UK, Great Britain? by C G P Grey

Many wonder, many think they know – this is as close an explanation I’ve seen. Not 100 %, but close enough

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ooooo, a new Horror Movie

So, in between commenting banter on YouTube, D-Geek, Actor, Director, former Brit, Canadian and now Murican: David Hewlett has given the new Australian movie “Babadook” resounding praise in Horror dept! So much so, it looks like it could be worth a look.
First up, the trailer – followed by David’s review.

Published in: on 16 December, 2014 at 16:53  Leave a Comment  
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A YouTube Channel that makes a difference

youtube_logo I subscribe to a lot of YouTube channels and even have my own. But whether it’s for humour, shooting, tech or whatever (I may list my fav channels at some point) – one channel stands out a lot: “Smarter Every Day“.
Not only do you learn cool stuff in an interesting way, but they also do cool stuff with the money they raise.
Here is just one of those – and you’ll see, it’s awesome!

Published in: on 14 December, 2014 at 12:14  Leave a Comment  
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Ultimate Elvis Fan Purchase!!

Elvis’s Plane For Sale

On April 17, 1975 Elvis bought a Convair 880 Jet, recently taken out of service by Delta Airlines, for the then-lisa mariesubstantial sum of $250,000. After refurbishing, the total exceeded $600,000.

The plane was in a hangar at Meacham Field in Fort Worth, and for months Elvis took great pleasure in flying friends out to check on progress as the interior of the plane was refurbished to his very specific design requirements (he bought another plane to make those trips – a smaller Lockheed JetStar). Elvis wanted a seating area, a conference room, and a private bedroom on the plane (with space for an in-flight reading library). He picked fabrics, decided on color schemes, chose the on-board audio-visual system, and even Ok’d the gold fixtures in the bathrooms (he counted heavily on some aesthetic input from Pricilla too).

Elvis was especially excited about the fact that the same design team had previously customized AIFORCE ONE. The craft slowly came together as an airworthy mix of modem function and Graceland elegance.

Close in size to a 707, the Lisa Marie was customized with plush sleeping quarters, a penthouse bedroom with a custom-made queen size bed, an executive bathroom with gold faucets and a gold washbasin, a videotape system linked to four TVs and a stereo system with fifty-two speakers, and a conference room finished in teak.

It could hold a maximum of 29 people, but usually there would be about eight or 10. When the final paint job was applied to the exterior, there was a prominent ‘TCB’ logo on the tail.

Click HERE for details

Published in: on 13 December, 2014 at 19:04  Leave a Comment  
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Wanderers a short film by Erik Wernquist

and it’s awesome :)

Published in: on 11 December, 2014 at 14:35  Leave a Comment  
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ok, that’s actually kinda cool

Whether it’s because I was a soldier, or as a teen I used to shoot .22LR small bore, but I love surfing some of the shooting vids on YouTube.
You don’t have to look far to find this lady: Kirsten Joy Weiss
Kirsten is a serious competitive shooter in the US and is committed to making shooting fun and safe. Her vids are starting to earn her a great reputation in this area and none more so than the day she shot a playing card in half.
Now she’s done one better; .22 cutting a playing card in half at 20yrds with the rifle over her shoulder facing backwards and using a mirror.
Enjoy :)

Published in: on 9 December, 2014 at 14:27  Leave a Comment  
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The Infamous TWBrit Christmas List : 2014

christmas-tree-inside-the-house
Hey, let’s get back to where we used to be at, and what better way to start than with this years Christmas List.
Yes!!
Of course there will be a few old things, and some new :)

Lifetimes Supply of Coffee
coffee2

In the absence of the availability of the previously wished for Amberley Court 
Then Stanton Court is next :)
LAC130168_03_gal

And / Or This place in Escala, Austin, Texas
Austin house

Marshall JCM 800
marshall-jcm800-2203

The TrackingPoint XS1 .338 Rifle

Rifle

Again…. The Land Rover 110 Crew Cab pickup but stretched on a 130 Chassis

LR110
The Cintiq 24HD touch

gallery image 2 cintiq24hdtouch
Dell UHD 32 inch 5K Monitors

dell32UHD-1
I still want a plane, but we’re dropping the 787 and returning to the 777-200LR ;)

777
Theakston’s Old Peculier by the barrel, not the bottle (of course)

theak_op_logo3

Virtuix Omni

Omni-Kickstarter
DJI Inspire 4K

647A2679-legs

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 bridge Camera

PanasonicFZ1000Hero2-623-80
Taylor 812ce 12 Fret

Taylor 812 12 Fret
A Knighthood: KBE
for services to Britishness and Commonsense

TowerKinght01
An invite to become a member of White’s

whites-club
A Toyota Sequoia

2015-Toyota-Sequoia-front-view

And finally

Edible Chocolate Anus
because nothing could be more “Wrong” :D
edible anus

I Got Art!!

The concept of “me” buying art is rare to say the very least. In fact, few of the things that have ever blown me away, I could never afford anyway and as an engineer at heart, Installation Art is more my cup of tea than most things as long as I can see the passion and uniqueness of the item.

So a few weeks ago I was collared by the site’s editor “Gabsatrucker” to go and have a look at a small studio who’s artist had caught her eye.
On a freezing November weekend, we arrived at Treehuggery owned and run by Jackie Ward. Jackie’s art has anart1 air of irony and simplicity that was so refreshing I ended up buying Gabsatrucker a piece for Christmas!
From making images like people waiting for a bus out of old bus conductor tickets to sport and cycling images from used car tax discs and there’s just so much more besides. To me, the best part is, Jackie is passionate and loves what she does.
If this reads like an advert, well I’m not being paid for it and I can’t recommend a true artist enough :)
KMA, you’d love her work!!

Then I see a competition for a piece on Facebook and get this – I won it!!! What more can I say to that?!art2
So If you want something a little different and very individual for a space on the wall of for a gift that seriously will not hurt your pocket – click on TREEHUGGERY and give her stuff a look because if you like quirky, interesting and most definitely original – then you just found it! :)

 

Published in: on 8 December, 2014 at 00:19  Leave a Comment  
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Boeing 787 in serious questions over safety and quality of manufacture

An astounding, damning and frankly scary report by Al Jazeera may be shinning light that would lead people to think the 787 is nothing more than a bucket with wings waiting to fall from the sky… See what you think

Published in: on 8 September, 2014 at 18:32  Leave a Comment  
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Of Stargate to TWBrit

36796209TWBrit was once called “LEGENDARY”…. (for reasons only known to a few) I’m not lying!!

So…. What would the star of the Sci-Fi horror movie the “Cube” say?
The same guy who almost stole the show Stargate SG1 and who became the greatest genius of the human race while totally stealing the show as Dr Rodney McKay in Stargate Atlantis – to be bettered by only his sister Kate.
rise-of-planet-of-the-apes-4

The writer, director and star of “A Dog’s Breakfast”, also appearing in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and soon to be released “Debug”a-dogs-breakfast.26134

 

sgahewlett

Just what did David Hewlett briefly let slip as a description of TWBrit?

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TWB TM2

Perspective!

I have to post this… Jo Costakes shared it on her Facebook timeline… It just makes you wonder at how small the world truly is.

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Published in: on 31 July, 2014 at 00:50  Leave a Comment  
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Repatriation and Understanding

I’ve not really posted much for a while because just so much other stuff that has been taking up my time. But in order not to lose sight or what I’m about, I’ve decided to carry on blogging for a while and travel more.

As part of this, today we made a trip to another Repatriation of a soldier coming home after paying the greatest price for not only our own nation, but for others too. It’s always a long journey for our lost heroes and heroines, but it’s just so important to pay them some semblance of respect for their work, dedication and sacrifice.

Some die in the most appalling ways, in combat, in support, in accidents, through their bodies simply failing. Yet all have willinglyRoyal_Engineers_badge travelled to the war zones, and all of them know the immense sacrifice may come sadly knocking at their door.

Today, by way of a change we decided to take Charlie Wright’s son James with us. James has now started the application, interview and test process for joining the British Army and more over the Royal Engineers.

In a fitting way, the young soldier being repatriated was Royal Engineer, 23-year-old Sapper Adam Moralee who died recently in Afghanistan.

Brize memorial bellI didn’t tell James initially where we were going because people can react very differently. Ironically when we did tell him he was very eager to get there and pay his respects.

So we cut through the Cotswold towns, stopping in Burford to grab lunch before arriving at RAF Brize Norton.
As the Police out riders came through, the Memorial Bell started tolling as the Funeral Director with top hat and cane walked the hearse to the memorial garden where flags were lowered in salute and family and friends Repat top hat guyplaced flowers on top of it.
Some clapped, most stared forward or lowered their heads, before the cortège finally moved off.

We already know that Sapper Adam Moralee’s ride will be stopped a few more times before his journey’s end today, but such is the feeling of many to need to come and say thank you as he passes by on his way home.Repat Family

Personally, I think this stuff is important. Others may not think so.
As a civilian I can disagree with a war, a political point of view – but I will back a soldier ordered to the field of conflict any day, irrespective of what the politics are. After all, it’s the soldier, male or female who has to commit the “oh so filthy” act of warfare where the stakes are for real – not the politician…

James now has had an experience too few have had. He thanked us for taking him, and frankly what he does from today forward – he does so with his eyes wide open.

James Repat1

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TWB TM2

The TWBrit 2013 Christmas List

christmas-tree-inside-the-house

Sorry it’s been sooooo late but to say I/we’ve been a little busy is an understatement. So, lets get on with it – at the end I will list some of the things now removed from previous lists and please do comment on it all. Sadly last year I missed doing it at all, but the last 2 Christmas’s New Years were spent in the USA.

Without further ado – here is the 2013 TWBrit Christmas List:

Virtuix Omni

Omni-Kickstarter

Oculus Rift Gaming kit

oculus

DJI Phantom 2 Vision

Phantom2Vision-Kit-600

Amberley Court
Yes it’s back again…. why? because this house is STILL awesome!!

Amberley Court

Battenberg Cake

Battenberg

Land Rover 110 County Station Wagon
Actually I want a 130 stretched County Station Wagon with a standard pick-up rear but larger internal cabin space (obviously a special order)

Landy

Accuracy International

.338 with a x24 Schmitt und Bender scope ( I would say an AS50, but they’re not legal in the UK)

ai.338

A life time supply of Coffee

coffee2

A Knighthood: KBE

for services to Britishness and Commonsense

TowerKinght01

An invite to become a member of White’s

whites-club

UPDATE

Now, there is no way I can continue in leaving this list without an update for my weird and wacky wants… But due to the nature of manufacturing issues I have revised my dire wish for a personal Boeing 787 Dreamliner and opted for my most favourite plane the 777 and on a tight budget a 767.

Below are two pics of planes for sale (click on them to enlarge). It’s worth noting that a new 767 is about $185,800,000.00 and a new 777 is around $261,500,000.00 (Boeing 2013 list price) so can see these are greatly reduced as they’re older and have probably changed hands a bit.
Now the 777 is fly by wire with a mechanical back up, making it very cost-effective and much easier to service, however the 767 is ALL Mechanical except for a couple of little bits – this means things like control cable replacement on a 767 is quite a big and expensive business.

Also there is the cost of refitting them with bedrooms, bathrooms etc. Frankly an engine of a 777 is around the $18m each mark so I really don’t know how many cycles the airframe has left – but either way, two rock solid planes make the list :-)

767 for sale777 ad

Things now removed:

Taylor K24CE – Got One

Taylor Guitar

A REAL Tablet: Motion Computing J3500  – Got One

j3500 copy

Drum Kit – Got one

Drumkit9pc

Theakstons Old Perculier – Got plenty :-)

theak_op_logo3

Millions of personalised guitar picks – Got Them

PIC OF PICK 2

Back of Pick 1

Give up Smoking – Did it, one year ago today

no smoking

Adobe Master Collection CS6 & Lightroom – Got them :-)

adobe-logo

Heavy Duty Footwear – Got them all

large_caterpillar_colorado

Photo from the BIG BLACK BOOTS website at www.boot.com

Laptop with i7 CPU – Got It

dell-logo-big

Battlefield 3

battlefield3

So there you are… the craziness that is me and-some :D

Merry Christmas

 

Jane’s Triple A…

Or simply Access ALL Areas UK

Is a great, serious and humorous yet informative blog and campaign to sort out her local council.
You see Jane, while she could probably tell you more about the skeletons in my closet than most – has MS (multiple sclerosis – not Microsoft) and as this awful ailment has taken greater hold over the years – she is now stuck in a wheel chair.

This, while great if you need a lift, has come with a whole set of hassles and problems – as if the MS wasn’t enough.

LOGO 2 Standard reduced border

 

You see in a time when red tape has gone mad and former politicians signed us up to so much do-good European rubbish… out of all of that came very specific Rights of Access to public places for the physically disabled. It’s just that her local council don’t seem to understand what responsibility they have and what such a careless attitude is doing to the detriment to so many lives in their care for the people they serve.

Well while the days of hard partying, canoeing, beer divining and flipping a minibus over with her teeth are long behind her… She’s not someone to lie down and be trampled on.

Below is a short and actually very funny vid of just how bad her problem is…

And as for the local council – try doing a survey while IN a wheel chair or we may have to change that AAA acronym to something more realistic like Acute A-hole Algae which would be more appropriate for people who “follow Set Guideline/Rules” without the adaptive use of logic, common-sense and a can-do, will-do attitude … In other words the very people who make this country awful, and live in the excitement of being totally un-British…

British = can-do, will-do, and get the job done and done right…

The First HUA Award for a while goes to

Sheffield City Council for their contribution to the work they’re employed to do 

i.e making the city safe to use and indeed, accessible to ALL residents

HUA

LOGO 2 Standard reduced border

Published in: on 14 October, 2013 at 23:50  Comments (1)  
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New York, N’ooo Yoyk!

Bouncing out of Nashville we set about attempting a 2am ETA in NYC and made it!

DSCF2232

Strangely, after all that people had said about driving in the Apple and it being a city that never sleeps, there was hardly a thing on the road and it was a straight forward navigation to our downtown 6th Ave hotel, where they promptly stole the Snot Rocket (our car) for safe keeping.6th Ave

However, the New Jersey (N’ooo Joyzeee) Turnpike is NOT for the faint hearted or for anyone with a shred of logical commonsense due to the clarity of the signage, or indeed no signage. Thankfully, other than a few other lost souls, all was good.

The following day was a mad rush and full on with Gabsatrucker heading out early to chase her own butt up 20 blocks and pound out the rest of her 7 mile run around Central Park.

I jumped in a cab and headed to Chelsea and the new global headquarters of Rocketboom.com!rocketboom gold

Set in tasteful surroundings and interrupted from beavering away I sat down and had a great chat with Andrew Baron about how the future for Rocketboom and how other enterprises were rapidly shaping up to be far larger and indeed a permanent existence in the day on day “must watch” web media  listings :-)

The evolution of Rocketboom has been long and its consistency in what I call intelligent humour – ie Witt, sarcasm and irony mixed in with a variable amount of new or leading tech, entertainment and global web cultural insight is well established and is still leading in this field.

Andrew’s exceptional ability to seek out great talent for presenting Rocketboom is second to none and the present anchor of the show Keghan Hurst is a perfect example of this.

Andrew Baron’s great strength is not just that he is one of the first true instigators of what we term web media, but it lays at the door of not just knowing what he wants to achieve, but also in listening to so many others without being derailed from his overall aim. In this he has achieved a greater understanding than most within this field and in the creativity stakes there are few to rival what he has achieved.

In the evening Gabsatrucker and I headed over to meet Andrew, his stunning and glowingly pregnant wife Rima and their friend Eli for what Andrew termed Korean BBQ which was a fantastic evening with a lot of laughter.

While we were invited to stay for another evening, our plans were forever changing and we were sadly unable to. As we walked back to our hotel leaving great people and company behind us we came upon Times Square which was very much alive and bouncing.

TSq1

Grabbing pictures and a bit of t’shirt swag we called it a night.

DSCF2360

TSqHersh

TSq3

Naked CowGirl

Day 2:

Waking early and packing up our gear, we headed out to catch a few sights before leaving this unrelenting island city.

A fast walk up the street our hotel was on (that sounds like they moved it) and you hit the likes of Radio City and the not so liked News Corp headquarters.

NewsCorp

Radio City

Onto the subway and Grand Central Station for crepes (of course)

NYSub

GCS2

GCS1

Then South to the 911 Memorial.. BUT, remember all the trouble I had getting into the Hoover Dam? Well this time, I’m wearing a Leatherman tool and all manner of sharp objects as we headed into security.

The X-ray operator sees the Leatherman and asks to look at it, calls another guard over and then “Sir, where did you get this?”

Me: “Ebay, why?”

Reply: “I’ve been looking for the same model” before handing it back to me…

Now that is commonsense security!! They acknowledge the item, make you aware they have and then carry on as normal – and where? Where this whole terror thing for this country started!! Well-done 911 Memorial Security with their reasoned, professional and very logical approach to what they do.

I can’t really add much more, this place and most definitely this memorial leaves you silent as it stands for so much more now than the day it all happened, and to a far higher loss than ever before.

DSCF2336

With that, we left the fair city of New York and headed back south, Philadelphia, DC, and on to Virginia – or ENGLAND as I like to call it.

LA to Sin City : Las Vegas

Rainbow Bar and Grill

After an evening in the Rainbow Bar and Grill we headed over the Mojave Desert to the Nevada border and after a quick stop at a state line mall and with the sun rapidly setting behind us  and the sky displaying strange unusual colours – we crossed the border and descended to a place some call the City of Lost Souls (personally, I thought we’d just left it in California).DSCF1555

Vegas is known for a vast myriad of reasons, most of which are bad to the moral amongst you (not that I know what these moral things are). But like all DSCF1789realities of life, all things good and bad exist everywhere. It is normally only a need to open your eyes – but here in Vegas they’re a nice bunch and prise your eyes wide open for you (with their teeth).

As all know, Sin City has been revamped over recent years and for the most part it has become family orientated. Most street attractions are shut by midnight and then only the clubs, casinos and bars punch on into toward dawn.

Every shopping area on the Strip had designer names above the doors, yetDSCF1804 every promotions person out on the street wear shirts offering you women to your hotel room in under 20 mins.  And while this is a city where prostitution is completely outlawed, the Las Vegas Yellow Pages are a far more of an adult read than any copy of 50 Shade of whatever!

DSCF1810Obviously now with Gabby feeling right at home, it must be said that those looking for the “Old” Las Vegas just need to travel a few blocks over from the Strip and to where shopping changes from Designer names to places that specialise in the attire of Show Girls and if you want a feather for your cap – this City is what you may consider the Mecca of feather sales . Off the Strip you will find a more tradition Sinful evening. So, not being afraid of a little hardcore fun, knowing how to let our hair down in ALL the wrong ways – we went to see the Tim Allen show.

But in the regular entertainment stakes Las Vegas Rocks!! There isn’t a band or performer of any reasonable repute in the world who is not passing through here. And some that have no credibility at all ;-)

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Taxi drivers are either friendly and fun – or not of around here… In one cab ride I realised I hadn’t been on a journey like this since being in the Middle East. So I asked the driver where he was from.. “Ethiopia” he replied. Gabby asked “do they even have cars there?” Well frankly they don’t even have food unless we put on a show for them.DSCF1846

Vegas is a must see and do for those never having been, but there is just so much more to see than a few shows, adult titillation and expensive boutiques and great restaurants. But there are some odd sights about the city. Like this line early in the morning outside a Gold and Pawn shop… Many of these people are in a state of pure distress, even men are crying…

A few blocks back takes you past the Heart Attack Grill where  waitresses dress like nurses, will mop your brow, take your pulse and where anyone over DSCF1852350 lbs eats for free!!  They claim it’s “Food Worth Dying For” and indeed, to date, two people have passed on from this world right there in the restaurant. Out of interest (and the inability to write “two fat bastards”), one portly gentleman and one skinny bugger died there, one at the table and one as he was leaving.

Of course Vegas is also a regular town, with ordinary shopping, and ordinary hardworking people. They even have a few major companies based there, so it’s not all adult entertainment, gambling restaurants and shows.

It also has a vast through-put of NATO military personnel heading for the NellisDSCF1554 Airforce base and of course a healthy supply of UFO spotters, complete with foil hats marvelling at new experimental aircraft shapes coming in and out of Groom Lake (Area 51) in the dead of night.

In fact, only a short drive east you will find yourself where Alien’s breed – which is not true, but you will find yourself at the Hoover Dam.

The mosDSCF1598t amazing thing about the Hoover Dam is not the loss of life building it, not the sheer scale or even the balls forward Engineer genius and determination in constructing  it – nope… The single most amazing thing about the Dam is trying to get past the security screening to enter the place.

It was about the point I had removed all metal items, hat, coat, boots, belt, wallet, watch,DSCF1611 change, e-cig, passport, med tag, testicles and brain I had to even ask myself (as someone who understands security and threat) what could I possibly have on me (other than me) that could be a threat to millions of tons of concrete and/or the people around me?!  I was wondering if the pliers would have to come out now for some teeth extracting .

Finally staggering through almost stark bollock naked I was finally clear to cause mayhem. But then there is the Catch 22… “Stand here for your picture to be taken” But I don’t want DSCF1631my picture taken! “oh, it’s ok, it’s so you can buy a gift photo of DSCF1634yourselves later”. No it isn’t because we have a camera, “No Thanks!!”

“It’ll only take a second – say cheese!” (pulled faces) click…. Photographer cracks up, security guard glares on, jaw clenched, cheek muscles flexing…

Such is the nature of how Terror has won the war in this nation… Fear causing overt security without any real thought… AND the removal of your own copyright as they actually get you to appear for your own mug shot against a green screen – it’s actually easier to get on a plane thDSCF1681an into the Hoover Dam – think about that for a sec! Besides, surely the best place to do harm is in the highest concentration of people – that would be the queue to get through security then…

The Hoover Dam is and always will be awesome and one of the great engineering achievements of our time, actually before oDSCF1718ur time. What did surprise me as we strolled along through drill and hand carved tunnels was that they really don’t generate any effective power from the Dam. Yet this Dam must be capable of a huge amount of output. But then after reading through the lines of the somewhat bizarre and erroneous talk by the guide – you realise quickly that the full potential of this Dam is and never will be reached due to internal politics. Indeed, we were told one thing while having a diagram explained in one of the vast feeder tunnels – yet the diagram showed something quite different.

Nevertheless, the Hoover Dam is a MUST SEE, but I hasten to add that people with claustrophobia may have concerns on some of the tours they run.DSCF1715

And with all done, we headed on our way towards the Grand Canyon and home…

Published in: on 19 February, 2013 at 06:54  Leave a Comment  
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Fender : An Icon & The People Who Help The World To Rock

Click on Images to Enlarge

We had cut some tough driving the day before coming down the old coast road from Monterey, a road NOT dissimilar to that of the coast road between Cannes and Monaco. This morning it was Gabby to take the wheel and drive like psychopath through Los Angeles and get us to the Fender factory before it closed at 4pm – as they were closed for the following day (Wednesday) all day. As I mentioned in an earlier post HERE we turned up the previous Wednesday when closed and they still looked after us!!

The choice of driver was well founded. Gabby who is known on the web as @Gabsatrucker and famed for International half marathon running, 100 mile cycle racer, former Harley rider and kick-ass big rig driver – can adapt to pretty much to any driving style and can make progress where most people simply can’t.  Her adaptation and traffic reading of the nightmare known as the freeways of LA are not for the faint heart – but every defensive and offensive action founded in years of advanced driving skills were positively put to use.

For me this meant bemused pondering like “Toyota Sequoia drives well on two wheels” and “These brakes are GOOD!” including “The view from the rear window is great” and of course, that old nugget “I left my teeth in the dashboard”.

It was tough going, everything and everyone who could get in the way – did get in the way and this went on for hoursF12!!

Finally, minutes before the 4pm deadline I phoned Fender and left a message to say we were only 5 miles out…

We arrived at 4:10pm and as I walked up to the door – it opened with the smiling face and ever greeting persona of David Brown the Manager of the Fender Visitor Center and Ralph Esposito who is the Projects Coordinator / New Product Development for the Fender Custom Shop.

Running past us was Gabby, hoofing it at speed towards the toilets.

We hung out a while and it was decided that as they’d had an extremely busy day, they’d invite us back the following day (when shut)to carry on and Ralph Esposito wanted to give us a complete, indepth and thorough tour of the Fender Custom Shop.fender-customshop-logo

We set to retire, but was delayed by sudden outpouring of adoration from the Fender team over the two dogs Elsie (who I call Wubble) and Ben, the most timid little fella who we took in from a Dog Shelter. With adoration over, we headed in to Anaheim and a hotel.

The following day was an education the likes of which no ordinary factory tour could ever provide. David Brown took us over to the Factory to check on the body of the Telecaster they’re building for me and which has bF4een principally engineered by David.

We went through the main factory and into some parts where no one from outside goes, through the paint shop, curing areas and final assembly. In the waiting area of hundreds of guitarF8 bodies we found my Telecaster body and inspected work already done prior to that evening’s satin coating.

We headed out in search for a walnut neck to see if there had been any left over from the limited run of the Stratocaster’s, one of which I had purchased. With none left, we headed down past the wood shop we entered the Fender Custom Shop and was taken through to catch up with Ralph.

FCSTo describe Ralph is easy – he knows his shit! He’s been there a long time, believes in what he does and believes in getting the very best for whoever the customer is. He’s knows that what they do in the Custom Shop is the very best of their efforts and abilities, yet FCS1with so much knowledge and insight he’s very down to earth and easy to listen to and indeed – learn from.

We were taken through every work area, if there was a master builder about we were introduced and where not – Ralph explained the work that Gt1each did. We talked and talked as he led us through a history of music from a side few rarely see. We moved on to the Gretsch Custom Shop and then into an area where they’re building a special run of Eric Clapton guitars. WeF1 went further to where they turned the finished necks and so much more.

Back in the Custom Shop, examples of models they make and have made were everywhere, and even one incredibly light weight Stratocaster which was so light I thought was made of balsa – but obviously wasn’t. With much talk of food and beer next time we’re in town – thus sealing my return at some point (it was this word : “Beer” that did it) we headed back to F2Visitors Center so I could put the rest of my guitar parts together with David Brown.

There was still more to choose including neck type, electronics, metal furniture and finally the information to be placed on the Neck Plate of the guitar. This Neck Plate will show the name of the guitar which is TWBrit, F11the date and where it was born and finally “Engineered by David Brown” whom has been the most outstanding, outgoing and friendliest person from the F5outset.

Together David Brown and Jane Esposito of the Visitor Centre are a great team; they’re knowledgeable and  passionate about what they do and the products they provide.  In fact it was Jane’s husband Ralph who we’d met the evening before while waiting to go home who taken us around the Custom Shop and all it’s workings.

Now I’ve said this before; We’ve been to Gibson hollow body factory in Memphis, We’ve been on a fantastic tour of Taylor Guitars in El Cajon, San Diego (who had no interest at all when I wanted them to build me a custom guitar). But out of these, nothing prepared us for the welcome, friendliness and great people at Fender. While this is easy to throw all under the title “Great Customer Service”, of which I am the greatest of sceptics and picky when presented with the good stuff – the team at Fender humbled us! No, they didn’t make us feel special, they made feel welcome and like friends and that is very rare, very rare indeed!

David, Jand & Ralph

To David, Jane and Ralph who did so much for us

Thankyou

Of the three guitar companies we have visited; Fender has not just done a little more or been a little better than the rest – they have and are miles ahead in the entire experience of dealing with and understanding customer wants and needs. They go the extra mile without being asked and around the world Fender and these great people in Corona, California create things so iconic to the USA and music as a whole it is amazing how they take all this in their stride without any of the pretentiousness of so many other companies.

Gibson for instance will charge hundreds and hundreds of dollars to add a plastic strip around the edge of a guitar (called a binding) and in some cases, add $1000 for that added extra – not great for the present financial climate and considering how much work you have to do to get Gibsons truly playable.  But with the “can do – will do” and friendly reception that awaits all at Fender; Fender is certainly on the road to a better recovery from the financial doom and gloom of the past few years – and frankly? I will buy from the people who give me their time and effort and appreciate their customers where so many others don’t!

Fender Musical Instrument Corp is now one of (if not) the biggest guitar manufacturers in the world! Their other products include:

Squier

Gretsch

Jackson Guitars

Charvel

Hamer

Tacoma

Guild Guitar Company

SWR Sound Corporation

Sunn

Brand X

Orpheum

Olympia

Heartfield

Starcaster

They are also exclusive the U.S. sales representative for Sabian Cymbals and exclusive worldwide distributor of Takamine Guitars and Gretsch Drums.

Fender APPROVED

A City of Many Sides

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San Francisco is many things, it indeed has many sides, many openly obvious and claims the greatest freedoms. But in reality we have to look at the entire Bay Area to understand the dynamism that is here.

As I write this I’m kicking back in Monterey and heading on back down a day later than originally planned to the land of plastic faces, that one nip-n-tuck too far and on back to Corona; so I’ve had a little time to think about all we’ve seen – albeit, have we even scratched the surface? From what we’ve seen, would we even want to?
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This, like all sun kissed lands the world over has seen war and bloodshed, these days it claims to be the area of free thinking, openness and true multiculturality [I think I made that word up]

But what can I say? What can I add to all the usual clichés that brings this city to worldwide attention? I could talk about the millions of people whom suffer the insanity of living in a place that should have and probably will; one day shake itself to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. DSCF0786
Then China Town, The Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Mythbusters, and every conceivable genre of the entertainment industry – especially the world of amateur robotics.

From stunning hills and neighbourhoods of quaint pastel painted timber homes to sky high landmarks and of course – bridges.

As we move south towards Mountain View, there are the stunning, affluent, safe and green lifestyle neighbourhoods of the who’s who of the software world, internet and the world wide heard of tech innovators. Before finally hitting Palo Alto and the of course the businesses of the tech world as we know it. Here are the full blooded companies, the place where Billions are created from minds of imagination and insight; the modern home of the patent lawsuit.

DSCF0814When we arrived in the area we had so many plans and so many people we were looking forward to meeting. However, as all things with the greatest intentions, things just don’t turn out how they should. In fact hardly a thing we planned was achieved. As it turned out Gabby had a couple of good plans that did turn out well, but I thought were going to kill me at the time as we climbed the steepest side of Telegraph Hill and it’s 3, 475, 924 steps.

We hit Down Town San Francisco via the local “BART” (think tube) and headed north onDSCF0815 foot through semi deserted streets towards the University to get there, we rolled past loads of things including the Global headquarters of Levis; this was kinda strange to me because I just didn’t think they were a San Francisco company.

DSCF0820Once at the top of this evil hill of near death we suddenly became amateur photographers as loads of people started asking us to take their pics. Of course under my breath I was screaming “Yeah, I’m David fkin Bailey!” and keeping the British tradition of covert grumpiness as I smiled on politely. Thankfully Gabby avoided taking too many pics of me on the grounds that the “near dead” are notDSCF0865 always the most photogenic.

We headed off the hill stopping to take cross valley shots of that wiggly road with all the cars on it – we wanted to photograph Gabby driving the Snot Rocket down it, but then realised there was a massive queue for people wanting to do that very same thing.

DSCF0904Strolling down the hill we noticed the sheer number of Mini’s parked everywhere making them very much the car of choice in this city and certainly a car of the people (ie: as common as muck).

We headed into Washington Square where I had previously planned a bit of a piss-up with a load of old school buddies a few months ago with the help of awesome twitter buddies Paulo Elias and the brilliant former Journo Layla Bohm ; both of whom we failed to sadly meet :-(

Cutting a piece to video, we turned in for food in little Italy before heading through China Town where I actually saw an old Chinese guy fingering a live crab :-/ furthermore I got it on video!!!DSCF0954

We were happy to leave China Town only to walk into a wedding photo shoot right outside the Ritz Carlton.

DSCF0966Onward and we cut through the hordes of tourists and headed up to the Hayes Valley area, a far more Boho existence with street music and Gabby popped into Lava 9 to seek out a jacket – but failed (haha).

We headed out and back to base thinking about what we had and hadn’t seen, and tried to get our heads around the things we had.

I finally got to check twitter and noticed Andrew Baron of Rocketboom.com was in SF this weekend as well and also suggested meeting up. Irony being what it is, I was going to fly up to NYC see Andrew as soon as we got back home, with a twitter chat in flow he said that we’d be better doing the NYC thing instead – so that is what we agreed.
We crashed out heavily that night, yet there seems to just not be enough time to sleep.

The downside of SF :

In reality, you either live in the good bits or you get persistently and aggressively begged upon… I’ve never come across more beggars in my life as the Bay Area holds – but the worst part is the level of aggression, if this is a badge for which the greater SF wishes to be proud of, then good luck to them – but to hell with ever returning. I dunno, I might be old fashioned, may be too picky in my fat assed forties, but to be aggressively begged at and verbally abused for not giving my money to a man standing by a fresh heap of his own faeces while walking down central Market Street in the heart of San Francisco with my better half has me restraining myself beyond the norm at the very least. In other places groups of young guys hang on “their” bit of the sidewalk seeking to intimidate by their presence.

Yet two streets over on “Hayes” and the world was entirely different, cultural, local and quaint – A place you instantly felt you DSCF0982could spend the next two years simply hanging out.

Such is the maelstrom that is the Bay Area, all it’s sins and all it’s beauty, just bear in mind that they’re not separated by whole blocks, but often simply by a few feet.

Moving on:

The following morning we headed out early to drive around the bay and head south. We tDSCF1024ook in the Golden Gate Bridge and Gabby drove us all through San Francisco However, before we got to the Golden Gate we noticed a sign which took our interest instantly ; The Rosie the Riveter visitors centre! We pulled in to the very place Rosie the Riveter worked and was photographed and artwork made about women’s contribution to the WW2 war effort. The place wasDSCF1031 fascinating and was the site they constructed the Willis Jeep and tanks right on the dock side. The other amazing thing is that this was the very area Gabby’s own grandmother worked as a wiring technician on ships.
DSCF1052We carried on past San Quentin and on to the Bridge and then away south, stopping in Mountain View for a bite before heading through the hills to Monterey.DSCF1062

It was during the drive to Monterey that we decided to pursue some auto safety care for the dogs. Previously I have turned to look over the seats to see two dogs in various states of disarray and bewilderment, even hind legs and butts stuck in the air in unison; but on this journey Gabby took an unexpectedly sharp corner in the car and we heard the inevitable sliding sound of dogs and the rattle of their collars. A moment later Gabby called “you two ok?” – it was then after they heard the reassurance of her voice (giving them their shred of hope) the single, totally in unison, as one, loud THUD!! was heard as both dogs came to the end of their impromptu demonstration and education in Physics.

The following silence was deafening!

Gabby, suddenly concerned for their well being was asking me [who was at this time curled into a ball crying with laughter at the almost slapstick event that just happened – asking if they’re ok before they were pile-driven into the sidewall] to check on them to see if they were ok.

Finally I reached over and switched the lights on to be greeted by two silent and staggering dogs! Ben crawled into his crate not to return anytime soon and Elise just stared at me with ears back, intermittently shaking with a look I understood all too well.

I switched the light off and returned to my uncontrollable laughter.

We head back south now down the coast to Malibu, Fender and then – Vegas!!.

Published in: on 26 January, 2013 at 23:49  Leave a Comment  
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I went to Fender USA and it was shut!…. but….

FenderLogo red

Today we have visited the Fender Visitors centre.
DSCF0621Walking in we got strangely eyeballed by a security guard while there were a few people milling about and much talk of NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants Expo – the bees knees in music gear).

We went further in, passing the shop and looked at all the displays, but in under 5 minutes I was creating my own guitar.NS13_logo_Black_0
Noticing the place seemed quiet a guy suddenly turned up at the door and said “Sorry, We’re shut Wednesdays, we’re only open as we had a group in from NAMM”.

DSCF0632Noticing I had guitar parts out, he suddenly asked “you looking to build?”, I replied, “yes and I’ve kinda come a long way to do it”.

This changed everything, and that change, while I would have been happy to leave – was about to stun the life out of me.

We had originally set off to Fender in the afternoon because they do all the factory tours in the morning and we’ve had enough of factory tours (no offence to Fender)… But what we were about to do was a bit beyond your average tour.

David from Fender was wanting to go for his lunch, so I said it wasn’t a problem and we’dDSCF0635 come back next Monday.
He wasn’t having any of this and together we went through the selections of guitar parts and I explained that one of the coolest looking Stratocasters was the one Bonnie Raitt plays, it has no paint or varnish, but had aged in a rustic style that is frankly awesome. The problem is that I wanted a Telecaster.

“Right” David proclaimed, “lets go and see what is laying about in final assembly”.
Moments later we were in the factory and walking through all the places normally DSCF0645prohibited. We searched through hundreds of guitar bodies (and I mean hundreds!) Finally we found a Telecaster body made of Birdseye Maple, but it had a slight defect in the polish and while it hadn’t been buffed up yet – the thing was – I wanted a matte satin finish…

Next the body shop guy, David, Gabby and me looked on as a guy with an evil sander set about making the guitar how I wanted it!!

So… there we were, in a factory and visitors centre that was closed to the public standingDSCF0642 over these guys who were bending over backwards for us to make my guitar of choice.
I was humbled!! Because what they were doing wasn’t really any extra cost to a normal guitar and they were really getting behind making me what I wanted..

DSCF0641While looking around I clapped eyes on something strange, a Stratocaster with a body of Burnt Ash and a Walnut neck.
“What the hell is that?!” I exclaimed. “It’s a special limited edition of 100 guitars” said David.DSCF0644

10 minutes later I’m playing it and while they choked over vast sums… dropped $300 off the price and then a 35% discount was added too… the deal was done.

FS2With a swapping out of the tweed case for a TSA approved SKB case, all that’s left is for the actual guitar to register on theFS1 Fender system so money can change hands and for it to arrive in Arkansas in a few days time or be picked up next Monday when we find out if the intensive effort on the Telecaster body can be completed.

It was full on 110% top quality and outstanding customer service from start to finish!!
Of Gibson, Taylor and Fender for quality of customer service, care and attention
1st is Fender (with no official factory tour)
2nd Taylor, purely for the factory tour and absolutely NO wish to go any distance AT ALL to aid, sell or offer any level of customer service face to face.
3rd is Gibson in Memphis who were so useless and S**te I don’t want to talk about them or my time there.

For the very first time in the USA, one company has come forward and offered me exactly what I wanted and more, everyone else has always found one or more issues or not even bothered.

Fender USA was that company and I am a proud and happy customer!

So the only thing left : learn to play the guitar!!

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