Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rental Car Review: 2007 Mercury Grand Marquis – Rollin’ Like a Senior

Jaimi and I recently returned from a fabulous Thanksgiving trip to sunny south Florida. We stayed with her parents – they have a beautiful house in a mature, active adult, no walkers or oxygen tanks allowed, 55+ community.

This community is on the more active and lively end of the scale when it comes to Florida’s retirement communities, but as soon as we left the friendly confines of Tivoli Lakes, we found ourselves surrounded by the sunshine state’s Golden Oldies. And surrounded on the road by other massive, slow-moving land boats, just like the Grand Marquis.

In other words, my choice of the full-size Grand Marquis was absolutely brilliant. We operated in perfect stealth mode all week long. Other drivers were shocked to see the beige Merc pass them on the left or the right – traveling at or above the speed limit in most cases.

Super-hot Grand Marquis sparkles in the sunlight. It's trunk can swallow an NBA basketball team, with room left over for their mistresses.

It’s fairly typical to see these things cruising around at 20 miles per hour BELOW the speed limit, with nothing but some curly purplish hair, and a big pair of Amber Vision sunglasses peeking above the steering wheel.

The Grand Marquis also raises little or no suspicion from law enforcement, and seats 8 comfortably.

As for handling dynamics, interior comfort, build quality, and exterior styling, the Grand Marquis kinda sucks. It’s really no wonder that Ford is in massive trouble right now. That being said, I defy you to name one foreign automobile manufacturer who cranks out so many vehicles that appeal to old people.

The Mercury Grand Marquis/Ford Crown Victoria/Lincoln Town Car trifecta - the senior driver’s dream team of vehicles.

And after driving one for a week, I think I know why these cars are so popular with a more mature audience. The large doors and wide bench seats make for easy entry and egress. The extra-large steel frame and mile-long hood lend a high degree of safety - in the event of low-speed parking lot collisions, or driving through the garage door when you thought the car was in reverse but it was actually in drive.

The Mercury Grand Marquis is basically a gigantic suit of armor.

On top of all that, the fuel economy isn’t too bad. I expected the Merc’s beefy V8 to get somewhere around 15-16 mpg highway mileage, especially considering the fact that I like to kick the shit out of my rental cars and hammer the throttle every chance I get.

Mercury claims that the Grand Marquis gets 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway. My experience leaned closer to the highway mileage rating. Not bad for a big, sloppy, Nimitz-class cruiser like this.

At highway speeds (or any speed, for that matter) the Grand Marquis handles just like a mountain cat - a mountain cat that's been sedated and placed on a big gurney, which in turn was placed on top of a grand piano, and then on top of 4 skateboards. In other words, the steering and suspension is rather flaccid.

In conclusion, the Mercury Grand Marquis is a real crowd-pleaser in south Florida. Older folks love the blimp-like driving dynamics, and tank-like safety. Younger folks enjoy driving it because it's funny.

Subscribe to my sweet feed


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Guantanamo Guns 'n Roses?

A real screenshot from the New York Times today, cropped as I saw fit. Either a) the Guantanamo detainees are HUGE Guns 'n Roses fans, or b) the detainees are actually part of Axl Rose's band. Maybe Al Qaeda trains its members in improvised explosive devices, hand-to-hand combat, terrorist propaganda, and face-melting guitar solos.

It's funny, because aside from Axl Rose and Dizzy Reed (the two remaining original members of the band) there are five other guys that no one's heard of. The five freed Guantanamo detainees perhaps? Achmad Bin Slash Guitari and four others?

Anyway, I'm sure the tour's gonna be awesome, so long as Axl remains conscious and/or upright. Sober or not, Axl will rock out with his cock out, so to speak.

The infidels will probably be too drunk to know the difference.

Subscribe to my sweet feed


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saved By Zero, Now What?

So there's this Toyota commercial that's been playing recently. It shows the various cars and trucks frenetically skidding to a stop at the front of the screen, one after the other. I'm pretty sure a giant "0%" looms in the background. The point is, Toyota is offering 0% financing on all models - for a limited time only - to qualified buyers only.

Big deal, you might say. GM has been doing that for the past 5 years, and nobody's been buying their vehicles.

Is Toyota just a bunch of assholes, or do they know what they're doing to people with this "saved by zero" commercial?

Well, the evil genius behind Toyota's promotion - and something of which GM, Ford, and Chrysler should probably take note - is that they play a hauntingly memorable jingle in the commercial. So haunting, and so easily burned into the very fabric of one's soul.

"Saaaaavvvveeed byyyy zeeerooooo......Saved by zero!.......Saved by zero!.......Saved by zero!"

You know the one I'm talking about, right? I apologize if you had found some way to forget the song - and now the song torments you once more.

Here it is for your torture and pain:

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who's complained so far. I guess that's comforting to know. Just do a Google search for "toyota saved by zero" and you'll see what I mean.

Many other lives have been impacted by this Toyota commercial - and generally not for the better. Sure, many people have gotten fantastic deals on reliable and fuel-efficient models like the Corolla, Camry and sporty RAV4. But for the rest of us, who have no interest or necessity for a new Toyota - even with amazing 0% financing for up to 60 months for highly qualified customers, and with 11 incredible models to choose from, for a limited time only. Hurry, before these deals disappear.

Shit, I think I just sold myself a Toyota. My Mazda will be very jealous.

So please, Toyota Motors Corp., just go ahead and demand that everyone buy a Toyota before you stop playing the stupid commercial. Times are tough. You need to be ruthless. After this financial crisis has run its course, you could be the lone surviving worldwide auto manufacturer. It's not the customer who's being saved by zero, it's you.

Think about it.

Subscribe to my sweet feed


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why the American Auto Industry is in the Crapper - Exhibit A: The Plymouth Reliant K Car

It's no wonder that the American Auto Industry is looking for a government bailout. That gravy train better make a stop in Detroit, or these guys are toast.

But let's not feel too sorry for them. In this multi-part series, I'll take an up-close and personal look at the reasons why GM, Ford, and Chrysler really suck balls. It's not for lack of spending or number of employees. Rather, it's their extreme allergy to innovation and customer satisfaction. It turns out that pretty much all other car companies in the entire world are better at this than the Big Three.

Case in point #1, a throwback from the 1980's, but you still see a few of them on the road today. They make me nauseous.

The Plymouth Reliant K car.

Standard features included ashtray pre-filled with used butts, and 4 mismatched hubcaps.

Ooh, it comes as a station wagon too. Still looks like shit, though slightly more utilitarian shit.

How dare you Chrysler. How dare you.

It actually turns out that this car was the Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1981. I guess back then there weren't many other vehicles that could travel at highway speeds without bursting into flames. And so, the Plymouth Reliant took home the prize.

But even if the K car was somewhat innovative at the time of its introduction, and represented a sharp departure from the gas guzzling behemoths of the 1960's and early 70's, it still looked like absolute, unadulterated shit. I mean, a child could have come up with this design. In fact, the boxy design appears to be lifted straight out of a Fisher-Price catalog.

Chrysler engineers' original electronic rendering of the Reliant.

So despite the advanced and highly stylized design, the Reliant won some awards and sold a decent number of cars. But the real tragedy of the Plymouth Reliant, is the fact that the damn thing barely changed for almost an entire decade. The car was sold from 1981-89, and looked essentially the same over that entire span - ugly as hell.

Sure, they may have tweaked the engine and improved the performance - 1981 Reliant, 0-60 mph in 3.5 days; 1989 Reliant, 0-60 mph in 36 hours. But this is a perfect example of the American Auto Industry's disease. Freshen up the lines after a few years, Chrysler. I mean, give me a break. When you build the worst looking car in the world, at least add some spoilers or ground effects to make it even more ridiculous.

In any case, the Plymouth Reliant is a terrible, terrible car. And I'd bet all the money in the world that Chrysler executives have recently (within the last 2 years) discussed re-introducing it to the market, with little cosmetic changes. If they do, you can be sure I won't be first in line for a test drive.

Subscribe to my sweet feed


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Part Mill, Part Amazing

My sister-in-law gave birth this past weekend to a fine, pristeen young boy named Cole - Cole Gabriel Rathmill.

Little Cole with his Big Daddy.

I’m sure this blog post will be but one of many Google entries that Cole will have during his lifetime. He already has a Facebook page. What’s next, JDate?

This photo serves as an allegory for how small we humans really are, in the grand scheme of the universe. Babies can teach us many things, and I plan to learn a lot from Cole as he grows up - not vice versa.

Being that Cole makes me an uncle for the first time, I need to figure out how to become the coolest, funniest, most toy-giving, and all-around best-loved uncle of them all.

Now, I don’t want to come on too strong and scare him off. So a truckload of toys delivered to his crib probably wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture – he’s only 5 days old., and he doesn’t do much playing yet anyway.

I figure I’ll start out by giving him some valuable keepsakes that he may not be able to use right now, but in a few years will remind him of his big, generous Uncle Mill.

For example: a sterling silver cigarette lighter with his name emblazoned on the case.

Or maybe a tiny set of brass knuckles.

How about a fine bottle of scotch that needs to be aged another five or six years before it’s ready to drink?

Anyway, even though I want so very badly to stand out amongst the other aunts and uncles, I may just stick with the standard stuffed animals and tiny sports outfits. This is all very new to me, after all.

If gifts aren’t enough, I believe another way to win his affection will be to call him by some very cool and awesome nicknames – names that are just too damn clever for his parents or other relatives to conjure. I think the name “Cole” lends itself particularly well to this plan of attack.

Try these on for size. Let me know what you think:

Subscribe to my sweet feed


Monday, November 10, 2008

New York Chocolate Show 2008 - Sweet Brown Dreams

Jaimi and I went to the Chocolate Show on Saturday. We brought along our friends, Jeff and Candice, who were visiting from Boston.

The show was staged at Pier 94, and featured approximately 60 chocolate-related exhibitors. Many exhibits featured a variety of products for sale and for sampling.

And for the $28 entry fee, we were certainly motivated to take full advantage of all the free samples. This was a chocolate lover’s fantasy dream land. The samples ranged from tiny shards of pulverized chocolate bars and splinters of hacked up chocolate truffles, to full-sized and intact candies. From the clumping of the crowd, you could tell who was giving away whole candies.

For $28, we planned to do serious damage to our digestive tracts.

Now, I’ve known Jeff since college, and he never seemed so organized and focused as he did on Saturday. He laid out the game plan, barking orders like a football coach, but in a softer tone - so as to not piss off Candice. We were to systematically – and without exception – stop at every stand along a z-shaped route. This way, we were sure to wring every last sample out of the show. $28 worth of chocolate? Ha! We were shooting for $228 in each of our bellies before the afternoon was through. None of us really knew what that much chocolate would do to a man's gut, but we were hoping to find out. In the name of science.

Most show-goers were lethargic and pale after consuming large amounts of tiny chocolate samples.

In the end, the game plan worked fairly well. We mostly adhered to the planned route. We ate a bunch of samples, and had a real nice time. But we would have had to purge and keep sampling in order to really get our money’s worth. According to Candice and Jaimi, that was out of the question. In retrospect, it wasn’t a very good idea. But the simple physiological fact of the matter is that the human body begins to reject chocolate after a pound or so has been ingested.

I suppose the generally tiny samples not only save the exhibitors money, but they’re also good for the visitors. If chocolate doesn’t go straight to your ass and hips, then it goes straight to the interior walls of your veins and arteries.

Even so, when I saw the diminutive size of some of these samples, I could almost feel my blood pressure rise, and my clothes ripping under the force of my bulging green muscles. In other words, I was angry.

The worst perpetrators, however, were those who dared to offer no samples at all. They would only sell you pieces of their overpriced, shit-enrobed hot garbage.

These don't look like free samples. Keep moving!!

You think I came to this show to do a little shopping? Hell no! I came here to eat me some chocolate.

Besides, I didn’t have any cash on me.

But enough complaining. Jacques Torres, whose store is right near our apartment in DUMBO, probably did the best job handing out whole, gourmet candies – and not just some ass-flavored crap that they couldn’t sell at the store. No, these were absolutely delightful ginger-flavored dark chocolate truffles.

Thank you Jacques. You win my award for best Chocolate Show sample. You are a true chocolate gentleman. A chocolate man with a chocolate soul – sweet and rich, inside and out. You may have just earned yourself a few new loyal customers due to your Chocolate Show performance.

Congratulations. You won't regret it. Probably.

Subscribe to my sweet feed


Friday, November 07, 2008

Barack Obama’s Fantasy All-Star Cabinet Appointees

What if President-Elect Obama could choose anyone from any time period for any Cabinet position, currently alive, currently fictitious, or currently dead?

You might say, “That would be utterly ridiculous, and a waste of time to even think about.” Or, “Maybe you should spend more time exercising or reading, and less time dreaming up impossible political scenarios.”

Fair enough.

But still, I thought it would be a fun exercise. And as Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Boys just wanna have fun.”

Obama’s Dream Cabinet:

(In order of line of succession in the event of the unfortunate demise of the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and leader of the Senate – according to Wikipedia.)

Secretary of State – Hillary Clinton (1947 - ????)
Come on Barry, throw this lady a bone. She was crushed by your Primary victory, and still managed to support you throughout the General Election. She even managed to corral Wild Bill and get him to do some half-hearted campaigning for you. Without her support you may not have won. And give her a raise and a nice corner office while you’re at it.

Secretary of the Treasury – John Jacob Astor (1763-1848)
Astor was the country’s first multimillionaire, when being a millionaire would have been like being a trillionaire rock star/Lebron James/George Clooney/Oprah in today’s terms. Also, Astor amassed much of his fortune in real estate, and it looks like we could use some help in that area right about now. Astor also made money in the fur and opium trades, so hopefully he’d initiate another stimulus package that would give citizens huge discounts on black tar heroin and beaver hats.

Secretary of Defense – Genghis Khan (1162-1227)
This dude was one of the greatest badasses of all time. He kicked ass, took names, and then kicked some more ass. This guy kicked so much ass and killed so many people that just the sound of his name still rings like the call of death itself. What do you think of when you think “Genghis Khan?” Death and destruction. Don’t you think North Korea, Iran, and al Qaeda would roll over and wag their tails for this guy? Also, he made a mean macaroni and cheese - which is one of Sasha and Melia’s favorite meals.

Attorney General – Benjamin Matlock (1986-1995, 9 PM Eastern Time, NBC)
Ben Matlock was one of the greatest crime solvers and legal geniuses of the past century. A Harvard educated widower, his practice consisted of a small legal firm in Atlanta, GA. He frequently solved murder mysteries by dressing up as a woman and hiding a spycam in his parasol. A true Southern Gentleman, Matlock would just as soon help a lady down some slippery stairs as he would challenge a scoundrel to a duel. His sky blue suits are straight out of the “Popular Mechanics Men’s Fashion Special.” Call him Joe the Lawyer. He may be just an imaginary character, portrayed by the brilliant Andy Griffith, but his legal prowess is legendary.

Secretary of Agriculture – George Washington Carver (1864-1943)
A no-brainer for this position - I mean, come on. The father of the peanut, Carver was an accomplished scientist, educator, and inventor. He was well-known for making anything and everything out of peanuts and peanut derivatives. He once constructed an entire automobile out of nothing but peanuts, fueling it with peanut oil, with peanut shell seats and a peanut butter dashboard. Of course, upon ignition, the peanut car almost instantly burst into flames, killing the test driver. But still, Carver was an agricultural genius, especially when it came to peanuts.

Secretary of Commerce – Sam Walton (1918-1992)
The founder of Walmart, Walton grew up during the Great Depression. He sure knew what a tough business environment looked like. Walton built his business from a single five-and-dime, to a worldwide empire of giant stores selling cheap crap. Even now, if you want the cheapest anything – tube socks, plasma TV, artificial limbs – your best bet is to head down to Walmart. With Sam Walton at the helm of American commerce, we can be sure to get some great bargains.

Secretary of Labor – Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
A strong believer in the greatness of man, Ayn Rand was a real spark plug. She could also be a total pain in the ass, and would likely be the kind of Secretary of Labor who would yell at you for taking anything more than a 10 minute lunch break once a week. She wasn’t a big fan of welfare, and tended to ignore panhandlers. She wasn’t a big fan of vacations, but was a huge advocate of hard work. “Hard work equals more money, and is the only true measure of man.” She probably had this phrase tattooed on the inside of her eyelids. Her immutably strong support of capitalism would make her an excellent foil to Obama the Socialist. They would likely get into a lot or arguments and possibly an occasional fistfight. But Ms. Rand would keep people working.

Secretary of Recreation – The Mill (1976 - hopefully a very long time from now)
I’m basically an expert at all things recreational. Whether it be lying on the couch watching football, sitting in a movie theater, tossing a football around in the backyard, playing board games, or even reading a book – I’ve done it all. And I would bring this knowledge and expertise to Barack Obama’s White House. “Sometimes, we just need to chill out and play some Xbox.” That’s what I would tell Obama whenever Putin rears his ugly head, or whenever another major US corporation goes belly up. I’m pretty sure I’d be his favorite Secretary.

Subscribe to my sweet feed


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Correction: John McCain Wins Vermont and Massachusetts...... this wild dream I had last night, after real-world McCain clearly had his ass handed to him in a handbasket. Dream-world McCain had red hair, even yellower teeth, wore glasses, and was approximately 40 feet tall judging from how easily he could pick up full-size cars and horses and toss them around like toys.

Dream-world Obama was nowhere to be found. Dream-world McCain seemed to be running unopposed. It was a nightmare.

Although Chris Rock was hanging out with me - for comic relief - and I was somehow able to watch most of the election returns from the Space Shuttle. It didn't take very long after I awoke - in the dark, in my bed, in Brooklyn - to realize that I wasn't in orbit around the Earth. And that Jaimi wasn't Chris Rock. Maybe 10-20 minutes, tops.

But back in the real world, before drifting off to dream land, we already knew that Barack Obama was our new President.

Hoots and hollers could be heard in the streets. We toasted the momentous election with some of the finest beer and cupcakes in all of New York City.

I'd now like to take this opportunity to point out that not only did I predict the Philadelphia Phillies would win the World Series several weeks before the actual event, but I also offered my endorsement to Obama in recent days.

Am I psychic?

Perhaps yes.

(You in the blue sweater, look out. You will spill coffee on your shoes today after reading this post. Email me for more spooky predictions.)

I'm 2 for 2 over the past 2 weeks in world-shifting, watershed events. Can I make it 3 for 3 in 3 weeks? Phillies, Obama, and.....?

And the first talking dog will be introduced to the world. But it will only speak French.

You can count on it.

Subscribe to my sweet feed


Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween 2008 Recap

Jaimi and I dressed as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. I, as you may have expected, was Tinkerbell.

We went to a nice little party in Manhattan for most of the evening. There, we met smurfs, Marilyn Manson, a fat lady, and some guy who was dressed like a box of tissues - I think.

All in all, it was an unmitigated success. A beautiful, disastrous, dreamlike success. Jaimi looked good. I looked ridiculous - which, I'm pretty sure was the entire point. It's not as if I thought I'd actually make a realistic magic fairy. Besides, I left my pixie dust at home.

And still, when I walked the streets with Smurfette and Vanity Smurf (Greg and Dan) everyone knew my name.

"Oh my God! It's Tinkerbell!!"

"Hi Tink!!"

"That's disgusting!!"

"That guy has balls for dressing like that. But I sure as hell would never do it."

And so forth. Even without Peter Pan by my side, the costume still had some relevance in present day New York City.

My sense is that there's a little bit of Tinkerbell in all of us. We all wish we had magical powers and could fly. We wish we were so tiny as to go unnoticed during the morning commute. Furthermore, we wish we didn't have to work, and could instead flutter around and protect our androgenous friends.

So without further ado, here are a few pictures:

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell - completely life-size, mostly anatomically correct.

Me with my smurf friends. Brainy Smurf (not pictured) was the only one smart enough to operate the camera at this point.

Tink likes his beer. Vanity Smurf can be seen moving in on the photo-op, trying to steal Tink's thunder. Who is more beautiful?

Subscribe to my sweet feed