Pollarding The Hawthorne As One Declines From Fullness To Old Age
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Sometimes Spanish sounds that much more poetic. Consider the definition for autumn in my on line RAE (Real Academia Española) dictionary.
otoño.(Del lat. autumnus).
1. m. Estación del año que, astronómicamente, comienza en el equinoccio del mismo nombre y termina en el solsticio de invierno.
2. m. Época templada del año, que en el hemisferio boreal corresponde a los meses de septiembre, octubre y noviembre, y en el austral a la primavera del hemisferio boreal.
3. m. Segunda hierba o heno que producen los prados en la estación del otoño.
4. m. Período de la vida humana en que esta declina de la plenitud hacia la vejez.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados
It is definition 4 which states that autumn is that period in human existence in which it declines from fullness towards old age.
This is a picture of my principal hosta bed on the southern side of our garden. I took it three weeks ago when autumn was setting in. The bed is more collapsed now and the colours are more vivid.
Rosemary and I cut off all the new top growth of our old Hawthorn tree. This is a terrible job as I must wear glasses, gloves and try not to stab myself with all the nasty thorns. Our ladder is rickity and Rosemary has to hold it so I won't fall.
It must have been some 6 or 7 years ago that I was doing this job on my own in late November. Rosemary was inside. The ladder shifted and I fell off. By some quirk of slow motion my body remained suspended in the air while it waited for the ladder to settle horizontally under it. Once that had happened I fell neatly on it on my chest. I could not breathe and I gasped for air. My neighbour heard me and called the ambulance. When the attendants brought in the stretcher I saw death in the face and rapidly got up (in pain) and demanded to walk into the ambulance. They took me to UBC Emergency with no siren as I had asked for it as a special request. The doctor told me that he had no way of telling me if I indeed had any broken ribs as none were sticking out of my chest. He bandaged my chest up. It was only then that I called Rosemary to come and get me. She was very surprised as she had not heard the ambulance and had not seen me taken away.
Perhaps it is guilt or something else, but I now have the pleasure of doing a nasty job with good company. And today it was a glorious day to pollard our Hawthorne.
Scalloped Potatoes, Carla Temple & Comfort Food
Friday, October 24, 2008
I can recall so many moments in my life when someone has told me, "Get to the point, Alex!" or "Get to it. What is it that you want to say." The beauty of a personal blog is that nobody can tell me to get to the point and I can meander in whatever direction I want. This one is going to be a meandering one.
Last night we had the granddaughters for dinner. We then watched a film with John Taw, Goodnight Mr. Tom
and then the girls stayed on for a sleepover. This is always most pleasant even though I am relegated to Hilary's old bedroom. My female cat Plata finds Rosemary, two little girls and Rosemary's male cat, Toby, much too much company for one bed so she accompanies me for the evening. As I tried to sleep I remembered that Rosemary had served her famous (in our family) scalloped potatoes and Rebecca had commented, "Isn't it nice to have comfort food?"
Before Rosemary had arrived that afternoon with the girls I had turned on the TV to channel 46 to get some of 2001: A Space Odyssey
which was advertised on the Turner Classics Channel. It is one of those mysteries and often annoying changes of contemporary life that TCM will modify its programming without notice and without explanation. What was on was the 1968 film The Shoes of the Fisherman
with Anthony Quinn, Oskar Werner, John Gielgud (the dying and dead pope), Leo McKern, David Jannsen, Laurence Olivier (as head of the Soviet Union speaking an impecable Thames/Russian accent) and the surprising joy of seeing Vittorio De Sica as a wise Italian cardinal.
The reviews of this film based on Morris West's 1963 novel by the same name were not good. I had read the novel and at the time, except for some rare exception most popes had always been Italian. West's novel, in which a Russian is made pope, shocked those of us who went to church and even those who didn't. I had not yet read (I read it in 1965) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man
so I was unaware that Oskar Werner's role as a possibly schismatic young intellectual priest may have been based on Chardin's life. I enjoyed the book right after my mother had read it and passed it on. I had never bothered to see the film.
I was fascinated. Director Michael Anderson had good access to the Vatican and the scenes with all the pomp of the conclave and the cardinals that were sequestered to pick a new pope is superb. More than anything I became aware that the film was like Rosemary's scalloped potatoes. The pomp and tradition of the Catholic Church with all the mystery of Holy Mass (in Latin), the lore and history of Christian art in architecture, sculpture, literarture and painting has been a rich part of the stuff in my brain that I find delight in. The vacuum left by my rejection of it all has left me hungry for something that the recent restoration of the Guggenheim or the building of another Frank Gehry museum in some obscure part of the world will not satisfy. No matter how pleased I may feel about understanding and appreciating the contemporary art of the German artist Gerhard Richter, it does not fill my neuronic stomach for long.
Perhaps I am like my friend John Lekich who glories in the enjoyment of good films from the past and who reads the books that he knows (almost in advance, perhaps by some sort of literary scent and taste buds) will please him. I need comfort food. This afternoon I saw the 1973 baseball film Bang the Drum Slowly
with Michael Moriarity and a tobbacco chewing Robert De Niro. It didn't take me long to agree with John Lekich that this is the best of all the baseball films ever made.
Why is my photograph of body builder Carla Temple (taken in 1985) illustrating this blog? The connection could be slim. I read today a review by Katherin Monk in the Vancouver Sun of Jonathan Demme's film Rachel Getting Married
in which Monk writes:
Shot in high-definition digital video with little or no apparent artificial light...
This statement explains how the possibly gritty look of Rachel Getting Married
may approach and or resemble all those style-less and uniform images found in Flickr. There will be even fewer films with classic Hollywood lighting of the 30s and 40s. In our approaching depression they want to please us, placate us with ugly reality.
Carla Temple's photograph reflects a time when magazines (films, too?) searched for visual excellence as well as a literary one. I remember art director Chris Dahl's instructions on the taking of this photograph ( Vancouver Magazine, October 1985), "Make her photo heroic."
We have had a Polish pope, a German pope and no baseball film to supplant Banging the Drum Softly.
What's left? - Rosemary's scalloped potatoes and perhaps an invitation to John Lekich to share some more comfort food.
Addendum: David Jannsen's performances in the TV series The Fugitive
(1963- 1967) were extremly popular in Mexico. Mexicans liked his "dark good looks". Episode 12 was called the Glass Tightrope
. The whole series was dubbed into Spanish and re-named En La Cuerda Floja
which means on a loose rope
. I will never understand how the concept of a tightrope translates as a loose rope in Spanish. Richard Tuggle's 1984 film with Clint Eastwood, Tightrope
was called En La Cuerda Floja
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Harry Redl is a photographer who probably does not take any pictures anymore. Perhaps he might even be older that I am. He was a photographer who shot for Life
. I would run into him in photographic exhibitions 5 to 8 years ago and then that distance between his home in West Vancouver and my own seemed to feel wider and wider and I lost contact. To this day I feel guilty I never accepted his invitations to visit him. The Harry Redl I knew always dressed beautifully and he spoke with enthusiam, intelligence and class.
On the night before Sunday June 29th (I received my Sunday New York Times. It does so around 9pm)I was astounded by the full page photograph on the cover of the literary magazine. It was a portrait of American poet Frank O'Hara. Underneath the picture there was the date 1959 and the name Harry Redl. Here is the picture that so arrested my attention. Part of the unusual look of it comes from the fact that Redl used a Rolleiflex with a waist lever finder so that angle is low.
Looking for some link to Harry Redl I found this
. The essay is written by David Morton. David Morton is an extremely fine writer. In 1988 David Morton and I went to New York City. We both agreed we didn't like musicals but liked theatre. We saw Jason Robards and Blythe Danner in A Streetcar Named Desire.
It was then that I found out about Morton's love of photography. It was with him that I first saw at MOMA those sensual photographs of Ellen Morton (sheer coincidence, that name!) in her wet and very tight bathing suit taken by Alfred Stieglitz at Lake George ca 1914. The picture here is from the University of Virginia Art Museum.
Addendum: July 16, 2013
One obituary lists Harry Redl to have died on May 26, 2011. It says he was 84.
Bachelor's Buttons, Family Albums & The Battle Of Shiloh
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I read this article in the Vancouver Sun on Monday which began as follows:Memories in the digital age
Photo albums are becoming a thing of the past
Kim Gray, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, October 20, 2008
On the topic of family photo albums and after the topic of family photo albums and after the birth of her second child, one woman said it best. "I don't know what I should do," lamented the sleep-deprived mom, only half joking. "Should I create another beautiful album for my second child, or just throw out the one I made for my first born?"
The article hit home even though I have been affected less by the digital age (I still shoot film) but more so by the concept of not having enough time. Both our daughters have their individual photo albums (very large and handsomel, custom bound in Mexican leather) which began with their birth in Mexico City in 1968 and 1971 and and petered out (lots of blank black pages left) sometime in the beginning of the 80s. I consolidated both Rosemary and my family album into one but it also ends at the same time as Ale and Hilary's. Since then I have put pictures in boxes but I have kept the negatives and their corresponding contact sheets in my files under FAMILY. Some of the better photographs of my daughters and of my granddaughters have found their way into large prints in nice frames hanging in our home. In most cases I make double copies of the framed ones that are on our own walls.
The Vancouver Sun article mentions that grandparents have the time to continue family albums. This is partially true. The white writing (with a white ink fountain pen) in the Mexico section of our family albums was done by my mother until she died. As a photographer I am much too busy trying to make ends meet to find the time to be on a cruise ship with Rosemary and to organize the family albums. That will not happen and it is a shame.
It is less of shame when I consider that the concept of a family album has always spanned at the most three generations. After I die most of the pictures of my grandparents and their relatives will mean nothing to my grandchildren. They will mean no more, and probably much less than the face of a Union soldier staring out of a Matthew Brady photograph taken at the battlefield of Shiloh. That is the way it is and more so when I reflect on the content of Julian Barnes's nothing to be frightened of
. Attempting to assure some sort of posterity is a false sense of immortality.
I don't believe in the false one or the possible real one. But I enjoy looking at the first picture of Ale with my granddaughter Lauren which I took a couple of weeks ago in Lillooet. The blue Bachelor's Buttons grew from seeds that Rosemary gave to Ale. Looking at Ale with the little blond Lauren made me go to search not only in the family albums but also in the large loose photo box. It was in the latter that I found a print taken with a Polaroid SX-70 camera in 1975 when Hilary, the little blond girl was as old as Lauren is now in the above first picture with Ale who is now 40. The third picture is of my daughters taken at about the same time at Queen Elizabeth Park.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I went to my garage for some firewood last night. I saw that there was a light. That seemed strange as the connection to my garage has not worked for the last ten years. I was puzzled. I found this creature leaning against the back wall and all he said was, "Ternes, radix, ternes, radix" over and over. I ran back for my camera. When I returned he had not moved.
Perpetual Motion At The Kay Meek Centre
Monday, October 20, 2008
On Friday Rosemary and I went to the Kay Meek Centre
in West Vancouver and saw Karen Jamieson Dance in a 25 year anniversary performance of Jamieson's groundbreaking Sisyphus
. We also saw the world premiere Of Agon with dancers Ron Stewart and Brian Solomon. This work had music composed by John Korsud and Cris Derksen. While dancer/choreographer Byron Chief-Moon may have been an inspiration for Agon (with contribution by Ron Stewart) the final choreography we saw was Jamieson's. In some way I have written about most of these performers and of the works:
As Rosemay showed visible anxiety at the intensity of Jamieson's works I thought of a couple of things. For one Rebecca, our granddaughter has seen much more dance than Rosemary and as a dancer she would have appreciated the heavy duty movements that seemed non stop or involved carrying for long periods of time. The music of Agon
was demanding but pleasant to me because I am a fan of Cris Derksen
and her music but people of the 21st century are still uncomfortable with music that has little melody. If you play them music by Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg or Anton Webern they might leave the room even if you tell them that the music is almost 100 years old.
Feeling Rosemary's discomfort as I enjoyed it all made me think and wonder how people took Jamieson's Sisyphus
25 years ago. Even today it seems to be (to use that perennial baseball term) out from left field. I found the work as I saw it on Friday as modern as anything and more so than most contemporary work.
Consider the fax machine
. Here you will find out that the fax machine (state of the art in my home back in 1987) was invented in 1843!
Jamieson's works, timelessly cutting edge, are like that fax machine of mine which scanned my 11x14 b+w prints and which helped me obtain work by whisking them to magazine art directors to peruse.
As I have written here before Jamieson's choreography seems to me (from the isolation of living in BC and not knowing what other choreographers may be doing in other provinces) the only one that incorporates extensive elements of Native Canadian dance, art and myths and does it so in a contemporary mixture that pushes it forward as an exciting new medium. While I can tolerate and even enjoy native dance performance at the Museum of Anthropology I feel that Jamieson's brand expands, unlocks and rejuvenates it. While my point of view is obviously based on my ignorance, more than anything, I believe the the Museum of Anthropology form is native dance performance set in stone.
Jamieson is not the only liberator. I revel at watching Byron Chief-Moon's solo performances and some of his choreography that I have seen in Bravo
. And this Rennaisance is not only happening in dance. It is happening in music with Cris Derksen, with exciting Native Canadian opera singers like Clarence Logan
and Melody Mercredi
, in theatre with playwrights like Kevin Loring
and in art with the funny, contemporary Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
. I believe that the Vancouver Opera's traveling and very Native Canadian costumed Magic Flute
by Mozart is another harbinger of things to come.
I think that eventually Rosemary will come around and meanwhile I will enjoy the memory of Jamison's past performances with the good news that her oncoming project The Sysyphus Project
)which will give me the opportunity to revisit her past while enjoying fresh new and demanding new works.
Two other works delighted me. One was Solo From Chaos
which featured dancer Darcy McMurray (with strong and shapely thighs to die for) on a ladder and percussion musician Joseph "Pepe" Danza on the microphone. The other was Man Within
a work that I had seen before danced by the same performers Caroline Farquar and Brian Solomon. Since the very tall (and soft-spoken and very sweet) Farquar had to carry Solomon for most of the performance I repeated my Karen Jamieson joke to Rosemary.
The phone rings (you are a dancer). You answer it. It is Karen Jamieson. You instantly hang up. You do not want to carry someone for a great length of time, have someone step on you or to be expected to dance like a perpetual motion machine.
My only two regrets on Friday were that I did not see either Jay Hirabayashi or Byron Chief-Moon, seen above, top left, with Karen Jamieson. It made the evening almost perfect, but not quite.
That Jamieson's The Sisyphus Project
was first seen at West Van's dazzling Kay Meek Centre is a coup and a shame for Vancouver in not grabbing it first.
A 24-Year-Old Kenmore, Piazzolla & The Romance Of Appliances
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Damascino Vasquez, the Filipino appliance repairman from Sears inspected our ailing 24-year-old Kenmore washer a few days ago and told me it could not really be fixed. He took the back apart and pointed at the clutch mechanism that he said was not working and at both at what looked like nasty oil leaks and some water leaks. "It's dead. You have had good service from it. Retire it." If I had not seen those oil leaks and water leaks I would not have believed him.
Yesterday Rosemary and I went to Sears and bought the cheapest Kenmore we could find. There were cheaper units but this one happened to be a floor model. It will be delivered on Thursday. And meanwhile what do we do? Use the old Kenmore, that's what we will do and are currently doing. There was loose bolt in the top of the agitator. I purhased a new one and upon tightening the machine works just fine.
Some years ago (at least 20)at a Malcolm Parry Christmas gathering in his home in Deep Cove I distinctly remember him saying something like, "Any man that gives a woman an appliance as a gift is not a man, or at least not a man with romance."
In 1965, in Buenos Aires I had a short but torrid relationship with a beautiful dark-haired woman called Susy
. After an evening of incredible heart wrenching romance courtesy of Astor Piazzolla (live) playing his Milonga del Angel
we left the theatre hand in hand. There was an appliance store across the street and Susy steered me to it and made me look at a gleeming refrigerator. "Isn't it beautiful?" she asked me. I was confused but it dawned on me that this beautiful woman was looking at this poor sailor ($1.00 a month military pay) with no apparent future as marriage material.
Sometime in the late 80s I went back to Argentina and looked up Susy. I rang the bell of her apartment She opened the door (I had not seen her since she had dumped me in 1966), looked at me and said, "Aren't you going to kiss me?" Later I reminded her about the fridge incident and she simply could not remember it. She went as far as to tell me that the fashionable Calle Florida (where we had attended our Piazzolla concert) had never had anything that could have been an appliance store.
At my age the prospect of having to buy a washing machine was even less romantic than looking at a refrigerator on the fashionable Calle Florida in 1965. When we went to Sears downtown, I did my best to convince Rosemary that we were buying a machine that was going to wash our clothes - nothing more and nothing less. Fortunately our salesman, Andrew Sipos (a superb one, I would buy a used car from him any day) understood and he made the transaction easy, quick and almost pleasant.