JUST LET ME FINISH MY @#$%ING TASK!

Today I thought I would blog about a trendy thing. That thing is Among Us.

I heard about Among Us about two months ago when it started becoming popular along with The Fall Guys. I saw the thousands upon thousands of memes made about it, but I never really knew what it was about. That was until I watched NerdCubed’s video on it. The next day, I decided to try it and boy-oh-boy, was it enjoyable. Crewmates and the Impostor(s) are all it’s about. Crewmates have a list of tasks to do and the Impostor(s) has to sneakily eliminate them before they finish said tasks.

The first few rounds I played, I was a crewmate getting to grips with the whole thing. The tasks are quite fun, although the rewiring tasks are annoyingly easy. The most annoying thing is when someone calls an emergency meeting right at the start of the game or whilst you are in the middle of a task. I played around two hours and the amount of tasks I had to redo in that time because someone was being a twit was ridiculous. I noticed that the go-to penalty for an uncalled-for emergency meeting is ejection, which is really funny.

Then you join a game where you are the Impostor and you have to pretend you are doing tasks. It’s hilarious. Most of the fun happens in ‘Electrical’ as it’s the most secluded spot, however other than the cafeteria; it is also the most used spot as well. Then there’s Security where you can check the cameras and possibly catch someone doing the murdering. I haven’t been able to do that, but I was caught out like that once.

My favourite part of the game though, is watching the people going mad in the chat. One person accuses another of being the Impostor and 70% of the time the rest follow, even when the accused is not even the Impostor. One game I was the Impostor and got three people ejected. It was hilarious!

I have thus far only played in public lobbies with ‘randoms’, but I must say, it’s turning out better than I thought it would. Usually with online games and ‘randoms’, they try to be annoying or ruin the game for everyone, but so far it has been smooth sailing. I might keep playing this till the hype eventually dies down.

Now if only I can FINISH MY @#$%ING TASKS!

©2020 Michael De Kock

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall

The Old King is back, but is it Still the Best?

Good news! The new BMW M3 and M4 have been revealed and launched! Yay! I watched CARWOW’s video on it and I must say – both look good. The kidney grilles that put people off really look good on these cars and I personally hope they add them to more models – the 7 and the X7 would suit them.

Power comes from the new 3.0L Bi-Turbo Straight-Six, first launched in the X3 M and X4 M. Outputs are 350KW and 550NM for the ‘normal’ M3 and M4 whilst its 375KW and 650NM for the ‘Competition’ models. Currently, South Africa will only get the latter ‘Competition’ models, as is the case with M cars here. The M3 and M4 gets the same torque-converter 8-speed autobox just like with the M5, as well as BMW’s M X-Drive system. Just like the M5 and M8, you get the choice between 4WD and 2WD modes for when you wish to do some skids and ruin your tires.

Both cars also come with sports exhausts as standard in the ‘Competition’ guise, which sounds quite fruity on the video. Expect the pricing to be quite high, because it is a premium German product after all. Much is included in the price as standard, such as sportier suspension, the aforementioned exhaust and other features, however you’ll need to pay more if you want carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon trim on the exterior and M bucket seats.

The new ‘Isle of Man Green’ launch colour is quite different to BMWs of late, but rather surprisingly, I like it. Out of the two launch cars in the video, I was drawn much more towards the M3 than to the M4. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the new 4-Series as it looks like a mini-8er, but the M3 just looks cooler. Maybe it’s because the one in the video brags with the optional carbon pack and the front end is reminiscent of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio GTA, with the carbon intake slats on either side of the grille.

Apparently, orders are open and cars will be delivered in March next year. It’s quite a while to wait then. All-in-all, I really like both cars. The styling is excellent with the aggressive hood contours and rear wheel-arches protruding arrogantly. The M3 and M4 just look and sound like brilliant cars. We’ll have to see if they are still the benchmark for small, fast saloons when they get road-tested in a few months’ time.

CARWOW video: https://youtu.be/oLMJuwlJm-g

Mercedes Tablets for Everyone!

Today’s rant/blog regards Mercedes’ screen situation. Not the infotainment screens in the centre, but rather the instrument cluster screens behind the steering wheel. BMW, Audi and many other automakers are going the digital route for their instrument cluster as it is more convenient and can show a larger amount of data in a less restrictive manner. That’s fine. I have no problem with that. The issue I have is with the way Mercedes is doing it.

Look at the new Audis. Their ‘Digital Cockpit’ is brilliantly done. It still looks like an instrument cluster, but is modernised for the current era. BMW’s is more traditional with the half-digital, half-traditional setup. Mercedes’ take on the other hand, is awful.

When the current E-Class was launched (W213), I thought it was a really nice-looking car – and it is from the outside. However, I cannot stand the tacked-on instrument cluster screen – you know, the one that looks like a glued-in picture of tablet. It looks like a cost-cutting excuse, like Renault would do on its cheaper cars. Not only does it look stupid, it’s bloody ugly. And now that thought has trickled down to other Mercedes models like the A-Class, the new C-Class, the G-Class, the new S-Class and everything in-between.

Speaking of the new S-Class, I despise the interior, but only because of the ugly tablet-looking afterthought. The rest of the interior looks cool and futuristic, but it’s an S-Class! It should be luxurious and opulent and slightly vulgar, like a cheaper RR Phantom. The outgoing S-Class interior is beautiful with the four air-vents taking centre-stage, the swooping lines running the length of the dashboard and the inlaid wood veneer wherever you look. It’s awesome! The new S’ interior looks like an upscale version of the Tesla Model 3’s, which is – quite frankly – an insult, (The Tesla Model 3 has the most boring interior of any new car currently on sale.) I must say, I really like the new S’ steering wheel. It looks futuristic, yet uber-luxurious at the same time.

Yes, the new S has all sorts of clever tech as is its tradition, but the interior doesn’t match that of the exterior (which contrary to popular opinion I actually quite like.) I cannot wait for the AMG version.

So whilst I’m sure the new Mercs are brilliant in almost every way, I cannot get past that ugly, flat, tacked-on afterthought of an instrument screen. And worst of all, IT’S THE THING YOU WILL LOOK AT MOST IN THE WHOLE CAR! Given the choice, I would rather save the almost R2.2 million cost of the E63S and buy a second-hand C63 Black.

Plus I’d have a lot left for the inevitable fuel bill…

©2020 Michael De Kock

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Jaguar Electricity as Expensive as Their Electric Car

So, MyBroadBand has recently done a cross-country road trip with the Jaguar I-Pace (see link below) to see what it actually costs to run an electric car for such a long journey. They started at Jaguar-Land Rover in Constantiaberg which has the southernmost charging point in the country, and ended in Musina – the northernmost town.

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Long story short, it took them 22 hours to drive at an average of 92kph plus another 12 hours for charging, equating to a total of 34 hours to do the 2,063km. That is a long time. It’s like sitting on an 18 hour flight and finding out you have a 10 hour stop-over before flying another 4-and-a-half hours back home. (It happened to me.)

The trip cost the MyBroadBand team almost R2600 in just electricity alone. The team concluded that if they did the same trip in a diesel F-Pace, it would have been significantly cheaper which begs the question, are electric cars viable in South Africa, a county that hasn’t even embraced the idea of the hybrid yet? Lexus has tried for years to get South Africans to buy hybrids, but we just don’t. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it is because we simply see it as something too expensive with too much that can go wrong. Given the choice between a Jaguar I-Pace or a fully kitted-out Toyota Land Cruiser 200, the average South African would pick the Toyota because it’s higher up in the local motoring hierarchy.

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In terms of the motor-industry, South Africa is way behind. Norway’s government grants financial incentives to people for buying electric cars which has resulted in two-thirds of all new cars being bought by the Vikings being electric. There are so many electric cars in Norway that the government is considering adding taxes on them so that they can get at least some money back. Other European countries also offer incentives on electric cars. Even Jordan – which is a Middle-Eastern country – offers much less tax on hybrids than they do on normal cars and as a result 80% of the cars you see there are hybrids.

South Africa doesn’t offer any of this, so electric cars are stupidly expensive. The I-Pace costs R1.6m. For that price you could buy a Volvo XC90 T8 which has the same power, is vastly more practical and has a ridiculous range, thanks to its hybrid drivetrain. Plus you’ll still have R200k left over. Or you could buy a Toyota GR Supra. Or an F-Type V6 S. Or a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. For a little bit more you could get a diesel BMW 8-Series! Or, if you stretch it a bit more, you can buy a Land Rover Sport P400e, which does 4L/100km.

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There are so many better cars to choose from. And those are if you want yours new. For R1.6m you can almost buy whatever you want in the second-hand market. For instance, a quick search on Cars.co.za revealed a 2019 BMW M5 for the same price as that Jag. And also a 2018 Merc E63S! And if you go slightly older, you can get a 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Or a 2003 Ferrari 360 F1 Spider. Or a 2010 Bentley Continental GTC Speed.

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There are so many better and more interesting cars to buy other than that specific Jaguar. And some of them will even let you pay less at fuel stations. Plus you don’t have to hang around for hours wondering what to do with yourself whilst your batteries fill up with the imaginary magic juice…

 

Read about MyBroadBand’s cross-country road trip in the Jaguar I-Pace here: https://mybroadband.co.za/news/motoring/362430-what-it-costs-to-drive-across-south-africa-in-an-electric-car.html

 

©2020 Michael De Kock

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerdy petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Star Wars™ or Star Bores?

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For the last couple of days during this unending lockdown, I have been thinking of Star Wars. The feeds on various social media platforms such as Google, YouTube and Instagram are pretty much just cars and science fiction, with random bits of friends and family stuff in-between. Anything from lightsabers on sale to how the USS Discovery’s Mycelium spore-drive works and how fast spaceships in The Expanse actually travel. (Feel free to notify me, I still don’t have a definite answer.)

I then thought about what I think of the Star Wars movies since everyone is criticising the absolute crap out of the sequel trilogy. So without going into too much detail, I will now give my honest opinions about each one – in chronological order (by era, not release):

The Prequels

The Phantom Menace – Meh

Attack of the Clones – Good

Revenge of the Sith – Better

 

The Fillers

The Clone Wars Series – Excellent! Brilliant! Magnificent!

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Okay

Rebels Series – Meh

Rogue One – Bloody Brilliant!

 

The Original Trilogy

A New Hope – Very Good

The Empire Strikes Back – Really Very Good

Return of the Jedi – Good

 

The Sequels

The Force Awakens – *cough* Knock-off *cough*

The Last Jedi – Uhmmm… What’s with all the comedy?

The Rise of Skywalker – WTF was that?

 

(I have not included The Mandolorian in this for the sole reason that I have not seen it. Sorry. I hear it’s very good though.)

So that’s my short honest opinion. The Sequels really disappointed me – like it did many other people. The Force Awakens was just A New Hope remake to introduce the new characters and get rid of some old ones. The Last Jedi was a complete farce. It was the first Star Wars that I saw in the cinema and I really looked forward to it. Oh boy, was I in for a shock. Why is there so much humour in it? The cinema was laughing more than anything else. It’s Star Wars, not Spaceballs! And why the heck did Cantonica (the casino planet) get so much screen-time?

The only two remotely cool things about the whole movie was the fight scene where Kylo and Rey were fighting together in the throne room on-board the Supremacy (Mega-Star Destroyer for the non- Starwarsians who read here) and the bit where Kylo ordered all the guns to shoot at Luke and he brushed it off like dust (because, of course, he was a projection).

And finally, we get to The Rise of Skywalker. What a fustercluck. The marketing was “the end of an era” and “40 years in the making”, which got me really excited. When I heard Palpatine’s laugh at the end of the trailer, I got really, really excited. So I went into the cinema all pumped up with excitement. But oh, was it crushed fast. I stood outside the cinema afterwards and thought WTF WAS THAT?.

During the run-up to the movie, leaks were happening and fans were going rampant with their theories. I read some of them and I can honestly say that most of them were better than the final product. I like JJ Abrams. I think he’s a great director. He’s the reason I like Star Trek. (Don’t worry, the 80s and 90s ‘Trek are still the best.)

Many of these theories regarded who Rey’s parents were. Many believed that they were nobodies, which would have been cool as it would have made Rey an ordinary galactic citizen who rose up and defeated the most powerful Star Wars baddie. But no, instead she is the granddaughter of said most powerful baddie. Not a Kenobi, not a Skywalker, not a random scavenger, but a freaking Palpatine! This was the single stupidest decision made by Disney and the feminist Kathleen Kennedy should spend some time in the Sarlacc Pit for this and everything else she has done!

Instead of showing people that a nobody from a wrong-side-of-the-tracks place can become great and inspirational, it showed that in order to become truly great and successful, you need to have a favourable background (like many famous people). It’s stupid and uninspiring and very un-Disney. Walt would have a hissy-fit.

This movie also resolved some of the plot holes of the previous movie. I’m not going to bother thinking of examples as I really don’t care, but instead of answering the pressing questions everyone had, they simply added more. For instance, one of the things I was most excited about was the news that Richard E. Grant would be joining the cast as an Imperial General. This was an excellent addition, but it was still ruined. The scene in question was how the movie got rid of General Hux. General Pryde (Grant’s character) just shot him. PEW!, and he was out of the movie. No ceremonious end to the leader of the Imperial Navy, like the one Cutler Beckett got in Pirates of the Caribbean. He didn’t deserve the end he got. More ‘going down with his ship’ would have been so much better instead of ‘getting unceremoniously shot as an afterthought’.

I have this thing when I watch a movie – I want my mind to randomly wander to a bit of the movie that I found cool or inspiring, hours, days or even weeks after watching a movie. I find this to be an indication that the movie was good and that I really enjoyed it. Good examples of this feeling are the murderer being shown less than halfway into the movie in Knifes Out, the beautiful twist at the end of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and the sheer beauty that is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty . The movie must want me to dissect parts of it in order to make sense of the rest. I had one heck of a time with Inception, figuring out which were dreams and which were reality, weeks after watching the movie.

With The Rise of Skywalker, I forgot about the events of the movie as soon as I got home and never really thought about it again – until now when I realised how bloody angry I was and decided to write this sort-of blog, sort-of rant about it.

So, the question is, will I watch it again? The answer; only if I have to – which coincidentally is the same answer I gave with Marvel’s Black Panther. I will however, buy it as it is the only Star Wars movie I need to finish my collection.

But only if it’s on sale.

 

©2020 MICHAEL DE KOCK

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerd, petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Chronicles of an Eight-Year-Old Beemer

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You might remember one of my very first blogs, Chronicles of a 21-Year-Old Beemer (https://michaeldekock.com/2012/06/29/chronicles-of-a-21-year-old-beamer) from eight years ago. In that post, I had dreams of turning my dad’s little Beemertjie into a grand tourer or off-roader and fitting it with some kind of forced-induction. Yes, I was very naïve. This happened back in June 2012.

In 2013, we sold the Beemer to a guy from Polokwane who was a gardener. Right before he drove off with it, I told him in my best impersonation of Liam Neeson that if he ever takes the car ‘Spinning’, that ‘I will find him…’ He stopped by a week later to pick something up and I saw that he changed the rims from black steelies with hub-caps to the E30’s alloys. I didn’t like it. I thought about that car every day for two years. I still think about it at least once a week. Most recently, I thought of how cool it would be as a convertible here by the sea where I could have used it as a beach buggy. Anyway.

In early 2014, we moved to Cairo, Egypt, for four and a half years and returned in August 2018. I was 22 already and had been dreaming of a first car since I was 17. Well, a year and a half ago (on the 22nd of January 2019 to be exact), I finally got my first car and as you could deduce from the title, it was also a Beemer. I would never have thought that I would actually get a Beemer as a first car!

As per petrolhead custom, I started by looking at all the cars that were far outside my budget and moved downwards toward the cheaper ones. Whilst looking at BMWs, Volvos, Mercs, VWs and others, I kept having this depressing feeling that I was going to end up with a Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift or that dreaded Toyota Etios. I didn’t much like that feeling. But I persevered. I stayed clear of the Hyundais, as I find them really boring, but I knew they would be stupidly reliable. I liked the Kia Rio, but the newer model was too expensive. I then realised how expensive VW Polos were. It’s ridiculous!

In the end, I decided that I like the F20 BMW 1-Series and the hatchback Volvo V40. I checked a few Volvos out and one BMW. They were slightly higher than my budget, but I kept at it. In the end, I found a listing on Gumtree for a blue BMW 118i manual, almost the same Liquid Metallic Blue that our old 316i was. I called the dealership – who was incredibly helpful – and we drove through the next morning. I checked the car out, took it for a test-drive and instantly fell in love. We went to pick it up three days later. (We were so impressed with the dealer’s service that my dad called the same sales-person directly a few months later and bought his Santa Fé through him as well).

So here we are, a year and a half later and the Beemer is awesome! Allow me to provide the specs: it is a 2012 BMW 118i Sports-Line manual, not M-Sport. (I don’t know why there are two sporty trims.) It has a 1.6L Inline-4 (like the 316i) with a turbo (unlike the 316i). It produces 125KW and 250NM of torque through a 6-Speed Getrag manual. The engine is a joint BMW-Groupe PSA (Peugeot) endeavour called the Prince engine (known as the N13 at BMW). In BMWs, they make more power that in PSA’s applications and unlike PSA’s cars, it is mounted longitudinally instead of transversely.

In my experience with the car, the acceleration is good, but not fast. It’s not bad, but it is the in-gear acceleration that is really impressive. In 3rd going 50kph, put your foot down and you’ll be at 80kph really quickly. The cool thing about the transmission is that the gears are really long, so you can do 100km/h in 2nd if you want to. You can also short-shift into 6th doing 50km/h. As with many cars, the top gear – 6th in this case – is the economy gear, so it takes a while to accelerate when putting your foot down. However, in Sport Mode, shift down to 5th and you’ll be breaking the speed-limit in no time – not that I do that a lot, but I had two tickets in the first two months to show for this experiment.

I do have some complaints about the car though. The first not being a complaint with the car, but rather the person who specced it when they ordered it. It doesn’t have Bluetooth. The button is there and it looks like the previous owner used it, but it doesn’t work. I cannot find anything in the i-Drive system pertaining to Bluetooth either.

Another complaint is towards BMW. The Prince engine is relatively small and turbocharged, so you would think that it is relatively fuel efficient? Wrong. It is much thirstier than I thought it would be and much worse than what BMW claimed. Though I don’t drive all that much and a tank still lasts me around 450km with town driving.

It recently had its first service since I bought the car and I saved up quite a bit in case it was going to be ridiculously expensive, with it being a premium German automotive product. I was pleasantly surprised. It cost about a third of what I budgeted and everything seems to be fine.

All-in-all, I absolutely love my car. Every time the garage door is open, I catch glimpses of it parked there. When I drive it – even when I’m just cruising through town at 30-40kph in 4th – I love every moment in it. Many days I still cannot believe that I actually have a BMW as a first car! I love the feeling. It drives awesomely, it’s a pleasant and dynamic-feeling and it is rear-wheel-drive! I know in the real world it doesn’t really matter what the drivetrain is for most cars, but for a petrolhead it does. I dislike driving on gravel or dirt roads as I had a bad experience once, but when I do find myself on one, I cannot help but dump the accelerator and feel the back-end kick out. It is an awesome feeling. I just wish I could get access to a skidpan…

 

©2020 MICHAEL DE KOCK

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerd, petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

A Muscle or not a Muscle – that is the Question

I have a question. It goes as follows… Do we still have muscle cars, as in the traditional recipe where you add a bunch of power and not much else? If so, are they still true muscle cars? The reason I bring this up is because the Ford Mustang is the best-selling sports car in the world. What happened there? The current Chevrolet Camaro is apparently a good sports car as well. Wtf? So that leaves the Challenger which, let’s be honest, is still very much a muscle car for the simple reason that it still goes fast in a straight line but gets silly when it sees a corner. So, is Dodge the only company to hold on to the physical idea of a muscle car? Seems like it.

Then we have the little problem that is the Corvette. From its launch till the C6 generation, it was considered to be a sports car. Right? Well, then the C6 ZR1 happened and it caused a bit of a scramble. Here you had an American car with a Supercharged V8 that had more power than a Ferrari Enzo. The Enzo is a super car. Does this make the Corvette a super car? Probably not but it does possibly put it into the category some petrolheads refer to as ‘Super Muscle’. It is not an official category and is only reserved for muscle cars with absurd power figures. The Dodge Challenger Demon comes to mind. As does the Hellcat and the Redeye. And the Hennessey Exorcist (pretty much anything made by Hennessey with their HPE1000 package).

Then the C7 rolled around and boy-oh-boy, the Z06 made as much power as the previous ZR1. Another problem. Do you put the Z06 into the super car category, or do you wait for the inevitable ZR1 and put that in instead, denoting the Z06 to stay with the sports cars? Difficult. The ZR1 did eventually roll out and it had a stupid amount of power. Again, super car or still just a sports car?The-2019-Corvette-ZR1

Chevrolet then went and made this whole situation worse by moving the engine placement of the C8 Corvette, making it even more of a supercar then before. And when the eventual Z06 and ZR1 versions come around in a few years’ time, they will no doubt be more supercar-ey than before. Hennessey has already revealed that they are making an HPE1200 package available for the C8 – which, as you guessed, gives it 1200bhp adding to the even more ‘all-over-the-place’ situation of the ‘Vette.Hennessey-C8-Corvette

Speaking of the C8 ‘Vette, when it was first revealed, I thought it was ugly and over-styled. That central carbon-fibre vent thing that goes over the doors looks stupid and oversized. The rear lights, whilst distinctly Corvette, are not very pretty and the front end looks a bit off. The interior is very driver-focused and the steering-wheel is square and stupid and I don’t like it. There are many things that make me believe that the C7 looks better in every single way. However, if I ever get the opportunity to drive one, I’d gobble it up like a chocolate éclair and love every second of it (I’d probably end up wanting one as well).

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So, to summarise this post… Dodge makes the only real muscle car and therefore wins the endless battle of the horsepowers, the Mustang and Camaro are in a completely new battle on their own and the Corvette is a muscle/sports/super car (whichever one you pick will probably be wrong).

Hairdryers with Steering-Wheels

So, I’ve been putting this off for way too long. They are emerging and there is no way to ignore them any longer. Much like Thanos in Endgame, they are inevitable

I am, of course talking about… electric cars. Yes, the hairdryers with steering-wheels. The toasters with seats. The blenders with Google Maps. The pressure-cookers with CD players. Ok, I’ll stop. But I did think of them in that way. However, more and more companies are building their own ones, so people must be buying the bloody things.

These days, almost all the bigger manufacturers are making their own versions – not just Tesla. Audi has the e-Tron, Jaguar has the i-Pace, BMW has the i3, Nissan has the awful Leaf, Porsche has the Taycan with the silly naming strategy and even Mercedes now has the EQC (I’m not going to talk about Ford’s contribution to the mix as an electric Mustang SUV is the stuidest thing I’ve ever heard).

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BMW is also playing around with a full-size electric car idea and they built a prototype. It looks exactly like the current 5-Series, however it has 500KW and 10,000NM of torque. No, that’s not a typo. It’s ridiculous and I love it! Like when Chevy stuffed a 7.0L V8 into one of their Sparks.

Going off topic… Electric cars are – apparently – the future. As a petrolhead, this is concerning. Yes, electric cars have more power and more torque than normal petrol/diesel powered cars, but they don’t make any noise. You can’t change gears and the engagement factor is on the lower end of the spectrum. The whole point about being a petrolhead is to engage with your car and be a part of the whole motoring experience. It doesn’t matter if your car is a 30KW Beetle or a 1000KW Koenigsegg – you can enjoy it. ICE cars (Internal Combustion Engine) have character. Electric cars are basically laptops with wheels – literally in the case of the newest Tesla update where you can play a Mario Kart-esque game on the massive central screen.

Now don’t get me wrong. Teslas are cool. The styling is brilliant, the tech is amazing and the P100D Ludicrous+ models are stupid quick. I drove in a Model S in Amsterdam and it was awesome and I sat in a Model X (best windscreen I’ve ever seen) Amman, Jordan, but as with all electric cars, there is one problem with it. That problem is of course – range anxiety. Yes, in first-world countries like the US and most of Western Europe that isn’t such a big problem, as there are chargers and superchargers and stuff at almost every fuel-station. But in less developed countries, like South Africa, electric cars are still a bit ‘out of range’ because of the astronomic prices, charging logistics and – we as a nation don’t like them very much. Yes, Jaguar and BMW are selling their cars here, but it’s really expensive and only the rich can afford to buy one. I mean, South Africans haven’t even really accepted the Hybrid as a car yet. Lexus tried to change that with their range of hybrids, but have slightly given up on that as well. The only hybrid people buy here is the bloody-awful Prius. (There is one living down the street and I have to drive past it every day. My hatred for it is much like that for the Juke – screaming obscenities at it).

Then we get to the subject of supercars and hypercars. The electrification virus has infected them in spectacular fashion with cars such as the Rimac Concept-1 and the new Lotus Evija. More and more hypercars are also going the hybrid route such as the LaFerrari, P1, 918 Spyder and more recently, the Valkyrie, the AMG ONE and the new SF90 Stradale. It seems then that electrification – in one way or another – is the future.

Well, if this is the case, then I should probably choose one. I thought long and hard about this and I decided that if I ever had the money to afford of these SatNav-equipped dishwashers, I would buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. It is exactly the opposite of an electric car. It uses so much petrol that even the Americans say ‘it’s a bit thirsty’. But is has a Hellcat engine and a supercharger whine that gives me special feelings in my nether regions. It is also practical, meaning you can scare the absolute crap out of your entire family and your dog at once.

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

As an afterthought, James May recently bought a Tesla Model S 100D and a Toyota Mirai. His guess is that one of these two technologies could be the future – either fully electric like the Tesla, or Hydrogen Fuel-Cell-mated-to-electric-motors like the Toyota. It is quite the interesting experiment and I am looking forward to his continued videos on them.

Enter the Matrix

In the beginning of November, Muse released their nth studio album titled Simulation Theory. I didn’t know about it until the 12th of November when the Guy Fawkes celebrations died down in my head, so it took me by surprise.

Before I go any further, a little history of my musings with Muse… (hehe)

It all started when a good friend of mine introduced me to the alternative rock genre, particularly with Muse and The Resistance as he had purchased it when it was released. I wasn’t that much of a music person as I was mostly exposed to oldies such as ABBA, Laurika Rauch, Die Lappop by Carike Keuzenkamp (which has a bad memory attached to it) and my own overture of Vangelis’ Conquest of Paradise (don’t ask). I also had a cape that my aunt made me that people kept telling me was Batman, but I always corrected them by saying I was Zorro – my favourite anonymous weapon-welding crime-fighting-justice-bringer-dressed-in-all-black back then (I also used the cape in conjunction with a white mask and pretended to be the Phantom of the Opera – which is still my favourite stage production).

I digress. Before listening to The Resistance, the particular friend told me that this rock band had different genres in each of their songs rather than just being a lot of screaming followed by a loud electric guitar solo. I wasn’t all that interested, but I listened to it. Oh boy! Was I in for a shock? To use my words from back then – “It is AWESOME!”

After that day, Muse became my favourite band and I would listen to all of their stuff over the next few months (this was before I had a working knowledge of music, the internet and life in general. Heck, my first album that I wanted was Enrique Iglesias!). I got stuck on Supermassive Black Hole, Sing for Absolution, Map of Problematique and Time is Running Out. Then Drones emerged and my perfect little musically challenged world collapsed. I was so excited that I bought the album the day it was released. I listened to it and was really quite disappointed by the whole experience. To me it was half-hearted. It wasn’t good, but I refused to give up on the band that opened the world of music to me. I kept on listening to their older stuff. Two or three of their songs still find their way into every playlist I make.

And then Simulation Theory happened. As stated, it took me by surprise and I got it immediately. Whilst downloading, I read the description with caution as I didn’t want another Drones moment. I read it and got really excited when it said things like ’80’s’, ‘synth’ and ‘a bit different’. I was hesitant with that last one, but hoped it would be ok.

Well yesterday, on the 18th of November, I finally listened to the whole album in one sitting and I have to say – it’s brilliant! The rock and the synth and the 80’s theme is just brilliant. The lead singer, Matthew Bellamy, sings with purpose again and both the lyrics and melodies are excellent! From the first song on the album – Algorithm – you are caught up in the beat and the story the album is trying to portray. Long story short, it’s essentially the Matrix. It’s all pretty much “break out of these blockades of the modern world, the dark side of this simulated void you are living in and dig down into your inner soul and experience something human without any electronic pressure near you as it propagates a thought contagion to make you all think the same, so get up and fight this algorithm”. No, no applause necessary… Thank you, thank you.

So the album is brilliant. The entire thing is brilliant, which is a rare happening these days. I remember when Bastille released Bad Blood. I listened to it and it was the first album of which I liked every single song. Then, after a while, I listened to Lorde’s Pure Heroine. Same thing. I liked every song. Then a long time of good songs and crappy songs (the mid 2010’s were a dark time for music). I then learnt about Barns Courtney and bought his album and I liked every song. Lorde’s second album – Melodrama – came along and there it was too (almost didn’t, but upon listening to the specific song again, I realised it isn’t as bad as I initially thought). And now, Muse’s Simulation Theory is added to that list. It’s at the top, right above – which in itself is way above the rest.

Now whilst my opinion matters very little in the music world and, in fact, the rest of the world, I enjoy this. It is not about which is the best genre, artist or decade. It’s about what you enjoy. I personally enjoy whatever I like. Today it’s alternative rock, tomorrow it’s pop, after that it’s jazz. My playlists are made up of a wide variety of genres and artists and I love it.

The one genre that I really don’t like and that I will probably never listen to is rap or reggae or whatever it’s called. Kanye West, Jay-Z, DJ “I Scream My Name in Ever Song” Khaled and even Eminem don’t attract me whatsoever. It just sounds like a bunch of gibberish that doesn’t go along with the beat. Is it impressive? Definitely, or some of it, but I don’t like it.

To quote a quote I read a while ago, “Good music is like good chocolates, to enjoy it you have to remove the rapper first”.

Old is Good

I don’t want to sound like an old fart, but some things were better in the past. Yes, things now is cool in the way that everything is interconnected, meaning that your hairdryer can talk to your toaster, which in turn can talk to your fridge and then tell your car that you need milk, which adds it to a digital shopping list that you can view whilst watching TV or playing VR games… It’s pretty cool. I like it. But some things were better. In this instance, I will be using cars. Today, it is about how much power it has, how light it is, how many aerodynamic-ey flaps it has and how much downforce it produces. The McLaren Senna comes to mind…

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Senna. With its 4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 and enough fins and flaps to create 800kg of downforce. It is a magnificent piece of engineering. But that’s the problem. As Jeremy Clarkson once said about the MP4-12C, “It is an amazing car, but it’s got no soul”. This is the problem with many of the current top-ranking cars. They are brilliant, they go around corners in the best possible manner and reach speeds that would make a 1920s person laugh at the absurdly high number. But they are cold and clinical. They are ones and zeroes that work together nearly perfectly to attain ultimate performance.

This is all fine, but for petrol heads, it’s not enough. We like cars with character. We value the feel of a car above all. It doesn’t matter if the thing has 1 KW or 1000. If it has a good feel, then we love it. Things like the Bugatti Veyron are and always will be a feat of engineering. It was the car that changed the whole motoring world’s perception of what speed was. Yes, it’s fast and powerful, but it’s terrible (personal experience around Tsukuba on GT Sport). Then you get the Hennessey Venom GT. It has much horsepower and is scary as all hell to drive. It even tends to lose traction when passing 320kph – which from what I’ve read – is quite scary. Stuff like that give cars character. I was recently at the annual Cars in the Park held at Zwartkops Raceway. It featured many cool cars. Loud ones such as straight-piped Chevy Lumina Utes, classic and modern Mustangs, modded Nissan Champs and Morris Minors (meh). One of the cars that fascinated me most was the Ford Sierra XR8. Here you have a relatively boring, everyday Ford, but with the time’s Mustang 5.0L in it. It’s glorious!
I was at this weekend’s Hermanus Whale Festival as well. The Saturday morning there was a car show at the local primary school and there were a lot of really nice cars. Ford Falcons, Holden Monaro GTS’, Jaguar E-Types, MGB’s, an Aston Martin Vantage Superlaggera and a Pontiac Trans Am but to name a few. It was bloody brilliant. The event just re-cemented my personal theory that older cars were just better. Driving involved the driver, it made you hear the engine noise, it was meant to be an experience. Not like in modern cars that actively try to cancel out the sound, drive by themselves and stop you if you are trying to do something stupid (that last one is actually quite good, to be honest). They are safe for pedestrians if you miss a stop sign, they can alert you if someone around you is doing something stupid and it can actively avoid getting into a crash – like those many videos of Teslas accelerating away.

In old cars, you are forced to focus, to take in your surroundings and experience the car. It makes you want to master it, to learn all of its little quirks and to appreciate it for what it is. Not just some hunk of metal to get you from point A to point B, but rather an instrument that allows you to make automotive “music”. I absolutely love it – the feeling of driving an old car, the noise, the vibration, the gear-changes and the overall experience. I love it. Well the closest I have come was a 1991 BMW E30 316iM, but I absolutely loved it. I will buy me a new-ish first car and then start saving up for an older car, preferably something with a V8 of some sort… hopefully the fuel price in South Africa drops a bit…