A Friday Night Ritual of Dance, Sushi and Miso
Saturday, October 06, 2007
For those who don't want to read yet another gushy account on my perfect granddaughter Rebecca, stop reading now. And if that weren't enough I am bonding with Rebecca's sister Lauren and more gushy accounts on her will soon follow these pages.
Hilary's (my daughter and Rebecca and Lauren's mother) godmother, my Argentine born cousin Rosario (Chayo) says foam just pours out of my mouth when I write about my granddaughters. She does the same when she proudly tells me of her much accomplished twin sons, Paul and Roncito. Foam was pouring out my mouth last night.
Last night Rebecca and I went to the East Vancouver Cultural Centre
(affectionately known as the Cultch by its enthusiastic patrons). We were there to see Noam Gagnon's The Vision Impure
. We were amply informed, several times (they felt like warnings to me), that the show had loud music, smoke, strobe, foul language and nudity. Rebecca and I survived it.
Rebecca is a veteran of Chick Snipper's 2003 Slab
(also at the Cultch) in which three dancers wore, as Rebecca likes to say, "Nothing." And 2003 was back then so no matter how many times Gagnon threatened or hinted that he was going to take it all off he never did! Nudity applied to seeing the incredibly strong and talented Sonja Perreten's chest.
One of the dancers in Slab (besides Kathleen McDonagh and Anne Cooper) was Susan Elliott
(in charge of rehearsals for The Vision Impure). Her mother, Jo-Anne was sitting next to Rebecca. She recognized Rebecca from a picture that she has of her with Susan so they chatted and compared notes most of the evening. We were also sitting behind videographer artist and photographer jamie griffiths (she insists her name be in lowercase) who besides lighting designer, Itai Erdal (left), composer Stefan Smulovitz (below, right) and others (including the wondrously voiced Viviane Houle) were involved in making this show a show we will long remember.
We liked all of it but we particularly liked a segment of narration of a person's body parts (none that you might think) in relation to the soul and existence, danced solo by Gagnon with skill, humour and whimsey.
We finished the evening with sushi (Rebecca) miso (me) at Kishu Island on Main and Broadway. Rebecca said, "This is becoming a ritual." Yes.
A Last Hurrah
Friday, October 05, 2007
Our city strike is the excuse Rosemary and I are using for not venturing into the garden. At about this time on any other year we would be busy cutting back some of the plants and I would be pruning to size the rambler roses like Rosa
'Albertine'and Rosa dupontii
. The latter is about 14ft high. Our large green bin is full and with the city not picking it up for at least a couple more weeks I would have no place to deposit all the stuff I would cut. In years past we have taken advantage of some of the neighbours' green bins which never fill up except with grass clippings. We use grass clippings for mulch in late summer to keep the dry areas of the garden moist, we put them into our compost and in most of spring and summer I leave the clippings on the lawn.
Yesterday it rained while the sun was out. My Hungarian friend Paul Leisz says one of the few Hungarian sayings of his youth that he remembers is the one that applies to that rainy sun. Hungarians say that when that happens it is because the devil is whipping his wife and that explains the confusion.
Ale is coming this weekend from Lillooet and we are to have our Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night. I will have to go into the garden today and see which ornamental grasses I can divide so Ale can take them back. We are experimenting to see which of our plants will survive Lillooet's Zone 3 weather. Any hostas would as would roses that have rugosa parentage. Rugosas
originated in Northern Japan, Korea and Siberia.
Before I mowed the lawn (I try to do this before it rains) I brought in a few flowers which I scanned. The light blue delphinium grew nicely in our back lane but Rosemary is disappointed that this New Zealand variety is not the deep blue she really covets. The dark red rose is English Rose Rosa 'L.D. Braithwaite'
, the about to open bud is Reverend Pemberton's Rosa
'Bishop of Darlington' and the near white rose is the Bourbon rose Rosa
'Mme Pierre Oger'.
Paying My Dues To Peter Gowland
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Some years ago I photographed a high tech executive. I then took the photograph to my friend Ian Bateson who manipulated it so that instead of having the executive look at the camera he was looking down. I placed by straight 8x10 next to a computer monitor and I loaded Ian's digital image on to the computer. The resulting photograph showed the executive on the screen looking down on himself on the desk. What was particularly striking (for me) in those early days of Photoshop was Bateson's ability at manipulating the photograph with the skill of an illustrator and artist who had, in his youth, done his share of life drawing. Bateson knew (and knows) how skin behaved. He knew (and knows) how skin droops. He was able to manipulate Photoshop realistically because of his knowledge of anatomy.
In the early 80s I was blindly pursuing the photographic "art" called glamour photography. Glamour is an in-between (between the clothed and unclothed) type of photography that is now seen, because Maxim rules the magazine stands, as tame and cheesy. The king of glamour (note that Americans do not use that u
in colour and behaviour but keep that u
in glamour) was Peter Gowland.
He pioneered in the 50s and 60s the use of the electronic flash with young women wearing bikinis while frolicking in California beaches. And like Bunny Yeager, who made Betti Page famous he photographed his women uncloathed in poses that did not show any of the bits and pieces.
In the 80s the process was to get the young lady to come into your studio. You had that perfectly stupid idea that some wine and loud heavy metal music would eventually lead the young lady to suggest that she would take it all off. And, yes, this happened a few times. And I felt extremely guilty about it. It is far easier now to book a model who will come to your studio and undrape immediately. And in many cases not only do you not pay them but you have young women calling you and willing to pay you if you will photograph them undraped.
Lost in all this is the fact that if one studies the undraped human body and experiments in the movement of limbs one is able to understand how the body behaves. One understands how to manipulate grace if grace is not there. And once these bodies are photographed with clothes - grace, poise and confidence can be exploited. My portraits today are all the better for all those glamour photographs and nudes I shot in my past.
In my attempts at glamour I remember fondly Annette (top left and right), who patiently posed for me for lighting experiments I had no idea on how to do. And she even managed to look her best in spite of those lighting experiments.
Here you see a photograph of Peter Gowland with that horrible pioneering flash unit the Honeywell Auto Strobonar. I had a couple of them (they still work!). They had a habit of failing when you needed them not to.
And also here is a photo by Gowland of the exotically named Ava DeLa Sabliere.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
It was here
where I wrote of my short-lived career in fashion photography. Back then (1987) I kept telling those who asked me why I didn't shoot fashion that it had all to do with the fact that I was perceived as being uncool. I didn't have the proper "attitude". I could not take photographs of people and show "attitude". I never did learn what that word meant. It was a word that described those who passed muster as fashion photographers and those who didn't. Those of us who asked what the word meant were much like those who asked what jazz was. And if you have to ask.....But by 1987 Vancouver Magazine's fashion editor, Linda Guthrie, for reasons I never understood, had alienated every fashion photographer in Vancouver. She came to me and said, "Alex I know you can shoot fashion. I want you to shoot a spread for me." At the time I had the lofty title of Director of Photography at Vancouver Magazine
. Mac Parry had created this position being ahead of his time (a talent he has in spades) in foreseeing the eventual power of photo editors in magazines. So I was reluctant to take this job on and suggested I look for another photographer. Guthrie insisted so I was on. We shot for a whole day at that year's Artropolis. Just to make my shoot that much more difficult I decided I needed to use a boom to hold my optical spotlight.
The Manfrotto Super Boom was a big thing to carry. I was determined to use some of George Hurrell's
lighting techniques. I could not work on my own with all the stuff so I hired the legendary Torontonian photographer Bruce Simpson to assist me.
Our model was 6 ft tall. She explained to me that she was ballet dancer who had been fired by the National Ballet of Canada because she had grown to be too tall for the leading men. Our makeup artist (in the parlance of cool fashionistas, a word I despise, she would be a MUA)told our model that since her mouth makeup was so complicated she was not to drink, eat or smoke.
I looked at the model and told her, "If you don't drink, eat or smoke, I won't drink, eat or smoke." She looked at me without saying anything. We worked for a whole long day and she never complained. I might have known. We were in it together and she was all mine.
It's Not Over Until The Two Funny Ladies Laugh
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
My grandmother Lolita often told me, "Nadie te quita lo bailado." Roughly into English it means, "Nobody can take away the enjoyment of the dances that you have danced." I believe she was ahead of her time. She never told me to not do this or that. Her tack was, "If you do this, this is what is going to follow." Most of her sayings came from Cervantes's Don Quijote de la Mancha
. I thought I had forgotten many of them and now I find that in the presence of Rebecca, who might be doing something she should not be doing, I suddenly remember the ones that fit. It is sort of like the botanical Greek and Latin nomenclature of the plants in my garden. It all but disappears as winter sets in and as soon as spring comes I can utter Betula utilus var. jacquemontii
(Himalayan Birch) without a problem.
And as the winter gloom sets in I can always smile if I think of two of the funniest actresses in town, Manon Beaudoin (top, left) and Lois Anderson (bottom, right) from Leaky Heaven Circus
. But when they want to be serious, they can make you cry. Manon Beaudoin is now writing plays and Lois Anderson is the most accomplished actress in Vancouver. She almost stole the show from Jonathon Young in Trout Stanley
. But it was then that I discovered that Anderson could not only laugh and make me cry but she was also ravishingly sexy.
Three Monicas & One More
Monday, October 01, 2007
Names conjure people. A lovely young woman at Lyon rose grower, Odile Masquelier's lecture this Saturday to the Vancouver Rose Society came up to me and asked, "Are you Alex? I am Monica. I read your blog." She smiled, turned around and left. She was completely out of context in a room full of much older people. When she had come in and sat in the beginning of the lecture I had wondered about her.
I have been affected by three Monicas in my past. The first one I went to school with in Buenos Aires. She was always invited to my birthday parties and managed to break the piñata, put the tail on the donkey, win the bag race and break all my new toys. To this day I am not sure if I hate birthday parties and birthday cakes because of this Monica. In the picture here she is below my father, top left.
But I got even with her even if I didn't mean to. I still get dizzy in buses or in cars when I am not driving. As a child it was much worse and I could not enjoy swings or ride any form of transportation except the train. Going to visit my abuelita with my mother in old tram 35 was torture. One weekend Monica and her parents picked me up in their brand new 1949 Chevrolet. I remember it had a pristine cloth interior. I got very sick in it. I have no idea how they cleaned my mess. We arrived at some house and they served what looked like fantastic pizzas. I was famished and I asked for some. All I remember was that they said, "No." To this day that was the finest pizza I never ate.
The second Monica was Saint Monica
the mother of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. My mother said I was her St. Augustine and she was my St. Monica. I misbehaved a lot and she suffered, she would tell me all the time. "But there is hope for you, Alex," she said, " because Augustine became a saint and Monica, too for having to bear that burden that he was most of her life." Only in recent years after reading Jostein Gaarder's That Same Flower - Floria Amelia's Letter to Saint Augustine
did I find out about Monica's dark side. She was jealous of Augustine's mistress Floria and did all she could (and was successful) to separate them.
Floria writes:On your way back to Africa you arrived at Ostia on the Tiber. There you and Monica had a "wonderful conversation" in which you sought "to discover the nature of the eternal life in which the saints shall participate." The conversation led you to "conclude that the greatest pleasure the bodily senses can give, in the most radiant earthly glory, is, to the joy of eternity, not even worthy of comparison, let alone mention.
You must forgive me, Your Grace, but I am a cultivated woman now. So in all humility I feel a certain need to suggest that this sounds like some kind of conjuration. For what if you should be wrong on precisely this decisive point?
The third Monica, Monica Salvatella (also an Argentine), posed for me in my tub some years ago. She was a photographer, very cosmopolitan and sophisticated. She told me that she was going to live on a farm on Vancouver Island and I never saw her again.
As for the fourth mysterious Monica I know nothing except that in some way her smile touched my heart and she answered in spades for me when people ask me, "Why do you blog?"