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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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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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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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Monday Morning Fish Fry*

Right now I’m working on:

1. Redesign of my blog. Rick, who doesn’t think much of templates, is writing code to achieve our new look. For one thing, I’ll be able to go wide screen with good photos (a la https://cabinporn.com/) and have more control over layout than I do now in Blogger.

2. My book on the ’60s will be on the new blog in its own category (a blog within a blog). Here, I don’t feel the need to adhere to the linear necessity of a print book. I can post things out of sequence, and people can chime in.

3. We’re going to the Rebuild Green Expo in Santa Rosa on Friday, February 23rd. We’ll have a table and be passing out my “Open letter to Californians Building New Homes After Recent Fires, and selling copies of Shelter II (which contains a manual on stud-frame building) at a 50% discount. The idea is that we can do things better this time around. It’s at Santa Rosa Veterans’ Hall, 1351 Maple Avenue, Santa Rosa. Come see us if you’re in Sonoma County. I’ll be there along with Evan and Em-J.

4. We continue making videos — a couple a month. We’re working on one on me skateboarding last week, and going to do one on office workout equipment.

5. We just completed my latest book, Driftwood Shacks: Anonymous Architecture Along the Northern California Coast (82 pages, 8″ by 8″). It’s the first in a series of short-run digitally-printed small books. This is a way for me to publish some not-ready-for-prime-time books, ones that we may just sell via mail order.

We’re using Ingram’s Lightning Source, and for a variety of reasons, I’d recommend them over Amazon’s CreateSpace.

I’ll post details on the new book within a week.

The next book in this series will be Pop’s Diner — America Is Still Out There, Folks, a 48 page hand-lettered scrapbook with color photos that I put together after a 2-week trip to the southwest, April 1-15, 1989. Hot springs, barns, canyon backpacking, 4-wheel drive, Log cabins, Valley of the Gods…

6. I continue roaming beaches. Yesterday it was spooky warm for this time of year.

7. I gave up on making chairs with a tenon cutter. I’m now going to try making chairs out of driftwood, using grabbers for connections.

*San Francisco columnist Herb Caen used to have the occasional “Friday Fish Fry” column, using 3-dot journalism to write a bunch of unrelated short bits.

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SMALL HOMES Featured in Latest Mother Earth News + 50% Discount on Books For November

The December/January issue of The Mother Earth News has a 5-page article on our book SMALL HOMES.

Note: We are offering a 50% discount on our books SMALL HOMES, TINY HOMES, and SHELTER for the rest of November, with free shipping, Christmas gifts?

Details at: https://www.shelterpub.com/building/

Read More …

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Gimme Shelter — Late, Hot Summer 2017

I started writing GIMME SHELTER email newsletters about 15 years ago, maybe one every month or two. They were originally intended for sales reps (first at Random House, then Publishers Group West), to keep them apprised of our publishing activities, and then later, I added friends to the mailing list. As I got into blogging, the frequency of the newsletters dropped off.

Here’s the latest one. If you’d like to be on the list, sign up here.

Water tower near Prineville, Oregon, on my trip last week to see the eclipse

I’ve written less and less of these newsletters recently, as I’ve been blogging and now doing Instagram regularly. Made me think about all the different forms of communication I’ve employed over the years. My high school year book, running an Air Force newspaper in Germany for 2 years, then working the Whole Earth Catalog, and then — books.

Followed by, over the years: booklets, pamphlets, flyers, posters, 20-30 handmade books, mini-books, magazine and newspaper articles, videos, interviews … I’m a compulsive communicator.

These days I put up posts on my blog, but not as often, or as in-depth as a few years ago. I do Instagram almost daily and all these photos automatically go onto my blog, and to my Twitter and Facebook pages. You can check my Instagram account here; it’s a summary of posts: www.instagram.com/lloyd.kahn

Three New Books

The ’60s

I decided to do a book on the ‘60s, since there’s been so much attention given to the “Summer of Love” lately, and because as a person who grew up in San Francisco, went to high school in the Haight-Ashbury, and watched the ‘60s unfold first-hand, I don’t agree with what’s being presented all over the media; these accounts don’t coincide with what I saw happening at all.

“The Haight-Ashbury was a district. The ‘60s was a movement.”  –Ken Kesey

I started the book tentatively, to see if it was going to fly. I thought I’d give my background, what San Francisco was like in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and track my life — a kid growing up in San Francisco, college, Santa Cruz, Big Sur, the Monterey Pop Festival, building domes at Pacific High School, the Whole Earth Catalog — so readers would know where I was coming from. Rather than starting in 1960.

I started getting into it, recalling things that had been buried in my semi-consciousness. This was fun! And I realized that the ‘60s completely changed my life. In 1965, I quit my job as an insurance broker in San Francisco and went to work as a carpenter.

I’m going to illustrate it with black and white photos I took doing those years.

I’ll start posting parts of the book on my blog as I go, to get some feedback.

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