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SunRay Kelley's Natural Materials Temple

After a Friday morning of marketing brainstorming with my man Kevin Votel of Publishers Group West, I went to see my wheelchair-bound friend Sherman in Oakland. Even though Sherm pretty much can't move any of his limbs, he still manages to play jokes and practice mischief. From there I headed up to see my friend Louie on the Mendocino coast, with a diversion to Harbin Hot Springs to soak in the hot hot pool where the water comes in at about 110° straight out of the canyon. While there I shot this photo of the temple built by SunRay Kelley, a masterpiece of natural and sustainable materials and organic design. Right now I'm in Louie's studio looking out on a sunny meadow against a backdrop of redwoods and hooked up via a s-l-o-w modem. Such are the compromises of being in the beauty of the country.

The Band & Muddy Waters - Mannish Boy(Live)

The real Muddy Waters, late in his life, performing with The Band in their Last Waltz concert in San Francisco in the '70s.

The International House of Cards is Collapsing

Our production-meister Rick Gordon sent me this on the recent financial collapse, his email was titled: (Happy New Year [anyhow] from Rick Gordon):

The bottom of this SF Chronicle article —
Market meltdown: Where did all the money go?
— has an interesting analysis of the the market crash. I've also quoted the pertinent portion below (my emphasis added):
Charles Biderman, chief executive of TrimTabs Investment Research in Sausalito, has a different explanation. He says that from the market's bottom in 2003 until its peak in 2007, the market value of all publicly traded stocks worldwide grew from about $20 trillion to $45 trillion.
During this period, only about $1.5 trillion in cash went into the market. Debt accounted for some of the remaining increase in market capitalization, but most of it existed only on paper. "Market capitalization and money aren't necessarily related," he says.
Suppose a company has 1 million shares of stock priced at $100 each, giving it a market value of $100 million. Over the next few days, someone buys $5 million worth of stock. Speculation drives the share price to $140, and suddenly, the company has a market value of $140 million. In this case, a $5 million investment has created a $40 million increase in market value.
Is the company really worth $140 million? Not if everyone tried to sell their stock at once. The first person might get $140, but everyone else would get less, probably much less. "It's not any different than a Ponzi scheme, a legal one," Biderman says.
The same thing happens in real estate. Suppose the house next door sells for $700,000. Suddenly, every family on the block thinks their house is worth $700,000. But if everyone on the block put their house on the market, everyone could not get $700,000.
Multiply that by just about every asset class in the world, and you'll get a sense of what happened last year. "The perceived value evaporated," says Ken Winans, president of Winans International, a research and money management firm in Novato. "Are there trillions of dollars that have simply evaporated? The answer is yes."
An enlightening and entertaining analysis of how deep this process is — and why even if the stocks were only valued at their actual cash investment, it would only be a drop in the bucket — can be found in this 47-minute video:
  Money As Debt
(Don't get discouraged by the 16 seconds of blank video at the beginning.) Check it out.

Happy New Year!

Shingled 2-Story Home in Berkeley

I left home about 6 this morning. It was driving rain. I came along the coast and thick fog slowed everything to a crawl. Mountain on the left, crashing ocean 500 feet down on the right. Finally out of wild country to the freeway, hooo! Civilized, mon. Into Berkeley, a fine charming, exciting city. There are 1000s of great homes in Berkeley and Oakland, like this one I passed an hour ago. Why can't architects design something this simple and elegant?

An Observer in Present-day Palestine

A house built on stilts in the Palestinian village Bruqin to avoid paying taxes (Palestinians pay according to square footage on the ground!). This is from http://www.annainthemiddleeast.com/,which I just ran across today: Anna Baltzer's observations in Palestine. The blog's subtitle: Anna's Eyewitness Reports from Palestine: Stories & photographs from a Jewish American's peacework documenting human rights abuses & supporting nonviolent direct action in the West Bank with the Int'l Women's Peace Service

I got into blogging with mixed feelings a few years ago. I didn't want yet another electronic obligation, but I keep running across wonderful and/or interesting stuff in the world and want to pass it along. I started out doing long blogs, once or twice a month, and have evolved into every few days. I'm into it. So if you check me out once a week, you'll see what I'm running across in this new and changing year. In February I'm heading to Costa Rica to live in a surfer's shack on a beach near the Pacific Ocean border with Panama. for a few weeks, then to Panama City on a bus and then get a flight to Brazil, in part to visit Johan van Lengen and see his wonderful school for ecological building in the Atlantic rainforest, where he says there are "…no lack of birds and butterflies, not to mention monkeys and all kinds of snakes…" I'll be blogging when I can.

High-Clearance Mercedes Truck

I shot the pic of this tough looking Mercedes truck in Baja California last October. Looks like it could go just about anywhere.

Hopi Cornmeal Ceremony for Newborn

For some reason I just remembered the Hopi corn ceremony for firstborn, where the first thing a newborn baby sees is the rising sun:
"When a child was born his Corn Mother [an ear of perfect corn whose tip ends in four full kernels] was placed beside him, where it was kept for twenty days, and during this period he was kept in darkness; for while his newborn body was of this world, he was still under the protection of his universal parents. If the child was born at night, four lines were painted with cornmeal on each of the four walls and ceiling early next morning. If he was born during the day, the lines were painted the following morning. The lines signified that a spiritual home, as well as a temporal home, had been prepared for him on earth.
[Numerous small rituals were performed until] early in the morning of the twentieth day, [and] while it was still dark, all the aunts of the child arrived at the house, each carrying a Corn Mother... and wishing to be the child's godmother....and each blessed the child and gave it a name from the clan of either the mother or father of the aunt. The yellow light was by then showing in the east. The mother, holding the child in her left arm and the Corn Mother in her right hand, and accompanied by her own mother-- the child's grandmother-- left the house and walked toward the east. Then they stopped, facing east and prayed silently, casting pinches of cornmeal toward the rising sun.
When the sun cleared the horizon the mother stepped forward, held up the child to sun sun and said, "Father Sun, this is your child," [then repeating] this [while] passing the Corn Mother over the child's body as when she had named him.... The grandmother did the same thing when the mother had finished. Then they both marked a cornmeal path toward the sun for this new life."
-From Book of the Hopi by Frank Waters, 1963.

December Elegance in Manhattan/Architectural Excellence in Los Angeles

QUAIL 333 left this as a comment on one of the postings today, but since our "comments" feature is temporarily disabled, I'm posting them here. For lovers of NYC and LA, both fabulous cities.



Jumping Off Cliffs and Flying in Wingsuits

They fly at 100 mph, skirting cliffs, until they eventually open their parachutes.
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=1778399 (for larger video)

(From Lew Lewandowski)

The Plichta Tricksters

My two youngest friends, Jonas and Sasha Plichta come to visit every once in a while. They are passionate about the natural world: bones and feathers; butterflies and mushrooms; whatever moves, or dies, or is observable in the natural world. For years I have been picking up what I find in the woods and on the roads, and have quite a collection of skulls and skins and feathers. Mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish. We look through the stuff when they visit. This was on Saturday and Jonas wandered into my office and came back with the skunk skin as a hat and a smirk. (Once before he'd said to me: "I tricked you.") His brother put on my bobcat (roadkill) skin. Later, we went with their parents to the beach, while these two studied the tidepools and found things I'd never have seen. They were like two walking microscopes. Hey Lloyd, look at this tiny eel. Hey Lloyd, look at this (sea urchin). Hey Lloyd….They have a pure wonder of the Natural World.

Cadillac Records: A Movie That Sucks

Let the Mediocre Times Roll
This thing is a real disappointment. I had read Mick la Salle's review in the S.F. Chronicle saying it was pretty good and I obviously have way different musical tastes than Mick. When the opening scenes rolled, with cotton field workers, and then Muddy Waters walking down the train tracks, and the candy-ass, idylilc backgrounds, I went, Uh-oh! Phony. The guy playing Muddy Waters: no way! Muddy was a powerhouse. This guy can't hold a candle, and his voice is weak. The plot is a mess. The guy playing Little Walter was good, and the Howlin' Wolf guy has a brooding presence, but Mos' Def as Chuck Berry and the other musicians, who unfortunately sang in their own voices, don't cut it. The exception is Beyonce as Etta James. her voice and presence, even the body language when she sings her first song, do Etta credit. But other than her, it's too bad to see such great musicians and such powerful music get watered down for the mainstream (I guess) audience. Grrrr! Give me the real thing!