Saturday, April 19, 2008

A hilarious write-up on the Yugo, one of Time magazine's 50 worst cars of all time:

Malcolm Bricklin, head of the Bricklin SV1, wouldn't be satisfied until he had forced every American to walk to work. To that end, in 1985, he began importing the Yugo GV, which turned out to be the Mona Lisa of bad cars. Built in Soviet-bloc Yugoslavia, the Yugo had the distinct feeling of something assembled at gunpoint. Interestingly, in a car where "carpet" was listed as a standard feature, the Yugo had a rear-window defroster — reportedly to keep your hands warm while you pushed it. The engines went ka-blooey, the electrical system — such as it was — would sizzle, and things would just fall off. Yugo. Or not.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Irritating Lack of Opinion that comes with a B+

Rolling Stone magazine, regarded as the pop culture benchmark for the music industry this side of the Atlantic features album reviews of freshly released music every two weeks in their magazines' issues. Most people will probably only recognize half of the artists that the Rolling Stone covers because, to their credit, they do expose a lot of unknown acts to the spotlight by reviewing their work. A favorable review will do wonders for a band that had previously only seen their exposure go up via their myspace page.

However, in the last month, three albums have been released that I have been waiting for with varying degrees of anticipation. The Black Keys' Attack & Release, Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple and The Raconteurs' Counsolers of the Lonely.
Each of these albums received a 3 1/2 star rating from Rolling Stone. Generally speaking, a 3 1/2 star rating is considered 'good' out of the possible 5 stars that there are to earn. However, each of these albums represents a progression in each bands' musical evolution, and I fear that Rolling Stone is incapable of offering a true perspective on these albums' worth when comparing next to the latest remix album from Taylor Hicks.
So, rather than alienate their indie/alternative/underground audience (such as it is) by either lambasting or lauding the albums, they assign an inoffensive rating, certain to disappoint as many as it impresses. In an election year, it seems a great example of political expediency.
I try not give too much credit to Rolling Stone, for as much as it claims to ascribe to its origins during the rebellious age of hippy-dom, the fact of the matter is that it has become such a big and influential part American culture that true artists and musicians would be wise to shun its influence and refuse any allegiance. A crucial part of the rock 'n roll recipe has always been the destruction of the empire that preceded it.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Something Worth Traveling to the Netherlands For

In a time when we hear about the endless troubles facing the American Automotive Industry, there seem to be an endless line of explanations as to why our domestic vehicles are taking a back-seat to foreign-owned and imported vehicles. While explanations seem to be in endless supply, one simple fact (as a younger, potential auto buyer) is that often times foreign vehicles have a much higher value/cool ratio than their domestic counterparts. The success of the auto brand Scion is evidence of this fact: value-pricing coupled with a surprising level of amenities wrapped in a stylish package.

So then imagine my surprise when I happened to see a commercial for the 'New' 2008 Ford Focus sold overseas. Here is a photo of the 'new' Focus currently available to the masses here in the U.S.:

...and here is a picture of the 2008 Ford Focus currently available in Europe and Australia:

Here's an even cooler version that you can buy, known as the Focus Cabriolet:

And in today's fuel-conscious buying mode, imagine how well a car like the Ford Fiesta would sell opposite vehicles like the Toyota Yaris or the Honda Fit:

But it's not just the small economy vehicles that Ford is inexplicably saving it's style for. In the latest James Bond film installment, Casino Royale, Bond arrives in the then-concept vehicle Ford Mondeo. It is now available in dealerships, and looks like this:

This is America's version of the Mondeo, known as the Five Hundred:

It would seem that the Ford Motor Company is saving its retarded step-children for sale in the U.S. and sending their more stylish, award-winning (no joke) vehicles to overseas markets. I have to ask: why? I wouldn't think twice about purchasing another Ford vehicle if they looked like their European cousins. As it is, Ford seems to be pursuing a sales tactic based on a golf-cart mentality that is promoting their vehicles as pragmatic people-movers, rather than dynamic and fun to drive vehicles.

Friday, April 04, 2008

There is a short list of items that will force me to run to the grocery, drug store, head shop, etc. immediately because I've unexpectedly run out.
Most items I'll force myself to do without until my next convenient trip to the store, but sometimes you just come across those few necessities that make modern life impossible to be without.

Considering that it is a short list, one would think it would not be the hardest trick to keep these items in constant supply.

You, dear reader, don't know me very well.

It is certainly not a matter of pride nor joy, but I believe myself incapable of several basic human awarenesses that the rest of you take for granted. Things like brushing your teeth, washing dishes, vacuuming... Perhaps not tasks that we enjoy, but the benefits they reap ensure that you will continue to perform them.

I, on the other hand, will suddenly look down at my feet one day and wonder why I'm feeling dried tuna fish crumble between my day-three-of-five socks on the carpet. It's then that I realize that I've forgotten yet again to vacuum, do the dishes and do the laundry.
This immediately throws me into a deep depression that prevents me from actually doing any of these chores and can only be remedied by playing Call of Duty.

So, imagine my surprise this morning while performing my morning constitutional that I should turn to my left and discover that I have completely exhausted my supply of toilet paper.
(Always afterwards do I think to look.) I instantly replay the above scenario in its entirety and realize that I also lack the ability to make shopping lists which would ensure that I reminded myself to buy toilet paper as I wandered down aisle after aisle at the supermarket.

Several questions come to mind: how is it that my TP consumption has skyrocketed in the last couple of months? I'm used to a strict diet of 8 squares a day (and yes, the end goes over the roll, not under!) so how could I have shot through a roll in under a week?
When I've had female guests in my home, I'm used to seeing half a roll disappear in a couple of hours. ( I don't understand it, but I accept it.) However, there have been a severe lack of females in my home, so this was not a suitable explanation.

Well, T. there just isn't a way for you to come out of this looking good.

I just don't consider it until its an issue, that's all.

Most people will go to the grocery and buy their week's groceries at once to include meats, dairy, grains and all other appropriate food group items. Among these groceries will include light bulbs, kleenex, household cleaners and toilet tissue. When purchased as a group, no one can chastise or bring attention to the fact that you are buying Preparation-H or extra-strength deodorant because it is all traveling in a herd.

But when you're the guy who comes in to buy a pack of toilet paper singularly, there are only two possibilities:

Either you're a mischievous person on his way to cause trouble with some local property

or, you're too stupid to look at the roll before you sit down.

There's that quiet understanding between purchaser's and cashier's eyes as you wait in line. He/she knows. He/she may even decide to prolong your check-out slightly, in order to see how bad the situation has become.

You can stand there, meet their gaze levelly, hands in your pocket, nonchalantly eyeing the tabloids, confident in the knowledge that all human beings use toilet tissue, or you can do what I did:

Stare intently at the cashier with an expression somewhere between fear and anxiety, hands rammed deeply into jacket pockets, as though you were holding your very insides from bursting through your shirt front. Add a slight shuffle with your feet in order to express a heightened awareness of your body's inclinations.
He/she can show mercy at this point and just ring up the stupid toilet paper and let you leave in dignity, or they can have a conversation with you and ask you if you have exact change and if you're having a good day, if you went to the season opener, making sure that the people in line behind you understand that YOU are there to purchase toilet paper. Nothing else. Just toilet paper. What an idiot.

Satan finally decides to take my outstretched money and hand me a plastic bag containing the toilet paper (although I partially expected him to hand it to me attached to the top of a pole decorated with colorful streamers.)

Dear friends, let us not be confused any longer as to how much toilet paper we have remaining under the sink. In the same way that we take care to know how much milk remains or how long the battery in our laptops will endure, let us always be mindful of our posteriors. And, if you're ever in the DC area, watch out for the horned cashier who takes joy in the torment of his customers.