Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

Home at Museum of Modern Art

Went to the exhibit at MOMA on prefabricated housing because wasn’t sure we’d get up to NYC again before it closes in October.

Models, drawings, parts of houses dominate the 6th floor. They have
five contemporary manufactured homes which have been installed in an
empty lot next to the museum. The link is

One person has bemoaned the lack of attention to trailers and to all the recently homeless people.

The neo-shotgun house in the parking lot hit on Katrina, but they missed the opportunity by not putting in a FEMA trailer.

The show hardly addresses the issue of the single-family house and the suburban lifestyle of the U.S. They don’t talk about why most of the prefab buildings that are worried about the use of resources don’t maximize the use of land. One of the few multiple unit prefab places in Moshe Safdie’s Habitat

It’s fascinating to place all this in light of the housing bubble and foreclosure run that’s going on in many places around the world.

Robert Samuelson might have concerns with the economics of expanded home ownership as it has been practiced over the Clinton and Bush Administrations

The issue is not only who owns a home but what kind of home do they have? If a museum won’t take the politics on then who will?


Washington DC Lively Statues

What do you think of when you think of DC’s statues and monuments?

guys on horses, abstract war memorials, the Mall?

In the days when they built most of the men on horses statues it was commonly thought that viewers would have the same reaction of thankfulness for heroic men and their heroic deeds.  They didn’t and now one wonders what visitors and residents of the capital city think when they pass another mounted warrior?

Sullivan’s article in Washington Post makes you think beyond warrior statues.

The physician Samuel Hahnemann Memorial near Scott Circle is not as glorious as the memorial for sculptor Mirian Adams in Rock Creek Cemetery.

Courtesy of DC Cultural Tourism:

I’m glad he picked Jim Henson and Kermit and the canoe rowing in front of the Canadian Embassy as they’re both fun and very unique.

A personal favorite that I share with many a DC visitor is the Boy Scout Memorial in the President’s Park on 15th Street. Most see this as a highly homoerotic piece.

Houses in American Culture

Anybody see this editorial on the housing crisis from today’s Washington Post?

The scholar makes several good points about the nature of housing in the country. Home ownership was limited and Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the religious as well as the architects all thought that housing would promote moral character. He doesn’t mention that in the culture “home” inspired a range of values in U.S. culture, including nostalgia, intimacy and privacy, domesticity, commodity, delight, austerity, comfort, and well-being.

He mentions that these people thought the tenements and apartment houses lacked the privacy necessary to raise moral children. Actually, those housing reformers of the late nineteenth century he discussed perpetuated the belief that tenements were still improper environments for living. They claimed that this type of housing served as breeding grounds of crime, juvenile delinquency, prostitution, and disease.

Most Americans believed that apartment buildings and any other kind of shared dwelling were aberrations of the model home that promoted promiscuity and wifely negligence of duties toward the home and her children.

The two biggest areas that I include in my book that he neglects to mention is that houses soon meant other things in the culture than vessels for creating moral character. Houses demonstrated the homeowner’s high status in the community.

Popular magazines described the mansions of the elite and nouveau riche in urban and suburban communities around the nation. These homes strove to present elegance and historical roots that demonstrated the class and importance of the owner. Today’s McMAnsions do the same thing for the same reason just for more people.

The owners favored for their residences architectural styles, such as Second Empire, Romanesque, or Renaissance that carried connotations of power. Most significantly, these depictions of the social elite households presented spotlessness, order, and tranquility as the foremost personality traits and values of their owners.

The author notes that in the twentieth century more people owned homes. Not surprisingly, the purpose for a house began shifting. The house’s stylish echoes now showed the owner’s personality.

Some owners adopted the newer architectural styles, such as Arts and Crafts. These places also set their owners apart by creating the impression that innovation and adventure figured into their personalities. Media depictions of prominent people’s homes involved showing them inside very larger and expensive houses, demonstrating their ranking through the size and cost of their homes.

The article pays little attention to gender and home ownership. The piece cites a home building in 1950 who said, “No man who owns his house and lot can be a communist.” Most depictions of houses that showed women showed them as the Mrs of the house.

Intriguingly, one of the few places where women as home owners appeared is in items as Hollywood. Here actresses and others owned their homes and showed their personalities.

Classic Hollywood Relationships

I was flipping through Saturday’s Washington Post and came across an obituary for actress Evelyn Keyes.
In everything from comedies (The Seven Year Itch and Here Comes Mr. Jordan) to drama (Gone With the Wind), she parlayed the career into a gossip column with the LA Times.

Her wild personal life reflects the attitudes of Hollywood. She married many times but explained, “I was married sure, but those weren’t marriages, they were legalized love affairs.” She had these with John Huston, Charles Vidor and Artie Shaw. Meanwhile, she had affairs with Kirk Douglas, David Niven and Anthony Quinn.

Mamma Mia: Camp Riot

The Regal on 7th Street opened up a second theater for the Mamma Mia preview crowd last night. With its references to Titanic and Priscilla Queen of the Desert to the dance mise en scene that conjurred up thoughts of the swimming pool scene from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the great M-G-M musicals. This movie knew the queers would come out. And the young girls liked it too!

While the Abba stickler in our crew bemoaned Pierce Brosnan’s signing, our resident Broadway critic didn’t think Meryl Streep sold the signature song: “The Winner Takes it All.”

I love Christine Baranski’s performance and she looked fabulous in the costumes.

Get your grove on at – 47k

DC’s Tennis Stadium

The Washington Kastles stadium is a throwback stadium. No, it’s not retro a la Camden Yards and its many imitators that cost hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars.

It’s throw back because it is simply a playing surface and a few stands erected around that surface. The stadium stands on a small portion of the old Convention Center lot, on New York Avenue near 11th Street, NW. This is the way baseball was in Washington during the early 1880s when Capitol Park sat on the Capital Grounds or when the Nationals played at Florida Avenue and 7th Street in the 1890s.

The stadium is a temporary structure and goes up quickly and at a small cost. The location is near many offices and highly accessible to both the Metro and the buses. Spectators can grab dinner at any of the many nearby eateries after work then walk on over to see the tennis. Last night I saw many looking at the art exhibit that lined the walkway on the stadium’s east side. The pieces are photographs commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts. One critic’s favorite was The Memory of Tomorrow, by Ira Tattelman and Thomas Drymon, is another terrific mural — the photograph of a wedding explores the body, light, time, and space, and the active quality of the image makes you feel as though you’re a part of the wedding itself.

Kastles stadium, Washington DC

Kastles stadium, Washington DC

Madonna, A-Rod and Sexual Rumors

Madonna keeps her marriage, Alex Rodriguez doesn’t.
Did they or didn’t they? What about Lenny Kravitz and Cynthia? As one article notes: what kind of friends are they anyway?
The titillation factor is enormous.
You’d have to assess that each would benefit equally physically but I’d say Madonna benefits much more from the publicity. Since the early days of Hollywood, the entertainment publicity has toyed with stories of romances and affairs, while the sports world’s public face seeks to portray wholesomeness.

But as an article on AfterElton notes, there is much more to gossip then the enjoyment of celebrity peccadillos.
Gossip as a publicity strategy is as old as Hollywood hoopla. It provides information;
it serves as a strategy to negate invisibility; to negotiate a public declaration of one’s sexual orientation. It serves as a method of subverting the dominant culture.

The article on gossip is at

Waive That Flag

I wake up this morning; open the Washington Post and am amazed to see that a Michael Gerson editorial almost has something positive to say about Barack Obama.

The guy has turned almost every editorial he has written over the past months into criticism and attacks on Obama. It was utterly predictable that every topic would turn into an Obama attack by the second column of newsprint.

Why is this national newspaper giving some former speech writer for Bush all this ink space? Other speech writers criticized the man as someone who took credit for their work— hmm, some good Christian.