Flucation 2018 – Let’s agree to not do this again

Flucation 2018 – Let’s agree to not do this again

After returning from a road trip to L.A. for Disneyland and a Doctor Who convention, I ended up being sidelined by a major flu bug which took me down for nearly 5 weeks. I’m at the point of the year where I’m starting to look back at my social media posts at the time and some of them are amusing to me in hindsight. When I was terribly ill, I couldn’t even get out of bed some days, but at least I guess I kept my sense of humor?

So there’s stuff like:

I’m hilarious…when I’m desperately ill…

Toxic masculinity is a helluva drug

Toxic masculinity is a helluva drug

Pardon my French, but fuck Chris Hardwick.

As I checked my Twitter feed for a final (I told myself) time last night, I saw something pop up that I just couldn’t bring myself to ignore. A tweet about Chloe Dykstra, which pointed to a Medium post where she wrote, in great detail, of her emotional abuse and sexual assault at the hands of her ex. She doesn’t call out the ex by name, but I certainly know who she’s talking about: Chris Hardwick, who took the label of “nerd” and somehow spun it into a personal brand. He props himself up to be a man of the common people. See, he likes the same weird shit that you do and he gets paid to talk about it! He’s funny! He’s self-deprecating! He makes fun of himself for fun and profit!

And he’s so wrapped up in his own affirmation of his self-worth that he was obviously willing to drag someone else down with it.

Chloe’s post is here, and it is a heartbreaking account of her time spent as Hardwick’s girlfriend. I read all of it last night, couldn’t really wrap my head around it, but hopefully this blog post will help me wrangle my thoughts in.

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I took a walk through this beautiful world

I took a walk through this beautiful world

One of my favorite images of Anthony Bourdain, drinking a beer in Hanoi with President Obama.

It’s hard to stop crying.

The stresses of the external world, of life, have possibly just heaped too much on my normally resilient psyche. So when I checked my email this morning (and I reached my Hollywood Reporter newsletter of stuff happening in the world of entertainment), I stared at the headline, but I couldn’t quite BELIEVE the headline:

Anthony Bourdain Suicide

I follow his Instagram. He’d just posted a couple of days ago. Another trip. Another scan over of a hotel room. Another view from a moving vehicle. He was always moving. And each video felt so intimate, a peek behind the curtain of the glamour of traveling all over the world for his CNN show.

I first became aware of him from his first show, A Cook’s Tour, which felt unique among the world of shows on Food Network. It felt like he wanted to get past the “oo look at this exotic food. Isn’t it weird?” that pervaded travel shows at the time. It was different. I loved different. I read his tell-all expose of the restaurant industry, Kitchen Confidential. I found out about his notorious past, how working in NYC in the ‘70s & ‘80s meant a lot of things. How he should’ve died probably a dozen times over because of all the heroin and coke that pervaded the industry. And he got through that somehow.

Bourdain’s shows have been a salve through the years. His eager explorations of food and culture made me feel a little less alone, a little less ashamed of my Filipino heritage. In fact he consistently championed Filipino food as the great unsung cuisine of Asia. He didn’t exotify non-Western food for Western audiences. He told it like it is. It never felt exploitive or manipulative. He approached it all with respect. He genuinely loved food, and the cultures that created that food. He spoke out against colonialism. He was a staunch supporter of the MeToo movement, an aging punk still trying to change the world, someone to look up to and emulate.

I met him once, at a book signing. I was pretty mush-mouthed so I didn’t exactly get a chance to tell him how much his work meant to me at the time. But it’s still a highlight of my life.

My heart aches. We move on. We never forget.

RIP good sir.

Curse you, weather

Curse you, weather


It’s hot.

It’s not a merciless heat.

It’s not a heat wave.

And yet sometimes, that doesn’t matter to my body.

I get migraines. I keep them under control with medications and careful awareness of my triggers. I’m pretty good at keeping them at bay, to the point where I only get one or two debilitating attacks a year, and I’m one of the lucky ones. But none of that matters when you don’t have control over things like the weather.

I felt fine for most of the day on Saturday. It was above 90 but while running weekend errands, I thought I was careful. The AC was on in the car and I felt comfortable. I suppose I didn’t realize how much the heat would affect me. Looking back, I think I might not have drunk as much water as I could have. So by the time the evening rolled around, I felt…not awful but not well either. Twinges of vertigo kept knocking at my head, and slowly but steadily, a migraine began to pound at the right side of my head.

See, I’m lucky, as migraine-havers go. I usually get a visual disturbance. An aura that blocks out a part of my vision. Have you ever had tunnel vision when you’re out of breath or just exhausted? It’s something like that, but I didn’t get my early warning signal of incoming migraine. All I got was a pounding headache and overwhelming nausea. I lost my dinner (RIP enchiladas) down the toilet. I tried for sleep and after continuously tossing and turning in my too-hot bed I gave up and took a cool shower in the middle of the night. This cooled me off enough for heat relief, so I finally got some needed rest after that annoyance of a day.

I’m being more careful today. I’m drinking lots of water and I’m not taxing myself too much, and the forcast calls for cooler temps for this week. This is a welcome relief, and I don’t want to have to continue on my brain-induced adventure.

Detroit: Become Human (2018) demo

Detroit: Become Human (2018) demo

I played the demo for Detroit: Become Human last night. It’s only probably a 20 minute demo (and I’m being generous) so it’s just a small sliver of the entire game, which reviews peg at around 10 hours of gameplay for the main playthrough, with additional time spent on making different choices in order to see all the other narrative threads and endings.

Now, I’ve never played any of the other Quantic Dreams games, but I do know they’re more “cinematic experiences” than true “video games.” So I went into the demo expecting to see some Telltale-type quick event choices which will push the narrative to different paths. I sort of got that, and a quick bit of googling informed me that there were 6 possible endings to the demo scene, so I decided I’d just see where I’d end up by playing the game normally, without walkthrough help.

The demo places the player in the control of Connor, apparently a state-of-the-art android who is specifically designed to be a liaison between humans and robots when shit goes down. You’re plopped into a tense situation. A caregiver android went rogue and has taken his 8-year-old charge hostage, and Connor has to deal with it.

First the good. The dang game is gorgeous. I think it’s one of the best looking games I’ve played on my PS4, and my PS4 is a second generation model, but the game still looks amazing on a 5-year-old console.

But everything else besides the prettiness of the game falls completely flat for me. The controls are not intuitive at all. In any other AAA game, picking things up would just mean focusing the camera on the item until some sort of HUD pops in, telling you that you can now interact with the object, usually by hitting X. In Detroit, you shift the camera onto the object, and then you have to interact with it by maneuvering the right control stick. You swing the stick in a quarter sweep around either clockwise or counterclockwise. Often I couldn’t even pick up something as simple as a tablet or a photograph on the first try. This added a level of frustration to the game, and also lessened the immersion.

And there’s also the heavyhanded way the narrative deals with the main point of contention in the game. So, it’s the future. There are robots that seem nearly indistinguishable from humans apart from a constantly blinking circle on the android’s right temple. There are some rumblings of an android uprising and the three protagonists of the game are all androids in different situations in this world. But in a current political environment where some law enforcement doesn’t even believe in the humanity of others because of the color of their skin, Detroit’s story feels almost as if it’s making light of BLM. I mean, androids in sci-fi have been an allegory for race relations forever, but when media like Westworld and Humans can maneuver within the allegory, Detroit really pales in comparison.

So in the end, did I enjoy the demo? Sort of, but the shortcomings far outweighed whatever fun I had playing it. Will I buy the game? Probably not, but I’m curious enough about the story that I might seek out a Let’s Play of it on Twitch someday.



Persona 5

Persona 5

The Playstation Store had a recent Golden Week sale so I picked up Persona 5 for about 50% off regular price. I finally finished the main game, and am now pushing through the New Game + to wrap up some of the trophies. This was my first Persona game, but the slice-of-life aspects balancing with the dungeon crawling appealed to me (as a big fan of both) so I jumped into the game eagerly.

I did enjoy the game, even though it fell on some of the tropiest of anime tropes to push the narrative. Anime tropes are fairly comforting to me and are a source of a great deal of happiness, so I won’t ding the game for those tropes. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but I’d like to comment a bit on the Social Links (or Confidant) aspect of the game, where the MC is tasked with just hanging out with his friends, which increase stats for the character which are later helpful in battle and pushing the storyline.  The MC can start relationships with all female Confidants. Keep in mind that the MC is a high school teen and some of the Confidants are adults: a journalist, a doctor, and a fortune teller. It didn’t feel right for me to romance the adult women, so I stayed with the MC’s high school peers. (Best girl is Makoto btw.) But what I found frustrating is the blatant NO HOMO-ness of the MC’s relationship with Yusuke.

Yusuke invites the MC to museums and then asks him to help him out with inspiring his art. Yusuke and MC share a swan boat together. The screencap above is after Yusuke asks the MC to go to a church with him. And then he said overtly romantic things without any sort of follow through because NO HOMO. It’s blatant queerbait and it’s frustrating. You should be able to romance Yusuke. Apparently mistreatment of LGBT+ relationships in the Persona series has been an ongoing thing. *sigh*


Laid Back Camp

Laid Back Camp

I’ve only been camping a couple of times in my entire life. The first was in high school, where the freshman class was invited to spend the weekend at a campsite (with amenities like cabins, bathrooms, a cafeteria, etc.). My introverted self didn’t have the greatest time there, I couldn’t get comfortable in my cot, I knew basically no one, and I was too awkward and shy to make friends. The most memorable thing about that weekend was, for me, the bizarre taste and texture of the powdered eggs we had for breakfast. I quickly decided that camping wasn’t for me. And that was that.

Fast forward a decade and change, and my trip to Lake Tahoe and a run through of the Rubicon off-road trail with the SO and a bunch of his friends. I didn’t know what to expect. Compared to my high school experience, we were going to be roughing it. I had to buy a sleeping bag. We slept not in a fancy cabin but in a tent that we had to set up beforehand. We ate burgers and easy, add boiling water meals like ramen. We spent the days puttering through the offroad trail in a Jeep, and we spent nights huddled around a campfire.

After that trip, I realized that I actually did like camping, because I was spending the time with people I actually liked spending time with.

And this is basically the premise of Laid Back Camp, an anime series about a group of high school friends who go camping together in the areas in and around Mt. Fuji. I’m by no means an expert on  moe (the cute girls doing cute things genre) but I’ve watched a heck of a lot of it and I think Laid Back Camp is one of the best I’ve seen. I’d say it ranks up there with K-On. The show celebrates female friendships and youthful enthusiasm for new interests. The girls support each other no matter what, and their love for their shared hobby (camping) is so acute and palpable that it made me want to dig out our tent and go camping myself again.

Laid Back Camp also extolls the advantages of going camping solo. One of the girls, Rin, likes going camping by herself. She spends many a weekend and many a school break puttering to a far away campsite on her moped, and many of the episodes follow her adventures as she goes off on her own, meeting cute dogs, eating delicious food, setting up her tent in remote sites, and enjoying the views (and the isolation). What I love about the anime is that the show makes it clear that Rin isn’t lonely. She’s doing this because she wants to. She loves the freedom of being a solo traveler. I also like that even though the other girls want Rin to join them on their camping trips, they never punish her for saying no.  As someone who adores being alone, it was kind of nice to see this sort of behavior depicted as normal. Rin’s self-reliance is considered an asset, and when she shares her camping knowledge with the other girls, they’re grateful.

Laid Back Camp is a feel good anime series that, like many slice of life shows, doesn’t have much conflict in it, but that’s where the appeal lies. Sometimes I don’t want to see characters come in conflict with each other. Sometimes I just want to watch a couple of friends making a hearty stew out in the middle of nowhere and eat it in the middle of winter, with steam billowing up from their bowls.

That’s comfort. That’s home. That’s a warm blanket on an icy cold night.

Beast Player Erin

Beast Player Erin

I’m in the middle of watching this anime series (available on Crunchyroll) after not quite knowing what it’s about. All I knew was that it was about a young girl who befriends a strange creature which might change the course of history in her world. What felt most surprising about this title is now unknown it feels, considering it has a female protagonist, no fanservice at all, and it’s from the same author who made one of my other favorite anime series Moribito. The Wikipedia page says that this anime was released in 2009 and yet this is basically the first I’ve heard of it. Bad me. And bad internet for not hyping this show more.

Granted, the story feels slightly geared towards younger audiences (it originally aired on NHK, the Japanese equivalent of public broadcasting) but it’s the YA-ness of the story that appeals to me. The story follows the main character, Erin, from the age of ten and goes through two timeskips (at least, I’m on episode 35 out of 50 episodes) and we follow this young girl as she comes of age and finds her way in the world after circumstances force her to leave her village and everything she’d ever known. I’m really enjoying it so far. The story doesn’t shy away from tragedy (this poor girl goes through so much in her young life) but her hard work and empathy are often rewarded with surprising friendships. I’m fascinated by the story and the world it’s set in (there’s some Game of Thrones-ish political intrigue going on in the royal palace happening in tandem with the Erin plot) and I’m really curious to see where this leads. I’m so invested in Erin and her friends and I really want to see her succeed and overcome her earlier tragic life. I’ll probably have more to say about it once I finish the series, but so far so good!


Random Thoughts about Jesus Christ Superstar

Random Thoughts about Jesus Christ Superstar

  • John Legend was serviceable as Jesus, even though it definitely felt like some of the notes were out of his range? He was fine and I’m sure a lot of people tuned in because he was playing Jesus so I don’t mind. I’m just happy that there’s gonna be people for whom this version is gonna be their first exposure to JCS.
  • Brandon Victor Dixon’s Judas makes me wish I saw his Aaron Burr because WOW Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas was everything, and I’m in the camp who adored Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdelene.
  • I guess I’m in the minority because I liked the dude who played Simon the Zealot.  Apparently he’s a Swedish heavy metal singer? Neat!
  • The ensemble were great but I really liked the guy who played Peter? He doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention in the reviews I’ve read of the production, but aw Peter. Vying to be Jesus’ BFF but also being selfish and keeping his distance after Jesus was arrested.
  • DAAAANNNG THE PHARISEES. I dug their costumes. The black cloaks and gigantic hoods reminded me of the Nobodies from Kingdom Hearts. What a cool look. Also Annas is probably my favorite out of that group and Jin Ha was perfect in that role, but I can’t discount Norm Lewis as Ciaphas. Such great roles.
  • Um…Alice Cooper. Welllllll, I’m not a huge fan of his, but he was okay. Another piece of stunt casting to bring in viewers but Herod’s Song is sort of a silly, theatrical number that’s supposed to show off the buffoonery of the ruling class at the time so…yeah…it was okay…
  • Ummmmm…what else…
  • Oh! I think I recognized at least a couple of American Idiot musical folks in the Ensemble. I’ll have to look it up, but a few of them definitely looked familiar?
  • Ben Daniels (really??? Him???) was a great Pilate and I LOVED his outfit. But his poor voice near the end of his scene. 🙁
  • I know this is never going to be perfect but my gosh I wish the sound mixing was better.
  • And Judas’ glitter outfit vs. that original fringe outfit will battle for best Judas outfit in my head for all time
  • what i love about live theatre is that the source material gets reinterpreted every time there’s a new production so it evolves with humanity and i think that’s amazing. I mean, there are modern dress productions of Shakespeare…
  • So…overall, NBC’s production was decent, better than lots of the other live musical stuff that they’ve done, and hopefully a sign of things to come with live performance on network TV.
On Black Panther

On Black Panther

I know I’m late to the party and I only saw Black Panther this week but I imagine that one day Shuri’s at the outreach center and one of the kids goes up to her and tells her all about this one girl in his class whose always making these “science things” and Shuri asks him why he doesn’t bring her to the center because she’d love to meet her. The kid’s a little ashamed and a little scared because the girl’s bullied by some of the more popular kids and they call her names and those kids are just weirded out by her.

Shuri’s determined to invite this girl to the outreach center.

So one afternoon she waits outside the elementary school and then she spots this group of kids yelling something and Shuri can’t quite make it out just yet but as she gets closer the words become clearer: “Moon Girl! Moon Girl! Moon Girl!” And they’re yelling these words at a little black girl with pigtails.

And Shuri sees herself at 9 years old. Too smart for her own good. Teased by some of the boys. And carrying something she made.

And protecting that thing for dear life.

Shuri chases off the boys and immediately asks the little girl about the object in her hands.

“It’s nothing.”

“It is not nothing,” Shuri replies. “Because I can see it, observe it. It exists. So you can tell me what it is.”

The girl goes into a detailed explanation of how the thing works and Shuri’s just about on the edge of understanding the tech. It’s a device to send communications through hyperspace. She knows that in theory, it works, but there’s no way to power it. She doesn’t want to run it at home because it would probably shut down Oakland’s power grid.

Shuri has an idea.

They go to the outreach center and Shuri invites the girl behind the “Staff Only” door, into her exclusive development lab. She keeps a tiny stash of vibranium in the lab (for emergencies, she tells Nakia, and then Nakia rolls her eyes and gives a lecture on how much shit would go down if that stash ever got stolen). But Shuri is careful. She has biometric locks on everything and nothing in the lab works without her kimoyo beads.

Shuri asks the girl how much power the device needs and adjusts the vibranium accordingly. Meanwhile the girl’s staring at EVERYTHING. There are gauntlets with panther heads on one table. On another, a computer screen displaying plans for what seem to be nanites.

The device works! But the vibranium overpowers the communicator and it accidentally opens up a portal to a primeval realm, and something huge and scaly and red stomps out.

And that is how Lunella Lafayette gains Shuri as a mentor and also meets the Devil Dinosaur.