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Posts Tagged ‘humor

“All men know the use of the useful, but nobody knows the use of the useless!”*…

 

daniel-gebhart-de-koekkoek-a-guide-to-being-better-photography-itsnicethat-13

 

Chindōgu is the art of inventing seemingly practical but ultimately useless gadgets to enhance everyday life. Popularised in Japan in the 90s by its creator, Kenji Kawakami, it was originally just a comical section that appeared in his monthly magazine, Mail Order Life. From fans attached to your chopsticks that cool your food before you eat it, to a Pritt Stick of butter that allows for easy application onto your toast, chindōgu is the perfect balance between ingenuity and absurdity.

As such, it instantly grabbed the attention of Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek…

To date, there are over 1000 official chindōgu items in existence. Poetic and political in nature, they are comments on the state of consumerist culture and the materialism of modern life. They poke at fun at our reliance on technology and inability to carry out basic tasks like administering eye drops. Though humorous, chindōgu has a set of rules – a list of ten commandments, in fact – that must be adhered to. They are as follows: Chindōgu must be (almost) completely useless; must exist (they should be real, useable objects); must represent freedom of thought and action; must be understood by all (its function should not be obscure); must not be sold (they are not tradable commodities); must not be made purely for the sake of humour (it should also be an earnest attempt to solve a problem); must not be used as propaganda; must not be taboo (cheap sexual humour etc.); must not be patented; and must not be made with prejudice (they must be useable by everyone, young and old, rich and poor).

A perfect fit with the other tongue-in-cheek projects that make up his portfolio, including his Make Alpaca Great Again series… Daniel knew he had to find a way to shoot this phenomenon…

More at: “Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek recreates the ingenious yet useless inventions of Chindōgu.”

* Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

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As we investigate intention, we might recall that it was on this date in 1985 that the Coca-Cola Company, concerned that it had been loosing share to the sweeter offerings of competitors like Pepsi, introduced Coke II (or “New Coke, ” as it was widely known).  Consumer reaction was swift– and profoundly negative.  Three months later, Coke caved, reintroducing the original formula (rebranded as Coca-Cola Classic)– and enjoyed a boost in sales… leading some charitably to suggest that New Coke was just a ploy.  But the company maintained that it was absolutely for real…  and the episode has become a cautionary example of the dangers in tampering with an established product/brand.

New_Coke_can source

Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday!

 

 

Written by LW

April 23, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Vanity, not love, has been my folly”*…

 

rejected-vanity-plates-1068x712

 

When a DMV customer wanted to supposedly express his affection for his two children, Kyle and Sean, he applied for a vanity plate that read “KYLSEAN.” A sharp-eyed DMV staffer reviewing the proposed plate quickly raised an alarm. “Kill Sean!” he scrawled on the side of the application. Request denied.

KylSean was one of 20,000 requests for personalized plates that the California DMV received that month; nearly 250,000 were fielded by the department in 2018. Applicants are required to fill out a form listing the personalized plate they desire, along with a brief explanation as to why they want it. Whether or not the plate sees the light of day falls to a panel of four beleaguered bureaucrats, who weed through the slush pile and ferret out requests that are racist, tawdry, or otherwise offensive. It’s a tougher job than you might think. Ever since vanity plates were introduced in 1972, Californians have tried sneaking all manner of sly euphemisms and overt obscenities past the department’s guardians of civility…

As one of the most diverse states in the Union, California contains an expansive lexicon of offensive, lewd, and inappropriate words and cultural references. (Californians speak at least 220 languages—that’s 220 different ways to say “poop.”) But armed with Google Translate, Wikipedia, and Urban Dictionary, the DMV’s sentries gamely manage to weed out profanity in multiple languages, coded Nazi symbolism, and obscure internet acronyms…

Los Angeles Magazine obtained thousands of rejected applications via an official records act request.  See a few of the more brazen, creative, and accidentally provocative plates, complete with the applicant’s explanation and the DMV’s deadpan response: “Rejected Vanity Plates: inside the important job of keeping poop puns, dick jokes, and hate speech off California’s roadways.”

* Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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As we keep it civil, we might spare a thought for André Jules Michelin; he died on this date in 1931.  Co-founder, with his brother Édouard, of the Michelin Tire Company (Compagnie Générale des Établissements Michelin) in 1888, he earned a place in the Automotive Hall of Fame for creating the first pneumatic tires that could be easily removed for repair (for bicycles in 1891 and for automobiles in 1895), and for introducing tire tread patterns, low-pressure balloon tires, and steel-cord tires.

Anxious to promote tourism by car, André created a tourist guide organization which placed milestones on French roads and established a standard road map service for most of Europe.  He created The Green Guide, a gazatteer and inventory of sites and attractions.  And with  Curnonsky (Maurice Edmond Sailland), he created The Red Guide, with hotel and restaurant ratings… all of which remain in operation– and in heavy use by tourists– today.

220px-André_Michelin_1920 source

 

Written by LW

April 4, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Every once in a while, people need to be in the presence of things that are really far away”*…

 

McFarthest

 

The temperature was hovering in the mid teens outside when we all made our way down to the continental breakfast that occupies the lobby of every roadside motel in America. There was a couple hovering over watered down coffee and self-made waffles when my dad proffered information about our morning: “We’re on our way to the McFarthest Spot!”, as if fully expecting them to smile and say back “Oh, what fun!” Instead, we were met with blank stares and an uncaffeinated “what?”

The McFarthest spot, of course, is the point in the contiguous United States that is furthest away from any McDonald’s restaurant. A brilliant (if eccentric) man named Stephen Von Worley determined it to be in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota some years back. A twist of fate, unsurprising to any resident of Tonopah, led to their McDonald’s closing and moving the coordinates some. Recalculating the location of the Spot with the newly closed restaurant absent from the dataset pushed our beacon of hope west.

The Spot now lies on some BLM land in the middle of Nevada, just northwest of Groom Lake – better known as Area 51. It’s just over 120 miles as the crow flies to the nearest Big Mac, even more if you account for driving miles. It seems to me oddly far, but also strikingly close given the magnitude of the 3.1 million square miles we in the US have between Canada and Mexico…

Tag along on “A Visit to the McFarthest Spot.”

* Ian Frazier

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As we dally at a distance, we might note that to day is April Fool’s Day.  A popular occasion for gags and hoaxes since the 19th century, it is considered by some to date from the calendar change of 1750-52— though references to high jinx on the 1st of April date back to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1392).

April Fools’ Day is not a public holiday in any country…  though perhaps it should be.

The McFarthest entry above is not a gag.  Nor is your correspondent’s suggestion for an April Fools smile: this ad (via the Minnesota Historical Society) for a Bobcat loader:  Bobcat A Go-Go.

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 2.00.14 PM Do click here

 

Written by LW

April 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

“For I have trained myself and am training myself always to be able to dance lightly in the service of thought”*…

 

dance

For the last 11 years, Science and the AAAS have hosted Dance Your Ph.D., a contest that challenges scientists around the world to explain their research through the most jargon-free medium available: interpretive dance. [see here and here]

This years winners have been announced:

Scientific research can be a lonely pursuit. And for Pramodh Senarath Yapa, a physicist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, even the subject of his research is lonely: singleton electrons wandering through superconducting material. “Superconductivity relies on lone electrons pairing up when cooled below a certain temperature,” Yapa says. “Once I began to think of electrons as unsociable people who suddenly become joyful once paired up, imagining them as dancers was a no-brainer!”

Six weeks of choreographing and songwriting later, Yapa scooped the 2018 “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest. The judges—a panel of world-renowned artists and scientists—chose Yapa’s swinging electron dance from 50 submissions based on both artistic and scientific merits. He takes home $1000 and immortal geek fame…

Learn more, and see other category winners at “The winner of this year’s ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ contest turned physics into art.”

* Søren Kierkegaard

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As we tempt Terpsichore, we might spare a thought for Glenn Theodore Seaborg; he died o this date in 1999.  A chemist, his discovery and investigation of plutonium and nine other transuranium elements was part of the effort during World War II to develop an atomic bomb; it earned him a share of the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Seaborg went on to serve as Chancellor of the University of California, as Chair of the Atomic Energy Commission, and as an advisor to 10 presidents– from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton– on nuclear policy and science education.  Element 106 (the last of the ten that Seaborg discovered), was named seaborgium in his honor.

Like so many of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, Seaborg became a campaigner for arms control.  He was a signatory to the Franck Report and contributed to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

 source

 

Written by LW

February 25, 2019 at 1:01 am

“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”*…

 

Coffee

 

Cream, milk, skim milk, sugar, sweetener; more recently, soy milk, almond milk…  there’s not a lot of variation in the things one adds to coffee.  Phronk has devoted himself to blazing alternative paths…

This is a blog about putting weird things in coffee. I drink coffee every day, but get bored with the same old cream and sugar. I figured I might as well document my experiments for the benefit of all humankind…

From “Maple Bacon Latte” through “Tumeric and Matcha in Coffee” to “The Peanut Butter Solution: PB2 in Coffee.” he guides one through preparation, then assesses the results of dozens of adventurous brews.

Take a sip at “Putting Weird Things in Coffee.”

[TotH to Eureka!]

* Abraham Lincoln

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As we broaden our horizons, we might recall that today is National Margarita Day.  While its origin is uncertain (there are several competing creation stories), it is indisputably the most-ordered cocktail in the U.S., accounting for almost 20% of all mixed drink sales in the U.S.

20150323-cocktails-vicky-wasik-margarita source

 

Written by LW

February 22, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Poetry is emotion put into measure”*…

 

concretepoem

Concrete poem

 

From Petrarchian through Cinquain to Sestina, Adam Bertocci offers 22 variations on Shakespeare’s most famous poem: “Alternate Forms for Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.”

* Thomas Hardy

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As we match content to form, we might send craftily-constructed birthday greetings to Ross Thomas; he was born on this date in 1928.  A thriller writer considered by many to be America’s answer to Len Deighton or John Le Carre– only funnier– he wrote The Cold War Swap, his first novel, in six weeks– and won the 1967 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.  He went on to write 19 other novels under his own name and 5 as “Oliver Bleeck.”  His 1984 novel, Briarpatch, won the Edgar for Best Novel.  In 2002, he was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award— with Ed McBain, one of only two posthumous recipients.

ross thomas source

 

Written by LW

February 19, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered imaginations; reality is therefore abandoned”*…

 

presidents park

Presidents Park, near Williamsburg, Virginia

Birmingham-based photographer Leland Kent travelled the South to document “abandoned places”…

six flags

Six Flags Amusement Park, near New Orleans

jax

Jax Lanes, Jacksonville, Florida

See more of these three sites and many others, all with explanatory history, at Abandoned Southeast.

* Emile Durkheim

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As we forget to remember, we might send acerbic birthday greetings to Alexander Humphreys Woollcott; e was born on this date in 1887.   A critic and commentator for The New Yorker (and a member of the Algonquin Round Table), he is probably more easily recognized these days as the inspiration for “Sheridan Whiteside,” the main character in the play The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and for the far less likable character Waldo Lydecker in the Otto Preminger film Laura .  (Woollcott himself was convinced that he was the inspiration for his friend Rex Stout’s brilliant, eccentric detective Nero Wolfe; but Stout denied it.)

220px-alexander_woollcott_(1939) source

 

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