2009 Adult Soapbox Derby

I didn’t make it to the Soapbox Derby this year, pills but I’ve been a few times so what’s the difference. Let me set the scene: a couple thousand people hang out and watch a couple of dozen teams race homemade cars down the side of Mt. Tabor here in Southeast. The crowd drinks openly and gets nerve-wrackingly close to the track. Volunteers with blowhorns yell at people who come dangerously close to getting hit by speeding, drunken projectiles, barreling down the side of Mt. Tabor.

It’s awesome, it’s a Portland institution.

This video from a Portland filmmaker who goes by the handle Brewcaster sums it up pretty well. The second video from the Yakima team (which fared second place) is also worth checking out. While overly high-tech compared to the competitors, this Yakima car is pretty sweet. Their mounted camera turned out some cool footage.

Flywheels and Crucifictions, One Crazy Bastard and his “FUCK YOU” ponyshow

This is the second post in our speed-related series “Speed Trials, refractionist ” I was tipped off to the video on Kottke.org. This piece by Chris Burden takes advantage of a giant, web 19th century iron flywheel joined up with a low power motorcycle.

As you can see it takes about a minute for Burden to give the flywheel a full “charge.” At that point the wheel is spinning at an insane rate, page and according to information online, the wheel spins for 3 hours before stopping. In the early 70s, Chris Burden made a name for himself in the performance art world. As I learned from this New York Times article, (from 1989) the man quickly created a reputation for staging ridiculous acts, such as being half-crucified on the roof of a VW Beetle in Trans-Fixed (1974), or trapped in a locker in the aptly-named Five Day Locker Piece (1971).

As mentioned in the NYT story, Burden’s work is often viewed as part of an art history trend of “undermining the notion of art as a salable, museum-friendly object.” On one hand I appreciate the more ingenious mechanical aspects of Burden’s work, though some of his other pieces leave me with a twinge of annoyance, that by acting out in desperate, and embarrassingly self-deprecating way, he was able to achieve fame. The fact that he went through with being crucified on a car, electrocuted or trapped in a locker for 5 days is impressive, but only in the fact that he went through with them, not so much the ideals behind them. I don’t mean to suggest that those pieces are devoid of meaning, as it is possible I’m missing something. Perhaps what hits me wrong is that much of Burden’s work contains a property that suggests his yearning to be accepted in the insular art world, while at the same time offering a superficial, ponyshow “fuck you” to the establishment. In either case, Burden is a name worth knowing about. He’s not entirely on point all the time, but then again who is.

It Was a Rendezvous: A High Speed Tour of Paris, 1976

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  • on May 12, 2009
  • Filed in: Film

I was turned onto this by my boss, sick a 1976 short filmed titled “C’├ętait un rendez-vous” or “It was a Rendevous”- which follows a car driving at ridiculous speeds through the streets of Paris at 5:30 in the morning. It features a continuous, drugstore 9-minute shot from a gyro-stablized bumper-mount.

The director, Claude Lelouch was already an established French filmmaker, supposedly having made good on the film “Un Homme et une Femme,” allowing him to purchase a Ferrari 275 GTB which was rumored to have been used in “Rendezvous.”

Looking back, it is believed that it was not in fact a Ferrari but a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 – and that Ferrari sounds were later dubbed in to make it sound more ferocious. Also, contrary to Lelouch’s earlier claims, it was not a contracted Formula 1 driver in the cockpit, but the filmmaker himself. According to Wikipedia, calculations suggest that the car reached speeds up to 220 km/h (136.7 mph).

After decades of being passed around in low quality dubs by film buffs and speed freaks, the DVD is currently available online, from a website that looks like the VHS equivelent of the internet. I suppose if you need the clarity, there it is, otherwise, it’s on YouTube.