Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tex Murphy Project Fedora


I’ve become obsessed with watching the progress of the Tex Murphy Project Fedora Kickstarter. In six days, over half of the funding has been pledged, which is a good sign that us die hard Tex Murphy fans will finally get to play a long awaited new game, albeit in the future. After waiting for well over a decade, 12 months or so seems hardly any time at all.

I had never heard of Kickstarter prior to this project announcement, but it is a very clever idea on the part of its instigators. It is basically a crowd funding platform which enables projects of all types to solicit backing from the Internet community.  And it is very community orientated with ample opportunities for backers to comment on the project or connect directly with project managers.

Backers are rewarded concomitant with the amount of money pledged and start as low as a $5.00. For that sum on the Project Fedora Kickstarter you are rewarded with a downloadable pdf poster. A $15.00 pledge rewards you with a digital copy of the game DRM free. The more money you pledge,  more desirable rewards are offered.

You pay your pledge through credit card or, interestingly, through an Amazon account.

Just as interesting as watching the progress of the kickstarter are the frequent updates, which in this case are all cleverly executed videos.  The video below is Big Finish Games promotional video for their Kickstarter page. As a fan of the Tex Murphy games it was all very nostalgic for me, but it will also amuse those who have never played the games or even heard of them.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rest In Peace Sweet Lizzie

"…hives with honey and wax, thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light." – Aesop

5 January 1996 – 15 May 2012

The quote at the top of this post has the famous phrase “sweetness and light”, which was one of the endearments I used to call Lizzie the cat.  When I called her this, she would swish her tail and smile at me. She loved attention, any sort of attention.

Alas the sweetness and light she shed on our lives is now gone.

On Tuesday  at about 3.20pm we farewelled our beautiful cat and had her euthanised. Her condition had deteriorated over Monday night, and Tuesday morning she was unable to walk.  Her death was peaceful, and we were there with her, stroking her, until she breathed her last, which only took a few seconds.  It was better than watching her slowly die over a protracted time –neither of us could have borne the heartache.  The cat we knew had lost her will to live and hardly registered our presence.

We first acquired Lizzie as a kitten in March 1996. She was a replacement for a cat that had gone missing. We shopped around and finally noticed an advertisement in The Age from a breeder in Kilsyth (in the Eastern suburbs) for  Oriental-Abyssinian cross kittens at a reasonable price. We drove out to Kilsyth, walked into the house, and saw tiny Lizzie playing with her brothers in the living room. “That’s the one!” we both cried simultaneously. There was something vivid about her even then. She was the only Abyssinian looking kitten in the litter; her brothers were all a solid reddish gold colour and were beautiful as well. But the little female kitten, that was to share our lives for 16 years, was the pick of the litter.


The photo above was taken the day we adopted Lizzie. That miniature cat on my knee had just been introduced to Oscar our five year old male cat.  She doesn’t look in the least freaked out, and as it turned out it was the beginning of a love affair between those two cats. 

Oscar and Lizzie April 1999

Oscar was a big brown oriental cross cat and was a sweetheart of an animal as well. He and Lizzie were the best of friends and ate off the same plate, slept entwined together, and played elaborate chasing games. They also coordinated in hunting rodents. One time, a rat had escaped and was hiding behind a bookcase. The cats staked themselves at each end of the bookcase, and kept vigil, waiting for the rat to emerge. Lizzie was more on the ball, and when she caught Oscar napping would give him a nudge, then hasten back to her corner. Lizzie was the one who caught the rat in the end.

Oscar died in 2004, another traumatic event in our lives. We had him euthanised as well, after he had been diagnosed with a cancerous growth in his throat. It took three months from the diagnosis until the hard decision became necessary, when we saw him gasping for breath one night and couldn’t face seeing him go through it again.

Lizzie mourned his passing, by looking forlorn and lost and off her food for a few days. She always remained true to Oscar, never establishing the same relationship with another cat, Willy for instance.

She was also a very loyal cat to her human companions, and followed us around in a doglike manner. She always came when called, and was always waiting to greet you when you came home, sitting on the front verandah in anticipation.

When Willy joined the household as a kitten in 2004, Lizzie was not impressed and developed a “touch me not” attitude towards him. He was always a bit apprehensive of her and she definitely was the top cat. However, she was not hostile to him, just cautious. She even brought in baby mice for him to play with when he was a very small kitten. He hissed at the first mouselet but got the idea pretty fast.  They were together for eight years, so they ended up tolerating each other well and didn’t fight. Willy was very gentle with her during her last days. He knew she was not herself.

Willy and Lizzie with mouse (that dark blob between them)

As well as being an exceptionally pretty creature, Lizzie had one of the most vivid personalities I have ever encountered in a cat. Even as a tiny kitten she had presence and commanded attention. She adored being patted, and responded to any touch, leaning in to encourage you to continue stroking her, and appeared to listen earnestly when spoken to. She was a highly intelligent animal and had a sweet and gentle temperament. She never bit or scratched. A most excellent cat.

She could be very pushy and persistent and generally got what she wanted. I’m glad I caved in to her a week ago, and gave her a bit of quality time; a solid patting, where she eventually rolls onto her back for an extended stomach rub.  Little did I know it would be the last time she wanted such attention.

She had a good, happy, healthy and soft life.  She only ever went to the vet five times over the sixteen years she lived with us and three of those occasions were for vaccinations and neutering. 

So now there’s an empty space where once a bright and beautiful cat used to live. We’ll no doubt cope with her absence, and remember her always as one of the best cat companions a person could wish for.

Monday, May 14, 2012


The Cat Politics household is tired and emotional at present, due to a very sick cat.

It is our old cat Lizzie, who this time last week was her usual sparkling self. Then, for no reason at all she went off her food last Wednesday. We managed to persuade her to eat a little on Thursday, but she was becoming stranger as the days went by – listless and pointlessly wandering around yowling and not with it at all.

Last Friday we took her to the vet, who checked her out thoroughly, took a blood test and reported that nothing was seriously wrong with her physically. But her condition continued to deteriorate over the weekend. She refused to eat anything for those two days, though was still drinking water. It is heartbreaking to see her as she is now  - a ghost of her former self.

We suspected that the problem was cerebral, rather than physical, caused by old age and possible dementia.

Lizzie was taken back to the vet today and was given an even more thorough examination. The vet could find nothing wrong with her physically and agreed it could be a mental problem.  He applied a saline drip to keep her moisture levels up, and also gave her a cortisone pill and an appetite stimulant injection. However, his prognosis was not optimistic.

Tonight, she did lap up some beaten egg but still refuses solid food and remains dull and unresponsive as well as appearing to have difficulty in walking. The vet assures us she is not in pain, but it is very distressing to witness your beloved cat slowly dying.

If she doesn’t improve tomorrow, we will have to make the big decision on euthanasia.

All this has been costing us sleep, and a sad gloominess has invaded the house.  Even Willy is affected, craving more attention from us.

Today I escaped for a couple of hours in Ur and Babylon, at the Melbourne Museum’s Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia Exhibition. I’d pre booked a ticket months ago, so rather than waste it I decided to go. It did distract my  mind for a while, though the stone relief sculpture of The Dying Lion, brought me back to the present – that now familiar sadness that has haunted us for a week.  It is a very interesting exhibition, well worth attending and I’ll write more about it when my brain is functioning normally.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More Caviar Anyone?

black_caviar _caul110212
Black Caviar is aiming for her 21st victory this weekend

Yes, Black Caviar is back on the Australian racing menu this weekend, when she will be contesting the Group One Goodwood over 1200 metres at Morphettville, and gunning for her 21st win, and 11th Group One.  It will be her final appearance on an Australian racetrack prior to travelling overseas to compete at Royal Ascot.  However, she may very well be back on her home tracks in spring, having been pencilled in for the Manikato Stakes and Patinack Farm Classic.

She doesn’t face much competition from the other eight runners in the Goodwood, none of them having won at Group One level.  The best of them appear to be Outlandish Lad, We’re Gonna Rock, Catapulted and Go The Knuckle.

It is remarkable how Black Caviar has captured the heart of the nation. Every time she races, the nation stops to watch. One AFL football game on the weekend will start half an hour early, so as to be over by the time Black Caviar races.  This is to enable the teams and spectators time to get to the track to watch living history.

The other major race on Saturday is the BTC Cup, a Group One sprint over 1200 metres at Doomben racecourse in Queensland.

Black Caviar won the race last year, but a quality field has accepted to the tune of  fifteen runners. Buffering is the current favourite, but having drawn an outside barrier, will possibly be vulnerable. Galaxy winner Temple of Boom is a major threat, along with the similarly named Spirit of Boom, Neeson and super smart mare Beaded. Fillies Elite Falls, Satin Shoes and Sea Siren may challenge as well.

Females have dominated racing this year – Black Caviar (naturally), More Joyous, Mosheen, Atlantic Jewel and Shez Sinsational who won the Group Two Hollindale Stakes last Saturday, narrowly from fellow mare Lights Of Heaven. Thus it wouldn’t be all that surprising if one of the female contestants in BTC Cup took home the prize.

Vale Vo Rogue & Northerly

Two former champions of the Aussie turf passed away this week. The great bare hoof frontrunner, Vo Rogue, died on Monday at the age of 28 and Sunline conqueror, and dual Cox Plate winner, Northerly was euthanased on Wednesday after suffering a severe bout of colic. He was 15 and enjoyed some of his retirement years at Living Legends, before returning to his owner’s Western Australian property. All very sad for those of us who remember their exploits, but they’ll both live on in our memories.

I saw Northerly race once in the flesh in the 2001 Feehan Stakes, where he raced against and defeated Sunline for the first time. I admit my heart was with Sunline that day, but it was a great race nonetheless. I still have the race book from the day with a photo of Sunline on the cover.

Update Saturday

It was astounding to watch Black Caviar cruise to her 21st victory this afternoon. She barely got into second gear the whole trip, and Luke Nolen hardly shifted in the saddle, as she cantered to the line, a length and a half clear from We’re Gonna Rock with Sterling Grove trailing three lengths behind in third spot. It struck me as one of her most arrogant wins – why bust your guts if you can win at a canter.

And I was right about the female dominance of the sport. Three year old filly Sea Siren took out the BTC Cup, with old trooper Scenic Blast running a game second and Beaded taking third spot.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Return of Tex Murphy ?


I have mentioned before that the Tex Murphy games are my all time favourite computer games, and word is that Big Finish Games is to bring Tex Murphy back after a hiatus of fourteen years. It all depends on the success of a Kickstarter project to be launched on May 15th.

This is great news and I’ll willingly fork over some of my hard earned cash to support the project. After all I, and all the other Tex fans around the world, have been hanging out for a new game for fourteen years.

The game will be developed by the original creators of Tex Murphy, who have been around the video game scene for decades, first at Access, then at Microsoft who bought out Access in 1999. They now operate their own independent company, Big Finish Games.

So what makes these games so special?

Well, Under A Killing Moon, the first of the FMV (full motion video) Tex Murphy games, was ahead of its time, and the first truly interactive movie with a real 3D gaming environment. Not only that, it had a great story, witty dialog and was highly enjoyable to play. Set in a dystopian future San Francisco it had elements of film noir, hard boiled detective fiction and a Blade Runner futurist setting.

Under A Killing Moon was one of the first computer games I ever played, and I was hooked then and forever after. The second game The Pandora Directive only served to convince me more. It is a near perfect video game, considerably more sophisticated than Under A Killing Moon and generally acknowledged as the best of the three FMV Tex games. Tex Murphy Overseer came out in 1998 and was the first game to include a DVD version of the game as well as multiple CDs. Unfortunately, the DVD didn’t work on the computer systems of the day, or required lots of tweaking.  I never succeeded in getting it running smoothly; either the image was faulty or the sound was choppy or scenes froze and you had to reboot – very irritating to say the least.

Overseer ended on a cliff-hanger, where Tex, after accepting a lift with a stranger, is shot in the last frame with a “to be continued” postscript.

The new game, if the kickstarter is successful, will take up the story from there. The developers plan to create it in FMV as with the original games and also make use of new software developments to enhance the game play. Certainly something worth waiting for.

In the meantime, all the Tex Murphy games are available for download on GOG.com in a drm free format.  They work really well on Windows XP and probably later versions of Windows.

If you have ever played or enjoyed adventure games from the 1990s, you will want to support their return in 2010s. The 1990s was the golden age of adventure games, before they were generally cast aside by shooters and action adventure games.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Now We Are Six

Today, the 5th May 2012, marks the sixth anniversary of Cat Politics Blogspot. And how better to celebrate the occasion than with another cat pic, this time Ms Lizzie curled up on her Aussie woollen mat.


As regards the title of this post, Now We are Six is of course a book of poems by A A Milne, which I received as a birthday present when I turned seven. I admit it puzzled me at the time why I was given a book celebrating turning six one year after the fact, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, being even then a voracious reader.

I know I haven’t written much about books recently, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. It is rather because I have been reading so much, that I  don’t write about books. No sooner do I finish one book, than I start another, either on my Kindle or a book from my private library.

Currently I’m rereading my collection of Janwillem van de Wetering detective novels.

vandewetering_outsider I recently did a post on these on my other blog, Eye Candy For Bibliophiles, and that inspired me to read them again. If you don’t know the author, Janwillem van de Wetering was a Dutch born writer who led an interesting and adventurous life, and also wrote a series of novels featuring two endearing police detectives namely Sergeant Rhinus De Gier and Adjutant Henk Grijpstra who work for the Amsterdam Municipal  Police Department Murder Brigade.

The novels are mostly set in Amsterdam and have their own idiosyncratic style. The humour is gentle and off beat, and the detectives highly unusual. The books are a relaxing and laid back reading experience. And a cat features every so often - Sergeant de Gier’s Siamese cat, Oliver who is a real character in his own right.

Van de Wetering also wrote two books on his experiences living in Zen Buddhist Monasteries in Japan and America. He wrote his detective novels in Dutch, then translated them into English himself, so his books have his own engaging writing style.  He claimed that both language versions were different.

If you want to know more about this very interesting writer check out this article on his Philosophical Exercises.

I certainly will continue with this blog and Eye Candy for Bibliophiles for some years yet. These days I find that I enjoy writing and it gets easier to do the more I write. I’m not interested in creative writing for myself; I’ll leave that to the experts and appreciate their efforts. I’ll just stick to plain old prose.