Rainy Day, Chess Explained on The Wire, New Septic Info, My Rowdy Friends, Leonard Cohen

Builders Book Taking Shape

It’s raining in sunny California. I’ve started doing layouts of our next major book, Builders of the Pacific Coast. I’m a little stunned by all the info I’ve gathered in the last year (four photo-shooting trips from San Francisco north as far as Vancouver Island and its outlying daughter islands). Godfrey Stephens was just here with his daughter Tillikum. (See blog below of Tuesday, November 28, 2006.) Godfrey bestowed his usual measure of inspiration, excitement and disorganization upon my life for a day and a night while we visited, roamed the beach, and tried to make something out of the mountain of material I have on his life and his art. Godfrey has been my foremost contact in tracking down unique master builders in the maritime northwest.

Sculptor John McAbery’s seaside cabin, made completely from used materials. Photo © 2006 by Stephen D. Walker

TIVO, HBO, Deadwood, The Wire, Chess As Described by Young Drug Dealer

For about a year, we have had HBO, Sun Dance, the full monte of Direct TV (minus the sports channels). Plus TIVO, which is brilliant. Pre-record and watch when you want to. Set it to record every episode of a series, etc. It was The Sopranos that first got my attention. Then Deadwood; it took me a while to realize what was going on in Deadwood. It’s the dialog, stupid! The language is Elizabethan. It’s witty, pungent, poetic, and tough. A local critic calls it “Shakespeare in the Mud.” The Calamity Jane character alone is worth the price of admission.

HBO is in a golden age, witness for example The Wire, the current series about drug dealers, cops, and kids in Baltimore. Tim Goodman, the S.F Chronicle critic calls it the best TV series ever, and I won’t argue. Watch 3 or 4 episodes and you’ll be hooked. The acting, the story, the dialogue. It’s just a different level of writing and acting and relevance from anything else on TV. Mos’ def.

This week we borrowed a DVD set of the first 13 episodes of The Wire and in the 3rd one, there was this dialog among a young bunch of drug dealers, urban poetry: D’Angelo comes up to a table on a lot in the projects where his two friends are sitting in the morning sun, playing checkers with a chess set. “You can’t be playing no checkers on no chess board, man,” says D’Angelo. He explains chess to his friends:

“See this?” he picks up and kisses the king. “This the king pin. He da man. You get the other dude’s king, you got the game. But he tries to get your king too because that’s the game. Now the king he move any direction he damn choose, because he the king. But he got no hustle. The rest of the other motherfuckers, they got his back and they run so deep, he ain’t got to do shit.

“Now you see this?” He picks up the queen. “This the queen. She smart, she fierce. She move any way she want, as far as she want. And she is the go-get-shit-done piece.

“And this over here is the castle, it’s like the stash, it move like this and like this.”

One of the kids points to the pawns and says, “What about these little bald-headed bitches here?”

“These the pawns. They the soldiers. One space forward only. Except when they fight, they go sideways. They like the front lines. They be in the field.”

“How they get to be the king?”

“It ain’t like that. See, the king stay the king. Everything stay who he is, except for the pawns. Now if a pawn make it to the other dude’s side, he get to be queen. Like I said, the queen ain’t no bitch. She got all the moves.”

All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down

I graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco in 1952. We had what was in retrospect a great bunch of people. About 14 of us showed up for one of our semi-annual lunches in San Francisco last week. I looked at all these guys and realized we were all San Francisco natives, and we’d known each other for over 55 years. By now they all seem to have gotten over my long hair, my counter-cultural lifestyle (and earring), and it’s back to square one. Maybe it’s a relaxing of roles as you get older, and you can get back to the basics. We talked about the city in the ’40s and the ’50s, they were the good old days, and it was one of those reunions that just worked.

Leonard Cohen, Ten New Songs

An amazing record. A friend loaned it to me. I’d never heard Leonard Cohen, and I’ve never heard a record remotely like this one.

Music I Hate

•Christmas carols. I mean, I’ve heard them for 60+ years, and they gag me. Jingle Bells, god!

•Happy Birthday. I will not sing this at parties. If I have to, I mouth the words.

•Jingles on National Public Radio. How can they play the same intro bits for 20 years? I can’t stand them. and turn off the sound for a minute. All Things Considered, Morning Editiion, Fresh Air. Ugh!

New Info On Septic Systems

Here is a sneak preview of updates to our Septic Systems Owner’s Manual, including a chapter titled “Excessive Engineering and Overzealous Regulation,” which blows the whistle on corruption in the field and ripoff of homeowners throughout North America. Homewoners read it and weep!


About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

3 Responses to Rainy Day, Chess Explained on The Wire, New Septic Info, My Rowdy Friends, Leonard Cohen

  1. how do these builders do the joinery for the driftwood shelter? also, i once heard of a company manufacturing a device for mounting floor joists in a tree (essentially a bracket on a spike i think). Does anyone know about these? I'm planning a treehouse project for this summer.
    ps. Lloyd, you inspire me.

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