Archive for March, 2008

Steampunked – BoingBoing disemvowels my homie!

I have seen too many of these bullshit "clocks" appear on BoingBoing over the last five years, and this is the final straw. My good friend Richard, who is one of the most moderate people I know, has been disemvowelled for posting comments to suggest that maybe Cory Doctorow gives Roger Wood a little too much exposure on the Grand Old Blog, with his cute but pointless assemblages of victorian garbage with timepieces attached.

This will not stand!

If they were actual clocks fashioned from brass bobbins and doodads maybe I would be a little more impressed, but in fact they appear to be merely pile after pile of cogs and bells and springs with prefabricated clock movements tacked onto them. The junk has no bearing on the function, which basically makes them "Repulsive encrustations of pointless ersatz nonsense" as another commenter so eloquently put it.

BoingBoing is not just a blog; it is a source of information for vast numbers of people (including myself) about what is new and interesting in the world. These clocks are neither new nor interesting. They are Cory’s indulgence, and have virtually no relevance to the community which BB serves and benefits from.

So what’s wrong with a little indulgence? Nothing of course– who wouldn’t exploit such a position to share their tastes with an audience in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. But this steampunk clock shit has gone too far. It doesn’t take a "genius" to make stuff like this, and to suggest otherwise is an insult to those craftsmen who believe in making something well rather than just making something for ironic hipsters to fawn over.

If you search BoingBoing for references to Roger Wood and his clocks, you get 185 results. This is about 180 too many in my opinion. If these clocks were so fucking great then I’m sure other people would be talking about them, but the only place I hear of them is BoingBoing, where it seems like there’s at least one "Roger Wood my greatest pal the master genius steampunk clockmaker has assembled another cluster of old junk" post per month.

These are just a few of the search results from google:

  • Roger Wood clocks built on brass horns – My ex-neighbor Roger Wood makes spectacular assemblage-sculpture clocks out of junk. This week’s creations are built from dented brass horns and boy are…
  • My friend Roger Wood is a genius clockmaker who builds clocks into assemblage sculptures made from found objects, antiques, rust, and vacuum tubes….
  • My new Roger Wood clock – Visited my old building in Toronto tonight and stopped in to see my old neighbor Roger Wood, the talented assemblage sculptor whose clocks I dearly adore….
  • Roger Wood’s latest clock sculpture – I’m absolutely taken with the latest clock from master clock-sculptor (and my former neighbour) Roger Wood, Toronto’s virtuoso mad steampunk genius….
  • Roger Wood’s latest clock – My pal Roger Wood is an amazing assemblage scupltor in Toronto who makes the wildest goddamned whimsical clocks I’ve ever seen….
  • Roger Wood, the mad clockman, profiled in the Toronto Star – My pal and former neighbor Roger Wood, the mad assemblage clock-sculptor, got a swell and well-deserved notice in the Toronto Star last week….
  • Roger Wood’s latest steampunk assemblage clock – My pal Roger Wood is a mad assemblage sculptor in Toronto who makes gorgeous steampunky kinetic clocks. Every day or two, he sends out a "newsletter" to his…
  • New Roger Wood clock – My friend Roger Wood’s latest assemblage sculpture clock makes me…
  • Roger Wood’s latest clock – My pal and old neighbour Roger Wood is a mad sculptor/clockmaker in Toronto who builds fantastical clocks out of garbage and thrifted bits and bobs….
  • Roger Wood clock with laundry – My old neighbor from Toronto, Roger Wood, is an assemblage sculptor who builds whimsical clocks out of old junk. He has a little mailing list for fans of…
  • … etc…

It’s exactly this annoying repetition which causes myself and others to deeply resent Wood and his stupid clocks… not because they are bad, but because they are nowhere near good enough to justify this incredible ongoing exposure. Fine, advertise them on the site, but for Christ’s sake stop pushing this as editorial content.

I am truly sorry if this post offends Roger Wood. I don’t think he deserves ridicule for his work per se. But the overwhelming praise he consistently receives for this stuff means that eventually, people like me are going to come to despise his work, for having it continually pushed in our faces as something cool.

And before I forget, a big FUCK YOU to an increasingly conservative BoingBoing. I can’t believe you would censor someone merely for questioning this ridiculous self-indulgence. [Teresa Nielsen Hayden, I used to think you were cool]

It’s a sculpture. With a clock attached. Enough already!

PS: BoingBoing you have single-handedly diluted the word steampunk into a pejorative term. Show some editorial standards, please.

An Apology

To my American readers, I hereby offer my humblest apologies for being among the vast number of non-US citizens who labour under the assumption that Americans are somehow incapable of understanding irony. Having recently met one of you in person, I have had my ridiculous preconceptions exploded (and am now eating copious amounts of humble pie).*

Fortunately Stephen Fry has just written/spoken on this particular stereotype, and of course he puts it more eloquently than I ever could:

… if there is one misapprehension about Americans that annoys me more than any other, it is the lofty claim, usually made by the most dim-witted and wit-free Britons, that America is an – ho-ho – “irony free zone”. Let it be established here, this day, that no one, on pain of being designated fifty types of watery twat, ever dare repeat that feeble, ignorant, self-satisfied canard ever ever again. Americans are no more irony illiterate than Britons or anyone else and the repeated assertion (and it is no more than an assertion not a demonstrable provable fact) is no more than a pathetic symbol of a certain kind of Briton′s flabby need to convince themselves of their sophisticated superiority over the average American…

(link to full article)

We in other countries tend to see the very worst of your culture in the media, in your current administration, along with the hideous Fox News style media coverage and the repulsively sincere celebrity puff pieces on everything from Entertainment Tonight to 60 Minutes. This is of course no basis on which to judge an entire population, and so, in the spirit of reconciliation let me say:

I am sorry, and will sincerely try to avoid such prejudices from this day forward.


* it may seem strange to change an opinion based on meeting just one person, but sometimes you don’t notice that you’re carrying a stupid assumption around with you until someone challenges it, and only then do you realize that it just doesn’t make much sense.