Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mercedes 190D Fintail-Heckflosse Blinker

I was out at the post office today and saw a wonderful 190D Fintail. I tried to take a picture of it for this blog's Carspotting series, but my crappy phone camera overexposed the white saloon.

When I tried to take a rear 3/4 shot, I noticed in the viewfinder the humungous amber turn signal lamps on the front fenders. Those projections must reduce the car's coefficient of drag by half.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Am Ayrton Senna

I just took a short survey on Facebook to see which F1 driver I am. According to the program, I am Ayrton Senna because:
"A hard charging genius, you are a complete driver but your sportsmanship is at times questionable. Other drivers fear you rather than respect you for your total ruthlessness, but you will be remembered as a hero."

All true.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Isuzu Obituary


Isuzu Motors America, LLC, of Cerritos, California, went to heaven on January 31, 2009. Isuzu passed away quietly in its sleep after years on life support.

Isuzu America was born to parents Tokyo Ishikawajima Shipbuilding & Engineering Company and Tokyo Gas & Electric Industrial Company in 1980 and sold its first vehicle, the P'up, in 1981. In its youth, it was known for its line-up of quirky compact cars and even quirkier pitchman, Joe Isuzu (nee David Leisure). As it matured, it came out with one SUV after another.

Isuzu America's first marriage was to Geo, son of General Motors. This was followed by a marriage of convenience with Honda. The Passport/Rodeo, Trooper/Acura SLX, and Odyssey/Oasis were born out of that union. Eventually, Isuzu was reunited with the General. By the end of its life, it was as if the two were one and the same.

Isuzu's lasting legacy will be its range of boxy, underpowered SUVs: the Trooper, the Amigo, the Rodeo, and the VehiCross. Celebrity owners of Isuzu's include: None.

It is survived by a skeletal patchwork of service dealerships which will continue to honor warranties and roadside assistance programs.

When asked for his thoughts, David Leisure responded "I thought they already had stopped selling here."

Funeral arrangements will be announced shortly, or not.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memory of Isuzu to the following not-for-profit organization:
-General Motors


Sunday, January 25, 2009

LiveNation Is A Rip Off

So Dave Attell, my favorite comic, is going to be in town in a few weeks. It's gonna be sold out so I bought a couple of tickets on LiveNation. The face value is $35.50 per ticket. But there's more. There's a $5.55 per ticket "convenience fee". Then there's the $18.50 delivery fee. And finally, there's a $3 "order fee". The total was $103.60. I could have bought an extra ticket with all those fees. I'm sure Mr. Attell would have a few choice words for the good people at LiveNation.

El Jarro In Lafayette Now Open for Breakfast On Weekends

El Jarro is by far the best Mexican restaurant in Lamorinda. I always get the Mexican torta sandwiches. My favorite is the Toluca (below), which has roasted pork loin, chorizo, Oaxacan cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and a grilled roll.

This morning, we drove by while running errands and noticed that it was open. Apparently, this is the second weekend that it has been open for breakfast. The menu is both traditional American (pancakes, waffles, eggs) and Mexican. I had the Oaxacan breakfast ($10). It had corn tortillas with black beans and queso fresco on top, a large-ish linguisa sausage, a small-ish portion of home fries, and two eggs. It was pretty damn tasty, and did not feel heavy or greasy.

With breakfast options limited in Lamorinda, and with El Kaliente in El Sobrante going downhill at a precipitous pace, El Jarro may have just become our favorite breakfast joint.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shanghai McNuggets

The 80s was a crazy time at McDonald's. Briefly, in 1986, the Shanghai McNuggets came with chopsticks, McFortune cookies, and your choice of Oriental dipping sauces-- teriyaki, sweet and sour, and hot mustard.

That kid in the ad was the son in Alf!


The First Porsche Sedan

Porsche's first sedan was this one-off, based on a 1967 911. It was created, with Porsche's blessing, by coachbuilder Troutman-Barnes.

The 911 at speed was already squirrelly around the bend. To stretch the rear-engined car probably made it even more difficult to control.

The pseudo-suicide door configuration may have inspired later Saturn and Mazda models.

It did look charming, in a freakish kind of way.

The back seats are identical to the front seats.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Ghetto Tamale = Doritos + Top Ramen

I've got to try this.


British Road Safety PSAs

These public service announcements, starring Mr. and Mrs. Blunder, are disturbing. But the shots of vintage 1970s British cars are fantastic.


Washing A Jaguar XJ40 Police Car

One word: Weird.


Minichamps/Kyosho Homologation In Black Series

With the current economic downturn, the die cast car industry has ground to a virtual halt. I mean, who has $50 to spend on a useless 1/43 scale toy car? Minichamps, my favorite die cast manufacturer, is especially hurting. I've been waiting patiently for months now as it keeps delaying the debut of its Aston Martin Lagonda and 1967 Chevy Camaro. It appears that Minichamps is trying to save development costs and is just selling older models with new paint schemes.

Hence, we come to the Homologation In Black Series. In partnership with Kyosho, Minichamps is selling past models, painted in matte black, limiting the cars' production to around 1,500 per model, and making them only available in Japan. It's gimicky, but it may just work. These cars look down right sinister.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Conan O'Brien at Detroit Auto Show

That Conan O'Brien is a car buff cannot be denied. The 2009 Detroit Auto Show was depressing, but Conan was able to bring some levity to the somber event. Here is Conan with a Lotus, Camaro, and a Buick.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Goodbye to Bush

,As Bush's helicopter heads for Andrews AFB, the crowd in the Mall sings in unison: Na na na na, hey hey hey, good bye.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Carspotting (7): Porsche 356

This is a pretty bad-ass Porsche. First, it's missing its front bumpers, which gives it a race prepped look. Second, the body is less than perfect. There is noticeable bubbling underneath the paint in the front portion of the hood. This is a daily driver that refuses to be pampered like many trailer/garage queens.

My first and only ride in a 356 happened when I was in 6th grade. My friend E's dad had a silver cabrio that was out of sight. Back then, I thought I was riding in a mildly unique (and very windy) car. Today, I regret not truly appreciating it.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Cheney In A Wheelchair

Cheney will be in a wheelchair tomorrow at the inauguration because he supposedly hurt his back while moving some boxes. Bullshit. He is only doing so to elicit sympathy and diffuse calls for him to be tried for war crimes.

Another war criminal tried to use the poor-old-me-in-a-wheelchair routine. Remember Pinochet?


Carspotting (6): Mercedes-Benz 300D

Here we have a great example of an unmolested American 300D. In California, and particularly in the Bay Area, many of these classics have been converted to run on biodiesel.

The W123 was the most popular Mercedes ever. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of W123s are still used today as cabs in the Middle East and Africa.

The American version can be distinguished by its rounded lights (this newer model has yellow fog lamps), larger and uglier bumpers, and emissions control devices.


F1 Manufacturer Line Up

The narrower rear spoilers and the lobster claw-like front spoilers will take some getting used to.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Iosepa: Hawaiians In Utah

I was browsing an archaeology magazine when I came upon an article about Native Hawaiians who settled in Utah.

In the mid-1800s, Mormons went to Hawaii (and other Polynesian islands) to convert the locals. They were somewhat successful and some of the converts wanted to join the Mormons in their Utah homeland. By 1889, about 75 Hawaiians were in Utah. These neophytes were the target of curiosity and discrimination. A reservation was set aside at Skull Valley in Utah, about 75 miles southwest of SLC, for the Hawaiians. The community was named Iosepa after Joseph Smith.

The harsh desert environment and disease equaled failure. By 1917, Iosepa was a ghost town.


Overland Silk Road Tour In Land Rovers

While waiting in the doctor's office, I came across an archaeology (!) magazine. In it was an ad for a 60 day overland journey in Land Rover Discoveries. It is run by a Canadian outfit and will run each person about 20,000 Euros.

The journey starts in Istanbul in April and will go through Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang, and end in Beijing. It looks like fun.


Calistoga's Jole and Napa's Mustards Grill: A Study In Location

Location, location, location. A great location will make any restaurant, good or bad, successful.

Study No. 1: Jole in Calistoga. With Wappo Bar dying a slow and painful death, the Calistoga food scene needs a morale boost. Along comes Jole, which opened last summer. The menu pasted on the front window was tempting. For the first time, I realized how the font and design of the menu itself can attract, or dissuade, potential diners. Of course, its location is great. It is smack dab in the middle of downtown, next to the modern Mount View Hotel. Its mantra is "Farm to Table". To me, it invokes freshness and simplicity. What I ended up getting was overpriced and underwhelming.

First, the staff will warn you that all of the items, including entrees, are small. The entire repertoire is meant to be a tasting menu. Fine. I started with a bowl of the mushroom soup. It was a relatively generous portion. The stock was too rich and overpowering. Plus, it was just plain greasy. We shared two sides, 1) the roasted butternut squash and 2) brussel sprouts with capers (too many), balsamic vinegar and lemon (too little). The vegetables were fresh and well executed, but could easily be replicated at home. The pomme frite was thin, overfried (to the point of charred), and limp.

Then, we come to my entree, potato and crab encrusted cod. It is topped with slices of avocado and grapefruit and comes with saffron sauce on the side. Sounds great, right? Wrong. I understand this isn't TGI Fridays, but the cod was about the size of a large computer chip. It had the look and consistency of firm almond tofu. It had zero flavor. I actually poured some salt on it to elicit something, anything. The top of the cod was covered with a crust of "potato and crab", but it just tasted like semi-burnt toast. The white (?) saffron sauce was as bland as the cod.

But so what? Why does it matter what I think. The restaurant was full. It will continue to do brisk business, despite the food. With so many tourists walking past, a chic interior, and clever marketing, this place will do well, no matter what.

Study No. 2: Mustards Grill in Napa. This place is blessed with an equally enviable location. It sits at the trailhead of Highway 29, Napa's own Route de Vins. But the people who own Mustards do not solely depend on its location; they work hard at making the food and service stand out.

Here is a rundown of what I had/shared:
-Lobster chowder with crab: not very creamy, assertive presence of white wine, carrots and onions were delicately and lightly cooked on the frying pan before being tossed into the soup, a healthier and California take on a New England staple.
-Roasted artichokes: artichokes not very substantial flesh-wise but the taste was very "meaty", charred bits on the outside but cooked perfectly inside, I could snack on these all day.
-Salad with pear, pecans, and gorgonzola: Synergy is a BS corporate word, except when it comes to describing this salad.
-Mushroom and egg on toast: A unique take on the croque madame; rich melange of chantrelle mushrooms, sunny side up egg, thin pieces of parmesan, reduction sauce, and toast; almost overwhelming in texture and taste; will leave you speechless for about 30 seconds.
-Ribeye steak with brocollini and potato au gratin: Best steak I've had in ages- flavor, seasoning, tenderness, juiciness all perfect; sides were excellent and well thought out.

Mustards Grill easily wallops Jole. I was shocked at the end of my Mustards Grill meal to find that my meal at Jole cost $50 more. That, my friends, is offensive.


McLaren, Minichamps, And Maserati

To do my part (albeit small) in getting this economy moving forward, I bought two totally useless things. Item number one is an exquisite and highly detailed 36"x26" poster of every car McLaren has ever produced.

Item number two is a Minichamps 1/43 version of the original Maserati Quattroporte.

I bought both at the die cast car shop in Napa. It's along Highway 29, just south of Bistro Don Giovanni. I try to drop by every time I'm up in the Wine Country.


Friday, January 16, 2009

American Stars Shilling Japanese Cars

Since the ascendancy of the almighty yen in the 1980s, Western movie stars and singers have sold their souls by pitching Japanese products. Thanks to Japander and Youtube, I give you the Top Ten Japanese car ads starring Gaijin stars.

1. Mickey Rourke / Daihatsu Charade. I wonder if he had to wrestle with his conscience on this one.

2. Ray Charles / Honda Civic. Well, at least he's not driving.

3. Tom Berenger / Lark cigarettes. I think Ronin's Nice chase scene was an homage to this ad.

4. Roger Moore / Toyota Corona. Ichi-ban?!

Find it here

5. Jodie Foster / Honda Civic. It should have been a shampoo commercial.

6. Bruce Willis / Subaru Outback. Shave ice fan.

7. Jennifer Lopez / Subaru Legacy. A story, a song, a car.

8. Eddie Murphy / Toyota Celica. Glamourous styling?!

9. Jean Reno / Honda Orthia. Is he speaking Japanese, English, or French?

Find it here.

10. Charlize Theron / Honda. She's purty...


Carspotting (5): Jaguar XJ6

I came upon this magnificent XJ6 in Oakland. I always confuse the Series 1 XJ with its Daimler Sovereign twin. The XJ6 was offered with a 2.8 liter or 4.2 liter six cylinder. This is truly an old school Jag.


80s Wendy's Communist Evening Wear Ad

This ad perfectly captures the spirit of this blog: 1980s TV, Cold War geopolitics, and of course, food.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cerny's Entropa And European Stereotypes

To celebrate the Czech Republic's ascendency to the EU presidency, artist David Cerny was commissioned to create a piece of art which represents Europe. The controversial piece, called Entropa, makes fun of each EU member instead. In fact, to represent Great Britain's separateness from the rest of Europe, it is not even in the artwork.

Romania and Dracula

The Netherlands, underwater except for minarets

Italy and its naughty football players

Germany and its autobahn (some say in the pattern of a swastika)

France on strike

Denmark in Legos

Bulgaria as a Turkish toilet

Other countries:
-Spain as a big construction site
-Luxembourg is a gold nugget with a for sale sign
-Poland has priests raising a rainbow flag
-Lithuania has its soldiers peeing on Russia
-Sweden is a box of IKEA furniture
-Greece glows red with brush fires


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Walk Signals

I'm reading a book about traffic. A part of it discusses traffic signals and what should represent "stop" and "go". Here are different interpretations of "go" to pedestrians around the world.



New York City