Her Story

I have a lot of video games I want to play.  Some I even own and haven’t gotten around to playing yet.  But one has been top on my priority list for a while now, but I’ve been waiting to get a really good deal on it.  Luckily, the Humble Bundle put out a “narrative-heavy video game bundle” and I snatched it up.  Mostly for “Her Story” but with bonus other games!  (This bundle is still available, so you can get this game for $1!)

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And last night my back was hurting, and Justin was working till 3AM, so I played the game.  Yes, all of it.  And yes, I mean 100% of it.  (That’s totally a thing. I’ll get there.)  And then I spent the last day reading analysis and discussion of the game.  I have now spent more time reading about the game than I spent PLAYING the game, and that should tell you something.

First of all, let me say this is a game where it’s very possible to be badly spoiled and it’s not going to have the same effect if you go in with spoilers.  I’m not going to talk about any major spoilers here, so it’s ok to keep reading.  But if you’d like the most pure game experience, and you like games that play with narrative, you should just go play it.

It’s funny, and again says something about the game that so many sites and blogs I’ve visited seem to have up one unspoilery review and then come back later and have a place where they talk about spoilers and theories and analysis because they can’t stop thinking about it.  Maybe I’ll have to do the same, just to think things through for myself.   This is a game that stays with you.  I’ve been thinking about it all day, in the back of my head, while having conversations and stuff, I’m still turning it over.

Anyway, so what the hell IS it?  I went into the game totally unspoiled.  The only thing I knew about the game was that it was a narrative-heavy game in which you watch FMV (full-motion video, an antiquated gaming term that means actual video of a person) of a woman being interrogated by police.  And I knew it was well-reviewed, though I didn’t actually read any of the reviews.

So I had no expectations going in.  You turn on the game and are faced with a computer terminal desktop.  It seems dated, with CRT lines and even fake glare and reflection.  (Luckily you can turn the glare off, which I did after a while due to eyestrain.)  So it’s clear the gamer is put in the role of SOMEONE, who is using this computer.  The desktop is pretty bare.  There’s an open database of video files, two readmes, and two other files in the “rubbish bin”, one of them a minigame.  It’s explained in the readmes that you’ve been given access (by someone, for some unspecified reason) to an old police database.  The way the database is explained.

The interrogation video has been separated into tiny little files of individual statements.  They range from as short as 5 seconds to up to a minute or two long.  You can enter search terms to pull up video segments.  If your search terms are used in the witness’ statement, it’s a match.  So entering “murder” pulls up all the videos where she says “murder.”  (That’s the first term, already in the box.)  You can also enter multiple words or exact phrases in quotation marks.  So this is essentially the entire game.  Enter search terms and watch the videos that come up.  Keep trying terms to get new videos and more of the story.

All the videos are of interrogations of a woman that take place over a period of weeks.  You only see her and only hear her responses to questions, not the questions themselves.  It becomes clear pretty quickly that someone has died and she is a suspect.  That’s honestly all I’m going to say about the plot.

So the obvious, but in my opinion boring, questions is “Is this even a game?”  You can read other articles that answer this question but I’m going to just say “Yes, of course, are you dense?”  I mean, ok, the main action is watching videos, which sounds more like a movie than a game.  But actually, it does get challenging if you want to reveal ALL the videos (100%, as mentioned above) with search terms.  I had some real times of near frustration from trying to think of new things to type.  Her-Story-Screenshot-Desktop-B

But more than the question of challenge is the fact that “Her Story” is very clearly placed in a fairly new genre of video games that doesn’t REALLY have a name but could be called “narrative games” as Humble Bundle has.  These are games where the primary goal is storytelling, with the interactive element of games.  Visual novels from Japan fall into this category, but not all games in this category fit the conventions of the visual novel genre.  It’s very much a growing genre, fed by the indie PC game boom fueled by Steam and GOG as distribution points.  I’m a fan, though I often lament the over-thought grimness of many offerings.  Like, I get it, you’re a film student and life is dark and bleak.  Except in game form.

But “Her Story” is one of the strongest entries in the genre, in my opinion.  (I’d name it next to “To The Moon”.) It isn’t complicated at all, the mechanic and graphics are simple, and the settings are basically a woman in an empty room sitting at a table.  But it’s not amateurish and feels something like a masterpiece, honestly.  An indie masterpiece.

So, why?  Well for one thing, the story is very interesting and totally absorbing.  I think it would be pretty darn absorbing if just seen as a film, viewing in order.  But in game form, you don’t experience it in order.  You experience the story in tiny little snippets, all out of order.  And everyone who plays it will experience it in A DIFFERENT ORDER, depending on how they enter search terms.  It’s interesting to see how varied people’s opinions about the story are, and I think some of those differences are due to the order people experience things in.  The clips you hear early color the conclusions you draw, which color your viewing of the entire piece.

And the mechanic makes an interesting story even MORE interesting, because you are active in pursuing it.  A clip may mention something and you go “What?  WTF?” so you enter THAT as a search term and you find out a little bit more about that, but you lack the full context, so you keep searching and trying until you think you know what’s going on.  But DO you know what’s going on?

Because ultimately, there is a central mystery.  A central question of the story.  And it’s not explicitly answered by the game.  Or possibly even implicitly answered.  It’s left very ambiguous, but interestingly some people say it’s very ambiguous and some seem to think there’s no ambiguity at all.  But that totally depends on how you interpret the story.

This is why I’ve now read at least a novel’s worth of text picking apart LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE LINE of the game to determine the ultimate truth.  Basically it’s either Scenario A or Scenario B or possibly scenario C.  I finished the game pretty sure it was scenario A, but much reading has reluctantly convinced me it’s Scenario B, but I’m currently thinking of a way to make Scenario C be the truth because I like being contrary.  So much vagueness, but I’m pretty sure anyone who has played the game will know exactly what I mean.

Like I said, I found the act of playing the game gripping, and rather eerie.  While it’s not a horror story by any means, there’s something decidedly unsettling about the whole thing and I had a hard time going to sleep afterwords.  There is some confusion to the set-up, in that the player is given basically no instruction or guidance other than “enter search terms and watch videos.”  You have the ability to save videos in a list, so I think most players mess with that to see if anything happens (spoiler: it doesn’t).  And you keep expecting something more video game-y to happen.  For the most part it doesn’t.

There IS an ending, sort of, in that at some point when you’ve viewed enough videos something happens and if you then do something else, you get an end video and credits.  But after that you can still keep watching videos until you get to 100% and have seen everything.  (There’s a database scanner that shows what percentage you’ve seen.)  But that’s it.  You’ve seen all there is, and you have to decide what it all means.  Which is why there’s forums full of speculation, theories, and arguments.

I have the feeling this game will stand the test of time, and will go on to become a cult favorite.  It’s been out almost a year and the forums are full of recent posts and passionate arguments.  (And personal insults, because gamers.)

What I like about gaming has very little to do with puzzles, or violence, or strategy, though I like some examples of all of those things.  I like STORIES, and I like the way that games let stories be told in completely knew and untried ways.  I love discovering a narrative style that would be impossible in another medium.  The games that manage that are my very favorite games.  And this one is totally right up my alley.  A murder mystery isn’t new.  Unreliable narrators aren’t new.  Ambiguous endings aren’t new.  The tropes used in this story aren’t new.  But the presentation is entirely new.  The format MAKES the story new.  And that’s exciting.

The Cure Austin and Houston May 2016

So The Cure is my favorite band.  I inherited them as my favorite band from my 12-years-older brother.  Sort of inevitably, since he played them ALL THE TIME, I eventually realized this band was really good.  I was around 13-14 at the time.photo 5(1)

I’ve seen The Cure play 4 times before this year.  In 1996, I saw them on the Wild Mood Swings tour at the Summit in Houston.  That was a GREAT show, with a very upbeat and happy band and some rare songs.  In 2000 I saw them on the Bloodflowers tour at the Woodlands pavilion.  That wasn’t as good, since it was outdoors.  I was at the front of the grass hill, but still, pretty darn far away.  The show was good, though, and I really like Bloodflowers. In 2004 I saw them on the Curiousa festival tour in Dallas.  Again, an outdoor venue, but I had seats.  Still not the best, and there was this drunk chick being really annoying in front of us the whole time.  Mostly what impressed me at that show was Mogwai.  Then I saw them in 2008 in Houston at the Toyota Center with my brother, his best friend, and my mom.  My husband was in the hospital at the time so my mom was a last minute substitute.  It was an AMAZING show (and my mom was really impressed.)

After that 2008 show, I promised myself that the next time they toured, I was going to follow them through Texas.  And then the standard 4 years passed and…no tour. I became convinced that I had seen the Cure for the last time.  And then, 8 years since their last North American tour, they announced one.  I determined to get all the tickets I could.  The first to go on sale was Austin, and I got upper level tickets.  Then Houston went on sale, and we really didn’t have to money to spare.  But we got tickets anyway.  Lower bowl, halfway up.  We literally had no grocery money for weeks due to those tickets.  And ok, we stopped buying.  Two nights in a row and over $200 was enough.

So Friday night, May 13th, Justin and I drove into Austin.  We were pretty high up, but we had seats in a row of 3, with no one else in the row, and no one in front of us.  Which was totally nice cause we could just relax and watch the show.

The opening band for the tour is The Twilight Sad from Glasgow, Scotland.  I hadn’t heard them before, but they were really good.  Very reminiscent of Cooper Temple Clause and I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness.  With a Scottish brogue.  They were also adorable because they were pretty much freaking out that they were in this huge arena in Austin.  “We’re not used to this!” the singer squeaked.   Their performance wasn’t noteworthy in any way, really, but they sounded good and I want to pick up an album cause it’d been nice to listen to.

Anyway, the first thing to note about this Cure tour is that the stage ephoto 1(1)ffects are REALLY GOOD.  They have 5 LED screens behind them that are really well used.  Sometimes they play normal filmed images that fit the song, like a barren landscape during “Prayers for Rain” or an opening rose during “Bloodflowers.”  Lots of trees the camera moves around in for “A Forest.”  But what’s cooler is the times when they do live projections/images of the concert onto the screens.  Shot from the front, the video turns into a series of infinitely repeated pictures-inside-pictures so the light show is infinitely repeated and it looks really cool.  They also project shots of the crowd from behind the drummer during one song.

This is the first time I’ve seen The Cure with Reeves Gabrels in the place of guitarist.  Previosly I’d seen Perry Bamonte in this role, and the last time Porl Thompson was in that role, and was AMAZING.  (Also last time there wasn’t a keyboardist, as Roger O’Donnell had left for a while.  I’m a big fan of Roger, so I’m glad he’s back.)  But I very much missed Porl, who was the best guitarist I’ve seen in that role.

I know Reeves Gabrels is a good guitar player and I’m familiar with him from when he worked with David Bowie and saw him in 1995 with Bowie.  But I have to say, I don’t like him much as part of this Cure line-up.  He has a very aggressive, solo-flashy guitar style, and as much as I’ve always said The Cure is a guitar band live, I don’t think Gabrels works very well with the rest of the band.  On a couple of songs I really felt like Robert’s guitar parts and Gabrels’ parts were working against each other in a disharmonious way.  I felt like Robert also ceded a lot of the interesting guitar work to Gabrels which makes sense in a band sense, but I would rather see Robert really bring his guitar skills which are underrated by lots of people.  I thought the band worked really well with Porl because without a keyboardist Porl was playing lots of the keyboard parts with the guitar and otherwise doing a lot of atmospherics, with Robert in more lead guitar role.  Whereas on this tour it feels like Gabrels is supposed to be lead guitar and Robert is more rhythm or secondary.  This stuck out to me more on the Austin night than the Houston night, though so it may have been a quirk of the sound.  I felt Gabrels’ guitar was not as high in the mix on Saturday.

Quickly, a look at everyone else generally.  Simon Gallup was his quintessential Simon self: playing amazing bass parts and making them look childishly easy, while strutting and literally bouncing on one foot around the stage.  I don’t think that man is aging at all.  Roger played his keyboard parts without attracting attention.  I have huge affection for him after the 1996 show I saw when we were on his side of the stage and he was dancing goofily through much of the show, and waving to us.  But he was in serious-gloomy mode both nights, trying to look cool standing there not moving.  Jason was Jason, which means drawing no attention but playing really good drums.

Robert.  Robert looks to have lost a little weight, which generally seems to be a good thing, but on the other hand he looks older.  His hair pouf is looking a bit thin.  And more than anything, he seems tired.  This is very early on in the tour, only the 3rd and 4th show, and he was visibly tired both nights.  Friday night in Austin, he looked tired by the end of the main set, with his voice seeming tired as well.  The last two songs of the main set were Prayers for Rain and Bloodflowers, both vocally demanding.  Prayers for Rain was sung really well, but for Bloodflowers it felt like he was really holding back and not going for it in the places he normally does.  For the encores, though, he seemed to get things back together and things were good.  (In case you don’t know, Cure shows are usually about 3 hours long and feature a LOT of encores.  Both shows had 4 encores, though I would have called Austin 3.5 cause the last one was really short, like take a sip of water and we’re back.)

On Saturday night, however, Robert’s voice seemed weak for most of the night, to me.  Justin only turned to me towards the end of the main set and said “His voice?” but I noticed it on the 3rd song or so.   It got worse as the set progressed, but it seemed to me like he was holding back a lot, and not very loud.  At first I couldn’t tell if his vocals weren’t high enough in the mix or it was his singing but it became pretty clear it was his voice.  Now, I don’t know if this is something someone not me would really notice.  But this was my 6th Cure concert and I’ve listened to lots of bootlegs.  And I have done enough singing to see the signs of someone not feeling well.   There were lots of lines where whole syllables weren’t audible, and instead of singing out he kept it low, instead of extending notes he cut them short, and eventually he was almost talk-singing through songs.  Obviously, I don’t know why this is.  It’s possible he has a cold or something, or maybe it’s a sign of getting older, or just being out of practice since it’s been a while since he sang night after night.  It does concern me a little.   And it took something away from that night’s concert, which otherwise might have been really high up there in terms of Cure shows I’ve seen.

Ok, let’s do some comparing of the two nights.  In general, I’ve always known the Cure generally have two broad setlists on any tour that they alternate.  They generally have one of two “feels” to them: one is more popular and one is more obscure/darker.  Broadly, cause invariably both sets have both of those moods.  Historically Houston has gotten the “better” of the two setlists, i.e. the one meant for more “real” Cure fans.  Less singles, more rare stuff.  More rock, less pop.  I was disappointed with the setlist I got when I saw them in Dallas, compared to the one my brother got in Houston.  (This is another reason I wanted to see multiple shows.)  If you had asked me to predict which town got which set I would have said Austin would get the pop and Houston would get the rock.  I would have been wrong.  Sort of.

I could go on and on about the setlists, but I’ll just link them:  Austin and Houston.  Austin was very heavy on Disintegration and Head on the Door, where Houston was much more balanced, with equal representation of Disintegration, Wish, Head on the Door, and Seventeen Seconds.  The Austin show definitely felt more down, slower.  And they played A LOT and I mean A LOT of rare and obscure stuff.  And not normal-level “not a single” obscure stuff.  Songs I didn’t recognize at all and that only appear as single b-sides or in the b-side collection.  And, while that kind of thing is cool for a Cure nerd, it doesn’t do much for most of the audience and leaves people in their seats just kinda hanging.  I mean, the songs were good.  But when you don’t know them there isn’t a lot of excitement.

And that’s not even counting the stuff that I don’t count as unknown or rare but your average concert goer would, like stuff released after 1996.  I always enjoy “Want” from Wild Mood Swings live, it’s a great song.  And “Us or Them” from the self-titled album is good live.  And very surprisingly, they’re playing “Wrong Number” on this tour which was essentially a one-off single from the late 90s.  It’s REALLY GOOD, too.  The Cure are really good at finding which album songs really work live and playing just the ones that are interesting in that context.  I don’t care about “Wrong Number” in its original version, but live it’s great.  The biggest news of the night was that they played “Screw” and it was amazing. They’ve only played that song 4 times since 1985.  (Not the rarest song played on Friday.  “This Twilight Garden” has only been played twice EVER.)

So anyway, the Austin show was really good, but it was really aiming at the kind of Cure fan who would KNOW how rare the stuff being played was.  And overall, I felt like the crowd at that show wasn’t that kind of crowd.  They didn’t strike me as being all that big fans of The Cure.  The only songs that really seemed to excite them were the poppy singles.  The Houston crowd had a lot more Cure fans, to my perception.  There was a lot more “dressing up” for the occasion and what sounded like a LOT more singing along.  With every song.  That may have been a perception issue because we were a lot lower and surrounded by more people, but somehow I don’t think that was entirely it.  It may be my Houston bias showing, but while Austin has the rep as the music town, shows in Austin tend to be full of blasé hipsters.

The Houston set list was the poppier one, but I have to say I liked it more.  I felt it had a better flow, and kept the energy of the crowd up better.  But it still had it’s share of moody, non-singles.  How can you beat a stretch of “At Night”,  “M”, “Play for Today”, “Want” and “Shake Dog Shake”?  And then “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”, and “One Hundred Years.”   “One Hundred Years” is one of my favorite live Cure songs because it’s just a huge guitar fest.  (My favorite rare live Cure song is “Shiver and Shake” which wasn’t played either night. Also “Piggy in the Mirror”, which I’ve only seen once, at my first Cure show.)

The encores for the Austin show had themes.  The first encore was introduced by Robert saying “Someone has written’Rock’ on the list for this one.”   And indeed it was rocking.  The Cure in heavy guitar mode is my favorite.  The second encore was “the more popular, pop” set according to Robert’s near-unintelligble mumble.  (At one point in the Austin show he let off a long string of words that I’m pretty sure no one in the audience understood, and then followed it with his impression of what he probably sounded like…and he made a bunch of gibberish noises.  I think that’s what happened anyway.  I consider myself pretty good at understanding Robert and I catch maybe every 2nd or 3rd word and just extrapolate from there.)

The third set in Austin consisted of “Burn” from the Crow soundtrack, which they’ve played at every show on the tour so far, and had never played before as far as I know.  It’s a great song, so it’s awesome they are playing it finally.  And there was a new song.  And the last encore was “A Forest”, which is the song which traditionally ends every Cure show.  But this time they followed it with “Boys Don’t Cry.”

The Houston encores were similar, but shuffled a bit.  First they started out wth “Burn” followed by the new song “It Can Never Be The Same.”  This is a good song, melancholy, but not boring.   Then we got an identical “Rock” encore as the previous night.  The next encore was again “Pop” but with different, RARER pop songs.  “Lovecats,”  “Catapillar,” “The Walk,” “Let’s Go To Bed,” “Why Can’t I Be You.”  They were less “singles from the 90s” and more “singles from the 80s” and therefore less frequently played and more to my taste.

And then can the final identical two-song pair of “A Forest” and “Boys Don’t Cry.” To explain the deal with “A Forest,” as I said it’s the song that’s always played last at Cure shows.  And it got longer and longer over time.  The original is a trim 5 minutes or so, but for a while the average live version was about 15 minutes.  In 2008 I think it was 21 minutes at the Houston show.  (Yes, I time it.)  There is an additional verse that gets added for the longer versions.  Both nights I saw them on this tour, however, that verse was left out and the song was a very short 8 minutes and change.  So it was essentially the album version with some extended guitar at the end.  I felt he Austin show’s version left a little to be desired, while I felt the Houston version was fantastic.  What was the difference?  Probably nothing.  Just energy, and how it felt to me.  In Houston, I was down in the crowd and everyone was clapping in time with the bass, AS YOU SHOULD.  So I thought the energy of the Houston performance was just better, and connecting better with the crowd.

Having “Boys Don’t Cry” as the final song feels weird to me, as someone so used to the ritual of “A Forest” but it serves to end on a happy note, everyone goes out singing and dancing.  It works, and I’d guess that’s why they’re doing it.  I would also guess they got bored with 20 minute long versions of “A Forest.”

 

-So anyway this post has sat for a month because I wasn’t happy with it, and got distracted.  Justin has been bugging me to just post the damn thing.  So, ok, there you go.

 

 

 

 

 

FINALLY, purple hair.

So pretty much everyone who knows me or ever knew me knows I love purple.  I decided purple was my favorite color when I was 10 or so and never looked back.  And since I was a teenager I wanted to dye my hair purple.  But basically, I never had the guts.  I wasn’t allowed to have unnatural hair colors in high school.  And in college I worried about getting summer jobs and other kinds of judgments.  (I did make the mistake of dyeing my hair black from a box, though. Which led to going to a professional to try to grow it out which ended up with me having 4 colored hair for a while: natural brown, red, blonde, and black.)

And since I left college I’ve had professional jobs where I wouldn’t have been able to get away with crazy hair.  Until 6 years ago when I had to quit working due to my disability.  Since then I’ve often thought about purple hair.  But, being a responsible adult now, I always thought about having my hair professionally bleached and dyed.  I have no problem coloring my own hair but bleaching?  Scary.  And I knew I couldn’t afford to maintain a professional dye job.

So in the last year I’ve been considering way to have purple hair that wouldn’t require constant maintenance.  I decided I wanted purple streaks or an under-layer.  I was planning ongoing to my excellent and very cool stylist for this as soon as I got the funds together.  And then my husband lost his job.  And there went my plans for funky hair.

Until the last few weeks when I started thinking about just doing it myself.  I’m 36 years old, I’ve wanted purple hair for over half my life, I have no good reason not to do it.  I started researching dyes and looking at tutorials and realized if I really wanted purple hair, I was going to need to bleach.  So I researched that.  And finally, decided what the fuck.  The fact that I am going to see The Cure twice in two days gave me a perfect event to aim for.

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So here is my starting hair.  This is longer than my hair has been in YEARS.  Probably 10 years.  I don’t like it this long, but I haven’t been able to afford a cut since December or so.  So that was another part of my rational.  If something terrible happened to my hair, just my regular cut would get rid of half of it.  This is also my natural hair color.  I haven’t dyed my hair for about a year and that was using henna for the past few years, so my hair should be as healthy as possible going in.  It’s probably the longest I’ve gone without dyeing it for a long time as well.

So in my research, I decided I’d use Sparks Purple dye, as it’s essentially a dupe of Pravana’s purple for half the price.  (And price is a BIG issue here.)  I read all the reviews and accepted this was going to be a mess that stained my whole bathroom.  For the bleach I wanted a kit cause I’ve never done this and discovered Sparks has all-inclusive kits available only at Ulta.  So I went to my local Ulta on a trip to town and there they were….all except the purple.  Big hole in the shelf.  So now I had a problem, cause I was on a deadline.  I didn’t want to pay for shipping, and Ulta has shipping time of 3-10 days.  Nope.  So I went to Amazon.  I ordered the Sparks color and a Jerome Russel Punky Colors bleach kit.  (Why I chose that one had to do with price and Prime delivery option.)

I then had a problem because the bleach was supposed to be delivered last Friday and the dye on Monday. I planned to do my hair on Tuesday when my husband was home to help.  But I didn’t get the bleach.  No package anywhere to be found (although later apparently there were chewed up pieces of Amazon box in the yard so maybe the neighborhood dogs stole my hair bleach.)  So I requested a replacement from Amazon and had to waDSC09474it until Wednesday for it to arrive.  This put me on a very tight timeline for the concert on Friday.  So last night it arrived at like 8PM and then I immediately had to start bleaching.

My husband was actually really good at applying the bleach.  He’s a meticulous person.  So the bleaching went pretty well. The back/bottom of my hair didn’t bleach as well at the top.  I don’t know if this is just the nature of the hair, or because that part has been previously dyed or what.  I was afraid to over-fry my roots so I removed the bleach after about 45 minutes, which is what the kit recommended for medium brown hair.  And it was super surreal to be blonde for the first time ever.

The dye had to be applied to dry hair, and I hate blow drying my hair so I had to wait for it to dry after washing out the bleach.  And my husband had to go to bed to get up for work in the morning.  So I was on my own for applying the color.  I’ve colored my own hair a BUNCH of times so I wasn’t too worried.  I should have been more worried.

The Sparks color comes in a tube and is applied directly to the hair.  The consistency is rather paint-like rather than dye mixed with developer or the paste consistency of henna.  So it’s really difficult to get applied evenly to all the strands.  My hair is super fine and thin and tangles if you breathe on it when it’s wet and unconditioned.  So getting a comb through it to distribute the dye was pretty hopeless.  And the dye is so pigmented that it transfers to pretty much anything that comes anywhere near it, so though I took precautions soon I was covered in purple dye.  I eventually resorted to using my normal plastic hairbrush to get the dye through my hair, and I applied almost the full tube.  I was pretty sure at some moments that my hair was going to come out all splotchy and my skin was going to be permanently colored purple (not to mention my bathroom.)

Anyway, I decided I’d done the best I could do at applying the color.  I had intended to wrap my head in plastic wrap, but yeah, no, that was not a one-person job, especially wearing gloves that were too big and covered in dye.  So I just kept my sheet wrapped around me and tried to keep up the bathroom and my skin a bit.  Luckily I did find the dye came off my sink and vinyl floor pretty well with some cleaning products.  So my sink is only lightly lavender now.  (Bleach will take it off, according to reviews.)

I left the dye on longer than called for.  It calls for 20 minutes, but I left it on more like 45.  It was after 1AM by this time.  So then I washed it out, just using water and conditioner (not using shampoo was something recommended somewhere in my research.)  And although my shower is lavender and parts of my temples and ears remain blue-ish, most of the dye came off my skin in the shower.  And of course my scalp is still dyed.

But there isDSC09478 the results, the next day.  I’ve read this dye starts out really dark and then fades to a brighter-redder purple and then to a lavender.  So that will be interesting.  It’s obviously redder where the bleach left more brown/orange in my hair.  But overall, I’m pretty happy with the results.  I have one little spot on my roots in the front that didn’t take the dye and I don’t know if I missed it or the conditioner I applied to my hairline to keep from staining my skin (that didn’t work very well) somehow prevented the dye from taking right there.  I’ll touch it up later before I shower.

DSC09475

 

I have no idea what I’ll do with it long term, whether I’ll keep bleaching the roots or let it grow out or something else.  We’ll see.  But I’m happy with it for now.

 

 

 

 

 

On the shaming of “50 Shades”

So I followed a link earlier to Erika Moen’s defense of 50 Shades of Grey posted at “Oh Joy, Sex Toy”.

And it really touched on why I’ve been feeling unease at the fervent “50 Shades” bashing that has flooded the internet.

Now, let me be clear.  I have not read the book, don’t intend to see the movie, and have no desire to do either.   I understand that what is portrayed in the book isn’t anything like an actual BDSM relationship, and that Christian Grey is a stalker and rapist and all of that.  I get it.

But this really touched a chord: “I’m just not into policing what people find arousing in their fantasy porn.”  And I think that’s what bothers me with all the hoopla.  It doesn’t stop at being educational about safe BDSM practices and consent and abuse.  It’s gotten downright shaming of anyone who enjoys the book.

I keep hearing people say things like “all these women are reading this book and thinking this is what a man should act like.”  Which starts me wondering if men are assumed to not be able to understand the difference between fiction and reality as much as women are.   Do we all assume men believe everything about the porn they consume is true?  Are all pizza delivery guys expecting sex every time they deliver a pizza?

So why do we automatically assume that women who enjoy trashy porn (and it IS porn, badly-written porn at that) can’t tell the different between fantasy and reality?  Why is it suddenly different when the audience is female? The truth is that plenty of people enjoy porn that includes situations and acts that they would never pursue or enjoy in real life.   And that’s ok.

And there’s nothing new about anything in “50 Shades.”  There has been plenty of trashy erotica that has walked the same ground, probably with better grammar, many times before.  Anne Rice wrote a trilogy of BDSM erotica that STARTS with a sexy, sexy rape (Sleeping Beauty being…asleep) and goes on from there.  Plenty of women read that 20 or 30 years ago and are probably living perfectly normal, productive, functional lives.  (Hell, Anne Rice even wrote sexy “fake” rape into her mainstream books that I read when I was 14.)

So basically, I’m starting to find all this condescending blather about this terrible piece of porn is getting old.  Fantasy isn’t reality.  Porn isn’t reality.  Not everyone who reads trashy books is an idiot who needs you to tell them how to feel about something.  And even if they are, your facebook meme isn’t going to change their minds or prevent them from doing something stupid.

Jamberry Application Tools or Ode to the Rubber Cuticle Pusher

So when I originally ordered my first Jamberry nail wraps, I didn’t get any of the tools because I figured I could fake it with what I had, and also I am cheap.  And I did mostly ok on my own, and still ended up loving the product so much I immediately went out and became a consultant.  

But with my consultant kit came the Jamberry application tools, and I’ve used them for several applications, so I’ll give you my honest review of them.  (Yes, I make money on these things.  No, I won’t lie about them.)

The application kit comes with everything you see to the left.  Buffing block, orange sticks, file, rubber cuticle pusher, alcohol wipes, curved scissors, and nail clippers.  It also optionally comes with cuticle oil.  Now you may already own most of these things.  You probablyImage at least have scissors, nail clippers, and a file.  And that’s enough, really.  You DO need something to push your cuticles back, something which I’ve never done before but which makes the world of difference in both how your Jamberries last and how they look.

But I do like having the kit, because everything is together, and everything is new and shiny.  The buffing block really helps smooth out your nails prior to application and I also use it a bit for smoothing the end result.  The file is fine, although I’m personally addicted to glass files.  I like to start with the Jamberry (courser) file and finish with a glass file.  

The alcohol wipes are fairly useless.  Although it’s important to clean your nails prior to application, I find it’s best to do so individually, which is impossible with a wipe because it dries out too fast.  But I bet you have alcohol in the house, so it’s not a big deal.  I DO really like the clippers and scissors because they are SHARP.  The ones that have been in my house for who knows how long are NOT nearly as sharp.  These cut the wraps SO much easier than my old ones.  

But finally, we get to the real gem of the kit.  The Rubber Cuticle Pusher.  Now, you can use this little tool for pushing your cuticles and it’s not quite as effective as an orange stick, but it’s more gentle.  But the actual purpose of this tool is for applying pressure to your wraps after heating.  Otherwise you are pressing with your fingers, which are not really the ideal tools.  The Rubber Cuticle Pusher can apply a lot of pressure very precisely and can get right along the edge of the wraps to make sure you get a good seal.  It really makes application a lot easier and more effective.  

I like this thing so much I went looking for them in mass quantities.  You can find them on Amazon, but they want $5 for 2 pushers, which seemed a bit excessive.  So I went to Sally’s Beauty Supply looking for them.  Nope.  They didn’t have a single one.  (I’ve heard some do, but I am sure mine did not.)   Plus I discovered as a consultant I could order a bunch of them from Jamberry for a really great price!  So I ordered 24.  I told you I love these things.  I’ll be giving some away in my Jamberry Facebook group, so you should come join if you haven’t.

I didn’t understand the point of the optional cuticle oil, especially since oil weakens the seal of the wraps.  But supposedly applying the oil to your cuticles while wearing the wraps keeps your nails healthy and from drying out.  Some say it prevents peeling upon wrap removal, although I haven’t had any problems with that, and my nails are very weak normally.  I have applied the oil sporadically and can’t say whether or not it works, since my nails have been awesome.  But if you are worried about nail damage or have dry nails, you should try it.  But don’t apply the oil for the first 24 hours of wearing your wraps because it can weaken the seal.

Finally there is the Jamberry mini-heater.  Really you can apply heat to Jamberries any way you want.  Bonding requires heat + pressure.  Hair dryers work, but are cumbersome because you have to hold it in one hand and keep putting it down and picking it back up.  I used my iron as a heat source once, and it worked ok, but I did burn myself a bit. Image Plus that means I have to apply my nails in my sewing room where my iron lives.  Some people use rice bags heated in the microwave, although I haven’t tried this.

The Jamberry mini-heater is actually larger than I expected.  I sort of wish it was as mini as I imagined.  It’s about 7-8 inches tall and puts out quite a lot of heat. (Apparently, the optimal level of heat for the wraps. I’d say you need to heat them longer with other sources.) It’s hotter than my hair dryer.  The nice thing is that it sits on any surface and is hands free, which makes application easier.  Also, although you still have to plug it in, it’s easier to move from room to room than my iron.  So I’ve been using the mini-heater since I got it, and although it’s not necessary, it does make applying the wraps slightly easier.  So if you’re an addict who is going to be doing this a lot, I’d recommend it.

 

 

Next time on Kim talks about Jamberry products, I’ll soon be trying out their nail lacquers.

 

Removing Jamberry Nail Wraps with Oil

So you’ve been wearing your Jamberry wraps for days and days and it’s time to remove them.  But they don’t just fall off, they’re really stuck on there.

On day 11 of wearing my laImagest wraps, I had one come loose after getting caught on my hair, so I removed it by gently lifting it while I was out and about.  So it was time to change my wraps (YAY NEW WRAPS!).  There are a few different methods of removing the wraps.  Jamberry says to either heat the wraps and peel them off or to soak them in hot water or nail polish remover.  But many Jamberry fans prefer using oil to remove them, because it avoids any toxic chemicals and is very gentle to your nails.

Step one of removing the wraps is to break the seal by lifting up the edges around the cuticles.  It’s easiest to do this if you heat the wraps first (with whatever heating element you prefer).  Then you can apply the oil.  Now many people use olive oil for this, but I prefer not to waste my expensive cooking oil.  So I happen to have some mineral oil sitting around doing nothing, so I’ve been using that. It doesn’t really matter what kind of oil you use, it will still loosen and dissolve the adhesive.  

You can either soak your nails in a little dish of oil, or if you’re trying to conserve oil, just apply the oil with a cloth to each nail.  Work the oil under the wrap while you gently lift the wrap and rub it off.  Whatever you do, don’t just rip off the wrap because you can damage your nails that way.  Some may be tougher than others, so just keep applying oil and working it under the wrap and they will eventually slide off.

You may be left with a little adhesive on your nails, but that will come off either with some more oil or soap and water.

I usually wait until the next day to put on my next wraps to give the oil a chance to soak in.  You don’t want  your nails too oily when you apply the wraps or they won’t adhere as well.

 

 

 

How’s Your Back

“Hi Kim.  How’s your back?”

I hear this a lot.  I think it’s kinda strange.  I realize we have a cultural habit of asking how each other are in greeting, and that making that question specific can be a sign that ‘yes we really are acquainted.’  “How’s your new job?”  “How’s your mom doing?”  Etc.   But it still strikes me as a little weird to greet someone by bringing up their chronic illness.  I can’t imagine walking up to someone in a wheelchair and asking “how’s the inability to walk?”

But it’s not really the fact that it’s an unpleasant reminder that is annoying.  It’s that it’s not an easy question to answer.  There’s the truthful answer, which is never simple, or the comforting answer, which is never wholly truthful.  ‘What question are they REALLY asking?’ I have to wonder.  ‘Do they want to know how I am at this very moment, or how I’ve been doing recently, or do they even really want to know at all?  Do they just want to hear something positive to make them feel good for asking?’  

Because the truthful answer may be “Well, two days ago I was in tears because the pain was so bad and it just wouldn’t stop no matter what I did, but right now I’m only in a mild amount of pain.”   By the way, that answer would translate in spoken words to “Eh, alright.”  Mostly the answer is “well, you can see me, which means I’m not in bed, which means IT COULD BE WORSE.”   Aka “not bad.”  

I know people mean well when they make inquiries, but it puts a weird pressure on me, honestly.  Maybe I’m feeling really good at the moment and not in pain and they ask and suddenly I start feeling guilty because I SHOULD be in more pain.  I’m supposed to be disabled, what am I doing out and about and functioning?  That’s obviously just the stupid thoughts in my head, but they hit you at the strangest moments.  

I’d just rather talk about something else, unless it’s somehow relevant.  I’d rather talk about how my business is doing, or what I’m working on, or the last book I read or really ANYTHING ELSE.  Because my back really isn’t that interesting.  It’s the same as its been for the last seven years: fucked up.  It’s still fucked up.  Sometimes it’s more fucked up than others, and no I don’t know why or when or how long or anything.  It just is a thing.  Honestly I have just accepted it and moved on.  I feel like other people are more bothered by the fact that I live with chronic pain than I am sometimes.   Yes, sometimes medical science can’t fix people.  I know that’s a scary realization, but I’ve been living with that knowledge since I was 17 and the surgeon told me to “come back when you can’t walk.”  I’m kinda over it.

So what if you are genuinely concerned and genuinely want to know how my back is doing?  Well, for one thing, if it was me asking a friend, it wouldn’t be the first or second thing out of my mouth when I see them.  I’d wait until a relaxed moment, or until the subject came up naturally.  If you’re only going to exchange a few sentences of small talk with me, well then maybe you don’t actually know me well enough to ask for details about my health. 

So if you ask me how my back is doing, be prepared for something non-committal and vague in response.  Or possibly the ever-so-helpful-but-true “it hurts.”   Either way, there will be a shrug involved.