Lewis Hine

A man who changed America.

Great men change societies for the better in various ways. Some do it through political action (FDR – Medicare, Social Security, WPA), others through large capital transfers and aggressive leadership (Bill Gates and his Foundation). Lewis Hine (1874 – 1940) was neither a powerful politician nor a Master of the Universe. This highly educated man (University of Chicago, Columbia, NYU) was instrumental in changing child labor law in the United States through his searing photography of young children put out to work.

The Guardian has a fine spread of his work which you can see by clicking his iconic image of the power house mechanic below.

Click the image.

Sadly Hine died destitute, living on welfare. The great nation which he had helped reform had turned its back on him.

Jules Aarons

Street photographer and scientist.

Jules Aarons provides concrete proof that talent is not equally disposed in the world of homo sapiens.

The scientific work of Aarons has much to do with the accuracy of the Google Maps app on your iPhone. But it’s his street photography which is of greater interest here. A long time resident of Boston and, like all educated men***, a devoted Francophile, his street snaps in Boston and Paris are luminous and delightful.

*** Aarons studied physics at Boston University, earning his M.S. degree in 1949. In 1953 he won a Fulbright scholarship and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Paris – Wikipedia.



You can see more at his web site here.

Elliott Erwitt in Pittsburgh

Before the transformation.

These newly discovered images of Pittsburgh by Elliott Erwitt document the old city built by the little Scots immigrant and his Carnegie Steel, before its transformation to the vibrant metropolis of today.

Erwitt is incapable of taking a bad photograph as this wonderful slide show attests.

Click the image.

Sadly, it’s many of the descendants of these same immigrants pictured here who would deny the opportunity of immigration to the United States to those who will only help make America greater. “Now that I’m here, stay away” being the thinking. That’s not the America which welcomed me with open arms on November 16, 1977, a day second only to my son’s birth in my memories.

The best bread knife

Japanese. Think different.

Some nine years ago I extolled the French Sabatier chef’s knife, and it remains in service to this day, sharpened on a Chef’s Choice 130 machine which combines a coarse grinding wheel, a fine polishing wheel and a miniature strop/steel which re-establishes the edge with negligible wear to the blade. Being at the peak of the culinary expertise of the free world no one beats French cooking, so the choice of the Sabatier was simple. That non-stainless steel knife – yes, it rusts as quickly as you glance at it – seems to have been discontinued in favor of the modern stainless variant, but I’m sticking with old tech because it works so very well. Just like ignition points in my old Airhead.

As it happens I like to cook bread and chanced on a fine Italian bread baking book by Carol Field. I’m having a blast working my way through it and, for the first time, find myself ordering groceries from Amazon. Have you tried finding durum wheat flour in your local store? Amazon has it, needless to say, which is why they will take over the world. One recent, successful effort saw a couple of loaves of Pane di Altamura exit the oven, a bread which hails from the heel of Italy and comes with a very hard crust.

Pane di Altamura, along with the now recycled Taiwanese bread knife.

But try as I might, sawing away with my Taiwanese bread knife offered more threat to my fingers than to my carb intake. The knife, properly sharpened, is next to useless.

When it comes to tools, the Japanese and Germans excel. Cars, cameras, power tools, knives – both nations massively recapitalized by the US in the late 1940s brought new thinking to tool design and ended up dominating their respective genres. Heck, this blog would have little to write about on the hardware front had there been no German or Japanese engineers. Sure, the easy answer when it comes to bread knives is to blow $130 or more on a Wüsthof, but that’s kind of offensive to my frugal ways, and there’s a far cheaper alternative which Just Works:

The Tojiro has at it with the Altamura crust – paper thin slices, effortless, total control.

I suppose all those centuries of seppuku, samurai sword feats and the occasional ritual disemboweling have allowed the Japanese to perfect their knife making expertise – I mean, when you are slicing your abdomen in half or beheading a fellow zealot you really want to do it just once, I suppose – but the modern cook is the beneficiary of Tojiro’s skills. Price? You can get six or seven of these for the price of one fine killing machine from the Master Race and it is absolutely superb.

The wonderful selection of Tojiro’s specialty kitchen tools can be found here.