Friday, 29 April 2016

29/04/16 - Domery

Eating is a polarising and divisive concept. Some do it for fuel, others do it for pleasure, and each camp is equally scornful of the other; sure, the former group tend to live longer, but what kind of a life is it? Give me a juicy steak instead of a bowl of quinoa and knock a few years off my life, I think that’s a pretty attractive deal.

Of course, some people have got the hang of volume-eating more than most. It’s interesting to note that the victors in competitive eating situations (which exist in abundance, worryingly) are often svelte and slender Japanese dudes who are able to wolf down several dozen hot dogs with laser-focused rapidity, rather than being the podgy butterballs from Doncaster that you might expect. The trick here is to eat a lot, but not often; allow the stomach to stretch, but don’t always keep it that way.
For other masters of the gastronomic arts, however, gargantuan food intake is not a competitive sport but a way of life, and there’s no greater poster boy for this menu-crushing peculiarity than Charles Domery.

“Who?” you may enquire. Well, I’m glad you asked, thanks for joining in. Domery is a chap from the late-1700s who was born in Poland as Charles Domerz. He served in the Prussian and French armies, and was known above all else for his really quite extraordinary appetite. It was sufficiently hearty that during the War of the First Coalition (the first attempt by European monarchies to topple Revolutionary France), he deserted the Prussian army and joined the French side because their rations were better.
His time thereafter in the French service was chronicled with some degree of astonishment by Dr. J. Johnston in the 1799 Medical and Physical Journal, detailing how in Domery’s time stationed near Paris he ate 174 cats in the space of a year, leaving just the skin and bones. He was basically always hungry, and would eat anything nearby, preferring his meat raw. He had a deep suspicion and dislike of vegetables, and yet if there wasn’t anything else available he was known to eat a few pounds of grass every day just to keep his relentlessly demanding stomach topped up to the brim.

In naval service on the ship Hoche, he tried to eat the severed leg of a fellow crew member which had been blown off by cannon fire, before his shipmates managed to wrestle it from his meaty grasp and suggest that perhaps he was being a bit insensitive. Shortly afterwards, in February 1799, the Hoche was captured by the British and Domery and the crew were interned at Liverpool, where he struck his captors agog with his absurdly bottomless appetite. Despite having been put on ten times the rations of his fellow captives, he was still always hungry; he ate the prison cat, and any rat that was unfortunate enough to scurry into his cell, and could often be found chomping on the prison-issue candles. He also ate all the medication from the infirmary, suffering no apparent adverse effects.

This enthusiasm for gourmandery piqued the interest of the expansively-named Commissioners for Taking Care of Sick and Wounded Seamen and for the Care and Treatment of Prisoners of War (later renamed ‘Sick and Hurt Board’, so as not to waste everybody’s time), who decided to do a little experiment on him – presumably just to glare wide-eyed at his abilities rather than for any sort of scientific merit. Over the course of a single day he was fed sixteen pounds of raw beef and raw cows’ udders, twenty-four tallow candles, and several bottles of porter. He scoffed it all with casual aplomb, and didn’t wee, poo or puke at any point. At the end of the experiment he was apparently perfectly happy, and keen to have a dance and smoke his pipe, then drink some more porter before bed.

You’d expect a man of such vast ingestion capacity to be a bit of a porker, wouldn’t you? But no, contemporary medical accounts have him listed as a man of normal build, shape and muscle tone, with no signs of mania or mental instability. He was just a really hungry chap who somehow managed to digest food extremely efficiently. The only real abnormality was that he’d sweat profusely while he slept and ate – but you can’t sweat out sixteen pounds of udders in a day, can you?

Unfortunately, the fate of Domery is unknown. Nothing is recorded of his life after his time at Liverpool, or indeed how he died. I like to think he ate himself.

Cassetteboy vs Jeremy Hunt

Click. Make. Play.

A lovely little melodious timewaster. Clicky.

Jackass - where are they now?

MMO Snake

Snake, online, with loads of real opponents. Addictive. Click here.

Friday, 22 April 2016

22/04/16 - TV

When I was a kid, we only had four television channels. (I realise this is true for almost everyone reading this today, but I’m going to print this out and hide it somewhere to later wow my kids with when they read it in 2028 or whenever, when televisions will be implanted into every teenager’s wrist and everybody will have several hundred of their own personalised channels.)
We had a charming wood-effect television with a screen that seemed a reasonable size when I was a nipper, but would probably look comically tiny now. It had four channels because that was all that was required; each channel knob was twistable so that you could tune them in – no auto-tuning here, you had to wiggle them back and forth to eliminate the crackling black & white static as best you could – and of course there was no remote. Being a deep and cumbersome cathode ray tube affair rather than anything approximating a modern flat-screen, it required its own large table to sit on, and when you turned it off there would linger at the centre of the screen three dots - a red one, a green one, a blue one. This may sound like a dull and insignificant detail, but those three little dots are an iconic symbol of a lost age, something future generations will never experience, like dialling a rotary phone or winding the tape back into a chewed audio cassette. You’d sit and watch the dots fade, they were symbolic of the end of the evening’s viewing.

It was always interesting to see how other people tuned their TVs in their houses. At our place the channels were ordered thusly:
1 – BBC1
2 – BBC2
3 – ITV
4 – Channel 4
This was the way most people tuned their TVs, and it made arguably the most sense. It seemed weird to me that anyone would do otherwise, bloody weirdos, because our way was so obviously the correct way. However, some folk would order it BBC1-ITV-BBC2-C4, while others would tune them in order of preference, i.e. they’d put C4 in P1 if that was their favourite, etc. One of my earliest TV-related memories is of being at my granny’s house and discovering that she hadn’t got round to tuning her fourth channel in, because ‘there was already plenty to watch’. How times change.
I wonder, incidentally, how many kids these days realise that Channel 4 was so-named because the concept of a fourth channel was quite a revolutionary thing? It’s not just because they wanted to be as high as possible in the channel ranking above the hundreds of others that there are today, but they were proud to be the fresh, new number 4 back in 1982.
Similarly, when Channel 5 launched in 1997, it was only the fifth terrestrial channel - that’s why it’s called that. There was no cleverness afoot, it’s just that there weren’t any other channels available to everyone for free. (And yes, it was as bloody awful then as it is now. [Now in 2016, I mean, although I imagine it’ll be equally bad {if not worse} in 2028.])

TV sets gained extra channels over time, for obvious reasons. When I was a teenager I had a second-hand TV in my bedroom which had eight manually-tuned channels, organised like this:
1 – BBC1
2 – BBC2
3 – ITV
4 – Channel 4
5 – [empty]
6 – [empty]
7 – Super Nintendo
8 – VHS
…so even in the mid-nineties, eight channels was an extravagance. It was years before my parents bought a television for the living room that had the luxurious ability to tune itself, and yet more time before the advent of the Sky dish. If the weather was bad and the wind was blowing the roof aerial around, you couldn’t really watch telly. Actually, that’s still kind of true of my Sky dish, but heigh-ho.

One very clear memory I have from my childhood is the arduous and complicated task of setting the video before going on holiday. My parents were teachers and we used to go to France for the entire summer holiday – six or seven weeks – so the act of setting the VCR to record everything that everyone would miss in that time was a real political struggle, as well as a baffling technological quagmire. (We did have a TV in France, but it was a black & white portable with a 10” screen that could only pick up one French channel, sometimes, when it felt like it. And French TV is balls at the best of times, let alone when it’s viewed in postage-stamp scale and infested with tiny analogue bees.) Even though our VCR was a reasonably good one, it only had a 28-day timer - as was standard then - and, of course, could only record one thing at a time, for that is how video cassettes work. And everything would be recorded in chronological order on the same tape, naturally, giving a maximum time of 360 minutes if you put a T-180 tape on Long Play. You’d generally miss the start or the end of most programmes, and find that certain things had been rescheduled so you’d have a random episode of The Antiques Roadshow instead of Blackadder Goes Forth or something.
Honestly, kids today don’t know how lucky they are to have hard disk-based digital video recorders and suchlike.

We really are tremendously fortunate these days. Not only are there hundreds and hundreds of TV channels to choose from [insert shit, hackneyed ‘so many channels and still nothin’ to watch, hur hur’ cliché, then burn it and send it to hell], but the technology by which it’s delivered is truly amazing. OK, my Sky dish may wave around in the breeze and make everything go all pixelated when the weather’s crap, but the Sky+ box itself is bloody clever. We totally take all this for granted. Series-linking? That’s a stroke of genius – how many times in the pre-catch-up era had you missed a vital episode of something because you forgot to set the video, meaning that subsequent episodes didn’t make a lot of sense? Now you don’t have to put any thought into it whatsoever. Live-pausing is bloody ace as well; when I was growing up, if you were in the middle of watching something and the phone rang (or the doorbell went, or the oven went ‘ping’ and you had to serve up your dinner, or you spilt your drink on the floor, or you needed a wee, or you heard a funny noise upstairs, or you felt a bit chilly and fancied grabbing a jumper, or an alarm was going off outside and you wanted to be nosy, or… etc) then you had to weigh up your priorities in terms of importance: was the phone call/jumper/whatever more of a pressing issue than what was happening on-screen? Could it wait until René had hidden the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies inside the large German sausage? None of these concerns need to trouble us now, you just hit ‘pause’ and go and do your thing – you don’t need to bugger about with finding a blank tape and making sure the VCR’s tuned in to the right channel either, it’s all done for you by electrickery. Similarly if someone talks over a punchline, or there’s a cock-up on live TV, or you catch a glimpse of something weird in the back of shot, you can just rewind and check. And you can pause with digital clarity! Oh, frabjous day – pausing a video meant jumping images and squinting. We’re so lucky nowadays.

The most incredible thing of all is the Sky+ mobile app. (I bet similar things are available for Freeview and Virgin and what-have-you, I haven’t bothered to check.) It’s got a full TV guide in it, with colour pictures and detailed synopses and everything, and - get this – you can record stuff on your home Sky box FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. I don’t think people properly acknowledge how awesome - in the true sense of the word - this is. I can be in the pub when someone recommends a TV show to me, and within seconds I can set my recorder at home to capture it for me, ready for me to watch when I get back. Time-travel back to the eighties and explain that concept, they’ll call you a bloody madman. (Although perhaps your time-travelling machine may be of more immediate interest to them than your television recording apparatus.)

You could argue that having thousands upon thousands of hours of television available to us every day is making us rapidly less sociable, consuming our entire existences with show after show about random new subjects. I’d counter that that’s bollocks – the fact that we have these clever means by which to customise and personalise our viewing habits means that our TV-watching is smarter, more refined, less scattergun. I very rarely watch anything in real time, allowing the shows I want to see to build up as an arsenal of cosy entertainment that sits as potential energy in the corner of the room, ready to be unleashed as and when I’m not doing other things. It fits around real life, rather than dictating life’s timetable like it used to.

You know all of this, of course. But it’s useful every now and then to step back and consider these things, I find. If you’d told me as a child that all of this would be possible in the future, I’d have been beside myself with excitement. So it’s nice to feel a little beside ourselves with it all now, just to keep it in perspective. Don’t you think?

Commenting on porn

"...aaaaaaaaand SEND!"


Ah, we've all been there.

How 3D Printing Works

I love this guy's videos. It's all in the eyebrows.

Friday, 8 April 2016

08/04/16 - Ten Years!

Last week I celebrated my tenth year of working in advertising. Or, more specifically, ten successful years without being found out. Seriously, I have no idea what any of these people are doing, but I’ve somehow managed to fly under the radar thus far and apparently I now get a free pen. Not bad, is it, this advertising lark?
So, how does one thrive in this industry? Well, I’ve got some handy hints and tips for you below… but first, here’s what not to do – a selection of things that I didn’t get fired for, but probably only just:

Got drunk and forgot to come to work
This was only my third day of working here, actually. I joined the agency in the halcyon days of endless free lunches, free-flowing taxi accounts, and all manner of cash-splashing profligacy. All very different to the agency of today.
The secretaries and PAs invited me on a freebie team lunch – I forget the occasion, it may just have been that it was a Wednesday – at a local tapas restaurant, which no longer exists because we no longer send huge delegates there to get smashed every lunchtime.
They gave me lots of wine. I was young and carefree and happy to accept. It wasn’t until about 5pm that I eventually remembered to come back to work.
My new boss may have been rethinking a few decisions at this point.

Stole the MD’s car
The big cheese is a stallion of a man. Without his filthy mouth and questionable moral outlook, the agency would be a very different place. His decent nature is almost certainly the reason I didn’t get fired when one day, for some reason, I stole his car – along with an anonymous accomplice – and parked it somewhere he couldn’t find it.
It was a lovely thing. Porsche 911 Turbo, 996-generation. Easy to steal, too.

Climbed drunkenly over the fence on a weekly basis
This isn’t so much naughty as just stupid. Back when I joined in 2006, the office bar was the place to be. Every Thursday and Friday night it was rammed – the culture was such that it was weird if you weren’t there, it was just what people did. It was a much more social atmos, everyone knew who everyone else was. Ah well, times change.
Anyway, the gate to exit the complex is quite tall and very heavy. In the daytime there’s always a security guard there to open it for you (unless it’s raining and they can’t be arsed, in which case they just sit in their little hut and watch you do it, despite the fact that opening the gate is THEIR ENTIRE FUCKING JOB), but at night-time you have to open it yourself. There’s a button on the wall to release it. I did not find this button until I’d been working here for probably about a year. I just used to climb over the gate.
Given that I was drunk every time I did this, it didn’t occur to me that there might be a simpler way. Also, the top of the gate has been painted with grease to stop people climbing it, so I fell off a lot.
There are probably still CCTV files on me in the gatehouse.

Ran an anonymous blog sharing various amusing internal emails
Yeah, in hindsight there was no way that was a good idea. Fucking idiot.

JuicyPips used to be an all-staff email. Nowadays, at the request of HR, it’s an opt-in thing. You only receive it if you’ve asked to do so. Why? Because once I used the word ‘cunt’ and someone complained to HR.
To be honest, I’d used that word numerous times before in JuicyPips (only when it was artistically justified, natch) but this occasion was clearly the straw that broke that particular person’s camel’s back.
To put it in context, I was describing a person in this Envirofone ad from 2009 – the man who says ‘wonga’. I stand by my analysis.

Oh, dear. This was unfortunate.
There was a photo booth at the Christmas party one year. Some of the ladies of the agency flashed their shirt-potatoes in the booth, unaware that all the photos taken would be emailed around the agency the next day. When said email arrived, I forwarded it on to a select group of colleagues with an amused ‘Hey look, there’s boobs on page [x]. Oh, and again on page [y].’ It was very post-modern, I was lampooning modern laddishness by holding up a sarcastic mirror to their reprehensible misogyny. Or something. Anyway, one of said people forwarded it back around to everyone in the building, which made me look like a right dick. Which, frankly, I kinda was. Still, if it helps to justify it, I was quite hung over.

So if you do find yourself with an HR file thick enough to stuff a decent-sized mattress, here’s what you need to do to survive in advertising:

Say the word ‘strategy’ a lot
This seems to be very important. No-one gives a fuck what it means – if, indeed, it means anything at all – but it’s vitally important to be seen to have a strategy. Or, at least, to be talking about one.
Be sure to play around with ‘strategise’, as well as attempting the awful ‘stratify’, and deploying the hideous contraction ‘strat’.

Use horrible made-up words like ‘learnings’
Again, a lot of importance is placed on talking like a mindless illiterate. It’s ever so important to ‘share your learnings’, even if it does make everybody want to punch you in the head, you fucking idiot.

Don’t turn up on Fridays
Apparently this is OK.
I’m always here on Fridays, I’ve got shit to do. But no-one else is, it’s like the Marie Celeste. They can’t all be on a four-day week, can they? How are they getting away with it? I guess if everyone’s out of the office, no-one’s there to tell them off. Interesting.
(I say ‘I’ve got shit to do’ – I generally spend Fridays nosing around in people’s desk drawers, skateboarding naked up and down the corridors, and leaving unsavoury substances in the water dispenser tanks.)

Massively overuse the phrase ‘going forward’ (or ‘moving forward’)
This irritates the hell out of me, but apparently it’s a necessary cog in the advertising machine. You’re never just coming up with an idea, it has to be ‘the idea going forward’. If you ever mention something that’s going to happen in the future, it’s mandatory to explain it as ‘moving forward, we’d like to do this…’
Try and slip it into every sentence, people will assume you’re a pro.

Work late, even though you don’t need to
I fell into this trap early on – I went through a phase of arriving at the office at 7am and working through to 7 or 8pm. For months. It was exhausting! Because working hours are an arms race. If you’re the one who’s always in the office, perhaps you won’t be first against the wall when the redundancies come. Self-preservation, yeah?
(I don’t do this any more. I’m out of the door at bang-on 5:15 every day, as per my contract, which inevitably always leads to some berk in the lift saying ‘hur hur, leaving early are we?’ No. No, I’m not. I’ve done a day’s work, and now it’s home-time. Stop showing off about how hard you’re working, no-one’s impressed. Dick.)

Huff and puff a lot
Further to the above, you’ll do yourself a lot of favours by creating the appearance of being busy. If you’re always a bit frazzled and worked-up, you’re probably indispensable, right? So when you’re waiting at the printer for something to pop out of the slot, or tapping your toes as you wait for the elevator to come, or just making a cup of tea in the kitchen, be sure to huff and puff impatiently throughout. Your time is invaluable, and everyone needs to appreciate that. Constant, aggressive exhalation will let everybody know.

Walk everywhere quickly, holding a piece of paper
Similarly, striding briskly through the office will reinforce the point that you’re very busy and important. If you’re holding a piece of paper (and it can be any piece of paper, no-one will look at it), it’s probably something vital that you need to get to somebody else without delay.
Be sure to always be too busy to talk to anyone as well – even if you’re travelling down a few floors in the lift with somebody (which is a finite period of time, in which it makes absolutely no difference whether you’re chatty or not). Just spend your time exaggeratedly looking at your watch every three seconds and quietly muttering ‘comeoncomeoncomeon’.

Refer to a PowerPoint presentation as ‘a deck’
Everybody in advertising does this. Nobody else in the world does. It’s just one of those mysteries.

Complain about business travel
You get to fly at 500mph in a colossal metal bird, for free, then stay in a foreign hotel, again for free. Imagine what your teenage self would have made of that idea.
But no, it’s awful.

Don’t be ashamed to reel out the clichés
Oh, there’s a lot of this. You’ll hear phrases like ‘outside the box’ and ‘blue sky thinking’ on a daily basis, along with pseudo-ironic variants like ‘let’s blue sky this’. Incredibly, ‘grasp the low-hanging fruit’ actually gets a regular airing too, along with the repulsive ‘hearts and minds’. The more you cheese it up, the more you’ll sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Say weird phrases with such confidence that everyone assumes they should know what it means and thus never question it
What do you think a ‘tissue meeting’ is?
Nope, me neither. Nobody knows. But a lot of them happen, and you’re not allowed to question it because everyone else will assume that you’re not as good at advertising as they are, despite not knowing themselves. It’s a sort of test.
Tissue meetings are generally just rooms full of people uneasily eyeing each other up to see who’ll crack first.

Act like you’re in Nathan Barley, in a totally brazen and unselfconscious manner
This is particularly important if you work in digital, social, or any other adjective that the industry insists on using as a noun. Wear a suit jacket over a t-shirt. Have at least two phones on you at any given time. Reel off a lot of pithy comments about the state of Apple Corp that you’ve stolen from Wired magazine. Make sure that your legs are half-business-half-pleasure (in either combination – pinstripe trousers with Converse All-Stars, or skinny jeans with patent leather shoes). Directly quote Nathan Barley – ‘well Jackson’, ‘totally fucking Mexico’, etc – in an attempt to create an impression of irony. Fill your office with novelty items you’ve stolen from shoots. Wear sunglasses indoors.

Drop acronyms willy-nilly
Acronyms are the lifeblood of the industry. On your first day, if you’re lucky, someone will kindly explain the difference between ATL and BTL… if they don’t, you’ll be immediately baffled by the sheer volume of mentions.
You’ll be needing B2B and B2C of course, that’s basic stuff. And then there’s CPL, POS, SME, DRTV, WoM, CTR, MPS, AIDA, CAB, DAGMAR… it’s all BS, of course, but necessary.

See? It’s easy. I’ve been here this long and nobody’s noticed that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. They’ll read this and assume that I’m joking too. (And this. [And this.]) Oh, what a gloriously absurd carnival this industry is.

The Old New World

Pretty. Just don't try to figure out how they did it.

"The Old New World" (Photo-based animation project) from seccovan on Vimeo.

Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse

This looks genuinely strange. In a good way.

Bigoted Bill

Er... yes.


Great, now we have to be scared of the wind.