Underneath my yellow skin

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And then there was one (boss left in Dark Souls III…plus more Remastered)

what a satisfying kill.
My biggest challenge of this playthrough–Manus.

I am going to talk more about Dark Souls III and Dark Souls Remastered, so grab your favorite beverage and settle in. Last we visited the world of Lordran, I was entering the DLC, Artorias of the Abyss, with great trepidation. You can read about it here. My first time playing this DLC, I was well-aware of how difficult and brutal it was. It’s legend, in fact, for being off-the-charts hard. People raved about how amazing it was–and how it wrecked their asses. Since I played it well after it was released, I couldn’t summon for bosses even if I wanted to–and oh, how I wanted to. Sanctuary Guardian was easy-peasy, and then I hit a major wall with Artorias. Manus wasn’t that bad, but Kalameet nearly broke me. Since then, I’ve played the DLC a few times more. SG is no biggie, Artorias has become cake, Manus was fine (because I actually could summon for him), and Kalameet continued to haunt me. I finally skipped him on NG+ with my pyro because I just couldn’t be stuffed and I couldn’t summon. All of this was in my mind when I tackled the DLC this time around.

I faced the SG with no fear in my heart. It got me the first time because I was a bit reckless (pro tip: NEVER get greedy), but I made short work of it the second time around. Another pro tip along with a *spoiler* I guess, if you can spoil a game that is seven years old. Acquiring the Rite of Kindling from slewing Pinwheel, you can kindle bonfires to give you 20 sips from your Estus Flasks. 20! To give you context, you start with 5 at most bonfires, and you can kindle to increase by five per each kindle. You have to use humanity to kindle, but there is an endless supply of humanity in the game. So, you could kindle every bonfire to 20 if you so chose. that’s basically what I did the first time I played, but this time, I only kindled Firelink Shrine (which already started with 10 because there’s a Fire Keeper* there) to 20. Then, I would warp to it, rest, and then go back to the bonfire I had been at. In this game, you can only warp to certain bonfires, but fortunately, most of the bonfires before a boss were warpable. And, in the remaster, they added a bonfire in the Catacombs right by Vamos (which pissed off the purists, but which was a good addition in my mind), so having only Firelink Shrine kindled to the max is a completely viable option.

Going through the DLC with ridiculous Endurance, a maxed-out Zwei**, and five attunement slots made pretty short work of the DLC. Of course, it helped that I’d done it several times before as well because there was nothing that took me by surprise. Well, except for the first dog on the way to Kalameet. I forgot about those fuckers. Why are dogs in Soulsborne games such fucking assholes? Stepping up to Artorias’s fog gate, I felt a frisson of tension because he owned my ass the first time we met. The last time I met him, I did him in one, but who knew how it would go this time? It went smashingly well, dear reader. I got him in one, and I merrily went on my way. Next up was Manus, and I wasn’t feeling too worried about him. Boy, I should have because he got the best of me over and over again. I really didn’t want to fight him several more times, so I decided to try the cheese of shooting him from outside the boss arena, but I was an idiot and used the wrong ring (hornet instead of hawk, which I didn’t even have), so it didn’t work. I womanned up and fought him mano-a-womano. The time I finally beat him, my use of the silver pendant was true, and he didn’t do that asshole six-move combo very many times. I think it took me maybe a dozen times to kill him, and he was by far my hardest nemesis in my playthrough. BY FAR. I will admit, I thought about summoning for more than a second, but my goddamn stubborn pride wouldn’t let me do. I hadn’t summoned for anyone up to this point during this playthrough, and I’d be damned if I did it for Manus.

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The unbearable numbness of being…depressed

Content Note: In this post, I’m going to talk frankly about suicide, suicidal thoughts and ideation, and severe or chronic depression. Please don’t read if these things are trigger points for you because I want you to take good care of yourself.

crying into the night.
When will this pain ever stop?

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide spurred a lot of thought about suicide in me–and pain. Actual pain for a man I had never met and hadn’t really thought about except tangentially over the past few years. Here’s part one of my thoughts and musings on the subject. Let me expand on these thoughts, starting with the last one: stopping the stigma surrounding depression and suicide.

There is still a lingering belief that you can conquer depression by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. “Just think positive thoughts!” “There are people who have it much worse than you do!” By the way, this last one? Never say it to someone. Ever. I don’t care what the circumstance is, it’s a shitty thing to say regardless. Yes, it’s true someone has it worse, but someone also has it better. Plus, someone else’s suffering doesn’t negate your own. In addition, while gratitude for what you have is a good thing, it’s not helpful to have someone else scold you for not being properly grateful enough. And, again, it touches on my earlier points. We already know what we have to be grateful for. We already know whatever it is you think you’re telling us. Or conversely, there are plenty of people who have pretty rough lives. No, it may not be starving in a refugee camp, but that doesn’t negate that it’s still shit.

“Mind over matter!” “The mind can do anything!” The last is from a story I heard on NPR about someone who had to deal with a close friend dying by suicide (and had interviewed him about his suicidal thoughts before he (the friend) actually did it) and later, the brother of the friend who died by suicide as well. The friend’s therapist told him this, and I was appalled. Want to know my own therapist’s (my last and best one) take on this? When I was telling her that I felt I should be able to think my way out of depression, she said to me, “Minna, your brain is what got you here in the first place.” It was a light bulb moment for me, and while it didn’t stick around long, it did plant a seed that continued to flourish.

Side note: Drugs. There’s a disturbing trend for some people (both on the right and the left, for vastly different reasons) to decry antidepressants at the top of their lungs. Whether it’s because they’re ‘not natural’, ‘pushed by Big Pharma’, or ‘turn to God instead’, they need to STFU. I am not the person to go immediately to drugs, but I also know that they can help–they really can. I’ve been on three of them, all in the SSRI family–Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa), and each one really helped me for approximately a year. Unfortunately for me, the effectiveness wore off, and when I tried them again, the result was disastrous. They actually made me suicidal, and I hastily had to get off them stat. By the way, a side note to the side note: During this period, I had a doctor’s visit. Because of the suicidal thoughts, I couldn’t eat, and I lost nearly twenty pounds in two months. My doctor, who was a fanatic about weight (side note to the side note to the side note: she was a fairly new doctor to me. I had to leave my last one for stressful reasons), noted approvingly that I had lost weight. I explained the situation and said it was because I was deeply suicidal. She faltered for a few minutes then quipped feebly, “Well, it doesn’t matter why you lost the weight as long as you did it!” I was shocked by what she said, and I never went back. Later, in retelling the story, I realized that she probably felt deeply uncomfortable by what I’d said and joking about it was her way to deal with the discomfort. This is a perfect illustration of what not to say to someone who is in a lot of pain, but it’s not uncommon.

I know it’s difficult to be with a friend who is seriously depressed. I’ve been both the depressed and the friend of the depressed, and while the former is harder, the latter is no walk in the park, either. It’s hard to see someone you love suffering so much without wanting to do something about it. In addition, let’s address the elephant in the room–a severely depressed person may not be the most pleasant person to be around. In addition to being self-destructive, they may lash out at anyone who is near them. Part of my own depression was pushing away people I loved and pursuing people who were incapable of loving me because deep down I didn’t feel I deserved love. I was never outright nasty to my friends, but it’s not uncommon. And, as in the case with any kind of relationship, the friend in question should not feel guilty about setting boundaries with their depressed loved one.

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The end of Dark Souls Remastered…or is it just the beginning (of NG+)?

i seemed to have lost my top somewhere.
Nearly-naked me means fast-rolling is viable!

I finished Dark Souls Remastered yesterday, and I have many thoughts about my return to Lordran. One, I maintain my belief that this is the best Soulsborne game out of the ones I’ve played* because it was so fresh and innovative for the time. Things we take for granted now (interconnected levels, elaborate level design, hard-as-nails bosses, unforgiving death system, summoning, and the list goes on and on) were on display in this game. Yes, I know many of them were in Demon’s Souls as well, but they are much more polished in this game.

One thing I loved about this playthrough was comparing it to how the first playthrough went at the same points in time. First of all, even though I did a shit-ton of grinding in this playthrough, I still finished the whole game (plus the DLC) in roughly forty-two hours–which is less than a third of the time it took for my first playthrough. Or so Steam says. I’d say 5-10 hours of this playthrough was me grinding for levels, upgrade materials, and humanity, so the actual gameplay time was closer to thirty-two hours. Now, I’m on NG+ through the Capra Demon in roughly an hour and a half, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

I romped through the Northern Undead Asylum and the Undead Burg with nothing but my trusty Hand Axe and Fireballs. Yes, I was a pyro again because it’s all I ever want to be in these games. It felt like coming home to swing the Hand Axe or hurl off a fireball. It also was amazing how easily I could recall every minute detail of the map and enemy placement. I’ve mentioned before that I have spatial awareness difficulties, but for some reason, I was able to overcome it with this game. I think it’s partly because I had to play areas over and over in my first playthrough until they were seared in my brain. Now, I can go to, say, the Undead Burg and be like, “OK. Up the stairs, pause for the hellkite drake, then there are three Hollows waiting. There’s a fourth further up who is an archer. There are two Hollow Soldiers to the right guarding a hidden staircase down to the Undead Merchant (Male). There’s a door that leads to the Wooden Shield. Up the stairs to the left is the bonfire.” It’s a bit scary how much of this game is embedded in my, ahem, soul. I haven’t played the original in over a year, and it was as if I had never left.

There’s a mod for DS II that mixes up enemy placement, and while it sounds intriguing, it also sounds like my worst nightmare. One of the strengths in a Souls game is how scary a new area is, and how, by the end of it, it becomes, if not comfortable, then at least very familiar. The element of surprise is used to great effect by FromSoft to make you terrified every time you enter a new area. Once that’s taken away, everything becomes much more manageable. For example, the Asylum Demon. First time I fought him for realsies, I thought I would never beat him. Now, four or five fireballs to dat ass, and he was toast. Literally.

I also am much better at knowing what I want to do and in which order. Once I hit Firelink Shrine, I went into the graveyard specifically to grab the Zwei** and managed to run by all the skellies. I was going to be a strength/pyro which has been my jam since I tried it out in DS III. I went into New Londo Ruins to get the Fire Keeper Soul to strengthen my Estus Flask. Then, I proceeded down the ‘right’ path and decimated everyone who dared cross me.

Let’s talk stats. In my first playthrough, I did what most people do–put the levels in at random, thinking to keep things fairly even. This is a sensible approach that doesn’t work the best in Souls games. I feel the games are made in a way that encourages true builds, which means pumping two or three stats rather than spreading out the levels evenly. This time, I focused on Strength and Endurance so I could handle the big girl’s weapons. YES I MEAN THE ZWEI WHICH I USED THROUGHOUT THE GAME AFTER MAXING IT OUT AT +15. I’ll get to that in a minute as well. I put enough points into Attunement so I have five spell slots, and I have two rings that give me an extra slot each.

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Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker is Not a Love Match

love is in the air.
Ready to match up lovebirds!

I heard of a game called Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker, and I don’t remember how. All I can remember is that it had positive reviews, and I’m always here for more queer-positive games. It’s done by a drag queen (or at least she’s lent her name and voice talent to it), and the trailer looked like campy fun. It got positive reviews, and it was on sale last week because the sequel, Kitty Powers’ Love Life, was released on February 8th. Now, I’m not much into sims, especially not dating sims, but I was willing to give it a go.

From the start, it was slow-going. I had to fill out a questionnaire about myself so that my avatar could go on dates in other people’s games. The character creator is limited, but I really didn’t expect much from this quirky, obviously low budget game. Then, I was quickly shoved into the game, and we were off to the races.

The tutorial is minimal, and it’s not really representative of the game. It gives the best-case scenario, which rarely happens on the dates. The basic premise is you’re helping Kitty run a dating service. Clients come in, and you match them with potential dates. You send them to restaurants where you’ve installed hidden cameras (ew) and give them advice as the date continues.

From the beginning, the dick jokes fly fast and furious. The beginning restaurants are Jerk King (Jamaican), Route 69 (American), and The King’s Helmet (British). Kitty Powers is British, btw. Most of the comments she makes in the game are sexual innuendos, and they are limited in number.

My favorite thing about the game is that there are bisexual clients. You can have a female client looking for a woman, one who’s looking for a man, or one who’s looking for ‘anything’ (I’m sure that’s an ‘I’d fuck anything that moves’ bisexual joke). It sounds stupid, but as a bi person, being able to match someone with a person of any gender is refreshing. You match up your client with a potential date to your best ability, based on criteria such as astrological signs, interests, professions, types (sporty, hipster, geeky, etc.), and different personality traits.

I have issues because it’s not easy to tell what type of person the potential dates are. Supposedly, if you look at their interests and what they look like, you can tell, but it’s not always easy. The graphics are cute, but not really definitive. I can’t tell, say, sporty from hipster or hippie from geeky just by eyeballing the person. Plus, the makeup for the women isn’t all that distinctive except for the natural look. Frankly, it all looks like clown makeup to me.

Then, you have to pick the restaurant. Once that’s done, it’s off to the date. There are mini-games you have to play, and most of them range from annoying to tedious. In one, you have to help your client hold in their flatulence by…get this…playing higher/lower with cards. A card is shown, and you have to guess if the next card will be higher or lower. If it’s a one-star restaurant, you have to do this thrice (I think. Or more. I can’t be stuffed to remember). If it’s a two-star, it’s more times. Probably more for a three-star. That one is juvenile and annoying. The memorization ones are tedious, and the pachinko one is infuriating. There’s a math mini-game as well for figuring out tips, which just seems out of place.

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What’s That Feeling Deep Inside?

I’m a lifelong single person with brief periods of coupledom, and for most of my life, that’s the way I’ve preferred it. When I was in my teens, I despaired of ever having a boyfriend*, and when I was asked out by a boy at the not-so-tender age of 16, I was ecstatic. Not only was he cute and smart (oh, boy, was he smart), but finally, I felt like a normal teenage girl. I met him in summer school (T-CITY, Twin Cities Institute for Talented Youth. He was in physics, I believe, and I was in theater or writing or Latin). He went to a different school, which means we only saw each other on the weekends. It’s funny because most of my relationships have been long-distance, and this probably started the whole thing. I’m more comfortable with people if they’re not too close to me, if you get what I’m saying, and I think you do.

We dated for two-and-a-half years, and despite him being a great guy, I started not feeling it near the end of the relationship. I was working at a Claire’s in a shopping mall, and there was this really cute boy who worked at the shoe store down a level. He was a tall drink of hello, cutie, and I would flirt with him whenever I had a break. I was anorexic at that time and actually wore makeup at that point, so I was cute as hell in the stereotypical way. He was definitely into it, and while I didn’t do anything because I was in a relationship, there was definitely a zing there.

My boyfriend was going to Stanford for college (did I mention that he was super-smart?), and he insisted I had to go to school near him or we’d have to break up. I had applied to schools around his, and I got accepted to the one in CA (one of the UCs, Santa Clara, I think), but the closer it got to the time to leave, the more I started panicking. I wasn’t ready to be out of state. I wasn’t in love with him any longer. I didn’t want to go. We had several emotional discussions about it, and we ended up breaking up. I asked out the shoe shop guy after that and ended up going to his place. We made out, and he made it clear he wanted sex. I wasn’t into that, and we ended the date, amicably, I thought. Well, he rebuffed me after that, so it was pretty clear what he wanted.

During my twenties, I thought I should be in a relationship. It’s what you’re supposed to do, right? At that time, it was still the norm that a woman’s first obligation is to get married (in my Taiwanese culture as well), and the joke, “I’m going to college to get my MRS degree” wasn’t so much of a joke, frankly. I had several bad relationships in my twenties as have a lot of people, I suspect. In my thirties, I thought I *should* be in a relationship, but I wasn’t really sure I wanted it. In my early twenties, I realized I didn’t want kids. In my mid-twenties, I realized I didn’t want to live with someone. In my late twenties/early thirties, I realized I didn’t want to get married for political and personal reasons. I still felt I should be in a relationship, however, because only losers were single for their whole lives. I would loudly declare that I didn’t want to be in a relationship while secretly wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn’t be in a relationship while simultaneously dating exactly the wrong people. Yeah, I was a mess, yo, and I didn’t know how to get out of it.

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Flying is Now a Gladiator Sport

There is a news item circulating around Twitter this morning about a man who was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight. This is the tweet I saw:

I read the story with increasing incredulity because it sounds like something straight out of a dystopian universe, albeit a genteel one. The flight was overbooked, and United asked for volunteers to fly at another time after everyone was already seated. There were United Airline employees who needed to be in Louisville for a flight. The volunteers would be compensated with $400 and and overnight hotel stay. No one volunteered even after they upped the compensation to $800, so they said four people would be selected by a computer. This is all from the account of a fellow passenger who witnessed the incident, recorded the video, and uploaded it to the internet.

One couple left when their name was called, but one man refused, saying he was a doctor who had to see patients in the morning. A security guard came to talk to him, then a second one, then a third. Next thing you know, they are forcibly removing him from the plane. Apparently, he hit his head, screamed, and then you see one guard forcibly dragging the man off the plane. It’s in the tweet above, and be forewarned, it’s disturbing and appalling. What’s even worse was United’s explanation. After saying they were overbooked, the spokesperson went on to say (as per the link above), “After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate.” Apparently, this person does not know the meaning of the word ‘voluntarily’ because this statement is ludicrous.

The CEO of United, in heavy spin control, had this to say:

This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.

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One Step Forward, 1/2 Step Back

Progress is frustratingly slow right now. I think I overdid in class, even though I didn’t do much at all. In actuality, it probably was the drive and the shopping that did me in rather than the taiji. Either way, I’m dragging my flat yellow ass now. I’m trying to use this as a reminder to take things slowly. I’m feeling better, yes, but I’m not anywhere near fully recovered yet.

In the video below, a tiny dog is ecstatic by her new friend which is three times her size. Lucy struggles to carry it, but finally manages to make it to the car with her new BFF in her mouth.

The End of the World as We Know It





i can't take it.
Burning hot.

President Obama gave his farewell address last night, but I haven’t had the heart to listen to it yet. I’m still grieving the fact that in nine days, he has to hand over the reins of the presidency to Trump. PBO has been nothing but gracious during the transition, but I’m outraged on his behalf. PBO has been the best president of my lifetime, and my mind cannot accept we’re going from him to…You know. I’m still in shock and disbelief, truth to be told, and more than that–

I’m angry. Angry? More like livid. Fasten your seat belts because I’m about to tell you why.

I’m angry that a man as ignorant and incurious as Trump is going to be the our president. I haven’t been playing close attention to his daily stupidities, but I’ve seen enough to know that he’s going to be the worst president of all time.

I’m angry that his supporters voted for him because he tapped into their fear and hatred. Some of them now are fearful because they’re going to lose their Obamacare and/or Social Security, and it’s hard to be sympathetic because this is exactly what they vote for.

I’m angry that 40% of the country didn’t vote. I’m not talking about the people who had difficulties in getting to the polling place or had to wait in line for hours–voting suppression is real, yo–but those who shrugged their shoulders and didn’t even bother to go. I can understand feeling disaffected and as if your vote doesn’t matter, but it’s one thing you can do that has any effect at all on how this country is run. It’s literally the least you can do, and for most people, it’s not that difficult. I do think election day should be a holiday and that people shouldn’t be penalized for taking time off work to vote, but I also think it that’s the case,, then there should be a small fine for people who don’t vote.

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