Friday, 31 January 2014

31/01/14 - The North-South Divide

There’s a debate that’s destined to rage well beyond the point when the sun burns out and the hunched rodent-men that the human race has evolved into are forced to scurry for cover under the oversized palm fronds of the 40th century: which is better, south London or north London?

Spoiler alert: the answer is obvious. South London is better, by miles.

People who live on the wrong side of the river will fervently disagree with this, but they can safely be ignored; they’re not as sophisticated or evolved as us southern dandies, and their monosyllabic, malformed grunts and baffled demeanour are no match for our superior articulacy, clean clothes and complicated mobile telecommunications devices. Also, there’s a muscular body of water separating us, and they’ll never work out how to ford that without accidentally ingesting a gallon or two of treacherous effluent, so we can safely thumb our noses at them across the Thames without fear of attack. (To be honest, even if they do somehow work out how to traverse a bridge without shitting themselves messily to death in fear of troll attack, all you need to do is close a door between you and them; the doorknob will stymie them so comprehensively that they’ll scratch their scalps until they make it through the bone and into the pulpy, pink marshland beneath.)

Why is it so much better down below the river? Well, for a start, south London’s got Wandsworth in it. Forget Westminster: Wandsworth is the heart of London, which effectively makes it the most important place in England.
The core of Wandsworth is the Platinum Waffle (known to estate agents as ‘the Tonsleys’), which is a magical middle/upper-class wonderland, protected by an invisible but effective forcefield to bounce the plebs around the edges. You are technically allowed to live in the Tonsleys if you don’t own a Volvo XC90, but you have to sign a waiver that says you will buy one at some point in the near future. The Alma serves as a gateway to the Tonsleys, giving Australians somewhere to watch sport and observe the wealthy pass by, resplendent in flip-flops, disposable income and carefree attitude.
But Wandsworth isn’t elitist. Oh, no. Poor people are allowed to live in the tower block next to Southside, the gangsta-monikered Jekyll-and-Hyde shopping centre with Poundland at one end and Waitrose at the other.
There’s a swanky riverfront (the Thames speed limit ends at Wandsworth Bridge, so you can observe some aquatic hooliganism as you sip your vodka Martini), a lush and verdant common, and the jewel in the crown: Old York Road. It’s so pretty and villagey that they’re always filming cutaways from property programmes outside the various bistros. It’s like being in Barnes, but with fewer ducks.

South London also offers you quick and easy access to all the best counties. Where can you get to from north of the river? Hertfordshire? Buckinghamshire? That’s shit. From the south you can slip into Kent, the Garden of England, with ease – this pisses the north London folk off no end; they’ve heard of this mythical land called Whitstable, but have absolutely no idea how to get there. You can glide seamlessly into Surrey – perfect if you’re into big houses and Range Rovers – and carry right on over to Hampshire, which is like driving through a Wodehouse novel. Fancy taking a cruise into Essex (the cunningest county of all, which has kept its gorgeous countryside and rolling coastline a lovely little secret by creating The Only Way Is Essex, thereby ensuring that nobody wants to go there)? Make a beeline for Kent, then spear off at the last minute and rumble through the Dartford Tunnel. As tunnels go, it’s pretty bloody good – thunderous acoustics if you’re driving something meaty, and lots of Hollywood-esque fans on the ceiling. Awesome.

The south of most places is generally superior to the north, and that’s a solid gold fact. Look at North Korea. It’s rubbish. South Korea is a sensible place with proper businesses and a decent moral code and stuff, while north of the border is just like being jabbed in the sphincter with a rolled-up spike of the past. Crying. In a dustbin. With Kim Jong-un slapping your face with his despotic genitals.
The south of France is way better than the north too. It’s hotter, has a broader selection of cured meats, the wines are more robust, and they have a Spanish twang to their accents which makes a mockery of that Parisian French you learned at school.
And why do you think Wellington is on the very southernmost point of New Zealand’s North Island? So that it can gaze in wonder at the beauty of the vastly superior South Island.

The easiest argument for south London being better than north London is that, well, it just obviously is. Look at that Run London thing Nike did in 2006, where they pitted the humans from the south against the subhuman baggage from the north; they were just stirring up trouble – the northerners were running from the police, and the southerners were running from the northerners. It’s a metaphor for England as a whole.

OK, there is some good stuff north of the river. You’ve got the verdant expanses of various lovely parks. There are impressive museums and theatres. Pretty much everything between Holland Road and Bishopsgate - flanked by the A40/A501 above and the river below - is worth wandering around, actually. But down south we’ve got the South Bank, Clapham Common, Dulwich, Crystal Palace, some sort of tennis competition in SW19, the enormous Chicken Cottage on Upper Tooting Road, the official centre of all time itself at Greenwich (your wristwatches would make no sense without us), a pretty big IKEA, Clapham Junction (you can get anywhere in the world from there), Chessington World of Adventures, the London Heliport (which is miles better than Heathrow), the Tate Modern, that bus depot where they filmed a bit of The Apprentice, the Ritzy cinema, that recycling plant where they filmed a bit of The Apprentice, Barnes Common, Vinopolis and, er, my flat. So there.
Famous south London residents include Adam & Joe, Gok Wan, Rio Ferdinand’s aunt, Judith Chalmers, Gordon Ramsay, Skin from Skunk Anansie, Mel & Sue, Jimmy White, Charlie Chaplin, Jamie T, King Henry VIII, Dizzee Rascal, Ronnie Corbett, Ben Elton, Jeff Beck, H.G. Wells, Athlete (the band), Jerry Springer, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Saracen from Gladiators, Joanna Lumley, Bloc Party, Martin Clunes, Spike Milligan and Bradley from S Club Seven. Who have you got up north? Jack the Ripper? Jog on...

Also, north London is where all the crime is. That’s what I heard.

Jedi Party

In your face, Jar Jar.

A. History

There are countless Twitter accounts that pinch historical photos and share them without attribution. This magnificent account trolls them all by using old pictures and basically just making shit up. Magical. Clicky.

Ticket barrier: Song 2

Quite simply one of the greatest videos that the internet has to offer.

Bad Lip-Reading - 'More NFL'

These are always superb.

Seattle in mega-res

Impressively zoomable, and with hidden arty Easter eggs too! Clicky.

Crossrail in pictures

Tunnelling under London is, as you might imagine, quite complex. Look!

Friday, 24 January 2014

24/01/14 - Celebrity penpal

Communicating with celebrities is very easy these days. This is largely a positive thing, as it allows fans to run their fingers through the astral trails of the stars they so idolise, and it can also be helpful to famous folk to have an open dialogue with their fans, knowing what interests and engages them. It makes the previously compartmentalised concept of ‘celebrity’ more of a blurred line – following an actor or musician or comedian on Twitter shows us that they’re just people; they have expired milk in the fridge, they have plumbing issues, they watch EastEnders, they got stuck in traffic this morning. It’s all very real.
The flipside of this, of course, is that a lot of people are arseholes. Some fall under the clich├ęd banner of being unsatisfied with their lot and jealous of the trappings of celebrity (money, big houses, widespread admiration and so forth) that throws the mundanity of their own lives into sharp focus, causing them to digitally lash out. But some people are just arseholes generally, who like being unpleasant to people because, well, that’s what they do. And there’s a huge number of people shielded by the anonymity of teh internetz who define the term ‘keyboard warrior’; they say rude things that they’d never say to your face because, hey, you’ll never find them.
An open forum is, to horribly mix a metaphor (and split an infinitive there, sorry), a double-edged sword. But for better or worse, the likelihood of a famous person actually reading something you’ve written is higher than it’s ever been.

Let me tell you about how I interacted with a celebrity back in the nineties, before all of this social media chicanery; the story of how I made friends in an analogue sense with the guitarist from The Saw Doctors.

Now, first of all, shut up, The Saw Doctors were properly famous. They were on Top of the Pops and everything. I know I spend a lot of time banging on about music in JuicyPips and I like to think my musical tastes are pretty cool (of course, you’d only agree with this if your own tastes are pretty similar – that’s how music works), and I acknowledge that The Saw Doctors may not have been considered conventionally cool by my teenage peers back then – that’s kids for you - but nevertheless the story stands.
For the uninitiated, The Saw Doctors are an Irish folk-infused rock band from Tuam, County Galway. They’ve been going with various line-ups since 1986, and achieved bona fide international fame in the early nineties. I hate the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ (if you like something, you like it), so instead I’ll say that they’re a band I listened to when I was a kid as well as being obsessed with the likes of Green Day, Offspring and Terrorvision. Diverse tastes, etc.

My parents were big fans of theirs, so we went to quite a few Saw Doctors gigs when I was young. My dad’s friend David is a kind of John Peel character with an encyclopaedic knowledge of countless genres of music – plus a house full of records – and he somehow knew the band, so we usually ended up backstage after the show, our parents enjoying a pint with the lads while us kids pestered them for autographs.
Over the course of these various meetings, I became penpals with Leo Moran, guitarist and founding member of the band. He was just a nice, friendly bloke, happy to spin a yarn and shoot the breeze. (And no, there was nothing of the Operation Yewtree about it, get your mind out of the gutter. Innocent times, these were.)
David and his family went out to Tuam to have a little holiday with The Saw Doctors one summer, the band happy to show them proudly around their hometown, jam a little with them, make them welcome. All very wholesome and pleasant.
Leo and I were penpals for years. I used to ask him questions about what it was like to be famous. I asked him about how it felt to be on stage, and on TV. I asked him what he liked about being in a band. (‘Making a living doing what I love, with my best friends,’ he replied. That’s the dream, right there.) I asked what car he drove. I seem to remember it was a Rover 200. In his letters he was friendly, humble, cheerful and chatty, and always said something along the lines of ‘well, come on, we’re not that famous really. We’re just some guys who play songs.’ Removing the fame element, he was just a man in a different country with an interesting job, which was enough in itself to spark a conversation. But what I really loved about the whole interchange was that every now and then I’d come home from school to find an envelope with an Irish postmark on the doormat, a handwritten letter inside offering a glimpse into an alternate reality.

It’s easy to collar a celeb on Twitter these days. Back in the nineties you had to put a bit more effort in, using pens and that. People don’t write to each other very much these days. We really should. When was the last time you checked the post and found something other than a bill, a bank statement, or something you ordered from Amazon…? And when was the last time you received a handwritten letter from an Irish guitarist? They were good days, they were.

I’m old enough to buy Leo a pint now. I’m going to tweet this to him and see if he remembers me.

Noel's DVD commentary

Whatever your feelings about Oasis and/or Noel Gallagher, this should amuse you. If you're a fan like me, all the better.

Fake Tube signs

These have been doing the rounds again this week. Very entertaining. Clicky.

Cruising Electric

'All the back alley action!' Marvellous.

Sugar, Sugar

Annoyingly addictive logic game. Click here.

Hipster Psycho

Excellent jeans ad, remaking American Psycho with Shoreditchite fancy lads.


Two brothers recreating photos from their younger years. Wonderful. Clicky.

Creepy Chinese ghost cities

'A conference call in real life'

Very well observed, this.

Firestarter lullaby

Firestarter (Lullaby Version) from KabanoFF on Vimeo.

Rubber band machine gun

Every home needs one of these. I can already think of a dozen uses.

Another YouTube comment reconstruction

These are good, aren't they?

Exploring the Packard plant on a dirt bike

Exploring Detroit's Packard plant on a dirt bike from cantini pictures ltd on Vimeo.

Friday, 17 January 2014

17/01/14 - #BenefitsStreet

There’s been a lot of chatter around Channel 4’s Benefits Street recently. The phrase that critics have been hurling around is ‘poverty porn’ – lasciviously peeping at the lurid details of other people’s unfortunate situations for our own filthy entertainment. It’s the kind of incendiary tabloid-infused reality docu-drama that deliberately aims to rub Twitter grumblers up the wrong way by its inclusion of the word ‘benefits’ in the title. That’s a Daily Mail ear-pricker right there.

On the face of it, as many have pointed out, it’s a fairly horrible premise. A whole street of people who are out of work and scratching a living, placed into a fishbowl for the titillation of middle-class gawpers. The way the producers set the scene as being some kind of latter-day hippie commune initially smacks of the inauthentic, with the de facto mother figure sorting out everyone’s benefits issues while all around leave their front doors unlocked and live in jovial harmony. There’s a reel of rogues on the street – the alcoholic who can’t see his kids, the shoplifter who keeps getting arrested, the guy growing weed in his spare room – who give viewers plenty to be angry about, while their repeated references to receiving benefits as ‘getting paid’ demonstrates a certain lack of respect for the system; it’s not a helping hand for people who are actively trying to get back into work, it’s a supplementary income to pay for fags and lager for a group of people who consider themselves above the law.

This, of course, is unfair and sensationalist. The very fact that the desperate situation of these people has been broadcast along with their exact location opens a path to a sort of macabre poverty tourism, while all manner of hideous threats are being levelled at the ‘stars’ of the show. Imagine what targets they’ve suddenly become. Ask yourself why they’re on TV in the first place – it’s notoriously difficult to get people on the poverty line to discuss their benefit situation, so why do we have a whole street of people willing to open up their lives for the judgement of the public, in the certain knowledge that they’ll be mocked and derided? Is it because they have nothing else to fill their time and will grab at the opportunity for reality TV fame at any cost, or is it that they feel an open forum on their situation might improve their lot? The latter seems far more likely, and press reports that certain ‘characters’ have since received multiple job offers bolsters this. (Further reports that they were all duped into a protracted ridicule showcase on the production company’s word that the show would be a sensitive portrayal of community spirit in harsh economic times is another matter.)

Benefits Street is not representative of everybody on benefits in Britain – it is merely representative of that particular street. And even then, it’s the edited, mangled version that’s fed to us, complete with theme music and hashtags. The 50p man was the star of the first episode – a reformed criminal who makes his living by dividing a variety of household goods (washing liquid, toilet roll, tea bags, you name it) into small quantities and selling them door-to-door for fifty pence apiece. His soothing voice and demeanour of genuinely trying to help others as well as himself was endearing, as was his awareness that even 50p might be a stretch for a community as impoverished as James Turner Street, where families struggle to even afford basic groceries, and where nobody has 50p just lying around. This counterpoint to the street’s unashamed and unapologetic shoplifter offers essential diversity, breaking the cycle of showing a collection of people to be sneered at. It’s these green shoots of humanity that should be focused on, not the relentless naughtiness of other figures. The street is diverse, because the world is. No amount of cynical editing can paper over that.
The second episode had a rather different focus, swinging between one group of migrants and another – the Romanians who moved in, the travellers who set up their caravans at the end of the street, then back to another group of Romanians who replaced the first lot. These Romanians came across as ineffably charming and pleasant, refusing to let a desperate and appalling situation crush their spirit. ‘Hope is the last thing I can lose,’ smiled one (having been chased out of his home on James Turner Street by a dangerous employer and finding himself sleeping rough in a park). And all the while, the cameras focus on local residents yelling racist abuse at the newcomers, casting aspersions over their intentions, moral values and general cleanliness. Is this xenophobia representative of the whole caricaturised sub-class of People On Benefits that the show aims variously to create, sensationalise and propagate? No, it can’t be. Again, it’s probably not even representative of that street. But it makes good telly.

Yes, some of the families have incongruously big tellies, but they’re probably not the pondlife that the #BenefitsStreet hashtag would have you believe. As a manufactured gallery of outcasts, Benefits Street will have you watching open mouthed. But as a snapshot of genuine modern-day hardship with tales of day-to-day human bonding, it’s rather heartwarming. Watch with an open mind, I say. It’s important to remember that while £1.2bn in benefits was lost to fraud last year, £16bn went unclaimed – the showboating of some claimants is not representative of the whole. There is no average profile of a benefits claimant any more than there is one of a 9-5 worker or a millionaire. The show uses existing prejudices against people on benefits to reinforce the stereotypes that they’re workshy, criminals, or both. But if you push past the hate-woven curtain, you’ll find humans behind it. Don’t lose faith in people. Incendiary hashtags are not the boss of you.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The history and future of everything

It's only a brief sneeze of time, isn't it? Might as well enjoy yourself.


Excellent new Guinness ad...

...and the story behind it.

Who is Henry Kelly?

Would the makers of Going For Gold have used this screengrab-able formula had they known what the internet would be like? Yeah, probably. Click here, it's ace.

Muppets Most Wanted

Great trailer, this.

Mesmerising loop portraits

The constraints of Blogger don't allow me to show you how cool these are. See? That picture below is just a picture, it's not moving at all. Not even slightly. So you'll have to click here, yeah?


A very disturbing anti-speeding ad.

Florida Man

This Twitter account is inspired: taking headlines that involve the phrase 'Florida man', and suggesting they're all attributable to a dysfunctional superhero named Florida Man. Look.

8-bit Pulp Fiction

Photoshop time-travel

This is a lovely idea - a woman has Photoshopped herself into pictures from her past. Clicky.

Awkward high-fives

Ah c'mon, we've all done it.

YouTube 2013

Adam Buxton helpfully summarises everything that happened on YouTube last year.

Friday, 10 January 2014

10/01/14 - The JP '95 Mix

Mixtapes, as I’ve banged on about repeatedly in JuicyPips over the years, formed a very significant part of my childhood. There’s something intensely personal about splicing together your favourite tunes of the moment into one place – it may not always be the kind of in-depth ‘the lyrics communicate my feelings’ approach that you find in High Fidelity, but it’s an excellent way to project your character onto something shareable.
One of the most significant mixtapes I ever made happened back in 1995. I’ll explain why it was so significant in a little while, but first we’re going to go through it track by track and dig through the wonders within. (It does break the golden rule of the mixtape and contain more than one track by a couple of the bands in question, but hey, I was young.) And yes, I made it for a girl.

Side A
Reef – Naked
This was one of my favourite songs in the mid-nineties, and appeared on most of my mixtapes of the era. Even now, that kickass riff puts a big grin on my face. You may remember this track from Sony’s adverts for the launch of MiniDisc.

(Random fact about Reef: their guitarist is a chap named Kenwyn House. There’s a building in EastEnders that is also named Kenwyn House. Ten internet points to anyone who can tell me why this is.)

The Stone Roses – Love Spreads
Picking a ‘favourite song of all time’ is an impossible task, but I’ve always considered Love Spreads to be a strong contender. My controversial viewpoint that Second Coming was the Roses’ best album is firmly bolstered in my mind by the fact that this track is utterly, utterly flawless.

Green Day – Geek Stink Breath
Perhaps not the most romantic song to put on a mixtape you’re planning to give to a girl you like… it’s about the effects of methamphetamine on the human body. But it’s got a killer riff, and that’s the kind of thing I like.

Ash – Girl From Mars
Ash’s 1977 album, released in 1996, was a masterpiece. And Girl From Mars was its lead single, released in July ’95, so this was a brand new track for me to put on the tape. It grew into a recurring mixtape favourite of mine.
Tim Wheeler wrote this song when he was sixteen, and when they performed Girl From Mars on Top of the Pops it was just two weeks since Ash had finished their A-levels. Now that’s what you call a role model.

Elastica – Connection

Elastica’s debut album was ace – Waking Up, Stutter, Annie, Car Song, it’s all great. But Connection was EVERYWHERE in ’95. Real feelgood song, and by now it’s one that everybody knows inside out.

Foo Fighters – This Is A Call
I was a massive Nirvana fan, as were most people I knew. Kurt’s suicide in April ’94 was still a fresh memory, but Dave Grohl’s first Foo Fighters album of July ’95 – upon which he played every instrument, writing and recording the whole thing himself, using the album as a sort of personal grief therapy – was exactly what Nirvana fans needed. Raw, emotional, jam-packed with incredible tunes. For All The Cows was my favourite track, but This Is A Call seemed to fit better on this tape.

Offspring – Come Out and Play
Smash was one of those albums that everyone loved in ’95; its first single, 1994’s Come Out and Play, was the song that pushed The Offspring (who dropped the ‘The’ for this album for some reason) into the mainstream. One of those great songs that takes a dark theme and makes it incongruously jangly and upbeat. A classic.

Terrorvision – Discotheque Wreck
I loved Terrorvision so much as a teenager. (Although, as the track listing of this tape demonstrates, they were clearly playing second fiddle to Green Day at this moment in 1995). Their second album, How To Make Friends and Influence People, was studded with gems, and this particular one is great to sing along to.

Nirvana – Territorial Pissings
It was annoying that the pop kids at school claimed to be Nirvana fans because they’d heard Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio. Territorial Pissings was a very real antidote to that plastic fandom – a blistering, angry little number that cut-through the major label success and back to their punk roots.

Side B

Dodgy – Staying Out for the Summer
…because I was very much an indie kid as much as I was into punk and grunge. This is Dodgy’s best song by far – a solid-gold slice of indie perfection. That miniature guitar solo at the end is sublime.

Green Day – Having A Blast
Another Green Day track, this time from 1994’s Dookie album. Just a great, great song.

Oasis – Roll With It
In hindsight, there are many, many better Oasis songs I could have chosen. (The Some Might Say b-side Headshrinker would have worked a lot better on this tape.) I imagine Roll With It had only just been released as I was making the tape and I wanted to appear cutting-edge. Nevertheless, a classic tune.

Offspring – Something To Believe In
Another song from Smash here – well, there were a lot of great ones to choose from – which counterpoints the indie stuff that sandwiches it on this tape by kicking off with an evil guitar squeal and divebombs into some seriously heavy riffing. Magic.

Cast – Finetime

The debut single by Cast, and bloody good it was too.
(Random fact about the album All Change: it was precisely sixty minutes long. Not sure if that has any significance.)

Poison – Unskinny Bop
Er… yeah, this song stands out a mile on this tape, it doesn’t fit in at all. Random bit of eighties hair metal. But I was very into Poison when I was younger, so I guess this peculiar tribute to casual misogyny and well-kept hair was a hangover from that.

Teenage Fanclub – Sparky’s Dream
Confession time: I bought Teenage Fanclub’s Grand Prix album purely because I liked the cover. I knew nothing about them before then. But I’m very glad I did, it’s a consistently excellent album throughout, and this song is the pick of the bunch.

Green Day – When I Come Around
Blimey, a third outing for Green Day! Another belter from Dookie here. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant song.

Supergrass – Alright

Supergrass’ debut album, I Should Coco, was a magnificent thing. (Their subsequent five albums were pretty magnificent too.) And Alright was arguably the weakest song on it – kinda cheesy, massively overplayed… but you know what? It’s a proper feelgood track too, and it was a great closer for this tape. I think it sits at the end rather well.

So why was this tape, the ‘JP ’95 Mix’, so significant? Well, I made it for a girl I liked at school. And she is now my wife. And she still has the tape – see the photo below.
See? That’s the power of the mixtape. It’s not just a frivolous disregard of copyright laws – the right mix can change your life.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Reservoir Dogs in 140 characters

Some patient soul has retold Reservoir Dogs in its entirety on Twitter, with separate accounts for each character. Must have taken ages... and a very organised mind. Click here.

The Butcher

The very definition of disaffection.

100 years of rock

This is really cool. And each genre is clickable, to demonstrate what it entails. Very, very good indeed.

Badass Fanarts

Systematically destroying your childhood memories. Clicky.

Davina: intense

Letters, etc

Some stunning typography here. Check out the Olly Murs music room!

Amazon Critics

Scathing Amazon reviews, turned into movie posters. Clicky.

Mom Song

This is nicely done.

My Cloud Pal

This is fun. A woman loses her iPhone; its subsequent keeper (who presumably found or bought it) likes to take a lot of selfies. These selfies all appear in her iCloud. So she likes to re-enact them. Look here.