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How to Sharpen Pencils
April 19, 2012 2:22 PM   Subscribe

David Rees reflects on his post-Get Your War On experiences in artisanal pencil sharpening, in the wake of his newly-released book on the subject.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (24 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
what is this i don't even...
posted by Jon_Evil at 3:03 PM on April 19, 2012


Just because something says, "Just because something [...] doesn't mean it's a joke," doesn't mean it isn't a joke.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:09 PM on April 19, 2012


Jon_Evil: what is this i don't even...

From the end of the short doc:

"Guys, you don't need to overthink it. It is what it is what it is. People send me pencils, and I sharpen them. And that's about it!"

It's satire. The website for his business is also hilarious.
posted by gilrain at 3:10 PM on April 19, 2012


Actually, with as far as he's taken the joke, and as excellently as he delivers the character... it's probably more akin to performance art than satire, at this point.
posted by gilrain at 3:16 PM on April 19, 2012


I heard the Kum long-point pencil sharpener is really good. I've not tried it though. Not artisan enough.
posted by The River Ivel at 3:19 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This feels to me like those YouTube videos that continue far past the point needed to squeeze out every last tidbit of whatever humor and novelty was inherent in the premise. But...eye of the beholder, eh?
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:21 PM on April 19, 2012


Greg_Ace: This feels to me like those YouTube videos that continue far past the point needed to squeeze out every last tidbit of whatever humor and novelty was inherent in the premise. But...eye of the beholder, eh?

If it were just the video, I might agree... but the thing is, he is living this character. Unless I've been misinformed, the business is functional, he really does tour around to give demonstrations, and he really has written a book. I'm sure his demonstrations and the book are pretty hilarious. And part of the fun is not quite knowing just how for-real this guy is.

It's sort of like Andy Kaufman, in that respect. Not as good, of course, but a similar comedic goal I think.
posted by gilrain at 3:27 PM on April 19, 2012


Previously.
posted by honest knave at 3:30 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And since I'm not an Andy Kaufman fan either but both he and this guy obviously have their fans, this is a personal-taste thing so I'll shut up and move on.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:47 PM on April 19, 2012


Rees's weekly recaps of America's Next Great Restaurant were pretty fantastic.

Also: wow, I want that sharpener The River Ivel linked.
posted by mintcake! at 4:05 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Not artisan enough.

It's no artisan water; the (locally-sourced, of course) oxygen and hydrogen atoms are connected by hand!
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:30 PM on April 19, 2012


The Kum pencil sharpener IS awesome, actually.

Just saying.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:33 PM on April 19, 2012


Rees' main site MNFTIU is here. (My New Fighting/Filing Technique Is Unstoppable, the clip-art strip that followed Get Your War On.)
A favorite installment: "How Green Was My Moustache" (a skewering of Tom Friedman)

Rees and Tim Krieder (The Pain When Will It End ) [archives with top 10] were the two most perceptive and precient critics of the Iraq war and BushCo generally, imo.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:44 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because you people never believe me when I say David Rees's Friday Face Offs -- where he finds his top 10 favorite amateur covers of a pop song and tells you with great ebullience why they rule -- is the greatest, most joyful thing ever, I'm gonna have to lay some quotes on you (and no, this is not snark, this is the exact opposite of snark):

Rocking the big-ass Gretsch kick drum! Enough with all those tiny-ass tubular kick drums that look like floor toms lying on their sides — my man is bringing the big ol’ Bonham kick.

It was during the first build-up (1:00) that I started to worry about the fate of that ride cymbal. He’s getting so into that build-up, beating up on that snare so hard, I was like, “That poor ride cymbal is about to get demolished.” [...]

But really, how are you not loving this guy? This guy is the guy you want in your band. Practice scheduled for 3:30? “I’ll be there at 3:15.” Also: “Do you guys mind if I play my balls off for three hours and never break a sweat? Because that’s kinda my style.” Look at how freakin’ focused the wear on his snare drum is. He’s hitting it in the exact same spot every time. HE DROPS A DOUBLE-KICK-DRUM INTO “FIREWORK,” FOR GOODNESS SAKE, WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE CROWN HIM THE KING OF ROCK & ROLL ALREADY???

2. 0:29?!? Pardon me?!? Umm, does that camera pan open up the world of this video very hard? Are we suddenly confronted with the endless possibilities inherit in our universe very hard?!? You thought there was only one guitarist? You thought we would never see the guy with the pizza again? You thought someone wasn’t going to make a silly face at the camera? YOU THOUGHT WRONG. M. Night Shyamalan wishes he could make a movie with this many twists and turns.

3. 0:44 - 0:53. Pure joy. (This is what takes the video into the stratosphere.)

I felt the Holy Spirit on this one [...]

LOL, if only the woman in glasses on the front row had a voice on her . . . wish I could hear her . . . LOL, is she putting mumbly indie-girl singers on notice very hard? LOL, for that matter is she putting Beyonce on notice very hard?

I definitely need to find something that makes me feel the way playing the guitar obviously makes this guy feel. What mood is that? That guy is chillin’ sooooo hard.

Truly, guys, just watch this entire video and focus on the guitar player. I GUARANTEE you will start laughing out loud with happiness vis a vis how amazingly hard he is deriving pleasure from being alive.
posted by straight at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


As a recent immigrant to the US, I was there for 9/11, and as I slowly watched the US spiral into the whole post-WTC idiocy, it seemed GYWO was the only sane voice, the first one to dare point out how fucked and disproportionate the response was. It voiced some ideas that at the time where anathema in any sort of mass media, and for that, I salute Rees.
posted by signal at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


signal, as a life-long citizen of the USA, I felt exactly the same way about GYWO.
posted by straight at 5:41 PM on April 19, 2012


This is the funniest thing I've seen since two Christmases ago when I saw a production of The Nutcracker that explored the director's oedipal longings. It's that funny.
posted by jwhite1979 at 5:58 PM on April 19, 2012


I loved Get Your War On so much, I bought the t-shirt.

Guess I'm going to have to buy this book too.
posted by intermod at 7:51 PM on April 19, 2012


I like David Reese almost as much as I hate him because I wish I had done GYWO.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:23 AM on April 20, 2012


I sharpen about 50 pencils a week, because first graders literally eat them... and while I realize this is satire, it also speaks to me on a deeply serious level. I have a very specific and fine-motor-intensive technique (involving twisting and torquing) for sharpening pencils (in an electric sharpener) and will only accept the Ticonderoga brand.

In most other brands of pencils that kids get their hands on, the graphite is off-center to such a degree that half the time you sharpen the pencil to a point of wood. Also, they're often made with pressed wood particles, and the Spiderman/MLPony graphic is printed on thin plastic that slows the sharpener and ends up as a shredded mess on the end of the pencil, while Ticonderoga are made with pure endangered rainforest wood (probably), and they run through the sharpener with almost no effort.

Once in a while you get a Ticonderoga that splits right up the middle, revealing the inner workings of a pencil, which is really interesting to first graders, apparently. I also have one that the graphite just slid right out of. I hang those on the whiteboard with magnets.

I think way too much about pencils.
posted by Huck500 at 6:27 AM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


As someone who witnessed, first hand, Rees sharpening pencils, I will tell you these are damned fine sharpened pencils.

Other bonus: Rees and I live about five miles from each other, although we've never hung out socially.
posted by jscott at 6:39 AM on April 20, 2012


Every single thing about this is perfect, down to the font on the book cover.

Also, My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable is one of the best comics I've ever read.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:41 AM on April 20, 2012


I'm just on the verge of releasing an artisnal iPad cleaning app that will instruct you step by step how to wipe clean your iPad like they used to do with it way back in the day of version 1. By on the verge, I mean I haven't started and probably never will.

GYWO was like cough medicine during the Bush era. Sweet and delicious but you hated that you had to take it.
posted by srboisvert at 8:14 AM on April 20, 2012


while I realize this is satire, it also speaks to me on a deeply serious level.

The beauty of this is that he's simultaneously being silly and serious. There is in fact something very healthy about finding something you like doing and doing it extremely well. Of finding something most people barely notice and paying very close, careful attention to it.

We're not yet at the sort of post-scarcity society where everyone can do this. But I think many of us could do more things like this than we do.
posted by straight at 5:07 PM on April 20, 2012


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