Sunday, 23 May 2010

Here's one for you. What's the difference between God and Bono? God doesn't walk around Dublin thinking he's Bono.

Imagine my delight when I click on to the news on my Interweb and see that Bono, the humanised Toyota Prius, had been rushed into hospital. For some emergency surgery. Oh yes. Jackpot!

However it really is quite disappointing that it's only a back injury. Now, I know back injuries are no fun as I suffer with back problems. But in this case I can, and will, make exceptions simply because it is Bonio. But some German neuro surgeons called Hans Free and Herr Cut have gradually pieced (or should that be world peace-d) Boner back together so he can sing another day. More's the pity. Which means if he can sing, he can talk. And preach. And make us feel like nauseated wrecks. Yay us. But, alas, the surgeons were typically German (efficient) and Bonehead has been sent home to recuperate.

I did think, however, when I initially saw the news headline that perhaps Bones had pulled a muscle in his Ego. My reasoning behind that is his Ego, voracious as it is, is the most used part of Bonecollector, and as such may have required attention. Or indeed transplanting. But then again, no human Ego is likely to fit this species as A) not large enough, and B) human egos are generally non-transferable to AITs (Arrogant Irish Twat). Or perhaps he had to have those sunglasses surgically removed, or just maybe the bit of his brain that tells us how to live and who to give our money to and preaching on about climate change and carbon footprint bollocks had failed.

I'm sorry but I cannot take anything that "Save the planet give, make poverty history, but give us all your money to do it" sycophant has to say. First of all, to me, a lot of this whole climate change and carbon footprint stuff is money-spinning nonsense. I'm not going to go into too much depth on the whole global warming thing as there are better qualified people in which to do so. It is happening and humans are contributing towards it, but not on the scale politicians and Bonio would have you believe. And whatever we do now is too late to do anything about it anyway, so just get on with living. Recycling your mayonnaise jar at the end of the month isn't the be all and end of it. Nor is buying a U2 record or buying a Toyota Prius.

So Bonoappetite, I have some questions for you. How are you going to make poverty and debt history? We're in a fucking recession you thick bastard. And when all is said and done, how the fuck do you intend to get us to reduce the carbon footprint?  You know, whilst you are jetting it around the world in private aircraft and staging world tours with trucks, vans, limos and all sorts of other transport to get your equipment from venue to venue? And then, the huge amounts of energy it takes to power The Edge's echo and FX pedals and consoles for his guitar to disguise how much of a limited and not-very-good-at-all guitarist he really is, let alone of your concerts. And if you dare mention any of the following words - Toyota, Prius, Hybrid - I will fucking kill you. Because Hybrids are not the answer, as the carbon footprint to make one of these tree-hugging, so called planet-saving pieces of polished turd is far greater than a normal car.

Would you like me to explain? No? Tough, I'm going to. You see, the Prius, being a hybrid, is powered by both an internal combustion engine and also batteries. The batteries are the problem as they are nickel metal hydride. The nickel, is mined in Ontario in the good old US of A. This is smelted nearby, which naturally harms the environment. The smelted nickel is then shipped to Wales to be refined and then on to China to be made into nickel foam. And only then does it go on to Japan to be made into a battery then transported to the factory to be installed in the cars. Which uses a good old amount of fossil fuels in the transportation to get the materials from point A to point B. A firm in America rates cars on the combined energy needed to "plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to eventual scrappage". Check these statistics out, a Prius costs $2.87 per lifetime mile, whereas a Hummer H3 costs $2.07. Now I'm not suggesting you go out and buy a Hummer (except if you want to run over Bono in it) because they are as useful as trying to piss into a colander and you'd be stupid for doing so. But just think of it logically. Any vehicle that has a battery that either part or fully powers it is not a long term solution. You need fossil fuels to create batteries, you need fossil fuels to recharge the batteries when they are flat. Or in the case of a hybrid, the internal combustion engine charges the battery, which uses unleaded petrol. Which is a non-renewable energy source, i.e fossil fuels. So, you may as well buy a run of the mill car like a Fiesta, Focus or Punto which don't go through the same rigmarole in the manufacturing process like the Prius does and therefore can technically be classed as greener cars. In some cases they can also provide much better fuel economy than a Prius. Or take the latest line of Bluemotion Volkswagen diesel cars, for example. Not only are they road tax exempt, they produce far less C02 than a Prius and return up to 88mpg. It's a no-brainer. The argument for buying a Prius is becoming more and more woolly by the second.

So, what is the tenuous link between Bonio and the Prius? Quite simple really, the key word is hypocrisy. By buying a Prius, you are doing nothing more than advertising the fact that you are saving the planet by not actually doing anything about it. Pretty much in the same way that Bono is telling us to save the planet, but will not give up the lifestyle he is accustomed to, or give up the touring. Or stop The Edge playing guitar. And whilst the soap box is out (it's very rarely away), will you stop fucking telling us to all give to charity and wipe out world debt and poverty? Don't organise a benefit gig which means Joe Public spends out, do what McCartney did for the 2004 Tsunami victims and the saving of Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and put your hand in your own pocket. God alone (yes, that non-existent entity) knows they're deep enough. With the amount Bonehead earns and what he gets in royalty cheques could pay for all of the starving people in Africa. As well as sheltering Britain's homeless. As for me, I have no intention of doing either, as the charities of my choice are a lot closer to home and go under the names of Mortgage, South West Water and British Gas, to name the three highest recipients at this point in time.

So, to sum up this latest platter of inane drivel, don't buy a Toyota Bono. Unless you want to look like the American Celebrity Guilt Set who must do something about saving the planet without it being an inconvenience to yourself. Buy a Volkswagen. There, I've said it, buy German and save the planet that way. But not for me, I can hear the sound of a V8 muscle car that does 3 mpg, or the sound of that V12 Ferrari - just to tempting to worry about the planet at this point in time.

I'll end on the words of Michael Barnes "Make poverty quieter, make Bono history".

Monday, 17 May 2010

Expert textpert, choking smokers, dont you think the joker laughs at you

Excuse the lyrics from "I Am The Walrus", but everyone it seems is an expert or a critic. As a friend once said, X is an unknown quantity and a Spert is a drip under pressure. Which is a damn fine definition of an expert. The problem is experts are everywhere, in all walks of life. Life is run by "experts". You know them and you've seen them. They know absolutely everything about absolutely everything. Or at least in their own heads they do until when it comes down to the nitty gritty.

So, what has brought this on, what is the reasoning behind today's ranting issue of my blogroll? Well, I hope you're all sitting down comfortably then I'll begin. Well, the incident involves Bruce and Arthur. Well, I shall call them Bruce and Arthur for interest sake. Bruce is the non driver and Arthur is the driver. I'm sure you can see what's coming...

After a fantastic weekend away it is nice to come back home and settle back down again, even if it is the routine of work. Anyhow, arrival at work this morning I happened to walk past Bruce and Arthur having an argument on the dealer forecourt about driving a car. Now, being nosey and "interested" I hung around the area as the argument made me chuckle. It was Bruce "teaching" Arthur, an experienced driver of 20 years plus (his words) how to drive properly. Yes, you heard that correctly, a non driver telling a driver how to drive. Apparently, the style of Arthur's driving did not suit the car (wtf????), he was driving too slow through certain roads, telling Arthur what route he should take rather than what route the Arthur was more comfortable with driving. Bearing in mind at this point I had no idea that Bruce was a non driver until Arthur spoke and retaliated with "You're questioning me on this and ripping me to shreds for my driving and you've never sat behind a steering wheel and actually driven a car in your life!?!" This was followed by lots more criticism and nitpicking from Bruce.

Now, since when did someone who has never driven a car in their life know more about how to drive than someone who has been driving for twenty years or so? Someone who has never driven or even someone who does not have a driving licence is no more qualified to slag someone else's driving off than an aardvark that has been killed to death. Well Bruce, if you don't like the driving, get the fuck out of the car and bloody walk. Or get yourself a driving licence, take some lessons, get yourself behind the wheel of a car and get some experience and take your test.  Make some mistakes, because you will do. The very best drivers in the world, I'll remind you of 1994 and the untimely death of one of the greatest F1 drivers Artyon Senna as he crashed due to a mistake. Mistakes are what make up human nature. So, Bruce, put your seat belt on and shut the fuck up.

Now, I know I'm far from a perfect driver, but love driving and will drive as well as I can and as safe as I can. But I do hate being a passenger. Which leads on to long running (and now really wearing thin) jokes I have with my wife about her driving and me being a control freak. However for the record, Jayne if for some strange reason you are reading this and have not fallen asleep by now, you are a good driver. If you've been on a long distance with her, she is calm, focused and safe. And she can adapt to most cars pretty quickly, which living with me is an advantage considering how many cars I've got through! I have to adapt to different cars as I can be in anything from 2 to 15 different cars a day.

Anyway, back to the point of experts. It just really annoys and frustrates when you get someone who cannot perform the task in hand to try and tell someone who can to do it better and can do nothing but criticise and whinge. I get the same situation at work with Joe Bloggs the customer who comes in to the garage and tells the mechanic how to fix a car and how to diagnose a problem better than the mechanic. Right, so if Joe Bloggs was that brilliant at fixing cars and diagnostics why isn't Joe a mechanic, or why doesn't he run a garage. Or the burning question is why is Joe's car arriving on the back of a AA flat loader for us to fix it properly because Joe, being the seasoned expert that he is, fucked the bloody thing up in the first place so it needs re-repairing. Not by an expert, but by someone who knows what they are doing. Those are two very different things. On that, I will leave you with something to chomp on, next time someone declares themselves an expert, I advise you to do one thing. In the words of Iron Maiden, "Run To The Hills!"

Rant at an end.

Two last minute notes:
I've now grown quite a liking for green Skoda Fabias. Strange. Good roadtrip!
Rest in peace Ronnie James Dio.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

I can't stop, I'm driving a Toyota.

Sorry, I can't stop, I'm driving a Toyota...

As a fan of Italian cars, especially Alfa Romeos, which by and large are great to look at and drive but inevitably break down every other minute, it is comforting to know that the Japanese can screw up occasionally as well. First of all Nissan screwed up by allowing themselves to go nearly bankrupt and then having to be bought out by Renault. Which saw the previous series Primera and Micra being mechanically based on the Renault Laguna and Renault Clio, respectively. Which meant they broke down. A lot. No, more than that. Most of their latest efforts now are based on and designed by Renault. The Japanese efficiency has slumped somewhat into, well, a sort of surrendering at the side of the road. Like the French really.

Now Toyota have been stung, but not for that fact that they've been taken over by cheese eating surrender monkeys like Nissan. They're still Japanese. Now to me the Toyota brand are the motoring equivalent of that person we all hate - you know them, they don't eat sweets in between meals, vegetarian, drink half a shandy but only at christmas and generally their names are Janet. Or Chris Martin. True, they make technically very good cars and very reliable cars, but aside from a few slip through the net moments such as the Celica and the first and latest MR2 which are brilliant to drive AND to look at.

But the Starlet? Auris? Carina? Camry? Do you actually remember what they look like? Thought not. You'd fallen asleep by the time you finished looking at the first photograph? Wake up! They're cars, yes in the sense they get you from A to B. But they are more white goods than cars, there is no depth, they have no soul. There is nothing to make you look back when you've parked it and make you think, "That looks great" or nothing to excite you when you're driving. The steering is brilliantly engineered and the gear selection swift and crisp, but only in the same way that sawing your leg off successfully removes it.

I guess what I look for in a car is something to entertain, or at least look something special. So why I own what I do is quite bizarre My own personal car is a Fiat Stilo, which in five door form is a turd. No two ways about it, it looks like a Metrocab and drives like a Tesco trolley. But the three door, which is what I have in poverty spec Active guise, is a totally different machine. Technically the Stilo is far from perfect. I mean, the upper glove box lid has hinges made from plastic so thin you could read through it. The fuel filler flap has snapped off twice due to having an overly fussy and poor design - it has a multi-link sort of hinge, but is made from what can only be described as twiglets. You need to remove the entire front end of the car to renew a headlight bulb. The electric power steering has as much communication skills as Gordon Brown. Its cornering ability is just a tad (read very) woolly. On the flipside, the gearchange is excellent, the brakes are spot on and the engine is an absolute gem. Not very powerful, it pumps out just under 100bhp, but fun to push with a good note and it feels more willing than its mere 1388cc would suggest. It's far from perfect but I still enjoy driving it.

However our other car, a Vauxhall Corsa is a good little car, but I despise it. It's a typical "Does what it says on the tin" car. It's a white goods car, there's nothing to make you feel involved. It's the motoring equivalent of a washing machine. In fact I shall call it the Vauxhall Creda from now on.

Anyway, yet again I find myself strolling a fair old distance from the point, which is the Japanese taking one in the chest. All these Aurisesesesseses and Aygos etc have now been made slightly interesting by the fact that Toyota have stopped making their cars properly. And the Prius. Oh god, yes the Prius, the darling of the guilt ridden celebrity set (that's up for it's own rant in my blog somewhere else in another time and place). Absolute music to my ears that this goody-two-shoes of a car has now got something wrong with it. This has been recalled because it doesn't stop. Which, sometimes you need to do unless your name is Richard Hammond where you use the car in front or the nearest crash barrier. Or your own head. Owners have been told to look out for "inconsistent" feeling brakes whilst Toyota were looking for a fix. I'd rather be looking out for that cottage with the thatched roof on the corner of the lane that I'm about to crash into because the brakes don't work. Certain other Toyotas have been recalled because their accelerators get stuck down and carry on accelerating. Now imagine you're one of those unlucky people who have one of these Toyotas that won't stop accelerating, but by a sheer stroke of luck, you put your foot on the brakes only to find the braking feel is "inconsistent". Oh dear. This can only end in the phrase "Oh cock!"

Now you could understand all this if it were to be on a British car. The Austin Maestro always had an "inconsistent" brake feel (read fucking useless). The accelerator pedal stuck but only because they forgot to attach it properly. Then again, it would never start so you never had to worry about these minor issues. Both Citroen AX's I had came as standard with an "inconsistent" brakes, however the accelerator problem was reversed as neither of them would actually accelerate. Again, there was a reason for that, and it certainly wasn't a safety recall. No, the reason was their inbuilt shiteness. If shiteness is a word. Do you care? Not an iota.

However, Japanese efficiency and a knack for common sense and excellent engineering and had already sorted these problems out, in a scandal which the Daily Mail will no doubt name "Toyotagate". All new vehicles are modified and a fix for exisiting vehicles on the road has been put in place. But yet again, the media have their say and it's no telling as to what publications such as the Daily Mail will do for Toyota's reputation. Just ask Lancia. First being bought by Fiat in the early 70s, Fiat did a deal with the Russians to set up a factory in exchange for steel. The steel quality was crap and most manufacturers idea of rust proofing was not to use it. The late 70's saw a problem with corroding front subframes on Lancia Betas where the engine could fall out onto the road. In a time where vehicle safety recalls where rare, Lancia did the decent thing and offered an excellent part exchange deal or purchased the cars quietly back from exisiting owners. These cars were then crushed. The Daily Express ran a long and over-exposing "Lanciagate" story and Lancia never recovered. Sales plummeted, residual values tumbled, not even the Delta Integrale could save Lancia from the UK market and in 1994 they withdrew.

No matter how Toyota's reptutation becomes tarnished or how much it improves with what they are doing to overcome the problems, I will never own a Toyota. I don't aspire to own one, there is nothing to make me want to have my name on the registration document. But I'll have a Lancia Beta any day of the week...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Lightning Seeds

Ok so I will start this blog thing off on a positive note, which seems like the decent thing to do.

It's been a good couple of years really if you are a fan of the Lightning Seeds, and I've made no secret that I'm a huge fan. No, i'm not that big. What I mean is I like Ian Broudie's music a lot. Probably more than anyone elses. But I've been accused of being a bit of a nerd, which is correct I suppose. I do run a website and I do have a large amount of cDs, vinyl and tapes I've collected over the last 15 years. I've been a fan now since the release of Jollification back in 1994. Jollification is pretty much my favourite album of all time and a landmark album for me as it's what really got me into music in a big way. It also got me through some personal problems in the 1990s and early 2000's as the album, despite some of its lyrical content which isn't jolly when you listen to it, always picked me up and made me feel better afterwards. It's also the album that I play if I'm stuck for deciding what to play. Which means it's the most played LP I own. I then started buying the back catalogue and realised I'd heard The Life of Riley before without knowing who it was. I remember seeing the Sense video as a new release on the Saturday morning programme The Chart Show, again not knowing who it was. Same with Pure.

In their heyday they were pretty successful, thanks in no small part to Three Lions. But they were no where near as commercially successful as they should have been or could have been. And although Three Lions is great and one of only two bearable footie tunes (the other being New Order's World In Motion - big New Order fan too, but this is worth it for John Barnes' rap!), they're remembered for Three Lions and not much else. Yet everyone knows a Lightning Seeds song if listened to. They've released some of what I personally think are the best singles in the last couple of decades - Pure, All I Want, The Life of Riley, Lucky You, Change, Ready Or Not, Sugar Coated Iceberg, Life's Too Short. I'd never got to seem them live during this period.

Anyway I digress from the original sentence of it's been a couple of good years for Lightning Seeds fans. After the LP Tilt from 1999, the Lightning Seeds had been on indefinite hiatus since June 2000. We were presented with a brilliant solo LP "Tales Told" back in 2004 and a handful of gigs in 2006 under the Seeds banner, but nothing concrete as to what would happen next. Last year, a new album was announced and a tour announced. The album, Four Winds, is Broudie in reflective mood but unmistakeably Lightning Seedsy, and the tour went down a storm. Apparently. Because yet again there were obstacles in the way where I couldn't see them live AGAIN! Balls (or words to that effect) i thought. Then a solo acoustic tour before the end of the year, which, ha ha, I missed! Drat, drat and treble drat. Watching Youtube videos of what you've missed is certainly no concellation prize, so after watching two videos I gave up. There was also going to be no word of when there would be another tour, whether it was Ian solo or Lightning Seeds.

So after a cracking Christmas with family staying and spending time with great friends, I had news of a Lightning Seeds tour coming up after Easter. This time, determination came in to play, and my attitude was anything that would get in the way of seeing them at a gig could get fucked. I'd waited 15 bloody years. So I made a phone call to the venue (St. George's in Bristol) and booked three tickets. Me, the wife and hopefully one of the aforementioned good friends if he could make it. Which he could which was great.

Tickets arrived, ace, brilliant, especially as it was second row and as we found out an excellent view of everyone on stage. So, there we are, good news over Christmas about a tour, and really it was a pretty fucking awesome birthday present from Her Indoors as the gig was only four days after my birthday.

So a fault free trip to Bristol in a Fiat Stilo (don't act surprised!) which took less than three hours. Found the car park no problem at all but got lost somewhere in Bristol and it took us 3 years to find the venue as we'd taken a wrong turn. Turns out we were pretty much next to it in the first place when we started out! So after finding the venue and memorising it, a trip to Nandos for some much needed food was in order. Which was nice. (To be read in the style of the Fast Show character).

The venue itself was a really intimate affair like a converted church with lots of religiony-type bits everywhere, but looked boss, la. Support act were great, fantastic seeing a double bass in use - used to play one of these (badly) at school. Played for about 30 minutes, then after a short while on came Ian with his son Riley and did a fantastic acoustic rendition of Pure. After a couple of songs, the full band came in and went straight into a blinding version of the Life of Riley.

Other notable things to ramble on about was the nice addition of a string quartet which really added to songs such as Waiting For Today To Happen and Perfect. A couple of songs from solo effort Tales Told - Song For No One and Smoke Rings - made a very welcome appearance, the latter with a groovy banjo-come-electric guitar. A fine mix of hit singles such as Change, Marvellous, Lucky You and Sense, coupled to an encore which saw a cover version of the Ronnettes classic Be My Baby, a full electric version of Pure and a singalong to Three Lions made for a great evening.

The only downside to the evening was on the way out of the venue. Really, parking your car in Bristol is like taking life in your own hands. When I remembered where the car was, or should I say when Jayne and Alec remembered where the car was, we then had to battle through what can only described as sixty eight million Emo brats. And here is where the whole story falls apart really, into a rant. I mean, where the fuck do they learn to speak for Christ sake? I heard some of them, and whatever they were speaking it sure as hell wasn't English. Or at least the some kind of broken English I learnt all those years ago. And since when did the blokes, well I kind of assume they were blokes, wear Jeggings? I also didn't realise that the latest fashion was to put compact discs in your ear lobes. Then of course, after wading through that ensemble of Emo kids, arriving to the car was another matter. I thought I'd found myself in Turin. The Symphony For Car Horns in B Major was quite uplifting...and bloody annoying. A couple of minutes maybe, but half a fucking hour? That's beyond the call of duty. As is revving the knackers out of a Peugeot 106 with a small engine. Please, children, sod off home to beds please. Then again I suppose we were all young and dumb once. It just seems that long ago for me, even if it isnt!

Anyhoo, I've rambled slightly off topic again, so back on track. With a tour supporting Squeeze this christmas I may well get to see the Lightning Seeds again, especially as there is a date at Plymouth, which is pretty close to home all things considered. It'd be rude and silly not to. It'd also be nice to meet Ian Broudie, even (as corny as it sounds) to thank him for the soundtrack to my growing up. Well, I suppose the jury is still out as to whether I've grown up or not. But in short, the concert on the 27th April - those 15 years waiting was certainly worth it.

Until we meet again and the case is sol-ved.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


Why on earth are you here? Have you nothing better to do that read total and utter inane drivel written by a rotund, greying 28 year old, cynical, sarcastic moronic bastard? No? Oh, alright then.

Now this blog is not here to change the world. I don't have anything to major to say or any point to make. I will from time to time post odds and sods which will more than likely be irrelevant to anyone that reads it. There may (read will) be rants, an almost diary sort of thing and any random bollocks I see fit to type. This will no doubt be about as interesting as porridge. But without any form of porridge contents within. In fact, the blog should be called "A blog that is as interesting as porridge without porridge. Warning, contains no porridge". Sorry, i'm rambling. Which is what I do. i ramble on on various different things and get into tangents and also blessed with the attention span of a .... oooh look a squirrel.

As I work in a customer facing environment I may (again, read will) rant about people ranting about their broken cars. Which being an Italian more than likely they will be broken. And tales of members of staff chasing other members of staff across the dealership forecourt with an air rifle. But I shall save that little chestnut for another day.

So, whether it's something good, such as a concert I attended, an album I haven't heard in a while or whether it's my ongoing hatred of hybrid electric cars and Toyotas, the news or even if the toaster is broken if I see fit I'll write about it.

So, if you've got this far in this extremely lame and dull introduction, congratulations and have a cookie. Woopey doo! Stay tuned for the first issue. Someone will need to be as I won't be. The excitement will be too much for me.