Cut to the Chase

Almost everything about this upsets me. I like the guy a lot and I love the knives. The photography, when not subjected to obnoxious racking focus, is stunning, though entirely arbitrary. I don’t want to write an article trashing other artists for producing mediocre work. However, I hate to see mediocre work spun around as culturally significant. Which is why, after delaying a few days, I finally speak up.

This video won’t go away. Every feed I follow has shared this video now. I chose not to post it because of its poor quality and now I am compelled to post this review as the Voice of Reason – which is a dreadful urge to ignore and to satisfy.

This video is rudderless. The series is pompous. The director goes by the letters KEEF, which only strengthens my instinct to blame him/her for the missed opportunity here.

The artist behind the knives, Joel Bukiewicz, seems to be a likable, talented guy, and this video is not his fault.

Here’s one glowing semi-review of his product:

Best kitchen tool: Prospect 240, Cut Brooklyn: Sharpest, most balanced and comfortable chef’s knife ever, made by Joel B., a ridiculous craftsman and one of the coolest guys you’ll ever meet. This knife deserves its own blog post some day, but for now let me just say it’s completely unreal. Everything you’ve read about it is true… and then some.

“Ridiculous” and “completely unreal” are terms people use when they want me to discredit every word they say. But I’ll give everyone the benefit of the doubt; I’ll presume Brooklyn is chock-full of “ridiculous” artists and truly ridiculous linguists. On that note, I counted four sentences in a row that Joel used the words “sort of” and then the following four in which he used the word “like.”

[In fairness, Adam Sessler (in a video to which Scott linked yesterday evening) used the words “sort of” far too many times for a man of his syntactical prowess. That phrase has become the ameliorating offering, the alms for uncertainty, the auxiliary modifier of untried claims. It’s this, sort of way to, like, express a, sort of significant point, dressed up in like, a more friendly sentence. But speakers don’t deliver it as the typical, inarticulate surfer dude/valley girl filler; it’s delivered as though it is a hand reaching out and grasping your arm, perhaps at a funeral, to express deep sentiment, ineffable not due to gravitas but novelty. Be not fooled. It is, as you suspect, mere transmission noise.]

I like Brooklyn. It’s home to the subject of this video, Cut Brooklyn, Pop Chart Lab, Kickstarter, and Melville House Books. (Those groups are just off the top of my head.) I use a Brooklyn Brewery bottle-opener every time I pop a beer bottle. Trust me, I’m a fan of the burrough.

I agree Brooklyn is full of great talent, disciplined artists, innovative artisans, clever designers, and savvy entrepreneurs. I wish the makers of this short biopic had hired a real interviewer to guide the conversation. (Plus a music director.) To draw us into the craft, have Joel talk us through a lesson he learned early on, or have him ruin a knife, or cut the initial shape of the blade from the sheet of steel, or talk through how he went from an MA in fiction writing to ordering thousands of dollars of steel and wood supplies. I would have no way of knowing how to begin to practice making knives if that were my inspiration. Joel is full of good information, have him speak about the things that he has done that we have not even considered. At one point he mentions that “a kitchen kife has five lines in it” and we don’t know what this means, because he employing the esoteric terminology of his chosen profession. We can guess at what that means, but when our interest is piqued, we are left completely on our own to presume. Where did he learn the lingo? Do other knives have fewer or greater than five lines? Why would he ever assume that making a kitchen knife would be more simple than making a hunting knife?

The interviewer and/or the editor are to blame for Joel’s vague ruminations on “sacrifice” and “doing.” When you talk to a fisherman, you don’t ask him about sitting in a boat.

I also begrudge them their mission statement. The synopsis notes that Joel “alights on the real meaning of handmade.” There’s an argument that they mean “arrive at by chance,” but I’m going to cite the title of the series as evidence that Joel didn’t begin speaking about the “real meaning” of handmade accidentally. So it is my decision to interpret their verb as “coming down from, or dismounting” something, such as a… oh, I don’t know… a high horse.

The final line of the video contains everything that disturbs me about the series thus far. “Five years from now Hand Made in Brooklyn is going to mean something serious. I think.”

Who doesn’t have the sense to cut out the final two syllables?


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