Friday, 24 May 2013

24/05/13 - Vertigo, etc

A lot of people are scared of heights. I can understand that, it’s very sensible. I’ve never been particularly troubled by heights myself, but I do have a healthy fear of falling off things that are very high up and thus plummeting to a messy and gloopy demise. If you step from the top of a building, that’s the last decisive action you’ll ever take – everything else that happens for the rest of your (short) life is entirely in the hands of physics. If you change your mind halfway down, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. Those brief seconds of screaming through the air, utterly unable to change your fate, must be terrifyingly helpless. So if such a circumstance can present itself due to an accident, then yes, you’re right to be afraid of being high up. A rapid descent through the air is one of those things that mankind can do little to circumvent without specialised equipment. Falling to your death because you tripped over your shoelaces while standing near the edge of a rooftop must be a real pisser.

So something I’ve never understood is why people try to ‘get over’ their fear of heights by bungee jumping or skydiving. (For one thing, I don’t think fear of heights is something you need to get over. If you’re scared of cats or pencils or cheese, those might be things that would crop up in your day-to-day life and you’d do well to think about. But being afraid of being dangerously high up isn’t something that anyone will judge you for. It’s not a weakness. Just learn to live with it.)
Trying to deal with a fear of something by tackling it in the way you’re most afraid of seems enormously foolhardy. If you were scared of sharks, would you strip off and straddle one? Would you attempt to make peace with a fear of fire by burning down your house? Of course not. If you’re scared of heights - and, by association, of falling from heights – then deliberately making yourself fall from a great height is only going to prove one thing: how well you’re able to control your sphincter in times of extreme crisis.
It proves nothing. All that skydiving will really show you is that you’d be OK if you fell whilst wearing a parachute – so the only logical conclusion to draw from the experiment is to wear a parachute at all times for the rest of your life, just in case. Ditto bungee jumping – your fear of tripping off the edge of a roof won’t be allayed by the fact that it might be OK if you're attached to a huge rubber band.
People who claim that they jumped out of a plane because they were scared of doing so probably weren’t scared enough…

‘Vertigo’ is the term often used to describe a fear of heights, although this is incorrect. Vertigo is the queasy spinning sensation that can be triggered in your brain and belly by looking over a high ledge or out of a plane window, or indeed looking at something high up from ground level. The proper term for a fear of heights is ‘acrophobia’; between 2-5% of people suffer badly with it, although most people experience acrophobia to some degree. Again, this is entirely natural. Your brain’s self-preservation module is hard-wired to distance you from peril, and finding yourself at an imperilling height is the sort of thing you should be scared of – a non-associative, instinctive fear.
Fear of falling is recognised as a separate thing, but is generally so inextricably intertwined with acrophobia as to be indistinguishable. Nobody wants to fall down, it’s an unplanned loss of control that may well end in pain and damage. Being afraid of heights and being afraid of falling are perfectly natural. Jumping out of planes or off of bridges isn’t. And if you’re afraid of heights and someone suggests that you try a parachute jump, you should slap them in the face with a copy of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’. Because they are a cretin.


JuicyPips is taking a two-week break, and will return on June 14th.

Pumpcast News

This is a lovely little sketch. I wonder how many tries they had before happening upon a couple who were both really nice and entertainingly talented...?

The Worst Room

This compelling blog, 'The Worst Room', highlights the horrors of flathunting in Manhattan. Behold.

Two Unmissable Movies

The World's End? Yay! Anchorman 2? Double yay! Behold:


Advertising. On beards. Clicky.

Alcoholic Cheese

Can't believe Greece didn't win Eurovision. This is amazing.

Beautiful Stations

If you thought the London Underground system was magnificent (which it undoubtedly is), wait till you see this: a selection of the world's most beautiful underground stations. Click here.

Sign him up!

I may know nothing about football, but I know cute when I see it.

‘Who’s Your Favourite?’

Toughest Bridge in the World

Bang, smash, crash. This bridge is INDESTRUCTIBLE.

Friday, 17 May 2013

17/05/13 - Windows, etc

For a very brief period when I was a student, I worked as a door-to-door double-glazing salesman. And when I say ‘brief period’, it was a matter of hours. I had to walk out, they really are the worst people in the world. (Note: if you’re married to/affiliated with such a person, let’s just say that double-glazing salesmen in Portsmouth a decade or so ago were the worst people in the world. Fair?)
My friend and I were approached in the street by somebody with a clipboard, asking if we wanted to make some easy money. Well, of course we did – who doesn’t? And you can trust somebody with a clipboard, right? So we were given an address and told to go along at 6pm that day. We didn’t ask any questions, because we were young and stupid and desperate for cash.
Now, I saw this mysterious meeting as some kind of job interview, so I wore a suit. My friend went casual, on the grounds that we hadn’t been given any kind of steer. Turned out that he was right. When we arrived at the mystery location, everyone else was wearing jeans and jumpers. Ah, well.

So, what would we be doing? It turned out that we were in the employ of a double-glazing company, who I won’t name as it might be unfair to incriminate them with such decade-old tattling. Actually, sod it, it was Zenith Windows. I have no idea what sort of a company they are now – they may well be entirely respectable – but back then, they were the zenith of nothing. Bunch of absolute chancers.
So, casting my mind back to 2002 (or was it 2001?) and that one depressing evening, here are some lessons learned and insight gleaned from a brief dalliance with the grimy world of door-to-door double-glazing sales:

You don’t need to know anything at all about windows
…well, you might, but no-one will bloody tell you. We sat in that damp, musty room for about fifteen minutes while the team leader (or whatever Apprentice-esque nonsense title he was using) explained to us that we’d be split into groups, driven to various areas of Portsmouth, and expected to knock on doors and sell things. At no point were we given any sort of information on what Zenith Windows actually does, what they sell, how much things cost, how long the work takes, or anything else at all. The full extent of the training was: ‘Knock on the door, ask them if they want to buy some windows. If they already have new windows, tell them they’re crap and need replacing. Meet me at the pub when you’re done.’

No-one understands the terminology
I don’t know what a soffit does. I don’t know what a fascia is for. Apparently that’s not important, because nobody who works at the company is able to tell you with any certainty. They’re very happy for you to urge people to buy them though.

You’d better not be a girl
There were nine or ten guys in that group, and only one female applicant. She had an awful time. Her role in the farce was basically just to be a target for lechery, it was genuinely creepy. I didn’t think people like that existed in the twenty-first century, but Zenith Windows at that time seemed to be wholly staffed by the worst kind of pestering misogynists imaginable. She can only have been about sixteen. Disgraceful.

You can impart a sense of superiority even if you’re clearly an abject failure
Our team leader was very keen to keep reminding us of what a phenomenal success he was. He’d sold windows on every street in Hampshire, he’d glazed Gary Lineker’s house, he’d flogged a soffit to Michael Barrymore… his implausible showing off might have started to become amusing if it wasn’t so bloody relentless.
What wasn’t clear was the matter of why he was driving a bunch of strangers around in a rusty Sierra Sapphire on a Tuesday evening, and smelling like he hadn’t washed in three days. Are these signs of success?
Dunno. I didn’t get a chance to get a word in, he was too busy telling us how he could afford to spend thousands of pounds on cocaine every month because he was REALLY GOOD AT SELLING WINDOWS.

You don’t have to pay tax
You do, obviously. Everyone does, that’s how the economy works. That’s how we pay for hospitals and schools and policemen and stuff. But our all-powerful team leader was keen to point out that commission on sales would be ‘cash in hand, son, right into your pocket. Untraceable.’ He said this with a wink.

The public are idiots
…at least, they might as well be. What they think they know about their own windows is entirely immaterial – they will always be wrong.
Don’t think of them as people. Think of them as obstacles, which need to be battered down in order to reach the reserves of lucre that lie tantalisingly behind them. That’s pretty much the message we were given.

It staggers me that any company would send a group of strangers out to represent them like this. I haven’t exaggerated any of the timescales here, or the method by which we were sent out to work; it really was as simple as that. We were approached on the street, invited to a dingy office, bundled into cars, pointed toward a row of houses, and expected to sell products we knew nothing about for a company we also knew nothing about. It’s an odd business model. I wonder how many sales they actually achieve through this method, and how that compares to the massive reputational damage of sending ill-informed amateurs to people’s homes in the company’s name?

I spent a couple of hours knocking on doors, annoying people, interrupting their dinner, and generally being the kind of person I hate. I was asked questions I had no answers for. I was treated like the piece of filth that, at that point, I very much was. After tramping around in the rain for the grimmest, most miserable, longest evening of my life, I gave up and went to the pub. And not the griefhole the team leader was in (luxuriating in his wealth and bathing in caviar, presumably), but a happy little pub elsewhere. I drank enough beer to ensure that the local economy enjoyed a warming cash injection rather than seeing me leech from it in a spree of tax avoidance and conmannery, and then I went home.

I didn’t make any money from selling windows. In fact, because I had to a) get my suit dry-cleaned and b) get royally smashed, it actually cost me a fair bit. But at least I had the experience. In the various jobs I’ve had over the years, no matter how stressful or annoying or disheartening a day may turn out to be, I can think back to that evening and cast a little perspective on the situation. ‘It could be worse,’ I say to myself. ‘I could be a door-to-door double-glazing salesman.’

Space Oddity Squared

Commander Chris Hadfield has been entertaining us for months with his astral tweets and videos. And in a grand finale before returning to Earth from the International Space Station, he recorded this glorious cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity.
This is *exactly* what the internet is for. What a time to be alive.


A really addictive Google Maps-based game here. I'm rubbish at it. Clicky.

Running for Trains in Slo-Mo

People running for trains in slow motion from ANDYLISA on Vimeo.


Winding up strangers by text. Cruel? Possibly. Juvenile? Probably. Hilarious? Frequently.
Click here.

What Pen?

Really love the tone of these videos. Very good indeed.

Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, in Lego

Brilliant. Clicky.

Bill Gates, the Rent Scammer

Well, someone's got to do it.


Kickstarter has loads of innovative and worthy projects to pique your interest. It also has loads of, er, slightly less well thought-out ideas. Freakstarter aggregates this chaff for your perusal and mirth - click here.


Maybe this is sensationalist mischief, or maybe the CEO of A&F really is an awful, awful person. Either way, people are clothing the homeless, so that's a good thing.

Lies on the Underground

How to Open a Beer

Pretty obvious, really. Just use a helicopter.

Friday, 10 May 2013

10/05/13 - Biscuits

Biscuits. They’re good, aren’t they? All biscuity and that. Here are some particularly good ones:

Chocolate Hob Nobs
It sounds mental on paper, like some sort of horror biscuit – chocolate mixed with salt and oaty things? That can’t be good, can it?
It bloody is though. Chocolate Hob Nobs are among the greatest things ever, and not just in the biscuit world – they’re as good as bank holidays, smiles, oxygen and sunflowers.
They contain whatever it is that can also be found in Pringles – heroin, probably - that makes them staggeringly moreish. With a steady supply of tea, you can easily polish off a whole packet in one go. And then you realise that you’ve just ingested your entire calorific intake for the next three days. Oops.
It’s a widely-believed fact that Chocolate Hob Nobs are the preferred biscuits of the Queen, James Bond and Jesus. They’re that good.

Much underrated biscuit, the Bourbon. Often passed over for jazzier, more fashionable biscuits, the hardy old Bourbon is a dependable stalwart of the teatime scene. Like the Hob Nob, they’ve got an intriguing savoury note to complement the sweetness, and they’re the perfect size for nibbling. (This is dependent on the size of your mouth, naturally.)
Unfortunately, despite the racy promise of the name, they don’t contain any bourbon. But you could always dunk the biccy in your whisky. Y’know, if you want.

‘If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit, join our club!’
That sounds like a shit club, to be honest. Oh, wait, no, they’re referencing the name of the biscuit! I get it.
I haven’t had a Club for years, so I can’t say with any certainty whether they’re any good or not. They used to be quite an exciting addition to a school lunchbox though, they had a good chocolate-to-biscuit ratio. But it’s probably best to leave them in the past along with the Rocky, the Viscount, the old-school two-finger Kit Kat and the Twix. Don’t want to be disappointed.

Jaffa Cakes
Bloody hell, I’m not getting into this controversy again. Is it a biscuit, is it a cake? Who cares? They’re yummy, leave it at that.

Custard Cream
Basically an albino bourbon. Bit squarer. They don’t really taste like custard (god, imagine a biscuit that tasted like custard, phwoar), but they’ve got a cheeky vanilla quality that makes for a refreshing summer biscuit.
Best enjoyed on a sun-bathed terrace, perhaps beneath some fragrant wysteria, alongside a sizeable gin and tonic with plenty of lime.

Poor Digestive. It’s never been the most exciting biscuit, has it? Sure, it’s earned its stripes as King Biscuit, being the image that jumps to mind when people mention the subject of tea-accompanying snacks, but it’s the first choice of very few. And given the dullness of its name, the original intended purpose of it was never particularly glamorous either.
But it’s a dependable thing. It’ll be there when you need it. And when you’ve had one of those days – dumped, demoted, spat at on the bus, persecuted by waterfowl – you know that the humble Digestive will be there, ready to crumble reassuringly into your tea.

The Boaster is a real slag of a biscuit. It’s been around the block a few times, and then some. It’s an American-style cookie, all chunky and robust, with hunks of Belgian chocolate studding the chewiness with little nuggets of brown gold, with the good ol’ British hazelnut offering a homegrown counterpoint. (If indeed, they are British hazelnuts – they could just as easily be from Turkey, Italy or Greece. None would be a surprise with this whoreish snack.)
They’re quite buttery, more than a little cheeky, and have a despicable name. Glorious, gorgeous little sluts.

Tunnock’s Teacake
Yes, it’s got ‘cake’ in the name, but it’s really a biscuit. (This is different to the Jaffa Cake situation. Again, let’s just move past that and get on with our lives.)
Now, the premise behind the Tunnock’s Teacake is a barking mad one: take one slightly salty, slightly stale biscuit, plop a blob of marshmallow on top, then encase the whole sorry mess in a super-thin layer of bland, insipid chocolate. Sounds awful. But actually, they’re delicious. Much like the Wagon Wheel, all of the ingredients are wrong but the end result is a masterstroke.

Oh, it’s years since I had a Penguin. I could really go for one now, actually…
It sits in the same corner as the Club as a cheery lunchbox staple of yore – chocolatey, a bit naughty, and with a joke on the wrapper (sometimes). It’s basically a slightly softer Bourbon, covered in chocolate. Occasionally your mum would treat you to a pack of flavoured Penguins, throwing a welcome infusion of mint or orange into the mix. Ah, halcyon days. I miss you, Penguin.

These were never available in Britain when I was a kid, but we saw them in films. And boy, are we making up for it now…
Oreos are just brilliant, and only a fool would disagree. Like the Chocolate Hob Nob, they clearly contain some kind of habit-forming class-A drug, as it’s impossible to have an opened pack about the house without devouring the lot in a shower of crumbs and blackened teeth.
Oh, and you can get Oreo milkshakes in Gourmet Burger Kitchen. They’re amazing. But once you’ve had one, it’s physically impossible to move and your heart might fall out. Still, you’ve got to die someday.

BN Biscuits
My god, the French know how to make a biscuit. BN (Biscuiterie Nantaise) biscuits are available in a wide variety of flavours, all around the two-biscuits-with-a-filling-gluing-them-together theme. Chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, apricot… they’re sublime, crumbly little delights.
The brand’s existed since 1897, and it’s taken this long for the bloody things to go on sale in the UK. Still, at least now you don’t have to make a special effort to go to Calais for the day to stock up.

Fox’s Party Rings
The world’s campest biscuit. Not actually particularly nice (well, not unpleasant, just not a biscuit you’d ever choose to buy), they seem to crop up at parties, looking all nervous and unloved, so you’re obliged to eat them to make them feel involved. And then you get a taste for them – not so much as a tasty biscuit in itself, but more a validation of your own pseudo-philanthropy. A very confusing biscuit indeed.

Cadbury’s Fingers
Heh. ‘Fingers’.
Forget all your fancy biscuits – sometimes all you need is a little biscuit stick with a bit of yummy chocolate on it. The Cadbury’s Finger has it all – deliciousness, moreishness, versatility, potential for comedy (both in punnery and application [shoving one up someone’s nose, etc]), and nostalgia. A true all-rounder.

Go on then, what’s your favourite biscuit? Taxi? Jammie Dodger? Blue Riband?
Actually, I don’t care, I’m off to the shops. Jonesing for Hob Nobs.

10 Reasons Why Time Travel is No Good

I love these Glove & Boots videos. And this one is brilliant.

Fight Game Scenery

A wonderful bit of video game nostalgia for you here - the backdrops from the arenas of conflict in various classic fight games. Click here to see - there are dozens of them, all as animated gifs. Ah, misty eyes.

The World's End

If this is as good as it looks (which it will be), then the Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/The World's End combo will be possibly the greatest trilogy in the history of cinema.

The legend of the QWERTY keyboard

Why do modern keyboards have the QWERTY layout? Why was it nearly QWE.TY? What is KALQ? Answers to all of these questions and more can be found by clicking here. Genuinely fascinating.

Teddy Has An Operation

This'll freak out your kids.

The Apprentice (Mitchell & Webb)

Enjoying the new series of The Apprentice? Time to wheel out this old gem again, then...

Celebrity Tour Riders, Visualised

Celebs sometimes ask for unusual stuff on their tour riders. Below, for example, we see the demands of Axl Rose (fresh Wonder Bread [white], Dom Perignon), Britney Spears (fish and chips, McDonald's cheeseburgers without the buns, 100 prunes and figs, framed photo of Princess Diana) and Marilyn Manson (gummi bears). Click here to see plenty more, visualised artfully by Henry Hargreaves.

The Glitch

With 14m views, you might have seen this. But if not, WATCH IT NOW!

Extreme Amazing Super-Chess!

The lesson here is that Kasparov has a pretty devastating arsenal, the principle weapon being surprise.

Amish IT

What Toothbrush?

Essential consumer advice for the sort of people that brush their teeth.

A bag of flour and a bucket of water

Have you been watching that documentary series about Greggs? Great, you'll like this...