The Big Issue : Edition 570
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 7–20 SEP 2018 13 PHOTOSBYJAMESBRAUND I PROBABLY SHOULDN’T say this, because cancer and butt litter and the environment and fossil fuels, but I miss the old days when cars and cigarettes were “sexy”. When they were the cultural signifiers for sex. Those were the days. Terrible, gorgeous, poison- filled days. This is why, I suspect, we’re obsessed with retro, aka nostalgia porn, because it’s a chance to perv at times gone by, when cars had curves and style and were an unabashed pleasure. Dear lord, show me a low-slung vehicle with sweet lines, a hood ornament with heft, and an aesthetic that turns your head and purses your lips into a low whistle. And while you’re at it, someone wearing leather leaning against that car, basking in some melanomic sun, sucking on a soft-pack smoke like it’s an actual phallus. Give me anything, really, that’s been designed with joy in mind. Safety standards and fear have stranded us in a world of ugly. I’m not sure what ciggies signify today, besides slow painful death for the people who smoke them and marine animals who ingest the butts, but it’s no longer horseriding and an international passport to smoking pleasure. I quit in the early 1990s because I’m not an idiot, but lately I’ve mourned the glamour. Last week I was waiting at a 7-Eleven counter while a guy bought a packet of durries, and when the bolted metal doors swung open it was a portal into a Boschian hell. A full wall of rotting teeth, ulcerous gums, a mouth cancer the size of a mouse, gangrenous feet, black lungs, an actual dead person. Jesus. I mean, job done Cancer Council Australia, nice work, but the Sev staff must have PTSD. I’m sure it’s effective, but rusted-on smokers must hate themselves even more, and wherever smokers hang out (clue: everywhere, because they’re people), the world is gifted random glimpses of pop-up horror that cannot be unseen. “Glass of wine, madam? Oh look, a close-up of a blinded eyeball with the lids wrenched open with multiple tiny hooks. Enjoy your evening!” And cars? They all look as though they » Fiona Scott-Norman (@FScottNorman) is a writer, comedian and reformed smoker. FIONA Stick That in Your Pipe “I miss the old days when cars and cigarettes were ‘sexy’. Those were the days. Terrible, gorgeous, poison- filled days.” were designed at a three-hour anger- management intervention at a particularly dysfunctional regional council. One where everyone really hates each other, and people leave passive-aggressive post-it notes in the fridge warning others not to touch their milk. Modern cars manage to be both aggressive and bland. No personality but always about to go you. The cars’ “faces” are all wasp-like with frowning LED eyebrows. Grilles like a snarl. Are they angry because they’re so boring? I would be. Every glance in the rear- view mirror is a scene from the movie Duel, with a malevolent presence bearing down. There is nothing remotely fabulous about contemporary automotive design, unless you get turned on by heated seats, industrial- strength genericism and 83 varieties of grey. Cars have pivoted from being thinly veiled metaphors for a dude’s straining manhood, to fearsome, plain cocoons. They’re wombs with cup-holders, air-bags, bluetooth and shouted ads on breakfast radio. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Modern cars, designed around safety features to a minimum budget, have no swag. There is nothing to admire, just bumper-to- bumper “bleah”. Concerned only with safety and savings, we’re remaking our world with no beauty, and compensating for our lack of joy by watching cat videos. Buildings are the same, as anything with grace and intrigue is torn down and replaced with featureless boxes. Bunkers, really. I used to marvel at shopping centres, and how invisible they are; giant squatting silos of featureless concrete that our eyes slide away from. That’s now the look for everything. Nothing to look at! No wonder we’re all turning in, attention fixed on our devices. The poison’s on the outside these days.