A Blog About Cars ... And Much, Much More
Monday November 30, 2015
AutoSketch: 1937 Lincoln K-Series Willoughby Five-Passenger Coupe - Large Luxury
Everyone whines about the Great Recession which began in 2008 but is was nothing compared with to the Great Depression which began in the late 1920s. The trigger point of the Great Depression was the stock market crash on Black Tuesday, October 24, 1929, although housing and auto sales began to soften in 1928. By 1932, stocks were worth only about 20% of their value in the summer of 1929.
The bottom dropped out of the automobile market in late 1929. Auto sales fell a whopping 72% between 1929 and the nadir of the Great Depression in 1932. The economy never truly recovered until America began building up for the inevitable war, known as World War II. The American mobilization for war at the end of 1941 moved approximately ten million people out of the civilian labor force and into the war.
The depression of the 1930s changed the way wealthy Americans lived. Conspicuous consumption became muted. Household staffs were reduced - fewer gardeners, chauffeurs, maids and other servants. Cars were often piloted by owners themselves. The first three years of the Great Depression slashed the number of U.S. automakers almost in half. High-end auto marques like Cord, Duesenberg, du Pont, Franklin, Jordan, Marmon, Mercer, Locomobile, Peerless, Pierce Arrow and Stutz went out of business during the Depression.
Lincoln's new K-Series models were introduced ... (more >>>)
A Parade Of One: Once upon a time, almost every town - large and small - had a Thanksgiving Day parade of some kind. Over the past 10 years, many have disappeared. In some cases, it's lack of sponsorship. In other cases it's apathy. In still other cases, it's a little of both.
Battle Ground has never had a Thanksgiving Parade. I decided to have my own - a parade of one. I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe and drove around the area, waving at anyone I saw. It was a short trip because I was freezing cold - 34 degrees at 11:00 am. But I enjoyed the sunshine, blue skies and white mountains.
Both of my children and their families were here for a fine Thanksgiving feast with turkey and all the fixings, expertly prepared by my wife. I had much to be thankful for this year. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, too.
Speaking of parades, Dan Neil drove a 2016 red Mustang last week and it gave him a 'parade-like' feeling of one as well. He was driving it on "the same day as the local Thanksgiving Day parade, from which most people assumed I had become detached."
"And driving this car, with the top down, is practically a life choice. This is the 2016 Ford Mustang GT Premium Convertible with the California Special trim package, and it will not fail to turn every living head in the immediate vicinity of Middle America. Hey, look, there goes the fire chief."
The rest of the week was cold and sunny. On Sunday, it was 22 degrees at 8:00 am and temperatures never rose above freezing. On Sunday evening, I grilled a filet mignon outdoors on our back deck by moonlight.
Pickups Rule! Through the first 10 months of 2015, the three top-selling vehicles in the United States were pickup trucks. The leader, as it has been for years, is Ford's F-Series, which sold nearly 630,000 units through October. In second place is the Chevy Silverado from General Motors, with 10-month sales totaling more than 492,000. Ram pickups from Fiat-Chrysler have captured into third place, with sales through October of more than 371,000.
A year ago, the Toyota Camry held down third place in the ranking, but Ram trucks have sold about 10,000 more units so far this year than has the Camry, which is still the best-selling car in the United States. Toyota's Corolla is the fifth best-selling vehicle, and the Honda Accord ranks sixth, although sales of the Accord are down 11% year over year.
'Random Thought' Wisdom ... from Thomas Sowell, "Some financial institutions may be considered "too big to fail," but contemporary Western society may be too frivolous to survive. The Romans had bread and circuses to keep the masses passive and unthinking. We have electronic gadgets, drugs and pornography. Like the Roman Empire, we too may decline and fall. What happened in Paris may be just the beginning."
Buh-Bye: Condé Nast is closing down men's magazine 'Details' and laying off 67 people - 40 full- and part-time editorial jobs and 27 advertising jobs.
In the six months ended June 30, 'Details 'saw newsstand sales decline 30.1% to 27,946 from last year, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. But the men’s glossy bumped up its total paid and verified circulation for the same period by 6.7% to 560,212. Ad pages reportedly declined 18% - the kiss of death for any publication.
Trump's Triumph: Car guy, shoe enthusiast and cultural analyst Jack Baruth has explained why Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls.
Jack wrote that "you have to think of Donald Trump as Elvis. Not because he's an entertainer, or because he's got the outrageous hair, but because he's a cultural appropriator. I'll explain. Elvis became popular because he was a white guy singing black music to white people. Donald Trump is kicking ass because he's a Republican using Democrat tactics. More specifically, he's using the tactics developed by the Clinton/Soros machine two decades ago.
As most of you know, the Clintons made an art out of refusing to be sorry for anything they had ever done. So much so that two of their best non-apologies - "Mistakes were made" and "What difference does it make?" have entered the public lexicon. And it works. Look at this business with Hillary and her private email server. This woman knowingly circumvented national security policy by sending, receiving, and storing classified information on a computer in a bathroom closet … and because she won't apologize for it, she's untouchable on the subject.
Trump has been called a "racist" by the corpo-Democratic media since Day One. The label has been applied so often and so vigorously that it's losing its effect. More importantly, Trump refuses to apologize for his "racism." Instead, he's doubling down on his "problematic" behavior. I don't think that's by accident. He is depending on the media going absolutely insane on the topic and simply wearing out the patience of the American voter. By the time the general election rolls around, allegations that Trump is a racist will seem as old and meaningless as Hillary's decision to do State Department business on her own computer.
It's a brilliant strategy. Chuck Todd called Trump "the post-truth candidate." The fact of the matter, however, is that the Clintons perfected being post-truth a long time ago. Trump is simply reading from their playbook. To a national media that is used to watching Republicans bow and scrape in front of them, it's an act of unprecedented cheek."
Jack Baruth has a heart, though. Look how he takes pity on a sad, lonely washer woman.
I predict that, if The Donald becomes president, the White House Gift Shop will actually turn a profit for the first time in its existence. Other good things will happen, too. You'll be surprised.
Trump will also get along with the Pope because he won't be intimidated by all the gold and marble in Vatican City. He might even mistake it for a Trump property.
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."
Thursday November 26, 2015
Happy Thanksgiving: Hope you enjoy your dinner. And I hope it's better than this:
As Homer Simpson would say, "Mmmmmmm. Cobbler."
Tuesday November 24, 2015
Showing Signs Of Life: Maybe the Lincoln brand really is coming out of its coma. The 2017 Fusion-sized Lincoln MKZ has new styling - featuring the grille from the Continental concept - and a 400 horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine. All-wheel drive will also be available.
Now they need to ditch that MKZ moniker and go back to using real names. Plenty are available from Lincoln's past: Zephyr, Capri, Cosmopolitan and many more.
In 2016, Lincoln plans to add a dealership in China every 10 days. Lincoln is two months from achieving its first two-year streak of sales increases since 1998. U.S. sales are up 7.5% this year, after rising 16% in 2014.
Lincoln says the average age of its buyers has dropped from ... (more >>>)
Worth Watching: I'm sure that I'm late to the party on this; in fact, I may be the last car guy to catch on to this new television show but I just started watching 'Jay Leno's Garage' on CNBC and it's awesome.
If you haven't been watching this weekly treat, you should check it out on Wednesday nights. Especially, since 'Car Crazy' and 'My Classic Car' are on hiatus and I'm feeling car content-starved TV-wise.
Book Review: 'Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America' by Dick and Liz Cheney
This book is divided into three parts.
In Part I, the authors give us a concise but accurate history of America's foreign policy (with an emphasis on World War II to the present) and it's unique role in world affairs.
Part II is a takedown of the Obama Administration and how its policies have substantially weakened America and made the world less safe. They make a compelling case for their point of view, using ISIS, Russia, Iran, China and North Korea as examples.
In Part III ... (more >>>)
More News From The 'Religion Of Peace': A moment of silence for the victims of the Paris attacks was booed by Turkish fans last Tuesday during a friendly game against Greece. Reuters reporter Ece Toksabay tweeted that the fans booed the minute of silence before breaking out into a chant of "Allah Akbar."
On Friday, terrorists armed with AK-47s and hand grenades, screamed "Allahu akbar!" as they attacked the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali. The non-Muslim terrorists have killed 20 people and held approximately 170 hostages. In an ecumenical gesture, the terrorists allowed hostages to leave if they were able to recite from the Quran. Security forces later rescued the hostages.
But Hillary Clinton said last week in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, "Let's be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism." Yeah, right.
Quote Of The Day is from James Morris: "There's a case to be made that, on many evenings, an intelligent adult is better off spending an hour or two in front of a TV set than in a movie theater. That's all the more true if you're foolish enough to reach the theater by the announced starting time of the movie. You've been captured for 15 or 20 minutes of Clockwork Orange-ish saturation in loud, out-of-focus commercials and previews that warn you off months of movies to come. Why have human rights groups not made a fuss?"
Saturday November 21, 2015
Baby, It's Cold Outside: On Friday, the temperature was 38 degrees at 11:00 am. It was chilly and outside the normal scope of Plymouth Driving Weather but I made an exception and went for a drive anyway. The sky was so clear that it was easy to see that white half-snowball called Mt. St. Helens. In fact, I even got a glimpse of Mt. Adams to the East during my drive.
The skies were blue, alsost free of clouds and full of sun - quite a contrast to earlier this week when we were inundated with rain and wind from a Pacific storm system. The roads were lightly traveled and I had an enjoyable, if frosty ride. I dressed warmly and wore gloves - my '39 Plymouth coupe lacks such modern amenities as a heated steering wheel which my Lexus has and which I thoroughly appreciate during the cold months.
After returning home, I had a delicious lunch of a Los Jalapenos take-out enchilada and rice - with chips and salsa, of course - along with a couple of glasses of rosé wine.
It's all part of the celebration of Thursday's favorable medical report (see next post).
Testing ... One, Two, Three: Recently, I had follow up tests to determine that effectiveness of my chemo and radiation cancer treatments. I had CEA blood work and a CT scan done. The CEA test measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen - in the blood. Mine is now 1.1, which is within normal range. In August, prior to treatment, it was 7.5.
The CT scan indicated that the tumor has already ... (more >>>)
Speaking Of Good News ... my dear friend and car buddy Ray is improving every day. He has ditched the walker and now walks with a cane - just like me.
Ya Know, Maybe The Donald Wouldn't Make Such A Bad President After All: Trump trumpeted, "President Obama and other politicians have consistently failed us. Just hours before the attacks in Paris, President Obama said ISIS has been contained. It's amazing that the United States can have a president who is so out of touch. But it's also dangerous.
Obama has no strategy to defeat ISIS. And now he's preparing to let hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria into the United States. I will stop illegal immigration. We'll build a wall on the southern border. And yes, I will also quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS. We'll rebuild our military and make it so strong no one, and I mean no one, will mess with us.
If I win, we will not have to listen to the politicians who are losing the war on terrorism. We will keep America safe. And we will make America great again."
Anybody is better than Obama. Or Hillary. Or Kerry.
Humorless Hag: Five stand-up comedians performing at Hollywood's Laugh Factory posted a video mocking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Queen Hillary holds no throne, but she wields the royal prerogative. No court jesters allowed. Off with their heads!
A video of the short performance, which is less than three minutes, is posted on the website of the renowned club, Laugh Factory, and the Clinton campaign has tried to censor it. Besides demanding that the video be taken down, the Clinton campaign has demanded the personal contact information of the performers that appear in the recording.
This is no laughing matter for club owner Jamie Masada, a comedy guru who opened Laugh Factory more than three decades ago and has been ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Australian drivers are awesome: Wrong side of the road AND upside-down!"
Friday November 20, 2015
Hecho en Mexico: Detroit automakers have given up on making mass-market cars in America. Instead, they're moving everything to Mexico, "so they can dedicate U.S. plants to higher-margin pickups and SUVs. The UAW is accepting that trade-off to get rid of the two-tier wage scale that was vital to the business case for U.S.-made sedans and because it expects a net increase in jobs."
The result: In a few years it will be far easier to find a Japanese or Korean car produced domestically than one designed in Detroit that's not imported. "Foreign brands are expected to keep their U.S. plans churning out high-volume cars, such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord."
Production of the following models will move to Mexico: Buick Verano, Chevrolet Cruze hatchback, Chrysler 200, Dodge Dart, Ford C-Max, Ford Focus, Ford Fusion, Ford Taurus and Jeep Compass.
AutoForecast Solutions estimates that GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler will collectively produce 45% of their small cars for the North American market in Mexico by 2020. Mexican labor rates, which averaged about $5.50 an hour in 2014, are about a fifth of the wages auto workers earn in the United States, according to the Center for Automotive Research.
Swoopy, Lumpy And A Bit Odd: I'm not quite sure what to make of the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe.
It has some very conflicted styling with design tweaks that are overdone and seem to compete with each other. The car looks awkward from some angles and the rear has a squashed appearance. And I'm not a fan of the basket-handle rear spoiler. The hood line seems high and bulbous.
But then, I'm not the Target Market for this car. What the heck; it'll probably sell like hotcakes to Millennials, Gen-Ys and other youngish people. That's assuming that today's young adults still enjoy hotcakes.
Remember Kit Cars? Take an old Beetle and put a fiberglass body on it and then try to convince people that it's a Lamborghini. Or a Ford GT40. You could almost pull it off with someone very nearsighted, like Mr. Magoo, until you fired it up and they heard the characteristic stitcha-stitcha-stitcha sound of that air-cooled VW motor.
That's the vibe I'm getting from the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider. Yes, it's got better bones than an air-cooled VW; the 124 is based on the latest Mazda MX-5 Miata which is reportedly a very good car. But the whole concept of putting a Fiat front and rear on the Miata (plus a genuine Fiat motor - a dubious substitution) and slapping Fiat badges on it seems fraudulent somehow.
Fiat's press release says that it "delivers iconic Italian style with modern adaptation of original Spider legend." I never thought of the original 124 as 'legend' material.
On the other hand, this new faux Fiat will probably hold up better than the original 124 Spider. If you want one of these "iconic legends," you'll have to wait until Summer 2017.
Here's a better idea for a fake car: Buy a new Mazda Miata MX-5 and replace all the Mazda emblems with Jaguar badges. The latest Mazda looks enough like the F-Type Jag that I bet you could fool quite a few people. Especially Magoo.
Remembering Camelot: For people of my age, there are two dates that will forever resonate as tragic: September 11, 2001 and November 22, 1963.
It's hard to believe that Sunday will mark 52 years since John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas.
Whenever I watch television specials about the Kennedy years, I find the film clips and photo stills to be a time capsule. Fifty-two 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.
For the 50th anniversary of the assassination, I shared some of my memories. That 2013 article, 'Remembering Camelot', is posted here.
Time To Unpack The Trains: November is National Model Railroad Month, a campaign "focused on the advancement of the hobby through outreach and other methods of new member acquisition." This is a time when clubs and enthusiasts are asked to share and promote model railroading with people new to the hobby.
Unfortunately, due to complications (side effects) from my illness, I don't have the stamina to put my big O-gauge model train layout up this year. I'll probably just run a floor loop of trains at the base of our Christmas tree.
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield: "I could tell my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and radio."
Wednesday November 18, 2015
If I Want To Sit Up High ... I'll use the handicapped stall in a men's room. Or take a ride in my old, tall Plymouth.
"Baby boomers emptying the nest and their adult offspring starting families are driving demand for sport utility vehicles, which will account for two in five new auto sales in the U.S. by 2020, according to Ford."
Boomers who pioneered the SUV a quarter century ago "feel more comfortable on the road" in them because they ride high and are easier to get into and out of than low-riding sedans. Millennials who grew up in the back seat of SUVs see them as the family car of the modern age. And now that they are having children, millennials are moving out of small sedans and into SUVs.
The return of the SUV has caused car sales to plummet. Family sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord and small cars like the Ford Focus were considered "the heart of the market" a few years ago.
The Ford Escape is the second-best-selling small SUV on the market, behind the Honda CR-V. That is the SUV segment where Ford sees the most growth potential as boomers and millennials increasingly turn to those roomy rides. The 2017 Escape, introduced at the LA Auto Show, has been restyled and mechanically tweaked. All 2017 Escape engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and SE and Titanium models with turbocharged engines can be equipped with all-wheel drive.
This elevated seating fetish reminds me of George Costanza's fondness for handicapped toilets on 'Seinfeld': "I love that bathroom. It's got that high, high toilet. I feel like a gargoyle perched on the ledge of a building."
Who Says All Asian Cars Look Alike? Mitsuoka Motor ("A small factory with a big dream") has unique offerings. I'm partial to the Galue II ... "a high-performance sedan with advanced technology under its majestic face."
Or the Rygoa ... "Every time you drive Rygoa, you find a new self."
Beauty, Eh? If I were in the market for a new car, I think the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe would be on my short list.
Reviewer Jonathon Ramsey wrote, "It's easy for outsiders to forget how much work goes into being this good. We drove the C300 on Andalusian highways and back roads. It does everything well, yet never crosses the line to attention-getting. We enjoyed driving it for hours.
We felt no remorse at walking away from it. You buy this car because you like the look of it and it is satisfying everywhere, not because you have anything to prove. Nevertheless, we think it will age beautifully, outside and in, it's more graceful than the 4 Series Coupe, much newer and more detailed than the A5, and neither competitor can touch its interior. If you're going to make just one splash, that's a good place to do it."
I like the looks of the 2017 Mercedes SL, as well.
Spam: If e-mail spam really worked, how come you don't see guys walking down the street with a fake Rolex, a giant erection and a newly-financed mortgage?
And with all that Nigerian reward money, why would you need any mortgage at all? And wouldn't you buy a real Rolex?
Book Review: 'A Time For Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America' by Ted Cruz
This 400 page, easy-to-read, part-memoir, part-biography is an honest and sometimes humorous work.
Cruz revealed much about the political collusion and corrupted legislative process that exists in D.C. these days. He also detailed his ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day: Once you're in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?
Monday November 16, 2015
Goldilocks Edition Merc: It's not too hot. It's not too cold. It's jussssst riiiight. The Sport line is a group of high-content Mercedes-Benz cars the brand is positioning between the typical offerings and the high-performance sector.
Dan Neil wrote, "But some white space is worth filling. The Sport line is brilliant if you concede the overkill of flagship AMGs, and I do. The Sport line is AMG in all but engine - the badges, the deep-sculpted grille and aero skirting, the argument-ending, optional 22-inch wheels, plus a lot of go-fast gear signed off on by AMG, all available with lower cost and system overhead."
"Zero to 60 mph rolls up in 4.9 seconds, says the company, and the Sport + mode's harder algorithms help the 7-speed automatic transmission slip ratios convincingly like a dual-clutch. Gear changes nick by, up or down, with barely any pause in power. Cornering is flat and midcorner poise much enhanced by the right-sized, 19-inch Continental summer tires (optional) on the alloy AMG rims."
Something For Everybody is apparently the new mission at M-B. Or are their vehicles now marketed like bowls of porridge?
What Do The Dubai Motor Show And SEMA Have in Common? Answer: Ugly paint jobs. Check out the photos of these "Special Edition" Rolls Royces painted tastelessly to attract the attention of wealthy Arabs, especially, that green and beige Golf Edition.
Currying Favor: The once-great automotive design house, Pininfarina, is now broke and will be acquired by Indian automaker Mahindra.
"Pininfarina which was founded in 1930, has designed cars for Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls-Royce and Cadillac. It has been unprofitable for 10 of the past 11 years while struggling with debt and a floundering division that built cars for other manufacturers, a business it shut three years ago."
The company's net debt stood at $57 million at the end of the first half. The design house has been struggling to stay in business as carmakers moved to hire more in-house stylists at the expense of independent design firms.
Goodbye, James Bond: Jack Baruth has said it better than I ever could. He just watched 'Spectre' and called it a "dismal, dour, and preternaturally self-absorbed film."
Daniel Craig has publicly stated that he would rather "slash his wrists" than play James Bond again, which means that Spectre is likely his final film as 007. That's fine with Jack and me, too.
Jack B. observed that "this long, boring movie isn't a James Bond film. 'Dr. No' was a James Bond film. 'Moonraker' was a James Bond film. Even the absolutely terrible 'The World Is Not Enough' was a James Bond film. But 'Spectre' is not. Instead, like its predecessors 'Quantum of Solace' and 'Skyfall', it's a film about James Bond. The distinction is important, both for the future of the 007 franchise and for our understanding of why action movies have fundamentally and perhaps irreversibly changed for the worse in the past decade."
Bond movies used to be fun. The cars, the clothes, the girls were all interesting and exotic in an aspirational British way. There were references to obscure games of chance, wines, cocktails, tailoring - all very sophisticated. Looking them up later was a form of education for many Bond fans who learned what Chemin-de-fer actually was and how it was played. One could experiment to find out if you could really taste the difference between shaken and stirred. The films were a both an entertaining spy story and ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees."
Sunday November 15, 2015
Who Invented The Dragster? I dunno but the Petersen Automotive Museum has selected Art Chrisman, an early racing pioneer, as this year's recipient of its annual Lifetime Achievement Award. Here are a few of Art's accomplishments: "First to break 180 in the quarter-mile. Member of the Bonneville 200 mph Club. Builder, mechanic, driver, pioneer, Art Chrisman did it all and he did it well."
One of his early racers, a "stretched lakes modified, No. 25, built with Leroy Neumayer, would go on to become legendary among early drag racers. Thanks to its rearward weight bias - and later, to a switch to Hemi power - it easily ran 140 MPH passes on the quarter-mile and thus set the pattern for what would become the dragster.
No. 25's iconic status helped keep it in the public eye for decades afterward and brought it to the forefront again in the 1990s as one of the first drag cars to be restored and exhibited in nostalgia drag racing events."
Other pioneers of the sport include Don Garlits, Wally Parks and Mickey Thompson.
Thanks. For Nothing. Remember when we taxpayers bailed out General Motors? The automaker is paying us back by decreasing American vehicle production and importing Buicks from China instead.
GM will import the Buick Envision, a mid-size crossover currently produced at a facility in the Shandong province. The Envision launched at the Chengdu Motor Show as a step between the compact Encore and three-row Enclave. Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with stop/start and 256 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Buick offers the CUV with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. The interior features active noise cancellation.
"The Chinese-made Envision would join the Enclave - assembled in Lansing, Mich. - and the multi-national Encore subcompact crossover (built and imported from South Korea, Mexico and Spain)."
Want to help keep American jobs? Buy something non-Buick, like a made-in-Kentucky Toyota.
Muslims contribute nothing to Paris - socially or economically. They live on the dole in their own violent ghettoes and refuse to assimilate. Riots are common as are attacks on non-Muslims by gangs of young thugs.
Then there are the ever-escalating purely terrorist acts such as the Toulouse massacre, this year's militant Islamist attack on 'Charlie Hebdo' and, now, Friday's coordinated multiple attacks which left over 120 dead and over 350 injured.
The Islamic State ISIS claimed responsibility Saturday for a "blessed battle" of revenge for Syria in the killings in multiple terror attacks. These coordinated attacks are the start of a new phase - the operation was sophisticated, and went entirely undetected by French intelligence. French president Francois Hollande promised a "ruthless" response. His declaration came shortly after the French government announced a state of emergency, curfew and the closure of France's borders.
Pope Francis issued a statement saying that the Paris attacks were part of a new, piecemeal, Third World War, a startling remark for this peace-loving, peace-seeking religious leader.
An ISIS statement said ... (more >>>)
Sensible, Midwestern Wisdom ... from James Lileks: "As for the Department of Education, I'd like to see an experiment: let the position go unfilled for four years and see if it has any impact on the educational abilities of the nation's youth. I'm guessing no one would notice if we didn't have a Secretary of Education. Everyone just keep on doing what you're doing, and get back to us."
Exchange Of The Day ... is from the old Hollywood Squares. Peter Marshall: "When you pat a dog on its head, he will usually wag his tail. What will a goose do?" Paul Lynde: "Make him bark!"
Thursday November 12, 2015
One Millionth Plymouth: The Plymouth automobile made its public debut in 1928. Despite the severe economic effects of the Great Depression, by 1934, over one million examples had been sold to the public - quite an accomplishment.
In this 1934 photo, Walter P. Chrysler shakes hands with his company's Vice President, Bernard Edwin Hutchinson, as Hutchinson drives the one-millionth Plymouth off the production line.
Yesterday, there was a Plymouth driving ahead of me - a white Breeze sedan. It's been a long time since ... (more >>>)
Now This Is A Recession: New car sales in Russia fell 39% in October, increasing the pace of decline during the country's economic slump. Sales dropped to 129,958 last month after a 29% drop in September.
"Market leader Lada's volume dropped by 46%. Sales at Renault were down 35%, while Toyota registrations fell 48% and Nissan slipped 49%.
Ford's volume was down 25%, slower than the market decline, boosting the automaker's market share." General Motors' sales fell by 70% as the company pulled its Opel and mainstream Chevrolet models from the market.
"PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates the Russian car market may decline 45% in terms of vehicles sold this year and it may take six to seven years to rebound to sales levels of 2012.
The economy of the world's largest energy exporter contracted 3.8% from a year earlier in the first nine months this year, hit by a decline in commodity prices and sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union.
The central bank forecasts the economy will not return to annual growth until 2017, which threatens to be Russia's longest recession in two decades.
While inflation decelerated for a second month in October to 15.6%, it remains almost four times the central bank's target of 4%, hampering efforts to revive the economy with further interest rate cuts."
With Russia's economy deep in the toilet, you have to wonder where Putin gets the money to fund his various military follies.
Happy Birthday, Grandmom: The only grandmother I ever knew (my other one, Delia, died a year before I was born) had her birthday today.
Ellen would have been 137 years old today, although she always lied about her age and would probably admit to being 129 or so. Born in County Mayo Ireland, she emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and later married a fellow immigrant from her old village. They worked hard, prospered and raised three children.
My grandmother was very good to me and bought me my first car - a new 1963 red Volkswagen Beetle, so I could drive to college rather than take public transit. It cut two hours off my commuting time. Mass transit is not nearly as good as transportation utopians would have you believe.
The Volkswagen is long gone but now I'm using her 1955 cane to get around.
My favorite story about my grandmother involves a Seinfeldian dating situation:
Thanks for everything, grandmom. Fifty-plus years later, I'm still having a good time at the dance. Although it's hard to jitterbug with a cane.
Book Review: 'By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission' by Charles Murray
Charles Murray is an excellent political scientist. I've enjoyed his books, including 'The Bell Curve' (1994) and 'Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010'.
In his latest book, Murray shows us ... (more >>>)
Geezer Joke: An older man bragged to his neighbor, "I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars but it's state of the art. It's perfect." "Really," answered the neighbor, "What kind is it?"
"Twelve-thirty," the man replied.
Quote Of The Day is from Rodney Dangerfield on sex: "Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night."
Wednesday November 11, 2015
Congrats ... to my son, Joe, who coauthored a new graphic novel, 'Demonized'. Here he is signing preordered copies from the first print run:
This Friday, he'll be at the Portland Convention Center for the Living Dead Horror Convention. Joe's latest horror movie, 'Drifter' will be screened at 5:00 pm.
Wisconsin Republican Debate: I watched both the undercard debate as well as the main event last night. All the players in the first debate were good but Christie was, I think, the best of that group.
In my opinion, there was no obvious winner in the main debate; everyone did fairly well. Except for blowhard John Kasich who was annoying as hell. An early Drudge poll indicated that Trump won the debate, followed by Cruz, Paul, Rubio and Carson. I thought Ten Cruz had some very good moments. Jeb Bush did not stand out; his performance was mediocre at best.
On the whole, it was an excellent event. The questions were good and the Fox Business moderators (Neil Cavuto, Maria Bartiromo and Gerard Baker of the Wall Street Journal) were very professional, in sharp contrast to the bunch of clowns from CNBC who moderated the last debate.
Thought For Today: Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
Tuesday November 10, 2015
A Touch Of Indian Summer: Last Friday brought forth sun, blue skies and decently warm temperatures (58 degrees at noon), so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a ride ... after I added some Sta-Bil preservative to the gas tank to carry it through the winter.
Colors are past peak, although some stubborn sugar maple trees were still clutching to their bright red leaves.
The ride was a pleasant surprise but the clouds rolled in late in the day and it rained Saturday and Sunday.
But Saturday was a great day - rain or not. My children arrived for a visit and we had a great time along with a spectacular eye of round roast beef dinner prepared by my wife, accompanied by a bottle of 2008 Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc.
Usually used as a 'blending' wine, we discovered Cab Franc at the small and 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 described 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 and our meal was most satisfying as well. Sides included mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, cole slaw and sweet Hawaiian rolls.
For dessert, we had homemade cake - chocolate fudge with butter cream icing. Delicious! It was a birthday cake; we were celebrating our daughter's 45th. Naturally, there were gifts, including a reflective one from me. With wheels.
Everyone had a fine time. And my grandson got to watch 'Blazing Saddles' - a rite of passage and a good way to wind up his visit.
Does ISIS Read Consumer Reports? Whenever you watch the news, it seems that every ISIS convoy is composed of numerous Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser vehicles.
ABC News reported that a U.S. Treasury counterterrorism unit is asking Toyota to help them determine how so many of its trucks, both newer and older models, have ended up in the hands of ISIS.
Good luck with that. Undoubtedly, many are stolen. Furthermore, the Middle East has such a vast and complex gang of middlemen and black marketers that it is probably impossible to trace these vehicles' origin.
Furthermore, Toyota trucks are sought out because they are tough and have a proven track record. They are apparently the first choice of terrorists across the Third World. As well as the U.N.
The implication that Toyota corporate is somehow involved in a conspiracy to supply terror groups doesn't pass the smell test for me. I think the U.S. government is wasting its time on this one.
Disappearing Acts: 24/7 Wall Street has identified 10 brands that will disappear from the marketplace in 2016. They include:
Headline Of The Week ... so far, is from The Onion: 'Environmental Study Finds Air In Chicago Now 75% Bullets'.
Highlighting increasingly dangerous conditions within the city, a new study published Monday by Northwestern University's Department of Environmental Studies revealed that approximately 75% of the air in Chicago is now composed of bullets.
"Far exceeding the levels of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and even oxygen, bullets now constitute three-fourths of Chicago's air supply," said atmospheric scientist and study co-author John Molina, stressing that the dense and widespread deposits of jacketed lead and copper in the air pose severe and potentially fatal health risks to all Chicago residents.
"According to our measurements, the proportion of bullets in Chicago's overall air composition is significantly higher than that of other cities with comparable sizes and population densities. Frankly, if this trend continues - and there is unfortunately little evidence suggesting otherwise - living safely within the confines of Chicago will be almost impossible."
Molina went on to suggest that Chicago's 2.7 million residents stay indoors whenever possible in order to minimize their exposure.
Quote Of The Day is from Jean Kerr: "You don't seem to realize that a poor person who is unhappy is in a better position than a rich person who is unhappy. Because the poor person has hope. He thinks money would help."
Friday November 6, 2015
How To Sell 10 Million Vehicles: One vehicle at a time, one improvement at a time. Hyundai, once the laughing stock of imported cars due to its tainted reputation, has now sold its 10 millionth vehicle in the U.S.
Hyundai entered the U.S. market in 1986 with the Excel and was hounded by a difficult period of quality woes. Consumer Reports didn't think much of the brand, reporting that, in the 1998 Elantra, "the ride is jittery even on smooth roads and the automatic transmission shifts reluctantly, blunting engine performance. ... Plenty of engine, wind and road noise enters the cabin." The Sonata fared no better: "Every tiny road bump finds its way to the occupants; snaps and jiggles mar the ride on poor roads." The base 1998 Accent model offered "a choppy ride."
Then there's Hyundai's cousin, Kia. Steven Lang has noted that 2001-05 Kia Rios were "the embodiment of cheap as they aged for those unfortunate owners who were suckered in by the $10,000 price tag. Southern drivers were treated to dashboards that peeled and bubbled like old paint on an abandoned farmhouse. Those in northern climates had the scourge of rust spread onto the frame and powertrain, while the headlights needed to be replaced before every major election thanks to Kia's unique love for sub-par sealants and protectants."
Hyundai refused to throw in the towel and, instead, made improvements year-after-year, addressing just about every shortcoming. By the late first decade of the 21st Century, Hyundais and Kias were perceived as decently-built vehicles with a price edge over their competitors. As its reputation improved, the firm gradually increased prices and its offerings are now priced similarly to Honda and Toyota.
Just five models make up nearly 85% of Hyundai's lifetime US sales - the Sonata (25%), Elantra (25%), Santa Fe (13%), Excel (11%) and Accent (11%). "About 56% percent of the cars Hyundai sells in the United States are made in the U.S."
Next month, Hyundai will launch the Genesis as a separate luxury brand, with a G-based naming structure. Genesis will grow to include six products by the year 2020.
According to Hyundai, the new brand will eventually sell six distinct models, starting with the Hyundai Genesis sedan and Equus which will be renamed Genesis G80 and G90, respectively, going into the 2017 model year. A new, smaller sedan - named G70 - will join the lineup in 2017, while the rest of the models, including a midsize crossover and SUV, will be introduced before 2021. All Genesis models will be rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The Hyundai-Kia story of its success in the U.S. is impressive and inspiring. But it boils down to simple tactics: determining market needs and meeting them by continually improving product. It's a sterling example of smart brand management.
Buying Market Share: Ford is apparently unhappy with its flat 15% share of the U.S. car business - down slightly from two years ago - so the automaket is having a big freakin' sale.
"Consider the F-150 full-size pickup truck, which is not only the automaker's top-selling model, it's consistently been the most popular vehicle sold in the U.S. with over half a million units sold over the first 10 months of the year. Not much need for deep discounts on that model one might think, but think again.
Take, for example, a 2015 F-150 XLT Supercrew with the 3.5-liter Ecoboost turbocharged V6 engine and the Luxury Chrome or Sport Package that retails for around $45,500 (not including destination charge or other options). Ford is knocking off $3,638 for the Friends & Neighbors discount, a $2,000 package discount, a $4,000 cash rebate and another $750 for those who finance through Ford Credit.
That's a total of $10,388 off the sticker price and this still doesn't include whatever dealer discount might be available to astute hagglers which represents a staggering 23 percent spiff."
If you think there's a Ford in your future - don't delay, there's a deal to be made.
Don't Forget - Flu Season Is Coming:
Remember to get your flu shot.
Nobel Musings: Mark J. Perry pointed out some interesting facts about the Nobel Prize:
I'm old enough to remember when the Nobel Peace Prize was based on accomplishments. Once upon a time, it was awarded to folks like Mother Teresa, Lech Walesa, The Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Linus Pauling and Albert Schweitzer. Now it's apparently just an Affirmative Action or Political Correctness award.
It's a little-known fact that, in 1983, I won the Nobel Prize for Acrylic Fabrication. Well deserved, I might add.
In my day ... (more >>>)
The King Is Dead: George Barris, 'King of the Kustomizers', has died at age 89 of a brain tumor.
He created many famous Hollywood custom cars, most notably the Munster Koach, the Drag-U-La - a casket-bodied dragster, as well as the famous Batmobile made for the original television series and based on the Lincoln Futura concept car.
Barris' Ala Kart show rod (above) was based on a 1929 Ford Model A pick up truck. Construction of the award-winning custom rod began in 1957. Rest in Peace, George.
Exchange Of The Day ... is from the old 'Hollywood Squares' television show. Peter Marshall: "What did the Lone Ranger always leave behind when he left town?" Paul Lynde: "A masked baby."
Wednesday November 4, 2015
October Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 18.1 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in October - up almost 10% from last October and up slightly from last month.
It appears 2015 will be the best year for light vehicle sales since 2001, as low gas prices combined with attractive financing rates lured consumers into showrooms. Automakers' promotions sweetened deals as model-year close-outs carried over from September. The estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the U.S. was $34,023 in October, an increase of 1.4% from October 2014.
General Motors sales were up 16%. October sales of its full-size Silverado pickups rose 10% year over year to 51,647. Sales of the company's GMC Sierra trucks slipped slightly to 18,521, but overall sales of the GMC brand rose 18%. GM also sold 7,059 of its all new midsize Chevy Colorado pickup. Sales of the Chevrolet brand increased 18% last month. Buick sales fell slightly, while Cadillac sales were up by 13%.
Ford Motor Company posted a gain of 13%. Truck sales rose 14% for the month, on top of a 23% increase in September. The company's Ford sport utility vehicles posted their best October sales since 2004 and the company said it posted its best October sales performance in 11 years.
Sales of the Lincoln brand slipped 5% year over year in October as sales of Lincoln utility vehicles fell by 4%. Car sales totaled 2,864 units in the month; utility vehicle sales totaled 5,621 units.
FCA/Chrysler Group gained 15% overall. Ram pickups sales increased 3% to 40,931 vehicles in October. The Jeep brand is carrying the heavy water for FCA - posting a sales gain of 33% year over year. The Jeep Compass posted a sales gain of 42%, the Cherokee posted a monthly gain of 12% and Wrangler sales rose 15%.
Toyota sales increased 13%, while Hyundai/Kia was up 16%. Nissan showed a sales increase of 13%, while Subaru sales jumped 20%. Mazda sales increased a whopping 35% in October. Despite its well-publicized diesel problems, Volkswagen eked out a small gain, primarily by extensive discounting. TrueCar estimated that Volkswagen Group per-unit incentive spending jumped 29% to more than $3,300 in October.
Land Rover had a truly spectacular month - sales jumped 98% to 7,199 vehicles.
Variable Weather: I've been feeling better lately as the side effects from September's cancer treatments continue to diminish. I have been wanting to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe but the weather has been conspiring against me. There has been a lot of rain lately; in fact, it poured so hard on Halloween that we had no trick-or-treaters for the first time in the 26 years we've lived here.
Tuesday dawned with fog and heavy overcast dark clouds but at 11:30 am, the sun started peeking through, so I went for a drive. There were still gloomy clouds here and there but where there was sky to be seen, it was a surprisingly strong color of blue and that made everything just fine. The temperature was a chilly 50 degrees and the traffic was heavier that I would have preferred but it was a real treat for me to get behind the wheel and sight down the hood of my old coupe.
The Plymouth ran great and I thoroughly ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Pope Francis and the New Vatican' by Robert Draper (Author), David Yoder (Photographer)
National Geographic has produced a 256 page coffee table book about the new pope and the Vatican. The photos are stunning and the text is surprisingly good - a combination not often encountered in coffee table books. I learned that the Pope hand writes all of his e-mail replies. While he has over five million followers, his Tweets are written entirely by his staff.
It is difficult not to like this Pope. He smiles easily and engages his followers. For me, one of his biggest problems is a misunderstanding of capitalism and a tendency to call it intrinsically evil, probably because ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "Man is a luxury loving animal. Take away play, fancies, and luxuries, and you will turn man into a dull, sluggish creature, barely energetic enough to obtain a bare subsistence. A society becomes stagnant when its people are too rational or too serious to be tempted by baubles."
Monday November 2, 2015
Not My Style: At the Tokyo Motor Show, Lexus unveiled the LS-FC concept car. The 209-inch long flagship barge - which is about as long as a 1995 Cadillac DeVille Concours - "boasts a hydrogen power plant to drive all of its wheels, an "advanced human interface" to recognize hand gestures, and a spindle grille the size of Rhode Island.
The concept shows the direction Lexus designers may take for its future full-size sedan, including floating L-shaped lights in front and back."
According to the automaker, many of the car's styling cues could make it into the next production version of the LS. Including that enormous spindle grille which I find distinctively hideous.
Which reminds me of a story ... (more >>>)
All Souls Day: Today, November 2nd, is designated as All Souls Day by several Christian religions, including the Catholic Church.
In the Catholic Mass, during the post-Consecration Eucharistic Prayers, there is a section where the priest calls for prayers for the Pope, the local bishop and, finally, the dead, saying something like "Remember also those who have died in the peace of Christ and all the departed, whose faith you alone have known." At that point, the priest usually pauses for 2-3 seconds so you can add names of your own.
That worked out fine when I was 10 years old and didn't know many dead people but, as I've gotten older, the names on my personal list has expanded and I cannot possible include everyone in a mere 2-3 seconds. I solved the problem by developing 'The List'. Before Mass begins, I recite a list of 40-50 people who played a significant role in my life, ending with the prayer, "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace." Then, when the priest does his two-second pause, I simply mutter the words The List. God's smart enough to figure it out. Problem solved.
The Catholic Church has a particular affinity for the dead and offers a system where God can modify His judgement based on a prayer received long after the deceased's personal judgement day. It's kind of like post-dating a check.
Furthermore, the Catholic Church (as well as some other Christian denominations) has set aside a special day for these deceased - All Souls Day, which is celebrated on November 2nd. They want the souls of the departed to be acknowledged and remembered by the living ... (more >>>)
Remembering These Recently Deceased: Albert Francis "Al" Molinaro who played Al Delvecchio, the owner of Arnold's on 'Happy Days' and its spin-off show 'Joanie Loves Chachi', has died at age 96. Meanwhile, Henry Winkler - the Fonz - is still alive, has just turned 70 and is a television pitchman for reverse mortgages.
Former U.S. senator Fred Thompson - another reverse-mortgage spokesman - has died at age 73 of lymphoma.
And, let's offer a fond farewell to Tillman the skateboarding English bulldog, who set a Guinness World Record as the fastest skateboarding canine and starred in videos that demonstrated his four-wheeled prowess. He died of heart problems at age 10 last week. He was, by all accounts, a happy dog and, like Al Molinaro, never tried to sell anyone a reverse mortgage.
Rest In Peace.
Quote Of The Day is from Milton Friedman: "One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results."
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