A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Colour print test trips of 35 mm slides courtesy of Professional Colour Prints now sadly gone

Why are these pictures here?

On Saturday night (I am writing this Sunday afternoon) I got into bed for one of the best pleasures of the week. This is to read the Sunday NY Times a night before. It comes crashing into the front door around 8pm. I quickly found all kinds of relevant articles on topics that I am interested in and also well written articles on topics that in most situations I avoid. One in question is economics. But that does not prevent me from reading Pulitzer Prize winner and liberal-leaning Paul Krugman. He had a cover article in the Sunday Times Magazine called Eurotrashed – Can Europe Be Saved? I read the long article and finally could explain to most people out there the problems of Ireland, Greece, Iceland and the looming financial collapse of Spain, Portugal and Italy. I found out that one of the possible solutions is what Krugman called a Full Argentina.

In the same magazine I read No More Mrs. Nice Mom – Is the iron hand of Chinese parenting the future for Americans raising their kids? by Judith Warner. This timely article comes exactly at the time when my daughter Hilary stresses to me that she is not a mom who is in a popularity contest with her two daughters. She does not try to be their friends at the expense of discipline and allowing them to be rude or to slack off.

In the arts section I read an astounding article by amateur violinist and NY Times music writer Daniel J. Wakin called Bytes and Beethoven – With Bows and Laptops, the Borromeo String Quartet Has Enlisted in the Technological Revolution. In part of the article Wakin describes how the quartet with laptops instead of sheet music on their music stands and with the help of a special foot pedal they scroll original manuscripts to read the music. They also record, when possible all their concerts and make them available, for a price on the web.

The main section of the paper had a long piece, Jigsaw Picture of an Accused Killer – Seeking Answers Beneath Loughner’s Mug-Shot Grin, reported by Jo Becker, Serge F. Kovalksi, Michael Luo and Dan Barry and written by Mr. Barry. This piece of writing, in spite of the grim topic, managed to be beautifully written while still being informative and as much as I hate the cliché that follows, it was thought-provoking.

The business section had Ping by Nick Bilton and was subtitled Can Your Camera Phone Turn You Into a Pirate? This article explained the possible copyright infringements of copying, the example used, a couple of interior design pages of a design book at a bookstore without buying the book to use as reference for a home re-decoration. By the time the copyright laws for such a act become reality the author finishes with, “As Ms. Ahrens says, ‘By the time this becomes an issue, we might not even have bookstores anymore.’”

In brief my Sunday newspaper, read on a Saturday had lots of stuff that I might have wanted to share with friends. But there is one big reason why I don’t. I could go to facebook (why do so many write this word capitalized? Check the website!) and post a “Read this about the Borromeo String Quartet. It is worth reading. Or I could tweet (Not only am I in facebook but I am also in Twitter) : Bytes and Beethoven (and insert the link to the NY Times article).

There have been fantastic slide shows from exhibitions at the Met or at MOMA that almost made me itch to insert in facebook for my friends.

The Vancouver Museum of Anthropology has posted wonderful blogs on its exhibition of Man Ray. I have been tempted but refrained from posting links.

Then there are all those music Youtube videos of obscure jazz musicians like Richard Twardzik or some really all but unknown composers of the 17th century that I particularly adore.

It was two weeks ago that I read in my NY Times about the new BCC Masterpiece series called Downton Abbey which airs its second installment this Sunday. One of the stars is American Elizabeth McGovern. I happen to be a fan as is a friend of mine who happened to have interviewed her some years ago. To my knowledge there was no mention or advance article on this show (which is very good) in our Vancouver Sun.

I wondered if my friend knew about it? I could have posted something about the show on facebook and perhaps my friend who is also on facebook and, we are facebook friends, would have read it.

But I decided to call him a couple of hours before the airing of the first installment. He was not there. I left a message that I had called and left no further information. He never called back so I wonder if he knows about the show.

My presence in facebook is simple. I run a short, Twitter type tweet in Spanish introducing to that day’s blog. Facebook has the nice feature of allowing you to include any one of the pictures from your blog when you write in the link. It does so automatically. I believe that no matter how lousy my blog might be, by posting a link to it I am contributing something that is personally manufactured. I am not simply posting a link to an article or video (and they make it so simple now). So much of what I read in facebook and Twitter is geared around a reaction, with a subsequent link posting to some event in the US. As far as I know nobody in the circle of my “friends” commented on the heinous assassination of the Punjab governor by his security guard.

While Canada and the US are shipping manufacturing operations to the East (read in the NY Times that a company that makes solar panels is shifting operations to China) I find that we who participate in on-line social networking sites contribute nothing except, “Saw this great video here, etc” We are not only not making stuff with our hands we are no longer writing stuff with our hands. And our comments on the events in Tucson for the most part prove (at least to me) why I like to read to good columnists who are professional journalists. I am simply not into (in fact I deplore) what former West Magazine Editor Paul Sullivan used to trumpet as Citizen Journalism. To me that smacks of people around the guillotine in the waning of the 19th century crying “Off with his head!” I am not interested in their opinions.

There is supposed to be this warm inner glow about being part of a community. That this community is really no longer available on the phone, over coffee or even by a stamped envelope, reveals to me what my friend Ian Bateson says quite often. He says that people have retreated into a shell, much like turtles.

Which brings me to why are these pictures of Lisa Prentiss, formerly of Vancouver and of Marysville, Washington here? I think that Lisa (aka Alexandria) had that icy sexual look of a modern Estella. Estella has been in my thoughts of late. My new friend Errol Durbach, who is a drama professor at UBC has recently adapted Great Expectations to the stage. Of Estella he writes, “that frozen icicle of a woman, incapable of reciprocating affection....). Great Expectations is going to open at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond opening on February 3. I am going to have the opportunity to photograph the shows Estella, Mia Ingimundson. And Mr. Durbach will accompany my photo with an essay as a guest blogger.

These pictures are here because I want to share them with whoever reads this.

Early Music Vancouver's Fantastic Can Of V-8 Juice
Friday, January 14, 2011

The Dark Lady, Natalie Mackie & violon

In 2007 the Campbell Soup Company initiated a series of commercials to boost the sales of their 8 vegetable juice V-8. It featured individuals hitting themselves lightly in the head and saying, “I could have had a V-8.”

I must admit that the ads hit home and I alternate my breakfast juice servings with either orange juice or V-8 (the “Smooth & Seasoned V-GO” version). I feel the same about the concerts  I attend. There is always a V-8 version and it is always the better bet.

Tonight my friend Graham Walker and I walked from home to have a pre-concert nosh at Kaplan’s on 41st and Oak. We spotted three familiar faces in a booth, probably enjoying hot pastrami sandwich and Kosher pickle. We wished them a happy new year.

From Kaplan’s we crossed the street (we jay walked) too the modern and odd-shaped Unity Church. Whatever criticism any might have to a church that has stained glass windows and resembles a community auditorium will be dissipated when you notice that the sides of the church are illustrated by 8 Shadbolt lithographs, individually lit and beautifully framed.

Walker and I have been in this venue before and we always sit on the front row, a mere meters away from the performers. It has been here that I have listened to (not exactly watched and I will explain later) Marc Destrubé and his eclectic musical friends perform the works of composers like Felix Mendelssohn and a slew of to me unknown ones.

One of his friends, keyboard artist Byron Schenkman (he and violinist Chantal Rémillard were the noshers with Destrubé at Kaplan’s) has not only played the music of Andrea Falconieri (look him up if you like!) but has also managed to transpose John Cage’s complex 3-part 4 Minutes 33 Seconds to the harpsichord. Early on, Schenkman, not always an inveterate purist, decided to omit the bird and cricket sounds.

Marc Destrubé, violin of the baroque kind, and friends, Chantal Rémillard, violin, also of the baroque kind, Shenckman on harpsichord, and Natalie Mackie (sporting a brand new and smashing hair do complemented as always by a handsome black dress and serious black shoes) played a 7-string viola da gamba but seen here with her violon.

The group played the music (my Spanish grandmother would have said “illustres desconocidos”, illustrious unknowns or “En su casa los conocen,” they are known at home,” of:

J.H. Schmelzer

J.K Kerll

D. Buxtehude (I am not a relative but I do know who he is)

Johann Rosenmüller

Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

G. Muffat

G. Legrenzi

Of the above the elegant Shakespearean “Dark Lady”, Natalie Mackie wrote in her concert notes:

Stylus Phantasticus –Mystery 7 Exoticism in 17th Century Trio Sonatas (on the side, this blogger would like to interject to those who are not initiated in this, that while it is not important, these trios feature four instruments. The fourth is usually, as was the case, tonight, a harpsichord that plays “continuo” in the background much like a base player would play in a modern rock band).

As in many areas of discourse amongst human beings, the history of musical style was as characterized by polemics as any political or philosophical theory, with those upholding ‘tradition’ and opposed to change, pitting themselves against those attempting to disengage from the past and venture into new territory. We see this in the early Baroque, with Monteverdi, codifying his seconda prattica in an attempt to emancipate composers from the constraints of Renaissance polyphony, allowing them to fully explore the affective power of music, most especially through the influence of the text. His opponent, the Bolognese theorist G.M. Artusi thought otherwise, expressly stating his belief that the strength of good composition rested on the control of harmony and counterpoint and that Monteverdi’s unorthodox use of dissonance threatened the very foundation of prima prattica. One of the key elements of this discourse was the controversy over the philosophical question of the opposition of reason and the senses: whether musicians should surrender to their intellect or their ear in assessing a musical composition.

In lay persons' words this could be an argument between hard-core punks and established rockers. The concert of music of the so-called Stylus Phantasticus consisted of music that was new ground then in the beginning of the 17th century. The new “rules” of composition had yet to be established for being new. The music Walker and I listened to last night (and the other lucky members of our audience) was music that was new and avant-garde when it was first played. While there are recordings available of this music the mainstream will not have ever heard of the composers or listened to this wonderful music.

Marc Destrubé and Shadbolt's Jardin noir 2

Walker and I felt like we were attending a cutting edge concert of music that was inventive. And yet having the performers facing us, smiling at us, acknowledging us and acknowledging each other was different to a performance by Lang Lang where you go to a large venue; pay for parking; you are ushered in amongst jostling crowds; you sit, if you are lucky and rich, close to the front, and then you watch the man attack, un poco agitato, the piano in a Prokofiev piano sonata. He is on stage and you are part of the audience. And you know it.

And here is where I want to point out that Walker and I listened to tonight’s performers play virtuosic compositions (with a special emphasis on those composers) where it was not important that the performers play with virtuosity, but they do and they did! Walker and I were there to listen to the music. We were not there to watch a performer play. But watching these performers feels to me what it felt when as  a little boy I was dragged to my grandmother's house. She was a coloratura soprano. My mother would play the piano, my aunt the violin and my uncle would contribute his fine tenor voice. In retrospect I see that these performances of Marc Destrubé & Friends (and the same goes to those of the Pacific Baroque  Orchestra) is like having a group of your own friends play in your living room. That distance (and height) between the stage and the audience is blurred.

In that intimacy I noted Marc Destrube's Florsheims which he purchased ("They are the most expensive shoes I ever bought," he told me as I photographed him with my iPhone by the Shadbolt. "I bought them because the Axelrod Quartet[Destrubé is the leader of this Smithsonian-based string group] had to play at the White House two years ago." We could also talk with tDestrubé and friends after. They are that accessible. In fact after so many performances of Marc Destrubé and his Friends we (Walker and I) feel that they are our friends.

Kudos to Early Music Vancouver for organizing these concerts that bring that original newness and excitement of music that was new and exciting. In fact it was as fantastic as it wsa announced to be.

The group, Marc Destrubé & Friends will play again, the same program on this Sunday at the Kay Meek Studio.

Sunday matinée, 16 January 2011 at 3:00 pm
Pre-Concert Introduction at 2:15
Kay Meek Centre - Studio Theatre
1700 Mathers Avenue, West Vancouver

I do recommend going to these pre-concert talks. This one will feature Byron Schenkman. And if you happen to ask him what a passacaglia is (since he will be playing a couple of them in the program) he will demonstrate!

As Walker and I walked home I thought, “I could have had a V-8 and indeed I had and I was better for it.

Byron Schenkman plays

Marc Destrubé plays with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra

Warm Incandescence Without Intermittence
Thursday, January 13, 2011

Everybody knows that both death and taxes are inevitable. I always add a third one and that is bureaucracy. Put two men on a desert island and soon you will have one of them imposing permits in triplicate on the other. But there is other stuff that is certain. Nobody will argue against the fact that cigarette smoke is harmful. It is a fact like that other one that seems to be ignored these days and that is that fluorescent lighting is bad for you.

Since my early 20s until about 10 years ago I suffered massive migraines. When I knew I was going to get one (a pressing behind either both eyes or only one of them) I knew I had to avoid fluorescents. They would unleash the coming migraine and I always felt the pain became worse.

Yet most government institutions are lit by fluorescents to save money.

Fluorescent light has been the bane of photographers who had to shoot colour film for magazines. It was almost impossible to get a white shirt to be white and for skin colour to look pleasant at the same time. Portraits of doctors in hospitals were one difficult example.

I went as far as using a special fluorescent filter (it was magenta in colour and it was called a Singh-Ray). The magenta filter made a business room look normal and the man or woman whose portrait I was taking would have a magenta face, too. Over my flash I would tape a green (I experimented with different greens until I found the right one) plastic cellophane (called a gel in photography). The green light of the flash would then correct the businessman’s face.

This situation is now much simpler with the use of custom white balance settings in modern Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras  and Photoshop.

In our present house we have fluorescents in one half of the kitchen and one of the upstairs bathrooms has a fluorescent tube. The house is much too old and funds have never been available to correct this lighting anomaly. The rest of the house is lit with tri-lights and bright incandescent bulbs.

These bulbs are being banned in Vancouver and in British Columbia. We must now use the more sophisticated, energy efficient fluorescents that remind me of twisted human intestines. The lighting they give out, no matter how “full spectrum” they may be, is still much too cool for me and I can feel the intermittent nature of these lights. It is the intermittence that triggers migraines and (I would believe) epileptic attacks.

Ted Turton

The reason for all the above is that my wife persuaded me to go on an incandescent bulb run this evening. We went to Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Shopper’s Drug Mart and Zellers and we stocked up. I wonder how many of these bulbs I will predecease!

It was in the middle and early 80s that I took photographs of two gentlemen (for separate articles in Equity Magazine). One of them was Stephen Rogers who at the time was the Socred Energy Minister. I persuaded him to pose for me while holding a light bulb. I had previously soldered two electrical wires to the bottom and side of the bulb. I had then dipped the bulb into Varathane varnish many times until a thick, but the transparent coating prevented the current from jumping to the holder’s hand. I then ran the wires through Rogers’ sleeves to take the final picture.

The other man was Ted Turton who had gone public at the Vancouver Stock Exchange with a company that manufactured incandescent light bulbs in Burnaby. I was dispatched by Equity editor, Harvey Southam to take portraits of Turton, his executive team and the making of the bulbs.

When we finally made it home with our incandescent booty I felt exhausted but grateful to Rosemary for urging us to stock up. In Mexico and in Spain and most of Latin America light bulbs are called focos. The reason is that light bulbs are supposed to have a directional and thus focused beam of light.

In Argentina we call them by a cuter name, bombitas. This means literally, little bomb! In Spanish bomba has several meanings. Besides being an explosive device or a light bulb it can also be a pump, an air pump or a water pump.

For me focos pump out a pleasant warm and appealing light and by the time we run out of them I am sure that I will not be around to be affected by intermittence or that cold “full spectrum” light. And it is the coldness of that light that will have so many making reservations for Hawaii next January.

Glock - Verb, Transitive
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The events last Saturday in Tucson took me to another place. They took me to New York City in 1995. I was outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral and I was talking to one of New York’s finest. I asked her, “Are you part of the Sherwood Forest Precinct?” She smiled and said, “What’s that?” I then asked her, “Are you carrying a Glock?” A few of us do but mine is a Smith & Wesson.

I was in New York to interview and photograph writer Jerome Charyn. In the late 80s I had been devouring (to use one of Charyn’s favourite words) Raymond Chandler’s novels. When I had eventually run out around 1992 I noticed the name Charyn in the bookstore stacks next to Chandler. I purchased one of the novels, Blue Eyes. I could not believe that a homicide detective could be a ping-pong freak and be murdered before the novel ended. Reading Blue Eyes made it seem like I was hallucinating or living a nightmare. The language was brutal, repetitive but strangely compelling. I was hooked and purchased a second Charyn novel, Maria’s Girls. It was in Maria's Girls that I encountered a verb I had never seen before, to glock. It was about a gun, obviously, to me, an invention of the writer, that was made mostly of plastic.

To give Charyn’s quotes on glocking a meaning I will first insert here his introduction, (the book in which the introduction appears has long been out of print) from Black Box Thrillers – The Isaac Quartet by Jerome Charyn- Marilyn the Wild, Blue Eyes, The Education of Patrick Silver, Secret Isaac. Zomba Books, London 1984.

Jerome Charyn

The introduction will serve to those readers here, to understand, I hope, what it is about Charyn that has made me purchase every book he ever wrote. I am not the only one. The other is Vancouver poet and former Poet Laureate George Bowering. He boasts and laughs at me when I phone him when he asks me if I have this Charyn book or that one. He has all of them!

I called him today. I interrupted the writing of this blog a few paragraphs above. I called him and I said, “I want you to tell me the first thing that comes to your head when I say the word to followed by a word, that to my knowledge has never been used as a verb except by one man. I said, “To glock.” Bowering’s instant answer was, “Jerome Charyn.” I added, "From Maria's Girls."

Here is the wonderful introduction to Charyn’s first Isaac Sidel Quartet. He wrote another set of four Isaac Sidel books, the Odessa Quartet ( The Good Policeman, Maria's Girls, Montezuma's Man, Little Angel Street) and two more, El Bronx and Citizen Sidel.. I believe that Charyn could not continue after Citizen Sidel because Sidel becomes the Vice President Elect of the United States. I wonder about a Glock-packing vice president of the United States!

George Bowering

By Jerome Charyn

Blue Eyes and the Barber King

I was drowning somewhere in the middle of 1973, lost in the muck of a new novel, some dinosaur of a book about a barber king and the republic of Andorra, when I discovered Ross Macdonald. I was sick of my own mythologizing and wanted something simple to read. A crime novel, why not? I happened to pick The Galton Case and it satisfied right from the start, with its lulling, neutral tone.

The book had a morphology I happened to admire - as if Ross Macdonald were in the habit of undressing bodies to find the skeleton underneath. Nothing was overwrought: landscape, language, and character were all laid bare. But this was no simpleminded accident. It was Macdonald’s particular craft, that “wild masonry of laying detail on detail to a make a structrure.”[Ross Macdonald, “Writing the Galton Case,” Self-Portrait: Ceaselessly Into the Past. Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1981]

Wild Masonry. That’s what Madonald’s work was all about: sad, strange histories the crept between the tight, closed spaces. The lost son who surfaces out of a brutal, murderous past, and then is transformed into an impostor boy whose identity is born in the act of murder itself. And in the middle of all this searching is Macdonald’s detective-narrator, Lew Archer, who is neither Marlowe nor Nick Charles, but is a kind of deadly angel, the observer with genuine feelings who only invests a portion of himself in the text. Half of him is always elsewhere. Or as Macdonald says: “Certainly my narrator Archer is not the main object of my interest, nor the character with whose fate I am most concerned. He is a deliberately narrowed version of the writing self, so narryo that when he turns sideways he almost disappears.”[Ibid]

This narrowing lens allows Ross Macdonald to deliver both a landscape and a past without the least hint of sentimentality. Macdonald is able to murder while he lulls us through the book.

I returned to my dinosaur novel, King Jude. But things were still rotten in the republic of Andorra. I had nowhere to go with my barber king. I couldn’t squeeze him into a narrative that made sense. Not wanting to abandon my barber kin, I decided to scribble a novel and let Jude the barber boil inside my head. But I didn’t have Ross Macdonald’s lulling sense of line. My writing was scratchy, secretive as a snake. I couldn’t undress bodies with my prose. And I didn’t love California the way Macdonald did. I’d lived in California for three years. It held no mythic properties for me. I remembered rocks and redwood trees. I’d have to find my detective hero and bring him to New York.

I’d been a bodybuilder and a ping-pong freak. My sense of the underworld came from the pool halls and street gangs of the Bronx. I was something of an extortionist at twelve, but I outgrew the habit and by fourteen I was studying French irregular verbs at the High School of Music and Art. What the hell could I write about crime? I’d have to go to the library stacks and pull out dossiers of the most memorable thieves of Manhattan and the Bronx, but I didn’t want a crime novel that stank of research. So I depended on my one bit of luck. I had a brother who was in homicide. I went out to the wilds of Brooklyn where he worked. I sat with Harvey Charyn in his station house near the beach. I saw all the cages where all the bad guys were held. I visited the back room were cops would sleep after a midnight tour. I was Charyn’s kid brother, the scribbler, and radio dispatchers flirted with me. I met a detective whose ear had been chewed off in a street fight, another who boasted of all the wives he had, a third who twitched with paranoia, but was reliable in any combat zone.

Bascove's Glock

My brother drove me to the Brooklyn morgue since I needed to look at dead bodies for my novel. The morgue attendant took me and Harvey around. All the dead men looked like Indians. Their skin had turned to bark. I distanced myself from the corpses, pretended I was touring some carnival with refrigerated shelves. It was Harvey who sucked Life-Savers and seemed pale. I was only a stinking voyeur in the house of the dead.

But I had the beginning of a history of crime: the sad gleaning of a few Brooklyn homicide detectives. I traveled with them in their unmarked cars, listening to their hatred of the street. They weren’t much like the warriors I’d imagined detectives to be: they were civil servants with a gun, obsessed about the day of their retirement.

And because I had grown up with my brother, remembered his muscle tee shirts, his longing to become Mr. America, Harvey seemed the saddest of them all. He’s the one who read books at home and I became a writer. He was the artist of the family, but I got into Music and Art and Harvey never did. I’d replaced my brother somehow, bumped him out of the way. I sat scribbling at a university and he had to stare at corpses. He told me about a renegade rabbi who lay rotting in his bathtub for a month, a fourteen-year-old pros who was trampled to death by a gang of pimps because she happened to labor in their territories, the victim of a gangland murder whose arm ended up in New Jersey while his legs were buried in a potato farm somewhere on Long Island. The guy’s torso was never found.

I’d watch my brother’s face when he told his stories. There was no ghoulish delight. He was delivering the simple facts of his life as a detective. I felt like the brutal one, feeding off his homicide lists. And so I began my novel about a blue-eyed detective, Manfred Cohen. This Blue Eyes was an odd amalgam of Harvey and me, two brown-eyed boys. Coen was a ping-pong freak, like I had been. And if he didn’t have Harvey’s coloring, he did have my brother’s sad, gentle ways, a wanderer in Manhattan and the Bronx who dreamt of corpses, like Harvey did. I allowed Blue Eyes a mentor, Isaac Sidel, a honcho in the First Deputy Police Commissioner’s office who grooms Coen and later gets him killed. Isaac was a sinister chief, and Coen was his blue-eyed angel, a kind of Billy Budd.

I scribbled a good part of Blue Eyes in Barcelona. I was thirty-six and I’d never been abroad. I’d landed in Madrid, wanting to devour every balcony on every street. I saw the Goyas in the basement of the Prado and felt as if my own life was being recast on enormous blood-dark canvases: the giant who devoured his children could have been born in the Bronx. I settled in Barcelona and wrote for six weeks.

I finished Blue Eyes in New York and carried it to my agent, Hy Cohen. He looked at the title page. “Who’s Joseph da Silva?”

I’d decided to use a nom de guerre after having written seven novels as Jerome Charyn, and all seven sinking into invisibility. I’d invented a tribe of marrano pickpockets in Blue Eyes called the Guzmanns. Isaac Sidel is feuding with his tribe, and the Guzmanns become the agents of Manfred Coen’s fall. Wanting my own sense of tribe, I’d picked a marrano name for myself, Joseph da Silva hoping that his books might sell better than Jerome Charyn’s.

But Hy Cohen convinced me to stay with Jerome. “Kid, you’ve had seven books. That’s something of a feat. If you go with da Silva, you’ll be starting all over again. A first novelist is a much more endangered animal that the author of seven books. They’ll kill you out there.”

So I published Blue Eyes without my nom de guerre and returned to King Jude. I scribbled on it in Paris, London, Edinburgh, Connecticut, and the upper West Side of Manhattan. The novel thickened to a thousand pages and I stil coldn’t find a home for my barber king. While I collected pages, my mind seemed to be at work on another book. I was bothered by Blue Eyes’ death and needed to revive him. So I started Marilyn the Wild, which brought Manfred Coen back to an earlier time of his life. Issac Sidel had a daughter, Marilyn, who keeps getting married and unmarried and is half in love with Coen. Isaac’s ambivalence towards his blue-eyed angel was becoming clearer to me. The old chief resented Marilyn’s attachment to Blue Eyes, though he keeps this to himself. He’s a coward when it comes to his daughter and won’t risk alienating Marilyn the Wild. We can smell the evil begin to build. Isaac is crazy about Marilyn, but he’s much too independent for a deputy chief inspector. He can find no means of manipulating her, so he manipulates Coen. And by allowing Coen to get killed, he punishes Marilyn, Blue Eyes and himself.

I still couldn’t put Coen to rest. I had to write another book, one that continued after Coen’s death. Isaac has become the chronicler of Coen. The Education of Patrick Silver is about Isaac’s own self-affliction. Isaac had inherited a tapeworm from the Guzmanns and it flares up soon as Coen dies. He blunders through the city with that worm in him and dreams that Coen is still alive. Coen’s death has taken him out of his neat little universe, hooks him with pain. Manfred and Marilyn were his only connection to feelings outside the police. They were Isaac’s history. Now he has the worm.

I was hoping I’d finished the story. I had my barber king to dream about. But the Andorran novel stayed dead. It was invention that evolved without a personal myth. I performed magnificent pirouettes on the page. I danced from line to line and was left with boring decoration.

I went back to Isaac and devoted a book utterly to him: Secret Isaac. It was the history of Isaac after his fall from grace. The sadder he becomes, the more successful he grows. The worm is eating him alive, but Isaac is the Police Commissioner of New York. A peculiar thing happens. Isaac begins to cannibalize himself, to feed on his own worm. He’s taken Blue Eyes’ ghost inside himself. He becomes Coen and barks his own song of innocence and experience.

I thought of other books, a kind of Balzacian series of adventures, with Isaac moving about the country and devouring the United States. What city was a match for him and his tapeworm? But I hadn’t learned how to be Balzac yet. When I call my brother’s precinct, the receptionists says, “Ah, you’re Jerome. How’s Blue Eyes today?”

I’m the celebrity of Brooklyn Homicide. Captains and lieutenants want me to write their stories. I’m their chronicler now. And Harvey? He begrudges the complications of the last three Isaac books. He prefers the purity of Blue Eyes. Manfred Coen came from the Bronx, like him and me. Manfred Coen went to Music and Art. I’m sure he remembers Coen as a weightlifter, but Coen was too busy being wooed by Marilyn to lift weights. Blue Eyes could have come out of Harvey’s precinct. Blue Eyes would have been one of the boys.

But I regard Manfred Coen in another way. Blue Eyes was a ghost long before he was killed. His mother and father were a pair of suicides, and Coen was the orphan from Music and Art who fell between Marilyn and Isaac and could never get up. His absence, dead and alive, seems to power the four books.

Isaac goes to Ireland in the fourth book, visits Leopold Bloom’s house on Eccles Street. He’s a police inspector who loves James Joyce, but his pilgrimage is more than literary debt. Isn’t Bloom the father that Isaac could have been? Isaac has manufactured his own Stephen Dedalus in Coen, but gave him perishable wings. He “makes” Coen, destroys him, and suffers the wounds of that destruction. And why is Blue Eyes drawn to Isaac in the first place? Is he seeking a permanent dad, one who won’t abandon him? Or does he know that all the dads are destroyers, the good ones and the bad?

What does an author know? For me the four books comprise a vast confusion of fathers and sons. My own dad was a furrier who never spoke. He grunted some primitive language that was more like the call of a disappointed wolf. But I had Harvey to interpret that wolf’s call. He led me out of whatever Bronx wilderness I happened to be in. He was father and older brother and a bit of a mum, though he abandoned me before I was twelve, beat me up in front of his latest girlfriend. He had his muscle tee shirts to worry about. He didn’t need a skinny kid on his tail.

And so Isaac’s worm had been sleeping in me a long time. It grew out of a rift between Harvey and myself, more than thirty years ago. Forget Brooklyn Homicide. You need Sherlock Holmes to uncover the roots of any fiction. I’d come to Harvey to gather material for an uncomplicated crime novel and ended up scribbling four books about him and me and a meticulous tapeworm.

I finally let go of my barber king. Andorra wasn’t that magic place where boys and kings can heal themselves. I’d invented a thousand years of history for Jude, a chronology that was filled with wondrous details, but it was spun out of avoidance, a need to hide. King Jude is a cold book, mythology without a worm.

Perhaps I’d used more of Ross Macdonald than I’d allowed myself to admit. Macdonald rocks back into his past in The Galton Case, weaves a narrative around his own wound, a gnawing sense of illegitimacy. The impostor boy who pretends to be the lost son of Anthony Galton bears a resemblance to Macdonald himself, or, I should say, Kenneth Millar, since Ross Macdonald was Millar’s nom de guerre. “My mind had been haunted for years by an imaginary boy whom I recognized as the dark side of my own remembered boyhood. By his sixteenth year he had lived in fifty houses and committed the sin of poverty in each of them. I couldn’t think of him without anger and guilt.”[Ibid]

Like any fiction writer, Macdonald is “a false claimant, a poor-house graduate trying to lie his way into the castle.”[Ibid] I’m another “claimant”, hoping to get into the castle with Isaac Sidel and Manfred Coen.
© Jerome Charyn, 1984

The above might explain my confusion in reading about Isaac Sidel’s tapeworm and wondering if this was some sort of figurative literary device.

And now from Maria’s Girls, by Jerome Charyn, 1992:

“Sweets, can’t our lads eve get a make of the gun?”

“I’d say you were stopped with a nine-millimeter cannon. That’s only an educated guess. The impact was terrific. Crime Scene says you fell like a moose. You left craters in the ground. You had five holes in you Isaac. The bullets went in and out like a whistle. You shouldn’t be alive…

“You think I could have been Glocked?”

“Yes,”Sweets said.

“With my own gun?”

“No. Your gun was clean. It hadn’t been touched.”

The Glock was a 9mm semiautomatic. The Austrians had introduced it. Most of it was made of plastic. The Glock wouldn’t rust. It looked like a space gun from Star Wars. Skyjackers were fond of the Glock, because they could smuggle mos of it through a metal detector. Drug lords liked to use it. The Glock had incredible firepower for such a light gun. Iti had been given to elite squads of the NYPD. And sometimes, during a firefight, a cop might get glocked with his own gun…

“And you glocked Maria near the Park Avenue trestle to make it look like it was the same hitter who glocked me....”

" I had no style Isaac. I glocked you."

"Glocked me against a wall. Picked up the shells. Erased yourself from the crime scene."

In an effort to lighten up I am placing here two faxes that I received from Charyn before I flew to New York City. In one he writes of the scarcity of ping-pong clubs in New York.  In the first Charyn fax I am invited to a book jacket exhibition at New York University. It was there that I met Bascove who has been the illustrator of most of Charyn's Isaac Sidel novels. You can see many of them here (all except the four novel compilation). I expected Bascove to be some sort of man. I was wrong Bascove was  an attractive and extremely short woman.
In Maria's Girls, Charyn writes about an imaginary precinct based in Central Park which is affectionately called Sherwood Forest.

Obviously the female NYP's finest I met up with at St. Pat's had never read any of Charyn's Isaac Sidel novels.

You should.

Most of the books below are part of George Bowering's collection. Bowering confessed, apologetically, "I bought Charyn's book on Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn: The Last Goddess [an illustrated biography of Marilyn Monroe], Abrams, 2008 by ordering through Amazon!


Once upon a Droshky, McGraw-Hill, 1964
On the Darkening Green, McGraw-Hill, 1965
The Man Who Grew Younger, Harper & Row, 1967
Going To Jerusalem, Viking, 1967
American Scrapbook, Viking, 1969
Eisenhower, My Eisenhower, Holt, 1971
The Tar Baby, Holt, 1973
Blue Eyes, Simon & Schuster, 1975
Marilyn the Wild, Arbor House, 1976
The Education of Patrick Silver, Arbor House, 1976
The Franklin Scare, Arbor House, 1977
Secret Isaac, Arbor House, 1978
The Seventh Babe, Arbor House, 1979
The Catfish Man, Arbor House, 1980
Darlin’ Bill, Arbor House, 1980
Panna Maria, Arbor House, 1982
Pinocchio’s Nose, Arbor House, 1983
War Cries Over Avenue C, Donald I. Fine, 1985
Paradise Man, Donald I. Fine, 1987
The Good Policeman, Mysterious Press, 1990
Elsinore, Warner Books, 1991
Maria’s Girls, Warner Books, 1992
Back to Bataan, Farrar, Straus (for younger readers), 1993
Montezuma’s Man, Warner Books, 1993
Little Angel Street, Warner Books, 1995
El Bronx, Warner Books, 1997
Death of a Tango King, New York University Press, 1998
Captain Kidd, St. Martin’s Press, 1999
Hurricane Lady, Warner Books, 2001
The Isaac Quartet, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002
The Green Lantern, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004
Johnny One-Eye: A Tale of the American Revolution, Norton, 2008
The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, Norton, 2010

Short stories and collections (selected)

The Man Who Grew Younger and Other Stories, Harper, 1967
Family Man, art by Joe Staton, lettering by Ken Bruzenak, Paradox Press, 1995
"The Blue Book of Crime,” in The New Black Mask, Harcourt Brace, 1986 "Fantomas in New York", in A Matter of Crime, Harcourt Brace, 1988
“Young Isaac,” in The Armchair Detective, 1990
“Lorelei” in Atlantic Monthly Summer Fiction Issue, Summer, 2010
“Silk & Silk” Narrative Magazine's Story of the Week, October, 2010
“Adonis” in The American Scholar, Winter, 2011 Issue


Metropolis: New York as Myth, Marketplace and Magical Land, Putnam’s, 1986
Movieland: Hollywood and the Great American Dream Culture, Putnam’s, 1989, New York University Press, 1996
The Dark Lady from Belorusse, St. Martin’s Press, 1997
The Black Swan, St. Martin’s Press, 2000
Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins: Ping-Pong and the Art of Staying Alive, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2001
Bronx Boy, St. Martin’s Press, 2002
Gangsters & Gold Diggers: Old New York, the Jazz Age, and the Birth of Broadway, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003
Savage Shorthand: The Life and Death of Isaac Babel, Random House, 2005
Inside the Hornet’s Head: an anthology of Jewish American Writing, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005 Raised by Wolves: The Turbulent Art and Times of Quentin Tarantino, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005
Marilyn: The Last Goddess [an illustrated biography of Marilyn Monroe], Abrams, 2008
Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil, published by Yale University Press, American Icon series, due out in March, 2011

Selected plays and documentaries

George (three-act play) developed at the Actors Studio, under Arthur Penn, staged readings at La Maison des Ecrivains (Paris 1988) and Ubu Repertory Theater (NY 1990)
Empire State Building, co-writer, semi-fictional documentary broadcast by Canal Plus, (France 2008)


Editor, The Single Voice: An Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. New York, Collier, 1969
Editor, The Troubled Vision: An Anthology of Contemporary Short Novels and Passages. New York, Collier, 1970
Editor, The New Mystery. New York, Dutton, 1993

Jean MacMillan Southam, Luke Rombout & Martha Lou Henley
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A few weeks ago I received a gracious phone message from a gracious woman with an infectious smile. It was from Martha Lou Henley (Louie if you know her). It seems that she had been awarded the Order of Canada and she needed a portrait to send to the folks in Ottawa. “When I knew I needed a picture you were the first person I thought of,” she said in the message. This is quite a compliment from a woman who has made it part of her life to always have a camera in hand to record the history of her noted family. Louie is known and appreciated as one of our city’s foremost philanthropists of the arts and in particular opera. Opera, classic opera is her real love. She keeps a record of every opera she has attended and notes who all the performers have been. She fondly remembers having seen American soprano Kathleen Battle in one of her first “bit” roles.

As I prepared today to take her picture I decided to explore my photo files. Under Southam I found some portraits that I must have taken around 1983/84 just about when Equity Magazine was started in the premises of Ronald Stern (publisher) and Malcolm Parry’s Vancouver Magazine on the corner of Davie and Richards. Equity, the new city business magazine was the brainchild of Editor Harvey Southam who was the son of Gordon Southam owner of the Vancouver Sun and other newspapera and media across Canada.

Martha Lou Henley

In the file I found some colour and b+w portraits of Harvey Southam’s mother Jean MacMillan Southam who was a noted philanthropist from whom her daughter Martha Lou Henley inherited her generosity towards the arts.

All I remember is that Harvey Southam, with whom I had a special relationship as his main photographer for his magazine had told me, “Alex I want you to photograph my mother at our home on Angus Drive. At the house I remember his mother’s presence and the fact that Harvey asked me to take a quick snap with his first baby daughter, Sydney from his second wife Pia.

Upon opening the file I found inside the envelope with negative of grandmother and granddaughter a 6x7 cm transparency. It was a group photograph of Vancouver Art Gallery director Luke Rombout and his staff. I had forgotten I had taken this picture but the date on the envelope, just December must mean that I must have either taken it in December 1983 (by then the VAG had moved to that location from an old one on West Georgia) or about a year later. This checks with the fact that Equity began in 1983. How that one slide (where are the rest?) managed to be in the envelope I will never know. But it does provide me with the opportunity to show here a bit of our city’s history. Below is the Vancouver Sun obituary on Jean MacMillan Southam which contains so much of that history that we should not forget.

Jean MacMillan Southam

Philanthropist Jean Southam dies
VANCOUVER - If any British Columbian epitomized home-grown blue-blood nobility, it was Jean MacMillan Southam, daughter of the province's most important industrialist and wife of a scion of the famous newspaper family.

By The Vancouver Sun October 26, 2007

VANCOUVER - If any British Columbian epitomized home-grown blue-blood nobility, it was Jean MacMillan Southam, daughter of the province's most important industrialist and wife of a scion of the famous newspaper family.

Southam, a gregarious woman who made her mark as a philanthropist, died Tuesday after a lengthy illness, three days before her 92nd birthday.

"Jeannie," as she was known to her friends, was the doyenne of old-money Vancouver. She grew up as the child of  H.R. MacMillan, the timber baron who arguably had more influence on the development of the province than any other businessman.

MacMillan founded MacMillan Bloedel, which became B.C.'s most prominent company in the decades after the Second World War.

Her place in Vancouver's social hierarchy was further cemented with her 1941 marriage to Gordon Southam, grandson of the founder of what became the Southam newspaper chain.

It was said of the family she came from and the family she married into that "one manufactured the newsprint that the other wrote stories on."

Former B.C. lieutenant-governor Garde Gardom said Southam "was really a great soul. She was very grand, courageous and strong-willed. She knew her stuff and spoke her mind.

"If she liked you, you knew it. And if she didn't like you, you knew that too."

Southam's daughter, Stephanie Carlson, said her mother had a phrase that summed up her philanthropic attitude: "Freely you have received, freely give."

She was born in Victoria but spent most of her youth in the MacMillan family home in Vancouver's Shaughnessy neighbourhood. Summers were always spent at Qualicum Beach, a tradition she maintained with her children.

She met her future husband, a good-looking easterner, at a party in Vancouver just before embarking in 1938 on a trip around the world.

The journey was a gift from her father for graduating from Stanford University. When H.R. MacMillan asked who she would like to accompany her, she replied, "You."

Her relationship with her father was "immensely close," said Nancy Southam, her daughter.

Gardom said Jean Southam "worshipped her father, without question. I think she was his favourite child and he would talk to her about business. She understood the timber industry."

She married Gordon Southam in 1941. The couple lived in Vancouver throughout their adult lives. He died in 1998.

While her life was in many ways a charmed one, it was not without tragedy.

One son, Gordon Southam Jr., died at age 25 in 1976 after a sports car he was driving went out of control and slammed into a gateway on Point Grey Road the day after H.R. MacMillan's funeral.

Another son, Harvey Southam, a Vancouver journalist, died in Toronto in 1991. He was 45.

Jean Southam attended the final meeting of MacMillan Bloedel in 1999 and watched with a tear in her eye as her father's company was folded into the arms of Weyerhaeuser, a U.S. company.

"This wouldn't have happened in Daddy's heyday," she was quoted as saying.

Jean Southam retained throughout her life an enthusiasm for people and conversation, said daughter Nancy Southam.

"She loved to party, loved sitting up till four in the morning, telling stories, drinking champagne and martinis.

"I stayed up with her on Monday night, her last night. And after Mom died, I thought, gosh, here I'd done another all-nighter with Mom.

"But it was very holy thing to go through because it was our last all-nighter."

A memorial service will be held Thursday Nov. 1 at Christ Church Cathedral at 3 p.m.

Luke Rombout and staff

MacMillan Bloedel

The Railway Children & Schubert's Quintet In C Major, D. 956
Monday, January 10, 2011

Saturday became a better day than it was supposed to be. I reflected on this on Sunday as I woke up to an almost stress-free day in which it would end with rectangular eye pupils as I attempted to scan 98 6x7 cm Ektachromes.

Saturday promised to be a confrontation-free day as our recently teenaged granddaughter had decided to skip the mandatory Saturday visit. She opted to go to town with a friend. This did not happen so we picked her up at home and in the car she gleefully wolfed down the half of the Japadog that Lauren had declined to try.

We went to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. It is a place of solace, pleasure and excitement. Lauren had a pile of books but Rebecca decided to read her school library Harry Potter’s in the comfy VPL chairs.

It was at the VPL’s sort-of-random DVD section that I found the gem. It is a remake of the wonderful Railway Children based on the 1906 novel by the Fabian founder Edith Nesbit. We had all enjoyed the 1970 version that starred my favourite Jenny Agutter. This 2000 version brought back Jenny Agutter as the mother, and not as the eldest daughter. Would it be as good?

On the way home Rosemary had to buy vegetables that I was going to barbecue along with some chicken breasts. The girls decided to stay in the car. Rebecca was reading her Harry Potter in the back. I decided to try something. I slipped into the car’s CD player a CD to see what would happen. It played for about three minutes when Rebecca, on cue (bless her!), asked, “Is that the Pacific Baroque Orchestra?” “No, it’s Franz Schubert's Quintet in C Major, D. 956 performed by Pamel Frank and Felix Galimir on violins, Steven Tenenbom on viola and Peter Wiley and Julia Lichten on cellos. It is, I believe, one of the most beautiful pieces of melody ever written.” She asked for the liner notes and after a while went back to reading her book.

As this happened I remembered how when I was almost her age my teacher in Buenos Aires would drone on, every day, for about ten minutes in her raspy Spanish. She was reading to us a biography of some composer called Franz Schubert. I had no clue why she read this to us every day.

Our meal was excellent thanks to the fact that Rosemary insisted I buy a barbecue vegetable basket (made of non stick coated metal.) It was difficult to find such an item in winter but Canadian Tire obliged.

After our meal we sat to watch The Railway Children. From Lauren, up and with a fire going in our den we enjoyed the film (and Jenny Agutter). When I took the girls and their mother home, Hilary asked, “What’s that music, it sounds familiar?” It’s Schubert’s Quintet in C Major,” Rebecca answered.


Miss Tink & English Trains

Coda:  I wrote the above on Monday January 11. After Dinner Rosemary and I watched John Taw as Inspector Morse (based on the novels by Colin Dexter). The episode (the only Morse I found at the VPL on Saturday) in question, Dead on Time featured the slow movement of Schubert's Quintet in C Major, D.956. I am lifting this from the London Times Archives.

From The Times
April 13, 2007

A musical Endeavour
As a live concert celebrates the music of Morse and the 20th anniversary of the programme, its creator picks his top tunes from the series

Colin Dexter

Let me be bold at the outset and suggest that, of all the arts, music is the most able to give expression and form to our innermost feelings. And here I have been asked to say how important music was for me in ITV’s Inspector Morse.

Now, the very last thing that viewers want is an intrusive, semi-continuous, sometimes deafening soundtrack to their viewing; yet music can be a wonderfully appropriate accompaniment to many programmes, as it was — perhaps especially so — to Inspector Morse .

Fairly early on I was aware of this, since Blackwell’s Music Shop in Oxford reported that it had had many calls asking for the title(s) of various pieces played in the episodes. How come?

Unless one is a genius (which I am not) a writer of fiction will often, almost necessarily, be semi-autobiographical in the delineation of the main character and his tastes. Thus, as early as the opening of the second novel, Last Seen Wearing , Morse found himself in the New Theatre in Oxford, eagerly awaiting the love-duet at the end of Act I of Die Walköre. This was wholly appropriate, since my own musical tastes, like Morse’s, have centred predominantly on the latter half of the 19th century, especially on Wagner (of course!), Bruckner, Mahler and (later) Richard Strauss. For some reason Baroque music has never had quite the same thrilling appeal for me or for Morse.

Clearly therefore the tastes of Morse largely mirror my own. And such tastes, featuring frequently in the novels, obviously had some significant influence on the hugely talented maestro who was commissioned to be the music supremo for the TV series, Barrington Pheloung.

The first sign of Barrington’s genius appeared earlier than the first sight of John Thaw, with the introductory theme-music — that fusion of a fine melody and the da-diddy-da-diddy-da rhythms of the Morse code. It was not, as some have supposed, a clever (surely far too clever) means of tapping out the letters of the latest crook’s name; and I should know this rather better than most, because in my army service I had been trained as a high-speed Morse code operator. (All of which, incidentally, had nothing to do with the naming of my inspector, who was christened after Sir Jeremy Morse.)

The signature tune was, quite simply, a poignant, haunting motif that set exactly the right tone and mood for the whole series; and after it, as the individual episodes developed, the subsequent music became integral to the actions and meanings of the scenes being portrayed.

Which are some of the specific scenes I particularly recall? Vivaldi’s Gloria from the opening of the very first televised episode, The Dead of Jericho, on January 6, 1987, with Morse arriving so late that he joined the choir only for the very last word; Maria Callas singing an aria from Tosca in Ghost in the Machine , hugely enjoyed by Lewis, although he was under the misapprehension that it was a number from Cats ; the magic of Ella Fitzgerald’s voice in Driven to Distraction ; Mozart’s The Magic Flute (passim) in Masonic Mysteries ; Schubert’s Quintet in C Major, especially its ethereal slow movement, in Dead on Time; the immolation scene from the finale of Götterdämmerung in Twilight of the Gods , always a must for Wagnerians; the prelude to Wagner’s Parsifal in The Remorseful Day . . .

If this all sounds a little on the unrelievedly serious side of things, there were several memorable exchanges between Morse and Lewis, often in the Jaguar. Parsifal, for example, had an encore, with Lewis giving Morse a cassette containing highlights from that opera and informing him of the conductor’s name, one “Nappersbusch”. Although Morse tried to express some minimal gratitude, he was unable to resist parading his own musical snobbery: “We usually pronounce him ‘Knapperts-busch’, Lewis.”

Again, as the two were driving along the dusty roads of Australia in The Promised Land, we heard blaring from the radio an original composition by Barrington, Truckin’ till I’m Dead — to Lewis’s delight and to Morse’s dismay. Nor could Morse conceal his revulsion in Cherubim and Seraphim when Lewis, standing beside him in a baseball cap, smiled down happily at a rave party below them and jigged from foot to foot like Nelson Mandela performing the African shuffle.

Most surprising of all was the occasion when Morse and Superintendent Strange were seated together drinking Guinness in a pub, with the jukebox blasting out a medley of traditional Irish songs; and when Morse went over to the barman and asked if he would turn the volume — up a bit!

If I had to choose my top desert-island clip it would be a toss-up between two. First, the last few minutes of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier in The Promised Land , in which Morse is seen walking up the steps of the Sydney Opera House while everyone else is walking down. Does opera ever rise above such glorious heights? Second, the extraordinarily moving In Paradisum from Fauré’s Requiem , including the wonderful words “ et cum Lazaro, quondam paupere, ae-ternam habeas requiem ” (“and with Lazarus, once a poor man, you may have eternal rest”). Morse would have chosen this for his funeral service, as I probably shall for mine.

Finally, talking of desert islands, it may be of interest for readers to know that, as far as my fading memory can recall, John Thaw and I shared three of the same discs: the Schubert, the Fauré and Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs.

And I know perfectly well that my thoughts and the thoughts of so many others in the Albert Hall concert on Thursday will be with my good friends John Thaw and Kevin Whately, who shared such a wonderful partnership in Inspector Morse.

–– The Music of Morse, Royal Albert Hall, Thursday (020-7589 8212). The concert will be broadcast on ITV3 on April 29 at 8pm. Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse novels are all available in Pan paperback

Music and drama

Twilight of the Gods

Planned as the final Morse, this 1993 episode saw an opera singer nearly killed by an assassin’s bullet. Appropriately, Wagner was the soundtrack.

Death of the Self

In Verona, Morse gets close to Frances Barber’s opera diva — and hears her mime (badly) as a real soprano soars through Signora, ascolta.

Masonic Mysteries

Stabbings at the amateur dramatic society’s production of The Magic Flute, and thankfully plenty of musical extracts to go with it.

Dead on Time

Did a terminally ill Oxford don kill himself, and should Morse have investigated? Schubert’s late, sublime String Quintet forms the eloquent backdrop.

Quintet in C Major, D. 956, Allegro ma non troppo
Live at the Zagreb International Chamber Music Festival 2008
Susanna Yoko Henkel - violin
Stefan Milenkovich - violin
Guy Ben-Ziony - viola
Giovanni Sollima - cello
Monika Leskovar - cello

NIkons, Silettes & Declined Japadogs
Sunday, January 09, 2011

Agfa Silette
My father was an English gentleman even though he had been born in Buenos Aires in the beginning of the 20th century. He was an Englishman who never ever gave me any impression about being a racist. He spoke Argentine Spanish perfectly. Most of his friends were non-English Argentines. I met several of his friends. One was Manrique, the police officer in civies who always had a bulge under his left armpit. There was Julio Cortázar the writer and then there were several, very dark turbaned gentlemen who were his friends at the new Indian Embassy where my father did translation work.

My father was married to my mother who was a Filipino and he tolerated my domineering Spanish grandmother. He got along with all of them.

My first indication of the existence of racism happened when one of my friends visited me. He was a school mate from the American Grammar School I went to. I invited my friend Mario, who lived across the street and Miguelito who lived around the corner. My friend from school on the next day asked me, “Is Mario Jewish and Miguelito Italian?” I answered that Mario was German but that I had no clue what he meant by Jewish. I further informed him that Miguelito was not Italian since my mother had told me that he and his family were Calabrian.

My Pentacon-F

My first indication that something was amiss with nationalities was one day around 1948 ( I was 6). My mother was combing my hair and told me that with the longish hair that was covering one of my eyes I looked like Hitler. “Who is Hitler?” I asked her. “He was a terrible German,” She replied. I was a bit confused as my friend Mario Hertzberg was a German, too and he didn’t seem like a bad sort.

I asked Mario about Hitler. He was 6, too but he seemed to know. Hitler killed my older brother when we were in Germany and he gave me the name of some place with a German place name where it had happened.

My Grandmother, very much a Spaniard was always telling me that the Jews had killed Christ. She said it in a matter of fact tone of voice that didn’t seem to hide any animosity. And she was always gracious to Mario.

By the time I was 10 I considered myself a superior English boy and I made fun of Argentine made blue jeans and anything else Argentine except the steaks so often enjoyed or the apples I frequently ate in such large quantities that I was relegated to bed by my doctor, Doctor Imperiale (who did house calls). His cure for my ills consisted of soda water, fresh cheese and apple sauce (?). This was to be eaten with Melba toast without any butter.

Nikon Rangefinder

Once we moved in Mexico I became a superior Argentine in a country of dark-skinned Mexicans who did not seem to know how to kick a football properly.

When we moved to Nueva Rosita, Coahuila in Northern Mexico I felt inferior in the presence of Sammy Simpson, a tall American who wore beautiful blue jeans that were finely pressed. He could pass an American football and played a game I never did play well, called baseball. As an Argentine/English boy I felt diminished in his presence.

In 1957 at St. Ed’s in Austin,  I found myself in no-man’s-land. I was blonde and too white to be Mexican or a Latino and I was certainly not from the United States to pass as an American. One of my only friends was John Straney (of similar background, a white boy who spoke perfect Spanish) with whom I shared an interest in German WWII armamentes, airlplanes, tanks and uniforms.

Lauren before the Japadog
In 1958 I went with some students to a school sponsored trip to Washington DC. There I bought my first camera, a German-mad Agfa Silette. By 1958 with Verner von Braun in charge of the American rocket industry Germans were good and their cameras were better. Within the year I realized I could not afford a Leica or the camera I really lusted for, the Contax so I had to settle for a Russian Occupied Zone made camera , the Pentacon-F for which I paid $100. I was king at school, or so I though since I now had a really good German camera. That is until Brother Edwin showed me his Konica. I told him that the Japs imitated German cameras. Brother Edwin gently told me that calling the Japanese Japs was not polite.

I was confused as my Uncle Luís Miranda had been a wealthy chemist in Manila in the late 30s. He was in charge of quality control for San Miguel Beer and created new ice cream flavours, of the San Miguel subsidiary, Magnolia Ice Cream Company. In fact my uncle had helped introduce Coca Cola to the Philippines.

When the Japanese army was on its way to take Manila, My uncle told my aunt Fermina, “I am on my way to the beer plant, I don’t wan the Japs to drink my beer.” He sabotaged the works. I will never know if the Japanese somehow found out as they took over his palatial home as their headquarters for the duration of their occupation.

When I first met Robby, his son in Buenos Aires in 1952 we played toy soldiers in the garden. Robby told me how cruel and terrible the Japs had been. When I would force Robby to be the enemy he always relented as long as he was German. He told me that the Germans were good and fair soldiers and that their prisoner-war-camps were not at all like those of the Japanese. I was a bit confused and I told him about Mario and his brother. Robby told me it was probably not true at all.

About to try the Japadog

In 1960 my Uncle Tony came to visit us in our home in Mexico City and he showed me a new acquisition which he had bough in Germany (his second wife was German). It was a beautiful camera that was almost a spitting image of the Contax I had always wanted. It was a rangefinder camera, beautifully made, and it had a strange name on it. It was a Nikon. I quizzed my uncle who told me that the Japanese were no longer imitating German cameras but were making stuff on their own.

I think it was then that I began to think for myself and decided that quality did not necessarily have anything to do with country of origin. By then I was telling all my friends that Mexican beef was terrible in comparison with Argentine meat and the same applied to fruit, vegetables and dairy products.

The above long introduction is but and explanation on my delight at being able to go to a restaurant on Robson and be able to ask, without guilt, “I want two Japadogs.” It was this Saturday that Rosemary, Lauren and I decided to try them at their recently opened restaurant (previously they have been delighting long queues of customers on a hot dog stand on Smythe and Burrard.

Lauren declines

We ordered the Terimayo which had narrow slivers of shredded sea weed. Lauren flatly refused to even take a bite. I like mine and Rosemary ate half of Lauren’s. Later when we picked up Rebecca she hungrily at what was left and lambasted her sister for not being adventurous.

My guess is that the ever courteous Japanese now allow us to use the word Jap as long as it is followed by adog. I do remember those Blue Hawk comic books (los Halcones Negros in Spanish) of my youth which had language like, “Those dirty German dogs!” and “Filthy Commie reds.”

The world has changed. But not all that much if you read the papers these days.


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Rosemary's Garden - A Landscape by a Portrait Pho...

De Cuerpo y Alma Presente

Gravitating to a Smiling Dead Horde

1/15/06 - 1/22/06

1/22/06 - 1/29/06

1/29/06 - 2/5/06

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2/12/06 - 2/19/06

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12/29/13 - 1/5/14

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1/28/18 - 2/4/18

2/4/18 - 2/11/18

2/11/18 - 2/18/18

2/18/18 - 2/25/18

2/25/18 - 3/4/18

3/4/18 - 3/11/18

3/11/18 - 3/18/18

3/18/18 - 3/25/18

3/25/18 - 4/1/18

4/1/18 - 4/8/18

4/8/18 - 4/15/18

4/15/18 - 4/22/18

4/22/18 - 4/29/18

4/29/18 - 5/6/18

5/6/18 - 5/13/18

5/13/18 - 5/20/18

5/20/18 - 5/27/18

5/27/18 - 6/3/18

6/3/18 - 6/10/18

6/10/18 - 6/17/18

6/17/18 - 6/24/18

6/24/18 - 7/1/18

7/1/18 - 7/8/18

7/8/18 - 7/15/18

7/15/18 - 7/22/18

7/22/18 - 7/29/18

7/29/18 - 8/5/18

8/5/18 - 8/12/18

8/12/18 - 8/19/18

8/19/18 - 8/26/18

8/26/18 - 9/2/18

9/2/18 - 9/9/18

9/9/18 - 9/16/18

9/16/18 - 9/23/18

9/23/18 - 9/30/18

9/30/18 - 10/7/18

10/7/18 - 10/14/18

10/14/18 - 10/21/18

10/21/18 - 10/28/18

10/28/18 - 11/4/18

11/4/18 - 11/11/18

11/11/18 - 11/18/18

11/18/18 - 11/25/18

11/25/18 - 12/2/18

12/2/18 - 12/9/18

12/9/18 - 12/16/18

12/16/18 - 12/23/18

12/23/18 - 12/30/18

12/30/18 - 1/6/19

1/6/19 - 1/13/19

1/13/19 - 1/20/19

1/20/19 - 1/27/19

1/27/19 - 2/3/19

2/3/19 - 2/10/19

2/10/19 - 2/17/19

2/17/19 - 2/24/19

3/3/19 - 3/10/19

3/10/19 - 3/17/19

3/17/19 - 3/24/19

3/24/19 - 3/31/19

3/31/19 - 4/7/19

4/7/19 - 4/14/19

4/14/19 - 4/21/19

4/21/19 - 4/28/19

4/28/19 - 5/5/19

5/5/19 - 5/12/19

5/12/19 - 5/19/19

5/19/19 - 5/26/19

5/26/19 - 6/2/19

6/2/19 - 6/9/19

6/9/19 - 6/16/19

6/16/19 - 6/23/19

6/23/19 - 6/30/19

6/30/19 - 7/7/19

7/7/19 - 7/14/19

7/14/19 - 7/21/19

7/21/19 - 7/28/19

7/28/19 - 8/4/19

8/4/19 - 8/11/19

8/11/19 - 8/18/19

8/18/19 - 8/25/19

8/25/19 - 9/1/19

9/1/19 - 9/8/19

9/8/19 - 9/15/19

9/15/19 - 9/22/19

9/22/19 - 9/29/19

9/29/19 - 10/6/19

10/6/19 - 10/13/19

10/13/19 - 10/20/19

10/20/19 - 10/27/19

10/27/19 - 11/3/19

11/3/19 - 11/10/19

11/10/19 - 11/17/19

11/17/19 - 11/24/19

11/24/19 - 12/1/19

12/1/19 - 12/8/19

12/8/19 - 12/15/19

12/15/19 - 12/22/19

12/22/19 - 12/29/19

12/29/19 - 1/5/20

1/5/20 - 1/12/20

1/12/20 - 1/19/20

1/19/20 - 1/26/20

1/26/20 - 2/2/20

2/2/20 - 2/9/20

2/9/20 - 2/16/20

2/16/20 - 2/23/20

2/23/20 - 3/1/20

3/1/20 - 3/8/20

3/8/20 - 3/15/20

3/15/20 - 3/22/20

3/22/20 - 3/29/20

3/29/20 - 4/5/20

4/5/20 - 4/12/20

4/12/20 - 4/19/20

4/19/20 - 4/26/20

4/26/20 - 5/3/20

5/3/20 - 5/10/20

5/10/20 - 5/17/20

5/17/20 - 5/24/20

5/24/20 - 5/31/20

5/31/20 - 6/7/20

6/7/20 - 6/14/20

6/14/20 - 6/21/20

6/21/20 - 6/28/20

6/28/20 - 7/5/20

7/12/20 - 7/19/20

7/19/20 - 7/26/20

7/26/20 - 8/2/20

8/2/20 - 8/9/20

8/9/20 - 8/16/20

8/16/20 - 8/23/20

8/23/20 - 8/30/20

8/30/20 - 9/6/20

9/6/20 - 9/13/20

9/13/20 - 9/20/20

9/20/20 - 9/27/20

9/27/20 - 10/4/20

10/4/20 - 10/11/20

10/11/20 - 10/18/20

10/18/20 - 10/25/20

10/25/20 - 11/1/20

11/1/20 - 11/8/20

11/8/20 - 11/15/20

11/15/20 - 11/22/20

11/22/20 - 11/29/20

11/29/20 - 12/6/20

12/6/20 - 12/13/20

12/13/20 - 12/20/20

12/20/20 - 12/27/20

12/27/20 - 1/3/21

1/3/21 - 1/10/21

1/17/21 - 1/24/21

1/24/21 - 1/31/21

2/7/21 - 2/14/21

2/14/21 - 2/21/21

2/21/21 - 2/28/21

2/28/21 - 3/7/21

3/7/21 - 3/14/21

3/14/21 - 3/21/21

3/21/21 - 3/28/21

3/28/21 - 4/4/21

4/4/21 - 4/11/21

4/11/21 - 4/18/21

4/18/21 - 4/25/21

4/25/21 - 5/2/21

5/2/21 - 5/9/21

5/9/21 - 5/16/21

5/16/21 - 5/23/21

5/30/21 - 6/6/21

6/6/21 - 6/13/21

6/13/21 - 6/20/21

6/20/21 - 6/27/21

6/27/21 - 7/4/21

7/4/21 - 7/11/21

7/11/21 - 7/18/21

7/18/21 - 7/25/21

7/25/21 - 8/1/21

8/1/21 - 8/8/21

8/8/21 - 8/15/21

8/15/21 - 8/22/21

8/22/21 - 8/29/21

8/29/21 - 9/5/21

9/5/21 - 9/12/21

9/12/21 - 9/19/21

9/19/21 - 9/26/21

9/26/21 - 10/3/21

10/3/21 - 10/10/21

10/10/21 - 10/17/21

10/17/21 - 10/24/21

10/24/21 - 10/31/21

10/31/21 - 11/7/21

11/7/21 - 11/14/21

11/14/21 - 11/21/21

11/21/21 - 11/28/21

11/28/21 - 12/5/21

12/5/21 - 12/12/21

12/12/21 - 12/19/21

12/19/21 - 12/26/21

12/26/21 - 1/2/22

1/2/22 - 1/9/22

1/9/22 - 1/16/22

1/16/22 - 1/23/22

1/23/22 - 1/30/22

1/30/22 - 2/6/22

2/6/22 - 2/13/22

2/13/22 - 2/20/22

2/20/22 - 2/27/22

2/27/22 - 3/6/22

3/6/22 - 3/13/22

3/13/22 - 3/20/22

3/20/22 - 3/27/22

3/27/22 - 4/3/22

4/3/22 - 4/10/22

4/10/22 - 4/17/22

4/17/22 - 4/24/22

4/24/22 - 5/1/22

5/1/22 - 5/8/22

5/8/22 - 5/15/22

5/15/22 - 5/22/22

5/22/22 - 5/29/22

5/29/22 - 6/5/22

6/26/22 - 7/3/22

7/3/22 - 7/10/22

7/10/22 - 7/17/22

7/17/22 - 7/24/22

7/24/22 - 7/31/22

7/31/22 - 8/7/22

8/7/22 - 8/14/22

8/14/22 - 8/21/22

8/21/22 - 8/28/22

8/28/22 - 9/4/22

9/4/22 - 9/11/22

9/11/22 - 9/18/22

9/18/22 - 9/25/22

9/25/22 - 10/2/22

10/2/22 - 10/9/22

10/9/22 - 10/16/22

10/16/22 - 10/23/22

10/23/22 - 10/30/22

10/30/22 - 11/6/22

11/6/22 - 11/13/22

11/13/22 - 11/20/22

11/20/22 - 11/27/22

11/27/22 - 12/4/22

12/4/22 - 12/11/22

12/18/22 - 12/25/22

12/25/22 - 1/1/23

1/1/23 - 1/8/23

1/15/23 - 1/22/23

1/22/23 - 1/29/23

1/29/23 - 2/5/23

2/5/23 - 2/12/23

2/12/23 - 2/19/23

2/19/23 - 2/26/23

2/26/23 - 3/5/23

3/5/23 - 3/12/23

3/12/23 - 3/19/23

3/19/23 - 3/26/23

3/26/23 - 4/2/23