Observe the radness which is today's Runner-Up:

Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues Picture Disc - $100 (Normal Heights)

Who's cooler than David Byrne?1

The big Winner of the Day, however, has to be:

Mitutoyo Machinists Tool Kit - $550 (Normal Heights)

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!

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Comments

CuddleFish Nov. 11, 2009 @ 4:47 p.m.

I hate and detest and despise Ugg boots!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hate and detest and despise Crocs!!!!!!!!!!!!

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PistolPete Nov. 11, 2009 @ 8:33 p.m.

The shoe you're thinking of AG, are Birkenstocks. The Croc shoes are uglier than hell but I'm hooked on the flip-flops. Their sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo comfortable. I need a new pair.

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antigeekess Nov. 11, 2009 @ 8:54 p.m.

Nooooo, not Birkenstocks. I know what those are. Every old hippie dude up here where I live wears Birkenstocks. It's part of their uniform, which also includes khaki shorts and a ponytail to make up for the fact that there's no hair on the 'top' of their heads.

These shoes are a very specific style of backless, ugly women's shoes, and pretty much exclusive to lesbian feet, I think. Like these: http://www.zappos.com/search2/Shoes/filter/productTypeFacet/%22Shoes%22/gender/%22Womens%22/subCategoryFacet/%22Clogs%20and%20Mules%22/size/%227.5%22/width/%22B%22/brandNameFacet/%22Dansko%22

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PistolPete Nov. 11, 2009 @ 9:07 p.m.

Ah. I think I know the ugly shoes you speak of.

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CuddleFish Nov. 11, 2009 @ 9:20 p.m.

Every old hippie dude up here where I live wears Birkenstocks. It's part of their uniform, which also includes khaki shorts and a ponytail to make up for the fact that there's no hair on the 'top' of their heads.

By antigeekess 8:54 p.m., Nov 11, 2009

Lord, woman what kind of hell is you living in?????

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CuddleFish Nov. 11, 2009 @ 5 p.m.

On a sort of related tangent re kitchenware:

Some years ago, I was asked to test a product for a plastics company (had to sign a nondisclosure form so won't say for who). It was a dark green rectangular plastic pan made for baking and/or microwaving, with a clear plastic lid. I was to use it for two weeks as I recall. So I baked a chicken in it, I baked brownies in it, baked a cake, think I did pork chops in there too. So the project designers sit down with me, and I had to bring the pan so they could take it back, so we go into details about the product. I said I couldn't put it in my micro, was too big, was otherwise very good, stronger than I thought it would be, etc. I mean the whole thing was kind of dull, really. Here are these five people sitting around a table taking notes, ... Anyway, finally, one of them says okay, one last question, what do you think of these? He pulls from a bag, I swear, three of the very same pans in yellow gold, turquoise, ruby red, emerald green, they looked like jewels -- I went oooooooooohhhhhhh, and I flushed with pleasure!! Those guys looked at each other and grinned. God knows what they were thinking ....

I got paid for that, too. ;)

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CuddleFish Nov. 11, 2009 @ 5:10 p.m.

*Four pans!!! Got so excited I couldn't count!!!

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antigeekess Nov. 11, 2009 @ 6:02 p.m.

So, does Ugg stand for Uggly? As in, so ugly that one "g" just doesn't cut it?

Crocs are right there in that same category, along with those round-toed clogs that lesbians like. Can't think of the name. Gawd, my ex-roommate had a bazillion pairs of those ugly things. Who knows why? They all looked alike!

You remember this guy -- right, Pike?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAhVmjptZMI

He liked tools, too. :)

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CuddleFish Nov. 11, 2009 @ 6:23 p.m.

Gawd, I was hoping all this discussion about tools would turn into a discussion about tools!!!!! :P

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David Dodd Nov. 11, 2009 @ 6:27 p.m.

That set of tools isn't even worth $100.00 pawned, I could get that set in a pawn shop for $50.00 more than $100.00 easy. Although I admire these tools from my past, they are way over-priced. One could probably talk a pawn shop down to $150.00 for all of it.

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