products. Perhaps that’s why another thing that has coloured the 00’s has been the Internet Critic phenomena, while not something new as it was born in the wake of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, was something that had its own being.

Internet Critic phenomena’s most popular time was somewhat short but impacted the Internet pop culture in that we saw an explosion of user-created content. The bubble has now been burst, and the few people who still manage to produce decent content have very slow pace of production outside few exceptions. SF Debris is still producing three videos a week whereas Spoony puts out stuff when… well, when he puts them out.

But what else? We don’t have anything really original products out there, for children or otherwise, even thou some had the potential to become significant pieces. We’ve seen over and over again that a product that manages to push through boundaries and have an impact on the culture, it has been a successful product. This can be done time and time again.

Seeing how things have been done with half-assed attitudes and to cater the ever smaller growing hardcore markets, it’s no wonder that the industries are facing troubles with unselling products. Piracy isn’t even a good excuse, when they are calling current selling numbers successful, when fifteen plus years ago the same numbers would have considered bombastically awful.

I hope the winds are changing and the generation that comes after the current one will be able make something actually worthwhile. The generation that’s doing all these throwback indie games, remake and sequel movies and so forth have failed the customers.

That said, sometimes stop to marvel whatever is around us. While you will see everything old and familiar, there will always something new to catch your attention. That one thing will always be there, no matter what you are looking at.