Posts Tagged ‘stalling’

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Driving tips and tricks

February 23, 2011

Hi all! So I have now been driving for two and a half weeks, and I’m rapidly finding out that the adage “Once you’ve passed your test, that’s when you start learning to drive” is true. I thought that from my first couple of weeks (since I’ve clocked up a fair few miles in a relatively short space of time) I would share my experiences and things that I have learned.

  • Nobody can make you go faster than you want to, no matter how close up behind you they may drive. Don’t rush yourself. Stay in your comfort zone, and you’ll soon get more at ease with your car. If people want to go faster, they’ll overtake – they always find a way!
  • Do not try and do a hill start in 3rd gear. It will not work! So learn where your gears are. It’s best to have a practice drive around the block (over, and over, and over – I did!) to feel at ease with the car before you have to go somewhere specific.
  • Be nice. Sometimes life is plain unfair, but a lot of the time what goes around comes back around. So if someone is waiting to pull out of a junction, and it’s safe, let them. It’ll make you feel better about when you stall your car and the person behind you is patient, or when someone lets you out in front of them.
  • Learn the width of your car. Preferably not by bumping the end of your wing mirror against another car (although you’re unlikely to do any damage – I did it once and escaped unharmed). If in doubt, then stop and let the other driver come through.
  • At a roundabout, even if you think the car on your right will stop because you’re halfway across, don’t assume that they will. Especially if they are boy racers. Technically, even if they are idiots and are driving too fast, they have the right of way so just let them go ahead of you, and soon enough they will be out of your way.
  • Learn your routes, so that you know where likely problem areas are going to be. For example, on the way to work I always slow right down to drive through Tetbury because it has a ridiculous crossroads / roundabout junction, sharp curved roads with cars parked on one side, speed bumps and a lack of people who seem to know the basic Highway Code. So when you know somewhere is usually problematic, be aware!
  • If a pedestrian has arrived at a zebra crossing, even if they’re not near you, slow down so you can stop for them. Otherwise they will glare at you. And technically, they are right (unfortunately).
  • The turning circle on your car will most likely be different to that of the car you learned to drive in. So when you try to do a reverse park, be careful and don’t feel bad if you end up still two miles away from the kerb, or alternatively backing into the kerb. You got your licence – they can’t fail you now! Practice makes perfect.
  • Re. the above point: driving into a space is much easier than parallel parking.
  • If you’re parked on a camber on a downward incline, even when you put your car in reverse, it’ll roll forward a little bit. So leave yourself room to do this. If you have no room, get a kind parent to reverse the car while you push forward on the front to stop the car rolling forward and hitting the car in front. This is the kind of mistake you only make once (I hope!).
  • Learn where the speed cameras are. Once you’re more confident, you will learn when you can speed up a little bit (obviously not too much!) over the limit, and when you need to slow down.
  • Driving on the motorway is just like driving on a dual carriageway. It’s basically driving in a straight line at a high speed for an extended period of time. It’s nothing to be afraid of! Just use the signs along the way to your advantage.
  • Don’t sit in the middle lane on the motorway. It’s irritating.
  • Don’t leave your fog lights on for extended periods of time. Turn them on for foggy patches, turn them off when your visibility improves.
  • Don’t worry about being in the wrong lane. If you realise you are in the wrong lane, keep calm and indicate to get to where you need to be (or follow the road round if there is no alternative and try and loop back as soon as possible). Most of the time, you’ll get an opportunity to filter into the right lane – either because someone takes pity on you or because the traffic passes. I apparently have the directional sense of a wombat and I still get places in the end! Remember: even if you get lost for 5 minutes, it is quicker than getting the bus! And you can always buy a sat nav.

And most importantly: ENJOY driving! We passed our tests, we spend ridiculous money on lessons to get here, we pay a premium for petrol, insurance and the vehicle itself. We earned this. Have fun!

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Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (album review.)

May 23, 2010

I literally don’t know where to start with this review.  Comparisons have been made to James Brown (the lead single “Tightrope” has a funky, dirty bass and backchat with Monáe’s band), Judy Garland (“Oh, Maker” features a stately purity of voice in its verses, only to give way to a joyful exaltation of a chorus, and is one of the album’s highlights) and even Erykah Badu (Monáe sings with a knowing voice, sometimes sounding wise well beyond her years while not even connected to this cosmos).  But Janelle Monáe is undeniably her own woman: crazy hairstyles, performing in black-tie tuxedos, employing ethereal instruments coupled with double-time beats, composing her material in suites… It would be audacious enough if it didn’t succeed, if Monáe were above her station with this Metropolis, 28th century high-concept shit.  But she’s not.  Although at times The ArchAndroid feels a bit like it’s overreaching, the vast majority of it is exciting, mindblowing and more than a little bizarre.  This makes it one of the boldest releases to come out in quite a while.

I’m not going to attempt any detail of the story behind this album; it’s only vaguely important to the running order of the songs.  In very brief, Cindi Mayweather was an android who fell in love; the cyber-hunters were invited to hunt her down; she has since discovered the ArchAndroid helmet which displays the city of Metropolis on the top – yep, that’s the album cover above! – and has transformed from pariah to messiah for the robot population of Metropolis.  Monáe creates a textured evocation of this hyper-space reality within her music, and it’s appropriate that The ArchAndroid sounds nothing like anything else in current popular music.  However, its melodies are still catchy, its production tricks are still appreciable (although the music sounds far removed from anything Sean “Diddy” Combs would touch, Monáe is signed to his BadBoy imprint, whose releases normally display impeccable production values – if, at times, little else), and the meanings behind the inventive, often poetic lyrics (from “Say You’ll Go” – “Love is not a fantasy / A haiku written in Japanese”) go beyond the specifics of the Metropolis concept to speak more generally of love, society, and human emotions and situations.  In other words, Monáe hasn’t concept-ed herself into oblivion; the songs can still have meanings to each individual listener, which is important because we still need to relate in order to truly engage with the music.

Moving to the specifics of the music on The ArchAndroid, it’s a hefty album, comprising two suites that are much weightier then Monáe’s The Chase EP; that disc had three songs which were swift, exciting and irresistible.  The special edition had two extra non-concept tracks; a plea to the President for social consideration, and a beautiful, restrained cover of Nat King Cole’s “Smile”. Monáe may not be a vocalist in the same way as Beyoncé, Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera, but she has an extraordinary control of her instrument, and displays its versatility when songs require it (similar, in a way, to Toni Braxton or Sade).  On The ArchAndroid, Monáe alternately displays grace (“Oh, Maker”), subtlety (“Sir Greendown”), uninhibited release (“Come Alive (The War Of The Roses)”) and an old-school sensibility that fuses scat, Broadway and Latin rhythms (epic closer “BaBopByeYa”).  Suite II (the first suite of The ArchAndroid) is generally more immediate and accessible to the uninitiated listener: after a classical intro (although its concept hangs together flawlessly for most of the album, the instrumental interludes may be slick but they are still unnecessary filler!), Monáe gets straight down to business with the help of spoken word artist Saul Williams for “Dance Or Die”.  Beats fibrillate below Monáe’s haughty poetry, and before the listener knows it, the song segues into “Faster”, into “Locked Inside”…; before you know it, you’ve reached subdued ballad “Mushrooms & Roses” and Suite II is nearly over.

The seamless melting of one song into the next is a neat production trick, but one that we have seen before.  It has its risks, since the listener has to pay attention to his iPod, CD player or media player of choice in order to determine where one track ends and the next begins.  If the songs are dull, they risk totally going over the listener’s head.  Luckily, the majority of The ArchAndroid has enough memorable hooks, production tricks and bizarre sections to stick in the mind and merit repeat listens.  Suite II is far stronger than Suite III for this however; Suite III, although shorter, is much denser and ethereal. Although Suite II had some lovely slower material (“Oh, Maker” and “Sir Greendown”), Suite III seems weighed down by the lack of upbeat or midtempo songs.  “Make The Bus” is an ok effort but hardly lives up to the breathtaking pace of Suite II; “Wondaland” seems altogether too precious.  However, Suite III comes into its own as it reaches its conclusion: “57821” (the serial number of the robot Cindi Mayweather) begins to engage the listener with its subtle, undulating backing, before the majesty of closing tracks “Say You’ll Go” and “BaBopByeYa” unfurls.  In all, Suite II is stronger and more addictive listening, but Suite III has its moments despite its more downbeat demeanour.

Why does it all work? It’s beyond me, as Janelle Monáe seems to have thrown everything and the kitchen sink into this album – in terms of lyrics, vocal approaches, production tricks, musical genres, concept… It’s a miracle that it doesn’t sound overblown, desperate or self-important, but for the most part – it doesn’t.  Only on “Wondaland”, “Mushrooms & Roses” and “Neon Valley Street” does Monáe sound a tiny bit like she’s faking, stalling while she scrabbles for a new idea with which to blindside us.  The vast majority of The ArchAndroid is not only severely impressive, but sounds genuine.  Which makes Janelle Monáe a hugely talented, innovative young woman, and one of the best new artists to emerge in recent years.  Take a listen to The ArchAndroid and prepare to be both mentally and aurally stimulated.