Category Archives: Music

Life, liberty, and the hot pursuit of happiness.

Speed Week Plus: “Gearhead Porn”

One reviewer called Fast Cars and Rock & Roll “gearhead porn,” and I guess it is. Unfortunately, gearheads are an endangered species and an even smaller niche than I thought.*

But anyway… below is an excerpt from Chapter 37 from The Ultimate Gearhead Novel–as good a way as any to close out Speed Week Plus.

Pontiac Ventura II
Pontiac Ventura II

Deke Jones has been doing pretty well on the track, but a road course wreck damaged his Pontiac Ventura II to the point he is not allowed to finish the campaign in it. Not only that, he just discovered the truth about his scorching-hot girlfriend, and dumped her with gusto. Down but not out, our hero has teamed up with his fellow musclecar pilot, Gloomy, to finish the race campaign in Gloomy’s 340 Challenger.

1st generation Dodge Challenger
1st generation Dodge Challenger

 

I tuned the Challenger for the elevation while Gloomy checked tire pressure, brake condition and some other vitals. As we strapped on our helmets, Gloomy asked, “Where’s Lena?”
“Gone,” I replied. “She is no longer a member of the team. Or any team.”
His eyes looked confused through the helmet face shield.
“I’ll explain later,” I said. “Let’s get ready to wring this thing out.”
We rolled up onto the portable ramps by the scrutineer’s tent to undergo the quickest tech inspection ever.
Gloomy had quite the collection of his own compilation tapes, and popped one in the cassette deck while we waited. I hummed along with the Rolling Stones singing “It’s All Over Now.”
“It ain’t all over by a long shot,” Gloomy declared with a cocky grin. “We’re just gettin’ started.”
I wondered if my new teammate was schizophrenic or manic depressive. Well, as long as he wrenched hard, drove smart, and spoke the truth, I wouldn’t complain.
We passed tech and rolled up to the start line. The flag waved and Gloomy kicked it in the guts. He banged through the gears and we were flying in short order. But he began to back off the throttle too soon in top gear.
I checked my pace notes. “Keep the hammer down!” I yelled over the engine noise. “You’re coming up on a gradual sweeper with nice banking. No problem!”
Gloomy rolled back on the loud pedal and we continued to build speed through the sweeper. The lateral Gs were noticeable, but the wide-tracked Challenger stuck to the pavement with no trouble.
I called out the features before we came to them, including turn radius when appropriate.
The next song up was “Baby Please Don’t Go” by Willie and the Poor Boys and I couldn’t believe it. The two of us might very well be the only ones who’d ever heard it. Evidently he, too, considered it an outstanding song to motorvate to.
I couldn’t see the speedometer from where I sat, and it didn’t go high enough anyway, but I was confident we were making excellent time.
We were approaching a moderate-to-hard corner and I shouted the details out to Gloomy. He began easing off the gas. Judging by his last few curves it was evident he’d learned a lot on the road courses about how to use the brakes and transmission together, keeping his RPMs up in the sweet spot for track-out. Here he was going to stab his brakes turning in, downshift just before the apex, then roll on the throttle tracking out.
Just before the curve was an underpass, but there was something weird about it. The shadow from the crossing bridge extended too far. As we drew closer, I realized it wasn’t part of the shadow…but what it was I didn’t know. It was like a dark carpet covering the sun-bleached gray asphalt.
The first time Gloomy touched the brakes, we were atop that mysterious carpet. Even from the passenger seat, I felt the Challenger get loose.
Time slowed down. We were in the curve now, and the tires were hydroplaning. Applying more speed was out of the question because we came into the turn at the ragged edge of the envelope already. Same with maintaining speed, for that matter. Deceleration and braking was only pushing the rear end around. We were on the verge of utterly losing control, and there were some very large boulders on the roadside that appeared unforgiving.
I fought the sick feeling in my stomach as we slid, swerved and floated toward our doom, and yelled, “Road warrior!”
Gloomy’s reaction may have been just fast reflexes. Or maybe part of him, deep down, was still a soldier ready to use his training at the instant of a verbal command. He worked the brakes, clutch, shifter and accelerator like he was simply part of his machine. Within a fraction of a second, his rear tires were tearing backwards.
The Challenger was pulled straight and our speed plummeted like we had popped a drag chute.
I saw a piece of the dark carpet lift into the air before us. Then another. And another. The carpet disintegrated before us as first dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of its components lifted off from mother earth and scattered. One came through the window and whacked me in the arm. It looked like a beetle.
Some kind of Alfred Hitchcock/Steven Spielberg conspiracy of the insect kingdom had nearly sent us spinning into oblivion.
Nine out of ten people with a driver’s license probably would have come to a stop, smoked a cigarette, done some deep breathing exercises or uttered a prayer while their heart rate slowed to normal. I sure did want a cigarette right then.
But Gloomy didn’t fear the reaper. He slammed the clutch in, banged into third and, now with traction again, dug out right back for open road. He cranked the volume on the tape deck even higher. I honestly believe the worst part of the whole incident for him was that part of a good song was drowned out in the scream of rubber.
I grabbed the CB mike and broadcast a warning to anyone who had their ears on. Coug answered immediately. I told him to warn the officials about the Beetle Death Trap, giving him the nearest mile marker and the underpass as a landmark.
By this time Gloomy was topped out and the scenery was zinging by in a green-brown blur. The final straight was a steep downhill stretch and it felt like we may have hit 190 before the road flattened out again.
Gloomy didn’t let off the gas until we passed the flag man. As the Challenger slowed and backrapped, Gloomy let out his war cry–something between a dog barking and a rebel yell.

 

*A lot of people once subscribed to Hot Rod, Car Craft, etc. and I doubt if they’ve all died off in the last decade. And Moparts.com was a YUGE site not just for Mopar mavens, but all car guys. Did they die off, too?
At the very least, those guys evidently don’t read anymore, anyway. See, enthusiast magazines (and the website) didn’t just have photos–they were mostly text…suggesting that the subscribers knew how to READ, and bought the magazines in order to do so.
And read about cars, in particular.
I genuinely wonder what happened to all those guys/what they do now in place of reading.
AmericanGraf1

Speed Week Plus: American Graffiti – a Review

This installment of Speed Week Plus is a little different. There are no chase scenes and there’s only one all-out street race (not the one in the clip at the bottom of this post, which was cut short by a red light). In fact, it’s not even action adventure, but more of a dramedy. Yet American Graffiti is such an iconic film for gearheads and speed freaks of the pre-Internet generations, it just can’t be left out.

I’ve often wondered about the title–what it was supposed to mean. The only way I could connect it with the film’s content was to imagine a yearbook of the high school class the main characters belonged to (which, I guess, would fit the Dragnet-style “where-are-they-now” overlays just before the final credits. And a yearbook is actually used in the trailer below). Then I discovered the original title was “Rock Radio is American Graffiti,” and all became clear.

The film is about “cruising culture” which was ubiquitous in postwar America, right up until the gas crunch in the early ’70s I guess. What united the entire car crazy generation was rock & roll. And regional subsections of that generation were connected usually by a single personality, in the form of a radio disk jockey. In this case it’s the mysterious and almost mystical Wolfman Jack. Not only does the original title augment this theme, but in the screenplay the very first shot was not supposed to be of Mel’s Drive-In, but of a car radio dial being tuned to XERB.

Film maker George Lucas (whose only other feature to date had been the box office flop THX1138) had grown up in that generation. This movie is essentially a cinematic reminiscence of his glory days between graduating high school and packing off to film school. Two of the main characters are loosely based on Lucas himself–Kurt the aimless intellectual and Toad the nerdy braggart). The lone rebel hero (who the TV show Happy Days caraciturized into somebody called “Fonzy”) John Milner, was partially based on Lucas’ film school buddy John Millius, who went on to become a director also, despite punching out one of his professors. Average all-American boy Steve Bollander was also caricaturized on Happy Days, into Richie Cunningham (both played by Ron Howard, who also went on to become a director). And remember that annoying actress from Happy Days spinoff Laverne & Shirley? No, not her, the other one, with the dark hair. She plays Steve’s girlfriend and is not annoying at all in the role. Actually she did a fine bit of acting.

This movie was a first in many ways. Imitators cranked out nostalgic flicks well into the ’80s, trying to hitch a ride on its coat tails. The bed of vintage pop music, sometimes even with a DJ chattering over and between, became the norm in Hollywood soundtracks, nearly putting film score composers out of business until, Ironically, Lucas’ Star Wars revolutionized the film industry again. How about ensemble casts with parallel converging plotlines? That’s nearly obligatory in comedy/dramas to this day.

AmericanGraf2

Though left vague enough for any baby boomer to relate to, it’s pretty much agreed to that the story takes place in Modesto, California in 1962. On the last summer night–from sundown to sunup. Filmed just ten years after the period depicted, the simulation is done so well that even folks who were born after that era was lost forever can almost… almost “remember” those times while watching it.

I don’t know that I could effectively argue that this is an “important” film, but it certainly has had an impact on a lot of people. It can so immerse you in the milieu of postwar pre-Vietnam teenage cruising-to-rock-radio that you’ll feel a part of it even when watching it for the 45th time…then be saddened by the passing of a bygone era until you watch it again.

The possible next post for Speed Week Plus is also about a story that fuses cars with music–with a different approach, set in a different era, but with much homage to this very movie.

 

ChuckBerry1

A Rock & Roll Pioneer Dies

I am interrupting Speed Week Plus because I just found out that Chuck Berry died Saturday.

Elvis is still called the king of rock & roll but aside from vocal talent, Chuck had him beat in almost every way. He was a virtuoso with the guitar, wrote clever lyrics and was quite the crazy-legged entertainer on stage for both males and females. He also was the first to cross over the color line in music. Prior to Chuck Berry, white kids would only listen to “race records” on the down low.

ChuckBerry2Ironically, this is not necessarily an interruption of Speed Week, because Chuck Berry was not only a pioneer of rock & roll, but put his love of horsepower into some famous songs that still rock the house to this day. “You Can’t Catch Me” is a musical version of a fantasy many gearheads have probably entertained while wishing they could just rip down the open road at Ludicrous Speed without worrying about going to jail or having mandatory Insurance rates shoot up into the stratosphere. “Maybelline” has been a personal inspiration in many ways. For one, I named my favorite Street Machine after that song title. There is also a subplot in Fast Cars and Rock & Roll that is based on the lyrical Adventure in his invincible V-8 Ford.

The selection below is chosen because it plays on a red pill/neomasculine view of Sexual Market Value (SMV), but in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. His humorous lyrics are catchy and the guitar solo is understated but deft.

I read his autobiography and the man definitely had his flaws. But for a few golden years there in the mid-to-late 1950s, his musical genius really shined. Rest in peace, Chuck.

hillarycrimescene

Hillary Wants the Presidency

It’s actually rather pathetic how desperate the Government-Media-Entertainment Complex is to install Hillary RODHAM-Clinton in the White House–from the ongoing coverups, to the gaslighting about her bald-faced lies, to manipulating polls , to blatantly rigging the presidential election to such an extent that the 2012 results would seem legitimate by comparison.

We’re at it again with the song parodies. Enjoy. Share. Like.

Well, many in the “Alt Right” have been pining for a dictator, and to sweep “muh Constitution” and “muh ‘Merica” into the dustbin of history. The Klinton Mafia plans to give them what they’re asking for, good and hard. Since the “Alt Right” are incapable of grasping the Laws of Unintended Consequences in the abstract, they will learn the hard way, by experience.

And drag the rest of us down with them.

 

defectiran

The Puppies are Coming! A Preview of the 2016 Hugo Awards

It’s almost that time again, folks: the next battle in the Hugo Wars (a subset of the culture war at large).

What started as a joke by Larry Correia criticizing the Cultural Marxist Cabal that hijacked sci-fi/fantasy publishing, fandom, and the Hugo Awards in particular, has blossomed into a revolution on one front of pop culture.

SJWs can’t make up their hive mind whether the Narrative should paint the puppies as pathetic ankle-biters of laughable significance, or beastly Hun savages assaulting the Ramparts of Progress, threatening the very existence of humanity. Usually they’ll make both arguments in the same screed.

Last year it was more difficult to laugh off the Puppies, since pink SF/F was mostly supplanted by non-SJW nominations in the 2015 Hugos. Pinkshirts reacted predictably with the nuclear “no award” option, since they would rather nobody win a Hugo than see one awarded to a book that doesn’t conform to The Narrative.

The latest Virtual Pulp video has just gone live on Hank Brown’s Youtube page. It should help you put the whole controversy in perspective.