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> I've Got Those Plastic Blues, I pine for wood, porcelin and marble...
Ian House
post Apr 10 2007, 01:04 AM
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I can't think of anything that offends my aesthetic sensibilities more than PLASTIC... Is this it? Are we forever sentenced to live with this stuff until the end of time? Will we EVER return to an age of high refinement and elegance? Just because something can be manufactured by using plastics, must it be? It just never stops. To me, when it comes to manufacturing, using plastic is like "phoning it in" - it's cheap, easy and disposable. It's function without form. (OK, plastic plumbing pipes make sense to me ... but that's it!)

_ _ _

I'm writing about this because I've just returned home from a trip to the market. Along my route, there is a vacant lot where they have been constructing a new church. Today, laying on the ground awaiting to be lifted into place, I saw a prefabricated PLASTIC steeple (fully formed with glorious -ahem- modern architectural detailing) It's a cheap joke -but- Is nothing sacred? It has as much appeal as a Burger King sign -actually, LESS! ... I can't wait to see how beautiful the stained-plastic windows will be.

I recently purchased a new home (which I highly doubt will survive a 19th Century brownstone in Manhattan) ... and I was depressed to learn that the highest grade bathtub offered by the contractor was made out of plastic. So much for the porcelain bubble baths of my lost youth.

True, plastic was invented in 1862 and enjoyed a steady period of experimentation and development throughout the 20th Century (remember Bakelite?) but we are currently reaping the FULL rewards of this chemical miracle child here in the 21st Century. And, it seems, it will only get "better" in the years to come :-( Soon, we will be driving the stuff, wearing the stuff, reading the stuff ... and maybe even eating the stuff as well ...?

This rant has been shrink-wrapped for your convenience.


This post has been edited by Ian House: Apr 10 2007, 03:22 AM

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post Apr 11 2007, 07:19 AM
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I used to feel the same way Ian does about plastic. But in recent years, I have actually become a fan of it. I am not a fan of how it is used sometimes. But that doesn't have to be a bad reflection on the material itself.

As someone who tends to relate to the so-called "Golden Age" more than he does his own time, I tend to go out of my way to find things unique to today's world that I can become enthusiastic about. One of those things is technological advances. For example, without the Internet, none of us would "know" each other - and there certainly wouldn't be any places such as Radio Dismuke where people around the world can listen in on broadcasts of 1920s and 1930s music.

One of the really nice things about our age is how inexpensive so many things are compared with what they cost in the "Golden Era." For example, look at ads for vintage items such as radios, records, phonographs etc and look at the vintage prices. Now go to http://www.aier.org/research/col.php and enter in the price and the year to get an idea what those items really cost back then when one factors in currency inflation. 78 rpm records were very expensive - and you only got two sides of maybe 3 minutes of music on each. One can fit the same amount of music you will find a wall of 78 rpm records into an ipod - and the audio quality will be many, many times better. The fact that music back then was worth listening to and very little of the stuff today is worth listening to is a different issue. In terms of aesthetics, things have definitely gone backwards in a major sort of way.

Many electronics and appliances today are so inexpensive that, when they go out, the time of day for a skilled person just to even take a look at them is often worth more than the cost of simply buying a brand new appliance. Back in the Golden Era there were shops that were devoted to fixing broken radios and, later on, television sets. Rarely is it even worth fixing modern radios and even many tv sets. That's not necessarily a bad thing - the reason why it was worth fixing them back then was because they cost so much money to begin with.

The one thing that is not cheaper today for the most part compared with back then is labor. So we get paid more and things cost less.

As for plastic, there are so many things today that would be so much more difficult for people to afford if they were forced to seek out other materials. So many things that we consider as cheap and commonplace today were once luxury items.

Consider what it means to be "poor" in America today. Almost all people classified as "poor" have refrigerators, electric lights and television sets. The vast majority have automobiles, air conditioning, microwave ovens and things like dvd players. Many have cell phones. 100 years ago, such things were either luxury items that only rich people could afford or were not even invented yet. 100 years ago, even many middle class people did not have electricity or indoor plumbing. Being "poor" 100 years ago meant having a hard time just finding food and clothing. Today, one of the biggest problems facing people in "poor" demographics is they eat too much food and are overweight. Food has become so inexpensive and plentiful that it is a challenge for a significant percentage of the population to find ways creative ways into disciplining themselves into eating less. The average "poor" person today in America lives in conditions and takes things for granted that a great many non-poor people 100 years ago would have considered luxurious and remarkable. Plastic, among many other technological developments is one of the things that has made that possible.

Yes, a lot of plastic items are ugly. But is that the fault of plastic? Plastic is very versitile and can be made in pretty much any form imaginable. There is no reason that it has to be put out in ways that are ugly. Imagine what industrial designers back in the 1920s would have done with it had modern plastics been available to them. One can get an idea of sorts by looking at the many beautiful bakelite products made back then. I assure you that what they would have put out would have looked really cool - as most things back then did. The problem in today's world is not too much plastic but rather not enough good aesthetic taste.

My ideal world of the future is that of a high tech version of the early 1900s. It would be a world where we would have all sorts of wonderful marvels made possible by technology - marvels that would make our lives easier, more enjoyable, more prosperous, more healthy and longer. It would be a world without the sort of bigotry, racism and other forms of backward thinking that were a historical blight that the early 1900s inherited from previous generations and was, unfortunately, part of that era as well. But it would be a world that has the aesthetic and cultural "spirit" that made the early 1900s so special. It would be a world where the music, the art , the architecture, the fashion trends and the trends in etiquette would actually be superior to the world of the early 1900s. Unfortunately, since we have gone very far backwards in those areas since the early 1900s, it would take a genious for someone today to be able to concretely envision what such art, music and architecture would be like. But such a world is very much possible - and worth fighting for. The best use of our passion for all of the many wonderful aspects of the early 1900s is to use it as inspiration for an even better future.
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Posts in this topic
- Ian House   I've Got Those Plastic Blues   Apr 10 2007, 01:04 AM
- - Gart   Ian, Rant or not, you always have something inter...   Apr 10 2007, 03:04 AM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(Gart @ Apr 9 2007, 09:04 PM) Wasn...   Apr 10 2007, 03:17 AM
- - victrolajazz   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 07:04 PM) S...   Apr 10 2007, 04:01 AM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(victrolajazz @ Apr 9 2007, 10:01 PM...   Apr 10 2007, 04:12 AM
|- - victrolajazz   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 10:12 PM) A...   Apr 10 2007, 04:20 AM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(victrolajazz @ Apr 9 2007, 10:20 PM...   Apr 10 2007, 04:34 AM
|- - victrolajazz   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 10:34 PM) T...   Apr 10 2007, 04:40 AM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(victrolajazz @ Apr 9 2007, 10:40 PM...   Apr 10 2007, 04:58 AM
|- - Flapper Girl   Wow! Does it get any better than this? Tha...   Apr 10 2007, 02:25 PM
|- - victrolajazz   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 11:58 PM) E...   Apr 10 2007, 03:43 PM
- - Ian House   Well, we'll know the answer in: 66 days, 13 h...   Apr 10 2007, 04:56 AM
|- - laughland   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 11:56 PM) W...   Apr 10 2007, 05:37 PM
- - Flapper Girl   Oh, for the days when cars came with shiny, chrome...   Apr 10 2007, 10:12 PM
- - Roseman   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 07:04 PM) I...   Apr 11 2007, 02:35 AM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(Roseman @ Apr 10 2007, 08:35 PM) On...   Apr 11 2007, 03:14 AM
- - dismuke   I used to feel the same way Ian does about plastic...   Apr 11 2007, 07:19 AM
|- - Victor C. Brunswick   QUOTE(dismuke @ Apr 11 2007, 02:19 AM) On...   Apr 12 2007, 08:11 AM
- - Andy Senior   My black PLASTIC 1927 Parker Duofold Jr. fountain ...   Apr 12 2007, 12:16 AM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(Andy Senior @ Apr 11 2007, 06:16 PM...   Apr 12 2007, 03:37 AM
|- - victrolajazz   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 11 2007, 10:37 PM) ...   Apr 12 2007, 03:50 PM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(victrolajazz @ Apr 12 2007, 09:50 A...   Apr 12 2007, 05:01 PM
- - Andy Senior   Ian, The same exact thing happened to our compute...   Apr 12 2007, 04:43 AM
- - Ian House   Oh Andy, I'm SO sorry to hear that you were a...   Apr 12 2007, 05:10 AM
- - Andy Senior   QUOTEI bought them before the fad to repurpose the...   Apr 12 2007, 07:26 AM
- - Flapper Girl   When New Hampshire’s grand Old Man of the Mountain...   Apr 12 2007, 02:10 PM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(Flapper Girl @ Apr 12 2007, 08:10 A...   Apr 12 2007, 04:44 PM
- - Victor C. Brunswick   A while back I was at either a Target store or Kma...   Apr 12 2007, 06:46 PM
|- - victrolajazz   QUOTE(Victor C. Brunswick @ Apr 12 2007, 01...   Apr 12 2007, 07:38 PM
- - Flapper Girl   I have several pieces of Depression glass, as well...   Apr 12 2007, 08:15 PM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(Flapper Girl @ Apr 12 2007, 02:15 P...   Apr 12 2007, 08:35 PM
- - Ian House   Contemporary Glass: .   Apr 12 2007, 08:47 PM
- - Roseman   O.K. Gang, This plastic thread needs a little att...   Apr 12 2007, 09:29 PM
- - Ian House   Plastic Lumber? I suppose that's no longer con...   Apr 12 2007, 09:40 PM
- - Flapper Girl   Now, let me see..... What did folks use before pla...   Apr 13 2007, 12:21 AM
|- - Roseman   QUOTE(Flapper Girl @ Apr 12 2007, 06:21 P...   Apr 13 2007, 01:34 AM
|- - dismuke   QUOTE(Roseman @ Apr 12 2007, 08:34 PM) Wo...   Apr 13 2007, 09:01 AM
|- - Roseman   QUOTE(laughland @ Apr 12 2007, 10:04 PM) ...   Apr 13 2007, 10:30 AM
|- - matto   QUOTE(dismuke @ Apr 13 2007, 04:01 AM) On...   Apr 14 2007, 03:37 PM
- - Ian House   Don, Thanks for sharing those childhood memories....   Apr 13 2007, 01:47 AM
|- - Roseman   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 12 2007, 07:47 PM) ...   Apr 13 2007, 02:22 AM
|- - Roseman   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 12 2007, 07:47 PM) ...   Apr 13 2007, 03:09 AM
- - Ian House   How wonderful to have such a vivid memory of that ...   Apr 13 2007, 03:04 AM
|- - laughland   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 12 2007, 10:04 PM) ...   Apr 13 2007, 04:04 AM
- - Flapper Girl   The porcelain chamberpots were usually decorated w...   Apr 13 2007, 03:01 PM
- - Ian House   Hi Matt, Your post is wonderfully redolent of ced...   Apr 14 2007, 04:10 PM
|- - matto   QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 14 2007, 11:10 AM) ...   Apr 14 2007, 04:15 PM
- - Victor C. Brunswick   What I find to be a real eyesore out here are thes...   Apr 14 2007, 06:47 PM
|- - Ian House   QUOTE(Victor C. Brunswick @ Apr 14 2007, 12...   Apr 14 2007, 08:11 PM
|- - victrolajazz   QUOTE(Victor C. Brunswick @ Apr 14 2007, 01...   Apr 14 2007, 08:51 PM
|- - dismuke   QUOTE(Victor C. Brunswick @ Apr 14 2007, 01...   Apr 15 2007, 06:24 PM
- - Roseman   Not having a specific forum to put this post into,...   Apr 16 2007, 03:43 AM
|- - dismuke   QUOTE(Roseman @ Apr 15 2007, 10:43 PM) He...   Apr 17 2007, 01:43 AM
- - Roseman   Here's one we missed discussing when this thre...   Jul 10 2007, 12:37 AM

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