Saturday, October 14, 2017

At the End of Everything, Hold On to Anything

So. I'm in love with a computer game. And although it's been six months, I haven't bought the actual game yet. (I intend to, probably when November closes in. It feels like an ace up my sleeve, a secret weapon against the dark days.)

Of course, the game itself is relatively dark. The main characters struggle with depression and their futures in a rust-belt town full of lay-offs and closing factories. But during trivial squabbles and then real danger, their tight-knit friendship is believable as the force that helps them survive. 

Here's the preview: NIGHT IN THE WOODS

Wikipedia describes it as "an exploration game focused primarily on story in which players control an anthropomorphic cat named Mae, who recently dropped out of college and has returned to her hometown to find unexpected change." This doesn't begin to express the artwork, music, relationships and depth of emotion in the story. You settle into Mae's rambling days: explore her hometown in autumn, play with her jam band, get yelled at by neighbors who remember when she was a punk, and mess around with her best friend Gregg (what he calls "committing crimes"). The dreams Mae has at night are lyrical or frightening, and touch on a terrible event in her past which involved a baseball bat. This issue--mental illness in young people--is part of the darkness; the rest hinges on a sinister storyline that leaps (literally) into play three-quarters through the game. At this point, the effectiveness of the plot relies on whether you are emotionally invested in Mae's world.

The bonds between Mae, a fox called Gregg, Gregg's boyfriend Angus (a bear), and a sarcastic girl named Bea who happens to be an alligator, are profound. I wasn't the only one who found some scenes heart-wrenching. Many gamers who reviewed it reacted similarly. One calls NITW "a game play novel." Others call it "Rust-belt gothic," and "Depression and survival." Pretty amazing for an adventure about a twenty-year-old two-dimensional cat.

My experience with NITW was watching a YouTube gamer play it. (Welcome to my exciting life!) Actually, there's a whole world of games played on Youtube that are entertaining to watch, and hey--it isn't like people don't WATCH other GAMES like, oh, say BASEBALL... I discovered this during one of my Blu-ray TV trips down the YouTube rabbit hole. One thing led to another, and I started following various games played by a cheerful fellow who goes by Mr. Kravin. 

The musical soundtrack includes more than a hundred musical cues, including several Guitar Hero pop songs where you play Mae's bass part and a whole soundtrack for another video game on Mae's laptop--a game within the game. Here's a sample: Rainy Town, part of the three hours-plus original score by Alec Holowka: Rainy Town 

An interesting thing about NITW is that the characters' dialogue comes out in print on the screen. There are no voice actors, like in Fire Watch and other games. I liked Kravin's version because he did all the voices, which made me feel like a kid listening to a bedtime story. Other players I've watched just kept quiet and let the viewer read the conversations, which adds to the novel-esque quality. A reviewer pointed out that because there are no voices assigned to Mae and the others, they can echo the voices of our own in a novel.

I'm sure one reason this story has had such an effect on me is that I was a messed-up teenager wandering through my hometown (though on a horse, not on the telephone wires like Mae). The Hole In The Middle Of Everything can be interpreted as metaphorical or literal, but many of us are familiar with the personal version. What would I give to have had a group of friends like Mae's? 

Looking at the stars, Angus tells her, "I believe in a universe that doesn't care. And people who do."

May you have a Weird Autumn. Remember, the third jump is the big one. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

State of the Farm Address 2017

Ah, the state of Holy Crow Farm. Of...everything. It's a difficult, dark, possibly doomed state. But I'll give it my best shot for you, my dear and several readers.

Population: unchanged since last year (which was, alas, only a few blog posts ago). Holy Crow Farm still contains the same two humans, two equines, three cats, six chickens. I'm considering finding two free goats in need of a home, preferably pygmies, since I already have woven wire fences around my several small pastures. (Good fences make for happy goat-keeping). I'm considering raising meat chickens this year, two to four dozen, depending on who in my extended family a) wants to eat them and more importantly b) wants to help butcher them. This is The Little Red Hen theory of home-grown meat. And that is a politically incorrect metaphor.

Health and welfare:  Lyme Disease notwithstanding (my veins are full of it now, but one can't live here in The Wild if one is a candy-ass) I'm not in bad shape. Last year's new socket turned out to be the best fit yet, as well as being extremely stylish and finished with one of Perry's Cornell t-shirts. Unfortunately, I hurt my back falling off a stepladder at the beginning of last summer, besides having increasing pain in my "new" (replaced in 2012) knee. I didn't swim, didn't walk/hike much & was more miserable than I should have been. I need to make a trek to the orthopedic department of the hospital soon to find out if my knee is full of dry rot or carpenter ants. I'm afraid my kneecap is shot. They should have swapped it for surgical steel when they had the chance. In the meantime, I stay busy driving myself & teenager to doctor app'ts, the chiropractor, therapy sessions and prescription refills. This is why they pay me The Big Bucks. (Joke!)

Relations: As it happens, my parents are now Far Away, as they moved to New Hampshire to live with my sister last summer. It was a time of upheaval and serious trouble with space and gravity (my aforementioned fall off the step-ladder was during the process of building another small addition onto my goat shed/tack room/hay shed to put many treasures and tools from my parents). As a result, I'm now the Away Daughter, after 26 years, and it also gives me a reason to take off for New Hampshire every few months. In the immortal words of Macaulay Culkin, "I made my family DISAPPEAR." :-D  (Except for my daughters, who live near/with me, respectively, and without whom I would be lost, of course.)

Infrastructure: Many projects are in the works. The shop I built to hold the tools last summer turned out quite nice. With enough treasures collected along the roads, plus frequent trips through Ithaca's Reuse/Recycle Center, followed by a lot of paint, eclectic shabby chic is an attainable goal for Holy Crow's Close-Enough Construction division. Our motto: "A blind man would be glad to see it."  My daughters declared the finished building combination resembles the Weasley's house in Harry Potter. Unfortunately, now I can imagine another addition or two that will make the whole thing grow into a small barn, an organic, unending process. (I love to build shit.) Plus I'd like to build onto my back deck, preferably with a roof for shade when I hang my rarely-used porch swing. Then there's the eventual little dock that would make my one-legged entry/exit at my pond so much easier... I don't know if a trillion dollars will be enough after all.  *sigh*

Employment & Budget: I was denied disability last year, another cruel trick of the universe after I finally convinced myself to apply. I jumped through hoops by getting my doctors and therapist to corroborate my inability to cope, let alone jump, dammit. Dealing with the fulfillment of said hoops was itself very difficult. Hello? Did anyone LOOK at my lifetime earnings & spotty job history?? Who wants to survive like this if they had the ability to hold a job?? I've said it before and I'll say it again: I've always been an excellent worker  and a terrible employee. The defense rests, Your Honor. Maybe I'll try again. With a lawyer.

Outlook: Resigned, sometimes content, but mostly lacking real optimism. I want to ride my horse often this year, because I think I've lost touch with that part of me which was so crucial most of my life, and because my fifteen-year-old self is DISGUSTED with how old and pathetic I am. I'll keep writing, keep pursuing an agent and publication. I'll try not to feel I'm living the description of insanity: repeating the same experiment while expecting different results... I miss Perry a lot. I see him when I dream, often at a party, and he always gives me a big hug. I always know he's dead, and consciously try to shield these moments from myself, from my waking self that would end the dream. The other night when I dreamed I saw him, I grabbed him and kissed him. He wore a tan three-piece suit (?) and I said, I know you died, but are you still my sweetheart, the love of my life? He said, Of course!  <3

Till soon, sports fans.