Archive for January, 2009

World of Goo

January 18, 2009
Making a tower in one of the levels of the World of Goo Making a tower in one of the levels of the World of Goo

Roughly speaking, there are two types of computer games for me: those that you need to be good at the gamepads and those that you need to be good at strategy. Most of the new computer games belong to the former category, whereas I am mostly intrigued by games in the latter category. Every now and there comes a computer game that does not only entertain me but aims to sharpen my mind.

World of Goo certainly belongs in this category. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to this game recently by my friend. If you expect 3D graphics, killing, kicking or blazing speeds, then you can skip the rest of the post. If you are still here, then you will learn how a simple game with inspiring sounds – Danny Elfman meets Ennio Morricone – and strategically designed levels will win you at first glance.

The object of this 2D platform game is reminiscent of an older, but yet classic game, Lemmings. Like that game, in which you had to collect as many Lemmings as possible, in the World of Goo, you need to collect a specific number of Goo balls at the pipe that represents the exit. To reach the pipe, you have to make intricate Goo structures by connecting some of the balls together. The remaining balls just hover around the structure until it reaches the pipe and sucks them. There is, however one minor detail that makes the big difference: the connections of the structure are not rigid but elastic. This gives a whole new purpose to the physics skills that you acquired – hopefully not in vain – during your high school years and makes you think twice before you make every move. As you progress the levels, you will guide your Goo balls through obstacles like hills, unusual terrains, water, away from nasty shredders and spikes, and you will also be armed with special balls, balloons and other aids.

Level completed!

Level completed!

The game is divided into 5 different chapters, all of which contain different levels. There are 47 different levels in the World of Goo and a special one called “World of Goo Corporation”. This is just a repository of all the extra Goo balls that you have saved while playing all other levels. The aim is to make the tallest Goo structure and to compare it to the ones of all the other players in the world.

2d_boy

World of Goo is the fruit of labour of just two game designers, Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler, that together formed the independent gaming company 2D Boy. And to top it all up? You need not splash a fortune to buy a new game console. For a mere $20 (£ 13.4 last time I checked) you will get both the PC and the Mac version (and the Linux one when is available). Give it a free trial: download the demo, play the entire first chapter and become an instant Goo-fanatic.

 

Lambda.

 

(first two images are screenshots of the game. All images © 2D Boy.)

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A Photographer’s Life, 1990 – 2005

January 10, 2009

annie_leibovitz

She is probably the most prominent portrait photographer of our time. Her works are featured in the glossy pages of the biggest magazines on the planet – Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair– and examples of her work are the topic of heated discussions worldwide. One of her most-talked photographs, the portrait of the naked John Lennon kissing Yoko Ono, was taken only a few hours before Lennon’s death. Yet, visitors of her latest photographic exhibition “Annie Leibovitz, A Photographer’s life, 1990 – 2005” at the National Portrait Gallery will get another glimpse of her personality. Next to her colourful, defined and artistically mastered commercial work, there exists a collection of mostly black-and-white, unprocessed and intimate images of her personal life.

“I don’t have two lives,” Leibovitz says. “This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.” The exhibition contains portraits of celebrities, including Brad Pitt, Leonardo diCaprio, Nicole Kidman and the naked, pregnant Demi Moore – the famous cover of Vanity Fair in 1991. It also includes photographic assignments of Leibovitz from the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s and the election of Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate. It could certainly do without the uninspiring pictures of George Bush and his cabinet, Colin Powell and General Norman Schwarzkopf. Among the celebrity pictures, two of them stand out not for the popularity of the subjects, but for not belonging to the human kind: a picture of R2D2 in a box and a slimline droid model from the film Star Wars™, The Attack of the Clones.

anne_liebovitz_gallery_guide

For the first time, we also see a collection of private moments of the photographer. Moments with her family, the birth of her children and the death of her father. But the most powerful work is a series of photographs of her long-time partner, writer Susan Sontag. The images display Sontag during her battle with cancer, her various treatments, her return to New York after a failed treatment and her eventual death.

At the last room, visitors can look at the creative process of organizing the images for this exhibition. A sample of her images, both of her personal life and professional work, are pinned on big cardboards, mostly in chronological order. This process helped her to decide the images she wanted to and to envisage the entire exhibition. In fact, the initial idea for this exhibition came about searching in her archive to find various pictures of Susan to include in a booklet for her memorial service.

In this exhibition, we do not get just a glimpse of Leibovitz as an established professional but as a human being. It is not the mastery of Leibovitz’s technique that elevates her to an iconic photographer. It is rather the narrative nature of the images, the underlying story that they tell, that makes her photography the work of a genius.

Lambda.

P.S.: The exhibition “Annie Leibovitz, A Photographer’s life, 1990 – 2005” at the National Portrait Gallery in London lasts till February 1st, 2009. The book, Annie Leibovitz, A photographer’s life, 1990 – 2005, containing more than 300 of her images, was published by Random House, Inc.

(photo © Robert Scoble and second image, scanned from the gallery guide © National Portrait Gallery)

Medea²

January 5, 2009

Medea and Jason

Medea and Jason

They say that the purpose of art is to provide a vehicle for expression. In a broader sense, I believe that whatever invokes feelings can be considered art. And I do not remember any other performance invoking such strong feelings to me than Medea² by Dimitris Papaioannou, which I saw in Athens last October.

Dimitris Papaioannou, originally a comic book writer, trained in the Athens School of Fine Arts alongside the famous painter Ioannis Tsarouchis. Although Papaioannou was until recently famous only to a few as an artist, revolutionary choreographer and avant-garde director, he gained almost unanimous recognition in Greece for his inspiring work of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic Games in 2004. Medea, regarded to many as his pinnacle work, was presented by his Edafos Dance Company in 1993. 15 years later, raised to the power of 2, the performance has changed: with a new cast and new sound effects, it is stripped of any artistic fanfare and returns to a simpler- yet austere – form.

According to Greek mythology, the story of Medea, granddaughter of Helios, starts in Colchis, where she meets Jason in his quest with the Argonauts for the Golden Fleece. Medea, a powerful witch, offers her magical powers to Jason on the condition to marry her. They both return to Greece, where she uses her powers to rejuvenate Jason’s father. Being forced to flee from their home, due to Medea’s failure to rejuvenate other people, the family finds sanctuary to Corinth. It is there that Jason falls in love with Glauce, the princess of Corith, and abandons Medea. Outraged by his betrayal, Medea decides to avenge Jason by sending Glauce a poisonous dress and by murdering her two sons.

Sun and Dog

Sun and Dog

It is Medea’s inner mind rather than the human figure that the performance aims to illuminate. Her mind is in constant battle: there exits a bright side, portrayed by Sun, and a darker one, dominated by her dog. We witness all the stages of human despair: the betrayal of Jason; the alienation of Medea; her gradual reclusion; the inner fight to depression and the final stages of manic depression.

The most powerful scene of the play is the tantalising dance of Medea with the chairs, that portrays the final stages of her despair. From the moment that Medea touches the water, it becomes clear that her path is set. The dog has clearly won over Helios, and the inevitable will happen.

As in Euripidis’ tragedy, our heroine is not depicted a madman but a distressed and betrayed woman that decides to punish her husband for his infidelity. And although, we might not agree with Medea’s actions, we are given the opportunity to understand, if not sympathise, with her ulterior motives.

After all, katharsis in tragedy is, in essence, nothing more than a matter of proportion¹.

Lambda.


P.S.: For the lucky few that are still in Athens, you can watch Medea at Pallas Theatre until the 11th January.

See also: Dimitris Papaioannou, Dimitris Papaioannou on YouTube

Blogs: Nassos K, Un nouveau ideal

Medea² TV trailer

Medea² alternative TV trailer

Medea trailer

(all pictures were scanned from the performance book, © by Rene Habermacher)

¹Chimonas, Y. 1989. Yorgos Chimonas, Euripidis’ Medea. Kastaniotis Publications.

New Year’s Resolutions (or at least one)

January 1, 2009

Fireworks

I never really understood why people give such importance to something was devised for its practicality: time. That’s why I never really understood the big fuss about New Year’s Day. Surely, it marks a complete orbit of the earth around the sun. But for many people in this planet (either belonging to different religions or nations) the New Year has not arrived today.

On a more practical side, the advent of the New Year (to the people that still believe it arrived today) marks a day for self-assessment of the past year and the renewal of promises.

Which brings me to today’s topic for this post: my New Year’s resolutions. Last year, I promised to start writing a blog, so that I can practice and further develop my writing skills. Almost a year passed, and I fooled myself into believing that I was just taking some time to carefully design and craft the blog. On December, I realised that unless I took immediate action, another year would pass by doing nothing. But today was what I feared the most, when I would look back at the previous year and realise that I did not keep my promise.

So, rather than losing time in the dressing room, I decided to show up to the football pitch and just learn how to play football during the game. That’s how this blog came to life and why I am not so angry with myself today. I guess that for this year’s resolutions, one thing that I need to promise myself is to write more.

Lambda.

(photo © LambdaPhage)