My thoughts on “Mother 3”

MOTHER 3 is a powerful game that shows themes of feudalism versus technocracy, Darwinistic natural selection, individualism and conformity, and nature versus technology.

MOTHER 3 begins in Tazmily Village, a utopian paradise where humans and nature live in harmony. One day, an army of Pig-like soldiers invades the area and transforms the local wildlife into mechanical abominations, setting off a chain of events that eventually changes the tranquil lives of the town’s inhabitants forever. As the player, you play as multiple characters through eight distinct chapters to make sense of this strange and changing world.

The chief villain Porky and his Pigmask Army’s childish disregard and active malevolence towards nature drives much of the game’s conflict. In the prologue, the Pigmask Army sets fire to the forest for no discernible reason. Chapter 3 has Fassad, Porky’s chief underling, blackmail and torture the player’s avatar, a monkey named Salsa. Throughout Chapter 5, 7, and 8, the player journeys through a host of laboratories where scientists brainwash and experiment on various creatures. The very logo of the game sports this motif of unnatural melding – a mix of wood and metal, the organic and inorganic rammed together to elicit feelings of unease.

MOTHER 3 is about the corruption of utopia. The arrival of the Porky and his Army sets off a family tragedy and a chain of events that forever transforms Tazmily village. Over the span of three short years, rapid modernization of the town sends people to work at factories, creates a caste of disposable slaves, and transforms authentic happiness into a manufactured commodity. Those marginalized by or opposed to such radical change are exiled to the town’s margins or struck down by lightning bolts generated from a distant tower of judgement.

The isolation and dehumanization of modernity; the homogenization of individual thought and desire; the emptiness and ennui associated with consumerism – these are all elements expressed in MOTHER 3. By the end of the game, Tazmily becomes a ghost town, with its inhabitants relocated to the glamorous but ultimately shallow metropolis of New Pork City.

MOTHER 3 is also a bildungsroman, a tale of a child who matures into adulthood. Lucas, one of the main protagonists, is forced to grow up too fast in the wake of his mother’s sudden death, his brother’s lingering disappearance, and his father’s ensuing depression. From Chapter 4 on, the player guides Lucas and his friends to overcome enemies and challenges, eventually becoming strong enough to face Fassad and Porky.

A Unique Literary Telling

What I love about MOTHER 3 is that the entire package exists as a contradiction. Itoi’s insistence to use the videogame medium to tell a story that is structured like a play, complete with multiple acts and protagonists. The insertion of surreal and bizarre humour into serious moments. The fearless reliance of musical motifs or wordless silence to carry the emotional weight of pivotal scenes.  The choice of child-like visuals to convey a narrative steeped in adult matters of grief, loss, and the inevitability of change.

Out of these deliberate clashes emerges MOTHER 3’s ability to provoke and evoke. MOTHER 3 can make you laugh out loud one moment and then tear up the next. It is completely self-aware but is strong on warmth and whimsy. Its world is strange but is never weird for the sake of weird (well, almost never.) The story revolves around mature themes but never takes itself too seriously. The game constantly subverts expectations, and it is out of these acts of subversion that the game’s depth and nuances of thought shines through. Tragic, absurd, maddening, funny, poignant – MOTHER 3 can be all of these things for a player. It resists being distilled into the neat simple summaries like the ones above – a key characteristic of literary work.

Interestingly, it is less Lucas’ courage but more his childish innocence, retained through a traumatic journey in adulthood, that proves instrumental to the story’s conclusion. In the last scene, Lucas conveys his will towards the reconstruction of a broken world. While there is no going back to the false paradise of Tazmily and the outcome is not shown as the credits roll, the player is assured that the future, guided by Lucas’ innate kindness and empathy, is a hopeful one.

 

 

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Mixed Berry Cloud jellies!

Way back in November, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It was a lot of fun, and for the first time, I won the challenge! I was so proud!

As fun as it was, there were some stressful moments. I needed support and someone to keep me on track, so I participated with my local writers guild, The Silverleaf Writers Guild. One week, a potluck was organized, and as a lover of all things food, I was excited! I decided to bring some berries, sliced cheese and crackers. When I arrived however, I was surprised to see a table mostly comprised of junk food! As delicious as it was, I felt sleepy afterwards; not something you want when you’re trying to write! This inspired me to create this segment: Healthy Recipes For Writers. I know how easy grabbing a bag of chips is instead of walking away from your project and making something healthy. So I did some research to find healthy recipes, and found some nice stuff!

This week’s segment is Mixed Berry Cloud Jellies, a healthy yogurt and fruit snack that you can eat with your hands with minimal mess! It also has some nice benefits, which is include:

  • An excellent sources of calciumpotassiumprotein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12.
  • Probiotic cultures and high protein
  • High levels of phytochemicals — those naturally occurring nutrients that help protect cells from damage
  • The mixed berries are good for brain health!
  • Lower blood pressure and heart health
  • And more!

Cloud Jellies

prep 

cook 

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author juliette francois

Recipe from kidgredients.com.au

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pureed fresh or frozen mango, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, banana, etc (note: the more acidic fruit do not work, like kiwi or pineapple)
  • 2 tbps lime juice
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 2-3 tbps raw honey or maple syrup (I used maple syrup)
  • 4 tbps gelatin
  • 1 cup of plain full fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt for added protein!)
  • ¼ cup kombucha, filtered water or fresh juice (note: I used apple juice, and simply added less sweetener)

  1. Puree fruit until smooth. At this point you can strain to remove any seeds (berries) if desired.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a small pot and sprinkle the gelatin across the top. Allow to sit for 5 or so minutes so that gelatin can start to absorb the liquid.
  3. Over a very low heat, slowly whisk to dissolve the gelatin.
  4. Once dissolved, pour mixture into a small tray or moulds to set in the fridge. If in tray, slice into squares and store in an airtight container in fridge.

They turned out awesome! They turned out delicious, and not messy at all! I was nervous putting the mixture on the stove, so I looked it up and learned that if you mix the gelatin with water on the side until it dissolves, you can then add it to the remaining ingredients and place them in the container or moulds of choice. I personally haven’t tried it though, and will add the results here once I do!

Did you try it for yourself? What flavors will you try? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

 

What is “Selcouth”?

Image result for selcouth definition
It’s hard to be different. For as long as I can remember, I’d wake up every day asking myself why I couldn’t just blend in, wishing I could fit in. I would think about the concept of “normal”; what it is, why it matters, who gets to define it. This is a concept I’ve struggled with my whole life, and still haunts me today.

But what is normal, exactly? Throughout the years, I learned that in order for something to be “normal”, it needs to conform to some kind of standard. We say it’s normal because it’s what we expect, what we’re used to, whatever is typical or average. Here’s two ways to measure “normal”:

First, the “average human experience“, which is if it’s normal compared to a measurable, scientific standard — on average do most people feel this way, am I an outlier, am I close to the norm but still a bit outside it, etc.

Second, the “socially expected behaviors and norms“, which is if it’s normal in the social sense — am I a total weirdo, is there something wrong with me, is something about me socially unacceptable, other people are probably like this but what if they’re not, and so on.

No one wants to be called average. A lot of us have melancholy streaks. We’re lonely and very sensitive, probably more sensitive than everyone else who seem so… normal.

 

After years of wanting to be called normal, I’ve finally given up on that, and would rather be called “selcouth” instead. This word originates from Old English selcūþseldcūþ (“unusual, unwonted, little known, unfamiliar, novel, rare”), from seld- (“rarely”) + cūþ (“known”); equivalent to seld +‎ couth.

Selcouth, as the picture says, means “rarely known; unusual; uncommon; strange; wonderful”.  I’m not someone who likes to be vulnerable and would rather keep my true self deep inside. For years, I tried to create a mask and hide my true self in order to be perceived as normal. For the most part, it worked. As I sank deeper and deeper into the facade, I began to lose myself. After we moved, I vowed to start fresh, and let out my true side. I drew people in, but I also lost some. It was hard, as I have a hard time with rejection, but in the end it worked out, because I was now surrounded by a group of people who care about the real me.

This word isn’t used much, but it does feature in some written work, such as:

In poetry:
Then forth they rush’d: by Leader’s tide,
A selcouth sight they see—
A hart and hind pace side by side,
As white as snow on Fairnalie.

“Thomas the Rhymer” by Sir Walter Scott
In literature:
A strange day and a selcouth sight for auld een.
“Wilson’s Tales of the Borders and of Scotland” by Various

Our need to be “normal” makes us attempts to project a “put together” image to others.  We spend significant amounts of energy in “impression management”, or wanting others to think highly of us, to like us.  Being esteemed as a worthwhile person is one reason why reaching out to help others can have such a powerful effect on us: it increases our connections to them, affirms our value as an agent of change, and stimulates a greater sense of belonging.

The intense need to be liked  is perhaps best illustrated when considering its opposite.  Being rejected by or rebuffed by others is, for most of us, quite an unpleasant experience.  Even on a good day, it can lead to a “blue” mood; on a very bad day, it may elicit suicidal feelings in some people.

Sometimes it takes a brave person to say, “Just because all these people act like this is okay doesn’t mean it is.” That person opens the door for others to start questioning and redefining what society says is normal. It might be tough, and you might encounter some resistance — especially from yourself, when you wonder if you deserve to get help. But here’s the good news; you do! You deserve to feel better. All of us do.

 

Injecting Authenticity in your Writing

Does this sound familiar?

You’re sitting in front of your laptop, staring at a blank screen, or your current unfinished project.

A fear sets in. A fear of making mistakes, fear that what you wrote would sound stupid, fear that you’re writing wouldn’t make sense to the reader, etc.

You try to compensate for your writing fears by using stiff, formal sentences and large, important-sounding words to try to “prove” that you know what you’re talking about.
 

This happens to a lot of writers. This has happened to me.

It can easily backfire, as this can sometimes create unfair judgment, and make you and your work sound pretentious. By not being true to yourself, your writing will suffer.

Wanting desperately to sound smart in my writing, I took a Creative Writing Class in high school. Well, I took it because I loved writing, but that was a big concern of mine at the time. In one of her lessons, the teacher gave me some pretty awesome advice.

“Write the way you talk.”

I was baffled! It was such a simple, yet liberating thought! That one piece of advice (and a safe place to exercise this new discovery) helped me break free of my fears of not being “smart enough” to publish my work, and allowed me to adopt a more relaxed writing style. No more using large, unnecessary words just to try and impress the reader! I was determined at that point on to relax, be myself, and write.

Although it is important to write in your own voice, I would like to mention that writing the way you talk doesn’t mean write poorly. Please be aware of grammar, sentence structure, continuity, and all those other awesome things that create a well written piece! What this allows to do is helps break down those mental barriers of fear and procrastination that keeps us from being a more engaging and productive writer.

*DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a writing expert. The following advice is what I learned in school and has worked for me, but may not work for others.*

Here’s how to use “write the way you talk” to squash your insecurities and avoid sounding pompous:

IMAGINE YOURSELF HAVING A CHAT WITH A TRUSTED FRIEND

Good writing is like a conversation between the writer and the reader. So when you’re writing, think about how you would explain your topic to a close friend who was sitting next to you!

If you were having a conversation with that person,

  • What words would you use?
  • What would you talk about first?
  • What examples would you give to help them understand your topic?
  • What questions might they ask?

Approaching your writing this way will help you write a copy that’s more informal and conversational in tone, which better engages your audience.

RECORD YOURSELF TALKING ABOUT YOUR TOPIC

Not sure what you sound like in a conversation? Try recording yourself talking about your topic! (I understand that this can be daunting! It was (and still is) weird hearing my own voice, but it really helps!)

TAKE A DEEP BREATH, RELAX, AND JUST BE YOURSELF

By writing the way you talk, you can’t help injecting a little of your personality into what you write. After all, you’ll be writing in your own voice, and a tone that makes you seem more human than textbook.

USE THE SAME WORDS THAT YOU DO IN YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE

If you write the way you talk, you’ll be more inclined to use common, everyday words that you would normally use in conversation.

So keep your writing simple and clear without artificially inflated language. A good rule of thumb is: if the average person would need a dictionary to know what your word means, then chances are you need a different word.

TOSS OUT THE “RULE BOOK” AND JUST START WRITING

If all the rules about grammar, writing styles, active versus passive voice, and punctuation are adding to your insecurities about writing, put the “rule book” away for now and just write. Focus on getting the main points of your idea down in your first draft.

Once you’ve done that, you can easily go back and edit your writing.

  • Do you notice any obvious errors?
  • Is there anything that could be rearranged to bring more clarity to what you wrote?
    • If so, now’s the time to fix it along with any grammatical, spelling, or other writing problems.

After you’ve made those corrections, leave your work to sit overnight and look at it again in the morning with fresh eyes. Once you do that, it’s easier to see if anything can be done to make your work even better.

ENLIST THE HELP OF A CLOSE FRIEND TO KEEP YOU HONEST

Want to make sure that what you write actually sounds like you and not someone else?

Enlist the help of a close friend. Have them read your writing, and tell you if it sounds like someone else wrote it. This will help keep you true to yourself, and will force you to be authentic with your writing.

READ WHAT YOU WRITE OUT LOUD

This is an excellent first editing test. Reading what you write out loud makes awkward sentences and bad punctuation become obvious, because as you read, you’ll naturally stumble over the parts that need to be fixed.

So as you read your writing aloud, pay attention to those places that tend to trip you up; they may need some additional work.

 

Was this article helpful? How do you inject authenticity in your work? 🙂

My thoughts on “Milk And Honey” by Rupi Kaur

I’ve renewed my poetic side a few months back, and haven’t look back! As much as I love to write short stories and work on my novels, poems just hold a very special place in my heart.  It’s a way to merge language and symbolism, and is a worthy expression of emotion, or deep feelings, and aesthetics, or a sense of what is beautiful about the world. I’ve seen been on the lookout for poetic books to grace my bookshelf, and had heard a lot of good things about “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur. I decided to purchase a copy, and am very glad that I did.

Rupi Kaur, born October 5th 1992, is an Indian-Canadian poet, writer, illustrator and performer. She has published a collection of poetry and prose Milk and Honey in November 2014. Her second book (which I also read and loved) titled “The Sun and Her Flowers” was published in October 2017.

This heartfelt collection of poems shows vulnerability, startling bluntness, and a pure and raw story. It’s a style that intrigues me, but I often don’t have the guts to admit that I enjoy this type of writing. I think it’s because it makes me feel less alone with my own intense emotions. I was expecting an inspirational slightly tacky read, but instead I found myself in many of those pages.

Rupi Kaur breaks her book into four parts; the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing.

The hurting depicts the author’s experiences with sexual assault and the struggles of overcoming family issues.

Image result for milk and honey by rupi kaur the hurting

The loving is a more uplifting read. The poems are sweet and idealistic. These are the ones that couples want to read to remind themselves of why they are still together.

Image result for milk and honey by rupi kaur the loving

The breaking returned us to a darker place in Rupi’s life. Any girl that has ever endured a break up after a long term relationship could find a relatable poem in this section. I found myself back in high school trying to get over someone not worth mentioning here that broke my heart. While these poems were sad, they were also very realistic and relatable.

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The last section, the healing, accomplished exactly what I think the author was aiming for. These poems empowered women to embrace themselves and to value who they are regardless of the turmoil they have endured. I highly recommend this section to anyone yearning for some comfort.

Image result for milk and honey by rupi kaur banner

Overall I really enjoyed this compilation of poems! It was powerful, and expressed a lot of what I have been too scared to share. This book taught me that it’s okay to be an imperfect creature, and that I should embrace who I am and compromise my beliefs for anyone. I highly recommend this book to people who are struggling and need to know they are not alone.

What were your thoughts on “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur? Let me know what you think! 🙂

Poetry – “Quantulum”

 

I never had an easy combination.
The truth is such a systematic error,
You and me without a new relation,
Haunted by the fear of constant pressure.

Being taken by an old relation,
Looking at the wind velocity,
Giving me a new consideration,
The love of my inner biology.

Recover from whoever you despise,
Better yet protected than face fear.
An eye upon a face without replies,
Never see the way of being clear.

A better way of doing anything,
I never could forgive or even try!
The breath of silence changes everything,
Nothing touches me without reply.

Another way of doing anything.
Even see the people everywhere,
Never ever really had a fling,
The very thought of making you aware…

Is such an awfully wonderful thing to talk about.
Your attention makes my heart sting,
Walking through the world with plenty of doubt,
Feeling like a part of anything.

Maybe then again without a doubt!
I never thought of doing anything,
Nothing ever felt the same without,
You reminded me of everything.

A little something totally sincere.
Whether you believe or justified,
A better way of going through the clear,
Never ever really satisfied.

Bookish Item Review – “The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain”

I love writing activities. I love coming up with new ideas, and helping others overcome their writer’s block and other writing related woes. When I stumbled upon “The Writer’s Toolbox”, I got super excited!

The creator of this game is Jamie Cat Callan. She is a master teaching artist with the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. She has taught writing at N.Y.U., Yale University, U.C.L.A. Extension, Fairfield University, and Wesleyan University. She is also the author of three novels for young adults and a book on relationships for women. So, long story short, slightly more qualified than I.

Inside “The Writer’s Toolbox”, there’s a small 60 page book which begins with a discussion of “The Power of the Narrative”, then goes on to describe how to use the rest of the box and concludes with a lot more discussion about story, success stories from those who have already used the toolbox and recommendations for its use. It’s a quick read with additional resources and contains tons of quotes from writing books that’s probably cluttering your writer’s reference shelf.

In addition to the book, the box contains three writing games along with a three-minute hourglass. It does not include a notebook and pen, but come on. What writer doesn’t have writing material piled up in their home?

The three games are the Sixth Sense Cards, the Protagonist Game and The Sticks Game. Each of these games has its own power and, depending on your writing style, I’m sure you’ll be able to pick your favorite.

 The Sixth Sense Cards

The way this game works is simple: you shuffle the deck, pick three cards, place them face down and then write for three minutes on each one, in turn. It may not come away with a sequential story, but it will come away with interesting and beautiful news ways of describing the ordinary because the game “forced you” to focus your writing on this one sense for three long writing minutes.

 

The Protagonist Game

Every story needs a protagonist. And there’s a few things they need to do. They have to want something. There has to be something that gets in the protagonist’s way, and, ultimately the protagonist has things to do. The fun thing about the protagonist game is that it figures out all of that stuff for you. In “The Writer’s Toolbox”, you’ll find four “palettes” you can spin to randomly select your:

  • protagonist
  • goals
  • obstacles, and
  • action

 

 

The Sticks Game

There are three different types of Popsicle sticks in the box. They can be used together, or each on their own. The “FS” sticks are the “first sentence” sticks. You grab one at random, write it word for word at the top of the page, turn the hourglass over and write for three minutes (or longer, if you’d like!).

The “NS” sticks are the “non sequitur” sticks. You use these sticks to bring in an interesting transition to take your story/poem/screenplay (in other words, whatever you are writing) in a completely new direction. You can use these with the FS sticks by selecting one after three to six minutes of writing.

Finally, the “LS” sticks are known as the “last straw” sticks. As Callan put it in her book, “The Last Straw is a terrific exercise for writers who tend to avoid conflict and tension in their work” (p. 16). Similar to the FS and NS sticks, when you feel it is time (usually either three or six minutes after writing on your NS), you randomly select a LS stick to prompt you for the last hurrah.

Each of these sticks has the potential to pull a story in directions you might not have thought of. Working with these sticks truly helps build writing muscles!

What do I think?

I enjoyed this very much! I’ll be bringing this to my next writing group meeting. I love the variety of activities, and they’re all a lot of fun! I highly recommend you pick up a copy of this to play at your next game night. 🙂