Divine Comedy: What Katie Couric's Twerking Has to Do with the BMW i3 & Is Toyota's FCV the Best Thing Since Mozart?
One could argue that Dante’s Divine Comedy was born on this day. For it was on January 27, 1302, that he was exiled from Florence. As one of the city’s six priors, he had banished others and now got a bit of his own in return. Karma. What goes around comes around. That kind of thing.
Although he was to spend the rest of his life wandering from town to town living off the kindness of relatives, if not strangers, this end of his political career turned into the beginning of his masterpiece – the three-part epic poem that begins in Hell (Inferno) moves up a notch to Purgatory, and ends finally in Paradise. It took him 11 years to write, and he died before it became the enormous success that is now taught in every university in the world.
John Ciardi’s translation begins like this: “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood. How shall I say what wood that was! I never saw so drear, so rank, so arduous a wilderness! Its very memory gives a shape to fear. Death could scarce be more bitter than that place!”
That’s the kind of stuff you write when Karma comes round and knocks you on your tail feathers. Thus, loss serves as a function of redemption.
To mark the anniversary of this important turning point in Dante’s life, I had intended to post this wonderful video. But you know how it is on the internet. Before I could click, I was distracted by a frame showing my old friends Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel together again in the front seat of the new BMW i3. Déjà vu?
To be clear, I’ve never met Katie or Bryant, but they were a fixture in my house on many mornings as I brushed teeth, gulped coffee, and tried to get a sense of the daily coffee klatch from Today on NBC. They had good chemistry. I liked them. They felt like old friends.
So of course, I had to click like the 2.3 million others who had already done so. The BMW i3 retails for about $42 to $46K. The commercial targets older people, like Katie & Bryant, who have that kind of money to spend on an all-electric car. A millennial on a bicycle looks at the two as they try to figure out this new-fangled contraption. In its effort to relate to the intended audience, the spot reveals the West’s ongoing struggle with the aging process. Pushing into what Jane Fonda refers to as the last third of life, we want to make smart 21st century decisions. We want to remain relevant. We do not want to go gently into that dark night. Perhaps that is why the commercial asks us to consider whether Katie Couric can twerk. After all, wouldn’t everyone rather be more like Miley Cyrus than Dante Alighieri?
The Toyota FCV
Since I wasn't quite ready to run over to my nearest BMW dealer for a test drive, I decided to see what else might be going on in the search for a 21st century solution to the fossil fuel crisis. I'm already a fan of Tesla's three options - the Model S, 3 and X. But look what Toyota has come up with. Will the all-electric car become a fossil before its time? Is the world ready to be changed by hydrogen fuel cell? Toyota thinks we'll need three options going forward: hybrid, hydrogen, and all-electric. The two clips below provide a glimpse of a future that may be just around the corner.
Here's a look at how it works.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. MOZART
The technology that wins the race to supplant oil as the world's primary energy source is not likely to last as long as the 713 years since Dante penned the Divine Comedy. Nor even the 259 years since the birth of Mozart, who came to the planet on January 27, 1756, and left us some of the most enduring pieces in the history of music. Any car produced today, however twerky it may prove to be, will likely go the way of everything else that's temporal. Only the eternal survives beyond time. Like the millennial cyclist in Katie and Bryant's new-fangled commercial, future generations will look on our bumbling with amusement. And like the priest in the following scene from Amadeus, they will remember only those things that touch them in some lasting way.
I like big books, and I cannot lie. My background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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