Videomatica Rental Is Dead - Long Live Limelight Video
Saturday, January 07, 2012
1. f. Vaso interior del candil.
2. f. Vaso pequeño en que se pone aceite u otra materia combustible para que ardan una o más mechas.
3. f. neguilla (‖ planta).
4. f. pl. Línea de luces en el proscenio del teatro.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados
|Edgar Degas, Ballet Rehersal on Stage, 1984|
Oil on canvas, 65 x 82cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
The reason for the above citing of the definition of candileja
is that for many years I have been ignorant of the word. It would pop up here and there whenever I read references in Spanish to Charles Chaplin’s 1952 film Limelight
with that very young and beautiful Claire Bloom
. The film in Spanish has the title Candilejas
. And somewhere below I will connect it all to Limelight Video
on Alma St.
It is here where I want to confess (many others if they have the chance, too) that often when people would mention the film I would say something deep like, “A fascinating film. A film by a true genius.” For years if anybody would bring up the subject of Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers
I would comment,” It is one of the greatest stories of all time.” And Yet until four weeks ago I had not seen Limelight
and I did not read Dumas (most of Dumas in my effort to make up for lost time until 8 years ago).
Orchestra Musicians c. 1870-72
Oil on canvas (69 x 49cm)
Städtische Galerie Städelschen Kunstinstitut
Frankfurt am Main
I remember with personal embarrassment and incident that involved my young Spanish neighbour in Arboledas, Estado de México in 1972. We found out that we were avid science fiction novel readers. I lent him Sirius
by Olaf Stapleton and in exchange he handed me, El Retorno de las Estrellas
by Stanislaw Lem. At the time I really did not like to read in Spanish and I doubt my neighbour could read English well. A month later we returned each other’s books and in our discussion on the merits of the books we had read, I am sure that he did not read Serius as I had not Lem’s Return From the Stars
. It is perhaps because of this that I think there has been a demise of the cocktail party. Isn’t it really a gathering of people who while drinking discourse on that which they do not know?
Returning to the definition of candileja, the relevant citation is number 4. A candileja is the row of lights in a theatre’s proscenium. The reason for the use of the plural of the word for Chaplin’s film is that the word evokes the idea of variety shows at the end of the 19th century. In Spanish there is no translation for the calcium lights that were used well into the late 1870s as then equivalents to the follow spots (electric ones) used to highlight solo performers in theatre, ballet and stage musicals. The closest equivalent in Spanish is to be the centre of attention as a translation to be in the limelight.
For me and I would believe many in the theatrical lighting world the best exponent to the pleasures of 19th century theatrical light (and I would add an exponent with a high degree of accuracy) is French impressionist Edgar Degas
in his paintings, pastels and sketches of ballerinas and their performances at the Paris Opera Ballet. Notice in the pictures here how the light shines on the lower part of the ballerina's faces.
I could lie and tell you that my viewing, with my wife, granddaughters and my friend John Lekich) of Chaplin’s Limelight coincided with my discovery of Limelight Video. That is not the case. Our viewing came from a copy of the film that I found in my Oakridge Branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
|Edgar Degas, L'E|
Pastel over monotype (58 x 42cm)
Musée du Louvre des arts graphiques, fonds Orsay
The finding of that classic film made me bold and I went in search of other desert island films in the VPL’s online data base. Alas I could not find Wim Wenders’s 1982 Hammett, Carlos Saura’s 1999 Goya in Bordeaux or Stephen Weisler’s 1942 The Glass Key
(with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake and based on the novel of the same name by Dashiel Hammett). None were there!
I posted a blog in which I mentioned one of these films and a very nice woman sent me an email that the film was available at Limelight Video on 2505 Alma Street. I went to investigate.
Twice I wrote about the demise of Videomatica
, Vancouver’s secret for those of us who considered ourselves to be part of an elite of film viewers who eschewed modern film making.
I am happy to report that Limelight Video (they have Hammett, they have Goya in Bordeaux) has The Glass Key
as a VHS. I have quickly re-connected my VHS machine. Limelight is all that Videomatica was but with the added advantage that it is very clean and orderly. The staff is extremely courteous and pleasant and they make it a point to examine every DVD you take out and if it needs cleaning they pop them into a machine.
The clincher is one of my top five desert island films. The film in question, The Member of the Wedding
, is based on a 1946 novel by Southern writer Carson McCullers. It was made into a Broadway play with Ethel Waters, Julie Harris, and Brandon De Wilde in 1950. The play became a film in 1952, directed by Fred Zinnemann and with Ethel Waters, Julie Harris and Brandon De Wilde.
Julie Harris plays a tomboyish 12-year-old (not quite that age in the film where the 20 or more year old Harris acts a young girl around 15) Frankie Adams. Most of the action happens as dialogue in a kitchen between Harris and the black Ethel Waters.
Harris’s performance as well as Waters’s and De Wilde’s are what I would define as virtuoso.
The film is available at Limelight Video as a VHS. Get that machine connected is my advice!
Lady Fey by Ben Metcalfe
|Lady Fey, Alex W-H, Vancouver Magazine, Jan 1980|
Friday, January 06, 2012
Of late I have been thinking about limelight and that will receive an explanation here in a subsequent blog. But today I though about faroles which is Spanish for a transparent receptacle that houses some sort of light be it a candle, a light bulb, or a wick dipped in oil (be it whale or some other) alcohol or kerosene.
(Del lat. pharus, y este del gr. φάρος).
1. m. Torre alta en las costas, con luz en su parte superior, para que durante la noche sirva de señal a los navegantes.
2. m. Farol con potente reverbero.
3. m. Cada uno de los focos delanteros de los vehículos automotores.
4. m. Aquello que da luz en un asunto, lo que sirve de guía a la inteligencia o a la conducta.
1. m. faro que llevan los vehículos automóviles en la parte posterior para indicar su posición.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados
is a derivative of the other Spanish word faro
. To me the above definition in my RAE (Real Academia Española) is full of romance as the farol conjures galleys, fellucas and xebecs lazily (not so the galleys) sailing under the legs of Alexandria’s famous Pharus. Also interesting is that a car’s headlights are faros. In Mexico in the 50s the cheapest cigarettes anybody could buy were Faros. If I remember well some sort of Egyptian wonder advertized this terrible product in which paper was combination of rice paper and some sort of other questionable paper product. Faros were one rung under the not so delicate Delicados with their oval ends. I remember standing in line with Les Wiseman, in an extremely cold nigh in the late 80s, outside the Bottom Line in Manhattan. We were waiting to get into Lou Reid’s second show of the evening. I told myself that by puffing on the Delicados I would not feel so cold. If anything warmth came via the excitement of being able to listen to Sweet Jane waft from the inside.
Tow of these farol pictures I took sometime in 1963 on a trip to the lovely Mexican colonial city of Guanajuato. The third one, bottom right I took in Morelia about 20 years later.
1. adj. coloq. Vano, ostentoso, amigo de llamar la atención y de hacer lo que no le toca. U. t. c. s.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados
I find it interesting that the adjective farolero
describes a person who is vain and likes to call attention!
|Photogravure of my negative by Ian Martin|
Alex, The Malibu & The Man In The Ochre Hat
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Guest Blog by John Lekich
Alex, the Malibu and the Man in the Ochre Hat.
I don’t drive. So, when it comes to getting around, I’ve learned to depend on the kindness of various impromptu chauffeurs. I’m happy to say that, for many years, Alex has driven me to whatever pleasant destination we may have in common. In fact, over the decades, the cars in his garage have mirrored our own gradual descent into what I like to think of as advanced maturity.
In our younger days – thrust into a freelance magazine world that was still voraciously interested in everything from punk rock to exotic dancing – we spent a fair amount of time in Alex’s Fiat. An aggressive little two-seater convertible whose tape deck was overtly fond of blasting out Art Bergman.
Although I’ve always had a variety of mobility issues, I never thought much about the difficulty of squeezing into the Fiat’s shotgun seat. Even back then, I walked with a cane. But, as I mentioned, I was young and - unduly influenced by the alternative music writing of Les Wiseman – somewhat impetuous. It was not uncommon for me to go hatless in the rain. And I still had enough hair to feel it blowing carelessly in the wind as Alex surged through potholes that you could feel travelling up your spine.
Many people assume that only drivers reap the benefits of an alluring sport car. But, every once in a while, an obliging passenger can collect some of the exotic spillover. I recall the time that Alex was unable to tactfully refuse an insistent friend’s plea for a ride home. “I’m giving John a ride and there’s just room for the two of us,” said Alex.
“That’s okay,” said Alex’s friend. A lovely – if somewhat generously proportioned – blonde. “John doesn’t mind if I sit on his lap, do you, John?”
I can’t remember exactly what I said. But she took it as a yes. We ended up barreling down Richards Street with the top down. She was a giggler. This was in the era before air bags. And her arms clung desperately to my neck while the rest of her mimicked a position from that classic scene in Some Like It Hot where a pretzel-like Marilyn Monroe seduces a startled Tony Curtis.
I recall mentioning to Alex that I couldn’t see where we were going. He answered me by stepping forcefully on the gas.
Eventually, Alex moved on to a sleek – if somewhat temperamental - Maserati. Style-wise, the Maserati was the automotive equivalent of Sophia Loren in a cocktail dress. When the two of us had an assignment on a local film set, Alex was able to drive the Maserati inside. The crew – traditionally composed of people with a deep appreciation for fine machinery – gawked in open admiration.
But then, looks aren’t everything. By the time, Alex began driving an Audi, I had developed a deep and sincere respect for extra legroom. His Audi was a fine car. But, as far as I’m concerned, nothing can top his current ride. A Chevrolet Malibu that has plenty of extra legroom and at least one other feature I find endlessly endearing.
I should explain that – since I can’t seem to balance carrying an umbrella while walking with a cane – I’ve taken to wearing hats. I’m fond of a lightweight, water-resistant fedora made by a company called Bailey’s of Hollywood. Alex is especially taken with one such fedora – describing the colour as “Mexican Ochre.”
The only problem with wearing a fedora in today’s spotty transportation universe? Not enough headroom. The act of getting into a cab – and virtually every other car I enter – succeeds in lopping off my hat as if I’ve just missed being beheaded by an invisible guillotine. I was delighted to find that when I entered Alex’s Malibu wearing the Mexican Ochre, the process was effortless.
But the Malibu is not content with unusually generous headroom. Recently, Alex was giving me a lift home on the way to dropping off his two lovely granddaughters. It was a cold evening and I was chatting with Rebecca and Lauren about how much I liked the car. “I don’t know what it is about this front seat,” I said. “But my back feels great.”
Rebecca – Alex’s eldest granddaughter – leaned forward and politely explained: “It’s the seat. It’s heated!”
A few months ago, Alex was demonstrating the Malibu’s excellent stereo system by showcasing one of our mutually favourite jazz albums. Andre Previn playing West Side Story. The days when the two of us sped down the street with a blonde on my lap are long gone. And, even though the Malibu could pull off this dubious stunt with remarkable ease, that’s probably a good thing. These days, I’d rather keep my hat on while listening to Andre Previn. The heated front seat? Don’t get me started.
More guest blogs by John Lekich:
A Beguiling Lack Of Prosopagnosia
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Of late I have been thinking a lot, and reading as much as I can on the process that we go through from seeing to thinking. Some behaviorists believe that language and the grammar of our language in some way becomes a parameter as to how we think.
As an example in my native Argentina there is a preference for the use of the word colorado
for the colour red while in other countries, especially Mexico the choice is the word rojo
. When I think about these two words somehow rojo
is darker and deeper in colour than colorado
I sometimes even wonder how the thought of red transfers into our mind and we are able to see the colour in our head. Can a person, blind from birth ever imagine red?
For a while, when I was a young man, I had the theory as to why the French, the Spaniards and the Portuguese (and by proxy their colonies in America) that any culture whose language/grammar had lost so many military battles. I believed that the active use of the subjunctive mood in those languages would result in a spotty war record. The subjunctive mood injects unreality; it questions the un-inevitability of the possible. In English a general might say, “The enemy will attack tomorrow,” or “It will not attack tomorrow,” or “It might attack tomorrow.” Even, “It might not attack tomorrow.” But in Spanish that statement would translate in the subjunctive as, “If the enemy were in the possibility of attacking tomorrow.” English has suppressed the used of the subjunctive and one of the last remnants, “I wish I were in Dixie,” has been relegated to the “I wish I was in Dixie.” A language that denies any margin for error in the possibility of something will result in a culture in which military accomplishment and it success will never be in doubt.
Of late I have been thinking about my two granddaughters. One is 9 and the other is 14. The 9-year old is able to look at my watch, which has single lines instead of numbers, and she can figure out the time. The older one cannot and she cites that she does not really know how to read Roman numerals even though my watch does not have them. She says that in the age of digital readouts in clocks and watches she does not need to figure out a watch like mine.
But to me there is a fundamental problem here that has to do with the imagination of a watch or clock in one’s mind in which we can place a number in each section of the circle that we have in our head that stands for a watch or clock face. Something is amiss in the process from seeing the clock or watch and transferring it to the mind. My younger granddaughter has a very good sense of direction and should I diverge in my route to go somewhere in the car she will immediately ask me where I am going. My other granddaughter has a terrible sense of direction. I believe that the inability to read a watch without numbers and to know where one is might be related. But I am unable to convince anybody to look into it.
Last night I spent hours in bed trying to conjure a word that was in my lips. My wife has always had the talent of knowing (when she did not remember a word or a place name or anything else) with what letter the word started. This always helped her remember stuff. I was trying to remember the word bigot. I was discussing with Rosemary that the Republican candidates for the presidency in the US and teenagers in facebook seemed to share bigotry.
As I get older I have more of these moments of not being able to remember words. But there is one skill that I have always had and that is the ability to never forget a face and in many cases parts of the person’s body or how they move, their voice, their gestures. And I can do this even many years after having last seen the person.
I had not seen the owner, Andreas Nothiger, of the long defunct Classical Joint for at least 20 years. A few weeks ago while sipping an espresso at Calabria on Commercial I spotted a man from behind. He walked with a spring in his ankles. I went up to him and called him and when he turned around he was the man I thought he was.
In the New York Times
, just a few days ago I read about a neurological disorder called prosopagnosia or face blindness. It seems some people are not able to discern the differences between one face or another. The article said:
One of the keys to understanding face recognition, it seems, is understanding how the brain comes to recognize voices. Some scientists had believed that faces and voices, the two main ways people recognize one another, were processed separately by the brain. Indeed, a condition parallel to prosopagnosia, called phonagnosia, similarly leaves a person unable to distinguish a familiar voice from an unfamiliar one.
But by testing for these two conditions simultaneously, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany recently found evidence that face and voice recognition may be linked in a novel person-recognition system.
Reading in the article how a man on a date in a restaurant excused himself to go to the washroom and upon returning sat with another woman, not having any memory for what his date looked like, left me shocked. At the same time I felt happy about my own ability to discern faces almost from any angle.
I have told here before of an incident one afternoon quite a few years ago when I was a passenger in a de Havilland Beaver returning from Egmont where I was shooting the stills for a CBC series. As we approached for a landing in Burrard Inlet I spotted on a dock a woman in hot pants and high heels. I immediately indentified the owner of that portion of the rear, where the thigh loses its name. The pilot made a sudden jerk of the controls and the Beaver began to plunge in the direction of the water. But the pilot regained control, and said to me,” Did you see that?” We landed safely and as I deplaned I was met by the woman, whom I knew, who said something like,” Hi Alex, where are you coming from? I am going to…”
I take pride, and consider myself very lucky, in my absolute lack of any of the symptoms of prosopagnosia. Of all the women I have ever met in my life, there is only one who almost led me to my death. Of all the women I have ever met I must assert here that Tarren was the most beguiling of them all.
Benjamin, Jazz & Science Fiction
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
I wonder how many people have any record of their first book collection. I do. It seems that sometime in 1962 or 1963 I photographed my book shelf. I display it here in a vertical position so some of the titles can be seen. At the time I was crazy about three things. I was vocal about two of them. These were jazz and science fiction. My third interest was a pretty girl but this I kept to myself. I would have been too embarrassed to even admit my interest.
In fact in spite of all those pictures that I have taken all these years of the undraped female and all the glamour shots the ex wife of a good friend of mine had her suspicions. She thought I was gay.
It is with amazement that I watch my granddaughter Rebecca’s (14) current involvement with a boy her age. They constantly text. He apparently does not have a plan that allows him to use his phone in that old-fashioned way, voice to voice.
When I was 14 all I dared do was to stare at my love interest until a stare back made me swing away as quickly as I could.
But everything happened in its good time and by 1968 when I was with my Rosemary an ex girlfriend had sent me a letter from England that she was ready to see me in Mexico if I were ready for her. Another young girl, a very beautiful one who resided in Xalapa (George Bowering’s favourite Mexican city because of its winter baseball league) sent a message through a friend that she was heartbroken because I was going to get married soon.
It seems that by age 26 I had recuperated for all that lost time as a full time bashful nerd.
I remember that when I was 15 and living with my mother and grandmother on Avenida Tamaulipas in a Mexico City apartment I would play my Dave Brubecks as loud as I could to impress the young girl who lived below. I don’t think she ever noticed and had she she would not have been impressed in the least. My brand of sophistication, science fiction and jazz was not the kind of sophistication any intelligent young lady would be attracted to.
A sultry Sephardic young girl lived nearby and I would always arrange to be walking near her house when her orange/red school bus (Colegio Sefardita) would deposit her on her doorstep. I never managed to even approach her to say hello.
When I finally had enough guts (it was 1968) I invited Rosemary to visit Veracruz and meet my mother. I remember Rosemary in the front seat of my VW, her lovely legs up on the seat (in those days cars did not have seat belts). Driving on the outskirts of Mexico City Rosemary began to use a word I had never heard before uttered by any woman. The scary word was relationship.
I was as scared to hear that word as I had been in 1966 when I had attended a live concert of Astor Piazzolla with one of my first real girls, Susy. The concert was at the Teatro Florida in Buenos Aires. After the concert, it was a very warm Buenos Aires November we walked hand in hand. Across the street there was an appliance store. Susy pointed (quite a few years later when I saw her again she seemed to have no memory of the fridge!) at a refrigerator and said to me, “It would look so nice in our kitchen.” At the time I had no money, no profession and no prospect of any immediate work.
It had been just two years before that I had been sipping espresso in a Mexico City café with a young girl who happened to be an American from Chicago. She was black and had recently become a Jew. When I had first met her she had told me, “Hi I am Benjamin but you can call me Benji.” I will never forget as she leaned forward over the table and told me, “I never go out with a man who is not husband potential.” She further told me that her interest in me had come from my passion for jazz and science fiction. A few years later when I was doing my military service in Buenos Aires I started getting issues of Downbeat
. It was a paid subscription that came from Chicago. I knew it was from Benji.
I hope that in these accelerated times that my Rebecca finds the time to take things slowly and that a refrigerator in her future will appear just at the right time.
Undercurrent On A Desert Island
Monday, January 02, 2012
My friend John Lekich and I met at noon today at a new restaurant on Granville and 14th. We had a joint date with Nicole Scriabin, a dark-haired, dark-eyed Russian beauty, whose only plausible defect is a rash of freckles on her otherwise flawless pale face. Which makes her even more ravishing to me. But I will not digress into the idea of sharing the shade of a palm tree on an desert island with Nicole Scriabin
and being able to have all the time in the world to count every one of those freckles on her face and wherever else they may be.
The incessant restaurant music playing in the background (including that, alas, never silenced rusted oldie, Proud Mary, which should die right now of a quick merciless execution with those damned initials, CCR thrown in) made me reflect as I drove home what my music for a desert island might be. I am sure others play this game and that the candidates change as quickly as the women one would want to spend with while listening to that music on a desert island.
My mother often told me that her choice would automatically be all 6 of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos
. I would almost agree except to point out that my mother had a smaller choice of music to choose from. There were fewer chances to listen to music then and there were fewer albums issued and radio stations, before cable, etc were pretty poor with selections. I would have surprised my mother, had she been alive just a couple of years ago, had I told her that I heard all 6 of her desert island choices right here, in Vancouver, live in one concert! Perhaps, with the renaissance and discovery of all those Handel operas, my mother might have included one of them.
|Photograph by Toni Frisell, 1947|
My friend Les Wiseman told me years ago that his choice would be Captain Beefheart’s
1969 record album Trout Mask Replica
. Its complexity would make it an album that would take many a necessary listening, but would keep boredom from setting in.
I am not sure that I would agree. A few hours of Trout Mask Replica
or twelve-tone serial music would have me either climbing to the top of the coconut palm or braving sharks to escape the din.
My granddaughter Rebecca (14) would certainly not choose an album or CD as she would opt for her iTouch mélange of 23,136 desert island songs.
When I asked Rosemary about her desert island music she told me she would want silence. If I felt like that, I might well suggest she take a copy of John Cage’s 4’33”.
Of this work I know a few salient facts. For one I once heard it on CBC Radio and it took lots of guts to play such a work on radio.
I heard it, by a lucky accident sometime in the late 80s in New York City on the Avenue of the Americas. There was an upright piano on the sidewalk. A crowd gathered. A man in a tuxedo sat down and did stuff with his knuckles and stretched his pants and adjusted his tails. He then opened the piano lid.
A friend of mine Marc Destrubé, our very own Vancouver virtuoso violinist/director (The Axelrod Quartet, etc) has a keyboard artist frriend, Byron Schenkman
who has managed to transpose John Cage’s complex 3-part 4'33"
to the harpsichord. Early on in this complex transposition, Schenkman, not always an inveterate purist, decided to omit the bird and cricket sounds when he played this work live some years ago.
I am sure that after listening to this work, exactly 4 minutes and 33 seconds long (no live performances have ever varied), Rosemary would want to refresh her desert island experience with something else.
As for me ask me what my favourite rose of the summer is and the answer will depend on the summer, the time of day, or even the day of the week. The same applies to that island music. But I have recently thought that one should not be all that specific and limiting in the choice of music.
For complexity, and with a smattering of the right wrong notes, I might select the 17 century baroque composer Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli. For sure I might want to listen Handel’s Rodalinda or the first few minutes of Vivaldi’s Gloria (the one with the trumpet). I would want at least one album of boleros by Pedro Vargas
. And for sure some jazz. But this jazz wouldhave to depend on my moods. I might want to listen to sophisticated jazz so I would pick anything by Duke Ellington
. On a more upbeat not there would be Jazz Impressions of Eurasia
or a melancholy Gerry Mulligan's
What is There to Say?
featuring that lovely My Funny Valentine.
But today, as I write this I would say, unequivocally, that my desert island music would be the 1962 album Undercurrent – Bill Evans & Jim Hall.
There are several reasons and one of them somehow coincides and connects to my outing with John Lekich and our lunch with the Russian woman whose picture (taken in my bathtub) you see here. The connection is that it is a wonderful water photograph (wonderful in my mind, at least) that is almost as wonderful as the one on the cover of Undercurrent . The cover was a photograph of a model floating in the water at Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida. The image is by fashion photographer Toni Frissell and it was published in Harper's Bazaar
in December 1947. The version seen on the Undercurrent album is one reason why this album is one of the most famous jazz albums of all time. The other reason must be the quiet collaboration done in sparse, but in very good taste by guitarist Jim Hall and pianist Bill Evans. This is an album that I had since 1963 but somehow got lost in one of my movings. The record was replaced by a more recent CD with extra tracks. Something most important is missing from the CD.
I had not known this until today. What is missing is what may have made the original Undercurrent a sort of early cult in jazz circles. It had a poem, Wait Quickly
, by one Barry J. Titus. That poem is not in the notes to my CD. In fact the notes (by one David Rosenthal) in my CD are mostly unreadable as water from a house plant leaked into the CD and ruined it.
Today, after dropping off Lekich at his home I was looking through my first ever photo file. It is one that has pictures I took up until 1964. One b+w strip, sandwiched between a sketch of car by by my friend Robert Hijar, who now lives in Memphis and an unknown baby I have no memory of taking a picture of,, features two almost identical exposures of:
I cannot recall what led me to copy, using Kodak's then slowest and sharpest film Panatomic-X, the back of my Undercurrent album in 1963. What is interesting is that a Google search of Barry J. Titus, Wait Quickly
, lists many web sites citing the poem as being a rant, etc. But none except a Russian blog actually has the words! Any other search of Barry J. Titus only lists a 1962 novel Masks and there is no further information at all.
For me all this adds up to a neat package. Russian girl in bathtub. Russian website/blog with words to Bary J. Titus's poem. A beautiful photograph of a woman in a Florida lake that made it to the cover of a jazz cover and an album that today, until further notice is my desert island album.
And the desert island tune in that desert island album is not the two-versioned My Funny Valentine but John Lewis's
composition Skating in Central Park
. And would you know there is link here
to that lovely song.
As for Barry J. Titus's poem here
is the link and here are the words courtesy of that Russian (or you can click on my scanned negative) and read it there! You might note that the Russian was very good at copying the poem as both my photograph and his transposition feature this line: diamond egg frog oan wrkwrkwrxwrx.
by Barry J. Titus after Jim Hall and Bill Evans
Rimmed iron wheels chew candy between tracks window smithers Xmas tree window silver money fleeing present unone given coca cola smiling blank wall perspires omens heads nodding close gaped lips seen stick stuck taxi sign disrobes May 15th, 1959, hanging about her knees mail bundle wheeled cripple clutches Read Wall Street clock white sun monocle IIV or VII long blink see eyes time? Apparitional liquid hesitates a foot, a universe below the white paint-trussed varicose ceiling. Liquid slips, drops, unoutlineable shape, presenting absence, glides unreal, an excuse for splattering focus, a school of Dolphins or dark Grecian head. Virtuoso: practice makes perfect. Two sharps. Ice crystal diamond egg frog oan wrkwrkwrxwrx. Donned rubber belts nose mouth. Nub knuckled fingers bounce overfilled heat tear salt balling. Again. Two sharps. Ice crystal, diamonkey, egg, nail rubonk, snill. Huhhh. Snill. rubru, nail, frog, diamond many windows flash ice. Air out. Curtain fingers, ceiling lines, French door bars gripped unstill sun broiling play, fat ended keys with black spines. “How could the Augsburg festival have been in Vienna, hah! Loewy?” Paint corner her jagged lip fingertips petrified red cream smile flicked starving grotto. “I mean is she a satirist or,” her tendon muscle stomach dieted twist the flat skirt front. “I think she needs a milk man, Loewy.” The shambled, bent, stripped fingers forked each others angles. His imagination chained in Veronica’s orange ochre wallpaper, blankets. A quicksilver limb paints the swamptoon. “Yes, I do!” shook she shivere, remembering, room loose daggers broke ice bergs about them. Peanut butter note, Fang, Fang. Ice Fang back wriggled sorcerer hand hung dead skin frog fangs back Mama into Eassie leap shrunk from the door hid sharpened tusk hallway awwwrice fang bump jump. “Six fifteen,” growled grate hunched on the sofa. “You’re presence is expiring, I mean inspiring.” Blue, yellow tinged, Mars capillaried, eye, blue crystal white slash, “I know what I want! Why is such a struggle for you? I feel revolutions.” Lie quicksilver idealization limb delusion chrome rationalization dance dragged curtained bog cracked ice amazon child’s burning nerves. Always left whiskers, uneven fingernails, premature orgasms hairy legs, long nose pranthula. Go play. Eat chocolate cake, peanut butter, pickles, but clean your room and wash your elbows. Ceiling lines, piano leg shadows, French door bars, eleven to four thirty. “Ma!” shook the still fingers. Rectangle silence coagulated, scraped waiting, dangling. Daddyeeee drove him smack clamored up back fallen stairs into the quilt where a silk wrapped, dark quaked moon bled tears. Run vanity open smear black commaed cheek. “Coups d’etat!” forehead burst powder, lipstick ribboned run eye shadow sink spit spigot greyened clear washed black rubbed lather pushed red pressed tan smeared blue smudged grey circled one eye deathlaughcue hiccupping criggle vermouth spread on the table top gash crystal core neck glass cupped fingers polished green. A silver ghost hear. Life illuminates a paper screen. Eyes dance truth’s instrument. Sieve, sickle and sloat, red grimes grey molds parted skins furrowed tissue lives skeletal screams. Long brown stone blunt nose raised. “Naked day?” puffed sound slices blush. Tongue stuck inside closed teeth.Torso immobile inflame face clacks ticket counter leaned hat veiled hat pulled hat swivel, “I don’t know what to say.” Jagged leaning brown limbed face. His eyes crumbled smiles smoke dust wound warm bricks.
Judy Brown, Claire Bloom - A Batesonian Reitiration
Sunday, January 01, 2012
I have an infuriating friend who is no longer so. That situation changed some years ago when I finally figured it out.
My friend’s name is Ian Bateson and he is as tenacious as a bloodhound in all his pursuits. What makes it worse is that he has a very good memory for things that I might have said to him. He invariably will tell me, “You already told me,” or “You’re reiterating yourself.”
I have a vivid memory when this infuriating habit of his became patently manifest. It was sometime in the mid 80s when he and I went to a concert at the Commodore Ballroom on Granville. The band was called King Crimson. I have memory of a girl, a beautiful girl, quite high on psychedelic candy whose hair made it seem like; I too had licked a stamp, something I hadn’t. Her hair was a mixture of blood red and shocking pink. Years later she became one of my favourite subjects in my pursuit of photography and the unadorned female figure.
I remember, too that my vexing companion blurted out (under the influence his accent was ever more a mixture of Cockney and Brixton), “This has all been done before. It’s not new and it’s boring.”
In many occasions in my past relationship with the irritating Bateson I have proudly showed him a photograph into which I have poured my heart in inspiration and sweat. With but a glance at my magnus opus his remark has been the cutting one, “ It’s been done before.”
That repeated statement, through the years, really stumped me until like it was for St. Paul, the heavens did open with a bright flash of light and I saw it.
When I teach at Focal Point in some of my lectures I invariably tell the above story. I tell my students that all of us as photographers have to take similar routes in our discovery of photography. As an example I cite the idea of going to a photographic exhibition featuring the works by some young amateur/budding-artiste who will have discovered what we all discover on this same route. This is that the nude human body when depersonalized and lit in a particular way will resemble the sand dunes of the Sahara.
There are two routes follow here. One of them is to look at the photographs in a deprecating and smug way, “I have done this. This is boring.” Or one can be kind and congratulate the artist for the work and hope that soon the bodyscapes will lead to something else, a something else which is usually a predictable pattern that proves we all strive for the same things, take the same artistic direction and only small differences mark our particular individuality.
And then looking at my class I tell them, Ian Bateson looks at my photograph and says, “It’s been done before.” I pause, a long one for effect, and I look at my class. I shout at them, “But I haven’t done that yet!”
Most are quite startled but they get the point. In our quest for that difficult-to-achieve personal style in technique, we must first imitate before subtle variations might lead to that individuality.
I have not had any infuriating conversations with Bateson since I saw the light but I appreciate the he led me to a discovery that has helped me temper my criticism to my students. It has also taken me in paths of self discovery that have pushed me to taking pictures inspired in paintings, photographs, books, poems, sculptures by contemporary and past masters of those endeavours.
Neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive by any random means, as a parasite, a moocher or a looter, but not free to succeed at it beyond the range of the moment - so he is free to seek his happiness in any irrational fraud, any whim, any delusion, any mindless escape from reality, but not free to succeed at it beyond the range of the moment nor to escape the consequences.
Ayn Rand – The Virtue of Selfishness
The above and much of what you read below (I have modified it a tad) I first wrote about here
. I said it once and I cannot see I why I cannot reiterate myself. I think I can say it differently and perhaps better. This blog began last night when I was reading the NY Times Book Review
for December 25. The review by John Horgan was titled Duped
and it was about a book by an evolutionary biologist, Robert Trivers titled The Folly of Fools – The Logic off Deceit and Self-Discipline in Human Life.
The paragraph that led to think of Judy Brown was this one:
As a Harvard graduate student in the 1970s, Trivers wrote a handful of papers showing how our genes’ relentless drive to self-replicate underpins even our most apparently magnanimous impulses. According to his theory of reciprocal altruism, we occasionally act kindly towards strangers because our ancestors – over time and in the aggregate – received a quid pro quo benefit from acts of generosity. In other papers, Trivers proposed that families roil with conflict because parents share no genes with each other and only half of their genes with children, who unless they are identical twins also have divergent genetic interests.
In 1964 I was madly in love with a 5ft tall reddish blonde girl from California called Judy Brown. Her ancillary claim to fame was that her father often played tennis with Charles M. Schulz. In other matters she told me that her life was perfectly ordinary.
I had met Judy Brown at the University of the Americas by way of my friend Robert Hijar who was studying fine arts while I was attempting to figure out the difference between resistance, capacitance and induction. Hijar was in the art department and girls (as we called them then without any guilt) gravitated to him perhaps because of the exotic smell of Liquitex.
Robert, Judy and I would go to Jazz Mondays at the Benjamin Franklin Library (it was run by the USIS). The three of us would listen to Gerry Mulligan and Lenny Tristano. Robert would sketch cars that resembled (how did he know then?) shoes while I sipped on my strong Nescafé and stared at Judy who I thought was as lovely as a woman could possibly be. She might have been reading Salinger, but I am not that sure.
Behind us were (they were there almost every Monday) a couple of Mexican gentlemen who always seemed to wear pastel colour shirts. They looked queer and I suspect that by being so obvious they could practice their trade of spies for the US Government unimpeded. Reason compels me to believe they may have simply been Mexicans who like us liked jazz.
Mondays at the Benjamin Franklin Library were followed by frequent visits to our Filipino Doctora friend who worked for the United Nations. We would go to her apartment on Tamaulipas Street and played mah-jong while eating Filipino food.
The first time I showed up at the Doctora's with Judy Brown in tow everybody who knew me was astounded. Up until that time I had never ever shown any outward desire for women. Word quickly spread and when my mother who was teaching at an American school in Veracruz found out she invited me immediately to visit with the new girlfriend. In one of the pictures here I photographed Brown wearing one of the Doctora'a Filipino dresses.
I did visit my mother in Veracruz with Judy Brown. I remember the pleasant night trip (there were others) on an ADO (Autobuses de Oriente) bus to Veracruz. I would lay my head on Judy Brown’s lap. She was reluctant. She kept telling me she had a boyfriend in California called Allan. She did not speak much of him, but just enough to unsettle me. I felt the kind of jealousy that Charly
(Cliff Robertson) feels when he spots Claire Bloom beeing kissed by her boyfriend. "He only kissed you on the cheek," he says to Bloom. Why I mention the film Charly
is explained below.
|Claire Bloom in |
Alexander the Great
It was on that first bus ride that she unleashed on me her belief that we humans were inherently selfish. Even dying for someone else, the supreme sacrifice (I thought) was instigated by the sacrificer/hero’s desire for personal pleasure and happiness. No matter how hard I tried Judy Brown was adamant. She kept quoting a woman called Ayn Rand I had never heard of.
This “relationship” dragged on and one day Judy Brown told me that she did not have the capacity to love anybody because she rejected it as just another manifestation of her selfishness. How Judy Brown disappeared from my life I cannot remember to this day. I sometimes wonder if she allowed herself to be latched on to me so that she could go to beach in Veracruz or to practice her Spanish.
There was a visual impetus to write this blog. Shortly after Judy Brown returned to California (and I never ever heard from her again) I found a passing resemblance between her and actress Claire Bloom. I have had a soft heart for Bloom since. I remember going to see a terrible film called Alexander the Great
with Richard Burton, Fredric March and Claire Bloom playing a woman who never existed in Alexander’s real life. I sat through the film my two eyes on every gesture Claire Bloom made and my heart ached.
Last night we saw Charly
. We all enjoyed it but I kept my Claire Bloom story all to myself.
Addendum: For those who might be curious about the photograph with the candle, I used a Pentacon-F with a 85mm Komura f:1.8 lens. The film was Agfa Isopan Record pushed to 1250 ASA and processed in Agfa Atomal New. The light was the single candle.