Back When I Used To Walk Miles To School
Saturday, December 31, 2011
I was never ever bored by any of the stories my grandmother used to tell me of her childhood and that of my mother’s and other relatives. Each retelling seemed to be fresh.
As we (Rosemary, Hilary, Rebecca and Lauren) watched on Saturday night Ralph Nelson’s 1968 film Charly
with Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom I put the film on pause and asked Rebecca, “Do you know my personal connection with this film?” Her quick answer, “Can it wait until we finish the film?” told me that my story would not impress her in the least.
I told her that I had both photographed Cliff Robertson and also Rod Steiger. Of the latter she knew I was talking about Steiger’s connection to Norman Jewison’s 1967 film In the Heat of the Night
. Rebecca had seen the film after having read the book by John Ball at school. Her comment on Steiger and Cliff Robertson was, “Nobody in school would know who either of those actors is.” I attempted again, “Well I have photographed most of this city’s mayors including the present one.” That was met with absolute silence. Mayors must not be high up in the agenda of Rebecca or her contemporaries of grade 9.
I persisted and told her that back in 1968 I had watched with Rosemary in our Mexico City apartment, Neil Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for man…” As soon as his boots had firmly compressed the moon’s moon (certainly not earth!) we switched off the TV and drove to the Cine Polanco to see Charly
It was sometime in the late 80s that I had the opportunity of taking pictures of Cliff Roberston in Whistler. He smiled when I told him my story.
But the evening with Charly
last night was not entirely a lost one. There were no confrontations with the teenager at the table and the teenager’s contribution to the wonderful apple pie that Hilary baked (the latter made the crust, the former the apples) was appreciated by us all. I helped myself to a very large second helping of the pie.
In the first ten minutes of the film Rebecca cried as Charly’s unsympathetic and cruel work mates made fun of his stupidity. At one point Rebecca said she did not want to watch. But the presence of the beautiful Claire Bloom (we had enjoyed her weeks back in a family viewing of Chaplin’s Limelight
) may have kept her interest. I drove them all home in what was the last Saturday night family dinner of the year. I was content to realize that without the girls knowing, they were well in their way of knowing of the importance of Rod Steiger and Cliff Robertson even if being blasé about our city’s mayors may be understandable and even justifiable.
Beds, Beds & More Beds
Friday, December 30, 2011
A few days ago I scanned some negatives of a friend I photographed some years ago who now lives in Milan. Her name is Maddalena. When she was in Vancouver we all called her Maggie. I would agree that the proper Italian version is far sexier (not that Maddalena has any problems with any lack of it).
I have very little memory of taking this picture of Maddalena on her day bed. I think it is pretty good. I know I was using a rather ancient Asahi Pentax S-3 and that the lens was a 28mm. The film was that very small grained Kodak Technical Pan with that extra red sensitivity so that skin has a luminous look. Yesterday it hit me that I could end 2011 with a bang by featuring in a blog some of the better (but alas conservative in content as I would not want to offend anybody reading and looking at this blog) pictures of the many women I have photographed in bed, near a bed or in my studio psychiatric couch which I liked to dress up as a bed while, simultaneously, my subjects did the opposite.
|Photograph by J. Frederick Smith|
I had already written about the origins of the word bed (at least in Spanish) and this you can read below. It appeared in a blog here
. In the other blog here
, I mention a photographer I have always admired who died a few years ago. His name is J. Frederick Smith. The image I have scanned from his book Photographing Sensuality
(Masters of Contemporary Photography) is the one that led me all these years to take the bed photographs. You will forgive me for showing some bits but I would never work on Smith’s picture to take out the possible offending part. It will have to do here.
It was that picture and many by Helmut Newton (particularly some of Charlotte Rampling) that created my obsession on this most pleasant project which I would hope would be a project that I will continue in 2012.
propter quod Angeli vocantur of caelis adnuntiandum hominibus ad mittuntur. Angelus enim Graeca, Latine dicitur Conscientia.
Angels are called because they are sent from heaven to announce to men. It is said in Greek and Latin nuncio angel (sent to announce).
St Isidore from his Etymology V The Angels
A la cena y a la cama sólo una vez se llama
. You are called only once to bed and to dine.
Saint Isidore of Seville (570-636) was a bishop and a Doctor of the Church. He wrote just about everything from medicine to a book about the classifications of heaven’s angels. He attempted to catalogue what was then known to man in 20 books called De Los Orígenes
(Of Origins) and he wrote the first encyclopedic dictionary. He divided his Of Origins into 20 books each on one category:
1. Grammar 2. Rhetoric and Dialectic 3. Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy 4. Medicine 5. Laws and time 6. the books and laws of the church 7. God, angels and men 8. the church and sects 9. languages, races, kingdoms and the armies 10. words in alphabetical order 11. man and monsters 12. animals 13. the universe and its parts, or cosmology 14. the earth and its divisions or geography 15. cities, fields and roads 16. minerals and metals 17. farmers and gardening 18. war and games 19. ships, buildings and clothing 20. Food and its tools.
For our purposes St. Isidore figures here for two very good reasons. He was the first to coin the word in Spanish cama
(bed) from the Latin camba
for a narrow bed used for sleeping or, as the Romans so much enjoyed, for eating.
Because it was St. Isidoro (Spanish for Isidore) who was really the first human to attempt to compile all human knowledge, Spanish scholars have declared him to be the patron saint of the internet. I would offer no objection seeing that this man knew about everything and beds, too. Thanks to him I can justify placing here these delightful pictures of Katheryn and the bed from room 618 at the Marble Arch Hotel.
Tell Me A Story
Thursday, December 29, 2011
|Neil Jordan - Photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
I remember when I went to a few birthday parties in my Buenos Aires youth that a couple of times a magician had been hired. I saw strings of Gillette blades coming out of the magician’s mouth. There were endless romps of long eared animals that came out of his (curiously I never saw a woman magician) top hat and then there was that magic wand. I would have done anything, even braved a whipping from my father, to steal it so that I too, could have performed feats of magic. The word prestidigitator would not enter my vocabulary until many years after I stopped believing in the jolly old man who delivered presents on Christmas Eve.
It was sometime in the late 70s that I saw a magician at a school and the children were all yelling at him and taunting him (magicians were still men) that they knew the trick. They had seen it before. They plainly used the word trick. Those children, as young as they were, had lost their sense of wonder. Magic did not exist.
Back when I did believe in magic I remember that my cousin Wenci and I would both beg his father (my Uncle Tony) to “Contanos un cuento,” “Tell us a story.” I would then plead for a cuento
about ghosts or pirates. My Uncle Tony would sit us down and then tell us a story which invariably, before the resolution of the story was to be told, always ended, my first hint on the existence of the word interruptus, “Y colorín colorado este cuento se ha acabado.”
It means sort of red is red and this story is finished.
I would at this point define childhood as a period in our life when we believe in magic. When something wonderful happens; the explanation for it is beyond the realm of logic.
For me that the period between the glory of things magic and the revelation that magic does not exist, that miracles do not occur, happens much earlier now that we are surrounded by the exploding world of special effects that must parallel or have an equivalent law to Moore’s Law’s which predicts a final end to the expansion of the density of an integrated circuit in limited space.
While I marveled at the 3-D effects and the computer game influenced shots that surpass anything Hitchcock might have done with one long traveling boom shot, Scorsese’s film, Hugo
, was a work of cinematic magic for me, nonetheless. It was so because of its story telling.
My Uncle Tony could tell us a story and the ghosts and the dastardly pirates were real in my head.
My guess is that story telling began with primitive cave paintings and to oral stories. Socrates doubted on the veracity and value of written language. Written language might have been the new kid on the block. An ancient Blackberry was Socrates’s soon to be hemlock. The middle ages, after a golden age of papyrus rolls, and the preservation of knowledge on sheepskin manuscripts brought story telling, the stories of the bible on the windows of Gothic windows. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
must have reflected the culture of oral story telling.
Gutenberg changed all that. By the mid 19th century magazines and cheap books made Dickens & Dumas known and loved around much of the world.
Story telling continued with plays (which from Greek tragedies had become plays that went from town to town). These plays were combined with music and operas became a new way of telling stories. By the beginning of the 20th century a new story telling medium flickered and slowly opera became entertainment for an elite. Judging by a recent viewing of the 1936 The Great Ziegfeld
I understand that spending piles of cash in films is not a new or recent endeavour.
My friend designer Ian Bateson says that the one talent that will keep on going in the 21st century is the lucky individual’s ability to tell a good story.
With that in mind I can see why both my granddaughters and I were entertained by Scorsese’s Hugo
and why Rosemary and I love Neil Jordan’s 2009 film Ondine
with Colin Farrell and the very lovely Alicja Bachieda. This film was particularly liked by my eldest daughter Ale who made the comment that the film was not your average Hollywood film. I informed her (but she knew) that Neil Jordan like John Sayles (another maker of un-Hollywood films) was also a novelist and perhaps that combination made the act of story telling a more promising one.
As I look at the long lists of this year’s films it is not difficult for me to notice that I have seen very few of them and that there is no chance I will see any more of them in the future. Perhaps, even though my Uncle Tony is no longer around, I still hope (and that happens every once in a while) someone will tell me a story.
Neil Jordan & Joseph Cotten
María De Mágdala
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Cómo te llamas, Jesús fue la respuesta, y no dijo de Nazaret porque antes ya lo había declarado, como ella, por ser aquí donde vivía, no dijo de Magdala, cuando, al preguntarle él a su vez el nombre, respondió que María. Con tantos movimientos y observaciones, acabó María de Mágdala de vendar el dolorido pie de Jesús, rematando con un sólida y pertinente atadura, Ya está dijo ella. Cómo puedo agradecértelo, preguntó Jesús, y por primera vez sus hojos tocaron los hojos de ella, negros, brillantes como azabache, de donde fluía, como agua que sobre agua corriera, una especie voluptuosa veladura que alcanzó de lleno el cuerpo secreto de Jesús. La mujer no respondió de inmediato, lo miraba, a su vez, como valorándolo, comprobando qué clase de hombre era, que de dineros ya se veía no aldababa bien provisto el pobre mozo, al fin dijo, Guárdame en tu recuerdo, nada más, y Jesús, No olvidaré tu bondad, y luego llenándose de ánimo, No te olvidaré, Por qué sonrió la mujer, Porque eres hermosa, Pues no me conociste en los tiempos de mi belleza, Te conozco en la belleza de ahora...
Si quieres agradecérmelo, quédate este día conmigo, No puedo, Por qué, No tengo con que pagarte, Gran novedad ésa, No te rías de mí, Tal vez no lo creas, pero más fácilmente me reiría de un hombre que llevara la bolsa bien llena, No es sólo cuestión de dinero, Qué es entonces. Jesús se calló y volvió la cara hacia el otro lado. Ella no lo ayudó, podía haberle preguntado, Eres virgen, pero se mantuvo callada, a la espera. Se hizo un silencio tan denso y profundo que parecía que sólo los dos corazones sonaban, más fuerte y más rápido el de él, el de ella inquieto con su propia agitación.
Jesús dijo, Tus cabellos son como un rebaño de cabras bajando por las laderas de las montañas de Galad. La mujer sonrió y permaneció callada. Después Jesús dijo, Tus hojos son como las fuentes de Hesebon, junto a la puerta de Bat-Rabín. La mujer sonrió de nuevo, pero no habló. Entonces volvió Jesús lentamente el rostro hacia ella y le dijo, No conozco mujer. María le tomó las manos, Así tenemos que empezar todos, hombres que no conocían mujer, mujeres que no conocían hombre, un día el que sabía enseñó, el que no sabía aprendió, Quieres enseñarme tú para que tengas otro motivo de gratitud, Así nunca acabaré de agradecerte, Y yo nunca acabaré de enseñarte. María se levantó, fue a cerrar la puerta del patio…
Luego, juntos, Jesús amparado, como antes hiciera, en el hombro de María, prostituta de Mágdala que lo curó y lo va a recibir en su cama, entraron en la casa, en la penumbra propia de un cuarto fresco y limpio. La cama no es aquella rústica estera tendida en el suelo, con un cobertor pardo encima que Jesús siempre vio en casa de sus padres mientras allí vivió, éste es un verdadero lecho como aquel del que alguien dijo, Adorné mi cama con cobertores, con colchas bordadas de lino de Egipto, perfumé mi lecho con mirra, aloes y cinamomo.
El Evangelio segun Jesucristo
José Saramago - 1999
Red Skelton's Bull & The Collapse Of Linearity
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Definition of Linearity
A system is said to be linear if it meets the following two criteria:
1. If input x to the system results in output X, then an input of 2x will produce output of 2X. In other words, the magnitude of the system output is proportional to the magnitude of the system input.
2. If input x produces output X, and input y produces output Y, then an input of x + y will produce an output of X + Y. In other words, the system handles two simultaneous inputs independently, and they do not interact within the system. Implicit in these criteria is the fact that a linear system will not produce any frequencies in the output that are not present in the input.
Note that there is nothing in these criteria that says the system output is the same as the system input, or even that it resembles the system input. For instance, the input could be an electric current, and the output could be a temperature. In the case of mechanical structures such as machines, we will consider the input to be a vibratory force and the output to be the measured vibration itself.
|No clue who this man is or where I took it.|
If you look at the 11 images here you will arrive at, perhaps two conclusions. One, is that most of the pictures are lousy (not up to the standards of this blog). Two, is that the pictures are here, pure random, and have nothing to do with each other except for that last scan of a little girl’s bedroom slipper.
|Les Wiseman and Randall Carpenter|
I think you would be right about one. Yes these pictures are lousy. But there is a reason (poor excuse, I might add). I took these pictures sometime in the mid 80s and I had just been given a very cheap opportunity to acquire a brand new Minolta CLE. The camera, a rangefinder camera using the Leica mount came with a 28mm, a 45mm and a 90mm lens. This camera was supposed to be ahead of its time as it boasted an off the film plane flash measurement and adjustment. In fact the flash system did not work very well. I was also quite used to focusing a single lens reflex camera and trying to match two images in the viewfinder as one (that’s how a rangefinder works) was not good in a dark environment. To make it all worse I had placed in the Minolta a roll of Kodak Technical Pan which at an ISO of 25 meant that I had to shoot almost wide open most of the time.
Having seen Orson Welles's A Touch of Evil
just a few minutes before writing this I could weave a story of a drug bust in Piedras Negras by Licenciado Felipe Ferrer Junco the DA for the State of Coahuila who may have been my friend (he actually was and is my friend but he was the head of the Federal Police in Acapulco not a DA). The man with the bare back (once I lightened the scan revealed a De Havilland Beaver float plane. That could have been a story. But what would you make of the picture of Red Skelton showing off his bull? And then there is the picture of Les Wiseman with Randy Carpenter. And there is the picture of Maddalena Di Gregorio
with Kristine. For years Les Wiseman and I thought that Kristine was the most beautiful woman in Vancouver. She was our icy blonde who would coolly enter punk or English band concerts at the Commodore, swishing her way in like Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger. All Wiseman and I could do was to stare silently at the apparition. When I met her I thought she was not quite as perfect as I thought she had been. She seemed to have a lisp. But it was quite a few years later that I found out that her last name was indeed Thimsen.
|Art Bergmann and Soli|
There are two more photographs besides the one of my young daughter (was she 12 or 13?) Hilary with those sheep slippers (precursors of Uggs?). One of the pictures is of Art Bergmann and Soleadad. We all called her Soli and some of us knew (I did) that Bergman was the love of her life. The other picture with the odd bare concrete landscape is one that I took in the train that took passengers from one terminal to another in the Dallas airport.
|Maddalena di Gregorio & Kristine Thimsen|
What is the link to all these pictures? I took them in one 36 exposure roll that I found filed under Di Gregorio, Maddalena. I believe that the Wiseman, Bergmann, Kristine and Maddalena pictures I took in a rock and roll boat cruise. At about that time I was taking pictures for a CBC drama series in Egmont to which I flew in a Beaver every weekend. The Dallas airport picture came from the fact that I went to Houston to visit my friend Stephen Burdick, a high school friend who lived in Houston. In Houston he took me to see some bulls as he informed me that Red Skelton would be present.
Last night Ale, my eldest daughter was helping us get rid of stuff. She showed me the sheep slippers and asked me about them. I said nothing. She put them in a recycling bag. Just a while ago I retrieved them as I think they should be kept in the family. Thanks to a collapse of linearity they are back to our fold. Will Lauren wear them? I am sure she will.
|Red Skelton & his bull in Houston|