Tuesday, March 4, 2008 03:25 PM
Last Week(end) Round-up
 by Fëanor

Last week and this past weekend were pretty busy for the poppy/Fëanor household. Here's a litle run-down of some of the more interesting stuff we were up to.

  • Wednesday night was New Frontier night; see my review here.

  • Thursday night, poppy and my fellow editor from Phillyist, Jill, went to a lecture called The Googlization of Everything, which was an interesting look at the effect that Google is having on us as people, on our culture, and on the way we collect, organize, and value information. Thought-provoking stuff. We were afraid it was going to be terrible when poppy realized during the introduction that the speaker, Siva Vaidhyanathan, is the author of a book that she only got through the opening of before throwing it down and ranting about how stupid it was. Thankfully, Vaidhyanathan is apparently a much better speaker than a writer.

  • After the lecture, Jill, poppy, and I headed to one of my favorite places in Philly - Nodding Head - for dinner and drinks, where we were eventually met by Jill's boyfriend. A good time was had by all.

  • Friday night, poppy and I attended this dance performance. It consisted of two pieces, both of which had interesting technology-related gimmicks. The first dance was performed behind a transparent screen on which images were projected. These images were somtimes simply shapes or lines, but other times they were clearly digital representations of dancers' movements interpreted by motion-capture technology. The lighting for this piece was also interesting; the floor was divided into a grid, and the lighting of each box in the grid was controlled separately, with the color of the light changing box by box throughout the performance.

    The gimmick of the second dance was that the soundtrack wasn't played over the sound system in the theater; you had to either rent a pre-loaded iPod, or download the music to your own iPod before the show. The only thing playing in the theater was a "soundscape" which consisted of some voices and noises.

    Both dances had a lot of neat ideas, but I'm sorry to say those ideas weren't executed particularly well. Also, the actual dancing in both pieces was mostly uninspired and uninteresting. I found the projections during the first performance to be distracting; I wasn't able to focus on the projections and the dance behind them at the same time, and had to look at only one or the other, which was irritating. As for the second piece, having everyone listen to the music on their own iPods was an interesting idea, but in the end it just distanced everyone from the piece and from each other, and made me feel the entire time like the music simply wasn't matching up with the performance at all. In a way, that was kind of the point, as we were asked to set our iPods on shuffle, and there was only a half-hearted attempt made to synchronize things. But I still think we were meant to feel like there was some kind of pattern or connection, and I didn't feel that way at all. The last song in my playlist hadn't even started yet when the dance was abruptly over.

    The whole performance just seemed distant and cold, and it didn't surprise me when poppy told me later that the choreography was done on a computer.

  • Saturday I got to see my brother and my niece, which I haven't gotten a chance to do in a while, so that was nice. And I got to play some games, which I haven't gotten a chance to do in a while, and which was also nice. I was particularly interested in trying out a couple of games I'd bought recently - HeroScape Marvel: The Conflict Begins and Munchkin Cthulhu - and I got to play both of them, so that was cool. I'm a little sad that I wasn't able to get in a game of Diceland, but what can you do? Anyway, as far as HeroScape goes, Peccable and I tried a scenario in which I played as the Hulk (of course), and Peccable put together a team whose only purpose was to take the Hulk down. It was a simplistic scenario, but it was pretty fun, and the game is balanced enough that it remained close throughout - even though the Hulk ultimately triumphed. Go Hulk! I liked very much how the game designers were able to capture the essential elements of the characters and express them in game mechanics; Hulk is able to do his gigantic hops and powerful smashes, and he even gets stronger the angrier he gets. Good stuff.

    As for Munchkin Cthulhu, we actually discovered twice during our game that we were playing it wrong, so maybe it's unfair to give my impressions. But basically it's just Munchkin with lots of funny Lovecraft jokes, and a few new game mechanics revolving around the Cultist class. It's pretty fun.

    Peccable and I also played a game he'd brought called Dungeon Twister that we both agreed was too abstract and complex to be very fun, and then poppy, EverMike, Peccable, and I all sat down together to play another game of Peccable's called In a Wicked Age that was actually a ton of fun. I didn't think I'd enjoy it, because it's a story-telling table-top RPG, and I've pretty much decided that I'm not very good at story-telling games or table-top RPGs, but In a Wicked Age is set in a fascinating, Conan-esque universe, full of magic, and the game is structured in a way that makes it very easy to create interesting characters and an interesting premise fraught with the potential for conflict. Peccable also did a great job of orchestrating things such that the game moved along quickly and was constantly full of exciting drama. I was really impressed with all the ideas we were coming up with, and with how cool the story was that we were creating. At a certain point we had to quit because it was just getting really late, but we might pick the game up again at some point in the future.

  • Sunday poppy and I met Debbie and Tim at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and checked out the special Frida Kahlo exhibit they've got going on over there. It was very cool. The exhibit is just about the right size, I think; it's not so large that you feel like you're walking through a maze of rooms forever, but it's also not so small that you feel like you've been ripped off. Plus, there are very few lesser works here; the great majority of the pieces are important and powerful. I wasn't sure going in how much I really liked Kahlo's work, but most of the stuff in there really impressed and moved me (especially works like The Two Fridas and A Few Small Nips). The audio tour was pretty decent, too (and I finally learned the correct pronunciation of her name!). All-in-all, a very good experience. Definitely get out to see it if you can. But try to go on a weekday around 10AM, or you'll have to fight your way through a big crowd.
Tagged (?): Alcohol (Not), Art (Not), Dance (Not), Drink (Not), Food (Not), Music (Not), Phillyist (Not)

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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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