MiSTed: What To Invent (part 2 of 3)


And now to the second part of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of Raymond Yates’s essay “What To Invent”. There’s not any riffs of particular obscurity, or that I much feel I need to apologize for. Still, you know, it was the 2010’s, things were different then. Anyway this was all great fun to write and I love re-reading it. And I have one little note I’ll put at the end.

Having now made a couple window screens, yeah, Yates had a point about something to keep them taut and flat. Maybe there is something now and I didn’t know about it and the hardware store supposed of course I knew. I’ve been able to carry on since I don’t have to make so many window screens that the inconvenience becomes too annoying.


>
> The typewriter eraser is a combination of
> fine-ground sand and rubber.

TOM: Plus a typewriter! A typewriter eraser is nothing without a typewriter.

> When such an eraser is used

MIKE: Yes it is. A typewriter eraser without a typewriter is still an *eraser*.

TOM: I think we both know if you want to argue this point we’re going to end up hating each other bitterly.

> on a typewriter a quantity of this sand falls down into

MIKE: Yeah, I pass.

> the mechanism where it causes undue wear. Sand is fatal
> to machinery of any kind.

CROW: Excepting the sandcastle-o-matic, I mean.

TOM: Plus you’ll still be wrong.

> This problem may be solved in
> two ways;

MIKE: Three, if you count not making mistakes.

> either by the production of a more efficient
> eraser, without sand,

TOM: Maybe use raw mud instead.

> or some sort of a guard on
> typewriters

CROW: Authorized to use deadly force!

MIKE: How is raw mud different from just dirt?

> to prevent the sand from sifting down into

TOM: Um … yeah, I withdraw the invention.

> the works. Either answer should be worth $50,000.

CROW: Is that, like, $50,000 for your whole life, or like $50,000 a year?

TOM: $50,000 a typewriter.

>
> The home mechanic, or the carpenter who has
> either made or repaired screens for windows,

MIKE: Or the window screen hobbyist.

> knows how
> difficult it is to stretch the screening so that it will
> be taut and perfectly flat after the moulding has been
> put in place.

TOM: Why, thousands die every year in the struggle against window screens.

> Surely some sort of a tool could be
> invented to assure this result.

CROW: It could be a widget or it might even be a mount of some fashion.

> It should be able to
> grasp the screening and to keep it pulled tight until it
> is tacked into place. At least 50 manufacturers stand
> ready to obtain the rights to such a product.

TOM: I’ve asked them extensively! They fear my coming round to ask again!

> Speaking of
> screens reminds one of the difficulty of raising and
> lowering awnings on screened windows.

MIKE: Just trust me on this one, folks.

> The screen has to
> be unhooked and pushed out of the way—a very
> inconvenient and bothersome procedure.

TOM: Of … unhooking and pushing?

CROW: I’ve never awned, myself, but this …

MIKE: [ Shrugging ] Look, it’s just really complicated, okay?

> Is it not
> possible to overcome this objection either by a new
> method of raising and lowering screens or by the use of a
> simple mechanism that may be manipulated from inside the
> screen?

MIKE: Is there hope for sanity in this world gone mad?

> The solution to this problem would produce an
> ample reward.

TOM: But the real reward is knowing you’ve made the life of window awning raiser-and-lowererers substantially better.

>
> “Why I could have invented that,” says the
> would-be inventor when he sees some new and clever little
> improvement that is known to be making plenty of money
> for its creator.

MIKE: What does he say after seeing some dopey little improvement that somebody’s taking a bath on?

CROW: Why could *I* have invented that?

> Yes, indeed, many inventors, like many
> amateur speculators in the stock market, find it very
> easy to make money with their hind sight.

TOM: That’s it! Keister glasses!

> The thing to
> do is to beat the other fellow to the design.

CROW: And steal Elisha Grey’s patent.

> And here
> is a good chance to win out. Everyone knows that ash
> trays tip over and that the housewife is called upon to
> clean up many such resulting messes.

TOM: If only someone could invent the ashless tray?

> It would seem
> fairly easy to make an ash tray which would automatically
> cover itself when tipped beyond a certain critical angle.

MIKE: Hey wait … I just invented it! That’s great!

> Such a tray could be dropped on the floor without danger
> of dumping its contents.

TOM: Until we perfect the lid-evading ash!

>
> What was said for the non-tipable or unspillable
> ash tray also might be said for coasters used for
> glasses.

CROW: So get your improved cigarette coasters now.

> The number of bridge table accidents, wherein
> glasses are tipped during dealing, is legend.

TOM: As recounted in song and woolen tapestry.

> We need
> coasters that will make such accidents impossible.

MIKE: Try our new “dry” drinks.

>
> In line with our previous comment in connection
> with hobbies it should be borne in mind that archery is
> now receiving a great deal of attention,

TOM: … buh?

MIKE: That would’ve been, like, my 46th guess.

> and that a newly
> designed, cheap and powerful metal bow would be a winner,
> especially for the younger folk.

CROW: People might be interested in new, cheap, powerful tools for their hobby? Why am I just hearing of this now?

> Naturally such a bow
> would have to be as light as the wooden ones.

TOM: Building an antigravity machine small enough to fit on an arrow will be a considerable challenge.

> (Metal
> bows are available but could be improved greatly.)

CROW: What isn’t that true of?

> When
> little Willie, all dressed up in his Sunday best, gets
> his hands on an ice cream cone he rapidly degenerates
> into a most unpromising spectacle.

MIKE: So … shoot him with an arrow?

> If mother could buy a
> dripless cone for him she would make the inventor of that
> cone a very happy man—

CROW: If a woman invents it, call the whole thing off.

> and little Willie would remain a
> respectable person while satisfying his appetite for ice
> cream.

TOM: I’ve got it! I could invent a new name for Willie!

MIKE: Willie, Willie … Tillie? Dillie? Quillie?

CROW: I think we’re getting worse somehow.


[ To conclude … ]

Also, “That’s it! Keister glasses!” makes me giggle every time I read it and if someone were to hire Kevin Murphy to record that line for me I would be most grateful. … It would work as a Crow riff, too (most riffs can be arbitrarily assigned), so I wouldn’t turn down Trace Beaulieu or Bill Corbett. I haven’t seen the Season 11-and-onward episodes, is the only reason I don’t say anything about the new guys.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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