Tuesday 22 June 2010

Back Soon

This will likely be my last blog post for while, as unfortunately (but necessarily) I must high myself to the hospital tomorrow afternoon to undergo an operation. As such you will probably not hear anything from me for at least 2 weeks, for which I apologise in advance.

In the meantime, however, to make up for my enforced absence I shall leave you with a veritable smorgasbord of "Eclectic Ephemera" that will hopefully keep you entertained at least part of the time until I return. And return I shall, have no fear, better than before! For now, though:



Motor cars!


Plus a couple of my favourite games:

Cricket, Vintage Car

So, for now at least, tinkerty-tonk!

100 up!

I'm pleased to say that this very post marks my one hundredth such epistle since I first dipped my æthereal toe in the then-murky waters of blogdom back in November 2009.

As I recall I jocularly predicted at the time that this blog would either set the Internet alight with wonder and brilliance or else sink without a trace in less than month.

Well I am pleased to say that the latter instance did not occur and I am still here 7 months later blogging away happily, having very definitely caught the bug. Total World-Wide-Webbular domination is not yet on the cards though, I'm afraid!

When I set out to start this blog I wisely kept to something straightforward that even a semi IT-literate amateur such as myself could maintain and I'm pleased to see it working so well. I always felt that there was the opportunity for a chronicle of cheery, interesting and [predominately] vintage-related news items and such has proven to be the case. I have also had my eyes opened to a whole new world of like-minded blogs, events, and people that I may never have otherwise come across, so it has all been most definitely worth it.

I must extend my gratitude to the news sites I get the stories from, particularly The Daily Telegraph and the BBC - without them I almost certainly wouldn't have a blog. Last but by no means least I would like to thank the 8 people (so far - there's plenty of room for more!) who have taken the time to follow my random postings - thank you for making me feel like I'm actually passing on stories over the wires rather than just rambling away to myself in vain.

Here's to the next 100 posts and many more besides; I hope that you will continue to read with me all the amusing, light-hearted and interesting articles that are still to come.

New military museum is opened on Canvey Island

New military museum is opened on Canvey Island

A little piece of local news now, as a new museum is opened in my old home town. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the opening myself, but it sounds an interesting place and I hope to get there some time in the future. Rest assured I shall report back on my experience when I do so.

I always admire individuals who attempt to put together things like this for the edification of the local community and the young people of the area in particular. As those involved have said it is of paramount importance that future generations can see physical examples of historic items and hear the stories behind them. Top marks as well to the local businesses that helped make this museum a reality. Here's hoping it is around for many years to come.

Friday 18 June 2010

'Switchover' bridge revealed

'Switchover' bridge revealed

Here is a remarkable and unusual design for a bridge connecting Hong Kong with the Chinese mainland, dreamed up (perhaps unsurprisingly) by a Dutch architectural company NL Architects. Unusual in that it takes a novel approach to dealing with an obvious difficulty - China drives on the right-hand side of the road whereas Hong Kong, being a one-time British colony still drives on the left. So at either end of any normal bridge or tunnel between them there would need to be a roadside change-over. The remarkable thing about this design is that the change is effected mid-way across by having one side of bridge directed underneath the other and so to the other side of the road before the mainland is reached, thus negating any confusion at the end(s) of the bridge. It is a truly original solution to the problem and as a design study is most interesting and elegant, but whether it would work in reality is open to question. Nevertheless I admire the Dutch architects for their approach to the commission and a lot of the philosophies outlined on their website appeal to my aesthetic nature. In my heart of hearts I doubt we will ever see such an unorthodox design made a reality but I would dearly love to see it and I congratulate the people involved on their vision.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Norfolk's magnificent autogyro specialist has sights on new record

Norfolk's magnificent autogyro specialist has sights on new record

A fantastic article about an amazing man and the equally amazing machines that he flies. Wing Commander Wallis sounds every inch the plucky British aviator and the fact that he is 94 years old and still flying - and what's more, keen to break the autogyro speed record - is a wonderful testament to the man and his life in the air. His past history and experiences sound incredible and I shall now seek out his biography forthwith. I wish him every success in his attempt on the 4th of July and hope he can overcome the mindless bureaucracy he's facing (the man's probably got more knowledge in his little finger than in the whole of the CAA, but that's pen-pushers for you...). I'm sure he will be successful and that the event will become yet another feather in his cap.

As to the machine, the autogyro has always held a particular fascination for me. Widely regarded as the "missing link" between aeroplanes and helicopters, I find their unique appearance and flying characteristics most interesting. Personally I much prefer the earlier pre-war designs rather than the later types (also known as gyrocopters) but generally speaking they are extraordinary machines. Here are two Youtube videos of early autogyros; the first shows their invention and refinement by the Spaniard Juan de la Cierva and the second is some wonderful recent footage of the Pitcairn PA-18, which was the American licence-built version of the Cierva autogyro.

World's largest coin goes on sale in Vienna

World's largest coin goes on sale in Vienna

A mightily impressive creation here from the Canadian Mint as they produce what is both the largest and highest-denomination coin in the world. Too big (and too expensive!) for my collection I'm afraid! Too big and expensive for the company that originally commissioned it too, it seems. I suppose though that it's just as good as gold bars and is certainly a novel use for 100 kilograms of top grade bullion. I'm sure it will make a good conversation piece for whoever ends up buying it, although I don't think they'll be using it to buy their groceries!

Sunday 13 June 2010

Dr. Macro's High Quality Movie Scans

Dr. Macro's High Quality Movie Scans

It may sound a slightly odd name but this site is an absolute gem, it does exactly what it says on the door and particularly focuses on actors and actresses from the Forties and earlier. Even better, a few of them also have video clips of some of their best-known films, radio shows and (for those who also sang) examples of their songs. It's a wonderful treasure trove and fully deserving of more than just a place on my links list, where it might easily be overlooked. I urge you to go and have a look round, and in the meantime here are some examples of my favourites to whet your appetites. How many can you identify?

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Panoz Introduces the Abruzzi at Le Mans

Panoz Introduces the Abruzzi at Le Mans

This is the new Abruzzi "Spirit of Le Mans" sports car from the American company Panoz. As well as being an interesting and newsworthy article in its own right it also allows me to talk about another aspect of it that has rather bothered me. This might turn into a rant, but anyway here goes. If you make it to the end, well done, and thanks for sticking with it.

Since it was unveiled at the La Sarthe circuit yesterday the overwhelming response on other blogs, general car forums and comment pages of the Internet has, as far as I can make out, been almost entirely negative. I seem to be in a minority of one in really liking this car. The main bone of contention appears to be the design, particularly of the front. Now, I appreciate that style, beauty etc. is subjective, that one man's meat is another man's poison and all that. People are free to find things attractive or not as they please, and tell others accordingly. What I dislike, and what appears to be the case in the majority of critiques so far, is the vitriolic fervour in which people have attacked this car, disparaged and dismissed it, without having said why they don't like it.

Let me go on record here: I like the Panoz Abruzzi. There, I said it. Now, however, I am going to do what no-one else seems to have done and qualify that statement.

I really like this car for a number of reasons. First, it is different. It is not your usual run-of-the-mill Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini. In this world of dull conglomerates, mediocre products and amorphous designs something as extreme as this should be welcomed and admired as a refreshing break from the norm. Even if I were not taken by the design of this car I would still appreciate it as a unique departure from the supercar template and respect the company for having the courage to make it. It has been my experience that the very fact alone of something being different from what people expect and are used to seeing is excuse enough to condemn it with no further consideration. It is an almost knee-jerk reaction by beigist people who have been brought up to accept the uninspiring designs foisted upon us by faceless corporations.
This leads me on to another point - people seem to have lost that wonderful British trait of supporting the underdog. They have been blinded by the commercial glare of the big, popular brands. The selfish attitude dominates. Nowadays it is all to easy for people to attack the little man, the Davids of this world, to say that it is not worth supporting the smaller concerns, that there is no point and no chance of success. Well I don't agree - I still root for the underdog and I'm proud to defend and cheer on companies like Panoz who wish to plough their own furrow.

Back to the design and to me there is a strong retro-futurist element in the look of this car and even perhaps a hint of Art Deco, which appeals to me greatly. Some of the [slightly] more constructive comments I've read often compare it to the early Batmobiles and to an extent I agree. That is another one of the reasons why I like it so much. It also reminds me of some of the "Cars of the Future" concepts that the big American companies put out in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Except in this case it is no concept but a fully production-ready car, albeit in tiny numbers. In their rush to censure this car many people have also overlooked the technical aspects. The fact that it is made of recyclable material that is nevertheless still as strong and adaptable as carbon fibre, or that that front end goes some way to aiding the remarkable cooling processes employed by this car. Once again people betray their superficial ideals by ignoring these factors and rush into making cheap shots at the car's looks.

Well, that's about all I have to say on that. I think the fact that this has been my longest post so far goes some way to explaining how strongly I feel about this sort of thing and I hope you have found it interesting too, dear reader.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Rare silent movie haul to be restored

Rare silent movie haul to be restored

Good news if, like me, you are a fan of early silent films featuring the likes of Mabel Normand and Clara Bow (left). The New Zealanders have come up with the goods - 75 rare silents just waiting to be restored and enjoyed again by new audiences. Not just in America and New Zealand but the world over, hopefully.

So much of early cinema has been lost, due in part either to the fragile nature of the original nitrate film stock or simply because at the time they were made no consideration was given to the possibility that they would be of any value to future audiences. Many early movies were simply thrown away after a few years or stored away and forgotten about, languishing on dusty shelves until the brittle nitrate frames simply disintegrated.

To see so many old silents, unseen by audiences for decades, found and such a splendid effort made to save and restore them for future enjoyment is truly cheering and it also keeps alive the hope that there are still more "lost" films from that time period just waiting to be found and given the same treatment.

Books on vinyl records: alive to the pleasures of rabbiting on

Books on vinyl records: alive to the pleasures of rabbiting on

Now this looks like a charming idea; I do hope it works. It sounds, as the article mentions, a risky business but with any luck putting children's stories onto a record could well pay dividends. It should add to the popularity of audio books among the young for one thing with the added novelty of, to them, an unfamiliar format.

(Indeed I recall times in the past when family has visited me and I have had to field questions from innumerable curious children:

"What is that, Uncle Bruce?"
"That's called a record, darling."
"What does it doooo?"
"Well, it's a bit like a CD in a way..."
"Oooh, can I have a go?!")

So it may be that the natural curiosity of children around anything new and unusual to them will ensure the success of this venture and expose a whole new generation to the delights and wonders of vinyl records and thus hopefully ensure their continued survival and enjoyment. I wish the fellow and his idea every success.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Rare stamp sells for £400,000 on Jersey

Rare stamp sells for £400,000 on Jersey

At the risk of this blog turning into "Eclectic Stamp Collector Monthly" or something I shall just mention in passing this article about the recent sale of another valuable stamp, this time from the Channel Islands.

What this and the previous auctions prove is what many have been saying for some time - stamp collecting is looked upon more and more as a serious investment opportunity with the possibility of continuing increases in stamp values leading to ever greater returns. In these times of economic uncertainty and distrust of some banking institutions many people are turning to stamps as a form of safe investment with an almost guaranteed return, and who can blame them?

Unfortunately such rarefied collections are outside the reaches of this humble blogger's purse (although this hasn't stopped Stanley Gibbons, Britain's premier stamp dealer, sending me an e-mail offering me a rare set of early 20th Century New Zealand stamps for "only £75,000"!) but it is interesting to see how a once-simple pastime, which I enjoy in my own small way, has morphed into a worldwide multi-million pound investment business.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Pensioner is Britain's oldest stunt pilot at 87

A truly heart-warming article here about a man still enthusiastically enjoying his wonderful hobby even in his advancing years. Proof, if proof were needed, that age is no barrier to doing anything, particularly if you take as much pleasure in it as this fellow seems to in his flying. It really is wonderful to see someone delight in their pastime after so many years, let alone still be able to do it at all at 87 years of age. I guess if you love doing something that much it keeps you feeling young. That he has such a gentlemanly outlook on his flying and performing for crowds is simply an added bonus. I take my hat off to him (and wave it)!


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