How to be a YouTube millionaire

Posted by & filed under Celebrities, How To..., Interviews, Media, Video.

How to be a YouTube millionaire.

Last year, 24 year old Felix Kjellberg made $4 million from playing video games. To be more precise, Felix made $4 million from playing video games really badly.

Known as PewDiePie online, millions of YouTube users love the camp, crazy commentary Kjellberg comes up with as he sword-fights with Minecraft zombies or screams like a girl playing Silent Hill. Over 30 million people subscribe to his PewDiePie channel, making it the most popular on YouTube.

So – yeah. $4 million. You’re probably thinking, like us, “I play video games really badly! I sound a bit stupid when I talk! Maybe I can make a fortune on YouTube.”

Well, that’s true, you could. But there’s one big difference between us and Felix. He’s actually doing it. Want to be the next YouTube millionaire? We talk to people who know exactly how to get you there.

Show Me the Money

In May 2007, YouTube launched its “Partner Program”. Under this initiative, popular YouTubers were able, for the first time, to run advertising on their videos. At first, it was a shadowy, secretive feature – with YouTube cherry-picking popular uploaders for its program. In 2012, the service was opened to everyone. Party time.

YouTube has been cagey about the exact amount of money its users can earn from the partner program – and it’s strongly rumoured that the more popular you are, the better the terms you get. In a Reddit AMA Felix Kjellberg refused to disclose how much he received from a single click on an advert:

“It’s against YouTube’s policy to answer that unfortunately. But there’s no exact number really.”

PewDiePie’s millions – and his earning capacity – is an extreme example. YouTube’s biggest earners are privileged.

“There are certain features that only some partners have,” an anonymous YouTube insider told Reddit users, “There are people that get away with more things. There are gifts/grants given to only the top YouTubers. There are people that are responded to by the company more quickly than others.”

If you want to aim for a more achievable goal, look further down the pecking order. Olga Kay, is YouTube’s equivalent of a nine-to-fiver, building an audience since 2006. The New York Times reported her earnings from make up videos and game commentary on YouTube as “$100,000 to $130,000 in each of the last three years”.

To keep that up, she has to publish up to 20 videos a week across five channels to a total of around 2 million subscribers. “It’s very stressful,” she told the NYT, “Every morning I wake up and think, ‘What can I do that’s different that will keep me relevant for another year?’”

It’s a real job but, personally, it still sounds better than waking up every morning knowing you’ll spend the day flipping burgers.

Music’s in the heart

Financial success isn’t the only benefit of YouTube stardom. Some of the platform’s biggest winners are musicians, sidestepping the old school routes of either a) slogging around the country in a transit van playing gigs to single figure audiences or b) going to stage school and successfully auditioning for the next big boy and/or girl band.

With YouTube, many media savvy singers, instrumentalists and songwriters have been able to build up a substantial following without ever leaving their bedrooms. Like Christina Grimmie, who began covering other artists on her channel ZeldaXLove64 five years ago – with a version of Nelly’s “Just a Dream” attracting 115 million hits. In 2010 she came second in a YouTube music competition – which doesn’t seem too impressive until you know that the other people in the top five were Justin Bieber, Selina Gomez, Nicky Minaj and Rihanna.

Now signed to major label Island Records, most of Grimmie’s success can be directly attributed to the audience she cultivated on YouTube.

So, how do you get there? It’s clear from the story of Olga Kay that you can treat it like a job and grind out a living from the site. The big success stories like Christina Grimmie show what’s possible when you have talent to match the graft.

We spoke to three of YouTube’s biggest stars to find out if there was a secret formula we could repeat.

Corey Vidal

A bona fide YouTube veteran, Corey Vidal was one of the first people to be signed up to YouTube’s partner program when it was introduced. Though he has clips dating back eight years, Corey’s best known video, an awesome acapella tribute to composer John Williams, was uploaded in 2008. With over 19 million views, it features bits from the themes to Close Encounters, Jaws and Superman – and the best wookie impression you’ll ever hear.

His tips for success are concise, “I always tell people to start out by making crap. Then find a way to make that crap better,” Corey told us – mirroring Samuel Beckett’s maxim that if you fail at first, you should try again and ‘fail better’.

He says you shouldn’t worry too much about looking for the perfect idea. Working at it is more important.

“A lot of people get hung up wanting to start a YouTube channel, but they build up their ideas so high in their head that it actually prevents them from going and making videos,” says Corey, “Don’t worry about making things perfect.”

“Get going. Make videos. Then make more. That’s the best way to not only get started, but to grow as fast as possible.”

Gunnarolla

Good timing is a recurring theme when you speak to YouTube superstars. Andrew Gunadie, known to YouTube as Gunnarolla, struck gold with a comedy song called “Canadian, Please” that racked up four and a half million views.

Canadian, Please was a perfect combination of good content, good timing, and fulfilling a niche,” Andrew told us recently, “Canadian content, or more specifically, content that propped Canadians up and poked fun at stereotypes, was not something that we had seen a lot of on YouTube back in 2009 when it went viral”

The channel now has close to 80,000 subscribers with travel and video blogs rubbing alongside the funny songs. Gunnarolla’s currently on a tour of Germany and the UK, playing his music live in London, Birmingham and Manchester and the end of September. It’s been hard work getting there, despite the viral success.

“I’ve strived to be authentic in everything that I do – from videoblogs to music videos to all of my travel stuff,” says Andrew, “I like to involve the audience as much as possible in my work – that interactivity is one of the biggest benefits to a platform like YouTube, and I don’t think we tap into it enough. I’ve resisted the temptation to do the same thing every week, or to pander to the lowest common denominator.”

If you want to follow in Gunnarolla’s footsteps, it’ll take a great deal of dedication. “You’ve got to decide what you want out of this platform and work hard for it,” says Andrew, “If there was a secret to “going viral”, then a lot of us would be “going viral” today. There are just some things out of your control.”

Smoukahontas

20 year old Sara M Forsberg is better known as Smoukahontas, a prodigiously talented impressionist and video blogger who can (and does) play a variety of musical instruments on her goofy YouTube channel.

Unlike Olga Kay or Gunnarolla, Sara hasn’t had to work too hard for her YouTube fame, striking it lucky with a handful of viral videos instead. The best known of these, “What Languages Sound Like to Foreigners” showcases Forsberg’s perfect ear for accents and her ability to speak gobbledegook at the speed of sound.

To date, the clip’s had 12.4 million hits… and it attracted the attention of Capitol Records to her channel. As a result, she’s now the first Finnish person to sign to an American major label.

Unlike some YouTubers, there wasn’t much of game plan when she started, “I just wanted to do what felt fun for me,” she told us, “Simple rule in life; dare to be you!”

Ultimately, Sara’s story shows that you can throw the rule book out of the window and still succeed – if you have the chops to make it. “(You should) be creative, be yourself,” says Sara, “Believe in your talent and use the things you’re best at.”

Over and over, the one piece of advice that stuck as we spoke to YouTube’s biggest hitters was this; work at it. You’ll need talent and you may even need a bit of luck, but the main thing you’ll need are videos – and lots of them.

There are people reading this article who could be making a living right now from playing video games, or writing songs on the ukulele or doing make-up demonstrations. That’s got to be better than flipping burgers.

What’s it really like to visit North Korea?

Posted by & filed under Factoid, How To....

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Why would you want to visit North Korea, a country where a quarter of the population is starving and slagging off the government can buy you a trip to a prison camp? It turns out that it’s a surprisingly nice to place be, on the surface…

North Korea was forged in war. Annexed by Japan in 1910, Korea was divvied up between the Soviet Union and the USA after World War II. But while East and West Germany were able to survive the same treatment and reunify in the 1980s, the conflict between North and South Korea was always more volatile. A war over sovereignty that began in 1950 was never officially ended. The two nations still co-exist under an uneasy ceasefire.

Team America's less than respectful depiction of North Korea's Dear Leader, the late King Jong-il

Team America’s less than respectful depiction of North Korea’s Dear Leader, the late King Jong-il

Though it claims to be a democratic state, North Korea is controlled by a single family - a totalitarian regime lead by the Kim dynasty and their Worker’s Party of Korea. And they don’t call it “North Korea” – they call it the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”. DPRK for short.

“It’s a dictatorship of the most extreme kind,” says travel writer Tim Urban at his site whatbutwhy.com, “A cult of personality beyond anything Stalin or Mao could have imagined.”

You probably know that. You’ve seen Team America: World Police.

What you may not know is that foreigners are allowed in to visit North Korea. No, really. A country whose citizens are forbidden from leaving has its own tourist industry.

This is what they see.

Take the tour

You can’t just fly into North Korea via EasyJet and check into a Holiday Inn. Nor can you, curiously, cross into the country from South Korea. There are other restrictions too.

“You cannot travel on passports from the US, South Korea or Israel,” Australian journalist Ari Sharp discovered on a trip in 2005, “You cannot travel around freely within North Korea, but must at all times be accompanied by two North Korean government officials (the second one, presumably, to keep an eye on the first).”

North Korean visitors have to sign up for organised trips. They’re carefully controlled by government appointed guides and managed by one of three state controlled travel companies. Small groups of western tourists are politely allowed into the country for a few days, politely shown around a selection of sights, then just as politely taken back to the airport for their flight home. Though, in recent years, the tour has expanded to other areas, it tends to focus on the golden showcase  city of Pyongyang; DPRK’s capital.

Don’t get ideas about wandering off too far either. The UK’s official travel guidelines are quite clear about that: “In 2008 a South Korean tourist who strayed into a restricted military area was shot dead,” the site warns gravely.

It also cheerily claims that crime against tourists is refreshingly low. So, that’s OK then.

The go-to hotel

As travel writer Tim Urban notes, just about everyone who lands in Pyongyang ends up in the Yanggakdo hotel.

“You know why they put all visitors here?” says Urban, “Because it’s on an island in the middle of the city”

Music writer Fraser Lewry, who visited North Korea on a carefully orchestrated tour, confirms this:

“The place feels completely different to the rest of Pyongyang,” he wrote in a blog post about his travels, “Probably because it sits on an island in the middle of the Taedong River, effectively isolating it from the rest of the city.”

The presence of so many western tourists gives the Yanggakdo a peculiar ambience.

“It’s a bit anarchic after everything else we’ve seen,” says Lewry, “There’s a nine-hole golf course out front, a ten-pin bowling alley, rumours of a brothel in the basement, and an Egyptian-themed karaoke bar.”

“Even when the rest of the country and much of Pyongyang is without electricity, heat or air conditioning, the Yanggakdo is always bright and comfortable, says Tim Urban, “All part of the plan to project a certain image of the country to visitors.”

Inside the foyer of the Yanggakdo Hotel. (Image by Clay Gilliand used under a CC 2.0 license)

Inside the foyer of the Yanggakdo Hotel. (Image by Clay Gilliland used under a CC 2.0 license)

Seeing the sights

The Yanggakdo, with its late bar and karaoke nights is a decadent contrast to the rest of the tour, which plays out like a crash course in contemporary history, North Korean style.

Tourists are treated to a militarily precise series of visits to a checklist of sites. This is an alternate world where America began the Korean war, the US is routinely referred to as the “American imperialist aggressor” and is blamed for everything wrong on planet Earth.

That’s what the tour’s for; to reinforce North Korea’s side of the story and, almost incidentally, to show off a society with a creepy sense of precision and order. The Pyongyang Metro does a remarkable job of the latter

The Metro is almost always described in utopian terms – a tribute to North Korean precision, politeness and local largesse. But you’re only allowed to ride one stop.

Fraser Lewry described it as “the only part of the tour that feels stage-managed” as the group was driven to Puhung (Rehabilitation) station and took the train to Yonggwang (Glory). Few foreigners know what the rest of the network looks like, but this bit makes the Jubilee line resemble like a series of forgotten sewer pipes.

“Chandeliers hang from the ceiling, some formal, others attempting to represent fireworks exploding above us,” says Ari Sharp “Whilst to the sides, behind the tracks, were majestic murals, at one station depicting Kim Il Sung in all his deceased glory.”

The Pyongyang Metro. (Image by Roman Harak used under a CC 2.0 license)

The Pyongyang Metro. (Image by Roman Harak used under a CC 2.0 license)

Dead dictators

About those Kims. One of the big, early stops on the tour is the mausoleum of Great Leader Kim Il Sung and his late son, the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. This is not like going to see any old celebrity resting place. This is not Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. This is a full afternoon’s excursion to a repurposed palace – the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

Formerly Kim Il Sung’s official residence, the palace was converted at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars when the elder Kim died in 1994. Both former leaders lie within, embalmed by Russian specialists, on public display under glass.

Despite its vast size and the fact that it’s on the official tour, you can’t turn up in your “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt wearing flip-flops.

“Today we’ve been requested to wear more formal attire, and locating clothes that fit comfortably hasn’t been easy for a man of my sporting bulk,” recounts Fraser Lewry, “We quickly learn that this isn’t going to be a straightforward visit.”

Fraser and others have described a journey into the mausoleum along moving walkways, up escalators lined with red velvet, into a vast white marble hallway. Finally, you reach the Great Leader, lying peacefully plasticised. The Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, has a room of his own beyond that. It’s the only part of the tour where photography is prohibited.

“On a visit with many tense moments, the time I spent in here was the tensest,” says Tim Urban, “We had to walk single file in and out and bow three times.”

 

Statue of Great Leader, the late Kim Il Song. (Image by Roman Harak, used under CC 2.0 license)

Statue of Great Leader, the late Kim Il Song. (Image by Roman Harak, used under CC 2.0 license)

Behind the scenes

The tour continues around museums and monuments – and even to the DMZ; the infamous Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. It’s the only place outside Pyongyang that the tour visits. There, a series of blue huts straddle the demarcation line between where – at least once a year – representatives of North and South meet to discuss terms. At one time tourists were able to enter the huts, but no longer. It has the look of an abandoned factory, guarded by soldiers with assault weapons.

It sounds pants-wettingly frightful, but, as visitors often report, the reality is less intimidating.

“The atmosphere is surprisingly carefree,” says Fraser Lewry, “The military guide showing a scale model of the area before clambering on board our bus to guide us further into the DMZ. It’s here we learn how the two sides are still officially at war.”

The DMZ between North and South Korea looks like a set from an 80s Bond film. (Image by Stefan Krasowski, used under a CC 2.0 license)

The DMZ between North and South Korea looks like a set from an 80s Bond film. (Image by Stefan Krasowski, used under a CC 2.0 license)

 

There’s something of the film set about the entire tour. Though North Korea has the fourth largest military force in the world, giant monuments to war victories that are mostly imagined and lavish government buildings, there are frequent power cuts across the city and everything is a little worn and shabby. Even the chic parts.

“There will be a gorgeous museum with huge chandeliers and polished marble floors, but the water won’t be running in the bathroom,” says Tim Urban, “Or a high-end restaurant with upscale decor that’s also sweltering hot because the air conditioning isn’t working.”

That sense of being one step outside reality is helped by North Korea’s own citizens. They’re polite and helpful to an individual.

“Only one man, while in the mausoleum of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, hissed at us group of foreigners as he passed by,” reports travel blogger Derek Earl Baron, “He literally made a face like a cat hissing and hissed loudly at us.”

Previous visitors have reported suspicions that the tours were populated by actors – but as rules have relaxed over the years, it’s apparent that’s not the case. They’re just all drinking the same Kool-Aid.

“During a few experiences on the trip – such as on the Pyongyang Metro or whilst walking to the hotel in Kaesong – we were freely encouraged to engage with local people,” says Ari Sharp, “There was never a problem with us lingering a little behind the group, or meandering in a way that left us surrounded by North Koreans.”

And, why not? The government scripted version of the world is the only one North Koreans really know. North Koreans know about European football, The Beatles and the BBC, but this is a country with only four television stations, all of them state controlled. Great Leader Kim Jong Il published a book called “Guidance for Journalists” that advises that “newspapers carry articles in which they unfailingly hold the president in high esteem, adore him and praise him as the great revolutionary leader”.

“It pervades almost every aspect of life in this country,” says Derek Earl Baron of North Korea’s pro-government propaganda, “The amount of it, whether on display on large signs throughout Pyongyang, in North Korean films, on television, as part of everyone’s education, in theater performances and cultural events, books, newspapers, music and more, is unreal.”

North Korea's Arirang or "Mass Games" demonstrates a near superhuman level of precision and discipline.

North Korea’s Arirang or “Mass Games” demonstrates a near superhuman level of precision and discipline. (Image by Stephan used under a CC 2.0 license)

 

Everything is awesome

In recent years, bloggers and travel writers have reported a greater degree of freedom than earlier visitors. Under current leader Kim Jong-un, rules have relaxed. Visitors are allowed to wander away from the group and explore a little. But only a little. After a day of sightseeing the group returns to the hotel for drinks and karaoke and dog noodle soup. Groups are now allowed to tour DPRK’s second city Hamhung and the newly minted beach resort of Wonsan. In general, everything seems awesome.

Except that it isn’t.

The carefully orchestrated tours of Pyongyangm Hamhung and the DMZ shield outsiders from the realities of poverty beyond these places. In a country with a yearly GDP per head of just $1800, the public wealth of the capital, its gleaming modern metro, palaces, nightclubs, vast parks and empty flyovers take on a sinister resonance.

80 miles north, in Kaesong, things are different. “The shelves in most stores are noticeably half-empty,” reports Tim Sullivan for the Associated Press “and dirty side streets lead to clusters of small houses, many little more than shacks, with bulging walls and broken roofs.”

The power crisis is more pronounced here, “We supply electricity in the evening, so people can enjoy their lives,” a Kaesong official told the Associated Press, “During the daytime the electricity goes to small factories. This is normal.”

While the rest of the world can be seen by satellite, North Korea disappears at night, unable to keep street lamps burning while citizens sleep.

A recent United Nations report suggests that a quarter of North Korean children are suffering chronic malnutrition. Investigators estimate that the country would need to import 507,000 metric tons of cereals to meet its basic food needs in 2013.

You would think that, in most countries, there would be protest and complaint; a grassroots movement to change the lot of North Korean people.

“Many people still think the poverty in North Korea is because of sanctions from the outside world, rather than the corruption and inefficiency of the leadership,” says Jae young, a North Korean who was able to defect to the South, “Even if people do have doubts, it is hard for them to talk to each other about them… Criticism of the leaders is something that can lead to someone being sent from their city to the countryside; to a prison camp, or even worse.”

While the travellers we canvassed saw bus-window glimpses of the real North Korea on their tours there are few visits to other towns or even trips to the high rise apartments on the outskirts of the capital where ordinary people live. Even the latest train tours cross country carefully shunt tourists from Pyongyang, to Hamhung and the resort of Wonsan.

North Korea is, by any reckoning, a third world country – and a tour of DPRK is as manufactured as a trip to Disneyland.

 

Celebs Who Are Reptillian Shapeshifters (According To YouTube)

Posted by & filed under Celebrities, How To..., Infographics.

Alienigena

I think there can be no doubt at all that some of us are aliens. There’s simply too much evidence out there and too many blogs, sites and niche magazines dedicated to the fact. But there seems to be a massive proportion of the famous and renowned who were born as thinly disguised reptiles, arrived here from another planet and decided to pursue a career in light entertainment while avidly observing our behaviour. A few brave souls, particularly on YouTube, are dedicated to unmasking these lizard people for the baddies that they are and telling the world who is a shapeshifter and why. Here are a few of the top candidates, with indefatigable proof included.

GEORGE BUSH

Not George W. Bush, he is merely the son of an alien, but his dad, George Bush Snr, the one that Homer Simpson beat up. In this video, you can see that his fearful reptillian eyes shape-shift in a weird manner during a debate with Bill Clinton (probably another alien, he just hides it better). Others claim his weird eyes are down to demonic possession. Either way, it’s not good.

PAUL McCARTNEY

You’ll see a whole host of reptillian shape-shifters on offer in this video, but it’s Paul ‘Macca’ McCartney who is the most weird and alien. It would certainly explain a lot. Wings. The Frog Chorus. His constant ‘thumbs up’ gestures. He is signalling to his home planet and letting them know how easy it is to conquer the pop charts over here. Especially at Christmas.

AVRIL LAVIGNE

Is she a Martian? Is she a vampire (a space vampire obviously)? Or is she just double jointed? (If a gum can be double jointed). Whatever the reasons, there is something odd going on inside Avril Lavigne’s mouth and we don’t mean her Canadian accent. Does the disappearing flatness of her munchers indicate some kind of alien shenanigans? Wake up people! Of course it does!

RIHANNA

The evidence that Ri-Ri is a shapeshifter of the highest order appears to be  displayed here in a selection of saucy pictures presented in a slideshow format. Her fondness for doing ‘devil hands’ while being photographed also adds to the ammunition. Oh and then there’s her ‘Triad Hyperspace Sacred Geometry Magnetism’ which she’s always chucking in our faces. And her last name is Fenty, which sounds dead alieny to me.

ANGELINA JOLIE

Busted! Sorry Angelina, but here is indisputable proof that you are indeed an Illuminati funded reptillian shapeshifter from beyond the black hole sun. How else can you explain that bit of white powder on your jaw? Obviously you were trying to cover up your natural grey skin and scales. And not that you got a bit over-zealous with the talcum powder when you got out of the bath.

ELVIS PRESLEY

You cannot deny that in this footage, Elvis looks really, really weird. Maybe it’s the distorted black and white video footage. Or maybe it’s because he’s the King, not only of Rock and Roll but also the universe. I mean, it is hard to look normal in a sequinned jump suit, but even so, there is something very reptillian about this whole scenario.

STEVE-O

So why would the reptillian, Illuminati, shapeshifting agenda want to recruit the star of Jackass, known for his utterly stupid antics, for their evil designs? Maybe to lull us into a false sense of security and convince us that these mutant overlords are mere buffoons before  make their move and enslave us? Or to bamboozle us with their stunts until we’re suddenly under their control and mining space minerals on this distant moon before we know it? Either option is too hideous to consider.

JAMES BROWN

No! Not the Godfather of soul? The hardworkingest man in showbusiness? Mr Please Please Please himself? I’m sorry but the evidence is overwhelming. Not only was James a Sex Machine, but he was also a repitillian shapeshifting machine, beaming his observations back to his home planet in an attempt to unearth our weak spots. There is no way that the dodgy video feed is responsible for the curious altering of his face, it has to be the Illuminati.

JUSTIN BIEBER

You may think he’s just a sweet and innocent child. But if Justin was going to reveal his obvious reptillian background, it would be while he’s under pressure and on trial for drag racing. Of course he would signal for help from his alien bosses and request a tractor beam to safety. Sadly, on this occasion, it never arrived.

KATE & WILLS

Alongside the Pope and leading weather presenters, you would assume the leading figures of the alien insectoid monster army would be members of the royal family. As this slow motion, non-curated footage proves, there is certainly something amiss with the faces of Prince William and his lizard bride Kate. Whether it’s their alien heritage, or just the fact that they are English, can’t be immediately established. But the continued existence of Prince Phillip establishes that there is something other-worldly happening with our royals.

How to be more like The Doctor

Posted by & filed under Factoid, How To..., Media, Video.

How to be more like The Doctor

He’s over two thousand years old, travels through space and time in a wooden box and is always the smartest person in the room. Who wouldn’t want to be more like the Doctor?

Coming back to the telly box this Saturday, Doctor Who is now in its 51st year – with a title character who could teach us a thing or two about how to live a life more interesting. While we don’t know exactly what Peter Capaldi’s twelfth Doctor will be like yet, we can speculate.

His face changes every few years, but he’s always the Doctor; an eccentric mass of compassion, cleverness and contradiction. These constants make him a truly fantastic hero – and a realistic role model.

You don’t need a police call box that’s bigger on the inside or two hearts to be a better, less boring, more adventurous you. Let’s count down the ways you can be a bit more like the Doctor.

The Doctor is never cowardly or cruel

Former script editor and Doctor Who writer Terrance Dicks was first to describe the titular time lord as “never cowardly or cruel”. Those words were used again as the Doctor’s motto in the 50th anniversary episode “The Day of the Doctor”.

There have been stumbles along the way. The first Doctor kidnapped two of his granddaughter’s teachers because they discovered the TARDIS. That was a bit naughty. But, on the whole, the Doctor treats people, good people, with kindness and compassion – and he puts them first.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in the fifth Doctor’s final episode. Poisoned, on the brink of death and not knowing whether he’ll regenerate, Peter Davison’s Doctor gives the only shot of antidote to his companion Peri. And then, the ultimate sacrifice; he turns into Colin Baker.

He loves to get lost

You don’t have to be a sci-fi anorak to know that two thirds of Doctor Who stories begin with the TARDIS materialising in an unspecified time in history or on an unknown planet. Occasionally, the Doctor knows exactly where they are – but those times are rare. He explores anyway.

And what he finds is always amazing.

From far future space stations stuffed with the last of humanity (The Ark in Space) to the last days of an ancient civilization (The Fires of Pompeii). From a 1920s cargo ship in the middle of the Indian ocean (Carnival of Monsters) to a planet populated by humanoid cats (Survival).

In eleventh Doctor episode The Doctor’s Wife, our hero is able to talk to the TARDIS in human form – and the secret of its eccentric navigation is revealed:

The Doctor: You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go.
The TARDIS: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.

The moral? Getting lost is good. If you stay in the same place, you never push your boundaries – you learn nothing new. You never grow. So forgive us when we say, do you want to be more interesting? Then get lost.

The first Doctor didn't really pilot the TARDIS at all. He just set off and hoped for the best...

The first Doctor didn’t really pilot the TARDIS at all. He just set off and hoped for the best…

He uses his wits rather than his fists

The Doctor’s definitely a man of action – how many other superheroes know Venusian aikido? But if he can talk his way out of a situation, he usually will.

Doctor Who’s monologues are legendary.

Sometimes he’s just thinking out loud, working out his next move. Other times he’s distracting the enemy or stalling for time. Mostly, he just seems to like the sound of his own voice.

And when the Doctor talks, his enemies listen. How many times has the Doctor stood before a Dalek platoon, giving a four page speech? Everyone else they simply exterminate on sight.

It’s not necessarily the gobbiness we’re suggesting you should emulate, but a commitment to working things out with words rather than violence. That’s something everyone can look up to.

The eleventh Doctor began his stint scaring off an alien race called the Atraxi, by simply telling them who he was.

The eleventh Doctor began his stint scaring off an alien race called the Atraxi, by simply telling them who he was.

He’s a bit cocky

We shy away from calling it arrogance, because arrogance is an exaggerated sense of one’s capabilities. The Doctor’s earned every fibre of bravado and every drop of conceit in his body.

And we could all do with a bit of that. Earned conceit. When you’re good at something, you should acknowledge it. Confidence pushes you on to do even better things.

Of course, the Doctor’s a bit of an all round big head. When asked by companion Liz Shaw what he’s a Doctor of, the third incarnation replies, “Practically everything, my dear.”

If you’d been alive for hundreds of years, habitually defeating evil doers with a couple of quips, a call box and a screwdriver, you’d probably have a touch of cockiness about you too.

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He has his own style

We’re not suggesting you should dress like the Doctor. In fact, the sight of dumpy, middle-aged men wearing Matt Smith tweeds is enough to make Cybermen cry tears of pure mercury. But there’s nothing wrong with being a bit of a dandy.

The Doctor is a man of unique sartorial taste, whether he’s rocking a fur coat and braces, swishing a black cape or wearing the uniform of a German u-boat commander. He always stands out rather than sticks out.

Well, we say “always” – but there’s usually an exception and that exception is the sixth Doctor. Poor Six. Or, as some unkind fans call him, “the technicolour yawn”.

The Doctor - a dandy in any incarnation.

The Doctor – a dandy in almost every incarnation.

Almost.

Almost.

The Doctor does what’s right

Perhaps the Doctor’s key characteristic, the thing that really drives him, is a desire to do what is fair. In a world full of ‘roid rage superheroes fighting for justice or acting out of revenge, it makes a quintessentially British change.

Despite several opportunities to wipe out the entire Dalek race, for example, the Doctor can never quite bring himself to commit outright genocide. The fourth Doctor was the first to get the opportunity, but when the time came to destroy fiction’s favourite Nazi pepperpots, he couldn’t flick the switch.

So deep is this sense of right and wrong ingrained that an incarnation of the Doctor who did annihilate the Daleks (and the Time Lords) is written out of his history, deemed unfit to carry the name “Doctor”. Harsh.

“Just touch these two strands together and the Daleks are finished. Have I that right?”

“Just touch these two strands together and the Daleks are finished. Have I that right?”

He questions authority

100% rebel time lord; that’s how Peter Capaldi describes his 12th Doctor. None of his predecessors was particularly fond of authority, but two regenerations had more run-ins than most.

The third Doctor began his tenure exiled to Earth, seconded as a scientific advisor to military organisation UNIT. He spent most of his time butting heads with bureaucracy in the form of UNIT leader Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, of whom he famously says “You know Brigadier, your methods have all the refined subtlety of a bull in a china shop.”

The sixth Doctor spent an entire season in a timelord court accused of “interference”, but he barely acknowledges its power over him, preferring to banter cockily with the Inquisitor – a time lord judge – and an evil future incarnation of himself known as The Valeyard.

That’s right. The Doctor’s so rebellious that he even refuses to recognise his own authority. It makes our brains hurt too.

He changes

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “everything changes”. It’s the only constant in the universe.

The Doctor changes more drastically than most, regenerating into an entirely new body when the old one is “wearing a bit thin”. Though his looks and personality transform, he’s still the same person underneath though. He’s still the Doctor.

Not every incarnation of the Doctor accepts the change well. The second has renewal forced on him by the time lords and doesn’t like his new face. “Oh no!” he says, finding a mirror, “That’s not me at all!”

The tenth Doctor’s final words were simply “I don’t want to go”.

But every time the Doctor changes, he gets over it eventually. He has a nap, brushes himself down, picks out some new clothes and carries on. And that’s the best any of us can do; never give up and never give in.

As for the new Doctor, the change has already started. Oh well – here we go again!

Animated images courtesy of Doctor Who GIFs

How To Win Big At Everything

Posted by & filed under Factoid, How To....

The_Cardsharps

Sure, you could wait for dumb luck to come along and provide you with some form of glorious victory. Like a big sucker. Or you could follow our handy tips to ensure you win massively in every gaming enterprise you embark upon (or at least the ones mentioned). That’s right, you no longer have to leave it to chance to come in first. We have every area of luck or gambling covered (see brackets above). All we ask is you send us a nice Moonpig card when you win your first million.

LOTTERY

When trying to win the lottery there are a huge amount of don’ts to focus on, rather than do’s. Don’t bother joining a syndicate, even if you do win you’ll be sharing your reward amongst a huge amount of people. Patterns or clusters of numbers are equally ineffectual as there are too many other people using the same method, so again your jackpot will be shared.

According to the statistics, buying twenty tickets for a single lottery draw has better odds than than buying one ticket over twenty draws. And mathematical types have concluded that if all the numbers you select add up to more than 177, that has a better chance of winning, possibly because higher numbers are selected less by schlubs like you.

"EuroMillions tickets" by Magnus D from London, United Kingdom - Håll tummarna!. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“EuroMillions tickets” by Magnus D from London, United Kingdom – Håll tummarna!. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

POKER

Some think that a poker face is the secret to being a great card player. But recent studies have shown that hand movements are more important than facial expressions when you are trying to convince your opponent that you have a great hand. Smooth, fluid movements denote confidence, whereas any sort of stuttering action makes you seem unsure.

Once you have the body language down, the important thing to remember is only playing hands you know you can win. You might have to wait ages for the perfect chance to play, but be patient. The mistake every novice poker player makes is getting over eager and taking a chance on a hand you’re unsure of or, even worse, trying to bluff. Just hang in there and play it cool until the perfect combination emerges.

"Holdem" by Todd Klassy - http://flickr.com/photos/latitudes/66492870/in/set-1442169/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

“Holdem” by Todd Klassy – http://flickr.com/photos/latitudes/66492870/in/set-1442169/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

HORSE RACING

Believe it or not, the most successful method of betting on the gee-gees is not simply to pick either the prettiest stallion or the one with the funniest name.  Betting on favourites is actually the best option, as you’ll taste the sweet tang of victory about a third of the time. Beyond that, it’s all down to research. Racing veterans will examine every element of data to do with a horse, a jockey, the stable it’s trained at, the racecourse and the conditions before the event.

And then if you want to make your life even more complicated, but add the possibility of making even more money, you can try some crazy betting system such as a Trifecta, where you pick the first, second and third placings accurately. But even with all that racing knowledge surging through your brain and the mathematics surrounding some crazy bet formations worked out, you still have to rely on the horse. And horses are never reliable.

"Horserace 520133030" by Slooby from Chicago, U.S.A., upload by Herrick - Race Time !. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Horserace 520133030″ by Slooby from Chicago, U.S.A., upload by Herrick – Race Time !. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

ROULETTE

Roulette has the reputation for being something of a suckers game. But there are things you can do to gain an advantage and nudge the odds in your favour. Firstly, play European roulette rather than the American variety which has a 00 slot, reducing your chances of winning.

If you’re playing in a casino, observe a particular table to make sure the croupier is spinning the wheel with different amounts of effort each time. If they appear to be using the same amount of force, they could be (unwittingly) providing a bias in the house’s favour. Stick to betting on the outside, so the red/black, odd/even, high/low bets. They might be less Bond like, but the odds are preferable. And if you lose, double up and bet again (the Martingale method). The odds of making your money back are increased hugely, as long as you have the cash to continue.

"Roulette - detail" by Conor Ogle from London, UK - Spin. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Roulette – detail” by Conor Ogle from London, UK – Spin. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

SLOT MACHINES

The classic Fruity in a pub or casino is not random, as you might suspect. It knows what it is doing and while it will eventually pay out a jackpot, it won’t do it by chance. But there are ways to gain more of an advantage. Machines with a smaller jackpot are more likely to pay out than a machine with a whopping one. Play as much money as you can each time. For instance, a machine that is a pound per spin will pay out more often than on which is 10p a go.

And the more you wager, the more you’ll make. With most machines, there is no chance of winning the jackpot unless you take the ‘max credit’ option before you spin, betting all of your available cash. Slots in high visibility areas (in lobbies or at the ends of banks of machines) tend to pay out more often than those tucked away, just to attract custom, so aim for those. And when you win anything, bank it rather than chucking it back into the machine.

"Slot machine" by Jeff Kubina from the milky way galaxy - Slot Machine. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

“Slot machine” by Jeff Kubina from the milky way galaxy – Slot Machine. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

MONOPOLY

OK, so you might not make the same amount of money by winning at Monopoly, but the prestige you will accumulate will be just as impressive. Once you’ve been around the board, start buying like a fiend. Get everything you can, unless it’s a set of colours already owned by more than one other player.

The best set to get is the pinks and oranges, as they are right outside jail, so people will pass over them more often. Build on your cheapest properties first, as it costs less initially, so the return is greater when people drop on them. And don’t despair if you end up in jail. It’s a safe place to be as you can still collect rent on your properties, while not spending cash on anyone else’s. Sneaky but effective.

"US Deluxe Monopoly Tokens" by Original uploader was ScooterSES at en.wikipedia - Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia

“US Deluxe Monopoly Tokens” by Original uploader was ScooterSES at en.wikipedia – Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia

Don’t be a tourist, be a traveller

Posted by & filed under Factoid, How To....

Tourists. Don’t you just hate them? Standing around on the pavement taking photos, blocking the doorways on the tube or babbling away loudly on the bus when you’re trying to read your book. Why can’t they be more like the natives; soaking up the real experience of the places they visit?

Image by Seth Werkheiser used under a CC 2.0 License

Image by Seth Werkheiser used under a CC 2.0 License

That, fair friends, is the difference between a tourist and a traveller. The traveller makes their own decisions. They go to a foreign land to see what it really has to offer. The tourist goes to another country and laps up a packaged experience.

Be honest; how often have you been that tourist? The guy claiming the sun lounger with his towel at 6.30 in the morning? The girl pickled in sangria, one shoe lost in the high street?

The next time you go away, be a traveller instead – doing what the locals do and going where the experience takes you. You’ll come home a a lot more interesting than you were before you set off.

Stay in one place for a while

Get any train from London Kings Cross to Aberdeen and you’ll be seated near an American family “doing” Europe. There’s a least one in every carriage, by law. They’ve just finished “England” (they’ve seen Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and the Tower of London) and now they’re on to Scotland. That’ll be Edinburgh; a visit to the Royal Mile and a tartan shop.

Traveling should not be a whistle-stop tour of pins on a map, but everyone does it. Even backpackers are guilty. To experience a place you have to linger longer, get to know the alleyways and shortcuts, talk to the locals and soak up the true atmosphere.

Avoid city centres

There’s always an area in the centre of any big city – near the main sights – where tourists are wooed like flies to chip shop strip-lights. In London it’s Piccadilly Circus. In Barcelona it’s La Ramblas and in Paris it’s the areas around the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur.

By all means, visit these places. Even the locals do it at least once in their lives. But don’t eat there. Don’t buy a coffee or splash out on souvenirs – unless you’re planning to remortgage your house. Make sure you know where your wallet is at all times. And when you’ve had your touristy afternoon, don’t go back.

Eat where (and what) the locals eat

Home away from home. Boring. (Image via TripAdvisor

Home away from home. Boring. (Image via TripAdvisor

If you’ve done the Spanish package thing in Magaluf or Majorca, you’ll know well that you can travel hundreds of miles from home and still live on a steady diet of egg and chips, roast beef and spotted dick. Where’s the fun in that?

You don’t have to stray too far off the beaten track to eat what the locals eat. Asturias in Northern Spain is famed for its rich seafood, for example – squid, sea bass and wholesome stews. Instead of heading to the seafront cafes with English menus, look for places packed with local people. It’s a trick you can transpose to anywhere you visit and you’ll always come home with a taste of something new.

Or, if you’re feeling nervous, try Spotted by Locals

 

Avoid package trips

Bundled coach tours out to see the sights are brilliant if:

  • You like spending hours in a bus with lots of old people
  • You enjoy not really knowing where you are
  • You relish listening to people retell the history of places you’re visiting in a suicidal monotone

You shouldn’t even feel pressure to see all the big sites. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t get to climb the Empire State Building or kiss the Blarney Stone or hang around one of a kabillion crumbling ruins in the blistering Mediterranean heat for three hours.

Think about what you really want to do – and then just do it – instead of trying to tick off the stops on an imaginary list. You’ll have a much better time.

Want to spend your foreign trip stuck on a coach with this lot? Of course not. (Image in public domain via Wiki Commons)

Want to spend your foreign trip stuck on a coach with this lot? Of course not. (Image in public domain via Wiki Commons)

Use public transport

If you do want to see some of the sites nearby, use public transport. Make a real day of it and plan how to get there – then just do it. The advantages?

  • You’ll get to travel with real people who live in the country you’re visiting
  • You’re in control of how long you stay
  • You’ll know exactly where you are
  • You can give yourself permission to head off the beaten track and explore

One good ground rule about things-to-do when you’re travelling; if it costs you nothing, it’s probably something local people do. Walking trails, exploring local parks, going to museums and galleries. Follow the natives.

Dress like the locals

No one expects you to clobber up like a Greek fisherman, but the English abroad are known for a certain, um, style. So – ban the following and you’ll be more traveller than tourist already.

  • Football shirts
  • Any T-shirt with the flag of St. George/Union Jack on it.
  • Flip flops
  • Three quarter length shorts
  • Walking around with your shirt off
  • Bandanas
  • Swimwear away from the pool or beach
  • Hot pants
  • No pants

If it’s scorching, go for linen and cotton togs. A short sleeved linen shirt, lightweight trousers or knee length skirt are fine. You know, like normal people. And also, don’t sun bathe. Tanning is for oompa loompas. Wear factor 50 sun protection at all times – because there’s nothing that gives a tourist away more than skin like freshly cured leather.

Speak the language

Funnily enough, shouting doesn’t translate English into Thai, German or Greek.

Even though most of the world speaks English, you should learn the basics of the local language before you travel to a country. How to say please and thank you, hello and goodbye.

And, if you want to speed up the process, you can always cheat. Here’s one we wrote all about that earlier.

Avoid big hotels

Large hotels, especially the chains, are like self-contained bubbles of tourist contentment. Go into a Hilton in London, Berlin or Dubai and it will always be, pretty much, a Hilton. Resort hotels take it to another level, providing you with all the facilities you need to enjoy your time abroad without a single authentic experience.

We Brits are famous for it, positioning ourselves between the pool and the all-day buffet for two weeks and calling that a holiday.

Here’s a thought… try staying in a local guest house instead. Or use a service like AirBnB to rent a room in someone’s house. You’ll have access to real, local people who can tell you the best places to go and what to see.

The most powerful advice of all is also the easiest to follow; when you’re abroad, be yourself. Don’t be that special holiday version of yourself, dressed up like you’ve got somewhere to go every day, determined to have fun no matter what. Just go with the flow. You’ll have much more fun.

The Strangest Things Found Inside Other Things

Posted by & filed under How To..., Infographics.

"EA-6B Prowler maintenance check" by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bradley Evans

“EA-6B Prowler maintenance check” by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bradley Evans

As a civilisation, we love things being inside other things. Meat inside bread forms the globes favourite food: the sandwich! People inside rooms creates the best sort of dwelling: a house! Men with big beards inside caves are our most enjoyable type of weirdo: the hermit! But occasionally, due to human error or witchcraft, things that are never supposed to be in other things end up in other things. And then the internet writes about it. Here is just a smattering of bizarre items that have unexpectedly turned up within stuff they shouldn’t have.

A CHILD IN A PARCEL

Fans of the Velvet Underground will know the tale of poor Waldo who, in the song The Gift, who mails himself to his girlfriend in a big box with disastrous results. But Waldo wasn’t the first to try this. After the US postal service was created in 1913, people immediately started taking the mickey and pushing this new novelty enterprise to its limits by seeing what weird stuff they could send to each other. Including, in 1913, a baby which the Beauge family of Ohio sent parcel post to it’s grandmother, as it was cheaper than the train. Even though the child arrived safe and sound, the practice was soon outlawed.

Human-Male-White-Newborn-Baby-Crying

“Human-Male-White-Newborn-Baby-Crying” by Evan-Amos – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia

A POOH IN A SEWER PIPE

You would think that the sewer would be the perfect place for a Pooh. That’s what they were built for after all. But this was an enormous Winnie the Pooh cuddly toy which someone, bizarrely, had tried to flush down the lav and ended up blocking the waste pipe somewhere in Scotland. Was it a bathroom based experiment gone wrong, or had Winnie looked at it’s owner in a funny way one time too many? We may never know.

TV51

A FIR TREE INSIDE A PERSON

Remember that old wives tale about eating an apple pip and having an apple tree inside you? Well it’s time to find that old wife, shake her firmly by the hand and give her a congratulatory hamper, because it can happen. A 28 year-old Russian man thought he had a cancerous growth and underwent surgical treatment. The astonished doctors discovered a three inch fir tree that had sprouted from the exterior of his lung. Experts think he inhaled the pine seed which then propagated within him. Other experts think it was all made up.

"Abies alba, Weiß Tanne 1" by böhringer friedrich - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

“Abies alba, Weiß Tanne 1″ by böhringer friedrich – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

A FROG IN A COMPUTER

In one of the most bizarre and confusing amphibian mysteries ever, a computer engineer in British Columbia, Canada took a customer’s PC apart to trace a fault and found a huge, and fried, frog inside. The company involved had actually built the computer, so they know the frog wasn’t in there when it was manufactured and there were no slots or holes big enough for it to crawl inside. Who could have Kermitted such a thing? Sorry.

Groene_kikker_achter_Bekaert-draad-detail_oog

A POLAR BEAR IN A SHARK

Like us, I’m sure you’ve all played that game where you theoretically pit one savage beast against another. Who would win between a badger and a baboon? A monkey and a horse with a trident? A porcupine and a mouse with laser eyes? Well, at least one of these imaginary battles has now been solved as experts cracked open a Greenland shark and were stunned to find the jawbone of a polar bear inside. It’s unknown whether the bear was already dead and had been scavenged or had been a poor swimmer and old sharky took advantage. Either way, sharks rule, bears drool.

640px-Surfacing_great_white_shark

A CHICKEN HEAD IN A HAPPY MEAL

It was not such a happy meal for any of the parties concerned when a woman in Virginia USA purchased a couple of McDonald’s treats for her kids but found one of the nuggets staring up at her. An entire chicken head, with comb, beak and everything, had been breadcrumb coated and deep-fried before being dropped in her box. The apologetic restaurant offered her a free meal, but she had probably lost her appetite at that point and decided she would rather sue them.

640px-Rooster_portrait2

“Rooster portrait2″ by Muhammad Mahdi Karim (www.micro2macro.net) Facebook – Own work. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License via Wikimedia Commons -

CELL PHONE IN A BAG OF CRISPS

In 2009 a Wisconsin woman (why do all these things happen in middle America?) was excited to tuck into a delicious bag of Clancy’s Ripple Potato Chips, possibly while watching a Project Runway marathon (unconfirmed at this point) when instead of clutching a crunchy, greasy treat in her mitt, she was holding a really old Nokia cell phone. Really old, like the sort your dad would use. It had a T-Mobile SIM card and appeared to have once been attached to a belt clip, though it wouldn’t turn on. The store concerned immediately pulled all Clancy crisps from the shelves. What else did they think they’d find? A fax machine? A dot matrix printer? A PS1?

1280px-Mobil_uvnitr

A STRANGER IN THE WALLS

If you have walls of your own and are of a nervous disposition, stop reading now. Two brothers were engaging in horseplay (note: never engage in horseplay) in a new home their family had just moved into when they bumped into a built in bookshelf. The bookshelf moved slightly and they realised it was a secret door that led to a spiral staircase. The staircase appeared to lead nowhere, but then they noticed a small gap in the wall, which they investigated. Behind that was a small secret room which appeared to have someone living in it. There was discarded food, a strange key and a couple of creepy dolls, for added creepiness. Police were called, DNA was taken, but no-one ever returned and they never discovered who had been living in their walls or what they were doing there. Obviously, this being the internet, it’s probably a certain amount of fakery going on. But still…weird.

"Room 823743". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

“Room 823743″. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

 

Cultural References To Drop Into Any Conversation (And Appear Really Interesting)

Posted by & filed under Factoid, How To....

"House party in Denver Colorado" by David Shankbone - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:House_party_in_Denver_Colorado.JPG#mediaviewer/File:House_party_in_Denver_Colorado.JPG

“House party in Denver Colorado” by David Shankbone – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Let me make one thing painfully clear. I am an idiot. I am not smart at all. My intellectual capacities are considered poor at best. Nicknames I have endured during my life have included ‘Dummy’, ‘Gumpy’ and ‘Old Dung For Brains’. But, by listening to people who are smarter than me and by taking covert notes or secretly recording them, I have picked up a few salient phrases and culturally relevant sentences that make me sound vaguely clever when dropped into the heart of a conversation. Let me share them with you. If, after you let one of these beauties fly, someone questions you further, either fake a heart attack or burst into tears. Then run.

“YOU KNOW THE STAR WARS FILMS HAVE SUFFERED SINCE THEY STOPPED BEING BASED ON KUROSAWA FILMS”

Perfect for dropping into conversations with film buffs, comic book nerds or sci-fi geeks. The parallels between the first Star Wars film and Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress have been drawn for years and George Lucas admitted that he basically stole the plot from the Japanese film, then changed it significantly, then stole it again for Phantom Menace. Works best when spoken snottily.

“WITH THE RITE OF SPRING, STRAVINSKY INVENTED PUNK ROCK”

A great thing to exclaim when the inevitable ‘who invented punk rock debate’ starts up (as it does in any situation where middle-aged men are present). The New York Dolls, Blue Cheer, The 13th Floor Elevators and even Skiffle may all be mentioned, but you can trump them all with ‘I think you’ll find…’ (‘I think you’ll find’ is a great way to start any of these phrases) ‘that in fact it began in 1913 with the purely rhythmic passages from Le Sacre du printemps (yeah, use the original French as well) which cause a riot on its first performance’. Then saunter away.

“BALZAC WAS JEALOUS OF DUMAS’ POPULARITY. DUMAS WAS JEALOUS OF BALZAC’S TALENT”

There’s a (probably apocryphal) story whereby Alexandre Dumas (who wrote the Count of Monte Christo, Three Musketeers and that sort of thing) bumped into Honore Balzac (who wrote Lost Illusions and the Comedie Humane series of books) bumped into each other, greeted each other warmly then bitched about each other after they’d moved on. ‘That swine Dumas,’ Balzac said, ‘if only I had his money and success’. ‘That lout Balzac,’ said Dumas, ‘if only I could write like that’. I don’t know what it means, like I say I’m an idiot, but people always seem happy when you tell them that story. Especially if you do it like Sam Fuller.

“CAPTAIN BEEFHEART ONCE TRIED TO SELL ALDOUS HUXLEY A VACUUM CLEANER”

A nice tale to tell in the company of music freaks or literary types. Before he was psychedelic, Frank Zappa acolyte Captain Beefhart (then plain old Don van Vliet) sold vacuum cleaners door to door. One day he approached an LA residence, rang the bell and immediately recognised Aldous Huxley on the other side. Instead of starting on his usual sales spiel, he said ‘I can assure you sir, this thing sucks’. And Huxley immediately purchased everything he had. Beefheart liked to make up stories, so it may not of every happened. But that doesn’t stop you from repeating it.

“IF YOU’VE EVER SEEN LAUREL AND HARDY YOU CAN UNDERSTAND WAITING FOR GODOT”

Best not to venture too deeply with this one. I tend to just blurt it out whenever the conversation is way over my head and everyone starts looking at me expecting me to speak. Many scholars believe that not only was Samuel Beckett directly influenced by Stan and Ollie, but he lifted their characters and dropped them into his most famous work. To back up his silent movie credentials, Becket’s only cinematic work, called ‘Film’, starred Buster Keaton.

“THE GREATEST EVER ARCHITECTURAL FIRM NEVER BUILT ANYTHING”

Should the conversation ever veer into architecture, town planning or general building matters, you can always briefly mention Archigram, the avant-garde architectural firm from the 1960′s who were highly influential and warmly regarded, but never got anything built, mainly because their creations were too crazy. They designed the Suitaloon, a building you could wear, Walking Cities on giant legs and many, many pods.

“T.S. ELIOT AND GROUCHO MARX WERE PEN PALS”

Eliot initiated this correspondence, being a fan of the Marx brothers. Groucho was something of an intellectual and so responded warmly. Unfortunately, the two men eventually met and didn’t really get along. The poet wanted to talk about slapstick while the comedian wanted to talk about The Waste Land and they couldn’t really find any middle ground. So if someone brings up meeting your heroes, you can regale them this. TS Eliot was also afraid of cows, if that helps.

“WITHOUT ANTHONY NEWLEY THERE WOULD BE NO DAVID BOWIE”

Bowie, thanks to his recent album and exhibition, has been clogging up polite conversation for the last year or so. If his oeuvre is completely lost on you, other than the Dancing in the Streets video, bring up Newley, an actor, singer and songwriter from the 50′s and 60′s who starred in musicals, wrote lots of songs that now feature on yoghurt commercials and was a huge influence on the young DB. And he wrote all the songs from the Gene Wilder Willy Wonka film, which you can mention if people start to look at you funny.

“PICASSO, DE KOONING AND MIRO ALL THOUGHT KRAZY KAT WAS A WORK OF GENIUS”

Krazy Kat was an incredibly surreal newspaper comic strip from the 20′s and 30′s featuring a cat who was in love with a mouse and a mouse who threw bricks at the cat’s head. Poet EE Cummings wrote the forward to the first collection of Krazy Kat strips with other fans including Kerouac, HL Mencken and Michael Stipe (who has a Krazy Kat tattoo). So it had a lasting influence on artists, musicians and authors. And it helped to make you sound a bit smarter. Thanks Krazy.

“NEVER FORGET THAT ENGLISH WAS PRETTY MUCH KEROUAC’S SECOND LANGUAGE”

Born to French Canadian parents, Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac (as he liked to call himself) didn’t speak any English at all until he was 6 and only really mastered the language in his late teens. He started writing On The Road in French and wrote portions of his poetry in that language. Some may say he should have stuck to French (the Beats seem to have taken a bit of a critical beating in recent years) but if you’re a dumbbell like me, you probably don’t want to get into that kind of debate.

“VIDEO GAMES MAKE MORE MONEY THAN ALL OTHER ENTERTAINMENT FORMS COMBINED”

That may not be true, I’m pretty sure I heard someone saying it. I do know that the largest grossing film of last year was Iron Man III, taking $1.2 billion, whereas Grand Theft Auto V made that much of money in a mere three days. Which is pretty crazy. I don’t know if it makes any difference to anything. That’s not my job. My job is to release that information into the world then drift away looking smug. Which I have now done. Thank you.

Seven reasons you should carry a penknife

Posted by & filed under Factoid, How To....

You’re heading out the front door, checking your pockets. You’ve got your wallet, phone, keys… What’s missing? Ah – yes. Your penknife. Because no right-minded person leaves the house without one.

The classic Hiker Swiss Army Knife. A smart addition to any pocket.

The classic Hiker Swiss Army Knife. A smart addition to any pocket.

More properly, no-one should be without a multipurpose penknife; like the famous Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox. We’d suggest going for a Victorinox Spartan Pocket Tool or Swiss Army Hiker Knife. Some multipurpose knives are overkill, but both these models are compact, useful tools you can pop into your pocket and forget. Until you need them, that is.

And you need them more than you think.

1. Cut things up

Yep – it’s a knife, so it’s ideal for cutting things up. Chop up your Snickers bar in half, divide your sandwich and save a bit for later or slice a banana into your porridge in the morning.

Our personal fave; use a penknife to carve up and eat an apple. Sounds like a waste of time? Your Grandad probably ate apples with his trusty pocket knife, avoiding all the icky brown bits and worm holes hiding under the skin. Bonus points: slicing up an apple also makes much less mess than chomping into one bite by bite. Grandad 2 – You 0.

2. Open packaging

Your knife’s a superb tool for slicing open letters the old fashioned way. You can get into parcels and packages more quickly too. But plastic packaging, that’s where your knife really rules.

New mobile phone batteries, travel plugs, headphones – for reasons known only to the Illuminati who secretly rule the world, these items are always, always encased in a sarcophagus of impenetrable polymer.

Want to open one of these things with your bare hands? Not a chance. You might as well be trying to extract Han Solo from carbonite.

But take out your trusty penknife and you are master of packaging, effortlessly able to slice open or saw through that shrinkwrapped slab of torment. Hold aloft the miniature aluminum torch you have freed from incarceration and roar. You deserve it.

3. Screwdriver

“Have you got a screwdriver?”
“Yes!” says the person with the penknife, after first forgetting they have a screwdriver for a few minutes of staring into space.

The inclusion of both flathead and Phillips screwdrivers on a Swiss Army Knife is enough reason to carry one everywhere. You are king of plug changing, master of tightening up pan handles and emperor of access to little hatches. You are the attacher and the detacher. You control door knobs and access plates and light fittings. No screw will ever remain unturned. Everything is awesome – especially you.

4. Bottle Opener

It’s the hottest weekend of the year and you and your mates have gone off on a picnic. There are cooked chicken legs and potato salad and all that green stuff no one eats. Most importantly there’s a cooler box full of beer and wine. Happy days.

Until, it’s revealed that Dan – whose one job was to get the booze – has bought bottled lager and Chardonnay with a cork instead of a screwtop. Clouds gather and at least one of your party begins to shake and cry with rage.

But your trusty penknife saves the day – for it has both corkscrew and bottle opener attachments. Hurrah!

 

5. First Aid

When accidents happen, that pen knife comes in very handy. The obvious uses are cutting bandages to length or rope to tie up a splint. A sterilised knife can be used to remove foreign objects like wooden spells from under the skin. When a patient can’t be moved, you may have to cut away clothes to relieve pressure on an open fracture – or to get better access to a wound to clean it. Burned clothing can also be cut away with a knife.

A hot knife can even be used to cauterise a wound in an extreme emergency. If you’re bleeding out and applying pressure alone isn’t enough to stop exsanguination, if emergency services are far from your location, then applying a hot knife to a clean wound seals the vessels and close the wound. Use this as an absolute last resort, as a cauterised wound will leave a nasty scar and melting your own flesh is ouchy.

6. You’re trapped

Ever been stuck in a toilet cubicle with a dodgy lock? Or got trapped by a malfunctioning seatbelt? Good job you’ve got your penknife with you then. You can unscrew the hinges on a door or cut through a broken seat belt.

Or how about this Australian farmer? Barry Lynch’s leg was trapped under a 9 nine tonne chemical tank following an accident. He used his pen knife to dig a trench under the affected limb and escape. It took him 6 hours with a gaping wound the “size of his fist”, but Barry survived to tell his story.

7. Zombie Apocalypse

You’ll be glad of carrying a penknife in the zombie apocalypse – and that’s not just because we were desperate for a seventh item on our list.

Oh no.

The trusty knife is one of the cleanest, quickest zombie killers available. An axe can get stuck, sapping precious seconds as you struggle to disengage. Lump hammers and mallets are too heavy. Guns misfire or can run out of ammo. You can cut your own hand off with a Samurai sword.

But a knife? Bang it into the zombie’s head (forehead, temple or eye are the preferred entry points), twist and extract. Works every time. Believe us… We know.

9 Sexy Things That Don’t Exist Any More

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"Bettie Page driving" by Unknown - Beauty Parade, http://vintagescans.blogspot.com/2008/12/bettie-page-remembered.html. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Bettie Page driving” by Unknown – Beauty Parade, http://vintagescans.blogspot.com/2008/12/bettie-page-remembered.html. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Amazingly, sex was not invented by the Millennials. We did have erotic artefacts and suggestive materials back in the deep, dark, pre-internet days. They were all just really, really weird. And not very sexy. Almost as if we couldn’t really cope with that actual hanky-panky itself and had to dress the whole process up in a variety of novelty items and odd movements. They truly were innocent, baffling times.

RUDE FOOD

Back in the early 1980′s, pictures of naked people were considered far more acceptable and tantalising when a variety of fruits and vegetables were stuck on top of or near to the participants private parts. In the old days, you couldn’t move for nudes with a tastefully draped pineapple obscuring their modesty or else a couple of kumquats replicating the disguised organs, released as several volumes of a hardback, coffee table book called Rude Food. Many confused newlyweds fruitlessly searched for the fruit on their honeymoon.

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SUGGESTIVE ARM GESTURES

Drop a sexy lady into any 1970′s sitcom or saucy English movie and you would be guaranteed to see a vicar tugging at his shirt collar before riding his bike into a hedge and a labourer of some variety vigorously thrusting a fist into the air, while grasping the inner arm firmly with the other hand and making a sound similar to ‘phwoar’ or ‘not half’. Now we live in far more enlightened times. And we’re also all too unfit to attempt such things.

WICKED WILLIE

For a spell in the mid 1980′s, the entire nation were enamoured of this crudely rendered cartoon penis. Willie was a bestselling book, then a film, board game, t-shirt and action figure. For a while, you couldn’t move in charity shops for Willie merchandise and then just as quickly, it all seemed to vanish. There is possibly a Willie mountain in a landfill somewhere. WARNING: VIDEO HAS WICKED WILLIE IN IT

STEAMY AEROBICS VIDEOS

In the days before super fast download speeds, we had to take our erotica anywhere we could find it. Foreign films, novelty pens where people’s clothes fell off, Eurotrash, tyre calendars and mail order catalogues all provided some much needed sexual frisson. When the aerobics boom erupted in the 1980′s, pioneered by Jane Fonda, there were suddenly a plethora of lycra-clad, day-glo leotard wearing female fitness fanatics, bending and thrusting, which certain types of gentleman (and ladies I imagine) ogled, which now seems rather depressing.

EDIBLE PANTIES

There might be some edible panties still loitering around questionable retail outlets, but if you are tempted to buy a pair, I would check the sell-by date first as they almost certainly come from the last century. There are so many questions attached to this fashion item, but I don’t think I can proffer any of them in a family website like this one. Let’s just say ‘why?’ and quickly move on.

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“Knickers1″. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

RED SHOE DIARIES

Not necessarily Red Shoe Diaries in particular, but that genre of vaguely sexy, Showtime style television programmes that had some catch-all premise (agony uncle, fancy hotel, call-in radio show) used to frame a series of R rated exploits, that always seemed to be filmed slightly out of focus. There would almost certainly be a naked lady in a fur coat and a shower scene and a detective on the trail of a murderer for some reason.

CONFESSIONS FILMS

Just like Red Shoe Diaries, I’m thinking of that style of saucy British film from the 1970′s, which featured a ‘randy’ blue collar worker and a bevy of ‘dolly birds’. Just try to watch one of these films today and you will find the whole endeavour very questionable, unless you are screening it from a sociology point of view. They were usurped in the 1980′s by the Porky’s/Lemon Popsicle brand of teenage sex romp, which laid the foundations for American Pie and Road Trip. How does Robin Asquith sleep at nights?

CHEAP SEXY PAPERBACKS

The recent 50 Shades of Grey phenomena unleashed an avalanche of self-published erotic literature. But it was just the latest wave of this particular fictional form. In the 70′s and 80′s there was a whole host of sub-Story of O types books, not aimed at the romance reader who wanted something a bit more spicy, but marketed to the dirty old man crowd. They were usually penned by ‘Anonymous’ and tended to be Victorian in nature, featuring ladies of good standing corrupted by devious gentlemen due to some financial impropriety. Reading filth! In a book! It all sounds so quaint.

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CARDS IN NEWSAGENTS WINDOWS

‘French polishing’. ‘Private tuition’. ‘Lawn mower for sale – one careful owner’. In the deep dark mists of the past, attempting to unearth some seedy, sordid activity had to be coerced via a covert system of code words and vague intimation that only the truly perverted could decipher. Until you had mastered this system of sexual hieroglyphics, you might contact someone about a chest of drawers, expecting something else and end up with a chest of drawers. It was a minefield.

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“2008 newsagent Teignmouth England 3028456976″ by Mark Robinson from Williton, UK – Teignmouth Art. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons