Friday, 19 December 2014

19/12/14 - Let it snow! (Maybe, if you want)

Snow’s rubbish, isn’t it?
Er, no, it isn’t. It’s brilliant. Or is it?
Well, it’s both, and neither. Allow me to explain…

Winter, you see, is crap. It’s really quite cold outside, it’s dark most of the time, it rains more, it’s generally just not very nice. And it lasts for an unfeasibly long time too. You have to stick the heating on, so your bills go up, and your car will be bombarded with steel-chomping grit from council lorries. Your house’s doors and windows will warp and expand/contract, meaning creaks, draughts, and having to slam things really hard. Winter, on the whole, is just plain miserable.
That’s why Christmas is such a celebrated and brilliant thing. It’s the shining beacon in the middle of a crappy season – imagine how hopeless and bleak winter would feel if it didn’t have that glimmering, tinselly focal point. It’d just be five months of thick jumpers and gloom.

One of the key crapnesses of winter is the weather. Obviously. And the crappest of the crap – the ultimate iteration of seasonal meteorological grimitude – is snow. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s perilous underfoot, it gets in your eyes - and when it melts, it leaves everything dirty and ensures a frightening abundance of meltwater sloshing everywhere, flooding kitchens and overwhelming drains. How could this possibly be seen as a good thing by anyone with even a pair of low-functioning brain cells to bang together?

Aha, it’s the Christmas effect, of course. Inextricably intertwined with the gifting season is the notion that everywhere will be swathed in clean, beautiful snow. And to be fair, it is beautiful – as long as you’re looking at, say, a thatched country cottage with holly bushes in the garden and a pillar box at the gate, rather than the grey, slushy pavement of Waterloo Bridge after three thousand people have stomped through it.

We like Christmas. (I’m generalising here but, frankly, if you’re one of those boring anti-Christmas people then I don’t think we can be friends.) Ergo, we like snow. Snow is Christmas’s friend. And so it’s become one of those things that people love and get excited about, despite having absolutely no logical reason to do so – like sudoku or Wimbledon. Yes, it’s fun to throw snowballs, build snowmen, go tobogganing down pristine white slopes, and feel that glorious crunch of freshly fallen snow underfoot, but it is essentially just really cold rain that makes your clothes all sodden and chilly.
Such is the ambivalence of the modern psyche. Snow is basically a metaphor for the human condition. Maybe. Or something.

Five unrelated ads

I'll just smoosh these together here...

Firstly, a lovely little thing from UPS:

A rather magnificent Branston ad from a year ago:

A couple of tearjerkers, from Apple and IKEA:

...and this hilariously creepy thing from Homepride. Be afraid.

2014 in photos

An excellent round-up here from The Atlantic's ever-impressive In Focus. Lots of impressive and moving photos to illustrate the goings-on of 2014 - click here for part 1, here for part 2, and here for part 3.

The Meat Manger

This inspired creation goes viral every year, with prudes saying it's inappropriate and what-have-you. To be honest, Jesus looks delicious.
You can see the full set of photos here.

Friday, 5 December 2014

05/12/14 - The Gifting Season

It’s around this time of year that people start banging on about the commercialisation of Christmas, how it’s a shopping holiday and so forth. These people can sod off – a holiday is a holiday, and if they’re going to be so damn pious about the ‘true meaning of Christmas’, they’re very welcome to spend the morning of the 25th in church having a good old pray, then go home for a sensible glass of water and a ham sandwich. Honestly, bloody killjoys.
Of course it’s a commercial holiday, but who cares? That’s the point. Get the family together, put on funny jumpers, give each other presents, eat too much, drink too much, watch some Christmas telly, fall asleep. Lovely.

I love Christmas and I won’t hear a word against it. But I understand that the acquisition of appropriate presents can cause a little stress in the run-up to the yuletide season so, dear reader, I’m here to help. I’ve got some gift ideas for you.
If all else fails, and you can’t be arsed to put much thought into it, you can always grab a book from Waterstones or something. Now, Christmas is traditionally the autobiography season, so this week’s ’Pips aims to help steer you through the choppy waters of printed celebrity lifestyle stories; you don’t necessarily need to buy the newest releases just because they’re on offer and fresh on the shelves (otherwise you’ll end up trudging through the mangled idiocy of Joey Barton, or Jordan’s seventh volume, or whatever). So, for simplicity’s sake, I’ve briefly summarised a number of biographies and autobiographies that I’ve read over the past couple of years or so, to better inform your choice. (You’ll notice that they’re largely about musicians or comedians but hey, they seem to tell the best stories.)
I know you’re busy, so I’ve kept it as snappy as possible. Happy shopping.

Stephen Fry – More Fool Me
Being a fan of Stephen Fry is sort of a gimme these days, but if you grew up infatuated with A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Blackadder, Jeeves and Wooster and so on, as I did, and then obsessively read all of Fry’s novels (and, by extension, fell head-over-heels for the works of P.G. Wodehouse), then you’ll be a card-carrying Fryophile.
His first autobiography, Moab is my Washpot, was all about his childhood. The second, The Fry Chronicles, takes you up to 1987. More Fool Me is the next bit, the cocaine years.
If the recipient in question likes Stephen Fry, they’ll like this. Yeah? Good.

Slash – The Autobiography
Written with Rolling Stone journo Anthony Bozza, Slash’s story is neatly summed up by the byline ‘It seems excessive, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen’. Fair enough.
Features lots of peculiar stories about drugs, snakes, car crashes, and playing guitars in dirty places. Genuinely fascinating.

Cash – The Autobiography
Similarly titled to the above (hence the two of them sitting side-by-side on my bookshelf), but written some time before. It’s about Johnny Cash, obviously – not Pat Cash, or Tango & Cash.
Sort of like the movie Walk the Line, but in book form. Tells lots of fairly incredible stories about a fairly incredible man.

Bill Bryson – The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
Bryson’s recent works have shifted from travel writing to historical narrative (At Home, One Summer: America 1927, A Short History of Nearly Everything, etc), and his autobiography takes this narrative style and applies it to his own childhood. Compelling stuff, and you’ll learn all sorts about 1950s America too.

David Mitchell – Back Story
It’s impossible not to read it all in the voice of Mark from Peep Show. Because, y’know, they have the same voice.
I narrate much of my life in that voice anyway, generally involuntarily. And I keenly share Mitchell’s views on flat-roofed pubs.

Keith Richards – Life
How is he still alive? Who knows? But thank goodness he is, this chunky book is brilliant. He relates all kinds of fascinating titbits about the early days of the Stones, dispels a few myths about his own experiences, and generally makes you feel like a chump for not having a more interesting life.
The episode in which he flees Britain for Morocco in his Bentley is particularly good.

The Rik Mayall – Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ
Oh, Rik. We miss you.
This superbly deranged autobiography, in which he refers to himself as ‘The Rik Mayall’ throughout, was written back in 2005. It’s utterly insane, largely made-up, and very, very Rik.
My advice: read it while drunk. (If you’re giving it as a gift, sellotape it to a bottle of Thunderbird.)

Russell Brand – My Booky Wook & My Booky Wook 2
Brand’s taking a bit of flack these days for his mad opinions and misguided attempts to engender social change by, er, telling people not to vote. (Sorry, what?)
But before he started to implode – and importantly, after he washed the drugs out of his blood – he took the time to write down a few stories about himself. And they’re bloody good too. Beautifully written, and really very amusing.

Stewart Lee – How I Escaped My Certain Fate
One of my favourite comedians, Lee is a polarising figure. He hates the generally acknowledged view of what comedy is, seeking to relentlessly deconstruct it in quite some detail. Many people find this dull. I don’t. I find it hilarious. You might too.

Alan Partridge – I, Partridge
Partridge is, of course, a fictional character. And you know what to expect here – if you enjoyed the TV shows, you’ll enjoy this. It’s more of that, in book form.

Duff McKagan – It’s So Easy, and Other Lies
Honestly one of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read – possibly the best.
For those not in the know, Duff was the bass player in Guns N’ Roses. He had a massive appetite for booze in the GN’R period, so much so that his liver actually exploded. So his life as told in this book is split into two parts: 1) massive, astonishing rock ‘n’ roll excess; 2) cleaning up, being sensible, buying a bicycle etc.
Turns out he’s an incredibly nice man, so you’re rooting for him throughout.

Simon Pegg – Nerd Do Well
Another nice man. Pegg’s story is charmingly modest and humble; by the time you’re halfway through, it feels like you’re reading about one of your mates getting a few big breaks. Good fun.

Alex James – Bit of a Blur
…and another nice man! You’re probably aware of Alex James’s evolution from ‘that bloke in Blur’ to ‘that bloke who makes cheese’ – this is the full story. It’s all very sweet. (Also, for those of you who are reading every book in this list – you can cross-reference the episode with Alex James and Damon Albarn’s first visit to the Groucho Club with Stephen Fry’s account of the same incident, in that first book in the list up there.)

Ozzy Osbourne – I Am Ozzy
Seems like ages ago that The Osbournes was the biggest thing on telly, doesn’t it? But if you remember it fondly and want to know just how real it was, this book will tell you.
A thumping good read, this – file it alongside Keith Richards, Slash and Duff.

Tim Burgess – Telling Stories
He was the singer in The Charlatans, of course. If you ever sidelined them as the nice boys of indie, wait till you read all the tales of armed robbery, smuggling, violence, and heroic cocaine ingestion. Intriguing.

Dave Grohl – This is a Call
Categorise Dave alongside Duff in the ‘nicest men in rock’ area. This book is actually a biography, written by Paul Brannigan, but is brilliantly researched. Many interesting stories from Grohl’s punk youth, the Nirvana era, how he recorded the first Foo Fighters album single-handedly to get over Kurt’s death, and so on. Very good indeed.

Richard Herring – How Not to Grow Up
Herring’s stand-up routines are sprawling, intricately constructed things, and this autobiography, written on the approach to his 40th birthday, runs parallel to the ‘Oh Fuck, I’m 40!’ material.
Still feel like a teenager at heart? Don’t worry, so does everybody else. Herring vocalises your feelings for you quite neatly here.

Richard Ayoade – Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey
Well, this is just fucking strange. It’s not actually an autobiography at all, I merely add it for variety and intrigue. It’s a book in which a fictionalised caricature of Richard Ayoade interviews an even stranger and more beguilingly befuddling fictionalised caricature of Richard Ayoade. Constantly hilarious, but really quite peculiar.

None of that grab your fancy? One Direction have a book out, as do various footballers and that bloke from Westlife. Wait till after Christmas though, they’ll be in the bargain bin. You can just say it got delayed in the post.

'This is my product'

If you haven't seen Breaking Bad, this might not make a lot of sense. But if you're a fan, WOAH!

How to make a hit Christmas pop song

More handy insider tips here from Brett Domino.

Deconstructed Christmas sandwiches

You're always banging on about how you want to see someone buy a load of sandwiches that claim to be filled with Christmas dinner ingredients, take them apart, and make an actual Christmas dinner. It's getting a bit tiresome, to be honest. Just stop shitting on about it and click this link, yeah? Seriously.

Bang Bang Shred

Utterly, utterly hilarious Jessie J shred here. Ingenious.


A series of simple-to-comprehend and beautifully illustrated animations to explain how various things work - click here.

(These screengrabs below are just stills, obviously. When you click the link you'll see them all moving about an' that.)

Postcards from Pripyat

A drone flying over Chernobyl. Chilling.

Weaponised tuk-tuk

This is what happens when you offer Colin Furze cash to make branded content. Brilliantly deranged, as ever.

Friday, 28 November 2014

28/11/14 - Dichotomies of Family Guy, or something

The problem with analysing TV shows is that you pick them apart in far more detail than anyone involved in their creation ever intended. Stephen Fry once told the tale on QI of how he was yelled at in the street by someone who was repeatedly and inexplicably calling him a ‘bastard pigging murderer’; shuffling off with some concern, he was pursued by the shouting man who, it turned out, was actually saying ‘Flanders pigeon murderer’, in reference to a line from Blackadder Goes Forth. He barely remembered the line until it was shouted at him all those years later. The difference is that while we watch these things over and over again, those involved only go through the creative process once.
But sod it, that’s our right as a viewer, isn’t it? Being overly critical and combing over things in far too much detail? All part of the fun. So, for no real reason and apropos of nothing, here are the three principal dichotomies of Family Guy:

Can they understand Stewie?
Ah, that age-old question, much chewed-over for the past fifteen years. Stewie is the baby of the Griffin family, who reached his first birthday in the first series and hasn’t aged since (as Family Guy, like many TV shows, exists within a time bubble where people stay the same age regardless of how long the show runs [like The Simpsons, for example] – it’s called a floating timeline); he’s hyper-intelligent, articulate and verbose, homicidal and matricidal, and generally a bit of a bastard. But in spite of his ability to speak clearly, can the family actually understand what he’s saying?
Well, the short answer is yes, sometimes, a bit, but usually no.
Stewie has an ongoing love-hate relationship with Brian, the family dog, and it appears that he and his sometime girlfriend Jillian are the only characters who can actually understand everything that Stewie says. However, by necessity of plot, other characters occasionally converse with him and can understand him – the main problem is Lois, his mother: in the early days of Family Guy, it was very clear that no-one could understand Stewie, and he was constantly trying to kill Lois in elaborate sci-fi ways. His threats always went unacknowledged. In later years, this turned into general dismissiveness of most of the things he said and did. When quizzed about this, creator Seth MacFarlane suggested that ‘the family just ignore him in the way people generally ignore things said by very small children’.
It’s become a running joke through the show, with occasional aesthetically self-conscious references to who’s speaking, what might have been said and, in one episode, a scene where an audience from the future are watching the show and one person says ‘I don't get it. So.... like... can the family understand the baby or... what's the deal with that?’ Sums it up neatly, really.
We don’t really know, but it doesn’t really matter.

Good characters are also bad
This is a theme that we find in a lot of TV shows, but it’s thrown into sharp focus with Family Guy. To take the example of The Simpsons again, we find that almost all characters therein have a strong moral compass, and those who are bad (Mr Burns, Snake, Fat Tony) are capable of compassion but are generally bad all the time. There’s a distinct good/bad divide. In Family Guy, no-one’s moral outlook is that clearly defined.
Look at Lois: she’s a fine, upstanding member of the community; a loving wife and mother, philanthropist, campaigner for civil rights, humble despite her upper class upbringing. But she’s also a serial adulterer, kleptomaniac, ex-prostitute and recovering meth addict, who once starred in a porn film to pay for her cocaine addiction, and seems to utterly detest her only daughter.
It’s a headscratcher.

Brian is a dog that does human stuff
Brian Griffin is the family dog. His tail wags when he’s happy, he barks at people when he’s angry or insecure, he eats vomit, he’s colourblind – he’s a dog.
Aha, but he’s anthropomorphised – he walks on his hind legs, he has opposable thumbs, he can speak (and, unlike Stewie, we know that everyone can understand him), he can drive. He’s a (terrible) writer, he plays guitar, he smokes, he’s fond of a dry martini.
The dichotomy is that some of the human stuff he does goes completely unquestioned. He almost exclusively pursues human females rather than canine ones, with some considerable degree of success. He’s had sex with a lot of women. Yet he is a dog.

Well, this is sucking the fun out of the show, isn’t it? IT’S A CARTOON. It’s not supposed to be realistic. Stop over-thinking it and have another beer. Honestly.

Wakeboarding like a boss

Tallulah’s first haircut

Oh, bless.

Geeky Back to the Future spots

88 interesting things from the Back to the Future series. Stick the kettle on and click here.

Old Spice - Dadsong

Pleasantly strange.

*repeat last action*

You know that embarrassing thing when you accidentally hit the 'wank furiously' button on your mechanical arm...?

Knock knock...

So, how many takes did this take?

24 seconds of searching

Friday, 21 November 2014

21/11/14 - Oh Dapper, Where Art Thou?

You may or may not have heard of Dapper Laughs, depending on which social and digital circles you move in. For the uninitiated, you can picture him as a comedian’s character construct along the lines of Ali G, Lee Nelson, or Al Murray’s Pub Landlord, but totally devoid of any of the irony or self-awareness that make those characters work. Or, if you want it to put it another way, Dapper Laughs is just a bit of a prick who made himself famous by saying shocking things.
Well, no, he’s more than that: a dangerous, troublesome vocalisation of all of the awfulness of his fans, making light of such issues as rape, misogyny, xenophobia and bullying. One of the key problems that Al Murray’s found with his Pub Landlord character is that a huge number of his fans seem not to get the joke – they think he’s a real person with real (awful) opinions, and they laugh along because they genuinely agree with them. Dapper Laughs has no such qualms, as he and his fans are one and the same. The braying encouragement he receives eagerly fuels the terrible things he says and does. So where did he come from, why has he been all over the news, and where has he gone…?

The face behind the arse, as it were, is a self-proclaimed ‘comedian’ [this is entirely subjective, of course] by the name of Daniel O’Reilly. Much of his early work took place on cruise ships where he, in his own words, ‘perfected the art of presenting cheesy game shows’. He also did some warm-up slots for Paul Daniels. You can see the green shoots of this laddish character emerging in this presenter showreel he made in 2010:

There’s comedic promise in there, but unfortunately that’s where the humour ends; he then chose to focus his character development on the more ‘oi oi’ side of the ideas displayed there, creating six-second bursts of laddishness on the then-emerging Vine platform. And fair play to him, he cannily spied a very shareable niche there. He found enormous success on the platform, gaining over 575,000 followers, his later video clips featuring famous faces such as Noel Clarke, Ashley Cole and Danny Dyer, and he became the first British Vine star to get his own TV show. OK, it was on the famously-quite-shit ITV2, but it’s still a bona fide TV channel. His programme On the Pull showcased his, er, skills as a ‘pick-up artist’, leading on from the Wildean wit of his tweets and Vines with ‘Just show her your penis – if she cries, she’s playing hard to get’, ‘Get your arm swing just right when you’re walking and you occasionally touch a bit of minge by “mistake”, they love it’ and ‘If she’s looking at me and playing with her hair, by the end of the night she’ll need a wheelchair’; Chris Graves, exec producer at the show’s production company Big Minded, described O’Reilly as ‘a naughty little rascal with a bodacious approach to pulling’. Bodacious? Well, he was right in one sense. It boded something. (Incidentally, this Popbitch piece explains why ITV2 would commission such a clearly iffy show -
Laughs’ success thereafter was phenomenal and surprising; his UK tour totally sold out, he performed on the comedy stage at the V Festival, he released a novelty song, Proper Moist, that placed at no.15 in the UK Singles Chart.

But then it all started to unravel. Principally because, well, he’s a bit of a twat. And people started to notice.
In early November he released a charity Christmas album. It received a scathing review from the Mirror-owned web culture site Us vs Th3m (, to which Dapper Laughs angrily responded on Twitter, saying that they were directly stopping the flow of donations to his chosen charities (although which charities these were was something he hadn’t thought to mention at that point).
Us vs Th3m crunched the numbers [] and worked out that each Spotify streaming would net just £0.004, meaning that even if 10,000 people listened to it, he’d only raise £40. Also, all the money was going directly to him, he hadn’t stated what percentage he’d be donating. Us vs Th3m then encouraged their readers to donate £14 to Shelter or Refuge (a pound for each track on the album) so that a) some money would actually go to charity and b) no-one would have to listen to the bloody awful album. (It’s worth pointing out that as well as the awful misogyny that is his trademark, Dapper also branched out into abusing the homeless [who “smell like shit”] on his album.)
Dapper Laughs countered by saying that he would be donating actual money to Shelter. Brilliantly, Shelter publically made it known that they would refuse his money. Embarrassed and angered, Dapper (allegedly) took to Snapchat, a social platform in which posts have a limited lifespan and are thus sort of untraceable, and mobilised his Twitter followers to directly target the Us vs Th3m team with personal abuse and threats [].
Promoters and affiliates started leaving him in droves, appalled to be associated with an act that was receiving such unpleasant attention. The inevitable Christmas cash-in book, due to be published by Hodder, was cancelled; a spokesperson eagerly claimed that ‘we offered for it back in early September, but we didn’t ever reach agreement,’ while hastily trying to pull it from their website’s pre-order section.
A petition to have the ITV2 show cancelled received over 68,000 signatures and the channel, poking at their abacus with a worried pencil and deducing that this was probably more than the total number of viewers, decided to pull the plug.

There was, of course, something of a backlash, and not just from Dapper’s slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging acolytes. Some people saw the online pursuit of the eradication of Dapper Laughs from the public consciousness as a sort of witch-hunt, a demonisation of young working-class men, a form of oppressive gagging and censorship by a media controlled by an intellectual elite. You may agree with that. But perhaps the following video will help you to make up your mind…
You’ll notice that I began this thing by referring to Dapper Laughs in the present tense. That was merely a device to mask the ending for those not in the know - you see, Dapper Laughs is no more. O’Reilly appeared on Newsnight, of all places, to apologise; during the interview he announced that he was killing off the character. Watch this, and see whether you think this is the heartfelt regret of an intelligent and observant satirist, or the panicked backtracking of a cretin who’s been called out for going too far, squirming as he tries to talk like a grown-up:

You may have thought he was funny, and was unfairly hounded off the telly by the liberal media. You may have thought, as I did, that he was a fundamentally unlikeable arsehole, playing on the unpleasantness of the people who gave him money to voice their opinions for them. Whatever your view, I think the whole sorry situation is best summed up by this piece from the Daily Mash:

So, I wonder what culturally sensitive character O’Reilly will come up with next? An injured soldier? An unemployed single parent? An elderly paedophile? Whatever it is, it’s bound to be frightfully acerbic…

Pieces for Places - #SexyPenguin

There have been a great many John Lewis penguin parodies, but I reckon this Welsh furniture shop have really nailed it.

‘Don’t Copy That Floppy’

Astounding early-’90s anti-piracy vid. Just keeps on giving.

Gymkhana Seven

Whether or not you're interested in cars, you can't deny the brilliance of Ken Block's latest viral.

The Godmother of BMX

Lilly Yokoi, a true pioneer of two-wheeled jiggery-pokery.

Shoreditch Wildlife

A wonderful gallery from Dougie Wallace - click here to see.

Bloody hell, hoverboards exist!

‘Stop looking at your phones'

GSXR vs. horse

No flannel here.

Pioneering new tech... Asda. Seriously.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

13/11/14 - Mobile Telephones, etc

I remember being totally blown away when my uncle got a Rabbit phone in the early 1990s. Remember them? You could only make calls if you stood near a base station, so you had to keep an eye out for shops displaying the Rabbit logo. And yet today we take instant go-anywhere connectivity for granted, with our great big internetting smartphonery and whatnot.
But that’s a diatribe for another day. Of course the technology has moved on, that’s what mankind does. We can’t stop fiddling with things. No, what particularly interests me right now is the size of the things. It’s a hilarious cliché, of course, to cite the early bricks with their really-quite-long aerials and battery backpacks, but the first mainstream mobiles – that’s ‘mainstream’ as in ‘most people can afford one’ – weren’t actually that big, particularly by modern standards. Sure, they were a lot simpler; calls were a gimme, texts a nice-to-have, and it took a while before games started appearing in the menu options or you could pay £1.50 to have a Nike or Hugo Boss logo on you dot-matrix screen (seriously, why did we do that?), so their girth isn’t in line with 21st-century electronics, but they could still happily fit in a pocket. They got steadily smaller and smaller as technology allowed and fashion dictated, and by the early/mid-noughties it was embarrassing to have a phone that you could actually comfortably operate – you needed to have one that was so small that you couldn’t push the buttons properly.
But then they started getting bigger again. The advent of smartphones - and with them, the ability to watch video, browse proper websites instead of that old WAP shite, etc – meant that people wanted bigger screens. And much in the same way that phones got absurdly small, they’re now getting absurdly big. I recently upgraded to an iPhone 6 Plus, but had to send it back after a few days as it was just too damn big. The line between phones and tablets is increasingly blurred, and you’d look like a right wally holding a full-sized iPad up to your ear to take a call.

But this is all just unnecessary ranting, of course. Technology moves on, and devices reflect what the public desires – these things exist because people want to buy them. So instead, let’s take a wander down memory lane. I’m going to bore on about a few of the more noteworthy phones I’ve had over the years. Perhaps you’d like to nostalgia-ise about some of yours too? (If not, feel free to go and do something else, you won't be missing much.)

Philips C12
My second ever phone, back in the late 1990s. It had rubbery buttons and it was as solid as a rock – you could leave it on the dashboard of your Vauxhall Nova, watch it fly out of the window on a roundabout and go bouncing down the road, and it’d still work fine.
It also had a brilliant hack that was quickly discovered and shared by cheapskate pay-as-you-go schoolkids like me – when you sent a text message, if you turned it off while the screen still said ‘sending’, it’d send the text without charging you. Something about the amount of credit being held on the phone rather than the service centre, I think?
It also had a horoscope feature, which was stupid but mildly diverting in a late-nineties ‘oh, look at this gadget’ context.

Nokia 3310
Probably the most dependable mobile phone ever built, and they still have a huge fan following today. It’s pretty hard to break them, the battery lasts forever, and they’re the perfect size to hold in your hand.
It was a pioneering gizmo for the new millennium, packing a calculator, stopwatch, diary reminder thingy and, of course, Snake II – the irritatingly addictive game that killed more hours than Angry Birds and Candy Crush combined. They sold 126,000,000 3310s, which says a lot.
I bet you know someone who still uses one. You might even still have one in a drawer at home.

SonyEricsson T68i
A magical development in 2001: it had a colour screen! And there was all sorts of other stuff in there to make your mates’ Nokias seems distinctly last-generation – Bluetooth, predictive text, WAP, customisable ringtones… but most importantly, it had a camera! You could take photos with your phone!
Um, OK, so the camera wasn’t actually built-in – you had to buy a separate camera unit and plug it into the bottom. And the pictures were so lo-res it wasn’t always easy to figure out what you were looking at, but still, WOO! CAMERAPHONES!

Motorola A835
Phew. This was a whopper.
When 3 first set up the UK’s 3G network in 2003, they were very keen to get everyone video calling. I totally fell for it, and got an enormous A835. No-one else I knew did, which meant that I never made a single video call with it. It was a bit crap at taking videos too (think You’ve Been Framed circa 1994-ish), although you were also able to watch ITN news on it, which was momentarily exciting. But after the first week of paying £1 a pop to watch a minute of news (which was, er, free if I just turned on the radio or TV), the novelty wore off and I was lumbered with a really huge phone for a year. But thankfully this was a long time before people latched onto the annoying phrase ‘first world problems’, so it was just my own private irritation.

Motorola RAZR V3
Probably the coolest phone ever made, and I’d have one today if they could make the screen work like an iPhone. Flip phones allow you to end a call with a gesture of dramatic flair, and the RAZR V3 was super-thin and stylishly formed from chilly aluminium, so you felt like a boss when you were using it. And the neon-blue lights in between the buttons were straight out of a futuristic movie from the 1970s.

I haven't kept a single one of these handsets, of course. They exist purely as memories; things that I carried around at all times for a year, then callously discarded for a later model. There's probably some sort of conclusion to draw about the frivolous and fickle nature of mankind in that, or something. Dunno.

2014 Christmas ads

You've probably noticed a glut of festive TV ads appearing this week. Here are my three favourites...

Iron Sky II

Holy shit - they're crowdsourcing funding for a sequel to Iron Sky! Looks even more insane than the first one.

Richard Madeley: Supercretin

An astonishing collection of Richard Madeley quotes here. He really is an arse.

Satanic Monster

Monster energy drinks are pretty foul, but perhaps this bonkers Satanism argument is a little much...

Oyster touch-ins/outs - mapped

London gets up, goes to work, then goes home again.

Friday, 7 November 2014

07/11/14 - The Apprentice

The Apprentice, in its current guise, is brilliant television. Just brilliant. This may seem like an odd thing to say given that so many elements of it are so fundamentally terrible (and, of course, it’s so toe-curlingly cringeworthy that you spend half the show hiding your face behind your hands and howling ‘Noooooooooooo!’), but the producers have got the concept totally nailed over the last decade. When it first came to the BBC back in 2005, the format was slightly different to what it is now; today, the prize for the winner is a £250,000 investment in the candidate’s business idea, with Sir Alan Sugar as 50% owner. In 2005, the prize was a £100,000p/a job at one of Sugar’s companies. (We’ll come on to why that’s a shit prize later.) The first series attracted a group of applicants who were all, by and large, successful in their respective fields, and saw the challenge as a potential springboard to greatness. They gave up their jobs in the hope of winning a sort of business X Factor. It was genuinely interesting to see how these groups of people from different disciplines devoured the disparate tasks they were given, each more eager than the last to excel, succeed, impress…

…but of course, that’s not how reality TV works. We don’t want to see people succeed, not any more. We want to point at them and laugh when they fuck up. And so the very nature of The Apprentice has shifted, the producers expending huge effort in hand-picking the most hapless, cretinous, downright stupid individuals to hold up as a comical showcase of human ambition gone wrong. The show used to be a weekly contest to see, in essence, which of the two teams would win; now it’s about celebrating the lesser of two failures. None of the wallies involved, of course, have any awareness of this – they get their egos kicked around the boardroom, they’re given some sort of prize for being slightly less shit than the other lot, and then they all rush out whooping and hollering, high-fiving each other as if to say ‘Yeah, we’re so good at business!’. Berks.
The peculiar thing is that this utter lack of awareness is shared by every contestant, and presumably everybody they know as well; after all, they applied to go on the show in the knowledge of how the contestants are portrayed. No intelligent person would willingly submit themselves to that sort of public ridicule, no matter what the reward – every single one of them must have entered the process thinking ‘Yeah, but I’m not stupid like the others are, that’s why I’ll win,’ and no-one’s told them otherwise. This is the kind of humiliation that will resonate through a career in perpetuity. If somebody you knew announced that they were applying to go on The Apprentice, your first response would presumably be ‘What, as a joke?’. On discovering that they were serious, you’d try and talk them out of it. ‘No Dave, you’re better than those pricks. If you want to make a go of this business idea of yours, just talk to your bank manager about it. You don’t need to be shamed in this arse’s gallery of haplessness.’

Ah yes, and the prize itself. The whole programme is so thoroughly British, isn’t it? In the American version of the series, the participating numbskulls are trying to impress Donald Trump who, reprehensible bastard and prize-winning arsehole as he may be, is at least quite a successful businessman. His net worth is about $4 billion. But we have Sir Alan Sugar, amusingly addressed as a gabbled ‘Yeslordsugar’ by his acolytes, who – and let’s be fair to him – is a complete gimp. OK, his net worth is around £900 million, which isn’t to be sniffed at, but he’s hardly a paragon of business excellence. I mean, when’s the last time you used your Amstrad E-M@iler? Or flew on Amsair? And do you remember what he said about the iPod in 2005? ‘It’ll de dead, finished, gone, kaput by next Christmas’? Yeah, that’s a man who you want to learn about business from. You could ask him about when he went bankrupt. Twice.
Or why not take a hint from the winners of previous series? Tim Campbell, who won the first series, worked at Amstrad for a couple of years before leaving to pursue better opportunities. Michelle Dewberry won the following year, but she only worked for Sugar for four months. Series 3 was won by Simon Ambrose, who worked for Amsprop for about three years before it broke him. The next winner, Lee McQueen, also only lasted a couple of years. Series 5 winner Yasmina Siadatan was almost immediately impregnated by an Amstrad colleague, went on maternity leave, then handed in her notice (although to be fair, she’s probably the smartest of the bunch here. That’s a canny plan). Stella English was given a job she referred to as a ‘glorified PA’, then had her contract terminated. And so on. Hardly living the capitalist dream, is it?

Next time you watch the show, why not try the perennially enjoyable JuicyPips Apprentice Drinking Game? Simple rules – take a slurp every time somebody says one of the following:
‘Put myself forward’
‘Step up to the plate’
‘It’s not my field of expertise’
‘At the end of the day’
‘I gave it 110%’
‘You’re not listening to me’ [while talking over someone]
‘The bottom line is…’
‘I’m in this to win’
‘I’m not a passenger’
‘The gloves are off’
‘I mean business’
‘Someone’s got to man up’
‘This is business’
‘Can I just say... can I just say… can I just say…’
‘Give me this chance’

Actually, no, don’t do that. You’ll die.

Living With Monkey

Nina Conti, wearing her monkey for six weeks. There is some tension.


The Russell Brand / Parklife meme. Very enjoyable.

Bye Felipe

A showcase of hostile arseholes failing to find love, clearly demonstrating why they're single - click here.

'I ate all your candy'

Jimmy Kimmel's annual challenge to taunt kids at Hallowe'en. Hilariously mean.

The Berlin Wall, 25 years on

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Atlantic have some amazing photos here.

October Fails

People hurting themselves. Always funny.

Friday, 31 October 2014

31/10/14 - Brrrr, etc

As the nights draw in and the mercury descends toward the part of the thermometer labelled ‘mittens’, we can forget about the talk of an Indian Summer and prepare ourselves for the other freakish weather phenomenon prophesied by the press: biblical snowfall. (Probably. The Express are always shitting on about that, aren’t they? Tales of ‘unseasonable coldness’ and ‘cold snaps’ that normal people just call ‘winter’.) Pack the lightweight cotton garments away and replace them with chunky cable-knits and fleecey, behooded alternatives. The long British winter is coming, and it’ll be here until, ooh, April-ish.

The natural thing for the office workers of this meteorologically unfortunate isle to do around Novembertime is to complain about how cold it is at work. (Well, this is a year-round behaviour, really. But it becomes more pronounced when the ambient temperature plummets and frequency of rain/gloom increases.) We sit at our desks shivering, shuddering, growing increasingly irritated with the air-con, making mental notes to dress more appropriately tomorrow. When, of course, we’ll all be wearing eight layers, just in time to enjoy the heating which has been switched to max in response to yesterday’s complaints.
Let me make you feel a little better about this. Let me tell you about Unit 6.

I used to work at a place called Impress Publishing in Canterbury. It’s a charity Christmas card fulfilment house, which means that it’s the central supply hub for the customers of a number of those charity catalogues you get through the post or come across in glossy magazines; Macmillan Cancer Support was the biggest one when I was there in 2003-5, and there was also Breast Cancer Care, SSAFA, the British Heart Foundation and various others. (Including the House of Lords, weirdly – one of their designs, entitled ‘Portcullis’, was exactly that: a crimson card with an embossed gold portcullis on the front. Not very Christmassy, is it?) I’ve slagged Impress off a lot over the years, perhaps rather unfairly. I mean, they did employ me for eighteen months, so they’re not all bad. OK, their draconian clocking-in/out system meant that if you were a minute late you lost 15 minutes’ pay, their attitude to employing warehouse staff was basically ‘let the Job Centre send absolutely anyone down, and when they start nicking stuff, slashing people’s tyres, or just don’t turn up, we’ll get some more of the same in’, the one staff jolly that I recall involved going to a cricket ground 500 yards from the office, but... oh, I forget the point I was making. Anyway, the reason I was working there was that I’d just graduated, I had a mate who worked there and I needed some ready cash before starting the jobhunting proper. It wasn’t Impress’s fault that I ended up working there for eighteen months. And they didn’t seem to mind having a fresh English Lit graduate running their warehouse for the princely sum of £12,000pa. (To be fair, that worked out about thirty pence an hour above the national minimum wage at the time, so I was ever-so-slightly better off than the klepto eighteen-year-olds I was managing - tiny crumb of self-respect there. Although my unfortunate habit of clocking in at 8:01am every day [due to an inexplicable quirk of Canterbury traffic, it didn’t seem to matter what time I left the house - I’d always find that I was a little over sixty seconds late when I got there] ensured that I was docked quite a lot of that.)

Now, the nature of charity Christmas card fulfilment is that, of course, it’s quite seasonal. The first catalogues would go out halfway through the year, so there’d be an initial flurry of orders from mad old biddies who wanted cards in July to avoid the rush, and then from about September onwards it steadily increased into being ridiculously busy from late October through to mid-December, at which point it’d drop off again. The early part of the year was used for preparing, ordering and organising stock and systems for the busy season. And a key part of this was sorting out Unit 6.

Unit 6 was a storage warehouse on the other side of the business park. Throughout peak season, it was necessary to nip over there every now and then with a forklift and pull back pallets of cards to the main fulfilment area. Naturally, given how busy it all was, any semblance of order in Unit 6 was quickly lost as you’d just shift things around, grab what you needed and run. So in January, in the aftermath of the festive season, Unit 6 was the big project. And it was something to dread. There would be pallets, half-pallets and random stacks of stock everywhere. The entire numbering system lay in ruins. It took weeks on end to shift everything out, re-pack it, re-label it and store it in a logical fashion on the racks.
That can’t be so hellish though, can it? It’s just a methodical ordering process, right? And isn’t it fun to operate a forklift?
Well, yeah – but this was in January. In an unheated warehouse, you may as well be outside. Every exhalation saw breath hanging in the air in a mocking mist. Fingers froze on levers operating recalcitrant, under-performing hydraulics. Icy winds whispered through myriad cracks in the walls. Minutes bled into hours at glacial pace. Bitter cold. Isolation. Desperation. Hopelessness. An ever-present dew-drop hanging from the tip of the nose.

It’s not actually so bad sitting at your desk, is it?

Ice Bike

Hurrah, a new Furze video! I really think this guy might be an actual genius.

Auntie Fee's Sweet Treats for the Kids

I'd watch more cookery shows if they were like this. Effortlessly brilliant, gloriously coarse.

BBC Genome Project

This is interesting - find out what was on TV and the radio (or, if you're that old, 'the wireless') while you were being born. Or, y'know, whenever. Click here.

Daniel RAD-cliffe

I have a lot more respect for this little wizard now.

Cameron Carpenter's Incredible Organ

OK, I had to Google who Cameron Carpenter was. And yes, he is fully deserving of this savage parody.

How bus drivers deal with bagsnatchers

Friday, 24 October 2014

24/10/14 - Life, or whatever

Life. It’s a theme that often features in JuicyPips, variously espousing the importance of your actions, or dismissing the futility of them. Depends what sort of mood I’m in, really. But it’s probably time to pull these two diametrically-opposed theses into some sort of order. Give you two clear arguments so that you can just pick one. Yeah? So let’s start with the cheery, positive perspective…


Life, it goes without saying, is something to be cherished. When you think about your existence in mathematical terms, the likelihood of you being here at all are phenomenally small. Your parents were feeling amorous on that particular night nine months prior to your birth (or were sticking to a clinical calendar of dates and cycles, whatever), and of all those sticky little swimmers, you were the one that got through and made it to the egg. And as if those numbers weren’t mind-boggling enough, their parents did the same, and their parents, and their parents… when you follow the thread all the way back through the timeline of humanity (or, if you wish to stretch it yet further, through the evolution of all multi-cellular life forms, or even right back to the Big Bang), the chances of there being one of you, right here, right now, are really very small indeed. Well done. You made it.

So, what are you doing to celebrate this tremendous good fortune? Sitting there on the sofa in your pants, eating a massive bag of Doritos and watching an episode of Not Going Out that you’ve seen three times before? C’mon, that’s not what your grandfather shot a Nazi in the face for. That’s not why that diplodocus sneezed. That’s not why that single-celled protozoa started thinking about morphing with others to form clusters. Get out there and look at the world! It’s huge, and every part of it is the product of just as many mind-boggling coincidences as you are.

Your legacy, you see, will resonate through the ages. You only get to do this once. Think about the entire lifespan of planet Earth, compared to your own really quite short life. You will never, ever get to do this again. Make the most of it! Have fun! Look at stuff! Achieve things that your great-grandchildren will be proud to tell their friends about!

You have your health (and if you don’t, hell, you’re still alive), you have access to clean water, nutritious food, medication, support networks, and you’re able to read this, which means that a) you’re sufficiently educated to be able to read, b) you have access to the technology with which to do so, and c) you have the time to waste on entertaining yourself. OK, the world’s full of war and crime and natural disasters and shit, but it could be worse.


So, part two – the other side of the coin:

Yes, it is staggeringly impressive in statistical terms that you – specifically, you – came to exist. But don’t be too impressed with yourself, it’s not like you’re the only human who managed it. You are, to paraphrase Fight Club, not a beautiful or unique snowflake. There are several billion other people who got there too, most of whom couldn’t give a shit about your enthusiasm over the probability of it all.

You are a meaningless spec in space-time. The human race will eventually die out, that’s a certainty, and the planet will boil away into oblivion. Take a step back and look at the Earth from space, slowly rotating regardless of your actions, the universe just getting on with things - you play no part in this, you’re a grain of sand in an infinite hourglass. Humanity as a species is a disease upon a rock that would be in much better shape without us.

When you think about the age of the universe, years become largely irrelevant. What’s a million years in relation to the solar system? Chicken feed. But a million years to the human race? Where will we be in a million years’ time? Nowhere, that’s where. Extinct. Cosmically speaking, we’ll be of very little consequence – as important as the ice they found on Mars, or the glimmering tail of a comet; little more than an oh-that’s-interesting diversion. Nothing you do today means a single damn thing. So what if you forgot to eat breakfast or record EastEnders, or your roof’s leaking, or you’ve got a headache? Nobody cares. In the grand scheme of humanity, none of this has any value.

The best thing you can do is just try not to be too much of a dick. Don’t kill anyone, yeah? You might as well enjoy yourself while you’re here, it’s not as if it matters, but you won’t have any fun if you’re in prison – that’s a group of people who really have a handle on the futility of existence and the disregard of consequences. Exploit your freedom whilst maintaining a keen sense of how easily it can be removed.
Fuck your pension. Fuck saving up to buy a house. Fuck eating healthily and drinking in moderation. Fuck being nervous or shy or caring what people think. IT DOESN’T MATTER.

(n.b. It’s probably best to take both of these arguments with a pinch of salt, I may not be the most stable source of lifestyle advice…)

Ayoade vs. Guru-Murthy

Richard Ayoade transcending the concept of the interview here. Marvellous.


Oh, well played, Air New Zealand. Well played.


Some pretty dark stuff here.

Bobcat parking skills

How rare is the change in your pocket?

Do you give much thought to the coins you're carrying? Maybe you should. Look.

Tinchy Stryder & The Chuckle Brothers

Yep, this is a real thing that actually happened.

Bad Lip Reading - More NFL

An oldie but a goodie.

Friday, 10 October 2014

10/10/14 - Why you can't live on Venus

JuicyPips has tackled many deep, complex and meaningful issues over the years – which religion is correct, whether exams matter, what you can learn from working in a supermarket. It’s a public service I’m offering, really. (You’d know that if you’d read this rubbish book, or this one.)
So, continuing this ineffably helpful tradition, the theme for this week’s JuicyPips is: Why You Can’t Live on Venus.
People are always banging on about Mars and how exciting it is to explore. Maybe there was water there. Maybe the invaders of myriad sixties B-movies came from there. Blah blah. But what about poor old Venus? Earth’s neighbour on the other side is roughly the same size as our own planet, and is a bit closer to the sun – so surely that’d mean we could just transplant everything from here to there, and enjoy some hotter summers and less savage winters, right?
Er, sadly, no. Whereas the average surface temperature on Earth is 14 degrees centigrade, the average on Venus is 462 degrees. That’s quite high, and you’d probably spend all your time tip-toeing about at speed and wincing, like you do on a hot beach. (No, of course you wouldn’t – you’d die immediately from the heat, all the fluids in your body would just boil away.) There are a few other good reasons why you can’t live there – I know you’re always talking about moving there, how you think you’re a maverick to be considering Venus instead of Mars, but you’re being an idiot.

It’s really hard to get there
Venus is actually a lot closer to Earth than Mars is – about half the distance, in fact. So all of the hurdles that have presented themselves around getting probes to Mars (largely around fuel – you get into a vicious cycle where for every unit of fuel you load on board, you’re carrying more weight and thus need to load on yet more fuel to carry it [although this is really only a problem for the first bit of the journey, as you’re burning fuel off all the time {it’s the launch that’s the really tricky bit}]) are diminished somewhat in terms of distance. The heat is the problem. Flying closer to the sun does dangerous, burny things. And you certainly wouldn’t be able to land - we just haven’t developed the heatproofing to allow flight within the simmering Venusian airspace. Your craft would be on fire for the entire time you were flying over the planet, which wouldn’t be very long, as it would quickly disintegrate. But you wouldn’t know about that, as you’d have died long before.

The atmosphere is full of sulphuric acid
Shit, yeah – that’s a tricky one. Sulphuric acid is highly corrosive, and happily carves its way through flesh, metal and rock like a hot knife through, er, burning flesh. If you had a thick wetsuit and airtight breathing apparatus then you could probably float around a bit, provided that you somehow stayed about 35 miles above the surface, but that’d soon all melt away and the acid would blind you and eat your skin. But again, that might not be your biggest problem, given that you’d be on fire.

The surface is constantly plagued by hurricane-force winds
Let’s say you somehow managed to make it onto the surface of Venus and tried to walk about a bit. You’d have a really hard time. The howling, swirling gales wouldn’t just have you bent double, they’d be lifting you off the ground, slamming you back down, choking the air from your lungs…

…oh yeah, and there’s no oxygen
Humans have evolved to breathe oxygen. You know this. It works on Earth because there are plenty of happily photosynthesising green things strewn about the place, sucking in carbon dioxide and pumping out oodles of delicious oxygen.
How many Earth-y plants do you think there are growing on Venus?
That’s right, fuck all.
The atmosphere is extremely dense, and composed largely of carbon dioxide - if you want to breathe on Venus, you’d better bring a shitload of trees with you. And find some way to stop them catching fire.

It’d cost a bloody fortune
Imagine trying to explain it to your bank manager. ‘Sorry, you want to go where…?’

What would you eat?
You really haven’t thought this through. There’s no way you can grow any kind of crops on Venus, and it’s not like you can get fucking Ocado to pop round. What are you going to do, carry a lifetime’s supply of Pot Noodles on your spacecraft? You haven’t got enough fuel to carry it, you fucking chump.
Also, there’s nothing to drink – fluids immediately boil, and the planet has no magnetic field so all the hydrogen molecules get swept away into interplanetary space by solar winds, so the steam won’t even fall back down as rain. You can’t make water, even if you had some way to stop it disappearing. It’s hopeless.

The crushing loneliness would destroy you
There aren’t any humans on Venus, and nobody would be stupid enough to go with you. Some fairly simple calculations about radio waves, the speed of sound/light, how transmissions travel in a vacuum and what-have-you suggest that you’d have no contact whatsoever with Earth, unless you can convince NASA to divert their entire budget to your madcap removals project. (Or, y’know, try to fund it with Kickstarter or something.)
You’d have no access to the mass media, although arguably you might not be that interested in what the Kardashians are up to if you’re being whipped about by boiling winds and choking on corrosive acid. And when you take your phone out to tweet ‘I’m starting to regret this, it’s really inhospitable here #itburns’, it’d immediately catch fire before you got to type anything. And you wouldn’t have any signal.
Let’s pretend that you were somehow able to make yourself immortal: you’d go totally insane. Think of the Buddhist hell of Arbuda - a frozen plain swept by blizzards, in which one must exist naked and alone for the amount of time it would take to empty a barrel of sesame seeds if you were to remove a single seed every hundred years. Swap ‘frozen’ and ‘blizzards’ for ‘really fucking hot and windy’. Sounds ghastly. Or consider this quote from Hendrik Willem van Loon’s Story of Mankind: ‘High in the north in a land called Svithjod there is a mountain. It is a hundred miles long and a hundred miles high, and once every thousand years a little bird comes to this mountain to sharpen its beak. When the mountain has thus been worn away, a single day of eternity will have passed.’
Spending all that time with just the voice in your head for company? That doesn’t sound like any fun at all.

Seriously, Venus is really nasty. You don’t want to live there, give it up.


This is probably the most beautiful video about making bookcases you’ll see today.

Childhood books of yesteryear

Just wonderful on so many levels. Click here.

Cameron's Conference Rap

Retro Argos

Feeling nostalgic for the Argos catalogues of yore? Yeah, me too. Click here...

Kangaroo streetfight

This video is so Australian. Look, there's even a ute.

Flowers that look like other things

Oh, nature. You're so clever.

Breaking into Thorpe Park

Genuinely terrifying.

Thorne Travel 2014

Wow. Just... wow.

See, this is why you shouldn't make your own adverts.

Friday, 19 September 2014

19/09/14 - How to get ahead in advertising

I’ve been working in advertising since March 2006, and quite a lot’s changed since then. There used to be a Wii in reception, for a start. That came in very handy, because back then there was a real culture of meeting in the office bar on a regular basis; every Thursday and Friday night, the bar was packed with people blowing off steam with a pint or seven (and smoking indoors, natch – it was legal then) – it was weird if you weren’t there. That isn’t really the case any more. But it was pretty common to wake up on the weekend with a sore shoulder because you’d drunkenly indulged in rather too much Wii tennis the night before.
I came in on the tail end of the era of profligate spending; paid-for departmental lunches were commonplace – once a week, at least – and would often end in the afternoon being largely written off due to all the lunchbeers. Need to get across town afterwards? Simple, just call the company cab account, give ’em a made-up name and job number and joyride your way across the metrop gratis. (n.b. Obviously I never did this, that’s probably a sackable offence. Honestly, those scallywags.)

But for all that’s changed, there are certain perennial constants. Some things in advertising will never change. And speaking as someone who never studied advertising, never had any particular desire or inkling to work in the industry, fell into the job by accident and ended up sticking around for years, I can say with some confidence that it’s certainly possible to make a go of it in adland even if you know piss all about advertising. It’s a piece of cake – all you need to do is follow these simple rules, in the JuicyPips Guide to Getting Ahead in Advertising

Say the word ‘strategy’ a lot
This seems to be very important. No-one gives a fuck what it means – if, indeed, it means anything at all – but it’s vitally important to be seen to have a strategy. Or, at least, to be talking about one.
Be sure to play around with ‘strategise’, as well as misusing ‘stratify’, and deploying the hideous contraction ‘strat’.

Use horrible made-up words like ‘learnings’
Again, a lot of importance is placed on talking like a mindless illiterate. It’s ever so important to ‘share your learnings’, even if it does make everybody want to punch you in the head, you fucking idiot.

Don’t turn up on Fridays
Apparently this is OK.
I’m always here on Fridays, I’ve got shit to do. But no-one else is, it’s like the Marie Celeste. They can’t all be on a four-day week, can they? How are they getting away with it?
I guess if everyone’s out of the office, no-one’s there to tell them off. Interesting.
(I say ‘I’ve got shit to do’ – I generally spend Fridays nosing around in people’s desk drawers, skateboarding naked up and down the corridors, and leaving unsavoury substances in the water dispenser tanks.)

Massively overuse the phrase ‘going forward’ (or ‘moving forward’)
This irritates the hell out of me, but apparently it’s a necessary cog in the advertising machine. You’re never just coming up with an idea, it has to be ‘the idea going forward’. If you ever mention something that’s going to happen in the future, it’s mandatory to explain it as ‘moving forward, we’d like to do this…’
Try and slip it into every sentence, people will assume you’re a pro.

Work late, even though you don’t need to
I fell into this trap early on – I went through a phase of arriving at the office at 7am and working through to 7 or 8pm. For, like, months – it was exhausting. Because working hours are an arms race. If you’re the one who’s always in the office, perhaps you won’t be first against the wall when the redundancies come. Self-preservation, yeah?
(I don’t do this any more. I’m out of the door at bang-on 5:30 every day, which inevitably always leads to some berk in the lift saying ‘hur hur, leaving early are we?’ No. No, I’m not. I’ve done a day’s work, and now it’s home time. Stop showing off about how hard you’re working, no-one’s impressed.)

Huff and puff a lot
Further to the above, you’ll do yourself a lot of favours by creating the appearance of being busy. If you’re always a bit frazzled and worked-up, you’re probably indispensable, right? So when you’re waiting at the printer for something to pop out of the slot, or tapping your toes as you wait for the elevator to come, or just making a cup of tea in the kitchen, be sure to huff and puff impatiently throughout. Your time is invaluable, and everyone needs to appreciate that. Constant, aggressive exhalation will let everybody know.

Walk everywhere quickly, holding a piece of paper
Similarly, striding briskly through the office will reinforce the point that you’re very busy and important. If you’re holding a piece of paper (and it can be any piece of paper, no-one will look at it), it’s probably something vital that you need to get to somebody else without delay.
Be sure to always be too busy to talk to anyone as well – even if you’re travelling down a few floors in the lift with somebody (which is a finite period of time, in which it makes absolutely no difference whether you’re chatty or not). Just spend your time exaggeratedly looking at your watch every three seconds and quietly muttering ‘comeoncomeoncomeon’.

Refer to a PowerPoint presentation as ‘a deck’
Everybody in advertising does this. Nobody else in the world does. It’s just one of those mysteries.

Talk about Creatives as if they’re some kind of alien species
Creative folk get a capital C because it’s their role as much as their calling (see also Planners). They can generally be found hanging out in pairs – one of them writing the words, the other drawing the pictures. On the whole, they’re very interesting people – this makes sense, as they have that wonderfully child-like, inquisitive nature that leads them to want to create and share new things. They usually have a broad and extensive knowledge of advertising history, art and culture in general, human behaviour and much else of interest.
It is vitally important, however, that you never acknowledge this. They must be lumped together as a common, sinister entity, ‘the Creatives’, a collective to be simultaneously afraid and suspicious of, and slightly irritated by. On no account must you acknowledge that they’re people, and are probably quite nice. For some reason, that’s just not on.

Complain about business travel
You get to fly at 500mph in a colossal metal bird, for free, then stay in a foreign hotel, again for free. Imagine what your teenage self would have made of that idea.
But no, it’s awful.

Don’t be ashamed to reel out the clichés
Oh, there’s a lot of this. You’ll hear phrases like ‘outside the box’ and ‘blue sky thinking’ on a daily basis, along with pseudo-ironic variants like ‘let’s blue sky this’. Incredibly, ‘grasp the low-hanging fruit’ actually gets a regular airing too, along with the repulsive ‘hearts and minds’. The more you cheese it up, the more you’ll sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Say weird phrases with such confidence that everyone assumes they should know what it means and thus never question it
What do you think a ‘tissue meeting’ is?
Nope, me neither. Nobody knows. But a lot of them happen, and you’re not allowed to question it because everyone else will assume that you’re not as good at advertising as they are, despite not knowing themselves. It’s a sort of test.
Tissue meetings are generally just rooms full of people uneasily eyeing each other up to see who’ll crack first.

Act like you’re in Nathan Barley, in a totally brazen and unselfconscious manner
This is particularly important if you work in digital, social, or any other adjective that the industry insists on using as a noun. Wear a suit jacket over a t-shirt. Have at least two phones on you at any given time. Reel off a lot of pithy comments about the state of Apple Corp that you’ve stolen from Wired magazine. Make sure that your legs are half-business-half-pleasure (in either combination – pinstripe trousers with Converse All-Stars, or skinny jeans with patent leather shoes). Directly quote Nathan Barley – ‘well Jackson’, ‘totally fucking Mexico’, etc – in an attempt to create an impression of irony. Fill your office with novelty items you’ve stolen from shoots. Wear sunglasses indoors.

Drop acronyms willy-nilly
Acronyms are the lifeblood of the industry. On your first day, if you’re lucky, someone will kindly explain the difference between ATL and BTL… if they don’t, you’ll be immediately baffled by the sheer volume of mentions.
You’ll be needing B2B and B2C of course, that’s basic stuff. And then there’s CPL, POS, SME, DRTV, WoM, CTR, MPS, AIDA, CAB, DAGMAR… it’s all BS, of course, but necessary.

See? It’s easy. I’ve been here eight and a half years and nobody’s noticed that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. They’ll read this and assume that I’m joking too. (And this. [And this.]) Oh, what a glorious gravy train this industry is.

Tube racing

Who needs public transport anyway? Just sprint everywhere...

Grampa & Grandmaster Flash

A simple but beautiful thing, this. You know how Facebook tries to autofill names of people or pages as you're typing? Well, quite a lot of grandmas are accidentally signing off their posts as Grandmaster Flash. Look!

Homeless Millennial

Shagging your way around New York is certainly one way to deal with homelessness...

Unleashed in Ensenada

Ballistic BJ Baldwin has an impressively bouncy truck.

Lie Witness News: Fashion Week

Incredible. Just incredible.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

11/09/14 - Wiring plugs, and so on

I clearly remember being taught how to wire a plug in a science lesson at school. It felt like a useful skill, and our science rooms had a good earthy feel to them – gas taps on every bench that allowed you to shoot out three-foot flames, sinks with wooden covers beneath which you could hide each other’s books in six inches of water, actual inkwells – so it was a distinctly dad-like task.
Ultimately pointless, of course, for two reasons: a) everything comes with a plug these days, and b) if you need to know how to do it, you just Google it. (As with so many things, in fact – it’s 2014, you don’t need to remember anything. [As long as the internet doesn’t break, then we’re all fucked.] Just don’t tell the schoolkids, it keeps them busy.) I couldn’t tell you with total confidence which wire is which now – not without checking – which presumably demonstrates a certain improvement in the consistency of modern electricity supply, that we haven’t got fuses blowing all the time. There were always spare fuses about the house when I was a nipper. I’ve never bought one as an adult though. Interesting.
Wiring a plug, then, is something that the youth of today would have little interest in. It’s not something they’re all that likely to do. And it’s not the only thing that’d seem baffling and pointless if you tried to explain it, as the following examples suggest…

Tapes & pencils
Sit a teenager down and present them with two objects: a cassette tape and a pencil. Ask them to explain the relationship between the two.
If they’re of a logical disposition, they may postulate that the pencil is for labelling the cassette – the erasable nature of pencil rather than pen going neatly hand-in-hand with the re-recordability of the tape.
But no. It’s obvious to anyone who grew up in the eighties and nineties - a standard six-sided pencil is exactly the right size to poke through the cassette’s reel holes to wind all the tape back in when the machine decides to try and eat it.
Honestly, they don’t know they’re born, with their mp3s and whatnot.

Programming the VCR
A really important element of my childhood holidays was programming the video recorder before we left. It was important to ensure that the machine was on long-play – reduced quality, but doubled run time – so that a 180-minute cassette could be stretched out to a wafer-thin 360. That’s enough space for twelve half-hour episodes of… whatever.
Then I had to make sure that the machine was properly tuned into the channels – all four of them - as it had a tendency to forget about BBC2, and that’s where the best comedy was. Then it was a case of going through the Radio Times, seeing what was coming up in the next month or so (my folks were teachers, we had long summer holidays), and painstakingly programming all the good stuff in. This involved all sorts of tricky timing as most of the good stuff was on Friday nights – if you programmed in Have I Got News For You, you’d probably miss the first five minutes of Whose Line Is It Anyway. And so on.
On returning home, we’d invariably find a tape that was 50% good stuff, 50% randomly recorded episodes of Tomorrow’s World or The Clothes Show, thanks to scheduling changes that the VCR couldn’t do anything about. (We didn’t have VideoPlus.)
These days, I’ve got an app on my phone that allows me to set the Sky+ in seconds. Where’s the bloody challenge in that?

Watching TV in real time
Imagine making the choice between watching something on TV or going out. Imagine missing half of a programme because the phone rings mid-way through. Imagine missing an episode of your favourite series, and having no way of catching up unless one of your mates happened to have taped it. These all seem like incredible and absurd happenings to the modern teen. If you didn’t see it, you just watch it on catch-up, or find it online, or whatever. No-one watches TV when it’s actually on these days, do they?
When I was a kid (sorry, I keep saying that – I’m 32, I’m not decrepit yet) we had four channels, and you watched things when they were on. If you were out at the time, you just accepted that you’d missed it. What a ridiculous, caveman-like way to live.

Writing a letter to a celebrity
It must seem so absurdly old-fashioned to the modern teen, the idea that you’d ever bother to physically put pen to paper and scribble down a few thoughts, then fold it up, buy a stamp, pop it into a letterbox addressed to the person in question’s PA or agent or whoever’s address you’d managed to track down, and cross your fingers for a response.
I wrote a letter to Zoë Ball when I was about eleven or twelve (I can’t remember what I said, probably something along the lines of ‘I think you’re great on Live & Kicking’), and a few weeks later she did actually write back (again, can’t remember what she said, but probably something like ‘er, cheers’). I mean, it might not even have been her, I don’t know what her handwriting looks like. Doesn’t really matter though, does it?
Kids today would just tweet the celeb in question, and either get a reply or not. Instant gratification, or something immediately forgotten.
I should have kept that letter, it’d really help to reinforce this point.

I came up with a whole load of further points to elaborate upon here (getting milk delivered to your doorstep, listening to John Peel on the radio, fondly remembering celebrities of yore without wondering whether they were actually paedophiles, going to the video rental shop, arranging to meet up with friends over the landline, people smoking in pubs, the secrets of preparing a good conker [which always came from a dad or uncle, passed down the generations], paying for things with cheques, going on holiday in the knowledge that you wouldn’t talk to any of your friends until you got back [unless you bought a telephone card and went to the phone box], slam-door trains that you could jump out of while they were moving, being really impressed to know someone who’d been to America) but I’m aware that I sound like a very old man, so I’m just going to stop here. I’m not complaining about the modern world, I like it. It’s just different, innit? A plug on every appliance, and a smooth flow of electricity. Aren’t we lucky?