Dwelling and Structure in
The Early Historic Period

Molly Lee
Gregory A. Reinhardt

(University of
Alaska Press)
When you think of Eskimo Architecture, you probably visualize blocks of ice piled atop each other to form a round dome with a little hole in the top. Wrong.

There are Eskimo architects who have been heavily influenced by American and European schools of art and design. For instance, the Netsilik Eskimos have constructed a miniature replica cathedral --- some twelve feet tall --- of Le Mont-Saint-Michel, made out of ice blocks, dew-drip snow and blubber. The Kuuvanmuit of Kobuk River have demonstrated their admiration of Frank Lloyd Wright by making a 10% scale copy of Fallingwater, complete with icy stream, cold air and leaks.

The Chukchi have long worshipped the Eiffel Tower, and by means of whale-bone, sealskin, and ptarmigan beak have constructed a 50-foot replica in Northern Siberia. And one group of Innuit, using special glazed ice cut from the Noyatog River, have constructed a four-sided exact copy of New York's IBM building. They use the structure for storing dead reindeer and penguin feet.

Incidentally, Eskimos don't use ice blocks for structures. They use blocks of newly-fallen snow. These are technically called "Canadian Eskimo Snow Houses." According to the author, these houses are built in November or December and usually last the winter. In the spring they just melt away, which is what is something we would like to see in the 150-unit Las Gaviotas housing development down the street.

Each snow block designed for igloo building measures 30 by 20 by 6 - 8 inches. After stacking these, a vent is cut in the top and a door is set in the side. The whole is then closed tight to keep out the wind, the cold, and the thousands of anthropologists from American universities who crowd villages like Kinngait, Thule, and Shaktoolik to interview the Inuit on their favorite foods, family entertainment, and sex life.

Lamps are used to warm the space "but also glaze the dome's interior surface with a windproof shell of ice." A window of freshwater ice is mounted in the snow house facing south, and is "hauled along by sled from camp to camp all winter long." A snow house eight feet in diameter can be built in an hour and could accommodate five to six persons, fifteen dogs, or my rotund but rascally Uncle Ferd.

The authors have culled material from four Arctic subregions: Greenland; the Central Arctic; the Northwest Arctic and Bering Strait; and Southwest Alaska, the Bering Sea, Siberia, and the Gulf of Alaska. There are almost 150 drawings, sketches, and photographs, showing examples from the four regions. I just made up all that stuff at the beginning about Mont-Saint-Michel being made from ice, bone, and blubber but don't tell anyone.

--- Ignacio Schwartz

The Freedom

179 Things to do
'Til the Revolution

Claire Wolfe
The Outlaw's Handbook expects that the worst of the worst will happen ... hell, maybe it's already started. Economic disaster, the police or military gone mad, or maybe being spied on by your local supermarket --- in the form of Costco cards or the like --- or a day coming when you and I will have no water, no electricity, no car. Or a night when you'll find a police informant in your closet, hiding under your old shoes and tennis rackets.

Those are Wolfe's fears, and this book is a how-to-do-it surviving in such a world. How to get a driver's license without a Social Security number, how to keep your telephone calls from being tracked, how to become self-reliant, how to survive "Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Attacks."

Then there's the simple advice department. That you should always have a "three-day grab-and-go kit." That you should get out of debt completely: (not being in anyone's computer helps with your need for privacy).

Or you should consider moving to New Hampshire and becoming an activist in the organization called the "Free State Program." (The idea is that 20,000 people working together means more in a small state than in, say, California or New York.)

Then there is advice on how to find out what the barcode on the back of your driver's license reveals about you. There's also information on how to "fry" RFID chips (electronic chips that have been sewed into the very clothes you are wearing). And simple facts: that you should know that a poisonous and very dangerous chemical explosive exists right now, in your own car. Where? In the propellant of your airbag system. It's sodium azide that, when mixed with lead salt, is a "shock-sensitive primer explosive."

Then there is the suggestion that you start hanging out with Mormons. Who? The author tells us that they are "the best people on earth when it comes to disaster preparedness." They have the best survival stores in Utah, with excellent "buying clubs" for bulk goods. "Don't go shooting them," says Wolfe. "They'll shoot back and you deserve it."

--- Mary Flanders

Earth from

Andrew K. Johnson
Remember back in 1963 when Stewart Brand decided that the most important symbol in the world was the world, a blue-white-black photograph of earth taken from one of the earliest satellites? In the first Whole Earth Catalogue, the symbolic globe --- a colored ball of thread --- was included in every photograph.

Now they've got so many satellites up there taking shots of you and me and our world that Reason Magazine recently was able to produce an issue that included individual personalized covers: a photo of each of their 44,000 subscribers' homes. This was just to let their readers know that they were being watched. By those who run the world out there. Without our specific permission.

Firefly has produced a lavish volume with over three-hundred colored photographs of mountains, clouds, seas, hurricanes, cities, forest fires, islands, vegetation, ancient monuments and, best of all, you. There you are in the window of your house, watching reality TV, scratching your groin and sipping a cocktail. Aren't you ever going to go to bed?

The narrative is your standard can-you-believe-this? 6th Grade English: "The Coriolis effect is a factor only over large areas --- much larger than the width of a sink." Or: "Global-scale air circulation patterns are also visible from space." Or: "Sometimes the ocean's cycles can have drastic effects on global climate." Well ... duh.

My favorite pix are "Island Wakes" showing vortices ("vortex streets") created in the atmosphere; flowing ice from the Lambert Glacier in Antarctica; Typhoon Higos of 2002 with an eye looking at us (looking at him); the Island of Hawaii appearing just like one of those vulva-ey paintings by Georgia O'Keefe.

Then there are open-pit mines in the Atacama desert of Chile producing copper and disgusting trails of tailings; and an even more disgusting shot from near Tucson, Arizona of hundreds of old military jets now in storage but originally bought at the cost of $60,000,000 per and then declared obsolete a few weeks after delivery. Want to guess how many starving people in the Sudan you and I could feed for a month with 60,000,000 clams?

Most pictures have been enhanced. If you were out there looking in and the world, what you would see, mostly, would be blue, green, white --- and, at night, lovely chains of light through England, the Benelux countries, Japan, the northeast and west coasts of the United States --- but nothing at all in the great deserts of Africa, the steppes of Russia, the Himalayan mountains, the ocean depths. It's the darkest silence that speaks to us with the greatest, gravest, gentlest volume.

--- Carlos Amantea
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