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If You Make Things, You Are My Brother: Manny Avalos

I need you to get past the production values of this video.

Videos made in this fashion are manipulative. They become propaganda. The music is chosen to provoke sentiment without meaning. The slow tracking shots are meant to manufacture interest in mundane tableaus. A voice-over lends senatorial gravity to banal utterances. Put the method aside.

Manny is an interesting person. Manny is an interesting person whether or not there’s a camera dolly involved. I can, however, assure you that you probably wouldn’t think Manny was an interesting person unless he showed up in four minutes of pixels on your iThing. Manny could work in his garage for twenty years and not one of the neighbors or their kids would be the slightest bit interested in what he’s doing. An invitation to see his workshop would be met with a slightly panic-stricken look and a dissembling, “I’ve got this thing in Van Nuys in a half an hour…”. Manny probably wouldn’t care. He isn’t a docent in the museum of Manny. He wants to make guitars.

What Manny is talking about in the video is profound only because it should be quotidian, but isn’t anymore. He’s talking about being connected with other people. He wants to make a guitar so that other people can use it to make music to entertain and delight still more people. He feels connected to the world at large by his own solitary efforts. He admits he found the construction of the guitar interesting for its own sake, but he understands that his interest is pointless unless it serves others.

The bit of text appended to the video makes some bold claims about Manny that I don’t want or need to investigate. They call him a “Renaissance man,” incorrectly, I imagine. It’s the sort of term people with ironic beards and stovepipe pants enjoy using, but don’t really understand.

If I had to guess, I’d imagine that Manny is a retired schoolteacher of some sort, and has taken an interest in his fellow man every day of his 89-year-old life in one way or another. Not the sort of interest that takes the form of ruling them for their own good, either. He has been a productive and pleasant person for so long that he doesn’t know how to be anything else.

The United States, in my lifetime, was chock-a-block full of people just like Manny. Now it’s full of people with camera dollies and ring lights, hunting around for the last Manny on Earth so they can stuff him and display him.

That Is, Like, SO USA

Guy Van Duser, absolutely killing The Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa, on the cuestick guitar.

Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Americans. To all my British friends: Better luck next time!


My son emailed me this.

In other news, I now receive email from one of my children. I imagine this means some sort of age Rubicon has been crossed. 

Why Be Normal?

Of course “Normal” nowadays means sitting on a bean bag chair in an office that looks like a Gymboree, with no equipment but a laptop and a fridge full of Jones soda, waiting for the boss to stop playing foosball with the fellow from the loading dock — he plays Ultimate Frisbee if it’s not raining — and hoping he’ll remember to call the angel investor and get him to cough up the second million or you’re all laid off.

Always Encouraging

Who encouraged you? Who will you encourage?

Many people who work in a mostly solitary manner never pass on even a small portion of the things they’ve learned by hard experience. They’re not allowed to be teachers in formal settings. The teaching of things is considered a method. The priesthood of the method doesn’t like amateurs.

Of course the word amateur comes from the Latin word for love. You do it for love. Men like Wayne do it for the love of it, even though they are trying to make money at what they’re doing. They could probably make more, or at least work less and get a steadier income, by doing something else. Teaching school, for instance. He is showing others what he’s doing in the video, but he’s not running a school. It’s not the same thing. An apprentice is not a student.

The word love is thin gruel to describe the impetus for such work. Passion might be more like it. Fascination, perhaps. Compulsion and monomania, maybe. There are satisfactions available to a man that fully realizes his capacity to learn and do on his own terms. He looks only for an indication of that same urge in others as the entrance exam into his affairs. If no one shows up, he risks dying alone with his thoughts. Some men’s thoughts are good enough company on their own, though.

Wayne Henderson

(Thanks to Rob De Witt for sending that one along)

Tag: guitars

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