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Music Monday: January indie releases February 6, 2017

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This January seemed to be a good month for indie VGM album releases, even with my limited exposure to news on that front. So for this week’s post, I thought I’d highlight a few of the new releases I came across.

Chaos Theatre by The Runaway Four

This Vancouver group touts itself as a medley band, which is more accurate than to say they’re arrangers. After the first track on this first studio recorded album of theirs, there isn’t a lot of original interpretation or expansion of the source tracks, and focuses on straight performances weaving together many songs into five mega-mixes. However, the combination of great instrumentation, solid performance, and smooth transitions between the source material makes for great, engrossing ear candy that both grabs and holds your attention and pays a very satisfying homage to the original tracks.

 

The Travelers (self-titled album)

When you have a collaboration of musicians from VGM cover bands such as Materia Collective, the Triforce Quartet, and Tetrimino, you can expect high quality results. The Travelers’ namesake album delivers on that promise with lush European folk arrangements of songs from various (mainly older) games, in many cases really showing the potential of these classic soundtracks. There are very occasional moments when songs become a little dull or repetitive, but overall, this album is very lovely. It’s also the only album in this list that isn’t free to download, but with professional-grade production quality and I don’t think a single synthesized instrument, the $7 price tag is a bargain.

 

Super Mario RPG: Window to the Stars

This latest album from VGM community and repository extraordinaire OverClocked ReMix will probably be a treat to fans of EDM and drum’n’bass (as well as Super Mario RPG), as those styles make up the bulk of the three-disc album. There’s a bit more distortion and chippy sounds, even from familiar names in the VGM community, than I tend to prefer, but some of it works for me, and there’s still a bit of variety. Joseph “XPRTNovice” Zieja, as always, does not fail to surprise with his contributions, including an arrangement that turns the bizarre, Quentin Tarantino-esque “And My Name’s Bukki (Booster)” into a haunting orchestral expansion worthy of any mindwarp movie trailer.

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Let’s Talk January 25, 2017

Posted by thejinx in life, Uncategorized.
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I suffer from anxiety.

That’s one of the first times I’ve said that out loud.

Why is that? I don’t think I will be ostracized or maligned for admitting it. I don’t think I’ll be treated like I’m diseased or insane. I won’t be locked up or force-fed medication that will erase my personality.

The people I know won’t tell me to suck it up, or that I’m faking it, or that I’m just trying to get attention. They won’t tell me to just get over it, or try to convince me that other people have it worse and I have no reason to complain. They won’t belittle me or try to cut me out of their lives.

I won’t be made to feel that I somehow failed as a person. I won’t be made to feel like getting over it is as easy as just thinking positive thoughts. I won’t be made to feel like this struggle is trivial or invalid. I won’t be made to feel like I’m not allowed to show it, or that showing it means I’m weak.

So why has just admitting it been so hard if I don’t have any of these struggles?

Because these things have happened, and that’s where the stigma of mental illness comes from. Even though I’ve never experienced such reactions, years—decades—of such responses have created an unconscious reflex to keep it to myself. People who cannot and will not understand what it’s like to live with mental illness have dictated how people who do will look at it, even to themselves.

So let’s put the dialogue in the command of people who actually suffer from it.

My name is Catherine Fitzsimmons and I suffer from anxiety. I can’t control it, it impacts my daily life, and I am not ashamed of it.

Music Monday: Happy Adventure, Delightful Adventure January 23, 2017

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A couple months ago, I made a post sharing some music on my ‘feel better’ playlist, closing out with the soundtrack of Secret of Mana. While Secret of Mana is a very effective stress reliever for me, that wasn’t the point of the post, and it wasn’t the soundtrack I meant to mention as part of it. The soundtrack I actually meant to include with that post was for Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.

 

The original Super Mario RPG was an adorable, hilarious, and incredibly fun game, and it had a soundtrack to match. The tunes are catchy and cute while still having good depth and suiting the game perfectly, and something about them always makes me smile when I come across a track, especially when listening to music on shuffle.

Even the track titles make me smile when I see them, with names such as “The Road is Full of Dangers”, “The Road is Still Full of Dangers”, “Hard Working Moles Are Good Moles”, and “Fight Against Smithie, Who Likes Transforming”.

It was not easy to find the soundtrack back in the early 2000s, and in fact I sold my Nintendo 64 to get the money for it when I did. I have never regretted that decision.

It’s an odd choice to be one of my favourite soundtracks, to be sure, but I couldn’t love this soundtrack more, and it never does fail to make me smile.

Mistakes January 21, 2017

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I have a problem with perfectionism. Not with other people’s work, just my own. It causes a lot of stress and impedes my work, and it impacts everything I do. Chopping vegetables. Parking the car. Doing my daughter’s hair. And, of course, it greatly impacts my creative endeavours.

So, in an effort to fight my perfectionism, I challenged myself this week to do some art entirely in pen – no underlying pencil sketch, thumbnailing, studies, or other preparatory work allowed. And in an additional effort to embrace those mistakes, I’m sharing what I drew this week just as it is, no image manipulation involved.

mew-2017

comic-gamermom

eyeshadowombre-tink-hair

squirrel-girl-2017

24 days of tea: Week four December 21, 2016

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And now, the final week of my DavidsTea advent calendar. Again, for those keeping track, it is a day late, this time due to opening night for Rogue One. Anyway, on with my reactions.

20161215_190141Day nineteen: Organic Sweet Almond Green

This one was… interesting. ‘Sweet’ certainly is apt. I’d say cloying. It wasn’t bad to start, but I can’t see myself enjoying this one long-term.

 

20161217_215108Day twenty: Cardamom French Toast

It had a wonderful French toast aroma dry, but prepared the only flavour I could really pick up was the cinnamon. Kind of a shame.

 

20161218_204102Day twenty-one: Spiced Apple

I’ll be honest, I drank this one while I was fairly distracted with a few other things, so I didn’t really take in the flavour properly. Suffice to say, while I enjoyed it, it didn’t stand out. If I want something spiced apple flavoured, there were other blends in the set that I enjoyed more.

20161219_194433Day twenty-two: English Toffee

Well, this may be a tiresome litany, but my hopes were low on this one because I don’t like toffee. Alas, this blend delivered on toffee, so I barely made it two sips in before it planted firmly in my bottom three with Genmaicha and Coconut Cream Pie. Moving on…

20161220_185518Day twenty-three: Organic Kashmiri Chai

Not bad. While I like the taste of chai tea, I tend to find the flavour a little… overbearing? But this one was milder and so I found it enjoyable. It’s possible I didn’t steep it long enough, as it still looked fairly light, but following the same instructions for all the other blends yielded quite dark tea – which I generally prefer – so I think this one just isn’t as strong. In a good way.

20161221_185336Day twenty-four: Santa’s Secret

It’s pretty hard not to immediately love a tea blend that includes tiny candy cane-shaped sprinkles before even tasting it. I think I steeped this one a bit too dark, as the peppermint and vanilla flavouring got a bit lost in the black tea. It wasn’t bad as it was, but I’m reserving final judgement on this one until I prepare it properly. It does make a very suitable conclusion to the set.

At last, I come to the end of my tea journey. It’s been fun trying out new varieties, and I’m certainly going to enjoy revisiting many of these blends as I finish what came in the set (the Irish Breakfast in particular goes very far). What I have learned is that I can’t trust the aroma of a tea blend by itself, which is usually the main selling point of a blend in a store like DavidsTea.

Would I buy a set like this again? I don’t know. It would have to be very different from this year’s for me to consider it. There were only a few blends I really loved, and they mostly seemed to be fruity/apple-flavoured blends. Perhaps my tastes are a bit narrow, but I didn’t feel like I got a wide palette of tastes out of this set.

I guess I’ll just have to keep trying more.

24 days of tea: Week three December 14, 2016

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Over halfway through my DavidsTea advent calendar and on to new tastes! For those keeping track, it is a day late. Didn’t get home from my event Sunday until practically bedtime. After a nine-hour day followed by a 90-minute drive down half-plowed highway, I just wanted comfort tea rather than experimentation. But I digress.

20161208_192534Day thirteen: Creme Caramel Rooibos

As I am not a big fan of caramel and not at all a fan of creme, and the dry tea smelled strongly of both, I was not expecting to like this one. Fortunately for my taste, the prepared tea didn’t taste nearly so strongly of either and I found it drinkable. Not one I would go back to, but not my least favourite of the collection so far.

20161209_193044Day fourteen: Irish Breakfast

For all my growing enthusiasm for loose leaf tea over the past year, this is the first regular tea I have had in loose leaf form. Very nice. I steeped it a bit too dark, but it still had a very pleasant, smooth taste.

20161210_185755Day fifteen: Coconut Cream Pie

… yeah, let’s just leave it at I don’t like coconut and move on.

Also, after taking fourteen pictures of the same thing, I decided to spice this one up a bit.

20161212_194438Day sixteen: Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait

… Indeed. What can I say? It both smelled and tasted exactly as advertised. It actually tasted better than I expected, considering I’m not a big fan of parfaits. (This week is a bit more of a miss for me.) It’s hard for me to say I want something that tastes of parfait, but I did rather enjoy it. Although, I happened to look at the nutrition info and found a rather worrying statistic for this blend…

2016-12-12-22-43-16

That’s a typo, right?

20161213_184831Day seventeen: Chocolate Covered Almond

It’s nice. Has more flavour on the aftertaste than on the initial sip. I enjoyed it, though not enough that I’m likely to pick it up on my own.

 

20161214_191136Day eighteen: Sleigh Ride

I get the impression this is one of DavidsTea’s signature holiday blends (though admittedly, the first time I had really been in a DavidsTea store was when I went to buy this set). Nice and very complex flavour. At first, about all I could taste was the cinnamon, but as I continued drinking it, the fruit and nuts came out. Part of me was thinking that the blend is trying to be too many things, but after finishing the cup, I found I enjoyed the journey.

Just one week left now. To be concluded!

24 days of tea: Week two December 7, 2016

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It’s another week of tea-related adventure with my DavidsTea advent calendar!

Day seven: Nutty and Spice20161202_184157

Pretty much lives up to the name.

… yep.

It has a nice flavour, though the spice is strong enough that it’s not something I can enjoy often (I’m weird about spiced tea like that.)

Day eight: Organic Ginger Pear20161203_184227

Has a nice fruity aroma dry, but prepared I could mainly only taste the ginger. It’s a blend I would love to have around when feeling under the weather, but not something I am likely to enjoy on a regular basis.

20161204_190355Day nine: Forever Nuts

Oh, I like this one! Not as nutty as the name would have me believe, but the mixture of apple, cinnamon, and almonds gives it all the delightful flavour of an apple tart without any of the sugar. Would definitely go back to this blend.

20161205_193318Day ten: Green Passionfruit

I braced myself for something I wouldn’t like when I saw the name, but actually, I enjoyed this blend. Pretty fruity taste and mild green tea flavour. While I’m not likely to pick it up on my own, I did enjoy it in a sampler pack.

20161206_185248Day eleven: Hot Chocolate

Actually a fairly passable substitute for hot chocolate. Rather lighter on flavour, not surprisingly, but that’s probably more than a little due to the decreased amount of sugar. Not bad.

20161207_192156Day twelve: Bear Trap

So fruity. It’s the fruitiest. In other words, I’m a fan, especially since only one of the many fruits in this blend has sugar added, which makes the sugar content in the prepared drink negligible. It is aggressively fruity, for those who might not enjoy the flavour as much as I do. Probably also tastes very nice iced.

Stay tuned for more next week!

24 days of tea: Week one December 1, 2016

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This year, I’ve been increasingly enjoying loose leaf tea. So, in an effort to try out some new varieties, I decided to pick up a DavidsTea advent calendar.

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It’s a cleverly packaged assortment of teas and herbal infusions that can also double as a really neat craft supply/loose part storage box. Each tin holds about enough tea to make two cups. In the interest of sharing my discoveries (but mainly just so I can remember what the heck I drank) I thought I would keep something of a log as I go.

20161126_203935Day one: Snow Day

Cute presentation. Vanilla-y scent was a bit of a turnoff, but the only distinct flavour I picked up in the drink was a pleasant minty taste. Of course, given that the ingredients are pretty much chocolate, chocolate, sprinkles, and peppermint flavouring, it’s not exactly friendly to a diet. Probably why I enjoyed it so much.

20161127_162138Day two: Jumpy Monkey

Wow. They’re not kidding when they call this a stimulant. With two types of high caffeine tea and four types of whole coffee bean in here, this thing has enough kick to replace my morning coffee. Has a pleasant coffee, nutty taste. I am concerned that a theme is forming, though, as it does also contain white chocolate. I like tea because it’s not loaded with sugar…

20161128_194431Day three: Genmaicha

This was one of my concerns with getting a set like this, as I don’t generally care for green tea. But, I try to have an open mind, and after all, at one time, I didn’t like tea at all. Alas, despite the rice mitigating the green tea flavour, I didn’t enjoy it.

20161129_185218Day four: Organic Serenity Now

Now this one I liked! Fruity teas are right up my alley, so this blend definitely struck my fancy. Lovely fruity aroma straight from the tin, but there was also a pleasant spice to it as well. This is one I would go back to.

20161130_193112Day five: Coffee Cake

This blend smells stronger than it tastes. In this case, that’s a good thing, because it has a powerful aroma. Not a bad flavour for the most part, but the sugar from the candied fruits made it a little too sweet for my taste.

20161201_190051Day six: Apple Cider

Not technically apple cider, but it is mainly made with apples. Nice aroma dry, even better prepared, and in fact tastes like a watered-down apple cider. Considering most I’ve drunk have been heavy on flavour and heavier on sugar, that makes it a win. It’s cozy, comforting, and the perfect accompaniment to falling snow and a warm blanket. Delightful.

More to come next week!

Music Monday: ‘Tis the season November 28, 2016

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Now that (American) Thanksgiving is done and gone, I thought I would share some holiday-themed music for this week’s post.

 

The OneUps – Super Mario’s Sleigh Ride

This song is a classic, and for years, it was pretty much the Christmas video game arrangement, at least in my collection. It’s a masterfully performed and seemingly effortlessly blended arrangement of songs from Super Mario World together with “Sleigh Ride”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and “Jingle Bells”. Sometimes the tunes trade off having the spotlight, sometimes the Mario music makes a pleasant backdrop to the classic carol, and sometimes both songs are played at the same time on different instruments. The effect is flawless and catchy and delightful.

ROCKtendo – Vanilla Lake

There were a number of great tracks on 2014’s Super VG Christmas Party, but this one was an absolute gem. The source material is from the original Super Mario Kart from 1992. The artist here took the original 30-second bossa nova tune and turned it into a fantastic 3:21 crooner ballad with lyrics about Mario Kart. And also Christmas.

I’ll be chasing that checkered flag
No more gifts to bag
For me
You can keep all your jingle bells
I’ll take turtle shells
Of red and green

Jay Epperhart – Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles

A lovely piano medley arrangement of several themes from various Final Fantasy games and Parasite Eve woven together with the classic “Carol of the Bells”.

Dale North – Christmas in the Village (Silver Bells)

Dale North, also of OneUps fame, has made a few Christmas-themed video game arrangements over the years, though I think this one, mixing a theme from Lufia II with “Silver Bells”, is my favourite.

Goomin Nam – Fisherman’s Horizon (Christmas ver.)

A lot of Christmas VGM is more like this – it doesn’t have any actual Christmas music and is just an arrangement of the original track from Final Fantasy VIII, but the instrumentation and tone have a Christmas-y feel to them, and it’s just a lovely song.

Happy holidays! I hope you enjoyed these songs. Do you know of any other holiday video game music/arrangements? Feel free to tell me in the comments, I always love discovering new music!

X-Wing Miniatures: Death Star trench run November 26, 2016

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I took some shots this week of a custom made scenario my husband constructed for Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures and couldn’t resist sharing them. Enjoy!




The game board was constructed of wood with a printed graphic overlay. The turrets were printed on heavy stock paper from a free downloadable template, with painted balsa stick barrels. Backdrop is a star field Gripmat  and of course the ships themselves are from the game.