Yesterday we took a brief break from trucking cars all over creation to do another track day at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
That's me in our turbo Elise, on one of the Light Touring sessions, which is what comes after the low-speed instructional groups (I've had one full day of instruction to this point) and gets the speed up to a nice pace-car-enforced intermediate level (70 mph or so max, which is lame on the straights but quite decent through the twisties), without an instructor on board except for fine-tuning various drivers' technique. Drivers spend several sessions in Light Touring before they get the nod from the staff to be bumped up to the full Touring class, in which the pace car leaves the track and everyone goes flat-out, drastic differences in their cars' capabilities be damned. You're sharing the track with Porsche GT3s and Lamborghinis and race-tuned Mitsubishi Evos—everything except open-wheelers and prototype cars and NASCAR cars and other such really insane stuff (which gets its own Open-Wheel or High Speed class).
They had me out in Touring by lunchtime.
And from the limited experience of someone who's had a total of one track session at speeds that actually exercise the car's limits, I can say with certainty that nothing quite prepares you for the transition—no amount of instruction or Light Touring practice can really give you the sense of how much each of those curves changes when you're going through them at 80 mph instead of 50. Those fun little compound esses where you can aim leisurely from cone to cone? Now you're hanging on for dear life while the rear end of the car swings out and you steer with the throttle to get yourself hooked back on the tarmac and pointed in the right direction. The transition at the end of the front straight where you have to downshift twice and brake before turning hard right and powering over the first inclined curve? Now you find yourself hurtling for the opposite apron and regaining your traction instants before you're off into the weeds, and your wheels are fishtailing back and forth while the engine yowls into the top ranges of 3rd gear. The Lightbulb, the big long 180-degree banked turn before the straightaway? No longer is it a Ferris Wheel ride, where you just pick your line and sway gently through it; now you're clutching the wheel and feathering the throttle seeking the optimum rate of medium-high speed at which you can keep ahead of the guy behind you and on the tail of the guy ahead and aim for an efficient line through the apex while not losing your precarious footing and having the inertia spin you off into the embankment pitched high above your head.
People were passing me, but I was passing people too. There were better cars and better drivers on the track... but there were also worse ones. And I feel I made a decent rookie showing.
I'm also looking forward to improving on it next time.
Because it's a virtual certainty that there will be a next time. To say the least.
(Yes, I would like to get the Esprit onto the track one of these days. As a matter of fact.)
Aw, man. 13% positive on An American Carol. And 0% from Top Critics.
No wonder I never heard a word about this movie after a couple of rather grating radio ads on opening weekend.
And it had such promise, too. Or at least so we were led to believe, by the spectacle of a movie being made by a well-established name in the comedy filmmaking world that tackles issues no other movies go anywhere near—that itself being fodder for an armload of behind-the-scenes interviews and an undercurrent of anticipation, just to see what kind of freak-show we'd end up with.
I guess there's a reason why those radio ads I heard were so off-putting and overwrought. These days, making a right-wing movie is practically... illegal! And that would make Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, and Jon Voight... criminals! ...Uh huh. You know, if the movie is any good, you don't need to market it this way. This way all you're going to get is cranks, and they aren't going to go see it in theaters anyway.
Don't get me wrong—I'd have loved for this movie to do awesomely well. But—and I say this without having seen it—like Team America: World Police, this movie suffers from the Catch-22 that if you attempt to tackle perceived institutional bias in movies by making a movie, that very institutional bias that you're railing against will just make your movie stand out in such stark contrast that everyone will be too distracted by the polemic to be receptive to the message. We all expect movies to be left-leaning. We take it in stride. Hell, I love Real Genius despite the fact that its premise—that an institute of higher learning like Caltech might conceivably train students to work for defense contractors, and that this is a bad thing—is so loony. We're okay with that; it's what we've come to expect. But sit us down and regale us with an agenda that doesn't match what we're conditioned for, and we'll feel every bit as preached to as a Michael Moore audience. Perhaps more so. Even if it's couched as a bunch of Leslie Nielsen sight gags.
I guess it tells us something if some of the greatest minds of American comedy—Parker and Stone, Zucker—can't put together a convincing, hard-hitting, or even particularly funny satire of leftist politics. Though I hope they continue to try, because I can certainly sympathize with the impulse; we've got to do better at playing ball with pop culture than provoking these kinds of smirking reactions in people.
So Microsoft is still promoting their new, dreadfully boring software with videos like this one:
Quite rightly, John Gruber says, "What is wrong with this company? Who authorizes this crap?" in a post titled "Microsoft Should Never Make Another Video Ever Again". But you know, there's something just so endearingly unchanging about Microsoft, isn't there? It's like, at the very least we can always trust them to do stuff like this, no matter how many layers of unwitting cliché they bury themselves in in the process. I mean, surely we all remember this:
—Which was surely just as much of a tone-deaf, un-self-aware joke at the time. For all I can tell, the same guy who came up with that thing in the 80s is the one who greenlit the PDC 2008 one.
Granted, the new video does attempt to put a tongue-in-cheek turn on itself at the very end, by presenting the video as some kind of out-of-touch stunt by the clueless new guy on the team. But seriously... even the framing skit is hopelessly phoned-in and insincere, to a degree that the deflation of the ridiculous video itself is incomplete, and we're still left facing the absurdity of lyrics like "You can't win with another system made for losers!"
Maybe it's just not possible to create a video for the kind of software that Microsoft develops, and make it appealing and genuine-feeling. Maybe Apple's long string of PR hits are solely a result of their consumer focus, which frees them up to employ tactics otherwise unavailable to a vendor like Microsoft.
...Then again—honestly. A company with the resources of Microsoft that's willing to dump millions on a two-spot weirdo experimental Seinfeld campaign that it drops like a hot potato the instant it gets less than stellar ratings can't hire someone to produce a decent video? It's not like Chiat-Day is on an exclusive contract or something, right?