22 August 2010

Exploring the Dark Side

Lately it seems I've been spending a lot of time exploring the 'dark side' of things, particularly philosophy and music, ranging from reading about 'left-hand path' philosophy to watching Cradle of Filth videos on Youtube.

This has a lot to do with aspects of my personal philosophy I've been thinking about lately. I believe the human mind does have a darker side, the side ruled by subconscious fears and desires, the wilder, potentially more harmful instincts and impulses. (These are the real 'demons', if we take a subjective/Jungian approach to religion, as I do, seeing deities primarily as archetypes of the subconscious.) I also think that trying to deny, ignore or banish this side of us (as conventional religions have a habit of doing) is probably not healthy, that it would be better to integrate it, to guide it towards positive results.

But philosophy is only part of it, of course, there is also a purely aesthetic fascination. I've always been a fan of horror movies and dark fantasy. Though 'darkness' isn't synonymous with 'evil' of course, and I equally enjoy elves and soothing, beautiful starlight and candle-lit evenings.

There are some snags, though. Some left-hand path traditions and darker metal bands seem to have a tendency to go overboard with it, with their misanthropic and anti-Christian themes. Hostility towards other groups and philosophies is something I find annoying (in milder forms) or simply unacceptable (in extreme forms). Wasting time and energy on hate is simply counterproductive. I don't see why being pro-dark should mean being anti-light, or anti anything else (except anti-stupidity and anti-intolerance, of course).

In music this applies also sonically. Black metal bands tend to sound rather too harsh to my ears, countering aesthetic elements I could potentially find pleasing if used more moderately. (Although I must say in general I seem to find the black metal shriek, used in moderation, less bothersome than the death metal grunt.)

In philosophy and religion this doesn't really present much of a problem. I'm not one for following any ready-made philosophy, anyway. Probably couldn't even if I wanted to. I make my own path, and don't care much about what others think or believe. But in music I'm of course always open to new experiences. It could be interesting to find music that explored the dark side in a more positive way, both sonically and thematically.

16 August 2010

Assembly 2010 Revisited

I meant to write a recap post about my weekend of following Assembly 2010 on TV right after the weekend, but somehow it got delayed with other stuff, and I was having problems with my Flash installation etc. (Yes, I still, or rather again, have Flash installed. Grudgingly. It breaks my heart, but what can you do, it's a Web 2.0 world...)

In a nutshell, I had a blast watching the show and the compos (short for competition, naturally) were entertaining and the quality was, from my not-really-a-scener viewpoint, pretty good. I think I managed to catch all the (non-gaming) compos (except for executable graphics, which was so short I missed it while popping down to the kitchen).

So I thought I'd post links to some of my favourite creations. Assembly's website has this to say about demos:

Demos and intros are not pre-rendered animations but rather non-interactive programs made for a chosen computing platform (Windows, Mac, game consoles for few examples). These programs are made to show off one's skills and to entertain the general audience. Since the user cannot interact with the program flow the demos are kept short, packed with stunning visuals and often synched with a catchy soundtrack.

The deserved winner of the demo compo was ASD with their demo Happiness Is Around the Bend. Pure audio-visual delight. Here's the Youtube link.

The 4k and 64k intro categories are always fascinating. As the names suggest, these are demos that are limited in size to 4 or 64 kilobytes, and it's amazing what skilled programmers can pack into an executable of that size. The winner of the 4k category was Neanderstaller by Pittsburgh Stallers. (Video quality is a little below par there, though.)

One of the highlights for me is of course the oldskool demo compo (i.e. demos for obsolete hardware). Sadly there were very few entries again this year, but the winner, the Amiga demo Grind by Dekadence & Accession, was pretty good. Very low res, of course, but with a nice atmosphere and aesthetic style.

Aside from the demo compos, I'm of course always interested in the music compos. The winner of the main music was one pretty awesome hard rock number called The Apocalypse Will Arrive On A NES Cartridge by GRiMM / Meridian, which uses NES sounds as a lead instrument. The winner of the executable music compo also features some spiffy NES chip goodness: Pixelated Knight Tales by King Thrill / Tekotuotanto.

Just one more: the winner of the short film compo. RetroStorm by Tekotuotanto is a very cool tribute to oldschool gaming.

More entries can be found at assembly.org in the gallery section. And I also recommend the Demoscene Documentary released at Assembly. This first episode covers the famous Finnish demogroup Future Crew.

5 August 2010

Assembly 2010 Begins

I thought I would have blogged about the demoscene and Assembly before, but if I have I can't find such a post now. So, today at noon I turned my TV on, and it's likely to stay on for the most part until Sunday. Why? Because Assembly 2010 has begun, and a live broadcast from there is shown on the local cable network.

Assembly is, of course, Finland's biggest demoparty, and one of the major demoscene (here's the Wikipedia article if you don't know what that is) events worldwide. Now, I'm not a scener. I've never been involved in any kind of demo production, nor have I ever even been, physically, to Assembly. But I've had an interest in the demoscene for a long time. I first became aware of it sometime near the turn of the millennium when I was introduced to tracker software (another Wikipedia link). Many of the sample tunes I downloaded, and loved, were by a guy called Skaven (aka Peter Hajba), from the legendary demogroup Future Crew. I love the now rather retro, oldschool sound of 90's tracker-produced electronica, which was largely associated with the demoscene.

Like I said, I've never been to Assembly, because a) it costs money, b) I'd need suitable friends to go with, and c) if I went, I'd really want to participate in some compo (which for me would most likely be some music compo), and that's easier said than done. But some years ago I discovered AssemblyTV, which is streamed online and also broadcast on our local cable network. Watching the compos and other stuff is fun. And as I once again managed to miss all of this summer's conventions, this is as close to any major event as I'm likely to get anytime soon...

4 August 2010

Moore, Magic and Me

I just read this bit from the Wikipedia article on comics writer Alan Moore, which is very descriptive of my own views and experience:

On his fortieth birthday, in 1993, Moore openly declared his dedication to being a ceremonial magician, something he saw as "a logical end step to my career as a writer". According to a 2001 interview, his inspiration for doing this came when he was writing From Hell in the early 1990s, a book containing much Freemasonic and occult symbolism: "One word balloon in From Hell completely hijacked my life… A character says something like, 'The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind'. After I wrote that, I realised I'd accidentally made a true statement, and now I'd have to rearrange my entire life around it. The only thing that seemed to really be appropriate was to become a magician."

I've been a big fan of Moore's comics for some time (his run on Swamp Thing, Watchmen and others being some of the best works of fantasy and science fiction ever created in any medium), but I wasn't really aware about his ideas on religion/magic before. The statement above, and other thoughts summarised in the article, only increase my respect for him.

I've written about various occult topics in this blog, and other parts of my website, before, but lets say it publicly for once: I practice ritual magic. I don't practice it frequently or well, because I'm just too darn lazy and crap at really concentrating on anything, but it is still something I have a real interest in. I don't subscribe to any particular school of thought or tradition, but have been influenced in particular by Wicca, hermetic/qabalist traditions and Aleister Crowley.

As for my views on religion, one might say that I'm externally an agnostic, but internally a neopagan. Moore's statement, 'the one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind', is a perfect description of my views. Why should anything we can imagine be less important or powerful than what we perceive in the world around us? Without a balanced internal world we're unable to function properly in the external world. And the way we communicate with the internal world is through words, symbols and actions in the external world, i.e. ritual.

This seems like a very shallow summary of deep issues I've been thinking a lot about over several years, but that's really the gist of it, and I can't really think of anything worthwhile to add at this point.