An Agave attenuata to Warm My Heart
Friday, December 13, 2019
|Rebecca & the Agave|
Today is December 13, 2019 and it is damp and cold outside. It
is dark. Melancholy has set in and a nostalgia for hotter climes beckons. Because I am 77 I am not
interested in sitting under an umbrella at a sandy, Mexican beach sipping a
I want the heat of a warm Mexican city, one far from the
distraction of a beach. I want to be in my native Buenos Aires where it is hot
and humid at this moment. I want a long Argentine summer day.
I could escape to a place that I lived when I was 16.
Nueva Rosita, Coahuila. It was a small and very hot (but bitterly cold and dry
in the winter) mining town where my mother taught in the American School that
was there for the children of the engineers of American Smelting and Refining
Company. Just a km from where we lived (the American Hotel) it was desert with
agaves (not blue ones) and giant saguaros.
|Lauren & the Agave|
But there is a spot here in Vancouver that could be an
escape. It would take me with a little imagination to a Mexican desert in
Jalisco where the blue agaves grow.
This is the Macmillan Observatory at the top of Queen
Elizabeth Park. This little tropical oasis of Vancouver has one very blue
agave, Agave attenuata. It was there by that agave that I took the pictures you
see here of my granddaughter Rebecca Stewart and her sister Lauren who are both no longer little girls.
Perhaps sometimes after Christmas I might persuade them to pose by it again.
I would certainly not complain of the heat.
But I must amend my statement that I do not miss a beach. I
miss the port of Veracruz, Mexico. Its beaches do not have waves (the Gulf of Mexico)
and the sand is not very white. But it was there in my mother’s house on Pinzón
Street that Rosemary and I finally fell in love. We walked the Malecón on hot
evenings savouring the smells of the sea mixed with cargo ship bunker oil and
fish stalls. We walked hand in hand not saying much. Our eldest daughter
Alexandra was most probably conceived there.
|Rebecca with nopales in Morelia, Mexico|
Tickling the Ivories
Monday, December 09, 2019
|Olena at the Chickering|
I do not know how to play the piano.
The piano appeared in my life when I was 8 and my parents
took me to a concert at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. It was to be a performance
by Arthur Rubinstein.
He appeared on stage. Faced us and smiled. He turned
around, fusses with his tuxedo’s tails and sat down. It was a Buenos Aires
winter in August.
People began to cough. Rubinstein waited. They coughed.
He turned around and stood up. He came to the edge of the stage and pulled a
pen or pencil from his pocket. In perfect Spanish he told us, “Todos juntos,
tosan!” (all together cough) and conducted. He turned around and sat down to
play. It was awful as he was drunk. He left the stage as the audience was
throwing coins at him in disapproval.
We waited. Perhaps half an hour later he came back and
Except for Buenos Aires, there was always a piano in our
home. In Buenos Aires my mother and I would take tram 35 to downtown to my
abuelita’s flat. There we would meet with my Uncle Tony (a fine tenor), my Aunt
Dolly (a so-so violinist) and my Abuelita who had a lovely coloratura voice. My
mother at the piano would play. I was bored but something of the magic of the
piano remained and I cannot ever listen to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata without
thinking of her.
In the American Smelting and Refining two room
schoolhouse in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, I was in the 8th grade and my
mother taught us and the 7th and 6th grade. At the piano
we would clamour tp her to play our favourite sing-along the US Marine Corps
In 1972 when we were so broke that Rosemary and I could
not pay the rent, my mother sold her Bechstein piano to help. It broke my
When our across-the-street neighbour in Kerrisdale sold
us her 100-year-old Chickering baby grand for $400 I had the idea (because of
my guilt) of eventually having it restored. This happened when we moved to our
present Kitsilano home. The splendidly restored Chickering is in its very own
piano room. When my friend come for a visit they play it. Portland bassist
Curtis Daily plays an exquisite La Danza de la Mosa Donosa by Ginastera that
pleases me to no end.
And of course the chickering is now one of fave props for
photographs. In the photos below that almost related instrument, the harpsichord is also present.
to this one but I could not resist doing it again.
|My mother at the piano|
|Michael Jarvis, Paul Luchkow, Lauren and Rebecca Steward|
|Deuphine at the Chickering|
|Photograph by Richard Avedon|
|John Eliot Gardiner|
|Los Dos Amigos|
|Alex Weimann and Reginald Mobley|
|Alexander Weimann & Bramwel Tovey|
|Nicole Scriabin at the Chickering|
|Alexander Weiman |
|Olean with Chickering behind her|
|Owen Underhill and Lauri Stallings|
|Corey Hamm and Nicole Ge Li|
|My Rosemary at the Chickering|
|Ian Parker & Edmund Kilpatrick|
|Illustration by Graham Walker|
|Peggy Lee, Jane Hays, François Houle & Marc Destrubé - Quartet for the End of Time|
|Rebeca at the Chickering|
|Milton Glasser pianist and dentist (he is the one who said, " I have been tickling the ivories for years.") with my daughter Ale in Mexico City in the early 70sAdd caption|
iPhone3G - Not Improved
Sunday, December 08, 2019
Making love to a double bass
|Jessica Timmins Venturi 3 December 2019|
My first camera was an Agfa Silette which I
bought in a Washington DC pawnshop when I
went on a class trip there from our boarding school in Austin Texas in 1956. I
was soon frustrated in that I could not remove the lens. So in 1958 I purchased
an East German Pentacon-F
with a Zeiss F-2.8 Tessar lens.
Since then I have not
hoarded or collected cameras. For my career as a magazine photographer
beginning in 1976 in Vancouver I bought the cameras that would make me competitive
in a tight field. That was the reason why by 1979 I was getting lots of work.
Art directors liked my 6x7cm Mamiya RB-67. Its revolving back made it popular and useful for horizontal tww-page spreads and the vertical position for full page bleeds.
Seven years ago my Rosemary strongly urged (nagged) me to
get a digital camera. This was a Fuji X-E1 and more recently I obtained an
improvement, the Fuji X-E3.
For my personal work (the only work I can generate since I
am obsolete, redundant, retired & inconsequential) I like to use film,
unusual film panoramic cameras and whatever device will produce original and
interesting images in my taste.
Such a device has been my no SIM card iPhone3G
. In low light
situations with little contrast it works wonders that I believe cannot be
obtained by better phones or expensive digital cameras.
My latest efforts (last week with Jessica Timmins Venturi, and in the company of by Portland baroque bassist Curtis Daily)
have left me in awe at what I can do with this camera (camera it is) when I
dial down the intensity of my studio flash units’s modeling light.
A Yuletide Camellia
Saturday, December 07, 2019
|Camellia sansaqua 'Yuletide' - 7 December 2019|
This camellia which seems to have a few different names :
Camellia x vernalis “Yuletide’
is probably a man-made (person) cultivar. Plant species
will have mutations in the wild. Or plant species can be observed in a nursery
for unusual qualities. These are usually called selections. Another method
involves the use of pollinators to cross one plant with another.
Whichever way you look at it this camellia blooms in
December. On today’s date of 7 December it had two flowers (seen here) and many
buds. By Christmas it will have more.
What we have here is a plant that it going to give the
poinsettia and the holly a run for their money. My Rosemary had me going to
different nurseries until we found this one. It is outside our front door and
she has attached some miniature lights to it.
Mac Bethad Macfindlaich - Thane of Maple Ridge & Jasper
Friday, December 06, 2019
|Brent Hirose - 5 December 2019|
I was attracted to the The Tragic Comedy of Macbeth by Mac
Bethad Macfindlaich (and William Shakespeare) at the Jericho Arts Centre last night for two
reasons – the dual directors. One is Bernard Cuffling the other is Gary C. Jones.
The former is my favourite angel
, whose lovely booming voice
and accent reflect his Shakespearean background. The latter, Gary C. Jones, has
been a writer for CBC’s most intelligent (my opinion) radio program – The Debaters.
The Debaters can get away
with doing stuff that other radio programs cannot touch as the intelligent
content is hidden by humour.
No matter how the Thane of Glamis and then Of Cawder somehow
last night became (this will vary as the play depends on the audience to define
as to his origins) the Thane of Maple Ridge (via the Dewdney Trunk Road) and
the Thane of Jasper, with acquaintances in Vesuvius Harbour, nothing is really
different from Shakespeare’s play. Cuffling has done his homework. Jones brings
the idea of improvisation in his talent as a stand-up comedy actor.
|Brent Hirose with Bernard Cuffling|
The most able Brent Hirose, as Macbeth
, attempts to escape
the losing of his head that he tells us has occurred in a huge number of
performances of the play throughout the world in many languages. We the
audience throw variations to force him to improvise on the spot on his destiny.
But in the end destiny destroys whatever idea we as humans may have about free
In my many ventures into performances of Shakespeare’s plays
I never go to any of them without consulting my Shakespeare- the Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom. A copy
much like mine, but more ragged is always on Christopher Gaze’s bed table. Last
night’s play turned that all around. It was the first book I turned to when I
inability to change his fate Bloom writes:
Of all of Shakespeare’s
tragic protagonists, Macbeth is the least free…Whether or not Nietzsche (and
Freud after him) were right in believing that we are lived, thought, and willed
by forces not ourselves, Shakespeare anticipated Nietzsche in this conviction.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (in last night’s play) kiss under a
street lamp after attending a drum circle. Perhaps in other days they will do
this under mistletoe after drinking eggnog. Surely this was all invention! Not
so (the kiss is real) as it is usually up to individual directors of Macbeth to
keep or eliminate the scene of the kiss. Again Cuffling is strongly backing the
This play can be enjoyed in three ways. The purist
Shakespeare enthusiast will see through Jones’s variations and distractions.
Those keen on finding something to laugh about in our city’s inclement weather
and Christmas shopping rush will indeed be entertained and will float at the
end of the performance with help from the excellent Malbec to be had at the
Or you can enjoy, combining both substance and laughter, the
conflict of a protagonist who no matter how he tries to change his fate, fate
does him in.
Such was the obvious inability of Macbeth to escape fate in
a language I could understand, that I was in deep thought as I drove home. This modified play is not just for
laughs. There is plenty of substance in Shakespeare’s Macbeth that
reminds me of Greek tragedies where we know the eventual ending but still find
catharsis through the proceedings that lead to that inevitability.
CS Fergusson –Vaux did splendid costume design in particular
with All Froggatt’s (Lady Macbeth – others) lovely satin dress. Tracy Bartley,
the wig wrangler was kept busy all night placing varied stuff on David C. Jones’s
head. The two Aidans (one Parker, the other Wright, both playing Mcduff) were
ably placed into character by the backstage fast dresser. The witches (Brigitte
May being Hecate and others who might have been he/hims) toiled without trouble
and never fell in the unnamed stage designer’s set. Chengyan Boon lit the play
to my satisfaction.
After consulting my Harold Bloom I re-read some of my favourite
Argentine (I am Argentine) Jorge Luís Borges’s essays on his favourite
Shakespeare play – Macbeth:
Suele olvidarse que Macbeth, ahora un sueño del
arte, fue alguna vez un hombre en el tiempo.
It is often forgotten
that Macbeth, now a dream of the arts, was at one time a man of time.
Jorge Luís Borges
And I also consulted with that other Argentine, Julio
Cortázar with whom Brent Hirose’s
Macbeth would have certainly had some partial disagreements:
Creo que las cosas imposibles se pueden
conseguir, que los besos con los ojos cerrados son los únicos que cuentan, que
las heridas no siempre cierran, y que todo el mundo se enamora alguna vez.
Creo en el destino, y creo que nosotros mismos
I believe that impossible
things can be obtained, that closed eye kisses are the only ones that count,
that wounds do not always close, and that the whole world falls in love at
I believe in destiny,
and that we ourselves choose it.
My companion Curtis Daily, a baroque bassist from Portland
who is here to play for Early Music Vancouver Christmas concerts, was blown
away by Hirose’s ability to quickly improvise as we the audience threw stuff at
him. Perhaps David C .Jones and company might travel to Portland and give Portlanders
a taste for our Vancouver stellar improvised comedy routines.
We were saddened to observe that Jones (King Duncan) is now
addicted to Facebook.
The play is on, at the Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery
St. Wednesday through Saturday to December 15 at 7:30 and at 2: PM on Sundays.