Small Streams

The Gift of Science
December 6, 2013, 3:30 am
Filed under: business, education, math, mind, technology | Tags: , ,


I saw this lava lamp display at the V&A’s Museum of Science. Honest to Pete, I think there should be a whole room devoted to a lava lamp display. Who doesn’t love lava lamps? That and oil and glycerin on a projector, the psychedelic “wet show.” Maybe some polka dots and mirrors like the Mattress Factory‘s Yayoi Kusama installation.

The trick would be to create a room that excited the senses but didn’t make you physically ill.

If there’s any problem I have with lava lamps, it’s that science gift shops devote so much shelf space to them. Many science museums’ gift shops concentrate on the “ooh, shiny” distractions rather than objects that indulge people’s (not just children’s) love of the methods of science. I have to admit that people who run museum gift shops know more about what sells and what sells the experience.

If you’re just out for a happy trip, you don’t want to be scolded into homework at the end. No one likes to take a trip and bring home a memento that reminds them that they are not expanding their minds enough. So I really can’t advocate for a gift pack of Euclid’s Elements — though there are some great geometry puzzles that would make great gifts. The Science Museum does have a great book section and a lomography section and Technology Will Save Us shelves. When I was there last, they had someone demonstrating paper gliders.

I don’t expect science museums to check their impulse to cater to their audience any time soon. I just hope they can do more to indulge people’s desire to think about things. I will now stop ranting and leave you with the instructions for making your own lava lamp.

Mother of All Malls
December 5, 2013, 4:39 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Camden Lock Market

Camden Lock Market

Arcades were the original malls. That’s a heavy and probably unfair burden to bear. But they were created by retailers and developers to control the environment. You are free to do what you want as long as you are buying and not ruining the buying experience for anybody else.

But the arcade was the nursery of the aimless wanderer, the flaneur, the turtle-walker, the place where you were among, or rather you were, the crowd. The grip of commerce wouldn’t always hold. Your only obligation was to understand and comment on the passing scene.

Empathy is the nature of the intoxication to which the flâneur abandons himself in the crowd. He . . . enjoys the incomparable privilege of being himself and someone else as he sees fit. Like a roving soul in search of a body, he enters another person whenever he wishes. — Walter Benjamin

Now we have virtual arcades: Facebook, Twitter, and Tumbler. We can occupy other bodies. We can think and say and retract and sing our bodies electric. Like in the arcade, on the internet, we believe we are free. Our job, of course, as the ads on my WordPress pages reminds me, is to buy.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 9.32.39 AM

Thank goodness there is this wonderful chance to subvert it all: Subvert our tastes, our politics, our relationships, our bodies . . .

For now, at least.

That’s why I think I’ll go back to making things. When you make things you are obligated. You are obligated to do the best job you can, and you are obligated to live with the results.

By the way, isn’t the ceiling at the Camden Lock Markets fantastic?

Post-Thanksgiving Walk
December 4, 2013, 3:35 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,
Well-laden Canal Boat on Regent's Canal

Well-laden Canal Boat on Regent’s Canal

After Thanksgiving dinner, we took a walk along Regent’s Canal. We saw a number of canal boats, but this is the one that seemed most self sufficient. I can give any number of reasons why living on a canal boat would be a very bad idea for me: my height, my poor marine maintenance skills, and my body’s reaction to cold wet weather among them. Still, this well-provisioned craft can help me dream properly.