facebook, I Still Feel The Same
Saturday, April 16, 2011
It must have been some ten years ago when I photographed author William Gibson for the last time of the many times I photographed him. At the time he was distinctly obsessed with email and several times during the shoot we heard the little bell announcing the arrival of a new message. He would run with a smile on his face and coming back with the same smile.
Last year I ran into Gibson
on Main Street and he told me he had gone with much enthusiasm into Twitter. Those who know, know that his Twitter handle is GreatDismal
. My friend the now Android guru, Tim Bray
also tweets with great frequency and I must confess that I don’t understand half of them. One of them today said, “Twitter is rejecting Twidroyd with some authent-error bumph.” I surmise it must be some sort of app that allows one to tweet with an Android phone.
I have also noticed that facebook “What’s on your minds?” are becoming shorter and shorter. Better still for those who do not have the time, they just click the “I like” thumbs up.
What is most evident about facebook is that few who post add any content that may be self-made. Most point to links in newpspapers, web sites and youtube. “Check this video, it’s hilarious,” many say. Other postings are similar to this, “It’s a beautiful sunny day, Get your butts outside!”
Some 10 years ago I was part of Spanish on line photo “comunidades”. These gave you the impression that you were part of like minded individuals who shared an interest in photography. In a short time I had a feeling that the quality of the posted photographs was in decline while the glowing congratulations for jobs well done multiplied stratospherically. I abandoned the comunidades as I did not feel that they made me feel part of any community. It was the community of my neighbourhood, of my city friends and family which felt right.
Facebook simply compiles the many communities out there and you then feel part of any of them.
Most who have a facebook profile list their birthday. So you will automatically get birthday greetings on the day. Those of us (me) who do not look for that sort of thing and (who never was part of the habit of sending real birthday cards) might feel initially guilty at having forgotten. But then remembering because a facebook application helps you to remember does not give me much of an idea that any of the greetings might come from the heart.
A friend of mine told me, “ You are troll.” And I will admit this. Below you will find the repeated incarnation of a blog I wrote about facebook twice. I have yet to change my mind on it.
I have been reading a lot about facebook these days so I decided to go search through my blog files and see what I had previously written about it. After reading it I have decided to bring it back and let it stand exactly as I wrote it in July 2008
facebook, Flickr & The Loneliness Of Social Networking Sites
I have been reading a lot about facebook these days so I decided to go search through my blog files and see what I had previously written about it. After reading it I have decided to bring it back and let it stand exactly as I wrote it in July 2008
Since March 9, 2008 I have been haunted by an image that was published in the New York Times Book Review. I removed it and put it on my bedside table. The image is a modified Edward Hopper painting. It made me think of a couple of painter friends who seem to be interested in that period of American art. Both my friends Tiko Kerr
have an affinity for Thomas Eakins and the latter also loves Edward Hopper and John Singer Sargent. And I would suspect that the three of us would include American painter Winslow Homer
in our list of American favourites.
A month back Tiko Kerr
and husband Craig Shervey visited Philadelphia and made it a point to go and see the paintings, sculptures and photographs of the city's favourite son, Thomas Eakins. I wonder if they saw his wonderful but disturbing Crucifixion (1880).
The painting with Christ's facial features obliterated by shadow makes it the most lonely ever interpretation of the fact that we all die alone, even God.
Much has been written about Hopper's near obsession with displaying solitary figures in his paintings. His paintings remind me of Neil Wedman
(and some of his own work) who lives a reclusive life. I've seen him every once in a while, smartly dressed, walking on South Granville. He lives nearby. Wedman dresses in the clothing of the 50s and 60s and almost looks like one of Hopper's figures in 3D. I once commented to Wedman, that dressed as he was he could be on the street selling apples and looking very much the part of the apple sellers of the American Depression.
All the above serves as a long winded introduction to my theme for today's blog which has something to do with sharing an opinion with David E. Corbin from Omaha who sent the letter to the New York Times Book Review.
My friend Nina Gouveia
, an ex photographic subject of mine who now lives in Spain insisted I become a member of facebook so that I could see her photographs. I resisted for a long time. I had no interest in becoming a member of a social networking site. In the end I joined under my legal first name in Spanish and my mother's maiden name. Within hours I was getting friend requests from Spanish men who were intrigued by my mother's Basque surname. Of course I did not respond as I have no wish to make friends with people I don't know (as strange as that may sound).
These social networking sites like facebook further disturb me by the fact that I am able to see who Nina Gouveia's friends are. I am even hinted at the idea that I might know some of her friends. This of course is a distinct possibility as she lived in Vancouver for a few years. Both she and I know animator artist Danny Antonucci. I don't have to resist and urge to communicate with him by sending him a facebook friend request. He would not know me by my surrogate name. I can simply call him up with a telephone.
I have been thinking about the internet, social networking sites and communications in general for some time. Recently I broke a friendship (He told me, accurately I would suppose, that I could not do it) that began when both of us were 21 and in college. The final nail on the coffin was when he told me that he hated phones and my attempts to talk to him via Skype. He told me that it was sufficient for him to read my blog to find out what I was doing.
After years of having lost touch with my friend Felipe Ferrer Junco
, the ex chief the federal police in Acapulco I located him in Houston where he survives respiratory problems (he smoked a lot) with an oxygen tube in his nose. The result of our Skype talk is that he now communicates with me via MSN and has sent me 150 very large files of Powerpoints on pink horses, Bush conspiracy theories, etc. I don't have the heart to write to him and tell him that a short communication telling me his health is better would suffice for me. I delete his sendings without even looking at them.
My participation in photography forums have resulted in accusations that I show off my knowledge in my posts (not hard in an age of photographic mediocrity). These forum back and forth communications remind me of having exchanged a science fiction book with a neighbour in Mexico City. Months later we both discussed the book while I was certain that neither of us had read each other's book. The photographic forum postings are all one-sided.
Some years back while waiting for our airplane to take off in the very busy Chicago airport I noticed that there were airplanes in front of us and airplanes behind us. We would move up as soon as a plane had taken off. Each plane had its position. In the same way I have a friend who answers emails in the order that he gets them. But because he must have many email pals that roster of lined up emails is so long that a reply will come perhaps in a week. I sent my friend some music CDs and these were also put on a pile with their correct standby order.
All of this reminds me of the essay a woman wrote for Playboy during the pre-AIDS gay period and from San Francisco. She dressed up as a man and investigated glory hole venues in the city. Men would stick their private organ through an orifice of a private booth and someone would anonymously service them from the other side. It strikes me now as an example of intimate communication (of sorts) with a perfect stranger.
I remember in my youth writing letters to women. I had inherited not only from my father but from my Aunt Dolly the ability to write good letters. My letter relationships with these women were distanced by the time it took my letter to get to them and for them to reply. Sometimes it took me time to reply as I could not and cannot write legibly. It was frustrating to write knowing that half of what I wrote was unintelligible even to me. Or the placid machinations of the Mexican or Argentine postal services would delay or lose the letters. With Word, a computer and email it has all changed.
With email, communication is instant. And "kissing on that first date" is now more common. Within a couple of emails you are told intimate details you would be embarrased to tell anybody else. There is a paradox here of exchanging intimacies while not looking at the other person in the eye. Perhaps in all this, a reader of this blog might just understand why I loathe Flickr, facebook and the like. I can think of one image that I took of a mentally disturbed woman on the mend in front of the Vancouver General Hospital some years back that conveys the loneliness and frustration so many of us are forced to suffer.
Some 38 years ago I had a student in Mexico City with whom I have kept in touch since. Only recently this friend sent me a communication (a whimsical and lovely one) about her marital troubles. I wonder if face to face these details would have been so forthcoming? Perhaps yes because of our long record of exchanging both conventional letter and emails all these years. Here it is:
I went on a date this week. My first...friend of some friends..Widower, 65, lived in Spain, Moscow, Paris..retired..sails, reads, cooks and spends time with his granddaughter for fun. Great sense of humor...which is the sexiest thing in the world for me. Asked me for a kiss which was very awkward..its like asking me if you can take my picture..."deer in headlights"...told him I needed a little more "smelling" time...we'll see if he calls again.
Intimacy on the Net - Not
Facebook, Flick & the loneliness of social networking sites
Fragrant As A Cured Mate
Friday, April 15, 2011
|Linda Lorenzo & father's mate|
Olorosa como un mate curado
la noche acerca agrestes lejanías
y despeja las calles
que acompañan mi soledad,
hechas de vago miedo y de largas líneas.
La brisa trae corazonadas de campo,
dulzura de las quintas, memorias de los álamos,
que harán temblar bajo rigideces de asfalto
la detenida tierra viva
que oprime el peso de las casas.
En vano la furtiva noche felina
inquieta los balcones cerrados
que en la tarde mostraron
la notoria esperanza de las niñas.
También está el silencio en los zaguanes.
En la cóncava sombra
vierten un tiempo vasto y generoso
los relojes de la medianoche magnífica,
un tiempo caudaloso
donde todo soñar halla cabida,
tiempo de anchura de alma, distinto
de los avaros términos que miden
las tareas del día.
Yo soy el único espectador de esta calle;
si dejara de verla se moriría.
(Advierto un largo paredón erizado
de una agresión de aristas
y un farol amarillo que aventura
su indecisión de luz.
También advierto estrellas vacilantes.)
Grandiosa y viva
como el plumaje oscuro de un Ángel
cuyas alas tapan el día,
la noche pierde las mediocres calles.
This Jorge Luís Borges poem came to mind last night when Rebecca and I sat in our living room sipping mate from my father’s mate and using his alpaca silver bombilla
. Rebecca insisted in putting sugar as she finds mate much too strong and bitter without it. She knows that most men eschew the sugar but I am willing to go along simply because the very act of sipping the Argentine brew with her is not only a rare social occurrence but also quite meaningful. I told her as she sipped, “Imagine my father occasionally sipped from that perhaps some 70 years ago.”
Rebecca who is 13 is living the teenage equivalent of history’s dark ages or middle ages. Only in recent years have we found out that the dark ages were not so, but still parents and everybody else I tell about Rebecca being 13 mention the difficulties of that age. They all speak of its inevitability and cite that patience and time will make the dark ages turn into a renaissance.
Rebecca had had an altercation with her mother who has often told me that it is not important for a mother to be popular with her daughter. Discipline must be kept and a teenager’s laziness counteracted with firmness laced with some sort of punishment. In our present age this includes grounding and the prohibition of indulging in TV, and using computers or an iTouch.
My wife Rosemary does not quite agree and feels that a judicious use of a carrot and stick works better. Incentive and challenge will overcome boredom and inaction.
Rebecca went upstairs and closed the door of our bedroom. She moped. I opened the door and suggested we have a mate. She responded, “And shall we listen to some Piazzolla?” I was game.
I turned on the kettle, filled the mate with “yerba” and brought the sugar and a spoon. I looked for the Piazzolla CDs.
We sat down to listen, mostly several versions of Milonga del Angel
and to sip. I told Rebecca that listening to Piazzolla was perfect if one had experienced a romantic undoing. I had been dumped (a word Rebecca uses a lot) by a girlfriend in a faraway winter in time in Buenos Aires. Piazzolla had somehow helped as my melancholy changed to a downward spiral of despair that somehow hit bottom and then soared upwards. Rebecca had experienced some of this in more recent months.
After an hour Rebecca, her sister and mother had to go. I drove them home. As I drove back I felt blessed.
A Time Machine
Thursday, April 14, 2011
These days camera manufacturers boast about fantastically fast shutter speeds. They harp about freezing the quickest motion.
|Mission drag race circa 1979|
When I purchased my Pentacon-F in 1958 it boasted a focal plane shutter that had the then very fast 1/1000 second shutter speed. Since the advent of photography in the 19th century there have been only three principal kinds of shutters. The first one involved the simplicity of counting the seconds and (even the minutes) and then placing a cap over the lens. In those early days exposures were measured in minutes.
The first practical shutters involved the mimicking of our eyes in which little blades opened or closed to allow light. These shutters were complex and had to be positioned between the glass elements of a lens. They were called between the lens shutters or by their brand names. The German ones were called Compur or Prontor and the Japanese versions were Copals. Because of their complexity these shutters were never any faster than 1/500 second.
There was another shutter that could be designed to give faster shutter speeds. These were called focal plane shutters because they were positioned right next to the film (and in modern digital cameras to the sensor). These shutters were made of cloth (the later ones in the beginning of the 70s were made of thin metal and the better ones of titanium). Cloth shutters consisted of two rolls or curtains that traveled from left to right or right to left (depending on the manufacturer) and the speed of the shutter was a combination of two factors, the actual speed of the rolls of cloth and the width of a slit that was between curtain A and curtain B. The narrower the slit, the faster the shutter.
|Horizontal moving focal plane shutter|
Modern metal shutters are designed to go from up to down as opposed to left to right or right to left. Because the slit travels a shorter distance (the width of the film or sensor and not the length of the film or sensor), they can achieve faster speeds like 1/4000 second.
But a few reading this might understand that freezing motion does not necessarily show motion. Sports photographers have known for years that in such games as baseball, when a batter hits the ball, the motion of his body hits a peak and paradoxically motion is zero. The same applies to a basketball player about to dunk the ball. At these times a shutter speed can be a slow one and yet capture the “motion”.
Another technique of sports photographers is one called panning in which the camera is moved (smoothly) in the same direction of the motion. Thus if you follow a runner (the shutter speed also depends on how close you are and or the focal length of the camera lens) at about 1/15 of a second the relative speed of the runner and your camera is zero while the speed of your camera in relation to everything else (be it the background or foreground) is the speed of the runner and of your panning. This results in that background is blurred while your runner can be sharp. The illusion of motion (the blurred background) tops the idea of using a fast shutter speed which show your runner stopped in motion and everything is sharp (runner and background).
|My Pentacon's horizontal traveling cloth focal plane shutter|
In 1964 when I shot the Mexican Grand Prix I knew a bit about panning and had to experiment. The formula that I figured out (after many mistakes) was the use of a shutter speed that was close to the speed of the car in kms per hour. This meant that the picture here of Dan Gurney in his Lotus with a Coventry Climax engine was panned at 1/200 of a second. My Pentacon F had that shutter speed (and 1/50, 1/100). Later cameras shelved that speed and shifted to 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and so on.
|Curtain A & curtain B and where the slit would be.|
One who knew all about this many years before was French photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue who photographed the 1912 Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France.
His camera of choice was a bulky Ica Reflex that used a 3½/x4¾ inch glass plate. The camera had a Zeiss Tessar 1:4.5 150mm lens. The peculiarity of this camera with a top-mounted focusing screen was its horizontal focal plane shutter. One of the problems that Lartigue had was that the image in his viewfinder was reversed. Left was right and right was left. When he panned his camera in the same direction as the car he had to fight his internal instincts to go in the opposite direction.
|The titanium downward traveling shutter of my Nikon FM-2|
Why are the wheels not round? The answer is simple but interesting. The slit of the focal plane shutter (between curtain A and curtain B was going opposite to the direction of the car. As the wheels moved in opposite direction to the shutter the shutter caught the wheels where they weren’t (and had been!). I cannot make this any simpler so here you will simply have to take this on faith!
When the between the lens shutter (be it a compur or copal or whatever) opens from a closed position and then closes to expose the light on to the film or sensor, every part of the picture is exposed at the same time.
This is not the case with a focal plane shutter. All images that lie on film or a sensor are upside down. Modern cameras have a viewer that shows the image right side up and left being left and right being right. That is why expensive DSLRs have that hump. It is a pentaprism that does all the corrective shifting.
|Dan Guerney Lotus Coventy Climax 1964|
With that image being upside down, let’s imagine that you are taking a picture of your Uncle Billy. His head is down and his feet are up. The shutter on a modern metal focal plane shutter is going down. This means that his feet are exposed first and lastly his face.
This means that in a short time consideration, Uncle Billy’s feet are exposed first and thus are older and his face is younger in elapsed time!
I have always been fascinated by this useless piece of information. Consider the ramifications of a horizontal group shot of your family. Some of your family will be increasingly older as the shutter travels from one side to the other.
|Lartigue's famous photograph|
And lastly, when I took the picture of the Mission drag racer I used my Mamiya RB Pro-S. I had the same viewfinder (but my Mamiya lens had a between the lens shutter) as Lartigue. Left was right but right was left. When I panned the picture I had no trouble. Why? It was only a couple of years later that I found out I was dyslexic! Was Lartigue also dyslexic?
Thomas Chung - That Enterprising Korean
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
|Thomas Chung delivering my NY Times|
Unfortunately some of my filed negatives and slides do not have dates. My guess is that I photographed Thomas Chung about 16 years ago when I first signed up for a daily delivered New York Times. My friend Mark Budgen had informed me, after I had complained of my frustration in not getting my international news from the Vancouver Sun that I could indeed pay to get the NY Times delivered to my home. The man who had this business was an enterprising Korean gentleman who sacrificed his life for several years. He would drive to Bellingham sometime around 2 in the morning to pick up the NY Times that had come all the way from Tacoma, hours before. He would then deliver the papers all the way to the British Properties and West Vancouver. Chung told me, “I had to get a break job almost every month as I wore my breaks stopping and starting on the hills of British Properties.
By the time I photographed him delivering my paper one very early morning, Chung had made and saved enough money to purchase a beautiful house on Marguerite Street in Shaughnessy. He also sent his two daughters through private school. Some 8 or nine years ago he sold his franchise to the Globe & Mail who know deliver my paper 365 days of the year.
It has taken me upwards of one week to finally talk to someone in New York so that I can now get my free access to the NY Times on the web as I do have a paid subscription to the hard copy paper. It has taken the NY Times that long to figure out that with their pay wall system, they had a few (stupid?) subscribers in Canada who are still prepared to pay for their content but believe, rightly, that they should have free access to the web version.
The Littlest Vampire
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Last week Rebecca, Lauren and I worked on a photo project. It involved Rebecca using her makeup application talent to convert Lauren into the littlest vampire. We chose two dresses. I think I like the red one. But the blue one has more significance as it was worn by the girls’ mother, Hilary when she was a little girl. Until a few months ago Lauren had a tick that made her close her eyes when I took pictures of her. This time around she managed to keep her eyes open just right. I enjoyed taking Lauren’s pictures as much as she enjoyed having them taken.
I tell my photo classes that as young boys we were never allowed to play with dolls and to dress them up. I tell them that as photographers we can get to do this as adults simply because we are photographers. At Focal Point where I occasionally teach I particularly like telling our models to show us what they have brought as clothing and as props. I feel that by this very act I can compensate for all those years of having only toy soldiers and cars to play with. This is more like it!
Vampires have always been dear to my heart. Around 1958 I was Brother Hubert Koeppen, C.S.C's shop assistant at St. Ed's in Austin, Texas. Brother Hubert had a hobby shop where he sold plastic models and stuff. I also had to help him with the floor of the basketball gym. I kept it polished and clean.
I was a paid a small wage with which I eventually purchased my first SLR camera, a Pentacon F. Brother Hubert was tall and like all the other brothers wore black. But he also insisted on wearing a big black hat and a cape. My Latin American classmates gave him the "apodo" el Vampiro. And since I was his assistant I was called el Vampirito.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Guest blog by novelist C.C. Humphreys who recently moved to Salt Spring Island, BC
'Don’t worry,’ said Alex, ‘we won’t be using the toilet.’
Now I have known Alex for several years, ever since he sought me out for a photograph, having read my ‘Jack Absolute’ novels. So I should have remembered his twisted sense of humour – and his wonderful eye for juxtaposition.
So how could he leave out the dunny?
My dunny. It rests behind my writer’s hut on my recently purchased land on Salt Spring Island, BC. So is this photo an oblique commentary on my process? The words that pour out of me, all that I must vent in order to create? Why, then, the axe? Must language be hewed? And the shepherd’s crook? Is the phrase I seek like a ram in a hedge, needing to be hooked out?
Both Alex and I enjoy props. I brought a cavalry sabre
to our first meeting. Props tell another story, bring in other worlds.
The axe is a recent one, coinciding with the move here. We live on 1.6 acres, mainly trees. Our house is heated by a stove. So for Christmas, my wife bought me this wonderful weapon, bound in paper with a pillow to disguise its intent. Best present I have had in years. I love blades, always have, and the Norwegian in me has always craved the chance to chop wood. Now I do so daily. I ‘limb and berm’ my felled trees - one of many phrases this London lad never thought would pass his lips. New words, pouring out.
The axe is superbly made… in Sweden, but I try not to hold that against it. The boots I am wearing though, they have a Norse connection.
1999. I am cast to play a Norwegian pathologist in the BBC crime series, ‘Silent Witness’. It films in my mother’s homeland, land of my heart, Norway. When we arrive in the Jotunheim mountains, I am informed that I won’t be filming for three days. ‘Why not break the boots in, love,’ says the wardrobe mistress. So me and my Salomans take to the forests, dispatched on the best hikes by the hotel manager who is the local guide.
2002. I am wearing the boots again. My son is six months old and this is the first time I have got away, up to my favourite part of England – South Shropshire. I am there to research the novel I have just been commissioned to write, ‘The Fetch’ which will be set partly among these hills – and partly back in the Jotunheim. Boots linking the two, I stride along the Wenlock Edge, a place already word-captured by AE Houseman. I meet a Lancastrian shepherd, as you do, who’d stopped to give his border collies a run on his way home from a Game Fair. We walk, talk, I admire his staff, the varnished hazel, the curled and shaped ram’s horn grip, the iron ferrule. ‘I make ‘em,’ he says. Back at the carpark he shows me one that had been commissioned but the man never came to the Fair to collect it. ‘So this one’s available?’ I ask. It is, and I buy it in a heartbeat. Aside from wife, child, cat, this is what I would grab in a fire.
Even as I write this I realize what Alex has done. He hasn’t just taken a photo of me and my dunny. He has captured a set of stories. That’s his genius, there in all his work, even in his deceptively simple portraits. There’s more here too - the gothic lighting on what was a bright Spring day? The way I am holding the axe? Remember: all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Now I really must lower the seat on that dunny. After all, I may have … visitors.
(Chris Humphreys is an author and actor and lives in a forest on Salt Spring Island. You can read more about him and follow his blog at: CCHumphreys.com
Pharaoh Serket & The Lost Stone Of Fire - Good Theatre For Children
Sunday, April 10, 2011
|Parnelli Parnes In Italy (not in Egypt)|
In 1950 in Buenos Aires ( I was 8 years old so the exact date is fuzzy in my mind) one morning I walked with my mother to the train station in our suburban home in Coghlan. This particular day might have been a Tuesday as it was on Tuesdays that the latest Pato Donald comic book would be on the train station’s newsstand. And that was the case. The comic book was a Spanish translation of the 1943 Dell Donald Duck and the Mummy’s Ring which featured Donald Duck, his nephews, Huey, Dewey, Louie and that terrible thug Black Pete. They all go to Egypt and somehow the story leads to ancient Egypt and Huey being sealed in a mummy case. I remember wild-eyed and extremely nasty Egyptians. This comic book became my most favourite and led me to an interest in ancient history, archeology and mythology. To this day I smile when the National Geographic manages (once a year, it seems) to have a story on ancient Egypt or the Incas of Peru and the Aztec or Mayans of Mexico. The thrill in reading these Geographic essays are close to the thrill of seeing that Pato Donald cover back in 1950.
It was with the same anticipation of that day of walking to the train station with my mother that my granddaughter Lauren and I went last night to the Carousel Theatre production at the Waterfront Theatre of Pharaoh Serket and the Lost Stone of Fire
. This play, written by John Olive and directed by Mike Stack did not disappoint. Lauren on our way to the theatre asked me if there was going to be music (she meant in her own way to enquire if the play was a musical). I told her that it was not the case (even though at one point Melissa Dionisio, as Akana, Pharaoh’s sister, does sing). It was hard to explain to Lauren that we were going to the theatre to see a play.
The set is a wonderful set that evoked for me that Donald Duck comic book of my past. It featured a pyramid, an obelisk (I had to explain to Lauren what an obelisk was!) and an often disappearing palm tree. The background music (Jeff Tymoschuk) was mysterious but somehow pleasant and not off-putting.
Lauren was thrilled and both of us were not able to figure out the whodunit element of the play. When we found out at the end we were truly surprised!
The actors were just right. They were complex enough to interest me but self-evident to my granddaughter. The one “protagonist” that Lauren was in the dark was the snake. She asked me, “Was that a real snake?”
We both liked the actors, Melissa Dionisio as Akana, Marlene Ginader as the female sorceress Zalina, Josue Laboucane in the double role of Harkuf/Tresh (and one of them involves a nicely placed dagger in the middle of his back!), Joshua Reynolds as Tau (Pharaoh’s body guard) and Alex Rose who plays the handsome, but in the beginning, a young and inexperienced Pharaoh with a monumental chip on his shoulder.
Lauren and I particularly enjoyed the comic relief of the play. And this came from Parnelli Parnes who plays Bakneb the sneezing but expert scribe and Allan Zinyk the Bedouin guide with a taste for gold. Both Lauren and I laughed at these two men and in particular in a scene in which the two compete in their ability to spit and sneeze.
Pharaoh Serket and the Lost Stone of Fire,
and the more I think about it, the taking of children to “serious” plays written especially for them are an antidote to the unrealistic realism of modern animated films for children. Even the Pixar classics feature mice that are cartoon mice, no matter how realistic their voices might be. In a real play the child (in this case my Lauren) knows that the young man playing the Pharaoh, is a young man playing a Pharaoh. She sees through the wig even if in some moments she is carried away by the action and a knife on a high priest’s back almost seems real. I believe that taking children to plays in some way teaches them to study people and the relationships they create. Going to a play becomes a communal event for a child. There are other children in the theatre. I watched how Lauren stared at other children. There is no way that this kind of situation can be had in Lauren’s home when she watches something with her older sister and parents.
And who knows, like her grandfather, Lauren might soon be interested in reading about the wonders of the Nile, the crocodiles, the mummies, the pyramids and the other delights of the ancient world. Theatre for children is good for children.
Pharaoh Serket and the Lost Stone of Fire
runs until April 30th.