Toyota Prius

Things remain suspiciously calm in the world of ugly cars. Only one of last year’s (dis)honorees—the Nissan Juke—has gone on to the great parts-bin in the sky. Toyota, however, stepped up to the ugly subcompact SUV plate with their new C-HR. There have also been some of the usual adjustments to the ordering, most notably those caused by the proliferation of weird sub-models of the Honda Civic.

The criteria for inclusion is the same it has always been. I don’t include models that aren’t sold in the United States. I don’t include models that sell in very low volume (and volume is defined subjectively based on how many I see on the highways in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area). I don’t include exotic, military, or special-purpose vehicles—so no super-cars, tanks, or postal trucks. I also don’t include vehicles reserved exclusively for the commercial market, such as the persistently horrific Ram Promaster.

This list is my personal opinion. If you own one of the cars on this list, well, don’t take it personally.
. . . Continued

Gun Barrel Sequence from Dr. No

The James Bond (agent 007) character was created by author Ian Fleming for his novels, but he later took on a life of his own in the long-running film series. By my count, there have been twenty-five James Bond (agent 007) films to-date—the twenty-four “official” films by Eon Productions starring Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig, as well as the unofficial 1983 film Never Say Never Again starring Sean Connery.

Below is my list of each of these films, complete with brief reviews, ordered from worst-to-best. This list will be updated as new James Bond films are released. Note that many of these brief reviews contain spoilers.

. . . Continued

In the grand foyer of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, there is an eight foot tall bronze bust of President John F. Kennedy (D) that was sculpted by Robert Berks. It’s iconic and well-known, but I don’t like it. It looks like Kennedy’s head is encased in a chrysalis. When I see it, I sometimes (uh . . . always) quip that soon he will emerge as a beautiful butterfly.

You may or may not agree with my amateur art criticism. It’s not exactly my area of expertise. But still, here is an illustration of the life-cycle of the Kennedy from president, to pupa, to butterfly.

The Kennedy Chrysalis

Following the November election, in which Ralph Northam (D) was elected to become the next Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I began composing a letter to him. Today, Northam was inaugurated . . . and I sent it to him via his official web site. If I receive any response, I will publish it at the end of this post.

I hope and pray that Northam reads it, and that he considers it seriously. I hope you will consider it seriously too. And, as I say in the letter itself, I hope and pray for Northam’s good judgement and success in the coming four years. . . . Continued

The Big Three

I love news. Every day I read stories from a wide variety of sources—left and right, mainstream and fringe. I want to really understand what is going on in the world, and especially what is going on in United States politics. I mainly stick to online media outlets, some of which are online-only and some of which are the online arms of print newspapers or television and radio outlets. While I make a real effort to read a good cross-section of left- and right-wing outlets, my main go-to sources are those that are fairly even-handed. The even-handed outlets have their biases too, but I like them because they at least put some effort into seeing all sides and reporting objectively and accurately.

Unfortunately though, in the age of President Donald Trump (R) and a predominantly Trump-hostile press, it is difficult to find many of these even-handed outlets anymore.

Some online U.S. news sources like CNN and the Washington Post used to be among my favorites. They had a fair track record on hard news reporting (even though their opinion sections tilted pretty far left) . . . but both of them, among many others, have since abandoned any semblance of objectivity. I have therefore dropped them from my main rotation. At this point, my top sources for U.S. news are the three general-purpose national newswires: Associated Press (AP), Reuters, and United Press International (UPI). AP and Reuters lean a little to the left, and UPI leans a little to the right (sometimes), but all three want to avoid angering the variety of left- and right-leaning outlets that subscribe to them, so they try to keep it pretty fair.

Other U.S. sources that I rely on now are USA Today, Politico, the Wall Street Journal, and WTOP Radio, each of which does a fairly good job of reporting political and other news objectively (though, again, they often have fairly strong biases in their opinion sections). And of course I rely on a variety of foreign sources in addition to all of these U.S. sources for international news, but I generally ignore what foreign outlets have to say about our domestic political issues because, frankly, they usually don’t understand them and rarely report them well.

But what about the twenty-four hour television news networks? . . . Continued