Wednesday, February 13, 2008

THE WAY THINGS WORK by David Macaulay

The Book: David Macaulay, THE WAY THINGS WORK: From Levers to Lasers, Cars to Computers -- A Visual Guide to the World of Machines. Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Very good condition; some age-related browning to dust jacket.
First read: 1990
Owned since: 1990

This book was a gift, though I no longer remember the occasion; I had been coveting the book for more than a year, and was delighted to get it. Many households probably have a copy of it, because it was a monster bestseller, and deserves to stay in print for a long time.

In fact, it would make an excellent gift to almost any household with schoolchildren, because it explains complicated stuff in a straight-forward, entertaining way, complete with drawings of the author's pet Great Wooly (sic) Mammoth. The Great Wooly Mammoth, the author informs us, is "wholly free from the confusion of COMMON SENSE," and is thus willing to be launched into orbit, floated on a box raft, dangled from a helicopter, and subjected to many other indignities.

An enterprising kid with access to basic electronic equipment could build her own loudspeaker from the illustrations here, although the explanation of nuclear bombs probably doesn't give you enough details to make your own.

The first section of the book explains simple machines, with one that is particularly relevant to my life today: the inclined plane or wedge, which is the basis for snowplows. We got another six inches of snow overnight, and this afternoon we're supposed to get freezing rain. Soon after that I expect cats, dogs, frogs and possibly even a rain of blood.

But in happier news, it's my brother James's birthday, so happy birthday and safe journeys to him, and a hearty welcome to his newest birthday buddy, Miss Zoe Fleder, who arrived last night. A most auspicious couple of days, all the way around.

Five Random Songs

"Razzle Dazzle," James Naughton & Company. From the Chicago soundtrack. Cynical but true; why worry about the truth when you can dazzle them with style?

"Old Friends/Bookends," Simon & Garfunkel. A live performance from the "Old Friends" tour, which I was lucky enough to see with the aforementioned Miss Zoe Fleder's parents. I can imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly.

"Carry My Picture," The Connells. A remarkably perceptive song about being on the receiving end of unrequited love, which is almost always more about the lover than the object of affection.

"Something to Talk About," Badly Drawn Boy. The theme song to the movie About a Boy. It's strange, I played this CD nonstop for months -- and have since completely lost track of Badly Drawn Boy. Time for a visit to iTunes.

"Hard to Explain," Cowboy Junkies. The Cowboy Junkies can sound like anything from country to near-jazz -- what distinguishes them is Margo Timmins's unique voice, which croons this blues number beautifully.

1 comment:

steve said...

I wouldn't worry about the directions on how to make a nuclear bomb...there's plenty of stuff on the Internet.