January 28, 2004

"briefcase-shaped gasoline can"

Thanks to Harm for this fascinating article on a man who collects hand-made objects from the Soviet era:

...Since inspiration struck in the form of the toothbrush-cum-clothes hook, Arkhipov's collection has grown to include toys, tools, mechanical and electronic devices, and improvised forms of transportation. A few items defy classification, "because there is nothing else like them in existence," Arkhipov said.

Some are whimsical, like the briefcase-shaped gasoline can made by a driver after years of ferrying bosses and their attache cases to work. "I think he didn't even know himself why it turned out this way," Arkhipov mused. "He must have dreamed of becoming a boss himself."...

...Many of Arkhipov's objects fall into the category of professions or hobbies that simply couldn't be pursued without personal ingenuity. Soviet stores didn't provide amateur filmmakers with captioning devices or weekend ice fishermen with reels, baskets and rods. In the crisis years of the early 1990s, even firefighters found themselves making their own axes.

Arkhipov has also turned up quirky domestic niceties that few Western consumers would think possible to make by hand -- a flowerpot holder made of an old vinyl record, a hair curler-turned-paint roller, a food tin recycled as a calculator holder....

God made the 20th Century to teach us that the notion that things work better when experts plan them is a fallacy. It's a pity that a hundred-million or so had to die to illustrate the lesson. But now we got it. Right?

Posted by John Weidner at January 28, 2004 1:46 PM
Weblog by John Weidner