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Newton's Third Law of Motion states that "For every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action," so one way to understand the emerging phenomena of "car shame" that Madeleine Brand details in today's California Dreamin' segment is as an equal and opposite reaction to America's "car love."

Take this ode to Italian automaker Alfa Romero, penned by LA Times writer Dan Neil on the occasion of the brand's re-introduction to US markets after an 18-year absence:

The brand narrative here has never been about performance, motorsports or value. No, Alfa Romeo is, for most Americans, about a quintessential Italian style, an aching, blushing, toe-curling loveliness of line and profile. It is about the inconvenient passion of Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate." It is about Fellini's moonlit "Juliet of the Spirits," in which Giulietta Masina is pursued by a man, a Romeo, in a Giulietta Spider (which may qualify as the most knotted meta-reference in film history). It is about youth, cool and the whispered promise of sex under the parapets.

Or is that just me? [more car love]

No Dan, it's not you. It's us. (Er, pretty much.) Our love affair with the automobile is so abiding that only the spontaneous outbreak of demolition derbies in every major city in America could count as an equal and opposite reaction. And not even then, really, as the endless hours of "World's Most Dangerous/Awesome/Public Domain Video-est" style chase-n-crash porn being broadcast on cable at any given moment likely indicates. Americans love their cars - literally - whether freshly washed by Catherine Bach (of Dukes of Hazzard fame; the best PR the Confederacy ever got) or in a thrilling pile on the side of the road. Below are some takes on literal car love: the trailer to John Carpenter's 1983 film adaptation of Stephen King's Christine, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert arguing over David Cronenberg's 1996 adaptation of J.G. Ballard's sex and car-crashes epic Crash, and my favorite police chase of all time:

If you were putting together a museum about American's fantasies about their cars, what would you add to the list? (Keep in mind this is the proverbial family show.)



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On Califonia Dreamin today, Judith Warner's New York Times Magazine article on SUV's was referenced. On the radio interview, Judith "showed no shame" in her having purchased a Land Rover SUV. She suggested that sanctimony about other people's gas guzzlers was as bad as buying those cars. It is an ironic comment since Ms Warner's regular NYTimes column drips with sanctimony. Furthermore, her self-justification of owning a guzzler is long standing: She and her husband previously owned an enormous Excursion. She has been deluding herself for a very long time...shame will be equally long in coming.

Sent by Mike Pod- | 2:31 PM | 8-4-2008

I never realized this before, but Ms. Judith hit the nail on the head - but the wrong one... I think it's many SUV drivers who are sanctimonious. They claim they're keeping them & their families safer (often citing safer than the people who can't afford SUVs), and that makes them better- that's their reasoning, as irrational as it actually is. Another popular attitude I've seen in SUV defense is the declaration "I have a right..." insinuating that any critics of the vehicles are somehow against freedom, which is kind of sanctimonious too. Not to mention also irrational - since by that reasoning we should stop having no smoking rules in enclosed spaces and stop giving citations to people who run red lights.
Of course, the most sanctimonious people are often the first to bristle at someone else being the slightest bit sanctimonious.

Sent by Chloe | 12:13 AM | 8-6-2008