Friday, March 02, 2007

Collecting Decoys: Getting Started

The Midwest Decoy Collectors Association recently posted an article of mine on how to get started collecting decoys. It serves as a short introduction to the mechanics of decoy collecting: setting goals, reading and studying, research, documentation, provenance, X-rays and black lights, fakes and undisclosed restorations, and displaying your decoys.

MDCA is the de facto international collectors association. It sponsors the National Antique Decoy and Sporting Collectibles Show, where literally millions of dollars of American and Canadian bird decoys change hands over the course of the week as collectors and dealers browse each other's rooms and do battle at the Guyette & Schmidt decoy auction.

Every year, during the last week of April, collectors socialize while they build and prune their collections from Monday to Saturday at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois. If you are interested in great American folk art, check it out. It is the best opportunity of the year to see thousands of decoys in all price ranges, and all qualities. For more information, see the Midwest Decoy Collectors Association website..

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Mary Nohl's house in Fox Point

Whitney Gould, the Urban Design columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, has another piece on the controvery surrounding the former home of artist Mary Nohl.

The traffic Mary's place generated seemed to be an issue for two or three of the immediate neighbors even in the early '70s, but not for anyone past the bend in the road where it turns back south from the westward jog at Mary's. Still, those people were fairly annoyed.

Moving the house off of it's lakefront lot, as some have suggested, would be a shame, but leaving all that outdoor art outdoors is already a major conservation problem- just look at the cracks in the screen of cement faces in one of the accompanying photos. I suspect that whatever Kohler Foundation does to preserve in place, it will be a losing battle with the weather. Putting it inside might allow long term preservation, but would mightily alter the experience.

I doubt that anybody will be happy with whatever resolution is chosen. I grew up down the road, and have the impression that my contemporaries were comfortable with the house, but at least a few parents -Mary's generation- thought it was an eyesore. Still, Americans in those days respected other property owners' right to do with their property as they saw fit. That day is pretty much passed, even where the property doesn't generate externalities like traffic.

Just look at the micromanaging in condo communities: we have changed from a nation of people who respect other people's right to do as they please on their own property to self-righteously denying that right even in minutia. The condo communities dictate the color of your house, the design of your landscaping, what kind of vehicle you can park even temporarily outdoors (NO to motor homes- unlike Mary's neighbors two houses south on Willits Lane who kept one in the yard for years). They prohibit certain species of trees, garage sales, leaving your garage door open even when it doesn't face the street- which is also prohibited. The list is endless.

Whether one likes those rules or not, they are a spreading fact of life as mortgage lenders -and construction lenders- require them. We have already turned into a nation which believes in ordering our neighbors around. It is a very different country from the 1950s and 1960s. I think the difference in attitude toward one's neighbors has been a largely un-remarked revolution. It isn't the widely remarked upon gates on the communities which make the difference: it is the sense of entitlement to control your neighbor, and their right to control you.

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Gun Control: H.R. 861 & H.R. 73. Finally...

...a couple federal gun control laws I could support wholeheartedly.

But I won't hold my breath.

It isn't even worth writing my Congresscritters or Senators from the People's Republic of Hawaii. There is no way they would agree to regulate guns and gun owners the same way we do cars and drivers.

To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide a national standard in accordance with which nonresidents of a State may carry concealed firearms in the State.

To protect the right to obtain firearms for security, and to use firearms in defense of self, family, or home, and to provide for the enforcement of such right.