December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011!


In a few hours, 2010 heads into the record books and we'll take the shrinkwrap off of 2011.  With 326 posts (including this one) added to The Pond, what were the highlights of the year?

Formula 1 didn't really get going until February, with the rollout of the cars for the new Lotus and Virgin teams.  The death of the proposed American team, USF1, came as a sadness that deprived us of a full 26-car grid.  Still, the debut of the HRT entry a week before the first race of the season gave us 24 cars to lead into the 19 race season.  The first race, in Bahrain, saw HWMNBN win in his first race as a Ferrari driver, with the returning Slappy Schumacher finishing 6th in his first race back after retiring a few years ago... in a Mercedes this time.  Strange to see him in something other than red.  Fortunately, we never had to see him on the podium dressed in silver as he had a mediocre season.  Jenson Button earned a strategy win in Australia in what was probably the reigning World Driver's Champion highpoint for the season.  Button's involvement in horrific F1 accident was one of my personal highlights, however.  In Malaysia we saw HWMNBN put in the drive of the year, managing to keep his car in contention despite a clutch that stopped working on the parade lap... at least until there were two laps left, when his horribly abused engine grenaded itself.  The race in China brought us the Moooooo-oove of the Year, but it was in practice that we saw the strangest accident ever when Seb Buemi's Toro Rosso shed both of its front wheels at the same time.  A Formula 2 race in Marrakech introduced us to the concept of open-wheel "formula"-type cars going for a flight, something that we would revisit later in the year.  Monaco saw the rise of Birdy Ecclestone and the incredible disappearing Williams steering wheel, along with a contender in the Crash of the Year contest.  The Turkish Grand Prix saw the Red Bull team lose an easy 1-2, and the McLarens almost (but not quite) do the same thing in one of the more amazing races of the season.  The Red Bull unbroken string of pole positions came to an end in Montreal at the hands of Lewis Hamilton, who wound up having to push his car into the pits after he ran out of fuel on his cooldown lap.  That race will go down in history as having the worst coverage of all time.  Mark Webber had a very very bad day at Valencia.  McLaren continued to show that they have a sense of humor behind all the chrome and stern faces when they let Jense and Lewis build their own carI got quite het up over HWMNBN's whining and moaning at the German GP, which then led to Ferrari telling Felipe Massa to let his Spanish teammate go by.  We finally got a look at the track map for the new US Grand Prix circuit in Austin, TX, which has me jazzed beyond belief.... and a couple of weeks later, we got a car on the new Korean circuit for the first time, which brought a lot less enthusiasm from me.  The Japanese Grand Prix brought us the Great Suzuka Boat Races in quals and a parade of FAILs from the mechanics during the race.  I had my first try at liveblogging during the first ever practice session at Korea, which was run in the dry.  But then it rained for the race.  It rained a lot, and the race ended in the dark.  Red Bull won the Constructor's Championship in Brazil, complete with silly hat.  The final race at Abu Dhabi saw four men with a chance at winning the Driver's Championship, which was eventually taken home by Seb Vettel, becoming the youngest Champion in F1 history.  It was also the longest F1 season ever, with 19 races, and boy did I feel it.  I've never been happy when a season came to an end, but I was this year.  Despite all odds and a running joke, I did do an Awards post, so there's that.

In the WWII category, which doesn't actually exist and should, I had a decent enough year.  The SB2U Vindicator got itself a little bit of glory for once.  The USS Wasp, on the other hand, earned the distinction of the worst American carrier in the Pacific.  The USS Wolverine actually had three posts devoted to it, as befits the unsung hero of Naval aviation.  Much to my surprise, the "Name That Mystery Ship" contests were actually a hit, leading to posts on the USS Hammann and the USS Shaw.  Somehow I managed to wrangle a visit to Courtesy Aircraft, a seller of classic warbirds, and took my camera along.  What was to be a short post on some of the books in my WWII library became something a little longer.  The Royal Navy's Nelson-class battleships got some attention despite a lack of recognition from history, and I finished up the category's year with the fourth entry in the "What If..." series.  That amuses me somewhat, since the carrier battle of Wake Island had been percolating in my brain for a couple of years and I could never get it to come out right... the biggest problem being Admiral Fletcher's order to pull back.  He'd never violate that, and I couldn't come up with a good way to circumvent it.  In the end, I just said "to hell with it."

On the anime writing front, this might just have been the best year ever here at The Pond.  It began with the episode-by-episode recap of Ga-Rei Zero (link goes to an index post), an epic series of Pocky, cute schoolgirls, swordplay, Pocky, magic, rocket-powered wheelchairs of awesome, and Pocky.  What's not to like?  My Favorite Moments in Anime got a post, I analyzed a creepy girl, and gave Sora no Woto some love, too.  On the other hand, Angel Beats got a well-deserved "meh" for being a big ball of frustration.  WWII and Anime came together when I gave a long hard look at the ships of Strike Witches II ep11 and discovered a couple of unexpected and completely out of character mistakes.  It may have taken three years (and being reminded about it), but I finally got around to explaining why I hated the ending of Rocket Girls so much.  The Hidamari Sketch franchise is one of my favorites for many reasons, not least of which is that one of the main characters owns a rubber duckie.  I wound up writing an Appreciation of Yuno's Duck in one of many collisions of Anime and Rubber Duckies.  A surprisingly fun little OVA called Megane no Kanojo got a thumbs-up.  Finally, to bookend the epic Ga-Rei Zero series of posts came the not-quite-as-epic-but-more-important series, Wonderduck's Favorite Anime Series Of All Time.  Here's the links: Honorable Mentions, Number Four, Number Three, Number Two and Number One.  A fitting way to end the year, that.

In many ways, a good year for The Pond.  Thanks to all of you, my readers, for taking time from your busy schedules and dropping in.  We'll see you in 2011!

Now it is time for the party hats and noisemakers!

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December 28, 2010

Wonderduck's Favorite Anime Series Of All Time: Number One

What makes a favorite?  There should be something about it that keeps bringing you back to it, obviously.  The characters, the story, the drama or the comedy, something.  But lots of shows have great characters, or an outstanding storyline, funny jokes or gripping drama... what makes one series stand out above all others to become a favorite?  And what elevates a favorite to The Favorite?  Sometimes... rarely... the entire package is so outstanding that it's hard to point to one part and say "there, that right there makes it just that good."  And yet, that's the case of my Number One Favorite Anime Series Of All Time.  It's the rare situation where everything is so good that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts... and the parts are all excellent.

Even if it's a show about nothing.

more...

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December 27, 2010

Brilliant, Simply Brilliant!


I gather this is from 2008, but I just stumbled across it this morning... it's brilliant.  Who knew that Tony Blair liked The Clash?

And for all you poor, benighted souls who have never heard the original...

Music that changed the world of rock, right there...

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December 26, 2010

Red Bull Have A Wicked Sense Of Humor

The Red Bull F1 team sent out their annual Christmas card, and... well, Ferrari must be spitting nails right about now.

Nice, very very nice....

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December 25, 2010

The Twelfth Day Of Duckmas 2010


And so another year's round of Duckmas pictures comes to an end with Santa duckies on a snowdrift.  Thank you for coming by every day to take a look at what my lil' buddies were up to, and thank you for reading The Pond!

Merry Christmas everybody!

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December 24, 2010

The Eleventh Day Of Duckmas 2010


Star of wonder, star of light,
Star of royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Told you we'd be seeing the three Wise Men Ducks again.  Click "more" for an alternate version of this entry.
Thanks to the manager of the Duck U. Bookstore for providing the artwork!


more...

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December 23, 2010

The Tenth Day Of Duckmas 2010


"Mercy! Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me? Why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?"
-Ebenezer Scrooge from A Duckmas Carol.

I'm inordinately proud of this picture.  No photoshopping involved, other than reducing it to fit The Pond's formatting... this is how it looked out of the camera.  But how?  Read on to see the behind-the-scene story of A Duckmas Carol: The Picture.

more...

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December 22, 2010

The Ninth Day Of Duckmas 2010


Rudolph and Santa knew that there was just enough time for one last walkthrough before the big day.

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December 21, 2010

Oh Yeah, That.

It's not that I ever intended The Pond to become totally devoted to the Twelve Days of Duckmas, it's just happening that way.  Life has been a little busy recently, what with Christmas and the end of the semester at Duck U. and getting ready for the beginning of next semester and all.  Really, I haven't even had time to watch any anime at all.  Other than HoiHoi-San that is, and that was only 10 minutes long.

I've got Thursday off (yay Holiday Break!), and I've got everything I need to get done done, so I fully intend to crank out the Number One entry in Wonderduck's Favorite Anime Series Ever then.

Or just sleep.  One of the two.

(note: the next few entries in the Twelve Days of Duckmas are gonna be doozies)

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The Eighth Day Of Duckmas 2010


The Duck U Choral group loves this time of year...

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December 20, 2010

The Seventh Day of Duckmas 2010


Did you know that dropping a candy cane into some hot chocolate is very, very tasty?

Conversely, dropping a rubber duckie into hot chocolate is not tasty at all.

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December 19, 2010

What If...? #4: Admiral Fletcher's "Deaf Ear"

On December 11th, 1941, a Japanese invasion force assaulted US-owned Wake Island and was repulsed.  Shortly thereafter, a relief force consisting of Task Force 11 (Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, commanding, aboard USS Astoria), based around the USS Saratoga and the USS Tangier set out from Pearl Harbor.  The Tangier was a seaplane carrier, but had embarked the 4th Marine Defense Batallion as well as a vast amount of ammunition for the besieged island garrison.  The Saratoga carried her air wing and VMF-221, a Marine fighter squadron, which was to reinforce Wake's VMF-211.  As planned, TF11 would reach Wake Island on December 23th.

They never got there.  American intelligence sources thought that there was at least one Japanese carrier in the area, and possibly two.  Early on December 21st, planes from the IJN carriers Soryu and Hiryu, detached from the Pearl Harbor raiding force, appeared over the island.  While opinions back at Pearl were mixed, acting Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) Admiral William Pye, thought the risks too high and cancelled the reinforcement mission.  

There was quite a bit of anger over this among the ships and crew of the US Navy.  The unofficial war diary for "Fighting Six" (VF-6) aboard the USS Enterprise, providing distant cover for TF11, reads "Everyone seems to feel that it's the war between two yellow races."  On board the Saratoga, the bridge crew reportedly was so angry that Rear Admiral Aubrey Fitch was forced to leave the bridge so he couldn't hear the near-mutinous talk.  Her commanding officer, Captain Douglas, nearly begged Fitch to contact Fletcher on the Astoria to ask for permission to raid Wake.

But What If....

more...

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The Sixth Day Of Duckmas 2010


All together now: "Four EIGHT wingsFour Eight freakin' wings!"

I'm not as happy with this picture as I was when I was taking it.  At the time, it looked incredibly dramatic with the long, long shadows and the leading edges of the wings glowing in the setting sun.  Somewhere in the dark recesses of my camera, a lot of the drama disappeared.  I suppose I could have photoshopped it, but for the Twelve Days of Duckmas I try to stay away from such things... other than contrast adjustments and color correction, and I don't even do a whole lot of that.

Still, hey!  Eight wings!

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December 18, 2010

The Fifth Day Of Duckmas 2010


Sometimes I put a lot of effort into these photos.  The picture on the Third Day of Duckmas in 2009 is an example.  I had to come across the idea in the first place, figure out what duckies to use for it, then I ran around the Duck U campus trying to find a suitable bit of terrain... the day before the shoot.  Then there was getting to the top of the hill, not easy when it was as steep as it was and covered with snow and ice, setting up the duckies so they wouldn't blow away in the gusting winds and frozen surface.  Only then could I take the pictures, all the while hoping that they turned out because the sun was so bright that the screen was washed out.  THEN I had to trudge back up the hill and reset the duckies for another pose and do it all over again.  All of that was done with the air temperature around 5°F and winds blowing around 20mph.

Yes, sometimes I put a lot of effort into these photos.  And then there was today's picture.  Explaining to the Duck U HR office why I was borrowing their snowman took longer than the setup and picture-taking... and they're used to me doing odd things with duckies.  Yet this pic might be the one that turns out to be the best for Duckmas 2010 anyway.  Love it when that happens.

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December 17, 2010

The Fourth Day Of Duckmas 2010


The gingerbread duckies decided to branch out at this year's Duckmas party...

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Wonderduck's Favorite Anime Series Of All Time: Number Two

A favorite show should be like an old friend... someone that you've known for a long time, and that you consider family.  In the case of an anime, it should be something that you could pop in the DVD player and sink back into your chair, pleased that you're watching it.  Maybe you've even got some routine surrounding the series, like you only watch it once or twice a year... but you know, deep inside, that you will watch it, no matter what else is going on.  Maybe you know the show well enough to not even need subtitles (assuming you don't know Japanese).  In short, it's a series that, just by watching, makes you happy and warm inside.

Even if it's about sad girls in snow.

more...

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December 16, 2010

The Third Day Of Duckmas 2010


Three Wise Men Ducks make their way somewhere, watched by two wise guys. 

We'll be seeing the Wise Men Ducks again, somewhere down the line...

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December 15, 2010

Whoopsie!

I had intended to post Number Two in the "Wonderduck's Favorite Anime Series Of All Time" series, but... um... instead of just taking screenshots, I wound up watching the show instead.

Whoopsie.

As it is, I no longer have the time to get the post finished before I have to go to sleep... it's Finals/Buyback week at the Duck U. Bookstore, and that means we're pulling-out-our-hair-busy, from the moment we walk in to the moment we close, plus two hours after.  So tired.

So the WFASOAT:NT will be up on Thursday evening... thank you for your patience.

Picture completely unrelated

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The Second Day Of Duckmas 2010


You can't keep a good duckie down... even with an elf attendant.

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December 14, 2010

The First Day Of Duckmas 2010

And here we go...

Its the traditional beginning to the annual Twelve Days of Duckmas event here at The Pond, the "duckie in a fir tree."  It's how we've started the past three years, and there's no way I'd change that... traditions are important, after all.

Tune in every day between today and December 25th for another entry in the Twelve Days of Duckmas for 2010!

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