Archive | June 2016

Thoughts On When Marnie Was There

I don’t often get to see new Ghibli films at the cinema. Despite having a poster up for ‘When Marnie Was There,’ they didn’t have any showing times for it. On hearing about the closure of Studio Ghibli with the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss what could be their final film. Luckily I located a smaller cinema that specialises in screening a wider variety of films from around the world. I knew I was up for an emotional experience as reviews were claiming the film to be upsetting. The opening also contained warnings of emotional distress. I found it more to be bittersweet. It was very touching in places, but the ending felt like a happy one that resolved the main character’s conflicts. I think much of it was tinged by thoughts of how the studio is changing. When Marnie Was There is based on a children’s book of the same name, written by Joan G Robinson.

The beginning of the film was a little slow. They didn’t seem to be making any efforts to create a likeable main character. She was aloof with those around her. I could still empathise however, as I sensed that this character was deeply troubled and this maintained my interest through the start. I wanted to learn more about why she was this way. Although many will take it to be the usual problems faced while growing up, it struck a chord with me due to my own struggles to connect with others. I loved that she was also a keen artist, carrying her sketchpad with her everywhere. The film is about friendship and self-discovery, which feels all the more powerful in contrast to how we’re initially introduced to the character. Her friend contrasts her well and seems to be everything that she is not. She also becomes more expressive of her emotions as the film continues.

During this new found friendship it’s immediately apparent that there’s something unusual going on. I like that they didn’t obscure this fact just to get a twist at the end. Instead, it keeps you guessing all the way through to try and figure out what the story is behind this girl is. The final explanation is satisfying and believable. I like that it was all finished up properly and made sense. As you’d expect, there are some upsetting moments, but overall I felt happy for the main character who had undergone an arc during the story. It’s difficult to write much more about it without giving too much away.

I really enjoyed When Marnie Was There. It’s a sweet tale, beautifully animated and I loved the music too (‘Fine On The Outside’ by Priscilla Ahn is such a fitting song.) It’s not one of my favourites (I prefer the more fantastical films such as Nausicaa, Laputa and Howl’s Moving Castle), but it’s certainly high on my list as being one of their better films.

How I Learnt to Touch Type (Trusting our Muscle Memory)

Earlier this year I decided that I wanted to learn how to touch type and to do so quickly. I dedicated myself over the space of two weeks and by the end I was able to type fairly well. The difficulty was that I was already fast at typing using my own method and so switching slowed me down for a while. I decided that learning how to touch type would be beneficial for me, although to begin with I doubted the claims that it was faster.

There are lots of free ways to learn touch typing online. I used a couple of websites: https://www.typing.com and http://my.typingtrainer.com. Each website uses different methods for training and I found it helped to go through a second one to help cement what the first one had taught me. There are also various games available. The usual typing tasks can be a little monotonous, but a game can help you to improve without even feeling like you’re putting the effort in. The one I tried out was Typing of the Dead: Overkill – a good one to help speed up your typing. I didn’t concern myself with speed to begin with, instead focussing on accuracy. I would repeat each test until satisfied enough to move on. I found that my typing speed improved on its own as the location of each key moved to muscle memory. At first it was difficult to type quickly because I had to pause to think about where to place each finger. I wouldn’t suggest being too punishing on yourself; As speed increases it’s likely that a few mistakes will crop up.

I put a lot of time aside to learn all of the letter keys in as short a time as possible, allowing me to fully switch to touch typing. When I attempted to learn it before I had only used it during practice sessions and then would revert back to my old style the rest of the time. To pick something up quickly I have found that it’s best to try and use it all the time. This can be challenging to do, particularly if you need to type for a living, as your speed will take a hit to begin with. I found it frustrating for the first few days and had to avoid the overwhelming urge to switch back. I had to keep catching myself to ensure I continued to touch type correctly. It was worth the effort in the long run and now I wouldn’t go back. Many of us develop our own methods for what feels comfortable to us, and it’s not necessary to change how you do something if you’re currently content.

The most important thing that I’ve taken from this is the importance of going in with the right mindset. I had attempted touch typing before, but I gave up due to frustration. It seemed strange to me that anybody could feel comfortable typing in that way and I would make up excuses about how my hands were too small or my fingers weren’t dexterous enough. When I taught myself this time I was much friendlier to myself. When I made mistakes I took it as a part of the learning process. If I struggled with a letter I would tailor my training to focus on it. I also kept telling myself that in time I wouldn’t have to think about it, much like riding a bike.

It was fascinating to experience how my muscle memory developed to allow me to touch type. No matter how frustrating something is to begin with, if we keep at it consistently our brains will eventually adapt. We do lots of things on auto-pilot because we’ve done it so often we don’t need to think about it anymore. Touch typing is the same in that eventually your hands will move of their own accord and you can trust them to take the correct positions. I noticed this happening as my fingers would move before I’d even considered where to put them. I’d hesitate to begin with as I was uncertain, but then I’d check the keyboard and they’d be hovering over the correct key. I came to trust them and now I take a back-seat in figuring out where each key is. I find it easier not to look at the keyboard as it can throw me (it’s like how you learn the controls for a game, but then as soon as you think about what buttons you’re pressing you can’t seem to play anymore.)

Whenever I want to learn something I tell myself that I can trust my brain to eventually figure it out. It takes some of the responsibility away from your own shoulders; This feels better when things go wrong because you can reassure yourself that your brain just needs a little more time to adjust. It helps to remember previous experiences where we struggled to learn how to do something right away. At the moment I’m trying to learn how to hold a pencil correctly and using the overhand method. I wasn’t corrected from an early enough age and have problems with smudging the ink when I write. When I’d attempted to do this in the past I became despondent because I would struggle to even draw a straight line. I have more patience for it now. If I can learn how to touch type I can do this as well.

Celebrate The Small Things: 24 June

happy bees

So we might actually start looking for a house to buy of our own soon. It’s all happening so quickly and unexpectedly that its thrown me. There’s been a lot of change this year and I’m not great at dealing with it, but some of it is good. Getting a bit more space will offer me many more things to look forward to.

I’ve been struggling with my moods lately so my sister recommended focussing on doing things that I enjoy, with no guilt attached. I find this challenging, but I do need to learn how to get better at it. I’ve been doing some more drawing and just over the past week I feel like my Photoshop skills have improved a little. I stayed up writing stories too. It doesn’t always come naturally, but last night just seemed to flow more easily than usual. The weather has also improved. There have been lots of fluffy bees inspecting the flowers in our garden, which makes me smile. I’d planted some seeds earlier in the year in the hopes of making the garden a more attractive place for little critters.

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Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

What Compassion Means To Me

A while ago I read an article that claimed that we’ll regularly discuss moral values, but when we actually come across a person in need we won’t act upon them. These words have re-entered my mind on several occasions. It’s easier to discuss right and wrong in theory than it is to put into practice because life isn’t that black and white. When we introduce emotions into the mix we’ll often struggle to practice what we preach. In many cases we’re influenced by self-preservation; I’ve had my trust misused on a number of occasions and that can cause you to become wary of giving so much of yourself. It’s a shame that a trusting nature can be turned so easily against someone, and upon realizing the truth it can fill you with shame. There are so many scams using people’s good nature against them that it can be difficult to know which cases are genuine. I don’t feel comfortable being approached in the street for that reason, because the doubt about my own safety will come into play. I then feel guilty for not being more helpful.

Different moral values can clash, but can all be equally valid from our own stand point. It’s fun to discuss different scenarios and we can learn a lot from each other, but real life is rarely so simple. Our values might come about through how we wish to be treated ourselves; If we’ve had a tough life then holding onto them can bring comfort, even if we’re not always able to uphold them. For example, I am very anti-bullying because of what I went through at school. For a long time this seemed like an obvious stance to take, but then some would oppose my views by seeing things from the perspective of the bullies, like perhaps they’re having difficulty at home and are lashing out as a result. This can feel like adding further insult to injury, but I do understand that sometimes victims can become abusive themselves. Many will also feel regret afterwards. It’s challenging to accept hearing the other side when their behaviour has left such a negative impact on my own life. Sometimes we say things because we’re angry, but it doesn’t always correspond to what we actually believe.

I’ve since come to believe that to be a compassionate person we need to be able to understand why a person has acted a certain way even if we don’t agree with it. To be compassionate isn’t to tell people how to behave. If we take a moral high ground on someone then we can’t truly empathise with them because we’re putting ourselves above them. I’ve learnt that it’s better not to be too rigid in my values so that I can act flexibly within each situation that comes. If we never intend to cause harm then we’ll probably make the best choice we can in the moment. We all make mistakes too, but that doesn’t make us bad people. It’s easy with hindsight to consider how we should act, but when emotions are running high we don’t always think clearly. As such I think it takes a lot of strength to be able to act with compassion on all occasions. When we’re surrounded by a lot of negativity we can lose faith, but if we try to understand the world from other perspectives we might find that most people are well intentioned and just want to live a happy life like we do.

Mastering Dark Souls – Not Just for the Hardcore

When I think back to my experience of Demon’s Souls and the original Dark Souls I get very strong feelings of nostalgia. It’s unusual because we usually only feel nostalgia for experiences we’ve had at a much younger age, while it would have been about five years ago when I first picked up one of these games. This is probably due to how we come to learn how to play them; I can remember the world layouts and attack patterns like the back of my hand. It feels like I’ve been on quite a journey and they’ve left a massive impact on my life, more so than anything else I’ve ever played. Every so often it’ll dawn on me, I’m actually playing Dark Souls and making progress, how did I get to this point? There will be some spoilers ahead.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 10 June

It was that time of year again, the anniversary of when I got engaged, and as such we made a return to where it happened, Conwy in Wales. Its been a tough year and so a break away was welcome. The weather suddenly picked up for last week and I even got a slight tan. The people in Conwy are lovely and easy to talk to. I love it there like a home away from home.

My creativity seems to soar after having a break. It’s like I get worn down, but after a little recuperation I can’t wait to start working on something again. With the warm weather I like to sit by an open door with my sketch book. I’m still practising maps at the moment. Will be heading out to catch up with friends tomorrow.

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Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

Accidentally Taking Others For Granted

To not take others for granted is obvious advice, it’s unpleasant to feel like it’s happening to us and something we know we shouldn’t do to others. The chaos of life can make it difficult for us to make time for others however, and this can result in sending out the wrong impression. Often it is those closest to us that we treat the worst as we feel safe that they’ll continue to stick by us. We can feel insecure when it comes to new acquaintances and so will tread more carefully. This can make it appear as if a loved one is happier in the company of others than they are in our own, but rather oddly this can actually mean that they feel more at ease around us. They don’t feel the need to put on a front and pretend; What we get is the real them, for better or for worse.

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