My Rants And Moans

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By Andrew Westcott

 So What's This All About? 

It has been suggested that life begins at forty, and for various reasons I believe this could be true. It represents a stage in one's life where there is possibly no longer a swarm of brats to tend to and feed, and a chance that one has settled down into a reasonably secure financial rut. However, it also represents a time during our personal development when we perhaps start to become a little less tolerant of some of the more stupid and annoying features of our society, and the stupid and annoying people in it.

I've reached the age where bits of me are starting to fall off or are simply refusing to work: heck, I can't even hear grasshoppers anymore! A variety of situations, habits of the general public and the media have really started to annoy me, and I have decided that it might be somewhat therapeutic (to me, anyhow) to vent my spleen and write down some of my opinions on these things, as and when they get to the point of warranting such a measure.

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 LED Headlights 

This rant could be subdivided into several others, but I'll stick all of the headlamp issues into one.

Headlights weren't always a problem; occasionally you'd encounter a lad who'd had a prang which had readjusted one headlamp to illuminate the treetops or the opposite lane, but at least there was a reason, and he'd eventually get it fixed. These days it seems a lot of new cars leave the factory with the headlights already out of alignment, and for some unknown reason they are exempt from being tested for 3 years, so that's the way they stay.

The biggest threat to nightime safety isn't misaligned headlights though, it's those idiotically bright blue-white LED piles of shyte shipped with the more modern vehicles. I thought it was fairly well known that blue light refracts at a sharper angle than lower frequencies and suffers more from backscatter, which is why older style fog lights used to be yellow: less diffraction and backscatter, but this seems to have been forgotten in our modern, dumbed-down age.

OK, so perhaps my eye lenses aren't as clear as a 4 year-old's, but they are medically OK. However, these brilliant blue-white lights leave me dazzled when driving at night, even if the driver does eventually remember to dip them. They don't have to be this way; it's a very simple matter to manufacture LEDs for cars in 'warm white' rather than 'arc welder blue'.

And the number of idiots who insist on using their front fog lamps in good visibility is astounding: thanks for that, I now have to deal with 4 lights coming at me instead of 2, representing a level of inconsideration previously unknown to me. Then we have those BMW drivers who think it's cool to have headlights that wink blue when off-axis; I thought it was illegal to show a flashing blue light to the front of a vehicle, but they seem to be exempt.

Add to this the cyclists who believe it's a good idea to have a military searchlight fastened to their helmets, finely adjusted to shine right into your car. Don't these assholes realise the dangers inherent in having a blind driver approaching them?

I need to catch my breath a moment...
Finally, who thought it was a good idea to allow vans and SUVs to have their headlights mounted higher than normal? This means that when I'm being followed at night by a white van idiot or an SUV (both of which tend to want to sit in my boot) I can't see much because of the dazzling light from the rear. All I can do is slow right down for safety reasons which seems to irritate them, which is an awful shame.

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 Naan Bread 

Picture if you will, a dead headghog on a busy road. It's been there for two weeks and has been run over by nearly every lorry in the county. It's flat, has no innards left, is around 6 inches in diameter, has no prickles or fur and is just a leathery, well-tanned skin which is creamy in colour. Nann bread. I'm sure that's where it comes from.

What's the point of the stuff? I get it presented to me with curries but have no idea what to do with it. I dutifully attempt to chew the leathery material while trying not to think of well-flattened roadkill. Ultimately the best I can do is to occasionally dip the strange material in the curry to disguise the non-existent taste in an effort to get rid of it, as I can't be seen to waste food, no matter in what form it presents itself.

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 Celebrities - Or Not As The Case May Be 

This rant was congealed many years ago by hearing that a certain program was to be screened here in the UK yet again: "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!"

My wife, the bearer of this horror, then proceeded to assault my sensibilities by giving me a run down of the so-called 'celebrities' who were supposed to be appearing in that particular series, and sad to relate that yet again, I hadn't heard of anyone on that list.

What qualifications does someone need to become one a celebrity? All too often these days we hear of someone being described as a celebrity when all they've done is appear on some shitty reality show for a few minutes or failed their driving test a few dozen times.

Going back a bit, Paul Burrell represented another category: He'd never been an entertainer and presumably had no intentions of appearing on TV, but since the publicising of the court cases, suddenly he was regarded by some as a celebrity! Next we come on to Vic Reeves' wife who appeared on "I'm A Celebrity" many years ago. I'm afraid I don't even recall her name, but I understand she had a successful career as a model although it is no doubt her association with Vic Reeves himself which landed her with that throw-away celebrity title.

Perhaps the problem isn't with the people who are unfortunate enough to be saddled with the 'celebrity' millstone, rather those pathetic journalists and TV producers who are charged with trying to keep the attention of the reading and viewing public by forever inventing fresh streams of celebrities, or resurrecting long-forgotten personalities to fill the inevitable gaps. Personally, I think the expression 'celebrity' should be ripped from the English language and buried at midnight in an unmarked grave.

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 Brainless TV Programs 

You must have seen them: those utterly stupid reality programs or those painfully unfunny comedies. Now, perhaps I am the only one who feels this way, and when sharing my views with others it certainly seems that way most of the time, but I really don't see how anyone could consider this to be entertainment.

Good examples from the first of those two categories have to be Big Brother and Love Island. Flippin' heck, talk about a cop-out for the producers! All they had to do was find a handful of jumped up dicks willing to make complete pillocks of themselves, bung them in an arena designed to ensure close contact and there you have it: a nice cheap TV show to entertain the sheep. Unfortunately, to me, all it demonstrates is just how far the human race has failed to evolve and if by any chance these programs have been intercepted by an alien intelligence, it may explain their absence.

Finally, I feel I must have a prod at 'Gogglebox'. What the heck is that all about? A fake cross-section of non-society on television, being filmed whilst watching... television. Evidently heavily scripted and as false as heck, I had to work extremely hard not to slit my wrists. Not much more to say about this one, other than thank gawd for the remote control. I don't watch a lot of telly these days.

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 The Timing Of The TV Watershed 

A bit more serious, this one:
This rant concerns what we in the UK call the 'watershed'. This is a bloody silly name for 9:00pm, and has to do with the content of the programs shown on TV. It would seem that some board of idiots with an undeserved official capacity has determined that every child in every house everywhere within the UK will be in bed before 9:00pm and be unable to view a TV after that time, and therefore it would be quite OK to allow the screening of unnecessarily detailed scenes of violence, human copulation and the usual tirade of foul-mouthed dialogue typical of an inept script writer. Reflecting reality? There's enough of that in the real world, thankyou.

Although I'm sure that most responsible parents try to get their kids off to bed at a reasonable time, it is inevitable that there will be times, especially over the weekend or during the Summer, when that innocent seven year old daughter of yours will still be up and watching TV after this 9:00 watershed. I feel that swearing, bad violence and explicit sexual scenes are unnecessary in a well written program or film anyhow, but I certainly wouldn't want any of my kids seeing this kind of rubbish, do you?

One solution would be to make entertaining programs which didn't rely on unnecessary content, but I suppose the kind of real talent responsible for 'Dad's Army' and 'Porridge' has long been extinct.

Another answer would be to move the time of the watershed to 11:00pm, as this would mean the majority of youngsters would be tucked up and out of harmful TV's way. As for those that aren't, they probably experience adequate doses of 'reality' directly from the adults they live with anyway.

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 Cats And Their Excrement 

Here's something that really gets my goat. I have no objection to people keeping pets as long as they are well cared for and indeed I have pets of my own, including a scabby cat. He knows he's a pain in the ass because I tell him so, especially when he sticks his anchors into my leg and begins to climb it in search of a morsel of cheese. Anyway, I digress: What I object to are pets that adversly affect other people. Some may include dogs in this category, but it's lazy owners who refuse to clear up the inevitable deposits who are to blame in this instance.

No, it's cats I have a major issue with. Irresponsible urbanites with little or nothing in the way of a garden buy, steal or adopt these tapeworm ridden flea busses, and then in the majority of cases let them roam the neighbourhood to freely dig holes in other peoples' gardens and leave disease and parasite ridden excrement anywhere they care to; anywhere, that is, except their own territory, their owners' house. Modern cats seem to be particularly bad; at least when I was a lad the cats had the good manners to bury the stuff rather than leaving it on full display as they do now. My cat refuses to go outdoors and prefers to use the litter tray, so no hypocrisy here, but even if he did, I'm surrounded by fields, not a city centre.

In my opinion, some cats have become little more than common vermin, but what can we do about it, apart from nothing? I have several young kids, and in the Summer the two boys in particular like to play in a large excavation at the end of our garden destined to possibly be a carp pool one day, but all too often we have to stop them because of the presence of cat turds laying in the earth. Cats are therefore a danger to my children, and I don't see why I should have to put up with their shyte all over my garden.

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 Starting Christmas Too Early 

Oh dear. They do it every year, don't they?
"Do what?!" I hear you cry.
I'll tell you what, starting to advertise Christmas on the telly way before time, that's what.
I wouldn't mind if the adverts were simply for items suitable for Christmas presents and so-on, but do they really need to adorn the screen with tinsel and multiple Father Christmasses in sodding October?

The big problem for me is that by the time Christmas eve arrives I'm sick to death of the whole thing, and the day itself is a bit of an anticlimax compared to the massive publicity during the run up. Of course, it is all commercially driven which is another thing that annoys me tremendously because as far as I'm concerned, Christmas should be all about assembling the family and celebrating this most Christian of events together, with loads of nuts, drink, crackers, bellyache, snoring and everything else that makes Christmas time the occasion it is.

Perhaps there should be a firm restraint put on anything remotely Christmassy until at least December, and ideally it should only be allowed during the last week before the 25th, because at least that way, we can make the time a little special without all this commercial dilution we currently have to endure.

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 Unnecessary Salt In Food 

This concerns a major health issue:
The ridiculous amounts of salt added to our food. Most of us are now aware that the human body doesn't need additional salt in our diet as we are able to obtain all we need through normal foods; indeed too much can have negative effects on our health, the best known problem being elevated blood pressure and all the nasties that go with the untreated condition. Our bodies are able to recycle salt, and in recent years the armed forces have realised that they no longer need to distribute salt tablets to combat the previously assumed salt loss due to sweating, because quite simply it doesn't occur: when all excess salt has been lost, the sweat no longer contains any. Get yourself all sweaty and have a taste if you need proof.

Food manufacturers add salt to various foods as a taste enhancer, but the amounts added are really beyond a joke and in many cases the final product may well be even saltier than sea water. My real concerns are with bread, tinned beans and tinned spaghetti, because there is really no need to add the amounts they do. A tin of cheap beans may well contain over two grams of salt per tin; I would challenge anyone to swallow that amount of salt whilst keeping a straight face. Along with many other people I have a medical condition which dictates that I should keep my salt intake to a reasonable level and finding suitable foodstuffs can be very frustrating.

But here's the real niggle: It is possible, if you look hard enough, to buy baked beans with 'reduced salt', but guess what? They cost more! How the heck can anyone justify charging more for a product which actually involves fewer stages or ingredients in the production process? Isn't it high time the manufacturers were forced to stop this practice and offer food which might actually be considered safe?

Maybe someone could start the ball rolling and consider litigation against one of these companies for damage they've suffered to their health, in much the same way as tobacco companies are now at risk of being sued for similar reasons.

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 SUVs: Stupidly Unnecessary Vehicles 

Many of you might have already experienced this: You are driving down a country lane when suddenly you are faced with an enormous four-wheel drive vehicle: an SUV. Now, common courtesy dictates who should reverse, but if it falls to the other driver to do so, all to often it is beyond their ability and if they do attempt it, they often end up in the ditch, glaring at you as if it's your fault. Another scenario is where there is ample room to pass, and yet the idiot in his or her oversized car seems afraid to get close to the hedge for fear of scratching their pride and joy.

Now come on!
If you are going to live in a rural area, at least learn to drive these bloody vehicles, or better still, buy an appropriately-sized car.

Most of these huge vehicles, the ones with four wheel drive, huge ground clearances and filthy great steel bars across the front have never been, and never will be, driven off-road. Various excuses are given for their ownership but whichever way you look at it they are unnecessary if they are only ever to be used on a sealed surface. Then of course we have the environmental issue: fuel is getting ever more expensive as geological and political pressures affect supply, and yet these oversized vehicles seem to be on the increase.

I have a solution which will sort the good drivers from those who simply think they have some kind of status symbol: create some new vehicle classes and introduce an additional, more advanced driving test for anyone who wants to drive a vehicle either with a high power to weight ratio, or that occupies a cubic volume over a predetermined size. It has long been accepted that lorry drivers have to prove their driving ability this way as have motorcyclists, and I strongly feel that these outsized four wheel drive vehicles should be subject to similar restrictions. That way, maybe one day I'll meet someone driving an SUV who can actually handle the machine and be able to reverse into that entrance eight feet behind them without wrecking the gate.

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 Squealing Women On TV Soaps 

I used to live in what would best be described as a lively household as I had five children, and most of them would be at their most vocal from around the time I came home from work up until the younger ones had been safely deposited in bed. We regularly experienced the inevitable squabbles and shouting matches which would frequently test my patience to its limits. Sometimes I would lose ground and shout back.

As if to add to my auditory torture, there seemed to be a constant stream of soaps on telly during this time, which including such gems of creative talent as 'Coronation Street', 'Emmerdale' and 'East Enders'. OK, I'm being facetious here.

Right, I understand these programs are supposed to represent real life, but is it really necessary to repeatedly show these stupid characters yelling and screaming at each other and dramatically smashing household objects in overblown demonstrations of fake rage? It must be bad for young kids to see adults behaving in such a way, and seeing it so regularly on TV can only result in these young people growing up believing that this kind of behaviour is not only normal, but socially acceptable.

For goodness' sake, can't we have drama without all the drama?

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 Crap Music, Falling Singles Sales & Autotune 

There has always been a fair bit of rubbish offered up in the name of pop music and this holds true no matter which decade you look at, but in recent years the sheer quantity of crap seems to have broken all bounds. The worst offenders are those numb-skulls who cannibalise a classic pop track, cut out a small interesting sounding portion and then loop it ad nauseam to create some pseudo-dance track or rap crap, and those wailing female "R&B" singers howling along to an electronically generated backing track. I think part of the problem is the ease with which a nobody can now make 'music' in their bedroom using equipment which simply wasn't available to the general public twenty years ago.

This brings us on to the issue of falling pop singles sales. Look at it this way: if you ran a factory and decided to manufacture a poor quality item, would you be surprised if it failed to sell well? Chances are you wouldn't. The same goes for falling singles sales. If these talentless twits were removed from the scene and the A&R guys did their job and introduced real talent to the arena, the quality of the product would go up, followed by that inevitable rise in sales.

It's no good them harping on about loosing sales to illegal downloads and filesharing as this is a very poor excuse, and can be easily disproved by looking at some of the recent success stories which have managed to sell over half a million singles despite the freeloaders of cyberspace. Ever since the advent of the audio cassette, people have illegally copied songs for themselves or others, but because the musical standard used to be higher it didn't cause a noticeable problem. Offer a good product, and it'll sell. It's so simple it hurts.

A bit of software known as Autotune has a lot to answer for, as now, you only need to find someone who looks good, as the singing inability can be corrected using software. Michael Bublé allows the use of Autotune on his recordings which is odd, as he's an accomplished singer and doesn't need it, and the processing makes his voice sound slightly robotic to me. I think the person responsible for assaulting the human race with Autotune should be castrated with a spoon, and an eagle instructed to lay open his wound afresh at each sunrise for the rest of his natural life.

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 Pile-Up At The Supermarket Checkout 

You've probably experienced this one before:
It has become necessary, for whatever reason, for you to go and do the shopping on your own which you have dutifully done, and now find yourself at the checkout. You've managed to load everything onto the belt before the checkout assistant has finished going through the stack of declined cards offered by the previous customer and feel quite pleased with yourself for managing to keep ahead of things up to this point, as well you should; this is, after all, not an area males excel in.

Right, now it's your turn, but despite your solitary status, the checkout operative seems intent on whacking your stuff through as fast as is humanly possible, with blatant disregard for the condition of your eggs or that bottle of whiskey. There you are, frantically trying to open those unopenable carrier bags in a futile attempt to keep abreast of the barrage of groceries but you are ultimately fighting a losing battle, and the best you can do is try to dodge the tins of beans as they get hurled at you with the poundage of a 76mm cannon.

So why do they do it? I would fully expect that the performance of checkout staff is monitored in some manner, so that slow performers can be sent to Hell or given further training, but it seems no-one realises that no matter how fast they push the stuff through, you still have to pack it and get it off the counter before they can turn to the next customer, and given the way some of these idiots pile it up, it actually takes longer to accomplish as you try to sort through for appropriate items for a particular bag, quite apart from being plain bloody rude.

Surely, if the staff kept an eye on your progress and scanned items at an appropriate speed, keeping just a few items ahead of you, things would go a lot smoother, faster and with less stress.

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 Computer Animation Facial Expression Overload 

I was sitting with some of my younger children watching a computer animated cartoon when I found myself becoming extremely annoyed with the grossly exaggerated facial expressions many of the characters were displaying. The eyes and mouths would change shape to an extraordinary degree, and eyebrows would sweep over vast expanses of head as they spoke. If I let my attention become deflected even for a moment, I found myself subconsciously mirroring these silly expressions, which I found a little embarrassing even if no-one else noticed, which I hoped was the case.

It worries me somewhat just what effect all this is going to have on our kids: are they, after years of immersal in this falsely overly-expressive world going to fail to notice real but subtle expressions on real peoples' faces? The two worst offenders from our own collection of animations had to be 'Finding Nemo' and 'A Shark's Tale'. The flexibility of the characters' faces in those two would put a champion gurner to shame.

Why can't the animators, who are quite obviously highly talented people, simply tone down the facial expressions a little to something closer to reality? Do they honestly believe they have to do this to capture the attention of the under-fives? If so, perhaps their time would be better spent making the content a little more engaging. I, for one, would then find these productions a little less irritating to watch.

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Let's get some facts in the bag before I begin:
I used to ride a push bike, and I've spent several years on motorcycles, small and large, driven lorries and a tractor & trailer.
I now drive a car.

I have probably learnt little on my journey through life, but one thing I have learnt is that you are extremely vulnerable on a bike, and in the interests of keeping your spleen safely where it was designed to be, you need to be on a constant lookout for other traffic.

It worries me greatly when I see cyclists riding dangerously on the roads, and I do wonder quite which plane of reality they reside upon. For example, I was recently in a line of traffic slowly passing a cyclist, when for some unfathomable reason he suddenly, and without the merest glance towards me, stuck his right arm out and headed for my front nearside wing. Quick reactions on my part meant he stayed on his bike, but had that been another driver or even a lorry, the outcome could have been far worse. The stupid dickhead didn't once look over his shoulder, and seemed totally unaware of how close he came to an accident as he blindly headed to the centre of the road.

Unfortunately, this level of road sense is very common and it is seldom I see a cyclist who is actually looking around to see where the other traffic is and what it is doing. It seems they expect the other traffic to look out for them, which of course we do, but they have to take some responsibility for their survival! Sensible cyclists seem to be few and far between, but stick out like a prick at a wedding on account of the fact that they are constantly looking about themselves and are very obviously aware of what is going on around them.

And another thing!
Wearing black lycra is not an aid to being seen, quite apart from looking bloody stupid.

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 Links To Related Sites 

Here are links to web sites that may make some miserable old gits smile.

Grumpy Old Sod
You have to have a look. Hours of fun for all the family!

The Darwin Awards
Commemorating those who yield to natural selection and "remove" themselves from the gene pool
thereby ensuring that the next generation is smarter by one.

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I can be contacted at this address: