Sunday, January 25, 2009

Volkswagen Enters the Virtual Baby Business

Location: Volkswagen Web Page

Ah, Sunday morning. A time to drink cup after cup of coffee and crawl through the New York Times. Little did I know that I'd see yet another melding of the real and virtual worlds.

I usually start with the small automotive section at the back of the sports pages. Today I spotted a feature on the "new" VW minivan, the Routan, touting the company's humorous campaign to get consumers past the stigma of a "mommy wagon." I quote from the site:

With the RoutanBabymaker3000 now you can succumb to the urge to procreate, without adding to the epidemic. Just remember. Please. Have a baby for love, not for German engineering.

Prospective buyers or the merely perverse can mash up photos of a mom and a dad to create a Routan "virtual baby." This Routan Babymaker 3000 seems far less odd than making a virtual child in Second Life, the subject of occasional head-scratching by this writer. The Routan campaign does, however, move us a millimeter closer to a time when virtual creatures of all sorts will be part of our daily computing rituals.

For the sheer joy of it, in honor of Pappy Enoch's alien abduction I mashed up Jethro Bodine and Salma Hayek (Pappy's idol). I had to settle for Jethro, instead of Pap, because the VW program insists that the male cannot wear a hat nor have facial hair! That's perhaps the worst abomination of this entire farce...Pappy would as soon be caught beard-less as he'd be caught paying his taxes.

Oh yes, what about the new VW?

My masculinity is not tied up in the wheels I use to roll. Minivans are good vehicles for what they do, moving a group of humans without the stupid waste of fuel that an SUV delivers. Too bad. VW missed the mark by many kilometers with this seems little different from my in-law's Chrysler Town and Country, its clone. VW changed the interior and a few exterior cues; the Routan lacks the hippie charm of the old Microbuses...perhaps its worst failing. Now if they'd have put the new TDI Diesel engine inside of a camper-van version, I'd be singing "Truckin' like the doodah man" all the way to the dealership.

Still, I must hand it to VW for making my Sunday morning ritual a little more surreal. That's not a bad thing.

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