A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Ample Make This Bed
Saturday, August 23, 2014







AMPLE make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;   
In it wait till judgment break  
Excellent and fair.     
 
Be its mattress straight,            
Be its pillow round;   
Let no sunrise’ yellow noise    
Interrupt this ground.

Emily Dickinson

And more Emily Dickinson below:

His caravan of red

Me-come! My dazzled face  

Develops pearl and weed

But peers beyond her mesh

Surgeons must be very careful

Water is taught by thirst

I could not prove that years had feet

April played her fiddle

A violin in Baize replaced

I think the longest hour 

The spirit lasts


http://blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com/2014/03/i-left-them-in-ground-emily-dickinson.html

 http://blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com/2014/01/i-felt-my-life-with-both-my-hands.html

http://blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com/2011/03/currer-bell-emily-dickinson-charlotte.html





Rick Ouston's Personal Take On Choice Of Death
Friday, August 22, 2014



August 22, 2014 11:15
Writing to deadline
Yes, it’s good to see Ouston’s byline.

Mac





Nobody is an expert on dying except perhaps those who administer to the dying or soldiers in battle whose companions die. The rest of us by definition must be amateurs.

In Spanish we have the expression “donde el rey va solo” or that place where the king goes and is alone. This is a polite 19th century Spanish euphemism for saying that someone is in the bathroom.

Not too long ago while driving on a back alley near Quebec and First Avenue I watched a seagull thrash on the ground in what must have been its last moments. For a long time we talked about that place the elephants go to die and sometimes we asked ourselves where it was sea gulls died, at sea or on land? I felt melancholic watching the bird and well knowing that dying is something that is supremely lonely and shared with nobody in spite of Hollywood bed-bound death scenes.

Five years ago I went to visit a dying friend, architect Abraham Rogatnick. We had discussed death many times but this time I had brought with me my copy of the stories of Ambrose Bierce. I told Rogatnick I was going to read him Parker Adderson Philosopher . The story relates how a captured Union spy is not afraid of death knowing he will die in the morning. When the Confederate officer changes the execution to that moment and not in the morning the spy suddenly is afraid.

I asked Rogatnick if he were to have a gun pointed to his temple would he be afraid of dying. We both agreed that there was not way of knowing until it happened.

A few days later Rogatnick died in his sleep. He had decided, a year before, not to proceed with the extended therapy to treat his prostate cancer. He sold or gave away his stuff and donated money to his favourite art organizations. To me he gave me a Leica IIIF and a Mexican papier-mâché skeleton. His words to me were, “I am going to die in a year so you can have my skeleton.”

Paradoxically today I was hit by a wave of melancholia and delight upon seeing the byline of Rick Ouston in the Vancouver Sun.

Years ago, in the mid 80s Malcolm Parry as editor of Vancouver Magazine, had an open-door policy in his office. Actors, politicians, thugs, prostitutes, writers, doctors, architects, poets, crazy Estonians, illustrators, etc were quickly ushered in and Parry always had an ear for good stories. He had a pulse for our city. The magazine, Vancouver Magazine was relevant. In many ways so were our two city newspapers. Every once in a while Parry would hire someone close to the Vancouver Sun or working there to write a report on the status of our city’s journalism.

One frequent writer of those essays was Rick Ouston. I never spoke much to him. But I remember that he had a look through his eyeglasses that seemed to penetrate into my soul. He was quiet-spoken. His essays were good. Had they not Parry would not have hired him again.

Years after when I visited the Vancouver Sun newsroom I would run into Ouston. I remember one time when I was there to see Editor-in-Chief John Cruickshank. I met up with Ouston at the door (they had to buzz it to get in). Ouston looked haggard and serious. In those days I used to say to some of my friends that if you put Ouston into a room with my friend journalist Mark Budgen and illustrator/designer Ian Bateson that in short order, these three men would do themselves in. I thought it was interesting to figure out who would have been first.

With all the changes in the Vancouver Sun, I stopped seeing Ouston’s byline. I called him one day and he told me he was in charge of something called or similar to ombudsman of on line media. Perhaps that was not exactly the term but it was vague. It seemed that Ouston was in some sort of limbo and I was saddened to hear this.

Years back when a couple of writers had been nominated for writing awards by the Western Magazine Award foundation there was a scandal that few new about. These two writers had written stories in which they had interviewed people who had not been interviewed and quoted quotes that had never been uttered. The publications in question (to be fair they had published the letters of protest) had then been (amazing!) submitted as entries to the Western Magazine Awards. Rick Ouston and Adrian du Plessis worked in the background in a subtle kind of blackmail, “You give these two guys a prize and we will come forward.” The writers did not win anything and the possible journalistic scandal was avoided. I was in awe of the two men who had sound ethical standards which I know now are not really part of the mix in the era of citizen journalism.


Today’s Ouston essay Choice of Death is a Personal Thing is in the heels of the Gillian Bennett suicide of a few days past. Ouston defends that suicide instigated by Bennett’s awareness of the encroachment of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact Ouston defends our personal choice of death when circumstances push against staying alive.

I have long maintained that if ever diagnoses with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, I will take my own life. My reasoning is personal and purely selfish: What’s the point in staying alive if I can’t think? I am beholden to no one, no children of my own, no needy parents, no debts.

Later in the essay he describes his bungled suicide attempt a year ago.

I wish Ouston well and I congratulate him for his courage in writing this timely essay. I also congratulate his Editor-in-Chief for allowing the essay to run.

It was pleasant to see Ouston’s byline in spite of the circumstances.



Flit, Buda, Vanitas & Helianthus annuum
Thursday, August 21, 2014






Most might not know was Flit is or was. Few that do might suspect a connection with Helianthus annuus and Buddha. But there is a connection of which I will happily expand upon here via boyhood slingshots.

In the late 40s and early 50s the miracle insecticide was dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT. In my boyhood Buenos Aires we called it by the brand name Flit and it came in a can with a plunger that we simply called  “el Flit”. We happily sprayed it on anything without any compunction. But we were well aware that it was some sort of health hazard. 



 Because Buenos Aires is by the Paraná River Delta and by the Río de La Plata we had monstrous mosquito populations in our humid summers. The only way to fight off the plague (mosquito screens were not available at the time) was with netting or, better still with a Buda (Argentine brand name spelling) spiral. The spiral (green it was) was carefully placed on a metal base that had a spike on which connected with a hole in the inner spiral. This was placed on the night table (but on a small dish) and lit. The fragrance of the Buda was not all unpleasant. I had a scent that was a combination of medicinal and incense.

When I was 21 and doing my military service in the Argentine Navy, the procedure was to use our pillows and throw them on the ceiling to kill the mosquitoes before we lit our Budas.

I was a good shot with WWI vintage Mauser rifle and the .45 Ballester Molina pistol and I passed all my Navy marksman tests with flying colours. Perhaps this was because I had been adept at making (out of bicycle inner tires) slingshots and shooting them at birds; to be precise, to shoot a bird. I did and killed one when I was around 8 and I remember giving the gorrión (Wren) a burial in my garden and I swore I would never aim at a bird again.

 Occasionally baby wrens would fall from the trees and I would feed them with eyedroppers. They invariably died.

One fall I lit a pile of leaves in the back garden. Then I remembered. I cried out to my mother that I had burned my turtle to death. My tortuguita liked to hibernate under leaves.

You might by now suspect that I never hunted animals except once.

It was around 1988 and I was a tenderfoot gardener in our home here in Kerrisdale. I was furious that the garden squirrels would eat Rosemary’s expensive tulip bulbs. I decided to find a final solution. This was a long barrelled replica .357 Magnum co2 pellet gun I purchased at the 3 Vets sporting goods store. I decided I was going to give the squirrels a sporting chance by aiming at them without my glasses. I would surreptitiously open the kitchen door and no matter how silent I was I could see the squirrels running for cover. But I did get one in mid air. It plummeted to the ground but it was not dead. I gave the animal its coup de grace. I was immediately propelled back to the same scene but with that wren back in Buenos Aires. When my youngest daughter found out about my vicious act she informed me she would report me to the SPCA the next time.

 A few months later someone broke into our house and stole our CDs and our stereo system and the gun. At that point I mourned for the CDs and the stereo but I was glad the gun was gone.

In those early years of gardening I used toxic chemicals to kill our garden bugs. But little by little as restrictions for their use began to take effect I resorted to spraying my roses with the hose to get rid of aphids. I was keen at first in protecting my hostas with slug bait but then resorted to using water mixed with ammonia which killed the slugs and fertilized the plants at the same time. Now I just let the slugs eat the hostas. There are fewer slugs, of course because I don’t water at night and the increasing July/August drought in Vancouver takes care of most of them.

It would seem that at this stage of my life when I am about to be 72 I am turning into a de facto/pseudo Buddhist. When I find wasps in the kitchen I carefully catch them with a cup or glass and transfer them outside. I feel guilty when I pour water down the drain to flush down those nasty silverfish that I occasionally see in the bathroom sinks. 


Helianthus annuus August 21, 2014


At this time of the year spiders build their webs across garden paths. I walk with a bamboo stick so that the web might be broken but the spider left alive to build another one.

My guilt on killing anything alive is not only for animals and insects. I grieve for my plants when they die and I keep struggling rose bushes that others would turf into the compost bin. I live on the hope that next year they might do well.

I draw the line with weeds and I viciously excise them with my secateurs. 


Vanitas, August 21 2014


One of our beautiful miniature trees, a Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Twisty Baby’ died but from its roots it had reverted to the much bigger plain Robinia pseudoacacia. A week ago it was 7 feet high. I looked at Rosemary and we both knew that the tree could not be in our garden. It had to go. So I cut it down. I feel bad about it. The tree was fighting for its life by reverting to its origins. I had terminated that.

The only way I can understand and accept death is in the death of annuals to give it all and then die but without sewing their seeds for a next-year renewal. I have written about my eldest daughter’s Lillooet sunflowers before here. I want to celebrate their short-lived life by proudly showing them off in their prime and in their decline. I particularly love to do this since I recently discovered the Dutch 17th century art movement called Vanitas of which I wrote about here. In one of the scans here you can see a flower at its best with another without the bright yellow petals and in decline. Going to seed is not a decline, or is it? That particular scan is my 21st century version of Vanitas.  




Add caption




A Lovely Paradox Of A Face
Wednesday, August 20, 2014





A few months ago I photographed Caitlin L. a woman with a beautiful face and demeanour but with an expression that paradoxically changed while being always the same. I would define her face as an enigma. As you can imagine I have been most excited at my two sessions with her. For a while I had to leave her photographs to rest, both in my files and in my memory.

The second time she came she walked into my small living room studio wearing a bright orange Mexican dress. I sat her down and then I had the idea. I asked her to pose in the same way while wearing different outfits.

The complex part of the idea is that I decided to do it four ways. With my Mamiya medium format firmly on a tripod I shot with Fuji Reala colour negative and with Ilford FP-4 Plus b+w. With a Nikon FM-2 I snapped Fuji Superia 800 Colour Neg and lastly with my Fuji X-E1 digital camera.

I must diverge from the thread by stating that a tripod in many cases can make a photograph as good as it can be. I have placed here the version shot with the Nikon where the camera was not on a tripod. Notice how some of the pictures are bigger than others and how the height of my camera varied. I believe they are a disaster.

The ones with the camera on the tripod look more standard even though Caitlin got up every time to change her outfit.




I have known how to balance the colour of colour transparency because I have been doing it for years. But the colour negative has given me a bit of a trouble. In particular this Fuji Reala film which produces results that are startling but with a lack of uniformity in colour and contrast. Note that the gray background that I used looks different in every shot.

I would think that the b+w versions would be the most that would blend in a pleasant uniformity.




Philip José Farmer, My Mother & Lord Greystoke
Tuesday, August 19, 2014









My mother like most mothers was a defining influence in my life.  Because she was a snob she made me one. I began to read good books because of her example. She was the one who introduced me to Dickens, Graham Greene, Frank G. Slaughter and the swashbuckler authors, Lawrence Schoonover, Rafael Sabatini. Because of her I discovered Eric Ambler, Daphne Du Maurier, Thomas B. Costain, Ian Fleming, George McDonald Fraser's Flashman series and C.S. Forester's Hornblower. By 1956 I had become a member of various monthly book clubs while I was in school in Austin, Texas. It was here where our reading went back into her direction.

By 1958 I had ordered from the Doubleday Book Club Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart and introduced her to modern Gothic writers. It was that year that I discovered Dashiell Hammett but my mother did not like him. In those late 50s I was reading lots of science fiction in paperbacks. My mother smiled at this but did not ask me to lend her any of them.

My mother died in 1973 but a year before she suddenly liked my Philip José Farmer books. I distinctly remember her reading and enjoying the first two in Farmer’s Riverworld Series, To Your Scattered Bodies Go and the Fabulous Riverboat.

I stopped reading science fiction soon after. My desire to read it was resumed with William Gibson’s Neuromancer in 1984 and since then my personal stacks have had few additions in that genre.

While putting a sense of order into my book shelves I discovered Philip José Farmer’s  The Book of Philip José Farmer which I must have purchased at Sanborn’s in Mexico City in 1973 for 14 pesos (the Dollar was at 12.50).

I looked into the book and I smiled when I found on page 201 An Exclusive Interview with Lord Greystoke. It’s a gem and thanks to how the internet works these days here it is, below. I am sure my mother would have enjoyed it. We both used to listen to Tarzán, el Rey de la Jungla on the radio in Buenos Aires. Interesting to me is that the article below appeared in Esquire, April 1972 and the illustration was by Jean-Paul Goude who had been hired on as art director for the magazine in 1968.



Illustration Jean-Paul Goude





An Exclusive Interview With Lord Greystoke
Philip José Farmer

A subgenre of biographical literature is that which claims that certain people thought to be fictional are, or were, very much living. Splendid examples of this are Blakeney's Sir Percy Blakeney: Fact or Fiction? (a biography of the Scarlet Pimpernel), Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street and Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street, Parkinson's The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower, and the Flashman Papers (three volumes so far) by Fraser. In fact, some public libraries stock these in the "B" or biography section. (The Blakeney book is in the "B" section of the Peoria, Illinois, public library.)

I've written two such "lives": Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. (The former is in the biography section of the Yuma City, California, Library.) I plan to write biographies of The Shadow, Allan Quatermain, Fu Manchu, d'Artagnan, Travis McGee, and a number of others. Fu Manchu, by the way, may have been based on a real-life model, a Vietnamese named Hanoi Shan whose operations in early twentieth-century France were every bit as sinister and fantastic as Rohmer's creation. I was informed of this after I'd made the statement in Tarzan Alive that Fu Manchu had no living counterpart.

This form of apologia is a lot of fun and much hard work. It requires as much imagination as the writing of science fiction but more discipline. Historical facts must not be ignored. Baring-Gould, in writing his Holmes biography, had an enormous amount of scholarship, articles published in The Baker Street Journal and other periodicals, to draw upon. But he had not only to read all these but to study them and make decisions. He found many conflicting theories, and he had to pick the one that seemed most valid. In addition, where theories or speculations were lacking, he had to generate his own. He had to explain discrepancies, which are numerous in Watson's account of Holmes's life. And, I might add, Burroughs, in his semifictional narratives of Greystoke's career, left many discrepancies for the scholar to reconcile, if he could. There are also gaps in the life of the hero which the biographer must fill in. And if the original writer has neglected the hero's genealogy, the biographer must research this.

Sometimes, a biographer makes a statement which he cannot substantiate. Thus, Baring- Gould said that Holmes was a cousin of Professor Challenger. He has been much criticized by the Sherlockian scholars for this because he presented no evidence from the Canon. Fortunately, in my Tarzan Alive, I was able to validate the relationship. The fact that Tarzan's mother was a Rutherford gave me the clue needed to track down the cousinhood.

The following article is part of my interview with "Lord Greystoke" and appeared in the April, 1972, issue of Esquire under the title of "Tarzan Lives." It was accompanied by a portrait of Greystoke, a photograph of a painting by Jean-Paul Goude. The staff of Esquire went to great lengths and much trouble to acquire this, for which they should be thanked. The report that Goude got the commission to do the painting because he is a relative of Admiral Paul d'Arnot of the French navy, Greystoke's closest friend, is being checked. It is said that Goude, like Holmes, is a descendant of Antoine Vernet, father of four famous French painters.

Editor's Note: For a number of years Mr. Farmer, who recorded the following interview, has been engaged in writing a definitive biography of the man Edgar Rice Burroughs called Tarzan of the Apes. Mr. Farmer's book, Tarzan Alive, to be published by Doubleday in April of this year, is similar in method to Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street and Parkinson's The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower, with the very important difference that Mr. Farmer firmly avers that "Lord Greystoke" or "Tarzan" is really alive. In fact, Mr. Farmer was able to track his subject to earth in a hotel in Libreville, Gabon, on the coast of Western Africa just above the equator, where he was granted this interview. "I met him," Mr. Farmer tells us, "in his hotel room --fittingly enough, on September 1, Edgar Rice Burroughs' birthday. He is six feet three and, I suppose, about two hundred forty pounds. I did not have the opportunity to see him in action, of course, but just from the way he moved about the room I could guess at his immense physical strength. As Burroughs said, he is much more like Apollo than Hercules; his power lies in the quality not the quantity of his muscles. I don't hesitate to admit that I was awed. I was concerned, of course, that after all my research I might still have been the victim of a hoax; but from the moment I knocked on the door and heard that deep, rich voice say 'Enter,' I knew I had the right man. And of course I was even more convinced when I saw him move --like a leopard, like water falling." The text of Mr. Farmer's interview follows.

TARZAN: How do you do, Mr. Farmer.

FARMER: How do you do, Your Grace.

T: If you don't mind, Mr. Farmer, I should prefer simply to be called John Clayton. I own a good many titles, both real and fictional, but John Clayton, is, as it were, my real name. Though not my true identity, so to speak. As you apparently know. F: Excuse me, sir -- Mr. Clayton. Mr. Clayton, you told me over the phone that you would see me for fifteen minutes only, so I'd better work fast. I'll start asking questions right now, if you don't mind? T: By all means. You don't have a tape recorder on you, do you? No? Good. F: May I ask first, sir, why you were kind enough to grant this interview? T: Mr. Farmer, my reasons are my own. But I will say that I appreciate the very great efforts you have gone to in researching the details of my life. It is very flattering to me, and I am not entirely immune to that. Besides, you seem to have information about my family that even I myself don't know. Your genealogical researches provoke my own curiosity, which has always been ample. I may ask you a few questions myself. F: Of course. First, though, may I ask how it happens that you seem to speak English as you do, with more or less of an American accent? You speak as though you came from Illinois, which is my own home state. I seem to recall that on the phone you spoke -- well, as I imagine dukes speak, the educated British accent. T: I speak more or less as I am spoken to. You will recall that English is not my first spoken language -- though it was my first written language -- very unusual business, that -- or even my first spoken European language. But the first Englishspeaking country I visited was the United States, Wisconsin in particular, back in 1909. I was not quite twenty-one years old at the time. So when English was fairly new to me, I had rather a large dose of American. Nevertheless, in Britain I do speak British. I have a gift for mimicry, I suppose you might call it, and I conform pretty much to the dialect of my interlocutors. When I gave my first and only speech in the House of Lords I did speak as dukes speak, or at least as dukes think they speak. You seem nervous, by the way. Would you care for a drink? I believe I will join you in a small Scotch.

F: Thank you. But I'm surprised to find you a drinking man. I thought -T: That I was an abstainer? For many years I was. In my early days among civilized people I not only saw the results of excess but, I'm afraid, committed it myself. For many years I abstained completely. However, I believe the rash impulses of youth are safely behind me now. I can be abstemious without being teetotal. After all, I am -F: You are eighty-two years old. When this interview is published, you will be eighty-three. But I suppose as far as physical appearance is concerned, you look about thirty-five. It must be true, then, that story about the grateful witch doctor who gave you the immortality treatment -T: That was in 1912. I was twenty-four then, so as you see I have apparently aged about ten years since. The treatment merely slows down the aging process. Burroughs exaggerated its effects slightly, as he often did. I'll be an old man by the time I'm a hundred and fifty or so. F: I'd like to return to your physical condition. But since you bring up Burroughs, and since Burroughs is the principal source of information about your life and family -T: You would like to discuss the accuracy of Burroughs? Go ahead. F: In Tarzan of the Apes, the first Tarzan book, Burroughs says that in 1888 your mother, then pregnant, accompanied your father on a secret mission to Africa for the British government. They hired a small ship, but the crew mutinied and stranded your parents on the coast of Africa. They were left on the shores of Portuguese Angola at approximately ten degrees south latitude, or about fifteen hundred miles north of Cape Town. But it seems to me that many of the scenes in the book could not have taken place in Angola. T: That is correct. Actually, my parents were marooned on the shore of this very country, Gabon, which was then part of French Equatorial Africa. I was born about 190 miles south of here, in what is now the Parc National du Petit Loango. Any researcher, I believe, could have deduced that from the facts. There were gorillas in my natal territory, but there are no gorillas south of the Congo, and Angola extends far to the south of the Congo. Also, it was a French cruiser that landed near the same spot years later and rescued the party of Professor Porter, including my wife-to-be Jane, but left behind Lieutenant d'Arnot, my first civilized friend. Why would a French warship be patrolling the shores of Angola, a Portuguese possession? F: Nor are there any lions, zebras, or rhinoceroses in the Gabonese rain forests. What about the lioness whose neck Burroughs said you broke with a full nelson when she was trying to get into your parents' cabin after Jane? T: The lioness was actually a leopard. It was about the size of a small lioness, one of the big leopards that the natives call injogu. I did break its neck. As you know, I had independently invented the full nelson a few months before when I fought the big mangani ape that Burroughs calls Terkoz. F: Well, then, how do you explain the discrepancies between Burroughs and the facts? T: Mr. Farmer, the relationship between my life and Burroughs' narration of my life is exceedingly complex. I don't choose, for various reasons, to tell you all that I know about Burroughs' methods or my own; but I can tell you a number of his motives, some of which you may have figured out for yourself. First of all, Burroughs was essentially a romancer. He was not obligated to stick to the facts, and even if I had chosen to try to compel him, litigation would have been involved, and I would have had to appear in court and submit to questioning, which I would rather not have done. I entirely appreciate the feelings of your own Mr. Howard Hughes in this regard. In fact, after Burroughs wrote Tarzan of the Apes, I communicated with him, and I told him he should continue to make the narratives highly romantic, even fantastic. Jane advised that, because she said that if people found out I was not a fictional character, I would never again have a moment of privacy. In the second place, Burroughs himself was not always fully informed. He first heard of me in the winter of 1911. I had then been known to the civilized world for only perhaps two years, and the records of my existence -- including my father's diary, which he kept until his death in Africa -- were then in England. By the way, here are some photostats of that diary. You may examine them, but you may not take them with you. In any case, Burroughs had not been to England, much less to Africa, and had his information by word of mouth at several removes. In many cases he had to fill in gaps by sheer guesswork, some of which is accurate, some not. For the sake of verisimilitude, Burroughs pretended to be much closer to his sources than was in fact the case.

Finally, certain facts are disguised in the books because they are best left disguised. Burroughs gives directions for getting to the lost city of Opar, with its spires and domes and vaults of gold and jewels. But those directions will lead the curious nowhere. Not that it matters so much in that case, because I have long since disguised the ruins of Opar completely. You could go there today and never know you were there. But I hope you won't try.

A few of Burroughs' stories are pure fiction. In Jungle Tales of Tarzan, I am supposed to have shot arrows into the sky in an effort to stop an eclipse of the moon. But the story happens in 1908, and in fact there was no such eclipse visible from my part of Africa that year. Sheer fabrication.

F: I see from your father's diary that he delivered you himself, though he had nothing but some medical books to go by. You were born a few minutes after midnight of November 22, 1888. On the cusp of Sagittarius and Scorpio. Scorpio the passionate and Sagittarius the hunter. T: I know that. I have read much about astrology, though I believe in it about as much as I do in the speeches of politicians. Still, Sagittarius, the centaur with the bow, could not be a better symbol of the half-animal, half-man that I have been. And I am a very good archer indeed. And Scorpios are supposed to be ingenious, creative, true friends, and dangerous enemies, all of which I am. We're also supposed to exude sexual power. Hmm. F: Burroughs gives many instances of women attempting to seduce you. You are certainly not the inarticulate ape-man of the movies. What you say about being a good archer, however, reminds me of some critics who maintain you could not have accomplished this. They refer to Marshall McLuhan's thesis that only literate peoples can produce excellent marksmen. T: I've read The Mechanical Bride and Understanding Media. McLuhan forgets the medieval English bowman, who was certainly illiterate but undoubtedly a great marksman. And the critics forget that I taught myself to read and write English. I was not illiterate, though I couldn't speak the language. F: What do you think of the Tarzan movies? T: I saw the first one in 1920, the one with Elmo Lincoln. I came very near to leaping up onto the stage and tearing the picture apart. That fake jungle, those doped- up, scraggly circus cats! Lincoln was built more like a gorilla than like me, and he wore a headband, which I have never done. All that swinging on a vine is movie invention as well, as is Cheetah the chimpanzee. Nowhere even in Burroughs will you find me swinging on vines, though it's true that he did greatly exaggerate my tree- traveling abilities. I'm too heavy to go skipping along the, ah, arboreal avenues like a monkey. And the chimpanzees would never trust me because they identified me with the great apes who brought me up. We -- that is, they -- used to eat chimps when they could catch them. But later on I began to find the Tarzan movies more amusing than disgusting. Jane helped me to learn to tolerate them. F: Arthur Koestler wrote an article claiming that you couldn't have escaped being mentally retarded. He said there had been a few authentic cases of children raised by baboons or wolves and then found by humans. These were unable to master any language. Apparently, if the child doesn't experience language before a certain age, it is forever incapable of learning speech. T: Koestler must not have bothered to read the Tarzan books. Otherwise he would have learned that the great apes did have a language. He should have deduced, as many have, that the great apes, or mangani, were really near-humans. Hominids, in fact. Remember what I said about the sketchy information upon which Burroughs' early books were based? He supplied missing data with imagination or even misinformation. He made up names. He put animals in the Gabonese jungles that did not belong there. He described the mangani as great apes. My father had thought they were apes, and so called them in his diary. But my father was not a zoologist or a paleontologist. The mangani were a very rare, nearly extinct -- even eighty years ago -- genus of hominids, halfway between ape and man. They might have been a giant variety of Australopithecus robustus. The fossil remains of this hominid have been found by Leakey in East Africa, you know. The mangani -- and I use Burroughs' word for them, since their own term is an unpronounceable jawbreaker -- had crested skulls and massive jaws. They had long arms and often used their knuckles to assist them in walking, but they had manlike hips and leg bones. They could walk upright when they chose.

Burroughs later had better information about his great apes. However, for the sake of consistency he described them in the later novels as he had done earlier on. He slipped in the sixth book, Jungle Tales of Tarzan, when he said they walked upright and were manlike.

I can speak mangani fluently, of course. But I can't pronounce it quite perfectly. The mangani oral structure is different from man's, and many of their speech sounds have no exact equivalent in human speech. So though I can speak English with any of several accents, I always speak mangani with a human accent.

F: Did the big mangani, Terkoz, really abduct Jane and try to rape her? And you killed him with your father's hunting knife? T: Yes. And there you see, by the way, another reason why the mangani should not be classified as apes. They are capable of raping a human being, whereas a gorilla is not. I once read in the memoirs of Trader Horn about a white trader who put a male gorilla in a cage with a native girl. The gorilla did nothing but sulk in one corner while the poor girl wept in the other. Horn said he shot the white man when he found out about it. In any case, gorillas have forty-eight chromosomes, humans only forty-six, so a gorilla-human hybrid is not possible. But Burroughs knew of instances of offspring being born to a human and a mangani.

F: Albert Schweitzer maintained that Trader Horn, aside from some trifling discrepancies, was generally accurate. Did you know that Schweitzer built his house on the site of Horn's trading post? T: Yes, at Adolinanongo, a little distance above Lambarene on the Ogowe River. I know it well. There's a Catholic mission there, founded in 1886. That's where Lieutenant d'Arnot and I came out of the jungle on our trek to civilization. F: Would you care to comment on how you taught yourself to read and write English? As far as I know this is a unique intellectual feat, especially since you had never heard a word of it spoken. T: I was about ten years old when I discovered how to unlock the door to my parents' cabin, and there I found, as you have read in Burroughs, a number of books, all of them perfectly meaningless to me, of course. But one of them was a big illustrated children's alphabet book with pictures of bowmen and the like, you know, and legends like "A is for Archer, who shoots with the bow," that sort of thing. Finally it dawned on me that the writing had something to do with the picture, and I spent I don't know how long puzzling it out. When I was seventeen I could read a child's primer. I called the letters "little bugs," or the mangani equivalent rather, and I knew how they worked. One detail you may find rather amusing is this: I had to invent, and did invent, my own manner of pronouncing the English words, which had nothing to do of course with real English but was governed by the usages of mangani grammar. Mangani has two genders, indicated by the prefixes bu for the masculine and mu for the feminine. Now I supposed that the capital letters were masculine, since they were bigger, and the rest feminine. And as children will do when they know the alphabet but don't yet know how to read, I pronounced each letter separately, using arbitrary syllables taken from mangani. Does this seem terribly complicated? For example, I pronounced g as la; o as tu; and d as mo. Now take the English word God; adding the prefixes, I pronounced it Bulamutumumo. The equivalent in English would be he-g-she-o-she-d. Now that's very cumbersome, of course, but it worked. I could read my father's books and know what I was reading. I had no idea how to write my mangani name, but I had seen a picture of a little white boy, which in Anglo-Mangani, I suppose you might call it, is Bumudomutumuro, or He-she-b-she-o-she-y. That's what I called myself.

F: Burroughs says that when you discovered intruders had messed up the cabin, you printed a threatening note to them. You signed it with your mangani name. How could you do that if you didn't know how to write it in English? T: I didn't. I printed a translation of my mangani name: White Skin. When Burroughs wrote Tarzan of the Apes, he had no record of the exact text of the note. He made up the text, and he did not care to take time out from the action to explain that I couldn't use my mangani name. Remember he was first and last a storyteller. F: Your reading must have given you some strange ideas about the outside world. You had no proper references to give you a full comprehension of the books. T: My ideas were no stranger than the reality. My initial encounters with human beings were extremely unpleasant. The first human being I ever saw had just murdered my foster mother. To him she was an ape, but to me she was the most beautiful and loving and lovable person in the world. The first time I saw white men, one was murdering another. I am fortunate that that didn't make me shun mankind forever. Otherwise I'd never have known human love. F: When you matured and discovered that you were not an ape but a man, didn't you think of turning to the native tribes for companionship? T: No. I hated them all for a long time, because I blamed them for my foster mother's death. Also, they were cannibals, and anybody not of their tribe was meat to them. And they had had unfortunate experiences with white men. In addition to that, the women coated their bodies and hair with rancid palm-nut oil. I have an unusually keen sense of smell, and consequently they repelled me. Still, if Jane hadn't come along -

F: Burroughs portrays you as free of racial prejudice. T: Like Mark Twain, I have only one prejudice. That is against the human race. F: Let me not pursue that further. Many readers have found your behavior with Jane when you were alone in the jungle incredibly chivalrous. Burroughs attributes this to heredity, but no one today would accept this explanation. T: Remember, I read all the novels -- Victorian novels, mind you -- in my father's library. And I read Malory's book about King Arthur and the knights and the fair ladies. I believed in chivalry quite literally. And I was in love with Jane and did not want to offend her. Besides, the mangani have a code of ethics, you know. They are not apes. They do not copulate in public; they demand, though they do not always get, marital fidelity; they punish rape with death, if the injured party wishes it. Consider all the factors and you'll find my behavior credible enough. F: You became chief of a black tribe which Burroughs called the Waziri. Are you aware that Robert Lewis Taylor, in his biography of W. C. Fields, says that Fields once went with Tex Rickard on a world tour? And that Fields entertained a tribe of naked Waziri? That would have been in 1906 or 1907, several years before you encountered the Waziri. Did your Waziri ever say anything about Fields? T: I have no comment on that, I'm afraid. F: How much of Burroughs' Tarzan and the Lion Man is true? It seems to me that Burroughs wrote it mainly to satirize Hollywood. T: Yes, nearly everything in that book is fiction. But I did visit Hollywood once, though I told no one except Burroughs who I was, of course. F: Did you actually try out for the role of Tarzan in a movie? And were you rejected because the producer said you weren't the type? T: No, though I wouldn't be surprised if such a thing were to happen. In any case, I went there too late to try out for the Weissmuller movie Tarzan the Ape Man, and too early for the Buster Crabbe movie Tarzan the Fearless. I did meet Burroughs, secretly of course. I liked him very much. He was gentle and broad-minded and he didn't take himself or his works too seriously. He saw many things wrong in civilization, many sickening things, and he satirized them in his books, you know, but his mockery was Voltaire's, not Swift's. He was never soured or snarly. But since we are now discussing authors, let me indulge my curiosity a moment. I gather that you have been led to me by a fairly elaborate trail. Would you mind explaining to me how you first caught my scent, as it were? F: I had long suspected that Burroughs, Arthur Conan Doyle, and George Bernard Shaw had all written stories about your family. Each, however, used more or less sophisticated systems of code names for your various relatives. If these codes could be cracked, and used as guides to the right places -- Burke's Peerage, for instance -- they would lead me right to you. And as you see, they have. The reasoning I have employed is long and complex, and I hope you'll be willing to delay a full understanding until I can send you a copy of my book, since our time today is short. Suffice it to say that I have shown you are closely related to the men who were the living prototypes of Doc Savage, Nero Wolfe, Bulldog Drummond, Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, Leopold Bloom, and Richard Wentworth (also known as G-8, the Spider, and the Shadow), and a number of other notable characters in nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction.

T: Indeed. F: I have also found the explanation for the remarkable, almost superhuman powers exhibited by yourself and many members of your family. As you know, a monument marks the spot where a meteorite hit Wold Newton, Yorkshire, in 1795. It just so happened that three coaches were passing by when the meteorite struck, and in them were the third Duke of Greystoke and his wife, the rich gentleman Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley House and his wife Elizabeth Bennet -- the heroine of Pride and Prejudice -- Sherlock Holmes's great-grandparents, and a number of others. All the ladies were pregnant. Everybody was exposed to the radiation from the meteorite, ionization accompanies the fall of these, you know. And the radiation must have caused favorable mutations in the party. Otherwise how do you explain the nova of genetic splendor in the descendants of these people, including yourself? T: I will not say that I am entirely convinced. Nevertheless yours is a very probable theory. My own skeletal bones are half again as thick as normal, which might well indicate that I am a mutant. Moreover, even before I received the immortality treatment from the witch doctor, I was developing oddly, though I had no one of my own race to compare myself with at the time. I was six feet tall at eighteen years of age, and grew three more inches in the next two years. I did not have to shave until I was twenty. I have never been ill or had a toothache. So your mutation theory seems likely enough. And now, I'm afraid, our interview is over. May I have the photostats back, please? F: My time's up? But -T: I don't need a watch to know how many minutes have passed. Good-bye. I won't be seeing you again. May I ask you to remain in this room a few minutes and allow me to leave first? I have already checked out and shall soon be gone. F: May I ask where you're going? T: To arrange a seemingly fatal accident. Too many people are wondering why I look so young. One reason I gave you this interview is that I'm disappearing. Your book won't help anyone find me. But I hold you to your promise not to reveal my true identity for ten years. I'll be living incognito with Jane in various countries under various names. Occasionally I'll return to the jungle. There are still vast tracts in the rain forests of Gabon and the Ituri where the only men are a few pygmies. The rain forests may disappear someday. But I think that the worldwide pollution is going to result in a collapse of civilization and a drastic reduction of population. Perhaps the forests will be spared after all, and many of the species now threatened with extinction will come back. In any case, I intend to survive. If I don't, well, death gets us sooner or later, and I won't be able to worry about its being sooner if I'm dead. As I told you, I'll be old anyhow when I'm a hundred and fifty. Send your book to my bankers in Zurich. Then, Mr. Farmer tells us, he left the room and was gone.

(Author's note: For security reasons, I stated in this interview that I met "Lord Greystoke" in Africa. It's safe now to reveal that the meeting actually took place in Chicago.)









Thomas Wolfe Was Right
Monday, August 18, 2014





I have a friend who likes to use this expression when I talk to him, “Alex you are reiterating yourself.” Indeed he is right and if anybody ever has the misguided desire to prove my friend right by reading more that a couple of blogs herein, they will immediately find out that herein there is nothing new under the sun.

At age 7 or 8 a wooden crate with bricks for gas pedal, clutch and brake with a broom handle and some wheel nailed as a steering wheel suddenly was not Fangio’s racer but a crate with bricks for….

At age 16 to 20 I was an avid fan of good bullfighting in Mexico City. I went to both the bullfighting plazas of the city and saw some of the best matadors of their time. I even witnesed  Don Pedro Domecq do his art on an elegant and prancing white horse. He was rejoneador.

Between 1977 until the early 90s I was an avid admirer of the ecdysiast art. It was best put by fellow admirer and friend, Les Wiseman here.

Then sometime in the those 90s while being with a couple of journalists and three architects at Tony Ricci’s establishment, the Marble Arch one of the architects said, “Let’s wait for her to show her t… and then we can pack up and go home.”  In some way the racing car became a crate and the art of bullfighting became a disgrace to animals. I may have returned to the Number 5 Orange a few times but my justifiable excuse is that I have gone to visit with Ricci.

A couple of years ago I was allowed to shoot backstage during some very good burlesque productions. I found these even more unexciting and I could not abide by some of the women playing cutesy. Only Monroe could get away with that.

They say that women are as old as they look and that men are old when they stop looking. If that is correct I am currently in my early 20s. But I could never return to a strip bar. Perhaps, one of the reasons is that I knew most of those talented (they could dance, then) women and the women I have seen since resemble dancing androids. 




The excitement that Wiseman wrote about is firmly in my memory and while those times will never come back I can reinforce them with glimpses at photographs I was privileged and allowed to take.

The woman in this blog had beautiful red hair and always wore a head band. She was tall and sinewy. She was financing her university education with her exotic dancing. Almost always when she danced in the evening her boyfriend was there (perhaps to safely see her home). He was a balding blond man taller than she was and he reminded me of Ichabod Crane.

The curious colour of the scans (which I have left as is) is due to the film that I used. It was a chromogenic Illford b+w film with a speed of 400 ISO. Chromogenic meant that this was really b+w colour negative film that could be processed in Kodak C-41 chemistry and I did not have to bother processing at home. I had my lab at the time do that.

Looking at these two pictures, which I took at Gary Taylor's Bradley's on Howe Street brings back the thrill of the times and of feeling alive while watching beautiful women slowly take their clothes of. 

Best of all, at the time I had no guilt. 

Perhaps it is because I never indulged in drugs and alcohol as I remember that the picture below, which I took during a car wash at the Drake Hotel is of the very same red head.


Civic Duty - Kodachrome 64 Aug 1981



Darwin's Cynara cardunculus
Sunday, August 17, 2014




In my garden my Rosemary grows several Cyanara cardunculus. These stately (8 to 9 ft tall) thistle-like plants have flowers that resemble thistles and leaves that resemble the leaves of the Acanthus, the plant that the Greeks used as models for their Corinthian column capitals. But Cynara cardunculus is not a thistle, it is a close relative of the artichoke or Cynara scolymus.



In his Voyage of the Beagle Charles Darwin describes the Argentine pampas around 1833.

"But the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) has a far wider range. It occurs in these latitudes on both sides of the Cordillera, across the continent. I saw it unfrequented spots in Chile, Entre Rios[an area North East of Buenos Aires]and the Banda Oriental [modern day Uruguay]. In the latter country alone, very many (probably several hundred) square miles are covered by one mass of these prickly plants and are impenetrable by man or beast. Over the undulating plains, where these great beds occur, nothing else can now live."



It seems that in Darwin's time there were areas not yet populated by the cardoon which was a plant brought to America by the European colonizers. This is an example of a non native and aggressive plant that destroyed and replaced some of the original herbage of the Argentine pampa. But in my journey through the pampas in the 50s, 60s I don't recall seeing the cardunculus in mass. All I saw was the cardo (as Argentines call) the really prickly thistle of the pampas. I decided to look it all up and I found out that Europeans in the 1920s brought the Scotch thistle or Onopordum acanthium with them. This real thistle, much more aggressive than the cardoon, has systematically taken over. I had a Scotch thistle in our garden a couple of years ago. I found it beautiful. But I would agree with Rosemary that Darwin's (as I call it now) cardoon is far more beautiful. When I gaze on it I can imagine Darwin galloping with his friend, Argentine strongman Juan Manuel de Rosas in search of fast Argentine ostriches.











     

Previous Posts
Ample Make This Bed

Rick Ouston's Personal Take On Choice Of Death

Flit, Buda, Vanitas & Helianthus annuum

A Lovely Paradox Of A Face

Philip José Farmer, My Mother & Lord Greystoke

Thomas Wolfe Was Right

Darwin's Cynara cardunculus

That Perfect Red - Not Yet

Corte Y Confección - Part II

Corte Y Confección



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9/25/11 - 10/2/11

10/2/11 - 10/9/11

10/9/11 - 10/16/11

10/16/11 - 10/23/11

10/23/11 - 10/30/11

10/30/11 - 11/6/11

11/6/11 - 11/13/11

11/13/11 - 11/20/11

11/20/11 - 11/27/11

11/27/11 - 12/4/11

12/4/11 - 12/11/11

12/11/11 - 12/18/11

12/18/11 - 12/25/11

12/25/11 - 1/1/12

1/1/12 - 1/8/12

1/8/12 - 1/15/12

1/15/12 - 1/22/12

1/22/12 - 1/29/12

1/29/12 - 2/5/12

2/5/12 - 2/12/12

2/12/12 - 2/19/12

2/19/12 - 2/26/12

2/26/12 - 3/4/12

3/4/12 - 3/11/12

3/11/12 - 3/18/12

3/18/12 - 3/25/12

3/25/12 - 4/1/12

4/1/12 - 4/8/12

4/8/12 - 4/15/12

4/15/12 - 4/22/12

4/22/12 - 4/29/12

4/29/12 - 5/6/12

5/6/12 - 5/13/12

5/13/12 - 5/20/12

5/20/12 - 5/27/12

5/27/12 - 6/3/12

6/3/12 - 6/10/12

6/10/12 - 6/17/12

6/17/12 - 6/24/12

6/24/12 - 7/1/12

7/1/12 - 7/8/12

7/8/12 - 7/15/12

7/15/12 - 7/22/12

7/22/12 - 7/29/12

7/29/12 - 8/5/12

8/5/12 - 8/12/12

8/12/12 - 8/19/12

8/19/12 - 8/26/12

8/26/12 - 9/2/12

9/2/12 - 9/9/12

9/9/12 - 9/16/12

9/16/12 - 9/23/12

9/23/12 - 9/30/12

9/30/12 - 10/7/12

10/7/12 - 10/14/12

10/14/12 - 10/21/12

10/21/12 - 10/28/12

10/28/12 - 11/4/12

11/4/12 - 11/11/12

11/11/12 - 11/18/12

11/18/12 - 11/25/12

11/25/12 - 12/2/12

12/2/12 - 12/9/12

12/9/12 - 12/16/12

12/16/12 - 12/23/12

12/23/12 - 12/30/12

12/30/12 - 1/6/13

1/6/13 - 1/13/13

1/13/13 - 1/20/13

1/20/13 - 1/27/13

1/27/13 - 2/3/13

2/3/13 - 2/10/13

2/10/13 - 2/17/13

2/17/13 - 2/24/13

2/24/13 - 3/3/13

3/3/13 - 3/10/13

3/10/13 - 3/17/13

3/17/13 - 3/24/13

3/24/13 - 3/31/13

3/31/13 - 4/7/13

4/7/13 - 4/14/13

4/14/13 - 4/21/13

4/21/13 - 4/28/13

4/28/13 - 5/5/13

5/5/13 - 5/12/13

5/12/13 - 5/19/13

5/19/13 - 5/26/13

5/26/13 - 6/2/13

6/2/13 - 6/9/13

6/9/13 - 6/16/13

6/16/13 - 6/23/13

6/23/13 - 6/30/13

6/30/13 - 7/7/13

7/7/13 - 7/14/13

7/14/13 - 7/21/13

7/21/13 - 7/28/13

7/28/13 - 8/4/13

8/4/13 - 8/11/13

8/11/13 - 8/18/13

8/18/13 - 8/25/13

8/25/13 - 9/1/13

9/1/13 - 9/8/13

9/8/13 - 9/15/13

9/15/13 - 9/22/13

9/22/13 - 9/29/13

9/29/13 - 10/6/13

10/6/13 - 10/13/13

10/13/13 - 10/20/13

10/20/13 - 10/27/13

10/27/13 - 11/3/13

11/3/13 - 11/10/13

11/10/13 - 11/17/13

11/17/13 - 11/24/13

11/24/13 - 12/1/13

12/1/13 - 12/8/13

12/8/13 - 12/15/13

12/15/13 - 12/22/13

12/22/13 - 12/29/13

12/29/13 - 1/5/14

1/5/14 - 1/12/14

1/12/14 - 1/19/14

1/19/14 - 1/26/14

1/26/14 - 2/2/14

2/2/14 - 2/9/14

2/9/14 - 2/16/14

2/16/14 - 2/23/14

2/23/14 - 3/2/14

3/2/14 - 3/9/14

3/9/14 - 3/16/14

3/16/14 - 3/23/14

3/23/14 - 3/30/14

3/30/14 - 4/6/14

4/6/14 - 4/13/14

4/13/14 - 4/20/14

4/20/14 - 4/27/14

4/27/14 - 5/4/14

5/4/14 - 5/11/14

5/11/14 - 5/18/14

5/18/14 - 5/25/14

5/25/14 - 6/1/14

6/1/14 - 6/8/14

6/8/14 - 6/15/14

6/15/14 - 6/22/14

6/22/14 - 6/29/14

6/29/14 - 7/6/14

7/6/14 - 7/13/14

7/13/14 - 7/20/14

7/20/14 - 7/27/14

7/27/14 - 8/3/14

8/3/14 - 8/10/14

8/10/14 - 8/17/14

8/17/14 - 8/24/14