Invisible people, iPad-not, duct tape, scam art, and a bonus Historical Moment

  • Earthmover

    See photo at right. Can you tell what kind of earthmover that is? Look carefully — can you tell where it was made?

  • Now: Did you notice the man standing in front of it? See here and here for more of Liu Bolin’s work.
  • OK, now try this: Scatter some pieces of lumber on the floor. Prop up a broom in the corner along with an empty laundry bag, a bucket,  some rubbish here and there. It would look like this. That’s not a messy room being cleaned up. That’s an expensive artwork by “artist” Susan Collis. That’s it, that’s the artwork, the room with the junk scattered in it. She calls it “Since I fell for you.” She got paid a bunch of money for that. One commentator said it should have been named “So glad you fell for this.” Artist, or scam artist? You decide.
  • Forget about an iPad: Yeah, there’s a huge backlog on iPads, particularly 3G units, but take my advice and fugeddaboutit. Lots of reasons not to buy:  six reasons, ten reasons, twelve reasons, and one big reason from me: it’s not for the prudently paranoid. This thing bares all to Apple and AT&T; there’s nothing you do that they won’t know, record, and do who-knows-what with it. You’re not even allowed to get software from anybody but Apple or connect to anything not Apple-approved. I’m a fan of Apple and tablets are a great idea, but don’t get a tablet from Apple. You can do much better for less money (also from Samsung, RIM/Blackberry, others) and get better security and privacy too.
  • Universal Truths:
    • Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together.It’s true.
    • If it moves but shouldn’t, duct tape. If it doesn’t move but should, WD-40.” That’s my own dictum and I’ve found it universally true.
  • Power to go — and go and go. Fuel cells are the Holy Grail of clean, efficient power production. They turn fuel directly into electricity with no combustion, no flame, no moving parts, and no pollution — fuel (like hydrogen or alcohol) goes in, electricity and a bit of water vapor come out. (More info on fuel cells.) The problem with fuel cells has always been very high cost, but for $99 this one will run small devices (phones, GPS, etc.) for many hours or recharges. Great emergency or travel gadget; for $99 there’s nothing even remotely like it.
  • Female mutilation — just a little bit: If female genital mutilation is abhorrent and wrong, is it OK for U.S. pediatricians to do it just a little bit to avoid having it done worse? Interesting question.

And now a historical moment:

On this day in history — June 17, 1885 — the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor, a gift from the French on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which had been nine years earlier in 1876. Having arrived nine years late, the gift included a card stating “And you thought we forgot! Happy 100th! Don’t forget we’re French!”

Part of the Statue of Liberty kit being assembled

The Americans didn’t realize that the statue came as a kit and required assembly, a practice later adopted by Swedish furniture stores. Across the nation there was a recruiting drive for dads with young children who had experience assembling foreign-made toys. The dads struggled with the instructions (which were only in French, Norwegian, and Korean) and with the oddly-sized screws, but the process went much quicker once they realized the French screws were all metric. The process went quickly after that and the statue was soon installed at its permanent display location on New York’s Central Park and became known as the Bust of Liberty (see photo at right)*.

Bust of Liberty. Who knew?

Not long after that some French tourists saw the Bust of Liberty at Central Park and were outraged, insisting that the statue they’d sent was much larger than that. They raised such a ruckus that the dads decided to rummage some more in the box and, sure enough, found a bunch more pieces. They collectively sighed, groaned, asked for more beer, got back to work until October 28, 1886 when the full statue was officially unveiled, only 10-1/2 years late. (And yes, the original plan was for it to have been ready on July 4, 1876. The French started work on it in 1870 but, you know, things happen, and it took 16 years instead of 6. Instructions in English were promised for next time.)

Bits of trivia:

  • Though the Statue of Liberty was not in place until 1886, in fact it had been exhibited, sort of, in 1876. At the time of the original deadline in 1876 the only part that was ready was the arm with the torch, so the French sent that to the U.S. and the arm and torch were exhibited in Philadelphia during the Centennial celebration. People were charged 50 cents and the money went toward building the base pedestal in New York.

    The gateway to freedom for millions

  • French sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi is credited for the design of the statue, but in my view equal credit should go to the man who designed the unseen internal iron structure that allowed it to be assembled of moving copper pieces and to withstand all the storms and even an enormous explosion in 1916. That unsung structural engineer was Gustave Eiffel, the man who also designed and built the Eiffel Tower.
  • Even before the statue was delivered and in a fit of capitalism, sculptor Bartholdi took out an American design patent on the statue so that no one in the U.S. would be allowed to build a similar statue or representation of the statue without paying him royalties. The patent covered not just replicas but reproductions  “in any manner known to the glyptic art in the form of a statue or statuette, or in alto-relievo or bass-relief, in metal, stone, terra-cotta, plaster-of-Paris, or other plastic composition.” I wonder if all the trinket-sellers in New York know that. Or care.

* The “Bust of Liberty was displayed in a park for a time, but it was in a park in Paris before the statue kit was shipped, not New York. That’s what the photo is from.

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