I have a great love of unusual facts. Like most people who enjoy trivia I also live to bring it up randomly in conversation. So, Mark Miodownik’s book Stuff Matters, about the origin, history, and possible future use of everyday things is an ideal book for me to gather tidbits to later regurgitate.
As a materials profession Miodownik is well versed in the subject and understands how to communicate the information in a consumable manner. His writing style is beautiful but easy to comprehend. And, I appreciated that the explanations of the chemical makeup was understandable even when it veered into the anatomical explanation of materials. More importantly, Miodownik clearly loves materials and enthusiastically shares their uniqueness.
In each of the eleven chapters, Miodownik covers eleven different materials that make up ordinary items. Some chapters have an anectode or a personal pondering that introduces the material. All the chapters give the history, original uses, modern application and possible future form of the material. Whether he was talking about china, concrete, titanium, or paper I was riveted.
The only chapter I struggled with was the one on plastic. Here, Miodownik tells the story of a plastic candy wrapper at the movie showing of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He found himself in an argument regarding the appropriateness of plastic at the movie theatre. The information and delivery of the information would have been superb but he used Butch Cassidy’s storyline to deliver it. This meant that the delicious clipped British accent of narrator Michael Page took on the drawl of a movie cowboy. Also, I have never seen Butch Cassidy so many parrellels made to the story were meaningless for me. Still, I learned much about plastics and this chapter was not bad, at all, just the only less than perfect one of the eleven.
Mark Miodownik has been fascinated by materials his whole life. He ponders them in a way I would never have before listening to his book. But now, when I hold my china teacup, you can be sure I will be telling anyone around me about its origins in China and the humble lifecycle of its cousin, the mug. Oh thank you Stuff Matters for the wealth of ridiculous information I now have at my fingertips.
Tell me, please!
Do you wonder about the materials in everyday objects?
It was this picture from Justin Trudeau’s first cabinet that caught my eye. Much like spotting an extremely attractive person, I scrolled past it at first and then did I double take. Look at this magnificence! There are fifty percent women, minorities and a person with a visible disability all right there representing a whole country. Wait. Maybe that isn’t how legislation works in Canada. I had to look it up. My Canadian crush had begun.
Recently I returned from my Canadian adventure. I spent ten wonderful days traveling by car through the province Quebec starting in Quebec City then up to Tadoussac and around again to Montreal before heading home. By the time I arrived back at my own house I was making promises to myself to never go outside again. But, after one good night of sleep in my own bed my crush roared to life again. Luckily, Mike Myers has a 2016 book entitled Canada and my library even lent me to audiobook. Good on ya library!
Mike Myers only lived in Canada until he was 20. Now, at age 53 his comprehension and eloquence on the subject of his native land is akin to hero worshipping. Or, as he says, “There is no one more Canadian than a Canadian who no longer lives in Canada.” With a straight delivery that I didn’t really expect from Mike Myers he tells the tale of growing up in Canada with two British immigrants for parents and how his family and his country made him who he is today. He added loads of delicious Canadian inside information that I ate up like it was covered in maple syrup.
I delighted in hearing about the morbid sense of humor most Canadians enjoy. Myers fascinated me with the different accents across Canada and the words and phrases unique to Canadians. When he started immitating the rising linguistics employed by most Canadians I was rolling with laughter. You see, I lived in Minnesota for three years before my Canadian crush. Minnesotans are similar to Canadians in only a few ways (to my untrained eye) but they absolute use rising linguistics. On top of all of this, Myers gave me plenty of little Canadian tidbits that I can use to be extra annoying when talking about Canada.
If you don’t have a crush on Canada but you are interested in Mike Myers he spends quite some time talking about how he found fame. His story is intertwined with Canada but he shares a number of personal anecdotes. The most interesting was how he created and popularized Wayne Campbell.
I was initially drawn to the notion of Canada and the ideals put forth by Trudeau before our tumultuous election and subsequent further division in America. It is difficult to explain how upset you become watching your country lose its morality and ideology. Listening to Myers talk about Canada, especially in the final chapter, gives me hope.
Tell me, please!
Have you ever been fascinated by another country?