Jane Rule - Of Second Paragraphs
Friday, September 25, 2020
|Jane Rule - April 1991|
Have written a few times about my love for reading the first
paragraph on the first page of any book before I decide about buying it.
There is one book that I never bought because it was sent to
me by the publisher. It is Jane Rule’s posthumous autobiography Taking My Life (2011 Talon Books). I wrote about it here and here
In this elegant, beautiful, wonderful book, one so good I
keep it as my-behind- the-toilet-on-the-tank stellar reading material, there is a killer
autobiography may be a positive way of taking my own life. Beginning in the
dead of winter, mortal with abused lungs and liver, my arthritic bones as
incentive for old age, I may be able to learn to value my life as something
other than the hard and threateningly pointless journey it has often seemed. I
have never been suicidal but often stalled, as I have been now for some months,
not just directionless but unconvinced that there is one. No plan for a story
or novel can rouse my imagination, which resolutely sleeps, feeding on the fat
of summer. And so I take my life, with moral and aesthetic misgivings, simply
because there is nothing else to do.
Perhaps because of my constant rereading of it I somehow did
not give more than one glance and read of the second:
I remember remembering
when I was born. My practical young mother said nobody could. But I did
remember dreaming and dreaming and that first waking to the hard light. By the
time she read me Mary Poppins, I realized that I, like most people, had
forgotten not just my birth but apparently the language of birds, the ability
to fly, to walk into the landscape of pictures and to be home among the stars.
Just that one sensation remained – the painful brightness. It was not enough to
make me into Mary Poppins, but memory became for me the earliest
self-discipline I had. I couldn’t, after I learned to write, keep a diary, just
as I couldn’t later take notes in lectures. Writing anything down seemed a way
of forgetting it. I wanted to memorize my life so that whatever experience
taught I would not forget. The difficulty, of course, is that what may seem to
be static interference could be instead the very melody of life, the dismissed
clutter, the real furniture of the soul. The fear of such loss, even our
starkest nightmares, are consolation, for they store and restore to us things
we have not chosen to recall.
In jest (and before I read Jane Rule's Taking My Life ) I used to include in some of my bios:
My birth was recorded in a Buenos Aires hospital with the burst of a magnesium flash. I knew then I would some day become a photographer.
I can imagine Jane Rule smiling had I ever told her that.
John Turner - June 7, 1929 – September 18, 2020
Saturday, September 19, 2020
Stability and Honesty (almost an alien concept for this Argentine-born and sometime Mexican). Stability and honesty is how I would define John Turner.
John Turner, Ron Basford & Audrey Hepburn
They say that coincidences are more often than not.
When I first saw my Rosemary from the rear (she was yet to
be my Rosemary) I marvelled at her legs. They matched the excellence of my
mother’s. Both my mother and Rosemary shared that upbringing of being gracious
and well-mannered. From my grandmother Lolita Rosemary “inherited” that special
talent of knowing when to move on when a near future was not predictably a good
My grandmother as a widow took her three children from
Manila to the Bronx and they prospered. Just before the stock market crash,
they moved back to Manila. She saw a war coming and again they moved, this time to Buenos
Aires in 1938. In 1954 with Perón in charge of Argentina we moved to Mexico
It was in 1974 that Rosemary told me that she thought that Canada
would be a better place for our two daughters. She said that Montreal would be
tough as I knew no French and that I would not like Toronto because of the
We moved to Vancouver and to this day I cannot fault her
decision. Nor can I fault her insistence that we purchase a house in Kerrisdale
in 1986. Thanks to that decision we sold well recently and were able to inherit our two daughters
while we are still alive.
But there is one more thing about my Rosemary’s foresight.
It has been in Canada where I have enjoyed stability (unknown in my Argentina or
in Mexico). This includes a stability of good electricity, fresh air and clean
I participated in a coup as a conscript sailor. I met a young
lieutenant who years later slit the stomachs of left-wing prisoners and dumped
them into the River Plate from a helicopter. I was used to that and almost found it normal as it was to bribe Mexico City traffic cops.
In Mexico the four of us lived with the corruption of
politicians, police and a terrible postal system.
All that, is gone. And there is one incident that has always
been in my memory and my heart. And this is of going to a neighbourhood meeting
hosted by Prime Minister John Turner. There were no police or soldiers with
machine guns outside. We were served coffee and doughnuts. I could not have
imagined that anywhere else.
I believe that the scandals that happen in any country are
to be expected but, the little ones here in Canada in comparison, are events that
still allow me to sleep nights.
I remember years ago when Premier Vander Zalm when he was at
the bottom of his popularity wanted to show the CP rail yard behind the CP
Station to a mayor friend from Holland. I was hired by CP to take the
photograph. I waited outside the station. Vander Zalm arrived. He parked and
put coins into the meter and crossed the street with his friend. The Premier was
wearing a very nice leather jacket. He had no body guards. Only in Canada!
I wrote about taking a portrait of John Turner for Vancouver
Magazine here and how that became memorable in connection with Audrey Hepburn.
John Turner died yesterday. I remember his easy going way,
his honest smile and the fact that he remembered me in that restaurant so many
Yes, it is strange how my Rosemary inherited all those talents
from my family. And it did help that Rosemary is Canadian.
And I am too.
A New Post-Cataract Perception of Colour
Friday, September 11, 2020
|September 10 , 2020|
In this last year I have had a difficulty driving at night
because my right eye cataract got worse and incoming headlights, particularly
on rainy evenings, formed distracting halos on my windshield. Besides the fact
that my right eye was always a poor one (probably because as a boy I liked to
read in bed while leaning and covering on that eye) of late I could not really
read street signs very well.
So on September 10th Doctor Simon Warner removed
my cataract and installed a corrective transplant cornea.
It has been a revelation to this obsolete, retired,
redundant and inconsequential photographer.
It was my Portland bassist friend, Curtis Daily who quite a
few months ago told me that a cataract modified how I saw colours. I did not
believe him until one day I looked at puffy white clouds. I closed my good eye (it
has the beginnings of a cataract) and suddenly the white cloud had a yellow cast.
Using my old Kodak filters (in my mind’s memory)for printing colour negatives I
calculated that the right eye was adding a 10 yellow and 5 red to the mix.
Those of you who are photographers might know that the addition of yellow makes
blues turn into a beginning of green. Puffy white clouds with all that UV in
the sky become less “blue” cast.
Suddenly as my vision became better with my fixed eye the
white doors and closet mouldings of our room were no longer cream. They were a
startling bluish white, particularly when I closed my left eye. And if I closed
my right eye I could discern a yellow warming of those doors.
On Thursday as I walked out of my oficina I noticed that one
particular blue hosta was really blue. This past year and perhaps even on the
other my built in yellow filter had greened the blue of that hosta and others.
On November 28 of last year my fantastic and slim model and
friend Olena came to pose for me in our piano room. My goal was to achieve a
correct skin colour that would show of her pale whiteness. I used the light
coming in from outside and I adjusted at various settings my Fuji X-E3’s colour
balance (in Degrees Kelvin). I was very happy with the results. These results
would have been almost impossible using either negative colour or slide film.
There is that one very big advantage in my books to digital over film. This is
the ability to make the colours we see to be accurate when viewed on a print or
on a well calibrated monitor.
Or so I thought! I am placing here that original corrected
Olena photograph and a second one that I further corrected now that I have a
good right eye. The moment I look at this photograph with both eyes open I note
a warming of her skin.
Who would have known? I now know how personal our perception
of colour is.
The colour of skin
Kodachrome and the nature of light
How orange is Donald Trump?
Kay Alsop - Obituary Via Citizen Journalism
Tuesday, September 08, 2020
As magazines and newspapers began to wane in the late 90s, local writer and
editor, Paul Sullivan began to use the term “citizen journalism.” In one case
he hired some Vancouver prostitutes to write for him at no pay. I was repelled
by the idea of the non payment. Now in this 21st century I find that we citizens
have to pitch in if the media decide to not work on holidays and ignore people’s
deaths until later.
Freelance journalist Glenda Bartosh informed me via email
today that Kay Alsop died on Sunday a bit past her 100th. It is
difficult for me to corroborate Bartosh’s communication and I will take my
In 1987 Kay Alsop was a YWCA Woman Of Distinction. A few
years later, probably 1992, the YWCA decided to publish a magazine with
portraits of some of the past winners. I took those portraits and one of them
was the most gracious and lovely former fashion writer for the Province, Kay
Alsop. I had met her a few times before in the Vancouver Sun/Province newsroom and I came to the conclusion that
Alsop prevented the really styleless Province from being so. I felt like going to
her and saying, "How can a classy gal
like you work in a place like this?"
When I met her at her home for her photos she told me she
loved her white camellia. This would mean that I must have taken the pictures
in early spring of 1992. Malcolm Parry had been a columnist for the Vancouver Sun
for about a year. I asked her about him. Kay Alsop smiled at me with that
beautiful smile of hers and said, "Mac
will turn off the lights at the Sun."
A Massive Explosion Four Billions Years Ago & Bif Poses at the Marble Arch
Saturday, September 05, 2020
In September 2020, I can safely and accurately define myself
as being obsolete, redundant, retired and inconsequential.
But I can also add to that finality, that before it, many
faced my camera. I looked at Bif’s folder today and found these. Instead of
scanning the medium format (6x7cm negatives) I opted for scanning the contact
sheets. I kind of like them.
I look at them and they represent that magic concept (when
one looks back) of a moment in which I was too busy snapping my photographs to
consider that someday, many years later, I would be looking at them and being
inspired to write this short blog.
This whole year I have been fruitlessly trying to figure out
that idea and not being aware of its enormity (then), (even if a small one such as Bif
posing for me in the best room of that seedy Marble Arch) when looking back at
it in this most present moment.
Much has been written about one’s life passing by one’s eyes
at a time of an imminent accident when death seems to be in the works.
My friend George Bowering has nicely argued that a photo that
I took of him was of him but not him. Would this be Bif in a past?
But there is another concept concerning time and of those moments then recorded with my camera and then years later remembering them through my archives. Some four billion years ago a couple of black holes got together and massively exploded.We know this because the noise and light has just reached our earth. I am wondering now if that event is sort of like my memory but backwards. The reality of that explosion is now something that just happened as we only now know of it. There was nobody around to record that memory of so long ago. Is this reality also a memory?