Walk around any major city and you’ll see an entirely new and utterly baffling phenomenon: the person, usually male but occasionally on the distaff side, wearing a FitBit or other heart-rate tracker on one arm and a watch on the other. Why would anybody bother to do this? After all, virtually every fitness tracker you can buy has a perfectly accurate, maintenance-free digital watch built in — and don’t forget that the average Westerner in 2017 spends half their life looking at their phone, which has a satellite-synchronized clock built right into it. Why are people carrying around three watches when surely they only need one?
The answer is simple even if it’s a bit embarrassing. If you grew up in the WASP tradition or any social circle remotely affiliated with it, you know that there are only two acceptable items of jewelry that a man can wear. The first is his wedding ring. The second is a wristwatch. That’s it, period, point blank. The H1-B crowd at my job all wear a gold necklace with some kind of gold charm on it, my old mentor used to wear gold rings and ropes to match his velour tracksuits, and the Eurotrash-Brit types I just did a couple of features with over in Europe all wear multiple precious-metal and corded bracelets like high school girls who got a $500 gift certificate to the local Pandora at their sweet sixteen party, but the people who have the United States Of America don’t get to wear that stuff. They get a ring and a watch. Period.
Once Hans Wilsdorf created the marketing miracle known as Rolex, the eighteen-karat yellow-gold Datejust or Day-Date became a universally-recognized symbol of success. In no time at all, the world learned a new kind of value language. A stainless-steel Rolex was the equivalent of driving a Buick; it meant that you had enough money to spend on luxuries. The gold Rolex was a Cadillac-like statement of fiscal exuberance. After the excess of the Eighties died down, many people put their gold watches away because they didn’t like the way other people interpreted that particular social signal. It didn’t help that the stainless-steel Daytona became an absolute icon both of motorsport and of sporting watches after Paul Newman was spotted wearing one. For many years, the gold Rolex was more of a punchline or a stereotype than anything else, associated with oil money, crime money, and new money.
Our modern Gilded Age hasn’t yet done much to change that. It’s still not really acceptable for a WASP to wear a gold watch. To accommodate the need of our imperial plutocracy to spend more money, Rolex now offers some of their watches in white gold and/or platinum. (The new white-gold GMT-Master II is the hottest thing out there for people who can put the cash equivalent of an Accord V6 Coupe into a watch.) Yet the company has nontrivial economic reasons to get people interested in gold watches once more. There’s about 2.5 ounces of gold in a gold Rolex, roughly $3,200 in today’s money, but the markup between a stainless steel GMT-Master and an 18k yellow gold GMT-Master is a staggering $15,200. With twelve grand here and twelve grand there in a company that can easily make, and sell, a million watches per year — well, pretty soon that’s real money.
As a consequence, there’s an odd new marketing program at Rolex which might lead to a chance for you, the average watch-wearing typa dude, to make money on your next watch instead of losing it.
When I was seven years old my parents got me a Green Machine. Let the record show that at the same age my son was doing 40+ mph in a TopKart — but that’s the difference between having hip urban parents like I had and a hick-ass of a dad like my son has. Despite its lack of an engine or anything approaching high-speed stability, the Green Machine was actually a lot of fun and I rode it until the plastic front wheel showed genuine signs of deterioration.
The Green Machine you see above is even better — it’s the current-gen Camaro SS 1LE. I had a chance to run it around Mid-Ohio for a session. Unfortunately, the track was damp in most places and had standing water in some, but I still learned quite a bit about the car and its massive dynamic envelope. Look for a writeup in the near future.
In the meantime, here are a few things we did earlier.
Note: This was the very first article I wrote about old cars that was published online, back in August 2011. Not unsurprisingly, it is about a Porsche. Now that I have a couple of hundred articles under my belt, it has been redone and prettied up from its original iteration. -TK
My father is a Porsche guy, more specifically a 356 Porsche guy. He had them before he was married and before us kids came along, including several 356s-a 1951 Cabriolet, two 1960 Roadsters, and a 356C coupe, along with many parts cars. He’s been a member of the 356 Registry since the mid-’70s, and still has most of the magazines. In the early years of the new Millennium, he had settled down with one 356B Roadster and his daily driver, a midnight blue 2001 Carrera.
My mother was used to cars coming and going over the past thirty-five years. Heck, back when they were dating in the early 1970s he regularly stashed a parts car behind her parents’ house. Above picture is from about 1973. Even that toasty light gray Roadster would be worth big bucks now! But back then it was just a rusty, crusty $100 parts car.
But no new (or rather, additional) Porsches had entered the family for quite some time. The 356B Roadster had been in the family since 1988. Bought as an engine-less basket case, a friend restored it in his spare time when he wasn’t at his day job at the body shop of the local Buick-Dodge-Mazda dealer. But then one evening in the spring of 2003 she mentioned that there was an old Targa parked with a For Sale sign on 30th Street in Rock Island. Dad drove over, checked it out, then called the number in the window. In short order, he found out it was being sold by an old friend from high school.
He and Dan had gone on a road trip to Denver right after high school graduation in his new 1970 Boss 302, where they had the chrome Magnum 500 wheels stolen in a parking garage and left on jack stands. Fun! He had to call my grandfather and have money wired to get new wheels and tires from the Ford dealer in town. So yes, they go back quite a few years. So he bought the 912. Mom was less than thrilled.
Sorry this one is late, but for once I have an excuse: Both Bark and I were participating in the 2017 SCCA Targa Southland. Brother Bark and his co-driver Rebecca drove a new Honda Civic Type R, provided by Honda, to the victory in the Stock 2 class. Danger Girl and I drove our 1998 Corvette C5 to the top of the Touring 1 category. Overall I’d say that Bark and Rebecca did a better job than we did, beating us in two of the three timed events and in the road rally. The Vette proved to be a little troublesome at speed thanks to a set of oversized HRE wheels that look absolutely awesome but which make the front-rear balance very malleable depending on ambient temperature and road camber. Luckily for me, however, my Touring-class competition suffered from a variety of mechanical maladies and mistakes. A particularly fearsome-looking BMW M5 made the mistake of cooking its brake rotors early in the weekend, preventing it from getting solid points in the timed track section at Atlanta Motorsports Park.
Click the jump to see a video of me thrashing the old Vette at Memphis International Raceway and to catch up on what I wrote last week.
A few months ago, I spent two days at the Nurburgring with a Lotus Evora Sport 410 and a group of absolutely fascinating students. One of them is the fellow you see in this Mosport formula-car race video from 1973 — Ron Cohn. Now seventy years old, he’s still working on improving his touch behind the wheel. Ron sent me this video last night and I thought some of you would be amused by it. Most likely it was created to attract potential sponsors — there’s something charming about the idea of some executive having this film threaded through his office projector so he can see the adventures of Ron and his teammate at Mosport. If you’re interested in the Cosworth engine that powered these cars, there’s an explanation in somewhat stilted English here.
If you’re at all interested in “tech” or “tech culture” then you’ve no doubt heard about the pc-considered-harmful post written last week by a (mostly) anonymous Google employee. In that post, the employee suggests that there might be biological, “innate” reasons why women aren’t flocking to software jobs. He then goes on to say that the full-court-press for diversity at Google is damaging the company. He suggests that the company consider diversity as a scientific issue, deserving of research and development, rather than as a moral issue which must be addressed to the satisfaction of the high priests regardless of cost.
Needless to say, the pitchforks have come out for this guy. He’s getting death threats. Google has made the usual “that’s not who we are” public response. He’s being called “The Manifestbro”, the word “bro” of course used to dehumanize him and prepare him for the inevitable consequences of extrajudicial unpersonhood in much the same manner that racial epithets were used in the Jim Crow South. All of this was eminently predictable; perhaps not to the insulated, isolated Googler who wrote the memo, but to everybody who lives in the real world outside the Google Bubble with its scarcity, misery, and psuedo-sharia lose-your-job courts of acceptable discourse. To quote Stilgar from Dune, this dude put himself in the way of the Harkonnen fist. It’s sad to watch, and it’s ironic that his employer is probably going to take real steps to crucify a fellow who loves Google so much that he’s willing to sacrifice his own career for the general good of the company, but this sort of thing happens all the time in the post-Kulturkampf world and as such it’s no more interesting than the thirty-ninth time a Christian was martyred in a Roman arena.
Here’s what I did find interesting: a former Distinguished Engineer at Google named Yonatan Zunger decided to write a lengthy screed detailing how and why he’d have walked that unfortunate, naive engineer right out the door. I think his post was probably meant to be nothing more than a public declaration of fealty to the golden calf of progressive thinking, an affirmation of group membership similar to the various abuse heaped on Trotsky after the fact by anybody who wanted to be found alive the next morning.
These impassioned reiterations of the status quo have become much more common lately, and most of them, the Zunger piece not excluded, boil down to The Progressive Theology Is Never Wrong And Here’s Another Reason For That Unchallenged Supremacy Which Had Probably Not Occurred To You Until Right Now. Five hundred years ago, scientists used to regularly write pieces about how you could Clearly See The Existence Of The Christian God In The Design Of The Hummingbird Nectar Tube. Their purpose then, as now, was to provide preemptive evidence against any future charges of heresy — and then, as now, they were utterly ineffective.
Yet this pile-on piece is much more than that. It’s a completely accidental, but utterly truthful, explanation of why modern software is so thoroughly, horrifyingly bad. It’s also a graphic reminder that nerds are gonna nerd, so to speak, with all the positive and negative consequences that result. So what I would like to do is ignore most of the crap on both sides about whether or not women should be programmers and focus on the inadvertent, but hugely relevant, revelations in Mr. Zunger’s post. You don’t have to be a programmer to click the jump; in fact, if you know nothing about computers, this will help you understand why computers and websites and whatnot are so hard to use.
Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity
— Goldstein, in 1984
George Orwell’s primary brilliance was in his recognition that crimethink was going to be the primary offense prosecuted in any future progressive/socialist society. As the power of the state increases, fewer and fewer people will actually act against it because to do so is increasingly futile. One hundred and fifty years ago we had states seceding. A hundred years ago we had thousands of veterans marching on Washington and getting murdered for their trouble. The most anybody’s been willing to do lately is “occupy” a public park or a wildlife refuge until the men with guns ask them politely to leave. There’s not going to be any further resistance to the United States Government — at least not until paper money runs out of steam.
In truth, The Year Of No Lord 2017 resembles Brave New World more than it resembles 1984. The Alpha and Beta citizens of American society are “decanted”, sometimes literally via IVF, in Manhattan and Chicago and San Francisco. They are programmed from birth with the gentle secular monotheism of the modern age, a ridiculous pablum of moral equivalence belied at every turn by the lily-white gated-and-guarded circumstances of their daily lives. They attend good schools and take jobs in the so-called FIRE industries. They wet their beaks in the stream of commerce and make effortless millions. They advocate for unlimited immigration then build walls around their homes.
Only an idiot could fail to notice the massive gap between the “everyone is equal” media-delivered catechism and the astounding inequality, racial and otherwise, of the globalist illuminati. (Lower-case “i” there; I don’t believe in conspiracies.) Therefore, you cannot be a successful member of progressive American society until you develop crimestop. Until you do so, you will forever be in a situation where any offhand comment on your part could lead to you losing everything from your home to your health insurance to custody of your children. The above comment by “bikegoesbaa” above illustrates this. He “cries no tears” for somebody who loses a job because his Facebook posts are judged to be “racist”. HAHA LOL SUCKS TO BE THAT DUDE. The typical justification of this is the XKCD comic explaining that you have no “free speech” right to a job, a home, a living, or anything else. “The First Amendment doesn’t shield you from consequences.” It’s perfectly reasonable to destroy somebody’s life if they say something that doesn’t agree with our oh-so-gentle-and-nonjudgmental single-party, single-opinion progressive culture. They become unpersons and they literally disappear from middle-class life overnight.
The problem with this approach is that the definition of acceptable doubleplusgoodthink is a moving target and as you’ll see below, the actual comment by “bikegoesbaa” is on its way to being seen as massively racist and discriminatory. Twenty years from now, people will read it and consider it approximately equivalent to spray-painting the “N-word” on your African-American neighbor’s house. I will also show you how credit ratings themselves, although originally designed to help prevent racist behavior on the part of banks and lenders, will come to be seen as thoroughly racist devices. Finally, I will explain how the progressive theology will eventually come into violent conflict with the banking system and how only one of those two things will manage to survive. Allow me to explain.
I just found an old DVD with about 2,700 photos I took between 2001 and 2006. It’s been fascinating going through them — mostly because it shows how different my life was more than a decade ago. No kid, very few limits on my spending, and not much direction in life other than buying cars and clothes. Hmm. Maybe nothing’s changed at all. I don’t know.
This shot is me doing a brake-torque on my old friend Berg’s 300SEL 6.3, some time in 2005. It’s particularly relevant because Berg and I just collaborated on a new article for Hagerty Magazine this past Thursday. If you like classic American luxury sedans, or if you’re interested in the very best this country can make right now in 2017, it will reward your attention.
In the meantime, let’s check out this week’s contributions, including two print pieces for R&T that just went online.
The Ford Thunderbird underwent multiple personality changes throughout its life. What started out as a two-seat convertible had, by the time the fifth-generation Thunderbird debuted in the autumn of 1966, become a much different automobile. Sure, it was still flashy and typically loaded with power gadgets, but one thing was missing for the first time since the first T-Birds appeared: A convertible top.
Well, the writing had been on the wall for some time, with topless T-Bird sales dropping across several previous years. Indeed, by the early ’70s nearly all the topless cars built in the Land of the Free were gone, or on borrowed time. But what to replace it with? The answer was — believe it or not — a four-door sedan.