U-M: Obamatons

31 01 2012

I’ve often written optimistically of the young people resisting the urge to conform to the campus status quo, proclaiming the ideals of liberty deep behind the enemy lines of a hostile academia.

Nowhere was that trend less apparent that at the University of Michigan’s Al Glick Field House this past Friday morning, where Obama spoke to an adoring crowd of 4,000.

The students and faculty who packed the Field House and filled overflow rooms were not there to be challenged. They weren’t there for insight. They were there for a performance.

And Obama delivered. From the requisite “Go Blue!” and references to U-M athletes (which seem so endearing to supporters and so trite to opponents) to a healthy dose of leftist rhetoric, Obama hit all the right notes.

Education for all! Jobs of the future! Redistribution! Class warfare! Warren Buffett’s secretary! Clean energy!

“We’ve already doubled fuel economy standards on cars,” said Obama.

No, Mr. President, we didn’t double fuel economy standards. You most certainly didn’t. If anything, automotive engineers did – and the consumer picked up the tab racked up by the ever-increasing burdens of regulation.

Law can be changed by edict, but reality can’t – not that the audience of supposedly well-educated Wolverines cared to take notice of Obama’s arrogantly fallacious statements. They didn’t seem to notice the vacuousness of his grand plan for education reform, either. Read the rest of this entry »





Always, always, always back up your stuff

30 01 2012

I just spent all the spare time I had set aside for writing about monster trucks recreating a club mailing list…all because the U-M directory decided to inexplicably delete the existing one.

Fortunately, I had a backup–from last year. I had to manually cross reference that old list with my email archives and remove the names of everyone who unsubscribed. I know a few slipped through, so I’ve got their (rightfully) pissed-off emails to look forward to…

What’s the point of my bitching?

While my wasting two hours is relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it can serve as an invaluable lesson to everyone: always backup your stuff. Backup your backups with backed-up backups. Get an external hard drive, or Carbonite, or something.

If you don’t, you’re eventually going to lose something far more important than a stupid college club mailing list.





The pursuit of perfection as an obsession

29 01 2012

Every so often you come across an individual who can turn what others see as just a job into a true vocation–a person who approaches his trade with the attitude and skill of an artist. I have nothing but respect for these all-too-rare individuals, and I try to learn about them whenever I am able. Over the past few months, I’ve heard of two–and they share an interesting connection.

First, I stumbled upon the work of a certain Shin Yoshikawa. He runs a shop called “Studio Time Capsule” out in California. He also creates insanely intricate cutaway technical drawings of vintage cars. He recently built fabricated a replica Toyota 2000GT body. By hand. From aluminum. Shin’s English may not be great, but the same cannot be said about his craftsmanship.

No words.

A few weeks ago, my dad handed me an article about Hidetaka Takasaki. “Taka” specializes in the repair of old Japanese motorcycles (much like my 1980 Honda CB 750K). But he doesn’t advertise his services, and he doesn’t pride himself on his speed or efficiency–his reputation has spread on the strength of his artistry. Read the rest of this entry »





DIA visit

28 01 2012

My dad and I stopped by the Detroit Institute of Arts yesterday. It was packed–more packed than one would expect an art museum to be on a Friday night. A positive sign for Western culture? Perhaps.

I’ve been visiting the DIA since my days at Montessori school, but I’ve found that my ongoing study of history adds another dimension to the art and artifacts on display. Two weeks ago, for example, I had to read a few excerpts from the Roman Emperor Augustus’ Res Gestae.

Imagine my surprise when I ran into Rome’s First Citizen last night:

His nose destroyed by an unfortunate plastic surgery addiction, Augustus would only appear before the Senate wearing a surgical mask

A 3-D film installation entitled “plant” was the main reason we made the trip. I won’t try to describe it in detail (it was pretty bizarre), but essentially, its creators took thousands of photos of the decaying Packard plant and used them to build some rather trippy digital composites. Read the rest of this entry »





Obama, political rock star

26 01 2012

College graduates may be slowly but surely souring on President Obama, but the Commander in Chief can still command an adoring audience in Ann Arbor.

I mingled with the crowd queued for tickets between classes this morning. At 10AM, there were hundreds of students still lined up alongside the Michigan Union. Many were wrapped in blankets; they had been there since dawn or earlier.

It's like a Star Wars premiere for Obama geeks

The masses were enthusiastic, to say the least. Even the passers by wanted to participate in the madness. I stopped to snap a few photos, and when I turned to walk away, I saw that there were six or seven others doing the same.

I won’t be at the speech tomorrow. Though I do wish that I could attend, I have a sneaking suspicion that the event will be as substance-free as his previous U-M appearance – the Class of 2010 commencement ceremony.

It will likely go something like this: Read the rest of this entry »





Back optimism with real economic reform

25 01 2012

My column from the latest issue of the Michigan Review:

The 2012 North American International Auto Show was more than a razzle-dazzle display of sheet metal: it was a testament to optimism. Pundits, industry leaders, and politicians alike were quick to boast of Detroit’s roaring recovery. The oft-repeated narrative was one of relentless positivity. The Big Three had returned from the brink stronger than ever; the Motor City (and the economy of Michigan as a whole) was on the road to recovery.

It’s a lovely sentiment–one I certainly wish that I could buy into without reservation. But although surging auto sales figures seem to lend some credence to this most recent wave of enthusiasm, there is little evidence to suggest that the destructive mentality that spurred the decades-long decline of Midwestern industry has been vanquished. I’m referring to the tendency to take entrepreneurs, businessmen, and industry leaders–and the jobs and wealth they provide–for granted.

Believe it or not, this wasn't already there when Cadillac showed up

Take, for example, one of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s proposals intended to improve the city’s bleak fiscal situation. Despite a personal income surtax (levied on both Detroit residents and those who merely work in the city) and property taxes that are already among the highest in the state, Bing wants to nearly double the city’ corporate income tax. That proposed increase might not seem like much on paper (the rate would climb from 1 percent to 1.9 percent) but it betrays a fundamental ignorance of Detroit’s history, its downfall, and the only viable route to its recovery.

Read the rest of this entry »





Great De Lorenzo rant at Autoextremist

25 01 2012

Peter De Lorenzo has been offering vital, informed commentary on the auto industry in his weekly Autoextremist Rants for over a decade. His latest piece takes on the proposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard hike with his characteristic passion and irreverence:

Yes, they aim to have us live in a picture-perfect land of forced electrification, where even our “other” cars and trucks would get 70+ mpg while emitting only a faint whiff of espresso, complete with all the visceral appeal of a three-day-old scone, and costing so damn much that no one in their right mind will want to pay for them.

Oh, but wouldn’t our valley be green and great?

No, not really, but then again that’s beside the point. Anyone still operating under the assumption that the politicos in Washington actually have the country’s best interests in mind, well, to say you have another thing coming would be the understatement of the year.

The proles will love these things–not that they'll have a choice

He also raises the matter of UAW President Bob King’s support of the CAFE standard increase. I also called out King’s bizarre reasoning in my bit on CAFE standards; it’s nice to know I’m at least on the same wavelength as pundits with far more industry experience:

Read the rest of this entry »