Iconic Love

Quick, name an iconic car.  That’s was easy, right?  Now, define what makes a car iconic.  That’s a little bit trickier, isn’t it?  An iconic car can mean one thing to a person and another to the next.  One might say that the Ferrari GTO is an iconic car while another would argue that the Lamborghini Countach is iconic.  While both of these cars could be classed as iconic, I say that they are more of a subset of iconic.  They are iconic supercars.  They are legendary vehicles rarely seen, let alone driven.  Those do not fit my definition of an iconic car.

Iconic cars are something that everyone can not only aspire to, but can realistically achieve.  Iconic cars inspire passion, have a culture created around them, are available in large numbers, have altered the market since their introduction, have inspired imitators, have a higher than normal resale value, and have a larger than normal number of people willing to spend gobs of money restoring or accessorizing them far beyond any reasonable return of investment.

We should also take a moment and clarify the difference between an iconic car and a cult classic.  We have to be careful here.  This is dangerous territory.  Emotions run high and egos are bruised very easily.  Cult classics are loved every bit as passionately by their owners as an iconic car.  The difference is not the passion bestowed, but rather the number of people bestowing that passion onto their beloved vehicles.  Don’t misunderstand me if I say your car is not an icon but is instead a cult classic.  It doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of love; far from it.  I’m just saying that the character and personality of that car is missed on the majority general public.  Revel in that fact and enjoy the secret of finding an unknown treasure.  Let me step out onto the thin ice and drop an anvil.  The BMW 3 series is the perfect example of a cult classic.  It is not an iconic car.

Yeah, I said it.

I can hear the screaming across the web.  “Heresy!”  You cry.  The BMW 3 series has won Car & Driver’s 10best twenty-two years in a row.  It was the car of the eighties dreamed of by yuppies across the nations.  People buy them up like popcorn and are seen everywhere.  They are made into art and are in displays at museums.  They are raced, and they are loved.  How could the BMW 3 series not be an icon?

Ever hear of any high school students talk about them?  Do you see used versions in the parking lots?  What about college.  How many of them do you see there?  Have you ever heard a person question if it is better to buy a new VW Jetta or a used 3 Series?  I haven’t.  How many 3 series BMWs do you see at car shows?  How many, percentage wise, do you see on the gymkhana race tracks versus the other brands?  In the U.S. when the thought comes to the BMW 3 series, the thought is usually about the new and not the used.  Their used prices are reasonable, but it’s their high parts and repair bills that are their Achilles heel.  Just because you can afford to buy it doesn’t mean you can afford to own it.  That is why the BMW falls into the cult classic category and is not considered an icon.  (For those wondering which is the best of the 3 Series; it’s the 1986 M3.)

Other vehicles have crossed over the other side of the spectrum and are now considered classic.  Once they were sold in great numbers but as the years have passed the survivors have dwindled until they are now listed on the endangered auto species lists.  These would include the original Minis, the VW Camper Van, ’57 Chevy’s, Ford Broncos, and Datsun 240Zs.  They are all great cars that are now sought for their collectability more so than their usability.  (The VW Camper Van is the only one listed that could be argued that it is on the line, midway between classic and iconic.  All others are completely considered classic.)

So what cars made the list and are truly iconic?  Here’s my list in no certain order.

VW Beetle:

This car is old enough to almost be in the classic category, but there are enough beater bugs on Craig’s List that availability and affordability is still in their favor.  Parts are relatively cheap and the ability to work on it with a hammer, screwdriver, and adjustable wrench means almost anyone can keep it running.  The aftermarket is still churning out tons of accessories to make these bugs into the car of your dreams, but there is a caveat.  The days of the old Beetle are numbered and before you know it, the Beetle will be shuffled into the collector’s category.  But I wouldn’t worry too much.  By then the New Beetle will have taken its place.

Ford Mustang:

This car invented the breed.  Without it you wouldn’t have the Camaro and Challenger.  The first gen cars might be considered classics only, but Mustangs of other generations are still lusted after and can be lavished with aftermarket accessories.

Mazda Miata:

How could such a relatively modern car make the list?  With all the adoration and inspiration it has caused, how could it not.  The Mazda Miata reinvented the affordable two seat sports car category by its very inception.  An instant hit, the Miata became the romantic darling of weekend racers of the SCCA.  (Even though they would get routinely trounced by the Dodge Neon ACR.)  The aftermarket jumped on board with accessories and aftermarket parts to enhance their suspension or increase their power.  Parts are of average price and used models are seen everywhere.  The Mazda Miata also inspired numerous competitors:  Ford Capri, Honda S2000, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, BMW Z-3, and the Audi TT.  The MG of old might be in the classic category now, but the Mazda Miata proudly carried the torch further.

Honda Civic:

If modern car is the replacement for the Beetle, the Civic is it.  Inexpensive and highly customized, the Honda Civic has recreated customization to the high energy art form that it is today.  You’d be hard pressed to find a tuner magazine that doesn’t feature a civic somewhere in its pages and while I’ve never personally seen an official civic rally, I’ve seen many micro, informal ones in parking lots at the mall or on the beach.  To deny the civic its due is to deny reality.

Jeep CJ/Wrangler:

Probably the most unappreciated vehicle in car circles, the Jeep is an undeniable nuke in the history of car culture.  The Jeep CJ started the four wheeling hobby and spawned off numerous competitors.  Ford Bronco, Land Rover, Toyota FJ, Datsun Patrol, International Scout, and Suzuki Samurai all were inspired by the Jeep.  Books about the vehicle are endless as are all the clubs, parts, magazines, and accessories.  If enough research was put into it, I’d bet you could build a Jeep CJ from scratch if you wanted to.  With a basic design span of 68 years (Not counting its time in WW-II) no other vehicle listed can match its pedigree.

Jeep Cherokee/Wagoneer:

Another vehicle on the bubble between icon and cult, the Cherokee came out in the early eighties and took the small SUV market by storm.  So popular was the SUV that when Chrysler was ready to replace it with a larger version, the owners and buyers of the Cherokee threw a fit so strong that Chrysler jumped away from the idea and offered the new vehicle under a different name (Grand Cherokee).  The passion by the owners of the Cherokee is so strong that not even rust can pry these vehicles away from their hands.  Aftermarket companies have full weld-on frame rails to replace the rusted out parts.  The low price of the vehicles nudges them towards cult status, but official races designed around the vehicles, the high amount of aftermarket parts available, and the reintroduction of the Cherokee name nudge it back into the icon isle.  Am I right to list it there?  Only time will tell.

So what about the cars that are out now?  What are the cars of today that will become the icons of tomorrow?  I’m not sure.  There are lots of them out there that have the potential.  The Honda Element will be a cult car, but will it make it to icon?  How about the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S?   It is the re-embodiment of the Datsun 240 and is already a major hit since its release.  Will the passion for it keep growing?  What about something from China?  They are getting ready to take the leap ad sell cars here.  Fiat 500?  Like the Mini, it’s got history.  Will that and the marketing behind it give it the push it needs?  Maybe something will come over that is so quirky that it will make itself a hoe with no problem at all.

When it comes to icons, it’s hard to tell which will make the cut when new, but it’s sure easy to see when looking back.

(Didn’t see the car you were thinking of?  Put it in the reply and tell the world why you think your choice should be an icon.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

To Boldly Go… and save Star Trek

Paramount is concerned.  J.J. Abrams’ “Into Darkness”, the sequel to his Star Trek reboot didn’t fare as well as they hoped.  “STID” only garnered $70 million domestically it’ first week and has a domestic total of 210.5 million as of June 16, 2013.  While not bad, that’s less than Paramount expected.

So what went wrong?  Apparently a lot!  Web pages everywhere are exploding with the mistakes of “Into Darkness” and the way that J.J. Abrams has taken the culture off course.

http://www.startrek.com/boards/movies

http://michaeldstark.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/cultural-indictment-the-new-star-trek/

Pause for a moment and let that last sentence sink in.

The culture is off course.

That’s where J.J. is making his mistake.  He’s seeing the franchise as a franchise and not the philosophical culture it is.  J.J. Abrams has recently said that he wasn’t a Trek guy and that Star Trek in general is “Too Philosophical” for him.  He sees it as a product; same as Paramount.  They want to entertain, get return customers, and have a high profit margin, but they are trying to get the results without having the complete formula.  It’s akin to making a cake and not having eggs in the batter.  Nothing holds together.

You need the culture.

The culture of Star Trek is its philosophy.  I.D.I.C. – Infinite Diversity from Infinite Cultures.  Star Trek was morality stories told through a science fiction angle.  Having different aliens discovered allowed the audience to look at the event happening around them from an outsider’s point of view.  This is what J.J. needs to get Star Trek back to in order to rebuild the excitement and passion for the franchise and its future.  He needs to embrace the philosophy and culture that is Star Trek to save Star Trek.

But what about the youth audience?  Those 25 and younger you ask.  Studies have shown that the 25 and younger crowd makes up just 25% of the viewing audience.  That means the other 75% has seen Star Trek in one form or another before the J.J. version.  That means they know the culture even if some of them don’t consider themselves a part of it.

There is an argument to be made that today’s movies are now made with an expected total profit to be made in a 20% domestic and 80% foreign market with a focus on China.  If that’s true, than it  looks even worse for J.J.s Star Trek because while it did rank number 1 in the box office, “Into Darkness” only made 43 million its opening weekend in China.  Not the 20/80 split they were hoping for.

This doesn’t mean we ignore these segments of the audience.  Never.  They are appreciated and desired, but they are a part of the continuum. –Ahem.

Luckily there is a way to get Star Trek back on the right path and jump start the passion that the fans so want to feel again.  The next Star Trek movie.

Forget the title for now.  I have no idea what it would be.  The main point is to bring back the philosophical process to the story.  This is how I would do it.

Plot:

The Enterprise has just started it’s five year mission of exploration and discovery; unfortunately, due to the events of Admiral Marcus and Khan, the Klingons believe that Star Fleet is using the Enterprise as “The Tip of the Spear” to cut through their territory, subverting their influence and sabotaging their trade economy.  Plus the fact that the Klingon culture would never let the insult of their planet and people being used as a puppet for war.  Kirk has to figure out a way of letting the Klingon’s know that he and Star Fleet are not trying to destroy the Klingon Empire or rule it through subversion.

Sub Plot – Kirk:

Having almost killed the crew with his arrogance and inexperience, Kirk vows to protect his crew.  He becomes over protective and tried to take all the risks himself.  This becomes a stress point between him and Carol; which have become a couple since “Into Darkness”.

Sub Plot – Carol Marcus:

Carol is one of the high ranking science officer’s on the ship, second to Spock, but the crimes of her father and her relationship with Kirk cause members of the crew to misjudge and distrust her.  (Think “Drumhead” from Next Generation)  These events along with Kirks irrational actions of taking on every dangerous mission himself causes her to leave the ship and quit Star Fleet entirely at the end of the movie.

Minor plots:

McCoy tries to talk to Kirk about his recklessness and to accept the limits he has.

“Damn it Jim! You’re a man, not God.”

“No Bones, I’m a Capitain.  I play god with their lives every day.  I’ll be damned if I kill them through my mistakes.”

Spock and Uhura talk about how Carol’s relationship with Kirk is hurting her career and discuss how to make sure that doesn’t happen to Uhura.

Checkov and Sulu discuss the Kirk Carol situation and Sulu states he will find a way to make a career in Starfleet and a relationship in life work.

“Everything in balance.” – Sulu

Scotty tells Spock the joys of loving the Enterprise.

“Why in the galaxy would you ever want to live with a woman?  There’s no communicating with them, I tell you.  Now a ship, she’ll tell you everything she needs and in return, she’ll take you to places you’ve never dreamed of.” –Scotty.

This is just the basics of what could be a great movie and new breath to the culture of Star Trek.  You have action, drama, concern, hope, and philosophy. Everything that an episode Star Trek needs.

So J.J., if you are reading this, feel free to contact me.  I’ve got a link on the top banner.  I can save Star Trek and make the passion come alive.

LeVar Burton said that Star Trek is missing Gene.  I think I can help there too.

The E-Book Challenge

The E-Book Challenge

Picture provided by Jette Harthimmer

“Why don’t you do a plant book?  You’d be good at it.”

This phrase has been tossed at me since I posted the Hibiscus blog roughly a year ago. My father was the first one to suggest this idea, and it’s been encouraged/echoed heavily by my wife ever since.  (To argue their point, I am a landscaper, and the hibiscus blog post is very popular.  It ranks in the top five every week.)

I did dabble with the idea of a gardening book.  I added a garden section to the menu and typed up a few posts about the basics of gardening.  They never got the same amount of traffic or comments that Hibiscus does, so I figured it had to be the pictures that pushed the post and kinda let it slide.

But every week, I always get questions about plants and gardening from the residents that I work for.  (Usually about insects, and the general health of the plant.)

So maybe, just maybe, I’m looking at this the wrong way.  Like every blogger out there, I have a huge range of viewers.  It’s global.  Plus I love to change things up and have a variety of posts for you to read about.  (Plus I feel it helps hone my writing skills by having to write in different styles about different subjects.)  So basing what would be an item for a local region on such a large geographic audience isn’t a good gage for desirability.

I need to think “niche market”.  There are roughly 1,578,000 people in the Southwest Florida region, according to the 2010 census, and some of them could really use a simple guide on how to garden in this region.

Enter the E-Book.

The E-Book I have in mind should be simple:  Basics on the soil of the area, the fertilizers that work the best, where plants will do best in a given area, what are the positives and negatives of each type of mulch, and some common plants that people can buy and install without worrying that they got the wrong plant for the wrong place.  – That last one happens all the time!

It sounds like a fun project, but I have some strong concerns and questions.

The first two are neck and neck in my worry column:  Copyright infringement and liability.  This book is going to need many pictures and those that I don’t take; I usually get from web searches.  I need to find a way to make sure they are not copyrighted.  I also need to find a way to protect myself from being sued from a misinterpretation of what I suggested in the book.

“He wrote that I should plant these plants in a separate bed for better unity.  He never told me there was an irrigation line running under my lawn.  That cost me money!”

Then there’s the concern about what licenses, permits, and tax forms I’m going to need to do this correctly.  To sell this through self-publishing means I’ve created a small business.  So have I created a web based publishing company?  Will I need a fictitious name form?  What about tax collection?  Do I need to add that to the price?  Is the government going to consider my computer a “taxable business expense” even though I use it for other things?”  What forms am I going to have to use when tax time rolls around?  Does this need to be recorded quarterly or just once a year?

Yeesh!

Just thinking about all this makes me want to just run out the door and forget the whole thing.

But I have another dilemma:  How will this affect my other book?

I’ve already written a novel.  In fact, it’s been edited and my agent has sent samples off to multiple publishers.  Are they going to be turned off by the fact that I’m self-publishing an E-book how to guide?  What happens if next month I get signed on and they want the garden guide as part of the package?

I don’t know.

Does anyone out there know the answer to these questions?

Have you written or published an E-Book?  What obstacles did you encounter?  Did it help or hurt your other works?  How bad was the bureaucracy you had to deal with? Any helpful hints?

I am going to try this experiment out.  I gotta see what happens.  If anything, I’ll learn a little more about using Microsoft Word.  (All those plant I.D. pages)  Through it all I’ll keep you informed on my progress.  (It’ll help prod me along when I feel it’s getting a little dry.  It is a guide after all)

For those that are interested, I’ll have a new category on my side bar specifically for this challenge.  That way all the posts will be in one spot for easy viewing and printing.

I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I’ll be writing about it; and don’t be afraid to throw out those comments.  I’d love to hear your thoughts as we go through this together.  There’s a great adventure ahead.

Onward!

Summer heat

Sorry about the delay in posts.  I hadn’t planned for any gap, but the heat of summer along with unexpected added work outside has kept me off the computer.

Don’t despair.  I’ll be back tomorrow with a new post and an interesting idea that I’d love to hear your thoughts on; so thank you for being patient with me and tune in tomorrow.

Until then, take care

Gene

Going on Safari – Tampa style

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Have you ever dreamed of going on Safari in Africa to see wildlife roaming in the open fields and not in segregated enclosures?  Well what would you say if I told you that you can have that experience without having to fly to Africa?  What would you think if I told you, you can go on Safari deep in the heart of Tampa?  Don’t believe me?  I have two words for you.

Busch Gardens

That’s right.  Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.  The land of wild rollercoasters and whirling rides is home to one of the first open air zoos in the country.

Opened in 1965, “The Serengeti Plain” started with 29 acres of land dedicated to the animals transferred there and has grown to a whopping 65 acres.

The animals living on the plain are diverse yet compatible.  All are herbivores so you never have to worry about a predator getting the munchies and every female is checked to see if she is in a “dating” mood.  If so, she is separated from the herd and spends her time in the “love shack”. (My words, not theirs)  The love shack must work well because over the years many “kids” have been born at the zoo.  There’s also an “exchange” with other zoos to promote diversity.

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So what animals do you get to see on this safari? How about Zebras, Rhinos, Addax, Bongos, Impalas, Storks, Ibis, and Giraffes?  You get to see all these animals roaming freely around the 65 acre habitat as you ride along in the back of a truck.  A fleet of ford F-350s has been slightly modified for safety and giving the rider the best views possible.  There are fold down benches for those that need them, but expect to stand the entire 30 minutes of the trip.  If you have a large crowd going, don’t worry, the trucks fit 18 people with ease.  (Although I do recommend calling ahead if you are planning to go as a large group.)

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It goes without saying, bring your camera.  There’s lots to see and the picture opportunities are outstanding!

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Also expect some up close and personal attention from the giraffes.  They get that way when they know they are about to be fed.  Did I tell you that you get to feed the giraffes on this safari?  No?  Well you do!

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The guide on the trip will hand out scrumptious green leaves to everyone in the group so they can each have their own one on one time with the giraffes.  Be careful though, some of the older giraffes are tricky and will try to sneak all your leaves so they can get the next persons.

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If the giraffes get over excited and reach a little too far, don’t worry, they can’t hurt you.

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Your hand might get a little wet, but that’s ok; the guides have gallons of liquid sanitizer at the ready.

Besides feeding the giraffes, experts literally climb aboard mid-trip to tell you all about the animals and answer any questions you may have.  A half hour flies by quick and before you know it, you’re back at the station with great pictures, memories, and stories to tell.

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Prices range anywhere from $19 to $39 depending on the season and time of the trip. (They even have a sunset safari for the truly exotic.)

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If you ever wanted to go on safari but can’t fund crossing the pond to do it, come to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and try their Serengeti Plains.  It’s an experience worth having.

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Hooked at Tarpon Springs

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I’ve heard about Tarpon Springs, but never been there.  Being a tourist destination of the fifties and sixties, it was always eclipsed by such heavy hitters as Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, and Bush Gardens.  I had the same feelings.

I’ve seen in many times on placemats and on destination maps, but never had any enthusiasm to go there.  I’m glad I remedied that mistake.

Tarpon Springs is a mix of the typical and the unexpected.  The first things you will notice are the long blocks filled with restaurants, bakeries, and souvenir stores.  Men, be warned.  There is a lot of shopping to be had here.  Bring some comfortable shoes and possibly something to read for the time you get store weary.  There are a lot of stores here!

And that’s not to say the stores are bad.  No.  In fact, there are many interesting items that will grab your attention:

There’s the modern swag such as T-shirts, baseball caps, and coffee mugs.

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You can instead choose the retro, fifties style, humorous, chotskies such as a mini toilet ashtray and wind up plastic toys.

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Different styles of clothing, sandals, and shoes are available to over stuff your suitcase.

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Expensive artwork and handcrafted jewelry stores are an enjoyable difference.

Sweets are around every corner in the forms of candy, ice cream, fudge, pies, or other baked goods.

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Besides all these, you will find an amazing array of Greek and Greek Orthodox gifts.  I never knew this, but Tarpon Springs has a huge Greek heritage. It’s wonderful.  There are Greek bakeries, Greek shops, and Greek restaurants.  If you want to find good Greek cuisine, do yourself a favor and check out Mama’s.  Their food is excellent and the atmosphere is friendly.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself stuffed on their baskets of bread before your food comes out.  It’s that good.  I have no idea how Mama’s makes any money on meals when you could just spend all day eating their delicious baskets of bread.

Once you are stuffed like a Gyro, you can relax a bit with some ice cream or snow cones, or even a nice cigar.

Did I mention that Tarpon Springs has a multitude of cigar stands and shops full of a multitude of hand rolled cigars?   They’re definitely a good way to take a break.

The Greek culture is strong throughout Tarpon Springs, but there’s one thing even stronger; the sponges.

Natural sponges and sponge diving are the historical and economic backbone of the town.  Just as other sea farers, sponge divers risked their lives harvesting their products from the sea.

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Death and danger came in many forms including suffocation, over pressurization, and shark attacks.  Human made dangers also affected sponge diving and made Tarpon Springs into the town it is today.  During the Spanish American war, the sponge divers of the time were afraid that if they sailed to their usual port in the Keys, they would be attacked by the Spanish Navy.  To avoid this risk, they changed direction and made Tarpon Springs their home port.  Without the Spanish American war, sponge divers might still be landing in the Keys to make their sale instead.

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The constant threat of danger to the divers and the crew has built a strong family community in town.  You can see it as you tour the streets and eat in the restaurants.  Workers from stores down the road and owners of restaurants greet and talk to each other like cousins on the holidays.  Artists and merchants discuss ongoing projects more like friends than customers and clients.  You don’t have to search hard to see this, just be aware of what’s going on.  It’s plain to see that every in town knows that their prosperity is linked together and that they are there to help each other out.  It’s a rare treat in today’s make-it-or-break-it business mindset and is worth keeping an eye out for.

Tarpon Springs may not be the newest or most glamorous place to visit when in Florida, but it is still a gem worth seeing.

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