Thursday, March 4, 2010

The throes of creation. Perhaps just a single throe.

Overseas perceptions of the New Zealand national character seem to lay special stress on the 'inventive' trait. Case in point: Following a long-established hoverwing design, a Nelson mechanic builds himself a wingèd hovercraft that uses the ground effect to travel 1.5 m above the water -- which is cool as fuck, especially since he has improvised a lot of the parts. I WANT. Then he puts it up for sale on an internet auction site. The story 'goes prokaryote' as the kids apparently like to say, and in the course of telling and re-telling it is reconformed to fit collective expectations about New Zealanders, losing or gaining details to ensure a more comfortable fit. At the end of the process, Rudy Heeman is a Genius Inventor comparable only to Ilmarinen the Smith -- a Thinker Outside the Box and all-round Renaissance Man, a Denizen of the Workshed who fucks sheep. Probably his name helps the meme.

Case in point #2: This guy claims to have assembled his own cruise missile for $5000 (or about €47.06 in real money) from off-the shelf components. Apparently The Authoriteez are trying to suppress his invention, which is why the completed missile is currently unavailable though 'in safe hands'. "A detailed level of documentation will be provided to those who qualify and are willing to pay a small subscription for full access to the project diary."

Coming from any other country, this story would arouse the same mixture of skepticism and derision normally reserved for e-mails from Nigeria about dead relatives and their sequestered wealth. But hey, he's from New Zealand, where they invent things all the time, so it's plausible! And you can buy his book! So the DIY cruise-missile yarn still enjoys a certain amount of currency.*

Now admittedly the national psyche does include a certain low rat cunning. And we have earned a reputation for improvising repairs and spare parts to keep things running in the absence of money from the powers-that-be (though these days, the spokesmen for our corporate masters economists and pundits are wont to deprecate this #8-fencing-wire mode of creativity, since it results in no marketable products and goes against the "craving stuff you don't need" mentality vital for the modern economy). But if anything, rather than inventiveness, we excel in leaping onto FAILwagons adopting stupid ideas just when more reality-based countries are abandoning them [scholarly footnotes here about the student loan scheme and the 1990s vogue for privatisation]. I blame the gold-rush tradition.

No doubt my own account of how to construct a Project Pluto nuclear-ramjet-powered long-range hypersonic bomber using smoke-alarm alpha emitters and ceramic cores from old one-bar heaters (controlled by a fluidic-circuitry computer) will receive the same uncritical reception. If there are critics, I expect them to provide their exact GPS coordinates.

* To be fair, I first read about it in the context of a Libertarian wet-dream about escaping from the shackles of national laws by taking to the sea in ships -- it relies on DIY cruise missiles to defend the floating freedom cities from pirates -- and libertarians are by definition poorly endowed in the critical-faculty department.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

...and libertarians are by definition poorly endowed in the critical-faculty department.

Hear him!

Smut Clyde said...

A typo. I meant "librarians".

mikey said...

Wow! I had no idea I was THIS far behind the curve. I make perimeter defense weapons out of single-shot 12Ga shotguns and tent pegs, anti personnel mines out of M-67 grenades and empty Del Monte creamed corn cans, and CBW out of laundry bleach and oven cleaner, and I thought I was cool.

Hovercraft and cruise missiles. Oh, shit. It turns out I'm even a bit of a hack at being the neighborhood wackjob...

Smut Clyde said...

Here at Bimler Research Laboratories we've managed to weaponise athlete's foot. Beat that!

Substance McGravitas said...

My dream is a swarm of tiny helicopters, each equipped with a one-shot zipgun. Then they just shoot anything that moves within some GPS-defined area.

Also they prepare banana splits.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

you guys are way behind the curve.

Libertarian Paradise already exists.