You really don’t see as much of this anymore, for several reasons: first, manufacturers no longer have the kind of mad money it takes to design, produce and market vehicles that disrespect the economies of scale. Also, the once-vaunted “halo effect” is increasingly irrelevant to consumers–after all, is the average Altima or Civic buyer the least bit influenced by the existence of the GT-R or NSX?
And then there’s the matter of political correctness; seriously, if a car maker offered a model geared toward a specific gender or other personal demographic today, howls of protest would reverberate, boycotts would form, and the offender would be made to attend automotive sensitivity training conducted by a newly formed Federal Department of Indignation Resolution.
I will admit to being fascinated by vanity plates. I’ve had a few, all of them bad. In fact, now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a genuinely witty one, on my car or others. There is something intrinsically pathetic about wanting people to be impressed or enlightened by your plate. With that said, I also admire the spirit of paying a couple extra bucks to avoid wearing what amounts to a state identification number on your vehicle.
Still. The worst plates are the ones which simply restate the badge on the car, and I’ve been guilty (“E46 3LTR”, “DISCO”) a few times. My old mentor in the pimp game, the Big Dog, was infamous for doing this (“TDI Q7”). He would also make bad puns in steel — “AUDIOS” comes to mind. The worst one he ever had was when he picked up two Range Rover 4.6 Vitesses, one in red and the other in eye-searing yellow. The plate: “TWEETY”.
After seeing the above at a Michigan gas station, however, I’m thinking that “TWEETY” wasn’t that bad.
For a long time now, and this has little to do with political ideologies, I’ve wanted cabinet level secretaries to the president of the United States to pass a small test of practical skills, just to see how much real world experience they have. Can they change a flat tire without using some misandristly promoted Geico app? Can they solder two copper wires together? I’m not asking about welding, mind you, that’s a fairly technical skill, just if they can do some basic soldering. For the matter, could they connect two wires using a wire nut? Do they even know what a wire nut is? If you gave them just some long two-by-fours, a saw, a hammer, some nails, and a tape measure, could they frame a square wall, even if you spotted them the tip that it has something to do with diagonals? Do they know how to hammer a nail?
I’m also old enough to remember when hardly any newspaper reporters called themselves journalists, or graduated from J-schools. They weren’t about afflicting the comfortable, they were about the five Ws, and getting scoops. They didn’t look down on working class folks because they regarded themselves as working class folks. I’d be willing to bet $100 that the vast majority of self-identified “journalists” today, though, can’t do any of the skills in my Cabinet Level test. I’d be willing to bet $500 that most think they’re too smart to do stuff like welding or carpentry.
Thus it did not surprise me, when in the wake of massive layoffs in the online “news” and opinion industry, blue-checked journalists on Twitter ascended the heights of dudgeon because some snarky folks told them to “learn to code”.
Talia Lavin, who proved that incompetency as a fact-checker and defaming an American hero as a neo-Nazi is no impediment to getting another gig when you’re a narrative-carrying lefty, decided that “learn to code” was an alt-right plot against the good and righteous scribes busy comforting the afflicted. Her piece at The New Republic was titled, “The Fetid, Right-Wing Origins of “Learn to Code”.
Not wanting to be hoist on the same petard that their journalist colleagues have been jabbing at unemployed folks in America’s formerly great industrial heartland whose jobs “weren’t coming back”, some still-employed journos used the fact that favoring blue-check journalists is part of Twitter’s business model of getting folks to create content for the site for free — so they got Twitter to suspend the “learn to code” tweeters.
Ben Popken now covers business for NBC. His Twitter bio, if I recall correctly, brags about being a founder of consumerist.com and that the site was bought by Consumer Reports. It doesn’t say that CR fired him in 2011 and shuttered the site in 2017. Popken apparently felt that telling a journalist, unemployed or not, that learning a marketable skill was beyond the pale of civil discourse. He posted, bragging:
“”Learn to code” was tweeted at me by a sketchy account. I reported it as abusive behavior as part of targeted harassment. Twitter suspended the account within 20 minutes. Journalists if they tweet “learn to code” at you don’t stay silent, take a moment to report it…”
“Grandpa Ben, tell us again how bravely you fought in the Meme Wars.”
Now I’m not a big Twitter user. I’m not even sure how to use the site’s features, but now and then I’ll agree or take issue with something I’ll see that had been posted there. I wondered if Popken specifically thought that “learn to code” was abusive behavior or if he thought any kind of manual labor was beneath his social and intellectual station and thus suggesting he learn those trades would be an affront to his honor.
I sent him the following tweet. Note that it’s a question, not a directive.
@RonnieSchreiber@bpopken How about learn to weld?
I guess you need thick skin to learn to weld, as my Twitter account was suspended by that evening, presumably at the behest of Mr. Popken. I could get back on Twitter if I would delete the offending tweet, but instead I appealed the suspension, pointing out that Mr. Popken’s concerns were about “learn to code” and I never mentioned coding. If I wanted to be genuinely snarky, I would have pointed out to him that while his journo friends were getting pink-slipped and shit-canned, I was offered a pretty sweet regular freelance writing gig. I guess there is more of a market for folks who know how to do research and construct a sentence than there is for listicle and quiz compilers.
Twitter, or their algorithms, rejected my appeal. I’m not deleting the tweet, however, unless having a Twitter account becomes a condition of employment in a job that I really want. Oh well, I managed to survive more than six decades without a single tweet, I’ll survive without them.
To be clear, it wouldn’t be true to say that I know how “to code”. The last program I wrote was in Algol during college, over 40 years ago. The only coding that I do today is to modify a config file for something like one of my 3D printers, but I’m pretty sure that Ben Popken couldn’t do that either. See, the thing is, what journalists don’t seem to realize is that they don’t know how much they don’t know. Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann pointed out that if you’re knowledgeable about a topic you can quickly see how many mistakes journalists make on that subject. They may be writing about physics or computer science, but they went to journalism schools, they didn’t major in STEM.
If I make a mistake when writing about code, that article can still be published. If I make a mistake when writing code, the program won’t work. If I can’t make a living with the skills that I have, maybe I should learn new skills.
Thanks to everyone who contacted me about our HTTPS certificate expiring today. Renewing it was on my “to-do” list but I didn’t do it.
For those of you who don’t know how this stuff works: nothing bad happened, I just forgot to renew the thing that keeps all the browsers showing that little green lock next to the address.
Also, apropos of nothing, I just got some analytics done on the site. We are averaging about 9,200 unique “real people” on the site per month. So we are about one-tenth as big as TTAC right now. Our growth is slow but steady; TTAC’s implosion is proceeding a little faster. When the lines cross we’ll have a party.
The Chicago Auto Show is an institution. I attended my first in 1988. I was in third grade, and my parents took me up. It was a revelation for eight year old me. Cars, cars everywhere! Two floors of cars! And concepts, and free brochures! Good Lord, this must be what heaven is like!
Suffice it to say, I was hooked. And while we didn’t attend every single year, we went most years between the late ’80s and late ’90s. There was always something to see. And we’d wander around Chicago as well. It was fun, being in the big city for the weekend.
The most recent year I attended was 2015, when my brother and I took a weekday off from work and drove up for the day. Since then, the weather has conspired to be exceptionally nasty, so as to prevent my willingness to make the three hour drive.
In case you’ve taken a trip to the outer dimensions in the last week or so, I’ll let you know that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, after making the pitch that perhaps “non-viable” babies who’ve somehow managed to survive being born should be aborted anyway, was called on the carpet before the perpetually aggrieved of America for possibly appearing in either blackface or a KKK costume in a photo found in his college yearbook. Damn, the Internet is undefeated. (Also, please don’t doxx me. Thanks.)
But, surprisingly, the drama didn’t end there. After a long, perplexing news conference in which the governor refused to resign (and also came seriously close to moonwalking), the attention turned to some allegations against his potential successor, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, that had been reported to the Washington Post over a year ago. Vanessa Tyson, an associate professor of politics at Scripps College and a graduate fellow at Stanford University, is the woman who made the accusation that Fairfax had sexually assaulted her in 2004, and she has now hired the same legal team that represented Christine Blasey Ford during her testimony against then-Supreme Court Judicial nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It should be noted that Professor Scripps appears to be solidly left in her writings.
In short, both the Governor and Lt. Governor of Virginia might be taken down by tactics previously employed by the left in this country to get rid of Republicans they don’t like—difficult to prove, possibly spurious accusations of racism and sexual assault.
However, the same group that told us we must #believeallwomen just a few short months ago seems hesitant to believe Lt. Gov. Fairfax’s accuser. In fact, they don’t even want to discuss it.
I’ve been kind of blowing up RG with Broughams lately. “Klockau, geez man, ANOTHER ’70s tuna boat. Fercryinout loud!” Whoops. But hey, it’s not intentional. I just keep seeing vintage land yachts out and about, and have to immediately write it up. It’s an incurable issue with me. I love pretty much all classic and vintage cars, but it seems I always gravitate back to Broughamville. Caprice Classics, Fleetwood Talismans, Bonneville Broughams, 98 Regencys. I can’t help it, man!
So now that that’s out of the way, here’s another one. A 1976 Chevrolet Impala Landau coupe, espied by yours truly on one of the FB groups I’m on, Finding Future Classic Cars. A rare birdie. In 1976, Landau was king. And Chevrolet offered both Caprice Classic and Impala Landau trim packages, consisting of the aforementioned Landau vinyl roof in elk-grain vinyl, color-keyed wheel discs, sport mirrors and custom pinstriping.
Of the two full-size B-Body Landaus, the Caprice Classic was the clear sales winner, with 21,926 of the $5,284 coupes sold.
In 1979, GM debuted its newly downsized personal luxury trio: The Cadillac Eldorado, the Buick Riviera, and the Oldsmobile Toronado. All three had been valued members of the General Motors fleet by that time, but in ’79, they all became front wheel drive.
It wasn’t always that way. The original Buick Riviera started out as its own model, albeit borrowing heavily from the full-sized Buicks, from inaugural 1963 through 1965. Then the Toronado appeared in 1966, with front wheel drive. The redesigned ’66 Riviera was on the same body, but retained rear wheel drive. Finally, in ’67 the front wheel drive Fleetwood Eldorado coupe came onto the scene.
From ’67 until 1976, all three E-coupes stayed this course: same body, but with the Olds and Cadillac front drive and the Riv rear wheel drive.
I have always, and will always, have a soft spot for the B-body 1977-79 Pontiac Bonneville. Why? Simple. It was my first car memory.
I came home from the hospital in my mom’s dark blue 1977 Volvo 245DL wagon, but for some reason I was always drawn to my dad’s company car, a 1979 Bonneville sedan. And yes, of course I loved the 356! But before it was restored, Dad didn’t mind my crawling around in it and sitting in it while he was puttering around in the garage. So it was more easily accessible, ha ha!
Painted metallic brown with a beige top, beige interior and chrome wheel covers, it spelled solid, middle-class Midwestern prosperity. Perhaps because Dad mostly drove it to work, I seldom rode in it. We usually took the Volvo on excursions, at least as far as my then 2-3 year old memory serves.
Almost eight years ago, I took a weekend gig as music director for a church band in Bellefontaine, Ohio. The rhythm guitarist was a young fellow who had graduated from high school the year before and was drifting unsteadily between minimum-wage jobs in the burned-out old manufacturing town thirty miles northwest of the church. We became fast friends and even after I left the church he would occasionally make the long drive down to play some music and discuss his personal struggles: dying grandparents, lack of health care, general loneliness. The biggest problem he had was that he didn’t know where his life was going. Every time he’d catch on at a factory job, the shift would close or the plant would move. He was in line for a gig at Honda but they had a two year waiting period just to get temp contractor work on the line. In 2012 he enlisted in the Army but that, too, had an eighteen-month waiting period; the economy was so bad here that they had more Ohio kids willing to lose their legs to an IED than they could accommodate in Basic Training.
At the time, I remember telling him something that Randal says in Clerks 2: “Sooner or later, I’ll do something with myself and make my mark. But until then, whatever I do is not a waste of time, it’s all building toward something.” He didn’t really believe me, and I can’t blame him. Eventually, the Army made room for him — but he hated the Army. So when his grandfather died he took compassionate discharge and came home to work at a plastic fork factory. In 2016, his number came up at Honda, and I figured he would finish his life the way a lot of people from that area do: by working for 25 years on the line then buying a $50,000 home in rural Ohio in which to die.
Turns out I was wrong. One of the friends he’d made at the fork factory had a relative who wanted to expand his 18-wheeler roadside service business. So my pal quit his job and bought a 1993-vintage FedEx truck filled with secondhand service tools. That was in November. Now he has an 1800-square-foot shop and two employees, with a third starting next week. He pays himself $15 an hour and puts the rest into the business or into buying property. During the polar vortex they were making between $5k and $7k a day on service calls. He bought his grandfather’s home from the bank and is remodeling it. He also has a Fifties-era Chevy truck that is putting 410 horsepower down at the rear wheels. Most importantly, he’s in the process of signing a service contract with the largest intra-state carrier to use Route 70 in Ohio. (Many of the big companies just run the turnpike up north.)
He thinks he can sustain a $3k daily billing rate. Which means that my plastic-fork-factory friend now has a million-dollar business, well before turning thirty. The contacts he made, the random mechanical tasks he learned when he was bored, the time he spent noodling around on an Eclipse or a ’68 Chevy or his own Saturn SL2: it was all building toward something. All that’s left is to work hard and do the best he can. I believe he will be successful beyond his wildest dreams.
Which reminds me. I have a new job.