Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ben Franklin

No character in American history who had not served as president of the US had greater effect on life and on politics than Ben Franklin. He was an inventor, an author, and scientist whose writings had led to the founding of the University of Pennsylvania. When he was a young man, he was always busy trying to make things while at the same time as described by Zacharia, "philosophizing and imagining in the abstract."

He wrote a pamphlet describing the ideal system of university education that can be found here: Proposals relating to the education of youth in Pensilvania. It is worth considering if we were to ever reimagine what education should become if we were to scrap the stiff, self-conscious, unnatural and overly expensive system we have now.

I am still in L.A. and enjoying a brief family reunion. We plan to go to the Getty Museum today.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the joy of learning likewise.

Friday, July 22, 2016

in L.A.

I am in Los Angeles for a family reunion and away from my wood shop.

I have been reading Fareed Zacharia's new book In Defense of a Liberal Education, and nearly finished it on my 3 1/2 hour flight from Arkansas. The book starts out telling a bit about his own life and then a bit about how our universities became what they are. Then he explores jut a bit of what universities may be destined to become.

I received this book from a student at MASW who said that it was a good book except for the fact that Zacharia said too little about the hands. About that I agree.

My wife reminded me that in her last trip to New York she and my daughter had seen Fareed Zacharia in Metro Diner on the upper west side. In response to reading Zacharia's book, I am attempting to conceptualize what an ideal university might be like. It would be much more like a think tank except that the participants  would have real things to think about. They (professors and students) would  be making beautiful and useful things within it.

As they worked under the tutelage of expert philosopher/craftsmen to create objects of lasting beauty, students would discuss life and philosophy, the materiality of the substances (sciences) they transformed, and reflect upon and write about what they had done and how their ideas and ideals connect and shape community, human culture and the world at large..

Just like the colleges that gave universities their starting points, they would be small and their work would be intense.

Make, fix, create and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jewelry cabinet

One of the students, Don, from my MASW cabinet making class finished his small cabinet, and fitted the inside for use with jewelry. He had opted to leave the shelves out and design the interior to his wife's specifications. He says it was helpful to be able to finish the cabinet at home and to have his wife's input on the interior design. Is that not always the case? We are smarter and make better decisions when we collaborate with others.

I am impressed with his work.  I am hoping that many of the other cabinets made by my students will be equally lovely. Don included a secret compartment in his and used it to display some of his skills on the lathe,  by making turned pegs and ring holders.

The cabinet (without Don's additions) is one featured in my book, Building Small Cabinets. 

Editorial review and corrections are now completed for my Tiny Boxes book and it is ready to move along to its next stage in production.

One of my students at MASW gave me a copy of Fareed Zakaria's book, In Defense of a Liberal Education. (Thanks, Andy!) One of the many points it makes is that trying to educate young people to fit careers is not enough. They need to be brought up into the broad expanse of human culture, becoming engaged in an understanding of history, and literature. Who can argue with that? I for one, would never do that. But to focus on intellectualism alone as "liberal education" is not enough. The hands must also be included in the making of useful beauty as a grounding for all else.

The illusion of a successful economy is what happens when you have an intellectual elite that has been groomed and cultivated to be out of touch with the working class as described by Woodrow Wilson in 1909 when he was president of Princeton.

"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."—Woodrow Wilson
At least in Wilson's time the lower class was understood to have value and Wilson provided some understanding of the value of the middle class and practical learning in the following:
"You cannot develop human nature by devoting yourselves entirely to the intellectual side of it. Intellectual life is the flower of a thing much wider and richer than itself. The man whom we deem the mere man of books we reject as a counsellor, because he is separated in his thinking from the rich flow of life. It is the rich flow of life, compact of emotion, compact of all those motives which are unsusceptible of analysis, which produces the fine flower of literature and the solid products of thinking."—Woodrow Wilson
The same can be said of a man of labor. His work may be an expression of intellectual engagement and a flowering of human culture, just as might be that of the academic. The most fruitful flowering is when both sides are expressed in and through each other. I feel like writing Zakaria and asking him if he understands the value of the manual arts. Educational Sloyd was at one time considered an important part of a liberal education.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the courage to learn likewise.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

tiny tiner

During my summer break from Clear Spring School, I continue to work on guitars and made the tiny boxes shown above for gifts for nieces from my Tiny Boxes Book. These tiny tiner are made with elm sides and have lids made from spalted sycamore and pecan. A Danish oil finish shown below brings the colors of the woods to life.

I am also beginning to plan for my veneered box class at ESSA in August.

This afternoon, I meet with the architect designing the new wood shop for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

Monday, July 18, 2016

norwegian woodstack

When I hastily split and stacked firewood a few weeks ago, the stack toppled over reminding me that one must not work in haste. My wife had wanted me to get the work done quickly so we rented a log splitter and I asked a friend to help.

Machinery can drive you to its own rhythm, and often lacks the tempo of a simpler life. So the toppling of the wood stack gave me the opportunity reverse course and to try the Norwegian round stack method as shown in Lars Mytting's book, Norwegian Wood. My stack is just a bit taller than I am and about 6 foot in diameter.

There are some advantages. The first is that having no end to the stack, no elaborate means of cross stacking is required to hold pieces of wood in place. Secondly, it can be built to close at the top and shed water (or snow) as it forms its own roof where it closes at the top.

Another advantage of work without machinery is that it moves at a more human pace, as illustrated by Drillis in Folknorms and Biomechanics.

There are some disadvantages in using hickory and oak to build a Norwegian round stack. The oak and hickory from Arkansas are much less uniform than the woods commonly used in Norway to build such stacks.

Artistically, however, the round stack might resemble to some, the beautiful sculptures created by Andy Goldsworthy. It will not be an embarrassment to have this standing in our woodlot.

Discovery of a tiny timber rattler nesting among the  toppled stack was one of my rewards for rebuilding. When I disturbed him, by gently dumping him off the log, he slithered off into the newly finished round stack.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

porkers and boar

This one particular boar, taken close up from the game camera at knee height shows what we've been up against. He would weigh in at over 300 lbs. and if you can imagine this character and his friends roto-tilling through your front yard, you can get a sense of what we've been up against.

We've have to give up on the gardens around our home until these destructive hogs can be brought under control. Unfortunately the only way to do that has required building and maintaining a trap where they will be lured to their death.

Feral hogs were a part of Arkansas heritage, even though hogs were an introduced species.  Called "razorbacks", early Arkansas pioneers would let them run wild and then hunt them down for meat during the fall and winter months when it was safe to process and eat their meat. They were first introduced to the state of Arkansas by the Hernando De Soto Expedition in 1540 and the diseases they carried had a tragic effect on the native American population.

They were hunted nearly to extinction, and then reintroduced by hunters in the last few years. They reproduce at such a rate that 70-80 percent must be hunted or trapped and killed each year to maintain a status quo. The damage to our gardens has been devastating in a most personal sense. Carefully laid stone borders that my wife and I built and maintained for over 30 years have been shoveled aside and thrown askew several times by these fearsome wild creatures. But perhaps what's even worse is the damage they are doing in the forest. They are destroying other wildlife, preying upon our wild turkey population and their rooting in forest soil puts all of our mushroom species at risk.

Time magazine this week has an article about the many health effects of being in nature: The healing power of nature. It notes:
When people walk through or stay overnight in forests, they often exhibit changes in the blood that are associated with protection against cancer, better immunity and lower blood pressure.

Recent students have also linked nature to symptom relief for health issues like heart disease, depression, cancer anxiety and attention disorders.
Another development in the news has to do with an altered reality game, Pokemon Go. It has been claimed to have all kinds of health benefits because it lures kids and adults to play outside.  As an example, I watched on Friday as a young man in a Walmart parking lot followed his cell phone screen across the lot completely oblivious to the real world around him. And in the news, there's the story of young men playing Pokemon Go in California. Led by their screens they fell off a cliff.

I would note for those who have missed the point,  that there is a real world that surrounds us.

Make, fix, create, and offer others the hope of learning likewise.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

hog party, pest fest...

We have finally gotten pigs comfortable with the trap, and by treating the corn with diesel fuel the deer avoid it. The pigs will, as they say, eat anything.

From about 7:30 PM until after 2 AM we had several hogs in the corral trap at the same time. Unfortunately, my hunting partner is out of town for a week, and we will wait until he's back to set the trigger on the trap.

We have been horrified by the damage these pigs are doing to the forest and to our gardens, and it feels just right to be taking positive steps toward their elimination.

I will continue to put diesel corn in the trap to get them comfortable to enter the trap regularly  in large numbers and to be careless.

Now I only wish there were folks ready to butcher and eat these critters. I've been told that they carry too many diseases this time of year for them to be of any use.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.