In the August, 1995 issue of a Canadian workshop magazine that shall remain nameless, there was an article that purported to show how to construct a coffee and end tables with Queen Anne style legs. Queen Anne style table legs are graceful constructions -- not an easy thing to make. There's some challenging woodturning technique involved, and much else. Here's an example of the style:
The article's author was said to be part owner of an outfit in Rockwood, Ontario known as Woodturners Inc. As I read the article, and studied the photographs and drawings, my bullshit detector started clanging and honking and flashing its amber light. Something didn't add up.The flawless, seamless legs in the photographs couldn't possibly have resulted from the construction method given in the text.
I did a little research, and it turned up that Woodturners Inc. supplies ready-made Queen Anne table legs, among other things. In their catalogue, I spotted the very legs that were featured in the article's photographs. It was quite obvious that my hunch about the table construction article was correct; the text and drawings were hogwash. The tables had been made with ready-made legs.
What were they thinking at the magazine? What good could it possibly do to present a fictitious construction method to the readership, rather than simply show what could be done with ready-made table legs? The most charitable gloss I can think of to put on it is that it was a badly misguided attempt to keep editorial and advertising content clear of one another.
At the time, I still kept in touch somewhat with the magazine's editor. In the past, I'd had a few articles published in the magazine. I was still a subscriber, and had hopes of contributing again if time and resources would ever permit. I wrote to him, pointing out in the pleasantest, most respectful way possible that I'd spotted the fiction in the Queen Anne table legs article, and suggesting that the magazine really ought not do such things.
Weeks passed after mailing the letter, and I tried contacting the editor again. It quickly became clear to me that I was now persona non grata there, and that was the end of my relationship with the magazine.
Anyway, that's all water under the bridge, and I really can't be bothered holding a grudge. Nor do I have anything against Queen Anne table legs; I quite like the looks of the things. But "Queen Anne table legs? We don't need no stinking Queen Anne table legs!" is something of an incantation for me.* It's my relatively polite way of saying to all the how-to/technical writers out there who write rubbish (and there are a lot of them), "Take your honking, bleeping, flaming hogwash and tuck it away in a dark place somewhere."
[*It's also an allusion, of course, to the famous line that's allegedly from the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!" See this Wikipedia entry for some enlightening clarification of the origins of the line.]
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