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What ever happened to America’s love affair with cars?




A few years ago, I was in an auto showroom, looking at an immense vehicle that could clear a snowbank three feet high. If the salesman had patted the side and said, “Now what’s it going to take to get you into this car?” I’d have said, “A ladder.”

I didn’t need that much car. I didn’t need any car, since I was still enjoying my vehicle — but sometimes you are drawn to a showroom like a man contemplating an affair. You’ll stay faithful, but what’s the harm in flirting?

Then one day you get out the title for your car, which is like going to the bar and slipping your wedding ring in your pocket.

In my case, my 14-year-old car gave up the ghost, so off to the dealership, where I encountered everything worrisome about modern America. Oh, the salesman was a nice kid. He knew his job.

But for all the passion he displayed, I could have been buying a fridge. Or a coffin.

What I wanted was a glad-handing, back-slapping guy with a plaid tie who’s been selling cars for 30 years, drinking motor-oil coffee from the break room, chain-smoking cigarettes as he looks at the sales board and sees he’s three short and the month is ending in two days, but they just got in five new Furys and he’s confident he can move them. The Fury, it’s flying off the lot. The Harpy, that was a hard sell, but even then, he moved six, mostly to divorcées. Ah — here comes someone who looks like he’s ready to be rolled. Grin on, eyes bright: showtime.

There weren’t any of these guys at the modern dealership. They were professional and relaxed and seemed to believe that it was my job to figure out which car I wanted.

“I woke up this morning,” I said to the salesman, “and I felt like I wanted to be flattered and lied to, but there’s no brothel around so I thought I’d go to a dealership.”

If he’d been a dog, he would have cocked his head sideways; it’s possible he thought “Brothel” was a new soup place down the road.

I told him which car I wanted, and he did not praise my selection as being the obvious choice of a virile specimen such as myself with exceptional taste, nor did he point out that the XL model, which had everything I liked, also came with leather manual covers, BoostPlus™ assist for suborbital insertion, a key fob that cried like an eagle when you pushed the lock button, and so on.

This was not a one-time observation. Trips to other dealerships had the same nice kind fellow who seemed unable to show enthusiasm not just for this car but for cars in general. They’re just, you know, cars.

What happened? How did an entire generation — OK, two guys — lose their love of that quintessential American desire to get in, floor it, barrel down the freeway with the radio loud, hit a concrete post and have the steering column spear you in the sternum like a plastic sword piercing a cocktail olive?

Perhaps it’s because cars all look the same. Regulations and mileage requirements have crimped the designers’ imagination, so everything turns out as an aerodynamically shaped wad of Jell-O, if it’s a small car. Even the massive pickups that sit there in the parking lot, looking as if they’re thinking up six ways to kill you, have a sameness to their design. The color palette is only slightly more generous than that of the Model T. Do the designers ever go to a car show and see people swooning over two-tone Bel Airs with seafoam green or pink?

“You can have the car in white, shell, gray, taupe, mauve and black,” the salesman says. Those are the colors I would turn if I were dying.

Perhaps the Youth of Today figure that there’s no point to loving cars, since (a) they are evil instruments of planetary destruction that have deformed cities and everyone should be taking an electric unicycle to his job as a Web designer at a craft brewery and (b) self-driving cars are inevitable, so the whole idea of learning to love to drive is like trying to brush up on your social skills when sex robots will be taking over the paramour department.

This must be stopped. A nation of people indifferent to cars is ripe for socialism, I tell you. Ripe! They’ll want everyone putting around in putty-colored pods controlled by a wise computer that manages congestion and ensures that no one has more horsepower than anyone else. They’ll probably have dampening fields that stifle access to hate speech, like talk radio, and if you make two stops at the liquor store in a week it’ll tattle to the gummint health provider.

The pods can’t have tailfins, of course. Nothing can have tailfins. Someone might grip and hit it and put his eye out.

Long ago, I told my daughter that if she ever came across a picture of people in a car with the top down, blasting down the highway for parts unknown, smoking cigarettes, radio loud, no belts — well, those were the freest people who’d ever lived.

Mind you, cigarettes are bad for you, the music was probably junk, the lack of seat belts meant they’d be shredded by sharp glass, so don’t smoke, develop good taste, buckle up. But still. The car is freedom. You’ll take my keys from my cold, dead hands.

I exaggerate, of course. Response time after a crash is pretty good these days. My hands would still be warm.


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9-year-old genius to graduate university




Laurent Simons

(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.

Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.

Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.

He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.

His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.

“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.

Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.

While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.

But Lydia has her own theory.

“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.

The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.

“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.

“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”

Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.

“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”

Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”

His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.

“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.

“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”

While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.

“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”

Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.

However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.

In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.

Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.

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New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne




Lena Horne

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Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem




Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem

Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.

The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.

Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.

Father and son were both knocked through a gate.

The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.

One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.

McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.

McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.

Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.


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