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October 28, 2020

Edgar Wright's 1,000 favorite films in chronological order since 1920

Above, the trailer for the first movie in this interesting and useful list by English director, screenwriter, and producer Edgar Wright that will certainly unearth something never before seen or even heard of for even the most devoted cineaste.

This list of personal favorites was originally assembled by Edgar Wright and Sam DiSalle in July 2016, and is semi-regularly updated.

The same list in a different format (below) here.

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An August, 2016 note from Wright:

This is a personal and subjective list of 1,000 favourite movies from 100 years of cinema.

It's not a set text or intended as any bible of "greatest" films.

I decided to put this together as a fluid list for my own enjoyment, amusement, and reference.

I hope it's fun for you to pore over and dive into some of the films you haven't seen nor heard of.

Don't get all riled up about omissions or which movies you think should be favourites of mine, the truth is I may very well like/not like or not have seen the movies you think are missing.

In fact, I like way more than 1,000 movies, but any longer and this list would be really insane.

Thanks to Sam DiSalle for helping me put it together.

If you feel so inspired, make your own list.

Film watching is a lifetime pursuit and there are many more films out there for me to see.

This list is a good place to start.

Last updated in March 2020.

October 28, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

'You are now experiencing the web at 175 bits per second'

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Deal with it.

October 28, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Viola Smith, 'Fastest girl drummer in the world'

From the Washington Post:

Viola Smith, a swing-era musician who was promoted in the 1930s as the "fastest girl drummer in the world" and who championed greater inclusion of women in the almost completely male preserve of big bands, died October 21 at her home in Costa Mesa, California.

She was 107.

With a kit featuring 12 drums, including two giant tom-toms placed near her shoulders, Ms. Smith was from 1938 to 1941 the centerpiece of the Coquettes, an "all-girl" big band that developed a modest national following.
 
Her showcase was "The Snake Charmer," (top),  a jazzy arabesque with explosions of drumming pyrotechnics.
 
In an era when the dance bands of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw and dominated the charts, Ms. Smith belonged to a coterie of female bandleaders who struggled to gain respect for their musicianship.
 
One reviewer called her a "pulchritudinous miss who so adeptly maneuvers the drums and cymbals."
 
Ms. Smith had created the Coquettes from the remnants of her Wisconsin family's all-female band in which she was one of eight musical sisters.
 
She favored crisp and swinging arrangements and was, by several accounts, an egalitarian leader who valued the input of her employees in major business and artistic decisions.

More than a pleasant timekeeper, she was a dervish behind the drums and found it difficult to conduct the group while playing.

She turned over baton duties to Frances Carroll, a flame-haired, hip-swiveling singer and dancer whose ravishing looks were accented by decolletage-baring gowns.

The band (above), soon known as Frances Carroll & the Coquettes, played at nightclubs and dance halls and appeared in several short films and on the cover of the entertainment trade magazine Billboard before dissolving.

By that time, Ms. Smith said, she had spent 15 years on the road and had grown exhausted by the demands of travel.

She selected Manhattan as her home base and won a summer scholarship to study timpani at the Juilliard School.

She also sat in with bands at New York’s Paramount Theater as many able-bodied male drummers of the day were drafted into military service for World War II.

She caused a stir with her 1942 essay in the music trade magazine DownBeat titled "Give Girl Musicians a Break!," in which she called on prominent big-band leaders of the day to hire more women.

With men away at war, she wrote, "Instead of replacing them with what may be mediocre talent, why not let some of the great girl musicians of the country take their places?... Girls work right along beside men in the factories, in the offices... So why not in dance bands?"

"In addition, there are some girl musicians who are as much the masters of their instruments as male musicians," she added. "Think it over, boys."

For the most part, they didn't.

Within a year, she was playing under Phil Spitalny, whose all-girl band — heavy on harps and chiffon gowns — offered unadventurous material but a steady income.

The group, where she remained for a dozen years, was featured on Spitalny's "Hour of Charm" radio show and in two movies, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (1942) and the Abbott & Costello comedy "Here Come the Co-Eds" (1945).

Ms. Smith later drew attention as a member of the Kit Kat Band jazz quartet featured in the musical "Cabaret," which ran on Broadway from 1966 to 1969 and then toured nationally.

Ms. Smith retired a few years later but occasionally picked up her drumsticks to play with a California ensemble called the Forever Young Band, which (unlike a Neil Young tribute band of the same name) billed itself as "America’s Oldest Act of Professional Entertainers."

Viola Clara Schmitz was born in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, on November 29, 1912.

Her father, a cornetist, operated a tavern and concert hall in nearby Fond du Lac that boasted of having the first revolving crystal ball north of Chicago.

He insisted on piano training for each of his 10 children.

Viola said she began drumming for the family orchestra because — with her being the sixth child — all the other instruments she liked were taken.

She was highly motivated to learn.

"So long as we practiced, we barely had to do work around the house," she told the Women of Rock Oral History Project.

By the 1920s, the enterprising patriarch had formed an all-girl dance band with the Schmitz daughters, billed as the Schmitz Sisters Orchestra (later the Smith Sisters Orchestra).

She described her parents in glowing terms, recalling a tight knit Catholic family that traveled by luxurious Pierce-Arrow.

They were in demand for weddings and state fairs and played on the radio as far away as Chicago, once engaging in a musical battle over the airwaves with an all-male band; the weapon of choice was George Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue."

Starting in 1936, they toured for a year as part of an all-girl revue sponsored by the Major Bowes radio talent contest.

 
Besides Viola, the only remaining sister by 1938 was Mildred, who played sax, clarinet, and violin.
 
They rechristened themselves the Coquettes and gathered other musicians to form a new group.

Ms. Smith said the popular orchestra leader Woody Herman tried to recruit her, but only as a novelty act pitted against another drummer.

Yet in her later DownBeat essay, she spoke of Herman as a rare "progressive" in the field whose 1941 hiring of trumpeter Billie Rogers was a milestone.

Over the years, Ms. Smith recalled that her professional circle included as many mischief-makers as music-makers.

She recounted that before her audition for Spitalny, a Coquette named Rose Gilmartin, a prankster who could play two clarinets at the same time, loosened the legs of Ms. Smith's snare drum so that it would collapse on impact.

"I was playing, and my snare drum went way down, my drum started to turn to the side, and it was all chaos! All chaos! And I knew immediately who it was," she told Sherrie Tucker for the book "Swing Shift: 'All-Girl' Bands of the 1940s."

Ms. Smith maintained her composure, which impressed Spitalny.

"It was so bad, with everything going wrong, that he knew that it couldn't possibly be that I didn't set it up right," she said.

Spitalny's group was one of many all-girl big bands — such as the International Sweethearts of Rhythm — that peaked in the early 1940s and rapidly faded from the scene as men returned from war.

The demand for jazz was eclipsed by rock within a decade.

Ms. Smith, who said she was always well paid and lived frugally, traveled in retirement and eventually settled in Costa Mesa to be near her cousin.

She leaves no immediate survivors but often spoke of ardent male admirers — including an obscure young crooner named Frank Sinatra, who propositioned her at a Manhattan ribs joint where musicians gathered.

Her subsequent engagement to another man was called off when he was drafted in World War II.

In a 2013 video interview with Tom Tom, a magazine about female drummers, she described a career of few obstacles other than her sex. "One thing always led to another," she said. "It was all very easy, the transitions, there was no big deal I had to worry about ever.... I really had a charmed life. Unless people call drumming work. Then I worked hard in my life."

October 28, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The greatest Formula 1 driver of all time

From the Economist:

"I always thought records were there to be broken," Michael Schumacher, a star Formula 1 driver, said in 2013.

At the time, his record of 91 career F1 victories looked safe: the closest active racer had just 32.

Yet on October 11th Lewis Hamilton of Britain equalled the mark.

Mr. Hamilton is also on pace to tie Mr. Schumacher's record of seven F1 championships later this year.

Mr. Hamilton's ascent has ignited debate over whether he is F1's best driver ever.

Comparing athletes across eras is always hard — especially in motor sports, where a racer depends on his car.

Moreover, F1 has regularly changed its scoring system and its number of races, drivers, and teams.

However, statistical analysis can address many of these nuances.

We have built a mathematical model, based on a study by Andrew Bell of the University of Sheffield, to measure the impact of all 745 drivers in F1 history.

It finds that Mr. Hamilton's best years fall just short of those of the all-time greats — but so do Mr. Schumacher's.

The model first converts orders of finish into points, using the 1991-2002 system of ten points for a win and six for second place.

It adjusts these scores for structural effects, such as the number and past performances of other drivers in the race.

Then, it splits credit between drivers and their vehicles. (Today, F1 has ten teams, each using two drivers and one type of car.)

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Disentangling these factors is tricky.

Mr. Schumacher spent most of his peak at Ferrari, as Mr. Hamilton has at Mercedes, leaving scant data on their work in other cars.

However, their teammates varied.

And drivers who raced alongside Mr. Hamilton or Mr. Schumacher tended to fare far better in those stints than they did elsewhere.

If Ferrari's and Mercedes' engineers boosted lesser racers this much, they probably aided their stars to a similar degree.

Because most drivers switch teams a few times, this method can be applied throughout history.

Between the two racers with 91 wins, the model prefers Mr. Schumacher.

He won 1.9 more points per race than an average driver would have done in the same events and cars, edging out Mr. Hamilton's mark of 1.8.

Limited to their five best consecutive years, the gap widens, to 2.7 points per race for Mr. Schumacher and 2.0 for Mr. Hamilton.

This difference stems mostly from the impact of their cars.

Both stars raced in the finest vehicles of their day.

But 20 years ago, cars from Williams and McLaren were nearly as strong as Ferrari's.

In contrast, Mercedes now towers over its rivals, enabling Mr. Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, his teammate, to coast past lesser cars.

Before joining Mercedes, Mr. Bottas had never won a F1 race.

He now has nine victories.

Yet on a per-race basis, the greats of yesteryear beat both modern stars.

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Three of the model's top four drivers stopped racing by 1973; the leader, the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio [video up top], won five titles in the 1950s.

These pioneers had short careers.

Fangio started just 51 races, to Mr. Schumacher’s 306.

However, the model is impressed by them, because the impact of cars relative to drivers has grown over time.

On average, it assigns drivers in the 1950s 58% of their teams' points; today, that share is 19%.

Fangio, who was a mechanic by training and won titles using cars from four different firms, was known as "the master."

The masters of modern F1 are engineers who sit behind laptops, not steering wheels.

Sources: Ergast.com; F1-Facts.com; "Formula for success: multilevel modelling of Formula 1 driver and constructor performance, 1950-2014," by Andrew Bell et al., Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, 2016; The Economist

October 28, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Razer Kishi

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It's a device that grips your phone and features buttons and clickable analog thumbsticks

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to transform it into a hand-held gaming machine

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with ultra-low latency akin to a Nintendo Switch.

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$99.99.

Perfect, you say... if only they made it for my Xbox-level controller.

Your ship just came in: The Nimbus+

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has a familiar configuration that lets you play retro-style games like "Crossy Road Castle" on Apple Arcade.

$69.99.

October 28, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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