Fashion Stakes

As my Longtime Readers all know: like a doomed moth to a searing flame, I’m helplessly drawn to the spectacle of women dressing up to attend horse racing events. (I just can’t help myself, Doctor, please help me — no, don’t.)

Anyway, a couple of races have gone by and I was too busy Ubering to do them justice, but now that the weekend is upon me, I’m ready to rock and roll.

As British horse races go, Cheltenham is about as different from Aintree as single malt Scotch is to moonshine — they both contain the same basic ingredient, but…

So this year at Cheltenham was pretty much the same as it’s always been:

And even when the booze flowed, it wasn’t at all Aintree-like:

And of course, my latest obsession object of desire would-be girlfriend Carol Vorderman put in an appearance:

The men also looked quite dapper, especially ex-Top Gear Token Dwarf Richard Hammond (with wife Mindy):

…and even his partner-in-crime, the usually-disheveled Jeremy Clarkson (with his latest Irish squeeze) did his best:

…although recently-fired-from-Top-Gear Chris Evans failed dismally:

(Don’t even get me started on all the fashion faux pas in just that one outfit…)

The ladies, in general, looked quite lovely (with lots of un-PC fur, worn quite unashamedly):

This was in steep contrast to their Australian cousins at some race in Oz, who showed the class for which Strine women are famous:

But wait! How did this vision of pulchritude get in through the gates?

Ah yes, of course [sigh]:

Ugh.

Ladies: if you want to be thought of as classy (at least for a first impression), you need to cover up your cutaneous mutilation with clothing such as worn by cycling gold medalist Victoria Pendleton:

The last time I looked, even the pretty Olympienne has a tiny one on her inner forearm [deeper sigh]. But in her earlier days:

I’ll never understand the self-mutilation thing.

Anyway, speaking of regrettable decisions: Aintree’s coming up soon, which means… Train Smash Women!   One can only hope they do as well as they did last year.

Watch this space.

No Thank You

There seems to be a consensus that if driverless cars are ever to become universal, then the controlling system will have to be one single one — you can’t have competing, perhaps even incompatible systems fighting over the traffic. In other words, we’d need something like Europe’s Eurocontrol:

Eurocontrol’s Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System compares demand for flights in a particular area with the available capacity.
The system pulls together data such as flight plans, taxiing time, and flight position from numerous sources in multiple countries and collates them.
It can then track planes in real time to manage the number of planes in the air to make sure it doesn’t get too crowded.
Precise monitoring prevents the carefully balanced system from being thrown out by planes with delayed departures or arrivals.
Planes can then be herded into departure and landing slots at airports to keep the thousands of flights in Europe flowing smoothly.
ETFMS also helps plan flight schedules up to a week in advance to help airlines and air traffic controllers plan each day down to the minute.

Uh huh. Then something like this happens:

Up to half of all flights in Europe face delays today after a Europe-wide air traffic control system failed.
Eurocontrol, which runs the system, said that a technical problem means that as many as half a million passengers could be affected, disrupting travellers who went away for the Easter weekend.
‘Today 29,500 flights were expected in the European network. Approximately half of those could have some delay as a result of the system outage,’ Eurocontrol said. The agency said the system would be back up and running tomorrow.

The cause had been identified, it said, without saying what it was. The agency said ‘contingency procedures’ were in place to stop the system becoming overloaded but that these would be lifted later this evening.
Eurocontrol added that flight plans from before 11.26am BST were ‘lost’ and asked airlines to refile them.
The agency said it was a ‘technical fault’ and that the system had not been hacked, saying they were now ‘in recovery mode’.

“Lost”, huh? That’s comforting.

Here’s my takeaway. I am never going to submit myself to a driverless car. And I am certainly never going to board a pilot-less aircraft (which, incredibly, has been suggested by various airlines and aircraft manufacturers).

Systems fail occasionally — all systems fail eventually — and I’m not going to be a prisoner of this kind of happenstance, ever, if I can possibly avoid it.

Cultural Straws Part 2

In yesterday’s post (Part 1) I looked at the trend in modern music covered by this article. Today I want to talk about the last couple paragraphs of said piece, which really deserve their own discussion. Why? First, the text:

“Music is at its core a social activity. People get inspired to play because they listen to their favorite artists or see them at a live venue. But that experience isn’t translated when you take music lessons. It’s usually a very solitary, one-on-one experience with one teacher and the students aren’t necessarily learning to play the songs they want to learn.”

“We teach students of all ages the same music theory they’d learn anywhere else, but you learn to use that theory with a band [emphasis added]. Students have group rehearsals where they can practice with a band every week. And we also have our version of a recital, which is really a rock show at a live venue. We put on more than 3,000 shows a year across the world.”

I cannot stress how good an idea this is, and here’s why.

It is a truism of education that unless there is relevance, fear or self-interest (or all three) involved, education or training will be a waste of time, i.e. no learning will be retained. (“Retained learning” being defined as being taught something, and being able to repeat the input a year later with more or less 90% facility.) This learning will be doubly successful if it is practical, meaningful and requires frequent repetition.

So here’s why the above approach is so successful.
1.) Pupils are not just learning musical theory (which I can attest is deadly boring), but are immediately required to put it into practice by playing with a group — i.e. it has relevance because the band’s performance will suffer if the pupil under-performs, and thus the band will rehearse over and over until they get it right (which provides the discipline to practice, as opposed to leaving practice to self-discipline — not an easy thing to maintain for months or years). Thus: application and repetition.
2.) Pupils get to play either exactly what they want or a close facsimile thereof by making a group compromise. Thus: relevance for the skills they’re acquiring.
3.) Finally, the audience’s applause provides the reward (i.e. self-interest) for the pupil.

I can tell you from my own experience that when our band really enjoyed a song — both the learning and the playing — we would play it for months or even years until we either forgot about it or got sick of playing it. On one occasion, after an absence of five years from the playlist, we got a request for Radar Love. As it happened, one of us had it on tape, so we listened to it during a break, then went back onstage and played it as though we’d done it the night before. Retained learning.

So I am totally unsurprised at the success of the School Of Rock, if this is how they’re teaching music. If I were a great deal younger, I’d enroll in a heartbeat.

As for the main thrust of the article — that Guitar Center is in financial kaka — I’m not worried, certainly not as far as guitars are concerned. It’s one of the few items remaining where a buyer absolutely has to touch the thing and test it before buying it, so GC should be able to weather the storm, even if in truncated fashion… I hope.

Cultural Straws Part 1

Via Insty comes this article which, in talking about the financial woes of the Guitar Center retail chain, exposes two deeper issues. Here’s the first:

Guitars don’t figure as heavily into chart-topping music as they once did, according to [Guitar Center boss] Gruhn. He ought to know. Over the years, his customers have included everyone from Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Eric Clapton to Neil Young, Vince Gill and Billy Gibbons. Those artists have left indelible imprints on the music landscape, all the way from Clapton’s burning solo on “Crossroads” to Harrison’s signature guitar part on “Daytripper.”
But these days? Well, things aren’t as guitar-oriented.
“Baby boomers are the best customers I’ve ever had. They’ve driven a lot of the guitar trends, but they are aging and many of them are downsizing their guitar collections,” Gruhn added. “This doesn’t mean that guitar sales are dying, but instrument sales in general are under stress.”

And from another guy in the business:

“Rock is almost dead,” he said. “It’s almost nonexistent. And with guitar there’s no almost one to look up to anymore – no one to get you to want to learn. I have three or four guitar students who are about 12 to 14 years old, and I told one of them she should find someone in her class to play guitar with. She said, ‘No one else plays the guitar, and people think I’m weird because I do.’ ”

As a one-time rock musician, I note this trend with sorrow, of course. As much as I detest the modern obsession with 1,000-watt amplifiers in cars, it does allow me to note that I seldom if ever hear loud rock music emanating from cars these days — in fact, now that I think of it, I can’t remember when last I did — because the market in sub-woofer bass played by sub-moron drivers appears to be dominated by rap music and its adherents, Wiggers and and their Black counterparts. (And this in our upscale neighborhoods in north Texas. South Chicago must be just one large cacophony of thumping drums.)

I suppose that the trend away from rock music (and its instruments) is just one of those things — just as in classical music, harpsichord music almost disappeared when the pianoforte became more popular in the nineteenth century. Of course, I think this sucks, but then again if it means fewer hair bands then it’s not altogether a Bad Thing.

What I hate is what the trend means: that popular taste is devolving towards the primitive — but then again, I suppose that classical music aficionados said the same thing when jazz and later rock music began to supplant classical music among young people. One could say that the classical folks had a point:  Buddy Holly wasn’t exactly Beethoven; then again, in today’s world Heavy Z (or whoever) isn’t exactly Freddy Mercury. But on his worst day, Buddy Holly could write better music than the most accomplished rapper, who has to rely on plagiarism (a.k.a. “sampling”) to provide some kind of musical overlay to a soul-crushing, over-amplified rhythm section. Don’t even get me started on the differences between Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and  G-Eazy & Halsey’s Him & I  (errrr Him & Me or He & I, surely?).

Of course, another manifestation of the move away from classical- to rock music was that guitar pupils began to outnumber piano pupils.  After all, the guitar is an easier instrument to play than the piano, just as manipulating a turntable and drum machine is easier than playing a guitar (as the article correctly notes). I mean, when Paris Hilton can be known as a good DJ… those whirring sounds you hear are Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Bonham spinning in their basements.

One could get all upset about how this is just another sign of the Dumbing Down Of Today’s Yoof, but I think this is more a factor of how music has traditionally been taught and learned — which brings me to the second issue raised by the article.

In Part 2 tomorrow, I’ll talk about that. But just to help people know what I’m talking about, here’s a guitarist:

 

Weekend News Roundup

…wherein I comment on various snippets of what passes for “news” these days, and which happened to catch my eye en passant:

1.) Ireland threatens to poach U.S. business from the U.K., post-Brexit.
— It’s called the “free market”, and nobody should care about this other than the ignorant. Remember that you’ll be negotiating with the United States and against Great Britain, boyos. Good luck with that. And just hope that your masters in Brussels don’t punish you for straying outside the fold.

2.) Women achieve orgasm more often when having sex with other women than they do with men.
— Don’t care. Next:

3.) Prince Harry won’t sign pre-nuptial contract with divorced Hollywood starlet.
— Yeah, this is going to end well, considering there’s about $40 million involved. Dreamy royal ingenue vs. Hollywood lawyers… nope, not gonna take that bet. And the pussification of Harry continues apace…

4.) Saintly charity Oxfam involved with sex orgies and sexual harassment in Haiti.
— Considering that Haiti is one of the pox capitals of Shitholia, could this be conclusive proof of liberal idiocy, or is it just the Darwinian process? I report, you decide.

5.) Disloyal and dishonest asshole fired from the FBI before he can retire with multimillion-dollar pension.
— My only question: what took them so long? Should have been done over a year ago.

6.) Has-been CalGov Arnold Schwarzenwhatsit said some stupid shit in Austin, TX.
— Dude should have stuck to bonking hideous Hispanic housemaids. Of course, in Moscow-On-Colorado he’s going to get serious cheers for saying that “oil companies are killing people by abetting the burning of fossil fuels, and that all products using fossil fuels should be marked as associated with hazards like tobacco.” Yet another has-been liberal Republican who needs to just STFU.

And finally:

7.) SecState Tillerson was on the toilet when told he was fired.
— And we needed to know this… why? Somewhere out there, someone’s former journalism professor is reaching for the razor blades. (Not that this would be a Bad Thing, mind you.)

It’s NOT The Guns, Stupid

I’m getting heartily sick of people yammering on about America’s “gun culture” (usually spoken in terms of horror and disparagement).

It’s not a “gun” culture; it’s a culture of self-reliance . For the same reason, we’re also a “car” culture, because while guns give us freedom (in general), cars give us freedom of movement. Just as we’re not wholly dependent on the State to protect us thanks to our guns, with our cars we’re also free to move around freely, not dependent on Government to supply us with transport.

Some time ago, I laughed at the way that liberal “intellectuals” (who are neither) and European weenies used “cowboys” as an epithet — little realizing that the cowboy embodies everything we true Americans love about our society: he’s on a horse (independent transport), and being armed, he doesn’t need the sheriff to look after him. Cowboys, by the way, were and are largely self-employed, moving from one ranch to another as need for the cattle roundups and drives changes — and we all know that the above-mentioned bastards would prefer that we all work a.) for the State, or at least b.) for companies and institutions (like colleges) that are under the control of the State. (The first system is Communism and the second is Fascism, just so we’re all clear on this topic.)

So when misguided children and malevolent gun-confiscators talk about doing away with the “gun culture”, please be aware that what they’re really talking about is making us all dependent on, and subservient to the State for our protection. For the kids, that’s an unintended outcome because, duh, they’re kids and can’t think past the next hour; and for the confiscators and their ilk, that’s the intended outcome, as per Marx and Mussolini.

The same, by the way, is also true of people who want to do away with cars and make us all use public transport, thus taking away our freedom of movement and subjecting it to government diktat. (It’s another reason why I think “driverless” cars are going to prove to be an abomination — giving up driving means giving up control of your own movements, eventually. Just watch.)

I once wrote that I don’t just want the freedom to bear arms, I want everything that goes along with it: responsibility, personal safety, freedom from government control, the whole damn thing. But what that really means is that I want to be part of a culture of self-reliance. And in the spirit of that culture, allow me to post the following pics:

…or if others feel exactly as I do, but would prefer to be All-American:

That’s my dream, and a pox on those who would deny me that dream, whatever their oh-so noble intentions.


Dramatis personae, from top:

  • AK WASR-10 in 7.62x39mm, with a 30-round magazine
  • 2018 Maserati GT 4.7-liter V8 (454 hp)
  • AR-10 in 7.62x51mm equipped with, yes, a modifier
  • 1969 Stingray L79, 327 cu. in. V8 (350 hp)

All four are, if you’ll pardon the expression, loin-stirrers for us self-reliant types — and objects of horror and loathing to the weenies (who would go with *911 and an auto-drive Prius).

I’m pretty sure I can guess which option my Loyal Readers would choose.