g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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Friday, October 2, 2009
06:48 - They could have at least kept the bathwater

(top)
I'm all for car companies taking design risks and striking out in new aesthetic directions. Particularly when said companies are as awash in red ink and in need of fresh infusions of life as Jaguar has been of late.

But I'm dumbstruck by the overwhelmingly positive reaction that the new XJ series car has struck among the car press. Everyone seems to think it's fantastic. And not just that: distinctively Jaguar.


Robert Cumberford, notoriously difficult to please, is typical:

This one is the real thing, not corrupted by a Ford bean counter's benchmarking, as was the XF, but a pure Jaguar-engineering, Jaguar-styling product. It was done by Brits steeped in the lore and love of Jaguar, people who knew what they wanted and how to attain it within the multiple constraints that always inhibit the design process. No Pininfarina retouching, no Italdesign propositions that could be turned into a Lexus without anyone noticing. Jaguar may belong to Tata, an Indian company, but it is a British product through and through, its provenance evident at first glance and underlined on close examination. The XJ is not a German interpretation of a British car, as are both Bentley and Rolls-Royce products these days. It has some idiosyncratic touches emphasizing that fact, and it's much the better for it. It keeps a few classic marks of identity but happily is not at all retro.

I think it's funny that he invokes German and Italian influences and as swiftly dismisses the idea that they had anything to do with this car, because to my eyes at least, it's full of them. I mean, just look at the greenhouse shape: it's an Audi A6. That's what I'd think it was if I saw one go by and I missed the front end, just as the XF looks nigh-indistinguishable from a Passat or a Maxima. The old Lyons window line and the low-belted, three-boxed shape it dictated were the most identifiable features of the old XJ, and probably the one that most needed to go; but really: this new design doesn't just not say "Jaguar" to me, it doesn't even say "British". It says "derivative".

The squarish mesh grille is Jaguar's new signature front-end, and at least it's distinctive; but stick a diagonal crossbar in it and you've got a Volvo. And I don't just mean that in a silly "well, all grilles are the same basic shape" way. What I mean is that the whole nose, taken as a set of interwoven forms, appears Volvo-ish. The center fuselage shape protrudes from the headlight area in a way that Volvo has claimed as its own signature lately. So have others, but none more so than Volvo. And again, Jaguar looks more like it's jumping on a bandwagon than striking out in bold new directions.

The headlights are similarly disappointing. Here's Cumberford waxing eloquent over their sinuous feline shapes:

The slight bulge over the main headlamp recalls the surfaces on previous XJ sedans without parroting them, and it feels very good to the hand. This will undoubtedly be fun to wash.

Come on. Those headlights have nothing to do with previous Jaguar headlight designs. At best this is an attempt to preserve the weird "cat's ear" language of the previous generation's taillights. But at worst... well, it's a Pininfarina retouching.

The taillights on the new car, I'll grant, are interesting, but only if you haven't been paying attention to the Quattroporte and the seeming flood of imitators. Props to Ian Callum for not making the XJ's rear end look exactly like all the Aston Martins he's designed lately, the way he did with the XF; but this one isn't exactly any more original.

Now, I'll concede that when all these parts are taken as a whole, the effect is quite nice; the XJ is a good-looking car, and the little details like the glass roof and the pronounced increase in bulk toward the rear keep it from looking too much like a typical luxury sedan that should have four rings or a trident in its grille. If this is the beginning of a new Jaguar styling language that takes off in its own unique direction from here, then that's all to the good. But I don't get why everyone's so keen to talk about how in tune with Jaguar's Britishness and the marque's stylistic heritage this car is, when to the best of my estimation all I can see is a series of shameless cribs from other successful contemporary cars in an attempt to pastiche together some revisionist history.

The XJ has needed a real refresh for a long time now, and I applaud that it's here. But the whole reason why it took so long was the company's reluctance to fiddle with Lyons' iconic visual formula. It makes no sense to pay lip service to that sense of tradition when trumpeting a car like this, whose genesis had to have been "The only way we can survive as a company is by jettisoning this history we've been stubbornly clinging to. Let's really start fresh and let Lyons' car retire." Instead, they and their partisan pundits are marketing the brand-new car as though its goal all along was to preserve tradition just as strongly as the last few generations of XJs had done—and as though it'd succeeded.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
06:16 - At least you don't forget it

(top)
Some of the brand names around here crack me up. These guys passed me in a lavishly painted company truck this morning:



"Golden Flow". Seriously? Nobody ever raised their hand and questioned the wisdom behind that name... for a dairy company?

And as for potato chips, there's Utz... which is unsurpassed except by these things, which I presume are what this guy would eat:



At least Utz has a website. The other guys don't seem to even care.


05:58 - Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/28/charlie-brooker-microsoft-mac-wi

(top)
I guess if Microsoft's purpose in releasing those "Windows 7 Launch Party" videos was to spark some publicity—of the "any is good" variety—from pundits, at least in that respect they've succeeded.

It's so terrible, it induces an entirely new emotion: a blend of vertigo, disgust, anger and embarrassment which I like to call "shitasmia". It not only creates this emotion: it defines it. It's the most shitasmic cultural artefact in history. Watch it for yourself.

Still, bad though it is, I vaguely prefer the clumping, clueless, uncool, crappiness of Microsoft's bland Stepford gang to the creepy assurance of the average Mac evangelist. At least the grinning dildos in the Windows video are fictional, whereas eerie replicant Mac monks really are everywhere, standing over your shoulder in their charcoal pullovers, smirking with amusement at your hopelessly inferior OS, knowing they're better than you because they use Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard.

Snow Leopard. SNOW LEOPARD.

I don't care if you're right. I just want you to die.

I'm reminded of a friend in Toronto who pointed out a poster ad in the subway for Toronto's city water system, touting its cleanliness and quality of service and so on—despite the fact that it's effectively a government monopoly. "Why don't they just put up billboards for Toronto City Air?" he said. "It's smoggy. It's acrid. But you'll DIE without it."

I feel for the guy, I really do. Which of course plays me right into his archetype. But really, the way the world has shaken out has really left people like him between a rock and a hard place, hasn't it? There is no good choice if you want to retain your dignity, so you just punt that dignity downfield in the way that lets you keep doing what you were doing.

Via JMH.

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