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McSweeney/SF Chronicle's Panorama Issue a Bust!

It sounded great. A giant new hard copy prototype newspaper in San Francisco conceived by Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and publisher of McSweeney's. I love newspapers, always have (and have ADD when it comes to reading text on a monitor). I tweeted the Panorama news a few weeks ago, and sent off my 16 bucks to the San Francisco Chronicle for the special edition. Well, it arrived a few days ago, and it's an overblown turkey. A newspaper it's not, journalism it's not, editing it hasn't. It's on embarrassingly expensive paper, everything in it is overly long, dull, and calls mightily for the hand of a real editor. It's a waste of paper and ink and people's time. This kind of hard copy will (rightly) drive people back to their monitors.
Last night, I was wondering am I just too old, too unhip, two un-urban, too deprived of city culture due to living in the country? Is everybody else going to think this thing is great? Then this morning I ran across Howard Junker's take on Panorama, and felt a lot better.
"…Panorama isn't visionary, it's just another McSweeney's grab bag, a pastiche, a let's pretend, let's put on a show…"
-See Junker's take on this mess at: zyzzyvaspeaks.blogspot.com.
-Photo above by Steve Rhodes on flickr

Tiny Houses With Disability Access

I just got this comment on my posting of Dec 8. 09 on our forthcoming book on tiny houses: Deena Larsen has left a new comment on your post, "Shelter's New Book on Tiny Houses:"
"In your book, could you spare a couple of pages for disability access? Tiny homes are great and can be lifesavers for the disabled, as they can be less expensive, take less maintenance, and --most importantly--have only 4 painful steps to the bathroom instead of 22.
We are blogging about trying to remodel a 350 sf carraige house to be accessible at http://www.accessahut.wordpress.com
Thanks and I really look forward to seeing your book!"

My reply just now: Deena, that's a wonderful idea. We'll do it! Can you direct me to the parts of your blog that describe what you are doing (have done) with a small house?

Pit House Reconstruction in Pie Town, New Mexico

"Before industry and technology gave us sawmills and frame houses, this is how the average person lived in much of the world. The dugout or pit house, with sod roof, log walls and earthen floor, is among the most ancient of human dwellings -- at some point in history your ancestors lived in one. Especially popular among 19th-century settlers in the Great Plains and deserts of the West and Southwest, where trees and other building materials were scarce, dugouts were warmer in winter and cooler in summer than above-ground structures; just about anywhere in North America the ground temperature three feet down is 55 degrees regardless of the season."
Photo by Russell Lee

Decorative Porches in Serbia

Porch on a house in Palic, Serbia, shot by photographer Leo Hetzl. Leo's wife Marija is from this town. Leo says the porches are traditional Hungarian, from the Austria-Hungarian time.

All That the Rains Bring

The earth around here is feeling good after the rains. Such a relief after a few dry years. Also, after 5 years or so of hunting mushrooms I'm starting to understand the fungi world a bit. Here's yesterday's haul, a side trip on my Sunday run. The yellow/orange ones at top left are chanterelles; the cinnamon colored ones are candy caps—when dried they smell just like maple syrup. THE book for our area is All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora, not only informative, but witty and fun.

Riding Louie's Cable

To get to my friend Louie's house this time of year, you have to ride across the river on a 500' cable. Louie was the featured builder in our book Home Work. Click here to see the pages on Louie; (you can click on each of the photos shown to enlarge them).
Louie is shown here getting the bosun's chair ready for the trip. The platform is 30' above the ground. The other photo is one he took when I was about halfway across the river. (The large object coming down from top is the cable.) It's a thrill to go sailing across the turbulent water.
We had a goose for dinner, with Louie's home-made zinfandel that night. Now I had to get back across the river, dark and foggy night. I put on my headlight, climbed the tower on the house side of the river, locked the chair on the cable and with not a small amount of trepidation, let go, sailing out into the black night. It was fantastic, like I was in good hands. Came into the landing platform at a trot, and walked through the fields to Louie's shop, where I stay.

Patti Smith Doing Gloria 2007 jules Holland Show

This is a great Jules Holland show to catch. It's been rerunning this week (shot May 18. 2007). Not only does Patti completely kick ass, but there's Simply Red, and Joe Cocker singing a gospel-type number with 4-voice backup. Incidentally, Jules is a hell of a piano player. Patti is pure power with her incredible version of "Gloria."
Jesus died for somebody's sins,
But not mine…

Stuff Made in China is Too Cheap

A few months ago I bought a set of cordless tools by Ryobi. Drill, circular saw, saber saw, flashlight, 2 18v batteries, for $120. I was sort of thrilled, all these tools, so cheap. Real useful in my shop. But I began to have this nagging feeling; something was wrong here. How much environmental damage due to polluting manufacturing processes? How about the ships bringing this stuff across the oceans that burn rotgut, air-polluting fuel because there are no controls on the high seas? Here in yesterday's paper, a color ad from Home Depot:
• Kit of 125 drill bits for wood, metal, masonry: $15
• 26-piece ratcheting gear wrench set: $2.50
It ain't right.