Úll 2016 Sketchnotes by Ben Norris   02/11/2016

Spectators vs Regulators: The Calm Down Edition

October 31st, 2016

Another race came to a close yesterday and of course we had another round of radio communication outburst and penalties flying all over the place. My question is: do we really need this circus?

Once again at the centre of attention was the young Max Verstappen, who really seems can’t stay away from being slapped on his hands for being a “naughty” driver. Yesterday was the latest installment in the series: Vettel gets angry at Verstappen on the radio. This edition also featured a never seen before: “F**k off Charlie [Whiting]!”.

The reason for all the anger was Verstappen cutting a corner and maintaining his position while fighting with Vettel for third place and then later trying to back the german into his partner Ricciardo. The steward gave Max a 5 seconds penalty after the end of the race which made Vettel run for the podium after to replace the youngster. Funny thing happened tough: Vettel got a 10 seconds penalty after the podium ceremony, meaning he ended up after both Red Bull drivers and making Ricciardo the rightful owner of the 3rd place trophy. Guess what the penalty was for: moving dangerously in the breaking zone! This is the rule that was introduced in Austin in order to calm Verstappen after the all the “outrage” of his fellow drivers (read: Vettel).

So from a spectator point of view, Vettel looked like a little boy only capable to whine as he can’t overtake another skilled driver, only to be penalised exactly for the same reason that his nemesis was punished for.

Which is kind of amazing and made me laugh quite a lot when I saw the news of Vettel’s penalty!

All of this mess made me think about F1 from a higher-level view. It seems now clear that F1 is a different sport from a spectator point of view than what it is for regulators on the ground.

We as TV and track viewers, we live and we crave for some action on track. The kind of action that makes you jump from your seat/sofa, that makes you hold your breath until the end; the kind of action that made F1 great. Lately I’m happy if I can stay awake past the first 2 laps after which nothing will happen. The most you can hope for is for some mechanics to make a mistake during a pitstop so that another drive can overtake, without actually overtaking.

This level of action has been progressively killed off by new rules and restrictions, that yes aim at making the sport safer for the driver but is also progressively killing all the excitement.

There’s an easy comparison here that can be made. Next weekend, tune in the GP2 race before the F1 and you’ll see what excitement looks like. There are hardly any boring races, and you’ll see all the action you want. I’ve seen amazing battles over the years and drivers using every inch of the track and then some to try and gain a position. We are many years off the last time I’ve seen 3 F1 cars entering the same corner at the same time to pull off something of an amazing overtake.

To circle back to yesterday’s race, what we are seeing now in F1, especially with Max, is a driver who is bringing the best of GP2 up in the major category and getting punished for doing so.

In recent years, F1 got very comfortable, probably too much so. With all the rules and regulations and the fictional technical restriction, is no wonder that the sport is loosing viewership. And it’s not just TV either. The Malaysian Grand Prix can be another casualty as the CEO of the Sepang Cirtuit is thinking of dropping the race from the calendar as F1 “is no longer exciting”.

To countermeasure all of this, for the past 6 months everyone is saying the 2017 regulations will change all of this, making the sport extremely exciting once again. I remain hopeful as always, as I really really love the sport, but I won’t certainly hold my breath.

In the meantime, I think everyone should count to 100 before shouting; adrenaline or not.

There Is A New Wizard In Town

October 26th, 2016

Yesterday night I had the opportunity to go and watch a preview screening of Doctor Strange, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As always, I have some thoughts.

First of all, let me start by saying that I personally knew who Strange was in the Marvel comic universe, but I’ve never read too many of his stories. I went into the cinema with an open mind and before entering I decided to forget everything I thought I knew.

Having said that, I’ve found the movie overall very enjoyable, especially if you consider that this movie is an origin story, and we all know how bad those can be.

The pace of the first half is quite good and it allow the viewer to get comfortable with who Strange is and especially how is mind and ego work together. This is especially important to then understand the transformation he’s going to go through later on in the movie.

Speaking of transformation, I absolutely loved how Cumberbatch portrayed Strange. Of all the Avengers, he is definitely the one as actor that looks almost identical to his paper doppelgänger. Being an MCU entry, attention to details for the costume is a given and once again the wardrobe department doesn’t disappoint. Strange’s Cloak of Levitation perfectly conveys the essence of this character and despite being mostly made in CGI, the few scenes where it’s real are an examples of how this movie succeed on its attention to details.

Now to the lesser good part of the movie. I didn’t find the enemy particularly threatening in this movie. I almost feel it wasn’t needed at all, or at least it doesn’t add too much on the whole narrative. The reason why it’s needed is to transform the Doctor into an Avenger, rather than being just a selfish man on a personal quest. The only reason why Strange gets into the Mystic Arts is to heal his own body and not to save the Universe from the Dark Dimension. Every hero needs a kick in the beginning to realise their powers should be used for the greater good, but of all the kicks seen so far, this was probably the weaker of all.

Also, I think the movie doesn’t really use Kaecilius (Strange Nemesis in the comic) and Mads Mikkelsen performance to great effect. He’s supposedly the bad guy, but he’s also a very forgettable bad guy. So much so that I don’t even think he’s the real intended baddie here1. He as Strange gets trapped in a bigger world, but unlike the Doctor he’s not able to use it to his advantage.

Few final honourable mentions.

  1. Tilda Swinton does a great job portraying the controversy of being The Ancient One. Great delivery on all her lines, making for a perfect spiritual guide for Strange.
  2. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo doesn’t get too much love throughout the movie, always being shown as “The Weird One”, only to reveal his true nature at the very last second, giving more meaning to the overall performance.
  3. The writers on the movie. Dialogues are great and being a MCU movie there’s always a underlying level of light comedy that contributes to the tone and pace of the movie to great effect. Also, this does differentiate a bit the Doctor Strange movie character from his comic book cousin, being more lighthearted and less of a a*****e.
  4. The CGI, used here to great effect, it’s not overwhelming but actually enhance the Mystical Arts and makes you trip quite hard.

All in all a very enjoyable movie, which add another great Avenger to the roster. The Infinity War is going to be so awesome.

Now…If only I could learn to refill my drinks so easily…

  1. Remember not to leave your seat until the lights turn on in the cinema if you want to test my theory. 

Apple September Special Event 2016

September 11th, 2016

The Apple Event came by this week, bringing few surprises and confirming most of the things that were leaked in the weeks and months prior to it.

This time, rather than writing a massive article, I used my new podcast Cyber Intersection to do my commentary.

I had the pleasure of being joined on the show by Carolyn Nicander Mohr, author of The Wonder of Tech.

Listen below, or find the show on iTunes!

My Hot Take On The Suicide Squad

August 30th, 2016

Yes…yes…I know, I’m very late to the party, but I finally went to see Suicide Squad last night, and as always I have something to say about it.

Let’s start with the budget. I finally understood why this movie had to make so much money to break even from the initial investment. One word: soundtrack. The music in this movie is definitely a major component, almost another member of the cast, but it must have been quite expensive to license. Especially during the first half, when each character is introduced, every member of the squad get to have his/her own personal song1.

As I said, the best part of it, it’s not just the music per se, but the way in which a specific track is juxtaposed to the images on the screen. It very well conveys their characteristic and help amplify the personalities of the members of the Suicide Squad.

The movie itself follows a pretty standard plot line:

A. Humans discover alien/metahuman powers
B. Humans try to control them
C. The alien/metahuman power rebels against humans
D. Humans enlist team with superhuman abilities to kill/destroy/enslave the rogue alien/metahuman power
E. The superhuman team wins
F. Humanity survives

Stop me if you have seen this plot line already. In recent years it has become pretty much the default archetype for comic book movies, each with their own slightly different take, but all ultimately can be boiled down to the outline above.

In this specific take on the plot line, the initial mess is created while Humans are trying to protect themselves against new alien/superhumans threats after the demise of Superman in the previous chapter of the DC Cinematic Universe, the equally critically-bashed Batman v Superman. Compared to that, Suicide Squad comes out on top if you ask me.

Batman v Superman has many problems, but the biggest is portraying the characters for what they are not2. Suicide Squad has certainly the problem of introducing way too many figures in a very short period of time. Sometimes way to short to even question the usefulness of the appearance3. What I like about the ensemble is the fact that is clear they are mercenaries with the only objective to comply to the government request in order to gain something at the end. So even the critics that said the cast doesn’t interact well seems without foundation to me. They don’t interact because their characters don’t like to interact with anybody else. From their personal introductions it’s clearly explained how they all are usually working alone.

The only exception to this is Harley Quinn. We learn her origin story and we know how close she is with the Joker. So it’s not surprising that in her craziness she’s the only one giving apparently trying to create ties with the other members of the band. Also I’d like to give a shoutout to Margot Robbie. Her Harley Quinn is absolutely great and the highlight of the group in this movie. Of all the performances hers is the most believable, distantly followed by Will Smith and his Deadshot.

On the villain side of things, I like how the enchantress was portrayed by Cara Delevingne. Mostly the CGI on her was really good as she didn’t have that many lines over the movie. It won’t go down in history as the best villain of all times, but surely she’s not the worst we’ve ever seen.

Before closing, let’s spend few words on four characters that left a mark on the movie for good or bad.

The Joker: Jared Leto does an sub-par job with this character. He doesn’t come across as strong as he should and I felt like many of the visual clues about him and his henchmen were a plagiarised version of the ones seen in Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

Amanda Waller: she’s the one coming up with the ideas of the Task Force X. I liked a lot how Viola David portrayed the character, being true to her comic book origin: tough, zero-compromises, very much always in control even when things go south quite badly.

Rick Flag: he’s the tough military guy in charge of guiding the Task Force X on the field. He does an ok job with it, but I was never fully convinced by Joel Kinnaman’s acting. He never seemed well integrated into the movie as all the other characters.

The Flash: I left the worst for last. Since The Flash is set to appear in the upcoming Justice League movie, it seemed appropriate to the director David Ayer to have him doing a 5 seconds cameo while catching the baddie Boomerang. Of course there’s nothing we can say about the performance, but there’s plenty we can say about how The Flash will look like. It’s all wrong. Like completely wrong. First, he looks like he has a mechanical suit. When I saw him he reminded me of a light version of the Iron Man suit, and we all know that that’s not what The Flash wears. But most importantly his light streak was blue! Yes you read it right, the light streak was blue! Since when that’s a thing? The light is only yellow-orange. Red is the Reverse Flash and blue is Zoom. They still have time to change this, and I really hope they do, because otherwise The Flash will be doomed before even trying to get our approval4.

So, what’s my final judgement on this movie? It’s definitely better than Batman v Superman thanks to the slightly lighter tone; better than the portrayal given by the critics; still nowhere near the level of polishing achieved by the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


  1. Almost as if we were witnessing the entrance of difference wrestlers in a WWE arena. 
  2. Batman killing people like if it was normal for him. 
  3. Sorry Slipknot fans. 
  4. I’m not even sure if the Ezra Miller version on the big screen will be able to rival the Grant Gustin version curretly on the CW TV network. 

Captain America: Civil War

May 9th, 2016

Last night I went to see the latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War.

Let me get this out of the way immediately: this is the best Marvel movie to date. Simple as that. Now let’s see why this is.

Of course this post will contain some spoilers here and there, so only read it if you have watched the movie already!

We knew from all the trailers and videos that this would have been basically an Avengers movies as all the heroes (except from Thor and the Hulk), were going to be together. We also knew we were going to see some new heroes, in the form of Black Panther and Spiderman. So the big question was: how all these people are going to interact with each other without the movie feeling too overcrowded?

Well, the Russo’s brothers definitely pulled off a great treat for the Marvel’s fan!

In Civil War the main story line is about the US Government trying to regulate the action of all those super heroes, creating a sort of super U.N. task force. Not everyone likes the ideas and this will ended up splitting the Avengers in two side, Captain American vs. Iron Man; hence the Civil War.

In addition to this, we still get the Winter Soldier plot and this will also contribute in creating more distance between the two main heroes, with the full revelation of who killed Tony Stark’s parents.

And, to make things even more complicated, we see Black Panthers having beef with the Bucky until almost the end of the movie as he gets trapped in the main twist as all the other Avengers.

Despite all the underlining drama, the movie still has plenty of space for comedy, which is this case is brilliantly delivered by the two main cameos of the movie: Ant-Man and Spiderman.

The two are affiliated with different teams. Ant-Man gets recruited by Hawkeye for Team Cap, while Peter Parker is recruited directly by Tony Stark for Team Iron Man. Of the two, Spiderman is the one that comes through as the funnier of the twos, being brilliantly portraied by Tom Holland. Thanks to his references to real world movies and his seemingly genuine surprise and excitment for all the things super heroes, Spiderman/Parker manages to make the movie feel closer to you as the audience.

It also worth noticing how Marvel already managed to create a better Spiderman in this 10 minutes cameo that what Sony has been able to do in 15 years of so of trying. We knew the shortness of the appearance was mostly due to the to production houses getting a late rights agreement; but despite everything this was still a solid performance and a great ad for next year standalone Spiderman re-introduction: Homecoming.

Civil War is also able to deliver some great dialogues that really makes you feel involved in the ideological fight between the two sides and it makes it really difficult for the audience to actually pick a side. Even the heroes themselves are having troubles picking sides. If the movie poster clearly separates the Avengers right down the middle, the more the story proceeds, the more that line gets blurred and they start to mix again, ultimately being truthful to their own character and historical relationships.

I’m certainly glad Thor and the Hulk were not in this fight. Thor being a God from another planet wouldn’t have not fit really well in this very Earthly dilemma. On the other side instead, the Hulk doesn’t posses the “finesse” needed to participates in such a fight. Hulk smashes as we know. Hulk doesn’t read a 200 pages treaty.

Finally, the movie closes leaving us with only a partial closure and as always tends a hand forward to the future chapters in the story. Steve Rogers is hiding in Wakanda with his new friend Black Panther, putting the Winter Soldier to sleep (literally under ice), but he also tends a reaching hand toward Tony Stark in the form of a comically old flip-phone and the post it: I know you’re mad and this is crazy, but call me maybe?1.

Speaking of the feature, we then see the second post-credit scene in which we go back to Queens in NY, to see how Peter Parker is dealing with the post-symptoms of his first big fight and we also see the spider symbol make its first appearance, remarking the fact that a new Spidey is finally in town.

Overall, as I said at the very beginning, this is a great Marvel movie, arguably the best in the series so far. Speaking of series, this movie of course slot inside the wider arc of the MCU but it also does a good job at standing as its own movie and story. If you’ve seen all the others movie it helps, but if you hadn’t, you won’t feel lost. Which is always good.

If you want to get more of Civil War, I would suggest you listen to the latest The Incomparable podcast, which does a great job at recapping the movie.


  1. I do apologise for this, but it was too good of a pun to let it go! 

2016 National Geographic – Travel Photographer Of The Year

May 5th, 2016

It’s that time of the year again. The National Geographic is now accepting submissions for the 2016 Travel Photographer of the Year Contest.

The National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest is now accepting entries. Harness the power of photography and share your stunning travel experiences from around the globe. Enter your most powerful photos for a chance to become the 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year.

Even if you are not participating, make sure to check the gallery of already submitted works. There are already – of course – great shots, like the one below.


The picture was taken by Christoph Schaarschmidt who has to say the following about it:

I took this photo in july 2014 at Trollstigen in Norway. Standing there alone in the fog, I was waiting for the view to become clear. And then it happened, the fog disappeared and though it was 1 am already, one car came slowly up the steep serpentines. It was my dream for a long time to take a photo of lighttrails like this in Norway – and it was just an awesome feeling that it worked out on the most beautiful and famous street. A few minutes later the fog returned, even thicker than before.

So envious of the ability and the quality of the result. But I’m especially curious about learning more about that place in Norway, and maybe organise a drive there. It looks like an amazing place to be.

That’s the real power of the National Geographic, it never fails to spark your imagination.

Alt text

Jalopnik has a fascinating story on how McLaren is keeping its F1 model alive, thanks to a 20 years old pc.

Not something that you would expect from such a technology giant, but it definitely shows commitment to keep the myth alive. After all there are only about 100 of these cars still alive, each worth north of $10 million.

I’ve also recently discovered that the model pictured in the article is currently being restored down the road from where my office is.

McLaren Special Operations is a workshop like no other. It’s located in an industrial complex a few minutes from their well known Technology- and Production Center in Woking, England, in a building where McLaren used to work on its Formula One racing efforts before deciding to give it a go against Ferrari on the streets as well.

I hope to get a glimpse of this amazing car next time around.