Sunday, 30 March 2014

Put an end to this selfie righteousness

Left the house this morning just before 7AM for a good cycle ride before the world was up and about.
It goes without saying that the birds had beaten me to it of course, and were doing their damnedest to make sure the humans were awake too by sitting outside people's windows shouting their little feathered heads off. It was too early for the billions of insects to be out of bed too, which meant that I was able to enjoy the ride without them all converging on my face for once.
The roads were mercifully uncluttered by traffic. Just a few vehicles out and about at that time, many of which appeared to be younger individuals (including one particularly paranoid Clio driver being followed carefully by a motorcycle cop) making their way home the morning after a fun night of drunken revelry and debauchery - photos of which will no doubt be appearing on thousands of Facebook walls today to haunt them for a long time to come.
There's a pretty good chance that a large percentage of these walls will be on profiles headed up by a photo featuring the owner wearing excessive amounts of make-up and pulling a weird face that invariably involves a trout-pout of Leslie Ash proportions. This is the sort of photo that years ago would only have been seen at the back of a gentleman's magazine in the adverts offering various (ahem!) professional services.
Is that the kind of impression these people really want to portray of themselves? The trainee prostitute look? There's usually enough foundation applied (presumably with a trowel) to ensure that even the most pock-marked, acne-scarred visage is left as smooth as a baby's bum - the cosmetic equivalent of Polyfilla. The eyeliner and eye shadow are generally so excessive that the wearer looks like they've done five rounds with Mike Tyson, and I struggle to find any reason why anyone would post a picture of themselves looking like this. It's hard to imagine that it could be considered sexy or attractive to adopt a look that's not a million miles away from the average clown, as the circus is not exactly the first place one would expect to find the back row of the audience full of furtive looking blokes sporting suspicious bulges under their raincoats while drunk businessmen insert fivers into the waistband of the clown's baggy trousers.
It's just another example of people being afraid to be themselves and instead resorting to the comfort of being like the rest of their peer group, even if that group does happen to be the Creepy Big Top Whore Collective.
While they undoubtedly have their uses, social networking sites really do have a lot to answer for, and it's as if everyone wants to join the party. The wife pointed out to me this morning as she was getting some breakfast that the cereal box suggested that you could follow Weetabix on Twitter. She was as confused as me as to why someone would wish to do so. What exactly is Weetabix up to that would be worth getting updates about? Is Weetabix doing a walk around the UK coast to raise money for charity while avoiding the puddles and rain in the hope of not going soggy before the journey is over? Doubtful, so whatever the appeal might possibly be, I really can't be arsed to even look. Every product, manufacturer and special interest group is catered for in some way on these sites and it's rammed down your throat at every turn. So much so that even I sometimes wonder if perhaps I'm missing out on something by deliberately avoiding such things. Curiosity occasionally overcomes me and I have a look at some of the stuff that's out there and it doesn't take long for me to be reassured that my own life free of such things is preferable to one of self-indulgence, one-upmanship, bragging, and dodgy pictures of circus prostitutes. Apart from my weekly rants on this blog of course....

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The rings of terror reign, but they're not alone

Audi drivers suck. I don't know what it is about Audis, but it seems that 95 percent of them are driven by complete wankers. It's almost as though all the arseholes that previously drove BMWs and Mercs put aside their differences and settled on one marque for all of them - a single banner to unite under in their attempt to become Olympic standard highway bastards, and what better choice to make than the company who's logo looks a lot like that of the Olympic games.
On the plus side, seeing this badge looming in your rear view mirror does at least give you warning that the car behind is at some point going to do something very stupid and aggressive so it won't come as a surprise when it happens.

Unfortunately not all the bastards were prepared to unite and struck out on their own, sometimes breaking off into distinct factions and sometimes going completely independent.
Those who aspired to the Audi club but didn't have the means plumped for Volkswagen (generally either a Golf or Passat) and vowed to devote their time to proving that they are just as arrogant as any Audi driver.
Then we have the Seats. These are the Audi drivers of the future. The apprentices. The up-and-coming wannabe's who still haven't moved beyond the cheap-lager-and-football phase but still make every effort to prove themselves worthy in the hope that the Audi club take notice and let them join - probably a process involving incense and funny handshakes.
The clear link here is that these factions are based upon companies that are part of the Audi group, but considered lower ranking in the hierarchy of 'lifestyle' bullshit.

But what of the independents? The highway bastards who have gone rogue and have little or nothing to distinguish them from the everyday Joes who are just getting on with it and minding their own business. Experience tells us to be wary of certain things out there such as four-foot blondes in 4x4s, young blokes with their baseball cap on backwards and loud thumping bass beats emanating from their small hatchback on 18 inch rims, very shiny pick-up trucks, and of course the standard issue white van.
This week the more unusual ones have included a medium sized hatchback of indeterminate origin - I say this because although I suspect it to have been something like a Kia Cee'd I was too busy doing an emergency stop to be absolutely certain, as he tore out of a junction across the front of me without even slowing down. And this was within 30 seconds of leaving the house. It didn't bode well.
There was also the utter nob in the Lamborghini Murcielago. Creeping along in the homeward-bound commute with the usual tailbacks, something yellow pulled out of the queue about ten cars back before catapulting itself past about twenty vehicles in what I must admit was a glorious wave of highly tuned V12 sound, before brutally forcing itself between two cars to avoid a head-on collision. When you're driving something like that which already stands out it really doesn't do to draw extra attention to yourself by behaving like a twat.
These are just a couple of examples along with the standard issue barry-boy in a blue Vauxhall Calibra with big alloys who pissed off and endangered a huge number of motorists in his quest to be in front of everyone and ended up being further behind than when he started (I did laugh), the two ignorant bitches blocking the road with their 4x4s so they could have a chat through their open windows, and the inevitable and seemingly endless parade of numptys, most of whom were displaying the four rings of terror on the grille.

It really is a shame, because when you get down to it Audis are great cars. They're solid, well built, stylish, perform and handle well, and in general have a lot going for them. Personally I love the look of the A7 and the R8 (the poor man's Gallardo), and I'd love to own an RS4 (although I couldn't afford to run one). But for all that there's no way I could own an Audi because I don't want to join their drivers club and be magically transformed into a total arse every time I put on my seat belt.
Maybe one day the highway bastards will shift their allegiance to another marque, and then perhaps it will be socially acceptable to own one.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The cycle of life

Last weekend saw one of those little 'eureka' moments. I may have trouble covering any distance on foot these days, but I have discovered that I can still cycle. And how fantastically liberating it is too!
Having spent the last four months progressively sitting on my arse gathering dust, lurching around on crutches like some deranged loony, then wobbling along with a walking stick and a limp, I've finally found something I can do that makes me feel almost normal. OK, I know that compared to a great many cyclists I'm only a little fish in a very big pond full of sharks (extra big feckin' sharks with lasers on their head, torpedos strapped to their fins, cunningly disguised in lycra and riding an expensive bike made of platinum and helium) but we all have to start somewhere.
Last Saturday was the first tentative venture out onto the road on two wheels since the accident back in November, and despite the lack of internal combustion engine it was still a bit nerve-racking. I did however manage a little six mile route and by the time I got back I felt better that I have in a long time.
The following day was glorious and absolutely demanded to be taken advantage of, so it was back onto the bike for an early morning circuit of ten miles, along with everyone else who was keen to take advantage of what seemed like the first really good day for months. All around were people cycling, running, riding motorcycles, driving around in open-top cars, and for once it felt as though all was right with the world. That feeling is pretty rare these days so I made the most of it.
Struck with the potential for a new-found obsession to replace that of motorcycles, I started doing my usual thing of trawling the web in search of a new toy to feed this new-found hunger, only to find myself in yet another world of baffling and bewildering choices.
A road bike (or racer, as they were known when I was a kid) would be great - lightweight, tall gearing etc, but how long will those razor blade wheels stand up to the fucked-up fen roads? Not long I suspect, so what about a hybrid with slightly chunkier tyres? well, to be honest I might as well stick with my lightweight Diamondback hardtail mountain bike that's fitted with narrower semi-slick tyres which offer significantly less resistance than the silly knobbly things it originally had. Trouble is the gearing is a bit low when I'm on a slight downhill or got the wind behind me.
The ideal thing would be a road bike with the wheels found on a hybrid. Turns out this is available and is termed a cyclocross bike. That's fine, but it seems that the chunkier tyres justify a somewhat chunkier price tag too, which is a bit odd considering this sort of bike is as close as you can get to the racers that were around when I was young. This was the default bike for every kid and teenager until the mountain bike arrived, when it suddenly became cool to be struggling around on the two-wheeled equivalent of an armoured truck. Big heavy steel frames and tyres taken straight from a motocross bike were the order of the day, with the extra low gearing needed not for conquering mountains but simply for overcoming the colossal weight and actually getting the damn thing moving.
Fortunately these monstrosities evolved into some decent useable machinery (apart from the crappy cheap-and-cheerful variety found for supposedly bargain prices in places like Tesco) and now the trend appears to be moving back towards road bikes and a surprising number of single speed bikes or 'fixies'.
The circle is now complete, and it has taken approximately thirty years for this to happen. Final confirmation of this will be when kids rediscover the joys of fixing a piece of stiff card to the bike so that the wheel spokes ping it as they go past, because it makes it sound like a motorbike.
Today I continued my quest by taking a quick seven mile ride with a brief pitstop for a pint half way which always makes any journey that bit more acceptable.
With any luck I'll be able to do a slightly longer ride tomorrow, trying to extend my range a bit at a time until I can bang out thirty miles or so in one go. Still small potatoes for some I know but for me and the wife it could be the saviour of our sanity - a position previously held by long country walks armed only with a bottle of water and an ordnance survey map. The only trouble is that riding together involves me having to stop every mile or so to wait for her to catch up, which suggests that in order for cycling to be a real replacement for our walking the only logical choice for the next bike is a tandem. I can see that being like a sketch from 'The Goodies'. God help us!

 Tandem riding - the fantasy

Tandem riding - the reality

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Blessed are the geek

Some things in life are inexplicable. The example in my mind right now is 'how on earth can an animated cartoon character be considered sexy?'
Now this isn't exactly something that keeps me awake at night, but occasionally the question raises its head - this time as a result of having watched Despicable Me 2. I know it's weird and disturbing, but it has to be said that the animators did a particularly fine job in the creation of Lucy Wilde.

It should also be said at this point that this was a highly enjoyable movie with a host of fantastic characters (my favourite was the psychotic chicken) and highly recommended to anyone, even if they have had a sense of humour bypass.
But the existence of sexy cartoon characters is far from being a new phenomenon. Even Betty Boop had a bit of a following back in her day, even with the disproportionately large head that nobody seemed to dare mention.
I think I started noticing these characters pretty early on in life. There was Daphne in Scooby Doo of course, plus Penelope Pitstop, Wilma Flintstone, and possibly one or two of the girls in Captain Caveman. But it wasn't until 'Battle of the Planets' came on TV with Princess flashing her white knickers whenever she was jumping around kicking the crap out of the bad guys that I got 'funny' feelings. I guess I must have been at that age.

A little later came 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' bringing with it the first cartoon character to have even normally sane men going weak at the knees - Jessica Rabbit.

Comic books have long been the preserve of the world's geeks, who often turn completely obsessive about their hobby, possibly as a girlfriend substitute but it would be unkind and perhaps untrue to assume that all comic book fanatics are creepy loners with no confidence with the opposite sex.
More recently though, many of the characters from comic books have been coming to life (in a manner of speaking) with the rise in popularity of 'Cosplay'. This basically involves dressing up as a character from a comic book, video game or movie.
And I'm not talking here about the silly costumes people hire out for fancy dress parties, like the group of blokes I saw in town yesterday who were all dressed up in Bananaman costumes - presumably either on a stag do or off to rob a bank.
Cosplay involves people who like to dress up as a celebration of their hobby, and possibly because they're a bit of a show-off. Mostly they crawl out of the woodwork at conventions like Comicon where the costumes people have created have to be seen to be believed. A few are crude and amateurish, but most are marvellous creations which must have taken serious skill and many hours of work to make.
These events also bring about the realisation that not all comic book geeks are guys, but there are also a great many women who are also heavily into the scene. And some of them wandering around in costume are seriously hot which suddenly makes it seem OK to have a thing about Kasumi from the 'Dead or Alive' video games, because someone has managed to bridge the worlds of fantasy and reality, making one feel slightly less of a freak.