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


The Dark Lady & Walter Scott On Chivalry
Saturday, September 10, 2011

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty's name;
But now is black beauty's successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on Nature's power,
Fairing the foul with Art's false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland'ring creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.
Sonnet 127, William Shakespeare

The Dark Lady

The next ingredient in the spirit of Chivalry, second in force only to the religious zeal of its professors, and frequently predominating over it, was devotion to the female sex, and particularly to her whom each knight selected as the chief object of his affection, of a nature so extravagant and unbounded as to approach a sort of of idolatry.The original source of this sentiment is to be found, like that of Chivalry itself, in the customs and habits of the northern tribes, who possessed, even in the rudest state, so many honourable and manly distinctions, over all the other nations in the same stage of society. The chaste and temperate habits of these youth, and the opinion that it was dishonourable to hold sexual intercourse until the twentieth year was attained, was in the highest degree favourable not only to the morals and health of the ancient Germans, but most have contributed greatly to place the females in that dignified and respectable rank which they hold in society. Nothing tends so much to blunt the feelings, to harden the heart, and to destroy the imagination, as the worship of the Vaga Venus in early youth. Wherever women have been considered as the early, willing, and accommodating slaves of the voluptuousness of the other sex, their character has become degraded, and they have sunk into domestic drudges and bondswomen among the poor,—the slaves of a harem among the more wealthy. On the other hand, the men, easily and early sated with indulgencies, which soon lose their poignancy when the senses only are interested, become first indifferent, then harsh and brutal, to the unfortunate slaves of their pleasures. The sated lover,—and perhaps it is the most brutal part of humanity,—is soon converted into the capricious tyrant, like the successful seducer of the modern poet.

"Hard; with their fears and terrors to behold The cause of all, the faithless lover cold, Impatient grown at every wish denied, And barely civil, soothed and gratified."
Crabbe's Borough

Habitual indulgence seeks change of objects to relieve satiety. Hence polygamy, and all its brutalizing consequences, which were happily unknown to our Gothic ancestors. The virtuous and manly restraints imposed on their youth were highly calculated to exalt the character of both sexes, and especially to raise the females in their own eyes and those of their lovers. They were led to regard themselves, not as the passive slaves of pleasure, but as the objects of a prolonged and respectful affection, which could only be finally gratified when their lovers had attained the age of mature reason, and as capable to govern and to defend the family which should arise around them. With the young man imagination and sentiment combined to heighten his ideas of a pleasure which nature instructed him to seek, and which the wise laws of his country prevented him from prematurely aspiring to share. To a youth so situated, the maiden on whom he placed his affections became an object of awe as well as of affection; the passion which he indulged for her was of a nature as timid and pure as engrossing and powerful; the minds of the parties became united before the joining of their hands, and a moral union preceded the mere intercourse of the sexes.

Walter Scott - On Chivalry (4th, 5th & 6th editions of the Encylopaedia Britanica, 1815-1824)

When possible even at my advanced age (more advanced, if you are supposed to be one of “those free-lance photographers” whose reputation for women, booze, drugs and travel to exotic places never did apply to me) I like to have some sort of photographic project on hand. In the past it invariably (in spite of what I wrote above between parentheses) involved a woman, preferably a most handsome one, in front of my camera. In most cases that handsome woman would be forced to be in a heated studio as the wearing of clothing was never optional.

At my advanced age of 69 I may be finally facing a project for which I may have no previous experience. My subject is indeed a beautiful woman. Not only that, she is intelligent, perceptive and highly articulate.

But consider a recent communication from her:

I've also had the beginnings of an idea recently. I bite my nails, and have for as long as I can remember, and it's something that I consciously make an effort to hide, at least to some extent, when I'm acting or modeling. I feel like, to this point, I've only ever been photographed as a pretty young woman, idealized in form. What would it be like to be photographed as a flawed young woman? Does that make sense?

And a few days ago when we had coffee to discuss a plan of attack she told me something like this:

Here I was as an extra in a film, in a bikini, with my feet in a pool in the sun while I was reading the Iliad. I was surrounded by all these men who must have been thinking the obvious, “What an attractive woman and…” “I felt like telling them all to f--- off!” She further added that as an actor (one of those feminists!) she has to be seen as being attractive and being desired and wanted by all men an that is part of the package of being an actor.

Object of Awe

That set me to thinking. The first thought that came to mind is the uncomfortable feeling I get when I see a young woman walking in my direction on a street. As she approaches I make my quick scan (Star Treck-like “working”) to determine if she is attractive. As she approaches I watch her look down and almost physically compress herself into a smaller package and I can almost hear the shields (Star Treck-like “shields engaged” ) go up. If the young woman is well proportioned I have to put effort to refrain from turning my head as she passes by. I wonder if this discomfort on my part is that I am now an old man? As I once read, “A woman is as old as she looks and a man is old when he stops looking.”

My experience in walking the streets of my hometown of Buenos Aires (even recently) is different. Women there look you in the eye as they pass by. Could it be that they are more used to the idea of men being leering beings?

Could my new photographic subject be tired of being considered just pretty when she feels she has a lot more to offer? Like most women does she believe that men only want one thing? My father once gave me the following advice, “Alex, tell a beautiful woman that she is smart and tell a smart woman that she is beautiful.” I wonder how he hooked my mother.

All the above leaves me in a conundrum of action. I have determined that unflattering lighting is not the route to take. Showing a woman’s physical flaws goes against my grain. The correct route is going to be more difficult for her than for me. That desire to be seen as a “flawed young woman” is going to have to come from inside. It will be up to me to somehow show that in my photographs. I look forward to the experience and the challenge.

Flying Beavers & Viking Battle Axes
Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday, Saturday was to be a calming period of discovering the charm of my 9 year-old granddaughter Lauren.

She was dropped off by her father at 6:45 on Friday evening. We went for a walk to the nearby park where Lauren played in the swings. I periodically interrupted her fun to take iPhone snaps of her. She managed to take one of yours truly. We then headed home and I asked her to lead the way. Lauren has a very good sense of direction and got us home by an alternate route that was just as direct.

Even though she had already been fed I put some sliced scissor rolls topped with German (Swiss) cheese in the oven. We watched the excellent Where the Wild Things Are (a bargain in a Canadian Superstore DVD bin for $6.00). This film does not cater to a lower common denominator of cuteness and the on screen violence (an arm is ripped off) is surprising. We enjoyed the film and especially since Lauren knew that neither her mother nor older sister had seen it yet.

Before bedtime I informed Lauren that she was a 9 year-old girl and that she had to sleep in the bed and room formerly occupied by her mother. But I did allow her to accompany me in my bed while she read Robert Graves’ The Big Green Book. This book I had retrieved from my mother’s Aluminio (ALCOA) School in Veracruz, Mexico back in 1974 and had it re-bound in leather by the French book binder Milloud.

As a most recent student who has gone from French Immersion to a full English school, Lauren read very well and showed absolute comprehension. I did tell her the connection between the book and the film we had seen earlier which was Maurice Sendak. I wondered about the other books in the Modern Masters Books for Children, especially Jane’s Blanket by Arthur Miller and illustrated by Al Parker.

We woke up late on Saturday morning. Lauren knew I was going to make extra thin pancakes. She volunteered, gently that it might not be good to have them in bed so she set the table in the dining room.

After breakfast we watered the garden and played with Casi the cat. I told her we were going to have lunch at the Flying Beaver Grill in Richmond and that we were going to watch the float planes take off and land and that we might even go to the nearby YVR Park where huge planes whoosh by overhead, so close you can note the details on the landing gear tire treads.

Having ulterior motives in mind I informed Lauren she had to wear a dress. She immediately told me she had no dress in her back pack. I went in search of one and in a closet I found the sailor dress I had bought years ago for her older sister in Cancún. The dress fit Lauren perfectly. She was reluctant to wear it, “The sleeves are too puffy!”

Off we went to the Flying Beaver Grill (apparently owned by Harbour Air whose flights land and takeoff in the very premises). At first impression it would seem that the hiring manager of the Flying Beaver must have once worked for the Hooter’s chain of restaurants. A stacked hostess greeted us with, “My, what a lovely sailor dress worn by such a lovely girl.”

At our deck table the manager informed us, “This is the favourite table of a pair of boys that come here all the time to watch the planes.” We were then brought menus by Tasha (a dead ringer for May Britt) who was so gorgeous that my eyes were swiveling like a vertical lighthouse lamp from her wide cheekbones/almond-shaped-eyes/severe bangs, her konditori chest and her firm but shapely legs (displayed by an extra short jeans skirt) that could have easily eased her disembarking from a Viking long boat and slashing your head off with one swing of her axe. I was so stupefied that when she told me the day’s special was Sleeman’s Special something I nodded even though I never drink beer! I liked the beer and my pulled pork sandwich was excellent. Lauren had chicken finger with fries.

iPhone photo
 by Lauren Stewart
I attempted to take some pictures of Lauren with the iPhone but the light reflecting from the Fraser River was so intense that Lauren could not keep her eyes open. I made the mental note that the day would end with proper pictures in the garden with big camera and lights.

A couple of beautifully dressed and bejeweled Chinese women nearby kept staring at Lauren as we watched the  De Havilland Beavers take off in what seemed impossibly short runs. I wanted to tell the two women how this airplane had been so important to the development of the interior of BC and most of the rest of Canada. I wanted to tell them, “Yes I am proud of my granddaughter Lauren and shouldn’t every young girl wear a sailor dress at least once in their life?”

As we left and paid another young Viking girl (with braided pigtails) behind the bar said, “What a lovely girl in such a lovely sailor dress!”

We sat on a bench and the planes zoomed by overhead. We headed home. I took pictures in the garden. Lauren was receptive. We watered the garden. In spite of the chicken fingers and fries Lauren had some crackers with peanut butter.

Together we picked up her mother at work and I took them home. When we arrived Lauren's  sister was loudly fussing with the preparation of food in the kitchen. Lauren and I looked at each other and counted our blessings over the perfectly quiet and peaceful (except for those airplanes) weekend sleepover.



Thursday, September 08, 2011

Guest Blog: Andrew Taylor, Larry Emrick & Lloyd Dykk

When I read the car review 2 Wheels or 4? Let’s Just Split the Difference by Jamie Lincoln Kitman in my NY Times on September 2, I did not know that ultimately, and very soon, I would be taken for a ride in a 1964 Morgan Plus 4, that I would discover the advantages of Brookland fishtail silencers or that a retired Vancouver Sun arts critic not only once owned a Morgan motorcar but was also a fan of Morgan the doctor.

Charles Morgan and the Morgan 3-wheeler
Photo by Jonathan Player

But this story really began about five years ago when I boarded a B-line bus on Granville and 41st for a trip downtown. I sat next to a sleeping man. The man was wearing an English motoring cap (is that what they call them?). He was wearing sunglasses. On the front of the cap there was a Morgan Motor Company metal badge. I looked more closely, I had a friend who was an editor at the Vancouver Sun who owned a Morgan. There was no doubt when I looked more closely, it was indeed Larry Emrick. I decided not to wake the bloke up, being partly English on my father’s side, I knew I would have been  “bad form” to do so. I knew he was headed to the Vancouver Sun building at the foot at Granville and that I would get off a few blocks before. I hoped he would wake up in time. I left my business card on his lap.

Harry Morgan and the original cyclecar

It was a few hours later when Emrick called me up to assure me that an internal clock always engaged a block or two before he had to get off and this was his daily routine to work.

Upon looking at the picture of Morgan chairman Charles Morgan driving the extremely odd looking 3-wheeler and quoted in the NY Times article, “Not everything good has to be an iPod or iPad,” said Charles Morgan, the dashing chairman of the Morgan Motor Company. “Brand new ideas are wonderful when they happen, but sometimes there’s good in older ones, too.” I decided to send the NY Times link to my friend of 48 years, Yorkshire-born Andrew Taylor who manufactures wine and spirits and pharmaceutical filling, packaging and labelling machinery in Guadalajara Mexico with the statement:  Dear Andrew, This proves your countrymen are still strange. Alex

The latest Morgan 3-wheeler

Taylor’s reply was an unexpected and most pleasant (now I know what a Moogie is!) surprise.

Date: 9/6/2011

After my grandmother died in 1954, I used to spend my holidays from boarding school with Uncle John and Aunt Jane, my Mother’s sister.

Uncle John was Dr. E.J.S. Townsend, a keen competitor in Rallies and “Driving Tests”, which were timed runs around a complicated course usually set up in a disused wartime airfield, involving backing into tight parking slots, spinning around pylons, accelerating, braking and generally tearing the hell out of the poor vehicle. I think there were similar events in the US called Gymkhanas, but not nearly so hard on brakes, tyres or trannies.

Uncle John was pretty good, and had series of Morgans, including a 15 year old green Morgan +4 with a Standard (later Triumph) four banger, and later, a brand new blue Morgan 4/4 with a Ford Popular 4 cylinder engine. The Ford had a 3 speed gearbox, so he adapted a 2 speed rear axle from a truck, activated by a button on the dashboard, giving him 6 forward and 2 reverse speeds, ideal for driving tests, where long spurts were required, going backwards. His association with Morgans went back to a time before WWII, when he had a 1928 or 1930 Morgan 3 wheeler, with no reverse gear, with which he courted Aunt Jane.

Anyway, having made something of a name for himself in the blue Morgan, he was invited by a local Bentley dealer, who also sold Morgans, to tour the Malvern Link factory, and I was invited.

Andrew Taylor, Esquire, 1968

The trip was obviously to be made in a Bentley, which turned out to be a brand new 1955 “S” type, and was memorable because I never heard the engine during the whole trip. In later years, I remember ads in the US for Rolls Royces, (when RR still advertised), showing the clock on the dash, and the punch line was “the loudest sound in a Rolls Royce travelling 50 mph is the ticking of the clock…..” It might have been Mad street hype, but certainly the engine and transmission were inaudible in that Bentley.

When we arrived in Malvern Link, we were received by Peter Morgan, and saw ash frames being assembled for hanging the rear panels, non adjustable bench seats being sewn in leather, and Aquamarine Morgans being prepared for shipment to California. In one corner, under a dust sheet, was a 3 wheeler, which had never been finished, never turned a wheel, and I remember Peter saying he kept it as a tribute to his father. I would like to think the new 3 wheeler is Charles’ tribute to his grandfather, with a giggle thrown in.

Tim Birkin driving car with Brooklands fisthtail silencer

The new Moggie 3 certainly captivates the performance-to-comfort ratio of the original, which were hardly well appointed even in their own day, although I have seen Morgan 3 wheelers with split windscreens and funny looking soft tops, tokens of the Reverend’s half hearted efforts to provide a minimum of comfort. The other modern component of the car roaring with authenticity is the Harley Davidson based engine. Where else could you find a brand new, handmade power plant designed in the 1930’s? The boat tail design of the body looks very convincing, if a little plain, but I take exception to the straight pipes, which are undoubtedly horrendously noisy. Charles should certainly have diverted the Harley’s exhaust gases through a proper Brooklands style fishtail silencer, which apart from being easier on the ears would have provided a convincing finishing touch to the retro bomb package. Yes, Uncle John would definitely have approved.

But yes, definitely quite strange to any sane person.


Before it even occurred to me to enquire what exactly a Brooklands (a racetrack in England) style fishtail silencer was Taylor sent me some pictures. Here (above) is one.

I called Larry Emrick who lives in Southlands not far from my home. Within 20 minutes I was in the back seat of his 1965 4 wheeler enjoying a jarring ride in the back seat. I was in the back seat because I wanted to take a photograph of Emrick reflected on the curious (not so when you figure that the Morgan does not have a normal windshield) rear view mirror. And here is what Emrick wrote about his beloved Morgan.

Larry Emrick's  1964 Morgan Plus-4

This is my 1964 Morgan Plus 4 English sportscar. I have owned the car for 31 years and apart from the non-factory paint, which is now more than 20 years old, the car is totally original.

The Morgan Motor Company, located in Malvern, England, is still owned by the founding family and has recently celebrated its centennial. Morgans were originally sold as three-wheelers, with two wheels on the front and a single driving wheel at the rear. After a lapse of about 50 years that configuration has been revived by the company with a limited-edition run of newly engineered three-wheelers.

In the mid-1930s Morgans broke with its three-wheel tradition and designed a four-wheel car that was designated the 4-4 which meant it had a four cylinder engine and four wheels. In the 1950s the company upgraded the power of the engine to make it more sporting and competitive and designated the new model the Plus 4, which is the model I have. Mine is also somewhat more unusual, being a four seater.

My car has 95,000 original miles, of which I have put on about 25,000 since I bought it 31 years ago. I drive it regularly during the summer but only licence it for six months of the year because I am reluctant to keep piling mileage on an ever-aging car.

Nevertheless, it is in good condition with its original leather upholstery. The car has never been restored.

A large part of the reason it is in such good condition is that in all the years I have owned it, I have only once or twice had to drive it in the rain. That is important because much of the car is wood and if not kept dry the car would eventually rot, requiring a total reconstruction that would cost far more than the value of the vehicle.

Morgans are certainly not to every car-owner's taste. They are difficult to drive and not very comfortable. They are draughty and for those owners who do drive in the rain, the tops leak and water blows in around the windows. Nevertheless for those car owners who appreciate owning and driving a piece of automotive history they are the ultimate in inexpensive sports cars and a step up from the ubiquitous MGs and Triumphs of an earlier day. They are still hand-built in the same factory in England that has been building them for generations.

Morgan achieved lasting fame in the early 1960s when a Plus 4 model, with the same basic engine as mine, won its class at the Le Mans 24-hour race in France. That car still exists and is campaigned vigorously as a vintage racer in England.
- Larry Emrick

I asked Emrick for a little bio. Here it is:

I joined The Sun in 1971 as a copy editor on the news desk after 10 years as a reporter and editor on newspapers across the country. I was the national editor for about 20 years until I was assigned to the city desk as a copy editor. I retired four years ago.

While at The Sun I also wrote extensively about hiking, climbing, mountaineering and skiing and occasionally about vintage cars. Since retirement from The Sun I have been engaged in equestrian pursuits as a rider and stable hand. All the HS that I dealt with in 50-year-career as a journalist left me well-equipped to deal with the real thing when I got into horses.


Our Morgan story does not end here. I called up my friend John Lekich to tell him of my recent interest in Morgans. He said, “Do you know that Lloyd Dykk ( a recently retired extremely high calibre music and theatre critic of the Vancouver Sun) owned a Morgan and wrote an essay about it?” This took me in a three day quest to find it. The usually reclusive Dykk did answer my call (and I called him again on the next day). He could not find a copy nor could he give me a date for the essay. I tried connections at the Vancouver Sun and their electronic files found nothing.

Finally I used the resources of the Vancouver Public Library. I was told that the article would be in the microfiche files but that it could only be found with an exact date. I searched another data base called Canadian Newsstand. I entered Lloyd Dykk, Morgan (with variations Morgan mortorcar, Morgan convertible and finally simply cars). Nothing appeared except Dykk’s record and CD reviews or plays that had the word car in the articles. But there was one that caught my eye. Here it is. It has nothing to do with Morgan cars and more to do with Rex Morgan M.D. Both Rosemary and I are fans of Rex Morgan and particularly now as the strip has a young girl (a terrible teenager from hell) that reminds us of Rebecca. The girl goes bananas when her mother takes away her cell phone in punishment. It would seem that Lloyd Dykk was a fan of both Morgans, the car and the doctor.

At last, June is busting out all over in a Gale of passion: After 47 years of waiting, it’s still not wise to rush. Final Edition Dykk, Lloyd, The Vancouver Sun 18 Feb 1995

Is there a more aptly named comic strip heroine than June Gale, professional nurse to Rex Morgan, M.D.?

Who knows what teary off-frame gales must have flooded the pillow of the primevally youthful June’s single bed over the 47 years since she and Rex set up medical practice together? “Rex, how can you be so…blind? Rex is there someone…else? Rex could you be… gay?”

No, she seems to have concluded. He wasn’t gay…not in the discomfitingly contemporary sense anyway. Nor was he what you could call gay in the dictionary sense, either. No, the stick-like Rex certainly wasn’t that!(I’m a doctor, dammit!...why, even his name sounded like a prescription.) But then that’s what made him so appealing, since June wasn’t exactly what you would call a live wire herself.

In today’s strip, in this very paper, she’s in for a big surprise, as only the perpetually-in-the-dark June could be, though all the rest of you Rex junkies will have seen it coming for weeks.

After dinner, in a fancy-schmancy restaurant, after a crisis in the desert involving a tubercular patient and a Dickensian tot called Little Emily, Rex finally plants one on June. “Oh, Rex, this is so…sudden!” you might expect June to exclaim, who would be about 75 by now. Instead she whimpers, “Oh, Rex, I think I’m going to…CRY!” And readers, so do I!!

The kiss happens at the airport and naturally passers-by get in on the act, smirking beatifically as the two gigantic profiles merge, June’s left arm over Rex’s shoulder in an understandable half-nelson. The frome doesn’t show it, but she’s no doubt perched on one foot, the other sensible pump cocked in the air at the knee—the expression of ‘50s feminine rapture.

Lines radiate from them as if a neutron bomb has gone off. The unstoppable force meets the unmovable object. With the speed of glaciers, those two profiles have been approaching each other for decades and now it’s point impact. Rex should have known they were made for each other. Both of them as antiseptic as Pine-Sol, they also happen to speak in…ellipses!

It’s also taken a glacier’s patience to follow the non-madcap adventures in professional tedium, but Rex and June have their inexplicable fans, probably most of them ironist, but maybe not… a scary thought, so best abandon it.

Rex Morgan is the perfect expression of banality in North American life. Purer than even Zippy the Pinhead, its satirist. North American readers have complained en masse that they don’t “understand” the absurdism of the syndicated Zippy (which the Sun briefly attempted to run). But they do seem to understand Rex (not a lateral-thinking non-sequitur in a car-load). In Rex, satisfyingly, nothing happens – exquisitely slow. Or else something happens—sensationally fast. And all linearly.

There were storms of protest when the Sun decided to pull the life-support on Rex for a few months in 1992, and then back he came, millimetring his way across what you would laughably call a story, something that was the equivalent of illustrated radio soap opera, but in tiny adventu-bites.

These consist of three, sometimes only two, frames a day, which seem to be happening in real time (this expands into something like six frames on weekends—presumably when you have the time to put your feet up and really get into it). The dialogue is continuous and the strip laboriously drawn in a bad crowded, photo-realistic style.

In a recent Thursday’s strip, this is all that occurred: June comes in and asks Keith (one of the epidemic of minor characters who come and go) if he has a minute. Sure, Keith says.

Not that Rex is okay, she wants Keith not to leave the practice. He thanks her but tells her his decision has been made – - it’s better this way. Abba-dabba-dee, that’s all folks. Tune in on Friday four our next five-second graphic Zen non-adventure that makes Nancy look deep.

Five seconds is about what it takes to read the average Rex Morgan strip, if you don’t pause to savour the iconography of the drawing or the suspenseful ellipses and exclamation marks that stipple the speech balloons with a rash of emotion (“Please…just say you’ll think about reconsidering!”).

Multiplied, that comes to 9.5 minutes of reading/action per year. In the 47 years since the strip began in 1948, that comes to something like 7.44 hours of total action, and by implication, 7.44 hours of total aging to the characters, who do not, in fact, discernibly grow older: Rex retains one wavy line of concentration across his youthful forehead, while the hopeful June is eternally clear-browed.

But if this aging hypothesis (which would explain some things) is correct, why are all the visual references so contradictory? Rex with his matinee-idol square jaw and Keith with his sinister little goatee, remain true t the era and look as though they could very well be living in a late-1948 B-movie.

But why, then, does June, with her short perky do and her dater-free living-with-mom martyrdom, seems to have advanced to the ethos of 1956 (and stayed there)? And how do you explain the up-to-date cars or the shocking intrusion of modern slang, like the frankly repellant Berna Holt’s response to her stalker ( who is, in fact, Professor Trillon): “Get a life, weirdo!” Time in comics is relative but nowhere near so co-relative as in Rex Morgan, M.D.

Before being rash enough to tie the knot, June and Rex should think it over. They have to only look through their own frames at their neighbor’s marital records.

After 18 years courtship, Joe Palooka married the cheese heiress Anne Howe in 1949, and of course they’re all in the news, just like Prince Valiant since he married Princess Valeta in 1946. Sure Blondie and Dagwood made a go of it after marrying within three years, but where did that get her? A catering job with Tootsie while the pathetic Lois smarms her way through a career in real estate.

But at least they are probably doing better than the vomitously drawn Cathy, much too old for her continuing stand-up comedy career and still making smart cracks about cellulite to her fridge.

Don’t let the sound of wedding bells deafen you to the facts, June. It’s no bowl of cherries. And just because you’re married is not excuse not to hold out. Rex might not…respect you. When he starts getting frisky, suggest a nice game of badminton and coca instead. Or say, “Rex, it’s been such a nice marriage…please let’s not spoil it!”

After all, where would your kids find disco-pants in the year 2011?

A Very Large Queen-Size Bed & I Feast On Piri-Piri Chicken Wings
Wednesday, September 07, 2011

I am writing this Tuesday night. When I get into bed our queen-size bed will feel much like a king-size as I am sleeping alone. This has not happened too often since I married my Rosemary in Mexico City in 1968. We would separate only when she visited her mother now and then.

I remember one of those trips vividly. We had one daughter, Alexandra and a couple of years later Rosemary made the trip to Ottawa (and from there to New Dublin, Ontario). When she returned  I  picked her up at Benito Juarez Airport. I remember that she was wearing a very tight, and very short orangy/yellow dress. She looked smashing. When we got home, we had a young housekeeper who had put Ale to bed. We were virtually alone. It was then that Rosemary in one of the few times that I can remember since I met her, ravished me. Nine months later Hilary Anne was born. I have a suspicion that perhaps our marriage had not been going very smoothly and Rosemary’s mother had advised her that a quick solution to the problem was another child.

No marriage is perfect but Rosemary and I have been together since 1968 and when she is not around I feel quite lost. In the past when I traveled for magazine assignments and annual reports I discovered that my fairly coldish and straight wife tended to be warm and passionate on the phone. We have had very nice phone calls in our years together.

As I sit here writing, I am trying to count the few blessings in being alone for the next week. On my way back from the CN Train (and bus) Station I stopped at Safeway and bought a package of 9 chicken wings. I slathered them with Nando’s Piri-Piri and some Mexican habanero hot sauce. I barbecued them along with a one ear of corn and a couple of red peppers that I had dipped in olive oil. I poured myself a very large glass of iced tea and turned on the TV and watched CNN (I was not keen on seeing Steve McQueen in The Blob on Turner Classic Movies). I was sloppy in how I ate the wings.  I must admit I had a good time.  The evening ended with Out of the Past & I Walk Alone.

I am now waiting for that phone to ring. Rosemary will tell me she arrived just fine. She will ask me about her cats and nag me if I watered these or those plants. She will ask me if I put out the blue box and the yellow and blue bags as garbage collection is tomorrow. She will not tell me she misses me and I will not tell her I miss her. But we will both know anyway, and both of us will look forward to the day we are back home on our much smaller queen-size bed.

Rosemary does not like very spicy food so I know there is at least one advantage in being a bachelor for a while.

Rosemary and Alexandra 1969

1968, photo by Andrew Taylor

La India María
Tuesday, September 06, 2011

In 1954 we Argentines thought we weren’t part of Latin America. We were more like the French, we liked to boast, and our English trains ran on time. When I told my friends I was moving to Mexico I could pretty well have told them I was off to “la cochinchina”. Conchinchina was the ancient name for Vietnam and in my day, “la cochinchina” was about as far as you could go from civilization.

My mother had made a scouting trip a year before and had come back with stories of volcanoes, pyramids and of Aztecs and the Mayans. Since then and even today Mexico has been the ultimate exotic for me, very far from such concepts as beaches, piñas coladas, heaps of nachos and Corona Beer.

I have never been able to forget the colours of Mexico, the smells of tortilla factories and the fruit and vegetables of a Mexican street mercado.

Since I arrived in Mexico City when I was 14 I must accept the fact that I grew up in Mexico and feeling this attraction and nostalgia for Mexico is perfectly natural.

I read how the Roma or gypsies consider themselves superior (or at least different) outsiders to most everybody else. Many times, even in Vancouver, whith my knowledge of Spanish and having dabbled in reading Latin American and Spanish literature, I feel quite smug.

Columbus must have gazed upon the inhabitants of San Salvador as exotic natives from the Far East. I wonder what these exotics thought of the Spaniards. I look upon Vancouverites be they born here, the native Canadians, those from the Indian subcontinent, the Chinese, etc as people who live (to use the modern term) with an important app missing in their brain!

It wasn’t always like that. I remember being with my friend Robert Hijar in the grandstands of the Mexican Grand Prix sometime in the early 60s. We were discussing in English, comparing and contrasting the driving skills of the very British Graham Hill and the very Scottish Jim Clark. I remember distinctly, it was such a shock, that two Mexican men in front of us, one whispered into the ear of the other in Spanish, “I wonder what they are saying about us.” I was amazed and confused by what seemed to be a horrific inferiority complex.

At the time there was a flyweight boxer called “el Ratón"  Macías who had won a bronze medal in the 1951 Panamerican Games. He often talked about being proudly Mexican. His career peaked in 1955 when in San Francisco he won the NBA bantamweight championship of the world. It was about that time that Macías was brought on board by a Mexican soft drink company that introduced Mexicola. It was proudly Mexican but it was taken out of the market in a year.

By the early 60s I started noticing that the National Mexican football team was sometimes called el equipo azteca (or the Aztec team) and sometimes TV announcers used the lofty sounding term “el equipo cobre” or the copper coloured team. A nationalistic pride had begun to seep in.

It was at St. Ed’s were a classmate of mine suffered for years my insults in Spanish. The young man, in spite of his Latino surname told me he spoke no Spanish. On the last day, the day of our graduation I said something offensive in Spanish and he said to me in perfect Spanish, “I have taken your insults just too long,” and this large guard in our football team floored me with a punch that hit my upper arm and shoulder.

As an Argentine born white guy who spoke in English without and accent, for four years I was in the middle of two camps at St. Ed’s. On one side were the Anglos and on the other the Latinos (from Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Peru, etc). I was deemed neither and ended up as a loaner for the duration not knowing that there were some who were camouflaging as Anglos by pronouncing their last name Reys when it was really Reyez, or Lops instead of Lopez! The chicano movement, which brought pride to these disenfranchised Latinos who were neither Mexican nor American was still in its infancy.

But by the early 70s while Rosemary and I were raising a family in Mexico City we understood that underlying the sense of inferiority of Mexican in relations to the US (So near the United States of America and so far from God) there was a keen sense of humour in which apparent innoncence and downright stupidity was simply a cloud to hide the Mexican superiority.

In my Argentina that term of superiority over others would be called vivo (or alive) or piola (sort of smart) or even púa (like a barbed wire). The Mexican who was the best example of this sort of intelligence was Mario Moreno “Cantinflas”. Americans might remember him in Around the World in 80 Days (as Passepartout) (1956) and Pepe in 1960 ( I fell hard for Shirley Jones).

Cantinflas in his Mexican films talked hard and fast and his lingo made no sense. He appeared to be stupid but we all knew better.

It was around the late 60s and early 70s that there appeared in the scene a female foil to Cantinflas. She was a very Indian sounding woman called La India María (born María Elena Velasco). Her protagonist, a silly and silly sounding native Mexican just in the big city just days from her birth place, San José de los Burros, spoke a Spanish very much like that ah-shucks and famous American comic, actor and people forget columnist, Will Rogers.

There are no signs that La India María has lost any of her popularity. A couple of years ago I attempted to direct my Mexican nostalgia in the direction of India María using as my subject the beautiful and very Mexican Ivette Hernandez. I believe that my efforts might have failed a tad as I photographed her as a beautiful and serious woman.

But perhaps in the end I may have been right. It is about time we foolish and inferior Latinos take over the world. Look at the mess the superior race has made of it.

If you want to learn a bit more about La India María look here. It is in Spanish but worth it. And for a short excerpt of her brand of humour look here

Nicté-Ha - The Mayan Princess Who Never Was
Monday, September 05, 2011

When I was 14 in the mid fifties in Mexico City I was unaware that I was living in a golden age of Mexican art and film. My mother and grandmother were friends of Mexicans in the arts and one of them (not Mexican) was Alma Reed a journalist of fame and a patron of the arts. Through her my mother and grandmother met Diego Rivera and other Mexican painters. I was taken to several parties and exhibitions but the only person I remember was a beautiful woman with extremely black eyes who said she was a Mayan princess. She called herself Nicté-Ha and liked to dress in white. I have no idea if the bar of the venerable Hotel Del Prado (in which there was a beautiful mural by Diego Rivera) came first or the princess as the bar was the Nicté-Ha. In 1985 the terrible earthquake that struck Mexico City demolished the hotel but with careful restoration techniques the mural was peeled off from the fallen wall.

I believe that Nicté-Ha, the Mayan princess might have been a proto Paris Hilton, who was famous for being herself. There is no on-line information on my Mayan princess. It is almost as if she may have been a figment of my imagination.

A couple of years ago I photographed Ivette Hernandez as my Nicté-Ha. I used one of my mother’s blue Mexican rebozos and on Hernandez’s forehead I placed a necklace I had made for Rosemary (part of a set that includes a ring and ear rings) by my jeweler friend Jaime Vidal. The sterling silver jewelry featured the seeds from our colorín tree which I planted in our front garden when we moved to Arboledas, Estado de Mexico. This tree is the state’s official tree and the seeds are a brilliant deep red. With time they have turned even darker and are almost black.

Mexican Nostalgia

From Codex To E-Readers - Non Linear Portraiture?
Sunday, September 04, 2011

NIkon FM-2 Kodak b+w infrared film

The codex is built for nonlinear reading — not the way a Web surfer does it, aimlessly questing from document to document, but the way a deep reader does it, navigating the network of internal connections that exists within a single rich document like a novel. Indeed, the codex isn’t just another format, it’s the one for which the novel is optimized. The contemporary novel’s dense, layered language took root and grew in the codex, and it demands the kind of navigation that only the codex provides. Imagine trying to negotiate the nested, echoing labyrinth of David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” if it were transcribed onto a scroll. It couldn’t be done.

God knows, there was great literature before there was the codex, and should it pass away, there will be great literature after it. But if we stop reading on paper, we should keep in mind what we’re sacrificing: that nonlinear experience, which is unique to the codex. You don’t get it from any other medium — not movies, or TV, or music or video games. The codex won out over the scroll because it did what good technologies are supposed to do: It gave readers a power they never had before, power over the flow of their own reading experience. And until I hear God personally say to me, “Boot up and read,” I won’t be giving it up.
Lev Grossman, NY Times September 2, 2011

with vignetting

I read the article Mechanic Muse – From Scroll to Screen by Lev Grossman last night in bed in my NY Times and I was instantly amazed as how writers in the NY Times write about stuff from an angle that few of us ever imagine. This one was all about how papyrus scrolls were difficult to read (all that unrolling!) and how the codex (the book as we know it even before it was printed by Gutenberg) adopted by enterprising early Christians changed how we read. The Kindle and its variant of imitators is now going to fundamentally affect how we read. I am aware that one of the wonders of on line reading is the ability to click on hyperlinks or to look up words within the text that we might not recognize. But Grossman argues that we will be losing an important freedom.

The essay left me thinking and that led to today’s blog featuring photographs I took three years ago of León, Guanajuato, Mexico-born Ivette Hernandez who posed for me for about a year and we pursued my Mexican nostalgia. In the photos here are my interpretation of La Santa Muerte who is the patron saint of drug traffickers and drug cartels in Mexico and in particular in the northern parts. I used for my shots a Mexican papier-mâché skeleton given to me by architect Abraham Rogatnick, who knowing he was dying, got rid of most of his stuff.

Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD 90mm
Kodak Plus-X 

These pictures were taken in b+w (two variants) and in colour slide with my Mamiya RB-67. The other (two variants here) I used a Nikon FM-2 with Kodak b+w infrared film.

Variant scan

A modern photographer might take all these with one high end digital camera in what is called the raw format. From that format the photographer can choose to make several versions. One might be in colour, one might be in b+w and another in b+w using an infrared plug or app that would mimic real (alas no longer made) Kodak B+w Infrared Film. The photographer might have even shot the same variants of La Santa Muerte where Hernandez has a lace cover over her head and one without it.

Ektachrome 100G 
But I argue here (I am not sure if I am arguing that my method is the better one)  that these four pictures were taken at a different point in time. Hernandez might have moved and I certainly had to move since the Mamiya and the Nikon would have forced me to move up or down, back or forward. I am pointing out that the digital photographer can make one photograph look like four different photographs but in actual fact my four photographs are unique in that they are not taken at the same precise time. The use (the making of the choice) of one film or the other, of one camera or another in many ways affects my relationship to my subject. Each camera by its size and shape affects how I hold it and how I proceed to take my pictures. I believe this is good but I have no proof that this method is "better"in the same way that Grossman’s essay in the NY Times does not prove one way or another that a codex book is better than an e-reader.


Previous Posts

Terranova on Earth Day


Decay, Death & Beauty

Odile & Odette & a Camellia

Two Straight Men? Pity!

Arts Umbrella Dance Company - An Excercise in Exce...

Steel, Coke & Pragmatism

Cabaret & New Westminster's Favourite Son

A Stellar Night With the Petit Avant-Garde

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12/22/13 - 12/29/13

12/29/13 - 1/5/14

1/5/14 - 1/12/14

1/12/14 - 1/19/14

1/19/14 - 1/26/14

1/26/14 - 2/2/14

2/2/14 - 2/9/14

2/9/14 - 2/16/14

2/16/14 - 2/23/14

2/23/14 - 3/2/14

3/2/14 - 3/9/14

3/9/14 - 3/16/14

3/16/14 - 3/23/14

3/23/14 - 3/30/14

3/30/14 - 4/6/14

4/6/14 - 4/13/14

4/13/14 - 4/20/14

4/20/14 - 4/27/14

4/27/14 - 5/4/14

5/4/14 - 5/11/14

5/11/14 - 5/18/14

5/18/14 - 5/25/14

5/25/14 - 6/1/14

6/1/14 - 6/8/14

6/8/14 - 6/15/14

6/15/14 - 6/22/14

6/22/14 - 6/29/14

6/29/14 - 7/6/14

7/6/14 - 7/13/14

7/13/14 - 7/20/14

7/20/14 - 7/27/14

7/27/14 - 8/3/14

8/3/14 - 8/10/14

8/10/14 - 8/17/14

8/17/14 - 8/24/14

8/24/14 - 8/31/14

8/31/14 - 9/7/14

9/7/14 - 9/14/14

9/14/14 - 9/21/14

9/21/14 - 9/28/14

9/28/14 - 10/5/14

10/5/14 - 10/12/14

10/12/14 - 10/19/14

10/19/14 - 10/26/14

10/26/14 - 11/2/14

11/2/14 - 11/9/14

11/9/14 - 11/16/14

11/16/14 - 11/23/14

11/23/14 - 11/30/14

11/30/14 - 12/7/14

12/7/14 - 12/14/14

12/14/14 - 12/21/14

12/21/14 - 12/28/14

12/28/14 - 1/4/15

1/4/15 - 1/11/15

1/11/15 - 1/18/15

1/18/15 - 1/25/15

1/25/15 - 2/1/15

2/1/15 - 2/8/15

2/8/15 - 2/15/15

2/15/15 - 2/22/15

2/22/15 - 3/1/15

3/1/15 - 3/8/15

3/8/15 - 3/15/15

3/15/15 - 3/22/15

3/22/15 - 3/29/15

3/29/15 - 4/5/15

4/5/15 - 4/12/15

4/12/15 - 4/19/15

4/19/15 - 4/26/15

4/26/15 - 5/3/15

5/3/15 - 5/10/15

5/10/15 - 5/17/15

5/17/15 - 5/24/15

5/24/15 - 5/31/15

5/31/15 - 6/7/15

6/7/15 - 6/14/15

6/14/15 - 6/21/15

6/21/15 - 6/28/15

6/28/15 - 7/5/15

7/5/15 - 7/12/15

7/12/15 - 7/19/15

7/19/15 - 7/26/15

7/26/15 - 8/2/15

8/2/15 - 8/9/15

8/9/15 - 8/16/15

8/16/15 - 8/23/15

8/23/15 - 8/30/15

8/30/15 - 9/6/15

9/6/15 - 9/13/15

9/13/15 - 9/20/15

9/20/15 - 9/27/15

9/27/15 - 10/4/15

10/4/15 - 10/11/15

10/18/15 - 10/25/15

10/25/15 - 11/1/15

11/1/15 - 11/8/15

11/8/15 - 11/15/15

11/15/15 - 11/22/15

11/22/15 - 11/29/15

11/29/15 - 12/6/15

12/6/15 - 12/13/15

12/13/15 - 12/20/15

12/20/15 - 12/27/15

12/27/15 - 1/3/16

1/3/16 - 1/10/16

1/10/16 - 1/17/16

1/31/16 - 2/7/16

2/7/16 - 2/14/16

2/14/16 - 2/21/16

2/21/16 - 2/28/16

2/28/16 - 3/6/16

3/6/16 - 3/13/16

3/13/16 - 3/20/16

3/20/16 - 3/27/16

3/27/16 - 4/3/16

4/3/16 - 4/10/16

4/10/16 - 4/17/16

4/17/16 - 4/24/16

4/24/16 - 5/1/16

5/1/16 - 5/8/16

5/8/16 - 5/15/16

5/15/16 - 5/22/16

5/22/16 - 5/29/16

5/29/16 - 6/5/16

6/5/16 - 6/12/16

6/12/16 - 6/19/16

6/19/16 - 6/26/16

6/26/16 - 7/3/16

7/3/16 - 7/10/16

7/10/16 - 7/17/16

7/17/16 - 7/24/16

7/24/16 - 7/31/16

7/31/16 - 8/7/16

8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

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

6/25/17 - 7/2/17

7/2/17 - 7/9/17

7/9/17 - 7/16/17

7/16/17 - 7/23/17

7/23/17 - 7/30/17

7/30/17 - 8/6/17

8/6/17 - 8/13/17

8/13/17 - 8/20/17

8/20/17 - 8/27/17

8/27/17 - 9/3/17

9/3/17 - 9/10/17

9/10/17 - 9/17/17

9/17/17 - 9/24/17

9/24/17 - 10/1/17

10/1/17 - 10/8/17

10/8/17 - 10/15/17

10/15/17 - 10/22/17

10/22/17 - 10/29/17

10/29/17 - 11/5/17

11/5/17 - 11/12/17

11/12/17 - 11/19/17

11/19/17 - 11/26/17

11/26/17 - 12/3/17

12/3/17 - 12/10/17

12/10/17 - 12/17/17

12/17/17 - 12/24/17

12/24/17 - 12/31/17

12/31/17 - 1/7/18

1/7/18 - 1/14/18

1/14/18 - 1/21/18

1/21/18 - 1/28/18

1/28/18 - 2/4/18

2/4/18 - 2/11/18

2/11/18 - 2/18/18

2/18/18 - 2/25/18

2/25/18 - 3/4/18

3/4/18 - 3/11/18

3/11/18 - 3/18/18

3/18/18 - 3/25/18

3/25/18 - 4/1/18

4/1/18 - 4/8/18

4/8/18 - 4/15/18

4/15/18 - 4/22/18

4/22/18 - 4/29/18