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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We can be heroes, for ever and ever...

 Some sportsmen come and go, some live fast, experience 'their moment' and then fade into obscurity, but sometimes a sportsman or woman will transcend their chosen sport and become something more than the sum of their parts. One such hero is Sir Stirling Moss.
He's as British as Harris Tweed, is as outspoken as only the truly eccentric aristocracy can be and is probably the most famous racing driver never to have won a world championship.
His illustrious career was cut short by a horrific accident at Goodwood Circuit in the south of England in 1962, a circuit that I've had the pleasure of lapping flat-out in a Lancia Delta Integrale 16V some years ago, and let me tell you, it's scary fast!
His biography reads like a proper 'boys own' adventure tale, from the days when all one needed was a stiff upper lip and some derring do to accomplish any heroic feat of car control in the face of certain death.
He is, in short, the original Stig, and probably the fastest 80 year old on the planet, a man's man.

As I'm sure you are aware, Sir Stirling 'came a cropper' a few days ago, plunging three floors down a lift shaft and breaking both ankles as well as chipping four vertebrae, an incident which he described in an open letter to fans and well wishers as:
"The whole thing is a real pain in the arse, if I had looked where I was going, I wouldn't be here at all, so It's my own damn fault."

Sir Stirling Moss, you are officially a badass.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Timothy Olyphant, sounds like elephant

There's something refreshing about a low budget film. More often than not you'll be watching actors who rarely make A lister status and the lack of funds can sometimes, but not always, push directors to be a bit more creative. "The Crazies" is definitely one of those films, punching well above its weight.
It's hardly ground breaking, being a remake of a 1973 George A. Romero pseudo zombie flick about a small American town that accidentally falls victim to a biological weapon designed to "destabilise a population" by either killing them or turning them into homicidal "zombies".

I loved it, mostly because it's a perfect example of old school 'scary' movies. The frights come thick and fast, aided in no small part by perfect timing and excellent 'jump out of your seat' music.
It's also got a well picked cast, none of whom overwhelm the movie like some big names do, and it's always good to see Timothy Olyphant, an actor who doesn't really get as much work as he should.
Mr Romero, the grandfather of the zombie, would approve.

If you like a good fright now and then, I highly recommend it.

Friday, February 26, 2010


"Hello Meeester Eeeeench" says the consultant audiologist, "I 'ave taken a luuuuk at your resooolts, and you haaave gradual onset chronic deafness".
Suddenly her accent wasn't funny anymore.
"I have what?" says I......
The irony wasn't lost on me.

I have lost 50% of my hearing ability, mostly in the upper frequencies, the ones that speech falls into, which is kinda important. Apparently I have the kind of hearing that someone in their mid to late fifties would be expected to have, and it can only get worse. There's no surgical or medical procedure to sort out my lugs, the only option I have is a hearing aid.

I think I'll pass just now, maybe in another twenty years or so, I'll get back to ya!

I've never considered myself to have a hearing deficiency, but after losing out on a new job last year because I wasn't able to meet the minimum hearing standard, I thought I better get my ears checked out.
Sure, I like loud music, (who doesn't?) and have a long-running love affair with noisy motorbikes, but I never thought that I'd done them any damage by subjecting them to 120 decibels or beats per minute, whichever came first.
As it turns out, I haven't damaged my ears at all, it's the sort of speaker cable in between them and my brain that's degrading.
Not the best news I could have received this week, but at least I'm not nearly forty.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My God, It's Full Of Stars . . .

They get a hard time of it, do the boffins at NASA. Budgets being cut, launch vehicles being retired, continually having to justify themselves to an increasingly introverted home population, but as long as they keep churning out images like this, then they get my vote.

Note how thin the atmosphere is at the edges of the image (click the image for a bigger version), that's all that's keeping us alive folks!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Unforgettable . . .

 . . . is how I'm going to describe the Lostprophets at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on Friday night.
Unforgettable, but not for the reasons you might think.
Sure, it was a rocking gig. The Lostprophets have been around long enough to know their way around a stage, and around a crowd for that matter. "You guys are much fucking better than (insert previous venue town here) were last night!" etc etc. Don't get me wrong, they can rock alright, and rock good, but that's still not really why it was a memorable gig. No, it will stay with me because it was:

A. The hairiest gig I've ever been to. There were mullets and afros, long hair and strange metrosexual flicks everywhere. And yes, I was jealous.

B.  It was one of the loudest gigs I've ever been to, and I've been to lots. It was so loud that The Demon had her ear plugs in from the first song onwards.

C. It had one of the best mosh pits I've ever seen, which at one point featured a totally spontaneous 10-man human pyrimid! Seriously.

D. Mostly as a result of B and C,  it was fucking stinking of BO, I mean proper 'amateur rugby team changing rooms' type pong.

None of which detracted from a top show by a top band. They even threw a little bit of Welsh pantomime in for free. Top lads.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ripping Yarns

10 days.
That's how long it's taken me to rip my entire CD collection.
10 days of staring blankly at a monitor, 10 days of searching the net for the album art that dBpoweramp can't find, 10 days of "OMG, I can't believe I bought that!", but, as the last few digital notes of the "You And Me Song" by The Wannadies made their way to their new home, it was finally over, 6217 songs and over 187Gb worth of music.

It seems quite strange seeing my musical timeline laid out on my bedroom floor. I bought my first CD  player in 1986 when CDs were all spangly and new, and my first CD was the U2 single "With or Without You". Along with  "Don't Go" by The Hothouse Flowers and "Brothers In Arms" by Dire Straits, it was about the only music available on these strange silver discs that everyone thought you could use instead of toilet paper and they would still work.
As I've been ripping I've been "Rediscovering Music", to quote a catchphrase from the company I work for.
I'd forgotten all about "Megablast" by Bomb The Bass, "Muscle Deep" by Then Jerico or "Connection" by Elastica. Songs from my past that instantly take me back.

I'm thoroughly looking forward to having instant access to my new library, the ability to make playlists and browse my tracks through my PDA and to hear all this wonderful music better than it's ever sounded before.

Vive la digital revolution!

*PS - Bonus points for anyone who can correctly identify all the top CD's in the photo.
No prize, just glory . . . and my respect.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Man Who Fell To Earth

There are some bizarre activities in my non-existent list of 'Things to do before you're 40':

Ride a racehorse very fast.
See whales in the ocean.
Drive an F1 car or MotoGP bike.
Be a passenger in any military fast jet.
Watch Falkirk win the SPL*.

But in a few weeks I'll be fulfilling another, I'm going to do a skydive.
I will be strapped to someone who will actually know what they are doing.
We will clamber into a rickety wee plane.
We will climb to approximately 10,000 feet above the very beautiful but very hard Auchterarder countryside.
At this point, the nice man strapped to my back will shuffle us to a gaping hole in the side of the plane, something I never thought I'd ever see and live to talk about, where we will then leap like heroes, but plummet like stones.
In a few seconds we will be travelling at something like 120mph, because as everyone knows 1g [m/s^2].
If everything goes to plan, our 'chute, as we skydivers call it, will deploy at around 5000 feet, and we will glide like a sycamore leaf  to a pinpoint accurate landing on the unyielding ground below.

.....where I will stop crying and change my pants.

It's all for a good cause of course, a Scottish charity called ENABLE, which is why, dear reader, I'm looking for sponsorship. 
No amount is too small so get clicking HERE! 

*It is a fantasy list after all! 

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Men are from Mars....

....Women are just mental.

A rare long lie this morning found me waking up to The Demon watching one of her current favourite tv shows, MTV's "reality phenomenon" The Hills.
If by some miracle of fate you have missed this gem, I'll give you a brief synopsis:
It seems to consist mostly of various camera crews following four or five totally affected, self absorbed, narcissistic, snobby, bitchy, vacuous Hollywood rich tarts around their "ordinary" daily lives.
I say four or five because I can't really be sure how many of them there are, they all look the same with their perfectly coiffured $300 hairdos, their Beverly Hills apartments and their BMW's, Mercedes and Range Rovers. Not bad for a bunch just out of their teens.

After five minutes of this show I wanted to smash the tv.....
....straight into the face of Heidi or Audrina or Chiara or whatever the hell the Barbie doll tootsy on the screen was called. She was having a particularly bad day at work. Work which mostly seemed to consist of sitting around in constructed poses bitching about her flatmates to co-workers who clearly just wanted her to die. Horribly.

It was at this point that I felt the need to question The Demon on her attraction to this turd of a show:
"It's fun, it's escapism, it's a good show..." she claims.

Even after all these years together I still don't understand her, but I suppose it works both ways.
"You'll quite happily sit all day on a Sunday watching 'A 4x4 Is Born' or 'Mythbusters' or that bloody 'Overhaulin'!" she retaliates, at which point I highlight the informative nature of the shows she mentioned, their emphasis on empirical data, engineering, science, all wrapped up in a highly entertaining package. It's what tv was invented for! 

The look I received could have brought on a nuclear winter.
Vive le difference.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Green Shoots

Winter, don't you just hate it?
It usually causes a nationwide hiatus, where people just put their lives on hold in many was until the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over and until the weather improves, although here in Scotland any improvement is academic at best. It feels like years have went by since my mountain bike has seen any action, and the little voice urging me to put myself in some wet and muddy danger is becoming louder and harder to resist.

I need my mountain bike. Some people need football, or retail therapy, recreational drugs or alcohol to keep them (arguably) sane, but I need my bike. It's strange that a sport that requires so much concentration can also be, for me at least, a time when I can clear my head and reboot, sort of.
But Spring is a-coming. The snow has melted and I can hear The Patriot calling me from its garage hibernation.
If global warming can eliminate this climate-imposed recreational coma, then I'm all for it!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spare a shekel for an old ex-leper?

This week's earthquake in Haiti has, at current estimates, killed at least 50,000 and has made over 300,00 people homeless....

....and if I'm honest, I really don't care.
Don't give a shit, couldn't give a monkey's.
Don't get me wrong, on one level I know that these people are experiencing a human tragedy that I really have no comprehension of, but still I find myself looking at images of the dust-caked survivors being pulled from the ground and I feel nothing.

It all started on October the 23rd, 1984. Michael Buerk's now famous news report from Ethiopia highlighting the famine there was the first push downhill of the media snowball. In the years since, it has just been one humanitarian crisis after another, disaster upon disaster, and I'm sorry, but Compassion Fatigue has well and truly set in.
I've become so overexposed to starving black babies with flies in their eyes, roadside ditches filled with dead Kosovans or Rwandan rebels butchering civilians that I now just stare blankly at these news reports, wondering what the next emotionally blackmailed tv advert will be.
I'm not an uncharitable, uncaring person, I currently donate monthly to three charities that I believe do good work both here in the UK and around the globe:

In a purely selfish way, I feel better knowing that "I've done my bit", and indeed I've doubled my donation to the British Red Cross this month in the knowledge that I'm probably paying for five plastic water buckets for some Haitian families.
Job done.
Conscience clean.

At least until the next A-list celebrity pops up and tells us that we really need to give more for the next humanitarian disaster.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Wanted: Transit Van. Will pay cash

Apparently, in a former Madge-free life, Guy Ritchie used to be a furniture removal man, and after witnessing his latest stab at directing, 'Sherlock Holmes', I'd recommend that he log on to and see if he can find a nice, low mileage van for sale.

It's an appalling film. The plot, what little there is, can only be described as tenuous at best, and fails to take the viewer on any kind of journey at all. I felt completely disengaged and couldn't really figure out what the bad guy was attempting to do or why I should really care in the first place.
The film also suffers from miscasting of truly epic proportions. A box office draw he may be, but wise-cracking Robert Downey Jr is terrible as the worlds most famous aristocratic detective. In fact a swap in roles between him and Dr Watson, played by Jude Law, would have been preferable. Even better still would have been to let the excellent Mark Strong, a man seemingly born to play Sherlock Holmes, don the deerstalker and wander around muttering "Elementary etc etc" under his breath, rather than play the one dimensional villain, Lord Blackwood.

The problem, as I see it, is that Guy Ritchie only knows how to make one kind of film, a "cool" London gangster flick featuring guns, explosions and lots of comedic "cockney banter".
'Sherlock Holmes' movies on the other hand, as typified by the great Basil Rathbone, were always a cerebral, intellectual crime thriller, and Holmes always defeated his enemies with the power of his mind, not with his pugilistic skills.

There are just some film franchises that cannot survive a Hollywood makeover.
The game is most definitely not afoot.


Mad Dogs & Englishmen

We Brits do 'mental' better than most nations, and it's quite clear that Florence Welch here is a bit bonkers, but she's also amazing!

...and quite fit.