Communication is Key

I have a number of people with whom I am very close. There are a lot of things which are important to keeping friendships alive over a long period – kindness and empathy being two of the biggest – but ultimately I feel that communication is the most important thing for long-lasting relationships of any kind.

I always tell my friends what I think and, most often, this takes the form of complimenting and praising them. It does, however, occasionally mean that I have to raise something that I’m unhappy with. The majority of the time, there’ll be a resolution after a brief discussion. My friends also have no trouble with communicating their thoughts directly to me (or so it appears from my perspective.)

If there is ever a problem, it’s discussed, resolved and forgotten. If I speak to somebody about a problem I have which relates to them, I’ll forget about it almost as soon as I’ve discussed it with them. The case is closed and no longer worthy of any thought or discussion.

I feel like this is a normal and healthy way to manage the relationships in your life, but in recent times I’ve found that this is not as common as I thought. I trust all of my friends entirely to communicate any difficulties and if they aren’t directly telling me something, I never really worry that there’s something eating at them. I also don’t often concern myself with the thought that an ‘ignored’ message on social media really means anything.

I always like to plant the seeds for this dynamic as early as possible – let people know that I will always be open with them and encourage them to be the same with me. It may be naive, but I trust my friends to do this and it honestly saves me from a great deal of anxiety. It’s just a whole area of worry for some people that doesn’t bother me (not that it didn’t worry me back in my teenage days) but it’s an easy thing to move on from and it’s important for your general wellbeing to try and do this too.

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Doctor Who: The Forgotten by Tony Lee

The Tenth Doctor era of Doctor Who is one of my favourites and one for which I have a great deal of nostalgia. Back then, there was quite a divide between “classic” and “new” Doctor Who and it was fairly rare for the current run of the show to have any significant references or connections to things in the 1963-1989 run. I have always viewed it as a cohesive whole and so, it’s no surprise that I was overjoyed when I heard about The Forgotten which is a comic that had all ten Doctors coming together for an adventure.

The story goes that the Doctor and Martha wake up in a strange museum, with no recollection of how they got there. What’s especially strange about this museum is that it seems to be based on the Doctor’s many lives and each exhibit is an item which has had some importance for the Doctor. The structure of the story is then that the Doctor and Martha explore the museum a bit and try to figure out what’s going on, then they look at exhibits which prompt a flashbacks to past Doctors and tell a story which help the Doctor try and figure out what’s going on.

It’s written in a nice way which helps to ensure that each Doctor gets their turn in the spotlight. What seems kind of weird to me, is that several of the flashbacks (but not all) have the past Doctor in an adventure which is reminiscent of another past story. For example, there’s the Sixth Doctor in a futuristic court of law (like The Trial of a Time Lord) and there’s the Fourth Doctor and Romana in Paris (like City of Death) and to me it’s strange to do flashbacks in this way – either tie it directly to a past story, or do something completely new. Another thing is the Eighth Doctor flashback is at odds with almost all other depictions of that incarnation’s life which is bothersome, since a story like this is surely designed to please fans with continuity, but it’s also interesting when you try and think about how it might fit in with the rest of his stories.

I really appreciated the fact that so many old characters got to make an appearance and I also enjoyed getting to see certain different characters getting to interact (I won’t spoil anything about who and why). Despite this, the main problem is that I never really felt like there was much depth this story. It doesn’t exactly do anything new and is more a case of “Wow, look at all these Doctor Who characters and references” and, yeah, don’t get me wrong, that’s enough to keep me happy and amused and I’m sure it will make most fans smile. But, I personally want a little bit more than just that in my stories… At one point, it does appear to be heading in a very interesting and unexpected direction, but actually it’s just a red herring.

Overall, a nice fan-oriented piece of fun, but nothing mind blowing.

Rating: 7.7/10

Buy it here.

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Words of Affection

Today, I wanted to do something a little different for a blog post. Instead of telling a specific story or anything like that, I decided to do a kind of mood board of words. Perhaps it’s a little artsy and pretentious, but below are just a few sentences that I’ve said to different people who are important to me, in different ways and in different contexts. I don’t want to share whatthose contexts are or anything like that, but I feel that there’s a certain beauty in sharing these little snapshots on their own.

When I see you, I can’t help but contain the smile that appears on my face.

If I don’t end this hug, then we’ll always be together and I won’t ever have to say goodbye.

You inspire me to be the version of myself that exists in your mind.

When I left school and went to university, I made a collage of pictures of the people who had been good to me, the people who I always want to keep in my life, I called it the Friend Square. Since then, I’ve never stopped adding to it. I want you to know that I added you onto it last night.

The things we’ve been through together mean that there’s now an unbreakable bond between the two of us.

How exciting – to see my two favourite people looking back at me from the other side of the screen.

I don’t know that I’ve ever cared for another person more than I have cared for you.

Life doesn’t get much better – Christmas time, Christmas lights and one of my very best friends.

I wish I could transfer my good health into you, so we’d both just be mildly unwell, rather than having me be fine and you very unwell.

You are the Watson to my Holmes.

You are the Holmes to my Watson.

You are the Moriarty to my Holmes.

Was this enjoyable? I have another similar blog post in mind for the future, but I’ll have to wait to get some feedback on this one first…

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Our Impact on Others

I have a feeling that none of us ever truly comprehend the positive impact that we have on the people in our lives. I’ve certainly known many of my very best friends to severely underestimate the extent to which I value them and the extent to which other people value them too. Earlier this week, I discovered that I was guilty of doing much the same thing.

In recent times, I’ve been feeling pretty good, but I have to admit that 2018 and the latter end of 2017 were very difficult for me. My mental health was at an all time low. Though I am now back on track, on Wednesday I decided share the experience publicly online – just to give anyone else going through the same thing a bit of solidarity and to encourage more open discussion on mental health in general.

I didn’t expect much to come of it, beside maybe receiving a couple of likes, but honestly, I was overwhelmed by the resulting outpouring of positivity. People were sending me all kinds of positive messages; telling me that the world would be a horrible place without me, telling me that I was such a kind and selfless person, complimenting me on my attempts to make people feel valued. Admittedly, a lot of this came from my very best friends, who are likely to have a bit of a pro-me bias, but it wasn’t just them: someone I don’t know quite as well opened up about his own mental health struggles, someone I didn’t really think I’d hear from again sent me a long and touching message – practically everyone I’ve ever known was sending me “love reacts.”

My goal in life has always been to be a positive influence in the lives of my friends – to make them feel happy and valued. The experience I had earlier this week made me feel that I am achieving this goal – that what I do is right and good and worthwhile. So, if you’re ever feeling low – be open about it, let people know that you’re struggling. You probably don’t realise quite how much everybody values you and, furthermore, by being open you may too help other people to open up as well – this will then help them and may even start a wave of postivity.

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Super Mario Run

After Miitomo, it was obviously only going to be a matter of time before Mario himself made his first official appearance on smartphones. But even though I knew it was coming, I have to say that at the time, the news of Super Mario Run felt pretty big to me.

Sadly, while the idea of Mario making his mobile phone debut is quite an exciting one, I didn’t think the game was really very interesting. It’s visually very similar to New Super Mario Bros. U and doesn’t provide much in the way of innovation. The unique twist of the game is that Mario always runs forward and all you do is tap the screen to jump. It feels very basic when compared to the other platformers in the series, but it also lacks the addictive nature you normally find in smartphone games. Oh, also you have to pay £10 to have all the levels, which feels like a lot. Though he doesn’t often do so, I feel Mario’s rival Sonic did the concept a lot better in Sonic Runners.

Outside of the usual platforming, you can also build a little Mushroom Kingdom of your own. You earn coins in levels, which you then use to build things and attract Toads. I never found this very interesting. One cool thing is that the game got some Super Mario Odyssey content before the game even came out (in the form of Pauline and Cappy statues) but this is pretty minor. You use this feature to unlock more characters by building different structures. You can unlock Luigi, Toad, Toadette, Peach and various Yoshis.

The best content in the game came a little later, when they added a feature called Remix 10. In this mode, Princess Daisy has been kidnapped and then you run through sequences of ten mini levels in order to rescue her. This is fast paced and fun. To be honest, the whole game should have been built around it. You can also put headphones on Mario so that you can listen to your own music instead of the game’s bland soundtrack – although, ironically, the Remix 10 music is better than all the rest. It felt weird to see him hopping and jumping around the Mushroom Kingdom while Anathema played – but weird in a good way. In the end, you unlock Daisy and can use her for the first time in a platformer, which I’m sure her fans appreciate.

To be honest, I didn’t really think it was worth spending £10 on, as the additional content was quite superfluous. You get all you could from the experience in the free version. I’m sure some fans got more enjoyment out of it than I did, but I found the whole thing very generic. I’d happily recommend skipping it.

Rating: 6/10

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The Value of Online Chats

Before I start this blog post, I would like to write a bit of a disclaimer: I find online chat systems very useful. I use several of them and I use them regularly. They’re a great facilitator for social interactions in reality, they’re a great way to keep in touch with people who move far away and they’re a useful tool for checking in on people who you haven’t seen in a while. Having said all that, I’d now like to proceed to tear them down with a string of criticisms.

As time goes by, I find myself less and less inclined to talk people online. The reason? Speaking face to face is just a much deeper and more rewarding experience. Lovely and touching conversations I’ve had with people stick with me for years and years – yet it’s extremely rare for an online chat to have the same sort of impact, no matter how positive it may be. I’m not saying that it never happens, but it’s just a lot harder to feel invested in words on a screen.

Then there’s the fact that it’s a lot trickier to communicate directly online. For many people, it’s hard to properly convey the emotion that they want to express, because they don’t have the help of body language or tone of voice. I’ve had a few instances where people have been concerned that I am either annoyed with them or deeply unhappy about something, when the reality has been that there’s no subtext whatsoever. And I’m equally as guilty of it: I have worried people have been upset or unhappy, when really they’re just quickly messaging because they’re busy with something else.

I suppose I think it’s kind of like this: you can watch or a film or you can read that films plot synopsis from Wikipedia. In both instances you gain the same information, but the experiences are vastly different. One will be fun and memorable, the other gives you the information and maybe engages you to some extent, but ultimately doesn’t provide you with much to engage you on an emotional level. The only issue is, that it’s a lot easier to find the time to read a synopsis than it is to watch a whole film.

So while I definitely appreciate the convenience of online chatting and wouldn’t be in touch with some of my friends without it, I also try to save as many conversations to be shared in person as possible and don’t apply too much significance to digital correspondence. It’s probably healthier this way.

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Smiley Face Badges

I was walking through the streets of Chippenham on my lunch break today, when I passed an enthusiastic stranger. “Yes!” he shouted loudly, “yes! Smiley badge man! Yes!” Apparently he quite liked the smiley face badge that I wear. I thought, perhaps, that today I’d write about the story of my smiley face badge.

Back in 2012, I was very happy – I had pretty much everything I wanted in life. I’m very fortunate to have experienced such a high. In that time, I decided to buy a smiley face badge to reflect my contentedness in life – since then, I continued to wear it because it was a nice connection to a very special time.

When having dinner with an old friend in 2015, they asked me if I had always had that badge, because they felt like it suited me very well and it was easy to imagine it had always been there. Though they were wrong, I quite liked that they thought I’d always had it.

In 2017, I decided that it would be nice to start giving these badges to people as a sentimental item – something I’d only give to my very closest friends. I tried to give them for significant reasons: one was given to a friend to cheer them up, one was a farewell gift, one was an engagement present, several were birthday presents.

In 2018, I had to replace my original smiley face badge with another, as the original was becoming significantly worn out. I was sad about replacing it, but decided, like my Trusty Water Bottle, that though its physical form may be replaced, its essence and soul remains the same – so, therefore, so does the meaning behind it. I do keep the original in my wallet at all times though.

During that year, I also gave a smiley face badge away to somebody who I didn’t count among my very closest friends. I knew a colleague was feeling unhappy about a lot of things, so I put a smiley face badge on a packet of Thornton’s chocolates and left it there for them. I thought of it as a kind of calling card. In a nice turn of events, they ended up becoming somebody I count among my closest friends anyway. The magic of the smiley face badge made it so

In the past, people often misunderstood it and thought that it was a sign that I was a fan of the graphic novel, Watchmen. I’ll admit it’s a good read and I do like it – but not enough that I would make it a part of my everyday apparel. If people were to mistake it for anything, I wish it would be the face of Koro-sensei, the star of Assassination Classroom. I remember one time in particular, somebody asked “Are you a Watchmen fan?” I said “No, just a fan of happiness!” and they laughed, thinking I was being sarcastic. But, on the other hand, somebody told me that they thought of me when they first saw the Assassination Classroom manga in a shop, because of the association with smiley faces.

The truth is that I wear it, not only, as a connection to the very happy era of my life in 2012, but also a reminder. When a lot of people have spoken about me, they’ve described me very positively – it sometimes feels like some people see me as a kind of superhuman positivity machine. I’m glad that I’ve been able to come across that way, but it’s also simply not the reality. I can’t be positive all the time, nobody can. Sometimes I am negative and in low moments, I have selfish and self-centered thoughts. My badge is a reminder to myself that life can be really good and to always try to be kind and make new friends – ultimately, to remind myself to be the best version of myself, the version of myself that my friends perceive.

(I have a terrible memory when it comes to this blog – in 2015, I wrote a fairly similar blog post. Thankfully, today’s has more meaning to it and is a little longer. I must always be careful not to repeat myself though!)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Tom Sawyer is one of those literary characters who are so ingrained into the public consciousness, that even if you don’t know anything about him, the name will still sound familiar. This was kind of the situation I was in when I went into it, with one exception…

Before reading, I was also familiar with the iconic whitewashing scene, which has had countless parodies and tributes paid to it throughout the years in popular culture. In it, Tom essentially passes off the boring job of whitewashing onto somebody else, by making it out to be much more exciting than it is. It’s a clever and funny little moment.

But, anyway, to the book at large: in the introduction, Twain explains that the happenings within the book are based on many real people and events from his own childhood. In a way, this is very much what it feels like: somebody sharing interesting anecdotes from their childhood.

On the one hand, it’s great to know that many of the happenings from the book are based on things which happened in reality. It’s always nice for a novel to have that authenticity. What’s especially appealing to me is that even though this was written in America in the 19th century, there are still times when I relate to the experiences of the boys within it. Their obsession with wanting to dig up treasure and desire to be pirates, without ever really comprehending the true nature of piracy, are two things I definitely went through as a child.

On the other hand, it really is just like somebody telling interesting anecdotes from their childhood. By which I mean, not much effort is made with character development and the overall plot structure is very loose and is really just a string of events. Tom and his friends get into scrapes and have fun in different ways in each chapter – that’s it. I also felt like the novel as a whole was lacking in much emotional value. Perhaps it was banking too much on making people feel nostalgic?

So, as much as I enjoyed reading it and am glad that I did, I feel that it was lacking in quite a few areas. The story was definitely interesting and I was surprised by quite how dark it got at times, but despite the serious events which take place, I feel like the writing was quite removed from the associated intensity of emotion. Plus, there’s a somewhat uncomfortable portrayal for the novel’s sole Native American character – although I did feel like it was kind of progressive in other areas. It’s not very long and worth a read, but I certainly don’t consider it to be one of the greatest novels of all time…

Rating: 6.8/10

Buy it here.

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Rap Battle

Though only a short one, today’s Trusty Water Blog anecdote tells a wholesome and heartwarming rap battle-based story. I’d wager you don’t know too many tales which could be described like that now, do you? No, the movie 8 Mile doesn’t count.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the exact year in which this takes place, which I know is unusual for me, but it was essentially just one small interaction that I wanted to share. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say it was Autumn 2010, because my friends and I were interested in rap battles for some reason and I have a feeling that it was because of the web series, Epic Rap Battles of History, which started in September 2010.

So, anyway, my good friend Elliott Egan and I had decided to try and rap battle one another. I believe Egan went first and when it came time for him to start rapping against me, he found he couldn’t. It wasn’t due to lack of rapping capability, but because he couldn’t find anything bad to say about me. Then, when it was my turn, I found that I had the same dilemma – I decided to try and fit some compliments into my rap instead. We went into the battle preparing to hurt feelings, but came out of it by lifting each other higher than every before.

And that’s my pleasant and wholesome rap battle story. Why don’t they do compliment based rap battles? Or rap love ins, they could be called. I don’t know the answer to the question, but as the human race progresses forward, amasses more knowledge and expands its moral consciousness, I am sure that it will only be a matter of time before this dream becomes a reality. Yo.

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Nintendo and Friends (a social media experiment)

I’m afraid that today’s blog post isn’t a particularly exciting one, but I wanted to talk a little about a project I’ve been working on recently. It’s a bit of an experiment really, but I was thinking about how I’m quite good at social media marketing, but that none of my own accounts really reflect that ability.

So what I decided to do, was to create a Twitter account based around my Trusty Water Blog video game reviews. I didn’t want to build my numbers by telling my friends about it, so instead I’ve just tweeted about my reviews and been an active member in online communities.

I started it few months ago and I only update it every now and then, but I am quite glad to have built up 99 followers and counting. I know it’s not really that impressive – in work, I’ve built up 500 followers on a new account in much less time. Still, for me, this is an achievement that I am quite proud of.

If you’re interested in looking at it, I’m @AndNintendo and the only things I tweets are my video game reviews: I write super condensed versions of them, along with their scores, then I link to the full thing. Since I’ve written literally hundreds of game reviews now, I’ve got a steady flow of tweets! I guess 99 people enjoy it (which is significantly more than my author fan page on Facebook has!)

I hope that one day I’ll have built up so many followers that it will be something worth showing off whenever I find myself in interviews for social media roles in future! It would certainly be a nice way to go against the curse of social media marketers.

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