Life Sentence

Random thoughts about publishing, stamp collecting, politics, popular music of the 60s and 70s, mooses, and my motley other obsessions.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Honda transmissions, Macs, and cameras

I was driving down the Allen yesterday and noticed that my car seemed to be struggling. I glanced down at the gearstick and sure enough the car was in 3rd, not 4th.

The reason I drive an automatic is that in normal driving conditions I never ever ever want to have to focus on what gear the car is in. I have better things to do with my limited brainpower than to focus on a variable that can be handled far better by a properly designed gearbox.

So why was the car in 3rd? My car is a Honda Accord. It is a wonderful car in most ways. Sometime next week it will (likely) have survived 200,000 kilometres of my often-abusive driving, something no car before it has managed to do. (The previous record-holder was a Subaru, which made it to 171,000.) But among the features of the car that drive me the craziest is that the gearstick is gated so that when you slide the stick down, it stops at 3rd, not 4th. It also stops at 2nd, and of course at 1st.

So several times a week, I slide the shift down and end up in 3rd instead of 4th, and don't notice until the car starts to misbehave. This makes me crazy -- what's the point of an automatic transmission if you end up having to think of what gear to put it in?

I was simply going to rant about the bone-headedness of gating a transmission so that it ends up in the least-often-used gear, then realized there's a bigger issue. Why do I have to use the gating that someone at Honda decided would work best for all drivers everywhere? Why on earth can't I pick where the transmission gates go?

(I also don't like the gate at 2nd gear. When you are using 1st and 2nd, you are likely driving down a steep gravel slope or in deep snow, or in some circumstances where you want to be able to get between 1st and 2nd as easily as possible. That gate at 2nd makes emergency shift-downs on gravel or snow harder to do. What were they thinking?)

I like things that I can easily customize to meet my preferences and needs. And I'm lazy -- once it is set up the way I like it, I want to use it without thinking about it. Hence the strong preference for cars with automatic transmissions. In most circumstance, I don't want to think about what gear the car is in.

That's why Mac computers have driven me crazy right from their earliest days. I've never liked their standard setup at all, and they have never provided an easy way to customize them -- and for this rigid inflexibility you get to pay extra. Similarly, my only experience with an automatic camera was a disaster. I didn't like some details of the automatic settings, and drove myself crazy trying to change them. They'd change for one photo, then revert back to the factory presets.

This may seem contradictory, but it isn't really. I want things set up the way I like them, so I can forget about the settings and use them. So I want things where many of the operations are automatic, but where those automatic settings are completely customizable.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Rupert Hine

I have various automated searches set up on eBay. Most days I get a little flurry of emails with the results of those searches. And quite predictably, the most useless of those searches is the one for recordings by Rupert Hine: it turns up a handful of wonderful but achingly common albums from the late 70s and early 80s, plus his work with the likes of Tina Turner and the Fixx. It was useless until earlier this week, that is, when finally a copy of "Rupert and David" singing Sound of Silence turned up. I've known about this recording for years, but never seen a copy for sale before. David is David MacIver, who recorded with Rupert in the 70s, too. This single was their only official recording in the 60s. There was an earlier unreleased album, "Songs by Rupert Hine and David MacIvor" -- apparently there are EMI acetate copies of it around. Neither of the songs on the single are on the acetate. According to Rupert's website:

In the early sixties, Rupert and David used to perform in pubs and clubs where the then relatively unknown Paul Simon would also play.
Both versions of 'The Sound Of Silence' were released in England at the same time. Neither of them sold more than 2,000 copies (Simon only later became famous with this song thanks to Dylan's producer Bob Johnstone who added electric guitars, bass and drums to the track).

The guitarist on the single is Jimmy Page. What didn't he play on in the mid-60s?!

More interesting is With One Look, which I've never seen on a discography. Digging around on the website, I found it in a section called Other Projects|Collectors Gallery. That's it -- no details.

Another oddity is that his early-70s "Sail on My Boat" album, which I believe I saw once, is not on his discography. Given that his website seems to record even pretty obscure sessions gigs, I'm beginning to wonder if I was hallucinating that one time I thought I saw it.

Randy Scouse Git

I was driving the kids somewhere or other this afternoon, and had a Rhino anthology of Monkees music playing. Track 11 came on. I was kind of enjoying it, trying to remember what the song is called.

"I like that, Daddy. What's it called?"

I check the CD case. "Randy Scouse Git."

"What does that mean, Daddy?"

Urgh. I'm an editor. I'm supposed to know what words mean. I admitted I didn't know. The song's lyrics give no clues at all.

So here it is, late at night. The question is still bugging me. So I google it and find The Monkees Music Vault, which has a sort of vague answer, as well as the lyrics to the song. Some more digging gave more details. Randy of course means horny. A Scouse is someone from Liverpool. And a git, in 1960s slang, is an idiot.

I may not be able to get the song out of my head for a week or so. The damned thing is catchy!