Quotulatiousness

July 5, 2014

The mystic art of going viral – The Putter

Filed under: Britain, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 13:02

This is Collosal posted a lovely little video a few days ago, showing how one small century-old firm in Sheffield still “puts-together” scissors in the old way:

It’s been a popular video. It’s been a very popular video. In fact, it went viral.

The staff at Ernest Wright and Son Limited have been overwhelmed with interest from people who saw the video and decided they wanted a pair of hand-made scissors. A member of one of my mailing lists says he just got this response from the company about his order (placed before the video went online):

Dear Madam or Sir,

Firstly, may we thank you VERY MUCH for ordering a pair (or more) of our Hand-made in Sheffield England, Ernest Wright and Son Limited scissors.

Secondly, may I please take a moment to explain our current situation.

As you doubtless know, Shaun Bloodworth’s film “The Putter” was uploaded to the internet on Monday 23rdJune. We had been very much looking forward to seeing this film, if purely as an educational exercise documenting the immense skills of the ‘putter-togetherer’.

What we might not have expected was that Shaun’s own amazing skill, coupled with the gorgeous sound work from The Black Dog (wow!), would make such a beautiful and sensory-encompassing experience of something we just see our Cliff and Eric do every day.

And what we REALLY didn’t expect was for this film to go ‘viral’! This was not a ‘commercial launch’ by any means at all; so much as Shaun merely uploading the film for us back here in the factory to see. The power of the internet is truly an incredible and awesome thing.

This has rather caught us at an ‘interesting’ time. We have not been doing particularly well for a number of years as a business and have worryingly dwindled in size. Recently we actually had to make further redundancies and at a few times have thought that the end was truly nigh for Ernest Wright’s altogether. Cheap scissors are ubiquitous; no-one seems (seemed!) particularly interested in how scissors are made any more, and hardly anyone understood paying the price for a good pair – regardless of how we have ever tried to explain it. (Enter Shaun and “The Putter” – and what a benefit, hopefully, to us all!)

There are now just the five of us here in our little business:

Cliff and Eric are our putter-togetherers, although Cliff does the vast majority of the putting whilst Eric is also a skilled hand-grinder and finisher. Eric’s hands are actually those seen working the ‘insider’ machine in The Putter, linishing the inside of the bows (handles) with sparks flying in either direction. These two are both working through retirement years now – purely helping me to keep something we feel is so important, alive.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Ian, who eventually only retired last autumn (2013). All three can be seen here together by the way in a 2012 BBC documentary – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IitTC4PqcOI

These chaps have never earned too much – and there honestly hasn’t been too much to earn for a while. But they work hard; so very, very hard. And until around about this Tuesday, they had incredibly little appreciation for their life’s devotion to their craft. I am genuinely so touched that they are finally getting a mention, they so thoroughly deserve it.

We also now have young Jamie and Ryan, who are ‘the young blood’ apprentices and have been with us for around two years now. They began by learning tapping, grinding, then linishing, and are now slowly learning the full art of putting-together themselves – although not at all yet commercially. Practice will one day hopefully make them perfect.

Finally I am the managing director, van driver, salesman, go-fetcher and hopelessly-part-time receptionist. Ernest Wright was my great-grandfather, who formed the company in 1902. I took over when my father almost decided to close the business in 2012, and have since made it my mission in life to save these skills and their type – particularly in Sheffield, the hometown I am so very proud of.

So. Basically after a very long spell of quiet, since around Tuesday morning this week we have been suddenly inundated. With (gratefully) telephone calls, emails, tweets, views, messages, letters and (very gratefully) individual orders. I am honestly struggling to keep up at the moment. The telephone system has crashed and my inbox cannot download fast enough.

Regardless my aim is this: everyone who has ordered a pair of Cliff and Eric’s wonderful-handiwork scissors will receive them; as speedily and safely as is possible.

Ironically Cliff had gone off a well-earned holiday on Monday, and will be sitting in a deck chair in Filey or somewhere for the next week yet – hopefully wondering why on earth he is being asked for an autograph! He knows nothing about his new-found ‘internet popularity’, although he will be completely shy and modest about it as always when he finds out. Only Shaun’s down-to-earth and inconspicuous approach led him to be even filmed in the first place. Regardless I’m sure he will be pleased he can “learn some more” and get cracking with his hammer upon his return.

I cannot honestly promise how long these scissors are going to take to get to you at the moment! we haven’t yet worked out how many of each type are even required. Then they take a little while to be made – but you might know that now! One thing we won’t do, because Cliff and Eric would refuse every time, is to ‘do a rush job’. Your scissors might not always look quite perfect either, but that’s not what we 100% care about. Every pair might have a tiny mark, a scratch, a blemish or even the odd hammer dent, but that is precisely because they are hand, and not machine, made. They are made to be used, not looked at, is our opinion. What we concentrate on more than anything is that they work. Perfectly, every time. I actually reckon you that you can see that in Cliff’s face though, I’ve seen that a thousand times off-camera too.

We are working on strict order-date basis. I am hoping to keep up with at least broadcast emails for the next week until we see how much of a potential flash-in-the-pan this may be. It would be sadly more ironical than anything if this great new interest hurt us rather than helped, so please give me some time to address this situation properly? Meantime we have managed to send out quite a lot of orders already but the previous held-stock is now very low and new orders are still arriving! The lads are certainly preparing to get busy – apart from poor oblivious Cliff in his deckchair at the moment of course.

If orders are going to take more than one month to arrive, I will try to let you know in the next week? I hope that’s ok, it is honestly the very best we can do for now!

If you would prefer a refund, of course I understand completely. Please email me by reply to nick.wright@ernestwright.co.ukwith the title just “REFUND” and at least your order number (usually 4 digits) in the text. I will then get to it as soon as I also can.

Meantime THANK YOU so much, both to old followers and many new friends, for this amazing and wonderful support. This might be our chance for once to shine again. I will try my level best to reciprocate as much as I possibly can.

Yours with kindest regards,

Nick.

Nick Wright
Director
Ernest Wright and Son Limited

www.ernestwright.co.uk

So how would they react to a strong pro-liberty Supreme Court decision?

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:43

Shikha Dalmia says that the relatively mild pro-liberty decisions from the US Supreme Court in this session have driven progressives wild. It’s hard to justify going to DEFCON-5 over Hobby Lobby or Harris … isn’t it?

This week, the United States Supreme Court handed down two rulings that are a victory for the liberties of religion, speech, and association enshrined in the First Amendment. That ought to be cause for a double celebration on July 4. But instead, the rulings, issued on the narrowest possible grounds, constitute a victory so modest — and have elicited a response from the left so hysterical — that anyone serious about liberty can’t help but be a little depressed right now.

The case that has attracted disproportionate attention is informally known as Hobby Lobby, and it challenged ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate. This mandate requires all for-profit companies to provide all 20 forms of birth control approved by the FDA, including pills and “abortifacients,” even though they violate the Christian (Assembly of God, to be precise) convictions of the owners of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain in Texas, who were willing to cover “only” 16.

[…]

None of this, however, prevented the left from throwing a collective hissy-fit. Social media erupted into tiresome taunts of fascism. Ann Friedman called the ruling a “blow to reproductive rights” that made her want to issue “an outraged scream, sort of a combination groan-wail…while beating my fists against the desk on either side of my laptop.” (Hey Ann, be careful: A new laptop will cost you several years’ of contraceptive pills. Generic versions sell at Costco for $25 a month.)

Such moral huffing and puffing was also on display in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Harris vs. Quinn. That case involved the right of family members of disabled loved ones to offer care without having their state aid garnished by public unions. Harris, a mom who was providing home care to her 25-year-old disabled son, had sued the state of Illinois for forcing her to pay dues to a government union.

But what in the name of Jimmy Hoffa does looking after her son have to do with the union?

Apparently, because she receives state subsidies for caring for her son, Illinois, along with a dozen other states, considers her a “home health care worker.” This means she must submit to the exclusive representation of a government union in collective bargaining negotiations — even though she supports neither the union nor its goals.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation and British Columbia, now with legal standing and everything

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:32

When I saw the initial reports on the Supreme Court’s decision in Tsilhqot’in Nation versus British Columbia it sounded like the Supremes were ordering the province to pack up and move out … that most (all?) of the land previously known as British Columbia was now to be handed back to the First Nations bands. I guess it’s not quite so apocalyptic, although it will complicate things. Colby Cosh talks about the historical record that informed the decision:

Like everyone else who has studied the Supreme Court’s dramatic decision in the case of Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, my response largely amounts to “Well, sure.” “Tsilhqot’in” is the new accepted name of the small confederacy of B.C. Indian bands long called the Chilcotin in English. They live in a scarcely accessible part of the province, and one reason it is scarcely accessible is that the Chilcotin prefer it that way. In 1864, they fought a brief  “war” against white road builders, killing a dozen or so. The leaders of the uprising were inveigled into surrendering and appearing before the “Hanging Judge,” Matthew Begbie. True to his nickname, he executed five of the rebels. But that road never got finished.

In most of Canada, occupancy by “settlers” whose ancestors arrived after Columbus has been formally arranged under explicit treaties. There is a lot of arguing going on about the interpretation of these treaties. But, broadly speaking, most of us white folks outside B.C. have permission to be here. Our arrival, our multiplication and the supremacy of our legal system were all explicitly foreseen and consented to by representatives of the land’s Aboriginal occupants. The European signatories of those treaties recognized that First Nations had some sort of property right whose extinction needed to be negotiated.

Oddly, this concept was clearer to imperial authorities in the 18th and early 19th centuries than to those who came later. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, for instance, recognized the right of Indians to dispose of their own lands only when they saw fit. By the time mass colonization was under way in British Columbia, the men in charge on the scene had absorbed different ideas. Concepts of racial struggle were in vogue, and so were straitlaced, monolithic models of human progress.

And the problems going forward?

The biggest problem for large infrastructure projects in the B.C. Interior may not be the collective nature of “Aboriginal title” alone, but the fact that it is restricted in a way ordinary property ownership isn’t. “It is collective title,” writes the chief justice, “held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. This means it cannot be alienated except to the Crown, or encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it.” The special category of legal title devised for First Nations turns out to have a downside: Even completely unanimous approval of some land use by a band or nation may not suffice if people who do not yet exist are imagined disagreeing with it. Would you care to own a car or a house on such terms?

Update, 11 July: Perhaps I spoke too soon that this ruling didn’t mean the non-First Nation inhabitants need to move out of the province.

British Columbia First Nations are wasting no time in enforcing their claim on traditional lands in light of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing aboriginal land title.

The hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan First Nations served notice Thursday to CN Rail, logging companies and sport fishermen to leave their territory along the Skeena River in a dispute with the federal and provincial governments over treaty talks.

And the Gitxaala First Nation, with territory on islands off the North Coast, announced plan to file a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Appeal on Friday challenging Ottawa’s recent approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta.

The Kwikwetlem First Nation also added its voice to the growing list, claiming title to all lands associated with now-closed Riverview Hospital in Metro Vancouver along with other areas of its traditional territory.

They cite the recent high court ruling in Tsilhqot’in v. British Columbia.

[…]

In the short term, the ruling will impact treaty negotiations and development in the westernmost province, where there are few historic or modern treaties and where 200 plus aboriginal bands have overlapping claims accounting for every square metre of land and then some.

“Over the longer term, it will result in an environment of uncertainty for all current and future economic development projects that may end up being recognized as on aboriginal title lands,” wrote analyst Ravina Bains.

Harry Turtledove’s “revolutionary” alternative history

Filed under: Books, Britain, Cancon, History, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:15

In The Atlantic, Uri Friedman talks to Harry Turtledove about other futures that could have occurred if the American Revolution hadn’t gone quite as it did historically:

Turtledove told me that it was Richard Dreyfuss, the actor, who first gave him the idea of the American Revolution as a subject for alternate history. The two collaborated on a novel, The Two Georges, that is set in the 1990s and based on the premise that the Revolutionary War never happened. Instead, George Washington and King George III struck an agreement in which the United States and Canada (the “North American Union”) remained part of the British Empire. The artist Thomas Gainsborough commemorated the deal in a painting, The Two Georges, that is emblazoned on money and made ubiquitous as a symbol of the felicitous “union between Great Britain and her American dominions.”

[…]

Turtledove told me by email that he had an “epiphany” when he traveled with his family to the World Science Fiction Convention in Winnipeg, Canada in 1994, shortly before he published The Two Georges.

As he read a book from the Little House on the Prairie series to his daughter at the hotel, he came upon a section about a Fourth of July celebration “on the plains in the late nineteenth century, with fireworks and with tub-thumping speakers talking about how the United States had broken away from British tyranny and was the freest country in the world as a result. And there I was reading this in the country next door to mine, a country as similar to mine as any two nations on earth, a country just as free as mine — and a country that had never broken away from Britain at all. It was a thought-provoking experience.” Canada, of course, merely shares a queen with the United Kingdom at this point, but its relationship with Britain has certainly evolved differently than America’s has.

You could think of 1776 as a British political experiment, with Canada as the control (“British” here meaning both the British government and the colonists/revolutionaries). At this point in history, the control appears to actually be more free than the experimental subject.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

Did Rolf Harris face a kangaroo court?

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:59

I didn’t follow this particular case (or any of the recent British witch-hunting expeditions against former celebrities), but this post makes it seem as if at least some of the charges Harris was convicted of were remarkably flimsy:

Rolf Harris has been convicted and for many that is conclusive proof of his guilt. However, we should not forget that the British justice system is not perfect, it can make errors, as these high profile miscarriages of justice show.

I do not know if Rolf Harris committed the crimes he was accused of. However, I find the fact that he was convicted, based on the evidence reported by the BBC, alarming.

Let me explain why:

    COUNT ONE – VERDICT: GUILTY

    “The woman said she was aged seven or eight when she queued to get an autograph from Harris at a community centre in Hampshire in 1968 or 1969. When she reached the front of the queue, Harris had touched her inappropriately with his “big hairy hands”, she told the jury.

    The court heard that no evidence could be found that Mr Harris had been at the community centre. He also showed his hands to the jury and denied they were hairy.”

When they say that no evidence could be found that Mr Harris had been at the community centre, they don’t mean a cursory glance turned nothing up. They searched local newspaper archives between January 1967 and May 1974, council records and even conducted letter drops appealing for witnesses. Nothing, not a single piece of independent evidence that he was ever there!

It is hard to see how the uncorroborated recollection of an event alleged to have happened 45 years ago, when the witness was eight, can constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt.

On another count of which Harris has been found guilty by the court:

So the accuser couldn’t remember when it happened (or how old she was), she couldn’t remember where it happened and yet the jury found her 36 year old memory of the indecent assault to be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt!

When we talk about the indecent assault we are not talking about something so traumatic, like rape, that it would understandably be burned into her memory. We are talking about a 17 year old having her bottom touched in the 1970′s, a time where bottom pinching was considered mainstream enough for popular TV shows such as Are You Being Served and on billboards for respectable brands such as Fiat.

Again, nobody who wasn’t there can be sure what Rolf Harris did or didn’t do in this case, but I know that there is an £11m incentive for people to make up accusations and without any corroborating evidence there has to be a reasonable doubt in favour of the accused.

I have no idea whether Harris is actually guilty of the accusations, but I’m astonished a court could convict based on such flimsy evidence. Clearly, at least in high profile media-related cases, the presumption of innocence has been replaced by a presumption of guilt.

QotD: Collaborators and their accusers, France 1944

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

The task of filtering the tens of thousands of Frenchmen and women arrested for collaboration in the summer of 1944 proved overwhelming for the nascent administration of de Gaulle’s provisional government. That autumn, there were over 300,000 dossiers still outstanding. In Normandy, prisoners were brought to the camp at Sully near Bayeux by the sécurité militaire, the gendarmerie and sometimes by US military police. There were also large numbers of displaced foreigners, Russians, Italians and Spaniards, who were trying to survive by looting from farms.

The range of charges against French citizens was wide and often vague. They included “supplying the enemy”, “relations with the Germans”, denunciation of members of the Resistance or Allied paratroopers, “an anti-national attitude during the Occupation”, “pro-German activity”, “providing civilian clothes to a German soldier”, “pillaging”, even just “suspicion from a national point of view”. Almost anybody who had encountered the Germans at any stage could be denounced and arrested.

Anthony Beevor, D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, 2009.

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