Archive for November, 2008

The things you see

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

I was out on my bike today, and on the way home, at the end of my own little street, I saw an impressive piece of motoring history.

Allegro Vanden Plas

Ladies and Gentlemen of the internet, may I proudly present the Allegro Vanden Plas! As far as I can recall, one of the car magazines once named it the worst car of all time. You can see how they unexpectedly managed to transplant half the noble nose of a Jaguar onto the less than noble body of an Austin Allegro. They also managed to fill it with shagpile carpet, half a walnut tree, and leather seats. It was quite the Hyacinth Bucket Mobile of its time, and its a rare treat to see a fine specimen out in the wild.

(Photo not taken by permission, but blatantly snapped in the middle of the pavement. No offence intended, your statutory rights are not affected)

Return to renting

Monday, November 17th, 2008

I saw a sign on the back of a bus on the way to work the other morning advertising television rental. I have to say, I think it’s a long time since I saw one of those (the advert I mean, not a bus). Radio Rentals and Granada left our high streets many years ago, when renting went out of fashion. But it looks like the credit crunch has led to the return of a lot of old ideas.

I wonder what’s next.

Quantum of Solace

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

I made it to the cinema last night to see the latest James Bond movie. And I thought it was excellent! A spoiler-free review follows.

It very much continues in the darker vein that Casino Royale started, with a brooding and violent Bond. Well, I suppose violence goes with the territory. Maybe pitiless would be a better word. And almost without wit – this is a Bond who has been hurt, and he is taking it out on the world.

The film starts off with a blistering pace, with so everything happening so quickly that it’s a bit of a relief when things settle down a bit. I have to admit that while I liked the movie, I do miss the light and shade of the earlier movies, and I would prefer it to be a little less bleak. And I’d rather that he didn’t wreck his beautiful care just so quickly. But I enjoyed it, am looking forward to where they’re going to go next with the franchise, as they continue to evolve it into a slightly different beast.

Election thoughts

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Although there’s still some counting going on at the edges, the American election is over. I’ve got slightly mixed feelings about it, because personally I favoured Barack Obama, but I know that my American Republican friends are very disappointed by the result.

The first, and probably most important thing about the election, is the incredible turnout. For this to be the biggest voter numbers in American election history indicates that people have really engaged with their system, and that can only be a good thing. I also think that it’s a real challenge to us in the UK, where democratic engagement has been on the slide for a long time. What can we do to energise ordinary people the way that the two American parties have other the last few months?

The second thing that I think is very interesting is the odd effects of their particular electoral system. All voting systems raise their own peculiar effects (for example, here in Northern Ireland, we mainly only vote for idiots or gits, with the challenge being to identify which category any particular politican falls into. But I digress). One peculiarity of the American system is the cascade effect which amplified a small difference in the actual votes cast into a very large majority in the electoral college. On the electoral college votes Obama has roughly a 2:1 majority. But on the ground, he had only 52% of the actual votes cast. That means that behind those headline figures, this election was really close. While that won’t bring much comfort to Republican supporters right now, I think in time that it will, because it means that as a party they are not actually down and out.

I also worry for the new president. This election victory seems to me to have some parallels with the election of Tony Blair in the Labour landslide of 1997. The UK was a country that was fed up with an unpopular government, desperately wanted change and so chose a young and dynamic new leader. Unfortunately, the New Labour project constantly struggled with the weight of that expectation, because of course it could not live up to all those hopes and dreams. I think it’s fair to say that Barack has even more pressure on him to deliver, and given the current state of the world, even less chance of delivery. He has a unique opporunity, as I think most of the world is behind him right now, but that won’t last long, and isn’t much good if he can’t bring most of America with him.

But most of all, my thoughts are with him right now, as in the next day or two he will have to deal with the funeral of his grandmother, the lady who brought him up for many years. I’m sure in his heart it’s not quite the celebration he was hoping for.

On winning and losing

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I’m really happy for Lewis Hamilton, for managing to win the Formula 1 World Championship yesterday. But I have to admit that I feel really sorry for Felipe Massa, who lost the championship tragically. He came in first place, in front of his home crowd, and couldn’t have done any better. And everyone thought that he had it in the bag, until he then lost the championship in the final seconds.

I’m happy for Lewis, who managed to win, but not by much.

I wonder what is going to happen to the other guy tomorrow. This week might be a great week to be black.