Mentos, Coke Zero, Rockets, and Steampunks: Maker Faire, 2010
So I spent most of the day at the Maker Faire in San Mateo. Sort of one part geek convention, one part Burning Man, one part Renaissance Faire. But it's sort of a cool new movement in the culture, the Do It Yourself (DIY) movement.
What I liked the most about it was the sheer joy the exhibitors had in busting open stuff that you're really not supposed to bust open -- a propane tank, a computer, an iPod, a barbeque grill, a bike -- and "fixing" it, modifying, making it cooler, or better, or just more fun.
The ifixit.com booth was interesting -- their motto: "If you can't open it up, it isn't yours."
Above, a dissected iPhone. I love it when people split something open like this. Is it just me, or does it feel vaguely Tea Party-ish?
And then there's the obligatory Mentos + Coke Zero demonstration:
We've got to get Ricochet contributor John Ratzenberger, my old friend from Cheers, to comment on this. He's a passionate advocate of tinkering and making stuff and building stuff. I've heard him speak really movingly about what's happening to our culture -- and our kids -- now that we don't teach ourselves how to fix and build and fool around with stuff anymore.
When I was a kid, I used to love to shoot up Estes model rockets. They still make them. Here, a guy let a bunch of kids build rockets out of masking tape and paper, and then he fired them up in the air with a (jerry-rigged, of course) air compressor.
What I loved about the Maker Faire was how dangerous it was. Seriously. There was a lot of fire blasting outside, and a lot of duct-tape modifications made to things that probably shouldn't have been modified at all, especially when it's just duct-tape and prayer between you and a flying piece of molten metal. Such a great spirit.
There's a whole new hipster movement, called Steampunk, in which hipsters (and people a little too chubby to be hipsters, if the crowd at Maker Faire was anything to go by) get all dressed up in late 19th century clothes -- I mean, I'm sure there's a lot more to it (well, I'm not sure sure, but I'm trying not to judge) -- but I can't help thinking that this is what happens when a generation grows up without the Boy Scouts, which was, basically, a 19th century movement designed to take soft, pampered boys of the time, who didn't know about Napolean-era privations, or pre-railway travel, or Chinese Gordon holding Khartoum against the Mahdi, and teaching them how to do stuff. How to build a trap. How to tie a taut-line hitch. How to make do. I have to say, pretty much everything useful I ever learned -- how to cook an egg; how to make sure your tent stays dry in the rain; why it's important to wash your dishes in hot water; that sort of thing -- I learned as a Boy Scout. School and college educated me. But they didn't teach me much. If you know what I mean.
And now we're left with this:
"Learn to solder." Because they don't teach you how to solder anywhere, anymore.