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Shelves Part 2

I continue working with those folding shelves. Talk about cheap. The pieces were laid on on a pattern, with glue on the ends, stapled together, then pinned together with tacks. Even then the pieces didn't always fit, so they were wood puttied together. When you hear about cheap Chinese shit, this is what they're talking about.

Yesterday's joints came out both tighter and worse than my first joints. Measuring was the primary issue. I didn't scribe my lines very well. I think that I'll do better if I change my knife as a box cutter isn't quite giving me a nice enough line. The next time that I'm to a hardware store, I'll have to pick up a scribing knife.

Don't believe for a second that I'm doing a first class job. I'm not. This project is for me to develop skill and make mistakes, and I guarantee you, I am making mistakes.


The Coelura (1987)

The Coelura (1987) is a novella first published by Anne McCaffrey in 1983. The romance is a throwback to the pop SF of the 50's and 60's, with great regard to form and little regard to function. There's nothing amazing about the story, but it's an entertaining enough romance and an absolute representative gem of retro fiction. (Arguably, since Anne got her start with this sort of fiction, for her it isn't retro at all, just a little misplaced in era.)

Accompanying the story are some gorgeous ink drawing which capture the tenor of those simpler SF times. The future in these drawing is indeed futuristic, with a European opulence poured on top, to give an elegant, decadent, and skin tight feel.

Our heroine is harder to get than she looks. Our hero winds up the lucky man. Some La-La-La happens offscreen, and in the end, there's a happy ending. But you knew that because it's a romance.

If you feel like something retro and just a little decadent, check this one out.


Jenny was away at her mom's this weekend, leaving me and DesignGirl to our own devices.

This weekend, I acquired a new project. A neighbor tossed a rickety folding bookcase. Score! The thing proved itself an absolutely wonderful practice project, and required just the sort of attention that I could muddle through.

The whole thing was badly made of butted joints and pneumatic nails. Over time, it had worked its butt joints loose, so I've chosen to replace the folding panel butt joints with lap joints, which means that this project is just perfect for learning more about chisels.

Step one was cutting new slats for the crossbars. Now that I've learned the basics of the plane, I didn't even need to sand the pieces. Just a few minutes with the plane smoothed out the saw marks. Sweet!

I tried a few different ways of taking out material with the chisels, generally improving my comfort level with them. Wow, these things really are useful once you get them sharp. I only just realized that they act as their own straight edges, which means that when you're trying to make an area even, you don't need to change tools, you just use your chisel.

The lap joints weren't quite tight enough, so I need to reconsider the way that I'm measuring, but they weren't terrible, either. I must be letting the scoring knife bump out a bit too much as I'm determining dimensions.

As the joints weren't quite tight enough, I chose Gorilla Glue for my glue as its expands as it sets, filling in some of the side gaps. Tight and strong. Yes.

I checked the piece this morning. The new slat greatly steadied the piece, which will make working on the rest far easier and the clamping a little less crazy-assed. (Trust me, my shop is something of a kluge.)

In other crafting news, we got our pottery back from the paint it yourself place. My bowl came out looking fun, joyful, complex, and on close inspection, utter crap. Yay for my first time! If I did this more often, I'd get terrific at it, but I wont' be doing it that often.

We inaugurated the bowls with big bowls of ramen. Yay.


A Gift of Dragons (2002)

A Gift of Dragons (2002) collects together four Anne McCaffrey Pern short stories in a book aimed at the YA audience. The little hardback is well printed and bound nicely, making for a nice gift. One of the stories is new for the collection.

The stories pretty much unfold as you'd expect from a McCaffrey story. Bullies and egotists abound. So do dragons. The stories are all what they are, flowing well enough, twisting YA anxieties for all they are worth.

The new story in this volume centers around twins being searched, which triggers my anti-twin sentiments. (Since I'm a twin, I get to have anti-twin outrage and twin stereotypes.) The twins here, fraternal, look fairly alike and are inseparable. (Roll your eyes and sigh.)

Nothing here is fine literature, but they're perfectly good YA stories to keep a dragon lover occupied.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the latest film offering by J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter universe. Newt Skamander loses magical beasts, catches magical beasts, and collides with a plot all set in 1920s New York.

Having recently written a fantasy book in the 1920's, I had a an extra layer of interest in the film. I won't compare the two, because the stories are baseball and ping-pong, but I will follow her game and say what I think.

First, color grading. I detested the color grading. While I don't require the film to look fully naturalistic, having it look less gray would be great. This current fashion of colorless color films is detestable. Where color does exist, it exists in the wizarding world, so I do appreciate that the directory made a choice here. I respect that choice, but I still detest results.

Costume was half a win and half a loss. I adored the costumes on the girls. For large swaths of the film, they got to wear ordinary clothing that fit the era. In general, all the costuming looked well done, and the designers used appropriate period sources. Where the designers fell down for me was with the American aurors. All aurors wore the same trenchcoat outfit. Back in the 20's, gendered outfits were the norm, so the female aurors should really have had a feminine auror look all their own, just as sharp, and just as professional, with a skirt. (Women in pants? A definite no-no.)

I liked some of the revived archetypes that showed up the in film. A ditzy but sweet blonde, an ordinary joe, the stereotypical banker, the New York cop, the religious zealot, these all drew off those older character types. Their revival felt fresh compared to the modern archetypes. The only place where the characters really lost me was when they weren't the old archetypes. (By the way, these old archetypes were popular for decades because they worked.)

They had the architecture and technology generally right. Those madmen made a complete 3D model of New York for the era, and a skyscraper under construction in the film was likely a famous NY tower, my guess being the Chrysler Building. (The Empire State was closer to 1930.) The only thing NYC needed more of was cars. Even back then, it had a maddening number automobiles. As for the horse carts, they were still in widespread use in the 1920s, so they're accurate. (For a period comparison, watch the Jazz Singer.)

I loved the set for the girls' room in the boarding house. (I like how it was a boarding house but they simply didn't explain it. Good.) The set for that was spot on, down to the mix of era being shown, and the accumulated clutter. This looked like apartments in old movies and felt lived in. That really sold it.

I thought the story bit off a bit too much to chew. I would have dropped the political plot. I was having enough fun with the primary characters in the comedy that the real plot was an annoying distraction, which would have freed up more time with the characters. There were many good opportunities left untouched.

Given the same setup, I would have veered towards the ever-complicating comedy, where all the crazy solutions come crashing down at the end and the main characters are doing the damnedest things to keep their plan from falling apart.

I felt disappointed with the character arcs. Newt wants his animals back. OK. Good enough arc. Cop girls wants to become an auror again, but her actions only don't seem to get her there. That doesn't seem to be her motivation at all. She's just there as the straight man. The donut guy follows along but doesn't ever seem to be helping himself, or even saying, "hey, this is better than a canning factor." And finally, psychic blonde doesn't seem to have any mission at all, or aims, or anything. With each character now having a goal, each character's action can now impact the other characters, advancing and disrupting the other goals. It's a good comedy setup with real potential, but has to get written that way from the get-go. You can't just slot it in. You can keep the story comedy adventure as well, but the final conflict would be the result of Newt's mistake. I'd even be up for saving a rare creature from destruction by the wizards as that's what Newt's theme is. As it stands, the political stuff has nothing to do with most of the film. The bad guy could want the bad thing to destroy all donut shops just as much as some other vague and unexplained plot goal.

I found the film lacking in heart. This film needed more of that. Much, much more. I needed that heart to love the characters and care about their goals.

Although the 1920s were the backdrop, they mattered too little in the overall arch of the film. I could just as easily have set this in 1980's NY with almost no changes. (Yes, there would have been the whole national TV thing going, so the end deus ex machina would have to be different, but it would still be a deus ex machina.)

I noted some seeming lore conflicts with the earlier films, but I don't care. Perfect continuity sucks.

I think that the whole "exposing wizards" didn't work, as people didn't believe in magic anyway, so I was often left mystified by this plot point.

The street preacher was under-used. I suppose that she was supposed to be some sort of red herring, of the sort that doesn't work. I never suspected her of anything other than fanaticism. Indeed, she wound up confusing the tensions within the film rather than heightening them or deepening them. She represented a conflict that just didn't pan out.

Overall, I found the film perfectly entertaining fluff, and well done fluff at that. (Fluff may seem easy, but it's not. Fluff isn't an insult. The world needs good fluff.) Don't think about it too hard and you'll be adequately entertained.

Nerilka's Story (1986)

Nerilka's Story (1986), a novella by Anne McCaffrey, is set well before the classic era of Pern. The pass is almost over, a disease is about to sweep the land, and Moreta is about to go on her legendary ride.

Against this backdrop is the story of Nerilka, yet another McCaffrey heroine who isn't appreciated at home, doesn't quite fit in with the other girls, and who goes off on her own to find people who appreciate her. Her father is callous, of course, and there's also an egotistical domineering woman who ruins everything.

The story is fairly turnkey McCaffrey fare, competently done and smoothly related. It's a good afternoon read with no major flaws or blemishes, and being a novella, not loaded down with bloat. If it were a novel, I might knock off some points, but it's not. It's just enough of Pern to get a satisfying swig and no more.
In many ways, Art Deco isn't original at all. There's nothing about the designs that couldn't be designed or manufactured ten or twenty years before.

If you take a look at houses sitting between the late 1800's and the early 1900's, you'll see many standard features that later became Art Deco. The reason that you see these features is the same reason that you see the features in Art Deco: they were easy to produce at the drafting table, and skill artisans could then produce the designs on houses.

For example, semi-circles often appear at the top of windows and door. Later on, when builders were called onto create other curved features, they already had the expertise to do so. Likewise, when looking at period ironwork, you see lines, circles, and diamonds everywhere. Ironworkers knew how to create these shapes. When Art Deco came along and rearranged the shapes, the work was already well within their expertise.

Once you see the elements in the preceding decades, the emergence of beauty based on those elements becomes rather sensical, if not inevitable.

With the advent of standardized windows and chain-link fences, ironwork fell into disfavor and windows returned to their usual square appearance.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.



This was a long weekend.

On Thursday, we had Jenny's Dad, Sally, Ryan, Mark, and Izzy over for Thanksgiving.

I made two pies for the feast. Both tasted good, but had issues. The crust was too tough (because I overworked the dough) and underdone (because I don't know why). I'll need to make notes. I've already hit YouTube to pick up more tips and tricks.

In contrast, my dinner rolls came out heavenly. Yay, dinner rolls.

On Friday, we had a family outing to Moana, followed by a session at the paint your own pottery place. I thought Moana rather pretty. The plot was rather stock but well done and the whole thing had a heaping helping of heart.

On Saturday, we spent more time with Jen's family, down in Georgetown, playing a room escape game. If we really had to live, we would have died, but we got through 90%+ of the puzzle without help. Some technical issues with the room confounded us for another 5%, and the last 5% was genuinely getting stuck.

On Sunday, we did church, followed by another film, Fantastic Creatures, this one with Jen's family. We also discovered that there was a movie theater near to church, which means we could park, church, movie, and home. This may change our movie habits.

Meanwhile, there was Black Friday, where I picked up Fallout 4 four $20. Yes, that's my price range.


Black Horses for the King (1996)

Black Horses for the King (1996) by Anne McCaffrey is a divergence from her usual fantasy and SF fare. In this historical fiction, aimed at young adults, a boy helps King Arthur buy horses, and in doing so, helps him to create the cavalry of Camelot.

The story is first person and mostly straight forward. There isn't much cleverness going on, but there doesn't need to be. The tale itself is experiential, at that cusp where a boy turns into a many, and where his fortunes change from subordinate to peer.

The text moves well. The plot progresses steadily. The characters all seem a little underserved, but there no harm of the story. The antagonist is an annoyance, more unbelievably so than he ought to be, which really weakens his role. The history and horse facts are generally correct with some liberties taken to create a good story.

Overall, I found the work a competent read of YA fiction, perfect for the boys, and possibly perfect for horse girls.

Weekend Woodworking

This weekend, I made another run at using planes on wood. Turns out, these things are a tad trickier to use than I already knew, but I made more progress, mostly by doing the same things over and over, and also by not doing the same things over and over.

Finding a truly flat surface as a reference proved rather difficult. I did find my old T-Square, which proved flat, but I wasn't as sure about my old drawing board. I'll have to look at it again using the T-Square this time.

Flat. It's an obsession with woodworkers because real life comes in 3D, and in 3D, the reference point is a plane (literally).

Other than that, we're on our way to the Christmas season. But before then, we need to plan out a few pies for me to make.