Sunday, March 20, 2016

Little red Fiat update

Young son has had three driving sessions in the little red Fiat.  Young daughter stopped by today to give him some wheel time in the local school parking lot.  She is quite the accomplished clutch driver, having been self-taught on a Brit right hand drive Land Rover in the UK while on duty there with the Air National Guard.  She now owns a Miata and HD motorcycle, both clutch transmissions.

Session #1 for Young Son was frustrating for both student and teacher but I think I kept my cool more or less intact even as wt bunny-hopped down the street in the poor little car.

Session #3 with me this afternoon was in the local industrial park, mostly deserted on a Sunday afternoon.  In short order Young Son was starting and stopping the car without stalling.  He then progressed to starting, shifting to second and stopping. By the time we had finished for the day he was up to 4th gear, downshifting, and stopping.  Yay for him!  Soon he will be ready for the local streets with other  traffic.  But in the meantime I  get to keep driving it to the train station every day.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Young Son's new wheels

Young son's '05 Golf has been getting troublesome recently, having one issue after another.  A couple of weeks ago the Missus and I were out for a walk and passed by the BMW dealership where a snappy red Fiat 500 sat, looking ready for a new home.

We saw that it was a 2013 with only 33,000 miles.  The price seemed fair but it was a 5 speed manual transmission and Young Son doesn't know how to drive one so we walked on without asking about it.

We mentioned it to him and he reminded us that the 500 is in his top two most desirable cars list-at least for him.

Last weekend we saw it was still there so Young Son and I went to look at it and drive it.  Well, I drove it and he was the passenger.  

Let me say that it took me back to my first new car, a 1976 yellow Fiat 128.  It was a manual 4 speed with a 1300cc engine and about 62 horsepower.  I didn't know how to drive a manual but my father bought it for me and left me at the dealership to drive it home.  I can't believe I got there without burning out the clutch or tearing out the transmission!   I loved that little box, the Missus less so.   I taught her how to drive it and after a couple tries she had it mastered.  She never did figure out how to get it into reverse and resorted to pushing it out of parking spaces and jumping into it before it rolled away.   I took it to Germany when I joined the army and drove it a hundred miles an hour on the autobahn and still got passed by VW beetles.   We left it behind when we came back to the states.

Not mine but it looked just like this!

 Young Son and I pitched a price to the salesman who looked insulted and said no, so we left.  I knew he would call me and he did an hour later.  We went back to the dealership and an hour later I was driving the Red 500 home and Young Son was going home in his Golf.

Young Son has had one driving lesson in it so far and in a half hour managed to start and stop a couple times.  This weekend we'll do some more intensive practicing.  In the meantime I'm having a ball driving it to and from the train station each day.  It is the sport model with a turbocharged engine with twin intercoolers and stiffened suspension.  When the sport mode is selected and revs are brought up, this little car scoots!   

I'll be happy for Young Son when he masters the car and makes it all his own.  My dad liked to drive my 128 and maybe Young Son will do the same for me!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Guards Regiment

Two Sundays ago Citizen Grouch, the Missus, and Young Son journeyed over the hill to see a performance of the Royal Marine band and the pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Guards.

The Missus and I are bonkers for bagpipes played well and the whole Scots thing such as dancing, pipes, kilts, big hairy men in kilts tossing telephone poles up in the air (well probably the Missus likes that more than I) and all the rest.  You'd think we were Scots, but no, German and Irish heritage but still...

So off we went to see the show on the stage of the local college that Young son attends.  To do the performance justice it really needed to be outside but they worked with what they were given and did a spectacular job of it.

We were particularly taken with one piper who got into the performance so much that his foot would start tapping and then soon his whole leg was stamping in time to the pipes.

Young Son wore his kilt and accouterments that he purchased in Edinburgh last summer when we visited for the military tattoo.  Two ladies were wearing sashes of the same pattern as his kilt and whispered about it to each other when they spied him.  It was fun seeing others in the audience in kilts and bits and pieces of Scottish plaid.

Years ago the Missus and I saw a Scots regimental band and pipes perform at the Forum in Englewood, an interesting venue location for a military pipe band.  I loved it and hoped that this performance would be the equal.  It was.

The whole group on parade.  About a tenth of this strength made it to southern California

The performers playing a medley of U.S. military anthems.  The former service members of each service were invited to stand  and be recognized by the audience when their service anthem was played.

Young Son looking dashing and confident in his kilt!

Lone Pine trip

Part III about Manzanar is posted at Bundu Trek

Friday, March 4, 2016

Lone Pine Part II

Follow the link to the next installment of our President's day weekend offroad trip!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hail Caesar and Risen - two movie reviews

After not seeing a movie in ages the Missus, Young Son and I saw two movies about similar subjects treated very differently almost back to back!

The two movies are like siblings separated at birth and adopted by different families.  They may looks similar but they sure act differently.

"Hail Caesar" was the firs of two that we saw.  It is a Coen Brothers film which almost guarantees a great movie.  "Raising Arizona" and "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" are two favorites of the Grouch family.

"Hail Caesar" tells the story of a '50s era Hollywood studio and the studio boss who spends all day keeping the stars in line, the scandals tamped down, and the movies on schedule. it follows three movies that are in the process of being made, one of them a sword and sandal biblical epic about a Roman officer who comes to see Jesus as the son of God - but in a silly Coen brothers fashion.

The movie itself was silly and nostalgic and fun.  Much of it was filmed on the Warner Brothers back lot which we have visited so it was even more fun for us.  The movie is advertised as a slap-stick farce but to me it was more of a gentle send-up of the foibles of the Hollywood crowd of the era complete with a cabal of communist manifesto spouting screen writers.  We greatly enjoyed it and gave it three stars.

The following Friday the Missus and I saw "Risen".  It followed the same path as Clooney's movie within a movie in "Hail Caesar": a Roman officer who comes to realize that Jesus is the son of God.  This movie is played straight however.  The officer who is at the crucifixion of Jesus and who saw him dead, is tasked by Pilate to find his body when it goes missing from the tomb.

As the officer searches he becomes more unsure of his role in the Roman machine and of his personal motivations.  The officer is war weary and is only serving to retire and move to the farm that he hopes to buy.  He fights as ordered but does it for his soldiers and not to Caesar.

I was concerned that the movie was going to be, well, religious and preachy.  Instead it was a gritty and spare movie beautifully shot in Spain with a haunting score and convincing turns by the actors.  I enjoyed it and found it thoughtful and very well done.  I gave it four stars.