July 19, 2013, The New Yorker online
In 1942, at the New York mansion of the American industrialist John Pierpont Morgan, crowds filed past a large mural titled “Automatic Hitler-Kicking Machine,” which depicted a complex and satisfying contraption involving a cat, a mouse, a stripteaser, and the Führer. It was the first solo exhibition of the inventor and cartoonist Reuben Lucius “Rube” Goldberg, who was, by then, already famous for designing overly complicated machines that fixed everyday problems with wit and madness. A decade earlier, in 1931, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary had listed “Rube Goldberg” as an adjective, defining it as “accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply.”
Goldberg’s carefully designed machines employed birds, monkeys, springs, pulleys, feathers, fingers, rockets, and other animate or inanimate tools to create intricate chain reactions that completed basic tasks like hiding a gravy stain, lighting a cigar while driving fifty miles an hour, or fishing an olive out of a long-necked bottle. As Goldberg himself put it, his cartoon inventions were a “symbol of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results.”
Born in San Francisco on July 4, 1883...
Steven makes complex ideas vivid, readable, compelling. He aims to make sense of a complicated, often baffling world--and shed light on the efforts of creative people in myriad fields. As an editor and mentor, he is particularly passionate about helping others become better storytellers. Can he help you?