A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
Monday April 29, 2013
AutoBiography - Cars In My Life: Collecting Madness
In an earlier chapter, I wrote about company vehicles I've lived with. They were functional vehicles purchased for an intended purpose. On the other end of the automotive scale are collector cars - vehicles which are purchased simply to please their owners. Non-car people consider this a form of madness. Car enthusiasts know better.
Why do people buy old cars? For many, it's because they wish to recapture their youth. Or to own a vehicle they once admired but couldn't afford when it was new. Or to own something they've rescued from the junk pile and brought back to life ... (more >>>)
A Change In The Weather: It is always a pleasant surprise when a patch of nice, sunny weather appears in the midst of the typical rain-laden Spring. Recently, it was so nice that I did a little traveling.
Last Thursday, I drove my '39 Plymouth to downtown Battle Ground, gassed it up - it hadn't been fueled since October, and drove to Hockinson, north Vancouver and back, playing old rock and roll music all the way. I took another nice drive late Friday morning; by noon, the temperature was a balmy 70 degrees.
The rain returned Saturday night.
Restaurant Review: Las Mesitas; Battle Ground WA
The name is Spanish for 'small tables' yet all I saw inside were large tables for groups and booths. My booth seat was lumpier than a sack of dead chihuahuas.
The decor was tired and dated; it embraced just about every cliche-ridden Mexican decorating idea ever tried.
The salsa, which a few restaurant reviewers lauded, was ... (more >>>)
73 Years Ago .... the three-hole punch debuted in April, 1940.
Quote Of The Day is from Winston Churchill: "Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon."
Thursday April 25, 2013
Sleek But Unobtainable: Every five years or so, Buick shows a swoopy two-door concept car and slaps Riviera badges on it. It's just another way to taunt people who lust after the concept car, then examine Buick's production line-up of chubby-looking sedans and SUVs that ape Lexus in the same way $10 timepieces hawked from sidewalk folding tables mimic Rolexes.
The latest Riviera debuted at the Shanghai Auto Show, with the intention of wetting Chinese whistles, so that eager buyers would flock to showrooms throughout the Middle Kingdom and be satisfied with a humble little sedan carrying the same Buick medallion. It's same way that a Coach luggage tag somehow confers "dignity" on cheap frangible suitcases, which - ironically - are most likely made in China.
This Chinese Riv is powered by a dual-mode wireless plug-in hybrid electric vehicle propulsion system that allows the car to be charged wirelessly just by driving atop a special charging mat on the ground. I proposed idea several years ago and pointed out that it would also be good for electrocuting garage rodents.
GM's PR minions proclaimed, "The coupe combines avant-garde aesthetics and advanced technology." I don't know about the avant-garde thing but I do know that, to my old, tired eyes, the original '63 Riv is the best-looking of the Riviera bunch.
The original Riviera was the quintessential American personal luxury coupe - an automotive market segment that began with the introduction of the 1958 four-passenger Thunderbird. Luxo-coupes like the T'Bird had bodies which were different and distinctive from those of the sedans and hardtops of the same brand.
Personal luxury coupes were usually offered with ... (more >>>)
Contrasts: A pair of hipster dufuses left their jobs to conduct "a life-defining campaign to travel around the world" in an old VW Vanagon and expect you to contribute money to their me-centric voyage of discovery.
In a video pitching would-be contributors, the male dufus doesn't exactly warm up the audience; he whines about having to eat "unidentifiable food" (Hardees?) during the trip and refers to "the $19,000-plus bounty he expects the Internet to shower upon him as 'your part in the adventure'." Yeah, right.
Not surprisingly, posters at AutoBlog and TTAC have heaped scorn on the couple. Jack Baruth wrote, "In an era where most young people can't find work of any type, these two loons quit their jobs to travel the world and expect that somehow the working stiffs left behind at the McDonald's fry counters and call centers of flyover country will unhesitatingly fund their cowardice. They deserve to be ridiculed using every means at the Internet's disposal."
A TTAC commenter chimed in: "I can think of several better ways to spend my money: Texas explosion victims, Boston terrorism victims, Midwest flood victims, lottery tickets."
Meanwhile, in a stellar example of selflessness, college champion athlete Cameron Lyle is skipping his senior season of track to donate bone marrow to an anonymous stranger. The college student found out that he was a rare match for someone who needs a life-saving marrow transplant. And Cameron is not asking for contributions of any kind.
Lameville: I believe that the craze for hanging banners from lightpoles began in the 1980s. Some were seasonal banners: Happy Holidays. Others told visitors of the city's history: 'America's First City', 'Home of the Liberty Bell', 'Old Town District' or 'Queen of the Delta'.
Vancouver, Washington, once known as Fort Vancouver has a proud history. It is the oldest city in Washington. Future President Ulysses S. Grant was once quartermaster at the Fort Vancouver Barracks. But the city seems intent on quashing its historical roots in favor of a Portland-lite identity.
Vancouver has just put up some new pole banners. Do they celebrate the fact that Money magazine once put Vancouver on its most livable cities list? No. Do they ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube: 'Study: Success has many fathers but failure becomes a government program'.
Restaurant Review: Dulin's Cafe; Vancouver, WA
Open for breakfast and lunch, this restaurant is located where the old Holland Restaurant used to be. The Holland is considered "legendary" to many long-term Vancouverites. I dined there a couple of times and was underwhelmed. Dulin's has now been around long enough that it has created its own legend.
Dulin's Cafe is located in the no-man's land between downtown Vancouver (which, aside from the empty offices/storefronts and lack of parking is pretty decent as downtowns go) and the recently-designated Uptown Village (which, depending on the niceness of the weather and your personal mood, is either quirkily charming or borderline seedy).
The first good thing is that Dulin's has a ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
Tuesday April 23, 2013
Celebrating Earth Day: Following a couple of rain-filled weeks, the sun finally appeared yesterday morning. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than by firing up an old car, unrestrained by any pollution-control devices, and driving along country roads, depleting the ozone layer which - in my opinion - has been getting waaay too thick.
It was a good day to be piloting a fuel-sucking, carbon-spewing vehicle - take that Gaia! Time to teach the Earth who's boss.
At 11:00 am the skies were Spring Blue, virtually cloudless and the temperature was air-kissing 60 degrees. It was a perfect setting for an enjoyable '39 Plymouth drive. And enjoyable it was.
I'm happy to report that ozone levels are now back in spec - thinner than a heroin-abusing French fashion model knocking back an Ultra Slim-Fast shake, spiked with an emetic. Life is good. (permalink)
Take Me Home, Jeeves: At a recent SAE conference, several experts predicted that self-driving cars would not arrive in dealer showrooms until 2025.
Interestingly, back in 1925 or so, self-driving cars referred to the new concept of rental vehicles, the term meaning that you could drive it yourself rather than hiring a car and chauffeur. Over the years, there have been many sci-fi stories featuring automatic vehicles or robot-guided machines.
I've written about self-driving cars before. And, I think that they will arrive well before 2025. We've already got vehicles with lane change warning devices and 'smart' cruise control. Mercedes has demonstrated a self-braking car. Self-driving cars are the logical extension of these technologies ... (more >>>)
In Retrospect ... especially given the events of last week in Boston, April wasn't the best month to advocate the disarming of Americans and giving amnesty to foreigners.
On the subject of last week's terrorist attack, the Boston Herald's Howie Carr wrote, "So once again, no good deed goes unpunished.
Uncle Sam lets another bunch of leeching future terrorists into the country who have absolutely no business being here, gives them "asylum," making them immediately eligible for welfare, and this is the thanks we get?
They turn into mass murderers. We bring in thousands of Muslims from a primitive society that has been battling Christians for centuries, and put them into a peaceful Christian society - what could possibly go wrong?"
Howie noted, "The older terrorist, Tamerlan, was described as a "very religious" Muslim. I guess that's why he was arrested for domestic abuse in 2009, because he was so "very religious." And he told a photojournalist that, "I don't have a single American friend."
Then he should have gone back to Chechnya." Amen to that.
President Of Death: Freshman Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) blasted President Obama for ignoring a Pennsylvania trial in which an abortion doctor is accused of performing late-term abortions and killing one woman.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell has been charged with partially delivering seven babies older than 24 weeks, which is illegal in Pennsylvania. He's also charged with the death of Karnamaya Mongar, who died after going into cardiac arrest during an abortion procedure.
"Mr. President, your silence is deafening," Perry said ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Stalin's Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt's Government' by M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein
Joe McCarthy was right, you know. Communists infiltrated the Roosevelt administration and prolonged World War II. In 1964, when 'None Dare Call It Treason' was published, my college profs mocked me. And anyone else caught reading John Stormer's shocking book, which detailed the damaging undercurrent of Commie influence in the U.S. Despite the howls of leftists, over seven million copies were sold. The book posited that the United States had been betrayed by its elite, blaming Communists, their enablers and their sympathizers.
In 'Stalin's Secret Agents', the authors focus on the sinister events which transpired during the Roosevelt era, especially during World War II. Both are certainly well-qualified to tell this story. Romerstein is one of the nation's leading experts on the Cold War. He was on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee for many years and also was the head of the Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation at USIA. Evans is a veteran journalist and the author of 'Blacklisted By History' about the oft-vilified Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Franklin Roosevelt was a sick man in 1943 and ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Ben Stein on Obamacare: "Fathom the odd hypocrisy that the government wants every citizen to prove they are insured, but people don't have to prove they are citizens."
Friday April 19, 2013
Wholesale Deals - We Won't Be Undersold! Hyundai and Kia have stepped up fleet sales in an attempt to offset disappointing first quarter results. The Korean automakers saw their sales decline by 9% compared to last year, while competitors managed to increase their sales.
In order to reverse the sales slide, Hyundai and Kia have goosed fleet sales of some models by 50%. By contrast, Automotive News reports the seven largest automakers increased retail volume by 7% and fleet sales by only 4% as a group.
Social Entropy: The recent death of Annette Funicello made me reflect upon the coarsening of American culture. Ms. Funicello may not have represented the 'peak' of wholesome America but she is certainly its poster girl. A good dancer, she readily admitted that she wasn't much of a singer but her smile and girl-next-door demeanor made Annette famous.
There was never a hint of scandal around Annette. Her virtuous image on screen combined with exemplary behavior in real life, set an positive example for her fans. This was the way the movie and television business used to operate. Any explicit behavior by Hollywood stars was generally kept quiet in back in those days.
Tallulah Bankhead, a flamboyant bisexual actress of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, was a loose and loudmouthed woman who was also a heavy drinker and consumer of sleeping pills. But she was the exception. More typical was Kate Smith, singing 'God Bless America' and doing ads for Jell-O and Pillsbury Mills in her spare time. She had a long career spanning five decades but always exhibited proper public decorum.
Celebrity behavior changed in the 1970s - for the worse. As did movies. I don't think there's a single movie made before 1970 which contained the F-bomb. In those days, the blood, gore, profanity and general perversion prevalent in every Quentin Tarantino movie would have kept his films from ever lighting up the screen of any theater in America. 'Casino' and 'Goodfellas' would have been banned, too.
The 1970s brought us ... (more >>>)
What Ever Happened To John Kerry? When she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was seen everywhere. Secretary of State Kerry - not so much.
According to The Onion, "After failing to arrive at his destination in the Middle East this week for diplomatic talks with state leaders, sources confirmed that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had inadvertently traveled to Central Asia and is currently lost somewhere in the Gobi Desert. 'Hello! Hello, is there anybody out there who can hear me?' the exhausted five-term senator reportedly said while stumbling across the vast desert expanse."
"My name is John Forbes Kerry! I am the United States Secretary of State, and I am lost! Oh, God, almost out of water. Gotta make it back somehow ... gotta make it back."
According to the report, Kerry was "relieved to have spotted a lush oasis off in the distance and was happily envisioning eating a juicy fig."
I've written about Mr. Kerry before.
I Never Expected This Headline: 'Suspect in ricin-laced mailings is an Elvis impersonator.'
Yes, the guy's from Tupelo - Elvis' birthplace - and he mailed the letters from Memphis but, when he signed the note inside 'KC', I though maybe the evil deed was done by Harry Casey from KC and the Sunshine Band because it seemed like he wanted several politicians to Get Down Tonight.
Monday Is Earth Day. I am fondly reminded of Gilda Radner's Emily Latella (on SNL) - who might say: "What's all this I hear about 'greenhouse gas'? Can't people just hold it in until they go back outside?"
Question Of The Day: "If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?"
Wednesday April 17, 2013
Couldn't They Find A Real One? A recent television commercial for the redesigned Lincoln MKZ begins: "This is about the arrival of the new ..." as a charcoal MKZ is shown then fast-dissolves to a blue 1956 Continental Mark II: "... with the soul of the past."
The Mark II choice was jarring because:
Here's what a real, full-size '56 Continental Mark II looks like:
This is the Mark II which ... (more >>>)
Hated By The Left: Dr. Ben Carson, a remarkably-talented surgeon, professor at Johns Hopkins, and a fine humanitarian is being blasted by liberals because he doesn't toe the black-victim line. He doesn't whine about unfairness; instead he calls for excellence and responsibility from all. And that's why liberals don't like this outspoken black doctor. Also, picking on him draws attention away from that other black doctor - the reprehensible baby-killer, Kermit Gosnell.
I wrote about Dr. Carson and his accomplishments a year ago.
Carson came to public prominence after his speech at the annual National Prayer Breakfast where he publicly touched on his background, education and vision of what America could be, which was counter to the vision and course that President Obama has set upon over the last four years.
Obama attended the breakfast - seated next to Carson - and was not pleased. He scowled almost as much as Michelle does when she is criticized for her many vacations.
Dr. Carson blasted his critics for heat he's taken recently over controversial remarks on gay marriage, calling his white liberal detractors "the most racist out there."
"They want to shut us up completely, and that's why the attacks against me have been so vicious," Carson said on Mark Levin's radio show. "I represent an existential threat to them. They need to shut me up, they need to get rid of me, they can't find anything else to delegitimize me, so they take my words, misinterpret them, and try to make it seem that I'm a bigot."
"They're the most racist people there are because they put you in a little category, a box," Carson responded. "How could you dare come off the plantation?"
These are strong words from a man with strong beliefs that the courage to express them.
What A Disgrace: The White House announced that no current member of the administration would attend Margaret Thatcher's funeral in London today. This is a stunning snub to our closest ally. Lady Thatcher is receiving a funeral on the level of Princess Diana's - the biggest funeral for a non-royal since that of Winston Churchill.
William Katz wrote, "The U.S. will send former Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker, both of whom served in Thatcher's time. These are estimable men, but the absence of any current, serving, high-ranking official will be seen for what it is, an intentional insult. Obama could have sent the first lady. He could have sent the vice president. He could have sent the secretary of state. He could have sent Hillary Clinton." The President didn't even consider attending - too busy with golf and basketball, I suppose.
In the past, vice-presidents routinely attended funerals of foreign dignitaries, especially for someone of Thatcher's status.
Perhaps Obama thought his radical base would object to his honoring the woman who saved Britain from rapid decline, and who helped lead the West to a successful victory in the Cold War. If so, Barry O. is indeed a small, petty man.
What's In A Name? 90 years ago, Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare was created by merging two older offices - the Board of Charities and the Committee on Lunacy.
Pennsylvania is one of just two states in the nation that still uses the word 'welfare' in the name of its social services agency. Now they want to change the name - again. Here's an idea: Department of the Dole.
Quote Of The Day is from H.L. Mencken: "Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy."
Monday April 15, 2013
Bad Karma: Fisker Automotive is preparing for bankruptcy. The automaker is expected file Chapter 11 as soon as this week as the U.S. Department of Energy attempts to get the company to give back around $200 million in federal loans.
The DOE is pushing Fisker toward bankruptcy after months of bickering between the two parties. Fisker had been courting buyers in both China and Europe but failed to bring in the necessary funds.
Fisker should have known that naming a car model 'Karma' is just asking for trouble.
Expensive Rail: And it's being paid for by you. Recently, the Phoenix airport opened its Sky Train, a 1.7-mile automated rail line connecting the terminal to the nearest low-capacity rail station. The cost: $379 million per mile.
"This costly rail line is funded out of airport ticket fees, which means if you fly US Airways or one of the other airlines that makes Phoenix its hub and change planes without leaving the terminal, you will still be charged as much as $4.50 for this 'free' service. All of which suggests that airports, like transit agencies, have too much money."
Blotto: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel always looks like he's really, really hung over. Maybe we'll get lucky: during one of his midnight drinking binges, he'll decide to nuke North Korea. And drop a couple of bunker busters on Kim Jong Un's palace in north Pyongyang.
Remember how liberals were shocked when George W. Bush included North Korea in his Axis of Evil? Turns out he was right about that. And Iran, too.
Sequester Priorities: White House tours for the public have been canceled and the Navy's Blue Angels 2013 air shows have been eliminated but the U.S. government is spending $3.8 million to improve Armenia's pension system. That's Armenia, folks, not America.
And Janet Napolitano has ordered bagpipes for Homeland Security. Go figure.
One Of The Funniest Guys On The Planet Is Gone: Comedic genius Jonathan Winters, the wildly inventive actor and comedian has died at 87.
Winters appeared in such films as 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' and cult classic, 'The Loved One', where he played in the dual roles of loser Henry Glenworthy and his dark, scheming brother, the Blessed Reverend, Wilbur Glenworthy. He also played Robin Williams' son on the TV show 'Mork & Mindy'.
Jonathan had a nearly unmatched gift for wild comic improvisation and character creation. His Maude Frickert, a saucy grandmother, was a favorite. Jack Paar, who helped propel Winters into the national consciousness with appearances on 'The Tonight Show' in the late 1950s, once introduced the freewheeling comedian by saying, "Well, if you ask me who are the 25 most funny people I know, I would say, 'Here they are: Jonathan Winters.'"
Winters appeared in nearly 50 movies and several television shows. His earliest television appearance was in 1954. Later, he became a spokesman for Hefty brand trash bags, for whom he appeared as a dapper garbageman known for collecting "gahr-bahj." RIP
Bad Pun Of The Day: He must have been a Michelin-trained chef because the food was very rubbery.
Thursday April 11, 2013
In The Eye Of The Fabulous Beholder: Dan Neil doesn't like the looks of the flagship Acura RLX sedan. "Let's take styling. I'd first like to heap scorn upon the RLX's 'Jewel Eye' LED-headlight assemblies, which are a complete aesthetic failure, and massively gimmicky besides. The car looks possessed by the demon spirit of Liberace."
Then there's the shield nose, which is less Karl Maldenesque these days, but still looks unpleasant.
Milestone: Congratulations to Charles G. Hill, proprietor of Dustbury.com on his blog's 17th birthday. It debuted in 1996, which doesn't seem that long ago until I realize that I was in my early 50s back then and was merrily piloting my turbo Z while my wife was enjoying her brand-new Lincoln Continental.
During that same year, we traveled to New Orleans. Later, we drove to Canada to attend the Calgary Stampede, tour the Canadian Rockies and see the world's largest indoor roller coaster in Edmonton. In August, we flew down to California for a long weekend and attended the Monterey Weekend, including the Pebble Beach Concours.
I hate to admit this but, in 1996, I didn't even have an internet connection.
By Any Other Name: The Associated Press will no longer use the name "illegal immigrant" in its wire stories. Jay Leno quipped that the new appellation will be "undocumented Democrat." Adam Carolla predicted that in ten years, we'll be calling illegal immigrants "border heroes."
The AP will probably soon be referring to pedophiles as "Sex Education Mentors." Murderers will be designated as "End-of-life Facilitators."
Book Review: 'Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse' by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
The author's interview on BookTV was interesting enough that I wanted to read his latest book. The work's premise is that government is not the answer to our problems. Rather, too much government is the problem. Woods is a senior fellow at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, an Austrian School of economics think tank.
Unfortunately, the book simply ... (more >>>)
When Food Goes Bad:
Why Bother Going To A Catholic College Anymore? Gonzaga University will not allow students to organize a Knights of Columbus chapter because the group only admits Catholics a violation of the school's non-discrimination policy.
Gonzaga, a Jesuit Roman Catholic university in Spokane, had concerns over the requirement that "all members of a student Knights of Columbus group must be Catholic."
"These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the University's commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion,” wrote Sue Weitz, the university's vice president for student life in a letter obtained by the Cardinal Newman Society.
Once upon a time ... (more >>>)
Alarming Revelation Of The Week: Watching an old rerun of The Simpsons, I just realized that St. Peter sounds exactly like Superintendent Chalmers. Saints above!
Quote Of The Day: I just wrote a book about reverse psychology. Please don't run out and buy it.
Tuesday April 9, 2013
Use-ta Be: Two things you don't see much anymore: advertising matchbooks and Pontiacs.
Joshua Pusey, a Philadelphia lawyer, invented the safety matchbook in 1892. Diamond Match Company purchased the rights to it in 1894. The matchbook industry peaked in the 1940-50 period. As James Lileks observed, "When more people smoked, more shops and restaurants had a box of matchbooks by the counter, often under a small sign that read "For Our ‘Matchless' Friends." As a small child I knew there was a double meaning there, but I couldn't quite grasp what it was."
Lileks does a great job keeping track of old matchbooks and it was a real treat to see one posted for Becker-Mills Pontiac a car dealer once located in the Frankford Section of Philadelphia. The dealer's phone number was Jefferson 5-8050 - not many digits away from that of my grandmother, whose number was issued in 1925.
I don't remember this particular dealer; there are references to Becker-Mills in 1957 or so but the firm is not listed in the 1960 Philadelphia Automobile Trade Association roster.
Becker-Mills was located at 4155 Frankford Ave., just past where the Frankford Elevated swings off over Kensington Avenue. Becker-Mills was located across from small but scenic Womrath Park. Legend has it that the park is the location where Thomas Jefferson read the Declaration of Independence out loud for the first time to his friends. The park was then part of a large Frankford estate that was the summer home of Henry Drinker, a prominent Philadelphia Quaker businessman.
As for Pontiac, its days are now over. The brand's sales peaked in 1978 at almost 900,000 vehicles per year.
In the days following World War II, Pontiac was perceived as an Old Man's car but, when Bunkie Knudsen took over as general manager of Pontiac in 1956 ... (more >>>)
More Wisdom From Democrats: During a public forum on gun legislation, a concerned Denver citizen asked Democratic Representative DeGette how he was supposed to defend himself under the new Colorado gun laws. DeGette smirked and mocked the senior citizen saying, "You'd probably be dead anyway."
Farewell, Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister and one of the world's great leaders during the days of the Cold War, has died at age 87 from a massive stroke. Thatcher governed Britain from 1979 to 1990.
Developing a formidable partnership with President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s, Mrs. Thatcher stood up to the 'Evil Empire' of the Soviet Union, eventually witnessing its collapse.
Lady Thatcher was the only British prime minister to leave behind a set of ideas about the role of the state which other leaders and nations strove to copy and apply.
Many features of the modern globalized economy - monetarism, privatization, deregulation, smaller government, lower taxes and free trade - were all promoted as a result of policies she employed to reverse Britain's economic slide. She once said, "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." And: "One of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas."
Interestingly, her predecessor believed that Britain's decline was irreversible and that the government's job was to manage it as gracefully as possible. Perhaps he was an inspiration to a young Barry Soetoro Obama.
Of modern British prime ministers, only Lady Thatcher's girlhood hero, Winston Churchill, acquired a higher international reputation. Margaret Thatcher was Britain at her postwar best. Requiescat in pace. (permalink)
Goodnight, America's Sweetheart: Annette Funicello, best known as a child performer on the original 'Mickey Mouse Club' and for her beach movies with Frankie Avalon, has died at age 70 from complications of multiple sclerosis. She had reportedly been in a coma for years. She lost the ability to walk in 2004 and to speak in 2009.
Funicello was a 12-year-old dance-school student when Walt Disney saw her performing the lead role in 'Swan Lake' at her dance-school's recital in the spring of 1955.
She joined a group of other talented young performers hired to become Mousketeers on 'The Mickey Mouse Club', the children's variety show that debuted on ABC in October 1955 and quickly became a daily late-afternoon ritual for millions of young Americans. Annette's smile and girl-next-door demeanor unexpectedly turned her into the ensemble cast's biggest star.
Annette was a flat-chested 12 year-old when the series began but matured quickly, providing 10 million young students with a very visual lesson about the effects of puberty. Scientists have calculated that, had Annette's breasts continued to grow at the rate observed from 1955 to 1958, they would have reached the moon four years before Neil Armstrong.
She soon began receiving 8,000 fan letters a month - 10 times more than any of the other Mouseketeers. Realizing the commercial possibilities of her popularity, Walt Disney quickly licensed Annette lunch boxes, Colorforms dolls, coloring books, comic books and even mystery novels featuring her in fictionalized adventures.
Funicello received a big career boost when Disney agreed to loan her out to American International Pictures to make 'Beach Party', the song-filled, low-budget 1963 comedy in which she was first teamed on the big screen with '50s teen idol Frankie Avalon.
In the wake of the success of 'Beach Party', Funicello and Avalon co-starred in 'Muscle Beach Party', 'Bikini Beach', 'Beach Blanket Bingo' and 'How to Stuff a Wild Bikini' - semi-forgettable, simplistic 'beach' movies which captured the freedom of the early '60s so perfectly. In the late 1970s, Annette reappeared in the public eye when she starred in a series of television commercials for Skippy peanut butter. She and Avalon re-united in 1987 for the film 'Back to the Beach', parodying their own surf-and-sand films two decades earlier.
Annette was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the mid-1980s and later became a spokeswoman for treatment of the chronic, often-debilitating disease. In 1993, she opened the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation. Rest in peace. (permalink)
Ripping Off Taxpayers: Jami Lund, a Senior Education Policy Analyst for the Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank in Olympia, WA, has written about the upcoming Battle Ground school levy. This property tax levy was resoundingly defeated in February but the BG administrators decided that the public was stupid and resubmitted the exact same levy for another vote.
In a letter to The Reflector, Mr. Lund pointed out, "The state provides an average salary of $51,909 and benefits worth $9,216 for teachers in the Battle Ground School District. The school board has decided to add an 8.3% levy-funded bonus to the wage. For these funds, the community receives three days of additional specified responsibilities when students are not present.
Levy-funded wage enhancements also ... (more >>>)
Blonde Joke: Bambi, a blonde in her fourth year as a college freshman, sat in her American History class. The professor asked her if she knew what Roe vs. Wade was about.
Bambi pondered the question; then said, "That was the decision George Washington had to make before he crossed the Delaware."
Bad Pun Of The Day: A dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary is called a thesaurus.
Friday April 5, 2013
New York Auto Show By Armchair: The 2013 edition marks the end of the car show season there won't be another significant one until the LA Show in November. My last visit to the New York International Auto Show was in 1970. Photos from my 1966 visit are posted here.
I haven't been to an auto show of any kind since 2005. I don't care for the crowds, the locked-up desirable cars or the often rude, clueless salespeople from local dealerships who work the floor. I now attend the shows virtually by reading reports posted on the internet - while sitting in a comfy chair.
So far, I have only seen photos of the new models unveiled at last week's NYIAS press preview and have neither sat in them nor driven them. Given those qualifiers, here are my impressions:
My favorite auto shows of yore were all about horsepower and chrome. Today, everything's about 'connectivity'. I'm old enough to remember when connectivity involved testing TV vacuum tubes at the drug store. (permalink)
Jug Ears Wants Brainless Bambi As Head Geisha: Caroline Kennedy, Duchess of Downtown Manhattan, Marquise of Martha's Vineyard and Royal Keeper of the Tattered Camelot Banner, she for whom the ever-annoying Neil Diamond once penned an insipidly trite musical ode, may be heading to Tokyo to be the U.S. ambassador thanks to Obama.
"Kennedy, whose support for President Obama during his 2008 campaign was seen as crucial, had been widely talked about as a candidate for the plum diplomatic post, but now things have apparently been firmed up."
I've written before about what a moron she is. And ... let's not forget that Caroline's grandfather, a Nazi appeasement enthusiast, was once appointed ambassador to Great Britain.
Se Habla Español: In Stockton, California, which went bankrupt this week, 41% of the people do not speak English at home and 21% cannot speak it very well, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to the most recent census data, the foreign-born population of Stockton equaled about 27% of the city's total population and the non-naturalized foreign nationals equaled about 15% of the Stockton's total population.
Welcome to Mexifornia.
Let's All Clap: The CDC reports that there are over 110 million cases of venereal disease in the U.S.
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube: 'Boy, 8, pretends banana is gun, makes daring escape from school'.
Book Review: 'The Soundtrack of My Life' by Clive Davis with Anthony DeCurtis
Born in 1932, Clive Davis seemed to have little interest in popular music in his teens and twenties, despite the fact that many of the largest changes in music occurred during those periods: the decline of big bands, the rise of top 40 radio, the development of 45 and LP records, the birth of rock and roll and the increasing influence of television on star-making.
He wrote that he didn't like the sound of '50s rock and roll.
A lawyer by training, Clive got a reputation for picking hit music and artists in the mid-1960s. The book never really explained ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day: If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?
Wednesday April 3, 2013
Easter Egg: On Easter morning, while others were checking out chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps and colorful eggs in their baskets, I was looking at a different egg-shaped item in mine - a 1:43 scale Ixo diecast model of a 1950 Nash Ambassador.
In 1949, Nash rolled out its Airflyte body style, referred to as the Bathtub Nash because, to many, it looked like an upside-down bathtub. This more-or-less egg-shaped vehicle may look retro-odd today, but sold surprisingly well during the 1949-51 era. Los Angeles bought a bunch to use as police cars - old crime movies from the period are full of 'em.
Eight Nash Ambassadors were entered in the 1950 Carrera Panamerica, a 2,172-mile endurance race ... (more >>>)
March Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 15.3 million SAAR last month, up 8% from March 2012 but down slightly from the sales rate in February '13.
General Motors and Ford reported sales increases in the 6% range while Chrysler Group was up 5%. Sales at Honda America increased 7% while Nissan and Toyota experienced very low sales growth - 1%.
In the luxury market, Cadillac led the way with a 50% sales increase. Acura sales jumped 26%, Lexus was up 15%, BMW increased 13% and Mercedes-Benz 7%. Ford's push to improve its Lincoln brand struggled again in March. Lincoln's sales were down 22% year-over-year to 6,825 units. Only 924 MKS sedans were sold, a drop of 45% from March 2012. Every one of Lincoln's five models saw a sales decline.
Sales of the redesigned Toyota Avalon were up 110% to 6,982 units, while sales of the Lexus LS were up 71% to 980 units. Prius sales declined by 23% to 22,140 units in March.
Bookmobile: Spotting a patch of sun outside Monday, I decided to fire up my '39 Plymouth, drive to the library and pick up a reserved book. As soon as I backed the coupe out of the garage, the shafts of bright sunlight and patches of blue disappeared and big, ugly clouds rolled in.
But ... at least I didn't get rained on.
At 11:00 am, the temperature was 58 degrees but it seemed colder under all the clouds. Otherwise, I had a pleasant drive. The roads were nearly deserted; it is Spring Break week and much of the population seems to have left town.
It rained Monday night.
No Surprise Here: Electric "carmaker" Fisker Automotive - the firm allegedly hasn't actually built a vehicle since July 2012 - has reportedly hired the powerful Kirkland Ellis law firm to explore a potential bankruptcy filing.
The company, which received a federal $529 million loan guarantee in 2009, furloughed 200 U.S. workers at the end of March to conserve cash.
Not An April Fools Joke ... although it should be. President Obama has declared the month of April as 'National Financial Capability Month'. The federal government wants to help individuals and families make more accurate budgets.
This from a government that has failed to produce a budget of any kind in four years, that has run record deficits every year under Jug Ears' watch and has increased our national debt to over $16 trillion.
Nevertheless, our First Moron has proclaimed, "My Administration continues to encourage responsibility at all levels of our financial system by cracking down on deceptive practices and ensuring that consumers are informed of their rights."
If you were really cracking down on deceptive financial practices, Mr. President, then Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Jamie Goerlick and Franklin Raines would now be behind bars.
Washer Woes: I have written about our Maytag washer before. Unlike Maytags of yore, it is a piece of crap. Maytags used to last 20 years. No longer.
In 2010, we had the transmission, bearings and seals replaced on our seven year-old Maytag washer. Now the bearing is failing again, despite light usage and light loads in a two-person household. The repair estimate was almost $400.
Last week, we bought a new Speed Queen to replace the troublesome Maytag. SQ is one of the few brands still made in America and the choice of many laundromats due to proven durability. We've heard good things from people who own Speed Queens and we're hoping that our new one lasts a long time.
Geezer Joke: An older man bragged to his neighbor, "I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars but it's state of the art. It's perfect."
"Really," answered the neighbor, "What kind is it?"
"Twelve-thirty," the man replied.
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "Last night I ordered a whole meal in French. Even the waiter was amazed - it was a Chinese restaurant!"
Monday April 1, 2013
Chuffley-Waite: I first wrote this fictitious story as a contribution to a car club's April newsletter in 1989. It begins thusly:
| last month |
1959 Bocar XP6