They Say The Darkest Hour Is Right Before The Dawn


Had to make a late-night run through some old stuff at TTAC and I came up this. It seems crazy, but just a little bit less than four years ago, many days at our (not so) little (at the time) car site had image upload panels like this.

As both a professional and an amateur storyteller, I get a little upset sometimes thinking about how many great stories are just lost to humanity because everybody involved is dead, silent, illiterate, or just plain uninterested in sharing the details. The story of Bertel’s Last Days at TTAC has the potential to be a truly memorable tale. It’s got everything — big ears! war crimes! strippers with broken teeth! crazy old dudes attacking other strippers!— but nobody who was there at the time is ready to talk just yet.

I’ve decided that I’m going to save the story, with every last juicy detail, for the day when I leave the auto-journo game, either by choice or by force. On that day, when I can’t earn a buck any more writing about cars, I’m going to open up my Franklin Planner, read all my notes, and share something that isn’t exactly the greatest story ever told — but it’s far from being the worst.

Somebody Tell Me What’s Going On Here


No way this is for real. This broad looks like an owl. I’m concerned that this is what signals the Last Trump. No relation to Donald; the “last trump” is found in the Bible. When Revelations was translated, what they called a “trumpet” or “trump” would be more like what we call a “bugle” nowadays.

This weekend, we got three podium finishes (two thirds and a second) at the NASA Autobahn race south of Chicago. It was a fantastic, but utterly exhausting, two days. Watch this space as we resume regular service tomorrow!

Turns Out We Weren’t Stealing From Prince’s Mom After All


Back in 1986, there were apparently quite a few people sneaking around the build site at 5622 Riverside Drive. Separated from Riverside Green by a deep thicket of uncultivated trees and shrubs, the massive new home was going up slowly but surely. Truckloads of stone, wood, and other materials arrived daily. Some of that wood was plywood. You could use it for ramps and whatnot. Your humble author, it must be admitted, participated in a small amount of Bernie-Sanders-style liberation from the capitalists, securing a half-sheet of plywood for a sloppily-constructed ramp that launched me and brother Bark into the air about fifteen times before collapsing into instant garbage.

I should point out that we weren’t normally the stealing types, but the house under construction was so far out of our experience that it seemed like it didn’t belong in reality. Who builds a massive cathedral of a home right next to a bunch of duplexes and multi-family dwellings, anyway? On the upward curve of a road where people regularly did 70+ mph, making it sheer murder to try getting in or out of the place?

Never in our various visits to the site, both thieving and merely touring, did we see a young dental student nosing around the place. But there was such a fellow…

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Don’t You Recognize A Fellow Astronaut

It’s a nasty paradox: in order to write a lot, you need to read a lot. For the even vaguely competent author, reading serves to recharge the creative batteries, said batteries then being discharged in the course of writing new material. But the more you write, the less time you have to read. Which, in turn, makes it harder to write quickly and well. Which eats up your time. Which prevents you from reading. You get the idea.

For the last two years or so, I’ve chosen to deal with this by increasing the intensity of my reading and post-reading consideration. In practical terms, that means that I’ve entirely stopped reading the auto media. I read my fellow contributors in R&T because I want to see where the magazine is going, and I’ll very occasionally re-read a magazine from twenty or thirty years ago for nostalgia purposes, but other than that — nada zip zero. Don’t ask me if I’ve read the latest whatever from Jonny “Caviar” Lieberman or Dutch Mandel or Brett Berk. I haven’t. I don’t have that kind of time, and if I had that kind of time it would be more productively spent hanging out with my son, fighting with my Pro-Spot P100, or staring at a blank wall.

This is what I do: I read the New York Review Of Books, the Atlantic, Lapham’s Quarterly, and (sssssh) Vintage Guitar. About once a month I’ll read something from the 18th or 19th C. just for the purposes of keeping that slight patina on my grammar and sentence construction. That’s about all I can manage, pathetic as it is.

I mention all of this to explain why it took a Tweet from a reader today for me to notice Pete Dushenski taking a reasonably solid crack at me almost a month ago.

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I Met A Traveller From An Antique Land


About an hour ago, while I was playing my lunch gig, a friend of mine emailed me: ” I never knew two poets wrote identical poems in a friendly competition.” The poems, and the competition to which he refers, were inspired by a passage in a Greek history book. The better-known of the two is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias”, but the competing poem, written by Horace Smith and given the same name, is also not without merit.

With a lazy afternoon ahead of me, I thought I’d give the competition a long-past-due third entry.

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“You might say he was a gentleman thief.”

We’re big Anthony Wilson fans here at Riverside Green, or at least I am. Anthony has a new record out, entitled Frogtown. It features him singing as well as playing guitar in a variety of styles and it was produced by Mike Elizondo, who has worked with everybody from Dr. Dre to Fiona Apple. I bought the double LP and I think it’s brilliant.

The track “Arcadia”, posted above, was inspired by a fascinating tale of wine counterfeiting.

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I Guess This Product Liability Attorney’s Childhood Was Different From Mine


I try to be simultaneously proud and critical of my Aspie tendencies, but there are times I’d give just about anything to be “neurotypical”, and those times have become considerably more frequent since I first got Internet access back in 1989. As a kid, I’d amuse myself by reading encyclopedias and the like front-to-back for no real reason. No surprise, then, that I can lose whole hours at a time following hyperlinks on the Web if I’m not careful.

Example: Last week, I decided to look for a picture of a “Battlestar Galactica” toy I’d had as a child. About forty-five minutes later, I’m reading the most fascinating-slash-disturbing lawsuit verbiage I’ve ever seen.

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“When night comes and the wind blows in over the grass you’ll come home.”


My favorite “Internet writer”, the man known only as Delicious Tacos, lost his best friend. It was a Los Angeles death by narcissism; my right to own a pitbull doesn’t stop at your pet’s life. Intellectually I know how DT feels; I can remember crying over animals as a kid and even as an adult. I’ve had nine cats in thirty-five years. Somehow, when my son was born all my empathy for animals was switched off like an overhead bulb in a locked closet. I used to get upset just reading about abused animals. Today I could probably twist a kitten’s head off with my bare hands then have a Frosty. There’s not much room in this three-sizes-too-small heart. Something arrives, something else has to leave. But if you’ve ever slept next to me then you probably know that already.

All The Illegal And/Or Crazy Things Wayne Gerdes Did To Impress Mother Jones


It’s the stuff of public-relations nightmares: A self-styled “professional driver” takes a payment as high as $18,000 from a major automaker to break the law and endanger other drivers on the American road. Normally this sort of thing doesn’t happen, which is why you never heard about Alex Roy’s Cross-Country Record, Sponsored By BMW. In the case of Wayne Gerdes, however, it appears that just such a thing has happened. Volkswagen paid Gerdes to use his “special techniques” in the service of getting an unreasonably high and possibly dangerous fuel-economy number.

Did Gerdes adequately disclose his payment? It’s hard to say. He’s very close to functionally illiterate. The fumbling, incoherent manner in which he writes makes it hard to say whether he was deliberately misleading the public or simply accidentally misleading them. In conversations on Facebook, he honestly seems to believe that if you use the hashtag “#spon” on a Twitter post linking to one of his blogposts then there’s no further need to disclose cash payments that he accepted when writing said blogpost. Reading his cack-handed attempts to intimidate and threaten my brother and Mark Stevenson reveals a depth of stupidity and disconnected thinking rarely seen outside the worst of YouTube comments.

There is one aspect of Gerdes’ behavior, however, that doesn’t appear to be up for much debate: his dangerous and potentially illegal driving, as described by Mother Jones magazine.

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Wayne Gerdes Took Money From VW To Promote The “Clean” TDI


Every one of TTAC’s leaders has had a defining moment. For Robert Farago, it was the day that he began the GM Death Watch. For Ed Niedermeyer, it was his move to the Wall Street Journal. For Bertel Schmitt, it was the “all ears” post. For me, it was the site reboot. For Derek, it was the Lincoln MKZ fuel-door controversy.

I’ve been waiting for Mark Stevenson, Derek’s successor, to find the right topic on which to bring his particular talents of tenacity and precision to bear. I’m not waiting any more.

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