Ingenuity In The Service Of Silly

Sometimes I despair that dependency, government, regulation, shitty schools, and oh I don’t know… everything… is at odds with the ingenuity of the human spirit.  Don’t say it hasn’t happened to you.  I know it you’ve had that same nagging fear.

We should be an inventive creature.  We should be adaptable.  (With or without the Curmudgeonry.)  Yet here we are, the latest and most amazing generation of that overgrown monkey brained creature that started by walking upright and eventually became self-aware, and we sometimes get bogged down.  Sometimes we seem to forget that we rock.  We are meant to be awesome!  We were born to use our brain in the service of something unexpected and interesting.  Hopefully something fun.  We were meant to make the next version of the radioactive, glow in the dark, hovering, mousetrap.  Not, as many suppose, to shuffle papers or push around other humans.

The arc of history is not always upward and onward.  Sometimes it stagnates.  I don’t like the merest hint that I might be in a period of stagnation.  But sometimes it looks like it may be coming.  People without adequate technology to program PacMan flew to the moon.  They flew to the moon with sliderules!  Decades later I can have satellite TV but we collectively lost our shit and never went to the moon again.  Yes to “Bridezilla TV” but no to “space, the final frontier”?  Really?  Why?

On a smaller scale I’ve seen computers pop up everywhere but simultaneously dumb themselves down.  I used to meet geezers that had never seen a mouse and I found that understandable.  Now I meet kids who have never been without a smart phone that can call Hong Kong, yet they can’t swap their own batteries or understand where they’ve saved a file.  I find that reprehensible.

I don’t like sliding backwards.  I was promised hovercars and space flight, I got Twitter and Starbucks.  I demand a recount!

More desperately I get nervous at the local level.  The near universal lack of ability to “invent or fabricate” makes me nervous.  The market is awash with new cars but can’t always find a decent mechanic to fix an old one. For that matter I can’t find a stick shift car because apparently humans can no longer comprehend a clutch.  How can that happen?  (For that matter even with anti-lock brakes and auto transmissions have you seen how some people drive?  …but that’s another story.)

It shouldn’t be easier to find a surgeon than a plumber.  It shouldn’t be easier to have a new house built than find a carpenter to remodel a bathroom.  I can have a new garage built in a day but if the garage door breaks I have to fix it myself or go without.  Who saw that coming?

Luckily one can fight back against the sinking feeling.  First you turn off the TV (and set it on fire) and then you go fishing.  That doesn’t always work but you really should go fishing as often as possible.

If that doesn’t work I seek out people who like to display their manic works of creativity.  I’m talking about illogical but rabidly inventive gatherings like Sturgis.  South Dakota periodically hosts more lunatic mechanics per square mile than most places in the history of time.  Does a Harley need nitrous injection?  Is it logical to weld a chrome encrusted likeness of Marylin Monroe on a 30 degree rake springer fork?  Hell no…but it’s been done because it’s awesome.  Monster truck rallies, stock car races, 4×4 competitions, machine gun shoots, outlandishly intricate model train sets, steam-punked computers; some dude using a 3D printer to make something never before seen; these are the stuff of freedom leavened with intelligence (and sparked with a little craziness).

My favorite, all time best cure is an antique tractor festival.  There will be fellows there who wear overalls non-ironically.  They’ll nonchalantly talk of winching a rusted engine block out of a hedgerow and welding it back together from when a growing tree split it in half.  They’ll say this while leaning against the result which is now freshly painted and running smoother than it did when it was built.  (Often it was built when WWI was called “the great war”.)  The same goes for fellows who build their own steam engines.  I’m glad to know that hobbyists can and do re-enact the entire industrial revolution in their garage for fun.  What a relief!

That said I present the popinator.  This is well and truly the most useless gadget on God’s green earth.  On the other hand, look at what it has inside.  It is complex, it can target sounds, it can compute trajectories, it is something that could not be made without great technology and people with time to kill.  It, as stupid is it may seem, is the opposite of sliding into another Medieval doldrum.  It’s as whimsical as it is brilliant.  I have no intention of buying one but I’m glad to know that it exists.

H.T. to Musings Over A Pint.  (I might add that the fellow in that blog does a fair bit of brewing of his own beer.  Another ray of hope and push back against Brawndo Budweiser!)

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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9 Responses to Ingenuity In The Service Of Silly

  1. Joe in PNG says:

    Indeed. I wonder if we are to be the future monks of the coming dark ages, preserving and passing on various arcane skill for the eventual renaissance. Heck, I just finished building a bass guitar out of old hardwood porch railings, with none larger than a 1 x 4 (used a lot of marine epoxy to do it).

    Anyway, I suspect that the next humans to go to the moon will be surprised that we went there before.

  2. Kangtong says:

    Unbelievably stupid, yet whimsical. Won’t buy one, but yeah, I smiled.

  3. Archer says:

    Part of the surgeon/plumber problem, as iterated best by Mike Rowe and his letters to Obama and Romney, is that parents and public school teachers actively discourage kids from learning about the value and dignity of skilled labor. Nobody wants to have a job that doesn’t require a four- (or more) year degree. Nobody wants to work for a living.

    Of course it’s easier to get something new than it is to fix something old. The new thing is assembled on-site from parts manufactured in China, whereas the old thing requires diagnosing, troubleshooting, repairing, and testing (i.e. real work). We’re moving towards a “throw-away” society, where nothing has any lasting value because it can be replaced easier than it can be fixed.

    I predict that before long, good plumbers will command salaries approximating surgeons, simply because there won’t be many left, their workforce won’t be sufficiently replenished as the older generation retires, and their services are required to keep civilization … er … flowing.

    Just expect that the new ones won’t speak English as a first language.

    • Joe in PNG says:

      A friend of mine closed down his tv repair business a few years ago as the new tvs are pretty much unfixable. And truth is, most folks just replace them when they’re out of warranty anyway.

      • Seems like a fair number of folks replace stuff simply because they get bored of the current model. The old unit might be working as good as it did on day one but it still gets canned.

        I agree that a lot of new stuff is “unfixable”. I find that extremely disconcerting. As a consumer I’ll gladly pay a 10%+ premium to buy something that’s more easily repaired (especially if a particular model has parts that are cheap and easy to find). Alas sometimes I buy an object where that quality is uncommon. Household appliances come to mind. I have a dishwasher that is the spawn of hell and apparently was made only once, probably in a country I can’t pronounce, out of old Mazda tailpipes and hope. When (not if) it breaks (which it does a lot) I’m screwed.

  4. Toadmudgeon says:

    Toad The Wet Sprocket -Throw It All Away

    burn your tv in your yard
    and gather ’round it with your friends
    and warm your hands upon the fire
    and start again
    with the time i waste on the life i never had
    i could’ve turned myself into a better man

  5. SiGraybeard says:

    About 30 years ago, I started noticing kids in the stores couldn’t make change. If Mr. Cash Register told them to give you the entire cash drawer, they’d do it, and not even think they keyed something in wrong. Then I started hiring junior QC inspectors and found that a large bunch of adults can’t read a ruler. Have no idea what a tolerance on a measurement means. Again – 30 years ago. 1982.

    Frankly, it doesn’t look like stagnation, it looks like decay.

    On one hand, those of us that can do things will be welcomed at employers far longer than we might have thought. On the other hand, I’d like to retire sometime not to long in the future.

    • McThag says:

      And if they put the wrong size bill in the wrong slot they don’t even notice they handed you $22.56 in change instead of $7.56… Or become furious when you point out getting a one when you supposed to get a fiver…

      Or look baffled when you hand them $20.72 for a $3.72 sale…

  6. Pingback: Quote of the Day – Curmudgeon Edition

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