November 08, 2011

F1 on SPEED!: Abu Dhabi 2011

The Driver's Championship is sewn up.  First, second and third in the Constructor's Championship are locked in, and fourth may as well be.  Ladies and Gentlemen, that is the exciting backdrop for this year's Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi!  Let's take a look at the track map:

We've had two previous Grands Prix here, and to be honest neither of them were all that great.  Oh sure, watching HWMNBN get stuck behind The Red Menace for the entire race when he needed to get past to have a chance at winning the Driver's Championship was... satisfying... but not exciting.  But that was the past; with today's KERS/DRS combination, there will undoubtedly be some passing.  It's just hard to get excited about this race, all things considered. 

It IS desperately important Sauber, Toro Rosso, Force India and Renault, however.  These teams are all racing to finish fifth in the Constructor's Championship, and all four have a decent chance for the "best of the rest" prize.  Renault has the lead with 72 points, followed by Force India's 51.  Sauber and Toro Rosso are tied on points with 41, but Sauber leads the Red Bull junior team by dint of better finishes.  The difference between finishing fifth and eighth is measured in the tens of millions of dollars when Darth Bernie writes the checks at the end of the year, and you'd best believe all four teams would kill for that cash.  Indeed, it could literally be the difference between life and death for a team like Sauber, the last of the privateers.  We'll keep an eye on that during the race, for sure!

As will the good folks at SPEED, who are bringing us their usual great coverage for the race weekend!  Here's when it all goes down:

Friday: 3a - 430a  P1 (streaming), 7a - 840a  P2 (live)
Saturday: 4a - 5a  P3 (streaming), 7a - 830a  Quals (live)
Sunday: 630a - 9a  Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi (live), 2p - 430p race replay

F1U! will be all over it, too!  It's the penultimate race of the season; as dull as the backstories may be, it's still F1, and the season is nearly over... gotta enjoy it while it lasts!

See you then!

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November 07, 2011

Attention To Orders


I would like to call your attention to the creation of a new category here at Wonderduck's Pond.  It's been a long time coming, and it's an even longer time overdue, but I'm happy to finally announce the debut of the "Military History" category.  It'll take some time to get everything sorted out and filed away, but now there's someplace to put my military stuff other than the "various" bucket.

I'm actually surprised at how much MilHist stuff I've written... should have done this a long time ago.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:58 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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November 06, 2011

Ducks In Anime: Yuno What It Is


-Hidamari Sketch x SP Ep01
It's been a long time since we last got to hang with the gang from the Hidamari Apartments.  The arrival of the first of two Specials for the third series has fixed that, however, and with a vengeance! 

L to R: Nori, Nazuna, Yuno, Miyako, Hiro, Sae
The first half, where the six girls visit an art museum, is pretty much a perfect HidaSketch episode.  There's humor, kindness, fun... just a group of six different personalities doing things together.  If this doesn't sound like a great way to spend fifteen minutes, then the HidaSketch franchise is not for you.  Those of you who are fans of the show are probably scrambling for the torrent sites right now.  The second half, where the girls (minus Hiro and Sae, who are studying for college exams) visit an indoor swimming pool, isn't quite as heartwarming.  Point in fact, there's a lot of fanservice. 

Not that there's anything wrong with that... quite the contrary!  It just felt a little... wrong for HidaSketch.  As a visual exercise though, it was plenty good.  The Special ends with the sleepover from Vol 5 of the manga, where Yuno falls asleep as soon as it starts.  It's a little rushed, but still fun.

Then of course, there's Yuno's duckie.  How I've missed seeing it every week!  Well, there's still one more Special to go, and then the fourth season with air (date still TBA, last I checked).  Plenty of duckie still to come, and I for one wouldn't have it any other way.

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November 04, 2011

The Yan Yan Pirates Return!


Yarrrr, me hearties!  The accursed scalliwags of the snack scene, the Yan Yan Pirates, have once agains been spotted sailing the (very) low seas!  Hide your tasty delicacies, for none are safe while they're around... and to them knaves the Pocky Ninjas, hear this: they're comin' fer you, too!

(thanks to The Imperial Palace for the use of their ship, and for the yummy orange chicken, too!)

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:51 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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November 03, 2011

Name This Mystery Ship VIII


Go ahead, name this mystery ship!  I dare you!  If anybody gets it, they get a post of their own choosing (and I'll dine upon my chapeau).

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:55 PM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
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November 01, 2011

Cloverfield

Back in 2007, the hype machine kicked into high gear for a film called Cloverfield.  It was one of those movies that I really wanted to see... while I've never been a monster movie kind of duck, this one seemed to be pretty clever.  When it was released in early 2008, however, I never had a chance to get to the theater and it came and went before I could.   It got good reviews, cleared a tidy $150million over its production costs, and was generally considered a success.  Thanks to the wonders of satellite television and a DVR, I finally got to watch it this evening.

Essentially a Godzilla film for the 21st Century, the concept was that a giant monster is attacking New York City.  The hook, however, is that the entire movie is actually "found footage," from the digital video camera of a guy amusingly named Hud (which is an acronym for "Head's Up Display").  From the initial attack in the Hudson River (just barely seen from a rooftop) to a last desperate attempt to kill it by the US military, everything we see is from the point-of-view of Hud's camera.  We see what he sees, or pointedly doesn't see.

As a result, the monster is for the most part seen only in brief glimpses, and we never see the entire creature in one shot.  This is a great conceit, one that goes a great way towards ramping up the tension of the movie.  We "ride along" with Hud as he follows three of his friends, first in an attempt to get out of Manhattan, then in a rescue run of one of their girlfriends.  Along the way, we see the Brooklyn Bridge destroyed, a battle between the US Army and the monster, people exploding from monster toxin, one tower of the Time-Warner Building leaning against the other, airstrikes, bombing runs from B-2 bombers, an oil tanker capsizing, people being eaten, self-propelled artillery pieces being stepped on, and on and on.  The special effects are excellent.  You can believe that what you're seeing was actually happening and being filmed on a handheld camera... shaky picture and all.  It's quite the wild ride to be honest.  There's a lot of things to like in Cloverfield.

Unfortunately, the characters aren't one of them.  The four main people are Rob, Lily, Marlena and Hud.  Rob's a self-absorbed jerk who drags his friends on a quixotic mission to rescue his girlfriend... who is on the opposite side of the monster from where they are.  Lily is a cipher.  Marlena is a sarcastic, annoying twit who shows one brief flicker of humanity just before she dies, and Hud is a whiny twit who's constant complaining is just grating.  Of course, he's the one who's dialogue we hear the most, mainly consisting of "Rob!  Hey, Rob!  Rob!  Oh my god!  Rob!"  To be fair, they are under a lot of stress... it's not every day a 30-story monster eats your city... and they're supposed to be normal people thrust into a decidedly not normal situation, but I think Director Matt Reeves and Director JJ Abrams went a little too far emphasizing that fact.

I realized about halfway through the movie that, while I couldn't care less what happened to the characters (unless they died... I was okay with that), I was having fun.  That's the mark of an entertaining movie... maybe not a good one, but an entertaining one.  As is, I'd give Cloverfield three and a half stars out of five, with a warning that the "shakycam" style of filming will not suit everybody's taste.  It was definitely worth the 90 minutes, though it's not likely to be a rewatch.

The real star of the film

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