The Uncanny Valley of “Counterpart”

Something’s wrong with this world. A pandemic has killed millions; society’s reaction has been to enforce the wearing of masks, discourage people from gathering in public, and make vaccination mandatory. The pandemic was obviously man-made, and we think it was developed by our enemies, but we’re also not sure if it was perhaps released accidentally. A shadowy department of the United Nations exercises authority and deadly force seemingly at will and without repercussions. The bosses are “scientists” who hide behind technology and speak only through blank-faced, menacing interpreters.

This is the plot of a television series that was, ahem, filmed in 2017.

(Some mild spoilers after the jump, although the series final resolution won’t be discussed.)

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In Which The Washington Generals Hoist A Trophy

Like many of you, I stayed up pretty late last night. I watched the map start blue from the early votes, turn red as the polling results came in, then turn blue-ish as surprising things happened, like Wisconsin “finding” 144,000 votes that all happened to be for Mr. Biden. (Hey, it put Al Franken in the Senate, and nobody complained!) With 60% of the vote counted, Trump led Virginia by 300,000. The media called it for Biden, who then managed to obtain something like eighty percent of the remaining ballots and turn it into a win by 400,000. On the other side, the early optimism that Biden would win Ohio turned into a Trump rout.

It looks like this election will be decided in the courts, or perhaps in the streets. As of right now (the afternoon of the fourth) I’d be foolish to call it either way. It seems obvious, however, that no matter what happens, there is one group of people who have scored a major victory — and very few of my readers, to say nothing of Americans in general, will like it.

Trigger warning: politics to be openly discussed after the jump, don’t click it if a discussion like this would upset you.

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Spotter’s Guide To The November 2020 Issue Of Hagerty Drivers Club Magazine

Hagerty’s magazine just keeps getting wider, thicker, and longer. The current format isn’t perfect for those of us who like neat lines of mixed titles on a single bookshelf but it approaches the heft of the English big boys. The staff has put a lot of effort into getting the thing consistently printed well on nice paper despite a rash of unpleasant changes in the actual production business. There are fewer and fewer printers out there in the United States who can make something like this.

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A 1975 Mercedes-Benz 230 In A Very ’70s Color Combo

This morning I was perusing the FB group Finding Future Classic Cars and ran across this survivor, a ’75 230 sedan. This was the car all the Ford Granada ads alluded to, when they claimed (likely after several gin and tonics or martinis at the Grosse Pointe Inn) that the new formal-lined Ford compact looked just like a Mercedes.

It didn’t really, no more than a 230 like this looked just like a Volvo 244DL. Sure there were some similarities, but nothing to really fool people who were interested in cars. But I digress. I always had a soft spot for these, because as a kid one of my favorite Corgi Toys was a 240D of this same generation, silver with tan interior and opening doors and trunk.

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The End Of The Road… And Track

Maybe we had no right to call it Road&Track in the first place. We had a reason to do so: there were half a million subscribers out there who had already paid for a year’s worth of R&T and expected to receive something with that name on the front cover. What they ended up getting for their money was… definitely not business as usual.

You probably know the story, or at least some of it. In 2012, Hearst moved the magazine from its posh digs in Newport Beach to an anonymous Ann Arbor industrial park. Not a single staffer came along, although they all received some sort of offer. Peter Egan agreed to contribute on an occasional contracted basis, and that was it. The change was made to save money and also to acquire the services of Larry Webster, who had agreed to reboot the magazine from scratch with the best talent he could beg, borrow, or steal from elsewhere.

The resulting magazine was Road&Track in name only — but that was okay, because that name needed a bit of polishing. By 2011, the “book”, as they say in the business, was suffocating under the weight of its own bland momentum. I have a few issues from that period; they’re full of comparison tests in which all the cars managed to be winners, industry news reported a few months too late, and painfully drab historical articles that often transparently relied on a single, already published, source. In his final contribution, published this month, Peter Egan recalls how he and his co-workers would sit in the Newport Beach office and watch the sun set. That’s a pretty good metaphor for what was happening out there in 2011. Much of the magazine could be summed up in the single phrase, “Back then, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them! ‘Gimme five bees for a quarter’, you’d say.”

What happened next was at least different. Now it’s officially dead.

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Weekly Roundup: She’s Always Buzzing Just Like… Edition

What a long, strange trip this has been… and it’s not over. One of my readers put his one-owner ’98 ACR Coupe on eBay back in, uh, February. I was pretty much the only bidder. Then we all had to sit around and flatten the curve a bit… which didn’t help anyone but did keep me from going to Atlanta to pick up the car. Finally, another one of my readers offered to finish the transaction of my behalf. Which involved getting a tow truck. Well, it involved getting three tow trucks because the first two backed out with zero notice.

So the Neon now has a temporary Georgia home while I make plans to go get it. My hopes are that I will repaint the car — it’s a Belvidere Plymouth, the clearcoat was finished before the bumper-to-bumper warranty expired — and get it fixed up to the point where it more or less feels like a new 1998 Neon ACR coupe. It would be a waste to turn it into a race car, of course, and I already have a SCCA/NASA-legal Neon to race.

Something tells me that it will be harder to find a survivor/restored first-gen Neon in ten years than it will be to find a Ferrari 250GTO. Sadly, that doesn’t mean it will be worth anything to anyone.

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The Cars of The Mary Tyler Moore Show

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Theory And/Of/Or Practice Edition

(Something to think about before you read this: Watch a few moments of the above video and get a sense of who these three people are. We will come back to that at the end of this post.)

Instagram is currently targeting your humble author with advertisements for something called Wonderdads. It tells me that “91% of Dad-Kid bonding happens between the ages of 0-12.” What a bizarrely specific way to state such a shapeless fact! Yet it’s not specific enough to guide any further action. My son has just rounded the corner towards his twelfth birthday. So we have six months left. What percentage of Dad-Kid Bonding(tm) is still available to us? Five percent? Fifty? Ninety point nine? I’m not going to piss away real money on Wonderdads if we’re looking at a minor uptick in bonding here. If you could give me twenty percent more bonding, I’d think about the product, which apparently is a pre-written routine for “dad-kid traditions” and whatnot. Every day you wake up and the Wonderdads app will tell you how to be a more wonderful dad. Thus the name of the app. I’m not against it. But I need a better sense of the cost/benefit ratio here.

How much bonding my son and I have done is debatable. Possibly none, since I don’t yet have the app.

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1985 Ford Escort 3-Door: Pizza Dude!

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.

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