Car Wars Internet Newsletter
Vol. 11, No. 5
December 21, 2058


Greetings from a snow-covered Seattle. Watching cars and SUVs attempt maneuvers with +D3 and +D4 modifiers for snow and ice while driving at speeds too fast for conditions and without proper tires and/or chains has been interesting.

Death Race on DVD and Blu-ray

Death Race was released on DVD and Blu-ray today. The original release date for the U.S. was December 23rd. The electronics retailer Circuit City is currently selling both formats at significant discounts.

FormulaRacers by Khalsa Brain Games

FormulaRacers are likely going out of print. Style A, the Formula One style, is now out of stock, meaning the only way to get that miniature is to purchase a combination pack still on a shelf.

WADA Car Wars League Updates

Please submit results of qualifying events for the 2008 tournament not yet entered into the standings as soon as possible. The 2009 WADA Car Wars League begins on January 1st, therefore start planning your dueling seasons.

Sleigh Offensively and Merry Christmas,



Squirt-Gun Game Leads To Hospitalizations

Teen Tradition Turning Dangerous, Police Say

WFSB Channel 3 Connecticut News
Posted 9:19 am EDT October 2, 2008
Updated 9:36 am EDT October 2, 2008

Wethersfield, CT -- A game popular with teens across the country has led to several crashes in suburban Hartford in the past several days, police said.

The objective of "Squirt-Gun Assassin" is to shoot an intended target with a water gun -- the last man standing wins a prize.

Police said in the past several days, several Connecticut teens have played the game while driving, leading to three crashes.

Wethersfield High School junior Janelly Gonzalez told Eyewitness News that the game has become a tradition at the school.

"They keep knocking people out and the last man standing wins the game," she said. "They were playing Assassin, it got really serious. There were squirt guns and a truck drove into someone's house and they ended up in the hospital."

Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran said that in all, three crashes have been associated with the game. He said his department has responded to half-a-dozen calls this week because of Assasin, and in one case a teen was attempting to get away from his water gun attacker.

"They cut in front of a poor unsuspecting motorist and two people were taken to the hospital, including a student. At least one of those accidents they drove in front of a poor unsuspecting woman and two people were taken to the hospital, including the woman," he said.

Cetran said that in another case, students engaged in an argument with a homeowner.

"The homeowner didn't know what they were doing hiding in their bushes, so they were concerned," Cetran said.

Wethersfield students were warned of the dangers of the game at an assembly Wednesday.

U.S. space tourist blasts off in Russian rocket

Story Highlights
* Soyuz spacecraft lifts off from Kazakhstan for the international space station
* Capsule carrying two Americans and a Russian
* Computer game millionaire Richard Garriott on board as space tourist

Associated Press and
Sunday, October 12, 2008

Baikonur, Kazakhstan -- A Soyuz spacecraft with two Americans and a Russian on board lifted off from Kazakhstan on Sunday for the international space station.

The Soyuz TMA-13 blasts off atop a Russian rocket in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz TMA-13 capsule carrying American computer game millionaire Richard Garriott soared into a clear sky atop a Russian rocket as the latest paying space traveler's family watched from a viewing platform. Also aboard were U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov.

The rocket lifted off on schedule at 1:01 p.m. (3:01 a.m. EDT), sending an orange flare behind it as it streaked upward. The craft entered orbit about 10 minutes later.

"I'm elated, elated," said Richard Garriott's father, Owen, a former U.S. astronaut who is the first American to see his child follow in his footsteps and reach space. "They're in orbit, that's good."

Garriott's mother Eve and his girlfriend, Kelly Miller, shed tears of joy and relief at the successful launch.

"This is cool, this is cool," Miller said.

The Soyuz is to dock Tuesday with the international space station, where Garriott will spend about 10 days conducting experiments -- including some whose sponsors helped fund his trip -- and photographing Earth to measure changes since his father snapped pictures from the U.S. station Skylab in 1973.

He is to return to Earth in a Soyuz capsule with cosmonaut Segei Volkov, whose father also traveled to space -- making him the first second-generation space traveler.

Garriott, a Texan who made his fortune designing computer fantasy games, dreamed of space as a child but learned as a youth that he could not become a NASA astronaut because of his poor eyesight. He paid a reported US$30 million for his voyage.

"I'm really happy for him. It's one of the things he's wanted to do most in his life. I spent a lot of time listening to him about when he goes up in space," Miller said.

"He's like a kid in a candy shop," she said. "And I already want him to come back."

Garriott, 47, is a board member and investor in Space Adventures Ltd., a U.S.-based company that has organized flights aboard Russian craft for five other millionaires including the first paying space tourist, California businessman Dennis Tito, in 2001.

The most recent paying traveler, billionaire American software engineer Charles Simonyi, also watched the launch and drank champagne with Garriott's family after the craft reached orbit.

Also on hand was Yi So-yeon, a bioengineer who became South Korea's first astronaut when she traveled to the space station last spring.

Yi and two crew mates had a rough ride back to Earth when their capsule failed to separate on time, sending it into a steep trajectory and subjecting them to powerful gravitational forces in a so-called "ballistic" descent -- the second straight and the third since 2003.

The chief of Russia's space agency Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov, pledged Saturday that a ballistic landing would not be repeated, and Yi played down any concerns.

"We already had a lot of training for ballistic re-entry, so it's not a big deal," she said, adding that she felt "lucky" to be one of the few people who have had the experience.

"I guess if he also has a ballistic landing, he will feel lucky because he will also be a member of the ballistic landing club," she said.

Perminov said Saturday that increasingly strained ties between Moscow and Washington will not stand in the way of further space exploration. Soyuz rockets and capsules will be the only way to put people on the space station after the U.S. space shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.

Perminov said recent U.S. congressional decisions on future collaboration and the presence of U.S. astronauts at the launch site in Kazakhstan showed that politics would not block cooperation. Congress earlier this month gave NASA permission to purchase seats on Soyuz capsules after 2010.

planettom's Blog
40 minutes ago
Lord British . . . In . . . Space!

The guy behind Ultima, etc. computer games, is going to the International Space Station. He’s in orbit ( CNN ! Tuesday at the ISS, and then 10 days there. This makes him a second-generation astronaut, since his father was one of the Skylab astronauts. In 1973 when I visited NASA in Florida, I saw the Skylab mission that his father was going.

Hanford cleanup includes grenades

Cleaning up the old pistol range at the Hanford nuclear reservation doesn't involve anything radioactive but carries its own special hazards -- including unexploded 8-inch tear-gas grenades.

The Associated Press and Seattle Times
Originally published Monday, October 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Richland, Washington State -- Cleaning up the old pistol range at the Hanford nuclear reservation doesn't involve anything radioactive but carries its own special hazards — including unexploded 8-inch tear-gas grenades.

Starting in the mid-1940s, security personnel at Hanford practiced with pistols, rifles, machine guns and other small arms at firing ranges facing the north side of Gable Mountain at the center of the reservation where plutonium was made for hydrogen bombs.

Today the area "is somewhat different because there is not radiation or something near reactors," said Cameron Hardy, an Energy Department spokesman, "but in cleaning up the site we have to think of a whole host of things, like relics from the '40s."

So far, cleanup contractor Washington Closure Hanford has been assigned only to the 7-acre pistol range, which has not been used for decades.

Washington Closure started preparing for the cleanup two years ago with walks through the area, finding plenty of bullets, a few live rounds and two unexploded 8-inch grenades.

This spring, after the site was cleared of visible metal debris, including a third unexploded grenade, seven technicians marked off grids to be scanned with metal detectors and created a map dotted with X's to indicate metal that could be wire or grenades.

Then a crew started digging in each designated area and found another unexploded grenade in the bank of the hill and a fuse from a grenade.

"Sand Cat" -- All-Protected Combat Vehicle

Defense Update International Online Defense Magazine
Year 2006, Issue 1
Updated July 26, 2006

Plasan Sasa is demonstrating their vehicle armoring capabilities at Eurosatory 2006, in a new, all-protected wheeled armored personnel carrier. Unveiled at the Milipol law enforcement show in Paris, in November 2005 under the name Caracal, the vehicle was presented again in February 2006, at the Mid-America trucking show dubbed "Super Chief". The vehicle shown in Paris has been redesigned to reflect initial responses from potential clients. While Plasan still considers the project a "technology demonstrator", demonstrations have already taken place and are scheduled to be followed by field testing this summer, by several potential customers, including the Israel Defense Forces and US Marine Corps. Industry partners have also shown interest - latest to join was International Truck and Engines corp. which will receive a similar design for the Future Tactical Truck System (FTTS) it is developing for the US Army.

Plasan's technology demonstrator is based on an "off-the-shelf" Ford Truck chassis cab, modified by Manning Equipment into a shorter, more maneuverable armored car. The vehicle is customized for homeland security and military applications. Civilian versions will be suitable for all types of Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) operations, such as support of peacekeeping missions, homeland security and other security applications.

By reducing the wheel base of the Ford 350 truck from the original 136 inch to 112" (2,845mm), Plasan created a compact, highly maneuverable five ton (11,000 – 13,000 lbs) platform, which carries four fully equipped soldiers, optimized for traveling in dense urban terrain, as well as over rough, unpaved roads. In Eurosatory 2006 Plasan is showing an improved design of the vehicle, fitted for a crew of four or five fully equipped warfighters. Currently in the works is a larger, 120" wheel-base version, designed for a crew of six.

The all-protected hull comprises an armored box made of ballistic steel, augmented by advanced armor offering optimal protection at the required weight level. The armored hull offers the highest level of armored protection possible for a 4x4 vehicle - B6-B7 protection, stopping multiple hits of all types of 7.62mm AP ammunition, mine protection and IED threats, shrapnel and artillery fragments. Different armor technologies used, include metal-composite cage built with wall-to-wall bonding enabling high integrity and roll protection without the use of heavy roll bars. Side plates are used to increase protection against IEDs. Plasan's SMART armor matrix is also used, offering high multi-hit resistance of selected parts. The composite armor is applied on an aluminum frame, to maintain lightweight armor protection while Kevlar liners and transparent armor for the windshield and side windows augment crew protection . The trapezoid shaped side windows are designed to reduce the weight of transparent armor without reducing visibility. The vehicle's structure is designed with oblique surfaces and strengthened with blast deflectors, increasing protection against IED and mines.

All armor components used in the vehicle are modular and replicable in the field, thus enabling rapid repair and reconditioning of damaged vehicles. Another advantage is the use of an "off the shelf" chassis and automotive system, enabling operators to rely on Ford authorized service facilities and logistics worldwide available. The use of a commercial chassis has also contributed to significant cost reductions. According to Plasan, the cost of such vehicle is comparable to the armored Defender and significantly lower than an up-armored Humvee.

Plasan built two 4 passenger, four ton versions of the tactical protected vehicle (read our exclusive test ride report) and is currently constructing two five passenger, five ton versions, to be sent to the USA. The vehicle has low-profile, roof mounted firing hatch supplied by A.O.B. and a chemical-biological filtering system, provided by Beth-El Industries. An installation of an Elbit System's ORCWS weapon station was also tested. Plasan designed the hull with modularity to accommodate different chassis, to suite customer requirements. At Eurosatory 2006 the Sand Cat will be displayed with a Mini-Samson remotely controlled weapon station mounting a 12.7mm M2 heavy machine gun operated remotely from the inside.

The vehicle is being tested by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as part of its evaluation of future replacements for its light armored vehicles, currently relying on the Sufa (Israel's Automotive Industrie's local derivative of the Jeep Ranger). The IDF already selected the David up-armored Defender produced by Arotech's MDT division. However, Plasan argues that their new vehicle deserves another examination, as it provides much improved performance at a comparable cost. Further tests are scheduled to commence in the USA, under US Marine Corps evaluations.

Under a separate, but similar program, Plasan has been selected by ITEC to provide armor suite design and production for the US Army Future Tactical Truck System (FTTS) program, for which International Truck and Engines corp. is developing a new armored utility vehicle. This vehicle will be modular in design, so it can be reconfigured for an assortment of combat logistics and transportation missions. The prototype vehicle is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2007.

Farmer sees future fuel in switchgrass

As food prices soar, scientists and farmers look for a corn substitute

Associated Press and
Updated 7:27 a.m. PT, Wed., Oct. 22, 2008

Guymon, Oklahoma -- Curtis Raines describes himself as "just a dumb old farmer" who's not afraid to ask an obvious question: Why grow corn for fuel when it could be used to feed hungry people?

"That just doesn't make a lot of sense to me," Raines said.

The 64-year-old Oklahoma Panhandle farmer is growing a 1,000-acre plot of switchgrass, billed as the world's largest of its type, to test whether the native plant can replace corn in making ethanol.

The Oklahoma Bioenergy Center project is designed to find out whether laboratory experiments using switchgrass to make ethanol can be duplicated on a large scale. The crop will help feed a biorefinery plant planned for southwest Kansas.

Switchgrass has advantages over corn.

As a perennial native to the Great Plains, it doesn't need to be replanted and, so, takes less tractor fuel and fertilizer to produce. It can be grown on marginal land, doesn't require as much water and most importantly, isn't used for food, so it wouldn't drive up grocery prices.

"There are a lot of really nice characteristics that . . . pique one's interest," said Blake Simmons, a vice president at the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, Calif.

It will be years before cellulosic biofuels — such as switchgrass-based ethanol — are produced at the same levels as corn-based ethanol, Simmons said. But the switchgrass research will answer important questions.

"We need to do some very massive projects very early on to find out the feasibility of this endeavor and see what improvements have to be made," he said.

In recent years, production of ethanol has taken off with federal mandates aimed at easing dependence on foreign oil. Last year, Congress decided to require a total of 36 billion gallons of biofuels to be blended into gasoline by 2022.

But food prices have increased along with ethanol producers' heightened demand for corn.

The federal government has resisted calls from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Republican presidential nominee John McCain and other senators to cut this year's requirement for 9 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol in half to ease rising food costs.

Meanwhile, researchers have intensified their work looking into other ingredients that can be used to make ethanol, including cellulosic alternatives such as switchgrass, wood chips or even garbage.

Oklahoma's energy secretary, David Fleischaker, said using switchgrass makes sense, especially as rising food costs have "resulted in a pushback against renewable fuels."

The switchgrass being used in the Oklahoma experiment was planted in June. A few months later it was just poking through the weeds. It will gradually take over the field, developing a deep root system and shading out the weeds.

Hitch Enterprises, one of the biggest agricultural operations in the Panhandle, is leasing the land for the study. Raines, a farm manager for that company, spent a week modifying his equipment to ensure the seed was planted in the way researchers recommended.

He does the day-to-day maintenance on the fields, while researchers make frequent trips from their offices in Ardmore to Guymon — a 360-mile one-way trip — to monitor the progress.

"We're all kind of learning together," Raines said.

The bioenergy center -- a partnership of Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation -- is spending $2.2 million on the work being done on the three fields, said Noble Foundation spokesman Adam Calaway.

In the first year after planting, about a quarter to a third of the switchgrass stand's eventual yield can be harvested. That number jumps to about two-thirds after the second year and 100 percent after the third year.

The switchgrass will be taken to a $300 million biorefinery in Hugoton, Kan., 35 miles from Guymon, that soon will be built by Abengoa Bioenergy with the help of a $76.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

"The thing this plot has let us do is take the next step out of a research focus and put it in a real-world setting," said Billy Cook, a consulting support research manager in the Noble Foundation's agricultural division.

The Noble Foundation also is managing a 150-acre switchgrass plot near Maysville, while Oklahoma State University manages another 150-acre plot near Chickasha.

For Raines, it's all about common sense.

"I'm a farmer. I want good money for my crops," Raines said. "But I don't think taking corn and making gasoline is an answer to our problems."

Mechanics see ethanol damaging small engines

Fuel blend, already implicated in high food prices, linked to rise in repairs News special report
By Alex Johnson, Reporter
Updated 6:44 a.m. PT, Fri., Aug. 1, 2008

Rick Kitchings has been a small-engine mechanic for about 30 years, and he's been busier than ever lately.

Recently, a customer came into his shop in Savannah, Ga., with a string trimmer that had barely been used. "It looked like it just came off the showroom floor, but the motor was absolutely shot, absolutely worn out," Kitchings said.

The owner had fueled the trimmer with an gasoline-ethanol blend, which is becoming increasingly common thanks to a federal mandate to convert to biofuels.

Although the Web is rife with complaints from car owners who say ethanol damaged their engines, ethanol producers and automakers say it's safe to use in cars. But smaller engines -- the two-cycle utility engines in lawnmowers, chain saws and outboard boat motors -- are another story.

Benjamin Mallisham, owner of a lawnmower repair shop in Tuscaloosa, Ala., said at least 40 percent of the lawnmower engines he repairs these days have been damaged by ethanol.

"When you put that ethanol in here, it eats up the insides or rusts them out," Mallisham said. "All the rubber gaskets and parts -- it eats those up."

The sludge problem

Auto mechanics say the same thing takes place in car engines, where debris dislodged by ethanol in gas station fuel tanks can gum things up. But car engines are highly sophisticated; especially in later models, they’re equipped to comfortably handle the fallout of ethanol-blended gas, mechanics said.

The Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group for ethanol producers based in Washington, says there's no evidence that ethanol can damage smaller engines, either.

"Tests completed on lawnmowers, chainsaws, weed trimmers and blower vacs with ethanol fuels showed no engine failures, no unscheduled maintenance and good performance," the association said.

But mechanics across the country insist that as gasoline blended with ethanol takes over in more gas stations, lawnmowers and boat motors everywhere are choking.

"They're starving for gas, because the little needle holes in them are stopped up with the gel that happens when that stuff breaks down," Mallisham said. "It stops them up so it can't run."

Here's what happens: In smaller engines, ethanol can create a chain reaction of events that end up clogging valves and rusting out small metal parts -- including, crucially, carburetors.

"When you mix ethanol with your fuel, you've now put a chemical substance in there that's going to attract moisture, which is going to promote a quicker deterioration of the fuel that you have," said Bob Magnotti, owner of Magnotti's Small Engine Service in Roanoke, Va.

In effect, said Doug Ryms, a mechanic at Como Mower Service in Columbus, Ohio, "the alcohol actually dissipates the oil. So on a two-cycle engine, you're lubricating the engine, but the oil is being pushed away, so it's actually not lubricating the engine."

That creates a gummy residue, called shellack, that clogs filters and hoses. And it does no good to follow the rocking-chair wisdom that says you'll be fine if you drain the tank before you gas it back up.

"People will tell you you can take the gas out of them and it won't happen, but it's the residue that does the damage," Mallisham said.

Ethanol already under pressure

Most gasoline sold in the United States is now mixed with up to 10 percent ethanol, according to industry estimates. Use of the blended fuel, often called E10, has grown with a federal mandate designed to boost the levels of renewable fuels at the pump. In many areas, it’s the only gasoline widely sold.

The fuel blend has been the focus of debate in recent months as analysts and some farmers say the diversion of corn to ethanol production has led to higher prices for corn in its use as a food crop. The Environmental Protection Agency is considering a request for a temporary 50 percent cut in new mandates for ethanol production because of concern that they are helping drive up food costs.

In a study released this week, researchers at Purdue University in Indiana found that corn prices had risen to $4 a bushel, the highest in a decade, largely because of the higher prices farmers can demand from fuel producers.

"Three dollars was just because the price of oil went up and the market demanded more ethanol to substitute for gasoline," said Wallace E. Tyner, co-director of Purdue's Center for Global Trade Analysis.

David Summers, a biofuels researcher at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, said that while ethanol was cheaper to produce than pure gasoline because it is subsidized, vehicles may also get fewer miles to the gallon.

"It was the wonder fuel to get us out of trouble -- and it won't," he said.

When you add in its tendency to damage some engines, many mechanics and green fuel advocates are asking whether ethanol is worth it.

"There is no massive PR machine working to point out the downsides of ethanol, like there is on the other side," said Christa Westerberg, a lawyer in Stoughton, Wis., who has represented opponents of ethanol plants in Wisconsin.

Rick Kitchings, the mechanic in Georgia, said consumers simply should insist on pure gasoline for their small utility engines.

"Theoretically, avoid ethanol," he said. "Avoid ethanol."

The following NBC affiliates contributed to this report: KYTV of Springfield, Mo.; WCMH of Columbus, Ohio; WSAV of Savannah, Ga.; WSLS of Roanoke, Va.; WSTM of Syracuse, N.Y.; WTHR of Indianapolis; and WVTM of Birmingham, Ala.

Officials: Nuke missile silo fire went undetected

The Air Force didn't find out about blaze until five days after it burned

Associated Press and
Updated 5:15 p.m. PT, Thurs., Oct. 30, 2008

Denver, Colorado -- A fire caused $1 million worth of damage at an unmanned underground nuclear launch site last spring, but the Air Force didn't find out about it until five days later, an Air Force official said Thursday.

The May 23 fire burned itself out after an hour or two, and multiple safety systems prevented any threat of an accidental launch of the Minuteman III missile, Maj. Laurie Arellano said. She said she was not allowed to say whether the missile was armed with a nuclear warhead at the time of the fire.

Arellano said the Air Force didn't know a fire had occurred until May 28, when a repair crew went to the launch site -- about 40 miles east of Cheyenne, Wyo., and 100 miles northeast of Denver -- because a trouble signal indicated a wiring problem.

She said the flames never entered the launch tube where the missile stood and there was no danger of a radiation release.

Faulty battery charger behind fire

The fire, blamed on a faulty battery charger, burned a box of shotgun shells, a shotgun and a shotgun case that were kept in the room, Arellano said. A shotgun is a standard security weapon at missile silos.

Arellano said the battery chargers at all U.S. missile launch site have been replaced.

She said the incident wasn't reported sooner because of the complexity of the investigation.

The damage from the fire was estimated at $1 million, including the cost of replacing damaged equipment and cleanup.

An Air Force report of the incident released Thursday found flaws in the technical orders for assembling battery charger parts, inspection procedures and modifications of the launch complex ventilation system. It was also critical of the presence of flammable materials.

Mayor confident in missile safety

Cheyenne Mayor Jack Spiker, who said he learned of the incident when contacted by a reporter Thursday, said the fire doesn't undermine his confidence in the safety of the missile operations.

"It's rare that they have an accident, and the accidents have never really, that I know of, amounted to much because of the safety devices that are built into the system," he said.

The revelation was the latest in a string of embarrassing missteps involving the nation's nuclear arsenal. In 2006, four electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan, and in 2007, a B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped missiles when it flew between Air Force bases in North Dakota and Louisiana.

The Air Force announced last week it was setting up a new Global Strike Command to better manage its nuclear-capable bombers and missiles.

The ULTRA AP (Ford pickup turned into an armored combat vehicle)

The Strategy Page

Billions of dollars are being thrown at the IED (roadside bomb) problem in Iraq. This means that a lot of ideas that would, in normal times, never get money, now do. Some are strange, and useless, and diligent muckrakers will eventually get to them. But some are pretty interesting, and potentially useful. One of them is the ULTRA AP, a heavily modified Ford F-350 pickup. The 350 (and its cousin, the 250) are favorites with police and armed forces in many nations. The Afghan army recently bought 5,000 modified (for harsh cross country terrain) F-350s for
their army. The ULTRA AP (for Armored Patrol) was designed to reflect some of the ideas coming out of Iraq, on how to design a more effective "armored truck" for combat patrols in an area where you are likely to encounter mines, roadside bombs and ambushes. The F-350 was selected because it is a mature, proven design that provides a good starting point. The Office of Naval Research (which does stuff for the Marines), turned the Georgia Tech Research Institute (which does a lot of defense work, and is considered the "MIT of the South") loose on the project.

The first mod was the use the light-weight armor that was being used by military trucks in Iraq. This included bullet and blast proof glass. The next mod was more interesting, and based on suggestions from the troops. The seating was changed from four people sitting two by two, to a diamond, one by two by one, arrangement. This meant replacing the current body of the 350 with a new one that made the ULTRA AP look more like an armored car. But this did two important things. It got the passengers farther away from the wheels, which are the things that go over mines and take much of the blast. Second, it put the four passengers in positions troops consider more useful. The driver is in front, taking care of driving. The two passengers behind the driver face the left and right. The fourth passenger faces the rear. This way, the passengers are always giving the vehicle a view of potential threats coming from any direction. The passenger compartment is actually a "blast bucket," with armor beneath the passengers that deflects much of the blast away. The designers also took advantage of the computer networks that are now standard in motor vehicles, and provided the driver with more control over maneuvering the vehicle on roads, and cross country.

The Office of Naval Research will test the ULTRA AP to see if the design concepts are worth incorporating into future military vehicles. Some more may be built so that they can be tested with mines and roadside bombs as well.

What is Liquid Armor?


Liquid armor is a new development in the body armor field. It is a material that makes lightweight, flexible and tough body armors possible.

Body Armor

Body armor is a protective clothing designed to stop bullets or bomb fragments and shrapnel from penetrating the human body. They are descended from leather or metal armor designed to stop projectile weapons (arrows or spears) as well as knives or swords.

Whether silk or Kevlar, typical body armor is designed to trap the bullet fired at the wearer and distribute the force propelling the bullet. As such, the force behind the bullet is quickly absorbed and the projectile is stopped before it can penetrate the body. Therefore, body armor is not intended to deflect a bullet. Its sole purpose is to prevent penetration.

Body Armor Issues

First, there is a weight issue with body armors. A typical Kevlar vest weighs in at around four pounds of fabric (more if the 'vest' which covers the torso extends to cover the wearer's arms and legs). This is sufficient protection against most handguns and 'low-powered' .22 caliber rifle bullets, but it cannot stop modern high-powered hunting or military-issue rifle bullets. To protect against high-powered guns and projectiles, use of heavy materials such as metal or ceramic plates inserted into Kevlar vests is required. However, this increases the weight of body armor almost to the point of hampering the user's mobility and agility - which are needed in a fire fight.

Secondly, body armor designed to stop bullets is not as effective against knives or bladed weapons which can slip in between the weaves of fabric and penetrate the body. In other words, while Kevlar body armor can protect against some bullets, it cannot stop all of them and it cannot stop knives in close combat.

Liquid Armor

The key behind the newest development in body armor is "sheer-thickening fluid" or STF -- a mixture of nanoparticles of silica suspended in non-toxic liquid polyethylene glycol. STF instantly transforms into a rigid shield when struck with adequate force (such as by a bullet or bomb fragment); once the energy of the hit is expended, it reverts back to its fluid state.

STF works best when spread in ultra-thin coats on ballistic fabric. By combining multiple layers of Kevlar and STF, the 'liquid armor' spreads out the impact of a strike better than ballistic fabrics alone. The liquid armor also reduces the required number of Kevlar layers (ordinary body armor requires up to twenty layers) - making for a lighter, flexible protective material.

Liquid Armor Applications

Initial applications for liquid armor are for law enforcement officers and prison guards, whose primary hazard comes from bladed weapons, and soldiers in combat zones. Other applications, however, are still being worked out: full-body armor (including arms and legs which are not usually covered by ballistic fabric because of the need for flexibility), bomb blankets to muffle explosions or explosive devices and even tactical boots for paratroopers which will stiffen on impact to protect the jumper's ankles.

What is Mind Uploading?


Mind uploading is the term used for the theoretical transfer of a human mind to an external carrier. Mind uploading can also denote whole brain emulation, electronic transcendence, mind transfer, etc.

Mind uploading does not refer to the transfer of the actual physical brain but rather the transfer of its consciousness to a robotic brain which will generate responses that cannot be distinguished from the actual original brain. In cases where the subjects' consciousness is transferred to a memory device, the result is an artificial intelligence. In cases where the consciousness is transferred to a memory device lodged in an artificial body, the result is a "thinking" robot.

The challenge facing theorists of mind uploading is developing a device capable of performing complex computations and of storing an organic mind's memory and knowledge. As of today, there is also no established explanation of how the mind works.

Mind Uploading Models

The Swiss Federal Institute aims to simulate human brain activity. This research is called the Blue Brain Project. It will employ IBM's 'Blue Gene' supercomputer design to determine the electric map of the human brain so that human cognition and mental disorders or disabilities can be studied. The research will work on small, less complicated sections of the brain and progress to the more complicated sections until the whole brain is mapped out.

Of course, to actually simulate a human brain, scientists would need far more powerful computers than are available today. However, researchers remain optimistic that emerging technologies will make this possible within a few decades. Some of these emerging technologies for computers are quantum computers, DNA computers, carbon nanotube-based three-dimensional computers, and optical neural network based computers.

Serial Sectioning has also been proposed as one of the means of mind uploading. In serial sectioning, the brain will be frozen and studied section by section using a laser or a diamond knife. The sections of the brain can then be studied using a transmission electron microscope. It can also be reconstructed in an artificial brain.

The artificial brain would, however, also require higher computing power as well as storage capability than what is available today. Moreover, simply studying the brain slice by slice would fail to shed light on how it actually works or functions. The brain uses molecular events in its function and, unfortunately, an electron microscope cannot detect them. Due to this, the interaction between brain molecules, particularly at the synapse level, and similar microscopic events couldn't be studied.

Nanotechnology could also prove successful in mapping out the brain. The brain will be infused with nanoparticles which will map out the brain's physical structure and record chemical interactions. Nanobots could also replace damaged brain cells with artificial ones, making way for a step by step or gradual transition to an artificial brain.

This method is similar to another proposal termed cyborging which will also map the brain and its functions and replace each component with an artificial one. This is done systematically until the entire brain has been replaced by artificial components.

Money, research spur race for algae as fuel source

Photo: Stacey Reed, an algae operations scientist with PetroAlgae, filters algae samples at the company's Research and Development Site in Fellsmere, Fla.

By Phuong Le, Associated Press Writer
KOMO TV 4 News Seattle
Story Published: Nov 2, 2008 at 5:52 PM PST
Story Updated: Nov 2, 2008 at 5:52 PM PST

Seattle, Washington State -- Turning pea-green pond scum into cheap fuel for automobiles and airplanes is still years away, but supporters are still betting heavily with infusions of venture capital money and intensive research.

About $180 million in venture capital money has been raised for algae research, with more than half coming in the third quarter of this year, according to Cleantech, an industry research group.

Some academic institutes have set up dedicated algae research centers, and a handful of start-ups are planning to test algae on a larger demonstration projects in coming months.

"I'm convinced algae will work, but it'll take a different, out-of-the-box approach," said Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla, delivering the keynote address at the Algae Biomass Summit in Seattle last month.

The potential for algae to compete with fossil fuels is there, but it will take scientic breakthroughs to bring down costs and solve climate change, said Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems whose Khosla Ventures has invested in renewable energy though not algae.

That hasn't tempered interest in the field.

The federal government is starting to throw money into it. The Department of Energy has invested $2.3 million in algae-to-fuel grants so far this year. It invested $2.2 million in algae research in 2006 and 2007, though it wasn't specific to fuel production.

And the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research arm of the Defense Department, is launching a new program to study algal feedstock material, said Jan Walker, an agency spokesman.

About two dozen startups and researchers are developing ways to maximize growth and reduce costs - including growing it in the dark, increasing the amount of sunlight that reaches the organisms and experimenting with oil-rich strains.

Algae offer the promise of a non-food feedstock with extremely high yields per acre. But how to grow it cheaply on a large scale is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry.

"We can grow algae. It's been demonstrated," said Al Darzins, a manager at the National Bioenergy Center at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colo.

But it costs anywhere from $10 to $100 a gallon now, and "obviously that's not cost-effective," he said.

The Colorado lab led a $25 million study of algae from 1978 to 1996, before money dried up and government research shifted to ethanol. The lab is now working with Chevron Corp. on a five-year project to research transportation fuels from algae.

But "people are starting to make the move from small little ponds to thinking about acres," Darzins said. "It's starting to scale up."

Sapphire Energy in San Diego is planning to build a demonstration station in Las Cruces, N.M. The startup has raised more than $100 million from investors, including Bill Gates's Cascade Investments LLC firm and ARCH Venture Partners.

Solazyme, in South San Francisco, said it produced thousands of gallons of fuel from algae that was tested to meet strict ASTM international standards for jet fuel.

"We are far beyond proof of concept," said Harrison Dillon, co-founder of Solazyme, which grows algae in the dark by feeding it biomass such as woodchips. "The test at hand is to bring the manufacturing cost down."

Dillon said the company is about 24 to 36 months away from hitting its target manufacturing cost of $2 to $3 a gallon, or $40 to $80 a barrel.

In Virginia, Old Dominion University has teamed up with a contractor to grow algae in a one-acre farm.

And GreenFuel Technologies in Cambridge, Mass. announced plans last month to build greenhouses in Spain to produce 25,000 tons of algae biomass a year with partner Aurantia SA.

In the Seattle area, startup Bionavitas is testing a process to bring light deeper below the surface, solving the problem of algae shading out growth below the initial top layer.

"If this can be done, the payoff will be large," said Bionavitas's chief executive officer Michael Weaver.

PetroAlgae, based in Melbourne, Fla., plans to complete a 20-acre demonstration farm early next year, said Fred Tennant, the company's executive vice president of business development.

The company was acquired in August by PetroTech Holdings Corp., a joint venture of a group of investors managed by New York based Valens Capital Management.

"The cost has to be low, the product has to be valuable," Tennant said. "Nobody needs another feedstock that is not economically sustainable."


On the Web: Algae Biomass Organization:

National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

Road work skids to a halt with shortage of asphalt

Photo: A worker removes old asphalt recently at a Tacoma Public Works project as many other paving projects are put on hold during a nationwide asphalt shortage.

By Manuel Valdes
The Associated Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Monday, November 10, 2008
Last updated 12:35 a.m. PT

Seattle, Washington State -- Expect a bumpier drive. An asphalt shortage is delaying road maintenance projects in communities nationwide.

Asphalt is becoming scarce as U.S. refiners overhaul their equipment to maximize output of highly profitable fuels such as diesel and gasoline, using inexpensive -- and hard to process -- crude oil.

To make things worse, refiners are also cutting back on the production of a petrochemical that many states mix into asphalt to make roads more durable.

Dozens of road repairs were delayed last summer and municipalities around the country may face another shortfall next summer. Road-maintenance projects that have gone forward cost significantly more as the price of asphalt nearly tripled over the past year.

The dearth of asphalt compounds the challenges that states, counties and cities already face in fixing bridges, highways, local streets and other critical infrastructure at a time when budgets are squeezed by falling income, sales and real-estate tax revenue -- not to mention higher costs for fuel, steel and other raw materials.

In Utah, as many as 50 road maintenance projects were delayed this summer by the shortage of asphalt -- including one for a highway that leads to one of the state's top tourist spots, Park City and its skiing resorts. Those delays add millions of dollars of extra costs, including labor.

"It strains an already strained budget," said Jim McMinimee, director of project development for the Utah Department of Transportation.

Municipalities in Alaska, New York, Colorado, Oklahoma, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Nevada and Washington state also blamed road work delays on asphalt shortages.

In the past, about 40 percent of an oil barrel would be turned into asphalt products and now it's around 10 percent, McMinimee said.

In all, thousands of miles of highways, city streets and small country roads are being affected, state and industry officials say.

Some states, including Colorado, have responded to the problem by reducing the amount of asphalt required to be poured on a street. Others have changed the chemical requirements of the asphalt they use.

Usually, these methods lead to a shorter life span for the roads, said Ben Teplitz, an asphalt expert for Platts, a trade publication.

Other municipalities are taking a second look at concrete, which for years was more expensive.

The U.S. is currently undersupplied by about 24,000 barrels of asphalt a day, or 5 percent of daily demand, and that number is expected to jump to 257,000 barrels a day by 2012, according to San Antonio-based NuStar Energy L.P., a producer of asphalt.

On average, about 5,500 barrels of liquid asphalt are needed per mile of paving, said Adan Carrillo, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation.

Teplitz said he couldn't quantify the shortfall of asphalt, but that the entire industry is foreseeing the availability of asphalt to shrink.

The shift in refinery technology that led to the decline in asphalt production was spurred by increased oil prices.

Oil refineries around the country are installing billion-dollar machines called "cokers" that are able to refine the chunkiest, low-grade and least expensive crude oil into highly profitable fuels, such as gasoline and diesel.

Contributing to the woes of those in need of asphalt is the lack of a chemical -- also derived from oil -- that is used to mix asphalt. Colorado's road-maintenance delays, for example, were directly related to the dearth of styrene-butadiene-styrene polymer.

"The consequence of using less polymer asphalt is that roads won't last as long. That is, durability is being sacrificed for affordability and getting the job done," Teplitz said.

"The installation of cokers is pretty much a permanent change for refiners," said Ken Simonson, an economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. "More of them are likely to be out of the asphalt business and that will keep up the pressure on asphalt for some time."

Big companies that run a number of refineries around the country have installed the cokers, including Tesoro Corp., Valero Energy Corp. and Marathon Oil Corp.

At the beginning of the year, a ton of asphalt -- or 5.5 barrels -- was selling for about $300. At one point the price rose above $800 per ton, said NuStar Vice President Mike Stone.

Refiner Alon USA Energy Inc. said its net income nearly tripled in the third quarter to $37 million in part because asphalt prices surged 80 percent from a year earlier to $614 per ton.

In Colorado, more than 20 road projects have been delayed. In Washington state, at least three counties have announced delays, as well. In Seattle, one local asphalt supplier was directly affected by the cutbacks at refineries, and that left two counties short of asphalt.

More cokers are scheduled to come online between 2010 and 2011, meaning the dearth of asphalt is only likely to become magnified, said Greg Matula, a spokesman for NuStar Energy. The company estimates that the nation needs about 500,000 barrels daily to keep demand.

There are signs, however, that falling oil prices will prompt some refiners to reconsider building new cokers as a way to rein in spending.

The skyrocketing price of asphalt has had at least one positive effect -- on the concrete industry, as its product becomes more attractive to city engineers.

But John Arroyo, executive director of Northwest Cement Producers Group, said it will take another eight to 12 months to know if the concrete industry will get more contracts, and that a broader economic slowdown will make an impact as well -- not just asphalt prices.

"There's been so much more awareness among public work staff because of high oil prices this year, just now they're starting to look elsewhere and look at other options," Arroyo said.


Man drives Humvee into Columbia to clean tires, nearly drowns

Associated Press and KOMO TV 4 Seattle
Story Published: Oct 31, 2008 at 8:37 PM PST
Story Updated: Oct 31, 2008 at 10:48 PM PST

Quincy, Washington State -- Authorities in Grant County say a 48-year-old Woodinville man nearly drowned after he deliberately drove his Humvee into the Columbia River near Quincy.

Undersheriff John Turley says Merle C. Sorenson told deputies he "was not thinking" and drove into the water at a boat launch to see how far the vehicle could go and still back out.

Turley says Sorenson -- who admitted drinking six beers -- also said he wanted to "clean his tires."

The Humvee went into the water about 11:30 p.m. Thursday. Four people escaped the floating vehicle, but Sorenson was trapped with only his head above water.

Rescuers attached a tow truck line and moved the vehicle far enough out of the water to save Sorenson before it sank farther.

Sorenson was treated at Quincy Valley Hospital for mild hypothermia and later released.

Istaria Forums > Posts Not Related to Istaria  > General Off Topic Posts > Death Race
From: LaughingOtter
Date: September 8th, 2008, 02:53 PM

The geeky things we do . . .

I used to have a '73 Mustang, and one day it occurred to me that all that open space around the engine must be good for something. I did a bit of measuring and as it turns out, there's just enough room to mount a pair of Browning .50 machine guns.

Now, I didn't HAVE the machine guns, or any intention to try to obtain them; this was just a hypothetical exercise. However, once I found out it might be workable, I decided to find out what the various government agencies concerned might say about the idea. The ATF and the FBI were both pretty boring in their responses - it boiled down to, "as long as you have the permits, we don't care what you do with your weapons, provided that you discharge them in a legal manner". Bleh.

The Denver Police were much more entertaining. The detective I talked to felt the guns should be mounted on the outside of the car so as to avoid a concealed weapons issue, but not right on the hood because that could lead to an obstructed view citation. He also thought that the Division of Wildlife might be concerned enough to act, since machine guns aren't legal for use during any state hunting season.

I had to call the Division of Wildlife after that, of course. As it turned out, I didn't need to worry. As long as I only discharged the machine guns at people and collected my brass (pack out your trash!), they wouldn't need to get involved.

Besides, deer aren't worth any points.

Klaus Wulfenbach
Mithril Council, Chaos
"Death is fleeting. Pride is forever."


WizKids Games Ceases Operations and Discontinues Product Lines

November 10, 2008 -- The Topps Company announced today that WizKids will immediately cease operations and discontinue its product lines.

Scott Silverstein, CEO of Topps, said “This was an extremely difficult decision. While the company will still actively pursue gaming initiatives, we feel it is necessary to align our efforts more closely with Topps current sports and entertainment offerings which are being developed within our New York office.”

Upon notifying our partners, Topps will immediately pursue strategic alternatives so that viable brands and properties, including HeroClix, can continue without noticeable disruption. To that end, WizKids will continue supporting Buy it By the Brick redemptions for Arkham Asylum, and the December Organized Play events for HeroClix.

For consumer announcements, please refer to over the coming days for further information.


Litko Aerosystems

Makim Smelchak's 6mm Miniatures Blog and Photo Gallery

Second City - Mad Max/Car Wars 25mm Miniatures

Taking the Bandwagon by Force

Jon Ward Motor Sports: Highwayman TV Series "Stealth" For Sale


1d4chan Wiki: Car Wars

Autoduel Radio Podcast

The Autoduellist/Trucker Local Area Source (ATLAS) Blog


Car Wars Crash Flow Chart: A one-sheet flow chart to help determine the outcome of crashes in Car Wars 5th Edition.

Gamebook Scanning Project

Minnesota's Elite Team of Autodueling Lunatics (METAL)

Runestone Games: Car Wars

Television Trops and Idioms Wiki: Blood Sport

Unofficial Wiki for Darkwind: War on Wheels


Gear Jammers Auto Works


6mm-Minis: Car Wars Correspondence: Part-1
20 December 2007

Game-Zombie (Dead link; use cache feature on Google)


Remind you of a game at all?
Death Race (2008)
Internet Movie Database

Thrace Inc Forums Forum Index » Planetside » Other games

HMG Armour Penetration tables and simulation?
The Miniatures Page

Car Wars type games
The Acaeum: Dungeons & Dragons Collecting Forums

Game Day: The Fast and Furious Streets of Dark City
Nuketown: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Geekdom


Science Fiction Radio Theater: The Racer

Science Fiction Radio Theater: Devil Car

Date: Sat, 11 Oct 2008 20:22:23 -0400
Subject: SWAT Resources and Gaming

Hello Michael,

Just wanted to let you know about some more recordings of autocombat stories. Actually, it's just two of 'em right now, and one is Melchior's "The Racer" again. But the other is Zelazny's "Devil Car." They're both presented in a streaming format, and at a low bit-rate. At least my obsolescent modem was keeping ahead of the stream.

Anyway the links are <> for the stories specific to cars, and <> for the home page to "Science Fiction Radio Theater." Share and enjoy.

Still driving offensively,

Glenn Jupp


Jason Statham uphappy about 'Death Race' warning

The Hollywood News and Internet Movie Database
29 September 2008 8:17 AM, PDT

Hollywood hard man Jason Statham has hit out at a warning message that appears at the end of his new movie Death Race. The film is based around a 'death race' which sees a bunch of convicts racing it out to the death, with the winner gaining his freedom to the outside world. It is a remake of the 1975 cult classic.

According to the BBC, filmmakers were forced to put up a notice urging the public not to recreate the realistic car crashes which appear in the film.

"As if that's going to happen," he said. He added to BBC Newsbeat: "'Dad I'm just going take the Escort out and I've just bolted two of those mini guns onto the bonnet. Is that alright? I'm just going to Asda'."

Death Race was released in the UK last Friday.

Paul W.S. Anderson Q&A: Director discusses Death Race

By Leigh Singer, IGN UK
September 24, 2008

Having made his debut with joyriding thriller Shopping, Paul W.S. Anderson went on to direct film adaptations of the hugely successful videogames Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil. This week sees the UK release of Death Race, his big-budget remake of the Roger Corman cult classic Death Race 2000 and IGN caught up with him to discuss smashing up some truly magnificent cars.

IGN: Speaking to Jason Statham, it seems that several people involved in this film hadn't seen Death Race 2000, but presumably you had.

Ha! Yeah, I'd seen it a lot!

IGN: What was it about that film that made such an impression on you?

Paul W.S. Anderson: The things that attracted me to Death Race 2000, I'll be honest, I was a teenager and it had lots of nude women and lots of violence in it, so it was like, 'Wow!' but once you got past that, what really struck me about the movie was these killers cars - cars that were built not just to race, but to destroy, to kill people. The original movie was very low-budget so they had some good ideas in it that never really came to fruition, that Roger Corman had wanted to do but was never able to.

So for example, some of the cars had guns mounted on them but the guns never fired because they didn't have the money to make them fire. And although the drivers hated each other and pretended to crunch into each other a couple of times, they never really went for it because they only built one of each car and could never afford to risk writing them off! So I wanted to kind of deliver on the promise of what Roger wanted to do. If Roger had had a big budget at that point, what was the movie he would have made?

IGN: There are some significant changes to the basic storyline here. What prompted those?

Anderson: I think Death Race 2000 is a classic, but it's a classic from the 1970s, and I think it's a particular kind of drive-in-exploitation movie satire masterpiece and it was very much a movie of its time. I don't think you could make the same movie again - nor would I want to, because I really love the original movie. I was more interested in reimagining it, taking some of those themes, some of those concepts, some of the characters and doing a slightly different film.

The other thing that intrigued me about Roger's movie was that the Death Race is the national sport of America and I thought, 'well how did that happen?' It's not like the President of America suddenly woke up and invented it, it must have come from somewhere. So our movie I always saw as a prequel to Roger Corman's movie. It's the genesis of the Death Race; how, in a realistic way, can you imagine this having developed from our society right now.

IGN: Your first movie Shopping also featured fast cars but obviously there's a world of difference between what you were able to do there compared to Death Race…

Anderson: It's funny, Jason and I were just talking about Shopping because he's a big fan of that movie, and we were just noticing there are quite a few similarities. In Shopping there's a scene where Sadie Frost is standing up inside a car outside the roof and she's throwing things at a police car that's following. And then in Death Race there's a scene where Natalie Martinez is standing out the roof of a car and throwing things. In Shopping there's a scene where Jude Law throws a BMW into reverse and drives away and there's another car following him; and of course we kind of repeat that gag in Death Race.

The difference is of course when I was shooting that scene in Shopping we had to shoot it in an hour and a half because we were working on a Channel 4 budget, whereas when we do it in Death Race we shoot it in a week and a half. So you know, I had some concepts that I never really managed to bring to fruition that in this movie I really got to spend some time on. But the mythic city idea and the dystopian future, those are things that I've always been interested in, and they're present in Shopping and similar in Death Race.

IGN: There are some amazing vehicles in this film. You must have a favourite, so which is it and why?

Anderson: Well, one of my favourites is Machine Gun Joe's [Dodge] Ram, just because the thing is such a tank. I mean, we built this thing so well, it's covered in armour plating, it was virtually indestructible. All the other cars got smashed and wrecked, his was one of the few cars that was actually still standing at the end of the film. Either side of it is a Vulcan Cannon mounted on the side and a Vulcan Cannon shoots 6000 rounds per minute. Usually one of them is mounted on a Black Hawk helicopter gunship - we had two of them on this vehicle. I love it for that.

IGN: It's very funny to see an acclaimed actress like Joan Allen swearing like a sailor -- what was it like having actors like her and Ian McShane in a world like Death Race?

Anderson: Well it was important for me to get actors of that calibre involved in the movie. You can film the most exciting car chase and the most exciting stunts but if you don't care about the person inside the car and you don't care about their predicament, you're not really going to care about the action either. That's what makes the car chase in Bullitt so good, it comes two-thirds of the way into that film and you're really into Steve McQueen by that point.

It's what makes the car scene in The Presidio -- I'm going back a bit -- not so good because it comes right at the start of the movie and you have no idea who's driving the car, so although the stunts are spectacular, you just have no investment in them. So to really bring out the drama of the narrative I felt I really needed people like McShane and like Joan Allen. And I also needed to make a three-time Oscar nominee like Joan Allen swear like an East End docker. I did, and it's very satisfying.

Death Race is released in the UK on Friday.

'Death Race' is effective, action-packed, mindless fun

By Paul Lucas, Film Critic
Montgomery Newspapers
August 27, 2008

Here is one for the gaming geeks. Back in the '80s (long before Pokemon and Magic cards), gamers were going crazy for every new role-playing game to come down the pike. Some were good. Most were not. (Accountants and Engineers, anyone?)

Everyone knows about Dungeons & Dragons (though very few remember the big D&D college controversy that gave it a black eye -- involving steam tunnels, real swordplay, drugs, gay sex and a young man named James Dallas Egbert III, who would commit suicide a year later). But very few remember such games as Gamma World or Car Wars.

Car Wars was a game that was loosely inspired by the "Mad Max" films, in which cars were modified with armor and weapons. The players traveled through a post-apocalyptic landscape battling other drivers, sometimes in an arena-like setting. "Road Warrior" was always considered the best example, though no one had ever adapted the arena aspect of the game to film.

No more.

"Death Race" is supposed to be a remake of the 1975 cult film "Death Race 2000." Starring David Carradine ("Kung Fu" and "Kill Bill") and a pre-"Rocky" Sylvester Stallone (although after "Lords of Flatbush" and his softcore porn film, later retitled as "Italian Stallion").

According to the tagline, "In The Year 2000, Hit And Run Driving Is No Longer A Felony. It's The National Sport!"

The Death Race is a televised cross-country road race where people are run down for points. The remake is far from the original, though cars and some names remain.

In this "supposed" remake, Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is framed for the murder of his wife and sent off to an Alcatraz-like prison. It is the future, and the high cost of prisons has put them into the hands of the corporations that are given free reign to do as they wish.

The prison's warden (played by Joan Allen) has created a surefire moneymaking scheme - the Death Race. The race takes place in three parts on the island prison. Cars are fitted with armor, guns, rockets, oil slicks, and so on (turned on and off by the warden's people) and are used to kill other inmates during the race.

Like pay-per-view, the people of the world can watch the race online for $225 a race. And like NASCAR, fans have their favorites. The biggest favorite is a masked mystery inmate by the name of Frankenstein (Carradine played Frankenstein in the original). The warden has enlisted Ames to wear Frankenstein's mask since the last guy was killed (Frankenstein's mask is part Jason, part Predator, and not a little bit of Corey Taylor from "Slipknot").

"Death Race" is fun and action-packed. Do not expect more than that. Jason Statham (who got his start in Guy Ritchie movies) does a good job as Ames, but his fighting skills are underutilized here. Obviously, this is a car movie, not a fight film. Shame.

Every racer needs a pit boss and Frankenstein has Ian McShane as Coach. Need I say more? McShane is perfect. 'Nuff said.

As opposed to Tyrese Gibson, who plays Machine Gun Joe (the original was played by Sly). The original Machine Gun Joe was a gangster. Gibson's is supposed to be a sadistic, tough, gay prisoner. I'm sorry, but if the former Tommy Hilfiger model ended up in prison, I doubt that he would either be the one in charge or the one able to walk straight. He can't pull it off.
"Death Race" has nods to a number of films in it. "Road Warrior" and "Robocop" are blatantly obvious; others, you need to work a little harder.

In the end, "Death Race" is mindless fun. It delivers on its promise. It is not the original. It is not even close to the original. But as for a Car Wars-style action film, it puts the pedal to the metal.

** 1/2 (out of ****); R (for strong violence, language and road rage); 89 mins.

For more on the world of entertainment and beyond, visit Paul at


Death Derby

Written by Brett Bernstein and Peter C. Spahn
Published by Precis Intermedia
29-page PDF (484 KB)
Stock Number CARD001, $5.00

Prepare yourself to enter the Death Derby Tournament -- the hardly collectible card game of over-the-top vehicular combat where machine guns roar, missiles light up the sky, and a carton of eggs can stop a tank. Choose one of ten stock vehicles or create your own. Then begin your rampage by gathering weapons and upgrading your vehicle while blasting opponents and overcoming battlefield hazards!

Death Derby was designed with simplicity in mind. The rules are easy to learn and gameplay is fast and fun. Three different sets of playing cards are included. Each needs to be printed, cut, separated, and then compiled into a complete deck.