Month: July 2014

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar: Watch the New Trailer

Oh goodness, that looks EPIC. Nolan strikes again.

TIME

A new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming deep-space epic Interstellar was released Wednesday.

The Batman director sends actor Matthew McConaughey, accompanied by Anne Hathaway, on a space mission to explore a newly discovered wormhole and to “surpass the limitations on human space travel.”

This new trailer offers more than sci-fi action scenes among the stars—the clip shows the movie’s soft side, focusing mainly on McConaughey’s relationship with his daughter, played by Twilight actor Mackenzie Foy. Actors aside—Michael Cain returns with Hathaway—the trailer has an eerie resemblance to The Dark Knight trilogy.

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Hungarian Grand Prix 2014

Qualifying

Q1 started out messy, with Maldonado stopping because of a mechanical failure right on his out lap. Then, Bad Luck (capitalised) struck Hamilton once more, as his car caught on fire, believed to be a fuel leak. Also, just before the fire started, he had brake issues, some of which might have been affecting him in practice too. It leaves him stranded in 21st, on a track that doesn’t allow for overtaking like Hockenheim.

The last problem came for Chilton’s car, but he had already set a time, so was able to stay ahead of Ericsson on the grid. Then, to the surprise of everyone, Raikkonen was bumped out of Q1 by Bianchi, touted as his eventual replacement at Ferrari. Sure, the Marussia had soft tires on, while Raikkonen set his time on mediums, but his lap wasn’t that great, and he should have gone out again instead of expecting the Marussias and Caterhams to drop out of Q1.

Then, in Q2, another failure happened, this time a hydraulic leak to Perez. It’s a problem that afflicted Hulkenberg’s car in FP3, and struck them again. Then, Kvyat spun at the end of Q2, which brought out double yellows that ruined a few laps.

Finally, as we got into Q3, rain started to fall, but only at Turn 1. So Rosberg locked up and went wide as he was about to do his timed lap, but his mistake went unpunished again as Magnussen ran right into the wet tarmac at the end of the straight, and couldn’t brake in time. Cue hitting the barriers and the red flag which halted the session. Even Button went off at the corner after his teammate, and there was very nearly a collision.

But the rest of the track was dry, so when Q3 restarted, everyone was on slicks, and Rosberg eventually pulled out a 0.486s on Vettel, just as Vettel had gotten on provisional pole by 0.035s. Bottas, despite the low-downforce Williams, managed to split the Red Bulls, with Ricciardo ahead of Alonso ahead of Massa.

With overtaking difficult at this track, it’s hard to see how Hamilton can make up places. He despondently mentioned that it’ll be hard to even get into the top 10 in the race, and definitely won’t make top 5. That’ll be a huge deficit to Rosberg come the break, and it’s hard not to feel sorry for him. That’s 4-1 in mechanical issues in Rosberg’s favour now, and his mistakes haven’t cost him either. In Monaco, he ended up on pole. In Canada, he wasn’t cautioned for going off track. And now, he went off but got pole in the end.

Kudos to Rosberg for managing to get the car home, but this is looking like another Vettel/Webber situation again. Conspiracy theorists are already out in force, and that won’t go away until things even up between the two.

Race

I know I’ve been saying this every race this season, BUT WHAT A RACE.

The drama was thanks to the rain that came pouring down 30mins before the race started, and because the track dries quickly in some parts, there were damp portions and really wet portions of the track. Radar said that more rain would be coming, and so most people went on inters, and hoped for either more or less rain, depending on their grid positions.

Kvyat stalled right before the formation lap with a loss of power. Bottas took second ahead of Vettel at the start of the race, and Alonso sneaks in for 3rd. Button also snuck ahead of Ricciardo on the opening lap, while way back behind Hamilton spun off track with cold brakes. He suffered some minor wing damage, but it was less than in Hockenheim, and he gingerly continued.

Rosberg quickly built up a lead at the front, then Ericsson crashed rather spectacularly. The safety car came out,, just as the front four runners had past the pit entrance, forcing them to take another lap while everyone else dived into the pits. This meant that Rosberg came out behind Ricciardo/Button/Massa in 4th, with the rest of the front four scattered behind him interspersed with other cars.

Surprisingly, McLaren opted to put Button on inters and not to change Magnussen’s tires at all, anticipating more rain that no one else was seeing on their radars. It seemed like a good idea at the time, as the track was still pretty wet and everyone struggled just to stay on track. But as no rain arrived and the track started to dry, it was increasingly clear that it was a bad mistake.

During the safety car period, more drama occurred as Grosjean spun off at nearly the same place Ericsson crashed, while Rosberg had a smoking left rear brake. Then, as the race restarted, Button took Ricciardo thanks to his inters working better on the still-drying track, while Hamilton fought his way up until he was behind Vettel, and just one car away from his teammate stuck behind Jean-Eric Vergne of all people.

Respect for Vergne, who seems, along with Toro Rosso, to excel in changeable conditions, as he held off Rosberg admirably for a long chunk of time, which kept Hamilton in contention as he was being held up by Vettel, unable to find a way past. Ricciardo slowly eked out a gap at the front, as Alonso started to pressure Massa in 2nd, having inherited the place when Button pitted.

Behind them was just as much drama as Hulkenberg hit his teammate Perez as he tried to overtake him on the final corner, and had his first non-scoring race of the season, leaving Alonso as the only driver who has scored points every race so far. Meanwhile, Maldonado hit Bianchi as he tried the overtake at Turn 1, a favourite for all the drivers, damaging Bianchi’s floor and forcing his own nose change.

Then, Perez touches the astroturf coming into the pit straight, and promptly spins and smashes his car into the pitwall right in front of the Red Bull and Mercedes head honchos, showering the track with debris. That meant another safety car, and some drivers quickly pitted. Williams tried the long game with mediums, while Ricciardo went for softs and dropped down to 6th in the pack. During this time, Kobayashi retired too, due to a mechanical failure on his car.

As the race restarted, Hamilton resumed his chase of Vettel, who then spun off as Perez did, except he somehow only brushed the pitwall with his right rear, and was able to continue going. But it lost him a place, and Hamilton could then chase down Vergne in 2nd, taking him on the outside at high speed around the blind Turn 4 for what must be the overtake of the season so far.

Rosberg pitted before Hamilton for softs, and ended up behind Bottas for a brief fight as Hamilton continued to push hard in front until it was time for him to pit, crucially putting him just ahead of Rosberg. Given that Rosberg needed to pit again, the team told Hamilton to move over, but Hamilton refused, knowing that if Rosberg went to do his race, he would be extending his lead in the championship.

So Rosberg, unwilling to try and get too close for overtaking and risk damaging his car, had to trundle behind Hamilton losing about 10s for the 10 laps. Finally, Mercedes pulled him into the pits for his final pit stop, leaving Hamilton free to chase down Alonso which he did so with aplomb.

In the midfield, Raikkonen picked up the mantle for the Red Bull/Ferrari battle that has been raging for a couple of races now, as he fought Vettel just as he came out of the pits ahead of the world champion. Out in front, Ricciardo pitted once more, but that meant he had fresh tires to catch Hamilton and Alonso, both struggling on older tires.

The train behind them for 5th looked like an exciting prospect, but Bottas pitted, and Rosberg took out Raikkonen then Massa in swift succession on his (old) soft tires, and proceeded to smash the 25s gap to the front four in a few laps. Meanwhile, out in front, Ricciardo caught Hamilton at the same time as he caught Alonso, and the trio fought a thrilling battle with fantastic passing moves from Ricciardo to get ahead of two former world champions, securing the lead and zooming off into the distance for his 2nd win in Formula 1.

Try as he might, Hamilton couldn’t get past Alonso, and Rosberg caught up with 3 laps to go. On the final lap, Rosberg had a look on the outside, but Hamilton squeezed his teammate out, and managed to cling into the final podium spot. Behind them came Massa in a respectable 5th, Raikkonen in a fighting 6th, Vettel trudging home in 7th and Bottas in 8th. Vergne and Button took the last two points-scoring slots, with Sutil doing quite well for Sauber up in 11th. Magnussen came 12th, ahead of Maldonado, Kvyat, Bianchi, and Chilton.

It was great driving from all three podium finishers; Ricciardo with a great strategy, Alonso somehow making his soft tires last for 30-odd laps, and a pit-lane to podium race for Hamilton. For all of Rosberg’s bad luck in the race with the safety car, you wonder whether he could have done better, given that Alonso made it to 2nd despite being part of the quartet that were inconvenienced by it.

There was wheel-to-wheel racing, changeable conditions, drama, and a whole lot of skill on show from the drivers. It’s definitely one of the best races of the season, and we still have plenty to go. What a difference a year makes, eh?

German Grand Prix 2014

Qualifying

Well, that was some qualifying. Rosberg started off with two lock-ups and was down in 21st, while Ericsson was stuck in the garage. Then Hamilton had a right front disk brake failure, sending him spinning off the track at high speed and red-flagging the session. It’s more qualifying woes for him, and this time it’s not his fault that he starts only 16th.

All the cars were understeering a lot, due mainly to the removal of FRIC, which forced teams to raise the front of the car. Lotus struggled the most of all, while Williams was right on the Mercedes’ tails. This proved the case in Q2, as the Williams were up in P2 and P3. Button and Raikkonen both missed out on Q3, which is a bit of a surprise, but given their qualifying woes this season, isn’t that shocking of a result.

Q3 was quite normal, and dare I say it, anticlimactic, as Bottas pushed his Williams close, but ultimately still two-tenths off Rosberg’s best time. Magnussen did a great job to qualify just behind the Williams and ahead of the two Red Bulls, with Ricciardo outdoing Vettel once more. Kvyat did a stellar job as well, pushing ahead of the Force Indias and behind Alonso.

With Hamilton in 16th, Button and Raikkonen in 11th and 12th respectively, and Williams with the pace and the position to possibly challenge Rosberg, this could be a real cracker.

Race

Well, it turned out to be a cracker, as expected.

Before the race, Hamilton had a 5 place grid penalty for changing his gearbox, and started 20th on the grid. As the lights went out, Magnussen was on the inside line as they went into the first corner, Massa didn’t see him, cut across too early, and flipped his car, ending his race. This screwed over both Magnussen and Ricciardo, who had to drive off track to avoid the colliding cars. Also, Bianchi stalled on the track at the start, but recovered to join the race.

Rosberg pulled away from Bottas easily, and from then on was untroubled bar some minor tire trouble as he coasted to victory. Meanwhile, Bottas was also pretty comfortable; not as fast as the Mercs, but unworried about cars behind or his now-retired teammate. The only worry came in the final laps, as Hamilton caught up.

Hamilton had a mad, mad race as he was overtaking someone nearly every lap, doing it at the hairpin with impatience and very often indeed. First, he was behind Ricciardo as he tried to take on Sutil, and he tried to squeeze past the Sauber and had contact. Then, he took out both Ricciardo and Raikkonen in one fell swoop at the hairpin once more, but did take a bit of front wing off Raikkonen.

After pit-stops, Hamilton was behind Ricciardo, and again passes him at the hairpin. But the trouble came when he tried to pass Button. Thinking that his former teammate was letting him through, he dived down the inside of the hairpin, and sustained some front wing damage. That affected his race thereafter, and had to make a late change to a 3-stopper. Oh, and he passed Hulkenberg at the hairpin too. They might as well name the corner after him.

Then, due to Sutil’s spin, he went to pit for his final stop, but was about 3 laps earlier than intended. This meant that by the time he caught up to Bottas, his tires were dead on their feet, and he could find no way past the Williams and had to settle for 3rd.

Behind them was chaos as Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo all had their battles with each other. Raikkonen had a moment when he was squeezed by Alonso and Vettel on either side as they went into the hairpin, and it was a miracle none of them crashed. Grosjean lost power, Kvyat caught on fire, and there was great racing all over. In the final laps, Ricciardo and Alonso had a private duel over 5th, with Vettel too far ahead, and Alonso eventually got the better of the Aussie.

Behind them was Hulkenberg, once again scoring points and running a steady race. After that was Button, who had done a 2-stopper and was sniped off by Alonso and Ricciardo. Magnussen did a good job recovering from his collision with Massa to collect points in 9th, and Perez snatched up the last point in 10th.

Raikkonen missed out on points once again, unable to drag out what Alonso can. Maldonado managed a respectable 12th for Lotus despite their sluggish pace, and the rest had uneventful races.

Kudos to Hamilton for his charge from 20th to 3rd, although it could have been 2nd. Bottas with a fine drive took the 300th podium for Williams, and is a world champion in the making. Rosberg? He extends his lead to 14 points over Hamilton, although if Hamilton beats him in just 2 races where they finish in a Merc 1-2, it’ll be all even between them. And with double points in the final race, don’t expect this intriguing duel to be over any time soon.

Linkin Park – The Hunting Party

Hmm. I haven’t been wholly convinced by Linkin Park’s albums since Minutes to Midnight, and The Hunting Party is no exception. Granted, it still sounds pretty darn good, but it doesn’t stand out like Meteora or Hybrid Theory did.

Furthermore, the talk about the album was that it was to show everyone what rock is all about. Maybe using my UM Pro 30s to listen to a rock album made it boring, but it didn’t really jump out at me as a cut above other rock albums. Maybe I’m asking too much of them; the switch back to classic rock is much welcome after two albums of experimental sound (that I do enjoy, but just not my cup of tea).

Also, it feels like the the music has been heavily affected by the loudness war. I heard Ghost Stories by Coldplay right before this, and it sounded pretty well mastered. This? It sounds compressed and dare I say it, a little lifeless. Maybe the copy I have wasn’t rendered properly, but a quick listen on Spotify tells me that it’s probably not.

Oh well. You can’t expect every album to turn out fantastic. So far, Linkin Park has avoided producing a dud despite moving between different sounds across a few studio albums, and kudos to them. Keep rocking!

Coldplay – Ghost Stories

Woah.

I heard Magic when it was released, and it was a sound that I immediately associated with the earlier days of Coldplay; a sound I love very much. I can’t say I liked Mylo Xyloto and its contemporary pop sound, because it seems like a backwards step for the band. It didn’t feel like Linkin Park’s experiments with different sounds; rather, it felt like they were trying to make more money by going for a more mainstream sound.

But with Ghost Stories, it feels like Coldplay have gone back to their roots. And it’s produced an album I can listen to all day long. Bar one or two tracks, the songs all hark back to the days before even Viva la Vida; days when Coldplay was a little moody, a little introspective, and raises goosebumps on my arms.

Don’t go back to that awful pop sound again, Coldplay. Leave that to the Justin Biebers and Miley Cyruses of the world. Give this backwards-looking, old-fashioned, conservative fan more of that classic Coldplay.

Sony Xperia Z2

I’ve been waiting to re-contract my mobile phone plan for months now, and I had debated getting the HTC One M8 or the Sony Xperia Z2. The title of this post gives it all away; I went for the Xperia.

The debate was pretty much settled a month ago, when I actually wanted the HTC One. All reviews pointed towards the HTC One being just that little bit better, and with almost equivalent prices upon re-contract, it was a no-brainer. However, when it was time to actually buy the phone, the prices for the Xperia had dropped while the One’s price went up. The price differential was almost S$120.00, and that meant the Sony for me.

So far, I’ve been quite pleased with the phone. After the pain of fixing up contacts and transferring game data, the phone has been functioning like a champ. The battery life is godly compared to my HTC One X, and I found myself testing out the waterproofing more than once. The freedom to actually run water to clean the phone is something extraordinary.

And it’s a phone that deserves constant cleaning, because even if it’s unwieldy, it’s a gorgeous piece of technology. Recently, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with beautiful things (mainly headphones, if I’m honest), and the Xperia Z2 is definitely one of the prettiest phones. I hate the Samsung Galaxy aesthetic, and the LG G3, while better, is still plastic. Only the HTC One trumps the Xperia in this regard, and it’s one of the (minor) reasons I wanted the One.

I don’t have the eagle eye needed to judge display accuracy, and photo-taking is not my thing, so those are not concerns for me. The phone runs quick enough, and importantly feels like an upgrade to me. I’ll be wholly satisfied if the charging port was not under a flimsy cover that also protects the micro-SIM tray, which seems like a huge liability. Thankfully, Sony did include the magnetic charging port, which means that I’ll only have to open up the cover once in a while (once my magnetic cable arrives, at any rate).

Should I have waited for the new iPhones? Given the integration between OSX 10.10 Yosemite and iOS 8, it would have been a great match with my MacBook Pro. But I never liked the claustrophobic iOS ecosystem. Funny I say that as an MBP user, but OSX is far more open. I hate the idea of having to jailbreak. Maybe in the future, when it’s time for me to re-contract my plan and get a new phone.

The one phone that I do regret not waiting for is the OnePlus One. Given the specs and the price, it’s probably the best phone out there. But it’s limited, invite-only, and I don’t know if it’ll even come to Singapore. As for rumours about the Xperia Z3? Bah, I can’t be bothered to wait months for a phone that will have minimal upgrades on the current model.

For now, I shall enjoy molesting my new phone…

World Cup 2014

Well, the World Cup has been over for some time now, and it’s only now that I’m blogging about it. That shows you how much I really care about the thing (also, work). Despite my love of football, international matches never held any interest for me beyond scouting for the next big stars. Coupled with the late-night nature of matches, I was adamant about not sacrificing sleep to catch the matches.

Throughout this tournament, I found myself watching out for the results of underdogs like Costa Rica, Algeria and Mexico. It’s always fun to root for the underdogs when you are not emotionally invested in any team, and I have to say, well done Costa Rica! They made it to the quarter-finals, and very nearly had a chance at playing Argentina. This shows you that what a football team needs isn’t necessarily a star, but plenty of teamwork, good tactics, and a willingness to fight for each other.

This is most evident in Germany, the team that eventually triumphed over Argentina, the epitome of a one-man team (besides Portugal). Truth be told, Germany does have its fair share of stars, but they never dominate the team like Messi or Ronaldo do. Everyone contributes, and the path to World Cup victory was not just the work of one or two players, but everyone in the team.

Germany’s success only highlights the terrible state of English football. Given that I follow the EPL, it’s inevitable that England team news features prominently for me. Their recruitment of Hodgson after his debacle at Liverpool was mocked by all Liverpool fans who know that he’ll fail at the big jobs. When he brought the team that everyone was hoping to see the World Cup, he was praised for it. Really? That’s all it takes?

1 point from 9 says it all. And even after all that, Hodgson remains in charge. The ‘promising’ displays at the World Cup are somehow enough justification for that miserable exit, when other coaches have quit immediately after losses. Prandelli quit when Italy were dumped out with England; Hodgson defiantly says he’s not quitting. Well, England, prepare for even more mediocrity at Euro 2016 then.

As for other upsets and embarrassing exits, Spain has to qualify as one of the worst. 5-1 to Netherlands was a score no one anticipated, but in truth, it was coming eventually. The Spanish team has been dominating international football for a good 6 years, far longer than any other team has really done before. A good chunk of their players come from Barcelona, who themselves have been at the top for so long, the less amazing days before Guardiola’s rise all but forgotten.

But even the best will age, and the 7-0 drubbing over two legs by Bayern was proof that even the infallible will crumble one day. It’s not like Spanish football won’t rise again; they have a huge crop of highly talented players knocking on the door of the first XI. But it’s the end of an era of wonderful, sublime domination, and all respect for their ability to stay at the top for so long.

But Spain’s collapse was nothing compared to the semi-final horror show that was Brazil vs. Germany. It was a pasting of epic proportions, with records broken everywhere. The best part was that Brazil’s Ronaldo scored his 15th and final World Cup goal against Germany; Klose broke that record when he scored what is probably his final World Cup goal against Brazil. Kudos to Klose, who keeps breaking international records despite indifferent club form. A man for tournaments indeed.

After that 7-1 mauling, it’s clear that Brazil are nothing special indeed. The way they scrapped to the semis is what some call the ‘mark of champions’, but that’s usually about league competitions, not tournaments. The magic was gone for a while now, and in a way, I’m glad they didn’t call up Coutinho, who had a brilliant pre-season game against Brondby. To be at the end of a 7-goal drubbing, at home, in a semi-final of a competition you had every expectation of winning…it’s soul-crushing.

That could well be one reason why Brazil could only limp home to 4th, losing 3-0 to Netherlands. The other reason could be David Luiz, and PSG must really be hoping he’ll be far less adventurous when he starts footballing duty in France. Chelsea must be laughing their way to the bank at that ludicrous sum they got for Luiz, whom most people believe only went to PSG because Thiago Silva demanded for his Brazilian partner there.

With the World Cup over and the most deserving team winning, the footballing world returns fully to the madness of the transfer window. Liverpool have been doing some good business, and in a way, I’m relieved that Suarez is gone.

Finally, I leave this curious little set of coincidences here, to highlight how maybe, it’s fated that Germany win their 4th World Cup this year. After all, Italy and Brazil both had 24-year waits for their 4th titles as well, the same gap that Germany had between their 1990 and 2014 triumphs…

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