In the West End in Vancouver. Spring of 2020.

The West End is a neighbourhood in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, located between the Coal Harbour neighbourhood and the financial and central business districts of Downtown Vancouver to the east, Stanley Park to the northwest, the English Bay to the west, and Kitsilano to the southwest across the False Creek opening.

The definition of the “official neighbourhood” of the West End, according to the city, is the area west of Burrard Street, east of Denman Street, and south of West Georgia Street. Historically the term originated and remains used by Vancouverites to refer to everything from Burrard Street to Stanley Park, including the Stanley Park Neighbourhood west of Denman Street and the Coal Harbour Neighbourhood. Coal Harbour Neighbourhood is officially designated as west of Burrard and to the north of West Georgia, although the newly built areas between West Pender Street and the waterfront are expressly “Coal Harbour” and not considered part of the West End.

Like all of Vancouver, the West End was originally a forested wilderness. The area was purchased in 1862 by John Morton, Samuel Brighouse, and William Hailstone, three men known as the “Three Greenhorn Englishmen,” or just the “Three Greenhorns,” owing to the belief that the naive men paid too much for the remote land. The men had plans to establish a brickworks on the shore of Coal Harbour, and their land claim was originally staked with the hopeful intent of mining for porcelain clays, but the grade of clay was not fine enough for that use. When those plans failed (a lack of transportation being a key factor) they sold a good portion of the area, by then known as the Brickmaker’s Claim, to Victoria investors who in turn tried to promote its development as New Liverpool. The only thing that happened with that scheme was a subdivision plan registered with the Land Titles office in New Westminster. Another name used for the property was the Brighouse Estate (Brighouse as a name came to refer to a particular part of Richmond, where “Greenhorn” J. Morton also owned property). One of the partners, observant that brick was a valuable building commodity despite the abundance of timber in the region, moved the brick-clay operations to Sumas Mountain, establishing the community of Clayburn, now a neighbourhood of Abbotsford.

Later, with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway, with its terminus at nearby Coal Harbour, the West End became Vancouver’s first upscale neighbourhood, home to the richest railroad families. Many of these families lived along Georgia Street, known at that time as “Blue Blood Alley” for all the posh mansions built there. Later mansions (including the Davie mansion) were built in then remoter areas of the West End as the financial district’s land values displaced the high-toned residences. This role was ultimately dropped with the increasing vogue for the upscale Shaughnessy neighbourhood, and as middle-class housing of various kinds began to fill out the West End. As the city grew, the West End became a transitory place for new arrivals from elsewhere in Canada, the United Kingdom, and later for immigrants from other countries, establishing a tradition of diversity. Following World War II, a significant German commercial community emerged along Robson Street, giving birth to the nickname Robsonstrasse, a name still occasionally used in marketing despite the loss of its original meaning.

The West End is bordered by downtown on the one side, Stanley Park on the other and by water on two. The West End is home to a mixed population, old and young, of Canadians, immigrants and international transient residents. Like other downtown neighbourhoods, the West End is very densely populated. It is adjacent to the downtown core business and financial districts, with traffic calmed streets punctuated by concrete islands, sidewalk barricades, and mini-parks and many residential heritage buildings including The Manhattan, The Beaconsfield, The Beverly and The Queen Charlotte.

Close to 45,000 people of all ages, incomes, ethnicities, and sexual orientations live in the West End. The age group of 20–39 years consistently ranks the largest at 48%, followed by 40-64 at 34%, 65+ at 13% and under 19 at 6%. Containing 7.4% of the City’s population, the West End welcomed 14% of new Vancouverites between 2001 and 2006. The West End is also home to Western Canada’s largest LGBTQ community. Vancouver’s gay village, called Davie Village, is centred primarily on Davie Street between Burrard and Bute.

The share of single-parent families in the West End is about 12%, compared to 17% for the City of Vancouver. Statistics also show that the West End is home to many children — the downtown peninsula now has more children than traditional family neighbourhoods such as West Point Grey or Kerrisdale. Lord Roberts Annex offers kindergarten to grade 3. The student population of Lord Roberts Elementary School (k-grade 7) represents 43 countries and 37 languages. King George Secondary School (grades 8-12) celebrated 100 years in 2014.

West End residents have been very active in shaping their neighbourhood and maintaining its liveability. In the 1970s, residents banded together to calm traffic that was using the neighbourhood as a shortcut between downtown Vancouver and the suburbs of the North Shore, across the Lions’ Gate Bridge. They also staged a successful, yet destructive “Shame the Johns” campaign to rid the West End of the sex work that was then visible in the neighbourhood. This campaign was formed by a group of politicians called the Concerned Residents of the West End (CROWE), prominently containing cisgender white gay men, who aided in the formation of a 1984 injunction granted by then-B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allan McEachern. This injunction banned sex workers from working west of Granville Street, which forcibly displaced them away from the relative safety and community support of Davie Street. Following this, they were forced into Yaletown, then Mount Pleasant, where they were repeatedly protested by “Shame the Johns vigilantes”, down East Broadway, and eventually into the Downtown Eastside, where already vulnerable sex workers are more open to violence and abuse than ever before. These displacements were a worsened repetition of the early erasers that happened on Dupont and Alexander Street. Further, this displacement largely targeted transgender, two-spirit and First Nations women, replicated the colonial practices and dispossession of land from the Musqueam, Burrard, and Squamish First Nations. Today, groups such as the West End Citizens Action Network, the West End Residents Association and West End Neighbours continue to be actively involved in keeping the West End liveable, leaving this history largely erased.

The West End is particularly famous among visitors for Robson Street. It was historically known as the Robsonstrasse, for the postwar period when it was a hub for immigrants from Germany, and was home to owner operated boutiques, schnitzel houses and other bistro-style dining establishments until the 1980s when the transition to the current fashionable shopping and dining area stretching from Burrard Street to Jervis Street, began. Many restaurants and shops can also be found along Denman Street closer to Stanley Park, and Davie Street between Burrard and Jervis streets.

Numerous parks and beaches can be found throughout the West End including Alexandra Park, Cardero Park, Nelson Park, Stanley Park and Sunset Beach. These parks range in size from 0.22 hectares (Morton Park) to over 406 hectare (Stanley Park). A portion of the Stanley Park Seawall promenade runs along the waterfront from Burrard Bridge to Ceperly Park.

The area is also known for English Bay Beach, a large park on English Bay which is thronged during the annual Celebration of Light fireworks display each year mid-summer. St. Paul’s Hospital, one of Vancouver’s largest and oldest health facilities, sits at the neighbourhood’s eastern edge on Burrard Street.

Community Centres in the West End include the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, West End Community Centre, Coal Harbour Community Centre and Barclay Manor. Depending on the centre, they offer swimming pools, gyms, fitness centres and an ice rink, as well as many meeting and all-purpose rooms for rent.

The West End is not to be confused with the West Side (which denotes the western half of the non-downtown part of Vancouver city to the south) or West Vancouver (“West Van”), a separate municipality. (Conversely, and to the confusion of some, “East Van,” “the East End,” and “the East Side” all denote East Vancouver.)

On November 4, 2015, The Canadian Institute of Planners announced winners of its fifth annual Great Places in Canada contest. A jury of seven professional planners named the West End as the Great Neighbourhood. Juror Jaspal Marwah MCIP, RPP stated that “the West End makes it easy, safe and inviting for residents to walk and bike to work, to access thriving local businesses and to explore Vancouver’s beaches, trails and Stanley Park. Transit access, traffic calming, street furniture, treed promenades, pocket parks and public spaces reflect a thoughtful approach to place-making. Home to the city’s LGBTQ community, the West End’s density is evenly matched by its diversity of residents, and by a strong commitment to creating an inclusive community that prioritizes affordable housing.”

Brutalism and the newly independent African states, A case study: The Kenyatta International Convention Centre

https://3rdworldarchitecture.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/brutalism-and-the-newly-independent-african-states-a-case-study-the-kenyatta-international-conventional-centre/

The Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) is one of the greatest examples of Brutalist architecture in Africa. The building is an important reflection on the countries feelings as a newly independent country. The choice of architectural style, brutalism, is important. Brutalist architecture wanted to escape from all architectural conventions and to create truly modernist architecture that could be applied to buildings universally around the world.

So what is brutalism, let start by looking at the etymology of the word. Although many people think brutalism comes from the English word brutal the word actually comes from the French term béton-brut, meaning raw concrete. The word brutalism was coined by British architecture critic Reyner Banham. Hence raw concrete is one of the most important features of brutalism. Although concrete had been extensively used in buildings in the 20th century it was almost always covered and hidden by some other material in the facade. Brutalism wanted to show concrete as it was, the honesty of the building is an important idea in brutalist architecture. The building unapologetically showing what it is. A building must be honest and people should be able to ‘read’ the building’s structure from the outside. Brutalism was also conflated with equality and can be seen as one of the most important architectural styles of communist countries. Brutalism wanted to build a world of equality and egalitarianism, this meant doing away with historical and cultural backgrounds.

Brutalism wanted to show what concrete could do and to be bold in its use. Concrete is interesting for a number of reasons, the most important being that it takes the shape of the mould in which you place it, this makes it incredibly versatile. Furthermore, concrete can be used for structural and non-structural parts of a building. This means that concrete is just as useable to create a non-structural wall or an ornament as it is in creating the structural parts of the building. This meant that there did not need to be a distinction between materials used for structural parts of the building and materials used for ornamental or functional parts of the building, it could all be done in concrete. Brutalism can be seen at its base as an experiment in what concrete can do and how it could be used.

Brutalism became an architectural experiment in medium but also a political and social experiment. In the west, brutalism became the go-to style for large social housing projects, like Robin Hood Gardens, and large public institutions, like the Boston city hall.

Brutalism had its heyday in the 1960’s and 1970’s right around the same time as many African nations were become independent, like the DCR (1960), Kenya (1963), Nigeria (1960) and Zambia (1964). These newly independent countries needed to build new buildings for there institutions and put their countries on the world stage.

African leaders needed an architectural style that showed how modern these countries were but also shows their independence from their former European oppressors. This required an architecture style that did not follow European conventions of architecture and a style that pushed away from all that had come before, brutalism was the perfect fit.

One such building is the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.

The KICC is named after the first president and father of the nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. In the 1960’s Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his party, KANU wanted a new party headquarters in the centre of Nairobi. The party wanted a small four-story building and asked Norwegian architect Karl Henrik Nøstvik and Kenyan Architect David Mutiso to design a building.

During the design process, the IMF/World Bank choose Nairobi to host a large conference, this required a large new convention centre to host the largest conference ever to be held in Africa. The event would take place in 1973 and the KANU headquarters was chosen to host the venue. The 4 story building turned into a 28 story building with more than 200,000 square meters of space. The building’s new design needed to not only capture the new Kenya but show what a post-colonial Africa was capable of.

The new design had three main structures, a tower, plinth and auditorium. The building’s design is supposed to reflect a closed (the auditorium) and an open flower (tower). This idea is created by the cone shape roof of the auditorium and the inverted cone at the top of the tower. The building is therefore emblematic of the country blossoming into a free independent state. Nøstvik and Mutiso wanted the building to reflect Kenyan design principle and were inspired by traditional mud huts. This is where the round shapes in the building come from and also the brown colour of the building.

The building can be seen as a brutalist structure because of its use of raw concrete, most notably in the plinth. The ramps are very reminiscent of the galleries in the Robin Hood Gardens in London. The grand monumentalism of this ramp, which acts are the main entrance to the building makes the building feel gigantic. Another brutalist feature of the building is that the construction and use of the building is visible from the outside. The auditorium is clearly visible from the outside. The building is honest in its constriction not only in the exterior but also in the interior of the building, where raw concrete is also extensively used.

The building’s three main structures (tower, plinth and auditorium) are not only a separation of functions but these three structures are also visually split, most notably between the plinth and the auditorium. The joint between these two structures is formed by a glass entrance to the auditorium. The auditorium is held up by thin ‘n’ shaped concrete arches. This leads to a very clear visually division between plinth and auditorium.

The KICC is one of the many examples of brutalist architecture in post-colonial Africa. Other notable examples are the Central Bank of Kenya also in Nairobi, La Pyramide in Abidjan, the independence Arch in Accra and Kariakoo Market in Dar es Salaam. All these buildings wanted to push away from there European colonial pasts and show what post-colonial Africa would look like. Although brutalism fell out of favour across the world in the 1980’s the style forever embodies post-colonial Africa.

Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/545

Inextricably linked to all the most important historical and political events in Russia since the 13th century, the Kremlin (built between the 14th and 17th centuries by outstanding Russian and foreign architects) was the residence of the Great Prince and also a religious centre. At the foot of its ramparts, on Red Square, St Basil’s Basilica is one of the most beautiful Russian Orthodox monuments.

Brief synthesis

At the geographic and historic centre of Moscow, the Moscow Kremlin is the oldest part of the city. First mentioned in the Hypatian Chronicle in 1147 as a fortification erected on the left bank of the Moskva river by Yuri Dolgoruki, Prince of Suzdal, the Kremlin developed and grew with settlements and suburbs which were further surrounded by new fortifications – Kitaigorodsky Wall, Bely Gorod, Zemlyanoy Gorod and others. This determined a radial and circular plan of the centre of Moscow typical of many other Old Russian cities.

In 13th century the Kremlin was the official residence of supreme power – the center of temporal and spiritual life of the state. The Kremlin of the late 15th – early 16th century is one of the major fortifications of Europe (the stone walls and towers of present day were erected in 1485–1516). It contains an ensemble of monuments of outstanding quality.

The most significant churches of the Moscow Kremlin are situated on the Cathedral Square; they are the Cathedral of the Dormition, Church of the Archangel, Church of the Annunciation and the bell tower of Ivan Veliki. Almost all of them were designed by invited Italian architects which is clearly seen in their architectural style. The five-domed Assumption Cathedral (1475–1479) was built by an Italian architect Aristotele Fiorvanti. Its interior is decorated with frescos and a five-tier iconostasis (15th–17th century). The cathedral became the major Russian Orthodox church; a wedding and coronation place for great princes, tsars and emperors as well as the shrine for metropolitans and patriarchs.

In the same square another Italian architect, Alevisio Novi, erected the five-domed Church of the Archangel in 1505-1508. From the 17th to 19th century, its interior was decorated by wonderful frescos and an iconostasis. In this church many great princes and tsars of Moscow are buried. Among them are Ivan I Kalita, Dmitri Donskoi, Ivan III, Ivan IV the Terrible, Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexei Mikhailovich Romanovs.

The Cathedral of the Dormition was built by Pskov architects in 1484–1489. Inside the cathedral some mural paintings of 16th–19th century have been preserved and the icons of Andrei Rublev and Theophanes the Greek are part of the iconostasis.

In 1505-1508 the bell tower of Ivan Veliki was built. Being 82 metres high it was the highest building in Russia which became the focal point of the Kremlin ensemble.

Among the oldest civil buildings of the Moscow Kremlin, the Palace of the Facets (1487–1491) is the most remarkable. Italian architects Marco Fryazin and Pietro Antonio Solario built it as a great hall for holding state ceremonies, celebrations and for receiving foreign ambassadors. The most noteworthy civil construction of the 17th century built by Russian masters is the Teremnoi Palace.

From the early 18th century, when the capital of Russia moved to St. Petersburg, the Kremlin mainly played a ceremonial role with religious functions. By the end of the century the architectural complex of the Kremlin expanded with the Arsenal reconstructed after the Fire of 1797 by Matvei Kazakov. The Senate was built in 1776–1787 according to the plans of the same architect as the home of the highest agency of State power of the Russian Empire – the Ruling Senate. Today it is the residence of the President of Russia.

From 1839 to 1849 a Russian architect K.A. Thon erected the Great Kremlin Palace as a residence of the imperial family which combined ancient Kremlin buildings such as the Palace of the Facets, the Tsarina’s Golden Chamber, Master Chambers, the Teremnoi Palace and the Teremnoi churches. In the Armory Chamber built by K.A. Thon within the complex of the Great Kremlin Palace, there is a 16th century museum officially established by the order of Alexander I in 1806.

Red Square, closely associated with the Kremlin, lies beneath its east wall. At its south end is the famous Pokrovski Cathedral (Cathedral of St Basil the Blessed), one of the most beautiful monuments of Old Russian church architecture, erected in 1555–1560 to commemorate the victory of Ivan the Terrible over the Kazan Khanate. In the 17th century the cathedral gained its up-to-date appearance thanks to the decorative finishing of the domes and painting both inside and outside the cathedral. The construction of Red Square was finished by the late 19th century together with the erection of the Imperial Historic Museum (today the State Historical Museum), the Upper Trading Rows (GUM) and the Middle Trading Rows. In 1929, , Lenin’s Mausoleum, designed by A.V. Shchusev and an outstanding example of the Soviet monumental architecture, was finished.

Criterion (i): The Kremlin contains within its walls a unique series of masterpieces of architecture and the plastic arts. There are religious monuments of exceptional beauty such as the Church of the Annunciation, the Cathedral of the Dormition, the Church of the Archangel and the bell tower of Ivan Veliki; there are palaces such as the Great Palace of the Kremlin, which comprises within its walls the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin and the Teremnoi Palace. On Red Square is Saint Basil the Blessed, still a major edifice of Russian Orthodox art.

Criterion (ii): Throughout its history, Russian architecture has clearly been affected many times by influences emanating from the Kremlin. A particular example was the Italian Renaissance. The influence of the style was clearly felt when Rudolfo Aristotele Fioravanti built the Cathedral of the Dormition (1475-79) and grew stronger with the construction of the Granovitaya Palace (Hall of the Facets, 1487-91) by Marco Fryazin and Pietro Antonio Solario. Italian Renaissance also influenced the towers of the fortified enceinte, built during the same period by Solario, using principles established by Milanese engineers (the Nikolskaya and the Spasskaya Towers both date from 1491). The Renaissance expression was even more present in the classic capitals and shells of the Church of the Archangel, reconstructed from 1505 to 1509 by Alevisio Novi.

Criterion (iv): With its triangular enceinte pierced by four gates and reinforced with 20 towers, the Moscow Kremlin preserves the memory of the wooden fortifications erected by Yuri Dolgoruki around 1156 on the hill at the confluence of the Moskova and Neglinnaya rivers (the Alexander Garden now covers the latter). By its layout and its history of transformations (in the 14th century Dimitri Donskoi had an enceinte of logs built, then the first stone wall), the Moscow Kremlin is the prototype of a Kremlin – the citadel at the centre of Old Russian towns such as Pskov, Tula, Kazan or Smolensk.

Criterion (vi): From the 13th century to the founding of St Petersburg, the Moscow Kremlin was directly and tangibly associated with every major event in Russian history. A 200-year period of obscurity ended in 1918 when it became the seat of government again. The Mausoleum of Lenin on Red Square is the Soviet Union’s prime example of symbolic monumental architecture. To proclaim the universal significance of the Russian revolution, the funerary urns of heroes of the revolution were incorporated into the Kremlin’s walls between the Nikolskaya and Spasskaya towers. The site thus combines in an exceptional manner the preserved vestiges of bygone days with present-day signs of one of the greatest events in modern history.

Integrity

From the date of including the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square on the World Heritage List all the components representing the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are within its boundaries. The territory and the integrity of the World Heritage property have also remained unchanged. Within its boundaries the property still comprises all the elements that it contained at the date of nomination. The biggest threat, however, is unregulated commercial development of the adjacent areas.

Authenticity

The history of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square is reflected in the archival documents of 12th–19th century, for example in medieval chronicles, cadastral surveys, estimated construction books, painted lists, inventories, foreign notes and in graphic matters such as manuscripts, chronicles, plans, drafts, engravings, lithographs, sketches of foreign travelers, paintings and photographs. These documents are exceptionally valuable information sources. Comparison of the data received from archival documents and those obtained in the process of field study gives the idea of authenticity of the property and its different elements. This comparison also serves as the basis for project development and for the choice of the appropriate methods of restoration that may preserve the monuments’ authenticity.

On the border of the ensemble a number of monuments destroyed in the 1930s were reconstructed according to measured plans.

Protection and management requirements

The statutory and institutional framework of an effective protection, management and improvement of the World Heritage property “Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow” has been established by laws and regulations of the Russian Federation and the city of Moscow.

According to the decree of the President of RSFSR of 18 December 1991 № 294, the Moscow Kremlin was included among especially protected cultural properties of nations of Russia – the highest conservation status for cultural and historical monuments in Russian legislation.

“Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow” is a Cultural Heritage Site of federal importance. State protection and management of federal sites is provided by Federal Law of 25.06.2002 № 73-FZ “On cultural heritage sites (historical and cultural monuments) of nations of the Russian Federation”. The federal executive body responsible for protection of the cultural property is the Department for Control, Supervision and Licensing in the Cultural Heritage Sphere of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.It is in charge of all methodological and control functions concerning restoration, usage and support of cultural heritage sites and the territories connected.

The World Heritage property is situated in the urban environment of Moscow. The city policy regarding cultural heritage protection and town-planning regulation is the responsibility of Moscow City Government, represented by the Department of Cultural Heritage, the Department of Urban Development and the Committee for Urban Development and Architecture of Moscow. In 1997 the boundaries of the protective (buffer) zone were approved in order to preserve the property, and to maintain and restore the historical architectural environment as well as the integral visual perception of the property.. There is a need to ensure the creation of an appropriate buffer zone and to develop close liaison between all stakeholders, including the Moscow City authorities, to ensure that constructions around the property do not impact adversely on its Outstanding Universal Value.

The World Heritage property is used by the following organizations: FGBUK (Federal Government Budgetary Institution of Culture), the State Historical and Cultural Museum-preserve “The Moscow Kremlin”, the Administrative Department of the President of the Russian Federation, the Federal Guard Service of the Russian Federation and OJSC “GUM Department Store”.

Tao Hongjing (456-536)

https://goldenelixir.com/taoism/tao_hongjing.html

The Taoist master, alchemist, and pharmacologist Tao Hongjing was born in 456 near present-day Nanjing. He served in various positions at the courts of the Liu Song and Qi dynasties until 492. In that year he retired on Mount Mao (Maoshan), the early seat of Shangqing or Highest Clarity, a Taoist tradition based on meditation and visualisation techniques. The retreat he built on the mountain remained the centre of his activities until his death in 536.

After his initiation into Taoism around 485, Tao set himself to recover the original manuscripts, dating from slightly more than one century before, that contained the revelations at the basis of the Shangqing tradition. Tao authenticated and edited those manuscripts, and wrote extended commentaries on them. This undertaking resulted in two works completed in ca. 500, the Zhengao (Declarations of the Perfected) and the Dengzhen yinjue (Concealed Instructions on the Ascent to Perfection, only partially preserved). These and other works make Tao Hongjing into the first systematizer of Shangqing Taoism, of which he became the ninth patriarch.

During his retirement on Mount Mao, Tao Hongjing also worked on the Bencao jing jizhu (Collected Commentaries to the Canonical Pharmacopoeia), a commentary on the earliest known Chinese pharmacopoeia, the Shennong bencao (Canonical Pharmacopoeia of the Divine Husbandman). The original text contained notes on 365 drugs. To these Tao added 365 more, taken from a corpus of writings that he refers to as “Separate Records of Eminent Physicians.” Tao’s arrangement of the materia medica was innovative. He divided the drugs into six broad categories (minerals, plants, mammals, etc.), and retained the three traditional classes of the Shennong bencao only as subdivisions within each section. In a further group he classified the “drugs that have a name but are no longer used [in pharmacology].” Tao’s commentary discusses the nomenclature, notes changes in the geographical distribution, and identifies varieties; it also includes references to the Taoist “Scriptures of the Immortals” (xianjing) and to alchemical practices. With the exception of a manuscript of the preface found at Dunhuang, the Bencao jing jizhu is lost as an independent text, but has been reconstructed based on quotations in later sources.

Since the establishment of the Liang dynasty in 502, Tao enjoyed the favour of Emperor Wu (r. 502-549), on whom he exerted remarkable influence. Shortly later, he began to devote himself to alchemical practices under imperial patronage. His main biographical source, written in the Tang period, has left a vivid account of these endeavours. Along with scriptural sources they testify the importance of alchemy within the Shangqing tradition, which represents the first known instance of close links between alchemy and an established Taoist movement.

Dead Space Review

https://www.giantbomb.com/reviews/dead-space-review/1900-68/

The game is much greater than the sum of its familiar parts. It’s also one of the best shooters so far this year.

When EA announced Dead Space a year ago, I recall some members of the press deriding the game for looking just a little too familiar. I know I was guilty of doing it. But in our defense, you have seen all this before: A massive, grungy industrial starship gone dark, adrift in a remote system with no sign of its crew. A horde of hideous monsters spewing forth from a sinister, amorphous biomass hiding deep within the ship. Audio and text logs scattered around every deck that reveal what happened, piece by piece. An over-the-shoulder perspective that snaps to a zoomed-in aiming view for combat.

Doom 3, check. System Shock 2, check. Gears of War, Resident Evil 4, check.

But all those blatant similarities didn’t matter in the end. After finishing it, I felt stupid about knocking Dead Space for displaying its influences so prominently, because this game is pretty darn amazing.

The story isn’t astoundingly original, but it does a fine job of moving you from one section of the ship to the next. You take the role of deep-space mining engineer Isaac Clarke, a member of a five-man crew dispatched to investigate the loss of contact with the USG Ishimura, an enormous “planetcracker” mining ship. Clarke’s girlfriend was stationed on the Ishimura, so he has personal as well as professional reasons for getting in there and finding out what’s going on. About five minutes after arriving, Clarke’s own ship is toast, his five-man crew is down to three, and those three have been separated by a vile menagerie of creatures overrunning nearly every inch of the ship. Over the course of the game’s 12 roughly hour-long chapters, your priorities will shift from saving the Ishimura to saving your own ass, and you’ll barely fight your way through one tense, frantic monster attack after another as you try to escape the ship. The game is densely packed with spectacular moments from beginning to end, and the action is paced well enough that you never get bored or feel overwhelmed at any given moment.

It’s easy to forgive a game for being derivative when it’s presented with so much impact and it plays so damn well. Dead Space has some of the tightest, most well-balanced controls I’ve ever used in this kind of game. There are so many variables in a third-person shooter that contribute to the way it feels–the camera speed, the sensitivity of the analog sticks, the interval between hitting the aiming-mode trigger and actually being able to fire a gun–and I can’t complain about any one of these factors in Dead Space; they all feel sublimely tuned and perfectly balanced to be easy to use and, above all, fun. You can hold a shoulder button to run, but unlike Gears’ famed roadie run, you can still stop on a dime and break into a sidestep in an instant (or even run backwards). Everything about the moving, aiming, and shooting controls is superbly balanced and really entertaining.

EA has been throwing around the catchy marketing phrase “strategic dismemberment” in reference to Dead Space for a few months now, which is justifiable since that’s actually a good way to describe the combat. Most of the game’s grotesquely mutated enemies have spindly arms, legs, tentacles, and other appendages that you can shoot off with a well-placed shot or two, and you get these satisfyingly meaty snapping sounds and a jet of blood every time you separate another body part. You can also stomp an enemy that’s down but not out with your heavy spacesuit boots to splatter their limbs before they can get back up and keep coming at you. And I do mean splatter–it’s a really gory game.

The precision aiming required to properly dismember the enemies adds more depth to the combat than you’d get with most shooters, where you’re just pumping rounds into a guy’s torso or, at most, aiming for his head. Here, you’ll want to specifically shoot for the knee to stop a fast-running monster from chasing you down, or shear off one of the smaller types of enemies’ tentacles because they can fire spikes with them. The game’s basic pistol weapon, the plasma cutter, even lets you orient its wide beam vertically or horizontally for more accurate slicing and dicing. Another weapon, the ripper, shoots a saw blade about eight feet in front of you and then just holds it spinning in midair, letting you rake it over an enemy and slice them up every which way. You can imagine the possibilities. With eight weapons on the roster and an alternate fire mode for each, there’s a lot of variety in the carnage here.

Dead Space throws in a few more mechanics above the basic shooting action. You can telekinetically pick up and launch some objects as weapons, and you can also throw a stasis field to slow down an enemy briefly, making it easier to take their limbs off with precision. Both of these abilities are useful in fairly frequent environmental puzzles, some of them simple and some clever. I liked that the game didn’t try to portray Isaac as a mining engineer…who also happens to have psionic abilities. Both of these abilities stem from devices in his suit, and that’s that.

Lastly, there are some noteworthy sequences in zero gravity and in a vacuum (sometimes both). The vacuum sequences don’t play any differently–they just feel more urgent, since they put you on a timer as your air tank runs out–but they dramatically desaturate the color palette and dampen the sound almost entirely, which creates a uniquely eerie atmosphere, especially when you’re clomping along with your magnetic boots on the outside of the ship and some monsters silently sneak up behind you and attack. In the zero-G sections, those boots keep you planted while everything else floats freely, and you can jump from any one flat surface to another. So every wall becomes a potential floor and you never really know which way is up. It’s a refreshingly confusing approach to weightlessness that creates some interesting puzzle scenarios.

This is a game you really need to play on a big high-def TV with a good, bass-heavy sound system. It’s an audiovisual tour de force, with some of the moodiest and most impressive lighting effects on this generation of consoles. Some of the interior environments of the Ishimura are positively cavernous, or filled with massive thrumming machinery. There aren’t a lot of boss encounters, but the sheer scale of a couple of them in particular left my jaw hanging open. The sound design is also extremely well done, not just for the ever-present creepy ambient backdrop, but also some of the in-your-face effects, like Isaac’s sonorous gasping when he’s badly hurt and out of breath, or that aforementioned grisly wet crunch of severed monster limbs. The sound effects have a real weight to them that beg to be conveyed over speakers with some serious muscle.

Dead Space would be a great game no matter who made it, but I’m more impressed with it since it’s coming out of EA. That bastion of the annualized sequel is finally taking some risks with original games, if not always original ideas, and in this case the risk paid huge dividends. You’ve probably seen most of Dead Space’s parts in other games from time to time, but you’ve rarely seen them assembled this well.

Historians believe Queen is related to Prophet Muhammad

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5587555/Historians-trace-Queens-heritage-Prophet-Muhammad.html

Historians believe the Queen is a descendant to the founder of Islam – after tracing her family tree back 43 generations.

The claim makes the British monarch a distant ancestor of the Prophet Muhammad.

The findings were first published in 1986 by Burke’s Peerage, a British authority on royal pedigrees.

But the claim has recently resurfaced after a Moroccan newspaper said it had traced the queen’s lineage back to the Prophet.

According to their findings, Elizabeth II’s bloodline runs through the Earl of Cambridge in the 14th century, across medieval Muslim Spain, to Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.

Although disputed by some historians, genealogical records of early-medieval Spain also support the claim and it has also been verified by Ali Gomaa, the former grand mufti of Egypt.

Burke’s publishing director wrote to the-then Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher in 1986 calling for increased security for the royal family.

‘The royal family’s direct descent from the prophet Mohammed cannot be relied upon to protect the royal family forever from Moslem terrorists,’ he wrote to Thatcher.

Recognising the connection would be a surprise to many, he added, ‘It is little known by the British people that the blood of Mohammed flows in the veins of the queen. However, all Moslem religious leaders are proud of this fact.’

The study from Burke’s Peerage first officially suggested the Queen’s connection to the Prophet Muhammad.

They claimed the Queen descends from a Muslim princess called Zaida, who fled her home town of Seville in the 11th century before converting to Christianity.

Zaida was the fourth wife of King Al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad of Seville. She bore him a son Sancho, whose descendant later married the Earl of Cambridge in the 11th century.

But British magazine the Spectator points out Zaida’s origins are ‘debatable’. Some historians believe she was the daughter of a wine-drinking caliph descended from the Prophet. Others say she married into his family.

The reaction to the Queen’s reported links to the Prophet have been mixed.

Abdelhamid Al-Auouni welcomed the news in his piece in Moroccan newspaper Al-Ousboue, writing: ‘It builds a bridge between our two religions and kingdoms.’

Meanwhile a tongue-in-cheek headline on the Arab Atheist Network’s web forum read: ‘Queen Elizabeth must claim her right to rule Muslims.’

One person on internet forum Reddit rubbished the claims however, writing: ‘This is just propaganda used by the British monarchy to appease the growing number of Muslim subjects.’

Buckingham Palace has been contacted for comment.