My favorite writer

My favorite writer is Jane Austen, and I’ve read all her books so many times I’ve lost count … I imagined being a famous writer would be like being like Jane Austen. Being able to sit at home at the parsonage and your books would be very famous and occasionally you would correspond with the Prince of Wales’s secretary.”

~ J. K. Rowling

The Fashion of Jane Austen’s Novels

From The Millions:

Dress in the Age of Jane Austen
 has been a long time coming. It started out as a chance comment in 2013 from Professor Aileen Ribeiro, author of foundational books on dress history such as The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France 1750 to 1820We were standing chatting in the snowy grounds of Chawton House, once owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward Knight, who was adopted by childless cousins and changed his surname. The gracious Elizabethan manor had become a center for studying women’s lives and writings, but we were there for the filming of the BBC documentary Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball, which sought to recreate the famous Netherfield ball scene from Jane Austen’s most beloved novel. I had made a hand-stitched replica gown for the production and appeared as the costume expert. During conversation, Professor Ribeiro mused on the fact that there was no good book on Regency dress. I agreed, but was taken by (flattered) surprise when she said she thought I would be the perfect person to write one. The conversation moved on. However, the idea’s seed started growing quietly in the back of my head. Six months later, I had decided to write what I privately thought of as The Big Book of Regency Dress.

My introduction to the clothes of Britain’s Regency period (c. 1795-1821) was through the body and life of Jane Austen, by recreating a silk pelisse coat, the only known garment connected with the author. Her incredibly observant writing, combined with the breadth of research existing on her and her family, made Austen the perfect starting point. Because I began with her physicality, I mused on the importance of the bodily self as the starting point for imagining and wearing fashion. From this center emerged the book’s structure, which moves outwards in concentric circles from Self, through the experiences of Home, Village, Country, City, Nation and finally, World. Locating seemingly English local fashions within their wider global contexts was important to me as an Australian historian. Without Britain’s world trade, none of the heaving bosoms dear to screen adaptations would have been clad in muslin gowns and Kashmir shawls.

. . . .

Regency fashion attracts a lot of myths, like that women stopped wearing stays or corsets, or damped their dresses to achieve a clinging fit. Did they really? And if not, what were Austen’s gentry peers actually wearing? The research involved scouring every kind of source I could think of, peering into people’s washing lists, their account books and recipes, taking advice from professionals of the time, and reading a lot of second-rate fiction. I also amassed thousands of images of clothed Regency people, only a comparative few of which appear in the book.

. . . .

Anglo-Irish author Maria Edgeworth’s letters are a font of information about dress and dressing practices. By comparison, only 161 of an estimated 3,000 of Austen’s letters survive. Edgeworth moved in more exalted social circles as a celebrated author, which Austen unfortunately never lived to experience. The Edgeworth letters share fashion details of the aristocracy as well as her tactics for dressing well in such company.

. . . .

Englishwomen wore bright red worsted or woolen cloaks throughout the 18th century and into the Regency period. Foreign visitors thought them a peculiar and charming local style. Visual sources show the ubiquitous scarlet garments worn in the country by everyone from local gentry girls through to peddlers and street sellers.

Link to the rest at The Millions


From The Wall Street Journal:

President Trump’s impeachment trial has brought an old American slang term to the fore: “cahoots.”

After Arizona Sen. Martha McSally rebuffed an impeachment-related question from CNN’s Manu Raju by calling him a “liberal hack,” she doubled down on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show last week by claiming that CNN reporters “are so in cahoots with the Democrats.”

Earlier this month, Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead prosecutor for the House Democrats, accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of “working in cahoots with the president,” adding that Mr. McConnell “has made himself an active participant in the president’s coverup.” That theme continued among pro-impeachment protesters on Capitol Hill this week, one of whom told USA Today that Senate Republicans, instead of serving as an impartial jury, are “working in cahoots with the defendant.”

“Cahoots” only ever appears in the phrase “in cahoots,” to suggest a questionable collaboration or secret partnership. It’s a sketchy word with an even sketchier history, and etymologists continue to theorize about where it came from, nearly two centuries after it entered American English.

The earliest known example comes from an 1827 item in a Georgia newspaper, the Augusta Chronicle, about a fictional backwoods orator named Barney Blinn. In a homespun speech railing against John Quincy Adams overturning a treaty between the state of Georgia and the Creek Nation, Blinn complained that “Gin’ral Government and the ministration are going in cahoot to undermine and overrule the undertakings of the free People of Georgia.”

. . . .

John R. Bartlett entered “cahoot” in his 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms and offered an early stab at an etymology, saying that the word was “probably from ‘cohort,’ Spanish and French,” defined as “a company, a band.” That fit the usage that he noted in the American South and West, “to denote a company or union of men for a predatory excursion, and sometimes for a partnership in business.”

In the years since, scholars have suggested many competing conjectures. One theory, supported by the Oxford English Dictionary, traces the term to a different French root: “cahute,” meaning a cabin or temporary hut, which was taken up in Scottish usage. Much as “cabinet” (originally referring to a small cabin) got extended to a circle of confidential political advisers, “cahute” could have followed a similar route for labeling a band of conspirators.

Yet another theory relates “in cahoots” to “cahot” or “cahoo,” a New England regionalism borrowed from Canadian French that was used in the 19th century to refer to a pothole in a road or an obstacle more generally. Thus, perhaps, being “in cahoots” could have originally referred to compatriots facing difficulties together.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

PG has always thought cahoots was a lovely word plus the younger members of the offspring of PG and Mrs. PG enjoy saying it.

The 9 Best Apps to Create Fast Graphic Designs

PG recently posted some links to discussions about online graphic design programs for authors. Here are some other possibilities

From Makeuseof:

In today’s world where selfies rule and videos are king among content, there’s no doubt killer visuals are important. But adding visual elements to your written content can feel like a major time-suck, especially when you don’t have any design skills to lean on.

Here are the best apps to create fast graphic designs.

1. Klex

klex editing app

Want to create beautiful graphics at warp speed? Well, Klex has got you covered. This application is best used to customize visual assets with stock photos, vectors, and illustrations, and add in text, fonts, and backgrounds that meet your needs.

Add your own photography or use the stock photos they provide. What I like about Klex is this platform gives you some space to mess around with a whole host of effects. It’s also not hard to use.

Klex uses the same technology behind Gravit Designer, but the aim here is to give users something much easier to work with. The app includes templates for everything from properly sized social graphics to posters, cards, and blog graphics.

. . . .

5. Desygner

Desygner Templates

Desygner is one of the best web-based apps for graphic design. The process is much more smooth than you’ll find with some of the other apps, such as Pixlr, which can feel a little clunky at times.

Where Desygner shines is in its mobile functionality. It’s perfect for social media users designing on the go, as Desygner has virtually eliminated the frustrating dragging and pinching process you’ll find in other tools.

We like that there’s a web app and a mobile version, as this potentially can save you a lot of time if you’re sick of wasting time on graphics when that’s not your main job, or it feels like a chore.

But as far as features go, this app is similar to Canva, but not as robust. Meaning, you do miss out on some features, but you also get a simplified experience where you can rearrange items, add layers, text, and customize photos with ease.

Desygner is free but offers a $6.95 monthly plan for access to more templates and features.

6. Google Drawings

Google Drawing interface

Want to create a customized PNG image with a transparent background? All you need to get started is a Google account, and who doesn’t have one of those?

Now, Drawings isn’t the most sophisticated tool; you’re essentially working in a Google Doc. However, it’s quite convenient. All you need to do to get started is install the extension. From there you can edit photos and create little graphics just as easily as a Google Doc.

Still, adding little labels or designs on top of a photo or plain backdrop can be a great way to incorporate humor or helpful instructions into your visuals. And once you get the hang of the “drawing” aspect, you’ll realize just how incredibly intuitive this tool is.

Link to the rest at Makeuseof

Design Tools for Authors

First, David Gaughran posted 12 Free Design Tools for Authors, then Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader posted Ten Free Online Image, Graphic, and Photo Manipulation Tools.

PG commends both items to indie authors who are interested in creating graphic designs for promotions, emails, covers, bookmarks (does anyone use those any more?) zippier-looking website posts, etc.

PG also has a few favorite and free/cheap tools of the same type that he enjoys using.

Adobe Spark is a freemium offering from the emperor/empress/queen/king of graphic arts software. PG likes and uses Canva from time to time, but Spark is his current favorite.

Spark offers an always-growing selection of pre-built templates that can provide anyone with a polished, sophisticated graphic design for printing, uploading to any social media service you can think of, dropping into an email, etc.

Lee Child letting go of his creation is a tale told by other bestsellers

From The Guardian:

“Not much surprises me these days but this news did,” said Ian Rankin of Lee Child’s revelation this weekend that his brother, Andrew Grant, would be continuing the Jack Reacher series. Child said: “For years I thought about different ways of killing Reacher off. First of all, I thought he would go out in a blaze of bullets, something like the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It would take an army to bring him down [but] Reacher had to have an afterlife after I was done.”

Not every crime writer thinks this way. Jo Nesbø recently told me there was no way his own super-tough detective Harry Hole would continue after his death – and that he had plans in place to bring about his demise. “He will not have eternal life. He probably won’t die from old age. But then again, who knows?” said Nesbø, adding that he wouldn’t be handing the franchise on to anyone else. “Definitely not. I’m telling you right now – if that should happen, if you see somebody trying, you can quote me on this.”

The late Italian detective novelist Andrea Camilleri always had an end in sight for Inspector Montalbano, writing the final novel in the series 14 years ago, and keeping it in his publisher’s offices in Palermo. “When I get fed up with him or am not able to write any more, I’ll tell the publisher: publish that book. Sherlock Holmes was recovered … but it will not be possible to recover Montalbano. In that last book, he’s really finished,” he said in 2012.

Others, though, have been more than happy to pass on the baton. In taking on a co-author role with his brother, Child follows in the large footsteps of writers such as James Patterson, who works with a handful of co-authors on bestselling lines including the Alex Cross books and Women’s Murder Club series. He’ll write a 50-page outline for his team, who will draft chapters that Patterson will read, revise, and rewrite where he needs to, paying them out of his own pocket.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Comments and Other New Theme Issues

PG has been catching up on messages sent through the Contact Page on TPV following the departure of various members of the extended PG family.

Problems with the Comment function of the new theme were reported by a couple of visitors.

PG will look into a fix on that.

Feel free to post any problems you are having either in comments to this post or via the Comment page (some of the comments sent via the Comment page have been getting through).

While PG has been regularly updating various plugins when updates have become available, he suspects the new theme is surfacing plugin issues that the old theme had been living with.

UPDATE: If you have suggestions for alternates to misbehaving WP plugins, feel free to include them in your responses.

Cemetery Wine

(Yes, PG is more easily distracted than usual this morning.)

From Atlas Obscura:

Catholicism and wine cross paths throughout history and literature. Jesus turned water into wine. Some wineries survived Prohibition by producing still-legal sacramental wine. Mass-goers still drink wine as part of the sacred Communion ritual. And now, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, California, is turning grapes grown in their cemeteries into bottles of reds and whites fit for a graveyard picnic.

These cemetery vineyards got their start as a beautification project. In 2006, the diocese was faced with the task of landscaping unused portions of the grounds at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward. Grass would’ve cost $50,000 an acre, so they decided to plant grape vines at less than half the cost. The diocese liked the idea so much that they planted vines across three different graveyards, each offering unique growing conditions for particular varietals. Growers planted chardonnay, pinot noir, and primitivo at Holy Sepulchre; cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel at Holy Cross in Antioch; and pinot noir, merlot, and sangiovese at St. Joseph’s in San Pablo.

The diocese initially offered the resulting bottles of wine to parishes within the community and donated them to charities for fundraisers. But in 2013, they began a collaboration with Alameda’s Rock Wall Winery to take their products, labeled Bishop’s Vineyard, to the next level. Today, Bishop’s Vineyard produces around 600 cases annually, offers memberships to an exclusive wine club, and has won medals at local wine competitions and festivals.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

Crypto Week

Although visitors to TPV are an intelligent and widely-read group of individuals with many interests, it occurred to PG that some might not know that this is the beginning of Crypto Week, so declared by Cloudflare, a cloud services company.

Although this is not the standard fare on TPV and is not intended to become so, “Welcome to Crypto Week” in the subject line of an email PG received in the last couple of hours, did its intended job for an advertising/promotional email — PG clicked to open the email instead of deleting it.

Every day this week, Cloudflare will be announcing support for a new technology that uses cryptography to make the Internet better. Everything we are announcing this week is free to use and provides a meaningful step towards supporting a new capability or structural reinforcement.

This might not be an ideal message for those promoting a murder mystery, but given PG’s strange mélange of techno-legal interests, it captured a bit more of his fleeting attention. He clicked a link that lead to the Welcome to Crypto Week landing page. The third paragraph read:

Everything we do online depends on a relationship between users, services, and networks that is supported by some sort of trust mechanism. These relationships can be physical (I plug my router into yours), contractual (I paid a registrar for this domain name), or reliant on a trusted third party (I sent a message to my friend on iMessage via Apple). The simple act of visiting a website involves hundreds of trust relationships, some explicit and some implicit. The sheer size of the Internet and number of parties involved make trust online incredibly complex. Cryptography is a tool that can be used to encode and enforce, and most importantly scale these trust relationships.

PG found the lead-in paragraphs unusually well-written for a tech company (not a terribly high standard, but one rarely achieved). While some of PG’s best friends are tech entrepreneurs and engineers, he doesn’t always get a buzz from their writing styles.

The landing page becomes a bit more technical from there, but was not without the occasional metaphor – combining cryptographic processes was described as, “building a taller tower of turtles.”

If you’ve gotten this far, you might want to click on the link, but if you didn’t click, PG wouldn’t blame you.

For the record, PG has no pecuniary or other type of relationship with Cloudflare. His Lastpass password vault does reflect that he had some sort of login with Cloudflare that he last used four years ago, but four years reaches back into the 18th century for the internet.

Link to the rest at Welcome to Crypto Week – Cloudflare


Bill Whitaker

A good friend of mine passed away today.

Bill Whitaker was a superb artist who primarily painted portraits and earned his living from his art during most of his life.

In the last 20-25 years, most of his paintings were created on commission and are privately owned. Others he sold in art galleries throughout the American West. Several of Bill’s paintings are already in museums and I expect to see more in those surroundings in the future.

Bill lived less than five minutes away and welcomed visitors when he was painting. He worked in a studio with a very high ceiling and a tall glass north-facing wall so he enjoyed perfect light for his art.

Bill usually worked from photographs of his subject that he had taken previously in the same studio with professional-level photo and lighting equipment. Much of the time when  I walked into his studio the portrait looked great to me but Bill explained there was a lot more work to go. He worked with a small brush touching the canvas here and there with almost indiscernible strokes.

Bill usually had a photograph he had taken of the subject on a large computer monitor next to his canvas. Even after I thought the painting was a perfect reflection of the photo, he added more. When compared with his final painting, even a very good photo which was its basis looked flat and lifeless.

You can see examples of Bill’s work at his website. The paintings themselves look better when seen in person than the website photos do, but you can get an idea.

On the Portraits page, in the middle of the top row, you’ll see a portrait of a young woman with short hair. She was the daughter of a neighbor who lives even closer to me than Bill did.

Megan was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 17 years old and died from the disease when she was 18. It was a devastating experience for her family. Bill painted Megan’s portrait for the family and the original hangs in their home. Megan is shown as she looked between cancer treatments during her last illness.

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