Paradigms and long boards

A high school math teacher once showed me a movie addressing the concept of paradigms, and how they affect the way we think. While I have forgotten the name of the movie and the man who made it, the ideas it presented were crucial to the Land of Plenty philosophy and inspired the following column. If anyone knows of the man or movie, send the info so I can give him credit. And if Mrs. Patricia Trabbic sees this, drop me a line and tell me what's up. (Your daughter, too.)

A paradigm occurs when a solution to a problem becomes so standard and conventional it prevents new, completely different solutions from developing. A paradigm is a mental block, a preconceived notion that obscures possibly superior ideas and concepts. Paradigms are all over the place, and they continually fuck your head and interfere with the way you think.

The key to defeating a paradigm is to recognize it. Consider the following paradigms, and some solutions to them:

  • Bike seats were originally modeled after horse saddles. Given the respective anatomy of humans, they remain one of the worst designs in the history of the world. Stop busting your nuts and make a seat that conforms to your butt cheeks, and lets your package hang free. (Note: the guy who made the paradigm movie patented a seat like this.)

  • Standard car brakes are incredibly inefficient, using plain friction to stop the kinetic energy of a moving car. The energy turns to heat, and dissipates unused into the air. Instead of wasting the energy, use a flywheel or hydraulic system to capture it and convert it back to potential energy, to be used later for acceleration.

  • The standard QWERTY keyboard is inefficient, clumsy, and gives you Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Figure out a better arrangement of keys like Dvorak, and try splitting up the keyboard into two pieces so you can put your hands where they are most comfortable.

  • Chairs and tables with four legs often wobble. If you are going to make a cheap chair, make it with three legs and a slightly wider base. (Three legged chairs exist, but I would like to think I invented the 'wobble-free' concept. Whatever. Send me money if you like, or if you like me, or for any reason at all.)
  • Significant breakthroughs and inventions usually involve breaking a paradigm. Look around you to see if you can identify and appreciate the things that you take for granted, that were once totally original and unheard-of ideas. Chances are they have become the new paradigm, and will remain so until someone has the insight and initiative to change them for the better. A new and different approach doesn't always yield a superior answer to a problem, but it is definitely worth checking out.

    I heard of a guy in Venice who was experimenting with new variations of one of my favorite themes: skateboarding. For all of the free-thinking and utilitarianism of skateboarders, actual skateboard construction has changed very little, particularly in the past ten years. Me and the indefatigable Pat D arranged to meet the man and test out his boards, and see if he had improved a classic design.

    We went to see Thierry Garzatto, a good guy with funny hair who runs RipTrip skateboards. He was recently granted a patent on a new longboard design he had worked out in his attempt to build a skateboard that rides more like a snowboard. Using a press in his kitchen, he built a high back-end camber (patented) deck using materials inspired by snowboards: wood core, fiberglass, and different top sheets- grip tape, foam rubber, plastic, and metal- depending on your preference. He plans to build the boards to suit specific riders, much like custom surfboards are made. He has a lot of improvements he plans to make, including his own trucks (he uses spring-loaded Seismics right now), and has several other alternative-skateboard prototypes in the works.

    music by sonic youth
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    Pat D and I found a nice hill in Santa Monica and bombed it for a while on the RipTrip. The board needs some refinement: the wheels slid out on heavy turns (which Thierry hopes to improve with softer wheels), the trucks were a bit squirrely and should probably be wider, the flex needs to be tighter, etc. While I definitely prefer a functional tail and nose, as well as the ability to control four-wheel slides and stops, the board was definitely superior in the smooth, carving-ride category. I wouldn't give up my conventional board for one, but that is not the point.

    Thierry wanted a different type of skateboard, so he designed and built one. He abandoned the paradigm of standard skateboard construction, figured out a new solution, and then got down and actually built it. He didn't sit around and complain, he didn't sit around and wait for someone else to do it, and he wasn't afraid to try new ideas.

    Things would go a lot smoother in this world if everyone applied the same inspiration and initiative to everything they did. Music, movies, architecture, industrial design, work environments, governments; everything could be served well by a new point of view, and of course, the actual testing and implementation of the new ideas. So get to it- find a paradigm, kill it, kick yourself in the ass and see if you can't come up with a solution to make the Land of Plenty a better place.

    -- slap maxwell


    -- slap maxwell