Thursday April 28, 2011
1958 Firebird III - Inspired By Jets: The 1950s were a time of invention. Considering all of the game-changing new products developed for the Second World War, the possibilities seemed limitless. General Motors had been researching the feasibility of gas turbine engines in cars since the 1930s. In the early 1950s, the company began building an actual engine.
By 1953, the research team had produced the Firebird I, which looked like a jet aircraft with wheels. It was the first gas turbine-powered car tested in the U.S. The Firebird II, introduced in 1956, was a more practical design - a four-seat, family car. It also had a gas-turbine powerplant producing a respectable 200 hp.
The third design, the Firebird III, was ... (more >>>)
Troubled Birth: In 1974, I applied for my first passport. I needed my birth certificate. My mom said that she had it and gave it to me. I took it to the passport office and was told that this official-looking document was a mere "souvenir" from the hospital. I had to contact the state to get an "official" copy. Only then could I get my passport.
I used that same official copy when I applied for Social Security. My SS card, which I had kept tucked safely away all these years, wasn't good enough. So, I - like others - have been puzzled by the President's continued intransigence over the release of his birth certificate, an obviously important document.
William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection had written, "The conventional wisdom is that Donald Trump is doing damage to Republicans by raising the birth certificate issue. I think it's way too early to tell, but it is just as likely that Trump is doing major damage to Obama."
He added that "polling indicates that increasing percentages of Americans - including substantial percentages of independents - do not believe Obama was born in the U.S. or are unsure.
Worse than that, the release or not of the original birth certificate now has become a test of wills The dispute has morphed from "where was he born" to "why doesn't he just release the damn thing, we have to do it."
It has become a metaphor for the overall image of Obama as viewing himself as above the rest of us, as reflected in his now-famous line about people in small towns clinging to their guns and religion."
On Wednesday morning, the White House finally released an image of the putative birth certificate. Obama remarked sullenly, "We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We've got better stuff to do." Then, after unsuccessfully looking for his five-iron for an upcoming golf game, he flew off to Chicago with wife Michelle to do an Oprah interview. Afterwards, he jetted off to New York City for still another campaign fundraiser. You can't make this stuff up, folks.
A post by ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Frank J. Fleming: "Won't be satisfied with any outcome to the budget mess that doesn't involve most elected officials living on the streets begging for change."
Wednesday April 27, 2011
Makin' Money: FoMoCo, the second-largest U.S. automaker, reported that first-quarter profit rose 22% to the most for the period since 1998 as it "won higher prices for fuel-efficient new models."
Ford earned $2.6 billion on global sales of $33.1 billion. Sales increased by $5 billion for the quarter. This large increase in sales was the biggest driver for the overall profit, as the automaker moved 1.4 million units in Q1 2011, up 16% versus Q1 2010.
Unlike GM's Opel/Vauxhall, Ford is actually making a profit in Europe as well. Ford managed to pay down its debt by $2.5 billion during Q1 while also increasing liquidity. Ford eliminated $1 billion in annual interest costs in 2010.
All of this was accomplished without government bailouts.
Good for you, Ford. Now take some of that money and go fix Lincoln.
A Special Mom: Singer Phoebe Snow died this week at the age of 60 from the effects of a stroke which she suffered in early 2010.
I was never a fan. I thought 'Poetry Man' was a stupid song and didn't care for Phoebe's warbling delivery. However, she was a great mother and her kindness should stand as an example to us all.
Not long after 'Poetry Man' reached the Top 5 on the pop singles chart in 1975, her daughter, Valerie Rose, was born with severe brain damage. Snow put her music career on hold for many years to care for her daughter at home rather than place her in an institution. Valerie, who had been born with hydrocephalus, was not expected to live more than a few years. She died in 2007 at age 31.
Rest in peace, Phoebe and Valerie Rose. (permalink)
Question of the Day: If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown, too?
Tuesday April 26, 2011
Leaf It By The Side Of The Road: Consumer Reports tester Jon Linkov piloted a Nissan Leaf, the little all-electric car named 2011 World Car of the Year at the New York Auto Show, and got a surprise.
"After driving the 1.2 miles to daycare, the indicated range had plummeted from 31 down to 22 miles. Nine miles of range dropped in just 1.2 miles of actual driving! ... About 17 miles from startup, the potential range indicator had become three blinking dashes. I realized I was not going to make it to work, and decided to get off the highway. As I exited the Leaf entered "Turtle" mode, complete with a small, green turtle indicator light. I proceeded to limp the next 1.3 miles into town. The final humiliation came when a highway department mower passed me.
I pulled in to a local business' parking area and made the call: I need to be towed in to work. Since leaving home I had eked out just 21 miles, and the Leaf couldn't even propel itself onto the trailer my auto-test colleagues brought over. The four of us stood in the rain and pushed it aboard."
When a gas-powered vehicle runs dry, you can always walk to a gas station and get a can full. Or call AAA and they'll bring you some fuel. But when an electric car runs out of juice, you're truly screwed.
What The World Needs Now ... is the device advertised in the October 1957 issue of Road & Track:
In this era of four buck per gallon gas, we could all use one. Do they make these for other cars too? How about Lexus? Or Toyota?
Grow Up: James Lileks has offered advice about excessive reminiscing and nostalgia, "Childhood belongs in a storage locker you can visit when you please, not a backpack you carry around every day."
Tony Soprano once said, "Remember When is the lowest form of conversation."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "If polygamists were not allowed to redefine marriage to suit themselves, why should homosexuals be allowed to?"
Friday April 22, 2011
Today Is Earth Day: It's also known by its nickname 'Kwanzaa for White Liberals'.
Remember what the late George Carlin said about this Bullshit Made-Up Holiday, "The planet will be here for a long, long, long time after we're gone, and it will heal itself; it will cleanse itself, because that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover; the earth will be renewed and, if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the Earth plus plastic!
The Earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the Earth. The Earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old philosophical question, "Why are we here?" "Plastic!""
Screw you, Gaia.
Burnin' Ozone: If you own an old, fuel-sucking, carbon-spewing vehicle, today would be a good time to fire it up and drive around, depleting some of the ozone layer.
It was sunny today, so I took my pollutin' Plymouth out for a spin. Time to teach the Earth who's boss.
If you need a little moral support, go visit Iowahawk's 2011 Earth Week Cruise-In.
Never Mind. On this Earth Day, I am fondly reminded of Gilda Radner's Emily Latella (on SNL) - who might have said: "What's all this I hear about 'greenhouse gas'? Can't people just hold it in until they go back outside?"
Where Are We? Comedian Lewis Black has also weighed in on this particular day: "We came up with Earth Day so we would have one day every year that would remind us what planet we were living on."
Quote Of The Day is from Ben Stein on 1950s advertising: "My own favorites are the ads for 1950s cars, which summon memories of an age when a car was a chariot for a god - unlike today, when a car is just a little metal box designed mostly to use less gasoline and not pollute and not look very different from any other car. (Okay, with a few magnificent exceptions and a few horrifying exceptions, like that weird specimen the SUV, which exists only to allow small people to feel big.)"
Thursday April 21, 2011
Rollin' Along: Luxury automaker Rolls-Royce Motor Cars should more than double sales in the second quarter, in large part because of its Ghost model, said David Archibald, president of Rolls-Royce in North America.
The "entry-level" Ghost - priced at $246,500 - helped Rolls-Royce hit a record in global sales of 2,711 in 2010, up 167% over the previous year.
The United States is still Rolls-Royce's biggest market, but China should overtake it "in the relative short-term future," Archibald said.
Continuing Education: I learn something new almost every day, it seems. A big thank you to James Lileks, who recently taught me that the International Harvester logo is also a stylized head-on view of a tractor.
Inflation Alert: General Motors Co. is raising car and truck prices by an average of $123 per vehicle to make up for its increased oil and metal costs. Ford and Toyota have already done so. This is not just an auto phenomenon. Prices are increasing just about everywhere.
As someone who suffered through the mega-inflation of the 1970s and early '80s, I'm worried. It feels like Nixon-Ford-Carter all over again, as the Consumer Price Index is clearly on the rise.
Scott Grannis has observed, "Over the past six months, the CPI has increased at a 4.7% annualized rate, well above its long-term average, and reminiscent of the heady inflation we experienced in the 2004-2007 period. Over the past three months, the CPI is up at a 6.1% annualized rate. It's thus quite likely that the year over year CPI figure will exceed its 30-yr average (3.1%) by a comfortable margin before this year is out."
He adds, "In the first quarter of this year, the raw CPI is up at a 8.1% annualized rate."
More Is Less: Clark County's February unemployment rate has been revised upward to 12.9% from a preliminary rate of 10.2%, according to the Washington Employment Security Department.
Meanwhile, the county's "initial" jobless rate for March was 10.5%, which will also turn out to be low. It also indicates that unemployment is rising. Things are getting worse, not better.
When reached for comment, President Obama said, "It's Bush's fault."
The Truth About Portraits: The previous photo of me that had been at the top of my bio page had been taken about nine years ago.
Since I didn't want to be accused of being Dorian Gray-ish or Nancy Pelosi-like (it's been rumored that she uses retouched high school yearbook photos in her political ads), I've replaced it with a brand-spanking new photo - taken yesterday - featuring the "new" old Joe Sherlock.
Stingy Doofus: Joe Biden and his wife contributed $5,350 to charity, including monetary and "in-kind" donations on $380,000 of income.
What a cheapskate.
Quote of the Day is from Mark Russell: "The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage."
Wednesday April 20, 2011
Wedge Sale: RM Auctions will offer several concept models developed by the Italian design and coach-building company Bertone. The sale is scheduled during the May 2011 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este show in Cernobbio, Italy.
The cars were part of the Bertone Museum collection. Many have the extreme wedge shapes, unusual use of glass and uncluttered interiors that characterize Bertone designs. Bertone has always been known for its wild cars, especially the BAT series of aerodynamic style studies from the 1950s.
Bertone styled the original 1955 Citroen DS 19, the sporty Fiat 1100 TV Spider, and the sleek Alfa Carabo showcar.
Lancia presented the Bertone-designed Stratos HF Zero prototype at the '70 Turin Motor Show. The car embodied the idea of extreme futurism with its wedge-shaped profile. The height was a mere 33 inches. The driver is in a semi-recumbent position. Conventional doors where not used; to enter, the driver had to flip up the single door/windshield on the front of the vehicle and step in. Kinda like a nearer-to-the-ground version of an Isetta.
The Stratos HF was powered by a 1.6 liter V4 engine, taken from the Lancia Fulvia HF. To access the mid-mounted engine, a triangular-shaped panel hinged upwards.
I saw the very wedgy 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero in person at the 1996 Concours Italiano in California. Mere photos cannot capture the car's insane, wedgy, low-slung awesomeness.
Another vehicle scheduled for auction is ... (more >>>)
Pulp Shrinkage: Last Sunday, my wife purchased a newspaper. The Sunday edition of the Columbian now costs $2.00. I was appalled at how much the classified - aka: Big Moneymaking Section - had shrunk ... (more >>>)
Tunnel Of Food: I always enjoy reading 'real' restaurant reviews, rather than the ones in the newspaper, where truth is often sacrificed in the interests of not offending a potential advertiser.
Blogger Dan Cirucci has penned a biting critique of Bar Boloud, a pricey New York eatery, designed - for some reason - to look like a tunnel.
Personally, I've never been a fan of tunnel dining, although I once ate some vending machine peanut butter crackers while on a bus going through the Holland Tunnel. But only because I was hungry.
Dan has written, "We were hastily ushered to a booth ... no one at the restaurant (not the hostess nor the manager nor the waiter nor any of the servers) ever introduced himself or herself to us.
The waiter neither bothered to say "hello" nor to identify himself. He got right down to business and wanted to know what we were ordering. Well, we wanted drinks first. And, we wanted to take our time. The martinis can be described in two words: skimpy and ordinary. The potato and spring garlic soup was thin and unremarkable. The steak portion of the steak frittes was dry and the fries were uninspired."
If your business takes you to NY's West Side, this is probably a place to avoid. I've posted some of my own restaurant reviews here.
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'Origami Bird Poached For Scrap Paper'.
Tuesday April 19, 2011
VW On Ice: The latest New Beetle, announced at the 2011 New York Auto Show, leaves me cold. It looks like the spawn of a Porsche and Audi TT.
I'm sure that it rides 'n' drives much better than the original and offers lots of amenities, including a heater that actually works ... which makes the whole 'leaves me cold' thing entirely metaphorical.
But I'm still a fan of the old, air-cooled Beetle.
I had a red 1963 sedan, which was my commuter car during my college years. Later, I bought a brand-new black 1967 Beetle, which we kept in our household for over 28 years, selling it to a collector in 1995.
The '67 was soon joined by my dad's hand-me-down black 1963 VW which was rechristened as the legendary - to my friends anyway - Underdog. In addition to the special colorful paint job of the cartoon character of the same name on the rear deck (done by yours truly), I installed an ooga horn on Underdog. I also put in a set of red seat belts.
This Volkswagen was used as my work car, commuting from rural New Jersey to downtown Philadelphia for over five years. (My wife used our 'good' '67 VW as her daily driver.)
Then I gave Underdog to my brother to take to college. It had over 100,000 miles on it by that point and spent the rest of its life braving the winters - and salted roads - of upstate New York.
I think he put another 40,000 miles or so on it before he traded it on a new '77 Honda Civic.
Air-cooled Volkswagens were were sturdy, dependable cars (for their time) but 1930s engineering only went so far, even if you assemble the car with great care and expertise. Like old Beetles, Honda Civics are low in cost, cheap to run and incredibly reliable.
Nevertheless, I remain a fan of the old, air-cooled V-dubs. (permalink)
Speaking Of ... the New York Auto Show, I've posted images from the 1966 version, held at the ol' New York Coliseum on Columbus Circle. I was there 45 years ago.
Bank Shot: In an recent article about Wal-Mart, it was mentioned that the company is still trying to get into the banking business - noting that the retailer "is still in the early stages of banking, hoping to ultimately create a branded bank, much to the vehement opposition of the U.S. banking industry. The company has been twice denied takeovers of banks, but it has expanded its financial services drastically and silently through partnerships with Discover, GE Consumer Finance, MoneyGram International and SunTrust Banks, which entitles its customers to discounted money transfers and check cashing services.
If the company ever becomes a bank, its footprint would be massive, with an instant 8,500 stores becoming bank branches worldwide.
The prospect of Wal-Mart becoming a bank that utilizes the same low margin but high volume approach to financial services horrifies many national banks, which would suffer the same fate as the small general stores Wal-Mart put out of business years ago when they cropped up all over the interstate highways."
This is great news. I have no sympathy for haughty, arrogant banks - the ones who put ATMs outside their doors so that you won't sully their lobby floor in rainy weather. Or spend all their time thinking of ways to convert credit cardholders to debit cards, in yet another attempt to screw-over their customers.
Such thinking by big banks is nothing new. I've observed such self-serving, anti-depositor behavior for over 50 years.
It will be fun to watch Wal-Mart send a wake up call to lumbering financial behemoths.
Contrary to the lies ... (more >>>)
Well, He Does Like To Win Awards. From Herbergere News: "If they gave out Olympic medals for fiscal irresponsibility, President Obama would take the gold, silver and bronze."
Quote Of The Day is from Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
Monday April 18, 2011
DeSoto Revival? I watched the Barrett-Jackson auction on Speed last weekend and was shocked at some of the prices paid.
The "top seller at that auction was a 1957 DeSoto Adventurer convertible, sold with no reserve at $247,500, including premium. ... This is the second B-J auction in a row with a DeSoto as the top collector car sale, after a 1956 Fireflite convertible brought $368,500 in Scottsdale."
I guess DeSotos are like land: they ain't makin' any more of either.
Ownership Change: Veteran Mercedes dealer, Don Rasmussen, opened his Portland Benz store in 1957. The Rasmussen family recently sold its operations to mega-dealer Lithia Motors. The deal included the Rasmussen Mercedes, BMW and Mini stores.
I've never bought from them but I've always heard good things about the Rasmussen organization.
Sunday Drive: It has been a generally cold and wet March and April, so I haven't been inclined to do much old car driving. But the weather began to improve over the weekend.
By Sunday afternoon, it was partly sunny and 52 degrees, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth and went for a spin along lightly-traveled rural roads.
Choo-Choo Park: Over the weekend, the City of Philadelphia renamed a city park in honor of a great industrialist and humanitarian. Matthias Baldwin Park is located on 19th Street, between Callowhill and Hamilton Sts. The ground occupied by the park was once part of the mighty Baldwin Locomotive Works.
In the 1830s, Baldwin transformed the farms around Broad and Spring Garden streets into an expansive ... (more >>>)
Black Myths Debunked: Economist Thomas Sowell was asked how to avoid poverty. He replied, "Finish high school and get married.
The poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits ever since 1994. You would never learn that from most of the media. Similarly you look at those blacks that have gone on to college or finished college, the incarceration rate is some tiny fraction of what it is among those blacks who have dropped out of high school.
So, it's not being black; it's a way of life. Unfortunately, the way of life is being celebrated not only in rap music, but among the intelligentsia, is a way of life that leads to a lot of very big problems for most people."
Question Of The Day: If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?
Friday April 15, 2011
Audi With Pince-Nez: The Lexus LF-Gh concept, which will debut at the New York Auto Show, doesn't make my heart go pitter-patter. (But then, I take heart pills to avoid such cardiac events.)
I find the front end design very odd and not attractive at all. It is both fierce-looking and weird. The company has described the front end as "aggressive," featuring a "bold spindle-shaped front grille."
If this is any indication of the brand's design future, I guess I'd better hang on to my LS-460.
Happy Birthday: I forgot to mention this last month but our Toyota Avalon Limited is now six years old ... (more >>>)
Smokin' Social Security: By the late 1950s, everybody knew smoking caused cancer; people used to jokingly refer to cigarettes as 'coffin nails'.
By the early 1970s, it was common knowledge that Social Security was going broke. People were told "start saving for your own retirement; don't count on Social Security."
Fast forward to today ... the cost of Social Security and other entitlement programs is breaking the back of the U.S.
Consider this: According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, benefits, such as Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance and health care, accounted for 16.2% of personal income in the first quarter of 2009 - the highest percentage since the government began compiling records in 1929.
In 1959, total government transfers were only 6.5%. This percentage began to rise as Lyndon Johnson's Great Society kicked in. After peaking in the mid-1970s, it stayed relatively flat percentage-wise until several years ago, when social spending soared to pay for the Medicare drug benefit, expanded health care for children and greater use of food stamps.
The Social Security and Health Insurance segment has grown most rapidly over the last few decades, In 1959, it was 2.5% of personal income. By April 2009 ... (more >>>)
Let's Do Something Awesome! Frank J. Fleming has written, "Remember how America used to do big cool things? Like defeat the Nazis, go to the moon, take on the Soviet Union. We don't have big plans like that anymore. We just kinda exist, used to our suckitude, and happy if there are a few more additions to the iPhone each year. We've just had such a blah attitude lately; we're just barely struggling to get by. It's time to break out of this funk and dream big."
I think America's decline started when we gave up on Vietnam and took vent windows out of cars. In my mind, these two things happened simultaneously. Both were symbols of our newfound need to value-engineer everything to death and to replace 'Doing The Right Thing' with 'Expedience & Compromise'. I call this phenomenon the Robert McNamara Effect. (Let's not forget that Bob's middle name was Strange. But, unlike other strange famous people, he did have a birth certificate.)
I have written more about the Decline of America's Greatness here. In the 1950s, we had the best automobiles, the coolest trains, the hottest music, the sleekest kitchen appliances, the finest concept cars, the fastest airplanes and the greatest hot rods and customs in the world. Those were the days!
Frank concluded, "That's what we have to do. Obama has his silly slogans, but we all know America's real slogan is 'Be Awesome'. It's time to remember we can do things no other country can - things no other country would even contemplate doing. Insane things. Things that will make everyone respect and fear us again. It's time someone stand up for that America - the awesome America - the Chuck Norris of countries America - and make us remember who we are. This dark period is temporary; our future still has robots and awesome explosion in it if we decide to make it so."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Insurance companies are in the business of reducing given risks and transferring them, for a price. Non-profit advocacy groups are in the business of maximizing fears from given risks, in order to attract the donations that keep them going. Yet because the latter's income is not called by the dreaded word 'profit,' they are considered to be doing something more noble."
Thursday April 14, 2011
Slip Slidin' Away: General Motors' retail (non-fleet) market share continues to decline. It has dropped from 20.7% in the first quarter of 2008, to 18.3% during the same period in '09, to 17.7% for the period in 2010 to 17.1% in the latest quarter of 2011.
The company's overall market share has slipped from 33% in 1993 to 17% today. Despite improved product offerings from The General (the Malibu we rented in February was head and shoulders above previous Chevy rental cars), many prospects have gone over to Ford, which - unlike GM and Chrysler - avoided bankruptcy and is perceived by consumers as a stronger, more stable company.
It's hard to believe that, 40 years ago, General Motors had almost 60% of the U.S. auto market.
Faster Than Speeding Bus: New York comedian Mark Malkoff rode a big wheel trike and beat a transit bus in a mile-long race in midtown Manhattan. He obeyed all traffic signals and averaged 4.7 mph. The bus averaged 3.8 mph - which, as Mark pointed out, is slower than a "brisk walker, a skate boarder, someone on a pogo stick or a snail riding on the back of a turtle."
Of course, the bus had to "make all the stops," as Seinfeld's Kramer once noted, while a pogo stick only had to make all the hops.
Speaking of Seinfeld, there are so many memorable - and lasting - one-liners and phrases from that show: "Master of Your Domain," "Sorry, the answer is Moops!", "Her laugh sounds like Elmer Fudd sitting on a juicer," "Poppie peed on my sofa," " ... shrinkage ...", "Pigman!!", "Have a Junior Mint - they're very refreshing.", "Jimmy doesn't like surprises.", " ... smells like The Beach," "Ya gotta see the baby!", "Hey! Show the baby the good parking space I got!", "The mail - it just keeps coming - it never stops." Ohhhh - I gotta stop.
Budget Bozo: Barack Obama's speech on the budget yesterday proved conclusively that the man is a liar and a fraud.
And boring. His remarks even put Joe Biden to sleep.
Mark Steyn wrote, "There's something sad about a man so carelessly revealing himself as entirely inadequate to the moment. Government spending is an existential threat to the United States. Whether or not anyone at the White House knows this, the viziers decided to shove the sultan out on stage with a pitifully unserious speech retreating to all his lamest tropes the usual whiny, petty and unpresidential partisan snippiness, and the ponderous demolition of straw men even he barely bothered to pretend he believed in."
Obama spent much of the time trying to tear apart Paul Ryan's well thought-out budget proposal. (When he wasn't blaming George Bush, that is.) Ryan ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week ... so far, is from The Onion: 'Congress Cuts Funding For 26-Year-Old Stepson'.
Excerpt: "Leaders from both parties announced Tuesday that Congress has voted to cut funding for its 26-year-old stepson, Jeremy, whose education and living expenses have been federally subsidized since he and his mother moved in with the legislative branch in 1998."
"The bill - known as the C'mon, Jeremy, It's Time to Grow Up and Start Thinking About Your Future Act - will also end payments on the part-time record store employee's 2008 Volkswagen Jetta.
Though the legislation passed easily in both houses, some lawmakers deemed its language overly harsh, with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) arguing unsuccessfully to provide a one-time grant of $225 to pick up part of the airfare for Jeremy's trip to visit friends in Austin later this month."
Lame Joke Of The Day: April showers bring May flowers but what do May flowers bring? A: Pilgrims.
Wednesday April 13, 2011
Remembering The Dip: Hemmings has a nice post about Howard 'Dutch' Darrin, designer of numerous coachbuilt creations - especially Packards - and stylist of many Kaisers of yore. He'll always be remembered for his signature 'Darrin Dip' curvaceous styling touch.
More on Dutch and his automotive creations can be found here.
History And Pear Juggling: On Sunday, we watched the end of the eight-part miniseries, 'The Kennedys', which starred Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes. The History Channel pulled the series from its schedule, after claiming that it "wasn't a right fit with its brand." Hmmmm. I thought its 'brand' was 'history'. Reelz Channel subsequently picked it up and aired it.
'The Kennedys' has been panned by many critics, one calling it a "paint-by-numbers recitation of history." I enjoyed it. It wasn't a complete family portrait but, rather, a sketch of several selected Kennedy figures. Was it incomplete? Yes, but so is most history.
Was it slanted? Of course. Narratives of the past always ... (more >>>)
I Remember When LaSalle Was A Catholic School: A LaSalle University professor is in hot water for conducting a classroom symposium that included lap dances.
Business professor Jack Rappaport allegedly spiced up his symposium with three strippers. Students who were there say it wasn't exactly the naked truth about business. One of the ladies gave the professor a lap dance, according to a student.
Jeeez, what ever happened to just using PowerPoint?
Quote Of The Day is from Norman R. Augustine: "One cannot legislate problems out of existence. It has been tried."
Tuesday April 12, 2011
Do You Have Prince Albert In A Lexus? I thought he was in a can. It turns out, Prince Albert will soon be in a Lexus LS.
Prince Albert II of Monaco - ruling monarch of the Mediterranean enclave - is getting married in July. The royal couple "will be riding in a specially-prepared Lexus LS600h, complete with integrated flashing lights, the royal insignia and the prized 'MC 01' license plate. The hybrid luxury sedan is particularly well suited to the task as it can parade around on pure electric mode."
Lexus has become official supplier to His Serene Highness and his principality.
Will There Now Be Krimpet-flavored Grits? A Georgia food company announced a $34.4 million cash deal to acquire Tasty Baking Co., the iconic maker of Tastykakes and other packaged sweets that earlier this year was forced by financial difficulties to explore a merger or sale.
The Philadelphia bakery said it was strapped for cash because of lower-than-expected cost savings at one of its bakeries, as well as higher commodity costs and the impact of the recent bankruptcy of grocery-store operator Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Tasty Baking's shares have dropped 75% this year.
Thomasville, GA-based Flowers Foods Inc., which makes breads, buns, rolls, snack cakes, pastries, and tortillas, is paying $4 per share - a price is more than double Tasty Baking's recent $1.61 share price.
George E. Deese, Flowers Foods' chairman and CEO, said in a statement, "The merger will expand Flowers' geographic reach and bring new consumers, new customers, and new opportunities for further growth." Upon completion of the transaction, Tasty will become part of Flowers' direct-store-delivery segment.
The company said the acquisition will help it spread the Tastykake brand name to 53% of the U.S. population.
RIP: I just found out that legendary druggist and cosmetics developer, Bob Heldfond, died last October at age 96.
Bob owned Central Drug Store on Alder in downtown Portland for years - a business founded by his father in 1903. Since it was the pretty much the only pharmacy in the downtown core, it was always busy with perpetual lines at the prescription counter. It was undoubtedly a big money maker.
Robert C. Heldfond later became quite famous and even more prosperous from an anti-aging cream that he invented. eb5 was a proprietary wrinkle cream which - in the early 1980s - retailed for $33 or so.
I met Bob when I designed a custom acrylic point-of-purchase display for eb5. He was pleasant to deal with and his firm became a customer of my plastics manufacturing firm for several years. The skin care line - and my displays - could be found in finer department stores throughout the U.S.
Stylish and debonair, Mr. Heldfond had a love of theater and public speaking. He was an accomplished pianist and wrote his own lyrics to popular melodies, which he performed in local amateur productions. Even when he was in his early 70s, he had a blue Porsche 911 convertible as his daily driver.
PS: In writing this post, I wanted to confirm some of my recollections - so I did a Google search. Now I'm getting eb5 ads popping up everywhere, including at such unlikely places as The Truth About Cars and I Own The World.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "Support bacteria - they're the only culture some people have."
Monday April 11, 2011
Art I Can Appreciate: A spectacular exhibit, 'The Allure of the Automobile', now on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, will arrive at the Portland Art Museum on June 11th for a three-month visit. I've already purchased reserved tickets.
It is described as "the first exhibition to consider the stylistic development of cars in the context of prominent design movements such as Art Moderne and Postwar Modernity. Visitors will learn about the contrasts between European and American design, the influence of decorative arts, and the significant changes in automotive styling and engineering before and after World War II."
Eighteen cars will be showcased, including a 1930 Bentley Speed Six Gurney Nutting Coupe, a 1931 Duesenberg SJ Derham Convertible Sedan, the 1933 Pierce Silver Arrow from The Blackhawk Museum, a 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante, shipped in from Deepwater Bay, Hong Kong, a swoopy 1937 Hispano Suiza H-6C 'Xenia' Coupe, a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster - owned by Lee Herrington of the Herrington Collection mail-order catalog business, a 1937 Talbot-Lago T150 Teardrop Coupe and a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C2900B Touring Berlinetta.
Also on exhibit are a 1948 Tucker Model 48 Torpedo from the LeMay Collection, a 1953 Porsche 550 prototype from the Collier Collection (Naples, Florida), the 1954 Dodge Firearrow III concept car, a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Roadster on loan from the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart Germany, Steve McQueen's 1957 Jaguar XK-SS Roadster on loan from the Petersen Automotive Museum, Bill Mitchell's 1959 Corvette Sting Ray prototype race car loaned by the General Motors Heritage Center, a 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato Coupe and a rare 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta.
See you there. (permalink)
Thirty-Something: The trouble with Mitt Romney is that he looks like some generic guy in a 1938 cigarette ad.
PC Madness: In Seattle, a public school teacher told a teenage volunteer that she could hand out Easter eggs with candy ... as long as she called them "Spring Spheres."
Lame Joke Of The Day: Did you hear about the two antennas that got married? The wedding was lousy, but the reception was great.
Friday April 8, 2011
"Green For Thee, Not For Me." Guess who's exempt from Obama's mandate that all Federal cars be green by 2015?
Big Fur Hat has noted that when it comes to those soon-to-be-mandatory 'green' vehicles the gummint wants us to drive, "not only is Obama exempt, so are emergency vehicles. This should tell you everything you need to know about these pieces of shit. Emergency workers and Obama, are too important to risk being in them."
But you and me? Learn to put up with these eco-crapmobiles, try wearing Birkenstocks and snacking on tofu.
BFH concluded, "The key word for Obama’s administration is EXEMPT. If what he is peddling is so wonderful, why would anyone want to be exempt?"
Toothed Math: Aaron Hoover of U.C. Berkeley combined math and imagination to solve the problem of building a one-sided "Möbius gear." He rendered it and then output molds for it on a 3D printer, cast them, and assembled it.
The end result is a functional, if impractical, prototype.
From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Obama: On Thursday, 17 people were arrested after trying to storm the Washington state governor's office in a third day of mounting protests over state budget cuts.
Apparently, most - if not all - were union thugs from SEIU.
Speaking Of Obama ... as oil topped $110 per barrel, Iowahawk reported that the President has announced a "plan for smaller, more efficient barrels."
Trumped Up Charges: Appearing on CNN, Donald Trump remarked that, if suspicions that Barack Obama was not truly born in the U.S. are correct, Obama may have pulled off the "Greatest Scam In History."
I like what Trump is doing. The Obama birth certificate issue has been as untouchable as a low-caste Hindu for the 'traditional' political candidates. McCain wouldn't even get near it during 2008. But Trump doesn't care. He's asking the tough questions and seems to get little criticism from the media over it. (Maybe they're finally getting fed up with Barry O., too. In the midst of a budget crisis which threatens to shut down the government, the Obamas are apparently headed to Williamsburg for a "vacation getaway." After Barry returned from a N.Y.C. dinner honoring his racist tax cheat buddy, Al Sharpton. Nero fiddled ... etc.)
At first, many dismissed Trump's foray into politics as a lark - a rich man's diversion. But he is polling surprisingly well. Trump may turn out to be the anti-Obama that the GOP was hoping for. As Obama was to Bush, so Trump will be to Obama.
The Donald is saying things that are resonating with people. Make some popcorn and find a comfy chair. This is going to be fun to watch. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "The Middle East "peace process" is an illusion. No one can make peace with others who is not at peace with himself - and the Arabs cannot be at peace with themselves so long as they lag so visibly far behind the rest of the world. No concessions from others can give them what would satisfy them, their own achievements and self-respect."
Thursday April 7, 2011
More TV To Watch: I've enjoyed Adam Carolla ever since I was first exposed to him on the late, great The Man Show on Comedy Central.
Now, Adam will star in The Car Show on the SPEED Channel.
"The program has been picked up for 13 episodes, with an option for 13 more. The hour-long show, which is scheduled for a July premiere, will be hosted by Adam Carolla, super auto journalist Dan Neil, former NBA player John Salley and Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire."
Two-Wheel Madness: I'm not against bicycles and used to ride one to work on occasion - in a striped bike lane on a 25 mph, lightly-traveled route. But I am appalled by what bicycling has become with self-indulgent morons "asserting their rights" and frequently exceeding these alleged rights on busy highways.
P.J. O'Rourke has taken on the madness of right-to-bike in a recent Wall Street Journal article. He has observed, "The bicycle is a parody of a wheeled vehicle - a donkey cart without the cart, where you do the work of the donkey. Although the technology necessary to build a bicycle has been around since ancient Egypt, bikes didn't appear until the 19th century. The reason it took mankind 5,000 years to get the idea for the bicycle is that it was a bad idea. The bicycle is the only method of conveyance worse than feet. You can walk up three flights of stairs carrying one end of a sofa. Try that on a bicycle."
As to the unproven claim put forth by progressives and clueless traffic 'experts', that bicycles somehow reduce city congestion, O'Rourke has responded, "You can't decrease traffic congestion by putting things in the way of traffic. Also, only a few bicycles are needed to take up as much space as my Chevrolet Suburban - just one if its rider is wobbling all over the place while trying to Tweet. And my Suburban seats eight. The answer to traffic congestion is lower taxes so that legions of baby boomers my age can afford to retire and stay home."
Why are bureaucrats pushing bicycling so much? P.J. has noted, "But maybe there's a darker side to bike-lane advocacy. Political activists of a certain ideological stripe want citizens to have a child-like dependence on government. And it's impossible to feel like a grown-up when you're on a bicycle if you aren't in the Tour de France. All but the most athletic among us get on and off a bicycle the way a toddler goes up and down stairs. Wearing bicycle shorts in public is more embarrassing than wearing Depends. Exchanging briefcases for backpacks takes us from the boardroom to the schoolyard. And it's hard to keep a straight face when talking to anyone in a Skittles-colored, Wiffle ball-slotted bike helmet that makes you look like Woody Woodpecker."
"This promotion of childishness in the electorate means that bike lanes are just the beginning. Soon we'll be making room on our city streets for scooter and skateboard lanes, Soapbox Derby lanes, pogo-stick lanes, lanes for Radio Flyer wagons (actually more practical than bicycles since you can carry a case of beer - if we're still allowed to drink beer), stilt lanes, three-legged-race lanes, lanes for skipping while playing the comb and wax paper, hopscotch lanes and Mother-May-I lanes with Mayor Bloomberg at the top of Lenox Hill shouting to the people on Park Avenue, 'Take three baby steps!'"
O'Rourke has proposed that bicyclists pony up commuting costs just like the rest of us. "Bicycle registration fees should be raised until they produce enough revenue to build and maintain new expressways so that drivers can avoid city streets clogged by bike lanes. Special rubber fittings should be made available so that bicycle riders can wear E-Z Pass transponders on their noses. And riders' license qualifications should be rigorous, requiring not only written exams and road tests but also bathroom scales. No one is to be allowed on a bicycle if the view he or she presents from behind causes the kind of hysterical laughter that stops traffic."
He concluded, "Bike lanes can become an acceptable part of the urban landscape, if bicycle riders are willing to pay their way. And if they pay enough, maybe we'll even give them a lift during the next snow storm."
Not That Anyone Cares ... what I think but, with Glenn Beck leaving FoxNews, why not give his time slot to Dennis Miller?
Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "Instead of calling our mission in Libya a war, the White House is calling it a 'kinetic military action', which sounds better than 'potentially endless quagmire'."
Wednesday April 6, 2011
Circling The Bowl: Dan Neil praised the performance of the new Ferrari FF but was less impressed with the styling, writing that "the car looks like a toilet brush on wheels."
A Simple Plan: Yesterday, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan offered his 'Path To Prosperity' debt-reduction program - with a stripped-down budget going forward that includes sweeping changes to federal expenditures, including entitlement spending. Rep. Ryan is trying to have an adult conversation with America about the looming insolvency of the growing welfare state, and he has offered a serious, practical plan to fix it.
Thanks to Paul Ryan, the American people finally have someone offering real Congressional leadership in Washington. President Obama has failed to lead and make tough choices his entire time in the White House. Especially regarding fiscal matters.
No single person or party is responsible for the looming crisis. Yet, the facts are clear: Since President Obama took office, our problems have gotten worse. Major spending increases have failed ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Frank J. Fleming: "Maybe they can get more people to go to Broadway plays if they advertise that they're in 3D."
Tuesday April 5, 2011
Shoemobile: Kang Shoe Co., a footwear manufacturer in China, has made an electric car out of a giant shoe. It can carry two people up to 250 miles at speeds of up to 20 mph on a single charge of the battery underneath the driver's seat. The leather 'bodywork' is made in the same way as a normal shoe but on a bigger scale, using the hide of five bulls.
Company president Wang Zhengtao says it is "designed as a promotional tool and he plans to make 40 for stores around the country."
No information on whether Kang Shoe is owned by Kang and Kodos, the space aliens from The Simpsons.
Nam Et Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est: Latin may be the key to success. There is a substantial body of evidence that children who study Latin outperform their peers when it comes to reading, comprehension and vocabulary, as well as higher-order thinking such as computation, conceptualizing and problem solving.
Toby Young has written, "No doubt some people will persist in questioning the usefulness of Latin. For these skeptics I have a two-word answer: Mark Zuckerberg. The 26-year-old founder of Facebook studied Classics at Phillips Exeter Academy and listed Latin as one of the languages he spoke on his Harvard application. So keen is he on the subject, he once quoted lines from the Aeneid during a Facebook product conference and now regards Latin as one of the keys to his success. Just how successful is he? According to Forbes magazine, he's worth $6.9 billion. If that isn't a useful skill, I don't know what is."
For the record, I had four years of Latin in high school. I struggled to learn it but persisted. Ignis aurum probat, miseria fortes viros.
More Monkey Business: House Republicans are challenging a slush fund they recently discovered in Obamacare - a $5 billion bailout for states, corporations and unions, dubbed the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP).
At a hearing in Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Republicans alleged the Obama administration "is passing out that $5 billion in taxpayer money to labor unions and companies it favors, like General Electric and General Motors - instead of using it to help early retirees obtain health insurance."
According to President Obama and Congressional Democrats, the program is meant to help early retirees who "often face difficulties obtaining insurance in the individual market because of age or chronic conditions that make coverage unaffordable or inaccessible." But, Republicans on the Subcommittee say this 'slush fund' is another reason they think Obamacare should be repealed.
Hmmmm. Isn't misappropriation of funds an impeachable offense?
Where's The Music? As of yesterday, KKAD (aka Sunny 1550), once known for its Geezer-friendly Music of Your Life oldies format, has switched to all-talk. Just want this area needs - more talk radio.
Despite the size of the Portland Metro Area and the number of older people, there is now no oldies ('40s to '60s) radio offered by any over-the-air broadcaster. I guess I'll be playing CDs or my iPod even more often when I'm driving.
Quote Of The Day: We have enough youth. How about a fountain of 'smart'?
Monday April 4, 2011
March Auto Sales: Autodata Corp. has estimated that vehicle sales were 13.1 million SAAR in March - up 12% from March 2010. While lower than last month, it was a pretty impressive performance considering the disturbing rise in gas prices during the month.
Ford knocked General Motors out of the top spot for US auto sales in March, a feat it had managed only once before since 1998. FoMoCo's overall sales were up 19% versus a year ago. Explorer sales increased 111%, Mustang sales jumped 47% (8,557 sold) but Taurus sales were down 15% to 5,954 sedans.
Sales of the Lincoln brand dropped 2% to 8,501 units, while the MKS decreased 12% to 2,267 sedans sold. Only 455 of the awkward-looking MKTs were delivered in March, a drop of 39%.
Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales of 121,730 vehicles, a healthy 31% increase compared with sales in March 2010 (92,623 units). This was the best March since 2008, and the highest sales for any month since May 2008. The Ram pickup was the volume leader (21,898 sold) followed by the Jeep Grand Cherokee (9,836) and Dodge Caravan (9,560). 3,989 Dodge Challengers were sold, an increase of 24%.
At General Motors, overall sales were up a modest 11% in March, including 608 Volt sales. Buick reported 15,663 total sales - a 21% increase. Cadillac was up by 5% to 12,164 units. Chevy sales increased 11%; sales of the Camaro ponycar were relatively flat at 8,964 coupes sold.
Honda was up 19%. CR-V sales increased 48% to 21,998 CUVs; Civic sales jumped 39% to 31,213 units.
Nissan reported March U.S. sales of 121,141 units versus 95,468 a year earlier - an increase of 27%, and a record for any month in the company's history. Sales of the Nissan nameplate also set a new sales record, up 28% for the month (109,854 vehicles), while sales of Infiniti vehicles rose 14% to 11,287. Surprisingly, the Nissan Altima outsold both the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord in March, although I've seen a lot of Altimas on car rental lots.
Toyota Motor was down 6% from a year ago, as it lowered discounts and found the availability of some cars limited by the earthquake in Japan. TrueCar.com estimated Toyota's incentives fell 23% compared with last March.
Sales of the Prius hybrid were up by 58% to 18,605 units but RAV4 sales dropped by 38% to 15,082. Sales of the popular Camry were down 13%. Avalon sales were 2,656, a drop of 15%; Lexus LS sales increased 5% to 941 sedans. Overall Lexus brand sales were up slightly. Eight LFA supercars were delivered in March.
Hyundai and Kia were up 32% and 45% respectively. Mini sales increased 68% to 6,087 units.
DisTastyful News: Shares of Tasty Baking Co., maker of Tastykakes, slipped to a 28-year low after the Philadelphia snack bakery told the SEC that "the Company is unable to file" its 2010 annual report on schedule because it's too busy trying to sell the business.
The company said it still hopes to file its annual report within the next two weeks. But it warned that the report will likely "include an explanatory paragraph from the Company's independent registered public accounting firm expressing substantial doubt about the Company's ability to continue as a going concern."