Entertainment and Humor

GM Catches Flack For Suicide Commercials

Monday, February 12th, 2007

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The Super Bowl is perhaps the single biggest day for commercial watchers of the entire calendar year. Companies spend millions of dollars and months preparing for the chance to impress a massive television audience on hand to watch the game (and commercials). Each year the pressure mounts to out do last years commercials. Whether it is humor or incredible special affects companies strive to have the best commercial come Super Bowl Sunday.

This year was no different. Several companies shelled out big doe to have a few seconds of ad time, and a few actually came through with some creative and funny commercials. General Motors joined the party with a commercial emphasizing GM’s dedication to quality with their 100,000 mile warranty. In the ad, a robot that drops a bolt on the assembly line floor is fired (GM’s obsession with quality). The robotic arm tries other jobs but continues to fail. All the while he keeps seeing nice GM vehicles rolling by and he presumably feels guilty and depressed. Finally he can’t take it any more and jumps off a bridge. In the end the robotic arm wakes up and is still in the factory; turns out it was all a dream.

This commercial has come under heavy fire from the mental health and suicide prevention community, especially after a GM spokesperson announced that the company had received “more than a handful, but not a tsunami” of complaints over the commercial. Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) called the commercial “recklessly irresponsible”. In a letter to General Motors NAMI also pointed out that the rate of suicide increases when unemployment is up and that major restructuring at GM has caused significant job loss, “the irony is unbelievably callous”.


I know people with mental illness, in fact I myself suffer from depression but I also love to laugh. In fact I think laughing is a great tool (speaking for myself of course) for dealing with depression. That being said I thought the commercial was hilarious. I’m pretty outspoken about my views on GM’s lack of quality but this commercial was a great piece of work. The montage shots of the robotic arm trying out different jobs like sign waving and working at a drive through all set to Eric Carmen’s sorrowful song “All By Myself” is brilliant. The fact that the arm wakes up from the terrible dream, reaffirms my opinion that this ad is not all that offensive.

Suicide and mental illnesses are serious and they kill people every day. But I feel like this commercial was clearly fiction. It wasn’t as if it were showing an automotive employee getting laid off and jumping off a skyscraper. It was a robotic arm that has a dream that it gets fired from its job for dropping a bolt, then trying several other menial jobs before jumping off the bridge. Then the robotic arm wakes up from the nightmare safe and sound in the factory. I don’t know about you but to me that is clearly fiction. The news is much more depressing than a spoof GM commercial.

This controversy comes on top of another Super Bowl ad for Snickers depicting two men eating the same snickers bar and beginning to kiss. Mars, Inc. pulled the commercial after receiving complaints from the Gay community. GM originally stuck to its guns saying it planned to continue airing the commercial, but after meeting with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention they softened their stance and announced they would delete the “jump” scene from the commercial.

I think the Super Bowl is an appropriate time for edgy commercials and if this were most other countries it wouldn’t have been a controversy at all. I’ll be curious to see what others have to say on the subject.

-Bill Mertz

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Flying Lincoln

Friday, February 9th, 2007

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What’s big, heavy and doesn’t fly well?

This has been a good week for amazing videos. Once again some of my car contacts came through big time by passing along this video of what was supposed to be one of the greatest car stunts of all time. This 1976 film depicts Stunt man Kenny Powers piloting a rocket powered Lincoln Continental up a steep ramp aimed at the St. Lawrence river. Starting on the Canadian side, Powers hoped to jump the river (a distance of over a mile) and land on a small island across the border in the state of New York.

When I first heard about this video I thought to myself “you got to be kidding me, a Lincoln Continental has got to be one of the worst cars to jump across a river in”. But then I saw the Lincoln Continental, complete with large rocket motor, some home made looking wings Elmer’s glued to the sides and those cool oval rear-quarter windows that came stock with the car and I thought “oh, shhfeewww”. Actually from looking at the footage if Powers had ditched those wings and if his chutes didn’t deploy so early he would have had a shot at getting pretty far. He could have kept the nose pointing straight ahead and maybe left the rockets firing a bit longer the LCBM (Lincoln Continental Ballistic Missile) had enough speed to cover some ground. Ah, what could have been.


Well the good news for all you dare devils out there is Lincoln Continentals from the mid-1970s are dirt cheap. Make yourself a 300 foot ramp, find a rocket and a river and you’re on your way to fame.

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Can’t you visualize yourself jumping a river in this baby.

-Bill Mertz

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Vintage Footage From the Nurburgring.

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

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Jackie Stewart jumps his BRM at the Nurburgring in 1966

Jackie Stewart called it the “greatest & most challenging race circuit in the world”. Many of the top drivers of all time have competed on the legendary Nordschleife and come away empty handed. The Nurburgring is a difficult and demanding circuit, and even though its configuration has changed over the years, one thing has not; it is still open to the public. Pay a fee and you can still drive your street car around the legendary German track and see your true racing potential.

It’s easy to picture people flinging there modern street cars around the Ring. With all the standard safety equipment in new cars you can feel pretty safe tossing your car about the track, maybe even safer than driving it in city traffic. But what about the 1960’s before people wore seatbelts with any frequency (if there car even had them), before air bags, side impact beams, grippy tires and suspensions that didn’t induce rollovers. I was lucky enough to get this video in my email box that shows the Nurburgring as it was in the 60’s with amateur drivers trying their best to imitate racing legends of the day.

If this video doesn’t make you want to wear a seat belt and put a roll bar in your car than you are a glutton for pain.

-Bill Mertz

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RoadRace: Best Film You Will Ever See Starring Hot Wheels

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

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The man behind the movie

Someone posted this movie to one of the car related email lists I belong too. It is a simply phenomenal short film that uses Hot Wheels die cast cars to depict a street race. While there are a few incongruities–it appears that the cars are racing through a town or city in England but the cars are good ‘ol fashion American hot rods (I guess it’s not impossible)–this short film as a whole really impressed me. The sound effects perfectly match the action, the cuts are sharp and timely, and the burnouts are so realistic. This short is almost in the same league Bullitt when it comes to car chase scenes. Hot Wheels should use this for a TV commercial spot.

The young man who made this video has a Myspace page where you can check to see when he puts out his next genius piece of work. Until then enjoy Road Race:

RoadRace

Add to My Profile | More Videos

-Bill Mertz

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The Undie 500

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

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I don’t know what it is, but for some reason car events for vehicles that cost $500 or less tend to be some of my favorites. Well actually I do know, I’m cheap, and broke (I’m a professional blogger) and these cheapo events tend bring out some of the most imaginative people in the automotive world.

Last week my attention was brought to a new sub-$500 dollar car event appropriately called The Undie 500. This annual New Zealand car rally (really more of a parade booze fest) runs between Christchurch and Dunedin, New Zealand. The event is put on by the University of Canterbury’s engineering society (ENSOC) so it should come as no surprise that this rally has much more in common with Chico State than it does with La Carrera Pan Americana.

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According to the sketchy at best Wikipedia entry, “Student members of the Engineering Society purchase used vehicles, spend weeks decorating themselves and their cars and drive the twelve hour journey south. The vehicles are individually themed and occupants pub crawl over the entire day of driving. The event is characterized by the high level of work performed on entrant’s cars transforming them from normal motor vehicles into something special.”

Requirements for the Undie are simple
1. They cannot cost more than $500 New Zealand currency.
2. They must stop at nominated watering holes in order to aid in the inebriation of participants.
3. All vehicles must have current registration and a “Warrant of Fitness”.
4. Vehicles must be piloted by a sober driver.

The Kiwi engineers were even smart enough to get an official police escort for the event meaning they can drive crappy cars, get pissed, have fun and not get hassled by the cops. What are we doing wrong over here in the States?

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My favorite part of the Undie 500 entry in the Wiki was under the trivia section: “In 2006, the Boozeballah “Fighting the War on Sobriety” vehicle was recognized as one of the more un-PC cars in the event, due to the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict. Christchurch Police contacted the owner of the vehicle, requesting that it be taken off the roads as it was deemed to have breached the standards of good taste and decency. (Auckland Star, 24th August 2006)”

Boozeballah “Fighting the War on Sobriety”, I love it.

-Bill Mertz

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Pole Position: The Commercial

Monday, February 5th, 2007

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Growing up, I spent many an hour in the local round table pizza playing a legendary racing game called Pole Position. When I was 10 years old this was the closest I could get to driving a real car. It didn’t matter that the graphics were terrible, or that the car only had two speeds “hi” and “low”. I didn’t even care that when you went off course and hit a puddle of water your blocky open-wheel race car exploded. The game was simple and fun and I loved it.

As I got older I it became hard to find a Pole Position game in any arcade, and no one had Atari’s at home anymore. Video game graphics were getting better by the day once I could drive a real car it seemed that I might never hear the garbled magic words “Prepare to qualify” ever again. That is until I was driving across the country in an old Jeep with two of my friends. We stopped in a little Pizza place in Wheeling West Virginia and they had a Pole Position machine in the back. This one was the type you sit down in, a luxury I never had in my youth. So I popped a quarter in the slot and started playing. My first game was iffy, crashing into signs and puddles of water at every turn. But after that first game I was in the zone, and by my third quarter I had set the top score on the machine so high that I’m positive no one has topped it to this day. That may be the crowning achievement of my life.

So you can imagine how I felt when I found this vintage Pole Position commercial on YouTube. It really captures the essence of the game, especially the part at the end where the young boy is stuck in the “hands on the steering wheel turning” position.


-Bill Mertz

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Traffic Poles vs. Box Truck

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Have you ever come to a toll crossing or parking attendant’s booth and you don’t quite have the cash. Maybe the thought has crossed your mind to mash your foot to the floor and bust through the flimsy traffic gate. Well apparently people have done this a few times because someone felt the need to develop an even stronger traffic restraining device. The time of the crossing gate is coming to an end. There is a new parking lot enforcer in town and its name is the traffic pole.

I haven’t seen any of these brutal car stopping weapons in the US, but apparently they are taking Europe by storm. So what exactly is a parking pole you ask? Well as the name implies it is a pole, a large steel pole, which sits hidden in the ground until it is called upon to rise out of its hiding place and stop all vehicles dead in their tracks.

Here are a few instructional videos that show how these nifty devices work. They will also probably persuade you never to try and burst through one, unless you are a glutton for carnage.

We’ll start with the gentler video first:

And now the grand finale:

-Bill Mertz

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Top 10 Most Memorable TV Cars

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Cars.com just announced its list of the top ten most memorable TV cars. This list of course is highly influenced by the age of the people who compiled it. Judging by the list the creators were slightly older than myself. However, thanks to the invention of the re-run, most of the cars on this top ten list are permanently burned in my memory. Check out the list and the Cars.com commentary and let me know what you think.

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1) KITT, 1982 Pontiac Trans Am, “Knight Rider” - David Hasselhoff may have been the show’s star, but KITT was the main attraction. The supercomputer controlling this black Trans Am rendered it intelligent, sarcastic, bulletproof and able to jump over obstacles. The closest most of us will get to a talking car is using a navigation system.

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2) The General Lee, 1969 Dodge Charger, “The Dukes of Hazzard” - The General Lee and KITT were neck and neck for the top spot. Although the iconic orange Charger had legions of teens attempting Luke Duke’s opening-credits hood slide, KITT won out for having enough gadgets to make James Bond jealous.

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3) The Mystery Machine, “Scooby-Doo” - Not only could this multicolored van hold a quizzical Great Dane and four meddling kids, but there was also plenty of room for the Harlem Globetrotters, Don Knotts and whatever other guest stars dropped by for some ghost hunting.

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4) Ferrari 308 GTS, “Magnum, P.I.” - Thomas Magnum lives in a guest house on a gorgeous Hawaiian estate, works sporadically and drives his employer’s cherry red Ferrari whenever and wherever he wants. How great is that?

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5) Batmobile, modified 1955 Lincoln Futura concept, “Batman” - Forget the various Batman movies; Adam West’s Batmobile is the one everyone remembers best. With the long fins, afterburner and assorted bat-gizmos, the Penguin never stood a chance.

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6) 1975 Ford Gran Torino, “Starsky and Hutch” - Although the Gran Torino wasn’t quite as popular as other muscle cars of its era, this “Striped Tomato” wasn’t without fans. Ford even released a limited-edition version painted to look like David Starsky’s.

(Could not find a photo)
7) 1973 Chevrolet El Camino, “My Name is Earl” - This is by no means the best-looking car on the list. It’s dusty, full of trash and repaired with enough spare parts to create a multicolored mess. Still, there’s something poetic about Earl embarking on his karmic quest in a pieced-together El Camino.

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8) 1983 GMC G-Series, “The A-Team” - Who better to own a van that’s continually crashed, chased, disassembled and shot at than former military man and master mechanic B.A. Baracus?

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9) Mach 5, “Speed Racer” - This 5,000-horsepower racing machine had seven buttons on the steering wheel that could adjust road traction, slice obstacles out of the way, turn the car into a submarine and more - and that was 40 years ago.

(Could not find a picture)
10) 2005 Maserati Quattroporte, “Entourage” - If you’re lucky enough to ride Aquaman’s coattails all the way to a glamorous Hollywood lifestyle, a new Maserati is just icing on the cake. “Entourage” got a whole new generation of drivers drooling over this classy Italian exotic.

Cars.com also gave an honorable mention to The Flintmobile from “The Flintstones”, the 1971 Plymouth Barracuda convertible in “Nash Bridges”, the Toyota Pickup from “Baywatch”, and the Pontiac Firebird in “Rockford Files”. The honorable mention list is a little weird. I mean Nash Bridges was pretty obscure, granted Don Johnson’s wheels were cool, but why not throw on the Ferrari from Miami Vice. And I always thought the truck in Baywatch was a Ford Ranger (shows how much attention I was paying to the trucks).

As for the actual list, this is one top ten list I can almost whole-heartedly agree with. I say almost because of the “My Name is Earl” El Camino and the “Entourage” Quattroporte. Now I like a good Quattroporte or El Camino just as much as the next guy, but I don’t think the shows are big enough or old enough to have these cars on the Most Memorable TV Cars list. Maybe Cooter’s tow truck or Daisy’s Jeep from the Dukes of Hazzard could take one of those spots. And Ponch from CHP’s had a pretty memorable Firebird. Or maybe the 1966 Chrysler Imperial from the Green Hornet, or the Ninja Turtle van or the Munster mobile….I could go on and on but let’s hear what TV cars you like the best.

-Bill Mertz

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The Sounds of Formula One

Friday, January 26th, 2007

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After a stellar F1 season the Renault team seemed like they had done it all; a driver’s championship, a constructor’s championship, what more could you ask for? How about getting your team car to play “La Marseillaise” on its finely tuned engine; well they can do that too.
While I prefer the sound of wide open throttle under load ripping through a tunnel, I must admit this is a pretty neat trick. I tried to replicate this with my Jeep but I can only manage a crude version of “Hot Crossed Buns”


For all you French hating Brits out there here is “God Save the Queen”. But I worn you it may sound out of tune being played by a Renault.


-Bill Mertz

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Millen Wows the Crowd in a Toyota Tacoma

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

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For those who don’t already know, Rod Millen isn’t just your run of the mill race car driver. Millen was born in New Zealand where he loved to surf and sail and occasionally pop around in a dune buggy. His love for cars, and particularly sliding them, grew into an obsession and quickly Rod Millen became involved in the New Zealand rally scene. After proving his worth in the southern hemisphere Millen came to California where he continued to show his rally prowess. He signed on with Toyota’s off road racing division and became a hero to thousands of little kids by dominating the Mickey Thompson Stadium Off-Road Racing series. But the real legend of Rod Millen involves a Colorado mountain called Pikes Peak.

This 14,110 ft. mountain is home to possibly the greatest hill climb in motor sports. With a massive change in altitude, 156 dangerous curves, slippery dirt and sometimes inclement weather the 12.42 mille Pikes Peak hill climb is not for the faint of heart. For Rod Millen this is simply another day at the office. Pikes Peak is Millen’s home turf and he has proven himself time and time again in a myriad of different vehicles and classes. In 1994 Millen charged is all wheel drive Toyota Celica turbo to the top of the mountain in a record time of 10:04.06, a record which still stands today. This is just one of many titles and records that Millen holds on what many call “Millen’s Mountain”.

In 1998 Millen and his company MillenWorks built a custom Toyota Tacoma race truck to bring to Pikes Peak. The low slung rally truck won the unlimited class at Pikes Peak two years in a row. Millen decided that it might be fun to bring some of his Pikes Peak vehicles out to another great hill climb, the Goodwood Festival of speed, so in 2002 he brought his record holding 850 horsepower Celica to the hill at Goodwood and put on quite a show. Not to be outdone by… himself he vowed to return the next year with something even faster. That of course would be the 900 horsepower turbocharged Toyota Tacoma, and again Millen wowed the crowd with an even faster run than the previous year.

A friend of mine alerted me to this great video of Millen’s Goodwood run from YouTube.
Enjoy:



Running his Celica



Running his Tacoma

-Bill Mertz

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About William

I am a twenty something car enthusiast. I spend most of my days working in a small restoration shop in Northern California that specializes in vintage Alfa Romeos. I also manage to do some freelance writing for a handful of automotive publications. When I'm not at the shop I can usually be found working on one of my own project cars, out driving on a good windy road or good jeep trail. Despite what my girlfriend says cars aren't what defines me, they are only what I do. When I have a chance I also love to go camping, play sports or generally do any type of outdoor activity. I don't take myself to seriously, so I hope you don't either.

Automotive Channel Links

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