Things I Liked – November 2018

Welcomeback to another “things I have liked this month” post in which I talk, and theclue is very much in the title, about things I have liked this month.

Total War: Warhammer II – Curse of the Vampire Coast

Pushing the nerdboat out even further than usual, this is an expansion to a turn-based strategy / real-time tactics computer game based on a tabletop wargame franchise with its roots so deeply embedded in the 80s  that its most iconic character still have massive shoulder pads. Curse of the Vampire Coast adds a few faction to this game and that faction is vampire pirates. I mean, do I really need to say anything more than that? Except maybe that one of the vampire pirates is the ghost of an opera singer with a comedy French accent.

I’ve been a Warhammer fan since way back and I’ve really enjoyed the Total War incarnation because they’re all the fun of the Warhammer world without having to spend an insane amount of money collecting miniatures and an insane amount of time painting them. I’ve also theoretically been a fan of the Total War franchise since way back, although what this is meant in practice—and I’m regularly mocked for this—is that I’ve bought every Total War title that’s been released, played it for about 18 minutes, remembered I suck at strategy games and given up.

I’ve stuck with TW:WII for about 200 hours longer than I normally do chiefly because being really bad a strategy is a lot less frustrating when you get to play with dragons, wizards and zombies.

Boston Legal

So, one evening my Internet was down which meant if I wanted to watch something it had to be on DVD like it was 1472. Digging through the attic I managed to find my old copy of the first series of Boston Legal. Full disclosure: it wasn’t until I IMDBed it to find out what else Rhona Mitra had been in that I realised the whole thing was a spin-off for another series I’d never even heard of.

And, wow, this has aged really badly. At least in some ways. I still very much like its exploration of Denny Crane’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and its peculiarly sensitive and nuanced exploration of no longer being what you once were, which is a strange theme for a legal drama in 2004. But in a post #metoo world a show which is essentially a vehicle for a character whose defining feature is comedy sexual harassment is, um, difficult?

I also have the same mixed feelings I always get when looked at American TV shows written by liberal leaning writers from the Bush Jr era. It’s easy to forget, looking back, how much of a crisis the George W Bush presidency felt like to a lot of left-leaning Americans. And I can’t tell if, in retrospect, the correct way to think about that is “oh dear, you did not know how bad it was going to get.”  Or, “oh dear, all the things you were concerned about at the time were eerily prescient”. Or “actually, taking a step back, an awful lot of the things people are concerned about now are the same things they were concerned about then and not only did the sky not fall in but, in terms of broad legislative agenda, quite a lot of things were pretty similar.”

Anyway, against my better judgement I am really enjoying it.  It’s genuinely really rare to find a show that deals with degenerative mental illness that doesn’t present it as the end of the world—the story of Denny Crane is bittersweet, but it’s not a tragedy. And there are even ways that, at the end of his life, he can value to those around him in ways he couldn’t as a younger, less vulnerable man. And James Spader is, of course, the best at everything ever, and a pleasure to watch, apart from, of course, all the gross sexual misconduct. Your mileage may very much vary on how much of a deal-breaker that is.

This Kirby Pillow

Because who wouldn’t want to sleep with their head in the mouth of a giant Kirby.

Diamond Painting

I’ve semi-sheepishly posted some of my diamond-painted romance covers on social media, which while it hasn’t exactly inspired a frenzy of enthusiasm has made a couple of people curious.

Basically, diamond painting is one of those crafts for people with zero crafting ability. It’s kind of the “we maybe think this could be therapeutic” category next to adult colouring books—although it works a lot of better for me in terms of handling my neuroses because adult colouring books make me incredibly stressed. I mean, you have to choose what colour to do things, you have to stay inside the lines, it’s never looks as good as you think it should in your head: nightmare.

The deal with diamond painting is that it’s pointillism with little resin gems. A kit consists of a printed image divided colour-and-symbol coded squares and little sacks of “diamonds” that you stick directly onto the image based on the codes. It is completely stupid, bewilderingly tacky but kind of amazing. I’ve also discovered you can get classic rom covers so I’m clearly not going to be doing anything else for the rest of my life, unless they also bring out classic fantasy in which case I’ll be doing those too.

If you want to try diamond painting here are my top tips for navigating its weird little world:

  • Resin comes in two types: round and square. Round is slightly shinier and slightly quicker to place, because you don’t have to align the corners. Square can be a bit kinder on fine detail and has a satisfying “click” effect when you place the gems, but takes longer.
  • There are what’s known as “full drill” and “partial drill” – full drill means the whole image is diamonds, partial drill means only a bit of it (usually the foreground image) is.
  •  You can get a range of sizes – when you’re starting out, you probably don’t want to go super massive because you might not enjoy it or might feel overwhelmed. But if you go too small you lose most of the detail through pixilation.
  • When you’re choosing images, I personally go for colour and detail (since having to do big blocks of unremitting black or white is rubbish) and, obviously, the tackier the better. Not all images translate well to diamond so anything too ‘realistic’ looking tends not to come out well.
  • You get diamond painting kits from Amazon, but I’ve lately moved to AliExpress, because there’s a much better selection and they’re a lot cheaper, although you do have to wait 20-40 days from them to be shipped from China.

I have more advanced diamond painting tips for committed devotees but, err, I’ll spare you.

The New She-Ra Thing

Loved the old She-Ra. Love the new She-Ra. Although I am really disappointed that Loo-Kee no longer features, Imp is way less cute and Hordak isn’t blisteringly incompetent.  It did take me a while to get used to the new art style, but I am completely see why the showrunners didn’t think that a set of identical, incredibly idealised, massively over-sexualised body types was totally appropriate for a modern kid’s show.

I also admit to sometimes not being sure that the show isn’t fighting its source material a bit. When it’s working well, you’re getting knowing homages to the original series (like Seahawk as this dashing gloryhound who apparently keeps setting his own ship on fire or Madam Raz as a batty old woman who talks to a wholly inanimate broom) but when it’s working less well you have things that are just enough like the original that they remind you of a context that no longer makes sense. For example, I can completely see why they gave Adora more agency in her choice to leave the Horde rather than having her go from being under a spell to being not under a spell entirely as a result of a magic sword she’s given by a man. But because the Horde is so cartoonishly evil it does sort of make you wonder what the hell she thought she was doing for the first sixteen years of her life and why she and Catra (both in this universe raised by Shadow-Weaver to be leaders of the Horde armies) grew up with such utterly divergent value systems.

I mean, I don’t want to bang on about this too much, and I’m aware I always say that right before I bang on about something for a long time, but the thing that cements Adora’s desire to leave the people who raised her for her whole life is when she discovered that the totally innocent and defenceless village she’s wandered into is the same place she knew she had been asked to attack as her first proper mission a Horde Force Captain. But, well, she’d have seen it was an innocent and defenceless village even if she’d gone into it with the Horde armies. Surely the Horde must have known that at some point they’d be asking her to burn down the houses of adorable villagers. Why the hell did they let her grown up to be the kind of person who would have a problem with that? Especially when Catra clearly doesn’t. Did Adora just not show up on brainwashing day? Or are they making some weird point about inherent virtue in which case that’s kind of messed up, especially since she and Catra are both teenagers, and also because the show is so pointedly woke in most areas.

I also find it interesting, in an entirely judgement-neutral way, to observe that the 1980s She-Ra was targeted at kids, featured adult characters but with ultimately child-friendly storylines. The original Horde are totally non-threatening, their soldiers are fairly explicitly robots so the violence never has any consequences, and most of the plots are about the kind of thing that can be summed up in an explicit moral delivered at the end by a blue-haired elf in rainbow knee socks. By contrast, the 2018 series features teenage characters but tells stories that seem much more pitched towards an adult audience. Hordak is genuinely scary (and also is kind of blatantly supposed to represent the patriarchy), there’s a lot of quite nuanced stuff about Catra and Adora’s relationship and their fairly explicitly abusive upbringing (which, again, somehow only affected Catra #justiceforcatra), and the show tries, at least on some level, to engage with its surprisingly sophisticated science fiction premise (a society that canonically exists as a series of quasi-independent principalities ruled by young women with magical powers who are not inclined to cooperate with one another tries to resist a totalitarian space empire with the aid of a mystery saviour figure who comes out of nowhere and who explicitly used to work for their deadliest enemies). I’m honestly not sure which approach does children the most credit. And the answer is probably neither. It’s almost like people in different eras have different opinions about stuff.

Anyway, still really enjoying it. Because I do love me some magic sparkly princesses, although I wish the flying unicorn got more screen time.

Anyway, that’s it for November. Tell me in the comments what you’ve been enjoying month. Or, y’know, don’t. It’s all cool.

silliness
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22 Responses to Things I Liked – November 2018

  1. Peggy L. Collins says:

    It’s been since the 80’s that I watched Boston Legal, and the only thing I remember about it is a Denny Crane scene where he is in conference with a criminal client who’s going on about the wonders of child sexual abuse. Denny pulls out a pistol and shoots him. And then just keeps repeating “I’m Denny Crane. I felt threatened.” It still cracks me up when I think about it. As a sometime criminal defense lawyer, I can relate.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Oh my, I don’t remember that all – but I’m, err, looking forward to it. Schmidt just arrived and, of course, Candice Bergern is A+. Pretty much the only woman in the entire series they have bothered to characterise.

  2. Cindy says:

    I also have tried coloring books and found it stressful…. so many choices…. i do like the little small cards you can color..less daunting. I have a couple of the diamond kits on my wishlist from last year… might give them a try. Have fun

  3. Kamala says:

    I’m unlikely to try diamond painting but hearing about how it works is fascinating. *raises hand for advanced tips*

    My mother recently visited after first visiting a friend. Anyway, the friend gave her to give me a massive amount of multicolored, wool yarn and a crochet pattern book. So now I have the materials to make a crocheted wool blanket made up of colorful hexagons. I WILL do it. It’s just getting the incentive to figure out the initial hexagon. Then, fairly smooth sailing with an audiobook for company. It’s a tempting thought to dump all the yarn out on the floor and take a photo of the heap.

    That’s something to enjoy in the next months, this last month I’ve been enjoying doing Project Feederwatch through Cornell University, i.e. birdwatching from the comfort of my home for citizen science. 🙂 So basically for 2 consecutive days with at least 5 days between the 2 day period, you sit and count the birds that come to your feeders and record the highest numbers of the species that come by. Right now there are 11 house finches, an anna’s hummingbird, and 9 lesser goldfinches feeding, and squabbling, and making a mess.

    I’m always impressed with the amount of things you do. I mean there’s work and sleeping which takes up a good chunk of time but on top of that there’s writing and all associated writing related tasks, plus being an author on social media, plus probably being your non-author self on social media, plus playing long and lengthy games, plus reading, plus watching things, plus life things, plus diamond painting, plus other hobbies and interests, plus Ducky Cuddle Time… Anyway, hats off to your industriousness.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Doing something vaguely craft with an audiobook on is basically the best. I’m usually listening or watching while I’m diamond painting, though of course the end product is way less impressive than a hexagonal crochet blanket 🙂

      I’m honestly that not industrious. I think if you put together a list of everything you’d done over a month, with a particular emphasis on your leisure activities, you’d also be surprised and how much you’d achieved.

      I’m quite enjoying the ‘things I liked’ series precisely because it makes me feel like I’m actually doing shit with my time.

  4. Francesca says:

    You have saved me, my little sis is notoriously difficult to shops for but she’s recently gotten into paint-by-numbers apps, the diamond painting thing is going to be a neat holiday present for her, I’m excited!!!

    Lately I’ve been watching videos of people playing the piano and you see the notes as they hit, kinda like Guitar hero, and I’m just blown away. Their hands move independent of one another!! I cannot!

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Oh yay! If she enjoys painting-by-numbers I think diamond painting will appeal to a similar impulse. I hope she has fun 🙂

      Oh wow, watching those kinds of videos sounds like the sort of thing I could easily lose hours to.

      *does not google*

  5. Gillian says:

    Your newfound love for diamond painting is quite adorable. I’ve been looking for something crafty to do too, but I have no idea what to choose. I’m kinda thinking of quilling (which totally sounds like a Victorian-era euphemism), but I’m not sure how much patience I’ll need for it. Probably more than I have!

  6. Ellie says:

    I did finish the cross stitch I was making for D and started another small one as a gift for a friend (first time doing that and I both excited and terrified how it will turn out).
    I don’t really watch any TV shows these days, long story. But I’m watching intermittently Turkish dramas/soap operas which are a big thing here. Some of them are quite, others – not so much. The one I have been following the last couple of months is one of the best I have seen. It’s called Brave and Beautiful and the leading actor is a favourite of mine. I haven’t watched the leading actress before but her heroine is gorgeous, short-haired and fiesty. The whole series is full of drama – her father is his mortal enemy, involved in the murder of his father. There are fake marriages with real feelings, secret babies, a whole bunch of villains, old loves and broken hearts. The only thing that worries me is that more often than not Turkish dramas don’t have a HEA. All you need too know about this drama is summed up in the first couple of minutes of its first episode, I think:

    • Alexis Hall says:

      My gosh, that looks amazing! Though, yes, it does not exactly look setup to lead to a HEA – and, I don’t know about you, but with the world the way it is at the moment I am just not up for things that don’t end with people kissing.

      Hope the new cross stitch is going well 🙂

      • Ellie says:

        They already had a sort of marriage of convenience and just got divorced. I was worried so I googled and saw a picture of them with her in a wedding dress so I am hopeful for them ending to together in the end.

  7. Kat says:

    Things I liked:

    Salted caramel Matchmakers – they are gross, sticky to touch, they stick to your teeth, and they make your whole home smell. But my goodness they are yummy and I regret nothing when I eat a whole box in one sitting.

    The Greatest Showman: Reimagined – Panic! at the Disco performing The Greatest Show! Keala Settle, Kesha, & Miss Elliott doing a remix of This Is Me! This soundtrack killed me, reanimated me, and made my heart grow three sizes through sheer joy.

    Saturday 17th November – this was just the best day. We got Strictly in Blackpool and NXT TakeOver: WarGames. On their own, sweaty people in sparkly sequins dancing, and sweaty people beating each other up is AMAZING. Have both happen on the same day and I’m basically in heaven. *floats away*

    Probably the thing I liked the most in November was Matt Riddle teaching me how to say de-butt properly

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Goddamit, I forgot about salted caramel matchmakers – I think I hate them too early in the month and then they fell out of my brain because I have the attention span of a flea. But they are amazing. They taste sweaty somehow. I think maybe it’s all the salt?

      And, yes, Saturday 17th Nov was probably the best day this month. Although tonight’s Strictly is MUSICAL STRICTLY so, y’know.

      Here’s hoping December is equally awesome <3

  8. Kelly from Houston says:

    What I liked in November:

    Ohmygosh!! The new Joey W. Hill came out and I think I was up for 36 hours straight reading. The only reason it was 36 was for dumb stuff like food, WC visits and eye drops ! She always has the best mix of erotic romance, BDSM and vampires *drools*. Now I’m going back to reread all her older stuff and shorts on her website while trying to hang in there for anything new by KJ Charles or a certain glittery author *gets down on both knees to beg*

    Hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!☃️❄️

    • Alexis Hall says:

      Oh, I’m so glad you’re basking in book happiness. Nothing from me until next year, I’m afraid, assuming I’m the glittery gent in question. I needed a bit of a break, but 2019 is going to be super exciting 🙂

  9. Robyn says:

    I couldn’t wait any longer for my order to come in from China, so I went to the craft store and ended up with Starry Night until it gets here! It’s been a week and I can’t handle not doing my DP!! Well, diamond painting not the other…I guess I shouldn’t shorten it!

    I watched A Christmas Prince 2 while devouring xmas candy last night. It was lovely, although I have thoughts…

    The kirby thing….it kinda terrifies me, but my cat would steal it even if I wanted it! 😉

    • Alexis Hall says:

      The kirby thing is terrifying. And hilarious. Hence my love.

      Glad to hear you’re still a diamond painting fanatic. I’m saving a Christmas Prince II until I’m officially on holiday – but very much looking forward to it.

  10. Alice Everafter says:

    Your diamond painting was appreciated and lovely but it looks precarious and stressy to me. How do you not lose all the bits if you sneeze?! I loved the rom cover pic though; I have a whole Pinterest board of 1960s rom cover art. I draw for anti-stress. All those stippling drawings i do are basically diamond art but i don’t lose the pens!
    Loved Kirby – played with my boy years ago – but draw the line at sticking head in thing that could probably double as a cat bed, though cat beds do look comfy (but not as comfy as giant Totoro bed i saw on eBay a while back).
    … Cat might leave things in it. Ew.
    I had a bit of a replay of Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture (because I rushed it first time to get to the end and find out what the story was – not much of one it turns out (i mean there is but it’s bonkers)) as an antidote to excess of a grumpy Geralt DLC, watched (very belatedly) Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, which is utterly charming in a charity-shop mug of tea and love way, and caught London Spy, before it vanishes off Netflix, which wasn’t (despite a zillion wonderful actors including Harriet Walter who is gorgeous and scary).
    Is Warhammer Total War game based on the Games Workshop Warhammer?
    Loved She-Ra first time round. Actually the Time of My Life ad with Skeletor and He-Man last year made me very happy.
    An odd month, November. Bitty and unresolved. Maybe putting up the Xmas tree with my Alan Rickman star on top (insta pics will follow XD) will make things better.

    • Alexis Hall says:

      I can see a potential stressiness in the fiddliness, now you mention it. But I haven’t yet sneezed in the vicinity of my paintings – so have thus avoided disaster.

      I confess I wasn’t a massive fan of London Spy, despite the amazing performances. It just aimless after the first couple of episodes, and seemed determined to embrace some truly heinous cliches. So, yeah, disappointed 🙁

      And, yes, same Warhams 🙂

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