Friday, 20 June 2014

20/06/14 - Dark Ages

Is it just me, or have you noticed that a lot of famous people are dying these days? 2014 has been a particularly productive year for the Reaper so far – January began with Portuguese footballing legend Eusébio heading for the great changing room in the sky, closely followed by Disney-monikered Israeli warbag Ariel Sharon and Roger ‘Trigger’ Lloyd-Pack. Philip Seymour Hoffman overdosed in early February, and Shirley Temple went a week later. March saw the passing of Tony Benn and Frankie Knuckles, while April consumed Mickey Rooney, the Ultimate Warrior, Sue Townsend, Gabriel García Márquez and Bob Hoskins. May was also unkind, taking Jack Brabham and Maya Angelou, and June was the final chapter for Spot the Dog creator Eric Hill, ’Allo ’Allo’s Sam Kelly and, much to everybody’s surprise and extreme sadness, Rik Mayall.
That’s just a random sample, of course, there have been plenty of other famous people finding themselves M.I.A. this year. (Don’t panic, that’s just a narrative construct – rapper M.I.A. is still alive and well, as far as I know.) And 2013 was a real horrorshow, taking away Richard Griffiths, Deanna Durbin, Mel Smith, JJ Cale, David Frost, Tom Clancy, Margaret Thatcher, Lou Reed, Paul Walker, Nelson Mandela, Peter O’Toole and many others. It’s all very bleak.

The nature of celebrity has always been a contentious and tricky area, and in recent times it’s become rather diluted, its essence exponentially altered as the culture for creating famous people becomes more widespread, easier, and less meaningful. Indeed, being famous for fame’s sake is commonplace these days – the number of career celebs who are well known simply because they know the right people, wear the right clothes, go to the right parties is ever-swelling, and it’s a self-perpetuating career path; they’re famous, so people will keep paying them money to do things because other people will be taking a vague interest.
The twin guns of social media and reality TV make all of this easier – cast your mind back to the first series of Big Brother and you’ll see a load of people hitherto unknown who then spent years chasing photoshoots and media tie-ins; this continued and expanded throughout the ensuing series. What was Jade Goody famous for – hamming up a lack of intelligence, being a bit of a racist? Kinda, but she was basically famous because she was famous – she was beamed into everyone’s homes for a few weeks, and suddenly she was a known face, always able to take money from magazines, getting papped on holiday and what-have-you. When she died – tragically young and in horrible circumstances back in 2009 – the outpouring of grief almost reached Princess Diana levels. ‘Forever in our hearts,’ read the banners.

A whole reality TV culture has spawned from this era, as media moguls have spotted that it’s actually quite easy to make people give you loads of money via phone-ins in return for making a load of nobodies famous for a bit. Whether or not their celebrity endures depends largely upon which publicist they hire after the show’s over, but even those who go back to being nobodies will still always be able to secure column inches in the gossip mags. There might be more famous people now than ever before. Fame is just a different thing.

Of course, to return to the original point, none of those people that we’ve lost this year were created by the reality/social media machine. They were just people who (with a couple of exceptions) got old and died; they also happened to be well-known for being good at what they did (or, at least, noteworthy), existing in the public eye but – oh, cruel fate – turning out to be human after all. But again, there seems to be a lot more of this happening these days. Is it because we’re more aware of famous people dying now, just because it used to be the case that the story would appear on the evening news and people would discuss it at work the next day, whereas in 2014 a celeb death will be met with a relentless outpouring of ‘I liked that person, here’s my favourite video clip/quote/article/photo/etc of them, RIP’ status updates? Is it not that there’s more death, but that it’s more interactive? Have we entered the era of Social Death?
…or are there actually more famous people around these days? Let’s say the average first-world life expectancy is about 80 years – that means that the people born in the mid-1930s who became famous for whatever reason will start to fade away round about now – Raymond Briggs, Tom Baker, John Surtees, Barry Humphries… they all seem to be flourishing now, but Richard Briers, Diana Wynne Jones and John Barry all died in recent years, sort of making the point. Look out Yoko Ono, inevitability is not on your side. And of course, there will always be people dying at a younger-than-average age. We’ve got decades of famous folk stacked up and ready to go.
If, child stars aside, people born in the mid-thirties started getting famous in the mid-fifties, can we assume that the last sixty-odd years have been a sort of unstoppable snowball of fame, rolling up ever-greater percentages of the human race? Will we reach critical mass in a few decades’ time when pretty much everybody in the world is ‘famous’ for something?

Perhaps we’re there already. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. I can’t wrap my mind around it, I’m still completely gutted about Rik Mayall.

Rik Mayall's Nintendo ads

Even when he was being the voice of a company, Rik managed to be ineffably charming. These brilliant ads paid for his house in London, which he referred to as 'Nintendo Towers'...

Dancing in the Street, minus music

The Dancing in the Street video is probably the most embarrassing thing that either Bowie or Jagger have ever done. But remove the music and it becomes utterly magnificent...

Breaking Bad Mr Men

Timberlake Doing Things

Justin Timberlake has an impressively broad range. Look.


I have no idea who this man is, but his immobile eyebrows are mesmerising.

Friday, 13 June 2014

13/06/14 - World Cup, etc

I was in two minds about sending this out. I wrote it a week ago, and since then have become increasingly irritated by the constant anti-football sentiment on social media (which, admittedly, I am guilty of to an extent), feeling that I’m contributing to an unnecessary tide of killjoyism. (I know I’m being a bit of a prick about it, bursting everyone’s enjoyment bubble by whining unnecessarily. By way of penance, maybe this’ll be useful to you?
But then I thought… sod it, no-one’ll read it anyway, you’ll just scroll down to the funny videos an’ that. So here we go…


So, the World Cup has started. You might have spotted it. Lager sales are up, flags abound, and the pubs are full of people with faded greeny-blue bulldog tattoos on their forearms. Nations across the globe forget their troubles and join together in celebrating the superior kicking skills of their well-coiffed heroes.

So, you’re excited, yeah? Raring to go? Yay football, woo! Come on you [insert colour of strip]!
Fuck it, I don’t like football. And I’m going to tell you why.
Now, this won’t just be an ill-advised, discriminatory anti-football rant – you’ve heard it all before. Indeed, I did just such a thing in JuicyPips a few years ago and really annoyed a lot of people. Sorry about that. I’ll try to be logical.

For the sake of getting it out of the way, though, here are some broad and general things that I don’t like about football (again, that you’ve heard a million times before from various anti-football bores, sorry again): the relentless laddishness and yobbery, astonishingly rich young men complaining about not getting enough millions for doing something for a living that – let’s face it – they really enjoy, the culture on the pitch that sees players diving to the ground and weeping in the hope of gaining a spurious free kick rather than actually just fucking getting on with the game, the inherent racism, misogyny and homophobia of a significant chunk of the fans, the constant spitting, the fact that football fans often immediately discount you as irrelevant and without value if they ask who you support and you say ‘actually, I don’t follow football’… and so on. Oh, and the fact that newsreaders will always say ‘if you don’t want to know the football scores, look away now’, and yet will happily blurt out ‘Lewis Hamilton won the Grand Prix today’ without giving you any warning to cover your ears. This all contributes to a general dislike of the sport, but it’s not the main reason.

No, the real reason I hate football is this: if you get bullied a lot at school, you’ll quickly identify a clear correlation between the group of people who are making your life a misery, and the group of people who are always playing and talking about football. Most of them exist within the crossover of that Venn diagram. I’m not saying all footballers or football fans are bullies; nevertheless, the association is undeniable. At least, it was in my school. They’re smug, superior in sporting prowess, trading intelligence or social decency for the ability to accurately kick a small air-filled sphere and know that ‘offside’ doesn’t mean ‘off the side of the pitch’ (which, to be fair, I didn’t think was a bad guess considering that no-one had ever explained it to me). The football kids were the popular kids. Not that I particularly yearned to be popular, but it really pissed me off that if you weren’t into football, you weren’t worth talking to. As you may have guessed, I still have a large and angry bee in my bonnet about this.

There are numerous occasions when I've enjoyed football. I loved Euro ’96 – Shearer’s relentless goal-scoring, Gazza’s improbable chipping, the emotional rollercoaster of the penalties – all subsequently chronicled rather well in the BBC’s largely forgotten rom-com-thing ‘My Summer With Des’, too.
My best mate Sam is a full-on football nut, his head is stuffed with the most incredible trivia about any footballer that you care to name from any era. He’s a lifelong Spurs fan, and he lives and breathes the sport. He is proof that football fans can be nice, and I’m sure that there are a lot of other decent football enthusiasts like him. We just have a sort of unspoken arrangement, he doesn’t really talk about football (not that I mind him doing so, he’s very interesting about it), and I try not to bore him about cars. He took me to a game once – a Spurs vs. Fulham match. It was fun, although I stood out like a sore thumb, not cheering at the right time and generally being a bit confused about the rules. But hey, it was a day out. We drank beer and everything.
I actually like the World Cup too, I genuinely do. I love the camaraderie, the all-in-it-togetherness, the enthusiastic pursuit of a common goal. I feel the same about the World Cup as I do about the Olympics – a detached interest at first, but with a keenness for the home team to do well, and an increasing propensity to get swept up in the excitement.

But on the whole, on a personal level, fuck football. Fuck football, fuck the people that play it, fuck the boorish oafs that treat it as the only important thing in the world, and fuck the despicable nature that football reveals in some people.
The sport itself is something I would potentially have a lot of time for – it’s just the people who play it professionally and a certain proportion of the people who watch it that I have a problem with.
You know, sometimes I go back to my home town and I see those same schoolyard bullies in the pub, all grown up, wearing their football shirts, shouting ‘oi oi!’ and ‘laaaaaaad!’ and ‘’ave it!’, and it reminds me of an allegory that Bill Bryson illustrates in one of his books, in which a person may visit their home town to find the high school football hero, still wearing his varsity sweater despite being in his fifties and lacking most of his hair, and looking rather pathetic. The one thing that validated him among his peers as a teenager is now the only thing he has left, and everybody else has moved on.
Sure, those guys are happy enough, playing Sunday league and shouting at Arsenal on the telly, but they’re also still the intolerant, judgemental bullies that they always were. So fuck them too.

…and that’s why I don’t like football.
Still, it amuses me greatly that the symbol of Brasil 2014 looks like a facepalming man. There’s probably something extraordinarily pithy I could say about that, but I’ve said enough. Enjoy the tournament. I’ll try my best to understand what you’re talking about, I really will.

The World Cup of Everything Else

It's not just football that the world's getting all competitive over - click here to see what your country's strengths are...

Opening a Champagne bottle with a sabre

A thoroughly useful skill, entertainingly presented.

Metal tribute to the history of video games

Well now, this is fairly astonishing.

Love in the Key of Partridge

Chatting people up online using only Alan Partridge quotes. So simple, so effective. Clicky.

The Outsider

Some great tips here concerning what to do if you find a feral man in your bushes.

You're Getting Old

Nice little thing here explaining exactly how old you are, what was going on in the world at various points throughout your life, and so on. Click here.

Will Ferrell vs. Chad Smith


The future of gaming?

If this is the kind of thing we can expect, count me in. Both of these look utterly beautiful.

Informercial struggles

This. This is the human race’s epitaph.