That Last Surrogate Father Fades
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
As I write this late Wednesday night I can see a moth
fluttering outside the window behind my monitor. I know it is
getting cold and that the insect is in the last throws of its life cycle.
If anything it reinforces what I am about to write.
In my life I had many surrogate fathers. Besides my father
there were all the Brothers of Holy Cross
at St. Edward’s High School who
nurtured me, educated me and helped me become a man. Just a couple of years ago the last one my very dearest Brother Edwin Reggio
died in Indiana.
There was Captain USN Onofrio Salvia
who in Buenos Aires
in the middle 60s taught me that rebellion at my age and in the Argentine Navy
was silly and fruitless. “Become and educated man and then attempt to change
those institutions (he meant military ones like the ones he represented) you abhor.”
It was Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
in Mexico City who gave
me a job and and the beginnings of a profession when I thought I had nowhere to
go. It was Raúl who helped me meet and woo my Rosemary.
And here in Vancouver at the end of the 20th
Century it was Argentine painter Juan Manuel Sánchez
and a Jewish/American
architect, veteran of the Battle of the Ardennes Forest, Abraham Rogatnick
enriched my life with art and liberalism. An appreciation of the female form
that was free of prejudice, sexism and political correctness was a further
contribution by Sánchez who placed a Chilean translation of The Magic Mountain
by Thomas Mann and told me, “Leélo.”
All of my surrogates are now dead except for Juan Manuel
Sánchez who like the fluttering moth has asked his doctors (in a rare moment of
lucidity) in his Buenos Aires hospital bed to pull the plug.
I brought down from my piano room one of the last works
of art that Sánchez ever finished. It was on April 24 of this year, in Buenos
Aires that I placed in his hands a piece of cardboard that had a silver finish
on one side. He looked at me quizzically. “What am I to do with this?” I told
him he had to draw me one of his women. One of his women that he was working
towards that eventual solution that would make the final work (one he will
never achieve now) that of the Essence of Woman, as in a Platonic Essence. He
intimated to me once that he was going to resolve woman to a dot or a line on a
He understood. He then asked me on what surface he was to
draw. I only said, “da Vinci.” He knew exactly what I was talking about, Ginevrade' Benci [obverse]
c. 1474/1478. The painting hangs in the middle of a room at
the National Gallery in Washington. It has two sides.
He handed me the work which he did in my presence on
April 26 (I cannot understand why he may have thought that we were in another
century because of the 916). I had it framed in Vancouver and because it has a
picture on each side the nicely framed piece (Magnum Frames) I lean against the
wall on a bookshelf.
I grieve already of a life that is reaching that asymptote
that always with we humans does reach its axis before infinity.
Perhaps at that more than infinitesimal point between one
side and the other my last surrogate father will prepare me for my own.
Rick Ouston Where Are You?
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
|Malcolm Parry second from left|
Having been born in the 20th century in 1942 I am firmly a man from
it and I live and feel like jetsam and flotsam in the rough and unknown waters
of this 21st.
And yet this dinosaur of another age can claim here that
back in 1995 I was connected to the WWW
and that my email was the quaint firstname.lastname@example.org.
But as every day, week, month and year advance I feel
like very much like my old deceased friend Abraham Rogatnick who used to tell
me, “I am glad I am not long for this world.” I feel like yelling out that Old
Canadian Parlimentary “Hear, hear!” to my daed friend.
After seeing today’s American Presidential Debate I
remembered that I am a product of the 1950’s age of Walter Cronkite when I knew
beyond the shadow of the doubt that in spite of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
most of the time 2+2=4.
In the last few weeks I have dealt only for a short while
with our city’s downsizing industry that is the newspaper and the magazine.
I must point out that I started in that business in 1977
so I do have some experience as a magazine/newspaper/photographer/writer.
My tragedy is that I worked under the best editors and
art directors in an atmosphere of trust, professionalism and ethics. In short
it was a time of real journalism.
Only last year a couple of actresses (I am old fashioned)
that I had to photograph for a magazine for an article about them told me I had
to pay them if I expected to have them pose by a car that was in Tsawwassen. In
the few assignments that I get these days my subjects want to see the pictures
(even though they see some of the results on the back of my digital camera)
that will be used and want a final okay.
Early in the game I was told my editors and art directors
not to show the manuscript (invariably couriered, faxed or e-mailed to me before
my shoots) to my subjects nor to hint in any way of the content.
With next to no exceptions my subjects treated me courteously,
thanked me and generally in some way communicated later by phone that they
liked my photograph.
Sometime in the early part of this century interviews
began to happen on the phone. We called them phoners. Here is an example of
“I was talking to Clint Eastwood from his kitchen and I
could hear his poodle barking…” That’s a phoner. In those days journalists
would label their interview as a phoner somewhere in the beginning parts of
their articles. In later years they did the same for email interviews.
Most of that is gone and because it has been gone so long
the unwary readers cannot be expected to know any better and they don’t .
At first I became quite excited about Vancouver’s on line
publication The Tyee. But I could not abide by the nasty and vitriolic comments
that people made. And the made those coments much like in the joke of why does
a dog lick its …? – because it and they can and could. Now thanks to social media the vitriol used comes in geometric proportion. Because they can.
The best of the editors I worked for was Malcom Parry who
was the editor of Vancouver Magazine , of Western Living and later of an Eastern publication called
This man who nurtured my then lacking photographic
talents in the late 70s could be nasty to some people but never was with me except
for once. I brought some pictures he did not like and he told me, “Alex you are
making the motions an no more. Go back and re-shoot this and bring me good pictures.” And
then he threw a loupe at me. And he was right.
Another time I had taken a portrait of a politician and a
week before the magazine was to come out I told him that the politician’s publicist
wanted to use the photograph. His answer was short (and correct). You can give
them the picture once the magazine is on the newsstand.
Every once in a while he would find a Vancouver Sun
writer to write about the state of journalism (in that paper and the Vancouver
Province). More often than not the writer was Rick Ouston.
Now in this century there is no active Rick Ouston and
Parry is out of the game. Another fine editor Charles Campbell left by the time
the eventual decline of his publication and that of any publication when the
publisher begins to monkey with the editorial content.
Fortunately I am not long for this world. That is comforting.
Usung Ghosts at the Paris Opera Ballet - Crystal Pite
Monday, September 26, 2016
On Thursday May 26 2016 I wrote this blog
. Today Monday 26 2016 I read this
very good review in my hard copy New York Times about Crystal Pite's
Saturday night’s gala opening of the Paris Opera Ballet
season, with a new piece, “The Seasons’ Canon
” Consider this:
The audience leapt to their feet (unusual here), applauding wildly at
the end of “Seasons’ Canon,” set to Max Richter’s adaptation of
Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” It’s not hard to understand why. Working
with 54 dancers, Ms. Pite has created massed blocks of movement that
focus on large-scale patterning to often thrilling effect.
What few would know (I know!) is that there are unsung heroes (over 50 of them) here who are part of our favourite daughter's success in the old continent. The unsung heroes are the dancers of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company (a very long bench of talent) that provided Pite with perhaps witha an avenue to try out her piece before its innauguaral performance at the Paris Opera Ballet.
Best of all some of us (including yours truly) were able to see the preliminarywork performed here in Vancouver.
For me part of the mystique of the Paris Opera Ballet happened to me here
when I first met luminous dancer Sandrine Cassini.
Crystal Pite's The Paris Sessions
|Crystal Pite centre|
La Modestine - Ryan Gosling & a Donkey
Sunday, September 25, 2016
|Natalie Mackie - Viola da Gambist - La Modestine|
Yesterday Saturday was the kind of day that I will savour
for a long time and that I hope my 14 year-old granddaughter will remember someday
with warmth towards her by then long-dead grandfather.
I picked up Lauren at noon from her Arts Umbrella Dance
class at the 7th and Quebec location. At home we had my creamed in
the oven gnocchi. I then asked her to pose with Pancho. Just this time I opted
to have her smile for my camera.
Then Rosemary, Lauren and I watched a film, Nicolas Winding
Refn’s 2011 Drive with my hero Ryan Gosling.
About 8 months ago I happened to watch on TV the first 20
minutes of this film. I thought it so good that I did not want to see it
alone. I later purchased it and I did now play it until yesterday.
It was the first time I ever saw Gosling and the first
film for me with the most interesting approach of its Danish director. Plus the
music kept me on edge and it contrasted with Gosling’s cool demeanour (perhaps
a brand new version of Steve McQueen and the film a contemporary one of Peter
Yates 1968 Bullitt)
I mention the music composed by Cliff Martinez as it
reminded me of the fact that for Bullitt my Argentine countryman Lalo Schifrin
was nominated for an Oscar for his score.
Drive is extremely violent but both Lauren and I decided that
Gosling’s cool but troubled demeanour as a flawed hero bent on revenge somehow
softened the terrible violence that Lauren called high tech. And the female
lead, Carey Mulligan plays such and innocent sweetie that it softened the blows
of the multiple cutting and piercing devices used to terminate many bad guys
and one not so bad guy. A scene in an elevator in slow motion where Gosling
gives the only kiss of the film to Mulligan while we know that the third person
a suited man with a gun is out to kill them both for me is one of the finest
and most memorable scenes from any film.
As a formerly Latin American macho I have softened enough in
my many years in Canada to state that if I were a woman or gay I would fall for
Gosling just like that!
It was very strange to see my Rosemary watch the whole film
without once getting up to protest of the violence and go up to her room.
|Lauren Stewart & Pancho|
After the movie Lauren dressed up in a brand new dress and
her grandfather put on his Ralph Lauren wool and silk sport coat (and a Smithsonian
tie with old pioneering airplanes), black jeans and a very nice shirt. We drove
to Hodson Manor on 7th
Avenue for an intimate baroque concert (a
room with a maximum capacity for about 45 souls).Hodson Manor is occupied by
three arts organizations, Early Music Vancouver
, the Pacific Baroque Orchestra
and the Vancouver Chamber Choir.
The concert, called Sudden Beauty of 17th century music from Germany
and England featured a super-group foursome (and for that very reason I cannot
amply compare them to that great trio that was Cream) of internationally
renowned musicians (two, Marc Destrubé, violin, Natalie Mackie,viola da gamba
happen to have Vancouver as a home base, one, Michael Jarvis, harpsichord,
Victoria and the other Linda Melsted is a
violinist from Seattle.
The four have started a group called La Modestine
only hint that the name, chosen by Natalie Mackie is about a one of her
favourite books and that it involves a donkey from a story by Robert Louis
Stevenson). If you go to their web page here
you might note this:
La Modestine was formed in 2016 by four renowned
musicians who discovered that playing together was one of their great joys. La
Modestine's repertoire focuses on music of the baroque for one or two violins,
viola da gamba and basso continuo.
Lauren and I arrived early and we were greeted by one of
beautiful women I have ever
known (even though she plays the viola and no longer has blue/green hair)
Genevieve MacKay. We sat down on the front row, a mere five feet from where the
musicians would sit (the two violinists stood for Johan Viierdanck ( 1605-1646,
“en su casa lo conocen
”) Sonata a 2 violini soli.
|Linda Melsted - Violinist - La Modestine|
As soon as the four began to play it was patently evident
that they loved playing together and that we were in for a marvellous evening. Lauren asked me about Mackie's viola da gamba. After many years of getting this from Mackie, "No, Alejandro you have it all wrong," I was able to explain that the instrument with its flat back and frets is related to the lute and guitar an not to the cello. I had her notice that the instrument had seven strings but that other violas de gamba have six. Up front we were able listen to every note of it.
By the second work, Dietrich Buxtehude’s (his only flaw
and very important for 17th
century organists was that his daughter
was not beautiful) Sonata #2 in a minor Bux 272, for violin, viola da gamba and
both of us were tapping our feet on the first movemen an Allegro Chaconne. Because it only had Destrubé on the violin it meant
that Linda Melsted sat next to me (a very big thrill!).
|Michael Jarvis - Harspichordist - La Modestine with Rebeccaand lauren Stewart. Paul Luchkow behind with Teddy.|
The second half (after fine wine and cheese) started with
Michael Jarvis playing solo harpsichord. He played Henry Purcell’s Suite in D
minor Z 668
. I have to point out that for many years I considered the
harpsichord (an instrument I could hardly ever hear in a baroque orchestra) an
ineffectual instrument. Pacific Baroque Orchestra Artistic Director AlexanderWeimann
, who is very good at it and explained that a continuo player (the bass
line in a baroque group or orchestra) has to improvise like a jazz player. And
Michael Jarvis’s playing with a aplomb, grace and a smile on his face have all
but changed my mind on the negative qualities of the harpsichord. One day I
will ask Déstrube to do the same for the accordion.
|Marc Destrubé - Violinist - La Modestine|
After the concert in which unlike in other venues of
music we were able to mingle with the musicians we left to eat Szechuan Chilli
restaurant at a nearby restaurant. It was a downer as my Szechuan Chilli Dried
Meat was cloyingly sweet. With a good sense of humour Lauren suggested we walk
our neighbourhood area of West Broadway and look at the menus.
I took Lauren to her new home in Burnaby and I drove back
home feeling pretty happy after a very nice day.
Perhaps like Gosling’s character in Drive I should
purchase a pair of black driving gloves.
Our Stickley Has a Headboard
Monday, September 19, 2016
|Nina in her comfortable bed|
Since I can remember I have slept in terrible beds. They did
not have headboards or the mattress was on the floor. In my childhood I slept
in a crib past the age of being a baby as my parents could not afford a regular
In 1986 when Rosemary and I moved to our Kerrisdale home on
Athlone Street our relatively comfortable (a bit soft) bed had no headboard.
This meant that our head bumped every once in a while with the two window
frames behind us.
Rosemary complained, on and on that she wanted to have a bed
with a headboard.
When we moved to our present location in Kitsilano we
decided to get a decent bed. Actually it is not a decent bed. It is an
extremely good Stickley that we purchased at Jordans Interiors on West Broadway
and Granville. Since then we have found nice and soft large pillows at the Bay
from their Hotel Collection. We have a fine duvet cover. Casi-Casi has his own white bath mat from Ikea and he curls around it at the foot of our bed.
This Stickley has a large headboard so we can easily read
our Vancouver Sun
and New York Times
every day with our daily breakfast in bed
(a 15-year tradition).
Beds, beds & more beds
A monumental Vision Impure
Sunday, September 18, 2016
The Grumman A-6 Intruder
was an American, twin
jet-engine, mid-wing all-weather attack aircraft built by Grumman Aerospace. In
service with the United States Navy and Marine Corps between 1963 and 1997, the
Intruder was designed as an all-weather medium attack aircraft to replace the
piston-engined Douglas A-1 Skyraider. As the A-6E was slated for retirement,
its precision strike mission was taken over by the Grumman F-14 Tomcat equipped
with a LANTIRN pod. From the A-6, a specialized electronic warfare derivative,
the EA-6, was developed.
|Noam Gagnon, Dana Gingras - February 2005|
It was only about a year ago that in a CNN newscast from
an American aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean that I noticed the impossible-to-confuse EA-6 Prowler. What this meant is that an airplane that came into
production in the earlier incarnation of the A-6 Intruder was in operation 53
years later. The airplane with renewed avionics was still an effective radar
A few weeks ago I was telling my friend composer John Oliver
that I could no longer listen to any new version (either live or
recorded) of Bach’s Concerto for 2
Violins in D minor, BWV 1043.
Oliver said something close to this, “Alex you are done with it.
Part of the issue is that at age 74 all my fave Gerry
Mulligan records and CDs are firmly ensconced in my memory. I don’t need to
listen to them. They are in me, part of me. Only the visit of a friend who
might not know of the wonders of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto or of Gerry
Mulligan playing My Funny Valentine
would lead me to play the music on my
I thought of all this when I read two reviews, on in my NY Times
and the other on The Atlantic
this week of The Holy Body
performance of monumental
labeled in lower case by Dana Gingras and Noam Gagnon at the Howard Gillman Opera
House part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival.
The NY Times said, not a glowing review, of the performance
which was an original 2005 work:
“it’s a good looking production.
Yet “monumental” was first staged, without the live
music, in 2005 – when Blackberry was king, the iPhone was still a rumor, and
the economic crash was three years off.
The way we work [ monumental is about working in an office in the that
year and the loneliness and depersonalization of it], and worry about work, has
changed since then; if anything, we’re more disconnected now, more aware of the
ephemerality of employment. But with its army of miserable whit-collar drone, “monumental”
feels stuck in the past.”
The Atlantic review was kinder. But it all made me think
and think about that out-of context A-6 Intruder of 1963 and of the very title
of the NY Times review – Setting a Squadron of Joyless Worker Drones to Music.
Of drones even bees have been left behind by the new applications of drones to
kill from afar electronically.
It all made me think that I would be reluctant to attend
a performance of Giselle or Swan Lake. Yes, John Oliver would be right, “I have
When I saw monumental in Vancouver back in 2005 I was
deeply affected by it and I recognized it as a wake-up call for the society of
the time. Perhaps like the NY Times says, times are now worse therefore
monumental is passé. And yet I believe that particularly in dance or in art, (imagine
the uproar in Paris of the first exhibitions of the Impressionists!) does that diminish
those Impressionists today in comparison with modern 21st century
art? I don’t think so.
In some way the expiration date of monumental is the very
explanation of its cutting edge of the time and its subsequent influence on
dance in our present time.