A Little Less than More

The Honda CRX was a little sports car made during most of the 1980s. It wasn’t overpowered, but it was light, economical, handled well, and got terrific gas mileage. I finally bought one a couple of years ago, and loved it despite the lack of air conditioning (removing the AC was common by hot rodders). Unfortunately, mine was wrecked by a friend in 2009, but he’s dead now, so I can’t stay angry at him.

The CRX was a shorter, lighter, two-seat (in the US) version of the Civic. It was either a sport subcompact or a real sports car, depending on the engine. Honda ended the series around 1990, though it was resurrected a few years later with a different body in the unfortunately named Del Sol. The CRX is a common holy grail of import tuners, since it is so light, can be found cheaply, and takes the widely available Civic engines.

I lament the lack of new CRXs sometimes. A lightweight CRX with the new 197-horsepower Civic Si engine would be a force to be reckoned with in the sub-$30k sports car market, and would be fast and fun enough that even those who could afford pricier options might still want one. When coworker Corey III brought up the subject Friday night, he suddenly had my undivided attention.

“Hey, have you seen the new CR-Z? There’s one that comes through Henderson Hall.”
“WHAT? NO!” I had to know more. Was it still affordable? Had it been kept lighweight? Was the 197-horsepower engine an option? I was cautiously VERY excited. Which is a hard balancing act.

As I learned more, I became more excited. The CRZ is BEAUTIFUL, especially the Maserati-ish front end. It starts under $20,000, and even the highest-trim version with Nav package is under $25k. Weight is creeping up, but still about 400 pounds less than my Si. But what about power? What ABOUT THE POWER?

Here’s where reality pimp-slapped me. The CRZ is a sports HYBRID based on the Insight hybrid. Lightened, widened, with 2 seats removed (US version) and with an extensive makeover, how “sporty” is it? Well, I haven’t had a chance to drive one yet, but the answer seems to be, not much.

The CRZ has many of the hallmarks of a real sports car. Occupants sit just above the ground, in a sub-2600-lb beautiful body with poor rear visibility. It SOUNDS like a great car…but.

The CRZ takes off fairly fast, due to the immediate low-speed power assist from the electic motor. This assist runs out after the first two, short, gears, leaving the little car sweating to struggle up to 60 mph in 10 seconds. Though handling is good, the seats lack side support, and there are no side grab handles.

Driven in sports mode, how effective a hybrid is the CRZ? Again, not very. One reviewer got an abysmal 23 mpg while doing his best to run the car like it had guts. Even the advertised 37 mpg when driven in granny mode is not exceptional: many of the old CRXs with smaller engines managed that, while being fun to drive.

A quick look at the CR-Z makes it easy to believe Honda has missed the mark on this one. The car is not a good sports car, nor is it a great hybrid. It does succeed in being really cute in an aggressive way. Of course it’s already selling well in Japan.

A second thought does bring some additional thoughts, though. This is the first affordable sports hybrid. No, it’s not a great sports car, and it’s a poor hybrid. But it’s a first. And may there be more, and better.

Now, Honda, I still want to see a dedicated sports version without the batteries. Without those, you can have a vehicle in the same price range, with the powerful Si engine, at the same or less weight. And it will get better gas mileage when driven aggressively! THAT would sell like hotcakes, guaranteed.

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Golfer on Fire

In more proof that God hates California, a golfer in Irvine started a fire that spread to 25 acres when his ball flew out of the green.  On his second swing back towards the green, he evidently sparked a rock, causing the fire.

I guess they don’t teach Californians to stomp out smoldering fires, or maybe such menial tasks are beneath golfers.  Or maybe this guy just can’t do anything right.

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My Hero- Best Way to Quit a Hard Job EVER

Steven Slater had a hard job. He was an airline steward, and had been for 28 years. On August 9, 2010, he was working on a Jet Blue flight landing at JFK in New York City. As the flight was still taxiing, one of the passengers stood and began removing her carry-on bag from the overhead storage bin. Slater approached the passenger, and asked her to sit down, per FAA regulations.

The passenger continued pulling at her bag, which forcefully slid out, striking Slater in the head. Slater asked for an apology, at which point the passenger cursed him out, apparently giving him a “F you” and calling him a “mo fo”. This is where it gets good, and Steven Slater moves into my pantheon of heroes.

Faced with this provocation from an impatient, rude and dangerous bitch, Slater returned to his station, and if I understand what CNN hinted, told the flight over the intercom that he was quitting after 28 years so he wouldn’t have to deal with bitches like the one he had just encountered. He then took two beers from the gallley, pulled the emergency stop switch and activated the slide, and slid down the inflatable ramp. Hopefully giving a two-finger salute on the way down.

After he landed, Slater ran to his jeep, drove home to Queens, and according to NBC, was apparently having sex when police arrested him at his home in Queens. He has been charged with 2nd-and 4th-degree criminal mischief, 1st- and 2nd-degree reckless endangerment and criminal trespass in the 3rd degree.

Now, if there is any justice, Steven Slater will have the felony charges (second degree criminal mischief and first degree reckless endangerment) dropped, get 1 year probation for the other charges, the bitch that started and aggravated the incident will be charged (for aggravated assault and reckless endangerment) and NOT get probation, and Slater will sell the movie or tv rights to his story and never have to buy his own drinks for the rest of his life. Hopefully, a Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund has already been started.

Here’s to you, Steve Slater: you exited your dreary, thankless job in a way most of us will only ever fantasize about.

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Save the Sea Kittens- Or, The Stupidest Ad Campaign Ever

My buddy Tamara has shared what may be the least well-considered ad campaign ever, PETA’s “Save the Sea Kittens”. This stuff is so silly, I can only really quote PETA:

People don’t seem to like fish. They’re slithery and slimy, and they have eyes on either side of their pointy little heads—which is weird, to say the least. Plus, the small ones nibble at your feet when you’re swimming, and the big ones—well, the big ones will bite your face off if Jaws is anything to go by.

PETA’s solution is, of course, to call them “Sea Kittens”, because this is of course going to fool everyone into caring about FISH. PETA would like to share interesting facts about fish in an effort to discourage fishing. Hey, don’t get me wrong- overfishing is bad, mmkay? I’m not trying to underplay that. Well-prepared fish is delicious and usually healthy in moderation- mercury kills, kids! And US citizens are eating more of it. Alternatives to fishing should be sought (which is not the same as not eating fish). But trying to change people’s mindset by sprinkling ridiculous terms throughout your otherwise pseudo-factual rhetoric is just silly. You’re Doing it Wrong, PETA.

So very kitten-like
Fish: The Kittens of the Sea

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Exile Wired

Two months ago, I suggested readers take advantage of a sale JRCigars was running on Exile Wired cigars.  Some of my comments were made based on JR’s ad copy.  After smoking several of these cigars, and having several smoked by friends, I feel I can now give an honest full review.

Cigars come in various strengths and flavors.  My Exile Wired Double Coronas are a larger cigar, at 7.25×52.  The wrapper was a medium brown, and well-constructed.  The bands are colorful, but not garish.  Exiles come in a paper wrapper, but Exile Wireds come in plastic sleeves, packaged 24 to a small wire-bound crate. 

The Exile Wired is a fuller-flavored cigar.  I would descibe it probably as a medium-full flavor.  It’s not the strongest flavored cigar around, but it’s a stronger flavor- “toastier”- than I usually want, especially without a stouter beverage such a strong coffee, whiskey, or Scotch.  This is probably not the best choice for those just beginning to smoke cigars.

The burn is usually even.  I had one cigar that didn’t burn evenly, but since all the others I’ve seen or smoked were very even, I believe that was a fluke.  The draw is on the tighter side, requiring a pull every minute or two to stay lit.  The burn time, because of the tighter draw, sturdy construction, and larger size, is very long.  I get at least 90 minutes out of every cigar.  Ash is at least 1.5 inches before falling.  Smoke is moderate.

Exile Wired Double Corona

Flavor: 3.5 stars
Construction: 4.5 stars
Burn: 5 stars

This is a solid 4-star cigar.  It’s not one I want to smoke every week, but it’s great for when you have a lot of time to spare, and a strong beverage to pair it with.  Find a friend or two, kick back, and enjoy!

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M. Night Shyamalan: desperately seeking relevance

For a couple of years, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan was on fire. 1999’s The Sixth Sense was a groundbreaking supernatural thriller/mystery that had the perfect combination of acting and writing to build chills while also giving subtle clues that had most of the audience figuratively slapping their heads and saying, “Oh!  Of course!” when the big surprise was sprung.  2000’s Unbreakable was more movie greatness, combining some supernatural hints with a really well-done superhero story, with a bit of twist at the end.  Perfect. 

Shyamalan tried to do his magic yet again by taking his formula- take a genre, mix in some supernatural elements, show how a variety of seemingly unrelated factors are all VITALLY important in the 2002 alien flick SignsSigns was a box office success, but it seemed like Shyamalan was trying too hard to continue his trademark clue and unveiling formula.  I didn’t bother watching 2004’s horror The Village, but apparantly he tried the formula again.  While still a success, The Village drew in less than half of Signs.  America was getting tired of Shyamalan’s one-trick formula.  Lady in the Water (2007) was a fairy tale.  Didn’t see it.  Neither did most of America, though it was a mild financial success. 

2008’s The Happening was billed everywhere as Shyamalan’s first r-rated feature, and while it may have been that, I don’t know what else it was.  Despite the talented starring team of Mark Walhberg and Zooey Deschanel, it barely made a profit.  Perhaps because no-one knew what actually happened.  Everyone I’ve talked too about the movie is only certain that lots of people died, and there were trees.  And a breeze.  And Zooey Deschanel has blue eyes.

Shyamlan is back with his live-action version of the popular Nickolodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender.  And I want to beat the man about the head and shoulders.  Airbender is a multi-part movie.  While this makes sense, considering the length of the series (three seasons, one per “book”), it would have been nice to have known this going in.  Nice job, jerk.

Whenever a cartoon is converted into a live-action movie, there will be changes.  Inevitably, some things have to be condensed, and some changes have to be made.  That’s life.  Still, I don’t agree with many of the changes, related to things like ethnic extraction.  Shyamalan has decided to make all the “fire nation” characters Indian, most likely so he could write himself into the story as the lead villain.  (Since I foresee the death of his directing career, this may actually be the smartest thing he’s done in this movie.)  Also, Shyamalan hasn’t done a very good job with the “bending” aspect.  In Avatar,  controlling elements is usually done with a series of martial-art-like movements.  These are not always well done, and it’s especially notable with Nicola Peltz, the actress playing Katara.  Peltz doesn’t have the “body sense” to realistically portray martial arts movement, unfortunately.  This will probably be fairly obvious to even non-athletes and martial artists.  Shyamalan has also erred with the directive movements used by Ang in his “avatar state”.  The avatar state is a trance during which the avatar is at his most powerful.  He doesn’t need to do any “martial dances” while in this condition to control any of the elements, and having them performed trivializes and subtracts from the story.

Shyamalan seems to have hijacked this popular series in an attempt to get his flagging writing and directing career back on track, and there are a lot of false notes.  While Airbender as a cartoon is mostly happy and bright, Shyamalan’s movie is mostly shot as dark and gloomy, reminiscent of the movie version of Mortal Combat.  Shyamalan has tinkered with the basic message of the movie to make it a referendum on the “spirit world”, instead of a more useful general message about peace, hope, and balance.  And he has made Appa, the lovable sky bison, the least believable piece of CGI in the movie.

To: M. Night Shyamalan.  From: the people of Earth.  Dude, you had a decent run.  Either give up, or let go of your damn formulaic approach.

A disappointing 2.5/5 stars.

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You get what you (don’t) pay for

Almost three weeks ago, I bought this  media player off Amazon.  I’d been wanting to watch movies and tv shows while away from home and possibly on remote locations, and AT&T’s confiscatory prices discouraged me from just buying a smartphone to replace my defective Lenovo Netbook.  (Which does not connect to the web.  AT&T says it’s a Lenovo/hardware problem.  Lenovo says it’s an AT&T problem.  But that’s a different story.)

I wanted a player to play movies, and this player does play movies.  It also plays music, and lets me view pictures.  Beautifully.

Did I mention that the Pro Ebiz plays movies?  But, that’s all it will do with movies.  The fast forward button on the movie player?  Restarts whatever video file you’re watching, instead of actually fast forwarding.  The rewind button?  Well, it does the exact same thing.  I guess I should count myself fortunate that I can pause and restart the player, even if the buttons are marked the opposite of what they should read for each of those actions.

The Pro Ebiz NEW 16gb 3″ TFT Touchscreen Mp3 / Mp4 / Mp5 Player: maybe worth the $75 and shipping I paid for it, but the missing functions certainly mean it is not the $200 value the seller claims on Amazon.  Buyer beware.  Me, I’m watching an episode of Band of Brothers for the fourth time.  Maybe this time I’ll finish it.

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Virginal Lips and Lungs

And veteran cigar smokers should take advantage of a closeout JRCigars is running on Exile Wired cigars.  All of the Exile Wireds come in a small wire-bound crate that would make an attractive and cool gift, and are going for $39.95/24 plus just a few bucks for shipping.  These are high quality cigars, and you would usually expect to pay $3-5 each for them.  If you’ve been thinking about trying cigar smoking, or have smoked cigars provided by others previously, this is an excellent opportunity to get a very good cigar for what you’d usually expect to pay for just a decent one. 

Inexperienced cigar smokers should enjoy this smooth, well-constructed cigar, and more experienced smokers will find it unobjectionable, if mild.  Always remember to keep your cigars hydrated!  The difference between a properly hydrated cigar and a dry one is like the difference between trying to run a car on diesel or the proper 93 octane unleaded.  (If about forty bucks is too much for you to invest to see if you’ll enjoy cigars, a five-pack my current favorite Maria Mancinis can be in your hot little hands for $13.)

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Everything Old is New Again

The way we communicate as humans has been changing throughout history. It changed abruptly with the invention of the moveable type printing press around 1440. It has begun changing again with the rapid evolution of computerized technology and the internet. I don’t know if this can be described as good or bad; but people seem to feel free to post almost anything on the web, while sometimes still seeming to be less connected than ever to others in the real world. Damfino.

Regardless of whether you personally think our net and wireless-capable communication is positive, negative, or valueless, how we communicate is certainly changing.  Social connection sites like Facebook and MySpace are pervasive, and younger segments of the population practically live on their texting cell devices.  How we write certain things has also now changed to reflect rapid communication, with Twitter giving users a mere 140 characters to express a thought.

This is really nothing new, though.  Using extremely concise phrasing and abbreviations happened when the telegraph was popularized (as well as a “code” to translate words into dots and dashes).  We have had certain phrases and words (the much-damned LOL, for instance) that have entered the popular vocabulary.  We have been lax with our vocabulary and flabby in our usage of the language.  Expressing a well-developed thought with the minimum number of words is useful mental exercise.  Expressing that thought eloquently is true art.

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Cravin’ it

I kinda wanted to try it for a long time, but I was scared, too. I’d heard a lot of stuff about it- some people said it was the best thing, but I’d also heard some folks say it was bad for you. So I built up my nerve, one day, and tried it. It was kinda of…different. It tasted like nothing I’d ever tried, and my stomach felt kinda-scared, I guess, is the only way I could describe it, after I’d eaten it. But I wanted to try it again, at least, eventually. Well, I tried it off and on, here and there, when the mood hit me. I enjoyed it more sometimes than others, but it grew on me. After I while, it really got to me. I even started trying all kinds of far-out stuff. I had to fight to not hurl once or twice, when I hit a really sickening mouthful. I finally leveled out, with a few regulars that I really enjoyed. It’s an addiction, I tell you. Not like other cravings. Screw alcohol, and just about anything else. You start jonesing for sushi, and you’ve just got to get some.

Anyway, I was in the mood for some after class tonight. There is this place called Haru Ichiban- I know, it sounds like a beer. I went there, and yay, verily, it was good. Very good. The proprietor seemed really cool, very nice. I mean genuinely nice, not just a “nice ‘cuz your a customer” type of nice. I decided I wanted to give them something to celebrate their opening, and wish them luck. So, I composed this verse on the way home:

Though the rains fall
Tears melt
In the sea of kindness

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