Guest Post: Hot Times On Ice Part 1, Meeting the Neighbors


Dave Suitor

“You know, they do some ice racing around here when it freezes up.”
“Oh yeah? Competitive?”
“Yeah, I think so.”

Within days of this conversation, I’m driving someone else’s Honda onto a fairly large oval plowed into a frozen pond by the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club, as an unknown quantity, to evaluate whether or not I’m a hazard.

I can’t say I understood the full extent of the commitment made when I passed, and agreed to come back and race the following year, but I’d learn.

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Guest Post: Light Eternal—The Choral Music of Morten Lauridsen (Trailer)

Last Friday, Deutsche Grammophon released the CD Light Eternal—The Choral Music of Morten Lauridsen. Amazon’s pre-order price for the CD is $12.59, which is a truly excellent price. But this CD would be a bargain at full list. There is also a 24/88 hi-res PCM download from HDTracks, reasonably priced at nearly 90 minutes of music for $20.98 (There are two bonus tracks with the download). The album will also be streaming from Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal. And if you don’t mind reduced sound quality and the occasional advertisement, the album appears as an authorized playlist on YouTube. That’s right! You can hear the whole thing before you buy it!

My experience in producing and selling classical-music recordings is that most people don’t have formal training in music history or music theory, but they do want beauty in their lives, and they recognize it when they hear it. This is one of those recordings. If you care about choral music, especially contemporary American choral music, or if you simply want to add some beauty to your life, please vote with your wallet and buy this CD (or download), and also please consider buying half a dozen, a dozen, or more, as stocking stuffers (or, as “holiday,” or even non-holiday gifts). Lauridsen’s music is contemporary music that honors the entire tradition of choral singing, from O magnum mysterium‘s soundworld, which to me calls to mind the soundworld of Allegri, to Madrigali—Six FireSongs on Italian Renaissance Poems, which is perhaps best described as modernism—but with a heart and a soul.

Trailer embed and track listing after the jump. Continue Reading →

1.6 Billion Ways Back to What You’ve Left Behind

In case you haven’t heard, the Mega Millions drawing is done and had your ticket had the numbers 05, 28, 62, 65, and 70 in combination with Mega Ball number 05, you would have netted a cool 1.6 billion dollars. Just to tell you the kind of luck I had, not a single one of those numbers appeared anywhere in the 5 rows on the $10 ticket I purchased. That’s pretty damn pitiful. What’s probably more pitiful, however, is the fact that in the run up to the drawing, while everyone was fantasizing about buying their own private island or an NFL franchise, I was thinking how awesome it would be to spend some of my winnings on another 1984 Nissan 200 SX Turbo. Continue Reading →

Strictures of Steel

For the first time in my life, I commute by train. Some of you, knowing that I have spent more than a decade living in Japan, are going to call bullshit on this statement, but it’s true. I do admit to riding the occasional train, of course, but at no point did I use Japan’s famously efficient rail network as a part of my commute. And let’s not even talk about the bus – that shit’s a non-starter. No, believe it or not, most days, my ass was in the driver’s seat. Continue Reading →

Fixing Stuff That Isn’t Broken: Hands-on with TK

Despite the old adage, “If it works, don’t fix it,” I have never been able to keep my hands off of things that aren’t broken. That’s bit me in the ass more times than I’d like to admit, something I was well aware of when I decided to “improve” our new Nissan Versa. I’m not sure if that decision makes me fearless or just stupid, but whichever it is I went in anyway. I guess it’s time to talk about what happened. Continue Reading →

In which your author buys a new car: A Nissan Versa Note

A few weeks ago, my wife and I bought a Nissan Versa Note. With our van still locked in a container somewhere on the high seas and my old Nissan Hardbody unable to transport our family of five, we were in a bit of a bind. We tried renting a van for a while but with the charges stacking up and with no end in sight, we figured we could just take the thousands of dollars we were likely to pay out anyhow and use them to buy something. How we ended up buying a car that a great many people think is an also-ran in the small car segment is the subject of this story. Perhaps there is a lesson in it somewhere. Continue Reading →

Guest Post: The Saddest Song

This article originally appeared at The Tannhauser Gate — JB

Open Goldberg Variations, Werner Schweer, editor.

Listening to “happy” music can make one feel happier. However, instead of always making people feel worse, listening to sad music often brings on a state of “paradoxical pleasure.”

I am not saying that listening to sad music in and of itself makes people happier. What I am saying is that listening to sad music can evoke a sequence of very complex emotions. Furthermore, many people regard experiencing that kind of a cascade of metamorphosing emotions as “pleasurable.” (Or perhaps, just as a relief.)

The somewhat waffle-like language employed above is in recognition of the fact that many people experience the same music in different ways. By the way, the sequence of emotions Shock/Disbelief/Anger/Despair formerly was called The Four Stages of Saab Ownership. “What do you mean, my engine’s harmonic balancer was held on with glue?”

I think whether the precise emotional mechanism (and what a silly word “mechanism” is to use, in this context) is transference or catharsis or a feeling of empathy will just have to remain a mystery of the human soul. But from the earliest times, serious thinkers (from Aristotle to Schopenhauer) have always recognized that the power of sad music (and also of literature and drama) does not lie in its merely making people feel sadder than they had been.

A recent BBC Culture article asks whether data diving can “reveal” the “Saddest Number One Song Ever.” I think that that article itself reveals the multiple, perhaps even fatal, limitations of such an approach.

If I had to pick one song known to me as the saddest ever (which avoids the major problems associated with judging the quality and the qualities of songs by things like Billboard charts or Grammys), that would be the “Aria” from the Goldberg Variations. The Goldberg Variations might not have words, but right at the top of the score it says “Song” (albeit in Italian).

Song samples and more pondering, after the jump. Continue Reading →

Running Hard: Cross Country in a 27 Year Old Nissan Truck

Perhaps because I have done it so often, I sometimes forget that the great American road trip is a dying tradition. Some of my earliest memories are tied into those long drives from our home in the cool, tree covered hills of Western Washington to visit my grandparents on the hot, sun baked plains of Eastern Kansas. The recollections play out in my mind like a disjointed movie – a memory of our overheated Oldsmobile station wagon on a mountain pass shooting out a geyser of steam as my father adds water collected from the melting snow, an image caught through the window of a canopy on the back of our Chevy truck where my brothers, sisters and I made another trip atop a pile of blankets, and still another, when my older three siblings had been deemed too old to be forced to make the trip, where my sister Connie and I luxuriated in the spacious backseat and the air-conditioned comfort of my dad’s Delta 88. Eventually I too aged out of that particular journey, but as an adult I still embrace the road trip and have spent more than my fair share of time using the interstate to traverse the vast distances between our nation’s shores. I’ve done it probably a dozen times now and it’s become an old trick. Perhaps that was why I felt so little trepidation over using a 27 year old Nissan to do it yet again. Continue Reading →

Guest Post: Taken To School On Tires


I promised you guys a mommyblogger — the closest I could come was an autocrosser and track rat who happens to be a mother. Sorry about that. We will keep looking. In the meantime, please give Ryan a warm welcome — jb

The 2018 Michelin Tire School. Well, at least, that’s what it said on the Michelin-Man-emblazoned itinerary in my Greenville, South Carolina, hotel room. The evening’s reception and dinner were filled with cheers of meetings and reunions, car chatter, and occasional outbursts of laughter. In attendance were recognizable faces and names from within the female automotive world. We were a hodgepodge mix of professional racers, stunt drivers, club drivers, high end auto brokers, automotive photographers, automotive media & journalists, leaders from within large car clubs, with many of the women owning businesses in one form or another. That’s about the time this event became more commonly known as Michelin’s Women in Drive.

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Guest Post: The Undergrad S10

(Please welcome Daniel, everybody — this is the first of two contributions! — JB)

Elliot and I grew up in the same hometown, but didn’t become friends until we both transferred to the same university, around my twentieth birthday. Elliot was the sort of stain-on-his-shirt awkward but consistently jovial soul you couldn’t help but root for – an encyclopedia of automotive knowledge, dreadful at talking to women, and a fiercely loyal friend. We hit it off quickly between our shared classes and the car projects we were building on shoestring budgets.

Elliot’s ’97 S10 pickup was slowly becoming a mirror of its owner, this boisterous riot machine in plain clothing. What started life as a lowly 4 cylinder work truck, was now a 5.3-swapped, lightweight street fighter with 4.11 gearing and a threatening exhaust note – following the crude but venerable formula of small car, big engine that hot rodders knew and loved. While I was trying to find a more sophisticated suspension setup to improve my RX-7, Elliot was just trying to build a big hammer.

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