Sunday, January 29, 2006

How to Wrap

From the Guardian's Observer Magazine:
At Evian the way they've structured the flutes and the way they've webbed the outside of the bottle means the consumer can easily compress it. It's good branding, too,' he says. 'They've reduced the materials by redesigning the flute, but managed to give it an iceberg shape which conveys the meaning. Every aspect performs a function, giving strength and rigidity to the bottle, and you can crush it at the end of its life. I'd class that as brilliant eco design.'
An interesting article which nicely illustrates the play of conflicting goals in design.
The purveyors want things bright, cheerful and tidy. The buyers go along until confronted with the import of their choices. Those who must deal with that impact despair. Only the shortest of short term goals are met in most cases because 'we can't afford frills.'
What might a culture that valued simplicity and biodegradable packaging offer? How about this from How To Wrap Five Eggs by Hideyuki Oka, Bijutsu Shuppan-sha 1965. (English edition Harper & Row 1967)

-- ml

Friday, January 27, 2006

Authority is Given

Universal education is not an impractical ideal; it is a prosaic commonplace called life. I call it Universitas de Harden Knocken. We all attend will-he-nill-she. What we make of it is very much up to ourselves.

American culture in the past few generations has learned to despise experience and any wisdom it might bring and favor academically certified expertise. Less than a century ago most lawyers learned the law by clerking for a member of the bar. Managers rose from the factory floor. Modestly educated tinkerers invented world changing technologies. Today any one without a high school diploma is all but unemployable as a janitor.

Auto didacts are derided because they lack credentials. Some deserve derision, but not all. Fools are given credence because they have pieces of parchment noting their extensive residence in the groves of academe. Some appear foolish only because their theorizing is so far in advance of convention. Yet others because they are fools.

My point is not some defense of luddism or blind tradition. Rather let us closely question any assertion of knowledge. As Ben Franklin said: "It is the first duty of every citizen to question authority."

Authority may be given ... Skepticism is demanded.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More Precision Language

From a true master of the art:
"... There's glory for you!"
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't -- 'till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knockdown argument for you.'"
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knockdown argument,'" Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Precision Language

Another Del tale:

A child sat, idly, at the familial board before a piping hot bowl of porridge.
"Why aren't you eating?" asks Papa.
"I'm waiting for my cereal to get warm," is the reply.
"But it's hot. Eat!"

Precision language.
-- ml

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Ok. It's Saturday. Nothing like a union job with no weekends for disorientation.

Introducing Lapsang Soujong

It is Friday.
-- ml

So When Is a Year New?

Circles notoriously have neither beginings nor ends.

Cycles are circles by another name.

Add the dimension of time and the seasons dance in a spiral, either slow or fast depending on how much attention you pay. Thus my question.

Jews answer the question: September. Harvest is in and the barns are full. We know if the coming year will see feast or famine.

Christians, and other northern hemisphere types preoccupied with equinoctical precession, answer: At the Winter Soltice when the world stops getting darker.

Chinese answer: The first new moon after the first full moon following the solstice when we begin to plant.

The answer swings from the prudent, to the relieved, to the hopeful.

Welcome to the Year of the Red Fire Dog, January 29, 2006.

-- ml

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Old Friends

An e-mail arrives from the son of my college Drama professor. We were in Japan at the same time as well. Old friends.

In it Tony describes a scene in Dal's back yard in which the three of us are heading out to a shed behind Dal's house when an actor staying with them appears on the porch above the kitchen and either declaims a bit of Ulysses or otherwise engages us in actor play.

Old Tony, now a Theatre Director like his Dad, remembers that young Tony finds this experience numinous. He was in high school at the time and claims that this scene unlocked the possibilities of books for him.

I do not remember this event. But I do remember going to Dal's house to get props, or tents, or what-have-you, stored in the shed on many occaisions. So I can construct the scene as a stage set:

One figure is missing: Tasha, Tony's collie mix mutt.

I am still left to ponder the human dilemema that a happenstance of no memorable dimension to one can be a magnificent portal to another.

-- ml