It’s Favourites time! What did you get up to last month?
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a hilarious show chock-full of even better musical numbers. Here’s one of my favourites:
Aziz Ansari’s Master of None follows actor Dev Shah’s love life. Discussing race, gender, and the complexities of immigrating to America, Master of None is funny but thoughtful. I wasn’t planning to enjoy Netflix’s reboot of Queer Eye. Ever since What Not To Wear folded in 2013, I was determined to not let any other makeover show take its place in my heart. But Queer Eye has beaten it fair and square. It has all the fun of a typical makeover show, with the added bonus of a charming, all-gay cast.
Ingrid Goes West is a weird, funny take on how Instagram affects us. The eponymous Ingrid is a young woman that obsesses over the lives of random, aspirational, avocado-eating ladies she finds on Instagram. Unsurprisingly, it all turns to shit. This movie was bonkers but also incredibly compelling. Go watch it!
I never thought a lengthy video of a man dismembering an entire tuna could be exciting. Yuji Haraguchi shows us how.
Kasey Golden draws all 150 pokemon from memory, in her own distinctive style.
Sacramento Koi made a documentary describing how they purchase koi from rural Japanese breeders.
Michelle Erickson, previous Ceramics Resident at the Victoria and Albert Museum, recreates an 18th century agateware teapot.
After about a year of skirting my mayoral duties, I finally came back to my town in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. The game is just as sweet and entertaining as I remembered. If you’re looking for a laid-back, slice-of-life game, this one’s for you. Developer Hit-Point recently released Tabi Kaeru(Travel Frog). This precious game lets you pack your frog’s backpack with food and equipment as it travels across Japan. If you’re lucky, your frog will give you a lovely postcard, and some souvenirs to enjoy upon its return! Unfortunately, Tabi Kaeru is still entirely in Japanese, but you can find an English visual guide here.
At the start of the game, the old man in question receives a letter, and travels across rural France. Through rests he takes at the end of each level, his story is told piecemeal through his memories. A budding romance with a beautiful woman quickly dissolves into a relationship on the rocks. They fight, make up, fight again, he stages grand (if unsuccessful and self-serving) romantic gestures, and they eventually have a child together. He never fully commits to his family, and one day, he leaves to sail around the world. He returns home years later and is shocked to find that his family have made their own vanishing act. Heartbroken, he moves to a coastal town to live alone. When he finally reaches his destination, we discover that his daughter sent the letter. His wife is dying, and she wants to see him one last time. She dies shortly after their reunion. By some miracle, his daughter lets him into her and her own kid’s life, and he’s able to finally have a family again. Since this game has no dialogue, Old Man’s Journey makes use of music, symbolism, and the man’s surroundings to bolster the plot and create strong emotional impact.
The soundtrack, and art are fantastic, and help create an optimistic, cheery mood at the start of the journey. The background, if at times messy, is filled with warm colours, and busy villages. As the player moves the landscape around people and animals peek into view, pop-up book style. Reassuring us that this will be a sweet, light-hearted game, the music and art work in concert to lull the player into a false sense of security. The rolling hills and upbeat music begin to darken, as we learn more of the old man’s story .
Old Man’s Journey allows you to interact directly with this captivating art, as you shuffle around the landscape so the man can progress to the next stage. I thought this was really unique puzzle design, but I wish they’d gone even further in terms of interacting with the environment, especially for a game that draws so heavily on natural beauty.
The only other issue I had with the gameplay were the two minigames where you need to clear the landscape for a speeding lorry, and train. I found it impossible to rearrange the background before the vehicles overtook me, and it became frustrating to have to stop and start so many times. I have no idea what these repetitive exercises in futility were meant to add, asides from undercutting the game’s overarching conceit. A speeding train and lorry have nothing to do with the entire point of slow, painful journey that reflects the process of reflection and accepting your past. But, as much as I nitpick, they couldn’t ruin the game for me.
By the time the man reveals that he abandoned his family, the landscape has changed from rolling hills peopled with colourful villages to desolate coastal ruins lashed with rain.
In the emotional climax of the game, the normal mechanics of the landscape are suspended. Usually to progress across a level, the man falls down waterfalls to reach a new area. However, the man misjudges and falls down a waterfall too large, and passes out. Progressing through an eerily quiet water level, the man reaches a grate with a large padlock, symbolising how he’s repressed painful memories and his guilt. As the padlock falls away, the man thinks back to how much he missed his family- only to return home to find their house abandoned.
Until now, he pushed his abandonment of his family to the back of his mind, only to be forced to come to terms with his past in order to meet it in the present.
While leaving so much unsaid does draw the player in, leaving so much up in the air made the conclusion feel shallow, not bittersweet as intended. If Old Man’s Journey had elaborated on his wife, and daughter’s experiences, the emotional impact of their reunion would have been heightened. His family have certainly chosen to be estranged from him, since neither visited despite knowing his address, although this isn’t highlighted. Without the obstacle of a family that feels hesitant, and conflicted about reuniting after so long, the game’s conclusion feels undeserved and their poignant reunion falls flat.
But all in all, I thought this was a really charming game that is well worth your time. The art, and music are fantastic, and the game’s plot, while told in a simple way, tugs at all the right heart-strings. I’d give this a 7/10.
The kit arrived in gorgeous packaging (that I unfortunately didn’t have the foresight to photograph), and comes with DMC thread, a full-colour pattern, 14 count aida, an embroidery needle, and a beginner’s guide discussing backstitching, and diagonal half-crosses. I was excited to get the guide, since I’ve sunk enough time into my monster landscape piece to not be a beginner, but I hadn’t learnt any techniques asides from…well…a cross stitch. While it explained the other stitches just fine, it just defined a backstitch and didn’t actually describe how to do one. Not exactly on-brand for a beginner’s guide, but otherwise it was very clear.
The pattern itself was fine, except for a few grid lines missing. This tripped me up while counting stitches a couple times, but it wasn’t a major issue. The guide also claims that the pattern reflects the real size of the embroidery, and recommends that you use a larger piece of fabric to accommodate this. Since I ended up with a final product about a third the pattern’s size, I guess this must have been a misprint on the vendor’s part.
However, these small issues didn’t stop me from loving this piece. I would absolutely recommend this kit! It is genuinely precious and so much fun to make. The shop owner clearly put so much thought into making not only the design, but also the packaging and guide eye-catching and accessible. For only £15, I think this is a great jumping-off point for beginners.
Welcome to 2018! What have you been up to this month?
Resolutions vs. short-term goals
I’ve made resolutions for the New Year for most of my life, but….they never worked out too well. I’ve done longer-term goals, but I’ve found that whatever illness I have has pretty much nixed my ability to stick to deadlines. Instead, I decided to create a page in my bullet journal that has several short-term goals that I want to accomplish for this month. It’s a mix of fun self care, as well as chores that need to get done before I start growing whiskers. So far it’s been going well!
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race – what a fantastic book! I grew up outside of the UK, and a lot of what I learnt about anti-racism was from an American perspective. Getting to know more about my country’s history, and present with racism has helped me to understand issues outside of an American perspective. I highlighted my favourite quotes from this book on Women’s Republic.
The Marriage Pact is a thriller about a pair of newlyweds accidentally getting trapped in a marriage cult. Very American, weirdly written, but somehow, so compelling!! Definitely a book to save for a rainy day.
I played Firewatch over the holidays and it was amazing. You play as Henry, a man who, in the wake of his wife’s early onset Alzheimer’s, chose to take a job as a firewatcher in Shoshone National Forest. Henry’s only contact with the outside world is his supervisor, Delilah – who he can only speak to via radio. This game starts off as sweet, but proceeds to crush your every emotion. It’s expensive, and a fairly short game, but the payoff is absolutely worth it.
I have a ginormous cross stitch kit that I bought when I was in Thailand last summer (over 35,000 stitches) and I’m barely done with a quarter of it. I got fed up, and instead bought some adorable (and more importantly, small) cross stitch kits from Etsy. I’ve been working assiduously at a little pair of otters, and it’s coming along swimmingly! I plan to make some crafting updates in the future, so keep an eye out!
I finally took the plunge and watched The Room this week. Oh my goodness. It was truly so incredible. I had NO IDEA that it was possible to see that much of someone’s arsecrack in a non-pornographic film. Of course, The Disaster Artist was just as amazing.
I can’t believe 2017 is over! It was certainly…a year.
2017 was ambivalent for me in many ways – on the one hand, my health did a complete 180 and I spent the first 7 or so months mostly housebound, thanks to a tricky combination of chronic pain, poor pain management, and medication.
Although I’ve been able to scale back my studies to part time, start trialling pain meds, and buy mobility aids, I’m still uncertain about my future as a uni student and whether I’ll be able to keep up with two modules next term. Even with just one I’m barely attending 60% of classes a week. I honestly think I’ll be forced to interrupt my studies until later this year, when I’ll hopefully have found pain meds that work for me and a diagnosis.
On the plus side, this year has been a real wake-up call in terms of my (dis)ability. I feel I’ve grown more appreciative of what I can do, chronic pain be damned. This has taken a lot of adjusting (and 2 am crying jags), but I think I’m in a place where I can finally start getting my house in order. 2018 will be my year to sort out my health and get a proper diagnosis.
In spite of my health, I’ve still been able to do some really amazing things this year.
Next up – making my first trip in a wheelchair. Yes, people are weird and creeped out by wheelchairs, but it’s hard to notice when you’re spending your first ENTIRE DAY OUTSIDE in God knows how many years. I even came home with energy to spare! This was a definite turning point for me – getting my own wheelchair has opened my horizons so much. Before I would leave the house for 1 or 2 hours and then come home exhausted. Now I can actually plan to go outside for an entire day, squeeze in a lot of activities and sightseeing, and enjoy it! As you can imagine, travelling has always been something of a drag for me – but now I’ve found out that I, too, can be an irritating tourist.
What is the most incredible to me is how I’ve been able to stick with this blog for so long. I made several failed attempts when I was younger, but never had the patience to bother after the third post or so. In 2017, I found so much joy in writing, and reading other people’s work. Of course, because I can’t just enjoy something for its own sake, I’ve been able to CV-ify this too. I really think that I’ve managed to demonstrate my interests, work ethic, and writing skills as time has gone on. I’m even writing at a second website now – Women’s Republic – and I’m going to be applying to some more volunteer writing jobs this year. I’ll also try to find some books on non-fiction writing to improve what I’ve got already.
I’ve loved video essays for a while now, and I really want to progress to making my own. I’ve got some vague plans knocking about for two films, but I think I’ll knuckle down and make a short video essay – hopefully sometime in January or February! Then, if I like it, I’ll continue with the other and keep going. Expect some very rudimentary film analysis, bolstered by literary and feminist analysis.
2018’s got a lot going for us – have a great year everybody!
I finally bought a hardback copy of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki (which I first read earlier this year), and strangely, actually holding it in my hands has made it even more terrifying. I’ll admit that I barely got past the first two chapters, and it’s sitting forebodingly by my bed. I’ll make it through one day!
I also bought the first volume of Saga – a comic I started in June. I’m ecstatic that I finally have my own copy, and that I can start collecting the entire series now.
I saw Murder on the Orient Express the other week with my family, and I loved it so much. The way it was shot was so cool that it made up for the uh….lackluster ending. Yes, I’m thinking about doing a video essay on this one too, but this’ll probably only be a few minutes, as opposed to the 1 hour long speech I had planned for Atomic Blonde.
My new favourite film OF ALL TIME is Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It’s honestly like the director went inside my brain and made my perfect film. Eggsy speaking bad Swedish? Check. Young Colin Firth? Check. Mr Pickle? Check. ELTON JOHN????!!! Check.
I WOULD NEVER HURT MR PICKLE!!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a water sign – I cry easily, and hard – especially when sitting with the knowledge that I’ve hurt or offended someone. Unsurprisingly, this directs the conversation back to me. Here are some texts that have made me resolve to focus less on my snot-stained life, and more on the person I’ve upset.
The Getty Museum has a Youtube channel! Here’s a video explaining how ancient manuscripts were created.
Heaven’s Gate, hosted by Glynn Washington, discusses the eponymous cult that would eventually culminate in a mass-suicide. What makes the show all the more riveting is the host, and listeners, sharing their own experiences with cults.
Super Mario Odyssey was released in late October – a scintillating game wherein Princess Peach gets stolen by Bowser, and needs to be rescued by Mario. But guys, I swear, it’s totally different from other Mario games! This time he has a magical talking hat!
This is truly the game where Peach comes into her own. Once Mario races to the moon to rescue her from her shotgun wedding with Bowser, she rejects Mario and then steals his ship. Not needing further character development, she then embarks on a world tour with her own magical talking hat, and needs to be tracked down for a reason I’m sure doesn’t extend beyond trying to sucker people into spending more time with the game.
The ending feels so much like a battle between “well…maybe Peach should have at least some semblance of agency in this game?” and “Eh, who cares about puppets?” I don’t need to tell you which side won.
It’s so dull to see this railroad plot re-appear so consistently (with the exception of my childhood favourite, Super Princess Peach) – with Peach being swapped back and forth between Mario and Bowser like sexist pass-the-parcel. Her rejection of Mario does nothing to change their relationship,or her role in the game. Mario continues to follow her across the globe, with her tacit approval, and any possibilities for added dimension to their relationship are ignored. Peach remains an unlikable plot device, no matter how cute her outer wrapping.
Perpetuating this damsel-in-distress trope with one of the few important female characters in this iconic series shows how committed Nintendo is to a formula that sells. Consumers don’t want change, they want the desperately sexist familiar, with the flair of some new mechanics.
Honestly, this could have been so much more than Peach flouncing away and committing grand theft petasos. Peach and Mario deserve more interesting plotlines than being stuck in this vibrant Groundhog Day. Super Mario Odyssey promised to add a fresh, dynamic addition to the series, and while its gameplay was fresh, its overarching plot was merely more of the same.
Angie Thomas’s debut novel, The Hate U Give, describes the life of Starr, a young black teen whose life is upended after seeing her best friend get murdered by a white police officer. She becomes caught between two worlds – that of her largely white high school, that urges her to sweep her black identity and politics under the rug, and her black neighbourhood, that encourages her to come forward with the truth of what she witnessed. If you like YA, but don’t like the clichés and whiteness of the genre, this one’s for you.
N. K. Jemisin is the fantasy/sci-fi writer extraordinaire, and this month I started her Broken Earth trilogy. Broken Earth’s world is, unsurprisingly, a world shaken by regular, cataclysmic earthquakes and natural disasters that threaten the existence of the human race. Tragedy and angst ensues. Give up waiting on George R. Martin to get his act together, and read her work instead.
And finally, a sneak preview for next month’s favourite – Louisa Hall’s Speak. A short excerpt of this was included at the end of The Fifth Season, the first book of Broken Earth, and I’m already so enthralled. I have a couple more books to read before I make it to this, but I’m already sure I’ll love it.
I have a lot of trouble just sitting down and focusing on any one thing, especially if I’m using my laptop at the same time. What’s really helped me is this nifty website that plays the Animal Crossing soundtrack by the hour. Now when I need to make a real dent in my pile of revision, I sit down, put this on, and work away.
Jessica Kellgren-Fozard is truly the disabled, lesbian representation I’ve needed in my life. Have I mentioned that she has an adorable wife and two tiny dogs?!! As if this wasn’t good enough, she also does amazing vintage hair tutorials. I am waiting very impatiently for my damn rollers to arrive so that I can try and follow her retro example.
I may or may have not have stayed up until midnight last night in a feverish stupor waiting for this new game to come out…in any case, here are my first impressions!
K.K. SLIDER IS HERE?!!!
Poor Isabelle! Somebody please give her a raise.
Holy shit, this game is too adorable.
And also so expensive!! I found myself thinking, “Hey! That’s actually a pretty good deal!” for 0.2 seconds before I remembered that I would be paying THIRTY POUNDS for FAKE MONEY. That brought me back down to earth real quick.
4. Where the hell can I sell all my extra shit? I really, really miss being able to just go up to a vendor and being able to sell anything loading me down. Putting your leftover items into a market box and hoping that they’ll sell seems like a waste of time in comparison.
5. Fishing and catching bugs has been vastly improved. Maybe I’ll actually get into catching bugs in this game!
6. I love that my character has a tiny iPhone and delivery system! It fits with the nomadic lifestyle the characters have in Pocket Camp, but is also interestingly modern for an Animal Crossing game.
7. I wish that rearranging furniture was more simple – if I could zoom out, and see how my furniture is set up, without needing to drag a little chair around, that would be fantastic.
8. So……am I just stuck with these ugly animals in my campsite now?
9. I wish the animals could just natter with you, instead of giving you gameplay advice. That was such a special, intimate part of the previous games that made me feel so connected to the characters. Being overloaded with tutorials I’ve already seen is pointless and takes away from the fun of building relationships with the animals. Why bother talking to them when you could just dump their fruit and go?
10. Hey, but at least I can have 2 seconds of sharing fruit with my buds!
11. I love what they’ve done with the data loading screen! Getting money made it 1000% less aggravating.
12. Can’t I go inside anybody else’s tents?
13. HOW AM I ALREADY IN DEBT?!!!!!!! I don’t even like my camper.
14.. Are all these Italian mechanics secretly a Cars reference?
14. Please God, let me save enough tickets to get K.K. Slider to come live with me.
So far, I’m torn between my excitement at a new Animal Crossing game, but also thinking that Pocket Campgoes against the ethos of the entire series. It’s cute, entertaining, and has enough in keeping with previous games. However, I can’t shake Gita Jackson judgement, stating that Pocket Camp is merely “A perfectly serviceable entry into the series, until the game reminds you that you could be spending money on it.”
Here’s to being another month closer to winter break!
Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With A Pearl Earring is a historic fiction novel inspired by the painting’s model. Griet is a maid trapped in the dangerous dynamics of the Vermeer family, and her complete lack of control over her life.
I also read some books about female addicts – both difficult reads in their own right. Cat Marnell’s How To Murder Your Life is a really acerbic, actually brutally honest account of how her addiction affected her life.
Roddy Doyle’s novel, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, describes Paula Spencer, an Irish woman that became addicted to alcohol as a result of her husband’s 18 year abuse spree.
Primitive Technology is one man’s attempt to make primitive huts and tools out of local mud. He actually made this mud hut with indoor heating.
Atomic Blonde was such an incredible film. Set in 1970s Berlin, Lorraine (Charline Theron, of course) is a British agent forced to team up to get hold of a list containing the true identities of agents on either side of the curtain. It is honestly the most hardcore film I’ve seen in too long, AND it features a tough, complex female lead.
I binged Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor this month. Kaiji is a NEET that made the fatal mistake of co-signing a massive loan. Now that the original debtor failed to pay, he’s given the opportunity to join an illegal gambling ring on the S.S. Espoir to pay his debts, and maybe earn back more. Creator Nobuyuki Fukumoto twists traditional games of chance to create tense strategy that’ll have you on the edge of your seat.
Tumanbayis a gripping audiodrama, inspired by the Ancient Egyptian Mamluk slave dynasty. Think of this as Game of Thrones but for your ears. Season 2 just wrapped, but there are still plenty of episodes to listen to on your ride home.