Sam's notebook

"The Poetics of Space" March 31st, 2004, 4PM

Miscellaneous

By Gaston Bachelard

  • “Imagination augments the values of reality.” — p.3
  • “…they describe [the humble abode] as it actually it, without really experiencing its primitiveness, a primitiveness which belongs to all, rich and poor alike, if they are willing to dream.” — p.4
  • “…the recollection of moments of confined, simple, shut-in space are experiences of heartwarming space, of a space that does not seek to become extended, but would like above all to be possessed.” — p.10
  • When your writing describes place, “the reader has ceased to read your room: he sees his own again. He is already far off…”. Bachelard does not try to describe his garet or his own recollections, and asks us to leave off reading the page and start ‘reading the room’ in which we sit. In doing so we evoke our own past, and come to understand the values of intimacy.
  • If I lacked a personal room of my own, I wonder what space – indefinite and definite – I would make my own?
  • Page 15 mentions a “rather high step”, implying that stairways are not always uniform. In case I ever care.
  • Within our bodies we retain a deep feeling and rememberance of the house in which we were born, or grew up.
  • “The great function of poetry is to give us back the situations of our dreams.” –p.15
  • Our intimate place gives to us a framework for a lifelong dream, a framework that is completed only by poetry.
  • “…childhood is certainly greater than reality.” –p.16
  • I am enjoying the importance that Bachelard gives to the places of our childhood. I relate to that. :)
  • “…childhood remains … poetically useful…” –p.16
  • The rationality of the roof vs. the irrationality of the depths of a house.
  • Did Thoreau’s cabin have a cellar, an attic? Did the pond serve this function, and the hills? What did H.T. see when he lay on his bunk and looked skywards?
  • “The height of city buildings is purely an exterior one. Elevators do away with the heroism of stair climbing so that there is no longer any virtue in living up near the sky.” — p.27
  • P.28 details Bachelard’s penchant for an image of a stormy sea to cope with trafic noise at night in the city.
  • The hut is the simplest of the “human plants” whose function is habitation. when we are lost and alone, do we not yearn for

    “…wreaths of smoke
    Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
    With some uncertain notice, as might seem
    Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
    Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
    The Hermit sits alone.”

    ?

  • “…in the silence, we are seized with the sensation of something vast and deep and boundless.” — Henri Bosco in ‘Malicroix’, quoted on p.43 of TPOS.
  • Phenomenology of the imagination demands that poetic image of inhabited space be lived directly, and not reduced to metaphor or simple emotion (p.47).
  • Bachelard seldom comes near describing actual place, forcing me to provide my own imagery – and this is entirely the point! No book ever gives me all I need to furnish a room; I must provide the extras, and these extras are all the more meaningful for my having provided them. The rooms of my own past come swarming in to fill the gaps left by an author, and make me feel more fully the intended image of this space.
  • The soft wax entered into the polished substance under the pressure of hands and the effective warmth of a woolen cloth. Slowly the tray took on a dull lustre. It was as though the radiance induced by magnetic rubbing emanated from the hundred-year-old sapwood, from the very heart of the dead tree, and spread gradually, in the form of light, over the tray. The old fingers possesed of every virtue, the broad palm, drew from the solid block with its inanimate fibers, the latent powers of life itself. This was creation of an object, a real act of faith, taking place before my enchanted eyes.” –Henri Bosco in Le jardin d’Hyacinthe p.192, quoted on p.67

  • The integration of revery into work. p.68
  • Vincent van Gogh to Theo, his brother: we should “retain something of the orginal character of Robinson Crusoe” in all our house. Make and re-make everything oneself.
  • We should never allow the image to be complete. “The imagination can never say: was that all, for there is always more than meets the eye.”p.86 Prehaps this is the story equivalent of technology ‘doing all’ for us. It is neccessary always to leave something for the human.
  • “Beautiful objects created by skillful hands are quite naturally ‘carried on’ by a poet’s daydream.” p.86. Was the beauty in the first place created by that self-same daydream?”
  • “The enterprise and skill with which amimals make their nests is so efficant that it is not possible to do better, so entirely do they pass all masons, capenters and builders; for there is not a man who would be able to make a house better suited to himself and his children that these little animals build for themselves.” Ambroise Pare, quoted on p.92.

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Over the Brink March 31st, 2004, 12PM

Miscellaneous

The two forms of blind acceptance of how things are – one unable to question, the other not wanting to; the old and the new – and me, balancing a knife-edge in the middle and seeking to hone that edge to razor sharpness.

How strange things are! Yesterday I was on the verge of dropping out, the meaninglessness of it all swelled up so – but fret not! an evening of friends and tea, followed by a good night’s sleep, turned it all around. Now the same wrenching division between the high-tech and the low, the wish to go one way or the other, that was causing me such pain, has become the self-same inspiration for continuing and loving it! How can that be? Yesterday I couldn’t stand being suspended in that void, and today I am filled with wonder and a desire to embrace this dichotomy: to draw from it direction for study, and work towards a fuller understanding of what it really means.

I rode my slow bike to school today as a way of reminding me of the importance of the small and the simple; the low-tech and the old; anything that points me to an intimacy with my personal environment… This bike (that I would have a few good shots of if these blasted computers were operating as they should) doesn’t work very well – slow, clunky, hard to start (and stop!) – but as an aid to reflection upon what is important in transport (and indeed all of life, but I don’t want to make this too big a picture) it is supurb. It is okay, and even desirable, to slow down and do things in a (slightly) uncomfortable way, and in doing so I am forced to ponder why people do not like to do things so. We don’t need to get anywhere!

Hmmm, I seem to be faltering in this stream of appreciation of the overlooked; I shall turn to the overlooked to seek appreciation of these thoughts.

The things around us need be noticed in order for us to value them, this is obvious; what I want to get at is that everything around us is capable of admiration, regardless of what it is. I look past this computer today to the wall and the conduit saddleConduit Saddle that is holding the power cable to the wall, and I think: Why is this insignificant little thing there? Where was it made, by what and who installed it? The screw is a countersunk one, but sits proud in the hole designed for a cup-head; this is ugly and unnecessary, and (to skip the leaps and jumps that gets me there) draws my mind to News From Nowhere. This saddle was not made, nor installed, with the thought that prehaps this could be a divine act of worship of nature! Shall every thing we do be an act of love for our environment, society and self? But why not?

What makes work unpleasant? Surely endless repetition, mindless drudgery with no hope for escape – things brought about through greed and the exploitation of others. Think, though, about the materials that one uses and how they make or mar pleasant work; if I strive towards an intimacy with my media, and that same intimacy is going to give me cancer, what then shall I do? Why on Earth would I cover my walls with a substance that I know I find toxic (as evidenced by my emotive wish not to ingest said substance), if I also know that one day those walls should be pulled down and that substance be spread about the land?!

I’m hungry now, and tiring of this: I wanted to write about bookbinding as one point at which the intangible and the tangible meet; I love to hold a book, and I love too to read it. For the former I might easily take a stick up from the ground; for the latter, the ubiquitious A4 photocopied page would sufice – where we can unite the two, there lies my inquiry.

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How strange things are March 31st, 2004, 11AM

Woodworking

How strange things are! Yesterday I was on the verge of dropping out, the meaninglessness of it all swelled up so – but fret not! an evening of friends and tea, followed by a good night’s sleep, turned it all around. Now the same wrenching division between the high-tech and the low that was causing me such pain, has become the self-same inspiration for continuing and loving it! How can that be? Today I am filled with a desire to embrace this dichotomy, to draw from it direction for study, and work towards a fuller understanding of it.

I rode my slow bike to school today as a way of reminding me of the importance of the small and the simple; the low-tech and the old; anything that points me to an intimacy with my personal environment… This bike (that I would have a few good shots of if these blasted computers were operating as they should) doesn’t work very well – slow, clunky, hard to start (and stop!) – but as an aid to reflection upon what is important in transport (and indeed all of life, but I don’t want to make this too big a picture) it is supurb. It is okay, and even desirable, to slow down and do things in a (slightly) uncomfortable way, and in doing so I am forced to ponder why people do not like to do things so. I think I want to get closer to the gritty real bits of life, the bits that at all costs we must avoid (and pass on to others less ‘fortunate’ than ourselves); it is really only in doing so that I can be stimulated to think about these things.

Hmmm, I seem to be faltering in this stream of appreciation of the overlooked; I shall turn to the overlooked to seek appreciation of these thoughts.

The things around us need be noticed in order for us to appreciate them, this is obvious; what I want to get at is that everything around us is capable of being appreciated. I look past this computer today to the wall and the conduit saddleConduit Saddle that is holding the power cable to the wall, and I think: Why is this insignificant little thing there? Where was it made, by what and who installed it? The screw is a countersunk one, but sits proud in the hole designed for a cup-head; this is ugly and unnecessary, and (to skip the leaps and jumps that gets me there) draws my mind to News From Nowhere. Shall every thing we do be an act of love for our environment, society and self? But why not?

What makes work unpleasant? Surely endless repetition, mindless drudgery with no hope for escape – things brought about through greed and the exploitation of others. Think, though, about the materials that one uses and how they make or mar pleasant work; if I strive towards an intimacy with my media, and that same intimacy is going to give me cancer, what then shall I do? Why on Earth would I cover my walls with a substance that I know I find toxic (as evidenced by my emotive wish not to ingest said substance), if I also know that one day those walls should be pulled down and that substance be spread about the land?!

I’m hungry now, and tiring of this: I wanted to write about bookbinding as one point at which the intangible and the tangible meet; I love to hold a book, and I love too to read it. For the former I might easily take a stick up from the ground; for the latter, the ubiquitious A4 photocopied page would sufice – where we can unite the two, there lies my inquiry.

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A Catalogue, I Think? November 28th, 2003, 6PM

Woodworking

In which I work on the catalogue for the workshop exhibition and do no woodworking but lots of thinking.

I have not posted for ages, and I didn’t really think I would be again until next year. But here I am, and very inspired about woodwork, uni and all that is going on: hooray (and what a relief)! I have much to report from the last couple of weeks but I may never get around to telling you because I want to meet G. and L. at the street theater soon.

Firstly (or lastly if one is to be chronological), I am working on the catalogue for the workshop exhibition. I am learning heaps about InDesign (especially its faults!) which is rather exciting. It does not do signature imposition of pages by itself, so this afternoon has seen me scrabbling around the web looking for a script that will. I found one (at ScriptBuilders.net) and so I think tomorrow will be fun.

It is strange that I am focusing more on the web/technological side of my proposal at the moment, given that it is a minor part of what I will be doing next year. I feel like I want to get it sorted though: get the encylopaedia working and also a couple of other things that I have been considering recently. I will be making a reading log to keep track of what I read, a project management script with which to track all of my ideas about things to make and write etc. I also have been doing some work with the style (CSS) of my site. I am constantly thinking about what I want to do next year and how I will go about it, working on a ‘manifesto’ or ‘modi operandi’ thingy… hmm… more thought needed…

I was on 2XXFM yesterday (Thursday) talking about the Walking With Water project that I did earlier this year. I’ll put the MP3 of it up soon.

— I really am rather excited about all this!!!

[UPDATE 2007-06-12: After nearly four years, here’s the MP3.]

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Just WALK!! November 17th, 2003, 11AM

Exploring

Quote from Satish Kumar in Resurgence Issue 197

“In industrialized countries we live as if we have no legs. Yet, we always want to go somewhere and fast. Often we don’t live near where we work and we don’t work where we live. … Transport consumes large quantities of oil; it is a major source of air and noise pollution; it creates unbearable congestion — particularly in urban areas; it puts people’s health at risk; it causes global warming and it causes the death of both humans and animals. Yet, we are totally addicted to and dependent on the transportation of goods and people. It is hard to see a practical way out of this quagmire. However, if we could resort to our wisdom and rationality, there are solutions. To begin with, we can start walking.”

— Satish Kumar, from Resurgence Issue 197

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Keepin' It Local November 17th, 2003, 10AM

Woodworking

I can’t wait to get to work! I’ll avoid transport; I’ll dig the skips; I’ll code to my heart’s content (and no farther)!

I’m so excited!! Last night I couldn’t sleep for the thrill of what I’m planning on doing. I’m feeling excited about facing the utter enormity of global manufacture from a standpoint of low-tech and beautiful dumpster diving! Take that door jamb from the week before last (let’s just forget about last week, eh? Apart from Monday I was singularly unproductive), a rough length of ash replete with nail holes and weathering — and what potential! A box made from such a waste item, even with a lot of attention, will never be quite the same as a box made with new material — and that’s the point! It is the thought, the love, and the time that goes into a thing that makes it speak, more than it’s raw material. I believe that this works both in terms of a) gaining spirit by putting more hands-on time into a piece (ripping boards by hand for example) and b) also losing spirit through increased alienation and disconnection of the material (shipping things half-way around the world [see The Fable Of The Cop Car]). Hmm… I’ll think about this a bit more…

I have been working on the encyclopaedia code for the last few days (because I didn’t go to the Major’s Creek Folk Festival) and it is now nearing test data entry stage. I still have a lot of work to do with the stylesheet of course — I’m no graphic artist!

This strange, apparently discordant, confluence of the high-tech web world and slow, intuitive woodworking that I am embarking on is a thing which is going to require great concentration on my behalf. It’s a matter of balance, and I know how easy it is going to be to lean more to one side than another. To spend so much time coding that I throw my hands up in disgust and want to never look at another computer. Or to force myself to continue with cutting a joint past when I can see why I’m doing it, and inevitably stuff it up.

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Just Plane / Flat (!) November 12th, 2003, 12PM

Woodworking

This morning I came into the workshop really wanting to work on something, but I couldn’t really think what. I pulled out a rough sawn piece of blackwood that was left over from my table, sharpened up my plane, and set to work making shavings. I didn’t have an aim of making anything at all, I wanted only to hear and feel the plane working smoothly.

I have been looking around for information about producing flat surfaces, not because I need to know how it’s done – I already know that – but just to get a bit of background on how this method was developed. New Scientist – The Last Word: Tell me straight has some interesting accounts of making lapping plates etc. and Joseph Witworth is mentioned all over the web in relation to this subject.

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A slow day November 11th, 2003, 1PM

Woodworking

This morning I began a boxboard mock-up of a set of pidgeonholes for stationery; more on that later. I’m also thinking about the possibility of a bathroom cabinet. I am working again on my bookplate, this time with a view to printing in full colour (I am discovering just how little I know about Illustrator). The weather is so lovely at the moment and I really want to go to the beach… And ooh err: it’s remembrance day; how much that means to me!

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Assesment November 10th, 2003, 1PM

Woodworking

This morning was my final assessment for the Diploma. I was getting pretty nervous beforehand, didn’t sleep much last night (for a host of other reasons, not just the assessment) and had had little to eat. As I moved my work downstairs ready to bump it in I thought how poor it looked next to the fabulous work of Michael and John who were being assessed just before me. The usual pre-performance insecurities I suppose…

But the assessment went fine; better than fine: I enjoyed it, or rather found it helpful and even inspiring! I do believe in the direction that I’m going in, and the body of work that I presented this morning shows this direction — it is not of course where I’m aiming at but if it were why would I be here?! I think I was able to express something of my philosophy of woodworking and explain how the pieces (table, stool, chair and press) fit into it. Rodney was a great help, talking about my progress etc; so was John Reid, especially with reminding and encouraging me about the wider university context of my work (mentioning, for example, the Talloires Declaration). In talking about my work I was not very clear, nor at all concise; there was much that I would like to have added — but all in all assessment has left me keener than ever to get in and do what makes my heart sing! I thinking of drafting some sort of brief outline of those aspects of woodworking that are important to me, that I might refer to when I get stuck in the quagmire of doubt(!) Something about the workshop, my dress, drawing of what I’m to make, the recycled and made materials, the hand tools, finishing, etc. A checklist, manifesto, or somesuch thing.

Do I now want to get back into the workshop and keep working though? Not a bit of it! Time for cake and tea with friends in town I think. Part of my reluctance is the mistake I made with the dovetails yesterday: I was trying a technique that I have read about often in textbooks whereby one marks the pins by placing the tails over them and marking with the saw (and not a marking knife as I have usually done). I did not think very thoroughly about how this would work because I have heard a number of people talk about it as well as seeing it in books. But work is what it did not do: it leaves a gap the size of the saw kerf on every pin! I’ve probably just missed something very simple, but rather than trying to perfect that technique now I think I’ll go back to what I know and can do — marking off the cut tails with a sharp pencil.

On the technical side of things today: on my main page I would like to put an RSS feed from this blog, a calandar or other visual summary of my work and the same for my reading; I guess this summer will see me on the computer a bit! It’s exciting though, this playing at the point of intersection of old ways of working wood and new ways of coding sites!

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