When the Cadillac CT6 debuted just a few short years ago, I thought, finally. A new flagship Cadillac. A nice big sedan, like Cadillacs of old. It looked good. But then, I’m a sedan man. Give me a sedan, or an honest-to-God station wagon. I’ve never been drawn to hatchbacks, crossovers and SUVs, though I’ve always loved the original Grand Cherokee and classic Grand Wagoneer.
But of course combovers are taking over the world. After all, why buy a sedan when you can get something similar to a sedan, but with clumsier handling, uglier styling, a higher center of gravity and suckier fuel mileage? But never mind.
“Father,” he cries, “have I missed it? Have I missed the battle?”
“You have missed the war.”
Virtually any random scene chosen from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator could be the best part of another film, but I’m particularly partial to this one. The campaign against the savage Germanic tribes has been decided in a breathtakingly bloody and confusing final battle, mostly thanks to the intellectual and physical leadership of the general Maximus. As a dying Marcus Aurelius thanks Maximus for his service, the Emperor’s son, Commodus, rides up on a white charger. He’s been riding in a luxury wagon with his sister for virtually the entire trip up to the front, of course — he’s not some common soldier, doomed to cavalryman’s steed or shanks’ mare — but for his arrival he has switched to a battle horse and a set of shiny, completely undamaged armor.
And yes, he’s missed both the battle and the war, no doubt by design.
Aurelius chides him. Later on that evening, we see Commodus practicing his swordsmanship in a pre-planned demonstration with five of his slaves. “So much,” Aurelius notes with undisguised contempt, “for the glory of Rome.” The viewer is meant to see the contrast between the general Maximus, who fights for moral purposes and who longs to return home to his family, and the cowardly but arrogant Commodus, who play-acts at glory while avoiding danger. That contrast will inform the entire film, all the way to its conclusion in the Roman Colosseum where a weakened, poisoned Maximus fights a Commodus resplendent in blinding-white armor. The real Commodus, by the way, was notorious for fighting crippled animals in the arena, and for killing his sparring partners, but he was strangled in his tub, not beaten to death in the arena. Nor did his death restore the Roman Republic. The end of Gladiator is a complete fabrication, satisfying though it may be to watch.
You might say that Commodus is an extreme example of what is now called “toxic masculinity”, being both perverse and willfully cruel. He is almost a parody of Maximus, alternately executing senators with a smile on his face and crying helplessly in the cleavage of his own sister. He has the external appearance of masculinity without its true substance, all the vices and none of the virtues. He’s even a bit of a rapist, although that is given relatively little space in the film. There’s nothing particularly unusual about the Commodus role, other than its larger-than-life portrayal by Joaquin Phoenix; the “weak, cowardly schemer” has been a stock character since the Greeks wrote their first tragedies. We just have a new label for it now.
(A brief aside: A friend of mine from the street-racing days, a smooth-faced ex-military killer with a flat affect, blank eyes, and an unsettling catlike roll to his perambulation, worked for quite some time as a bodyguard for the elite. His happiest days were spent with Joaquin Phoenix: “Dude was a legit bad-ass and never hid behind me, never started anything he wouldn’t finish himself, never said an unkind word to anyone who didn’t deserve it.” No wonder Phoenix is never completely comfortable with Hollywood.)
This past weekend, the Gillette Corporation took some time off from mis-representing their Chinese junk as real American excellence to lecture American men on “toxic masculinity” via a YouTube video. It would be an understatement to call the video “poorly received”; although the “thumbs-up/thumbs-down” meter of the video has been repeatedly reset it has been at a consistently negative ratio. Tens of thousands of negative comments have been scrubbed by hard-working bugmen at Gillette and YouTube, but neither entity is able to control the fusillade of disdain sent Gillette’s way by entities as diverse as the Chateau Heartiste and the Detroit Free Press. I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss the live-action polemic here, but as with my Audi go-kart commercial piece I’m far more interested in the subtleties of the messaging than with the general Woke Capital stupidity of the stated message.
Ever had a post you meant to write up, and it keeps getting displaced by other subjects? Happens to me all the time. There was one in particular I wrote for the old site, where I really, truly meant to write it up the very same weekend that I photographed it. But then other car shows intervened, more and more photos were taken, and further bright, shiny rolling stock distracted your author. That car finally was written up, approximately a year and a half later. But, it DID get written! And so shall today’s subject, perhaps the Broughamiest Brougham that ever Broughamed. The 1974-76 Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman. Today’s subject is a ’76 in Georgian Silver with matching top and Light Antique Blue velour interior. Maximum Cadillac. Maximum Brougham. Maximum Awesome!
While Facel Vega—which aside from half its name has no connection to that other Vega, s’il vous plait—had produced automobiles since 1955, the company itself dates back two decades, when M. Jean Daninos, late of Citroën and the military aircraft concern Bronzavia, founded Métallon, a fabricator of kitchen cabinets and sinks and, in 1939, established Forges et Atéliers de Construction d’Eure-et-Loire, (FACEL). The two firms combined and made aircraft engine components during World War II.
A while back I did a post on my buddy Jason Bagge’s rust free 1976 Impala. It sold for $3700 on the electronic bay, but unfortunately the bidder was a reneging dumbass deadbeat.
Are you tired of the shutdown yet? Were you shocked by the stories of criminal off-roaders in Joshua Tree National Park? Are you terrified at the prospect of FDA inspectors failing to report to their posts? Do you have sympathy for the men and women of the TSA, who are expected to continue groping and harassing travelers despite not receiving a regular paycheck? Perhaps, like me, you know people who are currently facing an unexpected shortage of funds at a time of year when bills loom large anyway; while I don’t currently count any Feds among my circle of friends, I have an ex-girlfriend somewhere out there who probably still works for the FBI and who at this very moment might be contemplating what she’ll be liquidating to pay her mortgage. For that reason alone, I’d like to see this bit of political theater come to an end.
Despite that, however, I think it’s useful to have a situation like this every once in a while. It shines a light on the cockroaches of our American uniparty, which pontificates on both sides about abortion and gun control while tirelessly working behind the scenes on its true goal: transferring wealth from the productive sector to the political sector. Take a look at this list of the wealthiest counties in America. There are just two working-class Midwest entries in the top twenty: Tennessee’s Williamson County, home of the lady once known to my readers as Drama McHourglass, and Ohio’s Delaware County, home of your humble author. The rest of them are either vacation destinations or centers of government. I would also direct your attention to the fall of Oakland County, MI from 7th in the 2010 census to… somewhere in the 2016 survey. That’s what happens when we move from a manufacturing economy to a so-called “FIRE” economy.
It’s also instructive to see how the media reports on the shutdowns. When a Democratic president is in power, it’s the fault of Congress. When a Republican president is in power, it is the fault of the President. To some degree, the media is correct about this; as the Washington Generals of American politics, the Republicans are expected to put up just enough token resistance to legitimize the continued expansion of the American government and its spending habit. Without the Republicans, the uniparty nature of this country would be offensively apparent. Permitting the existence of a Mitt Romney or two continues the fiction that there has been an honest debate on the merits of whatever our Illuminati want to happen next. If you want a real sense of just narrow the uniparty’s Overton window in on the subject of American governance, consider the fact that something like 60% of America is now comfortable using the word “Nazi” to describe Donald Trump, a lifelong Democratic donor who danced with a rainbow flag at his rallies and whose “Nazi” stance on immigration is not that we need to stop it, or that we need to stop increasing the rate at which immigrants enter the country, but that we need to stop increasing the rate of increase in the rate at which immigrants enter the country.
Even I am not immune to the effects of media presentation when it comes to the shutdown. In fact, it took a particularly insightful comment on another blog to set me straight on the matter.
File this under Yet Another Candidate For A Saying To Be Known As “Baruth’s Law” After My Death: Enthusiasm for the accoutrements of a particular practice or discipline burns brightest in the third-rate practitioner. Consider, if you will, auto racing. I have never met a front-running talent who truly cared in any way whatsoever about the brand, layout, “DNA”, or “heritage” of the car he was driving. Nor are these people historians of their sport. The people who make history rarely read it. Conversely, any time I meet someone who blabs on and on about their intimate connection with Porsche or Ferrari or Shelby, they are absolutely garbage behind the wheel. To some degree, I can personally attest to the way this process works; I started off as a Volkswagen fanatic ham-handing my way around Ohio roads, obsessed with the difference between 8-valve and 16-valve GTIs, but I ended it as a fellow who can match data with any but the very best racers and who is also entirely indifferent to the particulars of what I’m driving or where I drive it. Achievement in a subject is the mortal enemy of contentment within it.
Music is not an exception to Baruth’s Law — in fact, it aligns with the Law so closely that we can use it to detect a flagging of ability in musicians. It is no coincidence that men like Slash and Jimmy Page become progressively more obsessed with their guitars as their musical drive and creativity gradually fades. The Jimmy Page who recorded the “Stairway” solo with a beat-up Telecaster in a hallway is not the same fellow as the Jimmy Page who used a TransPerformance-equipped Gibson Custom Shop R7 Goldtop to play the Zep reunion show thirty-four years later. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. John Mayer was obsessive about his gear from the beginning, featuring a Novax Expression on the cover of “Room For Squares” and then moving to an intimate relationship with the Fender Custom Shop before developing the love-it-or-hate-it Silver Sky with Paul Reed Smith. Those exceptions, however, are few and far between.
What causes the death of enthusiasm as proficiency increases? I suspect that it is a variant of the old “familiarity breeds contempt” trope. As kids, we want to believe in the superiority of a particular car, bike, or guitar; as we actually learn to operate these devices we begin to see them as tools with limitations to be overcome. You start by pulling Excalibur from a stone, but after ten years of close-quarters combat you find yourself cursing the thing for having too shallow of a blood groove. About twelve years ago I caught the gig of a very talented seventy-something bluesman who had made his name playing Les Pauls but who on this particular evening was sporting a beat-up PRS CE bolt-neck. “Why aren’t you playing the Les Paul?” I asked him. “Don’t you miss the tone?”
“Ah, fuck tone,” he spat, “the Gibson is too damn heavy for my old shoulder. And it never did sound that good anyway.” Which made me wonder: If equipment doesn’t matter, and tone doesn’t matter, what’s left? The answer, of course, is production.
In October 2013, I broke my predictable pattern of driving Volvos and bought a Lincoln, my first. It was pure chance. I didn’t set out to get it, and wasn’t even looking for a car to buy. Serendipity plays a part in many of life’s memorable events, it seems.
At the time, I was driving a 2006 Volvo V50 station wagon, serviced and purchased as a CPO with 14,000 miles at McLaughlin Volvo in summer of 2007. Since I’ve always been a car nut, I’d stop by for no reason whatsoever to check out the rolling stock, grab brochures, and glom a cup of coffee.
Klockau’s Note: Another excellent writeup by my West Coast buddy, Tony LaHood! Leave some nice comments and maybe he’ll write some new stuff for us! Tony’s note: In October 2012, I sold my 1989 MBZ 300 SE after 16 years of ownership. As a tribute to a car that meant so much to me over the years, her story is repeated here today.
There’s something I must make clear to you before proceeding with this story: I am an idiot in any situation involving a woman. One-hundred percent of the time, I will follow a great pair of legs into hell (or a Mercedes dealership, as the case may be) with both eyes open. With that understood, let’s continue.
I would never have considered buying a Mercedes at all were it not for Lori, a freelance graphic artist at our ad agency and a dead ringer for Xena, Warrior Princess. Lori drove a buttercup-yellow 240D and loved all things Mercedes. To my astonishment, she agreed to accompany me to our agency Christmas party, after which we started dating.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, an unusually high percentage of my reader base hails from California. All of you, and anyone who travels to the Golden State for business, might do well to review the 2019 crop of California laws. The law making the most noise — pun intended — is a thousand-dollar mandatory fine for exhaust noise over 95dB. It’s being enforced aggressively now, which would lead any sane person to wonder: We are told on a daily basis by the California-based media that it would be “absolutely impossible” to successfully identify and deport illegal immigrants, and that “profiling” would harass and endanger innocent people while providing no uptick in the amount of arrests. Yet the California police appear to have zero difficulty “profiling” certain types of cars in order to hand out these $1,000 tickets. That’s right: according to the drivers who have already been caught up in this new law, the police aren’t just sitting on a sound meter, Laguna-Seca style. They are aggressively, and purposely, seeking out certain vehicles. After all, if the police were simply to ticket based on their machine reading, they might end up ticketing the ratty old Toyota trucks or ’97 Expeditions that carry that sweet, sweet low-priced undocumented labor out to the farms. Would the drivers of those vehicles pay the fine? Of course not — and why should they, when they can have a brand new identity and driver’s license for $29?
Perhaps not surprisingly, it was at that point that I thought of the man who calls himself “Sultan Knish”.