Winds Over The Sahara & On My Den Couch
Saturday, February 18, 2012
A few months after I arrived in Mexico City on 1954, I was 12, I was invited to my prosperous (his parents were) cousin, Robin Humphrey’s home. He had all kinds of stuff from the US that I had read about in Buenos Aires, lusted for it, but I was never able to have it. Robin was also a cub scout. He was a year older. I was invited to spend the night with him. I had never experienced this sort of thing in BA. I played with my friends in the street and whatever added intimacy consisted in lunch in my house or theirs. I will never forget that evening with Robin. I was on his guest bed. Robin dropped his pants and his shorts and took out a match. “Did you know that farts are mostly hydrogen sulphide and that the gas in flammable?” he asked me. He then raised one leg on a bench, carefully brought a match to himself. It is a miracle he did not burn himself. He loudly farted and I saw a long blue flame exhale from…
Today Saturday was a day in which my wife felt all kinds of misgivings. While both our daughter Hilary and her younger daughter Lauren had been coming for Saturday dinners, Rebecca the older granddaughter (14) had not. She and I had had some words. I tend to tease her a lot and I went too far. She made the decision to dine and in fact I did not see her in four weeks. She had indicated she would break her grandfather fast. I prepared what I thought was going to be an easy dinner of Swiss fondue. This meant that I instead of cooking in the afternoon, Rebecca and I could sit, reacquaint ourselves, and chat. It was a most pleasant afternoon.
In Spanish the word for fart is pedo. Pedo derives from the Latin peditum which means flatulence. In Spanish pedo is never a verb so one must “hechar un pedo” or throw a fart. In the past it would be “se hechó un pedo” or he let one out. Mexico has further uses of the noun. It has to do with drunkenness. “Anda pedo,”means he is drunk. “Un pedo de memoria,” would be a hangover to end all hangovers.
In the early 60s I was befriended by a multilingual and awfully cultured Raúl Guerrero Montemayor. He was 10 years older than I was and he gave me my first taste for culture. He told me about Le Pétomane, the famous French flatulist (a professional farter) who could magically inhale or exhale air and liquids with that other mouth, the one that usually does not see the light of day.
For most of my life I have been most careful about releasing any quantity of hydrogen sulphide. I am not sure that I am an exception to any rule. As far as I can remember I have never found myself in an embarrassing situation where a loud noise emanating from my posterior might have made conversations cease. In the worst of times I have been able to slowly release, noiselessly, in the hopes that scent might not point in my direction. In these later years of my life when I am aware that I have been married to my Rosemary for 44 years that does not give me license, in my mind, to inflate the sheets of our marriage bed. Especially during the night I will get up, go to the bathroom, shut the door and let loose of the escape hatch.
I called my friend Mark Budgen and told him of the events of Saturday night (they will follow this). He blamed Saputo for the debacle. Budgen said that most cheese in Canada is manufactured by Saputo and they use a pasteurization process with their dairy products that incites stomach problems and flatulence. He is unable to buy the better Avalon Dairy products as they are not available in Oliver, BC. If Budgen is correct here is one more reason to not visit that windy town.
I explained to Budgen that my fondue had been made from three imported cheeses, Gruyere, Ementaler and Appenzeller, all Saputo-free. He then informed me (how does he know this?) that women are more likely to fart as they have less control. He further told me that my stressing correct manners had to be made less important as “In your age, 69, family is very important. It’s all you’ve got.” I did not get any feeling of comfort for my actions from him.
For years I have considered Beau Geste
the best film I have ever seen. I saw it when I was 8 or 9 with my father and mother at the Cine General Paz on Avenida Cabildo in Buenos Aires. I was most impressed by the Geste brothers as children having a wonderful sea battle with ships of the line that sported real canon. The next day I went into my mother’s closet and removed my grandmother’s mandolin. I nailed on a mast, installed sails and a bowsprit and floated in the bathtub. I received a glorious whipping with my mother’s Filipino slippers.
For years I have wanted to find the right time to see the film with Rebecca. She had enjoyed Gunga Din as a much younger girl but I thought that Beau Geste
might be a bit too complex. I didn’t want her to have a bad first opinion of this film. Then Hilary told me that Lauren has abandoned her like for films that feature animal cartoon characters with voiced by famous actors and had seen as many of all the films made on the Three Musketeers. In fact she was looking forward to seeing my rare 1939 The Man in the Iron Mask
with Louis Hayward. I should have listened. I had decided to show King Solomon’s Mines today. At the last moment I took my chances with Beau Geste.
My DVD was faulty and a quarter through the film it froze and remained so.
That was the last straw for the evening. A bit after the beginning, my eldest daughter, sitting next to me, loudly did her thing and I felt the air hit my thigh and then the scent wafted up my nose. She snickered (or did she giggle?) and then stated, most matter-a-factly, “Excuse me!” I made a comment that a girl her age should learn to control these gas releasing situations. She simply said, “I can’t.” I let it go and minutes later she repeated. At that point I raised my voice and lost my temper while Rosemary indicated I should shut up and cool it.
I gave them all a sermon about manners and being a lady. Rebecca retorted, “It was your greasy fondue.” Then my daughter Hilary shocked me by saying, “At home we are allowed to fart as long as we say, “Excuse me.”” I immediately had visions of people in her home loudly burping after drinking a Coke and then excusing themselves. “Whatever happened to proper manners?” I asked to no avail. My wife, perhaps confirming Budgen said, “I, too have problems.”
Rosemary took them home. I knew right after they left that I had blown my détente with Rebecca and now I am back to square one. What would my mother have done? She used to always say,”Hay tan poca gente fina como nosotros en este mundo.” It loosely translates to, “There are few gracious, distinguished and well-mannered people like us in this world.”
Or perhaps she would have bent me (not Rebecca) over her knee and given me a hard slap with her chinela. Both girls were much entertained by Beau Geste.
The Swashbuckling Girl In The Red Dress
Friday, February 17, 2012
Not too long ago I wrote this
and posted the very same picture that you see here of my Lauren Elizabeth who is 9. It seems that since November of last year Lauren has seen every musketeer film her mother finds for her. A couple of nights ago she saw The Count of Monte Cristo
(the 2002 version with Richard Harris) with her father. The girls, Lauren and Rebecca are coming tomorrow Saturday so Hilary has indicated I prepare some sort of swashbuckler for her (Rebecca does not seem to like them). Lauren has already seen Scaramouche
with Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh and the dastardly evil Mel Ferrer. For me I am all eyes on Eleanor Parker. I am opting to have them see King Solomon’s Mines with Granger and Deborah Kerr. Ah! Kerr! Yes, I love redheads and Eleanor Parker was just that.
We are going to have my Swiss fondue tomorrow for dinner. I get all the imported cheeses at Bossa on Victoria Drive. I will rub the pot with garlic, grate some black pepper and sprinkle some nutmeg. I have a good Austrian Kirsch to pour into the melting cheese. The white wine will be an Argentine Torrontés.
Karen Jamieson - Meredith Kalaman - Gravity Made Visible
Thursday, February 16, 2012
|Karen Jamieson & Meredith Kalaman|
There are those who say that Vancouver is a cultural wasteland. And there are a few who disagree. I disagree. If you turn off your TV or get off facebook, there’s lot to see in Vancouver. What is remarkable is that sometimes this stuff is not only very good but also free, too. The deal is to know about it and pick yourself up from the sofa . One way is to make friends with people that you can actually see and perhaps even touch should you wish. They might tell you about these events as my new friend Meredith Kalaman
On February 8 I went to the Vancouver Dance Centre to experience a treatise on gravity, that while it may have gone slightly over my head, it would have been devoured quite handily by the likes of Sir Isaac, he of the falling apple.
You see, Karen Jamieson
, who without revealing more, shares close birthdays (within 3 years) with Werner Herzog
and Wim Wenders approached the physics of a body in space (our down to earth one) through dance and with gesticulation that in itself was sheer beautiful choreography. That she could dance, mano a mano, with the ever much younger Meredith Kalaman was exquisite to behold. All three, Wenders, Herzog and Jamieson give me hope that at my age of 69 I may have some of the best years still ahead of me.
In very few words Jamieson, with the help of individual dancers of her choice, one at a time, is working on a project, Solo/Soul 2012 which will lead her to a series of solos that will culminate in about three years. They will explore dance moment as explained by the five life forces of yoga.
In fewer words Jamieson stated, “We are making gravity visible.” Sir Isaac would have hurrahed!
In one most interesting section of the afternoon performance Jamieson and Kalaman demonstrated the usual dance movement generated by sheer muscle power. Then they shifted to movements that were reaction to that all encompassing force called gravity.
I cannot wait for the next performance.
Karen Jamieson Dance
Click on current projects.
Intimate Apparel - Roumanians, Italians & Tears
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
|Jonathon Young of the Tribe of Ephraim |
Last night’s opening performance of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel
(directed by John Cooper) the Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage had a first act that was ripe with humour. It was the second act with its bleak finish that sent Rosemary and I home a bit on the depressed side but still with the feeling that the evening had been one to savour in spite of the tears.
The revelation to me was the absolutely riveting performance of Marci T. House’s Esther. House was stark in looks and she gave me the impression she had been formerly living in the 19th century and had simply hopped on H.G.’s machine to travel to our times to audition for the part.
The other startling one was how Daren Herbert (George, Esther’s long-distance paramour) shifted, dramatically, from sweet in the first act to a deadening cold manipulator in the second. He was scary. Two women next to me commented after the play was over, " He was disgusting."
On a more positive note it was startling, also, to observe Lesley Uwen play a genteel but firm owner of a pension for single black women. She hit a just right note between that firmness and empathy for the girls she coddled and protected. Startling for me as I have seen the hilarious (and never until now that ever so slightly sedate) Uwen in many a Leakey Heaven Circus production and I believe she may have even played St. Joseph in one of them.
|Anna Cummer cries|
In that first act the sweet and gentle Daren Herbert stands on stage left. Rosemary and I were very close to him on stage left. As Herbert described the death of a water boy in his digging that canal in Panama I clearly saw tears falls like rapids from his eyes. I have always marveled at an actor’s ability to do just that. As the lights turned on after that first act I spied Vancouver actor Marco Soriano so I went up to him and asked him (this a rough version of what we talked about as I did not tape him!)
Me - Marco can you cry on demand?
Marco - No, I f----- can’t. But I can cry as an actor if I am emotionally involved in my part.
Me - You could not have then played George in this play.
Marco - Of course not, I’m Italian not black.
Me – But Daren Herbert played an Italian haberdasher in the Patrick Street production of Light in the Piazza back in September.
Marco – I am glad that they were able to find an Italian black man for the part!
Listening to Jonathon Young play a Roumanian Jew cloth salesman (Mr. Marks) was astounding. He was ample proof that the distinguished anthropologist and semiotician Willoughby Blew’s theory that remnants of the lost tribe of Ephraim managed to settle in New Dublin, Ontario in the beginnings of the 19th century is a definite possibility.
Watching Anna Cummer (Mrs. VanBuren), Marci T. House and Marsha Regis (Mayme with no hint of an auntie in her performance) was breathtaking even though I wasn’t wearing one of Alison Green’s lovely Corsets. Of Marsha Regis I may add that I was hopefully anticipating a wardrobe malfunction but that was not to be.
|Marco Soriano - The Italian|
|One of Alison Green's corsets|
Undead, Undead , Undead - Alas!
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Today at Focal Point I taught a class with the nebulous meaning title of Contemporary Photography Techniques. If you consider that the teacher’s only digital camera is a 3G iPhone you can understand that contemporary might be a muddled name. I do shoot film. I do shoot b+w and “worst” of all my post (as the contemporary lingo dictates) is in a wet darkroom.
But I firmly believe that because the stress of my courses is always to lighting and composition and that I have a good grounding in colour correction, subtle (I have to beat on my own drum) manipulation of digital corrective techniques and a pretty good idea of the workings and the usefulness of custom white balance, my students will not leave disappointed.
If anything I am the disappointed one. Perhaps frustrated would be a better word for it. Today’s model was Mihola Terzic of Estonian extraction. It seems that I have met a couple of equally striking Estonians in my past as shown here
. I commented that if Terzic and Leonard Cohen
would find themselves together in a locked room they would probably commit a sympathetic suicide pact. At this point she flashed her first smile. When I mentioned The Hunger she flashed another. And when I began to sing the first words of Bauhaus’s Bella Lugosi’s Dead
, “Undead, undead, undead…” I knew she was ours for the rest of the evening.
As a teacher I managed to squeeze two shots with my Tri-X loaded Nikon F-3. I can only express my frustration of what I could have done, all on my own, had I been one of my students. Damn!
Degas, Sandrine Cassini & Newton & Leibniz's Asymptote
Monday, February 13, 2012
I sat with my friend Ian Bateson in the covered courtyard of the main branch of our Vancouver Public Library. Everything was fine. People walked passed us. Bateson said, “Remember when this building had the city in an uproar?” I do remember and even though many architects and planners do not like our library it is beautiful to my eyes and does an admirable job in what it was supposed to do, attract people to its stacks.
“Do you really believe in that?” Bateson asked me.
I had told him that if you pour a bottle of Scotch into the Atlantic and then take a fast plane to the Pacific you would be able to find very small quantities of that Scotch if you had the right kind of delicate measuring device. I told him that we can still hear the noise of the big bang. If that is correct we might be able to invent a machine that would grab from the air the receding echoes of Mark Antony’s speech or Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Anybody who has learned the calculus (that of Leibniz and Newton) would understand that fading is never absolute. It approaches infinity without getting there. It is called an asymptote. Another example of an asymptote is my wife’s attitude to her long suffering husband, “ I will be nice to you and tender to you only when I have no further stress or worries.” That will never happen!
Mexican Poet Homero Aridjis writes that when we walk through the old Mexico City quarter of the Zócalo you walk through the ghosts of Aztecs past, through bridges that are no longer there. These ghosts are no different from the ones that Emily Molnar says are the bursts of movement of dance that quickly disappear to never be seen again as most dance performances are rarely repeated. She says that as she moves on a dance stage her arms intrude into three dimensions and leave an effect, much like the dent you might make when you press your thumb on your thigh. The dent disappears but in some way it is still there.
When I have seen Judith Garay dance here in Vancouver, I see in her movements the influence, the effect, the pushing, the pulling of her mentor and teacher Martha Graham.
You might listen to a pianist in 2012 and note the influence via the teacher who was taught by the teacher, who was the teacher of a person who was the pupil of the great Anton Rubinstein. The dilution is there but the stuff, the raw talent that was Rubinstein is still Rubenstein in the hands of the contemporary pianist we may be listening to.
Which brings me to why I am writing all of the above. It has to do with a project that I may be initiating soon with Sandrine Cassini, another of those wonderful creatures from the 19th century that we, a few of us, are aware, are visiting us in this century. She danced with the Paris Opera Ballet and when I watch her dance I imagine I am looking over the shoulders of Degas as he sketched the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet. When I listen to Cassini talk in her French accented English I imagine any of the dancers that Degas so lovingly painted.
When I watch Cassini dance I can feel (even though I am no dance expert or dance critic) the influence and history of those dancers who danced before the generation of Degas. I might, if I look closely discern the Sun King himself shouting instruction on this or on that.
When Degas sketched the young dancer, aged 14, Marie Van Goethem she was fully nude. He then dictated that henceforth all museums and institutions showing his cast sculpture would have to drape a little skirt around her. Might not some Degas dancer have been present during the sketches? Might she not have been a friend of Van Goethem? Is there some of that knowledge, of the interaction between Degas, Van Goethem and her friend not be somewhere inside the memory banks of Cassini?
Yes Bateson I believe in those things. And at the very least it gives me an excuse (a justification) to travel soon to Victoria to photograph the 21st century Sandrine Cassini, back in the century I think she is really from. The century and the very era when somewhere inside her, in her memory, she might have recognized the man that was Degas.
A Book By Its Cover
Sunday, February 12, 2012
It has been at least 30 years since I last read a book by Mickey Spillane. When saw this in the new arrivals of the Vancouver Public Library branch on 10th Avenue (right next to Focal Point where I teach photography) I was intrigued. I read it in one evening. The kind of language Spillane uses here (in conjunction with Max Allan Collins) is the kind of language that a politically incorrect grandfather might want to use (if he were and idiot) to impress some young thing (including perhaps a teenaged granddaughter) that he is a man of the world and has seen things.
I enjoyed it but it convinced me that any hint of using any of the language or attitudes therein would get me nowhere with the current crowd. The book and my memory of it shall reside in me as a private enjoyment that I know I cannot share with anyone I might know.
I blinked. “Who or what is the Consummata?”
“A very famous dominatrix, at least famous in certain circles.”
“From nowhere. From everywhere. Sometimes she works alone, by appointment through intermediaries. Other times she has set up locations with other young women trained in the arts of sado-masochism. And again clients are by referral only. She has turned up in every major city in America and not a few in Europe. Her clients, they say, are among the most rich and powerful in business and government. If she exists.”
“You don’t know if she exists?”
“She is a rumor. A wisp of smoke. A legend. A dream. Lovely, a vision in black leather, they say…
He was dead now, my old friend, his head blasted apart like a melon by my .45 slug, and any further details about exactly where the forty mil was stashed had gone away in a spray of gore…
I turned and at once I saw her…
…moving through the ballroom with regal grace, floating like a ghost, and yet commanding attention and respect and even subservience, a dominatrix of stunning beauty and power, entirely in black, tall (but those tightly-laced knee-high gladiator boots with the impossibly high heels contributed for the effect), in a latex gown, floor length but snapped open at the top of her sheer-dark stockinged thighs, long black latex gloves almost to her bare shoulders, her face concealed by a mask that revealed little more than red lips and chin, with little devil horns, blonde hair spilling out onto her shoulders from under the mask.
The Consummata, Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins, 2011