Monday, 27 December 2010

Dancing games

I remember the days when the "dance mats" for Sony PlayStation were immensely popular...  Anyone who was anyone owned one (I didn't) and schools and youth clubs would hold "dance mat competitions" for all the local kidz to compete it...  Personally, I never felt it counted as real dancing at all - I still maintain that using a PlayStation dance mat made you look like someone trying to play Hopscotch in a shower cubicle!

However, with the advent of "motion sensor based" gaming - firstly with the Nintendo Wii, and now, more recently, with Kinect for XBox - the idea of fusing video games and dancing is once again enjoying a certain amount of popularity...

These new games seem to provide more actual dancing than the old dance mats used to, and yet, I still struggle to see their worth...

Y'see, I thought that dancing was mainly a social activity...  (If we ignore, for a minute, professional dancers dancing in competitions, and so on...)  I don't really see much point in boogieing down to some Tina Turner when I'm on my own, standing in front of the television!  Yes, it's true that the current adverts on TV for these "dance game" products show the games being used socially, at house parties and so on, but always in a situation where one or two people are dancing, while the other party guests crowd 'round like spectators at an illegal cage fight somewhere in Thailand...  It just doesn't strike me as a particularly enjoyable party activity!

I think, at the end of the day, whether you do it alone, or with friends, you are still dancing around your own living room, staring at the TV screen - and, quite frankly, you probably look a bit of a plonker!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

#Snow in the UK!

Ohmigod it's SNOWING!!

Yeah, great...  I'm actually beginning to get quite annoyed by how pathetic we, in Great Britain, are, as a nation, at dealing with snow...

After all, it's not that unusual, is it?  We get some snow most years, during the winter - and yet, every year it's the same!  We panic, and we cancel things...  Any things!  We close schools, and we decide to stop going to the shops, and we start to dress in skins and communicate only in grunts and nods...

And, although I'm not all that old myself, I'm sure this is only a fairly recent thing...  I remember walking to school in the snow, and having snowball fights in the playground at lunchtime...  I actually used to take a sledge to school sometimes, when it snowed; our school field used to slope down to the river, and you could slide down it, and have races - it was great fun!

These days, though, you only have to shout the word "snow" loud enough, and your local school will close!  People will start panic-buying things like milk and carrots (which, apparently, are essential weapons against cold weather!) and fuel...

For some reason, the inclement weather is an excuse to drop everything, lose all common sense and run around like the proverbial decapitated poultry...  Quite frankly, I think it's pathetic!  In my opinion, life goes on - and if the weather's bad you should just stop being so feeble, cope with it, and just get on with things!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Ten reasons not to go to the cinema

I recently went to the cinema - for the first time in 2010...  I went to see the new Harry Potter film with my sister - but before we could watch it, we were forced to sit through a good couple of hours of trailers...

One of these trailers featured actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost trying to sell "the cinema experience" (rather a waste of time, I felt, since all of us there, watching the trailer, had already bought "the cinema experience") to convince people that they do need to watch films in the cinema, instead of just waiting for the DVD to come out and watching it at home...

Now, they are famous, successful, funny men; I am none of those things...  But still, I am going to try and argue the opposite - that going to the cinema really isn't worth it, and that waiting to buy the DVD to watch the film at home actually is the best choice...

I shall do this in the form of an unimaginatively numbered "one-to-ten" list, thus -

One: "cost"
A trip to the cinema these days really is histrionically expensive...  Not only do you have to get there (and however you do that, it'll cost money somehow - in petrol, parking, rail tickets, bus fare, taxis, horseshoes, rickshaws, or re-heeling your favourite brogues) but once you're there, you pay nearly £10 for an adult ticket (you can get in for less, but you won't be able to see the lower two-thirds of the screen) before realising you're really thirsty, and all you can do is spend £3 on a small bottle of water...

Two: "food"
Like a lot of people, I'm rather fond of a snack or three while watching television, and the same applies when watching a movie...  There is food available at the cinema - but, as one might expect, it is, of course, very expensive!  Not only is it very expensive, though - it is pretty horrible, too...  I've never enjoyed eating popcorn (it's like deep-fried fibreglass, dipped in tar) and neither do I care much for hotdogs made of plastic, or chips made of cardboard - and so, I have to sit watching the film, feeling hungry while everyone else around me munches this disgusting fodder irritatingly loudly, and wishing I could ring for a plate of bœuf bourguignon!

Three: "adverts"
As I mentioned in the unnecessarily long preamble to this post, there are a lot of adverts and trailers to sit through, before the movie...  Those of you who follow me on Twitter will already know that I despise television advertising - at the cinema, you have to sit through all the same crass, poorly-executed adverts you get on television, plus a bunch of trailers for films you'd never want to see, before you even get close to the film you've actually come to watch!

Four: "temperature"
The actual auditorium at the cinema is kept stifling hot at all times...  Every visit to the cinema, for me, ends the same way - emerging from the auditorium at the end of the film, gasping for air and blinking in the light, wishing the place provided swimming facilities and showers on-site...  I'm not sure who decided that the ideal environment to enjoy a film would be, essentially, a sauna fitted with tip-up seats - but I'm pretty sure it was the same man who gets all the profits from the cinema food stalls and vending machines, since, as far as I can see, the only reason for keeping the place so warm is to induce cinema-goers to spend all their money on the phenomenally overpriced drinks and ice-creams as they try to cool down!

Five: "lack of control"
At the cinema, you have no control over what's happening...  What I'm talking about here, really, is the ability to pause the film - at the cinema, you just can't, but, when watching a DVD, it's easy!  Let's say, half-way through the film, you need to get up to open a second bottle of Scotch, answer the telephone, give advice to the home secretary, or help yourself to a second serving of bœuf bourguignon - simple, just press "pause", do whatever you have to do, then come back to the television, and pick up where you left off...  In the cinema, of course, doing any of these things would cause you to miss one of the most important scenes in the film - the bit where the plucky, underdog hero discovers the villain's fatal weakness, for example...  (It's his emotions - I'll bet you anything you like!)

Six: "other people"
Other people annoy me in most situations, actually, so this is less of a flaw with the cinema, and more of a flaw in my character - but I think it's worth mentioning anyway...  I don't go to the cinema often - but, every time I do, someone sitting in the row in front of me decides that they have to go to the toilet part-way through the film...  For a good ninety seconds, my view of the screen is obscured by someone else's bobbing head as they shuffle past other cinema-goers from their seat, which is, predictably, right in the middle of the row...  (Why don't these weak-bladdered movie fans pick a seat near the aisle?!)  Then five minutes later, the whole charade is repeated, in reverse, while the hapless man tries to return to his seat, blissfully unaware of what the rest of us in the audience now know about the villain's fragile emotional state...  Watching the DVD at home, however, this is not an issue...  My lounge is not laid out in rows - it has a sofa, and a television - and I only have friends with strong bladders, capable of watching a film from start-to-finish, without needing a break to visit the bathroom...  If anyone I'm watching the film with does need to leave the room for any reason, before the film has finished, I can simply pause it for them, and wait for them to return, as I explained earlier...  (And I can nick their bœuf bourguignon while they're not looking!)

Seven: "internet access"
This, again, may be more of a problem within myself, than with the cinema - but, as you probably know by now, I quite like the internet...  I like social networking online, and I like Tweeting things as they happen - in the cinema my fancy-schmancy 3G iPhone must be switched off, and kept in my pocket, and I am cut off for two hours or more...  No doubt those who follow me down the various different dark alleyways of the online world are glad of the brief respite from my ramblings, but I feel irritated and removed from my comfort-zone in this situation, and I don't like it...  Perhaps I should see a therapist?

Eight: "analysis and discussion"
Right at the beginning of this, I said that the last film I watched was the new Harry Potter, which I saw with my sister...  I often watch films with my sister - she is a big movie fan, and even has a membership card for some "movie lovers' mutual back-slapping club" at the Odeon cinema, which entitles her to free Pepsi Max every second Tuesday of the month, or something like that...  My point, though, is that she knows a lot more about film than I do, and while watching something with her, I often find it helpful to discuss the plot/script/costumes/makeup with her as we go along...  In the cinema, I can't do this, as I feel I'd be disturbing other people (yep, them again!) by talking during the film...  Conversely, however, I often have to sit through a film punctuated by the asinine remarks of those same other people, because they don't have the same respect or consideration for my enjoyment of the movie as I do for theirs...

Nine: "reusability"
I'm not sure that's even a word...  But what I mean, as I'm sure you know, is that once you've bought your tickets to see a film, you see it once, and then you leave the cinema and go home, and that's it...  If you want to see the film a second time, you have to go through the whole rigmarole over again!  But when you buy a DVD, if you like it, you can watch it as many times as you like, for no extra charge - or if you don't like it, you can sell it on eBay, or give it to a casual acquaintance or brother-in-law as a birthday present...

Ten: "extra stuff"
A DVD gives you extra features...  Sitting in the cinema gives you cramp, and a headache...  I know which I'd rather have!  (Actually, if I'm honest, I'm never that bothered by all that extra stuff on a DVD...  But I know that lots of people really enjoy seeing a film, and then getting to know it by watching all the other bits - the director's commentary, deleted scenes, cast interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, etc...)

So there you have it - ten reasons not to go to the cinema, but to stay at home instead and actually allow yourself to enjoy a film!