Ian Pike noon, Dec. 8
Observe the radness which is today's Runner-Up:
Who's cooler than David Byrne?1
The big Winner of the Day, however, has to be:
I confess to a love of tools--especially highly specific or extremely precise tools. It would be hard for the tools in this advertisement to be more precise, ergo, I love them. Simple, multi-purpose tools are wonderful as well. Consider the variable-speed drill, a tool of great versatility and almost incalculable practical value. I no longer have my drill and not a week goes by that I don't miss it for some reason. But the one-use sorts of tools are really the best. One of my personal favorites would have to be the Hozan, as I call it. It only does one thing, but it does it perfectly, every time.
Probably the single biggest reason I have such a love for these tools is that they represent a remarkable flavor of ingenuity. Something like the Hozan exists solely because the problem of tightening lockrings can be solved in no other (reasonable) way. It's a ridiculously specific solution to an equally specific problem and the idea of something with such a specific function just fascinates me. Tools evolve in conjunction with different industries (machinist's tools for machinists, bike tools for bike mechanics, knives for cooks, etc) and the way they reflect the industry for which they were designed is always interesting.
I'll veer of for a moment and talk about kitchen tools for a little bit. There's an aspect of unified design to commercial grade kitchenware that's truly mind-boggling. The hotel pan system, by way of example, is a glorious piece of engineering. Your pans are divided up into different sizes: hotel pan (the size of those chafing dishes you see in buffets all the time), half pan, third pan, six pan, nine pan. Using those fractions, you can arrange specific quantities of food in limitless ways. It's clean, efficient, and perfectly suited to the task at hand. And it's not just the pans that work together. I posted about a salad spinner a few days ago. I neglected to mention that that particular spinner is a fairly common, industry standard model. Now, it's fairly large, way bigger than you could ever use in a home kitchen, but the amount of lettuce it holds fits perfectly into a deep hotel pan. And deep, full-size pans just happen to be the most common receptacle for prepped lettuce within the industry. I'm not going so far as to claim that this modularity is entirely by design, that might be pushing it too far. I do think that the tools which support the industry evolved in a quasi-organic manner and some sort of engineering natural selection by way of market forces and product research shaped the sizes and functions of various tools to work together as well as they do.
It's doubly interesting when tools move away from pure functionality and begin to incorporate some degree of form-centricity into their nature. Chrome wrenches are simultaneously corrosion resistant and stylish. Elegantly carved ebony handles on fine kitchen knives are classy as well as being easier to hold and more suited to precision knifework. When taken too far, you end up with a tool the function of which is compromised by its overly embellished form. The best example that springs readily to mind would be the alternative whisk. Any alternative whisk. I'm sorry to all the product developers who are trying or have tried to create a better whisk, the balloon whip is perfect and will not be improved upon, that is just how it is. Sure, those fanciful designs look like something you'd want to buy, but they don't whip cream like they're supposed to.
Now, where was I... Ah, yes! Tools. Sitting halfway between need and want, function and form, tools can be surprisingly informative. They are a simultaneous testament to the depths of human ingenuity, and to the equally human tendency towards decoration for appearances sake. Perhaps--and I realize that this might be going way out on a limb here--what passes for human "nature" is the weird spot between those two extremes, somewhere in the land of either or and neither nor.
Also, are people really still buying Ugg boots? Or, for that matter, selling them on craigslist? I figured such tacky footwear would fade quickly from fashion's fickle consciousness. Shows what I know...
1. Ha! Trick question--nobody's cooler than David Byrne!