A Child’s Christmas In Vancouver & No Sugar Plums
Thursday, November 26, 2015
A father, even a middling on like I was, knows that Christmas
can never be Christmas without the input and participation of children.
This meant that for many years Christmas with my two
daughters and two granddaughters was that inevitable personal torture of
sitting through another Nutcracker.
The last one I ever attended ended with a big
bang as my two granddaughters and I shared crepes with the Sugar Plum Fairy
But there is another Christmas tradition that has been afoot
now in Vancouver. The Arts Club Theatre Company mounts one or two Christmas
plays every year around now.
My granddaughter Lauren, 13 (in that in-between stage
that one moment makes her a child and at another an adult woman) and I caught
both A Christmas Story (on November 11th) and It’s A Wonderful Life
last night. The former is playing at the Stanley the latter at the Granville
Island Stage. I am familiar with both plays particularly It’s a Wonderful Life.
Alone both plays would have dragged on. But watching my Lauren’s face brought
back for me a vision that I was there for the first time.
Seeing (experiencing) something for the first time is
perhaps one of the wonders of youth. Not too long ago while driving in
Vancouver I was listening to a Beethoven piano bagatelle. It was so spectacular
that I stopped and called my Vancouver Symphony pianist friend Linda Lee
Thomas. Her husband Jon Washburn answered. I told him of my excitement. His
comment I have never forgotten, “Ah to listen to something for the first time!”
He said it in a way that made it clear that my gain was his loss.
Both plays, A Christmas Story (with direction and
choreography by Valerie Eastman) and It’s a Wonderful Life directed by Santa’s
first cousin Dean Paul Gibson have the expected but necessary in my books schmaltz
and both use that waning expression of our times “merry Christmas”. Both
feature children in the cast and a rosy Christmas of Christmases past before
the advent of Black Fridays.
For those who might have gotten this far in this blog I
will reveal below (well below) my connection (as a child) with a Daisy BB gun which
is the underlying theme of A Christmas Story.
It is It’s a Wonderful Life (with just the right amount of
un-tampering of a good thing by Dean Paul Gibson) that made last night a
special night for my Lauren and her grandfather.
It’s a Wonderful Life, the Vancouver version, rotates
around three actors. One is angel Clarence played by Bernard Cuffling, the very
warm Mary Bailey played by Jennifer Lines (is there any young boy that did not
at least one time fall for a woman like her?) and the always dazzling guilty
pleasure (I plead no excuse for that) of watching Lindsey Angell (as Violet)
walk around in those dresses (costume design by Rebeckka Sarensen-Kjelstrup).
Angell’s Violet I am sure could make the wheelchair ridden nasty man Henry
Potter (played by Alex Willows) jump up from it.
I propose right now that Mr. Millerd consider mounting A
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
with Angell as Maggie. I can’t wait for that Teddy. Big Daddy Pollitt, naturally would be played by David Marr, Uncle Billy in It's Wonderful Life.
But it is Bernard Cuffling
who makes It’s a Wonderful
Life the kind of play I can see over and over every year. To watch what
Cuffling does with the two grabbed bullets from the air is always a dazzling
surprise even though I know what’s coming. Cuffling is now 70 and I know that
Joseph and his Boss will make sure (with some help from Millerd) to surprise us all with his
delightful performance for many Christmases more.
After the show Mr. Gibson satisfied my whim to photograph
Clarence the Angel (with his wings) with my granddaughter. As I told Lauren, “One
day when you have children and you tell them that you once posed with a real
angel they will not believe you.” Her quick reply, was, “I will have the
photograph to show them.”
In 1954 when I was 12 my family and I moved to Mexico
City. For that first Christmas I demanded a Daisy BB rifle. I have to point out
here that I was a tad more sophisticated than Ralphie (played by Valin Shinyei
in the Arts Club Theatre production). I did not want that Red Ryder Carbine
Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. No I wanted the pump gun. It was under
the tree that Christmas. For days I
walked to nearby factories and shot at and broke as many windows as I could
Sears - A Christmas & A Grad Dress For Lauren
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Sears, be it Sears Roebuck de México, Simpson Sears or just
plain Sears has always occupied a warm place in my heart.
It was in Sears Roebuck de México where I bought a brown
pair of corfam brogues
Since we arrived in Vancouver in 1975 Sears has been my
Mecca for tools and especially garden tools like lawnmowers.
As I wrote above telling my almost teenage daughters (at the
time) that we had to go to Sears had all to do with fitting for that first bra.
Now I am happy to report that my daughter Hilary has found
in Sears the only place that she can find dresses that will both please her and
her 13-year-old daughter Lauren.
A few days ago mother and daughter bought two dresses.
One is a Christmas dress in which Lauren will accompany Hilary to the Stongs
Christmas party where my daughter works. The other dress is to be worn next
year as a grad dress when Lauren goes from elementary school to junior high
Lauren is a practitioner of a quiet but resistant mode in
facing my camera. She loses her patience
after a few exposures and when I use film she asks me how many shots I am going
to take. For a while I thought she
purposely made it a point to close her eyes during my shooting.
This may have changed. I told her on Thursday that she
needed to bring both her dresses for today before our Saturday dinner. I asked
her to put some lipstick. There was very little protest.
When she arrived I told my Rosemary to find some pearls
and some pearl earrings. Lauren was
cooperative and never closed her eyes. I used my Mamiya RB with both b+w film
(Kodak T-Max 100) and colour negative (Kodak Ektar 100) plus my Fuji X-E1. I
also shot three Fuji instants (I call them Fujiroids) and one 3200 b+w
After I scanned them I gave them to Lauren who smiled.. I
believe I will now have a more willing subject for my camera.
Time Present & Time Past - T.S. Eliot & Ian Rankin
Thursday, November 12, 2015
|Ian Rankin - Vancouver 1997|
challenging, complex and compelling novel yet.” – Ian Rankin, Guardian (a
blurb on Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel Life After Life).
It was while reading Ian Rankin’s 2013 John Rebus novel Saints of the Shadow Bible that I noticed that Rankin but in a reference to how
the dead died and came back to life and mentioned Atkinson’s novel. I cannot
put the exact citation here as I returned Saints of the Shadow Bible to my
Vancouver Public Library after paying a hefty $5.00 late charge.
I must diverge from the above (but will quickly connect
the dots) by mentioning that the Web has brought a Colt .45 Peacemaker type of
situation in what at one time was that distinguished writers, actors, musicians
and film directors at the top were protectedfrom us by impenetrable publicists whose sole
reason for existence was to prevent access.
But now many of these gifted Man (men) on the High Castle
(and women, too!) have been brought down and have become accessible in the same
way the Colt made the supreme gunslinger obsolete.
That web version of the Colt is the vastly more cerebral
Twitter (let’s deprecate here Facebook in its almost constant feline banality).
You see I am able to communicate with several writers
through Twitter. I can cite @GreatDismal (William Gibson), Manhattan’s Jerome
Charyn, London’s Robert Wilson, former Canadian Poet Laureate George Bowering,
my Mexican author friends Paco Taibo II and Homero Aridjis plus I have had a
couple of replies from that prolific tweeter Margaret Atwood.
I can happily report (and here is where I connect the
dots) that Ian Rankin is also on Twitter.
I sent him a link to my time blog and this was his reply:
piece. I often mull over TS Eliot's take on time in Four Quartets...
As you can imagine I was thrilled and I immediately corrected
that vacuum in my life of not having ever read Elliot’s The Four Quartets.
The first one Burnt
Norton begins like this:
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
There is an incident in Ian Rankin’s latest John Rebus
novel – Even Dogs
in the Wild
in which a dead person runs
away. I too have read Kate Atkinson’s LifeAfter Life
which happens to be one of the finest and at the same time most
disturbing novels I have read in years. To find out that Rankin and I share a
predilection for Atkinson feels good to me.
I have now noted (I had not seen any of the John Rebus TV
films until this week) that the producers were smart enough not to begin with
Rebus at the beginning but at Black &
Blue (two novels after Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke first appears in Black). They time-traveled with a good
reason as those who know (and I am one of them) know that Detective Sergeant
Siobhan Clarke turns the tables with John Rebus’s career.
As for me I am happily re-reading (over and over) those Four
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
|Rosa 'Brother Cadfael' November 11 2015|
Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. Because I was born in
the Southern Hemisphere most of my family was not affected directly by either
of the world wars or the subsequent wars that followed. On my mother’s side I
have a few Filipino relatives who weathered the Japanese occupation of Manila
in WW II. But there are no soldiers in my family who ever risked their lives.
The exception may have been one or two cousins of my Basque grandfather who fought
in the Spanish Civil War. One was shot by a firing squad.
So my experience of Remembrance Day is limited to the
many books I have read and have in my library about the world’s wars. My
experience in the Argentine Navy
preceded the Falklands’s War. The only pang of pain I ever felt about that war
was seeing on TV an Argentine Navy
Skyhawk skimming across the horizon during the Battle of Goose Green and
watching it suddenly explode into a puff. I had a few years before translated
from English into Spanish the operating and maintenance manuals for these
planes that had been purchased from the United States.
I told myself that the pilot officer had chosen to be a
career military man so his demise did
not affect me. I did not know him. But I knew his plane in great detail! I did feel sorry for all those Argentine conscripts who were ill-equipped, poorly trained and no match for a real professional army.
While walking in the debris of our garden (many of the
plants we have taken in a van to my daughter’s property in Lillooet) I noticed
one rose in bloom. In my shady garden this is a rare occurrence in November.
The rose is an English Rose called Brother Cadfael. Some years ago I took a
lovely gicleé scan of the rose to my
mentor Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. as a gift. A couple of months later I
visited him and noticed that over his guest my print had been handsomely framed
(he made the frame) and that it had a brass plaque with the name of the rose
and that I had given it to him.
died in 2013. I miss him. Rosa
Cadfael’ in bloom today is a fine remembrance of the man who helped me become
I sniffed at the rose and I said in my mind those
wonderful words from Luke 22:19-20 King
“…this do in remembrance of me.”
I Cannot Dance Upon My Toes
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Of late I have been thinking about legs here
.Through my efforts on the net I found again Peggy Nilsson, one of the finest dancers I have ever met. And so thanks to her and going to my files and Emily Dickinson I have justification for these shots you see here.
I cannot dance upon my toes - Emily Dickinson
I cannot dance upon my Toes—
No Man instructed me—
But oftentimes, among my mind,
A Glee possesseth me,
That had I Ballet knowledge—
Would put itself abroad
In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe—
Or lay a Prima, mad,
And though I had no Gown of Gauze—
No Ringlet, to my Hair,
Nor hopped to Audiences—like Birds,
One Claw upon the Air,
Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,
Nor rolled on wheels of snow
Till I was out of sight, in sound,
The House encore me so—
Nor any know I know the Art
Nor any Placard boast me—
It's full as Opera—
Viktoria Langton & The Resurrection Of The Swedish Egg Chair
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
|Viktoria Langton - Mamiya RB-67 Pro S|
When things were simpler my Rosemary and my two daughters
Ale and Hilary lived on Springer Avenue in Burnaby.
The strata title home had a very large
basement. One room was my darkroom that had a separate bathroom. This was a
change from my previous Mexico City darkroom which was a bathroom. The other
room in our Burnaby basement was my low ceiling garage turned into my studio.
In the living room I had hanging from a corner a lovely
Mexican made wicker Swedish egg. The egg came with us from Mexico in 1975. For some shoots I would move the egg to the
basement and I had a hook in the ceiling to hang it from.
I wrote about my mother’s and my Rosemary’s exquisite
legs. But there was one more woman with privileged legs that I photograph many
times at the CBC in the late 70s. She was, Viktoria Langton, a jazz dancer,
part of the troupe that was featured in the many CBC variety shows of the time.
Her legs were astounding. They were muscular, but not too much to hide how shapely
they were. To top it all she was an amazing dancer.
Somehow we connected so that I could photograph her in her
home and then in my studio. As you can see she also posed in the Swedish egg.
The egg is in my mind as we are soon moving to a smaller
duplex. The Swedish egg was in my current shop room since we moved in 1986. I
have vowed to see it in the light of day in our new home hanging from a corner
of the living room.
I have been unable to convince the crop of photographers who
specialize in only using a digital camera at the merits of using more than one
camera at the time of a session. The act of putting down one camera and picking
up another can sometimes (and that is the case for me) inject something that I
cannot pin down but which I like. The idea that one RAW digital exposure can be made into b+w,
colour, low contrast, high contrast does not convince me as that multi-varied
exposure is still only one.
Consider that here you have two pictures. In one I used my
medium format Mamiya RB-67 Pro-S with Ilford Pan F film. The other I shot with
a Pentax Spotmatic-F loaded with Kodak Technical Pan Film. They are similar but
different, too. At the time (circa 1978) I had yet to buy my first softbox. For these pictures I used a medium sized white umbrella.