I Love My Old Movies

I have a small VHS player/TV in my bedroom.

I have access to a pretty large amount of movies through streaming services on other, more modern devices.

But that doesn’t stop me from popping in an old VHS tape and watching something in my room every now and then.

The sound quality is quite terrible, and the volume button is broken (all the buttons are broken in some way). If you press it too much, it starts to rewind the tape, so the volume is stuck at 14 (unless you want to fiddle with it). The speakers are also tinny-sounding, like the movie characters are literally stuck inside the boxy TV screaming at you.

The screen is small, probably 10 inches by 10 inches, a puny square. It practically demands you watch your movies fullscreen instead of widescreen.

My bed is situated on the opposite wall from the TV, but the head of the bed is blocked from directly viewing the screen thanks to a large dresser. I have to lie down with my head at the foot of the bed to properly watch things.

Sometimes I’ll watch a movie while I fold clothes in my room. I’ll push a tape inside and the player will seem to accept it gladly. If I’m packing for a trip to see Alya, a movie will help speed the time it takes. Or if I’m doing some much-needed stretching, a brief story on this sad, square screen will occupy my mind while my body is just protesting.

Other times, I don’t want my mind to be occupied. I’ll lie on my bed and put on a movie just so I can ignore it. I’ll stare at the ceiling and zone out for a good hour and a half.

I have a collection of classic Disney animated films courtesy of my mother’s assiduousness when it came to keeping me and my sister entertained. I also have a pile of rom-coms that my mother was gifted (that she forgot about), a handful of random 90s movies (for some reason), and The Ten Commandments (the obvious jewel in my movie collection).

Recently, when Alya took me to a used bookstore that also sells VHS tapes, I bought The Matrix Reloaded and The Last Crusade. I bought them specifically so I could watch them on this cruddy little TV.

I’m terrified it will break down one day, and I will be unable to fix it.

But for now, it’s one of the best things I own.

Literary Sins: Cujo Is Not About a Killer Dog

I still feel bitterly guilty that I haven’t read every single book that Stephen King has written, so yes, I’m calling it a sin that I just barely got around to reading Cujo.

I was rather hesitant to pick up Cujo, which is completely out of the norm for me when it comes to devouring Stephen King books. I read Stephen King more easily than I breathe sometimes.

But Cujo is about a dog, and I love dogs.

I was more than a little reluctant to plunk myself down and read hundreds of pages about a killer dog that terrifies a small town, which is what I thought the book was going to be about. I mean, who else thought that? “Cujo” is a name synonymous with “giant killer dog” the same way “Pennywise” is synonymous with “giant killer clown.”

Imagine my utter surprise upon finishing Cujo and realizing that the book is less about a monstrous canine creature and more about the terrifying nature of pure happenstance.

That’s right, folks. Cujo is less about the dog and more about how downright terrifying the notion is that a series of events happening in a precise manner can lead to the worst day of your life.

I haven’t felt this lied to since I finished Moby-Dick.

The big difference this time is that I’m not upset over how many whale facts that I had to suffer through.

I’m delighted.

Low-key horrified after reading the last page, but delighted with the experience overall.

If you have any intention of reading Cujo, DO NOT CONTINUE READING AFTER THIS POINT. I’m about to just deep-dive into spoiler territory. It’s the only way I can gush. But just know that I was impressed with the novel, and I would recommend it not as some kind of monster book, but more as a slice-of-life horror novel.

Cujo starts with two families: the Trentons and the Cambers.

Donna and Vic Trenton have a very young son named Tad. He’s an imaginative little tyke who is terrified of a potential monster in his closet, but a good kid nonetheless. Donna and Vic are going through a rough patch. Donna cheated on Vic with this guy named Steve Kemp. She called things off with Steve, but in a fit or revenge, Steve sent a letter to Vic (a very not-pleasant letter) making him aware of his trysts with Donna. Vic is made miserable by this information, but has to depart to New York for a meeting that could potentially save his business. Donna is left alone at home with Tad and a car that needs to be taken to a mechanic’s.

Joe Camber is a great mechanic, but a bit of a rough husband to his wife, Charity. They and their son, Brett, live in the boonies, out at the end of a country road. Charity does not want her son to end up a deadbeat mechanic at the end of a country road, so after winning the lottery (literally), she negotiates a trip to her sister’s with Joe as a way to introduce Brett to a better side of life. She buys Joe a fancy piece of equipment in exchange for allowing this, leaving Joe behind to take care of the family dog, Cujo.

What then follows is a sequence of events that leads to tragedy.

  1. Cujo chases a rabbit into a cave that has some bats and gets nipped on the nose after startling them with his bark. This gives him rabies.
  2. Donna’s car breaks down on a grocery shopping trip, so she decides to take it in to a mechanic that Vic recommended the next day, i.e. Joe Camber.
  3. Charity and Brett leave to visit her sister, with Brett noticing that Cujo is behaving oddly the morning that they depart.
  4. Joe decides to take advantage of Charity and Brett’s absence and plans to go to Atlantic City with his neighbor.
  5. His neighbor, in a drunken state, is attacked by a fully rabid Cujo. He is killed.
  6. When Joe goes to pick up his neighbor, he too is also killed at the neighbor’s house.
  7. Tad does not want to be left alone at the house with a sitter while Donna takes the car to Joe Camber’s. He begs to go with her and she relents.
  8. Just as they arrive at Camber’s garage out in the middle of nowhere, the car finally breaks down for good.
  9. Cujo attacks them, but they are able to safely retreat into the vehicle. However, they are stuck there, with no one living close by for miles. (The closest neighbor is dead.)
  10. Steve Kemp, Donna’s former lover, is so incredibly steamed she broke things off, he decides to confront her at her house. Seeing no one is home, he goes around breaking things and ejaculating on the bed in the strangest fit of rage I’ve ever read.
  11. Donna and Tad are stuck in the car for an entire day at this point because no one knows they went there and Vic, her husband, does not think it too odd that they have not called yet. He is also consumed with thoughts about saving his business.
  12. Donna hopes to wait for the mailman to come along and then honk for help, but it turns out that Joe called ahead of time to hold his mail for his pending trip to Atlantic City. She and Tad spend another day in the car. (Cujo is being preternaturally watchful of their vehicle and has attacked several times.) It is summer. It is hot. They have no food or water to last them.
  13. Vic, finally nervous that his wife hasn’t called him or answered his calls, calls the police to check on their place. The cops think he is just being overly worried, but they change their tune when they get to his place and find it trashed. Vic heads home.
  14. After examining the wreckage and the ejaculate, Vic knows for a fact that it was Steve Kemp who did this, and everyone assumes that Steve abducted Donna and Tad. The one thing that is odd is that her car is missing, but given the abundance of evidence that Steve was in the house, he is the prime suspect.
  15. Donna tries to make a run for the house to get to the Cambers’ phone, but she is tired, dehydrated, and hungry. Cujo attacks her and is able to wound her leg and stomach before she is able to escape back into the car. Tad starts having seizures. He is having severe heatstroke.
  16. The police find Kemp, and he admits to breaking in but swears he had nothing to do with kidnapping Donna or Tad. The police learn from Vic when he arrives that Camber’s garage is a place she might have gone to get the car fixed. A cop is sent there.
  17. The cop arrives and sees Donna’s car. Instead of calling this in immediately, he gets out of his car first. He sees them inside, but is attacked and killed by Cujo before he can relay this information to others.
  18. The next day, Vic has an epiphany after seeing that his son’s “monster words” (a paper used to protect him from the monster in the closet) are missing from his room. He connects this with the fact that Joe Camber has a really big dog at his place, and hey, maybe that’s where they are after all.
  19. Donna makes one last-ditch effort to escape to the house after Tad has another seizure. She actually succeeds in killing Cujo just as Vic pulls up.
  20. Vic runs over to help, but by the time he has gotten there, Tad has passed away from heatstroke. Everyone was just too late.

And…well…there you have it. That’s the basic plot to Cujo.

This is Stephen King at his finest, if you ask me. He does excel with B-movie horror and Cthulhu mythos type stuff, but I really feel like he has total mastery over the many wiles of human evil and random chance.

More than Cujo’s brutality, you fear Steve Kemp’s outbursts or Joe Camber’s grim abuse. And you also fear the just insane amount of randomness that led to Tad Trenton’s death.

As I turned every page, my jaw dropped not from shocking scenes but from the sheer suckiness of how one person’s decisions could lead to someone being stuck in a car in the middle of the country in the middle of summer with a rabid St. Bernard patrolling outside.

So many little choices led to Donna and Tad not being found in time.

And that was goddamn terrifying.

More than the poor pooch who got rabies.

I rate Cujo a chilling-book-that-is-less-about-canine-terror-and-more-about-how-random-events-can-just-fuck-you-up.

Making Changes for my Schedule

So work has been more or less kind of kicking my butt harder than ever.

And by that, I mean I’ve had to pull 10-hour days of just sitting in front of a computer.

And I know I previously talked about enjoying the grind of working at a job I love, but it’s gotten so that posting and scheduling here on the blog every five days is getting to be too much. I can’t even imagine posting every three days the way I used to.

I want blogging to be something I do for enjoyment, but lately it’s felt like something I have to rush at the end of a work day.

So even though it feels a little bit like giving up, I’m now going to post once every eight days instead of every five. It actually really pains me to do this, because it feels like I just can’t hack it. It makes me feel like some kind of writing failure.

But as several people have told me, I started this blog to get my writing out there and to have fun with it.

And if holding myself to a schedule is stressing me out, it’s not fun anymore. So I’m going to try out every eight days and see how it goes.

I’m really sorry if any of you guys are put off by this, but I promise that I will still keep blogging for as long as I’m able!

Which means a) until I die, b) until my body is so broken I can’t type, or c) until WordPress ceases to exist and my blog is eradicated from the face of the universe.

Thanks for being understanding, which I already know you will be because all of you readers are supremely Above Average people.

The Whole Production of Cleaning a Bird’s Cage

Like any animal on this planet, my bird Froley poops. Since he spends a lot of his time in his cage, on his cage, or flying over his cage, a lot of that poop ends up encrusted on those bars.

As such, his cages need to be cleaned regularly.

Cleaning his cages (there are two of them) becomes a big production because his regular cage, the one he spends his waking hours in, is rather big. And given the fact that it gets full of poop and feather dust, I have to take it outside to clean it. Wrangling that massive cage through the front door is one way to exercise your arm muscles, that’s for sure.

The first thing you have to do when attempting a thorough cleaning of Froley’s cage is remove all of the toys he has hanging from the roof. Froley watches me in alarm whenever I unclasp his favorite ornaments and put them away in his toy box. If he is feeing especially anxious about their safety, he hisses at me and nips at my arms.

After clearing up the clutter of toys, I have to move Froley to whatever cage I’m not cleaning. He will be bitter about it.

I then have to squat down, grasp the cage by the underside, heave it up, and carry it outside. After that, I also gather Froley’s cage-scrubbing brush, a plastic shopping bag, and some paper towels and take them out too.

In order to wash up every inch of the cage, I have to disassemble it. There are four parts to each cage. There is the plastic bottom that comprises the lower fifth of the cage. There is the plastic tray that slides in and out of the bottom and holds Froley’s poopy papers. There is the single barred floor that rests over the tray and prevents Froley from stepping on his poopy papers. Lastly, there is the interconnected barred surfaces of his cage walls and ceiling.

Each of these parts has to be hosed down and scrubbed. Even if there is no poop clinging to a surface, I spray it with some water just to be safe. The poopy papers have to be thrown out before any watering happens, but after that, it’s seriously just a lot of scrubbing.

Once you’ve eliminated every iota of bird poop, you dry each individual part. I use paper towels, but you could probably also use a more environmentally conscious option.

Then you bring every individual piece of the bird cage back inside, piece by piece. In the safety of my home and under the supervision of Froley, I reassemble his cage. I spread out new poopy papers, hang up new toys so his museum home remains interesting (have I mentioned Froley doesn’t really play with his toys so much as he visually appreciates them?), and then I set up new food bowls.

Froley has to be enticed back into his cage because he seems to prefer it when it’s slightly dirty. He’s really one for the lived-in feel. I have to put millet and Cheerios in his bowls to have him walk in and inspect his freshly cleaned surroundings.

He eyes me grumpily and ungratefully, but deep down I know he appreciates me.

My Top Ten Stresses

I am not the most anxious person in the world (I can actually hear my sister rolling her eyes when she reads this), but there are a couple things that stress me out to varying degrees.

I mean, I’m only human. Who hasn’t felt stress at some point in their lives?

Different problems will wreck my nerves more so than others, so for today’s post, I thought it would be fun (and de-stressing) to talk about some of the things that just get my stomach churning, my mind racing, and my palms sweating.

Here are the top ten issues that stress me out in order from least to most stressful.

10. Environmental Hazards

Yeah, okay, I’ll admit it. I’m very much a homebody. I stay in my house for both work and play because I’m a flabby, lazy couch potato who does not do well in the outdoors. I take walks around my neighborhood every evening, but that’s about it.

As a result, the few times I have gone hiking or visited a National Park have filled me with a bit of trepidation.

That’s not to say I’m terrified of the great outdoors. I mean, clearly this is my lowest-ranked stressor. But I have to admit I scan the ground nervously for snakes and spiders whenever I’m walking out and about away from civilization. And I’ve only recently learned what poison ivy looks like, so now I’ll be on the lookout for that too.

9. Family Disagreements

It is very rare that I get into a blow-out with members of my family. For one thing, I’m a fairly amiable person, if I do say so myself. I don’t like to make waves, and I adore my family, foibles and all.

But when we do butt heads…

Man, nothing stresses me out more than knowing that my family is mad at me.

8. Work Confrontations

I like to know I’ve done a good job at the end of every work day. Knowing that I have helped assist in keeping things running or that I got a coworker out of a tight spot are very gratifying aspects of my job.

But I can get uber anxious at the thought that I messed something up or that a higher-up believes I did a poor job. I live in a forever-terrified state that my boss will one day think, “Huh, she just sucks at her job. But it’d be too much of a hassle to replace her. She might as well stay.”

And being in a position where people work under me is just as stress-inducing. I always wonder if they respect me or if they think I’m too impersonal or if they think I’m a laughingstock.

7. Health Issues

Funnily enough, I’ve gotten better about stressing about my health. While the notion of falling ill and having to see a doctor or getting a shot or needing stitches is stressful, I’m way more chill about it than I used to be.

After years of WebMD telling me I have cancer when I looked up “itchy sore throat” or “stomach cramps,” I have become inured to the idea of getting a major disease.

Fun side fact: I’ve always kind of thought I would die from some health-related problem.

6. Social Relations

Damn, other people can be the cause of most of my anxiety. I really wish I didn’t spend half as much time thinking about what other people think.

COVID-19 has actually kind of helped in that regard, because now I’m so people starved, I don’t care if I look or sound like an idiot to them.

But almost nothing beats saying something stupid in front of a person I’d like to impress, and then standing in the shower with shampoo in my hair hours later wondering, “Why the fuck did I say that?”

5. Driving

Yeah, driving in traffic stresses me out. Sue me. (Don’t sue me.)

I also don’t like driving with another person in the car because both my mother and my sister, FOR SOME REASON, get hyper-freaked-out whenever I’m driving. They think I’m going to be some reckless driver or something, and I kind of want to look at them and be like, “You are getting on my case for being a bad driver?” They have forever damaged my confidence in my driving skills.

(Alya, mom, I love you very much. Please don’t be mad. Refer to Stressor #9.)

4. Performance Anxiety

If I’m doing anything and I know people are watching, my performance suffers. Like when I’m playing a video game, and I’m playing with people who are a) better than me, b) super competitive, or c) men, my skills just nose-dive.

It’s gotten so bad that I’ll start preemptively putting myself down first in order to lower expectations on how well I’ll play.

I think I tried trash-talking once, and I got blasted into tomorrow by everyone else. It’s like they went out of their way to put me down. Never again.

3. Money Issues

Yeah, anyone who needs to survive has felt this one.

I don’t make the best money, but thanks to recent promotions, I’m finally in a financially safe place.

However, nothing stresses me out more than having something go wrong with my finances, be it a missing check, a problem with my bank account, or an error with some online banking. If something like that happens, it will consume my every waking thought, and it will make falling asleep a nightmare.

2. Tech Woes

Oofsies.

So I make my living working from home. In order to do this, I need a functioning computer, phone, and Wi-Fi connection. If something amiss happens with any of these three things, my world is turned upside down. It turns into a cavalcade of stresses that leak into other anxiety-inducing areas.

I lose access to work, I lose my ability to earn money, I lose my ability to stay connected and in touch with people. It just sucks.

In addition to that, it can also affect my relaxation time if, let’s say, my Xbox or TV starts to crap out on me.

And the only ways to fix these problems…are usually expensive.

1. Pet Problems

Nothing churns my stomach more than when an issue regarding Froley arises. When he gets sickie or when his poops are not right or even when I have a nightmare that he flew out of the house and I couldn’t find him that shatters any equilibrium I could have had in a day.

Living My Best Life in The Ascent

The Ascent was a day-one launch title on Xbox Game Pass. Because I am ardently in love with my Xbox Game Pass subscription, I jumped on the chance to play it with my friends, Bubba and Damien, as soon as it came out.

Now, I didn’t play the game to its conclusion. Far from it. So this isn’t going to be a review. It’s more of a hilarious side story.

Okay, so in The Ascent, you play as cyberpunky indentured servants, called Indents, to a mega-corporation on a planet that is basically a giant city. You roam around waste processing plants, neon-colored streets, and packed tenements. Most of the gameplay revolves around shooting mechanized bad guys and thugs in sunglasses.

It’s as fun as it sounds.

Bubba, Damien, and I made our way through the tutorial mission pretty quickly. I may have gotten distracted by the copious amount of lore entries in my codex menu, but we still had oodles and caboodles of fun running and gunning around. We jam-packed our skill points recklessly, choosing whatever attributes we wanted with little thought to crafting a serious build. We just picked up whatever guns suited us and went forth.

At some point, we bit off more than we could chew.

Though we were leveling up decently, certain areas in The Ascent are locked off to lower-leveled characters. The game does this by having these spots spawn insanely high-leveled enemies.

Bubba, Damien, and I were rather slow to leave one of these areas, and we all got slaughtered.

When my character respawned, imagine my surprise when I appeared to be invisible.

It was like my character had just disappeared, and all I could see was the environment.

I tried moving around, and the background moved with me, as if the character model was still there. It was at that point that I noticed my character wasn’t entirely gone.

My gun was still there.

A teeny little pistol was floating in the air, the only indication that my Indent was where it should be.

After calling out to Bubba and Damien, I learned that Damien was also cursed with this invisibility. Bubba was the only one we could see.

We briefly considered restarting the game to see if our characters would come back, but after a minute or two of goofing around and playing literal hide-and-seek, we decided to continue on, playing the game as floating guns.

What followed was the most side-splitting romp I’ve ever had as an inanimate object. Damien and I looked ridiculous. We were like two Jiminy Crickets on Bubba’s shoulders, twin gun cronies helping him mow down packs of Ferals, invisible cyberpunk warriors of the night.

I mean, we still had to take cover on occasion, because our health pool could still go down, but the visual of a pistol hiding behind a wall made everything worth it.

We haven’t hopped on to play The Ascent in a while, but I enjoyed it despite the various glitches that ended up plaguing us. Damien got stuck in a gun shop twice, and Bubba was unable to leave a game at all through the in-game menu (it was like The Ascent wouldn’t let him go). But what can I say? I have a soft spot for things that make me laugh so hard I can’t breathe.

Pixar Still Surprises Me: Luca Review

Pixar has an almost unparalleled pedigree of success. I struggle to think of a franchise, brand, or company that equals Pixar when it comes to churning out quality content on a consistent basis.

Am I figuratively gobbling Pixar’s knob right now?

Maybe, but can you blame me?

Year after year, movie after movie, Pixar releases touching stories about the importance of family, getting in touch with your emotions, and the meaning of life, to name a few themes.

So whenever I hear a Pixar movie has come out, I make it a goddamn point to watch it because we all need some heartfelt stories in our lives.

Luca, Pixar’s latest film that released on Disney Plus, surprised me in many ways. While I wouldn’t rank it up there with my all-time favorites (Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3), it was far better than I expected it to be.

Luca is a young sea monster who spends his days herding fish. His parents warn him about going up to the surface, but Luca’s imagination, curiosity, and chance meeting with a free-spirited fellow of the same age spurs him to seek adventure above the waves.

Luca and this newfound friend, Alberto, spend days on the surface, reveling in the freedom they can experience as humans. The only catch is that if water is splashed on them, they revert to sea monster form, and the people living nearby have a hankering to hunt down monsters.

But Luca and Alberto have big dreams to own a Vespa and travel the world, so they sign up for a contest that could earn them some money to pay their way to freedom. What then follows is a hilarious adventure that drives home what the real meaning of friendship is.

Even more so than the typical Pixar movie, Luca is gorgeous. I would rank it up there with Finding Nemo in just how beautiful the world looks. Plus, Luca daydreams an awful lot, which means these imaginative sequences where he touches the moon or travels the world on a Vespa are wonderfully realized. These images coupled with the stellar soundtrack make the narrative twice as uplifting as it already is on its own.

True, the story follows a predictable path, but just because you can guess what will happen next does not mean it isn’t satisfying. I mean, I still teared up regardless when conflict arose (and when it was resolved).

Luca also features plenty of Italian cultural quips that probably went right over my head. I would almost compare it to Coco in how steeped the movie is in culture. But while I could easily comprehend the humor (the true and real and accurate humor) of Miguel’s grandmother ensuring he ate more tamales than his stomach could handle, I think some of Luca’s went over my head.

And while following your dreams is a fairly tired theme narrative-wise, Luca is less about the pursuit of your dream and more about the people around you who see you reach it. Luca hammers home that true friends and family will be the support you need to accomplish anything, even if they get left behind in the process. Acceptance is also a huge part of Luca, from accepting your child’s choices in life to accepting the differences that set us apart.

When I first approached Luca, I thought I was going to get A Bug’s Life level movie, which is by no means bad. But after watching it, I would actually place Luca a step or two above that, closer to Ratatouille, after finishing it.

Side note: None of these comparisons and rankings will make any sense unless you agree with my taste in Pixar movies. I am so sorry.

I rate Luca an endearing-story-about-friendship-and-dreams-that-will-have-you-silencing-your-inner-Bruno-and-have-you-leaping-after-your-own.

Life Update #11: All Xbox, All the Time

Hey, everyone!

So while I’ve been writing, outlining, typing, and scheduling blog posts in advance, I realized today I completely forgot to let you guys know that the amazing, the impossible, the miraculous has happened.

I got myself an Xbox Series X.

For those of you not in the know, it has been abominably difficult to get your hands on the newest generation of game consoles this time around, be it a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X. These babies launched last year, and I just now got my hands on one. Scalpers are running rampant, and it’s actually a serious issue. But thanks to some amazing friends who ensure I stay in the know, I was able to jump on my local Best Buy’s latest shipment when they went on sale and nab one.

And I have been obsessed with playing with it.

Honestly, it’s nothing too too special. It’s an impressive piece of hardware, make no mistake. But it doesn’t offer me much that was different from my Xbox One S.

However, its newness has just enamored me. When I first got it, I shamefully ditched my D&D group twice just so I could spend long hours playing a game. I marvel at the almost nonexistent load times. I gasp at how well some of the games look (though my TV could probably use an upgrade as well).

And may I just say that Xbox Game Pass is an utter delight? I wasn’t sure how I would feel using a Netflix-like service for my video games, but not a day has gone by that I don’t make full use of it. I’m playing new games left and right. I’m dabbling in genres I might not have tried out otherwise. The power of the Series X coupled with the myriad of games thanks to my Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription has made my time indoors chock-full of adventure.

Plus, the mini-fridge look just suits my gaming shelf perfectly.

Stop Telling Me I Can Work Anywhere at Anytime

I work as a freelance writer and editor. I keep regular-ish hours and spend a lot of time in front of a computer.

It’s nothing glamorous, but I often find that people have a romanticized idea of what working as a freelancer is like. They think a freelancer frequents cafes, plugging in a laptop at a cozy little table with a cup of coffee nearby. Or they picture someone who travels a lot, working at various hours of the day as they go on worldly adventures.

Obviously, no two freelancers are alike, and there may very well be somebody living this idealized lifestyle I’ve just described.

But I doubt it.

A typical workday for me starts with a trip to the bathroom and a brushing of teeth. I usually work six days a week, about seven hours a day.

Once I start working, I do not stop until I’m done. I will do working meals (if I remember to eat), and remain fixated on work for the duration of my time in front of the computer. I do get up maybe every fifteen minutes to stretch my legs for a couple of seconds, but I am laser-focused on accomplishing tasks.

Seriously, I cannot stress enough the fact that I am genuinely working. I’m not just kerfuffling on the the internet like some people seem to think.

People also assume that my schedule is flexible, that I can work anytime and anywhere.

This always implies that I can’t get distracted like a normal person or that I perform equally well around the clock.

True, I get to choose my own hours, but being a freelancer means you have to build your own work ethic. No company or superior provides structure for your work hours. That responsibility falls on your shoulders.

And you also have to build your own work environment. I am most comfortable working at home, with some music of my choice playing in the background and an available bathroom that I don’t have to keep coughing up dough for endless cups of coffee in order to access.

I used to feel pretty morose about freelancing. I would kowtow to opinions that it “wasn’t a real job.”

But you know what?

It is.

It takes discipline and hard work to be a freelance writer.

So please stop telling me I can write anywhere at anytime.

Fighting Inner Demons – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Review

Finishing Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice presented me with a strange conflict.

On the one hand, the experience of Senua’s journey is undeniably one of the most powerful I’ve ever experienced in a video game. By far, it’s one of the most immersive game narratives out there.

But on the other hand, the combat and some of the puzzle sequences were an absolute drag.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On my never-ending quest to try experiencing every game that Xbox Game Pass offers me without getting distracted by Risk of Rain 2 yet again, I decided to play Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. I had heard nothing but good things about it, and the trailer for its sequel looks amazing as heck. Gritty and dark and hauntingly beautiful.

So one evening, when I had slumped off of my computer chair from work and felt marginally up for playing a new game, I booted up Senua’s Sacrifice, put on headphones (because the game specifically recommends you do so), and got a bit of coffee to see me through the evening.

Holy heckin’ heck, I did not need the coffee for long.

Story

The story follows Senua as she travels to Helheim, the Norse version of hell. Her lover was murdered during an attack on their village while she was away, so she carries his wrapped-up head on her belt with her so she can reunite it with his soul in Helheim.

Right off the bat, you start hearing voices, and these are voices that Senua hears too. Constantly, these various voices will whisper derision, praise, advice, and warnings that you have to either ignore or heed. Senua suffers from a mental illness, and these voices are a part of her daily existence.

When you use headphones, the power of these voices are doubly effective. They sound like they come from behind you, next to you, or far away. Sometimes they will shout at you to turn back. Other times they will call you an idiot.

I cannot understate how incredible these voices are utilized to put you in Senua’s shoes.

In addition to that, light from fires and such will distort your vision, and if Senua is in the dark, her fear can potentially cripple her and have you restart from a past checkpoint.

During her journey to Helheim, she battles various creatures, but you are not entirely sure which of these are real foes or which come from her own head.

Puzzles

Senua progresses through some areas by solving puzzles, many of which involve perspective. You have to find shapes and symbols in the environment, standing at the perfect spot in order to line up rock formations or tree branches.

There was this one puzzle where I had to find a symbol made of light, and the entire area was covered with them. I had to walk around for about an hour looking for the place to stand to focus them.

Later on, there is a puzzle where you have to use hearing alone to avoid enemies in the dark, and if you are not wearing headphones, expect to mess up multiple times.

I’m not overly fond of these types of puzzles where there is little to no explanation for how to solve them, but on the bright side, you have ample time to figure them out. And Senua’s Sacrifice’s environments are so gorgeous, it soothes your irritation.

Though, erm, I did have to look up this one raven puzzle online. And I can hand-to-my-heart say I would not have solved it otherwise.

Combat

When phantasmal enemies attack Senua, she pulls out her sword and you enter a combat encounter. Despite my initial, wild swings, I learned that combat should not be a frenetic affair in Senua’s Sacrifice. Instead, it should be slow and measured.

You can either strike, parry, or dodge, and you should never spam any of these buttons. You have to read what your opponent is going to do using their body language and then respond accordingly. Senua automatically locks onto targets during combat encounters, so you are always facing an enemy.

There are only a small variety of enemy types, unfortunately. Fighting them over and over again gets stale fast. In addition to that, the locking-on mechanic prevents you from easily being able to address the phantoms that appear behind you.

So even though the voices in your head will shriek, “Behind you!” there is nothing you can do to face that opponent in time.

The latter half of the game throws groups of enemies at you at the same time. This ups the difficulty of combat immensely, and I got frustrated each time tight corners, unwilling lock-ons, or ill-timed dodges made me lose a fight.

Combat was my least favorite aspect of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and I audibly groaned every time.

However, overcoming obstacles is all part of what the game is trying to show you.

Themes

Senua’s Sacrifice covers the experience of suffering psychosis. This is based on what I’ve read about it and what the game itself states before you play it.

But that is not all that the game covers thematically. Senua is grieving for her lost love, the one person who made her feel safe in a world troubled by intolerance and shadows. Her whole journey to Helheim also has her confronting this grief and her low self-esteem.

Though you may not suffer from the same mental ills that plague Senua, her story is one that can reverberate with anyone who has felt misunderstood or alone.

It’s this more than anything that makes Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice an unforgettable game. Its ending is so moving, I don’t even want to describe what happened, which I’ll admit is a bit of a cop-out. But I think it’s something that should be experienced for yourself.

The game leans more toward a walking simulator than the action game you might have been expecting, but it accomplishes immersion in a way that only a video game can.

I rate Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice a trip-through-the-mind-that-helps-contextualize-the-struggles-some-go-through-in-a-way-that-is-simply-beautiful.