Chris Ryan’s Take on the Present Situation

Chris Ryan is not only a highly respected podcaster (Tangentially Speaking), but the author of two great books: Sex at Dawn (NYTimes best-seller) and Civilized to Death, which is one of the most relevant-to-the-times (and to-my-life) books I’ve ever read. He just sent out this email:

Hey you –

So here we are. I won’t say I predicted this, but I was kind of nervous about getting Civilized to Death published before the end of the world as we know it. Looks like I just made it!

Seriously though, we’re living through increasingly interesting days. I often wonder whether my rapidly shifting sense of things is due to my getting older (rapidly) or if it’s an accurate assessment of an accelerating reality. I’m gonna say 25% the former and 75% the latter. I mean, I remember watching the mess unfolding over the deadlocked election in 2000, thinking, “The United States is falling apart.” Then I watched the U.S. stumble into inane wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I thought, “This is how a dying empire behaves.” Then I woke up one day a few years ago to the realization that Donald Trump — a shithead who’s been on my radar since I lived in Manhattan in the mid-’80s — was president. President! Of the country!

And now this.

I don’t need to review the bad news for you. I’m sure you’re getting plenty of that. But here’s some good news: Things can change dramatically and quickly. Who could have predicted two months ago that the entire world economy would be shut down, passenger air traffic basically frozen, air quality vastly improved, and the price of oil cut in half?

In a world where these things are possible, what else is possible? UBI (Universal Basic Income)? Respect (and much higher pay) for nurses, grocery store workers, home health workers, and other people who are essential to our lives, but taken for granted? Universal health care for Americans?

There will always be great resistance to anything that pulls money and power away from the rich and powerful, but they’re off balance right now and common people are feeling desperate and afraid. There’s power in that desperation. It can be harnessed for bad (blame it on foreigners, Democrats, hippies, blacks, etc.), or for good. Let’s pull toward the good. Maybe, together, we can make something better than what we had a few weeks ago.

Now go wash your hands.

–Christopher Ryan

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Wonderful Houses Around the World

Yesterday I read in the paper that sales of children’s books are booming, due to schools being closed. This brought to mind our one and only children’s book, Wonderful Houses Around the World, by photographer Yoshio Komatsu and artist Akira Nishiyama.

There are 10 photographs by Yoshio of homes in different parts of the world. All the homes are built of natural materials — earth, wood, thatch, sod, bamboo, and stone.

Each photo is followed by a watercolor drawing of the inside of that home, showing the children and their parents going about their everyday activities: food gathering and processing, cooking, sleeping, working and playing.

The book is timely in this day and age: it shows what people do in their homes. Timely also because it’s great educational material for kids being home-schooled: look at what what kids your age are doing in other parts of the planet.

Yoshio is my favorite photographer of homes in the world. Not only are the homes invariably soulful, but his composition and lighting are perfect — and he has a knack for making people feel comfortable, so that the homeowners look natural, often laughing.

The book is $12.95 and you can order it through your independent bookstore, or from:

Note: We have a money-back guarantee on all of our books (no matter where you buy them). If for any reason you are dissatisfied, call us and we’ll return the full purchase price plus shipping. No need to return the book.

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Sauna on Wheels

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This immaculately built sauna on wheels rolled through town 3 weeks ago. Built by Jeremy Tuffli (shown here [in white T‑shirt] seated with Evan Kahn), and Joey Pepper. They use it for events. Stove is from Finland, roof and trim are copper. (I didn’t get a full-on shot of the roof; it’s really beautiful.) Jeremy said he was inspired by our book Tiny Homes on the Move to build a camper, then went on to building saunas. The guys are next headed to Mexico City, financed by Vans to build a skatepark.

Jeremy is among a group of young builders (like Jay Nelson, Foster Huntington, Tucker Gorman) who are carrying on in the tradition of Lloyd House, Louie Frazier, Bruno Atkey — a new wave of carpenter poets.

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Sailboat Sauna in British Columbia

About two years ago I was standing in the shower and had a vision of a sailboat turned unto a sauna. When I got out and dried off I started drawing plans. It felt like it was what I should be doing, so I just kept building it until it was done. The boat was originally called the Sea Mystic, we painted a “T” and an “M” in the name to make it Steam Mystic (my brother’s idea).

I live in Victoria BC and love designing and building things like saunas, tiny homes, surfboards, small shops. For me, it’s about more creative designs, more diversity in the world, more mystery. I like to follow my gut when it comes to design; there is an emotion that I’m trying to bring to life. Sometimes my hands can capture what I feel, and what I dream for the world; sometimes they can’t.

–Nick
Nicolas Joel Van Buren
Ontological Creative
Victoria BC, Canada

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Handcrafted Homes in Pennsylvania Woods

A terrific article in today’s NYTimes (3/16/20) online by Michael Snyder, with great photos by Chris Mottalini.

Everything about this story and the photos struck me as right. I felt at home here. I love the rumpled bed in the second photo. I also like the idea of an “alternative to modernism.” 

How Two Children Are Keeping Their Father’s Design Legacy Alive

A pair of Pennsylvania homes constructed by the Japanese-American furniture designer George Nakashima have become an enduring testament to mid-century folk craft.

“From 1946, when he founded his studio on a three-acre plot in New Hope, a historic artist’s colony halfway between New York City and Philadelphia, to his death in 1990 at the age of 85, Nakashima devoted his life to transforming slabs of walnut, cherry, burled maple and redwood into coffee tables shaped like pools of water, Shaker-style chairs with hand-whittled spindles and dining-room tables fashioned from slices of tree trunks, their cracks and seams bridged with joints like butterflies caught in amber. ‘He felt his work was a form of integral yoga: How you work and live is all connected,’ his daughter, Mira, 78, told me on a damp, gray morning last fall while showing me around the grounds of the studio, which she has run since her father’s death. Organic, improvisational and individual, the tens of thousands of objects he made in the course of his lifetime were also functional, meant for daily use; they were, Mira says, “the antithesis of Modernism, a protest against mass production.”

“But the homes where Mira and Kevin live, patinated and imperfect and crowded with debris, more fully capture the spirit of mingei. Less an antithesis to Modernism than an alternative to it, such projects embraced 20th-century idioms while refusing to accept industrial mass production as the fundamental fact of modernity. ‘Dad always said that building furniture was just like architecture but smaller,’ Mira says. In his houses for his children, the opposite holds true: Like Nakashima’s tables and chairs, they can be read as works of folk art, useful objects that, as Yanagi wrote, ‘honestly fulfill the practical purpose for which they were made.’”

www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/t-magazine/george-nakashima-legacy.html

Article sent us by Elizabeth Kirkland

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Our Friends in Brazil

We have been talking recently to our friends at the Solisluna publishing company in Brazil about translating our book Shelter into Portuguese. We sent them a copy of our new book, The Half-Acre Homestead, along with three of our mini-books and our wooden model of a tiny home. They just sent us this email and photo.

Hi Lloyd,

I hope you’re doing well.

I received your material yesterday and I would like to thank you a lot for sending me this marvelous book!

Here in Solisluna, we’re all enchanted by it. Wonderful work, so meaningful.

A great legacy for the world. Congratulations to you and Lesley.

Best wishes from Bahia,
Kin and Solisluna team

P.S.: Shelter has been translated into Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Korean.

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