Friday, 29 August 2014

29/08/14 - The 20 Best Music Videos (er, maybe...)

‘Video killed the radio star…’ sang the misguided Buggles back in 1979. They needn’t have worried – content and broadcasting has evolved way beyond MTV’s traditional passive format, and numerous radio stations still exist. Everything’s fine.
Anyway, the music video as a format is something to be celebrated, not feared. Imagine if those cretinous Buggles had had their way, we’d never have had Michael Jackson’s Thriller vid, or that Cardigans one where her fake tattoo smears itself across the car seat through the course of the song. Yeah? Yeah. So, it’s time to celebrate all that’s great and good in the world of musical cinematography by looking at The Non-Exhaustive JuicyPips Top 20 Music Videos Of All Time In No Particular Order (With Countless Probable Glaring Omissions)

The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up
We’re going in hard, starting the list off with this one. Not for the faint-hearted.
The video is filmed in first-person perspective, showing a typical night out in London – drink-driving, lots of vomiting, cocaine, strippers, heroin, a hit and run; y’know, the usual. There’s a twist at the end, but I won’t give it away in case you haven’t seen it before.

The Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up from SVEn Alone on Vimeo.

Pearl Jam – Do the Evolution
A brilliant song with a really beautifully animated video. A snapshot history of the world (and the various atrocities therein) in four minutes.

Beastie Boys – Sabotage
One of MTV’s most-played videos, this Spike Jonze-directed hit may well be very familiar to you. Think eighties cops, big moustaches and Aviators.

Mansun – Taxloss
Simple concept for this one: the record label gave them £25,000 to make the video. They withdrew the twenty-five grand in fivers, then scattered them over surprised rush-hour commuters at Liverpool Street station, filming the ensuing chaos. This was back in 1997 – a viral before viral was even a thing.

Mansun - Taxloss (Radio Edit) on MUZU.TV.

Weezer – Buddy Holly
Another Spike Jonze classic here, showing Weezer playing Buddy Holly at Arnold’s Diner in Happy Days. Which is impossible, obviously – clever editing, innit?
(Fun fact: when Microsoft released Windows 95, the disc contained a folder of ‘fun stuff’, which included this video.)

Tenacious D – Tribute
It’s got Dave Grohl dressed up as the devil. What more do you want?

Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
This is basically the original music video. It often appears in pointless music video listicles like this one, although back in 1965 there was no such thing as a promotional music video – the sequence was actually the intro to a documentary about Dylan’s ’65 UK tour. Nevertheless, the brilliant simplicity of the video has truly transcended the ages (or whatever pretentious claptrap you want to apply to it). It’s basically just Dylan standing in an alley, holding up cue cards with a selection of the lyrics on. But it’s really good.

Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues - HQ from Noisefield on Vimeo.

The Shamen – Ebeneezer Goode
Features Jerry Sadowitz running around in a cape, in a weird precursor to The Hitcher in The Mighty Boosh. Interestingly, a number of TV channels didn’t want to show it because the flashing light/dark motifs might induce epileptic fits, but few seemed concerned about the rather unmissable ‘Es are good! Es are good!’ lyrics. Heigh ho.

Mick Jagger/David Bowie – Dancing in the Street
Heh. Only joking. This is probably the most embarrassing music video ever made.

Foo Fighters – Everlong
A darkly beautiful song with a very strange video. Directed by Michel Gondry, the band members keep jumping in and out of each other’s dreams in a creepy parody of The Evil Dead.

Radiohead – Just
A man lies down in the street. Passers-by ask him why he’s lying there. He’s reluctant to tell them. The situation heats up as the assembling crowds demand to know what he’s doing. He reluctantly tells them. The end is chilling.
Gorgeous song, too.

Blur – Coffee & TV
No cuter character has ever been created for a music vid than this little blue milk carton. If you’ve somehow missed this video, watch it now. It’ll make your heart smile.

OK Go – Here It Goes Again
You can’t really talk about music videos without mentioning OK Go. It’s an unarguable fact that the band would never have been as big if they weren’t so canny with regard to shareable content. Their videos get millions upon millions of hits on YouTube and spawn countless parodies. The songs almost don’t matter.
This is probably the most famous one. It’s the one with the treadmills.

The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
This was on TV constantly when I was a teenager. Its popularity appears to have endured too, it’s had 92m views on YouTube.
The context of the concept is that it was a homage to Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy video (click here); it was later comprehensively lampooned by the Fat Les football chant parody Vindaloo (clicky). See, that’s the mark of an iconic piece of film – it wears its inspiration on its sleeve, and is ripe for parody as it’s so ubiquitous.

A – Monkey Kong
A rather less well-known one here, but a corker. A always seemed to have a lot of fun making videos, and this track is an absolute belter too.
(I also love that the singer, Jason Perry, is clearly really drunk throughout.)

Blink 182 – All The Small Things
This is a devastating parody of every cheesy boy band/pop video to come out of the late nineties. So many vintage clichés.

Guns N’ Roses – Don’t Cry
Never knowingly reserved, Axl’s vision for what a music video should be was basically this: make it as overblown as possible, then throw some more money at it. Take a look at Don’t Cry and just imagine what the budget was…
(See also November Rain & Estranged.)

Rage Against The Machine – Sleep Now in the Fire
Filmed in front of the New York Stock Exchange, with interspersed scenes from a parody of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, RATM caused the NYSE to have to close its doors while all this was going on. It was more than just a name.

The White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl
Another Michel Gondry effort, this video is all shot in stop-motion LEGO. It’s ace.
The White Stripes had approached LEGO to collaborate on the video, but LEGO refused so they had to buy all of the bricks themselves. Then they asked if LEGO wanted to work out a deal to package each copy of the single with little LEGO figures of Jack and Meg, and they again refused.
Once the video became a hit, however, LEGO contacted the band and said ‘actually, we want to be involved, let’s work something out’. Jack White told them to sod off.

Michael Jackson – Thriller
Yeah, had to finish on this, really. Often cited as the most influential music video ever made - and rightly so, it’s still astoundingly good, even thirty-one years on. And it’s nice to remember the times when the King of Pop was only pretending to be really creepy.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

21/08/14 - House Numbers

The logic of house numbers is something that you feel you should be able to take for granted. If, for example, you’re going to visit somebody at 22 Acacia Avenue, and you glance left and see number 7, it’s a fairly safe bet that your destination will be a few houses along on the right. Right?
But no, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you’ll be standing outside number 9, look across the road expecting to see number 10, and instead find number 54. How did that happen? And perhaps 8, 9, 10 and 11 will all be in a row on the same side to further compound the befuddlement. What a slap in the face. They’re just being difficult for the sake of it. New postmen must hate having to learn their routes with this kind of chicanery going on.
It’s a necessity of modern living though, really – streets evolve, new houses get built, old ones are divided up, systems have to be altered. House numbering systems have been around since the fifteenth century, although in those days the purpose was to determine property ownership in cities – it wasn’t until the 18th century that European countries started developing street numbering schemes in order to facilitate admin tasks such as delivering the post. And it’s interesting that so many different systems should have developed across the globe since – what we take for granted in London would seem totally alien in other parts of the world. So, let’s have a look at the global street number scene…

United Kingdom
Odd numbers are typically, but not always, on the left, as seen from the centre of the town or village, with the numbers starting from the end of the street closest to the centre. (Of course, when you find yourself in a massive urban sprawl where countless villages have merged, this geographical marker is largely meaningless.) Intermediate properties get letters, and this is also true of building that are divided up into flats – 21a, 21b, etc.
You might have noticed on the news that 10 Downing Street is next door to 11 Downing Street. Irritating, isn’t it? But historically that’s always been the system for cul-de-sacs (and, for some reason, a lot of villages in Wales) – the house numbers run in order down each side. This happens on houses that surround squares too, although that makes a lot more sense.
So on the whole we can assume a system of opposites, but there are enough exceptions to the rule and geographical quirks that there’s basically no point trying to work it out logically. Just type the address into Google Maps, it’ll give you a pinpoint. (Or, y’know, just look at the numbers on the houses and find the right one. Old school.)

North America
This system should be a lot more logical, as the town planning of the US is based around grids. You get odd numbers on one side and even on the other, as in much of the UK, but they also work it out so that each house number is a proportional distance from a base point on the road, so not all numbers get used. This saves a lot of confusion and tramping back and forth along roads that have four- or five-digit house numbers. In rural locations, these are often specifically anchored to mile markers – for example, the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys marks its house numbers by distance from Mile Marker 0 in Key West – number 77220 is 77.2 miles down the road, and so forth.
In cities, it’s usual for the numbers to skip to the next hundred on each block – so, say, if you’re walking past 311, 313, 315 etc and then cross to the next block, you’ll find 401, 403, 405 and so on. (The streets themselves all work from a specific base point in the city too, which is why you get addresses like ‘West 3rd Street’ – it helps to give a bearing on where in the city you are, although it’s not as romantic as the named streets of Europe.) It’s pretty common to assign block numbers that appear on street signs, so the aforementioned street with 311, 313, 315 might have a sign on the corner indicating that this is where you’ll find numbers 300-399, even if 399 doesn’t actually exist.

Western Europe
Much like in the UK, the norm is to have odds and evens on opposing sides, with the odds on the left. Interestingly, you do tend to find far more cases of unnumbered plots that haven’t been built up leaving holes in the numbering system, with newly-built houses starting from the highest number and moving upwards, so you could have a street that goes up to 300 which only has 200 houses on it. And there are a number of geographical oddities too…
In Portugal, houses are identified by plot (‘lote’) rather than street number – the lote numbers all appear on the central urban plan for the entire neighbourhood, so the house numbers don’t always bear much relation to what street they’re on. (The idea is that the houses get assigned proper street numbers once they’ve all been built, although this doesn’t always happen.)
Italy has a few systems of its own too: in Venice, houses are numbered by district – six districts in all – starting from one corner of the district and working round to a far corner; given that the districts are odd shapes, this is utterly incomprehensible to outsiders. In Genoa and Florence, houses have black numbers while businesses have red numbers, leading to two parallel numbering systems for each street. The Netherlands also use colours in their system – in Haarlem, for example, a red number denotes an upstairs flat.

Central & Eastern Europe
This often follows the general rule of the UK and Western Europe, but may also follow the principles of the ‘boustrophedon’ system – named for a style of bi-directional writing where the first line is read left-to-right, the next right-to-left and so on; you can see how this would translate into a street numbering system.
To make it extra fun for visitors to Czech and Slovak cities, they use two concurrent numbering schemes – buildings have a ‘descriptive number’ which is the one it would have had when it was originally built and relates to its old quarter or municipality, and an ‘orientation number’, which is a retro-fitted number that runs sequentially down the street. And if a house is on a corner, it can have two orientation numbers in addition to its descriptive number…
Colour schemes appear here too – descriptive numbers are red, orientation numbers are blue. Oh, and ‘evidential numbers’ can appear, in yellow or green. But they’re just needlessly confusing.
You’ll find this double-numbering in Austria too, along with plenty of Roman numerals alongside settlement names and street numbers. Good luck with that.

Australia and New Zealand use the European system – they have to, it was mandated in 2003 that they bring a bit of order to their chaotic numbering. But that’s not to say it all makes sense – if a road forms part of a boundary between two council areas, there’s no logical way of doing it. Each council would accuse the other of favouritism if they renumbered it one way or the other, so they’re just left as they are. And New South Wales had already tried to get their numbering act together before 2003, but their system put all of the odd numbers on the right – much of this remains, as there was no point changing it.
The most confusing part, however, is that some urban roads will have ascending numbers until they reach a council boundary, then start again from the beginning… meaning that any particularly long road can have several occurrences of each number. You could find yourself knocking on the door of 165 Wallaby Drive and being told ‘Ah, no, you want the other 165 Wallaby Drive. Or perhaps the one in the other direction’.
New Zealand also has a racily-named system called ‘RAPID’ (Rural Address Property IDentification), which places number markers on long streets to offer emergency services a geographical anchor from a base point. Just in case the house numbers are confusing.

Japan and South Korea generally use a similar system to Venice – numbers starting from one corner of a district and working their way around – although they tend to be rather more organised; houses within any given zone are numbered either in the order they were built or clockwise around the block. Pretty disorientating to Western outsiders, but a very fair system. Long roads in South Korea can pose the same problems as those in Australia though, with the same numbers coming up again and again.
Hong Kong uses the European system, as you might expect, and so do most Chinese cities, although in southern China you tend to find that a number refers to a door rather than a building.

Russia & the former Soviet Union
Imagine a fusion of the European and Asian systems – odds on the left, evens on the right, radiating from the centre of town, but with numbers denoting doors instead of buildings.
Addresses have evolved into something quite scientific, owing to the necessity to explain which street, plot, building and door you might be talking about – rather than the British ‘22 Acacia Avenue’, you may find yourself searching for ‘Tolstoy Street, plot 10, building C, number 6’. Although you can’t really go wrong with that, once you’ve mastered it.

Latin America
In general, you’ll find the European system in operation. However, that Australian problem of repeated numbers on long roads finds a new dimension in countries like Venezuela and Mexico - when a number is repeated, it receives a letter too; 42, 42a, 42b and so on. But whereas 42a would be between 42 and 44 in London, in Mexico it’d be between 40a and 44a, miles away from 42.
It’s also far more likely that you’ll find houses with names rather than numbers in Latin America – much like in some rural English villages, but on a larger scale – and they’re referred to by the name of the person that lives there as well. So you probably have to get on really well with your postman.
In cities in Brazil and Argentina, a house number is often the number of metres that the house is from the end of the street, which means that all kinds of numbers get missed out. But it’s probably easier to have missing numbers to fill in rather than faffing about later with suffix letters – as long as you don’t do the European thing of adding the numbers of new houses onto the highest one on the street…

So wherever you are in the world, you’re best off just looking at the numbers on the doors, asking a local, or phoning the person you’re visiting. Because everywhere has their systems, but there are so many exceptions to the rules that it usually doesn’t make a blind bit of sense. House numbers are for postmen, they don’t mean anything to anybody else.

Breaking Bad + Veep =

'Barely Legal Pawn'. Well worth it for the final punchline alone.

The troubling truth of the robot revolution

This is well worth fifteen minutes of your time.

Illustrated Twitter typos

Ronseal. Clicky.

Ice Bucket Challenge fails

The Ice Bucket Challenge is more than just an internet fad - it's raised millions upon millions of dollars in the name of raising awareness for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka motor neurone disease).
It's not as easy as it looks, though...

This Week in Unnecessary Censorship

Texting on screen

A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

Friday, 15 August 2014

15/08/14 - "Bants"

Language evolves by virtue of how it’s used. That’s the way it’s always been; while there are rules about what things mean, how terms or expressions represent objects or concepts, where it’s appropriate to punctuate and so forth, it’s all malleable. It’s one of the great democratic processes of mankind.
It’s also quite annoying. When words are left out to be hijacked and abused by any old Tom, Dick or Harry, they can end up being misused in a widespread fashion and ultimately refocused. This is why ‘dice’ now exists in the OED as a singular. You’d have to be some kind of cretin to say ‘a dice’ rather than the correct ‘a die’, right? Well, no – there are a lot of stupid people out there, so now what was correct is no longer so, and you can call a spotted playing cube ‘a dice’ without anyone looking at you strangely and quietly judging you.
This is happening all the time. Consider some of the other useful words that we can no longer use…

This used to be a solid, dependable sort of concept. The dictionary definition of ‘banter’ is ‘the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks’; synonyms are generally listed as ‘repartee’, ‘swordplay’, ‘sallies’, ‘riposte’, ‘jest’. It’s a classically British notion, that we amusingly jibe one another in the thrust and parry of bar-room chattery and day-to-day wisecracking.
But no. You and I both know that the word ‘banter’ is off-limits now. It’s been appropriated by chavs to become something moronic, shoehorned into an embarrassing lexicon that also features such distasteful fare as ‘oi oi’ and ‘’ave it’. ‘Banter’ – or, disgustingly, ‘bants’ – is the watchword of the despicable. If someone describes a night out as containing ‘some quality banter’, you can be pretty sure that they’re not referring to a session of gentle ribbing and entertaining wordplay. This was not an evening with Oscar Wilde. They spent the night making unsavoury comments about the barmaid’s tits, probably while she was in earshot. Then they made a load of jokes about each other’s cocks, in that ill-concealed display of peacocking homoeroticism that all true lads are prone to and refuse to acknowledge.
Which brings us on to…

Oh, it used to be so innocent. ‘Lad’ was a simple term of endearment to denote a salt-of-the-earth young boy – generally accompanied by a tousling of the hair or a ha’penny pressed into the palm.
But the same crowd who have stolen ‘banter’ from us have hauled ‘lad’ into their sweaty, goggle-eyed grasp too. OK, we were all guilty of reworking the term into the new-found boorish culture of ‘laddishness’ in the 1990s, but that was as much an aesthetically self-aware counter-culturalism as it was a means of hijacking. Nowadays, ‘lad’ is synonymous with ‘wanker’. Except that these people seem to be proud of it.
In the name of research, I temporarily suspended my principles and had a look at the 'LAD Bible’ page on Facebook (a cesspool of iniquity from the very dregs of society), to find you some key quotes… although it’s too mind-numbingly awful to replicate for you here; I started pasting in some of their linkbait titles but I was losing the will to live. Suffice it to say, pretty much every comment on the page is some variation of ‘put that bitch in her place lad’, ‘learn to count lad’, ‘one for the lad bible stop being a fucking pussy lad lol’ and so on. The lack of punctuation is a marker that the protagonist has little clue of what they’re doing, it’s actually quite helpful – like driving behind someone who’s unaware that they’ve had their indicator on for the last six miles. Gives you a tip-off that they require a wide berth.
Of course, a natural consequence is that the word ‘lad’ has become a coda to any sort of unacceptable behaviour by someone who wears such unpleasantness as a badge of honour - e.g. imagine someone walking into the pub and saying ‘my wife’s in labour, but fuck it, I fancy a pint,’ and being met with a crowd of berks cheering ‘LAAAAAAAAAAD!’. That’s the sort of subculture we’re dealing with. Pricks, basically.

Ah, this is a tricky one. I’ll readily admit that I’m an over-user of the term, but it’s just how it’s employed nowadays, isn’t it? That damned linguistic evolution we were talking about has really done a number on the word ‘awesome’.
In its most logical sense, it simply means ‘inspiring awe’; that is ‘a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder’. So when you say ‘this cup of coffee is awesome,’ you should really expect anybody nearby to stop in their tracks and gape at it open-mouthed, their mind in the process of being blown by this staggeringly impressive and somehow unbelievable beverage. The phone will be ringing off the hook with newspapers desperate to bag the story, you’ll become an internet sensation as the curator of a genuinely life-changing vessel of hot liquid, people will write songs about your drink, children will laugh and applaud, the elderly will weep at its beauty.
Or maybe it’s just quite a nice cup of coffee.
(See also: ‘epic’)

You can’t use ‘literally’ any more, even if you’re one of the 10% of people who actually know what it means. Because it’s been so diluted and misappropriated that people will assume that you don’t mean it, even if you really do.
The mistake people make is to confuse ‘literally’ with ‘figuratively’. I burst out laughing on the bus the other day when I overheard some teenagers talking about some schoolyard drama, and one of them said ‘when I saw that text last night, I literally shit myself’. They looked at me like I was some kind of crazy old looper.
Perhaps I am. Perhaps the contents of that message was sufficiently shocking to make the kid immediately lose controls of his bowels on sight. What do I know? The media are increasingly guilty of losing their grip on this word too. When the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, recently stated that women shouldn’t laugh in public as it’s emblematic of the country’s wider epidemic of moral corruption, Turkish women responded by tweeting and Instagramming photos of themselves laughing. The Guardian’s coverage of this story ran with the headline ‘Turkish women defy Deputy PM by literally laughing in his face’ (a headline that they’ve since changed after lots of people took the piss on Twitter). No, they’re not literally laughing in his face. Imagine that scenario: hordes of disgruntled women, queuing for their turn to get close to his face and unleash a derisory guffaw. That would probably have been a bigger story.
Even as I’m typing this, someone has just walked past me on the phone saying ‘oh my god, I literally died when I saw him’. Either the office is haunted or I’m working with an idiot.

Most annoyingly of all, it’s tricky to complain about this kind of behaviour. As a staunch advocate of the natural evolution of language (after all, imagine if we all still spoke Chaucerian English - we wouldn’t be able to get tech support for our iPhones), you can’t really discount one element of the process without sounding like you’re questioning the validity of the others. So you’re reduced to writing a bitter, judgmental little piece that very few people will read, listing four common and obvious examples before running out of steam. It’s literally a nightmare.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Return of Coach Lasso

Hurrah! Coach Lasso is back to further explain soccerball to 'Muricans.

Saved You A Click

Annoyed beyond belief at the modern culture of clickbait headlines? Yes, so's everyone else. But never fear - here's a handy Twitter feed that harpoons clickbait by retweeting it with a spoiler. Behold.

The London property market

An annoyingly accurate portrayal of the London property situation. (Well, aside from the fact that Wandsworth isn't in Zone 1...)

The Smiths: celluloid history

The Smiths songs, reimagined as 1960s film posters. Clicky.

Hydroforming with a pressure washer

Well, why not, eh?

Musicless YMCA

Another tune-free classic.

Apparently Kid

Meme of the week...

...gets Songified. Natch.

Shrooming Brian

Brilliantly terrifying - the most fucked-up scene ever to appear on Family Guy.

Friday, 8 August 2014

08/08/14 - Red Dwarf Top Ten

It’s often the case in popular culture that the rubbishness of later works casts a grim shadow over the goodness of the earlier stuff. Quit while you’re ahead, that’s generally the key – it’s better to burn out than fade away, etc. Look at the fan-led campaign to stop Weezer recording new albums (the general consensus being that the first few albums were ace, the new ones are a bunch of arse), or Star Wars episodes I, II & III, or The Godfather III, or all of the terrible shit that Coldplay did after Parachutes, or the appalling final season of Scrubs, or… well, there are lots of examples. This, unfortunately, is the case for many people with Red Dwarf.
But this needs addressing. Red Dwarf is a magnificent piece of British cultural history, and unquestionably one of the finest TV series ever devised. The first six series, released between 1988 and ’93, are pretty much flawless.
However, after that point the writing duo – Rob Grant and Doug Naylor – had something of a falling out. It was the age-old problem of ‘creative differences’ that led Rob Grant to walk out (‘I want to have something other than Red Dwarf on my tombstone,’ he said), so Doug Naylor wrote series VII and VIII solo (released in 1997 and ’99). And, it has to be said, they were a bit patchy. Some brilliant moments, a couple of great episodes even, but still nowhere near the quality of the superior collaborative work. Then there was a hiatus for ten years before Naylor put together ‘Back to Earth’ in 2009, a three-episode mini-series commissioned by the Dave channel that effectively acted as series IX. And it was really, really awful. Like, gobsmackingly terrible, I can’t bring myself to watch it again. After a decade of absence, the news of new Red Dwarf was really exciting, but Back to Earth was just a slap in the face. It was shit.
It was slightly less exciting, then, when series X was announced in 2012, although that actually turned out to be very good; still not at the I-VI peak, but certainly better than VII and VIII.

Is all of this starting to sound a bit geeky? Good, that’ll help you enjoy what’s to come. Remember, Red Dwarf may have been set in space, but it’s no Star Trek – it’s an exquisitely crafted comedy show that’s quintessentially British… but you do need to revel in a certain geeky fanaticism to fully enjoy it. Don’t fight it, let it take you.
So, just for funsies, this week’s JuicyPips is all about MY TOP TEN RED DWARF EPISODES. Something to broaden the palate of the uninitiated, and rekindle happy memories for disenchanted fans…

White Hole (series IV)
This episode begins with the creation of one of the most quotable comic characters of the 1990s, the Talkie Toaster. He’s a bit of a prick, basically – a single-minded, bread-obsessed appliance. But you can forgive him that – he’s a toaster with artificial intelligence, what would you expect?
The machine is an experiment in intelligence compression, something that Kryten (a mechanoid, one of the four main characters along with Lister [the last remaining human], Cat [who evolved over three million years from Lister’s pet cat, it’s a long story] and Rimmer [a hologramatic simulation of one of the dead crew of Red Dwarf]) is keen to test on Holly, the ship’s slightly slow-witted computer. It doesn’t really work, for complex reasons, leading to Holly powering down the ship; unfortunately, at this time they’re floating past a white hole – sort of the opposite of a black hole, spewing out time in random pockets and causing all sorts of confusion. Lister uses advanced weaponry and simulations to block up the white hole by effectively playing pool with the solar system and firing a planet into it. Which, of course, all makes perfect sense.
(Nerdy fact: the actor who provided the voice of Talkie Toaster was the same actor who played the original Kryten in series II.)

Quarantine (series V)
The crew receive a distress call from a hologram named Dr. Hildegarde Lanstrom. On investigating her ship, they find she’s got a killer holo-virus and is trying to fry them all with eye-lasers. They escape, but not before she talks to Rimmer over the radio and transmits the virus to him.
On returning to Red Dwarf, Rimmer, who’s in the grip of power-crazed zealotry as well as the early stages of the fever, puts them all in quarantine. He then goes totally mad and cuts off their oxygen supply, leaving them with minutes to live; they escape using a positive ‘luck virus’ they picked up on Lanstrom’s ship.
Rimmer’s parading around in a gingham dress with a penguin puppet named Mr Flibble on his hand, it all gets very dangerous.

Bodyswap (series III)
A series of mishaps leads the ship’s self-destruct sequence to be initiated. The only people who can override the command are dead, since Lister is the only remaining crew member. So, Kryten uses a sodding great syringe to flush out Lister’s mind and store it on tape, substituting it with that of one of the dead officers.
This gives Rimmer an idea – that he and Lister could swap minds and allow him to have a physical presence for a bit (since he’s dead, and a hologram, and thus composed entirely of light). Rimmer gets carried away with eating and smoking too much, so Lister demands that they swap back again. But then Rimmer convinces Kryten to swap their minds again while Lister’s asleep, then runs away with his body in Starbug (one of Red Dwarf’s shuttlecraft) with a cargo of junk food. And then he crashes it into a planet.

Marooned (series III)
The most cerebral episode they recorded, and a real character-development vehicle for Rimmer and Lister. They get marooned on an ice planet, separate from Cat and Kryten, and resign themselves to the fact that they’re probably going to die there. To keep warm, Lister burns all of Rimmer’s books, the money he’d saved up, and his precious 19th century war figurines. Given the nature of this personal sacrifice, Lister agrees to burn his beloved guitar. (Although he doesn’t, he actually burns one of Rimmer’s most prized possessions and pretends it was the guitar…)
A beautifully written and heartwarming episode, one to warm the cockles.
Also, features Lister eating a can of dog food.

Thanks for the Memory (series II)
The crew wake up to find that they have no memory of the past four days, Cat and Lister both have a broken leg, and the ship’s black box is missing. They retrace their steps, finding the black box buried on a nearby moon under a gravestone that reads ‘To the memory of the memory of Lise Yates’ – the name of one of Lister’s old girlfriends. They watch the footage and discover that four days before, Rimmer had drunkenly admitted details to Lister of his tragic love life; Lister had given him a gift of implanting eight years of his memory into Rimmer’s, so that he’d believe he’d once been loved by a good woman. But then the whole plot unravels, it all goes very wrong, and they decide that the whole thing is best forgotten. But they’d left themselves too many clues…
(Nerdy fact: at the time of filming, Craig Charles [Lister]’s wife was in labour, so he rushed to film his scenes before escaping to see the birth of his son. So in scenes where they’re wearing space suits, filmed afterwards, it’s not actually Lister in there, but production manager Mike Agnew. He had bigger feet and couldn’t get the plaster cast on, so there are a number of times when Lister should have a plaster cast on his leg but doesn’t.)

Back to Reality (series V)
The finale of series V sees the crew investigating the wreckage of an ocean seeding ship. They get attacked by the despair squid – a creature that emits a hallucinogenic venom that leads them all into a terrifying mass hallucination. They believe that Red Dwarf has been a total-immersion video game they’ve been playing all along; that the ineffably stylish Cat is actually a buck-toothed loser in a nylon shirt, that Kryten is a loose-moralled half-human traffic cop, that Lister is a mass-murdering official in a totalitarian state, and Rimmer is just a hopeless nobody with no-one to blame but himself. They all come very close to committing suicide. It’s very cleverly done, and the switch between the hallucination sequence and seeing what’s actually happening – i.e. the crew running around Starbug pretending they’re in a car chase and whatnot – is hilarious.
(In ‘Back to Earth’ we’re led to believe that Cat smuggled another despair squid back onto Starbug with the intention of eating it later, although that’s such bollocks that it doesn’t really bear thinking about.)

Legion (series VI)
An all-time classic, for the scene with the anti-matter chopsticks alone.
Starbug is pulled by a tractor beam into an apparently deserted space station; once aboard, they’re greeted by Legion, an almost unbelievably benevolent host who provides every possible fulfilment of fantasy that they could wish for.
However, it becomes apparent that Legion is a gestalt entity – he’s an amalgamation of their four collective psyches, and can only exist as long as they’re there. As such, he’s murderously keen that they should stay there for the rest of their lives, which obviously makes it rather tricky for them to escape…

Me² (series I)
The last episode of the first series, this follows on from the cliffhanger of the previous episode in which Rimmer’s found a way for Red Dwarf to generate two holograms… so has chosen to bring into being a second Rimmer. He thinks it’ll be brilliant. It isn’t. They end up hating each other, there’s a massive power struggle, and Lister exploits the tension to weasel out from the original dead Rimmer the truth about his final moments, and why his last words were ‘gazpacho soup’.

Justice (series IV)
Red Dwarf picks up an escape pod from a prison ship; it claims to contain one of the crew, Barbara Bellini, although it’s equally likely to contain one of the inmates – a psychotic simulant. So, to be on the safe side, they take the pod to a high-tech prison complex in order to contain it.
However, they don’t realise that entering the complex involves a mind-probe, which evaluates the individual’s past for crimes which have gone unpunished – and, detecting Rimmer’s personal sense of guilt about the deaths of the entire Red Dwarf crew, it sentences him to 9,328 years in prison. So they have to come up with a pretty cunning way to get him out.
(Interestingly, in the series VI episode ‘Rimmerworld’, he actually does end up serving 557 years in another prison, having fallen through a wormhole. But that’s another story.)

Gunmen of the Apocalypse (series VI)
No Red Dwarf list would be complete without this episode, it’s the one that won all the awards.
Rogue simulants infect Starbug’s computer with the Armageddon virus – the only way to combat it is for Kryten to plug himself into the computer and attempt to create a ‘dove program’ to wipe it out and save everyone.
Kryten’s struggle manifests itself as a dream in which he’s an alcoholic sheriff in the wild west – a dream that Lister, Cat and Rimmer can observe over the monitors. They splice a role-playing video game into the mix in order to enter his dream as game characters, to help him fight the virus.
(Nerdy fact: Janet Street-Porter was head of Art & Culture at the BBC at the time, and when she saw the script she sent out a memo demanding that filming be stopped, as it would be too complicated and time-consuming to make. Although by the time the memo got to the Red Dwarf production crew, they’d already finished it…)

Actually, ignore all of the above descriptions and just watch the ten episodes, you’ll like them.
In fact, no, sod it – watch the first six series in their entirety. You won’t regret it.

Cows like trombones

Who knew?

Defunct Tube stations

A clever interactive map of Tube stops that are no more - click here.

Guitarist befuddlement

There's a slight chance that the guitarist may be miming...

3D-printed Spiderman

An excellent use of time.

Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda

SLJ, mofo

There's a certain word that writers like to put in Samuel L. Jackson's scripts...

Friday, 1 August 2014

01/08/14 - Gigs, etc

Gigs are interesting little microcosms, aren’t they? The room naturally divides itself into casually merging sections; the sweaty leapers down the front, the nodding toe-tappers at the back, the wry-smile barflies, all pulled together by a common appreciation for the variety of sounds that are being thrashed out on stage and artfully bounced around the room by a galaxy of pounding speakers. Live music is ace. So, for no particular reason, this week’s JuicyPips is all about INTERESTING GIGS I HAVE BEEN TO

Everyone remembers their first gig. And by ‘first gig’, I mean the first band you saw without your parents. Mine was Mansun at the Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall on 13th March 1998, when I was just fifteen.
…but before we get to that, some background. I’d seen plenty of bands throughout my childhood that my parents had taken me and my sister along to – local to us in the Herne Bay/Whitstable/Canterbury area were Rubber Biscuit, a Blues Brothers tribute band who gigged relentlessly. (They’re still going, incidentally, although their website suggests that they’re selling themselves as more of a wedding band these days. ‘Maximum soul and R&B since 1992’!) We saw the Saw Doctors a lot, because they were often in our neck of the woods, and I distinctly remember my sister and I falling asleep during a Steeleye Span concert in the mid-nineties. (My folks actually have pretty cool taste in music, this selection isn’t entirely representative…)
So anyway, a solid background of being in dark, sweaty rooms full of people leaping about to live music. And my first one sans parents, that I went to with a bunch of mates, was Mansun. I was a full-on indie kid in the nineties, and Mansun were my favouritest band ever, I obsessively collected their singles and demos and all sorts. The thought of seeing them live as my first gig was mindblowing.
It also turned out to be kind of terrifying. I’d never really been in a proper moshpit before, I remember lasting a couple of songs before yelling ‘I have to get out!’ and elbowing my way to the back of the hall. At which point I thought ‘actually, that was kind of awesome,’ and dove straight back into the action. Great fun.
And upon that sturdy foundation, here stand a few highlights from other gigs in which unusual or interesting things happened:

Ash – Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall, 13th October 1998
’98 was a real live music awakening for me – after that first gig, I went to as many as I could physically get to (which, er, relied rather heavily on getting a lift there with my parents, who’d then go for dinner in a local hotel while we went off to bounce around in a sweaty room).
Ash was a memorable one not just because they were one of my favourite bands – and were supported by Idlewild, who were another favourite – but because me and my friends got up on stage with the band. We weren’t invited to or anything; we just spotted that the security guy at the side of the stage wasn’t really paying attention, so we sneaked past him and ran up. That was as far as the plan went though, we hadn’t really considered what to do when we got up there… I didn’t fancy stage-diving as I didn’t have any real confidence that anyone would catch me, so I just jumped up and down a bit until we all got dragged off by security. They were not happy.
And then Ash played Angel Interceptor and dedicated it to ‘those cheeky little bastards down the front,’ which was amazing, although none of my friends seem to remember that part and it’s possible that I might have imagined it.

Manic Street Preachers – Cardiff Millennium Stadium, 31st December 1999
Remember how you spent millennium eve? I was in Cardiff with a few mates watching the Manics. They rocked plenty of stuff from The Holy Bible (my favourite Manics album by far), they played Everything Must Go and dedicated it to Richie, which made everyone cry – if you know, you know – and the place just went beserk at midnight.
…but having left the stadium at around 2am, we realised that we didn’t have a lot to do until our London-bound train was due to leave at 9am. We didn’t have anywhere to stay, so we just sort of ambled around Cardiff.
There was one chip shop open in the whole of the city, smartly capitalising on the hordes of teenagers with nothing to do – remember the queues when the first McDonald’s opened in Moscow? It was like that. We queued for three hours to get some largely raw chips. We also got very cold.

Sum 41 – Portsmouth Guildhall, 15th March 2002
Don’t get hung up on the late-nineties perception of Sum 41 as a snotty sub-Blink 182 punk-pop band, they matured into a really killer outfit. Check out the 2012 album Screaming Bloody Murder, it’s an awesome punk concept album in the vein of Green Day’s American Idiot or My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade.
Anyway, I went to see them when I was a student, along with my housemate, and they were in their full-on wannabe Iron Maiden era, with all manner of gothic set dressing. It became swiftly obvious to us that the room was divided into two distinct groups: boys of about twelve or thirteen down the front, and their dads at the back having a beer. It was all very odd, having to be careful not to tread on these little kids as we moshed… but after a while we were sufficiently drunk not to care that we were a clear foot taller than everyone else in the pit, and pushed our way eagerly to the front. Sod it, eh?

Reef – Portsmouth Pyramids, 14th March 2003
You’re always guaranteed a good time with Reef – Gary Stringer, the frontman, has an unquenchable enthusiasm for geeing up the crowd, playing every gig like it’s their last. They finished the set at the Pyramids with End, the final track from the first album Replenish. In doing so, Stringer insisted on singing it while crowdsurfing over the moshpit; however, he didn’t have a wireless mike, and instead carried his microphone with him along with its absurdly long cable. This, as you might imagine, caused certain logistical issues, as moshpits are pretty vibrant places and the security guys were understandably keen that no-one got strangled by the cable. So it took them five or six aborted attempts at the song before they finally got to finish it. Still, worth it in the end.

Super Furry Animals –  Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall, 24th October 1999
The Super Furries were about as bonkers and psychedelic as British indie music could get in the nineties, and they knew how to put on a show. For the encore of this bafflingly colourful gig, the band came back on stage in massive furry alien costumes, saluted, and bobbed up and down to a backing track for fifteen minutes. Genuinely surreal.

Mansun –  Margate Winter Gardens, 28th October 1998
Another from the magical 1998 season, this one was the first gig where I got to go backstage and meet the band.
It could have been even more impressive – as a keen member of the fan club, I’d posted a message a few days before saying that I was desperately trying to get tickets as the gig had sold out. I then managed to secure some, and was just on the way out of the door when the phone rang (the landline, it was 1998) and somebody said ‘Hey, is that Dan? Do you still need tickets for tonight?’
In the rush to get going it didn’t occur to me to think who would be asking such a question, so I said ‘no, I’ve got tickets now, we’re just on our way,’ to which he replied ‘oh, right. This is Chad from the band, we were going to offer you some tickets and full hospitality and stuff, but OK. Enjoy the gig.’ D’oh. Still, we talked our way backstage anyway, and I got them to sign all my album covers (which, of course, I just happened to have in my back pocket along with a spangly silver marker pen).

Fun Lovin’ Criminals -  Kentish Town Forum, 10th April 1999
If 1998 was the year of getting lifts to see bands in Folkestone and Margate, ’99 was the year of getting the train up to London gigs.
We saw the Fun Lovin’ Criminals at the Forum, and I was beside myself with excitement to realise that I was leaping up and down at the front next to Saffron from Republica. London was still a mysterious and otherworldly place to me, having grown up in a small seaside town, and this just served to reinforce my idea that London is full of celebrities. A notion that has since proved itself to be untrue.

Oasis –  Wembley Stadium, 21st July 2000
I’d never been to a stadium gig (apart from Cardiff), and a load of my friends had bought tickets to the second night of the run, July 22nd; I hadn’t bought one because it seemed insanely expensive, even though I loved Oasis and had never seen them before.
And then on the 20th, my friend Dan called and said ‘hey, I’ve got a few free tickets for tomorrow, wanna come?’
And it was brilliant. We compared notes afterwards with the guys who went the following day, and it seemed like we’d had a better time, largely because they’d got into a fight with a guy who was pissing in an empty water bottle (toilet facilities are tricky at stadiums) and had splashed wee-wee over my friend Lucy.

Blur –  Hyde Park, 3rd July 2009
The other side of the Britpop war/piss calamity situation presented itself almost a decade later in Hyde Park. My wife and I (well, she was my fiancée then) were standing there enjoying Tender when she became aware of something splashing up her ankles. I turned around to find a man, clearly very drunk, quite brazenly having a slash on the floor.
It was very tempting to punch him in his stupid face, but then while I was shouting at him he fell over all by himself. Into his own wee. Punishment enough, I think.

A –  Portsmouth Pyramids, 27th February 2002
A are just an incredible live band. They enjoyed the crowd’s frenzied reaction to Monkey Kong so much that they played it again with MORE SHOUTING AND JUMPING. Everyone went mental, it was ace.

The Wildhearts – Portsmouth Pyramids, 30th April 2002
I’ve seen The Wildhearts quite a few times – one of my all-time favourite bands – but, as far as I can remember, this is the only time I’ve been to a gig on my own. I was meant to be going with a mate but he was ill or something, so I just went anyway, substituting human interaction for vast quantities of cheap lager. And you know what? Everyone’s your friend in a moshpit. (Or your worst enemy – depends who you’re seeing, really.)

Placebo –  The Wedgewood Rooms, 8th March 2003
I saw loads of bands at the Wedge when I was a student, it was a great venue – just about big enough to squeeze in a couple of hundred people, I saw all sorts of up-and-coming acts there – Vex Red, Soulwax, The Electric Soft Parade, The Jeevas, The Cooper Temple Clause, Three Colours Red… it got to the point where I was on first name terms with the guy in the ticket office.
One day I went in to buy some tickets – I forget what for – and he said to me ‘hey, can you keep a secret?’ I indicated that I possibly could, depending what it was. He said ‘OK, I’m going to sell you a pair of tickets, they’re twelve quid each – they’ll come through your door on the day of the gig. I can’t say who it is, but I guarantee you’ll like it.’
It was Placebo, doing a warm-up gig for their forthcoming international tour. He was right, I did like it. I’m a big fan of Placebo. Seeing them in such a tiny venue when they were such a massive band was spectacular.

Stereophonics – Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall, 7th November 1998
Perhaps one of the most special gigs of all. In those heady days of indie discovery back in ’98, I’d usually go to gigs with my schoolfriends and my sister. For this ’Phonics gig, I went with my buddy Paul Mavers. Paul and I had known each other for years and years; from the age of about eleven or twelve we were always playing basketball together – we played for the local team, and used to talk about how were going to make it big and play in the NBA when we grew up.
Anyway, going to different secondary schools we naturally drifted slightly and found ourselves in different groups of friends, but around the age of sixteen or seventeen we used to talk a lot more on the phone, brought back together by another common interest, this time a love of music. We used to send each other mixtapes in the post along with clippings from the NME and Melody Maker. And we’d agreed to meet up at this Stereophonics gig.
Paul was always braver than me. During Looks Like Chaplin, he ran up onto the stage, dove into the moshpit, and crowdsurfed like a hero, a massive silly grin plastered all over his face. His feet had barely touched the floor when a couple of security guards picked him up, dragged him away and threw him out of the venue.
Paul died in 2010. He’d been very ill for a long time with a rare form of cancer. I miss him. But my one clearest memory of him, the first thing I think of when I hear his name, is the defiant look on his face as they hauled him out of that moshpit, yelling ‘let me hear the end of the song!’. Always makes me grin when I hear that track.

So, yeah – live music. It’s more than just a bunch of sounds.
This one’s for you, Paul (and everyone else too, let’s not get maudlin…):

The beginnings of WWI, via the medium of rap

The Simpsons/Family Guy crossover

What do you make of that, then? Awesome, or sacrilege? 

Awful Review Posters

Pure gold - movie posters featuring bad reviews. Click here.

Secrets of the Circle Line

Take a look at this guy's channel, he's done a load of these. Intriguing stuff.

Musicless Elvis


First taste of chocolate

Ivory Coast cocoa bean farmers taste chocolate for the first time. Simultaneously heartwarming and depressing.