An amateur craftsman is inspired to tackle a laundry list of obscure projects.
Hobbled by the dot.com bust, Frauenfelder and his wife began to think carefully about how to maximize their space and resources. A propitious if misguided move to a South Pacific island “paradise” proved short-lived, but their time there instilled a new perspective on working with their hands, the importance of down-time and how to utilize raw materials in new and beneficial ways. Frauenfelder’s immensely popular gadget-centric blog (BoingBoing.net) garnered attention from a contemporary interested in launching a periodical focused on “how to make, modify, and repair things.” Born in 2005 with Frauenfelder as its editor-in-chief, Make magazine highlighted enticing projects using “tested, step-by-step instructions.” The author went a step further by incorporating DIY home-improvement concepts into their Southern California lifestyle and created a wish list of projects he hoped to accomplish. Frauenfelder wittily chronicles his varying degrees of success in making everything from fermented kombucha yogurt to a chicken coop. Replacing persistent Bermuda grass with mulch proved an exercise in patience, as did adventures in coffee, chickens and bee colonies, but the rewards were great after the author constructed several homemade multi-stringed guitars from cigar boxes, whittled wooden spoons and tutored his daughters. Throughout the narrative, a host of eclectic characters emerges, including 80-year-old Picasso lookalike Alfie; “Mister Jalopy,” a secretive, brilliant tinkerer; a gay Tennessean who believes fermented foods keep his HIV infection in check; and two nonprofit organizers who assisted with the cultivation of the author’s bountiful vegetable garden, one of his proudest achievements. Frauenfelder gained much self-confidence throughout his clunky experimentation, though he admits that along with everything else, “you have to live with the mistakes you make.”
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)