Underneath my yellow skin

Author Archives: Minna Hong

Needle meet haystack

So. The quest to find the One True Game* is not going well. I’ve reached the point in The Ringed City (Dark Souls III DLC) that I like the least. Hm. Well. I actually don’t like any of it, but the part that is the least enthusiastic for me to slog through. The end part, is what I’m saying. Despite me loving the last boss, Gael, even though I hate fighting him because of his hyper-defenses, but he’s a spectacular boss, I just find this part of the DLC tedious. It’s the part of running by Midir for the first time and fighting him on the bridge to the end.

I hate the Midir fight. I hate the Half Spears fight. I hate fighting the Gael fight (even though I love the fight itself and the lore). I just–hate everything about it. Yes, I could just skip it and go into NG+ because I have nothing to prove (have killed all the bosses in this game solo). Will I? No. The completionist in me won’t stand for it. I also have to kill the Champion’s Gravetender & Gravetender Greatwolf, which is not that hard as a Pyro, but I really loathe this boss fight. Mostly, I hate the Champion’s Gravetender because he’s bullshit, but anyway, I don’t want to do it. Nobody likes this fight, and I can never get any summons for it, so I’ve left it for now. It’s in the first DLC. There are ways to cheese it (which I’ve just looked up, and they all involve arrows). People are really smart and creative, I must say. I can’t even imagine how they thought up some of this cheese.

Anyhow, Dark Souls III is the most replayable of the Souls games to me, but I really don’t like the DLC. I’ve explained why in past posts so I’ll leave it at that. At any rate, it’s the reason I haven’t played the game in the past few days. I just don’t want to deal with the bullshit.

Side Note: I was talking to someone in a stream chat about The Surge because they asked if it ever got tedious, and I said candidly that the levels were very samesy and that it dragged on too long. I also said that the bosses weren’t that memorable and that it was hard to switch between weapon ‘classes’ because you gained proficiency when you used the weapon. Which, I hastened to add, I liked in general. You *should* get proficiency when you use a weapon. And, because I like to grind in games like this, I was able to get my second class (twin-rigged) nearly the same level as my first (single-rigged). In addition, there were implants that could bump up the proficiency of the different classes, so that helped.

Anyway, continuing the side note, the other person thanked me for being so honest, and I was taken by surprise. Why wouldn’t I be honest about a game? Stanning for…well, anything or anyone is beyond my ken. Liking something doesn’t mean thinking it’s perfect in my mind, and I don’t identify with anything or anyone as a core to my identity. I liked The Surge a great deal, much more than I thought I would because I hated Lords of the Fallen, but I am well aware that it is far from a perfect game. It’s too long and feels padded in the last third. The environments blend from one to the next. The main character is bland and boring. The shortcuts are too many and miss the point of being a shortcut. The enemies are not varied, and, for the most part, not that interesting (in and of themselves. Chopping off limbs never got old). The bosses save two are not memorable, and one of the memorable ones is memorable for all the wrong reasons.


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You won’t like me when I’m angry

We’re going through a heatwave here in MN. And by heatwave, I mean three days of ‘feels like’ 90+. I broke down yesterday and set the AC at 75 (I normally have it at 78, but I noticed I had perma-held it at 76 when I went to bump it down to 75). That’s surprisingly high for Americans if anecdote is data, which it isn’t, but it might as well be. Yes, I hate heat, but I also am trying to be environmentally conscious, and I hate wasting money. But, yesterday, I lost my shit when I woke up at 8:30 a.m. to my AC going off. It was already 88 degrees, and it was only going to get hotter. I decided to indulge myself for one full day before going back to my parsimonious ways.

I also have a fan blowing on my at high speed 24/7. That may seem like overkill to other people, but other people are not living in my very overheated skin.

Side note: I used to have hyperthyroidism, and now, I have hypothyroidism. You’re supposed to be never feel cold with the former and always feel cold with the latter. That explains why I never felt cold when I was younger, but not now.

The thermostat wars are very real. My BFF and her husband always argued about it. He’s more like me and would have happily never used the heater ever. She, on the other hand, is the one that when we used to go out in the winter, would pull her coat close to her, shiver, and demand to know why I wasn’t feeling the cold. She would say, “Isn’t your spine scrunching up?” I would retort that it made me feel alive, and we would laugh. It was all in good fun, just as me saying I would kill the sun with the heat of a thousand, well, suns, and she would get more energy from being outside.

She and her husband came to a compromise that neither of them were very happy about. Oh! This is a nonnegotiable for me in a relationship, by the way. Not that someone needs to love the cold the way I do, but that they understand that five minutes in the heat can deplete me to the point of needing to rest for several hours.

Back to my friend. She’s dealing with menopause now which makes her feel hot–which is a novice feeling for her. her husband is finding that he can tolerate the cold less as he gets older. They’ve switched to him wanting to bump the heater and her needing it colder, and she’s said to him, “Now you know how I’ve felt for twenty years!” while staring at him in the eyes and slowly turning the thermostat down. Ok, not the last bit because she’s a nice person, but it’s amusing how they’ve switched places.


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How I want to play the dating game

i'm on the edge.
On the edge of a broken heart.

I was reading my stories yesterday (Ask A Manager weekend thread), and there was someone asking for some outside perspective on her relationship and whether she should leave. The issue was that her common-law husband would never admit he was wrong, and it came to a head when she was out of town for a wedding, and he went out with friends. That wasn’t the issue. What was the issue was that he had a flirty friend (FF) he’s known forever, and she and another friend spent the night with hubby. FF wore his boxers and slept in the spare room. Hubby didn’t tell his wife, and she found out from someone else.

The OP (original poster) kept stressing that she wasn’t the jealous type and how fine she would have been if he had just told her–though maybe not about the boxers part. It was interesting to see the responses. Some took her at face value at her not being the jealous type, some questioned her on that. Some didn’t see the boxers as a big deal, but most did. Some gently told her she didn’t need to have a reason to get out, and others mused that by focusing so much on how the message was delivered (by a third party), she might be not owning her hurt feelings. Still others pointed out how her husband brushing away her feelings is the real issue and how he probably won’t change. One person suggested he might be trying to push her to leave (because the behaviors have been escalating, and they’d already tried couples counseling for a few sessions until he quit).

By the time I finished reading the post, I was exhausted, and I was on the side of leave him. Not because of the incident itself, necessarily (though I am on the side of wearing someone’s boxers being too intimate. You couldn’t give her shorts or sweats? And not telling your wife isn’t good either), but because the OP sounded done with the relationship, but not sure she had a good enough reason to walk away.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading advice columns, it’s that you can end a relationship at any time. You don’t need what other people would consider a good reason–but because our society is so invested in the narrative of coupledom and that you’re not a complete person without someone attached to your hip (especially as a het woman, even in 2019), and you still here how a bird in the hand, etc., etc., etc., it’s no wonder that people hold onto relationships for way past their expiration date. Not to mention sunken cost fallacy, and it’s understandable.

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I don’t think I actually like video games

I came to a realization a few weeks ago that I may not actually like video games. Hear me out. I’ve been playing ‘hardcore’ games for roughly seven years. The first one was Torchlight, which I absolutely loved. I loved the protagonist who looked Asian if you squinted. I really loved that she came back as a voiced NPC in the sequel, and her voice was low and husky like mine. I loved that I could have a pet whom I could name and feed fish. The game was very addictive, and I immediately had the ‘just one more level’ feeling about it.

Diablo III was right after that, and I really dug that as well. Then the Borderlands, original and sequel, which I played for hundreds of hours. Then, I played Dark Souls, and everything changed. I could no longer play hack ‘n slashes afterwards because the combat was empty and unsatisfying. Yes, I played Skyrim afterwards and enjoyed it*, but I was a caster (of course), so I didn’t have to do much of the melee combat.

In all this time, I played dozens of games that I didn’t like. At all. Some that I really wanted to like and should have been up my alley, such as Alan Wake, and others that I just didn’t like at all. Like Arkham whatever. I’m not sure which game, but I hated the combat. I gave it a fair shake–a few hours–but I just didn’t click with it at all. Others, I liked, but there was one aspect that I just couldn’t stand that made me fall off it, such as Sleeping Dogs, which I call Sleepy Dawgs for reasons that should be obvious. I really liked it, not in a small part because of the badass Asian male protagonist, but the driving suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. I can’t emphasize that enough. I didn’t love the combat as it’s similar to the Batman combat, but I could hack that. It was the driving that I haaaaaaaaaaated. I distinctly remember the incident that made me quit. I had to follow a wedding cake truck (long boring story) to get the cake back. After failing it twice, I was DONE. When I went back to try it again much later, I accidentally erased my saved game because United Front Games, the devs, made the inexplicable decision to put New Game at the top of the queue rather than Load Game like everyone else, and there are no saved files in the game–at least when I played. That was it for me. No way I was playing the game again, and I have not.


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Leveling up my veggie game

though not quite as tasty.
Better for me than chips.

I need to stop buying chips; I really do. I had given them up at some point, then gave into the impulse to buy them once, and the rest is history. It’s funny because while giving up caffeine was a nightmare at the time, I haven’t really missed it at all. I bought a thing of mocha coffee (with almond milk) last week, drank it for three days, then didn’t miss it when it was gone. Chips, on the other hand, are my weakness. Which is weird because I never used to be a salt person. I’m still not actually a salt person. I don’t add it to anything, and I wipe off my chips before I eat them. Or I get low-sodium chips.

I know the conventional wisdom is to eat in moderation, but that’s just not possible for me. I think another conventional wisdom should be to know thyself. One of the problems with giving advice, especially on the internet, is that the giver tends to look at the ideal situation. Look, you know I love me some advice columns. I consider them my stories, and I read them every day. But many of the comments are very black and white without considering the nuance. So, ‘eat in moderation’ is sound advice, but insisting that someone can do it through simple willpower isn’t.

Yes, of course, I know it’s because most people are limited in their capacity to look outside themselves (one reason I get so frustrated with conversations) and have a hard time truly understanding that other people may react to something differently than they do. I saw that in the Ask A Manager comments once when someone was talking about not being able to have their favorite junk food in the house because they had no control. People made sensible suggestions like divvying it up beforehand and freezing the parts you don’t immediately eat (in the case of chocolate) or hiding it away (for chips), which were very good suggestions. The problem is for someone like me–I won’t do it. I just know I won’t. We’re not always rational beings, and it’s difficult to explain why.

For example. One time while my mother was here, she said if I folded the paper bags from Cubs correctly before putting them in the cabinet, they would take up less space. Later, I told Ian that she was correct, and that I wouldn’t be doing that. He gave me a look of pure puzzlement. He said, “You know she’s right, and yet, you won’t do it?” I cheerfully said, “Yep!”, which just blew his mind. I knew it was irrational, but in that case, I also knew the reason why. Pure childish spite.

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Wedding showers brings out my David Attenborough powers

My niece’s wedding shower was yesterday, and I managed to pull it together enough to actually go. What’s more, I got the wedding shower gift sent to her house, and Amazon sent her birthday gifts to me on time, and I had the gift bag and tissue paper ready to go. By the way, whoever invented the gift bag has my undying gratitude. I used to take pleasure in wrapping gifts by hand, but ever since I discovered gift bags, there is no going back.

I wanted to channel my inner David Attenborough before I went. I was joking on Twitter that I should study the party-goers as if they were a different species, but it was really more about cultivating Attenborough’s inquisitive and attentive attitude. He goes into any situation with an open mind, and his tone is always one of wonderment. I have never heard him be judgmental or censorious, which is quite the feat. Plus, his voice is so warm and soothing. It’s like pouring maple syrup over your problems, and it’s a balm to my soul.

I knew going into the shower that much of the issue was my own shit. Yes, I have philosophical reasons for being against weddings and showers, but I have to be honest with myself–most of my anxiety was over me being a freak and worrying about whether I would do anything to embarrass myself or my niece.

Confession: I felt an immediate connection with my niece from the moment I saw her. As I said at her shower, I never knew I could love someone like that until that moment. She looked like me when I was that age, and more than one person assumed she was my daughter when we were out and about together. Which did not go down well with her real mother. I’m sure it was complicated by the fact that she’s white with Danish/Swedish (I think) background and did not at first glance look like my niece. You can see the resemblance if you look harder, but on the surface, it wasn’t as apparent.

I thought of my niece as the upgraded version of me. There were many things that we had in common, including a love for boys at an early age, a fearlessness that, sadly, we both lost over time, a wild imagination that translated into a writing ability (and in her case, an artistic ability as well), and a few other things as well. In other ways, however, she was unlike me. She was a stunning girl who turned heads wherever she went. Rail-thin like her mother, and she had a keen interest in makeup and fashion since she was young. She wanted to shave her legs when she was eleven, and she started wearing makeup on the daily a few years later. Her favorite colors were purple and pink, which is most definitely not like me.

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Let’s talk about Life is Strange tangentially

Life is Strange is a game that should be up my alley. It’s an immersive story about a disaffected young woman named Max Caulfield who is at a private school for photography. I don’t know if that’s the official explanation, but that’s what I garnered. By the way, I spent the first ten minutes or so of the game thinking that Max was named after the protagonist of Catcher in the Rye until I remembered his name was Holden.

Anyway, it’s a critically-acclaimed indie game by Dontnod Entertainment. Well, the studio is indie, but it was published by Microsoft. And apparently Squeeeenix (Square Enix) was involved at some point. It was released in episodes, and I waited until it came out in one game to buy it because, sale, and I don’t like to buy things episodically. What if they fold before the final episode? I don’t want that to happen to me as I have a hard enough time with endings.

The game, as I said, is about Max Caulfield, and she’s in a small town in Oregon after having been away for several years. When we join our young heroine, she is in a photography class. The teacher is someone who was a big photographer in the past, and he’s the reason Max wanted to go to the school. He irritated me from the start, but I tried to suspend my irritation and give him the benefit of the doubt. He continued to irritate me because he reminded me of countless hipster white dudes with a modicum of talent who thought they were way better than they actually were.

Side note: I have very strong reactions to things, and I rarely change from my immediate impression. Especially if the immediate reaction is negative. I have liked things and gone off them, but if I hate something from the start, it’s very difficult to change my mind. If I’m not crazy about something, but there’s a spark there, then I might change my mind over time.

For example, during their 7-hour Dark Souls livestream, Rory from RKG mentioned Aoife Wilson and Johnny Chiodini from Eurogamer and that they were also doing a Dark Souls playthrough. DS III, I believe. He said they were lovely (and friends of RKG) and if you liked Dark Souls playthroughs, you should check them out. Someone said they came to RKG after hearing them mentioned by Johnny and Aoife. I just reached that episode, and it’s hilarious that they cite one of my favorite early-on moments from the current season of DS II. After the creation of Mama Finchy, Gav wants to see what she looks like, so Rory has her in her bra and bloomers from the back. Then he starts humming the beginning of Man! I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain, turns Mama Finchy to face the camera, and Gav and Rory shout, “Let’s go, girls!” I laughed out loud at that.


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Preparing to go out is harder than actually leaving

My niece’s bridal shower is this Saturday, and I am freaking out. Why? Let me count the ways. One, I’m no good at girl shit, and I know this is going to be girl shit. There are no men/non-binary people invited, and there’s going to be a game involving purses. We were told not to look it up, so I didn’t, but I can imagine what the game might be having been to a baby shower.

I get really weird about gifts. I was going to give money for the bridal shower gift and her birthday gift (which is the next day), but then I read that this is NOT DONE.

Side note: It’s a very American thing as money is frequently given as wedding gifts in other countries. I read on a wedding gift thread that giving gifts was pushed by the shopping industry, which makes sense. And I do understand the joy in receiving a well-thought gift, and I used to give them. I still do with some people, but in general, it’s easier to give money. In addition, for adults who have lived together for a while, money can be more welcome than some needless bric-a-brac.

Back to the topic at hand. I know I put a lot of the pressure on myself, and it’s my anxiety. If I don’t find the perfect gift, I’m going to be cast out of polite society. At least that’s what my mind tells me. I’m already aware that I’m a freak, and it’s difficult for me to act like a normie. It doesn’t help that the last time I went to a thing at my brother’s house, it didn’t end well because of a rude comment by a friend of my brother’s towards me, and me storming out in response. My brother got mad at me for storming out, even though he had heard the rude comment and didn’t say anything about it to his friend.

Part of depression is knowing I have to get a bridal shower gift and putting it off until the last moment. It doesn’t help that the shower itself was very short notice, but this is on me. When I don’t want to deal with something, I put it off until the very last moment, stewing and fuming about it the entire time. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was worrying about it. Even now, I’m putting off going to Target while I write this post.

Why am I going? Because I love my niece, and I want to support her. I know all this shit that comes up is not on her or the party or the other people. It’s on me, but it can feel insurmountable. All the insecurities I have are set off by events such as this, and I just want to bury myself under a blanket and never come out again.


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I am, but. And, again, but.

I’ve struggled with identity all my life. Growing up as a fat, brainy, weirdo Asian chick in a very white Minnesota suburb was all but guaranteed to make me feel like a freak. I got picked on almost every day, and the days I didn’t, it pretty much was me wandering around lost in my own thoughts and never quite understanding what was expected of me. I like to joke that I was raised by wolves, but it’s pretty true. I have an apocryphal story about how the first pop song I heard was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant when I was in sixth grade. The first movie I remembered seeing was Star Wars (the original, whatever the fuck it’s called) when I was seven or eight, and I hated it. I also saw Superman at the time with my youth group roughly around the same time and had nightmares for a month.

I’m just going to say it. I don’t like movies and TV for the most part. I once told a professor I had in grad school that I didn’t like movies, and she looked at me as if I said I ate puppies for fun. She said it was like saying I didn’t like sandwiches, which was a bad analogy for me because sandwiches are delicious. I realized then that my opinion was objectively Bad, and I should keep it to myself.

Side note: I wasn’t going to get into why I don’t like movies and television shows for the most part, but it’s actually an integral part of this post, so here we go, the Cliff Notes version. I have a vast imagination, and I like to let it run wild. It’s one reason I can write fiction almost endlessly, and I’ve only had one serious writer’s block in my life. Tandem to that is that my brain never. stops. thinking. Worrying, ruminating, chewing over every goddamn thing. It’s exhausting, but it’s something I’ve dealt with most of my life as well.

Put these two things together, and you might be able to see why I don’t really care for movies or television. The whole time I’m watching a movie, the criticizing part of my brain is chattering on and on about what is wrong whatever I’m watching while the other side of my brain, the creative side, is thinking of a dozen ways it would have done the scene differently–and better. I can never forget that I’m watching a movie or television, and I never really get into it.

To that end, most of the shows/movies I like either are based on the premise that the theatricality is part and parcel of the show (one reason I love musicals), or the writing is good enough to pull me in and allow me to override the chattering in my brain.


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Point-and-click hit-and-miss

what a nice night for murder.
Thimbleweed Park is lovely, I’ll give it that.

I like mystery novels. A lot. I read them, and I write them, and my god, I want to find a good mystery game. I have tried. My god. I have tried so hard. I’ve played the Poirot games. I’ve played many of the Sherlock Holmes games. I’ve played the Blackwell series. Any time a good point-and-click comes out, I eventually try it out, hoping against hope that this will be the one. I had really high hopes for Murdered: Soul Suspect, and I played it well past the point where I actually gave a damn about it. It had such a good idea. You’re a cop who used to be with a gang but cleaned yourself up well. Your wife is murdered (I think? I don’t remember. She’s definitely dead), and you become more of a loose cannon after her demise. That leads you to chasing after a killer without backup. The killer kills you (not a spoiler, really, as it happens in the first ten minutes or so), and for the rest of the game, you are a ghost trying to figure out what happened to you. In the meantime, you help other ghosts free themselves from this realm by figuring out how they were killed. I mean. This is right up my alley. Murder! Mayhem! Detecting! Paranormal activity! Helping other beings with their lives! It has ‘me’ written all over it. It should have hit me in all my sweet spots…er….but it didn’t. I can’t tell you why, either, not exactly.

I really enjoyed Kathy Rain, a badass chick who has to explore her past, and this is set in the…I want to say eighties. I put up with the usual point-and-click bullshit (esoteric logic that only makes sense to the developers) and relied on the walkthrough for the puzzles. I put up with backtracking for hours through four or five different rooms so I could pick up one thing from the one room, trek to the fifth room to use the thing, then bring the thing from the fifth room to the second room to do the thing that I knew I was going to have to do when I passed through it, but I couldn’t do at the time because I didn’t have the thing from the fifth room–that I couldn’t pick up when I first saw it. I put up with all that because I loved Kathy Rain–the character, I mean.

So, I liked the game despite the shortcomings of the format. It was the writing that drew me in, and I cared about what happened to Kathy. I wanted to know why her father disappeared when she was a kid and why her mom went crazy (I think. It’s been some time since I played it). So, it was to my dismay when in the third act–

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