Ezra Dyer at the NYT has probably the most enjoyable automotive review I've read all year. I do not know if it's the best review of the year, although it might be that, too; certainly it has a rich target, fully exploited: the next generation of the Scion xB, a car that encountered the same end-of-historical problem that all really cool little cars seem cursed today to encounter: what do you do for an encore? My preference would be nothing; after its first three tweaks, the Mustang became a nightmare and then an embarassment and finally ceased being a 'Mustang' altogether until its reincarnation in what was it 1996? And even then. Well, Ezra has the right idea here, which is that he is stuck in a historical progressus which has also caused this new xB to come into being, and in order to mock that improbable thing floating past in the chrono-soup he really has to mock himself. And so his review of the xB (and xD, yet a more profound superfluity) stacks up what must be an all-time record of pop-culture detritus name-checking references, often to the point of pitch-perfect surrealism:
I’ll confess: I don’t get it. I don’t understand the appeal of the blocky, willfully ugly xB. But if I don’t understand the attraction, perhaps the xB is right on target, because I don’t have piercings or tattoos. I use proper grammar in text messages. I once attended a Dave Matthews acoustic concert. Frankly, Scion doesn’t want me. The xB is for people who don’t care what anybody thinks, which means fauxhawk-wearing 21-year-olds or grumpy retirees.
This is only a warmup. To assure you both he and his review are ultimately serious, that there is a critical self behind the clown suit, the word "chamfered" is deployed. And then the fun begins:
The old xB was like a newly arrived Japanese exchange student who dresses like Max Headroom and pulls live sea urchins out of his lunch bag, blissfully naïve about his lack of assimilation.
The new xB is like the same kid six months later, still unquestionably the product of a different culture, but now self-conscious of that fact and beginning to temper his perceived eccentricities with trips to the Hollister store and the occasional McRib sandwich for lunch.
Holy crap! Why can't the whole New York Times read like this? Or why isn't this guy reviewing novels instead of cars! Ezra's concluding paragraph could be the opening paragraph of, um, your life:
He’s tailoring his persona, but to what end? Is it better to have a smaller group of fiercely loyal friends, or a wide swath of indifferent acquaintances? Is it worse to be polemic or forgettable?
Yet the answer is, like everything else, we strive to have it both ways, and all of us very often succeed. BFFs float in and out of the soup; acquaintances occasionally ratchet the indifference down or up, sometimes ratcheting their interest in us down or up accordingly, sometimes independently. It's one thing to resign yourself to the possibility that, at some significant points in life, it's necessary to be both polemic and forgettable. (Welcome to blogging.) But a frat brother of mine once lived self-consciously by the rule "Go ugly early," and that's another thing entirely. Late modernity and its postmodern neuroses make for a crazy, mixed-up world, but they're no excuse for a car like the latest xB. Fortunately, nonetheless, the latest xB is a perfect excuse for Ezra Dyer's review, and thus this blog post, and, hopefully, your own meta-meta entertainment.