The Enigma Of Creeping
Saturday, February 16, 2013
|Watching her in Yucatán|
About four months ago my granddaughter accessed her facebook with my 3G iPhone. To my initial surprise and then horror I became aware that she had not logged out. This meant that I could read her instant facebook messaging.
It was two months ago that I found out a CBC Radio show that my action (accidental at first) had a name. It is called creeping. In the parlance of our times copter parents (the ones that hover closely) tend to creep.
Astoundingly there are American companies that sell creeping applications for smart phones. Since a good smart phone is a portable GPS device these apps can help parents know exactly where their children are at any given time. With these apps they can remotely access their child’s messaging and creep or they can shut down the phone for any period of time. These apps can be had for $100.
My daughter and son-in-law do not have these apps nor do they seem to need them in order to exercise the questionable and unethical act of creeping which in many ways is the act of reading someone’s private diary.
Is it questionable? It probably is. Is it unethical? I am not so sure. I had long conversations with two Holy Cross priests and one Brother of Holy Cross, back in Austin two weeks ago. The two priests were experts on addiction counseling and the brother was both a theologist and a philosopher with more than a minor interest in ethics. All three listened to me and were unable to give me sound advice or if creeping was unethical. I brought up the subject of that 60s blip called situation ethics and Brother Donald Dufour simply smiled. There seemed to be no clear and absolute answer.
At first I was astounded by my ability to read my granddaughter’s messages. Most were banal. Some were scary. Because her mother has access to her daughter’s phone (left at a desk or by her night table at night) plus she and her husband know their daughter’s facebook password (they are the ones who create it) I could compare notes and I could share her concerns. Soon it got so terrible (the messages, the worries) that my wife would ask, “What is she saying now?” Soon after I called my son-in-law and told him I had access to the special unfiltered facebook. There seemed to be no reaction. I was treated coolly. An hour later he had logged me out.
I felt a relief. I wondered what if my father-in-law, many years back, had called me to tell me he was reading my daughter’s diary? I would have been furious and ashamed if the contents of the diary had been intimate. I felt ashamed.
Technology, spy technology, has advanced beyond what I remember with some humour. I would call my Fedex agent ten years ago and they knew who I was, where I was calling from and that I even had a package of photographs going to a magazine in Toronto and that the package would be ready and outside my door right now. Jokingly I would ask them if they knew what cereal I had had for breakfast that day. They laughed.
I do not laugh now. It is not to unreasonable to suppose that those Fedex agents would now know I never have cereal for breakfast. But then no longer need Fedex because my photographs go to Toronto with a simple press and send at my computer.
There is one element in contemporary creeping that has relevance to an incident in England in WWII. It happened in the town of Coventry in the night of 14, 15 November 1940. Because the allies had captured the so called Enigma Machine they were able to decipher the German codes. They knew what the Germans were up to most of the time. In fact we now know that Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel was a much better soldier than we thought he was and that his adversary Field marshal Bernard Montgomery not quite the man he thought he was. The allies, the Brits, Montgomery knew what Rommel moves would be.
The German code name for the raid on Coventry and the Midlands was Einheitopreis and Churchill was warned two days in advance.
Sir William Stephenson ("Intrepid"), advised that knowing the German codes was too valuable a source of intelligence to risk. By evacuating the city, the Prime Minister would expose the source and endanger its usefulness in the future - so "Intrepid" told Churchill to leave Coventry to burn and its people to their fate. Which is what happened.
At what point is my daughter in not telling her daughter that creeping is in operation the right thing to do or not do? Do you keep creeping to perhaps be able to prevent some ultimately terrible disaster?
On the other hand I wonder how smart 15 year-olds can be. Can they not open other facebook accounts, free from parental control or to block apps from intruding into their phones. For every missile there is an anti-missile in the language of that bygone era that was the cold war.
Goats, Children, Pimps & Ak-47s
Friday, February 15, 2013
Many years ago, perhaps in the late 60s I used to listen to a Mexico City based radio station that broadcast in English. On the hour the station would link with CBS in New York. I loved listening to this station because I grew to love and appreciate such people as Dan Rather, Charles Osgood and a particularly over the top lefty called Nicholas von Hoffman. One broadcast of his remains in my memory in which he said, “If you really want kids, buy a baby goat.”
In Spanish the word goat is much more complex. The most used word is cabra which is the female of the species. But there seems to be no real word for the male of the species as a chivo is the male until he is able to procreate. After? Who Knows? A cabrito is a little kid and in Chile cabros are children, human children in a loosely affectionate moniker. In Mexico those cabros are exquincles (hairless dogs).
A very poor person in Spanish is a cabrito huérfano or a little orphan kid. In Mexico if you want to eat goat you have to ask for cabrito (little goat) but that will not guarantee that you will be served be either a kid or a small old goat.
Furthermore in Mexico if you call someone a cabrón you must be careful that the person you insult is not armed. Cabrón means pimp.
This brings us back to chivo. A chivito in Uruguay is a very large steak sandwich that includes a fried egg between those slices of bread.
In Latin America a cuerno de chivo, or a goat’s horns is the affectionate name for the Russian assault rifle, the AK-47.
Tandem & More At Dances For A Small Stage
Thursday, February 14, 2013
|Thoenn Glove, top & Yeva Glover|
Those who might be reading this may perhaps be wondering what to do on a Thursday night. They might be lucky enough to know that Vancouver, every once in a while, gives us gems but like the best are usually hidden from view. One of Vancouver’s gems is Dances for a Small Stage. That in some ways this gem is still hidden to some is beyond my understanding.
You are in an intimate place, The Legion on the Drive at 2205 Commercial sitting at a table sipping a martini or a beer. Dancers, female one, male ones, dance for you on a small stage. These dancers are the best our city has and the approach encouraged by curator Julie-ann Saroyan and her guest co-curator, that compact and agile dancer Karissa Barry
, is an avant-garde approach. If you are elitist this is for you. If you are not just go with the attitude that it is not important to understand anything or “get” anything. The deal is to watch beautiful dancers dance.
But then there are two dancers in particular that I had
to see yesterday as I will be in Austin, Texas by the end of the day today. I witnessed a dress rehearsal and the two sisters, Yeva and Thoenn
Glover in all-white outfits and blonde wigs performed just for me, sort of as the tech crew was there and so was Julie-ann and the composer Mac Hunter in charge of the Glover’s music for their piece called Tandem.
I will not try to explain what I saw but I will point out that the piece is very good (how these two communicate!) and for reasons that I will keep behind a curtain, Tandem is an especially good name.
Besides the Glover Sisters, there are others on the roster: Karissa Barry, Alison Denham & Billy Marchenski, Arash Khakpour, Meagan O’Shea from Toronto, Donald Sales/Project 20,
Dayna Syndrowki and Clare Twiddy.
I have never seen Ballet BC’s Donald Sales dance on his own outside the Ballet BC envelope. Sales
is a strong and muscular dancer with American football in his background. But the delightful paradox of Sales is that he is also one of the most elegant male dancers in town. I have written about Alison Denham’s abs here
Because the Legion is licensed you must be 19 or older to be admitted. Perhaps some day soon those in charge of promoting and nurturing culture in our city might find a way of reprising Dances for the Small Stage in schools and other places. The show is on tonight, plus on the 15, and the 16th. Tickets are $20, cash at the door. Doors open at 7pm and show is at 8 pm. The Legion is at 2205 Commercial Drive.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I have never understood why essays on people that appear in magazines or newspapers are called profiles. Even more difficult for me is the concept of the verb to profile.
My first memory of the word is in Spanish and the word perfil
is attached to griego
meaning Greek. As I learned it had to do with the concept of heroic Greek statues of gods and goddesses, of statesmen (the bust of Pericles comes to mind) and even of philosophers, as Greeks revered them, too.
My grandmother, born in the 19th century and thus a person of the times was mildly (does anti-semitism come in different degrees like hot sauces?) anti-Semitic and if she spotted a person with a particular type of large nose she would have said, “He has the map of Jerusalem on his face.”
A profile was prominent in a story my mother often told me. My mother and grandmother were living in the Bronx in the early 30s. They were riding an elevated train and between them sat a man with a big nose. In Spanish, my mother, who was sitting by the window, asked my grandmother, “Can you see anything?” My grandmother replied in Spanish, “No the man between us has a very big nose.” At that point the man in the middle pushed his nose to one side with his index finger and in perfect Spanish asked, “Can you see now?” My mother and grandmother were so embarrassed that they immediately got up and left the train.
In recent years I have given longish demonstration/lectures on the taking of a profile. A profile is not as simple as you might think. Consider this.
1. Can look straight ahead.
2. Can look upwards.
3. Can look downwards.
4. Can smile.
5. Can laugh.
6. Can be serious.
7. Can close eyes.
8. Show only one eye.
9. Show part of the other.
10 Show both eyes.
11. Depending on how you place your light you can show or hide your subject’s ear.
12. Just face.
13. Head and shoulders.
Seen here is a pleasant profile I took of my granddaughter Lauren this year.
Saturday With Lauren At The Flying Beaver
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday, Lauren visited us. Rosemary was worried as to what we could do with her. But Lauren is easy going. She played in the garden with Rosemary’s cat, Casi-Casi and we took her to the Flying Beaver Pub/Restaurant in Richmond. Lauren was very interested in everything I could tell her about DeHavilland Beavers and we got to see many landing and taking off. Lauren gave me the opportunity to play with my Nikon FM-2 loaded with Fujicolour 1600 ISO film. It seemed easy but then Lauren has a way.
Monday, February 11, 2013
This framed picture is on a wall as I go down (or up) the stairs between our bedrooms and the ground floor. It is almost impossible to ignore even though the wall is full of other pictures of our family. I took the photograph of my eldest daughter Alexandra in Vancouver in 1978 using Kodak b+w infrared film. I went to San Francisco to visit a friend and relatives and I did what many of us do when we are in another city (play the tourist) even though the “service” may have been possible in Vancouver. On Market Street they were selling T-shirts to which they would transfer any picture you provided. I had an 8x10 print of Ale. They made the shirt and the process began with what was then called a Xerox machine. I noticed that the two different copies they made on Xerox paper were quite beautiful so I asked for them.
In my living room I have a tiny (2½ inch), five picture narrative of which this is the first one. I took the pictures with a Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD and a 140mm lens in 2001. I used Ilford FP-4 film and when I scanned the negatives I purposely misinformed my scanner that what I was scanning was colour negative. Colour negatives of what is still called the Kodak C-41 Process have a built in orange mask. This meant that with a bit of tweaking I could almost get a nice flesh tone. I had the digital files printed on what was the best technology of 2001. The process is commonly called an ink jet print but when carefully done and when good printing paper is used ink jets become giclées and you pay more. If you were to see the originals in my living room (and you would have to intimately get very close!) you would see the tiny little dots of spray (giclée is French for spray). They are charming and if I were to re-do these the much improved inkjet printers would lose that charm.
I would call both of my pictures here part of what could be a growing trend in our fight against a global uniformity cemented by a rapidly changing but equivalent technology. Let’s call it après-garde.
Truncated Skyscrapers & Small Monuments
Sunday, February 10, 2013
|Guido & Paolo Pela|
Last week I went to the main Canada Post Office
building on West Georgia and Hamilton. I do not know what the building’s official name might be. This frustration was minute considering the visual aberration I was to find once I entered the building. I was there to mail a small package to my friend Mark Budgen who lives in Oliver, B.C. One of the reasons why Budgen moved to the hinterland was his eventual loss of romance for living in a city that was becoming ugly and with no memory
for its past.
I have written about my love, or at the very least, my appreciation for its architecture, which in my total ignorance of architecture terms I call Russian/Rumanian Monumental. From the outside the term might apply. Russian/Rumanian Monumental for me represents insides with soaring ceilings where you might spot a bank of nimbus clouds.The building does occupy a whole city block. But if you enter…but let me diverge for a moment.
There was a science experiment of my youth which I never found particularly interesting. You had to make a super-saturated solution of sugar and water in a deep jar. You then suspended strings. After a few hours, days you would have uneven crystals that had no particular shape or form. That experiment reminds me of the Vancouver skyline, particularly the one on the north side of False Creek. The best view is if you drive or walk northward on the Cambie Street Bridge. Few might remember that this beautiful bridge (beautiful in comparison to the somewhat uninspiring surrounding architecture) replaced the nicely named Connaught Bridge with its wooden-planked center span. It was ugly, beautifully ugly.
I cannot thus describe the ugly condos that shoot up (like half sized erections on half sized Viagra). They are not beautifully ugly. They are nondescript, uninteresting, uninspiring, cookie cutter bland. In fact they are not really all that ugly, individually. They become ugly as you gather up with your sight as they are out-competed by our splendid mountain background. There were a couple of elegant, Milan-born architect/developers that I photographed in 1991 on the roof of the Leckie Building in Gastown on Cambie almost corner with Water Street. They were Guido and Paolo Pela. Paolo looked at our skyline and said something like, “It is uninspiring and bland because the would-be skyscrapers are all truncated.” He suggested that since it was hopeless to try to compete with the North Shore Mountains why even try.
Many years later just before he died in 2010, architect Abraham Rogatnick and I faced City Hall. He told me, “Look up and if you notice carefully you will observe that City Hall is a truncated Empire State Building.”
|Monumento de La Revolución Mexicana|
Photo by Héctor Garcíá
In my recent trip to Mexico City in mid December of 2012 I was struck by a city (a city that I once knew well as I lived in it from 1955, off and on until 1975, that had changed and yet not changed. The same old, very old and ancient buildings were almost all there. Some had come crashing down in earthquakes of the past. The ugly Edificio de La Lotería Nacional was there, ample proof that soaring concrete does not always soar. But few would find fault with the National Cathedral on the huge centre stage of the city called the Zócalo. It listed a tad as the city is sinking but it was still beautiful.
There were many new very tall buildings on Paseo de la Reforma which thanks to planning by an Austrian, Maximilian, who became Emperor of Mexico, is one of the most beautiful boulevards of the world. He wanted his wife Carlota to gaze from the ramparts of Chapultepec Castle as he came home from his work in administering an empire. It was an empire that crumbled as soon as the American Civil War ended and the folks from the North looked down and applied their Monroe Doctrine on the Frenchie army propping up old Max. They left, as the Spaniards are want to say, “without saying goodbye”. A series of experiments in democracy ended with the powerful dictator Porfirio Díaz who was finally taken down by the revolution of 1910. Before that, like all dictators, Díaz had been thinking of what he was going to leave behind as a measure of his great reign. He was in process of building a huge palace when the uprising began. All that remains is the entrance to the palace, a huge, ugly structure now called Monumento a La Revolución Mexicana.
|Photo by Héctor García|
Those who took over, wisely left the gigantic portal, like a decaying usurper’s head on a pike, as a reminder of what power can do. Few of those who drive around it in cars in what are the ubiquitous glorietas or turnabouts might ponder on this. But the building is there in all its ugly glory.
Vancouver had its own portal but in a much smaller (much smaller) scale. This was the original monument to Terry Fox. Like Vancouver’s truncated skyscrapers the Terry Fox memorial
was stillborn and unmonumental.
You cannot think big in a small way.
Addendum: My good friend editor Bob Mercer has weighed in with: Meanwhile, what happened inside the Post Office? Bob Mercer He is absolutely right. So here is the important addition. A building, a huge building that occupies one very large city block now has one small room with very low ceiling and with about four to five employees servicing customers. This room is a tiny room in which the ceiling is almost within reach. This, besides the still beautiful area with the postal boxes is all that is left of our post office.