I like writing. I hate it too sometimes, because it’s wildly fun to write wildly, but to write cleanly and well is the hardest work in the world. I say it’s the hardest work in the world mainly because I can’t draw.
I also like making and using bicycles. Quite frankly, I like making and using anything without an engine. I’m also a sailor, and although I haven’t actually made a yacht, keeping an old one going and in good shape pretty much counts as inventing the damn thing. Anything without an engine I like. Engines strike me as noisy and wasteful (which they are) and also rather lacking in class. A well-made petrol engine is around six percent energy efficient. A well-made bicycle is around ninety percent energy efficent. A well-made yacht simply balances between two different elements and draws power from the ways in which they oppose each other. I find an elegance in such efficient things.
Efficiency is another thing that I like.
Something I don’t like is getting up at the same time and going to the same place each day. I enjoy making bicycles and yachts and sunlit climbs up mountain roads much more than I enjoy making money. Thus, I’m self-employed in a variety of fields that involve bicycles, words and light, and sometimes all three. Thus, lists have become important to me as a way to organize the irregular and bizarre demands upon my time that such a life demands.
I use my lists both to nag and to reward myself. To push myself to do and do and do. To make myself produce and produce and produce. They’re a kind of daily self-propulsion. I berate myself, I’m rude to myself and I’m silly with myself also. Writing a list has become a daily ritual. Every list I write is entitled “today”, even if I produce more than one list a day. After fifteen years of lists, if I go through a day without a list I feel naked. Lost, adrift, and crippled.
Nag is a hideous machine that was originally conceived as a metaphor for the way that I use lists to self-propel. It’s a wonderfully efficient machine for driving yourself to produce and produce and produce. It reflects my other obsessions with efficiency, bicycles, sustainability, and my sort of general delight in old things that are made well. The bicycle frames are a vintage Colnago Master and a even more vintage Freddy Grubb Comet, the wood is ancient pit-sawn rimu recycled from the old Sunnyside Psychiatric institution, and the switches and instrumentation range in era from 1903 to 1970.
Despite being in function a self-powered design studio this is, at heart, a machine that reflects the nagging techniques and means of self-propulsion that many artists find themselves going through in order to produce. It’s a device to take two artists and subject them to often hideous pressure, and then to see if any diamonds fall out.
Because we don’t know what we’re going to produce.