Friday, March 05, 2010


On the front page of you can read the definition of the phrase "Rube Goldberg" as defined by Webster's New World Dictionary.  Yes, "Rube Goldberg" has been part of our own English language since 1931.

Farther down the page you can also read that the phrase "Rube Goldberg" is a registered trademark of Rube Goldberg Incorporated and permission to use the trademark must be secured in advance and in writing.

I guess it's now possible for corporations to own parts of the English language.  The Republicans must be so proud.

Anyway, a "Rube Goldberg device" is an invention designed to do a simple task in a complex mechanical fashion.  Read more about Rube at Wikipedia.

By that definition, the amazing contraption in the following music video by the group OK GO is NOT a Rube Goldberg device, since it accomplishes nothing useful.  I suggest watching in high definition.  Keep your eyes on the background.  The video is highly entertaining.  Too bad about the music.

My favorite moment is the rotating guitar which plays a bit of the song on tuned glasses. My other favorite moment is the television and the sledge hammer.  Watch for the pile of TV's from the previous takes.

This Too Shall Pass reminded me of a Honda commercial from a couple years ago. That's not a R.G. device either - it accomplishes nothing useful. The video is more elegant but less fun than the OK GO video. It's not plagued by music - except a bit of drum box near the end - so you can enjoy the clinking and clanking.

I hunted around YouTube for something else Rube Goldbergish that actually accomplished some task. There's a lot out there to check out - and I didn't bother to look too hard. (This is, after all, one of those Mixed Meters posts designed for quickness not depth and I would like to go to bed soon.) But here's one that starts with an alarm clock and ends with curtains being opened.  Those curtains aren't on a bedroom window but they could have been, I guess - and then some useful work would have been accomplished.

Here's another Honda commercial - more in the creepy, threatening Pulp Fiction mode.

Yet again, thanks to John Steinmetz for pointing me to Mixed Meters' better material.

Rube Tags: . . . . . .


Scott Fessler said...

Does Pat Metheny's orchestrion fit the definition?

Anonymous said...

"But here's one that starts with an alarm clock and ends with curtains being opened."

And which relies at one point upon two violin bows & later two bow cases, thus making it all the more relevant for inclusion in Mixed Meters, but more pointedly commenting on the state of employment for musicians, who now have the free time to concoct such Goldbergisms while waiting desperately for phone calls from their session contractors.


David Ocker said...

Wow, two comments and both are from people named Scott F. What were the chances?

I can't believe I didn't call this post "Goldberg Variations"