Inaudible Saabs

Jack Baruth argues that Lexus, having raised the bar for near-luxury vehicles with a reskinned Camry, is ultimately responsible for killing Saab, and contrasts the two marques:

The Saab story includes airplanes, rally drivers, turbochargers, iconoclastic personalities, and more than half a century of fabulous designs. The Lexus story is this: it’s a Toyota for people too snobbish or fearful to be seen in a Toyota. Saabs have been wonderful, frisky, characterful companions for a very long time. People cry when their Saabs are towed away for the last time. Nobody’s ever cried over a Lexus, except possibly when they received a repair bill for their out-of-warranty second-gen LS400. Saab was real. Lexus is fake. Simple as that.

Or is it that simple? Saab has been a fraud and a fake for nearly twenty years, selling second-rate cars on dimly remembered glories. Meanwhile, Lexus has been continually building the cars their customers want, always fresh, nearly always reliable, always sold and serviced with a smile. Saab’s better future was perpetually around the corner; meanwhile, the next Lexus was completed on time and plopped, Harvest-Gold-colored, on a calmly rotating showroom turntable. Ask any Saab enthusiast about the brand and they will tell you about the 900 SPG, but ask a Lexus owner about his car and he will tell you he likes it. What is real, and what is no longer relevant?

Perhaps it’s just that mystique hasn’t counted for much in the actual cash register since Mercury tried to sell a car by that name. Daimler spent more than a decade trying to stir up demand for an S-Class Benz at triple the price under a brand name no one had seen for forty-odd years; occasionally someone dusts off a sort-of-classic nameplate from the days of American iron, there is sound and fury, but nothing to drive; I’m guessing that for every thousand self-described Alfa Romeo fans on automotive message boards, Alfa will eventually sell about 14 cars. There’s no money in dreams, maybe. Or perhaps it’s just that everybody making cars has decided that they want to grow up and be Toyota. Which is relevant, but no fun. And yet I may end up owning an Anodyne Antiseptic Avalon, simply because it’s the closest thing to what I drive now.

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Subprimates

Having a personal philosophy, Lemony Snicket once said, is like having a pet marmoset: “It may be very attractive when you acquire it, but there may be situations when it will not come in handy at all.”

For example:

(Considered, curiously, a Music FAIL. Previous marmoset moments here and here.)

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Brooming Braum’s

I wander into Braum’s a couple of times a month for various things from their side-of-the-store market: for instance, I am fond of their 9-Grain Bread, and I prefer their pickle slices for my own sandwiches. I have not, however, stepped into the restaurant area in at least a year, and while I really hadn’t thought about it, maybe I’m unconsciously reacting to a decidedly mediocre customer experience:

Its storefront experience is mediocre, just like any mediocre national fast food chain. The menu has hardly changed in the last 20 years. (Check out the three salads on offer) The stores’ interiors are stuck in the 90s and lit like operating rooms, which has the unfortunate effect of making the stores simultaneously sterile and dirty. In my experience, the bathrooms aren’t clean, the dining rooms aren’t particularly clean, and the crew’s aprons are covered with fast food effluvia.

Which suggests things haven’t improved much since the last time I had to complain about one of their stores, about eleven years ago:

[T]he staff at this particular location [address redacted, but it’s at the link] were suffering from (yogurt-induced?) brain freeze; they botched, by my unofficial count, six of eleven orders during the twenty minutes I stood there waiting for them to botch mine. The shift manager, brow furrowed to a depth somewhere below sinus-cavity level, had apparently given up any hope of whipping this motley crew into shape, and was concentrating on cleaning up the grill area, which at least had some potential for accomplishment.

I still like the food. But Hades and the soft-serve machine will have to reach mutual temperature equilibrium for me ever to set foot in that store again.

It helps that I no longer live over that way, but you may be certain I have not returned to that store.

And while we’re on the subject: I bought a box of Ice Cream Bars a couple of months ago. There was a distinctly, for lack of a better term, greasy aspect to the chocolate coating, as though they’d been dipped in a can of Spry; I reasoned that they’d secretly replaced some of the chocolate in the recipe with Folger’s Crystals vegetable oil, and vowed to buy Something Else, perhaps Somewhere Else, next time. I have no idea if they’ve seen the error of their ways, but the price, which hadn’t budged from $4.39 for several years, has now risen by a buck. Packaging looks mostly the same — no references to “Original Recipe!” or anything like that — but I’m just ever so slightly distrustful.

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Lingenuity

Oh, fickle fandom:

Carmelo Anthony jersey revised to indicate Jeremy Lin

Geez, I hope Carmelo doesn’t see this.

(Via FAIL Nation.)

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Strange search-engine queries (317)

This is the weekly feature where we dig into the logs, find out what in the world brought people to this site, and then make fun of it. I mean, it’s not like they’re ever coming back, right?

origami weapons:  Very dangerous, at least so long that they’re kept dry.

change odometer lease getting caught:  Be of good cheer. You won’t be able to run up any excess miles while you’re in jail.

string panties bra hell:  This is not, so far as I know, where cross-dressers go when they die.

ebayseat covers for nissan x trail:  Does it not occur to these people to look on eBay?

run the wheels off it:  Careful. You might end up having to look for parts on eBay.

infiniti i30 volume knob dust:  Use the same canned air you’d use on computer components. If you let the controls deteriorate, you’ll end up having to look for parts on eBay.

4eat-g trnsmission used gaurenteed:  Found this on eBay, did you?

buy.com yahoo answers bra:  If there were a Yahoo! Answers bra, it wouldn’t fit anyone very well, and there’s always some wiseass hoping to snap the straps.

single moms wearing g string under skirt in oakland park ks:  I know your type. You’re just wanting to get your hands on her straps.

can a mono sound system cope with modern soundtracks:  It’s doable, though don’t expect anything resembling Dolby Surround.

“festival” “men were urinating”:  I’ve heard of Burning Man, but I don’t recall anyone reporting a burning urethra — at least, not until the following weekend.

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Of course you don’t get wafers with it

The recent dustup between the Administration’s health-care czars and the Roman Catholic Church is, suggests Ferdinand Bardamu, a manifestation of a centuries-long antipathy, suppressed in recent years:

Up until relatively recently, anti-Catholic sentiment on the left was suppressed for two reasons:

  • Catholic immigrant groups, mainly the Irish and Italians, formed an integral part of FDR’s New Deal Coalition.
  • Catholics themselves are largely left-wing on economic issues.

Recently though, as the descendants of Catholic immigrants have assimilated into the white middle class, Catholics have progressed from being a reliable Democratic constituency to a swing blocBush won the majority of Catholics in 2004. As liberals abandoned their commitment to the working class back in the early 90′s with the rise of libertarians like Bill Clinton and Mario Cuomo, social progressivism (abortion, gay marriage etc.) is now the organizing principle of the American left — and the Catholic Church stands against this. Much has been written about how Obama’s reelection strategy explicitly involves disregarding the middle- and working-class whites in favor of wealthy SWPLs, blacks and Latinos (for whom race trumps religion), and his throwing Catholics under the bus is part of this. Liberals tolerated the Papists only so long as they were useful; now that they’re no longer willing to shut up and blindly vote blue, they’re out of the club.

And that pre-FDR hostility?

The liberals frothing at the mouth over the contraception issue are the heirs of the Know-Nothings and every anti-Catholic movement in American history going back to the Mayflower. Instead of stereotyping Catholics as dirty degenerates with too many kids (read: they have sex more than once a month), lazy (read: they enjoy life and don’t want to slave all day for a pittance), idol-worshipping (read: they appreciate beauty), and disloyal (read: they have greater principles then mindlessly worshipping the state), they rage about how Catholics violate today’s orthodoxy of pseudohedonism and non-judgmentalism. I say “pseudohedonism” because liberals only tolerate hedonism along certain approved paths. They claim to be for freedom until you want to have a cigarette, buy a handgun, or be a man and not a wussy, feminized doormat. “Do what you want, unless you make choices I personally disapprove of.”

Which is not to say that the Vatican doesn’t frown on hedonism either. What they will say, however, is that you’ll have to answer for that in the next life. Liberals, contrariwise, are insistent that you be punished for your McRibs and your M1911 and your Yukon XL right now, so they can enjoy watching your undoing.

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Meanwhile in San Francisco

No amount of backstory, I suspect, will ever explain this:

A woman described as “heavyset” and naked except for her shoes was pulled off the J-Church line on Tuesday morning, and while cops and medical personnel were evaluating her near the intersection of 24th and Church in Noe Valley, she threw off a blanket that had been wrapped around her, walked up on the hood of one man’s car, and stomped on his windshield.

Evidently she wasn’t sick to the point of being incapacitated; heck, if she can just clamber up the front of the car in a couple of steps, she must have been in pretty decent shape, “heavyset” or not.

(The photo at the link is not safe for much of anyplace.)

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In case you suffer from slow remorse

From the “I never would have thought of that” files, a complication in the Zappos.com return policy, though you’ll need to buy this Wednesday to take advantage of that complication:

You can return your purchase for up to 365 days from the purchase date. If you purchase on 2/29 of a Leap Year, then you have until 2/29 the following Leap Year to return those orders. That’s four whole years! Woot!

God only knows how much shipping will cost in 2016, but at least Zappos pays for that.

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Not as we do

Last year, President Obama announced a goal of a million electric vehicles on American roads by 2015, and vowed that the federal government will be buying nothing but EVs and alternative-fuel vehicles by then.

The General Services Administration, which buys about two-thirds of Federal fleet vehicles — the Postal Service is responsible for its own conveyances — has been honoring this proposal in the breach:

The U.S. government, which has given automakers and suppliers money to develop electric-vehicle technologies, last year bought 2,645 hybrid, electric and fuel-cell vehicles, less than 5 percent of the 54,843 vehicles it bought, according to the data.

That’s a decrease from the 9.5 percent average of all purchases for those models in fiscal years 2010 and 2009, when economic stimulus spending fueled $300 million of fuel-efficient vehicle purchases for the federal fleet of about 600,000 cars and trucks.

Which is not to say the GSA ignored the President entirely: more than half of their Wicked Old Ordinary Cars were flex-fuelable. Not that there’s a whole lot of E85 to be had inside the Beltway.

Among GSA’s buys: 1380 Ford Fusion hybrids, 101 Honda Insight hybrids, 145 Chevrolet Volts (apparently General Electric will be doing the heavy lifting instead), and one Toyota Prius. I’d love to know who got the Prius.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Flying solo

“Do you think you’re better off alone?” Alice Deejay once asked.

To which I respond: “I have no idea.”

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Webb sight

Veronica Webb, born this week in 1965, has blazed a trail or two: she was the first African-American model to land a major cosmetic-company deal (Revlon, 1992), and Spike Lee signed her to play the wife of his character in Jungle Fever. More recently, she was the cohost during the first season of Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style on Bravo TV.

Veronica Webb

This 2009 shot comes from yet another experience: designing a trash can. With the assistance of designer Mary-Kate Davis, she came up with a spectacular variation on the standard Vipp receptacle for Vipp’s 70th Anniversary Charity Auction for DIFFA. (Pertinent slideshow here.)

And I smile at this quote, from a New York Times interview in 1994:

“I’m in a profession where I get to make my own schedule, where I can’t be replaced by a man, where I have enough affluence that I don’t have to put up with anything and where women make more than men.”

Just in case you thought models were basically just mannequins with an expense account.

(Title swiped from Webb herself, or more precisely from her book Veronica Webb Sight: Adventures In The Big City [Miramax Books, 1998].)

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Forgotten but not gone

Former County Commissioner, accused money-launderer (he eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge), and comic publisher Brent Rinehart has apparently once again decided to jump back into politics, this time seeking a seat in the state House:

Rinehart has made no announcement of his candidacy, but postcards announcing he is “Back In The Battle” are being distributed in Midwest City and although his postcard lists a website address, use of it produces nothing. He has not yet filed with the Ethics Commission.

As usual with Rinehart, the Bombast Meter is turned up towards 11:

Rinehart’s postcard mentions national political issues before stating, “Because of my watchdog constitutional stance, I was threatened, smeared and slandered. Practically ruined me personally and financially. I never went along to get along. Not being a politician in a sea of politics is a rough ride. But I am getting back on that horse.”

“Mommy, how come that horse has two asses?”

“Don’t look at it, honey.”

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In the Erewhon subdivision

It began with this tweet last night from KOSU’s Ben Allen:

Random Fact: OKC zip code 73154 the fifth richest in the US according to the IRS. Avg income of 888k

I missed this when it first came out, not being an Important Media Person, but once they got it, it inevitably showed up in my own stream (thanks to @stevelackmeyer).

Now I understand the desire for bragging rights in a town that too often was too poor to afford a bushel under which to hide its light, but there’s something seriously wrong with this, starting with the fact that the area pictured here is not in 73154. In fact, you can’t even drive to 73154; this is the ZIP code for boxes at the Shartel Station, in the 73118 area. (This is typical practice in Oklahoma City: most offices assign different ZIPs to delivery addresses and boxholders.)

I submit that what they really meant to say is 73151, which is bounded roughly by Sooner Road, NE 122nd, Midwest Boulevard and Wilshire. It is sparsely populated — about 1000 people in those six square miles, which would explain the filing of only 368 returns — and a quick pass through Zillow lists 19 houses for sale, not one of which is under a quarter-million dollars, for this market a sum bordering on the stratospheric.

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A retcon job?

I’ll admit to perhaps being a bit overly fond of Derpy Hooves — heck, I have a picture of Equestria’s Clumsiest Pony at the office — so I’m not particularly happy to hear that the newly-arrived downloadable ($2.99) iTunes version of “The Last Roundup,” the episode of MLP:FIM that gave her both her name and her admission to MLP canon, has been edited after the fact, and oafishly at that: partially correcting her, um, “vision issue,” replacing her voice with something a bit more generic-sounding, and redubbing the line in which Rainbow Dash addresses her so that her name is never mentioned.

Consensus seems to be that this is Hasbro-originated malfeasance. I’m not so sure: when I think high-handed interference, I tend to think Apple, and the fact that existing copies of the DVD on which this episode is included contain the original cartoon as first shown on the Hub would seem to support this notion. But it doesn’t really matter who did it; it was definitely done. And if you ask me, it’s like reediting The Honeymooners to put Ed Norton in a desk job, lest someone be upset by the idea of sewer workers in this day and age.

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Truer blood

So far as I know, my blood type is a fairly ordinary A-positive; testing in the military, followed by several donations, has never indicated anything else. Which might be odd, since my father claimed to have had some oddball string of antigens, and “there are only nine of us in the country, and we have to know each other’s locations at all times.” I couldn’t tell you if this condition was heritable, except to the extent that I didn’t get it.

And after he passed on, I didn’t think about it anymore, until this cropped up:

While blood transfusion problems due to Langereis and Junior blood types are rare worldwide, several ethnic populations are at risk, [Dr Bryan] Ballif [University of Vermont] notes. “More than 50,000 Japanese are thought to be Junior negative and may encounter blood transfusion problems or mother-fetus incompatibility,” he writes.

But the molecular basis of these two blood types has remained a mystery — until now.

In the February issue of Nature Genetics, Ballif and his colleagues report on their discovery of two proteins on red blood cells responsible for these lesser-known blood types.

Note that these types have been known for years; it’s just that researchers had no idea where they came from, or how to test reliably for them.

I’m still not sure which of several dozen rare blood types might have been circulating in the family. Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore — or maybe I’ll find out that it does, at the worst possible time.

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Strange to the last

Goldfinger by Billy StrangeThis was the 6th album I ever bought, in the fall of 1965; the local Top 40 outlet was playing the heck out of the title track, though it never broke above #55 nationally. Still, it was Billy Strange’s biggest hit single; his only previous chart item was, of all things, a cover of Monty Norman’s and/or John Barry’s James Bond theme, which landed at #58 the year before.

At the time, I wasn’t up on Strange’s studio work, though Wink Martindale, who wrote the liner notes, clued me in:

[Strange] was a guitar plater on my first Dot record, “Deck of Cards,” which turned out to be a million seller… His ability to adapt his very “commercial” sound and style is reflected in the hundreds of record companies who continually demand that Billy handle the guitar work on their records.

There’s no telling how many sessions he did. One that gets no mention on his Wikipedia page was Phil Spector’s 1962 deconstruction of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, featuring a fearsome lead vocal by Darlene Love and, courtesy of Strange, one of the most distorted guitar solos in history. When he wasn’t playing, he was arranging: all those Nancy Sinatra songs, with or without Lee Hazlewood, were Strange concoctions. And sometimes he did both: see, for instance, the Partridge Family’s ineffable “I Think I Love You.” (The official discography is really, really long.)

WFMU gave him a proper sendoff when he died on Wednesday, and noted:

Unlike some of his contemporaries dabbling in the solo-instro LP racket (Al Caiola et al), Strange’s LPs were not generic.

Which I learned early on. The very last track on Goldfinger was the most amped-up version of Elmer Bernstein’s theme from Man with the Golden Arm you’ll ever hear. Very unlike Wink Martindale’s recitation about a GI busted for playing cards in church, but such was the range of Billy Strange.

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