M-P-G…It’s Low On My S-U-V…

Posted on January 2nd, 2003 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

(to the tune of A-B-C by the Jackson Five, apologies in advance)
M-P-G…it’s  low on my S-U-V…but don’t say that you’re better than me, unless you  regular-ly, commute bi-ped-al-ly while hugging a tree!

I read a story  recently about a television commercial that equated driving an SUV with  supporting terrorism. The ads are using the same idea as the the ones about  drugs supporting terrorism (I actually sort of agree with the drug ads). The  logic is that a) SUV’s are less fuel effecient, so b) SUV drivers buy more gas,  and c) most gas comes from Middle-Eastern oil, so d) the dollars we spend on  gasoline support Arab terrorism. I drive an SUV. A big old four wheel drive Ford  Expedition. It gets about 13 miles to the gallon during my regular commute. I  would prefer that it were more fuel efficient, but fuel efficiency was just one  of my selection criteria.

Safety
My first selection criteria  was the safety of my family. The Expedition outweighs the majority of personal  vehicles on the road, which means that it transfers more energy than it absorbs  if there is a collision. If you’re unsure about the physics of that, think of an  18 wheeler colliding with a VW Bug and think about which would sustain the most  damage. This means that in most accidents the occupants of my vehicle would have  a slightly higher survival rate. Also, I sit way up high while driving, giving  me very good visibility of the traffic around me. This provides slightly better  odds of not getting into an accident in the first place. I live in Houston,  which is prone to flooding, so the four wheel drive provides slightly better  capabilities of slogging through racing water in order to escape danger. Also,  the high ground clearance provides the ability to handle higher water without  the engine dying. Also, being such a big vehicle means that people are more  likely to be able to see me, and thus not run into me, if avoidable. And, while  Fords are not nearly as reliable as some other cars, the Expedition is a  reasonably reliable vehicle, according to Consumer Reports, so there’s a  slightly lower chance of being stranded compared to some other  makes/models.

Now, none of this guarantees anything, but it’s all about  playing the odds. I have stacked the deck in favor of me and the occupants of my  vehicle (usually my family) being more likely to avoid an accident, and to  survive an accident if it occurs, than someone in a smaller, lighter, lower  vehicle.

Comfort
The second most important factor in selecting  the Expedition was personal comfort. I’m 6′ 5″ and not small and I fit  perfectly in an Expedition. I fit okay in my wife’s Toyota Tundra pickup,  but am a bit cramped and not comfortable on longer drives. We have done a bit of  vehicle shopping over the years, and the list of vehicles that I am comfortable  in is very short. And that’s comfortable as in physical comfort and

Narc (**½)

Posted on January 1st, 2003 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Narc has all the ingredients of a four star movie. As it stands, it’s almost a three star movie, but not quite. Ray Liotta is pitch perfect as the large, menacing cop, and Jason Patric is solid as his partner-come-lately. The story was compelling, and I did not see the ending coming at all, even though it flowed and fit perfectly with the storyline (it wasn’t some jarring twist out of left field). It is difficult to find movies where the ending is unforeseen and satisfying, but not ridiculous nor done for shock value, but this one was smoothly and skillfully done. Joe Carnahan, the writer/director, definitely seems to have a future, and I’ll be very interested to see his next film.

But there were some parts of this film that didn’t work for me. There one or two overlong declamations, one or two too many flashbacks/flashforwards/flashsideways/flashthroughblurrylenses, and one or two too many dilapidated tenements peopled with one or two too many drug addicts/dealers.

But there is also some good stuff here. Carnahan does not underestimate the audience, and you have to pay attention to pick up on certain things. If you wait for the movie to go back and explain what just happened, well, you’re out of luck if you missed it or didn’t get it the first time. I like that in a movie – don’t hide stuff from the audience, but also don’t zoom in on it with the melodramatic music playing to make sure we know “this is important”. Play it the way it should play within the story and let the audience figure out what’s important. I love that. And this movie does it right.

Also, the scenes of family and home life ring painfully true, and the interactions of Liotta’s and Patric’s characters don’t blindly follow the cop/partner/gritty/action/buddy script that we all know so well.

Overall this movie was very close to 3 stars for me, but not quite. Still, Narc is a very solid 2.5 stars, and I feel it was worth the price of admission and investment of time.