Uppity #8 on Mashable’s Best Documentaries on Netflix
The first Black man to race in the Indy 500, car racing icon Willy T. Ribbs is the subject of 2020 documentary Uppity: The Willy T. Ribbs Story. Directed by Nate Adams and Adam Carolla, the film follows Ribbs’ path through an extremely white industry rife with racism (even to this day).
As Mashable’s Kellen Beck writes, “Piecing together interviews with Ribbs, his brother, other racers, managers, pit crew members, and journalists, Uppity is a fascinating documentary that displays both the intricacies of how professional racing works at its various levels and all the ways that racists try to disrupt progression for Ribbs — and, though unspoken for, any other person who isn’t a white male that wants to compete in one of the most popular sports in the world.
“Racism seeps through every corner of Ribbs’ professional life story, which is one of determination, tenacity, outstanding talent, and the mountain of hate that Ribbs had to continuously push through to make his mark in the history of racing.”
After almost seven decades, the iconic MAD magazine will halt publication of new content and vanish from newstands, according to CNN. Its last new issue will be in August 2019.
“After issue #10 this fall there will no longer be new content — except for the end-of-year specials which will always be all new,” reports ABC News. “So starting with issue #11 the magazine will feature classic, best-of and nostalgic content from the last 67 years.” Entertainment Weekly reports that “MAD will continue to publish a year-end issue with new content” and “MAD books and special collections.”
The beloved humor magazine was founded in 1952, originally in comic-book form. It switched to the current magazine format in 1955.
Former MAD editor Allie Goertz, who resigned MAD last month, tweeted, “MAD is an institution with such a rich history. It informed just about every comedian and writer I (and probably you) look up to.”
“Working at MAD was a childhood dream come true,” she tweeted. ” I worked with ICONS. Sergio Aragonés visits were common. Al Jaffee still does the fold-in!”
Weird Al Yankovic, who recently had the honor of being guest editor, tweeted, “I am profoundly sad to hear that after 67 years, MAD Magazine is ceasing publication. I can’t begin to describe the impact it had on me as a young kid–it’s pretty much the reason I turned out weird. Goodbye to one of the all-time greatest American institutions. #ThanksMAD.”
MAD is a part of the DC Comics group, which in turn is owned by Warner Brothers, which is then owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia. Its readership peaked in 1974, when more than 2 million subscribers followed along. In the digital age, it is no longer the influential satirical force it once was.
However, recently, President Donald Trump compared the Democratic nomination candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg to MAD‘s mascot, Alfred E. Neuman. Buttigieg reacted, “I’ll be honest. I had to Google that. I guess it’s just a generational thing. I didn’t get the reference.” He then added, “It’s kind of funny, I guess. But he’s also the President of the United States and I’m surprised he’s not spending more time trying to salvage this China deal.”
In reaction to the news, The Guardian calledMAD‘s demise “the end of satire.”
Be Sure To Support Our New Doc on MAD Magazine!
By total coincidence, Chassy is helping to fund a new doc on the history and glory of MAD magazine, called “When We Went MAD.” (Read more about it here). The doc — which you can help support — includes the pub’s rise, as well as the skillful writers, editors, and illustrators who fueled its iconic status. Flower Street Docs — headed by our own Adam Carolla, Nate Adams, and Mike August — will be managing and helping to fund the joint.
Be sure to check out our own Adam Carolla in concert. Not Taco Bell Material is Adam’s first stand-up special, which is based on his New York Times bestselling autobiography. It’s a chock-full of tales from Adam’s youth, which prove to be both hilarious and inspiring.
When We Went MAD! examines the 60+-year history of MAD, the best-known humor magazine in American publishing. This doc — which you can help support — illustrates the pub’s rise, as well as the skillful writers, editors, and illustrators who fueled its iconic status.
The film project was conceived by Alan Bernstein, a writer/director with over 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry. In the course of his career, he’s worked on a number of television series, documentaries and films, including Thank You for Not Smoking, One Half Gone, and Judicial Consent.
Flower Street Docs — headed by our own Adam Carolla, Nate Adams, and Mike August — will be managing and helping to fund the doc.
Here, we talk with Alan Bernstein about the lasting legacy of MAD, and its impact on the culture:
RON: How did you come about creating this doc?
ALAN: I’ve been a MAD fan, reader and collector since I was six. That makes it 44 years. My background is in film production, and, quite honestly, I kept waiting for someone else to make the documentary. At the same time, we started losing some of the [MAD] artists and writers. I thought, if someone doesn’t do this now, we won’t have the opportunity. So I started it on my own.
RON: I guess many people would be surprised to learn that MAD magazine is still actually publishing.
ALAN: It’s still in publication, but it’s no different from any other story: there are so many different avenues of humor [in the digital age]. What took [MAD] two months to put into an issue would take The Daily Show one night. It’s hard to compete with that, but they still put it out. It’s still published. And I think that’s a great thing.
DC Comics took the reins of MAD, and they moved everybody from New York to L.A. a little over a year ago. And as a result, they pretty much brought in a whole new staff. So it’s a truly new generation.
They started renumbering it, so they’re up to Issue #8. It seems that at least in every issue, there is a direct reference to the old MAD. I don’t mean in terms of articles, but photos of the original publisher. They’re paying reverence to the original, but they’re making it their own as well, which I think is the right thing to do.
RON: I guess there are a lot of people like us, who fondly remember the original MAD.
ALAN: I truly believe that. Even if they can’t name off the top of their heads a specific moment, I run into people who say, “I read that when I was six,” or “my older brother read that when he was six, or twelve.” It left enough of an impression that they have a fond memory of it.
RON: To what do you owe MAD‘s success?
ALAN: It didn’t pander. If you want to “get” MAD, you had to step up your game. That’s when things last — if they challenge you.
RON: What was this filmmaking experience like for you?
ALAN: It is the true definition of “labor of love.” These writers, artists and editors were my true heroes growing up. Growing up, it never occurred to me that I could meet them, that I could approach them. I put them on such a pedestal. They were kind of untouchable. When I set out to interview, there was only one person who turned me down, and that was because of a health issue. Everyone was excited to be interviewed and have their story told. Every moment was a “pinch yourself” moment. I got to meet these people!
One of the great things about the MAD story is Bill Gaines, the publisher, who was such an eccentric and held his staff in such high regard that they had nothing but the best memories. A good handful of the earliest writers, who were there during MAD’s heyday, moved out to California and wrote for Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore and All in theFamily. These guys were winning Emmys left and right, and yet they were always called back to MAD for an article. They changed the mindset of several generations of writers.
RON: Being lampooned in MAD is a badge of honor. Was that always the case?
ALAN: At first, it seemed like an insult: why would I want to be associated with this subversive, anti-American rag? Over time, it became “look at me, I’m on the cover of MAD! I’ve made it!”
RON: What to you is MAD‘s lasting significance?
ALAN: Every issue of MAD is a physical piece that is documenting the moment. It has a place; it has an importance to it.
Like the kind of comedy that makes you laugh? Be sure to check out our own Adam Carolla in concert. Not Taco Bell Material is Adam’s first stand-up special, which is based on his New York Times bestselling autobiography. It’s a chock-full of tales from Adam’s youth, which prove to be both hilarious and inspiring.
Get ready to uncover the usually secret, largely unknown world of meme creators. Flower Street Docs, headed by Adam Carolla, is funding the production of Meme Gods, directed by Sean Flax and Bryan Black along with executive producer Cedric the Entertainer. The doc drills down into the creative and technical process of memes, and explores their culture significance.
Hard to believe that memes have been around for about two decades. They’ve evolved from a humorous Internet throwaway to a vital marketing tool. The term was coined in 1976, by Richard Dawkins, to mean “any shareable cultural artifact that spreads through a culture like wildfire.” That sounds about right. With the digital age, memes are so commonly shared that Google Trends calls “memes” a more popular search term than “Jesus.” (Although we would never pull a John Lennon and claim that memes are more popular than Jesus).
Millennials are believed to spend over 200 minutes online every day, which gives brands a good chance to reach them and engage with them through memes. The trick, of course, is to not make a meme look like an ad. Meme creators must be more subtle than that. This doc shows how it’s done, and why.
Co-director Sean Flax is an award-winning journalist and director/producer who has worked for major media corporations including the BBC, Eurovision, NHK, and Time Warner Cable (Spectrum). Since leaving traditional journalism, his independent work has appeared on CBS, NBC Sports, USA Today, New York Magazine, Sports Illustrated and many other distribution platforms.
Sean currently has a slate of TV, digital, and film projects in development through his company, Endless Roots. He is based in New York City, where he was born, and graduated from the University of Michigan.
Co-director Bryan Black is a writer and creative director with more than 15 years of experience creating compelling and innovative campaigns for both traditional and new media. Bryan produced some of his most acclaimed work at 4-time agency-of-the-year Deutsch Inc. where he spent nearly 10 years of his career leading the development of creative campaigns for a wide range of national and global brands. Bryan creates content every day on his influential instagram page @black_humorist where he has earned 125,000 followers.
Here, Sean and Bryan help us turn over the rock to witness the meme-making that often makes our day — and can also make careers.
RON: How did the idea of explaining and exploring meme creators come about?
BRYAN: We run an advertising agency, but we all have individual meme accounts. And through those accounts, we’ve all connected. It’s a real community. And some of us wound up meeting — as they say — in “real life.” The ones we’ve connected to are the actual creators, the ones who actually make the memes. Not re-posters.
Adam Padilla, my business partner, who goes by the name Adam the Creator, said, “Let’s make a documentary about memes.” And we did it. We did a few days of shooting in New York and LA, and interviewed about 25 big [meme] accounts.
RON: I never realized that memes were “a thing.” I think most people just figure that memes are the result of random acts of inspiration by random people. I didn’t know that it’s an actual industry.
BRYAN: A great majority of the memes are people making a one-off joke on Twitter or wherever. They may tweet it on their little account, and it blows up. Then there are the actual “creators.” They have larger audiences, and they post every day. Their accounts blow up as a result of their diligence and work ethic. That’s combined with having some aptitude for it — a sense of humor and an awareness of popular culture.
SEAN: The creators that Brian is talking about have not been introduced to anyone until this film. They build followings and they build their own brands. As a result of that, they become their own social media influencers. By building large followings and creating content that people want to see every day, memers have begun to earn a living. Brands are starting to wake up to the value of humor in advertising and exposing the brands to Millennials. Their content is very engaging. People are sharing it and talking about it. If you post something that is timely and can get a laugh, you are going to get a lot of engagement around that.
RON: Meme creation is serious work. Some of these creators are actually moving up to big careers.
SEAN: Some of these memers are rising beyond just making memes. It’s almost like memes are a “jumping off” point to larger careers in media. I think it’s going to become more commonplace as memes continue to grow in popularity.
RON: What makes a successful meme?
BRYAN: Timeliness is at the heart of it. Memes are created in real time. It’s completely about what’s happening at that moment. A lot of memes are evergreen, but many of them are about responding to what’s going on.
SEAN: I think it’s become a mode of communication. There is that general decrease in attention span; memes are not necessarily helping that, but people are very busy and it’s a great way to communicate with somebody quicker. It’s become an efficient and enjoyable way for people to communicate with each other. I think that’s another reason why it exploded. There is a feeling of being in an inner circle.
RON: What is the difference between a meme and a GIF?
BRYAN: A GIF becomes a meme when you add more context to it. You turn it into something that was previously only an image. At its heart, a meme is taking something that exists and building on it.
RON: What makes a meme go viral?
SEAN: It evolves as it’s shared, and it becomes viral because of other people. At the end of the day, a meme is going to become successful because of everybody else, not you — how they share it and how they spin off of it.
RON: Is creating a super-successful meme uiltimately a numbers game? It’s about throwing enough against the wall to see what sticks?
BRYAN: [Meme creators] like to take credit for it, but ultimately, it is a numbers game. And it shifts wildly. Ultimately, a lot of our satisfaction comes from external validation. We are stuck with those numbers and beholden to them.
RON: Is there one social media platform that seems more meme-friendly than others?
BRYAN: People are just loyal to different platforms, but we operate within Instagram. Twitter is huge; it is probably the ground zero of memes. The most popular meme accounts are on Instagram, but so much of this stuff originates on Twitter. The Reddit people would say, “we’re the place where everything starts.” Reddit is sort of a repository for everything. I would say that the kings are Twitter and Instagram; the more formal meme accounts are on Instagram.
Click here to find out how to help crowdfund Meme Gods.
In the meantime, check out Not Taco Bell Material, Adam’s first-ever standup special. It’s based on his New York Times bestselling autobiography. Hilarious! Click here to find out more.
“Somebody just asked me to help out their son,” says motocross trainer Don Solley, on how he eventually created the Xcel Trainer Motocross School. “Nothing crazy, just trying to teach him a few things.”
It did get crazy, though — crazy successful. Those few lessons turned into an expanded curiculum, and well attended. Don’s 40-acre school, based in Fort Pierce Florida, has become a prominent motocross practice and training facility, teaching kids everything from body position and breaking to throttle control and maintenance. But it’s not all serious stuff all the time; there’s also training for jumps, whips, and wheelies.
Don is the ideal teacher of this kind of skill. The son of professional drag racer Chip Solly, the Florida native started racing professionally at age 18 (he’s now 30).
His life, through a series of jumps, whips and wheelies, reflected his art.
“It was up and down,” he says of both his life and motocross career. “I had moments that were really, really good, and then there were moments where I struggled. The hardest part was trying too hard too soon instead of letting myself learn through the process.”
The result of putting the pedal to the metal?
“I had a lot of injuries,” he says of what he calls his “injury phase,” “which definitely held me back from where I could have been. I was always trying to push through it, trying to get a result each weekend. I should have just been more patient and learned and applied myself better during the week. I needed to learn how to be patient. Patience is hard to think about.”
The injuries of an ambitious young man on the motocross move were par for the course: damage to the spleen, kidneys and liver, legs and knees. Add to that a dislocated shoulder, which needed a full reconstruction.
“It spiraled me into not being patient and trying to rush back too soon,” he says.
During the injury phase, Don took on a few more clients, who went on to national-level success.
“So I thought, this is kind of fun to watch these kids go on and do well,” he says, “so maybe I’ll do this along with my own racing. I started having more fun helping the kids, seeing how happy they were when they reached their success. It was really fulfilling on my end. I just started putting a lot of focus on that.”
The school offers both private and group training, focusing on technique and fundamentals (but emphasis on the fun). Also offered are training camps and even an online program where non-local kids can learn via video.
Don’s major priority when teaching: preventing the injuries that he experienced himself.
“We do a lot of technique-based stuff,” he says. “Some kids go by ‘let’s go faster!’ I go more by the lines of learning the technique. The speed is going to come as a result of that. It helps the riders to be more well rounded and to keep injuries to a minimum as well. That’s something I know was a mistake on my part when I was racing, so I really try to focus on injury prevention. It’s all about keeping the kids safe and healthy, making sure that they’re not overexerting themselves.”
Still, teaching kids who are gunning to ride always presents a challenge: “understanding their mind and how they learn,” Don says. “That’s probably the hardest thing. For some, you need to be really nice and calm and patient. For some others, you have to push them a little bit harder. And I just have to be able to figure that out.”
Professional potential also often rears its head in the course of a motocross course.
“Some kids have a higher ceiling, I guess you can say, with where their potential could be,” Don says. “I have to be able to see that quickly so that I am not holding certain students to such a high standard. Some of the kids who are winning at a national level, they are obviously going to be held to a standard that is above the local kids, just because they are the best in the country. The other kids are just having fun at a local level. They don’t care how fast they are, they are just doing it for fun. Being able to differentiate that is definitely crucial to having success with the kids.”
A large component of Don’s teaching technique is his lifelong love for the art of motocross.
“It’s taught me so much through my life,” he says. “When you work hard, you can achieve your goals. Because it’s an individual sport, you can directly see those changes. If you work really hard in football or baseball or any other sport, sometimes you can’t see your results, because you have other people on the field who may dictate how you are going to do. With motocross, it’s a direct reflection. If you work hard at it and stay really focused, you’re going to succeed and you will reach your goals at some point or another.”
Click here to find out more about Xcel motocross training.
Like bikes? We do too, big time. Check out our selection of motorcycle docs:
One Man’s Island: A character driven, documentary portrait of one man’s obsessive quest to fulfill his boyhood dream. In January 2002, Canadian Mark Gardiner gave up his job, home and life savings for a chance to race the Isle of Man TT, the world’s most dangerous motorcycle race. One Man’s Island examines the motivation, passion and risk associated with the quest. It chronicles first-hand the events of the journey, explores the question of why anyone would go racing and captures the experience of realizing a dream.
12 o’ Clock Boys: Pug, a young boy growing up on a combative West Baltimore block, finds solace in a group of illegal dirt bike riders known as The 12 O’Clock Boys.
The Indian Wrecking Crew: Narrated by Jay Leno. After WWII, two brands would battle for supremacy in the early days of American motorcycle racing – Harley Davidson and Indian. Three men, Bill Tuman, Bobby Hill and Ernie Beckman, racing for the Indian team, endured lethal heat, exhaustion and barely any pay. In spite of all this, they regularly dominated the better-equipped Harley riders and were dubbed the Indian Wrecking Crew. Their battles across the dirt tracks of America would define the burgeoning sport of motorcycle racing for years to come.
The recent Petersen Automotive Museum auction in Los Angeles included a 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV consigned by our own Ace Man. It sold for $2.2 million—in line with the pre-sale estimate, according toAutomobile Magazine.
[It’s] said to be the only Miura SV finished in Bleu Medio over a Pelle Bleu interior, it’s also one of 11 single-sump SVs to have been fitted with air conditioning—an option you’ll want with a blistering 385-hp, 4.0-liter V-12 engine sitting right behind the cabin.
Adam also sold a 1965 Lamborghini 350 GT for $555,000. Nice!
The 350 GT was an immediate success as a grand touring machine; it was quiet at speed, beautifully finished, and a capable performer, with a 0–60 time of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 158 mph. The engines were dynamometer-tested for 24 hours before installation, first electronically, then under their own power. They were designed to withstand 40,000 miles of enthusiastic motoring, and the resulting engine proved refined and durable. In all, only 143 examples (including 23 interim cars) were built before the body was revised by Touring into the 400 GT 2+2, in 1966.
Offered from the distinguished Adam Carolla collection, this 350 GT is an unrestored example in exceptionally well-preserved condition, with fewer than 60,000 kilometers (37,300 miles) from new. The original cognac leather interior remains in remarkable condition and has an attractive light patina consistent with its careful use and low mileage. Importantly, this 350 GT is noted to retain its original engine. It was refinished some two decades ago, but the surface of the black paint was recently lightly wet sanded and professionally detailed, bringing out its deep shine.
Love fast cars as much as Adam does? Check out these fast-movin’ Chassy docs:
ADRENALIN – the first feature length documentary about the touring car history of BMW.
The film looks back on 50 years of touring car racing with the Bavarian brand, in depth with never before seen footage. The story begins in the 60s, where the cars have been prepared on the hayfield and the drivers were sliding over the Nürburgring or the Eau Rouge in Spa until the flies were sticking on the side windows of their cars.
The founding of the M GmbH in the beginning of the 70s. The M1 with the legendary ProCar races during the Grand Prix weekends. The success story of the M3. And the glory days of the DTM with wheel to wheel racing at its best. ADRENALIN lets you relive the history. Alex Zanardi’s miracle victories in the World Touring Car Championship after his terrible accident, where he lost his legs. BMW’s sensational comeback into DTM with that unexpected win of the championship title. The film illustrates BMW’s touring car highlights from five decades with stars and strategists narrating from the cockpit’s perspective. From Hubert Hahne and Striezel Stuck to Bruno Spengler. From Jochen Neerpasch and Charly Lamm to Jens Marquardt.
The Ford versus Ferrari rivalry at Le Mans is one of the most famous battles in racing history. It started in 1963 when Henry Ford II tried to buy Ferrari to save the ailing Ford Motor Company, which was being crushed by GM and the Corvette on the track and at the dealerships. Ferrari was the most successful racing team in the world at that time. After months of intense negotiation, Enzo Ferrari said no — refusing to allow Ford to interfere with what he loved the most: racing. Henry Ford II was furious, and vowed to build a racecar that would dethrone Ferrari. Ford engineered a revolutionary racecar called the GT40. The battle would be at the most famous race in the world, The 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Ferrari had reigned supreme for decades. In the 1960s only two teams ever won Le Mans: Ford and Ferrari — cementing dynasties that would last for generations.
Click here to check out all of Chassy’s auto docs!
“Many young male neurotics find out early that hard labor is salve for an overactive mind,” Finn Murphy writes in his memoir about his career in long-haul truck driving. That may explain why as a young man he dropped out of college and left his comfortable suburban Connecticut life to become a hard-laboring trucker. That decision was made in 1980, and to this day he keeps on truckin’.
The mind: still overactive. He channeled that energy into The Long Haul, the story of his fuel-injected journey. We meet drivers, movers (and shakers) of all backgrounds, customers and properties of all classes and roads, and weather of all forecasts. If you’ve ever wondered who those people are behind those big rigs on the highway, get into this ride.
Finn lets us in on the secrets of a successful move and the rabbit hole that brings on a disasterous haul. We learn some trucker lingo that goes beyond “Convoy,” as well as how to maneuver a backroad, a parking space, and an irate customer. We also learn what’s actually inside those truck cabins.
In his decades-long career, Finn has covered more than a million miles driving, moving, packing, loading, and hauling. Here, he shares with us a small portion of that adventure, and shows us how a book about moving could be so moving.
Let’s start with the wheels. What was your first truck?
I started with a GMC Astro 95. It was a single screw, which means it didn’t have tandem drive wheels. It had a crawl-in sleeper in the back and a 290 Cummins diesel engine, which is small and it’s pulling a big, fat moving van. Moving vans are not really that heavy because household items are not really that heavy. We never really hit our [weight] limit. The windsheild and the steering wheel was right over the front left tire, so every time you run over a toothpick, you would get jarred. And if you had to start running over some really bad roads, you had to strap your seatbelt on or you would hit your head on the roof.
Then I moved to an International Transtar cabover, which also had a crawl-in sleeper in the back. I had a Kenworth cabover with a bunk in the back. It had a walk-in sleeper, and that just changed my life. And then I moved to a Freightliner Columbia, which was also a sleeper with a double-bed.
What are you driving now?
I’m driving a Freightliner Cascadia: walk-in sleeper, double-bunks, refrigerator, microwave, closet, and a desk for my paperwork. I picked it up in Indianapolis last November, brand new. The Freightliner is like the Buick of the trucking world. It’s very workman-like but not too fancy. The Cascadia I had cost $147,000. If you want to get one with an RV-type thing welded on, then you’re talking about $300,000. Telsa just came out with an electric Class-A truck, and that’s $380,000. But at least you don’t have to buy fuel anymore.
How important is the type of truck you drive to your reputation as a long hauler?
As movers, we don’t care so much about what we’re driving around. That’s not where our ego tickling comes from. That comes from our revenue.
What are some of the biggest long-haul driving challenges?
Weather is number one. And then you have congestion. And then you have topography. When we encounter these things, we encounter them often in combination. So you can have a bad road in bad weather with a bunch of people in front of you and a bunch of people behind you. Any kind of distracted behavior affects me, and that’s where the fear comes in. I am the most defensive driver you will ever see, mostly because I’m scared all the time.
You started driving in 1980. Was it easier back then to get your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL, Class A)?
Back then, if you could fog a mirror, you can get your commercial drivers’ license. I remember I had a 35-foot trailer, and an old Ford day tractor. In Stamford, Connecticut [where I took my test], there was an orange cone down at the end of the street. That’s how it was back in the day.
Today, almost all the drivers have to go to truck driving school, and that takes a month, and it costs about seven grand. And it’s probably a whole lot better than the training and the exam that I got, but it is certainly more expensive. It’s expensive and time-consuming now to get one, where it didn’t used to be.
When most people think of truck drivers, they usually don’t necessarily think of someone like you: educated, articulate and from the upper-middle-class. Did you have to deal with the truck-driver stereotype?
There is something like three million truck drivers in the United States. It’s not a homogeneous total of white rednecks from the South. And I don’t think it ever really was, except for maybe a very long time ago.
It’s getting more homogeneous as time goes on, partially because there are social implications. So many people have been pushed out of what used to be middle-class jobs in the United States. The average age of a long-haul driver right now is about 55.
What I see now are a lot of husband-and-wife teams. A lot of people choose that life because whatever middle-class job they had, say in Indiana or Kansas, it’s gone. And they have to make a living. So we’re seeing this huge influx of over-50s coming into the industry who have been downsized in one form or another.
In your book, you did a good job of describing long-haul trucking in cultural, historical and even philosophical terms.
There is a tribal aspect to this. Human beings for hundreds of thousands of years have been working together in small bands, whether it’s hunting or gathering or whatever that is. And it’s a wonderful/social cultural kind of experience with all different kinds of people.
Moving people across the country — and loading a truck properly — seems easier said than done. Is it?
It really comes down to how interested you are. If you are interested in loading a truck properly, if you bring some intellectual power to it, then you are going to be better than somebody who is just punching the clock. In the moving industry, there are some people who are just doing the job for the money, and there are some people who do the job for the beauty — and the money. And those are your better movers.
Would you say that no matter how many technological advances evolve, there is always going to be a need for human movers?
In a way, until they perfect the matter energy transporters that Mr. Spock had.
I really like to navigate families from beginning to end during their moves. I like to be there at the beginning and I would like to be there at the end. I like to make sure the house looks like a home when I leave. And that’s what’s disappearing. There is less and less of a need for long-haul movers [as opposed to local movers].
What’s happening now is you still have a group of movers moving trucks, but they’re not trailers that are picked up by a freight hauler and then taken [to its final destination]. He’s not a mover; he’s a freight hauler. He’s going to drop the trailer at a local moving company and then the local moving crew will take the trailer to the final-mile delivery and take care of [the customer]. The idea of having somebody in charge of a move from soup to nuts is rapidly disappearing.
Manual labor like this doesn’t seem easy, but yet it seems somehow satisfying. Is that true for you?
There is a clarity to manual labor because there is a definite beginning, middle and end to it. It goes back to the tribal thing, really.
Click here to devour The Long Haul by Finn Murphy.
Uppity: The Willy T. Ribbs Story: Willy T. Ribbs was the Jackie Robinson of auto racing. Despite being a Formula Ford champion in England, Willy T. had another race to win when he returned to America—the race against bigotry. Many owners, mechanics, sponsors, and drivers in the racing world derisively referred to Willy as “Uppity” behind his back; death-threats, unwarranted suspensions, and engine sabotage followed him throughout his journey in racing. Despite the setbacks, he was an amazing driver and he became one of the winningest drivers in the history of the Trans Am series. The establishment did everything in their power to keep this great driver down, based on his defiant attitude and antics. Through sheer determination, Willy shattered the color barrier in professional racing, becoming the first Black man to race in the Indy 500.
We Live Machinery: This frenzied documentary is an on-the-go account of the 2015 running of the Targa Baja California. The event is a classic car rally, run annually through the deserts, mountains, and cities of Baja California, Mexico. High speeds, mechanical breakdowns, hard partying, and tense drama are all part of the journey.
Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman: The world knows Paul Newman as an Academy Award winning actor with a fifty-plus year career as one of the most prolific and revered actors in American Cinema. He was also well known for his philanthropy; ‘Newman’s Own’ has given more than 350 million dollars to charities around the world. Yet few know the gasoline-fueled passion that became so important in this complex, multifaceted man’s makeup. He loved racing so much it nearly sidelined his acting career. Newman’s racing career spanned thirty-five years with him winning four national championships as a driver and eight championships as an owner — Not bad for guy who didn’t even start racing until he was forty-seven years old.
Henry Ford was believed to have once said about his Model T, “you can get it in any color you want, as long as it’s black.” A hearty joke that became ironic; in the late 1920s, GM gave that punchline a counterpunch. Unlike Ford, GM began offering vehicles in all shapes, colors, sizes and especially designs (inside and out). As a result, GM surged ahead of Ford, leaving its Model T in the dust. The designer behind that revolution: Harley Earl, the first head of design at GM.
Auto enthusiasts remember Earl as the pioneer of the “concept car,” as well as the originator of clay modeling of automotive designs. He also introduced the wraparound windsheild, the hardtop sedan, two-tone paint design, and, of course, tailfins. A major component to his wheelhouse was the desire to lengthen and lower the design of the automobile, which came to pass. Oh, and he also created the Corvette.
Today, the Harley J. Earl Trophy goes to the winner of the season-opening Daytona 500 NASCAR race. The award features a miniature version of one of his concept car designs: the turbine-powered Firebird I.
Writer William Knoedelseder, author of I’m Dying Up Here, traces Earl’s high tide that lifted all the boats at GM: Fins: Harley Earl, The Rise of General Motors, and the Glory Days of Detroit.
Here, we ask Bill to fine-tune Earl’s legacy and shine some perspective on it:
If people know Harley Earl at all, it’s for his innovation of tailfins in postwar automobile design, but he was on the vangard of more than just that.
It was the least of his accomplishments.
What did he do before he came to General Motors?
Harley Earl, because of his unique background, grew up watching both cars and movies being made, side by side [in 1920s’ Hollywood]. He wound up making dream machines for this group of young people [silent film stars]. They had come from other parts of the country to become more rich and famous than anybody could have imagined. They were his clients and he was hired to indulge them in anything that they wanted. That had never happened before. That carried him forward: he found out what people’s aspirations were. Everybody wanted to be young and rich.
How did General Motors see a need for a designer like Earl?
GM chairman and CEO Alfred Sloane had this idea of the only way to compete with Ford. He couldn’t underprice Ford. The only thing he could do was offer something more, maybe make the cars look different more often. It was a very daunting task that could have cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but Harly Earl devised a system in which you could do that [cheaply and effectively]. Do it gradually and continually so GM cars would look different every year, and in the third year, they would look a lot different. That literally blew open the car business, because it played to America’s aspirations.
How did an industry leader like Ford not envision this strategy first?
GM came up with the key to what turned out to be the future of the car business. Henry Ford had a genius manufacturing mind, but he didn’t have an artistic bone in his body. He didn’t have much of an idea beyond making a self-propelled vehicle that carried you and your shit from one place to another economically and efficiently. And to make it as cheaply as possible so that everybody could afford it. Beyond that, he didn’t have a vision.
The Model T was already on its way out. Henry Ford wouldn’t make any changes: “That’s it. It’s perfect. Leave it alone.” Model T sales just hit a wall and GM was ready. GM took over the lead and had it for the next 30 or 40 years. There was this window and GM moved into it. They basically ended Ford’s dominance.
At GM itself, Earl was not exactly welcomed with open arms. Why was that?
The car buisness was built by mechanics. It had a mechanical engineering culture. And this guy comes along with his wild clothes — they thought he was a “pansy;” they called him “Hollywood Harley” — and he was going to take the design out of their hands. They didn’t want to hand that power over to him. So they fought it. With his will and fearsome temper, and the backing of Sloan, Harley won out.
He took a huge industrial enterprise, and changed the focus from mechanics to aesthetics. He was like Steve Jobs by asking, “How should it look?” Looks are just as important as function.
He was reportedly hell to work for. True?
He had a vision that not everybody shared. He pushed it through. This runs among great men who are trying to accomplish things that haven’t been done before. They’re trying to get their troops in line to get it done. And you don’t have time to deal with someone who doesn’t get it or is pushing back. They have to go. Plus, he was impatient. He would fire people at the drop of a hat, and he had that kind of power back then. You could fire people back then for something like not liking their suit. Harley was a man of the age. And he knew he had the backing of Albert Sloan and there wasn’t anything anybody could really do about it.
How did the tailfin design of the late 1940s and 1950s catch on?
Airplane imagery was the imagery of the future. It was exciting. We had just won a global war. It seemed that anything was possible. Also, fins on a fish or a whale is all about power and stability and maneuverability. Then it just took off. Nobody forced that down the public’s throat. People just liked them.
The ‘59 Cadillac was the fin that ended all fins. The only one keeping fins after that was Cadillac. They slowly but steadily reduced them, but Cadillac defined the car by its fins. It took a few years for them to disappear.
The ‘59 Cadillac could be the single defining image of the 1950s. You can’t look at that fin and not think of the 1950s.
Although the public carries an ongoing love affair with the ’57 Chevy, designers actually prefer the ’55 Chevy. Why is that?
The designers who made it just loved that car; that was their favorite car they ever worked on. They actually liked the ‘57 the least, but the public liked it the most. The designers liked the ‘55 better because it was cleaner, it was unadorned. It appealed to their designers’ aesthetic.
The ‘57 is the collectible; that’s the car that Eric Clapton sang about, not the ‘55. I like the ‘57 better. There was something about it. It had more pizzazz. It had more panache. Buying a ‘57 Chevy is much more expensive than buying a ‘55 Chevy today.
Harley’s job was to make sure that what they designed appealed to the public.
What was his inspiration for the Corvette?
His mantra was always longer, lower, wider. At some point, he had gotten there. He couldn’t make them any longer, lower or wider. The only way to go was to go smaller. And he saw all the college kids driving around in MGs, Triumphs, and Jaguar XK 120s. That’s how the Corvette came about.
How would you describe Harley Earl’s legacy?
After Henry Ford, he should be remembered as the most important person in the development of the American car. He changed the game forever to focus on styling over mechanics. There was a problem with that after a while, but it took the car business to the heights because it did appeal to America’s aspirations.
The Bug Movie is a feature length documentary film about the most recognizable and beloved vehicle on the planet: The Volkswagen Beetle. From its dark past in pre WWII Germany to the Summer of Love, this car captured the hearts of millions of people worldwide. This film explores not only the history of this automotive icon, but also the intense emotional connection it has with its owners past and present, including actor Ewan McGregor and his experience with his first VW Bug as a sixteen-year-old.
The Ford versus Ferrari rivalry at Le Mans is one of the most famous battles in racing history. It started in 1963 when Henry Ford II tried to buy Ferrari to save the ailing Ford Motor Company, which was being crushed by GM and the Corvette on the track and at the dealerships. Ferrari was the most successful racing team in the world at that time. After months of intense negotiation, Enzo Ferrari said no — refusing to allow Ford to interfere with what he loved the most: racing. Henry Ford II was furious, and vowed to build a racecar that would dethrone Ferrari. Ford engineered a revolutionary racecar called the GT40. The battle would be at the most famous race in the world, The 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Ferrari had reigned supreme for decades. In the 1960s only two teams ever won Le Mans, Ford and Ferrari — Cementing dynasties that would last for generations.
Yep, there’s much more. Click here to check it out.