Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Books

Hazy, glazy memories

Apparently, a popular question to ask in interviews is what’s the candidate’s favorite book/movie/musical group/tv show/some other bit of popular culture. I learned this at Ask A Manager. The people who said they asked the question in interviews claimed not to care about the actual question, but that the candidates were able to talk about something non-work-related in a casual way. Someone pointed out if they were going to be working with someone for forty hours a week, they wanted it to be someone they talked to.

Someone else retorted, “Oh, so someone who is just like you, then?” Which was snide, but true. Even though they all claimed that they didn’t care what the answer was and that the person just had some answer, I call foul on that (as many other people did).

First of all, everything I like is niche. I don’t read popular books for the most part. I mostly read people who are in minority categories (usually several at a time), and I can’t think of any that have been bestsellers. In fact, one of my favorite books is about a Burmese brother and sister duo who had to flee their homeland to the United States beacuse of political unrest. The narrator is unreliable for many reasons, and she ends up in a mental institution. It’s a very harsh and raw book, and I bet very few people have read it.

Some people tried to argue that you can just talk about any book you like–not your absolute favorite. That doesn’t erase the fact that you’re still making people consider unconscious bias and that what does that really have to do with work? It’s considered a low-stakes question, but only if you assume that people will respond in a certain way.

If you’re trying to get a feel for how someone can converse in a casual way, why not ask about the weather instead? That’s truly the most banal of banal qquestions, but it’s easy to talk about that one. Unless you’re asking about what kind of weather the candidate prefers.

I was thinking about this and it led me to remember my favorites in various pop mediums. Oh, and also, if someone asked what my favorite TV show was or movie,  or which I’ve been watching/have watched, I would have to say none. All my favorites are from decades ago when I still tried to watch movies and TV. I just can’t be bothered because I don’t like the mediums. I always felt funny about it, but I’ve embraced it now.

My brother laughed and said that of course I didn’t like movies because they weren’t very real. He’s right. I like musicals for the very reason that it’s highly artificial. There aren’t many times in real life when people burst out into songs and jazz hands. I wish there were, but that would be distracting to actual life.

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When to say it’s done

For the past two posts, I have been talking about the game, Cook, Serve, Forever by David Galindo. There are three games in this series. Cook, Serve, Delicious!; Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!; and, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?!. The first game was released in 2012, and the series has only gained in popularity since. My personal favorite is the second by a hair over the first, and the third is my least favorite. It’s not a bad game by far, but I just like the second game the best.

I will say that the third game got me through the beginning of the pandemic when it was released in Early Access. I spent many, many hours happily pounding away at my keyboard in order to make my orders. The fact that the last act of the game completely fell apart is a shame, but it doens’t erase the fact that it’s a highly-addictive game for the first two-thirds of it.

But the second game was my favorite because you could design restaurants. It was pretty basic, but it was fun. I was not able to 100% that game, but that’s ok. Begrudgingly. I played that game months after getting out of the hospital because I wanted the plat. I was physically unable to get it, but I got really close.

Here’s the thing. Series can go on for way too long. I noticed when I used to read  mystery series that they got worse as they went on (in general). The problem is that you can’t stray too far from the formula because that’s why people are reading the books. But then that gets stale in a hurry. I used to read Sue Grafton’s alphabet series. She set them in real time, starting in the 1980s, so even when we got to book V is for Vengeance, which was released in 2011, the technology was still from the ’80s.

When I first started reading the series, there was nothing else like it. It was fresh and exciting to me, especially since it starred a female private detective. Kinsey Millhone was a tough, no-nonsense, take no prisoners kind of gal who had terrible taste in men. And she cut her own hair. She made sure to say that in every book, which signified part of the problem.

It was fresh and exciting for roughly ten books. M is for Malice was the best of the series, but then it went downhill from there. By the time I got to W is for Wasted, I could barely read the books any longer. I felt like I had to because I had gotten that far, but I wasn’t enjoying it. She died before she could write the final one, so the series ended with Y is for Yesterday. I feel like I need to read X (no is for) and Y is for Yesterday, but I haven’t thus far.

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Poirot in and out

I am a Poirot fan, dare I say a stan. I have read all the books anywhere from five to fifty times. I have watched the series at least three times–in order. That’s not easy to do because the series is broken up in two, each half owned by a different entity.

Side Rant: I HATE that there are so many sub-subscriptions. Amazon Prime is nearly useless as a subscription on its own for movies and television. Anytime I find something I want to watch, there’s a sub-subscription I have to buy in order to watch it. I don’t think I’ve watched anything from Amazon in years. The last time I wanted to watch Poirot, I had to subscribe to two different subs. I did the trial for each in order to watch the series before cancelling, but it was annoying as fuck. Here’s the thing. I don’t watch much TV or movies in general so I don’t want to have to pay ten bucks to watch one movie or TV show.

Anyway. I’ve been thinking about this because someone in the weekend thread on Ask A Manager asked for people’s favorite adaptations and least-favorite. Several people mentioned Poirot, much to my surprise, and how they thought David Suchet was the perfect Poirot. That’s not as surprising because he embodies Poirot. So much so that the one time I heard Suchet doing the audiobook version of Death on the Nile,  I couldn’t get over his very British accent.

I proposed a moratorium on British Poirot movies for more than one reason. First, David Suchet is Poirot. Period. Full stop. No one can do it better. Second, there is a lot of racism and classism in the stories. In the novels as well as the movies. Lower-class people are portrayed as slovenly, violent, loud, coarse, etc. People from Asian countries are portrayed as sly, inscrutable, untrustworthy, etc. And, what would be unforgivable now, the people of other ethnicities are just British actors with bad accents and bad makeup.

The Big Four is my favorite Poirot book and it’s rife with racist portrayals. Or at least national stereotypes. *Spoilers* for a really old book. I like the shock of Poirot dying in it and experiencing the grief through Hastings. Then, the appearance of Poirot’s twin brother! Shock number two! And, yes, it’s a tired old trope, but still a jolt to the system. And then, masssssssive spoiler, the twin turns out to be Poirot after all and he faked his own death to get the Big Four off his back.

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The true horror is man

I don’t understand horror media. Wait. That’s not what I meant to say. What I meant was I don’t understand horror in general. No, that’s not quite it, either. Ok. I’ll just spit it out. I find most horror juvenile and boring. Not scary at all. Jump scares are just bodily reflexive reactions that are about getting away from the thing in your face. It’s not really being scared, per se, at least not for me. If anything comes at me out of the blue, I’m going to jump. It’s a physiological response rather than one of horror. Plus, it’s cheap. There’s no thought in it. Anyone can do a jumpscare at any time.

I will allow for the tension in situations such as the xenomorph in Alien Isolation. But again, that’s not really scary–that’s tension. It’s brilliantly done and I tried to play the game, but I couldn’t because it’s first person. That might be one of the reasons I don’t find horror games scary–because I can’t play first-person games. And horror isn’t horrifying in third person, really. At least I presume because I don’t watch horror movies. Again, not because they’re scary but because I find most of them boring/juvenile.

I am all for the psychological horror, but physical horror leaves me cold. Hm. Physical comedy also leaves me cold, which is interesting. Mostly because it’s too broad. It’s funny because I love musicals–which surprises people because they are so unrealistic. But I’m fine with that because they’re not supposed to be realistic. You could say the same with slapstick comedy, I suppose, but humor is different in general.

It’s interesting because I was talking to my brother about all this. He said that of course I didn’t like most movies because I was already three steps ahead of them. I hadn’t thought about it, but he’s right. Because I’m very adept at picking up emotions and motivations, I can see every plot point coming a mile away. He, on the other hand, is not good with emotions in anything other than the broadest strokes. I joked that we could make a podcast based on our very divergent reaction to movies because it would be amusing. When he said what he did about of course I could see three steps ahead, a light bulb went off in my brain. Everybody knows about about the Dunning-Kruger effect when it comes to people thinking they’re better than they are for no good reason. The lesser-known result of the study, however, is that people who are better at something than other people underestimate how much better they are. Why? Because it’s normal for them, so they have no frame of reference for how difficult it might be for other people.

I have always known what other people are feeling. More to the point, I have always felt what other people were feeling. That’s one reason I don’t like movies–I don’t want to feel what they’re feeling. I’m better at blocking out other people’s emotions now, but it takes effort. When I was in my twenties, I felt other people’s emotions as intensely as I felt my own–especially the negative ones. It was one reason I hated being around other people. I would look around the room and immediately know who was feeling bad. Not only that ,I would know why. “This woman is being abused by her husband.” “This child is being abused.” “This guy is super-depressed.” Was I right? No idea because it’s not something I could bring up with most people. So I can’t say with any certainty that I was right about why they were feeling bad, but I can tell you confidently that they were feeling bad.

For the longest time, I simply assumed that everyone else could feel other people’s emotions the way I did. I never knew about empaths and Highly Sensitive People (HSP). I really don’t like the latter label because it sounds too precious, but whatever. My brother and I have talked about it quite a bit lately and he helped me to realize to what extent I am different in this area. I always knew that I felt things more deeply than most people, but I always assumed it was just a bit more than others.

Nope. It’s a lot more.

Now, for some reason, this doesn’t extend to horror. I don’t feel much of anything at all while watching horror movies or playing video games. Well, more the former because as I mentioned, I don’t play horror games. Like I said, I think jumpscares are cheap. But most of the situations in horror movies don’t actually happen. I part of one of  The Ring movies, the one with Naomi Watts, and it was just boring and bad. IMDB users agree with me, apparently. I did watch The Host by Bong Joon-ho, which I actually enjoyed, much to my surprise. It wasn’t scary, but it was a good movie.

In the first Harry Potter movie, the first time we see the dementors is on the train. It’s supposed to be spooky and scary, and I laughed out loud when I saw them. I thought they were adorable and I  wanted to cuddle them. My friend poked me in the ribs to shut me up, but I couldn’t help it.

I’ve seen snippets  of Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. Neither of them scare me. Same with the xenomorph in the Alien movies. In fact, I can’t think of any monster who has scared me. There was a movie I saw with Jim Carrey in it as an author. It was when he was trying to be SERIOUS and it was utter trash. Though it was supposed to be scary. I just could not suspend my belief enough (I just wrote disbelief. Ha.) to accept the ridiculous premise.

This is my problem with movies in general, actually. When the Matrix first came out, my Taiji teacher at the time couldn’t stop raving about it and how it was the epitome of Taiji. I saw it years later in a theater with my then-boyfriend and mildly enjoyed it for much of the movie. That’s because both Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are hot as hell and I  would not mind being sandwiched between them. The story was nonsensical, but whatever. Then, there comes the moment when Carrie-Anne Moss needs to revive Keanu Reeves and kisses him. She fucking kisses him! In a  movie about breaking out of the matrix and being different, they resorted to the tritest thing ever. I stood up and shouted, “This is bullshit!” because I was so incensed. Fortunately, my boyfriend was pretty chill and there were only two or three other people in the theater (different boyfriend than Pulp Fiction boyfriend, obviously).

Talking to my brother about my distaste for movies made me shift from there’s something wrong with me for not liking movies to realizing that it makes sense given my sensitivity to other people’s emotions. Seriously, it’s a relief and I have my brother to thank for it. I never have to feel guilty about it again.


Review: The Lonesome Bodybuilder

lots to think about!
A curious meditation.

The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya is a book my BFF, Kat, read and reviewed on Goodreads.com. I noted it as interesting and promised myself I’d read it one day. She gave it to me for my birthday with the joke that I had to read it because I was Asian, and that made me laugh heartily. I was eager to read it because the reviews I read mentioned it was an interesting take on domestic life, but with a surrealistic twist. It’s a collection of short stories, with the flagship story being the titular one. Each story is fairly short (well, most of them are), but they are packed with a lot to think about. I read the whole thing on my flight to Binghamton, but I did not leave the book on the plane as I normally would. If I buy a mystery book at the airport, I normally leave it on the plane or in the airport when I’m done with it*. I like to imagine the flight attendant or airport worker who finds it bringing it home to read in a nice bubble bath. In reality, they probably sigh at the extra work and chuck it in the bin, but let me have my illusions.

The first thing that struck me was how universal some themes are. Many of the stories dealt with the dissatisfaction of being a married woman to what might generously be called a lesser man. In the main story, the husband is a weak and insecure man who is sure his wife is unhappy with him. The story starts with the husband watching a boxing match on TV. When his wife shows interest, he accuses her of wanting to be with the fitter boxer. That piques the wife’s interest in bodybuilding, which she does faithfully over the next…has to be at least weeks if not months. She gets muscular, but her husband doesn’t notice. She wishes her training coach was her life partner, other things happen, and her husband gets suspicious and follows her to the gym. I know that it doesn’t sound thrilling from the way I’ve described it, but it really tugged at my heartstrings. She was engaging in an activity not typically considered feminine, and she was doing it in part to get her husband’s attention. It gave her some self-confident, but her husband’s eternal oblivion of her progress cuts her to the core. A rather shocking thing happens at her job, and she’s talking to her husband about whether or not she’ll be able to keep her job. He’s clearly not listening, and she gets angry.  The one thing he likes about her is her hair, so she decided to test him. She told him she cut it pretty short even though she hadn’t touched it, and he said he liked it. She asked how much he thought she cut off, and he said maybe eight inches. It was a short scene, but it really underscored how checked out the husband was. This was before he followed her to the gym.

Another thing I liked was how she wove surrealism in with mundane life. She didn’t make a big deal of it or try to explain it, which is my weakness. I explain way too much shit. I want to give backstory where it’s not needed, and I know it drags down the story. Motoya simply states something and trusts you’ll take it as fact. For example, The Straw Husband, is about the protagonist being married to a straw man. She writes it as plainly as that, and at first, I thought she meant she was married to what we colloquially call a straw man. Or a man who was basically a yes-man. But, no, she meant a literal man made of straw, and she talked about how her friends thought it weird, but she didn’t go into deep detail. Me, I would have gone into her childhood, her dating history, and what made her choose such a man. It’s a bold choice not to do any of that, and it works.

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