Just Three

Evil Bastard I mean Loyal Reader Petec directs my gaze to this bunch of Brit ne’er-do-well resto-modders, and my question to everyone is this:

Forget the price, and ignore the fact that it may have been sold;  list your top 3 of the cars on either the “Blue Chip” or “Prestige” pages.

Mine are, in no specific order:

Trying to pick a #1 from this lot is like trying to pick a favorite child.

And if New Wife wanted in, I’d get her this little beauty (because she thinks most modern sports cars are utterly vulgar and horrible):

It’s a good thing that I haven’t won the lottery, or these guys would be getting a visit from me.

Small Wonder

According to some organization, Vienna is the most “liveable” city in the world.  I can see why, and I could live there in a heartbeat.  I’ve often commented on my love for Vienna — to this day, it’s the only city that is so beautiful that the first time I went there, I walked the streets with tears running down my cheeks.

I don’t know what criteria the EIU set to decide livability, but here are mine:

1)  It must be beautiful.  Vienna has that, in spades.

2)  There must be lots of culture:  art, music and all the rest.  Feel free to tell me Vienna doesn’t have that  covered.  Here’s the Kunsthistoriches (Art History) museum, see also beauty (above)

…and as for music?  Even their street musicians are a cut above the rest (he was playing Mozart  tunes, FFS):


3)  The people must be well-mannered, well-dressed and classy.  Vienna:  check, check and check.  The Viennese are terribly formal, which suits me down to the ground.

4)  A relaxed lifestyle.  Vienna = café culture, maybe even more so than Paris.  And oooh the coffee…

5) Good food, and restaurants.  Here’s Vienna’s equivalent of Whole Foods, or maybe M&S Food Court.  Let me tell you:  I know  grocery stores, and Julius Meinl is the best in the world.

Let’s not forget the street markets:

So yeah:  if somebody stuck a gun to my head and said, “You have to go and live in Vienna!”, I’d snatch the gun away and shoot him before he could change his mind.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t list a couple of negatives about Vienna.  (A German I met once said, “Vienna would be beautiful, except for the Viennese”, and my only qualification of his opinion is that of the language.)

I speak German reasonably well, and can get around most of Germany without too much hassle (once I’ve been  there a few days and have caught up — you don’t use it, you lose it, and I’ve pretty much lost it).  That’s not true in Vienna, where the local patois is incomprehensible, even to a lot of Germans.  (In the early days in Munich, Hitler had to take a few elocution lessons because people couldn’t understand his Austrian-accented speeches.)

Also:  in winter, it’s witch’s tit cold.  Holy balls.  Even coming from Chicago as I did, Viennese winters are cold, Bubba.  The only good thing about winter there is that it keeps most of the tourists away — which brings me to my last quibble:  in summer, Vienna has more tourists per square yard than the average day at DisneyWorld.

But in summer, the weather is glorious and the whole city seems to sing.  The multitude of statues to Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms and Strauss (all of whom lived in Vienna) must have something to do with it…

Mein schönes Wien… I need to get back there, and soon.

As for the rest of the “ten most liveable” cities on that list?  Ugh.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s Snow White and the Nine Dwarfs.

And one wonders how anyone could put Vienna and Toronto (???!!!) on the same such list, with a straight face.

Filthy Fifties

I’m not talking about the 1950s, either.  I’m talking about women in their fifties who appear to have sold their souls to the Devil in exchange for eternal youth — or at least, the slowing of the ageing process.

Example 1:  Elizabeth Hurley (54)

Example 2:  Monica Bellucci (54)

Example 3:  Salma Hayek (52)

Example 4:  Carol Vorderman (58)

Example 5:  Juliette Binoche (53)

And I should point out that all the above pics are of recent vintage (i.e. taken within the past few months).

Gives a whole new meaning to the term “grab a granny”, dunnit?

Gratuitous Gun Pic — James Purdey And David McKay Brown (12ga)

Before we get started, let me say at the outset that I don’t care if you can find a decent second-hand pump-action shotgun for $450 at Bubba’s Bait-‘N-Guns.  This isn’t that kind of post, as you will soon see.

Some people might say that spending this much money on a pair of shotguns is ludicrous or even foolhardy.  My opinion is that these guns exist right at the very end of the quality curve — I cannot think how they could possibly be improved — and therefore the cost is irrelevant.

Granted, to buy these guns you probably have to have so much money that cost becomes irrelevant (i.e. “if you have to ask…”), but like buying (say) a Ferrari Enzo, it isn’t the money that’s important.  (I, by the way, am not one who actually subscribes to this philosophy — had the lottery been in my favor last night, I still  wouldn’t have called Collectors Firearms to put a hold on them — but I do understand why this can be important to some people, and I pass no judgment on their preference whatsoever.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting the absolute best of anything, as long as you can afford it.)

Now all that said:  there are a couple of things about these Purdeys that I don’t like.

1) I prefer my shotgun stock not  to have a pistol grip — left is the Purdey, right is my preference:

2) I prefer double triggers to single triggers:

With all that in mind:  had the lottery been in my favor last night, I might  have called Collectors to put a hold on these two David McKay Brown shotguns (#1 and #2) because they are completely in my wheelhouse, so to speak, even though they’re not a matched pair.

(And I care not that this gun bears the initials of its previous owner — I put no stock in virginity.)

These two guns are, in a word, exquisite — and for those to whom this kind of thing matters, David McKay Brown is pretty much on a par with Purdey as a gunmaker.  (Purdey has the better P.R., but McKay Brown is extremely well-respected among the shotgun cognoscenti.)  And too, they’re not as finely engraved as the Purdey guns, but frankly, I’m not in thrall to fancy scrollwork (although I do appreciate it.)

And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the McKay Brown guns are half the price of the Purdeys… still nosebleed, but from only one  nostril, so to speak.


Friday Night Music

I’m sometimes asked what kind of music our old band, Atlantic Show Band, used to play back in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s (we were together for over ten years, with the occasional break while band members did their Army National Service and other musicians filled in).  When we played clubs, we weren’t allowed to play our own stuff — covers only — and when we quit clubs and played gigs like proms and office parties, guess what?  we still  could play only covers.  Good thing, too:  none of us could write music worth a damn.

The really good thing was that as music changed between the mid-70s to the mid-80s, we changed with it, so we never got bored playing the same old stuff night after night, and of course we became better musicians by playing such a variety of music.  At a rough guess, we could play over four hundred pop/rock songs of the time (and much more if we include the old jazz standards), and I don’t think we ever played the same 45-minute set of songs unless by coincidence.  We practiced at least once a week, and learned about three or four new songs a month — and we were note-perfect, no sloppy approximations for us, although we did change the arrangements sometimes to suit our sound.

Anyway, here’s a non-chronological sample — about one set’s worth — along with a one-line comment for each.  Enjoy.

Stratus — Billy Cobham (when we played nightclubs, this was our opener — minus the opening drum solo;  we wanted people to dance, not be bored)

Hey Mr. Dream Maker — Cliff Richard (I think our arrangement was better — more powerful — than Cliff’s)

Sometime World — Wishbone Ash (the bass part in the second half of the song made me sweat blood, and  I had to sing backup harmony vocals)

Samba Pa Ti — Santana (we didn’t play too many instrumentals, but we loved this one)

July Morning — Uriah Heep (this  song was what made humping a damn Hammond B3 upstairs all worth it)

Vienna — Ultravox (what can I say? it was the 80s)

Fox On The Run — Sweet (I nearly pinched my scrotum off, hitting that high note in the harmony before the chorus)

Lady Madonna — Beatles (we only did a few Beatles numbers, as I recall, but we liked playing this one the most)

Listen To The Music — Doobie Brothers (one of the dozen or so songs we played from the beginning of the band till I left for the United States;  we loved it, and so did our audiences)

Only When You Leave — Spandau Ballet (another 80s song, but we loved it)

December ’63 — Four Seasons (another song we played for ten years — people liked our rendition of this one so much, we sometimes played it twice in a gig)

Couldn’t Get It Right — Climax Blues Band (soooo cool — and it was a Brit  band, FFS)

Happy Together — Turtles (except that we did the Mothers Of Invention version, as linked)

For a few years, we had a girl singer:  a 5’2″ little blonde thing named Jill, who wore the shortest miniskirts in the Western World and had a voice that could stop a Sherman tank.  Next time I do this, I’ll feature some of her songs off the playlist.

My Kinda List

That would be the Top 25 Badass Planes Of All Time (and I especially like their choice of #1).

Now, as with all this kind of geekery, one can argue with the choices (or omissions, e.g. the WWI Fokker D.VII), but it’s still a credible selection.

(Yeah, that’s Ernst Udet in the foreground.)

And I don’t agree with Gen. Spaatz’s characterization of of the B-17, but it’s a minor quibble:  the Flying Fortress was a dandy, any way you look at it.


Feel free to add your suggestions — but:  if you do so, you have to say which of the existing 25 you’d drop.  (Mine would be the DC-3/C-47, to make room for the D.VII, for example).