In 7 short days, the 2013 Formula 1 season begins in Melbourne with the Australian Grand Prix!
Last year, your author watched more than half the races, many of them live at completely obscene hours of the morning. So if you’re looking for a devoted perspective, you’ve come to the right place. It’s easier for our European friends to watch F1 races live, but the TV schedule is rather more challenging for us igloo-dwellers 8 time zones away!
While we followed F1 more closely than ever before in 2012, most of our thoughts on the matter were published on Twitter. Only Jenson Button’s cries for a RHENOCÉROUS were loud enough to prompt an article on these pages. Interestingly, that article was more prescient than most, as Button’s boys at McLaren have followed Ferrari’s pull-rod (i.e. “rhino-faced”) front suspension design for the 2013 season, the only other team to do so. We already knew Jenson was quite the hobbyist, running marathons in sub-3hrs, but who knew he was such a lobbyist too!
The Devil is Christianity’s disincentive manifest.
For followers of the infinitely compassionate Jesus, lusting after your neighbour’s new Cayman S is punished with an eternity of soot and sweat in your eyes. It’s that severe. For followers of Gautama Buddha, the shadowy tempter Mara provides a similar embodiment of evil action. He’s also not very nice. Judaism and Hinduism lack such a manifestation of poor behaviour, perhaps because they both prefer to trade in intangibles, but the notion of the Devil has now permeated global culture. Transcending boundaries, Satan, Lucifer, and The Prince of Darkness are synonyms for the absolute pinnacle of perversion.
If you’ve ever watched Top Gear, you were probably appalled when Jeremy, James, and Richard referred to diesel as the “Devil’s Fuel”. Could they have been talking about the same torquey elixir that motivates our trailer-pulling trucks up the steepest of slopes? Wasn’t diesel a fun way of being efficient? Not for European folk, it seems. For them, regardless of religious background, diesel is the devil.
Ironically, we Canadians hold it in the highest of regards. Our finest and most capable trucks, plastered with iconic nameplates like “Cummins”, “PowerStroke”, and “Duramax”, all swill the stuff. And that’s just the domestics, the German companies that sell diesels here can’t import them fast enough. Mercedes Canada could stop selling their gas-powered SUVs tomorrow and their salesmen wouldn’t even notice. And we all have a friend with a diesel-powered Golf or Jetta who drove cross-country on 3 tanks, making the kind of history he won’t shut up about.
Jean jacket-wearing Canucks look at the efficiency figures, feel the rich kick of torque, and book summer flights to Europe just for the chance to see the bloody things. Compared to granola-pounding Prii, diesel cars offer an unmatched sense of Eurochicness and pump-hopping pride. Surprise, surprise, we can’t get enough!
Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, said that change alone is unchanging. Roughly, his quote above translates to: “You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you”. But even if this is quite an old idea, it sounds circular to say that nothing is forever except the fact that nothing is forever. It sounds so obvious, no?
Well, no. It’s actually quite deep.
This thought is partially echoed in Hindu philosophy, which speaks of earthly impermanence, but Hinduism takes it a step beyond the plausible by manufacturing transcendent constructs that supersede our knowable universe and it is these constructs that are believed to be impermanent. This is not to decry Hinduism, or any organized religion, for these are the most useful and valuable institutions yet created by man. Ironically, they also seem to be the most lasting. It makes for a great story, a beautifully illustrated allegory, but it also results in concepts such as the Soul. No, not the Kia Soul, although I’m still waiting to hear back from Kia Canada’s PR people as to the validity of this perfectly reasonable connection, but rather the human Soul. It’s a troubling concept, the Soul, but an understandably appealing one as well.
Buddhist philosophy counters its more widely adopted relatives with the concept that nothing is exempt from the unending sea of change, and that there is no permanent and fixed reality of any sort. Buddhism also adopts the notion of re-birth, but, and this is the important part, once enlightenment is achieved, even that comes to an end. The concept of a constant flux is also in line with our contemporary understanding of biological science. We know that every cell in our body is constantly changing – proteins are being transported, DNA is being synthesized, energy is being produced – there is nothing static at this fundamental level of life.
So if there is no impermanence at the most basic level, it’s implausible that impermanence should be an emergent function of more complex beings such as ourselves. If anything, as we see with banks and governments, larger and more complex structures are in fact more fragile and more vulnerable to changing environments. Just as are we, the beings that trillions of individual cells conspire to shape. If each cell is always changing then so are we. Besides, are we not different than we were yesterday? Have we not grown and changed in the past five years? We’ll all sheepishly admit that, yes, we’ve changed, but unless really pressed, it’s convenient, perhaps even natural, to forget this. By default, we feel adrift in a constant and ceaseless stream of nowness – we feel as if there is something intrinsic and unchanging at our cores – something that is constant while everything around us shifts, swirls, and swings.
Wallpaper paste. Golf. Grass growing. Curling. Watching somebody play videogames. Country music. Baseball. And of course compact crossovers.
You wouldn’t wish any of these exceedingly dry pursuits upon the fatherless punk who picked on you in junior high, much less voluntarily choose to have a conversation about them, and yet, auto manufacturers seem to talk of nothing else. “If it’s not a compact crossover, it won’t sell”, their sharply dressed marketers likely say to their in-office baristas between creative thinking sessions, “and I would know”. Which they do, right?
Customers want economical high-seated hatchbacks, and even if they don’t, it’s remarkably easy to convince them that they do. Most of our lives demand nothing more than a Fiat 500 but wily manufacturers don’t stay in business by producing what people need, merely what they’re willing to pay for. In the year 2012, no manufacturer, from the most luxurious to the most mainstream, can think of a better way to rake in dollar bills than the small raised wagon also known as the compact crossover. Land Rover now has the Evoque, Porsche’s Macan is in the pipeline, and the Ford Escape has been the best selling SUV of any kind for the last 8 years in Canada. We’ve all been convinced that the compact crossover is the panacea for modern life.
But it’s still a very dull class brilliantly disguised as an interesting one, so I assembled two of these supposedly useful devices, both priced around C$37,000, for a comparison test that might actually make sense; unlike, say, a test designed to find the best 6.2L vehicle for owling (Camaro vs Raptor), or the best fwd 4-banger for very small parking spots (iQ vs Explorer). After a week with Honda’s redesigned 2012 CR-V and 12 days with Volkswagen’s redesigned 2012 Tiguan, not to mention several brow-furrowing days trying to determine which one is better to drive/live with/own, this is the painfully boring truth:
Advertising is powerful. Advertising is pervasive. Advertising is also frequently ignored because it’s absolutely everywhere. Except Sao Paolo, Brazil. But other than that, it’s on buses, benches, billboards, bicycles, and burritos. You’ve never seen a burrito with an ad on it? You need to get out more.
We’ve been inspired by Hyundai’s latest banned ad – seen above, developed by Amsterdam ad agency Fitzroy and only mildly creepy – to compile a list of our all-time favourite banned car commercials. Here are the top 5 (that’s not including the one above!)!
In 2008, when the Canadian and United States governments announced a $17.4 billion USD bailout plan for their respective auto sectors, many people were furious. Why would the government provide handouts to help save companies who simply produce cars? Then, when the governments responded to the criticism their answer was annoyingly simple: “These companies are too big and too important to lose”. Well, that simple response got me thinking (albeit three years late) – “Just how big and important are these auto manufacturers?” After a bit of research, I found out.