What I learned on my summer vacation — thanks to an 11 YO boy…

…obsessed with Top Gear:

This factoid, for one thing, retailed somewhere on the long journey north and east of Mt. Diablo into the uninhabited quadrant of California:

“Daddy:  did you know that the Zonda R has got a V-12 engine and weighs less than a Ford Fiesta?”

“Why no, son.  I did not.”

But, good father that I hope to be, come the return to sporadic internet service, I did a little research and came up with something to show my son.  Sadly, though, it  may be the most perfect expression of the pron aesthetic I’ve ever seen, all desire, all objects, and that driving, relentless beat:

<div align=”center”><iframe width=”560″ height=”349″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/JYOundkNxGE” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

And yes,  I know that gazillion dollar non-or-barely-street-legal-cars are mere distractions from the chaos of our times — but as a bonus, check out the single craziest bit of flying I can recall seeing.*  The pilot here seems to be someone for whom juggling six knives while balancing a cyanide tablet on clenched teeth does not sufficiently engage:

<div align=”center”><iframe width=”560″ height=”345″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/Fcfi-ji8S7I” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

How about that dipsy-doo over the runway? Pray to FSM that this flyer never chooses a second career in an Alitalia cockpit.  I don’t want to be approaching Rome when the boredom gets to him…

More serious (aka depressing) blogging to come.  But for now, consider this a wretched excess open thread.

*And I saw the head test pilot for British Aerospace show off the Harrier at the Farnborough Airshow right after the Falklands War.  He could make that little plane do all kinds of tricks — but this Italian guy so far out-crazies him that it just ain’t funny.  (For an example of just how weird the Harrier could be, check out this clip from a later Farnborough display.)


44 replies
  1. 1
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    Man, TG-UK is nothing but high-end auto pr0n. The Somebody and I have watched almost all the seasons that are available on Netflix. Too bad Jeremy Clarkson is a glibertarian who lives on the Isle of Man to escape taxes. Tory bastard.

  2. 2
    MikeJ says:

    If you take joy in the craftmanship of a well made wooden chair, that’s ok. You’re not supposed to enjoy it if there’s a motor involved.

    There are many good reasons to hate Top Gear, but the car pron makes up for some of it.

  3. 3
    Ian says:

    That is one awesome car. I want one.

    O/T but this is the stupidest thing I have ever seen

  4. 4
    Tom Levenson says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Yup. He is a remarkably talented guy (BBC folks I know loathe his politics, take notes on his TV writing skills). Just a dick in every other way. But funny. Top Gear I see as Monty Python with fuel injection.

    And yes, I’d take back everything I’ve just said about Clarkson for the chance to take a lap in the reasonably priced car.

  5. 5
    Comrade Mary says:

    Tom, as long as your son doesn’t start talking in an affected accent, lying about the capabilities of electric cars, and showing every sign of wanting to be middle-aged well before his time, he’ll be all right.

    And a shoutout to my boyz Jeffrey and Yutsy and their pointers to true shortcake for the strawberry shortcake I whipped up last night. This was a triumph. I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.

  6. 6
    Jenny says:

    Congratulations to President Obama on the liberation of Libya.

    He prevented a 2nd Rwanda like Holocaust in Benghazi and then he deposed a tyrant without a single US casualty.

    It’s reminiscent of Theodore Roosevelt’s action in Morocco in 1904.

  7. 7
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Ian: that is teh awesome of stupid. And factually just wrong…I mean dogs hunt just fine when that’s the job (see fox hunting or coursing, e.g.) Dumb, predictable, badly written and wrong: Ladies and Gentlemen, your Politico contribution of the day.

  8. 8
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Comrade Mary: Yup. Top Gear is the idiots playground for Auntie Beeb. But my domestic troubles are more around the problem of breaking it to my boy that there is no Ferrari Enzo in his future. Ever.

    (I should add that I was a car-obsessed Calif boy, and there is enough motorhead joy in Top Gear to get me continuously apologizing to myself for liking the show despite its brazen BS. The defense, much better than the one advanced in that Guardian show, is that (for the most part) the BS is obvious (self) parody. Faking the Leaf road test (and the Tesla, it seems), is not that, though. That’s just bad.

  9. 9
    Martin says:

    Obama, still worse than Bush.

    (17 Aug 2011) Very timely Justice Department data show that during the first eight months of FY 2011, the rate of federal prosecutions for health care fraud is up 85 percent over the previous year. So far, the government has reported 903 new health care fraud prosecutions, which already exceeds the level for all of FY 2010.
    The higher numbers can be accounted for by a series of FBI investigations.

  10. 10
    Comrade Mary says:

    But what does Politico say about the political affiliations of guinea pigs? And meerkats? And honey badgers? (The latter don’t give a fuck, which makes them glibertarians, but they actually get shit done, which makes them … well, I don’t know.)

  11. 11
    Martin says:

    Wow. Shits going down:

    Al Jazeera has learnt that Gaddafi’s eldest son Mohammed has surrendered.

  12. 12
    Jenny says:

    They’re singing the national anthem in the streets of Tripoli and chanting Obama Akbar.


  13. 13
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Jenny: He did not liberate Libya. US forces did not liberate Libya. As far as I can see NATO forces did far less to liberate Libya than the French did to liberate the British colonies in North America, and no says the French liberated the US. In my opinion, the US has done the right thing in helping the rebels, but the rebels have done the fighting and dying.

  14. 14
    Jenny says:

    I should also add congratulations to Secretary Clinton, Susan Rice, General Carter Ham, Admiral McRaven, US special operations, and perhaps most importantly, Samantha Power.

  15. 15
    gbear says:

    That video reminded me of one that I found a couple weeks ago for a much more attainable mobile delight – a Kymco scooter (the upgrade for the one I ride now). The driver commits one of the cardinal sins of scooter riding by repeatedly putting a foot to the ground when taking tight corners. It’s also hard not to note that none of the chase scenes seem to break 40 mph. Really cheesy stuff.

    But then the driving in that car video didn’t seem to be any great shakes either. The music was supposed to cover for the lame track footage.

  16. 16
    Cat Lady says:

    Second Gaddafi son has surrendered. I’m sure this is good news for Republicans.

  17. 17
    Professor says:

    OT: Gaddafi Regime about to fall. Gaddafi’s son arrested. According to BBC London BST 23.28. Rebels in Tripoli.

  18. 18
    Jenny says:

    @Cat Lady:

    I’m sure this is good news for Republicans.

    If people like Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry had their way, Colonel Gaddafi would still be in power.

  19. 19
    aisce says:

    @ jenny

    He prevented a 2nd Rwanda like Holocaust in Benghazi

    that is, uh, quite the sentence. i agree, i think we can all be glad to have avoided a second rwandan…holocaust. yes.

  20. 20
    Cat Lady says:


    And Mubarak. And supporting Assad. Authoritarians to the bitter end. They’d still be supporting Ceausescu.

  21. 21
    hamletta says:

    My hat is off to the producers of that spot for using a Dramatic Choral Work That Is Not “O, Fortuna.”

  22. 22
    Yutsano says:

    @Tom Levenson: Because the last thing the universe needs here is another penhis car. Sheesh.

    (says the man whose eyes keep going back to the Audi convertible and drooling.)

  23. 23
    aisce says:

    @ cat lady

    And supporting Assad.

    yes, if there’s anybody the republicans and neocons love historically, it’s the iranian-backed syrian regime. we’ve always had such close relations with those guys.

    oh internet, you’re certainly gonna have a lot of fun saying crazy things these next 24 hours, aren’t you?

  24. 24
    JPL says:

    Years ago days before Lockerbie bombing my husbands trip to England was canceled. He worked for a major corporation and they did things like that. Unfortunately, students weren’t so lucky. I hate Gaddafi and wish the Libyans good luck in forming a new government.

  25. 25
    Sko Hayes says:

    I recognize the pilot in the second video, he was the pilot for the Airbus 320 I was on the last time I went to San Diego.
    Even on the best days, it’s a roller coaster, but the way that Italian jet was flying as it came up behind the car looked pretty damn familiar.
    Even the flight attendents had a slight green tint.

  26. 26
    Uncle Clarence Thomas says:


    What I learned on my summer vacation — thanks to an 11 YO boy…

    Man, I knew balloon-juice.com was full of Republican Lites, but this exceeds even Mark Foley in over-the-top GOP depravity.

  27. 27
    Dennis SGMM says:

    I’m saving the champagne for the day that they hold free, fair and open elections in Libya.

  28. 28
    keestadoll says:

    Fun. We need more fun.

  29. 29
    drkrick says:

    Say what you will about Jeremy Clarkson. He once beat the crap out of Piers Morgan during his Murdoch run on account of a story about his marriage. So he has that going for him.

  30. 30
    gene108 says:


    Fun. We need more fun.


    The resolution for more fun has been “officially” put to the forum for it concurrence :-)

    Also, too I think I’m skipping my mid-life crisis. I am hoping my 8 year old Toyota Corolla lasts forever, so I don’t have to spend money on a new car.

  31. 31
    Jenny says:

    @aisce: They sure loved Assad when Syria backed the first Gulf War.,+1990

  32. 32
    aisce says:

    @ jenny

    you realize hafez has been dead for ten years, and there’s nobody on the planet neocons despise more than iran and its allies, right?

  33. 33
    opal says:

    @Dennis SGMM:

    Having a genocidal loon on the run is, at the very least, worthy of an Asti Spumante of modest qualities.

  34. 34
    Kevin Phillips Bong says:

    Love Top Gear, truly the best made car show out there. We now have two imitations on the air here in the States, both pretty weak sauce, although the US namesake is worse than the Car Show on the Speed channel.

    That flying is really nothing special, he’s just wacking the stick back and forth at a fairly slow airspeed. All he has to tolerate are the moderate negative g as he pushes forward. For some truly amazing stick work Google Sean D. Tucker’s airshow performances. Insane positive and negative g transitions, precision roll and lift control and the full use of a highly exotic aircraft. For impressive higher zoot airplanes, watch the F-22 or the F-18E demos, the high-alpha performance is breathtaking for those who know what they’re seeing.

  35. 35
    KennyG says:

    Tom, you’re driving through the area I grew up in many years ago – Clayton, CA. I’m guessing you’re on Marsh Creek Road? Spent many nights driving my arse off on that road. Or maybe Kirker Pass Road?

    Coincidentally, my 11-year old is also obsessed with Top Gear amd frequently shares with me how fast the ZR-1 is compared to the GT-3. Good times.

  36. 36
    Olivia J says:

    Very, very cool car–and the pilot’s pretty easy on the eyes too. Back in 1986, when all my blouses were silk and sweaters were cashmere, I bought myself a stick-shift Saab 900 Turbo, my first-ever new car. Drove it 125,000 miles and loved every minute of it–except for the occasional stop-and-go traffic, the outrageous repair costs and insurance rates, and several speeding tickets (two in one day, yeesh!). Sigh. Good times. Oh well, now that I’m poor, but still happy, I content myself with a Hyundai Elantra, also stick-shift, but I pretend I’m still driving my Saab. Daydreams are good, yes?

    Thank you, Tom Levenson, for the trip down Memory Lane, and for putting these cool videos on this always fascinating Balloon Juice blog.

  37. 37
    opie jeanne says:

    @Ian: That article IS stupid, and even stupider are a few of the commenters.

    Just what the hell is a limousine liberal, anyway?

  38. 38
    WaterGirl says:

    @Yutsano: When the Ford Probe first came out, I used to joke that they should have just named it the Ford Penhis. I never saw the data, but I always figured the card sold much more to males than females.

  39. 39
    JGabriel says:

    Welcome home, Tom. Glad to see you back.


  40. 40
    malraux says:

    Top Gear is good in the same way that a twinkie is good. I love it while consuming it, feel somewhat remorseful for enjoying it, and if I think about it during the process, it totally ruins the experience.

  41. 41
    Ian says:

    @opie jeanne:

    Just what the hell is a limousine liberal, anyway?


  42. 42
    patroclus says:

    America! Fuck Yeah! Leading from behind to save the motherfucking world, now!

  43. 43
    Lesley says:

    It’s the car Batman drives.

  44. 44

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