Friday, October 25, 2013

Ear Hair Triggers Practical Decision Making?

I would like to reiterate my stance on anything that is a Pain In The Ass (PITA):  I'm against it.  That being the case, why would I purposefully bring an electronic tool into my life?  I don't like to build things and I don't like to repair things and I certainly don't like to tinker.  At least that's what I thought until about a month ago.

The fact of the matter is the decision to buy an electric racket stringer was a practical decision.  I can't believe I just wrote that sentence because right up until I got  this thing I believed in impulse buying only.   What's next, I have to trim my ear hair (I did that for the first time last month)?  

Sidebar: I now have a theory that trimmable ear hair triggers practical decision making.  As a caveat, bald guys make practical decisions much earlier in life.  You see, it seems to me guys that go bald seem to lose their hair at an early age (20's or 30's).  These same guys typically have hairy bodies and thick, burly beards and curly ear hair.  Because they have trimmable ear hair at a much earlier age, they therefore make practical decisions earlier.  That's a scientifically sound theory, right?  Scratch that, my dad was bald at 19, braided his ear hair,  and has yet to make a practical decision at age 66.  

Prior to buying this PITA, I was taking the rackets to Sacramento (40 miles) to be strung because they could do it in a couple of hours, unlike other places.  The cost of strings, labor and gas added up quickly so I started researching options (when did I start caring about stuff like this?).  I quickly deduced that the machine would pay for itself within the year.  Of course, this meant bringing an electric tool into my life.  For reference, the only power tool I own is a drill, which doesn't really count since 99.5% of the population has one of those.  It's like saying I have a fork.  Needless to say, I made the jump.

The machine arrived assembled as shown (minus the stand (+1)*).  When I was attaching the legs on the stand, one of the screws stripped and couldn't be used (+2)**.   I don't have a work bench *(3) so I had to sit on the floor to assemble the stand (+1).  Once assembled, I had to read the instruction manual because it matters which holes you put the strings in (+2).  The manual makes you believe your racket is definitely going to crack when you make one slight error, you giant jackass (+5) *(4).   I thread the string, clamp it, pull tension, and immediately strip the strings because the clamp isn't tight (+3) *(5).  I get the mains (vertical) done, start the crosses (+3) and misweave the third row (+4)*(6).  Screw this, I cut the strings out (-3) *(7).

I start over and notice that it's quicker this time (-1).  I don't strip the strings (-1) and  I don't misweave any crosses (-3).  I'm able to tie the finishing knot (-2) *(8).  I finish in under an hour (-3).  I use it in regulation play and it feels good (-5) *(9).  I can string the racket at my convenience (-6).  Wait a minute, if I'm not mistaken that's a net (-6) on the PITA scale.   That means the stringer is not a PITA.  That can't be correct, this is a power tool.  Nope, that's right, it's a (-6).  That means I've made a practical decision and it's not a PITA.  

The truth is I sort of enjoy stringing rackets.  I can put my headphones on, go in the garage, and hone my war tools.  The best I can figure is that it's a primitive instinct to craft your tools, like making your own bow for the kill and bringing home sustenance that will ensure your survival.  In suburbia, though, honing our war tool means you get to beat a 52 year old in sweatbands with long ear hair for bragging rights.  It's almost the same thing.

* The PITA scale is based on a + or - system.  Anything that is a + adds to the PITA rating and anything that is a - takes away from the PITA rating.  The higher the PITA number, the bigger a PITA it is.  For instance, changing out the engine on a 1965 Mustang would have a PITA rating of +1,000.  This is the highest (biggest PITA ever) rating possible.  A back massage while drinking a Blanton's on the rocks would be - 1,000. This is the lowest (best) PITA rating possible.  The scale is relative to each person, make your own definitions of best and worst.

** Have you ever assembled anything where you didn't strip at least one of the screws?

*3 I don't have any tools for god's sake, why would I have a work bench?

*4 Seriously, you are convinced that the slightest change in adjustment on the knobs or on the strings will instantaneously render your racket useless.

*5 I don't get it, I watched a youtube video so I should be an expert.

*6 Weaving the cross strings, especially as a beginner, is a big PITA.  Add in the fact that I'm using poly string and the PITA is much worse.  Nylon string is pliable so the weaving is quick.  Poly string isn't nearly as pliable so you essentially end up "bending" the cross string under and over each main string.  As a beginner it's hard to tell when you misweave so often you don't notice until you're several rows down.

*7 It feels good to cut the strings out, although I'm concerned, per the manual, that if I don't cut symmetrically, I will definitely f*&k up the racket.

*8 There's a lot of info on knot tying.  I focus on one knot and use it in all circumstances.  I don't give a crap if I'm supposed to use the half hitch here and the double hitch there.  I use the freaking Parnell knot in all instances!

*9 This is the funny thing about stringing your own rackets.  Every time you hit a bad shot, you assume it's because you did such a shitty job stringing the racket.  It couldn't be that you just hit a terrible shot, right?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Modern Art Still Sucks

If there's one thing the government shutdown has taught me it is this: MODERN ART STILL SUCKS!  The connection isn't intuitively obvious so let me lay this thing out.

As I often do when I'm in Marin County, I made a point to drive up Conzelman road in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) known as the Marin Headlands.  This road is about a 3 mile climb that allows various overlook points of the golden gate bridge.  It's a gorgeous drive and it never gets old.  As I approached the bottom of the road I could see steel barriers blocking the route.  This isn't uncommon because the road has been under construction for about a year and it's been closed at different times during that period, but I was suspicious because I couldn't see the tell-tale signs of bright orange construction vests milling about.  I drove up to the barriers and sure as shit there was a sign taped to the barrier telling me it was closed due to the government shutdown.  "This is a PAIN IN THE ASS!! (PITA),  I screamed in my head and symbolically shook my fist like an 80 year old. And a bunch of bullshit too....I later added meekly, because it seemed appropriate. 

 By the way, in addition to learning that MODERN ART STILL SUCKS (more on that later), I also learned this about the government shutdown:  It was nothing more than a bunch of meat helmets finding various petty ways to show each other their middle finger after not getting what they wanted.  I'm not sure who the culprits are in the Conzelman road case, but somebody was giving the double bird business to somebody else.  Here's how I know it's true:

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes vast amounts of lands located around the San Francisco and Marin County area and includes the Marin Headlands (Conzelman Road) and Point Bonita Lighthouse.  Miles and miles of road run through the area, but only the  2-3 mile stretch of road that gives access to the most breathtaking views of one of the most treasured architectural creations in the world was closed.  This road isn't manned, there is no ranger station, and there is absolutely no employee required for this section to operate.   I drove around the backside to check on things and I had access to the lighthouse and the beach.  There was no other road closed.  Cue the middle finger.

"When viewed from either side, the sculpture frames the landscape almost like an oversized picture frame. When viewed from either end, however, the work is a study in formal complexity..."

Now that I was good and pissed, I decided to cross the bridge and check on Crissy Field (part of the GGNRA) on the San Francisco side and see if access to the grounds were also blocked.  Much to my relief the entire area was open.  I pulled out my camera to snap some shots of the bridge and.......... WHY THE HELL ARE THERE D-DAY TANK OBSTACLES BLOCKING MY VIEW OF THE BRIDGE??  Maybe these abominations are twisted metal used from the 911 rubble to honor the victims, I thought.  They're blocking my view, but I'm alright with it in this scenario.  I hurried my way over to the placards to read about the inspiration for and the haunting history of these beasts.

The first one I walked up to was "Magma".   I knew it would be a tough to read so I steeled myself and began.

"Magma, a recently completed work that has never been shown publicly, continues di suvero's exploration of motion and counterbalance. Its composition is dominated by a horizontal I-beam that is balanced between two X-like steel forms. The cut steel rings that encircle the beam are movable rather than structural, and respond to shifts in the wind. When viewed from either side, the sculpture frames the landscape almost like an oversized picture frame.  When viewed from either end, however, the work is a study in formal complexity, its angles, discs, and lines resemble intricate, interlocking layers."

I didn't make that up, I promise.  No honor or meaning to the structure, just another jumbled mass of nothingness passed off as modern art, blocking my view of the golden gate bridge.  

Just in case  I wasn't giving the "art" its due, I decided to use Magma "like an oversized picture frame" for the truly beautiful golden gate bridge.  What do you think?

"This exuberant gesture, which echoes the expressive possibility suggested in much of di Suvero's art, is here reinforced by the work's title: Huru is anAustralian aboriginal word that means both 'hello' and 'goodbye'".

"When the sculpture was  exhibited outside the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland in 1974 it was highly controversial, and was ultimately removed".

"In the context of the work's delicately balanced asymmetry, the buoy reads as a nautical reference and as a guide..."

I tried to use some of the other sculptures to frame the bridge.  Alas, they all sucked, confirming my belief that the descriptions are pure crap.  I have to admit I enjoy reading the descriptions of the artwork because they are so disengaged from the actual art as to be ridiculous.  Surely these things are written after the fact to justify the time and effort. There's no way the artist started with the description and then created the structure.  To be fair to Mark Di Suvero, these sculptures would probably look great displayed in front of some modern buildings in downtown San Francisco.  The curator, however, decided to create a scrap metal recycling yard in front of one of the most recognizable and beautiful structures in the world and pass it off as art.  I can't prove it, but my theory is this:  The curator is a federal employee working in D.C. (senator?) who coordinated his "middle finger" gesture with the dude from Conzelman road by putting these heaps in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.  "Delicately balanced symmetry", as it were. 

  I crossed back over the bridge I stopped again on the Marin side to eat my lunch and was relieved to come across the site below.  Real modern art needs no description.

Taken from the other side of the water immediately after.