|Tuesday November 30, 2004
"Dude, A Car With My Name!" That's what all those now-grown-up '70s hippie spawn named Sky can exclaim. Saturn has named a car after them; the Saturn Sky will be available in early 2006.
A Year Later - Much The Same: Columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in November 2003: "The world hates us for our wealth, our success, our power. They hate us into incoherence. The Europeans disdain us for our excessive religiosity while the Arab world despises us as purveyors of secularism. We are widely reviled as enemies of Islam, yet in the 1990s, we engaged three times in combat - in the Persian Gulf and in the Balkans to rescue Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo - Muslim peoples all. And in the last two cases, there was nothing in it for the U.S.; it was humanitarianism and good international citizenship of the highest order. The search for logic in anti-Americanism is fruitless. It is in the air the world breathes. Its roots are envy and self-loathing."
President Bush understands we are in a life-and-death struggle with people who would happily kill thousands of us in the name of Allah. That's why the War on Terror must continue.
Good Sign For The Stock Market? The Vanguard Adviser (subscription) reports that the Vanguard Asset Allocation Fund has "not 80%, but 90% of its assets allocated to stocks at the end of the third quarter."
Man of Taste: Mark Steyn has written an obituary for the inventor of Cool Whip, Tang, Jell-O and Pop Rocks: "William A Mitchell never became a household name, but most households you can name have something of his in it. ... Once, for a BBC show about Thanksgiving, I served Martha Stewart a pumpkin pie with Cool Whip, and she wasn't happy about it. As it happens, Martha and Bill Mitchell both have Nutley, New Jersey in common. In the year of Martha's birth, 1941, Bill Mitchell started work as a chemist at General Foods and briefly lived in Nutley. As he was developing Cool Whip, Martha's parents were developing the anti-Cool Whip."
Pessimistic Report: After 24 years of community service, the Optimists Club of Quakertown, PA is shutting down, citing declining interest.
Ivory Snow White? A woman who plays Snow White has lost her job after posing for nude photos in a bathtub filled with soap suds.
Quote of the Day is from Mark Russell: "The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage." Funny, I always thought they were composed of discarded AOL CD-ROMs.
Monday November 29, 2004
Ford Five Hundred: Road testers Paul & Anita Lienert are a little underwhelmed by it: "Numbers on gauges difficult to read at night. "Old man's car" image. Distracting pop-up bin in top center of dash. Derivative styling apes Volkswagen. Engine feels and sounds overworked. Continuously variable transmission feels sluggish when cold. Inconsistent heat. Higher seating position makes overhead signs hard to read. Difficult to park in tight spaces."
Anita ends with, "I still think it's the perfect car for government bureaucrats - bland and boring, and not nearly as exciting or as entertaining as a Chrysler 300."
More Lienerts: They also tested the new AWD 2005 Acura RL and liked it a lot. Frankly, if I had to replace one of our cars tomorrow, the RL would probably be at the top of the list.
Bye-Bye Bonneville? "We'll build Bonneville through the '05 model year but beyond that we aren't sure what we'll do," according to Pontiac-GMC General Manager Jim Bunnell.
The name was first used on a Pontiac concept car in 1954. The Bonneville Special was a two-passenger, bubble-topped, GM Motorama dream car with a Pontiac straight-eight engine. In 1957, the appellation was bestowed on a limited-production, 310 horsepower, fuel-injected convertible. Only 630 units were built. For the '59 model year, Bonneville became the designation for top-of-the-line Pontiac models, displacing the Star Chief.
Bonneville sales peaked in 1966 at over 135,000 units. Sales have steadily slipped from 96,000 units in the 1995 model year to 27,000 in the first 10 months of 2004.
The Times - They Are A' Changin'. AutoExtremist.com writes about Detroit: "The writing is on the wall for this area once dominated by a network of countless tool and die shops and other pioneers/entrepreneurs who made up the support fabric of what used to be referred to as the Big Three. The work is fleeing out of this region at an alarming rate, and moving east - to the Far East. It's bringing about a fundamental change in this region, and none of it is good. ... it is a very sad thing to contemplate. But the world has changed forever, and the people in this region, who identified with the hustle and bustle and who prided themselves on the fact that they were from the Motor City - will have to learn to adjust and change with it."
Of course, this is the painful part of a transition from a manufacturing economy to an information economy. The problem is that many of these "information" jobs are now going offshore, as well. What will be left for Americans? I've yet to hear or read a satisfactory answer.
Flattened: A man with an obsession for puncturing car tires, slashing them on 7,600 vehicles over 18 months, deserves to be jailed for one year, a Japanese court declared. A raid on his home unearthed a detailed set of notes that outlined dates, times, weather conditions and numbers of cars attacked.
Rathermobile: David Frum opines on Dan Rather's legacy: "What would the world be saying of Dan Rather if, say, he managed an automobile manufacturer? Over his 24 years at the helm of CBS News, he has led his program from first place to third, losing more than half his audience along the way. Throughout his career he has been embroiled in controversy and scandal, culminating in his broadcast of forged documents - and his insistence that they might well be genuine long after the falsehood was obvious to everybody else. He leaves his news program in worse editorial and economic shape than at any time since it was launched five decades ago. If CBS were a car company, Rather would be universally condemned as a business and moral failure, one who broke faith with his colleagues, his customers, and his shareholders. Fortunately for Rather, CBS is a media organization."
Michael Goodwin writes that Rather's fall is "Nixonian." It's too bad that ol' Dicky Nixon isn't alive to witness Dan's downfall. He'd have a good laugh. Payback's a bitch!
Meanwhile, the Augusta, Maine Kennebec Journal notes: "Dan Rather's retirement as anchor of the CBS Evening News was front-page headlines all over the country, a telling sign that Rather and his fellow network anchors have violated a cardinal rule of journalism: They have become bigger than the stories they once covered. Journalists should cover the news, not make it." Amen.
Rather's Successor should be at least 20 years younger and Completely Different from Dan. My picks (none of which well never happen): Jon Stewart, Chris Jansing, Dennis Miller, Deborah Norville, Anderson Cooper, Edie Magnus, Dawn Fratangelo or - a couple of high-priced long shots - Mary Hart or Gwen Stefani.
No "gravitas" required - it is, after all, just a job as a "news reader." Like Kent Brockman on The Simpsons.
Or John Cameron Swayze, breezy and debonair host of the Camel News Caravan - 15 minutes of news delivered (in the early 1950s) while smoking a Camel cigarette. Or while prominently displaying one burning on the brink of an glass ashtray. John's best segment: "Hopscotching the world for headlines."
Lileks On Living In High Crime Rate D.C.: "I once considered patenting a suit that contained fine white powder in its seams so you could leave your own chalk outline when you fell. Saved time for all concerned."
Headlines from The Onion: "86 Percent Of World's Soccer Stadiums Double As Places Of Mass Execution" and "Knights Of Columbo Hold Trenchcoat Drive."
Headline of the Week is from BrokenNewz.com - "Clinton Library Offers Arkansans First Visit To Actual Library."
Thursday November 25, 2004
Gobble Gobble: Happy Thanksgiving! See ya Monday.
Wednesday November 24, 2004
No Thanks: In honor of Thanksgiving, Forbes' Dan Lienert looks at some "automotive turkeys." Examples:
1. Of all 2004 models, the Dodge Neon, Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable retain the lowest percentage of their original sticker prices, according to the Kelley Blue Book. Buy a new, entry-level 2004 Neon SE and, in five years, it will be worth only 17% of its original sticker price.
2. In all of NHTSA's 2004 model crash tests, the government issued a one-star rating only once: to the rear-seat of the Ford Focus ZX3 hatchback for its performance in side-impact tests. The Kia Rio and Nissan Sentra aren't very good either.
3. According to Consumer Reports, the least reliable car is the Lincoln Navigator - 181% worse than average.
4. Porsche's Cayenne sport utility has been recalled five times this year - the most of any 2004 model car.
If you don't own any of these turkeys, be sure to give thanks.
Who Says All Asian Cars Look Alike? Mitsuoka Motor ("A small factory with a big dream") has unique offerings. I'm partial to the Galue II ... "a high-performance sedan with advanced technology under its majestic face."
Or the Rygoa ... "Every time you drive Rygoa, you find a new self." (hat tip - AutoBlog)
Respecting The President: Andrew Sullivan nails it: "I guess I should say that Condi Rice's race and gender are not the most important things about her career and abilities. But I'm still amazed at how little credit this president gets for promoting a black woman to such a position, and, more importantly, by his obvious respect and admiration for her.
His management style is clearly post-racial, and his comfort with female peers is impressive. You know, Bill Clinton was celebrated for his progressiveness, and ease with African-Americans. But it's inconceivable that he would have given so much power and authority to a black female peer. Why does Bush get no respect on this score? I guess it reveals that much of the left's diversity mania is about the upholding of a certain political ideology, rather than ethnic or gender variety itself."
I personally like the term "post-racial." Perhaps it will become the verbal pin used to deflate windbags like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Taking the Dough Out of Doughnuts: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts said Monday that it lost $3 million in the third quarter, as it discontinued some operations and closed stores.
Sales at company stores open at least one year fell 6.2%.
In Philadelphia, Nearly Everybody Reads ... The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin will be resurrected this month. The original Bulletin was a highly regarded afternoon paper published daily and Sunday from 1874 to 1982. Philadelphia was once divided into two camps - Bulletin people and Inquirer people. Different tastes, different views, different comics. My family ... Bulletin people.
The new Bulletin will also be an afternoon paper, published Monday through Friday, sell for 25 cents. and have a conservative slant.
The 'old' Bulletin's slogan was: "In Philadelphia, Nearly Everybody Reads The Evening Bulletin."
Did You Know? "The Polar Express" cost $170 million to produce and $125 million for marketing, and characterized its opening weekend as "significantly below industry expectations." The movie grossed $23.5 million in its opening weekend, well behind the $51 million notched by "The Incredibles" in its second weekend.
$295 million for a train flick! And my wife thinks I spend a lot of money on trains.
There's Something On The Web For Everybody: A website "is dedicated to spreading the Gospel in the werewolf and furry communities. It is my hope that many trans-species people will accept Jesus as their Savior through this ministry." (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Tuesday November 23, 2004
New Jetta: I never thought I'd use the phrase "chrome looks ugly." But it does on this beast.
Train Robbery: Toy train maker Lionel said it filed for bankruptcy (again) because it couldn't pay a $40.8 million judgment after a court found it guilty of obtaining stolen drawings and plans from the subcontractor of competitor, MTH Electric Trains.
The judge also ordered Lionel to stop selling 20 different products. Lionel listed $55 million in debts, including $30 million to what appears to be a South Korean subcontractor, and assets of $42 million. "Lionel's own misconduct in stealing a competitor's trade secrets has led to its downfall," said a lawyer for MTH. "Good businessmen do not operate the way Lionel did."
Mike Wolf, owner of MTH, said his company had been hurt badly by the Lionel piracy, leading the company to cut the jobs of more than half of its staff over the past four years. MTH's revenue declined from ... (more >>>)
More Train Troubles: Amtrak is in another financial hole after posting a $1.3 billion operating loss last fiscal year and again receiving far less than it requested in federal subsidies. The Transportation Department said that the nation's only city-to-city passenger railroad faces a gigantic cash crunch.
Counterfeit: More than 10 tons of Chinese-made plastic toy bricks will go up in smoke when the largest customs haul of illegal imitation Legos ever seized is incinerated. The bricks will be burned to produce energy for the southern Finnish town of Lahti.
Jeez, if you're gonna choose knock-offs as a career, wouldn't you aspire to something more valuable than Legos? (Like Lionel or MTH trains!) Must be a counterfeiter with low self-esteem.
Monday November 22, 2004
Anniversary: Forty-one years ago, on a sunny Friday afternoon, I was leaving a college classroom after taking a thermodynamics exam. In the hallway, the professor pulled several students aside and whispered, "The president's been shot in Texas." He had no further details, so I hurried to the parking lot, hopped in my VW Beetle and turned on the radio. I began driving home and, as I got on the expressway, the JFK's death was announced. Not knowing what to do, I turned on my headlights. As did most of the other cars on the road.
I liked John F. Kennedy. He was young and a fresh break from the old, fuddy-duddy, grandfatherly Presidents like Ike and Truman.
In October of 1960, a friend and I fastened a Kennedy-for-President poster to the front of my dad's '56 Ford and we drove up Frankford Avenue (in Northeast Philadelphia) about 500 yards ahead of the convertible (a Buick, I think) in which candidate JFK was riding. (Try breaking into a Presidential candidate's motorcade today. You'll be quickly shot by several Uzis wielded by the Secret Service!) My parents were big JFK fans, too. He was a Democrat, Irish, Catholic ... he was us.
Chris Matthews believes that the assassination of John F. Kennedy marked the beginning of the Sixties. I do, too. He says they "were sparked by the grief engendered by our loss of JFK."
That's not what I believe. The don't-trust-the-government (or, as they say in the South, gum-mint), might-as-well-do-something-different-cuz-everything’s-all-screwed-up-anyway Sixties was initiated by the attempts by the government (with the press in the cheering section) to wrap up the JFK's murder in a tidy little package as quickly as a Perry Mason episode.
The gum-mint "solved" the murder before JFK was even in the ground (and made sure that the lone official suspect was conveniently and quickly disposed of) but no one really believed that a chinless little wimp with a cheap rifle could pull off such a thing. So, people began to lose trust in the gum-mint. And grew long hair and protested about everything.
Today, most networks will be featuring JFK assassination tidbits, interviewing aging people with failing memories. Honestly, I'm tired of hearing about the assassination; everything is a rehash of stale old facts and rumors. Nobody has anything new to say - like who really killed John Kennedy.
Dallas put an end to JFK, the Man. His promise was unfulfilled, his administration unfinished. But JFK, the Legend, was born on that November afternoon. Some television segments will focus on "what might have been," dragging out the old stories that Kennedy would have pulled us out of Vietnam, put men on the surface of Mars, balanced the budget and invented anti-gravity.
Nonsense. The reality is that JFK was a charismatic but imperfect President. He probably would have been reelected but would continued to be dogged by a recalcitrant Congress - as most Presidents experience. But he lives on in our memories as a man with great ideas, pursued with "viggah!"
Writer/commentator Cal Thomas wrote eloquently about John F. Kennedy: "For some, all things seemed possible with Kennedy in the White House. When he died, most things seemed impossible. There was a sense we had been robbed of hope and hope denied produces cynicism and despair, two viruses that continue to plague our culture. Speaking as one who became a conservative and realizes that the 'myth' of Camelot was exactly that, I still miss him. Even more, I miss much that was good in American life that seems to have perished with him."
Rest In Peace, Jack.
Saturday November 20, 2004
A Cradle To Rock: As a youngster, I enjoyed playing with Lionel trains during the Christmas holidays. My trains ran on a train 'platform' built by my dad. In early post-WWII Philadelphia, it was common for neighborhood dads to compete with one another to build the largest, or most spectacular model train layout for their sons to enjoy. These layouts had landscaping, mountains, tunnels, buildings and operating accessories such as crossing gates, coal car dumpers and the like.
As a college student, I spent part of Christmas break one year helping to construct a large, Lionel layout in a friend's basement. Over the years, I built several layouts first for my younger brother, later for my children.
In 2000, I put together a large, three-level train layout for use at Christmastime because my grandson is a train fan. The layout is on casters and is moved from garage storage into the living room using ramps. Once in place, it must be rotated 90 degrees. Since the layout weighs several hundred pounds, this is not an easy task. (Last year, I didn't put it up because of a back injury.)
This summer I designed a cradle consisting of two 'rockers' (fabricated from 1/4-inch thick steel plate) connected with wood cross braces.
Two weeks ago, we brought the train platform inside and used the new cradle to rotate it. It worked spectacularly and we are now out of the weightlifting business.
Since then, I've spent my spare time cleaning, hooking up and soldering wires, testing trains and putting buildings and vehicles in place. I'm pleased to report that, as of last Monday, the trains are now up and running.
More photos and details here.
Friday November 19, 2004
Trophy Sale: Motor Trend names Chrysler 300 as 'Car of the Year.' This award used to get me jacked-up until I read a revealing article last year on AutoExtremist.com which detailed how this 'award' is "for sale" to the manufacturer that showers MT with the most money. (The 300 is a worthy car, though.)
Meanwhile, in a world apart (in soooooo many ways), Euro journalists pick the 2005 Toyota Prius as European Car of the Year.
"Save Jobs By Building Great Cars" is the great title of an insightful article by that well-respected auto writer, Jerry Flint, in Forbes.
Definitely worth a read.
Darwin Award Nominee: In Arizona, a father suffered life-threatening injuries while teaching his 10 year-old son to drive. The father wasn't wearing a seat belt. And the car was older than the kid - a 1993 two-door Toyota Tercel.
A Sincere Thank You: To all the first-term Bush appointees who are leaving - Colin Powell, John Ashcroft, Don Evans, Tommy Thompson, Rodney Paige et al: We are grateful for your service to your country.
When you signed on, you never thought there would be a 9/11, a congressional investigation about it ... and a war. The time of your service has been no picnic and you've worked for a lot less money than you could have made in the private sector.
Pay no attention to the sniping from the press. We appreciate what you've accomplished and wish you well.
Hail and Farewell: Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street in Dublin - once frequented by James Joyce and Brendan Behan - is closing at the end of November. The other, less-famous location on Westmoreland Street will also close, meaning Bewley's will cease to exist and 234 employees will be out of work. The company has lost $5 million since 1996.
This year's smoking ban reduced business by 10 percent and Bewley's could not get permission to place tables outside for smokers. Another culprit - fast food.
Now that Dubliners have embraced economic success, they're too busy for a leisurely meal and conversation at Bewley's. Instead, they scarf down food at McDonalds or Burger King and rush to work. Still another culprit - rents. Grafton Street is the fifth most-expensive shopping street in the world; annual rents now run almost $400 per square foot.
I have fond memories of Bewley's. Whenever we traveled to Dublin, my wife and I would stay at the Conrad and hike over to Grafton Street (across St. Steven's Green) for breakfast at Bewley's. The mugs of coffee with steamed milk were to die for.
I still have a Lledo diecast model of a Bewley's 1928 Chevrolet delivery truck which I picked up as a souvenir on our last visit.
Hail and What-the-Hell: Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart Holding Corp. today announced a merger aimed at setting a new record in the arena of retail bankruptcy filings.
In related news, jailed Kmart partner Martha Stewart will release a new video demonstrating how to make wallpaper from Sears Holding Corp. stock certificates."
Customers Don't Count: American Airlines has removed pillows from its 334 jets in a move expected to save time and money by enabling workers to clean the cabins faster.
Of course, if they removed all the seats, and just covered all interior surfaces in linoleum they could just hose it out once a day. And save even more money. Or never clean the planes and just hose off the customers as they deplane.
Oh ... wait ... the customers are already getting hosed.
Who's Governor? Dino Rossi yesterday came out on top of Washington's closest-ever race for governor with a 261 vote margin. But there will be a mandatory recount.
So, we in Washington State still don't know who will be our next governor. It must be the fault of those *#@!%$ undecideds.
Grilled Miracle: I have a grilled cheese sandwich, made ten years ago which, miraculously, has the image of a 1977 Ford Granada on one side and a 1981 Chevrolet Chevette on the other. Any offers over $20,000 will be gleefully accepted.
Spam: If e-mail spam really works, how come you don't see guys walking down the street with a fake Rolex, a giant erection and a newly-financed mortgage?
And with all that Nigerian reward money, why would you need any mortgage at all? And wouldn't you buy a real Rolex?
Half-Quote of the Day is from Ann Coulter: "As we wait for CBS to concede the election ..."
Thursday November 18, 2004
Buy A Car, You're Screwed: Police in Florida have arrested a car dealer who was allegedly demanding sexual favors from buyers in exchange for lower prices.
Lincoln Lament: AutoExtremist writes: "Lincoln marketing types have basically given up on the brand altogether by lapsing into a defeatist attitude that would send Lincoln into near-luxury hell - that giant black hole where manufacturers go when they're completely out of ideas."
Yup. And it shows.
Eternal Rest Grant Unto Her ... Margaret Hassan, director of CARE International, was kidnapped and brutally murdered by terrorists in Iraq. She devoted a good part her life to helping the people of Iraq. She worked for the sick, the weak, the destitute and suffering. She built hospitals. She brought medicine and clean water. And was executed by thugs.
Margaret is a martyr for goodness. Her death is another example of the barbarousness of the terrorists we fight.
May Perpetual Light shine upon you, Margaret.
Obituary Overkill: Death Notices have certainly changed during my lifetime. They used to be fairly simple. Death came "suddenly" (code for auto accidents, unexpected heart attacks or suicide) or "after a long illness" (cancer). Family were listed - he/she "is survived by ..." but only immediate family members were named.
Now it's completely different ... (more>>>)
Lileks Wisdom: "As for the Department of Education, I'd like to see an experiment: let the position go unfilled for four years and see if it has any impact on the educational abilities of the nation's youth. I'm guessing no one would notice if we didn't have a Secretary of Education. Everyone just keep on doing what you're doing, and get back to us."
Humanity Is Doomed: The Onion lists one of the effects of global warming: "Led by circus-educated seals, wild seals will rise up and rule the earth."
Wednesday November 17, 2004
Thoughts About Jaguar: Jim Burt writes in The Car Connection: "Jaguar has well-documented problems - an X-Type that is not seen as a legitimate Jaguar; British manufacturing costs and quality; and an S-Type whose pedigree is only slightly less suspect than the X-Type's and of questionable design taste.
Advertising can be added to that list of problems. ... At the heart of the Jag problem is, "What is a Jaguar in the 21st Century?" and "Why should anyone aspire to own a Jaguar in a crowded field of worthy and better put together vehicles from BMW, Mercedes, Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti?""
Rally: A man with an excellent track record, investment guru Kenneth L. Fisher, predicts, "The postelection rally of November is just a down payment on what should be a terrific market for stocks in 2005. Next year will be a lot like 2003, when the S&P 500 index was up 28.7%, dividends included."
Let's hope Ken is right.
Save The Children: Many liberals were surprised by the emergence of so-called Values Voters in the recent election and by many of the anti-abortion sentiments expressed by such people. The concerns felt by such voters is real and part of a growing trend.
When Roe-v-Wade became the law in the '70s, abortion was promoted as an answer to unfortunate and tragic circumstances (rape, mother's life jeopardized, pregnant, severely-retarded women and the like). And, the aborted tissue was presented as nothing more than a group of cells - almost like one's appendix. But legalized abortion quickly became ... (more >>>)
The Work of Team America? Apparently, portraits of Kim Jong Il are being removed from public places in North Korea.
"I'm so ronery!"
Tuesday November 16, 2004
Gott Im Himmel! German car-owners prefer Japanese cars to the legendary names of their native country according to two surveys conducted separately by car magazine AutoBILD and German car-insurer ADAC.
The survey asked more than 38,000 car owners to rank international car companies in terms of consumer satisfaction. The German automobile industry's first entry on the list is Porsche at number eight. Toyota and Honda lead a pack of Asian rivals in the first seven spots. (hat tip - Blue Oval News)
More Bad Lincoln News: One of my car buddies reports another Lincoln-Mercury closure: "This morning while heading to our bank in Williamsport (Pennsylvania), I passed by the local Lincoln Mercury dealership. It was closed. No cars. No lights on. The lot was totally devoid of ... everything!"
Misunderstood: On Monday, I was soldering something (a project which I'll reveal in this Saturday's blog posting) and burned my hand - just a little. But, boy, did it hurt. Owwww! At almost the exact same time, a man set himself on fire in front of the White House.
The news reported that he yelled "Allah! Allah!" Hey, knowing how much it must have hurt, maybe he was yelling "Owwww! Owwww!"
James Lileks Nails It: As a published author, I can relate to this: "Every author views his publication with hope and trepidation; one day you think the book will sell millions, and you will buy a lake house when you sell it to the movies. This fantasy befalls everyone, even if you've written "Sleeping for Dummies" or a history of the toothpick in 17th-century Korea.
The next day you feel failure's cold hand on your throat, and you snap at your family: Why are you making Kraft mac and cheese? Am I made of money? Use the generic house brand I got at the Dented and Bulging Can Store, for heaven's sake. In the end, you face the truth: No matter how good the reviews may be, you will be outsold by 250,000 copies if Random publishes 'My Teeth: Poems by Jessica Simpson.'"
Coming Soon: Lileks announces his next book: "The Polar Express: The Amtrak Years - A kid takes a magical journal on a magical train to meet Santa, but the train stops for no good reason for six hours in Montana and the bathrooms freeze. "Magical!" Library Journal. "All the pleasures of the original, with surly unionized elves." Kirkus."
I have already put James' latest book, 'Interior Desecrations', on my Christmas list. As well as 'Axis of Weasels' by Scott Ott.
Too Late: New vaccines have been developed eliminate allergic reactions to peanuts, milk and wheat. So now we can have peanuts on airplanes again. Except airlines no longer dispense snacks - too costly.
Monday November 15, 2004
Mustang: I finally met the 2005 Mustang. And sat in it. The car looks much better than in photos. The sculpting and design details are very well done. Panel fit is excellent. The interior is impressive; I liked the chrome bezels and other retro touches. Good headroom, good legroom, good driving position, too.
The Ford dealer had two 'Stangs - both were V-6s, so I didn't bother requesting a test drive.
There was also a Ford 500 in the showroom. Very tall - almost like an SUV. The interior looked cheesy. And I had trouble finding a comfortable driving position - by the time I got everything adjusted to my liking, the 500 had far less headroom (for me) than the Mustang.
Verdict: the Mustang is a winner; the 500 will soon be just another losermobile in rental car stables across the country.
Where In The World ... A Tonya Harding update. Car Trivia: Tonya and hubby Jeff Gillooly were once members of the Lincoln and Continental Owners Club.
'Lipstick on a Pig' Award goes to a 2004 Lincoln Town Car I spotted - black with very dark windows and a black padded canvas roof. Gold line whitewall tires on chrome wheels. Chrome wheel arches, chrome rocker panels, etc. A beast.
Also saw a very nice, cream-colored MG-B - a pre-1973 model with smaller bumpers. Witnessed a lowered, late-1950s Chevy pickup with skirted rear wheels, half-mirrored headlights and two-tone metallic red paint exiting a parking lot. A fifties custom, driven by a guy who was probably 30 years-old in the fifties - now a geezer. Observed a dark metallic green Chrysler 300 on the freeway - nice color for this car.
On a sour note, my car was keyed last week in N.E. Portland. By some anonymous jerk. For no reason - just because it's a Jaguar and was freshly washed, I guess. I hope that, in the afterlife, this SOB gets Yassir Arafat for a roommate. In Hell.
Catholicism's Not-So-Finest Moment: The Vatican praised Yassir Arafat as a leader who struggled to win independence for his people and repeated its support of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel.
A Vatican statement called Arafat, who died in Paris, an ''illustrious deceased.'' (Infallibility in faith and morals. Yeah, right.) This is the same Arafat who created Black September as an offshoot of his Fatah organization. He presided over the operation resulting in the massacre of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich by Black September in 1972.
The following year, Arafat became the first Arab terrorist to target Americans. He personally ordered the assassination of American Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel, Jr. and charge d'affaires Curtis Moore in 1973.
As the founder of Fatah and leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Arafat waged a lifelong war on the state of Israel and its Jewish citizens.
Other Opinions: The Syrian Defense Minister called Arafat "the son of sixty thousand whores," but Jimmy Carter called him a "powerful human symbol and forceful advocate" for a Palestinian homeland.
Dude, Where's My Car? Arafat's funeral procession in Egypt ended with confusion for many on Friday as prime ministers, foreign ministers and other dignitaries were left stranded and searching for their cars in the street.
Even in death, Arafat remains the architect of chaos. (Compare footage of Arafat's funeral with Ronald Reagan's. This shows why a Palestinian 'state' will never amount to much.)
But Wait! It's Not Over Until ... Last July, Arafat sent his wife, Suha, $11 million to cover her living expenses and those of their daughter for six months - $1.8 million per month. The new accord guarantees her the same allowance from the Palestinian Authority - $22 million per year for the rest of her life.
That sure buys a lot of hummus. (Knowing how the Palestinian Authority works, that "rest of her life" may be quite short.)
Justice Served: Scott Peterson is found guilty of murder. May Lacy and Conner rest in peace.
What a month - Bush wins, Arafat dies, Peterson convicted. What's next - Michael Jackson castrated?
Saturday November 13, 2004
Soapy Sentiment: In his 'Bleat' column, James Lileks often writes lovingly about his young daughter, Gnat. His Daddy-Daughter tales always make for an enjoyable read.
Last year, I was particularly touched by something he wrote about his daughter. I can't remember exactly what it was (it had something to do with future payback) but I sent him this note:
"When my daughter was about your daughter's age, she particularly liked motel soaps. They were a perfect size for her small hands. Her 'collection' eventually took up a full dresser drawer. Whenever I'd come home from a trip, she'd hug me and ask, "Got any soap for me, Daddy?"
She used up most of the soaps while away at college. She is now a 34-year old business woman but, whenever she travels, she now brings back motel soap for me.
So, James, there will be good payback of some sort from your daughter in your future."
I'm reminded of all this because my daughter's birthday was last week; my wife cooked her favorite meal and we finished it off with another favorite - German Chocolate birthday cake.
German chocolate is also my favorite, so the payback continues.
Friday November 12, 2004
First They Laughed; Then They Cried: Remember when all the auto industry "experts" were making fun of Toyota's launch of its new brand, Scion? Well, they can choke on this - Toyota's Scion wanted to make 100,000 cars by 2005 but they sold almost that many in 2004.
According to Scion Brand Manager Jim Farley, Toyota will miss the target because it "won't have enough cars ... we're down to 15 days of dealer stock."
Scion has boosted its 2005 sales goal from 100,000 to 125,000 Units.
Of course, the same experts laughed at Lexus in 1989, too. (hat tip - BlueOvalNews.com)
More Depressing News About Lincoln: It's going to be like a Mercury or Buick in the future.
Amusing Headline: The Christian Science Monitor ran this headline about Arafat: "The man who forged Palestinian identity."
I took its unintended meaning - Yassir Arafat was a fake Palestinian and Palestine is a fake country. Ha.
Lileks on Jimmy Dean Sausage: "I will never touch the stuff again. Frankly, I've never been comfortable with it. Who was Jimmy Dean? A singer. "Big Bad John" was his famous song. Great tune. But never once did I hear the stirring verses and think, "Does this artist have a proprietary sausage recipe? Mr. Dean's tidy morality tale of a haunted man who finds heroism at the end of his life makes me wonder what Dean might bring to the medium of breakfast meats."
Car Trivia: Jimmy Dean once owned a custom-built, white 1977 or so Lincoln Continental Town Car-based pickup truck.
James Lileks also mentions Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice which, in my view, has nothing to do with the ocean. Cranberries are grown in bogs - not ocean. The juice isn't salty either, just tart enough to make one pucker. Bleegh!
I guess if one is down by the ocean on a cold day, bending over to pick up a seashell, and a rogue wave rolls in and splashes one's nether regions, I suppose that would also make one pucker. But in an entirely different way.
Thursday November 11, 2004
Car Sightings: Saw a cream-colored Dodge Magnum crawling around North Portland on Tuesday - it looked distinctive and evil. Then I stopped by one of the largest Ford dealers in the area. They have yet to receive a new 2005 Mustang. They also had no Ford 500s - they claimed to have ordered only one and it has been sold. Their large showroom was almost empty - a Focus sedan and a Hyundai Tucson. The salesman told me that they are selling few Fords these days, mostly Hyundais.
This, combined with the recent closure of the largest Lincoln Mercury dealer in Portland (see 11/8/04 posting) does not bode well for FoMoCo. And where are the 'halo' cars in the showroom?
A Ford dealer in a nearby small town has taken to putting classic models from the '40s, '50s and '60s in his showroom to draw traffic. That probably speaks volumes about the lameness of Ford's current offerings - who wouldn't be drawn to a two-toned '56 Fairlane convertible over a mousy-looking Ford 500.
The 2005 Hyundai Tucson was nice enough and seemed well put together but the top-of-the-line 4WD Tucson costs more than a top-of-the-line AWD Honda CR-V. I'd choose the CR-V. My daughter really likes her 2004 CR-V and, for 2005, CR-Vs get a five-speed automatic transmission.
More Bad News For Lincoln: AutoExtremist reports that Automotive News was "swimming with stories this week about Ford, including the future direction of Lincoln. It seems that Ford has decided to throw in the towel and is abandoning the luxury market for the brand altogether. Instead, Lincoln will be aiming at the dreaded (and over-saturated) "near luxury" market that Twilight Zone of $35,000 to $50,000 - which is quickly turning into the auto industry’s vision of Hell, as competitive entries pile up and on top of each other in one giant ball of consumer confusion. ... Lincoln doesn't have to compete against Cadillac model by model to restore its vitality or define its self worth, but instead could carve out its own distinctive aura at the top of the luxury car food chain with a perspective on luxury all its own. ... Lincoln deserves better, and its too bad there are too few people in Dearborn who understand that."
I was very fond of my Lincolns - I've owned five of them over the years but am saddened by what Ford has done to this once-proud brand.
Ominous Headline: 'Mediocre defines GM's new minivans'.
Anita Lienert dismisses the 2005 Buick Terraza, Saturn Relay, Chevrolet Uplander and the Pontiac Montana SV6. GM refers to them as "crossover sport vehicles," not minivans. I wonder if Teh-ray-za Kerry is going to buy a Terraza?
Speaking His Mind: Senator Zell Miller (Democrat - Georgia) laced into New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd yesterday, "The more Maureen Loud (sic) gets on 'Meet the Press' and writes those columns, the redder these states get. I mean, they don't want some high brow hussy from New York City explaining to them that they're idiots and telling them that they're stupid." Ouch.
Yassir, He's Finally Dead: An other terrorist bites the dust. Hope you're tap-dancing barefoot in hell at this very moment, Arafat - you murderous scumbag.
So It Wasn't A Giant Meteor, After All: The Onion reports that gay marriage killed all the dinosaurs.
Wednesday November 10, 2004
Reliable Source: The latest Consumer Reports survey placed the new Ford F-150 pickup in the least reliable column, along with the Jaguar X-Type and S-Type sedans. Other unreliable vehicles include the Volkswagen Touareg SUV, BMW 5 Series sedan, Nissan Quest minivan and the Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster.
Among the 32 vehicles considered most reliable, 29 were built by Japanese companies. GM was the only domestic company to make the most reliable list, scoring two spots, with its Pontiac Grand Prix and soon-to-be-discontinued Buick Regal.
Brand Mismanagement: In a recent interview, Bob Lutz "had some peculiar comments about Chevrolet. 'It has become a sacrificial brand,' he said about the bow-tie marque, 'but we had to do it. It's easier to pull a brand down than to build it up.' I guess that means that it's okay to drag Chevrolet down to Daewoo's level by putting the bow tie on questionable cars because it would be too difficult to make the best of the Daewoo brand."
I guess this explains why the Corvette no longer carries a Chevy badge.
The interviewer, well-known auto scribe Karl Ludvigsen, concludes, "It's time for Rick Wagoner to belt up Lutz. The man has clearly come to believe his press, which continues to hail him as the Second Coming of the Saviour of the auto industry. That he's not is gradually becoming evident. The Buick LaCrosse, a car strongly championed by Lutz, is my next and last exhibit. 'Curvy LaCrosse concept turns into Plane Jane car,' says a headline in a recent Automotive News. 'Nuff said."
Planned Parenthood's Sour Grapes: Numerous counties in Illinois are allowing federal workers to select a Catholic-based insurance plan that does not cover abortion, contraceptives or fertility treatment.
Run by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, OSF HealthPlans is being touted as an example of the faith-based initiatives favored by President Bush. Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the plan was an "inappropriate" use of federal funds, one that "is blatantly designed to foster one religion's point of view."
Catholic League president William Donohue responded as follows: "The taxpayers are forced to fork over a quarter-billion dollars of federal funds each year to support Planned Parenthood’s agenda. But all of a sudden the officials at the so-called pro-choice organization feel threatened by some Catholic nuns and want to deny federal workers freedom of choice. So much for truth in advertising."
Political Correctness Gone Amok: A Church of England school - Saint Mary Magdalene Primary School in Islington, north London - has been told to drop the word "saint" from its name in case it offends other religious groups.
St. Mary Magdalene has been serving the community since 1710.
A Trial Worth Watching: A lawyer for an Orthodox Jewish couple claims the Internal Revenue Service has unfairly refused to allow tax deductions for their children's religious schooling.
Michael and Marla Sklar claim that since Church of Scientology members are allowed to write off the cost of spiritual counseling sessions, they should be allowed to write off their children's Jewish school tuition.
"The same benefit is given to a particular sect, Scientologists, and there's no reason it shouldn't be applied to someone else," he said. He said his move was prompted by the 1993 accord reached between the IRS and the Church of Scientology that gave the church tax-exempt status, and allowed members to write off the cost of spiritual counseling sessions.
How Come We Never Charge People With Treason Anymore? Activist attorney Lynne Stewart yesterday defended using violence to overthrow oppressive governments and institutions that engender "entrenched ferocious capitalism" - including those within the United States. She says: "Institutions which perpetuate capitalism and institutions of government do have to be attacked."
Selfish Spector: Many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I lived in Philadelphia, Arlen Spector was the local district attorney. I thought he was a self-aggrandizing jerk then and, apparently he hasn't gotten better with age.
Thomas Sowell relates this interesting story about Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's confirmation hearing: "At one crucial point, Senator Pat Leahy took a cheap shot at Judge Bork by saying that he had earned large consulting fees in some years, when he was a law professor, as if that were something dishonorable. What was not revealed to the public was that those were years in which Professor Bork's wife was fatally ill and he needed that money to do all that he could for her. Judge Bork was obviously deeply distressed by having that painful period in his personal life dragged into the political arena and his actions in those years twisted and distorted beyond recognition.
When Judge Bork rested his head in his hands and covered his eyes, Judiciary Committee chairman Joseph Biden - to his credit - called a recess. But, when it was proposed to end the hearings for the day, Senator Arlen Specter refused to agree. He wasn't prepared to wait to get his shots in against Judge Bork. Senator Specter's agenda was more important to him than common decency."
Of course, Senator Specter voted against Bork's appointment. I've posted more on the despicable Snarlin' Arlin here.
Carb-O-Rama: A doughnut wedding cake made of Krispy Kremes is 63 inches tall and is being submitted for entry into Guinness World Records as the largest doughnut wedding cake.
In case you're wondering, the pile of 1,818 Krispy Kremes is 363,600 calories.
Tuesday November 9, 2004
Tires, Like Mayonnaise, Go Bad: I never knew this but old tires, even if they're stored away from sunlight, deteriorate to the point where they're dangerous.
Even seven year old spare tires can suffer tread separation once they're put on the car and driven. Maybe this is another reason to get rid of the spare tire completely. Or dunk it in a vat of ArmorAll.
The UK Tyre Industry Council warned that motorists should replace tires that were "more than 10 years old, regardless of wear. The council said tire components dry with age and can separate. Anti-aging chemicals in tires are active only when a tire is in use ... spare tires, tires in storage or on a shelf, or tires that spend a long time on a trailer or a recreational vehicle run the risk of premature aging."
Kitty Losses: This can't be good - Jaguar will continue to lose money until 2007. One of the problems is the dollar's decline.
The British Pound is now $1.86. When we vacationed in the UK in 2001, it was less than $1.40. Jaguar prices haven't changed much since then, so it's now selling cars to Americans at a 25% discount.
Gay Mirage: Some gays think that the homophobic Republican machine is trying to trample them. This is a mirage.
Jeff Jacoby writes: "In 13 states this year ... voters were faced with proposed constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one man and one woman. In all 13 the amendments were approved, by majorities ranging from 57 percent to 86 percent."
The initiatives gathered large majorities everywhere - red states and blue. (So, it's not just about Republicans, is it?) Meanwhile, on some cable shows, radio programs and blogs, backers of traditional marriage have been denounced as gay-bashers. This is also a mirage.
Gay people should ... (more >>>)
Everyone Wants To Be Wealthy: Larry Kudlow discusses the demographic breakout of the presidential voting results.
People earning "$50,000 and above, making up 55 percent of the electorate, went for Bush 56 percent to 43 percent. That group includes $100,000 earners, who are 18 percent of the electorate, and went for Bush 58 percent to 41 percent. It also includes the much-attacked $200,000 and over group, which comprised 3 percent of the voters, and went for Bush 63 percent to 35 percent. ... Flatter tax-rates, more tax free savings accounts, greater ownership, and an expansion of the investor class, will promote wealth for everyone, especially the non-rich who wish to become rich. If the Democrats ever figure this out, they will once again become a formidable political party."
Almost Dead: Yassir Arafat's burial will take place in northern Gaza, next to some of his relatives. When he officially dies, that is. It's rumored that Arafat's wife, Suha, is negotiating for a multi-million dollar "retirement" and benefits package before she will pull the plug.
Asked why Israel would not allow the PLO chief to be buried in Jerusalem, Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said, "Jerusalem is burial place for Jewish leaders, not Arab terrorists."
Interior Minister Avraham Poraz said that all foreign leaders who want to participate in the funeral will be allowed to do so. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has already jumped at the chance to attend.
As the late, great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed: "Unable to distinguish between our friends and our enemies, he (Jimmah) has adopted our enemies' view of the world."
A Prairie Home Blowhard: Hindrocket at Power Line writes that "Garrison Keillor, who has become more embittered and less funny with every passing year, no longer tries to hide his membership in the nut-bar left."
Am I the only one (besides Homer Simpson) who thinks that Keillor was never funny?
Martian Homeless Clean Solar Panels With Squeegees: As NASA's Mars rovers keep rolling past all expectations of their useful lives, scientists have a happy mystery: For some reason one of the vehicles has actually gained power recently.
"The rover 'Opportunity' recently experienced an unexplained rejuvenation from what can so far be described only as two or three significant "cleaning events,'' said Jim Erickson, the rover project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
"Now we're assuming they're cleaning, but all we can really say is that overnight the solar panels produced between 2 and 5 percent additional power immediately. We're surmising that for some reason dust is being removed from the solar panel and that's increasing the efficiency of the sunlight being converted to electricity.'' (hat tip - Instapundit)
Monday November 8, 2004
Lincoln-Mercury Death Rattle? Ron Tonkin is a mega-dealer that sells almost every make of car from Honda to Ferrari at multiple locations in the Portland area.
Tonkin is the largest locally-owned dealer in the state of Oregon. Apparently, in mid-2004, Tonkin quit its Lincoln-Mercury franchise. A nearby Ford dealer has now been "appointed" as a Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealer. Tonkin's old L-M space is now Tonkin Kia!
In late January, I stopped by Tonkin L-M. The 'Lincoln' service center was handling Lincoln, Mercury and Kia. In the L-M showroom were a lone Lincoln Aviator, a solitary Mercury van and a 2003 Ford Thunderbird. (I sat in the T-Bird and, while there was adequate headroom, my eyes were staring directly at the sun visors. The windshield is cut much too low. Bad design. No wonder no one has been buying them.)
The fact that a very successful auto retailer decided to drop Lincoln and Mercury is very telling and does not bode well for these two brands.
Another ominous sign was the arrival last week of the Fall 2004 issue of Lincoln Owner Magazine. It had nothing about the 2005 models - except for some "cash back" discount coupons on the purchase of a new Lincoln. The newly-thinned (12-page) magazine featured previews of two 2006 models - the Lincoln LT pickup truck and the Lincoln Zephyr, a Mazda-6-based, Mexican-built sedan.
Also shown was a "historic" black-and-white shot of a very odd 1938 Zephyr with mirrored chrome in place of the glass headlights. Clearly not a production model - the person who chose this archival photo was obviously not an authority on old Lincolns. Usually, this magazine has a couple of small features about Mercury; not this one - the brand wasn't even mentioned.
In December of 2003 .... (more >>>)
Good Mustang Omens: Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press likes the new 'Stang: "The 2005 Mustang is cause for rejoicing, for them and for everyone who believes cars should be fast, fun and affordable."
Dave Trabert, a friend and fellow car nut from the Philadelphia area, wrote: "This afternoon, I stopped at C&C Ford across from the Willow Grove airbase. I wanted to get an up-close look at the '05 Mustang, which I have not yet seen on the road. My opinion is they have a winner. The Mach I body style looks great, and the interior and seats are nice with a nostalgic touch. Even though I don't particularly like Fords, I may have to take the GT model with a 5-speed for a test ride."
Red State; Blue State: The New York Times reported that "there was melancholy and stunned disbelief in San Francisco and other cities along the avowedly-left West Coast." Baloney! Supposedly, I live in a blue state - Washington. But the red state-blue state thing is, at best, an oversimplification or, at worst, a myth.
Both Washington and Oregon are divided by Cascade mountain range. The east side of the Cascades is almost completely red. The West side is red in rural areas and blue in large cities and college towns. USA Today has a national map showing red and blue counties. Many of the so-called blue states are mostly red in less populated areas.
Population density seems to drive political beliefs - Bush country is 3.28 million square miles; Kerry country occupies a mere 741,000 square miles. Once again the New York Times is wrong. There is no "avowedly-left West Coast." There are only avowedly-left people. And most of them live in big cities - like Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle or San Francisco. And, of course, New York.
Prescience or Lucky Guess? On November 1, I predicted "that 'W' would garner in excess of 280 electoral votes, leaving those 20,000 lawyers twiddling their thumbs. And the Dow-Jones Industrial Average will jump by 1,000 within a month after the election."
Now that Iowa has finally been reconciled, President Bush got 286 votes. And the Dow gained over 300 points in a week. Stay tuned.
Marked Down: Glenn Reynolds writes: "I'm blogging from Borders at the moment, and I couldn't help but notice all the Michael Moore films in the discount bin. Yeah, I know. Probably this has absolutely nothing to do with the election, but ... And note all the Jerry Lewis films behind them. Well, they're both big in France!"
Heap Big Court Ruling: "Kemosabe" - the name given to the Lone Ranger by his friend, Tonto, in the 1950s TV western, is not a racist term, a Canadian court has found.
That decision was made after the board spent a full shift (!) watching "Lone Ranger" reruns.
Saturday November 6, 2004
Fifties versus Sixties: I enjoy most of Hugh Hewitt's writings but must respectfully disagree with his recent article in The Weekly Standard.
Hugh posits that The Sixties began with the election of John F. Kennedy. "The Sixties ended on September 11, 2001, but they were interred on the morning of November 3, 2004, when a senator from Massachusetts played the reverse role of another senator from Massachusetts 44 years earlier." Hugh writes that when John Kennedy won, "it set in motion events that would pummel America and its politics right through this just-completed campaign. The triumph of Jack Kennedy elevated style, new money, and a new elitism into the mainstream. It launched a war that would divide the country as none before - excepting the Civil War - had. It led to the credentialing of a media elite just now beginning a long overdue mass retirement. And it set in motion a swirl of cultural change that would culminate in the bipolarization of the political world into red and blue."
It is my opinion that JFK was part of The Fifties - a magical era that spanned a period of sixteen years, from October 14, 1947 to November 22, 1963.
On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in an experimental rocket plane. From that point forward, all of us yearned to go faster. In post-War America, people had money, energy and a sense of optimism. World War II and the Great Depression were behind us. We demanded big, powerful overhead-valve high-octane engines in our cars (instead of those puny, low-octane L-head engines which were carryovers from the Thirties, for Pete's sake.).
We wanted to drive fast on fat tubeless tires (introduced in 1947 by B. F. Goodrich). We wanted sleek cars with tailfins for high speed stability - the first tailfin was on the '48 Cadillac, introduced in October, 1947. (The inspiration for the Caddy fin came from the P-38 - a fast, twin-fuselage WW II fighter plane.) We wanted to get wherever we were going as quickly as possible. Prior to WW II, less than 2% of all passengers traveled by air. By 1956, air passenger traffic equaled rail passenger traffic.
So, in 1947, Chuck Yeager unknowingly spawned the Fifties with his historic flight - his quest for speed.
This 16-year period brought improvements in many aspects of everyday life. In 1948, 75% of all homes had flush toilets; this figure rose to over 90% by 1963. In 1948, only 64% of all homes were had telephones; by 1963, 83% had phones. During this extended 16-year decade, the automobile fatality rate dropped by over 40%. The homicide rate dropped by 32%.
In 1948, only 33% of all adults had four years of high school education; by 1963, it had risen to 46%. (Today, it's almost 80%.) All of this was part of the Good Life - increased disposable income and more leisure time increased recreational activities.
The Fifties saw the mass production of labor-saving home appliances (4,196,000 electric clothes washers are sold in 1948 compared with 1,892,000 in 1941) and convenience foods to provide the fifties woman with more leisure time. By 1957, the average American family was consuming 850 cans of food each year. Sales of Mason jars and other labor-intensive canning and preserving supplies plummeted. (By 1958, manufacturing wages had risen substantially, averaging $83.56 per week - compared with $54.32 for 1949.)
More disposable income meant more money to spend on 'fun' things. The Boeing 707 passenger jet made its inaugural flight in 1957, cutting flying times dramatically.
Former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and singer Frankie Avalon made their movie debut in the 1963 movie, 'Beach Party' - the first of the forgettable, simplistic 'beach' movies which captured the freedom of the 1950s so perfectly. It was movies like this that angered our Cold War enemies - showing ordinary American proles, living a rich, bourgeois life and having fun in a carefree and safe society.
During John F. Kennedy's administration, we were still in The Fifties - sipping cocktails, driving gigantic, multi-colored automobiles and contemplating the conquest of Space. But all that was soon to end, tragically.
The 1950's officially concluded on November 22, 1963 with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Until that time, the dangers Americans feared were vague impersonal threats of nuclear war. We'd all die together - vaporized instantly in a giant, bright explosion - an almost-romantic Fifties concept. (We all knew that hiding under a desk, as we were taught during those emergency drills in school, wasn't going to save us.) Reality was, however, much more bloody and violent - watching the leader of the United States have his head blown off in Dallas. And watching it over and over and over again on the Zapruder film ever since.
An era ended; everything changed afterward. Quickly too. The music changed first - in 1963, American Bandstand ended its daily show, moving to a weekly format. Dinah Washington and Patsy Cline died; the Beatles took over the music scene. Later, psychedelic music ripped our eardrums; disco numbed them.
After 1963, the cars began to change. Ralph Nader wrote 'Unsafe At Any Speed' and pushed for regulations to make automobiles ugly and safe.
Later, the Oil Crisis came and it made fuel-efficient smaller cars more attractive. Acres of chrome trim were abandoned to save weight and, therefore, improve fuel economy. Antipollution regulations made cars run poorly and, eventually, made engines too complex for a backyard mechanic to fix.
There was no Vietnam War in November of 1963 - it was a "police action" with "advisors." Yes, American soldiers were dying in Nam - but in relatively small numbers - like all the other "hot spots" Americans were asked to "police." (Vietnam became a "war" under Lyndon Johnson - and the death rate skyrocketed.)
The culture changed after November 1963, too. There was anger in the air - more assassinations, race riots, an unpopular war, an unruly and boisterous youth subculture who trusted no one, especially those over 30. Perhaps, somewhat justifiably, too. They were, after all, witnesses to the death of the dream - thanks to television - another Miracle Product which became a must for every household in the '50s.
Less than a month after JFK's death, the tranquilizer Valium was introduced - just in time to handle the tumultuous Sixties and Seventies.
Robert Frost, who spoke at Kennedy's inauguration and was America's unofficial poet laureate, died in 1963. Frost once said that a verse "should begin in delight and end in wisdom." The Fifties began in delight and excitement. And ended in tragedy.
And spawned The Sixties.
Friday November 5, 2004
Quattroportholes? 60 limited edition Maserati Quattroportes were sold in just 36 minutes last month, all bearing the Neiman Marcus name.
Maybe it's just the burgundy color, the angle of car in the photo or the fender portholes, but doesn't this car look like the next-generation Buick Park Avenue?
More Competition: The Detroit News' auto testing couple, the Leinerts, drove the new Pontiac G6 (aka - Oprahmobile) and gave it a tepid review. They remarked that "Interior plain and uninspired. Generic exterior is not memorable." and "Too many other great cars in this price bracket." They listed 24 competitors.
It made me think that if this was a 1964 Pontiac, there would have been - maybe - five competitors: Olds, Buick, Dodge, Rambler Ambassador and Mercury. The auto business has sure gotten tougher.
In a related story, General Motors reported a 5% sales decline and Ford sales dropped 5.3%, according to Autodata Corp.
GM and Ford lost market share for October, prompting some analysts to speculate they may be forced to raise discounts in coming months. Chrysler did OK (because they have some cool, desirable cars). Meanwhile Honda, Nissan and Toyota reported record months.
The Spectre of Spector: The color of Senator (R-PA) Arlen Specter's hair doesn't exist in nature. In fact, I can't even find it on my PMS color chart. Although, on MTV's 'Pimp My Ride' last week, they painted an old '81 Caddy Eldorado in an orange color that was kinda close.
My Hand Hurts and I Can't Work Anymore: TheCarConnection.com, discussing the gymnastics required to get under and around to service a modern automobile, observes: "I remember about five years ago when fear of ergonomic stress injuries was all the rage. Somehow operating a computer in a clean, carpeted, dry, well-lighted 68-degree office had become the equivalent of operating a 50-caliber machine gun at a fire base in the Mekong Delta during the Tet Offensive. Evil corporate monsters were taking attractive young ladies and working them until they were physically and mentally broken and ready for the nursing home at age 22."
I've never understood why we didn't see these crippled-for-life repetitive stress injuries at New York clothing factories in 1902. Or on Henry Ford's Model T assembly line in 1915. Or on the many cobbled-together munitions production lines during World War II. Or at telephone switchboards in the 1950s. It seems to be a "disease" that didn't appear until the 1980s. I wonder why?
Consumer Alert: I am pleased to report that the heater in our basement is now operational again. However, I am not happy about the price. I was charged more than $200 for a Trane thermal switch, not including labor, first call costs or shipping from the factory. I found out the part number this morning, called around and discovered that the retail price of the replacement part was less than $95 dollars.
I have been a regular customer of Area Heating, a Vancouver, Washington Trane dealer, over the last several years and, while I'm not looking for a bargain, expect to be charged a fair price.
When I raised this issue, owner Marlin Tillman was nasty and arrogant: "I don't care what anyone else charges; I'll charge whatever I want."
Even though Area's service technicians seemed very professional, I won't do business with this outfit again. I'll give my future business to someone I can trust. If you're thinking of using Area Heating's services, be very careful.
Old Media In Decline: "According to an analysis of the latest FAS-FAX circulations figures, due out this afternoon, the Newspaper Association of America reported today that overall daily circulation dropped .9% and Sunday circulation decreased 1.5%."
I'm not surprised. More and more newspapers have become mere clipping services for national wire services. Local investigative reporting by print media is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Local writers are being replaced by the services of syndicates.
The Columbian (Vancouver, WA) used to have a great auto writer, Tom Ryll, who did automobile road tests. No longer. He has been replaced by a vacuous, drivel filled auto section whose "road tests" seem to be factory-written PR blurbs.
Tom Ryll's road test reports were some of the best I've ever read. Some of his comments ... on the frumpy 1995 Volvo 240: "It's just like an orthopedic shoe."
The Yugo: "Over in Kragujevak, where the comrades at Zavodi Crvena Zastava piece together the car, high technology is a refrigerator that works."
On his first convertible, a '60s-era Datsun 1200: "It was doomed from the start because it was essentially a copy of a British sports car, right down to the unreliable carburetors. That was before the Japanese learned the first rule of counterfeiting: If you're going to attempt brilliant fakery, copy a Picasso, not a dog food ad."
On the first-generation Mazda Miata: "They sold like spare electrical parts at a British car meet. Suddenly, it seemed, everybody wanted the stylish imitator with the door handles that didn't fall off."
And on the poor reliability of British cars: "That's no surprise to anyone who knows that MG stands for 'Mostly Garaged' and that the only Triumph associated with a TR-3 was getting it to start." On the 1999 Land Rover Discovery: "It makes a quick freeway lane change feel like a lunch-launching lurch down a Kilimanjaro side road."
And newspapers wonder why no one reads them anymore.
Quote of the Day is from The Daily Show's Rob Corddry: "The Democrats wanted to keep this from going to courts. Thanks to their strategy of an incoherent campaign message, an uncomfortable Vietnam fetish, and an undying belief in the get out the vote power of Ashton Kutcher and Bon Jovi, it won't be."
Thursday November 4, 2004
Wine Bash: Just a few miles down the road, a young man getting a driving lesson plowed a Ford Tempo through the front window of a wine shop, Salut! Wine Co., destroying the front side of the building as well as 350 bottles of fine nectar. The owner has posted photos and comments on his web site, noting with surprisingly good humor that he now has a "drive-by wine window."
Bar Food: I don't often read car blogs for dining experiences but a here's a culinary report from Dave Leggett at just-auto.com: "Last time I was in Bangkok I met up with Tony and I recall that he introduced me to the delights of sun-dried pressed squid with sweet chilli sauce as a bar snack. Just grab a street vendor passing the bar. Bit chewy perhaps but certainly better than pork scratchings."
Concession: Senator Kerry gave a gracious, poignant and memorable speech. John Edwards, supposedly the better speaker, was much less impressive and his remarks seemed almost pugnacious in tone.
The Onion on the Election: "Nader supporters blame defeat on Bush and Kerry."
At First, I Thought This Was A Joke: There's a new book, "The Gospel According to Popeye: Meditations on Substitutionary Grace for a Pre-millennial Age," by Robert Fulton The book discusses "the comic strip Thimble Theatre, which ran in American newspapers in the 1930s and introduced the character of Popeye to a breathless world." It continues " ... let us begin our examination of the theology of Thimble Theatre."
"I yam what I yam, an' tha's all that I yam." - Popeye
"And God said to Moses, 'I AM THAT I AM.'" - Exodus 3:14
"That Popeye himself is the heroic Christ-figure is plain enough even for conservative Southern Baptists in Dallas to grasp. ... In fact, Popeye's iconic "Blow me down!" will find its greatest expression in latter-day televangelist Benny Hinn's breathless, ritualistic summonsing of the Holy Spirit.
No figure in the Thimble Theatre canon is more expressively human than Wimpy. He is the epitome of modern man, forever asking for grace ("I would gladly pay Tuesday for a hamburger today."), reneging on his promises, then demanding justice for everyone else. ... The infant Swee'pea, whom the original texts state was originally sent to Popeye for safekeeping as the Crown Prince of Demonia - we know, of course, he is a perfectly splendid representation of the Virgin Birth."
I'm speechless. (hat tip: Relapsed Catholic)
Wednesday November 3, 2004
It's Over: The election has been decided. Congratulations to George W. Bush for a successful campaign. (Kudos to Kerry and Edwards for their participation in this democratic election system. Like 'em or not, they worked hard and deserve the thanks of all Americans.)
After today, I resolve to post more car stuff and much less political stuff on this blog. And let's all go back to working to make America a better and safer place for all.
Kerry's Finale: An excerpt from Kerry's desperate speech in Detroit on Tuesday morning (Election Day): "In Detroit you have the Big Three: GM, Ford, and Chrysler. But the Bush White House has a different Big Three: Halliburton, Enron, and the big drug companies." Kerry was accompanied by Al Sharpton, a vicious, anti-Semitic demagogue.
Henry Payne wrote: "How appropriate that this demagogue be feted by the party’s presidential nominee in a city that also ran out white and Jewish entrepreneurs over the last thirty years by a policy of violence, neglect, poor city services, and high taxes."
Meanwhile, at the Republican Camp: Of John Kerry, Bush said, "I wish him all the best. He and I are in the exact same position ... I'm sure he's happy, like I am, that the campaign is over." Class will tell.
He Didn't Win But Let's Raise A Glass To Him Anyway: Gene Amondson of Vashon Island, Washington was the 2004 presidential candidate for the Prohibition Party. He says, "Prohibition was America's greatest 13 years. Drinking responsibly is like teaching a pig to eat with a spoon. Can't happen."
Bon Voyage: Some Californians vowed to move to Canada if Kerry loses. Meanwhile, Robert Redford, a vocal critic of Mr. Bush's policies, was reported this month to have vowed to move to Ireland if Mr. Bush is re-elected.
Why Kerry Lost: The presidential election is over and highly-paid pundits will milk this event for months, collecting fat fees while muttering pearls of wisdom about What Went Wrong.
Save yourself time by not bothering to read or watch them. Because I have The Answer.
There are five reasons why Kerry lost the election. They are:
1. 'Reporting for Duty.' Initially, Kerry based his entire campaign on his war service 35 years ago. Then a large group of fellow Vietnam veterans challenged his service and his patriotism. Meanwhile, the rest of us wondered what Kerry had accomplished since 1968.
The perception of Kerry was reminiscent of a petulant, stuck-up child: "Vote for me. I deserve it; I've got medals. And, besides, I've been waiting a long time. It's my turn. You owe me."
2. Unlikable. Kerry consistently came across as humorless, stiff and arrogant. He always seemed to be late at rallies and campaign stops, as if to say, "I'm more important than you and, therefore, worth the wait." (Try uttering this phrase in that pompous, ponderous Kerry baritone and it resonates with the tonal ring of truth.)
In contrast, Bush arrived on time and came across as a natural, friendly sort of guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor. And trustworthy.
3. Tehrayza. Any candidate's wife who is filthy-rich, eccentric, opinionated and speaks with an foreign accent is not a campaign asset. Teresa Heinz Kerry never connected with ordinary voters. (Especially women voters.) And made some memorable gaffes. A decade ago, another rich and opinionated woman, Leona Helmsley, said, "Only the little people pay taxes." And the little people sent her to jail.
Ordinary voters - the little people - could never relate to the exotic Teresa. They saw her as haughty, like her husband. Voters did connect with Laura Bush because she seemed like one of them (us). And politically-seasoned Laura never seemed to commit any gaffes.
4. Flip Flops. In a long career, every politician will change his or her mind as situations evolve. But the Republicans cleverly used this phrase to crucify Kerry with his own words. And Kerry's bloated, inept and ever-changing advisory staff never mounted a coherent defense.
Voters saw Kerry as a man with no clear position. On anything. By the way, that seemingly-simple Republican ad which combined a vocal message about Kerry's flip-flopping along with a visual image of Kerry windsurfing (subliminally reminding voters that it's an elitist, blue-state sport to which most can't relate) is a classic that will be shown in poly-sci classes fifty years from now.
5. Flop Sweat. Democratic insiders saw Kerry tanking in the polls and distanced themselves from the stink of failure. The normally loquacious Clintons were eerily silent - except for a few token appearances by a recovering Bill. Local Democratic candidates didn't want to be seen with Kerry. (Meanwhile, Republican candidates throughout the country - and a few Democrats - eagerly cloaked themselves in the mantle of W.)
Conspiracy theorists believe that the Democrats ran Kerry as a throwaway, paving the way for an unobstructed run by Hillary Clinton in 2008. Click your heels while repeating the word 'Dukakis' three times and you'll begin to believe it, too.
Tuesday November 2, 2004
Upscale?! Are you kidding? AutoBlog writes: "AutoWeek’s Jason Stein reports that GM CEO Rick Wagoner is planning to move the struggling Saturn brand upscale to compete with the Volkswagens and Hondas of the world. So much material to choose from here, where to start? First, how do you move upscale when you can’t compete at the level you’re already on? Second, VW isn’t doing so hot trying to move farther upscale than where it already was. Third, you’re never going to beat Honda at its own game unless your name starts with T and ends in oyota. More scariness “Saturn will unveil its new look in January at the Detroit auto show, where it will introduce a rear-wheel-drive roadster and a front-wheel-drive, mid-sized sedan concept.” These better outmatch the horrendous Curve concept they showed last year or Wagoner’s plan will be off to a rocky start."
My take - it's hard to turn a turkey into a pheasant. AutoWeek adds that "The brand will not move into the niche once occupied by Oldsmobile, which was an upscale brand." This again raises the question that I raised last week (see 10/26/04 entry), "Why did GM ever dump Oldsmobile?"
Election Day: Don't forget to vote. It's about Freedom. Including Freedom from annoying political calls and tons of campaign literature. Starting today.
A View From The North: A Canadian writes, "This week's Review is dedicated to the right man at the right place at the right time. The man who could rise past his Ivy League education and the privilege that has incapacitated all too many of our elites. I believe in President Bush we find a man delivered to us by Providence to do the job that must be done, to bear the burden that must be carried, and even to suffer the petty words of lesser men who lack the wit or wisdom to say "Thank you."
I am not an American citizen and I do not have a vote in this week's election. But I can offer my thanks to the man who has struggled to bring fifty million souls the promise of liberty and some hope that my home does not disappear in a fiery flash leaving some last blog entry and with it the echo of sneering words that somehow Toronto deserved its fate."
Why I Feel Old: Last Saturday night, we went out to a restaurant and, for the first time in my life, I ordered from the Senior Menu - $8.95 for a complete sirloin dinner. (My wife did, too.)
Our bottle of wine cost more than both dinners. I guess this is a Rite of Passage for me. Into full-blown Geezerhood.
Monday November 1, 2004
Thoughts About Bin Laden:
1. He sent a tape because he couldn't send an attack. A good sign.
2. Maybe the purpose of the tape had nothing to do with our election. Maybe it was to energize his own base. He needs money, volunteers and places to hide. Apparently, our efforts in the Middle East have caused him to lose support.
On the tape, he "bemoans the recent democratic elections in Afghanistan and the lack of violence involved with it." He adds that his terror organization "has been hurt by the U.S. military's unrelenting manhunt for him and his cohorts on the Afghan-Pakistani border."
3. His more 'statesman-like' approach and appearance might be an attempt to drum up support outside the Muslim world - sending a message to Europeans that perhaps he is a guy they can reason with.
(It brought back memories of an '80s D.C. visit by a 'Westernized' Mikhail Gorbachev, smiling and shaking hands with the public like a candidate for a local school board. Quite a change from his distant, scowling, elderly predecessors.)
4. Bin Laden's message will have a small effect on the election results, primarily on the 'undecideds.' Republicans will still vote for Bush because Osama is still a threat. Democrats will still vote for Kerry because Bush failed to take out Bin Laden.
But Bin Laden's message will bring terrorism to the forefront for 'undecideds' as they make their choice ... and this will favor George W. Bush. Of course, it is a close race and even a slight change will tip the election to 'W.' I'm sure this is not what Osama intended - a serious, megalomaniacal miscalculation on his part.
Predictions: Does the above mean I'm predicting a Bush victory? Yes.
My guess for the popular vote: Bush - 51.5%, Kerry - 47.9%, Nader - 0.6%. I think that 'W' will garner in excess of 280 electoral votes, leaving those 20,000 lawyers twiddling their thumbs.
And the Dow-Jones Industrial Average will jump by 1,000 within a month after the election.
Vox Polli: Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Sen. John Kerry's first response to Osama bin Laden's new videotape was to take a poll to find out what he should say about it.
"It's as though he doesn't know what he believes until he has to go and check the polls, his finger in the air, to see which way the wind is blowing and then he'll make a decision. George Bush doesn't need a poll to know what he believes, especially about Osama bin Laden," said Cheney.
The Cheneys were accompanied by their three grandchildren. Elizabeth, 7, wore a costume as the Grim Reaper at a Sunday rally in Romulus, Michigan and was introduced by Mrs. Cheney as "John Kerry's health plan."
In The War On Terror, 'Might' and 'Maybe' Aren't Good Enough: "Kerry says Saddam "might be gone" had he been President."
Another reason to re-elect George W. Bush.
If You Own Stock, Don't Vote For John Kerry: "For all his years in the Senate he appeared to talk about a pro-growth agenda, yet when the record was examined he essentially opposed investors on nearly every vote offered in the Senate in his tenure."
A Democrat Votes For George Bush: "I voted for President Bush because having a Pacifist Internationalist in the White House will only embolden those who salivate at the sight of our blood."
Ol' Walter's Become Senile and Delusional: Former CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite believes Bush adviser Karl Rove is possibly behind the latest Bin Laden tape. Cronkite made the startling comments on Friday during an interview on Larry King Live.
Prole With A Rolex: David Frum (of National Review Online) commenting on his participation in a BBC debate which included Michael Moore: "Moore arrived late in his trademark jeans, shirt, working man’s jacket, and baseball cap. One of the BBC producers made a joke about the contrast between his outfit and my own Washington-standard-issue blue suit and red tie. I replied that I’d noticed that Moore was wearing a watch that cost at least fifteen times as much as every article of clothing on my body. I learned later that he’d arrived by private jet. Ave et salute, tribune of the plebs! The debate was lively, but I must credit Richard Littlejohn with the best line of the evening: He called Michael Moore the Lord Haw-Haw of the war on terror."
What's Wrong With Arafat? NRO's David Frum thinks Arafat went to Paris for treatment instead of say, Egypt, because he thinks Arafat has AIDS and his secret will remain secret there.
"Former Romanian intelligence chief Ion Pacepa tells in his very interesting memoirs that the Ceaucescu regime taped Arafat’s orgies with his body guards. If true, Arafat would a great deal to conceal from his people and his murderously anti-homosexual supporters in the Islamic world."
My feelings about Arafat - gay or straight - good riddance. Bury him and his Nobel Peace "prize" in the nearest dumpster.
Quote of the Day is from Michelle Malkin: "Watching John Kerry do his John Wayne imitation is like watching Matt Lauer parade around in his Paris Hilton costume. You don't know whether to laugh or shudder at the sight. But one thing's certain: It's absolutely hideous."
Laugh of the Day is from Scrappleface: "Democrat presidential candidate John Forbes Kerry today unveiled a proposal to provide all Americans with healthcare comparable to that which ailing Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat is now receiving. Mr. Kerry said the details of his plan would be announced after his inauguration, but he intends to pay for the millions of annual Air France Med-Evac flights by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for people who earn more than they deserve."
Political Candor: An Iowa radio program was conducting an on-air straw poll on the election.
One of these callers proudly declared that he was voting for "Caldwell Banker." The perplexed host asked why.
The caller explained the Caldwell Banker had the best-looking yard signs and was the most honest candidate by putting 'For Sale' right on his signs.