Friday, April 18, 2003

Rube Goldberg, Heath Robinson, Pedro, Hugo and me

The newspaper article you linked to about the new Honda ad had a significant oversight that I'm surprised you didn't mention. They say: "The idea for the advert derived partly from the old children's game Mouse Trap, and from the wacky engineering of Caractacus Potts's breakfast-making machine in the Sixties film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." But both of those were clearly derived from the marvelous early-20th-century cartoons of Rube Goldberg. Examples of these may be seen at:

Up to a point, yes, and in America, yes. But... what the Americans describe as a "Rube Goldberg device" the English would refer to as a "Heath Robinson" device. And, being English, I think I can say that the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang breakfast machine was just as clearly ripping off William Heath Robinson, specifically some of Heath Robinson's illustrations for The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm (his pancake-making machine is a wonder).

Luckily there's a Heath Robinson site on the Internet as well -- W Heath Robinson's Art, although I can't see the pancake-making machine illustration there. Still, there are lots of Heath Robinson illustrations I wasn't familiar with, including this one:, which doesn't have an invention in it, but is a wonderful example of a perfect collaboration between a writer and an artist...

Charles Fort would have liked the Rube-Goldberg-Heath-Robinson phenomenon. In steam engine time the world brings forth steam engines, while in odd inventor cartoonist time the world brings forth odd inventor cartoonists.


Drove all day. Had lunch at "Pedro's SOUTH OF THE BORDER", one of those strange American places that are like nothing else on Earth... it's situated South of the Border between North Carolina and South Carolina. So of course it's a giant Mexican-themed tacky-strange place, straight out of American Gods. Here's the Roadside America commentary:

(There is a lifesize Rube Goldberg machine at the House on the Rock, by the way, talking of American Gods and strange places of America.)

Am now in tonight's Hotel, and am currently down one daughter, because they broke the door on the plane she was on when they closed it, so she's not here, and my son will get her when she lands and bring her back here, while I sleep.

... and lots and lots of you wrote to tell me how to use the Adobe Acrobat Text select tool. (Thanks to all of you. Now I know.) But by now it's probably easier just to give the Locus link to the full Hugo nominee list here:

Meanwhile, over at the The Dreaming -- Lucy Anne posts that the official RSS feed for Livejournal people (most of whom have already signed up for one or two rss feeds that don't work) is It does seem to be working. Tell any Livejournal people who are wondering why I haven't posted anything in a while that that's the one to sign up to....

and so to bed.