Why I just can’t do Religion…

Very early on in life we are taught about right and wrong.  Various means to this end all seem to have one underlying theme – we all have within us the ability to discern between the two.  For everyone, this is influenced by unique factors but for all the voice is still there – the one that weighs everything we know against a situation and allows us to make decisions.  Sometimes this is the right decision, sometimes it’s not-so-right.  Fox News knows all about the second one.

We are taught that Situation A + Action B = Result C.  We are taught, through consequences, that we have the ability to evaluate this system.  Break the rules, you’ll be punished.  Help an old lady across the street in Russia and someone with a dash cam will make you feel good about yourself.  Make top grades in your class and you’ll get a gold star…whatever.  I believe in this system of cause and effect.  It’s how I live my life and I know that, at the end of every day, my actions will be evaluated by my most scrupulous critic:  Me.

The problem I have with Religion (I have capitalized the letter R, as Religion is an entity which holds so much power over the human race that it deserves a proper name) is faith.  I know of no Religion which doesn’t require one to have faith.  Webster says faith is “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”.  No proof?  In other words, with faith, what you see and feel and touch is trumped by what someone else tells you – whether it be from a book, a pulpit, or a bible verse written on a bathroom stall at Speedway.

I see it constantly.  Under the veil of religion, people look Situation A, Action B and Result C in the eye and tell them to go shove off – that they’ve got a uniquely true version of reality supported by nothing definitive and screw anyone who says otherwise.  Obviously this issue is as infinitely complex as the flaws in our understanding which allow it to continue but the simple truth is this:  We all have, built into our bodies and minds, the capacity to evaluate the world around us objectively.  It is, absolutely, how we stay alive.

Forget the countless conflict that has arisen.  Forget the families that have been torn apart.  Forget that some of the most heinous acts in human history have been committed in the name of Religion.  This is the reason that I just can’t do Religion, and it has to do with that essential capacity which makes us human:  Religion allows us to ignore it.

 

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Are cigarettes good for you?

Of course not. They’ll do less for your health, in fact, than most hideous car crashes.   But that’s not the point, is it?  We already know that they’re unhealthy.  This has been drilled into our minds for what may as well be eons and yet 19% of the US smokes.

But whatever.  These are boring statistics that really aren’t what you’d call “unpublished”.  What I’m more interested in are the aspects of the “tobacco entity” that allow this habit to continue.  Why?

Because I smoke.  It’s expensive, has turned what used to be swimmer’s lungs into the biological equivalent of a tired old leaf blower, and in my circles smoking is more deadly to your social status than it is to your mortality.  But I do it anyway, because (here’s the good part)…

Hot or not?

Hot or not?

I enjoy it.  Genuine enjoyment and pleasure happens when I spark one up.  Turkish Royals, pink BIC, hell yeah.  I love it while driving, while eating, after sex, while at work, while hiking, or after I leave the gym (yes, you read that right).  Pretty much any activity I do, besides sleeping, is made better with a cigarette.

I’m addicted, hopelessly.  I say this with a tiny dash of shame, or much less salt than Emeril uses.  I’ve been smoking my entire adult life, for 12 years.  I’m 24 (hello?!).  Before you count years on your fingers I’ll go ahead and tell you that I was 12 the first time I took a puff – a beautiful, blue, billowing…never mind.  Anyway, this despite being brought up in a good family, in an excellent school (where I did well), and in an affluent area of town.

My next point, and this is the big one, is that I don’t know what life is like without cigarettes.  I have never actually lived adult life without them and the thought of not having tobacco at arm’s reach is downright scary.  How could it not be?

I don’t do drugs, I exercise, and I’m very conscious of what I eat.  The juxtapose of cigarettes in my life is nearly laughable.  I know I can’t smoke forever, but for now I shall.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have something to take care of…outside.

The Depths of American Imagination

Behold the 2015 Ford Mustang!  (Maybe…)

Ford’s new pony-thingie.

This is an artist’s rendering of what the 2015 Mustang may look like.  It’s just a concept, so the actual model will probably look like this photo, if you uploaded it to Instagram and applied the “much less enthralling” filter.  I think there’s just one problem though.  The new look of the pride of the American auto industry may already exist…in your neighbor’s driveway.

This next photo is of a car that you can go into a showroom and buy, today.

“Someone glued the wrong badge to it, obviously.”

…and it’s a Honda.  Would I buy the new Mustang, with actual money?  Unless it’s exponentially better than every Mustang I’ve ever driven, there’s not a chance.  If the concept for this car, the time when designers can be as bonkers, ridiculous, and creative as they want, looks like a two year old Honda, what will the actual car look like?  What will it feel like?  A Stannah Stair Lift comes to mind.

To be perfectly honest, in order for these cars to look exactly the same, all one must do is squint slightly.  Give it a try.

See?  Toldja!

Why the US can’t make a good car…

Behold, the new Cadillac ATS.  It’s a small sedan which is presumed to be luxurious and fun to drive.  That’s not what I want to talk about, though.  

I want to talk about why American automotive journalism is dreadful.  Whether it’s in video or in print, it’s all a dull-as-dishwater boredom-induced coma waiting to happen.  This video is a perfect example.  I’m fairly certain the script was made using only Cadillac’s brochure and a Xerox machine.  That’s not it’s biggest problem, though.

This brings me back to the Caddy, and why it must be a brilliant car in order to succeed.  By making it a “compact luxury sedan” GM has created a competitor with the BMW 3-Series, THE compact luxury sedan.  I once had a BMW 3-Series Coupe (two doors in black, or as some call it, sex).  To sum it up, it was perfect.  So naturally anyone discussing the new Caddy will want to put emphasis on what a car like this should do.  Simply put, it should excite.  

So back to CARandDRIVER then.  Generally, when I can’t drive a car for myself and must hear about it from some other source, I don’t want to be told things that are blatantly obvious.  I don’t care if the engine makes 4 horsepower or a million, for example. I care about how it feels.

How does CnD accomplish this?  They start by talking with a man who works at Cadillac.  This is because, as anyone who knows anything will tell you, if you want an unbiased opinion on something, you should ask the person who created it.  Then they move on to some stock footage of the car careening down a rural highway (nice, right?) and then cover it with a CHART explaining various engine options and the power they create.  A chart?!  A chart.  The whole point of a video is that you don’t have to read a f***ing chart.

Finally, the CnD man gets himself a track and starts the Caddy around it.  So now we have a “sports” car on a track, and what does he do?  He starts talking, while wearing the most absurd helmet I’ve ever seen.  All I want to see is this thing howling around a corner and instead I have to look at Csaba Csere’s face squished into some ridiculously unnecessary headwear.  At this point, I could watch no further.

It looked just like this, except in every single way.

If we, as a country, can’t talk about a car and make it interesting (a fairly easy task, if you ask me), how are we supposed to design an interesting car?  I don’t think we know what really makes a car exciting. So the simple fact is, we can’t. My BMW and I parted ways only when my little brother put it into a guardrail.  Would I have considered, even for a moment, trading it in for one of these?  Just as soon as I could drive it on a slippery frozen road in hell.

One more thing – The worst part, above all else, of American auto-journalism is that it’s dishonest.  If Csere was being honest in this film, he would have declared the Caddy squidgy and terrible and promptly replaced it with an M3.