Sam's notebook

Untitled April 19th, 2004, 2PM


I awoke this morning with a very sore back, but got up, breakfasted, read for an hour and was out of the house by eight. I had no wish to go back to the workshop, nor to make anything; all I wanted to do was read. There is so much that I want to read and very little that I want to make. I feel a little guilty about that, but I’m quite sure that it is what I feel, so I’m going with it. It came to be during Meeting yesterday that a key to this struggle lies in simplicity: I build such elaborate ideas of what I want to make to have around me, and forget the foundation that all these things rest upon, namely that they are but incidentals designed only to make life more pleasant or comfortable. The part of making that engages me most – the process, the doing of it – has nothing whatsoever to do with the made. The image of a hand-formed mudbrick wall replaces that of the finely-crafted, acurate polished wooden panelling, and my penchant for well-bound books and wooden furniture recedes when I have a book to read and a table to sit at. I feel sure that I will return to making, perhaps in a few days.

The book and a table are precisely what I have now: “The Quakers and Quietism” by Pamela M. Oliver (1972, thesis for an MA in History), and the deserted Menzies basement. Lovely.

* * * *

I am begining to feel a little guilty for not being in the workshop. I know that I don’t want to be, which is nice. I am also a bit hungary due to not having had a very large breakfast. I am very much enjoying this book and learning a lot about 17th Century Friends.

* * * *

“Henceforth I shall not try to change people’s minds but inform them of my stand only. I shall forgive all, for everything. I shall not err from the Truth as I see it.”

* * * *

Do I really think I’m going to sit here all week reading this?! As if!

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Short Thoughts April 16th, 2004, 1PM


Making, creating, working with one’s hands, is a wonderous thing. An absolute requirement for being human, hugely satisfying, and I love it. Thing is, I am just as happy patching my old pair of army pants as I am working the finest wood – possibly more so, because I’ll not have cold wind blowing in at my knees anymore. Fixing clothing so that it lasts a bit longer is useful you see, of direct benefit to my day-to-day life. I wish I could find the same sense of neccessity in my woodwork… I’m sure I will one day, when it’s a matter of a table to eat at.

* * *

Through writing our lives, not only do we become clearer about them – an Important Thing – but other people can see what we’re on about. I used to take for granted (I still do in a lot of ways) that I think certain things, but it would seem that it’s not at all obvious to anyone else. I usally think ‘well, of course!’; now I’m writing this blog I’m beginning to see the error of that. I talk, but the ephemeral conversation is no good, it’s inaccurate and anyway, how’s one supposed to remember something only heard once?!

* * *

Over and again I am confronted with the need to live in such a way that is true to my soul, in all spheres. This is what I’m talking about when I say I no longer wish to compromise. If my homelife takes place, as it does now, on a stage of hard, shiny, polyurethane’d pine boards that give one no chance of ever touching the wood, why then worry about a desk that is fake-wood veneer? I should like none of these plasitc, too-perfect-to-be-bearable, mechanised finishes. Rather, plain wood, something that can be loved; if we can love something, it doesn’t matter what it is, but likewise if we can’t – so why insist on this poisonous mediocrity?! (You see how tiring I can be not admiting a place for compromise?)

* * *

The most perfect form for wood is the tree. Nothing that any woodworker ever makes will ever surpass it.

More Bachelard of a morning.

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Doubt, and Reading the Cure April 14th, 2004, 6PM


A moment of doubt: I have come to the workshop this morning to work again on the scroll. I am bevelling the ends of one of the rods with my blockplane, using the bench-hook as a shooting board. I have just realised that i am wearing a groove in the bench with this arrangement, and the thought came to me that I should take the time to make a proper, acurate shooting board. The thing is, I don’t want to. I aught to want to, that’s the sort of thing woodworkers like doing, and there would have been a time when I would’ve jumped at the chance. Surely it’s a good thing to get a bit better set up, a bit more organised? But just now I would rather go and read in the library. I say rather because it’s not that I don’t want to make a shooting board, just that other things seem more engaging. I feel disconnected from my tools, and from woodworking. It used to be that I saw this as my calling almost, and I aimed to one day set up on my own and do it full time. Now, though… I now can’t imagine wanting to get up every morning and go to work at the bench; it would drive me down so. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling like this – after all, at the moment I don’t have to do it every day, and it’s not as though I don’t want to work with wood at all: I do. It’s just that the motivation has changed: I don’t want to live in a wholly machine-made environment, and so I must make much of my surrounds myself. But that’s all: I don’t want to make htings for other people and to their specifications. And I don’t need all that much for myself; I don’t need to make all that much. So where does my woodwork practice stand? As a hobby? Something that I take seriously but that is not my main game? So what is my main game? Understanding this world – will that do? I want to lead a simple life, tinkering with my bike, walking to the shops, growing food, being slow and quiet. I do not want to be obsessive about woodwork; ‘I live for wood’ is not me. Maybe ‘I live with wood’ fits better.

I don’t want to solve this problem in any practical, this-is-what-I-shall-do way. I want only to feel these things, these fragments of the poetry of our world. To sit and see the poetic reality of a situation, not the dull materialist reality that is supposedly what we are seeing. I should rather sit and look at a concrete wall than go Travelling, for how much easier will it be to see the poetry of the simple wall than the overwhelming power of a scene that is every moment changing? People seem not to agree with me on that one though, so prehaps I’ve got it wrong!

The environment in which I read is of great importance to me. What I read takes on a very different character depending on where I read it. When here in this busy [insert relevant political party name] office, surrounded by busy people doing work that is ‘important’, I get caught up in dealing with technology, and enjoying it – but forgetting the slow, the quiet and the reason one would bother appreciating a blank wall.

Now in Chifley: The place is for reading: Poetics t’was my choice.

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Reading Wood April 13th, 2004, 6PM


This morning, outside the workshop: “It is so very good to be back at school. Even though niether the library nor the workshop are open yet, I feel relieved, and insipired to study. It’s a bit like a fraction of what Harry Potter felt when he got back to Hogwarts…” Went from there to Menzies, the ‘Z’ section (my favorite), and ‘A History Of Reading’, by Alberto Manguel. Then a good bash at some woodwork: the lovely task of shaping a cylinder of wood by handplane only. This is one of my favorite meditations, so good at bringing home the importance of Process. Rotate the bit of wood in the cradle, feeling for the ridges; find one and put it uppermost; pick up the plane, plane off the ridge; repeat. Over and over it goes, my attention in my fingertips, on the weight of the plane in my hands, on my back as the central player in all of this. It almost seems a useless pursuit – why should I not spin this piece of wood in a lathe after all? – or attack it with a moulded scraper? – and it is only in doing it that one can see the point, so I’m not sure what to say here. All this time spent with one little bit of wood – not to make it perfect to any measure but touch – not even because I particularly want this thing round – but rather it gives me a a hint of the unseen. The something that is imbued in a piece of wood (or anything) that has been fashioned in this way, I don’t know what it is but I’m sure it is.

Today: I awoke seeking a busy day, but didn’t quite get it. I sat in the music library this morning, listening to Beethoven’s 5th, and pondering pondering. I thought, what a nice thing it is to sit and think, I should come here more often. A passage in ‘Howards End’ prompted me to seek out that particular piece of music, the goblins and shipwrecks, the tiptoeing from one end of the universe to the other. Fabulous (in the original sense).

A teriffic conversation with Ian, much inspiration for continued work, a new pen; a free concert (not that I got to see it ’cause I didn’t want to pay for lunch!), a quick bite to eat then work at the co-op; then tea at the Gods. A day gone, a passion for wood kept firing despite little work being done, and now home. Brill!

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"Howards End" April 12th, 2004, 1PM


By Edward Morgan Forster

“To trust people is a luxury in which only the wealthy can indulge; the poor cannot afford it.” — p.35, a thought of Margaret’s. “You remember ‘rent’? It was one of father’s words – Rent to the ideal, to his own faith in human nature. You remember how be would trust strongers, and if they fooled him he would say, ‘It’s better to be fooled than to be suspicious.’ – that the confidence trick is the work of man, but the want-of-confidence trick is the work of the devil.” — p.41, Margaret again.

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Sunday in The Lab April 11th, 2004, 1PM


I have spent far too long on the computer. My mind is in quite a strange state. What am I to do?

All this coding suddenly seems pointless, and I want to stroll on the terrace, perhaps sit with a quiet cup of tea, or be warmed by the fire and Keats. Escaping the world is essential at times (I’m not totally sure it should be) and these geeky days are good for that. I don’t feel very healthy at the moment. I must get away from here.



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On Writing April 11th, 2004, 12PM


Around and aound I go as always, but now at least I am starting to see the pattern. For the last few days I have been in techno-mode, spending a lot of time on computers and ignoring the world. Predictably, this immersion in the web has resulted in my this afternoon rearranging my room and putting my computer under a dust sheet behind my desk. I do not want to feel my head buzzing so much that I am unable to think; I want to slow down. I really like it when I feel like this. That’s something worth remembering, because when I’m feeling into computers I still feel somehwere inside me that I would rather not be. Anyway, I wont go on about this now, I want to focus on poetry, space, quietness, time – things that don’t really exist within computer-space.

I ponder an interesting conundrum: I like putting my notes online in the form of a blog, because it helps me to edit them and I end up writing a lot better than I usually do. But I also want to write in a nice book with a nice pen (as I am now). Shall I do so, even though it will be only a draft? As I wrote that realised: yes. It is of vital importance that I do not get carried away with ‘doing’ and forget this moment, right now. Any tool or activity that helps me do that is good, likewise something that causes me to loose sight of the lovelyness of current time and space is not. I will type up these notes, and post them on my website, and I will remember what I have just said when I’m sitting in the computer lab. (Of course I will remember – I’ll be typing it! [I did remember.]) I like to publish my thoughts because it forces me to a) write better and b) think a lot more about what I’m writing. I don’t really do it because I expect anyone to read them; I write as though I do, but the audience has served its function as soon as I’ve written, and matters no more.

I am thinking of a series of photographs, based on the following matrix:

Made by: Of what: Where:
Human-animal Natural Nature
Human-machine Human-machined Human-made

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Another Side April 9th, 2004, 7PM


I scribbled the following, sitting on the cold hard concrete of the city:

This is the other side. This is the side that eschews all forms of pomposity, vanity, indeed any care taken over appearance or manner. This is the sleepin’ rough, carrying-little techno-savy activist. This is the only time I will listed to non-folky/classical music. I want to change the world, but this time by fuckin’ shit up, not polite conversation. This is when the code of the eco-warrior means something (though only so long as it’s a sunny day, or I’m ensconced in front of a terminal. The washing up no longer matters; I’d be happy in a tin shed with computer and bike parts sharing concrete floor space with my swag. At times like this I want never to buy anything that is not ‘essential’ – read: able to further the cause, the fight against the techno-commercial juggernaut that rules all of our spaces. I want to get lost in the perfect beauty of the code, and realise an order to the world that my body will never admit. I fit my place in this sci-fi universe (and I do not mean ‘the internet’, whatever the fuck that is), a place where there is always a precedent or recommendation to follow but where there is no control from above. I am a cog in the machine, one that does not matter, but thus we all are, all alike but recieving no commands from HQ. Each does eis own thing (including making up new pronouns), and we all work together; no-one is in charge, but everyone works towards a common goal. And that is the goal.

Afterwards went and coded for five hours.

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A small nook to call my own. April 8th, 2004, 12PM

Reading Writing

The house/room/attic that I dream of making, inhabiting and remaking — where is it? What will it seem like to strangers seeing it for the first time? Many articles I have read of poet-build abodes, and rarely have they captured any true poetic image of the space. Descriptions of construction method, natural environment, recycled materials abound, and all very accurate in their own way — but hardly ever any clue as to the loving comfort and intimacy that one has with such a place. A comment such as “I feel very at home here, in this place that I have made” tells us nothing of what it actually is like for this maker to be at home.

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