Over my vacation the other week, I went to the book store and read the current issue of several home improvement magazines. This post
over at Nightmare on Elm Street got me thinking, what is the purpose of all these magazines?
I looked at the following magazines:This Old House:
Okay, I didn’t look at this magazine at the book store. It is the only home improvement magazine to which I have subscription. I agree with most of the criticism that this magazine (and the TV show) receives. The biggest problem is that only a small minority of Americans can actually afford to build/remodel on the scale these folks do. On more than one occasion my wife and I have considered letting our subscription lapse, but we inevitably find one glimmering bit of information that makes getting the magazine worth it, a tool review, a small how to tip, or some other gem.
And, even though many of the designs shown are out of our price range, they do serve as a valuable point of departure. Scarlet has come up with some inspired design ideas that were sparked by something seen in this magazine.Old House Journal’s New Old House (Summer 2006 Issue):
This wasn’t a bad little magazine. It too falls into the who-the-fuck-can-afford-to-do-that? category, but I did glean a few interesting bits. The most interesting bit was on what a correctly proportioned classic was and why most architects have not one clue what the hell one is.Old House Journal:
I’ve always been ambivalent about this publication. On the one hand, the folks care really care about old houses. They’ll give you some good how-to tips, they spend a lot of time covering how things were done back in the old days, and they support a high level of craftsman ship. On the other hand, the kind of anal-retentive attention to detail they bring to these same topics colored with a seeming distaste for those who don’t do it “The Right Way” (usually a historically accurate restoration) irritates me. Sometimes I wonder if I’m hypersensitive, but I’ve talked with other folks who feel the same way, so I’m guessing there is something to it. Still, it’s worth reading from time to time.Victorian Homes Magazine:
This magazine was a real surprise. First, it doesn’t really tell you how to build or remodel anything. It’s did give some Working with Contractors 101 Tips, but that wasn’t too interesting to me at this point. I knew I had to buy the magazine when I found two pieces on house moving; one was a letter to the editor and the other was a full article. I’ve never seen anyone write about this so I HAD to have it. It has some nice period trivia too. Definately a fun read.
There were tons more to look at, but I quickly ran out of time. It seems that these magazines represent the zenith of home improvement projects: High dollar, high end features, and more of an example of what is possible than what is affordable a Working Joe or Jane. The better ones give you some tips and advise, but few give you a step-by-step of any value to an amateur. If you want that, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Also, by virtue of being magazines, they lack any sort of meaningful interaction. Sure, you can write a letter to Norm, but, if you receive an answer at all, it’ll be in a later month’s magazine. For all intents and purposes, it’s left for you to cipher out what you need to know from their magazine (back issues included).
To return to the Old House Journal editorial that has all the housebloggers
talking, maybe we have some cause to take umbrage, but I didn’t think the editorial was too bad once I read it myself.
If you take a look at Mr. Bock’s short bio on the Old House Journal website, you’ll note that he is not only an editor but a professional contractor with years of experience. I could see how someone who worked in construction for a living might not see the significance of having step by step photos for every job no matter how small. On the other hand, he’s clearly missed that for people who are doing this for the first time with little to no prior experience, every step is important.
Houseblogs fill a particular niche in the home improvement universe; as I’ve stated before, I think they will be around for a long time to come.
So, what does that make us? Home Improvement Punks.
Really, it isn’t much of a stretch. Without wading in too deep, punk music and culture tends to be all about a Do It Yourself, working class, antiauthoritarian approach to everything. It’s all about subverting the system, doing things your way, and indulging your tastes counter to the mainstream. Buying a falling-down, nearly condemned house counter to your friends, family, and bankers best advice, and reviving it in accordance to your tastes with your own two hands is the epitome of the punk movement. Who ever thought that homeowner ship could be an act of subversion?
If housebloggers are the punks of home improvement, I guess that would make Aaron & Jeannie our Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood (congratulations, it think). When I registered the Devil Queen on Houseblogs, I think the Queen was houseblog 48. As of today, there are 288, and I suspect that number will continue to increase. No one is making us do this, so there must be some compelling need and intrinsic value to these blogs.
On that note, have a good weekend. Tomorrow I'm going to dig out my old Dead Kennedys CD's and try to kick the kitchen sink's malingering ass for once and for all. You know, invest in some more sweat equity, abuse my own two hands, and subvert the order of the universe.