Friday, 27 January 2012

27/01/12 - Gallic Deliverance

When I was little we had a holiday home in Picardy. This isn’t as swanky and middle-class as it sounds – if your dad had a brand-new car when you were a nipper, it almost certainly cost more than our ramshackle, wattle ‘n’ daub, three-up-three-down house in Sarcus – but we loved it and, my parents being teachers, we’d spend all of the school holidays there rebuilding bits of it and enjoying a bit of good ol’ togetherness. We’d huddle around the fire for warmth in the winter, and in summer we’d open the doors to all manner of friends and family who were also enthusiasts of very cheap holidays. Chopping wood, bike rides, barbecues, board games, buying dinner from the bread and meat vans, munching on garlic and saying ‘aw-hee-haw-hee-haw’… simple times, simple pursuits.

The four of us were there one harsh winter, along with my uncle Alan and auntie Nicky, doing what you do on holiday when it’s below zero outside and you’re in a house with no TV aerial: playing Trivial Pursuit and drinking vin rouge by the pint. (Well, I wasn’t drinking – I was about six years old.) We were eagerly awaiting the arrival of my uncle Dick, who was due to appear one evening in Boulogne; he was coming as a foot passenger on the ferry and, on the day of arrival, dad and Alan jumped in the car and drove the 100-odd miles to the port to pick him up. It was a late ferry, so my sister and I were sent up the wooden hill to Bedlington while mum and Nicky stayed up playing cards and drinking gin and doing whatever else people did in 1988. Perming each other’s hair, maybe.
Now, my uncle Dick is a bit haphazard, so it wasn’t a total surprise when his ferry came in and he wasn’t on it. These were the days before mobile phones, of course, so dad and Alan had to use their ingenuity a bit. With it being the early hours and the port largely deserted, they enquired at any office or building that had a light on as to whether any other ferries would be arriving. From the various levels of shrugging that were proffered in response, they deduced that the answer was no, that was the last ferry. Dick must be stuck in Dover. They were in for a Dick-less night.

As they drove away from the docks, an idea struck them: Calais was only thirty miles down the coast – was it at all possible that Dick had got on the wrong ferry and somehow ended up there? Sod it, they thought, they’d come this far, they might as well check.
…and sure enough, there he was; looking sheepish, puffing on a rollie and already halfway through his duty free allowance, he’d been tearing his hair out having realised his error. There was no way of contacting the house at Sarcus (it didn’t have a telephone), so his only option would have been to wait until the morning and catch another ferry home again.
There was much rejoicing. The lads piled into the car and headed back south.

They decided en route to stop off for a drink and a bite to eat – it had been a long journey and they were getting peckish, and the stress and confusion required a smidge of pastis to soothe the spirits. Finding a place open in rural France in the early hours of the morning, however, is easier said than done.
As they barrelled along mile after mile of unlit country lanes, a glint eventually presented itself on the horizon; as they neared, it turned out to be a bar and –hosannah! – it was open. The trio thirstily tumbled through the door, eager to refresh. Taking seats at the bar, they were immediately furnished with sizeable baguettes stuffed with gooey local cheeses and home-cured hams, and into their hands were thrust generous measures of pastis. Spirits were high in more ways than one, with the locals boisterously belting out folk tunes to the live band in the corner, the barman freely distributing liquor like it was water. These were the days before drink-driving was bad – everyone was out of their trees, and gladly. They were in the middle of nowhere, pushing on to the dawn in an aniseed haze.

After a couple of hours of merriment, it occurred to dad, Alan and Dick that they hadn’t actually paid for a single drink the whole time they’d been there. Furthermore, most of their beverages were being handed to them by a couple of lascivious gents who were standing very close to them indeed. Uncomfortably close. And they were plying them with enormous measures with rapacious and escalating insistence. The smiles had gone; it seemed more like getting the Brits drunk was a sinister and inescapable game.
It was around this point that they spotted the two chaps at the end of the bar, enjoying a baguette. You know the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp? Just like that (except that baguettes require rather more chewing, so the effect was much longer and more drawn-out; also they were staring each other in the eyes throughout, which gives the innocent scene a more lustful dynamic).
Realisation dawned. Seemed like maybe they weren’t in for a Dick-less night after all.

The fact that it was a gay bar was neither here nor there really; it’s not like homosexuals are terrifying predators (and the same can be said for Frenchmen)… but a remote clique of chaps who are hellbent on removing all sensibility from some random strangers is an unnerving prospect. Finding themselves in the French wilderness in the dead of night, the wrong side of plastered, heavily outnumbered and unwittingly trading their back-cherries for a couple of litres of Ricard, the Brits felt it prudent to high-tail it out of the increasingly threatening atmosphere before the scene turned into a Gallic Deliverance. Suddenly keen to be back in the warm bosom of the family, they made a run for it; a fistful of Francs on the bar and a cloud of dust in the car park.
Mum and Nicky had been beside themselves with worry; this worry turned to befuddlement as the three men clattered through the door. They’d been gone for twelve hours, they reeked of booze and they kept calling each other ‘Monsieur Ducky’ and giggling uncontrollably.

These kind of stories are common from this era. None of this would have happened if they’d been able to call each other on mobile phones - the spontaneity of yore has been lost in the modern world’s relentless quest for efficiency and connectivity. Remember the days when you’d arrange to meet someone and you’d just have to hang around there until they showed up; if they got detained or lost you’d just do something else? This weekend, why not switch your mobile off and go for an adventure? You might get some free pastis out of it…

The Simpsons: Channel 4 announcers

They've definitely got a bet on. I saw this video a week ago and have been keeping a keen eye on The Simpsons on Channel 4 since - I've heard 'The Raisins', 'The Stinkersons', 'The Opinions' and 'The Milk & Two Sugars'. Makes me smile.

One Hour Per Second

A lovely visualisation from YouTube, demonstrating the sheer volume of video that's uploaded to the site every second/minute/hour/etc. Click the image to see.

Star Wars Uncut

Star Wars: A New Hope remade as a fan film in 15-second chunks. Astonishing on all levels.


A cute little game with a serious message - click the image to work in the sweatshop.
(Give it a try, it's brilliantly done.)

Seventy-four seconds of cringing

This is just so lame.

Half a million records

How big's your garage? Fancy saving these...?

Avian bluegrass

Watch from the start, but oddness/cuteness commences at 1m30s.

Modern movies, retro reimaginings...

Movies reimagined for another time & place... click here.

Don't cuss!

The fundamental flaw in the 'if you want to hang with us, don't cuss' motif is that, in fact, nobody would want to hang out with this nauseating turd. Because he's a preachy little fucker with a misguided sense of his own importance.

Violin ringtone improv

Annoyed by interruptive ringtones? Here's why you should always carry a violin with you...

Cooking with Photoshop

Friday, 20 January 2012

20/01/12 - Monkey Tennis

Monkey Tennis. Cooking in Prison. Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Inner-city Sumo. Arm-wrestling with Chas & Dave. You all know the famous scene in which Alan Partridge, desperate to pitch a successful idea to the BBC, reels a series of random show ideas off the top of his head; the joke – sorry, I know you don’t need it explaining to you – is that programmes like these would be such mind-numbing, lowest common denominator guff that nobody in their right mind would ever consider watching them.
…except that they would. That satirical point was made back in 1997, and made perfect sense at the time. But now, just fifteen years later, any one of those shows could feasibly appear on television without anybody batting an eyelid. Indeed, ‘Cooking in Prison’ exists – Gordon Ramsay filmed the pilot in Brixton prison in December. And let’s take a look at, to pluck a shit channel from the air, the Channel 5 schedule to see what else may fit that’s already poisoning the airwaves…
OK, we’ve got Celebrity Wedding Planner, Brighton Beach Patrol, Croc Man, Sex: How To Do Everything, Supersize Grime, Essex Jungle, The Man Who Injects Venom, Mist: Sheepdog Tales, Tamara Ecclestone: Billion $$ Girl and World’s Toughest Trucker. Fucking hell, people will watch anything, won’t they?

So, if it really is that easy to come up with a marketable load of old tripe for public broadcast, let’s try putting in exactly the same amount of effort as Alan did and see what popular nonsense we can create.
[Switch on Dictaphone. “Idea for a programme…”]

Holmes Under the Hammers
Downtrodden celebrity beard Katie Holmes is encouraged to engage in a series of unpleasant and degrading carnal acts with the entire West Ham squad, many of whom carry actual hammers to imbue the scenario with a little pathos. She clearly doesn’t require much cajoling, the implication being that the on-screen squelching is nothing compared to her day-to-day Cruise-inflicted atrocities. Keep an eye out for the cheeky look on Papa Bouba Diop’s face. He has no idea what’s going on, but he likes it.

Winter Wipeout
Alex Winter, the less successful half of Bill & Ted, is locked in a dusty, windowless shed with nothing to do but play the hit 1995 PlayStation game ‘Wipeout’ on a decrepit and faltering console. He’s hooked up to a drip and a catheter to ensure that all physical and mental energy can be devoted to playing the game. Endlessly. Any error in gameplay – clipping tunnel walls with his wings, say – results in the administering of a mild electric pulse to the frontal lobes. Full-on wipeouts force the temporary reversal of drip and catheter function, with hilarious consequences.

Bargain Hunt
The estate of expired playboy Formula One driver James Hunt is up for grabs! We follow pantomime villain Bernie Ecclestone as he rakes through Hunt’s old belongings, auctioning off anything he thinks will raise a few quid and burning the rest. Only you can save the Hunt estate! But will Bernie realise the true value of those seventies pit jackets and Castrol merchandise, or will you be able to wangle a bargain…?

The One Show
A tedious investigation into the workings of a streamlined binary language, in which zeroes are eliminated and information is encoded solely in the inflection, pronunciation and scale of the number 1. SPOILER ALERT: Base-2 doesn’t work without zeroes. Waste of time.

Mrs Brown’s Boys
[Some pointless load of old fucking shit.]

The Graham Norton Show
A genuinely impressive exercise in engineering ingenuity. A group of college professors devote several years of their lives to building a perfect replica of a 1967 Norton Commando out of graham crackers; a necessarily delicate and fastidious endeavour beset by myriad pitfalls – crumbly carburettors, porous tyres, and the ever-present danger of absent-mindedly eating bits of it. They eventually get it to work, powered by a cream-cheese fuel. One of them has been starving himself throughout the entire process so that he’s sufficiently slight to ride it without breaking it. They show it to people.

Don’t Tell the Bride
A patchy and confusing effort in which people attempt to discourage one another from revealing which playing cards they’re holding in their hands whilst travelling in retro Toyota touge-runners equipped by the tuning outfit Bride. Requires quite specific knowledge of poker terminology and semi-obscure aftermarket competition tuners, always requires explaining, and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (Features lots of bright colours, though – ideal late-night viewing for stoners.)

Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps
In an effort to reinvent herself as culturally relevant in a market increasingly dominated by the chirpy likes of Jamie Oliver et al, Delia Smith takes cookery back to basics by eliminating the cookery altogether.
These weekly hour-long episodes follow her to a variety of rural pubs in which we get to see her spend rather too long choosing which of the two generic draught lagers she’d like to try that week, demonstrate the poor bar etiquette common to all TV celebs (‘serve me now, I’m famous – these plebs won’t mind’) and spout shit Jilly Gooldenisms about how the Scampi Fries complement the Carling. Odious.

Big Brother
A chilling dramatisation of a timeless dystopian novel, which absolutely does not piss on the literary legacy of the notion of ‘Big Brother’ by making everybody automatically associate the phrase with a bunch of worthless fame-hungry pricks being filmed trying not to fuck each other in a brightly-coloured house.

I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
Famous criminals are justly punished for their crimes as if they were normal people. Ashley Cole is jailed for shooting the work experience kid. Gary Glitter is confined indefinitely to solitary confinement for being a filthy fiddler. OJ Simpson goes back to the big house. Don King is brought to justice for those two people he killed. Matthew McConaughey is incarcerated for being the nauseating phallus he so indisputably is. And so on. We watch their spiralling descent into madness as they fruitlessly beg for mercy. See? Fame didn’t grant you impunity after all.

The Million Pound Drop
An elderly man, selected for his uncontrollably shaky fingers, is convinced that he’s inherited a million pounds from a wealthy but hitherto unknown relative. Hidden cameras follow him to collect the loot. A flashmob immediately descends upon the fiscal carnage as he accidentally drops it all on the way home. He goes back to his unfortunate, penniless existence, hating the world and waiting for the reaper. Numerous Facebook fans involved in the flashmob now have new trainers.

The Biggest Loser
We watch with an increasing sense of exasperation as loser “comedian” Michael McIntyre desperately tries to be amusing without coming across as slappably smug. And fails. Hard.
Then we switch over, because he is shit.

University Challenge
Socially inept university students are tracked by camera crews as they struggle through the two perennial university challenges: trying to buy as many groceries as possible for a fiver, and trying to copulate with anything that happens to move nearby. Laugh as they’re knocked back by the cool kids! Grin as their mums come to visit and happen across the unopened packs of condoms in the bathroom cabinet! Chuckle as they slowly succumb to scurvy!

8 Out of 10 Cats
Ten cats are forced through a series of near-impossible tasks; freeing themselves from brick-laden sacks at the bottom of rivers, escaping from microwaves, untying themselves from train tracks and so on. Horrifically cruel and occasionally disgusting, but with an impressive 80% survival rate that really demonstrates the vital instincts of the domestic feline in ultimately quite a heartwarming manner.

Undercover Boss
Bruce Springsteen (a.k.a. ‘The Boss’) painstakingly re-records the Rolling Stones’ 1983 album ‘Undercover’, playing all instruments, singing all vocals and, in a bold move, recording his efforts over the original master tapes. Ultimately pointless, but worth persevering with for his hilariously inept attempts at a cockney accent on the track ‘Too Much Blood’.

There’s got to be a hit in there somewhere. Make it happen, Tony Hayers!

Markets of Britain

A slice of Serafinowicz/Popper splendour from '10.

Fast Food – Ads vs. Reality

The lesson: McDonald's are more honest than most fast food outlets. Or something.
Click here.

Every Presentation Ever

[sharing observational comedy for purposes of amusement]

New York in camera

A lovely set of photos of everyday NYC life - click here.

The d'ohs of Homer

The Prodigy a cappella

This is spectacular on so many levels.

Voices of change, captured unfortunately

Click here.

The inappropriateness of Saved By The Bell

The weirdest ad you'll see this week

...the moral being that if your boiler breaks, your mum will go mental.

Vintage Hollywood bloopers

Ineffably charming.

Friday, 13 January 2012

James Bond: bit of an arsehole

Tiny Faces

Click me.

The Joy of Books


Video game maps, drawn from memory. And it's as simple as that. Click here.

Transformers trilogy: abridged



In their second rebrand in as many years, Waterstones have lost their apostrophe. They've been coping with the loss in rather good humour - you can follow their Oxford Street branch's thoroughly entertaining Twitter feed here, and see the story archived here.

Business Mouse ep.3

His latest capers, expanding his portfolio.

News bloopers 2011

Flute beatbox

Two things I can't do, done at once. Show off.

Abandoned brothels

Wanna see some creepy photos of long-empty whorehouses? Click here.

Alchemical Doritos

Friday, 6 January 2012

06/01/12 - Definitely the best man...

My bestest friend Sam got engaged a little while ago. He was my best man back in June ’10 and he’s asked me to return the favour. Is this a good idea? Well, who can say…?
He did a damn good job at my wedding; either nothing went wrong, or loads of things did and he did spectacularly well at making sure we didn’t know about them – either way, he’s set quite a precedent. It’ll be difficult to emulate. Take this story as evidence:

My sister got married in May last year, and I was an usher. Not as high-profile as being best man, but still with certain important (nay, pivotal) duties. As guests milled around outside the manor house in which the wedding would take place, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the bride, one of the bridesmaids handed me a little silver bag. ‘Put this somewhere safe,’ she said. I found a little shelfy cubbyholey thing at the back of the room where the ceremony was to happen, then went about my ushering; forgetting to seat people, scuffing my shiny shoes on the gravel, waving my phone in the air in a vain attempt to get reception in order to call the driver and find out where the bride was, that kind of thing. All went well, it was a lovely service, and cheerfulness was abundant. Fast forward a few hours and there we are, sitting at the top table in the reception venue a few miles away. My sister leans over to me and asks for the little silver bag, which I’ve obviously forgotten all about. I’m poking around the corners of the dusty attic that is my brain, trying to create a useful connection between the words ‘little silver bag’ and anything I’d actually seen that day, all the while smiling and nodding and making placatory noises. Ping! There it is – I’d seen a little silver bag in the boot of the car. We were staying at the pub next door to the reception venue, so all I needed to do was sneak out, scurry through the hedge, retrieve the bag and return, the hero of the hour. (Or, at least, the not-shit usher.) So that is what I did. I snuck. I scurried. I retrieved. I returned. I handed the bag over.
It was my wife’s make-up bag. An entirely different little silver bag.
It was at that moment that I remembered the little silver bag that the bridesmaid had handed me. The one that I put on the little shelfy cubbyholey thing at the manor house. The one that presumably was still on the little shelfy cubbyholey thing at the manor house. The one that, as I was now being informed by an enraged bride, contained the speeches and the music for the first dance. There was more sneaking and scurrying to be done.
I fled the scene and ran next door, scampering across the gravelly car park toward the car. Gravel and brand new leather soles do not mix well, and gravity got the better of me; I found myself performing that hopeless half-running-half-falling manoeuvre, the move that has all of the inevitability of a solid faceplant but with the added humiliation of fruitlessly trying to save oneself by windmilling the arms and emitting a slo-mo ‘nooooooooo!’. I hit the ground knees-first, and somehow – with a certain quick-witted flair and panache, I thought – managed to turn the fall into a forward roll, landing on my feet and continuing the run in one fluid motion. I was covered head-to-toe in dust and bleeding profusely from both knees, the rented wedding trousers torn in a painfully obvious manner. I leapt into the car and Colin McRae'd it back to the manor house which, helpfully, had a hump-backed bridge before its entrance, forcing me to attain several unexpected feet of air as I powered across it at a very naughty speed. Tearing up the seemingly never-ending tree-lined drive, I eventually arrived at the entrance in a cloud of dust and tyresmoke. To find that the place was shut. Bugger.
Still, I’d come this far. After a bit of jiggling and jimmying (and no small amount of violence and swearing), the mighty oak door yielded and I tippy-toed in. I slid as noiselessly as I could across the creaking floorboards of the hall - my shiny soles proving that they were some use, after all - and padded into the ceremonial room. Hosannah! Glory be! The bag was still there! As were a number of rather cross-looking people, who I presumed owned the place. Weighing up my options, I could either explain myself (very easily and innocently done), or I could just grab the bag and scarper. And the second option seemed a lot quicker. So that’s what I did. I pounded back through the hall, dove into the car and, with a banshee wail from the tyres and an urgent whistle from the turbo, effected my egress.
Yumping back over the bridge, I yanked the lever marked ‘Ludicrous Speed’ and raced to the reception, pulling a variety of unlikely overtakes that would make even James Bond re-evaluate his perception of physics. Screeching to a halt at the door, I ran back to the top table and flung the bag at my borderline-incandescent sister. I was filthy, wounded, ragged, panting and had committed at least four crimes.

So good luck, Sam. This is apparently what I do at weddings.

London's NYE 2012 fireworks

Hands down, best in the world.

The universe: it's quite big

In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, 'space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.'
To get an idea of just how frighteningly vast it is, click the image.

Festive QI, with Brian Blessed

That's your lunch hour sorted.

Lists of Note

A compelling new offering from the chap behind Letters of Note. Click the image to see.

Tractor Jazz

More reliable than a drummer?


This thing allows you to play SNES and Mega Drive games on your PC - how cool is that?! Click the image to see...

How many Mobies?

The finest ever thirty seconds of NMTB.

Cliff swears at kids

Where's your messiah now...?

Moscow Timelapse