Episode 283: God Just Got A Ten Second Car

The Overthinkers tackle the passing of Paul Walker, car culture, and why transportation safety statistics have no effect on our behavior.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather, along with special guest Hannah Foell, the world’s foremost expert on The Fast and Furious franchise overthink the passing of Paul Walker, car culture, and why transportation safety statistics have no effect on our behavior.


→ Download Episode 283 (MP3)

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14 Comments on “Episode 283: God Just Got A Ten Second Car”

  1. Chris Morgan #

    I read multiple articles about the origins of Black Friday recently, so, as long as they are to some degree true, I can expound upon its origins.

    Fenzel is mostly correct. Black Friday began as a term in the city of Philadelphia. Back in the day, the Saturday after Thanksgiving was the Army-Navy football game, and it was played in that city, and back in the day when those were two good football teams, it was a huge event. So, you’d have all the people in town for Thanksgiving, and all the people in town for that football game, and the Christmas shopping season has unofficially began on that Friday ever since Santa started ending all the major parades.

    And so, cab drivers and bus drivers and various service industry folks in Philly coined the day “Black Friday” on account of how miserable it was. The “it is when companies get in the black” story was in part adopted because it was less negative. It isn’t true, of course, as major companies generally run a profit most of the year. Can you really see, say, Walmart not turning a profit until late November? Also, Black Friday is apparently not the busiest time for Christmas shopping. Most people still wait until the weekend before Christmas Day. That’s just not as fun.

    If this counts, I’d like to see Shaquille O’Neal performed the tasks of a genie, much as he did in Kazaam.

    Also, and this is a pet peeve of mine, much like the phrase “pet peeve” is to be fair, but it always bugs me when somebody says, “People…” and then attribute some sort of action to people at large. Such as, for example, “People don’t pay attention to statistics” or whatever your exact phrasing was.

    Obviously, I imagine you don’t mean all people do that, but it annoys me when the actions of people is so generalized like that, what with the individuality of humans being, you know, the crux of what makes us human. Although, I did find it some of amusing that just after you mentioned that, you guys started talking about driving like it was this super dangerous thing that nobody would ever do if they paid attention to the stats. This came soon after Lee had given the statistics on the car fatalities in a given year, which are, statistically, not that significant, and I imagine many of them are the result of the person who died driving in a dangerous or unsafe fashion.

    So, you know, while driving around is not necessarily something I would do for fun, and the numbers show it is clearly more likely to result in some sort of serious accident than, say, flying, I would hardly consider it unsafe or something you need to worry about doing, as long as you do it safely.


  2. Adrian #

    I think that self-driving cars becoming the norm will actually make movies about car culture BETTER. It makes all the characters, by definition, badass nonconformists who don’t let The Man tell them what to do and have to stay constantly just one step ahead of The Law, because they will have all jailbroken their cars to allow manual control.


    • PotatoKnight #

      This was what I thought as well, from a slightly different angle. I predict that the decade the number of people in the US who drive every day dips below 5% is the decade that is going to usher in the golden age of car films (assuming film as we know it doesn’t go first).

      Think of the genre of the Western. While the antecedents were certainly around prior, the Western didn’t really take off until after the “close of the frontier” after the 1890 census. Or going back further, while Arthurian stories were popular in the Middle Ages, the culminating work Le Morte d’Arthur was published right when knighthood was losing its political strength.

      We are drawn to these formalized representations of our recent past. There will be intense nostalgia for the car when it passes. Now, another 50 years down the line if we are still around and have a recognizable pop culture, I would think car stories themselves will take on the archaic quality that Westerns have now, divorced somewhat from their original meanings but nostalgic in themselves.


      • Adrian #

        Yes! Car movies will become the new samurai movies, with moody protagonists who have become unstuck in time, keeping to the old ways in a world that no longer has a place for them.


        • Agam #

          Or car movies will just shift their focus to a different kind of protagonist. The bad-boy sexually charged AI from the wrong side of the tracks who’s finally had it with ferrying all those meat-bags around town.


    • Jonathan Badger #

      Reminds me of Rush’s song “Red Barchetta” where the future protagonist drives around annoying the cops after cars? Drivable Cars? Internal Combustion Cars? (it’s unclear) have been banned by “the motor law”.


  3. Lon #

    To comment on the differences in out responses to statistical risk. Chris already addressed the fact that driving is still tremendously safe – just less safe than trains, busses, or flying. But the fear element (i.e. more people are afraid of flying than are of driving) has more to do with [A] exposure and [B] control.

    I literally cannot imagine the person who has flown even a significant percentage of the miles they have driven. You start riding in a car at near birth. By the time you get your own license, you have probably put in more than 100,000 miles is a car (estimated from http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/onh00/bar8.htm). And while the average plane flight covers significantly more miles than the average car trip, the sheer number of car trips adds up. Making driving/riding in a car normal and routine. Flying (for many) is not.

    Secondly, while we are not always the driver in a car, we frequently are. And even when we are not the driver, we know the driver, are sitting next to the driver, can see the driver. But when we are on a plane, we rarely have any control. We are not the pilot, we don’t (usually) know the pilot, don’t see the pilot. We are completely in the control of an unknown actor. Of course, as you noted, that pilot had a much tougher road to getting their license than any car driver, which is part of what makes it safer. But the average person doesn’t see that tougher road. As far as they are concerned, the pilot got his job via unknown methods.

    Anyway, just my two cents… keep up the great work!


    • Cimmerius #

      I would also add that when a plane or train crashes it is a news story, when a car crashes it’s a traffic report.


  4. Peter Tupper #

    There was a 1982 movie called “The Last Chase”, starring Lee Majors and Burgess Meredith. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Chase An authoritarian government confiscates all private vehicles because of fuel shortages. It makes a strong link between car-driving and individuality and freedom, while mass transit is linked with bureaucracy and totalitarianism.

    There’s also an anime series called EXD. In a future of automated cars, a virus gets into the system and causes certain cars to go berserk. To chase down the rogue cars, the police hires a bunch of hobbyists and car collectors, the only people who still know how to drive manually. Again, cars are still associated with maverick individuality that can solve problems when institutions fail.


  5. Margo #

    Until they invent the self-driving bike, the cyclists will be the new model of baddassary. I can see the scenario where a heroic band of cyclists save the day when an Evil Genius hacks into the software that drives the cars, creating a nation-wide traffic jam.


  6. Lars Brown #

    Enkidu was killed by severe illness, felled for killing the Bull of Heaven and angering Ishtar.


    • PotatoKnight #

      I stared at this post for about 45 seconds wondering if it was one of those surrealist spambot posts before remembering the context.

      So, well done?


  7. Agam #

    In light of recent tragedy and OTI’s ringing endorsement, I’ve decided that I finally need to be a decent responsible human being and watch the F&F series, through and through. Paul Walker: in our memories, in the driver’s seat upon heaven’s urban raceways . . . and in the middling quality tuna sandwich of our hearts. Rest in peace.


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