Southern Man

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Neat Bonus

It turns out that the Hyundai dealership had advertised a free navigation system to anyone who purchased a new car over the weekend, including Monday. That includes Southern Man, so he dropped by the dealership earlier this evening to pick up his brand new Mio Portable Car Navigation System. It's pretty spiffy; 20-channel GPS receiver, 3 1/2 inch touch screen, text-to-speech, route optimization...Southern Man will post a full review once he gets it up and running. It'll be interesting to see if it's more accurate than the Garmin Southern Man has been using for geocaching.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Southern Man Buys A Car

Southern Man's ride is a '91 SUV with a quarter million miles on the clock and he's spending north of $500 per month on gasoline, so the time has come for a new car. A very small, very economical car. So after a bit of test driving, Southern Man decided he could live with a Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback. Not that he wouldn't much rather have a new Honda Accord, but the Accent is well under half the price and Southern Man has better things to do with his limited funds right now. The one concession to mid-life crisis is that it's a stick rather than an automatic; it's about as close to a sports car as Southern Man expects to get in the next ten years or so. Note to Honda afficianodos; the Civic was a close second, but it's more expensive and (surprisingly) the Accent is a bit roomier inside. Southern Man's first new car was an '88 Accord hatchback stick which he dearly loved but surrendered when child number two was on the way.

Although they had a fairly limited selection, Southern Man returned to the dealership (and salesperson) where he test-drove an Accent late last week. The salesman listened to Southern Man's desires and pulled a car around front. Southern Man looked it over and then went inside to deal.

The process was surprisingly painless. Southern Man has long studied the new-car-purchasing process and was really quite unsure as to how well theory would survive contact with an actual dealership. He'd done his homework and knew the invoice price, factory-to-dealer incentives, and the current rebate. He kept it simple; no trade, and try to establish the purchase price before talking financing (and even then already having been pre-approved at the credit union). The salesperson made an initial offer that was actually quite reasonable. Southern Man countered with the current "loss leader" sales price of a bare-bones Accent plus the amount of the factory option package. The sales manager came down about three hundred from the initial offer, and Southern Man said OK.

Oh, you want details?

2008 Accent GS 3-Door manual $10,775
Popular Equipment Package (A/C, stereo...) $1,570
Other Factory Options $175

Factory MSRP $13,170

Freight / Handling
Overpriced Dealer Pack (chrome, tint, undercoating...) $2,295

Dealer Sticker Price $15,465
Their first offer was $11,772. Southern Man countered with $10,547, based on current ads featuring an Accent for $8,977 (dealer of course retaining rebate) plus $1,570 for the Popular Equipment package and deliberately omitting the remaining options and handling charge. We settled on $11,477. They financed through Southern Man's credit union (where he is a member in good standing with "elite" credit) at 4.25%. The finance manager "forgot" to include the $1250 rebate at first, but Southern Man readily caught that error (and it's gonna cost 'em on the upcoming customer-satisfacton survey). The only raise that stuck was a $10 title registration fee; the final amount financed was $11,487. Southern Man was in and out in about two hours, and a good forty minutes of that was waiting on the car to be washed and gassed up. Yes, the dealer sent him away with a full tank of gas. When it's that easy one wonders if one left too much money on the table, but Southern Man is quite content with his deal.

It's a cute little car. The little 1600-cc engine hardly produces sports-car performance but it's plenty peppy enough and it's fun to drive a stick again. Not too many amenities; for example, no power locks or power windows or power seats. It's short on gauges, too; Southern Man will remedy that later. Fifth gear isn't as steep as Southern Man would like; the tach reads over 3K at highway speed. It does have a decent factory stereo with a three-month trial of XM Satellite Radio. Working A/C is something that Southern Man has lived without for well over a decade and it's nice to have it back, especially since the car is black (another mid-life-crisis concession) and will probably get as hot as blazes in the Southern sun. And it has an inside-release gas cap cover, which Southern Man hasn't had since the '88 Accord.

The bottom line is, the savings in gas should about equal the payments and insurance and Southern Man's monthly driving costs should stay about the same as they were. The SUV which has served so faithfully as kid-hauler is now a truck, relegated to runs to Home Depot and out to The Land. And now Southern Man is looking forward to showing off his new toy tomorrow!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Big Fat Complicated Life

Well, here's a brief set of reasons why blogging has been so light and sporadic as of late.

  • Job: The political tempest at Southern Man's university has reached a point where long-time tenured faculty are dropping like flies; one left in the middle of the fall semester, another was disgusted enough to move to the other side of the country, and yet another is actively searching for another position. The rumors fly thick and fast; does the administration want to shut down the department entirely, or just get rid of us and start over? Are the recommendations in the report from an ongoing external review (which, so far, seems to be rather in our favor) going to be accepted and implemented (as promised) or simply ignored? And is the fact that the dean who seems to be in charge of this witch hunt is moving on to another university good, bad, or irrelevant? No one seems to know, so Southern Man is sharpening his technical skills and polishing his resume in case he needs to hunt for another job in the near future. Teaching at university is a great job in many ways and Southern Man would love to keep at it, but that may or may not be in the cards.

  • Social: Southern Man's gf has backed away quite a bit from our formerly much closer relationship; we're not broken up, but not really dating, either. She's dealing with quite a lot right now, and while Southern Man is disappointed that we're not where he (and we) had once hoped, he's willing to give her room and time to work through her issues. And Southern Man is dealing with personal issues of his own, anyway.

  • Family: Southern Man is at a loss to know how to handle (or relate to, or help, or even talk to much of the time) his troubled teenage son. No details (to protect his privacy, and mine) other than to say that medical bills and counseling have consumed a fair portion of the Southern Man fortune this year and that we have spent a fair amout of time dealing with the consequences of some poor choices he made in the past as well as poor choices he's making right now.
On the plus side, Southern Man's spiritual life continues to grow and is probably as solid as it's ever been. He's getting along well with his ex; we're together in counseling with aforementioned teenage son several times a month, and we find it pretty easy to discuss our concerns about the children. He sees his daughters nearly every school morning; it is the highlight of his day. His financial situation continues to improve in nearly every way, so long as he ignores the big losses on the last retirement fund quarterly report. It already looks like it'll be a busy and productive summer. A few hours of work on Friday got all four of his dead lawn mowers running again. He has plans to finally finish the workshop he started seven years ago on The Land and to move forward with other projects out there with an eye to building a house and moving in not too many years (believe me, if the Covenents, Creeds, and Restrictions allowed trailers it'd be Home Sweet Doublewide right now). Family vacation plans for late summer are not yet set but are getting there. He's even enrolled in a motorcycle safety course later this summer and may take the plunge and buy a used bike and see if he likes it. And, last but not least, he's committed to producing regular installments of drivel like this on Southern Man Blog! Including a bunch of back-dated ones, so now you have to re-read the whole thing to find them!

Artsy Sunday

The phone rings mid-morning; it's teen-age daughter asking if Dad will haul her and a friend to the local "Arts Festival" that ends today (and was the reason Southern Man had to park umpteen blocks from the venue where Rush played last night). Yes, she only calls when she needs something, but Southern Man will take what he can get. After some negotiating, Southern Man eventually found himself downtown on a fine cool spring afternoon with a few hours to wander about and enjoy the sights and sounds and tastes of this annual treat.

The venue is a set of parks and malls near our small (a dozen or so skyscraper) downtown. It's quite pleasant; there's a well-regarded indoor garden, a series of ponds and canals, and plenty of grass and trees. The ever-opportunistic Southern Man hit the food first, then wandered through the booths admiring the paintings and sculpture and artwork. He was especially smitten with an artist who painted comic-book scenes on layers of glass; there was a piece there that he would have gladly purchased had he possessed the $1300 to do so. If he can find the artist's business card he'll update this and post a URL. There was live music at one of the booths, which sold handmade instruments called "
didjeridoos." Southern Man has already marked a couple of CDs on featuing this instrument. Southern Man poked about down in the ponds and admired the massive koi and startled a few turtles. And finally Southern Man settled down by he water where a series of bands were performing on the "water stage."

The first band he heard was Dime a Dozen, a local rock/country band. They did a number of nice covers ending with an enthusiastic rendition of
Stevie Ray Vaughan's "The House Is Rockin'." They were followed by Suspicious Contra Band, which did a fine set of Irish / Celtic music.

The girls eventually tired and texted "we're ready to go home." We grabbed sandwiches at a local Subway and Southern Man took them home. It was nice to have a little time with teenage daughter and Southern Man would do it again in a New York minute.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Concert Review - RUSH

It's been a good decade and a half since Southern Man's seen his all-time favorite band in concert, so when he learned that Rush would return to the city for the first time in ten years he wasted no time in procuring a couple of tickets. The concert was earlier tonight, and Southern Man was not disappointed. While singer/bassist Geddy Lee's voice might not have quite the stratospheric reach it did in the seventies, he was in fine fom; drummer/lyricist Neil Peart (winner of seven consecutive "Drummer of the Year" awards, among many others) put on an amazing display of percussive virtuosity, and guitarist Alex Lifeson was simply amazing. The band played a fine, long set - well over an hour, then a half-hour break ("We're not spring chickens anymore,"quoth Geddy), then another hour-plus followed by a fifteen-minute encore - that included most of Southern Man's favorite songs. The only downer of the evening is that Southern Man's sixteen-year-old son wasn't feeling well and bailed out at the last minute, leaving Southern Man to go it alone.

If you're already a Rush fan, the rest of this post is preaching to the choir; for the rest of y'all, Southern Man will attempt to relate why Rush is, and has always been, his favorite band.

The first is extraordinary musicmanship and composition. All three members are at the top of their professions - and the music of Rush is packed with elegant melodic lines, innovative harmonics, and unusual time signatures. Southern Man's bedtime jazz mix is centered on bands like the Dave Brubeck Quartet, a group also well known for innovative combinations of time signatures. On reflection, Southern Man knew he always like Rush but didn't understand that this was one of the reasons until much later in his musical education.

The second is Neil Peart's thought-provoking, often insightful, and always original lyrics. Take, for example, the first few lines of Red Barchetta:

My uncle owns a country place that no one knows about;
he says it used to be a farm, before the Motor Law.
On Sundays I elude the Eyes and hop the turbine freight
to far outside the Wire where my white-haired uncle waits...
In a few sparse lines Peart deftly paints a vivid picture of a bleak dysutopian future that could serve as the back story for a science-fiction novel. If Peart ever writes one, Southern Man will read it. And then Red Barchetta develops into one of the all-time great driving songs, one that all but demands that the listener puts the tachometer in the red and the sound system at eleven.

Natural Science opens with poetic prose rarely heard from a rock band:

When the ebbing tide retreats along the rocky shoreline,
it leaves a trail of tidal pools in a short-lived galaxy -
each microcosmic planet a complete society...
And the biting commentary on the balance of science and nature could easily have been written yesterday instead of twenty years ago:

Wheels within wheels in a spiral array, a pattern so grand and complex!
Time after time, we lose sight of the way; our causes can't see their effects...

Social commentary in The Trees is also as fresh today as when it was first written:

There is unrest in the forest; there is trouble with the trees
for the maples want more sunlight and the oaks ignore their pleas...

And the solution?

Now there's no more oak oppression, for they cast a noble law;
the trees are now kept equal - by hatchet, ax, and saw.

And while it's a stretch to credit a rock song with too much, Southern Man wishes that his troubled son could hear the words of Subdivisions and know that he's not the only kid in the universe who feels like (or, like his dad, felt like) he'd never fit in, would never find peace or happiness or comfort or love...

Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone...
In the high-school halls, in the shopping malls: be cool or be cast out;
In the basement bars, in the backs of cars: conform or be cast out...

And finally here's one from Entre Nous for gf, who is struggling with issues of her own and has backed away somewhat from our former relationship:

Just between us, I think it's time for us to recognize
the spaces in between leave room
for you and I to grow
Southern Man (who also has issues) recognizes that we both need room to grow. And if this post makes her a bit more of a Rush fan - mission accomplished!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Movie Review - Nim's Island

Based on the children's book of the same title by Wendy Orr, Nim's Island is a lively (and often silly) romp sure to delight young girls that isn't too unbearable for adults. The girls have the young heroine Nim (played by Abigail Breslin) who frolics with her numerous animal friends in a tropical island paradise with her scientist father (Gerard Butler); for the adults, we have Jody Foster in a rare comic role as neurotic adventure-author Alexandra Rover and Rover's fictional larger-than-life hero Alex Rover (also played by Butler). The perils are not terribly perilous and often hilarious. The special effects are not too overblown and are occasionally charming. The soundtrack (by Patrick Doyle) is really quite nice and we get a U2 tune over the closing credits. Southern Man's advice is to not take it too seriously (the movie doesn't take itself that seriously, either, which helps) and let the kids enjoy it.