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Sunday
May092010

axe talk

Most people are crap with axes, including myself until I undertook a diligent study of the art. It takes time and patience to learn. You need a sharp axe. Most of all you need to know that less often equals more when it comes to the use of an axe. First splitting. This is the only use of an axe that is widely practised these days. A saw is sensibly used to reduce a tree trunk into logs and then an axe is used to split that into usable chunks. A fat bodied spitting axe works best but almost any axe will do even a blunt one. But you need a sharp axe to chop trees down or to chop logs into two like a real lumberjack. Sharpen your axe with a metal file until all the dings are gone and the blade can shave wood like a knife. Remember, most of the work is done by the axe not your shoulders. Indigenous people leave a lot of wood chopping to women and if you watch them at work you can learn a lot. Almost lazily they raise their machete or axe and then let it fall using its own weight only slightly accelerated. You can chop for hours like this. With a long felling axe only lift it high enough to still feel in control (this will get higher as you get better) and just let it fall- when it moves past you add your own force to the downward momentum but don’t strain yourself. Chop at a manageable rhythm. To aim for a spot just look at it and the axe will follow a bit like teeing off in golf. Here is the big axe secret: when people chop logs in two they start by cutting a small ‘V’ and then they realise to make it deeper they have to expand it wider and wider, so a lot of their chopping effort goes into widening the hole not deepening it- which is wasted effort. To cut a log a foot in diameter you need to make a cut a foot wide to start with by making one axe chop on one side and another at a slight angle a foot away. Then lever the axe sideways and split out the intervening wood – or sometimes it just flies out as a big chunk. By magic, instead of shaving away constantly at both sides, you just took out a whole hunk of word. Just keep repeating this double action as you go down through the log and each chop will naturally get closer and closer to the other. Getting into a steady rhythm and you will beat any muscled Tyro who thinks it’s all about chopping like a mad axe murderer.

To take down a tree with an axe use the same principles but sideways on. First however chop out a section in the back of the tree lower down than you intend to cut at the front. This lower cut will be the direction the tree should fall in assuming it’s not leaning. It only needs to be about quarter of the way through the tree. Then go around to the front and if the tree is 2 feet wide start chopping out sections about 18 inches apart. Split out each chunk as before. When the tree starts to move you can give it a push in the right direction. Remember to shout timber!!!

Thursday
May062010

one source of material

In the past man railed against religion, now he rails against probability.

Thursday
Apr292010

provoked

"It's the admirer and the watcher who provoke us to all the insanities we commit."

Seneca

Thursday
Apr222010

use less imagination

Writers learn to use their imagination then, foolishly, let it loose on their lives. They either imagine disasters that won't happen- it's surprising how common fear of flying is among writers- or they torment themelves with visions of a life more perfect than the one they are living. But hold on- the imagination is a hard tool to use well. It needs very precise handling, give the imagination a very well defined problem and it'll solve it brilliantly. Give it a ragbag task- 'a literary novel' or 'improve my life' and it'll flounder - and, hey, don't blame it for going off in all directions at once- that's its primary strength as a problem solver it'll keep worrying away and trying new potential solutions until they are tested - and with a long term project that means you'll be tormented for a very long time. Maybe your entire life if you don't put a halt to it. Use the imagination when a specific problem arises rather than as a source of nitro fuelled day dreams. The best ideas and plans come from the ether direct, or you recognise them and grab them from the ether. You don't 'dream' them up with the fickle and unstable essentially problem solving imagination. When you have that idea for a novel or a plan in place then use spurts of well aimed imagination to get it done. As for everyday life, the search for perfection in external surroundings will go on for ever if you let the imagination loose on it. Better to give thanks for having the time and space to do the work you want to do. When you haven't use, the imagination to solve that specific problem.

Wednesday
Apr212010

the outsiders

Recently I have been reading comics written by Harvey Pekar. Impossible not to like. I have also glanced again at Hollywood by Charles Bukowski. Hollywood, Post office and his poems are my favourites of his. Ham and Rye, Women and Factotum featured a much less aggreable Hank figure. Though of course there are gems in there too. I've stopped sneaking back to Kerouac's Big Sur, which has some brilliant writing in it but is far too much of a downer. I tend to keep a book near my desk and obsessively reread it, sometimes nine or ten times- then never again. Often the books are obscure: This Bloody Mary by Jonathan Rendall- an honest and always interesting writer- was one book I read many times. Also Rebuilding the Indian by Fred Haefele. The books are all autobiographical fiction and non-fiction by outsider types. None of this stuff is that uplifting though the humor of Bukowski in Post Office is cockle warming stuff. I'm not sure why I like these books, mainly American; probably has something to do with wanting to see another side of America than the one portrayed in films and on TV. The American viewpoint is so widespread, and even when espoused by the ignorant seems as unassailable as the British Imperial viewpoint a century ago, that its refreshing to see internal dissent so to speak. When Harvey Pekar travels out of Cleveland his insights remain unashamedly provincial, and, while still interesting you feel he's missing a lot because, actually, he wants to get home.

Monday
Apr192010

jason webster

I have just been looking at writer Jason Webster's blog- I thoroughly recommend smallscale radical and other pieces- really perfect. His books are terrific too,by the way. Jasonwebster.net

Monday
Apr192010

von mises on politics

Who could argue with what economist Ludwig Von Mises wrote in 1940?

"The usual terminology of political language is stupid. What is ‘left’ and what is ‘right’? Why should Hitler be 'right' and Stalin, his temporary friend, be 'left'? Who is 'reactionary' and who is 'progressive'? Reaction against an unwise policy is not to be condemned. And progress towards chaos is not to be commended. Nothing should find acceptance just because it is new, radical, and fashionable. 'Orthodoxy' is not an evil if the doctrine on which the 'orthodox' stand is sound. Who is 'nationalist,' those who want to bring their nation under the heel of the Nazis, or those who want to preserve its independence?"

The same terminology is still used freely. Seventy years on. Why? Because politics is the art of exciting people into doing things they aren't that interested in. Whenever "language is stupid"- PR and advertising are more obvious examples- then the objective is usually to create excitement. Being excited is fun, brain boxes like Von Mises were not against this, but they thought it healthier, I suspect, to not confuse excitement with actually getting something done.