Tuesday, December 30, 2008
This Cat of the Day post is a bittersweet memorial to a lovable, fluffy cat we lost just a couple of months ago. Miles Silverberg used to be one of our heaviest cats, but he developed some mysterious illness over time that caused him to just waste away until he was one of our lightest cats. We'll never know exactly why we lost him. The vet's diagnosis of some sort of respiratory infection is all we know. This is the way we want to remember Miles: a big, soft, fluffy cat lounging in his favorite chair without a care in the world. God bless him.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
You might say that I had a life-changing experience that day in the Spring of 1995 when I visited my local Bayliner dealer and a new Reflexx was parked next to the entrance. That was the first mini-jet boat I saw, and it was love at first sight, with that type of boat, at least. Although the Reflexx was appealing in certain ways, it had a few design flaws. First of all, the joy of any mini-jet comes with the spin, and this long, narrow, conventional hull doesn't look like much of a spinner. Secondly, the front seats were uncomfortable and the grab bar mounted above the windshield cuts through your line of sight if you happen to sit low in the saddle, as I do. The rear seats are more comfortable, but in most cases, who's going to use them? The closed bow is not a very efficient use of the small interior space of a fourteen-foot boat, either. Last of all, the trim colors seem to have been designed for a gay teenager, not usually the sort than can afford a new jetboat.
The Reflexx was sold only in 1994 and '95. Bayliner seemed to have wisely concentrated more effort on developing the Jazz, a somewhat more conventional, open-bow jetboat. The Jazz was built in several iterations from 1993-99. The original was a plain, shallow little thing with minimal, hard seating and solid colored-trim over a white hull. The Jazz received updated graphics in '94 and the larger 120-hp Mercury four-cylinder engine in 1995. The 1996 model seemed to become an all-new boat with a new sixteen-foot hull, beautiful colors, very comfortable seating, and deluxe accoutrements. The new Mercury 175-hp V-6 was added in '97.
For much more information on the Reflexx and other jet boats, see
Ker-Splash 2: The High Performance Powerboat Book
Ker-Splash 2 in Kindle
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
I have been obsessed with the Four Winns Unlimited series of boats since I first saw one at a dealer in 1995 or '96. This has been a rare and controversial boat since its inception. For a brief period in the mid-Nineties, Four Winns and Donzi operated underneath one corporate banner. Donzi of course is the legendary Florida brand that first marketed its Sweet 16 speedboat in The Sixties. For many years the company has been producing what they call the Classic line in 16-foot, 18-foot, and 22-foot lengths, and the series fits right in with Donzi's racy image. Four Winns has always been a Your Father's Oldsmobile sort of company. For the 1996 and '97 model years only, Four Winns produced a 17-foot and 19-foot pair of speedboats they called Unlimiteds. Clearly based on the Donzi hull design, but being quite different from the Donzis in detail, the U-17 and U-19 offered a style somewhat unique to themselves.
My obsession with the Unlimiteds stems from their individualistic features and creative marketing. The '96 models in particular are very pleasing to my eyes, more so than any of the Donzi Classics or the two-tone '97's, with their odd-shaped color-combination paired with very conventional two-tone seating. As for the danger element, I think you just have to show care and respect at the helm, much as you do with the notorious Kawasaki Triple motorcycles. I quite happily owned one of those for many years, and I knew that you never let one of those come up on the pipe in a corner. Twist that throttle in a straight line only! Without the snot-brand price quotient of a Donzi, the Unlimiteds were affordably priced, too. Like the lovable Corvettes and Mustangs of the '60's, you had to option up any Unlimited to make it interesting or even comfortable. Carpet, Bimini top, cockpit cover, through-hull exhaust, swim platform with a boarding ladder, a very low, windbreaking, dark-tinted windshield, CD stereo, and even a stern boarding ladder were optional. Even the graphics package, cassette stereo, and aft fill-in cushions were additional options offered on the 1996 models. The '96 models were offered in navy, red, chianti, teal, forest green, and purple. The 1997 colors were limited to navy, red, and yellow. When you factor in the color and engine choices, and of course the controversial DuoProp option, you can easily see how extremely few identical Unlimiteds were produced. What a fascinating boat!
Read a lot more details about the Unlimiteds in
Ker-Splash 2: The High Performance Powerboat Book
Ker-Splash 2 in Kindle
GM and Chrysler got the government bailout they've been whining for now for a week or so. I am a huge fan of the legendary motorhead movie from 1971, Vanishing Point. The car pictured here is a copycat facsimile of the 1970 Hemi Challenger Coupe that Petrocelli drove in the movie. The most recent big hoopla over a new Chrysler model involves the reincarnation of the Dodge Challenger. The introduction of such a model should warm the heart of any old car nut like me, but a $45,000, image-making musclecar belongs in the dead last slot of any consideration of exactly what the Chrysler Corporation needs right now to save its wortheless butt. Yeah, I know that OmniRizons, K-cars, and minivans are boring as hell, but where is Iacoccanut when we need him?
If Chrysler doesn't get its head out of its dual, low-restriction exhaust tailpipe, the term Vanishing Point will take on a new meaning. I don't care how much money the gubmint throws at Chrysler, if the company doesn't begin building cars that Americans in large numbers want to buy, the company can kiss its arrogant butt goodbye.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Last Horizon at first glance seems to be schizophrenic. Is it a self-help book that displays an analysis of American dating rituals, or is it a muckraking attack on the current cultural status of America? The short answer is that it is some of both. The psychological theory of The Class System that I developed back in The Sixties turned out to have had a profound effect on the way I view our society. It removes the blinders so that you can see so much more than before, far more than the average citizen. The book has been crammed to the gunwales with information for the reader, making for a very dense read. Don't make the mistake of letting this scare you off. If you only scan the first chapter, you will miss all the fun. This is a book that can be read multiple times. Imagine that you listened to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon exactly once and no more. We both know that had you done this, you would have missed much of the depth, insight, and cleverness hidden in Dark Side. Think of The Last Horizon the same way.
This great country of ours is home to probably millions of overweight women with less than stellar bodies. In case you missed it, this book is really, truly meant for you. No, I am not a large woman. I am a very thin man who has the metabolism of a hummingbird and eats like a pig. Bring on the chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, and don't be stingy with the gravy, either! Is this not the irony of the century? The truth is that men who are too thin can be as victimized by this society as women who are too heavy. It is precisely my heterosexual inner self who is so acutely in touch with my feminine side. My perspective on American culture is the same as yours, yet different. I bet you never thought of it that way, have you? Yes, the knowledge found in The Last Horizon will confirm your deepest fears, but hopefully, you will also learn to better deal with these fears once they have been dragged out into the sunlight. The book is most certainly intended to be a learning experience. It should be a launching pad for your new future of total awareness. Knowledge is always power, and the show’s never over until the fat lady sings….
Thursday, December 11, 2008
A poignant allegory has developed between what has been happening on America’s lakes in recent years and what has been happening throughout our culture for a long time. Unless you are a recreational boater or live near one of America’s lakes, you may not be aware of the significance brought to our consciousness by these two extreme representations of Americans’ love of speed, noise, and oil. I want to tell you a little story in honor of the Labor Day Weekend, traditionally the final hurrah of recreational boating in each summer season. The weather where I live usually allows boating to be enjoyed up through October if you want to actually jump in the lake, and throughout most of the whole year if you don’t, so this is a subject close to my heart.
There are many varieties of boats used strictly for recreational purposes on our inland lakes; however, two particular types of boat have drawn the ire of many people residing in lakeside areas in recent years. I want to explain some of the history, facts, and misconceptions surrounding these two types of powerboats that have raised the hackles of many due to conservation or environmental issues. Although they reside at opposite poles of the recreational boating hobby in most respects, these two seem to have taken on the persona of the wolves and whitetail deer of our forested areas. The two even have roughly parallel histories. Scarabs are a now extinct brand of cigarette boat and WaveRunners are the sit-down Yamaha jet skis that seem to be buzzing about everywhere there is a mud puddle. Scarabs are like rare, vicious predators who need a large territory in which to survive. WaveRunners just seem to be multiplying everywhere like whitetail deer, wherever there are insufficient numbers of predators.
Cigarette boats and jet skis were invented and purchased by small numbers of their respective enthusiasts many years before their numbers greatly increased, bringing negative attention to them. I am singling out Scarabs and WaveRunners here because, not only are they my own favorite brands of their respective types of powerboats, but each has been responsible almost single-handedly for their widespread popularity. Wellcraft was the first boat builder to mass-produce cigarette boats at somewhat reasonable prices. Yamaha began the sit-down jet ski craze for people who either wanted more versatility or were just too lazy to stand up or learn a new skill. Unlike most of their competitors, the Wellcraft Scarabs utilized straightforward hull designs, standard engine options, and reasonable levels of luxury trim to complement their mass production numbers. Particularly for the smaller models, ranging from eighteen to twenty-nine feet, this strategy held the prices of Scarabs somewhat below the if you have to ask, you can’t afford it level. Although Kawasaki coined the term jet ski in 1973 at a time when motorcycle sales were waning in the U.S., Yamaha’s introduction of the WaveRunner in 1987 really gave a jet-like thrust to the personal watercraft market.
The jet ski was officially invented by Sea-Doo in 1967-8, but the company never seemed to get the idea off the ground until Kaw entered the picture a few years later. As you may have already guessed, six companies have built all the mass produced jet skis. Sea-Doo is still one of the most popular brands with its Rotax engines. Kawasaki has continually sold official Jet Skis since 1973. Polaris built jet skis using engines built by Fuji Heavy Industries from 1992 through 1997. Tiger Sharks with Suzuki engines were marketed briefly in The Nineties. Yamaha has continually sold its line of sit-down WaveRunners since 1987. Honda finally entered the market with a line of four-stroke models just a few years ago, following the series of uprisings by environmentalists over the pollution caused by the horde of two-strokes swarming all over the nation’s lakes. This predictable string of events followed a familiar pattern set by the same corporate players decades ago, when Honda was the only Japanese motorcycle brand building four-cycle engines in The Sixties. Due to environmental pressures, all the other Japanese brands began building four-strokes and phasing out their two-stroke models as The Seventies progressed. This time Honda just waited for the backlash to build up against the two-stroke smokescreen before entering the jet ski market.
Extremely long, closed-bow, deep-V, offshore racing boats had been entertaining millionaires in small numbers for years before Crockett and Tubbs brought them to the consciousness of average Miami Vice couch pilots in 1984. That was a Scarab they were driving across the waves. Now Scarabs and their many competing, smaller, boutique brands are ripping up and down inland lakes all across America. Most likely the ones you are seeing now are built by Baja, the brand that has taken the helm of the affordable, mass-production cigarette boats. Most of these roaring beasts still cost as much as a house, but at least Baja is making an effort to make them available to the masses of the upper middle class. You could say that this phenomenon is just another example of wretched excess taking over American waters. The pilots and passengers, who usually number no more than three, ride high above the miniscule waves with their noses held aloft. Most of these minions of excess enjoy the mellow bellow of through-hull twin exhaust systems that shatter the peace and quiet of the other millionaires living along the shoreline. The peasants in their smaller runabouts must pause their conversations until the elitist snots have roared on down the lake, disturbing someone else’s tranquility.
Americans are facing a crossroad in our history. The stresses brought on our environment and economy by decades of wretched excess are beginning to cause cracks in the hull of our ship. We are unsure who to blame and uncertain which issue is disturbing us more. The allegory becomes clear when you see that jet skis have borne the brunt of our anger simply because of their numbers. Their two-stroke engines assault our ears and their pollution assaults our lakes. Should anyone wonder why illegal immigration has finally arisen to the forefront of our collective consciousness? Why have overpaid CEO’s and hedge fund managers become so reviled? Are they not roaring across the quiet masses with their noses held high in the air? Some of us have become sickened by the sight of a soccer mom driving her Hummer to work alone. How many big-block V-8’s does a recreational watercraft need to cruise down the lake? Many of them have two and some even have three. A five-year-old holds up his fingers to indicate his age, but that kid will not need that many fingers to describe the fuel consumption of a big Scarab! We used to speak of a CEO’s income in millions. Now there are hedge fund managers making billions. We have become a nation of wretched excess for a few and unlimited growth for the multitudes. Like the middle class families enjoying their family outings on the lake, our national sanity is being wrenched apart by the growth of the extremes.Ker-Splash! Recreational Power Boaters Guide
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
My theory is based on the study of body types by a well-known psychologist, but the spin I have placed on his theories is that the prosperity, social power, and recreational time enjoyed by the Boomers at unprecedented levels have allowed a special entity to develop from our earliest social experiences. In simple terms, the shallow social strata so commonly developed during our school years of 1st-12th grades never disappears from our social structure, even as we seemingly mature as individuals. We are born as members of the wolf pack and we die as members of the pack. Darwin's theory never really disappears from our subconscious, no matter how deeply we try to bury it with civilized behavior patterns.
The Class System represents the DNA of most modern pack behavior. Christians are known as a violently patriarchal society. We resist most any efforts at developments of matriarchal power. Why do you think most of the witches who have been burned at the stake have been female? Why do you think the red state right-wingers disparage Hillary Clinton so thoroughly? Why do you think The da Vinci Code was such a big seller? Why are we now in the throes of Obamamania?
The Last Horizon is also the DNA of our sexual behaviors. Our mating rituals reflect the power of feminine sexuality, but we generally tend to try to disguise this fact with a thick coating of rampant testosterone. There is a deeply ingrained conflict between the way we see ourselves as patriarchal Christians and simultaneously as members of the wolf pack. We mature as individuals encased within a culture of confusing identity, outwardly worshipping the masculine while inwardly providing the feminine with the ultimate social power.
The content of the book is a lot more about teenage dating rituals and the sexual behavior of all ages than you might expect from this particular description of its soiological implications. I would never publish anything that was not at least significantly entertaining to read. My style has a lot more in common with Bill Maher than Paul Krugman. My point is that we never seem to grow up. We are the generation of adolescents that have more in common with Peter Pan than we would care to admit, and that, ladies and gentlemen, will be our downfall. As an entire culture, we are so easily led around by our noses, or more appropriately by our hoo-hahs and doo-dahs.
The Last Horizon at Amazon
Floyd M. Orr's related blog, Palin Babygate
Monday, December 8, 2008
There are three categories of presents that I generally seek out for my family and friends: practical, memorable, and consumable. I generally prefer to both give and receive presents in this same decreasing order, although as I get older, the consumable group is surpassing the memorable group. The younger the recipient, the more you should follow the original order, and the older the recipient, the more you may wish to choose the reverse order. In other words, any kid wants a toy that they can play with, our younger parents might wish to have some sort of memorable token of our love and compassion for them, and older parents or grandparents just don't want any more stuff that they have to find someplace to put. They would usually prefer to have something they can just eat and get it over with, particularly some treat they treasure from the old days that has now become too expensive an indulgence.
The first place to look for any gift these days should be and is Amazon. In these days of not only gasoline too expensive to physically go shopping in the first place, but a fuel surcharge on the shipping of products, Amazon's $25+ free shipping deal is a Godsend! You think you cannot buy a walker or other aid to the impaired and built by a supplier of consumer medical equipment at Amazon? Think again. You think you cannot buy an unusual model of WeedEater that is out of stock at Home Depot? I did, and the price at Amazon was the best I found anywhere. Want to buy the ubiquitous fruitcake? Try Amazon. How about a tiny, multi-LED, super-bright flashlight? Amazon has the best deals I have found. Most new hardcover releases at B&N are priced at standard retail, but not those at Amazon. Want to know if that rare surf music album from The Sixties is available? No one can answer that question for you better than Amazon.
Getting back to the three categories of gifts, here are some of my favorite online retailers. If Amazon doesn't have the piece of electronics you want, try J&R. If you want to cook something that is fun to eat or just stock up on fruits and nuts, try Bulk Foods. Things Remembered is probably the best store for general stuff that takes up very little space in the memorable category. Here is a review site for the Christmas ubiquity, fruitcake, including links to the bakeries where you can order them. Omaha Steaks can feed anybody who is not a vegetarian, and Kansas City Steaks offers similar values. I know all of you have heard of Cabela's for sportsmen, but how about the smaller, yet sometimes interesting, Sportsmen's Guide? Animal Den is an unusual little store that sells all sorts of paraphernalia for fans of all sorts of animals, and most of it takes up minimal space.
Mustang Legends: The Power, The Performance, The Passion Edited by Michael Dregni (Voyageur Press / 0-896-58046-6 / 978-0-896-58046-6 / May 2004 / 160 pages / $29.95)
Once again I had the honor of participating in a project covering the illustrious history of an American icon. This elegant coffee table hardback features stories and articles by several famous automotive scribes, including Peter Egan and Allan Girdler. As measured by the page count, my two contributions, "Stangworld" and "Magical Days", represent a significant portion of this particular homage to the Mustang legacy.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
This Old Corvette:
The Ultimate Tribute to America's Sports Car
Edited by Michael Dregni (Voyageur Press / 0-896-58622-7 / 978-0-896-68622-2 / July 2003 / 160 pages / $29.95)
I am honored to have been featured in this elegant coffee table book about the legendary history of the Corvette and its honored place in American culture. It's a real treat to see my story, "Vetteworld", share the pages of a hardcover book with motorhead heroes such as Peter Egan, Allan Girdler, Martin Milner, and the illustrious Zora Arkus-Duntov!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
The author of PLASTIC OZONE DAYDREAM grew up in various small towns in Mississippi and he has resided in Texas since 1976. He spent the years 1978-1990 as a traveling auditor throughout Texas and the rest of the U.S., providing more than a decade of time almost constantly behind the wheel. As a member of The Longhorn Corvette Club of Austin, Texas, the author composed most of the wild tales included in Daydream for the amusement of club members through the club newsletter. Emerging from these newsletter articles after extensive editing, PLASTIC OZONE DAYDREAM is meant to convey the most depth in the least words. The stories are woven together like the plies of a radial tire: the sum is much stronger than the parts. The author brings together a lifetime of love for sports cars and a million miles of driving experience.
PLASTIC OZONE DAYDREAM is partly fiction and partly non-fiction. The book is divided into seven sections, called series, in honor of the British sports cars of The Sixties. "Introduction" leads to "Series I: The Wild Tales", both of which are meant to just get the car started. "Series II: Roadblocks" describe those unpleasant features of driving in modern America. "Series III: Spirits of the Age" define the sub-eras of Corvette history as divisions other than the obvious ones so retreaded in most other Corvette books. "Series IV: The Sweet Rides" take you right where you want to go, and "Series V: The Great Pretenders" take you where you have never been before. The book concludes with "Tire Tracks" which include a 200-question trivia quiz. Thirty-eight B&W photos taken by the author add personal humor and nostalgia.
Floyd M. Orr has wanted to publish a real book for most of his life. This goal happens to have been realized with PLASTIC OZONE DAYDREAM, a humorous compilation of Corvette stories. The author's interests include psychology, as stated on his diploma from Mississippi State University in 1971, motorcycles as well as sports cars, and Classic Krautrock. The next book will surely emphasize one of these non-vehicular hobbies a lot more than the first one, but these elements are certainly present in Daydream. The author long ago developed his own theory of personality development. This first book is meant to convey a serious undertone to a lighthearted subject. Daydream is chock full of facts and figures about Corvettes that are meant to educate as well as entertain the reader. Full of Southern humor and sports car lingo, PLASTIC OZONE DAYDREAM is designed to take the reader on a journey into his imagination.
PLASTIC OZONE DAYDREAM: The Corvette Chronicles by Floyd M. Orr. Writers Club Press, December, 2000. 6"x9" Trade Paperback. ISBN: 0-595-15794-7. 355 pages. $17.95. Distributed by Ingram. Available at these online bookstores: iUniverse.com - Barnes & Noble - Amazon - Books-a-Million - 1 Bookstreet.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Plastic Ozone Daydream:
The Corvette Chronicles
by Floyd M. Orr
(Writers Club Press / 0-595-15794-7 / 978-0-595-15794-5 / December 2000 / 368 pages / $17.95)
Take an entertaining drive through the history of Baby Boomer America with our own sports car icon, the Corvette. These are interlinked stories that capture the essence and spirit of America's car culture.
Most of these stories were originally published in The Longhorn Corvette Club BULLetin 1985-1994. They have been edited and compiled into a coherent volume of essays covering the history of the Corvette. Modern American culture has interfaced with the Corvette in ways you may never have considered. These stories are intended to torque your imagination and light up your memories. This is not a marque history book or one of glossy-perfect photographs. There are 35 B & W photos in the book, but their content and text references are not what you would expect. This tale of unexpected imagination is meant to entertain the many car nuts in our culture. It is a mixture of fond remembrances and shocking revelations, a trip filled with smooth asphalt, potholes, and radar guns.
The intent of Plastic Ozone Daydream has always been to paint with the broadest strokes, presenting the most imagery possible with the least number of words. The attempt has been to make Daydream the Vanishing Point of car books, not the most famous or profitable, but the one car junkies remember as leaving tire tracks on their hearts. The stories are told through the headlights of a Corvette, not only because they reached a captive audience through a Corvette club, but because the Corvette offers a vast array of data and history to validate and solidify the storyline. The stories range over a broad spectrum of style and substance. Some are nostalgic, many are actually non-fiction with the nomenclature aborted, and others just tell the ugly truth. The more you know about Corvettes, the more inside jokes you will understand. The more you like sports cars, and the author has a lot of non-Corvette favorites, the more Daydream will entertain you. The book contains facts, figures, photos, tables, and even a 200-question trivia quiz at the end. After returning home, the reader should feel as if he has just completed a long trip in the blink of an eye.
Excerpt from "Essence":
Me and the Toad swung-a-uie on our squirmy tires and sissy suspension. Neither one of us had seen one of those trapped on a used car lot in a long time, and it was so black Lash LaRue would not have objected to being caught dead in it. I stopped and exited the Toad to get a closer look, as if a fruit-juice can had just bonked me upside the head.
This black beauty had most of what lights my Corvette fire. It was a 1969 L-36 4-speed Coupe in all-black. The only two visible non-standard items were a non-stock upholstery pattern on the vinyl seats and attractive fake-wire chrome wheels. The tires were late-model blackwall radials and the luxury options were few in number. The asking price of $6500 did not seem unreasonable to me. When I returned from a business trip three days later, the car was gone. The owner of the used car lot said the aforementioned speed limit basher had been there on consignment only and the owner was asking too high a price; therefore, the car had not been sold, but instead had been returned to its owner in Houston. The essence of 427 cubic inches floated out the window of that little used-car lot office....