Saturday, May 26, 2007
The significance of the above word is that it is the longest word in the English language that can be typed only with the fingers of the left hand. This is something that I am unable to do today. The pain is excruciating. So this will have to pass for today's blog. McSherry, ex stewardess, owns and runs the excellent Gourmet Warehouse where I buy my Maldon Salt and my Yorkshire Gold leaf tea.
The French Go Gaga For Ancient Egypt
Friday, May 25, 2007
I waited from 6:30 until 1pm and was then admitted into the pre-op room of the Vancouver General Hospital. I inserted my belongings in a couple of plastic bags and put on my hospital-issue clothing. At around 2, Doctor O'Brien informed me it was a "no go" and that I was to return tomorrow at 11. Roaming the garden I noticed that Rosa
'Belle Isis' (left and below) is full of buds and that some will open over the weekend. I started to think about Egypt.
The French (and England and much of the world) went gaga for ancient Egypt and its artifacts because of Napoleon's campaign in 1798. In 1799 the French founded Institut de l'Egypte in Cairo which brought many scientists and archaeologists to the region. But it was French Army engineer Captain Pierre-François Bouchard, who discovered the Rosetta stone on July 15, 1799, while guiding construction work at Fort Julien near the Egyptian port city of Rosetta (now Rashid) which started the rush for Egyptian bric-a-bracs and furniture. It became a stampede when Jean-François Champollion finished the translation of the stone in 1824. In 1802 when the French troops surrendered to the British in Alexandria and Cairo they lost possession of the Rosetta stone. By a wonderful coincidence (but not to the French) the stone was taken back in 1802 to England and to the British Museum in the captured French frigate L'Egyptienne.
By 1845 there was a rose named after the Egyptian goddess of love, beauty and wisdom in Rosa
'Belle Isis'. There was nothing really unusual about this pink Gallica (many guess she's part Alba, too.), which blooms only once in the season, as there are many other similar Gallicas.
What made this rose unique was its scent of myrrh
. The only other rose with this original scent at the time was Rosa
'Splendens' sometimes called Rosa
'Ayrshire Splendens' which was a mutation of the species rose, the only scrambling rose native to Britain, Rosa arvensis
. Many hybridizers suspect that Louis Parmentier's Belle Isis must have Splendens in its parents.
In 1961 David Austin crossed Belle Isis with Dainty Maid and produced his first English Rose, Rosa
'Constance Spry' which is powerfully fragrant of myrrh.
Such is my obsession for myrrh that I have in my garden Rosa 'Splendens', Belle Isis (which I obtained from John Tuytle
, Constance Spry
and many more English Roses including Fair Bianca
The unusual can be found just about anywhere in a garden if you happen to look closely. Belle Isis's buds are fit for the goddess of beauty, love and wisdom, are they not?
Jude Law, Athena, The Anesthetists & The Morgue
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I am cheating a tad. Today by 6:30 A.M. I will be in the waiting room of VGH emergency for surgery on my left elbow. I wrote this yesterday.
My last meal (yesterday Wednesday) consisted of two soft boiled eggs (3 minutes 45 seconds) seasoned with Maldon Salt, Malabar pepper and unsalted cultured butter. Ditto the fresh corn (two cobs, 6 minutes, high setting in the microwave ) Rosemary bought for me before she flew to Brockville to visit her sister Ruth, Wednesday morning.
Tuesday I fell down some concrete steps and landed on my rib cage with the timely contribution of my left elbow. I decided it was first important to get Rosemary at the airport the next day slightly relaxed. This I did and then I spent most of yesterday at the doctors, at the X-rays and waiting to be admitted to emergency.
A handsome young man (the orthopedic surgeon's assistant, looked like a cross between Jude Law and a sculpture of a Greek athlete) indicated all was not well but did not go into details. The surgeon (I quickly visually undraped her and she looked like Athena's equivalent to Jude Law's athlete), explained that I had a little scrap of an elbow bone lodged where is should not be. Someone had to take it out.
It was here that I made a felicitous question, "Why is orthography all to do with writing and orthopedics all to do with bones?" Athena wisely knew the answer. "In antiquity we orthopedic surgeons straightened out crooked (physically) little boys and the name stuck. Ortho means straight." I was guessing that orthography had all to do with writing well and straight and with all the right punctuation. Athena added, "It is our hope that when we finish with you, you will again be able to straighten your left arm just like you do your right."
And then it got to the basics. I was warned that I might bleed and that I might get an infection. "There are always...risks." I signed the waiver and asked her if I was going to be put to sleep. "That's between you and your anesthetist."
Since anything is possible I hope a third option (local anesthesia) is the available one. Here are the two others. The first is my photograph from an operating table of a couple of anesthetists and the other a photo I took at the VGH morgue.
Generally I am not afraid of doctors or hospitals as long as I don't see blood. But I was a bit shaken, nevertheless. Just when I was about to leave, Athena pulled out a black marker and put some marks on a spot on my left elbow. She looked at me and told me, "Don't remove that, we want to make sure the surgeon knows where to go."
My Fair Bianca
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Am I your bird? I mean to shift my bush;
And then pursue me as you draw your bow.
You are welcome all.
Act 5, Scene 2 - The Taming of the Shrew
During Mexican President Adolfo López Mateo's 6-year tenure he visited the orient in the early 60s. To this day I remember reading the headlines in the Excelsior
newspaper, "ALM (in those days, because of JFK, it was a fashionable thing) Sleeps With Mistress In Singapore." The details were quite funny as the mistress was a very large white pillow. Before the advent of air conditioning it was an oriental custom to sleep with a large pillow between one's legs. This prevented a hot leg from sweating on the other. Because of my own oriental roots ( my mother was born in Manila) I have always had the custom of sleeping while hugging a pillow. When I check into a hotel I always ask for an extra pillow. Without it I will stare at the ceiling all night. My pillow is not my only mistress. I have around 75 more, roses.
As a gardener for the last 20 years I have parted company with many plants who did not agree on my caring services. Most disappeared without saying goodbye. So in those initial years I tended to buy plants that were easy to grow. It would take more that the freezing temperature of Yellowknife to kill a hosta but I have managed to lose one of the cast iron hostas, Hosta yingeri
that I proudly purchased at the UBC plant sale, years back.
So Rosemary and I have have what our friend Alleyne Cook
calls "garden worthy" plants. These are plants that perform well without much effort or care. Recently when Rosemary brought home her third (the other two died) Rhododendron quinquefolium
I called up Cook and asked him what the secret for keeping one alive was. His answer was a terse one, "There is no secret. They all die!"
There are many roses that are easy. A case in point is any rugosa rose
. I have at least four in my garden. But many of my others are not so easy. Some are decidedly difficult.
get black spot early on (by May 1) and R. 'Double Delight' (right) says goodbye every three years. One has to coax with fertilizer and lots of TLC to get Rosa 'Baron Girod De'Lain' (bottom, left) to bloom a couple (as in two flowers) of times per year.
In less politically correct times I would simply say, "My roses are my mistresses. Mistresses are difficult but then they are almost always worth it." Or I might say, "A mistress, lots of pleasure but lots of pain."
Of all my roses the most difficult is the English Rose 'Fair Bianca'. David Austin launched this rose (named after Katharina's, the shrew, better behaved sister) to the trade in 1982 and while most of his roses have detailed facts of their breeding pedigree this one is always listed as "not recorded". Austin simply does not know whence she came. Since 1990 I have bought three. The first two died after each agonized for a couple of years. But Fair Bianca's almost white flowers with a complex scent of lemon-myrrh-magnolia/soap-Pernod prevented me from dumping her. At long last in her third incarnation she is thriving and her first bloom opened yesterday.
Stephen J. Cannell's Red Harvest and Johnny Depp
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
It was only yesterday that I mentioned Stephen J. Cannell
. I had previously mentioned him here
. I photographed the man three times and the last time in March 1988. He was a friendly man who always gave Vancouver Magazine
easy access. It was through this connection that the way was paved for me to take a cast and crew photograph (below, at their home base, a warehouse on Venables Street) of 21 Jump Street
a TV series produced by Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh (whom I photographed in 1987 and can be seen here surrounded by location lighting) shot in Vancouver from 1987 to 1991.
It was 21 Jump Street
that brought to the world's attention Johnny Depp's good looks and acting abilities.
In that third shoot with Cannell (at the then Meridien Hotel)he told us (Les Wismeman was the writer)how fascinated he was with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. He was thinkig about writing similar novels some day.
While I had read all of Hammett's and Chandler's novels at that time it was Cannell that explained that Hammett's titled Red Harvest
had at all to do with all the blood that is spilled in the story!
I must confess that I have never read any of Cannell's novels
but perhaps I should give one a try.
I remember Cannell most fondly from his story back in the early 80s at the Banff TV Film Festival where he told us at a lecture the story of the man who came to him with an idea. He had made a concerted effort to see Cannell and finally Cannell relented to get the man off his back. The man entered Cannell's office and said, "I have a great idea. It would be a TV series featuring a basketball team of one-legged men." Cannell, with a straight face said, "Continue." "That's it," the man said, "Isn't that a great idea?" It took a while for Cannell to explain that you needed more that an original premise to write a TV program. He then threw the man out.
The man in the centre in red with white pants is Patrick Hasburgh. To his right, in the brown leather jacket is Johnny Depp.
Prince Of Foxes - Not
Monday, May 21, 2007
Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentinois and Romagna, rose slowly from his chair, and slowly crossed to the window of that spacious chamber in the Rocca of Imola. He stood there in the autumn sunshine gazing down upon the tented meadow and the river beyond, and upon the long ribbon of road, the ancient via Aemilia, stretching smooth and straight with never a crease until it was lost in the distant hazy pile that was Faenza.
He was in the very flower of his youth; some seven and twenty years of age; tall, straight and lithe as steel. His father, Pope Alexander VI, had been accounted in early life the handsommest man of his day; of beauty and of countenance, it was said that acted upon women as the lodestone upon iron. - which had by no means helped him to the virtuous course that should be looked for in a church-man. That beauty Cesare had inherited, but refined and glorified by the graces of Madonna Vanozz de'Catanei, the Roman lady who had been his mother.
If there was sensuality in the full lips of the red mouth, half-hiden by the silky tawny beard, this was corrected by the loftiness of the pale brow; the nose delicately arched, the nostrils sensitive, and the eyes - who shall describe the glory of those hazel eyes? Who shall read their message, who shall depict the will, the intellect, the dreamy wistfulness, the impasiveness that looks out of them?
He was dressed from head to foot in black; but through the slashings of his velvet doublet gleamed the rich yellow of an undervest of cloth-of-gold; a ruby-studded girdle gripped his loins, and on his hip hung a heavy gold-gilted Pistoja dagger in a golden sheath of cunning workmanship. His tawny head was bare.
The Justice of the Duke
1912 - Rafael Sabatini
That description of Cesare Borgia matches in every way Orson Welles's appearance and performance in my favourite cloak and dagger film of all time, Prince of Foxes.
I have written here before of an experience I had about 29 years ago from my counter job at Tilden Rent A Car one winter Sunday afternoon. I was on Alberni Street and across was the moribund Ritz Hotel. On a Sunday, in those days, our downtown was as a quiet as a ship-of-the-line in the doldrums. There were two parked cars and the owners had switched on the four-way flashers. I watched how in some apparently unpredictable intervals the flashers of both cars coincided. It was then that I equated this phenomenon with that rare human relationship between two persons when everything seems to be right, if only for a while. I remembered enough of my school math to figure out that the mathematical formula that would predict a coincidence (the cars, who knows about people) would involve a couple of sine waves in phase.
For about 5 years my relationship with my granddaughter Rebecca (now 9) has been that rare "Ritzian Sine Wave Coincidence". We have hit it off in just about everything: from photography to gardening, from music to dance. But those two sine waves seem to be now out of phase.
Part of the problem could be the unstopable influence of television and my inability of preventing her from watching it when she comes to visit us on Saturdays (and this week end, Sunday, too). She watches that program with the boy twins who live in a Ritzy New York City hotel, Hilary Duff's program (before she grew up) and those terrible programs featuring terrible scenes of poverty in Africa, Mexico and Central America where Canadian celebrities like Karen Kane make you feel guilty enough that you get up to send a check in the mail that same day.
30 years ago when I was teaching high school in Mexico City it was fashionable to explain that teen agers did everything in 30 minute intervals. 30 minutes represented Stephen J. Cannell's "three act play method". In 30 minutes a hero was introduced, a conflict with a villain came in within minutes and by the end of the half hour a resolution was found. This meant that when dad convinced Jr. to help him paint a room, Jr. would throw in the brush after 30 minutes.
It was about 30 minutes into Henry King's 1949 Prince of Foxes
(with Tyrone Power, Orson Welles and the inimitable Everett Sloane) that Rebecca got up and disappeared. I put the DVD machine on pause and after a few minutes I knew Rebecca was not going to return.
I first saw Prince of Foxes
when I was 9 so I thought Rebecca might warm up to it. My friend Paul Leisz says children are different now. I wonder exactly how. I had been saving with interest and special affection the day that Rebecca and I would sit down to see Gary Cooper in Beau Geste. It would seem, if Paul Leisz
is right that Rebecca just might be and adult by then.
I told Rebecca to turn off the TV, earlier in the day. She shouted at me and threw some warmed up (in the microwave) tortillas. I lost my temper, too and threw the Sony remote on the floor. It shattered.
A few minutes later I had somehow put all the pieces back and the remote worked. I wonder if I should have kicked in the screen? The whole day was a strange one. Walking down the path by our pond with a rake in hand, Lauren (4) asked me, "What the hell are you doing?"
It was with relief and comfort that in the evening I finished Prince of Foxes,
and in spite of the boilng oil being thrown down the ramparts of Citta' del Monte on Cesare Borgia's sceaming soldiers all was well with the world.
And this afternoon by a strange coincidence (as it rained outside) I enjoyed Robert Taylor and Kay Kendall in the Technicolor film Quentin Durward based on Walter Schott's novel. Would Rebecca have enjoyed it?
Joanne Dahl - Yielding Flesh
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I used to mix corn starch with the white wine in my cheese fondue so it would not curdle. I used to make sure that my bowl, whisk and ingredients, including the eggs, were at the same temperature when I made mayonnaise. A few years back, I began to ignore it all. The fondue never curdles and the oil never separates from the egg yolks. It would seem that in cooking like in English, as Winston Churchill allegedly once said, one has to learn the rules in order to break them.
The same applies to photography. And I have noticed other similarities with cooking. I have learned to understand that photography is much like being a cook for an evening dinner in which the cook does not know how many are coming or if there are any vegetarians or Kosher Jews in the mix. One has to be prepared for everything. My photographic palette is like a recipe book. I pull out the one that will function with the circumstances that apply.
My photographic recipe book is made up of recipes that I have discovered with years of experimentation. In some cases as in these pictures, they were never used or even liked (by my subject) but nonetheless, I learned something from the experience. I used fast colour slide film (Ektachrome 800) which I pushed and exposed with no flash. The photographs might have been improved if I had used reflectors on the dark side to diminish the contrast. But then I had to learn my lesson.
These pictures are at least 23 years old and at the time I was interested (as most younger men might) in why erotic photographs were erotic. I may have even taken these studies to show that beautiful cleavage had nothing to do with breast size. I do believe that is true but that is not earth shaking knowledge now for me as it might have been then. I do remember calling up Joanne and asking her what was erotic.
Her reply was short, "Yielding flesh."