Sunday, August 9, 2015

Man Magic

So I’ve been studying a bit of Man Magic lately.  Well, maybe not studying exactly.  But paying some extra attention.

What is Man Magic, you ask?

It’s those skills and that knowledge that seems to come so easily to men.  Things like how to fix a car.  And use power tools to build stuff.  And make electronic things do what they do. 

For the feminists out there who are bending treacherously to the right in indignation, I’m not saying women can’t do this stuff; just that it seems to come much more easily to men.  I can – and sometimes do – do some of this stuff, but not particularly well and not particularly easily.  I have to work at it.  My magic is vastly different and comes to me much more effortlessly.

Take electronics, for example.  You solder a bunch of ceramic doodads with bits of copper wire sticking out of them to a green (Why green, by the way?) plastic board, add a few bigger ceramic doodads and a couple of black plastic squares and – poof – a television or a computer or a radio happens.  That’s magic.

One of these circuit boards is from a television and one is from a computer:

And while it may be fairly obvious which is which, how on earth does someone get from that to a picture on a TV screen or an operating system that brings the Internet to life or drives that addictive piece of software that keeps you from cleaning the bathroom or doing the laundry?  I’m tellin’ ya!  It’s magic.

And cars!  The skill and knowledge it takes to make or fix or enhance one is phenomenal.  Seriously, if it were left to me we’d all still be in awe of the wheel.  I’m not sure we’d even have reached the point where we’ve connected two wheels with an axel, let alone attached a cart and loaded it up with stuff, thus moving it around more easily.  Though I might have surprised us all.  Sometimes I do that. 

Anyway, I have always been fascinated by Man Magic.  Not enough to put enough time and effort into mastering it, mind you.   But enough to be deeply appreciative of it.  My rudimentary understanding of it doesn’t even equate to the tip of the iceberg.  It probably doesn’t even equate to a penguin resting on the tip of the iceberg.  And, unlike said penguin, it is likely to slip off and get eaten by a killer whale because it was gazing at the clouds floating lazily overhead and not paying attention.  But my appreciation of it is equal to a hundred icebergs. 

Some years ago, my daughter observed that men can have entire conversations in sound effects.  The speed and pitch of these sound effects somehow translates to clarification and diagnostic wizardry ensues. 

“It goes click, click, wheeze.”

“Not nick, nick, whoosh?”

“Nope.  Click, click, wheeze.”

“Your instamatic optimizer isn’t getting enough power.  Check the oomphalloptic in-take and make sure it’s connected properly.  You might have to replace the OPG coil in the RXZ receptacle.  But it’s probably just a loose oomphalloptic line.  Gotta keep those babies tight.”

(If I only had a dollar for every similar conversation I’ve heard in my lifetime!)

I am a curious person.  Curious in that I am inquisitive, not odd.  (Well, I may be that, too.)  I place a high value on learning and understanding things at least well enough to grasp the fundamentals.  My mind is an encyclopedia of theoretical application, design and function.  I can build an entire house in my head, but no one would want to live in it if I were to put theory into practice.  The magic does not translate well from the mental to the physical when I’m the one wielding the hammer.  I am content to leave that – and most – Man Magic to the experts.  Likewise with electronics and cars. 

I think that what I find so beguiling about Man Magic is the marriage between art and science that is involved.   Cars are beautiful.  Buildings are beautiful.  Machines are beautiful.  They are works of art; functional and productive works of art.  Understanding the processes that make them achievable – even just a little bit – makes them even more beautiful.   Sure they can be messy and loud, but creating stuff is messy and, sometimes, loud.  It’s part of the process.  Try cooking a meal without making a mess!  And the noise is just vibration.  And vibration is energy.  And energy is… everything!

There are times when I wish I was more adept at Man Magic.  It would certainly make my life easier.  And less expensive.  My bathroom would be renovated.  My library would be built.  My stairwell railing wouldn’t be wobbly.  There would be an awesome bench next to my kitchen entry.  And my countertops would be replaced.  And the brown aluminum siding on my house would be replaced with vertical rough cedar siding painted burnt orange with eggplant purple trim.   There would be dark-stained wooden doors at each entrance with stained glass inserts.  But, except maybe for the bench, which I might just attempt as a winter project, this is all well above my level of Man Magic ability. 

I’d also have a 1970 Chevy Nova that I would restore to immaculate perfection.  How freaking cool would that be?  I can see it now, gleaming in the last rays of the setting sun, metallic orange over dark purple with about a billion layers of clear coat.  And it would be loud.  And fast.  (Although not with me behind the wheel!) And it would turn heads and I would be so proud of what I had done. 

Ah, well. 
I close my eyes and then I drift away.
Into the magic night I softly say
A silent prayer like dreamers do.
Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.

- Roy Orbison