I Will Go And Sniff Some Roses
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Guest Blog by my 14 year-old granddaughter
Rebecca Anne Stewart
The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.
I have a theory on growing up, when you are a child you dream of being a grownup because you idolize mom and dad. When you are a teenager like me, you wish you were an adult because you want more freedom or you are able to legally have a drink, but once you hit adulthood, in many ways, you wish you could turn back the clock.
I’m at a stage now where I have my own tastes and I like to think for myself. I believe my grandparents whom I visit every Saturday are having a hard time grasping the concept. I’m always told by my grand parents, particularly my straight-laced Scottish grandma that when I wear makeup or dress up rather tight-fitted clothing, I look too old for my age. My parents will tell me before I go out “Chip some of that makeup off please, you can’t even tell it’s you.” Or “I would like to see less of that belly button.”
It puzzled me why my parents and grandparents were so astonished by the way I have recently been dressing until last Saturday when I came to visit Abi (Rosemary) and Papi (Alex) and I wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup and had left my rather unruly, thick curly hair be, instead of doing what I usually do, straighten it with a flat iron. My grandfather looked at me in awe and said “You look fabulous!”; “you look just like the Rebecca I used to know.” I suddenly knew why my grand parents were not keen on my normally straight haired makeup wearing self. They missed the old me, the little girl who at one time would run out back and sniff the roses and drink tea and could name the names of all the hostas. This was not me anymore I am not seven I am double that age I am interested in boys and going out with friends and I have my own style. As I write this I have my hair straight and makeup on but in spite of all of that I think I will go and sniff some roses.
Post Mortem Profit
Friday, August 26, 2011
In the mid 80s three different women (unconnected except they all knew me) called me within a span of two months for the same thing. All three wanted me to pick them up at the abortion clinic and take them home. By the second one I had learned to buy fresh fruit before taking them home and I swear that some the employees at the clinic stared at me the third time.
I was never able to figure out why it was these women called me for this.
I have a better explanation for a trend that is beginning to show a pattern in which as more people get older (a most frequent occurrence) money will be piling up (in small quantities) in my bank.
When Greg Moore
died in 1999 and Daryl Duke
in 2006 the folks related ordered huge prints of my portraits of them and were displayed at the funerals in church. I felt terrible in charging but these big prints (colour) were expensive.
It was in 2007 where it got a bit unusual. It was July and Rosemary, Rebecca and I were enjoying a holiday in Mérida, Yucatán. One day I went to an internet café and noticed that I had an email marked urgent. It seems that Vancouver architect and patron of the arts Ian Davidson had died and I was being asked for the use of one of my pictures for his obituary. Not only that, they wanted several large prints, one for display at a memorial service and the others to be purchased by friends. I made very good money!
This trend has not stopped. I have recently sold a photograph of author Jane Rule
(she is dead) that is being used as the front piece in her memoirs published by Talon books at the end of August.
Now that Jack Layton
is better known his book published some years ago (with my portrait on the cover) is being re-issued and I am happy to point out that McClelland and Stewart offered me good money for the new rights for my photograph.
My friend, writer Mark Budgen, not keen in ever showering anybody with compliments told me (instead of saying, “You are a fine portrait photographer.”), “The reason they are using your photographs is that these people are dead and nobody can be assigned to photograph them." Not quite look here
But I am not going to protest. Just today I sent an invoice to Cologne for the use of one of my pictures of mystery writer Michael Dibdin
(he is dead) for some internal project in a company there. This trend is not going to stop as there are more people in my files who will inevitably go where we all go. As long as I am around I can reap the rewards.
A Little Girl Sleeps Over
Thursday, August 25, 2011
On Tuesday I took my youngest granddaughter Lauren (8) to her swimming class at Jericho. For an hour I sat between two mothers who talked about their children, their children’s recent haircuts. At one point the talking was so loud that I was wincing but to no effect as the two mothers kept on. I attempted to read my book Flying the World’s Great Aircraft
but I could only finish the chapters on the Hurricane and the Spitfire. I finally gave up and watched Lauren while the two women made conversation.
It brought memories of Rosemary and I taking our daughters for swimming classes at CG Brown Pool in Burnaby in 1976. I can remember the intense smell of chlorine and getting into my freezing car under freezing rain in a cold winter’s night. The conversations, as we sat trying to see through the misted glass window of the pool, must have been equally banal except that these were our daughters and we had the responsibility of giving them all the opportunities available to children, like swimming, ice skating, roller skating, ballet, guitar lessons, etc.
But at the Jericho Pool I felt out of commission. I certainly did not fit in with the buxom Kitsilano mothers. It became palpably evident that taking a granddaughter to her swimming class would have to be an occasional chore and no more. If it were to be daily I would go nuts soon. I had this urge to tell the mothers that what they were saying was simply noise filling empty and silent space. But I resisted the urge as I saw any one of them as my very own Rosemary back in 1976 doing the very same thing, waiting for an hour to pass knowing that the task at hand was obligatory if one were not to feel like a guilty parent.
Back at home we had homemade pizza and Lauren settled in. She kept asking me if I were doing anything the next morning. I figured out that she wanted to have a sleepover. As Tuesdays and Wednesdays are her mother’s day off, Rosemary was not keen on changing Hilary’s routine. But Lauren insisted and I said yes. Important in her sleepovers is the fact that they include breakfast in bed for all of us.
She played with Rosemary’s cat, Casi. Before we turned off the lights and the three of us settled in for the night, Lauren asked me,"Papi have you brushed your teeth? Do you know you have a lot of hair in your nose?"
Come morning we served breakfast and Lauren did what I should have seen coming. She placed her half full juice glass on our breakfast tray (on the bed) and said, “Ooops!” The juice spilled all over.
Rosemary has gone to the Laundromat to wash the comforter (much too big for our washing machine) and Lauren is back home.
|Casi by Lauren Elizabeth Stewart|
Having Lauren at home for a sleepover is a delight. She is a happy girl, always smiling and it is wonderful how she plays and connects with Casi. She did tease him a bit and he hid under the bed. But once the lights were off we heard and felt him jump up on the bed. The two cats, my wife and Lauren, we were all together. How could I possibly not enjoy the sleepover of our Lauren?
Ah! But The Beauty Of Ugliness
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
When I looked at the AE-6B Prowler parked on the tarmac at the Abbotsford Air Show a couple of weeks ago I remembered my grandmother Dolores Reyes de Irureta Goyena. As an older teenager we had both attended the opening of a young Filipino artist in Mexico City around 1961. My grandmother, a fine painter herself asked the Filipino artist for a walk around. The artist finally settled by a very large oil painting that featured a pair of old Mexican huaraches. The painter’s technique was marvelous, the leather looked like leather and I could almost smell the feet that might have worn them at one time. My grandmother baited the artist by saying,” With so much beauty in this world why would you choose a subject that is so ugly?” The artist, with a smile on his face countered with, “Ah, but something must be said for the beauty of ugliness.”
While driving to and from south Texas in our Malibu I had ample chance to look at the front end of cars in my rear view mirror. Two in particular caught my eye. One was the latest Cadillac sedan and the other was a very large Honda SUV. Both vehicles had a presence that I would define as menacing and most dangerous.
I often wonder how many Iraquis, during the Gulf War ever saw a Humvee (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) in similar circumstances to mine. There was some Humvee in both that Cadillac and Honda.
I wonder what ever happened to the idea that an automobile should appear graceful in shape? After years of being told that streamlining helped gas efficiency why are so many vehicles now breadboxes with wheels? Some of these vehicles would be star attractions in a Mad Max II remake.
My conclusion based on the thin facts displayed above is that we are embarking on a trend in which ugliness (ugliness that means business, that is) trumps grace and beauty. A 1954 Raymond Loewy designed Studebaker would cause laughs if seen on a rear view mirror.
The last beautiful airliner was the Lockheed Super Constellation. The liner coincided with times when food on board was great (except for the perennially cold buns) and stewardesses were stewardesses many years away from being grandmother flight attendants. Cubans started pointing guns at pilots and passengers no longer stepped down from planes and be able to look back at the graceful lines. Now they could study the “I mean business” look of a Boeing 707.
My favourite airplane of all time, I must confess is one that was never graceful nor ever designed to be that. I have written about the US Navy Grumman A-6 Intruder many times here and I have read Stephen Coonts’ The Flight of the Intruder and its sequel The Intruders at least twice each. This plane showed menace in an ugly yet with touches of art deco that charmed me. I felt attracted to what really was one mean killing machine. This brought me at odds with my generally peaceful attitude and beliefs of peace and not war. But then I also thought that the McDonnell F-4 Phantom of Vietnam fame was beautiful in its equally ugly way.
Ever since I can remember I have had an attraction for handguns. This is why I have never owned one. The closest I ever got to that was a replica .357 Magnum air pistol with which I dispatched a Casablanca Lilly munching squirrel to its maker to my embarrassed regret. I see that my attraction to guns is no different from considering, even momentarily, that the Cadillac is a beautiful sedan with its sharp edges that resemble the surfaces of a stealth fighter. I cannot speak for women but as a man I am attracted to stuff that looks dangerous.
While watching Lauren in her one hour long swimming class in Jericho I was reading my Flying the World’s Great Aircraft
with an introduction by Jeffrey Quill OBE, AFC. I was reading a chapter on the Supermarine Spitfire by experienced Spitfire pilot AVM J.E. Johnson. This caught my eye: Johnnie Johnson said, “The Spitfire was ill suited to missions like strafing attacks against Luftwaffe airfields. The Spitfire had a glycol coolant tank under the nose which was especially vulnerable to ground-fire. If this tank was holed, it was only a matter of minutes before the engine seized.”
|Pentax MX, 20mm lens, Ektachrome 100 G|
What Johnson was saying was that the elegant Spitfire was designed to battle other fighters in the air and not for the more mundane task of strafing locomotives and trucks. The Spitfire was a beautiful and, yes, graceful flying machine designed for a task that those of us who never flew one see as being part of a supremely romantic one.
|USMC Major S.K. Nelson & his A6-E Prowler|
But just as soon as airplanes flew in anger ground troops figured out ways of singling them out from the ground. This back and forth contest culminated in Vietnam (not forgetting the terrible damage that the Luftwaffe and the German air defenses sustained on British Bomber Command and the US Army Air Force) when the combination of Russian anti aircraft missiles and terrible barrages of radar directed anti aircraft fire played havoc on American fighters and bombers.
Then the US Navy brought in the A-6 Intruder which was a plane that could skim the tree tops in any weather to drop their ordnance (this plane as small as it seems to be had only one other plane that could carry a heavier bomb load and that was the B-52!).
And then the US Navy adapted and re-designed the A-6 by making it a tad longer and instead of a crew of two it had a crew of four. The sole purpose of this plane was not to bomb troops, or shoot down fighters or bombers. Its sole reason for existence was its ability to jam enemy radar communications. This variant of the A-6 was the AE-6B Prowler. It carried HARM missiles which would lock on radar installations (attached to those Russian SAM missiles) and destroy them.
|Pentax MX, 20mm lens, Ektachrome 100 G|
It is sure that there would have to be “collateral damage” and radar operators would be killed. But I have a fondness for a mean looking flying machine that is not quite as mean as it looks.
A similar plane (similar in that it is ugly, but in fact it is far uglier) is the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt. It is better known as the Warthog. There were 7 of these at the Abbotsford Airshow. I even say one fly. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t as loud as a CF-18 nor did it fly fast. It was not designed to do so.
This plane was originally built as a tank buster. The pilot sits over a titanium bathtub that protects him from ground fire. The A-10 was made to attack Russian tanks invading Germany in what could have been a heated cold war. It was never used for that but the A-10’s ability to fly low and slow and to take punishment is the kind of plane that the rebels in Libya were clamoring for once the US had left the NATO coalition some months ago.
|A-10 Thunderbolt, iPhone photo|
If I were to ever be tempted to write a book it would be called The Beauty of Ugliness and I would feature all the above and I would add my wonderful Mamiya RB-67, my extremely lethal (if I swung it as a weapon) Nikon F-3 Motordrive camera and even, if I can get it to run again, that ugly, “I mean business” Maserati Biturbo that lies abandoned in my garage.
|Nikon FM, 35mm lens, 800 ISO no-name colour neg film|
|A-10 Thunderbolt, iPhone photo|
Jack Layton - Honest Politician
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
As an Argentine born man who grew up under the Perón regime and them moved to the one party system in Mexico in the mid 50s I knew what most of us in Latin America have always known. This is that the bottom of the quality ladder of a profession is that of a politician. Nobody with intelligence and real talent would ever want to become a politician. In Latin America we are never surprised nor do we feel disappointed when a politician is caught with a hand in the till. We expect our politicians to be dishonest.
It was in Mexico, which after lengthy dictatorships by Porfirio Días and Antonio López de Santa Anna and after the Mexican Revolution of 1911, it imposed a system called "no reeleccion" for presidents and governors. The mandate was extended from a four year period to one of 6 years. The result all these years has been a government in which an elected president or governor appoints cronies and for 6 years they steal as much as they can. At the end of the 6-year term there is a clean sweep and new men are elected who in turn steal.
This is why so many countries in Latin America suffer under the malady of tax evasion. Many justify not paying taxes on the rationalization that money given to the government will be stolen. Tax evation is an art.
I remember vividly the day I read a column by Stefan Kanfer in Time Magazine
that reported the fact that a criminal lawyer had driven up to the White House to consult with President Richard Nixon. The revelation made news in the United States but we in Latin America just thought, "These funny Americans actually trust their politicians. Can you imagine that?"
Since 1975 I have been in Vancouver. In Canada. I can never forget nor do I take it for granted that when I am driving I am not afraid of being stopped by the police. And I know that if I get into an automobile accident the policeman who will appear at the scene of the accident will not demand a bribe if I am not to be taken to the police station and have my car impounded.
Since 1975 I have not taken for granted that the bureaucracy here sort of works and that if I lose my driver’s license it will be replaced in a few weeks with a minimum of paper work.
Since 1975 I watched unpopular politicians in Vancouver walk on the street without any police escort.
Since 1975 I have voted many times knowing my ballot will be counted. It has been refreshing to go to my nearby school to vote and not find guards with machine pistols at the doors.
In short I believe that democracy works in Canada in spite of the fact that our Prime Minister has the power to appoint supreme court justices without any consultation to anybody. I simply do not understand what parliamentary democracy is exactly.
But since 1975 I have known a few politicians whom I have trusted. I have photographed them, chatted with them and even received thank you letters from them. I have voted for some of them.
I remember sitting on the front row of a citizen’s chat with ex-prime minister John Turner
(in Quadra) complete with doughnuts and coffee. He was in town to defend the free-trade agreement. I had photographed him before. There were no guards, no shouts. It was supremely civilized. I felt privileged for the opportunity.
When you have people in your studio and you deal with them, one on one, you get a pretty good sense of what they are like. One politician stands out whom I distinctly did not trust completely. His name was Glen Clark. Even in my dealings with Bill Vander Zalm
(I photographed him many times) I did not get the photographer’s warning lights that had turned on in the presence of Clark.
And then there are all those politicians of the NDP who have paraded in my studio, from David Barrett
to Alexa McDonough, Carol James
and the wonderful but now sadly retired Dawn Black. There was the calm and collected (and very honest) Mike Harcourt
. I have always admired Bob Williams’
perceptive intelligence and business acumen.
On the top of that list of people I trusted to the hilt was Jack Layton.
More Noughts Than Ones Today
Monday, August 22, 2011
Those who might look at this blog and yesterday’s, might note that the format has somehow changed and the width exceeds the monitor's. I have no idea why this suddenly happened. It could be a Blogger problem. In this 21st century of ours only what one needs to know is what one knows. I have sent word to Chris Botting
the man who put this blog together in conjunction with my website. Perhaps he will know. I have enquired with my friend Tim Bray
the guru of all things noughts and ones. Perhaps he will know. And I have a Sword Excalibur up my sleeve in Noah Slater
who lives in York. Surely one of these three will offer a solution. Until then I feel a bit reluctant to think of anything to put here. It is frustrating to see the wonderful design by Skunkworks
go Vista Vision and not be able to do anything about it.
It all reminds me of being once in my maroon Maserati
with Buck Cherry
in the passenger seat. We were approaching the ramp off Hemlock on to the Granville Island Bridge. I floored the accelerator and the wine of the twin turbos was music to me. I told Buck," When this car is running well, and that is not often, it is wonderful." And of course within hours a loud clunk developed in the transmission.
My blog has been working effortlessly now for at least a year and I kept thinking how much fun it was. That was the big mistake. It was about time it deteriorated to keep me on my toes and rise up my stress level.
I Could Never Be So Lucky Again
Sunday, August 21, 2011
I would never want to relive my life; I could never be so lucky again.
General James H. Doolittle
In Abbotsford Airshows past I have enjoyed the excitement of seeing the US Air Force Thunderbirds
and the US Navy Blue Angels
. I hold a particular preference for having seen the Blue Angels
sometime in the early 80s fly the beautiful Douglas A-4 Skyhawks. For me an acrobatic flying team has to fly low and make lots of noise. This year’s Abbotsford Airshow featured the Canadian Forces Snowbirds flying the CT-114 Tutor jets. While I know that I would loose my lunch if I were to be a passenger in one of them, I simply yawn at the idea of watching them fly. They are simply not loud enough!
I still remember with some pleasure of having taken Rebecca to the Abbotsford Air Show and listening to her answer to my question “Which is your favourite plane?” “The Tomcat because it is the loudest.”
Sean Rossiter mentioned after this year’s visit to the show, “There were really no real headline acts, were there?” I sort of agreed but we also thought that watching a 1943 vintage North American B-25D Mitchell medium bomber was quite a treat. I don’t think that this particular B-25 saw much of the war but, nonetheless it was thrilling to hear its twin Wright Cyclone 14-cylinder, twin row radial engines. As I watched it fly I remembered having seen the1944 film 30 Seconds Over Tokyo
and even listening to the not too well known group, Pere Ubu played their song 30 Seconds over Tokyo (as loud as those pair of Wright Cyclones!).
In wake of the Pearl Harbor, Bataan debacles General Jimmy Doolittle came up with the idea of having 16 land-based US Army bombers take off from the USS Hornet and bomb Tokyo for morale if not so much for the destructive effect. They did just that on 18 April 1942.
When I got home from Abbotsford I poured through my airplane book collection and read more about the B-25. From those books and some of the hit-or-miss exposures from my Noblex here are some images.
|Mitchell B-25D Grumpy at the Abbotsford Air Show|
|I could Never Be So Lucky Again|
The Art of William S. Phillips:
The Glory of Flight