Saturday, February 28, 2015

How House of Cards theme song was created

Full video here.

3 second gyoza cannon

While asshats are burning books in western Asia, this is happening in eastern Asia.

Friday, February 27, 2015

ISIS destroys ancient Assyrian statues

What the hell is wrong with these people?! Can UNESCO put together an army and draw and quarter these f'ers?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Adorable Ukrainian family moves to Siberia and buys Lada

Child seats? What child seats?

Via Flavio Gomes.

High Scores Arcade in Alameda

Just flipping through my AAA magazine and learned about this place on the Island That Rust Forgot. $5 per hour or $10 all day. Tons of 1980s games!

1989 Honda Civic Si review

Can you imagine anyone coveting a newer Civic? I think this 1989 Civic is about as good as it ever got. A guy I knew in high school had a brand new 1990 or 1991 Civic (I don't think it was an Si). He gave me a ride in it once and I still remember how low to the ground it was, how it cornered so well on suburban streets, and how clean and functional the interior was.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Day in Marin today

We decided to take advantage of the unusually nice weather and go for a drive. The part of West Marin we visited is about 90 minutes away from home.

We first stopped in Stinson Beach. People were out and about in bathing suits. It was nuts. It's usually rainy or gray this time of year.

We then went up the coast for some oysters (raw and BBQ'd).

Finally, we took a stroll and Cooper found a friend.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

More Paris posts on Hooniverse

So much material, so little time. I already have five posts up about Retromobile on Hooniverse.

I will have one more post on Retromobile. Then, I will compare the five flagship dealerships I visited. Then...the Citroen Conservatoire.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cooper and a buffalo

That dog is identical to mine.

Saul Goodman's first appearance on Breaking Bad

Has anyone seen the new show? Is it any good?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Salton Sea movies

A while back, I watched this documentary about the sea, as narrated by John Waters.

Yesterday, I watched this art house film/musical documentary about three people who live along the sea (a 7 year old with bipolar disorder, a high school kid from LA escaping gang violence, and an old man who illegally sells cigarettes). This was a really good movie.

I have this "drama" in my Netflix queue. This movie looks bad. It cost $18 million to make and earned just $800,000.

Egyptian air strikes in Libya

Just when you think Islamic militants can't get any more depraved.

Just when you think the geopolitical mess can't get any more complicated.

French movie BIS featuring Citroen BX

We saw this movie trailer in France while waiting to watch The Imitation Game. As far as I can tell, BIS has the same premise as Hot Tub Time Machine.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What a trip!

After a year-and-a-half of working almost non-stop starting my own practice, this trip to Paris was sorely, sorely needed. It did not disappoint. We stayed in the 7th arrondissement, right next to a Metro station. In the time we were there, we didn't take a taxi cab once.

The trip started with Retromobile, which was the primary reason we chose Paris for our trip. The Citroen CX limo ordered by Erich Honecker (but never ridden by him, as it was delivered after the Berlin Wall fell) was my favorite car at the show. Retromobile also featured the much talked about Baillon barn find collection. Even after two days walking the show, it was hard to wrap my head around all the cars, displays, and enthusiasts.

The only disappointment was the general state of the modern French car industry. For the most part, their contemporary offerings were dull and ordinary. It made for challenging car spotting on the street. The only classic French cars on the road were covered with vinyl wrap, giving visitors tours of the city.

Car spotting was not a total dud, however. We stayed near a lot of embassies so I saw a lot of cars with diplomatic plates. The rarest car I saw parked was an Aston Martin Cygnet/Toyota-Scion iQ.

We visited the Citroen Conservatoire on Wednesday. It was tucked in a warehouse on the edge of the PSA plant in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a couple of RER train stops from CDG airport. It seriously should be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. I thought the four-door convertible SM was going to be my favorite, but this presidential DS stole the show. It's longer than anything LBJ or Nixon had. What a presence!

And finally, we had many great meals. I can recall only one meal that disappointed, which is a pretty good batting average. We even took a crepe-making class on Friday, which was a lot of fun.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Carspotting: Aston Martin Cygnet

Quick, does anyone know how many of these were sold worldwide? In France?

This is the rarest of the rare. We were walking to lunch when I saw an Aston badge out of the corner of my eye on a perpendicular street. What a find!

For the record, long haired man was only looking at the Cygnet because he was wondering why I was taking photos of such an ordinary car. I don't think he ever figured it out. Plus, look at the body damage in front of the rear wheel.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Retromobile Day 2

This is truly an extraordinary event.

As soon as I stepped out of the Metro stop, I saw a Renault Clio Williams full of guys circling around, looking for parking.

Unlike yesterday, a bunch of cars were lined up outside the convention center for a rally today. All the locals were gawking at the non-French cars, like the Porsches and Triumphs. I was fixated on this Alpine.

In a separate exhibition hall was the much talked about Baillon Collection. A transport tycoon was going broke so he sold half his collection and kept the rest in his backyard. He died. Ten years later, his son, who inherited the mess, died. Now, the son's kids put the remaining cars on the block. It's really sad, and almost criminal, to leave these cars in this state.

I don't know if this is an Excalibur, a Zimmer, or something else. But I do know from the side windows that it started off as a mid-80s Cougar.

These Matra Ranchos put a smile on my face.

A Pininfarina Lancia. It looked like a Mazda Cosmos from the back.

The Autobianchi club brought two cars.

Facel Vega, brought to you by your friendly Facel Vega club.

Alpine Gran Turismo 6.

CX engine bay for Chris. I was going to buy a crash test SM diecast model, but it was gone when I looked for it today. No worries, as I'm going to the Citroen dealership on the Champs Elysees on Tuesday and the Conservatoire gift shop on Wednesday.

Semi-deconstructed Porsche 964.

Big Peugeot.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Peugeot 508

Greetings from France! Retromobile was a bit overwhelming today. I'm going again tomorrow to catch what I missed.

As for cars on the streets, they were a bit underwhelming. A lot of anonymous compacts. The coolest car by far that I've seen was a Mercedes Loomis armored truck like this one.

The car that has been catching my eye a lot is the Peugeot 508. I think it's probably because of the taillights' three vertical bars.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Interview of A Car Nut From Kyrgyzstan

Thank you, Nick!

1. What was it like growing up in Kyrgyzstan?

I grew up in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Frunze (Bishkek). I had a great childhood. Wonderful climate, beautiful mountains, a lot of sun. In Bishkek, there were so many beautiful boulevards and parks. The city was built on a regular plan and recalls something of European cities.

I did not have any problems with food or clothing. In this regard, it was very comfortable. But my family is not an indicator, because my grandfather was a former employee of the KGB, and then worked in the Ministry of Education. My mother taught at the university. We had a great apartment, a large library.

We did not have ethnic problems, I did not feel the difference in who you were-- Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Russian, German. We all went to the same schools and played in the same bands. In Bishkek, there was an aviation school, which trained pilots from Africa and South-East Asia - Hosni Mubarak trained there. And we were treated with kindness by the pilots who studied there. I do not remember our family blaming the United States or Europe. On the contrary, we had a huge number of books of American and European authors. I admired American cars and, in 1986, we mourned the death of the space shuttle Challenger.

2. The Ferghana Valley is an interesting place culturally, historically, and geographically. What are your feelings towards that area?

The Ferghana Valley-- it's an amazing place. There are many monuments of antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is divided between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. There lives a large number of different nationalities, a very high population density. Wonderful climate but limited water resources, fertile land but agrarian mindset-- these are the problems of the region. I often traveled there and on every corner there you could find monuments of the past. The people there are very friendly. I once worked on a contract with Coca-Cola and conducted a survey of local residents. In spite of their poverty they wanted to feed me and were friendly.

3. Stalin created many enclaves and exclaves belonging to the Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Tajiks in the Ferghana Valley. How do the residents feel about all those ridiculous international borders?

This is a problem, yes. There are a lot of border and police posts, it greatly complicates life. The police often take bribes, and the Uzbek authorities often turn a blind eye. The Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tajiks are against it, and the old men do not understand why these boundaries exist. During Soviet times, no one noticed the boundaries between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek SSR, the Kyrgyz SSR and the Tajik SSR. Now, these limits are real, especially because of drug trafficking through Tajikistan and problems with radical Islam (Kyrgyz and Uzbeks are very comfortable with the other religions). Another problem is that the separation of nationalities under Stalin was formal. Siblings could be written as Uzbek and Kyrgyz, or Kyrgyz and Kazakh.

4. There has been ethnic tension in Kyrgyzstan recently. Is it peaceful again? Have the causes of the conflict been addressed?

1989 to 1990 was the first time I remember there being friction between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. Separation of water and land— this is the main reason. By the way, Kyrgyzstan can regulate the flow of almost all the rivers flowing from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan. I lived in Bishkek and it was absolutely quiet, but my family that lived in Osh said that it was scary. At the same time, the Russians were not touched. The Kyrgyz and Uzbeks killed each other like it was the Middle Ages— they were tortured, had their eyes gouged out, burned alive, raped. It was on both sides. Moreover, local authorities tried to ignite controversy.

In 2010, the murders started again for the same reason. The impoverished Kyrgyz believed that the Uzbeks lived on their land better than them, and treated them unfairly economically. At the same time, there were attacks on Chinese and Turks, who traded in Bishkek, but those were simple robberies.

Problems remain, because the main problem— poverty— has not been solved. It may occur again, because a huge number of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz are returning from Russia, due to low pay as a result of the economic crisis.

5. What would you like to tell outsiders about Kyrgyzstan?

In the south of Kyrgyzstan traditionally live Uzbeks and Tajiks, and Kazakhs in the north. There are so many small nations-- Kurds, Uighurs, Dungan, Chechens, Koreans. In recent years, there are business Chinese, Turks, Iranians, but they are mainly in Bishkek. In Bishkek there are many foreign embassies and consulates and foreign companies (mainly operating in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and act through their representatives). Racial issues, I have not seen, but there is nationalism, especially from the "myrk" and "Mambet"-- a derogatory nickname Kyrgyz give to people from mountain villages. They are the hard core groups involved in the attacks and robberies.

6. For a tourist, where in Kyrgyzstan should he visit?

Bishkek for tourists is not very interesting-- it is a typical Soviet city. It's comfortable, cute, but there is nothing surprising. But the country itself is beautiful. Lake Issyk-Kul-- this is the most famous place. The country is 70% mountains. High mountains and beautiful - Ala-Too, Tien Shan and Pamir, wonderful glaciers in the north. Roads that are repaired with money from China and international organizations are quite good, but the roads that have not been repaired-- The horror!

A very beautiful place is near the border with China, but difficult to get there. Many waterfalls and gorges with huge spruce forests, many small rivers.

In Kyrgyzstan, there is a very beautiful place where the memory of Tamerlane is preserved. A grandiose burial complex is located to the southwest of the beginning of the San Tash pass opposite the village of the same name. The central place in the complex is a large stone mound, known as the "San Tash" (the name translates as "counting the stones"). Located around the stone mound are many other types of mounds. Here there was a legend of Tamerlane-- before going to the next campaign, the commander of the soldiers ordered everyone to take a stone, and then add it to the pile. Returning from the expedition, Tamerlane ordered each of the soldiers to take a stone from the heap. The remaining heap became a monument to fallen soldiers. Number of stones in the mound indicates a huge number of those killed in the wars of conquest. However, local residents claim that all the dwellings surrounding villages are built using stones from this mound.

There are very beautiful valleys in the spring when poppies bloom. It is simply delicious.
In the south, there is a walnut forest in Arslanbob, and there are many monuments of rock art.
It's funny, but every turn on the road in Kyrgyzstan hits me with their uniqueness and surprise. Especially in the mountains.

7. The ethnic Russian population in Kyrgyzstan fell from 21.5% in 1989 to 9% today. Will the population drop even more? Will more Russians leave? And when they move to Russia, where do they go?

Russians left Kyrgyzstan because of the uncertainty and fear. Factories, where many Russians worked, closed. Pensions are very small, there is no work. Those who could, left to be with relatives in Russia. Russia does not help those coming from Kyrgyzstan. Russians left, mainly for the major cities of Russia and Ukraine, rarely do they move to the countryside. Those who stayed are pensioners who do not have relatives in Russia, as well as entrepreneurs who have successfully conducted business. Many remained in the area of Lake Issyk-Kul and work in the "wild" tourism business. And there are those who simply do not want to leave Kyrgyzstan, although very few of them know the Kyrgyz language.

8. What are some popular cars in Kyrgyzstan today?

There is a large mix— from Europe, Japan, Russia, Korea and China. Many very old and cheap cars, but there are more expensive models. Here, there are SUVs, many imported from Arab countries. They are very fond of Mercedes and Toyota. Trucks are either Russian or Chinese. Many Daewoos from Uzbekistan. There are old local buses like the KAvZ-3976.

9. Is there a car culture in Kyrgyzstan?

Kyrgyzstan has branded centers for car repairs, but the locals do not prefer them due to the cost. Many Chinese shops opened in recent years— they do the job quickly and efficiently.

In Kyrgyzstan, the car is a sign of the status of its owner, as in almost all countries of the Third World, so everything here is the same.

10. What car or cars have you owned?

The first car in my family was a Russian pony car, the Volga GAZ-24 (1973 model year). I loved that car, which belonged to my grandfather. I had a Nissan Sunny (2002-2004) and Nissan Pulsar (2004-2008). We now have a Kia Rio (2008) and Volkswagen Pointer (2006).
But I still want to buy the car back from my childhood - Volga GAZ-24.

11. Why do you love cars?

This is probably funny, but I love cars because of the beauty. I like American cars from the 40s and 60s to 70s (I do not like fins) because of their design. They were simply masterpieces. That's why I love the GAZ-24 (it reminds me of American cars). This is not true of modern cars. Everything is utilitarian, eco-friendly, safe. That's good, that's right, but at the sight of modern cars, ”The heart does not say anything.”


I'm going to take a picture with my wife in those 60s outfits for that faux magazine cover.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

I HATE flying

When China arrived

I heard this Backstreet Boys song today and it reminded me of this video from 2005(!). I recall when I first saw this video, I realized-- Holy shit, China is no longer a billion people in Mao suits riding bicycles anymore. I wonder what these two kids are doing now.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Visiting the Salton Sea

Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by the Salton Sea on California maps. I was in the area last weekend so I thought I'd make a detour and finally see the sea.

The southeast portion of California is a Land of Contrasts(tm). I landed in Ontario and all I saw at first was exurban sprawl. Many working class neighborhoods. This 1980s Corolla zoomed past me at 80+. I rented a Hyundai Sonata, which was a "full-sized" vehicle. I had no idea it was so big. It felt like an Avalon. And compared to the last Sonata rental I drove ten years ago, this one is light years ahead in build quality and fit-and-finish.

Once I pulled in to Palm Springs, I spotted this Cosworth Mercedes.

I had a lunch meeting at noon but I was simply starving by 10:30. So I went to a 24 hour Mexican restaurant and got a machaca. It's basically your regular Mexican meal, except you've got shredded beef mixed with scrambled eggs. It was so-so.

Poor XTS with a landau top. I saw quite a few fancy cars, and a beat up 1970s Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, in the affluent towns of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage.

Had lunch at a country club. Everyone got around the gated community in golf carts. Because it gets so hot down there, the carts have air conditioning.

I once watched an old episode of California Gold with Huell Howser and I recall him visiting a date farm near Indio. The region is perfect for date cultivation because the climate is so dry and hot but there is plenty of ground water to feed the thirsty plants. I went to a touristy store, watched this very boring film, had a date shake, and bought a box of fancy medjool dates for my step-dad, whom I was going to see the following day. The Arab influence here is funny. There's a town called Mecca and a street called Bagdad. The local beauty pageant has girls wearing I Dream of Genie outfits.

South of Indio, there are miles of date farms. The populated areas reminded me of Mexico-- a bit run down, every business sign in Spanish. And in the rural areas, it reminded me of the frontier region between Chile and Peru.

And finally, I reached the Salton Sea! There was no one around, and it was beautiful. I sped down the east side of the sea to have dinner. The accidental lake is 40 miles long and 10 miles wide. A century ago, a dike for the Colorado River broke and flooded a low portion of the desert for two years. A sea was born. Tourism flourished. But due to evaporation and runoffs from nearby farms (dates, grapefruits, grapes, lettuce), the sea slowly died. It is an environmental disaster now, like the Aral Sea.

I got to Bombay Beach just before it got dark. It's a small collection of rusting trailer homes. I went to the Ski Inn. It was featured in one of Anthony Bourdain's shows. I had a PBR and a patty melt. The food was okay. The guys hanging out at the bar were old and tired. One guy didn't know the difference between "internet", "YouTube", and "laptop". His friend slowly tried to explain it to him.

My motel was on the west side, about an hour away. Problem was, it was cash only and I was $5 short. I drove forever, looking for an ATM. Here was the door to my motel room.

The next morning, I decided to walk to the beach. At the height of the sea's popularity with tourists, the shoreline was right across the street from my motel. Now, it's 200 yards away.

I walked alongside the defunct boat ramp. You can see Salton City in the background. It was a huge planned community. The streets are paved and street signs are everywhere, but 95% of the lots are still empty. You can buy one now for less than $5,000. You can buy a house for just $35,000.

The entire west side, by the way, stunk of rotten fish. When I got home the next day, my dog wouldn't even greet me. The motel manager told me that in the summers, it wouldn't dip below 100 degrees even overnight for weeks. I guess the residents just got used to the stink and the heat.

The only fish left in the water is tilapia. There was a pile of dead fish next to the water.

And this dead bird.

400 species of (live) birds can be found here.

After working non-stop for three weeks straight without a day off, sitting on the broken concrete by myself in silence was so nice.

Then, I jumped up and booked it back to the motel to check out. I had to be in Orange County by 11. I stopped by this Indian casino on the way for breakfast. This old Jag was left running in the disabled spot. The food (chicken fried steak and eggs) was pretty good, although I didn't appreciate the middle-aged Korean couple arguing at the table next to me. I suspect that they were the only Koreans who were not in church that Sunday morning.

I was in Orange County to celebrate my step-dad's 90th birthday. I took him out to a Uyghur restaurant-- Omar's in Artesia. It was authentic, but not as good as the original Omar's in San Gabriel.

And finally, I flew home while the Super Bowl was taking place. When I landed, I saw this Nissan Pulsar NX parked near my Volvo.

The end.