Things you can do with wood


One of the most ridiculous modern beliefs is that we are smarter than people used to be. We aren’t – people have had this brain structure for much longer than culture has been making use of it – we just pack different stuff into it, and get different stuff out. We are better nourished than some historical populations (and worse than many others) and we do have more sources of data – but as for the use to which we put our informational deluge…

Here’s a really nice (completely humiliating) reminder of what skill could once make out of what may seem very primitive materials, with 500 year old tools.

The density of invested thought and planning, research into narrative and symbolism, pure mind-blowing hand-skill (how many hours, just to attempt this!) and finally patient effort invested – all quite beyond us moderns.

No idea if the craftsman was happy – and one can certainly postulate that he was woefully deprived of joyous hours of cats playing organ music. Still…

– Ken Thompson has a very cool toy-box (whole basement gallery full of his incredible ship-models, too)

Mori things to do with wood

While the intense three-dimensional Brueghelism of the previous piece continues to impress me no end, this most extraordinary work might just be my favourite thing made of wood.

Once again we are awestruck by the concentrated insight, planning and skill involved – and though the aesthetic is purer and in a way, less complex, the detail, realism, observational quality and profound human relevance could not possibly be greater.

I have always quite admired the classic writer’s tradition of the memento mori, literally, reminder of death.

It has many dimensions – points to where we all end up at last – how long we hope our writing-voice will still be speaking and relevant – and even answers – “Say, what happened to the last guy who tried this?”

And still we write (and carve) on, in just such hope as this – come to think of it!
(Still blowing minds, half a millennium later – nice work, dude!)

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