Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Tirades

Feel jolly, but not holly

More on Christmas. Here was yesterday’s post, and I’m going to continue my musing. I have hated Christmas and I have been studiedly indifferent to Christmas, but now, I’m feeling warmly about the holiday time. Not Christmas itself, but community. Atnd being alive.

As I said in the last post, it’s been a long road to get where I am now. This year, I’m feeling warm and cozy about, not Christmas, but about the holiday season and how much I love the people who are meaninngful to me. My two besties, my Taiji teacher, my brother, my nibling and their brothers, my cat–of course!!–and people on the periphery.

I love the forums to which I belong. Well, one forum. The RKG Discord. However, I am starting to feel a bit…

Here’s the thing. I get to the end of things and then I am done. With websites, if they don’t evolve, then I get bored. The same thing with the same comments by the same people…what’s the point in that? I used to follow politics back when Obama was president. And I would get tired of people being so limited in their points of view. I am sure they would say the same things about me, by the way. That’s the nature of people. They don’t hugely change on the daily. It would be a wild and woolly time if they did. But it’s frustrating when I constantly butt up against the limits of each person.

That’s what I’m starting to feel about the RKG Discord. I like the people very much. Most of them are really kind and caring. But. (You knew there was going to be a but, right?) The limits to the understanding of life outside their own experiences are very restrictive.  Here’s the thing. RKG are three cis het white Western dudes. They’re great guys, yes, but they’re still very much in the mainstream themselves.

To that point, their commenters are much like them. The vast majority are cis het white dudes–which is othering at times. Not on purpsoe, obviously, but just because that’s what they know. There is a channel for the grot, and it’s interesting when certain topics come up. Someone brought up polyamory and asked where all his poly people were at. The three of us who responded were all queer people (of varying alternate gender identities). The white straight dudes (which the guy asking was) were all quick to say NO WAY NUH UH HELL NO! Well, one was not, but that was a more complicated response. He wasn’t pro-poly, per se.

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Have a holly jolly–nope

As I am writing this, it ‘s the eve before the eve before Christmas. In other words, it’s December 23rd. We had our last Taiji class of the year at noon, and my teacher was the only one who showed up in person. There were six of us Zooming in, which was strange. It’s usually five or six people in person and two or three of us on Zoom. I assume it’s because it’s the holidays, but I’m not sure.

During the break, people were talking about what they were doing for Christmas. One couple were making cookies all day today, and another woman talked about how she was going to be cooking after class as well.

Last week, another classmate had a party to go to after class. Online, everyone is steeped in Christmas. I have had a few people ask me what I’m doing, which did not bother me. I don’t celerbate Christmas, but I did not bristle at being asked, either.

I have in yeras past. I don’t celebrate and it can get annoying after awhile when everyone assumes you do. “What are you doing for Christmas?” becme the bane of  my existence.

Side note: My mother is very wedded to traditions. This is an issue with us because I am most empthatically not. We have had this argument all my life–whether tradition is good or bad. She once said in exasperation that just becasue something was traditional, it didn’t mean it was bad.

I immediately retorted that just because something was traditional, it didn’t mean it was good, either. She was not happy with that, but she couldn’t really argue. My point was that it should not be automatic either way. Yes, I side-eyed doing something just because it was said to be tradition,  but that was because a lot of nasty stuff has been done in the name of tradition.

For example. Many people complain about all the things they have to do for christmas. The cooking and the baking and the decorating, not to mention putting up the tree, sending out cards, and wrapping presents. It is a lot.

One of my classmates (who was not in class this week) was complaining last week about how overwhelmed she was with the holiday activities and all she had to do. This was not unusual. She was usually freaked out over all she had to do. She reminded me of my mother in that she made things way harder than they needed to be. Or rather, she held herself to a standard that then made her lose her mind when she actually had to do the work.

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O Holy Night

To continue my musing on Christmas, here is the post from yesterday. No, that isn’t contiuning, but whatever. It’s my blog, and I’ll do whatever I want. For many years, perhaps even over a deacde, I have done a post about my one and only true Christmas carol, O Holy Night. I did a quick search and I did not do a post last year (but I did one in 2021). Apparently, last year around this time, I did two weeks’ worth of posts about Elden Ring instead as part of my GOTY posts. Or rather, in place of my GOTY post.

I am not sure I will have a GOTY post this year, either, because while I have played more new games this year than last, I’m not sure I want to call any of them my GOTY. I might just do a ‘state of my gaming’ post again instead. Or just gush about Elden Ring again. That’s always something I can do at the drop at a hat.

Anyway. More on games later. This is about Christmas and how much I love it! I do not love it, obviously, but I don’t hate it, either. In fact, to my surprise, I feel vaguely warm about it. Not about Christmas in general, but about love and community and being alive.

Here are some of my favorite versions of O Holy Night. In no particular order. first up is Andy Williams with a very classic version. I heard this a few years ago, and I really dug it–much to my surprise. I’m not usually one for old-timey musicians. for whatever reason, though, this version hit my sweet spot.

Next up is one I found just this year. It was filmed two years ago, and it’s by the Mav City Gospel Choir, featuring Melvin Crispell III. It’s soulful and earnest, without veering into saccharine. It’s really, really good.

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I’m dreaming of a white Christmas (because I love snow)

So. My shtick for the last few decades has been that I hate Christmas carols–except one. I’ll get to that one later, but it’s not competely true–that I hate Christmas carols, I mean. What is more accurate is that I don’t like the schlocky versions that seem to saturate the airwaves in the months (months!) leading up to Christmas. It’s as if the powers that be chose the worst possible versions and said, “Yes, let’s play these repeatedly in the mall over and over and over again.”

Things got much better once I stopped watching TV (no commercials) and stopped listening to the radio (no ads). I haven’t been to a mall except to eat in over a decade as well, so that helps. The local stations that play Christmas music all December long? No longer on my presets in my car. That’s the only time I listen to the radio, by the way. When I cut out the listening by 95%, it made it so much more tolerable.

It also helped that I have continued my journey with Christianity. I touched on the hatred I had for Christianity in this post from two days ago. I was raised fundie Evangelical Christian with very sexist tenets. A girl who had sex outside of marriage was condemned to hell. And, yes, specifically the girl because she was a harlot, a tramp, and an evil temptress/seductress. It was ridiculous to the point where our youth pastor (not Taiwanese, which was interesting at a Taiwanese church)  said that it was better to not kiss before you got married because kissing led to sex. This was before I had dated anyone, but even a sheltered naive girl like me could tell that was utter bullshit. Or rather, that there were many steps between kissing and sex. It wasn’t as if you kissed someone and then suddenly their penis was inside you. Come on!

Once I realized that the church had been lying to me all those years (and being deeply sexist), I reacted with extreme anger. I could not bear the mention of Christianity or that god, which was hard because that was when my mother was at her most religious. I was so angry at God (with a capital G). Even though if He existed, it most certainly wasn’t His fault that His followers were being such assholes in His name. But that’s what happens when you’re abused–you get angry. Which is a healthy response!

Then, as the years went by, the anger slipped away. The further I got from the religion, the more I just…let it go. I will say that Taiji helped tremendously, but I put down that burden. I did not forgive* God (because I did not believe in him) or the religion (because it’s still trash to me–the version I was forced to ‘believe’ in), but I no longer felt the searing hatred or anger I had in the past.

For a decade or so, I just felt studiedly indifference to it. With a small amount of anger in the back of my mind. Again, it was Taiji that helped soothe the savage beast within. I was able to say, hey, it’s not for me, but whatever. I still hated Christmas during that time, but that was more because of the crass commercialism than the Christianity aspect.

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Studiedly neutral is a reaction

Yesterday, I was writing about my distaste for Christmas. Well, hatred. Let’s be real. I used to loathe Christmas. It didn’t have much to do with the holiday itself, but with all the heavy expectations that went along with it. Plus the fact that the holiday spirit commercialization started earlier every year, and I was not pleased. I saw my first Christmas commercial before Halloween this year. That is a crime against humanity.

As I mentioned yesterday, once I stopped watching TV and listening to the radio, it was much better. Also, Taiji has helped me maintain my equilibrium when it comes to the holiday season. I no longcer rail against it, but I’m not going to be decorating a tree any time soon, either. Or sipping eggnog. Even if my brother were here for Christmas (he’s taking his family to Taiwan), I would not celebrate.

Here’s the thing. It’s not my holiday. I’m not a Christian, and I don’t like the trappings of the religion. Even if you want to go with a more secular Christmas, I have no warm feelings about the holiday itself.

I can get behind gathering as a family/group of friends/community. I know that for most people it’s important to have a sense of belonging. The problem is that when it’s practically society-mandated as is Christmas, that’s a recipe for disaster. Same with Thanksgiving.

I just recently learrned from my brother that his ex-wife held a grudge for several years because at the first Thanksgiving they hosted together, my mother brought her cranberry salad to the dinner. To elaborate, she said she was going to bring it, so it wasn’t as if she brought it out of the blue.

Here’s the problem. My mother’s cranberry salad is cranberries, whipped cream, orange slices, marshmallows,  raisins, nuts, and I think jello. It’s really tasty, but it’s very sweet. My ex-SIL’s idea of cranberry for Thanksgiving is cranberry and a sauce that has sugar waved over it. She made it for the Thanksgiving after my medical crisis, and it was very tart. Like mouth-puckering tart.

Two different people with two very different ideas of what cranberries for Christmas should be. Neither was wrong–they were just different. However, my ex-SIL held a grudge for several years because that’s what my mother meant by cranberry salad. Apparently, that totally ruined Thanksgiving for my ex-SIL. I asked why she didn’t just quickly make her own when she realized what my mother had brought. My brother said because they didn’t have cranberries in the house.

Which, yeah, I get it. It’s a bummer when you don’t get a dish you were looknig forward to, but it wasn’t as if my mother did it to deliberately antagonize her. Or that my mother’s cranberries were inedible. Or that it was some kind of sign of hatred.

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I’m not your fool

There are generally two camps when it comes to pranks. Those who view them as harmelss fun and those who think they are akin to torture. I will tell you upfront that I am in the latter camp.

Today is Aprils’ Fools Day (yesterday by the time you read this). I have never understood the appeal of this day, quite frankly. I have playefd one prank in my life that was pretty epic, but then I felt gulity about it afterwards. It was when I was a first-year student in college. I got a bunch of friends to help me with it because there was no way I could have done it on my own. We took all the furniture from a friend’s room and recreated it in the study lounge, down to every last detail. It was amazing, quite frankly, but it was very intrusive. I would not have taken kindly if someone had done it to me because i do not like people touching my stuff without my permission.

This is my issue. Don’t. Touch. My. Stuff. I will say that putting googly eyes on stuff is a harmless prank that most people can enjoy. At the very least, it doesn’t do any harm. If someone doesn’t like it, they can roll their own eyes and just keep it pushing.

For the other office-related pranks, though, even the ones considered mild, I would not appreciate them at all. At Ask A Manager, this is such a contentious topic. Alison herself is on the pro-prank side (which surprises me) as long as everybody is on-board with the prank. Which, I mean, it’s not easy to always be sure that people are on the same page.

The things that people call harmless pranks such as putting tape on the underside of someone’s mouse and switching around the letters on someone’s keyboard are big no-nos for me. The latter wouldn’t bother me because I use the Dvorak system and touch-type. I only care about the very rarely-used keys such as the brackets.

People who talked about doing this were all, “Hahahahahah this is so funny!”, but I did not get it at all. The premise is, “I’m going to do somtehing to your stuff that you don’t know about and then I’m going to laugh at how gullible you are to fall for it even though there’s no way you could have known about.”

That’s the thing that doesn’t make sense to me. How is that a prank? How is that funny to the person who’s getting pranked? Alison emphhasized that the prank had to be funny for everyone, not just the person/people doing the prank. Anything that has to do with messing with someone’s computer just doesn’t seem funny to me. Even if you don’t think it’s offensive or wrong, why is it funny?

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New Year, newish me, who dis?

It’s New Year’s Eve. We are almost into 2024, which is weird as fuck. I have declared September 3rd, 2021 as my re-birthday, which means that I am two years old and heading into my third year of re-birth.

I’ve been thinking it’s time for a change. A shift in my way of thinking, if you may. I need to start looking forward because apparently, I am not permanently dying any time soon. I’m fifty-two in real years, which means I’m (probably) in the second half of my life.

I wrote about in yesterday’s post that Everything Everywhere All At Once was a movie that on paper, should not have worked. When the actors talk about it in interviews, they laugh as they try to describe what it’s about. I mean, you can give a superficial description.

It’s a story about an ordinary (immigrant Chinese) woman who is beaten down by life and everything is unraveling. She discovers that she can universe jump, and she needs to defeat the great evil, which is her daughter. Basically.

But that does not do justice to any aspect of the movie. In trying to do that, you would have to talk about the whole movie, bit by bit. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing! But it means that it’s not easy to define. Which is one reason I love it so much.

I watched a bit of someone reacting to it, and she was ‘WTF is happening?’ every few minutes. Which, legit, but also–just go with it. It took maybe fifteen minutes before I realized that I was not going to understand everything as it happened. That was a deliberate choice by the Daniels, and one I appreciated.

Side note: It’s one of my favorite things about FromSoft games. Miyazaki does not explain shit in a straightforward manner. Eevrything is in item descriptions, a few brief cutscenes, and whatever the community can cobble together. He trusts that you’ll figure it out–or not. And he’ll include optional areas in the game, realizing that a huge chunk of the players will never see them.

Which still blows my mind! In the first season of Prepare To Try, a very young Rory mentions in the secret episode as Krupa shows him the entryway to Ash Lake (you have to hit two illusory walls to get to the way to get down), “Imagine this is your first game. You would be ruined for other games.”

It was practically my first ‘hardcore’ game, and it did ruin me for other games. Basically, I like FromSoft games and I like indie games, and nothing else.

Side note: I have tried. I have tried hard. I have tried a variety of games. This is what it comes down to. I don’t like pop culture. Period. I have a brain that is broke in ways that doesn’t allow me to look at things in the same way that other people do.

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The holiday blahs

It’s the most bogus time of the year. I know that’s not how the song goes, but bite me. I’m in a bad mood today because Regions Hospital just called and told me that the echocardiogram and heart doc visit I have been trying to plan for the last two months and had finally managed to get scheduled for this Friday (echo) and next Thursday (doc visit) were not covered by my insurance so they would have to cancel the appointments.

Which is as annoying as fuck. They called me in October to schedule the visits, then when I showed up the next week for the first appointment, they had no record of it. I was confused because they had called me, not the other way around. But there were problems with the scheduling program, so my brother and I figured they had either sheduled the wrong person in my place or the prgram didn’t ‘take’ the appointment. The administrative assistant noted that my anniversary of the first echo was in early December, so she scheduled me for Friday (this is Wednesday) and the following Thursday.

You would think that they would have something in the program to notify them that the insurance was no longer accepted, even if it wasalready in the program. The problem is two-fold. I am in the Obama plan and the Blue Cross portion of it was taken away at the beginning of this year. In tandem, Regions stopped takiing Universal Health Care at the beginning of this year.

Which blows, honestly. THat means someone without decent healthcare insurance would not get treatment at one of the best regional hospitals. Which is appalling. Putting that aside, however, I can’t get past the fact that they did not realize that my insurance would not cover the appointments until two days before. I’m not mad at the person who called me, but that seems like a wide crack in their system. I’m also deflated because it had been such a pain to get the appointments (for the appointment with the doc, it was literally the last open spot he had for the year), and now I have to go through it all again with someone who doesn’t kno;w me or what I went through. I’ll do it after the holidays.

Speaking of the holidays, I’m already tired of them. I’m tired in general, by the way. You know that draggy feeling you get when you’re about to get sick? That’s what I’ve been feeling for several weeks (since Shadow was sick). At first, I chalked it down to stress, but now, I’m wondering if I’m actually sick. I’m pretty sure it’s not COVID, but there’s a small doubt niggling in the back of my mind.

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First do no harm

Mother’s Day brings up many complex feelings for me. I try to find the most anodyne and bland card I can find, one that is filled with platitudes. One that has flowers or animals or something equally generic. I pick out some Muzak, scribble a nice note in it, then email it to my mother. I do the same on Father’s Day for my father before calling it a day. I dread picking out a card and I try to do it as quickly as possible.

I know it’s just a meaningless card on a made-up day. I know that there’s no reason to put much energy into it or emotion around it. But, it just reminds me of the fractured family I exist in and how exceptionally dysfunctional we are. I Zoomed with my parents and my brother earlier tonight. My brother has decided that the best way to deal with my parents is to feed them a steady stream of trivial tidbits. This time, he showed them a bunch of pictures he had taken on his previous two trips to Taiwan (I went on one of them) , and I got bored about ten minutes in. Ten more minutes later, he mentioned that I looked really interested (sarcastically, but it’s surprising that he noticed), which made me snap that there were so many pictures. I get what he’s trying to do, but he was dragging it out for far too long. I should have just used my words and said something, but I revert to a petulant child when I’m around my parents.

I can’t forget what I discovered about our family during my health crisis–and how deep the dysfunction runs. Everything that we had all shoved to the very back of the closet came bursting out during my medical trauma, and I can’t unknow that.

Before the Zoom call, my mother called me to thank me for the card. My father mentioned something about a German study saying you should gargle with warm salt water to prevent COVID. Which, I mean….I didn’t even have to Google it to know that wasn’t true. I Googled it, anyway, and, yeah, that’s a lie. You will not be surprised to find out that there is no such study that says any such thing.

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A new year and a new attitude

2021 sucked and I cannot see the backend of it soon enough. Now, to be fair, I came back from the dead twice–which is a good thing. The fact that I’m going to see 2022 is a plus in and of itself. I made this observation soon after exiting the hospital. Before my medical trauma, I was hyped for Elden Ring by FromSoft. The second trailer was released three months before I went into the hospital and I was planning how I was going to play it. See, when I play a FromSoft game, I play it on my own for the first playthrough. I try to beat all the bosses by myself, only summoning if I’m desperate. I have all sorts of rules for how I play these games and I was wondering how feasible it would be for an open  world game. I thought maybe I would have two games on the go–one solo and one for co-op. I still wanted to beat all the bosses on my own for the first playthrough.

Then, I had my medical trauma and ended up in the hospital, knocking at death’s door. I defied death and with my new lease on life, I had a different view on many things as well. One of them was Elden Ring. It may seem silly to be fixated on a game, but it’s the one popular culture thing that really gets me going. I’ll buy any game FromSoft makes (except VR games, of course) and I’ll pre-order them to boot. Which reminds me, I still haven’t pre-ordered Elden Ring because I haven’t decided which edition I want.

The thing is, once I remembered Elden Ring existed (which was a day or two after I woke up in the hospital), none of my strategizing mattered. I was just extremely happy to have the chance to play the game. That was it. I didn’t care about how I was going to play it; I was just grateful that I would get to play it. That feeling has held and intensified since watching footage from the closed network test. I couldn’t participate because I don’t have a console, unfortunately. Well, I do have a PS4, but I hate playing on it. I watched Eurogamer and Oxboxtra play it, drinking it in, and PlayStation Access, too. The closed network test was a hefty chunk of the game, too. Games journalists put in anywhere from ten to seventy hours in the pre-public stress test. And it was estimated that it was maybe 1/16th of the game? Something like that.

The hype for this is unreal. FromSoft’s last game, Sekiro, was released in 2019. It had very positive media acclaim (it won the GOTY from the biggest award show, Geoff Keighley’s baby), but it was a divisive game within the community. Personally, it’s my least-favorite of the FromSoft games. I think it’s a brilliant game and I love that it showcases feudal Japan. Sekiro himself is a hottie and an interesting protagonist, but the game itself was so grueling. I’ve said for many years that there’s a ceiling to FromSoft games and that I was getting closer and closer to it. I love the games, but I’m not any good at them. The way I beat the games is by over-leveling and grinding to the point of oblivion. And, if I really needed it, I summoned for bosses I simply could not beat solo. The problem with Sekiro was that there was no leveling and there was no co-op. It was not an RPG and the only way to level up was to beat certain mini-bosses who gave you prayer beads. When you got four of them, then you could increase your strength and health bar some indeterminate amount. The final boss was above my paygrade–and I was just lucky to beat him. If took me six or seven hours and thirty-five or so real attempts and I probably could not beat him again. I have not faced him a second time ,which should tell you how I feel about the game.

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