Friday, August 22

Only Lovers Left Alive

I loved this movie! Absolutely loved it, and it stayed in my thoughts for days after. I wanted to reflect upon it more before writing, so I waited a bit to post after it came out on Blu-ray this past Tuesday.

Sometimes I don't like writing about movies because my thoughts shouldn't influence other's take or tastes on a particular experience. We all know what we like, or at least I hope that we do, and I encourage you to trust your intuition when it comes to how you spend your time. Even reading this here now is a choice, and for that, I thank you. I'm most grateful because it's still nice to share my own experience. Not just with films, but with lots of different things as well. I only hope that they're useful and helpful to some out there.

Then again, we're all a collection of one another's thoughts anyway. Everyone that came before us, and others around us. We will always be, unless we're isolated. Which is rare in this day and age.

Anyway, the movie was beautiful. Beautiful in all ways. Watch it if you like, and perhaps you'll like it as much as I did. Talk to me about it if you've seen it. I always love a good conversation.

Happy movie watching.
~Claudia

Tuesday, August 5

Look of the Month :: Summer 2014 :: August

Summer's end is almost here, and we have about another month to take it all in. In honor of that, I wanted to do something bold to celebrate that shift with this digital face chart. It's a time for last minute outdoor parties and vacations. Or even one last trip to the beach or the pool.

I wanted to do something festive; something that captures that tropical feeling one more time. The colors of the Caribbean are always a summer favorite, and perfect for an adventurous party look. Enjoy those hot nights, and be daring with this before returning to a fall schedule of school or work. Go out on a high note!

The current look is:
A U G U S T  2 0 1 4


Color inspiration:
Turquoise, sky blue, cardinal red, cream, and yellow gold

Current motivation for the look:
 The Caribbean, summer's end, and internal tranquility


Previous Looks this Year:

J A N U A R Y  2 0 1 4

F E B R U A R Y  2 0 1 4

M A R C H  2 0 1 4

A P R I L  2 0 1 4

M A Y  2 0 1 4

J U N E  2 0 1 4

J U L Y  2 0 1 4

Please feel free to express yourself as well! Share links, tips, or any other suggestions in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

 xoxo,
~Claudia

Monday, August 4

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Wow, what an experience Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag was. I finally got to be a pirate, and it was so exciting. This game was pretty much everything that I had been wishing for. There was treasure hunting, ship sailing, islands full of adventure, exotic animals, crystal-clear ocean waters, shark-infested underwater caverns, gorgeous skies, hidden lairs, taverns, drinking, singing, sassy barmaids, cool outfits, and much more. Then of course we can't forget about all of the murder and mayhem; the less glamorous side of piracy. This game, with its historical references, was quick to remind us all that the true life of a pirate was very short lived and oh so painful. People died young, things were never easy, and many experienced a lot of heartbreak. I appreciated that, and it was a sour taste of those times in the Caribbean so long ago.

I was however surprised by how long this game took me to finish. I spent at least 40-60 hours on it, and got every Animus fragment, chest, side quest, contract, hunt, and all of the DLC. It took me the whole year so far to complete it in my free time, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that I would want to spend that much time in such a beautiful world. Truly, it was a pirate's life for me.


So here are my thoughts about the game:

Pros

- This world was epic. It's so beautiful that it's hard to describe, and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect paradise to run around in and play pretend. Everything about the Caribbean landscape was so captivate, and the small details like the sun, moon, stars, and weather patterns made it that much more believable. Even the underwater areas were alluring and full of wonderfully dangerous sights to see. Kudos to all of the people that helped bring these islands to life.

- Edward Kenway was an awesome protagonist. I loved everything about him, and enjoyed watching his story unfold. A sobering tale for sure, but full of intrigue and emotion. I loved the fact that he was from Great Britain and the first light-haired assassin. I thought that was cool, and it set him apart visually. Of course being half English myself, it was a fun way to relate to the character.

- All of the different outfits that Edward could wear were pretty cool. Other than his traditional outfit (which I liked best, and kept him in the most), I did really like the red Captain Morgan outfit. I thought that it was funny to watch him run around in something so pompous. It reminded me of Captain Hook too.  

- The interface and graphic design in this game were fantastic. I loved the streamlined, minimalistic turquoise theme, and it was very easy to navigate through the menus to find things.

- The animations, textures, and main character models were all very well done. Their movements were really believable, and they looked great. Animation is something that lacks in a lot of modern games, and ends up looking stiff. This game definitely does a decent job in this regard.

- The colors in this game were beyond description. A desaturated primary palette, which was reflected in the costumes, cities, and even Edward's brig the Jackdaw, was married with neon splashes of the same scheme within the world. This helped characters, buildings, and props pop against the lush tropical backdrop, but still stayed consistent within the art direction. It was gorgeous, and well thought out.

- I got to own a pirate cove! I'll say that again: I got a PIRATE COVE! At the beginning of the game Edward claims Great Inagua for his own, and it's awesome. This made me so incredibly happy that I spent hours just hanging out and exploring. I wish that I could live in a place like that. Palms, white sands, a ship on a private dock, and that horizon...ah, it really was perfect.

- I couldn't play a pirate game without some pirate rum! Arrgh! I had actually been saving some aged Barceló Añejo Ron Superior for an occasion such as this, and my, was it fun to join Edward in his tavern drinking. It gave the experience that much more authenticity.

- Seeing all of the historical pirates in this game was awesome. The two ladies, Mary Read and Anne Bonny, being my absolute favorites. When I was little I was fascinated by real pirates, so it was great to spend time with them all virtually.

- I'm not sure if this was an intended reference, but it put a smile on my face nonetheless: In real life the pirate Bartholomew Roberts was third mate to a ship called the Princess, and this is the same pirate that the Dread Pirate Roberts is inspired by in The Princess Bride. So when Roberts showed up in game, I was reminded of this and it made me happy (it was short-lived though, because the Princess was a real slave ship and that reminded me of the cruel reality of these themes).

- The sea shanties were a fun bit of content. I really loved hearing all of the songs, and they were all equally enjoyable. Although fun to listen to, some of them were annoying to chase. After awhile I learned that I could just camp them, and I automatically collected them when they reappeared. Hey, I was playin' like a true pirate exploiting the shortcuts.

- Petting and interacting with animals was a favorite pastime of mine in this game. They were so well done, and the little animations made me smile. The bobbing red macaw was definitely my favorite and made me squeal with laughter every time I pet it. A sad note though was that I accidentally shot a cute sea turtle at point blank. I was so traumatized by that, and I didn't know that I could kill it. I think I was fighting, and it died instead of the person I was shooting. Poor thing, I typically didn't have bad aim.

- The treasure maps were a favorite of mine. I absolutely loved that they put them in, and of course, no pirate game would be complete without red x's marking the spot where buried treasure lies in wait. It was cool!


Cons

- It took me some time to warm up to the storybook type of gameplay. I'm use to more traditional action games where one can interact with everything. So some of the gameplay came off as a bit stiff and sticky. There were plenty of times that I would jump onto something that I wasn't suppose to or thought that I could interact with objects that I could not. I wish that I could lift or smash environmental things in the game more often. Going inside of more buildings would have been neat as well. Like breaking in or something.

- I typically don't like stealth games, and this was my first Assassin's Creed. I was the "go in guns a blazing" type of pirate, and that got me into a lot of trouble. Redoing missions was inevitable (eavesdropping was the worst by far), and it got me angry. I was cursing like a true sailor during most of them!

- From an art standpoint the character skin shaders did look a bit plasticy. This is a typical problem for modern games, and I understand that skin is very tough, but it would have been awesome if it matched all of the other high-end assets that the studio produced. 

- Unfortunately, I had no interest in the Astergo parts. The story was intriguing enough, but not necessary. I know that they were just trying to tie the other games of the series in, but it felt contrived. There was talk that this game could have been an opportunity for a new IP and that definitely would have been cool, but they didn't want to risk that. Oh well, it was still good and the assassin storyline was fun enough. The office mini games on the other hand were torturous and not so appealing. 

- The biggest issue with this game was that it was buggy. There were quite a few times that my progress didn't save properly and I had to redo a lot. Even small things like treasure chests (not loot) reappearing even though I knew that I had found them already. Falling and not being able to get out of geometry was another issue. Then at one point I even had my swords disappear from my character, and in the menu, when I was in the middle of a random fight. That was weird, and I had to go to a store to reequip them. I understand that these games take a lot of time, effort, and money to produce, but some of the bugs should have been patched even if it was after launch. Especially the saving issues, and I was surprised that those are still there.


So the positives completely outweigh the negatives for this one. Besides, if you have more gaming patience than me, most of the cons might not even be an issue. That being said, definitely play this game. There's loads of pirate fun to be had.

Happy gaming,
~Claudia

Friday, August 1

My Beautiful Little Echeveria Neon Breaker


When I was out and about last week I saw the most beautiful little plant in a shop nursery. I had never seen anything like it before and knew that I had to take it home. It was quite spontaneous too, because I wasn't expecting to buy anything that day. It just spoke to me, and that was that.

Come to find out, it's an Echeveria, and more specifically a Neon Breaker. Apparently these tiny beauties are native to the semi-deserts of Central America. My mother even had a similar variety in her garden when I was growing up. They were called Chicken and Hens. I remember that I was fascinated by them, and loved the fact that they were so resilient. That makes me hopeful that I can care for this one properly too.

So it has a lovely new home now, right in front of my window with lots of sun. As always, I name my plants and have chosen Aurora because the colors remind me of the sky. That, and she's my little princess.

If any of you have any advice on how to care for this type of plant, definitely leave a comment and let me know. I want to do my best to keep it healthy and happy.

Cheers,
~Claudia

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