Friday, 25 October 2013

25/10/13 - Nippers' Nighttimes

I have a little daughter. You may be aware of this, I talk about her a lot. She's pretty much the coolest thing I've ever made. Unbelievably, she's nineteen months old now; parents always say 'oh, they grow up so fast, where does the time go?' and it's totally true.
Anyway, when we first learned that my wife was pregnant back in 2011, I decided to write a book. A book of short stories, cheerful tales that I could read to my offspring - a book just for him or her, something special that we could share together. I got scribbling right away, with the intention of creating ten or twelve stories to combine into something that I'd call 'Nippers' Nighttimes' (subheading: 'Whimsical tales for sleepyheads'). Anyway, with life being busy and whatever, I wrote two stories. Just two. I kept meaning to write more, but I didn't get round to it. And then I forgot about the whole thing.
But these days my baby girl is getting more and more interested in books. Sure, the stories I wrote are far too long for her at this age - I was aiming for something I could read to her when she was, say, three or four, so I've still got plenty of time! - but I think I should probably rekindle the enthusiasm at some point and actually finish the book. So this week's JuicyPips is an opinion-gathering exercise, really... what follows are the two existing Nippers' Nighttimes in full. What do you think? Any good? Or a bit rubbish?

__________________________________


The ship in the desert.

Edgar was a short, hairy boy who lived in a house in a forest. It was a huge, lush forest full of fruit trees and sunbeams. His floppy fringe kept the sun from his face as he munched on tasty strawberries and squishy blackberries. The house had three bedrooms, and he lived with his two best friends in the whole world, Cluster and Ferrous. Cluster was a bald Egyptian pussy-cat who liked nothing more than to roll around in the glade, with dappled sunlight playing on his skin. Ferrous was a large paperclip who worked for an accountancy firm in Forest City – he worked hard to pay for the house in the forest, getting up every day before the sun rose and not getting home till after dark. But he was happy to do it, because he loved living with Edgar and Cluster. (He thought it was hilarious that Edgar was so very hairy for a young boy, while Cluster should have been hairy, being a cat, but wasn’t at all! Maybe that’s why they were such great friends.)
Edgar and Cluster would happily spend their days investigating the forest and discovering exciting and exotic fruits, although they liked it best on weekends when Ferrous could come to play too. Once on a happy Tuesday they’d discovered a pineapple as big as Edgar’s head, but by the time Ferrous got home they’d eaten it all up. Whoopsie!

One summer morning, the three of them had all been enjoying a lie-in, and were looking forward to some delicious banana pancakes. Edgar was first to open his eyes and – oh no! – he wasn’t in his bedroom at all. He was outside! His friends were out there too. This was all very unusual. ‘Wake up, wake up!’, he shouted, ‘we fell asleep in the forest!’. It was most confusing. They knew for a fact that they’d all gone to sleep in their beds, because they’d been up late the night before playing gooseberry backgammon.  What had happened?
They spent a little while scratching their heads. They wandered around the glade, looking for clues. Ferrous had a little nap, to see if he could dream up an answer. In the end, Cluster realised that they were standing on the very spot where their house should be – it had vanished! How strange. And then he found a clue: a little pile of sand. There were more sand-piles leading from the edge of the glade and into the forest. They decided to follow the trail. After all, this must surely lead them to their wayward house, right?

The trail led them deeper and deeper through the trees, past the cheerful boughs they usually swung from when searching for mangos and lychees, beyond the shadowy orange trees and ever deeper, into a dark part of the forest that was as black as night. Ferrous kept getting caught on creepers because, being a paperclip, he had quite a pointy face, so his friends had to be careful that they kept an eye on him in the gloom.
After what seemed like miles and miles, Edgar held up his hand. ‘Wait!’, he cried, ‘I saw something glinting!’. I know what you’re thinking. Nothing could be glinting in all that darkness, could it? But sure enough, it was. A ray of light was reflecting from Cluster’s shiny cat eyes. They must have reached the edge of the forest!
They pushed their way through a thick grapevine and, blinking in the bright light, saw something they’d never seen before, not even in Forest City: they saw somewhere that didn’t have any grass! In fact, there were no plants at all. What they were looking at was a vast desert, stretching as far as the eye could see. This must have been where all that sand was coming from!

Filling Edgar’s knapsack with limes and pomegranates, they took their first steps out of the forest and into the unknown wilderness of warm sand. They were a little frightened, but more than anything they were hot. So very, very hot! There was nowhere to hide from the sun, and they trudged through the endless sand for hours, occasionally resting to squirt lime juice into each other’s mouths to keep their fluid levels up.
After some time, Cluster pawed his way over a particularly tall sand dune to find something unexpected: a huge ship. He rubbed his eyes in bewilderment (immediately wishing he hadn’t, as his paws were covered in sand and lime juice – ouch!) but he wasn’t seeing things; there really was a ship there. He’d never seen one before – none of them had – but it was obvious what it was. You know what a big boat looks like, don’t you? Everyone does, even fruity forest folk. Well, this was almost as confusing as their house having disappeared. How did a massive ship get into the desert? Ships travel on water, and there wasn’t any water for miles around! The three friends chewed on some juicy pomegranate pips while they tried to figure it out.
After much head-scratching, they decided to climb inside the ship and see what they could discover. Edgar gave Ferrous a bunk-up first (it was harder for him to climb, because he didn’t have any arms), and then he and Cluster crawled up onto the deck. There was something very strange about the ship. Shouldn’t it have been made of iron or some other sturdy metal? You would think so, wouldn’t you? But no, this ship was made entirely out of tasty gingerbread. How odd! Gingerbread isn’t waterproof at all – this adventure was getting stranger and stranger.

They climbed into the little room that contained the steering wheel, which Ferrous told is friends was called ‘the bridge’. (One of his colleagues at the accountancy firm had a boat, so Ferrous felt that his knowledge of boats was the most impressive at that point. He was probably right.) There were all sorts of maps and plans scattered about the room, as well as a compass made of gumdrops and a number of candy-cane levers. This ship was not as healthy as their forest! Maybe that’s why it had fallen over and was lying on its side…? 
Edgar absent-mindedly span the steering wheel, which was a large chocolate digestive, while he peered out over the deck. All of a sudden, the room began to spiral and twirl, with a million flashing rainbows shooting from the wheel and into their eyes. Scary, eh? It was like being on the spinning teacups at the fairground, except that there seemed to be no way to stop it! Cluster used his strong hind legs to pounce on the wheel, but it couldn’t be stopped. The bridge span faster and faster until they were all so discombobulated, they didn’t know where they stopped and their friends began!
…and then, POP! The bright colours, the endless sand, the spiralling gingerbread – it all vanished in the blink of an eye, and Edgar, Cluster and Ferrous found themselves back in their house in the forest, sitting around the breakfast table, a pile of yummy banana pancakes on a big plate in front of them.
You see, while they were playing gooseberry backgammon the night before, they had all been enjoying the spicy rhubarb punch that Edgar had brewed for them. And you should be careful with spicy rhubarb punch. It makes your brain go funny.

__________________________________

Racing Peas.

Harold and Pinto were cheerful little millipedes. They lived together in a cabbage patch in the shade of a mighty oak tree. They loved to eat cabbage soup because it gave them lots of energy for racing, and racing was their favourite thing in the world. Because they had so very many legs – about a million each, give or take – they could run extremely fast. All of the other insects in the patch were jealous of their speed, and would crowd around the sundial at noon, which was when they liked to run every day. (Not many vegetable patches have a sundial, so Harold and Pinto and their friends were extremely lucky to have one just outside the shade of the oak tree; they always knew when it was precisely noon!)
It was a happy life of soup and racing, soup and racing. But one day, some beetles moved into the neighbouring patch and turned their lives upside down...

Now, don’t be concerned about the beetles – they were absolutely lovely, and became excellent neighbours and firm friends with the millipedes and their chums. But what they brought with them stopped all of the running in one fell swoop: they brought pea pods.
You see, pea pods make excellent race cars. And before the beetles arrived, the millipedes didn’t know anything about race cars They just liked to run. But they heard the popping and banging of vegetable engines from over the fence, their curiosity got the better of them, and they had to take a look. The beetles were racing their pea pods around at crazy speeds! Harold and Pinto had never seen anything like it. The speed, the noise, the smoke, the excitement – it made their running races seem a little, well, boring.

As the days passed, Harold and Pinto found themselves spending more and more time with the beetles, learning all about building fast pea pod racers and how best to drive them. It was funny for the beetles to see the millipedes driving their cars, because they had to sit the wrong way up! Beetles can lie on their backs to drive pea pods, operating the pedals with their feet and steering with their hands in front of their chests. But millipedes are a totally different shape – they can’t lie on their backs to drive because they wouldn’t be able to see past the forest of wavy legs! So the beetles helped them to make special race cars out of sugarsnap pea pods that were longer and rounder. They taught them about using different kinds of peas for wheels (small ones for better acceleration, large ones for higher top speed), how to make harnesses out of grapevines to keep them safe if anything went wrong, and how to make racing suspension out of leaves. There was a lot to learn! But Harold and Pinto loved to play in the beetle garage. It was their new favourite thing. They were addicted to the thrill of speed!

The other insects in the cabbage patch were starting to get a bit bored after the first couple of weeks. They loved the midday running races because it gave their day a nice structure – they knew that they’d be seeing all of their friends at that time, cheering on whichever millipede they fancied to win that day. Without the races, they were a little bit sad. But soon enough, Harold and Pinto had put in enough work to build a super-fast pea pod racer each. They’d made sure that they had plenty of practise, so that they could race the cars safely as well as quickly. And one day, at noon, they wheeled their pea pods down to the sundial and called out to their insect friends. ‘Cooee!’, hollered Harold. ‘We’re ready to race!’, shouted Pinto. Well, this was very exciting news for all of their friends! They swarmed to the sundial in double-quick time, bringing along their Harold flags and their Pinto posters. What a day!

The two pea pods lined up together at the base of the sundial, facing down the old running track. ‘On your marks,’ cried an ant, ‘get set, GO!’
They zoomed off around the track, weaving left and right around the cabbages, sliding in the dust and going NEEEEEEYOOOOWWM! Harold’s pea pod was the faster of the two, so he would pull ahead on the straights, but Pinto had put more thought into his suspension, so he could go around the corners faster and catch up. They whizzed, they vroomed, they screeched and growled and rasped, and crossed the finish line neck and neck. It was a dead heat! All of the other insects were very excited by this thrilling new sport. The next day they brought picnics along and made a day of it – the sunshine, the pea pod racing… it was heaven. Everybody was so happy.

But one day, a week or so later, the beetles turned up to the race with a new racer. It wasn’t small and nimble like the millipedes’ pods; it was a great big bruiser of a thing, made of lots of pea pods stitched together. And it wasn’t powered by peas either. It had a huge tomato for an engine! Now, tomatoes are cheeky vegetables because they’re actually fruit, technically. And because they’re fruit, they’re stuffed with sugar, and sugar gives you energy. This was one powerful race car!
The beetles challenged Harold and Pinto to a race. They were all still friends of course, but the millipedes felt a little intimidated by this massive race car. How could they possibly win?

They all lined up by the sundial, the light glinting off their cars’ green bonnets. ‘Ready, steady, GO!’ The beetles’ car pounced into the lead immediately, leaving Harold and Pinto driving through a cloud of dust. They drove as fast as they could to keep up, but they just couldn’t see where they were going.
Up ahead, the beetles were having a bit of trouble. They’d spent so long spannering together a car that would go fast, they hadn’t given any thought to how they might stop it. Faster and faster they went, and they could see a sharp corner coming up – how would they slow down in time? Well, they couldn’t – their little carrot-top brakes just weren’t strong enough. They went ploughing straight on at the corner, tumbled over a particularly bushy cabbage and landed in a crumpled heap in the neighbouring cauliflower patch, their enormous race car in a thousand broken pieces around them.
Harold and Pinto still couldn’t see through the dust cloud, and they didn’t see the corner coming either; driving blind, they lost their bearings completely, and they too overshot the corner, bounced over the mighty cabbage and crashed into the wreckage of the beetles’ tomato racer. There were bits of pea pod everywhere.

All of the insects ran to the scene to see if anybody was hurt. Thankfully, apart from the odd scuffed knee and bruised elbow, everybody was alright. But that was the last day that the millipedes raced in their pea pods. The beetles carried on developing their race cars next door, experimenting with turnip power and broccoli brakes, but Harold and Pinto decided not to rebuild their pea pod racers. It was much safer to pull on their running shoes and jog around on their many, many legs!








Robby Leonardi's interactive CV

This is the coolest CV you'll see today. (Which doesn't sound exciting, but is.) Clicky.


The Leidenfrost Maze

Brace yourself for some hot science.

#PicklesRoadTrip

Two British students, one road trip across America, one carboard cutout of the Secretary of State for Local Communities and Government, the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP. Brilliant. Click here.



Life hacks debunked

Some yay, some nay.

Honest Slogans

This is superb. Clicky.





Words For That

Crowdsourced definitions - interesting. Click here.


Ads of the week

Volvo Trucks, PlayStation 4 & DB Export Gold. Enjoy.





Friday, 11 October 2013

11/10/13 - Baby Cinema

If you have a baby, you don’t ever go to the cinema. That’s just a fact. There are plenty of things that fellow cinema-goers can do to irritate you whilst watching a movie – rustle their bag of sweets, play with their phone, talk – but this all pales into insignificance against a fellow viewer who screams, crawls off at random and extravagantly shits themselves.

I used to love going to the movies. It’s one of those classic, old-timey pursuits that, even though it’s increasingly permeated by ultra-modern developments in terms of sound and vision, still retains that age-old purity of a bunch of people gathering together in a dark room to revel in the magic of celluloid. I’m a big fan of cinema.
I mean, I’m a big fan of films in general – who isn’t? – but it’s the theatricality of going to the movies that I particularly relish. Queuing up to pick up your ticket, choosing between popcorn or sweeties (and if popcorn – salt or sweet?), buying a Coke big enough to drown in, settling in to your favourite seat, waiting for the lights to dim, the curtains to open and the ads to begin. And then for the curtains to open a little further when the movie trailers start, with Pearl & Dean’s ‘BA-BA BA-BA BA-BA BA BA BA-BA-BA…’. Then that awkward moment of inky silence when the BBFC certificate screen shows for just a few heartbeats too long. The smell of musty popcorn, the shuffle of the odd late arrival, the all-in-it-together-ness of enjoying a fresh new flick. I love it all.

My wife and I used to have subscription passes to Cineworld back in the pre-baby days, and we would go four or five times a month. We saw everything that looked like it might be any good – and lots of things that didn’t - and for a couple of years we were real film buffs. In all that time, I think we only actually walked out of one movie (Easy Virtue, a godawful Brit rom-com [although, to be fair, I really wanted to walk out of Mamma Mia too, that irritated the hell out of me]). From around 2008-2010ish, we saw pretty much everything.

…but that doesn’t happen these days. You can’t take a baby to the cinema, and it seems like a crap reason to call a babysitter – it’s not like you’re going to a wedding or anything, paying someone to look after you nipper while you pop out to watch a big telly for a few hours just smacks of lazy parenting.
Also, going to the cinema is bloody expensive as it is – it worked out pretty cheap when we had our passes, but that’s not the case with buying tickets from the box office – and it gets even pricier when you factor in paying for a sitter. It’s just not worth it. You’d have to really want to see a film to pay forty or fifty quid for the privilege of watching it once.
There have been a lot of great films released this year that I was really, really excited about seeing, whose release dates have been and gone and I still haven’t seen – Rush and The World’s End to name but two. You know what I do these days? Pre-order them on DVD, and ignore anyone who talks about the film until it pops through my letterbox three or four months later.

So, ‘you can’t take a baby to the cinema’. I said that, just up there a few sentences back. But that’s not actually true. There is such a thing as ‘baby cinema’ – my wife went to it a couple of times when she was on maternity leave; indeed, my then-tiny daughter saw The Dark Knight Rises months and months before I did (when, er, I bought the DVD). It’s basically a thing some cinemas do whereby one morning a week is set aside for mums to come along with their kids and watch a film together while someone stands outside to make sure nobody nicks the pushchairs. Very little actual film-watching takes place - when we later watched that Batman film on DVD, my missus was surprised to learn that she remembered about three minutes of it - but the key point is that if everyone’s kid is shouting, you don’t feel self-conscious when yours does.
Perhaps that’s the future? Watching the new releases in a room full of caterwauling, adventuring, shitting small people? I guess at least you’ve got a good excuse if you feel like doing a little roaming pooping of your own…






Drive-thru skeleton

Wonderfully diverse reactions to this.

Foodscapes

These clever foodscapes are utterly wonderful. Click here.




Intense stares & knives

Cleverly edited? Or just FUCKING MENTAL?

The Faces of Facebook

Look, it's everyone on Facebook all on one page... and it's clickable too. Click here to see.

(If you end up randomly clicking on yourself or someone you know, I'll give you A BILLIONTY POUNDS.)


Boats

Cars, Planes... this is the next logical step.

Textbook doodles

Taking schoolbook scribbles to a whole new level - clicky.




‘Nicer’ Ryanair

Higgs' Boson - explained

Click here and all will become clear. Thank goodness for that.


Friday, 4 October 2013

04/10/13 - Pricey Tech/Cheap Tech

Sometimes it’s worth holding on to gadgets. You need to exercise a little self-control to stop your house filling up with redundant and unnecessary devices, but if you have a discerning eye and a reasonable instinct for what might prove collectible or desirable in the future, you can really cash in with all your old electronic shit.
The other side of this is that there are plenty of people out there who are hoarding their technotat, hoping to surf the retro gizmo zeitgeist and missing the mark by some margin, which means that some quality old stuff can be snapped up for a bargain price. So that’s the theme of this week’s JuicyPips: pricey tech/cheap tech.

First-generation iPods
We’ll start with a pricey one. The first iPod was released way back in 2001, if you can believe that (think about it, if someone was born on the iPod’s release day, they’d be almost exactly twelve years old today – how do you feel about that, you old bastard?), and it seems almost comically archaic compared to Apple’s current line-up. It’s not the one with the four big buttons along the top, like you’re thinking of – that’s the third-gen iPod. It’s the one before the one before that, with the mechanical scroll-wheel, the FireWire connector, and the 5GB hard drive that promised to ‘put 1,000 songs in your pocket’. It’s the genesis of a game-changer – the 21st-century Walkman, revolutionising the way we consume and interact with music. Nobody really thought it was a good idea at launch either, meaning they’re pretty scarce today.
Current eBay price: er, there aren’t any. Closest you’ll get is a 3rd-gen for £50. (Expect to pay upwards of £150 if you can find a 1st-gen…)

N64
These are still impressively cheap. The Nintendo 64, the company’s third major console, arrived in Europe in early 1997, and blew people’s minds with its racy 64-bit processor whilst still using the interchangeable game cartridges that folk were used to. It introduced various timeless titles to a wide audience – MarioKart, for example – and ran possibly the greatest video game ever made: GoldenEye. You could play this as a 2-, 3- or 4-player game, hunting each other down with a variety of 007’s weapons… or, if you didn’t have any mates, the 1-player version allowed you to complete the entire plot of the GoldenEye movie as James Bond. But it was the multiplayer option that was the best, as a generation of drunk students will tell you. Unbelievably addictive.
But people today don’t seem to give that much of a shit about the N64, meaning they’re cheap as chips.
Current eBay price: £30 (N64 + GoldenEye, controllers & various other games)

Game Boy
The other end of the retro Nintendo price spectrum. The old-school Game Boy was the progenitor of modern handheld gaming, and its timeless chunky construction and pimply A & B buttons, ubiquitous in its day, represent countless misspent hours of the youth of thousands upon thousands of grown-ups who are yearning for that blocky, dot-matrix gaming of yore. I had one. You might have done too. And your mates definitely did. Nintendo sold over a hundred million of them so they’re not hard to find today, but... well, they’re not really robust enough to stand up to over two decades of regular use. If you’re going to invest, get one that’s been looked after!
Current eBay price: £100 (boxed, working)

Game Gear
Yeah, nobody cares about the Sega rival to the top-dog Game Boy. Sure, the Game Gear had a colour screen, but it didn’t have Tetris or Mario.
It was actually pretty good, though – it had loads of cool titles, but the best thing was that you could play Master System games with an adaptor cable; you could play Alex Kidd or Sonic on a little screen in your hand! (With, er, loads of cables and wires and stuff.)
It was horizontally oriented, as opposed to the Game Boy’s portrait setup, which made a lot more sense. And you could even get a TV tuner to plug into it too. It was way ahead of its time. But like I say, nobody cares.
Current eBay price: £30 (£60 with TV tuner)

Rabbit phones
Remember these? Rabbit was introduced in the late eighties by Hutchison (who later set up the Orange GSM network, then 3 Mobile). It was a rudimentary kind of location-based mobile phone – you’d buy a handset and base station, the latter of which would plug into your landline. When you were near home, any calls you made would route themselves through your landline; when you were out and about, you’d need to find a Rabbit spot and stand near it to make calls. (And you couldn’t receive calls either, it was a one-way system…) I was only seven or eight years old when Rabbit arrived on the scene, and I thought it was incredibly space-age. Largely because I had no idea what it was.
Current eBay price: yeah, good luck. You’ll never find one. And if you are lucky enough to happen across a Rabbit someday, you’ll be looking at four figures.

Motorola RAZR V3

This is, smartphones aside, the coolest mobile phone ever made. It’s like something from Tron with its achingly cool neon-blue lines and sturdy aluminium-alike casing. Clamshell phones were usually a bit tacky, but this one changed everything. Unfortunately Motorola don’t really have a sense of perspective, and decided to market nasty versions in metallic red and bright pink and various other ghastly shades, but if you’re after a retro-cool mobile and don’t care about smartphones, track down an original black RAZR V3. It’s the phone Steve McQueen would have had. Probably.
Current eBay price: £20

So, what gadgets and gizmos do you have in your attic that might be accumulating value? MiniDisc players, 1980s pocket calculators, Digital Compact Cassettes, something bearing the Amstrad logo? And more importantly, what are you using right now that might be collectible in the future – your Wii, your iPhone 5, your Tassimo coffeemaker, your All-in-One remote control? Who can say? It’s like a marginally less dull version of The Antiques Roadshow. Any old tat can be worth something, if someone’s willing to pay for it…





BatDad

This is wonderful, wonderful stuff. Should really buy myself a mask.





Follow BatDad on Twitter here.

Dumb Ways to Die in GTA V

Wax Nostalgic

Someone's got steady hands. Clicky.



'Work out the puzzle, and the winner can fly the plane...'

Street Art of Aiden Glynn

Pretty cool. Click here.



TrueMove H - 'Giving'

If this doesn’t make your heart melt, you’re made of stone.

NYC, then & now

Various famous photos from the NY Daily News, laid over modern photos of the same sites. Interesting. Click here.




Baby Got Back... in the car

So brilliantly odd.