White Lion Parade

As you are likely to know, I do enjoy shining the Trusty Water Spotlight onto other creatives and artists that I know and today I’d like to tell you a little about a band called White Lion Parade, featuring a good friend of mine on the drums. Here’s a music video that they released recently:

It sounds good, doesn’t it? It’s the kind music that I don’t think you find that often these days. To be honest, I am terrible at analysing music critically, so that last sentence probably has no real value, but I will say this: it’s good. It’s the kind of music I’d like to hear on in the background while having a drink in a pub and which would then leave me with the impression that that pub had a good atmosphere and I’d later tell other people that it had a good atmosphere. Anyway, just listen to the song – it’s good to support independent artists!

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Assassination Classroom, Volume 6 by Yusei Matsui

Following Volume 5, the pace doesn’t slow down in the sixth volume of Assassination Classroom! We get a chance to look into the backstory of one of the characters, new characters are introduced, other characters return and it’s all topped off with Koro-sensei’s endless charm.

The main event in this volume is based around Class E planning to go swimming. They’ve noticed that Koro-sensei seems to be weakened when he gets wet, so the pool could create the perfect stage upon which to assassinate him. Let’s just say, that their swimming takes quite a dramatic turn.

A thought occurred to me during this volume. Koro-sensei is so nice and protective about Class E, that the idea of killing him must be very hard for them. I mentioned in my review of the previous volume, that the ‘evil’ side of his character seems to be getting toned down and this was especially true this time. I don’t think he once mentions that he’s going to destroy the Earth, but he does do several caring and heroic things. Not only is the thought of his death likely to be hard for the students, but it also started to become hard for me, the reader.

To two students, Kataoka and Terasaka both get to spend a little more time in the spotlight and receive a good amount of character development. I like both more following this volume and I appreciate that Yusei Matsui is taking the time to flesh out each and every student – originally, it was just a class full of generic teenagers, but slowly we’re getting to know them all.

Overall, I’m still having a great time with it and am eager for the next volume! One last thing: I’m always careful about spoilers, but I will just say that Itona turns up again in this volume, so look forward to that.

Rating: 9.8/10

Buy it here.

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LEAKED Super Smash Bros. Ultimate John-Boy Walton Reveal Trailer

(Thanks to a Waltons-insider that I know, I was able to get my hands on the script for John-Boy Walton’s as of yet unannounced reveal trailer for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I present it here in its unedited form. Please read, enjoy and await the release of this game with bated breath.)

[The camera pans over the trees and down towards the classic white house on Walton’s Mountain. What we’re seeing is identical to The Waltons Season 1 opening sequence, complete with the classic theme song – an attempt to misdirect the viewer into thinking that this is simply a trailer for The Waltons and not a Smash Bros. reveal.

We get the first clue that this is not simply the normal opening sequence when The Waltons logo appears in nice, crisp HD. It is also the white colouration used from Season 2 onward, rather than Season 1’s yellow.

The camera zooms into John-Boy’s bedroom window.  Instead of cutting to the usual clip of him writing, as is usually the case, we cut to him puzzling over a letter. Instead of footage, we are now seeing ultra-realistic graphics which actually portray John-Boy with greater clarity than was possible with 1970s camera.

We see a close up of the letter in his hands and notice that it is sealed with the Smash Bros. emblem. We see his eyes as he opens it and a glowing light is reflected in them. Slowly the classic theme song fades away.

Cut to a shot of the house from the outside.]

JOHN-BOY: YAA-HOO!

[Camera now shows John-Boy running excitedly down the run, away from his house. Pan to a confused looked Zebulon and Esther, who merely shrug and shake their head.

What we see now is gameplay footage.  John-Boy is still running, just as he was a second ago, but is now on the Battlefield stage. He seamlessly falls into a sliding kick and the camera zooms out to show that he is sliding towards Link, Bowser and Ridley – all of whom are launched off screen.

John-Boy then stops and the camera zooms in on him dramatically, capturing him in a heroic pose. The background goes completely brown and words appear on-screen.]

Caption: John-Boy Walton Says Goodnight!

A remix of The Waltons theme song begins to play, it is much more intense than any we have heard before. What follows is a montage of clips. Corrin is standing ready to attack, when John-Boy jumps onto him from off screen, pinning him to the ground. Mario runs towards John-Boy, but suddenly Blue the Mule appears and bucks wildly, launching him away. Wario and John-Boy stand side by side, Wario gets onto the Wario Bike and starts driving away, John-Boy immediately after gets into his beige car and starts driving in the same direction, only more quickly. In an act of reverse book-burning, Bowser breaths fire on John-Boy, who is unscathed and then reached into the flames and pulls out a German Bible, which he then throws at Bowser. After this last clip, the music comes to a finale and the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate logo appears on screen.

One last clip is played. John-Boy and Donkey Kong are standing side by side.]

JOHN-BOY: (shrugs) I reckon I seen better days on the mountain. (a taunt)

[Donkey Kong responds with his usual shrugging taunt.

Cut to Sakurai sitting in the studio. Smash Bros. music plays quietly in the background.]

SAKURAI: Hello. I’m Masahiro Sakurai of Sora Ltd. I am delighted to reveal to you all that John-Boy Walton of the classic television show The Waltons has finally been added to Smash. Ever since the days of Super Smash Bros. Melee he has been a highly requested character, so I hope that you will be pleased with his inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

I must make a confession to you all. He was the true winner of the Smash Ballot, but unfortunately, we were unable to implement him as a playable character due to licensing issues with Warner Bros. Studios. After a long process of negotiation, John-Boy has finally  earned the spot in this game that he always deserved.

Fans of The Waltons Season 8 and Season 9 may be concerned that the trailer only showed John-Boy as portrayed by the actor Richard Thomas, while many grew to love him during the brief stint in which he was portrayed by Robert Wightman. Please put your concerns to rest, as Robert Wightman’s portrayal will be included as an alternate outfit [cut to a character select screen where the player switches from Richard Thomas to Robert Wightman, then both of them are shown on screen together at once.]

One last little treat we have for you, is his Final Smash, which recreates the iconic “goodnight” scene from the end of each episode. All characters are transported to the Walton house and John-Boy says goodnight to them all. Back on the battle field, they are all fast asleep and vulnerable to John-Boy’s attacks.

As always, his family and friends are there to support him and John, Olivia, Esther, Zebulon and even all of his brothers and sisters appears as Assist Trophies [a quick clip of each character.] And there are even some surprise appearances [clip of John-Boy using Rover the Peacock as his recovery move.]

We are excited to be able to bring you this new update. Until next time, all I can say is “Goodnight, everybody!”

[Sakurai bows. Cut to black. Copyright notices.]

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Beyond Ghibli

A good friend of mine recently pointed me in the direction of an excellent YouTube channel called Beyond Ghibli. It’s a fairly young channel and is run by a friend of a friend, so I am keen to point people in its direction. What you’ll find here are some wonderful pieces of anime analysis.

Below is my favourite of their videos: it compares The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to the film Princess Mononoke, a game and a film I like very much. I had never really considered their similarities before, but now that they’ve been pointed out, they seem so obvious. I really appreciate the amount of thought and reflection that went into the video and it as a very interesting video to watch. If you’ve an interest in either of those two things, you’re going to enjoy watching this. So give it a watch, subscribe to the channel and have a look at their other work.

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Miitomo

When I first heard that Nintendo were going to start making games for smartphones, I was pretty excited. I was so excited, in fact, that I went out and bought my first smartphone. I’m really glad I did because those things are revolutionary and I really should have gotten one sooner. So many aspects of day to day life have become so much easier since then. But, anyway, I’m going off on a bit of a tangent – the first app Nintendo released was Miitomo and it wasn’t actually much of a game after all,but rather a sort of Mii-based social media tool, which is still an interesting concept.

I remember when I first started using it – I was pretty excited seeing my Mii (in HD) on my phone. It seemed so new and exciting, because I never expected to see it on anything but a Nintendo console. What I was also very pleased with was that I was able to import my Mii from my Nintendo Account, which itself was imported from my 3DS (which could have been imported from my Wii, but wasn’t) so people had the chance to continue using the same Miis they’d had all along. It does, of course, also contain a complete Mii Maker, so you could build a Mii from scratch or even have one automatically made based on a photo.

Once you’d either imported or created a Mii, you’ll find it entering an apartment. You’d then be asked questions about your day, your life, your interest or other things like that. You write your answer and your Mii then speaks it in a comical, robotic voice (which you choose for it.) It was very clearly built on the structure of Tomodachi Life, so that’s a good point of reference for anybody who’s played that.

The other thing you could do was listen to the answers your friends have given to these same questions and you’d get to see their Miis answering them yourself. Since all of my friends are hilarious, they usually wrote funny or sarcastic answers and I had a lot of fun going through them. You could also have your own Mii give answers to their replies. I wish more of my friends had the app, because it would have been so much more fun if they did – you are able to see the answers of strangers, but it’s just not the same.

Answering questions and listening to other peoples’ answers would earn you coins and tickets, which were then used to buy clothes for customisation. You could either get clothes by buying them in the game’s shop, or by playing an extremely chancy game where you have to drop Miis at just the right time to land on the right platforms. That game was so unfair, but it was the only way to get special items. It was definitely built to encourage micro-transactions.

You could get some pretty cool clothes for your Mii actually. For example, there were outfits based on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon, Fire Emblem Heroes and also Kirby and Super Mario characters. I was disappointed that there was never anything related to the Donkey Kong series, but I did enjoy collecting the Nintendo outfits. There was even a very cool cross-promotion where a Miitomo-themed Splatfest was held in Splatoon which gave me the cool feeling of all my Nintendo games being connected.

Overall, it was a really nice little app. You’ll notice I say “was” and have been referring to it in the past tense throughout the review and that’s because the service was entirely online and has now been discontinued. I hate when that happens. Such is the state of modern gaming – enjoy things while you can, you never know when they’ll disappear forever.

Rating: 7/10 (though it’s very hard to rate in the same way I rate other games)

 

 

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Picking Up Where You Left Off

In the past, some people have said that one of my best qualities was the fact that I can go a long time without seeing somebody, but then immediately pick up where I left off with them and it’s like we haven’t been separated at all when we do next meet. I like that people appreciate this about me, but I’d also argue that this is not a quality of my own, but just something people find easy to do once their friendship reaches a certain level. It’s not any effort to easily resume for me, because that’s what it feels natural to do and there are certain people for whom it would never feel unnatural to do this with.

It’s like watching a TV show you love but haven’t seen in years, resuming an old favourite video game or coming back to a familiar place. It’s always going to be very comfortable and I am exceedingly fortunate to have several people in my life with whom this is quite possible. I think you eventually reach a point where you couldn’t not care about somebody (if you’ll forgive the use of a double negative.) Once you’ve been through a certain amount with somebody, it’s impossible to turn back and no matter what you do, you won’t ever forget about them and meeting them will always be a delight.

Having been reunited with a good friend after a sad absence of one year today, I was feeling especially appreciative of this fact.

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Stop

In recent times, I have started to take an evening run after my evening walk. What I quite like about this is that it makes me all tired by the time I get into bed and helps me sleep much easier. It’s also nice to run around freely in the middle of the night – not only is everything peaceful and nice, but there are less people to avoid as well. This was something that always put me off the idea of running in the past – having to swerve around all the people who are just going about their days as usual.

Unfortunately, this plan wasn’t as foolproof as I thought it was. The other night I was merrily running along and I could see a man standing near the path not too far away and I could tell I’d end up going right passed him. Now, this shouldn’t really have been any kind of issue, but as you can tell by the fact that I’m writing about it in this blog, it is going to turn out to have been an issue.

As I approached him, he suddenly shouted, in possibly the loudest possible human voice “Stop!” as he stared right at me. I looked at him, I looked around, then I looked back at him and shrugged in a sort of “what are you talking about?” sort of way, but since I was running I was out of breath and not really able to articulate anything.

I thought that it was strange, but carried on my way. Then he shouted again. And again. He just wouldn’t stop. Even as I got quite far away, I could still just about hear his crazy shouting voice in the distance. Always just a single word “stop!”

So what does all of this mean? What’s the point of this story? I have no idea. It’s just a random thing which happened to me as part of the random and structure-less chain of events that make up my life.

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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Oliver Twist (it is, after all, one of the most well known novels by one of the most well known authors in history) but who really knows much about it, other than perhaps the line “Please, sir, I’d like some more.”? Well, don’t worry if that’s the extent of your knowledge – the purpose of this review is to inform you!

The story follows the life of a young orphan (that’s Oliver) who runs away from the workhouse after years of abuse which he can no longer take. Upon leaving there, his life takes many twists and turns and he encounters many memorable characters. I’d go into more detail if it weren’t for the fact that a lot of the developments in the story are quite unexpected.

The different characters Oliver crosses paths with left quite an impression on me. There’s the eternally pessimistic and grumpy old man, Mr. Grimwig, who I always found very funny. There’s the hardened criminal Bill Sikes, who is rather intimidating. Mr. Bumble, the bumbling fool whose in charge of the people at the work house and who does a good job of being the book’s comic relief – as awful as he is. But they’re not all cynical and bad people – there’s also Rose Maylie who is endlessly kind and optimistic and while she is perhaps a little too perfect, I quite like her.

Then there’s Fagin… Fagin is a character who’s quite enigmatic and mysterious. He finds stray children and ropes them into the life of crime, winning them over with his endless charm. He features heavily in a chapter I found really profound and I always quite liked him, but the problem is that he’s quite an antisemitic character. I don’t mean that Fagin has antisemitic attitudes, I mean that he is a negative Jewish stereotype and it’s unfortunate as he didn’t need to be written that way. Doing a bit of research, it seems that Charles Dickens was criticised for this at the time and felt very guilty about it – to the extent that some later editions had been edited to tone it down. So that’s something.

My favourite character, however, was a woman called Nancy who is an associate of Fagin and Bill. While she is entangled in the world of crime, she isn’t really very happy with it. She has such a great character arc and I felt that most emotionally powerful moments in the book were all related to Nancy.

Strangely, despite the title, I didn’t feel like Oliver himself was ever given that much development. Since the story is built around him, I would have liked more of an insight into his mind and personality. This was probably the book’s biggest flaw, because it meant that the parts which only featured Oliver could sometimes feel a little bland – although having said that, Dickens does sometimes flesh it out with some scathing and sarcastic social commentary, which I always appreciated. But despite the odd chapter which didn’t feel quite so engaging, I thought it was a pretty good story overall and definitely worth a try if you like classic literature.

Rating: 7.8/10

Buy it here.

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25 Million Steps

In 2011, (around the same time I started writing this blog, actually) I got myself a 3DS. I was very impressed by many of its features – in particular the fact that it had a built in pedometer. I soon discovered that 10,000 was a healthy number of steps to get in a day and so ever since I’ve tried to get that number of steps each and every day.

As of today, my 3DS has recorded 25 million steps as I’ve carried it around these last seven years and those are some pretty significant steps – in terms of quality, not just quantity. Those are the steps I took when walked into my school to get my A Level results. These are the steps I took on my first day of university – these are the steps I took on my last day of university. These are the steps I took on my first visits to: Ipswich, Wolverhampton, Plymouth, Yeovil, Birmingham, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, Felixstowe and Oxford. These were my first steps into a Nando’s – my first steps onto an aeroplane. The steps I’ve taken around the offices of eight different jobs. The steps that took me to home to seven different beds.  They’re the steps I took on a ten mile sponsored walk and the steps I’ve taken pacing back and forth at the bus stop. These are the steps which walked me through what have perhaps been the most emotionally significant years of my life.

Who knows where my next 25 million steps will take me? I really couldn’t answer that, but I can’t wait to find out. Between taking my first step and twenty-fifth millionth step, not much has remained constant – people have come and gone, I’ve started and left university, I’ve started new jobs and left them. I as a person have evolved and my priorities and needs are very different to those of my 2011 self. But I have always had my 3DS (even if it’s actually two different systems, with the memory transferred from one to the other in 2015) and I hope it will still be there when I take the fifty millionth step in what I presume will be 2025.

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Money in Relationships

As part of my everyday job, I manage Facebook Ads. While doing this, there’s something particularly strange that I have realised. I work for a charity and it’s quite common for women to tag their partners and then ask them if they can sign up to make a regular donation. In almost all cases, their partner will say no, because all charities are a scam (of course.)

It baffles me for two reasons. First of all, why do all of these women feel the need to get the approval of their partners before making a relatively minor financial commitment? Obviously, I don’t know the exact details of their situation, but just hovering the mouse over their names shows me that more often than not they have a pretty good job. If they’re earning a pretty good salary, what concern is it of their partner if they decide they want to give a small amount to charity each month?

The second thing which baffles me is that their partners never, ever encourage them to go ahead with it. Often they’ll use arguments which are objectively wrong to try and persuade them otherwise. What I can’t help but wonder is, surely someone in a healthy relationship would say “Spend your money in whatever way makes you the most happy” rather than actively trying to dissuade them from making a generous and charitable donation? And it’s weird to me that they all seem to be so anti-charity too. It’s a shame that there’s so much ignorance around the subject. Plus, while consenting adults can have have romantic relationships in anyway they want to, I can’t help but think it seems a little unhealthy that these women feel the need to run these things by their partners…

It’s a weird parttern and not something I would have expected to encounter – but I think that’s one of the joys of working with social media. It provides insights into people’s thoughts and habits and is often very interesting (at least to me.)

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