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A 'Walden' for the YouTube Age (theparisreview.org)
87 points by prostoalex 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments

"The channel does not focus on historically accurate building techniques. It does not offer explanatory tutorials."

As far as i can see from his blog[0] and YouTube channel[1] he does extensive research on the matter, logs and explains everything down the the centimeter.

I see that the author comes from an Literature background, but in my opinion the author of this article should have done better research on Primitive Technology's author (and other great examples, Dick Proenneke[2] comes to mind first) and his methods, and not just stop at the FAQ in the About section of his channel.

I would also have liked a quick mention about how this extremely popular YouTube channel doesn't have advertisement.




I couldn't get past the first couple of sentences without a real eyebrow-raise:

"Primitive Technology: an oxymoron, perhaps a logical impossibility"

How exactly is this an oxymoron?

"Technology" implies some sort of advancement, whereas primitive denies it. It's fair to point out it has more than a whiff of oxymoron about it in the natural reading.

But you might prefer "paradox"; an apparent contradiction. Like many other paradoxes, this paradox resolves itself once you learn more. But certainly at first there seems to be a contradiction in play, again, with the natural reading of the terms.

I think most definition of technology don't have "advancement" in it. It literally means the "science of craftmanship". So primitive technology is neither an oxymoron nor a paradox. Certainly, not a logical impossibility.

I was and am referring to the common understanding of the term, not a particular dictionary definition. If I say "envision an example of technology" and the first thing that leaps to your mind is a stone wheel, a club, or a campfire, rather than a syringe, computer, space ship, robot, car, or similar, fair enough, for you it's not oxymoronic/paradoxical, but I'd say that puts you in the minority.

A lot of things about this piece irk me but probably the two biggest ones are 1) the author kind of doxes the PT guy. Yeah he revealed his name on FB but he clearly preferred to keep it anonymous so I think it's wrong to be throwing his name around. 2) a lot of this is grasping for literary connection and some kind of academic prowess. Primitive Technology as a name is not an oxymoron. He's creating technology...that is primitive. Why complicate things.

Kind of ruining a great channel here.

Turn on the closed captions, which contain more details about what is going on in the videos.

Walden has stood the test of time. We'll have to wait decades or centuries to see what works of today stand that test.

> So why have the videos attracted millions of viewers?

People seek meaningful and purposeful activities and have mostly given up on them for themselves. In the realm of protecting the environment, they think things like "If I do X by the rest of the world doesn't, it won't make a difference," so they give up. They give up similarly with values, hopes, and dreams around work, family, fitness, politics, and so on.

They don't realize they've abandoned their values. Watching others live by theirs reminds them that you can live by your values. They dream they might follow as they passively watch, their muscles atrophying and waistlines growing.

Maybe some will get off their couches, stop looking for "out there" by airplane, and instead looking inside to realize they could do what the guy in the videos does. Or at least try.

I wouldn't blame the people. I would blame what passes for a modern "educator". Putting a student in 'contact with beauty' of a subject is easy. Getting them on a disciplined track to mastery is another matter entirely.

For those who want to do the latter, it's not enough to be passionate and skilled in your subject. You have to deeply understand how discipline can be produced in a student.

When I was young it was the book "Roughing It Easy" (http://a.co/0pRgu6V) that had a similar appeal to me. Perhaps it was a more innocent time — I felt it spoke more to "Huckleberry Finn" than to "Doomsday Preppers".

I'm happy this guy's YouTube channel is popular.

I just find he runs out of things to do, and that the videos have become repetitive. There's only so much you can do.

I think the appeal is the lack of spoken narrative.

The author digs at Thoreau a bit for 'duping' readers. To be honest the presence of society/others were some of the best parts of the book(the French Lumberjack)

If you saw him building new shelters again, it's because he started over from scratch on a new property he brought.

If you've watched all of Primitive Technology, Survival Skills Primitive is not quite as good but has a larger variety:


The appeal is clear. He's a one-man minecraft crafting table.

I get that it's all setting the stage for the comparison to Walden, but in attempting to place Primitive Technology in the context of modern day the author fails in a way that practically screams "I have never built anything with my own two hands."

I like the concept, getting close to nature is good (sometimes) and 'we' (city dwellers) seem to have lost this touch.

I also liked the geometry used, on the last photo [1]. I believe that he started building by first putting the stone on the ground, then he used the stick (on the ground) to establish fixed radius from the center (stone) and ensure that he puts the "pillars" in equal distance from the center. It would have been easier if he was to use 6 (distance between two consecutive "pillars" = the radius) instead of 8, but I believe that would improve structural stability and slightly increase "building" surface.

[1]: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/...

Art out of Nature https://youtu.be/q262DGh6QeM

Michael Reynolds - El Guerrero de la Basura https://youtu.be/xbAShCCwENM

I happen to read Walden these days (almost done) and I am questioning the critic of Thoreau in this article. For one, Thoreau admits that he is not pure (also questionable is his definition of 'pure' and whether it matches the authors definition) and also mentions throughout the book that he sometimes would dine as a guest somewhere but it's unclear whether he rooted for those occasions from an eating standpoint or merely a social one (maybe a combination of both? maybe he tricks us to believe the later? Or he really didn't care about his food as long as he wasn't starving?).

I haven't seen "Primitive Technology" but the oft aired PBS-hosted series "Alone in the Wilderness" sounds like it did comparable things for me. The impact of watching a man build a cabin with only hand tools and using no electricity alone in the Alaskan interior, here narrated in the gentle voice of Dick Proenneke, left me with an appreciation for the self-reliance and craft of a day long gone.


Thoreau wasn't just living on borrowed land. The contemporary railroad ran through his backyard. It's a close enough walk from his cabin that in any other circumstance, the property value might be affected.

Somewhat similar to PT having his cellphone on him, maybe?

tl;dr Walden is kind of like this youtube series because both are artificial looks at a rustic way of life and we like them anyway

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