Christmas 2011 & A Rosier Christmas Of 2006
Saturday, December 24, 2011
In spite of all the hoopla about Christmas and that it is a time of happy human interaction of the face to face kind, most will admit, and I am one of them, that the day (after a busy Christmas Eve dinner with the family) and the days after are a time for reflection. That reflection is particularly intense in those non-activity days that at one time seemed to be of indeterminate length, those days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
|Lauren, Rebecca & Alex|
This particular Christmas my wife Rosemary took a dark view of it all. She was busy but stressed out in our mutual preparations for our Christmas dinner. This year she and I did not exchange gifts but made it a point to buy ourselves nice new sheets and an efficient toaster to make our daily breakfast in bed that much more free of stress in its preparation.
|Lauren Elizabeth Stewart|
This particular Christmas was a first in that I found many DVD films for my daughters and granddaughters. It is but my attempt to steer them away from mass media interest films that feature violent cartoon characters. I also found books for these women in my life. They may not read them now or soon but I live in the hope that they will some day read and experience the true loneliness, not the facebook type of loneliness, of reading as a habit.
|Rebecca Anne Stewart|
Two weeks ago the plan to see Buster Keaton’s The General
after a Saturday dinner was thwarted by my visit to emergency. I insisted on seeing the film on Christmas Eve. Rebecca protested the loudest saying that we should open the presents right after dinner instead of watching a film that had nothing to do with Christmas. I ironed out a compromise in that we would indeed open the presents after dinner with the proviso we would see the film after. Rosemary pointed out that The General was almost two hours long. But I would not listen. We did watch The General and I noticed that my eldest daughter was rather tired and not all too happy.
After the film, they all went home but I felt only a tad amount of guilt. It think that someday, in those days, when looking back seems to coat memories with that comfy shade of pink, some of my family will remember that Christmas Eve of 2011, of The General, and smile. And they just might be the only ones in that plain contemporary existence the few now dare call mediocrity, to know the useless fact that the name of the other locomotive in The General was Texas.
Rosemary has informed me that Christmas as we know it is something of the past and she does not look forward to another. Perhaps she is right and our 2012 Christmas might feature an Aztec ruin or a sandy beach in the sun. With Santa Claus no longer part of our life, nor my loss of a need to attend a Midnight Mass, in this later segment of our life (and perhaps I can only speak for myself here) I must find something else to while away those days, until now, lazy and wonderful days between Christmas and the New Year.
Rebecca complained that this was not a very good Christmas. Her father, Bruce was not present (he was woking a late shift) and that she was forced to see The General. I received many sweets but somehow, at least until now, as I write, the prospect of eating any of them is diminished. I find that I am looking back to other Christmases and here is one of them Christmas of 2006 when my little girls were still little girls. When glorious curly hair was still that and the idea of Santa Claus was a fact that was as yet uncontested. But I must report one common factor between the pictures of 2006 and those of 2011. In both instances I used Polaroid film for my Mamiya RB-67. But this common factor is not quite. In 2006 they were true Polaroids. This batch is what those of us who hold out and use them commonly call Fujiroids and they are not quite up to par to the real thing.
Light Is Sufficient To Itself
Friday, December 23, 2011
Light is sufficient to itself—
If Others want to see
It can be had on Window Panes
Some Hours in the Day.
But not for Compensation—
It holds as large a Glow
To Squirrel in the Himmaleh
Precisely, as to you.
Wednesday was the longest night of the year or as I prefer to call it, the shortest day. I spent most of it inside with two colds (one per nostril). You see I had this cold and when it was almost gone another came and both seem to get along just fine in the company of my body. It was a bad day to stay inside as the sun was out and I could have worked in the garden. Rosemary did and I could see her being followed wherever she went by her cat Casi-Casi.
In this latest sequence blog of running pictures to illustrate Emily Dickinson poems I knew that there was surely one poem on light and it is one of my favourites. It begins with: There is a certain slant of light which I have already illustrated here
. But I found another that fits better with the picture of Madeleine Morris I took a summer long ago.
In this digital age of photography photographers are able to edit the pictures they do not like. These pictures go to a digital oblivion where their zero and one pixels join the cloud of emptiness which of late we suspect is occupied by a molasses-like substance predicted by a gentleman called Jack Higgs.
We who still shoot film tend to keep everything in our files even though they occupy a physical space, and in my case, in my basement nmetal file cabinets.
I knew that there was one picture of Madeleine taken with fast Ektachrome which I pushed in processing from 800 to 1600 IS0 but I forgot to tell my Nikon about. The slide is very overexposed. I like it and I think that it, and she, and Dickinson’s poem fit just about perfect.
Tyler Duncan - Perfection & A Bit More
Thursday, December 22, 2011
|Tyler Duncan |
What could possibly be wrong with going to a wonderful concert (of a series of which I have attended for 10 years) Early Music Vancouver’s The Bach Cantata Project – Festive Bach Cantatas for Christmas? Consider that I went with my good friend Graham Walker who like me is an enthusiast of all things baroque. Add to this the fact that we know many of the usual suspects on stage, from the virtuoso violinist and director Marc Destrubé to his former musicians from the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Paul Luchkow, Jenny Essers, Angela Malmberg, Masako Matsumoto, Glenys Webster, Natalie Mackie and the two bears, the "Happy Bear"Steve Creswell on Viola and the "Koala Bear" Nathan Whitaker on Cello.
If that weren’t enough there was stalwart oboist Washington McClain and organist (not wearing his trademark red glasses) Michael Jarvis.
But perfection, can, paradoxicallay, be even more so if you feature two natural horn guys, the renowned Andrew Clark and Steve Denroche. This instrument is incredibly hard to play (particularly in playing the wrong notes every once in a while and something that never happened at this concert). No concert featuring Cantata BW V 52 False Welt, dr trau ich nicht
with its Sinfonia borrowed from the Brandenburg number 2 could be accurate without those horns.
There were four singers, soprano Shannon Mercer, alto Laura Pudwell (excellent as always) newcomer tenor (he would have looked even more comfortable and casual serving me a hamburger on skates back in my Texas of the mid 50s with his swirl of hair in the front of his head) and baritone Tyler Duncan.
The four singers did what they were supposed to do, sing with efficiency as professionals are wont to do. But here is where the perfect concert (after ten years of them am I beginning to take them for granted?) became something quite different.
My friend Graham Walker and I from our vantage point on the second row in the front just marvelled at baritone Tyler Duncan’s performance. And this was most evident in his singing ther recitativo for bass - I Christenheit! Wohlan, so mach die bereit
in Bach's Cantata BW V 91, Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ
I am not a legitimate music critic but it seemed to us, and to me, that the man was singing with a passion, with a presence, with volume, with diction and with something else I could not quite pin down and which made this Cantata Project on its 10th year the most memorable of all.
In ballet I have seen Evelyn Hart, and I have experienced local actor Bill Dow play Glengarry Glen Ross
in a performance that has never been matched by anybody else. I can add to these unforgettable instances of pure talent that of Tyler Duncan’s last night.
A little bird has informed me that a local arts organization is mounting the Pirates of Penzance for next fall. I can think of one handsome young man who with sword in hand will push all those tenors off the deck.
Best of all Tyler Duncan is one of ours, Vancouver’s very own. Perfection does not have to be dull when there is more.
There Is No Frigate Like A Book
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.
Lawful As Equilibrium
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The Rat is the concisest Tenant,
He pays no Rent.
Repudiates the Obligation –
On Schemes intent
Balking our Wit
To sound or circumvent –
Hate cannot harm
A Foe so reticent –
Neither Decree prohibit him –
Lawful as Equilibrium.
More Emily Dickinson
And more again
And even more
And more again
And more Emily
And even more
My first reference to Dickinson in this blog
The Dirk Commemorate Itself
Monday, December 19, 2011
Rehearsal to Ourselves
Of a Withdrawn Delight –
Affords a Bliss like Murder –
Omnipotent – Acute-
We will not drop the Dirk –
Because We love the Wound –
The Dirk Commemorate – Itself –
Remind Us that We died -
Riddley Walker - The Potentiality Of A Book Unread
Sunday, December 18, 2011
I learned a few good things in Juan Domingo Perón’s dictatorship but I only took one of them to heart. Perón told us that in Argentina only children were privileged. This dictum of his was in big signs in all of our city parks. In school we were told to save our money by buying government bonds (Ahorro Nacional). We all had our little booklets with our savings. We were also told by Perón, via our teachers, that books were sacred and valuable, so valuable, that we should never think of writing in them or bending any of the corners. In the mid 50s this man went against his advice, and, taking a cue from Hitler had his minions burn books that wrote the truth about him.
But while I have never really learned to save money I have always had an appreciation for books and for their intellectual value. Many of these books became my friends and parting with any of them causes me lots of sorrow. Books, my books, should be home with me. A home without pictures on the walls and books on shelves and on tables is not a home.
But it was in January of 2010 that I realized that I had too many books and that not only did I not have any room for any more but that if we were to move to a smaller place as our health declines I would have to part with many of my friends. This was heart wrenching so I made the decision to not buy any more books.
The Vancouver Public Library has interceded for my friends in a pleasant and efficient manner. They send me notice of the books I have ordered from their catalogue and that they are available for pick up at my nearest library at Oakridge.
But this Christmas I found a way of buying books and getting pleasure out of it. This experience gave me a justification to go to bookstores and look at the shelves and smell the smell so particular of books be they new or old.
What I did was to buy books for my friends and family. Since you never buy something for someone that you would not give to yourself, I found books that I would like to get myself. Will I dare to ask them to lend me the book after they finish it?
I have found no friend who might enjoy Umberto Eco’s The Cemetery of Prague
so I will have to put my dibs for it at the Vancouver Public Library.
When I stare at my book shelves I am proud to think that I have read all of them. This is as it should be. Unread books are like pearls unworn. My mother used to wear her pearls often and told me that if she did not, pearls, who were really still much alive, would lose their lustre. I believe she might have said the same thing about a poor and unread book.
It was Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC who told me that it was our purpose in life to find out what we did well and then proceed to do it. Books as books must be books. Therefore to carry out their function they must be at least read once. I often wonder what to make of those pseudo books with blank pages. What are they? What can they become? It was from Brother Stanley Repucci, CSC that I first learned of potential energy. Can an unread book survive on it?
And, there is one book in my library that I have never read. In 1980 I laboured through the first three pages and gave up on it.
The book is called Riddley Walker
and its author Russell Hoban died, Tuesday, December 13 in London where he lived from 1969. He had been born in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. This mournful-looking but most intelligent man on the back cover of my book reminds me of a blend between Len Deighton and Michael Caine. This wonderful author (and of this I know thanks to Frances) wrote a series of children’s books (illustrated first by Garth Williams and subsequently by Hoban’s wife Lillian) featuring a sad looking badger called Frances.
Hoban himself was a trained illustrator but he opted to write his children stories and not illustrate them.
Hoban’s Riddley Walker is set in Canterbury, England 2000 years into the future. A nuclear holocaust in a an almost forgotten past has left the world with few inhabitants and very little civilization. Slave populations labor for unseen masters who are determined to unearth the secrets, electricity, etc, of the past sort of like in A Canticle for Leibovitz
by Walter M. Miller.
What made reading this book impossible for me is the invented (worn down? broken apart?) language of the narrator. I think that I will make a new attempt in my own personal homage to the man with the mournful face.
Here is the first page of Riddley Walker:
On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadn’t ben none for a long time befor hin nor I aint looking to see none again. He dint make the groun shake nor nothing like that when he come on to my spear he wernt all that big plus he lookit poorly. He done the reqwyrt he ternt and stood and clatter his teef and made his rush and there we wer then. Him on 1 end of the spear kicking his life out and me on the other end watching him dy. I said, ‘Your tern now my tern later.’ The other spears gone in then and he were dead and the steam coming up off him in the rain and we all yelt, ‘Offert!’
The woal thing fealt jus that lttl bit stupid. Us running that boar thru that las little scrump of woodling with the forms all roun. Cow mooing sheal baiing cocks crowing and us foraging our las boar in a thn reay girzel on the day I come a man.
The Bernt Arse pck ben follering jus out of bow shot. When the shout gone up ther ears all prickt up. Ther leader he wer a big black and red spottit dog he come forit a little like he ben going to make a speech or some thing til 1 or 2 bloaks uppit bow then he slumpt back agen and kep his farness follering us back. I took noatis of the leader tho. He wernt close a nuff for me to see his eyes bu I thot his eye ben on me.
Coming back with the boar on a poal we come a long by the river in wer hevvyer woodit in there Through the girzel you cud see blue smoak haning in be twean the black trees and the stump pink and red where they ben loppt off, Aulder trees