I have a soft spot for :Law & Order. I mean, doesn’t everybody? When that ‘chung chung’ sound is heard, it takes me to my happy place. When I used to visit Ian in Raleigh, I’d have it on in the background for hours on end (sorry, Ian!). One time, we were walking in Downtown Raleigh under an overpass when a van pulled up to us and offered us a ride. We declined, naturally. He offered again, and we declined again so he drove off.
Obviously, we spun it into a Law & Order: Raleigh episode for the next half hour and given that we are both writers, it was a hoot. I’m sure he was just a nice guy wanting to do a good thing, but it definitely had the flavor of o L&O episode, yes?
Another time, we were watching one of the L&Os and discussing the anatomy of an episode. In the first five minutes is the actual Crime. Then, credits. If there is a famous person, they are either the perp or the vic. I mean, why splash that kind of money around for Garbage Man #2? The killer is introduced in the second segment (the one following the credits). The fake motives are trotted out in the first half of the episode. The real motive/perp is revealed around that time and then legal shenanigans for the second half.
I signed up for Peacock, the basic sub, because…well, it’s like this. I became aware that there’s a new season of the original L&O, which, I mean, I guess Dick Wolf’s gotta eat. Oh! I know how I found out. I saw that Legal Eagle was dissecting an L&O order and assumed it was an old ep. To my surprise, I realized it was a new one, based on *sigh* the Cosby case. So I watched Legal Eagle reviewing the episode (video included). It was bad. very bad. even by L&O standards. Why? Because what worked for the series when it first came out (and I’ll get to that later) hasn’t aged well. At all.
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.
There are three genres of games that I like. Roguelite-likes, soulslikes, and cozy games. Actually, since coming home from the hospital, I haven’t really played any roguelike. I dipped my toe back into Binding of Isaac: Repentance, but I didn’t enjoy it. That’s a game that I used to play every day for years (Rebirth), but every new iteration has made me play it less and less because it gets harder and harder. And it was plenty hard in the first place.
The soulslike I’m playing right now is, well, Dark Souls. Also Dark Souls III. I just bought Tails of Iron by Odd Bug Studio, which is affectionately known as Rat Souls and is about a rat doing soulslike stuff. But I’m shadowing Ian in Dark Souls and mucking about in the second DLC of DS III, which is enough Souls for me at the moment. Oh! I ventured into Sen’s Fortress in the original game to get the Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring so I can do the Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring/Hidden Body combo for the rest of the game. That makes me nearly impossible to detect by the enemies until I’m standing right in front of them. In order to get Hidden Body, I had to kill the hydra so I could kill the golden golem so I could free Dusk from said golden golem. Then, I summoned her so I could buy Hidden Body from her. Yeah, it’s that complicated. Once I did it, I realized that I could not be summoned by Ian for the Hydra fight. I messaged him to apologize and he thought it was funny I had just unthinkingly killed the Hydra.
As for DS III, I hate this DLC. It’s so incredibly hard and tedious. I know you could say that about all of the FromSoft games, but they always make their DLCs for the hardcore fanbois. And as a squishy caster, it’s never any fun. I played the third game when it first came out, which is not the way I usually play these games. So I could not consult the Wikis as extensively as to how to do things. I clearly remember finally beating the first boss of the second DLC with the aid of the two NPCs. I wearily trudged to the next area (after going to Firelink Shrine, of course). Bat demons took me to the next area and I sat down at the bonfire. I was embered because that’s what you have to do to summon. Someone immediately invaded me, which meant I had to jump off a cliff in order to deprive the invader of the satisfaction. Before I could do that, however, phantom archers arose and arrowed me into oblivion. I actually cried because I was so frazzled at that point.
The image I project is that of a tough, wisecracking woman* who don’t take no shit from anyone. It’s mostly fiction, but it’s served me well. To a point. I walked, strode, really, with my sunglasses on and a firm set to my chin. Most people take one look at me and leave me alone. I knew, however, that if someone was serious about attacking me, they wouldn’t be fooled. That’s why I started taking taiji classes. This post isn’t about that, though. It’s about my softer side that I rarely show. This side of me loves plushies and fluffy animals. The latter at a distance, however, because I’m allergic to most of them, including cats. But I love cats so I have one.
I also like cheesy pop music, unapologetically. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures because if you like something, why feel guilty about it? I can cheerfully admit that I have terrible taste in music for example, but I never feel guilty. about it. I boggle some people’s minds by being so matter-of-fact about liking what most people consider is bad music. It’s the same as when I say I’m a terrible driver (which I am). People are nonplused, which is partly because that’s not what you want to hear, I’m sure. but, the reality is that not everyone can be an above-average driver.
My point is that while I appear to be edgy and tough, I have a soft side that people may not know about. I don’t hide it, but it’s not as if I bellow it from the rafters, either.
I don’t watch much TV or movies, but one thing I like is what I call gentle competition shows. The Great British Bake Off is the original one (now The Great British Baking Show, but I stopped watching it after Sue and Mel were forced off). It was a surprise hit and afterwards, it spawned a plethora of similar shows in a category I call gentle competitions. That means people compete against each other, but they’re not trying to crush their opponents. It’s not Cutthroat Kitchen or whatever it’s called–I hate that show. There is no sabotage and everyone is so supportive of each other.
I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live (SNL) on the regular in several years. I’ve been watching clips lately, though, and there are several really tight ones, mostly musical skits. One thing that has always been true about SNL is that the good skits are fire and the bad skits are garbage. That hasn’t changed, but what has changed is that the songs are mostly really solid. I want to mention some of my favorites and why I like them. First up is Friendos starring Donald Glover. It’s a rap that jokes about a popular rap group going to therapy together. The reason I like it is because it’s catchy–Donald Glover is for real–and because it touches on some true issues. In this case, how hard it is for African American men to let their emotions show and how therapy is still taboo is some African American cultures. I also like that the therapy is actually sound (though adapted for humor, of course), unlike how it’s often portrayed in pop culture.
Next up is Permission, another rap that features Future and Lil Wayne. Again, it’s actually a tight rap, but the real kick is the message–that there will be no booty grabbing without consent from the women involved. So it still has the notion of going after ass, but stopping when you hear no. Lil Wayne: “Love that booty tender, never get aggressive. That booty got insurance–that booty got Progressive.” There are many layers to that verse!
I finished watching the most recent season of Queer Eye after I had fallen off it for a while. Why? I’ll get to that in a minute. It was set in Philly where my BFF lives and it had all the calculated emotional notes that the series is known for. Did I cry once an episode? Yes. But I knew going in that I would. Is it emotionally manipulative? Yes. But I also knew that going in as well. Here is Captain Awkward’s spoiler-free review for every episode of Queer Eye, written as she watched the third season, and it remains true to the end. There’s a very predictable format and I’m not here to argue for or against it. What I am here to say is that many of the things that caused me to flinch the first time I watched it has induced a full-body cringe this time around. I re-watched the first season and while it’s still generally heartwarming, I’m also very aware of how normative it is in so many ways. Even heteronormative in some ways. Not in a anti-homosexual way, obviously, but in a ‘everyone must be paired up’ way. There was an unusual amount of attention paid to whether or not the participant was getting shagged so let’s address the sexual harassment elements first.
I know that it’s a reality TV show, but I couldn’t help thinking of all the ways it’s an HR nightmare. The participants had to have signed a waiver form because there were several times when if it had happened in an office, the Fab Five would have been hauled into HR so damn fast. One, and I distinctly remember this from the first time I watched the show, Neal, the Indian guy. I did a full-body cringe when they forced hugs on him. Some people do not like to be touched and it was clear that he was not enjoying it at all. Then, they forced him into a group hug and I was SCREAMING inside. This time watching it was even worse and their rationale that he was ‘shut off’ and needed to be open to people did not fly with me. First of all, there are cultures in which people are more reserved. Secondly, some people have personal trauma that means no touching without consent. Thirdly, it’s ok not to want to hug people you just met.
Another episode is the firefighters one. Yes, they were all thirsty in that episode. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was for Karamo to sexually harass one of the firefighters whom he nicknamed Superman. Micah, I think his real name was. He took it in stride and with a smile, but it was uncomfortable to watch. I commented at the time that it would have been unacceptable if it were a straight dude doing that to a woman so why was it acceptable for a gay guy to do it to a guy? I mean, no one should be sexually harassing anyone, ideally! Jonathan does it all the time as well on a lowkey level, but that’s more just a generic ‘I’m going to fake-sexualize everyone to make them feel wanted’ thing that wasn’t as gross.
Again, I know that these people agree to be on camera and maybe they were fine with it in the end. However, it’s really uncomfortable to watch as someone who has experienced sexual assault.
Life is not great at the moment. Still. I’ve been unable to try new games because when I get like this, I revert to comfort. DemonCrawl even though it’s…not great, for example. I recently reinstalled Binding of Isaac: Rebrith. It is very soothing for me to play now (except when I get no upgrades in my skill and a ton of health so I can’t die), and I don’t really have to put much effort into it. There are a few games that I’m interested in that are coming out either in the near future or the undetermined future, but I’m pretty underwhelmed by the big games that other people are hyped about.
Let me come out and say it. I hate what I’ve seen from Cyberpunk 2077. It’s probably the most anticipated game to come out in some time, and everyone else seems to get more hyped about it over time whereas I am not even lukewarm about it.
Let’s roll it back a bit. Cyberpunk 2077 is the newest game of CD Projekt Red who made the huge hit, The Witcher 3. My boo, Geralt of Rivia, was the protagonist of that game. It was an incredible game, and I put probably a hundred hours into it. I did have a bit of a qualm about how white the game was (yes, set in Poland) and the fact that all the women were sexy and fuckable whereas the men were allowed to be of all sizes, shapes, cleanliness, etc. I also grew weary in the last few hours of the game. I blamed that on myself, however, because I tend to binge on games until I’m absolutely glutted. In this case, it was because I was in some cave with a witch, and I had to find my way out of it instead of her simply transporting me out when the quest was over. The map didn’t help, and I became increasingly lost. I almost quit, but I knew I was really close to the end. I don’t remember how I got out, but I finally did. I’m pretty sure this was a mandatory quest, and I was pretty pissed that I had to do it.
The ending I got was worth it, though. Spoiler warning, I guess if you don’t want to know one of the several endings for The Witcher 3. I chose Triss over Yennefer, and I retired at the end of the game in a small house in the woods somewhere. Ciri takes up the mantle of witcher, and there’s a very touching scene between us before I got my epilogue. I was extremely satisfied with my experience in the game, if somewhat burnt out by the end. Then the first DLC dropped. I eagerly snapped it up, and…I fucking hated it. The main antagonist is a violent, arrogant, narcissistic prick, and I have a really difficult time dealing with them given my personal history.
Before jumping into Monster Hunter: World, I have to vent my spleen about casual games, which I’ve played for years. Before I was a ‘hardcore gamer’, I played Hidden Object, Match-3, Solitaire, and Time Management games. Big Fish Games is the Steam of casual games, and I have a membership there, which means I get one ‘free’ game a month. I should stop my membership, but I do enjoy a casual game now and again when I want to give my mind a break. The thing is, though, once I started playing hardcore games*, I noticed things about casual games that would not fly in the hardcore world. One, unskippable opening cut-scenes. Look. Devs. We need to talk. Cut-scenes need to be skippable, especially before I’m allowed to fiddle with options. The first thing I do when I play a casual game is go into the options and turn off all the sound. Why? Because I can’t stand the background music that usually plays, and the voice acting is usually atrocious. Besides, when I play a casual game, I usually have a video/stream in the background, so I want to concentrate on the latter. It’s different when I play a hardcore game because I want to be immersed in that case.
Two, the code is atrocious. There are so many more bugs in a casual game than a hardcore one, and I don’t know why. Theoretically, it should be easier to make a casual game than a hardcore one, but then again, the people doing the development probably don’t have as much knowledge. That’s just a wild guess on my part, but it makes sense. I’m playing a solitaire game that’s a murder mystery at the same time. I played the first in the series and noted a few major problems. But, because there aren’t many murder mystery solitaire games, I gave the second a shot. Well, it has the same damn problems. One, it randomly crashes. Or, should I say, not so randomly. It’s when I try to use a power up. After I click on the power up and use it, the game either freezes or I can click, but I can’t pick up any cards. Sometimes it simply freezes on its own. The other bug is that sometimes the gold cards you need to collect can’t be clicked. And, finally, at the end of a round after I’ve cleared every card, it won’t exit into the ‘you won’ splash screen.
This doesn’t happen every round, but it happens enough for me to be frustrated with the game. They are the same goddamn problems I had with the last game, and you’d think they’d fix them between games. Here’s another issue I have with casual games in general–they keep putting out the same shit. There’s one solitaire company that puts out the same game once a month or so with just a palette swap, a change in themes, and nothing else. They’ve wised up a bit and write game descriptions for a much more exciting game than they provide, but they don’t change the games at all. I’ve bought a few, and they’re good enough to pass the time, but they’re nothing to write home about.
It seems as if casual games are stuck in a rut. Devs put out the same game over and over again with a slight story change. Everything is paranormal, and there’s usually a family member who’s gone missing. I will say the Hidden Object games usually work fine, and they look good, but there’s no heart to them. I haven’t found one in a long time that had a good story or that really captured my attention. I know that’s not why I’m playing them, but I would like more than mind-numbing boredom when I play.
I loved The Great British Bake Off (before the fuck up with the presenters. Haven’t watched since Mel and Sue quit) and watched all the series compulsively. It was quite different from most reality shows in that it didn’t seem exploitative or try to wring emotions out of the contestants. I learned why that is. Early in the series, the producers were trying to do that shit, and Mel and Sue said they would quit if it kept going in that direction. In addition, if someone was crying, they would cover the person with a coat or swear near them so the footage was unusable. Finding that out made my admiration of them double, and it only hardened my resolve not to watch the post-Mel and Sue (and Mary Berry) episodes.
I loved the chemistry between Mel and Sue and how sweetly goofy they were. I loved how much of a doyenne Mary Berry was, but how she was down for a swig of hooch or two. She was down to earth for the Queen of Baking, and who wouldn’t love to have a granny like her? As for Paul Hollywood. Yeah, I know he’s an arrogant, narcissistic, and a dog, but those blue eyes….Ahem. I loved the low-key nature of the bakes, the non-hatred among the contestants, and the mostly bonhomie feel that permeated the series.
I loved the amazing creations and how terribly wrong it all went sometimes. I didn’t always love the judging decisions, especially in the first season when it was clear that Paul Hollywood imposed his viewpoint on Mary Berry, but I thought they were pretty sound overall. I loved the imagination and creativity that the contestants displayed. I loved that there seemed to be a genuine connection among the contestants. I loved that they went to different parts of Great Britain in the first season and did bakes from those locales.
I am not a picky eater. At least, I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for my sensitivities. There are only a few things I don’t like, and the list includes kiwi, water chestnuts (I LOVE regular chestnuts, though), and coconut. I like coconut curries, but coconut itself? Not so much. Other than that, I’m pretty much a fan more or less of food. When it comes to the media I consume, however, it’s a much different story.
I once flummoxed a professor in my grad program ((Writing & Consciousness) by saying I didn’t like movies. She said that was like saying I don’t like sandwiches or soups–both of which I like, thank you very much. Part of the problem is that at the time, there weren’t many movies that reflected me. Taiwanese American bisexual fat woman? Yeah, good luck finding something with that, mate! In addition, I’m always conscious that I’m watching a movie. When I read a book, I disappear into the pages and am absorbed in the world. With a good book, I completely forget that I exist. With movies, I’m always removed from the action except on very rare occasions. My three favorite movies, Once, The Station Agent, and Japanese Story, are all movies I actually lost myself in, even if it weren’t for the whole time. Another difference is that I can read my favorite books a million times, but I don’t often feel compelled to watch a movie more than once.
I find movies limiting. When I read books, my mind provides the details that the book doesn’t give. With movies, it’s all on the screen, and I find it a much more passive way of ingesting media. I think there’s less room for error, too, because continuity can be a problem. I remember watching a movie (don’t remember the movie now) that was so bad, I noticed that the color of a shirt wasn’t consistent in what was supposed to be the same scene. I’m not that detail-oriented, so the fact that I noticed meant I was not into the movie at all.
Another problem with movies for me is that my brain can’t always differentiate between reality and fabrication, so horrific images in movies stay with me a long time in the way horrific scenes in books don’t. I know that seems counter to what I said earlier, but I never said my brain was consistent. There’s a suicide scene in Girl, Interrupted, that stayed with me for years afterwards. Any time I thought of it, I would feel as if someone had actually died. With books, the whole experience may stay with me, but I’m less likely to remember horrible scenes with such a vivid reaction.