Friday, October 23, 2009

survival skills and stuff in my etsy shop.

At work we got a couple of Boys Own Paper to work on.

Boys Own Paper

If you click on the images, it'll take you to the Flickr page and if you click on "All sizes" you should be able to read the contents. I'm pretty envious of all the stuff readers of Boys Own Paper get to learn. Useful Fowls for Eggs or Meat? Who doesn't need to know that? And look at these ads:

Boys Own Paper - ads

Why pay a high price when you can just build your own steam engine, indeed?

I was pretty lucky, I guess, in that my parents were fairly hands-on and taught me to do lots of crafty things as a kid, but even so I feel sort of underprepared for many situations. I'm really struck by how these magazines, as silly and gender-specific and occasionally offensive as they may be, are so useful. Kids reading this were learning about animals and survival skills and the toys they could order were real tools!

I don't have kids so I can't really say how this compares to kids' toys and publications now, but I'm going to go ahead and guess you can't just buy a kid a mitre cutting machine. My point is not really to rail about KIDS THESE DAYS; more to say that, I feel like no one knows how to do anything, that so few people know real life skills, and if the grocery and the car dealership disappeared tomorrow, I know a lot of people that would be screwed. Including myself, probably. We could probably stand to learn a little bit about useful fowls and building steam engines. Once upon a time it was vital for people to have this kind of knowledge, but not now.

I guess now we teach kids about computers, which is of course good -- I am not one of those that advocates a return to a Simpler Time, but the basics of life don't change. It's important to know how to grow a tomato and sew a button. I think a lot about the fact that by neglecting all of this important "simpler" information, we're really doing ourselves a disservice.

Of course, I'm preaching to the converted here. I know that all 8 of you reading my blog are fantastically talented and self-sufficient people. I take deep comfort in the fact that we can call on each other when society inevitably collapses!

On a lighter note, I started backing my own cloth for bookcloth and I'm selling some on Etsy, if you like garish patterns. Make some books before you can't order online and have to spin and wax your own thread!

Obviously, now I'm kidding. Mostly.


  1. fyi no option to embiggen flickr photos present

    post more stuff like this

  2. I agree - in my day we had to build our own computers with bits from Tandy. It does help to sort of know what happens inside things. I have kept the mecaano set ready for the apocalypse :-)

  3. Sorry - that should have read Meccano

  4. You're absolutely right. And then, you're absolutley wrong - I only know how to sew a button badly, and I can grow no tomatos. It is an ashamed Sarah that goes to sleep tonight. But also determined to figure some more things out!

  5. My own uselessness in the Coming Post-Industrial Apocalypse or whatever is something that occurs to me pretty often, and something that I'm slowly working towards fixing. I don't think it's merely the utilitarian, though, that's slipping from collective practice. I was thinking about this yesterday when I stopped by the front desk at work to chat up the receptionist (who, incidentally, is adorable and bright and really quite handy, e.g., makes own clothes, etc.). She was stuffing envelopes for some Official University Business--but I noticed that she was folding the letters upside-down and inside-out. After a momentary internal struggle over how to bring this to her attention without being an asshole, or even whether it was worth bringing it up at all wrt the whole epistolary-protocol-v.-interpersonal-dynamics tradeoff thing, I just asked her: "Hey, you know you're folding those inside out, right?"

    "Oh...what? Really? How are they supposed to go? I never do this." Which started a conversation about the kinds of things that we may or may not have been trained to do as children but never really participate in as adults. Things that maybe we're just being taught because our parents' generation did them. Things that perhaps aren't particularly "useful"--I mean, does it really matter if the letters are inside-out?--but that everyone used to know how to do.

    Similarly, think about all of the fantastic bits of knowledge that we pick up as kids that there's no ostensible reason for acquiring. Practical reason, that is; a reason other than wonderment. (Which I think is sufficient, for what it's worth.) You know, things that most of us never think of but that birthed entire imaginative systems for us back then. Dinosaurs and ancient Egyptians and exotic animals and all that. I went to the zoo last year and was shocked to realize that I'd forgotten what an eland was. Or rather, that I hadn't thought about one in a really, really long time. That there was nothing in my adult life that forced me to confront the concept or reality of "eland."

    Part of me, though, wonders how much of the whole Victorian "Boy's Own" / DIY culture was "children learning useful things that they would later practice as adults" and how much was "children occupying themselves with playthings that adults decided would be the most conducive to the development of their productive impulses." Or something like that. I'm thinking of Charles Fourier, who listed the following as the "dominant tastes in all children":

    "1. Rummaging or inclination to handle everything, examine everything, look through everything, to constantly change occupations;
    2. Industrial commotion, taste for noisy occupations;
    3. Aping or imitative mania;
    4. Industrial miniature, a taste for miniature workshops;
    5. Progressive attraction of the weak toward the strong."

    In this context, kid wanting his own mitre cutting machine makes a lot of sense. Of course, Fourier was enumerating these qualities to advance his argument that kiddies as young as two or three were natural and quite underused sources of labor. Which I guess is a different discussion.

    Anyway, thanks for this post. And for making me want to learn about useful fowls. Never Too Late!

  6. stop being so smart. I need to pinch you.

  7. Fourier, fyi, fwiw: