YES! JOIN FOR FREE!
Enter your address below to receive free email alerts when a new comic or a blog post is published:
You may unsubscribe easily at any time & your email will never be shared with anyone!
SHARE
FOLLOW
SEARCH
EAGANBLOG ARCHIVE
Explore the current collection.

Leave a Comment in Response to:

Cars
According to Aristotle, there is an ideal form for every object, and it exists, conceptually, within all objects that claim to be true manifestations of that ideal form. For automobiles, that ideal is a ’53 Chevrolet Business Coupe.

It’s bright blue-green, so painted to conceal its previous identity as a captain’s car in the fleet of the California Highway Patrol. It never let me down, and although it would not count as a technological wonder when compared to our modern, computer-managed cars, it could teach those modern marvels a few lessons it in its role as the ideal form.

Its most striking feature is its shape: round, feminine, lovely. The shape of today’s cars, by contrast, has been dictated by practicality, or so they would have you believe. The teardrop profile now seen in almost every vehicle is the product of an effort to promote superior aerodynamics. I know these engineers are just trying to help, but practicality has bought us stultifying sameness from top to bottom. Nowadays, you can’t tell a Maserati from a Mazda. I never had any trouble distinguishing my Chevy from its cousins, the Buicks and Pontiacs, much less from Fords and Desotos. All were round, and some were lovely, but none looked like any of the others. More importantly, they gave the impression of aerodynamics — a much more satisfying attribute than a low coefficient of drag. Cars used to be art; now they are little more than the creations of other machines.

Beyond the drive to enhance (perceived) practicality, there is also the unrelenting pressure to make things new and exciting. As with most of the “advances” made since the Golden Age of the automobile in the 1950s, however, new does not necessarily mean better.

Take the horn. On my Chevy, the big, obvious button was right in the middle of the steering wheel, as it was on all cars. If there was an emergency need to honk, my hand — all our hands — knew exactly what to do, without thought or visual confirmation of the button’s whereabouts. Today’s horn could be anywhere; it is merely one of a dizzying array of buttons that might activate anything from your clock to your cruise control reset. In an emergency, when fractions of a second are often critical, the time for action might easily slip by — leaving you to be smeared like a bloody booger across eight lanes on the interstate.

I am sorry to be so rough with you, but these are life-and-death issues we are dealing with. The high beam button is another of these. There was a time (in 1953) when high beams were activated or deactivated by a button on the floorboard. It was situated to the left of the gas, brake, and clutch pedals, and it was operated by the ball of the left foot. Why was this perfectly good system abandoned? As with the horn, this button was moved to the edge of the steering wheel; as with the horn, it is now in a different place in every vehicle; and, as with the horn, it now takes extra thought and time to use. These changes were made in the name of practicality, but in reality they only serve the mindless mandate of novelty — mindless and deadly. This is particularly true in this era of halogen headlights, which (I have been told) can cause blindness in those unlucky enough to stare at them head-on.

The misguided quest for the new harms us in subtler ways as well. More often than not, the changes rob us of our competence to drive by shunting vital functions away from the driver and into the car. Cruise control, GPS, obnoxious warning alarms, and (stop the madness!) self-parking cars all fall into this category. Why not go all the way and simply let the cars go out and drive themselves while we stay home relaxing like those poor schlubs in The Matrix?

It would be easy, I know, to dismiss these insights as the kvetchings of a grumpy old fartknocker. I plead guilty to that charge, including the part about fartknocking, but I do not take offense. People have to do something to make themselves feel better about the creeping takeover of their lives by machines; I get that.

But one would do well to remember that Aristotle himself was a bit of a grumpy old fartknocker. His work De Charioti (now lost) outlines his observations on similar matters with respect to the vehicles of his time. I am confident, in fact, that were he alive today, Ari would choose to roll on wheels quite similar to my ideal form. Perhaps in something a bit more suited to his station: I see him in a top-of-the-line Bel Air Convertible, baby blue with white trim. Yes, there he is, conducting driver’s training with the young Alexander the Great, or just cruising the main with the top down on the streets of ancient Mieza — while Plato, riding shotgun, moons a Packard full of Peloponnesians. That, indeed, would be the ideal in its fully fleshed-out form.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

image
Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon