New Years' Resolution: Get on the Road and Away from Watching TV!

Hi folks -- currently I am doing quite a bit of reading as I am structuring ideas for my next book. What follows is important for all of us, as it points to the matter of why TV is such a bad thing in our lives and why we must get off the couch, on to the road, and experience living. We all are running out of time.

As a point of reference Andre Codrescu's Raod Scholar was made into a film in the mid-1990s. The book followed, and is better than the film. Codescu as an immigrant who came to America in 1966 from Romania, the author thinks he knows more about America than he really does. To be fair, Codrescu has a number of remarkable insights, but one must be wary of taking the lot of them for the truth. Of course, who has the entire truth about the U.S., its manners, customs, and people?

An Important Quote from Codrescu's Road Scholar,

p. 30-1:

The road is a metaphor factory. It spews poetry, songs, maxims, homilies, quips, stupidities, and profundities. Everyone knows that life is a journey and time is a a road. Everyone knows that. Babies, who travel a piece to get here , know that. They journey into the world via the meta-road. They wear sunglasses and drive tiny cars made of light beams. Life is a road and cliche factory. It's the source of practically everything we humans try to tell ourselves about ourselves. You look like a mile of bad road. You've taken the road less traveled.
I haven't driven far yet.
The road is everything except for one thing -- real. You can say everything you want about the road, and you do. You might even live your life using road metaphors every day to get you to work and back, but the sad fact is there is no road. The last time there was a road was in the sixties. We had a road back then because Neal Cassady like to drive, Jack Kerouac liked to write, and everyone wanted to leave home. So all at once for a bout ten years young people discovered the infrastructure at the very same moment that they saw their won arteries and veins with the blood rushing through them all lit up. The infrastructure all neon -lit and gas- station- neoned throbbed briefly with all these young Americans with lit veins and arteries rushing along its highways and byways. These lit infusions were driven along by sounds they themselves made singing of the roads they rode on.
And when they stopped moving, sometime in the late seventies, there was this big store of raod lore floating in the pyscho-sphere. It's where the Reagan-Bush decades went shopping for images to get people off the road and into schools, homes, corner offices, prisons, and mental institutions. Which is where we all live now.
Roads aren't real anymore. All roads are now metaphors about the road. Most people would rather stay home. In their homes they feed on lots of cliches about the road so that they won't feel as if they've stopped moving. Only the dead stop moving and most people don't want to be dead. Every couch potato dreams himself or herself on the road, and they are, thanks to TV, which gives them the illusion that they are somewhere else. Everyone lives on TV now, which is everywhere and no where....When TV travelers do travel they go to places they've seen on TV, straight into the tourist postcards and never see what they haven't already seen at home. If they stumble on something that 's never been on TV they shoot it with the video camera and then it's on TV. They go from postcard to postcard by plane so they never touch the road.

Why did GM have to run Saab into the ground?

Saab 23E Engine
1960 Saab 750 Gt Gran Turismo
1965 Saab 96

Hi folks -- truth be told, I loved those early Saabs. They were distinctive, utilitarian, a counterculture statement that simply said not all folks are obsessed with iron from Detroit. Saabs were aerodynamic, as you might expect, but with their 3-cylinder, 2cycle engines and front wheel drive they were indestructible and wonderful. Saab pioneered the use of the turbocharger in cars that the middle class drove.
So GM came along, used their platform, kept the key in the console, and thought that we Americans would somehow buy them.
50 years from now, when the history of the decline of American industrial might is definitively written, there will be a lengthy chapter on GM's misdeeds!

How To Lower Car Payments?

I have seen more customers lower their car payments in December than ever before. It is easier to lower your payment at the end of the year because of the HUGE rebates and incentives on vehicles.

Is it possible to Lower Your Car Payments? Let me tell you the easiest way to find out. Go to Yahoo! Autos and pick the vehicle you are most interested in and get your FREE PRICE QUOTE. Put your contact information, select ALL DEALERS to get the best quote, then sit back and wait for the best price to be delivered to your email. The quotes will include all rebates and incentives that are currently available. Now, you pick the lowest price and contact that dealer with your trade in information. Tell them what it would take to trade, LOWER PAYMENTS!!!

Many customers are looking to lower their payments this time of year so dealers know how to make this happen. You can lower your payments by getting a better price on your New Car. How do I get the best price on a new car? This beats driving from dealer to dealer and sitting all day to find out that your payments are going up! Let dealers fight for your business for a change and you will be in the drivers seat, Literally! Go into the New Year with a Newer vehicle with a Lower Payment and remember, December 31st is the last day of the year and dealers are very eager to end strong so don't hesitate, go to How do I get the best price on a new car? NOW!!! This is a Totally FREE service, you can thank me later.

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What Lays in Store for the Detroit Three in 2010? the $40,000 Volt? The Miniscule Chrysler/Fiat 500?

Hi folks -- see you at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show next month! The future of the auto industry in America certainly will continue to be a hot topic. Can you see the public buying a $40,000 Chevrolet, even if it is a plug-in hybrid? Can you see four well-fed Americans taking an interstate road trip in a Fiat 500? Looks like Ford will lead the way in 2010, unless surprises happen. And as we know, history teaches us that we should expect plenty of surprises!

Happy New Year to all who read this post! May you a have a blessed, prosperous, and above all peaceful new year! And may you always remain healthy and happy.

Revell 2010-first half year releases

These three slot cars will be released by Revell in the first half of 2010.

85-4829 Lola T-70 MKII #98 Parnelli Jones
85-4836 Ford Fairlane #29 Dick Hutcherson
85-4838 McLaren M6A #5 Dennis Hulme

Christmas Spirit Manifested by Spray Painting a Limo?

Spray Painted Christmas Limo
(image credits:wikimedia)

The real Christmas spirit manifested right after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in the form of a spray painted limo right after Wal-Mart was looted for spray paint. It seems even in the midst of disaster and bad times, street "artists" found a way to offer peace and season’s greetings. This could very well be the image that best describes the last ten years, that means its time to get your mad max vehicles ready for the next ten.

Now is the Time to buy that Pontiac or Saturn!!!! GM gives an extra $7,000 per car incentive to dealers

Hi folks -- there are still plenty of Saturns and Pontiacs left on dealer lots, and today GM provided more incentives to dealers to get these cars moved off inventories. Prior to today, there was a $6500 incentive or 0% financing available to buyers of these two brands. Now there is even more reason to buy if you can find the car you are looking for.
Now that the snow has fallen, ice covers the lots, and we suffer with shorter days and little if any sun -- it is time to deal!!!
For example, there are four G6s and 4 G8s available at the local dealer where I live. These cars, including a convertible, usually have a sticker price of $31,000+, but I'll bet you can get any of them for an incredibly lower price. Just watch out for financing and other ways the dealers may sock it to you to recoup losses.

December 30 -- the Anniversary of the Flint Sit-Down Strike

December 30, 1936, marked the beginning of the Flint Sit Down Strike that ultimately led to the formation of the UAW and the unionization of the American automobile industry. There had been sit-down strikes in tat other plants in the days leading up to December 30, but it was in flint where the union was born, wages were increased dramatically, working conditions improved, and the dreaded "speed up" countered. Below is a more detailed and contextual account of this event. It is sad to note how the gains that American workers enjoyed have to some extent been lost, and how the future looks bleak for Americans in search of living wage jobs without a major commitment to higher education.

The Depression exacerbated labor woes. James Flink wrote, “Labor unrest in the automobile industry spread with massive unemployment and the deterioration of working conditions as the Depression deepened.” The crisis was compounded by technological stagnation, and since workers were more flexible than machines, human labor was pushed to increase productivity. Work on the assembly line was characterized by the “speed-up” and “stretch out” of the workforce. “Too many men competed for too few jobs and automobile manufacturers took advantage of the glut in the labor market.” Autoworkers of the 1930s had manifold complaints, but the foremost grievance was the speed-up. Workers argued bitterly that the speed of the line was unbearable; that annual earnings were inadequate; methods of payment were too complicated; the seasonal unemployment created by the industry’s insistence upon an annual model change; the practice of shutting down during the model changes (at Ford) and of hiring workers, regardless of skill, at the starting rate; management ignored and refused to recognize seniority; workers over 40 found it difficult to remain employed; female labor was being substituted to replace male labor; the continued “speed-up” of the assembly line; and the espionage networks and the Bennett regime of Ford. Mounting complaints would give impetus to a fledgling union movement.

Under the auspices of the New Deal, Congress passed the Wagner Act and created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The original agreement was admittedly weak; it only stipulated requirements for worker representation, and automobile companies continued to resist unionization. The promises of the Wagner Act eventually came to fruition. “In only ten years,” noted historian Richard Oestriecher, “the Wagner Act led directly to an increase in union representation from approximately one worker in ten in 1934 . . . to more than three out of 10 by 1945, and strong unions forced corporations to raise wages at roughly the same rate that the economy expanded.” Concurrent with the Wagner Act, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) chartered the United Automobile Workers of America (UAW).

Even under the aegis of the Great Depression and the New Deal political climate, the “Big Three” were able to thwart worker’s attempts to organize. Unionization of the automobile industry was not concluded when the ink of the Wagner Act dried. Ford used a police regime to prevent violence; General Motors, Chrysler, and other firms embarked on campaigns of espionage. It was said at the time that one out of ten workers was a company informant. To unionize the auto industry, American politics had to be moved to the left. In Management and Managed Steven Jeffreys argued that the external political environment was crucial in shaping the limits of unionization. He observed that the Roosevelt labor coalition had left the “business community exposed.” Jeffreys’ thesis is also important because it recognized that “different patterns of managerial authority developed in different plants.” Labor unrest is a microcosm of larger political effects on the American social fabric. The historical experience of unionization was complex, and thus different in every company, and then every plant within that company. A high number of automobile strikes followed FDR’s 1932 election.

Companies battled to maintain Detroit’s reputation as an open shop city. Historians have noted several reasons for the auto industry’s ability to resist industrialization. First, both the AFL and communist organizations bungled opportunities to organize autoworkers. A proper political mechanism was not realized until a group within the AFL created the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which intended to jettison the AFL’s craft principle to organize workers in the mass production industries. Second, the racial and ethnic composition of the workforce made organization difficult. Third, management pursued deliberate strategies to make unionization difficult. Ford’s initial benevolence was a subtle attempt to assuage unionization, and his regime of violence under thug Harry Bennett was an overt strategy to stop unions. General Motors had a spy racket. In addition, politics within the unions were brutal and divisive. Even with mounting complaints and the automobile industry’s speed-up, racial and ethnic differences proved difficult to overcome.

Collective bargaining was made a reality by historical actors who were catalyzed by the Great Depression and energized as a part of the New Deal political coalition. Franklin Roosevelt’s charisma forged a new political bloc that embraced class-based politics and sided tentatively with labor. Workers also began to overcome their differences, and as Ronald Edsforth and Robert Asher pointed out, “no matter what their race, ethnicity, or gender, automobile workers found themselves confronting similar problems . . . between 1935 and 1941 deeply felt resentments about what these workers called “the speedup” or “the stretch out” brought diverse groups of auto workers together in the successful organizing drives of the United Automobile Workers Union.” Leaders such as Homer Martin, Walter and Victor Ruether, Richard “Dick” Frankensteen, George Addes, and others organized a motley gang of laborers into the United Autoworkers (UAW). In a pivotal moment at the 1935 South Bend Convention, Dick Frankensteen’s Automotive Industrial Workers Association (AIWA) joined the UAW. Arnold Bernstein noted, “In the summer of 1936 the now more or less “United” Automobile Workers confronted the major task of organization, which, given the extreme oligopolistic structure of the more industry, necessitated a frontal attack upon one of the big three.

The opportunity for a “frontal assault” came in 1936 with the sit down strike at General Motors plants around the country. Arnold Bernstein noted that the youth of the autoworkers made the sit down strike “democracy run wild.” The autoworkers used the innovative sit-down strike tactic to prevent the removal of dies and to obstruct the importation of strike breakers. After a 44-day period of intense negotiations, the UAW gained the right to bargain with General Motors. The moment was unique in American history; both Michigan Governor Frank Murphy and President Franklin Roosevelt did not forcibly remove strikers. The UAW’s conquest of General Motors quickly exacted contracts from Hudson, Packard, and Studebaker, along with numerous parts producers. In the wake of the strike, the union had “256 locals, 400 collective bargaining agreements, and 220,000 dues-paying members.”

January 2010 New Years Car Rebates And Incentives

January car Rebates and Incentives could not be as good as the last few days of the end of 2009! 2009 will be the largest push to gain market share for all manufactures like Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, Dodge and even for Hyundai, Kia, Suzuki, Lexus, Mercedes, and BMW. There is a HUGE push to gain the last few sales of 2009. I have heard the phrase over and over this past week, "WHATEVER IT TAKES, WE WILL NOT MISS A DEAL!!!"

If you are in the market to buy a vehicle, whether it be car or truck or even SUV, NOW IS THE TIME!!! You will be surprised at the deep discounts and Manufacturer Incentives. Now, if you are like me and do not have the time to go from dealer to dealer to find the deals, I will let you in on a secret. The easiest way to get the best deal between now and New Years Day is to Get FREE quotes from Yahoo! Autos This will be the easiest deal you have ever made. Because here is how it works. Internet Shoppers are growing at a HUGE rate and dealers are aware they are shopping many dealers. You will get the best deal possible if you go thru Yahoo! Autos Just enter your zip code, pick your vehicle of choice, enter your contact information, and make sure to select ALL DEALERS! This will make ALL your local dealers FIGHT for your business! Even if you already know which dealer you will buy from, KEEP THEM HONEST! Get quotes from all your local dealers delivered directly to your email. If you do not have a preferred dealer, pick the lowest price. Easy as that, you just saved thousands for a few mouse clicks.

The quicker you get your quotes the better because the closeout of 2009 will be like no other, trust me! I bet if you have been to a dealer recently and received a price and visit Yahoo! Autos now, you will be surprised how much you will save. When you shop from the Internet, dealers do realize they have pretty much one shot and will throw everything they have at it. You will also find out any extra incentives that may not be advertised and may even get some extra incentives from some dealers like free maintenance plans, etc. It is FREE to get your quotes so why wait. Oh, and be sure to bookmark my site so you can come back and tell me how much you saved. I might even be surprised. Good luck and happy New Years early, hope this helps you drive into the new year with a new vehicle.

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Dateline: Anchorage

Saturday we had a reunion of sorts, in downtown Anchorage at a bar, the F Street Station.

Craig Hasund, who played saxophone and oboe with me in high school band and the Anchorage Youth Symphony (1987-91) and his wife, Rena:

...and Mark Edwards, the big surprise of the night (he sat behind me in chemistry, 1989-90):

My brother with Sam Gray, also a saxophonist in the East High band:

And Jimmy Egan doesn't look a day older:

Later on that night one of my best friends, Erik Wegscheider - clarinet: AYS, All-state, All-Northwest band, showed a bit later. He actually called me from his truck as he drove past to tell me he wasn't coming in and I didn't blame. It was asses to elbows in there, some sort fire code was surely being broken, so we stopped in at Anchor Bar, attempted to find an open bar at the Captain Cook Hotel (Anchorage's answer to Chicago's Penninsula), and then to the old standard, Humpy's, for the final round of the evening...

The next day my brother took us to the firing range in Birchwood to pop a few rounds on his AK-47 and Glock .40 S&W:

NSR Sunoco Porsche 917

Updated with new pix of the cars:

These news NSR Porsche 917K's in Sunoco colors can be won! If you enter organize or enter a local NSR National Qualifier race in the US or Canada. NSR has made only 140 of these special cars. They're serial numbered and clubs having an NSR qualifier will be able to purchase 3 of these cars are a discounted price. They will be award also to the top 3 finishers at the NSR National Final race at Great Traditions in Philly in March 2010. If you'd like to host an NSR race you can contact Great Traditions to set up a regional race by calling (267)250-1735.

New Distributor for Avant Slot

Scaleracing LLC is now distributing Avant Slot in North America. See this link to see the details and available inventory. See the price list at this link.

Ronin - A Car Chase Scene to Die for?

Ronin -- very good film, great car chase scene(s)? Unlike so many of the great car chase films that have muddled plots and weak acting, this film is very good, but perhaps its car chase scheme is overrated. Ronin is the story of post-Cold War warriors, now in transition. At the center of the story is a case, but what is inside it, and two groups one Russian, one Irish, attempting to acquire it. One chase scene involves the planned ambush to acquire the case for a mysterious and rather beautiful Irish terrorist working for a Rouge leader by the name of Shamus. The second scene involves chase through Paris as the group has split. It is the second scene that seems to be the one that most film critics examine closely.

A few comments about this scene. I don't wish to unfairly criticize John Frankenheimer's efforts, however, as the film does mark a high achievement in cinematography and action involving the automobile. First, I thought that with one exception, Robert DeNiro's part in the chase scene is rather weak and unconvincing. That exception is a drift in which we see the use of the handbrake and downshift. Secondly, I thought the use of headlight flashers was quite effective, including the quick shot of the worm,an driver flicking the stalk on the dimmer in her BMW. On the whole the street s are deserted, like a Sunday morning in Paris, with few pedestrians. Going wrong way in on a number of streets would have resulted in these two cars coming to a head on end during any real situation. And finally, the fact that the three "bad guys" survived a plunge down an embankment and were able to walk away form, the wreckage at the end of the scene is a testimony to the safety one has in driving a BMW 5 series.

A great chase scene? A qualified yes, but there is still room to captivate the audience in fresh and more realistic ways.

Anchored down in Anchorage

I arrived in Anchorage late on Christmas Eve night. In fact, with the three hour gain, my body time was Christmas. It had been almost four years since last coming home, but walking into the house I'd first moved into before the 6th grade felt almost routine.

Christmas day was one of the best ever. Very few presents - I bought the wine for dinner, we all got socks, but Mom bought a Wii for the house, and I found out my brother had quit smoking! An old family friend came over to eat with us, and we had lots of good wine over prime rib and uproarious conversation, before heading downstairs to play a few hours of Wii tennis and bowling.

The backyard:

Today Mom and I went skiing on the truly world-class network of urban trails that Anchorage residents enjoy. My stepdad's wooden skis, handmade in Norway, are probably older than me but with the appropriate wax applied, they glide along just as well as the high-end composite models.

Madison Way at high noon in December - that's looking straight north (the sun never really gets above the southern horizon this time of year):

Just a right and a left turn and three-quarters of mile from the house is the access point to Chester Creek Trail:

One of the many underpasses on the ski trails in Anchorage:

We stopped at West Chester Lagoon, near the head of the Coastal Trail, and watched the ice skaters:

Long story short? Keep your distance:

A view of Cook Inlet and Mt. Susitna (Sleeping Lady) from the Anchorage Coastal Trail:

Informational sign at Earthquake Park, where the entire neighborhood of Turnagain Heights slid into Cook Inlet during the March 27, 1964 Earthquake. At 9.2 on the Richter Scale, it was the largest seismic event ever recorded in North America:

At Earthquake Park:

Downtown Anchorage from the Coastal Trail:

Needs no further explanation:

Three hours and 11.5 miles, it was a great workout. We are about to enjoy some leftovers from last night - I am starving - and then my brother and I are headed downtown to meet up with some high school friends we've not seeing in quite a long time over some beers.

Until tomorrow...

A Brief Review of Scott Olsen's At Speed: Traveling the Long Road between Two Points.

Hi folks-- sometimes you can't tell a book by its cover. Scott Olson's at speed has a very nice photographic cover featuring the center line of a curving road with foliage left and right and mountains in the distance. And on the back cover there are four testimonials about this road narrative, by authors, English professors and book people. Despite all the good things on the surface, for me this work was a disappointment. It features five road travel stories, and shorter excerpts from road trips that were contained in the author's notebooks. Frankly, these narratives feature quick stops along the way, a few people scattered and mentioned only in passing, descriptions of the land (but not that powerfully done), the on and off inclusion of some details about the Jeep that he drives, and time and distance when appropriate. Yet, character and humanity is never more than dealt with superficially -- even in the case of the author. We never deeply explore the writer's psyche, although we learn a bit about his family along the way. The towns on these extended road trip are rarely explored, and the people -- waitresses, hotel clerks, gas station attendants, etc., are just a passing fancy, again nearly monolithic. Yes, at speed we really get to know little about the world we are traversing. Is that the real point of this exercise? Scott has some very interesting travel plans that he follows through on , including a trip from, Key West to Alaska that if done in a better fashion, would have been illuminating. Every trip is different, every path unique, every character special, but I did not see any of this to my satisfaction in At Speed. The driver, the machine, the land, and the townsfolk, all need more explication that we read here. Why write this, if so half done in the end? Or maybe this is what mdoern life is all about, and why so many people are dissatisfied with their lives? To develop this tehme more would have transformed this book into a powerful contemporary statement.

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