Why Beauty Matters

Roger Scruton is one of the more brilliant men of our age, one who thinks deeply about our culture and its effects upon us. One of the things he often considers is the state of art, something I’ve publicly pondered here from time to time (because I can’t help it, and because if you don’t care, I don’t know about it!). Someone sent me a documentary featuring Mr. Scruton discussing the very same thing; he considers the art of the past and present, speaks to artists, and even looks at the physical world in which we live, something else that’s important to me. In short, we live in a world where the cult of ugliness reigns. Why is this? Is it a normal human response to dislike it? And what, if anything, can be done?

This is a marvellous documentary, as one should expect from one of the most thoughtful people alive today; to be honest, I found myself wishing it were longer!

Thoughts?

Monday Escape: Handsome Ohio Valley Sewing Shop

Centenary House

One of many little independent places along America’s back roads, nothing could be learned about Centenary House Sewing Center online; moreover, as every seamstress knows, entering such places can be terribly dangerous to one’s budget, so I avoided walking in. Budgetary concerns never stop me from capturing a handsome building when there’s room to pull over, though, and despite being on the far end of the road’s mountain-enforced curve, I could not resist this sewing shop! There’s a close-up of the sewing machine-topped sign after the cut. Continue reading

Visit To A Cider Mill

Visit To The Cider Mill: Bittersweet

Just photos today, since my husband is going to be home tonight after being in Philly all week on business. I’ve missed him and will be so glad to see him home—and just to make it more fun, I’ve made little party hats for Ben and I to wear, and little paper bows for the cats, and a sign for the front door. If you don’t hear from me Monday, that only means the animals tried to kill me in my sleep. If you’ve seen our years of Halloween photos, you know it’s something I’ll bounce back from.

Anyhow, during a Sunday drive we happened by a little bitty cider mill, and decided to stop in for our first half-gallon of autumn’s finest nectar. I did not want to be pesty or obtrusive taking photos, so just grabbed a few snaps while we picked up our cider and a few other farm goods in the mill—but I thought you’d enjoy them anyhow.

Visit To The Cider Mill: Osage Orange

 

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Beauty, real life, and ideas

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Temptation (1880)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – Temptation (1880)

While accepting a Bradley Prize this year, critic, writer, and self-described aesthete Terry Teachout shared some thoughts worth of consideration in his acceptance speech. I read this some time last week and have been mulling over it ever since, so thought to share it, hoping for your own thoughts (again, the entire essay may be read here).

After noting that the Taliban Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice banned “any equipment that produces the joy of music”, for instance, he writes

…America, too, has its share of earnest, well-meaning, narrow-minded folk who don’t much care for art. Not that this should surprise anyone. Ours, after all, is a can-do, no-frills culture shaped by the frontier experience and the Protestant work ethic, and even in this Age of Leisure, the notion that a person might want to look at a Balanchine ballet or a Cézanne watercolor purely because it makes him happy is alien to many Americans. It’s not enough that art should please us: We want it to improve us, to make us smarter and richer, and maybe even thinner.

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Monday Escape: Red Brick Tavern in Lafayette

Red Brick and Windows

Reported to be Ohio’s second-oldest stagecoach stop (oh, just the thought of stagecoaches is exciting, isn’t it?), The Red Brick Tavern of Lafayette, Ohio has stood on National Road in one form or another since 1836. Being on a bit of a mission, I was unable to stop for more detailed photographs, but will no doubt happen by the Tavern again at some point.

There’s a paucity of information about the Tavern online, but I did find a few tidbits, among them the facts that the red brick for which the tavern is named was made of clay taken from a nearby field, and the wood trim and floors inside are nearly all from Zanesville, Ohio. Unfortunately, the timing was not quite right; railroads were beginning to gain traction with travellers, and the Red Brick Tavern closed to the public in 1859, becoming a private residence. Happily, the advent of automobiles created more demand for such accommodations, and the Tavern reopened in 1924.

Red Brick Tavern, U.S. Route 40, Lafayette, Madison County, OH HABS OHIO,49-LAFA,1-1
Based on the cars, I’d say this photo dates to the mid-1930s. Photograph by the Historic American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, OHIO,49-LAFA,1-1, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As you probably expect, the main floor consists of the dining room, bar, and kitchen (the bar has been gone since 1929, and you surely know why); the twelve rooms used by guests were upstairs. Travel was not exactly glamourous in the early days, however exciting—travellers often shared their bed with strangers in such establishments through the late 1800s, because that’s how it was done, especially in what was then the semi-frontier of Ohio. However, I doubt any of the six presidents who visited the Red Brick Tavern—John Quincey Adams, John Tyler, Warren G. Harding, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, and Zachary Taylor—had to share their room. Each president who visited the Tavern has had a steak dinner named for him, though I don’t know if there’s a Tippecanoe Banana Split with which to follow up your William Henry Harrison or John Tyler steak. Continue reading

Small Town, Saved—By Individuals

Red Cloud Farmer's and Merchant's Bank from NW

Red Cloud Farmer’s & Merchant’s Bank. By Ammodramus (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a terrific and encouraging article over at the PreservationNation Blog about the preservation of author Willa Cather’s Nebraska hometown of Red Cloud. How was Red Cloud preserved? Why, by the actions of individuals, of course! That’s probably my favourite part of the story—it wasn’t eminent domain, it wasn’t anything overbearing, it was simply someone who learned about and became interested in Cather who decided to do what she could to save the writer’s home town.

The woman in question is Mildred Bennett, who found herself teaching the descendants of those written about by Cather—and then moved to Red Cloud itself, a perfect opportunity for Bennett to learn more about the Pulitzer Prize winner, to the point that she published The World of Willa Cather (afil) in 1951. But that was not enough for Mildred.

Willa Cather house from NE 1

Willa Cather’s childhood home, By Ammodramus (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Realizing the town’s potential, Bennett gathered a group of friends around her kitchen table — her “kitchen cabinet” — and the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation was born. When it incorporated in 1955, eight participants kicked in $20 each, most of which went to pay for the notice of incorporation in the newspaper. Bennett was named president, a post she held on and off until her death in 1989. And with donations, grants, and grit, the foundation began preserving the structures that inform Cather’s work. (via)

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Monday Escape: Red, Chrome, & Bamboo

Red Rim

With a title like that, it can only be another classic car post. I’ve two “hips” & wheels for you today, both of similar colour but with very different style! The creative, Tiki-fied pinstripe on the second car (which also features a dash of red) is a lot of fun indeed, but the owner did not have a tiny Tiki bar in the trunk. At least not that he told me about… Continue reading