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Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Harmony is one of those microdot villages that appear on maps near the central coast of California near San Luis Obispo. Its claim to fame is an ongoing pottery shop and being home to the former Harmony Valley Creamery, a dairy cooperative that closed in 1955. It lies north of Cayucos and south of Cambria on Highway One.

The hamlet of Harmony began as a dairy settlement in the late 19th century started by Swiss immigrants living near the Italian border — the same background as many of San Luis Obispo County's founders, including the Madonna family, owners of the Madonna Inn located in San Luis Obispo, California.  [So that's where the inn's name came from].

Harmony was founded in 1869 around several dairy ranches and a creamery. The operation changed hands repeatedly because of rivalries that led to a killing. In 1907, owners and ranchers agreed to call off their feud and called the town by its present name as a symbol of their truce.

The Harmony Valley Dairy Co-op was founded in 1901. As the town grew, it soon hosted a dairy management office, dormitories for employees, a livery stable, a blacksmith, and later a gas station. A school was built, and a feed store and post office gave Harmony official status as a community. At its peak, the creamery employed 10 workers, producing high quality dairy products, including butter and cheese that gave Harmony name recognition statewide.

The creamery purified butter by cooking it in the traditional Swiss way, clarifying and giving it a golden color—old-world dairymen claimed butter produced by this method never turned rancid. Tourists traveling Hwy 1 often stopped for fresh buttermilk, and famed publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst stopped often in Harmony on his way to his opulent home in San Simeon, 12 miles northwest, as did many of the Hollywood celebrities who were frequent guests of Hearst.

Increased grazing land fees and dairy industry consolidation led to the closure of Harmony's creamery around 1955. The town, which still has a part-time post office, lost population until the 1970s when it was rediscovered by California's young counter-culture population, many of whom were looking for a rural lifestyle where they could practice traditional crafts away from the pressures and technology of urban life. Many of the town's historic landmarks, including the main creamery, were restored and reopened as restaurants and shops.

Since the 1970s, Harmony has ridden cycles of prosperity and neglect. It has been home to upscale restaurants, crafts, ceramics and art. More recently, Harmony became a town in name only; a single restaurant remained, but went through several owners before closing in the late 1990s.

A small cadre of artisans keeps Harmony alive, with retail shops selling art objects, locally hand blown glass, and pottery, but the town faces an uncertain future. Harmony was recently put up for sale. Helping keep the town alive is Harmony Cellars, a boutique winery and tasting room, about 1/4 mile south. The winery opened in 1989 and in 2006 produced about 6,000 cases of Central Coast varietals like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In 2014, Harmony was purchased by Alan VanderHorst and his family, who plan to restore and preserve the 2.5-acre historic town.

Harmony is one paved street off of SR 1.

His Honor, The Mayor

There was a restaurant, but it closed in 1997. The Harmony Pottery Shop sells pottery, T-shirts, and soft drinks. The post office was in operation until April 11, 2008. There is a wedding chapel in the rear, and gardens nearby.


Monday, February 26, 2018


Actors Alec Guinness and Noel Coward in the film version of Our Man in Havana

From World Heritage Encyclopedia via Project Gutenberg:

Our Man In Havana (1958) is a novel set in Cuba by the British author Graham Greene. He makes fun of intelligence services, especially the British MI6, and their willingness to believe reports from their local informants. The book predates the Cuban Missile Crisis, but certain aspects of the plot, notably the role of missile installations, appear to anticipate the events of 1962.

Author Graham Greene joined MI6 in August 1941. In London, Greene had been appointed to the subsection dealing with counter-espionage in the Iberian peninsula, where he had learned about German agents in Portugal sending the Germans fictitious reports which garnered them expenses and bonuses to add to their basic salary.

Graham Greene, Havana 1959
Photo: Peter Stackpole, Life Magazine
One of these real agents was "Garbo", a Spanish double agent in Lisbon, who gave his German handlers disinformation, by pretending to control a ring of agents all over England. In fact, he invented armed forces movements and operations from maps, guides, and standard military references. Garbo was the main inspiration for Wormold, the protagonist of Our Man In Havana.

Remembering the German agents in Portugal, Greene wrote the first version of the story in 1946, as an outline for a film script, with the story set in Estonia in 1938. The film was never made, and Greene soon realized that Havana – which he had visited several times in the early 1950s – would be a much better setting, the absurdities of the Cold War being more appropriate for a comedy.

The novel, a black comedy, is set in Havana during the Fulgencio Batista regime. James Wormold, a vacuum cleaner retailer, is approached by Hawthorne, who offers him work for the British secret service.

Wormold's wife had left him and now he lives with his sixteen-year-old beautiful, devoutly Catholic but materialistic and manipulative daughter Milly. Since Wormold does not make enough money to pay for Milly's extravagances, he accepts the offer of a side job in espionage.

Because he has no information to send to London, Wormold fakes his reports using information found in newspapers and invents a fictitious network of agents. Some of the names in his network are those of real people (most of whom he has never met) and some are made up.

Wormold only tells his friend and World War I veteran, Dr. Hasselbacher, about his spy work, hiding the truth from Milly.

At one point, he decides to make his reports "exciting" and sends to London sketches of vacuum cleaner parts, telling them that those are sketches of a secret military installation in the mountains.

In London nobody except Hawthorne (Noel Coward), who alone knows Wormold sells vacuum cleaners, doubts this report. But Hawthorne does not report his doubts for fear of losing his job.

In the light of the new developments, London sends Wormold a secretary, Beatrice Severn, and a radio assistant codenamed "C" with much spy paraphernalia.

On arriving, Beatrice (Maureen O'Hara) tells Wormold she has orders to take over his contacts. Her first request is to contact the pilot Raúl. Under pressure, Wormold develops an elaborate plan for his fictitious agent "Raúl" and then coincidentally, a real person with the same name is killed in a car accident. From this point, Wormold's manufactured universe overlaps with reality, with threats made to his "contacts". Together, Beatrice (who doesn't realise the contacts are imaginary) and Wormold try to save the real people who share names with his fictional agents.

 Meanwhile, London passes on the information that an unspecified enemy (implied to be a Soviet contact) intends to poison Wormold at a trade association luncheon where Wormold is the speaker. It would seem that his information has worried local operatives who now seek to remove him – London is pleased by this, as it validates his work. Wormold goes to the function and sees Dr. Hasselbacher (Burl Ives) who loudly warns him of the threat.

Wormold continues to dinner where he refuses the meal offered and eats the second one. Across the table sits a fellow vacuum cleaner salesman, a man he'd met earlier called Carter, who offers him whiskey – suspicious, Wormold knocks over the glass, which is then drunk by the headwaiter's dachshund, which soon dies. In retaliation for the failure, Carter kills Dr. Hasselbacher at the club bar.

Captain Segura (Ernie Kovacs), a military strongman who is in love with Milly (Jo Morrow) and intends to marry her, has a list of all of the spies in Havana – a list that Wormold would like to send to London to partially redeem his employment. He tells Segura that he's going to his house to discuss Segura's plans about Milly.

Once there, Wormold proposes they play a game of draughts using miniature bottles of Scotch and Bourbon as the game pieces, where each piece taken has to be drunk at once. Eventually, Segura (who is the much better player) ends up drunk and falls asleep. Wormold takes his gun and photographs the list using a microdot camera. To avenge the murder of Dr. Hasselbacher, Wormold follows Carter to a local brothel and after some hesitation shoots with Segura's pistol, but misses Carter.

Ernest Hemingway, Alec Guinness and Noel Coward on the set, Sloppy Joe's Bar, Havana, 1959

Wormold sends the agent list as a microdot photograph on a postage stamp to London but it proves blank when processed.

Wormold confesses everything to Beatrice, who reports him to London. They are summoned back to headquarters where Beatrice is posted to Jakarta and Wormold's situation is considered – despite the deception, some of his information is valuable and he needs to be silenced from speaking to the press so they offer Wormold a teaching post at headquarters and recommend him for an OBE.

Afterwards, Beatrice comes to Wormold's hotel and they decide to marry. Milly is surprisingly accepting of their decision and is to go to a Swiss finishing school paid for by Wormold's scam earnings.

The revolutionary government of Cuba allowed the film version of Our Man in Havana to be filmed in the Cuban capital, but Fidel Castro complained that the novel did not accurately portray the brutality of the Batista regime.

Maureen O'Hara, Fidel Castro, Alec Guinness, Havana, 1959
Greene commented:
“...Alas, the book did me little good with the new rulers in Havana. In poking fun at the British Secret Service, I had minimized the terror of Batista's rule. I had not wanted too black a background for a light-hearted comedy, but those who suffered during the years of dictatorship could hardly be expected to appreciate that my real subject was the absurdity of the British agent and not the justice of a revolution...”

Greene returned to Havana between 1963 and 1966.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


Inspector Clouseau holds the recovered Degas on the autobus, where he left it.


News reports from Paris over the weekend tell of a recovered pastel painting by noted impressionist Edgar Degas (1854-2017.  Looted in 2009, “the Chorus Singers, 1877,“ was uncovered by French customs agents this month during a routine luggage inspection of a bus parked in a rest area near Paris. 

Stolen from the Musée Cantini in Marseille, the work was on loan from original owner the Musée d'Orsay, who claims the Degas is worth $1 million.
So far, no one claimed the suitcase.  With new found zeal, authorities are hot on the trail on the painting purloiners, but no arrests have been made.

The work, a depiction of actors performing in Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni,” is noted because it is one of the artist’s few works not to include dancers.
According to one CNN report, the Musée d'Orsay tweeted that it was delighted by the discovery -- no doubt very happy to have the unframed canvas back in the fold of its extensive Degas collection especially in light that the painting will be featured in the "Degas at the Opera" exhibit that's planned for September 2019 at Musée D'Orsay.

Celebrated international investigative blog if the filched work was “perhaps” on loan from the thieves as a professional courtesy and was enroute to Paris in time to be cleaned up for the Degas Expo.

Zut Alors!

Stranger things have happened, n'est-ce-pas?

While on the subject, famed art has long been a popular target with thieves, who often ransom the works for big Euros.  The following CNN report catches us up on a litany of lost art over the years, including the “Mona Lisa:” Click here.

Saturday, February 24, 2018


Photography by Radoslaw Pujan.
Pujan is a Belgian based professional European photographer, who works in fashion, beauty and black and white nude photography. For a gallery of his work go to

“...It is not only about my photos but about photography in general. Except for films I use, I won’t write too much about the technicalities. I will rather focus on preparations of my photo-sessions, how I work with the people involved in, and what emotions I want to show in my photographs. However, I will also write a bit about the whole world of photography that we are in contact with, my own opinions about how I see and feel it...”