Tag Archives: building

Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other

Interview and Context

DO – It just means its pretty much, two different ways of doing the same thing, and neither is better than the other.
Interviewer – And it gets used all the time here (in the wood shop).
DO – Yes.
Interviewer – When was the first time you heard it?
DO – I have no idea, like when I was a kid.
Interviewer – Have you always worked in shops?
DO – No, I heard it before. I don’t think it s necessarily a shop only saying, but it is heavily used in shops. Between… (shouts to shop manager, DM) would you agree that between you, me, and (other shop manager) that we say six in one hand, half dozen in the other— like how often do you think we would say that phrase, or a version of?
DM – Ehh, at least weekly?
DO – It, it’s generally used in the planning stage of a thing because we’re like, “How are we doing this, what do you think?” and it’s like, “How do you suggest we like—”
DM – There’s usually two or three ways to accomplish the same thing. At least.
DO – And sometimes there’s an advantage to one way and sometimes there’s not. It’s comparable.


This metaphor is used frequently in this informant’s environment. They mentioned that it is most common in planning stages of set construction, which explains why the regular student workers had not heard the saying (because they are not involved in the planning or designing stages), while set designers and technical directors had heard it.
Because six is equal to a half dozen, the metaphor is saying that there are multiple ways to achieve one goal, and neither way is necessarily better than the other, so it does not much matter which option they choose. However, it also signifies a tiny roadblock caused only by indecision between two equal choices.
The informant doubted it was a saying unique to construction shops, even recalling they had heard it before entering that specific culture, suggesting it was more of a crafting cultural saying than a specific construction one.

Money is first. Creativity is second. Safety is third

Text and Context

DO – Money is first, second is art, creativity, whatever, third is safety
Interviewer – Is this something that just you says?
DO – No, no. Safety third is like, grips will say it like all the time. Like carpenters and everything.
MI – Money comes first—you know getting paid, comes first. Being creative comes second. And being safe comes third.
DO – Right. Like the producers come in and will be like yeahyeahyeah! Safe first! Safety first! But then when it comes time, and it’s like no, no. You’re costing me money, get up on that fucking thing and get that done. Right? Uh, the director comes in, and is like, this is my vision! This is what we want to do! But its like, I can’t do that, I’d have to like— “I don’t care! Get it done!” y’know, kinda thing. And AFTER that comes safety. Like, what else, like what is fourth, I don’t know. So it’s be safe, unless it’s costing us money, or impacting our vision. Essentially
DO – So it’s something that people like us say, when we’re feeling like: alright, we’re putting our bodies on the line and not being treated well. We’re like, “Hey safety third!” Because they looove saying safety first. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
Interviewer – So it’s kind of an ironic saying.
DO and MI (at the same time) – Yes!
DO – It is very sarcastic. But it’s also very, very true. The number of times when we’re like, y’know, you’re talking about working like, sixteen hour days. You cannot work sixteen hour days and use a power tool safely. It’s impossible. Like if you’re sleep deprived, you cannot operate heavy machinery, power tools safely. Like you, you’re gonna do stupid stuff. We were talking about it, not so much as a danger type thing, but when you work sixteen hour days you get so—you make stupid decisions, and you do stupid stuff, and you come in the next day and spend the first two, three hours fixing the mistakes that you did at the end of the day before because you were just trying to get stuff done. Y’know? Uhhh, but given that fact—a lot of studies say, like if you’re driving on the road and you feel a little sleepy. What do they say? Pull over and take a nap. You know, like whatever. Because that’s the safe thing to do. But all the time productions go, like, sixteen hour days when it’s costing them money, like why don’t you just rent the sound studio another week or push for— nope, that costs money, we gotta get it done. We have to get it done. Or why don’t we cut this scene? No, no, director wants that scene, or whatever. Get it done.


The informer(s) clearly had strong feelings about this saying, as they spoke extensively on the subject. I collected this saying while the informant(s) were sitting in the break room of their wood shop. We were talking about general wood shop sayings, so it didn’t come up in the context in which the saying would generally be used, such as during construction.
It is interesting that this is a response to another common saying, “safety first,” and would not stand so well without the popularity of “safety first.” It shows a folk group within set construction, while director and producers are the out-group, because the hierarchy creates a binary separation where the people in power (producers and directors) risk the safety of those they employ. The set construction workers are aware of the danger they are sometimes being put in, and understand the bitter irony of their superiors pretending to care, or caring until it interferes with their money and creative vision.

Every tool is a hammer


DO – In scene shop construction, “every tool is a hammer, except for a screwdriver, which is a chisel.” Basically what that means is you can use anything to bang something (like getting a stubborn bolt through a hole), but a screwdriver you use for cutting things like a chisel.


The informant was working on constructing a set for a theatrical performance, when a coworker asked for a hammer for a bolt they were struggling with. The informant walked over, grabbed their measuring tape, and whacked the bolt into place. Then they recited the proverb.


There is a tool for every function one might need when constructing a theatrical set, props, furniture, etc. Some of these tools are very bizarre in appearance, have no obvious appearance upon first glance, or have only one, minuscule function that may get used only once every few years because it is not a common technique. Other tools have always remained relatively the same, like the hammer and chisel. That may be because… anything can be used like a hammer to smash something, and any strong sharp thing can chip away at a softer material.
Wood shops will likely have hammers that are made to be durable, ergonomic, highly engineered improvements on the most rudimentary tools humanity has always had. But sometimes they aren’t within reach or you weren’t expecting to need a hammer so you didn’t bring one. Same for specially crafted chisels. But theater construction is fast-paced, and usually, rudimentary tools and basic hand-eye coordination will do the job just as well and way faster than going to get a real hammer or chisel.

The Wetting Tree


My informant for this piece is an American of Scandinavian descent. He lived in Norway for a time during high school and learned the language while he was there. He also still keeps in contact with his host family from his time living there, and his son recently spent a year abroad there as well. In regards to this particular piece, it was said in old Norwegian culture that trees represent life, and each tree has a separate spirit.


After my informant moved into his house, he built a barn to operate his business from. When the barn was finished, the wetting tree tradition took place.

Main Piece:

“Traditionally, an evergreen bough is nailed into the final beam of a barn–the ridge beam. When the whole building is done, a party is thrown and everybody drinks a toast to honor all the trees that went into the structure and to wish it a good future. We used a live tree–an olive tree–in a pot. And when it was all done we took it and planted it in the row by the house.”


Personally, I like this tradition because those who have helped to construct the building show their gratitude towards the trees for providing the materials which them to build it. But when we take a look at this Scandinavian tradition, it looks like an instance of sympathetic magic. More specifically, I believe it’s a practice of homeopathic magic. In order to ensure the prosperity of the recently built barn, a bough–or in my informant’s case, a whole tree–is hung from the highest rafter of the barn. Thusly, a part of what the barn is made out of watches over the entire structure in order to protect it.

Krasue in South Asian Folklore

NC: So there’s this story about crossaway or crosu (Krasue) I don’t know exactly how to pronounce the name but in southeast asian folklore she is supposed to be a very beautiful woman and she’s only a head, so she’s a decapitated head and her entails are hanging out and she’s supposed to float around uh a building- a haunted building or something um she’s- I think she’s searching for something and she might also kill anyone who comes into the building. That’s all I’ve heard about it.



Location of Story – Southeast Asia

Location of Performance – Dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night


Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. NC approached me in person in response to the text and had just discovered this creature herself. 


Analysis: Krasue is physically unlike any other “monster” or creature I have heard of before. I was particularly interested in the dichotomy between the woman’s beauty and the grotesqueness of her lower half. For me, this hints at a commentary about how women are viewed around the world globally: her head is attached but her body has been ripped apart by what exactly? If women often fall victim to objectification, then it makes sense that this lore would depict her “body” has being completely consumed by something else or at least lost to something or someone besides herself. Additionally, the fact that she is bound by a building, confirms the archetypical “domestic” woman, but the threat she poses to anyone else trying to reside in her household disrupts this stereotype and protects the space as her own.