Saturday, April 26, 2003
What is Ronald smiling at? Click to see. Could this be the start of an internet caption competition ?
johncoxon 4:29 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
"I HAVE DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT THE SITUATION WHICH COMPLETELY PROVES THAT WHAT THEY ALLEGE ARE ILLUSIONS...NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD PAY $52,000 FOR A CAR THAT JUST DOES 10 MPG."
johncoxon 4:08 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
Friday, April 25, 2003
Now there is this psycho-babble stuff about men and how they chose their car and what it says about them. In the UK Volvo drivers are stereotyped as safe steady guys who drive these Scandinavian tanks at a steady sixty miles an hour but Volvo modified the breed in the late nineties and produced a stylish vehicle of awesome power.
Actually, we Volvo drivers recently beat all comers in terms of 'top guns' in police speed trap camera polls . This is my car, a Volvo V70 estate and would you believe it is an automatic with a set of buttons with E, S and W modes.
The S mode is particularly handy at traffic lights, when I feel bothered by sad young 'boy-racers' in their Golf GTI's or BMW's or any other models and modestly, I press, I am ashamed to say, my S for Sport button and leave them standing, stranded, as my beast races away. My car is not an expression of me in any sense. It is simply a vehicle that enables me to do everything I need to do.
But in view of a recent post-Iraq war events, car-wise-American thing, I am thinking of trading my loved one in favour of the awesome gas-eating Challenger 2 tank to express my patriotism and income bracket and true self as someone not to be messed with on the roads!
Now my Blog entry tonight focuses on the news that rich American 'trendies' are currently clamouring to the showrooms to buy the civilian version of the US military 'Humvee'. (The production line equivalent of a gulf military vehicle that is the most ugly four wheel drive you have ever seen, totally impractical on any urban roads and with a fuel consumption that obscenely requires that the US totally commands and controls Iraq's oil supplies in the future to ensure it can continue to be driven.)
There was this 'saddo' car pyscholgist tonight on our news screens trying to explain how this ugly monster expessed a sense of 'don't mess with me I am a rich patriot.'
The fact that lovable Austrian Arnie ( Terminator, Robot Cop etc , and other fantasy movies person) had been brought into the advertsing campaign, should have been warning enough for us all. Isn't it all a bit tragic, as are the business successful babes that are also lauded as driving these grotesque civilian Humvees to ask us to buy them? What is the US equivalent of male or female 'dickhead' I do wonder ? Dick, by the way is UK speak for the 'penis' but also an absolute insult for a mindless person with half a brain, and for me , the kind of US citizen right now , who is buying a Humvee for those importamt trips to the mall and needs certifying !
johncoxon 3:05 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
What familiar piece of traditional British street apparel is this a picture of and what on earth has it got to do with Basra and our intrepid soldier gentleman, Staff Sergeant Steve Hanson? Click on the image to have all revealed.
johncoxon 7:18 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM UPDATE
The star of 'Bend it Like Beckham' isn't David Beckham but Parminder Nagra who plays a teenage Indian girl (living in West London) called Jess. She is trapped, as a woman, between the demands of traditional Asian(Punjabi)family values and her own conflicting modern values which include a desire to play football like her hero, David Beckham. Her parents want her to become a solicitor (lawyer) and are opposed to her ambitions. "Who'd want a girl who plays football all day but can't make chapattis?",her mother remarks during the film.
Like many Asian teenagers over here, faced with similar value conflicts, she learns to pay respectful lip-service to old values and tries her best to do her own thing. Inevitably,much of the film's humour, involves the delightful comedy of errors surrounding her attempts to conceal what she really is doing (i.e. playing for a local women's football team.) We find out, incidentally, that Jess can actually bend the ball like David.
johncoxon 7:06 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
This film, mildly slated (literally ...in the Slate ) as "the latest culture-clash feminist Anglo-Indian crowd-pleaser", seems destined to break box-office records in the States. Its title is a reference to Manchester United's Number Seven striker and England football captain, David Beckham.
Beckham is probably the best known footballer in Britain. He is a very skilful player and in many ways a role model for football crazy youngsters (and also the young football loving heroine in the film) Even though David is very rich and famous, he is no Prima Dona, just a very gifted and hard working team player who inspires others.
The film title refers particularly to David's mastery of the free kick in football (soccer in the States) This is where, if an attacking player is fouled, his team is awarded a free kick directly at goal. The defending team is allowed to form a human wall in front of their own goal as long as those players are 10 yards ( 9 metres) from where the kick is to be taken. Normally the goalkeeper positions this defensive wall to protect his goal and then stands in the goalmouth where he predicts he can save the shot.
David has the ability to strike a 'dead' (stationary) ball and make it 'bend' in flight so the trajectory of the ball curves in either the lateral or vertical plane (or both) over or around the wall and into the corner of the net with the goalkeeper usually left standing dead on his feet, not even moving, and totally bemused. David wears special boots made by Addidas called Predators ( animal rights activists are up in arms because Addidas use kangaroo leather) The boots have special rubberised pads on the uppers that help put spin on the ball but it is this skill that David practices a great deal that enables him to work his magic.
David Beckham, who has a rather monotone voice, has been frequently parodied, unfairly, as a person of limited intelligence but in all interviews and chat shows I have seen him in, he comes across as an extremely modest and very likable personality who copes incredibly well with both his celebrity status and the high expectations placed on him by football fans.
CONFOUNDING THE SCIENTISTS
His incredible skill at bending a football has made him the focus of attention of some very eminent Physicists in Britain, Belgium and Japan , who have dubbed him variously as a genius, 'the Einstein of football physics' and 'cleverer than all those physics academics and their computers'. In science-speak what David does, in a split second before he kicks the dead ball, is carry out a 'multi-variable physics calculation in his head to compute the exact kick trajectory required and then execute it perfectly'.
Scientists have tried, not completely successfully, to explain what David does with a football by conducting endless experiments in wind tunnels. The phenomenon is called Magnus Theory whereby the air flow changes according to how fast the spinning football is travelling, which in turn influences swerve and dip. For a more detailed article about the aerodynamics of sports balls click Magnus Force Beckham can figure out, in a split second " how to balance the kick angle, kick speed, spin imparted and kick direction to get this optimal turbulent-laminar transition trajectory," one scientist explained. He concluded that David must be computing some very detailed calculation in a few seconds purely from instinct and practice. "Our computers take a few hours to do the same thing."
APLLIANCE OF SCIENCE
The scientists used wind tunnel techniques to help describe, for example, a memorable and vital goal that David scored in the dying seconds of a World Cup qualifier against Greece. The shot left his foot at 80mph from 27 metres (29.5 yards) out, they tell us, moved laterally over two metres (six feet six inches) during its flight due to the amount of spin he applied and during the last half of its flight suddenly slowed to 42mph, dipping into the top corner of the goal. When David curves a free-kick around a defensive wall and goalkeeper to score his goals, physics calculations show that at 25 m (27 yards )from the goal and a velocity of 25 m/s, Beckham can swing the soccer ball a staggering 4.57 m (15 feet) from the straight path by using spin.
DAVID DOES IT AGAIN
David came out on field here during the second half of what turned out to be a wonderful Championship League game the other night, between Manchester United and Spain's elite team , Real Madrid. United's Ruud van Nistelrooy was fouled by Real's Ivan Helguera and David took the free kick from 25yards out, right footed, bent it round the wall of world class players into the back of the net leaving their goalkeeper bewildered, stunned, and motionless. He scored again later in open play; United won 4-3 but were beaten on aggregate 6-5.
Science can't really adequately explain what David is able to do. When you see it, it has a kind of balletic beauty and magic. David just does it in a split second, without apparent thought or calculation, time and time again. What is amazing is that there are all these great goalkeepers who are very skilled in where they position themselves and are aware of David's reputation with free kicks. And yet, time and time again, he baffles the very best, makes them look pedestrian and scores from dead ball free kicks by putting a curve on the ball that is so hard for mere mortals to pre-guess. Notice the ball, in this still from the actual match of the free kick, already over the heads of some world class players and no sign at all of the goalkeeper in his yellow jersey. He is 'dead in the water' in the left corner of the goal where he expected the ball to come ( because the wall was covereing the right hand side of goal) and the ball actually flights into the top right of the goal, completely beyond reach.
johncoxon 10:57 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
Some things don't change and those same rock pools I loved to gaze in, near my home, during idle childhood days by the sea-shore were still there. I used to collect small different coloured shells and pieces of broken glass that had been smoothed and polished by the abrasion of the tides. I'd cover a large bottle with decorator's plaster and embed the shells and glass fragments into it to make a table lamp base. I just had to take a few pictures of the pools for the album as i now live a long way from the sea. I had to make the rock pools in shadow with my body to get rid of unwelome reflections that hid what was under the surface.
THE MYSTERY OF SEA WEED
The rocks where I used to play were covered then as they are now by various types of seaweed, mainly dark greens and browns. I had tried to take photographs on previous visits but they always came out a strange tint of blue.
The beauty of the digital camera is that you can see and sometimes work around problems like this. I discovered that, again, if I put the seaweed in shadow with my body, the camera registered the colours accurately, where in direct sun light, again, there was that mysterious blue tint, even though the seaweed was a darkish brown.
Another favourite childhood passion was beachcombing, especially on the water line where you'd find so many interesting things tangled in the dead seaweed.This object is certianly something I never saw in my youth and I didn't enjoy seeing it on my latest visit to that shoreline.
johncoxon 10:28 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
LOST AND FOUND
When I was a child my mother gave me her collection of regimental metal cap badges she'd had won during her war service (playing table tennis against servicemen.) I'd frequently get out the Duraglit wadding metal polish to make them sparkle. I was upset when I lost my favourite of the collection, the silver and brass REME badge because that was the unit Dad was in and I loved the horse emblem. I had asked around where I could get a replacement but had been told that, these days, army badges aren't made of metal but 'stay brite' plastic and I wanted the original. During my latest visit to my home town I noticed some old army badges in the window of a local bric-a-brac and antiques shop. I was lucky enough from there to get not only a genuine copy of the original I'd lost, but three others making the complete set. Funny, when I got them home and got out the metal polish to restore that parade ground shine, the actual tin might have changed slightly but the cotton wadding was exactly the same with that characteristic strong paraffin like smell. It brought back those early days as smells so often do so vividly.
johncoxon 8:46 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
WHAT HAPPENED TO MY HOME TOWN ?
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
We spent the Easter weekend visiting my parents in the English south coast holiday town of Weymouth, where I spent my formative years. Note how beautiful the place appears from very high up and how too, the crowded centre of town is locked between a golden sandy beach and a right hand curve of water that is the harbour.
As a child I enjoyed Weymouth's natural pleasures. It held for me , warm salty sea, safe golden sands, and rocky pools to gaze into. I recall the clinker-built sailing boats bobbing in the harbour and watching the coopers building barrels, smelling the hops on the breeze from the brewery square or watching the blacksmith shoeing the brewers dray or making barrel loops. Then there were those lovely Georgian and Carolinian bow-fronted buildings that line the promenade and many of the streets that gave the place its character.
I paddled, as a child, canoes on Radipole Lake, relishing the elegant swans that glided past me. I watched the boatbuilders and the fishermen ,at the harbour, plying their trade. I watched as huge, ugly black cross-channel steamers turned in the harbour basin. I swam across the freezing harbour waters on three separate Christmas days in that annual race ( and on one ocassion, with my relatively thin body, actually came second) and sipped rum and coffee after, with my feet thawing in a hot tin-bath in the New Rooms Inn pub. I played water polo in the ebbing sea and took life-saving awards in the salty swell in a town that then had no indoor swimming pool.
I used to go out to Portland Bill, a remote rocky limestone headland, with my friend Ray, when huge storms brewed and we'd stand close to the huge breaking waves and their spray and be showered with salty foam as nature revealed its awsesome force and humbling majesty.
Now the old brewery has closed, the blacksmith's shop no longer rings to the sound of that awsome man's hammer smacking the anvil; no hop essence is carried in the air and not a genuine wooden barrel in sight. Instead a commercial theme park, in the old brewery buildings , relatively intact from the outside, but within, just a range of shopping stalls and film-set artificiality for the tourists. A rubber wheeled wagon, pretending to be a vestage of some bye-gone age, with two amiable shire horses pulling, takes tourists on a town-tour; nothing whatsoever to do with the old place I was brought up in, just some businessman's idea for milking sentimentality and making a buck. Every other orginal building it seems, has been adapted now to screw the pennies from the visitors who choke the place in the holiday season, especially if it rains and the beaches empty.
When you arrive you drive around and round the choked town cente, looking for somewhere to park. That is a curious feature that you need to be prepared for if you plan to visit Britain. Weymouth, like so many other places, in our crowded isle, just will never have enough car spaces. Car parking fees have to be the principal source of income of so many places where holidaying people gravitate toward!
Can I now direct you to the new Blog site of a fellow Englishman, Paul, who has a refreshingly original blog journal,WOODGNOME which curiously, and co-incidentally included very recently, a fine picture of a pigeon on a post! That was spookily familiar and sent me looking through my Weymouth, pre-digital camera photo-albums, muttering there is something strangely familiar about this person that I find very endearing and I have a curiously similar photographic image somewhere.
Yonks back, on a previous visit to Weymouth, I snapped this sea-gull sitting on an oak, harbour, mooring post. I was amused by it then but now it seems to sum up what my home town has become, a grossly overcrowded sea side resort where even the sea gulls have limited waiting time if, indeed they can find somewhere to park!
johncoxon 2:20 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
When walking through the lavish state rooms of the Palace at Versailles I felt a sense of awe mixed with disgust. Here was a splendid but obscene time capsule and testament to self-indulgence on a staggering scale, demonstrated by a monarchy totally indifferent to the lives of ordinary citizens and fully deserving of the abrupt end the whole rotten lineage came to under the guillotine blade.
When camera crews took us round some of the many Saddam Hussein palaces in Iraq there was almost universal disgust, especially at the stark contrast between this tyrant-dynasty's life style and that of the ordinary Iraqis, made no more palatable by the almost comic 'new-money' lack of taste evident in the gaudy trappings and bizarre art work. Of course all these pseudo-royal trappings were essentially stolen and had nothing to do with national heritage other than that the egomaniac that inspired them tried, unsuccessfully, to write his own history and was condemned by it.
It does seem a tad ironic in such times as we now live, that we have still have, and help sustain, a monarch and an extensive-expensive royal family who enjoy immense privilege and astonishing wealth, simply by accident of birth rather than through effort or individual merit. This includes the right to live in one of an unnecessary string of palatial residences, scattered across the realm.
Her majesty, like the former Iraqi tyrant, no longer has the facility of a floating palace in the shape of luxury yacht. This was not out of personal royal choice or accident of war. The old ship had simply past its 'sail'-by-date, but a Tory government would have quite happily squandered a sizable chunk of the nation's purse to replace the aging Royal Yacht Britannia. Fortunately, in that regard at least, Mr. Blair won the election ; the yacht was decommissioned and rightly consigned to become a Scottish tourist attraction. Even disloyal subjects now have to pay an astonishing £8 ($12.50) a head to board it and witness, first hand , its royal opulence, even though, you presume, the boat was originally paid for with public money.
It remains to be seen how much longer Britain's anachronistic and self-contradictory government by monarchy and democracy will survive, or the grace and favour system for all those other royals. Out of political expediency efforts have been made to make the monarchy more accountable and accessible but these have been largely cosmetic; her majesty, it appears has yet to shake a common hand with her gloves off. Since Diana's death, the Palace has become increasing conscious of its public image and was never more in need of a significant PR machine and not only because of the string of un-regal but re-assuringly human gaffs of errant royal children. You can't, believe that the rock concert at the Palace, for example, was anything beyond a temporary indulgence which was 'One's' duty to tolerate for the not-so-common-good, in the same way some parents reluctantly permit their teenage children to host a party, with fingers crossed, in their precious home.
At last now, the monarch reluctantly pays some tax and Buckingham Palace is now 'open' to the public, albeit for only two months of the year and, ironically, with an admission charge of a staggering £12 per head ($ 19). Since the Royal web site boasts its "state rooms lavishly furnished with some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Poussin, Canaletto and Claude; sculpture by Canova and Chantrey; exquisite examples of Sèvres porcelain, and some of the finest English and French furniture in the world" it has to be one of the most expensive to visit art museums in the world. There will come a day, but I doubt in my lifetime, when the monarchy will be substantially transformed and reduced by a people no longer prepared to tolerate nepotism, sinecures, royal indulgences, and such gaping inequalities in the population. Land-based royal residences will become genuinely national property and the exclusive domain of the art and history tourists like Versailles and the Louvre.
The royal coat of arms bears the French tag 'Dieu et mon droit', (God and my right) reflecting days when the Church was immensely powerful and monarchs had absolute authority, claiming the myth of 'divine' right to rule, that is, directly from God, and were thus not accountable to anyone other than their creator. At the beginning of the 18th century, the monarch became merely a constitutional head of state. The current royal web site
BRITISH MONARCHY WEBSITE
can only muster just three brief sentences in describing the Queen's role in our modern state. She "acts on the advice of ministers" (read has no political power at all) and "the Sovereign retains an important political role as Head of State, formally appointing prime ministers, approving certain legislation and bestowing honours. The Queen also has important roles to play in other organisations, including the Armed Forces and the Church of England." Essentially, this boils down to the current monarch being a figurehead whose importance is predominantly ceremonial and symbolic.
There has been radical social and political upheaval in my lifetime leading to questions where previously things were simply accepted. Some form of monarchy will no doubt prevail beyond my life time ; it will very probably continue to help define our quirky nationality. I watched the Queen's coronation at the age of three and I have carried her images on the coins in my pocket for half a century. I can't see a credible successor and the institution itself, for me, will never have the credibility it once enjoyed. It has a future only if there is a radical (and long overdue) pruning in terms of removing priviledges afforded to a host of minor royals who receive benefits simply on the basis of being related directly or indirectly to the monarch. Royal wealth could do with some serious re-distribution as well in my view.
johncoxon 9:12 PM - [Link] - Comments ()