Lessons and Carols this Saturday

I have a recurring daydream that the beautiful and just world envisioned by William Morris in his novel News From Nowhere is what we get instead of Costco. When it comes to Christmas, in place of shopping and Jingle Bell Rock, we’d have a winter festival of light and timeless, beautiful music. If you’re in Los Angeles this weekend and would like to get a taste of what the Christmas we all know is possible would look and sound like, drop by St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral at 5 pm this Saturday December 15th for an evening of Lessons and Carols.

The Choir of St. John’s Cathedral presents beautiful lessons & carols for the season of Advent and the Vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The service begins in darkness and moves toward resplendent light at the high altar, featuring music by Palestrina, Willcocks, Tavener, Howells, and others. Complimentary valet parking and warm reception to follow. All are welcome.

The Cathedral is located at 514 W. Adams Blvd. just across the street from the Metro Expo Line LATTC/Ortho Institute Station. Come if just to see the interior one of the most stunning buildings in Los Angeles.

I Fix It: A Guide for Repairing Electronic Devices

Nothing makes me more cranky than the care, maintenance and repair of all the electronic devices we all just can’t seem to do without. I’m always on the verge, in the words of author Corey Pein, of going, “full Ned Ludd.” So what do you do when one of these slave labor assembled devices stops working?

Yesterday the Apple Trackpad that brings you this blog stopped right clicking resulting in no Monday blog post. Thankfully I found some repair instructions on IFixIt, a handy website that I’ve used many times in the past. IFixIt posts repair instructions for everything from faulty Roombas to cracked iPhones. They’ve even posted directions lifted from Apple’s top secret repair manuals, thereby invoking the ire of the vengeful ghost of Steve Jobs.

In the case of my sticky Trackpad, IFixxIt’s instructions guided me through removing the back panel and adjusting a screw. It took all of five minutes and this post is proof of success.

Suspicious glue gob on CPU chip.

But Apple does not make these repairs easy. The back has to be pried off carefully since the primary CPU chip of the Trackpad is glued to the back panel. Let me pause here to ask why a manufacturer would attach the back panel to the CPU chip with a wad of glue? Would it be cynical to suggest that they want to sabotage any attempt at repair and get you to spend $120 on a new one?

When it comes to repairing electronic devices I’ve found this set of screwdrivers, that I got at the now defunct Radio Shack, handy. IFixIt sells screwdriver sets like this as well as tools for popping open cases. Thank you IFixIt for disrupting the disruptors!

At the risk of an apples to oranges comparison, let me say how much more I like the products of Lie-Neilsen Toolworks. Made in America by workers paid a living wage, Lie-Nielsen manufactures tools built to be taken apart, maintained and repaired by the user. One hundred years from now when the fragmented pieces of plastic from my Trackpad are choking a dolphin, someone will be producing razor thin wood shavings with my #4 Lie-Neilsen hand plane.

Saturday Tweets: Rainy Day Tweets

So Much Stuff

A Silver Lake estate sale.

Over at Granola Shotgun, a blog you should follow if you don’t already, Johnny has a post on what happened to all the stuff he and his tenants stored in the basement during an earthquake retrofit. Spoiler: it exposed the hoarding tendencies of even the most committed neatniks in the building. Here’s what Johnny had to say,

Wow. So. Much. Useless. Crap. I was designated as the guy to transport the donation items to Community Thrift and organize the bulk trash pick up. Getting up close and personal with other peoples stuff made me relax about any suggestion that I was a hoarder – a term that’s tossed my way on a regular basis. KonMarie wasn’t up for this job. I needed battlefield triage. Even the minimalists in the building had ridiculous things salted away that I know haven’t seen sunlight in a decade. Honestly, I think this is what almost every American has packed in their dark corners. Clothes that will never be worn. Broken things that will never be fixed. Sentimental objects that will never be fondly looked at or ever touched.

Estate sale in Altadena.

We had a similar experience this summer. I had to clear the house and box up the contents of three rooms so that we could sand the floors and paint the walls. Not once during those months of restoration work did I pop open any of those boxes. In the past week I’ve spent a lot of time going through the contents of those infamous boxes, a process that has made me exceptionally cranky. Why do I lack the courage to just pivot and dump all those things in the garbage? If I could write a letter to my younger self I’d say two things: don’t accumulate anything, especially sentimental items and failed artistic efforts. It may sound harsh but why should any of us be defined or burdened by the things we own.

Glassware at Altadena estate sale.

Last weekend I went to an estate sale, not to accumulate any more crap but just to see the inside of a majestic old house next to the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s. At the sale snarky hipsters laughed as they tried on the clothes of the deceased former residents. This has become a new momento mori for me. The less stuff I leave behind the fewer giggles there will be at my estate sale.

To that end I’ve taken to looking at pictures of estate sales as a way of reminding me of the importance of doing with less. Think of this as a gentler form of the late Medieval cadaver tomb. There’s nothing like a pile of seldom used glassware or blank stationary dating the 1960s to scare you away from a trip to Costco or make you want to drive a stake into the cold, vampyric heart of Adam Smith.

The #700 Bookshelf

I’ve been fortunate to have some spare time in the past year to be able to raise my rudimentary carpentry skills to a level where I can make some rudimentary furniture. And, as you might have guessed, I have an obsession with unfashionable Arts and Crafts furniture and art.

The #700 bookcase as seen in the 1909 catalog.

My latest project was making a copy of Gustav Stickley’s #700 bookshelf, originally manufactured in 1904. The $30 price in the 1909 catalog would be around $900 today, not cheap considering that a good salary at that time was between $2,000 and $5,000 a year.

In my cranky opinion the pre-WWI Arts and Crafts era marks the pinnacle of American design. It’s all downhill from this point. The #700 bookcase may have been designed by the architect Harvey Ellis, though there is some controversy about this. Having spent so many hours building it, there are some details that make me think an architect had something to do with the design, particularly the odd little pilasters that hide the face frame seam on the front of the bookcase.

Stickley’s furniture can, occasionally, be a bit crude and boxy. The details of this bookcase set it apart. The arches at the bottom, reminiscent of a bridge, give the design a lightness and grace. The overall proportions are like a turn of the century Chicago skyscraper. The door is, pleasingly, divided into three glassed sections. The glass door also keeps the dust out. And the original had a lock to, I think, keep the kids from climbing the shelves. The beauty of quartersawn white oak, with its striking medullary ray pattern, speaks for itself. I opted for a dark stain to hide some less than optimal wood.

As usual, mistakes were made. But I did pick up a few new skills. While my solder joints are a bit messy, I got to learn how to make a leaded glass window thanks to some great advice from Stained Glass Supplies in Pasadena (they have classes if you’re interested).

Making the bookshelf was easier than paring down our book collection to fit in it. I made sure to leave enough room to display the plaster neanderthal skull which every aging 1990s hipster in Silver Lake owns. Next up is a settle and desk.