Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Wordy Shipmates

I hated this book. Hated.  I rarely hate a book.  Often I don't like them, or they bore me, or I just don't care.  I hated this.

The book is billed as a history of the Puritans -- the group that led by John Winthrop who settled Charleston and Boston (not the Pilgrims, who landed on Plymouth Rock).  What it is, actually, is a snarky, patronizing, self-righteous diatribe lambasting the Puritans (and pretty much every other white person from the 17th century) for not being born in the 20th.  We are presented with "Jesus freaks," "religious fanatics," fools who actually believe in God, patronizing English who believe they need to help the Indians, and, generally, a bunch of stooges running around New England.

Yes, Sarah Vowell has discovered that religious Christians from the 17th Century did not live up to the morals and ethics of the early 21st Century.  Thank you.  They believed that the were superior to other races.  They preached Christian charity and kindness, yet punished transgressions severely, with beatings, banishment, and cutting off ears.  Vowell notes with disdain the motto on the Massachusetts Bay Colony's official seal, which pictures an Indian in a loincloth saying the words "Come over and help us."  Imagine that. The Puritans actually believed that they would be helping the Indians by bring them Christianity.  I'm shocked to read this.

Did I mention that I hated it?  I don't mind criticizing people, even those who lived four hundred years ago.  Although I do think it's unfair not to realize that we are all, to some extent, a function on the time we live in.  But what I don't like is the arrogant, flippant tone throughout the entire book.  This isn't so much a history as it is some kind of sophomoric rant by someone who apparently just realized that people had different moral compasses back then.*

*And I can't help but notice how much of the book seems to be an indictment of "white men."  Surely, in the 1600s, peace and love reigned over the rest of the planet, unspoiled by male Christianity.  Vowell notes at length Roger Williams's description of civility among the indians:  "If any stranger com in, they presently give him to eat of what they have;"  "fewer scandalous sins than Europe, [one] never hear[s] of robberies, rapes, murders;" and "their wars are far less bloody, and devouring than the cruel wars of Europe; and seldom twenty slain in the pitch field."  A few pages later, she glosses over an incident wherein "[t]he Dutch in Connecticut, meanwhile, have been trading with the Pequot, but with other Indians, too.  How do the Pequot feel about this?  They murder a handful of Indians, probably Narragansett, on their way home from trading with the Dutch."  No doubt the Pequot were spoiled by their contact with the Dutch.

In short, if you're looking for a history of the Puritans, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.  Although I don't know what else might be out there.  If you want to feel very good about yourself by reading about those backwards stooges who settled Massachusetts, this is a good book for you.

The Kitchen Project Part II

The new sink and countertop arrived a few weeks back.  For the countertop, at first I had to cut it to size, cut out the hole for the sink, and glue on a piece for the "turn".

Then I sprayed it with Enduro-Var, which was recommended by Jeff Jewitt of Homestead Finishing.  I added 5 drops of Jewitt's Medium Brown Transtint dye to each pint of finish.  I think I put two coats on the bottom and 5 on the top.  I really like the color:

Here is it installed with the sink:

It took me three tries to make the smaller base cabinet to the right of the stove.  18" minus 1.5" is not 17.5"  But it all worked out ok.

And here is a little shelf I threw together for the spot next to the window.  I thought that this would open up the kitchen more than if I put a cabinet back up.

I really did a terrible job on the shelf.  But hopefully it will have enough stuff on it that no one will notice.

Now, I'm building drawers!  The fun never ends.