Grand Master Guru Tim Bray & Charles Proteus Steinmetz
Saturday, April 05, 2008
"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, it is but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated... As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is ever an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII
For years I have strived for self-sufficiency. When we first arrived in Vancouver I continued with my custom of tuning our VW Beetle. I even had a fine set of spark plug adjusting blades. But it was in Vancouver where folks said,"Alex you make money as a photographer, repairing you car takes you away from making money and the money you save by tuning it yourself is negligible."
In my very large and heavy camera bag I carry a complete set of jeweler's screwdrivers and a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Camera lens and camera body screws tend to loosen up in vibrating airplanes. I avoid a few camera breakdowns with the frequent tightening of little screws.
My problems in my much vaunted self-sufficiency really began when I switched from a Remington Portable No 2 (my grandmother's portable) to a primitive Smith Corona word processor. When I had breakdowns I had to go to Polson's and cajole the repairman to do his job post haste. Suddenly I felt helpless.
Not too long ago I had to scan some transparencies for a client and I had a three hour deadline. Whe I opened my PhotoShop program I was horrified that after a couple of seconds it would close. I found what the expression "corrupted file" meant pronto. This expression now joins "we have issues" and the "computers are down" which signify we are in an area that is beyond our expertise and control. Luckily I also had Paint Shop Pro 8 as a backup and I was able to meet my photo deadline.
I have written here before how as a photographer I have to depend (and I am lucky) on having a support staff. Hungarian Viktor repairs my flash equipment and German Horst Wenzel
sees to may cameras. Hungarian Paul Leisz
installs programs into my computer, debugs it and every few years takes me to a place on Bridgeport Road where I order up a computer with Paul's suggested components.
Without those three people the latent images of my photography would remain so. Unfortunately my world isn't all that simple considering the intense plumbing problems we have in our house, "You are going to have to rip out that bath tub and that is going to be very..." Suddenly my life got even more stressful and complicated when my blog started deteriorating on Monday. My friend and web designer (he and Chris Botting designed my web page and this blog) Doug Jasinski
wrote in an email, "I unleashed this crack that this blog means to you and now I have the responsibility to score you some more by fixing it." Unfortunately Doug Jasinksi and his company Skunkworks are going through a very busy period and my blog perhaps had to wait before it could be looked at. I was desperate.
The blog lost its RSS feed and then I could no longer upload photographs. I found a roundabout method of uploading but it involved no control of placement or size.
In extreme desperation I appealed to the Grand Master Guru
Tim Bray. He was in Chicago but promised to look into it. He finally arrived yesterday and sat by my computer. I explained as best as I could. He then opened up one of those boxes in the middle of my monitor and started typing in code stuff that made reading Caesar's Gallic Wars
in Latin seem easy. I have never ever seen anybody type such apparent gibberish so quickly. Bray's only complaint was, "Why does your name have to be so long?" The result in the end was that it all became worse. The guru said, "I don't understand Blogger." This was a revealing statement of sorts when you think that many of the elements within Blogger he probably created. Bray went home. Within minutes he called to ask me for my Blogger password. An hour later he called again, "It now works." And work it did. If anything it seemed to have some sort of special web-based lubricant. Everything worked more quickly.
The above makes me think of Charles Proteus Steinmetz (right), the Russian-born American electrical engineer and mathematician who pioneered the concept of alternating current. He and my 10 year-old mother where on the same ocean liner in 1921 when he told her a story. I have heard this story where the person in question was Edison so perhaps it is an aprocryphal one. Suffice to know that the gentle and very short (he suffered from dwarfism and was a hunchback) Steinmetz told my mother that one night he was woken up by a man banging on his door. "We have power problems. We need your help." The man and Steinmetz went to the New York company whence all the electric current that lit the now darkened New York city came from. Steinmetz studied the works and then inserted a fuse he took out of his front pocket. The lights came back on. "I will send you my bill for $1001," he told the relieved man. "Why $1001?" he asked. Steinmetz answered with supreme confidence, "$1 for the fuse and $1000 for knowing were to insert it."
Thinking back on Steinmetz all I can now say to Tim Bray is, "I owe you big, "as my friend Tony Ricci
Friday, April 04, 2008
Graham Walker and I attended an Early Music Vancouver
concert of J.S. Bach's 4 Orchestral Suites played by the Belgian group Il Fondamento. It is not often that one gets to listen and see a large 18 piece baroque instrument orchestra so Walker and I sat in the front row to get a full (loud) sound. All performers were dressed in black and my eyes lingered on the female bassoonist who was dressed in an old fashioned black and very frilly dress. She was wearing black hose and black flat shoes. I could get a glimpse of the shoes and the ankles and I felt like a naughty Victorian gentleman. I looked at the faces of the musicians, I froze them in my mind like a Daguerreotype camera and tried to imagine them in the 19th century or even further back as Flemish portrait paintings. I lingered again on the unlikely named bassoonist. The program said she was Alain De Rijckere. I imagined her as a Vermeer by a window, with little on, gazing with pride of purpose.
After the concert Walker and I had a chat with the very friendly violinist Johan Van Aken. Being able to chat with musicians is one of the additional pleasures of Early Music Vancouver concerts. It's far more intimate than seeing 19th century clothed members of large orchestras up on a stage and to be subjected to the stiff protocol of the concertmaster shaking hands with the director. An older man, sitting on the right with his oboe, Paul Dombrecht was the director. In the Bach suites without oboes the first violinist Dirk Vandaele nodded his head in direction.
Van Aken told us that he had done many of the transcriptions and annotations to the Il Fundamento CD that both Walker and I bought. The CD featured Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga Orchestral Works 1818- 1824
. The Basque composer died in Paris when he was 20. The prospect of listening to new music (for us anyway) from an unknown composer (to us) was exciting.
I dared in the end to mention to Van Aken my infatuation with the bassoonist and I enquired how a woman could be called Alain. "No, she is not Alain. She is an Australian called Jane Gower
. If you want I will introduce you to her." For a few seconds my visions of the Flemish painting (as replicated with a camera) came crashing down but I quickly shifted to an Australian outback. But I felt too shy to accept Van Aken's offer and, of course I now regret it.
What does Il Fundamento, a formerly Flemish but now Australian bassoonist, and a long forgotten Basque composer of the early 19th century have to do with Don Ameche?
For one while this blog is broken and I have a limited ability to post pictures with some sort of control I enjoy posting large photos as they appear large. For most people who might read this blog today they will probably not know who Ameche is. And that is perfectly fine. But just freeze your sight on the man and perhaps imagine him as a movie actor playing D'Artagnan with foil in hand. You could be right or you could be wrong. That's not important. It's the imagining that is.
As I played Il Fondamento's Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga I tried to imagine him at his deathbed (he died of tuberculosis) with his friend Spanish pianist Mateo Pérez de Albéniz bedside. When Arriaga died Albéniz sent the composer's belongings to his home in Bilbao and wrote a letter to his father.
Early Music Vancouver's next concert
Lois Anderson - The Woman
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Last night Rosemary and I attended the opening of the Arts Club Theatre Company production of Michele Riml's Poster Boys
at the Granville Island Stage. Scott Bellis, convincingly plays the older man who in his youth came out and dumped the ad agency executive bride at the altar and Luke Camilleri is the young man who without being ambivalent about his sexuality wants to be like his boss, the powerful ad agency executive played by Lois Anderson. Both Camilleri and Bellis are very good but they cannot compete with Anderson or Daniel Arnold who plays the younger man and the other woman in the play. Both Anderson and Arnold are superb dramatic actors, but they also shine as comedians. Below is a profile on Lois Anderson that has just appeared in the April issue of VLM (Vancouver Lifestyle Magazine).
What can I say about a magazine editor that responds to my, "Bob [Mercer] we need a profile on a fine actress," with, "Alex, do it."
My granddaughter Rebecca and I watched in 2002 the Leaky Heaven Circus’s not too reverential nativity play Birthday Boy
. That’s when we discovered Lois Anderson’s playing St. Joseph to a black Virgin Mary. We laughed. Since then, I have watched Anderson in dramatic roles including last year’s Trout Stanley
where she went from comedy to drama and ended up sexy. She won a Jessie Richardson Award (five Jessies in all), in 2007, playing a 17 year-old Salome in the Leaky Heaven Circus production of Salome
. While Anderson denied that she is sexy, she did tell me during our photo session and interview in my studio, “I am 42 years old right now and I had to seduce King Herod as a 17 year-old. We pulled it off.”
Anderson is a sculptor of sorts. “I have been doing this since I was 24. I can sculpt my career. I can seek out comedy and drama. I love choosing the next part and having to do something that I have not done before. This is how I’ve lasted.” Besides sculpture, Anderson has toured France in a circus knife board act (on the receiving end) and lists circus silks and the trapeze as additional skills. Her two daughters, Anuska (13) and Elena (10) have had a trapeze in their room most of their life until the current landlord objected to making holes in the ceiling.
While Anderson played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz
in Grade 6 it wasn’t until she was at an archeological dig in the Negev Desert when she was 24 that she decided to pursue acting.
Lois Anderson will be appearing in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Poster Boys
directed by Andrew McIlroy which is based on the true story (written by Michele Riml) of two gay men who posed for a series of VanCity ads (that were meant to be gay) in the 90s in Vancouver. The play opens March 27 (until April 26) at the Granville Island Stage.
© 2008 VLM/Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
When Daniel Arnold showed up in my studio in the fall of 2007 for a photograph for the Georgia Straight I was particularly impressed by an actor who had a way of looking right at me. He had a smile. I captured that smile but I would rather show Arnold's serious side here. He was so easy to photograph that I took one Polaroid and then four exposures with my medium format camera. The man that plays the sensitive young gay architect and Lois Anderson's character Caroline's alter-ego (dressed as a woman with a red wig and sunglasses, and intelligently underplayed) is a completely different man from the man who was in my studio. It just shows Arnold's superb range. Poster Boys
is a comedy (I laughed lots and as loudly as the man who was on my right, lawyer Christopher Dafoe). It is also a tragedy of sorts. All in all Rosemary and I went home satisfied and Arnold and Anderson's performances will linger in our memory.
Inside joke, my friend Larry will be surprised they changed his name to Yvette.
No Support From Blogger. An Unplanned Blog Vacation
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
It would seem that I have an unplanned blogging vacation. I am unable to post photographs with any kind of regularity and words are iffy, too. The problem with Blogger, is that they are owned by Google and they are now so huge that there is no support staff either by phone or by email. This morning I called Google in California and had the luck to talk to a human being. The moment I mentioned the word blogger, he hung up. As soon as it is feasible I will be switching my blog to WordPress. Until then I cannot forsee when I will blog here again.
I seem to be able to post photographs that I have up in Photobucket.com. The only problem is that I am unable to size them or to move them around so that copy surrounds the photographs. But at least I can provide a needed service to one my fans who has demanded to see Zanna Downes's fishnets. Here they are:
Zanna Downes - Miss Moneypenny's Fishnets
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Today I begin my first class of a 10-week (every Tuesday) at Focal Point called The Contemporary Nude Portrait. I teach it at least twice a year and it seems very popular. I have been thinking this morning of my class notes and what to compose for the class. Today it is a lecture and then we alternate shooting sessions one week with lecture on the next. Suddenly I thought of Zanna Downes. Below is my story on this wonderful woman.
During my tango dancing days, some years ago one of my favourite partners was one that intimidated me with her precision and her matter of fact, "This should be easy for you, Alex," which of course it wasn't. Zanna (short for Alexandra) Downes was a beautiful woman with the most exciting legs this side of Marlene Dietrich, particularly when Downes wore her trademark fishnets. Another intimidating factor was her Miss Moneypenny accent. There was no way I could be James to her Jane.
One day while dancing (you should never talk while dancing the Argentine tango) I put forward my frustration at wanting to find a woman over 50 (a definitely over 50) who would pose for me undraped. "I am tired of taking photographs of perfectly perfect young women who are to young to show character. Downes just whispered in my ear, I'll pose for you. And this she did.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Definitely the statement that some of the best things in life are free applies here. And I was lucky to get this invitation!
If you are available to come to one of these two rehearsals we would be very happy to see you there.
Please feel free to pass this information on.
Dancers Dancing Open Rehearsals:
Monday, March 31 from 3-5
Tuesday, April 1 from 1-3
3rd floor at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. (corner of Granville and Davie)
You are welcome to attend part of a rehearsal.
We will be running our tour program before our final Made in BC - Dance on Tour Dates
The Program includes:
TWO, The Late Edition
Trio of Duets
ONE, The Catwalk
Danced by: Desirée Dunbar, Christopher Duban, Vanessa Goodman, Kiri Figueiredo, Bevin Poole
Choreography by: Judith Garay
Original music by: Ted Hamilton, Patrick Pennefather
Often my students or young photographer ask me if I would allow them to watch me work during a portrait session in my studio. Most often I answer in the negative. I wrote about it here
This is why when I get an invitation to watch dancers dance in pre-performances I make it a point to attend. What seems to be a pattern that is increasing, to my dismay, is that I cannot get Rebecca to attend them. Since we went to a PBO concert on Friday she turned me down for Garay's dance session today. It's the logic of a 10-year-old, "If I go to this I will not go to that." It breaks my heart to think that she may be losing her interest in dance as she increasingly wants to play computer games (the noises during these games make my cringe). But I cannot force the young girl. But this comes with an unforeseen surprise. Lauren has said yes and she and I will be watching the dance session at the Scotiabank Dance Centre this afternoon.
There is another reason why I am looking forward to it. At one time I would have been embarrassed to admit that I am going to a dance session to watch a particular dancer. But it was Artemis Gordon
, the Dance Director of Arts Umbrella who once told me that I have nothing to be ashamed of. "Dance consists of beautifully shaped and fit men and women moving gracefully."
Lauren and I will be there today and I will be watching the deliciously shaped and powerful dancer Desirée Dunbar. Even though she will not be wearing a white raincoat I will not be disappointed.
White Balls Were Falling Outside The Library
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Yesterday the three girls (Rosemary, Rebecca, Lauren) and I went to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. We want to make it a routine again as we once did with Rebecca when she was 6. It was then that we started haunting the Spanish book section so that we could read Rebecca in Spanish. We never (at the time) explored the wonderful area dedicated to children in the basement. With lots of big windows overlooking the main plaza it does not seem like a basement and paradoxically it seems airy but intimate, with little chairs and tables. We adults are allowed to sit in the chairs if we are accompanied by a child. Best of all when children talk nobody shushes anybody.
Lauren will accept just about any picture book, be it in French, English or Spanish. Rebecca is more picky. She did not want to look for the Nancy Drews that were not part of her collection. It would seem that she is growing up even though she took Lilly the Cat (a stuffed one) in tow to the library. When Rosemary wanted to find Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting
(we saw the film in Lillooet
last week)Rebecca grew angry saying the book had too many big words and that she did not like its style. I asked here where she had read it. She had attempted to read it in school. I told Rebecca that perhaps Rosemary simply wanted to read the book herself as she had liked the film. "Don't be selfish, Rebecca," and help Abi find it in the computer." This we did.
Later on when Rebecca picked some extremely easy books in Spanish, Rosemary saw the light. "As long as she reads in Spanish and or English, that's what's important."
I can state with confidence that there is one virtuous habit that I learned under the firm thumb of the Argentine dictator Juan Domingo Perón. We were told in school that Perón instructed that books were to be treated with awe and respect. They were not to defaced or written on. Reading was to be a goal for all children if Argentina was to be a greater country some day. In the end, around 1955 Perón did not take his own advice and he started to burn books and bibles in churches. That was the beginning of the end for him and the Argentine Navy rebelled. By the time Perón escaped in a Paraguayan gunboat I had learned my lesson well. I have never felt guilty in buying a book even when I have had little money to spend. It is my hope that both Lauren and Rebecca will also learn this lesson.
As we were about to leave Lauren looked out of the window into the street. "Look, white balls are falling." It was hailing!