Underneath my yellow skin

Author Archives: Minna Hong

Knives out is better than knives in

I hated Knives Out as I mentioned in my two-part review. In part because it didn’t have enough bladed weapons, even though admittedly it was a tiny part of the reason. This is just a clever way for me to say that I love weapons. A lot. This is not news to anyone who knows me, but the depth of my passion might be. Except to my taiji teacher. She is well-used to me gushing about some weapon or the other. I appreciate her patience because she is not a weapons person herself. She doesn’t dislike them, I don’t think, but she’s at best neutral about them.

One consequence of my training is that I have become a ‘well, actually’ person when it comes to weaponry that I know. I mean, it’s not unusual. I hate movies with psychologists in them because they break SO MANY LAWS. Similarly, taiji in most movies is just people waving their hands in the air. I watched Truly, Madly, Deeply with Alan Rickman in it, and there’s a scene in which he is playing the cello. I love Alan Rickman immensely, and he did a decent job of mimicking a cellist, but it was obvious he didn’t really play.

So, yeah, it’s not unusual that I wince when I see weapons-play in movies or TV. I remember when Game of Thrones was a thing. There was a scene between Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth that had everyone online raving about it. Especially ‘girl power’ and that kind of thing. I finally watched the clip, and I was underwhelmed. The two actors did the best with what they were giving, but the whole thing was ludicrous. Let’s start with the constant clashing of swords. Look. If you have a pointy-stabby thing in your hand, you’re not looking to clash it against another pointy-stabby thing. You’re looking to point and stab it into a soft bit. This is not rocket science. In addition, the wild swinging and slashing is both wasted energy expended and leaving yourself open to an attack.


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The word for today is apathetic

I’ve been thinking about gender lately for obvious reasons (it’s in the societal zeitgeist at the moment), and where it ends for me personally is the same place it ends for me on many issues. A massive shrug, a loss of interest, and a sense of frustration because nothing quite gets to the heart of matter.

I’ve done the same thing with religion (not a theist or an atheist, uneasily call myself an agnostic), sexuality (not gay or straight, reluctantly labeled myself bi), and to a lesser extent, ethnicity/nationality (not Taiwanese and not American, so I guess Taiwanese American).

Now, it’s gender. Here’s my thought process on gender. I’ve always felt like I use woman by default because it was my gender at birth. I hated it when I was a kid because I was told there were so many things girls weren’t allowed to do. Climb trees, for example. I used  to pray to a god I didn’t believe in that He (yes, a He, of course) would turn me into a boy as I sleep. I also prayed He’d give me blond hair, which was the result of being an Asian kid in a white suburb of Minnesota in the ’70s.

I don’t want to be/think I’m a man. I want to make that clear up front. My issues with ‘woman’ are more because of the societal expectations than the actual equipment. I mean, I don’t love my boobs (way too big and distracting), but I don’t hate them, either. They’re just there. I accept them much like I accept my legs. I mean, I love boobs in general, but I’m indifferent towards mine. I do find it amusing how much attention they used to get (alternating with annoyed), but I’m meh towards them on the daily.

I used to pride myself on messing up gender expectations. I’ve lesbians inform me that they didn’t know where to put me on the butch/femme spectrum (yes, I’m that old), which always made me happy. I’m not androgynous but more a mishmash of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ traits. Physically, I look like a woman. Long hair past my ass, big boobs, wide hips, etc. Yes, I’m been told I have good birthing hips. That always made me laugh heartily because I knew from my early twenties that I most emphatically did not want children. Vocally, I sound like a man. I get called sir/mister on the phone all the time. The advice from my father when i was fifteen on how to get a boyfriend was to raise my voice a few registers and let them beat me in games/sports/fix my car/whatever. I am inordinately proud of myself for retorting that I’d rather be single than do all that bullshit which had no effect on my father (he’s a narcissist), but at least I stood up for myself.


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Mental health and gaming

This has been a shit week. Yesterday, for a brief moment, there was the exhilarating news that the remastered/remake of Demon’s Souls (by FromSoft, but the remake is being done by Bluepoint games) was going to be on PC. That brightened my entire week, and I was so stoked. I mean, look at it.

If you know anything about the game and even if you don’t, you gotta admit it looks amazing. If you look very closely at the end, you’ll see it says it’s coming to the PC. And there was much rejoicing! What a boost on an otherwise shitty day (well, the day itself wasn’t shitty, but that’s not the point).

Then, later in the evening, it all came undone. It turns out that it was NOT coming to the PC, no how, no way. Nuh uh, why would you think so never mind the text that said it would actually come to the PC? Oh, that? That was human error a rep of Sony said. Was never meant to be! Look over there. *flees*

Ok, that wasn’t exactly what happened, but it’s how my brain interpreted it. The human error comment is real but the rest is just head canon. What Sony said in the walkback  was that the text in THE ACTUAL GAMEPLAY TRAILER was human error and that the remake of Demon’s Souls was a PS5 exclusive. Period.

To which I say, bullshit. Why? For several reason. One, the push for Dark Souls on the PC played a significant role in catapulting the series to the lofty heights it enjoys today. Two, it wouldn’t have been in the text if it wasn’t a consideration. Three, because I want it to be bullshit.

Look. I know they were in a hard place when this snafu happened. The hype the PC announcement created could not be put back in the box. PC gamers (and I am one) are rabid about our PCness and our gaming. Souls fans are on another level. So, yeah. I can see how they would be cringing at this point. Let’s face it. There’s no satisfactory response except, “Why, yes, it’s coming to the PC.”

Here’s what I think happened. A Demon’s Souls remake is big. Fans have been clamoring for one for years. Screaming for it. Pleading for it. Offering their first born children for it. I don’t think it’s a leap to say that it’s one of the top two things most requested by FromSoft fans* and with the arrival of the PS5, that seemed like a perfect time for the remake to be released.

Given this as a backdrop, it makes sense that Sony would want it as a PS5 exclusive/launch game. I don’t blame them for selling their consoles however they can. My theory is that they wanted it to be an exclusive for a year or so (which is more or less the timing of exclusives) before announcing the PC launch.

At least, I hope that’s the case. If it’s not, then I guess I will not be playing Demon’s Souls for the rest of my life, which is sad. Or, I’ll do what I did for Bloodborne–buy a PS4 (PS5 in this case) years later at a ridiculously low price in order to play one game.

Anyway. Back to the shitty week part. One way I can tell how depressed I’m getting is what games I play or more importantly, don’t. Oh wait. We have to go back because that’s the way I roll. I am picky about the media I consume in any form. I’ve written about this in the past so I’m not going to rehash the details. Suffice to say it’s difficult to find things I like/click with, and I don’t gel with far more things than I do. When I do, I  play the hell out of them but it takes me forever to get there.

Actually, that’s me in general. It takes me a lot of energy to do anything even something I enjoy and if I’m not enjoying it, I abandon it pretty damn quickly. So in the case of gaming, it takes me forever to actually buy a game. Unless there’s a demo that I immediately like such as Spiritfarer.

Ah, Spiritfarer. Can we take a minute so I can reminisce about how much I adore this game? Ok, minute over.

I try to give each game a fair shake, but I know myself. If something doesn’t grab me within five or ten minutes, it’s never going to do so. You may think Dark Souls is the exception to the rule, but it’s not. While I ended up hating the game by the end of the first playthrough, it had me grabbed the entire time.

On my best days, I can try a new game and see what I think of it. On my worst days, however, I don’t have the energy for that. I know it sounds very twee and precious, but, yes, I need energy to try a new game. Just like I need energy to, say, go to the grocery store (not these days ‘coz I’m not going there no way no how) or make dinner.

On the days when I just can’t, there are games I keep in my back pocket.

Here’s another monkey in the wrench. Is that the phrase? It is now. The Souls series used to be my go-to, specifically Dark Souls III. Ever since my two non-plat runs, however, I’ve been on a break of sorts from the Souls games. Note I say that I have two of the plats. I do not have the plat for Dark Souls II for a few reasons. I started with the original game because that’s what Krupa (of RKG) was doing. Then, I moved to DS III because that’s my favorite of the three. Then, I was completely wiped out and done with it. I put aside all the games indefinitely and have only now started diving back into them again. And by them, I mean the third game.

I’m currently re-watching a few Let’s Play of the original game, and I kinda want to play again. I started up the third game again and it’s feeling good. I’m watching a playthrough of the second game and, well, it’s complicated. I want to play it again, but I know if I do, I’ll try to not-plat it. I don’t want to not-plat it, mind you, but it’s just how I am.

Anyway! The one game I can play no matter what is Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.** I’ve put so many hours into it–no, not gonna tell you how many–that I could play it in my sleep. There are a few new rooms even now which is interesting, but it’s as familiar to me as my skin. I would like to note there is going to be another update soon. I’m reaching the point of new content fatigue, but I know I’ll play it, anyway.

Here’s the time when casual games really stand out. When I can’t handle learning a new ‘hardcore’ game, I can fall back on a solitaire game or a hidden object game and still get a gaming fix without putting too much effort into it. I used think it weird that I would flip back and forth between hardcore and casual games on the regular, but I’m fine with it now. It’s a nice way to unwind on a day when I’m stressed out, anxious, or just plain distressed.

I still can’t wait for Elden Ring, though.

 

 

 

*BB II is number one. Not going to happen, my friends.

**Obligatory yes I know that’s not the current iteration of the game but it’s the one I want it to be.

Mental health: the good, the bad, and the ugly

It’s been a rough week. Nothing big, but just little things over and over. A few nights ago, I dropped a bowl and shattered it in the wee hours of the morning. Totally my fault. I was trying to carry too many things as I normally do because I’d rather make one trip than two.

Back it up a bit. I’ve been feeling sick for nearly a week. Not ‘rona virus sick, but my usual bad cold/allergies/sinus/change of seasons sick. It’s worse than usual, though, because I’ve been getting the chills. That’s when I know I’m really sick. My sleep is for shit which is par the course when I’m sick as well. I mean, it’s normal for me in general to have disordered sleep, but it’s been slightly better since I started taiji. Still. I get six to seven hours of sleep a night, which is better than the four I used to get, but still not enough. I’m constantly exhausted, but I’ve learned to cope with it. Sort of. Basically, I’m resigned to my fate.

One of the symptoms of me getting sick is when I sleep for eight hours or more. It’s one of the few things I actually like about being sick. Ok, the only thing. It doesn’t make me feel more rested when I’m awake, though. The benefit is strictly that it knocks me out for a few hours more.

So, when I get sick, it can last anywhere from weeks to months. I haven’t been really sick since the pandemic started (one of the few benefits of never leaving the house), and I was naively hoping that I would be able to skip the colds this year. Nope.

Anyway, so that’s the background for the rest of what I’m going to write about. I dropped that bowl in the wee hours of the night a few nights ago right before I was going to bed. I was not happy about it, obviously, and I had to lock up Shadow in the guest room so he wouldn’t step on the ceramic pieces. I used treats to lure him there while I took care of the shattered pieces. When I went back to let him out, I fully expected him to yell at me for locking him up. Instead, he was cozied up on the bed and snoozing. When I opened the door, he opened one eye to blearily stare at me, but otherwise stayed put.


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Knives Out (two reviews)–part two

I am reviewing Knives Out, the very popular Amazon movie by Rian Johnson that has been talked about ad nauseam on social media. The first half of my review is here, and this is the second part of the brutally honest review. Not coincidentally, I’ll be talking about the second half of the movie, which is where everything really went to hell and back. Let’s take it from the end of my last post.

I looked up Rian Johnson while I took a break from the movie. That’s when I found out his first movie was Brick and everything fell into place. It was moody and dripping with atmosphere, and it was pretentious as hell. It was raved about, and I found it highly overrated. I didn’t want to watch the second half of the movie; I really didn’t. However, I felt a push inside to do so. Why? For a few reasons. One, I was tired of not being able to talk about the hot new thing. I don’t like to bash things I haven’t seen/heard/read, etc. Two, my OCD traits do not like to let things go unfinished. I have, obviously, but it really makes me uncomfortable. Three, I was doubting myself. The chatter for this movie was so overwhelmingly positive, I had to be missing something, right? The game was going to pull something out of its ass in the second half that would totally redeem it. RIGHT?????

I was, alas, too optimistic. I pretty much knew how the rest of the movie was going to go within the first five/ten minutes of the movie (minus a few twists and turns), and I thought, “Surely it can’t be this obvious, can it?” I read that Rian Johnson implored people not to give away the twists of the movie which made me snort out loud. I’ll get to all that later–if I remember.

Here’s the thing. The movie doesn’t hold together if you think about the individual aspects. In addition, it’s very much a popcorn movie. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it has aspirations of being above that station and is talked about in lofty terms. If I had gone into it with the mentality of ‘this is a B movie with an outstanding cast’ I might not have been as hard on it as I was going in thinking it’s a fantastic ensemble movie with a mile-a-minute thrills.


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Knives Out (two reviews)–part one

I heard tell of this movie called Knives Out by Rian Johnson, an Amazon original. All the rave reviews about how incredible it was. All I knew was it was an ensemble cast murder mystery, which should be up my alley. Somewhat. I LOVE Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot with all my heart despite knowing how problematic the books are. I’ve read each of them at least three times and up to dozens. On the other hand, while I adore David Suchet’s depiction of Poirot and think Hugh Fraser, Philip Jackson, and Pauline Moran are incredible as Captain Hastings, Chief/Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon, I have to think of them as a completely different thing than the books.

Anyway. This is my longwinded way of saying that I watched he movie. Against my will, actually, since I tend not to like movies that other people rave about. But, I kept hearing how fantastic it was, and I decided what the hell. I didn’t know much about it except that it was an ensemble cast with Daniel Craig in it.

I will tell you how I felt about it, and I will do it in two different ways. The first is the glossy review I’d write if it was for a publication of repute. The second will be my brutally honest opinion that I wouldn’t tell anyone because I’m always wary about how my weird my opinions are. In addition, I know how beloved this movie is, and, well….Yeah. First up:


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Living the condiment life

all eggs all the time.
Shake the shakshuka into my mouth!

I don’t cook. I think I’ve been pretty goddamn clear about this. I don’t like to cook, which is not to say that I can’t cook. I’m not very good at it because I don’t do it often, but I know the basic principles. I will admit I do struggle with how to pace everything so they come out done at the same time. I’m getting better at it, but it’s still not natural to me.

One thing I’ve learned is that sauces/condiments are life. They can make a big difference in a simple dish, and it’s hard for me not to keep piling them on. For example, when I make a ‘burger’ (fake meat), this is the breakdown. I use vegan butter and lactose-free cream cheese on the bread, oh, and fake cheeze. On the burger itself, I put ketchup and mustard, relish, and bread and butter pickle chips. And spinach. So, yeah, it’s definitely hard to put my hands around it and sometimes my mouth.

I’d like to sing the praises of the Mina sauces. Yes, I picked up the first one in part because of the name, but also because I was curious about harissa sauce. Then, I discovered they had a shakshuka sauce, and I was more than intrigued because I had been thinking of attempting shakshuka for a month or so. It has onions and garlic, which I’m trying to avoid, but I can take in small amounts. I also am allergic to cilantro, but that’s just a taste thing. Ugh, soap.

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Slouching towards a new normal

It’s month…five? I think? of personal lockdown, and I’m pass the incandescent rage I was feeling a month ago. Now, it’s just resignation, almost fatal. A lot of numbness. My brain is still not able to be as productive as it was in the Before Times, but I just work around it. The outcome isn’t as good as it was before, but I’m trying to be forgiving of myself for that. I’ve set myself an ambitious goal to take me through the end of the year, and I don’t want to talk about it yet. It has to do with writing. I feel comfortable sharing that, but I’m going to keep the detalis to myself. I find that if I talk about a project too much as I’m doing it, I talk more than do.

This is a huge stretch for me, and I’ll be amazed if I accomplish it. I feel as if I need to set an ambitious goal, however, because I have no motivation otherwise. Wait. That’s not completely true. I feel motivated with my taiji weapons, but that’s it. I don’t want to talk to anyone other than a very few people, and I recognize that my depression is settling in. It’s not severe as it was before, but it’s there. I think back wistfully to the first two months of the pandemic when I was doing better than most people in general. I think it’s because I’m intensely introverted in general and work from home, anyway, so the physical ramifications weren’t that overt for me.

Now, however, I’m over it. I know there are people who are moving on as if the pandemic never happened. I can understand why because it’s draining. It’s awful to think about doing this for maybe a year or more. The thing is, though….Let me preface this by saying I understand that there are people who have to go out there for work, being on the front line, whatever. I also know that there are areas where the risk is low. Social (physical) distancing, masks, blah, blah, blah. I want to get that out of the way because I know it’s not everybody, but that said, fuck all y’all who are like, “100 people inside six foot dinner party LOL”. I can’t help thinking how much better things would be right now if we had taken this seriously from the start. I can’t blame people in general for the first few months because it was a shit-show from a governmental and public point of view. The government really fucked up how they presented it and dealt with it in the beginning. Now, however, it’s pretty simple. Don’t do anything that isn’t necessary. The more people and the smaller the place, the more risk. Masks help cut down on the risks. Don’t touch your face and wash your dang hands. Those are the basics.


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Spiritfarer is my GOTY so far

atul in his first form.
Hello, Uncle Atul. Want to board my boat?

In a year that has blown all the chunks all over the place AND has thus far had nary a word from FromSoft on Elden Ring, Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Game has blown into my life like a breath of fresh air. I tried the demo which was fifteen minutes long, and I immediately fell in love with the game. It’s bittersweet, lovely, charming, and very emotional. Last week, I wrote about my issues with the game, but emphasized that they did not take away from the game overall.

I will note that there’s one additional issue I have with the game and this was a rather big one. There were two passengers whom I could not stand. I realize that it’s part of the bigger picture–not everyone in our lives is someone we like. Also, there’s a reason Stella has run into this wide array of people (something I found out in a newsletter but was not made clear in the game). While I understand it on an intellectual level, I still reacted to these two characters with a visceral dislike.

The first was one of two brothers. Bruce and Mickey. Mickey was a water buffalo who didn’t talk. It became clear that he was comatose and his brother, a hummingbird, was caretaking for him. Bruce was a huge asshole, and I actively avoided him as much as I could. In addition, the rest of the passengers’ moods were negatively affected by the brothers as they all ‘felt bullied (ha)’ by Mickey. His story was really sad, but it didn’t balance out how incredibly unpleasant Bruce was. When I took them to the EverDoor, I was so relieved to get rid of them. I felt some sorrow for them because of their story, but I was happy to see the back of them.

The other was Elena, a dog. I think a greyhound or something similar. Something lithe and sleek. She’s an ascetic who is very monk-like in her Spartan attitude. She’s also a complete asshole. She was a teacher in life, and she took  pleasure in breaking her students who she viewed as beneath her. She’s the one who assigns you timed events, and if you don’t do them to her specifications, she berates you. I felt bullied by her, and I stayed away from her as much as possible. Yes, there was a poignant reason why she was the way she was, but at that point in the game, I didn’t care. She’s the passenger who didn’t like to be hugged, by the way, not to anyone’s surprise.

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The desultory approach to my life

it's ya boi, straid!
Straid, my mentor in evil and Pyromancy!

I’ve been out of sorts since I’ve finished Spiritfarer. I’ve played a bit of Dark Souls III, and I always forget just how fragile you are at the beginning. It’s because I spend so much time beefing up so that by the time I’m in the end game, I’m pretty solid. Having so little Estus is not fun at all. By the way, that’s one thing DS III has taken from DS II that I do not appreciate–having to find Estus Shards in order to increase the number of sips from the Estus Flask. I much prefer Dark Souls in which you have five Estus unless there’s a Fire Keeper–then you have ten. You can get the Rite of Kindling from the Catacombs to have the ability to increase your Estus to 20 per kindled bonfire.

I will say that DS II had an interesting take on healing. You had to find the Estus Shards to increase your Estus Flask, but there are also Life Gems of varying size. They are consumables, and they take forever to heal you. But, they also break the game because pretty soon in the game, you can buy unlimited amounts of Life Gems. It reached the point where I carried 99 (the max) Life Gems with me and would use them between bonfires. I saved my Estus Flask for the boss fights, and it broke the game. Did I feel shame? No. It’s in the game. did I feel it took away some of the pressing danger? Yes. But, this game is brutally hard in places,  especially the Scholar of the First Sin edition; I took whatever advantage I could get. Did I consider not doing it? No.

My niece is playing Dark Souls II as a pure mage. She showed me a pic, and she has enough intelligence (50) to use the best staff, the Staff of Wisdom. It’s Straid’s weapon, and he’s my best boy. He’s one of my fave NPCs of the game, and it’s really irritating that I have to use a Forbidden Branch of Yore to free him. They’re plentiful later in the game, but at the point when I meet him, it’s a choice between him and the other Pyromancy trainer. I don’t like her as much, but she has the basics that I need.

I’m watching a playthrough of DS II as well, and I kinda want to play it now. I have a game started in which I’m roughly two-thirds done, not including the DLC. The thing is, though, I have no desire to do the plat, but I know that if I play it again, I’ll get sucked into doing the plat. The plat for Spiritfarer was relatively easy because I was so thorough while playing, I only had to do a little bit at the end to clean things up. I was able to do it in one playthrough with a bit of fudging (had to use a prior autosave in order to get both answers to a question I was asked), which is not a possibility for any of the Souls games.

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