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Journal – Sarah still hates romances

Why are romances always so bad?

I’ll be honest here. I am still a girl. When I’m reading a well-written story, I do ship characters, and I get pretty amped up when they’re going to kiss.

HOWEVER.

When it comes to bona fide romance novels, I always end up irritated.

I tried a dating simulator last night. Apparently that’s like, a normal thing in Japan. I had to know.

The game I picked (thanks to https://otakuandshit.wordpress.com/2019/03/25/top-5-best-free-mobile-otome/ who reviewed them and is a much nicer person and more receptive audience to this kind of thing than I am) was a phone app called Samurai Love Ballad: PARTY. Great name so far. Samurais are awesome, love is wonderful, and who doesn’t like a party?

Well I played the damn thing for an hour and there was no party.

Everything was pink or white, with sparkly things and butterflies and flowers and elegant script, which was fun. I’ll tell you what, when the Japanese market towards women, they don’t pull any punches. I actually enjoy the insane levels of over-the-top girliness when it comes to visuals. This makes me feel a combination of amused and proud. We should all embrace pink with such outrageous, steamroll-your-eyeballs pride.

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(“Sent to War by one lordLove before death demands another… your own heart.”  I believe they’re trying to express the same sentiment as Monty Python when they said, “Cake or death?”)

 

I just looked it up and the gameplay style is called a visual novel. Essentially this was an illustrated choose-your-own adventure story. It shows an image, usually of a beautiful anime guy, and displays text below. Sometimes his face will change depending on what he’s saying, but it’s all very static. This was fun, I enjoyed this format because I’m old and it reminded me of the old PC games like Might and Magic. It was more a novel than a game.
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(Samurai Love Ballad PARTY: one of your potential beaux)

 

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(Old-ass RPG: one of your potential murderers)

 

Here is the part I didn’t like.

The characters. Blarrgh. So I get to be a cute girl in the Edo era, which is fun. But for some reason, I’m an absolute dipshit. If I’m not making terrible decisions which get me in hot water, then some ugly asshole is trying to either hit me, or fondle me. My life is a kind of bad decision hell.

Enter about fourteen handsome men, who all save my ass, repeatedly. I have never felt more useless. This is too close to period accuracy. I really don’t want to go back to those days… O_O

Every one of them has a character flaw, which is interesting. But most of them have the same character flaw, in that they’re dicks. In Japan they call being a dick “tsundere.” This translates to something like, “cold outside, soft inside.” Tsunderes are deeply insecure and express their insecurities to their significant others through verbal abuse and/or angry outbursts. Every human on the planet except me finds this behavior extraordinarily charming.

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Every guy is equally beautiful so I pick the one who seems to be the least cruel and dumb. The one I picked came with a competitor, so the rest of the story is watching them save my ass and squabble with each other over who’s taking better care of me. It’s all very primal.

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Every time something interesting happens, I have no power and watch myself choose the stupid thing. The only choices I get to make from here on out are subtle conversational cues about which guy’s side I’ll take in the conversation. The whole plot that I ended up with is, I dressed up as a boy and joined the army as some noble’s food taster, in order to save my kid brother from having to join the army as some noble’s food taster. I still haven’t figured out why I didn’t just let my kid brother join the army; isn’t it kind of disrespecting him to steal his place in war? He wasn’t even going to the front lines. It actually saved my ass more than it saved his, because it got me out of a hotbed of sexual harassment at the restaurant where I worked. And it left him in a precarious position to deal with at home.

I finally got frustrated with the damn thing and turned it off because:

  1. I was just tapping through a mediocre novel sentence-by-sentence. As a game, it wasn’t very interactive. As a novel, it was constantly being interrupted and slowing down my reading. When it comes to the written word I CONSUME voraciously. This put me on a word diet. I had to chew my food twenty times before swallowing, ugh!
  2. Every twenty screens or so it’d take you to a menu and try to convince you it was a game by giving you “love passes” meaning you could read the next chapter. Apparently after 48 hours the love passes stopped being free? Or else they’re released 5 a day. This felt pandering and markety and irritating and pointless to me.
  3. As much fun as it is to have two beautiful anime men fight over the right to protect me from a scary old-fashioned world, it’s just not fun if I don’t respect who I am. I spent most of my life tripping over stuff. My only evident skill is making delicious fake sweet potatoes out of chestnuts. I have to admit this is impressive, but it’s not enough.

Now I understand the Japanese have different sensibilities than us, and that’s fine. But this isn’t just a Japanese thing; many American romance novels are like this too. Am I the only girl who doesn’t want to be stalked by a beautiful rich asshole?

After googling screenshots, I’m kind of intrigued again. There seems to be death/reincarnation,

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loincloth sex,

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and a lot of throwing up that I’m missing out on.

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Also I may not have been playing right. There is also a castle section? I’m not sure it’s worth it to go back.

Anyway, people LOVE this game. It’s very pretty. I’m alone in these feelings. It must be that I’m 100% more evolved than every other woman ever… it must be that. Everyone’s crazy but me. Right.

I have another app to try called “Burn Your Fat With Me.” This is a dating simulator combined with workout app. Apparently a beautiful anime tsundere boy heckles you for being fat and shames you into doing sit-ups. I’m really looking forward to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Journal – The Girl with no Fear

 

Here’s a funny thing about myself. I always have majorly overblown confidence about a thing until I’m halfway into it.

“I’m not afraid of people. I love talking to people! I can face down a crowd.” Then I blithely stand up to tell a story about a coworker at a small friendly retirement party. I am shocked when, halfway through, my hands are shaking hard. I have to breathe and calm down but my punchline falters a bit. Am I afraid of public speaking? Looking back to when I did theatre in college, it was the same: one hundred percent confidence followed by shakes on stage.

“I like rock climbing! I like nature! I’m gonna sign up for this little class and learn the knots and then I can hang (get it?) with my rock-climbing big brother and sister.” I take the class, start climbing the first little practice tower, and hit critical mass. I am shaking so hard I don’t trust myself to climb any higher. My hands have locked down on the rock climbing nubbins. “I forgot I’m afraid of heights!” I call back to my bemused classmates from a whopping ten feet high.

I got to meet a new friend on videochat recently. No fear there. Slept like a baby. Excited, happy puppy enthusiasm. “Yay, a new person to love!!” We talked, and she was awesome, and the conversation was easy, and everything was fine as long as I didn’t get distracted by my own reflected strangerface and lose track of the conversation.

After I hung up, I started making some oatmeal. As I stirred the pot I thought, “Where is that quiet screaming coming from? It’s getting louder. Oh, right! My own head.” After some puzzling I figured out that it was latent anxious adrenaline rush from meeting her. DID SHE LIKE ME WAS I STUPID DID I HURT HER FEELINGS???

 

Anyway, I thought it was just a funny character trait, but now that I’ve written it down, I see it’s my old friend Emotional Repression popping up. Hello again. Let’s never talk.

I have definitely gotten better, but digging my emotional core free is a slow, slow process. Sometimes Repression pops up and bites me in the ass, just like old times. It bites less than before, but it still bites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

On Finding Your Voice, sort of

People keep asking my advice lately.

Lol wut.

Well, I guess it’s fine. But I’m just a pair of eyeballs posing as a human being. Keep your salt shaker handy to liberally season anything I say. I will not be held responsible for the stupid things you do with my advice.

On having a voice:

When I was in writing classes people kept asking the teacher about how to develop their voice. It confused the hell out of me. What is a “voice?” As long as you’re not trying to be anyone else, you’re yourself right?

Unfortunately, I was so confused by the question I never paid attention to the answer. Or maybe the teacher just bullshitted so I forgot what they said. Bullshit answers tend to lay pretty light in the brain. You can remember them talking but not the words they spoke…
I think, though, that I finally learned what they were asking. They were still kids. They were asking the teacher who they were. Poor kids! Poor teacher!

I don’t know much, and everybody is different. What works for me may not work for you. But lately I keep hearing people talking about their inability to be creative. Not having a voice is a similar complaint, in a way. At least, the solution is the same.

Here goes:

Empty your brain. Upend all that garbage and start fresh, empty. Nature abhors a vacuum, right? The second you empty your brain, a thought will rush in to fill it.

This is fine. Use this. Put your pen to paper and start writing.

Writing poetry, for me, is a conversation with my subconscious. I’m always a little bit curious to see what it will say next. What little monster will pop out of the deep Id? What strange conclusion will be drawn from this inauspicious little starter word?

I read once that creative people actually have a stronger link with their subconscious than non-creative people. It’s that little touch of madness… too strong a link makes you unfit to live in a society; too weak a link, you’re a robot I guess. But all you robots, do not despair. If you envy the wobbly reality on this side of things, you can work on breaking down that wall. Start by emptying your brain. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Oh, you’re done emptying your brain already? Now write, or draw. The first random word or phrase that comes to mind, or the first line you draw. Kick it around. Follow where it leads. The Rationalist inside of you will tug on your sleeve and say, “hey… this is stupid, what is this shit?” Grab that rational person and upend them, over and over. You’ve ears only for your muse and her name is Crazy.

There is a thin, thin line between controlling your verbal rabbit chasing, and pure schizophrenic word salads. It’s like controlling a lucid dream. Very fine balancing act.

However, if you can master the art of tapping into your crazy, you will never be creatively blocked. Once I learned how to do this, I wrote my novel. Every time I found myself slowing down, not knowing where to go from here, I turned off my thinking brain and let the schizophrenic lead the leash for a few seconds. She never lets me down. Sometimes she takes me on a really strange, dumb, or unexpected journey, but if I just leave her to her own devices, she’ll sniff out the truffles. I think I mixed some metaphors there… schizophrenics aren’t good at finding truffles. Who knows, maybe they are.

How does this relate to finding your own voice? Well, I’ve always been an oddball, so I’ve always drawn or written odd things. A logical person will write logical things. And a normal person writes normal things. What if you’re ordinary? If you are, guess what? Ordinary people will love you. And there are a lot of ordinary people in the world. You’ll be a hit.

Help, I don’t have a voice! The anguished writer cried aloud, with her loud voice.

Yes, you do. It’s probably not the voice you wished you had. You can’t iron the uniqueness, or the normalness, out of yourself. That’ll only make you sad. Instead, embrace what you are. Accept the flaws. I must accept that I always write free verse with small words, frequently recurring words. Blah blah darkness blah blah time blah blah wild blah blah me I myself me. I get so bored of myself. I want to write like Edgar Allen Poe or Mark Twain, but that’s not happening. I’m too lazy to try, and if I did, it’d be stilted and wrong. It’d be more like an autotuned voice, or a helium voice.

You’ve got to be who you are. You’ve got to write what comes naturally. Don’t try to impress. Stay true. Don’t fake. Don’t act. Relax your mind and find that thin line between rabbit chasing and schizophrenia, and tread the edge. Don’t let the Rationalist hook you away. If you do this when you put pen to paper, then whatever you write or draw is pure untrammeled you. The hardest part is not about finding your voice; you already have it. It can’t leave you. The hardest part is shutting that inner critic up, and accepting the voice that you have.

Edit:: Conversations with these two are what inspired the above post. Read their stuff.

Lille Sparven speaks the raw truth:

www.lillesparven.com/2019/02/censuring-mirror.html?m=1

Paul Sunstone asks the good questions:

https://cafephilos.blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Journal – No sound of crickets here

 

Yesterday was my birthday. Since my birthday is a national holiday, quite a few people were allowed to stay home. Instead of working I chased my nephew and nieces around outside, sat in front of a fire, and had a nice dinner.

The kids had erected a steep five foot slide out of the snow, with no stairs. It was packed slick from many kid butts, so the only way to really use it was to throw yourself facefirst over the side wall and then slide down on your belly like a penguin. The kids managed to sled down it, go down on their knees, all kinds of tricks. I was just happy to be able to manage the penguin thing.

For my birthday present, I made my sister buy me cricket powder. Then we made cricket crackers (the cricket-eating community like to call these “chirps” instead of chips) and her whole family was forced to eat them with dinner. It was all that I could have asked for and more!

We learned that crickets taste odd. Very earthy. They’re little earth golems, so they taste like dirt, cocoa, mushrooms, strange buggy overtones, and the occasional tiny gravel crunch that makes you stop chewing and go… what part was that? All in all a very brown flavor.

I could get to like them. They’re healthy, sustainable, and a source of protein in many other cultures. But it’d take some training, some mental gymnastics, and a lot more cricket powder. It’s too expensive! And why should I work so hard to train myself to enjoy a food which would just further cull me from the herd?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Journal – How to be Cool at the Boba Tea Place

I’m all out of (good) poems, so here’s a story from my day.

 

 

Cowdog Creatives and I went to our favorite boba tea place yesterday.

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I don’t think everyone has had boba tea before (please correct this ASAP), but when they give you the tea at this place, they give you a clear plastic cup, and they laminate a plastic film over the top instead of popping on a conventional lid. You are also handed an oversized, stabby-ended straw. Then you get to stab your beverage. This part alone worth the four dollars.

Being whatever the fuck I am, one day I decided to order an avocado flavored one. It came to me vivid green and unsettlingly viscous. I commenced the drink stabbing ritual. But the cup was flimsy, and I hadn’t supported it correctly. The film was only partially perforated by my action. Instead, all of the pressure I applied went into crumpling the cup, which in turn pressurized the contents, which ejaculated out of the hole I’d made and coated the counter and floor in neon green avocado flavored boba tea. As a final indignity, the cup fell over lamely, spilling more.

This was of course hilarious. Cowdog Creatives and I laughed ourselves weak. I grabbed a handful of napkins to mop up the mess, not noticing the little ceramic napkin weight on top of the stack. It got hefted and landed hard with a teeth-gritting clank, but did not, by some miracle, break. So that was just more awkward.

I realized, after we’d inexpertly wiped up the mess, that the nice Asian clerks, usually ineffably kind and patient, hadn’t lifted a finger to help us. They just sort of pretended we weren’t there.  Was this penance? Or perhaps this was the polite thing to do in their minds?

It turned out to be a stroke of luck that I spilled much of that blasted drink, because it turned out to be weird, rich, heavy, regrettable.

 

Yesterday we were in the same shop. There was a guy next to us with three friends, and he did the exact same thing. He failed to quickly and humanely execute his beverage. It bled out two-thirds of the contents all over the floor, an even bigger mess than my own epic one.

I told him not to feel bad, I’d done the same thing once. They asked the clerks for paper towels and a roll was passed over the counter to them. Once again, the guests ended up cleaning the majority of their own mess. The cashier actually did come out with a mop this time, but too late, the mess was already gone, along with the entire paper towel roll.

As we were leaving, we overheard the guy say, “why is everyone in here helping me clean this up, except my own girlfriend?”

She alone sat placidly sipping her drink, unconcerned by his public outing of her behavior.

 

The moral of this story is, go drink boba tea, but support the walls of your cup if you want to perform a clean execution. It tastes better without the shame, manual labor, or avocado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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