g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, March 3, 2007
18:32 - Hey, Butt-head. You know what sucks?

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Months ago, Chrysler put this special fold-out ad section into various car magazines, showcasing the developmental sketches for the new Sebring:



It's all abut "twenty-something, Viper-driving Todd Rabinowicz", the youthful design genius who penned this striking new concept. It discussed his vision from the exterior to the cockpit details, and I thought these drawings looked pretty frickin' sweet. A mid-size, sporty sedan that actually looks futuristic and breaks the three-box mold, actually managing to look fast and inspiring? Amazing!

... But of course it wasn't to last. Long ago I realized that automotive concept art was not a career for me, because this is the sort of thing they always seemed to turn people's visions into:



Gone is the road-hugging stance, which is always the first thing to go when a concept drawing is made reality and the 36-inch, ultra-low-profile wheels that people always draw filling out the wheel arches are replaced with regular consumer-grade tires. Gone are the low-slung proportions and tight greenhouse, probably in the interest of crap like "headroom". And to compensate for the sudden drop in visual interest, the design team added another side strake across the doors, at a seemingly random angle against the other creases that are already there, which makes the side look roughly like what happens if you T-bone a Ferrari 348.

Car magazines were cooler back when the only things they could show as illustrations of rumored upcoming designs were sketches from people who could make things like the first-generation Saturns look like vehicles out of Blade Runner. Nowadays, half the pictures of upcoming cars aren't drawings or official PR shots—they're computer renderings, done with such attention to detail and Internet-age movie magic that you can't tell one from a real photo without peeking at the credit caption. Now there's no more of the fanciful, blue-pencil concept sketches, because the 3D CG art has to look a lot closer to reality. And that's even more misleading than before, because the pseudo-photos had led us to believe that we'd be getting Murciélago-lookalike Lamborghini SUVs and the like, whereas if they'd just been drawings we'd have known not to take them too seriously.

Silly me for having forgotten that in the case of the Sebring.

Friday, March 2, 2007
21:06 - Good thing online petitions aren't legally binding
http://www.autoblog.com/2007/03/02/peta-goes-after-chrysler-group-for-iditarod-conne

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This would seem to be a fine demonstration of why.

PETA claims on its website that DaimlerChrysler is a sponsor of the 2007 Iditarod, which obviously is not the case, and invites its members to contact who it refers to as "DaimlerChrysler Corporation CEO" Tom LaSorda (Uh, that would be Dieter Zetsche, did you mean to say Chrysler Group CEO?). The organization conveniently has a page set up with a letter all written, all you have to do is type in your name and hit send. When did protestors get so lazy?

Regardless of your feelings towards the plight of sled dogs, PETA could at least put in the leg work to get its facts straight before it aims its gun of righteousness at the wrong target.

This seems to be a recurring theme.

("Plight", indeed. I wonder if anyone behind drafting the form letter in question has ever met a sled dog...)

Thursday, March 1, 2007
10:40 - Far from nügen
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=3164

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I should have linked this when it was new a week ago. As someone who only a few months ago turned in the keys to his much-beloved, stalwart Jetta VR6, it pains me to see Volkswagen laid so low:

The Phaeton landed in America (with an almighty thud) in 2002. By then, the company's wandering eye had placed its U.S. operations in harm's way. The core of their product portfolio– which is to say every car other than the Phaeton– was decidedly stale. From 2001 to 2005, VWoA sales fell down some 37%, to 224,195. Even worse, the Germans didn't seem to care.

The Jetta and Golf ranges exemplify the product neglect. While the rest of the world savored the Golf MK V in 2003, the older MK IV models hung around in the U.S. until 2005. The competition grew larger, more powerful and less expensive; the centerpiece of VWoA's U.S. lineup stood still. Volksie's rep for clever and compelling advertising nosedived as well; the brand lost both its populist edge and its competitive advantage.

When the new Jetta and Golf Rabbit finally arrived (last year), the real trouble began. Whereas the previous Jetta was a tidy, micro-luxury car that epitomized the VW-Audi design language of the day, the new Jetta looks like a badly photochopped Toyota Corolla. Bizarrely, VW nailed the Jetta's design in Europe; subsidiary Skoda’s Octavia is a far more coherent proposition.

I'm particularly gratified that someone else noticed this:

Corolla...


...And Jetta.


Volkswagen, what did I say that sounded like "The Jetta's as reliable as it needs to be; I just wish it looked more generic!"?

The Phaeton never seemed to make sense to me; I hoped it would succeed, but I never could convince myself that it would, and in the first SJ Auto Show where it was displayed, I cornered a fixed-grin-wearing presenter and tried to get her to tell me how it was selling, and I mean really selling, like for reals and all. Her airy "Oh, it's doing fine," was just hesitant enough to tell me all I needed to know.

Badge-engineering—poorly and politically executed—may be at the heart of all this. I've heard the theory that Audi was jealous of the previous-generation Passat's elegant solution to the mid-size, sporty sedan problem, and its attendant ubiquity—and that they pressured VW to move in a different direction so as to stop threatening A4 and A6 sales. But VW's move was upmarket, not down—aggressively upmarket, in a way that nobody else has ever done so quickly, probably because everybody else who analyzed the option thought it was stupid. And to nobody's surprise, it didn't work: the world may never be ready for an $80,000 Volkswagen, and certainly wasn't in 2002.

And now we see the result: emergency sandbagging and cost-cutting means we now have maintenance-pig fives instead of the buttery and elegant (but expensive) VR6, leatherette (you mean vinyl?) instead of leather, lackluster and derivative styling instead of the sharp and dapper lines I fell in love with in 1999, and the same initial-quality problems that they've suffered from for the past ten years—only now nobody's going to want to cut them a break for it.

If they'd spent their capital on improving quality and making their cars rock-solid (like the Japanese), then they would be in good enough shape today that they wouldn't have to be making their cars look yawningly nondescript (like the Japanese). But reputations for reliability take a while to cultivate, just as they take a while to wear down once they're established. It was apparently seen as an easier path to stardom to build high-end luxury vehicles, like the Touareg and Phaeton, which they could then proudly proffer as the base for things like the Cayenne and the Q7 and the A8. Which may have been somewhat successful, I don't know. I hardly think it was worth sacrificing the Jetta and Passat, though.

I've jumped ship to Audi. At least they seem to have it going on (even if they can't design armrests to save their life).

UPDATE: By the way, the Skoda Octavia does indeed look frickin' sweet. That is what an updated version of my Jetta should have looked like.


09:35 - This is what happens when you question global warming
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070226-sinkhole-photo.html

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Gaia eats you:

Photo in the News: Giant Sinkhole Swallows Guatemala Homes


Via Gruber. In other related news, via Tim Blair, I'm just glad I'm not likely ever to have kids—though not for the reasons you might think.

This is not a new observation, surely, but change the names and the issues around and this is pretty much indistinguishable from the global-warming debate—particularly the comments from the defendants in positions of authority. Both phenomena may well be for real, don't get me wrong; I don't have enough information to say. But the appeal to consensus and critical mass of scholarship ("What? Everybody knows that...") is tellingly similar.

If it's faith, it's faith. It's not a bad thing, but let's call it what it is.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007
09:11 - I hereby declare this day to be Snow Day, the funnest day in the history of Springfield!

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Most years we get one or two days like this, where a cold storm blows through the Bay Area and we get a dusting of snow on the eastern hills around Mt. Hamilton and Mt. Diablo.

It's rare, though, that we get snow right here on the Santa Cruz Mountains right behind my house, much less for two mornings in a row:



That Air Force box thing on top of Mt. Umunhum was probably still getting snowed on as I took this.


Further to the north, things were even heavier:


And off to the east, the hills that usually get a dusting, but that I can't see too well from my location:


It's things like this that remind me why living here is cool: you get so used to things being a certain way, and then it pulls something like this just to keep you on your toes. Like snow on palm trees.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
14:30 - Too clever by half

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Blame the public schools if you will, but I never learned how to swear in Spanish. It wasn't until just recently (and to some extent thanks to seeing Pan's Labyrinth the other night) that I realized that the frequently bandied-about word joder was, in fact, a swear word.

A little factoid that I filed away in my brain for a day or two, until suddenly, on an early-morning dog-walk, I realized something—a moment of gobsmackery not at all unlike the one described in this blog, which I found after a minute of fevered googling:

i also had a major revelation while i was wandering around the coast near duntulm castle on the isle of skye. it's about the part of princess bride where the guard says to inigo, "ho there!" and inigo says, "i'll give you ho there." i've been watching that movie since i was like 6, and taking spanish since i was 12, and it just occured to me while i was on that coast, traipsing across the rocks, that what inigo says is "i'll give you joder." i started laughing to myself, out loud, and i think people thought i was insane. but i am very proud of myself, all the same.

You ever get that feeling? At least I know it's not just me.

I like that the world's full of these little hidden pearls.

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© Brian Tiemann