Stay Home, They Told Us… Diary of an Italian Editor

From LitHub:

“Stay home, if you can,” they told us in the beginning. And I could. I run a small publishing house from my home and at home is where I have always spent the majority of my time. I was not afraid. I can do it, I told myself. This changes nothing. Then the advice became an order. “Stay home!” they told us. And everything changed.

We live as if a predator roams outside. And no one knows when it will tire of the hunt and move on. Usually crowded with tourists from all over the world, the streets of our beloved Florence are now totally empty. Pigeons and doves and carrion crows, taken aback from the sudden quiet, look at each other in disbelief. Spring is coming but we know we won’t be able to enjoy it. Things we used to take for granted, like taking a walk in the park or paying a visit to a friend, have become a luxury that we cannot afford. This used to be a time when gatherings were welcome; now we are asked to stay away from each other, to be wary of anyone who comes too close. When this will be over, how long will it take before we feel safe again to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek? And where will all the homeless people go while we are busy complaining of getting bored at home?

At least we have refuge, even if it is starting to feel tighter and tighter, I tell myself as I ration food for the week: the less time we spend in crowded areas like supermarkets the better, and in any case only one family member is allowed out at a time to go food shopping and must carry a document with them stating the reason for which they have left home—if the statement turns out to be false, charges are filed.

It’s not a war we’re living through, we have everything we need: food and distractions, books, music and technology to communicate with the rest of the world. But for the past few days I have woken with a drone in my ears. I get up, drink coffee, sit at the computer, talk and downplay things with my husband, make lunch, work some more, make dinner and the drone is always there, a thin veil that separates me from what little I can still see and touch. I am a robot, performing the actions for which I was programmed. My mind attempts to establish contact with a new, static body—for now we are permitted to go out for a walk, but alone and never far from home—a body that does not do the things it once did. It’s the isolation, I tell myself. The uncertainty of tomorrow. The lack of oxygen.

. . . .

The truth is that in this funereal silence—the sounds of the city have vanished, only the bells of Santa Croce articulate my days—we now feel the full weight of our thoughts.

Link to the rest at LitHub

Florence is PG’s favorite city in all the world (Mrs. PG’s favorite as well.)

There are many other cities PG enjoys, but if told he must remain in one place for the rest of his life and given a choice of anywhere in the world (and the availability of quick transportation to visit friends and family elsewhere), PG would choose Florence.

The combination of art, architecture, history, vistas and Italians is, for PG, perfectly wonderful.

It saddened him to read the OP and sense the diminution of the Florentine spirit in this season of plague.

PG looked at some of his favorite photos of Florence and posted a couple below.

Olive Trees, Corfu

Olive Trees, Corfu
Date: 1909
Artist: John Singer Sargent
American, 1856-1925
The Art Institute of Chicago
CC0 Public Domain Designation

PG thinks the practice of an increasing number of museums in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to formally designate some pieces in their collections in the public domain under the Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain Designation copyright license is an excellent idea that will increase the public’s awareness of some wonderful pieces of art. Of course, no reproduction will have the same impact as the original has, so an anticipated by-product of these policy decisions is to draw more patrons to the various museums and galleries where these objects may be viewed.

From time to time, PG will post additional copies of various works that have been so designated.

PG enjoyed the Sargent painting in part because it reminded him of a lovely trip he took with Mrs. PG several years ago during which they visited the lovely island of Corfu, off the Northwest coast of Greece in the Ionian Sea.

Following are a couple of photos PG took on Corfu. The first is in an ancient Greek Orthodox monastery and the second is laundry day on a narrow little path between two buildings in the old town of Corfu.

You Can Now Download 150,000 Free Illustrations of the Natural World

From The Smithsonian:

Botanical illustrations offer mesmerizingly detailed and vividly colored glimpses of the natural world. Now, reports Hakim Bishara for Hyperallergic, more than 150,000 such artworks are freely available for download via the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), an open-access digital archive that preserves images and documents related to botany, wildlife and biodiversity.

Captured in watercolor paintings, lithograph prints and black-ink linework, the collected illustrations demonstrate the diversity of Earth’s wildlife as observed over hundreds of years. The BHL’s earliest texts date to the mid-1400s; its digital collection includes illustrations as recently created as the early 1900s.

The practice of creating detailed illustrations of flora and fauna, whether to document an expedition or a medical practice, gained popularity well before photography was up to the task. Even today, an illustration can offer more clarity than a photograph.

Link to the rest at The Smithsonian

PG says this might be another source for book covers, illustrations, promotions, etc.

Versuch einer Naturgeschichte der Krabben und Krebse :
Berlin ;Bei Gottlieb August Lange,1782-1804.

Flora Graeca: “The Most Costly and Beautiful Book Devoted to Any Flora”

Title page. Sibthorp, John. Flora Graeca. v. 1 (1806). Contributed in BHL from Lloyd Library and Museum. Digitized by Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

John Sibthorp’s Flora Graeca (1806-1840) has been described as “the most costly and beautiful book devoted to any flora” [1]. Dedicated to the plants of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, only 30 subscriptions for the first edition were sold and of those, only 25 were completed. While each copy was sold for £254, the cost to produce each copy was about £620 [2, 176].

Flora Graeca arose out of botanical expeditions carried out by English botanist John Sibthorp in Greece and Asia Minor between 1786-87 and 1794-1795. Sibthorp employed Austrian artist Ferdinand Lukas Bauer to accompany him on the first expedition and serve as illustrator. During the expedition, Bauer created around one thousand plant sketches, using a color coding process to record the exact colors of the specimens he observed in the field, allowing him to produce accurate final drawings based on his field sketches [3].

. . . .

Plate 202. Sibthorp, John. Flora Graeca. v.3 (1819). Contributed in BHL from Lloyd Library and Museum. Digitized by Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Link to the rest at The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Katy Perry Sued for Copyright Infringement Over Hillary Clinton Costume Photo

From Billboard:

The ghost of Halloween past has come back to haunt Katy Perry in the form of a new lawsuit.

Celebrity photo agency Backgrid USA has sued the pop star for copyright infringement over an Oct. 29, 2016, Instagram post that features a photo of Perry in a Hillary Clinton Halloween costume, documents filed with the U.S. District Court in California on Tuesday show. Because Perry failed to license the Backgrid-owned photo before sharing it with her 80 million Instagram followers, Backgrid alleges, she hurt “the existing and future market for the original Photograph,” resulting in “substantial economic damage” to the agency.

“The Photograph is creative, distinctive, and valuable,” the complaint reads. “Because of the subject’s celebrity status, and the Photograph’s quality and visual appeal, BackGrid (and the photographer it represents) stood to gain additional revenue from licensing the Photograph.” Backgrid further alleges that Perry failed to license the photo even after the agency corresponded with her through her reps numerous times between July 2017 and October 2019.

. . . .

“Backgrid is an entertainment news agency that works closely with celebrities. As such, it is never Backgrid’s objective to litigate against celebrities,” said Backgrid attorney Joanna Ardalan.

. . . .

There is precedent for Backgrid’s suit. In recent years, a host of celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, 50 Cent, Jessica Simpson and Khloé Kardashian have been sued for posting unlicensed paparazzi photos to their social media accounts.

Link to the rest at Billboard

PG understands the copyright law underpinning the lawsuit and also understands that many celebrities like to see their pictures in various traditional and internet publications to hopefully help keep them relevant for some members of the general public.

However, PG can also understand why a celebrity who uses a photo in which she is the only subject of interest can feel a bit put out when the photog sues for damages.

100,000 Faces Generated By Ai Free For Any Use

From Muzli:

Link to the rest at Muzli

Here are some of the AI-generated faces:

PG says that these look pretty good to him. They’re downloaded from a Google Drive of 100,000 AI – generated images you can access at the OP on Muzli.

PG hasn’t gone through all the images, but some of them he stumbled across have some computer artifacts that tell you this is not a real person.

However, for an experimental start, he thinks this is impressive.

The Silence

PG has been visiting out-of-state family and apologizes for the lack of  posting.


This is a granddaughter.

PG is ignorant about what she was actually doing in this photo (she was definitely not playing the piano or attempting to do so), but if you are interested in alternatives to cliched pics of cute little girls, you might want to consider using this idea as a template.

Or not.

What Are Criminals ‘Supposed’ to Look Like?

From Crime Reads:

When we got home, our house wasn’t as we left it. We stood for a moment, not yet understanding why all our belongings were on the floor, how each drawer had been pulled out, tipped empty. There was a space where my laptop should have been and there were loose wires hanging from the television unit. Our fridge door had been left open, the fuse had burnt out, our food was turning bad. We were in the middle of an oppressive heatwave.

Such hot weather that, in an attempt to air out our suffocating, tiny house, I’d left a small window open downstairs. Stupid, I know now.

‘Oh my god…’ I said, to my boyfriend, as we took it all in. ‘We’ve been burgled.’

‘Yes,’ he said, flatly. ‘Yes we have. Now, don’t panic, don’t touch anything.’

‘We’ve been burgled!’ I wailed, as I panicked, touching everything.

People say the worst thing about a break in is the intrusion, the idea a stranger has been in your house. Yes, I realised, this is true. I felt mildly disgusted as I looked at my underwear strewn across the bedroom. I pictured a man, pale and rail thin, with a harsh face and mean eyes. I saw him stalking through our house, sweating from the midday heat. At that time it felt so personal, so hurtful. I hated him. I pictured him as vividly as I could so I could hate him properly.

Obviously, I would be able to tell just from looking at him that he was a bad person. Isn’t that how it works? They are different to us. Bond villains have scars, cult leaders have swastikas carved into their foreheads, mass-shooters have that crazed look in their eyes. We find safety in these differences between us and them. When these conventions are broken, when the blandly good looking guy next door turns out to have a human head in a freezer, it shocks us. Shouldn’t we have known?

. . . .

My second book One More Lie follows two adults who are living under new identities, after serving their sentences for a crime they committed as children. In the book the female character, Charlotte, captures the imagination of the public more than her accomplice Sean. Sean is dismissed as “exactly the type” who would do such a thing, an angry child with little adult supervision whose story was inevitable. Charlotte, however, is endlessly fascinating to people, especially the press, as she doesn’t look the type. In fact, she looks almost angelic. Big eyes, beautiful. So sweet. People ask, was she led astray, or is there a cunning psychopath behind that smile?

Sometimes, not looking like a criminal can work in a suspect’s favor. Look at the recent success of Jeremy Ray Meeks, whose mugshot went viral after his arrest for…well, it doesn’t matter anymore, does it? Jeremy is no longer a criminal, he is a supermodel, he dates a billionaire’s daughter. And a quick Google of “hot mugshot guy/girl” shows our fascination with this contradiction.

. . . .

Sometimes, being good looking works against the suspect. Amanda Knox was given an inordinate amount of media attention following the murder of her flat mate Meredith Kercher. In the UK she was nicknamed “Foxy Knoxy,” she was also called, “Angel Face,” and her behavior was monitored obsessively. Was she appropriately sad enough about what had happened? Did she conform to the role of secondary victim, or was she a villain? Either way, Amanda Knox fascinated us and it wasn’t to her advantage. Had she been less attractive, might she have escaped our scrutiny entirely?

. . . .

There were no repercussions for those who expressed an attraction to the idea of Knox as a hot murderer, to the fantasy of a sexy dangerous female. Casey Anthony was similarly objectified during the course of her trial. Both women are now released, they are not guilty, and we have moved on.

Or have we? The Netflix series The Ted Bundy Tapes reignited everyone’s interest for a semi-hot serial killer. A trailer was released for the Ted Bundy movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (will I ever be able to recall the title of this movie off the top of my head?) starring Zac Efron as the man himself. And people were…offended? Yes, very offended, because Ted Bundy shouldn’t be sexualized. Those women who said he was hot should be ashamed of themselves. We shouldn’t portray Bundy as good looking and charming and we certainly shouldn’t fancy him, or even a representation of him.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

Some time ago, PG went on an unusual binge of examining mug shots of criminals from the Southern California gangster era and other locations at the same time, probably in conjunction with him posting a series of Raymond Chandler quotes.

During this frolic, he decided he might possibly suspect some of being criminals based on their appearance, but wouldn’t have identified others.

John Dillinger


Still Working on the Office

PG is still working on his office cleanup. In the process, he is taking steps to streamline moving papers to their proper files or other fixed collection points and it is taking longer than he expected (Mrs. PG is not surprised).

Over the weekend, PG took a photo of a lovely flower growing on a huge plant which Mrs. PG has named Caesar. Caesar resides in Casa PG and dominates whatever room he occupies.

PG used a macro lens to get close to Caesar’s flower and liked the look of the photo after a few tweaks.



British Country Estates

Yesterday, PG posted an item about Bess of Hardwick and included a photo of Hardwick Hall.

Mike commented to recommend Chatsworth in Derbyshire.

By Kev747 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

One of PG’s favorites is Longleat in Somerset. The house is difficult to see from the photo below, but the view is called Heaven’s Gate on a hill overlooking Longleat.  Longleat House itself is by the river on the right side of the photo.

By Paula Kingswood, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Here’s a closer look at Longleat House.

By Mike Searle, CC BY-SA 2.0,

And one more.

By Saffron Blaze – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Feel free to use the comments to suggest other nominations for the loveliest country house in Britain.

Rose Noir

PG took part of the afternoon off and did some photography.

Fortunately, he remembered Valentine’s Day and made arrangements for Mrs. PG to receive some roses.

The roses were a subject for PG’s photography and post-processing activities.

He’s inserted two of his photos below. The first one received some minor tweaks and the second one is called Rose Noir.

For some reason known only to WordPress, embedding the photos in TPV played havoc with their colors. Click on each one to (hopefully) see the photos as PG intended them to look. The second photo is called Rose Noir.



PG discovered a lovely word this morning.

Sfumato is derived from the Italian word, “sfumato” meaning shaded or toned down.

According to Wikipedia, sfumato is a painting technique for softening the transition between colours, mimicking an area beyond what the human eye is focusing on, or the out-of-focus plane.  Wikipedia points to the painting of Mona Lisa as an example, particularly around the eyes.

Here’s a bit more explanation.


The Flickr Blog has just released its Top 25 Photos on Flickr in 2018 From Around The World that includes several photos that feature sfumato techniques.


PG went out looking for some autumn colors a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t find them in the usual places, but did find this spring that is the beginning of a small creek.

Click on the photo for a larger version.

UPDATE – Sharp-eyed visitor Donna discovered a ghost in this photo. See the discussion in the comments.

Here’s an enlargement of a portion of the original image that shows the ghost.

Escape to the country: Melissa Harrison on leaving London behind for ‘Deep England’

From The Guardian:

It is high summer, and the barley is being harvested. Instead of breezes and birdsong the fields are loud with the rumble of machinery, clouds of dust marking the place where distant combines clank and toil. For months I’ve watched the barley’s awns form, watched the beards tip over as the rippling acres turned from green to richest gold. Because of the long drought, though, this year’s yield has been low – something I wouldn’t have realised until recently. While the barley fields looked beautiful, the ears were far too small.

Nine months ago I was a nature writer and novelist who lived in south London; now home is a Suffolk village with nightingales in springtime, stoats, corn poppies, hares and water voles. Being able to walk out of my front door on to farmland and connect to the cycle of the agricultural year feels right at a bone-deep level; the longing for a more rural life that I’ve carried around for so long has eased.

Yet that longing was one of the things that’s always driven my writing. My first novel, Clay, was about the nature I discovered in the heart of the city; my second, At Hawthorn Time, was (among other things) an exploration of what it might be like to leave. “Will you still want to write about wildlife now it’s everywhere around you?” a friend asked me recently; “Or will you just start taking it all for granted?” It could happen, but as I’ve found out more and more about my village and the living things I share it with, my feelings for it have deepened, and the possibility of not wanting to capture it in words seems increasingly remote.

. . . .

As a child Dartmoor was my first love, and later Cumbria: upland landscapes built from granite and peat and heather, criss-crossed by drystone walls. Suffolk’s flat, wide, fertile acres could hardly be more different, but in 2016 I visited the county several times and found that it somehow crept into my soul. Farming with its often generations-deep connection to place has featured in all my books, probably because growing up rootless in suburbia I lacked that sense of connection. Having already written about pigs and dairy, I wanted to explore arable farming, and flat, fertile East Anglia is our cereal heartland. It’s also somewhere where, in the years between the wars, horsepower gave way to mechanisation just as the last vestiges of rural folklore were being swept away by science.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG found a few lovely photos taken in Suffolk (not by himself, alas).

And Suffolk hosts the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival. PD James and Daniel Defoe lived in Suffolk. Ruth Rendell lived in Suffolk and was created Baroness Rendell of Babergh (of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk) in 1977. Thomas Grey, who composed “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” in 1750, died at his home in Blundeston in 1809.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
         The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
         And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight,
         And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
         And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
         The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
         Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
         Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
         The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
         The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
         No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
         Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
         Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
         Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
         How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
         Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
         The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
         And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour.
         The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
         If Mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where thro’ the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
         The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
Can storied urn or animated bust
         Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
         Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
         Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
         Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre.
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
         Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
         And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
         The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
         And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
         The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
         Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.
Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
         The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
         And read their hist’ry in a nation’s eyes,
Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone
         Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin’d;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
         And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
         To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
         With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
         Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
         They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect,
         Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
         Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d muse,
         The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
         That teach the rustic moralist to die.
For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
         This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
         Nor cast one longing, ling’ring look behind?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
         Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
         Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
For thee, who mindful of th’ unhonour’d Dead
         Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
         Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
         “Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
         To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
“There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
         That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
         And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
“Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
         Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
         Or craz’d with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.
“One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
         Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
         Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
“The next with dirges due in sad array
         Slow thro’ the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
         Grav’d on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.”
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
       A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown. 
Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth, 
       And Melancholy mark’d him for her own. 
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere, 
       Heav’n did a recompense as largely send: 
He gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear, 
       He gain’d from Heav’n (’twas all he wish’d) a friend. 
No farther seek his merits to disclose, 
       Or draw his frailties from their dread abode, 
(There they alike in trembling hope repose) 
       The bosom of his Father and his God. 


The Black Arts — Magic and Chemistry — of Early Photography

From The National Review:

[The new show at The Yale Center for British Art] Salt and Silver: Early Photography, 1840–1860, takes some of the best holdings of a private London collection so exquisite and so focused that it can generate, with the BAC’s scholars, the definitive take on the technique that drove photography’s young years.

. . . .

Salt and Silver: Early Photography, 1840–1860, takes some of the best holdings of a private London collection so exquisite and so focused that it can generate, with the BAC’s scholars, the definitive take on the technique that drove photography’s young years.

. . . .

The salted-paper process, using compounds of salt and silver, was invented by the British scientist and scholar William Fox Talbot (1800–1877) in 1839. On one level, the show is about science and invention, but labels are kind to those who never belonged to a high-school camera club. Bathing a piece of paper in a salt solution, then a silver solution, and then exposing it to light created a negative of the image on which the lens focused. Another round of simple processing on a separate sheet produced a positive image. A daguerreotype, a process also pioneered in the late 1830s, was more complicated, took longer, made outdoor shooting more difficult, and created a glassy, toneless, deeply, almost unnaturally, focused, pickled image.

. . . .

(click for larger image)


Nelson’s Column Under Construction, Trafalgar Square, April 1844 William Henry Fox Talbot salted paper print from paper negative


. . . .


Newhaven Fishermen (Alexander Rutherford, William Ramsay & John Liston), ca. 1845
David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson
salted paper print from paper negative

. . . .

There’s plenty of color in these photographs, too. The early artists were competing with drawings and engravings, usually monochromatic, as the good catalogue tells us, but the photographs still stunned early audiences with their subtle tones of rose or sepia or lavender.

. . . .

Roger Fenton’s gorgeous portrait of Captain Lord Balgonie from 1855 has an entrancing aubergine color derived from gold-toning, a substitution of silver chloride with gold chloride during the finishing process. This deepens the density and intensity of shadows, which create a mood of extremes as his white face grows whiter, the darkness under his eyes more pronounced. Balgonie fought in the Crimean War and suffered from shell shock, the 19th century’s term for post-traumatic-stress disorder. He looks exhausted, has seen too much, and now seems to see strange things in the distance. It’s psychological portraiture at its best.

. . . .

Where are the Americans? Using Talbot’s technology required a costly license, a disincentive for early American photographers. Gradually, by the 1850s, newer technologies displaced salt-and-silver prints. Collodion glass-plate negatives produced sharper, more detailed images. The goals of American photographic surveys of the West, for instance, didn’t depict the colored atmosphere or mist so effectively evoked by the tonalists. Mathew Brady and other war photographers looked less for the mysterious, the equivocal, and the speculative and more for plain, matter-of-fact, in-your-face truth.

Link to the rest at The National Review

Early Morning Venice

PG was in a Venetian mood this morning.

The following is a photo PG took a few years ago while he was on an early-morning walk in Venice. As those who have visited this marvelous city know, walking along the canals is a great pleasure and one canal connects with another like the major city thoroughfares they are.

Another way of exploring Venice is to follow a sidewalk away from the canal. There may be something akin to a square western-style block somewhere in Venice, but PG has not discovered it.

Once you get away from the larger canals, the sidewalks become narrower and narrower, winding in between old buildings like an afterthought. On this particular morning, PG followed a very narrow sidewalk (turn sideways if you meet someone in order to squeeze past) which ended in a small courtyard pictured below. PG was standing at one corner of the courtyard with his camera pointed at the opposite corner. You’ll see a small portion of a wall on the right side of the photo.

No one seemed to be up and about. You’ll notice some closed shutters on the house at the left. PG suspects the laundry might have been hung out on the previous night. With water everywhere, it would take a bit of time for clothes to dry.

You can click on the photo to see a larger version if you like.


PG will exercise a grandparent’s privilege and include a couple of photos of his offspring.


For the first photo, he asked Natey to look really scary. Natey has a hard time transmuting himself from cute to scary.


Astrid is usually a fast-moving extrovert. PG had to be quick to catch her in a pensive moment before she noticed what he was doing put on a big smile for the camera.

Photographer Eugene Atget

PG enjoyed the lovely cinematography of yesterday’s preview of The Guardians.

He decided to play around with some of the photographs of early French photographer, Eugène Atget.

Atget created the original photo upon which the following image is based. The photo was made at court on Rue de Valence in Paris where an early motorcycle and automobile mechanic appears to have set up shop.

You can click on the photo to see a larger version that includes additional PG tweaks.


Here’s the original:


Via Wikimedia Commons/ Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1956


This is a photo PG took of what he thinks is one of the Juniper species that grow in the desert near Moab, Utah. He’s post-processed it for a little more intensity because nothing survives in this climate without an intense desire to do so.

While the twisted trunk and branches are typical, to PG, this tree looked like it had experienced a particularly hard life.

He understands that trees like this can shut down parts of themselves during long periods of extreme drought, then, after some rain, revive their seemingly-dead branches and sprout leaves. If you look in the upper right corner of the photograph, you can see some of the limited greenery of this particular tree which otherwise looks pretty dead.

Despite such harsh conditions, some desert trees native to the Southwest live to be more than a thousand years old.

PG tried to keep as much detail as possible in the embedded photo below (you can click on the upper right corner for a little larger view). If you would like to see a significantly bigger photo, clicking here will take you to one on Google Photo.

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Shucking Oysters in Louisiana

Before the enforcement of child labor laws in the United States. Photos from the Library of Congress with captions included. Click on the photos for a larger image:


Johnnie, a nine-year-old oyster shucker. Man with pipe is a padrone who had brought these people from Baltimore for four years. He said, “I tell you I have to lie to ’em. Ther’re never satisfied. Hard work to get them.” He is boss of the shucking shed. Location: Dunbar, Louisiana.


Four-year-old Mary, who shucks two pots of oysters a day at Dunbar. Tends the baby when not working. The boss said that next year Mary will work steady as the rest of them. The mother is the fastest shucker in the place. Earns $1.50 a day. Works part of the time with her sick baby in her arms. Father works on the dock. Location: Dunbar, Louisiana.


All these boys are cutters in the Seacoast Canning Co., Factory #7. Ages range from 7 to 12. They live near the factory. Seven year old boy in front, Byron Hamilton, has a badly cut finger, but helps his brother regularly. Behind him is his brother, George, 11 years. He cut his finger half off while working. They and many other youngsters said they were always cutting their fingers. George earns $1.00 some days, $.75 usually. Some of the others said they earn $1.00 when they work all day. At times they start at 7 a.m., work all day and until midnight, but the work is very irregular.


In center of the picture is Phoebe Thomas, 8 year old Syrian girl, running home from the factory all alone, her hand and arm bathed with blood, crying at the top of her voice. She had cut the end of her thumb nearly off, cutting sardines in the factory, and was sent home alone, her mother being busy. The loss of blood was considerable, and might have been serious. Location: Eastport, Maine.


Young cotton mill worker. A piece of the machine fell on his foot mashing his toe. This caused him to fall on to a spinning machine and his hand went into the unprotected gearing, crushing and tearing out two fingers. Location: [Bessemer City, North Carolina]

Instagram Is Eating Dining

In comparison with the post that follows this one about rural poverty in the US, here’s a distinctly first-world commentary about promotion via social media.

From Fast Company:

Increasingly, the stylish places that serve you food are being designed to cater to your feed.

. . . .

There are two lines at Cha Cha Matcha, a small cafe on a busy corner of NoLita in Manhattan. The first one is where you wait to buy matcha, a whipped green tea drink that is de rigeur among food-trend fetishizing millennials, in the manifold formats the cafe has on offer. (Latte, cappuccino, lemonade, splashed with coconut milk if that’s your thing, for about five bucks a cup.)

The other line is a little harder to describe, but is something akin to those groups of kids at Disneyland waiting to take a picture with their favorite animated character, except a lot more fashionable and marginally better behaved. They’re all waiting in front of a neon sign that hangs in back of the store, the words “Matchas Gracias” glowing in bright pink cursive. One by one they crane their hands just so, grasshopper-green drink backlit by the sign, trying to get the perfect photograph.

If you live in New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco—or, increasingly, London, Paris, and any other self-styled stylish city—you’ve seen similar people strike similar poses outside similarly unique restaurants, cafes, and bars over the last few years. “Influencer” is the catch-all term, a descriptor that is either highly covetable or dripping with irony, depending on who you talk to. But most of the people snapping away outside places like Cha Cha are only aspiring to that label, or maybe they’re just heavy Instagrammers, like any one of us —which means they’re not getting paid to shoot, filter, edit, tag, geotag, share, and like. What they represent to Cha Cha—and, really, what any customer with a smartphone and half an Instagram habit represent—is free advertising.

Link to the rest at Fast Company
Here’s a link to all the chachamatcha hashtags



This is Astrid. She has three older brothers, so she knows how to be assertive. She has a big smile, but nobody pushes her around. She’s a lot like her mother that way.

Astrid likes to wear lavender fairy wings. That’s her current look.


We Shopped at Amazon’s Chicago Bookstore: Here’s What It Was Like

From Nasdaq:

Many have lauded the recent opening of’s eight brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. as a death blow to independent bookstores. Since its launch in 1995 as an online retailer of books, Amazon has been blamed for the closing of bookstores nationwide because thanks to its wide-selection and low prices.

In an act of irony, the online retail giant has decided that its next step in its massive growth is to open brick-and-mortar bookstores where consumers can buy products in person. Amazon opened its first physical bookstore in 2015 in Seattle and has since opened seven more, including one in Chicago’s Southport Corridor this past March.

As an avid book reader, and a lover of independent bookstores, I had my trepidations about visiting the new Amazon Books in Chicago. To see what kind of competition Amazon Books poses for bookstores in the Second City, I decided to head up to the Lakeview neighborhood and witness this new phenomenon for myself.

. . . .

As the first Amazon Books in the Midwest, the Amazon Bookstore is a blend of a bookstore, electronics store, and a coffee shop. The bookstore was sleek and modern, but it felt impersonal-like an airport gift shop. In some ways, the store felt like the Amazon website had come to life.

Jennifer Cast, a vice president at Amazon Books, said that Amazon wanted to embrace its roots as a bookseller with these new stores. “We also realized we had an opportunity to create a new kind of store and create a different experience in a physical world. Our special sauce is knowing the reading habits and passions of a city through our data,” Cast said.

. . . .

The books are organized by the common literature genres, but the store also has special categories meant to appeal to Amazon customers. One of my favorite shelves was “Page Turners: Books Kindle Readers Finish in 3 Days or Less.”

. . . .

The most important feature about Amazon Books wasn’t the books, but the company’s Prime membership.

The store clearly made the shopping experience worthwhile for anyone that currently subscribes to a Prime membership for $99-a-year. Throughout the store, price check machines stood ready. When I tried one book, it showed me the difference in price based on whether I had a Prime account or not.

A Prime member could also obtain exclusive Amazon Prime Day deals at store locations. This year, Amazon had its most successful Prime Day yet. At its eight bookstores, it offered special deals on Microsoft MSFT Xbox Ones, Joule Sous Vide Precision Cookers, Osmo Genius Kits, and Philips Smart LED bulbs.

. . . .

Many people go to Apple stores and Best Buy in order to test out new technology before making expensive purchases. With this new testing site, Amazon is clearly trying to encourage consumers to commit to its voice-activated, Alexa-enabled devices that can play music, control home devices, make phone calls, and more.

A few workers constantly roamed the store and offered to help me try out the devices as I looked at them. The store also offers “Flash Course,” 5-7 minute tutorials on how to use the technology, every Friday through Sunday.

. . . .

And if anyone should be worried about new Amazon bookstore, it won’t be indie booksellers.

Readers who are willing and able to pay for the price and experience of independent bookstores will continue to do so. Chicago favorites, like Women and Children First in Andersonville and Myopic Books in Wicker Park, won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. At least, not because of Amazon’s physical bookstores.

Link to the rest at Nasdaq 

PG predicts that if the author visits a B&M bookstore in a year, she’ll have about the same experience as she would today, but a visit to an Amazon bookstore next year will result in some new and innovative experiences.

PG is certain he’s not alone in his enjoyment of visiting and revisiting museums, but he tends to seek out new experiences more frequently.

Speaking of museums, PG took the following photo when he visited a museum with his posterity a few days ago. He processed it so it looked a bit more ominous than the original and showed it to selected older progeny, who thought it was wonderful.