By on March 29, 2013

Earlier this week, I wrote about the General Motors XP-75 Eagle and the idea that GM might have engaged in a relatively small bit of realpolitik during said plane’s conception and gestation. I’ve been writing for TTAC long enough to have a fairly accurate sense of how the B&B as a whole will regard whatever I write, but in the case of this article my guesses about what I’d find in the comments section were completely and thoroughly mistaken. I’d like to address them as part of larger concerns I have about the future of writing and criticism on the Internet, and I will do so in what you’re about to read.

But first, let’s talk about the way the Japanese treated prisoners during World War II, shall we?

The incident is still fresh in my mind, but it happened some sixteen years ago, at an auto parts store in Hilliard, Ohio. My wife and I had gone into the shop to find some parts for my ’86 Vanden Plas and on the way out I saw an older man struggling with some heavy boxed items. I offered to help and he accepted reluctantly. As we trudged across the parking lot I noticed that his entire body appeared to be crooked. He walked at an angle, shuffling and dragging a leg. We arrived at his Nissan Stanza wagon, parked in a non-handicapped spot far from the door, and he opened the right-side slider. It was an early one, already well past a decade old, tired but clean.

“Hey,” I said, “I remember these. Sliding doors on both sides.” At the time it was a very unusual feature, perhaps unique in the early Eighties when the “Prairie” tall wagon arrived in the United States bearing the Stanza nameplate.

“Yes,” my new friend replied. “Good car. I have thirteen of them. Nine of ’em are running right now. Good car.”

“Did you say thirteen? Thirteen Stanza wagons?”

“That’s right. You see, I…” Then he stopped and looked at me for a long moment. I was in my twenties at the time and didn’t understand the look, but I understand it now, because I’ve given it a few times in the years since then. It was a look of evaluation. He was deciding whether or not to spend his time on me. He was deciding whether or not to tell me a story. For that long moment he was Anubis, weighing my heart as we sweated under the Ohio summer sun and my wife loaded our own boxes into my car. Then he decided to continue.

“I was captured,” he exhaled. “In the Second World War. By the Japanese. Do you understand what that means?” Indeed, I did understand. At the age of eight, I had snuck my father’s copy of John Toland’s The Rising Sun from his bookcase. Past my bedtime, crouched on my bedroom floor next to the night-light, I thrilled to the explicit descriptions of the Bataan Death March, the island-hopping campaigns, and the flight of the Enola Gay, long after Mom and Dad thought I was safely asleep. I knew who General Wainwright was and I knew the failings of the Brewster Buffalo. I had an idea of what was being suggested. I had an idea of the clash of concepts involved; a nation of people who helped the other man up at the end of a tackle and a nation of people for whom the notion of self did not include anything as humiliating as surrender, locked in a war that began in foolish optimism and would end with the bodies of children burned beyond recognition in the atomic flame. I nodded and said nothing. He continued.

“For a long time, I hated them. It made me sick. Hating them. Now, I always could fix a car, and my daughter bought one of these and asked me to fix it. When I took it apart… well, I liked what I saw. They make sense. And no junk in them. So many cars are just junk. These are solid cars. I started fixing them for other people, and when those people were ready to let ’em go I took ’em. Have some land. Took a few that didn’t run, too. I’m retired. Gives me something to do.” The proper thing for me to do at this point, I sensed, was to say nothing. So that’s what I did.

“For a long time, I hated them. But I took these cars apart, these Datsuns. You know what? It’s funny. I didn’t hate the people who made these. Sometimes I look at something and I realize I know just what they were thinking. It makes sense. You understand? It makes sense. I feel better, working on ’em. Good, dependable cars. Now I know what you’re going to say,” and he knew more than me, for I planned to say nothing, “you want to maybe know how much I’m asking for one. But I don’t have one for sale right now. Sold a few, don’t plan on selling any more.”

There were a few pleasantries after that, but he was clearly in a hurry to return to his Stanzas and I had tasks of my own. I wrote his name and number on a scrap of paper, intending to call him some time. And that scrap was stacked with other papers and one day surely that stack was taken to the garbage and that was that. I don’t remember his name. I don’t know anything else about him. Don’t know where he was captured, when he was released. I don’t know if he came back to the victory-flushed United States a broken man outside as well as inside. I don’t know if he shuddered in his dreams and woke up in the dead of night with the terror fresh in his mind and his mouth dry like sandpaper. His story is opaque and gone. Still, I told what I had of the story dozens of times in the years afterwards; the crippled veteran who found peace repairing Stanza wagons. I would imagine he is long gone now. I would like to believe that his final thoughts had nothing to do with what he suffered. Perhaps he thought of his family, his friends, or even of the procedures involved in swapping out the starter in those transverse Nissans; the script of wrench and hand and effort, told again and again across a fleet of faded boxes in an Ohio field, preparing them for a day of use that probably never came, a phantom squadron abandoned at its post.

Before we settle too much into that comfortable idea, however, let’s consider an alternative. Let’s say he was just some ornery old bastard who liked to spin a yarn. He was annoyed at the kid who got in his business and dragged a bunch of shit that he was perfectly capable of carrying himself out to his wagon and then stood around expecting to be thanked or something. Looking at that kid, he detected a certain gullibility, a willingness to be deceived, and for reasons of his own he set out to tell me the most stupid and ridiculous story he could imagine on the fly. World War Two! Torture! Stanza wagons! Some old hick under a fourteen-year-old piece of crap, banging away with a set of old wrenches and swallowing transmission fluid accidentally in the name of redemption! He must have laughed all the way home. A fleet of wagons in a field! Only an idiot would believe it, I tell you, and that kid just swallowed it right up! Oh Christ! Hand me a beer.

Or here’s another idea: it never happened at all. I was sitting around at the New York Auto Show, having a couple of shots of Ketel One courtesy of Kia Motors America and waiting for the arrival of one particularly coltish and sullen young girljourno, and I decided to make something up so I could sell it to this website and recoup part of my eye-watering bill for parking a rental Dodge Caravan in an underground lot for thirty-six hours. Makes perfect sense. The readers complain that I’m being too harsh on GM? Let’s throw ’em some red meat! The Bataan Death March! Men dropping to the side of the road and being beaten to death by the surviving members of an army that was already waist-deep in the blood of innocents by 1941! A nation of sword-wielding savages who had their asses kicked all the way back to Tokyo by American steel, the P-51 Mustang, the Jeep, and the M-1 Garand! And it’s all tied together in the character of a peaceful-warrior type, offering forgiveness through his own efforts, a Christlike figure really, too good to be true but you might swallow it because face it, you (and I) are part of the same general demographic that’s allowed Gawker to herd them through the gates of Kinja like so many stupid cattle led up a spiral pathway of least resistance to the killing box and the knife and the hanging carcass and the resulting product served at five hundred degrees to some self-satisfied marketing type at a Manhattan restaurant, we aren’t half as bright as we think we are.

Who knows? I know, but I’m not telling. Consider this: even if the original story is “true”, that doesn’t mean that it is factually accurate. The man telling it was seventy-something years old and he told it to me before some of you were old enough to read. You could fly an XP-75 Eagle through the gaps in that chain of custody, couldn’t you?

Any story — any story — is broken and incomplete by its very nature. It is a distillation. It is not what Douglas Hofstadter called a “natural transformation”. Not all of the information is retained. It’s what the kids call a “codec” or a “compression”. When you buy an MP3 from Amazon you’re getting a distillation of the 44.1Khz track that is itself a distillation of what the equipment picked up and transferred to the computer, that original sound itself being adulterated and twisted and echoed and lost in all sorts of little ways after leaving Robert Plant’s vocal cords or the speaker cone of Jimmy Page’s Supro recording amp. You can never get any of that back. It’s lost.

This concept is difficult for some modern readers to grasp. They think that there’s a single hard truth at the center of everything, a 0-60 time or curb weight, and that it can be measured and extracted. They also expect that anything that upsets or confounds their comfortable preconceptions will be “balanced” with an appropriate amount of sweet-tooth pap tailored by a thousand expert systems to their own cherished ideals. Was the XP-75 Eagle a deliberate and cynical attempt by General Motors to profit from the war? Perhaps. Does that mean that a story on the XP-75 must be “balanced” with a discussion of concentration camps or a panegyric to the General’s massive and acknowledged legitimate contributions to the Allied victory in World War II? No. Grow up and get over yourself.

Too many of the blogosphere’s readers are looking for what I call “sucks and rocks”. They refuse to permit a word or an opinion or a review to have a nuanced meaning. Like a Photoshop filter set to “posterize 2”, they immediately replace each description with “sucks” or “rocks”. They read this:

While the CTS Coupe’s appearance is tailor-made to generate controversy, it’s also a very “honest” coupe. Nearly every panel is different. The doors open electrically, as with a Corvette. I disagree with this; I think a solid handle would impart a quality feel, which is just as important as aesthetics. While the automatic may be faster around the ‘Ring, in the real world it’s easily confused and on a track of less epic proportions it requires constant attention from the steering-wheel-mounted control buttons.

The rest of the car is standard CTS-V: controversial interior made more so by the addition of the (recommended) Recaro buckets, center stack that has been replicated everywhere from LaCross to la Cruze, not-quite-convincing stitched-leather dash. I drove a 3.6 direct-injection V6 automatic on the way home from Monticello and in many ways preferred it to the V. If you want an automatic, the six is a much better dance partner and it’s far cheaper

and they reduce it to

While the CTS Coupe’s appearance sucks, it’s also a very “honest” coupe. The doors rock, as with a Corvette. I disagree with this; I think a solid handle would not suck. While the automatic may be faster around the rocking track, in the real world it sucks and on a track that sucks it sucks.

The rest of the car is standard CTS-V: sucks interior made more so by the addition of the (rocks) Recaro buckets, center stack that sucks, not-quite-rocking sucks dash. I drove a 3.6 direct-injection V6 automatic on the way home from Monticello and it rocks. If you want an automatic, the six rocks and it’s far cheaper

Having reduced everything to black and white, they then argue viciously against the reduction. They set up straw men, rush them headlong, then struggle mightily in their grip. Nothing short of a full-throttle, unequivocal endorsement of their personal beliefs will satisfy — and why should it, when they can get just that from outlets ranging from the Huffington Post to ClubLexus? Why should they trouble themselves with anything else?

I spoke to a lot of journalists at the New York Auto Show in the past two days, and I heard concerns like these repeated again and again. Many of my fellow writers have decided to surrender to the zeitgeist; they write articles in which everything rocks for the people who want to hear that, and they write articles where everything sucks once in a while just so the Deltas who make up their reader base don’t bother to wake up and stop taking the soma. I was told again and again that the future is in single-interest websites like “1Addicts” and AudiWorld where the readers vomit the naked soul of their bellowing ids into a forum and the resulting pap is stirred strongly and fed back to them in feature articles gravid with undisguised OEM input.

I refuse to believe it. I won’t yield to that idea. I believe in you, the reader, and I’ll continue to do so. You could say that my stories are like a row of old Stanza wagons; outdated and faded, invisible on the street in the face of flashy new content zooming by, hopelessly dependent on the reader’s willingness to look under the hood and really think about what’s going on in there. Still, I’ll continue to tinker with them, swapping out parts, improving them where I can, a phantom squadron, my own labor of love, forever and ever, Amen.

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99 Comments on “Avoidable Contact: Torture, forgiveness, meaning....”

  • avatar

    Anyone know what he’s on about?

    • 0 avatar

      People with severe personality problems, a vast overestimation of their own intellect, and access to a keyboard.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks, that narrows it down.

        • 0 avatar

          I do what I can.

          • 0 avatar

            I like my 1911, too.
            What an example of getting it right the first time.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m not sure if either of you are being serious, but if I had to summarize it, I’d bet that Jack is remarking on how many (most?) automotive journalists (it seems comical to use those two words successively, sadly) write drivel that is pre-designed to match their readers’ confirmation biases, and to also maximize commentary made relating to dramatically polarizing elements regarding any vehicle being reviewed, rather than just writing honest reviews with the intention of conveying factually accurate information and genuinely subjective impressions.

            In other words, the trend of driving more drama to capture a larger audience ultimately puts all reviews and commentary on track where things automotive are either incredibly good or dreadfully terrible, thus rendering the world of anything resembling honest automotive journalism D-E-A-D.

            Any balanced, varied, nuanced topsoil & fields, containing a wide & rich diversity of intellectual plant life and seedlings, that used to comprise at least some hearty objectivism, where the reader wasn’t left with a spoon fed answer as to the ultimate issue in question, has been scorched & dead, due to economic pressures (from the manufacturers that capture reviewers through advertisement milk & honey) and the increasingly “it’s black OR it’s white” mentality of the consumers of the media.

            Jack, great stuff…

            I believe it when you remind your readers you haven’t thus far been compromised by the manufacturers & will resist being so, and I find your often cynical humor and obviously intentional self-aggrandizement (to the point of satire) entertaining and refreshing in a sea of otherwise bland writing about all things automotive.

            “[T]he watery Big Bang, the 32-step power steering fluid check, disposable faux-ury” and “An Open Letter To The Lincoln Motor & Horseless Carriage Company” are two of the best automotive themed essays I’ve read in the the last year.

          • 0 avatar


            Well, in keeping with “nuance” as the theme for this weekend, I think everyone with an articulated viewpoint here states facets of the truth…. there’s nothing simple about any piece Jack writes.

            And it’s not like I won’t avidly read whatever other articles he favors us with. I mean, hell, I wouldn’t have wanted to live in the same county as Hunter Thompson but I’ve sought out and read every word he’s ever published at least 5 times over.

    • 0 avatar

      Re “Anyone know what he’s on about?”

      Japanese treatment of WWII POWs sucks.

      Nissan Stanza wagon rocks.

      • 0 avatar

        ” Re “Anyone know what he’s on about?”

        Japanese treatment of WWII POWs sucks.

        Nissan Stanza wagon rocks.”

        People with the iron deficiency called Pica will often suck rocks.

      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        Yes, Jack is making a commentary on historiography, the art of writing history, (a rather nuanced observation at that) and comparing it to car writing which Jack laments, tends not to be nuanced. That’s why I tune in here–to get my revisionist car writing.

    • 0 avatar

      OK i admit i read the very good first 3/4 of the article. My grandfather passed recently at 86 yrs old. Navy Acad grad and wwII generation. His brother was gravely wounded in Iwo Jima. He hated the japanese. he was groomed to fight them and was an early Underwater Demolition Team grad (think SEAL). Pearl Harbor was his 911. He was young and remember the non PC ads at that time and the hatred of the japanese enemy.

      His biggest regret was that he was stuck in the Panama Canal when we dropped the bomb on them and he did not get a chance to fight them. These were his thoughts as a young man but they stayed with him.

      He eventually came back to the USA unhurt and had a family and grew a successful business.

      Tying it with cars he would never NEVER ever buy a japanese or a german car. Once he made a bunch of money he bought his wife a jaguar (made in england then!). he drove slabsided 80s towncars even though he afford a Rolls.

      Fast forward his grandson my brother married a japanese woman and his great grand kids are half japanese. we had a welcoming party for the grandparents. tiny non english speaking beautiful people. he was uncomfortable about having those Japs come to his house etc and could not understand it. He met the family and later despite oncoming dementia wrote our entire family a heartwarming letter saying that he should forgive the japanese and get to know them better.

      His wife traded his old lincoln in for a Lexus GX!


      but no the happy ending was the GX got traded for a new body style lincoln towncar and he spent his last days being shuttled around by a driver family friend.

      See the movie Gran Torino Clint Eastwood plays what I believe is my grandfather. RIP.

      Are these car stories? Maybe. but they are good stories. thanks jack!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Umm… I guess I shoulda read the comments to the story about the airplane.

    The comments on most websites richly deserve to be ignored. Actually, most of the ones on this site, don’t. . . IMHO.

    Believe it or not, that’s why I read the site. And, of course, almost by definition, the articles can be no worse than the comments. So. . . if the comments aren’t bad, the articles are usually better.

    Really, I don’t think it’s news that the fanboi thing is a dead-end, mostly because it’s boring to read.

    • 0 avatar

      For the most part, reading comments on any blog is a waste of time, akin to listening to most of talk radio that’s devoted to listeners’ comments. Few people are actually endowed with an ability to succinctly express well-formed thoughts. When a person is so endowed they sometimes are handed the keys to the medium, and we can decide whether they provide enough value to deserve our time reading/listening. The rest of us, not so much. I scan the comments briefly and move on, rarely encountering anything that adds to the original post. Even when I think that Jack is wrong, he’s almost always worth the time to read.

  • avatar

    You have a bit of Don Quixote in you, that’s a good thing in my opinion. Keep on keeping on, enjoyed the story and writing.

  • avatar

    Whoa. Trippy. I think Jack just has to get it out sometimes. Good writing though. It makes me wonder.

  • avatar

    I hear ya Jack! I moderate a detailing forum and we try very hard to let everyone voice their opinion – in a respectable way of course. But, you have guys that just swear up and down that x product is the best whereas y should be trashed. In reality, like cars, most detailing products do what they say on the label, some better than others and price does not equal quality. So if that ultra fine german made polish doesn’t quickly remove 12 years of neglect, it doesn’t mean it sucks, would you take 911 to Moab? Or a heavily modded TJ to the drag strip? Sadly, Jack you have to remember that you can’t fix stupid and just continue to write like you’ve been doing!

    • 0 avatar

      Same goes for guns, guitars, any number of other objects which seem to draw testosterone and internet participation. Some are just new and don’t know any better and haven’t yet developed the humility that comes with maturity…frequently maturity that is the product of having been wrong so many times before.

      Some are just closed systems immune to any new data or information that might disrupt their little terrarium of thought.

      Some ride the line that separates the mind of a sociopath from the mind of an adolescent, and derive endless enjoyment from exhibitions of bad behavior.

      Some lack satisfaction or meaning in their life and turn to the keyboard to put themselves into a bubble of fantasy where they are knowledgeable or respected…lacking much traffic with people who hold that opinion of them in the flesh.

      Some have endured all the stages of internet development and develop what is perceived as indifference but in reality is a sort of tired resignation that results from having seen every conceivable form of nonsense at least ten times previous.

      Mix all of that together and you’ve got yourself a website!

      …and a pretty good excuse to turn off the computer, go outside, and have a breath of fresh air. Or begin drinking heavily.

      Either way.

  • avatar

    So, when reading Jeremy Clarkson, is there a chance that much of what was written is not the literal truth, but was intended to entertain both Clarkson and his readers?

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Jack’s always trying to square the circle. Then again, who isn’t?

  • avatar

    clearly Gawker would rather make all the instant feedback nonsense part of the story. the commenters write the stories now. and the stories they don’t write they’re allowed to ‘annotate’ with a million ‘lol’s.

    the commenters here can and do say whatever they’d like. and Bertel ‘disappears’ some of them. but there is a clear demarcation of who is who.

    there are those who, mostly subconsciously, want to be told what to think so that they can agree with it and thereby feel validated because they agree with the others. all while being directly marketed to.

    the rest of us read TTAC because we value independence and can decide for ourselves what matters.

    whether it is a band making generic music and selling copies, or a manufacturer losing their soul to chase sales, letting your audience tell you what to do guarantees that your product is no longer distinctive. criticism can be listened to and accepted, but to modify behavior based on it removes that individual voice bit by bit.

    • 0 avatar

      JCO, for the record, nobody disappears. Any warnings or bans are announced publicly.

    • 0 avatar

      “the rest of us read TTAC because we value independence and can decide for ourselves what matters.”

      …or, if I may be so bold as to go deeper in the rabbit hole, perhaps the “independence” is an illusion and what’s really being marketed is material aimed at snagging the eyes and participation of the people who like to think of themselves as “independent” thinkers.

      Few marketing strategies are as successful as feeding the belief “I’m not like THOSE people…”

      Sooner or later the comments are going to turn deconstructive. I may as well be the guy who kicks that off. Who knows, it might even fool people into thinking I’m clever.

  • avatar

    Baruth, your pieces are always enjoyable to read whether they are embellished or not.

    Carry on!

  • avatar

    The XP-75 article included the clear allegation that GM management cynically manipulated a War Department request in order to better situate GM for postwar auto production.

    Now he wants to walk that back by calling anyone who took exception to that allegation dumbed-down, simplistic knee-jerks and defending his artistic license, nay, noble obligation to embellish his stories as he sees fit.

    This present article is just a long-winded way of claiming “just sayin’…”.

    • 0 avatar
      Dirk Stigler

      No, he’s saying that you should be able to write that post about the XP-75 and make the eminently reasonable suggestion that it was a cynical project never intended to result in a decent airplane, without having to also write a book about how various companies in Germany and Japan participated in the badness of their time and place. You should be able to act as if your reader already knows that, and doesn’t need a full recap just to add a detail — or to prove that they don’t secretly support fascism.

      By the way, Pratt and Whitney licensed a design for a radial aircraft engine to BMW in the early 1930s, that became the basis for all of the military engines BMW later produced, including the powerplants for the FW190 and the higher-performance versions of the Ju-88, FW200 maritime patrol bomber, etc. There’s nothing nefarious about that – it’s how industry works, then and now.

    • 0 avatar

      I completely agree and posted accordingly when talk of Japanese wartime corporate behavior came up on that post. Business will always be about business. One of the classic examples being Vickers and Krupp honoring their contracts with each other during and after WWI.

      But Jack knows that there is an ongoing civil war here between GM-haters and GM-defenders. Posting an article that claims, however convincingly, arguably unpatriotic behavior on GM’s part during WWII was obviously going to generate some heat. To feign surprise and hurt from that inevitable outcome is disingenuous.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        I don’t think Jack is responsible for the ongoing GM fanboi/anti-fanboi war.

        By your logic none of the writers of this site could write anything about GM for fear of upsetting the delicate balance and waking the GM fanbois and haters from their slumber.

        Although, I have to admit GM does present a “target-rich environment.” ;-)

        • 0 avatar

          @DC Bruce

          Didn’t say Jack started the GM-Kampf here, just knowingly exploited it. The only “logic” I was trying to apply was that feigning surprise after deliberately exacerbating a hot topic is disingenuous.

    • 0 avatar

      > Now he wants to walk that back by calling anyone who took
      > exception to that allegation dumbed-down, simplistic knee-jerks

      Well, what if they really are dumbed-down, simplistic knee-jerks? Should he take anything back? I don’t think so. YMMV.

      • 0 avatar


        Not a lot of dogs get into Harvard either, but if you deliberately wave raw steaks in front of them you’re kinda responsible for the barking.

  • avatar
    Dirk Stigler

    How about the people who don’t think the Internet is converging to YouTube comments, huh, HUH? You just hate them, don’t you. I can tell since you didn’t mention them in your totally unrelated post. You, you .. republican!

    Seriously, I noticed that black/white bit awhile back myself. In fairness, it applies in real life, too. It’s just that (maybe) anonymous-ish website comments encourage more of those people to jump in, where in a water cooler discussion of, say, Folgers v. Maxwell House they’d just quietly pour a cup and walk away.

    This may have some relationship to how e.g. Facebook is making our politics worse, not better.

  • avatar

    The math/psyc/philosophy greek in me is giving Jack props for mentioning Douglas Hofstadter in a car article.

  • avatar

    All I got out of this article is that the old guy was mean and sucks but his love of wagons rocks. War sucks, but it rocks to talk about it and compare it to normal life. It rocks to talk about what rocks and things that suck, still suck.

  • avatar

    “Nothing short of a full-throttle, unequivocal endorsement of their personal beliefs will satisfy”

    Brilliant, this describes 99% of those currently participating in “Internet Commentary”…I try to whiz through as quickly as possible and catch the less self-serving bits but the signal to noise ratio is getting worse everywhere

  • avatar

    I’ll quote liberally from “Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence”.

    “The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made.”

    “In short, incompetence means that people cannot successfully complete the task of metacognition, which, among its many meanings, refers to the ability to evaluate responses as correct or incorrect.”

    “People’s impressions of their intellectual and social skills often correlate only modestly, and sometimes not at all, with measures of their actual performance. Indeed, and perhaps more important, people just tend to hold overinflated views of their skills that cannot be justified by their objective performance.”

    “Perception of performance, not reality, influenced decisions about future activities.”

    “This research…calls into question whether people are, or ever can be, in a position to form accurate self-impressions.”

    If anything quoted above resonates with you, please download the paper. We live in an age of unprecedented communication. Each of us is dealing with more messages from more diverse sources than any human beings before us. Whatever truths exist (if any do), are perhaps becoming more difficult to extract from the increasingly noisy communication channels between the external world and our internal mind. I caution all to tread lightly…

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    Sometimes when you write about a topic that riles up the masses you just have to stand back and let them vent, not try to reason with them. Some people can’t be reasoned with.

    Often the comments here are insightful and informed and add a lot of value to the original article. And sometimes they’re like they are on the XP-75 Eagle post, which I simply skimmed and ignored.

  • avatar

    I don’t get it: did the old guy have the Stanzas or not?
    Did Murilee take any pictures?

  • avatar

    Makes me want to watch The War again.

  • avatar

    After reading this big as a B-17 article I don’t have much to say other than that bit at the end on readers and writers.

    When I read articles I do not expect an arbitrary balance, I understand that the author has a story to tell or a point to make and I go from there. I can’t stand it when people have to simplify statements into “This sucks, but this rocks”.

    I can guarantee you that if I ever made a an article bashing a 1987 Dodge Aries, people would be writing in demanding that I balance it out by saying “But it had more space than the average Japanese car”, “It had better rust protection than a Japanese car”, “It looked better than a Japanese car”, but I won’t.

    This “balance” stuff almost always ends up off the point to me, the least I’ll ever do to lighten my opinion is stick “IMO” in it, and thats a rarity.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a bleedover from expectations created by modern journalism. Chuck Klosterman has a good essay on the subject, but here’s an oversimplification:

      Because Journalism (with a capital J) is supposed to be objective, the shortcut to appearing objective is to create the illusion of balance by including a quote from a source on the other side of the issue regardless of its relevance to the rest of the piece.

      As a result, many people have come to believe that all non-fiction should adhere to this pattern.

  • avatar

    TTAC is great as it has one of the best comment system and user participation i have seen. The writers and users comment to each other. It also seems to have many intelligent comments. I read the comments here to see what has to be said. Just like the articles. I enjoy different view points and never see them as a threat but a opportunity to learn and look a things from a different prospective.

    Other websites i read the comments for laughs. I can’t take them seriously. Just head on over to Wow, i think every commenter is a troll. But, it makes for a good laugh with the crazy things they think and say.

    The internet is not the only place filled with crazy people. This a societal problem. Think of all the people who act the same way in person and its no surprise the internet is like it is.

    • 0 avatar

      We can thank the founder, Robert Farago, for that. In the early days, the comments were loaded with flame wars. He cracked down on them. And his successors have kept that up. It’s much more interesting this way.

      Great story, Jack.

    • 0 avatar

      @Onus The ‘content’ of the comment sections is mostly of a high quality, I would clearly agree.

      But the ‘mechanics’ or ‘implementation’ of the comments section is poor and frustrating to anyone who is familiar with reading properly threaded comments, in which a comment can clearly be tied to its predecessors, instead of appearing some semi-random distance below the comment it is in reply to, and semi-randomly either with or without a Reply button attached to it.

      I soldier on because of the intelligence of the majority of commenters, but repeatedly am frustrated by comments that seem to exist in a vacuum, although they are clearly in response to some (what?) other comment.

      When and if this site ever upgrades its commenting mechanisms, I hope this issue and its solution are taken into consideration.

  • avatar

    “An enormous part of our mature experience cannot not be expressed in words.” Alfred North Whitehead

    • 0 avatar

      @Morea wrote:

      “An enormous part of our mature experience cannot not be expressed in words.” Alfred North Whitehead

      The map is not the terrain.

  • avatar

    This story is familiar in many ways. My father was a WWII vet – a marine, who at the age of 18 was island hopping to places such Tinian and Okinawa. Once he was at the Nissan dealership, which also was a Buick dealership. Sitting in the waiting area another older gentlemen approached him. He said his Buick was broken and asked what my father drove and why he was there. He told him he drove a Nissan Stanza and he was there getting the oil changed. The other gentlemen looked at him and said “you weren’t in the war were you?”. To which my father told him of experiences in the Pacific. He went on to tell him he used to drive U.S. cars until they became pieces of crap and then reminded the other man he was there because his car was broken and he was there for an oil change. Conversation then stopped…

    • 0 avatar

      My Grandfather was in the war. Stationed in the Pacific. And he not only drove a Japanese car, he married a Japanese woman. Right after the war. Not a comfortable time for my mother and her siblings, because they grew up half-Japanese at a time when people’d spit on you in the streets for having eyes in the wrong shape.

      Whatever people do or have done in the past has nothing to do with what other people do or have done in the past. I found the call outs for reporting on German and Japanese atrocities in the XP article pretty lame. “This story makes me uncomfortable, so let’s talk about something worse to erase it from everyone’s minds…”

  • avatar

    This piece was a bit opaque for me, but I’m slow. It did not suck.

  • avatar

    What if I told you a battered brown Stanza tall wagon drove by my office as I read this? Would you believe it? ‘Cause it did…

  • avatar

    You can’t expect the best work to appeal to the masses.

  • avatar

    Jack, some of your writing is genuinely superb, but it is often very difficult to tell when you’re being sincere or not. Some of it is your choice of words, your timing, your crassness, your overall writing prose that paints this often abstract picture.

    It’s as though you are mocking everyone and everything. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, but it sure feels like it.

  • avatar

    I hear you about the black and white thing, Jack. I’ve found that by nature most people try and reduce thoughts and decisions to black and white. Many people have a difficult time trusting their own individual judgement and seek to join a “camp” where most of their decision making can be based on pre-determined group values.

    I’ve been in charge of managing a lot of people and have always found that the majority of people have a difficult time making decisions outside of a “black and white” process.

    While processes are great for handling 90% of a days problems, for the other 10% we must also use our judgement. I always try and cultivate a culture where people have the tools available to them so they might hone their judgement. Too often, many are frustrated when there is no clear answer, and hastily group the item at hand into “sucks” or “rocks.

    It’s human nature. Experience and appreciation for the things in front of us help us hone our judgement.

    • 0 avatar

      There are no small number of experts in many fields who have noticed the either/or, black/white dichotomy in human thinking. Of course, anthropologists think it’s biological, like a dog’s fight or flee decision making. The funny thing is, you have to be careful anticipating it, since there are other instincts at work in human behavior.

      My sister runs a graphics business and routinely has to generate three alternatives for clients. She got the advice from a psychologist that one option should be “out there” so it can be rejected and the real business of an either/or decision could be made. It’s called the Polka-Dot Bowtie technique.

      My sister tried it and ran right into another foible of the human mind, the attraction to the novel and unusual. Her clients kept picking the polka-dot bowtie! When she asked, she found that the clients had grouped the two similarly less novel designs together as an “either”, and the P-DB as the “or”, not quite what she had in mind.

      It appears we biological units are an unpredictable mix of higher mind battling animal instinct. For writers, the only clear measure is whether what was written gets read. Based on the volume of comments, Jack’s writing is a success.

    • 0 avatar

      @danio3834 I forget the author, but a good relevant idea is the one that stated that a sign of intelligence it to hold, and consider, to opposing opinions in one’s mind simultaneously.

      Or in simpler terms the ability and willingness to consider grey areas is usually a sign of more mature analysis and judgment.

      Now I wonder how many people will think that this idea, and/or yours, either “sucks” or “rocks”?

  • avatar

    “a nation of people who helped the other man up at the end of a tackle”, tbh, this made me think of Iran or China.

    “a nation of people who helped the other man up after a tackle”, would have made me think of an It’s a Wonderful Life-type America.

    Btw, the version of fabricated story for the garage bill to pay must be false, because I have it on good authority that no efforts for TTAC are compensated.

  • avatar

    In Canada, the Stanza Wagon was sold as the Multi and would be had in AWD. I knew someone with a brown stick shift one.

  • avatar

    Life itself is nuanced, and a reduction to black & white, or “rocks” & “sucks” is cheating yourself out of experiencing and learning about all the other shades, possibly even conceding that you don’t “know it all”. I’m older, and now I know that I don’t know everything. I am willing to listen to the other side in an argument much more readily than when I was younger – but I think I’m in the minority, as most people seem to harden their prejudices and cement their biases as they age.

    Jack, thank you for being able to voice my perceptions, much more articulately than I, on how the internet reflects reality, and illustrating how life is shades of grey, and very rarely black & white.

  • avatar

    I cannot imagine what it must be like looking at the world through your lens. The life experience I’ve had allows me to enjoy the occasional agreement with my personal opinion, but my worldview is completely independent of the approval of anyone save my family. I think that a healthy adult probably realizes at about 40 that he cannot realistically please even a majority, let alone ALL the people and becomes satisfied with the achievable, not the idealistic. That the web seems to polarize and isolate is a defect that we should filter all internet info through, like being skeptical of advertising or wikipedia “facts”. It’s still really early in this social experiment, so I would expect that in 2025 they’ll look back and laugh at our collective ignorance. You know, like carrying one of those brick and bag “mobile” phones in 1980. It was just a tool, part of the learning curve, not a social statement. As to why I even feel the need to express my opinion on this site is because of our shared interest in the automotive experience, be it the POV of the hostile, the ironic hipster, the gifted amateur, or the humorist. The variety is such a contrast to Automotive News or the Crane publishing style that it is still refreshing to my ossified brain and thoroughly entertaining. It isn’t meant to be thesis material, is it?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Jack whether the story if fact or fiction it is a great story. I would like to believe it is a true story. Never the less this story makes you think. Keep these stories coming. This is a great site and all the stories are interesting and informative.

  • avatar

    Root Cause, people, Root Cause.
    Jack just saw “Life of Pi” on Blueray, and he dood it to us.

  • avatar

    I realize I don’t speak for everyone but I think its a waste of your talent to write preachy educational articles. Will people respond to an article and miss its nuance? Yes. Will people be unreasonable in their demands – asking for ‘balance” when none is warranted? Yup. Will people object to your article with stupid irrational rants? Likely.

    Welcome to life man.. You don’t have to be a professional writer to figure that out.. Just know that the multitude of readers who didn’t spew vitrol about the XP-75 probably don’t need to read this little lecture.

    And the actual people you are trying to reach are not going to mend their ways after reading it.

  • avatar

    What the hell just happened?

  • avatar

    It’s interesting that the least nuanced commenter in the thread to Jack’s XP-75 Eagle post is nowhere to be seen in this thread.

  • avatar

    Jack, I’ve said it before: You’re easily the best writer on this site. Having to present your work to (most of) this crowd is akin to Heifetz playing a bowling alley.

    • 0 avatar

      Counting disc, tape and vinyl, I once had 13 different violinist’s versions of the Beethoven Concerto. Heifetz’ had the fastest tempo of them all, his precision was simply super human.

      At the peak of the crescendo in the Larghetto middle movement he *decrescendo-ed* against the swelling orchestra; the effect was sublime. No one else ever did that until Heifetz, and he ruined it for everyone thereafter lest they be seen as an Ernie Isley or Robin Trower of the violin world.

      And I love the hell outta bowling.

  • avatar

    The JB fanboi brown-nosing is strong in this one. Seems to be in proportion to the opacity of the article. Unlike most, I’ve come to accept his hatred of almost all things GM and just chalk the article up to his usual slanted opinions though I am surprised he took the time to bother writing a 2nd article defending himself. It’s not like anyone is shocked at this point to read some good old-fashioned GM-hate from JB.

  • avatar

    My ouija board started knocking. Some guy named c-a-m-u-s knocked out that he was c-o-n-f-u-s-e-d by j-b on t-t-a-c. I think he is French.

    • 0 avatar

      360joules: That made me LOL, and I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

      Which, I suppose, is why I enjoy the comments almost as much as the original article.

      Anyway, I get the impression that JB thinks that a “nuanced” piece can’t (shouldn’t?) be distilled down to its salient point (or mistakenly so).

      Sorry, we all have limbic brains that have a tendency to distill shades of grey into black and white, especially if we’re in a battlefield situation – and there’s no bigger battlefield than the Internet.

      Perhaps marketing and politics (synonyms, really) has led us to view most attempts at communication with a jaundiced eye, as in: “I’ve been lied to this way before.”

      So, it’s not “Pearls Before Swine”, but “Words Before the Wary” (or, weary, as the case may be).

  • avatar

    I must say, that was one of the longest articles I’ve read on TTAC, without pictures. The free Wi-Fi reception at Starbucks must’ve been strong that afternoon he wrote it.

    First, Jack had me believing the story about the WW-2 veteran, then he said he might have made the whole thing up to either get a rise out of us, or to pay his bills. I think that either Jack is a master of his craft, or a master baiter.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “People with severe personality problems, a vast overestimation of their own intellect, and access to a keyboard.”

    Wow. Or you can choose not to read it.

    Great reflection Jack. It’s always a pleasure to read your work.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    So what exactly are you trying to say? Time heals all wounds? That as you get older you being to view events not as black and white but in shades of gray? Or that your post was simply something written to get a raise out of readers of this website?

  • avatar

    Jack, how was the trip? I “think” I got the point of this, but I really didn’t want to read it twice. The motto in my family was always, “talk fast, clear and simple”. Sometimes you do a “Donnelly”. A “Donnelly” is my reference to Jim Donnelly over at Hemmings. A good writer, but someone who often strings words together in ways that I have to read a sentence three times to figure out what he’s trying to say about a Studebaker.

    I am totally quitting smoking. For years I’ve only smoked a few a day – when I got up, after a meal and before bed. Always outside. I got tired of having to visit with a neighbor every time I tried to enjoy a smoke so yesterday I slapped on the patch and called it good. One of the warnings of the patch is that you might experience “vivid dreams”.

    This article was the last thing I read before bed last night and the following is what seems to have stuck with me, “…allowed Gawker to herd them through the gates of Kinja like so many stupid cattle led up a spiral pathway of least resistance to the killing box and the knife and the hanging carcass and the resulting product served at five hundred degrees to some self-satisfied marketing type at a Manhattan restaurant, we aren’t half as bright as we think we are.” This did induce a vivid dream. And what I am going to tell you is the truth or may God strike me deaf.

    I spent a day in NYC with Ray Wert looking for humorous fatal car accidents. Ray was actually very intelligent and funny. A 1977 Olds Toronado morphed into a tandem bicycle for the journey and I kept getting my shoe laces tangled in the power seat controls on the side of the seat cushion. I guess dreams must not always be completely accurate because I think the power seat controls on a ’77 Toronado are located on the drive’s armrest. But, I digress. We stopped at a stand and got two sodas for $2.77. (Two sodas in NYC for $2.77???) Ray put down two dollars and I put down three. That’s when I woke up. We’d left a $2.23 tip on a $2.77 bill! Vivid dreams, Hell! An 80% tip is a nightmare!

    I’m not reading your articles before bed again.

  • avatar

    Love Jack’s writing, even his conspiracy theories. I guess this was his review of the NY Auto Show. Plus a bit of “no soap, radio”, but still an enjoyable read. What it had to do with cars I’m not sure.

  • avatar

    I guess this article was just Part 2 of the XP-75 article, and Jack gets defensive about the premise of Article #1.

    This could be a weekly installment on TTAC, Jack writing rebuttals for previous articles he’s written. Stay tuned for next week’s Part 3, where Jack introduces us to another character from his past and starts out with “I knew a man Bojangles, and he’d dance for you, in worn out shoes….”.

    What Jack he needs to do is find an outlet for his writing that isn’t biased by pressure from the manufacturers, or from advertisers, so he can speak his mind more freely. I’m thinking Consumer Reports would be right up his alley. That would broaden the scope of his writing and make his resume look better too. One week he could review cars, the next week he could review loudspeakers, and the next week it would be laundry detergent.

  • avatar

    JB: I wish I was a woman so I could have your baby.
    99% of the unwashed masses here don’t deserve you.
    Start your own blog please so that you can write like that ALL the time.
    Damn those who only care if it rocks or sucks.

  • avatar

    Dropping Douglas Hofstadter references. Like a boss.

  • avatar

    Read a few, then scrolled to the bottom.

    Jack, you’re not wrong, but you do your best work when you’re not writing about writing (yours, others, etc). Quit pointing it out.

  • avatar

    My WWII old guy car story is as follows. I was working the summers in the 70’s as a valet car guy at a rich Jewish country club, which by the way is a great gig for a teenager. The club was full of your typical doctors and lawyers who all dressed in typical 70’s style and drove a mix of mostly black Caddy’s, Lincolns, Mercedes Benz and BMWs, and a few others like Olds Cutlass coupes. My favorite exception to these guys was a grizzled old guy with white hair in a buzz cut and who drove a gold Ford LTD. The word was he was a survivor of one of the horrible German concentration camps and has come to the USA and done well for himself.
    So one afternoon we pull up cars at the same time to the front door, one the gold LTD and the other a new, black Mercedes. As the one member was about to get into his Mercedes the old guy yells out “Hey Cohen how many Jews can you fit into the ashtray of that car”?
    I did not say a word, true story.

  • avatar

    Perfect sentence: “Any story — any story — is broken and incomplete by its very nature. It is a distillation.”

    The best fictional representation of this notion is presented in the movie Big Fish. A man lives his life. He has experiences. Those experiences become stories. And stories are NOT xerox copies of events. Stories are re-creations, re-tellings, re-imaginings, done so as to make a point. And you know what? That is a good thing.

  • avatar

    I loved it.

    Now, entertain me with a thousand words or so on the sullen and coltish girljourno.

  • avatar

    XP-75 was a goat rope. A lot of projects like that happened, you can bet your ass. GM wasn’t the only one who could see the writing on the wall.

  • avatar


    “Few people are actually endowed with an ability to succinctly express well-formed thoughts”

    My problem in a nut shell .


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