Why YouTube Was Invented

Technology lets us share how-to knowledge.

Ah, the Internet. Yesterday morning I made a throw-away comment about wondering whether hammers or explosives would work better for a preventive strike on leafblowers. A few hour later, a reader had put together a thoroughgoing strategic analysis about the ethics and practicality of such a move.

Now, via Tim Heffernan, evidence that, as always, YouTube is ahead of us. I love the go-to-the-source panache, plus the commitment to experimental science, displayed by this guy. If you see nothing else, skip to time 0:50 and start there.

If you prefer a less kinetic approach to the problem, I offer this not-all-that-useful guidance from Consumer Reports:

And here is a debunking of a "quiet" gas-powered blower:

The guy linked but not embedded here is in an (understandably) surly but NSFW mood. Thus no embedding. (I love the detail that he is cussing out the leafblower menace in front of his little toddler.) And if you would like a Zen-tranquility-style soft-sell approach to what I consider (and will argue some other time*) is the most pointless externalized nuisance American society now routinely tolerates, check out this little tone-poem:

*Again, the full thesis is for another time, but consider: Dogs have more social utility than leafblowers, but dog owners aren't allowed to leave their pets' droppings everywhere. Even cigars have a finer human history than leafblowers, but you can't smoke them where their odor might reach anyone else. Because of the nuisance to neighbors, I can't open up a liquor store, build a bonfire, run a chicken coop, burn tires, etc in my backyard. Airplanes and airports are noisy, but in almost all cases the airport was there before the neighbors moved in -- and each generation of planes and engines is quieter than its predecessor. Then there is the notable exception of the leafblower: a tool meant for agricultural/industrial use that made its noxious way into neighborhoods. I'll leave it on that sunny note for right now.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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