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




 

Cratylus, El Golem & Feral Basu
Saturday, March 19, 2011


Before the advent of the internet, writers, poets and novelists inhabited a remote world in which the only access one had to them might be a reading or a writer’s festival. Or perhaps you might read a good interview in a decent newspaper. With the proliferation of web sites and the mass publishing of so many  novels, writers have become pragmatic on how they can promote their books. Publishing-house publicists are endangered as are the media they used to link to. So writers have personal web pages and blogs, and some of them as my new discovered writer Toby Ball are even on Twitter.


Just a few days ago I sent Mr. Ball an email to his web page telling him how I had enjoyed his book and asking him to contribute to my blog as a guest blogger. I asked him to explain how he had thought f the names. His response was quick and I posted his pleasant (and most unusual) explanation in yesterday’s blog. The second paragraph on how he came up with the name Feral Basu rang a big bell in my head. I went immediately to my copy of Jorge Luís Borges, Obra Poética – 1923/1977 and searched for a poem called El Golem.

This poem, which alas I have not found in English either on the web on in my Vancouver Public Library, is very much about what Ball writes in his explanation of naming one of his villains Feral Basu. I will translate that first, and most important paragraph:


If (as that Greek in Cratylus affirms)
The name of a thing is the archetype,
Then in the letters of the word rose you will find the rose
And the whole Nile, in the word Nile.


The Greek in question is Cratylus, a protagonist philosopher in Plato’s Dialogue of that name who is having a standing argument with another philosopher, Hermogenes. Socrates is asked to intervene. Cratylus affirms (a pre-Socratic belief) that words contain certain sounds that express the essence of the thing named. Cratylus says, “He who knows the names will also know the things.” There are letters that are identified with liquid things or with soft things. Socrates rejects that, and he also rejects Hermogenes’ affirmation that things are linked to names by practice and custom and that the names of things can be changed without changing their essence. Socrates rejects both theories as to how language might reveal truth.

In that beautiful first paragraph (in Spanish, as I am no poetic translator) of El Golem, Borges says pretty well the same thing that Ball writes in describing how he chose the name Feral Basu:

A few others had different origins. Feral Basu, for instance, started as Feral Singh. The idea was to have a character with a nickname that indicates the fear he invokes in his acquaintances but also conveys a mistaken sense of savagery. Feral is very dignified despite his capacity for violence. I changed his last name from Singh to Basu. Both are Indian last names, but Basu seemed like it would be harder to definitively place (the mayor can’t figure out his ethnic background).

Borges reads El Golem

Borges explains whence came his El Golem



Friday, March 18, 2011

Feral Basu
Guest Blog
Toby Ball, Author
The Vaults


Toby Ball by Lisa Nugent
I’m often asked about the names that I use in The Vaults (and will use in my next book, Scorch City, due in August). I saw picking names for the characters as part of the effort to create the city where The Vaults is set – a dystopian, multi-ethnic, 1930s American city where corruption is rampant. I wanted the names to convey a variety of European ethnicities. Where do they come from? The quick answer is that if you follow international soccer, most of the last names will be familiar to you: Frings, Henry, Bernal, Puskis (changed from Puskus), Van Vossen, Altabelli, Pesotto, etc. National team rosters are a great resource for last names, some so good that they seemed too good to use – Morpheo, for instance.


A few others had different origins. Feral Basu, for instance, started as Feral Singh. The idea was to have a character with a nickname that indicates the fear he invokes in his acquaintances but also conveys a mistaken sense of savagery. Feral is very dignified despite his capacity for violence. I changed his last name from Singh to Basu. Both are Indian last names, but Basu seemed like it would be harder to definitively place (the mayor can’t figure out his ethnic background).



The Vaults - Toby Ball - A Borgesian Novel
Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Vancouver Public Library by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Like many readers I try not to judge books by their covers and I read books from authors I am familiar with or I read such publications as the NY Times Book Review or the daily NY Times book reviews to see what’s new and what I might want to read. Because I read in Spanish, too, I have to use other methods to find my books. I frequently explore the web site of the Spanish publishing firm Alfaguara to see what’s out. Or in some cases when the Times reviews books that have been translated from Spanish I go out and look for the original.

My reading habits have changed a tad since January 2010 when I realized that some day soon my wife and I will have to leave our present big house and move to something much smaller. What will I do with my 4000 plus books? I decided in January 2010 not to buy any more books no matter how good they might be.



This has not been too tough a decision as our Vancouver Public Library has to be one of the best in the world. Not only do they carry many of the books I want to read in English but their Spanish section is quite spiffy, too. In fact it was at our VPL Main Branch that I discovered a treasure trove of one of my favourite writers in any language, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. He is a Barcelona-born writer who writes in Spanish and his Quinteto Buenos Aires is one of those novels (in my humble opinion one of the best that describes the soul and the milieu of Buenos Aires and the Argentine) that is different from the norm.

No matter how good some novels are they can be linear in a conventional way. There are few authors who manage to write from a point of view that almost feels alien. These authors, José Saramago and Jerome Charyn, are two examples of what I am trying to explain. And they are exciting to discover and read. When I first heard Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcava in an East German recording his music sounded alien. I sounded as if Rubalcava had never ever heard recordings of any kind in Cuban isolation. I was blown away by a pianist who was as out there as Thelonius Monk and Richard Twardzik had been. I like to find authors with similar independent qualities.


Toby Ball by Lisa Nugent

My Vancouver Public Library has enriched my reading not only because I have been able to find such books as Jerome Charyn’s The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson or after a very long wait( I ordered it on line but there were many readers ahead of me) John Le Carré’s Our Kind of Traitor or given me the opportunity to read the classics such as Charles Dickens, but also because I have found books randomly.

Finding books randomly is one of the sheer delights of reading. It is here that you must be careful not to judge a book by its cover or (very important sometimes) by the author photo.

Consider that in 1972 I read and enjoyed Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. This novel was spooky and sensual. I had read the review in the NY Times which gave the novel a very good review and I was most impressed (shame on me!) by the portrait of Miss Tartt who looked like a sophisticated tart if we were to follow the joke that perhaps others had followed.

Last week in the new novels section of the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library I spotted The Vaults by one Toby Ball. I looked at the author photo (no comparison with Donna Tartt’s!) and smiled and almost returned the book. Then I read the short bio which says:

Toby Ball works at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. He lives with his wife and two children [my! he looks young!] in Durham, New Hampshire.




I then read one of the rave blurbs in the back by Michael Harvey, author of The Third Rail (My grandmother would have made the comment in Spanish that Michael Harvey is well-known in his home, at least). The blurb was:


“If George Orwell and Dashiell Hammett had ever decided to collaborate on a book, they might have come up with something like The Vaults. A wonderful debut.”

I read the jacket précis and then (something I always do) I read the first page which reads:

Chapter One

The Vaults took up nearly half a city block. Files arranged in shelves arranged in rows; files from every case handled in the City for nearly the past century; files arranged, cross-referenced and indexed. So complicated and arcane was the system that at any given time only one living person understood it. At this time, that person was Arthur Puskis, Archivist. He was the fourth Archivist, inheriting the position from Gilad Abramowitz who had gone mad in his final years and died soon after taking his leave of the Vaults. Abramowitz had mentored Puskis for the better part of ten years, explaining, as best as his addled mind allowed, the logic behind the system. Even so, it had taken Puskis most of the following decade to truly understand. He was now in his twenty-seventh year in the Vaults.



Donna Tartt (no credit in book)
All the above conspired to persuade me to take The Vaults home. I can report that this is one of those books that almost seems alien in its freshness of approach. I would disagree with Michael Harvey about the Orwell/Hammett connection. I found that indeed there is some Hammett particularly since the setting of The Vaults is a strange unnamed city (could be New York or Chicago) around 1930. The City is ruled by a larger than life Irish heritage mayor who deals with gangster wars in a most unusual way. But the approach that Ball takes to describing what Puskis does in the vaults and how information is gathered is pure Jorge Luís Borges. Consider a strange filing machine called a Retrievorator and a killer called Feral Basu who may snip a female little finger for a very gentle reason..

I read The Vaults slowly so that I could savour every page. I can happily report that it is a novel very well worth reading. And again I urge you not to judge a book by its cover and or by its author photo! And yes the novel does feature a horrific crime against children, almost Dickensian in theme.



Buisit To Gambling
Wednesday, March 16, 2011



Some years ago I asked my nephew Patricio (Pato) Waterhouse (he has subsequently added Hayward to his surname) to take me to visit his grandmother in Buenos Aires. She had been married to my father before he married my mother. I wanted to get a sense of my father as I had never asked him any important questions when he was alive.

Pato’s grandmother was gracious and offered me delicious home made empanadas salteñas from her homeland province of Salta in North Western Argentina. She then told me a curious story.

“George would disappear on weekends and would not give me any explanations. I suspected he had a mistress somewhere so I hired a private detective. The detective reported back and told me that he had good news. ‘Your husband does not have a mistress. He goes to a house in the district of el Tigre (the Paraná River delta section of Buenos Aires) and he plays cards with some friends.’”

My father, I also suspect was a burrero. This is an Argentine term sort of meaning “one who follows burros” and it is used to describe those who bet on horses.

In fact my father seemed to have many vices besides gambling. He smoked and he drank lots. And for reasons I will never know he had friends who were plainclothes policeman who had shoulder holsters. I was too young to figure out that he would resemble the Humphrey Bogart of early films who would go into any bar and the barkeeper would nod in his direction (and without having to say, “Your usual.”) would plunk the drink in front of him.

While as a young man I adopted the custom of smoking a pipe I never did smoke cigarettes nor have I ever indulged in drinking. To this day I take pain killers only in the last resort as I am afraid of addiction to anything.

When I look back at my career in gambling I realize I only did it once at a bingo session in my school at St. Ed’s in Austin, Texas. I won a whistling kettle which I dully presented, most proudly, to my mother. I have never purchased a lottery ticket. My mother used to say to me, "If we ever make money it will have to be from the sweat of our brow."

From my grandmother I heard horror stories of Filipino men who would arrive home after a day at the office to find no meal but lots of activity in the game room. He would hear the unmistakable shuffle and clicking of mahjong pieces and excited shouts of “Pong,” and “Kong”. My grandmother explained that mahjong was the cause of many a Manila divorce. Mahjong addicted women would gamble away their husband’s salaries. Stakes in mahjong can duplicate and triplicate quite easily if you happen to be your own wind and there are other factors such as a double dice number, that can make you win or lose a small fortune.

My grandmother played excellent mahjong but she never gambled. She played for fun and taught me we well. By the time I was 18 I was a very good player. But there is a barrier in mahjong that is only pierced by the very best of the best. These are the players that can sense what each piece they have is by simple touch without looking. I was never that good!

I remember all shenanigans my grandmother would perform when she was losing. She would get up and go around her chair (I don’t remember if that was clockwise or counterclockwise). She said it could change her luck. She would sometimes silently utter in Tagalog, “Buisit.” And flick her fingers at the competition to wish them bad luck. All this was in good fun and I miss those mahjong games as they are almost as interesting as bridge, which is another game I played well but lost interest before I came to Vancouver.

The current controversy about enlarging the Edgewater Casino (can you imagine that their promotional logo includes this, “Where winners play!”) is a controversy that at my age when I worry about the education of my granddaughters is something that does not seem to be important enough. I feel I am retreating from being concerned about an increasing urban sprawl or feeling too shocked about the strip mall culture that suddenly, almost instantly, sprang up on Marine Way past Mandeville Gardens going East to New Westminster.

I wonder how much of the casino culture in our city caters to would be mahjong players and how many husbands will get home to find there is no food at the table. But then that is old hat - as husbands now cook their own food. They have been liberated as have their partners. They are all free now to be winners.



And Then There Were None - María de Los Dolores Humphrey
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tony, Dolly, Lolita (behind) and Filomena (my mother)

A couple of days ago I found out that my last link to my mother’s side of my family had died. It was my Aunt Dolly who was my mother’s youngest and only sister. My mother had a brother a couple of years younger than she. With the death of my Aunt Dolly at 92 that whole side of my family is now gone but I have five first cousins. Four(Robin, Dolores, David, Shelley) by my Aunt Dolly (who in the obituary she wrote herself in 2009 does not mention that she was married to Joseph Tow) and one first cousin Jorge Wenceslao who was my Uncle Tony’s son and lives in Buenos Aires. On my father’s side every one of my uncles and aunts is dead as are four first cousins. But I still have four, Inesita, Elizabeth, Willoughby and Dianne. It is sobering to see how it all works and one’s circle of relatives and friends diminishes with time. The worst fact about it is that when I was young I never asked the questions that I should have asked, when, where, how, who? Now that I am curious there is nobody left alive to answer the questions.

If there is one thing that kept my Aunt Dolly and I separated since my mother died in 1972 was the fact that I kept the family albums. Many of the pictures had disappeared when my Uncle Tony would visit us in Buenos Aires he would rifle through the albums and even snip out pictures of himself. To the end I kept the family album. To my aunt Dolly, the photographs probably meant more to her than to me. But these pictures were vivid for me, as both my grandmother Lolita (my Aunt Dolly’s mother) and my mother told me stories about them. Two of the photos here are from that album. The fourth one is from my Aunt Dolly’s book of poetry (she published several) Such as These, 1955. In many ways I regret having kept the album but there is nothing I can do about it now. Three months ago my Aunt Dolly was quite sick and I decided to call her up. She had not spoken to me for years but she was gracious, cordial and ultimately we parted ways friends. Of that I am glad. For me, in spite of the fact that my mother had the most beautiful legs in the world, my Aunt Dolly was the Audrey Hepburn of the family.

Aunt Dolly speaks of being a posthumous baby. My mother often told me of this and in fact before my grandfather died he took my mother to look at doll houses. A few weeks later he was dead. Then some days after it was my mother’s birthday and the doll house arrived with a note from her father wishing her a happy birthday. My mother started telling everybody that her father was not dead and that the proof of it was the doll house.

Shortly after my Aunt Dolly was born my grandmother, now a  widow decided to immigrate to the United States from Manila. The picture above is their passport photograph. They bought passage on a Japanese ship and disembarked in Vancouver in the early 20s. They passed through the CP Train Station (I like to go there as I can almost sense the four ghosts walking to the to the train that took them to Montreal and from there to New York. In New York my grandmother worked for (I believe) a pharmaceutical firm called Sydney Ross and she rented a little house in the Brooklyn. Twice a month she gave my mother (who was 11) her pay check. My mother bought the food, paid the rent and saw to the taking care of her brother and sister.


Tony, Filomena and Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena

After a few years they returned to Manila and sometime in 1938 when my grandmother felt the winds of war they all moved to Buenos Aires. Below ismy aunt's obituary.


DOLORES HUMPHREY January 8, 1919 – March 12, 2011


MARIA DE LOS DOLORES HUMPHREY (nee de Iruretagoyena) died the afternoon of Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 1:30. She was 92 years old. A posthumous child whose father died at age 30, she often wondered that she had been chosen to live as long as she did.

Dolores was widow of “world renowned explorationist” the late Dr. William E. Humphrey. For many years prior to her demise Dolores was active in the Houston Geological Auxiliary and Geo-Wives as well as in a bilingual organization, El Club Continental. She was involved in drama and appeared in several plays sponsored by various thespian groups and also by Geo-Wives. She held play-readings (in both languages) in her home and helped organize these readings in the homes of others. Above all, Dolores was a poet who had written verse from the age of seven years and had published three books of poems – two of them bilingual. She maintained that her poetic gift was a legacy from the father she never knew, Don Tirso de Iruretagoyena, who was made a member of the Royal Academy of Letters of Spain precisely because of his poetry. Her mother, Dolores Reyes vda. de Iruretagoyena, an operatic soprano, was a member of the Philippine Embassy in Mexico City prior to her death.

Loyal to her native Philippines and proud of her Spanish roots, Dolores was fiercely attached to and defensive of her adoptive country, the United States of America. She completed her early schooling at the Assumption Convent in Manila and it was at the University of Santo Tomas (“Older than Harvard!” she always explained) that she pursued her studies in Associate in Arts and in Bachelor of Literature in Journalism. She graduated Valedictorian in her A.A. career and Summa Cum Laude in her Journalism discipline. Her entire family firmly believed in the exhortation of the Assumption nuns: “Education, Education, Education.”


Dolly, 1955

Dolores’ life included much travel and re-settlement and took her to Buenos Aires – where she worked on English-language newspapers during five years…New York City, Havana, Dallas, Caracas, Bogota, Mexico City, Madrid, Connecticut, Chicago… Last stop: Houston. Dolores pursued her difficult quest for U.S. citizenship and finally achieved her goal on April 29, 1988, after years of paperwork.

She was a regular churchgoer, active in Prince of Peace in the Champions Area, later in St. Michael’s and finally at Our Lady of Walsingham on Shadyilla Lane. At all three churches she put her dramatic gifts to good use when assigned to do the readings on Sat. or Sun. scripture.

Dolores is survived by her two sons: Robin Humphrey of Crystal River, FL, and David Humphrey of Pacific Palisades, CA, by three daughters: Dolores Humphrey Ploszay of Austin, Shelley A. Humphrey of Malaga, Spain, and Marta P. Humphrey of Crystal River, FL, by one grandson, Kamal Humphrey of Los Angeles…three granddaughters, Ana Ward of Austin, Marta H. Vasel of Chicago, Shelley A. Humphrey of Tucson, AZ, and three great granddaughters: Viviana Evans, Isabella, Evans and Christina Vasel.

On the very day she became a U.S. citizen, Dolores wrote a poem entitled, New Citizen, which was subsequently read aloud at Oxford by an alumnus geologist, Jim Wood, of Houston, to enthusiastic applause.

Dolores wanted to say a special, loving farewell to her favorite “Marys”: Mary Katherine Stram, Mary Lou Menez, Mae Barclay, Mary Kay Dingler, Mary Geraldine Henderson, Maria Dolores.





A La Diana Cazadora

Que bella eres
Esbelta diosa,
Alzando tu arco
Con gracia airosa.

Te falta Diana,
Tu flecha veloz,
Y ese arco sin cuerda,
Es un arpa sin voz.

No dominas la bestia...
Ya no puedes cazar...
Mas,

Con tu cuerpo divino
Subyugas al hombre,
Y verte...¡es adorar!
Such as These, Dolores de Iruretagoyena de Humphrey

Evening at Home (With Bitterness)



Red Riding Hood's Heaving Chest
Monday, March 14, 2011


In my long life of going to the movies I have felt sick exactly three times. Previous to that third time, last night, the films, per se, had nothing to do with my ill feelings. The first involved seeing all 15 episodes of the 1948 (in 1950) Superman in one sitting with my grandmother who emerged unscathed while I had one of the worst stomach aches of my life. The second occasion was in 1956 when I saw Grace Kelly in her swan song film The Swan. I filled myself, non-stop, from a huge bag of pistachios. I was so sick I avoided pistachios (even pistachio ice cream) until a couple of years ago.

The third get-sick-at-the-movies I can really blame for the questionable review (a somewhat positive one) of Catherine Hardwicke’s (Twilight so I should have been amply forewarned!) Red Riding Hood by the NY Times’ Manohla Dargis. I went to see the film yesterday evening with my granddaughter Rebecca (13) at the multi-roomed Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver, downtown.

I should have known better as it was Dargis who had previously convinced me to rent the 2007 film The Flight of the Red Balloon directed by a (I purposely positioned that deprecating a) Hsiao-hsien Hou. With the film we drove with Rebecca and Lauren to Lillooet where we sat down one evening to see it with our daughter. We thought this was going to be a fine sequel to Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon. Its supposed homage/sequel featured that delicious croissant that is Juliette Binoche. Even the French pastry fell as flat as a soufflé in a suddenly cold oven. Rebecca said it all very well, “This film was as exciting as watching a wall of red paint dry.”


Rebecca and Lauren see too many of the animated films “animated” by the voices of famous film actors and actresses of our day. I feel that these films (as good as the animation can be) falls short of giving my young girls a chance to look at facial expressions of real people and to see how voice gels with those facial gestures. I have decided to try to make methodical and “intelligent” choices in the films I see with the two girls. I am aware that there are some films where I can take the 13 year-old but not Lauren the 8-year-old.

Little Red Riding Hood offered promise. Dargis wrote that Amanda Seyfried (she plays Red Riding Hood)

 “makes a delectable treat [for the wolf I presumed, when I read that] whether heaving her bosom of boogieing in a bacchanal that’s more Burning Man than Bruegel."

 When I read that I should have had bright warning lights with a built-in buzzer telling me to avoid the film at all costs. To begin with any 13-year old would not read a NY Times film review and even if she did she would not understand that comparison between Burning Man and Bruegel.

We arrived at the huge complex early. There was a long line to buy tickets. On the wall to our left there was a long line of bank machines that resembled a row of slot machines. Strangely, on the other wall there were two public phones.

We gave our tickets to a young girl in a uniform resembling a MacDonald’s uniform but in navy blue. We went up the mechanical stairs which led to a huge floor with side windows and with an even larger counter where pop-corn soft drinks (and bubble tea, too) and candy is served. On another wall with several entries to the multiple “salons” there is Burger King. On a third floor there are more salons. The prevailing smell is fake buttered pop-corn, sugar and french fries.



We sat quite close (I will never do this again) as I though we would enjoy being able t stretch our feet out as it is the entry aisle. I chose not to go in until the allotted show time of 4PM as if you are in the room before you are bombarded by short segments into new technology gadgets, or interviews with extremely ugly young men who are musicians in bands that still resemble Seattle Grunge. All of these short segments end with the mantra, “Enjoy the show.” (Yea, and live and prosper with forked fingers of the right hand the way Angelique Pettyjohn did in the Star Trek episode The Gamesters of Triskelion.)



We sat down and I watched that most beautiful and most competent Vancouver actress, Lindsey Angell enter with her equally looking hunk partner enter and sit somewhere (smart!) in the back. They had been behind us at the ticket line and I had ever so slightly smiled in her direction as I photographed her in 2009.

We were then exposed to four or five trailers that featured extremely loud music. Two of them had a young peroxide blonde with false eylashes blast her way in and out of trouble. In one case it was out of the insane asylum she had been incarcerated. Another trailer featured a more mature peroxide blonde (with false eyelashes) who vied for the attention of two young men (they looked like they were more into each other) with a mousy brunette. Guess who gets the blonde in a parallel universe?

Between trailers there was an annoying Maybelline Fit Me™ ( I am not sure if that TM is part of the logo) add that featured a non-mousy brunette with false eyelashes and perfect skin (Fit Me™ is a foundation product) uttering in a most sexy manner (or was it the narrator?) “Fit me, fit me!” Maybelline is going to have to hire the long departed (perhaps they can channel him) Victor Borge to figure out a way of inserting TM into the sound.

I am sure that hundreds of thousands of girls, Rebecca’s age, after seeing this ad, will go home to starve for weeks and figure out how Clearasil can word in tandem with Fit Me™. Then with a beckoning finger they will gesture in front of a mirror and say, “Fit me.”

The film finally began and within 10 minutes I watched Lindsey Angell make a quick exit. She assured me (in a pleasant email) that her partner also made that exit. I wasn’t sure if they might have had a spat or only Angell found 10 minutes of Red Riding Hood the limit in her threshold of intolerance.

Rebecca had purchased for me a bag containing little Rolos and a large root beer. My mother always thought I loved root beer. She told my Rosemary that I loved root beer and my daughter must have told Rebecca that I love root beer. In fact I don’t and I am old enough to remember that root beer tastes like Kolynos toothpaste. Rebecca was smarter and she slurped her bubble tea while I ate every one of those overly sweet concoctions. A few minutes past Angell’s threshold I was dizzy and my head felt as if it was going to explode. I had a pain behind my eyes telling me a migraine was on its way.

I have seen bad films, so-so films, terrible films, lousy films, campy films, films so bad that they are good. I have seen serious films so bad that I laughed through them. But Red Riding Hood is in a different league that I cannot pin down.



My friend Rick Staehling told me (he has not seen the film) that the film was geared for my granddaughter and not for me. My friend John Lekich an active writer/reviewer of BOTB films (bottom of the barrel films) for the Georgia Straight (he has not seen the film) that most of the films he reviews are much worse. He says he will go home and watch (for relief) a Cary Grant B-movie and that it will shine in comparison.

It is in a different league in that I seriously question how this kind of film will distort, twist, deaden, and modify the mind of my granddaughter so that when she grows up she will not know the difference between the good and the bad.

The acting is atrocious. The dialogue is banal. The leading actress, Amanda Seyfried parades her beautiful (but in this film droopy) eyes and her not so droopy chest that heaves and heaves in that lay (almost) in the hay. Shiloh Fernandez induces the chest heavings. It is my belief that the director might have given us a few far more subtle indications on who the terrible wolf really was by giving both Fernandez and Seyfried’s father played by Billy Burke, eyebrows that met in the middle. All indications pointed in the direction of grandma, played by the Yankee sounding Brit, Julie Christy who obviously stays away from Maybelline products.

The only laughable part of this film is the wolf itself. It is no improvement over the monsters that graced that 1974 (awful) fantasy film, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad directed by Gordon Hessler. The animal/monsters (using stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen) were no less realistic and just as laughable as the big bad wolf of Red Riding Hood. John Phillip Law plays Sinbad (he was better and so was Jane Fonda in Barbarella) but the movie is worth suffering through just to gaze on Brit-born Caroline Munro (her chest heaves, too) in a skimpy outfit that would not have passed muster (and perhaps induced the nuns to cane her) in the Catholic convent school she was discovered in.

By the time I arrived home with Rebecca I was a mess of confusion trying to figure out who has set the “rules” for the way films are now made. After dinner, Rebecca, Lauren, Rosemary and I slipped a Vancouver Public Library film DVD David Copperfield directed by Simon Curtis and which featured a very young and glassless Daniel Radcliffe as the young David Copperfield. Bob Hoskins is excellent as Micawber (and does not have a large red nose). Maggie Smith melted my heart as Betsy Trotwood (who will not tolerate asses on her lawn) and Welsh actress Joanna Page (as David Copperfield's wife Dora Spenlow) made me forget heaving breasts with her beautifully long and white neck.

We stayed up until late and when I took my granddaughters home, I wondered (I didn’t dare ask) if Rebecca had noticed any difference in our movie faire of the day. But she did say, “These British actors really have acting down pat.”

Caperucita Roja



Alex’s Malibu Finds An Old Friend.
Sunday, March 13, 2011

Alex’s Malibu Finds An Old Friend.
A Guest Blog  by John Lekich


Gavin Walker & friends at the Java Jazz Café and Bistro



Alex is negotiating a tricky turn in his Chevy Malibu while a classical piece plays on the radio. Its dark out and the virtually sign-less road seems like an endless, black vein with no heart in sight. “You have no idea how much I love this car,” he says. It’s only been a short while but I’m becoming rather fond if it as well. It’s a long ride from Vancouver to New Westminster and the Malibu is threading its way past massive transport trucks with enviable grace.

We are on a quest of sorts. Our old friend Gavin Walker has a regular Wednesday night gig playing at New West’s Java Jazz Café and Bistro. Both of us have known Gavin since the days he used to wear vividly striped shirts and smoked Kools. Many years ago, Alex and I used to listen to him play sax at a legendary club in Gastown called The Classical Joint. The Joint was famous for its “dark” coffees and the kind of live music that you have to actively search for these days. In addition to being an inspired musician, Walker has always been a walking encyclopaedia of jazz history. In between playing original compositions like Up In Gavin’s Flat – one of my all-time favourites – he can keep you entertained with fascinating anecdotes on just about any jazz great you’d care to name.

The long drive to the club gives me plenty of time to reflect on the benefits of live music. For the past few years, I’ve become a kind of jazz isolationist. Deep into my fifties, I’m more or less content to listen to the stereo version of Brubeck or Coltrane in front of a roaring fire. It’s a great comfort but there’s always an element missing. The collaborative excitement of something new happening right in front of you. The kind of magic that floats through the air, tempting you with the possibility that one moment can be entirely different from the next.

We get to the club before the music starts. Alex and I order hamburgers, which are surprisingly good. The bun is fresh and lightly toasted. My beer is ice cold. I’m already content enough to be here. But, once the music starts, I begin flirting with a kind of long lost bliss. The group consists of leader Gerry Palken on piano, Cameron Hood on bass, Chip Hart on drums and Gavin on sax. They kick things off with the jazz standard There Is No Greater Love, building it into something that’s sweet enough to stop any thought of conversation. After a while, they’re joined by the club’s co-owner, Salve Dayao. A sultry vocalist who happily trades jokes with Alex in Spanish between songs.

The set features Gershwin, Rogers and Hart and Dayao’s joyful rendition of Cahn and Styne’s The Things We Did Last Summer. She smiles in our direction and I can’t help thinking how much everyone here loves what they do. It translates into a living, breathing feeling that’s capped off with a nostalgic rendition of Walker’s own Up In Gavin’s Flat. “This is for you, John,” he says.

Gavin Walker at the Classical Joint circa 1979


By the time we leave, I feel like the past and the present have come together in a way that only live music can accomplish. It’s as if the people making music and the people listening to it have each brought something personal to the table. Something that makes the experience want to linger like the best kind of song. On the long drive home, Alex says: “I think we did something good.” I know exactly what he means.

More Gavin Walker



     

Previous Posts
Abraham Darby - Three Men & an Over the Top Rose

Doctor Pat McGeer - The Basketball Player

The State of Being Alone

Red

Grace & Elegance

I hoed and trenched and weeded

Performances That Have Melted Into Thin Air

Love Is Doing - Rosemary Does

Resistentialism & Free Will

La Belle Sultane



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10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17

1/29/17 - 2/5/17

2/5/17 - 2/12/17

2/12/17 - 2/19/17

2/19/17 - 2/26/17

2/26/17 - 3/5/17

3/5/17 - 3/12/17

3/12/17 - 3/19/17

3/19/17 - 3/26/17

3/26/17 - 4/2/17

4/2/17 - 4/9/17

4/9/17 - 4/16/17

4/16/17 - 4/23/17

4/23/17 - 4/30/17

4/30/17 - 5/7/17

5/7/17 - 5/14/17

5/14/17 - 5/21/17

5/21/17 - 5/28/17

5/28/17 - 6/4/17

6/4/17 - 6/11/17

6/11/17 - 6/18/17

6/18/17 - 6/25/17