history (14)

Eric Cline's Seminar on the Collapse of Civilizations After the Bronze Age—Synopsis by Stewart Brand

“Archaeologist Cline began by declaring that the time he would most like to be transported to is the Late Bronze Age in the Mediterranean—the five centuries between 1700 and 1200 B.C.  In those centuries eight advanced societies were densely connected—Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Canaanites, Hittites, Cypriots, Minoans, and Mycenaeans.  They grew to power over two millennia, but they collapsed simultaneously almost overnight.  What happened?

The density of their connection can be learned from trade goods found in shipwrecks, from Egyptian hieroglyphs and wall paintings, and from countless well preserved clay-tablet letters written between the states.  The tin required for all that bronze (tin was the equivalent of oil today) came from Afghanistan 1,800 miles to the east.  It was one of history’s most globalized times.

In the 12th Century B.C. everything fell apart.  For Cline the defining moment was the battle in 1177 B.C. (8th Year of Ramses III) when Egypt barely defeated a mysterious army of “Sea Peoples.”  Who were they?  Do they really explain the general collapse, as historians long assumed?

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History Of the Whole Earth Catalog and The Birth of West Coast Publishing

I wrote this article 27 years
ago, so to bring the first sentence up to date, “It was 48 years ago…” Egad!
Its purpose was to describe the
impact of the
Whole Earth Catalog on a
number of people, including me, and the birth of west coast publishing in the
late ‘60s. 
I ran across it recently and
thought it might be of interest in helping people connect some of the
dots—especially younger people, who may have heard of the WEC, but don’t
understand its significance.

t was 21 years ago, a cold, dark,
early December evening when I walked into a semi-vacant storefront in Menlo
Park, California. A sign out front said ”Whole Earth Truck Store,” but
there was no truck, no store, just an army-camouflage VW bus and Stewart and
Lois Brand and a ton of books piled around in the back room. I was a
dropped-out San Francisco insurance broker turned builder. I was about 10 years
older than the inspired and visionary kids who were moving and shaking up
America at the time, but I’d got the message and in a few years preceding that
evening had latched onto many of the elements that were fueling the cultural,
metaphysical and epochal revolution of the times.
I had just built a homestead, then
a geodesic dome workshop in Big Sur, was tending a garden, listening to rock
& roll, making weekend trips to Haight Ashbury, reading The Owner Built
Home, Organic Gardening & Farming Magazine, The Oracle, The East Village
Other, The Dome Cookbook, The Green Revolution
, getting food by mail from Walnut Acres, listening to
Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan, discovering B.B. King, Ali Akbar Khan,
Buddhism, Alice Bailey, astronomy, astrology, prisms and Ashley automatics,
learning about ferrocement, wind electricity, solar heating…what a time it was!

Having run a base newspaper in the
Air Force, I had a journalistic bent and as all this information began
manifesting in the mid-60s and, especially since people were starting to write
me for dome building instructions, I thought I’d mimeo up some fact sheets—so I didn’t have to
write every person individually.
Stewart saved me the trouble. He
had more information, a game plan, the financing, and went on to publish
the first Whole Earth Catalog in fall
’68. (I still have that crude, funky and by now tattered first edition—one of
my treasured books.)
It was an instant hit. Contributing to this were Stewart’s pithy haiku-like reviews, and very accurate and complete access information on all the books and items reviewed. I joined forces and went on to
edit the Shelter section of three of the catalogs. To go back a
bit further while still in this “credit-where-due” mode, The Dome
by Steve Baer in early 1968 gave me the first
flash of insight. By God, I could do a book like this! Funky typewritten text,
grainy photos, handwritten afterthoughts in the margin—just do it!
Stewart was also obviously
influenced by this 11”x14″ staple-bound account of Baer’s mathematics and
the building of chopped-out car top domes in Colorado and New Mexico. It sold
for $1.
At the WEC I learned about typesetting, design, editing, on-the-spot
paste-up and dealing with printers. In 1970 I published Domebook One and a year later Domebook 2, both with my friend Bob Easton, and found myself in the publishing
business. That’s where I still am today—it all began with Stewart, Hal, Annie,
Cappy, Fred, and Steamboat and it led a surprising number of us into permanent
publishing careers.
That’s the personal) and specific
of it. The general and significant of it is (was) the birth of nationwide
distribution of West Coast books. When the Fall 1969 WEC sold 100,000 copies in four weeks, New York’s attention
was got. New York meant major distribution muscle. Agent Don Gerrard signed the
WEC up with Random House, then under
editor-in-chief Jim Silberman’s lead, and I followed with Domebook 2, starting my 30-year relationship with Random House as our distributor. Anybody’s Bike Book, Living on the
Earth, The Tassajara Bread Book, The Massage Book
, Shelter and
others all burst onto the national scene in the late ’60s-early ’70s.
It was as if CBS had given a dozen
homemade West Coast videos prime time. It marked the beginnings of Ten Speed
Press, Shambhala Publications, and our own publishing company, among others.
Until then, there were no timely, hip, quickly and organically produced West
Coast books that were in tune with the times and getting major national
distribution—books not conceived, edited or censored in NYC. It was a
revolution, one greatly aided and abetted (and overlooked by the press) by what
germinated in that Menlo Park storefront in 1967.
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Swimming, Birds, Coffee,Stone Age Polynesian Sailors, and a Harley Davidson Pickup Truck

Ocean I took a last swim yesterday before leaving the hotel in Kapaa, with fins and some new goggles. Saw fish, coral, sandy spots. Got out and swam 4 laps in the very nice fresh water pool just outside my room. I walked past a hotel guest on my way out of the water and he said, You looked at home out there. Well, all right…Headed north to Hanalei…
Birds All of them are new to me. A flock of little (finch-size) cinnamon brown ones with black heads, elegant color combo, that flit around like a small cloud, staying about 15′ from admiring humanoids. A small grey/white one with a scarlet head. Small doves with blue beaks.
“I like coffee, I like tea, I like the java java and it likes me…Right now I’m at the Hanalei Roasting company with a 16 oz latte and a waffle with papaya and banana slices and, er, um — whipped cream. No wi-fi —  hey-hey-hey; makes me think of Mung Noi, Laos village reachable only by water, and no motor vehicles. Remindful in the sense of being in a different world from my normal coastal (east + west) everything’s-on-all-the-time mileau.
Kindred Factor I feel at ease with people here. Brother/sister appreciators of the ocean and the earth, tuned in to the beauty of the physical world.
Stone Age Polynesian Sailors It seems that around 3-400 AD, Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands reached Hawai’i (as well as Tahiti sand Easter Island) in wooden dugout sailing canoes, carrying plants and animals. They had maps made of sticks and shells. When I get time I’m going to Google around for “Discoverers of the Pacific,” which appeared in National Geographic Magazine in Dec., 1974. Also book with fascinating title, The Vikings of the Pacific, by Peter Buck.

The S. V. Kauai The size of Kauai is exquisite. 25 X 35 miles, a ship in the sea. Multiple climatic zones, clean fresh air. It feels like I’m out in the Pacific in a (stationary) sailboat, with the ocean moving around me.
Note on travel writing: my blog is hardly viral. It’s down from 2,000 people a day to about 1,000 these days (am posting less), so I’m not worried too much about ruining great spots by describing them. I feel that readers here are more or less like-minded people and should they visit these places, they’ll be tuned-in and welcome visitors.
Hanalei is stunning, but I liked Kapaa a lot. The comparison is a bit like San Francisco/Oakland, or Medford/Ashland. One drawback in Kapaa is the traffic jams. I guess if you live there, you try to travel the highway during off hours. This is Sunday, can’t believe this is only my 4th day here. Oh yeah, I’m staying in  a nicely-converted school bus belonging to newly-met friends on the outskirts of town here.
Old Harley pickup truck in Kapaa
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