The Essence of Beautiful Souls

Though I can’t really describe it in tangible terms, I feel as though all of the people that I am most fond of share a certain quality. What’s interesting is that from that special group, there are people of different backgrounds, age groups, gender identities, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, political inclinations and just about every other differing variable. It’s certainly not that I always go out of my way to befriend a very specific type of person – and yet, something about them remains the same.

So, what is that something? Maybe I’ll never really know what it is, but I will always know it when I see it. When I think about the qualities that I admire most in people, empathy, critical thinking, warmth, kindness and generosity are the things which come to mind. All of these people have these things, but on the other hand, I have met people who share these qualities, but with whom I haven’t quite “clicked.” Although, in those cases, there are always other, negative qualities which cancel out the impact of the positives.

And maybe that’s it – the thing that they have in common is that I feel very fondly for them. I am mistaking my own feelings for people as a quality that they possess. Maybe that’s right, but maybe that’s not. I prefer to think that there’s some essence to all of these people, some aspect of their goodness that I am picking up on and that I have picked up on in 28 people so far.

In my opinion, there are fewer things more rewarding than consolidating a new friendship, getting to know somebody and learning that you can trust them. When I think of all the people that I’ll meet in my life moving forward, it’s exciting to consider that I will have many more opportunities to discover this indescribable essence of beautiful souls. Potentially, the most marvelous thing in the universe.

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Increasing Age and Appreciation

The older I get, the more I find that I appreciate almost everything. I remember in the past, there were a fair few foods which I strongly disliked and would always avoid eating. These days, other than my vegetarianism, I will happily eat pretty much anything – and I’ll like it too. I was pickier about the games and books that I liked too – I kind of got bored of gaming in general around the ages of 18 and 19. The same goes for movies and just about every other thing that a person can do in their leisure time.

It even extended into my social life. The types of people that I liked to spend time with was a considerably smaller number than it is now. I’d interact with the same small number of friends and that would be fine. I remember once saying to a friend, after she recommended an opportunity to meet new people, that I already had four friends and so that was all that was necessary.

Looking back, I don’t know why I used to be so much more rigid. But these days, I know that it’s best to just enjoy the many different things which life has to offer. I’m a little bit regretful that I wasn’t more accepting of new experiences when I was younger. Reflecting on the matter, I think I might know why.

When I was younger, I had an idea of what I liked and what I wanted to do – this was based on my limited life experience. I knew I liked this or that and so trying anything else felt like a risk. A risk which wasn’t worth taking. However, as the years went by, doing the same things in the same ways over and over, I think I started to realise that this would start to get boring. I realised I needed to try the diverse range of experiences that life had to offer and once I’d done this once or twice and found that I quite liked it, I kept going.

Perhaps, in the past, I lacked the confidence to branch out. Perhaps that fear of the unknown was too great and as age has brought more experience, that fear of the unknown has shrunk. Either way, the older I get, the easier I find it to adapt and enjoy pretty much anything.

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I think an argument could be made that Pac-Man is the most iconic video game of all time. After all, how often do you see parodies and references to Pac-Man himself? Very often, I’d say. His influence is so broad that you’ll find him (or the ghosts, Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde) everywhere, from “Weird” Al Yankovic Beatles parodies and episodes of Futurama, to animated Disney movies.

Does that then mean that Pac-Man is one of the greatest games ever made? Or is it simply a case of being so iconic due to the fact that it was one of the very first of its type? Personally, I think it might be a mixture of both.

On the one hand, the game design is kind of ingenious. You move around the maze and have to eat all the dots while avoiding the ghosts. If you eat a big dot, that means you can eat the ghosts as well, but only temporarily. It’s so simple that anybody could grasp it and anybody could have fun with it. It is, perhaps, one of the most accessible games ever created. Plus, the strange absurdity of a yellow man eating dots and ghosts in a maze with no context is actually kind of endearing.

On the other, it gets old pretty fast. You may say that it was made in 1980 and so, of course, it’s not going to have the same sort of life span as certain other games, but I’m not quite convinced. A few of the Game & Watches from roughly the same time have the same simplicity in their design, but I don’t get bored of them anywhere near as quickly. Pac-Man, meanwhile, I’ll rarely play for more than five minutes and don’t come back to so often.

So, overall, it’s hard to make a clear conclusion. I have a lot of respect for it, but it fails to captivate my interest for long. It’s not bad and it’s not amazing. I hope that my score fairly reflects it’s historical significance, as well as it’s historical limitations.

Rating: 6/10

(I won’t link to somewhere you can buy the game this time, you can get Pac-Man on pretty much any electronic device. Probably including electric razors.)

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Let’s Turn Blue Monday Into Beige Monday

Today is “Blue Monday” and for those who don’t know what that means, it’s supposedly the most depressing day of the year. With that in mind, I thought it worthwhile to focus on positivity instead. I had a think about what was the happiest colour (in contrast to the gloominess of blue) and I realised that it was beige. So I shall rechristen Blue Monday as Beige Monday and here’s a list of happy things which have happened to me in recent times:

  • I watched a live stream of a video game for the first time ever. It was conducted by a good friend of mine and, in fact, was dedicated to me. The first time anything has ever been dedicated to me, so that’s pretty touching and memorable.
  • After a potentially frustrating experience, I messaged a friend to tell them that I’d tell them about it later. They replied “Okay, but first I just want to be sure you’re okay” and I think that reflects a very considerate and empathetic perspective. I was touched.
  • It turned out that a friend of a friend is friends with one of the lead character designers on Donkey Kong Country which lead to me getting a signed poster telling me to “keep monkeying around” and now, I feel, I can never stop doing that.
  • Meeting somebody new at a job early last year, I had the impression they didn’t much care for me. Fair enough – each to their own. However, I managed to turn this around. Just three months later they came up behind me to give me a hug for being “so sweet.”
  • At a wedding, I was socialising with some new people. One of them asked me why I don’t drink alcohol so I told her that I am always filled with a natural giddiness and excitement simply as a result of being alive. As we said goodbye, she said that she agreed that I did indeed carry with me a natural giddiness and excitement. It’s good to be affirmed in this.

So that’s five nice experiences which are pleasant to look back on Beige Monday. I hope that you will take the opportunity to look back on moments that made you happy in the recent past and that you got through the day with high spirits.

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Dancing Queen

Lately, I’ve felt the need to record in writing some of the more positive experiences I’ve had in life. I know I have written extensively about bad experiences I’ve had when visiting night clubs, but the truth is that a couple of the times that I’ve been have actually been pretty good.

Today I’d like to talk about a visit I made to a nightclub in Bath along with my new (at the time) friends, Sarah and Edward in 2016. It was for Sarah’s birthday and birthdays are one of the occasions on which I will always go to a nightclub if asked.

Prior to this, I never really ‘got’ dancing in clubs. I just couldn’t quite understand what the appeal was. But on that night, something clicked. The three of us were taking each other by the hands and twirling ourselves around and I honestly felt like I was merging into the general positive energy omitted by the mass of club goers. I wasn’t just me, I was part of something bigger.

I was in the moment and I was loving it. At the time, I had a particularly bad employer and it was great deal of stress and frustration. But as I was dancing, it all drained away. None of the concerns I had at the time seemed relevant anymore – I was living in the moment to an extent that I had never done before.

The song Dancing Queen by ABBA came on and I felt like it was very appropriate. I finally understood dancing. I understood that it was a form of non-verbal communication and interaction – a bonding activity. A new and different experience for me. I was the dancing queen. It was wonderful.

Before that day, I had a specific routine for any time that I was coaxed out onto the dance floor by friends. I’d simply bend my knees and bob myself up and down gently – The Gentleman’s All-Purpose Dance Procedure, I used to call it, or; the Randy Rave, as my friends used to call it. But following that particularly pleasant evening – a time of high energy, of bonding with two friends I’d soon count among my very best, of letting all of life’s worries drain away – I do make the effort to dance when I find myself in those contexts. I now understand the purpose and the value and any experience which helps me to learn and to experience new things is a very positive one. So, if you’re not much of a dancer, I hope that one day you’ll be able to make this same revelation one day.

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Assassination Classroom, Volume 8 by Yusei Matsui

As much as I enjoyed all of the volumes of Assassination Classroom up to this point, if there was one small criticism I had to give, it would be that Koro-sensei stops tensions from getting high. Sure, there’re his claims that he’ll destroy the planet in a year, but that’s in the future and in the meantime there’s a super human smiley face creature who’ll protect the children from any threats with his endless abilities. However, following Volume 7, Koro-sensei has been reduced to his Absolute Defense Form and so is unable to help or protect them in anyway (other than talking.)

The new dynamic in this volume creates some really intense drama. It’s just the kids up against some of the most skilled assassins in the world. Do they have what it takes? Well, I won’t spoil anything for you, but I was genuinely concerned for the characters’ lives – and not just the characters facing the assassins. Don’t forget that the previous volume ended with half the students being infected with a deadly virus!

You may wonder why it would just be the kids when the likes of Mr. Karasuma are around, but he and Ms. Jelavitch are soon otherwise incapacitated as well. Really, this volume documents an important learning experience for the children – they now have to put into use the lessons that their teacher has taught them with no safety net. Of course, Koro-sensei remains able to impart his wisdom, but that’s all. It is up to the children to listen to him.

Honestly, this was a fantastic read and a new height for this manga. There are some big revelations towards the end, but things still aren’t wrapped up neatly. You won’t be able to wait to read the next volume because the stakes are so high and at the end… the unbelievable happens. No spoilers, of course, but a lot of big things happen. The best volume yet.

Rating: 9.9/10

Buy it here.

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R.I.P. Kate Sutton

Yesterday I was scrolling through Twitter to pass by an empty few minutes in my day. As I was doing so, I came across an old tweet talking about the untimely death of a blogger called Kate Sutton. I wasn’t quite sure why, but her name and face seemed kind of familiar to me. I did a little bit of investigating and found out that she was the author of the blog WitWitWoo. Again, very familiar.

In a previous job, I was responsible for a blogger outreach campaign and I had a feeling that she might have been somebody I’d worked with on that. A quick search around her site confirmed this for me when I found the blog post she’d written from the brief I gave her two years ago. Seeing the blog post brought back some memory of the collaboration and I recollect that she was easygoing and nice to work with – in fact, I commissioned her for two blog posts. I found the second one shortly after.

I always used to be a little envious of the bloggers who made a lot of money selling blog posts, because I could never do that with this blog. I really admired them for it though and it inspired me to always keep up with my own work. Looking at her blog now, there’s no indication that she is no longer alive and it’s quite bittersweet – on the one hand, her personality comes through in the blog posts, immortalising her in some way, which is nice. On the other hand, it’s kind of scary. With the tabs about collaborating with her at the top, it’s almost like a moment frozen in time. Her last blog post is just a normal blog post, with no indication that she suspected her life may soon be over.

In fact, it’s worse than that. Her last blog post is about online dating and she’s talking with somebody in the comments about finding her “forever love” a desire which can now never be fulfilled. Then there’s the fact that she was a single parent “Mummy Blogger” and it’s very upsetting to think of the children left behind. How many people do we cross paths with every day? A very large number, and most of the time we’ll always be completely unaware of their ultimate fate… how many people who left a brief, friendly impression on you may no longer be in this world? At very least, the impact they had on you and (doubtlessly) on many others will always remain in the back of your mind.

My relationship with Kate was a very brief and professional one. I don’t mean to ‘take’ the tragedy of her death and make it ‘mine’ as the real people suffering here will be her friends and family. But I wanted to write about this because the news of her death certainly had an effect on me – it made me want to honour her memory. She was somebody who made it as a writer and I have a great respect for all writers. I am glad that she had the opportunity to make money from her work and it’s nice that she was able to capture many aspects of herself and her life in her writing. If you’re looking for some lifestyle blog posts to read, why not check out her blog and help keep her memory alive?

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What Do You Do?

When you meet new people, the question that they tend to ask most commonly is “so what do you do?” and in the majority of cases, they are referring to employment. In a way, I think it’s quite sad that this is the first thing people ask, because it suggests that having a job is the most important thing anybody could do with their life. Or, at least, that a person’s job is the most important thing about them.

As you can tell, I disagree with this perspective. I’d even say that I think it’s quite unhealthy to consider your job the most important thing about you (in almost all cases, but not quite all). As a result, it’s never the first thing that I ask somebody, as an alternative, I usually ask “do you have any creative hobbies?” or “how do you spend your free time?” because the answers to these questions give me insights into people which I believe are much more useful.

At the moment, when I am asked, I am quite proud to say that I work for WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) because it’s an organisation with a cause I really believe in, so I will tell people about it – but I still don’t believe I am defined by my work. At times when I’ve had jobs I cared less about, I’ve responded with “I socialise with friends and visit different restaurants” or “I’m a writer” which is usually broad enough to answer the question, but which also encompasses a creative activity I enjoy in my free time. If I really don’t want to talk about work, I’ll say “I don’t know. I go to an office and sit at a desk or something.”

So just keep that in mind next time you’re making small talk with somebody. What can you tell them which really reflects something about you as a person? Does your job really reflect on who you are at all? I’m guessing it doesn’t and for that reason it will be healthy to try and thing of yourself in non-work related terms.

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Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Personally, I always prefer handheld games over home console ones. I’m not sure what it is. I just prefer the cosiness of having it in your hand and being able to play wherever you want. It’s simple and convenient. It’s not that I think that the quality of handheld titles is inherently higher though, because when a game comes out on a handheld for the first time, after being home console exclusive, I usually become more invested than I was when it was simply on a console. However, when Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D came out, I had barely just finished the original and wasn’t too keen to pay full price just to have it again. Fortunately, I recently bought it on sale and I loved it. Here’s a list of all the changes you’ll find in it:

The Good Changes

  • The control scheme now contains no motion controls. While I don’t really mind the use of the Wii Remote in the original, I can’t deny that simple button presses suit the gameplay much more. Rolling in particular is now a lot easier.
  • A whole new world has been added and it’s a good one. This means that you get nine new levels. Each one takes inspiration from one of the game’s earlier worlds (so there’s a new jungle level, a new beach level, a new volcano level etc.) and though I wish they could have been slightly more original, I also felt that these were some of the most enjoyable levels in the game. I may be biased, because I would have been excited to get some new Donkey Kong Country content (while earlier worlds didn’t have that factor) but there are some very nice level designs there. For example, one level has you going through a factory and assembling a giant robot, another has you launching yourself through the air with geysers.
  • A ‘New Mode’ has been added to the game. I didn’t feel that this was necessary, but what this does is makes the game a little easier and I’m happy to admit that this game can be awfully tricky sometimes. With New Mode, you get more hearts and new, helpful items in Cranky’s shop. I know some people have given up on this game because it’s too hard, so these additions will help make it more accessible.
  • From a historical point of view, it’s interesting to view this as the step between Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The items introduced in New Mode and many of the concepts in the extra world would return in Tropical Freeze the following year and that’s something I find fascinating.

Bad Changes:

  • Overall, the visual quality has been noticeably diminished. Things are much blurrier and less detailed than they were in the original. If you play this version first, it won’t come across as bad, but if you played the original, you’ll notice the decline.
  • Loading screens are also less animated now, which makes them a little more boring to look at.

As is often the case with video game remakes, the good largely outweighs the bad. If somebody were to ask me which of the two versions they should buy (with the intention of only ever getting one) then I would advise them to get this one. The small ways in which it is inferior are ultimately quite inconsequential – but I really love the improvements. As it tends to be pretty cheap these days, if you have a 3DS, I recommend it!

Rating: 9.5/10

Buy it here.

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Top Trumps

As a child, I was always very fond of the game Top Trumps. I used to really love collecting all the different packs, because for me, there’s something very satisfying about seeing different people listed and ranked based in different stats and figures. I guess I just love seeing information categorised. Especially when numbers are involved – especially when you’re encouraged to compare those different numbers. Oh my.

I think what also helped to sell me on the idea was that many things which I really liked had Top Trumps sets. For example, there was The Simpsons (which I was kind of obsessed with as a kid), Doctor Who (which I remain obsessed with as an adult) and lots of other pieces of popular culture from the early 2000s. Being a completionist, I bought a lot of the other ones too, like the dinosaur set and the shark set. The art and pictures in those ones were very nice as well.

It got to the point that I started to look at the company’s past. I was amazed that Top Trumps appeared to be older than I was. Looking back as an adult, some of these older ones are the ones which impress me the most. Back then, they were much less focused on making film and television tie-ins, but instead on making their own unique creations.

Two older packs that I was most fond of were “Fantasy” and “Goblins & Faeriefolk” which included some really beautiful artwork. There’s that kind of pulp fantasy style to these ones and I love it. I was also fortunate enough to get my hands on The Ultimate Pack – which was a pack were each card represented another pack. I liked this, because it seemed to tie everything together as a kind of Top Trumps universe. Though I don’t really buy them anymore, I will always cherish my collection and am glad that I never sold them.



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