Alexandra Lange | Essays

The Uses of Cranks

Don't worry, I'm not going to label everyone a closet architect. But this quote, from James Parker's appreciation of Curb Your Enthusiasm in this month's Atlantic, made me wonder if Larry David might not have been happier, his skills (such as they are) put to better use, as a product designer.
And still—this was the show’s hook—he burned. Still he grated. In so frictionless an environment, Larry was obliged to make his own friction—to become a one-man friction factory. Parts of him, or parts of his condition, we recognized from Seinfeld: his barking Costanzan indignation, his Krameroid manners. Dry cleaners were argued with. Waiters were made to feel awkward. Customs and conventions were submitted to a nonstop Seinfeldian interrogation: What is the cutoff time for late-night calls? How long must you stand at a graveside? Let me ask you a question … Let me ask you something … Let me ask you this …

Life itself, to be felt at all, had to be something like a rash
What can one do, as a designer set loose in the undesigned, overdesigned, badly designed world, but burn. So many years after the industrial revolution we should be able to create a frictionless world. That's the promise of Apple, or of Brave New World. And yet we still itch and seethe. The coffee pot lid comes off and the coffee spills all over the counter. The tag in our new shirt chafes. The print on the menu is illegible. We too want to ask a question: What was the maker thinking? Once you start you can't stop wondering. Do hand dryers need to be so loud? Why don't cupholders embrace the cup?

And so on. David can get episodes out of fashion disasters like a women's sweater, a duplicate shirt, dry cleaning (and Susie Essman's outfits are a bonus sight gag), but I don't remember one about a thing other than the Prius. Imagine Larry David not trolling L.A. but in a labratory-like office, interrogating the objects of the consumer world rather than its hapless actors.

Posted in: Arts + Culture, Media, Product Design

Comments [3]

Great post, thanks Alexandra.

Love "Curb Your Enthusiasm." That poster (whether real or not) totally reminded me of this scene from the film "Being John Malkovich."

"Cranks" for the enthusiastic memories…

Joe Moran

So true. His irate quizzing would be welcomed at RnD facilities.

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