I bought a Rubik’s cube the other day. It cost me £1.29 and I’ve picked it up twice: once to jumble it all up after I’d removed the packaging and then again tonight to actually see if I could make sense of it.
I never had one as a kid and I wanted to know what I’d been missing out on, if anything. The whiny old VCR in my mind rewound to some grainy footage of some spotty oik on Swap Shop, his hands a blur as he finished the puzzle and slammed it down next to Posh Paws in under a minute, smug as a bug … about to get his head kicked in for being a smart-arse. I managed to put together the top two blue rows but then realised I’d made the rest worse and immediately put it back down again.
Life’s too short …
… or is it ?
I remember a conversation I had with my sister about a couple of years ago when she questioned why I play video games. With two teenage sons she could see it, but a grown man ? I started to argue that she would never understand as you’re either a gamer or you’re not, but even that is almost a moot point these days judging on the number of Facebook updates inviting me to find a virtual pig for the latest farm game. Incidentally, I note that a large proportion of people playing those kind of games on their phones, pads and laptops are women, so the dividing line between the traditional geeky male gamer (who typically spends too much time in Forbidden Planet while dressed as a Star Wars character) and the rest of the population is actually becoming more and more blurred all the time.
(Oh, and to answer my own question: how much is too much ? As John Lennon once sang, “Any time at all …”)
But to get back to the discussion in hand, she loves to read and clearly feels that it’s a more noble pastime than playing virtual football or shooting baddies on a games console.
But really, the whole issue is just one opinion versus another, because the bottom line is we all want to escape and there are millions of ways of doing it. It really is only limited by your imagination … and sometimes, especially when you’re a kid, that’s all you actually have to play with. Well, that and a big box of Lego. I’ve still got all mine and I still like to have a play every now and then.
Some people prefer to gawp at the lives of others, though personally I don’t watch reality TV (unless you count The Apprentice and Come Dine With Me, which – for reasons of pure snobbery – I categorically don’t).
Other people like to watch soap operas, period dramas and documentaries. Sci-fi and fantasy are becoming increasingly mainstream, while good old whodunnits remain a staple of the airwaves. It’s all escapism, and that’s just TV.
Movies are becoming ever more fantastical with flawless effects and the emergence of 3D and surround sound over the last few years.
Technology is also playing a part in reading with the likes of the Kindle and Android/Mac tablets enabling entire libraries to be carried around inside a jacket or handbag. It’s also a golden era for audiobooks with more and more famous actors and voice-over artists lending their talents to a booming industry. It’s all escapism. In your pocket. All the time.
The games people play, the stories we enjoy, the songs we love … all these hobbies and pastimes define us as much as our families or what we do for a living. Football is a conversation you can have anywhere in the world just with an exchange of names. It’s the same with bands: walk into a bar in Mexico and hear The Beatles on the radio and you instantly feel at home. Movie stars are more recognisable than any world leader or monarch. Open a book in a cafe in any city in the world and it becomes an ice-breaker to anyone else who’s read it. You may not want them to tap you on the shoulder and ask if they can join you, but that’s another story … it’s common ground between two people who’ve never met before. What we choose to enjoy and what we consequently shun both divides and unites us. We’re walking Venn diagrams, overlapping with gay abandon depending on the subject matter.
I love looking at those bits on online shops that say “People who bought this also bought these items …” because sometimes the choices are amazing and have no obvious correlation whatsoever. Of course, most of the odder selections can be put down to gift-giving and buying items for other family members, but I do remember once seeing Metallica’s Black Album followed up by the recommendation of Pam Ayres Reads Pam Ayres.
To extrapolate that thought for just a moment: how great would it be if Metallica were actually supported by Pam Ayres.
Maybe it should be Pam Ayres headlining, depending on your view on quirky comedy poetry versus heavy rock ?
You wouldn’t believe some of the research going on by tech-heads into exploiting the algorithms behind the software that’s used for this feature on sites like Amazon, though. If it’s ever actually achievable to manipulate the data like that, it’ll be tantamount to hacking, but even now at the very least it’s eerily similar to the cruder forms of Search Engine Optimisation.
Still, the sort of people who can do that kind of maths are probably the sort of people who can finish a Rubik’s cube.
I hope the cyber-police catch them and lock them all up. In a real jail. With a Rubik’s cube that’s had all the stickers removed as the only form of entertainment.
Except there’ll also be one tiny piece of Lego on the floor the same colour as the linoleum so that one morning they’ll step on it unexpectedly …
Why did I buy the bloody thing anyway !?