Friday August 31, 2007
Succinct Sum Up: My daughter, who is generally fond of Jaguars, saw my Wednesday write-up on the 2009 Jag XF and compared photos of the concept and production car. Her reaction:
||Concept = Killer Cat (Hello Kitty)
Production = Killed Cat (Ta Ta Kitty)
My friend Ray wrote, "Alas, Jaguar is doomed." Another friend, Kris: "Today's sign that the end is near." I've heard from other friends, too.
None of my car buddies, all of whom could easily afford a new Jag, has anything good to say about the XF.
What A Glorious Week: Sunshine, blue skies, a nice ride in my '39 Plymouth, a good report from my doctor.
I was so happy that, when I first woke up yesterday, I thought I was Leona Helmsley's dog. That would be Trouble, who inherited $12 million. That's $2 million more than the fictional bequest to Arnold Ziffel, the pig in Green Acres. Of course, Arnold's $10 million went pretty far in the 1960s. Gas was 28¢/gallon; a VW Beetle stickered at $1,692.
I hear the pooch wears an engraved collar which reads 'Only the little people eat Alpo'.
And furthermore ... Trouble is reportedly a vicious little bitch and has a reputation for biting the help.
Just like Leona.
Where Were You? The great trilogy of my generation is the where-were-you questions involving: When JFK died. When Elvis died. When Diana died.
I've already discussed where I was when JFK died. And Elvis (see my 8/16/07 posting on this page). Princess Diana died ten years ago. It was a Saturday night (yes, she died early Sunday in France but, in the Pacific time zone of the U.S., it was still Saturday) and we had just returned from dinner at Salcido's, our then-favorite Mexican restaurant (now out of business). I flicked on the television and every channel was in Breaking News mode. The early TV reports said that Diana was injured in a high-speed car accident in Paris. "Possibly she has a broken arm" said one. NBC, I think.
My wife, who sometimes exhibits an eerie prescience, proclaimed with certainty, "She's dead."
We had just gotten hooked up to that new-fangled Internet thingie a couple of months before, so I jumped online and, at a blazingly-fast 23.6 kbs, brought up Drudge. (Just because you had a 28k modem didn't mean you got a 28k connection.) Sure enough, Diana was dead. Cross-checked it with a couple of overseas newspaper sites and returned to the TV room, where talking heads were saying that "her condition may be a bit more serious than we initially reported." Talk about Mastery of Understatement.
That's when I realized that not only Diana but television news had died that night.
Ten years later, there are still unanswered questions. The inevitable one is: Did the Royal family conspire to have Diana killed to preserve their image? I don't think so. If they believed in meddling to improve appearances, they would have had Charles' ears pinned back surgically when he was a baby.
Saying Something Nice About The Clintons: When Bill and Hillary are together, the thought that they aren't married to each other never enters my mind. Whatever the state of their marriage, they look like a couple. Same with George and Laura Bush. And the Gores. And the Cheneys. And the McCains. And the Edwards.
On the other hand, whenever I see a photo of Fred Thompson and his wife (usually at some event where she's wearing a low-cut gown to show off her assets - ummmmm ... both of them), I envision a caption underneath in pink-ink girlyscript: 'Posing with grandpa just before my prom date arrives'.
When I observe proto-midget Dennis Kucinich with his redheaded hippie wife (who seems to be three feet taller and 30-something years younger than hubby ... and, she sports a pierced tongue), I think of the circus.
The Philosophical Question Of The Month ... is, "Do you believe in Cultural Predestiny?" For instance, Jamie Foxx weighs in on dog fighting: "It's a cultural thing … I used to see dogs fighting in the neighborhood all the time … (Michael Vick) probably just didn't read his handbook on what not to do as a black star."
In other words, we can't help it. We're black. (Or Mexican. Or Irish. Or WASPs. Or gay. Or fat. Or from New Jersey. Or Republican. Or Andy Dick.) It is embedded in our cultural DNA. Bullshit.
A Libertas commenter writes, "Mr. Foxx is right. Dog Fighting is part of poor black culture. As is gang violence, a code of silence, support for gang murders, 'snitches get stitches,' anti-women 'bitch/ho' rhetoric and behavior, deliberate gang murders of 'civilians' (i.e. women, children, the elderly) for gang retaliation, prostitution, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, and much else. It all stems from the same cause: celebration of brutality and violence to 'protect' racial and cultural identity from absorption into the larger Anglo or Latino cultures. Either by intermarriage, 'acting white,' gentrification or being pushed out by Latino gangs with limitless manpower."
"It is telling that, other than Rap in 1984, Blacks who gave us Blues, Gospel, Soul, early Rock, and all sorts of Jazz from New Orleans to Kansas City to Swing to Bop, have produced … nothing. By the creative collapse of what was a fountain of cultural output alone you can tell the Black Community is completely dysfunctional and bereft. More than twenty years have gone by and Blacks have not created anything new musically in an industry that they used to dominate and innovate."
Of course not. "We can't help it. We're culturally predestined. We be jus' doin' our Thang." (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Headline Of The Week ... is from Unconfirmed Sources: 'Alberto Gonzales To Be Replaced By Magic Eight Ball'. Not a bad choice. It does, after all, provide "impartial, Solomon-like decisions."
Will the Senate confirm the Ball?
All Signs Point To 'Yes'.
Quote Of The Day is from Calvin Trillin: "Anybody caught selling macramé in public should be dyed a natural color and hung out to dry."
Wednesday August 29, 2007
Overpromise. Underdeliver. I guess by now you've seen the official photos of the 2009 Jaguar XF, which goes on sale in March of '08. The beautifully-sculpted XF "teaser" concept car unveiled last January was intriguing with its stunning cats-eye headlights. Unfortunately, the production version looks like a shovel-nosed, dumbed-down Chinese knock-off manufactured by someone who had a Penthouse special preference for Buick/Volvo grilles and Chevy Monte Carlo headlamps. The front end would make a nice Kia, though. Or Buick.
It's important to remember that the XF is a reskinned S-Type, so the ergonomic issues (limited rear seat room, etc.) probably still remain. Which wouldn't have happened with a Kia, I bet.
Justin Berkowitz of TTAC summed things up thusly: "Jaguar's embargo on pictures of their new XF midrange model expired over the weekend. After seeing the snaps, it's clear the brand is set to follow suit."
True Love: An 84 year-old guy still has his first car - a Model A Ford.
Nitz Picking: An article in the Detroit News reveals GM's new/latest strategy - to deliver cars which are technologically innovative. "We know that our success in the future is contingent on delivering technology that is meaningful to society," said Larry Nitz, executive director of GM's hybrid technology.
Yeah. Good luck with all that. Everyone my age remembers the many full-of-bugs technological "advances" from GM over the past 50+ years or so. I'm thinking about GM's diesels of the early '80s, the disastrous aluminum block and (later) aluminum head engines, Corvair's novel/notorious fan-belt system, the EZ-Break X-car transaxles, '40s vacuum shifters and the infamous Cadillac 8-6-4 engine.
When I want advanced technology that won't let me down, I'll choose something from Honda, thank you very much.
Don't Visualize This: Former cutie-pie - now über-liberal skankie-pie, Janeane Garofalo, has been cast on the upcoming season of Fox's '24'. She worries that "the creators are going to make me say things that cause my sphincter to tighten."
She should count her blessings that she can self-tighten her sphincter. A lot of geezers I know have lost so much muscle control that they have to tighten theirs with air impact wrenches. Go into a restroom at any retirement facility and it sounds like you're in a damn tire shop.
Always Remember ... this: Everything is caused by Global Warming. (And Global Warming is caused by George Bush. As are all our other problems.)
Exhibit A: "Since the late 1960s, much of the North Atlantic Ocean has become less salty, in part due to increases in fresh water runoff induced by global warming, scientists say." Michael Schirber, LiveScience, June 29, 2005
Exhibit B: "The surface waters of the North Atlantic are getting saltier, suggests a new study of records spanning over 50 years. They found that during this time, the layer of water that makes up the top 400 metres has gradually become saltier. The seawater is probably becoming saltier due to global warming, Boyer says." Catherine Brahic, New Scientist, August 23, 2007
I rest my case. (hat tip: Iain Murray - NRO)
Oh, Granny! You'll Outlive Us All! An iron-lunged pensioner has celebrated her 100th birthday by lighting up her 170,000th cigarette from a candle on her birthday cake. Winnie Langley, a former launderette worker, said she started the habit in 1914 - just weeks after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which sparked World War I. Mrs. Langley insists she's never suffered as she "has never inhaled". Just like Bill Clinton.
Personally, I like those dark, nicotine-stained liver spots on her forehead. Mmmmm. Liver spots.
How Many Americas? David Klinghoffer, author of 'Shattered Tablets: Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril', thinks that John Edwards "should review the Tenth Commandment, "You shall not covet." The speech he's best known for, the "Two Americas" oration - "One America that does the work, another America that reaps the rewards", etc. - is nothing more than a piece of incitement to coveting."
As I keep repeating, there are at least Eight Americas.
In the mid-1960s, there really were Two Americas. People who preferred 'The Addams Family' and people who preferred 'The Munsters'. Life was simpler then.
Pithy Comment ... from Lucianne.com: "Washington Post, other newspapers won't run 'Opus' cartoon mocking radical Islam. Had no problem ridiculing Jerry Falwell a week earlier."
Thought For Today: The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.
Monday August 27, 2007
Lazy Day: Nothin' much goin' on. Everybody's on vacation. Except Fidel Castro, who's dead. Maybe.
Friday August 24, 2007
Bubble Economy: Remember, back in the 1950s, when it seemed that our future would be based on bubbles? For a while, every Detroit dream car had a see-through bubble roof.
Dream cars were futuristic fantasies produced by auto stylists to generate foot traffic at auto shows and, sometimes, to test the public's reaction to new ideas or pave the way for future styles. ... (more>>>)
What's In A Name? There's quite a difference between Maynard Ferguson and Massey Ferguson.
Quote Of The Day: Losers find excuses; winners find solutions.
Wednesday August 22, 2007
Winner: The Pebble Beach Best of Show went to a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Special, aka the Mormon Meteor. I've seen this vehicle in person; photos fail to capture the sheer massiveness of the car. The supercharged Mormon Meteor was raced, set a 24-hour speed record in 1935 and then used as daily transport by its original owner, Ab Jenkins.
Ab is actually more interesting than his car. Jenkins was a successful building contractor based in Salt Lake City. He loved to drive and loved the Bonneville salt flats. Record-setting was his recreation. In 1925, he challenged the Union Pacific Railroad to a race across Bonneville to mark the opening of the first highway from Wendover to Salt Lake City. Jenkins served as mayor of Salt Lake City from 1940 through 1943.
In 1950, Jenkins shattered twenty-six world and American records on the salt flats in his Mormon Meteor III, including setting a new record of 190.68 miles an hour for one hour of continuous running.
Just Plant Your Feet And Hold On Tight! In 1954, Howard Gandelot, Vehicle Safety Engineer - General Motors Corporation, proclaimed: "I find it difficult to believe that the seat belt can afford the driver any great amount of protection over and above that which is available to him through the medium of the safety-type steering wheel, if he has his hands on the wheel and grips the rim sufficiently tight to take advantage of its energy absorption properties and also takes advantage of the shock-absorbing action which can be achieved by correct positioning of the feet and legs."
Definition Of The Day: Jim Geraghty describes Irish Alzheimers thusly, "You forget everything but a grudge."
Geezer Joke: Three old guys are out walking. First one says, "Windy, isn't it?" Second one says, "No, it's Thursday!" Third one says, "So am I. Let's go get a beer."
Bad Pun Of The Day: A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two tired.
Monday August 20, 2007
What's In A Name? I think Kyoto Protocol would be a delightful and appropriate name for a Japanese luxury sedan. "The diplomats arrived without fanfare in a black, stretch Kyoto Protocol with darkened windows."
Unsung Prophet: Adam K. Strickler, Jr., a business researcher for General Motors, wrote this in December 1951: "The importance of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq whose oil reserves constitute 46.6% of the estimated world reserves is obvious when contrasted with 29% for the U.S."
Question Of The Day is from Kathy Shaidle: "Have you ever noticed that the sole mission of the Space Shuttle is to do more repairs on the Space Shuttle?"
The Space Shuttle is like vintage cars owned by several of my friends. The vehicles are impressive to look at but every time they're taken on the smallest road trip, they break down. And it's never something simple either. It's always some obscure vacuum diaphragm thingie that is unrepairable and that NAPA hasn't stocked for decades. Until the part is replaced, the car won't start ... and/or run. And the only diaphragm available is a "fair-to-good" used part from an obscure junkyard in the middle of Nebraska. The proprietor doesn't take credit cards and won't mail it "until yer check clears, city boy."
Speaking of the Shuttle, how can a piece of foam 'gouge' a ceramic tile? All the foam I've ever encountered bends, smooshes, disintegrates or crushes on impact. And ceramic isn't ductile enough to gouge ... it chips or cracks. The diagnosis makes no sense.
I'm starting to think that NASA is staffed by former service writers from car dealerships.
Rudy On Palestine: Rudy Giuliani has written, "The Palestinian people need decent governance first, as a prerequisite for statehood. Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians - negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism."
"Palestinian statehood will have to be earned through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel."
I cringe whenever I think of the time we've wasted trying to be a broker for a Middle East peace. The Palestinians have broken every agreement anyone has ever made. So ... screw 'em. Support Israel and let Palestine fend for itself.
And if America ever decides to 'broker' peace again - anywhere, let's use an experienced-hardened, 50 year-old, semi-anorexic, hatchet-faced, Lexus-driving, blonde realtor from Coldwell Banker. You know the kind. She'll close the damn deal - quick. And scare those freakin' A-rabs half to death.
Rudy will know just where to find her. He probably used to date her.
Kinda Like A Smackdown Between Two Competing Proctologists: 'ABC's '20/20' is doing an investigative report on NBC's 'Dateline''.
Advice Of The Day is from P. J. O'Rourke: "Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it."
Friday August 17, 2007
Where In The World ... was Joe Sherlock? For those two readers who were actually wondering, I can now reveal that my wife and I spent a good part of last week attending the 2007 Western National Meet of the Lincoln & Continental Owners Club along with 140 other car enthusiasts. A selection of Lincoln photos from the meet can be found here.
On Thursday, we visited the LeMay Collection (near Tacoma, WA), listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest privately owned vehicle collection in the world. Over a lifetime, Harold LeMay amassed in excess of 3,000 vehicles - automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, buses and related memorabilia. The collection represents the American experience with the automobile as it spans the 20th century and features virtually every American make as well as numerous foreign cars. Most of the cars shown are in at least 'museum-quality' condition and contained many eclectic vehicles, including a made-in-England 1952 Wolseley police car, a fully-restored '48 Tucker, a 1960 Lloyd, a huge Duesenberg, hundreds of Lincolns, Packards and Cadillacs and much more. There are over 500 vehicles on exhibit; the rest are in storage.
Nancy LeMay (whom we met during our visit) once described her home as a "typical five bedroom home with a 300 car garage." Some vehicle photos from our museum visit can be found here.
On Friday, we took a cruise on the Virginia V, the last of the famed Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet. The Virginia V can comfortably accommodate up to 150 passengers. A tasty catered lunch was served aboard as we sailed Lakes Union and Washington. We even saw Bill Gates' lakefront home. The V's exposed 100+ year-old steam engine was 'open for inspection' and the ship's interior has been fully restored, with glowing wooden decks and sparkling white paint.
On Saturday, over 70 gleaming Lincolns were on the field under bright blue skies. There were several cars from the '30s and early '40s, including a spectacular black 1932 Lincoln KB LeBaron convertible. And an unusual custom 1941 Zephyr-based Town Car with body by Brunn. There were five Continental Mark IIs, a couple of Lehmann Peterson limos as well as a 1986 hearse.
My wife's old 1996 Lincoln Continental was also on the field. Its new owner had repaired and detailed it, making it look like brand new. It scored a major trophy at the meet.
It is also for sale, so - if you're interested - contact me and I'll forward your e-mail to the current owner.
My favorite car was a 1952 Lincoln Cosmopolitan hardtop coupe cream over red with Kelsey Hayes wire wheels with custom center emblems incorporating the period Lincoln shield on a red surround which matched the red of the Cosmo's body. It was driven to the Meet from eastern British Columbia. Awesome! I also liked a metallic green '51 Lido coupe with a white Naugahyde top. While the majority of the vehicles were from Oregon or Washington, nineteen of the cars traveled from California; one was from Nevada.
On Sunday, we drove to nearby Bellevue, WA and visited Craig Watjen's Lincolnshire Museum, a private collection of impressive 1940's-era Lincolns, a Continental Mark II, several Model A Fords as well as other vehicles.
The cars, people and weather were all great and I can safely say that a good time was had by all.
Vision Impaired: At the Saturday night awards banquet, the featured speaker was Tom Grill, Lincoln brand manager. We were shown a PowerPoint presentation about Lincoln's future. Words like Vision, Heritage and DNA were tossed about like small boats in the wake of Bill Ford's speeding yacht.
During the presentation, much was made of choosing future design cues from classic Lincolns of yore, including the split grille from the original Continental, bits from the Mark II and the '61-'65 slabsides. The Mark III was also mentioned as a source for a strong "shoulder line" and distinctive thick C-pillar. But then, the premise went off the rails - a slide of a '71 Lincoln sedan was shown, presenting it as a 'classic'. This unfortunate vehicle looks like the bastard child of a large Mercury and a Soviet command car. Yuck.
Knowing that such dog-n-pony shows are supposed to be upbeat and positive, I have no idea why the speaker then chose to name several models that will not contribute to Lincoln's future DNA because they are not deemed to be "authentic" Lincolns. This was painful, since many audience members own or have owned the very models mentioned. The implication was "your car is a loser." For example, the Lincoln Mark VII was dismissed because it was based on the Thunderbird platform. Whoever put together the presentation failed to realize that the 'classic' Lincoln Mark III was also T-Bird-derived. As was every Mark thereafter - IV through VIII.
Mr. Grill also informed us that the Lincoln Mark VIII was not authentic "because it was based on the Ford Probe platform." Who knew?! Jeez, doesn't anyone in Ford management have any product knowledge? Especially someone with the title of 'brand manager.' Maybe this helps explain how, in ten years, the Lincoln brand image has been decimated.
The presentation concluded with a "secret" (most if not all of the information had previously been posted online) teaser preview of the '09 flagship Lincoln MKS sedan to be introduced at the LA Show later this year. It will go on sale in May '08. (This car is rumored to be a front-wheel-drive V-6; AWD may be optional.) I was unimpressed; to me, the thing looked like a pimped-out Lexus GS with Hyundai taillights. So much for Vision, Heritage and DNA.
Grill took no questions and left shortly after his talk concluded.
Geezer Joke: An elderly gentleman developed serious hearing problems. He went to a doctor who fitted him with a set of hearing aids. At the follow-up appointment, the doctor remarked, "Your hearing is now perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again." The man replied, "Oh, I haven't told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I've already changed my will three times!"
Definition Of The Week ... is for 'economist': Someone who, when he sees something that works in practice, wonders whether it will work in theory.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Will those who are dismantling this society from within or those who seek to destroy us from without be the first to achieve their goal? It is too close to call."
Thursday August 16, 2007
Thirty Years Ago ... Elvis died. I was in Chicago on a business trip. It was sunny and hot. I had finished a meeting and was driving east on I-90 in a rented Buick Century headed toward South Bend, when I heard the news on the radio. I don't know why I remember these details but I was wearing a gray, three-piece suit with a button-down shirt and maroon club tie.
That night, I watched the 11:00 pm news in a depressingly dark motel room and saw a old b&w clip of a young Elvis performing 'Ready Teddy' on The Ed Sullivan Show. I had seen that very show when it originally aired. It was one of Elvis' finest live television performances. Ed Sullivan was in the hospital after a car accident in his big '56 Lincoln Premiere sedan. Substitute host Charles Laughton introduced Elvis; he performed from a remote hookup in Hollywood where he was making 'Love Me Tender'.
In 1956, Elvis Presley was an awesome talent. I have more thoughts on Elvis here.
On a related note ...
"Don't Leave Me Now": Americans for Cloning Elvis have been running an internet petition to get cells from Presley's corpse so that "future generations may witness his presence."
In the words of 'Return To Sender': " ... No such number ... No such clone."
Q&A: Bill Plante of CBS (to George Bush), "If Rove is so smart, how come you lost Congress?" Rush Limbaugh (to Bill Plante), "If you're so smart, how come Katie Couric is doing the CBS Evening News?"
Geezer Joke: An elderly couple had dinner at another couple's house and, after eating, the wives left the table and went into the kitchen. The two men were talking, and one said, "Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great. I would recommend it very highly."
The other old guy said, "What's the name of the restaurant?" The first man thought and thought and finally said, "What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love? You know ... The one that's red and has thorns." "Do you mean a rose?" "Yes, that's the one," he replied.
He then turned towards the kitchen and yelled, "Rose, what's the name of that restaurant we went to last night?"
Thought For Today: He who laughs last, thinks slowest.
Wednesday August 15, 2007
"A Veritable Chalice Of Wretchedness": Dan Neil wonders if Chrysler's new chairman Robert Nardelli, a cost-cutting slash-n-burn type, knows a good car from a bad one. Dan writes with a slash-n-burn style of his own, "I can help. I recommend he go down to the motor pool and check out the keys to a 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible, preferably the Limited model with the retractable hardtop. See, Bob, that's a bad one."
"Not just bad, but a veritable chalice of wretchedness, a rattling, thumping, lolling tragedy of a car, a summary indictment of Chrysler's recent management and its self-eradicating product planning, all cast in plastic worthy of a Chinese water pistol. The Sebring drop top does something I thought impossible: It makes me long for the exquisite craftsmanship of the Pontiac flipping G6."
He adds, "What really bugs me is the harsh, juddering reverberations coming up through the chassis from the suspension. Good lord. What, were they out of bushings that day?"
Don't Bother Me; I'm Helping The Planet: Walking does more than driving to cause global warming, a leading environmentalist has calculated. Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. "The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes."
The calculations were done by Chris Goodall, author of 'How to Live a Low-Carbon Life' and a Green Party parliamentary candidate in Great Britain. Catching a diesel train is now twice as polluting as traveling by car for an average family, the Brit Rail Safety and Standards Board admitted recently. Paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic because of the extra energy needed to manufacture and transport them, the British Government says.
Stay home. Do nothing. Save the Earth.
Error Message: Al Gore has previously proclaimed that nine of the ten warmest years in history have occurred since 1995. And made a movie - and a career - out of it.
But a change in climate history data at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies recently occurred which dramatically alters the debate over global warming. Apparently the whole thing was a computer error - a Y2K kinda error. Hmmmm. I thought Clinton/Gore spent all our tax money to fix that particular weak strut in our Bridge to Tomorrow. Remember?
Anyhow, NASA now says that four of the top ten warmest years in American history occurred in the 1930s, with the warmest now in 1934 instead of the much-publicized 1998.
This is all very logical, since there was a lot of warm air generated by the horn sections of those '30s big bands. All that wind is how the Great Dust Bowl was created ... in case you didn't know. Damn you, Benny Goodman.
Once the new data become widely disseminated, Al Gore will probably vanish. People will theorize that he was eaten by a chilly and overjoyous polar bear. Or the ghost of Glenn Miller.
And Furthermore ... here's a headline from the 1922 edition of the Washington Post (11/2/22): 'Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt'. Excerpt: "... great masses of ice have now been replaced by moraines of earth and stones ... at many points well-known glaciers have entirely disappeared."
Must have been caused by the body heat of all those flappers doin' the Charleston.
Book Report: 'America: The Last Best Hope (Volume II): From a World at War to the Triumph of Freedom' by William J. Bennett
In my August 3rd posting, I reviewed Volume I of Bill Bennett's book and gave it high marks, declaring it "a readable, down-to-earth overview of American history." Volume II is more of the same, covering the period from the outbreak of World War I through the end of the Reagan presidency.
This volume was, for me, an easier read than the first one. It, too, is not a textbook but rather an overview. The materials were well-presented, extensively documented and, despite Dr. Bennett's conservative leanings, quite objective in my view. Bennett's verbal rendering of Richard Nixon is just as ugly as that of Jimmy Carter. FDR is neither demonized nor sainted. Truman, Eisenhower and Hoover come off as three-dimensional, not the flat renderings I've encountered elsewhere.
It was a pleasure to read American history written by someone who has great affection for his country. I highly recommend both volumes. (permalink)
Headline Of The Month ... is from The Onion: 'Heroic Man Rushes Into Movie Theater, Saves Four Seats'. "Mike sacrificed his own place in line at the snack counter to save these seats for me, Diane, Shelly from work, and Diane's boyfriend," said friend Colin Edward, who was in the men's room at the time. "We shall not soon forget his deeds this day."
... and the runner-up: 'Pier 1 Issues Formal Apology For Rattan Death March'.
Quote Of The Day is from Homer Simpson: "Public transportation is for jerks and lesbians." And ... here's a bonus Homerism: "Getting out of jury duty is easy. The trick is to say you're prejudiced against all races."
Monday August 6, 2007
What Price Luxury? In 1956, the ultra-exclusive Continental Mark II was introduced. It carried a price tag of $10,000 - almost as much as a Rolls Royce. Using the inflation calculator, that translates to $72,000 in today's dollars.
Such a sum won't even buy you a decent 7-Series or S-Class Mercedes these days. And Roller prices begin well north of $300,000.
The Simpsons: Saw the movie on Sunday. Three words: Spec. Freakin'. Tacular. This film is a potential health hazard because you're exposed to 87 minutes of Simpsons humor compared to the usual 19 or so.
Early in the flick, Homer asks, as he watches what seems to be the 'Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie (Part Deux)', "Why would you pay for something you can see for free on TV?" This indicates that the joke is on us. We have become the punch line and, therefore, honorary Simpsons.
Of course. The Simpsons are funny because they're just like real life. Pretty much.
The plot is simple: Homer thoughtlessly causes an eco-disaster. In an effort to shield the rest of the world from the hazards of Springfield, the EPA encases the town in an impenetrable transparent dome. The trapped citizens turn on Homer and, suddenly, the Simpsons are on the run. There is, as usual, a myriad of subplots and gags.
Many cartoon aficinados/critics have commented on a perceived slide in The Simpsons. (Perhaps we should refer to this group as The Illustrati. Or Comic Book Guy.) They claim that, after 400+ episodes, the quality has substantially declined. I agree that the earlier episodes are generally the best but would point out that the rate of decay between the first episode and number 403 is far less that, say, between Godfather I and III. So there. (If you don't believe me, plot it out on some onion-skin Dietzgen Graph Paper. You'll see.) Familiarity breeds ... well ... familiarity. In any Godfather movie, the appearance of oranges means trouble is a-brewin'. In any Simpsons episode, the appearance of a torch-carrying mob means the same thing.
My biggest disappointment: President Schwarzenegger was voiced by Harry Shearer rather than Ahnuld his-own-self. But I was comforted by the fact that most of the usual cast were on hand, including Chief Wiggum, Groundskeeper Willy, Bartender Moe Szyslak, Professor Frink, Reverend Lovejoy, Nelson Muntz, Fat Tony and Montgomery Burns.
There is even a Flanders Moment: thinking that the End Is Near, Ned instructs Rod and Todd, "When you meet Jesus, be sure to call him Mr. Christ." And there's a wonderful Disney sendup in a scene where cutsie animals help set the stage for a love scene between Homer and Marge. Bart also rips Disney good again while riding on a train. You'll see.
True to form, Lisa Simpson hosts a town hall meeting titled 'An Irritating Truth' to present "facts" about pollution. And Itchy and Hillary Clinton turn out to be a political match made in heaven. Who knew?
Toward the end of the film, chubby teacher's pet Martin Prince finally extracts his revenge on bullies. And a well-known bit character dies.
I laughed throughout the movie. Why? Well, as Homer Simpson likes to say: "Hee-hee. It's funny 'cause it's true." The joke is on us. Indeed.
(Here's a tip: Stick around to the very end of the credits for a surprise.)
For hard-core devotees, I've listed my Top Simpsons picks here.
Good News ... on the jobs front from Larry Kudlow: "... we got a Goldilocks jobs increase of 92,000 ... private payrolls increased 120,000, while the government lost 28,000 jobs. That can't be all that bad."
Book Report: 'Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life and Times of Doc Pomus' by Alex Halberstadt
Jerome Felder was a white Jewish guy with polio who, in the '40s, changed his name to Doc Pomus and became a renowned blues singer in NY's black club scene. In the 1950-60s he gained more fame as prolific, chart-topping songwriter. How unlikely is that?
But it really happened. Doc wrote or co-wrote: 'Teenager in Love', 'Save The Last Dance For Me', 'Hushabye', 'This Magic Moment', 'Turn Me Loose', 'Sweets For My Sweet', 'Can't Get Used To Losing You', 'Little Sister', 'Suspicion', 'Surrender', 'Viva Las Vegas', 'His Latest Flame (Marie's The Name)' and 'Mess of Blues'. He wrote songs for Elvis, Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Dion and the Belmonts, Bobby Rydell and many, many others. Pomus was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a year after his death in 1991. Doc also had quite a fondness for pretty blond ladies.
The bio presents a talented, multifaceted man who overcame tremendous adversity to achieve musical greatness. Doc got his lyrical inspirations from street level conversations, eavesdropping on people in hotel lobbies to capture "the random brilliance of overheard speech." But Pomus was troubled and often suffered melancholy as his life and career went through numerous ups and downs.
If you're of a certain age, this book will bring back a lot of musical memories and the backstories behind them. It is a good companion book to 'Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era' by Ken Emerson. I wrote about that one last year.
Overall, it's a good book, although - true to its subject - it is sometimes dark and moody. (permalink)
We Need Another Winnie ... Now. Here's an excerpt from Bill Bennett's 'America: The Last Best Hope (Volume II)', which I'm now reading: "... in his understanding of the mind of Hitler, it was Churchill who was right and the sophisticates who were wrong. Churchill knew that no negotiation was possible with such a warped and hateful man. He knew the kind of war Hitler was determined to wage - a total war."
Winston Churchill went before the House of Commons to proclaim the common goal: "Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."
This reminds me of the enemy we face today ... an opponent who wants total war with no survival for the vanquished.
Radical Islam is the new Hitler.
Bad Beginnings: A Wisconsin man has won the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest - the one that salutes bad writing. The contest takes its name from Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel 'Paul Clifford' famously begins: "It was a dark and stormy night." Entrants are asked to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.
Here's what I may submit next year: "She said she was from Wyoming and, while she didn't have much of an ass, I just couldn't keep my eyes off her Grand Tetons."
Thankfully, I'm Older Than Average: "The average Golden Gate Bridge jumper is a 41.7-year-old white guy. A study of jumpers from the past decade reports the youngest was a 14-year-old girl and the oldest an 84-year-old man. Men outnumbered women almost 3 to 1. Although jumpers came from all races, 83% were white."
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "A golf course is simply a pool room moved outdoors."
Friday August 3, 2007
Spinning Prose: The headline on Ford's PR site reads 'Ford Crossovers Continue To Shine In July, Overall Sales Decline'. Decline?! What an understatement; FoMoCo's overall sales tanked by more than 19% in July. Ford Fusion sales were off by 31%, Mercury Milan dropped 36% and Lincoln MKZ dipped 12%. It's important to remember that these cars, introduced only last year, were supposed to stop Honda and Toyota in their tracks and 'save' FoMoCo.
Sales of the NewTaurus/Old500 declined 22%. Mustang sales were also down 22%. The 'Stang data confirms my July 30th observation: "There seem to be no more current-gen Mustangs on the road than a year ago. That tells me that sales have stalled around here."
Sales of the ancient Mercury Grand Marquis are off a whopping 63%. There's a silver lining here, though. Now you won't have to worry about tripping over all those walkers and Rascals in your local L-M showroom.
Jaguar has four distinct models off four separate platforms. Total Jag sales for July were a dismal 1,136. At that rate, the factory might as well just screw one together whenever someone mails in an order. Land Rover sales continue to ascend; LR now outsells Jaguar almost 4 to 1.
Sure, Ford's selling some Edge crossovers. But it looks to me like a lot of these sales are at the expense of Explorer and Freestyle/Taurus X sales. Both of those models are tanking, which pretty much dulls the 'shine' of the new crossovers.
Who writes Ford's PR headlines anyway? Neville Chamberlain?
One-Word Brand Identity: Jeremy Clarkson writes that "advertising men will tell you that when it comes to cars they need to attach a single word to the brand. So if you want a 'safe' car you buy a Volvo. If you want a 'reliable' car, you buy a Volkswagen. And if you have a small 'penis' you buy a BMW."
Falling Down: Those images of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis were horrific. For years, I've had a recurring nightmare where I'm driving across a bridge and suddenly the decking isn't there anymore. For those unfortunate souls who were on that Minnesota Interstate, the nightmare was very real.
I'm a mechanical engineer rather than a civil engineer, but it is difficult to understand how a single failed strut or column could bring an entire bridge to the ground. Expansion joint pins are designed to be the weakest link in a bridge and, in a typical bridge collapse (if there is such a thing), only one slab will drop after breaking away at the expansion joints, saving the rest of the bridge deck. That's clearly not what happened here; the failure was complete and catastrophic. I'll be interested to learn what the investigation reveals. Did the word "terrorism" come to my mind? Yes. But, in the absence of proof ...
Not surprisingly, the deplorable Daily Kossaks are blaming Bush. Jerks.
Book Report: 'America: The Last Best Hope (Volume I): From the Age of Discovery to a World at War' by William J. Bennett
I've never liked history textbooks; even in my day, they were dry, dumbed-down and controversy-filtered in order to increase salability to various school districts. Today, such textbooks are - additionally - vetted by the PC police, making sure that Indians are portrayed as nature-loving, Chock-Full-O-Native-Wisdom saints, slavery is presented as The American White Man's Evil Invention and the Founders' references to God are removed. Or changed to Gaia.
In contrast, Dr. Bennett has produced a readable, down-to-earth overview of American history. Filled with interesting facts and tidbits, it presents an unvarnished but positive view about America and her values. He says that his book provides a "conviction about American greatness and purpose" in readers. Bennett believes that current offerings do not "give Americans an opportunity to enjoy the story of their country, to take pleasure and pride in what we have done and become."
Volume I begins in 1488 ends at the dawn of World War I. It is impossible to provide a multifaceted view of 400+ years of history in history in less than 600 pages but, hopefully, Bennett's enjoyable book will inspire the reader to check out other takes on American history. I'd suggest 'Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America's Rise to Economic Dominance' by Thomas Kessner and 'An Empire Of Wealth - the Epic History of American Economic Power' by John Steele Gordon.
In any case, it was a pleasure to read American history written by someone who obviously loves this country. I'm looking forward to reading Bennett's next installment - Volume II - which I just received for my birthday. (permalink)
Tit For Tat: Lisa Schiffren wrote some flat-out chesty commentary about the presidential campaign: "Hillary was wearing a fairly low cut summer top. She was not displaying cleavage, as the shot on Drudge indicates. Someone else wearing the same outfit might have done. But Hillary Clinton does not have cleavage to display. Period. Indeed, Hillary never forgave her mother-in-law, Virginia Kelly for pointing this out decades ago to the young Bill Clinton, a cleavage man if ever there was one."
On a somewhat related note, Monica Lewinsky turned 34 last month. Oh Lordy, how time flies. It seems like only yesterday she was crawling around on her knees and putting everything in her mouth. My, they do grow up so fast!
Loser Alert: Walter F. Mondale has penned his own horn-tooting article in the Minneapolis (Red) Star Tribune. He's unhappy with Dick Cheney. He writes, "Since the Carter administration left office, we have been criticized for many things. Yet I remain enormously proud of what we did in those four years, especially that we told the truth, obeyed the law and kept the peace."
HA! In my opinion, the best thing Mondale ever did was appear on The Simpsons as a congressional janitor. I've lived through 11 presidencies in my life (so far) and Carter was by far the most incompetent of them.
A Priceless Paragraph ... from Ann Coulter: "CNN commentators keep telling us how young and hip the audience was for last week's YouTube Democratic debate, apparently unaware that the camera occasionally panned across the audience, which was the same oddball collection of teachers' union shills and welfare recipients you see at all Democratic gatherings. Noticeably, Gov. Bill Richardson got the first "woo" of the debate - the mating call of rotund liberal women - for demanding a federal mandate that would guarantee public schoolteachers a minimum salary of $40,000."
The entire article is worth a read.
Bucky, We Hardly Knew Ye: Timbuktu Big Block Red is no longer available from World Market, the exclusive distributor of this very good Australian wine. Damn. I'll just have to start drinking something else.
On A Related Note ... for dinner, I had a Béarnaise burger with French fries and part of a bottle of rosé wine - a 2005 little French number called La Vuelle Ferme Côtes du Ventoux. It is a dry rosé from the Mt. Ventoux region on the Rhône Valley. I recommend it, if you can find it. I am a big fan of chilled rosé and was saddened when it went into exile in the late '80s along with yellow ties, tassled loafers and chrome plating on cars.
I must point out that rosé has never gone out of style in France; it has been proudly served by cafés and fine restaurants for at least 33 years. Probably many more than that but I hadn't visited France before then. Unlike trend-conscious America, which tried to pass off execrable White Zinfandel (a blend of vinegary Chardonnay and packets of expired red Kool-Aid) and "blush" (a mix of severely-depressed Gewürztraminer, Prozac and Rit Dye #7) as substitutes.
This wonderful meal was reminiscent of many that I had at The Hippopotamus on Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco. This charming eatery specialized in burgers and introduced me to the delights of the Béarnaise burger, which I used to have with a side of fries and a carafe of Hippo's house rosé. (There's something especially decadent about pouring a little Béarnaise sauce over your French fries.) Located in a somewhat seedy, proto-Asian strip mall, The Hippopotamus was a wonderful place with hippo decor everywhere including toilet seats painted to resemble a hippopotamus' head. With big fat teeth, too. My kids still talk about the time we went there in 1982.
Like so many cool and memorable restaurants, The Hippopotamus is gone. Joining The Velvet Turtle (West Coast), Gaetano's (Philadelphia), Paesano's (Vancouver, WA), The Night Deposit, The Mill Pond, The Bayou and Papagayo (all late of Corvallis, OR), the Grand Coach Grill (Maple Shade, NJ), Avanti (NYC), Tony's Junior Villa (Newton, MA), The Egg & I (Detroit), Green Ridge Turkey Farm (Nashua, NH) and so many more.
Quote Of The Day is from Calvin Trillin: "The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found." (hat tip - Dustbury)
Wednesday August 1, 2007
He's Making A List: I'm starting to develop a preliminary roster of possible Jaguar replacements. It is an eclectic group. I like the looks of the Cadillac XLR two-seater and the new Corvette coupe. Earlier this week, I sat in both. Planting myself behind the wheel of a car for five minutes or so gives me a pretty good idea of whether I can live with the interior (looks, seating position, comfort, ability to enter/exit, etc.). I won't bother with a test drive unless the vehicle first passes this test. Neither car passed. ... (more>>>)
Just As I Always Suspected: NASCAR has admitted that the new anonymous and amorphous 'Car Of Tomorrow' racing chassis was based on a Hyundai design, the plans of which were stolen from Hyundai's North American Design center.
Book Report: 'The Men Who Loved Trains: The Story of Men Who Battled Greed to Save an Ailing Industry' by Rush Loving
This work covers 50 years of behind-the-scenes railroad corporate intrigue and boardroom battles - all in less than 350 pages. I became interested in this book when the author appeared on C-Span last year at the B&O Museum. I added it to my suggested gift list and received a copy for Father's Day.
Loving, a former associate editor at Fortune and a serious train buff, describes the complex governmental, boardroom and personal battles behind the tangled spiderweb that was once the Eastern U.S. railroad business. From the desperate Penn-Central merger through the collapse of railroading during the Nixon-Ford-Carter years to the ultimate carving up of the Conrail freight entity by CSX and Norfolk Southern, the book reveals the villains, heroes, buffoons and manipulators.
What should have been a dry business book was, to me, a tale full of intrigue and suspense which also managed to convey many business lessons. I recommend it. (permalink)
Has Departed From The Station: Talk show host Tom Snyder, whose smoke-filled interviews were a staple of late night television, has died after a struggle with leukemia. He was 71.
I used to watch Tom when he read the news on KYW-TV in Philadelphia in the 1960s. He was funny and irreverent - something previously unseen in local news anchors of the period. Tom was also a train enthusiast and had quite a collection of standard gauge Lionel trains. He also made a couple of videos about Lionel.
Tom used to host 'The Tomorrow Show'; his catch phrase for the show was: "Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air."
He gained more fame when Dan Ackroyd lampooned him in the early days of Saturday Night Live. Rest In Peace, Tom.
Apt Description: Jeremy Clarkson says that the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao "looks like an aircraft carrier that has crashed into a city."
Ancient Raúl: Fidel Castro's brother was on television recently; I hadn't seen him in years. He was giving a speech while wearing an olive drab baseball cap with gold military decorations. With the hat, he looked like every 85 year-old Hispanic nursing home geezer I've ever seen. And he's only 70 - so much for Cuban health care.
Just imagine ... if Che Guevara were still alive, he'd look even worse.
What God's Drinkin': For Tuesday's dinner, my wife made cheese tortellini with meatballs and we shared a bottle of Red Diamond Merlot (2002) from Paterson, Washington. It was verrrrrry smooth - I'm talkin' four micron surface finish here. I highly recommend it.
If The Lord was drinking wine tonight, I bet he was imbibing this.
Who Knew? Judge Judy makes twice as much money per year as Katie Couric. Simon Cowell makes as much as both of them combined.
Quote Of The Day is from the lyricist for 'Over the Rainbow', E.Y. 'Yip' Harburg: "I gave up my dreams of business to go into the business of dreams."