Friday, 22 March 2013

22/03/13 - Keep Calm, Keep Calm, Keep Calm

Keep Calm and Carry On – five words that were inspiring and rather sweet a decade ago, but now feel over-exposed and irritating. So where did the phrase come from, and why is that unique typeface/layout ubiquitous today, everywhere from the framed poster on the wall in Judd Apatow’s ‘Girls’ to the nasty mugs on your local souvenir stand?

Well, it all began in the spring of 1939. The British government’s Ministry of Information commissioned a series of propaganda posters, to boost morale and keep everybody smiling during what would turn out to be rather difficult times. They were to feature a uniform aesthetic, all sharing a common typeface that had to be unique and eyecatching, and feature no more than two colours. The crown of King George VI was to be the only graphic device used in addition to the text.
There were three final designs that went to print, each with the crown at the top and a bold slogan beneath, the first of which read:
YOUR COURAGE
YOUR CHEERFULNESS
YOUR RESOLUTION
WILL BRING
US VICTORY


The second read:
FREEDOM IS
IN PERIL
DEFEND IT
WITH ALL
YOUR MIGHT


The third, of which over 2,500,000 were printed, is the one you know:
KEEP
CALM
AND
CARRY
ON


The first two designs were distributed across Britain in September of 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War II, and were pasted to shop windows, train stations, bus stops; anywhere possible in order to infuse a little spirit and positivity into the lives of the troubled Brits. The third design was kept in reserve, with the aim of rolling it out in times of invasion or other terrifying crisis. ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ was the big one, the mental back-up when it seemed that all was lost. It’s difficult now to envisage just what a powerful and potentially life-altering safety-net those five words represented.

However, the poster was never officially distributed, and remained unseen by the British public. At least, that is, until a copy was found in Barter Books, a bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland, several decades later. Barter’s owner, Stuart Manley, discovered the poster among a box of dusty books that he’d bought at auction in 2000, and his wife Mary was so taken with it that she had it framed and hung up by the shop’s till. It was such a hit with the customers that the Manleys began printing and selling copies, along with those of the other two slogans – ‘Your Courage…’ in blue, ‘Freedom is…’ in green, and ‘Keep Calm…’ in red. There was something about the simplicity of the image and the all-pervading positivity of the sentiment that resonated with the public, and the popularity of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ ballooned rapidly.

And this is where we find ourselves today, surrounded by a glorious, wonderful retro icon that has, rather unfortunately, found itself constantly bombarded by the twin cannons of pastiche and over-exposure. You can buy pretty much anything you can think of with ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ emblazoned across it – t-shirts, tea towels, mouse mats, wallets, tablecloths, keyrings, bumper stickers, a Stereophonics album, you name it. It’s everywhere. However, the true indignity that this historic message has suffered is the endless, relentless mangling of the sentiment for comedic purposes – and by ‘comedic’, I mean ‘funny if you’re a bit of a simpleton’.
Keep Calm and Eat Cake. Keep Calm and Drink Wine. Keep Calm and Rule Britannia. Keep Calm and Carry On Being Awesome. Keep Calm, It’s Your Birthday. Now Panic and Freak Out. Keep Glam and Rock On. Stress Out and Throw a Vase. Keep Calm and Call Batman. Keep Calm and Love One Direction. Keep Calm and Buy Shoes. Keep Calm and Support Arsenal. Don’t Keep Calm, Get Angry and Save Lewisham A&E. McFly presents the Keep Calm and Play Louder tour. ENOUGH ALREADY!

It was a beautiful thing, a representation of good old British stoicism and stiff-upper-lippedness, of putting the kettle on while the bombs fell. And now it’s been hijacked by the cretinous and represents little more than a flawed and faltering sense of humour. For shame.







Ultraviolent Moscow Indie-Punk

Probably the greatest music video ever made. (Keeps getting taken down by YouTube though - if the vid won't play, search YouTube for 'Biting Elbows - Bad Motherfucker'.)

Lemme tweet that for you!

A handy generator here for making fake tweets. Clicky.

Have you heard of 'the internet'?

I’d love to see the original porn-free version of this.

Ten illegal things to do in London

Well, that's the rest of the day taken care of.

Beatles Infographic Prints

These Beatles prints are ace - click here to see the full detail.


Incredible Dancing Children

CoD Rage

Some hilariously angry nerds.

Friday, 15 March 2013

15/03/13 - TV Car Shows

Today’s car enthusiast is very well catered for when it comes to televisual stimulus. Back in the eighties, you pretty much had to make do with Top Gear and the odd five-minute segment on Tomorrow’s World. And it wasn’t Top Gear as we know it today, but a rather more sensible half-hour motoring magazine show that, over the years, featured the likes of Noel Edmonds, Angela Rippon, Chris Goffey (the father of Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey, fact fans), Tiff Needell, Tony Mason, Vicki Butler-Henderson and, from 1988, Jeremy Clarkson.
…and without further ado, before I get ahead of myself with Top Gear minutiae, here’s a JuicyPips guide to steer you through the quagmire of modern car television, so you know what’s worth watching and what’s not. You see, these days you don’t need to be an avid car enthusiast to enjoy TV shows about cars; if you are, there’s plenty to enjoy, but if not, there’s an increasing reality TV angle that’ll make much of what follows of interest to you. Perhaps. Maybe.

Top Gear
As I was saying, Clarkson joined the Top Gear line-up in ’88. Before then (it had been running since 1977), it was rather a dry and sober affair. Jeremy spiced it up a little, making it more of an overtly humorous and critical proposition; before this time, it was pretty much taboo for a TV show to criticise a car. If they were mean about a new model, the manufacturer wouldn’t give them any more to test. Top Gear challenged this petulance, and everybody since has followed suit.
At the turn of the century, however, Top Gear’s viewing figures had seriously dwindled. The show was cancelled in 2001, and relaunched in ’02 as the new one-hour format; the principle difference was a shift in audience targeting – it went from being a car show to being an entertainment show that happened to be about cars. The idea was Clarkson’s concept that he pitched to the BBC: let the show have a new home at Dunsfold Aerodrome, and incorporate a bit of theatre to increase the audience.
Fans of the show may be surprised to learn that back in 2002, it wasn’t presented by the now-ubiquitous trio of Clarkson, Hammond and May – it was originally Clarkson, Hammond and Jason Dawe… but only for a year. (Look it up on YouTube, it’s weird.) And many of the staples that we know and love were there from the start – The Stig, the cool wall, the power laps, the star in a reasonably-priced car…
Top Gear is now one of the biggest cash cows that the BBC has, being licensed to countless other countries and generating a huge amount of revenue from live shows, DVD & magazine sales, merchandising and so on. All of this means that the show’s budget gets ever-bigger, and the content is all the more spectacular. So if you only watch one car show on TV, watch Top Gear. It’s the best one.

Fifth Gear
Hmm. Tricky one, this. You see, in isolation, it’s not a bad show. But if you watch an episode of Fifth Gear after an episode of Top Gear, it’s in another league. Plus, the name of the show used to make sense when it launched on Channel 5 back in 2002 (confusingly, it was a continuation of the original Top Gear, using its presenters [Vicki Butler-Henderson, Tiff Needell, Quentin Willson], launched to rival the new Top Gear), but how many interesting new cars only have five gears these days…? It was supposed to tie in to the Channel 5 name, of course – but now it’s on Discovery. So… yeah.
Fifth Gear is a thorny one. It’s got a lot better recently, with parts of it starting to approach the kind of impressive cinematography that Top Gear can afford. It’s worth watching. However, I do tend to watch quite a bit of it on fast forward, to be honest. Jonny Smith is good, his segments are always entertaining. But I really have a problem with Jason Plato; as a BTCC fan, I’ve watched him season after season pissing and moaning about how it’s all so unfair and everyone’s out to get him, all the while deliberately crashing into people to smash them off the track and get them out of the way – he comes across as a fundamentally unlikeable and unpleasant person. Vicki Butler-Henderson? I want to like her, and she’s a great driver, but the overblown breathiness of her presenting style can be annoying. She’s like Sharon on EastEnders. Seriously, stop panting all the time, it’s distracting. Calm down.
Tiff Needell? Love him. Man’s a legend. But (sorry Tiff), he can sometimes be quite dull on Fifth Gear. The driving segments are superb, the track stuff is ace, but the features where he’s going into far too much detail to make the obvious point that new premium tyres are better than part-worn budget ones are unnecessary.
So, watch it, but don’t get your hopes up.

Pimp My Ride
An old-ish one, this, originally running from 2004-7 (although repeats are frequent).
The premise is simple: somebody owns a shit car. Xzibit, who hosts the show, knocks on their door and tells them that they’ve been selected by Pimp My Ride to have their ride, er, pimped. They leap about and whoop like crazy. Xzibit drives the car down to West Coast Customs (or, in later series, Galpin Auto Services), who spend an absurd amount of money turning the car into a one-off custom. Usually some kind of unexpected feature that’s unique to the owner’s lifestyle or hobbies is incorporated – a pool table, a skate ramp, a mixing desk etc. They generally cram the interior with speakers and TVs too.
It’s quite entertaining, but it revolves around one central flaw: these people have shit cars because they can’t afford better ones, and can’t afford to fix/maintain them properly. So if you take their car that’s worth $100 and spend $25,000 on it, what do you think’s going to happen? They’re obviously going to immediately sell it.
This was thrown into sharp focus when MTV tried Pimp My Ride UK, presented by the ineffably cretinous Tim Westwood. Every car that was built on the show turned up on eBay soon afterwards. (In the case of the Nissan Sunny they pimped, it appeared on eBay as a shell because someone had seen the show, knew that the car contained about £10k-worth of stereo equipment, and broke in and robbed it all.)
But conceptual issues aside, it’s quite an entertaining show, well worth watching. Just be aware that it’s all entirely ridiculous.

Custom My Ride
This is the more sensible face of West Coast Customs. It removes the ‘OMG, I’m getting my car tarted up for free’ conceit, and instead focuses on the day-to-day work of a high-end California custom garage. (Custom My Ride is just what it’s called in the UK, due to WCC’s Pimp My Ride history – elsewhere it’s called ‘Street Customs’.)
It’s fairly typical of the modern reality-lifestyle format, in which the employees of the business in question are the central characters of the show, with their character traits caricaturised to make heroes and villains to a greater or lesser extent. The star of the show is self-made businessman Ryan Friedlinghaus, owner of WCC and thoroughly nice bloke. His nemesis is Ish, who works in the interiors workshop, who never does what he’s told. It’s a brilliant pantomime.
They have lots of celebrity clients too, so if you want to see someone throwing huge amounts of cash at a brand new car, this is the one for you. (Another speciality of WCC is to take a modern muscle car chassis and bolt a classic muscle car body to it, which is all kinds of awesome.)

Fast N’ Loud
A tremendously likeable show, Fast N’ Loud centres around Gas Monkey Garage in Dallas, Texas. Key protagonists are Richard Rawlings (owner) and Aaron Kaufmann (mechanic), and the premise of the show is that they buy knackered old classic cars, set themselves an arbitrary deadline to restore it which is always far too short (something of a theme of the genre, this), then sell it at auction and hope to make a profit. Their work is world-renowned so it’s good viewing from a geeky angle, and they’re both very amenable chaps which makes the show eminently watchable for the less car-obsessed. Unlike certain other car programmes that follow the formula…

Classic Car Rescue
…of which this is one. There are quite a lot of flaws with this show, the biggest of which is Bernie.
Bernie Fineman is one of the two presenters - an aggressive, arrogant, unpleasant cockney twat who comes across as thoroughly irritating company. The point of the show is for him and his business partner Mario to find a tired classic car, give it a full sympathetic restoration (again, to an unnecessarily tight deadline), then sell it for a profit. The way they set out to achieve this is basically to argue, bitch and bicker throughout the whole process, which makes for annoying viewing. The fact that they’re clearly not that great at what they do (I mean seriously, if you’re restoring an E-Type Jag, why would you fit a cheap aftermarket lift-up sunroof?!) adds to the general shitness. I watched every episode, but only because I knew my car friends would be talking about it. I was holding my head in my hands most of the time. It was crap.  

Desert Car Kings
This, on the other hand, is brilliant. It’s based in Desert Valley Auto Parts (DVAP) in Phoenix, Arizona, which is a spectacularly massive spares yard for classic American cars. The key characters are the rather Burt Reynolds-esque owner of DVAP, Ron McClure, and his son Jason who’s largely in charge. Again, the premise is to restore a knackered classic within an unfeasibly tight time-frame, then sell it for a profit. The different angle here is that they’ve got acres and acres of spares to comb through, which makes for proper car-porn viewing as they pick through the rusting hulks. Really geeky stuff, this.
Desert Car Kings is inexplicably not as popular as Fast N’ Loud, but it is arguably better.

Counting Cars
A new one, again on the same theme. There was a lot of promotional hoo-hah around the show’s launch, but having watched the first episode I thought it was a bit weak. It follows the projects of Count’s Kustoms in Las Vegas, where they build some pretty phenomenal cars, but they don’t really show anything of the build. It’s more a case of ‘here’s a dilapidated car’/‘here’s a strange, bearded man in a headscarf bossing people around’/‘here’s the finished car’.
Undecided about this one. Need to watch more. Your homework for next week is to watch this and report back.

Car S.O.S
Aw, this one’s lovely. Let’s say you own an old wreck that’s your pride and joy, but for reasons of financial woes, ill health, personal tragedy or whatever, your car has been sitting in your garage for years, slowly crumbling away because you don’t have the means to restore it. The Car S.O.S team, having received a tip-off from your relatives, swoop in without your knowledge, spirit the car away, then return it to you fully restored and ready to use. How nice is that?
One of the presenters is Fuzz Townshend, former drummer with Pop Will Eat Itself and Bentley Rhythm Ace, whose enthusiasm for old cars is sweetly infectious. (The other presenter, Tim Shaw is an annoying berk [in fact, having just Googled him, he’s a fairly unpleasant character], but he’s not that central to proceedings.) The whole thing has a jolly pleasant feel, with enthusiasts building cool cars for other enthusiasts, riding on a cheery undertone of philanthropy and sharing. So yes, well worth a watch.

I said at the start that I was going to tell you what was worth watching and what wasn’t, but we seem to have arrived at a point where basically everything is worth watching (apart from anything with Bernie in it). So that’s some helpful consumer advice: watch car telly stuff. Watch loads of it.
Or don’t, y’know, whatever.

Oh wait, I haven’t mentioned the upcoming Formula One season, or the British Touring Car Championship, or the myriad other motorsports to watch! Ah, we’re out of space… another time, maybe.





'Best Bus Stop Ever '

Yes. That does look like quite a good bus stop.

Thumbs & Ammo

'Real tough guys don't need guns, they just need a positive, can-do attitude.' Magnificient. Click here.






The Runner

A lovely behind-the-scenes project by a runner on Call the Midwife.

Chap of Steel

Toy Stories

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti’s project Toy Stories features children from around the world with their favourite possessions - their toys. The cultural and economic differences are fascinating. Click here for more.







WAKE UP!

Horribly cruel, yet unstoppably hilarious.

The musically-gifted UK

An excellent map of the various British homes of musical folk - click here.


Herbaria - Fears

Well, this is terrifying.

Kick-Ass 2 Trailer

Thursday, 7 March 2013

07/03/13 - Doing Whatever

In the past, JuicyPips has devoted rather a lot of wordage to making the point that you only live once, it’s important not to squander your life, you should be out there achieving interesting things and leaving a legacy for the ages, blah blah etc. Well, that’s all well and good, but there’s another side to it. I mean, yes, the fact that we’re out here in the cosmos, spinning around on this rock, is frankly staggering – the unbelievably specific concatenation of circumstances that has led us to be right here, right now could simply never be replicated again. Conditions are perfect now for this human life. But as incredible and miraculous as you are, it’s worth bearing in mind three important facts:
1) You are just one person in seven billion. You represent a mere 0.00000001% of the total world population. Unless you get to be world champion in something, there will always be a lot of people who are better than you at everything you do (and there will certainly be lots of people who are more interesting, more attractive, and generally more pleasant to be around).
2) Your seventy-odd years on this planet may seem like a pretty good run, but we are, cosmically speaking, little more than a sneeze. The Earth has been around for 4.54bn years. Your life is just 0.000001% of that. And that’s only the life of the Earth so far... Your timescale pales into insignificance alongside pretty much everything else in the universe. Tortoises live longer than you, and they can’t drive or use Facebook or anything.
3) No-one really gives a shit what you do. I mean, some do, obviously – your parents don’t want you to be a murderer, your kids don't want you to be an arsehole, your neighbours would prefer it if you didn’t use their letterbox as a latrine. But in the grand scheme of things, living an unremarkable life is not something that will resonate through history – you’ll just be filed away alongside all the other no-name drones who didn’t get around to inventing handy gadgets, being amazing at maths, learning to kick a football really well, or whatever else it takes to be remembered.
So, with your parameters grimly reset, here are some things that you might as well do with your life. Because, well, fuck it.

Spend ages doing something ‘pointless’
The world is full of people who have devoted significant periods of time to projects that, on the face of them, seem ridiculous or pointless to other people. A story emerged recently of somebody digging through some personal archives and finding a maze that had been drawn by their father. It was a hideously complex maze, all hand-drawn onto paper, and had taken seven years to complete. Now, most people’s initial reaction to that would be ‘Seven years? What a waste of time!’. But why should that be the case? Isn’t everything a waste of time? If that person wanted to spend all of their free time sketching a maze, that’s their lookout. If they’d instead spent those seven years watching The Wire and making wry observations about it on Twitter, would that be any more worthwhile?
Or how about the guy I saw on TV recently who had a knackered old VW Beetle in his garage? It was on a reality TV show in which people with tired classic cars have them spirited away without their knowledge, thanks to their relatives calling the show, and have them returned totally restored, much to their surprise and delight. But anyway, this car had been sitting in his garage for years. Years. He estimated he’d spent about £10,000 on repairs to it by that point, and couldn’t even count up the amount of time he’d spent working on it. Ignore the fact that it was hauled out by a TV company and rescued, as there are a lot of people in the dead-project-car situation – is that outlay of time and expense pointless, given that they still end up with a broken, unusable car that has needlessly sapped all of their spare cash? No, of course not. He wanted to do that, so he did it. He wasn’t hurting anyone. Leave him alone.

Stop looking after yourself
There’s a lot to be said for a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. And some people like to organise their life in that clean-living, self-preserving manner. But some people just can’t get on with it. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re condemning yourself to a masochistic life of torture and misery. Going to the gym, I imagine, feels like hard work. (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been to a gym in my life. Shows, doesn’t it?) And if that hard work is what you need to achieve the fitness goals you’ve set yourself to make your day complete, then good for you. But if you dread going to the gym, hate every painful minute of being there, and feel like shit afterwards, then it really isn’t for you is it? Instead, why not just go to the pub, order a refreshing drink, and have a conversation that doesn’t have to be conducted while both parties are sweating profusely?
Ditto diet. Yes, it makes sense to try and get your five-a-day (or, if you can’t be arsed, try it the Polish way – apparently their health ministry only advises three-a-day, that’s much easier), not to cram too many chips into your gullet, and to take it easy when the pudding trolley rolls up. Nobody wants to be a laughable fatty, you’ll get ridiculed by schoolkids and you won’t be able to buy any nice clothes. But at the same time, you only get to live for a comparatively short period of time. Roll the dice, fella. If eating cholesterol and carbs knocks a year off your life, who cares – what can you do at that age anyway? It’s Friday night, you’ve had a hard week, you don’t have to eat grilled fish and a sensible little salad for dinner. Order a fucking Chinese, live a little.

Don’t buy a house
Christ, I hate homeowners. Smug twats. ‘Ooh, look at me, I was sensible with my money when I was young, now I’ve got a mortgage’. Oh, do piss off. You were a boring ponce when you were young, and no-one cares about your house. You’ve never done anything. You haven’t lived.
I mean, yes, there may be a chance that this bilious outburst has some grounding in the fact that my age begins with a three and I’m still carrying a phenomenal and insurmountable quantity of the debt of youth, and thus will probably never be able to afford to scrape together even the tiniest percentage of a deposit for a house. But sod it. Why are we so hung up on home-ownership anyway? It’s only because Britons are so culturally enthused by the ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’ crap that it seems important. Look at the ratio of homeowners vs. tenants in the UK against, say, Germany, and you’ll see that it’s entirely off kilter. As long as you’ve got a roof over your head, does it really matter all that much if you own it or not? Instead of scrimping and saving and forcing yourself and your family to go without in the name of putting a deposit on a property that’s far smaller than the place you’re currently renting, why not just spend it on having some fun?
(Yes, obviously I really want to buy a house. But it’s not going to happen. So all of you homeowners can sod off.)

Buy that fun car you’ve got your eye on
Seriously, life’s too short to drive a dull car. I speak with some authority on this matter. I may never have been able to afford a brand new car (indeed, the most I’ve ever spent on a car was £2000, and that involved going halves with my wife), but I’ve had thirty-five cars or thereabouts, and thoroughly enjoyed most of them. I’ve had four 205 GTIs, three Capris, three XR3s, two 19 16v Chamades, two Fiat Coupe Turbos, a BMW 2002, a mkII Cortina, an XR4i, an RS2000, a Scirocco, and various others, and I’ve enjoyed every one. (Don’t mention the XR2i or the 328i Sport though, they were shit. Win some, lose some.) There’s a whole world of memories tied up in that rich and diverse line-up. It put me in a shit-ton of debt, but I have few regrets.
When you’re elderly and decrepit, there’s absolutely no chance that you’ll look back on your salad days and think ‘mmm, I’m really glad I bought that diesel Vectra. The mpg figure was impressive compared to its peers, and the finance rate really was rather reasonable.’ No, you’ll think ‘I wish I’d fucking bought that GT500 Mustang, that would have been a right laugh.’ And then you’ll die unfulfilled, a Vectra owner.

Do that Russian walking-on-cranes thing

If YouTube is any kind of gauge, the Russians just don’t want to live. The internet is crammed to bursting point with videos of young Russians confidently strolling along cranes that are half a mile up in the air, with no safety equipment, and seemingly no interest in whether they make it back down to the ground the way they came up or the quicker, messier way.
There’s a lot of them doing it. There must be a reason for it. Why not climb up your nearest crane and find out?

Do absolutely nothing
I mean, why not? You’re under no obligation to write Bible II: The Revenge of Christ or devise a handy, portable system for nuclear fission on-the-go. Why not just curl up on the sofa with your wife/husband/cat/laptop/whatever, crack open a beer and watch The Big Bang Theory or something? You’re allowed to, you know. It’s fine. If that’s what you want to do with your life, do it. No-one’s going to look back on that snapshot of your life in a hundred years’ time and say ‘boy, were they missing a trick there’. And if they do, fuck it – you’ll be dead anyway.



English Swearing

Mila Kunis & Chris Stark

All celebrity interviews should be this unfocused. Brilliant.

Jim'll Paint It

Jim: possibly the greatest artist the world has ever known. Click here and here.




The Butterfield Sports Restaurant

The World in 1963

Some typically jaw-dropping photography from The Atlantic - this time, they're winding the clock back half a century. Click here.







Double-007

Double entendres at double speed!

Quadrophenia

The full movie! In full! Right here! Marvellous.

Friday, 1 March 2013

01/03/13 - RIP MiniDisc

Shocking news: Sony are officially ending production of the MiniDisc as of March 2013.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘What the hell? They’re still making MiniDiscs…?’
Yeah, I was surprised too. And I’m a huge fan of the format, and used to be a fervent propagator of it too, extolling its virtues to anyone who would listen.
Do you remember the original TV ad that featured Reef’s ‘Naked’? Sony were selling the format as ‘the future of tape’, which is really what it could have been if they weren’t so caught up in market dominance and premiumisation.
They should have learned a lesson from the Betamax debacle…

In the mid-late seventies, there was fierce rivalry between the two main formats of recordable consumer video tape: Betamax, developed by Sony, and VHS, devised by JVC. They were both fundamentally the same thing – plastic casings housing reel-to-reel magnetic tape that was re-recordable and reasonably hard-wearing. There were a few other competitors in the marketplace, but Sony suggested that Betamax should become the industry standard under the guise of such a strategy being for the common good; companies could then focus on developing the tech rather than the consumables. Of course, they wanted that to be the case because they could then dominate the market, and JVC saw straight through that and developed their own rival system. The genius of JVC (or perhaps, the idiocy of Sony) was to allow other people to freely use the technology - RCA, Magnavox, Zenith, Quasar, Mitsubishi, Panasonic and various others were all licensed to work with VHS. So it was everyone against Sony, basically, and inevitably Sony lost.
Parallels can be drawn with the cassette tape (developed by Philips and widely licensed free of charge [interestingly, partly due to pressure from Sony]) and the CD (jointly developed by Sony and Philips, who had apparently reconciled their differences by that point). The key lesson really is that if a format is to be recognised as the standard, it’s best not to try to strongarm other companies into using it.

Now, Sony did learn that lesson, and MiniDisc was licensed to various companies. However, the other factor in the Betamax embarrassment was price – Sony’s technology and cassettes were really quite expensive, and this was also the case with MiniDisc. Throughout its life it saw increasing competition from the plummeting costs of blank CD-Rs, and it was largely killed off in the late-noughties by solid-state MP3 players that offered much more storage and versatility for much less outlay.

…but let’s stop bitching about Sony. I loved MiniDisc as a format, I thought it made real sense, and I think it’s a shame it never properly took off.
I’ve spoken at great length in the past in JuicyPips about what a staggering quantity of my childhood was spent making mixtapes. My eye was immediately caught by the aforementioned ad that starred Reef - http://youtu.be/KDCwCtZPpUw - because ‘Naked’ was a staple of my compilations at that age. I was totally hooked in by the ad, but the product really appealed too. These days I never make mix-CDs because it’s so horribly impersonal to just drop a load of tracks onto a disc and click ‘burn’ – the whole point of making a mixtape is that you listen to the tracks in real time while you’re recording it. And MiniDisc allowed me to make compilations in the old-school way, but with the added bonus of it being digital quality. And you could add track titles to the disc! And they were infinitely re-recordable!
It helped, too, that they looked really space-agey and awesome. They’ve taken on a little retro chic now, but I still love the feel of a MiniDisc. Robust little squares with a baby CD hiding inside. It’s a design classic.

In my first year of university in 2000, I spent my first ever student loan cheque on a Sony MDS-JE330, a midi-sized MiniDisc recorder unit. It was way more money than I could afford to fritter on such an extravagance, but it still works perfectly today so I guess you get what you pay for. And I set about spreading the word of this sensational new format, trying to get everyone involved so they could see just what an amazing bit of tech it was. Yes, the discs were expensive, but they’d last forever! You can change the order of the tracks on a disc without having to re-record the whole thing! Look how spacey-futurey they are!
Two of my uni housemates bought MiniDisc decks. My parents bought one. My uncle bought one. And… nobody else did.
OK, so that did sort of squash my exuberance for making mixtape MDs for people, as there were very few people to give them to who could actually play them. But then again, this was the cusp of the post-tape era, when people were getting rid of their cassette decks and focusing on CD – their lack of MiniDisc deck wasn’t the sole barrier. I could have made mix-CDs for mates, but I didn’t because of the aforementioned impersonality.

So MiniDisc was lacking the social angle, but it excelled in the digital sphere and scored highly in the Top Trumps of specs. Yes, it was a bit pricey, but it was ace. What I’m getting at is basically that you were all wrong. You should have invested in MiniDisc. Maybe you should do so now before it ceases to exist altogether. You know how people pay crazy money for first-gen iPods now? That’s going to happen to MiniDisc. But the MiniDiscs will still work.



How to Become Pope

Annoyingly bloody cliquey, those Catholics.

The Secret Door

Quite possibly the most captivating thing on the internet today, the Secret Door takes you to randomly selected places of great beauty from all over the world, all navigable Streetview-style. Click on the door below and have a go. Beware, you'll be in there for ages.

The Secret Door

The Secret Door is presented by Safestyle UK







Black Metal Interior Design

So much to enjoy here. (Not the spelling, obviously. But the rest of it, ace.)

Life Advice From Machines

Snapshot statements from instruction manuals, set against appropriate imagery. Simple, beautiful. Clicky.





How to Win at Pac-Man

Beat Delete

Saving deleted records from obscurity. Click here.


What Exploded Over Russia?

This, that's what.

Hi-res London

This is incredible - it's so hi-res, you can zoom in and look through people's windows. Er, if you're into that kind of thing. Click here.