Saturday, October 31, 2009
This is just a picture of the Elephant’s Child going to pull bananas off a banana-tree after he had got his fine new long trunk. I don’t think it is a very nice picture; but I couldn’t make it any better, because elephants and bananas are hard to draw. The streaky things behind the Elephant’s Child mean squoggy marchy country somewhere in Africa. The Elephant’s Child made most of his mud-cakes out of the mud that he found there. I think it would look better if you painted the banana-tree green and the Elephant’s Child red.
Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories – For Little Children
Illustrated by the Author
On Thursday I wrote a blog that was based on my finding a quatrain by Fernando Pessoa
in Andrea Camilleri’s, Salvo Montalbano novel, August Heat
. I wanted to make sure I understood exactly what the author (Camilleri via his protagonist Montalbano) meant by a quatrain. I also wanted to know what the equivalent in Spanish was. I wasn’t too sure that cuarteto
was the right word. So I looked it up in an on-line English Spanish dictionary. Read below:
I was struck by the example of a quatrain in the definition. It was a quatrain by Rudyard Kipling. I was wowed momentarily. I left it there, wrote my blog and went to bed.
This afternoon my daughter Ale called me from Lillooet. I was prepared for a lengthy (always interesting) meandering stream of consciousness. That was the case but she peppered her meanderings with praise on how my wife and I had brought her up and educated her. It seems she was transferring some of this knowledge to her second graders. I am unable to accommodate praise so I attempted to change the subject. But Ale kept on and mentioned the words what and why. Bells began to ring loudly in my head. While I was listening to her I racked my brain as to where I had read those two words and more. Finally I resorted to multi-tasking and I went to my Google bar’s History and looked up the websites I had opened yesterday. I found this
. Suddenly Rudyard Kipling came back to my memory and I searched in in my Collected Verse of Rudyard Kipling
(Toronto The Copp Clark Co., Limited – 1910). I purchased the book at my local Safeway’s book bin for $0.50 a few years back. I could not find the quatrain there. I Googled (while talking to Ale on the phone) and found this reference:
Poem by Rudyard Kipling
following the story "Elephant's Child"
in "Just So Stories"
I told Ale about it and repeated the quatrain and where it came from. “Papi,” she told me, “My padrino Andrew (that's Ale, age 7 or 8 and Andrew Taylor in picture below) gave me Just So
when I was little girl. You have it in your library bound in read leather.” I looked for it. I found it. I went to the Elephant’s Child
and at the end, sure enough, was the quatrain and the rest of the poem:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views;
I know a person small
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!
She sends em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes
One million Hows, Two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!
And would you believe that Ale initiated a discussion as to what Kipling meant by honest serving men. That was interesting, too!
Friday, October 30, 2009
Of all the covers and magazine spreads I have had through the years one of my best is the one that appeared in the May 2001 Report on Business Magazine
. The art director asked me to be present during Rakesh Saxena’s interview by writer Madelaine Drohan.
The setting was Saxena’s luxury “prison” condo in False Creek. He had persuaded the Canadian legal system to not send him to jail while his trial was in effect but keep him in the condo. Saxena would no only pay for the condo’s rent and all other expenses but the security to keep him firmly inside! (Only in Canada!) My guess is that Report on Business picked Drohan as she was quiet and unassuming so that Saxena might just open up to her. The cautioned me to also be low key. I decided (in an era preceding the immediate result on the back of a digital camera) not to take a large camera and a Polaroid back. I chose to take a venerable Pentax MX loaded with Ilford Delta 3200 ISO film. This meant I would not need lights and I would be able to shoot unencumbered. But there is one twist here that I never told the art director about. I chose to use a beautifully corrected 20mm wide angle. This meant that I was very close to Saxena when I took my pictures. I was in an in-your-face situation. I kept my mouth shut and he did not seem to mind.
When I saw the magazine I was in joy on how well the art director had interpreted my photograph.
For a detailed account on Saxena’s case (he was finally extradited to Thailand yesterday) please read David Baines’
in today’s Vancouver Sun.
Addendum by Vancouver Sun Business Columnist David BainesHis photograph captures the man, and the menace. He was barely five foot six. You can see how stubby his fingers are, and how his head and his neck and body - rather than being disparate parts - are more of a continuum. His eyes bulged and circled, like a character from Disney’s Monsters Inc. He sucked on those cigarettes constantly, no doubt a factor years later when he had a stroke and suffered partial paralysis in his left arm. He hosted a steady stream of visitors and seemed to treat each one with a kind of cordial equanimity, but this, too, was a ruse. He was always sizing people up, assessing what opportunity, or nuisance, they presented. He was brilliant the way he could play people. For 13 years, he tied us in knots, thwarting the extradition system while working his sleazy scams from his gilded cages in False Creek, and then Richmond. For a while, I thought he was going to outlast the Canadian justice system. So did he. We were both wrong. He was one of a kind. At least, I hope he is.
That Pessoa Blonde
Thursday, October 29, 2009
This morning I finished August Heat
, the tenth in the series of 16 novels by Andrea Camilleri featuring Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Ths means I must now wait for Andrea Camilleri’s translator, Stephen Sartarelli to translate the 6 remaining Inspector Salvo Montalbano novels.
I made a decision today that I am going to read at least one work by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa ( 1888 – 1935) because after having read so many novels by José Saramago including The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
(Ricardo Reis was one of the many heteronyms for Pessoa) I have realized that no Pessoa in my head must be equal to a big vacancy of important content. What finally pushed me to make the decision is a Pessoa quatrain that sings in Salvo Montalbano’s head in August Heat
:And as the girl approached and her features, eyes, and hair colour became more and more distinct, the inspector slowly stood up, feeling himself happily drowning in a sort of blissful nothingness. Head of pale gold
With eyes of sky blue,
Who gave you the power
To make me no longer myself?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
When I first came to Canada in 1975 wanting to become a professional photographer I decided that there were some things I would never do. I vowed to never shoot a wedding, babies or pornography.
I can recall shooting Susan Musgrave getting married to her bank robber beau at a maximum security prison in Agassiz and the first wedding of DOA's singer/guitarist Joey Shithead. I have taken picture of both of my granddaughters after they were born and as they grew. I must admit that I changed my mind about pornography and I attempted to shoot some. Every time an inner "good taste" valve took over and I was unable to go through it or to get results that bordered on pornography. I thought I was being daring in taking individual portraits in sequence (just the face) of two different women going through self-induced orgasm. But I was astounded by several irate complaints from women friends who were annoyed, almost insulted, that I had not asked them to pose.
But here you will find one of the strongest photographs I have ever taken. I took only two versions of it. In one the young man with the gun is looking at the camera and the other is the version you see here. A prominent journalist friend of mine owned the Webley. I was told to be careful when I transported it to my destination, a parked railway parlour car on the CP Railyard. If I were to be stopped by a policeman I was not to divulge who the owner was as it was unlicensed. Fortunately nothing like that happened.
A Postcard To That Renaissance Man
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
WRITE YOU ARE: In the midst of today's electronic-messaging blizzard, including his own www.alexwaterhousehayward.com website, photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward has adopted a medium as old as the Pony Express. He's sending hand-written promotional postcards via Canada Post to corporate, institutional, political and cultural biggies he's portrayed for a generation. Showing the photographer's work on one side, the postcards were produced by George Kallas's Metropolitan Fine Printers firm, which routinely wins international awards.
Do postcards work? In his Confessions Of An Advertising Man memoir, David Ogilvy recalled being the greenhorn in a 1930s British ad agency and pestering to handle a campaign. Others scoffed when he got a hotel account worth 100 pounds. Ogilvy spent the sum -- paltry even then -- on stamps and postcards, which he filled out. The hotel filled every room, and Ogilvy went on to found the Ogilvy, Benson and Mather agency and become an ad-biz legend.
Malcolm Parry, Vancouver Sun, October 22, 2009
A week and a half ago I sent Vancouver Sun
columnist Malcolm Parry a postcard. He did not acknowledge receipt. He did one better. He wrote about it in his October 22 business column and even included one of my self portraits. It that wasn't enough the Wednesday Vancouver Sun
previewed it on the front of the business page and included that self portrait.
With the struggle that any photographer based in Vancouver has to go through now that the-best-price-is-free mentality of the web this was was like an electrical shock on my dying body's chest. Who knows it just might help. But then Mac (as those of us from his earlier incarnation (read his bio below to find out about his several incarnations) call him has always been there for me. He pretty well gave me my first photo job in Vancouver and even saw in me a writer of sorts. If I say that I have a godfather in Vancouver it would have to be Mac.
Malcolm Parry was born and educated in England, where he studied civil engineering and worked as a part time musician playing the saxophone.
In Canada he worked as a commercial and industrial photographer and later as the advertising and public relations manager of a telecommunications manufacturing division of New York based General Telephone and Electronics International, now the Verizon Corporation. He also freelanced extensively as a writer and photographer for regional and national newspapers and periodicals in Canada.
In 1970 he was the founding editor and later publisher of the Vancouver-based buisness periodical B.C. Affairs and founding editor/publisher of its spinoff periodical B.C. Industry Reports. In 1974 he was founding editor and later publisher of the city monthly periodical Vancouver Magazine. He remained editor for two terms totalling 15 years, during which time he, the magazine and its contributors won many regional and national and some international awards.
During that period he was founding executive editor of Edmonton and Calgary Magazines and of the B.C. business periodical Equity. For briefer periods he was editor of Western Living magazine, which publishes editions in B.C. Alberta Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and was also editor of a Vancouver city affairs publication titled V.
He was founding editor of the Toronto based business magazine Vista, where he won a national award for art direction.
A Vancouver Sun columnist since 1991, he has written about all manner of social, cultural,entertainment, business, education and political doings and has photographed for publication some 1200 individuals.
In early spring (note the white camellias) of 1992 I photographed the former fashion columnist for the Vancouver Province, Kay Alsop. Everybody at the time was commenting on what was then the hottest topic in town. This was Malcolm Parry's gossip colum Town Talk
. I asked Alsop what she thought of Parry. She said, "Mac is going to turn off the lights at the Sun."
Coming home with my friend John Lekich from an evening with Stephen Sondheim at the Vogue (expertly and quietly moderated by the former theatre reviewer of the Province, Jerry Wasserman) I told Lekich the Kay Alsop story. John's comment was, "She just might be prophetic." I might believe that. But I also believe Mac will find something else to occupy his time. He has plenty of talents to choose from. As a photographer he could certainly give me a run for my money. The picture here of me he took in his backyard around 1990.
English Elegance & Margaret Merril Say Goodbye
Monday, October 26, 2009
My grandmother taught me a lot, not only because she had been a teacher at Assumption College in Manila in the 20s and 30s but because she was ahead of her time in believing that nobody was ever too young to learn. I remember the first time she mentioned, “Se despidieron a la francesa
.” “They said goodbye, French style.” Some guests at a party my grandmother had given had suddenly disappeared. I was 8 or 9 and a bit curious so I asked her what this meant.
She told me that during the Napoleonic wars Napoleon had made his older brother Joseph, king of Spain (Joseph I) in 1806. In 1813 Wellington and his English and Portuguese forces defeated the French army at Vitoria and Joseph was gone after trying to abdicate. My grandmother explained, “The French left so quickly they forgot to say goodbye. And even today the Spanish still use the expression when people are rude in their farewells.”
What is most interesting is that Joseph went to live in the United States. He first settled in New York City and Philadelphia but finally settled in Bordentown, New Jersey before returning to Europe in the early 20s.
To this day in Spain and in my Buenos Aires anybody who is a bit of a fop or a dandy is called un afrancesado
The two roses here I scanned today. The pink one is Rosa
‘English Elegance’ most elegant even at this later date. The white one is Margaret Merril a bit ruffled and roughed up by today’s wind. The former is a David Austin English Rose and the second is a Harkness floribunda. It is also bred in England.
My Spanish grandmother (who was an Anglophile) would have gleefully pointed out that these two roses indeed have good manners as they have said goodbye before leaving us, as winter (or what seems like winter) settled in today.
That Profane Urbanist's Home
Sunday, October 25, 2009
My grandmother who lived in Valencia, Sevilla, Madrid, Manila, the Bronx, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Veracruz spoke of all those places with delight but I never had a sense that she felt she belonged to any of them. She had moved too many times. “Her two “camphor babies” were her home,” my mother used to say. These were intricately carved chests that traveled with her since the early 30s. The two chests are in my living room and they are a constant reminder of the only grandmother I ever knew and loved. Inside those chests are a collection of Spanish fans, shawls, my Mappin & Web birth spoon and other mementos of the life of my grandmother, grandfather, my mother and me.
In 1957, that first year that I was at St. Edward’s High School I was not quite 16 and I had never left home. Suddenly I was in Austin, Texas in a large neo-Gothic dormitory and our dorm prefect, Brother Vincent De Paul CSC would throw a silver dollar on our bed. If the dollar did not bounce he would lift the mattress and throw it on the floor. We went to the bathroom in a large communal one and privacy was only present at night when we lay in our beds. Our thoughts were then our own.
A piece of home was my locked metal chest, a cheap one my mother had purchased at an army surplus store on South Congress Avenue just one side, north, of the Congress Avenue Bridge. Nobody could open my chest and what was inside I shared with nobody. It was home. It wasn’t a camphor baby, but it was home, nonetheless.
Like my grandmother I have been around. Even though I lived in Vancouver since 1975 it often feels like a city I am visiting and that I am a tourist.
I have come to understand the significance of the fact that both my granddaughters, Rebecca, 12, and Lauren, 7, were born in Vancouver. They have not moved from it. This is their home. This is their city. And best of all they belong here. I am not sure I can say that about myself and my relation to this city.
Today Rebecca and I attended a celebratory memorial to Abraham Rogatnick held at the Great Hall of the Vancouver Law Courts. I wanted her to accompany me not only because Abraham Rogatnick, Rebecca and I had attended many baroque concerts (particularly those Friday evenings at St. James Anglican complete with Oreos, tea and coffee) and spent time in my summer garden drinking iced tea and enjoying the June roses. I wanted Rebecca to be with me because she would meet many of the people who made Vancouver the city it is today.
Being part of a city is to feel urbanity for it. Abraham Rogatnick, the architect, brought together, under one roof today many urbanists, artists, politicians, composers, jewelers, actors, all that much more urbane for having met that ultimately urbane man that he was in spite of his often off-colour profanity when something got his goat.
And so Rebecca chatted with Cornelia Oberlander and Edith Eglauer, and Tom Cone. There was Gavin Walker, Dorothy Barkley, Geoff Massey, Sam Sullivan and many more. She heard Peter Busby talk about Rogatnick the teacher, perhaps feeling just a bit guilty about her rejecting his little lecture on art deco architecture in Mayor Sam Sullivan’s office one afternoon a year ago.
I explained to Rebecca how the man she had met and chatted with many times, Arthur Erickson had built Robson Square, the law courts and adapted the old court house to be our Vancouver Art Gallery. I explained how Cornelia Oberlander had done the landscape architecture. I didn't want to transfer my superstitious beliefs to her so I didn't tell her that I felt the presence of those two friends and ghosts, Erickson and Rogatnick who were hovering about as we sampled our éclairs. A confirmed atheist, Abraham Rogatnick, would have said to me, "Don't fill Rebecca with all that crap."
If Rebecca and Lauren’s luck persists they will never have to call a chest, be it of precious oriental wood or cheap tin, home. Home, for them, will be Vancouver, a city, all the better for having been a home for Abraham Rogatnick and his companion Alvin Balkind since 1954.