29 September 2010

The Right Man for the Job?

I came across this article by Dion Fanning and couldn't agree more with his words, especially these ones...

The destruction of England's most successful club is not Hodgson's fault. But he is not the man to create the illusion on the field that it's not happening.

Benitez's achievement in keeping Liverpool competitive while Hicks and Gillett destroyed the club for all but his final season is now looking even more remarkable as things enter a vital endgame.

A classic case of You Don't Know What You're Missing Until It's Gone, isn't it? The timing of the article was also quite appropriate when in the same week, the blame for Liverpool's current woes were placed solely on the head of Benitez.

On the other hand, it was strange to hear from a host of British managers like Alex Ferguson, Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce who all insisted that Hodgson is the right man for the job. Maybe they should clarify a bit more what they all meant by right man. At this stage, their right man definition appears to be of Liverpool manager that doesn't bruise their collective egos. Great for them of course, but where does that leave Liverpool?

Admittedly, its a little unfair to criticise Hodgson at such an early stage of the season but Liverpool's worst start since the 1950's isn't actually reassuring for a manager who was supposed to steady the ship. Ah, maybe the said ship has a lot more leaks than initially expected, eh?

Well, here's one way you can help plug two of the bigger holes in that ship. I'm off to do my part and send my own email.

27 September 2010

Vespa Ape: Super Scooter

I caught the last few bits of the ad for American Pickers on the TV recently and have been trying to hunt down the episode on the Vespa Ape whenever I had the chance over the weekend.

At first, I was quite disappointed with the History Channel's site when it had a message in bright red that read: 

The content you are trying to access is not available in your area.

But, not being one to give up after just one Google search, I continued my search. Not surprisingly, I found what I was looking for on YouTube. So, to anyone interested in what basically is a mechanised trishaw from Piaggio, here's where you can catch the episode, wherever you are in the world. Well, hopefully.

25 September 2010

The Germans Are Coming! The Germans Are Coming!

All the talk in the scootering world of late has been about the possible return of the Vespa PX in some form or another around 2011. As much as this piece of news is welcomed, it does seem like the crowd at Piaggio aren't actually looking forward enough especially when it comes to the tried and tested Vespa formula.

Well, if ever they needed a kick up the behind then, this should be a good enough reason.

Mini (the now BMW-owned) looks like its expanding its horizons by planning to release some very tasty looking electric scooter concepts at the Paris Motor Show next month (more pictures here). If anything else, I might borrow  some ideas from the green scooter above for my own Green Vespa. Oh, and the use of iPhones as the scooters' driver interface isn't too bad of an idea either. Would love to see some sort of after-market adaptor for the classic Vespa some time soon.

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your view of the whole thing), the show of interest from established German car makers don't actually end there...

Mercedes-Benz, in the guise of its not-so-successful subsidiary, Smart have also decided to join the fray by releasing its own electric scooter concept (more pictures here). While the Smart design lacks the retro design cues abundant on the Mini concept, I'd say they'd be a lot of people out there who would appreciate the concept's honesty, clean lines and minimalism. Personally, I think it reminds me of an air freshener or something similar but, in a good way. Yes, I don't how that's good when it comes to scooters but all I know is that it does look good.

Now, all we can hope for is that all the accountants, engineers and focus groups don't water down the designs before it gets close to the production line, if ever.

23 September 2010

This is England '86: Finally Something to Watch Other Than Football

I don't watch TV that much these days. I don't see the point really. There's nothing much on. Even real-time channels like news channels repeats itself (yes Sky News, that's you I'm pointing a finger at) after about an hour or so. It's that bad. Not too long ago, you'd hear people say that the ads on telly are much more interesting than the programmes itself. I'd agree. Back then. These days, even the ads are utterly hopeless. Television is dead.

But every now and again, like a member of the undead horde, it does pop its head out and surprises its audience. Boo!

This time, the surprise comes in the form of a four-part sequel to the skinhead film, This is England. In short, the movie itself is about a little lonely boy called Shaun who befriends a bunch of skinheads, the happy-go-lucky, non-fascist, ska-listening variety. The gang is eventually split-up when a former member of the gang, Combo returns form prison and brings along with him all sorts of fascist/neo-Nazi ideas.

The TV series is a continuation of events in the movie, fast-forward 3 years to, you guessed it, 1986. Some sequels come quite independent of its original but in this case, the movie is absolutely essential viewing. Without having watched the movie, you'd be lost as to who, when, where and what is actually going on. A bit like an episode of Lost minus the sand, sunshine and the evenly tanned people.

Being an avid fan of scooters and anything remotely connected with it, I was doubly excited about the TV series as there was talk that scooterboys and naturally, a variety of scooters (an SX and a GP to date) would be making an appearance (yes, it doesn't take much to excite me these days).

The series was on its penultimate episode last night and I've watched every single episode from the start. Strangely enough, I didn't even watch the episodes on TV, preferring to watch Channel 4's on demand service on my laptop instead. As far as I can tell, the service isn't available to those living outside the UK and Ireland but don't feel left out, try their YouTube channel instead and maybe you'll have some better luck there.

21 September 2010

The Old and the New

Vespa PX and LXV. Old and New

Two scooters in the same car park? Now, all we need are a few more scooters and hey presto! we've got ourselves a scooter club. Hah!

Having looked at the LXV more closely over the past few days, I have come to the conclusion that I actually like the thing, for my wife or daughter. Vespa's V (vintage) series have always come across as type of poseur-ish Vespa but you have to admit, they did put some thought and effort into the thing. In the end, I think I'll always like a scooter as long as its made by the same crowd at Pontodera. Seriously, even the fugly ET2 and ET4 is starting to look nice (after a few much needed modifications) these days.

Anyway, this time last week, I was absolutely convinced that Old Man Winter was making an early appearance this year. I rooted around the house for the padded lining to my jacket and had my winter gloves at the ready in my Vespa's glovebox.

Well, as I write this, I have found no need for either of them this week. And, if the weather stays this good, I might actually decide to call the barbeque back into action this weekend. OK, I've ruined it now haven't I? There will probably be snow and hurricane-type weather as soon as I click on the Publish Post button...

19 September 2010

Silence of the Sam

After a second helping of my wife's gorgeous pad thai, we sat back and relaxed. A few burps later, the silence was broken...

I'm going to watch the United-Liverpool game...

My eyes lit up on hearing Liverpool being mentioned. Instantly, the visitor sitting across me at the dining table had my undividied attention.

...with Sam.

I soon realised that they weren't popping down to the local or getting Sky installed at their homes. They were actually going to make the short journey across the Irish Sea to England to watch the match.

Hang on. Isn't the game on at Old Trafford?

Um, yeah...

And, you're going with, out of all people...Sam? 

It's not that I didn't like Sam (not his real name of course) or anything. He's a very decent fella that I've known for a very long time. In fact, if I had to choose a couple of lads to watch football with, he'd be on my shortlist. The only problem this time around was that Sam is a Liverpool fan. He's normally quiet enough but when it comes to all things Liverpool he can be very loud, very vocal.

Seeing that you're a United fan, I assume you got yourselves tickets with the home crowd then?

As soon as I finished my sentence, it dawned on the visitor that, with our Liverpool fanatic friend in tow, his planned pilgrimage to Old Trafford could go all wrong by the end of the match. His face slowly turned from a pad thai-filled red to a ghostly shade of white as he began to visualise his day out with Sam.

Oh, shit...

Yes...shit and you better pray Lucas Leiva doesn't score a hattrick.

I for one, would definitely not be praying for a Liverpool defeat. Yes, as much as I value friendships, I think I'll give just this time a pass. Sam has just got to learn to stay quiet. And that, is like praying for a miracle.

 Come on you Reds!


17 September 2010

Roll on Sunday

As far as starts go, Liverpool couldn't have asked for a better 30 seconds. One dodgy back pass and a good finish by Joe Cole was all it took to get Anfield's volume up to about 10 that rainy night. Unfortunately, that's as good as it got for the first half.

I'm still dumbfounded by Liverpool's approach this season. When without the ball, the team appear to be happy to sit back and not press opponents or close down space. Maybe, there's a school of thought that suggests that not doing this has its benefits (maintaining fitness perhaps?) but if there are one or two benefits, I can't see if they actually outweigh the many disadvantages. With all that possession Steaua naturally started to grow in confidence and after their equaliser, Anfield started to sound more like Stadionul Steaua.

Liverpool stepped up the pressure after the break and it paid dividends almost immediately. On 54 minutes, Sotirios Kyrgiakos looked liked he was pulled down in the penalty box and was awarded a penalty. A soft penalty but a penalty nevertheless. There were nervous looks on the Kop as David N'Gog stepped up to take it but Liverpool's top scorer this season finished coolly to calm nerves around the park and silence his doubters, at least for the next few moments.

After an intial mix up by the fourth official, Lucas was introduced as Ryan Babel's replacement. A few minutes later and Steven Gerrard, who was in the stands that night was smiling away as the Brazilian substitute performed an impersonation of the Liverpool captain by scoring a screamer from outside the box. Towards the end of the match, N'Gog added his second of the match, the 4-1 scoreline ultimately vindicating Roy Hodgson's squad selection and tactics for the match.

At the end of the night, it was a good job by Liverpool's second string and a good confidence booster for Liverpool's youngsters but any self-respecting fan knows that the real action's this Sunday...

15 September 2010

The 100 Penulis Collective

Right, not content with publishing my rants on my own little space on the interweb, I've now decided to expand my horizons and join a group of Malaysian bloggers who have set-up a blog called 100penulis or in English, 100 Writers. The url suggests that it's a site with mainly Malay content and that is the case, although posts written in English are completely acceptable.

The idea of 100penulis is simple. Sign-up and you become one of the one hundred writers who contribute their own entries to the blog. The idea is especially useful if you don't have the time to regularly maintain your own blog but still want to do some writing on a sort of part-time basis. At the moment, there aren't any restrictions on promoting one's own blog so, I'd say a majority of people who sign-up have that in mind and unashamedly plaster their posts with links back to their own blog. Not a bad idea since you'll be exposing your blog to at least another one hundred souls on the www.

Personally, the main reason I signed-up was that I saw 100penulis as a little side project. The side project would involve that I Go Native and write in Malay, for a change. And, as I have babbled on quite a bit here about scooters, my Vespa and Liverpool FC, I'll only be writing about stuff other than those topics on my 100penulis space. I've made two entries at this stage so, we'll see how things go there...

Oh yes, if you're interested, there's about 10 or so spaces left before the site reaches its one hundred target.

13 September 2010

A Point Gained

The alarm had been set for 1 o'clock. The plan was simple: Take a quick nap, take a shower, pop out and do the grocery shopping and be back right in time for kick-off at 4 o'clock...

After what seemend like only a few minutes, I was gently awoken by my wife. I grabbed my mobile which these days doubles as my trusty alarm clock. Crap. It was 3. Either I hadn't set-up the alarm properly or I was too exhausted to even notice that it had been going off playing Rage Against the Machines' Wake Up (how's that for a wake-up call, eh?) for the past 2 hours or so.

One hour to kick-off. After taking into account that I badly needed a shower, the traffic and the time needed to actually do the shopping, I quickly came to the conclusion that there was no chance that I was going to be able to watch the whole Birmingham v. Liverpool match that afternoon. And, there was no Plan B either. It was a choice between my kids starving at school on Monday (with a follow-up visit from the Social Welfare folks) or comfortably sitting in my living room with the match streamed live on my laptop. Hmmm...

Fortunately, the kids have a mother so, off I was to the nearest Dunnes Stores to get ourselves some much needed supplies. A quick detour and I was standing right in front of a row of LED tellys in Currys, right in time to catch Liverpool's teamsheet for the afternoon.

Konchesky gets his first start, Lucas partners Poulsen in the centre of midfield in a seemingly more cautious away day set-up. Sktrel gets the nod ahead of Agger to partner Carragher while Maxi Rodriguez gets a start in Dirk Kuyt's absence. New boy, Raul Meireles gets a seat on the bench. No surprises really.

Remembering that I had some shopping to do, I quickly got that over with and we were on our way home. I ignored the urge to go to the loo and headed straight to my computer and loaded up the match. The second half had just started and seemingly, other than two world class saves from Pepe Reina, I didn't miss much.

Konchesky looked decent on the left, like a physiscally stronger version of Insua with less hair but other than that, seeing that it was his first game, it's too early to judge him any further. The same could be said about Meireles who was introduced in the second half. He looked eager going forward although on evidence of the few minutes this time around, he'd probably need to get used to the more physical aspects of the English game sooner rather than later.

As opposed to previous games, the team had a bit more fight about them but it still wasn't enough to pull them out of the overall lacklustre performance throughout the match. As the title suggests, it was a point gained rather than a missed opportunity to bag three...

Oh, and thank God I didn't choose my kids over this match...

11 September 2010

Riding in the Night

The long days of summer are great. The only problem I've noticed with that is I don't get that many chances to ride my Vespa in the dark. It's not that I particularly like riding in the dark but the night does bring with it some advantages.

The douchebags that annoy me in the day, don't seem to go out at night so, I'd be able to get around at my own pace. Obviously, you don't get to see too much of the scenery (unless I get myself some night vision goggles) but you do get some sort of magical feeling with the lights at night. OK, maybe it's just me but seriously, there's something about it that I just can't put into words.

Other that that, I'm pleased to report that the new headlamp's working out well. I can now see more than 10 metres ahead of me along with anything else that might pop up on the streets. I'm feeling a lot safer already especially with the winter months coming up sooner rather than later.

OK, need to go and get some much needed rest from the Eid celebrations. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to escape the day totally unscathed...

09 September 2010

5 Steps to Survive Hari Raya

Eid or Hari Raya as its more widely known in Malaysia will be celebrated this Friday by approximately 1 billion people around the world. Basically, Eid marks the end of Ramadhan and along with that comes the obligatory celebrating. Unfortunately, with most Malaysians celebrating is synonymous with binge-eating. Yes, after a whole month of literally starving ourselves, Malaysians are fond of getting their own back by stuffing themselves with all sorts of Hari Raya delicacies.

So, with that in mind (and in the spirit of the impending zombie apocalypse) here's a few of my own tips on how to survive Hari Raya, some of which I do plan to implement myself over the next few days.

#1. Cardio
All the fat and calories from the beef rendang, pulut kuning, lemang and thousands of different cookies and cakes need to go somewhere. Don't even think about popping out to the gym or going our for a jog around the neighbourhood though. There's always bound to be that distantly related annoying pak cik or mak cik who will discover your very non-Raya activities and will tell on you and remind the extended family about how freaky you are for the rest of your life.

Be smart when trying to get your heart pumping. Instead of driving down to that open house down the road, why not walk? Instead of immediately surrendering duit raya to everyone under the age of 12, why not turn it into a game that involves some running. Something like Police & Thieves, perhaps? That way, you get some much needed exercise and save some duit raya on the fat kids that can't catch up...

#2. Doube Pat (Geddit? No?...never mind)
After visiting a number of open houses and having a variety of rendang meats thrown on your plates by your over-eager hosts, make sure to check how the old belly is doing. Give it  a gentle pat. If the only room left in your torso is your lungs, maybe it's about time you stopped eating. Let the stomach recover and get some fluids into the body. If the host asks, just let them know that everything was Sedap Gillerrr and that you're on your third helping.

I know, it might be dishonest but hey, what's a little white lie when it involves your health and your hosts' oh-so-sensitive feelings on this day of celebration and forgiveness?

#3. Beware of Bathrooms
To those of you traveling long distances between friends'/relatives' Raya events there's always the tendency to stop at some public toilet in the middle of nowhere especially since you've just stuffed your face with an extra helping of dodgy lontong a couple of hours before.

Well, if one needs to go, one needs to go but if it can be helped, put it on hold until your next destination. You see, Raya time is the longest holiday period in Malaysia and that means the public loos on highways transform into highly toxic dumpsites. Just ask yourself: Is it really worth it?

#4. Wear your seatbelts
As basic as this tip might sound, the brain does tend to hibernate when the body's resources are focused on processing all that fat, Planta and sugar, causing one to forget one's own personal safety while on the road. Seatbelts can feel uncomfortable when your waistline has just expanded by a few inches but no matter how much your ketupat-filled brain tries to convince you that you don't need them belts, don't buy into it. Strap that sucker on and you'll thank yourself you did. Oh, and of course, drive carefully. Other people want to enjoy their Raya too, you know.

#5. Bounty paper towels
I think they're called Plenty these days but really, bring along a good bunch of toilet paper and wipes, whatever it is you fancy. Paper towels are OK but I think they're a bit harsh on supple behinds. A few bottles of Dettol, some industrial strength toilet cleaner and a kettle wouldn't do any harm when trying to sanitize a biohazard area.

Yes, all this because even your best plans to avoid #3 can go down the literal drain and when that happens a Plan B always helps. It's either that or on some occasions your hosts' bathrooms can be as bad as some public toilets, depending on what was on offer that one Raya morning...

Eid Mubarak everyone. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

07 September 2010

Where Have All the Good Stands Gone?

What is it with bicycles these days? 

I mean, whatever happened to the good old bicycle stand? Are they so aerodynamic these days that the manufacturers couldn't let a side stand ruin its design? Maybe their owners are too skint to add stands to their bikes after spending a fortune on fluorescent lycra? Maybe its way un-cool to have bikes fitted with stands? Yeah, because its way cooler to have them lying on the ground like an unwanted piece of flat-packed Ikea furniture. 

The world of stand-less bicycles

Seriously, what's the story here? Was some sort of bicycle stand tax introduced? Please, can anyone tell me why the change of heart with stands in the past few years? Why?

Is there something normal people on other two-wheeled contraptions are missing (particularly of the internal combustion engine variety)?

Walking around Dublin one would see bikes just thrown all over the place. Leaning on other people's properties, tied to sign posts, strapped to traffic lights, discarded on the ground, etc. etc. But, what annoys me the most is when their stupid owners conveniently lean them on my Vespa, as if it was their birthright, ruining the paint on the side panels.

What shall I do with these types of people and their bikes? Hmmm...

05 September 2010

Vespa Grants Superpowers

When I first decided that I wanted a Vespa, I merely thought it was another form of transportation with a lawnmower-sized engine and two tiny wheels that just happened to look good. Little was I to know that the Vespa actually grants its rider superpowers.

Really? No.

But, it certainly feels like it on some days.

I live very near a huge retail park/humongous shopping centre which on certain days can seem like the centre of the universe. As one might expect, traffic jams around these parts can be quite epic especially near month ends or Christmas. It got to a stage where if we ran out of food, we'd choose to starve rather than get in the car and spend hours in traffic just to get a bottle of milk or a loaf of bread.

Not since I got the Vespa of course. Super fast milk-buying powers in an instant. Like the Flash, only on two wheels. And green. And errr... a bit fat.

Anyway, it looks like this superpower-granting ability (or more accurately, two-stroke fume induced hallucinations) isn't limited to just me either. Folks in the US have spotted a duo on a Vespa going all vigilante on a smash and grab thief. Wonder whether they'd be keen on joining forces to rid Malaysia of the handbag-grabbing rempit scourge that's been plaguing the country of late...

03 September 2010

Owen to re-join Liverpool as Club Announces League Squad

The Premier League tranfser window closed a few days ago and with that, Premiership clubs began to confirm their squads for the season at least until the January window comes along. Here's Liverpool's official squad:

Home-Grown Players
Brad Jones
Jamie Carragher
Glen Johnson
Paul Konchesky
Stephen Darby
Jay Spearing
Steven Gerrard
Joe Cole

Non Home-Grown Players
Pepe Reina
Daniel Agger
Sotirios Kyrgiakos
Martin Skrtel
Fabio Aurelio
Lucas Leiva
Raul Meireles
Christian Poulsen
Ryan Babel
Milan Jovanovic
Dirk Kuyt
Maxi Rodriguez
Fernando Torres

Of course, on seeing the list you're bound to get the knee-jerk-type fans out there, who demand Roy Hodgson's head on a plate because he's excluded shining talents like Dani Pacheco, Martin Kelly and even David N'Gog. To those of you out there that suffer from this predicament, I have only one word of advice: Relax. Oh, and while you're at that, you should probably stop screaming your collective heads off for Arda "he's-not-coming-to-Liverpool-any-time-soon" Turan. Please.

Hodgson might not have completely won over most Liverpool fans (yours truly included) but he's certainly no idiot. The players mentioned above are all 21 or under (yes, even N'Gog) and according to the new rules,
Premiership clubs can supplement their named squads with an unlimited number of under 21 players. So, there you go.

The more eagle-eyed of you out there might also be wondering how in the world Brad Jones, who holds a passport from a country 10,000 miles away from England and Wales, is considered home-grown. The simple answer to that is that Jones, although from Down Under is actually home-grown. He joined Middlesbrough way back in 1999 so there's no doubt about his home-grown credentials which conveniently makes him slightly more attractive (in a squad sense) than his predecessor, Diego Cavalieri.

And, if conventional wisdom tells you that a Premiership squad should have three goalkeepers, don't worry. The third keeper is young Hungarian, Peter Gulacsi who is not on the list because again, he's under 21.

Also, if one bothered to read the new rules (and have ultra-basic mathematics ability), you'd quickly come to the conclusion that Liverpool are 4 men short of the 25 men allowed under the new rules. Nothing to be panicked about. This simply means that Liverpool have a bit of a cushion there should the manager feel that there's a need to strengthen when the January window comes along. That's if, the current owners do give him the chance to re-invest the funds from the sale of Mascherano, Benayoun and Riera.

Anyway, as the title of this post suggests, Michael Owen is set to make a return to Liverpool. Really.

Fortunatelly, it's only for Jamie Carragher's testimonial on Saturday. Should be a good match that one. If anything else, it would certainly be strange to see Owen in a Liverpool shirt again. He'd certainly get some amount of stick from the Kop...

01 September 2010

Caged Desires

The BMW R1200GS was parked on the other side of the fence where I work one morning. I've seen a good few of the Beemers on the road but I've never had the pleasure of having one parked right beside me. It completely dwarfed my humble Vespa.

The reg on the bike was French and it got me wondering whether the bike's rider had travelled all the way from France to Dublin on it. Not exactly Ewan McGregor's Long Way Round  but still, a far enough journey by my standards which at this stage consisted of a trip from Blanchardstown to Bray...

Having thought about it, one doesn't actually need a big touring Beemer (or a KTM which was apparently Charlie Boorman's first choice) to go on such a long tour. I remember coming across an article in Scootering about Jean-Yves Pignant's epic journey from Paris to Vietnam India/Sri Lanka and was amazed as to how much he got out of his re-standardised 1973 Vespa TS125 (the Rally 200's smaller brother if you haven't heard of it before). One would have to be slightly insane but nevertheless, there's still hope of travelling long distances on a Vespa, eh?

Anyway, it's all just a dream at the moment but maybe, just maybe, some day I'll get my chance to go on my own epic journey. Until then, I'll just convince myself that the Beemer was actually just stuffed in the back of a white Ford Transit and dropped off here for its new poncey owner. No nice long jouneys involved.
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