Friday, 27 July 2012

27/07/12 - OlymPips

So, the Olympics are here.
There’s a lot of cynicism and bitchery around the Games due to issues of cost, traffic disruption, LOCOG’s heavy-handed sponsorship enforcement, blah blah etc, but it seems churlish to whinge about it: we’re hosting a prestigious, historic event. Moaning about it isn’t going to make it go away. Might as well just give in and enjoy it, eh? I know I will. Lighten up!
If, like me, you have very little interest in sport in general, it may be harder to gee yourself up and allow your excitement to pour forth in a warm wave of athletic gleegasms, but fear not – the Olympic Games are not as boring as some might think. Indeed, this year there are a number of kooky new events to pique and hold the interest of the social media generation. British Pathé wrote an interesting article this week on Unaccepted Olympic Sports, in which they looked at unusual events that took place alongside the Games in the past but were never officially recognised by the IOC; cannon shooting, pigeon racing, pigeon shooting, bicycle polo, kite flying, angling…
In addition to this, they also published a piece on Lost Olympic Sports including pelota, poetry, tandem cycling, tug-of-war, croquet, and the brilliantly slapstick standing high-jump. You see, the IOC have a sense of fun… and this playful side has been brought to the fore with the London 2012 Olympics. It all started with the logo, roundly mocked since its reveal in 2007 as looking variously like a distorted swastika, Lisa Simpson performing fellatio, the word ‘Zion’ (which nearly caused Iran to boycott the Games) and so on – they’re little tinkers, the IOC, they just want everyone to have a good time without taking it all too seriously. And for this reason, you can expect a raft of whimsical new Olympic events to take place during London 2012. Here’s a handy round-up.

Postman’s Knock
If there’s one thing that’s been missing from the Olympic Games over the years, it’s affectionate physical contact. (Well, there’s usually a bit of goosing in the aquatic events, but it never leads to point-scoring.) So the new Postman’s Knock event will occur shortly before the closing ceremony, when all of the competitors across the various events will be brought together at the Millennium Dome (or O2 Megasphere or whatever it’s called) and sat down in a vast circle. A special set of LOCOG playing cards will be used to determine who gets to be the postman, who will then stand just outside one of the fire exits waiting to be visited by a kissy-faced fellow athlete. Keep an eye out for Seb Coe’s lascivious lip-licking throughout this saucy spectacle. He’ll be rubbing his trousers like Vic Reeves.

Cross Country
There are loads of running events in the Olympics, but they’re not really representative of the athletic realities of the common man. Sure, the 100m shows how people are able to accelerate as quickly as a car if somebody is standing next to them holding a pistol, and the 1500m is something that most people did at school, but the harsh reality is that it’s only the sporty kids who were any good at this. The 1500m used to take me an entire lesson of blubbery wheezing and generally ruined the rest of my day. Obviously I’m no Olympic athlete and the Games exist to showcase those at the pinnacle of their sports, but the IOC are keen to champion the everyman in 2012, allowing the public into the event in a spiritual and empathetic sense, hence the introduction of the Cross Country event this year. And it’s exactly like you remember it from school: the competitors leave the gates together, and numbers noticeably thin out as various entrants hide in bushes to have a fag, or simply go home for a bit. Others take creative short cuts, possibly in this case utilising the perennially under-trafficked Olympic Lanes on nearby roads, to get back to the finish line via the easiest means possible. There’s then a bit of a scrum to fumble around for breath mints so that teacher doesn’t smell the ciggies on you, while water is splashed across brows to simulate sweaty endeavour.
It’s an event that promotes lethargy and cheating, basically. Something we can all relate to.

Backyard Ballistics
Celebrating the ingenuity of the Great British amateur inventor, this event taps into mankind’s fundamental desire to blow shit up. Pipe-smoking eccentrics are rounded-up from across the nation by Team GB, resplendent in tweed jackets and threadbare jumpers, to demonstrate the lashed-together rockets and mortars that they knocked together in their sheds. Points are awarded for accuracy, showmanship and outright destruction. But how will the Brits fare against the precision of the Russians, the hysterical haphazardness of the Mexicans or the sheer firepower of the Americans? Place your bets… and for Christ’s sake, stand back.

Gambling
Placing bets is such a massive deal around the Olympics, it makes sense to turn it into an event in its own right. It’s a little complicated, but the rewards are huge. Contestants pick somebody who’s playing a starring role in the Games – say, Usain Bolt, or Boris Johnson, or Wenlock & Mandeville – and find out which events they’ve placed bets on. Then, using advanced OlympiMaths, they calculate the likelihood that they’ll be successful or otherwise in their bets; they use LOCOG’s official odds calculator to calculate the odds of the odds, and place their bets accordingly. This creates such a gloriously diverse splintering of myriad sub-bets that everybody involved loses all perspective on who’s owed what and, in effect, everybody wins. Or loses. Or something.
(This event is sponsored by Beefeater, to ensure that everyone is royally, Britishly smashed throughout. So it doesn’t really matter who wins.)

Sixth Form Disco
Awkwardness is something that’s notable by its absence in the Olympics – everyone involved seems to be seamlessly au fait with what they’re doing and where they’re supposed to be, which isn’t something that the viewing public can really get on board with. Where’s the worry, the nervous laughter, the cold sweat? We just can’t empathise.
The Sixth Form Disco event redresses the balance, allowing us to view the competitors as human beings rather than robotic, one-dimensional sport machines. They all gather in the purpose-built Discodrome, being dropped off by their parents at about seven o’clock. A variety of cheesy tunes play through an overly-bassy sound system at the hands of an inept DJ, while the room fails to come alive due to the troubling presence of teachers who’ve turned up in jeans (with creases ironed into them) and Gola trainers in an attempt to be ‘groovy’. One of the older kids will have snuck in a hip flask of some improbable illicit beverage – sherry, Grand Marnier, whatever the folks won’t miss – and will use it to steel his nerves to gyrate awkwardly to the Jive Bunny Megamix. Medals are awarded for point-scoring along the awkwardness scale – crying outside the venue, dancing enormously self-consciously, using the phrase ‘my friend likes you’, these are all winning strategies.

Fast Food
In many ways, the consumption of fast food is Britain’s national sport. This feeds (ha!) neatly into the Olympic ethos, as it’s a vastly multi-national offering, rich in cultural diversity and country-specific methods. So this event is basically like a huge, live, international Masterchef stand-off. One of the key British fast foods – fish & chips, pizza, fried chicken, Indian, Chinese, kebabs, burgers – is drawn from a hat, and every competing nation has a go at knocking it up. This is repeated until every food area has been attempted or somebody slips into a cholesterol coma, whichever comes first.
Think the Italians will have an advantage with pizza, or the Chinese will be best at making Chinese food? Don’t take any of it as a given, that’s racist.

Television Re-enactment
The Olympics is always televised, largely because no-one can ever get tickets so it’s the only way people get to see it. This new Television Re-enactment event ties the TV coverage into a global enthusiasm for TV in general, working on the basis that if you’re watching the coverage on TV, there’s a fair chance that you like watching other things on telly as well. The event operates initially in the style of a P.E. lesson, with the two strongest boys (picked by Seb Coe) choosing their teams from a pool of random athletes. They are then assigned a famous TV show from a random nation around the world and forced to re-enact an episode for the entertainment of the increasingly befuddled crowd. This idea was dreamt up by a back-room LOCOG employee who’d spent the afternoon dicking around on YouTube, spotted the Americans’ unpleasantly misguided attempt to remake The Inbetweeners and decided to pitch the concept to the IOC to see what happened. Expect an event that will be baffling and irritating in equal measure – best enjoyed with some more of that Beefeater gin to ebb away the general sense of WTF-ness. Imagine a Greek Last of the Summer Wine or a Japanese Les Guignols de l’Info. Weird.

Risk
Much potential for either hilarity or violence (or both) here. The sand will be swept from Horse Guards Parade and replaced with an enormous Risk board. Competitors will have to play Risk in the traditional sense (i.e. world domination, none of this new-fangled mission card business), and have to endure all kinds of mental wrangling over the potentially treasonous move of jettisoning one’s own nation if it transpires not to be geographically advantageous or necessary throughout the game. (Smug faces abound in Argentina and Australia; expressions of growing panic spread across Greenland and Southern Europe.) Political advisors will be on hand to make suggestions regarding manoeuvres with embarrassing historical precedent, adding to the drama of the event and skewing the betting odds: will Germany invade Poland? What kind of rumblings will there be in the Middle East? Will the US make any effort to protect Canada?
Expect much heckling and ribaldry from the windows of the nearby Foreign Office.

Sack Race
Why shouldn’t this be a legitimate event? So many Olympic events involve competitors racing from point A to point B, why not do it in a fucking sack? It’s no more absurd than anything else they do.
The above three sentences were cut ‘n’ pasted from an official IOC press release last year, which was hastily retracted and reissued with lots of worthy facts about upper body strength and the regeneration of the global hessian industry. Sometimes it feels like they’re not taking this seriously.

So that’s that. If you’re not interested in these fancy new events, there are still plenty of traditional events that have been run through the centuries for the spectators’ entertainment, events that the ancient Greeks pioneered at the dawn of the Games. Like BMX, and beach volleyball.


Incidentally, ardent JuicyPips fans may remember the OlymPips I wrote during Beijing 2008. It was rather a lot better than this one – click here: http://bit.ly/NT8jbO

BoJo’s Olympic welcome

Sick of hearing his voice over the Tannoy on the bus? Look what else he's been putting out there...

London Underdogs

A very sweet idea that has been beautifully and thoughtfully executed, London Underdogs celebrates, well, the underdogs of the London 2012 Olympics. Click the image to see.

A special message from McDonald's

...circa 1978. Ray Kroc sounds MENTAL.

Brandalism

Some kind of subversiveness, or something. Click here.

Wildebeest

Retro Olympic Gaming

...from the Guardian. Click the image to play.

2Pac the Tank Engine

It's what he would have wanted.

Team USA gets to know London

Bless 'em for making the effort...

 



Thursday, 19 July 2012

19/07/12 - Kitchen Drama

I spotted him down there as the kitchen door creaked open, thick red fluid oozing amongst the hair above his bewildered expression. I think we were both equally surprised that he was there, injured on the floor in my flat.
This is a true story, something that happened to me on Monday morning. But let’s begin at the beginning…

The car was filthy. It hadn’t been washed since March, one of a long list of tasks performed in preparation for the baby’s arrival, in the knowledge that the very core of our own particular plane of reality was about to shift irretrievably off its axis. With the constant cycle of naps, nappies, milky explosions and nursery rhymes, rinsing the mud off the car had been pushed past the back burner and lay forgotten among the gritty crumbs and infinitesimal flecks of old cheese and grains of rice that so often collect behind the hob. It just didn’t seem important. But we live on a swanky street, having found the one cheap flat amongst a jumble of penthouses and fiendishly pricey townhouses, and all of our neighbours drive 911s and V8 Vantages. We felt increasingly that our filthy old Leon was lowering the tone, so I took it the local hand car wash chaps who splash water around in Homebase car park and asked them for a thorough, comprehensive hand job (double entendre © Richard Herring 2004). And, true to form, they washed it as thoroughly as you’d expect for twelve pounds – pricey, but I live on the first floor and have to park two streets away; nobody sells hoses that long – it was so shiny you could actually see things reflected in it. That may sound like an unimpressive boast, but that just highlights how dirty it was before. I’d forgotten that it was metallic. But now, after four months, it was finally able to reflect light again, shimmering proudly in the July sunshine. (That, er, one day of July sunshine we’ve had. Remember it?)
All, that is, aside from the bonnet. Its ten year-old lacquer had already been showing signs of sleepiness, but the 100+ day filth marathon seemed to have been the final straw. It had lost all of its lustre, adopting the kind of micro-crazed matt finish that one might find on a frosted window. There was only one obvious solution. ‘To Halfords!’, I cried, pointing pointedly and dramatically swishing my cape. The nonplussed car-washers pretended not to notice – in hindsight, it probably seemed eccentric. I wasn’t even wearing a cape. Although maybe that would have been worse.

Perusing the aisle labelled ‘A baffling cornucopia of car-cleaning shit’ in the ballistically orange local branch of Halfords, I found myself doing that thing we all do (I hope) when confronted with a thousand products that are essentially the same: grabbing handfuls of them, squinting at the small print on each, trying in vain to determine the pernickety differences between hyper wax polish and super carnauba compound, and pacing up and down with no awareness whatsoever of my surroundings. I deliberated and muttered for a sufficiently long period that the staff were keeping a keen eye on me, one hand edging toward the fuck-me-we’ve-got-a-nutter security button. But I eventually made my choice: a T-Cut restorative polish, formulated to revive paints sitting at the dark-red end of the spectrum. I also purchased a pack of washable lint-free cloths, which seemed to be a very grown-up thing to do.

Back at home, I set about buffing the bonnet to see if it would spring back into life. I was anticipating a sort of idyllic, zero-effort scenario in which I’d smear the stuff on, wipe it off and find myself standing before a gleaming, brand new car, perhaps to the sound of tweeting birds, a distant trumpet fanfare and possibly a small cartoon squirrel scurrying across the bonnet, tying it all up in a pretty blue bow. But no. After numerous applications of red wax polish and lots of hearty buffing the bonnet was, well, pretty much the same. Maybe ever-so-slightly shinier than before, but I’m the only person in the world who would ever know. Ten quid, that T-Cut cost.
With a defeated shrug, I abandoned the futile task and retreated. I put my washable cloths in a bucket under the kitchen table with some warm water and a healthy sprinkle of Napisan (which, as any parent will tell you, can get absolutely any stain out of any material), and got on with my life. Matt bonnet? Meh.

At 6:30 on Monday morning I stumbled blearily into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and cursing the onset of age that makes my left knee twinge and my ankles creak. As I reached for the morning vitamins, my eye was caught by the unexpected body lying prostrate before me. Some mistake, surely? I was still half-asleep, after all. I rubbed my eyes, left the room, counted to ten and re-entered.
Hmm. He was still there. In my kitchen. What could this mean? What would I do…?

He lay there in the bucket, on top of the washable cloths, swamped by a sea of gloopy red water. He’d shat himself comprehensively all over my new cloths. Well, they’d have to go in the bin for a start. But what should I do with him? He was largely immobile, presumably suffering some kind of mild poisoning from swallowing a dilute solution of T-Cut. He was just staring madly, awaiting either salvation or the reaper, whichever came first. I genuinely couldn’t decide which to offer.

It quickly became apparent that he was largely unable to move under his own power, being pretty much stunned. I scooped him into a jug and we eyeballed one another, each demonstrating an equal measure of inconvenience and distaste. The cloths went straight in the bin, and I rinsed and disinfected the bucket while I decided what to do with him. If I release him out of the door, he’ll just come back in the house, spreading his red stains all over the skirting boards. In the past whenever I’ve been confronted with his kind, I’ve always wrapped them up in plastic bags and carried them out to the bin in the street. But they’d always been dead. What’s the procedure for living captives? Are they covered by the Geneva Convention?

I tipped him into a carrier bag to see how he’d react. He didn’t put up any kind of a fight. So I wrapped him up, took him outside and threw him in the bin.
Is that cruel? Possibly. But he started it. He shouldn’t have broken into my house and shat in my kitchen.

All Consuming Love (Man In A Cat)

Lovely story, beautifully animated, with an all-star cast.

Street Art

'We declare the world as our canvas', say Street Art Utopia. Click here for a huge collection of outstanding murals, graffiti and installations.

American Inbetweeners

Oh dear. The Americans have had a go at remaking The Inbetweeners. And - shock horror - they've failed to spot the myriad nuances and intricacies that make the original so subtly, piquantly British, and just turned it into a sub-American Pie cringefest.
You can see by the like/dislike bar below that it isn't going well so far. Embedding is disabled, so click here to view the trailer. Be warned, though - it's FUCKING SHIT.

Som Sabadell flashmob

Very lovely indeed.

Dog Dicer

If you don’t buy this product, YOUR KIDS AREN’T SAFE.

Friday, 13 July 2012

13/07/12 - 'The time is 2:17...'

If you’re a pedant like me, your brain will usually be set to ‘nitpick’. Even when you’re crashed out on the sofa on a Friday night, watching the TV with a beer as your wife and child pass into the realm of sleepiness around you, the number 44 bus idling at the stop outside, the three goldfish slurping at the gravel in the 25-litre fish tank positioned on a small laminate pedestal between the bass guitar and the rack of motorsport DVDs (OK, you’d have to be a lot like me for this quite specific scenario to play itself out, but you know what I mean). It’s something of a theme for Generation Y to be cynical, pedantic and infuriatingly critical of pretty much everything regardless of their own knowledge or expertise in the field in question; indeed, cynicism and pedantry are the norm rather than the exception. And that’s OK.
So, with this generational facetiousness hard-wired into my brain, I find myself pouncing upon the slightest details in films and television programmes and pulling them apart to determine any potential significance that they may harbour. Not with any particular malice, I just can’t help it.
The Simpsons, as I’m sure you know, has done much to add texture and variety to the modern colloquial lexicon. ‘D’oh’, ‘yoink’, ‘embiggen’, ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’, ‘okely dokely’, ‘cromulent’, ‘glavin’, ‘introubulate’, ‘neighborino’, ‘sacrilicious’, ‘smell ya later’, ‘eat my shorts’, ‘successmanship’, ‘telepanhandling’, ‘craptacular’ and, of course, ‘meh’ were all added to the language by Groening’s yellow chums, and this all happened organically rather than by design or engineering – people repeat the terms because they fit what they describe or infer so well. But for those of a pedantic bent, there’s evidence all over the place of writers trying to shoehorn new ways of speaking into our day-to-day lives, and it’s not as easy as you might think. Some examples…

Friends
Season 5, Episode 21, ‘The One With The Ball’. Joey and Ross are throwing a small foam globe back and forth while chatting. Part of the conversation goes like this:
Joey: Hey Ross, is uh, is Staten Island really an island?
Ross: Uh-huh, that's why they call it Staten
Island.
Joey: Ohhh. I thought it was like Long Island.
Ross: (catches the ball and pauses, staring at Joey in disbelief) Also an island.
(the game resumes)
Joey: Hey, what time is it?
Ross: (looks at his watch) 2:17.

Now, this is the point that troubles me. No-one in the history of mankind has ever read the time out this way. You’d say that it’s ‘2:15’ or ‘a quarter past two’, or maybe ‘just gone 2:15’. There’s no logical reason for this, we’re just conditioned to give the time to the nearest five-minute segment; five past, quarter past, twenty-five to. You wouldn’t say ‘2:17’ any more than you’d say ‘2:02’ or ‘2:41’. And yet this lexical oddity goes entirely unchecked – nobody says ‘um, what? 2:17? That’s very specific, Ross…’
I like to think that the scriptwriters were making a point about accuracy. There’s no technical reason why we aren’t more specific in giving the time. It fits well with Ross’s character that he would be the sort of person who’d eschew the wooliness of convention and expand upon the detail, but the fact that the moment passes with no recognition from the other characters suggests that the writers hoped for a more widespread bleed effect from this moment. But people just don’t behave that way.
(Incidentally, you wouldn’t believe the amount of Googling it took to find which episode I was thinking of, using just the momentary snapshot of Ross saying ‘2:17’.)

Love Actually
There’s a charming scene in which Hugh Grant, playing the role of Prime Minister, arrives at no.10 Downing Street for the first time and is introduced to the staff. Martine McCutcheon’s character is endearingly foul-mouthed.
Annie: …and this is Natalie. She's new, like you.
David: Hello, Natalie.
Natalie: Hello, David. I mean, sir. Shit, I can't believe I've just said that. And now I've gone and said ‘shit’. Twice. I'm so sorry, sir.
David: It’s fine, it’s fine. You could've said ‘fuck’ and we'd have been in real trouble.
Natalie: Thank you, sir. I had a premonition I was gonna fuck up on my first day. Oh, piss it!

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Piss it’? This is not something that anyone has ever said. Such peculiarities often arise when a script is written by a non-native (we’ll come onto that in the next example), but Love Actually was written by the tremendously British Richard Curtis. He knows how people talk. So why, given the rich and lustrous opportunities afforded by the Great British Swearing Dictionary, did he choose to make Natalie say something so immediately jarring? It’s a great scene, it tells us much that we need to know about her character within a very concise interchange, yet everybody watching that scene, whilst chuckling, will think ‘hang on… ‘piss it’?’.
There’s just no reason for it. Why does Curtis want us all to start saying ‘piss it’? How can we make him tell us?

Sliding Doors
It’s a nice enough film, Sliding Doors. It’ll never be regarded as one of the all-time greats, but it’s pretty well put-together and it’s quite sweet.
We were talking about scripts written by non-natives, weren’t we? OK, so we’ve fallen at the first hurdle in that this film was written by a Brit, but the point stands because the film was clearly written with America in mind. Case in point: they keep using the word ‘shagging’ as an expletive adjective/adverb. Nobody in Britain does this. Ever. It pops up occasionally in Family Guy and suchlike when questionably-voiced English characters are talking, demonstrating that Americans clearly think we say it all the time.
Now, since the writer was British, most of the cast were British, the whole thing was filmed in London and, given that its central theme is a freaky parallel universe paradox, it was effectively double-British, how did so many ‘shagging’s get in there? Why did nobody say ‘wait a sec, this is going to seem completely implausible to non-Americans’?
‘You useless, shagging bastard! I come home and catch you up to your nuts in Lady-shagging-Godiva!’; ‘Am I a shagging brandy drinker?’; ‘I stubbed my foot on the side of the shagging bath.’ Oh, come on.

I can’t stop doing this. Everything I watch comes in for a critical hammering, whether I’m aware that I’m doing it or not. I’ll never be drawn into these new modes of talking though - my brain-dictionary is fortified by enormous, impenetrable wordwalls. Those shagging scriptwriters can go and piss it.

Keith the Magic Homeless

'He's homeless. He's magic. He's called Keith. Meet Keith the Magic Homeless.'

Pictures of Walls

Click here for a staggering quantity of photos of witty and entertaining graffiti. It's like a 21st-century Nigel Rees endeavour.

100 Riffs (A Brief History of Rock N' Roll)

For maximum hero points, cover up the captions and guess the riffs...

The 1992 Nickelodeon Time Capsule



Twenty years ago Nickelodeon buried a time capsule. Due to be opened in 2042 to demonstrate to the kids of the future what nineties kids were into, it contains such treasures as a Game Boy and a VHS copy of Home Alone. Click here for the full contents.

Don't Kill Hitler

The logic is flawless.

Facemath(s)

Celeb (a) + celeb (b) = celeb (c). Click here.

Taplights

These Jaboody Dubs are always good.

Higgs Boson for Idiots

What Britain used to look like from the air

A lovely bit of footage here from the BBC, showing some highlights from the vast Aerofilms Collection. Click the image to see...

Friday, 6 July 2012

06/07/12 - Relative Time


History is a weird thing, isn’t it? When you’re taught history at school, everything gets filed in your brain under ‘old stuff’, so it’s surprising to be reminded that the Corn Laws and the Enclosure riots, filed side by side as ‘old stuff: misc countryside’ in our brains were actually nearly 300 years apart. What’s more surprising is that the Second World War, one of the most significant Old Things we learnt about at school, wasn’t actually that long ago. WWII ended in 1945 which, as an example, was nine years before my parents were born. What was happening nine years before I was born? Well, it was 1973, so The Exorcist was causing a stir, Bowie recorded Aladdin Sane, Last of the Summer Wine was on TV, the World Trade Center opened and Noel Fielding was born. That doesn’t seem that long ago, in the grand scheme of things.
So our perspectives are, generationally speaking, far more different than we ever give any real thought to. To children of the eighties WWII is unimaginably far in the past, but to our parents it’s something that was still hanging over their households as they were growing up, as long ago when they were ten years old as, say, Definitely Maybe or the launch of the Ford Mondeo are to the ten year-olds of today. This kaleidoscopic approach to relative time makes the head spin.

The Beatles and The Rolling Stones: the two pillars of sixties rock ‘n’ roll pushing into the mainstream, the polarisation of the fans, the rebellion of youth, blah blah etc. Their influence on music as a whole over the decades is so far-reaching, so broad, that they too get filed in our brains as ‘old stuff’. But our parents aren’t quite so impressed when you say ‘OMG, I’ve got hold of an original copy of Sticky Fingers, complete with the working zip…’, because that was just the music they were listening to when they were growing up. Imagine in the not-too-distant future hearing your own children evangelising about what a controversial development The Stone Roses’ Second Coming was on the indie scene. ‘I know,’ you’ll say, ‘I was there.’
(For the record, incidentally, I think Second Coming was the Roses’ best work. I know that’s an unfashionable viewpoint but I don’t care.)

1977? That was a year of contrasts and mischief, wasn’t it? The Sex Pistols swearing on TV, Elvis Presley dying on the toilet, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, strikes at Longbridge, undertaker strikes, firefighter strikes, National Front rallies, Freddy Laker’s Skytrain, IRA bombs in the West End, the release of Star Wars… to me, these are all filed under ‘old stuff’, but they only happened five years before I was born. Depending on your vintage, these may be things that are as old as you, or that you remember from your childhood, or even that don’t seem all that long ago.

What’s the point of all this? I’m concerned by the twenty-first century 20- prefix. You see, any year that begins with 18- can legitimately be filed as ‘old stuff’, right? If somebody had been born in 1899, they’d be 113 years old by now, so we can count the nineteenth century as being a reasonably long time ago. But in, say, the 1930s, did the 1890s seem like an incredibly long time ago? I bet they did - it's the different prefix that does it. And that’s what concerns me. Turning the corner from one century prefix to another draws a line under everything on the older side (this is a messy image full of perpendicular lines and sharp angles, sorry), creating a clear division between the archaic and the contemporary.
My daughter was born this year, 2012, almost exactly thirty years after I was. I imagine as she grows up, 1982 will seem like an increasingly ridiculous number. She’ll think I’m some kind of dinosaur. ‘He was born in the last century, in 19-something, he’s so old!’ (‘Century’ is a big word, isn’t it?)  The car I’ll be driving when she’s in her teens – Capri, 205 GTI, mkI MX-5, whatever – will undoubtedly be a source of embarrassment for her, a decrepit relic from a bygone age. She won’t show an interest in the works of Monty Python in the same way that my peers and I wouldn’t have wanted to watch showreels from the 1930s. My music collection will harbour gems to impress her and her friends, but she’ll think I’m a cretin for still listening to CDs (or – the horror! – vinyl), begging me to lick music from digital lollipops or whatever the yoof will be doing in 2027.

You know what? Now I think about it, I’m not concerned about the different century thing. Not really. The best part of being a parent, I reckon, is to be a crippling embarrassment to your kids, deliberately or otherwise. I’m sure I’ll think I’m a pretty cool dad collecting her from a house party in a Capri in my faded jeans and Simpsons t-shirt, blasting Ace of Spades through the stereo and tooting my Dukes of Hazzard airhorns… but she won’t. She’ll think I’m a total loser, and will be emphatic and insistent in telling me so. I can’t wait.

A conversation with my 12 year-old self

Dating plankton

OK Cupid is full of awful, awful people. Look!
 

Retro Robots

'Sick'

A disturbing, harrowing and inspiring critique of the nature of humanity, drawn from a cartoonist's sick bed. Lengthy, but very much worth it. Click here.

Behind the scenes at a McDonald's photoshoot

Refreshingly honest.

The Great Tower for London

London, 1890: Brits are very jealous of the Eiffel Tower, and wish to build something to better it. A book of designs is drawn up, many of which bear more than a passing similarity to the French behemoth. Here is that book.

The Dark Knight IRL

We Know What You're Doing

Some people aren't very discreet on t'internet. Click below to see...

Jimmy Kimmel: Lie Detective