Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Wellness

Knives out is better than knives in

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

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

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


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Mental health and gaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Living the condiment life

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

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

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

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

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The desultory approach to my life

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

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

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

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

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

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Spicing up my life

I want sex. It’s been more than a hot second since I’ve had it, and now is exactly not the time to seek  it out. There is no way to copulate with six feet between me and another person, and the idea of wearing masks…well, that’s not my kink. I know there’s Skypesex and sexting, but neither are what I want right now. I had no point with that, but I just wanted to throw it out there.

Let’s talk sleep. My schedule has taken a drastic turn for the worse. I’ve been going to bed as late as 5:30 in the morning, which, how the hell did I used to do this on the regs? Part of the problem is Spiritfarer, I’ll be frank. If I start playing it any time after midnight, all bets are off when I’ll actually end up sleeping.

There are deeper reasons, however, and they’re the same as they ever were plus exciting new Covid-19-related reasons. One, the longer I stay awake, the longer I put off having to get up for the next day. No, it doesn’t make sense, but my brain doesn’t care about that. Two, I just don’t sleep well. At all. The weighted blanket has helped as had taiji, but it’s still fraught with all kinds of bullshit.

With all that being said, what I actually want to talk about is cooking. I don’t cook. Or rather, I didn’t cook. I didn’t see the point in it because it’s a lot of work for someone who lives alone. Yes, I know about batch cooking and freezing and whatnot, but I simply didn’t want to do it. I don’t like to cook–yes, yes, I know that’s heresy in this day and age–and I resisted any urge to do so. There’s a whole lot of gendered expectations wrapped up in all that, but mostly, it was just too much trouble.

Here’s the thing about depression as I experience it. I live with a triage mentality every day. What absolutely has to get done and what can be punted down the line. For example, I’m doing laundry today. I should have done it at least a month ago. It’s a bit more acceptable because I don’t go anywhere, but I’m down to skirts and ripped t-shirts. Even in the Before Times, I pushed laundry until the very last moment, but this is beyond ridiculous.

If I make something a routine such as my wake-up taiji regime, then my brain just takes it as an immutable. Again, don’t ask me how it works because I don’t know, but it’s my way of tricking my brain. I get up, take my thyroid pill, feed Shadow, clean the litter, brush/floss my teeth, and then taiji routine. This is sacrosanct, and I don’t question it. Something like laundry, however, which is not done every day, it’s much harder to force my brain to do it. I’ve been meaning to do it for the past two or three weeks, but my brain has overridden all my intentions.

How did I make myself do it this time? Not entirely sure. I just started throwing things down once I woke up, but I had done that a few weeks ago as well. I simply wouldn’t allow my brain to detour from it, which is something else I can do from time to time. Yes, it’s like my brain is a computer that I have to override, which is annoying as fuck.

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It cuts like a knife…and it feels so right

In the last post, I wrote about my love for blades and how it has happened. Before I continue waxing rhapsodic about the love we don’t talk about, I just want to say that I did the whole Sabre Form today (as much as I know), and my right arm definitely got a workout. That’s another thing people don’t realize about taiji–it’s exercise. Yes, it can be gentle and meditative (which is where the health benefits come from), but it can also get the blood pumping. In addition, the weapons are definitely weight-bearing, especially the sabre.

Side note: The saber is considered the most basic of the weapons. The sword is the second most advanced (the spear is the most advanced. This is to the best of my recollection), and I still find it amusing that my teacher taught the Sword Form to me first. Now, I knew it was probably because that’s the one she was taught first and felt most comfortable with, but it’s still funny. I do wonder if I was taught the Sabre Form first if my feelings about the two weapons would be flipped. I don’t think so. I loved the sword before learning a lick of the Sword Form, and it’s still the most comfortable weapon in my hand.

Side note II: I found out recently that my teacher is not a fan of the weapons. Or rather, they’re secondary to much of the other aspects of taiji. I could sense it on some level, but it was interesting to hear her say it out loud. She’s done a great job teaching me despite her lack of enthusiasm, but I’ve wondered if I should approach her teacher for lessons in weapons. He’s amazing, and when I saw him do the Sabre Form at the last demo, it was sublime. He made it seem effortless and his movements were minimal. That’s part of taiji–the least amount of effort for the maximum effect, but I had thought with a weapon like the saber, you had to move it more aggressively. He showed you did not have to, and it blew my mind.

These days, I have to choose which weapons I want to practice every day. I have to rotate them as the list of what I know/what I’m learning is growing. Right now, I’m learning the Sabre Form (two to three movements from done!), the Karambit Form (last section!), the Dancing Wu-Li Sword Form (new sword form! Just learned the first movement), and a drill for the Double Sabre Form (too hard to learn through Zoom, so on hiatus. I still practice it once in a long while, but it’s definitely on the back burner). I do the Sword Form once a week by halves (first half Sunday, second half Monday) and the whole Sabre Form once a week (Tuesday). I practice the last row or two rows of the Sabre Form every day along with as much of the Karambit Form as I know (it’s very short). I learned the first movement of the Dancing Wu-Li Form last Thursday, and I’ve been doing that every day as well. I do the Cane Form (first row, only row I know) every third or fourth day.


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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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When mental health issues collide with reality

In the best of times, I have to push myself to do what needs to be done. This is not the best of times, and it’s even worse now. Add to that the fact that my sleep has completely reverted, and I’m a hot(ter) mess right now. I’m discouraged because it’s a vicious cycle. I’m going to bed around four-thirty in the morning, which is not good. More to the point, it’s a rather sudden change which makes it even more difficult to deal with. It took me several months, probably half a year or so, to go from going to bed at five/six in the morning to two. now, in the course of maybe two weeks, I’ve reverted back to almost five.

Logically, there’s no reason I can’t follow that timetable. I t’s not like I have to be anywhere at any specific time (except for my taiji Zoom classes–and most of them are in the afternoon). But, I wanted to be on a more normal schedule. That seems to be but a dream now. And I’m discouraged by it. There is little I can do about sleep that I haven’t done before.

Ugh. I am so not feeling it today.

The sickness in my mind

I’m a weird amalgamation of, well, everything.  I’ve talked endlessly before about how weird I am in so many ways. Another is that I am always about the underdog and try to find a reason for why people do what they do. But, I also have a voice inside my head that is constantly criticizing everything and everyone. Mostly me, but other people, too.

I try to take the high road. I really do. At least outwardly. I know it’s the right thing to do, but there’s a small part of my brain that, well, is a right nasty bitch. The same part that produces the voice above, quite frankly. Nasty voice. Really nasty. Like, “Fuck you, asshole! Step the fuck back before I rip your nuts off and cram them down your throat” nasty. And, “No one would care if you die” nasty. I’ve learned to keep it to myself, but it’s there.

Side note: I have a psychology background–probably partly spurred by my mother. I also inherited a fair amount of charisma from my father. In addition, my intuition about people is off the chains. I know things about people they don’t know about themselves and things that they wouldn’t want others to know. In addition to this, I can feel other people’s emotions and I know their weak points. The latter is because I’m really good at reading people. I’m not infallible, of course, and when I fail, I fail spectacularly.

Most of the time, however, I’m pretty accurate. I don’t normally bring up my observations unless I’m asked, but they’re in my mind. I hate feeling like Cassandra (the oracle), but I do more often than not. There is so much I keep to myself, and it’s one reason I’m practically a hermit.


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