Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review: A Dawn Like Thunder

This focused and personal account of of one specific flight group in the Pacific during WWII covers in detail what can be argued to be the two most pivotal battles of that campaign.

The Battle of Midway and the Guadalcanal campaign can be viewed as the turning points in the naval and ground efforts and torpedo squadron eight played a key role in each.

Author Rober Mrazek pulls no punches in this work, feeling free to critique all levels of the Naval forces involved--from individual squadron commanders to full blown Admirals, none who deserve blame escape it.

And that's perhaps the most revelatory part of the book--that the US forces could be mismanaged, misdirected and poorly lead and yet still, due to both luck and skill, end up victorious.  Torpedo Squadron Eight benefited from both of these factors to become the most decorated group of Naval aviators in US history.

Initially assigned outdated and outclassed aircraft the fliers of this squadron were often presented with suicidal missions and faced them without hesitation.  There is no real happy ending here as virtually every individual Mrazek introduces you to via devoted chapters will meet their fate either via accident, flak or the hands of a skilled Japanese pilot.  The chances of returning alive from taking part in both of these battles seems to be nearly zero.

A Dawn Like Thunder is a solid work covering a detailed look at one specific unit during two key events of a long campaign.  It covers these events from the 100,000 foot level in terms of overall strategy, movements and decisions to focus on a smaller group of individuals.  This doesn't make the book bad, just a tad limited in its scope.  If you already know the basics of Midway and Guadalcanal this book makes an excellent addition to your detailed knowledge of the events, but make sure you obtain a broader view of these events from other works as well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2014 or 2015 Nissan Titan to Go Hybrid?

Nah, I doubt it at this point--at least not in the first versions to be released but there is now speculation out there as to the next generation Titan getting a hybrid powerplant at some point in its lifetime.

To me there are too many drawbacks (high cost, unproven design, market desire, etc., etc.) for Nissan to step into this area with its next Titan.  Given the minuscule portion of the market Nissan currently grabs in the truck market, stepping full into this arena seems a tad risky.  The market hasn't even shown that they want/trust Nissan with their truck buying dollars so why go way off the deep end with a hybrid/electric full size truck.

The article that drives such speculation can be found here: and comes from the same source as got the original spy shots that have been seen here and elsewhere.  The benefits of having the electric driveline (MPG, instant torque, something new in the market, etc.) are certainly there but I'd prefer an efficient and less expensive diesel option to any hybrid.  Nissan does have a hybrid Pathfinder coming as well as a hybrid M35h but both are "car" based applications and not exactly heavy duty platforms.  As we get ever closer, I am hoping for more and more tidbits to be revealed.  So far, Nissan hasn't tipped their hand.

Australian Rally Championship: Scouts Rally SA 2013

Another Australian Rally event and another event showing the fragile nature of using 20+ year old Nissans as your racing vehicle of choice.

Unfortunately Will Orders and Jack Monkhouse, both in Nissan Silvias, DNFd (though Orders finished a solid 4th on the first day of competition.  Not that having a newer Nissan saved the day as the 370Z of Nicholas Box also DNF'd on the first day.

Maybe the key here is to use a REALLY old Nissan/Datsun as in the Classic class there were four old Datsuns that finished both days.

Beyond the Nissan and Datsuns of interest my eyes focused on the Porsche Cayenne (rare to see an SUV rallying, let alone such a high end one) and the very old Mercedes 280.  Both finished both days of the race.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Film Review: Videodrome

Been a while that I've posted anything so we'll start with my most recent item.

Watched this one last night I as I had limited time from putting the kids to bed and was just running through what was available for free on demand.  At only 84 minutes and a cult classic, Videodrome fit the bill.

A classic David Cronenberg film mixing hallucinatory visuals with modern social critique, it could be remade for the Internet age and be just as applicable as it was in the early 80's.

James Woods stars as the leader of a small TV station in Toronto who is on the look out for new programming.  With the station's soft-core porn not garnering the ratings wanted, Woods' character comes across something pushing even his boundaries, snuff films he at first believes to be just well staged but in fact he comes to discover, horrifyingly real.  The more of these programs he views, the more disturbing and deep his hallucinations become.

In typical Cronenberg fashion this comes to include pulsating TV sets and cassettes, a new orifice in his gut which accepts VCR tapes, his gun, etc. and various TV based communication.  It is in this last part where the film takes a sci-fi/political bent.  The truth of the whole matter is that there is an underground group using the TV signal broadcasting the Videodrome programming to kill off those who are depraved enough to be watching such a show.  This would eliminate the "sick" and "undesirable" in America is the theory here.  Given that the company creating this solution is linked to NATO weapon production you can read some political critique here.

In the end the film suffers a bit from 80's cheesiness as do other period pieces of Cronenberg and Carpenter and other "cult" film makers in this range but it holds enough of its core value and Marshall McLuhan education to make it worth viewing--and not just for the fact that it features a topless Debby Harry!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Northeastern "Off-Road" Events 5/18-5/19

I know this is a bit late...but just in case someone was looking for something to do this weekend I figured I'd put it up as there is always more going on than you might believe.

NEHA Ascutney Hillclimb: the event this year is running the long course for the first time in a number of years.  Ascutney is in southern Vermont and this even takes place over Saturday and Sunday with the first day being practice runs up the mountain and the runs that count come on Sunday.  The NEHA events are always great for both beginners and experts as even in a non-caged car you can run wide open the entire way.  Check out the rules and join in, this is a great way to get involved in motorsports and see if its something you want to take to the next level.  New England Hillclimb Association

J Day Off Road: on Sunday 5/19, J Day holds its third event of the year in Greenfield, MA at the Davenport Trucking Paradise GP.  J Day has been rapidly growing its brand and events over the past few years by presenting a unique mix of enduro, motocross and endurocross terrain in a spectator friendly environment.  The series not only runs a number of "pro" classes but classes for older and inexperienced riders as well making the series a welcoming one great for everyone.  J Day Off-Road

The Central Connecticut 4 Wheelers are putting on their second event of 2013.  CC4W holds its events at the Moto-X 338 facility in Southwick, MA.  These events represent some of the longest running short course events in the Northeastern, US and CC4W has opened a "beginners" class for those who might want to get their feet wet in short course racing.  Lots of excellent Jeeps, buggies and trucks running here with the race taking place on Sunday 5/19 and Team O'Neil Rally School performing demo rides as well.  Central Connecticut 4Wheelers

If anyone knows of any others please let me know so I can add them to my schedule of events to pay attention to in the future.  And if anyone attends any of these events and/or takes photos, please let me know as I'd love to give a mention/recap for each one.  So get out there and get involved.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Seeing Eye Cat??

Not sure how true this is but it makes for a nice story anyway...I just don't see video here of the cat leading the dog around and directing him...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Film Review: Senna

I'm far from a F1 aficionado. I follow the sport as much as I can in current times but I don't know much of its history.  That being said, I knew who Aryton Senna was and knew of his death before seeing this film.  I also knew of the hype surrounding this film.

For months before and after its release it was hailed as an actual great film for both casual moviegoers and hardcore motorsport enthusiasts.  After viewing it, I feel like it marginally met both standards for me.

The film is crafted entirely from historical footage both professional and personal.  It does a solid job of covering Senna's professional career and personality showing both his competitive fire and softer touch--particularly with the people of his home country of Brazil.

Particularly well done was the film's ability to create opponents both on and off the track for Senna.  The reality of the enmity between Senna and Alain Prost (on the track) and Jean-Marie Balestre (off the track) might be debated but at least here in the film, they are crafted as great foils to Senna, the racing white knight who in the end, is killed by Balestre's disregard for safety.

For all of the films positive qualities and tragic ending it never captured my imagination.  It was far more antiseptic that I expected.  Maybe that's because much of the footage is derived from the actual races themselves or the practices and interviews surrounding the races.  The personal footage is the most interesting and also that in shortest supply here.  Watching Senna with his friends, fans and family teaches you the most about who the man was and what he stood for.  As usual in "documentaries" it is the more unscripted moments that are most illuminating.  Senna is worth watching for its coverage of one of the major motorsports figures in the late 20th century, his death and some of the inner political dealings of the FISA (forerunner of the FIA), I'm just not willing to put it up there with the best films of '12 or in my all time favorites.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Nissan Pulsar SSS Specs and Release...

As we have previously predicted here, the Nissan Pulsar (Versa Note here in the US) in Australia is the first to receive confirmation of the hopped up version of the hot hatch.

The Pulsar will receive the "SSS" badging and is lauded by the initial article as being a decent competitor for the VW Golf GTI Polo (not the same as the US Golf).  While carrying a tad more HP than the Polo at 188 it does sport slightly less torque at 177 ft. lb.  Under the hood of this Nissan with be a turbo 1.6L vs. the NA 1.8L in the regular version of the Pulsar/Versa.  This engine matches EXACTLY the specs on the 1.6L turbo seen in the Juke and it is a safe bet that the SSS will be housing the same MR16DDT mill.  Knowing that the Juke engine has seen its HP pushed to 197 in the NISMO version of that CUV means that there is even more performance to be had out of this SSS particularly given the Pulsar will be about 600 pounds less than the Juke. The SSS will come standard...with a standard.  If you're a moron you can pay an additional $2500 or so for the privilege of having a computer do the shifting with an available CVT. 

These measurements should translate well to the US--if it comes here--which I can't forsee it not.  Likley dubbed the Versa Note NISMO I'm guessing, this will represent Nissan's entry into the performance end of the B-segment along with the Ford Fiesta.  I would anticipate Nissan USA announcing its arrival here in Q3 of this year and at dealerships by the end of '13 to Q1 of '14.

Oh, and the photo above is NOT of the SSS which I'm sure will come with more body cladding and such that always seems to come along with "performance" models...

Nissan Pulsar SSS announced...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nasser Al-Attiyah Shorts Course at Rally Mexico...

Now in the desert or Dakar this would be fine in the "find your own line and hit the checkpoints" style of racing.  In rally however, I'm not sure how "proper" this is.  There are a number of instances where you can "short" a rally course if you so choose--but is it legal??  Is there a penalty??  There is no chicane here that he would have been required to pass through, he merely blew a corner and proceeded in the shortest possible direction back onto the course?  Thoughts?

Oh, and he was not penalized for this "maneuver"  See here: