Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Remembering the Yokyoks

After a day when everything that could go wrong went wrong, I remembered the Yokyoks, an army of tiny green men with long, straight noses and red-and-yellow gloves, who carry an assortment of tools and go about fouling the works -- clogging holes in saltshakers, making pens and faucets leak, blowing fuses, letting the air out of tires.

As I recall, Yokyoks were an invention of Rube Goldberg, our philosopher of technical excess. Goldberg's loony inventions, widely published in American newspapers between 1914 and 1964, helped us keep our technological exaggerations in perspective. He loved machinery, but he also knew that technology grows unwieldy because of our insatiable desire for the very latest inventions, at whatever the cost in money or frustration.

But when I just now googled "Yokyoks," I came up with zip, or, rather, just a reference to my own earlier writing. Am I misremembering? Is Goldberg implicated? If not, who is?

Goldberg warned against the "gadget strewn path of civilization," and this much is certainly true: The more complicated our machines become, the more opportunities the Yokyoks have to drive us crazy.