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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Yeah…

...that’s probably my fault.

Sorry about that.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sadly Saying Goodbye to My Aston Martin Obsession

Since I was a little boy watching James Bond movies, I’ve loved Aston Martins. Fast, exclusive, and beautiful cars. I obsessed over them for years and, when it looked like they would be another casualty of the self-destructive tendencies of the British auto industry, I applauded when Ford stepped in and rescued them from the dustbin of automotive history.

In the early 90’s, I bartended at the Embassy Suites near the Denver airport. One of the bonuses of living in Denver is that you occasionally see cars going through their high altitude testing regimens. Engineers and cars with strange paint jobs and camouflage, would show up in our parking lot on a semi-regular basis. The guy from Lotus didn’t like to be bothered and would talk about his car. The occasional domestic manufacturers didn’t interest me because, well, their cars were the kinds of things I could actually expect to drive within my lifetime. Which, by its very nature, doesn’t have the kind of drama or interest that something out of reach like a Lotus or a Bentley.

One day, I showed up to work and there was an Aston Martin DB7 in engineering garb. A little computer set-up inside for diagnostics, a few bits sticking out here and there to gather information, and one of the most beautifully pure shapes of any car I’d ever seen. Real artistry in auto design is rare--which isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy looking at even fairly common cars, but that the forms that made up the DB7 were close to perfection both in the subtleties of its curves and in the cues that brought it in line with the rest of the Aston Martins through history.

This was after the car had been introduced at an auto show (Geneva auto show, if memory serves), so I knew what it was. After staring at the thing for a bit, I walked in and told anyone who would listen that there was a real, live Aston Martin in the parking lot. The kicker was that later that night, while I was working the bar, a group of a few British engineers came in, talking about cars and beer and where they had to go the next day. Someone said something about Tom Walkinshaw Racing--and it clicked in my head. I knew that Aston Martin had farmed out engineering work on the DB7 to TWR--these guys were the engineers. These were the guys that got to drive around in that car.

I comped them their drinks. I talked to them about cars, impressed them with my knowledge of the British auto industry, chatted about politics, told them about my truck (at that time I was driving a new Mazda B4000 extended cab). I listened to them tell me about the car, about Aston Martin, and about how many free drinks that thing got them while they were driving through all of their testing grounds.

Over the next year or so, they dropped in for more testing. They brought a few cars each time, they had a rotating group of engineers, and we got along spectacularly.

The comped drinks helped.

Then we started going places in their cars. First it was to a gas station down the street just so I could get the feel. Then it was to a bar where my wife was working. Then it was me driving the test car to my apartment complex to show the car to my wife and then it was a buzzed engineer asking if I wanted to drive the car while we went out drinking. Which I did.

Oh, boy, did I. I had the thing going over a hundred by the end of an on-ramp at one point--a ridiculous and unreasonable speed that I was sure any police officer would understand if he I could only get him to imagine what he himself would do if he were in my situation. Luckily, I didn’t have to test my theory.

The last time I saw the crew--Nigel, Steve, Martin, Dan, Chris, Mickey, and Phil--they gave me some gifts (including their autographs on the box of a Maisto Supercar Collection model of the DB7). I treasure those gifts. I won’t say who let me drive those cars since it might have some effect on their jobs, but I was in contact with them through 1997 and probably would have kept contact if it hadn’t been for the brutal dissolution of my marriage getting in the way of my normal life.

And I continued to lust after the car I couldn’t have. As it grew up into the DB9 and the same design basics extended to the rest of their line-up, I lusted after Aston Martins. The new DBS doesn’t have quite the same perfection and beauty of the DB7 and the DB9, but it inspires warm, tingly feelings in me. When a new Aston was demolished in Casino Royale, I groaned. Loudly enough that my wife gave me dirty looks in the theater, in fact.

I tried to explain to her later: “Beautiful things shouldn’t die senseless deaths.” She didn’t really understand.

Now it is time for me to stop loving Aston Martin. Not because I’ve grown up or become a better person or because their cars have suddenly become horrible, but because they have committed the unforgivable sin. If your brand is built on exclusivity, if your brand is built on beautiful design, if your brand is built on the perfect melding of old British charisma and forward-thinking design and engineering, you damned well cannot sell out and have your brand plastered on overpriced, ugly, supposedly collectible Nike Hyperdunk shoes.

It’s embarrassing. It cheapens the value of the logo. It’s an immature venture for a mature (or, at least, wealthy, mid-life crisisey) brand.

When your brand is associated with the mystique of James Bond, that’s just good decision-making. When your brand is associated with pitifully designed, empty marketing efforts like the Hyperdunks, then someone should be fired.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Midnight Musical Interlude No. 1

It’s been a dreary day here in Denver. A gray, weepy game with drizzling, cold rain and snow. For a melancholic soul like me, it’s a catalyst for the worst of my own mind. Fears, worries, and a creeping, spidery awareness of my own failings poke at the back of my head, needle sharp and insistent. Much of it comes from memories that play in my head as if the I was living through some of the worst moments of my life again.

I can see, hear, smell, and feel everything that happened in those moments. Sometimes I think I understand junkies and alcoholics. If you can’t turn off the noise in your head by shear force of will, if you can’t find a way to get away from the most vicious bits of yourself, then drugs and booze are a hell of a temptation.

Which is one of the reasons I stopped drinking at one point in my first marriage. Not that it saved us, but I started to understand why I liked drinking so much, and it wasn’t a very happy realization.

Some of you know that I lost a friend when I turned 21. He died an ugly death around the same time I started bartending--a death directly attributable to his alcoholism. I had been drinking since I was about 13, but his death was almost like someone firing a starter pistol and I was racing to the bottom of the bottle. Most people that I knew then were drinking because it was part of the party; I was drinking because I wanted to kill myself. I had a very specific view of myself and I wanted to destroy the person that I saw, I wanted him to sink away and never come up for air.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way and it wasn’t constant--which is why I never quite made it to either addiction or suicide, why I still had friends, and why, when I grew up some, I found out that I could be okay. That I could start shaping my life to be something better, something happier and more full. I think I also learned that loneliness is largely a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But some nights, old habits crawl back in.

Which, if you know me well, probably explains my taste in music. If I have to relive the worst bits of my life, then the soundtrack should fit, right?

With that introduction, here are a few songs that I’ve been playing today. Enjoy.

Misplaced Praise, Fifth in a Series of 562

Good writing, ishambat. Impressive logic, too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Save the Outrage. And the Tibetans. Or Something Like That.

Here is the comment I posted on the great logo scandal.

Oh, c’mon.

The larger circle is the outer atmosphere and it contains our planet (and that would be the negative space on the inside). The big red swoosh is symbolic of hitting threats over the horizon.

It’s more contemporary than the old logo and it’s more visually interesting. I think someone should have noticed that it could be mistaken for something else and should have asked for redesign.

But that doesn’t mean it’s part of some larger plot.

Save the outrage for something real.

Don’t know what the great logo scandal is? Check it out here.

Look, I love me some Andrew Breitbart, but Frank Gaffney has put something on Breitbart’s Big Government site that looks pretty looney to me. Don’t let the site go down the Ron Paul road to craziness.

In other words, don’t let the crazy be the enemy of the good.

There is precisely no reason to jump on this particular bandwagon. Questionable design choices do not equal plots to spread Islamic symbols to America through obscure military logos.

Misplaced Praise, Fourth in a Series of 562

Hey, Democrats, way to walk a righteous path!

Misplaced Praise, Third in a Series of 562

Great job, Charlie Sheen! The first step to PR rehabilitation is, of course, rehab.

No matter what you’ve done, no matter who you’ve done it to, rehab gives you that one-size-fits-all excuse for screwing up. Even when you keep screwing up over and over and over again.

We’re proud of you for taking this first step toward a healthier, happier PR life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meet Dave Cullen

I know this is a little late notice, but Dave Cullen is speaking and signing books at the Barnes & Noble Park Meadows off of County Line Road.

He’s a good writer, he’s a smart man, and he’s about as nice a guy as you can imagine. If you’re in the area, it would be well worth your time to go and have a listen.

Details here.

Help! I’ve Been Kidnapped by the Gay Mafia!

I don’t really understand why we need a specific bill to ban discrimination against gays in public schools--which is to say, what form of discrimination is currently legal and acceptable?--but of the two reasons to oppose the bill, one of them really boggles my mind.

The first concern, coming from libertarians and free speech advocates resonates heavily with me. If the bill’s language is too broadly drawn and it is harmful to legitimate free speech, then the bill is wrong. What, precisely, would constitute harassment? Are hurt feelings and mere suspicion enough to unleash the hounds of aggrievement? Or is there a higher bar that needs to be cleared?

The second concern, coming from people who fear the purple mafia, is one that I dismiss out of hand. “It will push the gay agenda.” Inasmuch as there is a gay agenda, in the main it is simply to gain the kind of acceptance and protection from harassment that every other citizen enjoys. While these folks might throw some specific instances of truly bizarre behavior and policy goals, the truth is that none of the gay people I know (strangely, the majority that I know count themselves as conservatives and libertarians, which is less a statement about typical gay political stances than it is about typical Friends of Zomby political stances) want to destroy marriage, push their sexuality on unsuspecting straight folks, or destroy the moral fabric of the country with tactical drag queen air strikes. They just want to go about their lives.

“It seems pretty consistent with Kevin Jennings being appointed in the Obama administration,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm, referring to the controversial founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network who now serves as the assistant deputy secretary for the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

Jennings came under fire in September after acknowledging he should have better handled an incident in 1988 when he was a teacher and failed to report that a boy he believed was 15 years old told him he was having sex with an older man. (Since that time, the former student, referred to as “Brewster,” has revealed he was 16 years old, the age of consent in Massachusetts, at the time of the incident.)

“When [Jennings] founded GLSEN, his idea of a safe school was one that pushed a radical homosexual agenda by even encouraging first and second-graders to engage in homosexual activity,” Staver said. “So I think that’s the impetus behind this bill. We have an administration that wants to push a radical social agenda.”

We can debate some specifics, but I do not see a scary gay agenda that will tear apart the country.

That said, I generally oppose this kind of legislation because I don’t quite understand what it accomplishes. There are already laws against harassment and most schools are aggressive in dealing with harassment issues in the district. Boy, could I tell you some stories if I were allowed to tell you some stories. If children are not being protected from harassment by their teachers and their districts right now, it’s because individual teachers, schools, or districts aren’t doing their job.

Handle it at the local level and there is no need for more Federal government posturing.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ice Dancing. Because I Can’t Help Myself.

Samuelson and Bates’ free dance was absolutely beautiful tonight. No gimmicky costumes or vaudevillian overacting; it was a classic, lyric performance of exceptional grace.

I can’t imagine that they will medal, but it was one of the prettiest performances of the Olympics.

That said, you would be hard pressed to convince me that figure skating of any kind, outside of the argument of tradition, can be considered a sport. If ice dancing is a sport, then why isn’t there Olympic ballet?

And don’t even get me started on that whole trampoline fiasco from the Summer Olympics…

Idi Amin, Baby Doc, and Clarence Thomas

I twitterated about this a bit ago, but I ran across an article that twists the knife in a slightly funnier way:

Over at The Root, where Slate magazine sequesters black journalists, Michael Arceneaux decides it’s time to excommunicate certain undesirables from the African-American brotherhood. Because “while we love our own,” he writes, “we sure do dream of erasing a few of them from the history books.”

As much as anyone can possibly laugh about this kind of racializing, it’s nice to see that Reason can find the funny.

Read the rest.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Misplaced Praise, Second in a Series of 562

Watching Sweden’s and Finland’s Olympic hockey teams beating up on each other, I was just informed that the “Titans will clash!”

Brilliant bit of marketing, that. I hear that when the movie is released, all of the new material will be re-branded. “Titans are clashing at a theater near you!”

(Warning: That is one slow loading site.)

A Musing About VS Naipaul

After reading Paul Theroux’s book Sir Vidia’s Shadow, I found myself wondering just how much of the tone of the book was merely the taste of bitterness in Theroux’s mouth over a friendship grown cold. Was VS Naipaul really the man portrayed by the words and actions in Theroux’s book, or was he someone else entirely.

Sir Vidia’s Shadow is a well written book that draws the reader into the writer’s world and, very particularly, that kind of world as inhabited by these particular writers. It’s a world of intriguingly shallow people--writers, politicians, their loved ones--who see themselves as people of great depth and importance. It is also perpetually unflattering to Naipaul as it shows him as being cheap, petty, cruel, fickle, rude, and whiny.Wherever a ray of humanity shines through to give some view of Naipaul as something other than small, it is often immediately ripped away by a deep contrast that nudges the memories of his failings.

That Theroux was willing to publish such a personal, raw look at a former friend and mentor speaks volumes about his personality, too. Of course, after reading his books, it would be hard to imagine wanting to like Theroux in his personal life as he has portrayed himself (and thinly disguised versions of himself, as in My Secret History) to be a painfully difficult and selfish person, too. For that matter, in Sir Vidia’s Shadow, he’s certainly showing himself as another victim of Naipaul’s fickle nature, but he doesn’t imagine himself as an angelic figure.

The honesty is compelling, but it is a vicious kind of person who can write a memoir about a relationship and reveal, in such brutal terms, the warts and flaws of a former friend.

So, recognizing the book’s viciousness, I did wonder at its truth.

This, from the Telegraph, makes me wonder if Theroux was understating Naipaul’s flaws.

They have led French to paint a picture of a bleak, largely loveless marriage in which Sir Vidia frequently put his wife down - he refused even to buy her a wedding ring. He often abandoned her to go travelling with Mrs Gooding, the married Anglo-Argentine with whom he fell in love in 1972, and they periodically lived apart.

When in a self-pitying mood, Sir Vidia, who was born to Indian parents in Trinidad but has lived in Britain since winning a place to Oxford, would tell his wife how he was missing Mrs Gooding but then say that he needed Lady Patricia to help him with his books.

Trapped and unable to leave the husband she worshipped, Lady Patricia’s diaries reveal how she became little more than his cook and carer, and how for a time she became dependent on Mandrax, the prescribed sedative.

Sir Vidia’s sister, Savi, regarded her brother’s claim that Lady Patricia accepted the situation as “absolute rubbish, such profound vanity”.

Both of the men are wonderful writers, and both of them look less impressive when you see them up close. VS Naipaul’s personality--so profoundly sour and self-indulgent--might make it completely impossible for me to read his work in the future. It’s lost its shine.

Friday, February 19, 2010

TIger and His Press Conference

He says he accepts responsibility, but I don’t know that I believe him. His reading was mechanical and hit all of the contemporary celebrity apology talking points, but it was sorrow or humbleness that seemed to motivate him most; it was anger at false rumors, anger at having his family stalked by the media, anger at, as the great philosopher Adam Ant would say, “Mr. Pressman with your penknife, always asking about my sex life--and who with and how many times?”

I would say that his complaints are, at least, a little fair. It’s an odd life when you feel compelled to call a press conference to discuss your own serial infidelities. Those of us without the global brand of a Tiger Woods don’t have to face anything more, generally, than the shame of facing family and friends--a shame that can be crippling without adding the pressure of front page stories, public speculation, and the most impressive bimbo eruptions since the Clinton administration.

But that is his life and it’s a part of the price, fairly or unfairly, paid for the mansions, the adulation, and the kind of life most of us simply can’t imagine.

Instead of any kind of genuine sorrow, Tiger seemed motivated by anger that he had to walk through these very public steps and expose himself to even more examination. Sympathize if you’d like--I do, if nothing else because his actions spilled nastily over onto Elin and the rest of his family--but as an apology it just proved that it’s not always what you say, that sometimes it’s how you say it. When apologizing, it helps to truly act like you mean it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Joe Stack’s Cowardly End

Joe Stack was no hero.

That thought came through my mind when I read through his suicide note and then read a comment left on a forum run by the hosting company for embeddedart.com, where Stack had a site.

Joe Stack was no hero, despite what someone like Denns25 might imagine. “Joe Stack fought and died for his country on this day...”

No, Stack has a laundry list of complaints about the fairness of society that lead him to lash out like a child throwing a tantrum. His selfishness put others in harms way. Instead of dealing with his complaints and problems like an adult, instead of stepping up and being a leader in overturning those corrupt politicians, companies, and churches that he despised, he decided to take the cowardly, disgraceful path of a suicide bomber. Yeah, Joe, won’t that show ‘em.

And I bet they’ll really miss you when you’re gone, too.

Joe Stack was no hero. He was just another Timothy McVeigh acting out in as destructive a way as he knew how, hoping that his lifelong failures and sense of victimization would somehow be granted nobility through self sacrifice. Instead, he’ll be a nasty footnote in America’s history of crackpots and lunatics.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Misplaced Praise, First in a Series of 562

Striking a blow for feminist authoritarians around the globe, Kim Kyong-Hui stands up and demands her place at the table.

You go, girl!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Best Wishes to George Karl and His Family

Here’s what JR Smith had to say about George Karl’s announcement tonight:

Love coach Karl he will be fine everyone keep him in your prayers!

For Nuggets fans who somehow missed it, George Karl announced tonight that he will be taking a leave of absence from the Nuggets while he is treated for neck and throat cancer. For the next six weeks, he will be undergoing a series of aggressive treatments, although he noted that the doctors have told him that they believe the cancer is treatable.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Karl and his family. Here’s hoping he responds well to the treatment.

More here.

Democrats, Take My Advice for What it’s Worth

In reference to the below, I have a little bit of advice for my friends on the left.

Today Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet, Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown and Jeff Merkley sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid asking him to push through a government-run health care plan through the reconciliation procedure.

Now, before we go any further, this isn’t concern trolling. Honestly. I’m just offering some strategic advice from the point of view of a guy who enjoys that aspect of politics and not just the partisan back and forth.

Of course, I’m also a guy who is going to be working to see you guys sent home come the next time you’re facing an election. Take it for what it’s worth.

First, if you feel the need to bulk up your left-leaning bonafides by threatening to use, shall we say, extreme measures to pass parts of the health care package, then go ahead and threaten away. It’s part of the game and it’s entirely understandable. It will probably buy you a few votes and a few dollars from the Daily Kos set, and, given the new sense of Republican competitiveness, you’ll need every advantage you can get.

But don’t try it. Actually attempting this kind of a bully maneuver would be a huge mistake. Why?

You’ll face opposition from your own party that might well make the maneuver impossible. Any Democrat facing a midterm election is feeling the pressure from the right and center right now, and that pressure is overwhelmingly opposed to passing any version of the current plan. What kind of support and cover will you expect from those folks?

It will be no surprise that I think you won’t get a single hand stretching across the aisle to give you even the slightest appearance of bi-partisanship. The GOP knows two things right now: that they have the political cover that they need to stand firm against the current versions of health care reform and that they need to work with the fiscal conservatives is they don’t want to face their own primary challenges in the midterms.

The Democrats have had a year of supermajority and have failed to achieve their biggest goals. The wasted political capital--both the effort spent in the trying and the feigned powerlessness when the electorate knows better--has left the great progressive movement weak, has left President Obama weak, and has left congressional Democrats weak. The triumphalism of a year ago is already faded in almost every corner and where it still exists it sounds remarkably out of touch with the great majority of America.

Nearly the entirety of the left seems to have misjudged the mandate that was handed to them in the last election, and the misjudgment lead to wild overreach. In politics, the biggest danger of both winning and losing elections is precisely the same: not understanding the reason that the election went the way it did.

Consider that reality deeply before you make a move that goes so powerfully against the poll trends. No, you don’t want to make decisions purely on focus groups and polling, but you don’t want to ignore the voices of the citizens, either. A decision like this--spearheading the subversion of the normal legislative process, ignoring the will of the citizens, and doing it all in a way that makes you an obvious target--is precisely the kind of thing that can ruin a political career and most certainly would haunt you in every election in the future.

Strategically speaking, from where I sit it seems like a pretty bad decision.

For that matter, I’m still not sure it would work, either. Is this the kind of thing that can actually be passed through the reconciliation process? I tend to think the answer is no, but I don’t know if it’s been tested, either.

As I said, take it for what it’s worth. I’m no fan of the health care ideas that have been coming from the left (and a bigger opponent of any public option), I’m a conservative, and I’m not the guy that the Democrats are courting. I’m not in the nebulous middle that moves with relative ease from party to party between election cycles--I’m not someone who they would consider to be “in play.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

On Andrew Sullivan

While I think the claim that Andrew Sullivan is anti-Semitic was a stretch, this critique from The American Spectator’s Philip Klein seems to be about perfect in its view of Sullivan’s writing.

So, while one can only speculate as to what motivates Sullivan’s views on Israel, even giving him the benefit of the doubt and judging him strictly by his own standards, his daily ratings are philosophically incoherent, intellectually lazy, and increasingly insane.

I would imagine that we would all be a little better off if we treated Sullivan’s ideas with the seriousness that they deserve: if open mockery seems to cruel, then ignoring him is entirely reasonable.

Read the rest here.

Update- The allegation of anti-Semitism is like the allegation of racism: break it out only when the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the conclusion. Cheapening the word--and the sin--by applying it capriciously or even through sly insinuation diminishes real acts of anti-Semitism and racism. 

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