I've come down with a cold, somehow, despite having not left the house since Saturday. I feel like I've ingested sandpaper and my throat won't let me forget it.
It's the kind of time I always seem to end up inflicting suffering on my characters...
ETA: tongue ulcers and an itchy roof of my mouth; stress-based illness rather than a caught one. Arguably better? Could do without the ulcers.
From the start of the new year, with a couple of breaks, I've been using Duolingo to learn Japanese.
Or rather, currently, it's relearn Japanese.
A long (long) time ago I used to take Japanese night classes, which I enjoyed a lot. It was weird, because I'd spent seven or so years studying French (you get no choice, sooooo...) and somehow I learned more Japanese in a year of night classes than I had in those seven of French.
I've been feeling a little... adrift, I guess? lately, so I figured I'd take it up again. It couldn't be any worse than the disastrous time I tried to learn German on Duolingo, right? (I spent one year studying German at school; again, I had no choice. It and I didn't get along, to put it mildly.)
And no, it isn't. And in some ways it's better, because I've learned a bit more kanji on sight, but currently... yeah, we're on a par. Except for the times I was taught too well and ended up arguing with Duolingo about just how polite you need to be in certain situations (it can be quite rude). And my irritation that some of their language is only what you'd get when stepping into a high-end department store (not joking). And that it doesn't explain the difference between important things — the most fun was hearing "shichiji juunanapun" for 7:17 which is... 七時十七分. You see those two characters that look exactly the same? That's because they are. There are two ways to say seven: shichi and nana. Absolutely none of this is explained in the app; the only reason I know are my night classes, which are thankfully coming back as I study.
The best of it is the Duolingo app itself, which veers wildly between being unnecessarily difficult. Yes, I now know how to say "I am from the UK" and "I am British" but most would just use the latter unless you're being super-specific, in which case the listener will be backing away slowly anyway; I also know two ways to say "my name is ______" and I'm assuming one is informal while the other is formal, but I've only ever learned the formal before and there's no indication the other is informal. I know "watashi no namae wa Pax desu" is more of a mouthful than "Pax toiimasu" but honestly, I'd rather not be rude to total strangers...
The most bizarre thing is the way it's tried to cram this information into my skull. I thought we were doing pretty well, but one update later and you get these gems:
Because I frequently mistake vegetables for a number, you know?
I know very soon now we'll reach the limits of my education and I'll be stuck with their obscure methods of teaching, but I really hope my teacher gave me a good grounding in the subject (enough that a question from a friend had me looking up whether a corpse was 'iru' or 'aru' — to which the answer is apparently both, depending on quite how respectful you are or how ambulatory it is) that it won't matter too much.
I don't recall running into 'zero' at all in my classes. I suspect it's only handy if you're spelling out a number very specifically, but there are a lot of other ways of saying things for that...
Also, fun fact, my teacher was Mr. Hair. 'Hair' in Japanese is 'kami.' 'God' is also 'kami.' My teacher was 'Mr. God.'
Writer's block is so much fun. Not only does it affect my ability to actually write anything fiction-wise, but I'd thought out what I was going to write here but on the sight of the text block my brain went blank, replacing all my thoughts with the words to Fall Out Boy's Irresistible.
It was, possibly, about writer's block — writer's anxiety, more like — that I'd been intending on writing about anyway. It's a vicious circle: the more you stare blankly at the blank page, the blanker your mind becomes and the more nervous you get. I am back, again, to the point where faced with a blank document my hands start to shake, which is always so much fun.
Oh, there go the lyrics to I Don't Know How But They Found Us' Choke, which is, incidentally, a fantastic song. The whole EP it's on is great, and would be inspiring if I could actually, you know, string a sentence together.
That said, I did actually write something recently. Although, by recently, I do mean in March of 2018 which, for me, is recent because I've still got Alex and Milos's first arc unfinished from around nine years ago. I will finish it eventually. I'd meant to publish it — insert hollow laughter here — but I'm pretty sure there's zero market for those two, no matter how much I love them. The relationship is far too fucked up, and with far too much baggage on both sides.
Although, in my head right now, Alex keeps getting distracted by how red Milos's tongue looks against his lavender-grey skin and all the uses it can be put to, so at least they remain interesting after all this time, even if it is just for me. I wouldn't mind, but that particularly intrusive Alex-ism came while I was trying to figure something out about a totally different story I was failing to write.
Ultimately, I find I do better with prompts and, sometimes, with rigid frameworks. In said March of 2018, I saw by chance a last call for a competition that asked for a 500-word story based on the image of a streetlight. I completed it, even with edits (more hollow laughter), with time and a couple of words to spare, but couldn't bring myself to submit it.
Since I know no one reads this, I figure I might as well post it here. Surprisingly, I did enjoy writing it, and I enjoyed the challenge of it too, despite it being very out my comfort zone in so, so many ways. It's also cliché and derivative, which is one of the reasons I didn't submit, but eh. It's not like I'm doing anything with it here, right?
...Or rather, I'd be streaming MGR if notably greedy Konami weren't universally hated with relation to Hideo Kojima's properties and blocked it from being streamed. It's probably a music licensing issue, given the game's an Xbox 360 version — if Platinum, who made the game after Kojima, who'd created the plot and wanted to make the game himself, couldn't figure out how to implement the different approach, want to do an updated HD remake for current or next-gen consoles, I wouldn't say no. Probably a lot of people wouldn't say no, given it's not Konami's ham-fisted cash-grab attempt Metal Gear Survive.
The music is incredibly generic though. I keep getting confused with Ninja Theory's DmC game, which is odd because DmC has a soundtrack by a very good band. But in MGR's case it's just... loud. And there. That's about it. Unlike DmC, it's not one I own the soundtrack for. (...I think?)
There's a bloody-minded part of me that's half-tempted to just set up one of the cameras in front of my monitor. It may yet come down to that, because I am an arse.
It really is a great game though, and surprisingly ahead of its time both in combat mechanics (you see more games with this combat style now than you did then) and with its plot (some bits had me wincing at worrying similarities). It really does have the whole 'incessantly brown' thing going on that a lot of the games of the time did though. (Hello again Gears of War.)
I'm just trying to get it finished now though, because the Resident Evil 2 remake's out tomorrow and I am really looking forward to that. If I'm not streaming via Twitch (if I can get over how much I dislike the app), then you can probably catch me over at Mixer.
No mic, partially because I don't have one that works with the Xbox and partially because you don't need to hear me, and you certainly don't need to hear my dogs, my cats, the parrot, my mother's very, very piercing lovebirds or, indeed, my mother — and they're all what you'd be hearing instead of me.
So I'll be going from one of the dimmest men in gaming (Raiden) to another of the notably-stupid (Leon). Bless, no one's ever loved them for their intelligence.
(We have a lot in common in that respect.)
We used to do a thing on our local NaNo website called Storymatic Mondays. (I saw 'we,' I mean 'I' because I'm the one with these stupid ideas.) The basic premise was I'd randomly draw cards from my Storymatic deck, post the pictures on the site and people could use them as prompts.
Got to... March? I think? last year and gave in. They were a hassle to take pictures of, a hassle to edit and no one did 'em anyway.
We decided to do them again this year (or rather, I'd do them again this year) so, in a (partially successful) effort to procrastinate, I bought a tiny 20x20cm photo tent. Not a huge 80x80cm one like my other one (it explodes open if you're not careful; I did not know this the first time I opened it) but just a neat little plastic one.
It has made life so much easier. It's got a circular hole in the top for a camera (or, after I discovered the paltrygeist has apparently had the smaller tripod's screw unit away, a well-balanced cellphone), multiple coloured backdrops and two sets of LEDs along the top edges. I could just leave my phone on the top, swap out the cards and take the pictures without a problem or waiting for decent lighting. So somehow I ended up taking 68 photos. Which takes me well into next year. I guess at least keeping up isn't going to be a problem. And because they were all in mostly the same place and the phone never moved, editing them was surprisingly simple.
It's just posting them all in Wordpress that's taking forever, even with a template doing most of the heavy lifting. I've just completed May.
At least this year it won't be hanging over me, I guess.
In other news, I finally started replaying Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. It took a while for the controls to come back to me (although the Quick-Time Events came back so fast I had to check I was pressing the right buttons... after I'd pressed them) and I'd forgotten how very bloody it was, which is fantastic. Also how very brown, but games really were back then. *cough* Gears of War *cough* It's as phenomenally camp as I remember though, particularly when Jack came out the water on a beach like one of the Dead or Alive girlies. Graphically it's both held up well and held up atrociously — the sparse scenery does it no favours, particularly given it's even sparse by Halo 1's standards and that was on the original Xbox, but the combat is fast and flowing and big-name enemies are nicely animated — but I'd never, ever say no to a HD remake. (Hear that, Platinum? Please!) I feel like I should be picking it up again quicker though.
You can check it (and me) out over here: https://www.twitch.tv/paxasteriae
No mic though. I don't have one that works with the Xbox One and... frankly no one needs to hear everything that happens in this house, which is all you'd hear.
Shredding some bad guys with the dimmest cyborg in gaming — I'm not joking — is doing wonders for clearing my head.
I finished a short story. It clocks in at around 8,000 words and I hadn't actually really wanted to write it, but the character insisted. Plus, I started it in the middle of NaNoWriMo as a desperate attempt to finish so it's been hanging around.
I finally got over my scruples and finished it tonight. Unpleasant, but satisfying.
The paltrygeist is definitely back. My mother put a pair of butcher-style hanging blinds (very thin strips, a bit like hanging beads but in plastic) between the kitchen and utility room a few years ago.
They tried to strangle me the other day.*
Although honestly, that's not the weirdest stuff that happens in the house. You just disentangle yourself, throw them back at the doorway and insult it roundly and you can usually go a couple of weeks before you walk through them and suddenly it's round your neck again.
The most irritating thing was on Saturday morning, where literally everything I needed vanished from my office. Two(!) compression vests, some stuff that reluctantly turned up once I fetched my older black vest from upstairs (and that took two attempts to find) and a sketchbook that had been on my desk but has now vanished into thin air. That, admittedly, is no great loss and it's probably for the best I didn't find it. I'd like it back now though, thanks.
I know it'll get bored soon enough (it's not reached peak activity, which is shoving alcohol jiggers around the work surface in the kitchen), it's just... irritating.
It's probably trying to demand I tidy in here.
* I'm not exaggerating about that. The strips really do wrap all around your throat, usually in two different directions, which shouldn't happen when all you've done is walk through them. But it is what it is. Nothing a little abusive profanity doesn't fix for a while.
But I keep trying anyway. I'm not wholly sure why, given I won't even remember I made any by the end of March, but I guess it's the thought that counts? However brief and fleeting that thought is.
So, in no particular order — particularly not order of importance — here goes:
Most of these seem like it's all just: stop sitting around staring at a blank screen for hours on end, or sit around staring at a game screen for hours on end.
Let's see how they actually turn out, eh?
For reasons we won't get into, one of my new year's resolutions is going to be to learn to play the ukulele.
I have today somehow, just about, managed to fumble my way through a rendition of Oh My Darling Clementine, complete with chord changes,
I mean, it involved swapping from a one-fingered chord to a three-fingered one, and the one thing I learned from trying to play guitar is that my brain and my fingers don't see eye to eye, so the fact I managed it at all is the thing that made me happiest.
Don't think I'll ever be Jake Shimabukuro though.
Oh and I think the paltrygeist is back, just in time for the new year.
Here's hoping yours is peaceful and joyous and everything you want, whether that's big or small.