(Last) Weekly Roundup: Can’t Stunt On ‘Em Edition

Brother Bark and I spent fifteen years helping to blur, or perhaps smudge, the boundary between the Internet and real life. Around the turn of the century he and I trolled a succession of local-music boards to the point where we had a half-dozen or so people swearing on the lives of their weedmen they would dox us and beat us up — so I invited all the players to a charity boxing match, at which point they all said they had to play gigs that weekend. The funny part was that at least one of them probably could have thumped me without much difficulty — the fellow just didn’t want to take the risk. So then Bark invited all the Internet Tough Guys to his gig — and they all showed up, slapped him on the back, and told him he was great.

My favorite story comes from an old-school BMX board back in ’03 or thereabouts where another rider and I clowned a self-important and hugely unpleasant participant by finding him at an event, removing the stupid vanity front license plate from his used Mercedes-Benz, and reinstalling it behind his stupid vanity rear license plate. I then photoshopped the plate onto a nearly identical vehicle at a used-car lot 2,500 miles away and put that picture on the message board. He filed a series of police reports and spent a week braying about how justice would be done. As I recall, he’d gotten as far as his local FBI office before someone took pity on him and told him where to find his “stolen” plate. To his credit — or maybe my discredit — the dude ended up kinda changing his ways and becoming a tireless volunteer on behalf of disadvantaged young riders before suffering a stroke and leaving the sport in 2016.

A few years later, I got tired of an “anonymous” fellow on VWVortex trying to cyberbully me so I cracked open my favorite Kevin Mitnick book and worked my way all the way to the desk phone at his job. “Hey man, I’m going to give you an opportunity to put your words into practice,” I said.

“How did you get this number?” he asked, voice shaking. Then he apologized for being such a jerk, told me he was actually a really meek person when he wasn’t online, and asked me to give him a chance to mend his ways. A few days later, he sent me a private message on the Vortex board thanking me for not humiliating him any further. We had no further interactions, he laid off his bullying behavior, and we lived happily ever after for about twelve years.

But that’s not the way he remembers it.

Earlier this year, a friend sent me a screenshot of a post on Vortex where this person tells a very different story. He says that I did in fact call him all those years ago, but that I promptly backed down once I realized that he and his friends could beat me up at a racetrack of their choice. And then I told him how awesome he was before promising to never bother him again.

The French call this l’esprit de l’escalier — literally, “the spirit of the staircase” as you leave a confrontation or argument. Typically, it’s just a feeling of regret that you weren’t brave or clever enough to carry the day, so to speak. For some reason, your humble author provokes this reaction in quite a few people. Another VWVortex fellow who apparently disliked me drove all the way from Chicago to spend a weekend helping me and my race team co-owner rebuild the front suspension of my Neon in 2008 — then he waited six years before posting about how he’d put a gun in my face and told me to stay away from his wife. (Narrator’s voice: Jack did not completely stay away.) I could go on: the wedding photographer who actually thanked me in a 2007 email for setting him straight on his behavior via a phone call then waited eleven years before posting a series of hateful comments on my YouTube under a different screen name, thinking I wouldn’t make the connection. Well, I say “hateful” comments, but in reality all he did was point out that I got fat between 2007 and 2019. Like I didn’t know that already!

All of these staircase-spirit types have one thing in common: they’ve all somehow intuited that I am no longer the kind of person who will expend time and money to put their noses back into the dirt. In this intuition, they are entirely correct. If I have an open weekend I’m not going to spend it driving to New Jersey and re-clowning some dude whose sole achievement in life to this point has been the subsidized lease of a four-cylinder Genesis G70. I’d rather spend that time with my family or my beloved Sesh, who is proving rather more expensive to own on a month-by-month basis than any entry-luxury sedan. (You should see the lime-green coordinated livery it’s wearing now — the stickers had to be made in both Hungary AND the UK so the wheels would match the “RSL Race Shop” seatstay logo. But I digress.)

Being a grownup is kinda lame. I still have this impulse to go out there and set the record straight on a whole lot of things. There’s just no percentage in doing so at the moment. So what I’ve decided is this: I’ve taken a lot of notes over the years, saved a lot of screenshots, kept almost all of my e-mails. When my son is grown, and when I leave the auto business for good, I’m going to publish a book with all of it. Every name, every story, every embarrassing fact. I have stuff that will curl your toes, trust me. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see what happens as a result.

Of course, there’s always a chance that I could stuff my ZX-14R into a concrete piling before then — so consider today’s column my last will and testament on the subject. If I get killed before I have a chance to tell everyone all the stories, I’m relying on all my friends out there to tell, and re-tell, every story they’ve heard from me. Brother Bark will have some of the choicest tales to tell. Oh, heck, maybe I’ll write a few down now and put them away so they can be found later. Consider it trolling from beyond the grave, or perhaps merely the final act of someone who never met a line he wouldn’t willingly smudge.

* * *

Last week, for Hagerty, I reviewed a MINI and discussed an unheralded killer.

34 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: Can’t Stunt On ‘Em Edition”

  1. AvatarWidgetsltd

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of no-name, made-in-China tires. It’s should be understood, though, that original equipment tires marketed by major brands are not always made in the USA, Europe, or Japan. For example, the new 2020 model year car in which I am sitting as I write this has Yokohama tires which were made in The Philippines. The car itself was built in Indiana. This knowledge doesn’t worry me, as the tires were certainly built to meet the various standards required by a Japanese automaker.

  2. AvatarDirty Dingus McGee

    I have found as I age, some battles are just not worth fighting. As I recently started my 63rd trip around the sun I’m less inclined to fight, and just chuckle at the level of dumb exhibited. Which usually pisses off the other person even more. And that makes me happy. If they decide to continue with their anti social behavior, well, there aren’t camera’s in the rest room.

    As had been often said about the internet; everyone is a 6’5″ 240 pound Olympic caliber weight lifter who is also a black belt Muay Thai fighter.

  3. AvatarNoID

    Re: Cheap Tire Addiction, how do you feel about factory rejects that the tire manufacturer sells wholesale, and wind up at the used tire centers that dot our great nation?

    I took a swing at a set of factory-reject Goodyear Viva 3’s a few months ago and so far (about 5k miles) they’ve been fine. I’m much more concerned with the car they’re attached to, and all the repairs I’ve been deferring…but fear not, new rear calipers and hubs are going on over the holiday break.

      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        I guess it depends why they were rejected. I’d say anything that affects the surface rubber is fine… particularly if its the cosmetic marking or “chine” on the sidewall. Beyond that? I’d be worried.

        • AvatarNoID

          Knowing how regulated the auto industry is and that each tire is traceable, I’d be incredibly shocked if the manufacturer let out into the market anything that didn’t meet their safety standards. They’d be begging for a lawsuit otherwise.

          These didn’t have any visible defects, cosmetic or otherwise (I inspected them prior to installation), so I’m thinking they didn’t meet the balance spec or the rubber compound wasn’t quite up to snuff, resulting in reduced tread life or something like that.

          More troubling to me at the time was their success rate at tightening my lug nuts. 95% might get you a passing grade on nearly every exam in the world, for any subject, but the finger-tight lug nut I found when I returned home is a failure as far as I’m concerned.

    • AvatarOne Leg at a Time

      Oh my. That is simply beautiful.

      May I steal that, and use it whenever it applies (which will be often – I’m not very smart.)?

  4. Avatartrollson

    I don’t buy chinese tires, but I don’t do tire rotations either. For most cars tire rotations are a total scam.

    • AvatarNoID

      In my experience they’re critical, especially for FWD cars where the same tires do the driving AND the steering. Back when I started swapping winter rubber onto my cars I thought it would be fine to leave the all-seasons on from spring until winter began, swap the winters on, then when spring hit again re-install my all-seasons on opposite ends of the car. In that time span my fronts were down to about 4/32 and the rears were easily twice that. Granted I typically drive 20k+ miles per year thanks to a long daily commute. I don’t have nearly as much experience with RWD or AWD vehicles, I could understand those tires wearing at a similar rate since the workload is shared.

      Now, the vehicles at work DEFINITELY need their tires rotated regularly, thanks to aggressive (for a production car) suspension setups and the ease at which we turn the rear rubber into smoke.

      • Avatarrpn453

        I do winter tire swaps every spring and fall anyway, so I keep my wear balanced. But I think there’s logic in not rotating tires with a FWD, for those who have to go to a tire shop and/or pay for the work. Instead, just wear out the fronts, put the rears on the front, and new ones on the back. Then they always have the most stable tire arrangement. It also makes it really easy to see which corner is causing problems if there’s abnormal tire wear.

  5. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    My older daughter needed tires for her Pontiac Vibe. The local stores had a bunch of Chinese brands I’d never heard of that were all way more expensive than they should have been. Tire Rack had Uniroyal Tiger Paws for $57 each, with free shipping to a local shop that charged her $100 for mounting and balancing the set. I’ll have to check on the tires to see where they were manufactured as Michelin (which owns the Uniroyal brand) has factories all over the place.

    • AvatarJohn C.

      In this article and comments we hear current brand model names like Eagle GT, Viva, and Tiger Paw that all must have been around for 30+ years. To hear the tire industry tell it, they are constantly making the tires better with better designs and rubber compounds. One wonders if the strategy now is just to use old names people remember to fight the Chinese no names.

      Notice our Japanese friends used a different strategy. Using openly Japanese names on their mediocre at best tires that came over first installed on their cars. The brands interchangeable as whoever that day filled the Kanban. The numbers of the cars eventually brought brand awareness and the marketers than invented some advantages for them in the aftermarket

  6. Avatar-Nate

    Happy holidays to all and sundry ! .

    I’m not the 4=240# I once was but I bet if I knocked a bad person down and sat on them they’d be un happy =8-) .

    Looking forward to buying the book Jack, may you,John, Mark, SWMBO and all have a peaceful holiday .


  7. Avatarpanatomic

    a few tire comments –

    in addition to american & euro tires, the koreans and japanese make good tires.

    as someone with an econ degree, i can tell you that whining about tariffs is neo-lib bs. what it comes down to is this – the downside to tariffs is higher consumer prices and lower corporate profits. the upside is higher domestic wages and more stable employment.

    i think tire inspections arr an excellent suffestion. setting standards with inspections is a better and more elegant solution than tariffs. one area where i see a real benefit to stricter enforcement of the rules is shipping. despite international regulations, most of the container ships are still burning asphalt (bunker oil) as fuel. it’s super cheap but the pollution it causs is exponentially worse than all automobile pollution. if we shut that down, it would protect us all both physically and economically.

    • AvatarJohn C.

      About the importation of tires or anything else really. There is no moral imperative that we do so. When we agree to take in an import, we are doing the exporter a great favor. It should be a conscious decision whether to do so. It seems only sensible to demand that there be some reciprocity. Yes individuals may pay more for domestic, but that money stays in circulation here.

  8. Avatarhank chinaski

    A tell-all, eh? “Jack Baruth didn’t kill himself”.

    It’s the Minis that got really fat between 2007 and 2019.

    Merry Christmas, all.

  9. Avatardejal

    Kevin Mitnick. Sigh….
    That online Security Training Company he either owns or works for is the pits.
    How to protect from cyber attacks, phishing, social engineering , identity theft in the work place.
    The quizzes are stupid and designed to trip you up even if the answer isn’t wrong in actual practice
    but wrong according to their standard.

    The latest example, they go on and on about personal identification
    information such as birth date and passport #. Then they show a graphic with a bunch of boxes. One being MM DD YYYY and one being passport #. Flip to the next screen and check off everything that applies.
    MM? DD? YYYY? Passport #? Yes, of course. YYYY and Passport # are wrong.
    Why? Go back to the form. The graphic of the of form doesn’t have YYYY and Passport # values filled in, you failed.

    The tests are like a monkey in a psych experiment. Light blinks, the monkey gets a pellet when a metal hinge door drops. Happens 2 dozen times. Then it changes. The light blinks, the monkey reaches for open slot, touches the door and gets hit with an electric shock, then goes back to giving out a pellet.

    My attitude is if I don’t know you, you can go F’ yourself as far as trustworthiness.

    I got screwed over by one their “Gotcha” e-mail tests. I get an e-mail, I don’t click the links on purpose but highlight them and they looked goofy with Mitnick’s company in the links. I sent what I saw to Security I failed a couple of hours later because I must have clicked a link by mistake.

    My payback is, any outside e-mail I get I forward it to the security group at work and ask them if it’s legit, a threat or are they trying to screw fellow employees over. I give them a half dozen reasons why it could be fake. We have 3rd party contracts that allow e-mails from the contractors. The half ass answers are “You know we do business with Z. Corp”. That’s retarded. How do I know that Z. Corp hasn’t been compromised.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Well Mitnick was never a true cracker. He was a script kiddy with an exceptional sense of human weakness.

  10. AvatarWill Krawczyk

    I say you start publishing the stories now. Why wait? Unless Hagerty doesn’t approve, but why wouldn’t they want the traffic.

  11. AvatarWill

    Also, why not just tell the stories? No sense in saying you’re going to publish and don’t. It’s a disservice to the reader to allude to it and not follow through. Hagerty would probably be happy with the traffic unless they think it’ll hurt them (it won’t).

  12. AvatarOne Leg at a Time

    Merry Christmas to you and yours – Baruth Brothers and Esteemed Commenters!

    Jack – what ever happened to Freddy Hernandez and the Lamborghini? It was an interesting story written by an auto writer who was not trying to sound like you; which is increasingly rare.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      He is working on a follow up piece piece for us. I think freddy has bitten off all he can chew and then some for 2019 and 2020.


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