Writing While Being Watched

Something I find particularly difficult, is writing while being watched. I’m not quite sure why this is, but it’s really difficult for me to articulate my thoughts when I know somebody is looking at me. I wonder if this is a problem that many writer’s experience?

It’s quite an unusual thing, really. What difference does being watched make? It’s not just being seen writing which bothers me, but if somebody can literally see each word that I write, it gives me an instant writer’s block. It’s weird because I’m quite happy for people to read my work once its finished (hence why I post it publicly online) so why do I need to be left ‘unwatched’ in order to produce it?

I guess the best theory I can come up with, is that I need to focus all my mental energy on writing and if somebody is watching me, I am focusing energy on the other person and preparing to respond to them. It’s a little bit frustrating when a lot of people are around and I’m trying to get something written.

Curiously, it’s much less difficult to produce commercial content when I’m being watched. It could be because writing is quite a personal thing and I don’t quite like to have my soul laid bare in front of somebody – when I write commercial content, there’ll be much less “soul” in it, so it’s much less personal and therefore easier to do.

Anyway, I just wanted to write about that today, as I found that it was very difficult for me to start writing this until I was by myself – annoying, but I got something out in the end.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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The Strange Deaths of Batman

The Strange Deaths of Batman is a graphic novel which collects together various comics which deal with the death of Batman. As the title implies, many of these stories are actually rather weird. As somebody who is quite a fan of the weird side of comics, I was naturally drawn to this collection. Here’s a break down of each story:

The Strange Death of Batman by Gardner Fox
The first story is the one that the collection gets its name from. At first, it’s a standard story about Batman and Robin facing an unusual villain called The Bouncer (who can bounce like a rubber ball.) Batman and Robin save the day and the story ends. It then cuts to the author in his apartment, who is wondering just what might have happened if The Bouncer had killed Batman – we then get to see this scenario play out! The ending is really weird. Rating: 7/10

Robin’s Revenge by Cary Bates
This story gets started right away, with Batman, Robin and Superman coming up against a villain. He is quickly able to kill Batman by trapping him in a glass dome and incinerating him. The villain gets away and we then get to see what happens to Robin as the years go by without Batman. I liked this one quite a lot – especially the emotional depth. Robin and Superman get some good development and there’s a nice twist ending. Rating: 8/10

The Corpse That Wouldn’t Die by Bob Haney
Batman investigates the disappearance of a woman named Debbie Manton – somebody he seems to care about very much. However, because he is too determined, he becomes reckless and is killed during the investigation. But death is not the end. Another DC hero, (called The Atom) shrinks himself down to a tiny size and enters Batman’s body, which he controls by manipulating his brain. A little grittier than the last two, and another which I quite liked. Rating: 8/10

Where Were You the Night Batman Was Killed? by David V. Reed
Batman is dead… but nobody knows who killed him. The villains of Gotham City are having a trial in order to determine who is responsible for his death, because in the criminal underworld, this is something to be very proud of. Catwoman, The Riddler, Lex Luthor and The Joker all have their own stories, about who it was they who killed Batman. Two-Face acts as the prosecutor and Ra’s al Ghul is the judge. It’s perhaps a little longer than I’d have liked, but it’s still nice that all of these characters have something to do. The Joker’s part of the story was my favourite. Rating: 7.5/10

Buried Alive by Gerry Conway
Batman wakes up inside a coffin, buried underground. Robin and Superman realise that he is missing and have to work to find him as quickly as possible – he only has a limited amount of air in that coffin after all! A good suspenseful story and I liked the ending quite a lot. Perhaps my favourite one. Rating: 8.5/10

The Prison by John Stanisci
Ra’s al Ghul tells his daughter Talia that she must kill Batman in order to prove her loyalty to him. It’s quite a basic story, really, but I quite like the art style and the way that the story is told. I like the al Ghul family, so I am pleased to see them featured in another of these stories. Another of my favourites in this collection. Rating: 8.3/10

Modern Romance by Chuck Dixon
The shortest and probably the worst story. Batman and Catwoman get married and, as you can imagine, they’re not an ideal couple. Also, the ending is pretty rubbish. Rating: 5/10

Average rating: 7.5/10

So I’d say it’s a collection worth investigating – especially if you’re already a big fan of Batman or DC in general. If you’ve never really dipped into the strange side of comics, perhaps this would be a good place to start? I found this collection for quite a low price and I thought it was good value for money. I definitely enjoyed reading it and I’d recommend it to others. Although it is a bit of a shame that the stories lack the depth which you’d find in graphic novels which focus on a single plot.

Buy it here.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Giving out compliments is a tricky business. I like doing it a lot, because I like my friends a lot and I want them to like themselves. On the one hand, you want to compliment people a lot, but on the other you don’t want your words to feel cheapened by the fact that you say nice things a lot. On the one hand, you won’t to reflect how important a person is to you, on the other hand you don’t want to overdo it and make them uncomfortable.

Personally, I think people should be less afraid to be affectionate with their words and I certainly try my hardest to say nice things to friends whenever I can. The tricky part comes in making sure that your words carry real meaning – one thing I like to do is write people letters were I talk at length about the importance of their friendship to me. It’s quite difficult though, because I don’t want to say the same things to different people. I could just write a letter to one friend, then do a search and replace and add another friend’s name – but then all of the letters would be quite meaningless, wouldn’t they?

I remember once, I said something to someone and then I realised I’d said something similar to somebody else before and all of a sudden I felt very guilty – each person fills a different role in my life and is important to me in a different way. I instantly caught myself and then said something else instead. I know nobody would have ever known either way, but it was for my peace of mind, because I know words that have been said to me have retroactively felt empty when I’ve heard the same person saying the same thing to somebody else.  I don’t feel that it’s right to compare people against one another and I think this might be an example of that.

Overall, I don’t think I do too badly at compliments, and neither do the people I know. I think affectionate people are the kinds of people I am drawn to the most.

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Ice Climber games:

1985: Ice Climber
2001: Super Smash Bros. Melee ¹
2002: Animal Crossing ²
2003: WarioWare, Inc.: Minigame Mania ³
2006: Tetris DS
2008: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
2009: PiCOPiCT
2014: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS ⁷
2015: Super Mario Maker 

Connected Series:


  1. Nana and Popo are playable characters and there is a stage based on the series.
  2. The original Ice Climber game is unlockable via the use of an e-reader card.
  3. Popo appears in one of the game’s micro games.
  4. Characters from the series appear in the game’s Standard Mode.
  5. Nana and Popo are playable characters and there is a stage based on the series.
  6. Characters from the series appear once certain levels are beaten.
  7. Polar bears from Ice Climber appear in this game as enemies.
  8. Nana and Popo are playable via Mystery Mushroom and there is a specially made level based on the series.
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The Wonderful 101

When I first heard about The Wonderful 101 I was quite excited because it seemed very unique. It was developed by Platinum Games and published by Nintendo (a winning combination) and based on a very interesting premise too; you lead a group of 100 people around and have them go into different formations to fight off robots and alien invaders. I was imagining a more urban version of Pikmin (a game I quite like.)

I eventually was able to get the game for free, as part of a deal when I bought Mario Kart 8 (which was pretty cool.) There were a few things I was quite impressed by when I started playing: the graphics created a nice world in which all of the characters looked like shiny plastic toys, I liked this because it made me nostalgic for these little robot toys that I used to collect. There was also a lot of over the top action which was entertaining to watch and fun to be a part of. The storyline also seemed well fleshed out and I enjoyed watching the interactions between its quirky characters. The story ended up having much more emotional depth than I could have expected and some characters who initially seemed fairly two-dimensional later got some good development. Also, not something I knew right away, but Bayonetta, Jeanne, and Rodin (from Bayonetta) are secret unlockable characters, too. I was pleased with all of these things.

However (and I’m afraid that this is a big “however”) I didn’t really enjoy the game because I felt like it had bad gameplay. As I mentioned earlier, you lead a large group of people as you fight back against alien invaders. You do this by drawing different shapes on the Wii U gamepad, which then transform those people into different things, such as a sword, a gun and a fist. The problem was that it seemed like it could barely ever correctly identify what I was drawing – you may say that I’m bad at drawing, but other games with similar mechanics didn’t give me the same problem.

The lack of functionality when it comes to the drawing was especially frustrating in the middle of fast-paced fights, but what was even more annoying was the terrible camera. You never seemed to be able to see properly (and it had that annoying problem where the game’s characters should logically be able to see things, but you, the player, cannot.) This gets even more annoying when you enter buildings and have to use gyroscopic controls in order to move the camera. They just didn’t work well at all.

Add to this the fact that the game is really hard and doesn’t give you much time to learn it’s complicated combat methods and, overall, you’re left with a recipe for a highly unenjoyable game. After I changed the difficulty from “Normal” to “Easy” I did find it a little more more enjoyable though, so I advise playing on that same game mode on your first playthrough (if you do decide to buy this game.) I also found that I started to enjoy it more towards the end, due to an increased variety of gameplay, which meant that I spent less time doing things that were annoying and more time trying new and exciting things. There were definitely bits throughout the game (and especially near the end) which were fun, but there simply weren’t enough of these.

It’s a shame because I feel like the game had the potential to be really good, but sadly, it wasn’t really good at all. I know some people love it, but it’s not something that I think will have a very broad appeal and now that I have completed it, I don’t imagine I will ever play it again.

Rating: 4.5/10

Buy it here.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Meeting Morris

Over the years, I’ve created lots of fictional characters who I then like to write lots of stories about. One example of these is a man named Morris. Morris is a middle-aged man with simple (but specific) pleasures. He’s a very pleasant and innocent man and I’ve written stories which have him getting involved in all sorts of outlandish situations (for example, meeting Salome Boann, the female lead in Anthony Nanson’s Deep Time.) Of all the characters I’ve created, he’s one of my favourite, so it was quite a pleasant surprise to meet him the other day.

Now I know what you’re thinking (namely, that this blog post is the conclusion of my slow descent into insanity which has been documented over the last six years) but, of course, I know that I didn’t actually meet the character – I just met someone who looked and behaved exactly as I’d always imaged Morris would do, were he real.

It happened the other day when I was walking into town to buy some dinner. I was proudly wearing the “Reading is Cool” t-shirt which I designed for myself.

“I like that logo on your t-shirt,” said a balding, slightly overweight man with a small smile. His voice was slow and gentle.

“Thank you,” I said, flattered. “I designed it myself, actually.”

“I take it you like reading then? I think more people should read.”

“Indeed, I do!” I said. “And I agree with you.”

“What’s your favourite book, then?”

“It might be Spencer’s Mountain. A very good American book. Have you ever heard of it?” I asked.

“I take it that’s a fictional book? I don’t read much fiction,” he confessed.

“Ah,” I said. “Well, I like a lot of non-fiction too, particularly philosophy stuff.”

“I don’t read much non-fiction, either,” he said.

“What do you like to read?” I asked, somewhat confused.

“Local sports almanacs, documenting the cricket matches in Corsham and the other nearby towns and villages.”

“Well, I guess it’s nice to have your own niche,” I said and smiled.

“I have 87 of them,” he said. “But there are 150 overall.”

“I hope one day you’ll be able to complete your collection.”

“Yes, so do I,” he said. “Where do you come from? I take it from your accent that you are not from these shores?”

I explained about my accent and how I live (and have always lived) in Corsham.

“And where were you born?” he asked.

“I was born in Bath,” I told him.

“So was I, but they were expecting me to have a twin and I didn’t.”

“That sounds like an unusual mistake,” I said, having never heard anything like it.

“Well, it was fifty-seven years ago,” he said and it is quite interesting to think of all the medical advancements which have happened within single lifetimes.

“Ah, well, I was only born twenty-four years ago,” I said.

“Were you born in the RUH?” he asked.

“Yes, I was” I said, suddenly starting to feel very hungry, “but I was just on my way to get my dinner, so I am afraid I’ll have to bring our conversation to a close.”

“That’s okay. It was very nice to meet you,” he said and then give me a handshake.

It was a small and unusual interaction, but it’s the kind of thing which I enjoy. The fact that this man looked just like my character Morris, spoke just like Morris and had a strong and passionate interest in something so obscure (just like Morris) and liked talking to strangers (again, just like Morris) made it even more enjoyable. Perhaps Morris will be collecting local sports almanacs in the next story…

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Ten Episode Rule

I’m quite open-minded in the media that I consume. I am always happy to try new things which are suggested to me and I really enjoy quite a broad range of things. At the start of the year, I decided to start watching more anime (as it was a medium I was fairly unfamiliar with) and I’ve seen quite a few animes since then. While doing this, there’s a bit of a pattern that I’ve noticed.

With three separate series, it has taken me approximately ten episodes in order to become properly invested/engrossed with a series. These three series were Assassination Classroom, Steins;Gate and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I am very pleased I decided to stick with them long enough to become properly hooked, as I think they are all fantastic.

I think, perhaps, that when trying a new television show, you should watch at least ten episodes before you decide whether or not you want to stick with it. I think a really good show will probably have drawn you in within that space of time. Of course I write that knowing that the first ten episodes of Doctor Who (one of my very favourite TV shows) are not that good and certainly not representative of the series at it’s best, so take this with a grain of salt and play it by ear. All I am saying is that you shouldn’t judge something based only on a single episode (or a very small number of episodes.)

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish is the fourth book (review of the third) in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and is actually my personal favourite. It’s very different to the previous three instalments in that I feel it has a greater level of emotional depth and is definitely much more grounded in reality.  As much as I love the other books,I think this one is just a little better.

The story follows Arthur’s return to Earth, which is strange, because the Earth was destroyed in the first book. He doesn’t quite understand how or why the Earth has returned, but he is overjoyed by the fact. Although, of course, having experienced all of the strange things that happened to him in the other books, it was obviously going to be hard for him to readjust to normal life.

Nobody seems to be at all aware of the Earth’s destruction, which causes Arthur to question his sanity to some degree. He meets a woman named Fenchurch who has also has some reason to question her sanity. Between the two, a romance begins to blossom. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of romance in books (because I feel like it’s often done badly) but I really appreciate the story of Arthur and Fenchurch. It felt quite natural at times and I really felt the emotions. It was lovely.

But if that sounds too different to you, rest assured that there’s a nice sub-plot about Ford Prefect off on some alien world too. Ford is as funny as ever and he also discovers that the Earth has been spontaneously restored.

I guess some people might be disappointed by the change of pace for this book, but to me it felt like a breath of fresh air. It was a shame that Zaphod and Trillian didn’t appear, but I liked the fact that Arthur was given more development and Fenchurch was a great new character as well, so it balances out. Plus, it can still be just as weird and just as clever and funny as the previous books – it just has an Earth-based setting, rather than an outer space setting.

So that’s the fourth Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book and my personal favourite. Having such a unique tone helps to give it a strong identity and stops it from just feeling like a part of a series. Plus, I feel like this different approach helps to add more integrity and variety to the world which has been built up throughout the series.

It’s a really great addition to the series and an overall favourite book of mine.

Rating: 9.6/10

Buy it here.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Here are two things that I don’t like very much – eating tomatoes and wasting food.  As you can imagine, these two interests sometimes clash. This usually happens when I am eating a burger and a tomato has been put inside the bun. In order for it not to taint the rest of the food and in order not to waste it, I usually remove it and eat it as the first part of the meal.

Somehow or another, I ended up talking about this very subject with a friend of mine. She said that the look of distress on my face while eating a tomato was something which was very sad to see, which then made me feel quite guilty. I had never considered that it might be unpleasant for other people to witness, so I agreed not to do it in front of them anymore. I had taken a small step towards learning a lesson.

That very same day, I mentioned all of that to another friend of mine. She then crafted an elaborate story about tomato people (or, perhaps that should be, Tomato People.) She told me that all through their lives, they aim to make humans feel happy – their vines wriggle around in anticipation of making people happy. If they ever know that they’ve caused someone discomfort, it causes them enormous shame which can never be rectified. I know it was just a random story, but, oh my, that was not something I’d be able to forget. I had taken another small step towards learning a lesson.

The next day I was having dinner with the friend who had told me about the Tomato People (or Toms, as they like to be called.) By coincidence, she happened to have some food which she wasn’t too fond of me. Perhaps you can see where this is going.

“What are you doing?” I asked, she picked up a piece of the food.

“Oh, well, I’d hate to waste it,” she said and then took a bite which she clearly did not like.

“No,” I said, “Don’t eat it. No need to cause yourself unhappiness.”

“But how is it different to you eating tomatoes?” she asked.

“It’s a completely different situation,” I said, knowing that it was an identical situation.

And she ate and she ate as I argued that she should stop and every argument that I raised, really, was an argument I should raise with myself when I have a tomato. Eventually, she had finished eating and I had no more small steps to take towards learning a lesson, because the lesson had been learned.

So here’s a picture of me with my new friend who I won’t be eating.

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Let’s Imagine for a Second, That Being Trans isn’t a Scientific Possibility

While you’ll find some people who claim otherwise, what I have read suggests that being trans is a scientific fact. Some men are born with vaginas, some women born with penises. Anyway, I’m not going to get into that – what I’d like to talk about in today’s blog post is whether or not a basis in scientific fact actually really matters that much.

So let’s imagine, for a second, that being trans is not a scientific possibility. If that were the case, we’d still have people who like to present themselves as a gender which is different to their biological sex. Why would we not just accept them anyway? What harm are they doing?

Logically, there’d be no fair reason to attack or discriminate them, because using the pronouns that they want to use and treating them with respect are small things to ask. So, that’s the main argument against being trans and even if you personally believe it to be true (which, it almost certainly is not) there’s still no real argument against treating them fairly.

People’s difficulty in accepting anything other than cis men and women is something I can understand – our society teaches us that gender is black and white, so it makes sense that people struggle to understand things which are not black and white. However, it surprises and disappoints me that so many people not only struggle to accept these things, but outright refuse to try based on some principle they hold, when it’s really hard to reasonably argue for this standpoint.

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