Monday, October 31, 2011

Indianapolis Colts, Week 8: Halloween-ku

That Round Thing In Our Wins Column Is Not The Great Pumpkin

It's at the door! eek!
It rings the bell! aaigh! It shouts
"LOSING SEASON!" No-o-o-o-o-o-o!!

--Mary Campbell-Droze

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Indianapolis Colts Haiku: Week 7

In which our intrepid haiku sports reporter discovers that neither Katie the Beagle nor her granddaughter Kaylee want to appear in a haiku for a team this stinky*, and so she finds a Colts mascot more appropriate to their disastrous season:

The Godzilla Assessment Factor in Football Exploits (GAFFE)

Dudes in rubber mon-
ster suits are more convincing.
C'mon, Colts! REALLY??

--Mary Campbell-Droze

*Katie the Beagle did, however, offer to roll in the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, an honor she reserves for only the most stench-worthy of stinkers.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Great Sports Car Debate: 2011 Corvette Grand Sport Coupe v. 1976 MGB Roadster

As many of you know, our neighbor Wendy works for GM and occasionally brings her work home with her in the form of various cars that need to be driven.  And while I have yet to score my long-promised drive in a Chevy Volt, this weekend's driver was not going to escape me or Monique. Why? Because as you may have guessed from the title, Wendy brought home a 2011 Grand Sport Corvette this weekend.

And indeed, today Wendy was kind enough to let both Monique and I take the 'Vette for a little spin around the lakes on a sunny October afternoon.  Since I never did quite get around to putting "New Grand Sport Corvette" on my shopping list before I bought the MGB this summer, this made for an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast with a modern American sports car with a top speed of 185 mph with a mid-century British roadster with a top speed about half that.

What did we think? First, let's look at the tale of the tape:

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: Leather.
1976 MGB Roadster: Leather. (Hah! Take that, Corvette! The MGB's right with you so far.)

Curb Weight
2011 Grand Sport Corvette: 3,331 pounds.
1976 MGB Roadster: 2,335 pounds.

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: 175.6 inches.
1976 MGB Roadster: 153.2 inches.

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: 105.7 inches.
1976 MGB Roadster: 91 inches.

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: Less
1976 MGB Roadster: More (A surprise to you all after those length and wheelbase numbers, I'm sure, but quite true.)

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: 16 mpg city, 26 mpg highway.
1976 MGB Roadster: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway.

Safety Features
2011 Grand Sport Corvette: StabiliTrak® Electronic Stability Control System, three-point seat restraints, crumple zones, front and side-impact air bags(5), etc., etc., etc....
1976 MGB Roadster: Um, lap belts? Yeah, lap belts!

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: Guaranteed bumper-to-bumper 3 years/36,000 miles, drivetrain 5 years/100,000 miles.
1976 MGB Roadster: Guaranteed to force me to use my AAA card.

Driver Sight Lines
2011 Grand Sport Corvette: A digital windshield heads-up display appears just above the hood.
1976 MGB Roadster: The top of the windshield crosses just in front of my eyes.

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: 0-200 MPH physical indicator plus digital windshield heads-up display
1976 MGB Roadster: The speedometer waves cheerfully and randomly at the driver.

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: Starts at $55,000 and goes up quickly, depending on options.
1976 MGB Roadster: Less than 1/10th that. (Thank goodness!)

Chick Magnet Factor
2011 Grand Sport Corvette: Photographic evidence submitted above.
1976 MGB Roadster: Rust magnet factor.

Electrical Equipment
2011 Grand Sport Corvette: A full assortment of high-end 21st Century electronica.
1976 MGB Roadster: Courtesy of Lucas, Prince of Darkness. ("The proper gentleman does not go motoring at night.")

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: 6-speed manual.
1976 MGB Roadster: 4-speed manual with electronic overdrive.

0-60 MPH
2011 Grand Sport Corvette: Timed under four seconds.
1976 MGB Roadster: Timed with a sundial. 

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: 6.2 Liter 430-hp LS3 V8 engine 
1976 MGB Roadster: 4 plucky hamsters from Abingdon, England.

(For those who truly want to know, my MGB has a rebuilt 1.8 liter 4-cylinder engine that's been upgraded a bit with racing cam, performance headers & exhaust, Weber carb, and an electronic ignition.  It's a smidge stronger than a standard MGB motor, so at a guess it probably puts out around 90-95 hp.  I've never timed it, but I can probably go 0-60 in somewhere around 12-13 seconds ... if I get a stiff tailwind.)

And so, with the tale of the tape told, let's take these cars for a spin.

Our drivers:

Wendy (left) and Monique

The road test:

Hey, wait for me!

Speed limit 45 mph? Yeah, right.  (Actually, we were both far too scared on behalf of our insurance rates to go much over the speed limit in the 'Vette, tempting though it was.)

Windy Michigan roads in October. A good idea in any car, frankly.

Oooh, look at the Corvette with its fancy-shmancy functioning taillights. I doubt a Corvette owner ever feels the sense of accomplishment I achieved when I got my MGB's courtesy light, parking lights, taillights, and headlights to *all* work at the same time ... after only ten weeks of ownership. 

The Review:

So what did we think? First off, the Corvette Grand Sport is an awesome car. It's one thing to read about horsepower and torque numbers, it's another to tap the accelerator when you're going 35 mph in 3rd gear and watch the speedometer shoot up over 60 mph in a silky-smooth instant. And when I took it through a series of curves and hills near us that present a nice, windy challenge for the MGB, it cruised through them at 50 mph as if the road was straight as a string.

But there's its problem, too.  I know I'll be subject to public mockery for typing these words in the Motor City, but the Corvette Grand Sport is waaaaaay too much car to drive on the street.  Seriously, I never really got it out of third gear (out of six) on the little roads around us because the speed limit is 45-50 mph.  Did I mention that this thing has a top speed of 185 mph?

Don't get me wrong.  The Corvette Grand Sport was tons of fun to drive, even if I never did get it to more than 1/3 of its top speed.  But it was also weirdly frustrating because the car is so clearly designed specifically to do things that a variety of very good state and federal traffic safety laws expressly forbid.  I would love to own one of these things.  But I'd immediately need to go up to the Waterford Hills Road Racing track and sign up to run hot laps every day because this car obviously wants to do things that no sane person would do on a public road. It's the automotive equivalent of using an M-60 machine gun to go squirrel hunting.

And I would never in a billion years want this car to be my daily driver because I might just as well go down to the Michigan Secretary of State office and surrender my license.  They'd have it in three months, anyway, so I might as well save myself the speeding fines and points on my record.

The MGB on the other hand, for all of its dodgy electrical systems and its wee little engine, is a lot of fun to drive on the same roads that the Corvette tames effortlessly.  The handling transmits the bumps and curves very directly to the driver, and its little engine is still peppy enough to zip you along the road nicely. And with the top down there's an earnest rawness to it that seems to be missing in the Corvette, which seemed kind of bored with the incredibly modest demands we made of its much greater talents.

Maybe that's the key to why we've enjoyed the MGB so much this year.  It makes it feel as if you're driving a bit faster than you really are.  And that turns out to be a surprisingly good thing.

The final verdict?  

Well, I was prejudiced in favor of the MGB, of course, but after talking with Monique I think we both agree on this one:

2011 Grand Sport Corvette: Enormously more car.
1976 MGB Roadster: Probably more fun.

(But I plan to pester Wendy tomorrow to let me drive the 'Vette again for a few more hours, just to make sure.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Colts 2011 Haiku, Week 6, in which our intrepid poet starts to capture the spirit of their winless start to the season

Back from haiku hiatus. This week's offering is accompanied by the evocative intonations of Fleshgod Apocalypse: "The Imposition" from their latest album, 'Agony.'


 --Mary Campbell-Droze


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Day All Life on Earth Almost Ended

Okay, so to me this is a wee bit more concerning than whatever partisan bickering is undoubtedly filling the cable-news-sphere today.  Check out this story from The Day All Life on Earth Almost Ended.

The lead sentence sums it up pretty well: "On August 12th, 1883, a pack of life-extinguishing comets came within a few hundred miles of slamming into the Earth, nearly killing everything on the planet...."

Kinda puts into perspective the hubbub over Ron Paul's right eyebrow toupee, shortages of the iPhone 4s, the latest photos of Kim Kardashian's booty, or whatever's occupying the chattering class today, doesn't it?

This is going to sound like a nerdy rant, but among the things that irritate me about our nation's declining space program and general turn away from science is that for the first time in the history of the Earth we could soon have the technologically to prevent our own extinction at the hands of a dinosaur killer.  Although I have my occasional misanthropic moments, I by and large rather like humanity and don't want to see us wiped out entirely.  So it would hearten me to see us continuing to develop that capacity.

Of course, for the first time in the history of the Earth we're already capable of inflicting a dinosaur-killer-level conflagration on ourselves, courtesy of much the same rocket and nuclear technology that got us into space.  So there's a yin-and-yang with everything, I suppose.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Colts 2011 Haiku, Week 5, in which I make that case that "Coltish" may soon replace "Lionesque" as the preferred NFL term for "hopeless ineptitude."

Mary Campbell-Droze has been excused from her haiku duties this week, and so I have come off the bench and taken on the task in her absence.  I can neither confirm nor deny the rumors that she is away at Stanford practices, scouting potential #1 2012 draft pick QB Andrew Luck.

Colts 2011, Week 5

Colts now oh-and-five.
Vague signs of life from Painter.
Kaylee, Katie: "Yawn."

--John Magee

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ryan Claytor Artist Lecture and Exhibit at Mott Community College

If you're interested in comics, graphic novels, or visual arts, you might want to head up to Flint this weekend to catch Ryan Claytor's Artist Lecture at Mott Community College. (Noon, Friday, October 7th; Visual Art and Design Building, Rm #129; 1401 E. Court Street; Flint, MI 48503.) The lecture is accompanied by an exhibit of his work that's running until Tuesday, October 11.

Those of you who have dropped by the ol' Patio Boat before have heard me plug Ryan and his autobiographical And Then One Day series. But if you haven't heard of him, his work ranges from funny and telling anecdotes to some very interesting examinations of comic art itself. He also doubles as a comic studio art instructor at Michigan State University, University of Michigan - Flint, and Mott Community College, and his classes have consistently produced some of the more interesting self-published student work I've seen.

Whether you've run into Ryan before or not, he always has insightful things to say about comics, art, and the challenges of being a working artist. So, it'll be well worth your time to stop by the lecture. Alas, Monique and I will be off at a wedding this weekend, so I won't get to hear what he has to say. However, I did manage to shake free from work last Friday afternoon to drive up to Flint to check it out. So I can at least share a quick review of this excellent exhibit of Ryan's work.

First off, let me assure anybody who remembers the raging controversy from the positioning of Ryan's exhibit in the Small Press Spotlight exhibit at the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum that the restrooms are far, far away from this exhibit. Inconveniently so, really ... at least a hundred feet away. You practically need to take a taxi to get there.  You can barely see them even with the zoom lens pointing down the hallway from the entrance:

(Click on any of the images to enlarge them.)

So, instead of a wall next to the restroom, Ryan has an entire gallery room all his own, and he makes great use of it.  Two of the walls are covered with sequences of original artwork from his books:

Another wall has a fabulous piece of his titled "Ceci n'est pas une intervalle de temps" which is based on René Magritte's famous painting "La trahison des images" ("The Treachery of Images").

This is the piece in this exhibit that really hit me. I had come across it before in one of Ryan's books, but for some reason I had mistakenly thought that the original was on standard comic art board. So you can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the full height of the wall! It's a great, thought-provoking piece, and I spent a good deal of time looking it over from several different angles. The full size suits it.

The far wall of the exhibit also contains some very interesting work, a series of the three posters that Ryan created for the last three MSU Comics Forums with both the original art and the finished poster presented side-by-side:

Of greatest interest in this particular poster is that it represents an entirely new phase in Ryan's work. This is the period in which he abandoned a career built on bright, insightful autobiographical visual narrative to instead latch onto the coattails of America's #1 Internet Superstar Canine, Katie the Beagle!

Obviously this is a dramatic shift to commercial opportunism for Ryan.  I expect that from here on out his work will mostly consist of portraits of the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, Lassie, and other members of the glitterazzi who move in Katie the Beagle's circles.

By the way, if you're wondering how these sorts of exhibits collect up these series of works, they rely on the generosity of keen patrons of the arts:

I must say, this in particular tickled me. I've always seen these little cards thanking the donors who made an exhibit possible. But when I started to collect up a few bits of comic art that I liked, I never in a million years imagined that I'd one day be a patron of the arts with a piece that would be needed for an exhibit.

Ahhh, "The Magee Collection." Yeah, I like the sound of that: the Rockefeller Collection, the Getty Collection, the Magee Collection....

If you want to check out the work on loan from the Magee Collection, or other (obviously lesser) Ryan Claytor works that haven't come from such luminous heights, you have until Tuesday, Oct. 11. Your best bet if you're running up to Flint is to do it Friday and catch Ryan's lunchtime lecture, too.

After October 11th you're out of luck. Unless you have access to the fabled Magee Collection, that is.
Ryan Claytor Artist Lecture
Friday, October 7th, 2011 at Noon
Mott Community College
Visual Art and Design Building, Rm #129
1401 E. Court Street
Flint, MI 48503

~and also~

Ryan Claytor Gallery Exhibition: Comics and Visual Narrative
Monday, Sept. 26, 2011 – Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Gallery Hours: 8am-5pm M-F
Mott Community College
Visual Art and Design Building, Fine Art Gallery
1401 E. Court Street
Flint, MI 48503

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

MC-D Eschews the Haiku Format in Week 4. (Just like the Colts eschew wins.)

Due to recent complaints by the establishment that Colts content has been lacking, I will make up for it in one fell swoop.  I give you the Anti-Haiku: the '70s lyric.

A Painter-ly Paean
[sung to the tune of that song by America]

Well you tried to win it Monday
But once again you clenched
So you sigh and look to Sunday
Was it better on the bench?
You're not ready to be Peyton
But instead you'll have to do
Since we all agree: this season will be poo

Well we got so hopeful for you
Mister Golden Hair---surprised?
And we'd be much worse without you
(You're not Sorgi in disguise!)
We've got a fairly decent Defense
But a crap Offensive line
And this likely won't be remedied in time

Do we need to go no-huddle?
Well you bet your derrière!
Rise above this friggin' muddle
Just show us you've got a pair!
We can't duck it---
We're Indy fans; we don't say "Chuck it"

Next up: an ode to Kerry Collins, "Suite: Kerry Blue Eyes" (or "Cross-Eyes" if the poor dear is still concussed).

--Mary Campbell-Droze