I've just finished up a couple of really fun, squat, fat tankards, one of which is the first smooth Talbert I've done in a while. The smooth is another utilization of my curved tenon inlet trick too - handy, that, as otherwise it would have been nearly impossible to get such a sharp angle of bend without employing some sort of drilling trickery that would have made cleaning a hassle later on. Note: These pipes are both now sold.
I was just recently invited to join another pipe forum, and it reminded me of a silly topic I've always wanted to try writing up; namely, a handy guide to the standard personalities that nearly all online pipe forums come equipped with. Yes, it's true... After spending around seventeen years now involved in various online pipe forums from AOL to ASP to our current situation of roughly six hundred different web forums, I can say with total conviction that this guide should admirably serve the newcomer to any pipe forum by providing him or her with a handy reference guide for quickly discerning the identities of the various characters he or she will encounter.
I should mention that this is meant to be funny. I know it won't help, and that someone will be absolutely infuriated by this and probably flame me from nose to toes, but hey, that's the way it goes... :D And without further ado, here is your field guide to pipe forum personalities!
The Old Guy
This fellow is old. You know because he mentions this fact in roughly every other post. Also, he has been smoking pipes since 1905.. or perhaps even longer, should you yourself happen to have smoked pipes since then, because he's older than you, too. He also knows more, because he's been smoking a pipe for decades, and thus this automatically makes his every opinion the only correct one. "You clean your pipes? !! That isn't needed! I've been smoking a pipe since 1905 and I've never cleaned a one of 'em, and they're all just fine!" All dissent will be quickly squashed by a refutation of how long he's smoked a pipe. He's never bought a pipe that cost more than $3, and never bought tobacco anywhere but Walgreens, because by gum, that's all anyone needs! Now get off my lawn, kid!
(Yes, this fellow is affectionately named after the fellow who really did go by this name on ASP some years back) The Sophisticate is the natural enemy of the Old Guy, and you'll have great fun watching the two of them go at it. The Sophisticate loves the finer things in life. He lounges on his calfskin settee in the midst of his collection of hundred year old French wines, fifty year old discontinued tobacco blends, and five hundred WW2-era Dunhills... all in pristine condition, of course. The Sophisticate can detect the nuances of no less than forty-three different flavors in every bowl of tobacco smoked, and knows the entire Dunhill family tree by heart. A fountain of knowledge and obscure errata, the Sophisticate's great trial in life is coping with the unwashed masses who occasionally dare to challenge his assertions... Something the Old Guy does with relish.
Fox News smokes a pipe, in theory at least. This can be determined by the fact that his posts occasionally are signed with "Haddos in a Tinsky". However, no forum participants have ever seen him actually post regarding the forum topic, pipes, because the entire focus of his presence seems to be to promote right wing ideology. The liberals are coming for his tobacco and guns, and by god (One Nation, under), he's going to make sure everyone knows about it! Fox News can derail the most innocent threads into political rants. The European Union has banned smoking on the TGV? It's because of socialism, damn it! Oddly, pipe forums seem to be free of Fox News's natural opposite, Nader Moore, which is probably a good thing since otherwise no one else would ever be able to say anything over the volume level of the political rhetoric. Why are gonzo liberals not attracted to pipe forums as are gonzo conservatives? They probably really believe all that "Smoking is dangerous" stuff. Pinkos.
The Expert differs from the Sophisticate in, well... let's just say he lacks sophistication, but that doesn't make him an iota less absolutely convinced that his word is Ultimate Truth. Yea verily, all threads must kneel to his intricate knowledge of aerodynamics, expansion rates of tobacco smoke, heat indexes of burning tobacco in differently-shaped chambers, and exactly what secret ingredients go into C&D's Cross-Eyed Cricket to give it that special flavor. The Sophisticate finds him boorish and uncultured; to the Expert, the Sophisticate is a preening snob and most everyone else isn't worth notice, except to correct them when they're inevitably wrong. Experts, perhaps more than any other character type, tend to evolve through their participation, and over the course of years often transmute into Greedy Merchants, Royalty, or occasionally Apeshits.
Like Fox News, no one is really sure if this guy even smokes a pipe, or what he's really doing in the forum, but you'll never escape his presence because he posts a minimum of fifty off-topic posts per day on topics ranging from cheese flavors to carnivorous plants, but always with an air to the silly. He's the forum equivalent of the guy at your office party who gets drunk and begins dancing on the bar top with the stuffed moose head - Fun to watch, as long as you're well out of range of the inevitable fallout of his antics. This is because Jokerman is the black beast to various other characters, especially the Expert, the Sophisticate, and Royalty. Like clockwork, Jokerman's escapades will eventually tick off his enemies, resulting in furious flame wars about the group's topic drift, the sins of off-topic posting, and how many people are going to quit the group now.
Royalty are rarely heard from, but their presence is felt keenly, and occasionally they venture forth to the forum to speak to the masses. These are the Olde Guard, the forum members who have been with the forum since the Olde Days, back when the level of discussion was much higher and everything was on-topic and the riff raff had not yet overrun the place. Some of the Royalty may have been on the forum as long as, oh, four years or more. They don't post much anymore, prefering to simply look down from on high and be amused by the squabblings of the common folk.
These people were either in the business to start with, or entered the pipe business through their passion for the hobby. Well, that's what they claim, anyway. What they really want is YOUR money, all of it please, as fast as possible. They are, every one, the seediest, most untrustworthy individuals in the forum, and it is crucial that the second any business deal becomes slightly difficult for the buyer, he or she must immediately publicly flame the Greedy Merchant until he's a blackened briquet, for everyone else to see, lest they ever make the mistake of possibly thinking of dealing with said Greedy Merchant.
Yeah, them. They've got plenty of opinions, alright... on virtually anything, but the problem is connecting the opinions they pop out with to the topic of discussion. They live in treehouses, armored, liberal-proof bunkers, or occasionally even (god forbid) France. They provide the weird stuff on the forum, like the ten page posting about how the orbit of Venus affects the burn rates of Cavendish tobaccos, or why all pipes should really be made from stainless steel. Key signs of the presence of the Apeshit are strong suspicions that they're pulling your leg. When you find yourself reading someone's post on how he's mounted a miniature battery-powered turbine fan at the top of his bowl to superheat the burning tobacco for more flavor.... Well, you've found the Apeshit. Is he serious, or is he an elaborate practical joke? (The Royalty are occasionally found to be secretly behind outbreaks of the Apeshit, because they're amused by the reactions stirred up) Enjoy his meanderings on why briar bowls perform better lined with 2mm of concrete, but watch from a safe distance, because the Apeshit draw cannon fire from virtually everyone else in a way that can be truly awe-inspiring to see.
Well, that's all I have time for now. I hope you've enjoyed, hope no one is too horribly offended, and I'll check back tomorrow to see how badly my email box is smoking... :D