Friday, April 30, 2010

The Actual Soundtrack Consists of Two Dozen People Saying: Have You Seen My Bevel Square? 14,952 Times

As usual, the boat's not finished when the builders lost interest in photographing it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I'm Just A He-Man In A Sudden Shower

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Furniture Music


One of the pieces of music featured in one of the best and most effective soundtracks ever, accompanying Peter Sellers' best work. Seven lousy bucks for the movie at Amazon. Deuce Bigalow is eighteen bucks, proving, finally, that there is no God.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If San Francisco Stood Still And You Didn't

10,000 still photos make a movie.

I like it when people show their affection for their surroundings and friends.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No Biggie. They Play Football With Their Feet, Too

Marvelous fun to watch. My good Interbuddy Gerard sent it to me. He always finds interesting things by the carload. If the Internet needs an editor, (it does) Gerard should be it.

To people unfamiliar to woodworking, this will seem even more marvelous than it is. That's this fellow's version of a pole lathe. People have been using people power to do woodturning for a very long time. The person making the video takes it closely framed, because he thinks that the man is using his foot to perform the cutting, but he's just using them as a steady-rest and manipulating the chisels with his hand like any other turner would.

He's turning very soft, very dry wood or this method would be physically very demanding. He can only cut on one half of the stroke, and the bow he's got with the string has to be returned for each stroke to start again. He's very sure-handed and efficient. He uses the skew to make really finished work without sanding.

The western version of this was a fellow called a bodger. He'd go out in the woods and make chairs. He worked on green (freshly cut, undried) wood mostly. The bodger would fell and split the tree into usable baulks, then shape it roughly round with spokeshaves. You can see the Morocccan fellow roughly shape the blank round before he put it in the lathe. If you have a powered lathe you might not bother; it would be just as easy to do it with a gouge, but would require a lot of turns on a pole lathe to accomplish.

A Windsor chair is the bodger's ultimate accomplishment. There are still guys around making them without power tools. They make the different parts from different types of woods, each suited to the needs of the component. They steam bend the big curves.

I turn legs on a lathe now, and I recognize everything the fellow with the mighty foot was doing and the tools he used. I was mostly impressed with what was possible when you did the same thing over and over again, as this fellow has evidently been doing. His efficiency and skill was wonderful to watch. The motifs he used were traditional, but you could tell he applied them in his own way.

One dreams of finding some niche item you could make over and over like that, and make it pay, and become known for it. I've run my hand over the piano of possibilities of handwork in my life and never come close. I've ended up having to offer all sorts of things and efforts to make a living. The modern world doesn't like repetition not performed by a machine much. But we react instinctively to it when we see it -- a craftsman is working.

Ultimately, I just noticed that a guy crouching in an alley in Marrakech and making trifles with his feet was wearing better clothes than I was.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Friend, If He'll Have It

I've met a lot of nice people on the Interchunnel. I've actually only met a few of them in person, but that's the beauty of the thing. It keeps you in touch with the far-flung, even if they were far-flung before you knew them.

It's really presumptuous of me to say, but the Bird Dog from the excellent Maggie's Farm is one of my best friends. I doubt he'd say that in return, because he barely knows me and if he knew me better he wouldn't even like me much; but the beauty of blogging is you can write what you like and then turn this damnable silicon box off and not hear yourself being contradicted. It's like inscribing your own stone tablets and then breaking them right away. So Bird Dog's my best friend, and someone tell Tom Brady's wife to stop calling me, because it ain't gonna happen. Click.

Bird Dog is profiled on Normblog, which is like an Internet Mount Rushmore, only more crowded and made from chewing gum from under a grade school cafeteria table, not granite. He deserves all such encomiums, and several other words I don't really understand but can find in the thesaurus. He really is a most excellent fellow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Even If You're Fatigued, You Can Still Do Carpentry

It's easy to forget that the military trains all sorts of people to do all sorts of useful things to support its main function. I've hired lots of ex-military people for construction jobs and they almost always outperformed civvies.

A long time ago, they used to be the only guys with tattoos; more recently, they were the only ones without them.

I noticed they're all wearing hardhats and safety goggles all the time. Getting shot at is probably less dangerous than roofing anyway.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Have A Sunday Night

Sippican Cottage hereby offers one free Sunday night at our house. No purchase necessary. This offer cannot be combined with other offers. See dealer for details. No warranty expressed or implied. Your mileage may vary. Try the veal; it's the best in the city.

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Coal Breaker (From 2009; RIP)


The great man's house. The daughters of the men who cracked his anthracite cracked oysters for him in there. The girls would come home and say they had a place in the great man's house and would rub shoulders with quality, pa. The fathers knew him, though. A werewolf. A vampire. They would sit with their black faces and their watery eyes at the kitchen table and knew what it meant to turn your bairns over to such men. They'd say nothing because there was nothing to say.

They turned their sons over to the collieries. There was pride there, and shame, too. A man hopes for better for his children than he got. Nothing is ever better in a mine. You come out every day like the womb. Born again. Or not. The great man would read of the little men like ants that worked in his seams, dead of the gas or the great hand of gravity. It was a story from far away as their daughters cracked his oysters. But the men would see their sons fight back the plain fear in their eyes as the sky passed away and the rank earth swallowed them for their labors, and feel pride, too. No man is ashamed of his son at his elbow in a mine. He is ashamed of himself, maybe.

What is a man to do? A Welshman might as well be a black ant. He's got the instinct to go down and up in that little hole and can't help himself. He knows no other thing until he knows nothing forevermore. He does what he does. And the great man did what he did. He saw the man's weakness, and strength, and used one to get the other.

Look upon it. The great man had the other great men in his pocket. He could call out the guard on a whim. He could kill a man legal. He could kill him any which way. He could do what he pleased. He could live in the shadow of a boneyard in a palace and there were none dared to squeak. The men said we'll vote and stick together, and the great man just put one more man in charge of them, the new black prince of the county with the thing with the letters behind him. It was organized, but not like you'd think. Things would go on behind a velvet curtain. If they drew it back you'd see the smirk of the hyena in there.

There was no work. The union and the boss alike said no coal. The big machines and the kept men kept even the culm from us. The great man didn't mine the coal, he mined the banks and the government and the union and got his gelt just the same.

The great man thought he knew men. But he did not know your father and his father. They knew the coal like he knew his oysters. They went into the woods where the seams lay close to the sky, and they began again. The very earth gave them what they always sought. The men sent to find them joined them. The trucks ran at night to the great glittering city where the coins slept in great vaults.

The housemaids knew from whence it came, for they had come from there themselves. They pressed the coins into the dingy hands at the alley gate and burned it in their own great man's house. Their little hods filled with bootleg coal made a pyre for our great man.

Look on it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Friday, April 09, 2010

Italian Negotiating

-Excuse me, sir.
-Not now, kid; I'm busy.
-Please, sir. Won't take but a minute.
-Time is wastin' junior; whaddya want?
-I want to join your carnival, sir.
-Souls in hell want icewater, kid.
-I can do something spectacular.
-You look like the short end of nothing, sharpened, kid. I need to attract the eyeballs.
-I can do a stunt.
-What could you possibly do?
-I could dive off a thirty foot ladder into my mother's washtub half full of water.
-Kid, if you could do that, I'd pay you a hundred a week.
-Just watch me...

-Kid, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it. That was fantastic. I'm a man of my word. A hundred a week it is.
-A hundred and fifty.
-One seventy-five.
-Look kid, you're backsliding on me. What's the idea of holding me up for more money when we had a deal fair and square from the get-go?
-Oh, no sir; it's not that. It's just that I never tried it before, and I didn't really like it.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Don't Buy It!

The Duke of Yuk got a ukulele for his birthday. He decided he was tired of just singing Beatles songs, and decided to write his own. Hey, how hard can it be? This one has the the urgency of a four-alarm fire, the insistent beat of the poorly-plumbed faucet, and explores the themes of worry, loss, and redemption. Lou Reed wishes he was this good, I'm telling you.

Don't miss the letter grade at the end. And don't buy it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Keeping Your Toenails Still While You Pound on Them Is Harder Than It looks

I shed a tear when I watched this. Talking openly of providing work of a rough nature for the local carpenter -- dead as Croesus.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Break It Down Baby Now

I'm not sure I can explain the appeal, exactly. It's manifestly appealing, of course, but it's the explainin' that's hard. Why do these rude little nonsense adult nursery rhymes have the allure they do?

That's Junior Walker and the All-Stars. When all of my friends were listening to Aerosmith records, I was listening to Junior Walker.

I learned to play bass guitar from my older brother. It took two hours. I've forgotten some of what he taught me during that two hours. It's still enough. He explained the difference between James Brown and the Beatles: The Beatles are a chord, James Brown is a scale. A minor pentatonic scale, generally, if you're interested. The Beatles are a piano. James Brown is a drumset. Ten days later I was playing for money in a nightclub. Shotgun. Junior Walker is a scale, too.

A magnificent, rhythmic, hypnotic, urgent, swinging, insistent, soul-shaking, hypersexual, sensuous, clanging scale. The go-go dancers are fine by me, too.

His real name is Autry De Walt Junior. Heh.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

You Didn't Have To Love Me Like You Did, But You Did

Man oh man, a lot of people have been nice to me and my family this last week. We're moving to Rumford Maine, and the old saw about moving is really true: A good friend will help you move; a great friend will help you move a body. Well, I had dozens of friends, relatives and neighbors helping me empty all the shallow graves one accumulates when you live in one place for a long time, and I'm profoundly grateful to everybody.

My new neighbors are extraordinarily thoughtful and generous and kind and convivial. Some have ugly dogs and beautiful souls -- a common combination. Another is some sort of wild-eyed writer dude, and it appears he's educated at it, although it doesn't seem to have hurt him none. Like all decent people, I am always deeply suspicious of persons that understand the Harvard comma, but he exhibits his cap and gown behavior only when cornered, and talks dress-casual the other 364 days of the year, which is a help to me.

The magnificent Mr. and Mrs. Bird Dog sent us a jolly spray of spring posies, the first thing ever delivered to our house. He's another sort of fellow that understands the Harvard comma but won't let on that he does. Bird Dog's wife is a great beauty and I'm sure he has trouble demonstrating the requisite feats of strength to impress her enough to keep him around, and I hope he continues, as the flower selection will no doubt suffer if she's not involved.

Marvelous polyglot lot around here amongst the tall stands of Yankees. Ebeneezer from Ghana and I talked furniture over the barbeque yesterday. Speaking of feats of strength, our teenaged neighbors Yago from Spain and Luiz from Brazil helped shlep our stuff inside. I have a corroded soul and didn't mention the cast iron everything a woodworker favors until the truck door opened. We told them they could play X-Box with the large heir when we were done, and having unblemished souls, they don't know a carny's come-on when they hear it.

I'll spend time in hell someday for that one, which is fine with me -- as it's a hell of a lot warmer than Rumford, Maine.