Thursday, June 4, 2015

historic Crow

Crow came across this postcard in his files a few days ago. It's one I hadn't seen before and neither of us can remember if it's from his past or his future. I'm hoping the future.

While humans have been inventing things ever since some enterprising  homo habilis first knapped a flint then figured out how to rub two sticks together, it's definitely true the pace picked up over the last few hundred years. Crow, who had a front row seat at many discoveries, regaled me with stories about developments he witnessed:

'As I recall, it was nearly five thousand years ago in Sumer, when a bored farmer decided to improve the performance characteristics of his oxen-driven plow by getting rid of the plow and yoking his team up to a platform on wheels. The new vehicle, the first chariot, was a novel source of fun for many centuries until the people began to realize that these chariots would go no faster than an ox could lumber. About 2500 BC, people began importing wild asses from western India and yoking them up to their chariots. The history of the chariot, and non-human powered vehicles in general, has been a steady quest for speed. In the millennia since that time, there have been quite a number of these wild-ass innovations - some, obviously, better than others.'

Here's a brief summary of more recent developments:

1876 and 1886: internal combustion engine, bicycle, electric lightbulb, electric transformer, steam turbine, electric railroad, automobile, telephone, movie camera, phonograph, linotype, roll film, dictaphone, cash register, vaccines, reinforced concrete, flush toilets and the machine gun (the typewriter arrived in 1868)

1890 and 1950: adding machines, automobiles, diesel engines, airplanes, radio, motion pictures, computers, disposable razors, wireless telegraph, frozen food, rockets, air conditioning, submarines, the vacuum tube, jet aircraft, helicopters, television, electron microscope, refrigerators (and a raft of other home appliances), as well as revolutionary advances in manufacturing processes (oops, can't forget The Bomb)

All of that in just 75 years. For some reason what came next doesn't seem all that impressive in comparison. Then again, it's not easy to see the nano in nanotechnolgy.

If you could choose just one of these two inventions, indoor plumbing or the Internet, which would you choose?

I think I know how I would answer.


ps: please let us know if you've seen the postcard previously


L'Adelaide said...

well, that's easy... i'm pretty sure it was for you too. ;) interesting how much detail you put into this post with crow. i hope he did the bulk of it and you could do something more fun. like that drawing.... i am so intrigued with these and just keep wondering if they are somehow going to tell a story someday. this will look so good painted in your wonderful style.

well, it's late here and i'm off to bed. i wanted to say goodnight, sleep tight to you. and much love!

Tom said...


Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
Well well –your fine feathered friend as usual, together with close companions, is always at ease with those close ancestors as you have beautifully depicted. I think the desire for comfort figures strongly in discoveries and I would put indoor plumbing ahead of the internet any day. That applies especially as growing in the country I am reminded of life when we did not always enjoy such facilities.
The cartoon is an amusing one about which most would agree, but I am less inclined to be so dismally inclined, since I don’t think that history actually repeats. Rather I think it is more a case that humans make similar types of mistakes, prejudices, or new discoveries or advances in culture to create those recognisable patterns in an evolving world we identify as history. Hopefully we can learn from the metaphors of our history, but not from just reading history , as you need something far deeper than that.
Best wishes

susan said...

Yep! It's nice to have it all or even a little of some of it all as the case may be, sweet Linda. But if it came down to deciding on one or the other there's only one answer. It's amazing to me just how many people can't even imagine life without the Web.

Besides hanging out with Crow (and drawing etc.) my favorite thing to do is to read (a lot). Writing about some of what I've learned on any given day really is fun.

susan said...

What can I say in reply?

̄\_(ツ)_/ ̄

susan said...

Hi Lindsay
It's true we have needs that take priority over desires. Shelter, clothing, hunting, cooking and defense are primary human needs that certainly meet your description of comfort and security. I also grew up in the country in a time when our plumbing wasn't quite primitive but wasn't anything like what we've become used to in the interim.
As for the cartoon, it was just something that made me smile by catching the essence of a commonly noted idea. No, we don't repeat exactly but you're right we do exhibit patterns of behavior that lead to obtaining similar results. I too am hoping we will learn (while not holding my breath).
Crow and I are delighted you like the postcard!
Best wishes

Should Fish More said...

I like the girl, and the mom's reaching hand, rather like the one on the Sistine chapel ceiling....Michelangelo's god reaching hand to bestow perhaps. Were I there, I would caution the girl from putting her hand out...who knows what she might find, and will it benefit her.
I haven't a lot of years left in this plane, but I'd give a lot to know what happens in the next 50 years. Just think....1869 to 1969.....we went from ships powered by either wind or sometimes steam. Then in 100 years we landed a craft on the moon. That's quite a step.
Which would I choose? Neither. I choose to be 'homo ludens', my way of dealing with questions similar.
Cheers, Susan. I rather think you'd be something to know, in real life.

Tom said...

Sorry; I was being lazy. I did give some thought to your question, but could find no answer. In any case, I cannot imagine a civilised life without internal plumbing. On the other hand, even though I have given up blog-posting for an indefinite period, I could not easily give up reading your excellent posts.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Ah... My friend Aileen thinks she recognises these hairy apes, and if they are who she thinks they are she says they are the ones who are really in charge. Clearly Crow has got contacts.

susan said...

I'm glad you noticed the significance of the reaching hand. It's Crow's way of indicating his feeling that a future society that doesn't give equal time to nature may not be wise.
While I still have no inkling of just how much time I might have left to experience this existence it's a given I won't be here in 50 years. Worried as I am about climate change and pollution, never mind war, disease and starvation on a massive scale if we don't get our act together, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for future generations of sentient beings. All of the developments of the past few hundred years have been based on the use (and abuse) of fossil fuels.
We'll just have to keep hoping something new appears.
Good wishes to you, Mike. Are you sure 'homo ludens' might enjoy knowing someone who tends to be provocative on occasion?

susan said...

I meant no chastisement, Tom :)

I once read about a yogi who was so determined to reach enlightenment in this lifetime he found a spot halfway up a mountain where he determined to sit as long as necessary. Naturally enough, there were times when he had to relieve himself and the place he found to do that was down along a narrow path where a thorn bush grew. Every day he squeezed past the bush receiving nasty scratches in the process. Each time he gave a moment's thought to rooting out the bush. But he didn't know how much time he had and refused to waste any of it. According to the story, he met his goal.

susan said...

Yes, Andrew. I'm pretty sure Crow has had a few encounters with Aileen as well. Has she ever mentioned him?

Tom said...


Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

I think there are things that she and Crow prefer us not to know, actually (perhaps for our own good, or perhaps not).

marja-leena said...

I must be losing my touch here! I came back late to view my comment from a few days ago and could not find it, so wrote a new one this morning, and dang, it disappeared! In hope, will try once more...

As always, I love your drawings, Susan, such a gentle scene with young human and animals supervised by wise Crow. How lucky to have him as a friend and to hear all his stories. I do love the internet for allowing me to make friends online all over the place so would miss it, yet I appreciate the technology of modern plumbing as well!

susan said...

Likely true enough - for our own good, I mean.

susan said...

I'm very sorry to hear you lost comments you'd left here, Marja-Leena. Strangely enough, I've been having some problems signing on to WP blogs myself - but never yours (thank goodness). Thanks so much for trying again ^^.

Yes, I love having the internet too for just the same reason. Let's hope it never does come to having to make a choice. :)