May 28, 2019

Train. Drone. Camera.

There are times when I find "drones", or what used to be called "R/C aircraft", to be incredibly tiresome.

This is not one of those times.

Neither is this.
I find it interesting that at no time does the drone fly directly over the train... maybe some sort of rule against it?  Is the pilot afraid they'll shoot it down or something?

Now instead of a camera looking at a train, how about a camera looking FROM a train?
That's the Shonan Monorail, by the way.  I have this feeling I've seen it in an anime somewhere... Railgun, maybe?

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May 23, 2019

Motorsport Holiday!

That's right, it's Memorial Day weekend here in the US, and that means it's time for all auto racing fans to plop themselves down on the couch with the remote, a bag of chips, and just spend the entirety of your Sunday watching car races!

First off is Monaco, and we probably won't be seeing this view all that much.  Monaco is dredging out tons of silt from near the Tunnel exit, so as to create a firm base for some land reclamation.  It's supposed to be finished by 2022, at which point the run from the Tunnel will be much more dramatic, going between highrises and the like.

There will be a sense of sadness around Monaco this year though.  Just this past Monday two-time Monaco winner and three-time World Driver's Championship winner Niki Lauda passed away at the age of 70.  By now you know the story of his terrible fiery accident at the Nurburgring, how it severely burned his head and neck, and worst of all inhaling hot gases scorched his lungs.  At one point comatose, he was given Last Rites.  And then, because he was a bad-ass, Lauda came back six weeks later to race at Monza, because there was a championship to be won.  He finished fourth.  A reporter says that after the race, Lauda had to peel bloodsoaked bandages off his head.  He went into the final race at Mt Fuji Circuit in Japan three points up on rival James Hunt.  Due to terrible rains, he withdrew, stating it was too dangerous.  He wound up losing the championship by one point.  The courage it took to get back into the car only 40 days after nearly dying was immense... he has since said that he was absolutely terrified.  In recent times, he'd been an adviser to Mercedes.  He had a lung transplant last year, and was undergoing dialysis treatments of late when he died.  I don't use the term "hero" very often, but we are not likely to see the level of heroic bravery it took for him to drive again.  Fortunately, we are in a time where we most likely won't see similar circumstances arise.

Speaking of not seeing things, we won't be seeing Fernando Alonso in this year's Indy 500.  The McLaren effort failed to give him a car able to qualify in the top 33, being bumped at the very last moment possible.  I suppose if another team withdraws, he'd be allowed in, but... not likely to happen.  I'll admit, that removes a lot of interest in the 500 for me, but what the hell, it's only once a year and it's THE biggest race in America.  Right?

Then in the late afternoon/early evening, NASCAR brings us the Coca-Cola 600 from the Charlotte Motor Speedway.  I have very little to say about this race; I haven't paid any attention to stock car racing this year at all.  But it makes the three-race extravaganza complete, so it is not to be scoffed at.

Monaco is at 8am Pond Central, Indy around 11am, and the 600 is at 5pm.  That makes it look like there's a few hours between the end of the 500 and the beginning of the NASCAR race, but wait!  Some bright spark at ABC noticed that gap, and decided that we'll be seeing the Monaco GP on tape-delay on the network beginning right about 2pm.  One could literally go from 11am to roughly 9pm watching autoracing.  For those of us who prefer NOT to wait, ESPN2 will have Monaco at the correct time.

So... I've got chips.  I've got gatorade.  There will probably be pizza.  Lets race!

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May 17, 2019

I Had No Idea...

Y'all remember The Art Of Noise, right?  New Wave band, did that thing with Max Headroom, and that other thing with Tom Jones, and that other other thing with Duane Eddy, and the video with the kinda creepy little girl directing people to destroy various musical instruments in various entertaining ways?  Right, that song was titled "Close (To The Edit)", and like a lot of Noise's stuff, it still holds up really well today.

But here's the thing: I always assumed that it was all electronic stuff and samples and drum machines.  And maybe it was, but I only just learned that Trevor Horn produced the band... indeed, he was actually part of the band.  And between him, Anne Dudley, and a Fairlight, there was actual, y'know, music.  That could be played live.  A stunning concept for what I thought was nothing but a studio band.

How did I discover this?  Like most revelations, I discovered it accidentally, by stumbling over a 2004 Prince's Trust concert celebrating the career of Trevor Horn.  His work with The Buggles, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Yes, Seal, ABC, and others all performed live... and then this:
Completely gobsmacked.  I knew Horn played bass, but holy crepe on a stick, he does seem to be pretty damn good at it.  Oh, and those drummers are doing some serious work.

And it was live.  Who knew the Art of Noise was a real live boy?

Note: If the video isn't working, click here!

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May 14, 2019

Tim Conway 1933 - 2019

Still the funniest thing I've ever seen.  

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Random Anime Picture #147: Starry Night With Beach

-Manaria Friends, Ep06
Every so often, a series will come down the pike that takes you by surprise, hits you on the back of the head with a sock filled with rocks, rifles through your pocket for spare change, then leaves you for dead on the sidewalk.

Manaria Friends is not that show.

Instead, what MF is is a gently believable series about two girls that have a thing for each other.  As they go through their days at Wizarding U., we learn about them, the world they're in, the growth cycle of dragons, and how a piano stays in tune outdoors in the snow.

not appearing in this picture: snow
While there is magic thrown about in the show, which makes sense since it's set in a college for magic users, it's far from being the centerpoint.  Upon reflection, there's only two or three episodes of this 10-episode series that require magic to continue the story... and one Lighting Designer that just pissed me right the hell off by using magic to provide the stage lighting, but that's neither here nor there.

Instead, our show is about Anne (right) and Grea (the other one).  Anne is a princess of the kingdom of Manaria, where the show is set.  She is a prodigy in the use of magic, seemingly more powerful than many (all?) of the teachers.  The problem is, of course, that she's not overly trained in the use of that ability, meaning there tends to be a lot of overkill in her spellcasting.  Grea, on the other hand, is a princess of the Dragonborn... okay, let's get this out of the way now: a princess of the Dragonborn, which is what the kingdom of the dragons call themselves.  She's actually half-dragon, half-human, a magic user of some skill, immense physical strength, and a cute tail, which is not something I ever expected to type.

Together they go through a semester? year? becoming more and more the focus of each other's life.  While it's not all sweetness and light, it mostly is.  Manaria Friends is the sort of show that puts a smile on your face while you enjoy two people that enjoy each other's company enjoying themselves.  I'd put it in the same category as Flying Witch or Yuru Camp... it's just nice.  And for what it is, it's remarkably well done.

Give it a shot.  You'll thank me for it later.

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May 08, 2019

Oh Look... Spa!

In the past, during the various F1U!s for the Grand Prix of Belgium at Spa-Francopants, I've said that rain is always a possibility.  That's just the way Spa do.  This past weekend, the World Endurance Championship held the Six Hours of Spa, and the skies were quite nice to begin... but rain is always a possibility, right?

...I'm fairly sure I've never said SNOW was a possibility.  Ye cats and little fishes.

Hey... LeMans is coming up, isn't it?  Mid-June... hope it's gonna be on TV here, I can't find anything about who's broadcasting in the US.

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May 02, 2019

When Cover Songs Try Too Hard

Last night I found myself following a pointer gleaned from over at J's place into the darker recesses of Yootoob.  I came hunting for the promise of a good cover song, made likely by the musician being Jonathan Coulton... y'know, the guy who wrote Portal's theme song?  So into this den of iniquity I went, and I found an entire album, entitled Some Guys, of cover songs of '70s hits and ballads.  I began listening... and I found myself confused.

That's not a cover song!  Oh, it is of course... that's Coulton singing instead of Gerry Rafferty... but there's practically no difference between the two.  Is that a cover, or is it a tribute, or just a knockoff?  The entire album is like this, nigh-on note perfect copies of 40-year-old songs.  And I have to ask: why bother?  Don't get me wrong, it's a tour-de-force by Coulton.  The performances are excellent, and if you didn't know better you'd swear you were listening to the originals.
And that's the problem, isn't it?  If I wanted to listen to the original song, I'd just listen to the original, not Jonathan Coulton pretending to be Gerry Rafferty, no matter how good at it he is.

I'm long of the belief that a good cover song must have a healthy dollop of the covering band's flavor on top of the original.  The best example of this that I can come up with off the top of my head is the song "Got The Time".
Classic song by Joe Jackson in his "angry young man" phase, somewhere after punk but before new wave kicked in.  He's long been my favorite musician, and this is easily one of my favorite of his tracks.  Until I heard a cover of it.  
By heavy metal band Anthrax.
Now it's still one of my favorite Joe Jackson songs, I just prefer this version.  It's still the same song, just performed in Anthrax's inimitable style.  It's no slavish copy, it's just a brilliant repurposing.

THAT's what I think a cover song should be like.  Don't copy: adapt.

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