Monday, January 12, 2009

no-one ever gets the truth from plastic man

Reduced blog; I've been working on a version of FixMyStreet for Symbian S60 devices.

If you want snark, how about this? I always thought that the BMW not-minis were telling in themselves. Objects are an ideology made manifest.

The original Mini was a minimal car, one designed to be even cheaper than the ones sold to the workers in the factories that made them. Beyond Ford. As a side effect, it was also light, beautiful, and efficient in space and energy.

The "New Mini" is absurdly large, by comparison - it's not that much smaller than a 3-door Land Rover Freelander, which is reasonably sensible despite being aesthetically an SUV. The Freelander was, after all, reasonably sized, space planned to carry a load, engineered to work off-road, and driven by a highly efficient turbo-diesel engine. Perhaps not coincidentally, it wasn't pretty. The BMW Mini, however, is a mass of gratuitous placky bits. Over the last ten years, we have lived in the era of gratuitous auto design; I grew up with cars that were advertised on their drag coefficient and their fuel consumption, but not long after I was legally allowed to drive, there was this weird rococo decadence of trucks without ground clearance.

At the same time there was a binge on property, which swelled outwards where there was land enough, and inwards in crappy construction and natural gas-guzzling, and which swelled even more in price where the land wasn't available. Foxtons' fake-neat cars were part of the performance of the property binge; speculating in property was meant to feel subversive and young. You doubt? Look at the arse-awful fake graffiti sprayed on them. Fake art on fake coachwork on a fake economy for fake people.

What would fit? Perhaps, if they go down, there may be a supply of "New Minis" going cheap. Maybe I should apply for an Arts Council grant to stack up 20 or so of them in Trafalgar Square and topple them, using a Chinese-made bulldozer. We could beat them with our shoes and torch them with gallons of bioethanol, or maybe homebrew high-test peroxide.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Two embarrassing mini tales.

I bailed out of the UK for fifteen years after the the last crash. Lived in Kreuzburg just after the wall came down etc.

I had a job in the East and had to visit Frankfurt an Oder a lot. I was given the office (vintage) mini to commute in. I was working such long hours I fell asleep at the wheel, one early dawn motorway trip. The car hit the central reservation, bounced off and went sideways down into the opposite ditch. Luclkily it didn't turn over. I was taken to the local police Headquarters in Zossen, the former site of the military underground WWII command centre for Berlin, and later a STASI installation.

The Polizei, to my surprise, proved very sympathetic and helpful.

I came back last year to work as a consultant, to find the landscape so utterly changed I hardly recognised the place.

In a fit of madness I contacted Foxtons to see what the housing market was like. I was taxied about in one of the garish minis from one preposterously overpriced rabbit hutch to the other, all within sight of Canary Wharf.

The final straw was when we parked up beside an ex council flat being tarted up for a 300K sale. The agent was a bit reluctant to leave the car for long as he suspected some sort of vandalism problem involving the locals and his prominent target.

I said I didn't want to get out of the car either, because the whole thing depressed me so much. Spivs turning over council houses for cash was some kind of vision of Hell as far as I was concerned. He asked me whether I was looking for 'capital appreciation', or just somewhere to live. I said I just wanted a place that I would be happy to come home to after a hard days work. He did not seem to think that this was any kind of a description he could work with. He dropped me off at Canary Wharf and I never got to buy a house from them....BIBI

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