Monday, September 24, 2007

Fritz and I are in host mode for the next two weeks. A Danish couple, friends of his for many years, are visiting with us and we're taking them all around the area to see and do things. They've had us over three times in the last ten years to visit either at their home in Helsing, about an hour north of Copenhagen, or at their summer house in the far west of Denmark, on the wild and beautiful Jutland coast where Issak Dinesen's "Babette's Feast" takes place.

We're cooking for each other (I'm baking lots of bread, which they seem to enjoy very much, and doing a Moroccan lamb Tagine tomorrow night), and generally having a very good time. The still life above occurred last night as dinner was being prepared. They're now joining us on the daily trips up the hill to check out the latest on the new house's development

This shot, taken from the northeast shows the master bedroom wing (foreground, left) and the central core of the house as of today. The extent to which the first floor of the house sits into the ground at the back is highlighted by the fact that the sills of the square lower level windows are actually about five feet three inches above the level of the floor inside.

With one main truss over the great room raised into place and the second one finished and ready to go, work has shifted slightly to finishing the roof on the west (left) side of the house. Shane (aka Shane the Montain Goat for his fearless scampering over steeply pitched roof rafters and high beams with nothing of any kind to hold on to) is working on the area over the mechanical room and side entrance to the house in his preferred state of [un]dress.

Window panels are beginning to trickle in. Seen here are some of the glass brick panels that will alternate with openable clear glass windows. One side of the downstairs shower will be glass brick with a clear glass door--it faces one of the SolaTubes so the shower should be flooded with clear daylight, and at night with moonlight.

Today we all went off to the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA which has as its centerpiece an 18th century Chinese house that was dismantled and brought over to give an idea of what a wealthy merchant's house was like during the height of the area's trade with China.

The house is entered through the outer courtyard (above) which was a kind of outdoor work room for the household, the women primarily. You then pass into the high and narrow inner courtyard (below) from which all rooms open on two levels.

The house was sold to the Museum with the agreement that it would be reconstructed exactly as it had looked when in China, so as to placate eight generatins of ancestors who had wanted the house to shelter people in good condition into perpetuity. The final generation had fallen victim to a downward spiral in the family's fortunes that began when a great grandfather was murdered by bandits, continued when one male heir died very young, and worsened when the next head of household squandered what was left of the family's money on perfomances of Chinese Opera. With mock severity, Fritz told me that I must take his example to heart and change my ways. That's SO not going to happen!

i find it hard to imagine that sort of house in massachusetts.
Project is coming along nicely.

You were at the PEM! And you didn't stop by...
I have been enjoying following your house construction project. Keep the updates coming! Peabody Essex is one of my all-time favorite museums. I grew up just a few miles from there. My dad has a membership and was complaining recently that they have removed some of his favorite exhibitry and replaced it with something aimed at children. That seems to be the scourge of museums everywhere these days.
Thanks for the pics of the Peabody-Essex Museum. I had read about that Chinese home. It reminded me of Skansen in Sweden where many classic early houses were relocated and arranged as a museum.

The story of the family collapse is reminiscent of the plot of 'The Good Earth', and you can read somewhere in Amy Tan that what united rich and poor in the old China is the sense that one's circumstance could change overnight. Although frankly news images of the new China communicate the same feeling.

The building of your queer Bayreuth continues as you generously foment fantasies of escape in the urbanites...
inter glossa--I went to your site and found your listing for the book on Winifred Wagner. I hadn't heard of it but have ordered it from Amazon used. Thanks for making me aware of it.

Rick--We'd talked of getting together a while ago but your life changed arounjd a bit and it never happened--I'd love to meet in person some time.

Doug--I did miss some things at the P-EM but as someone who's spent his life in the performing arts I know the necessity of building the audiences of the future. Since children aren't getting the arts in school these days, they have to be exposed to them and allowed to discover that they aren't exclusivist or forbidding or dull. I'd rather see one gallery cycle out of use for the permanent collection now than see a whole museum go under in 25 years for lack of interest.

spo--The house was never modernized or heated. In winter the family carried little portable charcoal burners around with them from room to room and wore heavily quilted clothing. The museum hasn't put a greenhouse-style roof over the house, so when visiters go there in winter, they'll have an idea what it was really like to live there--rain or snow in the interior courtyard and all.
Points all well taken. I do think that the situation is a bit out of balance at the moment, however. The museum where I work has recently gone through a period of discussion and drama over whether we should become a children's museum. In the end, we did not- but the experience has sensitized me, perhaps excessively, to the whole issue. I do feel that the balance has tipped too far for large segments of the museum community. Ever greater perentages of both entire museums and individual exhibits are being pitched to kids and drained of content. It's probably more acute in the science/natural history end of things- and I havent seen the recent changes at PEM myself. I'll have to check it out when I'm home at Christmas.
Very well said, Will. I agree with you completely. It IS very important that children be exposed to museums and hopefully develop a lifetime interest and delight in maintaining and viewing these precious treasure-houses. I also think that they shouldn't be exposed to just child-centered exhibits, but these do serve an important purpose as a draw which leads to foster an eagerness to see what else is present. I bought a Canadian museum membership for myself and my little boys and have already used it many, many times ... both here, where a suggestion to visit our local museum brings exclamations of joy, but also in Vancouver, where we perused the wonderful Museum of Anthropology at UBC, and in Victoria, where I took them to see the Titanic exhibit.
Another small museum I've never been to, but should have.

Seeing your house go up is very exciting. When I stop by, please have coffee ready.

Now, did you get any closer pictures of the shirtless construction worker's backside?
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