Monday, March 17, 2008

R.I.P. ChampCars

The news was very confusing when it came out a few weeks ago, rattled off in a couple of lines by every sportscaster for about a day, none of whom cared enough about the sport to bother checking the copy they were handed.

The line was that the American open-wheel racing series split was over and that CART and the IRL had merged. This is of course utter onnsense. Tony George just finally won the battle with his Brickyard 400-funded deeper pockets and has convinced most of the remaining ChampCar teams to field IRL teams. After the Long Beach race CART will effectively cease to exist this year.



The split happened in 1996 because there were too many Brazilians with hard to spell names winning races, and doing it on blatantly anti-American road courses instead of ovals. So Tony George set about to create the most mediocre, boring to watch, technologically stunted racing series he could, with fat washed up drivers and any oval track that would rent him space for a weekend and called it the Indy Racing League, taking away ChampCars' right to use the name IndyCar in the process. It was at this point, and with Jacques Villeneuve moving to Formula One, that all but about 8 people immediately lost interest in the sport altogether.

CART struggled on as well, sucking up to Toyota and Honda and letting them continually raise the stakes and the cost of fielding a team just so they could have their own private pissing match that no one outside of the racing series even cared about, and which they themselves lost interest in in favour of being mid-field runners in Formula One.

The first CART season where all the racers had the same Cosworth engine was the beginning of the final end for the series. There were heroic gestures and commitments on the part of a couple of the team owners to do what they could to keep things going, selling each other chassis parts and surely some pretty heavy financial incentives on the down-low to make it worth the while for the smaller teams to bother showing up.

But the forced competition just made it hard to watch.

CART just made decision after decision that made the racing less and less interesting in its attempts to find new markets. Watching those big, bulky cars shufle their way around street courses so tight that in the Florida race the damn Atlantic cars were lapping faster was pure frustration. And rules like the pit windows that had to be explained every damn time gave the impression that all the racing was being controlled by the officials just to keep the show exciting, nearly as bad as the suspicious yellows near the end of so many NASCAR races. And silly gimmicks like push to pass buttons just reinforced the notion that the whole thing was just for show and not real racing.

It is admirable that guys like Gerry Forsythe and Kevin Kalkoven held out so long and really tried to make CART work, but every decision they made to try and save money or keep manufacturers on-board left the final product weaker and weaker, and eventually it became completely unwatchable.

Tony George's ego is only partly to blame for the death of CART, their inept concept of what people want to watch has just as much to do with it, sadly.

I hope the IRL cars can eventually turn into something resembling a graceful racing machines and not the monstrocities they are now, truck engines with barn doors strapped to the front and back, but I don't see it happening. I'll stick to F1 and the occasional sports car race.

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By al - 9:16 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Michael Enright and Me and the United States of America

It's very funny to listen to Michael Enright light up when he gets to talk to an American politician or commentator about the state of U.S. politics and international relations. A few years ago he did a two-part interview with Conrad Black. One part was about his legal case and Hollinger International, and the second part about the book Black wrote about Franklin D. Roosevelt, and it was pretty obvious that that was the half of the interview Michael wished would last for the whole time slot. And frankly so did I.

One thing Michael Enright is just not good at is pretending to be interested in Canadian politics. And it is rather hard to be when one has instant access to the thousands of US political blogs and news sources which sound like reports from a trench war that's been being fought since the Nixon years.

Up in Canada we get the fun of having access to all the media coverage of the high-pitched political and culture war, while getting to live in a relatively sensibly-run society. For infovores like us it's much more satisfying to dive into the deep pool of conflict and history of US politics than to try and give two shits about Stephen Harper.

It's rather obvious just how deeply immersed in American history and politics Michael Enright is. Today in an interview on the Sunday Edition, Krugman made a reference to "the macaca incident" in the 2004 Virginia senatorial election, and while Krugman did a very good job of summarizing the whole incident for presumably an audience in a foreign country who would have no idea about a state-level campaign incident from four years ago, you could hear a little bit of impatience in Enright's voice that sounded like "yes yes of course, everyone knows that" but he managed to restrain himself.

Now thankfully CBC has Rex Murphy and Kathleen Petty on Cross Country Checkup and The House to pick up the slack and actually make Canadian politics seem interesting and important, So Michael Enright can be left to play in his preferred waters and make some very informative and important radio interviews that happen to catch my interest as fellow voyeur into US public life.

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By al - 9:47 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, March 03, 2008

Just Plain Ugly

Who at Microsoft thought that they needed to push out a new release of Windows Messenger just to make it look like this?



All I can think of when I see that is that it looks like KDE from 6 years ago. Not a pretty sight at all.

Is this what Vista is supposed to look like and they're cramming that same look and feel down our throats now? Because it's not making me want to run out the door to buy the upgrade, not by a long shot.

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By al - 2:46 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

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