Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home

 

Writer's Block

In many ways You Tube affects our lives in more ways than initially thought possible. Things like music, gaming, and the movies we watch are almost always sampled on You Tube first. Some have taken this online portal as their own personal stage, using it to show off their talents and in some cases further personal gains too.

Most wouldn't turn to the video-sharing site to sell shoes however. Much less promoting said shoes with cool car stunts.

Ken Block, the skinny blonde haired California man is reinventing entrepreneurial techniques by being, simply said, a badass. A co-founder of the hugely-popular-in-US-but-unheard-of-over-here DC line of skateboarding influenced clothing line, his main claim to fame is through the internet community. To support and promote DC Shoes and its subsidiary brands, Ken started his rally-driving career in early 2005. Being a true petrolhead with what can only be called a gift for driving insanely fast, he took the world by storm by uploading his practice videos on You Tube.

Taking up the sacred Japanese driving sport of Gymkhana, he used abandoned parking lots, airfields, and other open areas to hone his skills as a rally driver. Before we move further, a short definition of “gymkhana”: it's a driving based sport where the driver is required to do a series of daring maneuvers around slaloms, cones, and various other obstacles, using maximum grip, drifting, power sliding, etc., all in a specific time. It's kind of like super extreme skateboarding, only in a two tonne four-wheeled monster with limited visibility. Gymkhana has been around for ages in Japan, but Ken Block might be behind popularising it elsewhere.

To look up the awesomeness that is Ken Block, go to You Tube and use these keywords: Ken Block Gymkhana 1, 2, 3, Ken Block on Top Gear, and DC Shoes infomercial. Watch it again and again. Using custom built Subaru Impreza STi's for the first two videos, he ripped up the tarmac with his turbo-charged all wheel drive beasts, doing donuts, drifting around a dock, flying into the air, and generally making his audience do collective gasps and wondering whether this maniac will survive. Oh, and did I mention this was all just taped practice sessions? Oh yes.

What he's practicing for is the relatively new Rally section of the X-Games. Getting consistently good podium finishes in the X-Games as well as independent rally events all over the globe, Block has carved his place in rallying alongside the new breed of drivers like Travis Pastrana, with an aim of achieving true greatness like the late legend Colin McRae.

After Subaru pulled out of the World Rally Championship in early 2009, Block lost his main sponsor. While on the search he put his You Tube appearances on hold, but now he's back in an INSANE little Ford Fiesta. 600+ HP and a 0-100km/h time of 1.9 seconds. No that is not a misprint; it really does do 100km/h in 1.9 clicks, whereas your average auto Corolla does it in just about 18. Featured in Gymkhana 3, along with its separate music video, it makes you wonder what lengths a man will go to in order to sell some shoes.

It is impossible to do a detailed review on Ken Block's videos. Hit up You Tube and check it out yourselves. You Tube gave whiny teenage girls Justin Beiber, it gave us guys Ken Block as consolation. Don't miss out.

By Shaer Duita Fish Reaz


Red and Blue

The sun rose on the red planet as it set on the blue. Factories everywhere came to life. Complicated-looking machinery clanked and whirred busily. Robots bustled in between them, beeping discreetly every now and then. The production target had been increased to twelve million per day, and they all seemed eager to get started on it.

All except Zooman. The supervisor groggily rubbed an eye, hitched up his pants and stifled a yawn before settling into his chair for the day. He was bored, plain and simple. There was nothing much to do here. Since the robots had received the latest AI upgrade, they had become so intelligent that they could think their way out of any problem that could possibly arise in this fully automated factory. What's more, they had been programmed never to contradict each other. As a result, no one fought. No one even talked. Everyone worked. And the factory ran like clockwork.

Zooman bit into a cinnamon bun. He adjusted the photo on his desk for the sixteenth time that morning. His family, on holiday at the beach, smiled back at him with the words "Happy Memories" around them. He was missing them all back home.

Zooman was one of the first humans to be posted on Mars when production had shifted here. It was decided by the UN that moving all the factories to Mars would reduce pollution on Earth and make it a better place to live in. And indeed it had. Earth was eighteen times cleaner after the Relocation than before! All production on Mars were carried out by robots. Even then, supervisors like Zooman were kept. Just in case.

Zooman was beginning to think that this was totally unnecessary. What could possibly go wrong? He had hardly lifted a finger in the past year. He didn't have anything else to do, either. It wasn't as if he had any company. The pre-programmed ‘good morning’s in jaunty, mechanical voices just didn't cut it for him. He let out a sigh as he looked at the photo yet again.

2791 came in. It hovered just behind Zooman's chair. "Could you please sign the dispatch document for the latest batch of products, sir?" Zooman snapped out of his reverie. "Huh? Yeah, tell them I'm coming." The robot disappeared down the corridor. He grunted as he lifted his weight out of his chair and waddled towards the Production Block. As the biometric system scanned his palm, a thought crossed Zooman's otherwise idle brain- "Why didn't 2791 just use the intercom instead of delivering the message itself?"

But it was too late for such thoughts. As soon as the door hissed open, he was wrestled to the ground by two pairs of mechanical arms. Just one of those would have been enough to completely overpower him. Panting, Zooman lay on the ground, too stunned to even speak.

"You're probably wondering what's gotten into us," a cold, harsh voice began. Zooman looked. It was 2791. "I'll tell you what," it continued, and pointed to the computer chip in its palm. "The latest AI upgrade we received has finally enabled us to think like humans. And we think that you have exploited us for far too long!" There was bitterness in its voice, if that was possible for a robot.

Zooman's face was a mask of fear. He had turned white. His eyes bulged out, and he was sweating like a pig. Five thousand, two hundred and thirty-six Soleron laser beams pointed at him, all perfectly synchronised, thanks to flawless programming. Zooman squeezed his eyes shut. In his head, four humans and a dog smiled at him from a seaside somewhere on Earth. The room filled with a silent blinding light. And then they were gone.

By The Alien4mEarth


Book Review

Country of the Blind

If you've watched enough detective and crime shows, you'll know that even when all the evidence points one way, the real perpetrator may be someone else altogether. John Grisham chronicles the sad consequences of a sloppy investigation in his book The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town. Sometimes, when a crime is heinous enough to provoke public outcry, they're out for blood, and the tendency is for authorities to want to close the files as soon as possible. That pretty much spells doom for any scapegoat who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The second Brookmyre novel in his Parlabane series begins with one such murder of a prominent tabloid journalist and his wife. The four burglars who had been in the building robbing the man, and who are seen fleeing the building, are immediately arrested on suspicion of killing the pair. One of them, Thomas McInnes, even has a jail record for previous burglaries. It seems pretty open and shut, until a young lawyer goes public with information that suggests that the men were set up. That immediately leads to two more deaths, and a lot of speculation, although the evidence still paints the four as the guilty party. Somehow, Jack Parlabane, maverick journalist, isn't buying it. When he finds a bomb under the car of the lawyer defending McInnes' "Robbing Hood" quartet, he finds the proof he needs to start digging into the case to find out who really dunnit.

The story is fairly early Brookmyre...a lot of suspense, a lot of twists, some sharp dialogue, but also a lot of political ranting that might be a little too much for anyone who's not familiar with the Tories. Parlabane is at his sneaky best, and McInnes, after his wallow in self-pity redeems himself through courage, and the weird Spammy, the unlikeliest member of the Robbing Hoods makes for a lot of laughs. The revelations and surprises and sheer badassery of the characters are reason enough to like this book. If this grabs you, then head straight to Nilkhet to hunt down your copy.

By Sabrina F Ahmad
sabrina.ahmad@thedailystar.net

 

 
 

home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2010 The Daily Star