Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Cat Lady (thoughts on the game)

Recently, my husband and I settled into a holiday appropriate game, purchased during the Halloween Steam sale for a mere pittance.  "The Cat Lady" is a point and click adventure game, which uses what appears to be pixellated photographs as the main characters, and a background made of digital mixed media consisting of edited photographs, disassembled, reassembled and edited for maximum mood and texture.  It's sort of an artsy mix that I find very basic, but very appealing at the same time.  It's like a moving collage, made by Sorrow personified, in a dread induced state.  So basically, it's awesome, and anyone sharing my taste would love it!

The game begins with our "heroine", Susan Ashworth, staring into her Cat's eyes as she patiently waits for the pills she swallowed to poison her body and bring her to a peaceful death.  This may sound like a glorification of suicide, but I don't see it that way, and I'm not one to romanticize death.  Susan, our heroine, is a truthful portrayal of tragedy as she suffers from a slothful, deep depression resulting from isolation and loss.  It's probably the most refreshingly accurate representation of mental illness and depression I've seen in popular media, so accurate that I have to wonder if the writer drew from personal experience.  

When she fades from our world and crosses over into a world between, she is denied death by what appears to be an old lady, who we surmise to be the Devil or Death.  Susan is then blackmailed into returning back to body (and her empty life) in order to rid the earth of five parasites before she can find her peace.  And so the journey begins!

one of the five parasites

The game is very heavy on story and dialogue, and like most point-and-click adventure games, it relies on problem solving to move the game forward.  You must interact with the environment and other characters around you and pay attention to clues in the surroundings and in dialogue in order to reach your goals.  I find this game method much more pleasing than the ever popular first person shooter games, where the object is usually "shoot so and so" hidden behind a shoddily written story and forced unvarying dialogue (yawn).

The dreaded criticism...
The Cat Lady is an indie game, so it will have an indie feel to it, especially where the graphics and voice acting are concerned.  The graphics are not 3D or computer animated, but instead take on a more cut and paste approach, like an avant garde South Park.  Personally I prefer this, because when a game is too realistic, I often find it too nerve-racking to finish (ahem, Outlast).  The voice acting is not top notch quality, ranging from fantastic for the two main characters, to downright silly for some of the lesser roles.  The Devil or Death happens to be my least favorite, as the actress botched it with something that sounds like a forced fake German accent, which spontaneously changes to an accent that sounds like the voodoo queen from Monkey Island (if you get this reference, then congrats, you're a geek).  Her intonation was good, but I found the accent to be really forced, and downright distracting.  Another thing about the audio that really bothered me, was that the voice actors that played the supporting roles were all obviously using very cheap microphones without any sort of pop filter or volume control.  My husband didn't seem to notice this, but I've owned enough microphones to know that it didn't sound professional.  But, remember, this is an indie game, which means their budget was probably very limited.  All in all, I think they did a great job telling a story and realizing their dream with the funds they had.  It was a very satisfying, exciting game with plenty of story, atmosphere, and suspense, and I strongly recommend it!

You can buy the game DRM free direct from them, or from GOG:
Or, if you already have a Steam account, and don't mind DRM, you can buy it here:

get ready to kick some ass

Monday, May 9, 2016

don't tell me to smile

You're walking along the street, lost in thought and a polo wearing douchebag with perfect teeth and a self assured strut says "Smile!".  Has this ever happened to you?  If so, you're probably a female living in the United States suffering from something commonly referred to as "resting bitch face".   The fact that a normal, expressionless face is even given a name (a negative one, at that) is disturbing to me, because it denotes that there is something wrong with your mug if your lips are not turned up in a cheesy grin 100% of the time.

I've been told that some Eastern European country (Russia, I believe) has a saying along the lines of: "the only people who smile constantly are either crazy or American".  My fellow Americans, there's nothing wrong with the rest of the world because they don't share our affinity for smiling, nay, it's our obsession with baring our pearly whites that is weird.  So that German cashier is not grumpy or rude, they are paid (minimum wage) to do a good job, not to smile their way into your hearts.

One thing that many non-U.S. Americans don't understand is, that smiling is part of our cultural etiquette.  If you don't smile, you may be considered rude or stuffy.  First impressions are truly vital in the U.S., and if you don't put on a good face when meeting a potential boss, friend, partner, etc., then you may just throw a perfectly good opportunity out the window.  On the flip side, Americans take this etiquette as a global fact instead of a cultural phenomenon, and become offended by people from other countries that don't follow this (U.S.) norm.  In my opinion, it's always best to understand your own customs and the customs to other, in order to avoid conflict or misunderstandings.

Personally, I love the fact that Germans don't smile all the time, because it means that each smile from a German is a genuine expression of joy!  Now isn't that just a lovely concept??

I've always loathed having strange men telling me to smile.  I find it condescending, abrasive, and completely inappropriate that some bloke I've never spoken to thinks he has the right to demand something of me, of my body.  I'll do what I like with my body, with my mouth, and if that involves not smiling for randos then so be it!

And with that said, I'm off to work, where I shall walk along the streets with my resting bitch face, unharassed by people trying to impose their will regarding my facial expressions.  Thank you, Germany!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

lost in translation

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  I woke up today, on the metaphorical wrong side of the bed, but then this catchphrase popped in my head:  
Tuesday: at least it's not Monday

Right right right, let's move past my incessant ramblings.  I'd like to share a musical collaboration I did before my move, with Tury Saldana.  All Instrumental writing/recording/post-production by him, with my added lyrics/vocals.  I decided to write the lyrics in Spanish, though as to why I did this, I'm not sure.  Maybe it was a last goodbye to the country I called home for four years, or maybe Spanish is just a better language for expressing what needs to be said.  It's funny how much gets lost in translation, and how much I struggle now to be able to say exactly what I want to say in English.  We have so many words, but somehow, I find myself fruitlessly grasping at them, searching for the words that won't betray my thoughts, but knowing they will somehow fall flat.  Part of the beauty of Spanish (and German) is that following basic rules, you can invent words, and people will understand the meaning behind them.  It's like a living, moving language.  English (or maybe just contemporary U.S. English) lacks this creativity, which I find sad, because I like the complexity of our vowel sounds and the lulling, so-called laziness of our consonants.  I guess you can't have everything!

Without much more rambling, I'll leave you with the collab.  It's a reflection on the tragedy of dementia, and the complications that it causes in love-rooted relationships.  Anyway, give it a listen, and download it for free, if you like!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dear Costa Rica, I won't miss you

As some of you may know, I spent the last four years in Costa Rica, and anticipated a move during the last two years.  The move has finally happened, and we are settling into our new apartment in Northern Germany (there's no fun or privacy in getting TOO detailed as to my whereabouts ;-)).  Is it cold?  Yes.  Is the architecture badass?  Yes.  Am I losing my mind with chocolate and cheese lust?  Yes, definitely. 

My first impressions are good, people are very friendly and polite, the service is good, the food is fatty and delicious, and people actually stop for pedestrians!  I'm told this is most unusual (minus the fatty food) for Germany, and that I must live in a magical pocket of joy and wonder.  Or could this just be a thing of perception, as I've lived in the opposite extreme for the last four years?  My husband pointed out that perhaps my time in Costa Rica has primed me to see the positive, as the service there is horrible, the food is mostly bland, all material goods (incl food) are overpriced, drivers have the temperament and decision-making skills of a 15-year-old, government services are bogged down in bureaucracy and greed, and not to mention a certain infuriating brand of almost dishonest passive-aggressiveness that I thought I would finally be able to free myself from when I moved away from Seattle. 

Costa Rica bred in me, a raging irritability, an anger, a frustration, and a generally unpleasant disposition.  At the same time, I felt a feebility, a helplessness, a weakness in my inability to change anything about my surroundings, which only made me angrier.  I don't know if it was the noise, the saddening signs of the populace's disregard for human life, the feeling of entrapment and alienation between the bars built into every property and window, or if it was simply the heat of the burning sun; whatever the cause was, there was always fuel to keep the fire burning and to let it grow, right up 'till the very end when I was mugged, in broad daylight in a public park supposedly full of police officers, a mere three weeks before my departure.  I felt fed up, or as my mother would say, "Ich habe die Schnauze voll!"

So when people ask me "will you miss Costa Rica?" I can honestly answer "no"... "but what about the heat?  You're going to miss that in Germany!" nope.  That's what down coats and hot showers are for. 

As I type this, I am shivering in my heatless-until-October apartment, my feet numb, my nose and fingers icy, yet I find myself again, enjoying the sharpness of my thoughts, and the coolness, the placidity, of my emotional composure.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

gothic butterfly

I found this amazing, velvety black butterfly outside our front door and had to share!  I'm always finding weird and amazing insects, and although butterflies are just arthropods like cockroaches (my least favorite insect!), I have a certain affinity to them and their metamorphic cycle.

Monday, August 3, 2015

modern gothic kitchen

Anyone who has ever visited my house knows my obsession with with the black/red/grey/white color scheme.  It's in my paintings, in my clothes, and in my house.  It's a mix of modernity and darkness, and it appeals to my gothic sense, but not in a tacky-velvety-sort-of-way (I'm not anti-velvet, I've just compulsively hated the feel of it since I was a child).  Don't get me wrong, I love dark victorian-style furniture, I just believe that in my house, it would look as out of place as a peacock among hens.  If I had an obscenely large house, or even just fancy baseboards, then I would probably have chosen a victorian theme, but my house is small and simple, and I'm content with being stylish in a minimalistic sense.

Recently we had our dreadful white kitchen cupboards re-painted.  I say dreadful because you can literally see every speck of dirt on anything white, and since Costa Rica's dirt/dust has a mind of its own, my white cupboards turned the color of a coffee addicts' teeth.  It was silly and frivolous of me to splurge on a paint job because of our impending move, but I wanted to enjoy just a few months of real color.

I kept the old handles :-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

laundry day

Laundry day for the average Costarican goth looks something like this...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

beauty in decay

As tiny as the country I now call home is, there are many places I have yet to visit.  I've been parasailing in the Pacific, canopy touring along the Caribbean, seen opera in the Teatro Nacional, gone drinking in the capital, melted in the heat of Golfito, walked along the abandoned native ruins of Guayabo, and of course I have seen my share of active and inactive volcanoes, lagoons, rivers and national treasures.  I still haven't seen the turtle hatching grounds, the haunted asylum, the abandoned island prison, caves with eyeless fish, but all in due time!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of going to San Gerardo de Dota, a cloudforest mountain town with a tiny population of about 200 people.  It was the very definition of the boonies.  As we entered some trails, I couldn't help but feel like I was walking through a foresty trail in Washington on a rainy fall day.  My sense of nostalgia was only deepened when I found cluster after cluster of beautiful, untouched fungi.  I was reminded of my autumn walks through a foresty area behind a cemetery, just minutes away from my former childhood home, where I used to wander, looking in awe at various types of fungi springing from decaying piles of forest matter.

On our walks in San Gerardo, I found dozens of types of fungi, some normal, others bizarre, but all beautiful.  Then, we stumbled upon the goth queen of all fungi; a curling dark fungi that I could only decribe as a smalk black calla lily devoid of a pistil in the center.  

To see more awesome fungi from our trip...
click here and here

UPDATE: after nerding it up for a lengthy period of time, I can now identify this lovely fungus as Craterellus Fallax, also known as black trumpet, and, my personal favorite, trumpet of death.  Hooray for the internet!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

hell hath no fury...

Centuries ago, my viking ancestors were busy raiding villages and burning houses.  Now, my living ancestors (ahem, my family) are well behaved, rule abiding christians and jews.  Instead of burning houses, they burn candles every friday night, and instead of throwing their enemies to their knees, they instead kneel down to pray for them.  They prefer tame activies such as church potlucks or sabbath service, over their ancestors' raping and pillaging.  Personally, I am not inclined to raping and pillaging, nor am I inclined to being a saintly servant of an omnipotent, power-hungry, war mongering being (wait...did I just describe the god of the old testament, or was that description of a viking leader...?).  

This may be contradictory, but there are two viewpoints I solidly agree with from each side: love and mercy (christian), and sweet sweet vengeance (the vikings, obviously).  No I won't turn the other cheek, but I will forgive you for slapping me, after I cut your hand off.  Perhaps I'm wrathful, but there is something inside of me that cries"justice!" that wants to punish people for all of the cruelty that they have forced upon others, instead of waiting for them to die and be reborn as a dung beetle.  I want fairness, I want evenness, and most of all I want people that act out of selfishness to pay for their actions.  

My latest watercolor

Saturday, August 9, 2014

anatomy of a god

What is it about demented surrealism that makes it feel so calming and grounding to paint?  

Anatomy of a God, watercolor on paper

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Clockwork Woman

The last couple months have been weird.  The murkiness of our future has been hanging over my head so heavily for the last few months, that I actually stopped obsessively dreaming about hungry black holes sucking me into nothingness.  Instead I had these ridiculous, attending-school-without-pants dreams.  You know, the one where you show up late for a class that you forgot you had (even though you are long done with school), and have to take an exam that you didn't study for, and then, to top it all off, you glance down only to discover that for some bizarre reason, you have neglected to fully dress the lower half of your body.  Fan.tastic.

We sat around waiting to see if we would move, and to which of the possible five locations we would move to, and in the end, the only option was not a financially viable one.  Doctorate applications for big U.S. universities are a nightmare, especially if you are a Non-U.S. student in a tiny country, completing your masters in a university no one in the U.S. has heard of.  The University where my husband was excepted, unfortunately, wanted us to show them a bank account with 80,000 US dollars, just so that he could be admitted and then look for funding within the system.  Just reflecting back on this makes me laugh somewhat bitterly, as we live in a country where the average monthly pay is 30 USD per 8-12 hour day.  That's 600 USD per month.  Of course, now that the exchange rate has changed, and not in our favor, it is more like 550/month.  Meanwhile the price of food and rent continues to climb, as pay for blue collar jobs and unskilled workers remains the same.

I spent a good two solid weeks trying to cheer up my morose and disappointed husband, putting on the best happy face that I could.  Let me tell you, "happy face" is exhausting!  Especially when while smiling, you are taking the (rude) brunt of someones disappointment.  I suppose in a way, I was trying to avoid my own disappointment by discouraging his.

The problem with happy face, other than being annoyingly exhausting, is that once you finally give in and confront your "negative" feelings, you are too exhausted from pretending that everything is ok and putting on a brave face, to successfully rationalize and overcome those "negative" feelings and the reasons behind them.  Some of the darkest women I've known were peppy, smiley, vivacious women, who on the inside, were secretly dying a little each day.

If there is a moral to the story, it would be to confront your fears, your disappointments, your anger.  Don't let it fester underneath the surface while pretending everything is ok.  Holding back your tears or suppressing your anger does not make you a strong person.  It makes you a broken robot.

My clockwork lady.  Watercolor on paper, reference photo for the non-clockwork lady features used (from Vogue).