On an equally-sunny Saturday morning, we joined 24 other members of the Lincoln Club (yes, we were driving a Toyota but no one seemed to mind) and caravanned to two dealers specializing in old cars and street rods.
The vehicles were mostly from the mid-1950s through early '70s period, although a couple of later-model Caddy Eldorados and Allantes were on the floor.
People formed their own discussion groups around the wheeled merchandise, debating the merits of a particular model. Or the design. Or discussing reliability. Or assigning mythical judging point deductions for flaws and inauthentic fitments.
Or dissecting the asking prices posted on the windshields.
I thought the prices were outrageous - the idea of paying $26,500 for a ho-hum 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop coupe in good but definitely not concours condition was appalling to me. Especially since the '56 Chevy is generally considered the ugly sister of the '55-57 Bowtie trio.
Driving around, we saw lots of interesting stuff. An old 1950s EMD diesel locomotive and passenger car were doing duty as a dental office in Spokane. The dentist's sign was in the shape of a RR crossing sign. Clever.
Spotted a candy-apple red PT Cruiser in Newport, Washington - sporting the Total-Crapola Accessory Package, including woodie body cladding, full fender skirts, wide whitewalls on spoked alloys and a faux continental kit. Proving - once again - that there's no accounting for taste.
Also saw a clean, navy blue 1940 Dodge sedan for sale in Priest River, Idaho.
On Friday night, we were serenaded at dinner by Charlie Ryan. He performed several songs, including his 1960 chart-topper, 'Hot Rod Lincoln', the Club's National Anthem. Even in his 89th year, Charlie can still carry a tune.
On Sunday, we visited several remote spots in northeastern Washington and northern Idaho. Then we schlepped back to downtown Spokane, where we saw another car collection. The owner had about 50 cars tightly fitted into a below-ground storage space (with a single, very steep ramp). All cars were in very good condition. This gentleman used to operate a downtown Spokane art gallery but now sells imported statuary worldwide from his basement bunker using the internet. Over a million dollars so far, he told me. An underground millionaire.
Part of Monday's trek was on a dirt road; by the end of the day, our car had a thick coating of dust.
After dinner, I gassed up the Avalon and sprung for the 'Do You Want A Car Wash, Too?' prompt at the gas pump. I was offered several choices and picked the top-o-the-line 'Gorilla Wash' because it included "cleaning your rocker panels and wheels". Apparently, in the alternate universe of car washes, rocker panels are no longer considered part of the car.
We pulled into the bay and were assaulted by streams of soapy water from all directions. I did not see a gorilla but assume that a Mountain Silverback was lying prone - below my sight level, vigorously scrubbing the rocker panels with one hand while beating his chest with the other. His grunts of displeasure were obscured by water noise.
As I sat imprisoned in the wash bay, my thoughts turned to the car wash biz and the precedent-setting move of offering to clean only part of the car unless the customer pays a premium. I assume that, if this Rocker Panel Ruse is successful, the International Car Wash Cabal will take things to the next level by making customers pay extra to get the grille and front end washed.
I already know what they'll call it. Grille-a Wash.
Friday May 27, 2005
The Unbearable Dullness Of Being: Just as a physician can tell a lot about a patient's health from a simple look at his/her fingernails, one can tell a lot about a car's design by looking at wheels.
The design/style of wheels is not especially influenced by government regulations. There are many aftermarket wheels offering unique and attractive designs. But, in the world of the OEM factory wheels, all seem to look alike - whether they are on cheap cars or expensive cars.
That wasn't the case in the 1950s. Back then, you could easily identify a car just by its wheelcovers. Why does everything look the same today? The wheels and the vehicles? I think it's because designer managers and execs are lazy lemmings and have no new ideas.
There seems to be no one in Detroit championing cool, stylish cars these days.
It didn't used to be this way. ... (more >>>)
Thursday May 26, 2005
Wipe Out: Growing up in the 1950s, I never accepted the futurists' visions that, by 2000, we'd have flying cars with Plexiglas bubble tops and three-foot tall stabilizer fins. But I didn't expect cars to still have windshield wipers in 2005. The very idea of a motorized reciprocating device that mechanically wipes water from a glass surface using a vulcanized squeegee seems very Rube Goldberg - circa 1925. I expected 2005 cars to be equipped with hi-speed air curtain devices to keep the windshield clear. Or a force field.
Rain is endemic to the Pacific Northwest but it is usually slow drizzle or a fine mist. (The Irish refer to such weather as "a soft day.") Last week, I encountered the heaviest rainfall I've ever seen - bucketsfull - when the Jaguar's windshield wiper quit. (The Jag only has a single wiper - so, when it doesn't work, it's a big deal.) I drove very slowly and keep waaaay back so I didn't get excessive road spray from other vehicles. By the time I got home, the sun was out ... so I fixed it - a loose shaft nut which needed to be tightened. Problem solved in 10 minutes.
In retrospect, I now know that the nut wasn't properly tightened when I bought the car seven years ago. It's tight now and I can lift the wiper to clean the windshield without it feeling rickety. But I'm still wishing for a force field.
Saab Story: General Motors' Opel plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany, will build the next Saab 9-5 model starting in 2008. Does anyone know what makes a Saab anymore? I sure don't. It's an Opel, a Subaru, a Chevy/GM SUV ... whatever. It seems that Saab is now just a badge to stick on vehicles wherever GM has excess plant capacity.
New Car Option: It's called New York OnStar. If you've locked your keys in the car, just press a button on the door handle. A loud Bronx voice will resonate from a hidden speaker: "Lost your keys, a**hole? You're a f**kin' loser!"
Trading Places: Car guy Jerry Flint weighs in on free trade in Forbes: "You can't help noticing that the folks supporting free trade never have their jobs threatened: editorial writers, economists, professors. I like to imagine that the President fires his Council of Economic Advisers and outsources the work to China, India or Taiwan. Or, imagine colleges replacing those two-classes-a-week professors with brainiacs from India at $50 a class. ... Maybe if the economists and professors and editorial writers had some foreign competition, we'd get some fresh thinking on this."
Darwin Award Nominee: A 38-year-old Arkansas man was hospitalized after jumping out the passenger window of a 2000 Dodge Stratus traveling an estimated 55 to 60 mph to retrieve his cigarette.
Land Of Plenty: The number of U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more rose 21% in 2004, according to a survey released yesterday by Spectrem Group, a wealth-research firm in Chicago. It is the largest increase since 1998. There now are 7.5 million millionaire households in the U.S., breaking the record set in 1999 of 7.1 million. (The study excluded the value of primary residences, but included second homes and other real estate.)
Don't let anyone tell you that America is no longer the land of opportunity.
Wisdom Of The Ages: When you're an old guy, it's best to stick with an old-guy hairdo. Otherwise, you'll look like a total feeb jerk. Like Phil Spector.
Wednesday May 25, 2005
Lotsa V-Dubs: The 100 millionth Volkswagen rolled off a German assembly line Tuesday. VW made just 1,800 Beetles in 1945, and produced its millionth car in 1955.
Why can't we have trolleys like this? Or this?
Another Voice: If you think that America is universally hated in the Middle East, read this by Professor Fouad Ajami. It will provide a pleasant surprise.
Tony's Dead. Thurl Ravenscroft of Fullerton, Calif., whose voice was known worldwide through his work in movies and television, at Disneyland and as the voice of Tony The Tiger, has died at age 91.
He was also a member of the Johnny Mann Singers.
Crafting Dough: As soon as a commercial comes on, I change TV channels. Sometimes, all channels are simultaneously on-commercial - then I'm screwed. And I end up watching some.
That's how I found out that 7-11 now offers sandwiches made with "Artisan Bread." I immediately pictured a sallow, bearded man in a stark SoHo loft, sculpting a loaf of Wonder Bread into the shape of the Guggenheim Bilbao. The dictionary defines 'artisan' as a skilled manual worker; a craftsperson.
One would think, therefore, that producing Artisan Bread would involve some kind of skilled craft tools. A jeweler's loupe? Chisel? Glassblower's tongs? Nope.
According to artisanbakers.com, "An artisan baker is a craftsperson who is trained to the highest ability to mix, ferment, shape and bake a hand crafted loaf of bread. They understand the science behind the chemical reactions of the ingredients and know how to provide the best environment for the bread to develop." Aha! So, all non-artisan bread is Sloppily-made Bread. Thanks, artisanbakers, for the enlightenment. (For lunch, I'll think I'll have roast beef on Careless Jewish Rye.)
So, what's next - Artisan Garbagemen?
Tuesday May 24, 2005
Car Sightings: Spotted a light blue '52 DeSoto Custom Six four-door sedan parked on the street in SE Portland last week. It seemed to be in pretty good condition; it was obviously someone's daily driver. I haven't seen a DeSoto (outside of a car show) in twenty years.
Saw a new Toyota Solara on the freeway. I've never cared for Solaras in the past but this one was very curvy and Lexus-like. Visited the painfully hip Sellwood District on Sunday - spotted two new Ferraris driving by and a gaggle of ungainly Priuses.
Saving The Five Hundred: If you took a Ford Five Hundred, added larger wheels, bigger fender flares, a larger grille and lowered it a little, the result would be a better-looking and much more muscular car.
Now all it needs is an engine with some muscle.
Slogan of the Week: Last week, I received mail from the Social Security Administration. On the back of the envelope was its slogan (I never knew SSA had one.): "For the times that count - count on Social Security."
Childhood Revenge: James Lileks believes that, as a child, Bill Gates spent his summer doing housework at his parents' request, fuming: "OK. Fine. I have to do chores, I'm going to do chores. But someday I'm going to find a way to make the world curse windows as much as I do."
Get It Up! Your blood pressure, that is. Scores of convicted rapists and other high-risk sex offenders in New York have been getting Viagra paid by Medicaid for the last five years, the state's comptroller said.
Cool Idea of the Week: Rotating electrical outlet for large plugs. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
Mmmmm. Optical Mouse. If you tend to say "D'oh" every time you misspell a search term on Google, you're a candidate for the Floating Homer Simpson Optical Mouse.
Question of the Day: If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown, too?
Monday May 23, 2005
Things You Can Do With A Sponge: Several car dealers in the area installing a "special micron air filter" in the passenger ventilation system of new cars. This and other "questionable" (I'd write 'completely useless' but I don't want to get sued. Or firebombed.) dealer-installed items (pinstriping, paint treatment, etc.) are placed on a special mini sticker next the normal window sticker info.
The "special filter" costs $75. It's probably an old kitchen sponge shoved into the A/C duct.
Cool Car: Jay Leno's 9,000 pound, 990 horsepower custom-built racecar is powered by a WW II tank engine. Photo here.
Another Popemobile For Sale: A 1975 light blue, four-door German-made Ford Escort GL - owned by the late Pope John Paul II is going up for auction. The seller hopes to get $5 million. Earlier this month, a 1999 Volkswagen Golf once owned by Pope Benedict XVI sold for about $240,000.
More on papal transportation here.
Language Barrier: As the old saw goes (And, by the way, how many times does someone's clever and original comment need to be repeated and passed on before it is officially designated as an 'old saw'?) about Americans and the English being a people separated by a common language, I noticed that Dave Leggett at just-auto.com referred to arising early in the morning as being "up with the larks."
I wonder if anyone ever said that at the Studebaker plant?
There Is Little Correlation Between Talent And Success. Why isn't MST3K still on the air? Why is Robert Byrd still in the Senate? How come Frank Sinatra made six thousand times as much money as Jack Jones? Why is Pauly Shore still alive? Or Carrot Top?
Why does James Lileks still have to work while Dave Barry can retire and spend his days clipping bond coupons while newspapers across America rerun his old stuff? And continue to send him money for the privilege of doing so.
Barry does have his moments, however. In a just-reprinted 1990 column, Dave writes about his dad's Hillman Minx: "... my father was one of the very few Americans who bought the Hillman Minx, a wart-shaped British car with the same rakish, sporty appeal as a municipal parking garage but not as much pickup." And: "A car so technologically backward that the radio was still receiving Winston Churchill speeches. You don't see many Minxes around any more, probably because the factory was bombed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission."
His dad also bought a Nash Metropolitan: "The Metropolitan was designed by professional cartoonists to look like the main character in a children's book with a name like Buster the Car Goes to Town. It was so small that it was routinely stolen by squirrels."
Episode III: Jim Geraghty on the latest Star Wars movie: "It took them 18 years to finish the Death Star? Let me guess, union contractors? "Well, Lord Vader, we looked at the blueprints from the big-snouted, clicking-language aliens, and they completely underestimated the number of support crossbeams. I mean, even with our revisions, half the hallways will end in steep chasms, and you may see some of the control room doors opening slowly. I could see some stormtrooper ending up hitting his head on it."
And yet the second Death Star is operational in three years. Somewhere along the line, the Empire became a right-to-work territory."
Gumbymania: Some people are making a big deal that Gumby is 50 years old. Who cares. Gumby was unfunny and dorky. The only worthwhile Gumby was Eddie Murphy: "I'm Gumby, dammit!"
Wake me when there's a good retrospective on Willie the Worm.
Friday May 20, 2005
Dear GM: Thank you for reading my blog and using some of my ideas from my April 12th posting. Please mail me a check.
The Detroit News has reported that "Only two of General Motor's eight brands - Chevrolet and Cadillac - will remain full-line marques while the others will offer more limited product lines under a new strategy aimed at building sales, cutting costs and bolstering brand identity."
Rover-like? Dave Leggett of just-auto took a spin in a new Chrysler 300C: "... the chunky Rover P5-like retro styling has a certain appeal." I had to use Google images to find out what a P5 was and I must admit that there is a resemblance.
The P5 was made between 1958 and 1973. The P5B was V-8 powered - a 3.5-liter aluminum Buick-derived engine. Interestingly, this Rover was also available as a "four-door coupe" with a sloping roofline, predating the current Mercedes offering by about four decades.
Proving, once again, that there's nothing new under the sun.
Bottled Marketing: In an article about bottled water, John Stossel explains "why 'Evian,' spelled backward, is 'naive'."
Worth The Wait: Aardman Animation - of 'Wallace and Grommit' and 'Chicken Run' fame - have hired John Cleese to write a 2006 movie comedy about prehistoric tribal clashes. And ... the trailer for the new W&G movie is here.
The End Is Nigh! Are we reaching the end of cancer? That would be great news. Some thoughts here. Here's some more cancer good news.
World Bunk: This is an insightful article on what's wrong with the World Bank. Quote: "The World Bank lends primarily to governments (federal, central, provincial, state, local and so on), to para-statal organizations and to public sector entities. This means that the Bank contributes directly, actively, emphatically and vigorously to the expansion of the activities, powers and involvement of governments. Some of us of the conservative persuasion (and we count you among us) are deeply skeptical of governments. We know that they claim to do good. They usually botch it up and to top it all tyrannize their subjects (sorry, I mean citizens)."
Disunited: Once upon a time, United was a great airline.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that "United flight attendants passed out green fliers warning that "CHAOS is coming" - referring to "Create Havoc Around Our System" - the Association of Flight Attendants' tactic of surprise, intermittent strikes." CHAOS means Bite The Hand That Feeds You (or, in layman's terms, Screw The Customer), a culture that seems to have become pervasive at United since the mid-1990s.
I hope these ingrates get what they deserve - a retirement which involves living in a run-down trailer park and dining on cans of Alpo.
Not angry enough yet? Go here, scroll down and read "Dispatch from the Friendly Skies."
Thursday May 19, 2005
A Brief History Of The Steering Wheel: Read it here.
His Chrysler Cirrus "Cornered Like A Wildebeest." James Lileks has bought a car - a Mazda 3. Without the extras like "strut wax, keyless entry ashtrays or custom glove compartment liner."
Lawnmower Blade Spurs Segway Sales! A good parody from Recoil magazine: "Segway, the personal transport manufacturer saw a dramatic increase in sales following the April 1 release of its newest product, the Segway LM - an alternative-power transporter identical in design to the poorly selling Segway Human Transport (HT) except for the addition of a rotating lawnmower blade mounted to the bottom of the unit."
Darth Vader Has A Blog: "Have you tried one of these Ewoks, m'lord?" asked Admiral Piett, offering me a crisp kebab. "Delectable!"
More: "... this morning I critiqued a tragically sub-par piece of workmanship on a tractor-beam repulsolift inversion assembly by snapping the neck of the site supervisor and throwing his limp corpse down a disused elevator shaft. Imperial engineers would have snapped to crisp attention, of course, but all these civilian contractors did was give me was grief. "Oy, you do that again and I'll have the union on you!" barked one red-faced buffoon. "It is vital that you enhance the inter-departmental synergies of your operation," I said. And then I killed him."
New Word: Treeware (noun) The new derogatory term for a printed book, used mostly by ebook enthusiasts. Derived from the phrase "a dead-tree book."
If You Hate America ... drink Pepsi.
Downscale: From parody site Broken Newz: "Arab Street, that much-ballyhooed factor in Middle Eastern affairs, was downgraded to an alleyway yesterday by the U.S. State Department."
Wednesday May 18, 2005
Not So Grand: I saw a great ad in AutoWeek last week. The photo made me sit up and ask, "Wow! What is that car?!" (GM and Ford have always had great product photos.) It was the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP V-8.
Here's a car that sure looks good (in photos, anyway) and offers a 303 horsepower V-8. Then I did a little research. Alas, Edmunds reports: "... the Grand Prix is still too rough around the edges to steal the hearts of import buyers. Build and materials quality still needs some work."
And Edmunds complains about the cramped back seat and noisy engine. Consumer Reports gives the Grand Prix top marks for reliability but writes that its ride and rear seat comfort aren't competitive. "The ride is very stiff and braking is only adequate."
Yes, well, the devil is in the details and this may be an illustration of why GM cars aren't selling.
A well-equipped Pontiac Grand Prix can be had for less than $27,000 - a good value at first glance. But it is significantly flawed. Are GM's designers not talented enough to produce a good-looking, almost 200-inch long car offering good rear seat room? And, after a century in the business, can't GM figure out how to put superior brakes on a high-performance passenger car? And, if the NUMMI plant in California can produce a Pontiac Vibe with a near-flawless fit and finish, can't those techniques be transferred to other GM facilities?
Properly executed, the Pontiac Grand Prix could offer a genuine alternative to Honda and Toyota models. And help save General Motors. But this Pontiac model will never be a savior of American jobs. Because the Grand Prix is made in Canada.
Aussie Avalon: Americans car nuts are often jealous about those cool cars from Australia - those Down-Under, Mad Max-inspired Fords and Holdens with big V-8 engines.
But life not always as it seems. I got a nice e-mail from David Z., an Aussie auto enthusiast, who pointed out that the Australian version of the Toyota Avalon is just a face-lifted 1995 model. He longs for the third-generation Avalon we can buy here in the States.
Up Your Ash: Exactly twenty-five years ago today, Mount St. Helens blew its top. Something impossible to describe - you had to be there. Trees knocked over like toothpicks. Mud and ash everywhere. Gray 'snow' on the ground.
I had an incredible view of things, since I was staying at a motel overlooking the Columbia Gorge in Hood River, Oregon. (A ringside seat with a large picture window facing north.)
The clearcoat on my '76 Volkswagen Scirocco was shot (so much for VW 'quality'), so the day before, I had repainted the car using cans of silver spray paint.
I had planned to let the paint 'set' for a week before polishing. But I didn't need to - the ash did the polishing for me. Everybody in the Pacific Northwest has a Mount St. Helens story ... that's mine.
By the way, I have a very clear view of Mt. St. Helens from the end of my street. (I can't see it from my front door - too many tall cedar trees in the way.)
Ash from the 1980 eruption remains on my property. And since the mountain is less than 40 miles from here, I am mindful of its power. And horrific potential.
Meat The Artist: Victoria Reynolds doesn't paint pictures of people or cars, she produces pictures of meat. Odd.
Death To PETA: They kill animals. From July 1998 through the end of 2003, PETA killed over 10,000 dogs, cats, and other "companion animals." What a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites. "Ethical treatment," my ass.
Nuns: There are now two basic varieties. By the way, I have no neck because Sister Navitas bashed me square on the head with a heavy book when I was in the eighth grade.
Because I was drawing cars at my desk. Because I was bored.
Tuesday May 17, 2005
Car Magazines: While in my doctor's waiting room recently, I picked up the current issue of Motor Trend from the office's magazine rack. Almost every news piece was about something I had already read. Mostly on the net.
Between the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press websites plus the many excellent blogs around (see my Worth-A-Visit list at right), I can easily keep up-to-date about the latest car happenings. I'm down to one magazine - AutoWeek. That's it.
I dumped Automobile Quarterly (after 25+ years or so) a few years ago. The magazine was sold and the new owner turned it into a pile of junk. Photo quality dropped way off. The quality of the writing declined. All of the old writers/contributors/editors disappeared.
Graphics went lowbrow and page layout was jumbled and hard-on-the-eyes. So I canceled AQ - but it took 7 phone calls and three months to get my refund. Jerks!
I bought my first car magazine in 1954 - Motor Trend. If I had taken all the money I've spent on pulpy car magazines over the past 50-plus years and invested it in a good no-load mutual fund, I'd probably have enough money to buy four new Jaguars - top-of-the-line, supercharged Jaguar XKRs. ... (more >>>)
Monday May 16, 2005
It Begins ... To boost sales of its flagship sedan, Ford has quietly begun paying dealers $1,000 for every Five Hundred that leaves their lots.
Mercedes Moron: Eckhard Cordes, the chief of Mercedes-Benz and handpicked CEO-to-be revealed that DaimlerChrysler was considering abandoning its stated goal of having the Mercedes-Benz brand achieve the top rating in the J.D. Power and Associates quality survey. "We are carefully analyzing whether this is a reasonable goal or not, and then we will answer the question once we have finished our analysis."
Is this guy speeding down the Autobahn to Idiotburg or what?! J.D. Power is The Standard for automobile quality measurement. Yes, Consumer Reports does a fine job but CR won't let manufacturers tout a top rating and, therefore, their ratings are less well publicized. Quibble with Powers' methodology all you want but J. D. Power is, for all intents and purposes, the only game in town.
Imagine if the CEO of Black & Decker said that he was considering selling power tools which were not U.L. approved. He'd be summarily fired and laughed out of the industry. Cordes deserves the same fate. Especially, in light of the recent quality problems with the M-B brand.
AutoExtremist laments Mercedes' "unrivaled reputation for consistent engineering brilliance and strict quality standards being replaced with the mind-numbing stench of rampant mediocrity and dismally poor quality performance. And now, after having their asses handed to them by Lexus, BMW and even Cadillac ... in the market, Mercedes-Benz is actually debating the merits of striving to be number three? Flat-out unbelievable."
Brand-New Cadillacs - Starting at $599. Not a toy or model - full size. Available here. It's a bicycle.
Humbling The Haughty: I love this tale from Jay Fitzgerald of Boston .... a fancy car pulls up before a group of onlookers. "It's a Maybach," said one ... "That's a $300,000 car!" "No way, said the rest of us, until we saw the curtains on the back window. Then out popped who we assumed was the owner - a well-tanned, 40-something uberpreppy with starched white shirt, pressed khakis, highly polished loafers. He immediately stepped in a pile of dog shit. Guffaws ... He scampered away in a hurry. Then a meter maid came walking by. The owner had forgotten to pop a quarter in the meter. "Ticket him! Ticket him! That's a $300,000 car!" went the chant.
And she did, with a slight smile of satisfaction on her face. Loud cheers!"
2005 Bleatmobile: James Lileks writes: "My wife needs a new car, since the old one is shedding parts. Most of the sensors have gone out - she has to use the Force to figure out how much gas she has, and the last time she had her oil changed the technician informed her that she had chosen an excellent time to replenish her supply, seeing as she had no oil. When you turn the wheels it screeches like Fran Drescher being fed into a wood chipper, and the brakes make sounds that make dogs fall over and bleed from the ears. It’s a 1996 Cirrus. It's tired. If you take your hands off the wheel it automatically points itself to the nearest glue factory."
And: "... most mid-priced sedans were designed by graduates of the International Institute of Boring Your Ass Off, and have the same dull front and the same dull back and the same dull middle. I repeat my earlier contention: bring back a car that would have looked at home in 1957 and they would sell a kajillion units. Something that leaned into the wind, had boobie headlights and forty-nine tons of chrome, two colors, poke-your-eye-out fins and a hood ornament in the shape of a rocket or a nuclear weapon. But no: we get the same old same old, over and over." Amen! Well said. Read the whole thing.
Say 'No' To Sleaze: A surprising number of Hyundai customers said they didn't want Sirius Satellite Radio installed in their vehicles because they objected to Howard Stern.
Fine with me. I think Stern's a sophomoric jerk. And unfunny.
Who Says There's No Money In Direct Mail? If you've owned a business anytime in the last 20 years, you've probably been deluged with catalogs from Harbor Freight, offering salvage/overstock drill presses, die grinders, saws, hand trucks, etc.
Eric L. Smidt, the president of Harbor Freight Tools, has just purchased 'The Knoll' - the 10-acre Beverly Hills estate long owned by the late Marvin Davis and his billionaire widow, Barbara Davis.
Originally listed for $70 million, the price had apparently been reduced to $46 mm. Built in 1955 for the widow of an oil heir, the estate was later owned by Kenny (The Gambler) Rogers, who sang, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."
Quips Page Six, "In this case, he should have held."
Slowdown? Larry Kudlow explains why he's worried that "an economic slowdown is in the cards."
Farewell, Dennis. Dennis Miller's show on CNBC is gone. I often watched his show and it was smart, witty and interesting. Dennis had a good mix of guests and treated them respectfully without fawning. But I may have been his only viewer. To survive, the show needed two changes:
1) condense it to a half-hour format.
2) find another cable network instead of CNBC.
Once the financial markets close every day, CNBC pretty its reason for existence. Having non-financial talk shows on a network pegged as the business/financial channel is like having prime-time variety shows on The Weather Channel.
In the evening, CNBC stands for 'Crap. Nothin' But Crap.'
Friday May 13, 2005
Happy Birthday!! 'The View Through The Windshield' is now one year old.
While I'm a mere Baco-Bit in the great salad bar of the blogosphere, it has been fun to track the growth of visitor traffic. And to get nice e-mails from folks.
Two weeks ago, Power Line announced that they had just gotten their 25 millionth hit. I'm closing in - only 24 million and several hundred thousand to go.
And now for a housekeeping issue. I have updated my 'Greatest Hits' page.
This page links to essays excerpted from various blog postings I've made. As you know, many of my blog entries are short quips about contemporary events (or cars). The 'Greatest Hits' postings are a little more timeless. These essays are segmented into four categories: Car Related, Train Related, People, and Everything Else.
Thursday May 12, 2005
Car Sightings: Saw a new Corvette on the road today; it looks much better - less blobby - than its C-5 predecessor. I was passed by a new Mustang today. Damn, that car looks great on the road - from every angle. Much better than in photographs.
Spotted a tired, cream-colored mid-'70s Alfa Alfetta GT coupe at a traffic light. Twenty-five years later, it's still an exciting design.
Carly's Ride: Carly Fiorina, fired as Hewlett-Packard's CEO in February, now says she has ''no regrets'' about her five years at HP. Of course, if I had collected $188.6 million for five years work, I wouldn't have any "regrets" either.
I have it on good authority that HP was so pissed at Carly that they banished her corporate ride - a tricked-out, candy apple red Cadillac Escalade - to as far from California headquarters as possible. It's now a courier vehicle at HP's Nashua, New Hampshire facility.
Outta sight - outta mind.
Dented Optimism ... from Fund Alarm: "Almost six years ago, we welcomed the birth of AIM Dent Demographic Trend with the following, skeptical item: Taking AIM: After paying for college, plastic surgery, and relaxed-fit Dockers, aging baby boomers now have another place to send their money: the AIM Dent Demographic Trends Fund."
That particular Dent would be Harry S. Dent Jr. who - in the heady days of 2000 - predicted to Business Week (and anyone else who would listen) that the Dow will reach 40,000 somewhere around 2008. (If it actually happens, I'll be blogging from my Maui beachfront condo.) "Since then, AIM Dent Demographic has occupied a regular spot on our list of 3-ALARM funds. It has consistently underperformed its large-cap growth peer group, its asset base has steadily declined, and its expense ratio has risen to an absurd level."
More from Fund Alarm: "Most of the 50 hottest-selling mutual funds (of March 2000) were focused on technology stocks and, since then, those 50 funds have lost an average 42%. ... At the opposite extreme in March 2000 were the 50 funds that saw the most assets flee in the preceding year. ... Since then, those once-unpopular funds have gained an average 21.4%."
To everything, there is a season ... Turn, Turn, Turn. (Or, maybe it's Churn, Churn, Churn.)
Quote of the Week is from James Lileks: "We tried Sea Monkeys the other day, but they didn't come to life. Just as well. I would have been tempted to put some in the Ant Farm to see if the ants would fight the brine shrimp, or perhaps cross-breed in some unholy experiment that would create socially-organized amphibious insects."
Wednesday May 11, 2005
Debt Instruments Of Excellence: From the always-amusing Scrappleface ... "Executives at Ford and General Motors today challenged a move by Standard & Poor's to downgrade the big automakers' debt to 'junk' status. In a teleconference with institutional investors, they made a vigorous pitch for buying what they called "quality-checked" or "certified pre-owned" bonds." I'll suggest some other possible names: "Collector's Series Bonds" or "Special Limited Edition Bonds."
Lame Lexus: Auto writer Anita Lienert chronicles a bad customer service experience with her personal Lexus.
Stripes: A few weeks ago, I mentioned that we had my wife's new car pinstriped. Photos are now posted here.
Grace Under Pressure: Last week, Tamar Jacobi, Senior Fellow with The Manhattan Institute, was interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-Span. The subject was immigration, specifically the effect of imigrants on the American economy.
I've seen Ms. Jacobi on Dennis Miller several times; she is an intelligent, thoughtful person. And she stayed in character during her time with Brian. I didn't agree with everything she said but Tamar defended her views with facts and statistics. Then, the call-in portion of the show began. Many of the callers were borderline rude - "you don't know whatcher talkin' about ...", "America's goin' to hell ...", etc. Ms. Jacobi answered all callers - even the angry ones - with poise and tact. I was impressed with her demeanor and calm, reasoned responses. I couldn't have done it.
Much of the ire from callers could be traced - not directly to the immigration issue - but, rather, to outsourcing. And the painful part of America's transition from a manufacturing economy to an information economy. The problem is that many of those new "information" jobs are going offshore, too.
I often wonder what will be left for Americans to do? I've yet to hear or read a satisfactory, understandable answer. From any economist. Even from the esteemed Ms. Jacobi.
Stuffy Concept: My daughter took her nephew (my grandson) to Build-A-Bear to get a custom-made bear for his birthday. I decided to be unsociable and stay home. While my family seems to think it's a great store, I have no time for Build-A-Bear. Too cutesy and contrived.
Once, in the Clackamas Town Center (south of Portland), I was accosted by a Build-A-Bear employee, who was hustling people to come in the store. I stared her down and told her that she was working for a scam. You see, I had a custom bear made for my daughter long before Build-A-Bear ever existed.
When my daughter was 11, she had a made-up character called Skunk-A-Bear - a bear with skunk markings. At a local craft fair, I found a woman who made stuffed animals and commissioned her to make a one-of-a-kind Skunk-A-Bear. I even supplied drawings.
Skunk-A-Bear became my daughter's favorite stuffed animal and she even took it on a cross-country plane trip. Travel-weary Skunk-A-Bear is now upstairs in our guest room, enjoying his retirement. When interviewed recently, Skunk-A-Bear told me, "A pox on thee, Build-A-Bear!"
Tuesday May 10, 2005
Single-Make Dealerships: Jerry Flint has an interesting Forbes article on the rise and fall of exclusive car dealerships. He makes a compelling case that single brand automobile dealerships improve the brand: "... exclusive dealers were always the goal of the foreign automakers. When the Japanese moved into the luxury market in the 1990s, they insisted on exclusive showrooms for their new nameplates. ... This was an expensive strategy, but it helped Lexus, Infiniti and Acura reinforce a premium brand image."
About those multi-brand dealers: "Maybe there is another reason - something that Detroit executives are reluctant to discuss. If GM decides to kill a division, such as Buick or Pontiac, the dealers don't have to go out of business." Finally: "The combining of dealerships is a self-defeating practice and only contributes to making American brands less competitive against foreign nameplates that pamper customers at exclusive dealerships."
Personal Choice: Matt Helms is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press and just bought a new Ohio-made Honda Accord. In a series of articles, he writes about his decision process. His methodology seems logical to me; Matt tried to analyze his needs and act accordingly. He bought a vehicle which fit his requirements - using logic, not emotion. And was guided by his prior car ownership experiences. As regular readers know, my wife and I went through a similar process to purchase our new car.
Matt's first car was a '98 Plymouth Neon which didn't hold up. (Can't argue with that - we rented one a few years back and found it to be a real Crapmobile.) His next new car - a Dodge Stratus - was also disappointing. So, he set his parameters, did his homework and ended up with an Accord.
Because he works for a Detroit newspaper, Matt has received numerous scorching e-mails, excoriating him for "buying foreign." That's part of the Detroit mentality ... Matt's a "traitor" even though he took a chance on Detroit - twice - using his own hard-earned money ... with unsatisfactory outcomes both times.
My take: Dear Detroit, Stop yelling at people like Matt. Go fix your own problems - and make better cars.
Little Things Mean A Lot: Last year, I did a small thing made a big difference in my life. One of life's petty annoyances that seemed to magnify itself to crisis proportions. My car's floor mats are secured by a polyethylene plastic plug which fits through a grommeted hole in the mat. The damn plug kept working loose on the driver's side (allowing the floor mat to slide around) and Jaguar no longer makes replacements. (The new models have a grommet-and-hook design.)
I've tried many things, including various-sized globs of Shoe Goo applied to the plug but the fix always fails after a couple of weeks - poor adhesion to the polyethylene.
I engineered a permanent solution by affixing a narrowed clear plastic mirror clip as a hook to the vehicle's floor. (I trimmed it to size on my bandsaw and sanded it smooth.) It is secured by a Moly Bolt metal wall anchor.
Works perfectly. Another one of life's petty annoyances banished!
Putin's A Car Guy. Who Knew? During President Bush's recent trip to Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin let George take a spin in Putin's restored, white 1956 Volga M-21. Volgas were pretty rare cars, even in the Soviet automobile world (such as it was). My dog-eared Petersen's 1956 World-Wide Automotive Yearbook tells me that Volgas were produced at the Molotov Automobile Plant of Gorky. (I wonder if you could order cocktails in the bar across the street?) The M-21 came with an automatic transmission and had a 70 horsepower, OHV engine. The Volga also offered reclining front seats.
And: "A pedal inside the car can be depressed whenever the motorist wishes to grease the car's 16 lubrication points." Perhaps another pedal could be depressed whenever the motorist wished to send 16 dissidents to Siberia. If there's a Volga Owners Club, I bet it's a pretty small and select organization.
The Adventures Of J. Wilbur Worker: On Monday, I visited the Social Security office to present my "proof" documents - birth certificate, etc. (I had already filed online last week.) The office was outfitted like a bank in a high-crime neighborhood. Personnel were stationed behind bulletproof glass. The waiting area was overseen by a uniformed guard.
In the process of looking for documents, I came across the original brochure I received from Social Security back in 1959, with my "new" Social Security card instructing me to "TAKE CARE of your card!"
The brochure featured a hapless character named J. Wilbur Worker. Looking at the graphic, I wondered if it influenced Matthew Lesko's sartorial choices?
The entire pamphlet, originally created in 1953 is shown here. (My copy is a 1956 revision.)
Something Else To Worry About: Reductions in industrial emissions in many countries, along with the use of particulate filters for car exhausts and smoke stacks, seem to have reduced the amount of dirt in the atmosphere and made the sky more transparent. This may add to the problems of global warming.
You're damned if you do and ...
Monday May 9, 2005
'Not Invented Here' Syndrome: There's an interesting anecdote about GM's corporate attitude versus that of Toyota from Thomas Nugent in the National Review.
Power To The People: Only 9 percent of all vehicles came with engines capable of developing more than 200 horsepower in 1990. In 2005, it's 54%.
A New Leader? Anita Lienert of the Detroit News has tested the new 2006 Hyundai Sonata and is very impressed. Production of this car has just begun at Hyundai's first U.S. plant. It offers Lexus-like quiet, a leather interior, a 235 horse, 3.3-liter V-6 with traction and stability control for under $24,000. And the brand's famous 100,000 mile warranty. I saw this car at the Portland Auto Show; it's much nicer-looking than the current Sonata and is larger and roomier, too.
If the new Sonata delivers the same levels of reliability that recent Hyundais have demonstrated, this car could pose a serious threat to all players in the competitive mid-size auto segment. Watch out Accord and Camry!
Paykan POC: Apparently, one of the worst cars in the world is the soon-to-be-discontinued, made-in-Iran Pakyan. It's a real Pile-O-Crap. I know we're supposed to hate the Iranians in every way, but it appears that, on a man-in-the-street level, Iranians have a pretty good sense of humor. Here's a selection of Paykan jokes from Iran:
Q: What's found on the last two pages of every Paykan owner's manual? A: The bus schedule.
Q: What did the auto parts counterman say when the customer said "I'll take a set of wiper blades for my Paykan"? A. "Sounds like a fair trade to me."
Q. Why don't Paykans sustain much damage in a front-end collision? A. The tow truck takes most of the impact.
Q. What do you call Paykan passengers? A. Shock absorbers.
Your Tax Dollars At Waste: A Michigan middle school marching band was told not to perform "Louie Louie." (It was a top 1963 hit for the Kingsmen.) The school superintendent claimed the songs lyrics are obscene. Of course, the band isn't singing it, just playing it but that distinction appears to be lost on this school official.
Here comes the "waste" part - the FBI spent two years investigating the lyrics before declaring they not only were not obscene but also were "unintelligible at any speed." Interesting phrase - sounds like a Ralph Nader book.
The Only Sound Is From Muzak: All of the 'music stores' around here are disappearing. People buy CDs over the internet. Or download them.
The gigantic Lloyd Center Mall in Portland (at one time it was the largest mall in the world) has neither book stores nor music stores in it anymore - B. Dalton and Waldenbooks abandoned their spaces. And the last men's shoe store in it (Florsheim) closed shop last year. Now it's full of specialty detritus stores - Spencer Gifts, Claire's and a lot of free-standing kiosks selling unneeded junk (flame-painted cell-phone covers, necklaces, tasteless embroidered pillows and throws, etc).
The Vancouver Mall (which insists - in a 1990s Prince kind of way - that it's name is now Westfield Shoppingtown, although no one calls it that) is pretty much the same way. You can still buy men's dress shoes in either mall - but you have to go to Nordstrom.
Nomenclature: I read last week that MSNBC is changing its name. Maybe it will be renamed Westfield Shoppingtown.
Friday May 6, 2005
You Wanna Go 150 Mph In This Thing?! Emission-free and fast, the ultra-narrow (39-inch width) electric Tango T-600 allegedly goes from 0 to 60 mph in just 4 seconds and has a top speed of 150 miles per hour!
Junk: General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. had their debt ratings cut to junk by Standard & Poor's yesterday. No matter how you feel about these companies and their products, this is a sad day for America.
At Last: A product we can all use - a container that "will hold a frosted cupcake in place with protrusions positioned in such a way that the cupcake will not move within the container if bounced, jiggled, or turned upside down." Sure beats duct tape. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
Get The Hell Out Of Town: Duluth (Georgia) townspeople, who joined in the three-day search for runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, are peeved that they've gotten neither an in-person apology nor compensation for the $50,000-plus cost of the search from the Most Self-Centered Woman On Earth. (Yesterday, Wilbanks issued a written statement stating she had "issues." Issues - the new permission slip for bad behavior.)
I think they should hold a parade for her - have Wilbanks ride through the main street of Duluth in an open convertible while they throw stuff at this 32 year-old brat. (I'll be happy to donate some old D-cell batteries and used spark plugs.)
Then, sell the parade broadcast rights to recoup the expenses of the search. Finally, forbid this "bride" from ever showing her unblinking, unapologetic face in town again. I predict that in two years, Miss Jennifer will be as obscure as Miss Cleo - a future trivia question.
OH NO! Cat dude is moving here to Washington State.
Special Message - And You Know Who You Are: I don't usually use this blog to send individual messages but my e-mail in-box has been very active of late. Numerous females have been propositioning me and I feel obliged to respond. So, to Heidi Stringer, Kaylani Walls, Marsha Cline, Simone Kennedy, Miriam Roy, Juanita Dougherty, Lucinda Dowling, Susanna Collins, Caroline Rush, Therese Keen et al:
You ladies keep writing to me about some extremely personal matters, specifically about a certain one of my organs. You seem to be interested in increasing its "stiffness" or making it "last longer." I don't understand this. Organs generally last for one's lifetime. The only way to make them "last longer" is to preserve them by conducting a post-mortem embalming, which - incidentally - also prolongs the "stiffness" of rigor mortis. Therefore, I assume you are selling some sort embalming fluid.
I am not a funeral director. Please remove me from your mailing list. Thank you.
What's That Thing Floating In My Soup?! There's a restaurant in Taiwan called the Toilet Bowl with toilet chairs, urinal sconces, and even commode-shaped serving pieces. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
Thursday May 5, 2005
Interior Packaging: Today's cars are larger than their predecessors and offer substantially have much more interior space. The Honda Civic of today is almost identical in length to the Accord of 20 years ago. But it offers a longer wheelbase than that old Accord - translating to a smoother ride. (For a good ride, there's nothing better than long wheelbase. Ask anyone who's ridden in an old Cadillac 75.) Most cars now stretch the wheelbase and tighten the front and rear overhangs to keep maintain the vehicle's overall length. The result - more interior room and improved riding comfort.
Back in 1973, I sketched such a car - a family sedan offering the interior packaging of a limo. The car was like a VW Dasher, but had an 18 inch longer wheelbase. The overall length was only 185 inches, almost a foot shorter than the contemporary Chevy Nova "compact."
Laugh at the styling (by today's standards) but it offered body color urethane front and rear 5-mph bump-proof facia and had cleaner lines than many cars of the era. And the interior packaging efficiency was 30 years ahead of its time.
Mmmmmmm. Bacon. Now available, band-aid strips shaped and colored like strips o' bacon. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
Happy Cinco de Mayo! (It commemorates the defeat of the French army by the Mexicans at the Battle Of Puebla in 1862.) It's is not much of a holiday back East but here in the West, Cinco de Mayo is a Big Deal. I will do two things to celebrate:
1. Take my wife to Los Jalapeños for drinks and a substantial dinner.
2. Telephone my daughter and repeat the same tiresome joke I tell every year ...
Q: "What to you call four Mexicans in quicksand?"
A: "Cuatro Cinco!"
Wednesday May 4, 2005
Child Safety: From the Detroit News: "A new study emphasizes what every parent must know: children are safer in car crashes when they sit in the back seat and are less likely to be injured when safety seats and seat belts are used."
"The single most important lifesaving decision parents can make for their child is to use the rear seat and age- and size-appropriate restraints during every car ride, every time," said Dr. Flaura Winston, a pediatrician and chief investigator of the study.
Safety improvements and increased safety seat and seat belt use have reduced child fatality rates to 1.5 per 100 million miles driven in 2003 from 2.3 per 100 million miles in 1988 - a reduction of almost 35%.
Last week, my grandson was in the back seat of his parent's Hyundai Excel when it was struck from behind - forcefully enough that the three month-old car may be declared "totaled." His sole injury seems to be "rope burns" on his neck from the lap/shoulder belt.
This is what we want from our cars - they sacrifice themselves to save the occupants.
Winning 'Stang: Ford is selling every Mustang it can produce - almost 20,000 per month in April. Meanwhile the Five Hundred is moving at about 9,000 units per month; its sister the Mercury Montego had sales of 2,200 in April. These numbers pale in comparison to last year's Ford Taurus sales of 25,000 per month. But many of those Taurus sales were at low margins to fleet buyers.
Jaguar sales are down a whopping 30% compared to last year due to sharply declining sales of the S-Type and X-Type models.
More April Stats: Toyota reported its best-ever overall sales month - 210,466 vehicles - an increase of 21.3 percent over April 2004. Camry earned best-ever April sales with 40,435 units, up 13 percent. The all-new 2005 Avalon full-size sedan enjoyed sales of 9,229, up 165.8 percent. (I wonder where they're all going - I've only seen one other new Avalon so far.) Sales of North American-built vehicles accounted for 62.6 percent of total April sales for Toyota.
General Motors sold 385,939 new cars and trucks in April. Overall, GM sales were down 7 percent. Buick sold 8,600 LaCrosses while Pontiac sold 11,800 G6s. Cadillac CTS sales were 6,182 - up 25%. Surprisingly (to me anyway), Corvette sales were down slightly.
Most import brands are doing well: Subaru - up 23%, Kia - up 15.9%, Honda - up 13.9%, Acura - up 11.9%. But Mitsubishi's April sales are down a whopping 43.3% compared to last year. (hat tip - AutoBlog)
Pimp My Jedi: Just what every Star Wars geek needs - a Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank.
Whose School Is It? Do you live in a state where you are told: "It's your school." every time there's a school bond issue up for vote? Guess what? It isn't. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Disney Delhi: Disney is considering opening a theme park in India. It will, I'm sure, be distinctly different than other Disney parks ... in an attempt to (ahem) curry favor with the locals, so to speak. I suspect the new park's entrance will feature ... (read more)
Run And Hide! Quick! Anpan Man is coming. And gang of pandas. All part of the quest, I suppose, for the next Hello Kitty.
Cartoon characters have certainly proliferated since my childhood. Back in those days, we had Disney, Looney Toons, Woody Woodpecker and not much more. And Sailor Moon was just some drunken Navy dude dropping trou.
Tuesday May 3, 2005
Sip, Not Slurp: We took the Avalon on a weekend trip and averaged 28 miles per gallon - even with lots of 75 mph Interstate driving.
It's a comfy long-distance cruiser. PBS' Motor Week tested the Toyota Avalon on last week's show, reporting 0-60 times of 6.5 seconds and quarter mile times of 15.0 seconds with a a 99 mph trap speed.
Jeez. It's just a #@$% Mustang, Folks! The first 1968 Shelby GT500E convertible has sold for a world record $550,800 at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Palm Beach, Florida.
Insecurity: I don't have a dog in this fight, as the proposed changes in Social Security will not affect me - I'm in the 'over 55 years old' category. (In fact, I'll be applying for my SS benefits this week.) But, I am concerned about the direction that the program is taking.
President Bush has proposed to restore much of Social Security's fiscal balance by cutting deeply into the future benefits of high-income workers and eroding benefits promised to the middle class. Bush proposed asking future higher-income workers to accept benefit checks below those of current retirees. The poor will get an increase in benefits. This is a very bad philosophy: reward the non-achievers and punish those who are successful.
There are already a great many poor-centric programs and safety nets. These programs do not differentiate between the working poor and the shiftless. Nor those impoverished by large medical bills and those who just fritter away assets. Or those made indigent through uncontrollable, tragic circumstances versus those who make dumb lifestyle choices.
Give people incentives to lift themselves out of poverty. Stop rewarding them just for being poor. I am far less interested in Social Justice than I am in Social Accountability. It is time to cull the herd of Professional Victims.
Adios: Marymount Manhattan College, the Catholic college that offered to give Senator Hillary Clinton an honorary doctoral degree, was formally dropped as a Roman Catholic institution by the New York archdiocese last week.
"The decision to honor one of Congress's most outspoken and strident advocates of abortion 'rights' was just the latest episode in a long history of secularization at Marymount Manhattan College," said an archdiocesan source.
The three other colleges declared no-longer-Catholic in the past 15 years are also in located New York: Marist College, Nazareth College and Saint John Fisher College.
Memorable Date: James Brown (the Godfather of Soul) turns 72 today. May 3rd was drilled into my brain during my Junior year at St. Joe's Prep.
For six months, Father Pichla kept reminding us that he was taking on us on a field trip to see a steel mill on that date. Except, with his accent, he pronounced it May Turd. Then three weeks before the trip he got pissed off at the class for some minor infraction and canceled it.
"Dat's it! No May Turd trip for youse," he yelled. Therefore, I've never toured a steel mill. I don't think I missed anything.
Bessemer converter, my ass.
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Movie: I've read the reviews of H2G2U and many are negative. Douglas Adam's book is so well-written that a transfer to celluloid was probably an impossible task.
I do think that the selection of Alan Rickman for the voice of Marvin the Depressed Android was brilliant. I bet Alan can do a good exasperated whine.
Bad Pun Of The Day: If a spider is in a corn field, does it make cob webs?
Monday May 2, 2005
Car Sighting: Saw two new BMW 5-Series on the road this weekend. The car looks a lot different in person. From a three-quarter front view, it looked like an Acura TL with a kidney grille grafted on.
That's a shame - I remember when BMWs were handsome and distinctive. Curse you, Chris Bangle.
Chapstick By The Case: It must really chap the asses of Ford and GM executives who are getting regularly dissed by the press, while that zero-credibility scoundrel, Malcolm Bricklin, seems to get nothing but free passes from the media. They just print any outrageous thing he claims.
Looking Good, Dog. Wonkette muses about 'Pimp My Ride': "Gas up to $3 a gallon? So what? When your car looks this good, you don't need to actually drive anywhere. Just park it on the corner and let the bitches pay tribute." BTW, I paid $2.469 for Plus at Union 76 on Sunday - dropping five cents per gallon in two weeks. Could this be a trend?
Papal Golf: Pope Benedict XVI's ride - the gray VW Golf he drove when he was a mere Cardinal (cardinalmobile?) - is up for sale on eBay. Writes the seller: "Your driving will always be save (sic) and blessed in it. ... The car looks as if it was new due to the care it god (sic)." (hat tip - Boing Boing)
Of course, Benedict now rides in a Popemobile.
Another Sign Of The End Times: 'Entertainment Tonight' has won the rights to televise the wedding of former schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her student-turned-fiance, Vili Fualaau. The nuptials are likely to take place next month, although a date and location haven't been disclosed.
Kerry's Working On It ... Mark Coffey's 'Decision '08' relates the tale of John Kerry's quest to fill out Form 180. It is wonderful satire, merging the molluscous Senatorial procedures with the stiff awkwardness of M. Kerry the Ponderous. While at Mark's site, you should peruse his 'Weekly Jackass' awards.
Techno-Dumb: I've had a few e-mails from my loyal posse of blog-readers wondering why I don't have XML, RSS feeds, permalinks for every trite morsel that drips from my brain to the keyboard, etc.
The simple explanation is that I'm lazy. And very naive, technically. If there was a way to create web pages using Cosmoline, a handcrank and a pencil, I'd jump for it.
I'm so techno-stupid that, until last week, I thought 'podcasting' was a fly-fishing technique.
In Praise Of Stewie: I don't think much of 'Family Guy' but Stewie Griffin, the acerbic, British-accented, rageaholic toddler on the TV show, gives brilliant sound bites. Here are a few of my favorite Stewieisms:
"Mother, I come bearing a gift. I'll give you a hint. It's in my diaper and it's not a toaster."
And: "Let me guess, you picked out yet another colorful box with a crank that I'm expected to turn and turn until - oop! ... big shock - a jack pops out and you laugh and the kids laugh and the dog laughs and I die a little inside."
Finally: "Easy! Massage the scalp. You're washing a baby's hair, not scrubbing vomit off your Christmas dress, you holiday drunk."
Magical Trevor is in da house. (Especially for my grandson and all others who are young-at-heart.)