February 28, 2006

F1 Update!: The Cast List

Hello again, friends! F1 UPDATE! has now officially returned for 2006!

(*cue cheering*)

Thank you, thank you. We're glad to be back for what's shaping up to be a fascinating and entertaining F1 season. We've got new rules for the qualifying sessions (again), we've got three new teams on the grid (BMW Sauber, MF1, Super Aguri), we've lost a race (Belgian GP)... but the one thing that hasn't changed from the F1 Circus is that it's populated by a huge group of... interesting characters.

With the return of F1 UPDATE! today, we felt that it might be good to refresh our memories of each of those induhviduals... call it a primer, if you will, for the next few months. After the break, we'll begin! more...

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February 27, 2006

F1: why?

Recently, I've been exchanging e-mails with a long-time friend of mine. While we've known each other since grade school, in recent years we've mutually fallen off each other's maps (hey, it happens to the best of friends!), and other than about six hours total of visiting the past two summers, it's probably fair to say that we're out of the loop on each other's hobbies and pasttimes (and other things, too... he had no idea about my October Cardiac Event, for example).

So anyway, He Who Shall Remain Nameless Until He Comments On The Pond and I were e-mailing, and he brought up Formula 1 (logical, since he glanced at The Pond), and how he knew little about it (other than he thought of them as "Indycars," and NASCAR as "muscle cars"... which isn't all that far from the truth, actually).

Which got me to wondering... why do I enjoy F1 so much? I think I figured it out while I was munching on some sweet & sour chicken (not so good, but it was better than a couple of granola bars for dinner).

It's different.

Which, I admit, sounds really weak. But consider: Grand Prix racing has been around for 100 years (LeMans, France... they're throwing a Centennial event this year during the French GP, which might actually make this year's race worth watching), but here in the US, it barely makes a ripple in the racing waters.

NASCAR gets the lion's share of attention over here, with Indycar/CART garnering the rest, and F1 barely getting noticed, even during the USGP (last year not withstanding). Those of us who are F1 fans are something of an elite (l337?) group, in other words... because there are so few of us around.

Lets face it, deep inside all of us, there's a little place that's proud to be fans of something nobody's ever heard of. Official First Reader Mallory and myself formed the unofficial Zsolt Baumgartner fan club, for heaven's sake... if that isn't "something nobody's ever heard of," I don't know what is!

Yes, F1 is the most technically advanced form of motorsport on the planet, with the cars being more closely akin to jet fighters than to my Camry. Yes, the drivers are probably the best on the planet (insert Jordan joke here). Yes, the tracks are often the most challenging around (note: lose Hungaroring, please). And, yes, the locales are exotic and far-flung (like... um... Indianapolis).

But, darn it, it's FUN to be unique, too. And F1 Fandom here in the US is certainly that... I'd be willing to bet that the most knowledgable US racefan, when asked to name as many F1 drivers as he can, would say "Schumacher... um... er...."

So, yeah, there's a bit of elitism involved. But, durn it, the sport is so cool, too.

I'm rambling, and I have no idea how to finish this entry. Nothing to see here, move along.

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February 26, 2006

"Welcome to Bahrain: Don't Blink, You'll Miss It!"

Earlier, I was looking for Bahrain on my 4" diameter globe... and I couldn't find it. Now, I'm pretty good at geography, but this was odd. I mean, this globe, small though it is, shows Monaco, shows Slovenia/Croatia/Bosnia/Serbia AND prints the names to boot, even though they're jammed into a space smaller than the end of a Pocky stick, heck it even shows Azerbajan... and shows the full spelling, too. On a tiny little globe!

So why no Bahrain on this thing? And then I looked Bahrain up.

Someone once said "There's no there there." I think they were talking about Cleveland, but they may as well have been talking about Bahrain. It's situated just off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf... and covers a grand total land area of 665 square kilometers.

That's about three times the size of Washington, D.C.

The distance around the perimeter of Bahrain is 161 km. The F1 race length is just over 308 km. "Hey, twice around the country, loser buys the drinks!"

Two weeks and counting... I can't wait!

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February 24, 2006

The Struggles of the Official Overseas Reader

Flotsky is in the process of quitting smoking.

Go give him encouragement... GO FLOTSKY!!!

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February 22, 2006

Klein's Bar Fight.

Klein Denies Nightclub Scuffle

Christian Klein yelled "Red Bull for everybody... it's on me!" A weak cheer went up from the people gathered around the bar.

As he drained another can of the energy drink, he noticed a dark figure sitting in the corner of the bar. Disengaging himself from the pneumatic blonde that had wrapped herself around his arm, Klein stood and walked over. "You're not drinking, friend. Here," he said, putting a Red Bull on the table. "Enjoy, it's good for you."

"...it gives you wings," quoted the seated the dark man. "It gave YOU a drive. How good could it be?"

Klein, confused, said "Uhm... uhh... er...."

"Just give away cans of the stuff, and everybody'll love you, right?" The dark figure viciously swept the can off his table and stood. "Meanwhile, real drivers lose out when your boys buy up all the teams. And they still gave you a ride... their own Austrian ubermench, that's you."

"Uhh... I think I'll be going now," said Klein.

"Scuderia Torro Rosso, what the h*ll sort of name is that? You idiots took away the last chance I had to drive in F1, and now you want to give me a can of your precious energy drink? Pfaugh," spat the dark man. "I'll show you energy. I'll show you how a real driver works."

"Wait, I know you... you're..."

Klein never saw the fist that decked him, or the kicks that made his ribs groan, or the blows that broke his hands.

The next morning, Klein awoke, wondering how he'd explain this to his superiors. Then he saw his face in the mirror, and knew it just got more difficult. There, on his forehead, was carved the letter "Z."

Baumgartner was back... and he was angry.

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February 20, 2006

2007 Camry... NASCAR style!

Man... if only MY Camry looked like this...

Who knows if it's fast? Who knows if it'll be any good? If those pics don't cause teams like Hendrick Motorsports or DEI to start sending hosannahs up to St. Fangio of the Church of Speed, nothing will.

That'd be an interesting look on their F1 cars, don'tcha think?

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February 19, 2006

Daytona a doozy.

Now THAT'S what I call racin'!

As opposed to racing, which is what they do in F1. A more genteel form of motorsports, if you will.

But, man, hoo-hah! What a race that was. I've always thought that NASCAR was crazy to have their "biggest race" first in the season, but every time Daytona goes off, I always have to stop and say "y'know, maybe they've got something there."

There's only one race like it in the world: the Indy 500. Nothing on the F1 calendar comes close to being what Daytona is to NASCAR, unless you s-t-r-e-t-c-h and say "Monte Carlo." First race of the Euro season, glitz and glamour, yadda yadda yadda...
...and I'd have to disagree. Again, I say it: there is no other race in the world (save for Indy) like the Daytona 500.

Indeed, there may not be any races that are more IMPORTANT, either. Jimmie Johnson can now say that he's won his league's biggest race. People who have won the Indy 500 can point to that win and say the same thing.

...but is there something similar in F1? I don't believe so. I'd suggest that being a CHAMPION in F1 is more important than having won any individual race, and it may be the biggest championship of all motorsports.

But shouldn't there be some sort of weight on having won the "(insert name) Grand Prix"? Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking Monte Carlo, or Monza, or Silverstone, or Spa. They just don't seem, individually, to be as BigMcLargeHuge as Daytona.

Actually, I take that back. I CAN think of one GP race that would fall into that category... if it was being run anymore: the old Nurburgring. God, what a track... somewhere online I found an 8 minute long video of a hotlap of the old track being driven by a BMW M3 GTR, and it's awe-inspiring. THAT would be a jewel in any driver's crown... if only Old Nurburgring was wide enough to handle two F1 cars. At times it barely looks wide enough to handle one streetcar.

I'd be interested in hearing what Flotsky, the Official Overseas Reader and Simon, the Official Race Correspondent from Bahrain, have to say about this... if you guys have any thoughts, please let us know in the comments!

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February 17, 2006

Coolest Stuff... 3V4R!!!

Gather ye 'round, my loyal readers, for I, The Duck of Wonders, am going to spin a tale of wonder and delight. A tale of a place where the odd is normal, the weird is regular, and the ducks... ah, the ducks are truly revered as the gods they are.

I refer to a little place in Washington state called Archie McPhee's. In the Chicagoland area, there are places of joy and wonderment similar to McPhee's, places like Uncle Fun's, but they pale in comparison to the glory of the McPhee.

Where else can you find enough pirate swag to outfit your own ship, things that would make PETA blanche with fear, the sort of action figures that didn't exist when I was but a newly hatched duckling, and most importantly...

THE BIGGEST SELECTION OF DEVIL DUCKS ANYWHERE!!! All these fine feathered comrades, all in one place... my collection of rubber ducks (current count: 122) would be hollow without the multitude of devil ducks I've acquired (most recently, the terror of the bathtub, the Pirate Devil Duckie).

All hail The McPhee! Bringer of whimsy and mirth! Bring unto them your finest meats and cheeses!

(please note: While I freely admit that this is an entry into a contest that the fine folks at Archie McPhee's are holding, every word of this post is true... I have purchased many an item from them in the past, and intend to do so in the future. I do not give recommendations lightly, my friends, so heed my words: if you need bacon bandages, bobble-head nuns, or a set of tiki mugs, direct your browser to www.McPhee.com. You'll be glad you did... and tell 'em The Wonderduck sent'cha! No, it won't help in the contest, but they'll laugh confusedly.)

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February 15, 2006

Super Aguri names their drivers!

Took 'em long enough... the season only starts in 21 days, after all. Anyway, the expected Takuma Sato is the primary driver, and former Formula Nissan driver Yuji Ide the secondary.

I put the over/under on points for SA this season at 6.

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February 14, 2006

22 days and counting...

...and then I don't have to come up with stuff to write about anymore! The F1 Circus will start it's annual world tour, yayyyyyy!

Of course, we know about Spa being dead this year, but now we're beginning to find out that Hockenheim may be on its last leg as well. Good job, Bernie! Kill off the good tracks, leave France and Hungary untouched.

Next up, Silverstone... the track that Darth Bernie despises. I'm not sure why, exactly, but if Silverstone fell off the planet, he'd not be sad at all. Probably because of Sir Jackie's pants.

Ah well. At least we've got Daytona on Sunday.

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February 12, 2006

Elfen Lied

Dark. Grim. Violent. Cute. This is the way the world ends.

Or, at least, that's what Elfen Lied would have us believe.

A mutation has begun to spring up in humanity, one that looks very much like us except for the horns (that look disturbingly like cat-ears) that form on the head. This mutated form of humanity is called a 'diclonius,' and it has abilities beyond those of normal humans... the ability to direct 'mental arms' called vectors.

These vectors are (more-or-less) invisible, immensely strong, and each diclonius has at least four of them.

And the diclonius despise humanity. more...

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February 11, 2006

"relax... we understand j00."

So you take two American gamers and drop them in Japan. Throw in a few zombies, Rent-A-Zillas, Magical Girls, elite assassins from Sony and Sega, a member of the Tokyo Cataclysm Police, a l337 ninja, a prototype of the new Emotional Doll System... and Tohya, who nobody can really figure out yet.

Throw amazing pencil art and a meandering storyline that takes you from the annual E3 expo to the recording studio for a bishoujo game, from an Anna Miller's diner to The Cave of Evil. Add a huge dose of excellent characterization, ranging from a 'loser fanboy' that's also an artist, to a retired Japanese Idol, a struggling voice actress (who's a dead-shot with a coffeepot), a few schoolgirls, and a space hamster named 'Boo.'

Put in the occasional sight gag and a huge dose of humor.

Mix well.

The result? The long-running webcomic named Megatokyo.

I'm hardly going to claim to be an expert on the series, which has run (as of Saturday, Feb 11th, 2006) for 819 strips, seeing that I've only really gotten into the thing over the past few months. I have read the whole series, and am quite willing to proclaim it worth the time and effort to do... with a dialup modem, no less.

At its heart, Megatokyo is the usual "stranger in a strange land" story, in a Japanese manga style. Woven around that core, there's also a romantic storyline, a technothriller/cyberpunk adventure, and quite a few others.

In fact, the large number of stories and characters are one of the main complaints often levied against Megatokyo. A n00b reader really can't just 'pick up the storyline', because it refers back to itself so often. It'd be like picking up book seven of a ten part series and expecting to understand the whole thing.

Which is why I started from the first entry and kept going, figuring I'd either love it and catch up to the current point (which I did, sometime in December), or I'd hate it and give up after a week or so (maybe 200 entries).

It's quite the read, with a very complex plot... or a very simple one, depending on how you look at it. The art ranges to passable at the beginning to awesome (currently). Indeed, the past few desktops I've had on my computer here at the Pond have been from Megatokyo.

It'll make you laugh, it'll make you think, it'll make you care about these characters... and what more can you really ask for from a storyteller?

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February 10, 2006

Gee... that's purty!

All right, I'm doing things out of order from how I expected. Today is news of F1... more specifically, the new McLaren paintjob.

Take last year's white & black livery (seen here), add a splash of red...

...then turn the white to CHROME...

...and the result is THIS: the hottest looking car on the track. I had thought the Midland MF1 was going to take the honors this year... I was wrong.

The Johnny Walker logo seems to hearken back to the era of the old John Player Special logos of the '70s, too...

People often have said "If it looks good, it is good." I dunno if that's the case, but if nothing else McLaren have gotten the first part down pat.

(thanks to grandprix.com for the picture)

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February 09, 2006

Coming Friday and the weekend...

The arrival of a new commenter, named Tohya, in the post about the charming Funky Cat Maybe, has spurred me to finally write a piece about Megatokyo .

Also, some scribblings about an anime series titled Elfen Lied, one of the darkest TV shows I've ever seen... and I'm not limiting myself to just anime here, but all television. Yes, it's THAT dark.

Oh, and some F1 talk as well.

*phew* Looks like I might have some work ahead of me... in that 'not really work at all' sense, of course, but still.

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"Battle Inventory... is OVAH!"

Thank you, Fukui-san, for that headline!

Yes, inventory is done for the year at the Duck U. Bookstore. I'm a happy duck, because now it's more or less smooth sailing until the end of the semester.

Inventory went well, but we had a few rocks & shoals to deal with... like a procedural change from last year that caught the inventory service unprepared and understaffed. Fortunately, they were able to call in another body at zero notice, so that helped.

Only real problem was that it started SO darn early... I was in the store at 730am, when I'm usually not even awake at that time!

Oh well. So it goes.

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February 08, 2006

Swimming Pool is OFF!

Now, once again, the Belgian 200m Breaststroke Grand Prix at the Swimming Pool at Spa-Francoamerican is officially off!!!

Check grandprix.com for the article, I'm taking a quick break from inventory to post this.

Boo-hiss!

(update: the link to the grandprix.com article is HERE. The Belgian National Sporting Authority apparantly pulled the plug on it, in effect saying 'if we race there, someone's gonna die.' Track won't be ready. *sigh*)

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February 07, 2006

AIEEEEE!!!

It's Inventory Week at the Duck U. Bookstore. More than a little bit of stress involved, and not a whole lot of spare time to blog.

Just wanted y'all to know.

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February 05, 2006

Swimming Pool Saved!

The official F1 event calendar came out this weekend... and there were no surprises on it. Except one.

The Belgian 100m Freestyle GP at Spa-Francopants is on the calendar.

This despite the fact that the track will supposedly be unfit for racing in September... I dunno what Darth Bernie is thinking, but kudos, really, to him for saving the Swimming Pool and keeping it on the calendar. All kidding about "swimming pools" and "lake track" and the like, Spa is one of the truly legendary circuits on the schedule (along with Monte Carlo, the Nurburgring, Monza, and others) and losing it would put a big hole in the F1 Experience.

Besides, who can forget the image of Vitantonio Liuzzi lapping whilst wearing a life-preserver last year?

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February 01, 2006

This makes me silly-happy!

I'm not much for uber-kawaii chibi fluff. Never have been, and can't imagine that I ever will be. Hello Kitty makes me go "goodbye lunch."

So why is it that THIS VIDEO makes me smile like a complete goofball?

Is it the obvious Thriller referencing in the dance moves? Is it the fact that the catgirls come from pods (I always thought so)? Is it the ridiculously happy expression on the faces of the possessed?

I dunno. What I DO know is that Funky Cat Maybe is going right into my files under "guilty pleasure."

(there's a 176mb torrent available for download here as well. I can't stress how much better than the GoogleVideo it looks... and yes, I downloaded it using dialup!)

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