Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ideas have consequences

So does where you park your car ...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yesterday's standard

I just picked up this Wahl Eversharp mechanical pencil.

There are scores of these things available over the internet. The Wahl company began production of these pencils around 1915, and had sold over 12,000,000 by 1921.

This model - referred to as 'Gold-filled' (gold-plated) - is still surprisingly common. Back in the day there was nothing especially out-of-the-ordinary about this sort of pencil.

The standard of finish and quality of machining is high - this is a piece of writing art; functional but aesthetically pleasing. 'Henry' obviously thought it nice enough to not be in a hurry to lose it.

Now I compare it with my day-in, day-out Faber-Castell. Functional and sleek ... but I'd doubt someone will score this pencil in 80 years' time and wonder at its quality and design.

Ah, yesterday's standard!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Taking a shot at Cupid

Happy Valentine's Day!

Pictures of Cupid appear around the place at this time of February.

The obvious design question revolves around the machinery of love, or the history of archery.

What makes love work is a little bit too big for me to tackle tonight, so here's a nice little running history of the story of bows and arrows.

In case you're wondering, Cupid is normally seen armed with a recurve bow (compound bows and cross-bows coming onto the scene long after his innovation).

Friday, February 13, 2009

If you choose the white pill, Neo ...

... your clients will appreciate some minty freshness.

Before I walk into a meeting with a client I always do two things: turn off the mobile phone, and pop a Tic Tac or two (I say 'or two' because according to the ads they effortlessly tumble out of those little plastic boxes in twos).

My boss is a big advocate of the breath mint. He was put onto it by a former minister who told him, 'Never decline a mint when one is offered you.'

I would rather be in the place of offering myself a Tic Tac than getting into a meeting just after coffee and having a client force some mints across the table to me.

As it happens, the Tic Tac is due this year for the embarrassing cards and the special party with long speeches: the humble minty sugar bullet turns forty in 2009.

I wonder if anyone still has an original packet? It's not just the Tic Tac itself that is fresh; the box design, with its classic integration of the living hinge, is pretty cool and timeless - a nice design.

The Tic Tac is brought to us by Ferrero, the same people who blessed the world with the 'Rocher' (and also with that source of novelty plastic toys that every parent dreads the assembly of, the Kinder Surprise).

Here is a nice little article on the Tic Tac; only thing missing is an 'Ode to Tiny Pellets of Deliverance'.

That little 18g pack loaded with 1.9 calorie white wonders lasts a surprisingly long time. They don't feel like a lolly - they are, instead, a business accessory. Perhaps I should be claiming them as a business expense (Russ??).

Is there a small familiar 'work accessory' you enjoy occasional indulgence in? (Perhaps we should just take various forms of caffeine as a given.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recovery from discovery

Don't act all shocked on me. Yes, I am back for the third evening in a row. Who knows? This could be habit-forming! Perhaps not. But maybe. I dunno.

Moving along ...

How often has the act of discovery put you in a bind?

You stumble across some hidden gem - perhaps it's the $50 / night accommodation you found in *******, Tasmania. Or it might be the stunning $4.50 'Titanic' burger that was unveiled to you in ********, in rural northern NSW. Perhaps it was just the pleasure of spending some time one-to-one in the company of a Jimmy Watson trophy winner, and indulging in his delicious port at the cellar door in ****** ***** in Victoria.

And so you see the bind.

You want to tell someone else about your discovery, but you don't want to spoil it. You want to be able to discover it again, finding it just as satisfying as the first time you discovered it. There is a longing for the discovery to remain unspoilt.

I guess it's probably a form of selfishness, often disguised with half-convincing justifications.

Of course, when you do share it with other people, and they 'taste' of your discovery, there's that wonderful moment that they share their delight with you. And if you never share a discovery, you don't have the pleasure of those conversations.

And perhaps the little burger joint in Inverell, or the Graeme Miller winery in Dixon's Creek, or the ladies who manage the manse accommodation at Stanley will think that no one loves them and decide to shut up shop ...

Perhaps the best way to keep a discovery alive is to share it.

P.S. Many thanks to Dave & Erika for clueing me up on where we could buy copious quantities of **** at truly amazing prices. We have stocked up with several cases since! The Murray Valley Ch@rdonn@y which worked out at around $2.45 per bottle delivered is amazing. The $4.65 Sh!r@z was also stunning value.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"It's a bit didactic" AKA "So obvious it hurts"

There is a sounding board in my life called Cara.

The Greek word behind the name means 'joy'; just occasionally the name means 'ouch'.

We sound a lot of stuff off each other: ideas, art, photos, music, kids, wine, the pronunciation of 'bolognaise' (all in no particular order). Nothing is safe.

The other week I legally downloaded a free album ('Nobody's Cool') off the website of the (now defunct) Californian band The Arrogants. Several songs on the album grabbed my attention straight away. They were the simpler songs on what is a fairly Cranberries-ish (is that a word?) album. Their lyrical intent arrested my attention.

The songs 'Why T.A.N.G. is my favorite band' and 'Nobody's Cool' are songs that tell us to keep it real. There's really no such thing as a rock star or some super breed of human being that carries more dignity and value than the rest of us. You cut us, we all bleed.

I played the songs to Cara, hoping to impress her with the 'in your face' approach the band took to the issues. Her response? "It's a bit didactic." Ouch.

It's too straight-up, too obvious. And I think she's right.

'Why T.A.N.G. is my favorite band' attempts to be a cool song, but what it actually does is explain / rationalise parody. In so doing - in telling us why T.A.N.G. are a cool band, and how they critique the music industry, and what's wrong with the music industry - the song actually labours a point that T.A.N.G. makes with ease.

Ironically, one of the band members of T.A.N.G. is a band member of The Arrogants (the lead singer's husband).

The telling of truth can be a delicate matter. There is, unfortunately, a trend afoot to make truth somehow slippery and evasive or unknowable, and this borders on deceit.

On the other hand, we see those who can only tell truth by taking everyone out the back of the woodshed for a talking-to.

Emily Dickinson gave us that line: "Tell all the truth but tell it slant." Eugene Peterson has prodcued a series of lectures on the parables of Jesus using the title, 'Tell it slant'.

This is not about making truth slippery; it is, instead, about reading human beings well as we engage in the business of truth-telling.

Sometimes the court jester has more success in making truth apparent than the lecturer. There is a way of telling truth that comes in under the radar, that comes not straight at our armour but with a glancing sideways blow instead. And it strikes us hard and deep when and where we least expect it.

Jesus did this with his parables. T.A.N.G. apparently did it with their songs. And The Arrogants manage to take a slant telling of truth, and give it to us straight. A bit like someone producing a film called 'This was Spinal Tap: the documentary behind the mockumentary'.

(That said, I have been enjoying the album; it was hard to argue with the price.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When words ... run out

Sometimes it's really hard to know what to write.

Sometimes words seem so inadequate.

For joy, for sorrow, for grace, for compassion, for bewilderment, for hope, for forgiveness, for walking into darkness, for pressing towards light.

We are able to 'feel' far beyond the boundaries of words.