Weekly Roundup: The Secretive Parent Edition

Christopher Robin hated being Christopher Robin. With considerable reason: his father expected him to respond to fan mail and record “Winnie the Pooh” audiobooks, all before he was ten years old. Later on, he accused his father of “climbing on his infant shoulders”.

With a life that seemed predestined to carom between misery and tragedy, right to the final act where he sold the “Pooh” rights to establish continuing care for his cerebral-palsy-stricken adult daughter, Christopher Milne had one of the least charmed lives one can imagine. Yet there was one saving grace in his life, however minor: social media did not yet exist.

Continue Reading →

“Someone upstairs saved me from being ordinary.”

I don’t know exactly when I figured out that I was ugly. Certainly I knew it by the time I was twelve or so; kids tend to be mean to each other regardless of looks, but there was an obvious difference in the way adults treated me compared to the way they treated some of my classmates. Thankfully, I wasn’t both ugly and short for very long, which would have been too much.

My particular defects — an alien ratio of massive skull to petite face, a caveman brow but soft cheekbones, barrel chest and monkey arms — were a tremendous source of sorrow to me in my teen and twentysomething years. I would have given anything to be handsome. Scratch that: I would have given anything to just be plain-looking. It frequently occurred to me that the combination of below-average intelligence and above-average looks is a recipe for happiness as surely as the reverse is a prescription for misery.

After lo these many years I’ve come to be grateful for my ugliness. It has stripped me of illusions regarding the world. I never worry that someone is being nice to me just because they like the way I look. If a woman tells me that I’m handsome, I know she is insane and I can plan accordingly. Nobody bothers me on the street. The mere suggestion of unpleasantness on my part is usually enough to get what I want; the only thing worse than having me in your face is having an angry me in your face.

Of course, there are times I’m tempted to blame my appearance for why I haven’t been able to achieve certain goals. This is cowardice and stupidity, made doubly plain by the fellow you see in the video above.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: From Atlanta To Xinjiang Edition

John Lennon never envisioned the kind of strange days we’re having now, that’s for sure. This is particularly true when it comes to that ever-expanding grey area marked “The Intersection Of Corporate And Government Power”. Highlights from the grey area this week:

  • Last year, Swedish fast-fashion trash-goblins H&M made some kind of bland statement about being “deeply concerned” by reports that cotton grown in the Xinjiang region of China was being harvested using slave labor. These statements were brought back to public attention via social media this week, causing the Chinese government to take some, ahem, direct action, at which point H&M basically apologized to China for criticizing their use of slave labor to harvest cotton.
  • The president of Delta Air Lines — you know, the guy who actually made a video showing all his blue-collar employees clapping for him as he walks into a hangar, then caused that video to be shown at the beginning of every Delta flight — criticized Georgia for its new voting-protection law. This caused the Georgia government to take some, ahem, direct action.
  • Facebook announced, after censoring an interview between Lara Trump and President Donald Trump, that it would no longer allow Trump’s voice to be heard on the platform. They meant that literally; everything from the “Home Alone 2” scene to, say, a theoretical recording of Trump reading the Gettysburg Address will be immediately deleted from Facebook.
  • Major League Baseball also announced their decision to punish Georgia for the new voting law by withdrawing the All-Star game from Atlanta, while at the same time affirming their decision to build dozens of “baseball development centers” in partnership with the Chinese government.
  • A spokesperson for the Biden Administration reaffirmed that there would be no government-issued “vaccine passport”, and then hastened to add that the Biden Administration would work with corporations to help develop guidelines for privately issued vaccine passports.

Most peculiar, momma! Is there a common thread on which to pull here? And what does it unravel, exactly?

Continue Reading →

1968 Cadillac Eldorado: It’s Good To Be King

Yes, that’s right, another Cadillac post. You know the drill! I am nothing if not predictable. So let’s check out this week’s Klockau Lust Object. The 1967 Eldorado, though made possible through the production of the remarkable 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado, was a sharp car-literally and figuratively.

I first became aware of these via ads in old National Geographics back in middle school. Though the cars were only about twenty years old then, they blew my mind. Nothing like the Mini Me Eldorados then in production (circa 1987-89). Slightly later on I was given some old “Spectraflame” Hot Wheels my Uncle Dave had as a kid. One of those was a deep blue Custom Eldorado – which I still have.

Continue Reading →

Weekly Roundup: My Phone’s In There Edition

Some time ago, I read an excellent article, possibly in Foreign Policy, about how the Chinese government handled criticism at the higher levels. (How do they handle it at the lower levels? With a tank, of course.) Recognizing that China could not improve and progress if it didn’t continually address mistakes made by its leaders, but also understanding that it could be fatal to question or criticize the man in charge at any given time, the Chinese came up with an ingenious solution. Let’s say, for example, that Hu Jintao, the previous Dude Who Runs China, had introduced some ineffective or dangerous policy during his term. Some senior person would notice this problem and would address the leadership like so:

“Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that a dangerous policy introduced by Jiang Zemin is threatening this country.” He would then outline the policy as if it had been created and/or implemented by Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao’s predecessor. Everyone, including Hu Jintao, would listen politely. And if the senior official’s argument and/or facts proved to be persuasive, Hu Jintao would announce that he was addressing errors made by the previous administration, the bad policy would be removed, and everyone would continue to go about their business.

Our natural response as Westerners to this is to recoil from the hypocrisy! of this tactic, but in fact it is the only way to deal with the unfettered power of a uniparty state. By freeing the current powers that be from the admission of fault, you allow them to treat the problem as a problem to be solved rather than as a challenge to be defeated. This tactic is no more “hypocritical” than declining to wrestle a grizzly bear.

In any event, I think it would be irresponsible to suggest any correlation between this highly effective practice from overseas and the recent spate of “AAPI March Against White Supremacy” events that have, entirely correctly of course, placed the blame for the spate of attacks on AAPI individuals by non-whites on the root cause of white supremacy. We do not have a Uniparty in this country and the idea that a group of people who are suffering a remarkable string of violent attacks would use “white supremacy” as a means to have a discussion about countermeasures without upsetting the jealous power of that Uniparty is, of course, the most ridiculous of conspiracy theories.

Let’s move on.

Continue Reading →

Guest Post: Freneticism Of Communication

Dreams really do come true at Riverside Green — in my case, it’s the dream of catching up on all the brilliant guest posts submitted in 2018! Thanks to Mozzie for his patience with me, and for his contribution — jb

“And, uhm, it was like so inappropriate?” This is not a verbatim quote. Is there an explanation to the up-talk, verbal pauses, vocal fry, and malapropisms, which are now part of our professional and private lives, outside the broad concept that language evolves over time? I believe that it has to do with the pace at which people attempt to communicate. I believe that people try to talk too quickly and end up saying very little. It almost seems as though people aspire to hold a conversation as if they were spittin’ like Busta Rhymes (or an Aaron Sorkin character, if you prefer). Let’s don the blazer with the elbow patches, set aside the copy of Strunk and White, and consider the elements of contemporary language which some find so unbecoming.

Continue Reading →

How To Burn A (Beta)Brand

Nine years and nine months ago, after a surprise fuel pump failure in Turn Six dropped me out of second place and kept me from getting the authentic Grand-Am podium at Laguna Seca about which I would no doubt still be talking on approximately am hourly basis to this very day, I didn’t go to Disney World: I went to Betabrand. An unassuming door on San Francisco’s Cesar Chavez Street opened after five minutes of knocking to a whirlwind of activity: people running back and forth with patterns, fabrics, random sheets of paper. The floor was covered in scraps of every clothing material one could imagine. I’d expected a retail store but in fact my girlfriend of the time and I had landed in the beating heart of what was then a relatively fledgling operation.

Somehow, after another ten minutes’ worth of conversation with random passers-by, we got assigned a pair of very stereotypical-looking hipsters to help us find some new clothing. The fellow working with me came up with a set of “Japants” in an olive herringbone cloth that I still wear to this day. No two pairs of Japants ever fit alike, because they were cut and sewn individually in another San Francisco warehouse; these were, and are, the best pair I ever got. My girlfriend, who wore an improbable 32FF bra courtesy of modern medical science, wanted to find a “San Francisco dress”. There were no fitting rooms, so she stripped and stood in the middle of the floor while her new companion attempted to tug various seersuckers and florals around her upper body. At one point, while actively molesting her client to at least second base in the course of a fitting, the impromptu salesgirl yelled to me, “I… just… love… her breasts.”

In the years that followed, I wore Betabrand clothes more often that I didn’t. There was the infamous “Golden Disco Hoodie”, a half-dozen “Sons Of Britches” pants in every fabric from plain denim to salmon canvas, the “Sea Monster Cordarounds” I was sporting in 2014 when I managed to fracture nine bones using one simple trick! I adored the company’s inventiveness, their avant-garde designs, and their small-batch efforts. All made in San Francisco. For a while, anyway. In 2014 they used an overseas supplier for shoes, and by the middle of 2018 some new clothing lines were sourced from China. By and large, however, the important stuff was still sewn and stitched in those chaotic Bay Area offices.

Last week I visited the Betabrand website and was shocked (shocked!) to see that the company as I knew it was dead. In its place was a yoga-pants reseller wearing the Betabrand name like, as they say, a skinsuit. How did this happen? Who was the cretin skulking in the shadows, working secretly to destroy one of my favorite clothes companies? What faceless venture capitalist dragged the Betabrand name through the mud?

Duh! It’s 2021. Evil no longer skulks. It brags.

Continue Reading →

(Last) Weekly Roundup: Crash Into Me Edition

If you read the Hagerty website everyday:

0. thank you, thank you, thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings
1. You’ll have already seen that we rolled a vintage Tatra T87 at NCM Motorsports Park.

“We”, in this case, means my Editor-At-Large and boon companion, Sam Smith, who rose with the Nashville dawn and had the Tatra on its side before I made it completely through my habitual morning run to the McDonald’s down the street from the Corvette Museum. Sam’s call to me had the unmistakable tone of someone who expects to be keelhauled for his actions, and perhaps rightly so: isn’t your humble author the fellow who has made a habit out of calling out the industry’s most overprivileged mistakes, from the time Aaron Gold somehow managed to knock the nose off a Camaro ZL1 at about 30mph to the recent incident of buffoonery from some buffoon who, after a year or so of riding an Indian motorcycle provided to him at no charge, promptly managed to crash the same model of Indian motorcycle into a rock at the speed of the brisk run with which he is probably entirely unfamiliar?

The crashing of cars is an apparently unavoidable part of automotive journalism, particularly at the magazines. One of the more prominent rags has destroyed so many cars in recent years, including a $500,000 carbon-fiber specialty Porsche, that they are supposedly no longer allowed to have their writers on any kind of racetrack whatsoever, being forced instead to use a “hired gun” for any closed-course work at above school-zone speeds. I’m not immune from this, having managed to harm two press vehicles. The first incident happened when I drove a kit car out onto a racetrack (GingerMan) that still had ice in its banked first turn; the car basically slid down the bank at about 15mph and shattered the lower part of the fiberglass nose against the “chiclet” curb. The second bashup happened when I used a compact crossover to push an old Chevy van across a parking lot; the collision-warning system, activated, the crossover slowed, the blanket I’d placed between the bumpers slid off, and the nose got scratched when I recontacted the van.

In Sam’s case, however, the Tatra rollover wasn’t due to laziness, lack of talent, bad luck, or even just plain not giving a damn. It was part of a test to see… well… what it would take to make the car roll over. We didn’t actually want to roll the Tatra, but we knew it was a possibility, and so did the car’s owner. I’d argue that there are certain times it’s totally fine to damage a press car — but there’s a certain litmus test that needs to be applied in order to determine whether now is one of those times.

Continue Reading →

1979 Chevrolet Nova Cabriolet: Root Beer Float Luxury Group

Here’s an oldie but a goodie. I probably took these pictures about ten years ago (Update: it was almost nine-April 15, 2012). I was just driving through Moline, spotted this sitting in front of a repair shop, and mentally noted its location, as it was a cold, clammy rainy day. This one was among the last of the Nova line: A 1979, last call for Novas. Unless you count the Mini-Me Corolla clone version from the mid to late ’80s.

Continue Reading →