No rest for the wicked. After a triple SCCA race weekend in which I managed to land on the podium despite nursing both a few broken ribs and no small number of resentments, I spent all of last week in Europe working on a new story. Some of it was tedious and some of it was thrilling.
Here’s last week’s contributions, plus one we missed earlier.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve always had a thing for Volvos. My parents always had them when I was a kid. The earliest cars I remember riding in were Mom’s ’73 1800ES and ’77 245DL wagon, and Dad’s ’81 DL two-door sedan. All through the ’80s, Mom had a Volvo wagon and Dad had a Volvo sedan.
Probably my favorite was my father’s 1988 740 Turbo Sedan. Fire engine red, tan leather, blackout trim, five-spoke alloys and sunroof. Now that was excellent!
So it may come as no surprise that my first car was a Volvo, and my second, and my third. The first one was my dad’s former company car, a 1991 940SE Turbo.
Last week, I wrote my first TTAC editorial since…well, you know, that one. By all measures, it was well-received—good user engagement, significant readership, and over 2,000 Facebook shares. But there was another article about the Focus RS and dealership issues that ran three hours later which did even better.
Over on OppositeLock, which is the user-content driven Kinja automotive site, user LJ909 wrote a post entitled “The Focus RS has been sitting on dealer lots and dealers can only blame themselves.” Hmm. I mean, it wasn’t exactly the same as my title, “The Focus RS is Dead, and Dealers Are to Blame,” but it was pretty close.
Hmmm. Something’s rotten in the state of Kinja.
The Seville’s genesis goes back to the early ’70s, when demand for a “smaller Cadillac” caused the GM prestige division to think about a new model. In fact, the earliest styling bucks for the Seville circa 1973 looked remarkably like that of the Hooper-inspired 1980-85 Cadillac Seville.
But fortunately, a leaner, smoother design and, in your author’s opinion, rather timeless design was selected, and was a breath of fresh air in Cadillac dealerships. Here was a cleanly styled flagship (only the Fleetwood limousines cost more) that had fuel injection and manageable size, yet retained all the luxury features that Cadillac owners, a loyal bunch, expected.
There’s a great part in Alexander Pope’s Epistle To Dr. Arbuthnot where he sarcastically thanks the “Great”, meaning the titled aristocracy, for showering riches on the most servile and repugnantly talentless poets out there and, by making pets of them, sparing Pope the hassle of having to read their work. “May dunce by dunce be whistled off my hands!” he snarls, before remarking that the aristocracy chose to ignore the genius of John Gay. To be fair, Gay was offered some preference by the “Great”, but he usually turned it down. His goal was to succeed on his own merits by appealing directly to the public, and in this goal he was eventually successful.
In a nutshell, that’s how I feel about Ronnie Schreiber. He’s one of the strongest writers in the business, a tireless researcher, a polymath with the ability to converse intelligently on any number of subjects, and a true friend. Time and again I’ve seen great opportunities pass him by and go to various congenital liars, con artists, talentless emo hacks, and fat-assed bench racers. All those dunces, whistled off my hands into cushy gigs where they rewrite press releases or make up stories about shit that never happened. Meanwhile, Ronnie perseveres. A while ago, he was the target of a slander and harassment campaign that nearly drove him out of the business and cost him a couple of lucrative outlets. Instead of crying about it, Ronnie sat down and… invented an instrument.
The electronic harmonica isn’t a new idea by a long shot. A working electronic harmonica, however, has been unicorn territory. Until now. This past week, Ronnie debuted the Harmonicaster at Nashville’s Summer NAMM Show. I was there to help out a little and hang around a lot. The music industry’s response to Ronnie’s self-financed, self-designed, self-promoted, and self-marketed invention was little short of staggering. In the space of seventy-two hours, the Nashville crowd realized what the cowards at Hemmings and elsewhere couldn’t figure out in five years — Ronnie is a brilliant, inventive, tireless man. And now he has a patent pending for a genuinely new thing. The young harmonica players love it. They’ll remember Ronnie long after everything his detractors have accomplished vanishes into dust.
Which reminds me — last week’s “Weekly Roundup” did vanish into dust, courtesy of my attempt to stay ahead of my work and travel schedule while dealing with some pretty unpleasant injuries suffered at a skatepark. I’m not quite back on the horse yet, but today’s the day to start catching up.
1977 through 1979 were pretty big years for General Motors. During those three model years, a vast diet was undertaken by the majority of their offerings, so that by decade’s end, most of the familiar gunboats you remembered had a much different, much lighter and much more purposeful look.
It all started with the biggies. The 1977 B-body and C-body full-size cars went from this…
To this. Pretty drastic, wouldn’t you say?
The new cars, while perhaps displaying less Broughamage and curtailing the trend to longer, lower, wider styling, were better handling, better on gas, and in most dimensions had more interior room than the 1976 models. All in all not bad. And the public responded with a healthy appetite for these lean yet satisfying automobiles.
The grievance merchants on the American left — you know, the ones who have somehow obtained the power to mysteriously determine the difference between “free speech” and “hate speech” — rarely engage in rhetorical flourishes to justify their choices. Why should they? In a very real sense, wit and humor are almost exclusively the province of the underdog in any given situation. Think back to high school for a moment and ask yourself who the funny people were. Chances are that you won’t recall the captain of the football team or the homecoming queen among them. Rather, it was the locker-stuffed nerds and pipsqueaks who managed to dull the pain with a trenchant observation or tension-relieving joke.
Back when the Left was being stuffed into this country’s lockers, there was all sorts of great humor being written in the support of liberal causes. Today that’s not the case; we’ve exchanged the darkly funny and thoroughly subversive Smothers Brothers for the effete, hysterical, screeching John Oliver. Most progressive humor is a variant on “OMG LOOK AT THAT STUPID HICK.” Yet there is one particular sorta-witty phrase that I’ve recently heard in defense of various left-wing measures: “So what if (insert hivemind directive) isn’t real? What’s the worst that could happen? That we all (insert oversimplified result here) or something?” A frequent example is “So what if global warming isn’t real? What’s the worst that could happen? That we all have clean energy and lowered consumption and less impact to the environment or something?” This sounds very reasonable, of course, and it omits the fact that the “impact” of climate change regulations as a whole tends to be the shifting of economic, political, and military power from the Western World to China and India. Nobody argues against climate-change-related legislation because they hate stable weather and/or a reasonable crop yield. You might as well as “When did you stop beating your wife?”
Another variant: “What’s the worst thing that could happen if we got rid of hate speech and bigoted speech? That everybody would treat everybody else with dignity and respect?” This, too, sounds reasonable — but it conveniently overlooks that fact that one person’s “hate speech” is another person’s “free speech,” or “realtalk”, or even “gallows humor.” It also overlooks the fact that speech and power are directly correlated in any literate society. That’s why our British cousins will put people in jail for revving an Esprit V8 in the presence of immigrants but staunchly defend the right to advocate the violent death of all white men. It’s about power, not speech; my power to destroy your life for saying something that I don’t like while, at the same time, saying anything I want with utter impunity. And the more ridiculous that “anything” is, the more power I have. Never forget that Orwell’s O’Brien could float off the floor, if he wished it. When you make it public policy to jail one group of people for “hate speech” while encouraging it from others, you are effectively floating off the floor of reason.
This explains why we have so many centrist and right-of-center writers who depend on anonymity… and it explains why, as of two days ago, we are effectively short one of those fellows.
Please welcome Thomas Kreutzer to Riverside Green!—Bark
It’s the beginning of a new week, which means it must be time for a new article on the sexual habits of the Japanese.
Today’s trending topic, courtesy of the BBC and The Independent, is a recent study that finds 43% of Japanese people aged 18 to 34 have never had a sexual experience. The article goes on say that 64% of people in that age range report that they are not in a relationship and that roughly one in four 50 year old Japanese men, and one in seven 50 year old Japanese women, claim to have never been married. If this trend continues, warns Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the country’s current population of 127 million will, by 2065, decline by nearly 40 million.
To discover the underlying reasons, BBC reporters dug deep and interviewed two people. The male perspective was provided by unmarried 26 year old comedian Ano Matsui who told reporters that men like him are afraid of rejection, find women scary, and prefer to spend time working on their hobbies. “Once,” he said, “I asked a girl out but she said no. That traumatized me.”
CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.
It happened, ironically enough, on Independence Day. When President Trump decided to re-Tweet a home-made GIF that modified some old pro wrestling footage to show him “slamming” CNN, the media erupted in collective, coordinated frenzy about the “danger” this would put CNN into. Never mind that, by definition, the original footage was “kayfabe” footage from a pro-wrestling spectacle and therefore no more real than the cause celebre Trump-as-murdered-Caesar Central Park play. And never mind that CNN itself is in no way above criticism, satire, lampooning, or spoofing. We were all solemnly assured that this was “deadly” targeting of private individuals by someone whose power exceeded theirs to a frightening degree.
When the general public response to the manufactured outrage turned out to be indistinguishable from “eh, who gives a shit,” CNN did what anybody in that situation would do: They used the limitless resources of a multi-billion-dollar corporation to target, find, doxx, threaten, and blackmail the creator of the original image. I mean, that is what anybody would do, right?
Back in the day, right around 1997 or so, I was a struggling musician.
This is, of course, a lie. I was driving a brand-new Infiniti G20, going to school on a full scholarship, and dating a girl whom my brother liked to call a “better looking Julia Roberts.” But, I was struggling with finding ways to advance my musical career. I was playing a lot of blues with a young Sean Carney, a prodigiously talented guitarist who would go on to win the Albert King award some years later (you can hear what we sounded at that point by clicking the above Spotify link), but it was tough to find jazz gigs. Columbus, Ohio had a limited number of jazz clubs—Dick’s Den, The Dell—and they only had music Friday and Saturday nights. Those slots were occupied by the jazz royalty of the town, mostly music faculty members at Ohio State and Capital University.
So, in a bit of desperation, I did something that I thought was a pretty smart move. I went to the proprietor of The Dell and proposed that I would play for free once a month. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m going to pretend like you never came here. And, for your sake, you had better hope that none of your teachers who play here find out that you were here, either.” Turns out that was called “undercutting,” and it was a definite no-no in the professional music world. In fact, that sort of practice is what led to the formation of musicians’ unions in the bigger cities and symphony orchestras of America.
Fast forward twenty years, and I’m no longer peddling free music. Instead, I send pitches to the editors of automotive publications. However, now I’m one of the guys who’ve earned the right to be paid for their craft, like my teachers were before me. The difference is that when the young bucks try to undercut me or my esteemed journalist colleagues, there are no shortage of editors who are willing to let them do it, for as little as $25 a post—or, in many cases, for no money at all.
This is bad for everybody.