Strange Herring is quitting

Strange Herring, is going on hiatus. That’s one of my favorite blogs! The pillar of my old age! This is the second time an Anthony Sacramone blog has gone on hiatus. I’m still mourning the absence of Luther at the Movies. He says that blogging has become a chore and he wants to stop before it becomes a bore. How about this Cranach blog? It is sometimes a chore, but you don’t see me going on some hiatus. As for “Strange Herring” becoming a bore, he should let us be the judge of that. (In our household, if any of our kids said that he or she was “bored,” that would bring down harsh punishment for using the “b” word. That meant hours doing some improving activity.) I’m not surprised that Mr. Sacramone became a burned-out case. He would put up like a dozen posts a day. All you need is three! Or four! When you get on a roll, save the posts as drafts and post them throughout the week, automatically if you have the right software. All he needs is a little vacation at the beach and a greater sense of responsibility. We need all the Lutheran humor we can get. (More on that later.)

Automotive criticism

I have often said that ANY subject can be made interesting by good writing. As an example, I have often used writing about cars. I’m not all that interested in them, but I enjoy reading good writing about them. Consider, for example, Car Talk with Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers. Just as there are literary critics, movie critics, and food critics, there are car critics. The most entertaining of the breed has to be Jeremy Clarkson, one of the hosts of one of my favorite television shows, BBC’s Top Gear. Here is his take on Honda’s new hybrid, the Insight:

Much has been written about the Insight, Honda’s new low-priced hybrid. We’ve been told how much carbon dioxide it produces, how its dashboard encourages frugal driving by glowing green when you’re easy on the throttle and how it is the dawn of all things. The beginning of days.

So far, though, you have not been told what it’s like as a car; as a tool for moving you, your friends and your things from place to place.

So here goes. It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more.

The biggest problem, and it’s taken me a while to work this out, because all the other problems are so vast and so cancerous, is the gearbox. For reasons known only to itself, Honda has fitted the Insight with something called constantly variable transmission (CVT).

It doesn’t work. Put your foot down in a normal car and the revs climb in tandem with the speed. In a CVT car, the revs spool up quickly and then the speed rises to match them. It feels like the clutch is slipping. It feels horrid.

And the sound is worse. The Honda’s petrol engine is a much-shaved, built-for-economy, low-friction 1.3 that, at full chat, makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner. It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.

So you’re sitting there with the engine screaming its head off, and your ears bleeding, and you’re doing only 23mph because that’s about the top speed, and you’re thinking things can’t get any worse, and then they do because you run over a small piece of grit.

Because the Honda has two motors, one that runs on petrol and one that runs on batteries, it is more expensive to make than a car that has one. But since the whole point of this car is that it could be sold for less than Toyota’s Smugmobile, the engineers have plainly peeled the suspension components to the bone. The result is a ride that beggars belief.

There’s more. Normally, Hondas feel as though they have been screwed together by eye surgeons. This one, however, feels as if it’s been made from steel so thin, you could read through it. And the seats, finished in pleblon, are designed specifically, it seems, to ruin your skeleton. This is hairy-shirted eco-ism at its very worst.

However, as a result of all this, prices start at £15,490 — that’s £3,000 or so less than the cost of the Prius. But at least with the Toyota there is no indication that you’re driving a car with two motors. In the Insight you are constantly reminded, not only by the idiotic dashboard, which shows leaves growing on a tree when you ease off the throttle (pass the sick bucket), but by the noise and the ride and the seats. And also by the hybrid system Honda has fitted.

In a Prius the electric motor can, though almost never does, power the car on its own. In the Honda the electric motor is designed to “assist” the petrol engine, providing more get-up-and-go when the need arises. The net result is this: in a Prius the transformation from electricity to petrol is subtle. In the Honda there are all sorts of jerks and clunks.

Jeremy is not just trying to be funny. He is not just making fun of the car. He is dealing with actual technical problems in the vehicle. And if you read the rest of the review, you will find that he is not against alternative energy at all and that he has positive suggestions for how the automotive industry could proceed. He makes the point that for a new automotive technology to succeed, it will need to be at least as good and preferably better than what people currently have; otherwise, they won’t buy it. He gives credit to Prius, but puts his hope in hydrogen technology.

Where to find your missing comics

Do you like the comic strips in newspapers? I do, though I don’t think they are as funny or entertaining as they used to be. Newspapers, due to their economic woes, are cutting a lot of people’s favorites. The Washington Post has cut back from a comic-lover’s feast of three pages to two pages. But when the Post drops a comic in the print section–as it has been doing for years, dropping a strip to pick up another one–it continues to make it available online. So if you are missing your Judge Parker or your Zippy the Pinhead, you can keep up with them by going here: Comics – washingtonpost.com.

Remaking the Three Stooges

The Farrelly brothers are set to remake The Three Stooges, casting Sean Penn as Larry, Jim Carrey as Curly, and Benicio Del Toro as Moe. Stooges, yes, but why remake perfection? Why remake any classic films, since they are all available now in their original glory on DVD? Have there been any worthwhile remakes? Maybe, but I can’t think of any.

A Screwtape take on the new atheists

My colleague both at Patrick Henry College and at World Magazine, Les Sillars, has written a sly and funny take on the New Atheists in Salvo Magazine, a “Touchstone Magazine” venture for young people. In the Screwtapian form of an address at an atheists’ convention, it begins:

My dear fellow Brights, Beamers, Blazers, Brilliants, Gleamers, Incandescents, Resplendents, Radiants, Shimmerers, and Sparklers: Thank you all for being here tonight, and a special thanks to the Dixie Chicks for that heartwarming cover of “Imagine.” I choke up every time I hear those immortal words—“Imagine there’s no heaven.” Ladies, you are a credit to the cause, and . . .

(What’s that? Well, of course they are. Why else would they be here? Listen; if Hitchens can argue with a straight face that Martin Luther King, Jr., did his work “as a profound humanist” and that his “legacy has very little to do with his professed theology,” then we can certainly draft the Dixie Chicks.)

We’re here, as you know, to celebrate the two-year anniversary, give or take, of the rise of the New Atheists. We particularly honor Sam Harris for Letter to a Christian Nation, Christopher Hitchens for god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (by the way, Chris, you have a typo in there), and the always penetrating Richard Dawkins for his latest evisceration of idiocy, The God Delusion. Guys, outstanding work. America is the most oppressively theistic nation on earth, so you wrote books mocking and belittling the faith of millions—Christians, Jews, and Muslims—that became bestsellers and generated a ton of fawning media coverage. And you weren’t just preaching to the choir, no sir. Real atheists are as rare as transitional species, but your books dominated bestseller lists for months. You offered to slap the faith-heads upside their empty little noggins, and they lined up to pay for the privilege.

Nothing has been more harmful to humanity than religion, as you have pointed out, and you framed the question so effectively. Even between the different monotheisms—let alone between religions—there are huge disagreements about everything from the nature of “God” to the nature of reality to what it means to be human. They’re mutually contradictory, in fact, and the failings of one say nothing about the truth of any other, and yet you brilliantly combined your attacks into an all-encompassing tirade against “religion.” “I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented,” writes Dawkins. Well said.

Hence, you guys can lump together Aztec human sacrifices, the jingoism of Judaism’s Yahweh, Islamic female circumcision, those absurd Christian teachings about hell, never mind the religious wars, and the only sane conclusion is that all those people are all crazy together. Assert that faith gives divine endorsement to any atrocity you can name, and you’ve tarred them all with the same brush. Practically everything bad that anybody anywhere has done can be tied, somehow, to religion, because most people in human history have been theists of one variety or another. It’s like taking target practice at the ground; you can’t miss.

It goes on. . . .Read the rest of it.

HT: Concordia TheoBLOGical Seminary

Mad Magazine in the news

Do you remember Mad Magazine? I sure do. Stumbling upon it as a kid was a whole revelation to me, showing that it was possible to make fun of the commercials, TV shows, and foibles of my time. It was a subversive epiphany that it was possible to criticize the culture around me. I’m sure it helped make me the culture critic I am today. After awhile, I stopped reading it because it stopped being as funny–or maybe because I grew out of its juvenile humor–but I’m glad to see it it’s in the news for its cover story on the first 100 minutes of the Obama administration. The story, though, strikes a sad note, adding that Mad will no longer be published every month, that economic conditions are forcing it to become a quarterly.

Mad Magazine Obama cover

So do any of you remember any classic Mad Magazine moments?


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