I don’t know if it’s art…

Okay, enough Fisking for one day. I decided a little earlier today that I need a little more beauty in my life, so I went cruising around the web looking for Robert Williams paintings. You might not like Robert, but I think he’s fantastic. He, like me, has been called all sorts of things, but the classification I generally see used is “Lowbrow Art.” That’s okay with me; I’m certainly no art critic and I’m not the kind of person who thinks that “lowbrow” appellation is necessarily an insult. At any rate, here’s a sample if you haven’t seen his stuff:

This is by no means my favorite, but I like this one just the same. I like almost all of his paintings; the cartoony surrealism, attention to detail, and the energy they put out just floors me. It may not make me Ponder, but it does make me smile. And the great thing about Robert is his titles are just about as good as the paintings themselves. He always gives them a title, then a “Scholastic Designation,” then a “Remedial Title,” and they’re always just funny as hell. For this one, it runs:

Dr. Cinnabar’s Cybernoid Art Ray

Scholastic Designation:
Beauty Is Best Expressed Through The Desire To Procreate But When Synthesized Into An Aesthetic Modular System, The Question Is “Can A Computer Respond To Visual Pleasure Enhancement Via Sensory Amplification Of Harmonic Keister Dynamics?”

Remedial Title:
Alien Alphanumeric Ass Worship

Keep your Cezanne, just let me have Williams.

But then I got to thinking about other things that I think are beautiful but that most would not really consider art at all, and really there are zillions of ’em. Things that are beautiful because they work well or were nicely designed, or as is usually the case, both. There are plenty of things that I just about go into some kind of trance looking at, so inspiring are they to behold. Like SnapOn wrenches.

I’m still thinking of getting a SnapOn tattoo, honestly. These things are just so well thought-out, wonderfully designed, and finely crafted that you can stare at one all day and not find a flaw. I had a bunch of SnapOn stuff stolen from me in NYC years ago, and I still get pissed off when I think about it. And what a joy they are to use too. There simply is no substitute. The journeyman shadetree mechanic might have Craftsman stuff, and they’re certainly okay; I have a bunch of Craftsman tools myself. But SnapOns are simply Other. Rule of thumb: if you take your car to an auto mechanic, find a way to get a peek into the shop area. If the guy has SnapOn stuff, you’ve found your mechanic. If he’s using Craftsman, well, he might do an okay job but he ain’t the best wrench-wrangler in town. If he’s using Mac or Stanley tools, run like hell. And you’ll probably have to run, too, because if he’s ever had his hands into the guts of your car, it most likely won’t get you to the corner. Unless you push, that is.

A well-made knife is worth its weight in whatever commodity you consider valuable. Over the years I’ve learned that there are some things that you’re just better off going ahead and spending money on. Knives are one of them. Buy a cheap knife and you’ll either be back buying another one in a matter of months or you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time cursing the thing to the darkest regions of Hell. A knife is a very handy thing to have, all right; I feel naked going around without one. But having a cheap one is worse than not having one at all. And Spyderco doesn’t just make knives, they make works of art. When I got my first Spyderco Endura I was like a kid who just got his first Cub Scout knife. I spent an almost embarassing amount of time just taking it out of my pocket and feeling it – opening it, closing it, staring at it. All steel, sharper than you can imagine, and tough too. I broke the tip off it wedging open a door when I locked myself out of my house once. I dulled the edge badly using it to cut coax cable when my old boss and I went to this condemned neighborhood to tear out some 40’s style cabinetry and realized we’d neglected to bring rope to tie it into his truck with. Yeah, I dulled the blade, but it cut that coax damned handily just the same. And you can always resharpen blades.

Thompson submachine guns are legendary – well past it, in fact. In its day the venerable Tommy gun has struck fear into the hearts of cops, robbers, and soldiers alike. It’s said that German troops in WW2 would cut and run just at hearing the distinctive bark of one in the distance. They’re a real thrill to shoot too, and if you ever shoot one you’ll find yourself counting the minutes until you can do it again. They’re muzzle-heavy and cycle slowly compared to modern SMG’s, they’re dead reliable, nicely balanced, and they shoot real bullets (.45). You can cut down small trees with a Thompson; many GI’s have, in fact. And I could stare at one all day.

This next category presented me with a difficult choice. In trying to decide what picture to use, I was faced with more good candidates than you could shake a stick at. The idea of the automobile as art is of course nothing new, but trying to pick out just one as the primo example is not easy for a gearhead like me. But I settled on the Shelby Cobra. The story of the Cobra is a great one, and to call its sleek, slutty lines “classic” is just too easy. This car isn’t just pretty – it’s Veronica Lake. Well, Veronica Lake with balls, you might say. Steel ones, and the size of church bells too.

So there ya have it. I may not know art, but I know what I like.

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