lately (04.15.20)

This post contains affiliate links, because I like money, but I s2g I wrote this post before adding the affiliate links and the monetization does not affect my opinions.

anothertoast - samglorious - ya girl is breaking out

im breaking out from lack of sleep but i also rediscovered some sparkly black alligator clips in my hair accessory collection so who’s the real winner here? (it’s not me (it’s digiorno))

I don’t know how to start this post, but in all honesty I’m just gonna bang out words until I’ve covered these past two weeks, not because I particularly feel like it, but because I want to maintain my posting record so far this year. I’d much rather be working on writing the long-form fiction story that I’m hoping will eventually end up novel-length, but here I am, so let’s do this.

Since my last update, I…

…ate a few things that I didn’t actually make myself(!!), including a morning bun, cheesy bread, garlic bread, and an XL combo pizza. Our food choices were definitely motivated by 1) things we couldn’t or didn’t want to make ourselves and 2) things that could be easily reheated for virus-killing purposes.

Honestly, going to the bakery to pick up our online order of pastries was really nerve-wracking, I think because the space was so small. They had tape on the ground to space out customers, but I had to pass way too close to people who were definitely not acting in the best interest of others.

The pizza and garlic bread, we had delivered (yes we tipped high), so that was significantly less nerve-wracking. The place we ordered from has their own delivery drivers (which is good because I HATE the exploitative Uber Eats, Grubhub, PostMates, Seamless etc. business model), and I found out that they use ChowNow, which is basically an online ordering middleman for restaurants that can fulfill their own orders. The restaurant pays ChowNow a subscription fee for using their platform, which has a solid UI. I just think it’s neat and a way more sensible, sustainable approach than what the gig economy offers.

…made a no-knead loaf of bread using this recipe and this recipe Frankenstein’d together (with some tips for doing the 2nd rise overnight in the fridge from here), because we don’t have a Dutch oven but we do have an Instant Pot. We didn’t even have an appropriate container to shape the bread in, so our loaf kind of turned out looking like unsliced biscotti.

babys first quarantine bread - no knead no dutch oven loaf - quarantine baking

baby’s first quarantine bread

It may have looked a little ugly, but it was definitely tasty! I threw in a bunch of rosemary we’d frozen a few months back, and it was really good dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

…ate a few things I barely had to prepare, including frozen chicken nuggets, frozen vegan mac & cheese, and boxed vegan mac & cheese. Honestly, shoutout to past me for knowing we’d want a few comfort/junk food items around to make the weekends actually feel like weekends. I predicted that I’d want lots of chocolate, cookies, and cake/brownie mix around the house, but the dinner foods were more of an afterthought. But I’m grateful for everything we thought to buy. (Also, I tried Shin ramen for the first time earlier today, and I now understand the hype.)

…received updates from my friend working in the ICUs at an NYC hospital, and I just. Things are so dire. It’s terrible for the people who are hospitalized with the coronavirus, it’s terrible for the people who die, it’s terrible for the families who have to say their goodbyes over phone calls and FaceTime, it’s terrible for the healthcare workers who are working in traumatic scenarios under traumatic conditions – it’s just all TERRIBLE.

And then you have people like this in charge, and no, that’s not a link to Trump, who we already knew was going to fuck this up. That’s a link to a hospital exec, who thinks it’s “dispiriting” that her employees have questions about coming in to work without adequate PPE. I have one thing to say to her, and that’s FUCK YOU. Give your workers hazard pay, and more than 72 hOURS(!!) to self-quarantine when they feel sick, and MORE THAN ONE FUCKING MASK, YOU CONDESCENDING FUCKING ASSHOLE.

(I guess that’s more than one thing. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ)

…saw my brother, once, during a 6AM grocery trip when we had to replenish my mom’s supplies as well as our own. I mean, I couldn’t see like 70% of his face because of his mask, but it was good to, like, be with My People for a little while, even if just to run errands.

…saw my mom, once, for the first time since late February, and like. Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without physically seeing my mom in my entire life. Sure, I basically only saw her eyes above her face mask, from fifteen feet away, as she stood in the doorway and I carefully dropped off the first batch of cloth masks for my uncle to wear during his commute, on top of the washing machine, which she would immediately disinfect as soon as I left. But my partner drove us home and I cried the whole way back. It was just overwhelming, the relief. Like, the reassurance that my mom was still… physically in this world. I know that makes it sound like I have object permanence issues, but isn’t it just a human thing, to crave the presence of others?

It feels like gloating to say this, but in many ways, I’ve really been enjoying this sheltering-in-place. My partner is home all the time. I can look over pretty much whenever I feel like it and see his beautiful goddamn face. We get to eat lunch together every day. It feels like a blessing. It’s made easier by the fact that we live on the top floor of a house (rather than an apartment unit) and have a lot of physical space (relatively) for us to get out of each other’s way when we so desire, plus we have access to a washer and dryer in our own building. But aside from environmental factors, we’re also both hardcore introverts and just, like, indoor people. Not in the “likes reading and dislikes parties” way, but, like, in a “could easily spend 12 hours a day engrossed in a useless solo pet project” way, and a “needs three days to recover from a single social Zoom call” way, and a “silently tangling legs together while otherwise ignoring each other as we dick around online on our respective laptops is quality bonding time” way.

So yeah. In many ways, it’s been very nice. But in so many other ways, it’s been miserable. Obviously we’re lucky to have a roof over our heads and a steady income from an industry basically built for remote work. But I miss my mom.

…started playing GRIS, a computer game I downloaded mainly because of a recommendation from Char on Tumblr. (We don’t know each other; I just think they have really cool taste.)

The artwork is evocative and so beautiful, and so is the storyline and the gameplay. It’s about grief (or some kind of deeply sorrowful trauma/loss, anyway), and while I’ve only unlocked 3 colors so far (slight spoiler: everything starts out colorless), I highly, highly recommend this game, even if you consider yourself a non-gamer.

(Spoilers for the intro:) The intro cut scene made me very, very emotional, because it is so hard to express what it feels like to lose a parent (especially as a child), but this game managed to convey the depth and total devastation of that loss in wordless, animated form more eloquently than I think I ever could in writing. Just… the way she is held in her gigantic, godlike mother(?)’s hand, and how her world crumbles beneath her feet, and she falls and falls and falls, and the way she curls up and sobs until her whole body shakes. You know when you’re in so much emotional pain that you subconsciously curl up into fetal position to cry, because your body thinks it might not survive and it craves the safety and security of the womb? It makes you feel so small and so pathetic. And when the reason for that pain is grief, it’s something you return to, over and over and over, even when things have gotten substantially better and it doesn’t feel like everything’s gray anymore – the loss will always be there.

This game actually reminds me of Terrence Malick’s directing style, in that (in my interpretation), rather than relying on Symbolismโ„ข, it uses sounds and images that trigger specific emotions to tell a story that your subconscious already knows. Granted, of his films, I’ve only watched The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life, so this may not hold true for the rest of his works, but I think GRIS does something similar, to great effect, especially given that there’s no dialogue at all.

It’s been very cathartic to play, and I feel like… because it’s a game and therefore not a direct confrontation with your past experiences, it allows space to open up in your mind to reflect on things you may have avoided thinking about because they were just too… heavy. Like, when I play, it makes me think of my experience with grief as a child, and how I learned to close myself off, just like Gris learns how to turn her physical form into a heavy, protective box. And it makes me think of how being like protectivebox!Gris allowed me to survive, but also of how, at the same time, being box!Sam was a detriment to my own forward movement, but also of how… sometimes to move forward through rough weather, you must keep yourself closed off, and sometimes the ability to compartmentalize is a useful skill to have in your… emotional toolbox.

Anyway, it’s a really wonderful game. The music is gorgeous, and the visuals are just… a masterpiece. It’s one of those games where you can’t die or make permanent mistakes, and none of the puzzles are too frustrating. So yeah! Please give it a try if you’re at all interested. It’s well worth the money, I promise.

…changed my lockscreen from the album art for Suho’s Self-Portrait to this absolutely unreal photo of Baekhyun from the May 2020 issue of W Korea:

phone lockscreen background wallpaper - exo kpop suho self portrait - baekhyun w korea may 2020

He has THREE whole covers, and while I think he looks hottest in this one, he looks SOOO FINE in the other cover photos too. (Side note: I almost always opt for dark lockscreens because they’re easier on my eyes, so it’s kind of a relief to switch back to something dark again, but I think it also goes to show how much I loved Suho’s portrait that I chose to use it even though it made my screen too bright at night. I sacrificed my eyeballs for you, Kim Junmyeon.)

…ordered what was probably way too many cloth face masks from various Etsy sellers. (I am of the opinion that no “reopening” of the city or the state or the country will happen without universal mask-wearing, and if/when that happens, I don’t want to only have 2 masks on hand that I have to wash every single day.) I ordered enough for me and several family members, but right now I’m mainly worried about my uncle, who still has to take public transportation to work, which means he goes through 10 masks a week. He’s been using down the house’s existing supply of surgical masks (purchased way, waaay before this pandemic; we’re Asian and wear masks for, like, vacuuming and dusting and running the paper shredder), but when those run out… well, I’m glad I got him some masks that can accommodate filter sheets.

…placed a few very surprising orders at SHEIN. Only the first package has arrived so far, but I ordered… soft vinyl face shields that can be worn with any brimmed hat, bucket hats with soft vinyl face shields (both attached and detachable styles), thin plastic face shields (secured with elastic around the back of the head), protective goggles (hard plastic with foam padding, and semi-pliable plastic/vinyl like the kind high school students wear for science labs), cotton face masks (no pocket filter, elastic ear loops), one normal bucket hat (to be worn with the first set of hat-compatible face shields), and KN90 cotton surgical masks with nose wires, because apparently SHEIN offers all of those items right now.

My main goal was to get my uncle stuff he could wear while on public transportation, because people were reporting that Muni’s service reductions had resulted in train cars that were way too full for 6 feet of distance between passengers. I did feel kind of guilty about it at first, because 1) every online order I place adds strain to the mail system, and someone might need their items delivered more badly than I do, and 2) these supplies could be going to, like, nursing homes or grocery stores or other non-medical frontline workers. But SHEIN has been restocking every single day, consistently, and it’s a goddamn women’s fast fashion retailer, so I’m pretty sure my purchases aren’t taking supplies away from people who need them more. I hope not, anyway. I just want my uncle to be safe. And the stuff I’ve received so far seems to be of Good Enough quality to prevent someone’s spit from getting into your face holes.

…received this gorgeous “SSFW” EXO keychain set from Jin, aka cytaoplasm:

cytaoplasm - EXO SSFW keychains - spring summer fall autumn winter - sakura - kokobop - tree of life - snowflake - enamel keychain exo logo - fanmade kpop merch

Each of the keychains represents a season (spring, summer, fall, and winter) and subtly incorporates the EXO logo. I didn’t get them in my photo, but each of them has a little thematic charm attached, too. (You can see them in the artist’s own photos: spring, summer, fall, and winter.)

I can’t remember if the full keychain set was tied to a charity project, but I know that proceeds from at least some of the artist’s products are donated, which is nice. I ordered this keychain set way back in November of last year, and I completely forgot when they’d be shipping out, so I was surprised and delighted when they arrived. (I was also ashamed to be responsible for something so trivial coming through the postal service during These Uncertain Times.)

The keychains are metal and enamel, and they feel pretty durable, but I also feel like they’re way too pretty to use and I’d be devastated if they got scratched or dinged up. I had the vague idea of turning them into necklace pendants so I could show them off without subjecting them to as much wear and tear, but I’ll have to see.

…had some more family dinners on Zoom. We actually don’t talk to each other this often normally, especially not in such a large group, but it’s been nice to have, like, a fixed thing to check in to once a week, and to ask what people are eating for dinner, and just to see and hear each other. Actually, hanging out virtually makes me miss my family even more, and I wish it were easier to organize big family trips like we used to when we were still in grade school.

…played Drawful 2 with my cousins. It’s like Pictionary but with very specific and often bizarre words/phrases, and after everyone enters their guesses, all guesses are shown along with the original phrase, and people try to figure out which one is the real one. You get points for choosing the correct one, but you also get points for tricking people into choosing your made up answer. Oh, and you play using a laptop (which basically functions as a monitor) and your cell phone (which basically functions as a controller). It’s really hard to draw on your phone, especially because the screen is so small and there’s no way to undo any strokes, so the results are often hilariously bad.

…played Hand Simulator: Survival with my cousins. Basically you’re playing as (inexplicably identical) people who are stranded on an island and need to survive the elements until you can be rescued, but the catch is that you have to manually control your hands. It’s kind of like QWOP but even more chaotic. I had to stop after a few rounds because I was getting motion sickness from the FPS perspective, but during that time I was bitten by a snake (twice), was stung by a scorpion, died from hunger, died from the cold, gathered firewood, gathered rocks, gathered coconuts, opened several coconuts, ate several coconuts, and made sparks (but no fire). My cousins kept playing after I stopped, and two of them managed to get rescued by a passing cruise ship, though they also abandoned everyone else while doing so. This game is kind of hard but also reallllly fun in a group.

…tried the A’pieu Honey & Milk Lip Oil I’ve had sitting on my dresser for a while. I bought it because I was running low on my Goodal Camellia Lip Oil (which I haven’t been able to find in stock at any of my usual stores), and I am pleased to report that they both perform very similarly, which is to say they are GREAT for when your lips are super dry and flaky/peel-y and you need something to restore them overnight. Both formulas are realllly thick and tacky, like shitty lip gloss, but they are super moisturizing and I think they must provide some kind of gentle exfoliation, because by morning, I can slough off all the dead skin on my lips with almost no effort.

…tried out my new overnight pad/“Super Pad” from Aisle, liked it a lot. It feels thinner/more lightweight than the old LunaPads cloth pads, which were made of a sort of cotton flannel/fleece material. This pad feels more like a t-shirt, but it’s somehow still super absorbent. Highly recommend if you’re looking to try cloth pads!

I also tried out a cloth liner from Aisle, and it’s surprisingly lightweight too. Like, it’s comparable to a disposable liner, except for the snap closures. I don’t know how comfortable the snaps would be if I were wearing super tight skinny jeans, but I didn’t notice them at all in sweatpants.

[EDIT: I forgot to mention, I also tried their Stain Eraser stick, and it works really well on new stains and decently well on older stains that have already set. I’d recommend giving it a try if you want to freshen up your items.]

…read and loved “charity work” by NaruKoibito, a Harry/Ginny fic that my friend wrote!!! I really don’t read much het Harry Potter fic (and when I do, it’s almost always Lily/James), but this one is adooorable and heartwarming and just a lot of fun. It’s a Muggle AU where Ginny’s a famous pro football player and Harry’s a non-famous fan who publicly shoots his shot on her Instagram account. MISDEMEANORS ENSUE.

I just feel super proud of her for writing this fic, and I hope you’ll give it a read.

…started reading Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem, which is excellent so far. I’d read an excerpt of it last year, in Ken Liu’s Chinese sci-fi anthology, Invisible Planets, and it made me want to read the rest of the book immediately. (I mean, I’d been aware of Three-Body before then, given that it’s (I think?) the most well-known piece of contemporary Chinese science fiction out there, but if it weren’t for that anthology, it probably would’ve languished on my to-read list for at least a couple more years.)

…started reading “Just Stay Here Tonight” by monroeslittle, a Lily/James Harry Potter fic recommended to me by Alice a while back. It’s an AU where James is a wizard, but Lily isn’t a witch. I haven’t finished it yet, but godDAMN do I love Lily and James together. [UPDATE: READ THIS DAMN FIC IT’S SO GOOD.]

…rediscovered some old songs that I still love, including

Sam Sparro – “Black and Gold”

Pretty much every year, I somehow forget how much I love this song, but every time I come back to it, I remember that it’s just so GOOD. It makes me feel like my soul was launched into the night sky and is just cruising around in space, pondering the existence of god.

GIRIBOY – “Back And Forth 30min”

This song and music video are just fun and funky, and I’m still not tired of any of it. (Also the female singer at the end has a sexy voice, lmao.)

GIRIBOY – “Take care of you”

This song always makes me want to cry. Something about the sparseness of the instrumentals and the simplicity of the melody and the intensity of his rapping just gets to me.

BUMKEY – “My Everything”

This song does actually make me cry! I’m always a sucker for songs with acapella bits, and when the lyrics switch to English toward the end, I just fall apart from, like, having too much love in my body. (I feel similarly about SHINee’s “Countless”.)

(If it’s not already obvious, I went through a K-Pop revival in 2015, but I mostly listened to R&B, whereas my 2013-2014 phase leaned more pop (but I preferred pop-R&B). From 2015-2018, IIRC I went pretty hard on Western dance and pop music, and since 2018 I’ve been back on my K-Pop shit again, but I’m not really sure that my preferences fall under a specific genre this time. Is “noise” a genre? Is “SM Entertainment” a genre?!)

EXO-K – “What Is Love”

I’m fairly certain this is the first full-length EXO song I ever listened to, and I knew as soon as I heard that first “oooh wooahhooahhhhh” that I was going to fall in love with their music. D.O.’s and Baekhyun’s voices are just SO. DAMN. GOOD. They sounded this good PRE-DEBUT, and they’ve aged like the finest of wines. LISTEN TO THOSE BABIES BELT!!! Also, like, this song is PURE R&B GOLD, and it was sooo delicious to hear such heavy 90s influences at the time, as it still is now tbh. I’ve never really forgotten about this song because it left such a strong impression on me, but I’m including it here because I’ve been listening to it on repeat lately.

Aaand now that I’ve reached the end of this messy af recap, it’s time for me to get back to my story!!! LESGEDDIT โœ๐Ÿป

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