Monday, February 25, 2008

Super Sunday in Sydney with a visit from the Queen(s)

Like a great many Sydney-siders, your erstwhile correspondent and his good lady wife headed for the harbour on the fine sunny afternoon that was Sunday February 24.

Unlike many others, we were there for a wedding and reception at Pier One, which is located just to the west of the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Many on the train we caught to the city were headed for the A-League football grand final, as well as some late arrivals for the one-day cricket match between Australia and India. A fair portion were heading for the harbour foreshores to see the Queen Victoria and QE2 sail by each other in an historic moment.

Never again in Australian waters will you see this happen...

The new Queen Victoria (right) sails past the Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen Victoria is on its maiden world voyage, whilst the QE2 is on its final voyage before retirement. The two ships will never again share Australian territorial waters.

Watching something as massively large as the Queen Victoria move slowly from the mooring at Circular Quay was something to behold. As it moved backwards, the whole slab side of the ship looming above the concourses below, the sheer size and scale of it was daunting.

I personally feel the QE2 is a more stylish vessel, with the increased bow rake and styled top decking area. Aside from the dark colour scheme and red line, if it were painted white, the Queen Victoria could be any other cruise ship, when viewed from the sea. I'm sure the internal appointments are of a far higher standard than you would find aboard a lesser holiday cruise ship, though.

The wedding was great, the night was enjoyable, seeing the ships was an added bonus. Now I can say I've seen a once in a lifetime sight.

For one woman, the day ended quite abruptly. It appears she was out taking photos of the Queen Victoria and toppled over a balcony to her unfortunate demise below. I've read no news on it, so I dont know more than speculation, and the fact that we walked past the scene of the incident where a sheet-covered body lay in the middle of the footpath underneath the balcony. Some things are worth seeing, but not putting yourself at risk.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Whoever designed the new Subaru WRX needs to be…

…strapped down, like Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange’, with devices holding their eyes open, while they watch slides of stylish vehicles morph into hideous shapeless lumps of metal.
- Malcolm gets re-educated

Then they can watch them in reverse, and re-educate themselves about industrial design that belies the true nature of a car with the heritage (albeit short) of the Subaru Impreza WRX.

Even the first model we received in Australia in the mid-1990’s, with the flat bonnet and boot lid, slab sides and slightly pushed guards was a better looking car. The second model we got was an improvement on this again.

- First generation Australian WRX

They got fairly wide acclaim too as a fire-breather.

- Victorian and NSW police got a few

And although the last model looked like a Hyundai Excel when Wheels magazine released ”spy pictures”, once Subaru refined it the WRX came out looking like a rocket sled, and went like one too.

- Latest generation Australian WRX

Somewhat reminiscent of the change of the Skyline model from R32 to R33, the new Subaru looks vastly dull by comparison. The R32 Skyline was an angular, angry car, true to its nature. It was no bespoke weapon, it just was a weapon. And it looked like it.

- R32: weapon, R33: overblown pig, R34: style and power

The Skyline maintains a constant design feature that WRX has yet to decide on. You know what this is, without even reading a badge.

- Iconic round taillights

So too the last two WRX incarnations, but not this one. Granted, a weapon it is, but it will hardly cause anyone walking past it parked at the shops to stop and stare at it, wondering if it goes like a scalded cat. Its just another bland hatchback with a scoop plugged onto the front. The insipid downward curve of the bonnet towards the drooping grille line, the streaky headlights perhaps the strong point, yet the whole front end is nowhere near the strong face of previous models.

- WRX old/new comparison

Even in STI guise, it’s not a patch on the last model. You want a car like this to flex its muscles, not wear a cheap suit. Aside from the flared guards and slightly wider look, its not really a visually intimidating vehicle. Give the car a tail, that should help in making it look threatening even if its not even moving. The new WRX lacks all of these things.

- new WRX STI, horror story in 3D

A car of this nature needs to grin, to bare its teeth, and not just smile sweetly. Or maybe even stick its nose in where its not wanted.

- Noses. Is the new WRX really as good as any of these?
(left to right: Audi A4, BMW M3, Mistubishi Lancer, Honda Odyssey, Aston Martin DB5)

Even the Honda Odyssey looks better coming up behind you than the new WRX.

Ricers of the world are probably celebrating. At last, with their Honda Civic’s and Toyota Corolla’s and Yaris/Echo’s, with fake scoops and bodywork, they now have a car that can actually look better than the WRX. Even the Civic, a car very easily over-riced with even minimal work, can look better than the WRX.

- Riced out Civic: better looker

You want better looking cars? Mazda 3 for one, and the MPS widens the gap. Ford Focus is another, especially in XR5 guise. The Holden Astra Coupe also beats it in the design stakes.

- top to bottom: Mazda 3 MPS: Ford Focus XR5: Holden Astra SRi

Ford, Mazda, Holden and Honda are producing vehicles with consistent noses at the moment, aside from a few exceptions. The Impreza nose doesn’t keep consistent with any of the other Subaru models, and I hope they don’t change the Liberty/Legacy nose to suit the Impreza. That would be a crime.

- left to right, top to bottom:
Ford Focus, Mondeo, Falcon
Holden Astra, Vectra, Commodore,
Subaru Liberty, Outback, Forrester

At least Subaru gave the horrid Tribeca a facelift recently to bring it more into line with the rest of the range, style-wise.

- Tribeca, god-awful to something far better

I hope they weren’t trying to toughen up the nose. It hasn’t worked. Some examples of tough noses:

- left to right: BMW M3: Aston Martin DB6: Honda Integra Type R: Mistubishi Lancer Evolution IX: Ford Mondeo: Toyota Corolla: Toyota Aurion: Aston Martin DB9: Honda Prototype: McLaren MP4-23

It’s saying a lot when the Toyota Corolla gets a mention above the WRX.

Naturally, all this is criticism from a personal point of view. Some of you may like it (as Mr. T would say, "I pity the fool!"). I don’t think it inspires confidence in its performance as much as it used to.

- Wheeeeeeee…..

When I see one do this and look as good, then I might change my mind. Until then, the Subaru design team can stay strapped into their chairs and watch industrial design loops.

Insert tagline here…

Please get off the Australian Coast

If you live anywhere near the coast of Australia, and in particular the eastern coast, you will no doubt have noticed the stickers bearing place names with the tagline "somewhere on the australian coast" beneath. Avalon, in Sydney's northern beaches, for example:

This may actually have been the originating location in Australia for these stickers.

Of course there are some humorous larrikins who extend the range of these, and re-word the tagline to suit their town or place:


And the version generally seen on utes and older model vehicles bearing P-plates:

Ah, yes. Tagline should read "inside this vehicle".

Usually with this sticker the person inside the vehicle fits the description, and drives accordingly.

There is one exception to this variation that is highly acceptable:

It's a unique Australian ability to be able to eat this stuff.

Driving to work the other morning I saw what is perhaps the ultimate corruption of the (until now) tolerable branding:

Please try to be more obscure, thats the one delight in these things!

Now, either someone has had this printed specifically, taken this model to America and marketed it, or we've knocked it off yet again. The fact that it is spelled with an accent leads me to believe the former. Only a non-New Yorker would spell New York this way. Sure, the New York accent as depicted is but a mere portion of New York, but hey, lets generalise.

Perhaps it is only a matter of time till these version appear on our shores:

Bought back by our latest Paris-Dakar competitor.

Hello Norway.

Ah, Estonia! Land of the massive 318m Suur Munam├Ągi

Maybe they're already big in Europe. Maybe every Skoda in Estonia wears a Tallinn sticker.

Lastly, I leave you with the model I would like to see.

No, you cant put it on your Mercedes, thats the point.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

R.I.P. Sheldon Brown

Reading a couple of my favoured blogs this morning to discover that a well-known and much-respected cyclist/advisor/general knowledge giver/expert had died over night in the US of a heart attack.

Sheldon Brown has probably give more useful and helpful advice than the majority of web-using cyclists combined. He forgot more than many of us even know.

His final post on was just after 8:30 US time last night. Not long later he was sadly deceased.

R.I.P. Sheldon Brown. May you find all the "interchangeabilitude" your components deserve.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bernie's pursuit of a dollar

So the Australian Formula One GP is set to be lost, with the contract 'unlikely' to be renewed past 2010.


The sooner Formula One ceases to be about Bernie and his mates lining their swelling pockets and more about providing an accessible series, the better off everyone will be.

The options of racing in India, Korea or Russia are interesting though. India may pull a crowd through sheer numbers. Korea? Again, same deal, though no Daewoo in the GP may hamper the fan base. Russia? They cant get to Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Monaco, or Great Britain? There's enough tifosi in the world to provide support nearly anywhere, I suppose. Reason enough for Bernie to go there.

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