Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Musings

On the contrary; life as a contrarian

I’m a contrarian. I know this and to some extent, I embrace it. I swear to the heavens that it’s not out of spite or because I think I’m better than anyone else, but it’s just how my brain works. I tend to look at something from several angles and poking holes in theories. I will say that part of it is me always rooting for the underdog, which means I want to represent the minority viewpoint more often than not. It’s also because I hate things being misrepresented. It’s one reason I had to step back from politics because of the in-fighting. I expect Republicans to attack Dems, but it’s Dems viciously tearing each other apart that drives me fucking nuts. It’s always been that way, but it started getting really bad during the 2016 primaries and it has just gotten worse over time.

I am a far leftie in theory and a not-quite-as-far leftie in practice. That means I get to see the ugly on both sides. It really irks me that some Democrats online spend more time slinging arrows at each other than across the bow. What is the fucking point? I’m not talking about discussing the differences and hashing out what’s important to the party. I’m talking about demonizing the other side and declaring them the enemy. Seriously. We’re talking about degrees of how far we should go on an issue rather than being on opposite sides. It’s frustrating and irritating, and I want no part of it.

However, this post isn’t about me being a contrarian about ideas and politics and whatnot, but rather about me being contrarian when it comes to pop culture.  Now, while it’s true that in the aforementioned instances, there is often a small part of pure contrarian because that’s who I am. It’s 95% not that, but maybe 5% that. In this case, though, it’s simply I don’t like what other people like. I know some people think it’s me being hip or whatever, but it truly isn’t.

A recent(ish) example is Knives Out. It was a huge success and it got raved about over and over again. So many superlatives, so little time. It was an ensemble cast with a quirky detective, which should have been right up my alley. I watched the trailer and was…not impressed. Everyone talked about how great Daniel Craig was, but I could not get past how terrible his accent was. Maybe it was purposeful? I mean, he’s a great actor so I cannot imagine he couldn’t do a spot-on accent. Also, he appears clueless, but it had to be an act, right? Like Poirot.


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Happy Lunar New Year + taiji demo

Happy Year of the Ox, everyone! I’m not a huge celebrator of holidays, but I’m more into Lunar New Year than the alternative because, well, just because. That doesn’t mean I do much about it, but I at least acknowledge it–mostly because my family celebrates it.

One thing that comes with the Lunar New Year is the demo at my taiji teacher’s home studio. Last year was right before the pandemic really hit and it was both great (saw the Double Sabre Form) and terrible (car wouldn’t start afterwards because of the bitter cold). This year, there was question whether there would even be one given the pandemic, but they decided to do it on Zoom.

My teacher was in charge of it as she does all the online Zoom classes, but this was the first time she’d done an event of this magnitude. We had twenty-five or so people, which was more than I expected for a Zoom event.

The way it was handled was that my teacher had roughly twenty slots for demos. Solo demos, which was the only way it made sense. It was limited to 2-3 minutes per demonstrator. Hm. Not a good word. Presenter.

It would have been better in person, of course, but there were a few benefits to it being online. One, we’re in the middle of a wind chill advisory and it might get down to -45. Two, for me, it was nice to be able to sit in the comfort in my own home and not have to worry about my physical energy levels. Also, while I enjoy watching the group presentations, it’s easier to focus on the details with single presenters.

One thing that blew my mind was that two of the women who demoed did their routines to rap/hip hop, one being a Beastie Boys song. I had never thought about doing a routine to music, let alone hip hop/rap, and it was the most amazing thing. One was the Dancing Wu-Li Form and the other was a mixture of sabre forms.

At first, I was taken aback with the two of these being brought together. But, watching the first demo, I immediately got into it and thought, “Why the hell not?” Then, I was besotted by it and by the end of the demo, I was thinking of which forms I could unite with which rap songs.


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The grass is always greener

Most of the time, I’m fine with being a weirdo. Sometimes, I take a perverse amount of pride in not being traditional. My mom once said with much irritation after I–oh, I know what it was. My cousin had gotten engaged by her husband (fiancé at the time) and my mom was relating how it happened. Or at least, we were talking about it. He had collaborated with her boss to make it appear as if she had a professional meeting in another country. Unbeknownst to her, he was flying out to the same country a day early to propose to her.

My mom thought this was the most romantic thing I had ever heard. I, on the other hand, was horrified by it, as I would be by any flamboyant/public proposal. Sad to say, I went on a rant about it because I hated the whole idea and thought it was a way of one-upping other people. I also hate people having secrets about me so everything about this proposal hit me in the worst way possible.

Now, decades later, I can see that it was more about me than the actual proposal. To be clear, I would still hate it, but it wasn’t about me. It was about my cousin and what she would like–and she loved it. It made her feel loved and cherished, and it was a great proposal story she could share with people.

Just because my idea of the ideal proposal if I were into getting married, which I’m not, is for me or my lover to roll over in bed and say, ‘Hey, wanna get married?’ before hoofing it for the JoP, there’s no reason to rain on other people’s parades. Fortunately, I never said any of this to my cousin because I had a higher EQ than that.

My point is that I’m weird. I’ve always been weird. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t think the way other people did and I was miserable all the time. I got picked on all the time for being Asian, fat, and smart. I didn’t really have any friends and I didn’t know how to go about making them. I didn’t watch TV or go to the movies. I ate mostly Taiwanese/Chinese food before it was chic and took a lot of teasing about it at school.

I first learned about death when I was seven, which freaked me out. But, at the same time, I became inexplicitly drawn to it. It became my boon companion, both lover and bogeyman. I used to sit up in bed, my heart pounding in terror at the idea of simply not existing forever. And yet, I looked for death wherever I went because it was calling to me. I wanted to kill myself as early as eleven and that lasted…well, it’s still around in a lesser form. And it’s not that I want to kill myself, but rather than I don’t want to live. It’s hard to explain the difference. I’m not actively seeking to die and haven’t been for decades. However, I’m not sold on this life thing, either.


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The pervasiveness of motherhood

I was reading my stories today and there was a question in the Care and Feeding column from a woman who broke up with the love of her life because he was leaning towards wanting children and she was leaning towards not. Or rather, they were both ambivalent when they started dating five years ago, but he’s realized that being a father is important to him whereas the LW still didn’t want them. It wasn’t a strong, “God, I never want children,” but more that she was 32 and decided if she didn’t want them now, she probably never would.

Michelle Herman is the one who answered the question and I like her in general. I think she gave a good answer until the very end where she felt compelled to point out that she didn’t have her desire to have a kid until after she was 32. She posted something from Emily Yoffe (the old Dear Prudence) who also apparently had the same realization in her later years (didn’t read the link).

Which, I mean, for this letter, I suppose it’s appropriate because the LW did say she thought if the desire to have babies didn’t hit her now, it never would, but it still irritated me even though Herman was quick to point out that she might not change her mind, either. But, did she really need to say that maybe the woman would? It didn’t change Herman’s answer as to the current situation and it really read as if she couldn’t help herself. She had to mention that this woman might at some point want to have children.


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Learning the rules before breaking them

There’s a saying in writing that you have to know the rules before you can break them. I agree. And I am at the point where I knowingly break rules I think don’t make sense. Such as using a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence as I did in the last sentence. Or ending a sentence with a preposition. That is one I do a lot because I don’t see any reason not to do it. That’s pretty much my excuse for anything I do that breaks the rules in writing–it makes the flow better. I’m about communicating, not about the stiffness of rigid rules. I will not give up my semi-colon, however; that, I will not do.

There’s a similar thing in taiji. The first thing you learn is the Solo Form, which is the basis for everything else in taiji. I hated the Solo Form when I first learned it. That was over a decade ago. I got used to it, but I never liked it. With the long form (Master T.T. Liang’s form), there were just so many things I didn’t like about it. A few years ago, my teacher’s teacher modified it to be more in line with Master Choi’s teaching and suddenly, I liked it much better, especially the Fast Form. I was talking about it with my teacher during our last private lesson because I was saying how when we used to do the whole form, my lower back would start to hurt at the end of the first section. By the end of the third section, nearly twenty minutes later, my whole back would be cramped up and it would hurt. I didn’t understand how this was supposed to be good for me!

In addition, I had the habit of collapsing my back knee which gave me tendonitis around my knee. I had mentioned that to my teacher when it was the worst (about five years ago) and she gave me tips to deal with it. They helped, but it was a lot of effort to reverse the damage. Anyway, I was saying how I could do the whole current form without my lower back hurting and I couldn’t figure out why. My teacher mentioned the change in form and it clicked in my brain. I mean, of course it made sense that changing the form would ameliorate the pain, but I just didn’t think about it. My knees don’t hurt, either. The difference is that this form is focused on the martial arts applications whereas the old form was more for health benefits. It was more theoretical and difficult to get exactly what you were supposed to do.


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New year, hopefully not the same as the old

A new year is a strange thing. We put all this weight on it especially after a year like last year. How many of us (including me) vocalized our relief at seeing the backend of 2020? It was as if we felt we could collectively turn the page once the clock rolled over from 11:59 p.m., December 31, 2020 to 12:00 a.m., January 1st, 2021. It makes sense emotionally because we’re apt to look for categories and we are the best at putting arbitrary definers on things. So, seeing the year roll over into a new one, our brains say, “New slate!” It’s natural and normal, but reality doesn’t work that way.

Side Note: See Boris Johnson abruptly putting country on Tier 5 lockdown. There have been a lot of issues with the tiered lockdowns and the abrupt announcement that the country was going to Tier 5 without the law actually put in place, well, that’s just Boris being Boris. Which is a lot like our president being our president.

Side Note II: Speaking of this president (two weeks now. Two weeks now), I don’t know how exactly to say this, but why is anyone surprised by what the president is doing? He’s a narcissistic, arrogant, ignorant asshole who cannot stand to look bad or to lose. He’s a vain, pompous jerkwad who believes anyone who’s flattering him in the moment. Of course he was going to do everything he could to take down the country before leaving. If anything, I’m disappointed with how pedestrian and mundane he’s being about it. Lawsuits and threats? Come on! That’s bush league. Kidding aside, I’m bracing for the reaction of his supporters when it sinks in that, no, he can’t bully his way into another four years.

Side Note III: I’m really just done. Not with this year, though that’s quite possible, but everything in general.

 

 

 

Minor stresses bringing major headaches

I was talking to my brother yesterday about something we need to get done by the end of the year when he brought up something else. Ugh. Ok. It has a long backstory that I’ll try to keep short. In order to be declared the children of our  parents in Taiwan, my brother and I had to get it declared to be true by the Taiwanese kids department in Chicago. Not the actual department, of course, but that’s the purpose. We had to send them our birth certificates in order for them to verify we were, indeed, the children of our parents. Which, I mean….ok. Whatever. It was a chore because Taiwanese people have a very different way of doing business, but it got done. I put the document away ‘in a safe place’ and promptly forget about it.

Fast-forward to the phone call yesterday with my brother. He mentioned that our mother had informed him (because this is always how this happened) that our father had been furious because he needed copies of this for some family land thing and we didn’t give them to him. But, we didn’t know about it and neither did our mother. Which is totally in keeping with my father’s M.O. I have no doubt if you asked him, he’d insist that he told someone about it–probably my mother. He’s a raging narcissist and assumes that anything that is important to him is important to everyone else and they should KNOW–at least by osmosis if nothing else. So, of course, why my mother conveys it to my brother and/or me, there’s a sense of urgency about it that is strongly impressed upon us. My brother is able to  ignore this pressure to a certain extent, though it can get to him as well.

I was sure I knew where this document was. Under the coffee table on the shelf that is there. That’s where I would have put it, probably in a book to be ‘safe’. I’m not saying this is a good idea, mind, but I know the way I work. This was several months ago, and I probably promised myself I would put it somewhere safer when I got around to it–which I never would. Wait. That’s not exactly true. I thought it was in the first drawer in the kitchen because that’s where I put everything important. I rummaged in that drawer while talking to my brother and he mentioned he didn’t think it was there (because we had ransacked it several times when looking for a key we couldn’t find). He said he thought it was on the coffee table (he was the one who brought it over to me so many months ago) and it clicked in my brain that this was correct.


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The end of the year is nigh

The end of the year is right around the corner and I can’t stop thinking about what a strange year it’s been. Terrible in so many ways. The pandemic. The current president. The mingling of the two. I’ve been reading past posts I’ve done on my gaming throughout the year to get ready for my end of the year game awards I was playing Syndicate back at the end of February right before the soft lockdown. I can’t believe I played Syndicate this year. I feel like it was ages ago. I also realized I played a ton more games than I remembered playing. To be fair, most of them I only played for a few hours. But, still. Good Pizza, Great Pizza was this year? If Found? Code Vein? I feel as if I’m living in some alternate universe and I want to get out of it.

Anyway. I’m not here to talk about video games. That will be a post (or three) by itself later. I’m here to talk about how happy I am to see the end of this year and how weird that it’s simultaneously been the longest year and the shortest year ever. I have heard the same thing from several people so it’s not just me. February seems like such a long time ago, but it also seems like just yesterday. I can’t help thinking about that younger me and smile ruefully at how naive I was. Not just me, but everyone in America, really. So many of us thinking the pandemic would last a month or two. I was supposed to fly to NY in early July and pooh-poohed my mother at the end of February for suggesting I cancel it. I was also planning on flying out to Philly over Halloween and surely I would be able to do that!

Yeah, no. Looking back, the idea that I would be able to fly in July is unfathomable. I’m not beating myself up about it because very few people thought the pandemic would last as long as it did. Back in February/March, the general thought in America was that it would be a few months before life returning to normal or some semblance thereof. It isn’t our fault as our government handled it so fucking poorly in the beginning. Not only did they underplay how terrible it was, but their advice was contrary. Don’t wear masks and go about your business as usual! Do wear masks. Six-feet apart. But still buy things!

The worst is the president. He had done active harm and January 20th cannot come soon enough for me. Trevor Noah did a bit about all the things this president has done wrong concerning the handling of the coronavirus and I couldn’t watch the whole thing because it was both enraging and profoundly depressing. One thing that has been made crystal clear during the pandemic is how little certain lives mean to those in charge. All the talk about it only affecting those who were already at high-risk wore me down. Even if it were true (which it isn’t), don’t our lives count? Don’t we matter?

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Dancing with my weapons

I’m living  that weapons life. I never thought I’d love anything* as much as I love my weapons. Ian and I were talking about getting new tats, which I haven’t done in decades. Before, I always thought I’d get one more and it would be a tree of life with a woman’s figure and face on my left hip/thigh. I wanted to wait until I reached a point in my life where I felt, if not good about myself, then at least neutral. I’m not there; I may never be. I have reached the point where I no longer passionately hate myself, though, so, yay?

Anyway, in talking with Ian, I realized that I no longer wanted that tattoo. It no longer represents what I want from life or who I am. I still think fondly of it, but it’s not what I want right now. If I were to get a tattoo, it would have to reflect my passion for weapons. I tried to find an image of what I wanted, but it’s very difficult to find non-cheesy tats when it comes to Asian shit because of all that mystical Orient bullshit. I would have my tattooist draw it themselves, obviously, but it would be helpful to have concrete image to give them so they could go off it.

What I want is someone similar to me in body shape and size, maybe with the face shaded out. Then, doing a weapon posture. The one I immediately thought of was the current one I’m learning with the staff/spear. I’ll see if I can describe it. You stand in the standard bow position with one foot forward and the other back and to the side. The back foot is turned outwards 45 degrees while the front foot is pointed forward. The position I want is the figure to be weighted on the back foot with the front of the staff pointed down and the back end held up high. My initial idea was to have the rest of the weapons I love depicted around the figure in a circle. However, as I was typing this, another idea hit me. The same figure with each of the weapons doing a different posture/movement. I could have them all around my body or maybe in the same area, such as my thigh or my back.

Of course, this is all academic for now. There is no way in hell I’m getting a tattoo any time in the near future given the situation of *waves hand at world around*.


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Ten tips for getting the hell out of Hades!

I got the not-plat plat a few nights ago in Hades by Supergiant Games and it was timed brilliantly. Dionysus was the last Keepsake I needed to level up–or was it Poseidon. It was one of the two, probably Poseidon. I got it on the last combat room before the final boss and what a fitting end to the not-plat run. There are a few in-game achievements (Fated List of Minor Prophecies) that I would like to finish, but as they are very random, my interest will probably peter out before then. Anyway! As an expert in the game (wild, maniacally laughing), I have some tips for newbs who want to get into it, but are worried about the steep learning curve. I was going to tack them on at the end of the last post, but I ran out of steam. Plus, the post got out of control near the end so I decided to make the tips a post of its own. By the way, I found a really cute animated trailer for the game that I hadn’t seen before. I’ll post it below. I want Hades plushies!

Ed Note: I did a few more runs to clean up the Fated List and there is a bombshell that happens in the House of Hades. *spoiler* (Though the whole post could be considered spoilers?)

….

…..

NYX FIRES DUSA!!!! I mean, what????? I’m pretty sure it was procked by finishing the Fated List. I mean, I knew there was tension there, but what??????? That can’t be the end of Dusa, can it? I had a hunch it wasn’t and I had a hunch I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t want to bumble around to figure it out. I Googled it and found out that you have to do more runs in order to get Nyx to rehire her. Sigh. I mean, I have to do it now, but what????? The problem is that Dusa is too hardworking and Nyx had admonished her more than once to CTFO. Dusa couldn’t because it’s not in her nature and she was working all the time. Nyx wanted efficient, not slavish obedience.

Double sigh.

I may just give it a rest and come back to it, but I cannot let it lie. Damn it!

Think of it, though. I could have missed that whole bit if I hadn’t done that little bit of cleaning up.


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