Wednesday, May 14

A Little Darker, Please.

Our present toaster, like so many gadgets, is more of a subscription to appliance world

R. Porrofatto

THESE two  articles in the Sunday Times caught my attention. In the former, the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit, the Briggs Stadium of my extreme youth, where Al Kaline and Norm Cash and Harvey Kuenn played a child's game instead of working summers, where for a while Rocky Bridges enjoyed watching ball games and kept a wad in one cheek that made him look like Dizzy Gillespie with Bell's palsy, is being fully or partially demolished (which being the point of the article) for free, in exchange for the salvage rights; in the latter, the rise of thoroughbred fatalities is linked to a Win the Glamorous Races At Age Three Or You're Cat Food mentality that may be weakening the breed.
[Waymon Guillebeaux, a vice president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation] also turned a measured eye to the present and said that remaining structural pieces are valuable. They are from the first half of the 20th century. “The steel is the highest of the high grades,” he said. “Steel was cheap then.”

Adding that all metal prices had “gone through the roof,” Rottach said the demolition would be a green project with about 85 percent of the materials recycled.

Now, the only thing I know about economics is that Milton Friedman won a Nobel for it by the simple expedient of using the word "freedom" at least twice per paragraph, thereby giving birth to both the Sisyphean School and a generation of David Brooks columns.  

See, I can't understand why 85%  of the materials in every project known to man wouldn't be recycled.  When did it ever make sense to just throw shit in a hole and put a match to it?  How is it that stewardship has never entered into the equation, except as the anti-capitalist agenda of Dirty Hippie, Inc. ?

Here, again, I'm not insisting common sense should necessarily trump statistical investigation, and I'm not saying the degradability of product quality over time, or increased scarcity, hence cost, is strictly attributable to unchecked avarice and its avatars and professional touts. I'm saying we ought to be able to make a fucking toaster that works as well as they did forty years ago, and the fact that we do not is enough evidence to grab these fuckers by the wrist before they turn over another card, search 'em for the gaff, and ride 'em out of town on a rail, suitably tarred and feathered.

It's more than possible, it's likely I'm an idiot, but, then, I'm pretty sure that when the Reagan administration simultaneously oversaw (if I may use the term) the mass consolidation of the meat-packing industry and simply upgraded every slice of cow in the country ("Everyone under sixteen years of age is now...sixteen years of age," and, after all, why quibble about Grades when you aren't really going to inspect anything anyway?) it was not in consideration of some new technology that turned gristle into filet, but one that turned the public's gold into its own. Freely, as they note in the econ biz.


Anonymous said...

R.Porrofatto got it right.

As everything moves to subscription world, every thing has the quality of a cheap magazine.

How can I buy the intellectual capital rights to toast?

Unknown said...

Well, the toaster point is better than my particular bugaboo: ornament hangers (as in Christmas, er, holiday trees). Back in my youth, you could have hung one of Ruben's Marie de Medici series on one of those mofos. Nowadays, they're like dental floss. What's up with that?

I realize a bit of overkill was involved back in the day, but come on.

Speaking of which, your original "harangue" regarding toasters, and the mention of "quality goes in before the name goes on" reference, which I think belonged to Zenith, reminded me of a dirty joke from the sixties (or that's when I first heard it), which is, no doubt, all kinds of misogynistic, but it was the sixties. I think it had to do with a guy trying to con his girl/fiancee into premarital sex and his pet name for his penis. You can guess the rest.

Unknown said...


Christ, I can't even write well when I try.

Preview, dms, preview.

LittlePig said...

It may tie in with the (for me) maddening tic of calling everything "product", e.g. "we made 4000 units of product on line 4 yesterday".

Maybe if they were making 'toasters' or 'ornament hangers' or a 'stereo receiver' instead of an abstract accounting concept the things might actually function past the 90-day Very Limited Good-Luck-With-That Warranty.

Anonymous said...

I think it has to do with the gradual infiltration into just about every economic sphere of the tenet that as many consumer products as possible must be ephemeral and disposable, thereby assuring they must be replaced at shorter and shorter intervals. They compensate for the lack of basic durability and quality with bells & circuses to seduce the hapless wanderer at Best Buy or Sears. Who the hell needs a washing machine in black or electric blue that looks like a portal to another universe?

You wouldn't think this ephemeral/disposable philosophy would have a big effect on something like ornament hangers, but... I had occasion to clean old wire clothes hangers out of a long-neglected closet the other day, and take them to a local dry cleaner who honorably recycles hangers. Some of them were 30 years old (they had Bicentennial paper covers on 'em), and damned if they didn't feel heavier and more substantial than the Hangers of Today.

Of course the "disposable" bit depends on people being willing to throw stuff out - which is psychologically more likely with lightweight plastic stuff than with a solid piece of pre-post-modern domestic engineering. Now that people are getting warier about the consequences of throwing everything away, it's remarkable how hard it can be for the average householder to get rid of some things, especially in a state (NJ) that has pretty thoroughgoing recycling laws.

Li'l Innocent