Saturday, 8 October 2011

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1. Ahead of the Bell: Airlines


An analyst with Sterne, Agee and Leach on Friday initiated coverage of most U.S. airlines with "Buy" ratings, suggesting the timing is right for investors to take advantage of the sector's beaten-down stocks.


Analyst Jeff Kaufmann believes that the industry "is reaching equilibrium" -- a point where stocks be poised to grow as a result of the massive consolidation that has taken place over the last three years. The recession and record high oil prices in recent years have driven airlines not only to combine, but to be more efficient. They've cut unproductive routes, added fees for services that used to be free and held the line on ticket prices -- all of which has helped most U.S. carriers return to a profit.


Kaufmann put a "Buy" rating on American Airlines' parent AMR Corp., Allegiant Travel Co., Delta Air Lines, Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp. and United Continental Holdings Inc. He rates US Airways Group Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. at "Neutral."


Kaufmann said fall is often the best time to take advantage of airline stocks that have traditionally been oversold. Fall is one of the weakest seasons for airlines because it's after the peak summer season, but before the holidays. It's a time when kids are returning to school and fewer business people take trips.


In the long run, the analyst sees cost cuts and diligence on behalf of the airlines holding up stocks. He believes that the traditionally volatile sector should become more calm as airlines become more disciplined in their business decisions.


2.  A Prius in the Sky: The Green Flight Challenge


The Green Flight Challenge is a contest of energy-efficient electric and hybrid airplanes, the first of its kind dedicated to reducing air pollution from aviation. The contest is sponsored by Google in partnership with NASA and the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation.


The first place prize of $1.35 million, the largest in aviation history, went to team Pipstrel-USA.com. The challenge was no easy feat but three teams succeeded in completing it, according to NASA's report:


The winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. The first and second place teams, which were both electric-powered, achieved twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition, meaning they flew 200 miles using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger. 


"Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction," said Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com. "Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation." 


3.  Giants’ Umenyiora Perfects Pass-Rush Move, Building Career Around It


Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora can trace the transformation of his career back to a single game film he watched in 2005.
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Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora's signature freeze-chop-club move can be traced to a move used by James Hall in 2005.


Umenyiora was poring over tape of a pass-rush move employed by the veteran James Hall when he became transfixed by the technique’s potential. It was sometimes successful and sometimes unsuccessful on the film. But Umenyiora thought he could make a minor adjustment and turn it into a tool of his own. And he was right.


That day in the Giants’ film room was a seminal moment for Umenyiora because it led to the development of his signature technique: the freeze-chop-club move.


Umenyiora distilled what the move has meant to his career: “Everything.”


Umenyiora was so anonymous when the Giants drafted him from Troy University, in the second round in 2003, that he was not listed in a book of prospects distributed by the N.F.L. After nine quarterback-crunching seasons, though, he is one of the most feared pass rushers in the game, in large part because of his dangerous move. In fact, Umenyiora estimated that roughly half of his 62 career sacks came from the move.


The move is at once remarkably simple and highly nuanced. The simplicity is in the logic of the move, which is essentially a stutter step. The nuance is in Umenyiora’s execution.


As he rushes off the edge, Umenyiora starts the move by appearing to cut toward the inside of the blocker, usually an offensive tackle, temporarily stopping his feet. This is the freeze. Then Umenyiora cuts outside and swats away the blocker’s hands as he tries to stop him. This is the chop. Then Umenyiora shoves past the blocker. This is the club.


“That’s one thing he’s perfected over the years,” the defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. “It’s devastating. I like seeing it. It’s a work of art more so than just a move.”


Umenyiora adapted Hall’s version of the move by adding the stutter step. Umenyiora thought the move would be more successful if he could force the offensive tackle to pause with the fake inside. That would enable him to zoom past the flat-footed blocker. So he tested it in practice against Luke Petitgout, and it worked. And that was how it started.


Not coincidentally, Umenyiora had his breakout season in 2005, when he was named first-team All Pro after recording 14 ½ sacks. He had 13 sacks in 2007 and 11 ½ in 2010.


At 6 feet 3 inches and 255 pounds, Umenyiora is undersize for a defensive end, and despite his deceptive power, his speed and quickness are his greatest assets against bigger, less nimble offensive tackles. The move takes advantage of those strengths.


“He’s as fast as a safety and in a linebacker’s body,” said Jacksonville tackle Guy Whimper, who faced Umenyiora in the Jaguars’ Week 12 loss last season and in practices while playing for the Giants from 2006 to 2009. “As soon as you as an offensive linemen slow your feet down, he takes advantage of it. That’s what he wants you to do.”


Umenyiora’s freeze-chop-club move has gained such acclaim that it has been replicated around the league, with Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings as one defensive end who has started using it in recent seasons. (Umenyiora said he was at first surprised to see another All Pro like Allen duplicating the move, but that it did not bother him.)


Umenyiora’s game is more than one move, however. He can speed rush. He can bull rush. He can use a spin move. He will sometimes bull rush or use a spin knowing it will probably be unsuccessful simply to keep offensive tackles honest. It is Umenyiora’s ability to employ each technique well that makes his move so successful.


“When he comes out of his stance, each move looks the same at the point of contact,” linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. “Until he shows you what he’s doing, they all look the same. For a tackle who’s setting, you can guess, but if you’re wrong, that’s a sack.”


Defensive tackle Chris Canty referred to Umenyiora as “a tactician” for how he uses his freeze-chop-club move in concert with his other pass-rush moves.


4.  Robert Downey Jr. revisits his film career


A truly calm Robert Downey Jr. is a rare and spooky sight to behold, but on a recent Venice Beach morning, there he was with a faraway expression and a cup of warm tea waiting by his folded hands. "So," he said with deadpan eyes, "you want to talk about the past."


The past is a tricky subject for Downey — he is reluctant to glorify his fire-breathing days (especially the stops in prison, rehab and Hollywood's career penalty box), but they are a huge part of his mojo at this point, and they add the decadent wink to his most resonant sort of role: the wickedly smart guy who dances on life's ledges.


On Friday, Downey will receive the 25th American Cinematheque Award, which honors the 46-year-old for a lifetime's contribution to cinema. The prize will be presented at a Beverly Hills gala crowded with famous friends and Hollywood executives. That sort of fete was unthinkable a decade ago when he was dealing with handcuffs, tabloid reports and unreturned phone calls.


Now, though, the guy whose body of work once seemed to be surrounded in chalk outline has become a true franchise player for Disney's Marvel Studios ("The Avengers" next summer and "Iron Man 3" in 2013) and Warner Bros. ("Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" in December).


"There are these moments where everything goes right, and it's that magic that you talk about," Downey said. "The main thing is maintaining some sort of dignity and interest between those moments. But those are the moments that keep me coming back. Are they predictable? Somewhat. But are they consistent? There are so many factors."


Downey grew up in front of a camera. At age 5 he played a character called Puppy in a trippy film called "Pound" that was directed by his filmmaking father and required the youngster to deliver a line about pubic hair (yes, you can find it on YouTube). By the early 1980s he was on Hollywood's radar — barely — but showing flashes of the audacity and charisma that would be a hallmark.


The magic has been more consistent in recent years as the cleareyed Downey has traded his chemical romance for martial arts and a marriage of true collaboration with producer Susan Downey, who shares the Venice offices with her husband and the employees of their busy production company, Team Downey. It was there that Downey took this walk down celluloid memory lane, sitting down with a reporter and a stack of Blu-rays and DVDs of his films and, at certain points, literally laughed until he cried as he skipped through chapters of his on-screen life.


"Weird Science" and "Tuff Turf" (1985): Writer-director John Hughes made films that were a rite of passage for audiences and young Hollywood talent. "I had been in California for three months working on a movie called 'Tuff Turf' with Jimmy Spader and I got an audition. At that time, walking into a production office on the Universal lot and seeing Anthony Michael Hall was like bumping into Spencer Tracy at the commissary in the 1940s. He takes an interest in me and that led to 'Saturday Night Live' with him vouching for me and it led to 'Johnny Be Good.' It was big for me. My memories of it are being in Skokie, Ill., in a huge mall and dressed in cutting-edge Melrose, Maxfield fashion. Any weird stuff we did while partying the night before would be the thing that John Hughes would say, 'That thing you did that didn't make any sense? Do that.'"


"Less Than Zero" (1987) The disaffected youth of affluent Los Angeles get high and get low. Downey plays Julian, who is in deep to a drug dealer played by Spader. "In some ways it was the most honest work I've ever done even though I was nowhere near the level of depravity of these characters. The director, Marek Kanievska, ran screaming from Hollywood after the movie came out. We were making a midlevel, sensationalist, timely Bret Easton Ellis interpretation for Fox, but you would have thought he and I were on a Stanislavsky journey together. I had done some comedies, but I didn't know if I knew what I was doing or not until this one movie and one scene in it: There's a scene on the tennis court where Julian goes to his father [to ask for help] and the theme, for me, was 'Will a father and son ever connect before one of them dies?' We did it twice, I wasn't thinking about the movie or the crew. I was just thinking about that idea, and it came through. And I didn't forget the words I was supposed to say."


"Air America" (1990): Downey and Mel Gibson starred as pilots flying under the radar for a Vietnam-era CIA operation, but the movie was undermined by too many creative shifts and an uncertainty of tone. "The movie got watered down. The great thing was working with Mel right before he went off and did 'Hamlet' and started directing. I remember him telling someone on the set, 'I would never be a director, it's a terrible idea,' and three years later he couldn't not direct. That's kind of where I'm heading towards now. I feel it's almost irresponsible learning what I've learned and having the influences and relationships I've had to not try to infuse that with movies more as a director."


"Chaplin" (1992): Downey earned an Oscar nomination for portraying the Hollywood icon for director Richard Attenborough. "The portrayal was a direct result of my relationship with Dickie. He was a man, in his work as an actor and in life, of stillness and emotional fullness.... It turned into a very important lesson in externalism — a lesson I still avoid at all costs but sooner or later I will have to deal with it again. That was the whole journey of 'Chaplin.' I thought it was going to be about becoming ectomorphic and doing all these things to capture him — I set up this elaborate technical system with one-way mirrors in front of a TV screen with frozen frames — and it became much more about being quiet and still. That's not easy because I'm restless and I also want to entertain myself."


Picking up the remote, Downey skipped through scenes of the movie to locate one other "Chaplin" memory: a scene on the sands of Malibu where his character needed to spin a beach ball on his finger. "It's windy and we're doing rehearsals, and I just can't do it. I look over and there's a 12-year-old kid with a ball on the beach just spinning on the tip of his finger. I went over, 'Just give me five minutes.' And you know it happens like that all the time. Inspiration and education come for everywhere."


"Natural Born Killers" (1994): Downey played doomed, pretentious journalist Wayne Gale (clearly based on Geraldo Rivera) in Oliver Stone's black comedy. "I see it as a death-of-the-1980s movie and prophetic. I loved Tom Sizemore in it, and Tommy Lee Jones was brilliant even though he was really annoyed by me… I could do my death scene right now, I swear. It's so great. I think in that movie we were all playing aspects of Oliver, and I think my character was the aspect that he wanted to see gunned down.... I remember … the day we filmed it. I had loads of words, and I was treating it like theater, and I was frustrated that my co-stars [Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis] weren't supporting me. Usually I'm the one who is acting like a drunken monkey, but they were the ones that didn't know their lines. I think I was just nervous. They did to me what I did to Tommy Lee Jones. So I've been on both sides of that."


"Home for the Holidays" (1995) Jodie Foster directed and not everyone was always amused by Downey's brand of chaos. "I was at a particularly, um, groovy point in my own development there.... I remember gassing to the point that Jodie and Holly Hunter would be like, 'Do you mind transcending your adolescence? We're trying to make a movie.' And there was Anne Bancroft just looking at me. I was altered as often as not. That was the first time for that on screen. I would spin through a scene like a whirling dervish. Everyone was like, 'What just happened?' but I was off the set and going to lunch."


"Zodiac" (2007) and "The Soloist" (2009): Downey played real-life California journalists in each, Bay Area crime reporter Paul Avery and then Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. "For 'The Soloist,' I was encouraged by [director] Joe Wright and Steve himself to completely depart from any interpretation of him, but you find that if you mine it a little bit you get a lot; it's like electroplating instead of solid gold. With Paul Avery, that character brought a little levity telling a very dark story about, essentially, three lives that are ruined. 'Zodiac' was a tragedy, 'The Soloist' was about victory and friendship. Look, I don't know much — unless I'm in a story meeting. I know theme is important. Internal theme, external theme: Those are the two clearest tracks you can run your train down."


"Iron Man" (2008) and "Iron Man 2" (2010): The Marvel Studios films pulled in a combined $1.2 billion in worldwide box office and turbo-charged Downey's career. He returns to the role in next year's all-star "The Avengers" and 2013's "Iron Man 3." "The first one changed everything for me and with the second 'Iron Man' there were certain aspects that were dissatisfying and disappointing to me but at least they lit me right.... [The first one] was a meditation on responsibility and an exploration of how a small group of people can take a two-dimensional idea and, if the winds are right, create something that makes people say, 'That was my favorite movie of the year.' To me, Tony Stark's story is a karma story and a technology story. I love a good action movie — a Steve McQueen or Tom Cruise or Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson in the right spot, and you smile and say, 'That's what this kind of movie is all about.' There were two times in my life I prepared for something manically, it was this and 'Chaplin.' I became the expert on this guy."


USA Aviation NEWS

Los Angeles Times
The past is a tricky subject for Downey — he is reluctant to glorify his fire-breathing days (especially the stops in prison, rehab and Hollywood's career penalty box), but they are a huge part of his mojo at this point, and they add the decadent wink ...
New York Times
By MARK VIERA EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora can trace the transformation of his career back to a single game film he watched in 2005. Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora's signature freeze-chop-club move can be traced to a ...
FOXSports.com
It would mean the 40 year old will have to decide whether to retire as a Yankee or try to continue his career with another organization. Though Posada's career with the Yankee is likely at an end, he had a terrific ALDS, hitting .500 (6-for-12) with ...
ESPN (blog)
Kennedy went 6 2/3 innings while allowing four earned runs in Game 1 of this series, his only career postseason start. Arizona is 14-2 in Kennedy's last 16 starts going back to the regular season For Milwaukee, Yovani Gallardo will make his third ...





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