Friday Fun returns

Excuses: Easter, holiday, essays, deadlines, colds…
But never mind the excuses, there is fun for Friday! [Except that I managed to forget to press ‘publish’ on this, having written most of it a week last Tuesday, so here it is a week late!!]

It may only have been a four day week , but I’m sure fun would be much appreciated!

Firstly, transport related fun:
A French architect has made it his mission to make all transit maps look the same – the idea being that if they use the same design, they’re easier to follow if you’re not a local. Nice idea, but it does destroy the beauty of London’s map:

London tube map restyled

Abandoned stations are always fun, even when they’re not in London. Take these examples from Barcelona – complete with the story of how the photos came to be taken; what the history of the stations is; and what has happened in their abandoned platforms and tunnels ever since. Hunting out abandoned stations can be an extreme pursuit and not necessarily legal…

Barcelona Abandoned Station 1

Next, another of those nerdy projects involving the mapping of data. Gosh I love pretty data mapping! This time, it’s a visualisation of the most popular rush hour destinations (and the relationships with the journey’s origin) via Oyster card data:


It’s another project from UCL, and the researcher’s blog allows you to switch from annotated to non-annotated versions of the map. (Plus, a detailed explanation of how they did it for those that are interested!)

Secondly, animal and food related fun:
Who doesn’t want to see a tiny hamster eating a tiny burrito? [Warning: you will have severe burrito cravings having watched this, especially if you haven’t eaten lunch yet.]

(A tiny hamster eating pizza video has recently appeared, but I think the burrito one is superior.)

Thirdly, amusing children:
It’s always interesting to observe children’s reactions to things – especially to things of the past (or perhaps that’s just because I’m a history geek?). A recent joyful discovery has been the “Kids react to…” series on YouTube. The premise is simple: a group of kids (ranging in age from pre-schoolers to teenagers) are given an object or shown a video and their reactions are filmed. I discovered it via “Kids react to a Walkman” – in turns hilarious and terrifying as children try to work out not just how it works but what on earth it does in the first place.

Similarly, “Kids react to a rotary phone” was jointly painful and funny. There’s a whole wealth of these videos, including specific “Teens react…” and “Elders react…” series. A lot of time-wasting opportunities there!

Hopefully a more regular blogging service will resume next week as, after tomorrow, I will have completed ALL of the work needed for my Vicar School degree! Freedom!!

‘Children’s TV’ for all

Over the weekend, I was moved to ask “have you been watching the latest series of Horrible Histories” a couple of times, while away with a group of friends. As I mentioned several Friday Fun’s ago, I’ve only recently been introduced to its joys, but have subsequently become quite the fan. Every single person I asked replied with: “No! Liz, you do realise that’s a children’s programme?” and proceeded to mock me. I leapt to its defence, but no one seemed convinced.

Yes, HH is on CBBC. Yes, it’s aimed at children under 10. But no, it’s not just for children! Even the Guardian says it’s not.

For a start, as I mentioned previously, it’s song parodies only make real sense to grown-ups with an eclectic taste in music. Perhaps kids would have appreciate Joan of Arc’s Jessie J inspired number, but surely yesterday’s end of series (end of final series, in fact) ‘We are the World’ parody would have been lost on anyone under the age of 30?? My cup overflowed with joy while watching last week’s Kylie Minogue themed song about the colonisation of Australia – not just because it was excellent, but because it was an awesome collision of two significant elements of my life: my first album (Kylie, 1988) and my MA in Imperial & Commonwealth History (one half of which was Australian history). Gen-i-us.

Secondly, it’s not dumbed down ridiculousness. I have two history degrees and constantly learn new things. I don’t feel patronised, instead I’m informed with new fascinating facts to share with friends. [Friends, be grateful.]

Thirdly, it’s funny – and not just in a childish way. Yes, there are plentiful jokes and a facts about farts and bodily fluids, but I have laughed out loud multiple times at some of their more refined humour. (Though I have to confess that I find the ‘stupid deaths’ segment slightly scary, but that’s owing to my issues with full-face face painting. I’m special.) Adults will be particularly amused by the parodying of ‘grown up’ TV shows – Don’t Tell the Spartan Bride; The Only Way is Hertfordshire; Gross Designs; Come Dine With Me; and anything involving Professor Brian Cox…

Fourthly, since when did we discount good quality stuff just because it was marketed at children? Hello, Harry Potter anyone?

If you’re still not convinced, catch up on iPlayer, or explore the cornucopia of clips on YouTube. If you’re really looking for something to settle down to, watch the Horrible Histories Prom (and make a date in your diary for this year’s prom) Or, you can buy the preceding 4 series on DVD.

It has to be said that the popularity of HH has to partly thanks to the iPlayer. Without that, there’s no way hoards of adults would have discovered a show broadcast at 4.30pm on a weekday. But with iPlayer, no one knows what you’re watching, and no one can judge you…

…which is also how I’ve ended up becoming a massive fan of The Dumping Ground (and by affiliation, Tracy Beaker Returns). I’m not a Tracy Beaker fan – I was too old to read the book when it came out and I’ve always found her quite an irritating character. But earlier this year I somehow stumbled upon The Dumping Ground, which is a spin-off from the final Tracy related series. I was sucked into a phenomenal drama with excellent storylines and pretty decent child acting. How many shows do you know that can sensitively deal with a storyline involving a child with aspergers being adopted by a lesbian couple? Or child abuse? Or death? All in a format that’s accessible for tweenagers? I realise I’m very much not it’s target audience, but honestly, it’s an impressive feat! I highly recommend seeking it out.

Etiquette is fun and so are children

It’s rare that I’d include something for Friday Fun that’s basically an advert for an opera. Call me uncultured, but I’m really not a massive fan of it. That’s not to say I don’t go (I have a good friend who’s an opera singer and I go faithfully when I’m able), it’s just that given the choice between an evening at Glynebourne and a night at Wicked, well – you know where I’d be. But this little gem is less about the opera and more about how we live our online lives these days:

[If you’re thinking what I was thinking at the end of that video, his name’s Jolyon Rubinstein and he’s on Twitter.]

That gem arrived in my inbox on Monday morning, thanks to a friend who’s giving a talk on intimacy at New Wine next week. Last week he’d asked me if I knew any examples of ridiculous Facebook or Twitter updates where people over-shared. No idea why he thought to ask me…

I could think of a few examples – a friend who had recently shared a rather detailed story of her baby’s birth; a couple who gave each other sex toys via some random Facebook virtual gift service; someone who celebrated their boyfriend’s divorce – I could go on. However, what I sent him instead, was something I’ve been thinking of sharing on here for a while, but needed to be done in a sensitive way.

STFU Parents is a brilliant site. Less crass than Damn You, Auto Correct! and the like, its author actually thinks carefully about the submissions she posts and writes (often hilarious) commentary to go alongside them. The premise is simple: do you have friends who overshare about their children and make everything – even things you post that have nothing to do with children – about their children? If so, this is the place to share such things.

We all have such friends, to a greater or lesser extent (see the birth example I gave above) but honestly, some of the stuff on the site is beyond belief. I’ve been sitting on this for months [i.e. even before it appeared on The Hairpin, Annabelle…] because I didn’t want to offend friends who have children. I like seeing updates about funny things babies and toddlers do, I’m happy to read endless updates about sick children who need prayer, I love a cute photo as much as the next single, female 20 something…but sometimes it just goes a little far. However, I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend post a photo of their child next to a stuffed coyote

Then there’s ‘Mommyjacking’, where Mom’s hijack a non-child related status to make it all about their child (e.g. this innocent post about an incompetent HR department which suddenly becomes a breastfeeding tutorial). Actually, hijacking statuses (statii?) is generally inappropriate – you respond to the content of the post, it’s not a place for a general catch up – am I alone in this? What about photos involving faeces? Just wrong, plain wrong, but so many people share them.

If you have children, or like me, are very young at heart, then you should appreciate the final component of today’s fun: a quiz. Who doesn’t like quizzes? This week the Guardian challenges you on your knowledge of schools in children’s books. I’m loathe to admit that I only got 6/10, but my knowledge of later Jaqueline Wilson is patchy; I’ve not read/watched Charlie & Lola; and I made a tragic Famous Five error…

Cheesy Friday Fun

Classic fun, I believe, should include children and animals – after all, their behaviour is difficult to control and thus moments of comedy are usually spontaneous and utterly beautiful. So, despite it being hugely cheesy, here are three fabulous child/animal related moments to brighten up your day:

1. Kitten being hugged by a cat
Awwwwwwwwwwwwww! It’s a teeny-tiny kitten being hugged by its mummy! Awwwwwwwwwwwwww!

[Side-note: have just remembered that my friend Katie’s recently adopted cat gave birth to some teeny tiny kittens last week and I’m going to Bristol to visit her tomorrow. Maybe I’ll get to see the super cute kittens! Maybe they’ll be asleep and need hugging!]
Cat excitement now ends.

2. Small child catching their first fish (and naming it ‘Free’)
I adore this – I love the irony of his name for his first catch; the fact that he’s scared of touching it; and most of all, that he thinks the fish is beautiful.

3. Child Vs Otter race
This is pure, spontaneous genius. I love otters generally (it’s a niche joke, but I only have to hear the phrase “make me an Otter I can’t refuse” and the giggles are unstoppable…), but who knew that they could be so canny?

If children and animals really aren’t your idea of fun, what about actual cheese – and fonts? Why not waste a few hours of your Friday by playing Cheese or Font. Turns out I know neither my cheeses or my fonts well enough, clearly I need font top trumps in my life…

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.