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What is the most beautiful shape? Obviously a catfish shape, right? Unfortunately, designers have been slow to realize this and they have so far failed to incorporate the beauty of catfish into home, work, and public contexts. Fortunately, however, this is all beginning to change. Bauer Ltd., a firm which specializes in customizing automobiles has finally realized that most Americans would prefer to drive around in a sleek and fancy catfish. They offer a service through which the discerning motorist can transform his boring Mazda Miata into a thrilling siluriform shape.
According to auto-industry blogs, the designer of the Bauer Catfish actually looked at a catfish to craft the design. It is certainly a sleek and magnificent-looking vehicle! I particularly like how the eyes/headlights look, and I love the diagonal stripes on the sides. I looked at the Bauer website to try to find out some details to share with you about the custom cars, but sadly the technical details of the conversion quickly baffled me (it doesn’t help that I have been a pedestrian for so many years). It seems you can customize the cars with all sorts of souped-up racing engines, but unfortunately I could not find any way to install sensitive whiskers or tastebuds on the vehicle.
It’s movie time here at Ferrebeekeeper! Tonight we are reviewing the DreamWorks animated children’s film “Turbo” which concerns Theo, a humble snail who lives in a garden in the San Fernando Valley. Despite the fact that snails are renowned for being slow and cautious, Theo dreams of blazing speed and obsessively follows Indy Car racing (particularly idolizing the French Canadian champion, Guy Gagné, whose legendary racing prowess is matched by an oversized personality).
The humdrum reality of Theo’s slow-paced life as a lowly “worker” in a vegetable garden seems to preclude him from following his dreams of speedway glory…but after he is cast out of snail society he undergoes a fateful magical (?) transformation and is reborn as Turbo, a supercharged snail capable of blazing speed. Will Turbo be able to find a way into the human world of high speed car racing? Can he make it to Indianapolis and compete in the big race? Could he even maybe win? People who have ever seen a children’s movie may somehow anticipate the answers to these burning questions (and guess that the French Canadian Gagné is less likable than he first seems), but I will try not to spoil the movie for the one person who is somehow both reader of my blog and looking forward to watching a children’s movie which came out last July.
In fact devoted readers may be somewhat surprised to find this blog reviewing a children’s movie–or indeed any movie—since the cinematic art has barely been featured here at all; yet Ferrebeekeeper is deeply concerned with mollusks, and Theo/Turbo is unique in being the mollusk hero of a major Hollywood motion picture (and a spinoff television show on Netflix). Additionally, although I found the movie to be a typical work of rags-to-riches whimsy for children, I enjoyed its message about the narrow and chancy ladders to fame and riches which exist for the little guy. Turbo finds a Chicano taco-shop worker who helps the snail find social media fame (which in turn allows him to pursue further ambitions). The crazy world of internet celebrity is the real turbo-boost which elevates the tiny abject creature to the rarified realms of status and importance. It seems significant that when Theo transforms to Turbo he is shown bouncing through the terrifying and incomprehensible labyrinth of a high tech machine he does not understand at all.
The movie is most touching when it features the sundry immigrant shopkeepers who inhabit a run down strip mall where they dream simply of having customers. The filmmakers add some colorful urban Angelino snails (tricked out with customized shells) to give the movie some hip-hop “cred”, but it is obviously a movie about trying to compete in a world where the real contenders are playing in a vastly different league. The only aspect of mollusk existence which seemed true to life was the ever-present fear of being crushed or gobbled up (since Turbo and his snail friends are continuously and realistically threatened with being smashed by monopolistic giants and high speed machines).
I love animated movies and so I am giving Turbo a (very generous) rating of 3.5 shells out of a possible 5. Although the movie was colorful, well animated, and fun, it was much less involved with the bizarre and amazing world of mollusks than it might have been. It was almost as though the snail was a whimsical stand-in for omnipresent economic concerns about globalization. Also the 3D stuff did not work at all. Hollywood, stop featuring 3D! It is a horrible horrible feature which everyone hates!
Brunswick green is an old and beautiful color with a long history of use in England and Germany. The color was first manufactured from copper compounds in Braunschweig, Germany (a historical city in Lower Saxony which is known as Brunswick in English). Brunswick green is traditionally a very dark yellowish green which can look almost black. The color was first mass manufactured in the middle of the 18th century and it became an important color for machinery during the industrial revolution. Railroads in particular tended to use various shades of Brunswick green to paint their rolling stock. The color would start out black and then weather to a brighter green as the copper compounds oxidized.
England has deep and ancient ties to Old Saxony (the homeland of the Saxons, which includes the modern state of Lower Saxony), however the United Kingdom and Germany have sometimes fallen out rather badly (!). Thus in 1923 after the horrors of World War I, Brunswick green was renamed English Green (which just goes to show that “freedom fries” and suchlike political bowdlerization of names is hardly a uniquely American phenomena).
I have a book deal! Well sort of anyway… I have been contracted to create 75 craft projects out of recycled materials (aka common household rubbish). These projects are themed around “things that go” and will ultimately be incorporated by gifted editors into a project book for dexterous and clever children (and others). I’ll keep you updated on the publishing progress of this project. Wish me luck with my crafting!
In the real world what this means is that I have been spending a lot of time affixing cardboard and wooden wheels to myself with a hot glue gun (I suspect the dexterous children will be deft enough to avoid such burns and the clever ones will use a less molten adhesive). It also means I have been spending a great deal of time looking at illustrations of cars and other vehicles. When I was making some classic racecar models, I noticed that older racecars are almost always certain colors. I have noticed some of these relevant colors before on color lists which I have been consulting for my color topic: British racing green and bleu de France are particularly lovely colors that I contemplated writing about in the past.
As you could probably tell from the names, it turns out that these are national racing colors. In the era before commercial sponsorship completely took over every facet of automobile racing, national competition was a big part of the sport. In that era, which lasted from the 1900s up to the early 1970s, the nationality of the car or driver was denoted by standardized colors. The obvious colors which even casual racing fanciers know are British racing green for United Kingdom competitors, bleu de France for French competitors, rosso corsa (“racing red”) for Italian racers, white or silver for Germans, white with a red sun for the Japanese, and white with blue Cunningham stripes for Americans. Bleu de France was a traditional color for the livery of the kings of France since as early as the 12th century. Emperor Mommu used a flag of a red sun in his court in 701—hence the Japanese motif. Silver accurately reflects the German national character: although they originally used all white and maintained the rights to that scheme, an engineer realized that the car would weigh less with no paint and thereafter they left the shiny aluminum metalwork unpainted.
Italy apparently got to choose first–since bright red is a splendid color (also the Italian accounts of how this color was chosen are so…demonstrative…that I can’t figure out the truth).
The other colors are a bit more obscure and mysterious in origin. It turns out that British racing green—that quintessential elegant dark green which is eponymous with British-ness—came from a quirk of English law. The winner of the Gordon Bennet Cup, a prestigious early race named for a crazed industrialist, was expected to host the next year’s race. An English automobile had won the 1902 race from Paris to Innsbruck, but automobile racing was forbidden in England proper. The 1903 race was held in Ireland, and out of respect for this Irish surrogate, the English team chose a bright green. The color stuck, even though it darkened into a near black over the years.
The United States had two color schemes: white with blue racing stripes or blue with white racing stripes. This tradition was begun comparatively late by Briggs Cunningham, a racing aficionado (and evidently a lover of stripes) who wanted America to win the Le Mans race—an effort which proved to be a gallant failure.
Naturally the other nations of the world had their own racing colors as well (even if these did not always become as storied as rosso corsa or British racing green). The Cubans had an insectoid color combination of yellow with a black hood. The Hungarians raced cars which were white in front and green in back with red bonnets. Polish cars were the same as Polish flags: the top half was white and the bottom was red. Mexican cars were gold. Dutch cars were orange. A few nations which arrived late were stuck with very odd racing colors: like the Egyptians who raced in pale violet and the Brazilians who were stuck in pale yellow cars with green wheels. Here is a complete list of nations and colors.
Ironically, in the future, most cars will probably come from India and China–which never had racing colors and still seem to have none.