Thursday, 24 November 2011

Fenton! FENTON!

You've probably seen this by now, but if not, enjoy:

This meme rapidly spiralled this week, with a seemingly never-ending series of YouTube spin-offs. Here's a random sample...
n.b. It was originally trending as 'Benton' before the owner cleared up the dog's actual name, hence the Benton/Fenton disparity.

Pepper Spraying Cop

A rapidly-growing meme, 'Pepper Spraying Cop' centres around Lt. John Pike, the campus police officer photographed nonchalantly pepper-spraying a group of non-violent student protestors at UC Davis, California. Click here for the internet's revenge.

'Best DVD Commentary Ever'

Arnie really doesn't get the point of DVD audio commentary, does he?

Thai Flood Hacks

Ingenuity in the face of adversity. Heartwarming, isn't it? Click here.

Mario Post-It stop-motion

This must have taken ages.

Hip Hop Dressage

Friday, 18 November 2011

18/11/11 - WFJB

Mo’ money, mo’ problems. Less money, er, mo’ problems. It’s easy to get caught up in a middle-class spiral of woe-is-me hand-wringing; after all, if we didn’t have a daily checklist of niggles to fret about, how on earth would we get through the day (or justify that sixth cup of soothing tea)? A large electricity bill, a slow-loading computer, a wait for the postman that’s longer than expected, someone not stopping for you at a zebra crossing, running out of milk at an inopportune moment, finding that a bird’s crapped on your freshly buffed motor – modern life is fraught with irritating distractions.
The other day I found myself counting up my demons. (That’s a bastardised Coldplay lyric, how middle class is that? Although I’m always the first to evangelise that when Coldplay’s first album, Parachutes, was released, it was quite cool to like them and it was a genuinely good album, I just wish they’d left it at that instead of disappearing up their own dinner party on-sale-at-the-M&S-counter arses. Hey ho. Perhaps it’d be cooler for me to quote Jay-Z and say ‘I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one’? But no, I don’t want to do that. Jay-Z is a dick. [And it’d be disrespectful to my ‘bitch’, who isn’t actually a bitch at all; in fact, she’s very lovely indeed.]) I pinpointed a few things that are sitting heavily and pointedly at the base of my brain, occasionally jabbing at my thinkbox with their lemon juice-soaked cocktail sticks and ensuring that I’m constantly a little annoyed and tetchy.

First of all, the roof on my flat leaks. I mean properly leaks, with water running down the bedroom walls when it rains. That’s not good, is it? The windowsill looks like a mini-Atlantis. Our inept landlords dealt with this in their own inimitable style – sending four separate people to come round and look at it, none of whom actually did anything about it, then forgetting about it for a while until we reminded them, then sending someone to stretch a tarpaulin over it, which a) doesn’t actually keep the rain out and b) very quickly came loose and flapped around noisily for days, meaning we couldn’t get any sleep. Now, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t really that big a deal. It’s not our flat – we’re renting – so we don’t have to pay for any of this. Given the number of people in the world who have actual problems, like not having a roof, does this matter? No. Not at all. But it gives me something to moan about. And in post-Meldrew Britain, that’s sort of important, isn’t it?

Debt. That’s another thing that concerns me. I was a prolific spender in my youth, and thirty-three cars and a few thousand CDs later I find myself paying a third of my paycheque back to the bank every month in order to quell the relentless tide of interest on my substantial debts. I get a Christmas card from Lloyds TSB every year, they have a framed picture of me on the wall at head office, and they always wave cheerily when I enter my local branch, rubbing their hands together at the prospect of receiving more guilt-cash. So, while I do get paid a fair-ish wage for what I do, I’m no better off day-to-day than I was ten years ago when I was earning £12k p.a. This is annoying, and something I think about every day.
…but compare this to the panic of the PIIGS in the Eurozone, and it doesn’t matter one iota. If you can (just about) afford to repay your debts, then you really don’t have that much to complain about, do you? And I don’t regret a penny of the money I frittered, because I had a damn good time. It’s a pisser that I can’t ever afford to go to the pub, but I can always just stay home and watch EastEnders, in which much pub-visiting occurs. It’s almost as good as being there.

I can’t afford to put a deposit on a house.
Oh, boo fucking hoo. Who can? Yes, when I was younger I assumed that I’d be on the property ladder when I reached thirty and that definitely isn’t going to happen – again, something that annoys me constantly – but sod it, I do live somewhere. With a baby on the way, I’d like nothing more than to be creating a fancy baby room, perhaps painting some kind of inexpert mural and daubing black and white spirals on the ceiling for the little ‘un to enjoy, but that’s just not the way it’s working out at the moment. A coat of magnolia will have to suffice.

None of this is really that important. But I’m going to paste below something that I think is important; an extract from my grandfather’s memoirs. I received a copy of this earlier in the year, and wanted to share it with a wider audience after Remembrance Day. 1939 the conscription bill meant that I would be called up in the second draft. I volunteered to join the army in the first group and joined six months earlier than I needed to.
I was posted to Yeovil in the Royal Artillery. My uniform was stamped ‘Made in 1916’ – two years before I was born! I had puttees and breeches and I wore this uniform for a year until it was changed for battle dress.
On the day war was declared the sergeant major asked if anyone knew anything about motor cars. I raised my hand and as a result I and a few others were sent to Aldershot the same day, and then to Hounslow Heath in first world war huts, in which some parts of the walls were electrified from the poor condition of the wiring!
On 16th September 1939 I travelled down to Southampton. In the hold of a ship and escorted by destroyers, we crossed the channel. Next morning, 17th September, I awoke in Cherbourg harbour on my 21st birthday. Then we travelled by rail from Caen to Nantes and by lorry to La Capelle-sur-Erdre. At the Chateau Gesvres we were to establish our base.
At first we slept in farm buildings and commandeered accommodation. We erected the marquees for base transport stores depot. I was put in charge of workshop tools and spares.
I went on leave to England in late 1939 and on my return brought back German measles and it spread throughout the unit. It was very cold that winter under canvas. Meals consisted of corned beef stew. There always seemed to be some of the paraffin stove fuel in with the stew.
I was granted leave in the spring and married Hilda Lillian West on 11th May 1940 in Romsey Abbey. Then back to France, but as the Germans had invaded we set to smashing up our equipment. I started a nosebleed which could not be stopped and so was sent to hospital at La Baule to have it cauterised. Told that the area would soon be overrun by Germans, I walked and wandered trying to find a way back to my unit, finally joining the file of refugees with their carts, animals and all. I was lucky to be picked up by an army canvas-covered ambulance. This took me the most part of the way back to La Capelle. On my return I was straightaway put on guard duty, along with a comrade by the Erdre river bank. We were there all night but were not relieved as expected in the morning. We returned to camp to see what the trouble was and found most everything packed up and gone. A corporal shouted “Where the bloody hell have you been? Get on the lorry.” He gave me permission to get my Lewis gun from my tent and off we went. Our lorry arrived at the outskirts of St Nazaire where we stopped at a bungalow to fill our water bottles (which was refused). The French were very hostile and said we were running away. At this point I saw bombers attacking the town. It took about an hour to reach the waterways and there we saw small boats ferrying troops across the harbour. These were survivors of the Lancastria which had been bombed. With 3,000 troops and 1,000 refugees it was somewhat overloaded when just prior to its departure a bomb fell down a funnel, exploding the fuel stores and causing it to sink rapidly. Many were trapped below decks and those abandoning ship were engulfed in burning oil. Survivors, many wrapped in blankets, were given priority being largely accommodated on a small ferry boat with the Scots Guards. It was a very hot day and as we left port we stripped our shirts off and went on deck... there shortly followed a further air raid. I rushed down and collected the Lewis gun. On deck this got caught on a sail. Two others helped me and we fixed it to the stations of a lifeboat. An unbelievable amount of shrapnel was flying about. I could not believe that they had closed the water tight doors! When the attack was finally over, I went below and being exhausted I fell into a deep sleep, waking late the next day. We were well out to sea with no escort. Late afternoon we docked at Falmouth and were given refreshments arranged by NAAFI & WRVS. We were put on a train to Salisbury and this, I realised, would take me through Romsey. I wrote Hilda a letter and threw it from the window as we passed through Romsey station. It was luckily found and delivered to her at home. The train eventually took us to Bognor where for the next few months I was billeted in a hall that had been an aircraft base in WW1.
We did training all day every day, such as how to use petrol to set the sea alight if the Hun arrived! Every night we cooked a meal on Bognor beach. During this time we saw much of the Battle of Britain taking place overhead.
In the late autumn a train took me to Ashchurch, a new depot. Most of the transport parts and all the vehicles had been lost in France. I spent months working with a smelly diesel crane sorting spaces in the hangars. A large packing case dropped on my hand breaking my wedding ring - I was not injured, but I never replaced it.
We were allowed a sleep out pass. Hilda had been conscripted to work at the Smiths factory in Cheltenham making bomb sights and engraving altimeter dials. She fell pregnant (my fault) and I got posted to ROAC at FELLNA and became staff sergeant. I was in charge of spares for Router Group Vehicles, Bren carriers, light tanks, Jeeps and tank transporters. I had a large staff of civilians, some ATS and some mentally disabled pioneer corps, who did much of the heavy work on tank bogey wheels and tracks.
The air raids were not so bad now but the V1 & V2 attacks were very frightening. We worked long hours and often nights. One morning I awoke to find I was the only one of 40 still in the hut. It turned out that the major assembly hangar had been hit by a V1 and I had slept through it all!
Just after D-Day I was kitted out for the Far East and conveyed by train to somewhere in Shropshire to sail from Liverpool, but the A-bomb was dropped and we were sent to Newhaven instead. Then to Dieppe, across France and Switzerland to Milan. On this journey I was in charge of some deserters from the Highland Regiments and I was very glad to hand these over to their regiments! I had a smallpox vaccination that was defective and quite a number of us had vaccine fever. We spent two weeks in Imachi Barracks which had a message on the door stating that it had been opened by Mussolini.
Next we were entrained down the East Coast to Taranto. On this line all of the bridges had been destroyed and latterly replaced by flimsy sectional bridges which we had to negotiate very slowly. At Taranto we ate at the field station and I found a little boy taking from the bin where we scraped our plates. He told me that if I had a tin of beef he had a pretty sister at home. That was her price! This heartbreaking moment has stuck in my mind since.
From Taranto I travelled to Malta, where we had bubonic plague in the docks area and a plague report was printed daily in the Maltese Times. There were myriad sprays and powders to endure. I befriended the petty officer on HMS Sheffield who told me of their role in the sinking of the Bismarck…

Walter F.J. Bevis died earlier this year, a few short months after Hilda – his wife of 71 years. Having witnessed the bombing of the Lancastria, he spent much of his life mired in what we now call ‘survivor guilt’, constantly feeling unable to enjoy himself or take pride in his achievements under the weight of all the deaths that he felt made his own continued existence hard to justify. But he was a good, hardworking, industrious and loving man; successful in his work, a father of four equally successful sons, and an ever-doting husband, right to the end.
I didn’t visit them enough in their final years. I really should have done. So I just wanted to share this – a tale of a time that seems surreal and otherworldly to a comparatively privileged, happy and safe 21st century society.

I’m not preaching at you to forget your troubles; I’m just saying that, y’know, it could probably be worse. Might as well enjoy yourself a bit, eh?

Thanksgiving advice with William Shatner

National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

NatGeo's photo contest always features a near-endless stream of astonishing images. Click here to see this year's entrants.


Current top-rated YouTube comment says 'Pussy has always been the driving force behind marketing.' Pretty much sums this up.


Seen Benetton's provocative new campaign? Click here.

The history of English in ten minutes

A lovely little thing from the Open University.

What news anchors do during breaks

They must spend so long practicing this...

40 memes in one song

Can you spot them all...?

Sepp Blatter with black people

He's definitely not racist. Look, see?

Business Mouse

...means business.

The Mario Fail

Friday, 11 November 2011

11/11/11 - Public transport retribution

It’s very easy to moan about public transport – I speak from experience, I do this all the time – but it’s actually pretty good. Yes, it’s extremely annoying when your bus terminates a few stops early for no obvious reason, or when you get to the Tube platform and see you have to wait an unexpected eight minutes for the next train, but on the whole it’s a pretty efficient system given how serpentine and complex it is and how many people use it. The really annoying thing about public transport is that you have to travel with the public. Who are, to say the least, a bit of a mixed bag.
Now, I’d drive to work every day if I could, but after almost six years here I’m still no closer to being offered a parking space. That’s not all bad, though; I can have a drink after work on a Friday without having to come back to the office on the weekend to find the car, and commuting on the bus provides a lot of reading time… although not as much as I’d like; I’d say approximately 75% of my time on buses is good quality reading time, with the other 25% being seriously-shut-the-fuck-up, surrounded-by-noisy-cretins iPod time. But hey, we were all young once. I used to make a nuisance of myself on the train to school. (Fun fact: with British Rail’s old slam-door trains, if you took one of the light-bulbs out in the First Class carriage, stuffed a 5p piece into the socket and screwed it back in, every light in the carriage would go out. There is absolutely no logical or scientific reason for this to be so, but it worked.)
It’s not the noisy kids that are really the irritant; after all, they’re just kids. It’s the adults that don’t know how to behave that ruin it for everyone else: the ones who talk too loudly on their phones, who elbow past you rather than letting you alight first, who shout unpleasantly at their kids, who put their shopping bag on the seat next to them and will not move it, who won’t give their seats up for the elderly, pregnant or infirm, or who just plain refuse to wash. These people deserve punishment. But what can you do to someone on the bus/train/Tube/tram/whatever that won’t get you arrested? Well, here’s a handy JuicyPips commuter retribution checklist. Print it out and keep it in your knapsack.

Stare at them
A simple tactic, and very effective if done well. The trick is not to stare them in the eyes – this can be interpreted as somewhat confrontational and will almost certainly see you on the business end of a nosepunching. No, what you do is select a specific part of their clothing – a lapel, say, or a sleeve – and just bore a hole in it with your laser-vision. They’ll be fully aware that they’re being stared at, but the lack of eye-contact means that the only way they can stop you doing it is to ask you, at which point you can say ‘sorry, I was just thinking about something’. Then they look like the mental one.

Give yourself a good scratching
A little while ago I observed some very entertaining behaviour on a bus on the Kings Road. Two men got on and stood in the little pushchair bit, jabbering away animatedly and cheerfully with one another. For the entire time, one of the men was constantly scratching his genitals. He definitely had crabs or something, and while his friend seemed to be oblivious, everyone else was making a solid effort to be anywhere other than right next to Mr Itchy. So I reckon all you need to do is stand extremely close to the person who’s pissed you off and give yourself the scratching of a lifetime. They’ll be repulsed but, y’know, it’s clearly a medical condition – you can’t ask someone to stop scratching, can you?

Sing along to their music
This, of course, is what you should do if someone’s listening to their iPod too loudly. I can make my peace with a little noticeable uhn-tiss-uhn-tiss-uhn-tiss – c’mon, we’re all guilty of that now and then – but when it’s so loud that it actually sounds like they’re playing it through a tinny set of miniature speakers, it’s time to take action. Sing along to every word. (If you don’t know the words, just make up any old rubbish.) Look them in the eye while you’re doing this, wearing a cheesy grin, and incorporate a half-hearted little dance as well. You’ll probably find that fellow irritated commuters will join in. The culprit will feel like a right berk.

The dribbly sleeper
We’ve all done it: you fall asleep on the train and awaken to find a fine cobweb of saliva on your chin. ‘How did this happen?’ you ask yourself, ‘I never dribble at home’. It must be some subconscious brain issue that punishes us for sleeping in public by ensuring that we become figures of ridicule. But why not flip this negative into a positive means of commuter destruction?
Find yourself in a packed Tube carriage with sweaty, unwashed halitosis man crushed up against your face? On a crowded train next to the person who pushed in front of you to get to the Oyster reader? All you need to do is shut your eyes and let the saliva flow… the gentle swaying motion of the carriage will do the rest. They’ll probably be so grossed out that they’ll have to buy a new shirt on the way to the office.

Play the paedo card
I’ve saved the best one for last. There are few things more awful that you can do than deliberately, wrongly accuse someone of being a paedophile. This makes it an excellent public transport weapon. As soon as you direct the p-word at somebody, no matter how tenuous the circumstance, it will plant a seed in people’s minds; part of them will want to believe it, in that kind of Jeremy Kyle isn’t-the-world-terrible-these-days way that sees people relishing disgust and inexplicably wanting to be angry about something that other people are angry about. The next time somebody elbows their way in front of an old lady to get to a seat or unrepentantly jabs you with their umbrella, all you need to do is point straight at their face and, in a loud, clear and vaguely estuarised tone, shout ‘PAEDO!’. The rest of their journey will be so uncomfortable.

Life! Death! Top Tips!

By far my favourite discovery of the week - click here.

The 19:57 from Euston

A flashmob that doesn't involve T-Mobile? Lovely.

Studio Arthur

Baby Arthur recreating scenes from classic movies. Super-cute. Click here.

Radio Soulwax: 'Machine'

Peculiar new trailer; particularly in that this is actually what happens.

Facts & Chicks

Learning stuff, courtesy of pictures of girls an' that. That's multitasking, that is. Click here.

'The Important Man'

Johnnie Walker going all Old Spice. (Kind of. You can't drink Old Spice. Well, you shouldn't.)

Peel Player

Some industrious bunch have collected together all of John Peel's Festive Fifty lists and smooshed them together in a randomized player. Click his face below to see.

Movember for girls

'Patchy little lip-sweaters'. Nice.

Lynx guide to rugby

Clueless about egg-ball? This'll clear it all up for you...

Friday, 4 November 2011

04/11/11 - Gaillac vs Earls Court

English public drinking events are very different to French ones. There’s a town near where my folks live in France called Gaillac, the heart of a prolific wine-growing region, that hosts an annual fête des vins. We first stumbled across the fête sometime in the mid-nineties and became immediately hooked, returning every year; we’d bring tents and make a weekend of it. Why? Free booze, that’s why.
The Gaillac fête des vins involves all of the local producers – which there are loads of – converging on the town’s park and setting up little huts; they look charmingly like garden sheds with opening sides. You buy a glass as you enter the park and casually amble from counter to counter, chatting to the amiable grape enthusiasts about their vineyards, themselves, their lives in general, all the while trying every single one of their wines in increasingly generous measures. There’s no obligation to buy, and all the samples are given out for free – it’s just a lovely way for the producers to get to know their consumers. It works brilliantly, as is evidenced by the stream of slightly wobbly people wheeling out crates and crates of wine at the end of each day.
It’s a genuinely wonderful and whimsical atmosphere – the dappled light beneath the trees and the warm summer air provide the perfect scene to chew the fat with a variety of French folk who are so, so passionate about their work; you could begin with, say, their 2005 award-winning oak-aged red (perhaps with the cépage weighted percentage-wise further toward the Braucol than the Syrah), and then they suggest that you try the non-oaked varietal from the year before. Like that? They’ve got a very special bottle under the counter, a 1997 vintage. And you’re looking a little cherry-cheeked, so how about cooling down with 2007’s gorgeous doux, icily chilled?
By the time you’ve tried all twenty or thirty wines they have on offer at the first stall, the scribblings in your notebook are beginning to look a little haphazard. And that’s just one producer. There are several dozen more to go.

We made a lot of friends this way. The good folk of Les Trois Clochers welcome us with open arms; we’ve bought more of their wine over the years than any of us can remember (for, er, obvious reasons) and it was their Côte Blanche that was served at my wedding. We’ve visited the vineyard on numerous occasions and always been offered a full tour of the grounds and apparatus with as much home-made foie gras as can be stuffed into our greedy, wine-saturated cheeks. The guys at Cave de Tecou are equally excitable at the prospect of a site visit, and the owner of Labastide de Lévis will not let you leave before you’ve met everyone he knows.
The truly strange thing about the Gaillac fête des vins is how quiet and serene it is. Given that there’s effectively unlimited free wine (and of the highest quality) going begging, you’d expect the place to be rammed to bursting point with pissed-up revellers, vomiting crimson and punching each other. But that’s the perception of a public drinking event as viewed through a British filter. That’s not the Gaillac way. This fête, sweet, classic and timeless, is precisely as P.G. Wodehouse would have written it. But in French, obviously.

Compare this to the Great British Beer Festival, held annually at Earls Court. Now, this is another event that I love, and I’ve been going to this for a few years. But it’s a totally different vibe.
You have to pay to get in – which is fair enough, Earls Court’s probably an expensive place to hire out – and there are no free samples. (This is just as well, really – if you were to distribute unlimited free beer at a London event, you’d have to clear the car park for the storage of the corpses of hobos and asboteens.) Cleverly, though, the beers are all on sale in measure of pints, halves or thirds; in any normal situation it would be totally unacceptable to order a half of anything, but you can get away with it at a CAMRA event because, well, there’s bloody loads of beer to get through. A third of a pint – as a taster - multiplied by, er, infinity, is a lot.
CAMRA festivals form part of the rich tapestry of British culture and heritage, and I remember going to them when I was younger and being impressed by the sheer breadth and volume of the beards on display. Cheerful, rosy-nosed old buffers strolled about the place clutching their ale-pots with pride, discussing the merits of this year’s feature offering from Wychwood or Wadworth, picking the twigs out of some illicit under-the-counter homebrew and mulling over the effects of an unusually dry summer on the hop harvest. And yes, you will still see a lot of these affable folk at the Great British Beer Festival. But what you’ll also see is a lot of berks. Crowds of people who’d always exclusively order Fosters in pubs because real ale is ‘old man shit’ will gravitate towards the festival simply because it represents an opportunity to get raucously plastered comparatively cheaply. They don’t give a toss about the pride with which each of the breweries in attendance present their latest creations and timeworn classics – they just want to get hammered. Am I being a bit precious about this? Maybe so, but it seems like a shame.
The principle difference between the two events is represented as a snapshot of them both at around 11pm: in Gaillac, everyone’s sitting on the lawn in straw hats, uncorking bottles purchased from their favourite stand of the day and gazing up at the fireworks. At Earls Court, there’s sick and piss everywhere.

Actually, the principle difference between the two is the food. This sounds like an odd thing to remark upon when talking about beverage-based events, but it’s important. They’re both celebrations of craft and artisanal achievement, each producer bringing what they consider to be the very zenith, the apogee of their historic methods, created with pride and love. In France, this is complemented by fine cheeses, fresh breads and home-cured meats. In England you get soggy chips and maybe a questionable kebab. What do you make of that..?


A wonderful little Aardman side-project with an all-star cast.

Japan: six months after the quake

Some amazing photos (from September, actually) of the incredible clean-up efforts in Japan. Click here.

The Pirates!

A film about pirates that will actually be good. Hurrah!

First-person Tetris

This is so confusing.

Disney's MultiPlane Camera - 1957

A fascinating slice of Disney innovation history.

Gallery of Tourette

Art inspired by the tics of Tourette's sufferers. Click here.

October Fail

A fresh new compilation. Compelling stuff.

Online Checkout IRL

Google in 'sense of humour' shocker.

Guitar Baby

The forthcoming JuicyPips baby will be something like this.

Movie poster trends

'There's nothing new under the sun'. Jesus said that. Or something.
Click here.

London Bus Tour

Beautiful, this.