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JOEL Joel's Blog

Gabba Gabba Hey!

08/17/2016 (I just Saw An Exhibit That I Could Go For)

Before I get into the body of this week's blog, I want to mention that tomorrow afternoon (August 18th) from 3 - 6 pm we will be having a Festool Demo Day at the showroom. In addition to seeing all the current tools, you will have a chance to take a first-hand look at some new tools for the fall. This includes a new carpentry saw - with a built in miter fence! - and a new screw-gun that takes magazine loads of screws for really fast professional work.

Gabba Gabba Hey! 1This has nothing to do with woodworking (well, maybe see the last paragraph) but it does have lots to do with getting people's attention. The most popular exhibit ever at the Guggenheim Museum was about motorcycles as art. People came from all over the country and from all walks of life to see the show. There were lines to get in outside the museum almost every day. Why? Because the topic resonated with people.
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Learning about motorcycles interests people much more so than does an exhibit of self-indulgent paintings or sculptures. The Queens Museum, an interesting, but mostly off-people's-radar museum located in Flushing Meadow Park (where the 1963-64 World's Fair was held, and right near the spaceship restaurants from Men in Black) mounted two of the best museum shows I have seen in a long time. Hey Ho Let's Go just closed. (Sorry.) The line on opening day at the Ramones show was four hours long.

Gabba Gabba Hey! 3I had in mind to go to the show since first hearing about it well before its opening, but various other things in life intervened, so I made sure to see it shortly before it closed. The show consisted mostly a collection of memorabilia with videos of performances. It's very interesting to see that first wave of crudely printed punk music magazines (before we knew they were punk), a great photo article on the Ramones buying their first touring sound system. The Ramones were all Queens guys, though only Dee Dee continued to live in Queens after they had a bit of fame, and first got acquainted at Forest Hills High School (one town over from Kew Gardens, where my parents moved, allegedly "for the children's sake").

Gabba Gabba Hey! 4The coolest bit was Tommy Ramone's Forest Hill High School yearbook, opened to the page with Tommy's picture. Smiling on the same page was a larger picture of a teacher, young Gasper Fabbricante, who five years later was the principal at my high school. The Ramones weren't famous yet; perhaps later on he enjoyed some bragging rights.

The most poignant part of the exhibit was two pages of lyrics scrawled by Joey Ramone in the hospital, miserable, writing: "I want my life." Joey Ramone died of cancer in 2001.

Even on its last weeks the exhibit was pretty packed, and there were more people taking pictures than any exhibit I can recall.

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There were two other exhibits going on at the same time that haven't closed just yet and are very, very good. The first is a permanent exhibit of the museums Tiffany lamp collection. That was fun.

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The other is an exhibit of cartoons, illustrations, and paintings by William Gropper, a leftist illustrator of mostly social issues. I thought his work had real power, enough to get criticized by the Japanese government before WW II for his caricature of the emperor and by Joseph McCarthy of his painting of lazy senators. Gropper was blacklisted by the House Un-American Committee.

Is there a connection between these shows and woodworking? Certainly woodworkers face constant pressure on woodworkers to make stuff that is "different," "new," or that "explores the condition of humanity in the 21st century." But what our customers really want is a nice chair or table. I complain about the loss of skill, about the industrialization of furniture making, and the decline of traditional skills -- and then along come the Ramones, with the musical skill equivalent of using a hot melt glue gun. And I find the result incredibly compelling! 40 years after the punk rock movement made headway, the lack of musicianship is being overlooked (okay, not by metalheads) because of the compelling style that was developed. So when you design furniture, worry less about your ability to make it and more about what you are trying to achieve both practically and emotionally. That's the message of the Ramones for the modern woodworker.

BTW in case anyone is curious, my favorite Ramones songs are "Rockaway Beach" (Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock, Rockaway Beach, we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach...) and "We're a Happy Family" (Sitting here in Queens, Eating refried beans...). In case you are curious, no I didn't need to look up the lyrics for either song.

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Join the conversation
08/17/2016 Joseph R. Janutka
Every so often, Wisconsin voters seem to get a brain cramp and elect guys like Joe McCarthy and the current ultra right wing governor Scott Walker. I don't know why our Progressive traditions have been abandoned.
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.