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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Living The Potemkin Life

[Thanks to my friend Andy for sending this video along]

Love, love, love that guy’s speech. That Pepperidge Farm accent is actually getting pretty rare in Maine. I live in western Maine, and you hardly ever hear it around here. This delightful fellow is in Deer Isle, about two or three hours dead east of here, right on the Maine coast. Western Maine isn’t Yankee. It’s more continental polyglot than Albion. People have a distinctive twang here, but it’s more like a frostback NASCAR lilt than ayup.

The Intertunnel loves stuff like this. They treat the discovery of such work online as akin to unsealing Tutankhamen’s tomb. While I’ve never done it myself, I’ve seen it done lots of times. Landscapers for tony houses in Massachusetts routinely split granite in this fashion to make outdoor steps while I was working alongside them doing something else. Feathers and wedges. Of course, there’s one gigantic bit of handwaving involved with the video. Someone’s got to drill those holes, and drilling holes in granite is no picnic.  Most use an air hammer. The wedge and feather work is the easy part, if more fun to film.

I was told that our colonial ancestors used to split rock in quarries by drilling holes in a line, which must have been very hard work indeed, then filling the holes with water and waiting for the winter’s hard freeze to expand the ice in the holes and crack the block loose. Most heavy stuff out in the landscape, prior to the internal combustion engine, anyway, was moved in the winter on sledges. Loggers like working in the winter because it’s easier to drag big boles over frozen ground with no puckerbrush around.

This fellow and his wife(?) run a hostel in Deer Isle. Of course it’s an eco-hostel, because moral preening adds oodles of enjoyment to any Potemkin vacation. I find such quirky people interesting and generally enjoyable, and people have been known to lump my family in with such quirkies, which is all right by me; I just have no appetite for the intellectual horsehockey necessary to think that subsistence farming is “ecologically” less intrusive than a two bedroom ranch filled with people that buy beefsteak tomatos at the Stop &Shop. New England, and especially Maine, is now empty, and that emptiness has been filled in with lots of trees, not pavement, because subsistence farming for everyone was shot dead a long time ago, and there was no longer a need to flatten the entire landscape to plant a few wan acres of the barely edible, looked after by people one hard winter from destruction.

If you do things for yourself, Intertunnel viewers are quick to praise it, generally, unless it’s self-defense, of course; but there’s a limit to what’s sensible, or even possible to do on your own, and you rub up against that limit pretty fast. It’s ridiculous to poop in a hole in the ground with a solar panel on the roof over your head and talk about sustainability. Solar panels aren’t made in a shed, and you don’t swap last fall’s rhubarb crop for them. Your hammer came from Home Depot, not a forge in the back yard. And money made right next to a smokestack and spent with you out in the landscape is still the same kind of money.

They’re interesting people, and backbreaking work is fun — if you’re visiting. Why can’t people leave it like that?

15 Responses

  1. "…and backbreaking work is fun…"

    Yikes. The exuberance of youth. The reason I became an electrician was, it was the least amount of work for the most money. My father told me "think with your head, not with your feet".

    'Twas I, your eager west coast correspondent, who sent that link-
    Congrats on another link at Ace of Spades HQ-

    Dave, The True Prince of the Inland Empire

  3. How much would it have been to have the quarry, with their proper tools and saws and other assorted accoutrements brought to you already sized? Rather than having one large rock dumped in your front yard and then proceeding to drill it full of holes the hard way.
    While interesting, I see no fundamental advantage other than how it makes me feel to do something the hard way.
    Gotta fried chicken tv dinner that the reason we weren't treated to watching him drill the holes is that he did it with a proper hammer drill, rather than his little hammer and a star bit.

  4. Let's spread some oil on the waters of discontent:

    "Apa trece, pietrele ramin."
    "The water flows, the rocks remain."
    — Old Romanian Proverb

  5. Is there anything out there you can't find some position to hover over and empty your intellectual bowels onto?

  6. Doing tasks by hand is good exercise. I split my firewood with a maul instead of a gas-powered splitter because it's fun to bash the hell out of a piece of wood (and cheaper than joining a gym).

    But I have no illusions that I'm saving the planet. In fact I savor the irony that "Green" energy policies mean I cut down more trees and burn them.

  7. Sipp, I see why some of these jerks post as "anonymous". Where I come from people lose teeth talking like that.

    Anonymous trolls talk like a sausage.

  8. I have split huge logs of red oak in order to make pieces small enough that my 5' long chainsaw bar could handle them, but the density of granite takes things to a whole nuther level.

    Ayuh, gonna need a biggah pry bah.

  9. What this is, is the consumption of a luxury good. This person has sufficient leisure time that he can AFFORD to do it that way – and with those materials. Which is fine as far as it goes. It's kind of neat to watch and will probably form the basis for some interesting conversations. But let's don't kid ourselves that there is some particular virtue in all this. Or at least, let's not elevate it above other forms of work that save labor and thus enable the worker to do a bit more with a day. Hard work is both admirable and virtuous but digging a hole with a backhoe is no better or worse than doing it with a shovel. Morally speaking.

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