The Germans are incredible at this shit.
Via the New York Times’ Lively Morgue blog, “In 1955, a 14-year-old with ambitions to go to the moon built a robot he named Gismo, winning the Industrial Arts Competition run by the Ford Motor Company. Gismo walked, talked and waved his arms, and he cost $15 to make. He was one of 72 examples of craftsmanship by teenagers on display at the Waldorf-Astoria.” (via silencematters)
So what’s wrong with us now? Can our kids still do this? Are they less educated? Less mechanically inclined? Are the tools of manufacture too complex and removed from them? Are the skills of manual labor devalued bu their surrounding people and culture?
I think the entire system of early childhood development and education is completely out of alignment with reasonable expectations for the life goals of the majority of American children and teaches them to devalue rudimentary materials and skills that were the grist for the mill of human innovation for millenia. I am percolating and bringing together ideas from a number of directions in which I’ working at the moment and hope to arrive at a cohesive early childhood educational philosophy in the next year or two.
There was a great piece on the state of American craftsmanship in the Times way back in July that I’ve taken forever to post… ” The Home Depot approach to craftsmanship — simplify it, dumb it down, hire a contractor — is one signal that mastering tools and working with one’s hands is receding in America as a hobby, as a valued skill, as a cultural influence that shaped thinking and behavior in vast sections of the country.” Read the whole article here.
Great cut away illustration of this imaginary ice cream plant. Ice cream is always a good example product to use when you really need to talk about technical, boring and toxic industrial insulation products.
While fires continue to burn and uncontrollably destroy homes in Colorado, the FDNY is preparing to do some controlled burning on New York’s Governor’s Island. According to a New York Times article, the FDNY is conducting burning tests to experiment with venting techniques in an effort to combat accelerated home burning times that the article, and presumably the FDNY, attribute to changes in the materials and flammability of materials used to make furniture today. It’s fascinating to read the complex consequences of the changes in how we make our stuff, but it frustrates me that in an article documenting radical changes to fighting fire caused by our new types of stuff, there is no mention of changing our stuff.
(I by no means wish to undermine what I am certain are some diligent and sincere efforts somewhere to make products less flammable, and I would like to learn about them…)
The New York Times piece, The iEconomy: How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work is a must read for anyone who cares about the state of this country and the direction in which we’re headed. I love Apple and I love this country. So it saddens me to watch our class structure deteriorate under a weight of consumer entitlement to the point where the working class cannot afford to work to manufacture the goods that it feels entitled to consume, and the ruling class cannot afford to manufacture at a price that reflects the purchase power of an employed and reasonably compensated consumer populace. It’s a bubble. Read the piece and try to envision for yourself where the American working class actually lives in the economy described in the article. And definitely watch the multi-media piece they put together. Excellent journalism and presentation. I hope they get a Pulitzer for this one.
No, sorry, that’s not right. A New York Times story today reports that “the beverage rivals are racing to become the first to produce a plastic soda bottle made entirely from plants.” And in all sincerity I hope they both get there soon. But in a load of BS so incongruous with a century plus rivalry between two industrial giants, the piece ends with this quote from Pepsi’s VP of global beverage packaging: “We don’t feel it’s a race” Ms. Lefebvre said. “We feel like were all working together to do better for the environment and also to make good business sense.” Yeah right. (more…)
I’ve seen this for years but it never really registered until a few weks ago when I was rebuilding a section of floor (see photo below)– Durock brand cement board has a marking that repeats randomly across it’s surface. It’s that “7″ shaped line all over the sheet in the photo above. And it looks to me like that gesture is a scratch from the machinery the sheets move on and across in manufacturing. It’s a rough gesture but it’s identical everywhere it appears so it appeals to me as this very mechanical artifact– almost a little map– of the material’s creation.