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Smith Journal

Smith Journal Autumn 2019

Smith Journal is a quarterly publication for discerning gents (and ladies who like reading about discerning gents). It’s heads-up and hands-on. A friendly guide to all things creative, intriguing, genuine and funny – full of stories, people, adventures, interesting conversations and gentlemanly style. The people behind Smith wanted to create something they’d be happy to read themselves. That smart, creative guys could peruse without shame, slap down on the coffee table, whack in their favourite old satchel or display proudly on the toilet reading rack. Something that looked good, but had substance, wit and inspiration. At a time when everything seems like it’s speeding up, Smith is a call to slow down. It’s about remembering, reviving and revamping forgotten traditions, skills and technologies. And backpedalling just enough to appreciate the good stuff in life. Like our readers, we’re not particularly obsessed with being the coolest, the biggest or the first in line. But we are interested in making things that last.

Nextmedia Pty Ltd
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2 min.
history is peppered with stories of men who thought they understood things when, in fact, they did not.

Christopher Columbus, to pick one example, understood he could reach the East Indies by sailing his boat west of Spain across the Atlantic. He continued to understand this well after he set foot in the Bahamas, and was no more dissuaded of the belief when he stopped, finally, at the shores of Central and South America. When he eventually died, he did so believing he’d merely found a more convenient route to East Asia – the idea that he had stumbled on a continent not on any European map never occurred to him. Later, when a few quizzical sailors realised Columbus’s East Asia really wasn’t East Asia at all, the West was forced to confront the possibility that there remained things – entire continents, even – about which humans did not…

18 min.
smith stuff

THE LIQUIDATORS Shortly after 1am on April 26, 1986, reactor four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. For 10 days, radioactive smoke billowed from the cracked reactor shell, blanketing hundreds of square kilometres in fallout radiation and leading to the evacuation of 116,000 people from the towns of Pripyat and Chernobyl. But as the exclusion zone grew, so too did the team of emergency workers and power plant employees tasked with salvaging the disaster. Known as the Liquidators of Chernobyl, these 600,000 loyal Soviet citizens were sent into almost incomprehensible danger, often with little training or protection, to try to stem the damage from what remains the worst nuclear disaster in history. For these men and women, such sacrifice was merely the full expression of their duty to the Soviet Motherland.…

8 min.
how to clone a forest

DAVID MILARCH HAS MASTERED THE TRICK OF TALKING WITH A CIGARETTE HANGING FROM THE CORNER OF HIS MOUTH – A USEFUL SKILL WHEN YOU NEVER STOP TALKING AND NEVER STOP SMOKING. As the light of the low Michigan winter sun pours through his office blinds, he leans back in his chair, arms folded behind his head, explaining how he’s the only man he knows who ever got kicked out of heaven. On the wall behind him, next to a printout of Stonehenge and the pencil-scratched heights of his grandchildren, is a poster – an unattributed proverb that’s as succinct a mission statement as you might find for Milarch and the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive he founded: A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they shall never sit in. A…

6 min.
the rogues’ gallery

THE CURATORS’ SMILES WEREN’T THE ONLY THINGS THAT WERE FAKE ON THE DAY OF THE MUSEUM’S GRAND REOPENING. The staff of Musée Terrus, a museum in the small French town of Elne, were supposed to be celebrating the completion of extensive renovations. Instead, they found themselves fronting the press to explain some slight adjustments to its collection. Namely, the fact they had just donated a substantial proportion of the museum’s paintings by Étienne Terrus, the 19th -century French artist for whom the museum was named, to the police – and not for philanthropic reasons. A visiting curator who had popped by during the renovations noticed something awry with the collection almost instantly. For starters, the style of many of the paintings was a bit off, and the canvases weren’t quite right. And…

3 min.
going up

ELISHA OTIS’S DEMONSTRATION WAS GOING SPLENDIDLY WHEN A MAN WITH AN AXE BEGAN SWINGING. An inventor with a penchant for spectacles, Otis had booked a spot at the 1854 World’s Fair in New York City, where he planned to sell the starry-eyed masses on something both radical and mundane: vertical transport. Or rather, safe vertical transport. Humans had been hoisting things into the sky for aeons by the time Otis came around, but no one had worked out how to stop those things crashing down violently when the ropes inevitably snapped and gravity was reintroduced into the equation. For this reason, civilization had largely opted to stay on terra firma. The future seemed decidedly flat. The first elevator, invented by the Greek mathematician Archimedes, employed a system of pulleys and axles to…

7 min.
the place holders

IN 2013, ALEXANDER GRAND FLEW TO BELARUS WITH A RATHER ODD MISSION. HE WANTED TO BOTTLE THE SCENT OF MINSK. “If you ask most people to describe the aroma of Minsk, they’ll say it smells like cut grass, or maybe sour cranberries in sugar,” he says. “But that’s not how we approached it. Minsk is a rational city, very cool, very clinical: a city of engineers and IT professionals. We wanted the scent to be light and orderly and meticulous. It should smell like the colour of a wide blue sky.” After a little groundwork, the 38-year-old Englishman tracked down an ancient family of Belarusian perfumers and set them to work blending 47 local ingredients to make Eau de Minsk. “Government ministers were coming by for a sniff,” Alexander remembers. “We…