September 29, 2006

Horse 632 - By Any Other Name

but when we're riding in my Malibu,
it's easy to get right next to you,
I say baby, scoot over please,
and then she's right there next to me
- Cake

My trip to the USA has actually lifted my opinion of the US carmakers. Despite having the double whammy of really crap fuel (at only 87RON as opposed to 91RON in Oz or 95RON in Europe), and being forced by consumers to produce big steaming piles of poo-poo they call SUV's, it would appear that their normal cars are actually starting to become somewhat sensible.

The Ford Focus is sold in the USA and actually does rather well for itself. But as I looked aorund the place, I realised that several other cars were in fact lurking under the badges of the US Auto makers probably due to percieved racism. They learnt this when Pontiac sold the Monaro as the GTO, and US buyers simply didn't take to it after they refused to let their "Goat" be built buy Australians (who it must be said actually do a better job and have tighter build quality).

The car that I happened to drive in the USA was the Chevrolet Malibu. After I thought about that above, it dawned on me that this was yet another lurker in US clothing. Check out the above comparison and tell me what you see.

That's right, it's the Vectra. The "All-American" Chevrolet Malibu is actually the Opel/Vauxhall/Holden Vectra with a different tart kit front and rear. Under the bonnet is the familiar Family 2 Ecotec engine found in Astras, Vectras, Zafiras, Movanos and Combo Vans. Also further to this, I did some research and found where the engine for this car was made - Elizabeth , South Australia!

Hmm America, you're cars have Aussie knowhow packed right under the bonnet and you didn't even realise it.
The Vectra on Australian roads is a big car, on European roads it positively massive but in America it's quite a small beast and is dwarfed by the Impala and aforementioned Stupid Utility Vehicles.

The Malibu in particular will hold some memories for me which I refuse to shake. The burgundy example I had, I was able to lend out to Katja while Kirby decided to lunch itself.
Also despite it being a wee bit too big for my liking, with Katja in the seat next to me either on the driver's or the passenger's side, the whole thing felt perfectly normal; almost like we'd been that way for years. To look across and see her smiling back was a joy to behold...

... but then, it's not really about the car, is it? ^_^

September 18, 2006

Horse 631 - 3rd & A

Sometimes upon entering a foreign land I'm filled with a sense of adventure and an almost foreboding sense of the unknown, like some vast cloud and a gap of knowledge has become blatantly apparant. Somehow when I entered the US, things were pretty well much the same, as though the country had been familiar despite never setting foot here before.

This is no more so obvious than with the people I meet. I'm sure they all find me to be rather different considering I speak with what must sound like a foreign tongue and I'm told reliably by Katja that people might think I'm weird (as if that we're a problem because let's face it, even in my own country this is still the case) but even then I don't feel particularly like an outsider; to be honest I think it might be a case of curiosity on their part.

With the email transmissions flying back and forth between Katja and myself for quite sometime, I in no way feel anywhere else like home. If this week I was supposed to be somewhere then this is it. It's not hard to feel loved, not when you have one as precious right next to you.

The Lord himself as the author and perfector of both our lives and our travellings has every day pre-written before even a single one has come to be. I'm becoming painfully aware that although I might be a repository of a hoarde of useless information, and indeed know quite a lot about how the world operates, in reality I like Issac Newton "have stood on the shoulders of giants" and "don't know 1% of 1% of anything" .

Some things however are truth cast in iron. (eye-on? aye-ron?) Awe hang it.

Time has been corrected to be correct as at here, which is both ahead and yesterday.

September 17, 2006

Horse 630 - Greg, the Stop Sign!

After again driving in this topsy-turvy world and being on the wrong side of the road, I have come to the stark conclusion that turning right against red lights is odd. Stop signs on all sides of a box junction is also somewhat odd. As is trying to find the BBC on the radio. Banknotes are all the same size and roughly the same colour but some things remain spectacularly the same.

People are still people who are capable of acting like sheep in front of cars, stealing your wallet right on the footpath but most of all, still capable of creating and responding to love. How crazy is that?

The more you travel over the world, the more you find just how much the same we all are... and occasionally the special ones.

September 12, 2006

Horse 629 - I Couldn't Drive Because I Was Blind

When I heard the story of a man who was stopped from driving because he was blind on the news this morning I thought that Peter Berner on The Cage may have been inventing the story as part of a comedy routine, but when Omed Aziz told London Police "I couldn't see what I was doing because I was blind" I didn't expect it to be literal.

I later heard on the BBC World Service, Mr Aziz was pulled over by police after he had swerved around two traffic islands and a corner at 35mph in a 20 zone. He had been driving by following instructions on where to steer and when to brake from a passenger who himself had been banned from driving.

When police stopped the Peugeot, Mr Aziz was asked to step out of the car and remove his sunglasses, the officer was surprised to see he did not have any eyes. Perhaps the only unsurprising thing about this story was that he had no licence and no insurance.

I could make joke about having a white cane sticking out the window or a seeing eye dog in the seat next to him. When reality is this weird, I scarcely need to.

September 11, 2006

Horse 628 - Where one's treasure lies...

The US Department of Defence for the year 2006 has an official budget of US$419.3bn Conversly the US Treasury has set aside US$400m for the purposes of research into alternate fuels but of this, only Chevron has applied for funding and for US$12m

Or to put this another way:
Killing people is 34,940 times more important than finding an alternate petrol source.

Horse 627 - Left in the Digital Dust

The time is now tommorrow and I'm watching the Italian GP where the tifosi is going to go utterly mental when Schumacher again steers his scarletti stallion across the line in first place.
Being in the English speaking world we of course happen to get our feed from ITV. Or do we?

When I was a wee lad there was in fact only 3 channels in the UK - BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV which most people had on 3. Channel 4 was started in 1980 and Channel 5 started up in 1997 amidst fanfare and the Spice Girls who officially launched it.
Likewise in Australia there used to be only three stations being the ABC, Channel 7 and Channel 9. Channel 0-10 started up and SBS started in 1980.

Martin Brundle happened to mention that extra features were coming up after the GP on ITV4... what? What? WHAT?!

This shows you just how far we are behind in this jerk water burg we call Australia. Only now we have ABC, ABC2, SBS, SBS2, 7, 9 and 10. Since opening up the digital domain in the UK they now have on freeview:
BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, ITV1, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, Channel 4, E4, Film Four, Channel 5.

The big players now have four channels at their disposal and space for datacasting and have done so since 2001. In Oz they're still arguing about Digital radio.

A report suggested that the switchoff for analogue in Australia for TV was supposed to be 2007 and for radio in 2008. I'm afraid that the roll-out has been so utterly woeful that we don't even have two digital radio networks left alone 4 spaces by the TV stations.

Now excuse me a while while I sit on the front porch with my rifle and stare at the McCoy's on the other side of the street. Hey ma, get off the dang roof! Can I eat pot roast 'till I can't eat pot roast no more?
Not if it's digital.

September 08, 2006

Horse 626 - At Death's Door

I was at Death's door today.

The problem was that Death's mail had accidentally been sent to my mailbox so I went round to his place. Naturally the doorbell didn't work so I had to knock but there wasn't anyone home. I tried to phone him up on the mobile but alas, being his phone it was as expected - dead as well. I guess that Death must have been out making a few house calls, so I left him a note.

When Death finally finally showed up at my door, he explained that he was out paying his gas and electricity bills. He used to do it at the Post Office but every time he turned up, the people behind the counter would snuff it. He explained that he went to the Electric Company's offices in person and found that it was attended by lifeless individuals and that he probably should try there in future.

He kept on leaving dusty stains on the carpet so I told Death to go away and he didn't seem very happy. I'm not looking forward to tommorrow when I have to do the accounts for his cousins War, Famine and Pestilence. War is always intent on making someone else pay for his debts, Pestilence is just a pain to work with and I feel a bit sorry for Famime - he's a bit poor.

September 07, 2006

Horse 625 - Ask Koizumi!

Today marks a very auspiscious occasion here on Horse for we have with us in the studio, none other than the Japanese Prime Minister himself, Junichiro Koizumi. Seeing as Koizumi-kun's tenure as PM is about to expire, we thought we'd field some questions for the most flamboyant Prime Minister on the planet today.

Kirsty Wark - BBC Newsnight: Mr Koizumi, can you please tell us the difference between a biological and a non-biological washing powder.

Koizumi: Thank you very much. I'm not sure what this has to do with my position as Prime Minister but as far as I can tell, a biological washing powder of the type you might put into your upright automatic washing machine contains what's known as an enzyme.
An enzyme is a protein that accelerates or catalises chemical reactions. In these reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process are called substrates and the enzyme converts these into different molecules: the products. Like all catalysts they do not take part in the reaction, and merely speed it along.

Al Roker - NBC Today: Koizumi-san it's a pleasure to have you here today.

Koizumi: Thank you, it's nice to be here.

Al Roker - NBC Today: I was wondering, as indeed many of our viewers, where the phrase "Bob's Your Uncle" came from.

Koizumi: What's going on here? Um, I believe that it probably refers to the British Prime Minister of 3 times - Robert Salisbury and nepotism. Basically he had a useless nephew called Arthur who despite being totally unqualified and hideously unsuitable, was made a minister of the crown on no less than 4 occasions. If "Bob's Your Uncle" then I suppose it means that you're pretty well looked after.

And lastly...

Koizumi: I do hope someone asks me something useful.

Prahan Daghpur - The Times of India: I have a question to do with the cabinet.

Koizumi: Ah yes.

Prahan Daghpur - The Times of India: I have a flat-packed self-assembly Elko cabinet that I purchased from Ikea. Should I allow for ample swingway to allow the doors when hung to open without impedence?

Koizumi: I have lots of experience at putting together a cabinet as you could well imagine. Basically flat-packed self-assembly furniture has been pre cut and moulded so you need little more than an Allan key to assemble it. In most cases they benefit from a wide number of options and the ability to easily update them through the addition of for example, new cabinet doors.

And that's all we have time for today. Join us next time when we have Canadian PM Stephen Harper teach you how to make Pizzoccheri from scratch using buckwheat and egg white.

Koizumi: Can I stay for that?

September 06, 2006

Horse 624 - Authentic?

I went into an Indian restaurant this morning and wanted to get a small Chicken Korma. The place was bedecked in typical garb with kind of pointy doorways and a small shrine with some oranges in front of an elephant statue with 8 arms and incense burning away. I rung the bell and imagine the surprise that swept over me when I saw who'd arrived to take my order.

He was a short chap who with a shock of red hair and wearing a nametag which read "Bill". Now forgive me for this, but shouldn't there be an Indian person working at an Indian restaurant? I I for instance asked the question "How's your Naan?" I think he would have replied "She's old, but it's all good".

The reverse is also true. I'm all for integration into society, except I do happen to think that we lose some of its rich social tapestry when you see the shop name in Blacktown Jimmy's Chinese Tucker.

Admittedly a lot of kebab shops are quite intelligently done such as Yabba Kebaba Doo, Hommus On The Range, Absolutely Kebabulous. Even Hey Hey Kebab in Auburn always good for a laugh.

The one time that really blew me away was once when I was staying in the city of Liverpool. The city is known the world over for its Scouse dialect and accent and also co-incidentally happens to have one of the oldest Chinatown districts in the world. I was in a pub with a few of the people I was staying with and having a chat to the locals when a Chinese man walked in through the door clad in a purple pin-stripe suit much to the jubilation of the patrons; he must have been some local hero.
Anyway when he opened his gob, it wasn't Chinese or Scouse that came forth but almost unintelligble Scottish. This guy had grown up in Edinburgh and it's just not what you'd expect at all - a Chinese Scot.

September 01, 2006

Horse 623 - By Any Other Name?

There is a song on the radio by a Ms Sandi Thom which sounds vaugely folky at the moment in which the chorus goes like this:

Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair
In '77 and '69 revolution was in the air
I was born too late into a world that doesn't care
Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair

Having listened to this song, the only word that springs to mind is Rebellion.

The reference to "flowers in my hair" is no doubt a reference to the Summer of Love in 1967 and the wave of Hippie culture that followed. Apart from being greasy layabouts, Hippies cherished personal liberty and sought freedom from governmental interference in their private lives; in particular the legislation of sexual morality and prohibitions against psychoactive drugs. They were ethical libertarians and believed that individuals have the right to do as they wish with their own persons and property, as long as they do not infringe on the same rights of others.
Hippies came to feel that in some sense a monolithic entity had emerged; composed of corporate industry, corporate media, the military and government that exercised undue power over their lives. They often referred to this monolithic entity as "The Establishment," "Big Brother," or "The Man."

Punk on the other hand also wanted to remove "The Establishment" but sought to do so via more violent means. Punk ideology is concerned with the individual's intrinsic right to freedom, and a less restricted lifestyle. Common punk ethics include a radical rejection of conformity which at the time actually included Hippie subculture, the DIY ethic, direct action for political change, and not selling out to mainstream interests for personal gain.

What's interesting is at the heart is a desire to pull down "The System" whatever that happens to be, but as to the notion of what to replace it with is usually ill-conceived. Either way, both are focused on the rights of the individual and at their heart are for the most part intrinsically selfish.
So Sandi Thom, at the heart of the matter what you're actually saying is that: Oh I wish I was a selfish like my parents before me.

But isn't that just like everyone else whose gone before and therefore the most conformist thing you could actually say?

PS: I suppose that I shouldn't really read this much into songs like this. Take the example of "She's Leaving Home" by the Beatles. I remember once thinking "yeah stick it to the parents - woohoo" but nowadays I just get the impression that the girl in the song is an insensitive and selfish A-Grade snotticus bratticus who'll probably run home to mummy and daddy anyway when she realises how good she had it...
Um well... hmm.