Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1955, the Louis Penfield House is located in Willoughby, Ohio, and is nestled on 18.5 acres of heavily wooded property. It features three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, and a 12-foot floor-to-ceiling, glass-walled living room that offers a panoramic view of the bluffs on the Chagrin River.

The house cost $25,000. But the Penfields ran out of money, so the built-in benches and shelves Wright designed were never installed. Paul Penfield, who inherited the house from his parents, finally had these built in 1998.

Penfield House is built with concrete block, wood trim, and wood-fiber (e.g. plywood) panels. The house features the interlocking vertical and horizontal forms that are typical of a Wright-designed home. The 1,800-square-foot home has a carport instead of a garage, and an "open plan" interior. The center of the house is its fireplace and hearth, with a series of flowing, undivided spaces that link the entry hall, kitchen, dining, and living areas.

Unlike most Wright homes, Penfield House has high ceilings. Wright was just 5'8" tall, and designed homes to fit his own personal size (disregarding the wishes of his clients). But Louis Penfield was 6'8", and Wright could not ignore his needs. So Penfield House has 12-foot ceilings.

The Penfield House property also includes the historic 19th-century Ward Farmhouse (a five-bedroom duplex) and an 850-square-foot cottage (which features a kitchenette and a loft bedroom).

In 1955, the Penfields learned that the state of Ohio was going to build I-90 right next to their home. Dismayed, they asked Wright to design a second home for them on the south edge of their property. The designs for this commission, dubbed Riverrock, were submitted to the Penfields just three days before Wright's death. Riverrock was never built, as Wright's business was millions of dollars in debt and in arrears on its taxes.

Penfield House has operated as a vacation rental for the last 12 years and can continue to be used as a tourist destination or as a residential home. It's booked 300 days out of the year, at about $450 a night.

Paul Penfield put Penfield House and its 18.5 acres up for sale for $1.7 million in 2014. He's in no rush to sell, and the asking price has remained right where it is.

Penfield says he will sell the site's other 10.7 acres and the Riverrock blueprints for another $700,000.

Here is the model of Riverrock, which was never built.

Monday, March 30, 2015

I'm watching George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Diana Rigg stars as Countes Teresa "Tracy" Di Vicenzo, daughter of crime syndicate boss Marc-Ange Draco. Bond is in pursuit of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), who has taken up residence at a mountaintop "hospital" in Switzerland. SPECTRE is brainwashing beautiful young women, who will travel the globe and unleash a massive biological attack on the planet if SPECTRE is not paid off. Bond falls in love with Tracy, and together they end Blofeld's plan.

The film is notorious for being Lazenby's only appearance as Bond. He was notoriously wooden, and fans reacted negatively to him. Lazenby was offered a seven-film deal as Bond, but turned it down because he thought spies and secret agents would be passé in the 1970s. The film also kind of foolishly tries to be "hip" and "cool" and "with it". It was, after all, 1969, and the Flower Power and hippie movements were going strong. Bond had famously declared The Beatles to be nothing more than noise in Goldfinger in 1964; suddenly, he was wearing a ruffled cravat and "talking jive" and living in a room with hippie décor. It was appalling.

The film famously has Bond getting married. As he and Tracy park by the side of the road to clean flowers off their wedding car, he tells Tracy that they have "all the time in the world." At the end of the film, Blofeld and Blofeld's wife, Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat), drive past Bond's car. Bunt takes potshots at Bond's car with a machine-gun, and kills Tracy. Bond holds his dead wife in his arms and weeps, whispering his final words to her.

* * * * * * * *

SHOCKINGLY, there's a particularly gruesome moment in the film. Bond has been bested by some of SPECTRE's agents while in Bern, Switzerland. Frightened for his life, he flees through the nightly winter carnival. Tracy unexpectedly encounters him, and drives him off. They are attacked by cars driven by SPECTRE agents, and manage to escape via a demolition derby. Fleeing through the snowy mountains near Bern, their car breaks down. They take refuge in an abandoned but warm horse stable.

SPECTRE's agents discover them the next day, and Bond and Tracy flee on skis down the mountainside.

Bond sees a snowplow digging a deep trench through 15 feet of snow. He and Tracy leap over it. The next SPECTRE agent is caught in the snow being jetted from the plow. He falls in front of the snow plow, whose rotors quickly chop up his body.

The next shot is of the blood-filled snow, including several body parts and some torn clothes, gushing into the air. The following shot is of the bloody, intestine-filled snow falling in an arc onto the snow above the trench.

Bond cold-bloodedly says, "Well, he had guts."

* * * * * * *

Vladislav: I can't explain why virgin blood tastes better. I guess it's like a sandwich, it just tastes better if you know nobody else has fucked it.

* * * * * * * *

What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary from New Zealand. I saw it last night, and it's really funny. Four vampires -- 8,000-year-old Petyr; 862-year-old Vladislav; 379-year-old Viago; and 183-year-old Deacon -- have ended up in a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand. A documentary film crew has been given access to them as they prepare for the "Unholy Masquerade", an annual party given by vampires. The troupe hasn't adapted well to the 20th century, much less the 21st, and are fairly ignorant about things like cable television, mobile phones, selfies, and the Internet.

When the vampires try to kill Nick, a 20-year-old involved in an alternative lifestyle, they accidentally turn him into a vampire. This leaves them with someone who doesn't want to obey the rules, thinks being a vampire is cool (he tries to pick up girls in clubs with the line, "You know Twilight? The guy in Twilight? I'm that guy"), and generally up-ends the lives of the stuffy older undead.

The film, by Oscar-nominated actor and filmmaker Taika Waititi (Boy) and comic actor Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) is very funny, and includes a huge number of riffs on reality television shows, modern vampire films, and even the Underworld film series. It's excellent.

* * * * * * * *

Stu: Hi, my name is Stu, uh, I work in...
The Beast: Louder!
Stu [louder]: Hi, my name is Stu. I'm a software analyst. I work for a geographic information system company.
The Beast: Sorry, what is it?
Stu: I work for a company that does...basically, we take, like, business requirements from organizations. Then we analyze those requirements, and then we build software to fit those requirements.
The Beast: He is a virgin!

* * * * * * * *

Declan: Ow! What the fuck did you do that for?!
Anton: Hey! Don't swear. What are we?
Declan [ashamed, mumbling]: Werewolves not swearwolves.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

It's pretty rare that a First Family gets to redecorate the White House. And now it's happened.

It didn't used to be this way. Prior to 1960, each President pretty much did what he wanted with the White House. The White House was open to the public (even the Family Quarters), and the public roamed freely throughout it. Furnishings were heavily damaged by this excessive use, and it wasn't uncommon for people to cut a couple of feet from the carpet or drapes to obtain a keepsake, or steal teacups or dinner plates as souvenirs. The heavy use meant that each President HAD to redecorate. To raise funds, most used or damaged White House furnishings were sold to the public at auction.

Most First Ladies did the redecorating based on their own personal tastes, although sometimes changes were made because the President wanted the White House to reflect political realities. For example, in the first two decades of the 1800s, Presidents often chose French furniture not only because it was beautiful and it was well-made, but because it showed appreciation for France's support of the U.S. during the American Revolution. George Washington's English furniture and his few pieces of American Federal furniture were sold, and French furniture in the style of Louis XV or Louis XVI was purchased.

The style of decoration in the White House varied immensely. Louis Quinze, Victorian Baroque, Art Deco, and even something called "Steamboat Gothic" have been used in the White House.

This changed in the 1960s. Jacquelyn Kennedy inherited a White House which had been gutted in 1949 because it was in danger of collapse. By the time 1952 rolled around and the White House was ready to be redecorated, there wasn't any money left. So a lot of cheap reproduction pieces from all sorts of styles were used to furnish the Executive Mansion. A decade later, the White House looked shoddy and run-down. Jackie Kennedy was determined to change this. Her expert interior designer, Stéphane Boudin, was a historicist who argued that the rooms in the White House should reflect the era in which they won acclaim. This established a pattern whereby the White House was primarily decorated ONLY in the Federalist or Victorian styles. Kennedy also established the White House Historical Association (WHHA) in 1961 to assist future First Families in correctly furnishing and decorating the Executive Mansion. The WHHA was tasked with helping to raise funds to repurchase White House furnishings which had been sold over the previous 180 years, as well as to purchase high-quality, hand-made reproduction furniture to mimic the way rooms "should" look.

Kenndy's changes swiftly took root. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued an executive order creating a Committee for the Preservation of the White House. This body was tasked with advising the President and First Lady on the decor, preservation, and conservation of the White House. Almost a quarter of a century later, the White House was accredited as a historic house museum in 1988. This formally locked the White House into the pattern set by Jacquelyn Kennedy.

Because the White House is now locked into a Federalist/Victorian style, First Families have little ability to put their own personal stamp on things. Only occasioanlly will drapes or carpets need to be replaced, and even then a First Lady generally has to stay within a very narrow, cramped style when choosing replacements. First Families have the ability to switch out a Federalist sofa for two Federalist chairs, but the historic style and look of each room has to stay pretty much the same. Strong changes, like changing the colors of the walls, almost never happen. And radical changes, like turning a room from a Federalist to Steamboat Gothic look, just cannot happen. (Artwork is different, and generally a much wider range of artwork can be hung or displayed. The Oval Office, which changes with every president, has no particular style.)

The Old Family Dining Room has, until 2015, not been a room open to the public. Located on the State Floor of the White House, the room has been used for working lunches and small dinners involving the President, White House staff, members of Congress, executive branch leaders, and others. It's also been used as a staging area for events in the adjoining State Dining Room, a large event space.

Michelle Obama has changed that. On February 10, 2015, the Obamas opened the Old Family Dining Room to the public. Michele Obama also made the Old Family Dining Room into a Modernist delight!!

The walls of the Old Family Dining Room were repainted for the first time since 1961, eliminating the sunflower yellow preferred by Jackie Kennedy and replacing it with a cool light grey. The room's new rug is custom-made and based on a 1950 design by Anni Albers. Alma Thomas, a force in the Washington Color School style of painting, is represented by her painting Resurrection. (Thomas is the first African-American woman to be included in the White House's permanent art collection.) The WHHA acquired the piece at auction last year for $290,000. Two paintings by the 20th century Modernist Josef Albers were installed opposite the fireplace. A large mirror acquired by the White House in 1902 now stands atop the fireplace. This mirror was present when President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to a famous "family dinner" at the White House -- a major breakthrough in race relations that was widely condemned at the time.

Gone are the paintings of First Ladies which used to hang over the fireplace and on the opposite wall. Gone are the English Regency yellow silk drapes installed by Nancy Reagan in 1981. Gone are the three-candle light sconces on the wall, replaced with big hurricane-lantern style sconces. Gone are the Chiavari chairs Michelle Obama favored previously. Gone are the clock and the pewter loving-cups that used to adorn the fireplace mantel. Gone is the small serving table which used to stand to the right of the fireplace. Gone is the marquetry table the Obamas previously used, replaced with the table Sister Parrish installed for the Kennedys in 1961. Even the andirons in the fireplace have changed.

Only the sideboard in the Old Family Dining Room remains -- although the tea set atop it is now Modernist, rather than Victorian.

The truth hurts.

Friday, March 27, 2015

If he's a real nerd, them I'm Abraham Lincoln.

The temperatures in Cleveland have dropped down into the high 20s again, after a week of upper 40s which had everyone thinking of spring. The low temps have created a lot of fog, which swept in over the eastern 'burbs of the city routinely over the past few days.

Vine star Cameron Dallas (right).

Fuck me.

Happy Easter! LOL

I've been busy the last couple of days. I'd just about had enough of my old kitchen faucet. The lever-action was difficult to control. The spray-head often did not return to position, and could easy spray water outside the sink if you weren't careful. The spray-head had just two levels: Ultra-intense heavy-duty spray that got everywhere, and (if you held down a button) a weak, useless spray. The ultra-intense spray could take the skin off your hands.

To take out the old faucet, I had to crawl under the sink. There's a huge disposal under there, which made it very hard for me not only to see but also to get my hands up to where the nuts and stuff were to loosen the old faucet. I smacked my nose on the disposal, and now have a little infection on the bridge of my nose. I finally got the old one loose, and got the new one in.

I love my new faucet. The ball-action is much easier to control. There is a weight on the hose that forces the spray-head to return to position and lock in place. The spray-head has two settings: medium-spray and heavy-spray. Neither is too weak or too strong.

Go plumbing!!!

The new faucet!

Monday, March 23, 2015


Spring is coming, and I'm now a home-owner. Which means I have major decisions to make!

For my back yard garden............ do I get a statue of a naughty elf? or a Godzilla eating garden gnomes??

Cleveland has announced that the planned $25 million pedestrian bridge over the Shoreway -- designed to connect the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and other shroeline destinations with the city -- has been delayed to 2017 and will not open in time for the RNC.

No reason has been given for the delay. The pedestrian bridge was considered critical in linking the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center to the rest of downtown, and giving attendees at the RNC access to the waterfront. The bridge would also have eased parking congestion at FirstEnergy Stadium during concerts and football games.

Oh damn............

This is Union Terminal, an iconic symbol of Cincinnati and one of the most significant Art Deco structures in the country.

The building began construction in 1928, and opened in 1933. It was one of the largest train terminals in the U.S., with the ability to service 216 passenger trains a day.

The architects were Alfred T. Fellheimer and Steward Wagner, with Paul Philippe Cret and Roland Wank credited as design consultants. (Cret is responsible for the building's Art Deco style.) The station's Rotunda is the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere, measuring 180 feet (55 m) wide and 106 feet (32 m) high.

The glass mosaic murals in the Rotunda are by Winold Reiss, and depict the history of Cincinnati and the United States.

The fountain in front of Union Terminal features clamshell sprays and boldly curved sections that cascade from the top section to a lower pool. The evening illumination is soft, much of it coming from pedestal lights. The fountain was built to replace a large pond destroyed by Union Terminal construction in 1933, and holds 3,200 gallons of water.

In 1971, after the creation of Amtrak, train service at Union Terminal was reduced to just two trains a day. Amtrak then abandoned Union Terminal in 1972. The Southern Railway purchased some of Union Terminal's land in late 1972 to use for its expanded freight operations. The Southern, however, wanted to demolish the entire station. On May 15, 1973, the Cincinnati City Council designated Union Terminal a historic landmark, preventing the Southern Railway from destroying the entire building. In 1974, the Southern was granted permission to demolish the 450-foot long passenger train concourse that projected out the back of the building so that modern piggyback railcars could use the site.

The concourse building contained 14 mosaic murals depicting important Cincinnati industries, and a mural which depicted maps of the United States and the world. The industrial murals were removed by Besl Transfer Company and installed at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The map mural, however, could not be moved and was destroyed when the terminal was demolished.

On November 4, 2014, Cincinnati and Hamilton County voters overwhelmingly approved Issue 8 -- a ballot initiative that will raise roughly $40 million to make major renovations and improvements to Union Terminal. The money will come from State of Ohio capital grants, state and federal historic tax credits, and private funds.