Our Resident Rube Goldberg

by Stefani on 16-May-2009

Each month the Book of Days “Imagine” section comes to you straight from the mind our resident dreamer, James.

Whether it’s wondering about what it would be like to live underground (Winter Book 1) or in an enormous tree house (Winter Book 1), thinking on the many and varied possibilities for a cardboard box (Spring Book 1), or wishing that gardens grew candy and toys instead of vegetables (Spring Book 2), our James is vast well of imaginings.

Spring Book Three‘s flight of fancy though, the gloriously complicated “Goodnight Machine,” is more than an interesting idea for my guy. Machines are his passion!

The Goodnight Machine

This boy has drawers and bins full of salvaged parts, nuts and bolts, cogs and wheels, toilet paper tubes and duct tape. He’s forever rigging up some kind of gizmo – the more “twisty and turny” the better.


Being a mad genius has it’s downsides though. It can be a frustrating row to hoe. Try as you might, it’s tough to build a working weather station from bread twisty ties, old sewing machine parts and Legos! And as hard as I try to accommodate his creativity, I often find myself unable to deliver the ingredients for his mechanical recipes (a satellite dish! plutonium!). He is a man before his time.

Creating Contraptions

So when James discovered the world of Rube Goldberg it was like a long deep breath for him. Here was a man who inspired legions of inventors, a man whose very NAME is now used as an adjective to describe complex machinery, and yet he did not actually build his machines…. he drew them. He was internationally renowned for his amazing creations, even though they were only made of paper and pencil, not wires and steel.

This was a revolutionary idea for James – that a machine could inspire and have meaning without ever actually being built. He’s always drawn out his ideas, but knowing the work of Rube Goldberg has helped him to see his drawings as legitimate creations, they stand on their own, even if the machines that they depict are not (yet) built. And so he draws and sketches, thinks and creates with a fresh passion, excited by the thought that dreams are worth dreaming, whether or not they ever come true.

Of course, he also tells me that there’s another good reason to draw his machines… so he’ll remember all his plans when he finally gets his hands on some plutonium and a satellite.

Heaven help us all.


Read all about Rube Goldberg and see a few of his fantastical imaginings here.

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