Johnny Tomorrow - Awe & Wonder
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Last night I had a hot date in our new Malibu. I picked up Rebecca and I took her to the Planetarium to a
Fringe Show called Johnny Tomorrow. This one hour long production used all the wonderful lights and the planetarium's Harold the Zeiss projector. One of the show operators is the legendary Long John Tanner
who used to fit his 6 foot 5 inch frame into his original Mini.
Johnny Tomorrow was written and acted by Michael Unger, a man in his 20s who has a love for astronomy, David Bowie and Carl Sagan (I am not sure if that would be in correct order). His show is a re-introduction to a world before science fiction film special effects became old hat a few weeks after the showing of the film. It was an intimate and autobiographical show about discovering the wonders of the night sky by having gone as a child, sometime after Unger was born in 1975 to the Macmillan Planetarium which has been a Vancouver fixture for 40 years but, of late, has been shrouded by a Romulan cloaking device so that it has become virtually invisible to Vancouverites.
The Macmillan Planetarium made an impression on the young Michael Unger and he returned many times for laser show (not only astronomical ones) produced by Craig McCaw. Around 2002 Unger returned in the capacity of an enthusiastic teacher of things cosmos by answering questions on the planetarium help line and by giving classes to young people.
Unger’s enthusiasm was palpable as he told us of his special hero Carl Sagan who with his soon-to-be-wife was in the organizing of our world’s message to any listeners out there which was imbedded in a gold (actually gold plated copper) LP (has technology changed?) that was place in the innards of inserted in the innards of both Voyager craft launched in 1977. It seems that when the one of the Voyagers was about to leave our solar system, Sagan convinced the folks at NASA to turn its camera around and get a snap of a little pale blue dot that was our planet.
Many, including this blogger have made much of the photograph taken my astronaut William Sanders in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission. It said, “We who are here (the moon) are from there. This was the first instance of humans being able to look back at themselves. It was not quite the same thing as early photographs taken by other astronauts that showed the curvature of the earth from outer space.
When Unger pointed at a rapidly receding Earth (nicely projected by the Zeiss that is affectionately called Harold) and that Earth became a dot which then disappeared it was a shock to some of us (who have yet to be under wowed by rapidly changing special effects and technology).
Unger told us that if we are to believe in the existence of little green men or whatever, beyond the possibility of bacteria or microbes on some of our planets’ moons it will have to firmly rely on faith since there has been no evidence yet of other star system Gorts and their handlers.
It was that faith and that ability to be mesmerized, surprised and cheerfully amazed by the wonders of the cosmos by our host Johnny Tomorrow that gave me faith that all is not lost if our dissipated Facbooking youth can one day become the pleasant geek that faced us with a space suit and a motorcycle helmet. I think Rebecca might have learned a few things or two.
As we left I heard a voice say, “Is that Alex Waterhouse-Hayward? This is Craig McCaw.” For an explanation on who that person was read the guest blog below by Les Wiseman below.
Jonhny Tomorrow is one for three more nights including tonight at 7.
Laser Man Craig McCaw & Maybellene
Laser Man Craig McCaw & Maybellene
Guest Blog by Les Wiseman
When AW-H calls and asks me to write something for his blog, I realize the basic journalistic method of research goes out the window. He wants it now and he wants it impressionistic. Thus, my story of my glancing relationship with Craig McCaw, guitarist for The Poppy Family, guitar teacher and, since 1978, president of Roundhouse Productions, which puts on the rock-oriented laser extravaganzas at the Vancouver Planetarium, begins with a stroll down Granville Street.
A friend had warned me that you can get horny for a guitar, and when I walked into Long & McQuade in 1975, I wanted a Gibson SG. On the wall hung a beauty: mahogany with walnut finish, rosewood fingerboard. (This was when Gibson still had the good wood.) It looked like the handmade SG that Frank Zappa played and that was all that mattered. It had black plastic mini-humbucker pickups, which could be a bit of a liability, but it was beautiful. And I had to have her. (I’ve only seen two others like her in the last 35 years.)
I took her home, named her Maybellene after Chuck Berry’s first hit, and started working my way through a Mel Bay Learn to Play Guitar manual.
Suffice it to say, chunking Twinkle Twinkle Little Star through a Pignose turned to 11 did nothing for the rock’n’roller in me.
I went to Bill Lewis Music near Broadway and Alma, where all the cool guitarists hung out. Lewis had made guitars for Clapton, Page, Beck and David Gilmour (which he played on Dark Side of the Moon). Page recently sold one of his two Lewis guitars for a cool quarter mil. Inside there was a rotating parade of Vancouver rock types including, Maurice Depas, Jamie Bowers, Lindsay Mitchell and Tom Lavin.
I signed up for guitar lessons and went into a teensy knee-to-knee room and met my guitar teacher Craig McCaw. I recognized him, all frizzed hair and glasses, since I had seen him with the Poppy Family at the Alberni District Secondary School Auditorium when I was a high-schooler in Port Alberni.
I was knocked out, here a real bona-fide rock star was going to teach me how to wield my axe. He asked me what type of music I’d like to play. Defying all logic, I replied I’d like to learn how to play like Frank Zappa, or barring that unlikely possibility, some three-chord rock’n’roll.
McCaw immediately rose to the challenge. As I write, I am looking at his handwriting in my music dictation book, notating the blues scales in A. We plunked around with those for a while and then he taught me Hendrix’s Power of Love and Purple Haze. After our first lesson, he said, “Now go home, smoke whatever you smoke, or have a beer and practise.”
It should now be admitted that I have no facility for playing guitar. No ability to maintain a rhythm, no particular dexterity. So, I’d practice and thrash around and clunk out the first few bars of things and learned basic blues shuffles and turnarounds. Craig taught me as much as he could over a couple of months, but I was hopeless.
But then, he taught me THE TRICK. He taught me how to tune my guitar to open-G tuning. Now, with three fingers and essentially two chord forms and a capo, I could play a large amount of The Rolling Stones’s repertoire. I could sound (in a sorta modest way) like Keith Richards. That was Craig’s crowning lesson for someone who was never going to make it as a guitarist. That lesson has given me and Maybellene a lot of good times together. Today, Maybellene sits on a stand in the room next to where I write. She’s tuned to open-G. By now, I’ve removed the low-E string and subscribe to the Keith Richards-espoused method of open-G playing: “Five strings, three fingers and one asshole to play it.” Thank you Craig McCaw for bridging the gap between lack of ability and being able to have years of fun playing my guitar.
A Rendezvous With The Laser Man
My own relationship with the pleasant man who called my name at the planetarium last night has been frequent through the years. They have been photographic in that once I did take his portrait with his beloved lasers. Every time I have returned to the planetarium (I may have been the only person watching his Wall, a laser show based on the music of Pink Floyd who was not influenced by prohibited substances). One time I had to deal with him as his company Roundhouse Productions was involved in a show featuring Rocket Norton and a dazzling young blonde singer who could belt out songs without a sound system. The show incorporated lasers and Harold the Zeiss projector. For the first time I realized that my resulting portrait could not be a conventional one.
Since this picture was circa the beginning of the 80s and there was no Photoshop I took several pictures of the girl (all Craig McCaw can remember of her is that her name was Aleysha Michelle and we are not sure of the spelling) and some of Harold. I then sandwiched them in my enlarger and projected them as on image on to photographic paper. I took another where I did not use any tricks but the picture was much too underexposed for use in Vancouver Magazine where the piece appeared. But now with Photoshop I have retrieved that other image from latent obscurity.
As we left Craig McCaw said there was going to be another reprise of the Roundhouse Production, The Wall and that it opens on October 8. I will be there with Rebecca and I am just dazzled that so many years later, there I will be, and so will she. Thank you Craig McCaw.
As we left I needed to tell Michael Unger that his faith in the existence of extraterrestials might just be dampened if he read Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama. McCaw instantly interjected that it was the only science fiction book he ever read that he started and was not able to put down.The Ramans do Everything In ThreesThe Ramans Do Everything In Threes Revisited
That Malibu - It's A She!
Friday, September 17, 2010
When I first got to Vancouver in 1975 my plans to become a photographer met with a brick wall. The only job I could find was working at Tilden-Rent-A-Car on Alberni Street almost corner with Thurlow. For close to 6 months I washed and vacuumed cars. One day I was told that I had to jockey cars to the airport location. I panicked because I had never driven and automatic in my life. In fact I had never ever driven anything but a VW beetle or my almost as small Fiat X-1/9. Both had manual transmissions.
I was told to take a Chevrolet Montecarlo to the airport. The car felt like a tank and seemed to have similar handling characteristics (all pure conjecture since I never did have a chance to drive a Sherman). I was told where to put the key and shown the gas pedal and the brake pedal. I was not given crucial information. The crucial information is that when you drive an automatic you only use one foot, which you roll from the brake to the gas pedal and back as the need arises.
I used both my feet and as I left the car lot all I could do was to jerk the car forward. I drove it like that all the way to the airport. At the airport I was given an Oldsmobile Cutlass to drive back. I jerked that one, too. There was a pleasant co-worker who hailed from Kelowna who with a smile said, “Alex, let me show you something.” I was at that point and henceforth privy to crucial information.
When I got to my six months that powers that be decided to promote me to counter clerk but not before I had learned of all the possible ways of opening any car (we had problems with the early Honda Civics) in under four minutes flat. Customers were always forgetting keys inside locked cars. With the keyless entry of modern cars this is now a virtual impossibility.
It was at Tilden that I learned to appreciate big American cars (or domestic as we Canadians call them). My favourite was the nimble mid-sized Olds Cutlass (an extremely exciting car with lots of power and very good brakes). I was never able to figure out how the folks at GM could years later manufacture such a dud of a car as the impossibly and most stupidly named Oldsmobile Achieva.
It seems fitting that since yesterday I have been driving a domestic 2007 Chevrolet Malibu sedan. Rosemary is a bit depressed since the Malibu is no Audi A-4. The Malibu is no slouch with its V-6 engine. Because it is not an all-wheel-drive car I knew I could not floor it in yesterday evening’s rain. The car would swerve from side to side. But it is equipped with traction control and ABS brakes (discs on all four). It has features like heated seats and a power driver’s seat. It is the sound system that has all kinds of bells and whistles and very nice controls on the steering wheel.
In short I am excited and happy and hope that Rosemary will come around. She insists that our Malibu, like her Audi Sophie
(as she called her four generations of Audis) is a female. So we are perhaps close to the moment when Rosemary will smile a tad and give the Malibu a name.
When A Camera Is Not A Phone But Theatre Is Theatre
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Last night Rosemary and I attended the opening night performance of Tear the Curtain!
at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. It is an Arts Club Theatre Company production presented in association with Electric Company Theatre. By Electric Company’s Jonathon Young (in fourth photo below with Jonathon Young) & Kevin Kerr (third photo from top) Created with and directed by Kim Collier (first photo, top left).
The credits are almost ambiguous to those who might not know of the tight and extraordinary relationship of the trio involved.
By the very fact that I am not a bona fide theatre critic and this is but by humble blog I do not have to stick to the parameters of normality that surely, to some extent, the three theatre critics that I spotted in the audience, Peter Birnie, Jerry Wasserman, and Jo Ledingham must follow. If it is a theatre review you seek then stick to reading the Vancouver Sun, The Vancouver Courier, Jerry Wasserman’s theatre blog and Colin Thomas at the Straight (I did not see him in the audience but surely he must have been in attendance).
My journey into the kind of challenging theatre that I witnessed last night began when my parents took me to a theatre-in-the-round production (and in Spanish) of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo Galilei
in Buenos Aires when I was 8 or 9. Perhaps they could not find a baby sitter!
A further challenge to my senses occurred in 1968 when Rosemary and I attended a Mexican Cultural Olympics event called La Linterna Mágica
(Laterna Magika) which was brought from Prague. Most of it is a blur but I do remember a roller skater skating through the projected streets of Prague behind him. La Linterna Mágica was a favourite of the Mexican audience. Whenever I see that crazy film featuring Lauren and Hardy driving through traffic and avoiding crashing into trams I realize that the magic lantern technique has been with us since candle light was harnessed to efficient projectors.
The blending of film (projected onto the sets or to a screen), the mixing, with live action, last night was as perfect as I have ever seen. A live action wide-scene might, as an example become a tight projecion. The quality of the film part of the play was first rate. Kudos to the Arts Club and Bill Millerd for taking the chance and perhaps helping fund what must be an incredibly expensive joint venture.
The play itself was so Borgesian in its serpentine flow that the only fact I can assert I saw, heard, felt and agreed with is when actor Jonathon Young, the house lights were turned on, spotlights disappeared, projections were squelched, said to us, “We are here. We are all here.”
The play could have happily ended there for me. But it didn’t. The resolution was as complex as everything else. As I left, exhausted, I realized that the most troubling event in the play was not the play itself.
There were three men and one woman sitting in front of me. Two of them had ties with the island of Malta. All four were thumbing at their iPhones. The otherwise grotesque (in past years) was not commonplace, almost funny. My ability to absorb the confusion, the constant challenging of my senses on what was real and what was not, was easy in comparison to my amazement in watching the choreography of thumbs. They reminded me of the dancing showers (in harmony to schmaltzy music ever changing colours) that used to flow to the left and to the right before some film productions in big cinemas of yore.
My blog yesterday was about a phone not being a phone but that a camera, in spite of all the digital advancements is still a camera. This was all reinforced by a cheeky Nikon ad I saw in the cheesy journal, Galerie (the official publication of Professional Photographers of Canada/Photographes Professionnels du Canada of which I am not a member).
As I left the Stanley I wondered if what I had just experienced was theatre. By all the definitions that I have been able to find, Tear the Curtain
is fine theatre. It is demanding theatre. It is complex theatre. It is theatre.
As I left the Stanley I thought of my first exposure to the Electric Company Theatre trio of Jonathon Young, Kim Collier and Kevin Kerr. It was in 2001.
With the help of David Hudgins and actor/playwright/director Carmen Aguirre they brought to the stage an adaptation of Brazilian novelist Jorge Amado’s Dona Flor and her Two Husbands.
My Argentine artist friends, Juan Manuel Sanchez, Nora Patrich and I were approached to produce photographs and illustrations that would hang on opening night (but could and would be used to promote the play with the media) that would feature the cast of three. They posed for me clothed and unclothed. This play (at the Cultch) began an era (pioneered if you think about it by the Cultch) that featured not a glimpse or a blur but a continuous, dangling and swinging male sexual appendage throughout the length of the play. It led to such Cultch productions as the 120 Songs of the Marquis de Sade where such an appendage flashed by my face a mere foot away when I sat in the front row back in November of 2002.
I see in the Electric Company Theatre a trend in complexity that follows the similar trends in phones that are no longer phones, monitors that are TVs and inversely TVs that become monitors. I do not think that there is any fear that the Electric Company Theatre will ever produce such equivalent duds as the toaster/FM-Am radio combination I once saw at London Drugs.
Further plays by the Electric Company Theatre included experimental plays inside industrial warehouses or plays that began to include projected film such as Sartre’s No Exit
and the wonderful Studies in Motion – The Hauntings of Eadward Muybridge
. The latter production (which I saw three times) featured choreographed movement (even the curtain going up and down) by choreographer/dancer Crystal Pite.
My friend Christopher Dafoe the former arts writer for the Globe & Mail wrote to me this morning:
Looks like I guessed right when I suggested that EC's would scale back to the bare bones for their next piece, just as Springsteen did with Nebraska. If you look in the square flyer they gave out last night you'll find the following description of All The Way Home, a show that is described as being "in development":
Electric Company goes "unplugged" with an immersive, low-fi interpretation of a Pulitzer prize-winning story...All the Way Home is built with so many universal truths that there is little room for anything else, without any definition between stage and audience, the performances in this intimate venue are constantly close up.
This might suggest that the Electric Company Theatre, as Vancouver’s premier theatre of the avant-garde will keep unbalancing and challenging (all for the better of the theatrical health of our city) other theatre companies. The possibility that Vancouver will ever see a new production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest
I had a look at the program for Dona Flor and her Two Husbands
in my photo files and I spotted a name:
Workshop Dramaturge: Bill Dow
Judging by the production of the Little Mountain Studio of David Mamet’s play Glengary Glenn Ross
which I saw in November 2008 and which featured Bill Dow as Shelley “The Machine” Levene I can understand that as good as Tear the Curtain is and how its multiple elements seduced me last night I can look forward to more good theatre in Vancouver and for a change, theatre that will be plain theatre.
If it involves the Electric Company Theatre you can be sure that that trio will find some way of making the immersive, the unplugged and the low-fi especially so.
I was especially charmed that in Tear the Curtain there was a connection with Lillian Gish. There is a connection between Lillian Gish that has especially charmed me as it involves my granddaughter Rebecca
A Phone Is Not A Phone
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I may be a bit rusty with my memory but surely Nick Charles (William Powell) must have surely sat down in a spiffy restaurant with Nora Charles (his Thin Man wife Myrna Loy), martinis close at hand, and had a waiter come to the table with a phone who would say, “Mr.Charles it's for you.” There is nothing in our 21st century technology that can match that feeling of luxury and importance, even if phones now tell us, with a sexy voice, where we can find the closest deep-dish pizza en route in our Honda Fit or can imitate the sounds of flatulent humans. A phone is, simply, no longer a phone. It is more and perhaps because of it, less.
But there are some machine/objects that in spite of progress remain virtually the same. One such object is the photographic camera. It is said the Leonardo discovered the magical properties of the camera obscura which was a box that perhaps had a pinhole, unless Leonardo had used a primitive lens. This magic box would project, upside down, a Vinci pastoral scene on the other side of the box. Leonardo would have used oiled parchment as a screen as ground-glass (vidrio esmerilado
) had not been invented.
The camera to this day has remained the same in that a camera is:
1. A lens.
2. A box even if it snazzy polycarbonate material mated with titanium)
3. A light sensitive sensor or film in the back.
Even my Epson scanner meets those requirements as the lens is really an array of lenses attached to a long pencil shaped (two of them) CCDs (charged coupled devices). The light sensitive “material” is my computer that interprets the readings of my scan.
Today, for the first time in years, I am giving a private photography lesson to what seems to be a pleasant middle-aged man who wants to go beyond the basic knowledge of the workings of a digital camera. He wants to learn about portraiture.
My wife was my Gunea Pig last night. “Rosemary see this slot which is at the focal plane of my 35mm camera? It measures 24mm by 36mm. If you use the Pythagorean formula you will find out that the diagonal is about 43mm. When you focus this normal lens (50mm) to infinity and measure the distance from the film plane to the optical centre of the lens you get about 50mm!” She looked at me with amazement and told me, “You are not going to attempt to teach your student this! He simply wants to learn to take portraits.”
I do not believe the story that has been circulating for most of the 20th century that the Australian aborigines somehow never connected the act of sex with the resulting pregnancy and production of children. It seems to me that when one presses the shutter of a camera one should know the antecedents and the consequences.
My student will learn about that diagonal, after all a camera is still a camera.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Exhibition at Chernoff Fine Art
265 East 2nd Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia
Thursday, September 16, 2010
7 – 10 PM
An exhibition of watercolour painted postcards and related pictures by Marv Newland. All of the postcards have travelled through the post and the postage stamps and postmarks become part of the overall presentation. The cards have been painted in many foreign and exotic ports, sometimes under great duress and in dangerous circumstances, usually in Spanish speaking countries. A wide variety of images are on view representing over ten years of work, which was not originally intended for public display. Landscapes, portraits, lewd figurative works and flights of non-representational fancy make up the bulk of the postcard sized, painted pieces. Arriving in 1972 aboard a German designed automobile, Newland continues to live and work in Vancouver, Canada where he makes animated motion pictures.
Marv Newland - The Eccentric
The two most eccentric persons I have met in my life happen to be men that I first met in Vancouver in the late 70s. Both are my friends. One of them, Mark Budgen recently decided for a pastoral existence in Oliver, BC. And since he was trying to downgrade and live a simpler life he has purchased a four-bedroom house to replace his little heritage house in Strathcona. Because he has severe back problems and other ills that prevent him from sitting down for much of the day he now gardens. Once when I was having terrible stomach problems in Montevideo, Uruguay after I had a peach blender drink from a street vendor he fed me a pill the size of Springfield rifle round and I became well in a jiffy.
The other eccentric (a mysterious one at times) is illustrator and animator Marv Newland. He does not want anybody to know that one of his first works, his 1969 Bambi Meets Godzilla
, an animated short of less than two minutes, has made him a cult figure around the world. I have told people I have just met on the elevator (Bentall II) that I know Marv Newland and several of these people have had apoplectic seizures of amazement and joy.
When I first met Newland at Vancouver Magazine around 1977 his International Rocketship Limited Animation Company was next door on Richards and Davie. He never gave me the time of day when he visited his pals, Editor Malcolm Parry and Art Director Richard Staehling. I asked him once where he was from and he told me, “I’m from North Korea.”
Sometime around 1979 I took a picture of the Subumans for a Les Wiseman Christmas piece for his rock column In One Ear
. Soon after, I got a congratulatory note from Newland. He was to send me letters and postcards for the next 32 years always in his neat handwriting. Suddenly the Invisible Man became visible but that did not mean that he became more forthcoming on his origins now that I was no longer transparent. I do know that he graduated from the highly rated Arts Center College of Design in Pasadena, California like his buddy Staehling. The rest is pure conjecture. For years we have shared a delight in the nautical novels of Patrick O’Brian. With Newland’s way with handwriting, letters and notes he was able to visit and spend time with O’Brian in his house in Southern France.
For years he has eschewed modern technology such as word processors and computers, email and cellular phones. For many years, beyond what many would consider advisable, he stuck to what he did best and this was and is classic animation all drawn by hand. One of my favourites is one he hoodwinked ICB into paying him good money which is an animated film on car safety called Hooray for Sandbox Land (1985).
It was a shock to get an email from Newland inviting me to this Thursday’s shows featuring the many postcards he sent his friends from his many travels around the world. He says he rans out of postcards and had to print more and that mine will eventually get to me.
I went through my files and discovered that I had photographed him around February of 1986 and then requested that he draw a cell on my 11x14 b+w photograph. I sent it to him on Monday and his reply is as follows:Dear Alex,
Under no circumstances should you use this ancient image, no matter how good it looks. Please save these things for articles in the Courier after I have gone off of this mortal coil.
I asked Newland to send me a little essay for the blog that precedes this introduction. For someone who has avoided computers he somehow made sure it would not be easy for me. He sent it as an attachment that was an OpenOffice.Org Writer and I had to download the program (it took forever). Then I could still not open it. I was being told I had to download a java update!
Yes, Newland is an eccentric, but we who are lucky to be his friend must tolerate his eccentricities, after all, should we make an issue we just might not get invited to the best party of the year and that is his Fireworks Viewing Party where you just might meet all his other eccentric friends.
I sometimes not only feel out of it but invisible, too.
Paprika Chicken & Cream Pies
Monday, September 13, 2010
I gently knocked on the door of my granddaughters’ home this morning. Rebecca opened the door and I spotted Lauren eating cereal on the sofa. “Are those Rice Krispies?” I asked her. “Yes.” “Do they snap, crackle and pop?” “Yes.” Rebecca asked me, “Did they have Rice Krispies when you were a little boy? After all you were born a million years ago.” “They did. In Buenos Aires they had Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies.” I didn't tell her that as soon as my family had moved to Mexico City in 1955 I would cycle to a nearby Piggly Wiggly to buy Kellog's Sugar Corn Pops and Kellogs Sugar Frosted Flakes. They were not available at our local super market. I have always been a connoisseur of fine and sugary breakfast cereals, Capitaine Chruche, Capitaine Chruche, Capitain Chruche!
I took Rebecca to her new school today to lighten the load and stress of going to a high school and also so I could find out exactly where the school was. We also made arrangement where she was going to get off in the bus in the afternoon so that with Lauren in the car I could stop and pick her up on our way home. On Monday the girls come to the house after school and their mother shows up in the late afternoon for dinner. We are having one of their favourite meals, my paprika chicken served with white rice. The salad will include the two trays of Campari Tomatoes that Rosemary bought over the weekend.
Because of the new school year and the pressures of adapting to home rooms and navigating the corridors of a large high school from one floor to another, it would not be practical for us to see a movie after dinner. The girls need to get home early to do whatever homework is unifinished and to prepare for bed.
But with my memory of reading Selecciones del Reader’s Digest En Español
(my grandmother was subscribed to it) I decided to prepare a special program for tonight. I went to Videomatica and located a DVD version of Laurel and Hardy in The Music Box
(1932). Alas there was no DVD version of the Battle of the Century
(1927) with that wonderful sequence where cream pies, hundreds of them fly through the air to land on people’s faces. But I never did get rid of our VHS machine and I did find a VHS cassette. Everything is ready for tonight and as my Selecciones used to say, “La risa es la major medicina.”
I first saw The Battle of the Century and the Music Box on a Saturday afternoon next door to the work-in-progress-will-finish-it-in-a-century church of my neighbourhood's Capuchine monks in Coghlan in Buenos Aires. They had a little movie house for us and after a little sermon on how we should be good boys and little girls they would screen Tarzán flicks with Buster Crabbe, the films of Carlitos Chaplín and, of course our favourite El Gordo Y El Flaco as we knew Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Surely Laurel and Hardy will be as relevant today as Lauren's Rice Krispies even though Laurel and Hardy and their admirer (me) were all born a million years ago.
La Serenisima Steps Out
Sunday, September 12, 2010
In my first year in grade 9 (1957) at St Edward’s High School in Austin I returned home for the Christmas holidays. My mother and grandmother were living in an apartment on Avenida Insurgents Sur. It was a nice area even though there was some road noise during the day. But it was fun to look out of the window and watch the buses and cars go by. Next to us there was a gun shop owned by a friend of ours who was a retired pelotari (ja alai player). His name was Daniel Guridi Árregui
. I lusted after the Berettas in his glass display cases but I knew they were beyond my grasp. I would watch generals of the Mexican army walk in for a "visit". Some indirectly, but most quite directly, would ask for funds to take a vacation in Acapulco. Guridi knew that if he did not comply they would withhold his import permits for the fine guns he brought from Europe. I admired his handling of the men. I soon grew to respect Guridi as a man. He was also a well-read man. He had suffered from acute insomnia ever since he had left the hamlet of Mondragón in the Basque Province in Spain as a very young teenager to play “la pelota” around the world in such places as Shanghai, Manila, Miami and Mexico City. We talked books.
Guridi was one of the few male role models in my life since I had last seen my father when I was 11. The other male role models were the Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Edwards. They had all slowly been weaning me from the fact that I had been raised for so many years by my mother and grandmother.
I remember that during the Christmas holiday I went to a nearby barber shop for my haircut. A youngish American, sporting elaborate cowboy boots was getting his hair cut, too. He befriended me as soon as he learned I spoke English. He asked me to tell him a bit about myself. This I did.
Back in Austin, in January one evening he came to the school to visit me. The brothers promptly cut him off at the pass and that was the last time I ever saw the cowboy. I was much too naïve, much too young for my age. And besides in the age of 57 Chevies I knew more about tail fins than of men who prowled after young boys. It was a lesson that I never forgot.
By the nature of my blog in which I write about personal events of my life and where my blog is attached to a web page that has my name, addresss, phone numbers, etc, people who want to find me will do so. In fact more than the web page, the blog has served me well as a good source of occasional income. I sell my photographs because photographs are found by search engines in blogs but have a bit of harder time in locating pictures in web pages. My latest little coup is to have sold photographs (for the cover) of Robertson Davies
to a publisher in Barcelona who came out with the first Catalan translation of the Deptford Trilogy. Another photograph, one I took of Pierre Berton
will grace the cover of softcover version of a recent biography on him being published in Toronto this fall.
My wife, my daughters and my granddaughters’ other relatives have been vocal in opposing some of the stuff I write about my grandchildren here. In most cases I have tried to find a balance between being too revealing and to circumspect. But more than what I write it’s the pictures.
If the grandkids are four, five, six or even 9, it’s fair game. As soon as the little girls reach that in-between age when they are not quite children anymore and not quite teenagers yet there is a potential blur.
I have in most cases refused to censor myself. I particularly appreciate the support of my grandchildren’s parents (Hilary and Bruce) in seeing more of the good than in the potential bad.
It was only yesterday that Hilary (and Rosemary) warned me about placing a picture of Lauren where she looks a tad like an Arab as a potential problem since the date in question was 9/11. I published the picture anyway and defended my decision. I don’t think I will get any threats to my life in the next while!
Yesterday, through the usual lack of communication caused by the girls’ busy parents, they did not arrive in the morning with clothing to wear for a function at the Italian Cultural Centre on Slocan. It was the opening of new show on Venice which was inspired by a generous bequeath of books on la Serenisima by Abraham Rogatnick who died last year. Since we (including the girls) were friends of Rogatnick we knew we had to go. Central to the display at the new museum of the cultural centre is a genuine gondola
that I had photographed in 1986 for the Georgia Straight.
Rosemary said that since we had to be at the opening at 5:30 that we go to the girls’ house at least 45 minutes before so they could dress up. After at least 40 minutes both girls came down. Rebecca was wearing a little black dress that showed ample cleavage and her long and shapely legs. These legs she inherited from my mother, from my wife and from her mother. She may have inherited them from me, too, as I have lovely legs!
If Rebecca’s mother had been around I am sure that she would have been told to change her dress. What ameliorated the shortness of the hemline was a nice long black coat that Rebecca got as a hand-me-down from her friend Mina. I thought she looked terrific.
When we arrived at the function I was amazed to see that Rebecca was just as well dressed as the other patrons of the museum. They were all dressed to kill and I felt out of place in my faded black jeans. Rebecca looked beautiful, sophisticated. In fact she reminded me a bit of Audrey Hepburn. Lauren in her pale blue dress, and pink ballerina shoes, was Alice in Wonderland, slumming the Venetian Carnevale.
Last night when we returned and sat down for dinner with the girls’ mother, Hilary. She was precise in saying that she would not have allowed Rebecca to leave in such a dress.
I set up my home studio (in the living room) and took some big camera snaps of the two of them together and separate. I have a nice sequence of Rebecca getting Lauren’s hair ready. But the pictures show how short the LBD (Little-Black-Dress really was and I would be crucified if I were to put it here. So what you see here is a waist up picture of Rebecca taken with my iPhone.
As my granddaughter chats in Facebook and uses her personal pink cellular phone, I wonder how much different, how much more dangerous it has become for a potentially naïve child to face the world.