gamez r fun

I don’t get anywhere near as much time with games as I’d like anymore, with uni interrupting the routine I had forged myself in my younger years, I’m still trying to catch up on everything I’ve missed over the past 3 years. Starting to write for n3rdabl3.com, and the time I’ve had searching for a job, has dragged me up to date recently, but I still haven’t picked up half the titles I’d have liked to this year. Nevertheless, here’s five games released in 2018 that majorly hooked me, with a gratuitous explanation of their many assets attached for your… pleasure? I’m gonna end each selection with a one-line ‘headline review’, since I need to lean into this whole newspaper rubbish I named my blog after at least once I guess.

Before we start, a couple of honourable mentions go out to God of War and Celeste, the two games released this year that have managed to blow me away despite the minimal time I’ve had with them. Their quality is apparent, I just haven’t been able to sink enough hours into them yet to form a proper opinion or ranking on this list. When I beat them though, they very well may bump a couple of the entries you’re about to read down a couple of pegs. In addition, the Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy gave me the hardest hit of nostalgia earlier in the year on Xbox, and completing it was an absolute joy, but since it was technically released first on PlayStation last year, it is also exempt.

5. A Way Out 

I know, I know, I am ashamed this is on my list too. I’ll be the first to admit that objectively, there has been a huge selection of titles released this year that are better than this schlock-fest. To name a few, continuations in the Assassin’s Creed and FIFA series’ have been well regarded by critics, and more of the same ideas that have been tried and tested over the years isn’t inherently a bad thing. However, I can also put my hand on my heart and say that no game made me smile wider or laugh harder this year than A Way Out.

You play a shitty action B-Movie. That is the only way I can describe this game. The script is just as bad as you’d expect, with stereotypical caricatures woodenly spouting cheesy one liners throughout the methodical revenge plot. Technically, gameplay is minimal, clearly originating with the co-op gimmick and working backwards from there. You can spend hours in prison hammering nails if you want; I’d almost recommend it since the later gunplay is so unsatisfying.

But none of this matters. The game just oozes charm and reeks of a passion project. “You’re busting ma balls, man!” exclaims one of our main characters (clearly based off the way the games director perceives himself in his head, seriously google ‘Josef Fares interview’ and thank me later) in the games very first scene, instantly making both players fall in love with him. Each location you visit has hours worth of menial tasks to undertake that make no sense in the context of the story, but fully entice the achievement hunter and inquisitive spark found within all gamers. You can perfect a banjo/piano duet on four different difficulties in this game about a prison break. Genius.

Headline review: So bad its good doesn’t do this fascinating original title justice

4. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

So I hadn’t owned a CoD game in half a decade until I took the plunge and picked up the most recent instalment last month. After wrapping my head around the new mechanics, I dived straight back into the old faithful; Team Deathmatch. Suddenly, I was 13 again, hours of my life feeling like minutes as game after game passed by. CoD has got it’s hook back, is what I’m trying to say. Continuously rewarding you for playing, giving you a real sense of progression, and driving you forward to keep pulling the trigger.

The balance has been refined, since multiplayer matches primarily operate around individual skill with a rifle in your hands, with fun power-weapon mechanics (I bloody love a mesh mine kill) mixing up the warfare, instead of dominating the battlefield and making you ask “well what the fuck could I have done there?!” half the time. This creates a sense of fairness and stems any frustration the player may harbour towards the game itself. If you die, it is usually your fault, the solution being easily visible and tantalisingly easy to implement, as your next gunfight will only be seconds away.

Couple this with a refreshing new game mode in Blackout, which seems to fulfil the promise a conceptual battle royal mode originally held (I just hate the building in Fortnite, where is the fun in in turning a gunfight into a game of peekaboo?), plus the Zombies variation fully embracing its campier side, this shit is just fun. The only negative I have is the lack of single-player content, being a fan of the ridiculous CoD plots and the situations they place you in myself, it’s a real shame to have to say goodbye, but I suppose the substituted plethora of ever-changing modes found in its place will suffice.

Headline review: Fans rejoice as classic series rediscovers magical form

3. Marvel’s Spider-Man

I bought a PS4 for this game, that’s how excited for it I was. It did not disappoint. I absolutely adore the Arkham formula; I think it leads to an open world that is really fun to explore and an often-imitated combat system that speaks for itself. Apply this to bloody Spider-Man? Obviously you’re on to a winner.

Whilst the story didn’t live up to the hype for me personally, falling in to the trap that most comic book adaptations face of being too predictable, it absolutely did enough to establish a world I am keen to return to. Hopefully, the next world will be ten times bigger than this original title. Not because this iteration was too small or anything, just so we can spend even longer swinging through the city, stopping crimes, and peeking on New York residents whilst crawling on their windows. I cannot remember the last time I had this much fun just existing within a hub, more excited to complete optional missions than the actual story.

Whilst the fighting mechanics are just as exceptional as the traversal, its the little touches that really make this game. Unlocking endlessly cool costumes, seeing definitive versions of characters brought to life by exuberant performances, sound design that make you feel every *thwip* of web, and a truly poignant Stan Lee cameo all help sell the experience. It’s the game a lot of fans have been waiting for since the PS2 era, a true celebration of its source material that feels like a love letter over every inch of the map.

Headline review: Any other year, this probably would be my game of the year. Unfortunately for Insomniac though, it had two behemoths to contend with… (what a terrible headline)

2. Red Dead Redemption 2

Come on, it’s Rockstar, of course this was going to be brilliant. Nevertheless, even with this expectation, this game continued to surprise me with its sheer quality. RDR2 is by far Rockstar’s best written release to date, with Arthur Morgan’s story filled with beautiful poetic irony and interesting characters. This canvas premieres a core cast of over 20 gang members, each with their own unique personality traits and motivations, most of which you care about and could even refer to by name come the end of the 60 odd hours you spend with them. Before, most would struggle naming anyone aside from the main characters in the GTA series, that’s how far the studio have progressed.

Another surprise came in the pace of the game, with extra steps being implemented in familiar techniques such as healing or resting, slowing the player right down in their Wild West antics. Instead of being as frustrating as it sounds, this just serves to immerse the player more into the generated world. Arthur feels as if he actually inhibits the world he lives in, as opposed to being the omnipotent centre of the universe past controllable characters have reeked of (I’m looking at you, Red Dead 1 John Marston).

The second positive to this slow pace is found in the moments where the action ramps up, which become all the more memorable since they are broken up by these slices of ‘real life’. Even with the slightly outdated shooting mechanics, which have most certainly been surpassed by other titles in this age and serve as RDR2’s only downside, these set pieces hold emotional weight and are intensely fun to dictate. It’s simply one of those titles you feel honoured to play, the kind of experience only video games can give you since it feels truly crafted, not merely made.

Headline review: Action game about cowboys nearly makes Dan cry over the death of a virtual horse

1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate 

They’ve done it again. With each iteration in this series, I think “they’ve got nowhere else to go, this is the pinnacle, surely”. How naive I was, the answer was so obvious; just chuck fucking everything at the audience in one package. Smash Bros. is the pinnacle of party games, being able to walk the line between intense, rewarding fighter and goofy scrapper expertly. How could you possibly see Isabelle the dog twatting Solid Snake and not break out in a childlike grin?

Smash achieves this one-of-a-kind status since it can be your traditional brawler, operating on chipping away at your opponents health through skill or cowardice, but no other fighting game can be Smash. The high risk/reward, cat and mouse, chess matches the series creates are unlike anything else in gaming, and if you haven’t experienced one it should be at the top of your list for the new year. Any fears I had about the game being overwhelming due to the sheer quantity of content it has packed in to its tiny cartridge, have long since been squashed by the excitement I’ve felt unlocking character after character, exploring the single-player campaign, and testing my might against other players online.

I don’t even care that I have only had five days with this game. It has hit me hard and taken over my life since I first booted it up. Its lifespan is frightening. Each one of the 70 characters multiplies the amount of time I know I am going to sink into this game, yet another thing to try and perfect. Yet, as with most Smash players, I’ll be lucky if I even get close to excelling with one. There is no way I am ever going to see everything this game has to offer, but that absolutely won’t stop me from trying.

Headline review: Nintendo smash (lol) expectations to release the perfect fighting game

There we have it then, a probably too comprehensive list of my thoughts about the state of the gaming field this year. Games are by far the medium I put the most time into, with entire days spent on single titles often with an accompaniment of YouTube videos on the same topic playing in the background. Whilst I am somewhat disappointed at just how much of a spectacular nerd I am, especially with how much it damages my bank account, it is literally a part of who I am now, and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.

‘Til the next time

Dan

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My Top 10 2018 Albums

HO HO HO AND SUCH OTHER FESTIVE COMMENTS. We’re properly into December now, and as promised I am doing lots of looking backwards, combing over my favourite pieces of media from the past 12 months. So, as a mini advent calendar of sorts, I’m going to try and get out a list of my picks per week (3 in total), until Christmas arrives as a replacement to my writing for you lovely people.

This week, music! To make sure this post doesn’t last forever, I will save my lengthy comments for the albums higher up the list, gradually saying more about each entry. I’ll even give you a selection of which song to listen to from each that will really give you a feel for the album (this definitely isn’t code for me just wanting to tell you my favourite track). Let’s dive straight in:

10. Freedom’s Goblin– Ty Segall (song choice: Every 1’s a Winner)

The year began with this album, and so does my list. Spanning over decades of rock evolution whilst always retaining the hooks of more modern developments, this is a fantastic driving album since the pace of the eclectic beats continuously has your head bopping over its lengthy 19-track run time, yet you don’t notice the time passing.

9. My Mind Makes Noises – Pale Waves (song choice: There’s a Honey)

“If Paramore and The 1975 had a baby” was how this record was first described to me, immediately peaking my interest whilst being insanely accurate. I’ve been on a bit of a binge with female singers since Wolf Alice’s Visions of a Life (my album of 2017), and Pale Waves’ Heather Baron-Gracie can hold her own with the best already. Confident songwriting and the kind of introspective, pessimistic lyrics I love has given Pale Waves a strong footing to launch a stellar discography.

8. For Now – DMA’S (song choice: Tape Deck Sick)

A solid follow up to an equally solid debut album, seeing this band grow from when I first saw them supporting The Courteeners with only an EP to their name (hipster brag) has been extremely rewarding. They’re just a safe bet at this point, the kind of band that are universally approved and respected within the community. This album pushes them forward safely, growing their collection and fanbase without exploring too much new ground, which secures the record a place on this list yet limits its position to the lower placements. More of the same, which is no bad thing.

7. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975 (song choice: Love It If We Made It)

This is the album most likely to shift in position on the list, being the most recently released and due to the habit The 1975 albums have of growing on me exponentially over time. I don’t really like how the band market their albums, by releasing the heavy hitters from the album as singles this makes the remaining new tracks feel flat in comparison on a first run through, even though they are often the more lyrically-driven songs which get more rewarding from multiple listens. Nevertheless, the many singles released prior to the full launch were fantastic anyway, with the pick above very possibly being my song of the year by itself. I can only imagine what they’re going to be like live; with only two albums’ worth of material they were up there with the best I have ever seen.

6. Kindness Is the New Rock and Roll – Peace (song choice: Magnificent)

The kings are back. I was so worried that it would be impossible for Peace to follow up Happy People, as it is borderline perfection, but this is a worthy successor indeed. The record flows from bar filling bops to emotionally fuelled anthems with the kind of swagger only a successfully established band can muster, the kind of in your face writing that comes with not giving a damn about your reputation since you’re already so well respected. This is manifested as a swell of emotion, taking the band to new heights with a frank and bold trilogy of songs forming the albums core (You Don’t Walk Away From Love, From Under Liquid Glass, and Magnificent for those interested). Like a good story the album actually presents a strong message that is worth telling, and has a similarly lasting impact on you as the recipient; I’ve no doubt this album spoke to an awful lot of people in a very positive way.

5. Silver Dollar Moment – The Orielles (song choice: 48 Percent)

Okay, now we’re into the albums I LOVED this year. When The Orielles walked onstage as  a support act in September, I was ready to dismiss them as another act I’d hear just that one time. But, as the set went on, I started paying more and more attention, to the point that I knew I was downloading their debut by the time they were exiting the stage. A more alternative record to my usual recommendations, it forms a sum greater than its parts. Deceptively simple, yet immensely impressive. The kind of album critics love as it really experiments with genres, asking “what’s over there?”, carving a path instead of following what has come before whilst simultaneously staying true to its obvious 90’s indie influences. It’s brave, the kind of bravery that comes with youth and the excitement of making a debut album, but still successful in every turn it takes as a showcase of understanding and executing your vision.

4. The Magic Gang (song choice: Your Love)

Oh look, it’s the best debut album of the year! This record will always hold a soft spot with me, since its happy-go-lucky attitude powered me through a stressful summer, providing a perfect soundtrack to the glorious weather. Walking to and from university with this filling my headphones is one of those memories I will hold forever, to the point that I honestly believe I will never be able to listen to this album without a smile creeping on to my face. The album is ready to burst with harmonic melodies, with songs that flow so well without ever stepping on each others toes or blending in to one another. The result is just downright charming, giving you a warm feeling akin to seeing a beautiful shot in a movie; all you can do is sit back and appreciate it.

3. Tell Me How You Really Feel – Courtney Barnett (song choice: Charity)

My God this album is a mood. I could pull so many one-liners from this record, or form a whole philosophy on how to live life from any one song (or specifically, Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence, oh my). What I love about Courtney is that she is so comfortable with herself, she seems to understand just where she fits in the world, which is nowhere really. Courtney is singing to those who embrace the melancholy and ridiculousness, the Hopefulessness if you will, of life and the relationships found within it; you can feel the wry smile on her face for the duration of her time interacting with you. Brimming with the kind of contemplative thoughts usually found in lonely, anxiety filled nights, this level of relatability is reserved for songwriters who are daring enough to expose this level of vulnerability to their audience, and it’s simply beautiful to see. I’m absolutely desperate to see her live.

2. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino – Arctic Monkeys (song choice: One Point Perspective)

What a shock, the Monkeys are high up on this list. This is easily the album I’ve listened to the most this year, due to the utterly mesmerising lyrical work, which features possibly the most Turner-isms of any Arctic Monkeys album. I respect the band so much for taking this new direction, it would have been so easy for them to churn out a carbon copy of AM, but instead created a piano-lead body of work that I think will age better than anything they’ve released before. Sure, such a sharp change in voice may turn some fans away, but this is just the Monkeys delivering on the promise they made us through the title of their very first album. Unlike anything else on the list, Tranquility Base permeates into your mind, clearing like a fog the more you listen to it. I can see the criticisms, with some people calling it a one-note, but to me this just immerses you more in the world Turner has created. It is forty minutes of pure escapism, a feat only the best albums are capable of achieving. For those after an additional fix of the space-age vibe, I’d highly recommend the new single ‘Anyways’, it’s equally as bloody fantastic.

1. Joy as an Act of Resistance – Idles (song choice: Danny Nedelko)

If you’d had come to me at the start of the year and told me this would be my most loved album of the year, I’d say you were crazy. I hadn’t even heard of Idles in January, or even July, but even on the first run through of this second album, I knew I was in trouble with how much I love this record.

Simply put, it is the album I will remember 2018 for. It’s personal, bouncing between heartbreaking and witty, political, yet disguised through subtle catchy hooks, and riotous in a way only guitar music can be. Live, this is magnified tenfold; I’ve never been at a show that had such a sense of camaraderie or interaction between everyone involved, peaking with at least 20 members of the audience storming the stage and sharing it with a gracious, effortlessly entertaining band. Even without this though, it’s just fucking good fun. An album for everyone, the kind of one we needed in the tumultuous times we live in, championing ideas of togetherness and love to defeat the cold, impersonal messages we are fed every day. This might well be the most hippy message of the year, but it is so well juxtaposed by the anarchic style of the band, it never becomes patronising or contrite, the kind of rebellion you just get caught up in. Genius.

There you have it, a pretentious and unnecessary list of my opinions. I’m sure Idles are absolutely elated to have grabbed the top spot, and the award will feature prominently as advertisement for their next venture. There’s a link to a playlist featuring all the song choices from the list below, plus my choices for video of the year (This is America by Childish Gambino, for obvious reasons) and live show I attended in 2018 (Arctic Monkeys, if the whole blog post it prompted me to write wasn’t enough of a giveaway).

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/2018-album-picks/pl.u-06oxpqNCWzyY46

This has been my longest post to date, and an absolute blast to write, I just hope some of that excitement came across when reading it and the people that reach this point isn’t just my Mum out of a sense of obligation. Guess I’ll never know.

‘Til the next time

Dan

In Between Days

We currently find ourselves in that strange period in-between Bonfire Night and Christmas, where shops are beginning to advertise Crimbo deals and decorate all festively, but we don’t want to admit to ourselves just how close to the new year we are. Everything is kind of in transit at the moment. Cold enough to need a jumper, not quite cold enough for a big coat. Dropping dark early, but not early enough to make you curl up in front of the fire yet. Personally, I adore this time, since it’s when people begin to take a look back over the year that has passed.

Aside from the common tweets you see, “omg where has 2018 gone I swear it was May last week” or “2019 will be the year of me *cringe emoji*”, I think it’s an important time for everyone, looking back on where you’ve been can be a major help when it comes to looking forward to where you’re going. You can bet your ass that I’ll be getting into a similar spirit, expect best of the year lists for games, music, films and the like soon, but today I’m feeling a little more introspective. The only pitfall I can see with looking over your year is equating change with growth, often linked, but not exclusively so, and certainly not necessarily.

People say that change is as good as a holiday (in fact the wonderful Courtney Barnett sings it beautifully and I usually take her word as gospel), but I’ve done both this year and I can certainly tell you which I preferred. It’s no secret how I’ve struggled with a lot of change the past couple of months, you’ve all had to read a lot of my breakdowns, and recently I’ve been considering if I’ve really come out of it all better or stronger. Everything is certainly different, but I can’t really say I’ve overcome any of the vices I was stuck with at the start of the year. Is this just me failing to see the positives in anything, or am I just as lost a cause as I seem to think I am?

I’m sick to death of not being able to tell people that I miss them, or seeing myself only through the lens of comparisons with other people. I don’t really have a definitive plan for getting over these issues either, since seemingly insignificant things can trigger memories you didn’t even know you had, plus I’m prone to the odd random mood crash from time to time; the kind where you just want the Earth to open up and take you away, you know? Nevertheless, I’m going to try and turn this frown upside down, from mere change to real progress. Things have changed a lot over the past couple of weeks and have the potential to be very different again, very soon. Instead of bringing changes on myself and awaiting the negative consequences on delay, like a passive bystander, I’m going to try and force myself into better circumstances.

Just to make sure this isn’t one of those posts that my Mum reads and then sits me down to ask, “are you okay, actually though?”, the answer is yes Mum, I properly do think I am okay. I think ‘potential’ is a very important word for me to keep in mind going forward, since my circumstances really can turn around if I put the effort in, and I haven’t felt this kind of determination to make things happen since I was at university (which, in case you didn’t know, I really liked being at). To quote Ms Barnett once again, “you don’t have to pretend you’re not scared, everyone else is just as terrified as you”. I reckon there’s some comfort in that, it’s just a matter of finding the will to step up to those worries.

Fuck it, I’m gonna say it. 2019 will be the year of me.

‘Til the next, more uplifting, time

Dan

Part-time Party

One of my biggest flaws, and believe me I am trying to work hard on improving this, is being terrified of new things. The prospect of change, or something I’ve never done before, totally makes me freeze; I start to feel physically sick, and cannot mentally conceive of a time after the new thing happening. Hopefully then, this will incite some sympathy from you, dear reader, as the past couple of weeks have been full of such experiences for me. Strap yourselves in for life recap time!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a couple of interviews recently, and I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that I’ve been successful in two very very different cases! Firstly, I’ve had a handful of shifts at a local bar/restaurant, and loved every second of them. Each member of staff, from management to those who have left, have been unbelievably welcoming and understanding when training me, answering any stupid questions I have with a calm understanding. Even the customers have been nice and patient with me, noticing my adorable “I’m training, be gentle” badge and, well, doing exactly that. I haven’t even dropped any food on anyone, result. I’ll hold off saying exactly where I’m working for now, just to prove I genuinely mean what I’m saying and I’m not just trying to get in the manager’s good books (plus, we don’t have the room for the hordes of adoring blog fans that would undoubtedly rush the establishment), but if anyone I know does come in for a drink, I’ll gladly pour you a pint, because I can do that now.

Since the bar work is filling my weekends, I’ve started to dedicate the rest of my week to building some experience towards a full-time job. I started this blog as a sort of showcase for my style, and it actually proved to be useful as I sent some posts to volunteer writing positions across the country! After a phone interview with the lovely founders of n3rdable3.com, I spent the weekend thinking of all the things I should have said in answer to their questions, but still somehow managed to swing a position on the team. I have literally just finished writing my first news article for them tonight and I think it’s safe to say I’m addicted already. You absolutely should head over from time to time to see what I’m up to, I’ll definitely be posting on there more regularly than I do here, as the absence of a post last week can attest to. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of the more traditional way to find people’s writing, the article I wrote for the Ilkeston Life newspaper I mentioned has been printed! Add that to the list of surreal moments in my life over the past few months; seeing my name in a publication that boasts having 10,000 copies printed every month provided a rare feeling of pride.

There you have it then, a quick update for you. Rather than these developments resulting in this blog starting to collect some cobwebs, I really do think it will have the opposite effect. The next step for me is to try and carve this into some kind of routine, writing and working, to try and keep some semblance of productivity at a constant rate. Cross all of your fingers for me, please and thank you.

‘Til the next time

Dan

(P.S, I hope you all had a terrific Halloween and Bonfire Night, with everything that has been going on both just totally slipped me by! Oh well, at least now I can have ‘Fairytale of New York’ on repeat for the next two months…)

 

 

 

I can’t get noooo…

Conversations are easy. I could talk forever and ever. To anyone. About anything. I’ve been interacting with people (new and old) an awful lot recently, and I don’t think I’ve been stuck for words once. I’ve reconnected with old friends up the fair, taken control of futsal matches, and been politely professional in interviews; I like to think each came nicely in my stride. Why is it then, that when I come to sit in front of my laptop and tell you all about what I’ve learnt from all these experiences, my fingers have turned to lead? If only I could tell stories in as satisfying a way as some of my inspirations… (wow this was the most convoluted introduction yet)

Simply put, from the ease I’ve found in impromptu conversation, I’ve realised it’s stupidly easy to frustrate people in written content. Let me give you an example. During a game I refereed over the weekend, there’s these two lads getting on at each other a bit: chirping in each other’s ears, making little stupid fouls, dirty looks, that sort of thing. So, being the good referee that I am, I clock the tension and think “right, okay, there’s an impact coming, a big foul soon”. Sure enough, five minutes later, *boom*. A big ol’ sweep of the leg, angry red faces, two fuming university lads squaring up to each and… that’s it, that’s all I’m telling you. It’s no secret that people hate hanging threads, we can’t resist giving it a yank (phrasing), and we crave our stories to have a definitive beginning, middle and end. Anything less than this, if even one element is missing, it sends us crazy. Let me talk you through how to be most effective at seeing this through, get to know how to satisfy your audience, baby.

I’ve heard so much about Killing Eve, but can feel my anticipation deteriorating into disappointment as I make my way through the episodes. Spoilers incoming. Some of the writing is witty and intriguing, hinting at past events and relationships that really lends the world a genuine sense of being lived in, but at other times is so heavy handed it literally made me roll my eyes. There’s an art to foreshadowing, with it being most effective when employed subtly, usually only caught on a repeat viewing. Think of the bird cage trick in ‘The Prestige’. where Kevin Nolan literally spoils the entire film for you in the first scene, and you probably didn’t even notice. Consider my absolute agony then, when one of the lead detectives takes centre frame and proclaims “Daddy’s going to die!”, before not even making it through the episode. Come on, TV show, you can be smarter than that.

People tell me that I am too quick to hate things, that I refuse to just ignore the flaws in something and enjoy it as a big dumb spectacle. But I won’t change my ways because I reckon it makes me enjoy being satisfied by work that much more. Matt Haig’s short-form storytelling is so perfect since it reflects the fragmented mindset he often discusses. As he jumps between topics and styles, covering everything from his past life to lists of recovery tactics, the audience also experiences the scattershot intensity Haig’s own mind felt when suffering the effects of depression. This is content and medium working together to compliment each other, giving you a deeper empathy with the author without him having to type another word. Genius.

Similarly, I am a huge fan of the Great British Bake-Off, primarily because of the way the editors structure the show. There are narratives all of the place, I love it. Each contestant has their own three part story, three times over (one for each bake), every single week. This is how the show sinks its hooks in to you so effectively, you just have to know how it all works out because you are surrounded by loose threads, each week is a ball of yarn slowly unravelling before your eyes. Take the recent episode where Ruby’s tiered cake collapsed, drama of the highest order, inject that shit into my veins. Taken in isolation, this is already a pretty solid narrative, with the plan, execution and ultimate heartbreak of construction (culminating in that beautiful wide shot where all the bakers watch in horror as the cake topples over painfully slowly in the foreground) being very satisfying by itself. But, combine this with Rahul and Jon also struggling with Vegan Week, is there any chance in hell you’re not coming back after the break to see the culmination of the larger narrative; who’s getting sent home?! The most exciting way to spend a Tuesday night, by far.

These kind of experiences really stick with me. So much so that, when it comes to sitting down with the next piece of content, the bar has been raised and anything below it seems like a personal insult. I do realise that this post has just deteriorated into me ranting about things I like or not, how egotistical is that, but I hope it makes at least one person think “huh, so that’s why I enjoyed that so much”, because the power really is with audiences with this sort of thing. Haig is so popular and GBBO is such an institution because it has the blend of quality with a dedicated audience. For new shows, like Eve, it has the much harder job of keeping the audience wanting to come back for more, and I am a firm believer in the thought that this should only be achieved through hard work, not cheap tricks. Hopefully I can even do the same one day.

‘Til the next time

Dan

Pink Elephants

I want to be a better writer. It’s something I enjoy, am constantly inspired by, and aim to improve on by getting at least something produced daily; as well as broadening my influences by reading new authors as often as possible. Currently, I’m nowhere near the place I want to be, but feel as if I’m steadily improving, especially in the three months since I started this very blog. So join me as I self-criticise for a while, in the hopes that identifying my flaws, and the strengths of others, leads to a better blogging experience for both myself and the three of you who read this every week, hi Mum and Dad!

I’ve been reading a lot of Matt Haig recently, on the recommendation of a couple of very dear friends, and I’ve been blown away. The quality of writing is exceptional, a style of non-fiction I didn’t really consider as lending itself to publishable work, expertly walking a line between a diary and a conversational tone. Haig’s writing is similar to that of Alex Turner to me, in that he can hit on experiences I previously considered unique to myself, only expressed in the most eloquent way; making you feel foolish for thinking no one on this Earth had ever felt the same way, yet comforted by the knowledge that you aren’t as insane or weird as you initially saw yourself. For me, this peaked at the description of Haig’s youthful haircut being intentionally asymmetrical, at which point he may as well be pointing and laughing at me in person; styling my hair like an anime character was my signature move for making up for my lack of discernible personality at school. No you cannot see a photo.

This love-hate relationship between Haig and I extends into his style of writing itself. He uses metaphor in abundance and abundantly well, a little too much for my liking but the abstract nature of his topics lends itself to this kind of storytelling. There’s no doubt it’s effective. The classic example is if I were to tell you to not think of a pink elephant, it immediately becomes the only thing filling your mind, the elephant in the room as it were (thank you I’m here all week). I’ve infiltrated your mind with some markings on a page that would be literal gibberish to the majority of the world, and now your entire being is dedicated to getting the idea of that bastard elephant out of your head, isn’t it? But, the harder you try, the more pronounced Elliott gets (yeah, I named him, you better not think about his slightly larger than average ears, oh dear you are now anyway). Haig then takes this a step further, using something as easily imagined as a prison to explain as personal an experience as depression, and instantly you’re taking this journey with him.

Contrastingly, I try to focus more on getting my ‘voice’ to come out in these posts, yet I feel as if the colloquial style I adopt comes at the expense of detail in the stories I tell. I’d rather go for an easy joke than some really powerful imagery, and I’m not totally sure if that’s detrimental just yet. Whenever I read over my stuff, be it months down the line or even immediately before hitting publish, I’m almost always left with an overwhelming feeling of being underwhelmed, ironically. So, this has recently lead me to apply for a few more voluntary writing positions out there in the big bad world, including a local newspaper, to force me out of the comfort of this small slice of comfort I’ve made for myself. I’m hoping that by putting a bit more pressure on myself and attempting a variation in style, and thus what’s expected from me as a writer (God that sounds pretentious), I’ll grow into something I’m happier with. A balance between my style and something more traditionally journalistic would be nice, a blend of tangents and reports, ideally.

I wonder if Haig has ever evaluated himself in this way. Comparison’s are useful but only to a point, learning from others is only worthwhile before it starts to resemble imitation. I doubt he ever wrote an obscure meta blog post about his writing, so maybe my voice is still in tact at least for the time being. Onwards and upwards and all that, thank you for taking the time to read this most definitely boring post.

‘Til the next time

Dan

 

Fever Dreams

First off, it’s bloody October. Crazy.

I’m pretty ill at the mo, so my days are consisting of feeling sorry for myself in between binging series and downing mugs of Lemsip. This is also why I haven’t posted in a while, feeling pretty inhuman leads to some intense writers block. Instead, I’ve just been considering whether or not I could do the jobs of the people I’ve been watching. For instance, detective in the NYPD (in the likeness of the infallible Jake Peralta), probably not, since I’d get too mad about my unsolved cases. Living the life of a washed-up sitcom actor drinking away his existential dread may also be dreaming a little too large, I don’t know how Bojack copes with that many hangovers. Torture-dispensing demon learning philosophy with Kristen Bell? Now that’s the real Good Place, I’m in.

Back down to Earth though (see because that’s a common saying, and the show takes place in the afterlife, is why that’s so funny), I constantly see jobs on TV or online or whatever, and think “yeah, I could do that”. The notion of dream jobs seems somewhat childish, yet everyone has something they work towards, even a small change that would make them more comfortable in the position they hold, so may be more reasonable than at first glance. I’m just ‘lucky’ enough to lack being committed to a field already, so can fantasise a little broader. So, I’ve put some thought into one dream and one realistic job I hope whoever is controlling my Sim is directing me towards; hold on folks, this is about to get very cringe very quickly.

Dream – Voice Actor

Hear me out. This is my shout for the ideal level of fame, all the benefits with none of the annoyances. Imagine being that rich, and beloved by so many, yet able to walk down the street in relative anonymity; anyone who stops you must be a keen fan to know your face and won’t be wasting your time asking for a photo just for the sake of it. Even with total strangers, you have the ultimate ice-breaker on you at all times. I bet the guy who does Mario has pulled that out in a bar countless times, his self confidence must be off the charts. Plus, you get to live out everyone’s dream of turning up to work in your pyjamas without it being an issue, which I think we can all agree is the dream.

The only downside to this I can conceive of is if you were like at a party or something and started to do your iconic voice, and no-one believed you were actually that character. Like, imagine Dan Castellaneta pissed out his mind and people telling him he does “a really good Homer Simpson”, heads would be rolling.

Realistic – Philosophy Lecturer

When I was attending them, the ongoing joke at university open days was that the only job for those with a philosophy degree is teaching others how to get a philosophy degree. At the time, I laughed this off. Yeah yeah, the subject is irrelevant now, since we’re not living in ancient Greece I’m wasting my time, togas and white beards all round eh? But, now I’m into my third month of living at home, I’m really starting to worry that the subject is irrelevant and I need to find a way to get to ancient Greece…

Regardless, all through my life I have had people telling me they could see me ending up as a teacher (is that a compliment? Or do I just look like I’m capable of being bullied by a group of teenagers?). I’ve been considering doing a masters since I left York, and if the jokes really are as true as they seem, I may well end up proving these people right. Planning my own little lectures, having my own little office and months off at a time to work on my own little book all sound extremely tempting, and I bet if you’re a likeable lecturer you feel like a mini-celebrity walking around campus. I once went on a philosophy society night out where we all wore shirts with the outline of our favourite lecturers beard and moustache on them, I’d want that on my bloody tombstone if that happened to me. Need to be able to grow facial hair first though, I suppose.

Do I talk about uni too much in these things? I feel as if I always end up coming back to it, must be torture to read. Anyway, just a bit of fun, something a bit more casual and hopeful to entertain my mind in the few hours it manages to keep me conscious for. It’s been quite fun to be fair, and makes me wonder what everyone else would say, given a free choice. Stunt man? Game reviewer? Zoo owner? I once had a kid tell me he wanted to be a dolphin shaver when he grew up, I hadn’t the heart to tell him; let’s all keep dreaming like him instead.

‘Til the next time everyone

Dan