A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
Monday January 28, 2013
Autosketch: 1957 Plymouth - 'Suddenly it's 1960!'
Plymouth's ad campaign for 1957 claimed that the restyled Plymouth was three years ahead of its time. It certainly looked the part - the entire Chrysler lineup looked like nothing else on the road with swoopy lines and soaring tailfins.
When General Motors found out about Virgil Exner's new 1957 designs, the styling department almost soiled its corporate trousers. Suddenly, The General realized that Harley Earl's age of high 'power dome' hoods and chrome applied by the bucketful with a trowel was over.
It was too late to do anything about the '58 models (the '58 Buicks and Oldsmobiles are case studies in high hoods and excess brightwork), but a crash program was initiated to make GM's 1959 models as wild as Chrysler's. Earl was retired in 1958.
Plymouth referred to the new look as ... (more >>>)
Our Gal Sal: Sally Starr, the iconic and vivacious blonde TV cowgirl who hosted an afternoon children's program on Philadelphia station WFIL-TV from 1955 to 1971, has died at age 90.
Her program was usually known as 'Popeye Theater' which eventually became Philadelphia’s highest rated children's program. During the show, Starr presented half-hour western TV shows, cartoons, Three Stooges comedies, live acts and special features. She was dressed in bright red full cowgirl regalia, including gun and holsters.
Her opening line was always, "Hope you feel as good as you look, 'cause you sure look good to your gal Sal." She closed with, "May the Good Lord be blessing you and your family. Bye for now!" Requiescat In Pace.
Book Review: 'The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage' by Greg Gutfeld
Greg Gutfeld is a brilliantly funny social commentator. His middle-of-the-night cult show, 'Red Eye', is fast-paced and interesting. Greg is also a regular on 'The Five', another Fox News show. Some of the mini-chapters in this easy-to-read book were former 'Gregalogues', the awesome ranting editorials delivered on 'Red Eye.' I reviewed his last book in 2011.
In this book, Greg tackles liberal tolerance - which is a bizarre form of intolerance - and the phony outrage over perceived societal slights - a favorite staple of liberal pundits. We've all met people who seem quite calm and reasonable until they find out you disagree with them. Then they become red-faced, their voices get louder and their comments turn sarcastic and spittle-flecked. Are you now picturing someone you know? Or just Keith Olbermann?
William F. Buckley once opined, "Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended when they learn that there are other views." Exactly.
Gutfeld is far funnier than Buckley and doesn't make you run frantically to your Thesaurus the way ol' Bill used to.
Take Hollywood, for instance ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: Mill Creek Pub; Battle Ground, WA: Once upon a time, this was Lloyd's Grill - a nicely carpeted restaurant with a handsome natural stone fireplace and an upscale feel.
When it became the Mill Creek Pub a little over a year ago, the new owner basically gutted the place, removing the carpet and the fireplace, substituting a cracked concrete floor with saw cuts where someone misjudged a trim line and a large wooden water wheel which revolves in a large, shallow tank of water.
A not-very-pleasant wet wood smell emanates from the wheel, reminding me of a New Jersey shore boardwalk after a Nor'easter or a half-sunken rowboat at an abandoned Pocono lake resort.
Whoever did the decor should be shot. Rustic 'stuff' combined with corrugated tin indoor overhangs provide a neglected-junkyard atmosphere.
Despite the negative ambiance, the food is surprisingly good ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: A man is addicted to drinking brake fluid but he says he can stop any time.
Thursday January 24, 2013
Battery Life: Fifty years ago, lead-acid, hard rubber case car batteries were good for 18 months or so - more, if you were lucky. By the mid 1980s, a 3-4 year auto battery life was common. Based on my recent experience, car batteries are now good for 6-8 years. We just replaced the original battery in my wife's Toyota Avalon earlier this month. The car will turn eight in March.
And You Thought Porsches Were Overpriced Before: Yesterday, Porsche announced that the base 918 Spyder - the new "mid-engined sports plug-in hybrid" - will have a price tag of $845,000. The car has 795 horsepower. Therefore, each hybrid pony costs a whopping $1,063. In comparison, a 2013 Toyota Prius offers 134 little green horsies for $24,200 - a mere $181 per filly.
With the Weissach trim package, which is a high-performance upgrade to the standard vehicle that includes the deletion of some interior amenities and addition of lighter-weight carbon fiber appointments, magnesium wheels, flame-resistant upholstery, racing belts and aerodynamic aids, the sticker will rise to $929,000. Shocking.
The Weissach package should drop the 918 Spyder's curb weight by 77 pounds, at a cost of $1,091/lb. That's even more expensive than Jenny Craig. Or liposuction.
Alternatively, you could buy 929,000 items at The Dollar Store. But don't try to haul them in a 918. It doesn't have much of a trunk.
Are You Surprised? Headline: 'Gallup Poll: American Optimism Hits Lowest Point Since Carter Administration'.
Fire And Rain ... And Bang: Has-been singer, creator of bluesy-folk elevator music and Obama-buddy James Taylor wants more gun control, stating that "we need to make some sacrifice to our freedoms." I'm guessing that James wasn't an English major.
Remember the '70s when he was a heroin addict and wife beater? If only Carly Simon had owned a gun, ol' James would have been long dead. Justifiable homicide: How sweet it is to be shot by you.
Another Twisted Tale: Sadly, we live in an age where pervy priest stories have become almost everyday news. Headline: 'Cross-dressing meth priest liked sex in rectory'.
Here's how the article begins: "The Catholic priest busted for allegedly dealing crystal meth was suspended after church officials discovered he was a cross-dresser who was having sex in the rectory at Bridgeport's St. Augustine Cathedral (in Connecticut). Monsignor Kevin Wallin was relieved of his duties in May, but the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport had continued to pay him a stipend until his Jan. 3 arrest - a day he was planning to fly to London on vacation."
Dubbed 'Monsignor Meth', Wallin was selling upwards of $9,000 of meth a week ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "I love seeing promos for the 9th season of shows I've never watched. They're like Christmas cards from college roommates you didn't like."
Tuesday January 22, 2013
Auction Madness: As usual, the various Scottsdale, Arizona auctions were full of aging white dudes with lotsa money bidding up car prices toward the stratosphere.
RM Auctions sold 70 of 84 lots for a sell through rate of 83%. These sales represented a stunning $35.5 million, up from $25.7 million in 2012. Top seller was a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta 'Competizione' with coachwork by Scaglietti, which hammered down at $8.1 million.
Rounding out the top 10 sales list from RM are a 1967 Shelby 427 ‘Semi-Competition’ Cobra, which sold for $2,007,500; a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4, which went under the gavel for $1,842,500; a 1938 Delahaye 135 MS Coupe, which brought $1,540,000; a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB, which sold for $1,320,000; a 1931 Duesenberg Model J Tourster, which finished at $1,320,000; a 2003 Ferrari Enzo, which brought $1,320,000; a 1954 Ferrari 250 Europa Coupe, which sold for $1,017,500; a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300Sc Cabriolet, which went for $990,000 and a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, which sold for $847,000.
Bonhams sold more than $12 million worth of cars at its second annual Scottsdale auction, topped by a 1972 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV that sold for $1,215,000. A 1930 Bugatti Type 46 Faux Cabriolet was gaveled for $951,000, while a 1968 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider went for $912,500. A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing sold for $896,000.
Two Lincolns at Bonhams' Scottsdale auction that had screen time in 'The Godfather' were sold without a reserve. So at the end of the day on Thursday, both went to new owners for a combined total of $120,750. The more prominent of the two, the 1941 Lincoln Continental that served as Sonny Corleone's car for the infamous, shoot-em-up toll booth scene, sold for $69,000, while the 1941 Lincoln Custom limousine used elsewhere in the film sold for $51,750. Both cars came from the collection of the late Eugene Beardslee.
Gooding & Co. sold a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Spider for $8.25 million.
Barrett-Jackson's auction was televised. I recorded the three days of programming and watched most of it on super fast-forward because .... well ... how many overrestored Camaros, Shelby Mustangs, various Chevelles and other muscle cars can one bear to watch, anyway? I swear B-J auctioned more Shelby Mustangs than were actually manufactured.
The 'real' Batmobile, the one made from the 1955 Lincoln Futura showcar by California customizer George Barris, sold for $4.2 million plus fees - $4.62 million total. It was purchased by Arizona car collector Rick Champagne, who plans to display it in the living room of his Ahwatukee Foothills house. He is the owner of Champagne Logistics, a trucking company in Tempe.
In the early 1960s, Barris purchased the Lincoln Futura from FoMoCo for $1. He later arranged to provide a memorable vehicle for Twentieth Century Fox's upcoming Batman television show and customized the Futura, turning it into the iconic midnight-black and fluorescent-red-pinstriped Batmobile. Barris reshaped the hood, elongated ... (more >>>)
Hot, Hot, Hot: Sydney, Australia endured its hottest ever day last Friday, with records smashed across the city and thousands of people suffering from the heat.
The mercury topped 114 degrees at Sydney's Observatory Hill at 2.55 pm, breaking the previous record set in 1939 by half a degree. The city's highest temperature was a scorching 116 degrees, recorded in Penrith at 2.15 pm.
The Seven-Year Switch: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies." ... Senator Barack Obama, March 16, 2006
Another One Bites The Dust: During my working years, I had had many a good lunch at the Hazel Dell Brewpub. I was especially fond of the pineapple-slice topped Teriyaki Burger accompanied brewed-on-premises Dark Stout. And onion rings. I just found out the Brewpub went out of business over a year ago. Now a couple has purchased the site and they are planning to open a no-alcohol Mongolian barbecue joint.
Mongolian BBQ without booze is like a day without sunshine. Guinness stout is my favorite beverage with Mongolian, as I discovered on a trip to Dublin. There's a pretty good one with the unimaginative name 'The Mongolian Barbeque' on Anglesea St., a bit south of the River Liffey and north of St. Stephen's Green a short walk from St. Teresa's Church.
If you ever get to Ireland, be sure to stop in and tell 'em Joe sent ya.
RIP: Baseball legend Stan 'The Man' Musial has died at age 92.
He began his professional career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1938. At the time of his 1963 retirement, Stan held or shared 17 major league records, 29 National League records, and 9 All-Star Game records. In 2011, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Book Review: 'Life Is A Gift: The Zen of Bennett' by Tony Bennett
A dozen or so years ago, my wife and I attended a most-enjoyable Tony Bennett concert. At the end, we left by a side door because we thought it would put us closer to where we had parked. As we walked down an unfamiliar alley, we found that it intersected with a blind alley. At the end - 30 feet away - was Tony Bennett, catching some fresh air. Alone - no guards, no entourage. We were speechless; the best we could muster was a little wave. Tony gave us a big friendly smile and waved back. No diva he.
This legendary, smiling 86 year-old has just written a book. In simple prose ... (more >>>)
Advice of the Day (supplied by my wife): "Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can't change. Life's too short to be anything but happy."
Friday January 18, 2013
Coming Soon To A Showroom Near You: This photograph is from a Ford Styling Center booklet and was reportedly taken in 1957. It was used to promote the notion that Ford Motor Company was full of exciting new ideas for future cars.
The small model in the foreground is the Ford X-2000, a futuristic styling exercise designed by Alex Tremulous and Bill Balla. It features a bubble top and an Edsel-like grille. Photos of this 3/8th-scale car were published in several period car mags, possibly in an attempt to familiarize the motoring public with the idea of a vertical center grille in advance of the Edsel's introduction.
The light blue car on the right is ... (more >>>)
Dead Abby: Pauline Friedman Phillips, who wrote the snappy answers for the 'Dear Abby' newspaper columns under the nom de plume Abigail Van Buren, has died at age 94.
In later years, Phillips suffered from dementia and her column was taken over by her daughter.
Everything You Know May Be Wrong: David Brooks has written a thought-provoking column for the New York Times about erroneous assumptions.
Human nature does not always follow logical predictions. "If you want to deter crime, it seems that you'd want to lengthen prison sentences so that criminals would face steeper costs for breaking the law. In fact, a mountain of research shows that increases in prison terms have done nothing to deter crime. Criminals, like the rest of us, aren't much influenced by things they might have to experience far in the future." Maybe the Muslims have it right - cutting off limbs may be a better deterrent.
"If a police officer witnesses the death of his partner, it seems that you'd want to quickly send in a grief counselor. In fact, this sort of immediate counseling freezes and fortifies memories of the trauma, making the aftershocks more damaging."
I always thought that the Grief Counseling Industry was a gigantic scam. Did you know that after Katrina, the Post Office hired grief counselors to help mail carriers who were "distraught" because they had nowhere to deliver mail?
EZ Math: Every day, the U.S. government takes in $6 billion. It spends $11 billion per day, meaning that it accumulates $5 billion in new debt every single day. This is called a deficit. It is why the National Debt keeps increasing.
Five billion dollars each and every day - this is totally unsustainable. Will someone please tell this to President Obama.
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 January 16, 2013
2013 Detroit Auto Show Observations: The concept cars are less wild than they were fifty-plus years ago perhaps because the future is less wild. No bubble-topped, nuclear-powered flying dream cars were unveiled this year.
Today, everything's about 'connectivity'. I'm old enough to remember when connectivity involved testing TV vacuum tubes at the drug store.
Infiniti changed all the names of its models to designations even more incomprehensible than before. Everything now begins with Q and all the numbers are higher numerical values. The Q50 is the moniker for an updated, lumpier version of the G37, featuring a face only a Sumo wrestler's mother could love.
Speaking of illogical model names, Lincoln showed off a concept called MKC, based on the small Ford Escape SUV. It doesn't look much like an Escape and has a nice, non-derivative interior. And the cat-whiskered grille is better than the old, huge whale-mouthed one. This concept is letting you know that Ford plans to be a player in the high-priced, mini-SUV game.
The trend toward miniature SUVs continued with the introduction of the Honda Urban SUV concept, based on the Fit platform. A production version will appear in 2014.
The stubby Buick Encore, a pint-sized SUV, is just hitting showrooms now. It was designed in Germany as a rebadged Opel model but is being manufactured in South Korea. The blunt-nosed 3,200-pound minibox is 168 inches long - only eight inches longer than one of my old air-cooled VW Beetles - and is powered by an anemic 138 horsepower, four-cylinder engine. The Premium Edition with upgraded audio is priced at almost $34,000. General Motors has obviously been reading my 2008 'Cars by the Pound' article.
This Buick is sort-of a tall, gussied-up Pontiac Vibe - a failed GM offering that never found a viable market.
Lexus debuted the new 2014 entry-level IS model, which features a huge 'n' hideous spindle grille. Maserati unveiled the revised Quatraporte sedan which looks like an unholy alliance of an eight year-old Buick LaCrosse and the new Infiniti G50. The car now has a V6 engine option.
After months of teasing, the 2014 Corvette C7 was finally unveiled. The best thing about it is it still looks like a Vette. The design is very fierce and, perhaps, overworked and polarizing to traditionalists. I like the quad exhaust outlets - the sunken Camaro-like rectangular taillights not so much. But the Stingray logo is cool.
The swoopy, semi-fastback 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 compact sedan looks rakishly great in some photos, awkwardly awful in others. I guess I'll have to see it in person to form an opinion. Several 2014 Mercedes E-Class models were revealed and are proof that some M-B managerial führer ordered, "Put bigger grilles on all of 'em - schnell!"
The Toyota Furia concept is supposed to foretell the look of the next Corolla. It's sleek yet edgy and has an aerodynamic look somewhat reminiscent of the 2006 Honda Civic - a good thing in my view.
The 2013 Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept sports a Chrysler 300-style grille and fastback styling - a popular design meme these days.
The top-of-the-line Hyundai no longer looks like a Lexus and, except for the grille, looks sleek and unique. And I like the Bentley-style winged badges.
Fastback styling is revived every generation or so as something new and innovative. The 1950 Chevy Fleetline fastback is one such example. Back in the early 1940s, General Motors referred to its fastback sedans as having Torpedo Styling, just before the company shut down its automobile assembly lines so it could manufacture ... ummm ... actual torpedoes. Oh irony, thy name is Harley Earl.
A generation later, GM revived the torpedo style with the hideous 1978 GM Aerodecks (or was it 'Aerodrecks'?): the Buick Century Custom and Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon. Torpedos indeed ... they bombed. In this second decade of the 21st Century, fastbacks have become trendy again.
This too shall pass.
The special Tightwad-Edition BMW 3 Series, the 320i - which has been available in The Great White North (Hoo roo koo koo ka koo koo koo!) for several years, is now coming to the U.S. for those in search of Bimmer hot lease deals. Hmmm. I've written about Cheap Canadians before. BMW wants to become a bigger player in the Entry Level Luxury segment (aka Premium Sport Compact segment) and hope that this decontented $33K model will help.
The 2014 Cadillac ELR is a sleek coupe that shares the same architecture and powertrain as the hybrid-electric Chevrolet Volt. It is fairly close to the much-admired Converj show car of 2009. It certainly looks good in the photos and is unmistakably a Cadillac, featuring LED headlight and taillamp elements.
This little Caddy and the new Corvette may have been the most exciting entries at the show. For the first time in many years, GM ruled. (permalink)
Good Stock Market News: Scott Grannis has provided a nifty chart of the S&P 500 from 1950 to present. He observed, "Here's one way of putting the equity market rally in long-term perspective. By this measure, equities on average gain almost 7% a year (plus dividends), and they have plenty of room left on the upside. The market was way too optimistic in 2000, but now appears to be right in the middle of its historic range."
Dividends for the S&P 500 are typically in the 2.25% range, meaning that investments in the equities basket average a return of more than 9% per year over the long haul.
Tasty Christmas: On Monday, a belated Christmas gift from my daughter arrived in the mail. It is an O-gauge Tastykake boxcar offered by the Atlantic Division of the Train Collectors Association. Only 100 were produced; the car was manufactured by ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High' by Tony Danza
I know little of actor Tony Danza and his work, except for watching the sitcom 'Taxi' in the late 1970s. I selected this book, not because of Danza, but because of the captivating title.
Northeast High School is located near Cottman & Castor Avenues in the Rawnhurst Section of Northeast Philadelphia. Cottman, the nationwide chain of transmission repair shops was named after the very same avenue where the first Cottman Transmission was located.
The neighborhood used to be solidly middle-class ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Kathy Shaidle: "Decades hence, our offspring will listen in disbelief when we tell them we used to pay billions of dollars to warehouse children in "gun-free zones" overseen by morons; that 21st-century kids were groomed for 19th-century jobs and came out functionally illiterate but experts nonetheless on the subjects of Kwanzaa, "safe" sex, and something called global warming."
Monday January 14, 2013
Detroit Auto Show Preview: Press days begin today. Automakers will be introducing 55 new vehicles, 41 of them global debuts. And there will be shiny concept cars to entice and amuse.
The big news for enthusiasts will be the appearance of the new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette. Yes, it's new but it will not be mid-engined, nor will it have anything exotic like a Wankel motor.
I realize that rotary engines have a lot of technical issues but I often wonder if the real reason that the Wankel never took off was that it sounded too much like wanker.
"You Might Be A Winner!" I've often fantasized about what I would do if I had a big monetary windfall. I may soon find out. Now, I don't want to write too much about this for fear of jinxing the deal, but it appears I may soon find my personal finances moving to a significantly higher level.
You see, I received a notification last week that I may be entitled to "$5,000 a week - forever!" I have been provided with a number "provisionally deposited on the Winner Selection List" on form I3115e - according to controller Michael Collins and executive vice-president Deborah Holland. They also indicate that "payment funding is guaranteed." When I read that, I must confess that I got goosebumps.
This notification came from Publishers Clearing House. Like most of you, I've heard from them many times before. I remember when I used to get letters from Robert H. Treller, a guy who always signed his name in blue ink and used his pen to write lots of notes on the margin, like "You don't want to miss this!"
In the latest missive from PCH, Mr. Treller is conspicuously absent. It turns out that ol' Bob is a fictional character, like Betty Crocker. And, I guess, he's been retired. Or downsized.
Publishers Clearing House began in 1953 ... (more >>>)
Global Warming Alert: Great Britain may experience the biggest freeze in two decades, forecasting up to a foot of snow by today. Forecasters said parts of the Northeast and Scotland could be knee-deep in snow by late today.
The View From The Emerald Isle: Kevin Myers of The Irish Independent is no fan of the Rolling Stones. "I seriously dislike the traveling mortuary known as the Rolling Stones. Quite simply, I find their music embarrassing and absurd. It's no coincidence that their cringe-making copy of rhythm and blues has absolutely no African-American followers. It's their music, after all. Hearing these decrepit limeys perform a grotesque caricature of an art-form that is so intrinsically rooted in the Deep South must be utterly insufferable: the equivalent for us, say, of seeing 'Riverdance', as performed by a bunch of tone-deaf Sumo wrestlers attired in scuba-gear."
And he posits that Mick Jagger "resembles Tutankhamun's granddad, the one who got done for camel-shagging, and ended up with his head on a stake. A few years grinning into the Sinai sun can do things to a chap's complexion, you know. Eventually, the Ancient Egyptians grew tired of that weathered old skull grimacing across the dunes, so they sold it on Ebay to the Rolling Stones' front-man: the rest is history." And fellow Stoner Ron Wood "provides a stark reminder of what Mother Teresa might have looked like if she had really let her face go."
Then there's 86 year-old Hugh Hefner's recent wedding to a 26 year-old beauty. "I've had it up to here with wedding pictures of gruesome old men, their dyed hair stark-dark against the vampire-hue of their pale withered faces, their teeth stanchioned into their jawbones with barbed wire, their rheumy old eyes outlined with deathbed kohl, their faces nipped, tucked and tautened and stitched up like baseballs, all leering unseeingly into the photographers' cameras." Ouch.
There's something to be said for growing old gracefully. As opposed to, say, Bruce Jenner, whose face has been ratcheted up so tightly by plastic surgery that he needs the Jaws of Life just to brush his teeth.
Thought For Today: Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
Thursday January 10, 2013
Rumble: The Bentley Continental can now be had with an Audi-sourced V8 instead of the Volkswagen W12. MotorWeek road tested it and said something to the effect that the V8 had a throaty roar which sounded a lot better than the W12.
At last, someone has admitted it: If you're looking for a powerful engine sound, there's something magical about a V8. There's an enticing burble at idle and low speeds which becomes a rumble as rpms increase.
While various manufacturers' offerings sound a bit different from one another, all V8s sound good - flathead Ford, small block Chevy, '50s Olds Rocket, Ford 302s et al. Even though my Lexus is muffled tighter than Dean Martin after six Harvey Wallbangers, I can still hear that burble when I've got the windows down. There's no sensation like opening all the windows of a V8 powered vehicle as you approach a tunnel, turning down the radio and listening to the engine music bounce off the walls.
I've heard both modern Ferrari V12s and ancient flathead Lincoln V12s and they just don't sound very good. The Viper V10? Forget it - sounds awful.
Six-cylinder cars? Meh. Some sound OK I guess, but ... (more >>>)
Someday in the future, there will be no more V8 engines. That's sad to contemplate - depriving future generations of those unique mechanical musical sounds - but I'm glad I still have a couple of V8-powered cars in my garage.
Book Review: 'Makers: The New Industrial Revolution' by Chris Anderson
I'll start with the bottom line: I recommend this book highly. Now, let's talk about me. I'm a crotchety old retired guy who has been in manufacturing most of my life. I became successful in my plastics business by being creative - in design, manufacturing and marketing. But I was limited to tools/technologies available during the era.
In this book, Wired magazine editor, entrepreneur and bestselling author Chris Anderson has provided a tour of the front lines of a new industrial revolution being created by today's entrepreneurs. As I read along, my emotions ranged from old-man-angry: "Hey, you can't do it that way!" To amazement: "But people already are!" To wonder/envy/longing: "Gee, I wish we had these tools 30 years ago!" To wizened skepticism: "Yeah ... but the way you're doing it leads to new difficulties which you must overcome." And Anderson presents marketing/selling/promotion in a cheerfully Panglossian universe, ignorant of the power and realities of old-line but still-effective distribution systems.
In Anderson's age of custom-fabricated, do-it-yourself product design and creation, the collective potential ... (more >>>)
Under The Front Lawn: The 1944 film, 'Going My Way' won seven Oscars, including Best Picture. You can usually find this Irish-Catholic celluloid epic playing on one of the movie channels around Christmas and St. Patrick's Day.
The film focuses on Father Chuck O'Malley (Bing Crosby) who rescues the fictional St. Dominic's parish in NYC from financial ruin while the elderly, curmudgeonly pastor, Fr. Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald), fights O'Malley's new-fangled ideas as well of his love of golf. Best line of the movie comes from Fr. Fitzgibbon: "A golf course is nothing but a poolroom moved outdoors."
Nevertheless, O'Malley's savvy helps him connect with a gang of kids looking for direction and handle the business details of the church's building fund, eventually winning over Barry Fitzgerald's character.
The film is a poignant reminder of the way Catholic parishes used to be - when everyone knew each other and the pastor stayed on until he died and was interred in the parish graveyard (if there was one) or beneath the church (if it had a crypt) or on the front lawn.
We have several friends who have buried favorite pets in the front or back yard. We've done this, too. Getting buried in the yard is, it seems, a reward for good pastors and good dogs.
Pastor John P. McHugh was pretty much the founder of St. Martin of Tours parish, on Roosevelt Boulevard near Oxford Circle in Philadelphia. Ordained in 1909, Father McHugh faithfully served as assistant in several locations before being rewarded with his own parish in 1923. He had to start from scratch, fund-raising to build the necessary stone structures: church, school, convent and rectory at St. Martin. Fr. McHugh had already constructed the first floor of a new, larger church (the upper portion couldn't be completed due to a shortage of materials during World War II), when he died ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."
Tuesday January 8, 2013
Getaway Jam: In 1941, Marion Post Wolcott documented the flight of New Yorkers out of the city and toward the seashore (or, more appropriately, given that it's described as Sunday traffic, the drive from the shore back into the city) for the Farm Security Administration.
In this photo, a 1939 Plymouth two-door sedan returns from the New Jersey shore in heavy Sunday afternoon traffic.
This picture was taken along Route 35 in Laurence Harbor, near Keyport - east of Old Bridge, New Jersey.
In 1957, my parents built a weekend home at the NJ shore. During the summer, we left NE Philadelphia in a rush Friday afternoon, fighting the traffic to get across the Tacony Palmyra Bridge, stopping to pay the 5¢ fare and then ... (more >>>)
The Worst Part Of Getting Old Is Losing Friends: Ed Gray, a consummate car guy, raconteur and very good friend, died last week. He was 72 years old. Ed grew up in Colorado, became a teacher and was beloved by his students.
Ed enjoyed cars of all kinds, especially Lincolns. I first met Ed and his wife Chris in 1988 at a Lincoln Club event. Somewhere among my many stacks of VHS cassettes, I have footage of Ed and Chris - both with big smiles - driving their elegant black 1962 Lincoln Continental convertible off the show field at the Haviland Winery in Woodinville, WA following a Concours d'Elegance on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Ed was active in the car club scene for over 40 years. In the 25 or so years I knew him, Ed was always fun to be around. He had great stories about various cars he had owned, train rides with his dad, road adventures and dining experiences. On our first trip to Palm Springs, Ed & Chris sent us a list of recommended places to go and joints to avoid. We followed their advice and were never disappointed.
Ed and Chris were active members and managers of the Pacific Northwest Region of the Lincoln Club. Over the years, they served as recording secretaries, show judges. tallying experts at concours judging and national meet managers. Ed did two stints as editor of the Club's newsletter, winning several Golden Quill Awards from Old Cars Weekly. When the regional organization faltered in 2000, Ed was one of the six or so people who stepped up and saved the car club.
In the midst of running the 2007 Lincoln & Continental Owners Club Western National Meet, Ed was stricken with a very aggressive virus which destroyed his health. He had several near-death medical crises in the last five-plus years, but he never lost his cheerful demeanor, great sense of humor and joie de vivre.
It was a pleasure to have known Ed. Requiescat In Pace. (permalink)
Happy Birthday, Elvis: The King would have been 78 years old today.
I've posted more about Elvis here.
Restaurant Reviews: We've visited several recently and posted updated 2013 reviews here.
Quote Of The Day is from British graffiti artist Banksy, "The thing I hate most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used to say so little."
Friday January 4, 2013
U.S. Auto Sales 2012 Final Score: It was a good year for vehicle sales. Sales in 2012 were just over 14.5 million, up 13% from 2011. Last year sales were depressed for several months due to supply chain issues related to the Japan tsunami.
For the month of December, light vehicle sales were at a 15.3 million SAAR - up 13% from December 2011.
Chrysler LLC sales increased 21% for the year - lead by the Chrysler brand which was up 39%. Ford Motor Co. was up 5% over 2011 but the Lincoln brand was down 4%. General Motors had a 4% year-over-year increase, with Cadillac down 2%.
American Honda was up 26% for the month of December and 24% for the year. Subaru's annual sales jumped 26%. Volkswagen's sales soared 30% in 2012. Hyundai Group sales increased 11%. Nissan was up 8% for the year. Mitsubishi fell 28% to 56,084 vehicles in 2012. Three brands which showed huge percentage jumps were Fiat (+121%), Smart (+92%) and Scion (+49%).
2012 was generally a good year for foreign luxury automakers. BMW saw a sales increase of 14%; Mercedes was up 13%, Acura sales jumped 27%, Infinity rose 22% and Lexus increased 23%. Porsche sales grew 21% last year.
Maserati sales increased 18% for 2012 to 2,730 vehicles; Bentley's sales rose 23% to 2,315 vehicles. Rolls Royce reported purchases of 364 big Rollers - a 6% increase. Jaguar sales declined by 2% to 12,011 units in 2012.
Global Warming Update: More than 100 people died from exposure as parts of northern India recorded the lowest temperatures in decades.
Temperatures in New Delhi hit a high yesterday of 49.6F, the lowest maximum temperature in the capital since 1969.
At 10:30 am, it was a chilly 34 degrees around these parts and Mt. St. Helens looked like a giant, slightly squashed Hostess Sno Ball.
Networking: Did you ever think you'd live to see a vice president of the United States selling out to a pro terrorist supporter? Well, Al Gore and his partner Joel Hyatt announced the sale of Current TV, the low-rated cable channel that was founded seven years ago to Al-Jazeera.
The purchase price wasn't publicly disclosed, but knowledgeable people pegged it at around $500 million, indicating a $100 million payout for Gore, who owned 20% of the network.
What other investor got a windfall? Richard Blum, husband of California Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Another Sign Of End Times: Hormel Foods, maker of Spam, is buying Skippy, the country's number two peanut butter brand.
Former Skippy spokesperson Annette Funicello is undoubtedly rolling in her grave. No, wait ... she's not dead. Make that rolling in her wheelchair.
I'm a big fan of peanut butter and consider it a gift from God, although I prefer Jif over Skippy.
RIP: Silky-voiced 1950s pop singer Patti Page has died at age 85. Three of her most famous songs were the light-hearted 'How Much is That Doggie In The Window' (1953), 'Allegheny Moon'('56) and 'Old Cape Cod' (1957).
She played an evangelical singer alongside Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons in the 1960 film 'Elmer Gantry'.
Book Review: 'The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy' by David Nasaw
Joe Kennedy was a weasel - an adulterer, stock manipulator, trader of inside information and self-promoter. He was also a great market timer getting out of the stock market before the 1929 crash. Throughout his career, he drifted from career-to-career but always made money.
He was a smooth talker, trusted by few and with good reason - he screwed over many people during his lifetime. When it came to being a father, Joe Kennedy was a control freak. He and wife Rose spent 300 or so days apart each year - they basically lived separate lives. Nevertheless, he genuinely cared about his children, although he spent little time with them compared to most dads.
Joseph P. Kennedy was also a World War II defeatist and served Roosevelt poorly as ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: A cartoonist was found dead in his home ... details are sketchy.
Wednesday January 2, 2013
A Model Christmas: There were two little cars under the Christmas tree this year. One was a 1933 Pierce Silver Arrow produced in 1:43 scale by Ixo.
Introduced at the '33 New York Auto Show, the Silver Arrow caused ... (more >>>)
Car Sighting: On a cold and snowy New Year's Eve, I stopped at the local Toyota dealer to get new batteries installed in each of the Lexus key fobs. I also got my first, in-person look at the all-new 2013 Toyota Avalon. It's very swoopy and Lexus-like in appearance. But, we're keeping our old one which now has nearly 48,000 miles on it. Plenty of life left in our almost eight year-old Avalon, I say. The same day, I stopped at a automatic car wash to give the Toyota a much-needed bath. Got 'The Works' which does the undercarriage, wheels, tires and tops the exterior wash off with a wax treatment. With the wash-job, the '05 Avalon looks almost new, albeit not 2013-sleek.
Speaking of odometer readings, we put 8,500 miles on our cars: just over 4,000 on the Avalon (less than last year), just under 4,000 on the Lexus (almost double that of last year when I didn't drive much because I was sick) and almost 500 miles on the '39 Plymouth (almost double that of last year). Our overall miles driven were up by about 8%.
The Only People Who Want To Move To California These Days Are Mexicans: In the 1950s and '60s, California was perceived as America's dream, especially Southern California - a land of warmth and sunshine, blue ocean and beaches not far from the city.
Then there were the palm trees, modern freeways, interesting and novel (for me) architecture and lithe, tanned people dressed in sharp clothes who drove gleaming, desirable autos. Just watch old '50s television shows set in the Golden State - like '77 Sunset Strip'.
Unfortunately, the Golden State has fallen on hard times ... (more >>>)
2013 Rose Parade: Is it just me, or are all of the floats becoming cause-centric? I seem to remember when parade floats didn't have politically-correct, guilt-inducing messages, just giant dogs made of flower petals or huge bears in helicopter beanies with waving arms, with hair made of dyed long-grain rice.
This year, there was 'The Global Face of AIDS' float, which - I am not kidding - was awarded 'The Queen's Trophy'. Not that there's anything wrong with that. They didn't say what florial items were used in its construction but I'm guessing pansies. I kept hoping that The City of Hope 'Journey To Cure' float would sideswipe the AIDS float, spilling vats of pharmaceuticals on it, while the lab-coated people on the Hope float yelled, "Die! Die! Die!" But, alas, such drama was not to be. Nor was my other wish that the unfortunate Indiana high school marching band - the one that ended up stuck behind the AIDS float - would don rubber gloves and surgical masks while performing.
Farmers Insurance presented 'The Love Float' and actually married a couple before an audience of millions. Oh well, at least it was a man and a woman.
'The Nurses Float' inexplicably spotlighted forest animals - owls, raccoons and birds - constructed from various floral materials and grains. I expected it to feature a giant catheter made from crushed white carnations.
The Lutherans had a float with a live Jesus on it. Next to him was an Asian fellow in a white puffy coat - at first, I thought it was Psy. Oh man, our Lord and Savior is now Gangnam Style. I saw Psy on ABC's 'New Year's Rockin' Eve Without Dick Clark', performing with Hammer. I thought, "Take a good look at MC Hammer, Psy. This is your future two years from now. Start saving." And where did Psy get that white outfit - from Elton John's rummage sale?
The Morgantown, West Virginia marching band featured a comely lass wearing an Indian headdress. How did the California PC police let her through? I bet next year ... (more >>>)
What A Difference A Month Makes: For years, David Horowitz has written a consumer advocate column for The Costco Connection magazine, exposing various frauds and deceptive schemes.
Judging by his photos in the December and January issues ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day: If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown, too?
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