Archive for June, 2009

Francoise Hardy in English

29/06/2009

Radio 2’s The Sounds of the 60s played Francoise Hardy’s ‘All over the world’ recently – the English version of ‘Dans le monde entier’.

Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I came across this video from 1965 of Hardy singing the song whilst, somewhat bizarrely, sitting on the roof of a car wearing pyjamas and driving around Picadilly Circus.

This is definitely my favourite English version of Hardy’s songs.

I also came across this brilliant version of ‘Will you still love me tomorrow’. I need to play this at the next party I’m at and see who else enjoys dancing to it.

Hurrah for our Air Outpost in Hot and Desolate Sharjah!

28/06/2009

The National has a super video from 1927 up on its multimedia page.

Watch it here.

I’m often teased for speaking posh, like, but the commentator’s cut glass accent on this short film is wonderful.

Jaldi chellow, the aircraft’s on its way! Fetch the Persian petrol boys, the Arab guard and the Indian servants straightaway!

Ouch!

27/06/2009

I am going to have to pay 4,800Dhs (1.300USD) for a new clutch assembly on the Wrangler after it failed on Thursday.

Ouch.

Oh well, it’s done 137,000Kms and has otherwise never let me down in over 6 years, so I suppose I can’t complain.

I don’t like it when things ‘just break’ though – thank goodness it didn’t happen when I was on a main road or in the middle of a dodgy turn in the desert.

I hope this is a one off and not the first symptom of needing to replace a car that’s had its time. It’s in otherwise excellent condition and I know I could sell it in minutes, based on other Wrangler owners’ experiences, for about 20,000-25,000Dhs. I don’t really fancy doing that right now, however!

As usual, these things all come at once. It’ll be due a full service in about three weeks – as will the Range Rover, although I may be able to delay the Rangie getting done till the end of the summer.

The most cost-effective option for future vehicles seems to be to get a Taliban Tank (Toyota pickup) and hire a Chad based ‘Toyota Army‘ rebel mechanic to keep it going for the next twenty years, using nothing but sticky tape, hammer and a can of WD40.

Some chaps in Chad on their reliable steed/Chris drives to work with some friends, having given up on American and British cars, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Surrounded

22/06/2009

It’s a fact of life for most areas of Dubai that if you have a nice view from your balcony or front window, something will be built nearby to alter it in some way after not too long.

We’ve been lucky in the ‘Old Town’ for a while now – everything you see around you was built by the same developer and it all fits together well. Naturally, that wasn’t going to last much longer.

We’ve now got towers coming up that we can see from the living room and bedroom, or when walking up to the front door of the apartment block. Each of these new buildings will probably look striking on its own, but as often seems to be the case here, won’t really match with the general surroundings.

One tower in particular seems to be going up right next to a newly completed Emaar built block, so close to its neighbour that you’ll be able to lean over from one balcony to the next to borrow a cup of sugar.

We’ll have to wait to see the finished articles, but it does feel like the open vista from our apartment windows, as well as the open feel of the area, is being encroached upon. I also wonder how the roads are going to manage even more people in such a small space.

It’s a shame really – there are lots of good buildings that look fine in themselves, but which don’t match what’s next door, or nicely designed developments that have ‘third party’ buildings popping up amongst them, rather like shiny weeds in an otherwise well planned garden. I presume that there’s when planning permission is granted, the aesthetics of an area aren’t really taken into account.

Driving in Dubai

21/06/2009

Unusually for a Dubai blog, it’s been a while since I last had a whinge about driving standards here, bar a quick moan the other week.

I believe that standards here have definitely improved compared to when I first arrived in 2002, but there is obviously still a long way to go.

My personal, layman’s opinion, is that simply putting up speed cameras is not enough – active traffic patrols need to play an important role. Yes, speed kills, but most of the bad driving I see is usually under the speed limit.

Despite the fact that things could definitely improve further, I was surprised to see the UAE’s roads being listed as worse than the other Gulf countries. I would have thought that Saudi would have gained that dubious honour.

It would also be interesting to see some statistics about who is involved in, or causing, accidents here. That would probably go a long way to working out which section of the public to educate and ‘encourage’ to drive better.*

* Yes, Mr Nissan Sunny driver who randomly pulled into the middle lane of the Sheikh Zayed Rd this afternoon and then pootled along at 80Kmph, forcing me to swerve into another lane, I’m talking to you!**

** And I’m talking to you too, pickup truck driver who forced his way in front of me near Safa Park junction this morning, nearly hitting me, when all you had to do was slow down a little and pull in behind me!***

*** I’m not forgetting you either, Mr Lexus 570 driver, who sat behind me on the way to Dubai Internet City, flashing his lights at me to get out of the way, even though there were hundreds of cars in front of me and the lane on the right was full of cars, leaving me nowhere to move even if I wanted to!

Sheikh Mo at Ascot

21/06/2009

Well, I like these kinds of pictures.

Gulf News.

Arabian Business.

I wonder who Sheikh Mohamed’s tailor is? That’s a nice suit.

The dapper gentlemen next to Sheikh Mohamed on the left of the first Gulf News picture is his son, Sheikh Hamdan, Crown Prince of Dubai.

Once again, I’d love to hear what he and the Queen chat about whilst riding along in the carriage.

Why don’t girls play guitar?

21/06/2009

An interesting article from the BBC, here.

We had recorder lessons at school, like most people of my generation, I think. I quite enjoyed it and, by the time the lessons stopped, could read music at a basic level. That must have been when I was about ten years old. Between the ages of 11 and 13 or so, I had private trombone lessons, which I tried hard at, but found hard to get in to.

Then, when I was 16, I started playing around with a little toy guitar we had at home, taught myself some chords and started enjoying music properly for the first time. Sadly, rock stardom passed me by, but I did have a great time in my late teens playing in my own band at a few pubs, as well as jamming away at university. Nowadays, thanks to another small toy guitar I bought (a small one being more practical to take to parties, the beach, etc) I find myself playing on a daily basis for my own – and occasionally other people’s – amusement.

This experience has lead me to believe that it’s the guitar that should be taught as a group instrument at school, or as the instrument that parents encourage their kids to learn when they’re young.

To enjoy playing the piano to any reasonable degree takes a lot of solitary effort. To enjoy playing the trumpet, trombone of violin takes similar amounts of time and dedication. More importantly, to get to a level where you can make some nice sounds takes real talent.

The guitar, on the other hand, doesn’t need a huge amount of musical sophistication to reach a level where you can bash out a few basic pop songs. This is important – the child learning the guitar starts to enjoy the process a lot more quickly, doesn’t need to be part of a huge orchestra or group to do so and is able to play the sort of music they like. The guitar’s also a lot more practical to carry around than a trombone, piano, or even a violin.

After several months learning the trombone I could play some Hungarian folk songs rather badly. After a week of mucking around on the guitar, with nothing but a book of chords to guide me, I could play some simple versions of Bob Dylan, the Beatles and so on. I expect today’s books would have the chords to more recent pop tunes. Nowadays I couldn’t play a Hungarian folk song on the trombone to save my life, whereas even someone who picks up a guitar after not touching one for a few years can quickly start to play something decent again.

All of this suggests to me that having kids learn the guitar during school music lessons will get the average person enjoying music, whilst those with talent can easily more onto something more sophisticated. Britain could become a nation where every man and woman would be able to play the riff to Smoke on the Water – that would be quite a cultural leap forward.

The next question, of course, is whether government schools in Britain even have music lessons any more, but that’s an entirely different topic.

Mohammed meets Elizabeth

16/06/2009

I love these kinds of photos.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall – what do they chat about? Given their fondness for equestrian issues and regular attendance at horse races, the Queen and Sheikh Mohammed must know each other quite well by now.

2010 Range Rover

14/06/2009

Here’s a short video from Land Rover’s 2010 range launch.

I don’t like the new Range Rover bumper – the fog lights look a lot better where they were before. It looks too American for my taste.

The presenter also doesn’t mention improved reliability during his speech.

The idea of a TFT screen for the instrument panel is interesting. This just seems like one more thing to fail, however.

I wonder how a ‘de-teched’ Range Rover would sell? Take out all those unreliable electronics and give us something that looks great and doesn’t fall to pieces.

I doubt I will ever be able to afford a brand new Range Rover, so I am not Land Rover’s target market. The more unreliable electronics they install also mean I’m far less likely to buy a secondhand one again.

This comes from someone faced with having to spend $1,000 to fix a broken radio in his 2003 model – the radio is part of a small computer that also handles voice control and lots of other useless features. When it breaks, the only option is a whole new computer. Imagine what you’ll have to pay when that TFT display stops working?

Imagine the servicing bill for that 2010 model in five years’ time – new air coils, new TFT display, broken motors on the seats, steering column, peeling bits of plastic, etc, etc… I can see the 2010’s resale value plummeting the moment you drive it off the forecourt.

Web 2.0 in pop?

14/06/2009

Listenting to the Box Tops’ ‘The Letter’ this morning, I found myself wondering when we’re going to see more references to modern technology in pop songs.

Mousse T gave a technically vague mention of sending a message through the internet ‘but it rejected’ , way back in ’98. Since then I’ve not been aware of any songs mentioning something similar.

We need up to date lyrics along the lines of –

‘Get me an online checkin for an aeroplane – my baby just sent me a tweet’.

‘Hangin’ on your Facebook status update’.

‘Text and shout’.

…that sort of thing.

I think Girls Aloud would be a good group for a social media related ballad. I suggest a feisty ‘strong women’ type missive about removing an ex-boyfriend from your social networking circle.

Verse –

Am

Don’t poke me via Facebook ‘cos I ain’t gonna reply

G

The days of textin’ me daily have all gone by

F

Your tweets mean nothin’, your emails less

D

My heart’s deleted you baby, I must confess

Em

It’s time for me to stand strooong

F

And wipe your from my liiiiife

C

You’re nothing more to me no more than redundant bits on my hard drive.