Monday, June 27, 2011

race report!

This Saturday was the annual OMRRA Vintage Days at Portland International Raceway. All kinds of mayhem occurred all day, most of which, between racing and fretting about racing, I missed. My class is 250 Vintage [corrected!], and in that class, for some reason, the Vintage Days tradition is to do a Le Mans start.


In a normal race, you just form a grid, bikes running, everybody alert and pointed toward the first turn, and when the green flag drops you take off. But Le Mans is more complicated, and much more comical. Someone holds your bike, engine dead, at the inside wall of the track, and you line up across from it on the other side of the track. A gun goes off, you run to the bike, hop on, bump start it and go.

In theory.

In practice, if you're me, you kind of stumble toward the bike, only belatedly realizing how hard it is to run in tight leather pants, motorcycle boots and a helmet. You take a moment to grin at your awesome bike holder, then struggle to throw a leg over the seat and start duck-walking as fast as you can with the clutch pulled in, bike in second gear. You have short legs, so this looks ridiculous and doesn't work very well. Eventually you reach a speed that seems promising. You let out the clutch. Nothing happens. You do this three times, until everyone else in the race has safely gone ahead, and then at last when you let out the clutch the bike roars to life and you go.

(Actually, on the second race of the day I got a really good start, first try. But that's rare, for me. Some people can run along beside the bike to get it up to speed, then hop onto it while moving, with a fluid grace I've never approached in any endeavor and am damned sure not going to try in front of a crowd.)

A novel thing about the Saturday morning race is that I had someone to chase. Usually I'm at the back all by myself, just trying to catch sight of the second-to-last guy, hoping the race leaders don't pass me until the whole thing's almost over, so I get to see how it ends. (Have I mentioned that I'm extremely slow? Smooth! But terribly, tragically slow.) But this time, there was a guy whose bike maybe wasn't running too well, or maybe he was just taking it easy, enjoying the scenery (we have ospreys!), and at some point during the race, to my surprise, I passed him. Fun! (Pretty sure he passed me right back, but I only remember the fun part.)

In the afternoon race I was even slower than I'd been in the morning. But as every single living human I've encountered at the racetrack has said to me, Hey, at least I'm out there. (I don't really know what this means. Good try? I think it's a nice thing to say, but I'm not sure it makes a lot of sense if you think about it.)

Anyway. Things that fell off my bike include:

* the bellypan;
* the bolt in the middle of this photo (glamour shot by Scott Elder), directly beneath the SeeSee smiley face.

Looks important!

(I can't help but wonder how it fell off without my noticing. It's a large bolt. Surely I would've noticed a large bolt hitting me in the face at speed. Maybe, as Patrick has suggested, it was never really there at all.)

Things that did not fall off my bike on Saturday include: me, so that's nice.

I did walk away with a massively uncool sunburn, the short-sleeve farmer's-tan variety, and a brand-new hideous burn scar on my forearm, from the tailpipe. Which is great, because the old scar from the first time I burned my forearm on the tailpipe in the exact same place had just faded. I do enjoy continuity.

(I was going to post a photo of the disgusting blister that blobbed up over the tailpipe burn, but it's too gross. I have standards. I'll wait until it pops.)

Here's a rare shot of me near a fellow racer. I can't remember if I was passing him or he was passing me, but the smart money's on the latter.

And another just for fun:

Still not looking cool enough to actually buy the photos.

Also, I think I need a fairing.

Well, I probably won't have another race until August, so those of you bored to tears by all this nonsense but too polite to say so are in for a reprieve. Enjoy!

Friday, June 03, 2011


This'll be up shortly at WW, but here's a quick peek for those who just can't wait to see what I thought of the new X-Men movie:

X-Men: First Class

One thing I've learned from reading a lot of X-Men comics is that evil doesn't just spring up out of nowhere. More often than not it's born of carelessness: someone "good" says something thoughtless to a fragile soul on the threshold of darkness, and blammo, new supervillain. This happens twice in X-Men: First Class, which makes sense, considering how much of the movie is spent on establishing character -- or at least introducing characters.

A prequel to the four preceding X-Men movies (from the pretty good Bryan Singer-directed X-Men in 2000 to the universally lambasted X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009), First Class has so much fun with its setup that you almost wish it never got around to the saving-the-world-from-nuclear-annihilation plot. (Mutants solve the Cuban Missile Crisis; JFK gets credit.) It's a blast watching the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the future Magneto, aka Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), sashay around the planet collecting stray mutants to protect and school. Even more fun is watching Lehnsherr track and punish his Nazi tormenters -- this could easily be its own whole movie. The man has flair. (And teeth! My god.)

It's also cool to see how far the characters have come. Pre-wheelchair Xavier is a little smarmy (he tries the line "that's a very groovy mutation" twice). He's idealistic and brilliant but not yet wise. He lacks the weighty dignity of the Patrick Stewart years, and we get to see him make mistakes. (See above re thoughtlessness.) Other characters arrive fully formed; there's a great cameo that damn near steals the show. Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) does a good job at toughing it out as Mystique, who must console herself with Fassbender after getting the brushoff from wimpy Xavier and nerdy Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). The other young recruits are mostly props for training montages -- and the nerd in me insists I mention that Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), although adorable, is really supposed to be Irish, and old enough to get with Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne).

As villains go, well, for starters you have the Nazis. Kevin Bacon makes a decent Sebastian Shaw, and the special effects around him are weird and impressive. But January Jones doesn't radiate enough intelligence for Emma Frost; the movie turns her into Shaw's penthouse playmate. She looks fabulous, though, as does the whole enterprise, particularly the bad guys' Austin Powers-y egg-shaped sub-submarine hangout.

Both silliness and sap increase as the film rolls along, but the big action scenes are handled well, and it never becomes ridiculous enough to undercut the cool, shaken-not-stirred vibe of its first half.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

back to beerlight

Attention, Steve Aylett fans: Novahead is out! I'm reading it now -- I'll post a review here soon. Can't tell if the cold medicine is adding clarity or weirdness, but so far, soooooo good.