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Monday, July 04, 2005

The Good Thing explained; Good Eating 

First things last: Supafamous is all over Kobayashi's repeat at the hot dog eating contest. No record this year, but still utterly dominant.

And now, "The Good Thing" explained. A surprising number of you took a guess, but nobody came close. Jak gets bonus points for referencing the VW Thing, a possibility which he argued coherently for. But no.

The Lovely One and I are familiar with the reference from the obscure 60s film If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. But the joke surely originated somewhere other than that movie.

During one sequence, the characters visit London's SoHo district, at that time the swinginest place on the planet. As they go clothes shopping, there are a series of quick cuts to what are presumably t-shirt slogans. One is What about the good things Hitler did?

So for the Beetle-Hitler connection, you have to know that the orginal Volkswagen ("people's car") was designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche (yes, same Porsche), but was championed by Hitler (that article is a pretty good history of the Beetle) as a car for the masses.

But then, while researching the Beetle's origins, I came up with this story of the Englishman (!) who actually started the Volkswagen's production.

But I'll give you a ridiculous bald-faced assertion. Hitler's...legacy...can probably be summed up 50 years after WWII as the creation of four substantial and lasting things. The EU and the UN, both designed to stop future Hitlers, and so far, so-so, with some qualifiers and doubts about the future, are two of them. The other two were probably the VW Beetle and the Autobahn system.

The Autobahn still works, and is still a benchmark for world freeway systems. I like cars, so there will be no big rant following that statement.

The VW Beetle was one of the most successful and prolific cars ever. It virtually became the definitive cheap car in the free world between 1950 and sometime in the 1970s, when the Japanese really conquered the market. Even after that, production persisted in many markets.

For good and bad, the New Beetle is merely a retro-riffic echo of that car, much like the new Mini. The bad part is that the New Beetle is not really cheap, and not nearly as influential as the original (VW sells far more Golfs and Jettas than they do Beetles; it's just a fun image car and a few extra sales for them). The good part is that it's a pretty good car, which the original Beetle never was.

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