Pieter Bruegel, Flemish, born almost 500 years ago, was a miracle of a painter who gave us images we can still understand and delight in without a thick book or an expert.

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Most of his pictures have their origin in the Christian Bible, but if you never saw a Bible in your life you would see and feel the humanity of what is staring you in the eye.

And you would see the children, somewhere in the frame.


You need to look, sometimes, for the children.  But they are almost always there, busy, preoccupied, stocky/stubby, lovely.

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This is a detail of the Census of Bethlehem


Wherever you find them, these, Bruegel’s children are identifiable as today’s children, even if so much around them is bizarre.

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Above, The Hunters in the Snow also known as The Return of the Hunters, is a 1565 oil-on-wood painting.

It is a quiet cold wonder in the palace of great art–thanks in part to those small boys and girls.

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Sometimes the best discoveries don’t require meticulous planning, a long journey, or special shoes.  Sometimes you just have to see what’s in front of you.

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This is some of what Belgian photographer Harry Gruyaert has been seeing and recording for the rest of us over the last 40 years.

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He is credited with helping to prove the point that European photographs could be in colour and still be taken seriously.  Not that there is anything wrong with black and white.

ITALY. Sardinia. Near the town of Cagliari. Poetto beach. 1998.

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SOUTH KOREA. Seoul. 2007.

Mr Gruyaert claims that he doesn’t think much about all this, and he avoids talking about it if at all possible.

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The British Journal of Photography did manage to get a few words out of him, which can be read here

All images © 2015 Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos



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Twenty years ago or so, we came across a neat little book that told the story of a graphic icon: the funny little man, as the author (Virginia Smith) called him.  On the cover was a truly dapper Parisian gent created by AA Cassandre for Dubonnet, the aperitif made with fortified wine, herbs, and quinine.

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As we recall it, the book (check it out here) tells the tale of how companies, mainly companies selling alcoholic beverages, mainly in Europe, mainly in the 1920’s and ’30’s, often gave the job of promoting their product to a little guy.

You can find some lovely drawings by AAC here presenting the little guy doing all kinds of stuff.

It seems that Chaplin’s Little Tramp had pretty much started the whole thing rolling.


The book has disappeared from our local bibliotheque (though still available, it seems, from the warrior woman), so we went looking on our own to find some colourful little guys hard at work

Ads for the Italian herbal aperitif Campari have used a weird little jester/devil of a man in a body stocking wrapped in an orange peel.   Nothing about Campari is ordinary.

The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, nice site in French here.



Cointreau has favoured Pierrot as their pint-sized sales guy graphically

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and ceramically


If you, man or woman, drank aperitifs in European bars in the 1920’s, chances are you lit up a cigar at some point. This little German guy was the guy to call.


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But if you wanted music with your beverage, at home, you’d ring up Little Mr Disquehead  shown in this Dutch design for record players, disques, and radios.


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Yes, you can say this is not a little man at all, but I don’t think we should exclude the hard-working fella just because he is red and has a trunk.


For now, we’ll say goodbye to the funny little guy by way of a little portrait of Mr Chaplin himself, apparently by himself, sketched on a cocktail napkin.  Salute.  Santéchaplin

Our heroes are by definition magnificently far above us in what they do and how they do it. If you take a moment to look at the heroes of baseball, it seems not so impossible that you too might someday do what they do.

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The costumes (simple, soft, comfy) and the main actions of baseball (swing, run, throw, catch, run, slide)  tell you how sweetly uncomplicated it all is.

For a kid looking on, enthralled, obsessed, it almost looks possible.  I can wear  a uniform like that. I can swing like that. I can feel it.


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At least that’s how it seemed in 1959, and we can hope that it is not far from the truth today.

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Of the many who played the simple game at the highest level, these two Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron, twin gods of the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, represented to the kid just about everything that was worth being if you were human–including approachability.  Yes, you could imagine them coming to your house and throwing the ball around.  Yes you did imagine it, over and over.

HOF Weekend 1967 Robinson w Aparicio 3530.2000_NBLAnd those Milwaukee heroes didn’t seem to mind that you also worshipped others, like these two Baltimore Orioles, Brooks Robimson and Luis Aparicio (1967).  Real heroes understand that.  They know it is not betrayal, it does not diminish them.

mickey-mantle-si2Mickey Mantle (the Marilyn Monroe of baseball ?(without the tragedy), seemed to understand that as well as anyone.  There seemed to be no envy in his rivalry with other players, no bitterness in his blazing competitiveness.

The best in baseball, at least in those days, always had time for the kid who worshipped them.

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Brooks Robinson, sitting down, taking time.  The kid is the batboy for the team.  The BATBOY! Baseball even has a JOB for a kid, a JOB among the gods, a job in heaven itself.


What a game.

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This batboy became a Chief Justice in the Court of Queens Bench in Canada, but we bet he never felt more glad to be alive than right there, the boy in charge of the bats.

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If you are lucky, there is a game going on soon near you, and if you are super lucky, it unfolds in a place like this bit of heaven.

nat baileyNat Baily Stadium, Vancouver, BC