Hopeful Monsters

… they are things born perhaps slightly before their time; when it’s not known if the environment is quite ready for them – Max Ackerman – one of the two primary characters in Nicholas Mosley’s book, Hopeful Monsters.

According to Wiki, the German geneticist Richard Goldschmidt (1878 – 1958) was the first scientist to use the term “hopeful monster”.  Goldschmidt believed the large changes in evolution were caused by macromutations (large mutations).  Some modern scientists have written that hopeful monsters are neither impossible nor should be seen as anti-Darwinian because, even if proven to exist, they would not replace the evidence for gradual evolution by mutation but supplement it. The early neo-Darwinian synthesis theorists had rejected hopeful monsters due to lack of evidence however, some now believe that Goldschmidt was not entirely wrong.

The author Nicholas Mosley is the half brother of Max Mosley and the eldest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the English politician known principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists, and his first wife, Lady Cynthia Mosley. Lady Cynthia died in 1933, and in 1936 Sir Oswald married Diana Mitford, in a ceremony in Germany attended by Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler.  Monsters to a man.  Max was born in 1940.

In my teenage years, when my universe revolved around motor sport, I was keenly aware of Max Mosley’s racing exploits.  He competed nationally and internationally between 1966 and 1968 before retiring and becoming the M in March Engineering; he would eventually spend four terms as president of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile).

The FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motorcyclisme) is the two-wheeled equivalent of the FIA, acting as sanctioning body for the MotoGP World Championship and the overall governing body of motorcycling sport at a world level. It groups together 112 National Motorcycle Federations across six continents.

All of which brings me, in a roundabout fashion, to my new Monster. The 78.9 hp 696 variant had to go – physically too small (Bike magazine described it as a two thirds size motorcycle) it was playing havoc with my back and wrists. Enter the 112 hp 821 Ducati Monster Dark. This is more of a Darwinian evolution than a macromutation – it weighs more, mainly due to being water-cooled, but has much improved space for the rider.  It feels like you are sitting in the bike rather than over the bars – a disconcerting aspect of the 696.  Best of all, even with stock cans, it sounds like it has just escaped the underworld – I love it 🙂

Guilty secrets ...Folding ...

You don’t stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding is the well known adage of the more mature rider.  There is no finer example than the 90 year old John Berger who not only still rides but has the descriptive skills to express what the rest of just feel:

except for the protective gear you’re wearing, there’s nothing between you and the rest of the world. The air and the wind press directly on you. You are in the space through which you are travelling.  Your contact with the outside world is more intimate. You’re more conscious of the road surface, its subtle variations, its potholes, whether it’s dry or damp, of mud or gravel; you’re aware of the hold of the tyres, or their lack of it; bends produce another effect: if you enter one properly, it holds you in its arms. A hill points you to the sky. A descent lets you dive into it. Every contour line on the map of the country you are riding through means your axis of balance has changed…This perception is visual but also tactile and rhythmic. Often your body knows quicker than your mind.

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Sunny afternoon …

Snow was forecast for the weekend so it became a matter of urgency to ‘escape’ on one of the bikes, however briefly. The main incentive was to try out the GoPro chest mount, not trusting the sticky mount on my helmet – it is expensive equipment to see bouncing down the road in the rear view mirrors.

So, for those who do not suffer motion sickness, here is another slow TV episode, this time a brief ride around Hexham, taking in the Abbey, the A69, A68 and Stagshaw roundabout.  The backing tracks are royalty free and include:

Cataclysmic Molten Core – the Jingle Punks
Namaste – Audionautix
Mean Streetz – MK2

As I enter the A69 and head for the A68, Mean Streetz is replaced by the ‘music’ of a V-Twin on full song – with accompanying wind noise 😈

The still is “me and my shadow” on the A69 – see below for the video – hold on tight 🙂

Me and ...

This may occasionally look quick but no speed limits were exceeded – the buzz comes from the acceleration, not top speed. Nor were any animals/creatures harmed in the making of this film – one of the advantages of winter riding – a bug free visor 🙂

Travel theme: Chapeau!

My immediate reaction to this challenge was ‘I don’t do hats‘ even though the maternal grandmother and great grandmother were obsessed with the things (take a look at this wedding photo – great grandmother Emily is sat next to the bridesmaid on the right – what a concoction!).

Then it occurred to me that when I travel on two wheels I always wear a hat/lid/helmet (delete to your preference), so here are two of the three atop the Monster:

... Raw lid atop Monster

... helmet atop Ducati Monster

The Monster & Me….ad infinitum

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie – this is a cropped version – the original can be seen on the smartphone which is taking a live feed from the camera via a wifi connector which then fires the shutter.  The Monster’s pipes are visible on the phone but not on the cropped image. In theory, this goes on forever, or at least until I am reduced to a single pixel 😦

The Monster & Me

There is a delay between firing the shutter and the image appearing on the smartphone, so it is the non-flash image that you can see on the phone’s screen.

Re the clips below – mute the sound on the Youtube clip and let the SoundCloud track play over the video.  I think it works better and changes the mood of the piece – but not quite as significantly as it does in the Adam Curtis ensemble – While the Band Played On (I am persuaded @smallhours2 🙂 )

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

I am neither stardust nor golden but some mornings I do wake up feeling like billion year old carbon; which reminds me – I may share the same DNA as my Dad but in many ways we were complete opposites.  He was of an entirely different hue; when he retired he became passionate about stamp collecting, if such a thing be possible – when I left full-time employment (spot the difference) I bought a small Suzuki, eventually acquired my Category A licence and then immediately upgraded to a Ducati.  I can hear him now – “It is time you grew up my lad” – he wasn’t the last to say that either.  I remain defiantly juvenile as my wiser and older children will testify.

My hue? – for the most part I dress down in clothes designed to look well-worn and lived-in, predominantly blacks and greys.  To compensate, my prized ‘toys’ have a silver and golden hue – not bling, just tasteful and very quick :-).  This is the Imola 72 bodykit version of the Ducati 696+ which has the capacity to delight and terrify in equal measure:

Monster 696+Monster 696+Monster 696+Monster 696+

Henpecked, my Dad may have settled too easily into a retired life but as I have written elsewhere, I have admired no one else more. He is still around – I see him in the texture of the skin on the back of my hand; I hear him when I rant at the latest idiocy on television; I sense him in the room when I rest my elbows on the table, hands clasped in contemplation above a dinner plate – “get those elbows off the table Robin – but Mum, Dad’s doing it!”.

This is Dad as a young boy, fooling around in front of the camera – on the left with his Mum and on the right with an inner tube on the beach:Dad

Spot the similarities – this is yours truly, also ‘gurning’ in front of the camera, an old lorry inner tube lying on the sand:On the beach in the 1950sIt was a habit I found hard to break – chastised for “ruining the photographs“, in retrospect I think a guest appearance by the junior Quasimodo changes the hue of an otherwise dull family photo :-).  (and that is the Kodak Brownie 127 around my neck)Cullen