Some Halloween Posts for you Festive Folks

There are times when I feel motivated to write and then there are times where I feel uninspired to write especially around the holiday. I am not all that festive but I tried to be because a holiday is a great reminder that we should celebrate and have fun. Today, I am taking the easy route by recycling some older posts I have written.

It may seem as if I would never run out things to to talk about for Halloween because horror is my favorite genre, but this past two years since Covid-19 happened, I am just not in the mood for horror and dark. I think we seen enough of it in the media when people start dropping like flies or at least I have seen enough in my life. There is time to grieve and there is time celebrate. These days, I want to celebrate life without ignoring that we are living in scary times. For mental health’s sake, I find myself attracted to games like Tales of Xilia on the PS3, which I bought about 7 years ago! The game is about a goddess saving infants from playing with dangerous toys. Okay being sarcastic. Actually, I borrowed the words from the game! So far from what I am gathering, the female lead, Milla Maxwell is trying to protect the world from a mass destructive weapon. How does this game fits into celebrating life? Well, it’s about protecting the world and living in harmony with nature. What did you think? Did I make a great saleswoman?

Enough ranting, here are some horror-related posts you might have missed if you are new to my blog:

We got so many options these days to be entertained but too many options sort of discourage me from binging shows on Netflix. I have seen a few decent films but not enough to write about it:

  • Level 16 directed by Danishka Esterhazy (on Netflix)
  • Fear Street Part One: 1994 directed by Leigh Janiak (on Netflix)
  • The Thing (2011) directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. (on Prime Video)

As for T.V shows, I finally finished Twin Peaks season 1 and 2, and Death Note the anime. So stay tune for Death Note review but I haven’t decided to write up on Twin Peaks. It’s a great show. Most people know that by now. If there’s a show you think I might like, please leave a comment and I’ll check it out.

Until next time, Happy Halloween. Can’t wait to buy discount Halloween candy!

What’s in a Name?

What was supposed to be a hobby and a side activity has now become a passionate pastime or it’s just I’m addicted to writing. I put so much effort into crafting my blog posts and have found so much joy in doing it. Fishing for metaphors is an art form in itself. And yet, it’s just not looking for metaphors, I also appreciate everything artistic about the making of films, TV shows, books, and video games. I like all forms of art and enjoy critiquing it. Have I ever thought of becoming a critic or a writer myself? Not really because attempting to consume what has already been produced may take a life time to discover and appreciate. Plus, I have the attention span of a child to even sit and write a book. On the other hand, writing lyrics, poems and reviews comes more naturally. Articulating my thoughts into a post is my ideal of fun. And why not do it with style? Did some readers actually thought I was attempting to write masterpiece reviews? That’s quite laughable. I’m flattered.

This bring to the question, why I choose to write as Halsdoll and not my real name after contemplating whether I should use my real name or not. After all, the hard work should go to its rightful owner. In addition, I feel like I owe an explanation whenever I introduced someone I know in person to my blog. They may be puzzled by the name but are too afraid to ask: Why Halsdoll?

“What is in a name?” I quote Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. Plenty, it’s about branding. The name Halsdoll was inspired by Shakespeare’s characters from Henry IV Part II: Prince Hal and Doll Tearsheet. The name was created as a joke. You see, Prince Hal understood the world by visiting Mistress Quickly Inn and Doll is one of the working girls. It really is no place fit for a soon to be king, but what may seem like an unproductive pastime activity actually served him fruitful information on his subjects. Yes, of all the place, a brothel. If you want to be a respected leader, you learn from the bottom up. It’s humorous and humor is what keeps me sane. I could elaborate, but this is no academic blog for a lengthily research paper behind the meaning of my pen name (as if who cares?). Plus, I just like the sound of Halsdoll. It sounds like the name of powerful medication, a clothing brand, or the brand of a cosmetic product. It’s a nice staged name for all my nonsense stuff on this blog.

So after much thought about whether using my real name to sound professional and build credibility with my readers, I decided to stick with my pseudonym. Perhaps, one day I may reveal my name when my blog grow big. In the meantime, I just like being Halsdoll. The name reminds me to never let the inner child in me die because the grownup world is nothing but filled with heart-attack stress and the sad part is we don’t have to make it that way but we do it anyway.

P.S

This post was inspired by a Twitter email notification, hinting to me that I should use my real name because people feel more comfortable interacting with someone real. I do want this blog to grow. However, a hacker once said to me that my birth name doesn’t sound real, so what’s the irony in that?

Dark Souls 2 Scholar of the First Sin Rant: Crown of the Sunken King (Part II)

The boss fight in this DLC is shit. I said it and I’m not polite about it. In fact, the DLC is not mage friendly. I had to reallocate my stats to equip the right weapon to defeat Elana the Squalid Queen. Finally beat her after pulling a few hair strands from my head (don’t worry it will grow back. I hope!).

What was my tactic? Well, I farmed at Lair of the Imperfect bonfire for Petrified Dragon Bone to upgrade the Drakeblood Greatsword to +5. The beasts down there drop about 1700 souls. However, equipping Covetous Silver Serpent Ring will yield more souls. I used the extra souls to level up STR (strength) and DEX (dexterity). Summoned 2 NPCs for the boss fight. One died in the name of being a tank. Equipped gear with high dark magic defense. Regardless, no easy battle and we did it! I mean me and my imaginary friends. But I sure feel like a noob in this area.

Was Squalid a fair fight? Can't Say
We did it!

My character is currently level 157. Yes way too high (haven’t beat the game yet). Got side tracked tinkering things around. Then I realized I’m not making progress. I learned it’s not so much about strategy or timing in this level. The enemies just have high defense. There is a mob of them purposely gaining up on you and mind you better have high resistant to poison. This DLC is purposely hard for hard sake and I don’t really like it.

Trying to get to the Cave of the Dead Bosses Fight
Trying to get down to the boss fight

If you have played Dark Souls II on PS3 and did not purchase the DLC, I would just leave it as it is when the credits start rolling unless you are into the lore and playing for difficulty’s sake. I like to make progress and not get stalled and mainly play this game for artistic exploration. You know like opening an adventure book and reading it except my imagination is limited so I need real visuals to appreciate the fantasy. Dark Souls franchise hit the spot for me. Sadly, I am going to put this game aside even though I have two more DLCs to clear. But then…the ice levels are always my favorite in video games. I can’t just move on. Just look how cool it is? My inner child, is beckoning me to come play with her. So, I just can’t say GOODBYE!!!

Dark Souls II Rant: Crown of the Sunken King (DLC)

Where to start..so difficult. How many times have I died? Am I making progress? Yes. 3 weeks later! I finally reached 2 out of 3 boss fights within this DLC but have not beat any of them. The stage design is what got me so addicted to Dark Souls franchise in the first place which came out 10 years ago (Sep. 22, 2011 and I am writing this post on the 23rd)! Wow just look at how time flies. Or maybe I’m just a big fan of nameless heroes/heroines who eventually come up on top through trial and error because the mysterious nobody always make an interesting story: Let’s see how long I’m benevolent and fit to rule until I turn Hollow. The curse of want and wanting is pretty strong. Although I must say, it’s not the throne I’m after. I simply just like obtaining those hard to reach items.

I jump, I slip, I die for a useless torch…com’on! As the saying go, curiousity killed the cat.

It’s a fair sadistic game, or is it? Blame the tagline Prepare to Die which attracted people to the game. No not me. I picked up the franchise because I love FromSoftware games!!! I told myself after beating Dark Souls back in 2011, I don’t want to invest anymore of my time with the franchise. And then on Dark Soul II release day, I bought it in a flash. I simply couldn’t resist. Quality games matter and I know I wouldn’t be disappointed. The game was manageable and quiet to my liking as expected (yes I said quiet and not quite but I was in fact thinking both when I wrote the sentence. Dark Souls II ps3 version is quite melancholically quiet). Dark souls II Scholar of the First Sin, on the other hand, is an uphill battle on purpose. Not so cool, I think. But marketing sure bring in the doe. The DLC that comes with this version is difficult and time invested in it might not be worth it. I spent enough time in it to want to set it aside, but I probably will be back to my abusive lover. I always come back. There are other games waiting in line to be played but not many are seamlessly fun in terms of stage design and boss fights which is why I stick around with this franchise and once you give your soul to the game there is no turning back (I sound so evil). I thought of reallocating my stats to be a pure muscle head (a.k.a. strength built) because the enemies in this stage have high magic defense. Maybe a whack in the face with a hammer as big as my character will do. I have been relying a bit on backstabbing with the mace and have gotten pretty good at it, naturally. I mean so typical of a girl to play mage…actually nope I just thought it was cool to play mage since I rarely play mage in RPGs. Then again, it’s rare since the closes MMORPG games I’ve played were WKC (White Knight Chronicles) and DCUO (DC Universe Online). I played them briefly when I learned that socializing is just not my cup of tea, unless we are dealing with serious business such as slaying the beast!

So far, this stage has been a painful exploration and now I must defeat Elana the Squalid Queen, who is prettily enchanting with her sparkly golden helpers. Can’t say it’s a fair fight from whose end? Well, you see player has the option to summon two NPCs but at the expense the boss’s defense increases. I could just summon one NPC and it does some damage but regardless the boss fight is not easy. Two against one is never easy because I’m still pathetically weak. Maybe it’s time to take off the high heel shoes and wear combat boots instead (No…it has high dark defense which is what I’m up against). Midway, I find myself dodging and rolling from getting attacked and then in the end, I grew tired and die

Let’s just put this aside for now. Yakuza 0 deserves some attention. I feel like a beat em game at the moment. Maybe I just need a punching bag game that will allow me to win for a change. Then again, I just can’t focus on other games unless I beat this one! Oh the woe of being cursed by a video game!

Reflecting on A Taxi Driver (2017)

Ordinary people are not often praised in society as heroes because they don’t go out into the world expecting recognition. Some are thrown into the situation and fate just decided for them. In this suspenseful chilling, heart-warming story, we follow a taxi driver from Seoul and a German reporter to uncover the reality of the Kwangju Uprising. So, brace yourself because you are going to go on one hell of a ride. Well, I went into this film blind and was moved to tears. Okay, I confess I recognized the actor, Song Kang-ho from Parasite (2019) and I liked it that’s the only reason why I watched this film apart from having a soft spot for political historical films. 

Before we start, let’s get some history lesson out of the way. It’s really important to understand this historic event since this film is based on the event, which I recall my world history textbook only mentioned briefly or didn’t mention it at all. I just don’t remember. I’m not a history buff. So, if you are like me, we need a refresher: 

The Kwangju Rising is an event that took place from May 18th to 27th of 1980. The time where South Korea dictatorship long era ends. However, it did not transition from authoritarian to democracy smoothly. General Chum Doo-hwan, the head of the military coup seized power, which only intensified the people’s need for democracy. As a result, many innocent lives have been taken during the protest against the martial law. 

Sounds pretty intense, doesn’t it? Well, I used to live in downtown Seattle where protests happen frequently. I was always on the edge. I didn’t realize how physically and mentally draining it is to witness protest almost every other weekend for years! And the local news media didn’t help to ease my mind. It tends to exaggerate current events for dramatic effects because that’s what viewers like–bad news. However, in some cases, some countries do the opposite. They minimize the severity of the situation, which is what made Kwangju Uprising so terrifying for those who value democracy. And yet, for such an intense event, the director, Jang Hoon chose to explain the event in a light-hearted way, in which the average person can empathize. We follow a story of an ordinary family man who works as a taxi driver, trying to make a living to support his 11-year-old daughter. Like most people, he doesn’t care to meddle in politics until money is involved. A German foreigner offered a large sum of money to a taxi driver to take him to Kwangju. Through out the film, gradually you can see the taxi driver growing into someone who thinks less about himself but more towards the well-being of the general mass.  

Without spoiling too much of the film, one thing this film has shown me is what true democracy looks like. It’s full of vibrant colors, and sentimental people who are in tuned with human dignity such as cooperation and respect for the human life. Therefore, I was indeed rooting for the taxi driver and his cute, lime green car to save South Korea from being swallowed up by the big black van, which is a metaphor for the oppressive government whose heart is so black that it felt no remorse to run over its people and lied to its citizens of the uprising death toll. People deserve to know the truth. Not hide it. In the end, the taxi driver did his job well–drove his passenger to his destination as promised to Kwangju. But did he do it for money? You’d be surprised. Money doesn’t always guarantee first-class customer service. It is in the heart of the driver that determines it.

 A Taxi Driver gave me a little history lesson on South Korea and I enjoyed the ride the entire way. But don’t take my word for it. You should try calling the cab and see it for yourself. Hopefully, you got one with a big heart.

I Am Back with A Poem (Blog Update)

I’m back. Still adjusting to new environment. But to keep my blog on schedule and because this is somewhat of a poetry/ gamer’s diary/unconventional review blog (its existence serves as a dialogue between two people to keep myself from talking to myself once upon a time in downtown Seattle), I wrote a poem for my re-entry to posting weekly, which was on a Monday 12:00 A.M Pacific Time (excluding this post) to be exact. Moving forward, changing it to Monday 12:00 A.M Central Time. I like to be on the dot. Please enjoy this poem I wrote on a whim.

Is There Fall in the Midwest? by Halsdoll

Like an arrow, I go.

Like moths flapping towards

A glow.

The sun pops;

It explodes.

Summer is almost gone

But still hot

And fall won’t come

gradually…

No.

Here, in the Midwest

the light

switch off or on

Cold.

***

The Midwest is now home because that is where my partner is. It’s different from where I grew up but it’s a nice change in pace and it’s not so bad minus the heat. Hence, why I wrote the poem. The good news though is that it’s a lot quieter than the city life surely. Noise pollution should be a crime. Now I wake up to hearing birds and not ambulance siren, which means I can write more! Peace and quiet is how I like it. I don’t know if this place will be my final destination. Never in my wildest dreams thought I’d end up here. One day…maybe I’ll return to the rain and the hills next to the sea or retire up in the mountains and become a mountain woman with working internet signal. I got to keep this blog rolling after all because I am here for the long haul.

At the moment, I am still playing Dark Souls 2 Scholar of the First Sin, reading Persuasion by Jane Austen and watching Twin Peaks with my partner for the first time. As I mentioned before, so many content to consume with so little time apart from having bazillion other hobbies such as cooking. That’s why my gaming backlog is small. Still have yet to complete Mass Effects, Dragon Age, Tales of Xilia for the PS3 and some indies games I bought on Steam, which I may never get around to. I like to take the time to appreciate a piece of work and play them thoroughly. It’s much more rewarding than just buying and never consuming it. Perhaps that’s why many of us create blog in the first place because we have an overwhelming amount of things to consume which takes us away from having a social life or many of us just want to be lost in our own thoughts and hope someone would listen to us? I mean this blog is conversational for a reason even though I don’t expect readers to engage with me in the comment section. My goal is to make the reader think. Thinking is what make people, people right? Part of the reason why I take the time to appreciate a piece of work is for thinking purposes. It benefits both the consumer and the creator. Making things to make money is death to both the creator and the consumer. That’s my personal take on creative works. Anyway…

I like to keep my promise. Coming up is my reflective review on Taxi Driver (2017) directed by Jang Hoon. Until next time, I leave you folks with a photograph of my moving trip. Yellowstone Park was beautiful minus the tourists like me. So I tried to take pictures with no people in it.

More than a nice stroll in the park

Ranting about Dark Souls II Videoclip & Blog Updates

I should have been writing, but I got distracted with this game and did video editing for fun. I plan to platinum this game since I did it for Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. The shiny platinum might look pretty amazing and it gives me something to look forward to during this upcoming fall–cooler weather means more gaming time. However, partly the main reason why I have not been writing is due to moving. I have been busy packing, getting ready for the big move, which means less time to write or schedule posts in advance.

There are few worthy shows I watched this past few days and are the process of writing. One of them in particular is A Taxi Driver (2017), a historical Korean drama. Out of all the streaming sites, Prime Video is winning because they know me pretty well enough to recommend films I like.

In the meantime, for my weekly post, I put this amateur treasure guide together for fun as I have been obsessed with treasure hunting more than obtaining the object itself in Dark Souls II. It’s quite addictive as I mentioned briefly on one of my souls’ posts. I am sure I have a lot to extract from this game and have much to say about it once I complete it entirely.

Will resume to normalcy once I get things situated. Most likely late September or early October.

P.S

I have successfully moved out of the city as of Aug. 31st. Wrote this post awhile ago. Now need time to adjust to new environment.

Reflecting on the film An Education (2009): The Hardest Lesson Is Not Always Taught in School

There’s no shortcut to success. Well unless you are really lucky you might be able to live the high life depending on the variables of your circumstance and whether it works in your favor. If you were to ask me, I’m a big advocate for education but think the system is entirely broken and only the privileged benefit from it (I’ll try not to get political) and most of my good friends are book smart, but street smart not so much.

Good girl falls for the bad boy. It’s a classic tale and that has been told several times. It’s as most girls believe themselves to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast thinking they can tame the wild beast. My mature self is thinking: no dear, life is not a fairy tale and yet we girls were to born to believe it otherwise. Wolves simply don’t care. If they are hungry, they will devour you even if you are sweet.

In this film, directed by Lone Scherfig, written by Lynn Barbe, tells a story about a 16-year-old girl named Jenny who got seduced by a man twice her age. Pressured by her dad and school, Jenny sought anything but a boring life because she really is nothing but boring. All she does is prep for the exams to get into Oxford University and once she gets her degree, she’ll continue the tradition. Yes, a boring life. Until one day, all of that change when she got rescued by a guy who drove a fancy maroon car. He noticed her standing beside the street in the pouring rain with her cello and decided to pull up and offer her a ride, claiming he didn’t want the cello to get damaged by the rain. Sounds reasonable enough. Instantly, she is wooed by his random act of kindness.

Sounds kind of romantic but crazy at the same time. You see, not only was the protagonist blinded, but her parents were also blinded by this seemingly charming guy when she brought him home. He’s a classy crook by profession. No seriously, he really is a criminal that gets away with the law. That’s because he is so good at it. He’s so good that he deceived her parents into believing that he has inside connection with Oxford University. Like any parents, they just want the best for their child. So, they fell into his deception and allowed her to date him even though he’s twice her age (I believe I mentioned his age earlier).

As an audience, the film sort of try to make its viewers empathize with the situation but it was hard for me. I think it’s partially my cultural background as I was taught never to accept gifts from men, especially from strangers. So, I found some events in the film unconvincing even though I knew what it was implying. When dealing with a wolf in sheep clothing, it’s hard to put your guard up because everything happens so quickly. And when you are young, you lack experiences so you don’t know any better. I was once a teenager too. We think we know but we don’t know and it’s not really our fault because wisdom comes with experience and there really is no shortcut. At least that is the message I got from the film.

Yes, I know I was stupid. The life I want, there’s no shortcut.

I quote the protagonist.

Overall, decent film with dramatized effects. Good thing, the film is not all tragedy but a lesson to be learned. Perhaps, that’s why it’s called An Education. So go to school and get an education and be self-sufficient so that you don’t get your heart broken by a no-good sugar daddy.

3 Poetic Movies I Watched

I’m becoming a bit lazy with my introduction or maybe I don’t have much esteem for the fast pace society we have become. Not all of us like reading drawn out long rambling paragraphs. So I will spare you the trouble and give you my list. Perhaps, you might find something worthwhile to watch.

Roman Holiday (on Amazon Prime)

  • Release date: September 2, 1953
  • Director: William Wyler

What is a real holiday? A one without a schedule? Being able to breathe and enjoy the simple things in the present moments that is. This film sure captures it –black and white breathtakingly beautiful shots, especially Audrey Hepburn who looks like a flower with her tiny waist. The male actor, Gregory Peck also look quite handsome pairing up with the actress. It’s quite wholesome, sweet, and just like a dream to watch two people flirting. It’s one of those feel good films where you just want to take a short break from doing whatever you are doing and relax with a cup of coffee, tea or a glass of wine, depending on your preference. Just let the stress melt away. Like a photograph, each scene was mesmerizing and I just realized movies are just moving photographs. Ah…I am dreaming of a holiday in the comfort of my living room.

Rear Window (on Amazon Prime)

  • Release date: August 4, 1954
  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock

I don’t think I have seen an artistic suspense film which occurs in one view, sitting by the window. I love the concept and I believe Silent Hill 4, a survival horror game for the Playstation 2, may have been influenced by this idea of being trapped in an apartment. The plot reminds me of the board game Clue, which involves solving a murder mystery. It’s far from scary but suspenseful enough to be entertained. A news photographer plays the detective and watches his interesting, colorful neighbors going about doing their business until he suspects a murder has been committed just from watching them from his window. The whole feel about the film reminds me of staring inside of a doll house. It’s very staged and I sort of like that. Try the film, you might enjoy watching a glamor ad. The film actually did end with a fashion magazine Bazaar. Fashionably bizarre film indeed. Now, I really want to live in one of those apartments, but I definitely don’t want to be spied on by a peeping tom news photographer.

Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop (on Netflix)

  • Initial release: July 22, 2021 (Japan)
  • Director: Kyohei Ishiguro

This cute animation made me realized teenagers these days must have it hard growing up with social media and smart phones. It only amplifies low-esteem and depression. At that age, I remember I was trying to find my identity through music. There weren’t a lot of distraction from the outside world called Cable T.V., especially not in my household. We get our entertainment from video cassettes and public channels. So, I can only imagined feeling overwhelmed if I were a teenager from this time being exposed to so many influencers from all over the world. The result would be to hide in poetry. Like the male protagonist, I was a shy kid too. Some of us don’t like to draw attention to ourselves because we want to avoid involuntary blushing. Overall, the animation is vibrant and stylish. It feels old but new. Same teenager issues, but just set in a different time.

That’s it for my list of three. Hope you found something worthwhile to watch as well.

Reflecting on The Apartment (1960) Film

Do you know what a mensch is? I didn’t know what it mean before I watched this film. What better way to define a person with integrity and honor by showing what it’s not by starring a bachelor whose goal is to climb the corporate ladder by succumbing to bribery? He allowed his superiors to conduct extra marital affairs at his apartment in the exchange of promotion. Now, I recall reading company’s manual on not to accept bribes because things like this do happen! This film falls under romance/comedy and perhaps that’s just my cup of tea lately, a happy ending with a bit of romance.

Truthfully, I was not all that different from the protagonist C.C Baxter except I wasn’t as mischievous and I did not work for an insurance company. Like him, I wanted to climb the corporate ladder. Unfortunately the company I worked for did not have much growth opportunities to sustain my “bachelorette” lifestyle (it really just means I rather be alone than settle with the wrong person). Plus, people recognized the color of my lipstick and the outfit I was wearing for the day rather than my leadership skills. So promotion was far from reach. In the end, after 5 years, I got no where because 1) the company got acquired 2) I was suffering from mental fatigue and 3) the new company did not align with my basic principles. On the bright side, I met some friends and acquaintances and found love and love conquers all. So I guess being cute has its perks or I was just in the wrong field of work.

So, that is why I enjoyed this film. It’s a happy ending where an ambitious man realized that climbing the corporate ladder is not worth the happiness that he yearned for all along. He was always a little lonely after all when he realized that he was falling for the Operating Elevator Girl by the name of Fran Kubelik, a naïve but charming girl who failed typing test because she couldn’t spell, which was the reason she ended up in that job role to begin with (Why am I beginning to feel like her?). But most of all, she didn’t deserve to be used as a side thing for some sleazy big corporate man who happened to be married with two children. Hmm…, did I recall watching something similar to this, a film about a blonde cheerleader who thought she found the love of her life, called Lying Eyes? There’s a lot of humor to this film that I enjoyed because it’s such an old fashion idea but still rings truth to modern day society: The nice girl falls for the wrong guy and can’t seem to fall for the nice guy who is a bit of a crook himself but realizes how great the good guy is so she leaves the wrong guy for the good guy. Like I said, a happy ending.

I know I made the plot sounds so basic and it wasn’t just the happy ending I liked, but it was the décor and the way it was filmed made it so timelessly romantic. The apartment scenes were just well done, apart from the busy office and bar scenes which highlighted the bachelor lifestyle, making it full of excitement and possibilities but in the wrong sense. Fraternity can only last so long when it’s time to settle down and that is what the protagonist learned. As I mentioned, a happy ending. Glad to see he finally turned around and become a mensch. Quit his job and stop supporting his superiors’ extra marital affairs by drawing some boundaries. Now the only problem Baxter has is to find work. Back to square one, but that’s okay. One door closes but a new one opens. That’s how we should see life. At least that’s how I remain optimistic and happy. Love this film!