Baroque Violinists, Thunderbirds & A Folly
Saturday, July 22, 2006
About 20 years ago, for a short while, I considered becoming a movie stills photographer. The stills photographer shoots pictures during the production of a movie. Towards this end I plunked down around $1600 for a used Nikon 200mm F-2 lens. It is a very big lens designed to be used wide open.
I never became a stills photographer nor did I ever shoot fashion on Robson Street. For fashion, this lens, with its very narrow depth of field, would be useful.
But I have used this lens to photograph the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in rehearsal (here, Marc Destrube) and once to get this lineup of the the US Airforce Thunderbirds. Perhaps I should sell the lens. But I prefer to keep it as a folly. And I never know when I might just have to photograph another rehearsal or perhaps even the US Navy Blue Angels.
Carole James & Hilary Stewart
Friday, July 21, 2006
The folks at Skunkworks
have done a grand job of designing my web page. Besides being good graphic designers they are also lawyers. Lawyers have (when they have one) an odd sense of humour. So when they were building my web page they placed Carole James and her husband Al Gerow on the same page as Cicciolina
, the agency that hired me to photograph Carole James, the head of the New Democratic Party in British Columbia, might have objected to the pairing even if the principal at Skunkworks, Doug Jasinski, pointed out that both were politicians, both were women and both were lef-wing. I was not convinced so I insisted on a change. And so they posted the picture of my then two-year-old daughter Hilary Stewart (the mother of Rebecca and Lauren who are often seen here). Hilary is now 34.
Sidney Poitier, Winston Miller, Denis Simpson & Angels In America
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Many years ago my doorbell rang and I opened it to Sidney Poitier. That was my first impression. I again looked carefully, and the handsome an urbane black man in the perfect suit, was Winston Miller, who upon leaving my house became my life insurance agent with Transamerica. The clincher was his radio voice.
Some years ago I had met another slimmer version of Sidney Poitier. Actor Denis Simpson was on a Harley Davidson with Anne Macaulay (of the latter, John Lekich, author and movie critic, said, "She was the only woman I ever met whose chest blushed.") I was taking a series of photographs for an art magazine called Step that featured local celebrities on Harleys.
And I should have known that I was up for a treat when I got off the B-Line Bus on the Granville St Bridge. I ran into the Electric Light Company's Kevin Kerr. Both of us were headed for the premiere performance of Angels in America at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island. I asked Kerr about one of the performers, Sarah Rodgers. Kerr, with a smile on his face, told me of Rodgers's other talent, "She is a terrific director."
But nothing prepared me for Denis Simpson's performance. I am sure that the other characters will have their opportunity to compete in Part II Perestroika which opens August 3. But this time around he was the clear winner for an exquisitely sensitive but funny performance. Studying his face I realized that Winston Miller, Sidney Poitier and he share something else, besides colour, it is a way of expressing all sorts of emotions with a slight movement of the mouth.
Not far behind and catching up quickly is Marco Soriano (top, right). All in all it was a satisfying evening.
If you sell life insurance and you look like Leslie Howard don't bother to ring the bell. I already have a good policy.
Hydrangeas Are No Longer My Wall Flowers
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
For most of my life I was a wall flower because I could not dance. I have come to identify with my over 35 hydrangeas as plants that nobody acknowledges as being important in a garden. They are seen as mostly ordinary plants. I have striking hostas and beautiful roses. Most of my roses peter out by mid July and some of the hostas are developing slug holes and their flower scapes look messy, unless I now cut them off. What's in bloom throughout my garden now and are pristine and crisp in their greeness? The hydrangeas are. I have come to appreciate their ease of cultivation, that they are pest free, and best of all, that they are faithful. I have pruned them incorrectly in my ignorant past but they always came back to greet me in the spring. The ill reputation of hydrangeas (hortensias in Victorian England) is perhaps due to the fact that most people have one kind, the blue or reddish mopheads of the Hydrangea macropylla
type. I have many macrophyllas that are far from ordinary looking. Note the black stems and the delicate colouring of Hydrangea macrophylla
'Nigra' (top, right). I will never understand why it seems to be a secret that many hydrangeas (when their pollen is out) are intensely fragrant. They smell of honey. This is particularly the case with the Southern US species, Hydrangea quercifolia (bottom)
(named after its oak[quercus] shaped leaves) and the Hydrangeas paniculatas
. Some hydrangeas are not fragrant, just beautiful as Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blue Wave'being held here by Rebecca. I find it appropriate that Donald Duck's first chance to star in a cartoon (without having to compete with Mickey) was in 1937. But he did have to share a bit of his fame with an agressive but tender Hortense the ostrich. Sooner or later you just have to notice them even when they are growing well in dark corners where nothing else would.
The Feline Question
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Since I was a child we always had some sort of pet in our house. Perhaps it was because of our large Buenos Aires garden. Uncle Tony would bring the pets that his wife, Sarita, would reject. They lived in an apartment. So I remember having a deer, a collie (she was called Sweetie), a giant brown unshorn poodle (Moro), rabbits, lizards, toads from Corrientes, a snake, an Argentine bird called a tero
(our male had very large spikes on its shoulders and it had its wings broken by Moro), and a turtle that I unknowingly cooked when I set fire to a pile of fall leaves from our fig tree. My turtle hibernated under them. We had a parrot from the Province of Corrientes called Carlitos who lived for over 50 years when we gave him away. But we never had a cat. I remember insisting on bringing a white kitten that I found in a friend's house. My mother put the cat in her purse and we took the 60 bus home hoping we wouldn't be caught. The cat somehow disappeared soon after and I never asked my mother what happened.
A couple of years ago Rebecca, Rosemary and I went to Buenos Aires. We had to visit the Jardin Botánico Buenos Aires. Our reason was not necessarily to see the unusual plant specimens or the wonderful statue collection. We went to visit with the over 800 cats that live in the downtown park. They are obviously well fed. There are rumours that a little old lady feeds them. There are also rumours of the "disappeared" cats. If we Argentines can make people disappear efficiently I guess cats present no problem. It seems that the cats are rounded up and put in bags. They are then taken to the bank of the Rio de la Plata. Here they are, allegedly, clubbed to death.
When Porteños no longer want their unruly kittens, the Jardin Botánico is a neat solution. In the garden we saw all kinds of cats and even some exotic Siamese. Every few years Buenos Aires has a "feline question". This might explain the high turnover. While there, Rebecca and Rosemary must have petted and picked up every cat in sight.
Elvis Lives, Tony Avent & L.D. Braithwaite
Monday, July 17, 2006
To market plants growers have always been very careful about naming plants. Some plants are named after people who may have discovered them in the wild or found them in a forgotten corner of a garden. Hosta 'sieboldiana
'Elegans'is named after German doctor Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold who in trips to Japan with Dutch traders in the 19th century may have discovered hostas while sifting through cow feed on Dashima Island in Japan. Some of my hostas have romantic names like Hosta
'August Moon' or poetic as in Hosta
'Robert Frost'. Others plants are named by their place of origin. For example I love our blue Verbena bonariensis
because it reminds me of my native city or of the equally blue, grass, Elymus magillanicus
which evokes my Argentine Patagonia. My skin-specialist doctor friend Jim Wilkins named a yellow hosta 'Ultraviolet Light'. But North Carolina grower Tony Avent (above, right) may have started a trend in going against the poetic or the pleasant naming of plants. He may have hit the mark with the difficult to find Hosta
'Elvis Lives' but what of Hosta
'Whitewall Tire' and Hosta
'Bubba'? Growers who decide to name plants after their relatives can get into trouble. My favourite living rose grower/hybridizer is Shropshire's David Austin. Many of his beautiful and beautifully named English Roses grace my garden. There is Fair Bianca ( Kate's, the shrew, kinder and gentler sister), William Shakespeare and Brother Cadfael. But why would he name one of the most glorious red/purple roses in my garden, L.D. Braithwaite, (above, left) after his brother in law?
Saving The Queen - William F. Buckley, Jr.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Sometime in the late 80s William F. Buckley, Jr. came to Vancouver to give a speech for the Vancouver Institute. It was held at the Hotel Vancouver. Harvey Southam the editor of Equity Magazine
assigned me to photograph the author and editor of the conservative National Review
. I cased the hotel and found that the nearest place with a bit of privacy was the piano in the central bar. Since the speech was in the morning it was empty. I set up my large camera on a tripod and prepared my lights. Buckley had told Southam that he would pose for the magazine. After the speech I brought Buckley to the bar and asked him to sit on the piano bench. When he saw the setup he told me, "Nobody told me about a photo session. You were supposed to snap me once or twice. No!" From my back pocket I pulled a copy of Buckley's first effort at fiction, Saving the Queen
whose hero Blackford Oakes, a handsome CIA hero, reads the National Review and beds Her Most Britannic Majesty the Queen of England. "Could you autograph this for me?"I asked Buckley. He looked at me and without changing his sober expression he said, "All right, and you can take two pictures." This I did. Spooks