The Thinking 


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Dispatch from Sodom Northwest

June 18, 2014



HEATHER writes:

In reading your post on Rainbow Tyranny, I thought I might relate some things that my family has recently experienced after moving from Tennessee to Seattle.

Rainbow flags are everywhere.  Even the banners on the lightposts that most cities put up for 4th of July and what-not are advertising the gay pride parade. There are also ads for the parade on the outside of the buses in Seattle and even out in suburbs like Bellevue.

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The Victorian Legacy in San Francisco

August 23, 2012



JANE S. writes:

San Francisco plays up its Victorian heritage for all it’s worth. Victoriana is big business there. The word “Victorian” always means something good whenever it’s applied to buildings or Christmas cards or pastries. Victorian architectural treasures are lovingly restored and endlessly photographed. There are Victorian house tours, Victorian fairs, Victorian tea rooms, Victorian B&Bs, societies that host Victorian balls, shops that sell Victorian bric-a-brac, and places where you can dress up in Victorian costumes and get your picture taken.

Used in the context of social attitudes, especially sexual mores, however, the word “Victorian” always means something bad. People don’t seem to connect the dots between the mindset of a period and its cultural products. They don’t think maybe the one was necessary to produce the other. Read More »


More on Carl Larsson

August 3, 2012


Esbjorn Doing His Homework, Carl Larsson, 1912

MEREDITH writes:

It pained me to read that some of the Swedish painter Carl Larsson’s critics questioned the happiness of that family, and called him a hypocrite.  What rot!  And how wonderful that he had such a family and a haven to retreat to, as all men should.  It allowed him to go on, and continue to paint, and we all benefit from his work today. Read More »


The Home of Carl and Karin Larsson

August 2, 2012


THE SWEDISH PAINTER Carl Larsson created one of the Europe’s most beloved visions of domestic harmony. Dozens of Larsson’s watercolors and paintings featured his immediate surroundings: his wife, Karin; their children, their house and the countryside near Sundborn, the village where they lived in the late nineteenth century. A son confined to a chair in punishment, the children diving into the river, two daughters getting dressed with toys scattered on the floor, the family fishing for crayfish, Karin ironing  — these scenes were suffused with light, vibrant color and a deep appreciation for the enchantments of life with children. Larsson’s painting have enjoyed continuous popularity, but they have also at times been the victim of snobbery. This was to be expected. Domestic idealism is disdained in the modern world.


Nevertheless, Lilla Hyttnäs, the house in Sundborn, is one of Europe’s most popular artist’s houses and represents something of a revolution in interior decorating. While many nineteenth century interiors were somber and formal, the Larssons favored bright colors, handcrafts, and cheerful informality. Part of the Arts and Crafts Movement, they were a major inspiration for what we think of as Scandinavian design and even for the contemporary do-it-yourself movement. The house is not the kind of dwelling that would be conceived by a professional decorator. It has the organic quality that can only be the result of gradual evolution, rather than a preconceived scheme.

For those who enjoyed the discussions at this site on life in small houses, (see here, here, and here) the Larsson house, which can be viewed on the family website, may be of especial interest. The Larssons had a way of creating interesting and varied scenes in relatively small rooms. Read More »


Homes on Three Continents

November 3, 2011


MR. T. writes:

I have been reading your delightful blog for many months, but this is my first comment.

Your post and thread on small houses resonated deeply with me. I grew up in the U.S.A., in a medium-sized house, but have lived most of my adult life in Hong Kong. Property here is expensive in a way only people in the ritziest environs of Manhattan can imagine. My wife, daughter and I live in a flat that’s listed at about 900 square feet, but all Hong Kong people know that’s a fiction. The ‘building area’ for a Hong Kong flat includes a share of the elevator lobby, windowsills, walls, and other unusable space. Our actual living area is closer to 600 square feet.

In this space, which might well fit in toto within a McMansion’s living room, we have a kitchen, two bathrooms, a living room and three bedrooms. As you can imagine, none of these rooms is very big, and a couple of our bedrooms would be derided as inadequate as closets in the U.S.A. Read More »


The Skyscraper and Multiculturalism

February 28, 2011


AT HER blog Camera Lucida, Kidist Paulos Asrat has an interesting post on the skyscraperization of Toronto. She argues that banal modern architecture is an inevitable result of the loss of Toronto’s ethnic and racial identity.


‘Terrible is This Place’

December 15, 2009


1 OLMC Original 

The state of ecclesiastical architecture is abysmal and is not likely to become non-abysmal anytime soon. The most beautiful churches in America and Europe were created in places and times where entire communities were united behind a single building project, a collective monument to the sacred. Neither the cathedral at Chartres or the more austere white steepled churches of New England were the efforts of cafeteria-style Christians who had a choice where to devote their tithings.

Today church buildings do show some variety, including “strip mall classical” and “Disneyland Gothic,” but many overtly scorn the divine, a concerted rejection of historic European Christianity. There are soaring rafters suited to ski lodges; over-sized crucifixes bearing angular, non-human Christs; blank walls without statuary, stained glass or other iconography;  and altars-in-the-round lit by skylights and surrounded by potted ferns and pews with padded kneelers. These churches are accommodating, but so are convention halls and firehouses. For Catholics, Vatican II brought in an era when secular modernism was embraced and churches were redefined as meeting places. Many threw out treasured artifacts.

Architecture isn’t everything. But it isn’t nothing either.

Fortunately, there is hope in a small but growing movement for traditional architecture. Here and there congregations resist the trend. They either tirelessly preserve old buildings or attempt to bring to new life the highest principles of sacred architecture. One exemplar of this is Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Littleton, Colorado, a church attempting its own architectural revolution, hoping to convert its current building, above, into the structure below. 

I don’t mean to be unkind and truthfully I’ve never seen it in person, but the structure above looks like the check-in building for a middlebrow ski resort, a place where you sip hot chocolate and coffee before retiring to your room. Architecture isn’t everything and a congregation can conjure flying buttresses, gargoyles and rose windows. I’m sure Our Lady of Mount Carmel has seen the heights, but human beings are weak and it’s hard to conceive of the transcendent in an ersatz chalet.

New View


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