Re: [rumori] Bricollage on TV

From: The Evolution Control Committee (
Date: Mon Jun 11 2001 - 13:13:10 PDT

     Over the last 8 months-ish I've become a huge fan of Junkyard
Wars/Scrapheap Challenge ("JW" as it appears on TLC; "SC" as it appears on
BBC)... it's a very geek oriented show, though much more for a mechanical
engineering geek rather than logic/math/computer geeks. In contrast to the
robot-war shows I've seen, the emphasis of JW/SC is much more on education
rather than sensationalism/entertainment.
     For those that haven't seen it before, the idea is that two teams of
three people plus a fourth "expert" guide (an expert in the field of the
day's challenge) are pitted against each other to build a working machine
in 8 hours that can accomplish the day's declared challenge: build a
hovercraft and traverse a watery obstacle course; launch a snow globe into
the atmosphere and return it safely, etc. The teams must build the machine
out of... junk. Whatever crap is lying around the junkyard they're filming in.
     JW/SC always has animations to explain the principles of the machines
their building for the day... this is, after all, an educational show to
teach you how basic principles of mechanics work. The payoff for your
lessons is that you get to actually see the teams pit their heaps of crap
against each other. And it's often a good payoff -- who would've thought
you could build a working amphibious vehicle out of junk in 8 hours?

     As for relevance to this list... the resulting devices have less to do
with art and more to do with function, though you can see many times in the
show that the teams are often artists... I've seen a number of shows where
there's a distinct subtext of "artists vs. mechanics". The art teams are
usually evenly matched; I believe that even the finals episode was a team
of artists ("Art Attacks") vs. The Long Brothers, a team of 3 farm boys
(actual brothers).

     I don't believe any members of SRL have competed, but Kal Spelletich
from Seemen was on for the all-terrain vehicle challenge. They lost, though
a nice touch I thought was that they showed how even after losing, they
were almost more concerned about why their machine failed rather than the
fact that they lost... a true "geek trait", or maybe "artists's trait", if
you will.

     I can't remember the domain offhand, but one team who completed three
episodes of the BBC run have a great website up about their experiences
with the show. The team is "The Nerds", and the domain may be something

At 02:53 PM 6/9/01 -0400, P.Lopez wrote:
>Here are the episodes i would recommend watching when they next air.
>Power Pullers

     One of my faves too...

>Walking Machines

     A true tortoise vs. hare race; the "walking table" is painfully slow,
but the "hopping jeep" keeps breaking...

>For me the earlier episodes are more inclined towards learning, since
>the two hosts seemed to understand the technology, the later season host
>is more over the top and gimicky, going to humor a little too often.

     The shows with the American host have a more competitive, predatory
feel... the earlier BBC SC shows (with the British guy) have the teams
being a lot more forgiving and polite to each other.
     By the way, the hostess of the show is also one of the show's
creators, and she has a PhD in science education or something like that.
When she actually describes the mechanics of what the teams are doing,
she's not just reading from the teleprompter.

>Yes, I saw Jay Leno as a contestant once.
>He's actually a damned good mechanical engineer,
>though not much of a cultural one.

     What the...?!? You gotta tell me more about this; I've never heard
about that!

- Mark G.

--                                      The Evolution Control 
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