Friday, 21 June 2013

21/06/13 - TubeFacts

The fact that the London Underground is celebrating its 150th birthday this year is a bit of a mindblower. While the network may seem a little outdated here and there, it usually feels at worst like something from the 1960s, not the 1860s. I mean, look what else was happening in Britain when the first train trundled down the line between Paddington and Farringdon in 1863 – Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum opened, the Football Association was founded, Linoleum was invented, scarlet fever was ripping through the country like wildfire (well, wildfever), David Lloyd George was born, William Makepeace Thackeray died. This was the decade of the American Civil War, when Dimitri Mendeleev drew up the modern periodic table, when Lincoln was assassinated, when War & Peace, Crime & Punishment, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Das Kapital were published, when Florence Nightingale was founding nursing schools… the Tube is that old.
The first Tube line saw steam locomotives running along gas-lit tunnels, and it carried 38,000 passengers on its opening day, with trains having to be diverted from overground lines to cope with the demand. It clearly fulfilled a want as well as a need, and has been an intrinsic part of London culture ever since.
The convenience, the typography and symbolism, the iconic electrical-diagram map, the myriad quirks and cheats of getting around on the Underground… there’s a wealth of history behind the Tube, as diverse and evolutionary as the greater urban culture that surrounds it, and whose inhabitants it exists to serve. But rather than waffle on in the usual JuicyPips fashion, this week I’m going to distil the salient points into a list of interesting, bite-sized facts. Enjoy.


When the Victoria Line was under development, one of the suggested names was ‘the Viking Line’. Which would have been much cooler.

55% of the Underground network isn’t underground.

The Russian word for ‘railway station’ is вокзал (vokzal), supposedly after a nineteenth-century Russian delegation visited the under-construction Tube station at Vauxhall and mistook the signs to be displaying a general word for stations, rather than an actual place name.

Chances of any given Tube journey ending in death: 1 in 300m.

During World War II, the British Museum stored lots of their valuable exhibits – including the Elgin Marbles! – in a branch of the Piccadilly Line, to keep them safe from bombs.

Also during World War II, a subterranean aircraft factory was set up within the tunnels of the Central Line, between Leytonstone and Newbury Park. The main body of the factory was just 13 feet in diameter. Its existence was an official secret until the eighties.

West Ashfield is a fake station mocked up within a building in West Kensington – TfL staff use it for training purposes.

Aldgate station was built over a seventeenth century plague pit – there are more than a thousand bodies under there.

The average speed of a Tube train is 20.5mph, and that includes station stops… and those on the Metropolitan Line can reach 60mph.

Queen Victoria never rode the Victoria Line. (Obviously. It opened 68 years after she died.) Queen Elizabeth II was the first monarch ever to take the Tube – she was there for the opening of the Victoria Line in 1969, minding the gap in her inimitable regal fashion.

The total combined distance travelled by all Tube trains in a year is around 43 million miles. That’s nearly halfway to the sun.

The Jubilee Line is the only one that connects with all other lines.

The distance between Covent Garden and Leicester Square on the Piccadilly Line is just 260 metres – the shortest on the network. It only takes about twenty seconds, and costs the standard £4.30. Might as well walk it, tourists…

The Jubilee line was so-named to celebrate the Queen’s 1977 Jubilee… although its construction was so delayed, it didn’t open until 1979.

There is, on average, one suicide a week on the Tube. Usual time is 11am. In 1926, suicide pits were dug out under lines at stations due to the increasing number of people throwing themselves in front of trains. The eastern extension of the Jubilee Line is the only section that has glass screens to stymie the jumpers.

Fewer than 10% of Tube stations are south of the Thames.

Just five Tube stations are outside the M25.

Aldwych station closed in 1994, and is now used as a film set. It’s featured in V for Vendetta, 28 Weeks Later, and The Prodigy’s Firestarter video, among much else. One of the levels in Tomb Raider 3 is set there too, with Lara Croft killing rats.

The longest continuous tunnel is on the Northern Line, running 17.3 miles from East Finchley to Morden.

The Underground sequences in Skyfall were filmed at night over a number of months at Charing Cross.

Over 47m litres of water are pumped from the Tube every day.

The Guinness World Record for visiting every station on the Underground network – known as the ‘Tube Challenge’ – is currently held by Andi James and Steve Wilson, who completed the challenge in 16 hours, 29 minutes and 13 seconds in May 2011.

During the three-hour weekday morning peak, the busiest station is Waterloo, serving around 57,000 passengers.

Jerry Springer was born on a Tube platform. His mother was taking shelter from the Luftwaffe at Highgate station in 1944.

The least-used station on the network is Roding Valley.

When the Circle Line opened in 1884, The Times panned it as ‘a form of mild torture, which no person would undergo if he could conveniently help it’.

Shortest escalator: Stratford (vertical rise of 4.1m). Longest escalator: Angel (27.5m).

The Tube’s first escalator was installed at Earl’s Court in 1911.

There are just two Tube station names that contain all five vowels - Mansion House and South Ealing.

Every week, Underground escalators travel the equivalent distance of circling the globe twice.

Tube mosquitoes are genetically different to overground mosquitoes, and will bite mice and rats as well as humans.

Bank station has no above-ground buildings – its ticket halls were built within the crypt of St. Mary Woolnoth church.

In 1909, Selfridges unsuccessfully campaigned to have the name of Bond Street station changed to ‘Selfridges’.

The northbound Northern Line platform at Embankment is the only place on the network where you’ll hear the original ‘Mind the Gap’ announcement, voiced by Oswald Laurence. It was reinstated at his widow’s request, so that she could still hear his voice.

…and on that lovely note, I’m off to ride the Tube. (Which is not a euphemism.)


This is some kind of delicious witchcraft - an easy spray-on formula that makes anything impervious to fluid. The fact that they've come up with loads of real-world, practical applications to solve everyday problems - dropping your phone in water, getting mustard on your shirt, the ickyness of using a toilet brush - suggests that they've really thought this through. Expect to see NeverWet everywhere before you know it.


This Kickstarter project is nothing short of incredible. It's a REAL-LIFE CYBORG! You can actually control the movements of a live cockroach using your smartphone. What a time to be alive. Click here.

Blanka is a Troll

This is not just a fail compilation. This is so much more.

Photoshop Live

Impressively clever bus stop trickery.

Life Hacks

Some silly, some downright indispensable. Click here.

Summer Movie Review

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Videobombing the News

'Do I Wanna Know?'

Love this new Arctic Monkeys song. Love the video too.

Friday, 14 June 2013

14/06/13 - Pseudo-doublethink

Doublethink: the Orwellian act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct. As 1984 explains, it is ‘to know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancel out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it… even to understand the word 'doublethink' involve[s] the use of doublethink’. With this in mind, we’re going to look at some diluted modern terminology.

Yer what, now?
Well, you see, I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the constant misuse of various words in modern times. Words like ‘awesome’. I am, however, an utter hypocrite, and use that word a lot, along with many of the others listed below. I judge people for misusing them, yet relentlessly do it myself. So in a violent act of doublethink, let’s look at this dilution in what some might describe as ‘far too much detail’, then judge ourselves for our mistakes.
…and then just keep on saying things are awesome anyway. Because, like, it’s 2013 innit.

This is the figurehead of the diluted word movement, a word that’s said by some people dozens of times every day. ‘This cup of coffee is awesome.’ ‘If you could email me that document by three, that would be awesome.’ ‘Mate, your shoes are awesome.’
The concept of awe is a rare and precious thing. ‘Awesome’ means an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration or fear. If you’re awestruck by something, you’re staggered, astonished, dumbfounded by the magnificence of it, unable to tear your gaze away. I couldn’t honestly tell you a time when I’d been rendered speechless by the glory of a cup of coffee.
You don’t mean ‘awesome’, you mean ‘really good’. Or sometimes, just ‘good’.

See ‘awesome’, but with an added element of lust and lasciviousness. Telling someone that they look fantastic, or smell fantastic, or have accomplished some act or task that is fantastic, is tantamount to announcing that you want to have sexual intercourse with them as soon as possible. ‘You look fantastic’ = ‘you look like the object of my own personal fantasy.’
Also, ignoring the element of sexual fantasy, there’s another slant on using this word; it implies that the ‘fantastic’ thing in question is unreal, inauthentic, false. If you tell someone that they did a fantastic job of putting some shelves up, it implies that they haven’t done as good a job as they think they have, that they’re operating within the realm of their own fantasy, believing that they’re some kind of DIY artisan rather than accepting the truth that they’re kind of shit at putting up shelves. It sounds like you’re taking the piss.
So, ‘fantastic’ actually means either ‘not as good as you think’ or ‘phwoar, I want to have it off with you’.

In common parlance, this is interchangeable with ‘awesome’ and ‘fantastic’. But as we all know, it actually means bright, radiant, shining with light. So when you tell someone that their shirt is brilliant, you’re really suggesting that it’s somehow emitting light to such an extent that you may have to shield your eyes. You sound sardonic. You sound like you’re making excuses because you don’t actually want to look at the shirt, and are trying to fabricate some biological barrier beyond your control to avoid the awkwardness of confrontation. You hate the shirt.

Young people say this. ‘Sick wheels, bro.’ ‘Your Tumblr is sick.’ ‘Tulisa is sick.’ ‘Sick’ means ‘good’.
…of course it doesn’t, you stupid bloody kids. ‘Sick’ means ‘sick’, in a bad way. And not ‘bad’ in the nineteen-nineties sense of ‘bad-meaning-good’, but just actually ‘bad’.
If somebody says ‘Tulisa is sick’, that suggests there’s something wrong with her. (Which there is, obviously. Many things. But that isn’t the point.) These mischievous kids are being deliberately confusing.

‘Nice’ is a slap in the face. It’s a word used to imply inoffensiveness, mundanity, a lack of any kind of impressive or noteworthy attributes. If somebody says ‘you look nice’, they’re saying that they think you look average, perhaps even a little bland.
‘This cup of tea is nice’? ‘This cup of tea will do, I suppose.’
Of course, the word originates from the south-eastern French city, where everybody is bland and inoffensive.
(Not really. It comes from those little biscuits.)

Much like ‘awesome’, ‘amazing’ is totally misrepresented in 99% of its uses.
‘That episode of EastEnders was amazing.’ Was it? Was it really? Were you gazing at the screen agog, unable to fully comprehend the true splendour and majesty of what you were seeing? Were you having trouble working out how your life could ever be the same again having witnessed this beguiling miracle?
No. No, you tit. You mean ‘that episode of EastEnders was good’.

A common offender, and has been for far longer, before fashionable new kid ‘awesome’ burst onto the scene. ‘These chips are great.’ ‘Great earrings.’ ‘David Bowie is great.’
You are saying that all of these things are impressively large. Larger than average, at least. If you tell me that I ‘look great’, I will push you over. Fat-slagging twat.

Not a diluted word at all, actually, but one that’s totally misused. ‘When I went on the Nemesis at Alton Towers, I literally shat myself.’ ‘When I saw her haircut, I literally puked.’
Think about what you’re saying, dickhead. If you literally did those things, you were massively overreacting.
‘If Jedward don’t win X Factor, I’ll literally die’. Either you’re a moron, or you’ve unearthed a dark side to Jedward that nobody needs to see.
You don’t mean ‘literally’. You mean ‘figuratively’.
(Oh, and another common misuse – ‘I literally just bought a pint at the bar’, ‘my mum literally just called me’, etc. Such unremarkable feats don’t really need a ‘literally’, do they? Come on now. You sound like you don’t expect people to believe you.)

No, this isn’t anything as grandiose as doublethink. This is just hypocrisy. And pedantry, and deliberately ignoring both the evolution of language through usage and the fact that some words have more than one meaning. But whatevs. Sick ’Pips, bro.

Canada & The USA: Bizarre Borders

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A lovely little campaign for the National Trust - click here.

Secrets of the District Line

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Crap Paps

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Sexy Pool Party

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Dogs I Have Seen

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Aha, but it's the captions that make this great. Click here and see.

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