Form and Function

Second generation Colt Single Action Army

As you know if you’ve been reading my blog over the last several weeks, I’ve been watching a lot of westerns.

I’ve had a fascination with cowboys for some time.  As a little boy, I really didn’t get too deep into Cowboys and Indians and Saturday morning western serials and movies on TV.  For me it was Creature Feature, and monster B-movies.  I ate those up, loved ‘em all, and went back for seconds or thirds.

In some ways, then, I guess I’m making up for lost time and becoming re-acquainted with Cowboys, westerns and really cool things they connote.

As I’ve observed some of the props used in movies, it sparks interest in those things and I look them up.  The guns in the westerns, for one – those beautiful, big revolvers and old rifles.  They’re gorgeous.  Did you know Sam Colt was awarded the first patent in the United States for a functional revolving-barrel side arm?  I didn’t.  I’ve looked up the Scofield model Smith and Wesson, which was a gun that opened from the top to allow access to the chamber.  I’ve looked up the Single Action Army Colt Peacemaker, which was designed so the hammer could be fanned … like a gunfighter on TV or in the movies does it to fire off several cartridges.

The hats, too, struck me as interesting.  I always have a favorite I find atop someone’s crown in every western I see.  The saddles?  Awesome.

How about cowboy boots?  Did you know they aren’t just footwear that developed out of nowhere, or from crude manufacturing and materials acquisition?  No, they were actually based (some believe) on the boots designed for the US Cavalry during the civil war.  They were modified by request for the purpose of … well, being a cowboy.  The high shaft is to protect the leg of a horse rider from the leathers of the stirrups.  The pointed toe allows insertion of the foot into the stirrup without looking.  The fancy stitching across the top of the boot is to allow it to bend in the right location and make it more durable.  The heel is designed to prevent the rider’s foot from sliding through the stirrup (I’ve had this happen to me once).  The sole of the boot permits fast and smooth removal from the stirrup without hanging.  Every aspect is reasoned, and the design of the object’s form reflects its function perfectly.

I miss the artistry of the nineteenth century.  Trains were cooler looking; houses were cooler looking; heck, even the clothes were cooler looking; and cowboy hats?  Don’t get me started!  Heh.

We have far superior technology today, but we seem to have lost some of the artistry of design which seemed so integral to everything then.  And in some ways, I still long for it.  Even in the first half of the twentieth century, things seemed more … elegant?  I don’t know how to explain it.  But as we become more efficient, I wonder if we’re losing the ability to make things beautiful and function hand in hand with our efficiency.

What do you think?  Are things better now, or were they better before?  Does new always mean improved?


All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
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6 thoughts on “Form and Function

  1. Please, please, please…If you buy a cowboy hat you HAVE to post a pic of you wearing it. Please.

    ROFLMAO! Yeah, right! A picture! But I’m actually closer to buying a pair of boots than a hat. All I need is the all-elusive “money” I hear so much about.

    And I always knew you secretly loved Cowboys. DALLAS Cowboys! nyah nyah!

    *HACK! AGH!! COUGH!!* NO! Not THOSE Cowboys!! NEVAH!!

    • HAHAHAHA! Gotcha!

      Yeah, “money” would be helpful. So I hear.

      I hear that too. Wish I could say from experience though. *Hat tip* Thankee-sai. 🙂

  2. I think we are a throw away society now and we care about neither form nor function because we are going to replace it in a year or two. We throw out everything from cars to dishes and buy new. And if we can’t afford it, like Judge Reinhold said in ‘Ruthless People’, we “f**cking finance it!”

    HA! You’re probably right! Microwave attention-spans have left us unable to see beyond the end of our noses or our calling plans. Great point!

  3. Well, new is not a synonym for improved. Nor is old a synonym for out-of-date.

    Agreed! Whole-heartedly! Anyone remember full-service gas stations? When there wasn’t any SELF-serve??

    I don’t think things are better or worse than the past. In the past, young women didn’t think being on a Girls Gone Wild video was something to aspire to. Men took off their hats indoors. Families spent more time together. Craftsmanship was valued. For as liberal as I am, I’m very old-fashioned–like children really ought to call me by my last name not my first.

    Well, Ms. Mapelba, ma’am, I think values were somewhat better then. Yes, they didn’t have it all right, and as a Conservative Christian of traditional values, I wish I knew more of that time and the values they held. And while craftsmanship can still be found, it’s generally an exception rather than a rule now. Sadly.

    But at the same time, in the past you were more likely to die of disease and in some places people lynched other people, had family picnics under the bodies and took photographs to send to friends. So, you know…no one era has it all right.

    I don’t know that lynching is necessarily a bad thing, depending on of whom we are speaking, but the picnic under the gallows is disgusting for sure. And yeah, no one era gets it ALL right. 🙂

    But for craftsmanship–things were better. My dad bought a new hairdryer when I was about 7. It worked until I was 29. Can you imagine that now? You would think some folks believe improved is a synonym for disposable.

    You’re right there, IMO. They just don’t make ’em like they used to. And I wish desperately they would. 😦 Thank you for your insights, Ms. Mapelba — as always, a joy to have shared. 🙂 *Tips hat*

  4. One of my 20-something nephews has an adage, “What’s older is always better.” (Just one of the many things to love about him.) He’s a smart kid, into iDevices and hip TV shows and so on, and lives in Los Angeles where that adage is very much against the grain. He does (half-)believe it, too; it’s not really a put-on.

    If only his mindset would catch-on! If we could get enough young people to appreciate the marvel of their technological age and the beauty of things which came before, we might have a terrific-looking and efficient society to live in! How would THAT be? 😀

    There’s a subdivision here in town in which all the houses are built with new materials and “green” energy principles and so on… in the style of bungalows and rowhouses from the early half of the 20th century. Here are some of the homes they’re currently peddling. (Unfortunately, it seems to be barely keeping its head above the economic waters: very bad timing.)

    That’s too bad. They’re gorgeous homes!

    Generalizations are tough. Would I want a steam-powered computer? It would look seriously cool but, y’know, shoveling all that wood into the burner would get kind of old — probably right when I least wanted to worry about it, in the middle of a critical chapter or something.

    True, generalizations ARE tough; that’s why I made a point of saying our technology can’t be beat. We need to be able to live that, keep that, and yet, why CAN’T a computer look nice, be artistic and beautiful? I don’t think one must supersede the other. Just MHO, though. I wouldn’t want a steam-powered computer either. But a beautiful computer that’s not an eyesore in the room would be great too, wouldn’t it? Case in point — remember cabinet TVs and stereos? The technology was hidden within beautiful furniture. What’s wrong with that?

    That said, yeah, I agree — every one of the Old-West artifacts you mention is a work of art.

    They truly were; you say true, I say thankee-sai. *Hat tip* Glad to see you again!

  5. Homes cost ridiculous amounts of money now but probably won’t last as long as homes built in the 1800’s did. Clothes that were handmade reflected the time and care that went into it. Furniture was made with care and artistry and was built to last. I wish we had that type of craftsmanship in these areas again.

    Amen! Amen! You can buy handmade clothes from the Amish, but you have to be okay with that style. Which I am. It also costs an arm and a leg, but you get what you pay for, y’know? 🙂 I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    That said, technology and medical advances are great but the throw away mentality and less than stellar mass manufacturing of goods leads to them breaking easily or being outdated even before they hit the market and we tend to want the newest and best thing to come out.

    We need a good mix of the two.

    I agree 100%! We’re of the same mind on this one, Delaney!

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