The Joy of Procrastination – Childhood Edition

I’ve just emerged from a cloud of essay toil. Yesterday, I handed in my second essay in the space of three weeks, on the not-so-simple subject of Systematic Theology (specifically, the Trinity). For many, many days, life had little more to offer than the reading of textbooks, the making of notes, and the eventual writing of 3000 words. However, the writing process was made especially long and arduous because my procrastination tendencies decided to kick in (I blame the fact that I’d only written an essay 3 weeks previously – an essay written with minimal procrastination).

You know how it is, you’re trying to put together a coherent argument on why the doctrine of the Trinity is essential, and all of a sudden you find yourself on Wikipedia, reading articles about your favourite childhood TV show – all because the old podcast you’re listening to as you write happens to mention an actor that starred in it…

[Tell me I’m not alone! Doesn’t everyone find themselves in a black hole of Wikipedia articles from time to time without any real idea of how they got there?!]

Anyway, this particularly Wikipedia jaunt also resulted in a search on YouTube and a yell of delight when I discovered that finally – after several searches since YouTube began – videos of The Biz were available. If you weren’t aged 10-15 in 1995/6 and living in the UK, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Basically, it was a CBBC show of the traditional children at drama school fame genre, which my sister and I considered to be the best thing since we first watched Grease. What can I say? We both desperately wanted to go to stage school (especially a boarding school version) but this was the closest we could get. [Although I did go to a secondary school that took in those asked to leave Sylvia Young and Mim did become a drama teacher. Obviously, she wins.]

This song was my first find, complete with the realisation that despite the passing of 18 years, I could still remember 90% of the words. Yes, the vocals sound really thin and the singers aren’t the best, but it was glorious – honest!

There are a whole host of clips from the show (just the songs as they’re uploaded by the series’ composer), they’re probably only interesting to former fans of the show, but there must be at least three of those reading this…

That was Friday’s major procrastination. [Notice that I didn’t do any blogging – I didn’t want to do anything that would reveal to others that I was being distracted!] Saturday’s was even more joyous and potentially more relevant. I’d worked hard all morning and over lunch flicked through the channels, alighting upon the final 5 minutes of the 1995 version of Frances Hodgson-Burnett’s A Little Princess. It’s probably my favourite of H-B’s books (yes, even over The Secret Garden) and I was shocked to discover that this version was set in New York, during the war and had a different ending – scandal!

Back to Wikipedia I returned, looking for information on the adaption that I consider to be the best – the 1986 LWT version, starring Maureen Lipman, Miriam Margolyes and Nigel Havers. Seriously, a children’s series with that cast of adults? How could it be anything less than awesome? YouTube was an obvious next step and there I found every single episode – the delight! I was worried I’d be disappointed, but it was just as I remembered. I sobbed over and over (it’s an incredibly sad story). I swooned over Havers. I mused on whether the title cards were designed by the same person who did Tenko (they’re a similar era of TV). I sobbed again when it reached its conclusion.

And, I watched all six episodes before I’d finished my essay. (Though, in my defence, I stopped after episode 1 and didn’t restart until I had over 2000 words, so I think that’s less awful.) Here’s part one:

Procrastination is a joy when you discover things like this.

Friday Fun with awesome people

Hallelujah for Friday Fun inspiration that arrives on a Monday – I know it’s going to be a good(ish) week when that happens. Thank you G2 at the Guardian for introducing me to: Awesome People Hanging Out Together.

The concept is a simple one and thus brilliant. It gathers together photos of celebrities hanging out with other celebrities, which may sound like an edition of Hello! or Now magazine, but is wonderful because of the bizarre or historic gatherings it depicts. Like Helen Keller meeting Charlie Chaplin, Snoop Dogg baking with Martha Stewart, and Salvador Dali with Walt Disney (that meeting could explain an awful lot…). Two of my favourites are below.

The first I love because it’s historic and truly a gathering of awesome people – Einstein, Marie Curie & Schrodinger to name but a few:

The second one grabbed me because it’s the kind of scenario that occurs during the best nights with the best friends – gathering around a piano to sing show songs. The fact that this particular gathering includes Jeff Goldblum on keys and Jane Lynch (aka Sue Sylvester, star of this week’s waterfall of tears inducing Glee episode) make it all the more surreal and fabulous. Plus, I think you’ll agree that this looks like a normal photo – the kind that would turn up on Facebook – and which Jane Lynch would most probably de-tag:
You know what else is awesome? The BBC, specifically their free tickets to show recordings. I’ve benefited from this a few times in the past – Just a Minute, Wittertainment (in fact, had it not been for a wedding I’d have made it to another of those 2 weeks ago), Have I Got News for You and then last night at The Now Show. Listening to them is fun, sure, but seeing it in the flesh is something else. 
In the case of The Now Show the visual highlight is undoubtedly Hugh Dennis’ mimes during the warm-up (well, that and discovering just how short little Jon Holmes is…). Fortunately, a few of them exist on YouTube, so I thought I’d share.
The classic and most viewed mime is his Veloceraptor – as seen on Mock the Week (ever wondered what a mime of a lassoed Raptor might look like?) and in this clip from Outnumbered

(I adore that clip for a whole host of reasons – firstly, it’s that perfect childhood moment of being allowed to stay up late; secondly, the kids’ reactions are totally natural; and thirdly, it’s very early Outnumbered when they were all very young. To the person who still has my copy of series 1, this is why you need to watch the rest of it!)

My favourite moment was Hugh pretending to be on the rings – you know, as in gymnastics – but sadly I couldn’t find a video of that. But I did find him ski jumping, which was also highly amusing – particularly the dismount:

See what you miss on the radio? But fear not, tonight’s episode (6.30pm, podcast available) is still hilarious. In the immediate aftermath of the recording neither of us could remember what had us nearly falling off our chairs with laughter, but on the way home I dimly recalled a gag about Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca (if that’s not niche Radio 4 humour, I don’t know what is!) and then vividly remembered a West Country Darth Vadar…superb.

Hope you have an awesome Friday!

Friday Fun for Saturday

Yesterday I promised you some bonus Easter fun – let me first make clear that this in not going to be fluffy bunny, cute chicks themed fun – in fact Easter has nothing to do with it. It’s simply that I had too much fun to share this week and felt that some of it wasn’t appropriate for Good Friday. [Clearly I have no issues with it on ‘Holy Saturday’…]

First up are a couple of niche blogs that take things from history and bring them into the 21st century, with edge. We have Bangable Dudes in History and Gay Captions

The former is a genius idea. It takes photos of people from history and ranks their hotness. Come on, who hasn’t looked at the pictures in a history text book and thought “Wow, Lenin was hot!” or “I wouldn’t say no to Woodrow Wilson!” or even “I wouldn’t kick Napoleon out of bed”? Yes, some of the content is a trifle dodgy, but it does use pie charts and historical documents, so that wins for me.

The latter could also be a bit on the dodgy side, but it’s also flipping hilarious, so I’ll forgive it. The concept is a simple one – take an old drawing/picture/cartoon and give it a caption that in today’s world changes its meaning entirely. Superb. For example:

My final bit shouldn’t actually be seen as dodgy – it’s a serious issue that most of us will have to face at some point. How do you explain sex to your children? Even more importantly, what do you do if the question comes up in a situation where things are out of your control – like in a Thai restaurant. This is exactly the problem Julia Sweeney faced when her 8 year old asked where tadpoles came from, over Thai Green Curry – that was the start of a slippery slope which is now the subject of a very funny monologue available on YouTube. To give you a flavour of what is a brilliant watch, at one point she is hit by the realisation that she had taken her daughter “by the hand and led her into the world of internet porn” – not that she showed her porn, you understand, her conduct as a mother is never inappropriate, you just have to watch the video to hear how they got from tadpoles, to humans, to dogs, to cats, to YouTube and beyond…

I’m fairly sure that I never asked such difficult questions of my parents. In fact, the closest I think we got to such a cringeworthy conversation took place in the Ikea cafe on the day I was bought a double bed – aged 14. (My room was massive and a double bed was thought logical as I could be turned out of my bedroom when guests visited – they’d get the added bonus of my carefully constructed constellations of glow-stars on the ceiling, stuck up with reference to a star map.) My parents thought this would be an opportune moment to explain that having a double bed did not mean I had license to bring boys home. You’d almost think that, you know, aged 14 I might actually have a boyfriend and such an activity might be a possibility – I didn’t and it wasn’t – but I’m glad they felt the need to have the conversation.

While writing, I’ve realised that all three of these gems have been garnered from The Hairpin, but thankfully only Annabelle reads it religiously enough  to know, and hopefully she might have missed one or two of them. Next week I’ll try to be far more original.

Foolish Friday Fun

Happy April Fools Day!

Annoyingly, I don’t think I’m going to get much chance to hunt down the fools this morning, so what I propose is that I share a couple that I’ve spotted already and then return later in the day to offer some highlights.

It seems that The Guardian has had an ideological shift overnight, in terms of its attitude to the Royals. (Read the comments on that one – hilarious.)

YouTube is celebrating its centenary.

A new statue is proposed for Potters Field (a mayor on a bike).

Disappointingly, at the moment I can’t see anything from Google (creators of some of the best past fools), but it may take a while to appear. Oh, wait, I’ve just gone back and there’s something there – go look for yourself…

That’s going to have to be all for now, but do let me know of others you discover and I’ll come back later and report back.

Right, I’m back. Thanks to Kate for suggestions in her comment – we have The Telegraph reporting that Labour are suggesting we celebrate Ed Milliband’s forthcoming nuptials with street parties and The Independent suggesting that Portugal are selling Ronaldo to Spain in order to alleviate their national debt.

A few other fun things cropped up on Twitter during the morning. Particularly painful was the typing of ‘helvetica’ into Google which resulted in all the search results appearing in Comic Sans – ouch. [I got this wrong first time around, thanks to viewing on an iPhone & misinterpreting tweets.]

Then there was the Marmite flavoured Vaseline (the Lip Therapy version, in case you were having any other thoughts). I personally think this ought to be real, but C didn’t think it would be very good for your lips or your salt intake.

Continuing the theme of ‘if only it wasn’t an April Fools’, Rich spotted Starbucks Mobile, while James rather liked the Car Turbine.

As ever, the Guardian (along with other reputable news sources, probably) has done a useful round-up of some of the others. My favourite has still got to be Gmail Motion – if only so that sending an e-mail could be done by licking a pretend stamp and placing it on my knee…

Quirky London and quirky musicals

Off the back of Tuesday’s geektastic London transport related videos, the first offering for this week’s fun is both London-centric and informative. Taking you to 10 ‘quirky’ locations in the capital, it captured my attention for 2 reasons:
(i) It explains what goes on inside a building in Mornington Crescent that’s intrigued me since I started going past it every day aged 11.
(ii) It reveals the location of a dog cemetery in central London.
Architectural geeks may also get excited by the revelation that you can play with a giant map of London showing new developments in an office just off Tottenham Court Road.

A word of warning: it’s 2 years old now, so some of the info is a little out of date – just in case you decide to plan your weekend around its contents.

Tenuous link time… London is a great city, home of theatres that have housed some of the greatest musicals ever written and some of the world’s best musical theatre artistes. One of the best things about the MT world is that it doesn’t take itself seriously, willingly taking the mick out of itself on a regular basis. America has Forbidden Broadway, and now Britain has Michael Bruce’s Unwritten Songs.

One of these songs – Portrait of Princess – has been turned into an awesome video, featuring various stars of the West End. Snow White is Julie Atherton – last seen in Avenue Q (Trekkie Monster’s puppeteer’s also in there), while Cinderella’s none other than recently crowned ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ – Sheridan Smith. Oh, and Russell Tovey’s in it too… [Warning: it probably ought to carry a 15 certificate at least. This is no Disney musical.]

This links rather neatly with the next gem – which is miraculous and totally coincidental – and is included with much thanks to Annabelle. What’s (almost) better than a Disney parody? Why, six versions of the same man singing a Disney medley of course! It’s a perfect follow up, as the first song of the medley is in fact the Disney song that I ended up singing having watched the parody. Even if you’re not into the slightly odd phenonmenon of people singing with themself, this is well worth the watch – the captions are an added humorous bonus, and honestly, who doesn’t like Disney songs?

I ♥ Jodi Benson, Lea Salonga and Alan Menken too! Love it.

Oh, and if this has reminded you of the fabulous Sam Tsui (who I personally think is a notch or two above Disney Medley guy), have no fear – the two of them have duetted on none other than a favourite Wicked track. (I think this reveals which is the stronger singer, and it’s not the one that does all the twiddly bits…) 
Random aside fact, he also works for Disney as an animator – the links just keep getting better and better!