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demographics, semiotics & funny stories

Subject: demographics, semiotics & funny stories
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 1997 17:32:46 -0500 (EST)

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As a subscriber to both the Italian Car Digest and the Alfa Digest I have noticed subtle apparent differences in the two overlapping audiences. Today they hit with a relatively heavy hand.

In Italian-Cars-Digest 6#69 and Alfa-Digest 4#142 Wilhelm Roos had ended an essay on the joys of reviving a sleeping Alfa in the spring with an anecdote:

“Even the neighboor came and said hello. He hasn't spoken to me for two years. His cat had an accident in my garage. She was doing a little natural need (pee) in my car, and got hit by the acetylen welding flame. It was quite visible and the smell was terrible. The cat stayed away for three weeks, but I of course denied every knowledge of that matter.”

This raised a rather scathing rebuke from Ed at Caribou (Caribou Canvas, purveyors of tops etc) who doesn’t think much of intentionally inflicting pain, and that in turn led to Wilhelm’s reply (in icd 6:071 and in ad 4:145) that “The cat didn't like the "psssshht" sound from the acetylen torche, that's why the cat was running away. I have a Berneise Mountin dog who's twelwe years old and I am also former chairman in the local Kennel Club. And I do like cats, so please, do not put a black flag on me yet. Sorry if I upset you.”

The two statements Willie made cannot be easily reconciled - the cat merely running from the sound on the one hand, and conversely the ‘terrible’ smell of the ‘quite visible’ evidence of the ‘hit by the acetylen welding flame’ of which Willie had denied any knowledge. Of what would one deny knowledge if the cat simply ran from a sound?

I had initially assumed that welding Willie had thoughtlessly made a quick gesture of annoyance at the pissing cat and some fur got singed. Perhaps that is what happened. An alternative, equally credible to me, is that Willie was making up a crude joke about an incident which could have happened, but didn’t. Either way it didn’t repel me quite as the recent hazing incident in which a couple of military academy students (male) doused a couple of the female students with lighter fluid and lit them, for fun, to assert their manliness. The veneer of civilization is thin. A considerably more repugnant murder happened on my block last week. Happens.

An interesting thing to me was the list response. Fully a third of the
messages in the current italian-cars-digest 6:071 were from individuals taking exception to the willful inflicting of pain, and there were none- zero, zilch, nada - in the alfa-digest. Perhaps somebody edited them out? Or perhaps only Alfa people are sophisticated enough to see through Willie’s untrue joke? Or perhaps Lancia/Fiat/Maserati people are more humane?. Or it may be a coincidence? Some of all of the above? Whichever, it caught my notice.

Which leads to a slightly different question. In ad 4:046 Anton A. Kosyakov writes “now i m planning buy a car, it will be italian car but i dont know which is better, Lancia Thema, or Alfa 155. The question is what is the difference between Lancia and Alfa, as i uderstand Alfa using a lot of Lanica's parts, and for example new Alfa 166(old 164) will be using same platform with Lancia Kappa. So can anyone tell me ten reasons to buy Alfa, not Lancia?”

A good question. Pat Braden has argued that Fiat’s product lines badly need rationalization, that there are Alfas and Lancias which have the same engines in identical packages on identical platforms and that this redundancy is wasteful. I argued that he missed the point: that the paired lines were so similar precisely because there are buyers (on the home market) who want essentially the same vehicles but have broadly differing views of their own personalities and, perhaps more importantly, personas- the social facades individuals assume to define themselves. The administrator drives a grey Thema, the promoter a red 164. Only in the markets where both makes are not available do you find relatively large proportions of conservative Alfas or assertive Lancias. They have the same parts, the same engines and the same structures, but the paint and the badges come out of different cans, because people have (among other things) different senses of humor, and different ideas about who they want to be.




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