Thursday, October 13, 2016

Like a metaphor

I remember learning about metaphors and simile in English at school. It didn't take long to learn the difference (similes use the words "like" or "as" in them), yet it felt like we kept on having tests where we would have to work out which one a particular phrase was. I checked whether the phrase had "like" or "as", ticked the appropriate box, and moved on. "I've got this already", I thought.

At the time I considered them overrated. I was reading a lot of Science Fiction and I liked ideas that tickled the imagination and a clever plot. All this flowery metaphor and simile didn't add to the story, and I could do without it.

As I grew older and my literature tastes expanded I began to understand the appeal of language that painted a picture with words. Like a maturing tree I spread my branches into different genres - the classics, historical detective stories. There I found phrases that were sugary on my mental taste buds and, like a perfect bit of Prog, conjured up visions in my mind. As a coal miner pursues a seam relentlessly into the earth, I mined the rich vein of Literature with a capital L and discovered perfect gems set into great works.

As I considered this, like an athlete looks back on their performance, I wondered if it meant I had a lack of imagination. Later I thought it was probably because, like one's taste-buds become dulled with age, and food needs to be more highly flavoured, actually it was more that I had a great imagination then and now it was getting more dull. Maybe back then those SF stories conjured up great visions in my mind as a conjurer conjures up great tricks.

Imagine then, if you will, that I travel back in time like some Eighteenth Century explorer, and visit my younger self. I go to that child sitting at one of the desks arranged in rows as if they were some grid for learning, and whisper in his shell-like ear. I tell him of my subsequent discovery of the benefits to the mental palette of this rich flavour that can be found in writing that paints pictures in the mind's eye. I encourage him to use more metaphor and simile, as his English teacher has already done many times, like a broken record. He hands in an essay for her to read, and waits as she digests it like a good meal.


"Happy?" he says to the English teacher as she finished it off.

"As a sandboy," she says.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Dara O'Briain's Go 8 bit - more fun that I thought it would be


Lately I've hugely enjoyed watching Go 8 Bit, an original programme on the Dave channel. It's like sitting on the sofa watching your friends play a console game or sitting next to them as they play on a PC, but on TV. I thought it was worth checking out, but it turns out that watching people on TV play games is more fun that you might think.

It's billed as Dara O'Briain's show, but it was created by Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon, who have done it as a live show. They are joined by Ellie Gibson, a gaming journalist, who does a bit on the history of the games they play. Each week they have a couple of guests, usually comedians, who join Steve and Sam's teams and play video games each other.

They usually start with some sort of retro game in the first round, like Galaxians. For the next two the guests each play their favourite game against the other team captain. The fourth round is pretty random. The last one is the big finale. One week they had a level of Little Big Planet especially written for the show. Another time they were playing Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, with the team captains sitting in a plastic container with a large balloon inflating above them as they read out the bomb manual.

The games are played out on a big screen at the back of the stage, and the way they get around having to look at the back of the contestants heads for the whole show is to rotate the stage back and forward by 90 degrees between the chatty bit and the game playing bit. While the rotation is going on the teams unfortunately feel the need to entertain us by, for example, pretending that they are paddling canoes.

The audience try to predict who they think will win each round, but it's often hard to call. Just because someone played a lot of a game 20 years ago doesn't mean they'll be any good against Sam or Steve, or sometimes it does.

If you're old and you like games, then I'll pretty sure you'll love this. If you're either or neither, then let me know in the comments what you think.