Carmen Aguirre - La Militante Sinuosa
Thursday, February 15, 2018
|Pedro Chamale & Carmen Aguirre - February 14 2018|
This past Wednesday February 14 I attended the opening of
Carmen Aguirre’s Broken Tailbone at the Historic Theatre of the Vancouver East
This 80 minute performance featuring Carmen Aguirre as La
Jefa and Pedro Chamale as the the DJ El Jefecito was directed by Brian Quirt.
If you were not a 75-year-old failed Argentine Tango dancer
and arthritic grandfather (me), you would have emerged as a
pretty competent salsa, cumbia, candombe, bugaloo, merengue (and more) dancer
of that diverse music called música tropical in my Latin America.
The dance lessons came with a message. While Aguirre and Chamale may have been smiling the message was a serious one.
If you did not understand any Spanish you might have missed
the several moments when Aguirre painfully paid homage to her Uncle Nelson, a
man of strict political ethics who squandered (perhaps?) a life with alcohol
Broken Tailbone is an actively wonderful lesson in
dance with lots of information that might have slipped past you if you did not
know Aguirre as well as some of us do.
|With Celso Machado|
While younger than this man, Aguirre is a product of the
last century, a century that was less politically correct. For anybody present on
Wednesday you would instantly know that Aguirre likes her men unabashedly and
honestly. In fact some of the Spanish swearing (lots of it of the Argentine variety)
made me blush and to find out how it was that she broke her tailbone (this
happens at the end of the show) was as off-colour as the night could get!
Beneath this beautiful, curvy woman with big black eyes
there is a lot more. She is what we in
Latin America call a “militante”. This is a person who has sound beliefs (beliefs of which Aguirre was willing to forgo her own safety and life many times) on
what they consider to be the only valid social structure. This social structure
is a leftist leaning one. In Latin America there has been a long list of
right-wing dictators and military dictatorships that killed and disappeared
many. And of course, Aguirre reminded us of lots of instances in which entities like the United Fruit Company and shadow versions of the CIA meddled in bringing down governments or training the Bolivian troops that placed Che Guevara on that infamous slab in the mountain town of Vallegrande.
While Aguirre and family might have escaped the clutches of
the Pinochet regime in Chile to find refuge in Canada, the fact is that Aguirre
and her mother went back to Chile (and Argentina and Bolivia) to practice what
was pleasantly preached in song and dance this last Wednesday.
|With Isabel Allende|
In 2013 I was one of the judges for the BC Non-Fiction
prize. I was sent 100 books which I was supposed to read in under two months.
One of them was Aguirre’s Something Fierce - Memoirs of a Revolutionary
I left reading it to the bitter end suspecting the account
would be an angry and depressing one. I was completely wrong! The story was
full of humour and some of the passages (we know Aguirre likes men) made me
At perhaps a half a century of existence Aguirre may have
reached a period of her militancy where she might be pondering on a poem of
Uruguayan Cristina Peri Rossi from her works State of Exile:
I said to you:
“One needs a lot of courage
for so much useless death.”
You thought I was referring to Latin America.
No, I was talking
About dying in bed,
In a great city,
At eighty or ninety
In Julio Cortázar’s story Reunión in which the narrator is
Che Guevara, after a bloody landing in a Cuban island, Che under a tree and
friend Luís recall:
I stayed with Luís leaning on the trunk of a tree, smoking
and looking at the drawings of the leaves against the sky and we told each
other of all that had happened to us since our landing, but above all we talked
about the future, of what was going to begin on the day when we would have to
transfer from the rifle to the office
with telephones, from the sierra to the city…
I am sure that the ever fruitful Aguirre will find a
solution to all that. And she will thoroughly entertain us while at it.
One of my memories of Carmen Aguirre is indelible. In February of 1999 at the Stanley Theatre, Carmen Aguirre played Frida Kahlo in Susan Astley and Steve Petch's Tribute to Frida Kahlo.
Aguirre was Kahlo. Another memory is Aguirre's modification of a Julio Cortázar story "Las Reglas del Juego"
into a play that I saw at Studio 58 (her alma matter).
|Homage to Tío Nelson|
Two New York Interiors
Tuesday, February 06, 2018
When going as a
tourist to a big city like New York, no matter how long you stay, you will find
that there is never enough time. Rosemary and I managed to visit the
Metropolitan Museum of Art (for a whole day), the Frick and MOMA. We would have
liked to go to the Guggenheim but there were no hours left in our schedule.
wanted to visit the Whitney to see my favourite Edward Hopper, New York
Interior. We never did make it, but fortune granted me an unexpected surprise.
New York we went everywhere taking advantage of the subway (known as the MTA) even though it is
much more complex than my familiar Buenos Aires subte. The New York subway
could emulate some of the features of the subte. The most important would be to to use
all those vacant walls (and they are pretty well vacant) for ads.
we went to have dinner with Lenore Riegel and writer Jerome Charyn in Greenwich
Village. As we were climbing up the stairways there was the New York Interior.
lovely dinner at the Café Cluny we were invited by Charyn and Riegel to meet Ketzel
at their apartment.
would imagine a writer’s apartment, particularly one whose output exceeds 60
novels, shorts stories, etc (including one on ping-pong) is full of books.
Ketzel was charming and easy to photograph. Not so Charyn who closed his eyes
for many of my exposures.
|Left - New York Interior - Edward Hopper - Right Bronwen - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
Hopper’s painting has been New York Apartment even though I know better.
And so the
high moment of our trip to New York City were two New York Interiors.
Our George Will
Monday, February 05, 2018
In my years of shooting for magazines and newspapers I had
the good fortune of working with very good writers. Many as I look back now are
no longer with us.
There is one writer of which I do not know anything since I
last saw him in the late 80s or perhaps early 90s. I remember that I might have
worked with him for a magazine called Pacific Yachts.
George Will often told us how when he flew he was frequently
upgraded. He was confused for the then staunch American conservative writer and
columnist by the same name.
And perhaps because our George Will is called George Will I
have not found a single link anywhere to his existence in this 21st
I remember that his calmness and quiet behaviour could at
any moment explode to a hidden volatile anger. I remember he had a VW van. I
remember his standing by it when Vancouver
Magazine was at the corner of Davie and Richards.
I wrote Mac (Malcolm Parry) who know just about anything.
His answer to my question on the whereabouts of will had this as an answer:
*** No idea.
Luckily in my memory was an image of Will posing for me in
my Yaletown Studio on Hamilton Street and my using a forest gobo which I
projected with a circular spotlight behind him.
I went to my authors files and found him under W.
Of Will in Spanish we would say, "Se lo tragó la tierra."
Nicholas von Hoffman and the Baby Goat
Saturday, February 03, 2018
|Hilary Stewart & Rebecca on Bowen Island many years ago|
When I married my Canadian Rosemary in Mexico City in 1968 we
had the routine when driving our VW Beetle to listen to a local radio station
that was in English. There were a lot of ads for moving companies and pest
removal. My favourite was the nasty sounding Ratex.
On the hour the station would connect with American CBS and
we would have news in English in which our stellar favourite was Dan Rather. I
particularly remember a broadcast on October 2 1968 in which CBS went live to a
reporter on the Plaza de la Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco in Mexico City. The
reporter said that the army and the police were shooting and killing the
students. I could distinctly hear the gun fire. Suddenly during all this there was a loud click and, “The baseball
scores are as follows.”
All the other stations had music and CBS was censored for
On another occasion I remember distinctly my favourite
left-wing guy on one of the on the hour broadcasts, Nicholas von Hoffman who was
talking about the looming problem of over-population. This is what he said:
“If you really want to have a kid, buy a baby goat.”
Yesterday my NY Times
had his obituary: this one
. On YouTube
I was able to find a video where he talks. It was most pleasant to listen to his
voice again after all these years.
There is no record that I could find of the name of the
English language radio station in Mexico City.
Dave Barrett - October 2, 1930 – February 2, 2018
Friday, February 02, 2018
I photographed Dave Barrett five times. The first time was
when he was a radio commentator for a local radio station. The second time I
photographed him with his beloved Volvo in Grandview Park which was in his
riding. The third time was when he became premier and my photos were used for
political publicity. The fourth time happened when he was about to publish his
autobiography. I was hired to shoot the book’s cover.
The fifth time, in fact, was my favourite. When
it dawned on me that lefty (politically) Barrett was living in Victoria I
decided it was time that lefty (politically) writer Ben Metcalf who lived in
Shawnigan Lake should meet. At the time Mecalf drove a Cadillac. I had Metcalf
meet me in Victoria in his land yacht and we picked up Barrett and had lunch at
the Bengal Lounge at the Empress Hotel.
I do not recall the details or their names but next to us there was a
table with two or three political columnists for the Vancouver Sun and
Province. They kept staring at us wondering what was afoot.
My memories of both men is that they were extremely
intelligent but most importantly shared a wonderful sense of humour.
That Mundane Skyline - Not
Monday, January 29, 2018
Today as I drove around an intersection circle in Kitsilano
during the incessant rain of this month, I suddenly had to stop for a young person
(sex and race unimportant). The person was moving very quickly on the circle
and had stepped off. I was subjected to all kinds of profanity as to the fact
that I might have hit him/her. Him/her even landed a fist on my hood (no
It is most obvious that a pedestrian has the right of way. I
am 75 but I see very well and yet I did not. Had I him/her, I would have been
wrong and him/her would have been right.
There is a problem in this 21st century that
involves ignorance of physics and exactly what caution is.
On a rainy day it takes almost twice the distance to stop.
Perhaps a bit less as our Cruze has snow tires which do have more grip.
The person might have been better inclined to exercise caution
over being right.
The purpose of the above has to do (believe it or not!) with
the concept of a city skyline.
I see tons of skylines and panoramic skylines (at night,
during the day, and at sunsets) in social media. As a product of the past
century and as a magazine photographer I was always pushed by extremely
competent art/design directors to make even mundane photographs different. The
reason for this is that in that past century magazines and newspapers believed
in out-competing each other. It was a time before the free handout photograph.
While in New York I avoided crossing the Brooklyn Bridge (we
did cross it) just to photograph the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn.
It was at the fantastic Intrepid Museum (on board the USS
Intrepid WWII vintage aircraft carrier) that I knew I was going to get that
different skyline. This was particularly so when Rosemary and I went into the
No matter how mundane there is always a way around that.
There is never a reason to shoot something just because everybody else shoots