Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Some Chinese Woodworking

The woodworking community buzzes about Japanese woodworking (though not enough!), but what about Chinese woodworking? It's hard to find info, but this is close. In this Nova programme, Bashar Altabba, an an engineer from Boston, and Marcus Brandt, a timber framer from Pennsylvania, travel to China to help Professor Tang reconstruct the Rainbow Bridge, built in the Song dynasty. All they have to go on in a 900 year old painting. I feel compelled to warn you that there is a frustrating bit at the end. Brandt extolls the workmanship and joinery of the Chinese in the last 5 seconds of the programme, but you only see it for a minute, and of course you never see that part of the construction! Another side-point: Professor Tang explains that the aesthetic of the reverse curve is attractive because it resembles the body of a woman. I couldn't help but wonder how the group dynamics would have been effected by having women on the team...and I'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Apartment Grey Water #5 חוסכים מים בירושלים

Here's my first video, shot on my Nano. Granted, it could do with editing, but here it is:

video

As you can see, the waste-pipe from the washing machine is directed into a black bin. Visible is a sieve stuck into the bin's lid. That's for dumping bucket loads of water into the bin to filter it a bit before the pump (one of those aquarium types) pumps the water into the holding tank above. The water then passes through a normal white tube into the toilet tank.

Because i don't know much (read anything) about physics, and i required a low-tech solution, i turned to the Romans:

This video made clear how pressure moves with gradients, which was helpful in adjusting the tube from the holding tank outside.
How cool is the inverted syphon?!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Even Old New York Was Once New Amsterdam


Previously, we spoke about Russell Shorto's book on New Netherland. The New York Times has just published a piece on Charles Ghering--the man who made available nearly 12,000 pages of colonial Dutch records--which can be read here. Also, check out the 3D virtual reconstruction of New Amsterdam.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Boulle Exhibit


Finally! Cabinetry is being recognised as a visual art with the exhibition celebrating the work of Andre Charles Boulle. The exhibit focuses on his marquetry, and though it's in Frankfurt, details of the exhibit can be seen here. It's a pretty big deal for woodworkers and art aficionados alike. According to the Art Newspaper, this exhibit will be 'one of the major cultural and artistic events of the moment.'

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Pachelbel & Taco Bell

So i was listening to St. Matthew's Passion whilst working from home today, and this particular song sounded familiar:

As i heard accompanying English lyrics in my head, the familiarity turned into shock. Could it be? Nah? That's INSANE!:

Yeah! Paul Simon totally ripped off Bach!

Before the next example, I just want to publicly apologise to my father who is probably tearing his hair out and wondering what he did wrong when his own daughter recognises this:

because she was first familiar with this:



'How burgerlijk!'
According to Rob Paravonian, pop culture has been ripping off classical music for ages:
Oh, and Dad, when i do woodworking, my music of choice is Mahler's Symphony No. 2--it's only appropriate, right? ;-)

Monday, 7 December 2009

A Linguistics Lesson from South Park

South-Park-Gays-Against-Fags.JPG


A fairly recent episode of South Park addresses the fluidity of language, and how words, especially slang, can take on vastly different meanings over the course of a few years. Of course, this episode, called 'The F-Word' generated much controversy. Click here for an article from the Arts section of the New York Times. By clicking the blog post title, you should be able to watch the episode.




Monday, 30 November 2009

Addendum: Thanksgiving & Flemish and Dutch New York



David Baeckelandt, a generous scholar who writes the fine blog The Flemish American has posted a most interesting article about the Flemish influence on the American holiday of Thanksgiving, which you can read here. In fact, he has several posts on the Flemish-Pilgrim connection.

Another charitable scholar who writes about Dutch America is the Rev'd Dr. Daniel Meeter, minister of the Old First Reformed Church in Breukelen (Brooklyn). His blog can be found here. Enjoy--they're both pretty sweet blogs.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Dutch-American Heritage Day

New Amsterdam - The Memory of the Netherlands

Since it was Dutch American Heritage day (16 of November), I just wanted to mention a book I read recently and loved. Russell Shorto’s The Island at the Center of the World. Whenever I go to New York, I always like to hunt around for the remains of New Amsterdam. But it's always hard to find. There are a few monuments and plaques, and some passing references here and there, but i always get the feeling that the story of Dutch America has been short-changed. It makes sense, really. The Dutch do not hold dear their language like the French, nor their pomp like the English. Instead--the infamous red-light district aside--it's a culture of modesty. Everything is diminutive. For instance, glass is a glasje (small glass) and a small glass is doubly small--a kleine glasje. Culturally, the Dutch are almost apologetic, even when people (mostly Americans) have no clue where the Netherlands is or the language spoken there ('do they speak Hollish in Holland?'). I hear Dutch people always preempting this with 'it's a very small country', and other explanations. My personal experience has been the same. I remember my Dutch mother giving up and just saying 'I'm from Europe,' (rolling her eyes, sometimes) after a while. My mother was also more than happy to let the language go with us children, so most of what we know has been self-taught later on in life. My grandparents tried to intercede but not necessarily on behalf of the Dutch language--they wanted my mother to speak to us in her strongest language after Dutch--French (also to no avail)!

Russell Shorto's best-seller saves the Dutch culture of America from being let go. Besides the obvious adage that it is the victors who write history, there are other reasons for the English stranglehold on American history. Shorto humorously explains that American historians found an easier story in Puritan New England than the more rough-and-tumble reality of Dutch Manhattan.

Accounts like that of a woman who, while her husband dozed on a nearby chair, ‘dishonourably manipulated the male member’ of a certain Irishman while two other men looked on. Excessive rigidity (of the moral kind) was not the sin of New Amsterdam’s residents.’ (p. 85)

{Shorto's wit is another great feature of the book. I think the following is the best sentence i have ever come across in a book about history:

The Reverend Jonas Michaelius might well have won a contest for the moodiest, bitchiest resident of New Amsterdam (p. 64)

Phenomenal!}

The historical revisionism of American history is, bluntly put, a conscious decision of total haters with English ancestry. Think i'm being harsh? Shorto brings evidence that nineteenth-century historians considered the Dutch chapter of American history inconsequential at best. Descriptions of the

petty cheeseparing of the Batavian provinces, with their windmills and barren soil, fit only for fuel

are among the kinder references made to the Dutch in nineteenth century American historical surveys.

Shorto instead brings to life Adriaen van der Donck, a young lawyer sent to New Netherland who pushed for the Republican-style government and freedom that became so central to America's cultural heritage. Shorto draws you into his tale by beginning with the work of Charles Gehring, who has worked for over 30 years (and is still going!) translating over 12,000 folios of Dutch colonial records. This book is sweet. Shorto does not divorce New Netherland history from 17th century Dutch history (if you loved Simon Schama's page-turner on the topic you will totes dig this), enriching both in the process. There's also a lot of cool facts to learn. I had no idea that the first kosher butcher on Manhattan Island was a Polish Jew named Asser Levy who stood up to Stuvesant's anti-Semitic wrangling. Want to know who Downing Street was named after? Read the book.

Despite my enthusiasm for this book, there is a huge problem in its premise. Essentially, Shorto makes the argument that the Dutch colony had its roots in thinkers like Grotius and Spinoza; liberals who advocated civil over religious law, in contrast to the witch burning crazy English colonies. To read Grotius as freeing natural law from theology is a dangerous misreading of Grotius at best, and a gross misrepresentation at worst. What follows is the philosophy that the only tolerant society is one that divorces itself from its religious heritage, which diminishes the monumental achievement of the 'tolerant' society of 17th century New Netherland, which was, indeed rooted in theology. That's where Shorto seems to drop the ball. He has us imagining van der Donck studying law at Leiden with Grotius, (which is awesome, granted), but if anything stands out about 17th century Leiden (besides the fact that it was full of Englishman wearing buckled hats and pimp-shoes), it's that the hottest topic of study gripping the place was Hebraism. That is to say, people like Grotius, and later, Selden in England, were defining international and natural law according to rabbinic sources such as the Talmud and Maimonides. A liberal environment, certainly. A Godless one, definitely not.




Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Hitgenstein: Even Before Brangelina & Bennifer

My friend Maya sent me this insane photo of Hitler and Wittgenstein in school together. It's taken from the blog of BK Marcus.

WittgensteinHitler

Monday, 26 October 2009

A Note on Richard Hooker's Impact on Pre-Raphaelite Art

800px-William_Holman_Hunt_001
William Holman Hunt, The Hireling Shepherd, 1851

Now that Hooker is slowly re-emerging in academic journals and theological discussions, it seems that there is anther area to be explored: Hooker's impact on art. In the 19th century, Keble's edition of Hooker's works were widely read. This passage from the ODNB perfectly captures the various connections between Ruskin, Hooker, and the Pre-Raphaelites:

In May 1851 he [Holman Hunt] wrote to the poet Coventry Patmore, who had been responsible for enlisting Ruskin's support, asking to borrow a copy of the works of the seventeenth-century theologian Richard Hooker. He added: 'As however I am obliged to read for my next year's subjects much just now, I hope you will be able to spare it some time'. Hooker provided the theme of The Hireling Shepherd, with its underlying attack on sectarianism for deflecting the clergy from the task of tending their flock. The picture marks out a new direction, in which the symbolism is so arcane as to be virtually impenetrable without a literary gloss. The painting can, however, be enjoyed on many levels. Its sunlit landscape, with its closely observed blue shadows, was painted at Ewell, Surrey, between June and December 1851 and was Hunt's most ambitious attempt at naturalism to date.

Hooker's writing not only impacted Hunt's art, but it also prompted the painter to take social action:
His dislike of narrow sectarianism-which underlies the composition of The Hireling Shepherd and Our English Coasts, 1852-deepened into disgust on his first visit to Jerusalem, where he found squabbling Christian sects vying with each other to convert the poverty-stricken Jews. Bribery was endemic and Hunt was so incensed by the activities of Samuel Gobat, Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, in this respect that in 1858 he published a pamphlet unmasking him (ODNB).
Along with Ruskin's observations about paintings by Tintoretto, Hooker's works must also be included as influences on Hunt's art, including 'The Shadow of Death,' which we looked at a few weeks ago. For more context to the painting, click here.



Friday, 23 October 2009

A Wittgenstein Wochenendbeilage

There are loads more cool things about Wittgenstein. Since his family was minted, he chilled with so many of his generation's elite--especially the artistic elite. I suppose one way of putting it would be that when you walk into the Neue Galerie on 5th Ave., you're pretty much entering Wittgenstein's world.

297px-Gustav_Klimt_055
This painting by Klimt is of Wittgenstein's sister, also known as Margaret Stonborough (1905). Wittgenstein's father also commissioned works by Rodin and fully funded the Vienna Secession building. Basically, he was the sugar daddy for many artists and architects of the various modernist movements. The Vienna Secession was primarily founded by Josef Hoffman, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Otto Wagner, and Koloman Moser.

Wittgenstein not only rubbed shoulders with the gifted artists of his day, but also one particularly mediocre artist, as well. At school, he was two years above Adolf Hitler, despite being born six days after the future Fuhrer. Thirty six years later, Wittgenstein would be on the run from his former schoolmate, and ironically require his assistance. With the advent of the Anschluss, or Germany's annexation of Austria, Wittgenstein was racially classified as a Jew. In order to be reclassified--to receive a Befreiung--as a Mischlinge, the applicant required the personal approval of Hitler. Out of 2100 applications in 1939, Hitler approved 12 (but not because he was stingy or really hated Jews; he was simply too busy designing flamboyant leather uniforms for his troops). The Wittgensteins' sheer wealth, which the Reichsbank had likely been eagerly eyeing for quite some time, definitely made the slim odds seem more in their favour to have their grandfather (and therefore his progeny) reclassified. And it would certainly cost them. In August of 1939, for the hefty sum of 1.7 tonnes of gold and other assets (way over $50 million in our time), the Befreiung was granted. If the Wittgensteins had transferred the money to the Reichsbank a few weeks later (i.e, after the outbreak of the war), it actually would have been considered a war crime, the punishment being death by hanging.

Hoffmann Desk 1905
But before Hitler ruined the Wittgenstein's party, Ludwig had met some pretty cool people and tried his hand at a few artistic pursuits, as well. Brahms and Mahler hung out at his house, and Brahms even gave his sister piano lessons.
Wittgenstein's sister commissioned Josef Hoffman to build this desk, which i have not been able to get out of my head since my visit to the Neue Gallerie. Hoffman stained the oak and then rubbed chalk into the wood grain to achieve this effect.

imagesIn 1925, Margaret Stonborough also commissioned her brother Ludwig--then a gardener in a nearby monastery--as an architect to design a large house for her in Vienna. Wittgenstein worked alongside Paul Engelmann, his friend from the army. Just to get an idea of how all the modernist movements are intertwined (not necessarily harmoniously), Engelmann had studied under Adolf Loos, who was also a friend of Wittgenstein. Loos basically bashed the Vienna Secession, whose building Wittgenstein's father had financed.

During the building of his sister's house, Wittgenstein also focussed more on sculpture. He had met the sculptor Michael Drobil when they were both in a POW camp, and Drobil had been a member of the Secession, as well.

It's fascinating to contextualise philosophers and artists with their cultural milieu. That being said, i've barely scratched the surface of the modernists, and i welcome any suggested reading.

Addendum:

I got a helpful comment from a reader on Lumberjocks (where i also post my blog), as well as some suggested reading. I thought i would post it here so we can all benefit. Thanks, JL Smith!

As a result of my education (both formal and informal) I have a pretty good grasp of the Vienna Secession particularly from an architectural and painting perspective. I have always found it interesting that the movement imposed no aesthetic dogma but instead focused on producing modern works of art. My understanding of the context beyond the artistic world has always been somewhat limited. I am sure you know that Art and Architectural history professors typically don’t like to teach social and political history. For the most part it seems if one whats to understand the art world in it’s broader context they will have to do it on their own.

I don’t know if these reading suggestions will align with your interests or not but I have read them and found them interesting. They cast a wider net then most art/architectural books do regarding context (the widest context is probably the Judgment of Paris).

These three are by Ross King
The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

Gregory Curtis wrote
The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World's First Artists

Philip Steadman wrote
Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth behind the Masterpieces


Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Debate of the Carpenter's Tools


Below is the famous late fifteenth century poem depicting the tools of a carpenter engaged in debate. I was determined to find it when i read a blog post by Christopher Schwarz that mentioned this poem in passing as being included in an older book by Roy Underhill. For a helpful introduction to the poem, click here. Below is the brief forward by James Orchard Halliwell from his 1844 edition of the poem, included in the volume Nugae Poetica: Select Pieces of Old English Popular Poetry, Illustrating the Manners and Arts of Fifteenth Century. I think the title of his book is longer than his little blurb on our poem, but here it is for your enjoyment.
Addendum: Since scrolling all the way down for the footnotes is a royal pain, they're included after every relevant page, but i decided to leave the entire list at the bottom, as well.







1 Shype-Ax. Most likely an ax used for chipping or trimming. See MED, “chip-ax.”

3 Clene hose and clene schone. The sense of these lines appears to be “I will earn you food and drink, but you’ll have to work harder to earn yourself clothing.”

6 Thall. “Thou will.” See MED, “thou.”

7 longys the crafte. Crafte may here refer to the profession of carpenters in general, or the local craft guild of carpenters more specifically.

9 Belte. An “allet maul, hammer; also, a bat or club.” See MED, “betel.”

13 Twybyll. A “kind of ax with two cutting edges; formerly used for cutting mor tices”; see OED, “twibill,” 1.

17 Wymbyll. A name applied to several different kinds of boring tools; see OED, “wimble.”

22 twenti pounde. This is an outlandish sum, perhaps double the amount of an ex perienced master carpenter’s yearly wages.


31 Groping-Iren. A chisel or gouge.

43 ale-wyffe. Brewing ale was a common household industry for women.

48 twenti merke. A mark was two-thirds of a pound; since the Whetstone is speaking of yearly wages, this boast seems more plausible.

53 Adys. An adze is an ax-like tool with a curved blade, used for cutting away wood.

77 seven pens drynke. Seven pence, the rough equivalent of a carpenter’s daily wages, would purchase up to seven gallons of ale (depending on its strength), a comic ally extravagant amount.

79 Lyne and the Chalke. Strings coated in chalk are still used by carpenters for drawing lines on wood to be cut.

87 Prykyng Knyfe. MED and OED quote only this line; if not an awl, this tool is likely to be some other instrument for marking wood.

93 Persore. “An awl, a gimlet, an auger”; see MED, “percer(e).” Lines 100–04 sug gest that this is a drill.

106 schyreff of the toune. Sheriffs originally had considerable local authority in admin istering the royal legal system, but by the later Middle Ages, their impor tance had waned. Nevertheless, the job was typically held by minor gentry, and being ap pointed sheriff would be an honor considerably beyond the hopes of carpenters.

107 Skantyllyon. A gauge, used for measuring the depth of mortises (recesses made in wood for joinery).

120 drynke never peny. A penny’s worth of ale might vary between one-third and one gallon.

139 Brode-Ax. Salzman describes this as “made with a chisel edge, beveled only on one side, which enabled it to follow a marked line accurately” (Building in England, p. 342).

145 Twyvete. Uncertain. OED suggests that this is a double-edged axe, via an etymology endorsed by Wilson (“Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools,” p. 406). Salzman argues plausibly that the tool is a mallet (Building in England, p. 344).

162 a knyght. Though late medieval knighthood was a marker of wealth rather than birth, carpenters would have been extremely unlikely to rise to this rank. The Windlass’s disbelief in lines 167–68 is entirely justified.

163 Wyndas-Rewle. A windlass is an axle or roller used for winding or moving.
179 The devyles dyrte. This expression appears in the Towneley Plays, in the Play of the Buffeting, ed. England, p. 233, line 170. The sense of the insult is “something wretched or excremental.”

183 This seven yere. The customary duration of an apprenticeship.

199 Nother the mayster ne the man. I.e., “neither the master nor his apprentices and journeymen.”

221 Draught Nayle. Uncertain. MED and Salzman suggest that this is a punch for countersinking nails (Building in England, p. 345). Wilson argues that the etymol ogy favors the interpretation of the phrase as a nail-drawer (“Debate of the Carpen ter’s Tools,” p. 468).

279 hym that it dud make. See the introduction to this item.

Item 16, THE DEBATE OF THE CARPENTER’S TOOLS: FOOTNOTE

1 If he ever thrives, then he bears himself well [Presumably ironic]


Item 16, THE DEBATE OF THE CARPENTER’S TOOLS: EXPLANATORY NOTES

Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Diction ary; OED: The Oxford English Dictionary;

Title No title or incipit. Halliwell, the poem’s first editor, gave the poem this title, which has been favored in subsequent references. The text begins one-quarter down the page of fol. 23r, with no space separating it from the previous item.

1 Shype-Ax. Most likely an ax used for chipping or trimming. See MED, “chip-ax.”

3 Clene hose and clene schone. The sense of these lines appears to be “I will earn you food and drink, but you’ll have to work harder to earn yourself clothing.”

6 Thall. “Thou will.” See MED, “thou.”

7 longys the crafte. Crafte may here refer to the profession of carpenters in general, or the local craft guild of carpenters more specifically.

9 Belte. An “allet maul, hammer; also, a bat or club.” See MED, “betel.”

13 Twybyll. A “kind of ax with two cutting edges; formerly used for cutting mor tices”; see OED, “twibill,” 1.

17 Wymbyll. A name applied to several different kinds of boring tools; see OED, “wimble.”

22 twenti pounde. This is an outlandish sum, perhaps double the amount of an ex perienced master carpenter’s yearly wages.

31 Groping-Iren. A chisel or gouge.

43 ale-wyffe. Brewing ale was a common household industry for women.

48 twenti merke. A mark was two-thirds of a pound; since the Whetstone is speaking of yearly wages, this boast seems more plausible.

53 Adys. An adze is an ax-like tool with a curved blade, used for cutting away wood.

77 seven pens drynke. Seven pence, the rough equivalent of a carpenter’s daily wages, would purchase up to seven gallons of ale (depending on its strength), a comic ally extravagant amount.

79 Lyne and the Chalke. Strings coated in chalk are still used by carpenters for drawing lines on wood to be cut.

87 Prykyng Knyfe. MED and OED quote only this line; if not an awl, this tool is likely to be some other instrument for marking wood.

93 Persore. “An awl, a gimlet, an auger”; see MED, “percer(e).” Lines 100–04 sug gest that this is a drill.

106 schyreff of the toune. Sheriffs originally had considerable local authority in admin istering the royal legal system, but by the later Middle Ages, their impor tance had waned. Nevertheless, the job was typically held by minor gentry, and being ap pointed sheriff would be an honor considerably beyond the hopes of carpenters.

107 Skantyllyon. A gauge, used for measuring the depth of mortises (recesses made in wood for joinery).

120 drynke never peny. A penny’s worth of ale might vary between one-third and one gallon.

139 Brode-Ax. Salzman describes this as “made with a chisel edge, beveled only on one side, which enabled it to follow a marked line accurately” (Building in England, p. 342).

145 Twyvete. Uncertain. OED suggests that this is a double-edged axe, via an etymology endorsed by Wilson (“Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools,” p. 406). Salzman argues plausibly that the tool is a mallet (Building in England, p. 344).

162 a knyght. Though late medieval knighthood was a marker of wealth rather than birth, carpenters would have been extremely unlikely to rise to this rank. The Windlass’s disbelief in lines 167–68 is entirely justified.

163 Wyndas-Rewle. A windlass is an axle or roller used for winding or moving.

179 The devyles dyrte. This expression appears in the Towneley Plays, in the Play of the Buffeting, ed. England, p. 233, line 170. The sense of the insult is “something wretched or excremental.”

183 This seven yere. The customary duration of an apprenticeship.

199 Nother the mayster ne the man. I.e., “neither the master nor his apprentices and journeymen.”

221 Draught Nayle. Uncertain. MED and Salzman suggest that this is a punch for countersinking nails (Building in England, p. 345). Wilson argues that the etymol ogy favors the interpretation of the phrase as a nail-drawer (“Debate of the Carpen ter’s Tools,” p. 468).

279 hym that it dud make. See the introduction to this item.


Item 16, THE DEBATE OF THE CARPENTER’S TOOLS: TEXTUAL NOTES

Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes

1 MS: Initial T is two lines tall.

4 wheresoever. MS: wherasever.

8 nothyng. MS: nothnyng.

12 clothe and fede. MS: clothe fede.

41 dey and nyght. MS: dey nyght.

82 thryve. MS: thryv.

124 hym owght. MS: hy owght.

183 prentys. MS: puntys.

224 mayster. MS: maystys.

237 wyrke not. MS: wyrke no.

245 Groping Iren. MS: iren is added above the rest of the line.

268 off. MS: of.

279 gest. MS: yet. Wilson’s emendation.