Monday, November 1, 2010

Backwoods Revival: Buy, Buy This Americana Pie

This last weekend, I went to Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a city in Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia they were having a Philly Bike Expo, which is why I went. In Philadelphia they also have a movie theater that shows dirty movies. It was right next to my hotel but I didn't go. Movie theaters that show dirty movies are sticky and I didn't want to get sticky. Also, Pee-Wee Herman got arrested in a movie theater that showed dirty movies and I didn't want to get arrested. Still, I had fun in Philadelphia. You can have fun in Philadelphia without getting sticky or arrested.

My first order of business in Philadelphia was to preside over a BRA (or Book-Related Appearance), which actually took place in a church basement. I liked this, since it gave the proceedings a sort of intimate, Alcoholics Anonymous meeting kind of feel. First, I gave a PowerPoint presentation, and then after waking everybody up I moved on to the "giving away fabulous prizes" portion of the afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn't have any fabulous prizes, so I gave away some crap instead. I concluded the BRA by signing people's books, and in many cases I actually had to wrest the books from their hands while they pleaded with me not to ruin them. In all, I had a great time, though I can't speak for the people who attended. At the very least, I'm pretty certain most of them had a nice nap, and I'm very grateful to all who came, and to Bilenky for inviting me.

In addition to the BRA, I of course visited the Expo itself, which was housed in an armory:

For all my feigned indifference and talk of bike porn-induced cottonmouth, the truth is I'm a bike dork and as such I am as wont to slaver over nice bikes as any other bike dork. At the bike show there was much to slaver over--like the Engins, which I mentioned on Thursday, as well as the work of many other fine builders and craftshumans. There was also stuff to walk briskly by and try not to look at, like the Ukraine Bicycle Project:

I don't know what this was, but I was afraid that if I stopped and asked the next thing I knew I'd be waking up in a cargo plane bound for Kiev.

Plus, the Bike Expo even had "helmet hats:"


As you can see, there were many fine styles, from "flapper:"


To "urban cowpoke:"


The salesperson was a talented huckster, and I'll be goldarned if he didn't almost get my handler into one of these purple Zelda Fitzgerald numbers:

They also had one of their sponsored riders on hand to sign autographs:

Next, we went outside to enjoy some food and beer on the side street that served as the de facto dining area and beer garden. It was also where the "bad kids" were hanging out, loitering in dark clothing and holding a fixed-gear freestyling "sesh:"

They seemed to be enjoying themselves, though as a spectator seeing it without the soundtrack or video editing is kind of like when you see a movie star on the street and think, "Huh, he/she's actually pretty short and dumpy in real life:"

(Fixed-gear freestyler rides bike up one side a pile of wood and down the other side.)

This is emphatically not true of Wallace Shawn, however, who I can assure you in real life is an absolute dreamboat:

He can also do mad barspinzzz for dayzzz, and he totally "schooled" Minnie Pearl in the tricks comp.

But like any bicycle show, sometimes the most interesting bikes are the ones that are parked nearby:


That is one serious cockpit:

It even features what appears to be a top tube-mounted toiletry kit:


For obvious reasons, this bicycle was not locked to the city-issued bike rack right nearby:

Though I did help myself to some antiperspirant and dental floss.

One thing they did not have at the Bike Expo, however, was designer woodsman's tools. You may recall the so-called "Best Made Company," which takes this $60 axe:


And then paints the handle, puts it in a presentation box, and sells it for $180:


Or, they'll sell you an $80 "personal sail," with which you can relive all your running-around-in-your-underwear-and-a-beach-towel childhood superhero fantasies:

(Hapless "hipster" plummets to his death.)

Well, a reader has informed me that the whole designer-tools-for-urbanites-with-soft-hands craze has become so big that one of the "Best Made" people has left in order to launch his own brand:

By the way, don't make the mistake of calling these people "fakerjacks;" what they're actually doing is taking part in "the Americana backwoods revival:"

If ever there was a product that defined a zeitgeist, it was the Best Made axe and the Americana backwoods revival of the last two years. Wherever you turned, it seemed, there was Best Made…in print, in pixels, no matter where you looked, another beautiful Best Made. Last year, however, one of the founders, Graeme Cameron, left to pursue his own vision of a company, brand, and fine cutting instruments. This morning, his Base Camp X opened for business, with a product line of four axes and a very cool Nepali knife.

Probably the best part of this "revival" is that you don't actually have to know how to do anything even remotely backwoodsy in order to be a part of it. Instead, all you've got to do is buy a tool and stare at it:

Best Made was really embraced by the design community and the media and became a bit of a poster child for North American backwoods revival and so-called the Williamsburg lumberjack. What does that say to you about people’s need to be connected to the outdoors or to a more elemental time, if anything?

I think there are a ton of people out there looking to connect with the environment. There is a very real romantic notion that one gets when picturing themselves in a simpler time. Could you make it? Would you have what it takes to actually get it done out there? Whether that is done physically or through a brand…people want a story and they most definitely want honesty. Not everyone can or wants to pick up an axe and head to the back 40, but they might just want to be a part of a brand that represents the ability to do that. I think that products can be a very effective portal/transport device to those places. You might be sitting in your living room in downtown L.A., but that axe on your wall will take you places far outside of the confines of that room…with just a look.


In other words, don't worry: you won't need to actually kill and gut a yak with that Nepalese knife. You will, however, have to ask for it properly:



Rest assured, though, that "Base Camp" guy and his "Best Made" former partner don't just sit around looking at their axes and knives--they're honest-to-goodness real-life woodsmen. In fact, here's a picture of them on one of their recent camping trips:

("You got a purdy axe.")

Not only are they handy, but they also know how to relate to the locals. (Though things did go somewhat awry for them in Turkey when they tried to smuggle out some scimitars.)

Speaking of the Great Outdoors, the third place "Cockie" finisher recently forwarded me some background on his submission:

I'm sure Mr. Boehm will be fielding lucrative job offers from "Americana backwoods revival" companies soon.

90 comments:

Anonymous said...

winnar!!

Anonymous said...

eel1st!!

Anonymous said...

2nd

yofilly said...

Hey man!! Top five!!

Somewhere in the Desert said...

Damn, I come a-wanting

jj said...

hi

mikeweb said...

I like pie.

OBA said...

Top ten and I got me some Unguents too!

shoegazer said...

chop chop chopping

Astroluc said...

I need a hipster "artisan" lathe to turn some sweet seat posts for my velocipede.

Bad Lawyer said...

Solid church basement-related allusions in today's post.

James said...

Enjoyed the BRA at the Philly Bike Expo but I was disappointed that you didn't bring Vito. I really came to see him fling poo at the audience.

yofilly said...

Snobby,

I am so sorry that I missed your BRA on Saturday. I was cranky all day and could have used a nap. It seems like you enjoyed your time in our fair city. that makes me happy.

samh said...

Next time I see the elk bike I may have to skin it with one of those Nepalese knives.

ant1 said...

ant1st!

reuben said...

I like seeing articles from the local newspaper that I don't read on the blog that I do read.

Anonymous said...

silly Bike Snob, you mean "purty" ax-- "Purdy" is the Serotta of shotguns.

streepo said...

I, too, enjoy pie.

dcee604 said...

Top 20! Wow..

crosspalms said...

Here's a rock that will let you be a part of a brand that represents the ability to go back to a simpler time when men clobbered mammoths in order to eat. $200 plus shipping. Giant sloths and volcanoes not included. What kind of bike do you suppose that guy rides?

Anonymous said...

Love the golden child tie in

PawnShop said...

Nice to see that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections' diversion program is effective. They obviously put a convicted thief to 'productive' work designing bike racks for the City of Brotherly Shove. Meh.

I am the ax-less engine said...

Emergency room doctors everywhere thank Williamsburg Fakerjacks and the "best made" company for job preservation.

Now, get out there with those soft hands and weak minds, and de-forest those urban environments.

hillbilly said...

Good use of slaver

3G said...

In Ukraine, bicycle ride you!

Pontius Pilate said...

HAIL CSZR

-P.P.

grog said...

great goodness

Frank Eeckman said...

I think Mr. Boehm needs one of those urban cowpoke helmets to complement his outfit.

Jim said...

Wow. You could use axes for something other than mass murder, and killing zombies? Who knew...

le Correcteur said...

Top 30! What a calamitous fall from last week's first!

Anonymous said...

"fine cutting instruments"

I prefer to split wood, not cut it.

Cycling For Beginners said...

I enjoyed your BRA on Saturday. Just wanted to point out that the only thing worse than selling a $60 axe for $180 is selling a picture of that axe on your shop floor for $300. Check out the "Art" page on the Best Made Co. site -- incredible!

Anonymous said...

Base Camp X, on its phenomenally wretched website, actually has videos of the axes in action. Really, you can see a "Titanis" cutting down an innocent tree.

If I were a Hollywood movie director of horror films, I would immediately purchase a large number of Base Camp X axes for use in a gruesome shlock flick.

CommieCanuck said...

Some on should make a cockpit with knives or ice picks pointing upwards toward the face of the rider.

Nah, that would be stupid.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for coming to Philly. I'd sign up for your coaching, but you revealed all your secrets in your talk! The best part was the sinister organ music as you took questions. Also nice to see little BikeSnob.

CommieCanuck said...

You people still use steel axes? Hasn't Steve jobs made a Bluetooth, GPS, iAxe with lasers yet?

The Republicans will fix this tomorrow.

g said...

I thought the whole ax(e) this was the result of not being able to find a decent bag of charcoal, not rekindling ones connection to a simpler time. Did I miss something?

confused in nj said...

i went to that best made web site via your link-age... what the hell is the site about? i mean i have read all of your posts on this axe and all... they sell photos of the axe for 180 bux...really? i am actually baffled.
perhaps he can sell the brooklyn bridge too...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Snob - Philly is not the Lehigh Valley. We wear lycra and ride road bikes. Most are polite and still buy books.

Come, your adoring fans await.

cycle

brother yam said...

Not everyone can or wants to pick up an axe and head to the back 40, but they might just want to be a part of a brand that represents the ability to do that. I think that products can be a very effective portal/transport device to those places. You might be sitting in your living room in downtown L.A., but that axe on your wall will take you places far outside of the confines of that room…with just a look.

This has to one of the saddest things I've read all year.

samh said...

G - you obviously missed the transition where he went from attempting to cook meat over fire to wanting to instead have a brand people could "be a part of... that represents the ability to do that."

I think I missed that transition also now that I think of it.

Herr und Frau Teaparty said...

OMG! There's darkies in the WHITE HOUSE! Gather up your axes NOW!!!

g said...

My mistake.
Best Made/Base Camp, please accept my most sincere apologies for expecting your story to be, at the very least, consistent. You must understand that I own a non-artisnal ax(e) which I bought in order to cut wood and, therefore am thoroughly misguided.

CRUS TIES said...

No pictures of the Christ Cycles people?

But Circle A and Doug Fattic?

ervgopwr said...

Brother Yam,

That's why we're all here, to be part of Snob's brand of ascerbic humor without the ability to actually do it ourselves.

Well worth the price I paid.
And I did buy the book.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

I bought a very functional ax(e) at a hardware store in Banff, Alberta Canada for $15 in 1993. Still CHOPPING wood with it same handle and all 17 years later. When not in use I hang it on my garage wall. Sometimes I just look at it.

Anonymous said...

My name is Jason A. and I'm a hipster...

ringcycles said...

whew, for a moment when I read about these "backwoods revivalists" I was afraid that we would be over-run by neo-yuppies sporting be-dazzled axes up here in the sticks. Glad to know that they are comfortable just hanging it in the living room and being "carried away to the wilderness" from the couch. I'll put away the extra box of buckshot shells.

Still don't know why those "Williamsburg 'jacks" aren't satisfied with a $30 Ansel Adams poster.

Anonymous said...

Williamsburg lumberjack- I guess spending 4 months in Brooklyn after a lifetime of ruralism makes one homesick.

Anonymous said...

Don't these faker-jacks know that axes are not the primary tool of Lumberjacks? The two-person saw fells the tree, and as the graphic shows, the "axe to 'underbuck' a log."

It's obvious, history is not a subject taught at design/marketing schools; neither are ethics.

ringcycles said...

wait, I've just had a Tom Sawyer brainstorm:

All you Williamsburg backwoods revivalists, come to my Basecamp Stix; where you can hone your ax handling technique on a 10 cord pile of genuine Americana hardwood. You'll enjoy endless hours of firewood splitting fun. I'll even allow you the pleasure of hand stacking it in my artisinal shed. Bring your own ax or, for a small rental fee, use one of mine. Space is limited, so reserve your spot now.

I'll have a full winters worth of firewood in a weekend.

Fakerjack Tim said...

How much wood could a woodchuck chop
If a woodchuck could chop wood?

g-roc said...

brother yam - sadly, that marketing angle was amazingly effective in selling SUVs.

I say, as long as you own 98 or less things, and at least 5 of them are Apple products, you're pretty much obliged to buy the $180 ax(e).

Anonymous said...

Firewood is delivered cut to length but not split down fine enough, so what most people need is a splitting maul, which is basically a sharpened sledgehammer.

Where can I get an artisinal one?

Anonymous said...

All you darling hipsters - I have a couple cords of wood that need stacking. Come on up to VT!

Visegripmikey said...

Wow did no one point BS to this yet?

Pyromaniac on Wheels
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrTXl-Ov0ng&feature=player_embedded

Visegripmikey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Backwoods Bob said...

C'mon boy, squeal like a pig!

SOOO WEEE

samh said...

I think perhaps I'll artisan the shit out of my splitting maul. It's got a plastic handle though so it's probably lacking in realism. Unless of course you account for the fact it's actually used to split real wood for a real fire that really heats our garage.

dux said...

i "came too" in the woods, once.

frilly said...

Snobby you should come to the Midwest Bicycle Expo & Swap Meet. Not nearly as upscale as the Philly thing, but you can trade some of your old junk for new junk.

Anonymous said...

Fuck that...
This is what "lumberjacks" kill with..

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivatjLaYJU8

Thats the link... sorry bit dumb here.

Lilas Conuts said...

Hello from Nouméa, thanks for sharing.

bikesgonewild said...

...let's not shy away from the real point being made by "the best made company"...

...this has nothing to do with you & your needs, this is about they're embracing the beauty of "hucksterism" to it's 'nth' degree & foisting it on an needy public or they would have (1) - chosen articles you could use on a regular basis & (2) - would have offered 'relative to worth' price points...

...do you understand the 'chutzpah' involved to sell a chinese made $5.00 cashmere hat w/ a sewn on 'best made' logo patch for $95.00 & yet keep a straight face while doing so ???...

...do you realize how much energy it takes to convince people already 'out of touch' with reality that if they pay enough money to buy things they don't really need, that they will then be 'trendsetters' & therefor be everything they felt they were lacking as human beings ???...

...this is exacting, calculating & tiresome work...those college psych degrees didn't come cheap, so please, overspend generously...

Anonymous said...

bah, I have a sweet hiking axe with a carbon fibree handle.

Vegas said...

Thanks, Anon 5:16, but where is the link to the "artisanal" Caterpillar 532, that is hand-painted, comes with authenticity papers and a back story, costs 5X as much, that I can just park in my front yard and gaze at whimsically and impresses my friends?

Vegas said...

Yes, bgw, with the pinnacle of that chutzpah being that they named a company that doesn't actually make any of their own products "Best Made"

Anonymous said...

@anon 5:16 -- The guy running that Caterpillar 532 must be very skilful. I wonder if you can learn how to operate one at Bard College? Or, failing that, at least a backhoe?

ringcycles said...

BGW: hucksterism? suppose I had the wrong Mark Twain character in mind.

bikesgonewild said...

...vegas...no matter how much bsnyc/rtms or any of us exposes &/or makes fun of them, i'll bet they'll be financially 'hoisted by their own petard' in the long run...

...their website postures about visiting..."As we near the holidays we wanted to remind you that our workshop in Lower Manhattan will be open to everyone from 10AM to 5PM, Monday to Thursday....(by appointment)...

...Bring a friend, the office, or the whole family.

Come pick out your axe, see the color, meet the people, behold
the frenzy, and get inspired by the tools, sawdust, and varnish fumes.
We're always busy but would still love to see you, so don't hesitate"
...

...that's beautifully hilarious 'cuz i can imagine them sprinkling sawdust about & leaving the varnish can open an hour ahead of time, "for the ambiance'...just how busy ARE these guys ???...

Anonymous said...

I thought that ax looks a little familiar, it's the smaller version of the one Jack uses in The Shining or am I mistaken?

Biscuit said...

Jack makes my chamois cream

Anonymous said...

Isn't elk boy worried he's going to end up impaled on his creation.

Anonymous said...

Now that would be an impressive cockie. Impaled elk boy... though his dead weight would throw off the handling.

bikesgonewild said...

...ringcycles...

..."sawyerism" doesn't have the same realistic cachet as "hucksterism"...

...i'm calling a spade a spade if they're gonna paint an axe & call it a lifestyle...

Vegas said...

Heh heh, well I assumed that since the article lead out with The Expensivist Rebranding Company as leading the zeitgeist and with the claim that you would need owl-esque neck anatomy NOT to see a fakerjaxe hanging around at a friend's house the past 2 years, (and the horrific prices) that they are swimming in money (in artisanal, wood-panel, wood-burning jacuzzis).

But perhaps putting my faith in the journalistic quality of the Adventure Journal, whose motto is "The deeper you get, the deeper you get" (don't put that into a popular search engine at work haha) isn't the best idea. Thanks for the clarification.

Steve Barner said...

Mr. Boehm has hit on the best way to force drivers to adhere to the 3-foot rule that I've seen yet.

Anonymous said...

how weird, listening to the snob on radio on the other side of the world.

glad you didnt get sideswiped by a rougue 'roo on your trip down under, mate.

leroy said...

Unless I'm very much mistaken, I believe it was Minnie Pearl who observed "Show me a man afraid of a Ukraine Bicycle Project and I'll show you a chicken Kiev."

Of course, I could be confusing her with Virgina Woolf.

Which one of them used to great folks with an exuberant "Howwww-Deeee"?

dux de lux said...

Snap On makes a better tool....

UkieRider said...

Ukraine is strong!

Philip Williamson said...

"Whether that is done physically or through a brand…people want a story and they most definitely want honesty."

When the humans are gone, will anyone really miss us?

The dogs, maybe, those Uncle Toms of the animal kingdom, but only for a generation. "Really, grandpa? They called you 'Spot.'"

Then I read about the elkhorn handlebars, and think, "Who couldn't love us?"

db said...

You wouldn't want to wake up in Kiev in the chicken outfit... bad things.

samh said...

Elk Bike was spotted yesterday with empty cans of Budweiser stabbed onto the points.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see Doug Fattic is alive and well. I waited many a year to get my road frame for which I had laid down a deposit due to that Ukraine Project. It was Doug's never-ending excuse.

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Fixie Bikes said...

No thank you for over priced hats.

Anonymous said...

That bike rack (rack bike?) worries me. I wouldn't be caught dead riding around the woods at night on one of those things.