Halos, Shields and Fighter Jet Canopys, Oh My!

The FIA have pre-empted this post by choosing the halo design but I was going to write something about the plans for increasing cockpit safety anyway.

Your fears are formed by what you see.

The two most recent serious F1 accidents have featured something hitting the driver’s head while they’re seated in their vehicle. Understandably, this has led to calls for fully enclosed cockpits to be used in F1. The first F1 accident I remember was Gerhard Berger’s 1989 crash at Imola. Which I swear is where my fear of burning to death comes from. Now, that ended happily, or at least only with minor injuries, but the main reason I don’t like the idea of having fighter jet-style canopies is what happens if they fail to release.

The other problem with a full canopy is how it would be cleaned as it got dirty. If the driver is fully sealed, he can’t just rip off a tear-off strip the way you can with helmets. Sure, the mechanics could do it during a pit stop. But what if it got dirty in-between times, or if the car in front sprayed oil all over the canopy because of a mechanical failure?

I suspect these problems, or something similar, are the reason why the FIA and the teams haven’t even tried anything like a full, sealed canopy.

With a “shield”, there aren’t the same problems. The driver can get out, and I presume tear-offs can be made for them. On the other hand, objects can still bounce off and in, and something could go over and in to the cockpit. I don’t think that you’re ever going to be able to make any motorsport 100% safe, but I think the shield is probably the best option. It mixes increasing safety without introducing different risks or just leaving things as is of the solutions so far put forward.

I don’t get what the halo is supposed to do. I’m sure I’m missing something, and I’m sure someone with more engineering know-how can explain it to me. It seems to offer very little extra protection while reducing the driver’s field of vision. I don’t think the central column visibility issues will be as bad as it looks (see also how quickly you can get used to seeing through mesh in a fencing mask). However, I’ve no idea how it’s supposed to prevent objects entering the cockpit. It seems to only be capable of preventing things if they’re on a trajectory that crosses over the halo pillars and bars.

The FIA have gone with the halo over the shield. I’m sure they have their reasons. I’m sure they are good reasons. It would be nice to know what those reasons are because from the outside, it looks like a ridiculous decision.

Mama Do – Why motherhood doesn’t have to be the end of Serena Williams’s career

The minute Serena Williams announced that she was pregnant, various journalists dusted down their “is this the end of (famous sportswoman)’s career” articles.

This is annoying for a variety of reasons.

The first is that it really is always the same article, with just the name of the sportswoman and the sport changed.

The second is that, if Serena chooses to come back, it’s not the end of her career. Sportswomen can, do and have achieved after having children. For instance, <a href=”http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/rio-2016-jessica-ennis-hill-takes-silver-in-thrilling-conclusion-to-womens-heptathlon-a7189731.html”>Olympic silver</a> in the heptathlon, generally regarded as the most physically demanding of the athletics disciplines. Or you know, being <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Blankers-Koen”>the Flying Housewife</a>.

But I suppose they don’t play tennis. Like oh, Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open after giving birth, and she’s not the physical force that Serena is.

Those are sport or related reasons. The remainder of the reasons are more society based.
The social construct of “the perfect mother” appears to exist only to make all mothers feel bad. (Any mothers reading this, you are amazing.) The perfect mother, she does not and cannot exist.

More than that, the extreme self-sacrifice that this ridiculous construct demands, that a mother no longer has her own life outside that of the identity of mother isn’t safe or healthy for the mother, her children or any attendant partners.

Reporters and journalists are intelligent people and shouldn’t be buying into it or propagating it.

There’s also this weird idea that Serena (or any other woman) will be so overcome by the awesomeness of having a child that she will not be interested in pursuing her career. I don’t have children, but my mother would like to tell you that this is nonsense. I have her permission to quote her.

The interesting double standard is that it’s assumed that no man would be so distracted by having children that he’d want to stop his career. There’s no “will Murray stop playing tennis now that there’s a second mini Murray on the way?” articles. If kids are so all-consumingly awesome, you’d think both parents would be affected.

Every woman’s choice is different, and it is her choice.

I realise journalists have to fill up the column inches so how to earn their pay. Maybe next time though write about a British (change nationality as applicable) junior that’s doing good rather than digging out the old “is this the end of (famous sportswoman)’s career” article again.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

Which I enjoyed. It might not have been as good as the first but it made me cry as much.

The main thing I disliked was that the characters were too broad in the first half so the reconciliation in the second half would work. But it did work. Probably better than the equivalent scene in the first one.

The character-is-a-screw-up-because-of-missing-Dad is a trope I could live without, but at least Peter Quill has a better reason than most. Peter Quill is still the one of the gang I like the least but that is not Chris Pratt’s fault, as he does a damn fine job.

The film struck all the “I’d still rather have the Farscape film this isn’t” chords that the first one did. Not helped by bonus Ben Browder. (Who got this film’s giggle of recognition.)

And also every other Australian actor I sort of recognised. Although I want Elizabeth Debicki in all the films. I really like how they did the Sovereigns (or however one is supposed to pluralise that), that mixture of dangerous and silly.

The cool thing about the Guardians of the Galaxy films is that they acknowledge that they’re based on comics so they occasionally go “stuff physics and reality”. It is glorious. As is James Gunn’s direction. Can he direct all the things? Because he makes everything look so pretty.

Spoilers begin below

There was no real twist to the story. The obvious thing was obvious and Yondu was far too cool to live. Also, he’s a father in a Hollywood film. But that’s okay. See Hollywood, films don’t need twists. What they need is character and motive.

This film is totally going into evidence as to why you never trust a guy who woos you with someone else’s song lyrics. I do like that they make it clear that Ego is lying while he’s lying, just from the sculptures he shows.

I love Baby Groot less than grown Groot, but there are few characters I like more than grown Groot. (I am Groot). That being said Baby Groot’s fighting technique and mine are horrifyingly similar. And he is adorable. I especially loved that scene with Baby Groot and Peter at the end when Father and Son was playing (hey, film, that’s cheating). I think it’s because Peter was so worried that he’s going to screw up like his father and Yondu did (accidentally on the part of Yondu) and eeee!

Gamora is such the big sister. And loves Nebula despite everything. I also ❤ Nebula and her grim determination and her knowledge of who the major problem in her life is (Thanos, always Thanos).

I am totally here for the Expendables in Space with Michelle Yeoh if anyone wants to make it. Really, please 🙂

All those who suspect Craggle is yet another lost boy Yondu picked up somewhere along the line say yeah.

Drax is my favourite (if we ignore Groot. Temporarily.) Although that highlights one of the things I like about GOTG is that I do actually like all of the good guys. Drax is hopeless in the best possible way. He’s the character that suffers the most from the broadening in the first half. But when it comes down to it, Drax is there for them, utterly. I loved the shot where he lifts Mantis up as they’re being eaten by the Ego-planet. Because he’s literally using the last of his energy to try to save her.

Of course I love Mantis, as I was supposed to. The film does something interesting. Normally, when there’s a character who is “not pretty”, the character is played by someone who is either 1) actually pretty and we’re supposed to ignore that or 2) there’s a reveal scene where they’re “prettied” up and we’re supposed to be shocked. GOTG2 avoids this by making it clear that Drax is crazy, but it’s cultural crazy so Drax can’t help it. I loved that that Drax doesn’t love Mantis any less just because she is hideous to his eyes.

Rocket is a hard character to love, and that’s deliberate. I did love the scene with him and Yondu, because Yondu is right, they are so very similar. I’m intrigued by the way Yondu has enough self-knowledge to recognise Rocket’s brand of self-sabotage, but not enough to stop himself for doing it. Because at least half of his downfall is him being an arsehole to his crew (don’t be mean to your underlings is a lesson many people should learn).

At the same time, Rocket’s Rocketness is what helps him save the others because you know Gamorra and Drax would have waited for Peter even if it had meant death. Drax especially. Which Dave Batista really sells. At some point Dave Batista has become a more than passable actor.

Anyone who knows me can guess the precise second when I started crying. And you’d be right with your guess. The film viciously goes for my button of “doing a good thing with no expectation of reward”, and then Yondu gets his reward and a proper Ravager funeral and … well yeah, I cried and hard.

While it didn’t quite work for me, I like that the film went full bore on its themes and linked everything together.

Magic Weekend

Last weekend, as I was in Newcastle, I took the opportunity to go to Magic Weekend at St. James’s Park.

Magic Weekend is when all 12 Super League rugby teams play in one stadium over the course of 6 matches, 3 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday.  It’s £40 for all 6 matches, which is a very good deal.

Now, I’m not saying I had the best view in the house, but I pretty much did.

I missed the first ten minutes of Wakefield Wildcats vs Widnes Vikings.  On the way down to St. James’s I saw a couple in full Viking dress.

Complete with hat and horns.

Other important Widnes information includes the fact that the Viking fanclub is called the Stronghold.  Because of course it is.

The Widnes mascot was fantastic fun.  In between hitting the Wildcat mascot with his axe (don’t worry, they hugged and made up

), and lending a Widnes fan in a wheelchair the axe and running her up and down the side of the stadium so that she could hit people with it, he was fun chaos. Trust me, if you’re anything to do with Widnes, you need your fun from somewhere.

I did figure out what Widnes’s problem was.  They’ve got nothing going forward, so they have to defend constantly.  That leads to them tiring, their opposition scoring late on and Widnes losing.

Then came Saints vs Hull FC.

Now, I am a Saints fan.  I had no hopes going in.  I mean it, if they’d only lost by 10 points, I would have been happy.  They had been that bad.  It was also the new manager’s first game.  Low expectations were the order of the day.

They won.

45 – 0.

No, I can’t explain it either.

(The ever wonderful Saints team lining up)

I have no idea how Justin Holbrook did it.  At the time, I wasn’t sure if he’d just told them that he didn’t mind them playing badly he just demanded that they play like professionals, or if it was Saints being their usual inconsistent selves and being awful one week (vs Castleford, I have legitimately never seen them play worse) and good the next.  Since then, it seems to be that it’s Holbrook being a damn fine coach because Saints won the derby this week.  (The Saints vs Wigan derby is often held up to be the origin of the phrase “derby match”.  It’s a big thing locally, and the first official one was 122 years ago.)

The last match on the Saturday was Wigan (them, the great sporting evil) vs Warrington (who are so perpetually the bridesmaids that even they make jokes about “this being their year”).

It was a 14-14 draw.

Warrington had the lead, but they blew it.  Because they are Warrington.

(Stefan Ratchford who is my favourite Warrington player)

I think Warrington’s problem is that their line is too high up the pitch when they
attack so it just needs one good kick or one line break to completely destroy their defence.

The first match of Sunday was Catalan Dragons vs Huddersfield Giants.

It was always going to be the least well-attended match of the weekend because Catalan are, obviously, a foreign team so, understandably, they have fewer travelling fans.  I still say that there were more Catalan fans than Hull fans though.

Half time and between the matches entertainment included mini rugby, touch rugby and various sets of dancers.

And the St. James’s house band.  I discovered that “Take Me Home, Country Road”, “Wonderwall”, “Seven Nation Army” and “Chelsea Dagger” are universal rugby league songs.

There was also a Mushy Pea mascot because one of the Super League’s sponsors is a brand of mushy peas.

The Huddersfield Giant mascot was very good and shook the hands of the mini rugby players as they left the pitch.

The next match was Leigh Centurions vs Salford Red Devils.  I’m not sure why the Leigh mascot is a pig, but here he is doing one armed push-ups.

I am impressed.

Last match of the weekend was Castleford Tigers, league leaders, vs Leeds Rhinos, their local rivals.

Rob Burrow, who is my favourite player, despite the fact that he plays for Leeds, was playing. Now, for reasons, some of the teams were wearing superhero-branded
kit.  Wakefield were wearing a Spiderman inspired kit, Hull an Incredible Hulk one, Warrington a Thor one (which makes sense because of all the Ashton Sims is Thor jokes), Catalan Dragons wore an Iron Man themed one and Leeds got Captain America.  This is a problem because Rob Burrow looks like Steve Rogers pre-serum, in comparison to the other players.

Tiny Rob Burrow’s vital stats are he is 5 foot 5 (165 cm) and 10 stone 6 (66 kg).  And he’s a pro rugby player.  His lack of size may have some bearing on my love for him.  That he is also awesome also does.  Despite the final where he came on at half time and stole the championship from my team by hustle and moxie.

Castleford won.  I think the Castleford fans won for loudest fans of the weekend.


~~~~

It was great fun.  I recommend going to Magic Weekend if you get the chance.

It’s an amazing experience getting to be around so many people who love rugby. For example, there was a try-saving tackle by a Widnes Vikings player that got cheers from all the crowd (except the Wakefield fans, justifiably) because it was an excellent piece of play.

Seeing all the teams play, particularly from the vantage point I was at, meant you could get a much better feel of how they played than you can from the TV.  On TV, you often don’t get to see off-the-ball play as much. I got to see some marvellous rugby, both attacking, such as Tommy Makinson’s try, and a lot of the tackling.

The atmosphere was great too.  I’m 5 foot 3 and a woman and I went on my own but I knew there wouldn’t be any trouble despite all the fans sitting together, not being separated by team affiliation.

There was a fair bit of banter, such as the Wigan Warriors fans walking round the pitch with a banner saying “We came, we conquered, we ate all the pies”, which got the expected response (and the Widnes mascot giving them the thumbs down).  Or the Warrington banner saying “it’s always our year”.  Then there was the back and forth “stand up for St Helens,” “stand up for the champions” and “stand up if you hate Wigan” chants.  Or the Wigan and Saints fans joining together to taunt Warrington.  Or the Wigan and Saints fans having a throw football match. The stewards were most disapproving, because they are used to football fans but the supervisor steward knew rugby fans are mostly harmless and threw the ball back.

On Sunday, there was an adorable child Leeds fan who ran round a group of Castleford fans when Leeds scored and just got chuckled at.

I love how much colour and sound there was.  Fans of every team took the idea of striking the colours seriously, repping their team.  This included fans of teams that weren’t at Magic Weekend, like the Crusaders fans in front of me or the Toronto
Wolfpack fans to my left.

St. James’s facilities were excellent, except they could do with a better PA system because it was full of fuzzy reverb.

I had a fantastic time, would recommend going, and plan to go again as soon as I have the time and money again.

Assassin’s Creed (the film)

This began as a review of Assassin’s Creed, and turned into a discussion of the nature of storytelling. If you want a review, that’s easy:

Avoid.

Run far, run fast, don’t look back, don’t try a Leap of Faith in the real world.

None of the following is a diss on the technical people involved. The film was beautifully made. The costumes were amazing, I loved the camera work.

When you’re as good as that cast list are, then the acting is not the problem. Particularly Michael Fassbender at the beginning, he was amazing.

The trouble was it was difficult to care about any of that when no-one is given all that much character.

I mean, Aguilar gets a bit, but the fact that I can only remember the assassin’s name and not the modern-day dude should tell you something. The film was really bad at giving the characters names and identities. For instance, the only reason I know that Maria’s name is Maria, not ‘unspeakably hot Assassin chick’ which I had to call her, was because I looked the film up on IMDB and had to work backwards from female actresses listed.

The same thing for the modern day Assassins. I would care a lot more about the fate of Assassin 3 and 4 if, you know, they were people rather than cardboard cutouts that some fine actors were doing their best with.

I mean it. Name one non-Aguilar assassin just from watching the film.

There’s no sense of them being real people, they have less personality than the NPCs in the game do.

What Mad Max: Fury Road did excellently well, this doesn’t bother to do at all. I’m not given a reason to care about these characters, so I don’t, which means the grand sacrifice scenes don’t work.

It’s odd that a film that took so much care over everything else (the sets, the costumes, the little details like Aguilar’s name and the Torquemada’s nose) had such a bad, flat script.

My other problem is not the film’s fault. Or rather, I have the same problem with the games but the film emphasises it. The whole, ‘there are no rules’ philosophy is well and good if you’re strong and strapping. If you’ve the kind of person who isn’t, it tends to end badly for you. Relying on people to look after each other in that sort of set up also ends badly. That the film just blithely accepts that the Assassins view of life without questioning it is ooky.

Some spoilers below.

The film goes out of its way to avoid shades of grey. Whether it’s making Cal Lynch a criminal who prays on other criminals (so it’s okay to cheer him on), painting the Assassins as completely good and the Templars as completely evil, or just making Marion Cotillard evil all of a sudden (I cannot overstate how bad the film was at giving the names of the characters). That was also a shocking waste of Marion Cotillard. She’s an amazing actress, so use her.

Assassin’s Creed annoyed me, because it came so close to being good. It had one glaring flaw, but the script was so bad and a script makes up such a large part of the film that I felt really let down.

Why UK NFL fans should be cheering for Toronto Wolfpack

Dear UK NFL fans (who don’t already have a rugby league team to support),

Support Toronto Wolfpack.

Why?

Because Toronto are trying to do what any NFL franchise based in the UK would have to do.

Now admittedly there are differences between the two: size of squad, overheads and relegation into and out of various leagues for a start…but you can bet your bottom dollar the NFL are keeping an eye on what happens to the Wolfpack, and they will include it in their calculations about whether a UK-based franchise would succeed.

The hurdles Toronto are having to overcome would also be a problem for a UK franchise:

  • The distance (although, as several commentators have pointed out, the flight time between several US NFL teams is just as long as the US/UK flight time)

 

  • Getting homegrown players into the team.  Toronto have done something sensible and clever, they’ve run trials in Canadian and US cities to find people who haven’t quite made the grade in the NFL or CFL (Canadian Football League) but who could transfer their skills to rugby league.  The homegrown player thing is obviously less of a thing in the NFL because of the whole draft thing (and the franchise thing), but I think it would help embed the putative UK team better in the UK.

 

  • Transport, although that’s not a problem for an NFL team as the NFL pay transport costs.  But because the RFL don’t, Toronto have done another clever thing.  They have signed a sponsorship deal with an airline, Air Transat.  The airline are covering the cost of Toronto’s flights and, and here’s the clever bit, the flight costs of the UK teams that are playing Toronto.  Toronto are also being nice and covering some of the travel costs for the UK fans coming over.  Presumably to keep costs low, the matches are being played in sets of 5, so Toronto have 5 games over here, and then five home games back in Toronto.  The putative NFL team won’t need to do that.

 

  • Competition from other sports teams.  Toronto is a good proxy for London (and the UK in general) because it already has a lot of sports teams.  The Maple Leafs, the Blue Jays, the Raptors, the Argonauts and Toronto FC are just some of the teams that the Wolfpack will need to compete against to gain fans and an audience share.

If Toronto show that a transatlantic franchise could succeed, they might well be a stepping stone to getting the London Jaguars.  

So get cheering for them, UK NFL fans.

About the Ambassadorial Contract Nonsense

This is a late response to the RFL’s ambassadorial contracts.  The new salary cap and marquee player rules might have put an end to this nonsense.  However, the RFL still win some sort of prize for really bad ideas with the ambassadorial contracts.

It’s not just the not informing all the teams.  Although that is the level of communication I expect from the RFL.  It’s that it’s a bad idea no matter which way you look at it.

First of all, I look at it as a fan.  Okay, there is an advantage to my team.  It should mean that my team can keep hold of players that would otherwise go to the NRL (or another Super League team).  But that relies on my team being one of the ones whose players are chosen to play for England.  I’m lucky, the occasional Saints player does get picked.  Other teams aren’t so lucky, see any number of Wakefield and Castleford players who have deserved a call-up and didn’t get one because they played for unfashionable clubs.  Or there are players who are the victim of an oversight by a particular coach e.g. Steve McNamara’s refusal to pick Danny Brough.

There’s no way that this idea is fair on Catalan Dragons.  They are, understandably, unlikely to produce any English players through their academy.

It gives an advantage to the teams that are already big.  It also puts any team coming up from the Championship at an even bigger disadvantage than they would have been.

Also as a fan, and using a personal example, I’d rather James Graham have moved to the NRL than to another English team.  One of those is annoying, the other one would have broken my heart.

I think that would also be true if I was an owner or manager.  I’d rather a player leave for Australia rather than play for one of our competitors.

As an England fan, I want the players playing in the best league possible so that we might, eventually, beat the Aussies.  That means the NRL.  One year of results in the World Club Championships does not change that.  I understand that the reason why they brought this in (or tried to) was to reduce the gap.  The RFL think that the NRL are stealing all of the Super League’s best players.  They also think that stopping that will make the gap between England and Australia smaller.

This seems to ignore that the players that go over and succeed are mostly props, not creative players.  Now, I love me my props, see also James Graham, but GB/England have always been able to equal Australia in the forwards.  It’s in the backs where Australia are so much better.  Stopping the backs from getting experience against Australian teams is not going to solve that problem.

What might solve the problem is stopping the English teams bringing in over-the-hill Australians to play in the backs.  Instead English teams should be encouraged to promote players from their own youth systems.

No Super League team is going to agree to that though, because why should they cut their own throats for the national team.  I think there will need to be a carrot and stick approach.  Somehow said carrot (or stick) also needs to be applicable to the Catalan Dragons.  That is where it gets difficult.  There’s no reason for the RFL to help the Dragons, but just as much, there’s no reason for the Super League teams to help the RFL without some sort of reward.