The electric drill is not the worst noise on the planet, but it does have a point....


As I sit in the spring sunshine here in Los Angeles, the City that invented the 'please consider your fellow man's position on everything you do', do I have to endure the insanely annoying buzz of a leaf blower? And for hours, not a few moments! No one seems to mind! Yet people have been told to take down wind chimes as they are deemed anti-social! It's not as if a leaf blower is a huge labour saving device. Moving leaves by air is counter intuitive, if not plain stupid. Leaves dance in a gentle breeze and take on the movement of a whirling dervish when moved by these things! Sweeping them with a broom is more effective and sooooo much quieter. But it’s manual labour....We do everything to avoid that now.

...and another thing

Modern technology has actually invented things that take so much longer than the original method they have superseded, yet we buy them as they are ‘labour saving machines’.

Take the kitchen. By the time I have set up most electrical stuff it actually takes longer to produce the desired effect than by doing the job by hand!  Whisk an egg with a hand beater…. two minutes max. By machine???? Dig out the bowl, attach plug, try and insert balloon beaters then I realise I am trying to fit left-over beaters from another machine so have to hunt for the correct ones, bang head on cupboard door as leaning over to go through a pile of whisks, kick the dog, drop the eggs….takes ten minutes.

There is the nonsense of electric everything from twirling spaghetti forks, carving knives, bottle openers, can openers to self-stirring mugs and digital egg yolk separators. Are we that lazy? Or even more frightening is perhaps a new generation growing up that doesn’t know how to do this stuff by hand?  Even making food now is all about opening a package, dropping it in water or tossing it into a microwave. If there were electric nose pickers and toenail clippers they would sell by the barrel load!

For me the decline all started in the 1970s with freeze dried mashed potato. That was marketing genius that defied logic. Potatoes are one of the cheapest foodstuffs on earth but we just could not be bothered to peel, boil and mash them?

So instead we eat some kind of chemical dandruff sold to us by spacemen (for those not in the UK, packet potatoes used tin Martians to tell us about this new wonder food). Since then we have progressed to anything automatic we are told that saves time but doesn’t. A good (or bad) example is the plastic snowball maker. Really???? These are just giant melon ballers and are not a patch on real snowball makers; your hands. Yet they sell in the hundreds of thousands!

...and another thing

Technology that slows you down is everywhere from shutting down your computer to opening the washing machine when it has completed its cycle     (see last week’s blog).

Wanna blast in your car from 0-60MPH? I used to get in, turn the key, rev the engine, drop the clutch and go off in a cloud of burning rubber and smell of burning clutch.

Now….Oooooh no.

It’s all about putting on a seat belt, selecting launch control, turning off traction control, selecting a specific sport setting for gear change….. by which time a tricycle pedaled by a man with a wooden leg will cover 100 yards faster than any Benz, Beemer, Fezza or Lamborghini.

...and another thing

In my research I came across a man who has made making useless inventions an art form….and despite my contempt for all the above, this man is something of a hero.

Martin Minsky was a Professor Emeritus from MIT and worked at Bell Labs in the 1950s. In his spare time he came up with a machine that would ring a bell if the force of gravity changed…..which it has not for millions of years and as far as I know still has never caused this machine to ring. It just sits there brooding, waiting to ‘ding’ out. The perfect useless machine. Genius. So pleased was he, that Martin went on to invent another machine whose sole purpose was to switch itself off once a human had switched it on. This took pointlessness to an art form, far beyond the realms of the electric loo paper dispenser, yet somehow fills me with such fascination at the utter lack of any real use for it that I want one!

...and another thing

So what will future generations hence look back on with wry amusement  and a shake of the head. Pen and paper? Drawings by hand, family cookbooks…. I suspect the puzzlement will reach an apogee when they have to dig up the cemetery at Forest Lawns near Beverly Hills. There they will uncover coffin after coffin with female skeletal remains topped by strange silicone blobs still resting on the ribs and a sliver of silicone where the lips once were!

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  1. Paola says:


  2. Tony says:

    Very, very well stated. Bravo!

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