And, They All Look The Same…Part One…

15 03 2012

Malvina Reynolds – Little Boxes

...And, they all look the same...

Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same
There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one…


As we all know, musical lyrics ofttimes reflects our culture. The preceding lyrics are a great example…

The other day, a facebook friend used the term ticky tacky to describe a photograph, that he had posted, of a local, typical, modern American subdivision. And, I thought, hmmmmmmm…

…The post reminds me of previous blogs in which I ranted about the out-of-control size of the current American residential boxes (and no, I don’t consider most of these homes), its proliferation in crowded subdivisions, and the resultant destruction of precious green-spaces…

…The post also reminds me of my previous discussions about the beauty, quality, character, and value of many of the wonderful, older homes of some of the great American neighborhoods of our past…

That same evening, I had a conversation, with a real estate agent, regarding the subject and, well, hmmmmmmm…

…We both agreed that most American subdivisions are a travesty and that there is beauty in many of the older neighborhoods…

…But, she said…many families, looking at the older homes, find it difficult to deal with small closets, not enough room for larger furniture, out-dated mechanical and electrical systems, etc…

All of a sudden, I felt a blog subject coming on.

…First though, I must digress…I had to look up the lyrics to the song and refresh my memory of what caused that recall. I was fascinated to discover (thank you Wikipedia) that the song was actually written, by Malvina Richards, in 1962 as … a political satire about the development of suburbia and associated conformist middle-class attitudes…   I, of course, knew this was not a  profound revelation;  the issue of urban sprawl, destruction of the environment, the degeneration of the American Home has been haunting us for decades. But, what a great, classic reincarnation from the age of real activism…

Now I was convinced. I knew that I must, once again, weigh in on the subject. But, I felt the need for a new angle…

…I’ve already written a pretty nice three-part series regarding the out-of-control sizes of the modern American house and its impact on our environment, economy, and culture…

…And, what I really want to talk more about the treasures of some of the wonderful, older homes that are still out there…

So here we go, this entry begins a multi-part series looking into the state of  American neighborhoods and homes. I plan to talk with a few of my contemporaries in design, construction, and real estate about the pros (that I’ve previously shared) and the cons of the these Old Homes that I am seem to be so attached. I also want to attempt to bring a little historic and cultural perspective to the subject. Lastly, and as always, i will try to balance the philosophical romanticized side with the pragmatic.

Stay tuned and, enjoy…



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All Hail Marilyn Hagerty!!!

13 03 2012

OK, this really isn’t about architecture, or even art, per se; but it is about appreciating what works nicely in your sphere of influence and avoiding the pitfalls of snobbery.

Judy and I are self-proclaimed foodies and are usually very selective about the restaurants, particularly chain-restaurants, that we frequent. We happen to live in a region in which we are within driving distance of some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in existence and enjoy sharing those experiences with family and friends. So, I was intrigued, this morning, when I saw the news clip, on television, about Marilyn Hagerty’s review of the local Olive Garden in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I was equally intrigued when I went online to read the growing number of stories about her and her review; I wondered, out loud, What did she say that was considered gouache or inaccurate?

She said:

“The chicken Alfredo was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese.”

“The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.”

“My booth was near the kitchen, and I watched the waiters in white shirts, ties, black trousers and aprons adorned with gold-colored towels. They were busy at midday, punching in orders and carrying out bread and pasta.”

“All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks. It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here.”

Well I, for one, agree with Ms. Hagerty; Judy and I have eaten at our local Olive Garden, many times, and have found the atmosphere, the service, the food, and the value a perfect fit into our busy schedules. One of our favorite items is the lunchtime Unlimited Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks. Yes, as Judy pointed out, the meal is high in sodium and fat but, it is still a tasty and satisfying lunch in a great atmosphere.

Now, having said that, I will go back and qualify our credentials; while we consider ourselves foodies,  we have not eaten in all of the many highly rated restaurants of the world (which food critics have?) nor do either of us carry the credentials of a highly respected food critic (and, that’s also subjective). We do, however,  consider ourselves decent cooks in our own right, eat out (a fair amount), and have friends who own “A” list restaurants; so, take the following with, at least, a grain of really good salt…

Shouldn’t going out to eat, as in art and architecture, be a gestalt experience including atmosphere, service, food quality, service, value?

We have gone out to some highly rated eateries and been profoundly disappointed; and, it was usually based on one of the criteria, above. We  are well aware that many of fine cuisine dishes, that we have enjoyed, are equally loaded in sodium and fats; we have been tortured by rude and slow service; we have had the over-done, poorly presented, freshly prepared specials; and, have paid astronomical prices for those experiences.

We have also gone into many of the national chains in which the managers and staff take great pride in their establishment; they keep it spotlessly clean and fresh; they work hard to insure that each dish is prepared precisely according to its recipe; and we have enjoyed great value in our experience and investment.

We have also lived a spent a fair amount of our lives, in smaller towns and communities where the  new chain is a welcomed addition to the local and limited selections of fast-food (and, I’m not slamming fast-food, you just need that dining experience on occasion).

So, here’s to the Marilyn Hagerty’s of the world and their efforts to provide the right perspectives for their audience; for being unbiased; for understanding gestalt; but, most of all, not being a snob.

One last comment before I close:

Judy and I have been craving KFC, lately, and i may just go out and get a bucket of “finger-licking good” for dinner, tonight!








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