Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 24, 2007


As some here will know, I really like cranes.

I pictured one in its habitual environment this afternoon. The small size of us as human beings versus their natural surroundings is quite amazing.


Posted by b on August 24, 2007 at 19:12 UTC | Permalink


We have millions of cranes here. Sandhill cranes. That is a phenomena to see. (just kidding!)

Did you take this picture? It is awesome! I used to work on these big structures building huge tanks. I would have been that dude on the ladder.
You really got a nice pic of very difficult material. Big ships are also hard to do, don't you think?

Posted by: Jake | Aug 24 2007 20:21 utc | 1

Sad thing is, I wouldn't try to take that kind of picture in the states, you could find yourself in orange jumpsuit and sleeping on steel for the night, if not for years.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Aug 24 2007 21:06 utc | 2

wow, cool photo

Posted by: annie | Aug 24 2007 21:37 utc | 3

The small size of us as human beings versus their natural surroundings is quite amazing.

I agree with your statement, b, but my interpretation of natural surroundings would include mountains, oceans, the solar system/galaxy etc, but not man made artifacts.

I am awed by human ability to manipulate nature through technology but sometimes I think shock accompanies the awe for me when humans intervene.

Posted by: Juannie | Aug 24 2007 22:16 utc | 4

Beavers and humans both build dams. Is one more natural than the other?

Posted by: catlady | Aug 24 2007 23:08 utc | 5


I used to live along the Platte River, one of the stopping places in the Sandhill cranes' annual migrations. Miss 'em.

Posted by: catlady | Aug 24 2007 23:15 utc | 6

You know, it may be easier to take pictures such as 4,000 Sandhill cranes leaving the ground all at once, than it is to take pictures of the colossal things that we make with our hands.

Both are beautiful to me.

Posted by: Jake | Aug 25 2007 0:44 utc | 7

my son was mesmerized w/cranes when he was a little boy. we used to pack lunches and go park next to the construction sites , lay in the back of the truck and watch. i have a lot of crane watching hrs under my belt. it was one of his first words, 'crane! crane!'. this was in his pre ninja turtle days.

Posted by: annie | Aug 25 2007 1:07 utc | 8

Wait! Your son is a 'Ninja Turtle' annie?!!! We're saved!
haha... ;-p

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Aug 25 2007 1:37 utc | 9

Cranes that fly

Cranes that hoist

Cranes to practice

Something lovely about those slender cantilevered appendages.

4,000 cranes lifting off all at once. The video clip toward the bottom of the page isn't great, but certainly triggers my memory: the whirling patterns against the evening sky, and the sound, the sound of all those beautiful birds.

Posted by: catlady | Aug 25 2007 4:44 utc | 10

Send in the Cranes

Closing our little R/E shop tonight after a week of packaging vacation shacks rebranded as bedroom community "sweat equity specials", now close to a new freeway so US$300K+ for an old 750sf manufactured home, 3/16-acre, out in the boonies, all electric heat and three-inch tin walls, (you get the picture),

I pulled into the grocery store and ended up in line behind a woman and her two kids, clearly homeless since they had two shopping carts with all their worldly possessions, the kids skinny as two Q-tips with blond hair, and realized the reason half the cranes in the world are over in Dubai has nothing to do with the "colossal things that we make with our hands", but just a colossal version of what I'm trying to do by flipping 1970's double-wides to desperate exurbanites.

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
US R/E at last in the tank,
Dubai in the air.
Send in the cranes.

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
R/E bleeding red ink,
but Dubai who can't lose.
Where are the cranes?
Send in the cranes.

Just when I'd stopped flipping new homes,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours,
Making my sales pitch again with my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No one is there.

Don't you love farce?
R/E's fault I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the cranes?
Quick, send in the cranes.
Don't bother, they're here.

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer,
Losing my timing this late
In my R/E career?
And where are the cranes?
There ought to be cranes.
Well, maybe next year.

Posted by: Tante Aime | Aug 25 2007 4:51 utc | 11

And don't forget that all too lovable Bob Crane.

Posted by: biklett | Aug 25 2007 5:29 utc | 12

Tante Aime, I have always loved your comments, but this one moves me more than most, perhaps it's because of the song you are parodying, I don't know, but the message comes through loud and clear. I guess, I'm grieving for a country that really never was, at least for the vast majority of us.

Obviously they need a bigger construction crane to build the construction crane. But now, how do they build the construction crane crane ? It's like nano

And for some reason when I think of cranes I think of Survival Research Laboratories (SRL) is an industrial machine performance art group based in San Francisco, California. I have always wanted to see one of their shows live however there is youtoob, but it's not like being there.

I have always thought it would be cool to see a war between two cranes, where they all swing stuff around trying to knock each other over.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Aug 25 2007 5:53 utc | 13

Pardon my stupidity, but what is an "R/E shop"? Beyond that I heartily concur w/Uncle's praise of Tante Aime & do wish you'd post more...

Posted by: jj | Aug 25 2007 6:00 utc | 14

Was sleeping in the park in San Francisco once, many moons ago, and woke to find myself part of the scenery in a San Francisco Mime Troupe show. Maybe this whole seven years of abject Neo-Zi defeatism is just B-g G-'s way of putting US into his own little mime show? You know, like some Maliki, Chalabi and Ollie Show, and we're all in Ray Rayner's peanut gallery, hooting our horns.

Posted by: Tante Aime | Aug 25 2007 6:00 utc | 15

Yes Uncle. SRL is the forerunner of that movie about the Transformers, but done in real life.

I read about them in RE/Search magazine, a blog if there ever was one before the Internet. Worth looking up.

As for you, Bernhard, I think as an engineer you have a high regard for these machines which can balance such weight on their tiny footprint.

I have spent time figuring out how the cantilever with its tiny weight at the other end can support the kilos at the long end.

For a while I thought that the counterweight must move in and out to balance the load, but apparently not. The load must be absorbed by the structure itself.

I'd like to learn more.

Posted by: jonku | Aug 25 2007 6:37 utc | 16

Uncle, there is a whole dance surrounding establishing the crane. Bernhard linked to it at one time, there are smaller machines that erect the larger. Perhaps itself it continues to establish itself, I'm not sure.

But the lesson is clear, in one sense. A small person, with a good plan and some stuff, maybe a machine small enough to be hand-built, can build a bigger machine with great power. A purpose-built machine to be sure with specific abilities.

Engineers do build stuff. All they need is a goal and some support ... is there a metaphor here?

Posted by: jonku | Aug 25 2007 6:48 utc | 17

b, the line between art and engineering exists only in our minds... Theo Jansen

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Aug 25 2007 9:43 utc | 18

b, the line between art and engineering exists only in our minds...

Yes, proven at least since Leonardo dV :-)

Posted by: b | Aug 25 2007 12:28 utc | 19

Beautiful strong image b.
And thanks for the strandbeests Uncle.
And the sandhill cranes catlady.

Posted by: beq | Aug 25 2007 14:33 utc | 20

May I ask what are they building there? Are those some sort of smokestacks, part of a bridge, or something else? Also I assume
those pipes have to be spun around so the ladders match, but then
how are they held together?

Posted by: FMC | Aug 25 2007 14:57 utc | 21


William Gibson wrote some great SRL-inspired scenes in Mona Lisa Overdrive, the third book in the Neuromancer series.

Re nanotech:

"Nanotechnology is currently used in commercial applications, most famously sunscreens and stain-resistant pants." -- Bart Mongoven, Stratfor.

Posted by: catlady | Aug 25 2007 15:38 utc | 22

Answer to some questions above and some not asked:

Yes I took the picture myself but only with an old 2 megapixel pocket cam, so it's certainly not what it could be.

It's a triple smokestack for a new central heating/power facility in the Hamburg harbour. It's a nat-gas facility with additional solar collectors. It will heat some 5,000 apartment/office units with less than half the "normal" CO-2 output.

The man is at about 180 feet high, the piece added has about 50 feet and another 30 feet piece will go on top of it for a total of some 260 feet. The piece get bolted together with some 50 screws (about an inch wide, 8 inch long screws).

The crane is a Liebherr all terrain LTM 1500 with 160 feet telescopic mast, 160 feet lattice jib and 180 short tons counterweight.

Posted by: b | Aug 25 2007 16:18 utc | 23

William Gibson wrote some great SRL-inspired scenes in Mona Lisa Overdrive...

Damn, figures, it's the only book I haven't read by Gibson, I have it here somewhere, just never cracked it for some odd reason.

Also, that reminds me more of scenes from Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash or Diamond Age both excellent books and both excellent cyberpunk authors that Gibson and Neal. Of course wilm Gibson was the father of the genre , then came Neal.

I could envision something like whole herds of Theo Jansen's monstrosities like his windwalking
Strandbeests strutting round looking impressive (while kicking sand in the face of pesky humans). in some sort of postmodern civilization collapse like some machinca de Jesus laughing at humanities stupidity.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Aug 25 2007 17:04 utc | 24

I'd say Jim Dodge's Stone Junction makes him the godfather or uncle to the genre.

Posted by: biklett | Aug 25 2007 20:06 utc | 25

ZOMG! hahaha... I had forgotten about him bikett yes, yes, quite right, Godfather, I'd say. I remember a character in Jim Dodge's novel Stone Junction saying: "Hasn't it ever occurred to you that coincidence is the natural state of affairs?"; 'As above, so below' Only time I worry about coincidence is when it quits happening. That's when your ass goes up for grabs"

I'm with that

Thanks so much for reminding me!

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Aug 25 2007 21:10 utc | 26


For a while I thought that the counterweight must move in and out to balance the load, but apparently not.

Actually, for the really big ones that's exactly what they do under computer control. They had a German engineered crane at Darlington nucluer power plant that worked that way. For numbers though nothing compares to the tar sands projects. The sky is littered with them.

Posted by: Sam | Aug 26 2007 14:02 utc | 27

I understand your obsession. I was a structural engineer in the crane industry for 24 years before moving to the public sector. I worked for Manitowoc, American Hoist and AmClyde. The latter company designed and built some of the largest offshore cranes in the world. Crawling around on a crane with 7000-tonne lifting capacity is truly a remarkable experience.

Posted by: Joe F | Aug 27 2007 12:12 utc | 28

i thought i was a strange person i walk to school amazed at the height and how versatile the mad machines are i wondered if any one has a video or coould explain just do these really tall cranes get built only i have never seen them in build as to say. i have seen lorrys with sections on them the next i see is these monsters in the sky sorry for intruding but i thought you mat be able to help many thanks Nigel

Posted by: nigel.cooper@hot | Nov 25 2007 8:38 utc | 29

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