Thursday, May 15, 2008
words: Eddie Alterman
I've never been of the opinion that the base Lamborghini Gallardo needed more oomph, but I'm obviously in the minority. The coupe's variants — the SE, the Superleggera — have offered additional speed and/or additional lightness, and they have kept the whole Gallardo enterprise fresh for the past five years.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone but me that a new Gallardo variant was needed, this time to replace the coupe (the Superleggera's gone; the Spyder remains). The newest baby bull is called the LP560-4, and all you really need to know about it is that it has a frickin' Thrust mode. The end.
For those interested in the bothersome details of this $201,000 entry-level Lambo, know that the revitalization efforts extend to pretty much every area of the car. The LP560-4 has a revised body, suspension, engine, brakes, lighting, and transmission. It results in a Gallardo with the same power-to-weight ratio as the Superleggera, a 3.7-second 0-62 time, a top speed of 202 mph, and the kind of power curve to launch a thousand Evel Knievels.
But the increase in power alone doesn't get the LP560 to the Superleggera's motivation-to-mass ratio: The new car also weighs 44 pounds less than the outgoing Gallardo. Revised axles and differentials (including a 45-percent limited-slip rear) shave mass, despite the addition of a toe link on the rear suspension. Otherwise, the body's weight remains essentially the same, even though the car is two inches longer than before. The more observant among you will notice that the front fascia comes to a point as on the Murciélago and the Reventón, and that the taillights, which previously reached up onto the deck, are now contained on the rear fascia, their Y-shaped LEDs giving off an unmistakably mil-spec vibe. With the lights suddenly horizontal and the extraction mesh running uninterrupted across the fascia's full width, the rear of the car looks a bit like a more rectilinear version of Audi's R8, a consequence that was wholly unintended.
One area intentionally brought into line with the R8, however, is the transmission. Though still offered in the same six-speed manual or six-speed e-gear configurations, the e-gear unit has a rotational selector to replace the fore-aft mechanism. This results in as much as 40-percent faster and infinitely smoother, gentler shifts. Although, if you really want to feel the gears engage, you can select the Corsa shift program, which delivers a mule-kick to your lumbar region every time it swaps cogs. Corsa is just one of five shift/ESP modes, which also include, in order of increasing aggressiveness: Automatic, Normal, Sport, and the previously mentioned launch control, suggestively named Thrust. The more belligerent settings switch the ESP programming to Sport, which indulges fairly wide slip angles before intervening.
On the course set up for us at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a combination oval-infield arrangement, the car comes on with a Lambo's anticipated lack of subtlety. Idling through pit lane, the V-10 sounds like the devil's own sewing machine, a busy interweaving of alloy parts. Prod the throttle and the various butterflies in the car's lungs snap open, overlaying the brittle hum with a heavy, guttural howl. On the bowl, the car digs in and stays glued there, its seductive combination of lateral grip and body control prodding you faster and higher. Out here, the gearbox is mostly ceremonial — there is such a large powerband that you rarely have to shift. Third is fine even for tight corners and fourth is good for deep triple-digit speeds. You'd think that a torque peak of 6500 would mean a dearth of low-end grunt, but the direct-injection system keeps part-throttle response aggressive. In fact, the old Gallardo feels positively peaky by comparison.
Diving into the infield, the LP560-4 revealed a few weaknesses: The optional carbon-ceramic brakes ($10,000) have a dead zone at the top of the pedal travel, making smooth tip-in almost impossible. The brakes bite down so hard that you can nearly set off the seatbelt pre-tensioners if you don't get your footwork right. Also, the car's steering masks feel with weight. There's a force-feedback artificiality to the helm, which is ironic considering that the steering is nearly unassisted.
That said, I didn't use the steering wheel all that often. Mostly, I just steered the car with the gas pedal. While doing so, I was able to engage in the stereotypically Mediterranean activities of drinking a tiny espresso with an even smaller spoon and calling many people on several cell phones at once. Indeed, what could be more Italian than a car that leaves your hands free to gesticulate? Overdrive the car into a corner, and a slight relaxation of your right foot tucks the nose back into line. Brake hard for a tight left-hander, and the back end will come about, gently and controllably. At the limit, the whole car seems to dance, and all the heft and brusqueness of its demeanor evaporates.
The LP560-4 is equally at home on the road, with great initial bump absorption and a very balanced secondary ride. It also tends to attract people, many of them yokels. Four toothless gentlemen in a clapped-out F-150 were admiring the car's visuals, issuing numerous whoops, hollers, and invitations to race. Others were not so susceptible to the Lambo's charms. While on the strip, I saw a woman reach out of her rental Chrysler 300 and drop an overstuffed McDonald's bag right onto the street. I gave her the kind of overenthusiastic thumbs-up that even the bovine-hormone afflicted can read as sarcastic, and she gave me a crass and un-layered single-digit response. When she engaged me in conversation at a light it was to ask, somewhat quizzically, if I was an accountant. She then added that even a car such as the LP560-4 would fail to garner me female consort. I thought about reminding her that I had the high moral ground here — while she was dumping grease onto the pavement, my Gallardo was consuming 18 percent less fuel than last year's model. In the end, though, all I could come up with was this: "Eat another burger, you fat cougar!" With a tug of the paddles and a press of a button, I set the car to Thrust mode.
Posted by Chismillionaire at 2:21 PM
Chismillionaire says you can now forget the XLR which was an aborted attempt at the stunning EVOQ anyway-
This CTS cabrio concept looks better and is half the price of an XLR with only 14 hp less with a V6. No one who is going to buy a Corvette, is going to cross shop this anyway. Man, I know the economy is tough, but a hit is a hit is a hit.
DETROIT — Don't look for the Cadillac CTS coupe convertible to hit showrooms any time soon. Despite the fact that the CTS Coupe Concept was a runaway hit at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, our sources say GM has already done away with plans to produce the sexy new coupe in convertible form.
If Cadillac is serious about the CTS coupe competing with the popular European and Japanese coupes, a drop-top Caddy seems to be a no-brainer. The BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 already offer convertibles, the Lexus IS has a convertible in the works, and top Nissan exec Carlos Ghosn confirmed this week that the G37 convertible is headed for production as well. While the CTS coupe's overall success isn't dependent on the availability of a convertible model, BMW enjoys a 10 percent boost from its 3 Series coupe convertible, and the A4 cabrio accounts for nearly 20 percent of the A4 mix.
The CTS coupe was rumored to be getting a retractable hardtop, an engineering accomplishment already offered on the 3 Series and Volvo C70, and Infiniti and Lexus have already settled on retractable hardtops for the G37 and IS as well.
When queried about the possibility of a CTS convertible, or its early demise, Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell said, "We're pleased to be the subject of speculation. Maybe that's a sign that the CTS has struck a chord with some folks. This issue of a convertible is one of the very rare times where we decline the offer to comment."
What this means to you: All that time and money spent on the Pontiac G6 convertible to populate rental fleets, when the Cadillac CTS convertible would have been a car we'd actually want to drive
Posted by Chismillionaire at 2:06 PM
TOKYO — When the Infiniti G37 convertible debuts in the U.S. in 2009, it will be equipped with a retractable hardtop, Inside Line has learned.
Spokesman Kyle Bazemore said that a soft top was never a consideration, given the G37's formidable European competition. The Infiniti convertible is expected to go on sale in February 2009. Look for the G37 convertible to make its formal debut at an auto show sometime in the fall, although Infiniti has not decided exactly which show will be most appropriate for the unveiling at this point.
The company also has not yet determined pricing on the G37 convertible.
Nissan confirmed the production of the G37 convertible earlier this week in a detailed corporate plan that also laid out the Japanese automaker's strategy for the launch of an electric vehicle in the U.S.
What this means to you: Look forward to one hot state-of-the-art convertible from Infiniti next year. — Anita Lienert, Correspondent
Posted by Chismillionaire at 2:06 PM
Monster camp (IMDB)
Monster Camp is a feature-length documentary that chronicles a live action role-playing game organization. Monster Camp looks at the lives of the participants, and considers the pro and cons of escapism through fantastical outlets. Director Cullen Hoback documents the fantasy world, following several participants over the course of one year.
The group followed is a Seattle, Washington chapter of the New England Role Playing Organization (NERO), one of many live-action role-playing organizations in the US. Players create their own identities selecting from a variety of races and classes, similar to Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft. Participants dress up and are involved as either player characters, non-player character, or Plot Members.
It premiered at the Cinequest Film Festival 17 in 2007, where it received the Audience Award for Best Documentary. It was also in the Seattle International Film Festival and the Corvallis da Vinci Film Festival.
Posted by gjblass at 1:55 PM
Posted by gjblass at 1:54 PM
This stunning Israeli is the first thing you’re going to see in this month’s big-screen thriller The Ruins, based on Scott Smith’s bestseller about a pack of friends who find more than just pottery shards on an archaeological dig in Mexico. “I’m in the first scene,” she says, “and nothing good happens to me. That’s all I can say.” Speaking of firsts, Bar revealed a few of her other seminal experiences. First Kiss I was a geeky girl who studied a lot, so it didn’t happen until I was 17. This guy I studied theater with asked me to get some burgers and take a walk in the park, and that’s when the kiss came. I don’t think he knew what he was doing. First Crush This is embarrassing, but I think Conan O’Brien is hot. I think it’s because he’s funny and quirky. Or maybe it’s the red hair. First Concert Garbage came to Israel when I was 16. It was the first time my folks let me go somewhere alone, so I saved up money and went with my friends. We smoked cigarettes, and when I got home my parents noticed the smell. They caught me doing lots of stuff I shouldn’t have been doing. First Time Fired I tried to bartend, but half an hour into it I threw a drink at a customer because he hit on me. First International Incident I moved to Milan to model when I was 17, and after a week of auditions I got tired of it. I packed my stuff and took a train to Berlin without telling anyone—not the agency in Milan, not the agency in Israel, not even my parents. As a teenager, you don’t really think about those things. Everybody was freaking out, and my parents finally called the Israeli embassy. Nobody knew where I was, and they were looking for me for a week! I caused a lot of trouble.
This stunning Israeli is the first thing you’re going to see in this month’s big-screen thriller The Ruins, based on Scott Smith’s bestseller about a pack of friends who find more than just pottery shards on an archaeological dig in Mexico. “I’m in the first scene,” she says, “and nothing good happens to me. That’s all I can say.” Speaking of firsts, Bar revealed a few of her other seminal experiences.
I was a geeky girl who studied a lot, so it didn’t happen until I was 17. This guy I studied theater with asked me to get some burgers and take a walk in the park, and that’s when the kiss came. I don’t think he knew what he was doing.
This is embarrassing, but I think Conan O’Brien is hot. I think it’s because he’s funny and quirky. Or maybe it’s the red hair.
Garbage came to Israel when I was 16. It was the first time my folks let me go somewhere alone, so I saved up money and went with my friends. We smoked cigarettes, and when I got home my parents noticed the smell. They caught me doing lots of stuff I shouldn’t have been doing.
First Time Fired
I tried to bartend, but half an hour into it I threw a drink at a customer because he hit on me.
First International Incident
I moved to Milan to model when I was 17, and after a week of auditions I got tired of it. I packed my stuff and took a train to Berlin without telling anyone—not the agency in Milan, not the agency in Israel, not even my parents. As a teenager, you don’t really think about those things. Everybody was freaking out, and my parents finally called the Israeli embassy. Nobody knew where I was, and they were looking for me for a week! I caused a lot of trouble.
Posted by gjblass at 1:50 PM
Ask most people where the best beer in the world comes from, and they'll probably say Germany or England. More worldly folks might mention Belgium.
But ask a beer aficionado these days, and odds are you'll get an answer that might surprise you – the good old U.S.A.
Just as wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Oregon are giving bordeaux, burgundy and barolo a run for their money, breweries from California to New York are proving they can make some of the best suds in the world. And they're not just copies of the old European originals. While American craft brewers have proven themselves no slouches at styles such as pilsners, pale ales and stouts, they've also created some of their own, often bold styles.
"U.S. craft beer is probably the most diverse and interesting brewing scene in the world," beer aficionado Cass Enright said at a recent dinner in Toronto at the Academy of Spherical Arts to celebrate the Ontario launch of Southern Tier Brewing's India Pale Ale.
Over the past few decades, the U.S. beer scene has exploded. In 1978, there were just 42 breweries across the U.S. In 2007, there were 1,449.
"You can find just about anything being made. They've taken the best of every kind of style and put their own twist on it,'' says Enright, founder of bartowel.com, a site for local beer connoisseurs.
At Bar Volo the next night, Southern Tier founder Phin De Mink and his brewer, Paul Cain, were mobbed by local beer fans.
"We were shocked," says De Mink, whose five-year-old brewery is about an hour's drive south of Buffalo.
"When we started shipping our beer up here, it was just for small private orders. We didn't really think that many people even knew what Southern Tier was."
At both Toronto events, De Mink was peppered with questions about when more products – including the highly respected Choklat imperial stout – will be available north of the border. (Answer: Choklat will be sold through private import agent Roland and Russell, rolandandrussell.com, in November.)
It's not just beer enthusiasts who are falling in love with American brews. Toronto-area restaurants and bars are stocking an increasing number of beers from south of the 49th parallel. At Volo, owner Ralph Morana has 29. Beerbistro, which recently increased its cellar space, offers about 50 American beers.
Among the U.S. beers available at Beerbistro are the so-called double IPAs or imperial India pale ales. They're a bolder, hoppier American take on a classic English beer designed to withstand the long boat voyages to the subcontinent. Dogfish Head, whose 60-Minute IPA is coming to the LCBO later this summer, has two hoppier versions called 90-Minute and 120-Minute. Both are selling well at Beerbistro.
But the super-hoppy beer trend has its detractors, even among some American brewers. "Can you imagine a chef saying, `This is the saltiest stew you've ever tried, and you're not a real man if you don't like it?' That's what some of these breweries are doing," says Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery in New York.
Oliver, whose flagship Brooklyn Lager has been available at the LCBO since last year, makes an IPA more in keeping with the original English style. He also brews a bottle-conditioned Belgian ale, which will be on sale at the LCBO some time in the next year. Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout, a rich, strong imperial stout, will be part of the LCBO's seasonal program this winter.
While the bolder beers are some of the more popular American brews on offer at Beerbistro, they're not the only ones people ask for.
"The Americans are hop-heads, but there's a lot more variety than just IPAs," says Morin, pointing to Dogfish Head's Chateau Jiahu, a delicate brew that includes rice, honey and hawthorn berries.
Even the LCBO is starting to surf the American wave. It recently added four beers – Southern Tier IPA, Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA, Rogue Dead Guy Ale and Anchor Steam Beer – to the general list. Several more have been added on a seasonal basis.
"Our overall plan is to continue to focus on ultra-premium products, and craft beer – from Ontario and elsewhere – definitely falls in that category," says Leanne Rhee, the LCBO's category manager for beer.
Still, craft beer fans shouldn't expect to see beer from smaller but highly touted U.S. brewers, such as Wisconsin's New Glarus, or Indiana brewery Three Floyds, renowned for its Dark Lord imperial stout. Many are still building a following in their home markets, says Rhee.
Another obstacle for some breweries is the LCBO's regulations, including specific requirements for labels, packaging and rigorous testing at the LCBO's lab.
Smaller breweries, such as Buffalo's Flying Bison, don't have the technical or financial ability to change their packaging.
"It really doesn't make any sense for me to do it. It's not worth it,'' says Flying Bison brewer Tim Herzog.
Despite the new additions, Rhee admits the LCBO's stock doesn't go far enough. "We'd definitely like to have more American beer. Our customers are asking for it."
Posted by gjblass at 12:49 PM
This year @ the ITP show the latest addition of devices used for projects included the Wiimote. Younghyun Chung's digital wheelchair art project @ ITP...
More about the project...Digital drawing tool for people whose physical challenges confine them to wheelchairs.
Everyone has the desire and the right to express themselves. People can draw pictures, play music, sing songs, move their bodies, write compositions or poems to express their feelings and emotions. However, not everyone can use these methods. There are many people who want to express themselves but cannot to do so because of physical disabilities. In this project, assistive technology including electronics, mechanics, and computer programming is applied to help those people to express themselves, and moreover, to provide an opportunity to be an artist.In this project, I successfully provided alternate methods of self-expression for people with physical disabilities. Because I designed the system while considering a variety of disabilities and locations so that a wider range of users can easily use it. Since it is based on computer technology, new functions can be added easily. Also, the replay features of this project allow for profound understandings about the creative process of art as opposed to just seeing the final products. In the end, I have transformed a wheelchair from a practical tool that assists disabled people and that at times is also a symbol of stigma into a tool for self-expression and art-making.
Posted by gjblass at 12:29 PM
Imagine a high-speed rail line that could get you from San Francisco to LA in 2 hours and 40 minutes.
That dream appears to be coming true, thanks to work by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. After getting a green light by State environmental impact assessors, they’ve begun implementation of an 800-mile bullet-train system that will connect Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Orange County and San Diego. Trains traveling at 220 mph on the systems are forecast to carry up to 100 million passengers per year by 2030.
While 2030 is a long way off, at least things are moving in the right direction. Having a high-speed rail system connecting (eventually) the length of the West coast is a good idea for a number of reasons, including greenhouse-gas emissions reductions, improving public transportation and reducing congestion, and creating half a million new jobs. While our aging standby Amtrak is still around (believe it or not) and bearable for short distances, it’s more expensive and takes twice as much time to travel the same distance when compared to driving (non-California example: 15 hours from Portland, OR to San Francisco).
The State will have a bond measure of $9.95 billion on the November 2008 ballot, which requires a simple majority vote for approval. The measure allocates $9 billion for the high-speed rail system and $950 million for improvements to other rail services that connect to the high-speed service.
For more information, see the website of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
Posted by gjblass at 12:20 PM
Federal authorities charged that a methamphetamine laboratory was operating at the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse and that employees carried weapons to work.
The charges were among the most explosive details to emerge following the massive raid Monday at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa.
In a 60-page application for a search warrant, federal agents revealed details of their six-month probe of Agriprocessors. The investigation involved 12 federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the departments of labor and agriculture.
According to the application, a former plant supervisor told investigators that some 80 percent of the workforce was illegal. They included rabbis responsible for kosher supervision, who the source believed entered the United States from Canada without proper immigration documents. The source did not provide evidence for his suspicion about the rabbis.
The source also claimed to have confronted a human resources manager with Social Security cards from three employees that had the same number. The manager laughed when the matter was raised, the source said.
At least 300 people were arrested Monday during the raid, for which federal authorities had rented an expansive fairground nearby to serve as a processing center for detainees.
The search warrant application said that 697 plant employees were believed to have violated federal laws.
Agriprocessors officials did not return calls from JTA seeking comment.
Posted by gjblass at 11:50 AM
If all goes well—or very wrong—Earth may receive a message from aliens from the Altair solar system as early as 2015. Japanese astronomers Hisashi Hirabayashi and Masaki Morimoto sent an email there back in 1983, which was lost and has just been re-discovered by the latter at the Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory. Hirabayashi says they were drunk at the time, which explains why some of the 13 71 x 71 pixel images are the molecular formula for ethanol, the kanji characters for "kanpai!" (cheers!), and the English word "toast." Check out some of the pictures and play drunk alien yourself after the jump.
According to Hirabayahsi, he "came up with that idea while drinking. The aliens probably won't understand that (kanpai and toast) part." We can only hope that whoever is looking for life at their radio telescope up there won't be drunk as well, if only to ensure good inter-planetary relations from the start. Example:
Obviously, this means: "Dear People of Altair, We are organisms who reproduce sexually to form families. Life on Earth started in the water." Kind of scary, but better than the alternative—after five whiskies: "Hey alien dudes, here on Earth we are all nudist. Some of us are giants with big tits. Others are giants with tiny penises. Fishes like to suntan on the beach. Turn the page to see us drunk. Kanpai!"
Whatever happens with the decoding of this binary message, at least it gives a little hope to Mulder-wannabes and tinfoil hatters all over the world, who may see alien contact in just seven years. Otherwise, the prospect was quite bad: US scientists sent another message to M13—the Hercules globular cluster—thinking that having a big concentration of stars, it may give us a bigger possibility of getting an answer back, instead of Elvis singing back "Return to Sender." Unfortunately, they didn't think that the waiting time to get a message back from a planet in M13 would be a bit too long: a mere 46,000 years.
While Hirabayashi is hopeful that his message was received in 1999 and now a reply is getting back to be received by any Jodie Foster listening out there, he knows that it's highly improbable that it would work. "I believe in aliens, but they are very difficult to find," he says.
If you add the fact that Altair may not have any planets at all, the chances are extremely slim. Still, he says that they did it because "it was good enough," and he is glad about it, especially after all the messages he got from schoolchildren everywhere: "children's response is the best thing."
Posted by gjblass at 11:47 AM
If you don't know what the ACME Catalog is, well, your childhood must have sucked.
Wile E. approves.
Posted by Gary at 11:42 AM
Exclusive YouTube premiere: Flight of the Conchords video for "Ladies of the World" from their self-titled LP on Sub Pop Records and the HBO series "Flight of the Conchords".
Directed by Nima Nouriz...
Posted by gjblass at 11:34 AM