...giving me an opportunity to sample the automotive world on the other side of the world's longest international border.
When not walking his namesake, helping out with the Boy Scouts, or attending to his day job, Cookie the Dog's Owner can be found hurtling down the twisty back roads of Ohio in a Volkswagen GTI Mk. V with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers blasting out of the stereo. He learned to drive on a succession of pathetic mid-70s domestic cars, and his first true automotive love was a 1985 Honda Civic CRX. He is married and has two sons, and is philosophically opposed to automatic transmissions.
It's a Presidential election year, and you've seen this car, or another one like it, or maybe it was a pickup truck, probably hundreds of times on the road in the past few months: the rear vertical surfaces and windows covered with self-adhesive messages of support for multiple causes and candidates, often from election cycles past. These share space with other stickers forcefully proclaiming unfavorable evaluations of the intelligence and decency of those people--fellow citizens who do not share the driver's political preferences. The most strident of these may go so far as to wish death and worse fates on those people--and they score double bonus irony points if they're right next to a "Coexist" sticker.
The owner of that car, or truck, is engaged in "virtue signaling," the practice of loudly proclaiming just how kind, decent, and enlightened you are. Though virtue signalling is as old as human nature, the phrase is a recent coinage. Its inventor, British writer James Bartholomew, observed:
It’s noticeable how often virtue signaling consists of saying you hate things. It is camouflage. The emphasis on hate distracts from the fact you are really saying how good you are. If you were frank and said, ‘I care about the environment more than most people do’ or ‘I care about the poor more than others’, your vanity and self-aggrandisement would be obvious . . . . Anger and outrage disguise your boastfulness.
Now, it's a free country and it's your back bumper and if you want to use it to promote your cause or your candidate, you're free to do so--but here's something to think about before you all but cover your turn signals with virtue signals. When I see the rear fascia of your car completely stickered-over in this fashion, I have two reactions:
You've signaled your political leanings so clearly that I can probably deduce your position on any of the day's great issues to within a couple of decimal places before I've even met you.
I'm less inclined to want to meet you, even if I agree with you, because you've also signaled that you're one of those dreary "the personal is political" sorts who can't talk about anything but politics.
Please, don't be that guy (or gal). The personal is not always political, political differences need not be personal ones, and we could all use a break from the election-year debate. Let's turn down the volume on the virtue signals and have more non-political spaces in society where we can all interact over something besides our party affiliations.
We can start right here. Hit the comments below and talk about your favorite nonpartisan automotive topic.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner (who keeps the back of his GTI sticker-free, just so everyone knows that he's not one of those people.)
It's the time of year when Northeast Ohio is invaded by giant anthropomorphic hamsters--in other words, it's time once more for the Cleveland Auto Show.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
A curious find from my wife's ancestral photo albums.
The license plates all read "Ohio 1924," so we can date the photo to the warm weather months of that particular year, but we have no idea who took the picture, exactly where in Ohio it was taken, or what the connection is to my wife's family (if there even is one). One of the sailors in the middle car is holding a polo mallet, which gives us some idea of what the game was.
If you can identify the gasoline-burning "polo ponies," or any of the other cars in the picture, or have any better idea of what was going on, leave a comment.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
You are being watched....
John Reese (Jim Caviezel) is a former CIA assassin living homeless on the streets of New York City, drinking heavily and contemplating suicide after being betrayed by his employer and suffering a devastating personal loss. He meets the mysterious Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), a billionaire software genius living in well-crafted anonymity, who extends Reese an unusual job offer.
I've got a list, a list of people who are about to be involved in very bad situations: murders, kidnappings....Most of them are just ordinary people - like her....I want you to follow her, figure out what's gonna happen, and stop it from happening.
The source of Finch's "list" is The Machine, artificial intelligence software he built for the federal government after 9/11 to data-mine computerized records, e-mails, surveillance video, and telephone conversations ("... watching us with ten thousand eyes, listening with a million ears.") and use that data to predict terrorist attacks and threats to national security.
Finch's creation proved to be very good at its job--too good. The Machine successfully detected future terrorist attacks and threats to national security--and thousands of other future crimes that had nothing to do with terrorism or national security. In order to get it to provide only that information the government wanted, Finch had to instruct The Machine to sort its predictions into "relevant" and "irrelevant" categories, and delete the irrelevant ones--even though not acting on that information allows people to be hurt or killed.
Spurred to action by a loss of his own, Finch programs The Machine to send him the Social Security numbers of people on the irrelevant list. ("...nine digits, that's all we get.") Using his money and Reese's skills, he embarks on a private mission to stop everyday crimes before they happen, to save the world one "irrelevant number" at a time.
Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but, victim or perpetrator, if your number's up, we'll find you.
This is the premise of Person of Interest, a television series which has been on the air for four years, and in December finished filming 13 episodes of its fifth season for broadcast sometime in the spring, what is widely expected to be its final run. "POI," as we fans call it, is simultaneously a case-of-the-week detective show, a fatalistic espionage drama, a noir vigilante comic book--Batman without the bats--a serious work of hard science fiction grounded in cutting-edge computer science, a cautionary tale about surveillance technology, a meditation on good and evil, and above all a tale of broken people seeking redemption--not just the best SF series I've ever seen (sorry, Star Trek!), but the best-written drama I've ever seen, period.
Though it has its fair share of car chases and stunts, POI is not a particularly car-centric show. Nevertheless, I've identified a few subjects of interest (get it?) regarding the automobiles used in the series.
My wife recently came into a collection of old photographic negatives that belonged to her Uncle Bud and Aunt Ora. We began running them through the fancy new photo scanner and image-editing software that Santa brought us, and came across this interesting image.
It's one of a set of pictures Uncle Bud took on a visit to Great Uncle Homer's farm. (That's Homer himself in the picture below.) The license plate dates the roll of film to 1937. The car is obviously much older than that, but I have no idea of the exact year, make, or model. I am not enough of a student of cars of this period to know if the radiator design or the little diamond motifs on the bumper have any identifying significance. I racked up the scanner's resolution as high as our computer could stand, but there are no badges, scripts, or other identifying markings that I could make out. The OEM hood ornament or Moto-Meter has been replaced with an aftermarket Donald Duck figurine--establishing Great Uncle Homer's status as a Disney fan beyond a reasonable doubt, but giving us no help in identifying the car.
So, can anyone out there help us out? If you know what this car is, or might be, leave a comment below.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
Submitted for your amusement, a clip from the delightful German police fantasy Alarm fur Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei, in which our hero Komissar Semir Gerkhan (Erdogan Atalay) drives a BMW M-1 in pursuit of a Porsche 917 endurance racer like the one Steve McQueen drove in Le Mans.
This is the place to talk about BMW M1s, Porsche 917s, Cobra 11, endurance racing, dueling 1970s super cars in general, the new road toy you got for Christmas, or anything else automotive.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
Dad's '67 LeMans wasn't the first car I actually owned, but it was the car I learned to drive in, and the car I had more or less unrestricted use of once the state of Ohio gave me permission to be out on the public roads without adult supervision.
Ours was a bronze-ish shade called "Coronado Gold," topped with a black vinyl roof, much like the one in the photo at right. It had bucket seats and a console shifter for the automatic, and there was a V-8 under the hood, probably a 326, with a single carb. Even with steelies and hubcaps instead of mag wheels, and a mere AM radio with a single speaker in the dash, it seemed sporty enough to a 15-year old with a learner's permit and a burning desire to go faster than the law would allow as long as Mom and Dad weren't watching.
Truth be told, it wasn't all that great a car.
We'll start the second installment of our series on last Saturday's Studebaker Drivers Club meet in Talmadge with a look at the Larks.
The Ohio Chapter of the Studebaker Drivers Club gets together in Talmadge in late August every year for what is touted, quite accurately, as the largest one-day Studebaker meet on the planet.
It was a beautiful day in Northeast Ohio last Saturday, perfect for walking around the Studebaker Drivers Club Ohio Chapter meet in Talmadge.
Today's discussion will deal with an automobile I saw there that is anything but delightful. In fact, one might go so far as to call it disturbing. We're talking about a vehicle that flirts with Ssangyong Rodius and Fiat Multipla levels of wrongness. Before you scroll down or click the "continue reading" link, just remember: once you see something, you can't un-see it.
This 10-minute educational film from 1936 is probably the best explanation you will ever see of the inner workings of a manual transmission.
This is the place to discuss stick shifts, or any other automotive topic that strikes your fancy.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner