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Shelter Publications World Headquarters

In the middle of a vegetable garden, hooked into the world with a half dozen Macs and a bunch of iPhones.

Built almost entirely of used wood from torn-down Navy barracks at Treasure Island (between Oakland and San Francisco) during the early ’70s.

I made friends with the wrecker, George Taylor, and we did a feature on his tools and techniques in our book Shelter.

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The State of This Blog

I wish I had time to do more blogging. But the combination of trying to keep this publishing operation afloat, doing books, marketing (how I wish we could, as author Bill Pearl said to me once, “…just do a book and it would fly out and sell like crazy.” Well it don’t happen that way. Once you publish a book nowadays, you then get into a snarl of technical requirements. The almighty metadata. At times I wish I was an author and my publisher would take care of all the marketing and endless digital requirements.

Photo by Aubrey Trinnaman

I do a lot of Instagramming, because I’m most interested these days in the 20-40 year-olds. They’re a new ball game from their padres; they are picking up on our 47-year-old book Shelter, and saying this is what I want to do. Plus Instagram is ideal for photographers, just unfortunate that Zuck wormed into it (and piles on the ads). I do like posting photos, but with blogs, you can write.

Does anyone read blogs these days?

We applied for and got approval for a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration that (if we do indeed get the funds) will pay for 2½ months of payroll. But things are still mighty thin. Bookstores are closed, and we’re trying to sell as many books mail-order as we can. We have a 30% discount for 2 or more books, with free shipping in the USA: www.shelterpub.com

I just ran across the below a few minutes ago. I had written something about our “tribe,” people who liked our hands-on approach to food and shelter, and who liked our cozy home, and the gardening, quilting, cooking part of our lives, and I had said how different our tribe was from the people who read Dwell, who I surmised to be in much greater numbers. I wrote that our people were like the book lovers in Fahrenheit 451, on the outskirts of the city, a small group of like-minded doers, but the masses were into another aesthetic. Minimal. Sleek. Expensive. And I got this comment on my blog:

This was before I started work on The Half-Acre Homestead (which is a few days away from being back in stock).

Anonymous
February 11, 2018 at 9:31 pm

Lloyd, I wouldn’t be so sure your tribe is smaller than Dwell’s … for a start, I’m pretty sure everyone on board at Dwell has read your books. More are probably following you. Your photos are abundant on Pinterest and Tumblr, and more have escaped into the wild, where they reproduce themselves in the form of strange little abodes in unlikely places.

And of course, all your photos have been seeds growing since the ’60s, every structure planting itself into a little crevice of a baby-boomer/genX/milennial/postmilennial brain … it might sit dormant for awhile, years of “normal jobs” and “nice apartments” and “valuable real estate,” until one day it sprouts through the rubble and we think, “Why not? Why not build it myself? Why not now?”

Please keep casting them far & wide … like most farmers, the principal reward for making the world a better place … is living in it.

–zolie

(Actually, it’s kind of zolie to say so, but I don’t think Dwell readers have our books or follow me.)

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GIMME SHELTER In These Troubled Times – April 2020

This is a newsletter I send out maybe once a month. If you’d like to be on the list to receive it, you can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here.


To those of you receiving this for the first time, this is an intermittent and infrequent newsletter that describes what’s going on with our publishing operation and daily lives. The last one was two months ago. I’m sorry these are so interminably long, but (yes, I’ve said this before):

“I have made this [letter] longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

–Blaise Pascal, 17th century French mathematician and philosopher

So much of what I write these days has to be short (tweets, Instagram, etc.) that it feels good to just let it rip once in a while.

Cover of the Rolling Stone

The big news around here these days (other than the end of the world as we knew it) is (was) the article on Lesley and me in the New York Times on March, 11, 2020. Journalist/writer Penelope Green and I have corresponded a bit over the years, but not in any depth. To my surprise, she emailed me after getting my January GIMME SHELTER newsletter, proposing she do a story on us in conjunction with the publishing of The Half-Acre Homestead.

Interesting, I thought, a sophisticated New York journalist picking up on our do-it-yourself California homestead.

When doing the book, there was always the issue of how much of our private lives we wanted to include. Getting covered in one of the biggest (and best) newspapers in the world was even riskier. How would we come across? A lot of it had to do with journalism. After emails and talking on the phone with Penelope, I felt comfortable with her.

She flew out on a Wednesday, came out here for about four hours, including lunch, on Thursday, and went back to New York on Friday. She got it. She liked what we were doing, what we’d done, loved Lesley’s weavings, got the history right. I was happy with the article.

It caused an explosion of emails, phone calls, and book orders. Things are just starting to settle down now.

Here it is: www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/style/diy-lloyd-kahn-handmade-homes.html

The Half-Acre Homestead: 46 Years of Building and Gardening

Dining table made of 3″ by 10″ used Douglas fir floor joists from industrial building

A lot of people are saying that this is a perfect book for these troubled times. That using your hands to create food and/or shelter is not only still relevant in this digital age, but especially applicable now, when people have to stay at home. Bake some bread, fix that leaky faucet, build a table, knit a hat, plant a vegetable garden.

We got a long handwritten letter today from a 29-year-old woman who said, “Every time I open the book, it makes me excited for a future when I can build a beautiful life with a loved one…”

If you want to review the book for any type of media, send us your address and we’ll send you a free copy. To buy a copy, contact your favorite independent bookstore, or go to our website (we have free shipping + a 30% discount on two or more books): www.shelterpub.com/building/halfacrehomestead

Note: You can get a sneak preview of the book by going to: shltr.net/homesteadflipbook. It gives you about one-third of the book.

Kids

Brother and sister planning their first homes with one of our mini copies of Tiny Homes

I gave one of our Tiny Homes mini books to a 10-year-old working as an apprentice at the Proof Lab Surf Shop in Mill Valley. He flipped through the pages excitedly and then said, “This is what I want to do. … This is so sick!”

Biennale Architettura 2020

This architectural exposition scheduled for this summer in Venice was to have an exhibit of “…the content and influence of three iconic counterculture publications on organic architecture published half a century ago by now 85-year-old publisher and builder Lloyd Kahn — Domebook One (1970), Domebook 2 (1971), and Shelter (1973) — on contemporary architecture practices.” They sent me a round-trip ticket and three nights lodging, and, as you might guess, it’s been called off. I’m hoping that sometime in the future I can finally see Venice. And boy, to be recognized by architects — that’s something new.

Stretching: 40th Anniversary Edition

By having to stick around here, I got the layout done a lot sooner than if I’d been running over the hill every week. Publication date is October, 2020. Here are two of the new pages:

Working on it has made me think about posture. Hold your phone up at eye level. Stop bending over to look at it. Pull your shoulders back and relax them. Try a few of the above stretches if you’re at a computer reading this.

Sheltering In Place

Our life isn’t all that much different. Lesley doesn’t have her friends over for tea these days, I don’t meet my running pals on Tuesday nights, but we have a lot to do in our daily lives around here that’s pretty much unchanged. The cooking, gardening, fixing stuff, weaving, getting firewood, dealing with critters such as mice, ants, skunks, and gophers — running the publishing business — it’s not like were cooped up; it’s pretty much business as usual.

And there are the good things amidst all the gloom, throughout the state. LA has some of the “cleanest air of any major city in the world.” The tourists, which have become onerous out here in recent years, are not clogging the roads on weekends. People are cooperating and helping each other out, neighbors helping neighbors, masks (Lesley’s made about 30 of them for friends) and gloves and distance now part of daily life just about everywhere.

I like it at home! By staying home, I’m more in tune with the weather, the tides, and the rhythms of the surrounding land. I’m doing more foraging, hunting, and fishing. I’ve been making nettle tea every morning; it tastes good and has a lot of healthy ingredients (steep leaves 3 minutes in boiling water, add small amount of honey). Also collecting and eating miners’ lettuce, watercress, a few mushrooms, wild onions.

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”

–William Morris, 1834–1896

A few weeks ago I took a 3-mile round-trip kayak paddle and got clams, mussels, and seaweed (the latter to dry and grind into powder to put on just about all foods). I’m making an annual calendar with harvesting times for various wild plants, Like like early summer for cattail pollen, later summer for cattail shoots, early fall for Manzanita berries and huckleberries … there’s a lot of wild food everywhere. Now there’s more time to get it.

I’m certainly not the first to say it, but things are seriously out of whack on the planet — all being made worse by our loathsome president and his greedy, vicious cohorts. It’s as if the planet is conscious (the Gaia hypothesis), and taking steps to stop planetary abuse and untrammeled consumption. One can only hope that when it’s over, the world economies will do a reset. The problem is, the most vulnerable are suffering the worst.

Making Do

I’ve come to realize lately that there are a ton of used things in my life that I’m nursing along, and that I get a lot of satisfaction from making do instead of buying new. A few examples:

  • Replaced damaged plastic knob on teakettle with piece of madrone
  • My 20-year-old Mercedes E-320, bought for $4000, a fantastic car
  • My 10-year-old Smartwool merino wool jersey, with patches and holes
    (my blankie)
  • Coffee roaster top held together with high-temperature silver tape
  • 70-year-old (family heirloom) wooden pruning ladder, still working fine
  • Stool re-covered with piece of old Persian rug
  • 25-year-old Evinrude 15 hp outboard, motor rebuilt twice

The Aging Body

One of the things I learned working on fitness books in the ’80s and ’90s, was that it’s not so much age that makes you lose strength and agility, as it is disuse. People stop using their muscles and they deteriorate. I read about a 35-year-old doctor who broke his leg skiing. When the cast came off, his leg was shriveled, “…like the leg of an old man,” he said. It’s the “use it or lose it” principle. If you stop using your muscles, they’ll shrink, and you’ll get weaker. It’s not that aging doesn’t take its toll, but steady exercise — if possible — is key to staying healthy and fit.

Bob Anderson, author of Stretching, my frequent running partner through the years, told me once: “You never hear anybody say, ‘I’m sorry I worked out.’” So true. Every time I hike, walk, paddle, ride a bike, or lift a few weights, I feel much better. Especially paddling; something about being in the (cold) water and getting an upper body workout leaves me feeling energized and happy.

My New eBike

I started competitive running at around age 50, did it for 20+ years, and quit racing 10 years ago due to knee problems (I wanted to be able to walk for the remaining years of my life).

I started skateboarding at age 65, and kept at it for maybe 20 years until I broke my arm pretty badly a few years ago. I didn’t give it up right away, but the trauma made me tentative, my skating awkward, and I lost my confidence. Sigh!

My latest activity, at age 85, is with my new Specialized Turbo Levo Fattie pedal-assist e-bike, Is it exciting! I know that hard-core mountain bikers don’t exactly love bikes with motors, but there are three reasons I finally made the jump. First, you get a break when you’re over 80. Second, our good family friend Bryce, a professional bike guy, had bought this bike for his wife, and she decided not to keep it. It was the perfect size, the perfect bike, and I got it for a healthy discount. The third reason, which I discovered on my first ride out into the hills, was that it was fun. Really fun!

It’s changed my life, in spite of the fact that I was crossing a big puddle on a fire road yesterday and the wheel sunk down, and I went over into the water on my side, along with the bike. That’s why my leg and arm are covered with mud here. No real harm, just embarrassing. I squirted the bike and me off when I got home, and I’m going out again today to pick nettles and mushrooms. After a lifetime of riding a bike, this is like having superpowers. You’re going up a steep hill and you kick in the motor and it’s like someone is pushing you from behind. And this bike is beautifully designed, it not only has power, but it’s a kick-ass trail bike.

Lesley has had a Rad eBike for about 6 months now, that she uses to pick up groceries downtown and to visit friends (once that’s possible again).

The State of Shelter Publications

The coronavirus has closed bookstores, and much of our income is cut off. This isn’t exactly unchartered territory for us, because we’ve been in the red for about two years now, and could well be out of business in the next year. We’ve applied for a Payroll Protection Program loan, as well as an Economic Disaster Loan, but the processes are confusing and disorganized. We’re looking into getting a grant, or an angel that would help us keep us rolling (paying printing bills of about $40,000) until we get some income from the new version of Stretching. At that point we hope we’ll be self-sufficient enough to do another 5 or 6 books and keep our communications hub operating for another 5 years. We’ll see.

In any event, it’s been a great 50 years, and a privilege to have been in such a wonderful business, and to have followed our hearts in whatever we’ve done.

In the meantime, we’re going to, as the Scots say, och wheesht and get oan wae it.

On My Blog


My Instagram account (8400 followers): www.instagram.com/lloyd.kahn

Shelter’s Instagram account (13,000 followers): www.instagram.com/shelterpub

Música del día

Springsteen, Sam Moore, E Street band live at 25th anniversary of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “Hold On, I’m Comin’”



““Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

–High school football coach Eric Taylor, Amazon Prime series “Friday Night Lights”

Over and out…

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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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Reflections on the State of This Blog

I’ve been doing this blog since 2005 — 15 years. Over 5½ million page views. Over 4 million unique visits. I was most active in 2012-13, when I was getting about 3,500 page views a day.

But as the years went by, I posted less and less. I started putting up photos on Instagram a few years ago; it’s a photographer’s dream, except for the Facebook factor (like the increasing ads). I put in a lot less time blogging world these days, partly due to Instagramming, partly due to the fact that I have to concentrate on books to keep us afloat.

The best way for you to keep up with what’s going on around here these days, and with me, is to get on my GIMME SHELTER newsletter list. At this stage, with the social media blizzard, email is a form of communication out of the past that suddenly seems to have a new relevance.* I’m writing for a select group of people (latest count about 2,000), not winging it out into the socialnetworkosphere.

If you want to get on the list, subscribe with your email address here. I send one out maybe every 4-6 weeks these days.

*It’s not that “The old is new again.” It’s rather that the old is being looked at in a new light in this digital age, and being rediscovered for its relevance, its soulfulness, its imperfections.

Música del Día: Iko Iko, Dr. John: (Listen to his piano notes at very end of song.)

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Zucked – And How!

Check out this new book.

Facebook is turning out to be a horror story.

Go to Amazon here and read the author’s prologue in the “Look Inside.” Please read this if you use Facebook. It’s chilling.

…democracy has been undermined because of design choices and business decisions by Internet platforms that deny responsibility for the consequences of their actions. How the culture of these companies causes employees to be indifferent to the negative side effects of their success. At this writing, there is nothing to prevent more of the same.

It’s giving me second thoughts about using Instagram. Rick Gordon pointed this out to me yesterday:

You may be shocked to find out that once you post on these sites (Facebook, Instagram), that although you still ‘own’ the photograph, you grant the social media sites a license to use your photograph any way they see fit for free AND you grant them the right to let others use your picture as well.

Sheesh! I had no idea. Instagrammers, photographers, check this out: www.shltr.net/zucked

From Tom Bissel’s review in the 1/29/19 edition of the NY Times:

…McNamee saves his most conspicuous outrage for Facebook’s amoral leadership at the hands of not just Zuckerberg but also his chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, whom McNamee recommended Zuck hire before she could take a job at The Washington Post. McNamee describes their grip on the company as “the most centralized decision-making structure I have ever encountered in a large company.” Their power dyad is possible only because Facebook’s “core platform,” as McNamee puts it, is relatively simple: It “consists of a product and a monetization scheme.” Non-tech companies with comparable global reach (Coca-Cola, Exxon) must deal with complex real-world infrastructure issues as well as the needs of a highly diverse work force. Large corporations also typically create interrelated eddies of economic activity, whereas Facebook’s business model is founded upon sucking the economic activity out of otherwise productive workers. Most troubling of all, a company whose product is used by one-third of the planet has only 30,000 employees. In every imaginable sense, Facebook is a Borg-like drain on the world’s economy. It doesn’t make you better and likely makes you worse. Unlike Exxon, it can’t even get you to Albuquerque.…

…McNamee’s book is … a robust and helpful itemization of the ways Facebook could be brought to heel. McNamee clearly believes the company can be made into something more benign, and perhaps even socially beneficial. That may or may not be true, but the damage it has already done is not precisely containable. Considering the high likelihood that Russian activity on Facebook may have tipped the 2016 election to Donald Trump, the damage is already of generational measure.

But here’s the bizarre quirk of the Facebook dystopia, whose sheer perversity would have likely pleased Orwell: It’s all Big and no Brother. Our time and lives are the company’s only currency. Without our continued attention, Facebook quite literally has nothing, and its empire could be brought down with a feather. Now, blow.

Comments?

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99 Years Ago…

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

–H.L. Mencken,
Baltimore Evening Sun
July 26, 1920

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Whole Earth Catalog’s 50th Anniversary

Here’s a video made for the occasion. I was the shelter editor for several incarnations of the Catalog, including The Whole Earth Epilog.

“Meet the creators of the Whole Earth Catalog and the community they inspired. This video history of the Whole Earth culture covers 50 years of collective innovation in just 38 minutes.

“Whole Earth Flashbacks” takes you on a dazzling journey through time, from the first Whole Earth Catalogs to the Co-Evolution Quarterly, the Whole Earth Review, the Hackers Conference, the Well, Cyberthon, Wired, Burning Man and the 10,000 Year Clock, to name but a few.

These projects have one thing in common: they gave access to tools and ideas to help people bring their dreams to life — and change the world together.

This video retrospective features many creative minds and thought leaders: Stewart Brand, Jay Baldwin, Stephanie Mills, Lloyd Kahn, Ted Nelson, Doug Adams, Steven Levy, Andy Hertzfeld, Howard Rheingold, Jaron Lanier, Wavy Gravy, Kevin Kelly, Larry Harvey, Danny Hillis and Steve Jobs, in order of appearance.

Whole Earth Flashbacks was created by Fabrice Florin, with the help of over 60 community members…. Our video premiered at the 50th Anniversary of the Whole Earth Catalog on October 13, 2018, at Fort Mason in San Francisco.…”

https://vimeo.com/album/5479545/video/294878432

(In the 2nd row of the above collage, 2nd from left, is a fisheye shot of me in my dome at Pacific High School in 1968.)

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Three-Dot Wednesday Morning Fish Fry

Came across the ever-beautiful Golden Gate Bridge 6:30 this morning, in my 19-year-old incredibly luxurious Mercedes E320, latte at my favorite North Beach cafe, listening to my fave DJ, Michael de Barres on Sirius radio (forever indebted to Lew for Sirius), the Underground Garage station, Michael an English rocker (and musician) who plays bad-assed rocknroll…Bon Jovie: Runaway; Aerosmith: Walk This Way; Billy Idol: “Rebel Yell;” Dire Straits: Money For Nothing.…The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) is really marvelous. The first 3 episodes are radiantly funny, Rachel Brosnahan is brilliant…it can’t maintain that level, but the other 5 episodes are still worth watching…A few nights ago, we came across a White House event: “Smithsonian Salutes Ray Charles: In performance at the White House.” I looked at the Obamas and almost cried. This elegant, soft-spoken, soulful man, and his strong, beautiful, soulful wife.…On the drive in this morning, I thought about seeds. Years ago, in planting carrot seeds, I thought: I’m putting these seeds here, information packets that tell the natural world how to organize ands coordinate soil, water sunshine and air and  – voilá – carrots. Milagro!…Through our building books, we  have lots of fans. I try to think how big a group this is. Smaller, for sure, than the minimalist, sterile Dwell magazine crowd.…Probably, what we (our group) have in common is the desire to use hands in creating shelter, and (some) food. Maybe we’re the Handmade Homemade group…I’m kind of excited to start a blog on the ’60s. What didn’t work as a book may work online. Think about it: you read a book right-to-left — it’s linear. Online you’re going up and down; you can hop around at a click. This may be the way to convey my take on the ’60s. Tossing things out there in not necessarily linear order. Feedback could be great. Hey, family of kindred spirits out there, send comments with your ’60s experiences (blog should be up and running by early March)…Fun to practice 3-dot journalism. Non-linear…Now out to make the rounds in this vibrant and beautiful city…Leather store for copper rivets/plumbing/hardware search for 10MM tubing for blowgun/art store for pen to do hand lettering on our next short-run color book, Pop’s Diner — stay tuned; delivering 12 copies of our new Driftwood Shacks  book to Mollusc Surf Shop, to Trouble Coffee, check out Outerlands restaurant/go swimming in cove (Aquatic Park)/Irish coffee, watch surfers through windows at Cliff House…Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Great White now playing…

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Friday Night Fish Fry

Last (rainy) Friday night, 5 of us (Dipsea running friends) went over the bridge to San Francisco and had dinner at the R&G Lounge (specializing in deep fried fresh Dungeness crab). then to Vesuvio’s bar next to City Lights, which has had like 70 years of good vibes; Patrons that night looked like good people. Pic below is of a little tableau on the wall with miniature figures, maybe 26″ wide by 16″ tall (can you see the ghostly image at top left?) (Photo by Jakub)

I’m sort of taking a month to get reorganized with my work and at the same time reintegrating myself with the physical world, after a couple of years of being injured, then recovering from shoulder surgery — let me tell you the details — just kidding. Suffice to say I’m hiking more, clamming (tuning up my 12′ Klamath boat with vintage 15 HP Evinrude outboard for saltwater exploration and fishing, trying to remember to stretch. It’s so easy to get sucked into sedentary pursuits, like sitting in front of screens and neglecting the body in which the mind is, after all, housed.

I’ve done very little blogging in recent years about what’s going on my life, partly due to Instagram and partly because after 5000+ blog posts, I realized it wasn’t bringing in any income — so I slacked off on blogging.

I’ll be spelling out my future plans, including a new blog — my take on the ’60s –in my forthcoming GIMME SHELTER email newsletter, something I send out every few months to about 600 people. If you want to be on the mailing list, send me your address at lloyd@shelterpub.com.

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