A Blog About Cars ... And More
Tuesday January 31, 2017
AutoSketch: 1950 Studebaker - Rainbow Connection
Even though the 1950-51 Ford outsold the '50-51 Studebaker by more than fourfold, people of a certain age remember the Studie much better. After all, a rainbow-painted 1951 bullet-nosed Studebaker was one of the stars of 'The Muppet Movie'.
In August 1949, when 'The Next Look' 1950 Studebaker was unveiled, featuring the company's signature "bullet-nose" for the first time, it was a winner - more popular than even the 1947 model. Despite the promotional hype, '50 Studies were identical to the 1947-49 models except for the bullet nose, minor trim, and vertical instead of horizontal taillights. 1950 models also featured ... (more >>>)
A Midwinter's Tale: After three days of foggy weather, the sun came out last Friday. At 1:00 pm, it was a chilly 44 degrees, but I decided to take advantage of the good weather and take a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe under beautiful cloud-free Winter-blue skies - that odd color for which there's no Crayola match.
The traffic was light and the ride was pleasant, although my hands were quite chilly after the ride, given the Plymouth's primitive box heater beneath the passenger's side dashboard. Snow-covered Mt. St. Helens and the tips of the eastern Cascades were clearly visible.
I hadn't driven the car since early November; it was a real treat to be behind the wheel, listening to the V8 rumble through the Glasspacks while 'The Joe Niagara Show: Cruisin' '57' blasted from the speakers. It made me feel like I was 16 again.
The car ran perfectly; I'm looking forward to more drives as the weather improves.
Odo Roll: On Sunday, the odometer on my 2008 Lexus LS 460 finally passed the 30,000-mile mark.
RIP: Barbara Hale, best-known for her role as legal secretary Della Street on more than 270 episodes of 'Perry Mason', has died at age 94 of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Glad I Don't Live In South Florida: Faced with ever-increasing traffic jams, South Florida's public officials have come up with a plan: Make things worse. Instead of fixing the problem, government officials are deliberately adding to it in hopes we'll all walk, ride the bus or take the train.
"Until you make it so painful that people want to come out of their cars, they're not going to come out of their cars," said Anne Castro, chair of the Broward County Planning Council. "We're going to make them suffer first, and then we're going to figure out ways to move them after that because they're going to scream at us to help them move."
At least they're being honest about it. Portland has the same policy (no new freeways in 40 years, more wasteful light rail and street cars, bicycles given top priority in traffic) but won't come out and say it so bluntly.
Today's Inspirational Thought: Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.
Friday January 27, 2017
Another Sign Of End Times: Porsche is planning to offer a station wagon. Ol' Ferdinand must be spinning in his grave.
The Snowflake Factor ... may be one reason why Americans are buying fewer Toyota Camrys these days. Jack Baruth posited, "Deep inside, all of us know that we are very special people who deserve unique, curated experiences. Midsized sedans just don't offer those curated experiences, do they? They're the cars of our parents and our grandparents, people who were busy doing stupid, racist stuff like making America the leading economic power in the world and/or protecting it from the now-discredited Communist menace.
We are too good to drive a Camry. The only way we can demonstrate our specialness is to drive something completely unique and amazing like a Prius or a RAV4, neither of which could ever be confused for regular, boring, transportation appliances like a Camry. Our active lifestyles demand ground clearance. Kaden's soccer field has - you won't believe it, Rechell! - unpaved parking."
Of course, the Camry is not dead in the sense of the Town Car. Or Pontiac. It's just that Toyota is selling fewer of them than before. More people are buying smaller cars (Civics, Corollas) which are now as big as the old Camry used to be. Or they're buying small SUVs, so they can sit high and feel less intimidated by all those F-150 pick-em-ups on the road. I suspect there will still be a Toyota Camry in 2027.
Being Prudent In An Imprudent World: I've heard and read advice from so-called investment advisors, stating that the stock market has grown an average of 8% per year over the last 80 years, so it's OK to take 8% every year from your retirement savings. A few years ago, television ads from Fidelity Investments touted that it's perfectly reasonable to withdraw 4-5% from your retirement account and not worry. Baloney.
An article several years ago in The Motley Fool stated that ... (more >>>)
Like Paris Hilton, They're Cute But Have No Talent: Regarding pandas, Jim Treacher recently asked, "Why do we keep doing this? Why do the people who say they respect nature keep trying to thwart it? Why not just let these useless beasts go away and leave us alone already?"
Let's face it, if pandas had any talent, they would have been in the circus. So, Jim has a point.
I have it on good authority that Richie Rich used to dress up as Andy Panda on Halloween. I also have it on good authority that the next target of Jim Treacher's wrath is koala bears.
Model Car News: John and Jenny Hall, who founded and built Brooklin Models, passed away in December 2016. The married couple started the firm in 1974 in the basement of their home in Brooklin, Ontario. His original objective was to produce 1:43 scale, 1930s and '40s American cars to go with Lionel trains, becuase of the paucity of appropriate model cars available for O-gauge train layouts..
In 1979, they moved their manufacturing company to Bath, England. My wife and I dined with John and Jenny in 1991 when I interviewed John as part of a one-hour video about collectible model cars ... (more >>>)
She Turned The World On With Her Smile: Actress Mary Tyler Moore has died at age 80 from complications of pneumonia. She had reportedly been on a respirator for the past week and had multiple health problems including Type I diabetes, which was diagnosed over 50 years ago. In 2011, she underwent brain surgery to remove a benign tumor and suffered from heart and kidney problems.
Moore made her first television debut anonymously as a dancing pack of Old Gold cigarettes; all viewers could see was her legs. She gained fame as frazzled but earnest wife Laura Petrie on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', which debuted in 1961. She later starred in the groundbreaking 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'. She won seven Emmy awards for her TV performances.
She also made several movies. In 1969, Moore played a nun who falls for Elvis Presley in 'Change of Habit'. She was nominated for an Oscar for her 1980 critically-acclaimed portrayal of a cold mother, unable to cope either with the drowning death of one of her sons or with her surviving son for his ensuing suicide attempt, in the dark movie drama, 'Ordinary People'.
Ms. Moore had been a very active and passionate supporter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Mike Connors, best known for his starring role in the television detective drama, 'Mannix' (1967-73), has died at age 91 of leukemia. He married his one and only wife in 1949 (unusual by Hollywood standards) and is survived by her and two children.
Rest in Peace to Mary and Mike.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "For university presidents, as for politicians at all levels, one of the most valuable talents for the success of their careers is the ability to say things that make no sense, with a straight face and a lofty tone."
Wednesday January 25, 2017
I'd Choose Subaru: The 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is a five-seat AWD wagon with a little more ground clearance than a Golf SportWagen. Dan Neil wrote that it's "aimed so squarely at the Subaru Outback they could have called it 'Das Hinterland'." I took a year of high-school German, so I get the joke.
All is not well with the less-than-$29K Wagen: "With the engine's 199 pound-feet tasked to move a 3,500-pound mass, the Alltrack is what you might call entertainingly underpowered. It's pretty snorey around town, the result of its various fuel-saving protocols. The turbo-four uses an iron engine block, as opposed to aluminum, which helps knock down engine noise and thrash."
Then there's VW's damaged image, including "a shattered U.S. dealer force and a reputation for reliability that rivals country-music great George Jones.
Given its back story, our little lifted wagon might as well have pulled up to the house accompanied by menacing theme music. But, God help me, I really like this car. I like the pugnacious stance and useful increase in ground clearance. I like the seating position, easy ingress at four doors, and outward visibility. If you fold down the rear seat-backs, a Costco-worthy cargo space appears (66.5 cubic feet)." At TTAC, Timothy Cain tested an Alltrack with "a navigation system that wouldn't navigate."
Volkswagen's reliability problems are long-standing, going back even further than the introduction of the water-cooled, front-drive Rabbit in 1974. I'd offer my 1976 Scirocco as Exhibit A but it probably went to the junkyard long ago.. With Volkswagen's 42-plus year track record of after-sale problems, I wouldn't expect the Alltrack to hold up very well.
If I were in the market for a vehicle such as this, I'd stick with the Outback which is pretty dead-bang reliable.
Book Review: 'Who Needs The Fed?: What Taylor Swift, Uber, and Robots Tell Us About Money, Credit, and Why We Should Abolish America's Central Bank' by John Tamny
The Greatest Show On Earth No More: After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on "The Greatest Show on Earth." Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will close forever in May. The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors: Declining attendance, high operating costs, changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups. Attendance had been declining for years but the decline accelerated when the circus stopped using performing elephants last year.
"The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the U.S. since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals."
Goodbye to another childhood memory: "Open wide, George."
In other circus-related news, the corrupt show known as the Clinton Global Initiative is shutting down in April, due to the inability of Bill and Hillary to continue their influence-peddling.
Headline Of The Week ... so far, is from The Peoples Cube: 'Women's March in DC leaves millions of cats hungry at home'.
Welcome To America; Speak English: The new whitehouse.gov, unlike the online home of the Obama administration, has no Spanish-language content.
Visiting the old White House website address for content "en Español" produces an error page. During the Republican primary season, Donald Trump made a point of his preference for immigrants to learn English. "We have a country where to assimilate, you have to speak English," Trump declared. He's right and it's about time.
Furthermore, the "chairman and CEO of U.S. English, the nation's most vocal advocate of making English the official language of the United States, said that the Trump administration shouldn't give Spanish-speakers any special dispensation."
"Maybe if they're going to do it in Spanish, they should also use all 323 languages spoken in the United States, right?" asked Mauro Mujica. "Why just one and not the other 322?" Good point.
"Press 3 for Klingon."
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Could Superman unsqueeze a diamond to turn it into a piece of coal?"
Monday January 23, 2017
2017 Scottsdale Auto Auctions: As usual, the various Arizona vehicle auctions were full of aging white dudes with buckets of cash bidding against each other, as they sought their automotive nirvana du jour. Or the nostalgia of their youth.
Auction prices have been rising for years but this year it seemed that prices had plateaued on the high-end and actually dropped in the sub-$100,000 segment of the vintage car market.
The famous red 1984 Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole used in filming 'Magnum P.I.' (one of five used for filming) and surely driven by Tom Selleck, who now stars in the television drama 'Blue Bloods' and does commercials for reverse mortgages on the side, was sold by Bonhams auction house for $185,000.
Justin Bieber's personal 2011 blue Ferrari 458 Italia crossed Barrett-Jackson's block at $295,000.
Record-setting auction prices have been rising for years but this year it seemed to me that prices had plateaued on the high-end and actually dropped in the sub-$100,000 segment of the vintage car market. That said, preliminary figures reported by Classic Car News indicate otherwise, noting that preliminary figures show that "overall totals were 30% above 2016 figures through the same point in the week, according to Hagerty, the insurance and value-tracking company that staffs each of the Arizona sales.
Higher sales volume was a factor, Hagerty noted, with 274 more lots offered and 266 more lots sold to date. However, average sale price across all auctions was another driver, it noted, with a 7% improvement compared with year-ago results."
Hagerty noted that "modern domestics" (American cars built from 1980-2009 - a market segment that doesn't particularly interest me) were hot items. Doing particularly well were 1984-96 Chevrolet C4 Corvettes, 1994-2004 Ford Mustangs, and 1982-92 Pontiac Firebirds.
On the other hand ... (more >>>)
Aching To Own One: Dan Neil evaluated a 2017 Audi R8 with a V10 engine. A few years ago, I visited a Rancho Mirage, CA showroom with a friend who was looking at an A5 convertible. While he was talking to a salesman, I moseyed over to an R8 coupe and got in. It doesn't have much headroom but the problem for me was getting in and out. The R8 has a wide sill and that, combined with the low height of the door means one has to contort into positions so extreme, they're not even listed in the Kama Sutra. In any case, my arthritis, which is normally fairly quiescent, kicked into full overdrive and I walked with a painful limp and multi-point aches for the rest of the morning.
Mr. Neil, who is obviously more nimble (and younger) than yours truly, wrote, "And yet earthlings might be surprised to learn that the R8 stands as a fairly reasoned and seasoned choice in mid-engine, six-figure supercars. They come in flashier plumage than this - the R8's mechanical cousin is the Lamborghini Huracán - but I say, leave the flesh-peddlers their whips. The R8 is a sports car for Bauhaus enthusiasts, graduates of summer programs in Romance languages, men who cook in aprons.
Over the years, the R8 has shown a lot of range, from mild to wild, from coupe to canvas-topped spyder. The base R8 coupe - at $162,900 MSRP, Audi's most expensive offering - represents nothing but a dead-sexy all-weather GT with V-10 power, and at those prices you would hope so."
Priced at $200,000 and powered by a 5.2 liter naturally-aspirated V10 engine which puts out 510 horsepower, the 3,600 pound rocket does 0-60 in 2.6 seconds and has a top speed of 205 mph. Other than the price, the downside is that "the R8 holds only 4 cubic feet of luggage. Oh, and its loud."
Four cubic feet?! That's smaller than a 1950s ladies' makeup case. Or an original edition Kama Sutra.
Inauguration Impressions: Despite the rain, it was Trumptacular. The Lincoln Memorial concert and fireworks were a great kick-off.
The 45th president's inaugural address was well-written and packed a powerful message. President Trump vowed to "give power back to the people. ... This moment is your moment; it belongs to you."
"Today's ceremony has very special meaning. We are not just transferring power from one party to another. We are transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to the people."
"We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure falls into decay. One by one the factories shuttered and left our shores. The wealth of the middle class has been ripped from their homes and redistributed all over the world - but that is the past and we are looking now only to the future."
The president unapologetically reiterated his goal of making America great again with job creation, infrastructure development and higher-quality education.
American inaugurations are - by nature - remarkable events. They signify to the world that the most powerful nation on Earth consistently engages in a peaceful and democratic transfer of power.
Reverend Franklin Graham remarked, "In the bible, rain is a sign of God's blessing and it started to rain, Mr. President when you came to the platform." May God guide President Trump as he carries out his duties.
And let's not forget the Rockettes at the Inaugural Ball. Awesome!
About Those Protests: Billionaire manipulator George Soros had ties to 56 'partners' of the Women's March on Washington. As with most liberals, the women didn't clean up after themselves, leaving huge trash heaps for someone else to deal with. And they have the nerve to call Trump supporters 'deplorables'.
On Saturday, hotel staffers who crossed protest barricades to treat a woman protester who suffered a heart-attack outside the Trump International Hotel in Washington this weekend were treated to jeers and anti-Trump slogans by protesters. Protesters held back by crowd control barricades loudly booed the staffer before the man passed the defibrillator to law enforcement officers on the scene. Protesters also gave middle fingers to hotel guests peering out of windows above and hotel guests leaving the five-star hotel were singled out as "racists."
Finally, a woman who was berating a Trump supporter on a commercial flight was kicked off the plane by the pilot as other passengers cheered. Make America great again!
Buh-Bye: Fox News has declined to renew contributor contracts for political commentator George Will. Or, as they say at the network, he was given "the ol' Dick Morris Heave-Ho." Will was a Trump-hater, who left the Republican party when The Donald became the nominee. He called President Trump's inaugural address "dreadful."
Although he claims to be an "amiable, low voltage atheist," Will has that Wasp nonchalant snark down so well that it would be impossible to tell if his brain is hemorrhaging beneath his unperturbed, world-weary face. He hasn't smiled since Keebler quit making Opera Cremes - his favorite white cookie.
Good riddance. George Will's prognostications were often wrong, even back in the 1970s when he wrote for Newsweek.
PS: A good friend, Bill B., whom I've know for almost 50 years, e-mailed me, "Just read your latest blog and took great pleasure in reading about George Will. I met and talked to him at a reception at Johnson County Community College prior to a speech he was giving there. What an asshole."
Boyz In Da Hood Art: Ol' Remus of the Woodpile Report wrote, "Speaking of which, having lived in Philadelphia where murals abound, meaning multi-story cartoons at the aesthetic level of minstrel show ephemera except with improbably noble sentiments, the intended purpose eludes me. Apparently they're to elevate the self-image of The Community enough to dissuade its inmates from offing passers by. Perhaps they also believe a picture of Stepin Fetchit exhorting its youths to learn calculus would be irresistible if sufficiently large.
More realistically, they may be an inducement to apply weather protection that the walls not deteriorate further. By way of evidence, murals commonly face empty lots guarded by chain-link fence, implying the value of the lot exceeds that of the audience. So it is the Dickensian wards of Philadelphia are regularly altered without improvement, an achievement in itself."
I've seen the murals in question and they're pretty awful, as is most Urban Art. Martin Luther King is portrayed often and, sadly, usually looks like a black Elmer Fudd. In Philly, you can take a 'Walking Tour Of Urban Murals' for a fee of $25 per person. Somebody's getting a kickback. And it's not the kids who did the painting.
Jim Quinn at The Burning Platform has described the extreme seediness of Philly and its environs, noting, "The lucky end units usually have a mural of black people doing great things, with trash, garbage and overgrown weeds underneath and black people not doing great things shuffling along the streets."
You want art? Visit the Philadelphia Art Museum.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Black adults, during the years when I was growing up in Harlem, had far less education than black adults today -- but far more common sense. In an age of artificial intelligence, too many of our schools and colleges are producing artificial stupidity, among both blacks and whites."
Thursday January 19, 2017
Suitable For A Commander-In Chief: A new Cadillac-looking tank-like limousine was supposed to debut at Donald Trump's inauguration, replacing the 2009 presidential limousine - dubbed The Beast - which was used by President Obama. Unfortunately, it wasn't yet ready for prime time. But it will be delivered to the White House soon.
"The limousine is expected to maintain the looks of a "Cadillac Escalade sedan" with a seven-seat, 2+3+2 layout meant to carry the chief executive and just a couple of aides on most journeys. The passenger compartment will still offer conference-style seating for five, and the rear passenger doors will still be positioned to the front of the rear quarter windows that will partially obscure the two rear seats."
President Trump's new ride will not look too much different than President Obama's. But inside, there are ... (more >>>)
Pimp My Truck Bomb: Milo Yiannopoulos, who is like Dennis Miller remixed with a dose of Billy Idol, offered increasingly-irrelevant MTV a number of suggestions for new audience-building programs, including 'Pimp My Ride: Da'esh Edition'.
"There is a whole army of ISIS heartthrobs riding around in plain white Toyota trucks paid for by the CIA, or whoever. But you can't be a stylish terrorist in a factory fresh pickup, so MTV is going to help you pimp your ride! Yes, the format is the same, there will still be the requisite, "Yo dawg, we heard you like weapons, so we added forward and rear-facing machine guns."
Not only will every episode be heartwarming as a Jihadist gets the terror platform of their dreams, western audiences will pick up useful armor tips for driving around danger zones like Columbus, Ohio, Dearborn, Michigan and of course Chiraq."
He also proposed 'MTV Uneaten', which will feature "obese feminists gorging themselves half to death, live on TV, to the sympathetic cooing of the presenters." Don't have a cow, man.
Book Review: The Scandal Of Money: Why Wall Street Recovers but the Economy Never Does' by George Gilder
Mr. Gilder authored 'Wealth and Poverty'. First published in 1981, his book spread the gospel of supply-side economics to a broad audience. I enjoyed reading it.
I found Gilder's latest 224-page book to be very difficult to understand. Maybe it's me. George Gilder has been praised by many as brilliant. But now, Gilder wants to unleash economic growth by ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week: 'Left Wing Vegan Denied Swiss Passport Because She's 'Too Annoying''.
"Nancy Holten, 42, is a self-described animal rights activist who has campaigned against the Swiss tradition of cow bells, calling them cruel.
Despite living in the country since the age of eight, and speaking fluent Swiss German, local residents vetoed her application of citizenship, saying they were "fed up" with her challenging their traditions."
She has also campaigned against other Swiss traditions including hunting, pig racing, and even loud church bells.
Quip Of The Day: Ban pre-shredded cheese. Make America Grate Again.
Tuesday January 17, 2017
In Search Of Excellence: One of my Christmas gifts was a blue 1960 Facel Vega Excellence four-door hardtop. This 1:43 scale diecast model was produced ... (more >>>)
Get Outta My Way Or I'll Smack Ya With My Cane: The number of Americans aged 65 or older without a disability that aren't in the labor force jumped by 800,000 in the fourth quarter of 2016. "The labor force participation rate for this group tanked to 23.6% in the final quarter of the year."
On the other hand, Keith Richards is still working.
Final Thoughts About President Obama: Regular readers know that I've never been a fan of Barack Obama. During the presidential campaign of 2008, I referred to him as a phony, Chicago machine politician who flip-flopped on many important issues. He often came across as a naive, spoiled child. During the '08 primaries, several pundits referred to Obama as Chauncey Gardiner, due to the senator's remarkable capacity for making the vacuous sound profound.
I won't go into all of my criticisms of Obama as president; if you want details, go here.
A well-known historian once said that ... (more >>>)
Bad Cuisine: James Lileks wrote, "I have discovered I can't cook. Last night I got some cheap on-sale cube steak - yeah, I know, that was my problem in the first place, but I figured I could cook it up with Stuff and chop it up, put it on a bun, add some sauce, and it would be okay. It was like eating a Sunday paper that had a picture of a cow somewhere in the sports section."
Dashing Though The Snow: Last week, I had blood work done at the oncology center. That was the easy part. The roads were slippery in spots but I had no problems. Meeting with my oncologist on Friday was a different matter. There was a huge snowstorm overnight on Tuesday, which dropped over 8 inches of snow on our driveway and local roads. Then it got very cold and nothing melted.
On Friday morning, the temperature was 10 degrees.
Thankfully, my daughter had arrived early Tuesday evening with her nimble Subaru Forester. On Thursday night, we put chains on the rear wheels and drove to my Friday morning appointment without incident.
The result of the blood test ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from the late Douglas Adams: "There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened."
Friday January 13, 2017
Rollie Pollie: A chubby 1950 Nash Ambassador four-door sedan - a 1:43 scale diecast model - was produced by WhiteBox (a house brand from Model Car World, a retailer in Florsheim, Germany) using old Ixo tooling and was manufactured ... (more >>>)
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes: After 42 years in business, the Monte Shelton Motor Company has been sold to the Don Rasmussen Company to be joined with Land Rover Portland in August 2016.
"Monte Shelton has been a fixture in Portland's business community since 1957. Shelton is best known for his Jaguar and Rolls-Royce dealerships, but he also sold MG, Triumph and other British marques as well. After beginning his career with a series of east side locations known as Monte's Motors, Shelton moved his business to the current site on West Burnside in 1974." Until about 15 years ago, he also sold Saabs.
I liked Monte but, after his son Neil took over management in the early 2000s, many of the long-tenured staff departed and the service department seemed to be taken over by uncaring moneygrubbers. I quit taking my Jaguar to them for service and patronized The Jag Shop on the east side of Portland. They took good care of me and they're still around.
Bed Holds a 2x3 Sheet Of Plywood: I spotted a recent-vintage, silver Mini pickup truck southbound on I-5 earlier this week. It seemed like a one-off - nicely done but looked silly. It might have been this one.
Higher Cost Per Inch Than A Fort Knox Gold Bar: New York City just opened its brand spankin' new Second Avenue Subway. Two miles long and with just three station stops, this subway line cost nearly $4.5 billion, or "more than $35,000 per inch, making it the most expensive subway in the world."
When first proposed in the late 1920s, the line was expected to cost $86 million.
Now Extremely Limited: Ohio-Based The Limited was the place to go for trendy women's clothing in the 1970s and early '80s. Back in the day, The Limited stores graced many tony shopping malls. But, to everything there is a season and The Limited has now gone away.
The Limited has closed all its brick-and-mortar stores and will continue to operate strictly as an online entity. The chain operated about 250 retail stores in 2016 and about 4,000 jobs have now evaporated.
Hard To Believe ... that it's been 11 years, but in January 2006, I wrote, "Yes, It's Friday the 13th and I'm off to the cardiologist today for my first post-heart-attack check-up. Good thing I'm not superstitious." Hey, my old heart is still beating and all those stents seem to be doing their jobs.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "People who pride themselves on their 'complexity' and deride others for being 'simplistic' should realize that the truth is often not very complicated. What gets complex is evading the truth."
Wednesday January 11, 2017
2017 Detroit Auto Show: As regular readers know, the first auto show I ever attended was the 1960 Philadelphia Auto Show in November 1959. Ever since then, I have faithfully followed auto show coverage because I wanted to see what the future held by looking at all the wild concept cars on display. Alas, I continue to be disappointed by the lack of far-out machinery these days, such as bubble-topped flying cars, powered by nuclear turbine engines.
When I was growing up, magazines like Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated predicted that tires and roads would soon be obsolete and we'll get around in flying cars with transparent Plexiglas roofs. Never happened.
Also missing from this year's Detroit Auto Show were several auto manufacturers: Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Mini, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and Tesla. There are now a plethora of 'significant' auto shows throughout the planet and the one in Detroit loses more cachet every year.
While there were no teardrop-shaped aerocars to be seen at this year's show - the one precociously renamed the North American International Auto Show, there were some new model introductions that caught my attention ... (more >>>)
Fierce & Pricey Luxury: The new top-end Lexus luxury coupe made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show. Last month, Dan Neil drove a preproduction 2018 Lexus LC 500 luxury coupe. He wrote that "this is the way auto makers used to do halo cars, with one wistful look at the project budget and a shrug. The LC is in every way estate grown, designed in-house and built in the clean rooms of Motomachi assembly plant by master craftsmen called Takumi. With production aimed at 4,500 units a month, the car won't generate much in the way of profits. Indeed, the accountants probably see the LC as a vast, Ultrasuede hole into which to throw money."
It looks much like the LF-CL concept coupe shown in 2012 and features that fierce pince-nez grille - a hideous face-only-a-mother-could-love front end which looks like a kitchen device for torturing vegetables and tubers.
The LC is a front-engine, rear-drive 2+2 luxury coupe, with a majority-steel unibody. It is 10 inches longer than a Porsche 911 and 10 inches shorter than a Mercedes-Benz S Coupe. The LC is powered by a 5-liter, 471 horsepower V8 hooked to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The coupe is priced at $100,000 and up. I love my 2008 Lexus sedan, especially the style, but, if a concrete piano was dropped on it, I'd probably replace it with a Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe which is much better looking than the LC 500 and less pricey.
Book Review: '1932 - The Rise of FDR & Hitler - Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal, and Unlikely Destiny' by David Pietrusza
Anything author Pietrusza writes about politics goes on my must-read list. I have previously written favorable reviews about '1920: The Year of the Six Presidents', '1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America' and '1960 - LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies'.
'1932' illustrates the struggles of two iconic leaders as each battled to rise to the top of their respective nations. Conventional wisdom says that Franklin D. Roosevelt had an easy victory over his reviled opponent, Herbert Hoover. He did but he had a far more difficult time securing the Democratic presidential nomination. Adolf Hitler's path to leadership was even more treacherous and almost didn't happen.
For those readers who are car aficionados ... (more >>>)
Last Of The Pack: Buddy Greco, legendary jazz and pop singer and pianist, has died at age 90. He began his career as a singer with Benny Goodman's orchestra at age 16. He was one of the members of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack and appeared with them on stage and television. I believe he was the last living Rat Packer. In the 1950s and '60s, Buddy was a frequent performer in Las Vegas.
My wife and I thoroughly and enthusiastically enjoyed his performances during our stays in the Palm Springs area. RIP, Buddy.
How Did You Start Your Day Today? I was supposed to have elective surgery this morning but had to cancel because, at 7:00 am, there was snow - 11 inches of it - at the hospital which is about five miles from our house. There were trees and limbs on roads which made driving even more treacherous. We measured eight inches in our driveway and the snow is still coming down.
Holy Fast Food, Batman! McDonald's has quietly opened a new restaurant in the Vatican and it is creating a backlash. The restaurant is located just steps from St. Peter's Square in a building owned by the Vatican. The Vatican is reportedly going to receive about $31,000 a month in rent. Here's a tip: If you go there and want to Super-Size your order, just say, "Gustalo Maxi!"
Vatican officials have also ... (more >>>)
Today's Inspirational Thought: Eagles may soar to great heights, but weasels never get sucked into jet engines.
Monday January 9, 2017
A Raymond Loewy Masterpiece: For Christmas, I received a model of a 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner coupe from my son and his wife. This 1:43 scale diecast model was produced by Best of Show models and was manufactured in China. Bumpers are painted rather than chrome-plated, although ... (more >>>)
It's A Keeper: According to data from iSeeCars, the top ten brands owners keep for at least 10 years are: Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Acura, Hyundai, Lexus, Kia, Mazda, Nissan and GMC.
I guess we fit into that pattern. My wife's Toyota Avalon Limited is almost 12 years old and my Lexus LS 460 just passed its 9th birthday. Both cars were purchased new. And while my 78 year-old Plymouth wasn't purchased new, I've owned it for over 22 years. We tend to keep cars a long time, especially if they're dependable.
The record still belongs to our 1967 Volkswagen Beetle which we bought new and owned for over 28 years.
Happy Birthday, Elvis: Yesterday was Elvis Presley's birthday. He would have been 82. And probably would have weighed 820 pounds. Or, as the ever-quotable Yogi Berra might have said, "If Elvis were alive today, he'd be dead!"
Elvis didn't invent rock and roll but he spread the message across America. And the world. Music changed greatly during the postwar era, helped by ... (more >>>)
No Miracle On 34th Street: Macy's will close 63 stores this Spring and is laying off 10,000 employees. The retailer also announced that comparable sales, which include its booming e-commerce business and sales at stores open at least a year, fell 2.1% in November and December, prompting it to slash its full year profit forecast.
Macy's has said it would redouble its presentation and focus on its 150 very best stores, locations such as its Herald Square flagship in Manhattan and its stores in downtown Chicago and San Francisco.
The Three Rivers Mall store in Kelso, WA will close this Spring. The downtown Portland, OR store is already having a Final Clearance sale as is the Lancaster Mall store in Salem Oregon.
Leonardo Da Vinci and Thomas Edison Are Spinning In Their Graves: At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, it wasn't all about giant televisions and smart drones. There were some strange offerings as well:
The future may be weirder than you thought.
Lock Her Up: California Congresswoman Maxine Waters said she will not accept any invitation to meet with President-elect Donald Trump, and plans to obstruct much of his platform.
"I don't trust him, I don't believe him, I have no intentions of sitting down with him; I'm going to fight him every inch of the way," Waters told MSNBC. The South Los Angeles Democrat said Trump has "stepped on everybody and has no respect for his colleagues" nor his ideological opponents.
Waters said, in contrast, Democrats are "nice" and "bend over backwards" to work with Republicans when in the majority. Yeah, right.
This woman should be in jail for her shenanigans with the very troubled, shoulda-been-closed OneUnited Bank - its current slogan is "Bank Black - Join The Movement." Imagine if another bank used the slogan "Bank White." It would be decried by liberals as racist. Jesse Jackson would be on every cable network. Why is no one calling out OneUnited?
Quote Of The Day is from Johnny Carson: "If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead."
Thursday January 5, 2017
2016 Auto Sales: In calendar year 2016, U.S. light vehicle sales 17.465 million units, up from the previous record of 17.396 million set last year. Low gas prices, steady jobs growth and improving consumer confidence have helped the industry.
But there may be trouble ahead. The ratio of inventories to sales for motor vehicles and parts dealers is near the highest levels since the recession. Motor vehicle loans rose to a record $1.1 trillion in the third quarter, and the delinquency rate for subprime auto loans has been on the rise. Industry expert Michelle Krebs wrote, "Rising gas prices and rising interest rates ... put pressure on household budgets."
General Motors full-year sales were down 1% to just over 3 million cars and trucks. That was partly because the company cut back on low-profit sales to rental-car firms. Sales to retail customers in 2016 grew nearly 2% and GM gained half a point of U.S. retail market share. Chevrolet sales decreased over 1% to 2,096,511 units in 2016. GMC was off 2% to 546,628 trucks but Buick sales were up 3% to 229,631 vehicles. Cadillac sold 170,006 vehicles last year, a decline of 3%.
Overall, Ford Motor Company sales were ... (more >>>)
"Leave The Gun; Take The Cannoli." The 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood Series 60 sedan was Cadillac's premium sedan with a longish 133-inch wheelbase for a smoother ride and lots of legroom. The Series 60 sedan sold for $4,728 and was powered by a 250 horsepower V8. Only Eldorado models had a more powerful engine. In 1955 ... (more >>>)
The Future Looks Boxy & Bland: The Chrysler Portal concept car debuted at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show.
The tag line is 'Created By Millennials For Millennials'. Is it a sleek, fast electric sports car? Ummmm ... no. It's a small minivan with 10 docking stations inside to charge and hold smartphones or tablets and is self-driving.
It's not much to look at, though.
The Faraday Future FF91, also unveiled at CES, doesn't look particularly futuristic. Although the wannabe manufacturer claims that the FF is the fastest-accelerating electric car with a 0-60 time of under 2.4 seconds, it's unknown if the troubled startup company will ever manufacture a production vehicle.
Mostly Gone: 88% of the companies on the 1955 Fortune 500 list of top U.S. firms are no longer around.
Those that disappeared include American Motors, Brown Shoe, Rohm & Haas, Studebaker, Collins Radio, Pennsylvania Railroad, Detroit Steel, Zenith Electronics and National Sugar Refining.
Those remaining include 3M, Boeing, Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Deere, General Mills, IBM, Kellogg, Procter and Gamble and Whirlpool.
Book Review: 'MacArthur At War: World War II in the Pacific' by Walter R. Borneman
After a brief look at Douglas MacArthur's ancestry, childhood, family and World War I service, this 600-plus page book spends its time on his days in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
The General engineered stunning triumphs, which he made sure were very-well publicized, as well as humiliating defeats, which he tried to gloss over or conceal.
MacArthur was the ultimate ... (more >>>)
Buh Bye: Self-centered Megyn (aka: Me-Again) Kelly is said to be leaving Fox News for greener pastures ($20+ million/year) at NBC. According to a report in the New York Times, "She will host her own daytime news and discussion program, anchor an in-depth Sunday night news show and take regular part in the network's special political programming."
This won't be a problem for Fox; the network has a deep bench. Here are some replacement possibilities off the top of my head: Tucker Carlson, Jamie Colby, Jeanine Pirro, Harris Faulkner, Melissa Francis, Liz Wheeler, Lisa Boothe, Dennis Miller and Trish Regan.
Update: It's Tucker Carlson. Some exec at Fox News is saying, "There, I fixed it."
Best Wishes For A Happy Retirement: At age 86, conservative writer and economist Thomas Sowell has decided to stop writing his news/opinion column.
His parting advice: "We cannot return to the past, even if we wanted to, but let us hope that we can learn something from the past to make for a better present and future." Dr. Sowell will be missed.
Quote Of The Day is from Warren Hutcherson: "Remember in elementary school, you were told that in case of fire you have to line up quietly in a single file line from smallest to tallest. What is the logic in that? Do tall people burn slower?"
Tuesday January 3, 2017
Rocket 88: I've posted a photo of Fierstein Brothers Oldsmobile, a dealership in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia, which shows a typical one-make small new car dealer. Such establishments ... (more >>>)
Maybe They Could Get Hillary To Christen It: A petition currently on the White House website wants the next major warship to be named 'USS The Deplorables', as the petition notes, "to honor those citizens who rose up to defend America and the Constitution from the globalists."
I hope it has better luck than Boaty McBoatface.
Hot,Windy Sermons: Catholic priests are now expected to preach to their congregations about the evils of global warming.
"Protecting the environment and caring for our common home - the Earth, belong fully to the Christian outlook on man and reality. Priests should be promoters of an appropriate care for everything connected to the protection of creation."
Catholic scientists who disagree and/or consider global warming to be junk science should expect consequences. It is my hope that a Roman Inquisition doesn't put me and other global warming 'disbelievers' under lifetime house arrest.
I've warned about this previously, noting that any time a religion gets involved with science, it's a bad idea and usually ends up with either people being locked up in the Vatican basement or the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Mistaken Identity: Writer Jim Goad named the 16 most annoying people of 2016. I had never heard of many, although, I recognized Trump-haters Kevin D. Williamson of National Review (who repeatedly dissed America's white working class), Bill Kristol (described by Mr. Goad as a "self-important smirking turd") of The Weekly Standard and "titless boar" Lena Dunham.
Jim gave the number one spot to Elizabeth Broadbent (a writer of lefty, self-loathing "brainwashing nonsense") - a shock to me. I took Elizabeth Broadbent on a movie date when we were in eighth grade. But she was sweet, not self-loathing, and went by Betty. She would be 73 years-old by now. Obviously a different Broadbent.
Chilling Recommendation: Investment advisor Malcolm Berko wrote, "I'd rather gargle with liquid nitrogen than own Ruby Tuesday. Enough said!"
The sole location in Vancouver, WA closed in mid-2011. It was part of the city's Black Hole of Dining. Ruby Tuesday was famous for overpriced, mediocre food, slow service and and screwing up orders.
Quote Of The Day is from Dave Barry: "You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, 'My God, you're right! I never would've thought of that!'"
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