Monday, November 23, 2009

Fix the Tracks, Racing Will Get Better

Remember the 80s? Hell, remember the 90s? The term "cookie cutter" didn't exist yet. Charlotte was a relatively unique 1.5 mile tri-oval, with a challenging and bumpy surface. Atlanta and Michigan were still virtually the same, but both fast to the point that they were scary. We still had Rockingham and North Wilkseboro, two awesome, challenging small tracks.

Now what do we have? We have greed ruining the schedule. What else is new. Darlington lost one of its race dates, only the most important race on the schedule next to the Daytona 500. The Southern 500 is one of the most prestigious races in the world, and now it's disappeared and neutered. And it was IMPORTANT to have it on Labour Day, during the DAY--it was a grueling, sweaty, 110 degree endurance race. It was never meant to be in the evening, and more importantly, never meant to be at such a crappy track as California.

Rockingham loses its race to Yet Another Cookie Cutter track, claiming it was because they couldn't sell the place out--of course, now, they can't sell out a lot of tracks, including California, which replaced it--OOPS.

These are two tracks responsible for many of the "best finishes in racing history"... And they're dropped because of the almighty dollar. I hate that.

Las Vegas, California, Chicagoland, Kansas, Homestead, Michigan... They're all awful now. Louden has never been particularly good, Pocano, at least in the current car, is a bore.

The cookie-cutter tracks are in that middle-ground between short tracks (1 mile or less) and super speedways (restrictor plate), such that they're so aero-dependent that passing often seems a virtual impossibility unless you've got fresher tires or lapped traffic in the way. This is particularly bad at Kansas and Chicagoland.

If I were king of the world, I would decree all of those tracks dropped or reduced--give Michigan one race date, give Charlotte one race date, drop the rest until they can design a real track. Add real tracks with real character--Bring back Rockingham, give Darlington the Southern 500 back... Add Irwindale Speedway, Iowa, Indy Raceway Park, and Winchester. And up here in Canada, Cayuga or Delaware. Any track that doesn't have the facilities yet, pump money into them to upgrade them--it's in NASCAR's best interests to do things like that, not the track owner's.

But maybe that's just me.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Hate American Family Values

By which I mean Christian values. And I guess Canadian ones too, to a (much, much) lesser extent?

Every time I read or watch something inspiring from the atheist community, or for that matter any logical, free-thinking sect of society, I think that maybe just maybe there's hope for humanity.

Then I go and read some bullshit like this.

Feel free to read Doctorow's whole editorial if you wish, but I'll summarize briefly. He writes a Young Adults sci-fi/fantasy kind of book about intelligent and patriotic kids who attempt to resurrect the US Government, presumably in a post-apocalyptic world. I haven't read the book. Sounds like something cool I might've read when I was in high school.

Apparently, parents AROUND THE COUNTRY ARE OUTRAGED with an offensive, filthy, DISGUSTING scene in the book that will scar their children FOREVER.

Clearly, I was prepared to read a synopsis about the explicit hardcore sexual details of pre-teen sex from this novel.

During a brief (and apparently REALLY brief) segment of the book, the lead character, who is a 17 year old boy, is making out with his girlfriend. They've been together for quite some time and there's some love there.

She then pulls out a condom and hands it to him.

The scene ends.

The next scene has the boy thinking about the experience, about what he expected and what it actually turned out to be.


Are you fucking kidding me? This is how backwards and retarded Christian family values are. The guy is 17. I dunno about you, but the vast, VAST majority of 17 year old high school teens already know everything there is to know about sex, many have had it, and many are actively seeking it. It's a very important part of growing up, especially at that tender 16-18 age when angst-ridden teens are just getting to understand their hormonal urges.

Which means it's a perfectly acceptable subject for a Young Adult novel, provided it's handled tastefully. Which it was.

The scene is in NO way explicit. It briefly suggests that two people of the same age, who had been seeing each other for a long time, using proper protection, had sexual intercourse.


Apparently some parents also objected to the story because, at one point, a seventeen year old is drinking a beer. GOOD GOD, WHEN WILL THE MADNESS END!?

I'm shocked they didn't mention any of these religious nutjobs complaining about the use of a condom, which is "against God's will."

Oh, and of course, in true American fashion, the book features violence and torture--but no one complained about that. Flash a breast? Immediate ban. Slowly cut strips of flesh off a human being until he bleeds to death? It's allllll good.

Society makes me sick.

(and no, I like me some violence in my stories.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Track is Not the Problem--The Goddamn Restrictor Plate Is

I believe I spoke about how they've ruined Nationwide already... How about plate racing?

In the late 80s, Bobby Allison had an insane wreck at Talladega, taking out part of the catch fence and nearly killing people in the crowd, upside down in pieces. As a result, NASCAR mandated restrictor plates, which cut the flow of air underneath the carburetor, going into the engine. At the time, it was a perfectly reasonable, short-term solution to the problem. For one or two seasons.

Now, here we are, twenty some-odd years, with the same SHORT-TERM SOLUTION. What the restrictor plate does is even out the field--cars built by guys like Hendrick and Roush SHOULD have a 20-30 hp advantage over the slow guys in the field, with varying powerbands and different peaks and dips in the power band... Instead they might have 1.5-2 horsepower difference over the field, as an "advantage."

This results in two things: obviously, it means the cars qualify very very close to each other and, in the draft, run nose-to-tail, 3-wide, for 10-12 rows of cars all the way back. It's understandably nerve-wracking for the drivers, white-knuckle that close to each other for a whole race.

The other thing it causes is something not a lot of people seem to talk about THESE days, but when the aero is that bad (say, 1999-2000), they mention it quite a bit--throttle response. Restrictor plates don't just kill horsepower, they kill the power band. They make it difficult to have any passing power, to have any movement in the throttle to allow for the tiniest differences in speed between two cars. As a result, if you DARE to lift, you will not only lose the draft, but lose dozens of positions. This makes it incredibly difficult to avoid even the slightest mistake without slowing up the whole field and, of course, causing The Big One.

But we all know that, right? The simple fact is, Dale Earnhardt would probably still be with us today if it weren't for restrictor plates. And so many other accidents would've never happened. But too many idiot "fans" are fascinated by the accidents, and NASCAR knows this, especially the casual fan (which is the only fan Brian France seems to care about anymore), so they keep the plates where they are. They don't do it for safety, they do it for the exact opposite of safety.

Is 230 mph excessive? Sure! I understand the need for lower speeds for safety. But it could be achieved in so many other ways, including massive wings front and rear on the car to drag it down, or mandating smaller displacement engines, basically shrinking the current engine in every way. More expensive? Bullshit--the big Cup teams spend millions just developing plate engines already, it would change NOTHING. Have a 4.5 litre limit on super speedway engines, making about 500 horsepower, instead of 900. Or a spec camshaft package. Problem solved.

Knocking down the banking is NOT a solution. For one thing, it would ruin one of the most awe-inspiring racetracks in the world. It would turn it into "Yet Another 1.5 Mile Crapoval" where the racing sucks, or like Fontana or Homestead. The problem is not the cars running 195 mph. The problem is the cars running 195 mph in packs of 30.

That's my thought for the day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Hate Talladega

I was all set to write a five page-long diatribe about how completely fucked racing at Talladega is, and how completely wrong NASCAR is, and how completely stupid fans are that find this exciting or "good racing."

I've done it many times before, on many other blogs, forums, chats, and in person at parties.

But, I made the mistake of reading David Caraviello's editorial about it first. And if there's one thing I hate, it's repetition.

He pretty much sums it up for me, and I agree with him.

I hate Talladega.

I hate everything it's come to represent.

I hate the fans who find it entertaining.

I hate it for putting 43 drivers in mortal, terrifying danger every year.

I hate that the media uses footage of these wrecks to exemplify NASCAR and try to boost the ratings, when people are injured in this footage, sometimes spectators, like Edwards' crash in the Spring.

And I hate NASCAR for completely ignoring the problem and, worse still, blaming the drivers.

So take a gander at Caraviello's piece. Works good for me.

I will also add the following:

Your current, reigning, and soon-to-be 4-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson putted around at the back of the field the entire day, somewhere in 30th-32nd spot, off the lead draft. His three rivals for the championship all mix it up at the front, racing for the lead like racers.

With about 5 laps to go, Ryan Newman's terrifying ride occurs. Red flag comes out, then a caution, and half the field runs out of gas. All of a sudden, Jimmie Johnson makes up half his deficit and is 15th or so.

With about 1 lap to go, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch get turned in the middle of the straightaway, and Mark flips into his roof. Thankfully, no one is hurt. This time. Again. All of a sudden, Jimmie Johnson makes up the rest of his deficit and finishes 6th. Having done nothing all day.

Meanwhile, all of his Chase rivals, who raced their asses off all day long, end up in massive wrecks and are now essentially out of the running for the championship.

I don't blame Jimmie Johnson. Just like I don't blame his team for being better in the final ten races than any other time in the season. They're working with what NASCAR gives them. I blame NASCAR.

This is not racing. This is a joke.

V - Another show Republicans can call "Left Wing Propaganda"

(minor spoilers!)

Watched the premiere of "V" last night with Tara. Pleasantly surprised--excellent production values, a pretty big-time cast, and damn good special effects. And I <3> Elizabeth Mitchell.

In general it felt a little rushed to me, and many others have said so--but that might just be due to watching shows like LOST and BSG so much. We come to expect shows like this to overwhelm us with unanswered questions in every single episode, with the big reveal not happening until end of season or end of show.

The original V Mini-series managed to hold some suspense as to the true identities of the aliens until half way through, hinting at subtle machinations in high places of power throughout the world (scientists having their civil rights blocked left right and center.) The new V beats you over the head with their reptilian identity, and they're already getting into their Nazi/New World Order-type media control.

Which of course means the right-wing nutjobs will immediately label it propaganda. Then again, left-wing nutjobs might label it propaganda that paints Obama's "hope" thing in a negative light too. But like all good speculative fiction, there's a hint of truth and history in there, 1984-style--you'll believe what we tell you.

But like I said, we might just be too used to shows that introduce a twist every five seconds--let's face it, there's still plenty of things left to be revealed (like the Visitors' actual motives), and so far it's going quite well. I'm cautiously optimistic. Plus, along with Elizabeth Mitchell, there's lots of other nice things to look at--like Morena Baccarin.

And did I mention Elizabeth Mitchell is in it?

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