Saturday, May 01, 2010
Among our most cherished convictions, none is more precious than our belief about space and time, yet none is more difficult to explain. The talking fish of Grimm’s fairy tale would have had a great difficulty in explaining how it felt to be always wet, never having tasted the pleasure of being dry. We have similar difficulties in talking about space, knowing neither what it is, nor what it would be like not to be in it. Space and time are “too much with us late and soon” for us to detach ourselves and describe them objectively…
And this could as well be said of space. Though space cannot be defined, there is little difficulty in measuring distances and areas, in moving about, in charting vast courses, or in seeing through millions of light years. Everywhere there is overwhelming evidence that space is our natural medium and confronts us with no insuperable problems.
Mathematics and the Imagination, Edward Kasner and James Newman, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1940
It was at about this time of the year when I would either call my friend Donald Hodgson or he would call me. We would meet in my garden. This is what he always said, “Alex, there is something about emerging hostas in May. They are pristine, fresh and green. They are wonderful.” I never did disagree on this.
Hodgson died two years ago and I miss comparing notes on all that we agreed on. He had a backyard wholesale hosta business and he sold proven winners to the best nurseries in town. His hostas came in big containers with a paper label stuck on the side with an explanation of the virtues of the plant. I miss Hodgson for many reasons but the main one is that I know of nobody I call call and say, “How’s your Hosta montana
‘Aureomarginata’ doing? Is your Hosta
‘Sagae’ up already?
As I write this (Friday afternoon) I can look out of the window into my back garden and I can see all those hostas, Rosemary’s perennials, the ferns, the conifers. It is all a sea of greens of every imaginable and unimaginable hue.
This morning I had coffee with my friend Ian Bateson at the Sear’s Starbucks. A very young couple was sitting nearby. She was around 20 and she had a striped short sleeved shirt with a moderate scoop. Her skin was lightly tanned. Perhaps she was a tree planter or she had recently returned from a vacation in Hawaii. She was wearing no makeup. She looked fresh, happy. She has a whole life in front of her. I stared at her hint of cleavage and found it wonderful and refreshing. It was sunny outside. It is spring. My spirits soared a tad.
I thought about cleavage and how as a 15 year-old I had purchased as many cheap Mexican tabloids that featured pictures of Brigitte Bardot. Mexico in the middle 50s was very conservative. This young boy had never ever seen a woman in the nude. The closest was Bardot’s cleavage. I was obsessed by her cleavage. I soon caught on to the porteño (Buenos Aires born) trick of offering my seat to young women in the bus during the summer. This way I could stand up and look down.
As a photographer I have understood most of my life that light affects how we perceive things in our three-dimensional world. In flat lighting, with contrast diminished one can lose the idea of depth. On the other hand as a garden photographer I also understand that the increased contrast of a sunny day will make it difficult to convey all those wonderful shades of green that can be seen in a garden.
It was photographer Bert Stern who in the 50s pioneered a form of portrait lighting that helped make people stand out from the background. His light emphasized the curves of the body. Since photographs have the problem of conveying three dimensions in two, it is the shading, the range between the blacks and the whites (the grays) that hints at that third dimension which is depth. Stern would position his light at 45 degrees from the line between his camera and his subject. He would then raise that light and point it down at 45 degrees toward his subject. This light was the light with which he shot the early covers for Cosmopolitan. Those of us who know call it “cleavage lighting”. The modern method of using an on-camera flash, straight on, will not produce any noticeable cleavage no matter how expensive that Canon digital camera may be.
So what is this obsession over cleavage? I cannot speak for others. I find it fascinating since the paradox of it all is that I am obsessed with something that isn’t. Ankles are. Legs are. A face is. Breasts are. But cleavage is the absence of anything and it (whatever that which is not, that is) lies between three dimensional masses (small, smallish, bigger, big) that are the breasts. Breasts do not have to be big to create cleavage. To create cleavage, as Bert Stern knew (and knows as he is very much alive) you need light. Again I cannot speak for others. For me an attractive cleavage is one that is not overly prominent. It has to be just right and I know when it is just right.
It was always just right when I photographed Katheryn Petersen, in the two pictures here. No matter what Katheryn did, how she dressed or didn't her cleavage was most attractive.
Many who might have gone to the ballet may have noticed that classical ballerinas are generally flat chested. I have been afraid to ask as to why. Some say it has to do with what early ballet training does to the young woman’s body.
I have noticed exceptions through the years. One fine exception was Gail Skrela who danced with Ballet BC. The former Globe & Mail
arts reporter Chris Dafoe used to tell me, “Alex, my favourite Ballet BC dancer is Gail Skrela. She has cleavage.” I never did ask what magazines he used to buy when he was around 15 but we obviously have much in common.
Then there was the exquisite Andrea Hodge, a classic and classical ballerina who danced for Ballet BC. She was flat and nature compensated by giving her long legs and a noble nose. When I photographed her once in a fashion spread for the Straight I used the Bert Stern formula. She looked at the Polaroid and smiled. “Alex, you have given me cleavage!”
I suspect that my interest in cleavage comes from the English side of my family. In Spanish there is no real word for cleavage. The closest is escote
. A dress with escote
is a low-cut dress. The word describes that which shows or creates the cleavage but not the cleavage itself. It would seem that we Latins like to glance down to bottoms or to the side, the breasts. We are much too practical to get excited about that which does not exist.
Perhaps it is this duality in me, the English and the Latin that made me go out this afternoon to snap a picture of an emerging Hosta nigrescens
(it is a lovely species hosta) with my new iPhone. It seems to me that the vase shaped plant, in its pristine beauty resembles in form that concavity, that nonexistent space, that lies between the breasts. What do you think of that, Donald Hodgson?
Marc Fournier's Fusion Bookstore
Friday, April 30, 2010
I read in my Vancouver Courier yesterday that Marc Fournier is closing Sophia Books at the end of May. I went down to my photo files and looked up under Duthie Books and Manhattan Books. I found no photographs of Marc Fournier. On a lark I looked under Fournier and found that I had written (I wrote many I now realize) a Rear Window for Charles Campbell’s Queue Magazine
(included then and now, in a modified and much diminished form) which appeared with the Thursday Vancouver Sun
. The article I wrote was dated April 6-13, 2000 and it had to do with the opening of Sophia Books. Charles Campbell had come up with the idea of these one-page Rear Windows in which city events of the past would in some way connect with an event in the present. It was Campbell’s method of keeping our city’s past alive in our memory.
After reading the Courier article written by Jeremy Shepherd I felt a great loss and came to the realization that I was to blame (and many in my same position) for the closing of a bookstore that was vital to our city’s culture.
Sometime in January I saw my huge book collection and with the immediate future of having to move out of our large home to a perhaps small apartment I know many of my books will have to go. How do you part with books? I have read every book in my collection. Getting rid of any of them would be the same as scraping off from my brain’s memory a moment shared with it. Financially I could not even afford the remainder books of Chapters. I determined in January that the Vancouver Public Library was to become my personal “bookstore” of choice.
Just about every José Saramago, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Leonardo Padura, Daniel Chavarría, Francisco Umbral, José Carlos Somoza and Juan Manuel Prada came to my possession via Sophia Books. With my Argentine artist friends having returned to Buenos Aires I find myself isolated in my Spanish language and I no longer have that obsessive imperative to read in Spanish. I am now very careful in choosing which books I read. With impulsive book buying now in my past I can fully depend on the excellent selection of our Vancouver Public Library.
I wonder how many like me, and of my age, may have made the similar decision of not buying books. I would think that I am not an exception so I do feel responsible in contributing to the loss of Sophia Books.
What is in store for the future of bookstores in Vancouver is something I can not in any way predict.
I know I will miss that phone call from Marc, who in his French accented Spanish would say, “Acaba de llegar tu Capitán Alatriste.” And I cannot stop here before I fully give credit to Marc Fournier who as manager of Manhattan Books and then as owner of Sophia Books gave be back my "lengua materna" (Spanish) which had almost slipped out of me as this Antarctic penguin languished in an all-English Arctic.
1990 Rear Window
In spring of 1986, Montreal-born Marc Fournier, then 24, arrived in Vancouver, looked around and decided that to survive here he needed a French/Japanese dictionary. He found it at Makoto Inoue’s Sophia Books on Nelson Street.
Soon after, Fournier began work at Celia Duthie’s Manhattan Books at Robson and Thurlow. This photo (by Tom Abrahamsson) was taken in 1990. Yuki, one of Inoue’s seven daughters, visited the store one day, met Marc and soon married him.
Shortly before Manhattan Books closed on April 26, 1999 – the first casualty in the implosion of the Duthie’s chain – Manager Marc Fournier placed a book in my hand. “I thought you might want it, so I ordered it.” It was a translation from Portuguese into Spanish of José Saramago’s diary, Cuadernos de Lanzarote
. As I was about to leave, $50 poorer, he added, And here is Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s third installment of his Capitán Alatriste series, El Sol de Breda
Leave it to Fournier to introduce an European and Latin American phenomenon to cosmopolitan Vancouver. The Capitán Alatriste series is still not available in English translation, bur for a much-diminished version of Pérez-Reverte’s talents, look to Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate
, a reprehensible adaptation of his novel El Club Dumas. Or try the good adaptation of his novel The Fencing Master
, a Spanish film with English subtitles.
I don’t think I am the only one in Vancouver to thank Manhattan Books and Marc Fournier for being able to read again in my mother tongue without leaving town. For others it might be German, Italian or French. After Manhattan’s closing, I was never able to find the same rich variety of books in Spanish at either the UBC Bookstore or in Seattle’s University Bookstore.
One forsaken customer was a woman from Punta Arenas, Chile (the southernmost town in South America) who found it easier to order her books from the Manhattan than from Santiago, Chile.
At the end of 1999, the unemployed Fournier was being nagged at home by desperate readers wanting to order books in languages other than English. Fournier, who likes to visit book fairs in Montreal, Europe and the new one for Spanish books in Guadalajara, Mexico, is always current on who’s hot. The French community, in particular, depends on Fournier as he is in charge of the French program for the Vancouver International Writer’s Festival.
Meanwhile, the 75-year-old Makoto Inoue felt it was time to retire. In mid-February, over some sushi, Marc told me about the inspiration behind the “new” Sophia Books. “One morning I woke up and realized that besides English, my kids spoke French and Japanese, and they would soon have no place to buy books in the city. If fusion cooking is hip, then I will do a fusion bookstore, oriental and occidental. Here was a way for Sophia Books to continue.”
Finding a location larger that the Nelson Street Store was easy, as Don Stewart of MacLeod’s Books pointed Marc down the street to the building on the corner of Richards and West Hastings – a building that housed the Bank of BC, at the end of the 19th century.
Publishers in Quebec and Europe, who had lost business with Manhattan’s closing, were supportive, and offered generous terms. The toughest problem, Marc confessed, was computerizing the Japanese title inventory.
Some of the old Manhattan feel survives. Customers will find the same large magazine and newspaper selection, the same interesting world music (Marc is also a DJ about town) and even some of the old employees. And a bit of Duthie’s also survives in the form of the shelving that came from the former Arbutus Mall location. With both MacLeod’s Books and Albion Books nearby, Vancouver may have a book row in the making. Any day now, Marc may place in my hand the soon-to-be-released fourth installment of Pérez-Reverte’s Capitán Alatriste serial novel, La Venganza de Alquezar.
- Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
Addendum April 30, 2010: Arturo Pérez-Reverte has yet to publish La Venganza de Alquezar
and his last and 6th Capitán Alatriste novel was Corsarios de Levante
Two Other Rear Windows:Charles CampbellEvelyn Hart
And a Rear Window by Les Wiseman:Lenny Kaye
From The Heart - Part II
Thursday, April 29, 2010
My friend Paul came over yesterday and tried to help us in our quandary about what to do with our present situation. We live in a big house with a big garden and we now have virtually no income. What I do, photography, has lost its value. Principal to our quandary is what to do with our material possessions if we are to soon pick up sticks.
For me material possessions are the go-between myself and someone else dear to me. Any Eric Ambler book in my collection is a window into my mother’s soul. I can see her in perfect Technicolor reading A Coffin for Dimitrios
Paul’s Hungarian-born mother died last January and left a treasure of old-country furniture and knick knacks. Paul told us nobody wanted any of the mementos as they only had a meaning to his mother. Paul and his brother's children perhaps did not understand their significance.
The little heart of diamonds of my grandmother mentioned in this
blog still burns a hole in my heart from its safekeeping in our bank box. Who will want it? Will it be pawned? Will it lose its sentimental value when I die? After all I am the only one left who remembers whence it came.
While Paul was talking of his mother’s unwanted mementos he glanced at the many pictures on our walls. Rosemary said, “Ale’s walls are already full and Hilary has no wall space to speak about.”
I watched Rosemary’s expression change to sadness as she was not prepared to listen to the objective opinion of an outsider to our mutual problems. For me, because it is objective, it is valuable. In fact Paul suggested we consult a real expert as he (Paul) was an amateur in this sort of thing.
I looked again at our walls and I could feel a nasty swell of small rebellion to what Paul was saying.
“Paul,” I said the pictures on our walls are more than mementos. They are valuable pieces of art as I may sometimes consider myself an artist.” I kept to myself the salient fact that if they indeed are valuable why has nobody been willing to buy them?
I remembered again sitting next to Abraham Rogatnick (in his housecoat) at his kitchen window while people flocked to buy the art stuff and mementos he had for sale in his one day garden, sale a few weeks before he died. If he was suffering as the stuff was carted away he kept it to himself.
Rosemary worries about the back hoe that would indeed plow over our roses and perennials when we sell our house. Even a move to a small garden would not enable us to take our trees which we planted so many years ago. They are far too big.
For me this would not be difficult. I would take a reverse version of the cold water pool plunge where instead of easing yourself into the cold water you simply jump in. I would sell, turn around and never look back.
I remember the old Scottish gentleman across the lane who sold his house. His backyard apple tree which had never given fruit in many years suddenly did right after he sold. He caught me in the garden one day and he looked in. “I miss my house,” he told me as he tried not to look in the direction of the empty lot and the big hole where his house had once been. He died a few months later. I remember thinking how foolish he had been to have sold his house not realizing that time would fly and find me in his situation. Perhaps there is no apple tree but will Rosa ‘Fair Bianca’ be allowed to bloom one more time? Yes, I must turn around and never look back.
Sensing my wife’s troubled soul this morning I perhaps exacerbated it by saying, “I don’t care what happens to our garden, to our books and to my negatives in the basement. I just want to request that this framed picture of Rebecca on my left, by our bed, be wherever I may be, next to me, before I breathe my last. It is a good photograph which proves that I am an artist to myself. In the end, before the lights go out, that is really the only important thing.”
We Latins can be dramatic about such stuff, but then that’s why we are Latins. Now thinking back to when Paul was going through the agony of his mother's protracted death I thought that, I too, may have been a tad objective and not very comforting with him. It never ocurred to me that Hungarians, are sort of Latins, too.From The Heart
Jeanne Moreau's Lips
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Knowing what I was going to write about today I stood in front of a mirror this morning and watched my mouth as I said, out loud, “Lips.” I then switched to Spanish and said, “Labios.” The Spanish is far more melodic and softer. The word is easier to rhyme than the English equivalent. The Spanish pronunciation involves a wide opening of the mouth that seems generous with a hint of the romantic. Yet, in English, that lingering of one lip over the other, an intimate one, suggested something far more exciting than just the romantic. It felt almost erotic as I let the air sneak out slowly when I got to that final s in lips.
My Real Academia Dictionary (RAE) definition for mouth is:
(Del lat. bucca, voz de or. celta; cf. galo boc[c]a).
1. f. Abertura anterior del tubo digestivo de los animales, situada en la cabeza, que sirve de entrada a la cavidad bucal. También se aplica a toda la expresada cavidad en la cual está colocada la lengua y los dientes cuando existen.
Translated into English it is most unromantic.
The outside opening to the digestive tube of animals which is situated in the head. It is the entrance to the mouth cavity. It is also used to describe the cavity in which you will find the tongue and the teeth when they exist. Decidedly unromantic.
I looked up labios to see if there would be a poetic improvement:
(Del lat. labĭum).
1. m. Cada uno de los rebordes exteriores carnosos y móviles de la boca de los mamíferos.
Each one of the fleshy and moving borders of a mamal’s mouth.
In order to educate my granddaughter Rebecca (12) and to train the younger ears of Lauren(7) I make it a habit of changing the CD programming of the car. I put very special care to this when we drive (about three times a year) to visit my eldest daughter in Lillooet. The slightly over a three hour trip gives me ample opportunity to train the captive ears of my granddaughters. Only once, Rebecca attempted to listen to her iPod in the car. I nixed that. Luckily it broke and her father, and anti-Apple man who would probably shoot Johnny Appleseed on sight, refuses to have it fixed.
Rebecca adores Philip Glass, Erik Satie
, Oscar Peterson, Vivaldi (she is specific of the slow middle movement of the Season’s Winter), Gerry Mulligan playing My Funny Valentine
and many others from my CD collection. Of late I introduced her to the Argentine folk singer Teresa Parodi who hails from the semi tropical province of Corrientes. Like her mother Rebecca enjoys Astor Piazzolla and when I do play him the car she always wants to listen to Milonga del Angel
. She could do worse. I approve.
Most of my extensive collection of Piazzolla has passed by Rebecca’s ears but there was one CD that I really had never played much and only now I am beginning to appreciate it. The CD is called Piazzolla – Música de Películas
(Film Music). The only film that I can remember that definitely featured Piazzolla’s music is that most interesting (I really like Bruce Willis, even in the worst of movies) is Terry Gilliam’s 1995 science fiction Twelve Monkeys
Since Argentines consider themselves to be European the Piazzolla film album features films I have never seen such as Alain Jessua’s 1977 Armagedon
with Alain Delon, Jean Janne and Renato Salvatori and Nadine Tringinant’s The Honeymoon
. But it’s the third film (and the CDs best and first four cuts, Soledad
(Death), El Amor
(Love) and La Evasión
(Evasion) that are my favourites. I never bothered to find out what film it was from. I did on Monday. The film is Lumière
and it is Jeanne Moreau’s 1976 directorial debut.
When I read the name the first image in my mind was her striking mouth with lips that seem to be etched into her face.
I was suddenly hit by a wave of nostalgia for her films of which I have seen many. But I had never seen or heard of Lumière
in which she also acts but that curiously includes Keith Carradine in the cast. Some might think that Carradine would be a superfluous reason to see this film but, for me, his presence would be a most welcome attraction.
The reason I never saw Lumière
is that I had moved with my family from Mexico in 1975. Let me explain why the film escaped my notice as it involves the influence of a friend/mento who pushed me, gently, into culture. Once I had left for Vancouver I would have to learn to fend for myself. It took me many years to find out about my loss and how I was to regain it.
As a child and a young boy my parents and my grandmother fed me a steady diet of the best Hollywood films of the 30s, 40s and early 50s with a smattering of British films. They never took me to see Spanish, Argentine or French films.
It was around 1961 that I met the urbane and multi-lingual Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
who is part Filipino, part Mexican and a third nationality that he has always kept to himself. He is a handsome man with blond hair and blue eyes and he looks very much like the actress Yvette Mimieux. And he should as they are first cousins. Raúl was educated in Switzerland (the details are a mystery) and he has a fondness for friends who are Hungarian and French. Raúl took it upon himself to become the Artistotle to my puny Alexander. He took me to bohemian cafes in Mexico City and to late shows at the beautiful cinemas that Mexico City had in the 50s like the Cine Chapultepec, Cine Metropolitan and the exquisite Cine Roble. Raúl introduced me to French and Italian films. We saw all of the Michelangelo Antonioni films.
In those early 60s the Mexican government, a virtual dictatorship by the PRI imposed on all movie houses an hour long string of “cortos” or shorts which were newsreels modeled after Movietones but far more boring. They were thinly veiled propaganda and a recurring theme was the Mexican president, dressed always in a guayabera, cutting the ribbon of this social security hospital or that new superhighway to the hinterlands. The music was either by Mexican composer José Revueltas, or strangely, the American Aaron Copland. To avoid them Raúl and I would arrive late so we rarely were able to sit together. Some of those 60s Italian or French films had bidet references or jokes. Few Mexicans knew about bidets (it is reputed that Napoleon, who suffered with severe hemorrhoids traveled with a bidet) so whe the jokes came I could always hear Raúl laugh on the other side of the room as he also heard me. I also fondly remember that for some reason the British films of that era, particularly those with Peter Sellers, showed primitive British plumbing with many repeated scenes of overhead chain pulling in toilet stalls.
The first Antonioni film we saw was his 1962 La notte
. Jeanne Moreau was in it and I became obsessively fascinated by her etched lips. She was a bit scary.. She was like a blend of Katherine Hepburn (as a child her scenes in films were she wore pants confused my sense of what sexuality was all about) and Betty Davis. I wasn’t quite ready yet for assertive women. I preferred the likes of that other Antonioni heroine, Monica Vitti, who had shared film credits with Moreau in La notte
. I then saw Vitti in L'avventura
, and the Red Desert
. Raúl said nothing when I tried to explain my attraction for the cool but sensual Monica Vitti. It had been Raúl who had taken me to see enough Italian films with Sophia Loren and Marcelo Mastroianni or films with Claudia Cardinale that helped push me from the merely pneumatic to the sophisticated femininity of Vitti. It was only time before I would fall for Moreau. And I did although for a while I was distracted by the charms of the Zagreb-born Italian actress Sylva Koscina. And it had been in the middle to late 50s that I had discovered my lifelong interest in the power of empty and negative space when I first saw the cheap and rather tame Mexican magazines with censored pictures of Brigitte Bardot’s cleavage.
Raúl Guerrero’s urbane sophistication won out although I will not give him full credit. After all it was in the middle 50s that I had first noticed Grace Kelly’s neck and then noticed her other attributes and I fell in love with her. Perhaps it was her distancing purity that made me fall for the distractions of Brigitte Bardot.
Listening to that beautiful Soledad
by Piazzolla and knowing its connection with Moreau I could see Moreau’s lips in my mind. I never met her so I do not have any pictures of her. The pictures on the web are small files and rarely break my goal of mostly featuring my own photographs here. I came up with the idea of showing three women that I have photographed who in my mind have lips in spades. Before I go to that let place here a translation of Piazzolla’s letter which is inside my Argentine CD. It reads:
Solitude, Love, Death and Evasion was composed especially for the film Lumiere which was directed by Jeanne Moreau. This Lumiere Suite refers to the four moments and protagonists of the film.
I wrote music before the film was made. Each person with his music.
Jeanne was satisfied and so was I. She is a beauty, but I am not.
May, 1976 Buenos Aires
The three women, whose wonderful mouth and lovely lips are featured here, are modern dancer and choreographer Crystal Pite, the beautiful Lisa Montonen (of Finnish origin) and the very Italian Lalita. Of the latter many of the patrons who frequented the No Five Orange (where she served beer) called her Vancouver’s answer to Sophia Loren.
Raúl Guerrero Montemayor would not approve of the last two. I think he would opt for, as I do, for the woman whose lips, while beautiful, somehow convey the intelligence and the exactitude of her craft which is dance.
A Food Snob Dines At Il Giardino
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Almost two years ago, Bob Mercer the then editor of a magazine, Vancouver Lifestyles, that promised a lot (became much) but in the end was thwarted by poor ad sales gave me couple of contra coupons for Il Giardino. We finally used them yesterday. Rosemary booked us for 6:30 and we took Lauren, Rebecca and Hilary.
The place is successful and in comparison with our quaint and ever favourite Bishop’s it almost seems big even though it has several rooms. The food was good but not exceptional.
What made the difference in the end was our pleasant Portuguese waiter called Amílcar. I asked him if he was named after the father of Hannibal, Amílcar Barca, but he said not. He told me his grandfather had also been Amílcar. We discussed Amílcar Lopes Cabral (1924 –1973) who was a Guinea–Bissaunian agronomic engineer, writer, Marxist and nationalist guerrila. He was also known as Abel Djassi. He was assassinated in 1973. Amílcar had told me, "I only know of two other men with my name, which includes my grandfather and the Portuguese Guinean patriot."
Amílcar was just right and both Lauren and Rebecca warmed up to him. We ate well and I even indulged in one ice cold Tío Pepe. Rebecca had several sips as I explained that it came from Jerez de la Frontera and that it was made from Palomino grapes. When I asked her to pose for my iPhone she didn’t have to fake the fact that she is becoming much of a snob like her grandfather.
Lauren wore a lovely pink dress and her patent leather shoes. All in all it was the kind of evening I will savor for some time.
I am getting the hang of what the iPhone camera can do. I am still quite attracted to the idea that I cannot control any of the camera functions. It only leaves me with choosing the ambient light. I am convinced that if I were to use the modeling light of one of my 2 by 3 ft soft boxes I will get very nice pictures. That will be my next goal.Tío Pepe SherryAnd More Sherry
Optimization For Relevance
Monday, April 26, 2010
From the beginning I have stuck to my initial plan
that my blog was going to be a personal diary and a place where I could show off some of my photographs. From about the second day when I started mid January 2006 I knew I did not want to accept comments. I had seen how our BC based on-line news magazine, The Tyee
had been laid siege by anonymously named commenters who ranted and insulted. They were obsessed with conspiracies and almost went as far as declaring that global warming was a neo-conservative generated problem. It soon became evident that even the venerable Globe & Mail
was also laid siege and both publications established standards and controls for behaviour.
Others with blogs had counting programs that told you that you were the one million, two hundred and fifty thousandth viewer. Such sites as technorati gave bloggers and indication on which blogs were the most popular.
If you have a blog you get, at least, the one weekly email where someone tells you that they can ethically (whatever that may mean to the person offering you the questionable service) help you optimize your blog’s readership. I trash those every time.
I am going to the 2010 Northern Voice
- Personal Blogging and Social Media Conference, May 7-8, 2010 in Vancouver, BC to be held at Vancouver. One of the lecture/conferences is called The Nuts and Bolts of Search Engine Optimization
. It is about this
I may go for curiosity but I am not really interested in trying to optimize my blog. I even question my attendance to these usually packed and fun days. While I will meet up with fellow bloggers (many of which I know) and a few interesting computer language gurus, I feel that that there is nothing in the conference that could possibly help me to “improve” my blog. But I will go with a fairly open mind and see what happens. It was three years ago that the “big thing” was twitter. Then two years ago it was about “the cloud”. I was unable to register last year (I tried much too late) so I do not know what the “next big thing” was.
There is one blogging “item” that I do confide in. It is called Google Blog Search
. It gives you two choices. One is called Sort by Relevance
and the other Sort by Date
. The former lists the blogs where my name or my blog has appeared in name or by link. The latter lists those by date. As an example after I post a blog, if I click on Google Blog Search, Sort by Date it will usually have something like: 5 minutes ago
, … and it will have the coordinates to my blog and the initial few sentences of part of the blog. How those sentences are chosen only Google would know.
I have a theory (unfounded as far as I know) that the extremely good search engine optimization of my blog is partially due to the fact that Blogger (and my blog while it is a custom URL blog attached to my web page is Blogger generated) is owned by Google. Do they favour their own?
My friend the former Sun Microsystems XML guru Tim Bray
, in picture above, who recently switched to Google Android tells me this is not true. “Alex, your blog is popular (high optimization) because you post every day and you write about interesting things.” I am not all that sure about. There is no way of knowing because I don’t accept comments so I have no idea who reads it.
What is interesting is that if Tim Bray mentions my name (and he always links that to my blog) in his extremely popular blog ongoing
, immediately Google Blog Search will list that as a number one on the Sort by Relevance section. And it will stay somewhere in that list for weeks.
In fact Tim Bray could earn a little bit of pocket money (not that he needs any of it and considering that he has enough Air Miles points to fly several times, return to Jupiter) by sending me an email: Alex I could help you optimize your blog in an ethical manner by…
And of course Mr. Tim Bray will know of this blog within minutes that I post this one.
Which brings me to the coda for this blog. A couple of weeks ago I had a lecture class at one of the photo schools where I teach in the morning. That afternoon I routinely checked (is this a minor obsession? I remember some years ago that I was interviewing William Gibson
at his home and he would leave every few minutes to check his email. He would get up with a smile on his face and show lots of gusto for this action. He was a man obsessed.) Both the Search by Date and Search by Relevance showed that one of my students had blogged about me. Fortunately (and a bit of an embarrassment for me) the blog was glowing on my teaching capabilities. Much praise was thrown to describe my photographs.
I had, you who read this, two courses of action and one variation. I could remain smug and not mention this to my student or I could reveal the fact to the student. That third variation was to make the revelation a private one. I immediately rejected the third option and decided to wait and see.
My students must see me as some old guy who has no idea of what digital cameras are all about and must think that I a luddite on all things related to the web. I decided that I had to give them at least a notion that I was not yet completely over the hill. I went for broke.
I told my student (I had been projecting some digital files with a projector in semi darkness) in the presence of other students, “Let’s turn on the lights because I am going to make you blush.” And this I did. “You blogged about me and I knew just a few hours later.” There was a quizzical look on my student’s face and the student’s mouth formed a round “how did …”
It all ended up as being lots of fun and I do not believe anybody was offended.
But I wonder about all this. Consider that curiously as put this blog to bed when I checked on Googgle Blog Search under relevance was this
. I am sure that Borges would have been intrigued.
this was number one on the list :
iPhone augustinii Blues
Sunday, April 25, 2010
In the scheme of things that my life occupies, yesterday was a bit of an important day. Rosemary and I took the girls to VanDusen. Rosemary first told Lauren that yesterday was Kerrisdale Days. On this day merchants have sidewalk sales. Little ponies are brought in for children to ride and there are games, contests, street musicians and lots of food. But Lauren insisted (to Rosemary and my delight) that she wanted to go for a walk in VanDusen
. Before we left Rosemary told me that I should bring my new iPhone and try to take pictures. I made the motions of bringing it along; after all it is a phone.
Rebecca was not in the best of moods as she had a painful sty in her left lower eye lid. “I am going to wear my sunglasses. I don’t want anybody to see me.” “Rebecca,” I said to her, “Nobody will really know. They will think you are a young boxer. If you want I can punch you in the other eye and you will look symmetrical.” Rebecca did not wear her glasses.
Again Rosemary reminded me that my iPhone was a camera so I took a picture of Rebecca leaning against a mossy rock. I had brought my Nikon FM-2 with Tri-X but this shot cried for colour. I broke down and used the phone. It took what looked like a picture that was not all that bad. My only problem was trying to figure out how to use what seemed to be an over-sensitive “shutter”button. I tapped many pictures I did not mean to take. Lauren was much more difficult even though Rebecca was self-conscious about her. Lauren has a sensitivity to light so she tends to either squint or not look at the camera unless I crouch down to her level. And then she began to synchronize closing her eyes with my iPhone’s shutter.
The next problem was to overcome the obvious (to me) incompatibility between my iPhone and my PC. It was not as difficult as I thought and today I was able to download some of the images, which you can see here.
VanDusen was particularly beautiful yesterday as the garden has many Rhodedendron augustinii
. These are mostly a light purplish blue but some are white or almost blue. I chose to photograph my girls (including Rosemary) with these delightful shrubs as foreground or background. Amongst the pictures here, are two, below, that I took of Rebecca with our own R. augustinii
. One I took in 2007 and the other in 2008. I have noticed that the images have begun to deteriorate as jpgs. I will eventully have to locate (laziness prevents me from doing that now) the original slides so I can scan them again.
What in the end won me over to the iPhone was, paradoxically, since I know what I am doing when I have a complicated film camera in hand, was the liberating fact that there were no controls to be mastered. The iPhone is truly and only (very important!) a point and shoot camera. The trick which I will have to soon apply is to figure out its limitations. Some of them will be its lack of low light sensitivity and "wide anglish” lens propensity to make the features of my subjects (particularly their noses) big if I get too close.
Otherwise I am happy to report that yesterday was, truly, some sort of breakthrough, a little big-bangish fizzle,as my declining career as a photographer goes nova (not even super nova). The use of a simple digital camera will not pull a Lazarus
for me but it just might make me smile before they close that coffin lid.Alleyne Cook & R.augustiniiA Study In BlueThe Photos In My Wallet