Friday, 25 April 2014

25/04/14 - Words an' that

‘Words without thoughts never to heaven go.’ 

‘Hamlet’ - Act 3, Scene 3.

Writing about writing is a dangerous thing for two key reasons: firstly, you risk coming across as a pretentious smartarse - I opened with a Shakespeare quote so I’ve pretty much ticked that box already - and secondly, the myriad errors within what you write will invariably be picked out by pedants and fired back at you. (Note that I didn’t say ‘the myriad of’ – that’s what stupid people say.) Nevertheless, the gibbering of this week’s JuicyPips centres around grammatical constructs, modes of punctuation, behaviours and literary devices that can confuse, annoy and/or entertain. Enjoy, or don’t.  

The dangling modifier

This may sound amusingly disingenuous but is a real thing, and you’ve probably experienced a number of them already today, particularly if you’re a Facebook user. Facebook statuses seem to be the natural modern home of the dangling modifier.
The basic principle is that the writer intends to modify, for example, the subject of a sentence, but structures the word order so that the modifier applies to the object instead; there are various other means of leaving a modifier dangling too, giving no clear indicator of what exactly is referring to what. And from thence the hilarity arises. Take the following ambiguous sentences:
‘After being abandoned for years in a dusty attic, I found my old record player.’
‘She left the room fuming.’
‘A bird was eating his sandwich, so he violently squished it.’
…and this famous quote from Groucho Marx:
‘One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I’ll never know.’
Some people do this on purpose, some don’t. It’s funny either way.

The Oxford comma
I use this just to piss people off, but also because it doesn’t make sense to me not to.
Commas are used as a separating device, making it obvious which parts of a sentence fit together without the need for countless scattergun sentences that make you sound like a robot. The rules around when and where to use commas are ambiguous; I’ve been accused of overusing them, but I like my writing to have the feel of how it would be spoken aloud, so I tend to leave appropriate pauses for breath. But I digress… The Oxford comma is used as a final separation in a list of three or more things. Take this festive example, expressed with and without the Oxford comma:
‘The three kings brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.’
‘The three kings brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.’
See? It makes sense for it to be there, doesn’t it? Otherwise the last two items in the list get lumped in together – you might assume that one king brought the gold, another brought the frankincense and the myrrh, and the third king didn’t bring anything at all.
Unfortunately (and I don’t know if this is still the case, but it certainly was when I was at school), kids are taught never to put a comma before ‘and’ or ‘or’. And that’s just wrong. (They’re also taught not to start sentences with ‘and’, which is possibly a fair instruction. But sometimes I like to. [And also with ‘but’.])

The ellipsis is something else that I heavily overuse, but it’s a really useful punctuation device. This is an ellipsis: ‘…’
Ostensibly intended to replace missing sections of text (for example, if you were quoting a three-sentence statement from someone but only using the first and third sentences, you’d intersperse them with an ellipsis), its more common use is to sit within or at the end of a sentence to imply a certain mysterious tailing-off. You’ll see later that this piece ends on an ellipsis, as does this sentence…
One well-known use of the ellipsis is where Dracula says ‘I don’t drink… wine.’ The pregnant pause inserts ambiguity into an otherwise innocuous statement. It’s just three little dots doing that. Clever, eh?
The important thing to remember is that an ellipsis is composed of three dots. Always three. Four is too many. Five is a mad extravagance. Any more than six and you look mentally unbalanced.

Mondegreens, eggcorns and malapropisms
A mondegreen is the misinterpretation or mishearing of a word or phrase in a way that provides a fresh meaning or perspective. The etymology of it comes from the American writer Sylvia Wright, who penned an essay on her mishearing of a line from the 17th-century ballad ‘The Bonny Earl O'Moray’, thus:
‘Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O' Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.’

The last line should be ‘And laid him on the green’...
My favourite example of a popular mondegreen comes from Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ – the lyric ‘'scuse me while I kiss the sky’ can be heard as ‘'scuse me while I kiss this guy’. Once you’ve heard that, it cannot be unheard.
Celebrated mondegreens in popular culture also include the old Maxell ads in which people incorrectly decipher the lyrics of ‘Israelites’ and ‘Into the Valley’ from scratchy tapes, and of course the Two Ronnies’ ‘Four Candles’ sketch.
An eggcorn is slightly different; it’s usually a word that is deliberately substituted in place of something with a similar sound, like when people refer to Alzheimer’s disease as ‘old-timers’ disease’. Eggcorns can also be unintentional, when a speaker assumes that a word must be another that they’re more familiar with using: ‘cold slaw’, ‘physical year’, ‘upmost’, ‘half-hazard’, ‘damp squid’, and so on.
A malapropism is the substitution, deliberate or otherwise, of similar-sounding words with different meanings, thereby rendering the statement’s meaning nonsensical. Two notable literary characters prone to malapropisms are Shakespeare’s Dogberry (‘our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons’) and Sheridan’s Mrs Malaprop, for whom the modern term is named (‘she’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile’). Del Trotter and George W. Bush are both keen, if accidental, employers of the device, and '’Allo ’Allo'’s Officer Crabtree’s accent is basically a constant stream of malapropisms: ‘I was pissing by the door when I heard two shats’, ‘I have a mop, would you like to take a leak?’, ‘the troon has been bummed by the RAF’, etc.
A bastard offspring of the malapropism/mondegreen family is to utter a phrase in common parlance with different words that alter (but also sort of imply) the meaning people initially think they’re going to hear – for example, on hearing a surprising piece of news, you might respond with ‘shut the front door!’. The person to whom this is addressed will most likely assume that you’re about to say ‘shut the fuck up’ – again, hilarity ensues.

Pathos was the fourth musketeer.
Not really. That was a hilarious joke.
Pathos is the literary technique of appealing to the audience’s emotions. It’s one of the three modes of persuasion, alongside ethos (the component of argument that establishes moral competence, expertise and knowledge) and logos (reasoned discourse), and urges the audience to sympathise with the author’s point of view. It’s quite an obscure and hard-to-define concept because it’s rather different to simply writing in an emotive manner… a pathetic appeal (‘pathetic’, that is, in the sense of pathos, obviously, rather than the ‘you’re paffetic’ sense so beloved of the chav) is generally associated with tragedy, whereby the narrative conveys negative emotional connotations that encourage the reader/viewer to empathise with the author, narrator or protagonist. Pathos tickles the imagination as well as the emotion of the audience, spurring them on to decision or action.
Is that clear? Good. Easy, isn’t it? That’s why you hear people referring to pathos all the time.

Irony is not sarcasm. Irony is not an unfortunate occurrence. (Alanis Morrissette’s ‘Ironic’ should really have been called ‘Unfortunate’.) Irony is basically a difference between the literal and the implied meaning of something. Verbal irony is when you say something that implies a meaning that opposes the literal meaning of what you’re saying. An ironic situation is where there’s a disparity between the expected conclusion of an event and what actually happens. It’s that simple. Dramatic irony occurs when a character speaks or acts in a manner governed by a lack of knowledge of something the audience is aware of (like in ‘The Truman Show’ where we know he’s on a TV show but he doesn’t, or ‘Romeo and Juliet’ where the other characters think Juliet is dead but we know she’s just taken a sleeping potion).
Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ offers this ironic concept:
‘As pleasant and relaxed as a coiled rattlesnake.’
Bear that in mind, you should be fine. And remember that it’s not ‘like rai-ee-ain on your wedding day’.

The apostrophe
People seem to have a lot of difficulty with apostrophes. Why is that? Should you not be comfortable using them, the basic rule is this: if in doubt, don’t. You’ll look dumber randomly peppering your copy with apostrophes than you will by missing out the odd one.
The apostrophe has two basic functions: to mark the omission of letters (don’t, can’t, Hallowe’en), and to denote possession (John’s warts, Alice’s disgust). Here are some simple tips for its correct usage:
- Don’t use it willy-nilly for all plurals – ‘two banana’s’ is wrong, ‘two bananas’ is right.
- If you’re denoting possession of a plural, the apostrophe comes after the ‘s’, e.g. ‘the horses’ hooves’, ‘the singers’ voices’. (For plural nouns not ending in ‘s’, they can have ‘‘s’ at the end, e.g. ‘men’s clothing’, ‘people’s opinions’.)
- ‘It’s’ means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. ‘Its’ is something else. If you’re unsure, try replacing your ‘it’s’/‘its’ with ‘it is’ and see if it still makes sense.
- Possessive nouns ending in ‘s’ can either have an apostrophe or an apostrophe plus another ‘s’, depending on personal preference; ‘Agnes’ house’ and ‘Agnes’s house’ are both correct.
(We had a lot of quotation marks there that looked like apostrophes, didn’t we? Deliberately confusing. Totally different things. [Why did I use single rather than double speech marks? Because I wanted to. Let’s not open that can of worms.])

I was planning to go into tedious detail on the subject of pathetic fallacy, oxymorons, anthropomorphism, foreshadowing, maypoling, satire and repetitive designation (end of a list there, but not an appropriate place for the Oxford comma in this instance), but instead it’s time for you to do some of the work. First person to reply with a coherent sentence that employs all of the above wins a special prize…

British Pathé on YouTube

Snakes alive - British Pathé have uploaded their entire archives to YouTube! Look:

There goes your weekend, then. Here are some random selections:

'Fucking Tourist'

That's a bold name for a photo project.
Having been rebuffed by a local who resented being treated as part of the cultural furniture, French photographer Nicolas Demeersman has taken the idea and run with it, travelling the globe photographing locals giving him the finger. Interesting. Clicky.


I'd watch football if it was like this.

Coloring Book Corruptions

Wonderful, and really quite evil. Click here.

'Take the poo to the loo'

From UNICEF India, this is one of the more catchy ad jingles you'll hear this week.

The World's Tallest Slum

Fascinating insight into Caracas' Tower of David.

...and there are some excellent photos here.

Dad's balloon

All dads should be this enthusiastic!

Kirk 'n' Cyrus

Sure, the Miley Cyrus thing is old hat now, but this is ace.

Friday, 11 April 2014

11/04/14 - Bandwagons

I’m not really a fan of bandwagons. It’s very easy to go along with common consensus in order to fit in, but it’s much more interesting to analyse things for yourself, isn’t it? Blindly agreeing with things removes any element of confrontation, but it might also leave you feeling hollow and fraudulent. So with that in mind, here are some things that everybody seems to unanimously agree are shit, but I actually think are OK.

Woah! Hang on there. You’ll have to bear with me a minute. I’m not actually saying that I like Coldplay as such – just give me a moment to explain. When their first album, Parachutes, came out fourteen years ago it was a genuinely interesting debut. I maintain that it’s a fundamentally alright album with numerous decent tunes.
It’s just everything else they’ve done afterwards that’s been awful and annoying, both musically and in terms of Chris Martin doing a Bono and gradually disappearing up his own backside, drawing on his hand and all that nonsense. (Naming his kid Apple was regrettable too – did Steve Jobs give him a free iPod to do that…?)
So yes, on the whole I find Coldplay supremely annoying, but this is largely because I wish they’d disbanded after that first good record and left a legacy of being ‘that band that made one good album and then disbanded’. Yeah? Yeah. Don’t be ashamed to listen to Parachutes, it’s good.

Lotus Notes
People in the office have been shitting on for years about how they hate Lotus Notes and it’s the worst email programme ever. We’ve just switched to Outlook and now everyone’s saying ‘oh, it’s so much better’, and ‘ding dong, the witch is dead’, and blah blah blah. But what was honestly so awful about Lotus Notes? I used it for years and never really had any problems with it. It’s a thing that lets you send and receive email, what more do you want? (Also, at least the webmail was mobile-optimised. Outlook is impossible to use on a phone.)
I think people just liked joining in. ‘Ha, you think Lotus Notes is shit? Yes, that’s what I think too! We’re so militant in our scathing views on software! Let’s have vigorous intercourse as soon as possible.’

OK, let’s be honest – Poundland is a fairly horrible place to be. Well, the Wandsworth Southside branch is anyway, and that’s the one I go to. Screaming kids running about the place, chav mums swearing at them at extraordinary volume, staggeringly obese people loading up their mobility scooters with cheap biscuits, merchandise scattered all over the floor… but push past all that and you find a very simple premise: it’s got exactly the same things there that you’d otherwise be buying in Sainsbury’s, but it’s all cheaper. You’d have to be some kind of belligerent cretin to buy your Dove soap for £1.59 or your Cillit Bang for £3.50 at your regular supermarket outlet simply because you consider yourself to be above Poundland. It’s exactly the same stuff, and it only costs a pound. Duh.

See above, kinda. A lot of people view Primark as a comedy store, an outlet to be ridiculed. But it’s a shop in which you can buy clothes for not very much money. You wear clothes, right?
Would you rather spend a tenner on a pack of socks in M&S, or £2 for basically the same socks in Primark? I mean, yes, the checkout assistant in Marks will smile at you and be polite whereas the one in Primark will barely notice you’re there, but if you’re willing to fork over an extra eight quid to get someone to smile at you for a few seconds, you probably have some lifestyle priorities that require adjustment.

The Fast & The Furious movie franchise
You’re right, these aren’t very good. But they’re not total shit either. (Well, the second one is, but just don’t watch that one.)
They’re riddled with errors, the acting isn’t great, the scripts are poor, but if you like to switch your brain off and watch some fast cars screaming about the place, the big budgets ensure some pretty entertaining mischief. Don’t expect the exquisite imagery of Wes Anderson or the sparkling colours of Stanley Kubrick, but hey – you can’t eat steak all the time. Sometimes it’s nice to wolf down a dirty burger.

The Stone Roses – Second Coming
This, I reckon, was the Roses’ best album.
I ducked then, just in case one of you threw something. But I think history has been most unkind to Second Coming – the five-year hiatus between it and the eponymous debut that preceded it created a shocking weight of expectation, and most people’s response to it was ‘oh, it doesn’t sound like the first one, which means IT’S SHIT’. This is wrong. The production is muscular (and not tinny like the first album [I’m ducking again]), the stylistic breadth encompasses a vast range of fascinatingly emotive sounds, and Love Spreads is one of the greatest songs ever written, by anyone, ever. So there.

The Big Bang Theory (the TV series, not the theory)
This doesn’t totally belong on the list, because it’s not something that’s generally considered to be bad. But I’m putting it in because the first time I saw it I thought it was terrible, and refused to watch it again. This was in about 2008.
…but I relented a couple of years ago, gave it another shot and discovered that I was, in fact, utterly wrong. It’s a terrific show, I genuinely love it. I’d created a one-man bandwagon in my head, silently judging people for watching what I then considered to be appalling bilge; I have now reworked this bilious solo bandwagon for the purpose of judging people who enjoy Mrs Brown’s Boys instead. That really is awful.

Morris Marina
Shut up, they’re good. It may be terribly fashionable to mock the old Marina – particularly since Top Gear seem determined to cement its reputation as a risible pantomime car by relentlessly dropping pianos on them – but they have a lot to offer. It was one of Britain’s biggest-selling cars in the mid-seventies, you could buy a rakish coupe version (or a snazzy coachbuilt convertible, if you were loaded), and the TC model had snorty twin-carbs. They’re rear-wheel drive and not that heavy, which means they’re fun, and they came in brilliantly 1970s colours like Limeflower Green and Black Tulip.
Also, there’s only about 1,200 of them left in existence (from a total sales figure of 807,000-odd – a survival rate of 0.15%, making it one of the most-scrapped car models ever), so buying one now will net you far more exclusivity than those common-as-muck Rolls-Royces you see everywhere.

Super Noodles
A staple ingredient of my diet when I was a student. That was over a decade ago, and I’m still alive. In your face, doctors.
Super Noodles are great – only a couple of minutes to boil ’em up, combine with a slice of buttered bread and you’ve got a whole meal. (I mean, if you forget about the supposed necessity for humans to ingest fruit and vegetables. Like I say, I’m still alive.)
…and even better than Super Noodles are the generic own-brand noodles that all supermarkets sell for around the 40p mark. That’s value, that is. Stop judging the noodle-eaters, they’re happy.
Oh, and while we’re at it, there’s nothing wrong with Pot Noodles either. They may embarrassingly market themselves as ‘the slag of all snacks’ (urgh), but they’re onto something – people acknowledge that it’s a food that enjoys a less than formidable reputation, but they’re very much in the Peperami camp there: their consumers honestly don’t give a fuck. By harshly judging such choices, you’re basically saying that you don’t agree with people making themselves happy. And what sort of person does that make you, eh? Eh?

Much of this is nonsense, of course. You like what you like and you don’t what you don’t. But it doesn’t hurt to think about it, does it? Opinions are so much more interesting when they’re actually your own. I expect you to ignore everything I’ve just said.

Dream Themes

The notion behind this is beautiful. I want to believe that it's true.

Unsung Hero

Tearjerker of the week.

Shakespeare, super-abridged

Interested in Shakespeare, but don't have the stamina to actually read it? Click here to find it all massively condensed.

Let's Get Social 2014

Fucking hell. I mean, just... fucking hell.

Super Mario Cat

All cats are this cool. We just can't see what they see.

Banging buckets with sticks

Yeah, this guy's not bad.

Friday, 4 April 2014

04/04/14 - JuicyPips Toolkit for Happy Living

‘Modern Life is Rubbish’. Arguably Blur’s best album, but not an entirely accurate sentiment – modern life is actually pretty spiffy. However, there are certain key elements of it that you need to get properly locked down in order for it all to function satisfactorily, and for this reason I’ve compiled for you the Big Bumper JuicyPips Toolkit for Happy Living. Y’know, just to help out. Here’s what you need to do or acquire to ensure that everything is lovely:

Quality bedding
Never underestimate the importance of having a decent kip. Being asleep is pretty much the best thing you can do. So don’t balk at the cost of decent bedding, it’s worth every penny. Take £200 to John Lewis and buy an all-seasons duck-down duvet (unless you’re allergic to feathers, obviously – then it’d be a really stupid idea); while you’re there, another £50-odd on Egyptian cotton sheets will help. Yeah, it’s annoyingly expensive, but just trust me. Best money you’ll ever spend. Thank me tomorrow.

Your life will be infinitely less annoying if you make sure you’ve got enough phone chargers. Get one to live beside your bed, another for the living room or kitchen, one for the car, and one for your desk drawer at work. Then you won’t be that annoying person who’s always bitching about low battery and scrounging for leads, and you also won’t do that frustrating thing where you get into bed, realise your battery’s on 7% and your charger’s downstairs, and have to trek all the way down to get it.
And don’t believe that crap about your device being harmed by non-branded generic chargers, it’s just a bridge between your power socket and your battery. Buy Chinese 99p chargers from eBay. What can go wrong*?!
*Please don’t send me a bill if your phone catches fire

A good television
I don’t know about you, but I spend a fair bit of time watching telly. It pays to get a good one. Even if you do end up blowing more money than you can comfortably afford right now, the cost-per-view will shrink every time you switch it on; buying quality will mean it lasts for years, as well as giving better sound and picture. And it gives you an excuse to watch TV constantly, using that whole cost-per-view thing as justification.
Please, please don’t just go to Tesco and buy a Technika (or other shit brand you’ve never heard of) – yes, it’s very cheap, but you get what you pay for. It’ll be awful, and you’ll have to replace it next year.

Decent wi-fi
C’mon, it’s 2014. Fast internet access is readily available. If your provider can’t provide, swap to someone who can. Time spent waiting for pages to load is dead time you’ll never get back.

Tactile glassware
Some people end up with a cupboard full of random mismatched glasses that they’ve acquired over the years from a variety of sources. These people are doing it wrong.
If you’re having a beer, pour it into a pint glass. (And don’t pour an ale into a lager glass, the agitator in the base will fizz it up and ruin it.) Get some nice wine glasses. Buy a set of chunky tumblers with heavy bases for your spirits. It’ll feel right. Little luxuries, they make a big difference.

Buy new socks every now and then
It might just be me, but I reckon the whole rigmarole of getting dressed in the morning is massively improved by having socks that you like. I mean, getting dressed is very little effort, but the fact that you’ve had to get up at all makes the whole thing annoying. But nice socks make it OK. Yeah? Comfy socks, soft ones, with attractive stripes or interesting patterns. I spent years in the wilderness wearing cheap black socks, and I’m pretty sure my life is better now.

Make sure everyone fucks off and leaves you alone
Register with the Telephone Preference Service. This should, in theory, ensure that you never received unsolicited marketing calls on your landline. (You still will, that’s just life, but now you have an amazing weapon in your arsenal that makes the bastards hang up immediately.)
Stop mindlessly deleting all of those crap emails that keep popping into your inbox and actually bother to open them and click ‘unsubscribe’ – your new-found inbox cleanliness will make your heart smile.
Oh, and disconnect your doorbell. No-one of any interest will ever ring it out of the blue, and if it’s somebody you know then they’ll definitely call you and say ‘yo, I’m at the front door…’

Get spares
Set aside a drawer in your house. Fill it with the following:
AA batteries. Light bulbs of various wattages and fittings. AAA batteries. Plasters. Germolene. Bonjela. Sellotape. Menus for your favourite local takeaways. Two screwdrivers (one flathead, one Phillips). A torch. A biro. Some string. Paracetamol, ibuprofen, Immodium. A tape measure. Call this your useful drawer. It’ll save all sorts of where-the-fuck-is-that-ism.

Unfortunately most of these suggestions involve buying something, and they’re not all cheap things either. Sorry about that. But if you had your life in order, maybe you’d have sorted some of this shit out already. You can’t blame me for that.

Goat Simulator

Oh, thank goodness. Goat Simulator is finally here.


Think learning Chinese sounds really hard? What if it, y'know, wasn't? Click here, see what you think...


I wasn't that taken with Evian's dancing babies ad, but this sequel is magnificent.

Drunken Chatroulette

This was made by a colleague of mine. She likes wine.

Ghosts Photographs

Old photos, with ghosts painted on. Bam.

Kilroy loops

Fair play to him, he stuck to a formula. A formula that will MELT YOUR BRAIN.

Aerial Archaeology

Some truly stunning photography here.