Thursday, October 27, 2005

#2: Don't worry, it's only my opinion.

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
16 October, 2005, 16:39:23 BST.

#2: Don't worry, it's only my opinion.

You can blame this entry on P.J. O'Rourke, if you like. Or Jeremy Clarkson. (Although the more I read of the former, the more I begin to wonder if the idiosyncrasies of the latter are truly that…). The thing about both of these guys is that they aren't exactly shy about speaking their minds.

I mention the notorious – I think that's a justifiable adjective in his case – outspoken, Republican reporter because I've been reading a lot of his work lately. The relevancy to motoring journalism seems tenuous, but as well as a style that’s seriously worth paying attention to when you're a fledgling like me, Mr O'Rourke has written for car magazines, including the American publications Car and Driver and Automobile. I guess I'm digressing, but I wanted to give someone the credit.

This isn't going where you expect. I'm not about to explode into any kind of diatribe where the only substantiated factor is that my ego is out of control. Quite the opposite. Both of the writers mentioned above are successful in the extreme – lauded as well as criticised in equal measure and equal turn: a success that's based entirely on their fastidious commitment to the value of their opinion. I would never accuse either of them of being entirely out of control – though I’m sure there are others who might disagree with me – and neither of them is beyond changing their minds. But they really don't care about who they piss off in the process, and at times appear guilty of outrageous acts of self-righteousness and excess. Take this passage from an article entitled, “Die, Eco-weenies!” by O’Rourke, for example:

The Green dweebs want a world where individuals don’t count for much, where all the important decisions—such as whether to shift the [Dodge] Viper into fifth—are made in Washington. They want a world controlled by the political process. That’s because the shrub cuddlers are, as individuals, insignificant. They’re losers, the three-bong-hit saviours of the earth, lava lamp luddites, global warming dolts, ozone boneheads, peace creeps, tofu twinks, Birkenstock buttinskis, and bed-wetting vegetarian cyclists who bother whales on weekends. They have no money, sense, or skills. But they can make their mark on politics because the whole idea of politics is to achieve power without possessing merit.

The article was otherwise devoted to the recounting of a junket, the sole purpose of which was to drive a bunch of eco-warrior displeasing vehicles as far and as hard as possible; it dates from 1994, but it gives you a clue.

So where is this going, then. Well, as is obvious by now, I'm attempting to have some sort of success in this business myself. What I’m beginning to wonder is whether I’m not outrageous enough. As I hinted at the end of the last red entry, I like to think of myself as being a pretty reasonable guy. But is reasonableness a marketable commodity?

We were asked to attend the first week of class here with a “personally inspiring” piece of journalism. Figuring that most would bring along written material, or video, I chose a photograph. It’s a picture taken by Andy Morgan of a Renault Clio Cup, being driven by Phil Bennett in Evo magazine, issue 065. I suppose I can’t reproduce it here for legal reasons, so I’ll have to make an ass of myself tryingto describe it to you instead: the car is electric blue, seen from the offside rear-three-quarters, on three wheels approaching a ninety-degree right, on what appears to be a public mountain road – albeit a clear and well sighted one. It’s a stunning shot, demonstrating not only the athleticism of the car, but also the skill of the driver, given that he presumably lived to tell the tale or there wouldn’t have been any copy.

But this wasn’t my point – and here’s where the scary voice of reason kicks in. My point was that many of us on this MA aspire ultimately to be road testers, to do the thing that Phil Bennett was doing, with whatever vehicle comes to hand, on the public highway and never mind who else might be using it. Which is, as I said to the others, all well and good until somebody gets hurt. At what point do you stop and think, well, actually, that was a bit bloody stupid? You see, issue 065 wasn’t the end of the story for that particular photograph, I wasn’t the only one to notice it and gasp, grin wryly, and even think, Jesus, he’s got balls. In issue 067 they reprinted it, in the letters section – with the notable difference that this time they printed the version where they hadn’t photoshopped out the little white Renault 19 coming the opposite way.

The P.J. O’Rourke article can be found in a collection of his works entitled, Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut, published in Great Britain in 1995 by Picador.

[PS: In no way do I intend to disparage Evo magazine with what’s written herein – Evo is one of my most favourite motoring publications! Please don’t sue me – it’s only my opinion…]


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10:18 pm  

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