Vol. 2, Issue 19, May 11, 2004
Education for the Otiose

Ship in a Pickle Jar

Ezekiel F. Watley, Esq.

Man cannot live by Bread alone; he must have his Circuses as well. The ancient Romans knew this well; though I rather think our Society has surpassed the Ancients in this particular regard. We have no Shortage of diversions great and Small: taken in Balance, they are as Vital to our health as Beef and Whiskey.

Though generally content with the usual diversions Appropriate for a man of my modest Stature - darts (Pub rules, of course!), Whist, some sensible Reading, the art of Parlor Conversation - still do I have one more Hobby on which I have whiled away more than a few Hours during my considerable Years. Though I have not led a seafaring Life, still there is a bit of Salt-Water in my Blood, for the Watleys have long been an oceangoing Clan. So I indulge a small Echo of this familial past in a rather more Sedentary form, and craft model Ships in Bottles.

Crafting a Ship in a Bottle requires Patience, a sharp Knife, and the ability to use Glue without Ingesting it or getting too much on your Shirt-Sleeves. I have never been too good at the Latter; but fortunately, I keep a ready Supply of extras. I delight in carving the Hull with careful attention to Detail - I am particularly fond of etching Port-holes. When I was still Actively practicing Law, I always made sure to pack a few good bits of Maple in my Brief-Case whenever I went to Court; it was a Marvelous way to pass the hours in Court. The Bailiffs used to complain somewhat about the Wood-shavings beneath the Bench, but the results were Worth it. Ah! Magnificent frigates...

...Well not so Magnificent in truth. For the trick of getting a ship in a Bottle is to craft it with a narrow Hull, so that it may fit through the Bottle-Neck. The rigging is laid Flat and then pulled Up - but though the Masts are lofty, the Ship itself is not. I ever yearned to make a Vessel with a proper Fo'castle and Poop Deck - even a proper Keel beneath - a truer vision of my familial Past.

And then one day, while defending that poor Smith fellow (it was a shame how things turned Out, but I suspect the lad may have had something to Do with that little unpleasantness at the Bank anyway) I had a minor Epiphany, and carved the Largest bit of wood I had into a proper Brigantine hull. Magnificent! The rigging was next, arranged not on folding Masts, but properly Anchored ones. And there it was: a reasonable facsimile of the Ranger Rick, my Great-Uncles' second-to-last Vessel.

Of course the thing had no Chance of fitting into a Bottleneck. So I emptied a large jar of kosher Pickles instead. But alas, those who Visited my office after were not so Impressed. The ruder hulls wedged into the Bottles held more Interest, given a Glamor by the seeming Trickery of fitting in the Bottle. "A ship in a Jar?" they scoffed. "Where's the Challenge in that?"

Art is sadly ever Thus. Our sense of Aesthetics is guided by Difficulty - perceived ease dulls its Glory, however great. The Labor and Suffering behind a work of art speaks Louder than any actual Talent demonstrated therein. Why admire a laboriously produced Painting, but scorn lithographic Copies of the same? I have never seen the Sense in this.

Bah. I have suffered Enough in my many years, and need not add gratuitous Effort for the sake of catering to the so-called Aesthetic Sensibilities of others. And so I have some Splendid replica artwork in my Office, and happily place properly proportioned Sloops, Brigantines and Frigates in o'er-sized Mayonnaise jars throughout. Should you happen to Visit, do please appreciate them for what they Are; no more, no less.

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