Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama's Running Mate: Mike Huckabee

You heard it here first, folks. Immediately after the last primary contest in June, most of the uncommitted superdelegates will support Obama. He will get the nom.

And in August, at the Convention, Obama will name former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee as his running mate. It will show that Obama is a uniter and is willing to reach across the aisle to build a legitimate, multi-faceted coalition. Pragmatically, Huckabee will attract the evangelical, white working class, and Southern votes Obama needs.

Though Huckabee is a conservative preacher who believes in creationism, he is also the most progressive of the Republican candidates. He believes that fighting poverty and curbing environmental destruction are Christian obligations. In public statements, he has been more than understanding of Obama's crisis with Jeremiah Wright, more so even than some fellow Democrats.

During this campaign season, we've seen both Obama and Huckabee as being more than what their respective political parties represent. They will further transcend politics, join forces, and become the uber-ticket.

So, Obama-Huckabee '08!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Taipei Food Round-Up

This afternoon, there was a rerun of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods show set in Taiwan. Taiwan in general, and Taipei in particular, are shamefully underrated as culinary destinations. If you are there for an afternoon layover on your way to Southeast Asia, or you are on a short business trip, you may find the following information useful.

There are no bad restaurants in Taipei. Your options all depend on your level of adventure/squeamishness and your comfort level with the language.

The easiest (for Westerners) option is the basement food court in Taipei 101, the can't-miss super skyscraper. There are dozens of options and they are all cheap, delicious, and clean. It looks like any American mall food court, except with more exotic variety. It is very popular with the office lunch crowd and shoppers. The environment is sterile and safe.

Din Tai Fung may be a little overrated. It specializes in steamed dumplings. In the 1990s, the New York Times rated it as one of the top ten restaurants in the world. It has branches now in SoCal, China, Indonesia, South Korea,.... You get the idea. The gimmick includes waiting in a long line in tropical heat, an Arctic like air conditioned environment once inside, a glass enclosed kitchen for all to see, and a restaurant so clean it would make an anal retentive Nazi yelp in glee. The dumplings are really good, but they were not all that. Too much hype, I guess.

Shilin Night Market. The more adventure-some must go there. The sounds, the smells, the heat, the energy-- sensory overload is a common ailment. It is the complete opposite of the Taipei 101 food court. Try the stinky tofu and the oyster omelets (oh-ah-jien).

The random eatery. The best part of eating in Taipei is going to random and anonymous places. On my last trip, there were a couple within a 500 feet of my hotel. One of these eateries' specialty was little bits and pieces of fatty pork. It only served two items, bits of pork on rice and bits of pork on leafy greens. That's it. Two items. And they were better than crack.

The second restaurant was just as odd, and just as good. To get there, you step out of the Leofoo Hotel's doors, turn right, turn right at the first alley, walk one block, cross the street, go to the building on your left, and walk up the stairs to the second floor. There are no signs. There will be no customers (due to location and lack of signage). You will be "greeted" by a middle aged lady yelling at a TV screen showing falling stock prices. Point to any five items on the menu, wait, and get ready for the best meal of your life.

And don't forget the Taiwan Beer.


Rides of Heads of State (Part 27.5)

Before the series takes another hiatus, I want to get two more vehicles in.

175. Kyrgyzstan. I had expected Bakiyev to ride in a Mercedes S-class, but for the life of me, I could not find a picture for confirmation. Here is a picture from 2005. The tell tale sign is the shape of the rear door, which can be made out with magnification of the shot.

176. Comoros. Recently, rebels briefly took over the island of Anjouan in the Comoros Archipelago. Quickly, with the help of AU troops, the Comoros government took the island back. Comoros troops used Mitsubishi L200 pick-up trucks, which looked real cool and ninja-like in black. We see President Sambi recently riding in one of these.

Updated tally:
S-class: 57
Land Cruiser: 17
7 series: 15
A8: 11
Maybach: 6
Caddy: 6
Suburban/Yukon: 5
Mitsubishi Montero/Pajero: 4
Phaeton: 4
G-wagen: 4
Holden-Chevy-Opel: 3
H2: 3
Jag: 2
ZIL: 2
Volvo: 2
Touareg: 2
Lincoln: 2

One of each of the following: Lancia, Hyundai, Skoda, A6, Peugeot, Renault, Lincoln, VW van, London taxi, Daimler, Toyota Century, Hongqi, Bentley, Rolls, Ford Fairlane, Aston Martin, SEAT, Ford Expedition, Nissan Patrol, Stutz, Suzuki, Camry, Toyota Crown, Toyota Sequoia, Proton, Land Rover, Ford F150, Mitsubishi Galant, Hummer H1, Chrysler Imperial, Mitsu L200 pick-up

I still need to identify cars from the following countries:
  • Europe: San Marino
  • Africa: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles
  • Asia: Laos, Vietnam
  • Oceania: Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu

2008 F1 Medical Car

As Heikki Kovalainen crashed into the tyre barrier today in Spain, we got to see the F1 Medical Car in action. On TV, it looked as big as the SL63 AMG Safety Car. But it is actually a compact C class estate.

Here are some stats and facts re the C63 AMG estate Medical Car:
  • 6.3 liter V8
  • 457 horsepower
  • 442 pound foot of torque
  • upgraded (from stock AMG) exhaust and cooling systems
  • 7 speed paddle shifter
  • 19 inch tyres (255/35 front and 285/30 rear)
  • driver: Dr. Jacques Tropenat (France)-- medic and amateur race driver
  • co-driver: Dr Gary Hartstein (Belgium)-- FIA GP Chief Medical Officer
  • racing seats with 4 point harnesses up front
  • 2 medical assistants in the back seat
  • 17 cubic foot luggage compartment with defibrillator and respirator

Complete list of past AMG Medical Cars:
  • 1996: C36 AMG (W 202)
  • 1997: E60 AMG (W 212) starting with Grand Prix in Imola (Italy)
  • 1998: C55 AMG (S 202)
  • 2001: C32 AMG (S 203)
  • 2004: C55 AMG (S 203)
  • 2008: C63 AMG (S 204)
  • As early as 1984, an AMG E-Class Coupé with V8 engine was used occasionally as the Medical Car.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rides of Heads of State (Part 27)

As we get to the bottom of our list, the pickin's become more slim. That's why I've let some time pass (2 months) to let images of the more obscure presidents and prime ministers percolate through the internets before I performed a meta-search. Well, this strategy has worked. In just a couple of days, I've found another six rides.

169. Suriname. Lincoln Continental. For a while, I thought that the president of Suriname rode in a hard-to-identify SUV/crossover. But this very clear and vivid picture proves otherwise. No word yet on which cars have the "1" and "2" plates.

170. Andorra. Though the head of this tiny nation is known to walk and bike to work, his official ride is an older Audi A8.

171. Benin. President Yayi Boni's official ride is the Land Cruiser seen in the background. In case of "turmoil", the topless army vehicle would be quickly abandoned.

172. Guatemala. The new-ish president of Guatemala is seen in front of his tinted out Land Cruiser.

173. Malta. The PM is seen in front of his black Cadillac. Surprisingly, it is not the STS. Rather, it's the small-ish, but sportier, CTS.

174. Liechtenstein. The crown prince is seen here in an Audi A8.

Updated tally:
S-class: 56
Land Cruiser: 17
7 series: 15
A8: 11
Maybach: 6
Caddy: 6
Suburban/Yukon: 5
Mitsubishi Montero/Pajero: 4
Phaeton: 4
G-wagen: 4
Holden-Chevy-Opel: 3
H2: 3
Jag: 2
ZIL: 2
Volvo: 2
Touareg: 2
Lincoln: 2

One of each of the following: Lancia, Hyundai, Skoda, A6, Peugeot, Renault, Lincoln, VW van, London taxi, Daimler, Toyota Century, Hongqi, Bentley, Rolls, Ford Fairlane, Aston Martin, SEAT, Ford Expedition, Nissan Patrol, Stutz, Suzuki, Camry, Toyota Crown, Toyota Sequoia, Proton, Land Rover, Ford F150, Mitsubishi Galant, Hummer H1, Chrysler Imperial


Monday, April 21, 2008

Arse Biscuit BMW 330d

Another brilliant episode of Top Gear tonight. The gang raced an E46 330d sedan for 24 hours in Silverstone. The livery and driver designations were a hoot.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tamerlane's Top 100 Cars of All Time

Recently, I posted the 31 cars that would be in my fantasy garage and the three trucks I would pick to make Costco runs. But what if I had Sultan of Brunei money? If I could pick 100 of my favorite cars, what would fill up the remaining 66 spots?

On a rare night battling insomnia recently, I came up with the list within 20 minutes. I sat on the list for a while, in case I changed my mind or was reminded of a car that I had overlooked. About 95% of my original list remained intact. Feel free to compare my top 100 with Top Gear's, Automobile magazine's, Channel 4's, and Jeremy Clarkson's.

Here are the remaining 66, in alphabetical order:

  1. Alfa Romeo Montreal
  2. Alfa Romeo Spider
  3. Alfa Romeo 159
  4. Audi Quattro
  5. Audi S8
  6. Bentley Blower
  7. Bentley Continental Type R
  8. BMW 3.0 CSL
  9. BMW M3 E30
  10. BMW M5 E39
  11. Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
  12. Chevrolet Camaro (3rd generation)
  13. Chevrolet Corvette C3
  14. Citroen 2CV
  15. Citroen DS
  16. DeTomaso Mangusta
  17. Dodge Charger (from Bullitt)
  18. Ferrari 400i/412
  19. Ferrari Daytona
  20. Ferrari Testarossa
  21. Ford Escort Mark I
  22. Ford GT40
  23. Ford Mustang GT350 (the original)
  24. Ford Mustang LX
  25. Ford Taurus SHO
  26. Ford XB GT Falcon
  27. Infiniti Q45
  28. Jaguar XJR
  29. Lamborghini Espada
  30. Lexus SC400
  31. Lincoln Continental (1960s)
  32. Lotus Esprit
  33. Lotus Seven
  34. Maserati Quattroporte I
  35. Maserati Quattroporte III
  36. Maserati Quattroporte V
  37. Mazda Cosmo
  38. Mazda Miata
  39. Mazda RX-7 (FD)
  40. Mercedes-Benz 450SL
  41. Mercedes-Benz 500E
  42. Mercedes-Benz 560SEC
  43. Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman
  44. Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen
  45. Mercedes-Benz W113 Pagoda
  46. Mitsubishi 3000GT
  47. Plymouth Superbird
  48. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (a la Smokey And the Bandit)
  49. Porsche 356
  50. Porsche 944
  51. Rolls-Royce Corniche
  52. Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III (Chinese Eyes)
  53. Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe
  54. Subaru Impreza WRX
  55. Sunbeam Tiger
  56. Tatra T603
  57. Toyota 2000GT
  58. Toyota Land Cruiser 40 Series
  59. Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series
  60. Toyota Supra Mark IV
  61. Trabant
  62. UAZ 452
  63. Volkswagen Beetle
  64. Volkswagen Golf GTI (Mark 1)
  65. Volkswagen Transporter (2nd generation)
  66. Willys Jeep

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Danish Downers

Recently, I was on a Danish kick. My Netflix queue was lined up with the darkest films. Films that depressed me. Films that made me sick to my stomach. Films that haunted me in my dreams and when I was awake. If you are ready emotionally, here is a list of my "favorites". Coincidentally, they all star either Ulrich Thomsen (UT) or Mads Mikkelsen (MM). Describing each movie with even three sentences would spoil it. Just be ready with a bottle of Prozac and a glass of water next to your DVD remote.

Adam's Apple (2005) (UT and MM): Pastor with horrific past takes care of a violent neo-Nazi, an alcoholic, and a burglar.

After the Wedding (2007) (MM): Philanthropist gives away his family.

Brothers (2005) (UT): Brother 1 fights in Afghanistan and is thought to be killed. Brother 2 comforts brother 1's wife.

The Celebration (1998) (UT): Darkest movie of them all. Takes place at a family reunion.

The Green Butchers (2004) (MM): A comedy about cannibalism.

The Inheritance (2003) (UT): Man's downward spiral when he leaves charmed life to take over family business after father commits suicide.

Happy movie watching!


Top 5 Bond Chase Sequences

While we patiently wait for the next Bond film, Quantum of Solace, I give you my favorite Bond chase sequences.

5. Renault taxi through Paris in A View to A Kill:

Front wheel drive really comes in handy when the back half of your Renault is lopped off by an errant car. To have been able to shoot such a complex sequence in a large and crowded city was a feat in itself. To imagine and create the abuse the Renault went through was genius.

4. BMW 750iL through German parking lot in Tomorrow Never Dies:

Never mind that the whole sequence was advertising for BMW, Avis, and Ericksson. The gadgets on the big sedan were much more creative than anything out of the original DB5. Even with Brosnan in the back seat, the car easily handled the goons in the Mercedes W126, Ford Scorpio, and the Ford F350 tow truck.

3. Lotus Esprit through the hills (and sea) of Sardinia in The Spy Who Loved Me:

I would not be surprised if most Bond fans ranked this as the top chase scene ever. After all, this is the scene where the Bond car turns into a SUBMARINE! On top of that, while on land, it finishes off a Kawasaki bike with sidecar and a Ford Taunus-full of goons. It even manages to evade a helicopter "manned" by the very lovely Naomi. I liked the chase, but it did not excite or entertain me like numbers one and two.

2. Aston Martin V8 Vantage through snowy Czechoslovakia in The Living Daylights:

The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is one of my favorite cars of all time. To see it in action at a movie theater as a young teen aged kid, with lasers, missiles, and outriggers, was indescribable. Everything about the chase, though chaotic and violent, was somehow graceful.

1. Citroen 2CV through the Spanish countryside in For Your Eyes Only:

This chase sequence is so good, it can stand on its own as a great short movie. It is Greek theater for the 20th century. It is a comedy. It has an awesome late 70s/early 80s synthesized sound with the Bond theme interwoven within. It's got a beautiful heroine, who giggles naturally when Bond jokes about the bumpy route. Villains chase the hero in two drift-y black Peugeot 504 chariots. It's even got a Greek chorus, who helpfully upright and push-start the yellow 2CV. And of course, the yellow Citroen is so love-able, everyone (almost) wanted to buy one after leaving the theater.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pavlov And NWA

With all this talk of Northwest Airlines and Delta's merger, I see a lot of stock footage of Northwest airplanes. But every time I see the livery, I think of the other NWA.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Help A Tajik Cabbie

A friend just introduced me to Kiva. It gathers and distributes micro-loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world in an easy and fun way. Since this blog focuses on rare cars and Central Asia, donating to Salom Fazilov was the natural choice.

Salom and his IZH 412IE

Salom runs a taxi business in Istaravshan in western Tajikistan. He is raising money ($950) to fix up his cab, sell it, and buy a newer model. Donors chip in $25 each. In just five days, he has already raised $400 on Kiva. Once the money is raised, Salom will pay the money back over a 12 month term. I wish Salom the best.

Just for background, Salom's IZH has a 1478cc engine. When new, it produced 72hp and 78 pound-feet of torque. In 4th gear, it maxed out at 88 mph. It reached 62 mph in a leisurely 19 seconds. It got 23.5 mpg.

My guess is his replacement will be a used Korean sedan. I'll keep you posted.


Today Was A Good Day

As I sit here, huntin' and peckin' away at my keyboard and swiggin' a Stella Artois, I must declare that today was a good day.

It all started during my morning commute. Before my car barely warmed up, I saw parked on the side of the road an excellent green Land Rover Series 1. It had just enough patina to show its character and age but looked very well taken care of.

As I pulled into my office parking lot, I saw another beauty: a 1973 signal yellow Porsche RS. Though this one was in concours shape, it was parallel parked in front of a dentist's office.

Imagine this, but shinier, in bright yellow, and under a deep blue California spring morning sky

Then, I learned the publication of my first tip on jalopnik. It was inspired by my recent piece on The Duel. The best part was that it was the most commented-on piece of the day on the popular blog (140 comments compared to 66 for the second most commented-on piece).

To top it off, at work, I did what would normally take me three days in a six hour blitzkrieg session.

Today was a good day, although not as good as the one Ice Cube had back in 1993.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

What Features Do You Want On Your Cell Phone?

As a proud member of the latte (actually, double espresso) sipping liberal elite, I spent my Sunday morning reading the New York Times magazine. What caught my eye was an article about a cultural anthropologist (employed by Nokia) who travels around the world to see what features the poor and illiterate need on their cell phones. The results are surprising and not so surprising. Here are some suggestions for the dream cell phone:
  • Land mine detector so that owner can safely return to his village- Liberian refugee
  • Weather forecasting capability- Mumbai slum dweller
  • GPS system that points to Mecca for prayers- Muslims
  • Water bottle-shaped phone so that it can hold fresh water and float during monsoons
  • Air quality monitor- Rio favela resident
  • A "peace button" that would instantaneously end all gunfire in the neighborhood
Makes us look kinda shallow spending all that time looking for the Knight Rider ringtone, doesn't it?


Andre the Giant Has A Posse


Saturday, April 12, 2008

BMW's Gift to Moviedom: The Hire Series

Back in 2001 and 2002, BMW released eight short films starring Clive Owen (who at the time was rumored to become the next James Bond) and its entire vehicle line-up. Along with C'etait un Rendezvous, the films in BMW's The Hire series are the best short films about fast cars ever made. Top action movie directors from around the world were chosen to direct the movies. Co-stars included James Brown, Forest Whitaker, Gary Oldman, Don Cheadle, Madonna, and Mickey Rourke. I loved watching them when they first came out. Today, they are just as fresh and exciting. Let's hope other carmakers follow BMW into this unique form of advertising.

I have compiled all of the films below. Watch them all in one sitting or bookmark this blog and come back for a movie a day. It will keep Dr. Z away.

Ambush: John Frankenheimer, 7-series

Chosen: Ang Lee, 5-series

The Follow: Wong Kar-Wai, 3-series

Star: Guy Ritchie, M5

Powder Keg: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, X5

Hostage: John Woo, Z4

Ticker: Joe Carnahan, Z4

Beat the Devil: Tony Scott, Z4


Soundwave And His Tapes

All hail Soundwave!

Soundwave was by far my favorite Decepticon. Its voice intrigued me. That a small microcassette player could transform into a robot the size of Optimus Prime confused me. Its arsenal of cassettes-turned robots/jaguar/condor frightened me.

Soundwave in action

I want this shirt.



Every red blooded American man in his early 30s remembers Devastator. It is the amalgam of six Decepticons called the Constructicons. This green and purple machine wreaked havoc everywhere. To jog those tired synapses, the individual Constructicons are:
  1. Scrapper (front load shovel), right leg
  2. Bonecrusher (bulldozer), left arm
  3. Scavenger (excavator), right arm
  4. Mixmaster (concrete mixer), left leg
  5. Hook (crane), head/shoulders
  6. Long Haul (dump truck), lower torso

*Each sold separately

Collect them all!

Constructicons tribute

Constructicons commercial


Zima and the Q45, Victims of Zucky Adz

In our hyper-consumerist society, advertising firms and mega-corporations successfully push almost anything and everything-- the tacky, the useless, shit-- on the mindless public. We love stuff, especially if it comes in a super economy 18-pack, super sized, or best yet, if we buy one and get one free.

The reverse of this phenomenon is when a large company and its advertising accomplice try to sell a really great product, and fail. Two corporations, Coors and Nissan, failed miserably in the early 1990s in selling Zima and the Infiniti Q45.

In 1989, the Lexus and Infiniti marques were introduced to battle BMW and Mercedes. Their flagships, the LS400 and Q45, had V8s and were priced around $40,000. Design-wise, the Infiniti was edgier. Performance-wise, the Q won hands down, in power (278 versus 250 horses) and 0 to 60 times (6.7 versus 7.9 seconds). So why did Lexus outsell Infiniti by a ratio of 4 to 1?!

The best 1990s full-sized luxury sports sedan that no one ever saw.

It was the ads. The ill-fated zen ads Infiniti aired showed rocks, zen gardens, and waterfalls. In fact, the ads showed everything but the friggin' car. It was a disaster. I would not be surprised if the campaign is used now as a case study in B-schools. In fact, it was not until the introduction of the G35 in 2003-2004 that Infiniti's sales figures finally awoke from its decade-long slumber.

The rocks and cascading water make you want to buy an Infiniti.

Now, we come to Zima. Yes, it was the butt of a lot of jokes in the 1990s. E, a good friend from college, loved Zima. Mind you, he's anything but your stereotypical Zima drinker (see picture below). As typical guys, we would insult each other. He would call me a chimp or a moron. But when I needed a comeback, I would simply tell him, "At least I don't like Zima."

Typical Zima drinker, or so its ads would suggest.

Truth be told, I actually liked Zima, a lot. I would hang out with E when he was drinking Zima just so that I could partake in a bottle or two. As the pitchman in those lame ads proclaimed, Zima has "no zuds" like beer and is "not zo zweet" like wine coolers. It was light, refreshing, delicious, and buzz-inducing.

But alas, because of the initial Zima ad campaign, an otherwise great beverage will forever be derided and mocked. I guess the lesson we can take from the Q45 and Zima is that no matter how crappy an ad is, the product may not be all that bad. Juzt zomezing to zink about.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Cowards and My Day Chasing the Olympic Torch

Uyghurs outnumbered, but stood strong.

The IOC, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, and the PRC are cowards. They tricked everyone-- supporters and opponents of the torch run and the media-- and used a totally different and secret route that was miles from where an estimated 10,000 people waited.

The IOC, led locally by the ever myopic Peter Ueberroth, wanted the torch run held, no matter what. Newsom, with his eyes on a governorship, wanted to do everything in his power to kiss Chinese ass. The Chinese government, not wanting to lose face, was willing to do anything but face reality.

*Actual route may vary.

The original route was supposed to take place along The Embacadero. But with thousands of people on the street (instead of patiently and obediently staying behind the barriers and on the sidewalks), there was no way the torch run could be completed. The run did not use the original route. An attempt was not even made. The run was not canceled. Instead, the powers that be decided to run a completely different, and secret, route.

Thousands of Chinese were bused in from all over California and handed professionally made signs and incredibly large flags. They were united and out in force. Many Chinese retirees were marching in single file like PLA soldiers along the route, hours before the run was to begin. Most were civil, a few got into shouting matches with opponents. What disturbed me the most was one Chinese man yelling at a Tibetan and calling him a "slave".

Out of the sea of Chinese and Tibetan flags, there were a few blue East Turkestan flags. About a dozen Uyghurs participated in the march. I had the honor of meeting Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled and respected Uyghur leader.

Fortunately I had a radio with me. I learned of the route change, hopped in a cab, and caught the torch crew at Bay and Van Ness. I then took a short cut through Fort Mason and met them again at the Marina Safeway. I then followed the procession along Marina Boulevard all the way to Chrissy Field. Every torch bearer, cop, Chinese security goon, and member of the official media in the yellow amphiboat heard and saw what I had to say.

Unfortunately, not many protesters knew about the new route. Protesters were vastly outnumbered by well-to-do (and conservative or apolitical) Marina types. Many of them cheered for the torch. They were more concerned about scheduling their next botox appointment than the slaughter of innocent monks or the imprisonment of human rights activists in China.

The rich get a skybox view of the torch run.

For those of you who were not there, do not be fooled by the footage of the run showing no demonstrators. 99% of us didn't even know where the torch was! The closing ceremony was at an anonymous and private conference room at the airport. They knew that we would top London and Paris, and the only way they could make it out of San Francisco without being thoroughly humiliated was to run a secret route. But alas, running the secret route was the ultimate humiliation.