25 April 2010

Hi-Yo Silvery Self-Absorption

Many contemporary leaders have a world-view shaped by the popular television series of their time. Like The Lone Ranger.
a fiery horse with the speed of light
a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo silver
the lone ranger

My Television

A child of the 1960s, the TV shows that most influenced me were The Munsters and Hogan's Heros.

Retrospectively I can say The Munsters exposed me to Flip-Side Metaphysics.
Many of our most closely held assumptions have a flip-side.
The Munsters saw Marilyn as a loveable eyesore when, to the non-Munster eye, she was veritable eye-candy.

Hogan's Heros bequeathed an affinity for pragmatism. That is,
Sometimes you cut a deal with your enemy to save your bacon.
How many times was Colonel Klink's butt in a sling?  Of those times, Colonel Hogan usually saved Klink's bacon via some mutually beneficial caper.

Contemporary Television

Is there something to be learned from vacuous self-absorption? Are there lessons from obsessive focus on nails, hair, creature comforts, and conspicuous consumption?

How will The Real Housewives of New Jersey influence tomorrow’s leaders?

Often we learn the most from things that repulse us.

Because of shows like The Real Housewives of Blank that orbit around narcissistic excess like eddies of plastic containers in shipping channels, I am hopeful the upcoming swell of leaders will be selfless servants of the public good.

12 April 2010

Chindōgu & Lasting Value

Chindōgu is the act of creating or conceptualizing a product whose usefulness is precluded by its absurdity.

Chindōgus are not absolutely useless, since they typically solve a problem; yet in practical terms, chindōgus are much more humorous in their inherent absurdity than they are useful.

The Japanese word chindōgu means unusual tool. Chindōgu, and its inventor Kenji Kawakami, were featured on the BBC television show It'll Never Work.

Sheep-like and Stupid

Chindōgu resonates because it tickles the funny bone and because it allows us to find humor in humankind's consumptive fixation - our need to buy things for a fleeting emotional bump.

Throngs of clamoring consumers camp out to be the first to buy the latest electronic device like the Apple iPad (Thingamabobs & Evo-Constants). Humans are sheep-like and seemingly stupid because, more often than not, instant gratification trumps reason.

Pet Rock Mindset

The Pet Rock mindset sullies inventors with silly ideas teetering on the edge of chindōgu-ism. If a new-fangled hunk of plastic costs $19.95 and acting now somehow sweetens the deal, it behooves us to examine the lasting value the object, if not the quality.
Imagine all the devices you thought you needed in a pile. Visualize a price tag on each item. Picture a garbage trunk compacting them. Are you grieving?

Change Minds & Behavior

The inventor's challenge is to make something that isn't throw-away, something that changes minds, and something that changes behavior in fundamental and lasting ways.

In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath argue for appealing to The Elephants and The Riders. The emotional side of change is known as the Elephant. The rational side of change is the Rider. They say, "The Elephant's hunger for instant gratification is the opposite of the Rider's strength, which is the ability to think long-term, to plan, to think beyond the moment."

Invented objects and concepts need to inspire and to appeal to our emotions, but more importantly, they need to provide lasting value.

07 April 2010

Divine Proportion on an Island

If baseball is like Beat poetry on quaaludes with a Jack chaser, then the shit we find in nature is divine poetry.

We traveled closer to the equator ostensibly to experience spring training baseball. We commuted to the games at Hammond Stadium from Sanibel Island.

Island life offered a couple of reminders
  1. Don't vacation in Florida if you've spent a lifetime looking and moving westward (Florida is the TV Calamity Jersey Shore with a sprinkling of conch shells and no Bruce Springsteen).
  2. People who make things ignore the divine poetry of nature at their peril.
Divine Proportion

monotheist who argues on behalf of a divine creator but doesn't appreciate the mind-boggling beauty of the Divine Proportion, is either playing at a disadvantage or living in a fool's paradise.

For one to espouse intelligent design without knowing the Divine Proportion is like trying to hit the long ball with a fungo bat.

Perhaps the Divine Proportion is eschewed by monotheists because it's a compelling argument for incremental evolutionary perfection and emergent- and continuous design so appreciated by the monotheist's philosophic counterparts - the atheist, the humanist, and the agnostic.

I can throw you my hardest fastball. My hardest fastball is a bedeviling pitch any 32-inch batsman of any age can crush like a Florida grapefruit. Realistically I have no pitches, yet like most of us, I can make a wiffle ball behave unpredictably.

Here's the pitch for the Divine Proportion.

Two sections of a thing-a-ma-jiggy magically follow the Divine Proportion, or Golden Ratio, if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one. Say wha?

Tapped into a calculator, this ratio gives the number


Always. Never fails.

That is,
(a + b) / a = 1.6180339887 = a / b

This ratio is observed in the dolphin's body looping in and out of the ocean ten feet beyond the shore break.

It's observed in the geometry of shells below your sand chair.

It's observed in the spiral of a palm leaf.

Stuff Made by Humans

Divine Proportion is also seen in stuff made by humans - anthropogenic objects like this spiral staircase:

Do today's designers regularly ignore evolutionary constants found in- and derived from nature?

Scientists and artists are paying attention to natural phenomena. The Biomimicry Institute makes a living studying how we might emulate natural forms, processes, and ecosystems to improve our designs.

To seize the day requires steadfast vigilance, the propensity to laugh, and the propensity to marvel at shit others are too busy to notice.

06 April 2010

Thingamabobs & Evo-Constants

A portable Ouija Board, but then what?

The techno-media's yadda-yadda about Apple's iPad reached fever pitch late last week.

The Twitter chatter
...you drove from Vancouver to Seattle, without reservations, and still got an iPad faster than I did!
drove me to my un-follow tipping point. And on TV, Stephen Colbert used his iPad to slice vegetables.

For those who gave up a kidney for an iPad, luckily there's an app available that filters urine.
Catheter? Meet USB port.

iPad Serving Tray

I tagged the iPad-as-Serving-Tray image above with:
gizmo, gadget, contraption, doohickey, thingamabob, and thingamajig
I amended my tags to include conspicuous consumption because of the flocks of would-be-kitchen-waste-recyclers camping out and clamoring for tomorrow's disposable consumer electronic device. Tag that with irony, then remember to save your iPad for future tea ceremonies.

If Steve Jobs is really as obsessive about details as Apple lore suggests, why would his product designers choose a form factor whose dimensions 9.56 inches by 7.47 inches, when divided, don't yield the golden ratio?



How is it that a shell, or a sunflower seed pod, or a palm leaf spiral have dimensional aspects that evolved over eons to conform to a number like 1.6180339887?

How is it that the proportions in various parts of a dolphin's body incrementally optimize over eons to yields universal evo-constants?

Is it professionally reckless for designers of consumer electronics to ignore these evolutionary constants?

Perhaps not. But in my mind, the designer had better have a compelling reason for ignoring time-tested constants found in nature.