Rusty McCrushem’s Car Mash

This is a guest post by Boffy Burgoon, Art Correspondent for the Bulletin of Particle Physics.

Rusty McCrushem’s Car Mash 1

I’m on the road to Durness, Northern Scotland. Single-lane with passing places. It winds its way through some of the most majestic landscapes that Great Britain has to offer. The many motoring enthusiasts, caravanners, campervanners, hikers, bikers and cyclists who toil their way along this part of the North Coast 500 are rewarded with magnificent views of long-ago-glacier-smoothed hills, hanging valleys, gushing peat-stained rivers, lochs of an unfathomable gun-metal hue, red deer and even eagles. This is country that fills my soul.

Rusty McCrushem’s Car Mash 2

If you decide to brave the euro-touro logjam of the NC500 you may wish for a distraction albeit a distraction that is altogether startling in such an environment. Turn off the Durness Road (the A 838) at Rhichonich onto the B 801 towards Kinlochbervie. After about three kilometres, you will be confronted by Rusty McCrushem’s latest car mash installation. It is his most challenging to date. Unlike his earlier piles of rusted and discarded automobiles scattered over Scotland, this has a brilliantly thought through temporal element and takes car mashing to new heights.  

At first pass, I see only cars that are more or less in tact. Rusty teases us with the odd patch of rust, flaking paint, delicately shattered windscreens, a dented door here and a missing wheel there. These once shining objects of commerce and pride are of no further vehicular use; they are now abandoned. However, they seem somehow at ease in their weed-ridden, road-side rest home for cars. Rusty broadcasts a message for the as yet unimpressed viewer: “Och, you’ve nae seen anything yet!”

Rusty McCrushem’s Car Mash 3

And then I notice the forces of destruction that Rusty commands. This gives the whole a kind of lambs-to-slaughter feel. Is this a sly McCrushem nod to the one-way street of universal decay?

Rusty McCrushem’s Car Mash 4

Rusty’s innate talent for mashing cars pummels the senses. The results are spectacular. I feel I have come across a scene of extraordinary violence but the screams of twisted automotive pain are stilled now. Only the curlew calls.

Rusty McCrushem’s Car Mash 5

It’s difficult to imagine how this obliteration was achieved. I stand jaw-dropped in fascination. It is at once shocking and thrilling. The juxtaposition of highland scenery and motorway pile-up is difficult to accommodate. Russian dissidents come to mind. A thoughtful and thought provoking addition is a rusting cement mixer. Is this another of Rusty’s wink to the laws of physics? The great mix? Eternal spinning of countless galactic particles? 

Rusty McCrushem’s Car Mash 6

Whatever one thinks of Rusty’s work, his genius for mashing large metal objects is awe-inspiring. I imagine him manipulating some great mechanical maw that chews up whole cars and spits them out on the roadside. He is shouting “This is art! This is art!” Is it?  Well, how else can he justify what he’s doing? Whatever, with this particular roadside wreckage, he has assured the enduring enigma of his oeuvre. 

Of an evening, as the northern sun settles, I am sure Rusty feels satisfied with his day’s work. I see his smug smile as he pours himself two fingers of his favourite tipple. Surely, the same two fingers that he waves at anyone – resident, tourist or environmentalist – bold enough to comment. Whatever emotions provoked by Rusty’s work, this whole gig just makes me angry. So there!

The COVID Chronicles – 18

Geneva, 27 June, 2021

The COVID Chronicles 60

New Zealand, the brightest beacon of covid-correctness, is sitting smugly in its own unique elysian isolation. The Land of the Long White Cloud is, according to friends there, going through a process of rediscovery. Those happy-go-lucky kiwis are finding places and community as they were before being swamped by hoards of inconsiderate overseas tourists (like me.) Life, it seems, is just a box of fluffy ducks. And there is good news elsewhere. Despite disruption of their formal education, children are reading more books as a result of the lockdowns. The property market is booming in many countries as those who can tele-work re-assess the necessity of living close to urban centres. Outdoor pursuits such as cycling see an unprecedented hike in popularity. E-meeting systems – through their quality and people’s increasing familiarity with them – are becoming accepted as the norm. I met a cosmetic surgeon who claims to be in the pink thanks to the pandemic. He says people are so horrified by confronting their own image on zoom all day and every day that they want just a little teeny-weeny botox injection.

And how time flies! It is nearly eighteen months since the disappearance of jet streams from the skies over Geneva and the appearance of supermarket trolleys piled high with toilet paper. Little by little we have become accustomed to life in the era of COVID-19. And what’s more, it is now clear that this is something that is with us for good.  We just have to work out how best to live with interim measures involving masks, hand sanitisers, social distancing (there’s a phrase we hadn’t heard before March 2020!) and travel restrictions. Meantime, we await the ultimate means to control the virus’s impact; that is, a sufficient proportion of the human population being immune to serious COVID-19 infections through vaccination.

But then, as has become apparent, it’s not so simple. A year ago, we believed the roll out of an effective vaccination programme would simply clear up the aftermath of the pandemic (or first) wave and prevent a second wave. Last December, we had the welcome news that an effective vaccine would be available in 2021. This news coincided with the reality that a second wave was already under way in many countries. Little did we know that the virus would show its true colours and keep many steps ahead of us by generating even more transmissible versions of itself that show no respect for national boundaries. The foreseen roll out of vaccination campaigns has turned into a desperate race to keep up with the new variants; the big fear being one such will pop up that is vaccine resistant. On a global scale, inequitable access to vaccines, testing protocols and global travel restrictions including mandatory quarantine have become, predictably, major political issues.

A conversation after a round of golf. Me: “Have you had your vaccinations yet?” Golfer1 (articulate, educated, businessperson): “No, I don’t trust them.” Me: “Who don’t you trust?” Golfer1 “The World Health Organisation.” Me: “Why don’t you trust the WHO?” Golfer1 “They changed their definition of a flu pandemic in 2009. And their vaccines are dangerous.” Me: “Urrm… OK … but it’s your government that is running the vaccination programme… and all evidence points to the vaccines being safe.” Golfer1 considers this for a moment and lights up another cigarette. I wonder if I have at hand a copy of “Health for Dummies.” Golfer2 (health-care professional) joins the conversation: “I’m not going to get vaccinated. I’m waiting to see what happens.” Me: “What is it that might happen that you’re waiting to see?” Golfer2: “Oh, you know, side-effects. Case numbers. Things like that.” My mind boggled. My jaw-dropped. “Brace! Brace! Brace!” screamed a voice in my head.

The COVID Chronicles 61
Source: Johns Hopkins

As I write, news comes in of booming case numbers and overloaded health facilities in St Petersburg, Russia. This coincides with – and may be linked to – that city hosting several of the European (Football) Championship matches. Sydney, Australia, is in lockdown again as a result of a spike in cases of the delta variant. And the Olympic Games in Japan are just weeks away. Current case numbers there are higher than the peak of the first wave. This does not look good.

The COVID Chronicles 62
Source: Johns Hopkins

Concerns about the global economic impact of the pandemic seem to be bubbling away on a back burner; at least for the time being. I haven’t come across any credible predictions about how this is going to play out in the months and years ahead. Having said that, there is evidence of strong undercurrents in the great money ocean. Perceptions of the Swiss Franc as a financial safe-haven in global hard times have forced Swiss banks to bring in negative interest rates. Yes, negative interest!! This is to deter people simply loading up their Swiss accounts. My bank announced a couple of weeks ago that savings would be charged 0.75% per annum. Conversely, if I were to take out a mortgage with them, I would benefit from a negative interest rate meaning that I would ultimately pay back less than I borrowed. The world of high finance slips even further from my comprehension. 

I’ve had my two vaccinations. Case numbers here in Switzerland are dropping dramatically. This will be the last of these chronicles….. unless, for whatever reason, we go back into full lockdown.

Lake Bike

Bike with shells 1

I am strolling down by the lakeside with my three-year-old. He stops and points. His tiny finger indicates what has caught his interest. For once it is not something that could be a dinosaur bone. A bicycle leans against a wall; it looks as though it has been ridden through a flour mill.

Bike with shells 2

The bike is covered with dried mud and little mussel-like shells. Fascinating! To think…. Someone designed the bike. Someone built it. Someone bought it. Someone rode it. Someone threw it in the lake. And then someone, somehow, got it out of the lake and left it there to be discovered by a passer-by who was intrigued enough to photograph it (noting how the molluscs seem to be particularly attracted to the gear cogs.)

Bike with shells 3

I can’t help thinking that Lake Bike merits a more dignified resting place. Maybe I’ll wrap the saddle, pedals and handle bars in leopard skin, attach a pink neon light or two and hang it upside down from the ceiling of a contemporary gallery? Well…. maybe!

Bike with shells 4