Thursday, 31 January 2008

Human Nature Loves a Vacuum

This is our new vacuum cleaner. I guess here in England you would call it a "Hoover." (Like Kleenex, that word comes from a brand, Britain's best-known electric floor-cleaner. The art deco building where they were once made was celebrated by Elvis Costello in his song "Hoover Factory." I pass it on the bus into the Big Smoke [the building, not the song]: "Five miles out of London on the Western Avenue....")

Oddly, the best thing you can say about a vacuum is that it sucks. Our old one didn't suck. Its hose also had the irritating habit of popping out of the canister when you tried to pull it across the room. This made vacuuming even more of a maddening chore than it normally is, since you had to walk over to the canister and push it along as if it was a quadriplegic. It was such a pain to vacuum that we hardly did, leading to the build up of huge drifts of black dog hair. Sometimes I couldn't find my house keys in the mess.

We asked the rental agent for a new vacuum and she yes, we'd be getting a Henry. A Henry? Whatever is that?

Well isn't he the cutest thing? Those eyes. That smile. He looks like a character from a children's book. Henry comes from a family of vacuums that includes James and Charles. (Basil has evidently been discontinued.) Okay, it's a bit disconcerting that Henry cleans with his nose, sucking up dirt the way Kate Moss snorts lines of coke. But he gets the job done--he could suck the white off an egg--and he makes me happy.

Let There Be Light
Speaking of good design, Summertown--the Oxford suburb where we live--is getting new streetlights. Road crews have been using cranes to pull the old streetlights out, a process that looks like a doctor removing a nasty splinter. I don't know if anything was wrong with the old streetlights. I guess they looked a bit dated:

And here's what the new ones look like:

Snazzy, huh? So sleek and high-tech. Notice the smaller, secondary light that shines on the sidewalk. There also appears to be a yardarm jutting out horizontally from the main shaft. It's oddly nautical. Perhaps they will hang festive flags from it--or dangle British youth.

Good design is important, whether it's on a Hoover or a streetlight. A well-made, well-proportioned, well-thought-out appliance, vestment, piece of furniture, automobile or building pleases the eye and, subconsciously perhaps, lifts the spirit.

Disraeli Gears

The design on this can gets the job done (the cap is a nice touch), but what I love most about the product is the name: Squirty Cream. That's exactly what it is.

More on Anthony Lilley
There was one thing I thought I should add to yesterday's review of the third Lilley lecture: When Lilley described how he would structure a networked BBC, he was at pains to say: "Don't touch news. Don't touch factual." I believe those are two departments currently on the chopping block.


Joyce said...

Henry's twin brothers live at NOOC (the North Oxford Overseas Centre) where they are kept under lock and key in a small storage area under the stairs, as if they were orphan servant children taken in by a wealthy English household.
I feel they are treated rather unfairly for all the hard work they do keeping my, Wang Yao and Abel's rooms clean. You have to give it to them for always being so cheery.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Who knew appliances could be so playful?

Candadai Tirumalai said...

I was quite familiar with Summertown (as you know, different parts of Oxford have their own distinctive names). When I am next there I shall be glad of the extra light on the sidewalk (the pavement).

mark from alexandria said...

Presumably the new lights are "greener" than the old. That may be why they need the little booster light for "the pavement."

I love the squirty cream, it put me in mind of the classic album cover for an ancient "Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass" record album. The album was titled "Whip Cream and Other Delights" and had a beautiful young woman covered from the neck down in a whip cream dress. I also remember that a less-famous Italian-American comedian of that era, Pat Cooper, did a comedy album called something like "Meatballs and Other Delights" in which he was covered in a similar fashion with sauce, meatballs and spaghetti.

Old Lady said...

About the street lights....reminds me that the UK has so many street cameras, and I expected to see one mounted on the new stanchion. Do you see many street cameras and do they bother you?

Anonymous said...

Several years ago the town officials in a Colorado town asked the public to suggest names for a new bridge, expecting variations of "John Jones Memorial Bridge." The overwhelming choice of the public was "Bob." Maybe someday Henry Vacuum can go to Colorado to help clean Bob Bridge.