Earlier this week it was a ’78 Regency, today it’s a rare surviving Escort, espied on Dallas-Fort Worth Marketplace. What can you say about the Escort? It replaced the old Pinto, was front-wheel drive, they sold a ton of them, and like their contemporary brethren, the Chevette and Colt, probably eight survive to the present day. This is one of them.
“Thirty-four months to the first million and twenty months to the next.” That’s what I said when we hit the two million hit mark in September of 2017. Since then, there’s been an, ahem, flattening of the curve in site growth, which is fine. Depending on how you shake and bake the statistics, Riverside Green has between thirty and seventy thousand real human beings reading it on a semi-regular basis, with perhaps five thousand folks who reliably read everything I publish.
As has become customary on these occasions, I’ll answer a few random questions and then discuss a minor change coming to Riverside Green in the weeks ahead.
“Blood alone moves the wheels of history!” Dedicated watchers of The Office may recall an episode in which Dwight is named Salesman Of The Year at Dunder Mifflin and has to give a speech. His frenemy Jim “helps” him by writing a speech supposedly drawn from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, featuring the above line. Apparently, Mussolini did say this, in 1914 when he was he was suggesting that Italy join the Allies in attacking (or defending against, depending on one’s biases) Germany.
It’s hard to see where ol’ Benito was wrong about that. Human history is an endless parade of winners and losers, with the former continually feasting on the latter. Usually metaphorically. Usually. It takes a lot of losers to grease the wheels of Progress, and a lot of blood.
The massive societal changes of 2020 are no exception to this rule. Target and Amazon are winners; small businesses are losers. Capital wins; labor loses. Billionaires thrive; the middle class craters. Broadly speaking, it’s been a year of victories for the Blue Tribe, losses for the Red Tribe, and profound unease for the Greys. Yet the machine requires some Blue blood in the wheels if it is to move smoothly, thus the two profoundly disturbing stories we’re about to discuss and the two tough questions raised by these stories.
The other day, my reader and real-life pal “bolero” put a photo up of Francoise Hardy on her K0-generation Honda CB750. That’s a lot of bike for a young lady, even by today’s standards; at the time, the CB750 was the world’s fastest motorcycle and even today it’s much stronger than ninety percent of the bikes sold around the world. The photo above represents kind of the opposite of that.
Look what I spotted today on ebay. A 403-V8 powered, opera-lamped luxocruiser. I’ve always liked these freshly downsized late ’70s C-bodies, and this one appears to be a really nice example.
You know I love Oldsmobiles, in fact this is at least the fourth Ninety-Eight I’ve written up since last summer. But I had to share this one; it’s so nice. Continue Reading →
Assembling the complete American-made work-from-home outfit at reasonable cost isn’t that tough: there are at least three legitimate choices each for T-shirt, pants, belt, socks, sweatshirt. Until, that is, you get down to the underwear. There are a few sources for USA-made boxers, but those of us who feel that our life might include a bicycle at any randomly chosen moment are probably better off with briefs, and those are in shorter supply. They’re also expensive when you can find them. Flint&Tinder will periodically do a run of USA-made briefs at Huckberry for about thirty bucks a pop. Ramblers Way has some very nice options at sixty-five dollars each. Why your humble author can justify an eight thousand dollar sportcoat, while blanching at $65 underwear, is a matter best left to qualified mental health professionals.
No matter. There’s a cheaper alternative, and I can report that it’s also a very well-made alternative.
“Sampling has turned Hiphop into the deformed child of a mother who’s been fucked by her own son.” Not what you’d expect to read in a modern music-review thinkpiece, but with Nicholas Payton it’s more or less par for the course. Payton, who along with Roy Hargrove was promoted as a “young lion” of a revitalized traditional jazz thirty years ago, has long since gone his own way, and chosen his own opinion, about everything from his record label (he’s self-published now, because he doesn’t want to hear other opinions) to his take on the “N-word” (it is related somehow to the Sanskrit naga, which means snake, so if you are Black then saying the word is a sort of prayer, or spiritual self-activation).
Some of Payton’s written work proved even too hot for a self-employed musician to handle, but you can still find it on archive.org, most of it related to Robin Thicke and the “Blurred Lines” lawsuits with Marvin Gaye’s estate. I assume that at some point some attorney told him that repeatedly offering an opinion that differed from the one published by the trial court, and being rather personally offensive with it, was going to get him sued next.
Nicholas Payton hates me — not me personally mind you, but me as a generic idea, a German-American human being and jazz fan. He doesn’t think “jazz” exists, preferring to include it in his umbrella of #BAM (Black American Music). And he doesn’t think whites have any business listening to or playing it. In fact, he’s kind of down on the whole idea of white people. I can only imagine what he would think if he walked in on my and my son practicing the Metheny and Pastorius parts of “Bright Size Life”. Something along the lines of “two crackers stealing the music of two other crackers who stole the music,” most likely. And yet I have no trouble buying his music, reading what he writes, and supporting his efforts in general. I’m not going to apply a litmus test of political and personal conformity to everyone with whom I do business. That would be insane.
Not everyone feels that way, of course.
I didn’t let COVID-19 knock me down. I kept working, kept writing, lost a little weight, improved my bike riding a bit, did just enough club racing to confirm that I haven’t forgotten how to thump on the locals, practiced my scales on the guitar. Ah, but the hits kept coming, the world just kept kicking me when I was down, culminating in my broken leg two weeks ago. The last time I felt this personally defeated was when my cubicle-mate loaded up an Atari VCS emulator and beat me five hundred times in a row (we kept track) in Slot Racer. This is the worst. I have some options. They gave me a bottle of oxycodone for post-surgery use but at the end of that bottle is Dilaudid. So instead I’ve just elected to be puritanically miserable most of the time.
Next week I can probably lift a few weights again, assuming I can get down into the basement and back out without falling to my death. In the meantime I’ve been wasting time by playing Fortnite, the lowest-common-denominator video game in North America that isn’t played on an iPhone. I started with “Solos” and won a bunch of times. My son and I went on to play “Duos” and won a bunch of times, then he refused to play any more because he’d rather play Call of Duty or ride his bike. So I started playing “Squads”, which works like so: 100 players are dropped on a “the battle island”, in 25 squads of 4 players each, and they figure out creative ways to kill each other until only one squad is left.
This is a story about how I led a band of children to victory, and how one of those children was physically beaten until they sobbed in the process.
Like everything else in the modern United States, hand and shop tools have been split into an upper class and a lower class. The upper class is the Made In USA stuff like Snap-On and SK; the lower class is Harbor Freight and the various Chinese tool brands you find in Lowe’s and AutoZone. We used to have a middle class, the USA-made Craftsman tools that kept the Sears brand alive a solid decade past its sell-by date, but as of late Craftsman has mostly decamped to the Chinese side of things. (They’re trying to come back, now that Trump The Great Satan has leveled the playing field with China a little bit, and I hope they succeed in this.)
Over the past thirty-five years I’ve made it a habit to buy the best tools I could afford, even when I didn’t have any money. That’s why I had (and still have!) Park spoke wrenches that cost eight bucks a pop when I was making two dollars an hour after taxes, and it’s why I have SK ratcheting box wrenches nowadays. One thing I never had was any kind of rolling shop stool, even though it would have improved my quality of life quite a bit over the past decade as my back has increasingly complained about leaning over to change wheels on cars and adjust derailleurs on bikes. This was partly due to the fact that I didn’t expect any $30 Harbor Freight stool to hold up for any length of time, but it was really a matter of snobbishness. How could I feel good about rolling a crooked Chinese stool back and forth between my Herman Miller benches and tables? Better to just pull out a Miller wire base table out and sit on it.
Doing that sucks, by the way.
So now I have something new: the USA-made, painstakingly-machined, no-expense-spared Vyper Chair, complete with custom embroidery. And it’s already proving to be indispensable, admittedly for a quite depressing reason.
The rate at which a middle-aged man is going to grow new leg bone and/or ligament tissue is
a) fairly fixed;
b) not fast.
Which gives me time to catch up on various blogs, including the one written by Scott Locklin. His post “Open Problems In Robotics” warms my heart, because he and I have come independently to some of the same conclusions, and have been influenced by some of the same concepts. He’s a scientist, while I’m a computer scientist. The gap between these two professions is immense, and entirely to the advantage of the real scientists. Yet since I’m also a writer by trade, allow me to take a shot at making a few things clear(er) on this particular topic.