Dictator Style


Peter York did a book called Dictator Style in 2006 [amazn], including pictures of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, Noriega’s christmas tree, Caesescu’s bathroom, and other disturbing oddities.

It’s hard, when you look at the pictures, to sort out whether you’re being a classist, or the dictators are – because the imagery is all about projection of wealth and power, therefore class. But the dictators that have the worst taste (as we contemporaneously might understand it) don’t seem to be the ones that started off lower class and clawed their way up – they just as often started off rich and powerful and became immensely rich and powerful.

Versailles

Louis XIV, under whose reign Versailles became the pinnacle of what it is, was born at the top of the class hierarchy of France. The great Molière wrote Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme [wik] – a ballet/comedy about a class-climbing son of a wealthy cloth-merchant who wishes to ascend into the aristocracy. We laugh at both the airs of the rich aristocrats, and the desire for for them by the tasteless bourgeois. Ha, ha, ha, it’s all very funny.

It can be funny, anyway, when we see someone who is powerful yet emotionally insecure – too insecure to simply let someone with good aesthetics decorate for them. I suspect that’s what drives dictator style; after all, if you’re rich and step back and let Worth or Chanel dress you (as Jackie Onassis did) then you’re “elegant and sophisticated.” Though, I cannot even write that without a tingle at the back of my neck that warns me that racism also, always, lurks with the class consciousness that made Americans revere Jackie O while splitting over Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian. Bey, as Quentin Crisp said, knows that what separates us from the lower orders is our ability to accessorize. (she is shown accessorized with an $800 millionaire)

What is attractive, to me, is the self-confidence of power, the de-fetishization of one’s appearance that comes with being so powerful or elegant that one simply does not have to give a shit how one looks. That’s a very attractive look.

Dictator style, then, is the aesthetic of the powerful person who is insecure in their power – they’re the person who’ll have you hauled off to a torture chamber if you laugh at their hair. That’s why all this stuff projects warning signals to me: cowardly, insecure, powerful people are really scary.

I am, of course, thinking about Donald Trump.

Maurizio Cattelan, “America”

Trump, supposedly, asked the Guggenheim to lend him a masterpiece by Van Gough, to decorate a room in the White House – and the Guggenheim responded by offering him a statement about class and taste: they offered him a priceless artwork by Maurizio Cattelan instead of the Van Gough.

If Trump is true to form, the Guggenheim’s taxes will go up tremendously, or something. Like his emotional forebear, Marcus Crassus, he probably wishes to say he leaves no debt or slight unpaid. Well, maybe not the debts – just the slights.

Saddam Hussein was no stranger to insecurity and – unlike Trump – was not born with a gold spoon in his mouth. His mother was a sheep-herder and he grew up without the trappings and social signals of wealth and power. One can only assume that a dictator who came to power by literally shooting some of his opposition in the head, understands that the head that wears a crown does not rest lightly. I don’t attribute Hussein’s palaces and gold guns to a lack of taste, so much as to a lack of security – if you can’t really trust the people around you: get something golden.

Jesse James (fake news “reality” motorcycle-builder) has branched out into gun manufacture, and produced that homage to “his good friend” Trump.

It’d go great with the toilet.

------ divider ------

I know the gun says more about Jesse James’ taste than Trump’s. Or, perhaps it says something about Jesse James’ assessment of Trump’s taste. In that case, James is spot on.

James was a hack even when he was making motorcycles; he just buys components of other peoples’ designs and gussies them up and puts them together. For one thing, the design of a 1911 .45 is crap (it’s solid and dependable and easy to make but there are much better designs for semi-automatic handguns) – like the V-twin design, coincidentally. If you want to impress me, make a samurai sword or design something new. (Each sword, if made properly, is “something new” since the lines are unique. If Jesse James made samurai swords he’d buy completed blades and mountings, disassemble them and remount them with new stuff, paint the saya, and declare victory)

Comments

  1. komarov says

    Yes, I was wondering just how solid that gold weaponry is. If it’s more than just gilding that would add quite a bit of heft to a rifle, especially if you include similarly garish ammunition. Same goes for a 1911, which I recall to be very heavy for a pistol anyway. The potential for a face full of golden shrapnel is a nice bonus though, especially for coroner. “Removed one very small gold fragment from the victim.”

    As for the decoration of the pistol, it looks very intricate and that’s the nicest thing I can think of to say about it. It’s neither appealing nor spectacularly ugly. It’s simply misplaced: It’s a weapon, not an object to which “art” should be applied to. The same goes for swords, incidentally. Sorry, Marcus. There may be a lot of craftsmanship involved which, by itself, is very impressive. But at the end of the day it is (nominally) still a stabby piece of metal. I’m positive you don’t crave my approval but perhaps you could consider turning your developing skills to making samurai cutlery instead? It’d be “something new” and there might even be a market for it…

  2. kestrel says

    Seeing the gun… and knowing Turnip’s predisposition to not pay people… Well. I have to wonder if the people who created all this garish stuff actually got paid for it.

    I once had a small run-in with a local “big fish in a small pond” guy, who owned and ran what was at the time called the Fields Corporation but which now has a different name. They hired me to design a logo, which I did, but of course failed to pay me for it. Unfortunately for them, I happened to also be the production manager at the local paper. I waited a month or so, then announced that since the logo still belonged to me ( given I had not been paid for it) I was making the decision that I did not want it to run in the paper that week, and pulled it off their ad. The salesperson had a small melt down, we had words about whether I could do that or not (“You’re too late, I already did it!”) and what do you know. My check suddenly appeared! Amazing!

    But I was lucky. If I’d spent several years and craploads of money on top materials to make some golden toilet or something, and if I’d been a goat farmer like I am now, I would simply have been yet another person that Randy Fields cheated. Since Turnip does this too, I have to wonder if there is a pattern there.

  3. says

    I just can’t imagine wasting that much gold on making a toilet. Even gold covered is too much. Just something fundamentally WRONG with that kind of abuse.

  4. says

    komarov@#2:
    The same goes for swords, incidentally. Sorry, Marcus.

    Well, yes, it’s part of the nature of a sword. It’s why some samurai made the (artificial) division of katsujin-ken (life-giving sword) and setsunin-to (life-taking sword). Swords can be used to defend the right, or to commit wrongs. Of course that is nonsense – it’s the decisions of the sword-wielder and the blade is just a thing. And, I also know that the sword is a symbol of class and power; the samurai were by their very existence oppressors, generally. While my guns will go on the chopping block when I die, my swords won’t – if only because someone hammered hot metal to make them, instead of mass-producing them with another machine.

    All that said, there is a scroll hanging in my forge – it’s the first thing I installed there – it’s a commissioned piece by sensei Yoshimi Maples, and it’s her translation of the beginning of my favorite chapter of Tao Te Ching:

    The weapons of war
    are unfortunate instruments.

    I hope it’ll help remind me that my plan has all along been to make cooking knives. I hope you’ll agree with me that cooking implements are fortunate instruments, indeed. Well, as long as the cook that wields them is bringing food and joy or food of necessity. (let’s not make a distinction between life-giving food and life-taking food, though I am not a vegan)

    I will probably make a few stabby lethal things, now and again, for the challenge of it or if I am asked to. But I also plan to make some pens (if my design works) which are mighty weapons for peace, indeed.

    I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull it off, but I will attempt to make at least one damascus steel tactical spork. Because the life-giving/life-taking spork is the kind of thing that must be made, once one has had the idea.

  5. says

    A V Sandi Nack@#4:
    I just can’t imagine wasting that much gold on making a toilet.

    I agree. A gold urinal, though – that’d be funny.

    Trump already had a gold-plated toilet; the folks at the Guggenheim were trolling him at many levels. First, they were commenting on his taste and America’s status, and secondly, “ours is better.”

  6. komarov says

    Well, yes, it’s part of the nature of a sword. It’s why some samurai made the (artificial) division of katsujin-ken (life-giving sword) and setsunin-to (life-taking sword). Swords can be used to defend the right, or to commit wrongs.

    Interesting philosophy. However, I think I’d find a distinction between the “steak-cutting knife” and the “fish-slicing knife” far more appealing and much less worrying. It’s similarly arbitrary – since arbitrary rules and distinctions seem to please some people – but altogether more useful. Okay, maybe it doen’t offer any commentary on the human condition but you can’t have everything, so why not settle for steak instead?

  7. says

    What is attractive, to me, is the self-confidence of power, the de-fetishization of one’s appearance that comes with being so powerful or elegant that one simply does not have to give a shit how one looks. That’s a very attractive look.

    The logical conclusion of “does not have to give a shit how one looks” would be wearing sweatpants and becoming obese. That’s not attractive. I can agree with your statement only as long as not caring about one’s appearance does not go too far.

    Personally, I somewhat care about my appearance. Some years ago I through that I don’t care. At least that’s what I told myself. My problem was that I simply disliked all the stuff they had for sale in women’s clothes shops. Regardless of what I wore, I hated it, so I ended up wearing black jeans and dark blue sweaters all the time. And I hated shopping, so I often wore my clothes even when they already looked visibly worn out. My attitude changed upon switching to menswear. I realized that there are things I really like. For example, I like tailored jackets, especially if they are made from cool fabrics (like that red jacket of yours). And if there are cool things out there and I can own those, then why not do so. Besides, just like the majority of people, I like looking good.

    Jesse James (fake news “reality” motorcycle-builder) has branched out into gun manufacture, and produced that homage to “his good friend” Trump.

    I don’t like that gun. It’s detailed, but there is no underlying pattern behind all those details. The design just looks busy and crowded. When I draw detailed pictures, I always make sure that it’s not just randomly placed details, instead I think about how all of that can fit together in order to create a nice and pleasant composition. A while ago you put a link to J.D. Smith’s knives. I really liked those; his work would be an example of how to do details correctly.

    But I also plan to make some pens (if my design works) which are mighty weapons for peace, indeed.

    You can do that? How? I haven’t heard about blacksmiths making pens, after all, a pen is not something you can make with a hammer.

    kestrel@#3
    But I was lucky. If I’d spent several years and craploads of money on top materials to make some golden toilet or something, and if I’d been a goat farmer like I am now, I would simply have been yet another person that Randy Fields cheated. Since Turnip does this too, I have to wonder if there is a pattern there.

    Yes, I have experienced that too. One of my first clients commissioned me to do a painting, and once it was finished, he didn’t feel like paying. Apparently he just hoped to get the painting anyway, because I certainly didn’t need it. My answer was, “Fuck you, you aren’t getting anything without paying, the painting will just end up in my trash bin.” Nowadays I always ask my clients to pay me before I start working on a commission.

    And I suspect that there really might be a pattern, that rich people more often just don’t pay or end up missing deadlines for the bills. I once hired a restorer to work on some stuff in my home, and he said that he had noticed a pattern—the richer a client, the more likely he is to get his salary late.

  8. Dunc says

    And I suspect that there really might be a pattern, that rich people more often just don’t pay or end up missing deadlines for the bills.

    Yeah, this is an often-overlooked factor in how people become wealthy. To quote The Simpson’s portrayal of Bill Gates: “I didn’t get rich by writin’ a lot of checks”.

  9. lumipuna says

    Swords can be used to defend the right, or to commit wrongs. Of course that is nonsense – it’s the decisions of the sword-wielder and the blade is just a thing.

    Swords don’t kill people, bleeding from deep lacerations kills people!

    (sorry)

  10. says

    Ieva Skrebele

    I haven’t heard about blacksmiths making pens, after all, a pen is not something you can make with a hammer.

    Perhaps not a modern ball point pen but making a steel nib pen would be something a hammer would be comfortable with.

  11. says

    @#12
    Perhaps not a modern ball point pen but making a steel nib pen would be something a hammer would be comfortable with.

    Do you mean dip pens or fountain pens? I own several of each of those (I sometimes draw with pens), and I just cannot imagine how one could make such a pen with a hammer.

    For my dip pens, I use a simple wooden penholder (a.k.a. handle, they look like this https://img0.etsystatic.com/127/0/11709821/il_570xN.1048216692_lve8.jpg ) with these https://www.calligraphy.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/DPPRINCEBR.jpg nibs (yes, I even have my favorite nibs). It might be possible to make a dip penholder with blacksmith instruments, but there’s no way you could make the nibs with a hammer, they are made from very thin metal, they are also tiny and delicate.

    Fountain pens are technically much more complex with an internal mechanism for ink flow. There you definitely cannot make anything with a hammer.

  12. lanir says

    Being a rich asshole is a cultural problem that I’m assuming is brought on by the existence of money and an arbitrary value assigned to all work one might do.

    Even poor people are indoctrinated to think some jobs are inferior to the point where one should not get a living wage from it. Salient details like whether it’s a necessary position to enable other people to make tons of money or whether it is a full-time work somehow get dropped from consideration as extraneous information.

    Meanwhile the people profiting the most from this are free to use logic like “Your job is just to do X. Why should I pay you more?” at every opportunity. The people they’re taking advantage of get pressed into service as yes-men and armchair psychological counselors to prop up the emperor’s every new turd of an idea. So to be honest I really dislike the gold-plated toilet. It’s gaudy and ugly and has no real redeeming value. But it’s very American. A golden turd catcher feels like a pretty appropriate statement about where we are now.

  13. cvoinescu says

    I think you can do pretty amazing things with a hammer. They come in all sizes. A nib is not too small. Hell, some watch parts are not too small.

    The workings of a basic fountain pen are not terribly complex. I used to take mine apart all the time when I was a kid to clean it. It had five parts: the nib, the piece under the nib with grooves that helped retain the ink through capillary action, the body (essentially a short tube), a rubber bladder that you squeezed when filling it, and a thin tube extending into said bladder, to vent the top of the ink reservoir to the outside. There were caps for the tip and for the ink bladder, but the pen worked fine without them.

  14. kestrel says

    Re: making a pen with a hammer. I’d like to point out that there are indeed, as has already been stated, different sizes of hammer. That’s why jewelers can make some pretty tiny, intricate stuff using them. On my bench I have some similar tools to what Marcus is using in his new forge, but they are hopelessly tiny. No making swords for me… but I’ve made some super tiny buckles and so on.

    There is also the idea of using an inner ink pen part that one buys, and making the barrel of the pen very fancy. I’ve seen a lot of guys that have a lathe and some cool pieces of wood carry that one off very successfully.

  15. says

    @#15
    It had five parts: the nib, the piece under the nib with grooves that helped retain the ink through capillary action, the body (essentially a short tube), a rubber bladder that you squeezed when filling it, and a thin tube extending into said bladder, to vent the top of the ink reservoir to the outside.

    It’s not as simple as that. What you described is just one possible filling mechanism. Fountain pens have many different filling mechanisms (see: http://www.richardspens.com/?page=ref/fillers/fillers.htm ). Well, at least they used to have in the past. Nowadays most modern fountain pens come with the cartridge/converter mechanism. I don’t like cartridges, because I prefer to buy my ink in bottles. I don’t like converters, because they hold very little ink. This is why, when it comes to modern pens, personally I prefer pens with a piston mechanism.

  16. says

    kestrel@#16:
    No making swords for me… but I’ve made some super tiny buckles and so on.

    I am pretty sure you could make a very fine gladius for a mouse, or a katana for a gerbil.

    I’ve seen a lot of guys that have a lathe and some cool pieces of wood carry that one off very successfully.

    That’s basically what I was thinking – Not mine:

    Something like that in damascus. There is also a technique for making damascus feather-pattern, so I am envisioning a quill pen in hammered steel. Also, a feather-patterned tactical spork.

    I admit that a certain amount of this may be me making excuses to get a small metal lathe.

  17. says

    lanir@#14:
    Meanwhile the people profiting the most from this are free to use logic like “Your job is just to do X. Why should I pay you more?” at every opportunity.

    From your and Marx’ mouth to god’s ear. Or something.
    Yes, capital loves to have an unemployed labor pool that they can use to play off against the employed labor pool to create a permanent underclass.

  18. says

    Lofty@#12:
    Perhaps not a modern ball point pen but making a steel nib pen would be something a hammer would be comfortable with.

    Or, a hammer and press can make a billet that can be put in a lathe and made into a pen body.

    There are several fountain pen makers that do stainless damascus bodies. They’re lovely. Probably not my thing – too mechanical – but a quill-style pen, now, that could be as mighty as a sword. Pens don’t kill people: nasty brain damage from having a steel pen jammed into an eye-socket does.

  19. says

    @#14
    Meanwhile the people profiting the most from this are free to use logic like “Your job is just to do X. Why should I pay you more?” at every opportunity.

    I occasionally read travel blogs, and a common story in those often goes as following: an American tourist goes to some very poor country (like India or whatever). Tourist wants to buy some stuff or some service that costs 50 cents for the locals. They are asked to pay one dollar. The tourist starts haggling and becomes angry about getting ripped off.

    Reading these kinds of stories I used to be horrified about how greedy tourists from rich countries can be. Personally I would never haggle over 50 cents. At work it takes me a couple of minutes to earn 50 cents, so it’s literally a waste of time to haggle over this little money. Moreover, I would feel extremely uncomfortable haggling with a person who earns significantly less money than I do. 50 cents mean very little for me, but I’m aware that the same amount of money means a lot more for impoverished people.

    Up until recently I used to perceive such rich tourists as incredibly greedy jerks. And then I read Scarcity: Why having too little means so much by Sendhil Mullainathan only to realize that rich people perceive money and its value differently than I do. In general, people like me who have experienced poverty know how much a certain sum of money is worth for them. If I had an opportunity to spend 10 minutes in order to save 50 cents (for example, compare prices and go to another shop further away), I wouldn’t do that. If I had a similar opportunity to spend 10 minutes in order to save 50 dollars, I would do that. I judge the value of my purchases based on how much a certain amount of money is worth for me.

    Rich people tend to judge the value of their purchases differently. They do a relative price comparison. If a cup of coffee costs on average $1 in the region where they are at the moment, but they are forced to spend $2 on it, they will feel ripped off. (I wouldn’t feel ripped off in the same situation, because I just don’t care about spending an extra $1.) Rich people tend to look around and assume that whatever happens to be the average price of some goods or services in some area is how much it is worth and that’s also how much they ought to pay for it.

    The result is that a person who is generous and perfectly willing to give large tips in USA ends up abusing unlucky people in some impoverished part of the world during their travels to poorer countries. And they don’t even consider themselves mean; instead they believe that they are paying a fair price. And, of course, these people also forget to spend some time thinking about whether the world itself is fair, whether it is even fair that a taxi driver in India earns significantly less money than a taxi driver in USA. Or whether it is fair that a taxi driver earns less than a CEO.

    The unfortunate result is that it is very easy for rich people to forget to contemplate the inherent unfairness of economic inequality and just ask the question, “Your job is just to do X. Why should I pay you more?” It’s simple to assume that whatever people working in a certain profession earn on average is also what they should be receiving. It’s harder to consciously think about all those ways how capitalists have brutally crashed down on trade unions and protests in order to intentionally create the current situation, where some people earn very little.

  20. says

    @#18
    Regarding that photo in #18: that penholder is way too wide. Maybe other people have different preferences, but I like my pens being narrower, about as wide as your average pencil. Holding wide pens feels uncomfortable for me.

    There is also a technique for making damascus feather-pattern, so I am envisioning a quill pen in hammered steel.

    And don’t forget that pens must be well balanced. Real feathers in quill pens are extremely light. A “feather” made from metal would be heavier. You don’t want your pen to have a long and heavy upper part; you must make sure that it doesn’t get too heavy for comfortable writing.

  21. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#22:
    And don’t forget that pens must be well balanced. Real feathers in quill pens are extremely light. A “feather” made from metal would be heavier. You don’t want your pen to have a long and heavy upper part; you must make sure that it doesn’t get too heavy for comfortable writing.

    All good points. I suppose I should not think in terms of sharpening the edge of the feather so that it can double as a razor?

    Tactical pen is both a pen and a sword: it’s mightier than itself.

  22. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#22:
    Not everyone is relentlessly practical all the time. I understand what you’re saying, though.

    If someone is being relentlessly practical, they don’t use a quill pen at all.

    When I was a kid, one of my dad’s friends taught me how to cut quills and write with them. It was pretty darned cool. I still love the sound. But my handwriting is unbelievably awful for writing with a quill pen. I believe that is why calligraphy cursive was invented – you get the pen moving evenly and the quill doesn’t catch and hop.

  23. says

    I just found this one http://www.steppeshillfarmantiques.com/silver-and-porcelain/d/large-victorian-antique-silver-quill-dip-pen/97451/212756
    It looks like you aren’t the first one to come up with the idea of a metal feather.
    By the way, vintage silver dip pens are absolutely beautiful. It’s not like I need one (my drawings aren’t going to get better just because I use an $200 penholder instead of an $2 penholder), but they are so pretty.
    I like pretty pens. Or more precisely: I like pretty things in general.

  24. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#25:
    It looks like you aren’t the first one to come up with the idea of a metal feather.

    Where on earth did I say I had?
    Lots of people have.

    Some of them are quite beautiful. Search for “damascus steel feather” and you’ll find some really lovely stuff. This is a great example:

  25. says

    All good points. I suppose I should not think in terms of sharpening the edge of the feather so that it can double as a razor?

    Yes, you shouldn’t. That could lead to accidentally cutting yourself while writing.

    If someone is being relentlessly practical, they don’t use a quill pen at all.

    Actually, no. I already told you that I used a dip pen to make my badger painting. Dip pens can give me really thin lines, which is what I sometimes want for my drawings or paintings. Normally I use dip pens for drawing or painting or calligraphy. For casual writing fountain pens are more practical. By the way, dip pens are the only real option for calligraphy. You cannot do any of the cool scripts with anything else. For the Copperplate script you need a fine and flexible nib. For medieval scripts you need a wide Italic nib. None of those nibs are available on fountain pens. And ballpoint pens simply suck for everything.

    I don’t use dip pens with quills though, because such pretty pens are more expensive than the standard wooden penholders, which can be bought for about $2 a piece. For my drawings I need dip pens, because they give me specific effects like a desired line thickness. I don’t really need fancy and pretty penholders. I sure find them pretty, but a cheap penholder will be just as good for getting the work done.

  26. komarov says

    That does look like an interesting design for a pen. In lieu of expert knowledge I’ll just assume it was made by dipping a feather in hot metal and letting it cool. Phoenix feather, most likely, or possibly dragon to resist the heat.* Actually I’m no expert on fantastic creatures either and sometimes have trouble telling their feathers apart.

    *Unless it’s made of gallium. It looks like it’s cold wherever the video was made, maybe that’s to keep the pens from melting. Gallium pens probably don’t need to be dipped in ink…

  27. cvoinescu says

    komarov, #28: Phoenix feather, most likely, or possibly dragon to resist the heat.
    For the longest time, people thought that dragons had scales. The idea that they might have had feathers (for thermal insulation, not for flying) is now gaining ground. No, hang on…

    Ieva Skrebele, #17: It’s not as simple as that. What you described is just one possible filling mechanism.
    I’m just saying it doesn’t have to be much more complicated than that. That link is fascinating, by the way. I’ve had pens with three different mechanisms in school (bulb, squeeze bar, and a very nice piston one, which I destroyed when I dropped it on the floor, some 32 years ago. It stuck into the wood like a dart. Sadly, the tiny iridium tip of the nib remained embedded into the wood, like a metallic floor tattoo saying just “greetings”). Dip pens had been phased out as the main ink-bearing writing implement (although I got to use one for a year or so, and the post office kept theirs for many years still), ballpoint pens were banned before high school (and were smudgy and unreliable anyway), and cartridge pens did not become available until much later. It was either a cheap school pen with a piston, or a much better one with a tiny nib and a squeeze bar (imported from China, back when pens, staplers, pencil sharpeners, and calendars with lenticular designs of winking ladies were their main exports, and they were still importing trucks, tractors and industrial equipment).

  28. says

    Komarov@#28:
    In lieu of expert knowledge I’ll just assume it was made by dipping a feather in hot metal and letting it cool

    Nothing that easy.
    It was probably made by making a stack of pieces of 1095 high carbon steel and 304 stainless, with varying numbers of slices of each (more carbon at the bottom) to get the spacing between the shinier “veins” which are the stainless. Then the stack was heated to welding temperature, hammered or pressed, then distorted by chiselling the stack in half while it was hot. The whole mess was allowed to cool and the two pieces were ground flat on the cut-line, then stacked with a bar of 1095 to make the central “vein” and welded vertically. Then, it was sectioned with a bandsaw into thin slices that were then heated and hammered/cut into feather shape. Sanding/grinding the surface to a nice finish, then it was colorized by dunking it in ferric chloride, cleaned off, oiled, and buffed.
    Presto!

    Kevin Casey illustrates it nicely here:
    http://www.kevincaseycustomknives.com/process/68/feathered-w-pattern-tutorial.html
    the Russian feather was not made with a full hammer-divide; it looks like it was hammer-distorted after being sawed.

    I’d guess it took a couple hours per feather.

  29. lanir says

    @Ieva #21:
    That’s an interesting take on it. My current boss might be like that. He gets set on saving money and it blows up more often than not. It’s easy to see the problems coming but if he can save a few bucks (literally, even!) he’ll do it despite making a lot more work for everyone else. I don’t see the point, but like you I’ve been poor. Did the middle class to poor to well paid professional track. Job security problems caused me to take a low paying gig for the moment and it’s a bit shocking how people seem to think that payrate is a measure of worth. But it’s a reminder, not a new lesson.

    I’ve been in companies as small as 3-4 people where it’s blatantly obvious that the profits are a group effort and everyone is needed. The person the business could have done without most easily would have been the boss! I don’t know whether he realized that and got defensive or was just greedy but the minute one of the women got pregnant and chose to be a single mother he was going all out trying to figure out how to drop her right before she gave birth. I think he decided to work on her instead because as I recall she only took 3 days off to birth the kid and get out of the hospital, then she started doing part-time work at home for a bit, then a couple weeks later she was back in the office like nothing had changed. Didn’t even bring the newborn along although our office could have easily handled that. I guess after these sorts of experiences I no longer buy that it’s just some lack of visibility into other people’s problems or an innocent lack of awareness that makes people act like that. At some point everyone has the opportunity to know better and all that remains is willfully self-indulgent ignorance.

  30. lanir says

    @Marcus #19:

    Sorry, I sort of derailed into talk of capitalist issues when you were talking about dictators. With Trump in office it’s a more obvious link between rich assholes and rich assholes with soldiers and guns. About Marx though, I’ve had the Communist Manifesto on my shelf for around 15 years but never got around to reading it. I guess I just got enough of it in bits and pieces to start recognizing some ugly truths, not just as some theory out there in the larger world but disturbingly close to home. Our ruthless businessmen are just the predators that prey on us. Most of the boogeymen of the world today are just the local versions of the same predators.

  31. says

    cvoinescu @#29

    Dip pens had been phased out as the main ink-bearing writing implement (although I got to use one for a year or so, and the post office kept theirs for many years still), ballpoint pens were banned before high school (and were smudgy and unreliable anyway), and cartridge pens did not become available until much later.

    I’m 25, so I never experienced any of that. At school we were all writing with ballpoint pens. I bought some dip pens several years ago when I got into calligraphy. And after that I bought a fountain pen, because I was curious to try writing with one. I write by hand a lot, I prefer to make my notes on paper rather than digitally. I find fountain pens more comfortable for writing, because, unlike ballpoint pens, I don’t have to press them to the paper. As a result, I can write or draw for hours without my hand getting tired. I have only tried piston mechanism pens (I currently use a TWSBI Classic fountain pen). I have considered getting some of those cool vintage pens (they are so pretty!), but I don’t exactly need one, so it’s hard to justify the purchase price. For me the only drawback of fountain pens is that the ink isn’t waterproof. Well, technically I could put some waterproof ink in my pen, but waterproof inks are damaging for pens. Unfortunately, unlike with dip pens, which are ridiculously easy to clean, I cannot use any fancy inks with my fountain pen, because I don’t want to damage it.

  32. says

    lanir @#31

    My current boss might be like that. He gets set on saving money and it blows up more often than not. It’s easy to see the problems coming but if he can save a few bucks (literally, even!) he’ll do it despite making a lot more work for everyone else. I don’t see the point, but like you I’ve been poor.

    Actually, my mother is the same. For example, if there’s a hole in your socks, you could either mend it or just throw out the old socks and buy new ones. Personally, I would calculate how many minutes it takes for me to fix the old socks. I would also look at how much new ones cost and how many minutes I have to work in my real job in order to earn the necessary amount of money. Based on such a comparison, I would decide which option is more efficient for me. That is what I would do. My mother is different. She always chooses the option that allows her to save some money, even if it costs her a lot of her free time.

    I have experienced some poverty induced discomforts, but it has never been really bad for me. It was different for my mum, unlike me, she has actually experienced hunger. In past she used to be in a situation, where she couldn’t get a second job, she couldn’t do anything to increase her income, therefore she did everything possible to save money. And she still keeps on with this habit, even though it has become silly by now. Nowadays she earns a reasonable amount of money and she is also self-employed. That means, if she needed more money, she could just work longer hours in her job. But no, she insists on wasting lots of her free time on inefficient attempts to save some money.

    People do all sorts of irrational and stupid things when it comes to money. Many of these things are results of previous life experiences.

    I also have some of these silly quirks. I used to have too little money and at that time I learned that buyer’s remorse is really painful. Thus I developed the habit of always thinking really carefully about whether I really need that thing I’m about to buy. This habit is starting to occasionally hurt me now. I can spend several hours agonizing about whether I really should make that $20 purchase or whether I can live without that thing I consider buying. And that’s stupid, because with my current income $20 means little for me. Yet that’s how my brain works. Then again, this also results in me spending very little money and hardly ever buying stuff. I’m not looking forward agonizing over my purchase decisions, so my default reaction is to just not buy anything. And not spending much money is good—I’m self employed, so I can work fewer hours.

    Another even sillier quirk is that I’m not comfortable with spending other people’s money. For example, once I was in my boss’ car and we were driving to work. He stopped at a gas station to get some food for himself and offered to buy me food as well. I was aware that my boss was reasonably wealthy (at least by local standards, besides, he was paying me quite well), so the cost of some food wouldn’t matter for him. Yet I was still uncomfortable spending his money, so I ordered something pretty cheap then. Curiously, when negotiating my salary with the same employer, I tried to get from him as much money as I possibly could. When I perceive money as a salary I get in exchange for my work, I’ll ask for as much as I can possibly get away with. Yet the moment I perceive money as a gift, I become very uncomfortable with “asking for expensive gifts” like ordering expensive food when somebody else is paying.

    I tend to think about the things I do, so I’m very aware of all these flaws in how my brain works. Most other people don’t consciously think about these kinds of things, they don’t observe and analyze their own behavior and purchasing decisions, and as a result, they are often unaware about what they do.

    Speaking of irrational and stupid spending decisions, nothing beats people’s habit to buy on sale stuff they don’t even need. Or buy the cheapest thing there is, even though it’s not durable and a slightly more expensive alternative would be cheaper in the long term.

    Job security problems caused me to take a low paying gig for the moment and it’s a bit shocking how people seem to think that payrate is a measure of worth.

    Yes, this one annoys me as well. I have noticed that in some countries/cultures this is more noticeable than in others.

    I don’t know whether he realized that and got defensive or was just greedy but the minute one of the women got pregnant and chose to be a single mother he was going all out trying to figure out how to drop her right before she gave birth. I think he decided to work on her instead because as I recall she only took 3 days off to birth the kid and get out of the hospital, then she started doing part-time work at home for a bit, then a couple weeks later she was back in the office like nothing had changed.

    This would have been illegal in my country. There are laws, which forbid employers from getting rid of their pregnant workers. And after childbirth one of the parents is entitled to an 18 month paid vacation.

    A while ago I read The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely. There author had done some experiments where people were given a possibility to steal, and his results showed that whether people choose to steal, cheat, and lie depends on how socially acceptable it is in the given circumstances. It is more socially acceptable to steal a pen from your workplace than it is to steal money. As a result, people will steal a pen that’s worth $1, but they won’t steal a one dollar bill.

    Where I live employers generally don’t even attempt to mistreat pregnant workers. It’s socially frowned upon, so they just don’t do that. Unfortunately, it is perceived as socially acceptable to pay your workers ridiculously small wages, so employers do that one.

  33. cvoinescu says

    Ieva Skrebele, #34:
    I’ve seen it argued that you should value your free time, not your work time. For example: if you sleep eight hours, work eight hours, commute two hours, eat, wash, go to the toilet etc (things you’d have to do anyway) for another hour a day, that leaves you with five hours of spare time. So you work eight hours to get five hours of spare time; your spare time is worth 8 / 5 = 1.6 times your hourly rate. If you work eleven hours instead and get paid for eight, your two hours of spare time are worth four times your hourly rate. This mode of accounting is not without problems, but it may be more helpful when your hours (and earnings) are not flexible. If you could easily work an additional hour and earn your full hourly rate, and you have a choice of doing that or darning your socks, then sure, you can account for sock repair at your hourly rate.

  34. says

    @#35
    So you work eight hours to get five hours of spare time; your spare time is worth 8 / 5 = 1.6 times your hourly rate. If you work eleven hours instead and get paid for eight, your two hours of spare time are worth four times your hourly rate. This mode of accounting is not without problems, but it may be more helpful when your hours (and earnings) are not flexible. If you could easily work an additional hour and earn your full hourly rate, and you have a choice of doing that or darning your socks, then sure, you can account for sock repair at your hourly rate.

    Yes, your way of counting makes sense. But, like you already pointed out, it makes more sense when your working hours and earnings are not flexible. Which is not the case for me. I’m self employed, I can choose how many hours per week I want to work. If I choose to take more commissions and work more hours per week, then also my earning go up proportionately.

    Actually, for me there’s another aspect in these calculations, namely, how pleasant a job/a chore is. I work as an artist, and my job’s OK. I don’t mind painting commissions for my clients. Many chores are less pleasant than my job. For example, If I could choose between two hours of painting commissioned pictures or one hour of mending socks, I’d choose painting, because for me painting is more enjoyable than mending socks.

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