CLIENT QUOTE: "

North Six has been working with King Kong for many years now.  Not only is their customer service unparalleled, but their fleet of motorhomes is always clean, reliable, and exactly what we need to support our photo productions.

" Kyd Kisvarday—Producer, North 6
CLIENT QUOTE: "

You guys did a phenomenal job with the Helios. And Rob, as always, went above and beyond for us.

" Dan Kae—Assistant Production Supervisor
CLIENT QUOTE: "

Just wanted to say thanks for the awesome customer service. Our driver was friendly and professional. He arrived early and had everything ready to go for us. The motorhome was clean and in perfect shape. Every detail matters on a shoot to help keep everything running smoothly. We love working with King Kong!

" Jamie Williams- That Girl Productions
CLIENT QUOTE: "

I wanted to give Rich another glowing report, He was AMAZING on our shoot. The most helpful driver I’ve ever had. I’ll definitely be requesting him on future shoots.

Thanks for everything guys!

" Adrienne Burton – Freelance Prod Coordinator
CLIENT QUOTE: "

…the moho was super nice, everything was great! I will definitely rent it again!!

" Susan Borbely – Prod Coordinator
CLIENT QUOTE: "

The drivers were awesome to be with.  Hard working drivers!!   It really stands out when the drivers jump in to help set up base camp, and tear it down.  Not to mention always having a fresh green tea for me just when I needed it every time.  They really were great and I’d ask for them anytime we get vehicles from you. Thanks!

" Mary Brooks – 3 Star Productions
CLIENT QUOTE: "

We truly enjoyed working from the Helios, the attention to detail to make it an Eco friendly asset to our industry should be commended. The quiet workspace you get when running on the solar power is delightful! Rob was pleasant to be around and always willing to help out. Thank you Rob and King Kong for bringing us the Helios!

" Rochelle Savory-Assistant Production Supervisor
CLIENT QUOTE: "

King Kong… top notch service, incredible drivers, clean, well equipped vehicles, on time—every time! Thanks guys…. you ROCK!!!

" Elaine Lee—Producer 5th and Sunset Los Angeles
CLIENT QUOTE: "

I just wanted to send you a quick message and let you know how amazing Rich is. I have hired motos from all over and this was by far our best experience. Really nice to work with great people

" Crystal Raymond- Chinese Laundry
CLIENT QUOTE: "
Thanks again for helping out with our party. The restrooms worked out great and the service was awesome as usual!
" Steve Brazeel
CLIENT QUOTE: "

The Helios is a great motorhome. Not only is it energy efficient but it offers a large space for production to work in. The copy machine is great because you can wirelessly print and make color copies and send faxes. The satellite phones came in handy when we realized we didn’t have any cell service on location. We received several compliments throughout the shoot day. Crew walked into the motorhome in awe of such a beautiful space.

" Courtney Witherspoon-Production Coordinator Three One O
CLIENT QUOTE: "

Rusty, Bruce and the guys at King Kong were a crucial asset to my photoshoot.  They took a lot of stress off of my plate and came through when I needed them, allowing me to focus 100% on the production.  Without a doubt, King Kong is now my go-to for production vehicles and I do not hesitate to recommend them to my colleagues.  And, not only is Rusty the best and most helpful driver I have ever had the pleasure of working with, he is also awesome with a fog machine!

" Brett Spencer-Producer, Nastygal.com
CLIENT QUOTE: "
King Kong has the best equipment & drivers in the biz.
" Tom Baker – gangboss
CLIENT QUOTE: "

We’ve used the Helios twice now and have been quite impressed each time.  It has everything production could want AND it’s earth friendly! We will use the Helios on every job in which we need a moho.

" Mario D’Amici—Production Coordinator, Beef Films
CLIENT QUOTE: "

King Kong has great motorhomes and the best drivers in the business. Working with you guys is always easy and a pleasure.

" Cat Burkley-Portfolio One
CLIENT QUOTE: "

You guys are the BEST!

" Marie D’Amore—Production Supervisor, HSI
CLIENT QUOTE: "

Thank you so much for lovely Eko lav — definitely the nicest port-a-potty I’ve ever used!

" Amanda – Producer

Archive for June, 2013

Batteries to fuel solar, wind growth

June 27th, 2013  | 

Better batteries could revolutionize solar, wind power

USA TODAY’s Green Tech series explores how green-tech innovations are changing everything from vacations to war-making.

On an arid mountain in Eureka County, Nev., a mining company believes it’s struck the 21st century equivalent of gold.

The precious commodity is vanadium, a metal that can be extracted from shale rock and used to make powerful, long-lasting batteries for cars, homes and utilities.

If Vancouver-based American Vanadium gets federal approval for its proposed Gibellini Hill Project — a 30-day public comment period ends May 29 — it will operate the only vanadium mine in the United States.

Eureka, indeed! The battle to build a better battery is intensifying as the United States and other countries, faced with growing global demand for electricity and a need to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that worsen climate change, look to expand carbon-free renewable energy such as wind and solar.

MORE: USA TODAY energy news

Batteries are key. They can directly power electric cars and buses and, indirectly, homes and big buildings by storing solar and wind power for times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. They balance out renewables that produce energy intermittently so consumers can power up laptops or run refrigerators 24/7.

The race is on. Universities, start-ups and major companies are working with new materials such as vanadium or tweaking the lithium-ion battery that Sony introduced more than 20 years ago for personal electronics. Some advances, like ones that Toyota and IBM are developing to power cars for 500-plus miles on a single charge, won’t make it to market for at least five years.

Others are making their debuts this year, including a battery by Ontario, Canada-based Electrovaya that enables homes with solar panels to go entirely off grid or one by General Electric that will be paired with a Texas wind farm to provide continuous power.

“It’s the dawn of the energy-storage age,” says Bill Radvak, president of American Vanadium, which is partnering with the German CellCube battery manufacturer Gildemeister. He says storage could be the “holy grail” for renewable energy. “There was no major battery market three years ago,” he says, adding that is changing quickly.

In February, California, which mandates that 33% of its electricity come from renewable sources by 2020, required a Los Angeles-area utility to ensure some capacity comes from energy storage. On May 1, Germany, which is shuttering its nuclear power plants as it boosts renewables, began subsidizing homeowners’ purchases of batteries to store power from solar panels. China’s five-year plan calls for 5% of all electricity to be stored by 2020. In the United States, about 2% of electric capacity is pumped hydro storage, the most common form of energy storage.

The global market for storing power from solar panels is forecast to explode, from less than $200 million in 2012 to $19 billion by 2017, according to a report this month by IMS Research.

One factor driving this growth is the plummeting price of renewables, especially solar panels that have fallen at least 60% since the beginning of 2011. As a result, industry groups report historic growth as U.S. electric capacity from solar panels jumped 76% and from wind turbines, 28%, last year alone.

OBSTACLES AHEAD

Still, batteries face obstacles, including cost and safety. Lithium-ion batteries aboard two Boeing 787s jets failed in January, causing a fire on one and smoke on the other. In March, batteries from the same manufacturer caused problems in two Mitsubishi vehicles: a hybrid Outlander car overheated and an all-electric i-MiEV caught fire during testing at an assembly plant.

While the EV industry says these incidents are the exception rather than the rule, money has also been a problem. In October, Massachusetts-based A123 ,a lithium-ion battery manufacturer that spent $132 million in federal stimulus funds, filed for bankruptcy. In December, Wanxiang American, the U.S. arm of a Chinese automotive parts giant, bought A123’s technology.

Toyota’s Jaycie Chitwood said lithium-ion batteries are just too expensive to make electric cars cost competitive without subsidies. Speaking at the Advanced Energy 2013 conference last month in New York City, she said Toyota is expanding its line of electric vehicles to meet the U.S. government’s fuel-efficiency targets — not because they’re profitable. She said it gives a $14,000 discount for each new electric RAV4.

Chitwood said a major battery advance is needed. Toyota is working on several alternatives, including cheaper, longer-range batteries that use magnesium instead of lithium. Commercialization, though, is years away.

“Batteries continue to be a challenge,” especially those for electric vehicles, Esther Takeuchi,chemistry professor at SUNY Stony Brook, said at the same conference. “Things aren’t where we’d want them to be, but they’re getting closer.”

Her university and others, some with federal funding, are looking not only at new chemical mixes but also at nano-sizing the chemical elements — or making them microscopically small — to make them more efficient. Takeuchi said successful batteries often have specific applications, such as lead-acid ones for auto ignition or lithium-iodine for pacemakers. She said lithium-ion has worked well in cellphones and laptops, their initial use.

Batteries will improve “but not at the pace that we’ve seen in recent years,” writes Richard Muller, a physics professor at the University of California-Berkeley, in his 2012 book, Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines. He says the growing demand for portable electronics sped the development of already-known battery technologies. He says it will take awhile to commercialize new ones such as lithium-air.

Batteries are just one of many ways to store grid-scale energy. The most common is pumped hydroelectric, in which water is sent to a reservoir and released later to run generators.

“Storage is the glue that can hold the grid together,” said Matthew Maroon of GE Energy. GE, which opened a $100 million factory in Schenectady, N.Y., to build a sodium nickel chloride battery, announced earlier this month that Invenergy will install its Brilliant wind turbine with Durathon batteries at a Texas wind farm later this year.

The U.S. government is promoting energy storage. In November, the Department of Energy announced grants for 23 R&D projects and picked Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., as the first national “innovation hub” for batteries and energy storage. Argonne will receive $120 million over five years for this work.

Batteries are getting particular attention, because they’re versatile. While pumped hydro facilities require lots of land and water and are meant for utility-scale projects, batteries can be used anywhere and are easily scalable so they can help power not only a car but a factory.

“Everyone’s finally realizing, ‘Hey, this works.’… It’s the key to the future,” says Brad Roberts of the Electricity Storage Association, an industry group. He says the industry’s hiccups are part of its growth and adds: “I don’t see any hesitation on the part of venture capitalists.”

ALTERNATIVES IN THE WORKS

IBM’s Allan Schurr is bullish on his company’s new lithium-air battery, which takes in oxygen from the air to form a chemical reaction that generates an electric charge. It’s lighter and denser than the lithium-ion ones in most of today’s electric vehicles, which use heavy metal oxides to drive the chemical reactions that produce power.

“The performance we’ve seen in tests so far is at or above our expectations,” he says. With 500 miles on a single charge, he says, “You’d take the ‘range anxiety’ out of the equation.” The current Nissan Leaf gets up to 75 miles on a single charge, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 62 miles. Schurr expects a prototype to be developed next year, but its commercial availability will take at least five years.

Toshiba has developed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the SCiB, that has a new oxide-based material, lithium titanate, that allows quicker charging times. It’s used in the Honda Fit’s EV and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV.

Huge lithium-ion batteries, filling 53-foot shipping containers, are being used for grid-scale projects. Since September 2011 on a ridge of Laurel Mountain in West Virginia, AES Storage has used them to store 64 megawatts of energy generated by windmills. That capacity, if it ran continuously, would be enough to power nearly 50,000 U.S. households for a year.

Batteries are also taking homes off the grid or providing back-up energy. SolarCity, a California-based solar installer, is piloting a back-up battery for some of its solar projects in California and may extend that option to other states this year. Minnesota-based Juhl Energy’s SolarBank system pairs solar panels with batteries. Detroit-based Nextek Power Systems offers a portable off-grid option that combines a solar panel with a battery.

Ontario-based Electrovaya plans to bring to the U.S. market this year a residential system, now being tested in Canada, that would install solar panels and a big-enough lithium-ion battery that homes could go completely off grid. Sankar Das Gupta, the company’s CEO, says it would cost less than $10,000 for an average-size home to add such a battery to a solar array.

“There’s no one battery technology that is one-size-fits-all,” says GE’s Maroon. He says each has its own advantages and disadvantages, adding: “The market is big enough for each technology to survive.”

American Vanadium says flow batteries that use vanadium last longer and are more powerful than lithium-ion ones, because they absorb and release huge amounts of energy quickly and can do so thousands of times. They can be used for grid-scale projects, and smaller lithium-vanadium batteries can power vehicles.

Radvak says if his project is approved, it could provide 5% of the world’s vanadium supply and help reduce battery costs. The Bureau of Land Management, which is examining the project and will hold a public meeting Tuesday in Eureka, says the mine could cause a loss of habitat for greater sage grouse and of acreage for livestock grazing.

“There is no mining operation that doesn’t have a consequence,” Radvak says. But he says the Eureka mine won’t involve moving lots of earth, because the vanadium is in surface deposits and can be simply leached with a sulfuric acid. “It’s a very low-risk project,” he says.

Radvak says while the U.S. has lagged behind other countries, notably Germany, on energy storage, he expects that in the long run, it will become the world’s leader.

GLOSSARY OF COMMON BATTERIES:

Batteries often work the same basic way even if they use different metals. They’re mini power plants that produce electricity by creating chemical reactions. As atoms move between two plates of different metals, via a chemical solution called an electrolyte, they produce voltage that is discharged through a metal wire on the other side.

• Lead-acid: (auto ignition). They have atoms pass from a plate of metallic lead through sulfuric acid to a plate of solid lead oxide.

• Lithium-ion (personal electronics, electric vehicles). They have carbon on one end and a metal oxide on the other, using lithium salt in an organic compound as the electrolyte in the middle.

• Lithium-air (still in development; possible uses include electric vehicles). They use lithium metal and oxygen as inputs at the two ends.

• Nickel-cadmium (portable electronics, electric vehicles). Their metal plates are nickel oxide hydroxide and cadmium.

• Sodium-sulfur (electric vehicles, grid-scale storage). A type of molten-salt battery, it’s made from liquid sodium and sulfur.

• Vanadium redox flow (grid-scale storage). They use vanadium, a metal named for Vanadis — the Scandinavian goddess of beauty and youth — in different oxidation states to store chemical energy for repeated use.

The Oldest Company Logos in America

June 24th, 2013  | 

Few things are more tied to a company’s identity than its logo. Who isn’t familiar with Nike’s swoosh or McDonald’s golden arches? A good logo helps consumers recognize brands instantly and distinguishes brands from the competition.

For these reasons some corporate logos have remained — at their core — almost the same for more than a century. Originating in 1876, John Deere is currently the oldest corporate logo used still today by one of America’s largest companies. Several other logos 24/7 Wall St. identified have been around since the second half of the 19th century.

Click here to see the oldest company logos

The 10 oldest corporate logos still in use today mostly belong to household name companies. With the exception of Union Pacific, a railroad company, these companies all make successful products for the American consumer. At least partly the result of their logos, consumers have personal histories with products made by Coca-Cola, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson.

Dupont Logo, Then and Now

dupont-logo_old-new

Continued success is almost certainly why these companies have kept the same logo for so long. The companies have had no reason to change their logos, other than minor changes. According to Interbrand, Coca-Cola’s brand was worth nearly $77 billion as of 2012, making it the most valuable brand in the world. General Electric was the sixth most valuable, worth more than $43 billion.

The origins of the logos are as different as the companies they represent. In 1896, Prudential began to use the “Rock of Gibraltar” to symbolize that the company’s financial products were as reliable as the rock itself. The image of Sherwin-Williams’ paint “Covering the Earth” reflected the rapid expansion of the brand.

Prudential Logo, Then and Now

prudential-logo_old-new

Some of the logos had nothing to do with the company’s mission at all. DuPont’s simple oval logo, which included the founder’s name, was used to make stenciling the image on packages easy.

Although the logos all retained at least one core visual element, like Goodyear’s winged sandals or Coca-Cola’s white script on red background, parts were modified over time. The Union Pacific shield’s shape and color changed numerous times in the past 126 years. And while the deer in John Deere’s logo once jumped over a log, the log was removed in 1950.

All of the companies on this list are old, but they are not necessarily the oldest companies in the United States. Procter & Gamble and General Mills are among the oldest companies on the Fortune 500, but they do not have logos that made our list. Procter & Gamble in 1985 stopped using the logo it had used since the 1850s. The iconic cursive G in the General Mills logo was only introduced 50 years ago.

Based on a review of Fortune 500 companies, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 oldest corporate logos still in use today. In order to be considered, the company must have been in continual operation as an independent company since at least 1900. The logo had to be at least 100 years old and could not have meaningfully changed.

These are the oldest company logos in America.

Read more: The Oldest Company Logos in America – 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/2013/06/18/the-oldest-company-logos-in-america/#ixzz2XA1VCXDd

King Kong, made the papers in Germany!

June 17th, 2013  | 

Elon Musk ditches most of the funny math in new Tesla Model S financing deal

June 14th, 2013  | 

Elon Musk ditches most of the funny math in new Tesla Model S financing deal

By Todd Woody @greenwombat May 3, 2013

“Effectively” $754 per month. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Sorry, potential Model S buyers but your time is no longer money.

On April 3, Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk unveiled a “revolutionary” new financing offer that slashed monthly payments for its $70,000 electric luxury sports sedan from $1,100 to a low, low $500. But only if you counted all the time and thus money Tesla said you would save from not schlepping to the gas station and by gaining entree to the carpool lane for electric cars (if you happen to live in California.) This assumed, of course, that you make $140 an hour just for breathing.(See Quartz’s detailed deconstruction of the Tesla offer math here.)

Today Musk came off the ledge and said a revamped lease deal would no longer include such “non-financial” calculations. “When we did our financing announcement about a month ago we didn’t get it quite right,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “We were looking at a lot of valid criticism from journalists and customers and have taken corrective action.”

Still, he couldn’t resist adding, “I do think people undervalue time. That sort of time value element is very significant for doctors, lawyers, consultants.”

But to keep the monthly payments relatively low—and we use that phrase liberally—Tesla has sweetened the deal by extending loans up to 72 months from Wells Fargo and US Bank. And Musk now personally guarantees that the trade-in value of the Model S after three years will exceed that of a comparable car from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus or Mercedes. (The previous offer only matched the residual value of a Mercedes S Class sedan.)

So here’s how Tesla’s new, new math works:

We’ll opt for the $81,070 Model S with an 85-kilowatt hour battery—that gives you a US government-rated range of 265 miles on a charge—since Musk said that’s the version most customers are buying. At 2.99% interest and a 15% down payment, the monthly payments are $1,045.

Tesla still deducts the amount of money you’ll save from not buying gas but has made the estimate more conservative. Not too conservative, though–the company thinks gas will cost $4.90 a gallon over the next three years. Even in San Francisco, where gas prices tend to be high, a gallon currently goes for under $4. Okay, we’ll play along as there is a real monthly savings to be had from plugging in rather than gassing up. Tesla deducts $261 a month from your payment, assuming you drive 15,000 miles a year.

Then Tesla deducts $91 a month because that’s the value it assigns to the guaranteed trade-in value of the Model S. That’s quite a jump from the $8 under the previous financing offer.

That leaves an “effective” monthly payment of $754 for a high-end Model S. Nonetheless, that’s a chunk of change considering the average monthly mortgage payment in California last year was $1,445, according to Lending Tree.

“As a cash purchase, it’s available to the top 1% of households,” Musk acknowledged. “With financing it’s accessible to the top 10%.” He said Tesla’s third-generation car would be affordable for the Honda-driving masses.

Bianco handicaps the fall TV season

June 6th, 2013  | 

USA TODAY’s Robert Bianco handicaps the fall season based on brief looks at the new series on broadcast TV.

In TV, the fall always looms.

True, the current broadcast season won’t end until Wednesday, but in their hearts, minds and wallets, network executives already have moved on. They spent last week presenting their new shows and schedules to advertisers at the annual broadcast upfronts, and they’ve already begun selling those shows to viewers. Which, in case you were wondering, explains those CBS house ads for Momand The Millers that popped up in the middle of The Big Bang finale.

TV CHAT: Robert’s taking questions here

So what can you expect from this new fall lineup? Overall, more sci-fi, more spin-offs, more family comedies and no new family drama of the sort that is built around people rather than events (meaning fans of the genre should be happy NBC is bringingParenthood back).

It’s obviously too soon to say whether those shows will warrant the time, talent and money that’s about to be poured into them: All that the networks have shown so far are brief clip reels from their pilots, some of which already are being tweaked and recast. Still, as the networks show those clips to create a first impression and build buzz (positive, they hope, in both cases), it seems only fair to share those impressions — as long as you keep in mind that impressions, like shows and schedules, can and will change.

We’ll save “best” and “worst” for later, when we have more to go on. For now, here are the most promising and most puzzling among the new fall shows.

ABC

 

 

ABC has the most new shows of any network with eight, including four on one night alone. That kind of wholesale change always is a sign of past failure and most often a predictor of future failure, as viewers generally balk at changing their habits en masse. On the plus side, the network does have what is probably the fall’s most buzzworthy new drama in Joss Whedon’s Avengers spin-off Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and one of its most promising comedies in Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night. If it can get two hits out of the fall, ABC will no doubt count itself lucky. Or at least better off.

PHOTOS: New series in the ABC lineup

Most promising:
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesdays, 8 ET/PT)

Thanks to its much-desired slot after Modern Family, Wilson’s Fun Night has the easier path to success. Still, easy isn’t everything: ABC’s hopes for a game-changing, youth-grabbing hit are more firmly pinned on this cult-ready comic book series fromBuffy creator and Avengers writer Whedon. He’s built it around Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, who returns from the Avengers dead to lead a team of gifted (but not super-powered) agents as they protect ordinary people from extraordinary threats.

S.H.I.E.L.D., you may notice, faces an extraordinary threat of its own: It’s airing opposite America’s most popular series, NCIS. Still, Whedon is one of our most talented writers, and any show he does is almost by definition promising. Whether that promise is completely fulfilled, like Buffy, or less so, like Firefly, remains to be seen, but you can bet ABC and Marvel will do everything they can to turn what he produces into a franchise.

Most puzzling:
Lucky 7 (Tuesdays, 10 ET/PT)

Remember Windfall, a 2006 NBC series about a group of unhappy lottery winners — which quickly flopped, mostly because viewers had trouble identifying with the problems of unhappy lottery winners? If you don’t, you may be wondering why ABC thinks the same premise will work any better in this show, unless the network was just blinded by the presence of Steven Spielberg’s name in the credits. Perhaps this version will be different. Perhaps the execution will be much better. But nothing in the clips would lead you to believe either statement will prove true.

CBS

CBS has the fewest holes to fill and, with The Millers and the intriguing, short-run drama Hostages, seems to have found two of the best shows to fill them. And as a bonus, the network chose not to go ahead with another NCIS spin-off, a lazy bit of programming that would have been a sign of excess complacency. For years, CBS has demonstrated the best grasp of what viewers want and the best ability to provide it, which is why, for years, it’s been the most-watched network. Odds are that’s not about to change.

PHOTOS: New series in the CBS lineup

 

 

Most promising:
The Millers (Thursdays, 8:30 ET/PT)

There are a dozen sitcoms joining the networks’ schedules this fall -and none came close to matching the big-laugh response that greeted the clips of this comedy fromRaising Hope’s Greg Garcia. Will Arnett stars as Nathan Miller, a newscaster whose divorce prompts his parents to reconsider their own marriage — causing Mom (Margo Martindale) to move in with him while Dad (Beau Bridges) moves in with their daughter and her husband (roles that are being recast).

CBS is giving this show TV’s best comedy launchpad, the slot after Big Bang, and you can see why: The scenes between Martindale and Arnett were Big-Bang level funny, and that’s high praise indeed. To be sure, the comedy is broad and, with its jokes about passing gas, juvenile, but neither is uncommon for a pilot. What counts in terms of justifiably high expectations is a proven writer in Garcia and a fabulous trio of actors in Arnett, Martindale and Bridges. If the show softens some of the rough edges, and adds the right two actors to the ensemble, this could be the season’s biggest comedy hit.

 

 

Most puzzling:
We Are Men (Mondays, 8:30 ET/PT)

It’s unwise to dismiss a show on clips alone, but it is fair to say this: A comedy that can’t find even one funny joke to slip into its highlight reel is never going to be considered one of the season’s best bets.

Tony Shalhoub, Kal Penn and Jerry O’Connell star as three bachelor mentors for a newly dumped younger man (Chris Smith) who moves into their apartment complex. That’s a talented quartet, but the clips made the show seem old, tired and flat — a supposedly comic take on Men of a Certain Age that forgot to add the comedy.

Granted, the clips from Robin Williams’ highly anticipated return The Crazy Oneswere even worse, but that stars Robin Williams, so it’s easy to see why CBS would give it a try. Why the network would put its considerable power behind Men is, for the moment, a puzzlement.

CW

CW is undergoing a makeover, as it switches from teen-girl soaps to more teen-boy-friendly fantasies. As that description indicates, no one very far removed from teenager status is likely to watch, but parents of younger fantasy fans should be happy to know their kids are watching some genre shows that are less violent and sexualized than the cable alternatives.

PHOTOS: New series in the CW lineup

 

 

Most promising:
The Tomorrow People (Wednesdays, 9 ET/PT)

Here’s an odd bit of family planning. CW is pairing this new superhero drama starring Robbie Amell with its returning superhero series Arrow — which stars Amell’s older cousin, Stephen Amell. Both men are good-looking, but then, that’s no surprise, as “good-looking” is built into the job descriptions at CW, a network that thinks shallow is a compliment.

The premise casts the younger Amell as a high school outcast who discovers he can teleport, a power he’s gained from being a genetically-advanced, evolutionary step forward. Now he’s torn between his birth family and his new “tomorrow people” family, which is threatened with extinction by your usual TV shadowy conspiracy. I forgot to mention that all the tomorrow people are pretty, but this being CW, I probably didn’t have to.

 

 

Most puzzling:
Reign (Thursdays, 9 ET/PT)

Based on the clips, the best that can be said for this drama about Mary Queen of Scots is that it represents a change of period for CW, if not exactly a change of dramatic pace. The show, which promises to tell the untold (mostly because it’s untrue) story behind the legend, follows the teenage Mary as she travels to France for an arranged royal marriage. As for the untrue part, the real Mary, played here by 22-year-old Adelaide Kane, was 5 when she went to France, so there’s that.

Still, for viewers, the question is not so much whether they should expect historical accuracy from Reign as whether anything in CW’s history should lead them to expect the network has the capacity to pull off this kind of complicated period piece. The preliminary answer: no.

Fox

For a decade or so, Fox has been free to worry less in September than other networks, as the huge ratings from American Idol in winter have always compensated for any shortcomings in fall. Those days are now gone. And looking at Fox’s fall slate — dependent as it is on some unproven comedies and the proven dud that is X Factor — it’s possible the network has not worried enough.

PHOTOS: New series in the Fox lineup

 

 

Most promising:
Sleepy Hollow (Mondays, 9 ET/PT)

The more sensible choice here would be Almost Human, which comes from one of the entertainment world’s hottest talents, J.J. Abrams, and has one of the season’s most easily grasped sci-fi concepts: human cop unwillingly paired with android partner. Yet of all the Fox’s clips, the reel that entertained me the most was Sleepy Hollow.

Granted, this show from Fringe’s Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci requires not just a suspension of disbelief, but out-and-out termination. Our hero, for reasons that defy understanding, is Ichabod Crane (yeah, Ichabod Crane), brought back to life 250 years later to once again face the Headless Horseman. Paired with a young female cop, he must unravel a mystery traced to the Founding Fathers while stopping the rise of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — giving you a show that is partGrimm, part National Treasure, and part freshman English class.

So what’s the promising part? The clips, with their jokes about Ichabod’s Starbucks-shocked adjustment to the present, exhibited a sense of humor missing from every other new fall hour save S.H.I.E.L.D. Let’s hope that humor is enough, as TV has all the dour hours it needs.

 

 


Most puzzling:
Enlisted (Fridays, 9:30 ET/PT)

The clips from Dads came closer to being offensive, but that show is from Seth MacFarlane, who exists to offend. Enlisted has no such defense. Instead, this military comedy about three brothers and their misfit unit of army rejects came across as bizarrely dated, a landlocked McHale’s Navy airing at a time when there doesn’t seem to be any great demand for a silly military comedy.

Or at least not one that, in clip form, was silly without showing any signs of being funny.

The lead here is Geoff Stults, who last starred in another Fox Friday series, The Finder. He was fine in The Finder but the show as a whole was ill-conceived, which could end up being the kindest thing anyone says about Enlisted.

NBC

For far too long, NBC was addicted to a string of niche comedies that were far too narrow for a broadcasting network’s bottom line. The network isn’t quite ready for a cold turkey shift: Parks and Recreation is back, and Community is waiting in the wings. Still, it is trying to broaden its audience with a few family comedies, led by the return of Michael J. Fox, and some CBS-style crime dramas. They may not work, but you have to start somewhere.

PHOTOS: New series in the NBC lineup

 

 

Most promising:
The Michael J. Fox Show (Thursdays, 9:30 ET/PT)

One of TV’s most popular stars, and deservedly so, Fox reduced his work load after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Now, however, he’s ready to take on another sitcom of his own — and he’s chosen a show very loosely based on his own life.

Fox stars as Mike Henry, a beloved but retired New York news anchor with Parkinson’s who has decided to leave the house and go back to work (at the NBC station, naturally). Luckily for NBC, Fox is charm personified, and if the clips leaned a bit heavily on jokes about his disease, you can chalk that up to the tendency of pilots to print out their premises in capital letters.

What would be much harder to forgive, however, would be a running stream of NBC plugs, meaning the first time had better be the last time viewers have to endure guest shots by the Today team. And yes, in case it’s in the works, that also means even one guest shot from Brian Williams would be one too many.

 

 

Most puzzling:
Ironside (Wednesdays, 10 ET/PT)

It’s great to see Blair Underwood back on TV, particularly as minority leads of network series are still too few and far between. Diverse ensembles and minority co-stars abound, but you can count on one hand broadcast series that are actually built around minority stars.

If only he were starring in a vehicle that seemed sturdier than Ironside, yet another NBC attempt to remake an old series that no one asked to see remade. And to make matters worse, he’s playing a renegade cop leading a hand-picked, renegade team, which is as tired a trope as they come. It may all turn out to be a better idea than it seems — yet NBC held out the same hopes for Bionic Woman, Knight Rider andPrime Suspect, and we all know how quickly those were dashed.

Could military add power going green?

June 4th, 2013  | 

USA TODAY’s Green Tech series explores how green-tech innovations are changing everything from vacations to war-making.

WASHINGTON — An army marches on its stomach, according to an old military adage.

Today’s military is tethered to a gas pump.

The amount of fuel used per individual soldier has skyrocketed in recent years because of an increased use of aircraft and armored vehicles. In Afghanistan, that dependency has meant long and costly supply lines that are vulnerable to attack and limit the reach of American forces.

The Pentagon increasingly sees this energy dependence as a military weakness and is trying to reduce it. The Navy is attempting to transition to biofuels for its ships and planes, and the Army and Marine Corps are exploring a host of initiatives, including using solar energy to power radio batteries.

“Every time some yahoo says ‘I’m going to close the Strait of Hormuz’ (the price of) oil spikes,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told USA TODAY in an interview.

In the past, Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s oil supply travels.

“Right now, we buy our oil from foreign sources, and some of those sources don’t have our best interest at heart,” Mabus said.

GREEN TECH: Clean technology firms struggle for funding

SOLDIER SOLAR PACKS

The services are also developing portable combat outposts powered by fuel-efficient generators and solar panels. The Marine Corps is experimenting with small, flexible solar panels that can be attached to a Marine’s uniform.

“We’ve looked at everything,” said Col. Bob Charette, director of the Marine Corps’ expeditionary energy office. He said solar was the most mature of the industries.

Modern communications technology and precision weapons have increased the lethality of the Marine Corps and allowed commanders to disperse their units at ever greater distances, Charette said.

But it has came at a price: a dangerous dependence on fuel.

“Because of our thirst for liquid fuel, we’re not as light and agile as we once were, putting both our Marines and our expeditionary capabilities at risk,” Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, said bluntly when he launched a new energy strategy in 2011.

In 2001, a Marine infantry battalion, which typically has about 800 men, had 64 Humvees. Ten years later, that same battalion has 173 armored vehicles, which are each between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds heavier than Humvees, according to a Marine Corps study.

The increased reliance on technology has also driven the demand for fuel. The Marine Corps had 8,000 laptops in Helmand province, the rugged region in southwest Afghanistan. At its peak, there were about 21,000 Marines in Helmand.

The intensifying thirst for fuel is not limited to the Marines. Since the Vietnam War, there has been a 175% increase in the demand for fuel per servicemember. Today, the Defense Department spends about $15 billion a year on fuel, and 60% of it comes from foreign sources, according to the Pentagon.

 

 

AFGHANISTAN’S ENERGY DRAIN

In Afghanistan, America’s massive war effort has been supplied by civilian convoys that have to move through two major supply lines — one through Central Asia in the north and the other through Pakistan in the east.

The power needs in Afghanistan, a landlocked country divided by steep mountains, are vast. Bagram, the sprawling American air base 30 miles from Kabul, uses about 50 megawatts of power, equivalent to a small American city. The military moves about 40 million gallons of fuel a month into Afghanistan to power generators and fuel aircraft and vehicles.

Much of the fuel moving into Afghanistan is Russian, says Sharon Burke, the assistant secretary of Defense for energy issues. On the wall of her Pentagon office is a large map of Afghanistan marked with supply lines, a reminder of the vulnerability of those chokepoints through which the supplies move.

“You put a supply line like that in a battlefield, and it’s going to be a limiting factor,” Burke says.

Once the fuel gets to Afghanistan, it has to roll across narrow dirt tracks or get flown into remote combat outposts. That can be deadly for the soldiers and Marines who take the fuel to those sites.

The Pentagon insists its initiatives to develop sustainable energy sources are motivated only by military necessity.

“It’s not about being environmental,” says John Conger, a Pentagon official who oversees the department’s installations and energy requirements. “The environmental stuff is a co-benefit.”

Lawmakers are mostly supportive of efforts to reduce the military’s dependence on fuel, but some critics in Congress say the Navy’s more ambitious plan to transition to biofuels has gone beyond those limited military objectives and is a thinly disguised environmental initiative.

“It’s the secretary of the Navy’s green agenda,” says Rep. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican. Forbes said the expenditures on biofuels has meant less money for shipbuilding and operation and maintenance of the Navy’s fleet. “He never stopped to say, ‘What’s the price tag?’ ” Forbes said of Mabus.

A centerpiece of Mabus’ initiative was the Great Green Fleet, a demonstration last year of the Navy’s ability to operate its ships and aircraft on biofuels.

During the demonstration, the Navy powered a carrier strike group, which consists of escort ships and aircraft, with 50% biofuels over a two-day exercise. The biofuels were made from a number of sources, including used cooking oil and algae.

The Green Fleet name is a reference to President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, a battle group that circled the globe in a demonstration of American seapower in the early part of last century.

Critics saw the Great Green Fleet as a demonstration of wasted taxpayer money. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has pointed out that the Navy spent $12 million for biofuels at $27 a gallon for the demonstration.

The Navy acknowledges it has paid a premium for biofuels, but insists it is for experimental and test purposes only until the price becomes competitive with conventional fuel.

The Navy’s use of the Defense Production Act, designed to allow the military to support industries considered critical to national security, to invest in biofuel refineries has drawn criticism.

“The Navy wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in companies to create the market,” Forbes says.

Mabus sees the investment in biofuels as a hedge against the vagaries of the world oil markets.

U.S. military aircraft and ships patrolling the Persian Gulf or in the far reaches of the Pacific are forced to purchase much of their fuel from foreign suppliers, where they are hostage to price fluctuations and vulnerable to supply disruptions by rogue states.

Mabus said the Navy has faced skeptics before.

“The Navy has always been on the forefront of changing energy use,” Mabus says. He said there were skeptics when the Navy moved from wind to steam.

“Every single time, those naysayers were absolutely wrong,” Mabus says. “If price had been the only consideration, we’d still be using sails.”

Solar plane leaves on crosscountry trip

June 3rd, 2013  | 

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (AP) — A solar-powered airplane left California and is on the first leg of a planned journey to several U.S. cities.

The Solar Impulse left Moffett Field in Mountain View just after dawn on Friday.

It plans to stop at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas, Lambert-St. Louis airport, Dulles airport in the Washington area and New York’s John F. Kennedy airport. Each flight leg will take 20 to 25 hours, with 10-day stops in each city.

The plane is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover massive wings and charge its batteries, allowing it to fly day and night without jet fuel.

Its creators say solar planes will never replace fuel-powered commercial flights. The goal is to showcase the potential of solar power.