Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Musings

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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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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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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The grand unification theory of me

This week, I finished two things. I’ve talked about both on this blog, and I’m going to do it again. The first is Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Games. It’s a game I had my eye on for quite some time, but I forgot about it because there was no chatter. Understandable as it’s an indie game that doesn’t neatly fit into any one genre, but, man, I really think it’s an underrated game. Those who played it and reviewed it LOVED it, but it’s not enough people. I’ve gone back and wandered about in a desultory fashion to find the secret chests I missed and because Med the community manager sent a newsletter with a BIG reveal that I didn’t get from the game itself. In retrospect, there were subtle hints, but they were easy to explain away or overlook at the time.

The other thing I finished this week was the Sabre Form in taiji. Or, as my teacher calls it, graduated from the form. The first time she said it was when she taught me the final posture of the Solo Form, and I nearly laughed in her face. I might have ‘known’ the whole form, but I wouldn’t be allowed to do it myself without heavy guidance. Now, many years later, I’ve done the form so many times, I could do it in my sleep. Well, I could have before it got radically changed by my teacher’s teacher. That’s another story for another day, though.

I can’t stop thinking about how much I hated the Sabre Form the first time my teacher taught it to me. I resented every minute, and I did not understand it at all. I wanted it to be the Sword Form, and it wasn’t. By the way, I’m beyond ecstatic that I’m learning a new Sword Form. It’s such a finesse weapon, which is not like me at all. Or at least….That’s the point of this post, and we’ll get to that later. For now, I’m musing about the Sabre Form and how it went from not to hot. While the sword is still my beloved, the saber has become my bestest friend. The karambit is the the honey of the moment, and the cane is that entertaining friend that always makes you feel better when you see them (as long as it’s not TOO often).

The saber is an infantry weapon. It’s not a thinking person’s weapon, and taiji is the scholar’s martial art. It’s about power, and I do feel powerful when I brandish it. Sometimes, I feel like a swashbuckler and sometimes I feel like a Hun. I feel as if I can do anything–and it feels good. I feel like I’m saying, “Don’t fuck with me!”, and I’m backing it all the way the fuck up.

The Sword Form is still my favorite, but it’s not about the power. It’s about elegance and grace, and it’s a finesse form. It’s about cutting someone before they know that you’ve even moved, and it’s about severing tendons. That doesn’t sound elegant or graceful, does it? The saber is about smashing and cleaving. That’s more in keeping with the nature of the weapon.

Side note: Just because the sword is a finesse weapon, it doesn’t mean it’s not deadly. It is; it’s just not the main point of the weapon.

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The Spiritfarer of my heart

nice place you got here, Alice!
Hello, Alice. It’s nice to meet you.

Very rarely does a game worm its way into my heart that I can’t stop playing it and I can’t stop thinking about it. The Souls series, natch, and Night in the  Woods (but only after I started my second playthrough), and…that’s about it. There are other games I’ve loved (Torchlight; Borderlands; Binding of Isaac: Rebirth; and Cook, Serve, Delicious! to name a few), but there aren’t many that I think about when I’m not playing them.

Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Games is one of those games. Last night, I was going to play for a half hour before going to bed (after having played two hours earlier) and ended up playing for three hours. I had to perform my second spiritfaring, and it broke my heart all over again. I’m going to have to do the third one fairly soon, and it doesn’t get easier. More on that in a bit.

You’d think a game about death would be depressing, but it isn’t. Somber and reflective, yes. Painful? Also, yes. But it’s not depressing, and I’ve been musing over why that is. I’ve come up with a few answers, so here they are. One, despite the potentially grim subject, there are moments of humor that make me laugh out loud. For example, there is a predatory entrepreneur raccoon named Theodore. That’s funny! Why? Because to me, it’s a gentle poke at Animal Crossing, a game that is similar in feel. There’s a character called Tom Nooks, who is a predatory lender. You can see why I made the connection. I thought it might just be me, but then later in the game, someone calls him out and says, “Raccoon. Tanuki. Whatever he is.” That confirmed that it was a joke about Tom Nooks because he’s a raccoon in the west and a tanuki in the east.

The game also has Metroidvania aspects as you acquire abilities that allow you to go back to previous areas and do things you couldn’t do before. I appreciate that, but I will say that some of the gameplay aspects are my least favorites–such as the double jump/glide. When it works, it works fine. When it doesn’t work, it’s really frustrating. The problem with games that aren’t focused on those kind of gameplay is that they’re not optimized to do it well, so it can be haphazard as to if it actually works or not. But this is a minor quibble and by no means restricted to this game.

One thing I really appreciate about this game is that it’s not all puppies and roses. What I mean is that we tend to sanitize death in the Western world, most likely because many people haven’t had to see it up close. In addition, we are loath to talk about death in general, so for many Americans, we view it through a hazy lens. It can be romanticized, even, in that the person dying is an angel and can do no wrong. In this game, the passengers have their flaws, and they don’t magically disappear as they are at death’s door.

*Spoiler*

Let’s take Alice the hedgehog. She’s the one I took to the Everdoor last night, and it hit me hard but in a different way than Gwen. You see, I didn’t like her that much. I didn’t dislike her, but she was too motherly for my taste.  She did cook me food, however, which was nice. But, I spent as little time with her as possible. I felt guilty about it, but she just wasn’t my type of person.

Side note: One thing about each passenger is that they are associated with one of the buildings. Gwen (sob) was the loom and Alice is, was, the orchard. They teach you about the mechanics, but it’s funny because I normally get the building before I get the passenger so by the time they want to teach me the mechanics, I already know them.

Per my usual M.O., I put off helping Alice with her main quest for as long as possible. This was not personal as I like to do side quests and resource stuff as much as possible until I pretty much have to do the main quests for better resources and materials. I did a bunch of main quest stuff last night, and each time, it opens up the game even more. For example, now I have the glide (by holding up my hat) which is holding A while in the air and ziplining. I have to go back to old areas and zipline and glide all over the place.

When I finally tackled Alice’s main quest (and a little before, I think), I noticed that her memory was starting to fail her. She talked about her husband, Eugene, in the present, when it was fairly clear that he was dead. She also talked about her daughter, Annie, and while it’s not clear what happened to her, she sometimes thought I was her daughter. After I did her final quest for her, then she really went downhill. She told me I was smothering her and that she needed her space–which annoyed me because she was the smothering one. She  also started calling me Annie on a regular basis and she gave me Annie’s beach clothes.

Another passenger came to me and said that Alice couldn’t climb the ladders any longer and could I move her house to the lowest level? Of course, I did. Then, she needed me to escort her to and from the prow where she spent all her time. She no longer recognized me as Stella, but seemed to think I was Annie more often than not. When she didn’t think I was her daughter, she fretted about where Annie was. One night, she was on the prow and refused to move. She mentioned that Annie was wearing her beach clothes and a red hat, and, well, I had Annie’s beach clothes and a red hat which I’d been wearing.

I put on an outfit and went to the prow. Alice was looking out at the sea, and when she saw me, of course, she thought I was Annie. Then, we were off to the Everdoor, and I started tearing up again. I reflected on how cruel Alzheimer’s was, and I think they did a good job depicting it. Not only with the memory lapses, but with the meanness of her telling me that I was smothering her when that wasn’t the case at all. There was no arguing with her, and I could only leave her to her own devices. Next time she saw me, she was the same as before, which was warm and motherly.

As I boated her to the Everdoor, she still went between recognizing me as Stella and thinking I was Annie. She said that Eugene would love this (the area) and that we should all go next year. Watching her from the outside was so painful, and I actually felt that death would be a release for her. Plus, if you believe in the afterlife (which, eh), then she will finally get to be with her husband. So, yes, I cried as she rose into the air and became part of the stars, but it was more at the sorrow of her pain than sadness.

*Unspoilered*

The game is really good at giving you information in a clear way, usually through interactions with your passengers/NPCs. The problem with this is that for someone with OCD tendencies like me, I feel compelled to do all of them all the time. For example, you have to water your crops, and there will be a raindrop signifier if they need water. I cannot walk by when I see that symbol, no matter what I’m doing. That’s on me, yes, but it adds a low-level stress. In addition, having to repeatedly do certain things like feed your passengers (different foods based on their personalities, and you can’t feed them the same food twice in a row. Well, most of them, anyway) which means cooking which means crop harvesting, well, that has worn a little thin at this point.

The thing is, though, none of the negatives are anywhere close to deal-breaker, but they do add up to a minor irritation. They don’t take away from the overall experience of the game, however, and I’m ready to take on even more spiritfaring. This is my life for the foreseeable future.

 

 

My unending love for bladed weapons

I like bladed weapons. A lot. I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone who knows me. Maybe the depth of my love, but not the fact that I’m an aficionado. I am fairly open about it, and I am always up for talking about it (though not the quantitative stuff such as the intricacies of different blades. I’m all about the feelings, bay-beeeeeee!). I’ve noted that women on twitter are uncomfortable with my declaration of passion for bladed weapons (it’s not ‘nice’ and is ‘so aggressive’, not to mention it’s hard for them to reconcile what they perceive as a gentle martial arts with weapons. I like to remind people that it’s still a martial art. I mean, it’s right there in the name!) and a weird corollary is that dudes think it’s hot. I mean, I get it in a way because think it’s hot, but it’s not the first thing I think of when I think of weapons. And, it’s a bit creepy for dudes to be all, “See this hot sword scene that I immediately thought of when you mentioned weapons?”, especially on social media.

Side note: Dudes. My dudes. If there is one thing I can impart on you as a female-presenting person it’s this. If you don’t know a woman (anyone, really, but especially women and female-presenting persons) well on social media (and I define well as not ‘talking’ to them every few days at the bare minimum or having an offline relationship (that includes DMs/PMs), do NOT make sexual innuendos to them as your first foray. I might laugh politely, but it won’t make a good impression. And I’m someone who can be very ribald.

I’ve written before on how I had a similar mindset with the women above in that before I took taiji, I considered myself a pacifist and that violence was always wrong. The reason for it, however, was not a healthy one. I thought my life was worthless, so there was no point in defending it. When I used to walk the circle doing ba gua instead of meditation, I used to imagine an opponent in the middle of the circle. One time, I had a flash of visualizing me killing the opponent. It unsettled me, and I talked to my teacher afterwards. She said it wasn’t a bad thing because it meant that I was willing to defend myself. She was right, and it completely changed my viewpoint.

Back to weapons. I dragged my feet on them for so long. When I first started taiji, it was for self-defense and the martial art applications. I didn’t care about the health benefits or the mental health benefits–I was all about the martial arts. Weapons, though? That was over the line. No way I was ever gonna do that. Nuh-uh, no way. I dragged my feet until my teacher placed a wooden sword in my hand and exhorted me to just try. The second my fingers closed around the hilt, I was hooked.


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Blocked blocked (writer’s) blocked

Let me start by saying that I don’t get classic writer’s block. Or rather, I got it once, but that’s it. What I do get, however, is an overwhelming feeling of doom that my writing sucks, that there’s no reason to do it, that no one wants to read it, and that I might as well give up. I still write during this time, but it’s not with any heart.

It’s strange because when I go back and read what I wrote several years ago, I marvel at how fresh it seems. Even something I’d read several times. There are very few mysteries I’ve read that has a similar take, and while I don’t tie up all loose ends, I come to a satisfying conclusion. And, I actually prefer not tying up all loose ends, but I worry that it doesn’t seem deliberate. Sometimes it isn’t, but it still works out in the realms that I have set up.

Currently, I am trying to write new stories that are set in the current hellscape that is the pandemic plus police brutality plus political bullshittery. Since I write mysteries, I wanted to tackle what to do when I (protag) see a murdered body but have no faith in the police. It’s been going ok, but I’m not really feeling it. I’m trying to write a few other mysteries set in the same situation, and it’s really limiting. I mean, it’s supposed to be, yes, but it’s REALLY limiting.

One thing I do in my spare time is re-read old things I have written. There are two trilogies (I usually write in trilogies if not a standalone) that I wrote fairly recently–ok. Let me back up. They are not completely written. In the first case, one whole novel (230,000 words) and half the second one (125,000 words). In the other case, two finished novels (122,000 words and 128,000 words respectively) and the third not yet finished (57,000 words).

These are my two favorite trilogies, probably because both are fantasy in nature.

Side note: My brother likes to rant about how much he hates the fact that sci-fi and fantasy are mixed together because he loves the former and hates the latter. I heartily agree with him but because I’m the other way around. I don’t care much for sci-fi, even though I keep it mostly to myself. In most nerd circles, it’s taboo to admit you don’t like sci-fi. It’s also irritating that fantasy is seen as lesser to many–probably because of the gender skew. Sci-fi is seen as more logical (why, I don’t know, as it’s all made up shit, anyway) and fantasy as more emotional. You can probably guess as to the skew here.


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ASMRRRRRRRGH

I hate ASMR. I just want to get that out of the way. I am not neutral to it. I do not merely dislike it or have no use for it. I HATE it.

With that barn burner of an intro, let’s delve into this newfangled* phenomenon that has swept the country if not the world. ASMR. I hope you can read the loud sigh that accompanies the acronym because it’s there every time I see the word, type it, or say it.

You’ve heard about it, I’m sure, because it’s all over the place. It’s suggested as a sleep aid, which is something I’m always interested i n.

Before I dive into that, however, let’s talk about misophonia. The dictionary definition of it is, I believe, being annoyed as fuck by certain sounds. In my current research of ASMR, there are some theories being floated around that people who suffer from misophonia either love or hate ASMR as well. Now, it makes sense that if certain sounds annoy you the fuck, then others may delight you. I liked that one of the dudes defending it (probably a doctor, I was too amused to even really clock it) basically said that there was no true Scotsman of people who reacted negatively to it.

What do I mean? Hold that thought and we’ll get back to it in a minute.

After reading all these people raving about ASMR, I decided to check it out for myself. I pulled up a video and pressed play. The second it started, my shoulders went up around my ears, and I was immediately filled with rage. Not irritation. Not annoyance. RAGE. Like, wanting to punch someone rage. I stopped the video and thought maybe it was just me or that particular video. I tried another, and I had the same reaction.

Are we surprised that something so popular is so loathed by me? No. But, Idiot that I am, I allowed myself to hope that maybe this was something that would bring me relief. Did I have my doubts? Yes. Was I skeptical? Yes. Did I hope it would work? Also yes.


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To not be or not to be

I’m struggling. The reasons are long and complicated (and, yes, family-related), which I’m saving for another post. I will note that I had an actual meltdown while last talking to my mother. The result was my sleep immediately going to hell (had my first four-hour night sleep in a while, and how the hell did I EVER used to live on that? Regularly?), my brain fragmenting, and my energy completely dissipating. But,  again, not the focus of this post.

In this post, I’m musing about all the ways I’m just…not. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll do my best.

Every since I was a wee little Taiwanese American girl (well, not so wee and not so little) growing up in the lily white suburbs in Minnesota in the 1970s, I was different. Some of it can be seen in the previous sentence. Hell, a lot of it. I was fat, unhappy (difficult childhood), Taiwanese American, super smart, and just…weird. I didn’t watch much TV and we rarely went to the movies. I didn’t listen to pop music until much later. I have an apocryphal story about how the first pop song I ever heard was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant when I was in the sixth grade.

Side note: I just spent a ridiculous amount of time Googling exactly when the song came out and discovered it charted in America in April of 1983, so my apocryphal story could theoretically be true. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a way of underling my otherness.

My mom made my clothes including dresses which I hated. Still hate them. Skirts are fine-ish, but not my first choice. I wore one to my nieces wedding, but honestly, if I had some really swish (both literal and metaphorical), I probably would have worn them instead. I don’t wear makeup or use beauty products of any kind. There’s a reason I’m mentioning this, which I’ll come to later.  I got fun of for bringing Taiwanese food because this was waaaaaaaay before ‘ethnic’ food became so popular.


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The new normal is much like the old normal

In the first few months of the Covid-19, there was much ink spilled about how life would never be the same and how everything has changed. I was skeptical then and I’m even more skeptical now. I’m not saying things aren’t drastically different–they are. I’m saying that even though situations change, people don’t necessarily change with them. Oh, hell. I’m not explaining this well, but I’ll keep trying.

Have you ever had something big in mind that you were sure would change you? Marriage, losing a large amount of weight (me), a degree, a job, whatever. You work diligently for years to attain the goal, and then, maybe, one day you achieve it. Finally, you’re where you’re supposed to be, and you can live life to the fullest! Then, you realize to your dismay, that life isn’t perfect, and you still have to, well, deal with it. I had this belief when I decided to lose weight (twice). All the shitty things in my life would finally be better, and my life would be perfect.

You can probably guess how that went down. Well, not exactly because I never reached my end goal. That’s because as I got closer to it, I would change it. It was literally impossible for me to meet whatever the current goal was. Two eating disorders later, I can safely say that my life did not change for the better after those two situations. Or when I graduated from college. Or got my first boyfriend. Or got my MA. It’s pretty obvious why–because I’m still me at the end of the day. No matter what I achieve, I’ll still be the same person (more or less).

On the other end, my BFF separated from her husband for a year early-ish in their relationship. She had been with him since she was a teenager, and she thought that there were so many things she could have done if she were on her own. Long story short, she didn’t do the things she thought she would when she was on her own. In other words, it wasn’t he marriage that was stopping her, but she herself.


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