Saturday, September 17, 2016

Happy 93rd Birthday Hank Williams Sr.

Rare picture of Hank Williams with an electric guitar

Hank Williams died when he was just 30 years old. He would have been 93 today. Instead of posting his bio, which you can read on on-line, I've posted below some passages from Bob Dylan's 2004 Chronicles, Volume I.

Bob Dylan on Hank Williams

This is from the 2004 book written by Bob Dylan,  Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume I.  It’s from the first part of the book where Dylan discusses his influences.

“The first Time I heard Hank he was singing on the Grand Ole Opry, a Saturday night radio show broadcast out of  Nashville.  Roy Acuff, who MC’d the program was referred to by the announcer as “The King of Country Music.”  Someone would always be introduced as “the next governor of Tennessee” and the show advertised dog food and sold plans for old-age pensions.   Hank sang “Move It On Over”, a song about living in the doghouse and it struck me really funny.  He also sang spirituals like “When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels” and “Are you Walking and a-Talking for the Lord”.  The sound of his voice went through me like an electric rod and I managed to get a hold of a few of his 78s – “Baby We’re Really In Love” and “Honky Tonkin’” and “Lost Highway “ – and I played them endlessly.

            They called him a “hillbilly singer,” but I didn’t know what that was.  Homer and Jethro were more like what I thought a hillbilly was.  Hank was no burr head.  There was nothing clownish about him.  Even at a young age, I identified fully with him.  I didn’t have to experience anything that Hank did to know what he was singing about. I’d never seen a robin weep, but could imagine it and it made me sad.  When he sand ‘the news is out all over town”, I knew what news that was, even though I didn’t know.  The first chance I got, I was going to go to the dance and wear out my shoes too.  I’d learn later that Hank had died in the backseat of a car on New Year’s Day, kept my fingers crossed, hoped it wasn’t true.  But it was true.  It was like a great tree had fallen.  Hearing about Hank’s death caught me squarely on the shoulder.  The silence of outer space never seemed so loud.  Intuitively I knew, though, that his voice would never drop out of sight or fade away – a voice like a beautiful horn.

             Much later, I’d discover that Hank had been in tremendous pain all of his life, suffered from severe spinal problems – that the pain must have been torturous.  In light of that, its all the more astonishing to hear his records.  It’s almost like he defied the laws of gravity.  The Luke the Drifter record, I just about wore out.  That’s the one where he sings and recites parables, like the Beatitudes.  I could listen to the Luke the Drifter record all day and drift away myself, become totally convinced in the goodness of man.  When I hear Hank sing, all movement ceases.  The slightest whisper seems sacrilege.

            In time, I became aware that in Hank’s recorded songs were the archetype rules of poetic songwriting.  The architectural forms are like marble pillars and they had to be there.  Even his words – all of his syllables are divided up so they make perfect mathematical sense.  You can learn a lot about the structure of songwriting by listening to his records, and I listened to them a lot and had them internalized.  In a few years’ time, Robert Shelton, the folk and jazz critic for the New York Times, would review one of my performances and would says something like ‘resembling a cross between a choirboy and a beatnik… he breaks all the rules in songwriting, except that of having something to say”.  The rules, whether Shelton knew it or not, were Hank’s rules, but it wasn’t like I ever meant to break them.  It’s just that what I was trying to express was beyond the circle. “

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Go back in time to India

I had the opportunity recently to meet (via Skype) Raj Guram, one of the founders of J&R Guram, makers of fine campaign furniture. Located in India, it is a family run business that is known for making beautiful, hand-crafted, high quality furniture and equipage. Campaign furniture is what the British took along on their military campaigns in Africa and India. The idea was to bring the comforts of home to the field. This required furniture makers to innovate, by producing compact, folding, yet durable and aesthetically pleasing, pieces. An excellent source on this topic, is Nick Brawer's book, British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvass 1740-1914.

I appreciate campaign furniture for its clever fold-up designs, its portability and the other-world feelings it evokes. To see what I mean, have a look at the site of Sujan Luxury Camps who use Guram pieces on its safaris. 

Here are some of my favorite pieces, along with a few photographs from J&R's website.  If you like what you see, please post to sites like Pinterest. As purely a fan of the company, I would like to help it get some much deserved exposure.

Cawnpore Wheelers Cot

From the company's site:

Campaign furniture which is designed to be ‘folded up’ and carried long distances has been a feature of travelling armies over many centuries. With the expansion of the European colonizers through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the finest European furniture makers competed to design and produce elegant, ingenious and fashionable knock-down furniture for colonial officers and civilians traveling in the colonies.
The administrators and armies of the British Empire in the Indian subcontinent were perhaps the largest consumer of campaign furniture leading to high quality local manufacturing of durable, practical and elegant ‘knock-down’ chairs, tables, desks, bookcases and beds. We have revived this craft using the finest furniture craftsmen and materials to present you with furniture and accessories of a lasting quality which will delight you for a lifetime indoors or outdoors, at home or at your camp.

The Serai Chair

Jeet and Raj Guram are descendants of Raja Bhagmal Jat of the royal house of Bithur, who played a defining role in establishing Cawnpore as a trading town in the early 19th century.

With this ancestry they were predisposed to being connoisseurs of both fine art and elegant living of which Campaign Furniture is a supreme exemplar. As avid conservationists/ revivalists they have painstakingly resourced and revitalised near extinct craft skills to produce and make possible a whole range of customised furniture where each piece is a limited edition work of art.

The Scinde Saloon Chair

Wonderful that a side table is included

“The first axiom for camp is not to do without comfort…. does not make yourself uncomfortable for want of things to which you’re accustomed. That’s the great secret of camp life.”
(Annie Steele – The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook 1890)

The Jorhat Camp Table

The Outran Verandah Daybed

The Havelock bed

And now the fun stuff:

The Jaisalmer Wine Cooler

The Jeolikot Safari Bar

For additional postings on British campaign furniture on this blog, see:

Monday, August 22, 2016

Have A Spin


This vintage Las Vegas ashtray has a working roulette wheel. Just push and release the spring loaded button on the bottom and hope you get lucky. It's a prized possession for me but you can get one pretty inexpensively on Ebay.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Lost Art Press and its Craftsmen

I came across an interesting company. Christopher Schwartz, former editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, along with his partner John Hoffman run Lost Art Press. They define their mission as seeking to help the modern woodworker learn traditional hand-tool skills. They seek to "restore the balance between hand and machine work by unearthing the so-called "lost arts" of hand skills and explaining how they can be integrated with the machinery in the modern shop to help produce furniture that is crisp, well-proportioned, stout and quickly made".
From their site you can buy beautifully bound rare books (such as the works of Parisian woodworker Andre Roubo (translated into English) and a book on British campaign furniture. They also have an informative blog and a series of DVDs that teach hand wood working techniques. I would like to learn some of these techniques and will post my progress after seeing some of the DVDs.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

After All, It's a Small World

These outstanding scale models are from Imagineering Disney, a blog made by former Disney designers who are still passionate about their craft. It has a lot of great content: photographs, models of attractions, drawings and vintage ephemera.