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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Tiny, Fragmented Thoughts

It just ain’t news that President Obama taped a segment for American Idol’s special “Idol Gives Back” segment. Not only is it a worthy cause, but I’m fairly sure that the previous White House occupant did the same thing. Ain’t news.



Tiger Woods and Nike have put together an awfully cynical ad; it’s as professional, stylish, and as well-constructed as any Nike ad you’re likely to see, but the method, the message, and the emotions are all in service of commerce and not redemption. Tiger’s acts certainly call for introspection and I’m sure that some of the people nearest to him are disappointed, but taping together scraps of his deceased father’s words while Tiger stares balefully at the audience isn’t a path to introspection or any kind of reasonable response for the damage that he’s done to his family. The ad is too obviously a lie--a supposedly emotionally raw spot about a very serious subject but cheapened to the point of meaninglessness because it’s a branded moment of introspection that will hopefully sell a few extra shoes--to be effective on an emotional level.

When people talk about crass commercialism, this would qualify as a good example.

But Tiger doesn’t owe me anything. He doesn’t owe me an apology or an explanation or a second thought; I’m just some guy who thought that he was a good role model for kid. He never promised anything to me.

Aside from a seemingly (it’s an illusion, I know, but it is an amazing parade) endless line of women copping to sexual relations with the guy, how must Elin feel about seeing an ad like that? Shame and pain, I would imagine.

On the same topic, but from a very different side, as disappointed as I am by Tiger, I’m just as disappointed by the people and the media that are allowing that parade of women their fifteen minutes of fame complete with the assumption of a moral high ground. I was watching a show earlier today where the announcers were talking about Tiger’s appearance in Augusta today. When they weren’t busy chastising him for smiling and looking at his cell phone during practice--apparently he wasn’t showing the proper public misery--they started talking about the latest woman to claim an affair with Woods.

Apparently this young woman was a “next door neighbor” of Tigers and she was furious when she found out about all of the other women because she “thought she was special.” I’ve heard other of these women making the same claim and, I’m sorry, just because Tiger was a cheating jerk, they don’t get to claim any moral high ground. You know who was special? Tiger’s wife. Tiger’s children. The rest of these women are just a bunch of groupies whoring themselves out for a taste of his fame. Each and every one of them knew he was a married man and each and every one of them went on to have a relationship with him.

The idea that they had no moral responsibility because they weren’t the ones breaking the bond of marriage just doesn’t wash. If I knowingly sleep with another man’s wife, I share a good portion of the moral weight of that action. But these women are treated to photo spreads and salacious stories in respectable magazines, given uncritical coverage by the press, and seem to be shamelessly glorying in gossiping about their affairs and the most intimate and torrid details of their time with Tiger.

It’s moments like these where I think that we need to rediscover shame in this country.

Shame and regrets usually show up when you’ve done something that you shouldn’t have--and those folks who claim to live without either are either liars or have learned to turn off that internal check that gives them some pretty important hints about how they are living their lives.

When one of these women claim to be furious to find out that they weren’t the only one, I wonder if they spare a moment to feel furious with themselves for having slept with a married man and for their contribution in his, perhaps, irretrievably damaged marriage. If so, their apologies have been far less public than Tiger’s have.

I have very little use for a person who abdicates the moral responsibility that they have for the choices that they make in life. Less use for those same folks when they start loudly proclaiming just how much they’ve been wronged.



I’m pretty sure if you all saved up a bit, you could afford to get me this rather special book.


I’m still not ready to forgive Aston Martin for their own sins, but I do have to note this: the design language that Ian Callum developed for the DB7 and that has been stretched and updated to fit through every other Aston Martin since, is reaching its limits. Still beautiful, it’s becoming, perhaps, a little too familiar. It is time to see that design language stretch and change--keeping some bits to maintain heritage, but new enough to enrapture those of us who see Astons as much as art as they are cars.

Negative comments notwithstanding, I think that this take from Ugur Sahin wouldn’t be a bad place to start. There are some beautiful shapes and lines, the overall design is nicely balanced, it doesn’t ignore the Aston’s recent heritage, but it is fresh and new in a way that none of the new Astons seem to be matching right now.

To be fair, though, the new Aston Martin Rapide is far, far prettier than Porsche’s Panamera, which is too awkward to be truly bland, but that doesn’t stop it from trying.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Speaking of the iPad…

...Apparently I need to buy a Hyundai Equus.

(Just kidding, you know. I’m a Ford guy at heart and a Mazda guy on the weekends.)

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.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Congratulations, New Orleans

I’m almost as surprised by the Saints’ win today as I was by Shannon Sharpe’s missing the final cut for the Hall of Fame. Happier about the former, though.

As disappointed as I am for Peyton Manning, it is impossible to be truly disappointed in the result.

Boo, on the other hand, to Audi for an ad that made me want to buy a Hummer. Or a Chris “Birdman” Anderson-mobile.




Thursday, September 03, 2009

Can I Get a Hell Yeah?

Dovetailing nicely with the last post--and with a mood that hasn’t subsided--comes this from Instapunk, whose vicious and vibrant take on politics and culture mirrors much of the way I’ve been feeling lately.

They are going to try to baffle us with bullshit in the next few months. We’ll be lectured and propagandized not to give in to feelings of paranoia, especially by the great intellects on our own side, because nothing nefarious is really afoot, and our own raging gut instincts are all wrong, ignorant, and laughable.

Here’s how you survive the con job, which is all an exercise in herding.

It’s a longish post, but it’s well worth your time.

As a bonus, and not without point, is a snippet of video from Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson driving an Aston Martin. The car is beautiful and so are the scenery and the soundrack (provided by a gorgeous V-12 overlaying some ambient bits of Brian Eno’s prettiest work, Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, which album also has some lovely touches from Daniel Lanois) but it’s just this side of maudlin.

If I may paraphrase Mr. Clarkson (watch the Aston Martin video), “I just have this horrible, dreadful feeling that what I’m experiencing here is an ending.” For him, it centers on that car while for me it centers on the freedom that I grew up believing in--a faith as strong as any other in my life.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Some Call it a Miracle. But Not in a Good Way.

Aston Martin makes a car that I don’t want.

I never thought it could happen; every Aston Martin that I’ve ever seen is a car that I want to drive or want to own. Every single one of them right up until now.

Aston Martin’s newest Lagonda, a resurrected name for a strange and awkward crossover vehicle, is blunt, ungainly, and unattractive. It is, in fact, the anti-Aston.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Christmas Gift Suggestions, Part 1

With Christmas not all that far off and all of you early shoppers wondering what to get me, I thought that it might make sense to put some suggestions out there. Useful suggestions for keeping the zomby in your life happy.

Gift Idea #1
You really can’t go wrong with a vintage Mustang. Say, perhaps, a 69 Shelby GT500 Convertible once owned by Carroll hisself.

That would be a great start. 

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Late Night Threesome

  1. Not ready for prime time.
    The headline and the idea of a “electric superbike” sounded pretty cool to me. A fast, smooth, battery-operated motorcycle with slick styling is just the kind of toy that my garage is begging for (although my checkbook holds veto power over these kinds of decisions). Unfortunately, the promise of the headline wasn’t carried through in the article.

    Top speed of 62 mph? Range of just 68 miles? What a waste of a pretty design.

  2. Too Much Pirates of the Caribbean in your diet?
    Nissan’s new crossover vehicle, the Rogue, may be a great little vehicle. It’s also awkward, ugly, entering a cluttered field of competitors, and poorly named. Rogue? Silly, cute, juvenile, and almost as awkward as the nose-heavy design and ungraceful wheel arches.

    Perhaps it was intended to appeal to a younger demographic or to women; and, perhaps, it actually does appeal to a younger demographic or to women. It sure as hell isn’t grabbing the David J Zombyboy demographic, though. Which, as any marketing professional will tell you, is the most important possible demographic to target.

  3. Thank you, beautiful.
    This Ford Thunderbird Italien, a one off concept car from the 60’s, would grab the DJZ demo with a death grip, though. I like some of Ford’s current crop of cars, but, aside from the Ford GT and to a far lesser extent the latest generation of Mustang, the designs range from tepid to staid. If for were to build a car as pretty as the T-Bird Italien, updated with contemporary materials and safety equipment, but with aggressive lines, distinctive visual touches (yes, even those big, round taillights), and the overwhelming personality, it would be on a short list of cars to buy when my car is paid off. Even in an era where cars have become something close to utilitarian appliances, personality and beauty still count.

    Hubba hubba.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

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