I bought a car. In doing so I was reminded how much people don’t give a shit. It is easy to forget something like this when you are obsessed. I am sure, for that bunch known as Train Spotters, it must be almost inconceivable for someone not to get excited as an EMD SD40 whistles past – hold on, would it whistle? Maybe it would chug? No, it’s a diesel electric, so it would, what, sizzle? You know, I couldn’t care if it gurgled past whilst issuing regular guffaws, it’s a bloody train; all it has to do is arrive on time. Right?
Wrong. Although I would never don an anorak, take a flask of tea and a camping chair to wait for the “thrill”(?) of a certain train careening past, I do have a respect for people who are obsessed. I think when obsession reaches these heights, one’s forced to start viewing the object of one’s obsession aesthetically. You don’t have to be obsessed with something to judge its aesthetics, but you can’t help it when you are.
Of course there are people in the world with none of this sensibility – early warning signs are Crocs, a love of fast-food, Paulo Coelho and Jerry Springer. Before I get taken for a heartless cad, one also has to consider whether aesthetic judgements are only open to the privileged. When in the grips of poverty, hunger, famine and war that so many in the world are, do aesthetics matter at all? Is a beautiful sunset still beautiful if your stomach has been empty for days?
One thing is certain, the appreciation of wine is a privilege. Not in itself maybe, but it does signify it. So is, of course, the discussion of a car’s beauty, or lack thereof. But sunsets are free, and a beautiful face costs naught, just carefully how you look. (Sidebar: “I was just appreciating the aesthetics of your girlfriend’s face” doesn’t really work.) The point is (sorry can’t help but preach this in fist banging style) we should as, intelligent beings – the very universe made conscious of itself – develop an appreciation of our world that is based on more than mere consumerism, fads and crass-consumption.
I try to do this. So it was with surprise that I so easily let myself buy a car that has been made almost as a sacrifice to ugliness, boredom, and mass-consumption. It was incredible how budgetary constraints (what I like to call my Grecian limits) and a need to get from A to B without enacting a scene from the amazing race each time, let me so easily throw aside any sort of aesthetic concerns and buy, a very plain, quite ugly, and incredibly boring car: The Renault Logan.
Woohooo! can you feel the adrenaline? It’s basically channeling Alain Prost.
But there is always one guy to turn the hum-drum imto the awesome.
This guy is a legend. He has done the motoring equivalent of turning the observation of drying paint into an extreme sport.
How did this happen? Have I turned into someone from a Cadbury’s Flake commercial? I have always thought those people weak willed. ALL your resistance for a CHOCOLATE! You basically have an eating problem, and should see someone about it. But I am getting side-tracked.
I can appreciate a pretty car, damn it, I’ve owned one. (My late 70’s Mini Cooper in British Racing Green was a thing of beauty). I guess what it comes down to is that I just don’t really get that worked up over automobiles. Sure I enjoy an episode of Top Gear now and again, but I think the enjoyment lies more in the suspense that builds waiting for Clarkson to say something offensive, than any desire to watch expensive cars go very fast. I care more about hats than power-steering, tweed than suspensions, and wine than slip-differentials.
I am not embarrassed by my ugly car, but in buying it I have realized something: aesthetic sensibility rests on one giving some sort of shit.
Now wines are considerably cheaper than cars on the whole – although I have had a wine of which a case of six would have been more expensive than the car – but when has price ever had anything to do with beauty. In previous columns here I have gone on ad-nauseum about us needing to be more interested in wine. But I thought, maybe I can attack this from the reverse today. If I can get someone to consider the aesthetic of a wine, then maybe it will result in more of an interest. It’s a long shot. But sod it, I’ll give it a go.
You may be thinking that I am being a pretentious wooly-hat-wearing hipster knob-end talking about the aesthetic of wine. I may have to give you the benefit of the doubt; although the wooly hat is very comfortable. It is easy to talk about what a wine tastes like or smells like. But what about its feeling, texture, balance? What about its style? How do all of these things fit together, and is this pleasing to you? That for me is a very broad description of a wine’s aesthetic. Sometimes a wine is just beautiful, it conjures up pictures, ideas, feelings.
But of course not every wine you taste will be a how-d’you-do with the sublime. Actually, more wines are like my boring old Logan than anything else.
It is also an interesting use of the senses. We usually use the word aesthetic to describe things we see. The aesthetic is closely linked to the eyes. Wine breaks this close seeing relationship, it invites the nose and tongue to the party as VIP guests; and lets everyone paint together, casting for the drinker a brief fleeting glimpse of the wine at every sip.
So sit back with your next bottle of wine and let the senses paint it. See how the wine comes together. Judge it. Not with points and scores, but whether it is offering you any sort of beauty. But remember, when budgets and necessity guide your purchasing, you are going to be sipping on boring wines, with little or no chance of being beautiful. You will be sipping on Logan Juice.
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