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Monday, October 17, 2005

I love College Football...... And the HOOS!

10 years ago, UVA's Anthony Poindexter stopped Warrick Dunn on the one foot line to hand Florida State it's first ever ACC defeat. The play is still disputed to this day as to whether or not Dunn broke the plane of the end zone. It was also heralded as UVA's greatest victory in the ACC.

Until Saturday night.

What makes this victory so great for Hoos everywhere? The fact that this team was struggling - struggling to win against lesser teams, struggling with controversy, struggling to define themselves. Faith in the coaching staff was waning, even amongst the Wahoo faithful. Unlike the 1995 team, no one - including even the most die hard Hoo fan - was giving us more than an ice cube's chance in hell.

It took a feisty young quarterback, considered by many to be too short to be taking snaps, to completely decimate very good defense with pure heart and athleticism. It was sight to behold.

Even the much aligned and porous defense stepped up and held off an aerial onslaught by applying just enough pressure and playing opportunistic in the backfield.

And the coaching staff seemed to quickly determine that the wideouts were the chink in the Seminole armor, and methodically exploited this weakness by completely abandoning the running game.

So have the Hoos redefined their season? The AP seems to think so - they voted them back into the top 25. Will they use this game as a rallying point for a respectable season or was this just a magical night where everything came together?

Only time will tell - but god I love college football.... and the HOOS!

Photos courtesy of Ryan Rosebush

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Diamonds in the Rough

Apparently, I've missed some very good TV.

With one exception, these series are not on the major networks - the networks are flooded with the latest "reality" trash in an effort to find that next show that can bring in the ratings equivalent to Survivor. I realize that my disgust of these shows is a definite aberration, and I fall into a small minority in this school of thought. I also tend to embrace shows that do not deal with reality at all (or at least deal with possible realities) a.k.a. Science Fiction. I have always gravitated to this genre in books and movies.

Because of my general distaste for the network shows, I have relegated myself to watching theatrical releases (I watch a LOT of movies) and HBO series and mini series like the Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Carnivale, Band of Brothers, Deadwood, and now Rome, with the occasional Fox series like 24 thrown in. What I am finding out is that in my complete prohibition of network TV, there were a few shows on the independent networks (and one that actually aired on a major network) that went under my radar that were really worth a look.

The first was Firefly, which I have commented on below. After discussing this series at lunch time and "water cooler" chats, It was suggested that I view three shows : the SciFi Channel's Battlestar Galactica, ABC's Lost and USA's The 4400. I quickly acquired each series and I am in the process of becoming current with each them.

I had heard that SciFi was remaking Galactica, but never gave it a second thought since I was not overly impressed with the campy original. Lets just say that only the basic plot line and character names are all that link the original to it's current incarnation. From the opening 15 minutes, it's apparent that this show would be quite special. This is a series that once I started watching, I found myself hooked like a junkie in an opium den. I watched the entire first two seasons in a week. Unlike it's predecessor, it takes a realistic view of what life, politics, and society would be likewhen what is left of an entire race of humans is reduced to life on the run in a fleet spaceships, while being ruthlessly pursued by a enemy that never sleeps. The decisions that have to be made are tough, dark and sometimes brutal, each balanced against what is the right thing to do for the good of what's left of the human race. I have to agree with the Boston Globe's "50 Best SciFi Shows of all Time", who rates it in second place. Bring on Season 3!

Next, at the prodding of a friend, I am watching The 4400. This series is really under the radar. It airs on USA, and the basic plot line revolves around 4400 abductees that appear in Seattle during the passing of a comet. It doesn't sound too intriguing, but it takes you on a topsy turvy thrill ride that starts down what appears to be a predictable path, only to blow away your latest theory over and over. Each episode centers around one of the 4400 abductees, while still following a main storyline. It's very well done, and although I would not put it in the league of Firefly or Galactica, it is definitely worth following to see where it ends up.

Lastly - I am saving Lost, mainly because it is currently airing and I am not very good at keeping up with shows that don't air on Sunday or Monday nights, so it's better for me to watch them at my leisure. This series seems to have a mixed bag of love / hate reviews from my friends, with most agreeing that the main storyline is well done, but with mixed reviews of the "flashbacks" that are seeded throughout the series. However, my son gives it high ratings and we usually agree on what's good entertainment. I guess I'll post a review in a week or two once I peruse this series.

I'll definitely be paying more attention to the network lineups, in hopes of finding a few more gems like these amongst the minefields of mindless reality shows that, at least from my perspective, plague them.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Robotic Touareg Edges the Big Boys

A fully autonomous Stock V10 Touareg Diesel, built by a team at Stanford, is in the lead for DARPA's Grand Challenge Event, which gives 2 million dollars to the winner of a 132 mile obstacle race. The objective : to prove that autonomous robotic vehicles can be used in military operations. There's one more vehicle to finish, but it looks way behind. The Touareg defeated two hummers, a six wheel drive military vehicle and a Ford Escape hybrid to take the lead by a few minutes. The rest of the field did not finish. Here are some links:
DARPA's site
CNN's Coverage

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Rolling Stones play Scott Stadium in Charlottesville
Photo Courtesy of Rachel Zahumensky / Daily Progress

It had it's challenges. 50,000 + people attempting to get in to Charlottesville during rush hour, while the residents were just trying to get home. Total gridlock gripped the town for hours. Many of the concert-goers (us included) missed Trey's set. Then, a bomb threat cut 45 minutes out of the middle of the show. It could have been a complete disaster. It turned out to be my favorite concert of all time.

Now I am a person that takes concert performances very seriously, so I pondered on this statement for the 40 minutes it takes me to get to work. I've seen some really good shows over the years, so I really had to put some heavy duty thought into this before formulating this opinion. So what made it the best?

Well - to start - it was partly due to my expectations. You see - over the last few years, I have been attending shows of timeless artists that I believe may be nearing the end of their touring careers. I have seen Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, The Eagles, Peter Gabriel - just to name a few. I have paid extreme prices for these shows and have witnessed some incredible performances. With the Stones, I believed that I would see the band a little past their prime, so I was not expecting a crisp performance, and due to the outdoor setting, an average stage show. I could not have been more wrong.

First - there was the musical performance - The most energetic performance I have ever witnessed. This of course is mainly due to Mick, but the rest of the band kept right up with him. They have assembled an awesome supporting cast, complete with a full horn section featuring Bobby Keyes. They have an outstanding ensemble of back up singers, and an amazing young lady named Lisa Fischer. She pounded out a rendition of "Nighttime is the Right Time" during their Ray Charles tribute, giving Mick a run for his money to steal the song. If I had to make a list of the songs I just had to hear, they were all in their set list. My night was complete after hearing "Sympathy for the Devil" and then getting "You Can't Always Get What You Want" as an encore.

And then - there was the most excellent theatrical experience. As we entered the stadium, I was awed by the huge four story structure (or should I say building) that had been constructed on about the thirty yard line. It was as wide as the Stadium, from one brick wall to the other, and had a massive LCD screen at least three stories tall in the center. From the middle of this extended what appeared to be a huge catwalk - which ended on about the thirty yard line on the opposite end. There appeared to be two alternate raised stages on either side of the end of the catwalk. At about 7:30 p.m. - during Trey's set - a number was given out for anyone present in the stadium to call. If you received a text message back - this entitled you to stage seating - which meant you climbed into the structure on one of the two levels of balconies that rested above the stage. About 400 lucky souls got to do this. Little did they know that they would be part of the stage show.

The entire structure was made of LCD panels, so images could be projected across it's entirety. Shortly after the bomb threat fiasco, the band compressed into the very center of the stage - which then separated and rolled down the catwalk - and settled between the raised structures to create a new stage at the other end of the stadium. An ancillary set of stage lighting came to life as the main stage settled into place. Here they belted out a few more tunes, and then as the stage began it's journey back, the main stage lit up to reveal a three story inflatable Stones symbol (the lips and tongue).

The pyrotechics were out of this world and completely sync'd to the music. They used awsome fireworks, 50-100 ft. flames and flash bombs to enhance the mood and get the crowd absolutely frenzied. It made even the best KISS concerts look like a garage band with a box of sparklers.

The Stones have proven beyond of shadow of a doubt that they can still bring the house down. If you only see one tour this year - this is it. Don't worry about the pricey tickets - you will definitely get your money's worth!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

33 hours and counting.....

Can't wait to see the Stones in the most beautiful stadium in Virginia! And some late breaking news - Trey Anastasio is opening and playing with the band. It should be awesome in C'Ville tomorrow night!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Highs and Lows of the Weekend

Well, this weekend started off very poorly. Being a die hard HOO fan, I was extremely disappointed to watch a mediocre Maryland team absolutely shred our much maligned defense. Looks like another long year for the Hoos. I knew we weren't a top 20 team after watching the team struggle to defeat the cannon fodder teams we played in the first three contests, but I had no idea our defense could be that porous. Lets hope that Groh can somehow use this humiliation to inspire the team and salvage some kind of season. Stranger things have happened in college football, which is why I love the sport so much.

However, things got much better after we went to see Serenity, the subject of the post below. It was all I thought it could be - and more. Hopefully, this will set a new standard for Hollywood, proving that a SciFi movie that is written and acted well doesn't need a 100 million dollar budget to make it a box office smash. It is as witty and interesting as the series, and the story line is outstanding, complete with some real surprises and slick twists. Very well done, Mr. Whedon.

Sunday - we went to VIVA! ITALIA – Richmond’s Original Italian Street Festival. It was a beautiful day and the food was outstanding. I had some excellent homemade Italian sausage, and Charmaine had some outstanding Penne with Vodka creme sauce. We tasted an excellent selection of Italian wines, and topped it off with some Gelato, Tiramisu and espresso. It did seem to take us back to our trip this summer to Italy.

We took Barkley, and he had a blast meeting many other dogs and enjoying the attention of many of the participants. Afterward, we went to Stony Point Shopping center, and he met even more of his canine pals. He has been zonked out since we have been home - so I think he had a big day.