Avalanche was an old arcade game released by Atari Games way back in 1978.

The story

This was one of Atari's last black and white games, the industry quickly moved to color after the release of Galaxian in 1979.

Activision liberally copied the gameplay of this title when they made Kaboom! for the Atari 2600, although their "copy" was technically superior to the original.

The game

Grab your spinners kids, because this is a paddle game. The top of the screen is filled with rocks, while the bottom half has five buckets (stacked on top of each other), that you control with your paddle.

Rocks begin falling from the top of the screen, and you have to catch them in your buckets. The game ends when you miss three rocks. After a little while sections of your bucket vanish, and the remaining sections become thinner, this keeps up until you only have a single bucket segment, which is only a few pixels wide. So far I have not been able to push through that part of the game to get to the next set of rocks (it really is hard), although I am playing with a trackball, it would be easier with a spinner or paddle.

The Machine

Avalanche shipped in a cool looking black and white cabinet. It has three-color painted sideart which shows a group of falling boulders. This title does not have a marquee, instead the monitor bezel extends all the way to the top of the cabinet (this game was seldom converted because of that). The monitor bezel is decorated with a brownish scene of dirt and rocks, and has a clear semi-circular are that shows the black and white monitor within. The game uses a set of color overlays to simulate color on the otherwise monochrome screen.

The control panel is decorated with a brown overlay showing large cracks in the earth, and it has a single optical spinner mounted in the center, with buttons far off to each side.

Where to play

You can play this game using the MAME emulator, although it does seem to have some issues related to mouse and trackball control under Windows NT based operating systems. To fix this, change the individual game controls to left and right keyboard arrows only (no joystick for left right, change it even if it already says that). Then exit the game and restart it. Changing any dip switch settings results in you having to fix this again. (I found this behavior under Windows 2000 and Windows XP, neither Windows 95 nor Windows 98 exhibited these problems, it is probably related to the NT mouse driver.

I would suggest playing Kaboom! after playing this game, as your Kaboom! skills will have improved after playing this difficult title.

This is an alright game to add to your arcade game collection. It is fairly cheap as far as ball and paddle games go, and you can always convert it to Breakout if you get tired of it (it isn't a plug and play conversion, but it isn't that difficult to pull off if you are handy with a soldering iron).

How to survive an avalanche

or at least: How to slightly improve your knowledge about avalanches, so you increase your chance of surviving it

If you spend a lot of time in snow and mountains, and then especially if you like off-piste skiing, you are in a sort of a danger zone of experiencing an avalanche once.

How I got in that mess

The first time I experienced an avalanche in real life, I was skiing on bigfoot skis (very short carving skis). I was riding on powdered snow, and suddenly a patch of snow about 20 m2 in size started sliding beneath me.

How I got out

When I noticed that the snow started to slide beneath me, time slowed significantly. Or my thoughts went faster. No matter - at least, I had plenty of time to think about what to do. I decided I had three possibilities:

  1. Try to outski the avalanche - Considering that I didn't know how fast the avalanche was going to go, and considering that bigfoot skis aren't exactly the most stable skis in the world, I decided this would be a bad idea. If the avalanche had caught up with me, I would have gotten it from behind, meaning that I would definitely be on the bottom of the avalanche
  2. Try to avoid the avalanche - This was the most tempting choice - ski like hell towards the side of the avalanche, into a forest, hoping that the avalanche would slide past me, and/or that the forest would at least break down the speed of the avalanche long enough to give me a bit of a head start. However, since I started the avalanche myself, I was already on top of the avalanche, and skiing to the side seemed like a hopeless task
  3. Try to get on the avalanche - This is what I did. I have later been told that I probably did the only right thing, although it is a bit of a gamble, because this is the only way you know that you definitely will end up in the avalanche. - In any case: I decided to turn around and started climbing against the avalanche, to at least get out on top of it.

Evaluation

If your avalanche is coming from above
Don't try 1. Do not try 3. If you hear it coming, just try to get as far as possible to the side of it. When the avalanche does hit you, chances are that you will not be too deep, and that the dogs will find you quickly.

If you are alone
When you are alone, chances are that people don't know where you are, and if you were caught in the avalanche or not. If you ever end up in an avalanche while being alone, just try everything you can to get away from it. (i.e do NOT do what I did) And drop your stuff. Get rid of a ski. Then a skiing pole etc. Just leave a trail, to increase the chances of them finding at least part of your kit, so they know in what area to search. Never drop clothing if you can help it - you are gonna need it!

Why skiing / running against the avalanche worked
Think about it. When you run away from something, and it comes from behind, it will work like a ball - you will be crushed under the ball. Running against it allows you -in theory- to end up on top of the ball. I was fortunate that the avalanche was rather small - but also in large avalanches, where you know you will get caught in it, struggling against the avalanche is the best thing to do, unlogical as it might feel.

How my experience ended

needless to say, I was scared as hell. I was alone. I hadn't told anyone what routes I was skiing. I was taking pictures. I didn't have any emergency food or clothing with me. All in all, I think I broke every one of the rules of the mountain. Which I will never do again.

In any case - my climbing against the avalanche probably saved my life. I managed to struggle against the avalanche through all of its duration. I did end up under snow, but, miraculously, not too deep. I managed to dig my way to the surface, and even though I had lost one ski and both my skiing poles, I hadn't lost my camera or any of my clothing. And I hadn't broken anything.

I started skiing down the hill on one ski, cold and fairly badly bruised. After about twenty minutes a snowscooter from the mountain patrol showed up. They took care of me and took me home.

Great story - very very bad experience. But if this helps anyone who ever gets in an avalanche - it was worth it.

-30-

Avalanche, this is the title of the first solo release by Canadian musician Matthew Good.

Before I bother to say much of anything about this particular album, I will tell you why it is important. Matthew Good has in the past presented his work with a group called the Matthew Good Band. Often confused with the Dave Matthews Band for reasons I've yet to figure out, the group seemed to have differing opinions on what the music should sound like. This was difficult for Matt who often felt the end product strayed too far from his original ideas. For this and other reasons, the vast majority of music they created was heavy on rock (not always Matt's preference), filled with dark humor and in some cases, a lot of anger and despair. Now, do not mistake what I've just said as a criticism. The group put out music that made me feel like I could not even hope to feel through any other means. They rocked, the music is and was always phenomenal.

Some time during the recording of the Matthew Good Band's last release, The Audio of Being, the group split over what might as well be called creative differences. This was some time in 2001, and now, in 2003 Matt has gone out on his own, with a new group of people who appreciate his artistic vision. Despite their presence and contribution, this is very much his art, now.

What they have created is Avalanche. An album heavy on melodic string pieces, honest, mature lyrics and the feeling that Matthew Good is a much happier man for the parting of his old band and the opportunity to make the music that he has always wanted to. It is absolutely beautiful.

matthew good vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards, percussion.
patrick steward drums, percussion.
richard priske bass, additional keyboards.
christian thor valdson is credited with additional guitar on lullaby for a new world order.

All strings were written & arranged by Matthew Good and Warne Livesy and performed by the strings of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Release Date: March 4th, 2003 on Universal Music (www.umusic.ca).
  1. pledge of allegiance
  2. lullaby for the new world order
  3. weapon*
  4. in a world called catastrophe**
  5. avalanche
  6. 21st century living
  7. while we were hunting rabbits
  8. bright end of nowhere
  9. near fantastica***
  10. song for the girl
  11. double life
  12. a long way down
  13. house of smoke & mirrors
* first single, ** second single, *** third single.
Weapon was also released on a Much Music comp. disc called Big Shiny Tunes 7 a few months prior to the album's release.

There are few artists with as much integrity as this man. What he has and will do for the Canadian music scene, and, most likely people in general is nothing short of amazing. This album is a perfect representation of everything that he has to offer. You're it.

Visit Matt's site: www.matthewgood.net and the unofficial site for Matthew Good fans and canadian artists in general, www.nationofcool.com. They're doing really cool things there. (Like creating a forum for aspiring canadian artists to display their work. Seriously, it's a really cool thing.)

And because it is something Matthew spends a lot of time promoting, I'll suggest a visit to www.amnesty.ca. They are doing very good things, too.

As hamster bong mentions above, Avalanche is the name of the first solo album by Canadian musician Matthew Good. He turns the post-grunge style of the Matthew Good Band albums inside out to create a percussive, melodic album with a comparatively incidental guitar presence. Drums, synths, and strings build the album's fundamental texture, with both guitar and electric bass adding little details here and there. This is a varied album, and the contribution of the different elements is different from song to song.

  1. Pledge of Allegiance (4:58)
    The album begins with muted guitar picking and a synth melody, with a laid-back, casual tone. Drive enters the song with drumming, a strong, toe-tapping beat that sits at the front of the mix. Everything fades to the back for the entrance of the vocals. Bells bridge vocal sections as subtle texture creeps into the music. The result sounds good, and comfortable in a way no MGB song ever was. The lyrics mainly make an ironic statement about politics and patriotism, but there is a double meaning to the title. Laced through the politics is a thread of a message to Matt's fans; he's "done letting you down". This latter message comes to the front in live performances where it is often the opening song. It ends with an extended fadeout.
  2. Lullaby for the New World Order (3:52)
    In contrast with the opener, the second song centres on acoustic guitar and strings. One of the catchier songs on the album, it may also be the warmest. Electric guitars appear about halfway through, and share a clean, flowing instrumental break with the strings. The lyrics have wonderful scansion but their meaning is relatively unimportant. Very much establishes the tone of the first half of the album.
  3. Weapon (5:52)
    Weapon was the first song to surface from the album and is perhaps one of the most 'intense' rock songs I've ever heard. The opening is quite peaceful, with the lyrical idee fixe 'Never turn your back on me' appearing quite quickly. These words form part of the focus of the song to great effect. About two minutes in, the heavy electric guitars crash in and the song takes off. The strings take over gradually, and then the guitars return in a crash. The final minute soars to a perfect finish.
  4. In a World Called Catastrophe (5:57)
    Matt's lyrical pretension gets the better of him here, with one of the central lines being 'In a world called catastrophe, my native tongue is blasphemy, so that's the one I'll write.'. The music is less compelling than the first three songs, lacking either the comfort of Pledge of Allegiance, the warmth of Lullaby for the New World Order, or the intensity of Weapon.
  5. Avalanche (7:26)
    A song whose structure seems obviously inspired by the titular event, starting very calm before very quickly building to a full, insistent chorus. Slowly, things weave around and change, with several climaxes along the way, including a rather extended section involving twisted voice samples. Eventually normalcy returns to the world, with a brief reprise of the opening.
  6. 21st Century Living (3:10)
    The true black sheep of the album, this song could fit on a Matthew Good Band album. Short and punchy, the heavy, sung chorus alternates with a rant on consumerism and ambition. The chorus is easily the heaviest thing on the album. As a sidenote, when I saw Matthew Good live in late March 2003, the rant from the record was replaced with one on the recently-begun Iraq war. It is likely that similar topical rants replace the one on the record during live performances. The song ends suddenly and...
  7. While We Were Hunting Rabbits (8:00)
    the next song fades in like reality after a particularly vivid dream. Utterly contrasting with the previous song, this song is slow, relaxed, and percussive. Possibly the most central riff of the song is played on tympani. Much of the song is taken up by a long, meandering fade, eventually disappearing to nothing in much the way it came, only slower. It very much has the feel of the end of a side on a vinyl LP.
  8. Bright End of Nowhere (4:08)
    This song provides a mellow opening to the second half of the album with its slow, dreamy guitar lines and relaxed beats. As the song progresses, it increases in intensity a bit, but it does not 'take off' the way it sounds it might.
  9. Near Fantastica (8:00)
    One of the more electronic songs on the album, it is an expansive, driving piece. The lyrics are paranoid and starkly imagistic, typified in the line "Born of the sea, blink, the sea is dead." The pretension that torpedoed In A World Called Catastrophe is here a bit more restrained and very effective. A little over halfway through the song, the mantra 'Can't fear fear, fear's the mind-killer' enters, a clear nod to the novel Dune, which is somewhat fitting to the song's theme. Like several of the other songs on this album, it has an extended coda which bridges to the next song. The single version of this song was quite heavily edited for length.
  10. Song for the Girl (3:16)
    As 21st Century Living is the traditionalist rocker on the album, this is the traditionalist ballad. The general tone of the album ensures that this fits in better than 21st Century Living. It is more uptempo than the usual ballad, but then so were the Matthew Good Band's ballads.
  11. Double Life (4:22)
    Continuing in the more reflective feel of the second half of the album, this song considers the problem of identity while considering someone who 'lives a double life'. The music is an uptempo, textured rock song with a true guitar solo in the second half that uses somewhat exceptional amounts of distortion.
  12. A Long Way Down (3:56)
    The true high point of the second half of the album, this song returns to the prominent drums and strings, and adds a piano to the mix to great effect. The lyrics are serviceable and fitting, although they are not the true focus of the song. A passage with droning synths appears in the middle of the song, but other than that the music feels very acoustic, if not in a traditional 'acoustic rock' way.
  13. House of Smoke and Mirrors (6:03)
    Like When We Were Hunting Rabbits before it, this song brings things to a close with a slow, quiet song. Unlike the previous song's false ending, though, this song is the true end of the album. More than the other songs, this song is about the vocals, which rise far above the rest of the mix in the first two minutes and continue to dominate in the rest of the song in a way they really didn't in the rest of the album. In the same way as the album did not begin with a bang, neither does it end with a bang.

Overall, the result is an album which has a dramatically different sound than Matthew Good's earlier work with his eponymous band, and most everything else I've heard as well. It is greater than the sum of its parts, the best album Matthew Good has ever recorded, and has only Radiohead's Hail to the Thief as competition for my favourite album of the year.


(CC)
This writeup is copyright 2003 D.G. Roberge and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/2.0/ .

Av"a*lanche` [F. avalanche, fr. avaler to descend, to let down, from aval down, downward; (L. ad) + val, L. vallis, valley. See Valley.]

1.

A large mass or body of snow and ice sliding swiftly down a mountain side, or falling down a precipice.

2.

A fall of earth, rocks, etc., similar to that of an avalanche of snow or ice.

3.

A sudden, great, or irresistible descent or influx of anything.

 

© Webster 1913.

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