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July 31, 2009


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Bernard Guerrero

"The pouty cute one who's flirting with Nimoy? Is 50 now. Oh, you 1980s."

Dude, you suck. I did _not_ need to hear that. The comic strip thing was depressing, too, though I'm not sure if it's because the strips in question suck so much right now or because I might recall a time when a few of them were funny.


One thing that's hurt most comic strips is the way newspapers allot them less and less space. This forces the strips to be smaller and detracts from the quality of the artwork.

Quality issues aside, I have respect for cartoonists who are able to turn out comic strips for years on end. While I don't know much about the economics of the industry, chances are most cartoonists don't have the resources to hire teams of writers to keep coming up with new storylines. To the extent these are mainly one-person operations it's not surprising that the stories may get less inventive as the years go by.

On a different note, I don't necessarily have a great deal of respect for wunderkinds Bill Watterson and Gary Larson; sure, they produced brilliant, innovative comics, but essentially burned out after comparatively short periods of time. There's something to be said for year-after-year workmanship, even if it never quite reaches exalted heights.

Bernard Guerrero


-At the surface level, Thwaites' project is interesting from a tinkerer's POV. It kind of reminds me of numerous SHWI discussions on technological development and how early Technology X could have been rolled out or used on a massive scale. (Also brings to mind Carlos' riff on the game "Guns or Butter". Fun!)

-One level deeper and the project looks dumber. He's cheating all over the place by using other tools and technologies that are no more the product of personal craft than the toaster is. i.e. microwaves, leaf blowers, abandoned commercial mines, etc.

-One level deeper, and it appears to me that he's trying to make a silly point. The contrast between the global scale of productive efforts and personal-use end products is real, but trivial. The concepts of absolute & comparative advantage hardly new or unconsidered. The results of same afford not merely a more comfortable living for most, but in many cases life itself. Without scale and division of labor, huge swaths of stuff that he relies on to a _much_ greater degree than a toaster would also be utterly impossible (or, rather, unavailable to most as anything beyond the level of curiosities sometimes heard about or glimpsed at fairs.) I have no patience for neo-Luddites.

Doug M.

Bernard, I don't think Thwaites is a neo-Luddite. He's coming at this from an artist's perspective, which is neither an engineer's nor an economist's. So, when you point out that the concepts are "neither new nor unconsidered", I suspect that's at right angles to Thwaites' interest in them.

So, jet propulsion is not a new concept. This --


-- was still worth doing, no?

Doug M.

Bernard Guerrero

Sure, it was worth it for the shear fun of flying around on a jet back-pack! I don't get the feeling that Rossy was trying to make any particular point apart from the coolness of it all, though. Thwaites appears to be trying for something deeper:

"So are toasters ridiculous? It depends on the scale at which you look. Looking close up, a desire (for toast) and the fulfilment of that desire is totally reasonable. Perhaps the majority of human activity can be reduced to a desire to make life more comfortable for ourselves, and has thus far led to being able to buy a toaster for £3.99 [among other achievements]. But looking at toasters in relation to global industry, at a moment in time when the effects of our industry are no longer trivial compared to the insignificant when our, they seem unreasonable. I think our position is ambiguous - the scale of industry involved in making a toaster [etc.] is ridiculous but at the same time the chain of discoveries and small technological developments that occurred along the way make it entirely reasonable."

Granted, maybe neo-Luddite overstates things....

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