The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Punks

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.

12 Comments:

Blogger amanda said...

1. If we had more time, we should start a "real" home improvement magazine... we could have articles entitled things like: "Measure twice, cut once, go back to Lowes, or how to avoid the drive of Shame." or "Ebay, cheap stuff that you may or may not get screwed on."

2. Knowing the OHJ editors background really helps put the article into perspective. Thanks for letting me know that- it makes more sense now.

3. I love the idea of being the punks of the home improvement world. That's awesome. I'll have to tell Aaron that one.

1:34 PM  
Blogger derek said...

I think some people read home improvement magazines as more of an escape, they want to see stuff done at a higher level even if they don't do it themselves. Being a home improvement punk sounds like a compliment to me.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

Here I thought that I was completely going corporate small town America and losing my angsty punk edge!

Now I know....damn the man!

Oi!

4:08 PM  
Blogger Patricia W said...

I remember when This Old House started out, many moons ago. Bob Villa and his group used to do really down-to-earth things by themselves using the tools they had and cheap materials, showing you how you could do it too.

Then in came a bunch of yuppies who had more dollars than sense who would buy some decrepit old barn and decide it would be utterly quaint to turn it into a house, but not have it look like one. The first thing they did was decide all of the original siding (solid milled pieces of wood often 10 feet long and over 5 feet wide) would need to be replaced which would soon lead to everything needing to be replaced except the gargantuan support beam running the full length of the barn. What a freakin' joke.

4:21 PM  
Blogger jm@houseinprogress said...

Man, I think being Vivianne Westwood is a HUGE compliment! What a gal! If only I could be so cool. (Thank goodness you used punk and not alternative, because, Courtney Love, eh.)

Though, I think of houseblogs.net as throwing a concert for people who are more rockstar than we are. We're just web lackeys.

5:35 PM  
Blogger StuccoHouse said...

I finally was able to track down the OHJ article (much to my surprise B&N in my city said they dropped it), and I too didn't think it was that bad. It was written with a bit of a tone of irritating superiority....and cluelessnes as to what is happening online. I think he needs to talk to some of the national TV news channels to see what bloggers can accomplish ;-)

I subscribed to TOH for a couple of years. I think the mag. is better than the show as far as practical solutions, but in the end I got bored & let it lapse. I got OHJ for a number of years, but now find I get more help - on demand - on line, so I let it lapse this summer. I pick up American Bungalow & Fine Homebuilding ocassionally. I will, however, get Martha til the day I die :-)

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Brenda from Flatbush said...

The magic word for glossy mags is "advertising." The magic word for most houseblogs is "reality." They tend to be mutually exclusive worldviews!
(Since our house is still punky-looking after all these years, I totally love the paradigm...)

4:39 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

great post. I like the analogy. I was more edgy in my younger days and have always tended to be outside the mainstream a bit.

3:31 PM  
Blogger purejuice said...

there's a really good book on zines and their origin in punk culture, of which the kicker is that the future of zines is the internet. (not least because you can upload lots of pictures.) it is called Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture, by Stephen Duncombe, and i really recommend it.

shelter porn mag freak that i am, i was a serious devotee of Budget Living when it was run by its founding editor...Sarah somebody. but she actually believed in budget living with style and ran features on same from front to back. won prizes as best startup.

but budget is bad for advertising, and corporate kicked her ass out. now it's about...i don't know what. cheap purchases. whereas sarah was all about really stylish, avant-garde, home-designed fabulousness.

it's a corporate thing.

power to the people.

and thanks for all your work, i dote upon your saga. not have a stylish truly creative nitty gritty magazine to read anymore.

6:15 AM  
Blogger purejuice said...

i'm sorry, i'm spamming here. but Dwell to which i just subscibed, is also a very rich woman's plaything, which is kind of annoying, until i remember that hereditary aristocrats are always greens and it is the best use for their billions. still it's annoiying for it to be overlaid with shopping binge madness (femme) and toolie lust (butch). neither of which are really Green.
aaaaaaaaaaaanyway. great post.

6:20 AM  
Blogger HomeImprovementNinja said...

Hmmmm....So does that make you Sid Vicious?

2:27 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Ooh, goodie! I've never been punky in my life (though I did find Punky Brewster's outfits super cool), so I feel very special to be included in the ranks.

I still haven't read the famed article. I mostly like shelter mags for the purty pitchers.

1:46 PM  

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