Skip to content

HOME at the Ornamental Season

December 19, 2019



We are in the Very Middle Of Our Annual Time of Ornament (the Holidays. We will soon be facing A Time of Not Ornament (the rest of the year). This is Not about religion, this is about or most human of realities. We have exhausted money, time, effort to make our homes, and all of our environments Celebrate the ending of one year and the beginning of the next.

Why do we spend our lives in this endless cycling of making celebratory beauty, and then remove it in extreme drudgery, depression and time “cleaning up” and ending the ornament we have spent so many years, dollars and hours creating…

HOME PAGE tries to take a measure of why this season makes us so completely devoted to ornament – in our homes, our places of work, even on our cars. Why do these rituals of decoration consume so many, and virtually distract everyone else? If they are so important, why we remove them? More importantly why is ornament an afterthought in our daily lives, especially in our homes.

Given that it will be Boxing Day, it is fitting that we will have a British representative in America, Gail Lynch, to tell us about what she has done, her 40 years in America, during this time of Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice, Advent and New Year can recount how the two cultures of England and America address this time. Her extended family has blossomed to mean gatherings at year’s end: and all the concomitant preparations and then recoveries after it ends.

Home page then welcomes Kent Bloomer back to the program. Kent Bloomer has been a presence at the Yale School of architecture for those 40 years and more, and has written books and spent a life time designing and making huge and small elements and buildings that embody the celebration of these weeks. His perspective is invaluable in a time that often has no perspective beyond surviving the chaos and change we impose upon ourselves.

Join us!

HOME Thanksgiving

November 24, 2019



A LIVE, real-time podcast, intended to accompany feasting and preparation for feasting on our one fully secular, non-football-reflated national holiday: Thanksgiving. The reality is that these celebrations usually happen in a home, and share domestic life with friends, relatives and strangers. But that is not the full story.

Before there was today”s Thanksgiving, there was a very different time. Before the mass-marketing hype, NFL games, Butterball Turkeys and Ocean Spray Cranberry Jelly – not to mention mini-marshmallows roasted over squash.

How did we celebrate, 100 years ago? Two hundred years ago? How did Native American Culture feast and celebrate before they were invaded? What happened after 1620? How did humans use their homes to celebrate Thanksgiving in each of those eras? Home Page has two thoughtful historians of America and Pre-America Live On-Air to talk to us about how we have done Thanksgiving through the centuries:

William Hosley is a cultural resource development and marketing consultant, social media expert, historian, writer, and photographer. He is passionate about local history and historic preservation and has developed a deep attachment to dozens of places worth caring about. He was formerly Director of the New Haven Museum and Connecticut Landmarks, where he cared for a chain of historic attractions. Prior to that, as a curator and exhibition developer at Wadsworth Atheneum. Bill has studied, lectured and advised museums and heritage destinations around the country. Bill has also served as a content specialist for PBS, BBC, and CPTV film documentaries.

Dr. Donal Rankin is Yale-trained surgeon and Emergency Medicine Physician who retired a few years back from Bridgeport Hospital.  His interests now focus on Indian American culture and tradition and archaeology for the Friends of the Office of State Archaeology (FOSA).  Dr. Rankin has participated in numerous digs and at present deliver the Connecticut Archaeology Road Show with Gary Nolf, one of the founders of FOSA. He has given talks on the Universe, local history, slavery, and the abolitionist movement,  I am a member of St. Andrews Episcopal Church and  Madison Post 79 of the American Legion.

Annual or Perennial?

November 17, 2019


I walk along a path. Last week the sides of growing things crowded me. The summer’s growth would occasional grab a piece of clothing or scratch a hand.

This week, the turgid plants disappeared. What had been vital was simply gone.

I had been on this path enough to know this collapse was temporary. I had actually planted the seeds of some of these billowing flowers that had brushed against me. I knew that when I tilled the soil, added fertilizer, planted and watered, and “Voila!” that this was a summer exercise.

After a night of frost, these beauties just disappeared. Dead. All the vessels of the plant that drew water up into the plant and nourished it, and made it stiff and waving in the breeze, were gone, killed because the plant’s miracle machine of sucking water out of the ground, building cells and processing daylight had been ended by a 28F night, too cold to live on. Every living thing dies.

I did not think this when our children were born, either, but it is true.

I could manipulate the variables and engender flowers. We could set the stage for the miracle of human creation, our children, but we did nothing more than set the table.

Soon, most of us will be sitting at a large table. We will gorge on platters of food, as the flowers did for a summer. We will feast on life. But the dinner will be eaten. The food will be gone. This happens every year. It is not one and done like those flowers.

Some things are perennial. In my walk I go by trees. They are forever in that they were before me, and will be after me. But no, in my 35 years on this site with my wife hurricanes have felled trees, and some have simply been crowded out, and died. Several had terminal blights. In truth these trees are annuals too, but are simply growing for a longer year. Like us. Like our children.

Then what is the point? To live to die?

Because in this season of dying it is devastatingly true that “God made us, not we ourselves.” The flowers, too. All the things we manipulate to make Thanksgiving dinner. Everything. Every Thing.

When some politicians inveigh on capitalism that “You didn’t make that!” I think of our children, those flowers, the food on our plate. We made have prepared the,m, but we did not make them.

If life were perennial, we could claim control, at least in the moment. But we are all annuals, it just depends on how long our year in the sun is. It is never long enough, until it is finished.

I wish I understood any of it, but I do not. But the joy of seeing the flower, the child, even the giblet gravy is not understood either.

God made all those things, and me, and you. Hard news in a place of control, but the hard love is undeniable.

Time to set the table again.


November 3, 2019

Each of us is a singularity.

Each of us is part of something larger

In doing anything those worlds collide.

Every thing we see or do or think about, large and small, is experienced up close and personal. Every one of those things is beheld in context, in the lens of everything we have done.

There is no metaphor here, or symbol – not even football memes. It is just reality.

But we cope with this spectral plane by what one President called “compartmentalization”.

But there are moments.

There are moments when all the planes in our spectrum coalesce.

All our experience, and our sense of the instant, all our contexts compress to one moment.

A birth. A death. A choice. An injury. A triumph. A diagnosis. A judgment. A word. A place. An act.

Not the mechanisms we all do to live. Not the execution of what we know. The moment that grabs your mind, heart, memory, perception goes beyond you, and everything you know happens.

We have all had them. They connect desire, facility, intellect and all that has happened and what you expect. For good and not good.

These moments happen without planning, but based on your life lived before they happen. They define questions perhaps never asked.

If “compartmentalized” these moments end. If their full-spectrum meaning coalesces into how you see the rest of your life, and how you see how you have lived – they change things.

They connect.

And they shift you.

I think a few moments that I saw yesterday in “just a game” may have been them.

But I cannot know. A son remembers one of those moments in “just a game” when he made one instant error. 6 years ago. And it meant something. It still means something. Often every day, There was no injury. His team won the game. The son went on to become what he could become in that one place.

But it changed how he saw himself. He heard more, did more, changed. Because he did not “compartmentalize” .

These moments become then, now and future. They connect you beyond yourself. I think they connect you to God, because they have nothing to do with survival, they have simply manifest you, become part of the miracle of your life.

They manifest our inability to control, because if we could control them, we would never have a “bad” moment and we would construct an infinite number of “good” moments.

We can try to simulate these moments with sex, drugs, violence, Canon, politics, religion. But they inevitably fail, because simulation is not reality. Creating ourselves simply cannot happen.

God does that.


October 31, 2019

My life may have simply been a fruitcake. A regifted fruitcake.

I have come to know those who knew me when I was before memory, and their insight makes things less understood. It was not a question that I and my siblings had no understanding of our parents or their motivations, they were coping from the moment we had sentience. Like all kids, we just responded.

The insanity of alcohol, mixed with the aftermath of World War 2, and the loss of the Golden Life before it, came to make a place of constant fear in their 3 children’s’ lives.

Nothing physical, in fact we had everything, and were never hit.

But our world was a place born of inebriated rationalization. For unresolved pain in their lives was a dark, scary, judging place. And as they determined that they fell short, so did we. And that revealed a Dark World of unavoidable judgement.

But it has been 50 years since I was left to fend for myself – but well fed, schooled, housed – but alone. A mixed signal of love and inability. Confusing. Threatening. Scary.

But the last 50 years has been inscrutably kind.

The reality of adult children without our childhood is baffling to we, who could only protect. They had no need to survive, they were protected. Beyond food and shelter. My wife and I were flat terrified (no exaggeration) that there was inevitable distortion in our parenting because our lives were, essentially, rejected before we lived them.

So we protected. Hard.

Which meant “over parenting”. We could do that. We had parented ourselves, and somehow knew that was deeply flawed, but had no answer key as to how it was wrong. There was no “healthy” parent, or grandparent. Just a few role models and survival. We knew how to do that.

Absent money (that our gifts prevent us from having) we seem to be just fine. In fact, good. But I am always 5 or 6 years old, at the moment I realized that that was no “we”. Just me. No secret “friends”. No later drink or drug, No cult of politics or religion.

But a silent bit of faith, or understanding, or knowing. Incoherent, but it sustained. Because it was God.

Those profit–preventing gifts I give are just the gifts I have been given, regifted.

My life is a fruitcake, it seems. Possessed but ever given, because eating would ruin the gift, that is, well, worth giving, So enjoyment often awaits another time, Eating the fruits of this life will probably never come because I cannot give what I have eaten.

At 64, this is probably enough, whether I like it or not. Escaping God is simply not possible. Distraction is real, for moments, but simply is not up to the task for dealing with what you have been given.

It is clear that the gifts given to my parents offered more terror in failure because that would have involved success. And failure happens: happiness is intermittent, but not impossible, despite the unending ways everyone falls short.

But if failure comes to be you and not the just the unending failed attempts at realizing hope, that failure can be given to everyone around you. And it was given to our family.

I think that gift that keeps on giving was not regifted to our children, I hope not.

The End of the Movements in Architecture

October 27, 2019

Landscape architect and writer Charles Jencks died a couple of weeks ago.

He was someone who connected the dots of our cultural flow in architecture. Dozens, perhaps scores of “Movements” were charted in his book “The Language of Post Modern Architecture” and about 8 subsequent editions, plus other books.

It is a cliche to say that we are in the greatest time of change since the Industrial Revolution.  But it is true. The new technology, Climate Change, even the nature of the American Presidency are all promising uncontrollable evolution. The American Psychiatric Association noted that anxiety has in creased in this change time for 40% of us.

When things change, “Movements” happen. It’s another cliche to say that the Industrial Revolution facilitated Modernism. But it did. Instead of making buildings that looked and functioned as they had before electricity, steel, central heating, and elevators the aesthetics of our built environment changed.

It is another cliche to say that Climate Change is a crisis. Crises change architecture too. A relatively small crisis, the Gasoline Crisis of the late 1970’s caused Solar Architecture to become a “Movement” in the aesthetic development of architecture. While the overwhelming reality of global climate change has produced huge evolutions in materials and measurables, there is no defined aesthetic impact from this huge focus. The buildings of 2019 look largely like those of 1979.  The “Green Movement” has spawned cottage industries around USGBC ratings, “Resiliency” seminars and a virtual Commandment of Sustainability, but the aesthetics of architecture see no break from the past.

Design criteria are not “Movements”.

Its not as if architects do not want to surf a “Movement” to insure defendabie designs. Another bromide is the Artificial Intelligence will change everything. “Paramentrics” was a manifesto declared by Patrik Shumacher that simply declared that Artificial Intelligence driven computer aided design development would change everything. It did not.

BIM and Revit have changed everything about “How” we define buildings. Technologies like “3D Printing” may change the “Way” we make buildings. But these advances have not changed the “What” of architecture as much as the depressing boxes derived from the newly code-sanctioned “Platform Over Podium/5 over 2” construction type.

Of course, “Style Wars” are still a rat hole of defensive waste of time: reciting the same deeply vacuous rejection of either “Traditional” of “Modern” outcomes. But is the Era of Movements over?

“New Music” ended any need to follow any definition of “music” beyond “sound”, maybe Modernism ending “building” for “form” and once the fine arts loses connection to “How” it is made in favor of “What” is made, maybe its just every architect for his or her self.

Maybe the latest “Movement” is just “The Internet”: architecture designed for screen viewing. The video capture of impossibly perfect aesthetics that can be captured in 2D has made material, use, client, even context irrelevant.

There are more and more “Virtual” projects being presented in print and on the web as if they were real buildings – with only a brief allusion to their cyber reality. Instead, fetishes are focii. The Wrapping Roof/Wall think layer, same material, zero structure, and impossibly unbroken planes, perfect when the camera captures its abstraction. The cantilever. The void/plane box. Nothing new, just refined.

Meanwhile the world is exploding in change, and architects look at other architects looking at screens.


The Burden of Good News

October 23, 2019

It’s easy to complain.

But you can only fail if you hope to win.

We all have set up a matrix of hope, perhaps another of expectation, even a third of necessities. Life never, ever, checks off all the boxes in all the lists. Whole hobbies – golf, fishing, watching the Jets play football, are oriented around disappointment. That is why alcohol is woven into their experience. Failure is a good reason to drink.

The humanity of failure is undeniable. In sports for every win, there is a loss. In every election there is a loser. In every stock trade you are either up or down. In every purchase you either get a good deal or end up ripped off.

In fact there is an entire “Bitch” industry on the Internet, offering clever reveals of failure, reveling in these failings short.

But sometimes, sometimes, things go as hoped, even unexpectedly.

We were terrified parents. We were ever aware we were one bad choice (ours or our sons’) away from pain. Of course a few bad things happened. Things never are what you would like in every circumstance, but our children are fully launched, without nightmare, tragedy, every, really, missteps. They are healthy. They press on into their 30’s and we can now only help.

We are healthy, too – as many we know are not, to the point of death.

But these grand mal fulfillment’s are the stuff of faith and gratitude, the trivial triumphs are the ones that social media turn into absurd celebration. No celebration here, but this last week has seen things happen, that fulfill hopes and work. It is hard to deal with them.

Part of me could chest pump and declare vindication over a year or three of just paying the bills, mostly, in my small business – but I really do not have more money, just a little more to show for the work that leaves every penny pinched.

In the last month my office was honored to sign on a few jobs that many sought after, a few more jobs were green lighted after we have worked years to get to a place where the project could actually pay the architect.

In this month I gave presentations and talks that were all (all) great good things to full houses, on diverse, original topics, and was filmed, recorded, published.

Of course in the same month I was fully rejected by potential clients, editors, competition judges, even Facebook Commentators about my work.

But last night we won the smallest recognition (“Honorable Mention”) in the smallest categories (“Small Spaces’) in a National Competition that has zillions of winners amid quadzillions of entrants. Of course our other two entries lost. But one out of three, even if they are bunts, gets you into The Hall of Fame.

In a life in its seven decade, with near 40 years of love in marriage, where a friend of 50 years spends the night in our house Friday, where my only health issue is that I am a bit fat and stiff from working out to be less fat (every day), it seems ridiculous to feel some kind of justification, or validation.

But part of me does.

Onto the next failure.