Making Waves In My Brain With Standing Wave
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Tomorrow at 8:00 PM I will be at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre , 1895 Venables Street, with my friend Graham Walker. We will be there to have our ears cleansed musically and our complacent attitude towards music challenged.
The Vancouver group Standing Wave, AK Coope, clarinet, Rebecca Whitling, violin, Peggy Lee, cello, Allen Stiles, Piano and Vern Griffiths, perscussion, will be launching their new CD REDLINE. Except for AK Coope, a new member of Standing Wave who plays the clarinet I know all in this usual list of musical suspects.
These "suspects" have been providing me with musical pleasure for years and even my granddaughter Rebecca knows some of them.
Peggy Lee (right) explained the configuration of her cello at her home once and then both of us marvelled at Lee's contribution in the little orchestra that accompanied Chick Snipper's surgical dance, Slab
. Rebecca first met Vern Griffiths at a concert music for children at the Chan Centre.
Griffiths (left) had all kinds of unlikely toys and instruments that made the noises that accompanied Cam Wilson's (not part of Standing Wave but seen here with Allen Stiles in the centre of the Beatles White Album which was a stellar new music project of some years past) Canadian Carnival of the Animals
. But Griffiths's definitive moment for us was his snare drumming up front, with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra behind, performance of Ravel's Bolero
Unfortunately, Rebecca's exposure to her namesake Rebecca Whitling (top, left) has been limited to seeing her at her post as one of the violinists for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. I have had the pleasure of hearing her play Argentine tango and Chinese new music.
And I could go on in how these pleasantly incestuous and young new music players and composers (Bradshaw Pack, above, right, is one of my favourites and is one of the featured composers for Sunday night) play musical chairs to my delight.
My friend Graham Walker and I go to many baroque concerts. Marc Destrubé the musical director and virtuoso violinist of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra insists on stressing that all baroque music was new music. With no recordings available in the 17th and 18th century, baroque music was seldom played more than once. It was the new music and the avant-garde of its day. They played in royal living rooms and churches and were known by those who listened to them.
For me the spirit of the baroque lives on in these new music programs and concerts with groups such as Standing Wave. Not all of the concert this Sunday night will be pleasantly melodic but with their warmth and their smiles (Bradshaw Pack is not as scary as he looks!) and in the intimate venue of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre these musicians can help us enrich and challenge our musical horizons.
Left (Cam Wilson, left, Allen Stiles, right)
Mayonnaise, The Cucumber & A Photograph
Friday, February 16, 2007
Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD, 140mm floating element lens. One 3x4 ft Chimera soft box attached to a Dynalite head. F-11 at 1/30 second with Ektachrome 100G.
Mayonnaise - My Recipe
I put one egg yolk in a bowl. I slowly dribble with a spoon one cup of grape seed oil while beating the mixture with a hand mixer at top speed. Halfway through the oil I empty one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. I put in a pinch of cayenne and teaspoon and a half of Keen's Dry Mustard, a teaspoon of sugar and Maldon sea salt to taste. When the oil is almost all used I put in another tablespoon of lemon juice or (if I feel like it) a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar. I refrigerate the mayonnaise and use it the same day on cucumber and egg salad sandwiches.
If Publius Cornelius Scipio's Roman army had not defeated Hannibal Barca at the battle of Zama in 202BC perhaps the only
Roman word in our language would have been the Roman one for cucumber.
David M - No Fun - Be Like Us at Chapters
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Sometime in 1999 a mutual interest in the late French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) took Vancouver author Barbara Hodgson (Opium: A Portrait of the Heavenly Demon
and me into the magazine stand of the Robson Street Chapters store. We were in search of a magazine dedicated to Teilhard's very hip concept of convergence, described as a " concordant spiritual and physical evolution meeting at a single point."
A Chapters representative looking like a Monty Python version of Prince Valiant instantly produced a copy of Forbes ASAP, with the cover story "Big Issue IV: The Great Convergence
I knew the Chapters magazine man from an entirely different context.
The evening of August 19, 1985 ruined for me forever that perennial musical thug, Handel's Messiah
. A disco version of the Hallelujah Chorus
was playing loudly while young men in tight jeans and T-shirts danced and punched the sky. I was at the Luv-A-Fair nightclub (it was demolished last year to make way for a new condo), waiting to hear John Cale play solo piano as well as to witness the launching of Gorgo
, "the candy that destroyed London." Gorgo,a fluorescent green chew bar from Scotland, was to be launched by David M, shown here on the left in my 1986 photo, and Paul Leahy, right, a duo from Surrey known as No Fun.
It may be more difficult to succintly summarize No Fun than it is to read and understand Teilhard's Phenomenon of Man
. But David M, now 52 and the manager of the Chapter's magazine stand for over 9 years, doesn't think that's a challenge. I asked him for a one-sentence definition.
"Easy - we are the Beatles of Surrey."
While Gorgo is no longer available (my granddaughter Lauren. with David M left and Rebecca, middle, is seen here holding a very rare pack) No Fun still sings its 1975 hit Be Like Us
along with songs by legendary Vancouver alternative scene bands of the past.
David M, who says he has a natural knack for magazines, mechanical hockey and finding free (but legal) downtown parking spots will be playing this Saturday, February 17 from 1pm to 3pm in the upper floor of Chapters (Robson and Howe). Since this is the 5th anniversary of his third-Saturday of the month concerts at Chapters the management will be bringing out a cake.
What can you expect this Saturday? Both my granddaughters had a lovely time in the third Saturday of January. We listened to David M sing No Fun songs of old and brand new ones plus really obscure songs by the Beatles, David Bowie and others. The sound volume is just right, the view of Vancouver is beautiful, and the coffee from the Starbucks downstairs is piping hot.
The Primal Urge
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
In 1961 I read British science fiction writer Brian Aldiss's satirical novel The Primal Urge
in which all human beings get an Emotional Register implanted on their forehead at birth. The Emotional Register had to be a light emitting diode (before they were invented) that glowed when its owner felt sexual attraction to someone (in what I remember of the novel) at a cocktail party, for example. I found the book amusing. The sexually reserved Irish banned it.
My first job in Vancouver, when I arrived in 1975, was washing cars at Tilden-Rent-A-Car on Alberni Street, in front of the Ritz Hotel. Because of my Argentine perspicacity I was quickly promoted to rental counter clerk. On winter Sundays business was non existent. If I tried to read a book the manager made me wash windows. But I was left alone if I sat at my post to daydream. I remember one winter Sunday in February very well. Two cars were illegally parked in front of the hotel and had their four-way flashers going. I noticed that only in short intervals would both cars' lights be in phase. Most of the time they blinked with no apparent congruence. When the lights did coincide, ever so fleetingly, it was wonderful. I remembered The Primal Urge
and what it would be like to face some woman at a party and suddenly see her light blinking in unison with my own. Those two cars seemed to parallel humans falling in love.
While I was never exceptional in mathematics I was competent enough to ponder on a formula that would predict when the lights of those cars would coincide. However complex, the formula would surely be simpler that one that would predict when and how two human beings would fall in love.
Until I went to St. Edward's High School, a Catholic boarding school in Austin Texas my love of women was from afar. There was one of the Argentine quintuplets (Maria Fernanda Diligenti) in kindergarten. The only way I could express my affection for her was by hiking up her skirts. It was all one-sided as she never acknowledged my existence. In the 8th grade in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila I fell for Anna Maria Ramos. She was in the 7th grade. But she knew whom she wanted and she had a boyfriend (Romeo!) whom she eventually married. The reason I was shunned by them all is that I had invented the concept of nerdness before it have ever become part of our vocabulary.
It was at St. Ed's where my attraction for a very short, sassy cheerleader (from St. Mary's Academy on the other side of Austin) finally forced me to try other tactics. It took me perhaps a year (11th grade?) before I had enough nerve to ask her out for a date. Of the date I do not remember much except she took me to visit her mother who diplomatically told me she liked my leather (fake) jacket. The sassy cheerleader was called Judy Reyes and I distinctly remember fighting with fellow classmate Joe Davis in asserting exclusive rights to the unaware Reyes. Not only do I think I lost that fight I simply could not compete with his ability to play a great piano. In comparison to my two left feet shuffling he probably could have danced the tango. My attempts at dancing with Judy Reyes in the sock hops in our school gym were embarrasing. I finally gave up. And went back to my old self of admiring from afar.
Before I met La Uruguaya I fell in love with Elizabeth Blew (below, left). She had red hair, a pale complexion and she reminded me of a tiny racing horse. She sounded exactly like Queen Elizabeth did at her coronation. We sat in a Buenos Aires boliche (a corner cafe) sipping cocas
in 1965 and I was smitten.
But it was not to be. Not only was she my first cousin but our romantic interlude ended suddenly when her boyfriend, Bill or Bob arrived. He was very blonde, very tall and very German looking in his almost Wermacht-issue uniform (he was serving in the Argentine Army while I was in the Argentine Navy). He was scary. I also felt attraction to my niece María Inés O'Reilly who led me on with lots of flirting. If anything I would have defined her as a flirt.
I met Corina Poore when she was in bed with a cold. From her bed she read my hand and told me things about me that made my blush. I was fascinated by her million freckles and her pushy demeanor.
She swept me off my feet like a pampero
, the Argentine wind that comes racing in from the pampas. She invited me for a weekend at her parent's ranch in Entre Rios Province. Since I was desk bound as translator to the Senior US Naval Advisor I had to sweet talk Cabo (corporal) Moraña for that weekend pass. Moraña told me I could have the weekend as long as I told him all the "details" when I got back. Corina's brother-in-law flew us in his private plane and landed in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly a cloud of dust approached and an ancient black Packard arrived. We were driven to a gentle hill on which a large house with a veranda stood. The house was surrounded by a forged iron fence. At the door I saw the biggest Great Dane I have ever seen in my life. Corina told us we would ride before dinner. We did and after putting on my suit and tie we sat down at the dinner table, which was complete with finger bowls and a servant in back of every chair. The next day we went riding again. The cincha
of my Argentine saddle loosened up and the horse sensed it. It stopped suddenly and I went flying. The horse then began to stomp on me and managed to hit me near one of my eyes. I spent the rest of my weekend on the veranda hammock while Corina placed an ice pack on my swollen black eye. This was extremely romantic but I still realized I was going to have a problem explaining it all to Cabo Moraña.
After a very brief relationship Corina went on a ship (in 1965 ships still went to defined ports of destination) to Southampton to study in a London art school. It was a tearful goodbye at Puerto Nuevo
and as a parting gift I gave her Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
. She told me to visit her friend Susy Bornstein who would console me. She did.
I fell for Susy Bornstein immediately. We felt guilty. While Corina had wooed me singing Bob Dylan with her guitar (that was my first knowledge of Dylan) Susy fed me Swiss cheese sandwiches while making me listen to classical music. She took me to my first two operas at the Colón, Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel
and Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice
I sweltered at both those operas in a Buenos Aires December summer in my only suit a dark wool Botany Bay winter suit. Then in the middle of a bleak Buenos Aires winter she called me up to tell me to never ever call her again. As a sailor I had no future. She pointed out that I also had no manners. She had fallen for a much older man, who played first violin at the Colón Symphony Orchestra. I was in despair. I had fallen in love with her while both of us listened to Astor Piazolla play La Milonga del Angel
at the Teatro Florida.
When I arrived to Veracruz in 1966 my hair was down to my shoulders and I was a bum on Mocambo Beach. I met a beautiful girl, Cecilia Borrego, who was visiting Veracruz. Her father was a bank manager in the state capital of Xalapa. Her gray eyes were an incredible shade. My friend Homero Aridjis would have described them as obsidian mirrors. Her nickname was Gris, gray in Spanish. I told her I was a hippie (the closest I ever got to drugs of any kind were my habitual Argentine mates). She was impressed even if I seemed to have no immediate future. She was whisked back to Xalapa by her concerned father and I never saw her again.
Corina sent me a letter from London informing me she had obtained a job to work in the 1968 Mexico City Oplympics. She had patched up her friendship with Susy. I wrote her back that I had married Rosemary Healey a Canadian blonde (a blonde is to a Latin what red is to a bull).
It was Rosemary, unlike the others, who decided to make sure we had some sort of future. Rosemary was the one who made the decision that we had to move to Canada with our two daughters.
And it was Rosemary who made me a man. I would often visit my mother in Veracruz and I would arrive on a Friday night. In the morning my mother would tell her housekeeper to make breakfast for el joven
(the young man). When I first showed up with Rosemary I distinctly heard my mother say, "Favor prepare el desayuno (breakfast) para el señor
I saw La Argentina in a visit to Buenos Aires in 1989. I rang the bell at her door. She opened it, and looking at me said, "Well, aren't you going to kiss me?" She died of cancer about 6 years ago. Corina, La Uruguaya lives in London. She came for a visit in the late 80s and when my lost Argentine accent suddenly came back my Rosemary knew. She was quite furious. I keep in touch with her. She has two sons. Three years ago Rosemary, Rebecca and I went to Buenos Aires. Rosemary met cousin Elizabeth Blew but I have never told her about my fondness for her. In the photo below Elizabeth is on the right. I am next to Rosemary and Rebecca is sitting in the front row next to Elizabeth.
Gillian Guess & A Secret Weapon (Maureen Willick)
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I had the fun assignment to photograph juror Gillian Guess twice and for the same magazine, Saturday Night
. The first time around art director Barbara Solowan sent me detailed faxes on what she wanted. They amounted to one thing, "Alex shoot it the way Vanity Fair
would." For the shoot I had two secret weapons, one was a powerful ring flash that I used for the December 1998 cover. The ring flash did a special number on Guess's cat that made him look spooky.
The second secret weapon was stylist Maureen Willick with whom I have had the pleasure of working for many years. For the first Saturday Night shoot all the clothes and shoes (and those red ones) were brought in by Maureen and she only allowed Guess to use her fake Gucci sunglasses.
By the time the second assignment came along the classy Barbara Solowan was gone and I had to communicate with a young female photo editor who told me, "Alex I don't want styling or makeup. I don't want any special lighting. I want a documentary look as if you were a fly on the wall." The point was to show Guess wearing her special ankle bracelet with which the authorities could keep track of her movements. When I told my wife Rosemary of the assignment she said, "Hire Maureen and you pay her out of your pocket." This of course was standard advice from my wife, the best, as always.
I shot the picture here with extremely fast film and the only light used came from a bulb over the bathroom mirror. Originally, I had the idea of taking pictures of Guess watching TV, with my camera to one side of the TV. But it was Guess who suggested shaving her legs in the tub and Willick and I looked at each other and immediatekly agreed it was a great idea. Willick styled the shot (note the black bra on the toilet seat and the fake leopard coat hanging from the shower curtain and the slippers. But Willick may have gone too far. A book she placed on the bathroom book shelf was retouched out by Saturday Night. You can see what it was in the original photo below.
I am happy to report that in the beginning of March a new collaboration with my secret weapon (Willick) will see the light of day. More about it then, here.
More Gillian Guess
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart At 4
Monday, February 12, 2007
I have to admit that for most of Lauren's four years of existence she has played second fiddle in my attention because of her more reasonable sister Rebecca. Since I have always responded to reason I enjoy seeing how logic has cemented my relationship with Rebecca. Lauren does not respond to reason. Paradoxically she is incredibly neat and is obsessed with order, unlike her sister.
She will not have tomato soup with melted cheese in it the way Rebecca and I love it. So I told Lauren she was going to sit at the table until she finished it. An hour later I gave up and got her down from her chair. But I am begining to understand some of her reasoning. She loves paprika chicken but will not touch chicken a la Barbara which is essentially the same thing. I was pleased when I served Lauren chicken a la Barbara, and called it paprika chicken, that she happily ate her portion.
While mothers can spot traits and personality in their children, perhaps from the very beginning, I am afraid that grandfathers (or at least thison) are a bit slow at this skill. As a photographer I have found it frustrating in not being able to take portraits of Lauren. She did not understand the concept of looking into a lens. When she she learned it about a year ago she suddenly developed the habit of blinking her eyes rapidly when facing my camera.
That is all behind and now Lauren wants to be photographed. She gets up on my lap, when I sit in front of my computer monitor, and asks me to see pictures of herself.
On Saturday with Rebecca away to one of those Saturday birthday parties (at the present time Rebecca's Saturdays will be fully booked until next year) Lauren asked me if we could walk with Plata (my female cat) around the block. She wanted to know if she needed to put on her shoes. In the summer we all walk barefoot on the hot pavement and on the soft sidwalk lawns. I told her it was still too cold for that. We went around the block and Plata behaved very well, following us all the way around without being too distracted by birds.
I now feel a great "gravitational" pull between these two heavenly bodies and I must find safe shelter somewhere in between. The prospect is exciting.
Randy Rampage - D.O.A. - A Swell Day For Rebecca
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Rebecca put her hand on the huge monitor and noticed her hand moving as if she were dribbling a basketball. It was so loud that she shouted into my ear, "I can't hear myself talk!" I gave her a pair of earplugs and took her to the one spot where the sound was almost bearable. This was on the balcony at the recently punkified Richard's on Richards. From there we could look down on Randy Rampage, the bass guitar player of D.O.A. This was Rebecca's first live rock'n roll concert and fittingly it was to listen to D.O.A.
, a band that while not being politically correct is perhaps one of the few that is politically honest with a perseverance and a sense of purpose that not only looks into the future but stretches back at least 29 years.
It didn't take long for Rebecca to discover yesterday at the all ages concert, that in spite of the shoving and pushing of the youths with Mohawks and wearing studded leather jackets ("Papi, those jackets cost at least $200.") sometimes gesticulating in ways that would have Rebecca sent home if she did them at school, that it was all good, clean fun. We smiled a lot at each other and we stayed not only until the end but we were there for the encore that featured a punk anthem penned by the Subhumans's Gerry Useless called F--- You! (I don't care what you say. F--- you!) I had taken Rebecca's aunt (my eldest daughter Ale) to an all ages concert at the West End Community Centre some 26 years ago that featured the Subhumans so that she could hear that legendary song.
Among the punk glitterati we also ran into John Tanner (he long ago pushed his long legs through the floorboards of his original Mini), the new music composer Mark Armanini ("These concerts keep me honest," he told me.), photographer Bev Davies (I shoot digital, now."), a healthy looking Tim Ray, and a gum chewing ("It keeps me focused.") and video camera toting Susanne Tabata.
D.O.A. played one fast furious song after another with no breaks. Both Rebecca and I were really drawn to Randy Rampage who was the earliest bass player of D.O.A. I remember him fondly for his heavy metal band, Ground Zero which I think was the finest Vancouver ever had. Watching him play you have to believe that he must be the bassist's bass player. He simply looks the part and while Rebecca watched him in awe I told her, "We are going to meet him later and you will see that he is not in the least scary at all."
So we did just that. I told her to sit on Randy's lap. Rebecca posed with the band (Randy Rampage, Rebecca, the Great Baldini, Joey Shithead) and was thrilled.
She damanded I buy her a pink D.O.A. T-shirt. Can I possibly be this lucky?
And even more D.O.A.