How much do you cling to the past, and how quickly do you move towards your future?

Hey gang,

It's surely been a tumultuous time for all of us right? Between everything being the absolute worst, and arguably the worst year in recent memory, we've all been struggling. I know personally, I've been fighting to keep my head above water, but I'm just about getting there, due to some important people in my life.

I'm also coming to a new chapter in my life, which is partly the reason why I wanted to write today (And also cause I just need to get all my thoughts out there, written down). Soon, I'm hoping to move to Japan to teach English. It's been a lifelong dream of mine for...shit, since I was 21, so...ten years ago? I remember when I first head about the idea of it at the time- moving to the other side of the world to teach. At the time, I was just getting into education, infact, I was spending 2 days a week at a local school, just doing some voluntary work- reading and just chatting with the kids. I realized that...this is what I wanna do in my life. I spent the next ten years building a reputation and portfolio of being a respected, dedicated figure in education. I taught from the South of the country to the North, in incredibly privileged areas, and incredibly destitute and "wanting" areas. Anyway, back to teaching abroad.

I always wanted to do it, but I could never really bring myself to make that plunge I guess? I thought about applying with my partner at the time, when I was 22 and she was 21, and I'd just finished university. To cut a long story short, she cheated, and that dream fell through. For the next 8 years, I would find myself grinding out teaching and TA jobs all over the place. At that time, teaching abroad simply wasn't an option for me. I wasn't good enough. I think the downfall of the relationship had deeper impact that I gave it credit for, and it kinda ruined my self esteem for...man, I dunno, probably over half a decade. I quietly contemplated life as I just...got on with things. I guess I was kind of miserable, but I never let it show in front of my kids. I was always 100% on with them, dedicated, and dare I say it, a little inspirational. I know in the last ten years, I've impacted so many lives, and I've helped so many young people move to great things. I'd probably argue that I was put on earth to teach.

So, last year, I applied to the "JET Programme", an international program ran by the Japanese government, with the intention of deploying English speaking people all across Japan, with the intention of starting grassroot programs, and raising the level of English all over Japan. It was a thrilling prospect. I don't know what changed, but I was finally at one with myself, I guess. I knew I had it in me, and I knew I was ready to make this step. Bear in mind, at this time, I was 30, and I'd never left the UK before (I still haven't!!). I figured that if I was going into something...I was going in two feet first, off the deep end, with my eyes closed.

I guess with the pre-amble over, I can get into the real intention of writing today, and that's the concept of living through your past, and how much you look towards the future. Now, at the moment, I'm in two minds:

  • The first one is my life now, as it stands, in the UK. I'm largely miserable at work, as it's clear my school views me as disposable and expendable. I almost walked out of work yesterday, as one of my co-workers said something incredibly upsetting at how I'm (and I'm paraphrasing) "Not working hard enough, and not making enough of an impact to justify the money, so we need to assess your impact to make sure you're doing things right". I've worked this job for about 6/7 years now, and I know that I make a marked difference every day. I work hard, I commit to the children, and I care about what I do for a living. So why suddenly am I personally being targeted for an "Assessment of impact"? Why is no other member of staff facing the same scrutiny? It feels very unfair, and when I heard that I've been picked out for potential cuts, I was pretty devastated, when I think about how much I've sacrificed for that school.

However, there's the other side of my life: My friends. Since signing up to teach abroad, I have met some amazing, incredible, wonderful people. I feel extremely close to a select few, and honestly, they make the day worth getting through, knowing I can talk to them, and commiserate with them after a hard day at work. This is where the dichotomy of my life is tugging at me. I guess I don't want these times to end. For the first time in my life, I've finally found a real group of friends I care about and love. Every day I get to spend time with them, and talk with them is a day that I really treasure, and I mean that. We laugh, we learn, we cry together- honestly, everything I want out of friends. However, this is where the fear of the future comes in.

  • I worry about the future, I guess. Something I've come to hate, but begrudgingly accept as I've got older is how hard it is to just...spend in person, face to face with your friends. Whether it's the fact that your lives just...go in different directions, or you have a family, or you have a job, or you live on opposite ends of the country, or Earth...it's tough. My best friend from college and I spent many MANY years, just the two of us against the world, he's now moved to Toronto. I haven't seen him in over a year now, and to be honest, I might not see him for a very long time.

Nowadays, I've made some extremely close friends, who I don't think I will ever get rid of. You know when you just meet "your people" and you think "Yeah, these are the ones"? It's been that. I guess I worry that life will catch up to me. I know that two of my best friends at the moment, who I'll be going to Japan with eventually, I'll make every effort to stay in contact with them, every day, as often as I can. I'll make the effort to see them, as often as I can, and have as many amazing, shared experiences with them as I can. I can't wait to share this next step of my life with such wonderful, amazing people. I spoke to one of them last night about us all staying close, and we agreed that we're just "in each others lives" and there's "No getting rid of them", which really meant a lot to me.

How do you guys feel about the ever pressing issue of time and tide waiting for no man? How do you "carry the weight" of your collective pasts, and how much do you look towards a brighter tomorrow (Which we all have, no matter what's going on in our lives). How do you find the time to keep in with with those you care about that aren't family? I'd love to have a discussion about how you keep in touch with the ones you care about most, and what you're going to continue to do.

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Those of us gaming in the 80s/90s...What do you remember most fondly?

Hey gang,

Lockdown is ending, in a way, and I'm becoming nostalgically wistful. I guess a part of it comes with entering the summer season of my life story too. It's becoming very easy to look back on "the good old days" of gaming. Which is weird, because in terms of life, I'd argue that "These are the days". Life has kinda never BEEN better. I'm off work for 6 weeks for summer holidays, I'm going to Japan in....well, to be confirmed (Once the immigration problems end), and I have Tsushima, a game I've been looking forward to for...4 years? I actually started it on Friday, but...life's got in the way. Between my Japanese lessons, D&D, and all in all living life I haven't had much time to sit down with games.

Which I guess is what's got me nostalgic about the good old days. When I think back about fond gaming memories in the last....5 years, I struggle to think of...well, anything really. I remember really enjoying the first time I heard "Rivers in the Desert" in Persona 5, and that scene in Yakuza Zero where Kuze was riding the bike with the big steel pipe. I guess I also remember 2B's arse, but for less ideal reasons.

However....when I think back about my experiences with the yesteryear of games, there's a LOT of memories. Going back to the 90's, I remember my FIRST EVER game and level, which was Snake Man's stage in Mega Man 3. I had an NES with SMB and MM3, and I think I kinda just played Snake Man and Gemini Man on repeat. Those were good times. I remember getting a Super Nintendo for Xmas one year. I remember when I was allowed ONE game for Christmas, and I picked "Super Mario Kart". That was a good year. I remember my dad getting me an N64 from the LOOT magazine back in ...98 I guess? I was about 9-10. I remember getting South Park with it and playing a LOT of it. It was actually pretty shit. I had a black N64 and a Green controller with a red rumble pak.

The absolute greatest Xmas of ALL TIME was when my mum struck ABSOLUTE GOLD. She got me Goldeneye and Ocarina of Time, and it was just....man. That was a REALLY REALLY good 6 months or so of gaming.

I remember when my best friend, Alex and I would play Dynasty Warriors 4 every weekend. We'd pick a new character every month and grind them out really fast. I was a big Pang Tong fan, and also Taishi Ce. I remember when he got the PRIMA guide for FFX, and we spent 18 months squeezing ABSOLUTELY EVERY DROP of fun out of that game.

A fond memory was playing the SNES/PS1 Final Fantasy games. I had a lot of fun with FF6, but I actually never finished it. I got to Kefka's Tower and just...couldn't beat it. I didn't really understand the need to level up, and grind things out, so I had one SOLID team of guys (Locke/Gogo/Sabin/Edgar) and the rest of my guys sucked. It's one of my ultimate secret gaming shames, that I never finished one of my all time favourite games.

I guess more than ANYTHING, I remember how...pure the gaming experience was. You'd go to a store, you'd see the boxart, and then look at the back of the box, and that was IT. A little later on, you'd use gaming mags for a little guidance, and later on with that, you'd have PC Gamer with that AWESOME demo/utility disc every month. I think I got my first WINZIP off that disc. I loved how good games were before the internet. You'd get a solid, stable gaming experience. You put your cart/disc in the console, and you'd be PLAYING. No patching, no 8 minutes of loading, no notifications, no trophies, no achievements. It was just you, and the game.

I miss those times. What about you?

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Dealing with lockdown, and being nostalgic

Like many of you, I'm suffering from lock down fever. How is everyone managing with it? I'm seeing both sides of the coin from people I talk to. There's those of us who live alone. We're not working, and we're struggling for human contact/interaction. We go to the store, and that five minute conversation with the pretty cute cashier makes you well up inside. Their fingertips graze your palm as they give you a receipt, or some change, and your skin gets that electric feeling to it. You play out entire lifetimes in your head, about how this VERY SPECIFIC PERSON and you, that you don't know outside of your 49 second interaction, save for their name. You could hang out during lock down. You could eat ice-cream till 4am watching Full Metal Alchemist. You could go on walks down a canal, and discuss your goals in life.

Then you slap back into reality, say “Thanks, I'll see you next time, stay safe” and just fucking....get on with your life. Within 3 minutes, you've forgotten about them, and you're thinking “Should I have that can of tuna on my wrap, or shred some chicken...” and that entire lifetime is gone, in an instant.

For me, at the moment, it's been surprisingly Zen. I have a schedule, in that I have no schedule. It's like when you see an office where everything's just scattered. To the outside eye, it's...pandemonium. But to you, there's method to the madness. That's what my life is at the moment. I roll out of bed anywhere between 9 and 10:30. I grab an energy drink (Zero sugar, zero cal, I gotta lose that weight). I might make some prawn toast, or have left over stir fry. Then I roll over to my desk, and start talking to my friends. I have a lot of different friends, and they're all equally valued. I have one good friend, who I talk to, and we go from topic to topic like a fucking ping pong table. I have my gaming friends, who, realistically, are my best friends. Like, I kinda lost a lot of my real life friends a long time ago. After University, we kinda just...drifted apart. It's like any friendship I guess. Once you lose that proximity, it takes a herculean effort to stay in touch, because...you just stop giving a shit. One of my absolute best friends I've ever had, we make an active effort all the time to talk. We met in college, aged 16, and we've probably talked every day since. He actually left the UK to move to Canada with his girlfriend. I'm thrilled for him, cause she's a fucking winner. I'm ecstatic that he won the lottery of life, and is now living his best life. I hope I see him soon. Anyway, yeah, my internet pals. I have an extremely tight knit friendship with the 5 of us. We hang out every day, we're playing games, we're chatting shit, we're meming. All sorts. One of my closest friends, we hang out every day on discord. Like I said, there's no real schedule, but at 1pm every day, we make time to have a voice call and just...hang out. Like, we don't really do much. We just chat. And boy, is that daily conversation absolute fuel for my fire at the moment. I wouldn't know what I'd do every day without my friends. I guess I wanna say...make time for your friends at the moment. Recently, I was inspired to reach out to an old friend. One of the best friends I've ever had. I moved away, and we just lost contact. Such is life. But I reached out to him, after not speaking to him in 6 years, and it just...sent this shiver up my spine when I got that message back from him. We've both been through some shit, and it was just amazing to hear back from him again. And, I worry that, without lock down...I might have let that errant friendship gather more dust, and rot away. I have the people I'm going to be depending on for the next...1-5 years- the ones that I'm moving to Japan with. I've been speaking to our 90 person strong Facebook group, daily. We have an even more bespoke LINE group, where it's just bonding, all day every day. I have people who I've been talking to directly, who I've come to love talking to every day. I've made so many friends, and I'm still 3 months outside of Japan. Imagine what it's gonna be like when we actually get to meet up. Neo Tokyo is about to explode. If I'm allowed to surmise this train of thought, please take this message:

Please, reach out to your loved ones, and people you care about. That friend you haven't spoken to since college? I promise you, they'll be as thrilled to hear from you as you them.

Right, what was I going on about again? This blog was supposed to be about nostalgia, and how massive of an impact it makes in our lives

So, in my lockdown state of mind, I've been doing some thinking about “The good old days”, and if they were infact, the good old days. I know there's the whole notion of “The Rose Tinted Glasses”, and I think that statement rings through in such a sonorous way nowadays. I'm not necessarily talking about “pre COVID 19” era, I mean thinking about a time in your life when you thought you were objectively “happy”. When I think back about that, I think of a very specific time, and I know it exactly.

It was around about the time when I was playing World of Warcraft back in 06-09. Back at that time in my life, I was just in absolute Nirvana every day. I'd wake up, and I'd go to college and hang out with my friends all day. I think back to those times, when we'd just hang out in-between lessons every day, and it was just...man, it was something else. I'd finish school for the day, and go home and play WoW with my online friends. At the time, despite playing MMO's for years, I don't think one connected with me like Warcraft did. It just had this...IT Factor for me that, looking back, I don't think any other game has, or likely, ever will again. But I'm not sure if I actually liked the game at the forefront of this memory. I think, arguably, it was the time in my life when I played it. I had the world at my feet, and it was just this 4 years of absolute harmony in my life. Then the end of University hit, a bad relationship happened, and the weight of the world was kinda on my shoulders. I stopped “enjoying” life, and just “got on with it”. One way to interpret, I guess, is that I was “existing” and not “living”.

That kinda extended for a while. Bad, sporadic relationships and a lack of effort about life made me kinda exist with this smog of miasma across my life. It was like, when you have the TV on in another room. You can kinda hear that it's on, but you can't really define what's going on. There's just this...background sound going on.

When I think back about the “Good old days”, I used to think “I wish there was a way to know you're in the good times before you left them”. A friend inspired me lately to think of a more modern approach about it.

It shouldn't be “Those were the days”.

It should be “These are the days”

If life's taught me anything lately, it's that you need to just...grab that ring. It's why I'm dropping everything in my life and moving to Japan to teach English in September. There could not be a bigger leap of faith for someone like me, who's historically played it safe. I wanna get out there man. Live new experiences, meet new people, make new friends, just go out there and get life.

I take a lot of inspiration from Aurelius, but if I was to sum up his thoughts, it probably speaks to me most with “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live”.

How are you all coping with lock down? Are you keeping in touch with your friends and family? What's driving you to go on at the moment? I'd absolutely love to talk about what's making us happy.

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Playing "classic games" without nostalgia

Hey gang,

Like many of you, I play a lot of games. Like...a lot.

However, in my almost 30 years of gaming, I've missed a lot. Growing up, I played almost exclusively JRPGs. I mean I played a LOT growing up, all different genres, but I missed some big games.

I didn't play Super Metroid till I was 22, and it came out when I was 5. There's still some absolute massive games that I've still never played. However, I tried to remedy that recently, with Nintendo's Seminal "Link to the Past"

Now, growing up, it was everywhere. Loads of people were playing it, talking about it in the playground, it was in the Nintendo mags- all over the shop (And all over the shops too!). However, I never played it. I guess I missed it? I got into Zelda with Link's Awakening, then kinda played them all up to Skyward Sword, where I almost entirely fell off. (I've had BOTW for 3 years but not made it past the tutorial, and I've tried twice!)

So, I figured I'd right a wrong. I had a SNES Classic, and it had LTTP on it, so why not give it an honest whack? Dan harps on about it, and I respected Dan when he was at Giant Bomb, so I thought It would be amazing.

I didn't really rate what I played...

Now, I know I'm going in almost THIRTY years late. Games have changed since then. Zelda has changed since then. They added a third dimension! But with all the hype I heard about LTTP, I went in thinking it would change my life.

What I actually got was 3/4 hours of really middling gameplay. It was also really hard! Finding hearts is really scarce, and hardly any enemies drop them. All the enemies do a full heart of damage too. Your sword doesn't have a cleave, it's like, if you don't hit them BANG ON, it doesn't register the attack. The items feel kinda jank. The dungeons are uninspired and the bosses difficulty spikes are weird. The game does not hold your hand AT ALL. It just kinda goes "Okay, your next objective is in...this region I guess. Go for it pal"

The music and aesthetic are A+, but that's not enough to keep me going. Maybe if it was a pure dungeon rush game, I'd like it more, but as is, I actually found it a massive letdown.

Has this happened to anyone else? Have you gone into a "Legendary game" and thought "Actually, this is kinda crap"?

I'd love to hear your thoughts

32 Comments

Why Jojo's Bizarre Adventure means to much to me

Hey gang,

If you've seen the anime thread on here, or know me personally from discord, you'll know my appreciation for JJBA over the last...6 months?

I guess I better start...where my re-introduction to anime began.

When I was young, I fucking adored anime. I first got into it when I watched Ghost in the Shell that I found on VHS at "Music Zone"- A little chain of shops in the North West of England. I took it home, put it in, and it absolutely blew me away. It did everything right. Cut to 10 years later to when I did a Film and Media degree at university, and specialized in anime. I did my thesis on "Posthumanity in Sci-Fi Anime" and basically analysed the meaning of post life in GITS, GITS2, Serial Experiments Lain, and Akira. It was a golden, prosperous time. Now, as the years went on, I'd watch anime, and play JRPG's, but I never really got back into it like I did that 4 years I was at university. By the time I'd turned 25, I almost stopped watching entirely. Not because I fell out of love, or because I grew up: it simply didn't "do it" for me anymore.

Cut to Autumn 2018.

At this time, I'd been on a small, tight knit discord community, and dived into their anime channel. It was a small subset of an even smaller discord, but there was a lot of hardcore fans for certain shows on there. One of those shows, was Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (Henceforth referred to as JJBA, or Jojo's to save time). I was umming and aahing for years about wanting to get back into anime, and I thought if I was gonna get back in, I was gonna go DEEP. I settled on JJBA, and went in with both guns blazing. I made a rule to watching anime: 2 episodes of 2 shows a day, every day: a rule I mostly stick with to this day (with some exceptions). One of the shows was JJBA. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I was told to "Go in with an open mind" and that "Every part is different".

You better believe those 2 statements were accurate representations of my next 6 months or so. I decided to buy into Crunchyroll, an anime streaming service with parallels to Netflix, but for anime. CR had the entirety of modern Jojo on there, so I subscribed, and set off to work. Now, I could, (and did before deleting an hours work) talk about each individual part of Jojo, and how meaningful they were to me getting back into anime, but I'm gonna focus on one part: Stardust Crusaders. I'm gonna try to summarize why SC was so important in my life, and getting back into anime again.

Please know now, spoilers are naturally to follow

Stardust Crusaders

I know this might sound IMMEDIATELY cheesy, but Crusaders really is greater than the sum of its parts. It has remarkable art, fantastic animation, spectacular music, and a cast of characters that really feel like family by the end. Now, I'm a big fan of One Piece. If you've read/watched it, you'll know a central theme of OP is that of "Friendship". No other show in HISTORY has accomplished this idea than Stardust Crusaders. Each and every character feels...meaningful to the story as a whole. You begin with Jotaro, the moody, eponymous protagonist. Now, at the start, and I said this to my discord pals, I HATED Jotaro. I hated his look, how he spoke to his mother, how he acted- I just felt really turned off a character in a way that made me wanna drop the entire season. With some encouragement, I carried on going, and Goddamn am I glad I did. What occurred in the next...48 episodes really ticked my box in a way I didn't think any modern show would.

Historically, I'm a big watcher of what you'd call classic anime. I'm talking turn of the century stuff. Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Lupin, Tenchi Muyo, Dragonball, Gundam- the list could go on. I honestly didn't think a modern show could really turn me on the way that Jojo did.

The show largely revolves around a central cast of characters who have the power of Stands- a physical manifestation of mental acuity. Some stands are more combat orientated, some are more outside the box ones. (This expands the further into Jojo you get, with Parts 4 and 5- where I'm currently up to taking this to the nth degree).

There's Polnareff, who's stand is an armored swordsman. Avdol, who can control fire. Kakyoin, with the power of body manipulation. Iggy, with the power of manipulating sand and dust. Joseph, who's stand allows him to see into the enemies location, with the side power of shooting weird purple vines (?) and the titular Jotaro, with a basic, but incredibly powerful fighting stand that has lightning quick reflexes and can punch...fast. Like, really fast.

You're introduced to each character through 1/2 episodes, and you get to see the basic idea behind their stands. After they come together as a group, they find out that Holly, (Jotaro's mother and Joseph's daughter) is dying from a stand trying to emerge from her. She doesn't have the mental prowess to handle a stand, so they travel to Egypt to fight the fearsome DIO (Yes, the same Dio from Phantom Blood), hoping that by ending his life, they will negate the manifestation of Holly's Stand, saving her life.

What follows is a good old fashioned "Stand of the Week" mentality, through about...40 episodes? They encounter stands from the Tarot cards (Not so dissimilar to the Persona games), and tend to highlight a party members strengths, and creative ways in which they can use their stands to fight off the encroaching enemies. Some stood out more than others (Steely Dan being one of the most memorable, or D'Arby the Gambler). I won't bore you by reeling off each individual stand, or why they were good, but eventually they arrive in Cairo, and encounter the lauded villain, DIO.

What follows is some of the most tense, moody animation I've ever seen.

It just bleeds atmosphere. You've been built up towards DIO throughout the whole arc as this almost ubermensch-esque figure, and when he's finally revealed, it just....works. His design is absolutely killer, his voice actor is menacing, and his power just seems unbeatable. See, DIO's stand is "The World", or as you may know t from decades of internet memery "ZA WARUDO". It's similar to Joseph's "Star Platinum" except that it can stop time. If, like me, you played the JJBA fighting game on PS1, you'll have fond memories of the ROAD ROLLAH finisher, and this is naturally torn straight from the pages.

But it's not the bombastic nature of The World that really summarizes why DIO is such a great villian. For over 40 episodes, you seem him in shadows. Talking to subordinates. Leading his troops from an almost medieval like castle. You don't actually SEE DIO in the flesh till the last 5 or so episodes. They just spend an entire arc of anime building to this one incredible character. Don't get me wrong, the SC posse are an impassable group of super friends. But DIO is clearly the star of Stardust Crusaders. To quote something I've seen online "He's someone that bleeds excellence"

The finale is magnificent, and has to be seen to be fully appreciated. To sum it up, DIO is defeated, and Holly is saved, but not without losing a few members of the SC crew. But the deaths all felt meaningful, ya know? They all had purpose in pushing the story forward, or developing the characters that either died, or survived as a matter of their death.

In conclusion, Stardust Crusaders really is greater than the sum of its parts. It depicts a well thought out story, with interesting, meaningful character interaction, married together with wonderful art, animation and music.

Final Thoughts

I know you've read so far, but you're maybe thinking "Well...why did Jojo mean so much to you then" like I originally claimed?

You see, Stardust Crusaders came at a really good time in my life. I was struggling at work with an increased load of responsibility, I didn't have many friends, my anxiety was at its absolute PEAK, and I was suffering from an uncommonly high amount of depression. It really helped, knowing that when I came home from work every day, I had something consistent in my life in Jojo. Every day, when I was at work, I was thinking about Jojo. What was gonna happen next, who was gonna appear, how they'd get out of tricky situations, when DIO was gonna appear. It all just clicked in a way that I haven't felt since I was watching "Legend of the Galactic Heroes"- my all time favorite anime.

Please understand that even small things, like a great anime can have a big impact on people's lives. Anime is designed to entertain, and help you escape from reality. Jojo really did that for me. In my worst moments, it helped knowing I had "friends" to come home to. I should give a big shout-out to my friends from my discord channel, key components in helping me keep going in Jojo, and having something awesome to talk about at the end of every day.

Thank you for reading.

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