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Friday November 28, 2014
AutoSketch: 1947 Chrysler Town & Country - Postwar Wooden Elegance
The idea of Santa Claus making deliveries of gifts in a wooden sleigh drawn by reindeer is preposterous by today's standards. It's time for an update. I suggest replacing the wood sleigh with another wood-containing product - a postwar Chrysler Town & Country convertible. In red, of course.
Wood wagons go back to the early 20th Century ... (more >>>)
Buy An Old Town Car Instead: The $200,000 Mercedes-Maybach S600, which debuted at the LA Auto Show, is 8.1 inches longer than a standard S-Class at 214.6 inches. That means the S600's wheelbase is nearly four inches longer than a Bentley Mulsanne, while the overall car is over six inches lengthier.
On the other hand, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 more than four inches shorter than a 1995 Lincoln Town Car.
Today's New Word Is 'Mantiques': The debut of cable TV shows 'Pawn Stars' and 'American Pickers' - neither of which I've ever watched - apparently sparked excitement within the old-stuff-biz about the idea of "antiques for men."
In this narrative, the antiques world had become an out-of-date feminized zone where everyone is a little too fussy about furnishings and china sets.
"Pickers and pawners injected the field with new life when they strode onto the scene, unafraid to hit the road and get their hands dirty digging through rusty junk. Thus, these guys are inspiring new mantiques shops across the United States, boasting items suitable for a man cave - a space where a man in a traditional marriage puts his guy stuff when his wife, expected to keep their home up to social standards, banishes it from the main house."
"While the word 'mantiques' is new, man caves are not. Starting in the Industrial Revolution, the genders were assigned "separate spheres," with men dominating politics, business, and law, while women were in charge of the maintaining the home and the moral values of the family. For that reason, men began to establish spaces for themselves where they could be rude and crude without offending the delicate eyes and ears of 'mixed company'."
All part of the Great Quest For Nostalgia - fake and otherwise - which I wrote about last month.
Book Review: 'Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed' by Jason L Riley
Mr. Riley is an editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal, where he has worked since 1994, and a Fox News contributor. His easy-to-read, 184-page book examines how "well-intentioned" government programs (affirmative action, welfare, soft-on-crime laws, school choice limitations, minimum wage laws, etc.) are in fact holding black Americans back.
The book contains a great deal of supporting statistics. While much of it has been reported elsewhere, author Riley provides a single source of compiled information, mixing it with his own personal experiences as a black man in America. I was surprised to learn ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Benjamin Franklin: "A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats."
Wednesday November 26, 2014
Sheet Metal Consolation: When movie star Liz Taylor dumped '50s pop singer Eddie Fisher, he found comfort in a '64 Imperial convertible.
Worldwide Auto Sales ... are estimated to be 86 million vehicles in 2014. Top seller is Toyota with an 8% market share, followed by Volkswagen, Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Nissan and Honda.
The Saddest Thing ... about this week's Ferguson, MO riots is that most of the businesses which were burned, looted or destroyed were locally-owned by hard-working minority entrepreneurs. Fire Departments around the St. Louis County Area put out 25 structural fires caused by vandals and looters.
Entrepreneurs in general are becoming an endangered species and there are disproportionately few black ones. Many of these destroyed businesses will never be rebuilt, so, perhaps, the most lasting and most noticeable effect of the riots will be a further reduction in black capitalism.
None of the mainstream media seemed to be talking about that. Neither did our Idiot-in-Chief, Barry O., who took to the airwaves in prime time to opine that the grand jury's decision was probably wrong and that police officers shouldn't respond violently to protests - even though many of the 'protesters' were throwing stones and bricks at police. And shooting off guns.
And the beat goes on. (permalink)
Look Out! Iceberg Lettuce Ahead: It's the Titanic Gravy Boat from Archie McPhee:
I didn't by one, only because I couldn't justify paying 48 bucks for it. But maybe someone on your Christmas list is worth the expense.
Thanksgiving Word Play: It's called stuffing, filling or dressing, depending upon where you live and your cultural upbringing. (My wife has informed me that, if stuffing is cooked outside the turkey, it is called 'dressing', according to some yapper on the Food Network. I've not verified this claim. If you have more time on your hands than yours truly, you are welcome to research this subject exhaustively and write a doctoral thesis on it. Just don't contact me. I'm not interested.)
It has oft been said that the American idiom and language use defies logic. And drives newcomers crazy. If a product made from bread and offered with turkey, is called 'dressing', wouldn't a product made from bread offered with salads also be called 'dressing'?
"No, you silly foreigner, they're called 'croutons'. Dressing is the liquid we pour over our salads. Stop pointing to the turkey. No, the stuff we pour over the turkey is called 'gravy', not 'dressing'. What are you - stupid or something?"
Quote Of The Day is from Harry S. Truman: "An expert is someone who doesn't want to learn anything new, because then he would not be an expert."
Monday November 24, 2014
Christmas Gift Suggestion: Last week, BMW sent me an e-mail informing me that nothing "makes the season brighter than a luxurious new BMW 6 or 7 Series, brimming with innovation. You'll be pampered by a spacious, richly appointed interior, sophisticated design and powerful performance. You'll be impressed by advanced technology, like Full Color Head-Up Display and BMW Apps to you keep you feeling safer, entertained and well-connected on every drive.
And for even more holiday happiness, you'll get a credit of up to $4,000 on select BMW models." Actually, I only get the full four grand if I purchase a 7 Series.
"It's all part of the BMW Happier Holiday Event, now through January 2nd." But will it fit under our Christmas tree?
Giving You The Bird: Here's your 99¢ Thanksgiving dinner:
As Homer Simpson would say, "Mmmmmmm. Cobbler."
Joke Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: Q: What Kind Of Coffee Was The Most Popular During The French Revolution? A: DeCappuccino!
Friday November 21, 2014
Slightly Different Than A '60 Ford: Canadians liked to buy fancied-up models at low prices and the 1960 Meteor Montcalm is a good example:
Faux Mulsanne: The restyled 2015 Chrysler 300 debuted at the LA Auto Show and looks more Bentleyesque than ever.
Rental Rumbles: Hertz has said that, as a result of an accounting review, it will restate 2011, 2012 and 2013 quarterly and annual financial statements.
The rental car company also announced a new fleet purchasing strategy, aimed and improving its U.S. rental car business, and also said it was implementing a $100 million cost reduction plan. The company said it would buy roughly 350,000 model 2015 vehicles in the U.S. - about 60% more than the model 2014 vehicles.
Hertz's cost-cutting plan will include reduced general expenses and technology investments, as well as a previously-announced freeze to its pension plans.
Remembering Camelot: Whenever I watch television specials about the Kennedy years, I find the film clips and photo stills to be a time capsule. Fifty-one years later, the clothes people wore, the hairstyles, the cars on the road, the store signage - all are fit for a museum but simply remind me of what things were like when I was young.
Fifty years ago, America was changed forever. Thinking about it makes me feel so damn old. And sad.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on a sunny Fall afternoon in Dallas, Texas. It was a profound event which became a defining moment for people of my age and truly marked the end the 16-year 'decade' known as 'The Fifties'.
Back then, I gave little thought to fifty-one years into the future. If anyone had asked, I don't think I could have imagined what the world of 2014 would be like, other than some vague Jetsons-inspired flotsam involving flying cars and silver jumpsuits.
I couldn't imagine what my life would be like either. As a 20 year-old college student, it was difficult to picture myself as an old man. I figured I'd die long before then - quickly and in a tragically-cool way, perhaps sliding off a cliff at high speed in a Bocar. That would impress all my car buddies, who would toast me with something alcoholic and expensive at my gravesite.
Some of the friends whom I visualized in that cemetery fantasy are now dead. I have toasted their lives, sent condolences to their families and mourned their passing. I never expected to experience that. O tempora! O mores!
Many of my pals are still alive and I celebrate that fact. When we visit these days, we often speak nostalgically about our pasts, remembering youth, stamina and unlimited mobility. And discuss the aches, medications and limitations of our present. Mortality is more apparent to us now.
As an optimistic kid of 20, I thought I was invincible. I carried much of that feeling into my 40s. I bet 46 year-old Jack Kennedy often felt that way too.
On a sun-drenched Friday afternoon in November 1963, I was ... (more >>>)
The President's Job ... is to carry out the lawful will of the people. As usual, Barack Obama isn't listening. Instead, he's too busy unconstitutionally nullifying of our nation's immigration laws.
Senator Jeff Sessions said, "The President’s plan will apparently also allow many illegal immigrants to receive green cards and become legal permanent residents - meaning they can access almost all U.S. welfare programs, have lifetime work authorization, obtain citizenship, and sponsor foreign relatives to join them in the U.S."
Obama's amnesty plan will cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion, according to the Heritage Foundation. It should be noted that 57.4% of Mexican immigrants are on some kind of welfare.
A poll found that 69% of American adults believe illegal immigrants should "be prosecuted and deported for being in the U.S. illegally." Gee, my poll among friends pulled an even higher number: 100%.
I've written more about immigration here.
You Probably Never Heard His Name ... but you've heard his music. Dave Appell, who died at age 92, was a musician, musical arranger, and record producer.
He was the leader of Cameo-Parkway Record's house band, backing such artists as Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, The Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp, and The Orlons. Appell also arranged and, in many cases, produced, and even co-wrote recordings with Kal Mann, like 'Let's Twist Again', 'Bristol Stomp', 'Mashed Potato Time', and 'South Street'.
In the 1970s Appell produced songs for Tony Orlando and Dawn, including 'Knock Three Times' and 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ol' Oak Tree'.
And furthermore, multi-talented legend Mike Nichols, who became famous as part of the satirical comedy duo of Mike Nichols and Elaine May in the late fifties, has died at 83.
As a versatile director, brought fierce wit, social commentary and absurdity to such film, TV and stage hits as 'The Graduate', 'Gilda Live'. 'Working Girl', 'The Birdcage' and 'Monty Python's Spamalot'. He won the entertainment trifecta: Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards.
May both of these talented men rest in peace.
Corrupt Continent: In a recent article, writer and economist Walter E. Williams blamed Africa's problems on socialist policies and corrupt dictators, noting that the continent should be far wealthier because "Africa is the world's most natural-resources-rich continent. It has 50% of the world's gold, most of the world's diamonds and chromium, 90% of the cobalt, 40% of the world's potential hydroelectric power, 65% of the manganese, and millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources."
"Poverty is not a cause but a result of Africa's problems. What African countries need the West cannot provide. They need personal liberty. That means a political system in which there are guarantees of private property rights, free markets, honest government and the rule of law. Africa's poverty is, for the most part, self-inflicted. Some people might disagree because their college professors taught them that the legacy of colonialism explains Third World poverty. That's nonsense. Canada was a colony. So were Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. In fact, the richest country in the world, the United States, was once a colony. By contrast, Third World countries such as Ethiopia, Liberia, Nepal and Bhutan were never colonies, yet they are home to some of the world's poorest people."
Africa is backward in so many ways because much of the Dark Continent is ruled by thugs, many of them sworn enemies of the U.S. Many African rulers rely on outside (foreign government and charitable) aid to feed their people while they destroy their livelihoods through a neglect of, and even by destroying, infrastructure. In these badly-run "developing" countries, governments channel aid to small elites, especially their pals. Poor people in villages and shanty towns never see any aid. Infant and child death rates remain high, basic health needs are unmet and hygiene is appalling - even in countries on which aid is focused.
"Though there's a strong case for us to help with the Ebola crisis, the worst thing Westerners could do to Africa would be to send more foreign aid. Foreign aid provides the financial resources that enable Africa's grossly corrupt and incompetent regimes to buy military equipment, pay off cronies and continue to oppress their people. It also provides resources for the leaders to live lavishly and set up "retirement" accounts in foreign banks."
Quote Of The Day is from Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, "Life is best understood backward but must be lived forward."
Wednesday November 19, 2014
Is The Sports Car Market Dying? "The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be," Ian Robertson, BMW's head of sales, said in an interview recently. "Post-2008, it just collapsed. I'm not so sure it'll ever fully recover."
According to Robertson, two factors seriously wounded the classic sports car market. First, the global economic crisis of a few years ago put a serious hurt on sales. Further worsening the situation, the boom in popularity of luxury SUVs and crossovers in the past few years hasn't allowed for much recovery. Combined, Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK sales peaked around 114,000 units a year in 2007, but they are only expected to reach 72,000 annually by the end of the decade. Last month, Audi only sold 32 TTs in the U.S.
Dereck Kreindler wrote, "The other factor is that driving conditions have changed. Increased congestion, urbanization and a demonization of speeding (backed by harsh, if not draconian penalties) has made the notion of a sports car an outmoded one for many people. Even the latest 991 Porsche 911 GT3 has abandoned the manual transmission."
It should be noted that the Mazda MX5 (nee Miata) holds the record for the best-selling two-seat sports car in automotive history ... (more >>>)
Expensive Medicine: Remember that NYC Ebola doctor? The one who went bowling and took he subway and such before he voluntarily quarantined himself?
Well, it's wonderful that Dr. Craig Spencer is now cured but the cost of his treatment was $20 million and counting. I imagine his itemized bill is taller than the Empire State Building.
Compared with Dr. Spencer, my 2014 medical bills are peanuts.
The State Of Catholicism: Short version ... it's not too good these days. According to a 2013 Pew Research study, "Nearly one-third of Americans who were raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholics. Overall, American Catholic churches lost 5% of their membership during the last decade, and the decline would have been much steeper if not for the offsetting impact of Catholic immigrants from Latin America."
Then there's the struggle that many Catholic parishes are having in recent years ... (more >>>)
If You're Getting Old ... this is a pretty scary sight:
Book Review: 'Daring: My Passages: A Memoir' by Gail Sheehy
Sheehy is an American author, journalist, and lecturer best known for her 'Passages' books, from the 1976 original to 'New Passages' (1984). Her latest book is an autobiographical memoir. She lives in New York which ex-New Yorker Gerard Van der Leun calls The Hive and there is a lot of Hive-stuff in the book, including lots of name dropping - of people, places, restaurants, etc.
I've read a couple of Passages books and enjoyed them but I found this one to be less enjoyable. There is no doubt that Gail Sheehy has lived a fascinating life. She was born in 1937 but there is a definite Boomeresque tone to the book - a lot of Me-Me-Me stuff and a We Changed The World theme, which detracts from the narrative. She loves describing food, places and parties in great detail but devotes only one sentence to ... (more >>>)
Maybe I'll Just Light Up A Marlboro Instead: New York assemblyman Karim Camara has introduced a bill that will require health warning labels on certain drinks with added sugar. It comes after the World Health Organization recommended slashing a person's daily intake of added sugar from 50g to 25g. A regular can of Coke contains 35 grams of sugar, so that alone would exceed this limit.
The Brooklyn Democrat - wait ... were you expecting him to be Republican? Or Libertarian - said, "We have a public health crisis, which is a direct result of people consuming too much sugar. ... As a society, we have a moral obligation to educate people so they can make healthier choices."
Quote Of The Day is from British novelist Evelyn Waugh, in a snappish and mean-spirited reply to a woman who told him how much she loved 'Brideshead Revisited': "I thought it was good myself, but now that I know that a vulgar, common American woman like yourself admires it, I'm not so sure."
Monday November 17, 2014
Up For An Award: The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida is a finalist for IHMA's Museum of the Year award.
"The museum includes about 300 cars distributed between two buildings - one for muscle cars and other production cars of interest to Garlits, the other for dedicated drag racing vehicles, including many of his own Swamp Rats, at least a couple of Connie Kalitta's Bounty Hunters, a Craig Breedlove-built Spirit of America dragster, Tommy Ivo's twin-engine dragster, Jim Lytle's Big Al II Allison-powered 1934 Ford, and cars raced by Bruce Larson, Shirley Muldowney, the Bean Bandits, and many others."
I visited the museum in 2000 and met Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits himself. Nice guy. I've posted photos of vehicles displayed at the museum here.
Somebody's Got Disposable Income: Costco online is selling an 11 pound Japanese Wagyu Boneless Ribeye Roast for $1,200 delivered.
For that kind of money, I'd also want an autographed photo of the cow in question as well as a set of leather seat covers made from said bovine.
Another Meat Story: Following an article about Wal-Mart's falling reputation, commenter Dennis Howell offered these suggestions: "Want good meat? Join Costco and stay out the hell out of Wal-Mart. Want good meat cheap? Stop putting cow food in our gas tanks."
One More Meat Story: Did you see last week's cover photo on 'Paper' - a magazine I've never heard of, have you? - of Kim Kardashian's humongous, oil-covered, nekkid ass? (If you haven't seen it, you can Google it up and be both amazed and embarrassed. You might as well be embarrassed because none of the Kardasian clan even know the meaning of that word.)
In the photo, Kim's oiled-up, mammoth, shiny butt cheeks look like they've been hot-waxed by an automotive detail shop. Or like a pair of freshly-polished tan BMW Isettas parked side-by-side.
I Wikied 'Paper' and found that it's "a New York City-based independent magazine focusing on fashion, pop-culture, nightlife, music, art and film. Past cover models include Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Prince, Fergie, Mariah Carey and The Scissor Sisters." No, I've never heard of The Scissor Sisters, either.
I find Kim Kardashian's monstrous posterior very unsexy. Maybe it's because I'm a car guy, but whenever I see her gianormous bustle-back heinie, I think about the rear end of a 1980 Cadillac Seville. Or a 2014 Cadillac XTS. Or the rear package shelf on a 1950 bathtub Nash:
TV Wonder: Glen A. Larson, a successful television writer-producer whose enviable track record included 'Quincy M.E.', 'Magnum, P.I.', 'Battlestar Galactica', 'Knight Rider' and 'The Fall Guy', has died at age 77.
Larson was also a singer in the 1950s pop group The Four Preps and went on to compose many of the theme songs for his TV shows. The Four Preps recorded such hits as 'Twenty Six Miles' and 'Big Man'. They also sang back-up vocals on several of Ricky Nelson's hit records.
The prolific Mr. Larson also wrote and produced for 'It Takes a Thief', starring his fellow high school alum Robert Wagner as a burglar who stole for the U.S. government. Larson met Wagner while hitchhiking to Hollywood High. RIP.
Conserve This! Are you as tired as I am about those preachy, sanctimonious messages in hotel bathrooms about water and towel usage? If these establishments were really serious, they'd offer deals: "Reuse your towels and we'll knock ten bucks a day off your bill." "But nooooooo!" as John Belushi used to say.
Instead they put up signs trying to make people feel guilty so that they can get suckers to engage in Towel & Washcloth Conservation and the hotel can lay off five more Mexican housekeepers.
The whole idea of using less water is baloney anyway. Here's a hotel bathroom sign I'd like to see ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from John Kenneth Galbraith: "The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable."
Thursday November 13, 2014
Why Are These Men Unhappy?
If Only They Could Get Rid of that Hideous Shield Grille: Dan Neil reviewed the Acura TLX sedan, noting that its general blandness and inoffensiveness make it "the upscale midsize family sedan you buy when you can't make up your mind. ... The new TLX is pleasantly rounded and averaged and harmonized in a way that could be catnip for suburban un-deciders."
He asked "has anyone given any thought to upscale consumers who don't particularly care to make a statement? These consumers would like to abstain, if it's all the same to you, from the sweaty exertions of Cadillac's and Lexus' styling departments. They don't want a car that looks like a filter feeder or a spaceship. Maybe they don't like Volvos because Sweden has Obamacare.
Maybe you like the German cars in the 2- and 3-liter class - BMW 3 and 5 sedans, Mercedes-Benz C and E class, Audi A4 and A6 - but you just can't bring yourself to pay the brand premium that you know in your heart is baked into the price. I feel you. Some ancient Scottishness roils my guts when I think about paying that kind of ransom to the Hun. Arr!"
This is kinda sad. Once upon a time, Acuras were luxuriously sporty vehicles which had personality and zest. Today's Acura is vanilla: "Built for Americans by Americans, in Marysville, Ohio, the TLX is a new car for Honda's premium Acura brand, which discontinued the TSX (smaller) and TL (larger) for model year 2015 and split the difference with the TLX, a close relative of the Honda Accord. But the two cars feel quite a bit different."
Neil concluded, "In the end, the TLX represents your nonaffiliated choice, your principled silence in upscale consumerism. When brought to the microphone of automotive posterity, TLX buyers solemnly intone, 'No comment.'"
And, even though the grille is smaller, it still reminds me of Karl Malden.
I've lost quite a bit of hair but it seems to have stopped falling out. What's left is pretty white, too. I've been told that the hair may well grow back over the next six months or so. And some color may return; perhaps it will be something interesting, such as purple. Or green.
My wife took this photo after I returned home from the oncology clinic.
I have actually gained weight during the course of my chemo treatment. That's something most patients don't experience. But I never had nausea, loss of appetite, mouth sores or most of the other common side effects listed for the drugs I was given. I'm a very lucky guy.
Next, there will be blood work to see if any cancer remains, followed by physical exams, tests, scans and probably more surgery early next year. But I'm feeling pretty good today. And that's a good thing.
One day at a time. One step at a time. Put one foot in front of the other.
Thanks to all for your prayers and good wishes. (permalink)
A Hunka Hunka Burnin' Money: Andy Warhol's 'Triple Elvis', a 1963 silkscreen of Presley in a publicity image for the movie 'Flaming Star' in which he is shown as a cowboy with a gun, was just sold for $81.9 million. The almost 7-foot-tall work, in which Warhol repeated the image three times, had an estimate of more than $60 million.
Lotta bucks for a mere silkscreened print.
Crumbling Commonwealth: Recently, I watched a documentary on DirecTV, called 'Commonwealth'. It contrasted the shutting down of public schools in Philadelphia's inner city (due to lack of funds) with the construction of a huge prison just outside the city limits. The program offered an "in-depth look at whether life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are possible in the gritty birthplace of American democracy."
The Philadelphia School District's (PSD) state-run School Reform Commission voted in March to close 23 public schools, nearly 10% of the city's total, in a move they say is necessary to plug a $304 million budget deficit. ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Ross Perot: "Success depends on how you react to unexpected opportunities."
Wednesday November 12, 2014
Last Ride Of The 2014? Last Saturday dawned foggy and chilly but with no rain - a rare occasion lately. By noon, the fog had lifted and the sun was out, although the temperature was still a chilly 48 degrees. I decided to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe but, as I headed out to the garage, a Honda Accord full of family arrived. My grandson jumped out and asked if he could ride along with me.
We had a pleasant drive along the back roads of Clark County, WA. It's been cold lately; Tuesday's lows dropped to 28 degrees. On Monday, I put insulated covers on the outside water spigots.
It's chilly inside our house as well; we are in the process of having two heating systems replaced. Many of the components were from 1980 and are failing. We're getting Carrier Infinity Stage 1 Performance Systems for both units (one two-ton, the other four-ton) and are having the duct systems resealed and insulated added where needed. We will get some energy rebates from our local power company and a factory rebate from Carrier. We have a third, smaller heating system which is also on its last legs. We plan to have it replaced as part of an overall remodel of our small basement area next summer.
The new systems are very efficient heat pump furnace units, although I would have preferred something nuclear - like the working mini-nuke model Martin Prince made for the children's contest in 'The Simpsons' episode from 1997: "Behold, the power plant of the future, today!"
Happy Birthday, Grandmom: The only grandmother I ever knew (my other one died a year before I was born) had her birthday today.
She would have been 136 years old, although she always lied about her age and would probably admit to being 128 or so. ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents' by Ronald Kessler
This book was a fast and easy read. That's a good thing, because it was, in my view, a repeat of Kessler's earlier work, 'In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect', which I reviewed in 2010.
The same gossip is reiterated ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Mona Charen: "It continues to defy explanation why liberals, who theoretically love liberty, equality, tolerance and moderation, should find so much to despise in their own country, which represents the fullest expression of those virtues anywhere on the globe."
Tuesday November 11, 2014
Birthday Packard: Over the weekend we celebrated my daughter's birthday. She is a fan of Packard automobiles, so I presented her with a 1:24 scale diecast model of a 1953 Caribbean.
This pricey top-of-the-line offering was Packard's 'halo' model; much of its styling was derived from ... (more >>>)
Accuracy Counts: Too many novelists are sloppy, especially when it comes to cars.
I recently read 'The Best Of Me' by Nicholas Sparks. It began well, sounding a bit like one of Lee Child's Reacher books - featuring a loner who travels light in the early chapters. But it quickly devolved into a treacly love story and morphed into a chick novel.
There's a scene where one of the bad guys attacks a 1960s-era Corvette Sting Ray, pounding on it with a crowbar "until every panel was dented." The problem is Corvettes don't dent. Their body panels are made of fiberglass which is not a ductile material. Corvette panels will crack, split or break when struck.
Doesn't Sparks have any car buddies he could ask about such things? Doesn't he do any research?
Avoid this flawed book.
Honoring Veterans: This is the day for all of us to be grateful for their sacrifices which have kept and continue to keep us safe. Freedom is never free. Thanks to all soldiers who serve or have served.
November 11th used to be called Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I - a war that ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.
In 1954, it was renamed Veterans Day to honor veterans of all American wars.
Quip Of The Week ... so far is from Seth Myers: "151 years after his death, Civil War hero gets Medal of Honor, VA clinic appointment."
Runner up is from Conan O'Brien: "A 102-year-old woman voted for her very first time in a U.S. election last week. Unfortunately, she voted for Woodrow Wilson."
Dumpster Diving: A woman searching for aluminum cans in a trash bin was dumped into the back of a garbage truck after the driver emptied the Dumpster without realizing the woman was inside. This moron said she doesn't collect cans unless she needs gas money. She also said she's unemployed because of a bad back.
Ooooh. Can't work - disabled due to limited mobility and, therefore, on the public dole, but she's healthy and agile enough to enter the Dumpster Olympics. The woman also complained because she lost her cell phone when she was dumped and has hired an attorney. Only in America.
A Scottish Tale: If you're ever watched 'The Simpsons', you've probably seen Groundskeeper Willie, the surly Scottish janitor at Bart & Lisa's school - Springfield Elementary. He's the one who mans the booth selling haggis at the school fair. Willie is a complex man, who has had many setbacks in his life, including this traumatic event in his youth:
Willie grew up in a very isolated section of Scotland - an area without even the most basic of amenities, not even electricity. One day, his father decided that it was time to take the family on a trek to civilization. After hiking many days, they came upon a town, and on the outskirts of that town was a large shopping mall. Willie and his family were awestruck and drawn inside.
Once inside the mall, Willie and his father became separated from the rest of the family. They searched around the mall, amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and then slide back together again. Willie asked his father, "What is this, Father?"
The father (having never set eyes on an elevator before) responded, "Son, I ha' never seen anything like this in my life, I dinna know what it is." While the boy and his father were watching wide-eyed, a very old lady, wrinkled, stooped and using a cane, slowly walked up to the moving walls and pressed a button.
The walls opened and the old lady walked between them and into a small room. The walls closed and as the boy and his father watched, small circles of light with numbers flickered on the wall above. They continued to watch the circles light up in the reverse direction. The walls opened up again and a voluptuous 24-year-old woman stepped out.
Willie's father immediately cried, "Lad, go get yer Mother!"
Restaurant Review: Jorge's Marguerita Factory; Vancouver, WA
Twenty years ago, we visited this location weekly when it was Salcido's. It's had several other owners and names since then - always Mexican-themed.
We enjoyed our lunch at Jorge's. The waitstaff was friendly and attentive. The warm fresh tortilla chips and tasty and spicy salsa arrived promptly. The food was plentiful and well-prepared.
The only negative ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Peter Ustinov: "The only food for thought is more thought."
Friday November 7, 2014
Has Fiat or Chrysler Ever Made High Quality Cars In Your Lifetime? Fiat Chrysler announced a management change "following the company's woeful performance in the latest Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Survey. Of the 28 brands surveyed, FCA's marques occupied the five the seven lowest scores, while Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat were the four lowest scorers."
Doug Betts, FCA's 51-year-old head of quality, has "left the company to pursue other interests," which is usually corporate speak for "You're fired, Bud."
According to Automotive News, Betts joined Chrysler in 2007, defecting from Nissan, and allegedly had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with new boss Sergio Marchionne.
Fiat has had a bad reputation for decades due to its poor quality. It's what drove Fiat out of the U.S., although it later returned as a vampire, Yugo, which I believe was assembled in Transylvania.
I think the last time a Chrysler Corp. brand name was mentioned in the same sentence as quality was back in the days when Darts and Valiants were sold. And they were far from perfect. Or in 1953, when Plymouth sold the stodgy but bulletproof Cranbrook.
The Look Of Surprise: Recently, I received a catalog from the White House Historical Association, chock full of memorable replicas of presidential do-dads. One page was full of stuffed animal versions of presidential pets of yore, including Socks - the Clintons' cat.
From the expression on Socks' face, he must have just seen what Monica was doing to Bill Clinton in that little room off the Oval Office. (permalink)
But The Exit Interview Would Be A Killer: ISIS is on the lookout for a skilled professional to manage its failing oil refineries and has been using black-market agents to advertise the $225,000/year post.
The terror group is said to have captured at least 11 oil fields in Iraq and Syria during its offensive campaign and was thought to be making around $3.2 million per day from sales in June. But a string of fatal accidents and a lack of ideological commitment from trained engineers has seen its profits slump by more than two-thirds.
Robin Mills, at Manaar Energy, a consulting firm in Dubai, has confirmed the reports but believes ISIS will struggle to attract the best staff with the pay packet they are offering. He said: "The money is good, but it's not that good. A western oil exec posted to Iraq right now, let alone working for ISIS, would expect to earn a lot more than that."
The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree: In Ferguson, MO, Michael Brown's mother has been named as one of the attackers who assaulted and robbed vendors selling T-shirts commemorating the young thug's death.
A report from Ferguson police identified Lesley McSpadden, 34, as one of a group of up to 30 people that ran into the tent and ransacked the stall on October 18th. Pearlie Gordon, 54, Brown's mother-in-law, and two men were selling 'Justice for Mike Brown' merchandise when the subjects "jumped out of vehicles and rushed them during what police are classifying as an armed robbery."
More than $1,500 in merchandise and $400 in cash was stolen.
Retail Flop Sweat: In case you hadn't noticed, both Wal-Mart and Amazon started Black Friday deals on the day after Halloween. Such sales used to commence the day after Thanksgiving; this latest move is an indication of how desperate retailers have become. It wasn't that long ago that there was no Black Friday; stores didn't start running sales until a week or two before Christmas. As I noted last month, Amazon is losing money faster than a new Jaguar depreciates.
The Burning Platform had some things to say about the sad state of our economy, starting with nervous symptoms exhibited by retailers. "These retailers can start holiday merchandising three months before the actual holiday. They can open their doors on Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. It's nothing more than shuffling the deck furniture on the Titanic. We've allowed bankers, politicians and corporate titans to financialize our economy, gutting the once-thriving middle class, sending manufacturing jobs overseas, and convincing the clueless masses that consumer goods purchased with debt is equal to wealth. But, we've reached the point of no return. There are 248 million working-age Americans and 102 million of them are not employed. Of the 146 million working Americans, 82 million of them make less than $30,000 per year.
While retailers have added billions of square feet since 1989, real median net worth is 5% lower over 24 years. Retailers are attempting to get blood from a stone. The stone is in debt, approaching retirement with no savings and dead broke."
We have one entity that deserves the most credit for destroying the American Dream. Real median household income is lower than it was in 1989. The 2008 collapse was caused by the easy money bubble machine at the Federal Reserve. We had the opportunity to hit the reset button, implement rational economic and monetary policies, take our lumps, and make the banking culprits pay for their crimes. Instead, the easily manipulated masses believed the Wall Street storyline and allowed the Federal Reserve and feckless politicians to save the banking cabal with extreme money printing and debt creation. This has pushed the middle class closer to the breaking point, while further enriching the oligarchs. The Federal Reserve saved their owners and lured the masses further into debt."
Enabled by politicians, the Fed and Wall Street have successfully driven consumer debt to an all-time high, blasting through the $3 trillion level. Declining real incomes and rising debt are a sure recipe for fiscal tragedy. This helps explain why Kmart, Sears and Radio Shack are doing pirouettes on the edge of the Great Retail Death Cliff.
Polish Jokes: Let's begin with an old Henny Youngman joke: "Have you seen the new Polish jigsaw puzzle? One piece."
And: "A Polish terrorist was sent to blow up a car. He burned his mouth on the exhaust pipe!"
And: "How do Polish people spell farm? E-I-E-I-O."
And: "A Polish guy locked his keys in the car. It took an hour to get his wife out."
Quote of the Day is from former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Charles McCabe: "Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art."
Wednesday November 5, 2014
ReMix: Tom Mix's newly-restored 1937 Cord 812 convertible made its debut at the Arizona Concours d'Elegance in January 2014. The event was held at the Arizona Biltmore.
This is the same supercharged car in which he died near Florence, Arizona (southeast of Phoenix) in 1940. A flagman had stopped him and warned about roadwork in progress to repair a washed-out bridge. Ignoring the flagman, Mix drove on and plunged into a ravine; the convertible flipped, resulting in instant death. The gully has since been renamed Tom Mix Wash.
As delivered, Mix's car was one of three Cord 812 phaeton models to include a factory-installed rear tire mount, with the other two going to Al Jolson and Barbara Stanwyck. More photos of the Mix Cord can be seen here.
The body design of the Cord 810/812 was the work of designer Gordon M. Buehrig and his team of stylists. The unforgettable, handsome and distinctive coffin nose can be seen from the opposite end of any Concours show field - it's that distinctive
The first American front-wheel drive car with independent front suspension caused ... (more >>>)
October Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.35 million SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in October, up 7% from October 2013, and unchanged from the 16.34 million annual sales rate last month.
Chrysler Group and Nissan reported higher October U.S. sales, with crossovers and light trucks fueling the gains on lower gasoline prices. Nissan group posted a 13% increase. Chrysler Group volume rose 22% while "Jeep and Ram Truck brands all posted year-over-year gains for the month, with Jeep posting a sales gain of 52% - its best October ever with 55,198 units sold.
Ram pickup trucks posted a gain of 33% year-over-year with 39,834 units sold. Adding in the cargo vans, Ram brand sales were up 36% year-over-year. Ram pickups have a 54-month streak of year-over-year sales growth.
Ford Motor posted a U.S. sales decline of 2% year-over-year in October, to 188,654 Ford and Lincoln vehicles, compared with October 2013 sales of 191,985. Sales of the company's best-selling Fusion rose 5.1% to 22,846 mid-size sedans. Ford's car sales fell 12% compared with October 2013 and were down 4% for the first 10 months of the year. Utility vehicle sales were up 10% for the month, while truck sales fell 3%.
Sales of the Lincoln brand jumped 25%; 8,833 Lincolns found buyers last month. Lincoln had its best October sales results in seven years, mostly due to MKC and Navigator sales.
General Motors posted total October sales of 226,819 vehicles, essentially flat with last October. Chevrolet sales were up year over year on the strength of the Silverado, Cruze, Traverse and Equinox, and Buick had its best October in more than a decade. Cadillac sales dropped 8% to 13,615 units; sales of its top-selling SRX utility fell 32% last month. In electric news, Chevrolet sold 1,439 Volts while Cadillac sold a mere 152 ELR coupes. (Tesla sold 1,400 electric vehicles.) Fleet sales accounted for 23% of GM's overall deliveries in October.
Toyota, Scion and Lexus reported total October sales results of 180,580 units, an increase of 7% from October 2013. "October vehicle sales were the best for the month in 10 years as an improving economy and lower gas prices drove strong SUV sales," said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. "At Toyota we also saw a big jump in Camry sales (to 33,164 sedans, an increase of 14%) thanks to the successful launch of the new 2015 model." Prius sales were at 13,511 sedans, down 14% year-over-year. Avalon sales were up 3% to 5,209 sedans.
Lexus sales were up 3%, with 778 flagship LS sedans sold; ironically, only 696 examples of Toyota's entry-level Yaris found buyers last month. (In a similar vein, the Corvette handily outsold the little Chevrolet Spark in October.) 5,932 Avalon-based Lexus ES sedans found buyers last month, a 1% decline from last year. The RX SUV remains the best-selling Lexus model; 8,057 were sold in October.
American Honda reported total Honda and Acura vehicle sales of 121,172 units, an increase of 6% versus October of last year. The Honda division set a new October record on sales of 105,745 vehicles, an increase of 6% percent for the month. The Acura division posted sales of 15,427 units to rise 8% in the same period. The Honda CR-V is now the best-selling model; 29,257 examples found buyers last month.
Subaru sales jumped 25% to 43,012 vehicles. Volkswagen sales rose 10% to 49,471 units. Hyundai sales dropped 7%, while Kia rose 12%. The Hyundai Group sold 84,775 vehicles last month - a rise of 2%.
Jaguar sales dropped 34% to 1,007 units, while Maserati sales leaped 105% to 1,203 autos. Audi sold 15,150 vehicles - a gain of 17%. BMW rose 11% to 30,602 vehicles; Mercedes-Benz still slightly topped the Bavarian by moving 30,773 Mercs, a drop of 4% from last year.
In October, 75 Rolls-Royces hit America's streets along with 59 Lamborghinis and 282 Bentleys. For a select few, life is very, very good.
Idiot Of The Week: So far it's John Kerry, who said that "our planet is warming due to human actions, the damage is already visible and the challenge requires ambitious, decisive and immediate action" on the same day he braved the cold and the snow to watch the New England Patriots play football in his home state of Massachusetts.
Sunday's snowstorm in Foxborough was the strongest early-November snowstorm 120 years. Parts of Maine got 21 inches of snow from the same storm. Record lows were recorded in Miami, Florida.
Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Georgia all saw unexpected snow, in some places up to a foot deep. The Climatology Office in South Carolina has confirmed that Concord, SC has broken a 125 year record for the earliest snow seen.
Kerry's only talent seems to be marrying wealthy women.
The People Have Spoken: Tuesday's vote was a solid rebuke to Barack Obama and his anti-business, Socialist policies. The Republicans now control both Houses of Congress, with a solid 52-54 seats in the Senate and 246 seats in the House of Representatives - the largest Republican House majority since World War II.
The Obama coalition has always been based on overwhelming support from constituencies with some conflicting interests: His strongest groups are blacks and gentry liberals - the same two groups he gathered together when he got to design his own state Senate district in 2002. Majorities of both groups still support him but with greatly diminished enthusiasm. He has failed to improve ghetto life one iota and limo liberals are weary of his relentless petulance and incompetence.
Among the common people - middle-class Americans - Obama's ideology of expanded government, more regulations on business, Obamacare, etc., is no longer accepted because of its negative effect on employment. He is seen as an unengaged ditherer who would rather play golf than solve problems.
Yes, the stock market is up, housing prices are on the rise and bank failures have sharply declined, but the average worker doesn't feel much better. The 'official' unemployment rate is a fraud; many Americans are experiencing reduced work hours and/or the need to get a second job. Then there are those who have given-up looking for work; this permanent underclass is not counted in unemployment statistics. And every middle-American knows someone who falls in that category.
To average voters, the 'economy' still leaves much to be desired. They blame Obama and, after six years of excuses, no longer believe his claim that "It's all Bush's fault." Bill Clinton was right: "It's the economy, stupid."
Many folks were also upset by the negatives of Obamacare as implemented: increased insurance premiums, hospitals closing, companies dropping/reducing coverage, etc. People wanted some kind of health care fix but the massive and intrusive 'change' wasn't what America was looking for.
Make no mistake. Tuesday's blowout was no victory for the Republican Party. Rather, it was a defeat for the intrusive, failed lefty policies of the Obama administration. The Republicans are now merely on probation.
America wants runaway government spending brought under control and barriers to employment reduced. They want America to be a winner again.
The election is over. We the People have spoken. Now the real work begins.
Jeepers, Peepers: Watching a tired Brit Hume on Fox News' election night coverage, I couldn't help but notice that his eyes are a lot like Brent Musburger's.
Sounds like a possible song idea. Paging Kim Carnes.
Drink To Remember: Researchers have found that drinking wine daily can sharpen the memory of people over the age of 60.
Older people who consume between one and six alcoholic drinks a week have a "significantly" better ability to recall memories of events than those who do not drink at all.
Researchers from the Universities of Texas, Kentucky and Maryland "studied the habits of more than 660 people who completed surveys on their alcohol consumption, took various neuropsychological tests and underwent MRI scans of their brains."
Moderate alcohol consumption - up to two alcohol beverages a day - was found to preserve the region of the brain responsible for memory and cognition.
And ... if you drink a lot more, not only will you remember things you've done, you'll also remember stuff which never even happened!
Book Review: 'Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town' by Beth Macy
This well-written, 450-plus page book is information-packed and tells a great story ... seven stories, actually:
This book is about companies and people who make stuff. Manufacturing is vital to the economy of the United States because it is a generator of wealth. Ha-Joon Chang of Cambridge University has written that "production is the ultimate foundation of any economy." Taking low-cost raw materials (wood, baking flour, steel) and processing them to produce much more expensive items (furniture, cakes, automobiles) creates profit. This in turn produces prosperity - for individuals and for a nation.
Furthermore, if the nation's products are unique and interesting enough that ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from H.L Mencken: "A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar."
Monday November 3, 2014
Something Western: This 1:43 scale model of a 1940 Packard Darrin was made by Western Models Limited in 1981:
Western, an English maker of handbuilt white metal models, offered the Packard Darrin in different colors over the years, including gold, green, red and black. Western Models was founded in 1973 and initially ... (more >>>)
Better Rides: As much as I seem to complain about today's cars, it's getting harder and harder to buy a really awful car in the U.S. these days. Daewoo and Yugo are out of business as brands; Peugeot and Renault are no longer imported. Hyundai, Nissan and Kia are much improved over the last 15 years. And Oldsmobile is gone, so no one needs to fear that the 1980 Omega will be resurrected.
Hopefully, even-better vehicles are probably headed our way.
Don't Forget To Vote: You shouldn't whine about politicians if you refuse to participate in the game. Please remember the new rules implemented to avoid long lines: Republicans vote on Tuesday; Democrats vote on Wednesday.
And if one of those moronic candidates starts spouting that "we have two Americas," don't vote for him/her. Because he/she is wrong. There are Eight Americas.
Travel Memories: For some reason, I recently thought about the Candy Cane Motel in Bellevue, Washington; it closed its doors in 2005. I slightly mourn its passing. In the late 1970s, when my plastics business was young and cash strapped, I used to stay at the there whenever I was in the east Seattle metro area. At $30 bucks a night, it was cheaper by half than anything else nearby. By staying there (next to the sewage plant - I used to tell people that it had a 'lagoon-like atmosphere'), I had enough money left over for dinner and drinks.
The rooms had gas-fired heaters mounted in the walls. When the heater would kick on in the middle of the night, the flames from the manifold were at eye level (when laying down), about three feet from the bed. The noise would wake me, I'd see flames and momentarily think I was in Hell.
The Candy Cane was a "one-diamond" motel in the AAA Guide. I stayed in a lot of one-diamonds in those days. Until, at another 1-D crash pad in north Vancouver (WA), I was awakened in the middle of the night by flashing lights. Cop cars. Someone in the next room had been murdered in a drug deal that went bad. I began to upgrade to two-diamond establishments.
When staying at the Candy Cane, I'd often have drinks and soup at The Velvet Turtle in Redmond. They occasionally had a special soup - cream of peanut butter. Delicious. Then the place closed in 1981 or so. Eventually, all The Velvet Turtles went out of business.
I also used to eat at a place near I-90 in Bellevue with green awnings and an Irish name, O'Brien Turkey House, but they didn't serve any alcohol because they were teetotalers. (I had never met Irish teetotalers before. Or since.) They served a wonderful turkey dinner ... but O'Brien no longer exists. There was another one located in Arlington, WA but it closed in 2009.
There was a cafeteria in Southcenter Mall (Renton, Washington) that served the most wonderful ... (more >>>)
All The Leaves Are Brown ... and the sky is gray:
This was the view from the back deck on November 1, 2014. Saturday was the last opportunity to grill steaks on Daylight Savings Time. Next week, I'll have to cook by flashlight.
Sooooo, I grilled a large Costco Prime sirloin for two which we consumed along with a bottle of Cougar Crest 2008 Cabernet Franc. The wine was, as usual, delightful. It had won the bronze medal at both the 2012 and 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Usually used as a 'blending' wine, we discovered this Cab Franc at the small and then-dumpy Cougar Crest tasting room near the airport during a 2007 visit to Walla Walla, WA. Cougar Crest has since moved to far more upscale quarters west of town - befitting its fine product, but the wine tasted just as good as it did seven years ago. The winery describes it thusly: "Cabernet Franc has become the rising star of our estate vineyard. Allowed to thoroughly ripen on the vine with flavors of red currents, violets, herbs, pepper and spice compliment a rich mouth feel. The finish is long with tobacco, caramel and toast aromas."
Well, I don't know about the 'toast' part but I could definitely discern the pepper and the herbs. It was delicious with a lively flavor and our meal was most satisfying as well.
When Hysteria Meets Suppression: Jack Baruth has penned a thoughtful article about Ebola.
"Why spread lies about the risks of AIDS and Ebola? Well, whenever you see that the facts don't match the behavior, it's time to look at "morals" if the person is right-wing or "social justice" if the person is left-wing. It's clear that the "social justice" narrative intends to protect gay men and Africans from being stigmatized by association with HIV and Ebola. This is a worthy cause on the face of it: under no circumstances should Americans of any preference or background face discriminatory behavior because of their increased risk for HIV or Ebola. But that message should be spread using truth, not convenient lies."
As I write this, there are two known cases of Ebola in Oregon. Oregon!! It's a small state population-wise and not exactly a 'destination' for Africans. How can this be?
"How, exactly, did Ebola become a political cause? How did it become politicized at all? I haven't the foggiest notion, but even in my disconnected-from-Facebook state I'm being constantly made aware of left-leaning people downplaying the danger of the Ebola virus, usually with a smug statement to the effect that only "ignorant" people - meaning white people who didn't vote for Mr. Obama simply because he has an African father - are concerned about it."
He concludes with three lessons to be drawn from the current Ebola coverage:
As Instapundit would say, "Indeed."
Definition Of The Day is for 'Committee': A body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.
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