Well...CRAP! The large, extended, mostly local & majority Italian side of the family gets together every year about this time to eat way too much, maybe drink a bit too much (just enough to make us brilliant and engaging, right?) and exchange gifts via a long-established grab-bag format designed to keep any of us from committing suicide when those January credit-card bills appear. But it's a lovely time with folks we genuinely love and care about, and it's gotten even better since we've all pretty much decided to leave our social/political leanings at the front door. A hard thing for me to do, BTW, but I'm a minority there and, if I strip all the bullshit away, not about to persuade anybody or create any converts.
Hey, politics is the art of the possible, right? So we just set that stuff aside, do a little catching up, eat some wonderful food & have a good time.
We moreover do our "big family" Christmas the weekend BEFORE "real" Christmas, so's everybody can spend "real" Christmas with their immediate family or the famous "relatives from the Other Side" that everybody seems to have.
So that was last Sunday.
And Carol and I just found out early this morning that one of our beloved, college-student nephews-in-attendance started feeling crappy last night, went in for a COVID test with his mom (where they waited three hours just to get the test & the bad news) and sure enough he's got it. As do some of his fraternity brothers at U. of I. And, yeah, he and everybody else in attendance were vaccinated. Hoping it's a mild case and that he recovers quickly, and also that all the Olde Folks in attendance (that includes Carol and me these days) don't catch the damn bug.
Bottom line is that we will not be getting together as planned with ANYBODY for Christmas, and that Carol and I will be stuck at home with just ourselves, our cache of old movies, a backgammon game or two and our cell phones for company. And thinking wistfully about the lovely roast turkey with dressing & all the fixins we won't get to eat.
Then again, we have so much to be thankful for, and maybe this is a good time to think and reflect and...hey, you know the drill.
In other news, am working hard on all the myriad niggling, frustrating, I-need-a-fourteen-year-old-kid-to-help-me-with-this-shit details of our new mainstream distribution contract. Should be ready to tell you more about it and start sending out press releases after the first of the year.
Watch this space...
Okay, so I'm among the kazillions of fans/viewers who were, dare I use the term (my editor always hated it), TOTALLY GOBSMACKED by the Race Director's ill-considered decision to essentially gift this year's brilliantly contested, cliff-hanger after cliff-hanger Formula One Drivers' Championship to Max Verstappen on the last lap of the season. Mind you, Max is a worthy and deserving champion (even though I confess to being a longtime Hamilton fan) and his ability to manufacture pure speed and, mostly, sustain it is second to none. But it was truly a raw deal for Hamilton (and the Mercedes team), as they performed both brilliantly and perfectly under unimaginable pressure and Lewis had the race totally under control until a late crash caused a yellow flag and the Race Director decided, at the last possible instant, to wave the green for one final lap so they could "race for it." Understandable, perhaps, but not really fair after Verstappen stopped for fresh, soft tires, the lapped cars between Lewis and Max were waved by (although not the ones behind) and Lewis' secure, 15-second lead evaporated to only a few feet.
Do I think the Fix Was In?
I do not.
Do I think the Race Director's decision showed a complete lack of both appreciation for and understanding of the realities and ramifications of what he'd done?
I most assuredly do.
In the end, the fair thing, if you wanted to give the two drivers in question a fresh and final opportunity "to race for it," would have been to show the red flag immediately after the wreck, let EVERYBODY stop for fresh tires and turn them loose again with maybe three laps yet to run.
Max still might have won. But at least it would have been a fair fight.
A note about Lewis: I know he has his detractors and many fans have their allegiances elsewhere, but when it comes to not only driving like a champion, but conducting oneself as a champion as well, I give Lewis top marks. Some don't like his highly and purposely visible commitment to social issues, but even they have to admit he conducts himself with grace, acceptance and humility, and always thanks his team and the fans on which the success of the sport depends.
So he missed out on a record-breaking 8th World Championship this year (admittedly usually in the best car), but at least he earned a recently announced knighthood from the lady with the crown on her head. And I believe he's still good for that eighth World Championship if he decides to stick with it...
I sure hope he does.


One of my very favorite events every year is the MAMA (Midwest Automotive Media Association) annual SPRING RALLYE, which was moved to the fall this year thanks to COVID concerns. But at least it happened. The basic idea is to bring a large gaggle--you might even say a small herd--of automotive journalists, bloggers, TV/radio types and "Influencers" (translation: someone who thinks they're a hot-shit and engaging online expert but has yet to find the cash drawer on their laptop or Iphone) up to Elkhart Lake and Road America and turn them loose, both on-track and on the lovely, woodsy, scenic, sylvan and bucolic surrounding country roads, in a mouth-watering selection of the very latest automotive offerings from many of the top manufacturers. Did I mention we also get put up at a posh hotel (The Osthoff) and are fed delicious meals and snacks and evening libations until we need our lips and guts stapled shut plus a month or two with a personal trainer.

There is also a rugged, muddy and demanding off-road test track where we get to wring out the latest 4x4s (sponsored by Jeep, BTW), and the Jeep folks will be happy to know that their Rubicon was my favorite (although, to be fair, my previous favorite--and far pricier--Land Rover was not in attendance this year), and I can't tell you how much fun it is to go trampling all over Mom Nature on big, knobbly tires...

You may wonder at the source of all this perk-y automotive largess, but the bottom line is that is easier and cheaper for the manufacturers to let us sample their hot new products and hear their pitches presented professionally (and en masse) rather than to try to do it all-over-the-lot piecemeal by shuttling unaccompanied test cars thither and yon in the Press Fleet. This year was a bit odd thanks to both the Pandemic and the fact that the fall date meant that many of the new models hadn't debuted yet. Oh, well.
Some quick thoughts on some of the cars I sampled:

I've always been "Alfa Queer," and in spite of the make's oft-whispered and perhaps unfair stateside reputation re: maintenance/service issues and resale value, I love the blessed things. And the fact that the 1976 models started rusting on the boat ride from Italy...well, that was a long time ago. Bottom line is that a bunch of my friends have bought ther new Giulias and Stelvios and adore them. And they sure are fun to drive! Plus no serious complaints! Not particularly wild about the Junk Jewelry Gold color on this one, but it's a sweet ride from behind the wheel!
Not quite so enamored of Toyota's new(ish) Supra. I know a lot of folks love it, but the styling reminds me of something that might come up from the bottom in a trawler net. Then again, beauty is in the eyeballs of the beholder, and just over 100,000 people bought Pontiac Aztecs. So go figure.

By far the most Track-Capable/All-'Round-Athlete car was the new BMW M4 Coupe, which is a truly amazing piece of kit. But, in stark contrast to the svelte-yet-elegant BMW styling decisions of the past, the front end of this thing looks like some mechanized, outer-space monster from a Japanese sci-fi film. Yes, it's aggressive and even brutal. But pretty? I think not. Hell of a thing to drive, though!

Speaking of neat things to drive, the new, hot-shit Mustang Mach 1 is simply astounding. Particularly the brakes, which haul it down from 150 with incredible force and yet sublime sensitivity. Quite an experience. And great handling, too. What fun to wheel around at speed!

In answer to The Question Nobody Asked ("why would anybody need a Dodge Durango SUV with over 700hp?"), I give you the Durango SRT with full "Hllcat" treatment. Believe it or not, they let us take it out on-track at Road America (accompanied by a professional driving instructor with hopefully paid-up medical and life insurance). Well, it may weigh as much as a rail car, but it's a rail car full of fun and surprises. And what's wrong with a tow car or lumber hauler that can do elevens in the quarter mile? Plus the brakes and suspension are up to the task, and I reckon it could lap faster than any of the so-called "sporty cars" from my formative years.

Second-to-last, I give you the Volkswagen ID.4 electric. I'm not a huge fan of electric cars because of the weight and the fact that I love the burble, rasp, torque curve and pop of internal combustion motors. Not defending it, but that's how I roll. But this thing blew me away with its serene silence, clean, handsome styling, perfect inmterior and quality feel. Was not prepared to like it as much as I did. Amazing.

But if that's the wave of the future, I have to admit that against the backdrop of the overweening onslaught of Artificial Intelligence and ever more "you're too dumb and insensitive to do this" Driver Aids, my two overall favorites of the entire experience were arguably the two most old-fashioned and analog cars on the premises: the Mazda MX5 (to me it'll always be "a Miata") and the quirky but loveable Mini Cooper. Both cars follow the Kung-Fu-like ideals of (comparative) light weight in a small, handy package, a low C.G., a genuine manual transmission and an involving experience from the drivers' seat. Call me old-fashioned (or just "old," for that matter), but I think the joy of DRIVING and the sensations and satisfactions of staying alert and doing it well are slipping away from us. And that's a shame. Part of it is cultural and part of it is environmental and a lot of it stems from up-and-coming generations for whom driving is a hassle rather than an activity or an escape hatch from "real" life.
I'm reminded of a racetrack test drive I had--in the company of a manufacturers' representative--in Alfa's then-new "4C" sports model. Which, I have to point out, was only available with paddle shifters.
"Why don't you offer a floor-mounted stick shift?" I had to ask.
He went into a long, bullet-point spiel about how paddle shifters were the wave of the future and how they were I-can't-remember-how-many milliseconds quicker than a manual stick shift when it came to actually getting the gears stirred. Up or down. And every shift would be seamless and perfect.
I thought about that for a moment. And then I told him: "Y'know, I don't really care about those milliseconds on every upshift or downshift." I think I shook my head at that point. "It's like I'm a drummer, and you took a big piece of my drum set away..."

OK, this is a Burton. Which is actually a Citroen 2CV dressed up in a nifty, well-designed and well-executed fiberglass body. It was created in Holland and I guess they made around 1000 of them. Saying that the over-the-road performance is "less than exhilarating" is like saying Kim Kardashian is "less than flat-chested." But it's a neat little thing, isn't it?


So how about this Publicity Still? What movie? Details?

Catch the latest poop & pictures, the Jay Leno interview, Last Open Road swag & highly inappropriate attire from Finzio's Store and the lurid & occasionally embarrassing "ride with Burt" in-car racing videos on the hopefully now fully operational website at: