Weekly Roundup: Pain-Free Potlatch And The Permanently Reclined Seat Edition

It’s a problem as old as the idea of ownership itself: In any stable society without external pressure, the majority of wealth will become concentrated over time in the hands of a few people. “Them what has, gets.” Rich people have options and choices, which typically lead to further accumulation of wealth, while poor people are forced to make harder decisions with greater consequences. Admittedly, this process happened a little slower in historical societies that didn’t have mechanisms like payday loans and COVID-19 to accelerate the forcible transfer of wealth from the lower to the upper class, but it happened nonetheless.

The ancient answer to this is a potlatch, in which the wealthiest members of a community make substantial gifts to the poorer members of the tribe — or, in some cases, simply destroy items of value. The potlatch benefits everyone; it confers social prestige on the people who are giving their stuff away, while enriching the poorer members of the tribe. In the case of “destruction” potlatches, it reduces wealth disparity, envy, and resentment.

The history of the 21st Century so far has largely been a tale of immensely wealthy people and institutions taking ruthless steps to ensure their permanent position on the top of the food chain, coupled with an increasing conviction on the part of those same people and institutions that they thoroughly deserve their position by virtue of an unassailable moral superiority. Ah, but how does the fabled one percent demonstrate that moral superiority? The obvious answer is to throw a society-wide potlatch — but the problem with a potlatch is that it tends to level the playing field, however mildly, in the favor of the 99%. Could there be a way to obtain the social and moral benefits of a potlatch while retaining all your stuff? Better yet, could there be a way to have a potlatch that actively harms your closest competitors, while at the same time conferring the desired social benefits on you and yours?

I’m pleased, by which I mean horrified, to announce that such a thing is indeed possible. It’s happening right now, in fact.

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Cal Rayborn: The Life and Death of an Icon

Note: Another one from Lee Wilcox! Enjoy. -TK

Some would make the case that Cal Rayborn was as much a natural as Mike Hailwood, even though you won’t find his name on a list of most Grand National wins. Only those riders good on both pavement and dirt make such lists, and Cal’s ability and drive belonged with road racing. He stayed with Harley well past the period in which they were competitive, thus proving the point that it’s difficult for loyalty and blind ambition to coexist.

If you lived outside the United States, you might not have heard of him but for one remarkable week in 1972, when he competed against some of the world’s best. While comparing riders is not the intent of this article, a discussion of road races often includes comparison among Rayborn, Hailwood and Kenny Roberts (who, in my opinion, probably was the most complete racer of that group). That said, I shall proceed  to relate the story of the life and death of the remarkable Cal Rayborn.

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Unsponsored Content: Bicycle For Sale

Putting this up just in case it would do a reader some good. I bought this Schwinn Super Sport SL back in 2001. Original MSRP was $1,949. More details on the bike, which was pretty ambitious for Schwinn, here.

After 8,000 miles or so, several new tires and chains, and a true-up on the wheels, I retired it in favor of my Lynskey R270. The Flight Deck computer works and it’s in very good shape. Given how hard it is to get a decent bicycle at the moment I thought I’d make this available. $300 plus actual cost of shipping via BikeFlights to any RG reader.

Two more photos after the jump:

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Made in Detroit: Shinola Detrola Watches

Since we started our partnership with Shinola here at RG, several of you have purchased watches, jewelry, and leather goods through our link. We appreciate both your continued support of us here as well as your commitment to purchasing goods that are made in Detroit by American workers.

Some of you have indicated that you’d like to buy a watch, but that the prices are a little higher than you’d like. Fear not, friends—I decided to buy one of Shinola’s lower cost watches, the Detrola No. 2, to see if the lower price point compromised the style or quality that I’ve come to expect from Shinola.

For more info about Shinola’s entry level watches, click the jump.

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Made In The USA: Snap-On FJ175

Our twenty-first-century New Morality is mostly banal and unimaginative but it does have a couple of nifty adaptations to it, the most interesting of which I’ll call One Click Away From Default State. The “Default State” is whatever the New Morality wishes you to be, and the you is very personal.

Here’s an example. Your humble author has probably hired and supported more minority and female writers than any other single editor in the business. However, the keepers of the New Morality would very much like to brand me with “sexist and racist” so therefore any single thing they can find to support that branding will be taken as being absolute and immediate. Let’s say that there was a video of me rapping the “N-word” in front of a hundred people. I assure you that said video would be made omnipresent on Car Twitter or whatever. It doesn’t matter what else I’ve done. That would be the “one click” to doom me.

On the other hand, Sam Biddle has long been on the side of “the good guys” so when he does exactly that, the video gets DMCA’d and disappeared from the public eye. In point of fact, Sam Biddle (and, whisper it, Hunter Biden) can do as much as he likes in the way of racist or offensive behavior. As soon as he says “the right thing”, whatever that needs to be, he will one-click back to his assigned state of Good Guy.

If you want another example, think about how readily society accepts someone’s declaration of alternate sexuality; that “one click” is all you need to get instant membership status in whatever subculture you like. However, if you want to leave that subculture, however… well, I don’t even know how you would do it. Nobody would take you seriously. Let’s say that I declared myself to be a furry next week. Then a week afterwards, I posted that I was “sick of this furry stuff lol” and that I was going back to, ah, relationships without fursuits. What percentage of you would consider me to be permanently a furry?

So, what does all of this have to do with a $935 floor jack?

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Weekly Roundup: Why The Maverick Is Cheap, And Why That’s A Good Idea Edition

I can’t lie; I’m excited about the new Ford Maverick, largely because I could save $1500 by spending $26,000. Let me explain. When I bought my Lincoln MKT, I didn’t really understand how heavily my son would end up focusing on riding dual-suspension mountain bikes, which don’t fit well on the traditional (and made-in-USA) Hollywood four-bike race I got for said Lincoln. So in the past year we’ve left the MKT at home and used my Silverado to haul the bikes.

This is using an A-10 to kill a housefly; all we really need is a vehicle that has enough open space in a bed to carry four MTBs with their front wheels over the tailgate, plus enough indoors space for (what will eventually be) two six-foot-plus riders and their gear. That’s what the Maverick is. It will get twice the fuel mileage of the Silverado. It won’t need nine quarts of synthetic oil for every change (thank you, GM L86!) or require massive 20″ tires. It will need a little bit of ground clearance to get up some trails.

The alternative would be to buy one of the heavy-duty USA-made DH bike racks for the MKT, probably Alta’s $1200 six-bike carrier, and that’s probably what I’ll do, at least for 2022. But I like the idea of adding a Maverick to the fleet. And why not? The price is right.

The reasons the price is right might surprise you; this isn’t information you’ll get anywhere else, at least right now.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Last Act Of The Locusts Edition

Brood X is buzzing in my backyard. Their thousandfold screeching can be heard over everything short of a cranked guitar amp, they pitter-patter my office window like horizontal, substantial rain. Already their bodies litter my driveway, their mysteriously separated wings on the hood and roof of cars that haven’t moved in weeks. I confront them alive outdoors, the size of my thumb and yellow-eyed.

Thankfully, cicadas are not locusts, despite what some people think. There are no more locusts swarming in America. They were bad for commerce, while cicadas are little more than a hassle. Some people are actually excited about these fat flying bugs, you know. How To Snack On Brood X! Lot of discussion in the media about the pleasures of eating a cicada, their nutty, chicken-like taste. The notion that “they want us to eat bugs”, like the notion that COVID-19 escaped from a lab or the agitation regarding secret pedophile islands, is one of those right-wing tropes that perpetually embarrass our society by being more or less true. Could you eat locusts, if they returned? I’m sure you could. I’m sure I wouldn’t.

Ah, but who needs the Biblical insects when we have the modern equivalent of the locust swarm, namely the aging investor class?

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1985 Mercury Topaz: Red Relic

I don’t know if it was due to Jack’s post on the 5-speed V6 Tempo, but today I ran across this. Last time I saw one of these early “Tempazes” was probably 1994 or so, though I do see the final-gen Tempo sedans around even today.

But these early ones? Nope. So I was drawn to this one on Marketplace, especially in that spiffy red on red color combo. Remember when car interiors were color-keyed to the exterior paint? That’s pretty much extinct now too. Continue Reading →

(Double) Weekly Roundup: End Of The Road Edition

It took Hunter S. Thompson seventeen years to work up the guts to kill himself, then it took him four days more. In his famous “Football Season Is Over” suicide note, he wrote “67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted.” He thought about it for about ninety-six hours, then he put the gun to his head. Readers, as I approach my fiftieth birthday I am starting to understand the appeal of that. You can feel the machine winding down inside you. Two weeks ago, at the inaugural event of an Ohio-wide pumptrack championship, my recently-turned-twelve-years-old son beat me in raw time, 58.17 seconds to 60.20 seconds. The hilarious part is that he came off the track absolutely furious with his performance, which nabbed him second place in the 11-13 category, while I finished my run thinking I’d perhaps ridden over my head just a bit. (For the record, I was the oldest rider at the race, and not the slowest, or even all that close to being the slowest.)

Faced with a future in which each day is a slightly lesser child of the day before, I can’t say I’m like 100% opposed to calling time on my own season, although I think I’d want to do it via a re-creation of the Snake River jump or something like that instead of just nipping off and shooting myself like the cow in a Douglas Adams book. Alas, I have a child to raise and a couple of novels to write. The former still requires a few years and the latter can’t start until I leave my current job. Nor can I expect a deus ex machina to pull my card for me; yeah, I’m a little overweight but I’m in remarkable health and I still exercise about 300-400 “intense” minutes a week with no trouble, according to my little Garmin fitness nanny.

This is what I don’t have: a plan to fill these years to come, or much motivation in one direction or another. Until I saw the above car at the Bonhams auction on Amelia Island this past week, and realized what I want to do.

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