Gorgeous Coffins

October 28, 2010

Amongst the people of Western Africa burial is a serious business. It involves a lot of expense. Always a sign of how seriously people are taking it. Coffins especially are a major vehicle of expression of respect and status for the deceased, his tribe and family. Coffins in Africa are colorful, bizarre (at least from our perspective) and artistic opportunities.

In the west whilst some do spend inordinate amounts on a farewell they dubiously attend, we are more restrained. But there is an equivalent in an unlikely place. Formula One Gran Prix motor racing. During the racing season young men with amazing reflexes and a cynically calculated regard for their own lives, lower their bodies into gaudy motorized coffins. The exterior of these death traps is decorated on every conceivable square centimeter with advertising logos and messages. Not visible surface is left untouched by commerce.

In a weird parody of a funeral service these young men assemble with fifteen or twenty others and accelerate at rocket ship force in front of friends, relatives and enablers to race against each other and death. Very often they survive, and the coffins are returned to storage. And then, from time to time, a highly colored, beautifully made and powerful motorized sarcophagus explodes, hits a wall at 200 mph, somersaults and burns with walls of flame and acrid smoke from burning tires. The crowd gasps, horrified, and yet satisfied that some strange liturgical purpose has been met. Gorgeous coffins.

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The Real Mod Ride

October 24, 2010

 When most of us think of motor scooters the Vespa brand comes to mind, and often in the media we see this brand celebrated as the hip ride of the cool and young in crowd. As some of my countrymen would say, “Bollocks!”. This was not the case when the scooter first became popular in the UK.

 Having lived through the sixties in and around London I can tell you without any doubt that the ride of choice for any self-respecting London ‘mod’ was a Lambretta. Not a Vespa.

In 1965 I had the dubious honor of sharing a rented room with Eddy. Eddy was several shovels short of a load, but friendly and worked hard at his job. He fancied himself as a mod. He had his hair short and defined, cut in the style favored by mods. He wore the pastel shades of Fred Perry shirts, he thought amphetamines to be acceptable driving aids, and yes, he wore a huge army surplus fur trimmed anorak. He had done everything right but for one crucial detail. By some misfortune or other had chosen to ride a Vespa instead of the standard mod ride, the Lambretta. Many were the nights that he came home to our digs depressed after another night of ribbing at the coffee bar where he and his mod crew hung out. “But the Vespa has more horsepower, and is easier to start” he would whine. Many were his justifications for his choice. But it made no difference. As any mod with slightly more smarts than Eddy knew the Lambretta was The Ride.

Vespas were for the commuter, the students, or worse. The Innocenti Lambretta was the cool ride of mid-sixties mod world.

Not a Vespa to be seen!

My Personal Fruit Fly

October 24, 2010

If you drink wine and have bananas in the house this experience will resonate with you. It might also suggest that we look a little closer at the lives of small creatures. We are small ourselves, outnumbered by most insect species and might learn a little from accepting our place in the real order of things. Go to this link…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=An5J7EQtOG4