Aspiring To Aspire
Saturday, March 02, 2013
(Del lat. usucapĕre).
1. tr. defect. Der. Adquirir una cosa por usucapción.
MORF. U. solo en infinit. y en part.
(Del lat. aspirāre).
1. tr. Atraer el aire exterior a los pulmones.2. tr. Originar una corriente de un fluido mediante la producción de una baja de presión.
3. tr. Pretender o desear algún empleo, dignidad u otra cosa. Aspira a una vida mejor.
4. tr. Fon. Pronunciar con aspiración.
5. tr. desus. Exhalar aromas.
6. tr. ant. inspirar ( infundir afectos, ideas, etc.).
7. intr. ant. Alentar, respirar.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados
Today I plan to Hoover. It will be the genuine thing as Rosemary and I purchased a Hoover vacuum yesterday at London Drugs. The English Hoover the way we used to Xerox documents or cellophane gifts.
Purchasing the Hoover was not an easy thing. We already had two vacuum cleaners. One used difficult to find replacement bags and the other made a very loud high pitched sound and suction was minimal. We were not prepared to spend $500 on the much distinguished and admired Dyson. A few weeks ago I looked at the features of a Multi Cyclonic Hoover in London Drugs. It was selling for $250. I went to the store manager and asked if he could plug it in for me somewhere so we could check on the noise level. It seems my request was a rare one. He smiled at me quizzically but relented. We agreed that the noise level was reduced and not in the least high-pitched. We decided to wait for a sale. That happened a few days ago.
It was in 1954 in our first rented house in Tecamachalco in Mexico City. I was 13. A man rang the bell. He represented Electrolux. My mother and grandmother let him in. He immediately did that demonstration so loved by vacuum cleaner salesman of saying, “This looks like a very clean house. Obviously you do everything possible to keep it like that. Let me demonstrate something. Let me vacuum your sofa.” Since this was the first time we ever experienced this “trick” we were appalled and embarrassed to see how dirty our sofa was as the salesman emptied the contents of the bag on a newspaper. We bought the Electrolux. I don’t know when it finally disappeared from our life but I do remember that it was beautifully made of aluminum. A had a sprayer device (you connected the hose to the other end of the machine) and you could spray DDT (yes DDT!) onto plants with the machine.
In 1976 a man rang the bell at our home on Springer Avenue in Burnaby. He was Italian and he represented a company that sold a Cyclonic Vacuum Cleaner. He said there was no obligation to buy and that his sales pitch included a free steak knife set. In he came and first demonstrated how dirty our sofa was. I marvelled at its all-metal construction. It was egg-shaped and decorated in Art-Deco style. We were given the steak knives with our purchase. As in most of my personal relations with vacuum cleaners I do not remember when this machine left us.
Since I am writing about vacuum cleaners I must bring into the picture how names for things vary in different languages. A vacuum cleaner is obviously a machine that creates a vacuum by sucking air out of something. That other vacuum cleaner salesman trick was to put your dirty couch cushion into a garbage bag and then to wrap the bag around the machine until the bag was without air.
In Spanish a vacuum cleaner is aspiradora from the verb to aspirar which means also to breathe. In English this meaning of aspire (the common root is from the Latin) remains in describing internal combustion engines as either being turbo-charged or naturally aspiring.
Should you leave you vacuum cleaner to be repaired at a store and then forget about it and then to return five months later you might find out that the persons repairing your machine were not to be responsible after 30 or 60 days (read that in your receipt) and since you did not come to claim it the machine was repaired, refurbished and sold. In Spanish we have a grand verb usucapir which is a defective (defective is the Spanish nomenclature for verbs that cannot be conjugated). This verb exists only as in infinitive, usucapir and as a noun usucapción. Neat word, isn’t it? Is there an equivalent in English?
I must finish this as I am in need of Hoovering the house. I will make sure all our sofas are cleaned well. After all I do aspire for a clean house.
Pummeled, Challenged & Refreshed At Pi's Terminus
Friday, March 01, 2013
Here is an idea for a cold and rainy Friday evening. Go to Granville Island to listen to three people recite poetry. If that is not to your liking consider that the poetry in question is in a tight Irish accent and there are lots of words that seem to rhyme with fu…
Here is an idea for a cold and rainy Friday evening. Go to Granville Island to see a play that rare in Vancouver, is not inside a theatrical living room. This play is not one likely to make you laugh and a few times (four or five) during the 1 hour 50 minute play there is a sound that makes you jump with fright from seats that are hard. They are really hard and if you do not have a theatrical cushion (when are theatre companies going to get smart and start makeing them with their logos and selling them? How about it Bard?) you will shift your rear end attempting to find relief. More Guinness might help.
Here is an idea for a cold and rainy Friday evening. Go to Granville Island to see a brutal play that pummels you with lines recited in rhyme and lovely iteration in an Irish accent. Guinness is available.
Tonight, Rosemary and I attended Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus
at Performance Works on Granville Island (and remember after 7 pm parking is free). It is a production of π pi theatre and directed by Richard Wolfe. There are three terrific actors, Leanna Brodie (went into acting after a failed counseling job), John Emmet Tracy (let’s bring him as Hamlet to Bard, Christopher!) and Pippa Mackie whose carreer gives me hope that my teenage granddaughter from hell might some day follow in her footsteps of success.
If an Irish accent in an Irish play is your thing (and it is for me) the play’s bar sells a few Irish bears to make that experience all that much the better.
|Pippa Mackie & actor friend Anton Lipovitsky|
I have a friend who is a theatrical lighting designer. She has become bored with the constant need to be hired to light living rooms. Living rooms (think about it seem to be a constant in our city’s mainstream repertoire).
has dramatic and challenging lighting. There is some expertly focused (kudos to lighting man Alan Brodie) that mimics beautifully George Hurrell’s Paramount lighting, so beloved by the likes of Dietrich.
This play like a few others that π pi theatre has mounted could pretty well be a radio play. I found myself leaning against my umbrella handle during the evening just to hear the sound, particularly that of John Emmet Tracy.
I will not reveal the plot here but I will describe that the three people talk in monologue to the audience without talking to each other. Somewhere during the play you begin to understand that the three stories, all happening one day in Dublin, might have a link.
When the resolution comes and a bit later the lights turned on, as we left the theatre, I felt pummeled, challenged and somehow refreshed. Good art tends to do that. Is there a Vancouver playwright able to see what happens in our city in much the same way O'Rowe sees in his Dublin? I am waiting, patiently in order to be pummeled, challenged and refreshed. Are you listening to me Tim Carlson?
Pi's radio plays
our very own Irish poet.
A Half-Ass Paean To Bill Brandt
Thursday, February 28, 2013
|Photograph by Bill Brandt|
Perhaps my favourite 20th century photographer of the female nude figure is Hamburg-born Brit (his father was British), 1904-1983, Bill Brandt. I have always been fascinated by his high-contrast distorted nudes that he took in the 60s and 70s. As much as I have admired him, have a look at his current MOMA show here
, I have never been either influenced nor have I ever wanted to emulate his technique. We do know that he took most of his photographs with a 6x6 cm Rolleiflex but such is the distortion of some of his nudes that he might have had some other secret unrevealed to us to this day.
I have always treated my female nudes in the same way I would photograph a beautiful car. This means that I am careful not to change the relationship of the front of a car to its rear by getting close to the front with a wide angle lens. This would make the front end bigger in relation to the tail end. It is important to treat with respect the person who designed the car.
Bill Brandt endeavoured to go his own way in a style that has been his, with few being able to even get close in poor imitation.
The nudes you see here I took at the end of the 1970s. I was brand new to the experience of shooting nudes. I tried to respect form and even when I used an extreme wide angle as in the last shot here I was careful to render the body as I saw it.
But for reasons I will never know I did take some of a woman’s lovely bum in which I played with shapes and ignored my respect for the body and I cropped the shots with my camera with a determination that I never used again.
Michael J. Fox & Leo And Me
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
On Tuesday I lectured on photography at Burnaby South Secondary School. My wife asked me, "Isn't that the place where the Michael J. Fox Theatre is?" Indeed my Rosemary was right. When I returned that day I decided to look into my files . Besides my negs I found this article written by the Sun's
Alex Strachan. At the time, the year 2000, Charles Campbell ,who had nicely run the Georgia Straight
as its editor, had moved to the Vancouver Sun
where he started his own competition to the Straigh
t, a nice tabloid called Queue
which appeared on Thursdays. Campbell came up with the last page idea called Rear Window
where an event from the past that had some relevance to the week in question would be given a full page. He told me, "I had you in mind." I came to not only to contribute with my photographs but also wrote many of those Rear Windows.
|Brent Carver and Michael Fox|
Vancouver Sun May 18-25, 2000
1978 Rear Window
The secret to staying young, Lucille Ball once said, is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age. In 1978 when Alex Waterhouse-Hayward snapped this photo of Brent Carver with a young Mike Fox, as he was then known, hardly anybody could have imagined the career path that awaited the Burnaby teenager.
In the well-nigh 20 years since, Michael J.Fox – he was compelled by the Screen Actors Guild to add the “J” to differentiate him from the late American character Michael Fox, in line with a Guild bylaw that states that no two actors may have the same name – has lived honestly, eaten lightly and made a career of playing younger than his years.
In 1978, he was 15 playing 12, the “Me” half of the Vancouver-based CBC sitcom Leo and Me
, described in an old Mothercorp press kit as “a bright comedy series” about Leo (Carver), “who lives with his nephew Jamie (Fox) on a yacht moored in the harbour. Together they get into some wild adventures and meet a number of odd characters.”
It may sound a chip of the old Beachcombers
block, but where The Beachcombers became a CBC tradition and part of West Coast lore, Leo and Me
lasted just 13 episodes. Even so, looking back at it today, it retains a certain charm, viewed through the admittedly disarming prism of nostalgia and fond hindsight.
In the debut, “Turn of the Worm,” which aired 22 years ago, Leo “discovers that an old acquaintance has become a millionaire rock star; now that dates it – who turns out to be “a worm, low and deceitful.” In “An Embarrassment of Riches,” featuring the ubiquitous Jackson Davies, Jamie “discovers that panhandling isn’t all fun.” And who, having seen it, could possibly forget “Nice Italian Girl,” in which “a girl who sews, cooks, cleans and sings in the kitchen has her eyes on Leo, much to 12-year-old Jamie’s amusement.” Or the inimitable “One Night of Love” in which Leo “is visited by a former girlfriend who borrows his home for a meeting with her current boyfriend. He turns out to be a Mafia boss, which calls for some fast thinking.”
Waterhouse-Hayward, who shot stills for a number of variety programs at the time – “those horrible shows they used to have with dancers, with people like Leon Bibb and Paul Anka and René Simard”- says Leo and Me
harks back to a time when stills photographers were allowed free rein on film locations, unlike today’s sets where style is frowned upon and photos automatically become the property of the studio, not the photographer.
“There were these characters,” Waterhouse-Hayward recalls of his Leo and Me
set visit. “I didn’t know who the hell they were, and I never did find out until later on. I didn’t care who they were. Nobody cared who they were. I just took the pictures as best as I could.”
Years later, Waterhouse-Hayward, faced with a decision whether to keep the photos or toss them out, decided to squirrel them away. A fortuitous choice, as it turns out.
“I guess what struck me about Fox was how tiny he was and what a kid he was,” Waterhouse-Hayward recalls. “He mouthed off a lot. He was a kid, for Christ’s sake. In retrospect I consider myself lucky to see and photograph him when not only did he look like a kid but he actually was a kid. That’s the part I like the most. He was a kid, a nice kid – the kind of kid who should have thousands of freckles. Which he did.”
Leo and Me’s
finale aired August 14, 1981. The show’s title, ironically , was “The Big Time.” It foreshadowed things to come back in the future as Leo and Jamie, faced with losing their home because of a cash crunch, strike it rich when “Jamie lands a job advertising peanut butter.” You could say it was the secret of his success.”
Alex Strachen looks at the career of Michael J. Fox in Saturday’s Mix, as the actor who suffers from Parkinsion’s Disease, steps away from his lead role n Spin City following next week’s season finale.
May 18-25 Vancouver Sun 2000
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Amnesia is a desert of fine white sun-glaring sand to the horizon. Amnesia isn’t oblivion. Amnesia isn’t memory loss caused by brain injury or neurological deterioration, in which actual brain cells have died. Amnesia is almost-remembering. Amnesia is the torment of almost-remembering. Amnesia is the dream from which you have only just awakened, hovering out of reach below the surface of bright rippling water. Amnesia is the paralyzed limb into which one day, one hour, feeling may begin to flow.
, by Joyce Carol Oates from her book Give Me Your Heart
– Tales of Mystery and Suspense
. An Otto Penzler Book, 2010.
The last of the influential surrogate fathers of my life is losing his memory. Recently he was moved from Austin, Texas to a special facility in South Bend, Indiana. My last conversation with Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC was on February 18. I asked him, “Are you going to miss Texas?” His answer was either sheer epistemological logic or a Chauncy Gardiner kind of thing, “To miss Texas I will have to first remember it.” His reply broke my heart and I have been thinking about memory since.
Today I had to lecture on photography a group of students from Burnaby South Secondary. For a week before I prepared my notes, chose 6x7 cm slides to project with my Linhof slide projector and I put together a simple Power Point presentation. I had one big problem.
People I thought I had only photographed a few years before had been photographed earlier. I looked at the pictures in my computer files (many without identifying names attached) and I drew blanks. I knew who they were and what they did. But what were their names?
For years I have suspected that memory and knowledge are like a long and narrow red carpet. The carpet unrolls forward as we live. Our memories, experiences and knowledge expand. At the same time at the beginning of the carpet, it rolls up.
I am not sure that this is an accurate representation. I have good memory for a large scope of incidents in my past, even some that many might consider arcane or insignificant. Yet I cannot remember the name of an author that came into my studio, not too long ago, whom I admired.
Finding out the names was important. I wanted to know the names of all the people whose pictures I would project in my Power Point. To help my memory I was going to write their names under their pictures.
I drew a blank with the author on the right (see above). Google saved me. I put into Google, author/illustrator, books with postcards, island, British Columbia.
Perhaps then the carpet I sin sections and part of it, even our recent past roll up into the delete section of our brain.
Ever since I can remember I have remembered small things and people I know are astounded. And yet memorizing poems in school was such an impossibility that I remember crying to my mother who would patiently sit down to help me remember the lines. I can still remember her saying, “7 times 6, 7 times 7, 7 times 8, 7 times9…” She would come back and say, “7 times 9, 9 times 7,” on and on those 9s and 7s in the times tables were my bête noire.
In Brother Edwin’s religion class he would often say, “Anybody who can memorize today’s epistle will get five extra points in tomorrow’s test. I was never able to get those extra points. I do not know the lyrics to any national anthems nor can I recite even short bursts of poetry.
Some nights ago, during a bout of insomnia I was trying to remember the name of an author I have admired, met, photographed and interviewed. The name was not there. Then I attempted to remember the cover of one of his books. The idea is that I am very good at remembering a person’s face, even after many years. Perhaps I could draw on this talent and see the man’s name. I believe that we remember names by their sound in our head. Some, like my wife can immediately tell you with what letter a word to be remembered begins with. With sound not working for me this new way could work. It almost did so I will continue with this memory project. As I write this I can see in my head that L.A. Confidential cover and the name James Ellroy.
I kept asking Brother Edwin, “Will you say ‘gosh’ for me?” His answer was the same twice, “You are going to have to wait a while.” The third time he said, “If you want I can say ‘gosh’ but it means nothing to me. I cannot compute.”
Perhaps Brother Edwin, will remember Texas and then miss it. I can only hope.
Mark Pryor - Author/Lawyer/Assistant DA Travis County TX
Monday, February 25, 2013
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Mark Pryor - Author/Lawyer/Assistant District Attorney Travis County TX
When Alex asked me to be a part of his Red Shawl project, alongside artists, actresses, statesmen, and poets, my first thought was, "Oh, crap."
You see, red isn't my color. I have a red sweater that I like but I won't be photographed in it. It makes me look lumpy and portly and... unappealing.
So a red shawl? Crikey.
But I was flattered, honored to be asked and I wondered, what was the project about? Just a shawl? I didn't know but I suspected not, so I read the funny, touching, meaningful words others wrote to get an idea. I suppose I could have intuited his reasoning or thought long and hard and come up with a theory, but I delved into other accounts, others' interpretations, because I'm a lawyer by trade, so in many ways a literalist, and my artistic side sometimes needs coaxing, cajoling to make it appear. It's in there, like my soft, romantic side is in there, but I carry a badge and wear a tie during the days so I need something bright to draw those elements out of me, and maybe something safe to cover them, or hide behind. Ah yes, like a bright, warm, red shawl. I get it.
Those stories, I'm flicking back and forth to them as I write, they are about people I would like, I think, people who I'll never meet but who I now have a connection with, and I think it's wonderful. That shawl reminds me, in some ways, of my books. I'll never know most of the people who read them but we have a connection, something in common, something to talk about should we meet. And so it is with Alex and his shawl. (Of course, for my books I got to choose the author photo, and please notice I'm wearing a black sweater, and therefore look neither lumpy nor portly). And Alex himself, who looked me up after reading my novel. We spent an hour together in Austin. Is he the most interesting man in the world? If not, he probably knows the man that is. And we know each other now, because of stories, one that I wrote and ones that he's putting together to go with his photographs, stories and pictures that connect the participants and the readers, too. That thrills me and I can't even articulate properly why.
Stories, like the ones that I put in books and like the little ones told under the red shawl, they do that, don't they? Like the shawl they connect strangers, in real time or emotionally, and like the shawl they can make you feel silly about your vanities and weaknesses, your failures and disappointments, because others have those too, sometimes worse. And if they don't, well, stories and pictures can enrich by making you laugh and connecting you with others. Oh yes, obvious, I know. Glaring. Ah, like a red shawl, I get it.
I want to meet some of Alex's friends now. I want to meet the dominatrix (the photo soulful, her words utterly perfect, genius even: "The only thing I will not do is writing of any sort. Sorry..."), and I want to meet the lady who had cancer (are you okay?) and the poet (how do you do that? I wish I could write poetry). As as I read their stories I wondered, How come Alex didn't want me nude? But not for long. Mostly I was glad he didn't, and was happy to be a part of his project. He's connecting us with the past, I get that, but he's connecting us in the present. I like that a lot.
If he comes back, I think I'll wear a different sweater, maybe the black one, but I will be more than happy to wear that shawl again. I know now that red can suit me.
Brother Edwin Charles Reggio, CSC
Mentor & Teacher
Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
Yeva & Thoenn Glover
André De Mondo
Johnna Wright & Sascha
Director/Mother - Son/Dreamer
Decker & Nick Hunt
Cat & 19th century amateur
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Statesman, Flag Designer
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart
That Oscar Widower
Sunday, February 24, 2013
I will never understand how my fellow classmates at St. Edward’s High School and my other contemporaries at St. Edward’s University could have had a liberal Roman Catholic education and then after all these years become what so many of them have become. They are gun-toting, arch conservatives who just happen to be, almost all, Texan.
But I found that, last week at a school reunion in Austin, Texas I had nothing in common with them except having been formed by the same source.
Happily, in a most sad way, I was proven wrong. I sidled up to a former upper classman, a Mexican/American who even in youth had looked like a lugubrious bloodhound. After a few exchanges in which I revealed that we in Vancouver, in my crowd, had a deep admiration for President Obama he stared at me shocked. His comment immediately warned me that I would never ever be able to sit with him at a table and have a conversation. He said, “How can you like a man with his views on gay marriage, abortion and birth control?” Feeling very nasty I retorted, “At least I will be able to sleep late not having to wake up to the clamour of 50 very Catholic grandchildren.” I was sorry the moment I uttered it.
Hours later I had a chat with the lugubrious bloodhound’s wife. Quickly, I don’t know how, our conversation led to this, she said, “We have just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary and I am afraid of being left alone.”
Today I was an Oscar widower. Rosemary left the house at five to pick up our daughter Hilary. They were to go to Hilary’s mother in law’s where they would join our two granddaughters to watch the Oscars.
While Rosemary was away:
1. I watched The Whistle Blower
with Michael Caine. I purchased the DVD for $3.00 some months ago at the Superstore.
2. I ate a Mars Bar while watching it. I also had a bowl of my homemade, Mexican style black beans.
3. I drank a large mug of Yorkshire Gold tea.
4. I read some from my terrific pick from the Vancouver Public Library, the Gothic novel, The Little Stranger
by Sarah Waters while drinking a large mug of Earl Gray tea.
5. I ate some chopped steak from yesterday’s Saturday evening meal with the family with two slices of Olivieri sour dough toast, nicely buttered.
6. I went back to The Little Stranger while drinking a large mug of Barooti Assam tea.
At 10:30 Rosemary arrived and I concurred with the lugubrious bloodhound’s wife that am I very afraid of being left alone.
Being an Oscar widower is not a lot of fun.