Weeks 3 & 4, in which I created … well, I created!

I was excited about the tools assignment of Week 3. In hindsight, I’d say that enthusiasm is what had to carry me through the “golly, you suck at this” on to the “well, just finish” resolution.

But let’s back up to the beginning.

Putting on the Tool Belt

Back in Week 3, I decided that I wanted to sign myself up for some kind of woodworking class. The local Volkshochschule — which is kind of somewhere between a community center and a community college back in the States — had some offerings, but all of them were going to be starting (and lasting) far later than the week. It was in my googling about my options that I came across Schokowerkstatt, a furniture-building shop for women. Woodworking for women! Woot!

They didn’t have a slot available for Week 3. So how nice that I pulled “creation” for Week 4 and managed to book a slot for the following Monday morning.

I wasn’t quite capable of explaining to the woman I spoke with about what I hoped to learn. It’s not like my German language learning has accumulated all of the words for woodworking. But I downloaded a small wine rack plan from the ‘net and decided to drag along an old wooden fold-up chair to “repurpose” for the task somehow.

Picking Up the Hammer

Nothing quite as inspiring and intimidating for newbies like walking past the creations of experts. As it turns out, the workshop is the local base for a number of extremely talented furniture makers, so I had to carry my broke-ass mass-produced chair past the types of projects I’d never see in the places I can afford to shop. Amazing! Could I ever make something like that? Ooh and groans together.

I was a some minutes later than the 9 a.m. starting time, so arrived rushed and fearful that I’d walk in on an already active class. Er, nope. Although the web site uses the term “courses,” the four-hour morning session is more open workshop time that is overseen by an experienced craftswoman. In this case, it was Birgit, a master furniture builder of some 30 years. The only other person there was Ulrike, a concert violinist by trade but a four-year member of the workshop.

As an workshop rather than a course, it was then my time to make of it whatever I could, guided to the tools and assisted on whatever tasks I wanted.

Except that all I had was a folded up plan that I hadn’t really considered and a chair.

Well, said Birgit, if you want to use that, you’re going to first have to take it apart. She handed me a hammer.

Hulk Smash!

Hulk_SMASH_by_el_grimlockYou know, I have to hand it to the big green guy: there is something very cathartic about just breaking shit up. And that’s what I did. FOR TWO HOURS. Did I mention that this was just a measly wooden folding chair?? Granted, I don’t have the Hulk’s bulk, but it was starting to get embarrassing.

Ulrike was steadily but surely putting together the base of a table she was building for her home, with legs that she had carved herself. She had help from Birgit with the clamps and suggestions and such, but Birgit wasn’t too needed, so went about her own work whistling. She’d occasionally ask me how I was doing, for which I’d say in my American way that, Oh, everything is just fine, while I whacked and whacked and whacked at what turned out to be a really stable chair and Why, oh why, did I decide that it needed destruction instead of a little glue for the loose slats?

As I smashed and thwacked and (eventually) pulled and sawed, I had a lot of time in my own head. My conclusions:

  1. Hidden nails will always find the most sensitive skin.

  2. Even destruction calls for the right tools.

  3. I will never survive the zombie apocalypse.

Bit by Bit, Putting It Together

So, yeah, there came that moment after all the destruction was over and “creation” had to happen.

What do you want to make? asked Birgit.

Ummmmmmmmmmmm …

So adding on: 4. Really, it’s nice to have a sense of a “next step.”

I shrugged. At that moment, it was kind of like playing Scrabble with Q, L, R,  and U on the rack and then pulling Z, I, W. So I played games with the sticks in which I moved them around into a whole lot of shapes that didn’t make any sense. Ulrike had moved on to some last light sanding of her already gorgeous tabletop. And Birgit went off whistling to the office.

Ooh, I know! I’ll take all of the practicality of that former chair that just needed a little glue and make a completely worthless “tray”!


Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the fruits of my labor!


(Um, gold star for effort?)

When I whined to Birgit that I had no talent for woodworking, she said, I’ll here none of that here!

I can appreciate the sentiment: I was there to experiment and learn. I did. I certainly did. And, although I hemmed and hawed about it, I agreed to place the remaining pieces — marked with my name in big black marker — in a cubbyhole, just like I was back in school. So I have to go back.

Well, that’s something.

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Week 2: Of Joy and Division

Were it not for the fact that “joy” came out of the grab bag, I might have spent the week in bed, curled up in a ball and weeping for the world. In just this one week:

  • A group of extremists – earthlings, human, male, French, Muslim, or however you want to slice their jackassery – murdered 16 in Paris on Wednesday. Twelve were killed at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo known, among many other irreverent things, for publishing cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad; and another four were killed at a kosher grocers just before Sabbath.

  • Of course, among the heroes of the Paris attacks were also Muslims. One was Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim cop who was murdered at Charlie Hebdo’s front door, and the other was Lassana Bathily, an employee who got shoppers and himself into the grocer’s walk-in freezer to save them from the gunman. Although the vast majority of those killed by al-Qaeda and ISIS jihadists are Muslims themselves, you wouldn’t know that from the hatemongering opportunists who may not want to #killallmuslims but spare no thought to their part in inflammatory violent rhetoric. I’m looking at you, Dawkins. #jesuisahmed

  • Not to be outdone by the madmen in Paris, Boko Haram continued their assault on other Nigerian Muslims and Christians and all of humanity by slaughtering an estimated 2000 in Baga on the same day (Wednesday). TWO FUCKING THOUSAND men, boys, women, and girls slain by men on a mission for godless madness. #bringbackourgirlswontbringbackourdead

  • And then this shit with another extremist – male, Russian, Putin-bestie Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev  – who decided that Russia’s long-documented troubles with roadway safety could be improved by removing queers from the streets, among others. So no more driver’s licenses for you gender-bending, gender-nonconforming, gender-nose-thumbing Russians. Of course, that’s just one of many new laws to come because #firsttheycamefor

Thank goodness that there were plenty of smart responses that didn’t go the usual routes. Cartoonists who drew rounder stories of both journalistic freedom and journalistic responsibility,

 humorists who attacked the absurd with righteous snark (e.g., download your Muslim iCondemn app now!), and smart analysis that shows up the hypocrisy of “us versus them” and the reality of  “us versus us” – i.e., the same governments standing behind #jesuischarlie are harassing journalists, spying on their citizens, and committing human rights abuses under the “protecting our freedom’s banner.” (The journalists and lawyers that have aided Edward Snowden’s revelations of the NSA’s robust domestic spying program would love to see that free press commitment in the U.S., Mr. Obama.)

As Rachel B. said on Facebook in her recap of Wednesday, “Man, there’s far too much hate in this world …” Count me as #jesuisfedthefuckup

Facing down division with joy

So the personal front, I had to really prioritize allowing myself to enjoy life.

So Martin and I went out to Schwelle 7 for the first full moon party of the year. (We feel so at home there. Thanks, Felix.)

And we went out to Sage Club (which shares its erotic-art-laden walls with the Kit Kat Club) to catch a couple of live bands. (When the first band came on with their animal costumes, I felt a surge of real joy and thrill. The music was pretty good too.)

Sage Club

And on Friday night, I had folks over for a movie night. Ten of us all stuffing our faces with nacho chips and popcorn to watch Gegen die Wand (distributed as Head-On in the English speaking market), which was awesome so rent it if you can get your hands on it. It is set in Germany’s Turkish community in Hamburg and in Istanbul, and stars Sibel Kekilli, who is currently enjoying stardom in Game of Thrones as Shae.



And just last night partner Martin and I joined husband Ralf and his partner Christiane for a delicious salad and lasagna dinner – one of Ralf’s best, in my humble opinion. (It was the first time hanging out with the hubby for quite a long time. How crazy is that?)

So onward to week three, which I hope has at least a chance of being better than the last, at least for human history. Srsly.

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CC image of handcuffs from cocoparisienne

Stop & frisk to become stop & disrobe as Oklahoma “Hoodie Bill” makes fashion police real

CC image of handcuffs from cocoparisienneI love the party of small government. Here you have an example of a Republican senator (Don Barrington) who wants to criminalize what you wear. I kid you not, the bill (PDF) says that you will not be arrested if you can prove that you are on your way to a masquerade ball or that you are working as a sports mascot. Otherwise, anything that conceals your true identity on a public street — generally! at any time! — could mean a fine and jail time. (more…)

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