Mr. Murphy & Mr. Patterson
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
After almost 70 years of traveling, I marvel at the fact that
travel forces one to get organized.
As a freelance photographer in Vancouver the first thing in
my mind before going on an assignment was the fact that any kind of failure
meant elimination from the roster of useable photographers in the offices of
This meant that I always took two of everything, just in
case. I remember that once in Calgary for a magazine assignment, the body of my Mamiya RB failed. I did not despair and had a taxi go to a hock
shop to pick up a used one which I purchased on the phone with a credit card.
In photography some of us swore by Patterson’s Law of
Photography in which an unknown Patterson stipulated that Mr. Murphy of Murphy’s
Law was indeed an optimist.
Going to Buenos Aires in a few days means that I have to
think of spare batteries for my two digital cameras, brand new storage cards
that I have previously formatted, a charger for those batteries, and because I
am taking a very good portable studio light, spare cables, modeling light bulbs
and an extra flash tube.
All that would be for naught if I didn’t also think of the little
device that sits on my camera and connects via a wire to the studio light.
Should the battery in it fail there would be no way of firing the flash.
Changing the spare battery implies using a very small Phillips (a Canadian
probably related to Patterson) screwdriver. And so it goes.
The reason for my concern is that this man (me) does not usually shootweddings
but I am in a way shooting one. My niece Milagros (complete first name
María de los Milagros) O’Reilly is getting married in a sumptuous church
wedding and after the ceremony the reception will be at the ultra-neo-baroque
Círculo Militar opposite la Plaza San Martín. When Argentine generals had
command of the nation (most of the 20th
century) they may have
plotted their coups and revolutions over good wine surrounded by luxury. Now
the generals are no longer an important part of governing Argentina so the
(as Argentines say as a most negative epithet of them)
must resort to renting out the place.
I remember when I was a conscript in the Argentine Navy that there was a scandal courtesy of the visiting Prince Phillip who cornered some generals and asked them, "When are you chaps going to have the next coup?"
I plan to stay out of the way of the
official photographer and will look for a nice corner to take my shots of the
couple and then with Mili’s four sisters and then with Mili’s four sisters and
brother and who knows what else I will be asked to shoot.
My Rosemary inherited (I don’t quite understand exactly how)
my grandmother’s talent for compact packing. She will pack and the morning of our
flight out of Vancouver I will take Niño and Niña to the Kerrisdale Feline
Hilton, While this breaks Rosemary’s heart she knows that they take care of
them well even though they do not get breakfast in bed.
Today I was the first to show up at Indigo on Broadway
and Granville, to pick up Margaret Atwood’s latest. You can guess where I will read it. The other book I written by my Manhattan friend Jerome Charyn. With a 14 hour flight from Toronto to Buenos Aires, these two books will be good company,
La Cuarentona Inspires
Sunday, September 08, 2019
In my years as a photographer I have had the good fortune of
meeting many people (quite a few were women) who inspired me to take
photographs and to push the limits of what previously had been a safe
photographic style. Some of these people were very good magazine designers/art
directors who refused to pigeon-hole me into a type.
Some of the best memories I have (with negatives and slides
to prove that they were real) were of actors, directors, politicians, rock
musicians, musicians, cops and hoods. But because I am an avid heterosexual
photographer I can sometimes go up to a striking woman and say, “I would like
to photograph you.”
Fortunately I am not a plumber as I could not approach such
a woman and say, “I would like to show you my plumbing jobs.”
Out of the blue I was contacted by a beautiful woman about
to be 40 who feels she needs to record how she looks now.
As a 30, 40 and 50 year old I used to get many requests for
such endeavours. At age 77 the only phone calls I receive demand I contact the Canadian
Revenue Service at my peril.
When Courtenay did eventually show up at my door I was
overwhelmed by unusual beauty, presence and intelligence.
It is the latter that will be the most important factor in
what I hope will be an ongoing collaboration.
The photograph seen here, a Fuji Instant Print is the first photograph I took of Courtenay.
Walter Mosley - A Gentle Man
Saturday, September 07, 2019
In the 80s on 4th Avenue Vancouver had an amazing bookstore,
Mystery Merchant, that catered to whodunit people.
I had the pleasure of taking portraits of many mystery and
detective novelists from abroad. One of the most intriguing one of them all was
a quiet spoken man whose gentle elegance somehow is reflected in all his
writing. All of us including my friend Les Wiseman, who were into murder
mysteries and police whodunits, read Walter Mosley. In those 80s (he has
written all kinds of stuff since) his star protagonist, was hard-boiled
detective Easy Rawlins, a black private investigator and World War II veteran
living in the Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles.
With time my memory of the man has faded and all I have are 7
6x7cm b+w negatives. My camera’s rolls gave me 10 exposures
but it seems I stopped at number 7.
Today, Saturday, as in all Saturdays we get the
Sunday NY Times hard copy delivered to our door around 7:45 in the evening. In
the first section that I always read (most of the time inside a hot bath) was a
killer but sensitive essay by Mosley. I do not think that the copyright cops of
the NY Times will come after me for reproducing it here.
Why I Quit the Writers’ Room -The worst thing you can do to
citizens of a democracy is silence them.
Earlier this year, I had just finished with the
“Snowfall” writers’ room for the season when I took a similar job on a
different show at a different network. I’d been in the new room for a few weeks
when I got the call from Human Resources. A pleasant-sounding young man said,
“Mr. Mosley, it has been reported that you used the N-word in the writers’
I replied, “I am the N-word in the writers’ room.”
He said, very nicely, that I could not use that word except
in a script. I could write it but I could not say it. Me. A man whose people in
America have been, among other things, slandered by many words. But I could no
longer use that particular word to describe the environs of my experience.
I have to stop with the forward thrust of this story to
say that I had indeed said the word in the room. I hadn’t called anyone it. I
just told a story about a cop who explained to me, on the streets of Los
Angeles, that he stopped all niggers in paddy neighborhoods and all paddies in
nigger neighborhoods, because they were usually up to no good. I was telling a
true story as I remembered it.
Someone in the room, I have no idea who, called H.R. and
said that my use of the word made them uncomfortable, and the H.R. representative
called to inform me that such language was unacceptable to my employers. I
couldn’t use that word in common parlance, even to express an experience I
There I was, a black man in America who shares with
millions of others the history of racism. And more often than not, treated as
subhuman. If addressed at all that history had to be rendered in words my
employers regarded as acceptable.
There I was being chastised for criticizing the word that
oppressed me and mine for centuries. As far as I know, the word is in the
dictionary. As far as I know, the Constitution and the Declaration of
Independence assure me of both the freedom of speech and the pursuit of
How can I exercise these freedoms when my place of
employment tells me that my job is on the line if I say a word that makes
somebody, an unknown person, uncomfortable?
There’s all kinds of language that makes me
uncomfortable. Half the utterances of my president, for instance. Some people’s
sexual habits and desires. But I have no right whatsoever to tell anyone what
they should and should not cherish or express.
A few years ago when a group of my peers said that they
supported outlawing the Confederate flag, I demurred. Don’t get me wrong. I
have no warm and fuzzy feelings about that flag, but I do know that all
Americans have the right of self-expression. (Also, if someone has that flag in
their mind, I’d prefer to see it on their front porch too.)
I do not believe that it should be the object of our
political culture to silence those things said that make some people
uncomfortable. Of course I’m not talking about verbal attacks or harassment.
But if I have an opinion, a history, a word that explains better than anything
how I feel, then I also have the right to express that feeling or that word
without the threat of losing my job. And furthermore, I do not believe that it
is the province of H.R. to make the decision to keep my accusers’ identities
secret. If I’ve said or done something bad enough to cause people to fear me,
they should call the police.
My answer to H.R. was to resign and move on. I was in a
writers’ room trying to be creative while at the same time being surveilled by
unknown critics who would snitch on me to a disembodied voice over the phone.
My every word would be scrutinized. Sooner or later I’d be fired or worse —
I’m a fortunate guy. Not everyone can quit their job. But
beyond that, we cannot be expected to thrive in a culture where our every word
is monitored. If my words physically threaten or bully someone, something must
be done about it. But if you tell me that you feel uncomfortable at some word I
utter, let me say this:
There was a time in America when so-called white people
were uncomfortable to have a black person sitting next to them. There was a
time when people felt uncomfortable when women demanded the right to vote.
There was a time when sexual orientation had only one meaning and everything
else was a crime.
The worst thing you can do to citizens of a democratic
nation is to silence them. And the easiest way to silence a woman or a man is
to threaten his or her livelihood. Let’s not accept the McCarthyism of secret
condemnation. Instead let’s delve a little deeper, limiting the power that can
be exerted over our citizens, their attempts to express their hearts and
horrors, and their desire to speak their truths. Only this can open the
dialogue of change.
Late on Time
Friday, September 06, 2019
|Hosta tardiflora 6 September 2019|
At last count there were at least 4000 hosta cultivars. A
species is a term used to denote plants that are found in the wild that have
not had human interference (tough!). Cultivars or sports are plants that change
for no apparent reason and may look different. They could have larger or
smaller flowers. They could have variegated leaves. Most plants grow in
particular zones. But some plants can adapt to cold weather or hotter weather
or survive and then even thrive in drought.
Hostas are considered by some of us enthusiasts as the white
mice of the plant kingdom. You may have a nursery with 100 hostas of a particular
variety. Suddenly in their midst you spot one that is different (a lot or only in
detail). It would be impossible to have all those “selections” in one garden.
Nursery people will select that different plant (it could even be a rose) and
then propagate it by division or by cloning.
One thing hostas are pretty good at is in having a pattern as
to when they bloom. Most do so in June, July. The sometimes called August
Lilly is a species hosta, Hosta
plantaginea which flowers in August. It is the only hosta (plus its sports) to
have white fragrant flowers.
An English plantsman, Eric Smith sometime in the early 70s
noticed that a species hosta Hosta
, which blooms in early September was
in bloom at the same time as blue leaved Hosta sieboldiana
quickly played like a bee and pollinated the two. The result was a slew of
hostas now called the Tardianas. They have the blue colour of the sieboldiana
but instead of having large rounded leaves they are long and narrow (lanceolate
is the correct term) leaves.The two most famous are Hosta 'Halcyon
' and Hosta 'June'.
Just as it is supposed to be doing my Hosta tardiflora is in
CBC's Glorious Gloria
Thursday, September 05, 2019
From my car radio CBC Radio 1 I have found out that Gloria
Macarenko is in Ottawa today receiving her Order of Canada.
I have been hit by a stream of consciousness of fond memories as I have had
the good fortune of having photographed her since the late 80s. My first photos
were for CBC bus shelter ads. Since then I have had many studio sessions with
There is only one other woman who can compare with her for
presence (be it TV or radio), intelligence and a supreme radio voice. That
other woman, Carole Taylor
I first photographed at the CBC.
For me, a person of mixed ancestry
, the CBC helped me in many
ways to become a Canadian and, most important, a profitable one. In 1975 when I arrived with my family from Mexico, I found
out the correct pronunciation for Newfoundland. Radio Canada gave me my first
good paying job and I photographed many variety shows as a stills man.
My mother used to say in Spanish (something that Macarenko
will understand as she speaks it well), “Hay poca gente fina y educada como
nosotros.” It has all to do with the fact that in Spanish educación is more than
education, it also means well mannered.
For years every time I photographed Arthur Erickson I used
to tell myself that he would have been first on any list as a guest for a
reception for the Queen of England. By now you would certainly know that second
on that list would be our gracious CBC luminary, Gloria Macarenko.
In my thick file of photographs of her I am hard-pressed to
find the ultimate one. There are far too many ultimate ones.
One of my pleasures is to go to the Bodega on Main and run
into her where we can converse in Spanish with manager Héctor Medina.
A special memory for me was an invitation by former
cameraman Michael Varga
to show up, with my then 13 years old granddaughter, at
a taping of a Macarenko news program. Watching her in what seemed to be an effortless
endeavour makes me believe that she is one of a kind.
Had this woman, who first emerged as talented in Prince
Rupert, not have been noticed, I can only surmise that she could have also been a psychiatrist. On her
couch I would have revealed all with no compunction. And of course that is why nobody can match her
at an interview.
Her Order of Canada is well-deserved.
Resumen de otoño - Julio Cortázar
Tuesday, September 03, 2019
|Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snow Flake' 3 September 2019|
Perhaps the coming of autumn will not be so sad this
year. Our garden is in decline and the colour of fall is everywhere. There is
some beauty, here in there as our Hydrangea quercifolia
(called that by the oak-shaped leaves) turns to browns. Some
of our roses are in their last gasps
as they prepare to bid us goodbye.
The coming of autumn will be escaped a bit by our trip to
Buenos Aires in a few weeks. It will be spring there.
de otoño – Julio Cortázar
bóveda de la tarde cada pájaro es un punto del
Asombra a veces que el fervor del tiempo
sin cuerpo vuelva, ya sin motivo vuelva;
belleza, tan breve en su violento amor
guarde un eco en el descenso de la noche.
qué más que estarse con los brazos caídos,
corazón amontonado y ese sabor de polvo
que fue rosa o camino.
El vuelo excede el ala.
humildad, saber que esto que resta
ganado a la sombra por obra de silencio;
rama en la mano, que la lágrima oscura
son heredad, el hombre con su historia,
la lámpara que