TOH Article in Today's Paper

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Posted on Sun, Oct. 03, 2004
On the House | 'TOH' may need work, but it still looks good
By Al Heavens
Inquirer Columnist
Don't interpret this as a sign of weakness or advanced age, but I've decided to reach an accommodation with the folks at This Old House.
This decision doesn't come out of the blue. I made it as I watched the rough version of the first episode of the show's 25th season, which premieres on most public-television stations at 8 p.m. Thursday. It reminded me why I started watching in the first place: I wanted to learn something from smart people in a short period without having to acknowledge publicly how little I knew.
That was 1979, as I approached homeownership for the first time; the project was in Dorchester, Mass. I couldn't believe anyone would buy a house in such rough shape. And week after week, I was in awe of how well things could turn out, if you knew what you were doing or hired someone who did.
I finished watching this season's first episode with that same feeling. Although I know a lot more than I did when I was 29 (including not to buy fixer-uppers again), I concluded that there was still plenty to learn from these guys, or at least much that I've learned that I need to remember.
As anyone who has time to waste knows, This Old House is one of at least a hundred TV home shows. Some are dreadful, employing out-of-work actors between soap-opera gigs instead of experts. Most are superfluous.
In general, they reinforce what has become an all-too-common belief among my countrymen and women: that if you whine and complain long enough, you will get what you want. Patience is a vice. And if you get what you whine about for free, you cry crocodile tears of joy in front of the camera and the actor-host asks you the magic question: "How do you feel?"
I want to throw up. How do you feel?
A lot of viewers seem to thrive on this treacle - the modern bread-and-circus offering known as the "reality show." Instead of swords and nets, our gladiators are armed with 20-pound sledgehammers and reciprocating saws.
Let's not forget the rule that everyone has to be pretty. I'd prefer the face-lifts be limited to the house, thank you. And since when is the ability of a designer measured in the number of lighted candles set up around a bathtub?
Also, though I realize medium-density fiberboard is a versatile material, if you think that the armoire Trading Spaces carpenter Ty Pennington has thrown together with MDF will be around to pass down to your grandchildren, you need to visit an antiques store for a reality check.
But back to This Old House. I've never gotten a reasonable explanation why Steve Thomas left the show after 14 years. I don't think it's fair that Bob Vila, who was the show's first host and is, too, celebrating 25 years on TV this year, wasn't mentioned in passing on the first episode - even acknowledging the 17-year-old feud between Vila and creative director/founder Russ Morash.
And it is way past the time that a woman, designer Alexa Hampton, became part of the TOH team. When you consider the number of women viewers this show still has, 21/2 decades of male domination doesn't send any message I'm interested in hearing.
I do think they also need to engage in more lower-end, everyday renovation projects.
But those are small points. The ill will between Vila and Morash isn't the viewers' problem. I liked Thomas, but he was more of a ringmaster than a host. The new guy is OK. And with shows designed to provide information, the messenger isn't as important as the message.
And the message, as articulated by master carpenter Norm Abram, is, "we fix up old houses."
This season's project, like its first, is a house the show is buying to renovate and sell. This one is in Carlisle, Mass., a town of 5,300 northwest of Boston.
There is a lot of work to do on this 1849 Greek Revival farmhouse, its barn, and its various appendages.
With wavy floors, space that barely accommodates a 21st-century lifestyle and little up to code (and they haven't even looked behind the walls yet), the $679,000 purchase price may be the smallest expenditure.
As contractor Tom Silva put it, "Drama is expensive."
The first house only cost $18,000. Drama was a lot cheaper in 1979.
Regards, Tom.
"People funny. Life a funny thing." Sonny Liston
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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Tom Watson posts:

Yeah, well, now we have the reason for my not watching right there. There is no possible way that a $679,000 fixer-upper is going to impinge on my lifestyle, so WTF is the point of watching. The costs on the first shows were at least semi-rational, if beyond the capability of most of us 25 years ago. The current line up of homes being refurbed is not related to any reality I'll ever know, unless The Donald drops dead and leaves me a couple hundred mil. In which case, I'll buy a house around here, anyway, for under a half mil, ready to go.
Charlie Self "Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
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I agree. The whole thing has gotten insane.
The local PBS station used to have a show by a guy somewhere in the midwest, who was an engineer/remodeler. He actually walked you through how to inspect a fixer upper before you bought it. Then went through how to finance it, select and write contracts with the contractors you might need, handle progress payments and lein releases, etc. He also recomended good "how to" books, so the novice could determine if a particular peice of work was something they could handle.
That was a great show, but it disapeared here after the first season. I guess the reality of the situation wasn't as interesting as watching a herd of professionals, build/remodel something most of us will never even walk through the door, let alone own.
Charlie Self wrote:

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They changed direction a long time ago. From a real "how-to" show to an advertising medium to showcase new products that Joe Sixpack will never afford to have in his house. My guess is that is what the PBS members like so the show if being fine tuned to suit them.
The Ask TOH show still has a bit of reality that most of us can relate to. Ed
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On 03 Oct 2004 13:41:13 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) wrote:
|Tom Watson posts: | |>This season's project, like its first, is a house the show is buying |>to renovate and sell. This one is in Carlisle, Mass., a town of 5,300 |>northwest of Boston.|> |>There is a lot of work to do on this 1849 Greek Revival farmhouse, its |>barn, and its various appendages.|> |>With wavy floors, space that barely accommodates a 21st-century |>lifestyle and little up to code (and they haven't even looked behind |>the walls yet), the $679,000 purchase price may be the smallest|>expenditure. |> |>As contractor Tom Silva put it, "Drama is expensive."|> |>The first house only cost $18,000. Drama was a lot cheaper in 1979.| |Yeah, well, now we have the reason for my not watching right there. There is no |possible way that a $679,000 fixer-upper is going to impinge on my lifestyle, |so WTF is the point of watching. The costs on the first shows were at least |semi-rational, if beyond the capability of most of us 25 years ago. The current |line up of homes being refurbed is not related to any reality I'll ever know, |unless The Donald drops dead and leaves me a couple hundred mil. In which case, |I'll buy a house around here, anyway, for under a half mil, ready to go.
I hate to admit it, but SWMBO and I watch a lot of the "drama" shows, NYPD, Law and Order, etc. She sometimes gets caught up in the plots and makes comments like, "They should have convicted him." or some such.
I have to remind her that, "It's only a TV show" and not reality.
I met and talked to Steve Thomas once and I made a comment similiar to my wife's, "Why do you do such expensive projects?"
His response was pretty much like mine to my wife, "It's just a TV show. It's entertainment, not reality."
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) wrote in
<<snips follow>>

I live a few towns away from that. Around here, $679,000 buys you maybe a modest 1200 square foot house on a tiny lot.
For local conditions, it might end up quite the bargain.
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John Doe responds:

Gotta be Calif. Some time ago, I was told my small house and 2 acres would be worth upwards of a quarter mil out there. Maybe 10-12 years ago. Given inflation, god alone knows now, I guess, but 100K is pushing it here, except for the 25' x 48' shop my wife and I built.
Charlie Self "Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
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Charlie ...
<<Yeah, well, now we have the reason for my not watching right there. There is no possible way that a $679,000 fixer-upper is going to impinge on my lifestyle, so WTF is the point of watching. The costs on the first shows were at least semi-rational, if beyond the capability of most of us 25 years ago. The current line up of homes being refurbed is not related to any reality I'll ever know, unless The Donald drops dead and leaves me a couple hundred mil. In which case, I'll buy a house around here, anyway, for under a half mil, ready to go.>>
In the current 25th anniversary issue of TOH magazine they have an article on the "25 Tools & materials that are revolutionizing the way we renovate our homes." With it there is a sidebar called "5 Things that have changed -- for the worse." Oddly, number 4 is "McMansionitis." Editorially they slam what they refer to as "behemoths" yet they have such a long history of revering them.
Lee
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Lee Gordon said:

Maybe they are condemning the poorly constructed crap we call McMansions, rather than their size... ?
Greg G.
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Greg ...
<<Maybe they are condemning the poorly constructed crap we call McMansions, rather than their size... ?>>
Nope. They're talking sze. The exact wording of the paragraph is "It used to be that a 3000-square=foot house was big; now it's got to be 5,000 or 6,000 feet, or more. Besides all the land and resources they eat up, these behemoths often rise over the graves of perfectly fine older homes whose only fault was being too small."
Lee
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Although many do not like Bob Vila, the show has not been the same since he left.
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On Sun, 03 Oct 2004 20:04:28 GMT, "Leon"

Agreed.
He was a good Abbot to Nahm's Costello.
He was a good Falstaff to Nahm's Henry.
He was a good Lewis to Nahm's Martin.
He was a good Sears to Nahm's Delta.
(Did I just say that out loud?!!)
Regards, Tom.
"People funny. Life a funny thing." Sonny Liston
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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Charlie, There was another article, I think it was in the same paper, or maybe the previous weekend's. Anyway, it discussed *CURRENT* prices in Calif. real estate.
The lead was that $10 MILLION bought a 'tear down'. That is, the present house {more like a compound, from the photo} was leveled so that another monstrosity could be built. It continued that $15 MILLION got you a 'starter mansion'.
Offset this with the election rhetoric, and the nightly news, indicating that a large portion of the population has NO health insurance, is termed 'the working poor', lost their job - or live in fear of that possibility, and seem unlikely to be able to retire with any comfort.
I'm must just be living in an alternate reality . . .
Regards, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop
----- Original Message -----
Newsgroups: rec.woodworking Sent: Sunday, October 03, 2004 14:45 Subject: Re: TOH Article in Today's Paper
SNIP

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Ron Magen writes:

Yeah. I'd like another alternate reality: spend 1 million to move my 2 acres to CA, then sell it for 5.
Charlie Self "Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
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|Charlie, |There was another article, I think it was in the same paper, or maybe |the previous weekend's. Anyway, it discussed *CURRENT* prices in Calif. |real estate. | |The lead was that $10 MILLION bought a 'tear down'. That is, the present |house {more like a compound, from the photo} was leveled so that another |monstrosity could be built. It continued that $15 MILLION got you a |'starter mansion'. | |Offset this with the election rhetoric, and the nightly news, indicating |that a large portion of the population has NO health insurance, is |termed 'the working poor', lost their job - or live in fear of that |possibility, and seem unlikely to be able to retire with any comfort. | |I'm must just be living in an alternate reality . . .
My younger daughter bought a 1-BR condo in Costa Mesa, CA for $95K about five years ago. Currently, it's "worth" over 250K. The older daughter bought a tract house in Brentwood, CA (the northern Brentwood, not the OJ Brentwood) for about $200K four years ago. The houses in her neighborhood are selling the day they hit the market for $450K
Tucson, where I live is going the same way. A number of years ago, IBM built a facility here and moved people in from CA and CO. They were selling their houses for big bux and needed to reinvest the dough or pay taxes on it. The real estate market here accommodated them by doubling the price of housing overnight.
About 10 years ago, Hughes Aircraft (where I worked) bought the missile business component of General Dynamics (San Diego, Pomona, CA) and closed an engineering division in Conoga Park, CA and moved those folks here. The same thing happened to the housing market.
We now have $1M building lots in this area and today's paper has open house ads from just one real estate firm for 10 houses over $1M, two of them listed by a friend of mine at $5.2M and $1.8M respectively.
Another friend lives in a gated community of upscale houses (he built his) and has "neighbors" who own million dollar houses and have never spent a night in them. They come here to visit some friend in the neighborhood who convinces them to buy something here, so they write a check.
Alternate reality indeed.
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"Wes Stewart" wrote in message

The "tax spenders" are lovin' the hell out those valuations. Ever since we got an autonomous "property appraisal district" here, the valuations have gone through the roof. 110% in the last 7 years.
Politician's can lower the tax rate a measly tenth of a percent to make it look like they've done something, knowing full well the inflated appraisals will kick the actual tax paid by 10% a year.
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I love the folks who bitch and moan when the real estate market bombs in their local and they all claim to have "lost $x million" when in reality they have NOT lost anything unless the property value NOW is less than they paid for it originally.
Saw an article on a guy crying the blues that the bottom fell out of the real estate market, and his home that he paid $50k for back when is not ONLY worth $100k, instead of the $1mil+ that the crazy market had valued it at. Should have sold it when it was valued at $1+mil or shut up
John

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I too think that some of the projects tend to run on the absurd side, budget-wise. I am honestly tired of seeing the guys going to (insert far away exotic locale here) to hand-pick hand-painted tiles for a back splash. What's next, Norm explains "The ball bearings in these full extension drawer slides were manufactured on the International Space Station just for TOH, so we are sure they are perfectly round"?
But I do admit to copying/using an idea of theirs once in a while. Sometimes I like a lamp style, deck material, etc. And the contractors they use definitely are not hacks. They build correctly and heavy duty, which I like.
IIRC, the explanation behind TOH was mainly to be a guide on how to have a contractor do the work on your house. You know, what questions to ask during the selection process, how the work should be done, etc. But overall, I prefer Hometime over TOH, if I had to choose to watch only one show.
Hey, at least we have a lot of choices.... Could be worse.                         Mark L.
Tom Watson wrote:

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Mark L writes:

Not really. Not me, anyway. I won't spend the bucks for satellite, there is no local cable, so I get something like four stations, two of them with fairly decent reception if it isn't raining or snowing out.
But that's OK. I haven't looked at a TV Guide in years, don't even read the local paper's listings. Real life is more fun.
Charlie Self "Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
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<<But back to This Old House. I've never gotten a reasonable explanation why Steve Thomas left the show after 14 years. I don't think it's fair that Bob Vila, who was the show's first host and is, too, celebrating 25 years on TV this year, wasn't mentioned in passing on the first episode - even acknowledging the 17-year-old feud between Vila and creative director/founder Russ Morash.>>
This was also the case in TOH Magazine when Thomas left the show. All references to him were purged like it was the Soviet Union and he was Stalin. That's why I was pleased to see this month's 25th Anniversary issue of TOH Magazine. They actually acknowledged all 3 hosts by name and in pictures. I have been a charter subscriber and this is by far my favorite issue.
Lee
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