May 18, 2008

The cultural contrast between intriguing guests and apparently brain dead yack TV hosts has John Derbyshire lamenting :

   ” It’s not the dumbing-down that bothers a lot of us fogeys so much, it’s the loss of interest in things and stuff.”

I”€™ll say- gone are the days when   Massachusetts and California overflowed with the not so wretched refuse of a domestic electronics industry that has since largely gone abroad , and government surplus property offices dished out a high tech cornucopia for pennies on the dollar of taxpayer money invested. The high water mark was the sale of bona fide Titan II ICBM engines fourteen feet tall to any wannabe rocket scientist with a thousand bucks and a truck,

Hence the attraction of the second career of John Ratzenberger, AKA “Cliff Clalvin”€. The former Cheers] actor is founder of the Nuts, Bolts, and Thingamajigs Foundation, “dedicated to raising awareness of skilled trades and engineering disciplines among young people.” . On the O’Reily Show he expressed “€œ unhappiness at the fact that young Americans don’t tinker any more.”

This bothers Derb” much more than kids not reading or going to art galleries.” But rejoice-  technophilia has gone wild at a California fair sponsored by Make Magazine,  where ,in a counterblast to anodyne OSHA regulations that felonize sharp objects and mandate chemical-free chemistry sets ,  fire engines belch celebratory fire,  robots strut the midway, and home-brew lightning flashes from ten-foot Tesla coils.

The sight of Muffin Cars with roaring turbines out-segueing Segways may make Congressman Waxman cringe,  and greens flee in terror, yet a merry old time was had by young and old,  including a fellow:

   ” holding forth in a vintage British military uniform and pith helmet, and is gesturing with a hand that holds a sloshing tankard of ale. “€œWe”€™ve been told by corporate America that we cannot fix the things we own,”€  John O”€™Hare told a somewhat shell shocked reporter from The New York Times:  “€œAll we can do is buy their stuff and like it.Cars have become too complex to work on under a shade tree, and people have no idea what is inside their cellphones and cameras. “€œAll this technology, and it’s not ours. It’s somebody else’s, Make is about taking that back off and making it yours.”€

the Steampunk enthusiast universally known as Major Catastrophe told the NY Times.  He stood out from the other 65.000 attendees by virtue of having arrived in this three story Victorian mansion on wheels.

This gearhead extravaganza sounds like serious Red State Stuff, and though such events began in the San Francisco Bay fever swamps that spawned the Home Brew Computer Club and the PC,  the sponsoring magazine, , is starting another Maker Faire in Austin Texas, with plans to expand the franchise. 

Boring as media culture has become, the heartland continues to cherish and fire the intellectual independence that ignited the Goldwater movement and led to the Reagan revolution.  It is one thing for libertarians to remove to the Nevada desert for an annual anarchist potlatch, quite another when Middle California breaks out of its smoke-free suburbs, and starts waving pitchforks and propeller beanies at the culture of regulation. MacGyvver gave way to Mythbusters,  What will the sequel be to The Boys [and now The Girl’s ] Book Of Dangerous Things ?


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!