Friday, 28 November 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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







Wakeboarding like a boss

Tallulah’s first haircut

Oh, bless.

Geeky Back to the Future spots

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


Old Spice - Dadsong

Pleasantly strange.

*repeat last action*

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

Knock knock...

So, how many takes did this take?

24 seconds of searching

Friday, 21 November 2014

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

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

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



There’s comedic promise in there, but unfortunately that’s where the humour ends; he then chose to focus his character development on the more ‘oi oi’ side of the ideas displayed there, creating six-second bursts of laddishness on the then-emerging Vine platform. And fair play to him, he cannily spied a very shareable niche there. He found enormous success on the platform, gaining over 575,000 followers, his later video clips featuring famous faces such as Noel Clarke, Ashley Cole and Danny Dyer, and he became the first British Vine star to get his own TV show. OK, it was on the famously-quite-shit ITV2, but it’s still a bona fide TV channel. His programme On the Pull showcased his, er, skills as a ‘pick-up artist’, leading on from the Wildean wit of his tweets and Vines with ‘Just show her your penis – if she cries, she’s playing hard to get’, ‘Get your arm swing just right when you’re walking and you occasionally touch a bit of minge by “mistake”, they love it’ and ‘If she’s looking at me and playing with her hair, by the end of the night she’ll need a wheelchair’; Chris Graves, exec producer at the show’s production company Big Minded, described O’Reilly as ‘a naughty little rascal with a bodacious approach to pulling’. Bodacious? Well, he was right in one sense. It boded something. (Incidentally, this Popbitch piece explains why ITV2 would commission such a clearly iffy show - http://bit.ly/1t9qZnT)
Laughs’ success thereafter was phenomenal and surprising; his UK tour totally sold out, he performed on the comedy stage at the V Festival, he released a novelty song, Proper Moist, that placed at no.15 in the UK Singles Chart.

But then it all started to unravel. Principally because, well, he’s a bit of a twat. And people started to notice.
In early November he released a charity Christmas album. It received a scathing review from the Mirror-owned web culture site Us vs Th3m (http://bit.ly/1xPmV2k), to which Dapper Laughs angrily responded on Twitter, saying that they were directly stopping the flow of donations to his chosen charities (although which charities these were was something he hadn’t thought to mention at that point).
Us vs Th3m crunched the numbers [http://bit.ly/1zwdnID] and worked out that each Spotify streaming would net just £0.004, meaning that even if 10,000 people listened to it, he’d only raise £40. Also, all the money was going directly to him, he hadn’t stated what percentage he’d be donating. Us vs Th3m then encouraged their readers to donate £14 to Shelter or Refuge (a pound for each track on the album) so that a) some money would actually go to charity and b) no-one would have to listen to the bloody awful album. (It’s worth pointing out that as well as the awful misogyny that is his trademark, Dapper also branched out into abusing the homeless [who “smell like shit”] on his album.)
Dapper Laughs countered by saying that he would be donating actual money to Shelter. Brilliantly, Shelter publically made it known that they would refuse his money. Embarrassed and angered, Dapper (allegedly) took to Snapchat, a social platform in which posts have a limited lifespan and are thus sort of untraceable, and mobilised his Twitter followers to directly target the Us vs Th3m team with personal abuse and threats [http://bit.ly/1wOb40m].
Promoters and affiliates started leaving him in droves, appalled to be associated with an act that was receiving such unpleasant attention. The inevitable Christmas cash-in book, due to be published by Hodder, was cancelled; a spokesperson eagerly claimed that ‘we offered for it back in early September, but we didn’t ever reach agreement,’ while hastily trying to pull it from their website’s pre-order section.
A petition to have the ITV2 show cancelled received over 68,000 signatures and the channel, poking at their abacus with a worried pencil and deducing that this was probably more than the total number of viewers, decided to pull the plug.

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



You may have thought he was funny, and was unfairly hounded off the telly by the liberal media. You may have thought, as I did, that he was a fundamentally unlikeable arsehole, playing on the unpleasantness of the people who gave him money to voice their opinions for them. Whatever your view, I think the whole sorry situation is best summed up by this piece from the Daily Mash: http://bit.ly/1ulOyO2

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






Pieces for Places - #SexyPenguin

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

‘Don’t Copy That Floppy’

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

Gymkhana Seven

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

The Godmother of BMX

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

Shoreditch Wildlife

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




Bloody hell, hoverboards exist!

‘Stop looking at your phones'

GSXR vs. horse

No flannel here.

Pioneering new tech...

...at Asda. Seriously.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

13/11/14 - Mobile Telephones, etc

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

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

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




















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














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
















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
















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
















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




2014 Christmas ads

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





Iron Sky II

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

Richard Madeley: Supercretin

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


Satanic Monster

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

Oyster touch-ins/outs - mapped

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

Friday, 7 November 2014

07/11/14 - The Apprentice

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

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

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

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


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





Living With Monkey

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

Brandlife

The Russell Brand / Parklife meme. Very enjoyable.

Bye Felipe

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




'I ate all your candy'

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

The Berlin Wall, 25 years on

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






October Fails

People hurting themselves. Always funny.