Into Malcolm Parry's Soul Via A Panamera To Lytton
Saturday, January 01, 2011
At about this time of the year I always look forward to opening my Vancouver Sun
to find that essay by Malcolm Parry on his once-a-year ritual trip to Lillooet
and beyond via Trans-Canada Highway 1. Today I was not disappointed.
Hidden in what outwardly seems like a new-car test drive (for years Parry had a montly car column for Vancouver Magazine
and then for the Air Canada in flight magazine) is stuff that comes from Parry’s soul. Parry's soul, more often than not is hidden to most of us. I hope that the folks at the Vancouver Sun will not send their lawyers after me for placing here Parry’s piece verbatim! I would suspect this would be unlikely as those lawyers would be too busy dealing with lawsuits directed at Parry’s fellow scribe, David Baines
Porsche tried that bit harder with Panamera
|Mac's test 1990 Turbo R Bentley in front of my house|
This Porsche Panamera C4's subtle skill at masking clumsiness is, for some drivers, the technical equivalent of having a wife
By Malcolm Parry, Vancouver Sun, January 1, 2011
"Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends." Thus sang Janis Joplin, whose legendary inability to blow below .08 might now see any vehicle she was given promptly impounded. Still, a like plea was answered recently when the decidedly secular Tony Morris produced a 2011 Porsche Panamera C4 for my sober assessment.
Auto-racing devotees know Morris for his Trans-Am Camaro's winning ways on regional circuits. This week, as head of Media Car Services Inc., he dropped off the all-wheel-drive, four-door hatchback, base-priced at $92,800. That is a hefty $34,600 above Porsche's baseline Cayenne SUV when equipped with the 300-horsepower V6 engine that recently debuted in hitherto-V8-powered Panameras. Options on the one Morris delivered included 20-inch wheels, air suspension, triple-range heated seats, BOSE audio, ruby red-metallic paint and other doodads that jacked its sticker price to $113,175. Another $42,000 would get you two more cylinders and 200 more horsepower in the line-topping Panamera Turbo. The lowlier model has more than enough power to get out of its own way. Better still, a clever all-wheel drive system with traction control can get it out of harm's way -- valuable year-round, and more so on winter's slippery, poor-visibility roads.
So, with many citizens staying in town to fulfil Joplin's second wish -- "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a colour TV?" -- the time seemed right to join sparse, outward-bound traffic for an upcountry cruise. The humdrum freeway leg to Hope proved that the Panamera's rear-seating area offers more than possibly the world's most sinuous-looking door handles. Head and leg room exceeded this over-sixfooter's needs. The reclining, triple-adjustable black-leather seats were comfortable in the firm German manner and, with their heaters set on high, seemed capable of baking a Westphalian ham. There was more road noise than pure-luxe makers might allow, and all-around visibility was somewhat limited, but a cool box and beverage holders should satisfy Joplin-type passengers there.
Gung-ho cornering in Porsche's first six-cylinder model, the 911 of 1963, could put unwary drivers literally in a spin. Technical specialists bred out that classic rear-engined series' bad habits. The underlying laws of physics cannot be revoked, only appealed. For this task, Porsche employs the engineering version of loophole lawyers. They get results, as was demonstrated on widely differing winter roads this week. To them all, the unfazed Panamera C4 stuck like a reputation, no matter whether the Normal, Sport or Sport Plus handling mode was selected by console push-button.
Drivers can make dangerously ill-informed responses when skids begin or rapid evasion is required. These the Panamera's computer system rectifies while letting drivers feel they did right. The same occurs even if you purposely do wrong. Press either pedal while negotiating a curve where the road surface varies from dry blacktop to hard-compressed snow, with a sanding truck's larger "marbles" concentrated in between, and a momentary seat-of-the-pants sensation should herald traction loss. Unlike your old Dodge Fedora, the Panamera's sensors and processors instantly brake or feed power to needy individual wheels, and stiffen or relax the appropriate shock absorbers. Split seconds later, you're back on radius. Porsche isn't the only maker doing this. But its subtle skill at masking clumsiness is, for some drivers, the technical equivalent of having a wife.
Elsewhere, the Panamera has more fun buttons than a burlesque dancer. Press REST after parking, and retained engine heat temporarily warms the passenger compartment. Press another and a rear window sun blind advances or retracts. Others control heat and A/C to four occupants individually. Another raises the car for negotiating curbs and parking dividers. There's a rear-obstacle warning, and provision for operating the vehicle should those electronic systems go wonky. So absorbed by it all, you run out of fuel? There's an emergency container in the trunk. In sum: This is what Subaru might do were buyers to cough up another 60 grand.
That's the "how" of the Panamera C4. As for the "why" of sightseeing in mid-winter weather that once forced a small aircraft to land on the Fraser Canyon highway ahead of me, it's simply nostalgia. Back then, en route from a construction camp to Christmastime Vancouver, I was understandably driving flat-out, which in a Land-Rover meant 90 km/h. "I hoped you wouldn't speed up," the cucumber-cool pilot said later, after exercising his only life-saving option.
I thought of him as the Panamera (Porsche says it'll do 257 km/h) ambled past his landing spot under similar weather conditions -- river-level fog and swirling cloud merging between near-vertical cliffs. Had the Land-Rover possessed a fraction more horsepower, the trapped pilot might have died. Me, too. Instead, I take flossier rides to places that utilitarian four-wheel-drive vehicle took me to in the canyon and beyond. Some, like Alexandra Lodge and the long-disused Alexandra suspension bridge
nearby, have weathered but survived during ensuing decades. Others, including several first nations communities, have sprung up or developed almost beyond recognition. Still others -- Siska Lodge, Boston Bar's aerial tramway, many 19th-century log structures and Cariboo pole fences -- have become ghosts, like the pre-railway freight wagons, stagecoaches and even camels that once passed their way.
|Porsche Panamera, Malcolm Parry|
This week, though, I saw tumbleweed still tumbling, and horses and bighorn sheep still licking the salt from highway blacktop, just as dawn-hungry porcupines may still snap drowsy drivers awake by doing so on the centre line of curves near Kanaka Bar. As for driving at dawn, what I call "the lucky tree" still stands north of Lillooet. Once, I arrived as a man and woman scrambled from a sedan that had slid off the then-gravel road to lodge against the only tree in a long stretch of bare, steep river bank. A quarter car's length further forward or back and they'd have rolled unseen into the Fraser River and almost certain death. That wasn't so for a fellow my age, then 22, in the Lytton hotel beer parlour. He bet a half-dozen of us 25 cents each he could set an empty glass upside-down on a full one, then, with his hands behind his back, drink the beer and replace the top glass without setting it down. The technique entailed tucking the empty under his chin, kneeling, holding the other between his teeth, then tipping and draining it. Theory good, practice bad. The glass broke into sharp shards. Beer and blood spurted from his mouth. Jumping up, he upset our drinks and, as a fist-fight broke out at adjacent tables, he vanished, taking our stakes with him.
There this week, a familiar-looking woman spotted the parked Panamera's Ontario licence plate and asked: "Are you lost in Lytton in a car like that?" Old stomping ground, I replied. Drank in the hotel before you were born. "So did my dad," she said, adding he and I are the same age. It was tempting to ask if papa had scars around his mouth and, if so, to ask for my quarter back. If he was the same fellow, Joplin had a song for his long-ago proposal: Get It While You Can. As for the painfully flawed performance, she might offer advice Porsche seems to have heeded with the Panamera: Try (Just A Little Bit Harder).
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Noire et Blanche
Friday, December 31, 2010
Homage to Andre Breton
|Noire et blanche 1926, Man Ray|
It would look like an abandoned pair of shoes on the waterfront,
like somebody else’s puddle on the sidewalk,
like the view from a small bridge across a small creek
forded by baptismal acolytes like sleepwalkers.
Among them, like a tourist, a would-be Jesus,
shaking his long locks, dozy Dionysius,
large head of hair on a massive head.
It would be like a moment of waking in which the trees outside
are momentarily confused in consciousness
with the design on the curtains inside the room.
It would be forbidden in this new society
to make the distinction between sleeping and waking.
The Registry of Dreams and Nightmares
would have priority over every other ministry,
open only at night, attended by
the half-awake, the half-blind, the half-deaf.
New rules issued every morning
countermanded at night.
The trains would depart today, arriving yesterday.
Obviously nothing would ever be on time. In fact,
it would be against the law to be on time.
Later rewarded. Earlier punished.
Advertisements begin with the words
“Be sure to stay away from all of this.”
The food arrives at the table long before the diners,
cleared off the tables before anyone can touch it,
surrounded with whispers of poison.
Each day’s work begins with the analysis
of the previous night’s dreams.
From Homages to French Poets
, by Jamie Reid, Pooka Press, Jan 2010
|Noire et blanche, 1926 Man Ray|
We Argentines have a word, pajuerano
, which would translate to greenhorn but not quite. Originally it was about country bred folk who did not understand the complexities of city living. In a more modern usage the word is used to describe those who are ignorant of culture and manners.
|Blanco y Negro, Alex W-H 2010|
My father, with the clean flick of his wrist would hit me, on the top of my head with the flat of his knife whenever I ate food, especially chicken with my hands or broke some other awful rule of table manners. To this day when I eat chicken (and this is often Nando’s extra hot chicken wings) my nose will itch.
With age I have become less conscious of my father’s aforementioned rules of manners and I am more likely to say something I should not to my wife’s embarrassment. But when I have to impress my table manners and my demeanor can be impeccable.
Not being a pajuerano
has all to do with having a good balance of knowledge of history, geography, literature and the arts. I must admit that when it is about the arts I am still a pajuerano,
but I am trying to correct the fault.
Last Thursday I took Rebecca to see Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens
at the Anthropology Museum at UBC which is a superb, must see show that runs until January 23. I explained that in this day and age, when most of our reality is perceived as a photon-thick surface on a computer monitor or a TV screen, it can be a delightful experience to see stuff that occupies space. In the case of the show at the UBC Museum of Anthropology these are actual prints by the Philadelphia born (1890) photographer Emmanuel Radnitzky who is better known as Man Ray (interestingly in my photography book collection he is alphabetized sometimes under M and sometimes under R!) and artifacts, mostly African masks and idols of the type that Man Ray used in some of his photographs and paintings.
|Noire et blanche, 1926 Man Ray|
The show is a real coup for Vancouver and it shows that the Vancouver Art Gallery is not the only game in town for this sort of thing. Some might think that the fact that Man Ray used African artifacts in his photographs as an excuse for showing his photographs in what is perceived (at least by me) as a palace of anthropological political correctness. If the connection (photographs of beautiful women and African masks) might be seen by some as tenuous, who cares? The MOA show is a splendid show that all should see and for many reasons. MOA has this short explanation on the show:
The exhibit will bring to light photographs of African objects by American artist Man Ray (1890-1976) produced over a period of almost twenty years. In addition to providing fresh insight into Man Ray’s photographic practice, the exhibition raises questions concerning the representation, reception, and perception of African art as mediated by the camera lens.
|Blanco y negro, Alex W-H 2010|
But first to that little rant about “anthropological political correctness”. When Rebecca and I arrived at the entrance of the museum I was shocked not to find the original large carved statues and the splendid carved doors that have always been there. They have been replaced by clear plate-glass and on the up-until-now plain Arthur Ericksonian concrete floor there are now polished (and ever shiny) tiles with a Native Canadian motif that left me cold.
I enquired about the doors at the ticket desk (overall the staff at MOA is helpful, cheerful and polite). I was explained that the museum lies on Musqueam Nation land and that the doors represented another separate, distinct and particular branch of of Native Canadians who were not of the immediate proximity. This means that the doors were perceived as an insult and lack of respect for the Musqueam Nation. On the excellent MOA web page there is this explanation:
At the top of the stairs outside the Museum is an Ancestor Figure carved by Musqueam artist Susan Point in 1997. The figure holds a fisher (an animal believed to have healing powers).
The magnificent carved doors framing the entrance to the Museum Shop were made in 1976 by four master Gitxsan artists: Walter Harris, Earl Muldoe, Vernon Stephens, and Art Sterritt. Represented on the doors is a narrative of the first people of the Skeena River region in B.C. Until 2007, these doors were mounted at the entrance to the Museum. They now frame the entrance to the Museum Shop.
|Kiki, 2010 Alex W-H|
At one time there was a sign inside the museum that triumphantly proclaimed the site of the museum and lands around it as Musqueam Nation hereditary property and that at some future date would be reclaimed. That sign is no longer in evidence but still in evidence is this hocus-pocus-tread-carefully-with-guilt-ridden-respect treatment that non Native Canadian Canadians treat Native Canadians. It is about an America (or whatever you want to call the land before Columbus and others came to interlope) that was free of crime, murder, rape, assassination, war, etc. The land was a paradise that would be irrevocably destroyed by the bringers of the pox, both the “small” one and the more virulent sexual one.
It was a couple of years ago that I had to photograph a Native Canadian affairs activist at the museum. The activist, a woman, pointed out that I could only photograph her by a lovely arch structure on the side of the museum that was 100% of Musqueam Nation provenance. Anything else she said would have been an affront and deemed an insult. If the museum where to go on the path of absolute-political-correctness-in-absurdity it would have to remove the long houses and totems that are in the back of the museum.
But in defense of the Museum of Anthropology I must assert here that my both my granddaughters love the museum as they are want to run on the carpeted corridors and nobody tells them not to. This little lapse in irreverence by the part of the museum staff is appreciated! They also like to touch a large carved bear where there is no prohibition.
The Museum was also a place where I have been able to watch in wonder how my 13 year-old granddaughter Rebecca has grown in sophistication. When as a little girl (7?) she asked me about certain stuff that was visible as we circumnavigated
Bill Reid’s The Raven and First Men
. I told her that they were scrotums and I explained their purpose.
That sophistication seems to be in lapse (or is it my own?) when I loudly asked Rebecca, “Should we go to the Bill Reid Rotunda and have a look at the scrotums?” She angrily told snapped back, “Shush, don’t embarrass us!”
I had taught Rebecca previously of Man Ray’s relationship with that wonderful creature of the demimonde, Kiki of Montparnasse (Alice Prin). I had shown her Man Ray’s photos in my photo books and my efforts to replicate or use them as inspiration to my own photography.
|Marie Ernst, Max Ernst, Lee Miller, Man Ray by Man Ray |
What is alarming (and predictable?) is the extent to which biographical information has become uniform ( and perhaps incorrect or incomplete by omission) on the web. My copy of Hans-Michael Koetzle’s Photo Icons - The Story Behind the Pictures Volume I,
Taschen 2002 says this of Man Ray’s first meeting in 1921 with Kiki:
Shortly after moving from New York to Paris in 1921, Ray had become acquainted with the young woman, a favourite nude model in artistic circles, whose defiant charm was precisely such as to appeal to Man Ray. In his memoirs, the photographer described at length his first meeting with Kiki de Montparnasse.
One day I was sitting in a café [Café La Rotonde]. Soon the waiter appeared to take our order. Then he turned to the table of girls, but refused to serve them: they weren’t wearing hats. A violent argument arose. Kiki screamed a few words in a patois I didn’t understand, but which must have been rather insulting and then added that a café is after all not a church, and anyway the American women all came without hats… The she climbed onto the chair, from there onto the table, and leapt with the grace of a gazelle down onto the floor. Marie [I presume it was Marie Berth Ernst the wife of Max Ernst] invited her and her friends to sit down with us; I called the waiter and in an empathetic tone ordered something for the girls to drink.
|Lee Miller, 1930 Man Ray|
I have not been able to find that information anywhere else and I will have to go and look for a hard copy of Man Ray’s memoirs. For me it just proves that the demise of the bound paper book has to be delayed a bit longer.
After seeing the show Rebecca was yawning a tad, “I suffered insomnia last night.” I noted that she had chosen not to wear makeup on that day. There was a room adjunct to the large exhibition room where I noticed the flickering of film. We entered. There was lit red light menu that told us:
Film screenings include:
- Man Ray, Le retour à la raison (The Return to Reason), 1923, 3 min
- Fernand Léger & Dudley Murphy, Ballet Mécanique, 1924, 19 min
- Francis Picabia & René Clair, Entr’acte (Between Acts), 1924, 22 min
- Marcel Duchamp, Anémic cinema, 1926, 7 min
- Man Ray, Emak-Bakia, 1927, 18 min
- Man Ray, L’étoile de mer (The Starfish), 1928, 21 min
- Man Ray, Les mystères du château de Dé (Mysteries of the Chateau de Dé), 1929, 27 min
|A scene from Jean Cocteau's film Le Sang d’un poète |
I pressed the red buttons to Man Ray’s short films which with the exception of L’etoile de mer
(which featured mostly Kiki’s) proved to be 3 minute films that seemed an hour long. Finally I pressed (not in the above list which I downloaded from MOA’s web pae) Le Sang d’un poète
(1930, 50 minutes) by Jean Cocteau and we hit paydirt. The film was interesting (even though many people walked in and after a couple of minutes would walk out) because it featured Lee Miller. The picture here is, I think, a nice iPhone capture. Rebecca said, "You are prohibited from taking pictures." I told her, "I am pleading ignorance and nobody will mind."
It was for American high fashion model, turned-photographic-assistant to Man Ray, Lee Miller that Man Ray finally dumped Kiki (after informing Kiki it seems she threw plates at him).
It was about 10 years ago that our very own Presentation Gallery in North Vancouver had a nice show of Lee Miller’s photographs. She became, under Man Ray’s tutelage a good photographer in her own right. Some experts even suspect that many of Man Ray’s photographs should be attributed to her. In WWII she photographed the Normandy landings, the liberation of Paris and took some of the earliest photographs that revealed to the world (in conjunction to Margaret Burke-White) the horrors of Dachau.
|ArthurErickson, Alex W-H |
My friend, poet Jamie Reid (whose pean to André Breton begins this lengthy blog) told me that Lee Miller had even the temerity of taking a bath (she was dirty of days of recording the destruction of Berlin) in Hitler’s bunker bathtub.
I wanted Rebecca to finally see who Lee Miller was so that she can do what many women are doing now and that is to discover another proto feminist symbol (beyond the not-so-prot0-feminist Frida Kahlo) such as photographers Tina Modotti, Margaret Burke-White and Lee Miller.
Rebecca is much enamoured to good looks these days. If the fact that Lee Miller’s elegant good looks will help her to be exposed to women with substance, that is all the better.
I snapped some iPhone pictures of Rebecca outside the museum by the relatively new little pond behind. I photographed her exactly in the location where I had photographed Erickson in the early 80s. I remember him telling me what should be behind him and how he welcomed my shot which hid (the large drift wood/stump) what was not there. Arthur Erickson had been thwarted from the very beginning (1971 when he designed the building and when it was built in 1976) by environmental concerns that a lake would help erode the nearby cliffs facing the waters of the Straight of Georgia. It was only after some persuasion by an ever so persuading Cheryl Cooper that the foot-into-the-door of the lake happened on Junne 14th 2004 when a temporary pond was installed to celebrate Arthur Erickson’s 80th birthday. The pool became a permanent fixture September 19th 2010 with Cooper obtaining financial backing from philanthropist Yosef Wosk or as I gleaned from Wikipedia:
In September 2010, a reflecting pool was added to the front of the Museum, funded by Yosef Wosk, OBC. Arthur Erickson and landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander originally intended the pool to be opened as part of the new Museum of Anthropology in 1976; now, nearly thirty-five years later, their original vision for MOA has been fulfilled. Pools had been installed temporarily only three times in MOA’s history: for a movie shoot in 1993 (“Intersection”), for the APEC leaders’ summit in 1997, and to celebrate Arthur Erickson’s 80th birthday in June 2004.
I told Rebecca, who has to write an essay for school on the significance of Lady Gaga’s raw meat dress that the surrealists of the 20s were simply ahead of her in a penchant to shock and change established order. I told Rebecca about Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain
which in reality was a urinal displayed upside down. I did not tell Rebecca that Vancouver has an equivalent in Cesar Pelli’s Eaton’s/Sears downtown building which to me reminds me of a large pisser.
|Duchamp's Fountain |
I began this with a mention of the word pajuerano
. I have been one for most of my life and it only of late, as I try to educate my granddaughters to the wonders of arts and culture, that I have begun my own personal journey into becoming a tad more knowledgeable on stuff that may not have immediate practical use but makes life worth living. I thank Rebecca and Lauren for that opportunity.
|Duchamp's Fountain, Alex W-H 2009 |
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Time In My Hands
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
|Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique' Dec 27, 2010|
Yesterday Rosemary and I met up with Ian and Jean Bateson at Nando’s on Lonsdale in North Vancouver. I had last been at that particular Nando’s at least 11 years ago and Jean and Rosemary had not seen each other for perhaps an equivalent time. I am sure they must have looked at each other and observed the passage and ravages of time on their faces and body. Lonsdale was different. It had changed even though a nearby Kerrisdale Cameras still had used film cameras on its window and the always nondescript Safeway was accross the street. The patrons of Nando’s seemed to be of Persian heritage. I am not quite sure I accept the term as the Persians were contemporary to the ancient Greeks and the Israelites. There are no more Israelites and I would call Persians Iranians. I would never categorize the inhabitants of Mexico City Aztecs.
|Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique' October 11, 2010|
As Rosemary and Jean scrutinized each other I thought of how Ian, himself had nice gray hair but since I see him at least once a week I would have to look at pictures of him when I met him back in 1977 to feel the shock on how time has changed him.
One of my favourite models ever has been Katheryn Peterson whose face and body floating in a bathtub you see here. This image is from 1990. When she would walk in our direction to our Thursday lunch meetings at the Railway Club in those 90s, my fellow lunch companions would gasp. Such was her beauty.
I last photographed her some five years ago and by then (why do women do this?) she had cut most of her beautiful hair and had (on impulse?) gone for an extremely large tattoo of Betti Page on her upper arm.
There was an incident during the beginning of that shoot tha I will never forget. She happened to look at the back of my hands and she gasped but said nothing. The toll of age was to her most evident in the little liver spots and dry skin. To me she was as beautiful then (in spite of her short hair) as she had always been. I have learned to understand and appreciate the aging of people. What has helped me in this is my constant observation of the plants in my garden.
Gallica roses at their peak are beautiful, yet, as they age, the crimson and red Gallicas (most Gallicas are of this colour) change to metallic silver/gray and sometimes to purple. They are almost more beautiful.
Another example is the often ignored and lowly hydrangea. At their peak the flowers are stupendous and some of them when they are at the pollen stage (the paniculatas and the quercifolias) have an intense fragrance of honey. As they age gardeners who know follow the directions of not pruning the flowers. The large fading flowers protect the spring buds in those terrible spring frosts that we sometimes get in Vancouver. On the other hand some of these hydrangeas might fade from white to blue or from blue to pink. They are the surprising chameleons of my winter garden.
|Dec 29, 2010|
If you click on my hand picture you will note vertical ridges on my fingernails. While it is not always the case (malnutrition and iron deficiency can be one of the causes) in my case my orthopedic doctor says it proves I have psoriatic arthritis. You will further note that my pinky is inflamed. I am currently taking some heavy duty pills to control this further encroachement of age.
Laura Faye, Peoria, Illinois
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I took this photograph in September 1983 at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. I have taken very good photographs in my past and most of them (if I may beat on my own drum) I have planned or preconceived. This one was a snap of opportunity. When I took it, I took it and that was that.
Yet if my basement were to flood or burn I believe that the negative of this scan is one I would try and save first.
The cutline under the photograph, which was my only appearance as a photographer for the Chicago Sun Times (I was paid $500 for the shot) says:
Laura Faye of Peoria, 23, is a tall, lovely redhead who has danced since she was 19.
James Bond, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, John Kennedy & Castro's Beard
Monday, December 27, 2010
In 1960 when I was attending St Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas, the fact that the school was a Catholic boarding school meant that all of us were excited at the prospect of the possible election of Senator John F. Kennedy to the US presidency. While playing pool in the Senior/Junior rec-room we all watched Kennedy spar with Richard Nixon on TV. When Kennedy won the debate and then the election there was lots of Kennedy mania in our school. Few now reading this blog would understand the level of excitement of that Kennedy mania. It was similar to the one that I sensed when I met my Canadian wife in Mexico in 1967. She kept talking about some man called Pierre Trudeau as if he were a dashing Argentine playing for the Real Madrid.
During Kennedy’s presidency I lived the Bay of Pigs in the school with all our Cuban students telling us that Kennedy had let them all down. The missile crisis and Kennedy using swear words to break the hold of the steel unions in the US made his shine in our eyes all over again.
It was around 1961 that during a press conference Kennedy announced that one of his favourite books was To Russia With Love
by Ian Fleming. In March 1960, Ian Fleming had met John F Kennedy through Marion Oates Leiter who was a mutual friend and who had invited both to dinner. Leiter had introduced Kennedy to Fleming's books during his recovery from an operation in 1955. After dinner, Fleming related his ideas on discrediting Fidel Castro; these were reported to Central Intelligence Agency chief Allen Welsh Dulles who gave them serious consideration. The idea was to tell the world that beards attracted radioactivity and made men sterile. The result of this is that Castro would shave off his beard and like Samson with his long hair, would be rendered defenseless! Shortly after it was known that Kennedy’s favourite books were:
by John Buchan
by Sir Winston Churchill
John Quincy Adams
by Samuel Flagg Bemis
The Emergence of Lincoln
by Allan Nevins
The Price of Union
by Herbert Agar
John C. Calhoun
by Margaret L. Coit
by Duff Cooper
Byron in Italy
by Peter Quennell
The Red and the Black
by M. de Stendhal
From Russia With Love
by Ian Fleming
by John Buchan
I am sure that there was no rush to buy Buchan’s books or even Marlborough by Sir Winston Churchill. But there was a run to buy Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. I will confess here and now that the only other book, besides From Russia With Love,
that I shared with JFK was Stendhal's The Red and the Black.
It was around 1961 that I started to read the Fleming novels as they came out, little by little as paperbacks. At that time my mother was teaching at an American school run by Alcoa in Veracruz, Mexico. She had a couple of American friends who would drop in on weekends to play bridge. I was commandeered to be the fourth player. I found the two women charming and I was much to naïve to even suspect that they were a happy lesbian couple who just happened to buy all the Fleming books as they came out and then passed them on to me!
And so I became a fan of James Bond before I ever saw Dr. No
and fell hard for Ursula Andress. I may have been one of the few who recognized Dr. No, played by Canadian born Joseph Wiseman as the odd (he plays a scary political zealot) Fernando Aguirre in the 1952 Elia Kazan film Viva Zapata!
(written by John Steinbeck!) with Marlon Brando, Anthony Quinn and Jean Peters.
It was through the Fleming novels that I became a fan of the Sean Connery James Bond films. When the films featured other actors and had a mostly special effects-over-plot takeover I lost interest rapidly. I found that Bond’s male chauvinist pig attitudes jarred with the modern world I live in.
But then I saw most of Casino Royale
(2006) with Daniel Craig yesterday and enjoyed the experience. I found I could take this Bond seriously. I enjoyed the film perhaps more so because in the days after Christmas and before January 2 I tend to eat chocolates ( Belgian Gulyian) pistachios, Mexican rice, leftover ham, Mexican beans, German “Swiss” cheese, German fruit juice bears and I wash it all down with continuous and large mugs of Granville Island Tea Company Earl Grey tea. I do not feel in the least guilty about doing nothing, watching junk films on TV and eating all of the above.
Today I watched Pierce Brosnan play James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies
and I did not find it as awful as I thought it would be. Just watching Brosnan's James Bond maneuver a BMW inside a tight and winding parking lot was worth it. I found the death and destruction so unrealistic (but not quite so funny) that I could eat my salted pistachios with no wincing. I think I did not mind Pierce Brosnan because I could see the actor to be as the one that was so good in the Robert Harris novel, Ghost Writer movie version of this year.
There is one sort of serious activity of which I indulge sparingly so it will take time for its completion. I am reading Canadian born Paul Anderson’s first novel (2004) Hunger’s Brides
. Of the book I can write these facts:
At 1,360 pages, not counting 8 pages of titles and contents at the beginning of the book and 8 blank pages at the end, presumably added for production reasons) the book weighs 4 pounds, 9 ounces. I think I purchased it in 2005 and took it to Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico when we visited it with Rebecca in 2007. The idea was that I was going to read this novel about the famous Mexican poet and nun of the 17th century who had the reputation of being the best poet of the second half of Spain’s golden age of literature. I knew absolutely nothing about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. All I managed to read (on the plane going) was one chapter. I abandoned the book vowing to tackle it in a near future. And that is now!
Few might know that the publicity stills for Dr. No
were shot by Bunny Yeager (who made Bettie Page famous). Of the picture of Ursula Andress (above) she writes:
While shooting publicity stills of movie actress Ursula Andress in Jamaica for United Artists, I found myself working under the most adverse conditions, having to get my shots as "catch can" between takes for the movie , "Dr. No." If it weren't for her splendid cooperation, I'm afraid I could have never completed my assignment. 200 f/16 film. Rollei Camera.
That Wholesome Girl From Tarzana, California
Asymptotes, Sine Waves, Bell Curves & Beverly D'Angelo - Again
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Asymptotes, Sine Waves, Bell Curves & Beverly D'Angelo
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Not too long ago I had a Vancouver choreographer of note in my studio and I asked the choreographer how things were. The reply was startling and dismaying, "I had my moment years back."
In the early 60s I studied mathematics and statistics and learned about curves. I have since then come to the conclusion that just about anything related to human nature and human relationships can be defined by three curves.
2. bell curve
3. sine wave curve
I wrote about the sine wave here
and about asymptotes here
Of the asymptote I would like to write further. Lucy will not take away the football so that Charlie Brown will not fall when the asymptote finally (inexorably?) hits the X or Y axis. My wife Rosemary will stop worrying when all our problems, our children's problems, our granddaughter's problems, our cat's problems, etc are solved. And that will happen, in the best of all possible worlds when that asymptote nudges that X or Y axis as it nears mathematical infinity.
Around 1980 the careers of Sissy Spacek ( a sine wave with its ups and downs) got in phase with Beverly D'Angelo's career sine wave (with its ups and downs). For that brief moment in time both would shine in that beautiful 1980 film, Coal Miner's Daughter
and then both actresses would go their way and out of phase.
If one were to investigate D'Angelo's career one would guess that Coal Miner's Daughter was not the high point of her career (the top of a statistical bell curve) but her role in 1983's National Lampoon Vacation
By the time I photographed her in 1988 when she had come to Vancouver to publicize the film Cold Squad
with Martin Sheen
her moment and her position in that bell curve (over that top hump) was gone.
Can our lives possibly be so depressingly mathematical?
Back in January 17, 2008 I wrote the above blog on my understanding of the relationship that mathematical curves have with human existence and behaviour.
This past July I received a Blogger surprise that has kept my interest in statistical curves alive. For the almost five years that I have had my blog I have avoided attaching counters to it so that I could find out how many people “visit” it. It has really been a case of pure fear that my vanity would be compromised by low ratings. I felt it much more comfortable not to know.
This all changed when Blogger attached to my blog (without me asking) something called Stats. From them I found out that by the end of July I had had 57, 075 visits. It peaked at 64, 249 by the end of October and my rating today is 47,030.
These Blogger stats reveal other stuff, even including what kind of operating systems and web browsers these viewers use and from which countries they are doing their viewing. The stats reveal where the searches come from. A lot of this information is scary in nature as you begin to understand how much of web search is mostly web image search and how much of it is related to pornography, young children, nude dancers and that sort of stuff.
A perennial search to my blog is Tamara Taggart
. One of the reasons is that I photographed Taggart with her husband for Vancouver Magazine
some years ago. They posed for me (clothed) in bed. But my blog was called Tamara Taggart in Bed!
For reasons that escape me another popular search is Rosa
‘Blanc Double de Coubert’. This is a magnificent white hybrid rugosa that came into cultivation in the 19th century. English botanical iron lady, Gertrude Jekyll defined this rose’s whit the whitest white in the garden. I have written several times about this rose (very fragrant it is) that grown in part shade near my kitchen door. I have posted several scans of the blooms and explained that it is one of the first roses to bloom in spring. The fact is that if you search for this rose in Google my blogs are very high up in the search. Aren’t other people writing about this rose?
I have discovered that most (or at least many) visits are all accidental. It might involve looking for Wham-O slingshots (I wrote about one that I owned) or simply searching for stuff on Arthur Erickson. I have no way of knowing how many of those visits may be from “repeat offenders”.
Statistics have also been on my mind this year because of Rosemary’s health problems (more or less solved) and those of mine (not quite resolved). I have noticed that I could draw a parabolic statistical curve of our visits to doctors, medical labs and X-ray clinics this year. Such a curve would indicate that 2011 will take us to those places with ever more frequency. This curve reminds me of the little curves that I would observe on the early computer diagnostic of my VW beetle in Mexico. The graph given to me would show four similar almost straight parabolas of equal length. As soon as our VW was not quite so new one of the lines, or even two would taper off or be shorter. This meant that our car was losing compression on a couple of cylinders. This meant that the closed system that a car engine represented was subject to the law of thermodynamics called entropy:
The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.
That VW graph told me that my car would soon not be under warranty and I would have to pay for expensive ring jobs, etc.
That WV graph and my frequent visits to doctors remind me that my body, much like that of a car is no longer under warranty and I can now expect slipping clutches, oil leaks, break jobs and, inevitably, engine failure!
But it is not all statistical doom and gloom that I might be able to predict for my immediate future. I had a chat with the owner of a local photo lab (a really good one) and I was told that with labs disappearing across Canada (including Vancouver’s formerly excellent George King Photo) business was looking good here in Vancouver. The lab was getting film sent from as far as Nova Scotia and even the US. With fewer players, those who play will get the work.
Similarly this December has been my busiest in recent memory. The work has not come from magazines or newspapers but from law firms (who no longer want amateur digital camera portraits of their principals and associates, and from people requesting I take pictures with a big camera and that I use film and print the results in my darkroom.
I certainly do not see a comeback for film. I simply see me surfacing for one more (third?) gasp for air. Who knows I just might remain on the surface and prove my personal statistics all wrong?
A similar argument could have been made by the one time diminishing (aren't they all gone?) French polishers when their craft was hit by the invention of hard resin varnishes or the polyurithane Varathane.