Fan Support: The Other Europe

Continuing with the “countries recently invaded by Germany” theme, we have the lady supporters of Eastern European football, starting (as did the Germans) with Poland:

A little south, we have Croatia:

Which is next door to Serbia:

And then there are their Slavic cousins, Russia:

To the surprise of probably no-one, it was discovered that Russia’s most-photographed female fan (above) is a porno actress in real life (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course — anyone can support their country, and should).

And to end this segment of female fan support, we have Greece, a country nominally in Western Europe, but geographically south of Poland, so there:

We’ll wrap up this series, so to speak, next week with a look at the rest of the world.  As always, feel free to vote for your favorite(s) in Comments.

Sacrificing All For Beauty

Back in the early 1990s, there were essentially three “production” sports cars vying for the title of “fastest”:  the Ferrari F40 with a 2.9-liter V8 engine, the Porsche 959 with a 2.8-liter flat-6, and the Jaguar XJ220 with a 3.5-liter V6, all three featuring twin turbos.  While all were nominally production models, only a couple-three hundred of each were ever made because they were designed specifically to compete at Le Mans in the then-Group B class.  To just about everyone’s surprise, the car with the highest straight-line speed was the Jag, at 217mph.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

As always in posts of this type, the thing is pointless without pictures, so here we go, in order:

All three are beautiful by the standards of the time:  the F40 because Ferrari;  the Porsche despite being a Porsche (I actually think the 959 was the nicest-looking Porsche ever made until the Cayman);  and the XJ220 was gorgeous even in a marque which had always made beautiful cars (XK120, E-type, etc.).

All three are crap to drive — the F40 has a spartan, ugly interior with a hideously-stiff clutch and gearbox, the 959 was also a handful (although the toughest of the three:  in 1986 the 959 entries finished 1st and 2nd in the Dakar Rally), and as for the XJ220, let me quote one of the reviews of the time:

The testers liked the “sheer blistering pace, looks and a superb cabin” but its size, the doors not opening far enough and handling were criticised:  “If there’s a more evil device on our roads, I wouldn’t like to find it, for the XJ220 suffers from immense initial understeer followed by violent and snappy pendulous oversteer.”  Most disappointing was the engine;  at idle it sounded “like someone’s clanking a bucket of rusty nails together”.

However, given that these beauties were never intended to be “passenger” cars, all the above can possibly be forgiven.

The last pic, that of the XJ220, is a special one.  I took it at the Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace over a year ago (full report here and here), and I have to tell you, with all of the automotive beauty on display that day, the XJ220 quite simply took my breath away.  It looked like a jaguar [sic] : feral, sleek and dangerous, and even in repose, it seemed to be begging someone to drive it really, really fast.  I’d never seen one in the flesh before, unlike the other cars listed above — and good grief, my carlust was almost ungovernable that day.

I suspect that others may feel the same way, not necessarily about the XJ220 but about the other two, or others.  So, Gentle Readers and fellow Gear Knobs:  which cars make you forget how terrible they may be to drive simply because they’re so beautiful?

Responses in Comments (or by email, if you prefer).  I’ll make the best three suggestions the subject of next Saturday’s post, and add pictures if necessary.


Longtime Readers will know that I am often scornful of modern architecture on these here pages, but I have to admit that occasionally some light does shine through the gloom.  Here’s one example from, of all places, Shanghai, where somebody decided to put a played-out quarry to good use.  Before:

…and after:

…followed by a night-time shot:

We could use a few of those Over Here.  Gawd knows we have enough quarries and de-topped mountains (e.g. in Kentucky, eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Montana, to name but a few) which would support a decent-sized chain called (say) Quarry Hotels, Inc.

And if we’re not going to use the quarries for any other purpose (e.g. to bury all the dead socialists after The Glorious Day)…

Fan Support: Over There

Last week we studied the fan support of football in the Western Hemisphere, so now we’ll cross the Atlantic, starting with mid-Atlantic Iceland:

I know these ladies are somewhat more demure than the average we’ve seen up till now, but let’s not forget that it gets kinda chilly in Iceland.  Staying with the Scandinavian types, there are the original Vikings in Denmark:

…followed by Sweden:

I know Swedes all speak English, and there’s proof.  Anyway, let’s move a little south:

And across the border:

Over the Pyrenees mountains:

While over the Channel, we have the English roses:

[insert]  Longtime Friend and Reader TrueBrit sends me the following, to highlight England’s winning spirit (and if it makes you giggle, you’re not alone):

Back over in Euroland, there are the Low Countries (Belgium and Holland respectively), who despite their diminutive size, always seem to punch well above their weight class, so to speak:

And lurking just over the Rhine, the Old Enemy (in so many ways):

…and their cousins-in-crime, Austria:

But let’s not talk about The War.  The Swiss were neutral, in any case:

Moving south, there’s the confusingly-named Azzuri (despite having national colors of green, white and red, Italy plays in sky-blue jerseys because Italy):

Okay, you can all stop panting now, and vote for your favorites in Comments.  In two weeks’ time:  Eastern Europe.

Fan Support: The Americas

Today we will study the lengths to which people will support their home team.  By “people”, of course, I mean “ladies” and by “support” I mean “showing up at a football stadium wearing your national team’s colors, more or less”.  Let’s start off with the South Americans, because one has to start somewhere:

One would imagine that Brazil does just as well in this department, and one would be right:

But those are large, populous countries so one would expect a high level of tottie-ness.  What about the smaller South American ones?  Let’s start with Ecuador:

…and then Paraguay:




And let’s not forget tiny Honduras:

I know, Honduras is technically in Central America — which brings me on to Mexico:

If I may channel Top Gear‘s Jeremy Clarkson for a moment, that does not look like yer typical Mexican housemaid as found in the U.S.A., does it?  And speaking of El Norte, we have:

…but frankly, I think we save our best for the other kind of football:

…and especially at the college level:

Next week, we’ll cross the Atlantic to resume our study.  Oh, and feel free to vote for your favorite fan(s) in Comments.

The Other Schumann

I’ve always been a huge fan of Robert Schumann’s music.  I know all about his life story — the word “tragedy” comes to mind, and you can read all about it here — but while that knowledge provides some background, it doesn’t really matter because the music is beautiful beyond words.  In one of those extraordinary little coincidences which occasionally drive me crazy, when I discovered the linked article I just happened to be listening to Schubert’s Schumann’s First Symphony (“Spring”) in B-flat major, the second movement of which has one of the most most haunting melodies ever written (just after the 15.30-minute mark).  That the melody happens during a piece which celebrates the coming of the spring — traditionally a “happy” theme — is just one of the joys of listening to Schumann.

As for the “other” Schumann (his wife, virtuoso pianist Clara Wieck), the DM review of Judith Schernaik’s biography of Schumann pays eloquent praise to this extraordinary woman.  (The book itself has gone onto my Christmas list.)

Anyway, if  you want to enrich your life for a couple of hours on a chilly winter’s day or evening, you could do a LOT worse than listen to all four of Schumann’s symphonies, in order.  I’ve selected the performances of the Staatskapelle Dresden, conducted by the incomparable Wolfgang Sawallisch.

Then, if you feel the need for more Schumann (and well you might), help yourself to a few of his Etudes

No need to thank me;  it’s all part of the service.