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!
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!
May 14, 2019
Tim Conway 1933 - 2019
Still the funniest thing I've ever seen.
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:
...is 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.
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.
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.
April 24, 2019
Everybody Sayin' "What About Us?" Sometimes being half-asleep when browsing can turn up some gems. Like this:
April 23, 2019
51 It was a day much like any other Chicago day in 1968. A pale gray haze hung over the city, courtesy of the smog caused by millions of cars. The ivy on the Wrigley Field walls had yet to bloom and instead remained a dull brown. Kids were in school, grown-ups were at work, and the day continued much as any other day would continue.
Except that, in a hospital on Lake Shore Drive not far from the aforementioned home of the Cubs, a Wonderduck was presented to a confused and tentative world.
My age 50 year... mmm... not so good. Here's hoping for a better 51.
April 22, 2019
When "Forward" Looks A Lot Like Taking A Nap This evening, I headed into the loo here at Pond Central. There was nothing special about this, it was simply to pick up a pair of reading glasses I had left there... 2x mag, look a lot like protective eyewear (because they are... they were on sale!)... when suddenly, I vurped.
Yes, that sneaky combination of burp and vomit that comes out of nowhere and heralds... well, I don't rightly know what it heralds. Surely nothing good. Indeed, I spent the next half-hour or so feeling right miserable as my body did... things I don't want to discuss in any detail here. Because damn, ain't nobody need to know that.
So it was with some slight concern that I decided that I should just take a rest. After all, what if it all came back for round two? The results would have been catastrophic, considering the difficulty I have in getting out of my memory-foam mattress-topped bed. Remember the bit in... um... (looks it up to confirm) yes, Life, The Universe, And Everything? About how mattresses are actually friendly (if dim-witted) sentient creatures that are hunted, killed, dried out, and the bodies sent around the galaxy for people to sleep on? Yes, well, I can't help but wonder about that at times, because my memory-foam mattress does try very hard to keep me in it. I assume for digestive purposes.
But my choices were limited at this point: bed, or comfy chair which has its own problems. Bed it was, just for a few hours.
SIX HOURS LATER, I woke up. The hell...? Well, damn. And I feel right as rain, no illness bits going on at all. The human body is a wonderful thing, lemme tell ya... I just wish I understood what the hell is going on with mine sometimes. Well, anyway... I'm going to move the writeup to Tuesday night... nothing else going on, really... and THEN you'll know what's gotten me so het up recently. Stay tuned!
April 21, 2019
Wow... Just... Wow. I had intended to actually, y'know, write. About anime. Here. On my blog. I know, what a concept, right? It was going to be on Saturday, after I completed a great short series that charmed the socks off me.
Saturday afternoon, I laid down for a nap, around 5pm or so. Except for two hour-long stints around 2am and 9am, I slept until nearly 4pm Sunday. I don't know why, but my body decided "no activity for you, Mr Duck."
So you've got that to look forward to on Monday, I hope... a review of a lovely little anime that, while it may not appeal to everybody, should appeal to most of my readers.
Look forward to it, won't you?
April 15, 2019
A World Tragedy
The famous Cathredral at Notre Dame in Paris caught fire today. Within a relatively short time, the fire destroyed the roof, brought down the spire, and has gone on to consume everything within the stone walls.
Its very location, on a small island in the Seine river, made the blaze hard to fight. Getting equipment to it proved difficult, and fireboats in the river could not get close enough to reach all the burning area. The flames spread very quickly as well, limiting what the fire brigade could do.
There have been no deaths, and it's only been in the past few minutes that I've seen a report of a single serious injury to a firefighter. Nobody who was in the Cathedral was hurt, including the many many tourists. If there's anything good to take from this, it'd be that. But otherwise? It's all pretty rotten.
April 13, 2019
F1 Quals: China 2019
Formula 1 believes this weekend to be the 1000th official Grand Prix. And it is, if you take into account the 11 Indianapolis 500 that were considered as part of the calendar. If you don't, stop being a Eurosnob and realize the FIA disagrees with you. So China becomes the 1000th race, and I'm sure that wasn't intentional in the least. Here's the provisional grid for the 2019 Grand Prix of China:
|5||Red Bull Racing||1:33.274||1:32.369||1:32.089|
|6||Red Bull Racing
|13||Alfa Romeo Racing
|NC||Alfa Romeo Racing
Sharp-eyed readers will notice that there's only 19 names listed. Good call! Mitch Albon managed to comprehensively destroy his Toro Rosso with only a couple minutes of Practice 3 remaining, and the team wasn't able to build up a new one for him in the couple of hours between then and Quals. While he didn't destroy his car, Alfa Romeo's Tony Snazzy had a serious power unit problem that the team couldn't repair in time to send him forth. What this means is that Williams avoided being on the last row for the first time this season!
You've also probably noticed that both Haas drivers DNF'd in Q3. That's because they got caught in a kerfluffle between Vettel and Verstappen right at the end of the session. The two "V" drivers were doing a "After you Alphonse, after you Gaston" routine, behaving in accordance to the the "unwritten rules" that state that drivers don't pass each other on track at in quals. After essentially blocking the track, Vettel decided that the Dutchman was going too slowly, charged past the Red Bull driver and raced around to the line in time to be able to take one more flying lap. Verstappen, for his part, has said that he had backed off to give himself room to the car ahead and Vettel prevented him from taking a final shot at pole. Meanwhile, both Haas drivers were blaming the "V" drivers for not being able to do their runs. The "good" news is that at most they'd likely be only able to move up a single spot on the grid. So probably no harm done. Verstappen would disagree, bitching that he could have improved on 5th.
So the race is tonight, at midnight here at The Pond... I'm unsure as to what the quality will be, there's been a lot of Mercedes running away so far. It's been a dusty track so far... apparently a huge cement plant is upwind of the complex... and that's made it a little hard on the tires so far. We shall see!
April 08, 2019
Ducks In Anime: Quite Possibly A Record
-Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!, Ep01
I don't know a darn thing about the show, except that the uncensored version is airing on the 11th. That right there may in fact tell me all I need to know about the series. It's only obvious that I'll be watching it, of course, if for no other reason that to see if there are more ducks.
I'm sure many people will read that and say, "Uh huh, more ducks, right." Longtime readers of The Pond, however, are nodding their heads, "more ducks. That's Wonderduck all right."
Anyway, the reason for the title? These two ducks (the other one is offscreen bottom... it's a pan shot) appear in the OP, maybe a little over a minute into the episode. I can't remember if there's been any other OPs with a duck appearing, so this might be the earliest a duck has appeared in an episode of anime ever. Or not. Either way, duckies!
April 07, 2019
I love baseball, and always will. But hockey gets it in a way no other sport seems to.
April 06, 2019
Go Cubs Go! #001 Because they clearly need all the help they can get this season:
I want to feel like I did on November 3rd, 2016. Please?
April 01, 2019
Builder's Trials USS South Dakota, the US Navy's newest member of the Virginia-class, undergoes builder's trials.
March 31, 2019
Hermit Run Ends At 22 Days Against all odds, on Wednesday March 27th, for the first time since I was deemed surplus to requirements by my employers, I left Pond Central. I got into the Duckmobile, drove a few miles to my local AcceptableClips for my first haircut in over a full year. They took 10 inch lengths of hair off! Now every time the wind blows I shiver because there's airflow over my neck, and that hasn't happened in months.
But there must have been a reason for me to go out, right? Right. On Thursday, I had a job interview. Similar to what I was doing, except now I'd be creating the bills and sending them to the insurance companies. It went well enough, except I have no idea what the interviewer thought. Good poker face... I mean, if I interview someone, if I'm interested it would be pretty obvious. Here though, she could have thought I was the worst candidate ever and I'd have no idea.
More importantly though... I finally went back to the office to pick up my waiting packages. This was duly accomplished, but I had a very interesting conversation with my ex-direct supervisor, who we shall call "Betty" because that's not her name. Turns out Betty was being sent to Chennai, India by the company the next morning, for a month of training classes. No, not her being trained, but her training other people. Specificially, new hires on how to process claims from the same client I worked with. Three states' worth of claims were going to be permanently moved overseas for processing in India... and two of the states were quite large indeed. Suddenly, it becomes even less surprising that people were being let go. Betty also went on to say that it was "probably a good thing" that I was let go when I was... the whole building has a black cloud hanging over it, morale has totally cratered, ain't nobody happy. Betty was expecting a mass exodus soon, in fact. We talked for a few more minutes about her upcoming trip, she promised to e-mail, and I came home.
I'm still not fond of the outside, though.
Formula 1 race on Sunday, from Bahrain... the Ferrari of Charles AMX-30 is on pole, would you believe? More important, however, is that this video is so cool it's stupid-cool:
Talk more soon.
EDIT: ...and then I found this, which is perfect: y'know, hermit crabs?
March 28, 2019
Extending Apologies To The Spookliy-Named Group
Well, Ghost is much too weird for me to explain them.
That's what I said in the blurb for the Pet Shop Boys' cover in the last post. I'd like to apologize for that, because some few hours has taught me quite a lot about the band from Sweden. You would do well to turn the volume up on this post, by the way.
Everybody knows what a concept album is, right? A bunch of songs devoted to the same thing telling a story as they go... The Who's Tommy, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Joe Jackson's Big World, Alan Parson's Project's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Styx's Paradise Theatre, all examples of the concept album. Well, Ghost takes it one farther: they're a concept band! The concept is, however, that they're a Satanic cult led by their charismatic frontman. Said frontman has until only lately been appearing in skull makeup and church regalia. These days, he wears a Uncanny Valley facemask.
Didn't make the satanism rumors go away, which is probably exactly what Ghost wants. The more I think about it, the more I believe them to be more performance art than musical band... though considering their formidable skills, I'd not say that to their faces. These Followers of the Morning Star can friggin' rock.
Yes, that's right, that's a Grammy Award they've got there. They won the 2016 award for Best Metal Performance for their song Cirice.
Nowadays the Grammys aren't worth much of a much, but for people of a certain age... ahem... that remember what they used to be, there's still a cachet to owning one. And while that's a helluva music video they've got there, Ghost seems to be a better live act. Here's a live version of Cirice, for example.
Across the board the band's official videos are... inventive. To the point that sometimes they take away from the actual music... the video for Rats! is so goofballish that the song (which isn't one of their best, it must be said) just gets swamped. At other times, the video will actually explain the song (see Cirice, for example). Often enough, fortunately, the band'll leave things open to interpretation, forcing you to actually listen. Square Hammer appears to be freemasonry, clever since how many people actually KNOW what a Mason is/was anymore?
In a lot of ways, there's nothing new with Ghost. They're absolutely metal, taking cues from all over the map: Kiss and Metallica are references mentioned in interviews (and there's a kickass cover of Enter Sandman played in front of the King of Sweden, too... turns out Hetfield's a fan!). They don't seem to be just the usual headbanging heavy riffers... there's a serious amount of songwriting and musical talent here. I'm tempted to say that this is "Metal For The Thinking Man", except they'd probably make fun of me for being pretentious. But come on, read the lyrics to what I think is their best song, He Is:
If you didn't know better, this is Christian Rock. At least, it is to start. It sort of heads south (if you know what I mean) along the way to the end. Even then though, you really have to be thinking about what the lyrics are saying to catch it. The reference to the story of the burning bush speaking to Moses is really sneaky... when Moses asks for proof that he's truly speaking to God, the reply is "I am who I am." So "he is" is second... or is it third?... person referencing here. Circles within circles.
I find online reaction videos to Ghost to be hilarious. Either people love them, or they're confused as hell... that reaction is usually from self-described christians. These guys love the song, but despise the message, except then they don't like the song, but they do, and... and... and... they're right though, Mere Christianity is a wonderful book.
Go out, give 'em a listen, you might be surprised. Or you might hate them. Either response is perfectly valid, and I'd understand either one. Or don't think about it and just bang your head vigorously. That works too.
March 23, 2019
Two For GreyDuck, One For Everybody, And One For Nobody GD, I heard these two and immediately thought of you. It's up to you if you think that's a good thing or not.
Apparently Covenant isn't new... I see album dates of 2000, 2001, so on and so forth, so perhaps you're familiar with them already. But some good stuff there.
Oh look, it's a weird cover of a Pet Shop Boys tune. Well, Ghost is much too weird for me to explain them, but their original music is very heavy indeed.
I think by definition if you're a member of the Pond Scum, you get some level of enjoyment out of bagpipes. This song has appeared on The Pond before, back in Saturday Night Tunage V where it was performed by the Victoria Police Pipe Band as opposed to the Red Hot Chili Pipers. I just realized something, and it terrifies me: in the blurb for the song in SNTV, I mention that I first heard the song "nine years ago." I wrote that in 2011. Eeurgh.
So Formula 1 knocks on the door of the Chemical Brothers and says "we like your stuff. Or, really, our grandkids like your stuff. Do a song for us." And the Chemical Brothers said "we like dogs." The rest, as they say, is history. This is an awful, awful tune. However, as a riff dispenser it's top-notch, and I fully expect to be seeing F1 commercials and broadcasts using snippets from the track as backing music. Other than that? Well, the "Powered by NEEEEUM" on the car made me laugh. If you don't get why, say it out loud while watching a F1 car drive past.
March 20, 2019
Making Progress. Kinda. I Mean, In Comparison... It was just over two weeks ago that I was informed that my services were no longer required, desired or wanted at my job. 14 days plus a few hours.
For the first time in those two weeks, I have left Pond Central. Okay, yes, it was to go pick up my mail so I didn't even leave the building, but I was actually outside of my home. At 315am, practically no chance to bump into other people there.
I'm having lunch with Ph.Duck and D.Nurse on Thursday, so I've got to get my outside on, and fast. I need to pick up my packages from Ex-Job... I didn't think it'd be so hard to go back... I want my stuff, but my brain is really rebelling against it. "Go back to a place that flat out told you they didn't want you anymore? Are you mad?"
You don't have to answer that.
I also need to get a haircut. It's about time, the last one was Easter 2018, I'm pretty sure. Everything is ridiculously shaggy, except where it's knotted or matted together on the right side of my head... that's the side I sleep on. Barbers, man your shavers!
But all of those require me to go out.
Depression is a helluva thing.
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