Jan van Eyk, Annie Leibovitz's Willie Nelson & A Muse
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Inspiration and a muse are closely intertwined.
In my most recent case it involved a muse, a 57 year-old free spirit, 15th
century Flemish painter Jan van Eyck, a circular mirror in my muse’s bedroom
and a withdrawn book (it cost me $1.50) a 2003 First Edition of Annie Leibovitz’s
American Music. The book came from the stacks of the Vancouver Public Library’s
In Leibovitz’s beautiful book I was
instantly drawn to her portrait of Willie Nelson. I have taken many very good
profile portraits in my life but I have always lit from my subject’s face. It
never occurred to me to do it in the opposite way.
During this Putin fiasco in Ukraine/Crimea
several folk from the otherwise banal facebook have pointed out that Putin
appears in many portraits by Flemish painters. In particular they cite Van Eyck’s
portrait of the Arnolfini Marriage.
So when I showed up at my muse’s apartment
today and saw her circular mirror in her bedroom I heard very loud bells of
inspiration. They rang again when I saw the Mexican painting in her living
In my waning years of photography I find
myself shifting back and fourth between my roots (natural light, often called
available light) and my later years (mid 80s on) obsession with all sorts of
artificial lighting. A big injection to
this mixture has been my discovery (a bit on the late side as the film is
discontinued but I have ten boxes which amount to 100 more possibilities) of Fuji FP-3000B instant b+w film which produces 7 inch by 7 inch prints on my
Mamiya Rb-67 Pro-SD’s Polaroid back. The film is extremely fast (3200 ISO) and
the prints are free of noticeable grain. In this age of the scanner, these
prints reproduce quite nicely. But the excitement comes from the peel which for
some years I threw away (how could I have been so densely stupid?). These peels
as they dry (I help this along with a hair dryer) the peel manifests, quite randomly,
a shift from negative to positive in different sections of the image. This
looks like solarization but the correct term with negatives is the Sabbatier
I have been reserving my boxes of FP-3000B
for special occasions and with special subjects. Nina my muse fits into that
|Willie Nelson - Annie Lebiovitz|
The two images of Nina you see here are:
1. A cropped (we wouldn’t want to show bits
here, would we?) Fuji
FP-3000B peel that once I scanned I reversed in Photoshop with some tinkering
of the contrast. The colour is the colour of the slightly blue negative peel
which shifts into the magenta upon reversal.
2. A cropped (cropped for the reason cited
above) print of Fuji’s
(still being made) 100 ISO FP-100C colour instant film. Note that I used the
Leibovitz lighting technique.
In the next few days I will be processing:
1. 10 images on one roll of b+w Ilford FP-4
Plus in 120 in which I used my Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD with lights and with
2. 15 images of a roll of Kodak T-Max 400
pushed to 400 which I took with my Leica III-F. I shot some with flash as this
was the first Leica with a PC connection so that I could mate it with my
portable studio flash.
3. 15 images with my Nikon FM-2 loaded with
Fuji Superia 800 ISO colour negative film.
4. About 20 images shot with my Fuji X-E1
Judging by the pictures so far my muse has fulfilled
her role splendidly!
That Unexplained Mystery That Is Illogic
Monday, April 21, 2014
In many ways this Easter weekend has
been a satisfying one. On Good Friday I witnessed an intimate performance of Mozart’s Requiem with my fried Graham Walker. On Easter Saturday my family came
for dinner and I prepared this year’s first batch of my iced tea. Ale, my 46
year-old daughter from Lillooet requested I prepare a fondue. Hilary and her
daughter Rebecca baked an over-the-top apple pie. On Easter Sunday we had a
fine brunch at the Brock House Restaurant.
I was left wanting.
I know why. I think it is human nature to
seek the mystery and the unexplained. Why a jetliner can have disappeared for
over a month is not that kind of mystery. It has to be a mystery that transcends
In this 21st century, except for
pockets of religious fundamentalism, our faith in a higher or superior being is
not first on our agenda, perhaps the mortgage or lowering our blood cholesterol
This transcendental feeling can sometimes
happen (and it does to me) when I look at pictures in my National Geographic
that attempt to explain the immeasurable size of our known (and the others?) universe.
Then there is the tradition, the mystery,
the ceremony and the trappings of my Roman Catholic faith which came to me with
a sprinkle of water sometime after August 31, 1942.
From my grandmother
and from the Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Edward’s in Austin, Texas
that transcendence was given the depth of elaborate historical and philosophic
knowledge. From Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. I learned a kinder version of my
faith that was not steeped in the horrors (as he so well taught me) of the 30
Year’s War of the 17th century.
Faith in a religion defies logic. While I
believe that at the best of times, we as a people can be logical, the
aberrations of war and famine show me that there is a personal side of us that
defies the logic of the one and the naught. It is that illogical side of us
that pushes us to art. Nobody except for a man like Bruneleschi would or could
have imagined a round dome to fit over the very square of the Duomo of
Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore.
No matter how many special effects or how
beautiful New Zealand
is, films on Tolkien novels cannot compare to medieval cathedrals, and Bach’s
St Matthew Passion. Fantasy at its best cannot instill in a child, teenager or
adult that sense of a mystery that has no logical explanation and that cannot
be explained by special effects.
I believe that my immediate family, not
having the so-called-useless trappings of religion, lives a life of stress and material
acquisition confusion that except for the hope of finally finding a house one
can afford to buy or the paying off of that mortgage, has no end game or
And so I finally convinced Rosemary to
watch (only an hour and a half, we will finish it on Monday) to watch Martin
Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ.
For reasons of a busy fate of distraction I
had never seen this film even though my occasion to photograph Scorsese came
from the fact that his presence in Vancouver
was to promote that film.
It a film adaptation of the controversial
1953 novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis. I have not read that novel
but I have read José Saramago’s El
Evangelio Según Jesucristo and I found many startling parallels to the film.
After an hour and a
bit more of the film I feel this Sunday, this Easter Sunday, a bit of piece and
contentment that my world has not changed as much as I think it has and that I
still have a sense of wonder for the unexplained mystery and illogic of a
religion that I was born with that I cannot just discard.
muere, muere, y ya va dejando la vida, cuando de pronto el cielo se abre de par
en par por encima de su cabeza, y Dios aparece vestido como estuvo en la barca,
y su voz resuena por todo la tierra diciendo, Tú eres mi Hijo muy amado, en ti
pongo toda mi complacencia. Entonces comprendió Jesús que vino traído al engaño
como se lleva al cordero al sacrificio, que su vida fue trazada desde el
principio de los principios para morir así, y, trayéndole la memoria del río de
sangre y de sufrimiento que de su lado nacerá e inundará toda la tierra, clamó
al cielo abierto donde Díos sonreía, Hombres, perdonadle, porque él no sabe lo
que hizo. Luego se fue muriendo en medio de un sueño, estaba en Nazaret y oía que
su padre le decía, encogiéndose de hombros y sonriendo también, Ni yo puedo hacerte
todas las preguntas, ni tú puedes darme todas las respuestas. Aún había en él un
rastro de vida cuando sintió que una esponja empapada en agua y vinagre le rozaba
los labios, y entonces, mirando hacia abajo, reparó en un hombre que se alejaba
con un cubo y una caña al hombre. Ya no llegó a ver, colocado en el suelo, en cuenco
negro sobre el que su sangre goteaba.
El Evangelio Según Jesucristo – José Saramago.
Easter At Brock House With Abi
Sunday, April 20, 2014
|The Waterhouse-Haywards, the Stewarts & Lilian the Easter Bunny at the Brock House|
After 46 years of
marriage to Rosemary it has been plainly evident for some years now that she is
always right. Case in point was her wish to spend Easter morning in a nice
brunch with the family. That Easter Sunday was one day after he 70th birthday
made the day even more special.
Rosemary did a lot of
on-line looking around but she finally settled for brunch at Brock House on Point Grey Road.
The family gathered at 11:30 (Hilary’s husband Bruce had to work) and we
splurged on Eggs Benedict, roast beef, salads, omelettes, and desserts that
included a scrumptious cheese-cake. Before we left we took some snaps with
Lilian, the resident Easter Bunny.
Of special note was our wonderful waiter,
Kalani, Mazatlán born with a mother from Prince
Edward Island. He was very good looking and had
wonderful freckles that were noticed by my Rebecca who confessed that he had
been three years ahead of her at L'Ecole Bilingue.
The joke behind the
birthday card for Rosemary is the Rebecca,16, as a little girl called her Abi
and the name stuck. Abi Easter Abi!
|Easter basket made by Ale with her kindergarten pupils in Lillooet|
Lacrimosa dies illa At Dunbar Heights United Church
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Good Friday - Rosa sericea subs. omeienses f. pteracantha
At 71 it is beyond impossible to forget and
abandon a Roman Catholic background. This is particularly so when I have been
listening to J.S. Bach’s Saint John Passion as performed by Monica Huggett’s
(violin) Portland Baroque Orchestra with my friends Tyler Duncan, bass and
Matthew White, alto, for a few days.
How can one forget one’s religious heritage
when one opts for an intimate performance of Mozart’s Requiem at Dunbar Heights
I could have gone to listen to a mass choir version in a symphony hall. This on
a sunny day, but still a somber one was a better choice.
It was only last night as my granddaughter
Rebecca and I returned from an evening at the theatre that I explained that the
music we were listening to was Bach’s St. John Passion. I told her, “I am listening to
it because tomorrow is Good Friday.” In an ignorance of the times she asked, “But
isn’t it Easter?” I had to retort (gently), "Christ had to die on a Good Friday
to leave us with hope on Saturday and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.”
Before going to this Friday evening performance
with my friend Graham Walker, of the Requiem by Soloists, Alexandra Hill,
soprano, Melissa Howell, alto, Clinton Stoffberg, tenor, Joel Klein, baritone,
the Centennial Choir and Chamber Orchestra of the Dunbar Heights United Church,
emphatically directed by Greg Caisley, I thought of the colours of these three
It occurred to me that Good Friday must be
black or red or both. Saturday is the day of hope. The colours can be green (renewal) or
blue (the colour of the Virgin Mary). And of course Easter is white as it represents Christ’s resurrection, His
defeat of death into the light, white light, white vestments.
|Easter Saturday - Geranium 'Rozanne'|
During the Good Fridays of my early youth,
my mother would beckon me in from playing with my friends in the street
sometime around 1pm. On that day we could not listen to the radio or any kind
of music. My grandmother Lolita would arrive and the three of us would kneel. Abue,
as I called my grandmother would read the Seven Last Words of Christ. After all
that I would return to the street unable to explain to my best friend, Mario
Hertzberg why I had left our play.
I believe that my grandmother, who was a fine
coloratura soprano would have condoned to my listening to music today. She
could not have possibly denied me the Requiem and she would have enjoyed as
much as I did the fine solo soprano that is my friend and tocaya Alexandra Hill.
Walker and I lucked out as we sat on the
front row a mere four feet from Director Greg Caisley, and I could have even
played footsies (Caisley would not have approved, after all she is his wife)
with Concert Mistress Yi Zhou who could have easily wacked me with her bow had
I tried, that’s how close we were.
Back, hidden by the choir, was legendary
trumpet player (now retired but not so quietly) Martin Barenbaum. I had his records
back in the 70s in Mexico
and I once heard him play Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, and Bach’s Brandenburg
Concerto No 2 (with an almost impossible trumpet part) at the Orpheum in the
While the small chamber orchestra was not
playing with period instruments, its presence in the church with us up front
had all the lovely trappings of Walker and I being dukes of the realm listening
to the performance in our palace salon.
|Easter Sunday - Magnolia stellata|
One of the interesting characters in the
church as my eyes wandered away from the statuesque Alexandra Hill, is the
Reverend Richard Bott, who seems to be the great organizer, the sound recorder,
the usher to fit more people in (it was packed) but most importantly to make
pleas, gentle pleas, for our donations to keep these wonderful concerts going.
Another person of note, for Walker and me
was spotting a bearded Ken Hughes, baritone, in the choir. Hughes is a
legendary graphic designer and former instructor at Emily Carr. He taught Walker design. With
Hughes I worked on a campaign to get Bob Bose elected as Surrey Mayor.
Another standout for this vile amateur that
I am is tenor Clifton Stoffberg who I saw recently as part of a Musica Intima
collaboration with the Turning Point Ensemble and the Nu-BC Collective, Thirst
Melissa Howell, alto, and Joel Klein, baritone were steady in their parts along
with that firm and also steady man at the cello, Stefan Hintersteininger.
This was my first live Mozart Requiem. It
is a performance that I will treasure for as long as am able to remember.
|Director Greg Caisley takes a bow|
|Alexandra Hill, behind right Ken Hughes, Clinton Stoffberg|
The Grandkid At The Gateway Theatre - A Gabork Of A Play
Friday, April 18, 2014
|Pippa Mackie & Rebecca Stewart|
I will not hide from those who read this
that presently my 16-year old granddaughter and I are mutually experiencing a
period of somewhat difficult transition. I have learned that the best technique to
handle a teenager from hell is to not badger, sermonize, suggest, shout at and
most of all not to lose my cool when confronted by teenage illogical.
But with all the lows come a few highs.
Last Sunday Rebecca accepted my texted (iPhone 3G) invite to come over. I had a
tray in the sunny garden with some aged American cheddar, slices of watermelon,
crackers and my father’s mate. On a separate stool (a beautiful Chinese ceramic
stool, or is it a plant stand?) I had a kettle with water that had almost
boiled (to make a proper mate you must never allow the water to boil). I made
the concession to my granddaughter by making a sugar bowl available.
My granddaughter is the only person I know
in Vancouver with whom I can indulge in that so Argentine ritual of the mate.
That the lovely mate gourd is my father’s and is at least 80 years old makes
that special Argentine bond that I have with Rebecca all that more special.
We, Rebecca and I, found something of that
ritual magic in the John Lazarus play The Grandkid at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre. This theatre is a
promising venue for good theatre, an alternative option for those who do not
want to drive (or take transit) to Vancouver’s
bustling theatrical community.
This two-person play (Richard Newman as
Julius and Pippa Mackie as Abby) is directed just right by Natasha Nadir.
My good friend, novelist, writer and film
reviewer John Lekich knew John Lazarus when the playwright lived in Vancouver. Lekich told me
that Lazarus writes plays that are not complex in structure but are beautiful
in helping us learn about ourselves.
From our vantage point of centre front row
Rebecca and I sat not knowing what to expect. I had seen Richard Newman before
as Polonius in Bard on the Beach. Of Pippa Mackie I know a bit more. I
photographed her as new talent for the Straight two years ago and saw her last
year in Pi Theatre’s brutal but unforgettable Terminus
|Pippa Mackie & actor friend Anton Lipovitzky|
I had an inkling then that the play would
have good acting.
During the intermission, an elderly woman
(much older than this 71 year-old grandfather) sitting behind me told her
friends, “I like him but she is a bit over the top.” They went on talking but I
could not resist interjecting, “Do any of you have a 16-year old granddaughter
like this one (pointing at Rebecca) and do any of you remember your
grandchildren? If you do you will then know that Mackie is dead on with her
gestures, her door slamming, even how she talks. Rebecca and I cannot figure if
this is exceptional acting or that at 25 Mackie is young enough to remember
what it was like.”
The people behind warmed up to us and were
delighted to find out that in the audience of the theatre, full of the blue
rinse crowd there was a genuine grandkid.
Of Mackie’s performance my Rebecca was
short and sweet (of sweet there is more later), “She is me.”
The Grandkid’s very Jewish content made my
very Latin/Argentine relationship with Rebecca all the more enjoyable and
understandable. The Grandkid’s very Canadian outlook/content made is easier for
me to appreciate living north of the 49th parallel. Richard Newman
plays a grandfather a tad younger, 68, than this one. But repeating Rebecca’s
words, “He was indeed me, in some ways.”
After the show, as promised, Mackie came
out to talk to the two of us and I took my snap. Rebecca and I said very little
in the car, knowing we had seen a good play.
But something that Rebecca had told me
earlier lingered with me. And in spite of what I could perceive as possible
negativity I saw it as the opposite.
“I told my friend that I was going with my
grandfather to the theatre tonight.” They said, “You must be joking. You mean
he is still alive?”
In The Grandkid Abby gives Julius ten more
years of life. She gives him meaning and his moribund career is rejuvenated. I
can state here that my Rebecca keeps me alert and on my toes. As for the meaning of the word gabork you have until April 26 to find out.
And finally to the more “sweet” promised
above. Thanks to my friend Lekich and his memory (who can channel pachyderms) I
can reveal that the studious and wonderful actor, Richard Newman was part of a
band I once saw in the 80s. The band’s name was Sweet Dick. Now, what would
Abby have said about that?
|Richard Newman centre right with sunglasses|
1981 - 2005
Arbuthnot "Bert Wienie Dick" ~ Guitar, Vocals
Linda Kidder "Lips Dick" ~ Bass, Vocals
Drew Neville "Daffy Dick" ~ Piano
Richard Newman "Rick Dickulous" ~
Peter Padden "PP Dick" ~ Drums, Vocals
Bob Popowich "Rob Roy the Highland Dick" ~
Dan Smith "Humpback Dick" ~ Guitar, Vocals
Ron Stelting "Radar Lovedick" ~ Percussion,
The Bomb-Itty Of Errors -Teaches An Old Dog A New Trick
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Sometime in the afternoon yesterday it occurred
to me that Rosemary and I had a date to attend the opening of an Arts Club
Theatre production of Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory J. Qaiyum,
Erik Weiner, and Jeffrey Qaiyums’ A Bomb-itty of Errors.
I am a Roman Catholic and I believe not
only in the existence of hell but an almost as scary version called Hell on
Hell on Earth could be being forced to
witness a tap dancing convention or driving to Seattle with a young man playing rap, very
loud in his car. I would probably open the door somewhere around White Rock and
I do not know when hip-hop became rap or
the other way around. In fact I believe rap is bad poetry over bad robotic rhythm
Last night after 10 minutes of The
Bomb-itty of Errors and witnessing my Rosemary’s gaze in shock I had to add
salt to the wound by whispering into her ear, “There are 80 minutes more of
For those 10 minutes and many more I came
to the conclusion that Shakespeare’s English was far easier to understand. I
will never complain at a conventional production of King Lear again.
Yes! The Bomb-Itty of Errors is a fairly
accurate conversion of Shakespeare’s play, The Comedy of Errors to rap. There
are two short Dromios (one from Ephesus, the
other from Syracuse),
David Kaye and Niko Koupantsis) and two tall Antipholus (Antipholuses or
Antipholusi?), Brian Cochrane and Jameson Matthew Parker who also play
everybody else (who might be tall). Brian Cochrane also plays the unpoetic/unrapper,
but very Kosher Jewish jeweler so well I thought there were more than four
actors (at times actresses) in the play.
Somewhere around the 12 minute mark when I
might have thrown myself out of that rap car to hell I began to understand the
words and I heard myself laughing. At age 71, and my wife not too far behind (who
was smiling), we prove that you can indeed teach old dogs new tricks.
This play is hilarious and it has lots of
crude (more than ribald) humor featuring allusions to cunnilingus and fellatio plus connections
with baseball that are beyond base. Luckily I am well versed in that sport and
I know you cannot steal first base.
Best of all Niko Koupantsis who besides
playing Adriana’s (Jameson Matthew Parker) sister Luciana (sporting the
funniest lisp this side of a few CBC Radio announcers), also plays the meanest,
most corrupt, ethically and morally cop (gaoler I the original play) I have
ever seen or read about anywhere.
|The Webb twins as the twin Dromios, 1864|
But the real heroes of this play (that I
liked with no rhyme or reason) are the quick dressers back stage that keep
making one thing that the cast of four is a cast of thousands. The set design
by Ian Schimpf, with two sliding doors that open and close throughout the
90-minute, show keep it all flowing impossibly.
While I would recommend this play to all my
friends I would still not hop on that car, that hip-hop car to Seattle. On the other hand I just might go
along for the ride if Arts Club Managing Director, Bill Millerd would be my
After the show I spotted the Vancouver Sun’s former
theatre critic Peter Birnie. He was grinning. Ample proof he is not an old dog
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
I smelled of gin. Not just casually, as if I had taken four or five drinks of a winter morning to get out of bed on, but as if the Pacific Ocean was pure gin and I had nose-dived off the boat deck. The gin was in my hair and eyebrows, on my chin and under my chin. It was on my shirt. I smelled like dead toads.
Chapter XXXII - The Lady in the Lake - Raymond Chandler