|The latest batch of books rescued from life on the streets|
Well, it's finally here, that dreadful date that the Mayans predicted would see us all hung-over and squinting at a merciless sun - the oneth of the oneth of onety-oneth. What? Oh, very well - Twenty-baker's-dozen, the oneth of the oneth of 2013. Father Christmas's birthday on the 25th of last year saw me nicely stocked with re-homed books to read, thank you very much indeed. This happy band, these lucky few, have survived the spine-breakers, the corner-folders and the gravy-splashers and have now found their way into book heaven. A shelf space all of their own, lots of fresh bedding and the nearest to danger that they will face is a little tussle with the home-baked crusts of a midnight Marmite sandwich.
So far I have been around America in a Chevette, out to Mars, nearly into the Sun, through several critical battles with some quite odd Generals and through an alien portal to the centre of our galaxy.
I wear Hubble-varifocals. Like most of the artifacts around us today, the design is mindless and appalling. The lenses are upside down, that's the only way they are made. Some numpty ages ago made a chance or random snap decision and no-one to this day has questioned it or thought about form or function. To see close distances and look at objects right in front of me I must move my head up towards the horizon and the sky. To see long distances, things that are far away from me, I must move my head down towards my lap. With my head in the "neutral" position, looking somewhere through the middle of the lenses and without having my head either pressed into my chest or rolling down my back like some inebriated zombie everything about two metres away is in focus - good for none of the activities that consume 90% of the average day such as looking across a room at what the dog's just squeezed out, driving, boiling a kettle or reading a book.
When I'm under a camera they are even more useless.
It's not even possible to get varifocals that work from "side to side" - to see longer distances look to your right a little, for shorter distances look to your left, for everyday tasks look straight ahead because we've adjusted the optical effect according to need, not slavishly followed a steady curve. Even those would be better than these!
Mindless, thoughtless design makes my blood boil. Design something properly just once, build it to a high standard just once and it will work beautifully for ever after. Be lazy enough to sod the design stage once and a thing is a thing of excrutiating inconvenience a million times thence to a million people in a dozen different ways.
To read a book comfortably I have two choices. I can give the dog knock-out drops and then wedge the open book between her upturned buttocks on the floor two metres away, or I can take the Hubbles off my nose and read without - with the pages ten centimetres off the end of my schnoz. With larger books this entails swivelling my head from side to side to capture the whole of the page. If using the latter technique I must also squint through just one eye, since the prescription for one eye is very different to that for the other.
When using the up-turned dog's buttocks method I have to be barefoot so that I can turn the pages. If reading in bed without my specs I have to find my plate of sandwiches by touch, somewhere out there in the fuzzy void.
All of this might be avoided if only we humans occasionally didn't do things "the way they've always been done" or "the cheapest possible way" or "because up's up and down's down, innit, yeah". P-poor design is infuriating! Dyson did something brave by harnessing cyclones - and then he stuffed it into the common or garden age-old non-design the-way-we've-always-made-'em vacuum cleaner (and added p-poor engineering and p-poor build quality as jam on the cake). We've all embraced komputahs and what do we generally do with them? Nothing new, nothing revoutionary - we make them mimic paper documents and the postal service, the Box Brownie and, via the uniquitous cctv camera, the job's-worth nosey-parker bobby on the corner watching your every move. Nothing revolutionary, just what we used to do before but done faster.
As they say, if you have to put a sign on a door stating "Push" or "Pull" then the design of that door is a failure! Good design - great design - simply accommodates what is needed without constant fresh input. When we were hunting through the wilds of Surrey looking for something sabre-toothed to eat the shrubbery was moved out of our way without thought - how retrograde a step is it to surround ourselves with plate-glass doors in futuristic towers that only move one way and must be individually assessed and learned and consciously either pushed or pulled?
Brilliant design, absolutely revolutionary, brilliant design, does something entirely new. New - not just faster or more reliably or more cheaply or more often, but something new. Cars weren't revolutionary or brilliant - they are just an extension of the horse and cart which was an extension of the litter carried by slaves which was slightly better than stumbling around on foot. The Space Shuttle wasn't brilliant design - it was just a vehicle with a vector turned through ninety-degrees to the "horizontal" norm.
Everything we do is still just some form of runnin', jumpin', hitting things and shouting more loudly than the rest of our tribe. There really is nothing new under the Sun - but not because it's all been done before; because we move and think in tiny little safe steps built on the edge of the previous step.
For 2013 I will be continuing my quest. I want to have an original thought.
A new colour or sound, a brand-new concept, a fresh behaviour that is not built on a pyramid of old behaviours.
Before I die I want to think something truly new.
Now, if you'll please to excuse me, I'm off back to Mars and Mercury and Venus and touring with Bill Bryson and riding a motorbike (a horse by any other name) with Ewan McGregor and commiserating with Generals who lost wars by doing things that had always won them wars before and reading about robots who actually behave just like (surprise, surprise) human beings!
Future worlds where spectacle design is based upon what the spectacles will actually be used for rather than how spectacles have "always been made Sir".
Incidentally, that's why dogs always have those long back "feet" - so that when they are upside down holding a book between their buttocks their feet can be turned inwards to stop the pages slipping over. The tail is simply a furry extension of the familiar book-mark (although retrograde, since one should never slam a book shut on a dog's tail even with use of knock-out drops). It is, though, very difficult to give full attention to some weighty romance or classic space opera if the dog has flatulence. Most distracting, most distracting indeed.
Space - the final frontier - the future of mankind - darling, I love you - at last, I have conquered Europe - thwarrrrrrrrrrrrppppp-pop-pop-pop... (or however an extended dog-fart is properly indicated).
Splendid stuff anyway though. Chin-chin. Push-pull.
[Crosses eyes and tries hard once again to think a totally new thought.]
Addendum, courtesy of Mr Hippo on the lawn:
This absolutely says it all - and was "stolen" from Spreeblick.com.