Sunday, November 22, 2015

Who Was More of a Car Enthusiast? A Prius Driver or Hitler?

I was inspired to write this by the various discussions on Jalopnik regarding the Toyota Prius, and whether or not a Prius Owner was a "real" car enthusiast.

What is an average Prius owner, what do they look like, think like, etc.  Are they real automobile enthusiast or are they just ignorant eco-weenies?

Let's start with me.  I admit, I do not actually own a Prius right now, that is because I am waiting for the new Prius to become available.  Does this mean I do not qualify as a Prius owner?  Just because I am interested enough in the new technology to wait until the next and more advanced car comes out?  No, that means I'm a car enthusiast, i.e. I care about what car I'm getting, and if I have to wait for it, I will.

Now for some history, from which you may make up your own mind if I am a car enthusiast or not. I did not care much for cars until about 1960.  Our family did not have a car until 1961.  We had only one road to the outside world from our town.  But then I was about 12 or 13 years old, and I bought a Road & Track magazine on an impulse.  Actually, I still have that magazine.  I also bought a paperback book "Kings of the Road" by Ken Purdy.  Do you know that book?  Then congratulations, you may be a car nerd.  Yes, I still have that book too.  Soon after, I bought a subscription to "Car and Driver", and read every magazine that came in the mail voraciously.  I was very interested in cars.  I was car crazy, I guess, and other people started making jokes about my obsession.  Our family got its first car about that time, a little Envoy, the Canadian market version of the British Vauxhall.

I persuaded my Father to teach me to drive, he liked to take me out on the paved highway outside town, and let me drive on a very twisty road through the mountains.  Many years later, there was simple sign at the start of the road north of town: "Dangerous curves, next 200 km"  I guess at the time, we didn't know they were dangerous.  Of course the car had a standard transmission, and only about 35 horsepower.  Every hill needed on or maybe two downshifts. (There were only three gears.)  I had my first traffic accident at fourteen, driving without a licence.  Hitting the back of a Police car that was attempting to pull me over for having a licence plate light burned out.

I didn't drive any more until I was 17.  Then I failed my first drivers test, and had to wait until I was almost 18 before I could try again with the new family car: A 1965 Dodge Coronet with a 318 V8 and Torqueflite automatic transmission.  I was pretty relieved to pass that test.

A few years went by, I was in college, I had no money to buy a car, but my Dad often let me have the keys to the car when I was at home in the summer or at Christmas.  I don't want to write about the stupid things I did with that car, but I have memories, which sometimes I still share with my younger brother and high school friends.

By 1969, I still have no car, but I am graduating.  Instead of getting a real job, I end up with the Peace Corps (CUSO actually, because I am not American) in Africa for a few years.  While in Africa, I could afford a small motorcycle, so I bought a Honda 175 which I maintained entirely myself, by teaching myself mechanics, and I drove it all over the country racking up 15,000 miles.  That was my first motor vehicle of my own, and it started a life long love affair with motorcycles.  I had to sell that bike when I left Africa and came back to Canada.  But I loved it, and today I have two and a half of those bikes.  Yes, one looks exactly like the bike I had in Africa.  The other one is the wrong colour, but it actually was shipped to Canada from Africa where it had been used in the early seventies by a different CUSO volunteer.

Ooops.  I guess that means I'm not a real car enthusiast.  What was the definition of a car enthusiast again? Is it somebody who loves the technology, the driving skill, getting your hands dirty fixing a motor vehicle when it when it goes wrong?  Or is it strictly that you own a four wheeler that doesn't lean into curves, with nice doors to keep you safe, and windows and a roof to keep you dry and keep your hair from getting mussed up?  I think we need to answer these questions.  Or maybe each one of you Prius haters need to clarify exactly what you mean by a car enthusiast.

So to summarize, I don't own a Prius, and I don't even really qualify as a "car" enthusiast as I am probably more of a "Motorcyclist".  So be it.

There is lots more to my story. You probably don't need to hear it, because my point is, everyone is different.  You should be just know that everyone has their own story.  Don't judge me.  And don't say I'm not a car enthusiast just because I may soon be driving a Prius.

Picture: It is true: Hitler was a car enthusiast. I encourage you to read his story before judging.  If you haven't already.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The New Toyota Prius (Gen 4) Unveiling

I have been waiting for about 6 months to get an idea of what the new Toyota Prius (Fourth generation) will look like.  Mary Ann wants to get one, and I'm hoping it will not look too horrible, as we will have only one car.

Last night was the big unveiling, followed by the usual slew of hate from the "automotive enthusiasts" out there on the Internet. Forbes Magazine (The Capitalist tool) titled article "2016 Toyota Prius Hybrid: World's Least Dramatic Car Gets a Dramatic Makeover".  The Verge announces "Toyota just launched an all-new Prius, and it looks weirder than ever".

Jalopnik, a car website that incidentally has a lot of Toyota hating readers, had an article titled "2016 Toyota Prius: WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB". I don't get it, maybe my age showing.

But among the comments on this Jalopnik article, some are surprisingly logical. Such as:  Admitting the rear light doesn't look too bad, but then the first time if you crash it in a parking lot and it costs $500 to replace the light, but then a Ford F150 taillight probably costs more, but it has built in blind spot monitoring.

My own thoughts: "The first time"? I have never cracked a rear taillight in 50 years.  Neither has Mary Ann.  And anyway, isn't that what "Blind spot monitoring built in" is supposed to prevent on the Ford Truck?  But then I suppose some other hit and run driver might leave you with a cracked taillight.  And with my usual karma, I will smash the taillight the first week I have the Prius.

Then several other comments are the usual emotional hate that could apply to any new style of car or motorcycle: "It's fugly." or more emphatically "It's fug-fug-fuggitty-fugly."  And there is also an animated Gif showing a US army tank crushing a Toyota Prius. Those commenters definitely need to ease up.  World War Two is over, man.

My feeling is, the car doesn't look too horrible, that's all I really needed to know.  Mary Ann likes the taillights.  I like the "bump" on the hood.  I can get used to the look of the car, just like I got used to the Toyota Matrix and every other car I have owned.

The 2016 Prius has better gas mileage than the old Prius (so Toyota says), and now for the first time, independent rear suspension.  That could be good.

I'm interested in getting a different color  (our Matrix is silver). Toyota says there are seven exterior colours, which unfortunately is no more than is available with the current Prius. The current 2015 Prius has red, and six colours ranging from white to black with shades of grey and silver. The new red for 2016 is apparently made with a new process that is deeper or something.  I'll have to see that for myself, because in the unveiling photos, my computer screen has it looking the same as other reds.

Picture: New Toyota Prius in red.  I enhanced it on my computer with a little extra colour saturation (70%) Now it's very red.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Hidden (to some people) Message of "The Interview"

Last night, "The Interview" was on at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo.  I went to see it on my own, as Mary Ann is not overly fond of fart jokes, sexist humour, and defying Kim Jon Un.

My initial interest in the movie was that I actually do find Seth Rogan's humour to be funny despite the occasional fart joke.  But then, when the full release of the movie at Christmas was cancelled because of threats from North Korea, it was of course my patriotic duty to see the movie at my local underground art movie theatre.

I had a few laughs, and was entertained all the way through.  But more importantly, I think there is a hidden message in the movie.  I say hidden, because apparently some people just didn't see it, although it is glaringly obvious.  This movie is a message about propaganda, not only in the movie itself, but the hype and controversy around the movie too. You can take it on many different ways.  One way to look at the movie, is that it is deliberate American propaganda, supported by the government agencies, to try and discredit Kim Jon Un. Another way to understand it is that North Korea is trying to block opposing propaganda with terror threats.  Or maybe the terror threats are all made up, as there is no hard evidence the North Koreans ever threatened anything other than their usual thermonuclear war.  Of course, thermonuclear war doesn't worry anyone in the USA, but the idea of a crazed Korean gunman wandering into a movie theatre somewhere does get people excited.

Inside the movie the subliminal message is that propaganda and manipulation is everywhere. Propaganda and manipulation are slightly different, in that manipulation is more on an individual basis, while propaganda is usually for the masses, but the lines are being blurred.  The CIA uses a "honeypot" manipulation to get our hero, Skylark, (James Franco) to cooperate in assassinating Kim Jong Un.  Skylark is easily manipulated by a beautiful female CIA agent wearing glasses (even though he later finds out the sexy glasses are as fake as everything else).  Skylark is also easily manipulated by Kim Jon Un, despite being adequately warned by Seth Rogan before meeting the Dear Leader and master of manipulation. Un comes across as a very likable guy, and even had me taken in during the movie.  How can you kill a guy that plays Katy Perry music in  his tank while doing a little artillery practice on local trees?  And wonders if Margaritas are too gay?  And gives you an adorable puppy that reminds you of the dog you had when you were growing up?

At the end of the movie I was truly shocked to find out that Kim Jong Un was actually a ruthless dictator who deserved to die. At least, if you can believe the propaganda.