May 2011

Posted by Ellen

Pink stripes on his pants, orange flowers on his shirt, white shoes, a hint of a grin. His sense of style is perhaps not shared by many Parisians, but nonetheless, here he is, in Paris in the springtime.

Posted by Ellen

With a sky so propitious, what could go wrong? So many bridges to cross.

Posted by Ellen

The caption is missing from this Lewis Hine photo in the Library of Congress, but it was taken in the year 1900 and is believed to show children who worked at a seafood-packing plant in Baltimore.

The Baltimore seafood packers were immigrant families who called themselves Slovonians; they came mostly from regions of Eastern Europe that would later become Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. After a few years in Baltimore, many relocated to Biloxi, Mississippi, which became the center of American seafood processing through much of the twentieth century. There is still a Slovonian Society and Social Club in Biloxi.

Lewis Hine's photographs of working children were part of his eventually successful campaign to end child labor in the United States. This picture is a bit different, however. If you click on the photo to view a larger version, you will notice that several of the children are clearly too young to pack fish; one is too young to walk. And unlike Hine's usual subjects, some of these children are smiling, even laughing.

Maybe the picture is a reject from the anti–child labor campaign, hence the missing caption. Perhaps the children were families of seafood packers, but not necessarily working themselves as seafood packers. But it is clear from Hine's other photographs that at least some of these children did in fact work long, miserable hours in the wretched factory they are posed in front of. They nonetheless laugh and smile, we have to assume, because that's what children do.

Posted by Ellen

Camille Doncieux was one of the favorite painting subjects of both Claude Monet, who married her, and Claude's close friend Pierre-August Renoir. Here, she reclines and reads for an 1872 portrait by Renoir.

Monet first met Camille in 1865, when he sought out models for his large-format figurative work, "The Picnic." They had two children together and finally married in 1870, around the same time that Monet and Renoir were working out the new approach to painting that became known as Impressionism.

Although Impressionism is widely associated with scenic paintings–sunlight sparkling on water, buildings reflected in the ripples–Impressionist-style portraits of Camille by both Renoir and Monet were much easier to sell in the earlier years than were the outdoor scenes. The two artists often used her as a model in paintings of gardens or city streets, perhaps to improve saleability.

Camille died young, in 1879 at the age of 32, from pelvic cancer. Monet painted her one last time on her deathbed. He and his two sons then retreated to his farmhouse at Giverney, where he remained somewhat secluded for the rest of his life, cultivating and painting his famous garden.

Posted by Ellen

This month's Patriot of the Month–shown above at left, with his brothers–is none other than our own Ted Stein, as proclaimed by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

Ted was honored for his work with the Center for Torture Accountability, an organization he founded two years ago as "a way to shame torturers and hold them accountable at a cultural level even if our government isn't holding them legally accountable."

The critical importance of a culture of accountability became evident to Ted when he learned of efforts by torture survivors in Argentina to bring stories of torture to the attention of the public, so that even when the government failed to prosecute, everyone would know that there were torturers living among them. Stories about the torturers showed up on walls all over town, and posters made the torturers' faces well known to the public at large.

It occurred to Ted that the internet could be used for similar purposes in the United States. We have torturers in midst, men and women who as part of our government, tortured thousands, likely tens of thousands, of people in the name of the fight against terrorism. We have tortured prisoners to death in some cases. Many victims of our torture have had no personal association with terrorism; they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were turned in by bounty-hunters. Some of them were children. Some of the acts of torture inflicted upon them are the same as actions for which we executed Nazis after World War II.

The Center for Torture Accountability attempts to make the American public understand the horror of what the government has done in our name, by ensuring that the stories of government-sponsored torture show up front and center in internet searches. The goal is to make sure that the names of torturers, and of the people who organized the American torture regime, will be forever associated in the public sphere with the deeds they did.

Torture and torturers thrive, observes Ted, in cultures of impunity; torture stops when the culture becomes one of accountability. We may wait a long time for the government to hold its torturers to legal accountability, but in the meantime all of us can begin the hard work of changing our overall culture, so that torturers are no longer accepted as good citizens or welcomed in decent society.

Posted by Ellen

On Highway 26 the other day, just outside of Dubois, Wyoming, in the Wind River Range, this grizzly and her cub crossed the road and scooted up the snowbank while Hank tried to snap her picture.

The snow thereabouts was still four feet deep in mid-May, which is why Hank and his friend Pat found themselves scurrying along Highway 26, south of Yellowstone, on their way back east from Montana. All over Yellowstone and the Tetons, late spring avalanches were closing highways, and the boys found their way blocked repeatedly; they backtracked, looped southward, backtracked again, looped further south, and finally broke out onto the plains.


Posted by Ellen

Every April, the town of Annapolis, Maryland, gears up for the annual croquet match between the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy and the Johnnys of the small liberal arts college across the street, St. John's.

Although the Naval Academy is an athletic powerhouse and St. John's is a haven for bookworms, the Johnnys routinely win the contest. But there is a non-athletic dimension to the event as well: costuming.

Spectators from both colleges show up in Gatsby-esque 1920s attire, notably including hats. And the St. John's team dresses in different uniforms every year, top secret till the day of the game.

This year, the Johnnys' secret uniform was . . . the same as the Naval Academy uniform, white pants with letter sweaters. The two teams were distinguishable, however, because the midshipmen wore shiny white dress shoes while the Johnnys wore whatever shoes they felt like wearing.

St. John's won, 3-1.

Posted by Ellen

In 1977, the Voyager space probe shot this picture of the earth and moon together. It is believed to be the first snapshot that captures both bodies in the same frame.


Posted by Ellen

The April 27 tornado that stayed on the ground for more than eighty miles through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Alabama, has now been classified F4, not F5, as I mistakenly indicated in a posting here on May 1. There were three definite F5 tornadoes that same day, including one in north Alabama that completely obliterated the town of Hackleburg.

But F4 is plenty bad enough. Forty-one people died in Tuscaloosa.

This is what's left of our old house. It was a two-story house, but the second story was set back a bit, and it's completely gone. At the extreme right of the picture is the doorframe for the front door, which is gone. At left is a spray-painted "Katrina cross" indicating that the rubble was searched on April 28 by search team "M," and no people or pets were found.

Posted by Ellen

I have nothing to say about the video below, which shows the Mizzone brothers practicing an old Earl Scruggs tune, "Flint Hill Special." Jonny Mizzone, the banjo player, is 8 years old; Robby, the fiddler, is 12, and Tommy, who plays guitar and mandolin, is 13.

They live in New Jersey. They say they've got another brother coming up, who they hope will play bass.