Monday, November 28, 2005

Just Like Us, Only Spelled Wrong


The knob and tube palace keeps my interest level in "how to do it" shows unnaturally high in that This Old House or Discovery or TLC is usually dealing with some subject that I know will eventually break at my place.

Probably within weeks of the airing of the show and I'll kick myself for not paying closer attention on how to thread a 3/4" pipe or install soffit vents. The show will be on TV and the house will glance over my shoulder and watch, it assuming that I'm not paying attention to the old place and am happily hoping its just falling apart slowly for a change.

"Now look at that, he's flipping over to "SPIKE" for Bathing Babes with PhD's or Most Extreme Japanese Public Humiliation" the house will whisper to itself and I'll think I have just heard another shingle fly off the roof and ignore it. "No, he missed the part where they said how really important it was to shut off the live steam source before cutting into the boiler jacket. If that system fails on me I know I've got some steamed human a-coming right up."

And a week or two later, preferably just after the 30 warranty has expired, something involving a boiler and scalding water will let go, usually at three in the morning.

So I watch, take notes and even record self inflicted help shows whenever I can. This Old House: "Today on This Old House we'll see how the cast platinum basement foundation is coming along and look at options for refinancing the third world country you just bought. Thanks for watching viewer supported PBS." New Yankee Workshop: "I'll be feeding live logs into the Enigma 12000 and watching priceless Queen Anne reproductions come out the other end. This is a tool for most home workshops who have recently sold a third world country." Trading Spaces: "While Enid and Roger are glueing shards of glass to the bathroom floor, Brian and Zelda are repainting with Radium based gloss."

Oh and Ask This Old House with its audience particpation game segment in which viewers guess how many marbles Roger the landscaper has stuffed in his mouth.

That's not an accent, its a speech impediment.

They are informative and amusing so it's no surprise that, killing time in a Canadian hotel room recently, I watched one of their home centre, metre based showes.

OK, I may be a little US-centric, but this thing could have been called "Intensive ADHD Therapy" or "Let's Watch and Hope Grandpa Mutilates His Thumb the Way We Watch NASCAR For the Crashes."

Start off with a late sixties something codger who looks more at home with an oxygen tank than with a tabletop router. Add to this he's bald. Not a bad thing in itself, but he's got some kind of bizarre knot, lump, growth of something or other on the top of his head that looks like a dial you might change his personalities with or a place to put your finger if you ever wanted to spin him like a top.

What is that? It's almost an inch high and two inches in diameter? Come on. We're polite, but not fucking stare? We're not blind.

All of this detracts from whatever he is actually doing which, isn't a lot. For anyone who's ever worked with wood, you know that projects don't fall together wth way Norm would have you believe. The process is agonizingly slow and tedious most times. Norm cuts away fast and uses camera angles to make it look, well, interesting.

Not Gramps MacKenzie. No, he spends ten seconds plugging his router in and another five seconds adjusting the speed! 'Scuse me while I go order room service for eight.

I'm back, nope, didn't miss a thing. He finally gets his cut set up and starts in on the piece he's slicing and dicing. Fine. He gets a good cut, flips the board over, cuts the other side. Holds the piece up; see? Perfectly centered (except he pronounced it centred). Ok, cut the other end of the board. Yeah, I'm with you so far. Whatever nuance of a blade going into wood I missed the first time I'm sure not going to miss the details of which now.

So now he leans over his work and the skin thing on his head is staring right at me and I'm feeling dizzy and hear polka music and want to vote Bloc Quebecquois.

Then he moves on...

to the twelve more pieces he's going to have to cut and yes indeedy, he shows you, two angles, close up, the exact same cut on all twelve pieces, top and bottom, left and right. Forty eight repetitions of the same fucking thing done the same fucking way. If this were sex, she'd be pasting pages of Danielle Steele to the ceiling to have something to read while waiting.

Guys, eh? Pacing? Visually interesting? Tired of playing what's the skin thing.

We may gloss over some of the details down here like how did you chip carve the headboard and what hurricane levee were we supposed to build but at least we keep it interesting.

On the other hand, I guess I'm glad I didn't tune in when he had to do some painting.

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