Thoughts

On 2020 politics

I am not a Republican and I am not a Democrat, nor am I any other political flavor. I am not a member of any party, simply because no party offers a platform I can fully embrace. If I were to describe my political leanings, I would say they are centrist leaning to the right, which means I’m more conservative in some of my beliefs, though I hold quite a few modern beliefs.

Having had to read more than enough leftist views in the media during the past few years, particularly this year, I’ve now gotten to abhor anything that leans even remotely left. It’s been oversold, and it comes with shady and violent overtones, such as critical race theory, all sorts of unpallatable aromas of supposed “inequality”, BLM and Antifa. These so-called movements are clearly not to be taken at their face value. They have to be recognized for what they are: open attacks on the fabric of society, meant to destabilize and destroy commonly-held anchoring beliefs. Incidentally, this is what the communists would do as they were taking over a country (and afterwards). They would attack and destroy anything that would remind people of the old regime and that meant buildings, books, traditions, ways of thinking, etc. would all be thrown into the fire of “progress”. I can’t abide that. I’ve grown up in a communist regime and emigrated to the United States in 1991 to seek a better life. I’ve had enough “left” in my life to last me a lifetime.

Not that the extreme right is any more tolerable to me. Extremes in anything are not healthy and yet this year we’ve been treated to all sorts of political extremism.

I also can’t abide the continuous censorship taking place on social media against conservatives and against anything that challenges whatever the left wants to believe at a particular moment. The extremists can never be satisfied. You can never be leftist enough to please the commie axe blade that swings mere millimeters from your neck, and those who are advocating for more “left” in their lives will soon find that out, as they will find themselves on the wrong end of the axe. Last year we had #cancelculture and this year we have #doxxing plus so many hashtags I can’t even keep track of them.

To give you just one example of how loony this has gotten, I posted a video compilation to my FB page back in 2019, a short video clip of young women being harassed by men in bars or on the street with lewd comments, catcalls and the like, adding a short and simple leading quip: “men are pigs”. FB banned it because my statement was deemed “offensive to men”, even though the video itself offered ample proof that those men in the video were indeed pigs. It’s obvious that I was generalizing/stereotyping, but no man should be offended by something like that when it’s obviously true for most men at one point or another. And until a few years ago, no man would be offended. But now we live in the age of offence, where everyone takes great offence at everything, so in all the madness and pretentious, deconstructive arguments, we’ve given unwitting birth to all sorts of ideological monsters that have made their way into our politics and are now eating our societies. The amount of censorship going on now is absolutely incredible compared with this relatively mild example.

These ideological monsters such as inequality movements, BLM, Antifa, are all geared toward scaring people, instilling a permanent fear of persecution in them, and forcing them to accept whatever’s being pushed onto them if they want to keep their livelihoods and their way of life, and that’s no way to live!

If you’re somehow justifying the violence that took place on the streets of America during this summer and fall, leading up to the US elections, because the Democrats needed to push a “corrupt Republican” out of office, you’re in for some nasty surprises in the coming months and years. Allowing and encouraging large groups of people to commit vandalism, looting, assault and battery and even rape on bystanders or people who disagree with them, and to threaten them in writing and on video that there will be violent repercussions if they don’t vote Democrat, is a horrible, nasty thing to do. It’s the kind of thing that comes with a huge karmic payback. Once you encourage that sort of violence, you can’t just shut it down afterwards and pretend like nothing happened. It doesn’t work that way.

I’ll close with this: I dislike personality cults. I think it’s disingenuous to expect constant adulation from the people whom you’re supposed to serve. For some reason, Trump needs to be the center of attention wherever he goes. I get that he’s an extrovert and he feels great when he’s surrounded by the energy of large groups of people, but I don’t think it’s right to keep encouraging that sort of thing. When you, as a person, admire another person so much that you’ll go and stand for hours on a street, waving a flag, on the chance that you’ll get a glance of him driving by, you’re clearly biased toward him and you’ll be more than ready to forgive at least a few major faults, simply because you got a few moments of face time or a wave. People are people are people. In the mind’s eye, everyone should be weighed equally based on their merits alone, no matter what position they hold.

There is no overarching conclusion here: we are in uncharted territory.

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Thoughts

On the 2020 US election

Every time an election cycle draws near, I promise myself not to be drawn into it, but I always get too involved and it inevitably ruins my balance. Here are a few thoughts on what’s going on, before the election is called.

There’s an incredible amount of manipulation going on in the media. In the past, I’d always wonder why filthy rich businessmen would bother acquiring media companies, especially because they always bleed cash, but now I know it’s because they love to manipulate the public into believing certain narratives, especially when it suits their futures. The current flavor of the narrative is leftist and quite heavily so. Whatever the left’s selling, the mainstream media will flog, all day long. Having grown up in a Communist regime, I naturally abhor the left, but entitled, coddled American teens and youth have been brainwashed by top-ranking schools and colleges to believe that it’s a good thing, and that’s a sickening prospect.

There’s an unheard of amount of censorship in social media against anything that threatens the leftist agenda. I could not believe it when I could not post a link to the Hunter Biden stories on Twitter and on Facebook, and when the accounts of the NY Post and the White House Press Secretary were locked out, I knew social media companies had crossed the line. Apparently YouTube has been cutting off Partner status for certain conservatives or simply removing their accounts. I talked about the leftist leanings of big tech back in June, but I had no idea things would go so far, so quickly, that open censorship of official newspapers and official government accounts would occur on the eve of a presidential election.

There’s an unbelievable amount of voter fraud going on, and most, if not all of it, is being perpetrated by the Democratic Party. From illegal signs at voting stations and coaching of the voters, to countless ballots making their way into the hands of bad players, and the destruction of ballots found to be marked for Republican candidates, the Democrats are guilty of all of it. Just do a few simple searches and you’ll see plenty of proof.

Just as in the 2016 election, the public has been presented with two choices of candidates that are unlikable. On the one hand, we have Trump. I’m not sure what I could say about him that hasn’t been said already. I didn’t like him before he ever got into politics. I didn’t like his business practices and I didn’t like the debts he’d built up over the years. He was held up as a model American businessman through the 90s, 00s and 10s, and I kept wondering how that was possible given his business record and mountains of debt. I couldn’t understand the whole birth certificate controversy with Obama and I couldn’t understand why he got into politics. Right up to this year, I couldn’t stand the guy. But as the election drew near and I began to compare him with Biden and to look into what he’s accomplished while in office, he suddenly became more pallatable, because…

Biden is quite likely a “treasonous pedophile”, as he’s been described in the past few days. I’d add pathological liar and senile to that description. (Let’s not mince words here…) In spite of the narrative being put forth by the media, the proof is clear that he used his son and his political position to arrange large payouts from foreign governments. That’s at least corruption, if not treason. And every time I watch those video clips of him grabbing little children, pulling them toward him, sniffing them and whispering stuff into their ears as he’s forcing them to listen, there’s an inescapable gut feeling that comes over me, and that gut feeling screams “pedophile”. There are many videos of him lying through his teeth during his long and unproductive career in politics. Hell, he was even forced to withdraw from a previous presidential election because it was discovered that he plagiarized and lied his way through it. As if all this wasn’t enough to make me want to have the guy publicly executed, there are also clear signs that he’s quickly becoming senile. Then I begin to wonder about how complicit Obama and his administration were, because they knew about all this garbage when he was VP, and how corrupt the Democratic Party really is for putting forward such a nasty, ill-suited candidate at a time when it really matters. It’s filthy, vile stuff to do this to the American people and yet there he is, campaigning for “honesty, hope and decency”, the very concepts he’s been working to destroy all his life. Even the “no malarkey” slogan is the opposite of what he’s doing.

Serious financial efforts have been underway this year from certain individuals and groups of individuals with a nasty agenda to destabilize the US. Say what you will about Trump supporters — call them loud, obnoxious rednecks, call them racists, etc. (which they aren’t, by the way, most of them are none of those things) — they aren’t the ones who are clearly guilty of violent crimes, of physical assaults, of vandalism and destruction of property and historic art, of occupying neighborhoods and cities, as BLM and Antifa have done this year, and as they are doing right now, on election night. What’s also becoming clear is that these groups wouldn’t exist without financing from those individuals with a nasty agenda. While large mass protests are possible without manipulation, continued assaults on cities and people, night after night after night, aren’t possible without organization, equipment and funding. And when they happen inside a country, they are proof of well-financed efforts to topple an existing governmental structure. Furthermore, when local and state governments aren’t taking action to prosecute individuals identified as having committed those acts, there’s clear collusion between those groups and those governments, so that means even more money is involved in that game.

The whole COVID situation has been used as a political, governmental and economic football, with various sides blaming each other repeatedly. Whatever the virus may actually be doing to people, it has benefitted from much too much advertising (worldwide propaganda, really) for it not be used as an “agent of change”. What that change is and why it has been foisted on people will become clearer in the following months, but COVID has been one of the main actors in this presidential election and in this year, so it must be mentioned.

It’s absurd and tragi-comic how the US has been held up in recent decades as a beacon of hope and democracy for the world — and how corrupt it has really been. How in the world can a country that is so mired in a swamp of its own making, full of the nastiest stuff on earth, be a positive example for smaller countries such as Romania? I remember the speeches against corruption made by Gittenstein, the previous US Ambassador to Romania, only to find out this year that he’s been part and parcel of the greater corruption perpetrated by Biden and Basescu, an ex-president of Romania (see here). It seems that this brazen corruption (while speaking out against it) is the modus operandi of US politicians, in and out of the US, and any sane person has to wonder if any of them are decent people, or if all are guilty of having gone skinny-dipping in the Washington swamp.

I am left disgusted and repulsed by the whole situation. I’d like to see some proper house cleaning take place. It remains to be seen whether this will ever get done, or whether the whole house of cards will end up in shambles and ruin. Who knows, perhaps this has been the plan all along… What I do know is that nasty stuff is brewing up. This election is being hotly contested and where this leads is anyone’s guess.

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Thoughts

On current overreactions and pent-up frustrations

Rather than expound on these subjects in detail, because there’s a tremendous amount that can be said, I’d like to point out a few things and let you think about them.

The current demonstrations against police brutality in the US are laudable in principle, but they should’ve happened years ago. The fact that they’re happening now shows they’re more of a vent for pent-up frustrations against the coronavirus quarantine and against social distancing than against acts of police brutality. Let’s face it, the global quarantine was an unprecedented event that generated a lot of fear, stress and financial difficulties for people, and going out into the streets right now is an act of reassurance for them, more than anything else. Who could protest against a public health emergency? No one (well, almost no one). But who can get behind a commendable protest against race inequality? Everyone, even if that’s not really what motivates them to protest.

The coming together of these enormous numbers of people, even if some are wearing masks (most aren’t), is quite likely going to increase, not decrease, the numbers of infections and casualties from the virus, leading to its possible mutations into more lethal forms and another possible quarantine, which is exactly what those people don’t need. There is a high degree of irresponsibility in the behavior of these people in the streets, but just try telling them that…

Countries where police violence isn’t an issue in modern times, such as Germany, are overreacting with both mass demonstrations and legislative changes. Then again, Germany is still feeling very guilty for its past, so overreaction motivated by feelings of guilt is a predictable reaction for them. It’s also ridiculous, particularly for a country where there is so much disrespect, violence and hatred directed toward its law-abiding citizens from incoming immigrants.

The onus for the current situation can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the current political leadership of both parties in the US, because they’ve engaged in divisive, polarizing strategies for quite some time. The problematic behavior of police forces can be traced directly up the chain of command to the tone set by the president and other top political figures in their speeches and other communications. Even so, I’d encourage you to not be so naive to think that a simple switch of the presidency from one party to another can dramatically change the situation. This divisive rhetoric has existed at the top levels of politics even during president Obama’s two terms (not that he engaged in that sort of thing, but plenty of people on both sides of the isle in Congress and elsewhere did). And I believe that no matter what political party is in charge, that party can appoint good people to positions of leadership and ensure that the proper tone is set and publicly communicated at all levels of government, right down to the policemen patrolling the streets.

Whether you want to admit it or not, and whether you think it’s right or not, the brutality seen nowadays on the streets is the result of the frustration and anger of many conservative people in the US who’ve felt disenfranchised, under-represented and pushed aside by overtly liberal policies and laws passed in recent decades. I’ve written about this on my site before and I would point you to the exact post, but I can’t find it now. Certain societal changes must happen slowly, because they involve re-defining important concepts that have been in place for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Yet in the last two decades, we’ve seen huge pushes to over-liberalize views on so many subjects, and even more so, it became a crime (punished by law, censure or ostracization) to speak against these changes. This was bound to polarize and anger a lot of people, and what’s happening now is a long-overdue reaction that’s been building up to a boiling point. What you’re really seeing now is a clash between ways of thinking. Don’t think for a moment that just by condemning police brutality you’re going to make this long-standing anger go away. This kind of a complex situation can only be calmed down by at least a decade of completely open dialogue between all sides, where you have to let people say exactly what they think, on all sides. If that means a series of televised debates between community representatives in every major city, so be it, but the air needs to be cleared, over and over and over, until all concerns have been aired, all frustrations vented, on all sides of the issues. You have to let everyone voice their opinions without repercussions, without judgment, without categorizing them as racists, as discriminators, as “behind the times”, etc. But this isn’t happening. Instead, liberal agendas are being pushed through everywhere as fast and as forcibly as possible, so this deep-felt anger is going to continue to bubble up and reach boiling points.

If you look at videos of the demonstrators being aggressed by the police, you can see in a lot of cases how they’re either getting right up into these policemen’s faces and screaming at them, or they’re keeping some distance but still screaming at the policemen. If you’re going out to protest, do your protesting toward the cameras, toward government officials (if they’re present), but keep your distance and leave the policemen alone. They’re not there to act as a “screaming wall” for you or to judge your causes. They’re under tremendous pressure to do their jobs. Why do those people think it’s okay to scream at someone for hours on end, to call them names, to even bait them, and then expect them not to retaliate when they get the chance? Go out, have your say if you must, scream your heart out at the world, but keep your distance from the authorities, don’t be physically or verbally threatening, don’t throw things, and you’ll likely go home unharmed. But in a lot of these cases where demonstrators got hurt, the police were provoked in one way or another, probably not by the people who got hurt, but by people in and around that area. I’m not saying what happened was right or was justified, but it was in some way provoked, and when tensions run high, you don’t need to do too much before violence kicks in on both sides.

There is talk of defunding and disbanding police forces, and putting that money into social workers, community organizers, etc. Other than a few urban areas in the US, the truth of the matter is that police forces are typically underfunded and understaffed. And most policemen are good people with good intentions. But let’s let those cities that want to engage in police defunding experiments do it, and we’ll see what happens when social workers and community organizers are confronted with violent gang members, looters, muggers, rapists and various nefarious individuals who don’t respond to logic and reasoning.

On the other hand, and I speak from my experience of living in the US and in Romania, quite a few policemen (not the majority, but enough of them) can be described by at least one of these adjectives: lazy, incompetent, rude, corrupt, bullies. Those who qualify deserve whatever’s coming their way. While that sort of behavior might be marginally tolerated in civilian jobs, it cannot be tolerated from policemen, who ought to be held to a higher standard, exactly because it’s their job to uphold the law.

An inescapable truth that can be seen quite clearly in these demonstrations is that while people are out in the streets, “demonstrating”, they aren’t working. Worse than that, they’re not letting others work. Businesses who would now be working and contributing to a sorely abused economy cannot work because they’re disrupted by the demonstrations or they’ve been looted, especially where they were needed the most, such as in poorer neighborhoods. All this comes on top of a quarantine and countless missed payments on mortgages, car loans and other promissory notes. The very people shouting for justice right now are going to get a big dose of injustice as looming foreclosures and evictions finally occur. It isn’t going to be pretty if this situation drags on. People need to get back to work, businesses need to reopen, mortgages and other loans need to get paid, etc., or the economy is going to get even worse.

Should things get worse and should police forces get defunded in key urban areas in the US, those people are setting themselves up for severe problems in the near future. Those who haven’t witnessed what late 1970s and early 1980s New York was like, are about to experience it in their own cities and neighborhoods, if things continue along the same path.

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A Guide To A Good Life

Learning English

This is the fifth video in a new series where I talk about the people, experiences and things that have helped me in life. Who knows, perhaps they’ll help you as well! In this one, I talk about how learning English well has shaped my experience as an immigrant to the United States, about how learning English is still very much of relevance in today’s world, and I also offer some comments on the state of immigration in the US and Europe.

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Places

Collingwood Picnic Area, Virginia

I hope I won’t spoil this little spot by telling you about it. On one of our visits to Mount Vernon, we decided to meander on down the road, following the Potomac, to see where we’d get.

We stopped at a place called Fort Hunt, which is across the river from Fort Washington (you can see a map of them here). I guess at some point these two forts were used to control water traffic toward the capital, but they weren’t in use anymore. They are now parks and they are open to the public.

As we continued driving south, a little place called out to us. From the road, it only looked like a little parking lot, and perhaps we were simply looking to stretch our legs once more — or something told us to stop. We did, and as you’ll see in the photographs, it was well worth it. The shoreline of the Potomac is special there. The river flows by quietly and you get these little ripples in the water that look wonderful in the light of the late afternoon. Round little pebbles of all colors are mixed with the yellow mud and brown sand on the shore, and when the light hits all of them just right, it makes for magical little vignettes that capture your imagination.

I didn’t have GPS with me at the time, so I had to guesstimate the location 10 years after having visited it, but after spending about half a day looking at maps and satellite imagery, I believe this spot is the Collingwood Picnic Area on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. Perhaps it’s changed since we visited it and these photos represent a certain moment in time when things simply came together. I don’t know. I’ll let you rediscover the place. Enjoy the photos!

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Places

The remains of the Seneca Stone-Cutting Mill

Should you find yourself hiking the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail, you’ll find the remains of a red stone building somewhere near Riley’s Lock, between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. These ruins are what used to be the Seneca Stone-Cutting Mill, a quarry that operated on and off from 1837 to 1901. The quarry’s good years were from 1837 to 1876, particularly 1837 to 1848, according to this source. The tract of land on which the quarry was located was sold to the State of Maryland in 1972 and it became part of the Seneca Creek State Park.

The remains that can be seen now give little indication of what once was, or how the mill operated, but thankfully some of this information has been preserved on the site linked above. I’ll quote from it here:

A large rough piece of sandstone was place on a little car and brought into the mill. It was placed under the saw blade which was then lowered onto the stone. The blade went back and forth just like people sawing wood. When a piece of stone was sawed off, they took the remaining stone back outside the mill, turned it over, put it back on the car, and brought it back into the mill to saw that side off. If they wanted all sides sawed, they’d repeat the process until they sawed it square.
To polish the stone, they would place it on a big round wheel which turned underneath the stone. Water and sand were poured on the wheel to grind the sandstone smooth. It was called a planing wheel… [An] 1882 auction described the property as a large Stone Mill, with the necessary machinery for twenty gangs of saws: a Second Mill with the machinery for four gangs of saws. The saws cut thru the sandstone at the rate of about one inch an hour. Water was dripped onto the saws to lubricate the blades. Perhaps the trough also collected the water and channeled it outside the mill.

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Website

Ligia and I visited the remains of the mill in the spring of 2008. Here is a gallery of photographs I took at that time. Enjoy!

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Places

Carderock Wall

Back in the late winter – early spring of 2008, I went out over multiple days to photograph a spot called Carderock Wall, located in the Carderock Recreation Area in Maryland, USA. It’s a 100-acre park, part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. The area is well known as a destination for its outdoor activities of rock climbing, hiking and biking. It is bounded by the Potomac River on the south and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on the north, and it is accessed from Clara Barton Parkway from the same exit as Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. (I have published a photobook about the C&O Canal and Potomac River, by the way.)

The area has a long history of climbing and is notable for being the closest significant climbing area to Washington, D.C. As such, it has some of the most climbed cliffs in the eastern United States. The particular spot where the cliffs are located is known as Carderock Wall, although it’s made up of a series of cliffs, not a single wall.

I’m not a rock climber, so all I can say is the rock formations are interesting and you can find more details about them here. Some of the cliffs are just a few degrees off vertical, while others are more sloped. Some have deep crevices and protuberances, while others are sheer. The neat part is there are hikable ravines between them, so you can quickly jog to the top to secure a climbing rope, then get back down to start climbing the wall, although most people were climbing with partners who “belayed the rope” — that is, had it secured around their own waist and were controlling it with their hands and body weight, in case the person climbing lost their footing and fell down. It’s a good place to practice your climbing before you tackle big cliffs like those you’ll find in some of the national parks. I also saw a few people engaged in bouldering, the practice of climbing without a rope and without a safety. I guess another name for them would be adrenaline junkies. You certainly will get a rush of that stuff going through your body when you’re high up on a cliff with no safety and your hands start to go soft.

The photographs were supposed to be published in a local magazine, but they ended up not using them. It was a learning experience for me: the magazine asked me to do this as “spec work”, meaning I would only get paid if they used the photos. Being a somewhat fresh-faced photographer with my first magazine “job” seemingly close at hand, I accepted. I drove out there three times, got people to sign release forms, spent hours and hours taking and editing the photos, only to have the magazine not use them. To be fair, when the magazine told me it wouldn’t use the photos, they actually didn’t use them, so they were still mine. They didn’t try to weasel the copyright out of me. And I liked the place anyway, so I would have gone out there to shoot some photographs — maybe not three times, but I’d have done it. Still, the experience taught me not to take on any more spec work.

Here we are, 11 years and change later, and I thought it a nice time to publish these images. I went through them again, edited them again, and they’re good to go, this time on my own website, which will turn 19 later this year.

Enjoy the photographs, there are 74 of them!

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Places

A drive on A1A

I lived in South Florida for a number of years. I went to high school and graduate school there. I did a lot of driving up and down A1A over the years, since 1991 onward. During a stay in South Florida in 2010, we were returning home after a visit to Vizcaya, and we thought we’d drive up A1A from Miami Beach, to see how things had changed.

They had changed. Things have always been in constant change along the coast, at least to my knowledge. When I arrived in Florida and started going to the beach in Hollywood and Hallandale, there were a few multi-story apartment buildings here and there, with a few larger ones down the road toward North Miami, but the rest of A1A was quiet, with nice, Art Deco beach houses tucked away between large palm and mangrove trees and private beaches. Then, sometime in the mid 90s, larger apartment buildings began to rise. The invasion had begun. The traffic began. Whereas A1A had been a leisurely cruise down the coast, it eventually turned into one long traffic jam. People who’d lived in quiet little beach houses for years and years, saw to their dismay the rise of monstrously tall apartment buildings, right next door, obliterating their privacy. There must have been zoning law disputes and lawsuits, but eventually the large real estate developers won, because more and more apartment buildings rose on the beach.

I have to wonder how those things are anchored to the ground, because Florida has no bedrock. Underneath a fairly thin slice of topsoil, Florida is made of coral bed, which is porous and soft. The engineering knowhow required to build a proper foundation for a 40-50 story building right next to the beach, where it’s subject to high winds and hurricanes and the concrete is eaten away by salty water, must be fairly complicated and tremendously risky. But people want to live “the dream”, and for the people clamoring for a beachside apartment in South Florida, the real estate developers are happy to provide it.

The photos you’ll see here were taken from the car, as we drove up A1A toward Hallandale Beach. It was the spring of 2010. Side note: I do like the way they painted the Hallandale Beach Water Tower.

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Places

A visit to Villa Vizcaya

The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, previously known as Villa Vizcaya, is the former villa and estate of businessman James Deering, of the Deering McCormick-International Harvester fortune. It’s located on Biscayne Bay, in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida. Deering used Vizcaya as his winter residence from 1916 until his death in 1925.

The estate property originally consisted of 180 acres of shoreline mangrove swamps and dense inland native tropical forests. The villa was built primarily between 1914 and 1922, at a cost of $15,000,000, while the construction of the extensive elaborate Italian Renaissance gardens and the village continued into 1923.

The estate’s name refers to the northern Spanish province Vizcaya (In English Biscay), in the Basque region along the east Atlantic’s Bay of Biscay, as ‘Vizcaya’ is on the west Atlantic’s Biscayne Bay. Records indicate Deering wished the name also to commemorate an early Spaniard named Vizcaya who he thought explored the area, although later he was corrected that the explorer’s name was Sebastián Vizcaíno. Deering used the Caravel, a type of ship style used during the ‘Age of Exploration’, as the symbol and emblem of Vizcaya. A representation of the mythical explorer “Bel Vizcaya” welcomes visitors at the entrance to the property.

Vizcaya is noteworthy for adapting historical European aesthetic traditions to South Florida’s subtropical ecoregion. For example; it combined imported French and Italian garden layouts and elements implemented in Cuban limestone stonework with Floridian coral architectural trim and planted with sub-tropic compatible and native plants that thrived in the habitat and climate. Palms and Philodendrons had not been represented in the emulated gardens of Tuscany or Île-de-France.

James Deering died in September 1925 on board the steamship “SS City of Paris” en route back to the United States. After his death Vizcaya was inherited by his two nieces, Marion Chauncey Deering McCormick and Ely Deering McCormick Danielson, and that’s where the tale turns even sadder, at least for me. I do wish heirs could hold on to these grand estates after they inherit them. Surely they also got some money as inheritance. Couldn’t they have become proper stewards of the place? History answers that question with a no. Over the decades, after hurricanes and increasing maintenance costs, they began selling the estate’s surrounding land parcels and outer gardens. In 1945 they sold significant portions of the Vizcaya property to the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, to build Miami’s Mercy Hospital. 50 acres (200,000 m2) comprising the main house, the formal gardens, and the village were retained.

In 1952 Miami-Dade County acquired the villa and formal Italian gardens, needing significant restoration, for $1 million. Deering’s heirs donated the villa’s furnishings and antiquities to the County-Museum. Vizcaya began operation in 1953 as the Dade County Art Museum. The village and remaining property were acquired by the County during the mid-1950s. In 1994 the Vizcaya estate was designated as a National Historic Landmark. In 1998, in conjunction with Vizcaya’s reaccreditation process by the American Alliance of Museums, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust was formed to be the museum’s governing body.

Visitors can now see the villa, estate and surrounding gardens at 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129, USA. You can get tickets and consult visiting hours at the official website.

I have prepared a gallery of 103 photographs we took there, and I hope you enjoy seeing them!

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Places

A visit to The Breakers in Palm Beach

Back when we visited the Flagler Museum, we also visited and stayed at The Breakers in Palm Beach, an historic hotel. I honestly thought I’d published these photos long ago but no, I forgot. I did publish a short video clip I filmed on the beach with a new camera I was reviewing at the time, the PEN E-P2.

So… eight years later, here are the photographs I’ve taken at The Breakers. In case you’re interested in the fleeting red light of the setting sun and how it can be used for portraits, there’s a wonderful spot right outside the hotel, on one of the walkways, where it filters through the palm trees and shines on a spot that’s right at face level. You’ll see it in the photos and yes, that is exactly the kind of red light it is, I did not make it redder in post-processing. If you want to catch it, you’ll have to be there watching, because it only lasts for about 10 minutes each evening. Good luck!

Enjoy the photographs!

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