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The Trouble with the

Venetian Blinds


he Department of State building is something of

a shock for the homecoming diplomat. Whatever

else may be said of our embassy buildings abroad,

they o er variety and with a few exceptions they

are scaled to the human dimension. The mass, the

Spartan angularity, the rectangular maze of this

New State require some adjustment. It is not a building that caters to

human idiosyncrasy, or even to individuality.

Elevators go when you don’t want them to, and refuse to go when you want

them to, and snort when you interfere with their plans. Venetian blinds can

be tilted down, to see the ground, but not up, to see the sky. (This feature is

intended to give a uniform appearance from the outside.) The heating system

can be made bearable only by adjusting the locked thermostats with a straight-

ened paper clip (one of the few small triumphs of the spirit over the system).

The unfortunate do not have a window to look out of. The fairly fortunate are

permitted to stare out on a prison courtyard, with giant floodlights peering

down. Only the very fortunate may look out upon the Lincoln Memorial and one

of the more spectacular views available in any capital.

—Foreign Service Journal

Editorial, January 1965

50 Years Ago

From the



This photo of a young

Julia Child was one of

a number of portraits

illustrating the “Behind

the Shutter” feature in

the January 1965



Her husband, then-retired

FSO Paul Child, wrote the

regular feature, giving

tips for taking good

photos and showing a

few examples of his own

photography. In the January 1965 “Behind the Shutter” column he wrote: “In portraits,

try to concentrate on the human (or animal) interest. If it’s a person, try to catch your

subject before he can get his face set in one of those ‘ideal’ masks—probably learned

in front of his mirror—which inevitably make people stiŠ, unnatural and self-conscious.

Animals and babies are wonderful, but most grown-ups are a pain in the lens.”

FSJ/Paul Child