¡La Concha De La Lora!
Saturday, June 22, 2013
|Morgue - Vancouver General Hospital|
I ran into a female friend and fellow rosarian (we grow roses as does her husband, a very tall architect) at the opening of Celia Duthie’s Touch Wood
at VanDusen on Thursday. My female rosarian friend occasionally reads my blog and she complained I had not written one for a while. I asked her, “Guess what my next blog is going to be about?” She looked at me with that question mark on her face and I answered, “It’s going to be about cunts.” She immediately grew angry and my explanation that the Spanish word for it, coño
does not carry the insulting and aggressive connotation of its English equivalent did not hold any water with her. I dropped the subject being aware that the four letter word that begins with a c is one of the last of the words that still has shock value in our times. When my 15 year-old granddaughter shouts at her mother, my daughter, with that word it is amazing to see how my daughter keeps cool and does not react.
That word is closely followed by another that I once fluttered (as a test) into my introduction in a nude photography class. One of my students, a male bouncer at a Whistler night club, stormed out never to return. He was offended by my use of the word scrotum
. But we will leave that word for another day as we are now returning to a full-frontal exploration of the other word and its particular usage in Spanish.
Few insults can safely travel from one language to another. We all know that the word year in Spanish is año
and that the middle letter, called an eñe
has its special place in the Spanish alphabet right after the letter n
. Using the letter n
to write year in Spanish renders that to a word that my Spanish-born grandmother would call “that eye that cannot see”. She was full of these pleasant euphemisms for terrible words. The rear end in Spanish was that place where a beautiful woman’s back loses its name.” She sometimes called the posterior “the ugly face” or cara fea.
Medical complications in the nether parts of a woman she called “problemas en los paises bajos
” alluding to the lower countries or Flanders where the Spaniards squandered in a long war all their Mexican and Peruvian gold and silver.
In Spanish if you were to call a someone a year without the curlicue ñ the person would be confused and perhaps amused. Calling someone by that part of one’s posterior is simply not an insult.
The word damn in Spanish has no insulting translation. The most terrible and satisfying insult if you happen to hit a finger with a hammer is, “Me cago en Dios,”
or I defecate on God. Spaniards at one time were very Roman Catholic so this was and is still the ultimate insult.
Thanks to Linnaeus
comparing the sexual parts of a clam to a female of our species, clam as my grandmother would say “that which a woman has that a man does not,” means the same thing as the four letter word that begins with a c except that it is cunt-lite. It does not offend nor could you ever think of calling a woman, “You clam!”
But in Argentina concha
, that which a woman has that a man does not, is used frequently as the ultimate insult but always with the idea that you the man are going to defecate not on God but on your enemy’s sister’s clam. “La concha de tu hermana
,” is the Argentine insult per excellence, followed by another almost equivalent to “damn!” which you use in amazement or wonder. The expression is “la concha de la lora,”
or the parakeet’s you-know-what. Many strict anatomists would argue (rightly) that parakeets may not have such a device as all is combined in one orifice. I would not advise you in pointing this out when an Argentine utters that nasty epithet.
Let’s return to the Spanish coño
which is almost exclusively used by Spaniards. It is used when one gets angry at one self never at another. Thus my explanation to my rosarian friend that coño was not exactly you-know-what may have gone over her head or she simply was angry for having used that four letter word in English.
Spanish writer Juan Manuel de Prada is one of a new generation of youngish Spanish writers (he is 43) who has written some wonderful novels. One is La Vida Invisible
which I wrote about here
and the other a novel of intrigue set in Venice called La Tempestad
But he ruffled a few literary critics’ feathers with a book of essays all about coños, called Coños
. The chapters are short essays on the nether parts of his girlfriend, bathers, mummies (as in Egyptian ones) widows, prostitutes and so on. Each chapter’s first letter is a ribald one. I will translate one essay the one called Coños en la morgue.
You can guess what that translates to. And it should not offend too much considering that our very own Barbara Gowdy wrote We So Seldom Look On Love
and which inspired Lynn Stopkewich’s Kissed
about a girl who grows up to be a woman who is unable to have satisfying sex except with dead males on an embalming table.
My cousin Sebastian passed his examinations, first try and became a pathologist. He was sent to a small city in the country where young ladies commit suicide with that brave fatalism that only women who have been rejected have. Just about every week the body of a young dead woman shows up at the morgue. An Ophelia without her Hamlet crowned by wreaths of madness and anxiety. Sebastian deals with those bodies with special care, he performs an autopsy that resembles more the work of a restorer who has been given the task of fixing the little blemishes of a famous painting. The coños of these dead women, so my cousin Sebastian tells me, return to their childhood, they fall back to what they were and in some instances they lose their pubic hair in an irrevocable baldness that makes them children again. I fear that my cousin Sebastian upon gazing on a line-up of recently dead coñoss (and just born), ends up perverting and claiming for himself the cold contact of many still-welcoming that hide beneath the sheets that protect them from the gaze of the indiscreet. In my cousin Sebastian’s morgue the walls are white tiles and the floor is much like a chess board. The light, is fluorescent, eternal daylight and phantasmagorical, like a nightmare. With that kind of atmosphere I would not be in the least surprised that any day now a sensationalist tabloid would reveal that Sebastian had emulated the illustrious necrophilia of Antiquity, Petrarch and Cadalso, and of many more. Perhaps some day as he caresses one of those young and suicidal coños, the young woman to whom it belongs, will revive in a start, with that seized look of the vampire, and then my cousin will suffer a fatal heart attack. There will be no substitute to perform the autopsy. That will be a pity as his mortal fright will prevent him from helping out in the metamorphosis of the revived coño which if that of a child’s will return to its habitual state of a fully adult one. It will recover its usual parting of lips and hair in a sort of inverted shave. What a spectacle my cousin Sebastian will miss!
L 'Origine du Monde
Cojones and butterflies
Touch Wood - No Bark Mulch At VanDusen
Friday, June 21, 2013
|Shattered Spheres in Western Red Cedar by Brent Comber |
on site at the Duthie Gallery
Salt Spring Island
When I first arrived in Vancouver in 1975 I shortly took pictures of the wife of the scion of a well known clothing and shoe store on Cordova. She was wearing pearls and nothing more. She had lots of money. In my just a recent immigrant naïve phase I attempted to sell her some of my Mexican prints. She opened the curtains of her Marine Drive home near UBC and said, “With that view why would I want to buy any art?” I was flummoxed (it is always such a pleasant thing to be able to use that word in a sentence!).
Through the years I have observed how our Vancouver Art Gallery does not look like one with no apology needed for either Francis Mawson Rattenbury or Arthur Erickson. A gallery does not have to have soaring paraboloid roofs to be an art gallery. An art gallery has to have art within and (very important) without.
The normally correct, unflappable man that Arthur Erickson was could lose it on occasion. There was a button which I liked to press. “Arthur,” I would say to him, “what do you think of that rock fountain in front of the Art Gallery on Georgia Street?” His usual answer was always a most uncharacteristic, “Fuck!”
When Brooks Joyner was the director of our Vancouver Art Gallery I often visited him and we would have lunch. I once asked him why it was that the outside of the gallery had flower beds with New Guinea Impatiens. His answer was that very soon he would install outdoor sculpture. Brooks Joyner left and his plan was cancelled. The New Guinea Impatiens were removed and the rock fountain “sculpture” is now surrounded by a lawn of bark mulch. The obvious purpose is that bark mulch is low maintenance and the frequent demonstrations at the gallery will not result in trampled grass.
For a while during the Hollywood North craze that our city enjoyed/suffered a frequent sight if you happened to pass near the gallery were movie lights by the windows. The gallery was a popular location for courtroom dramas. The lights might have damaged the outdoor sculptures and the gallery’s gravy train of movie cash might have been curtailed.
Without having to check this out on Google I am sure that Calgary has more outdoor sculpture than Vancouver and Texas, a world famous seat of high class culture has lots of sculpture in Dallas and in Houston.
Mexico City, on its very beautiful Paseo de la Reforma has installed sculpture on the wide sidewalks that is both beautiful and useful. They all accommodate people as seats.
In Vancouver we have some sculpture at English Bay and on route to it on Pacific Avenue. I believe that few locals are aware of Henry Moore’s Knife Edge
at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park.
Kudos then to Celia Duthie, Nick Hunt (her husband) , VanDusen Botanical Garden, the at least 15 artist/sculptors, and the government agencies that helped fund Touch Wood, an exhibition that runs from June 20 to September 30, 2013.
In the opening yesterday I was lucky to be part of a tour led by Nick Hunt that was also accompanied by some of the artists. I talked to two of them, Brent Comber and Michael Dennis. While most of us might look at the sculptures with seriousness, I was instantly made aware that there is lots of humor in the beauty of the sculptures (more than 24 including the smaller ones in the Discovery Room, Martha Varcoe Sturdy’s Reflections at the Arrival Hall and Michael Dennis’s Sentinel at the entrance). The latter you can spy if you drive or walk up Oak going south.
I asked Dennis why his Council of Elders consisted exactly of 11 of them. His answer (with no hint of exterior smile) was, “There were originally 13 but I didn’t like 2 of them.” I observed how often Brent Comber smiled as we gazed on his sculptures and those of the others.
It is my hope that a few wealthy patrons of the arts might buy the sculptures and then donate them as permanent attractions to our lovely botanical garden. It is my hope that the Duthie vision might be observed in other parts of our city and that our Vancouver Art Gallery might spend less time on the future of soaring roofs and more on removing the bark mulch and invigorating our city’s awareness that outdoor sculpture is good for the soul.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
by John Lekich
In order to fully grasp the concept of film noir, you must inevitably understand how a normally rational man can be driven to the irrational act of murder. Normally, you’d have to sit through ninety minutes of broad-brimmed hats and cigarette smoke before the naked glare of enlightenment finally cuts through the shadows. Here, Alex provides an evocative shortcut with the help of actor, director and writer B.M.
I should mention that Alex’s trusty Malibu forms the backdrop for these shots. But, if you’re paying undue attention to the car, it could be that you’re cursed with an unnatural abundance of character. Hence, you will never be the sort of guy who – in the parlance of film noir – “plays the sap.”
If you’re an ordinary man looking at these pictures – think classic saps like Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity
or John Garfield in The Postman Always Rings Twice
- an interesting question comes to mind. Say a woman like this asked you to hit her elderly husband over the head with a monkey wrench. Say she asked you to hit him more than once.
There is the vague promise of insurance money and everlasting happiness. For now, there are trysts in the garage. Followed by drives along twisted roads where she tells you all her secrets. She insists on taking the wheel while you meekly ride shotgun. But, after a while, you get to like it. You are, after all, a sap.
You want to say yes, even though you know what’s behind those eyes. An insatiable mixture of passion and greed that suggests your destiny might ultimately involve a final trip in the trunk of that same car. Not a good end. Still, you can’t help thinking about it, right?
Don’t feel so bad. Even a cool customer like Robert Mitchum would want to dive into those eyes. By sheer co-incidence, B.M. bears a startling resemblance to the smoldering Jane Greer. The femme fatale Mitchum falls for in the film noir masterpiece, Out of the Past.
Let’s just say that things do not end well for Mitchum. (Or Mitchum’s car, for that matter.) And yet, it’s not hard to imagine him getting all hot under the fedora for the woman in these pictures. And, if Robert Mitchum can play the sap, what chance do the rest of us have?
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Seasonal Affective Disorder
I have a distinct memory of wanting to curl up on the car floor, over the pedals, and melt into the wiry grey plastic fabric of the floor mat.
I was eighteen and taking an experimental prescription drug for the severe seasonal depression I suffered through every October-through-April from my mid teens until my early 20s. (And now, occasionally, my mood will dip in that direction; I can effectively head it off with healthy doses of exercise and caffeine.)
It wasn’t that I was ever suicidal, exactly, but there was plenty of dispassionate wishing that a car might hit me. I would never have stepped out in front of one intentionally, but I didn’t think I’d mind so much if one happened to strike me. For the most part I wasn’t even hoping to die should such an incident occur.
For the most part.
For the most part I believed that the presumed outpouring of grief and shock from my nearest & dearest might jolt my zombie of a heart back into the land of the emotional living.
Either way, it came as a bit of a shock that the utter certainty with which I foresaw my imminent demise by driving accident (as I got into the car to go pick my mum up from work) was not a source of relief but one of abject terror.
Panic attacks really are the lovely kind of experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. This one had me sobbing near-hysterically in the driver’s seat of a motionless and garage-bound car for a good 30-45 minutes. Knowing that if I drove that vehicle, on that night – which I had to do or my poor mother would have no way of getting home from the Surrey clinic she’d worked in for 12 hours that day – I would inevitably crash and die. Inevitably.
I don’t really remember how I got out of my state. I know it took a long phone call to aforementioned Mum, and a cup of tea (which arguably is proof of my British ancestry – what other nationality can ease that kind of terror and panic with a cup of tea?), and eventually I managed to get into the car and drive it the requisite half hour without precipitating off an overpass or into an oncoming truck.
But I sure got off that drug real fast."
My Passport Photo At Leo's Camera
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
|Photo by Jeff Gin|
Sometime in December 1989 my Rosemary told me that my Canadian passport had expired. I called the Passport Office and asked them if they accepted digital portraits for passports. I was told, quite emphatically, “No.” I then went to Leo’s Camera on Granville and had my picture taken. Jeff Gin snapped my picture using a Canon Digital Still Video Camera RC-250 Q-PIC XAP SHOT. The results were not great. I handed in the pictures with my passport application and the officials said nothing and gave me a green light.
|Canon RC-250 Q-Pic Xap Shot|
Today I had to get new pictures for my passport (and Rosemary, too) so we went to Leo’s and Jeff Gin did the honours again using a far more sophisticated Canon Powershot G2.
In the morning before we drove to Leo’s I decided to put on a brand new black T (100% cotton, 4 for $12 at COSTCO) and I chose one of my better dress shirts. The look I was after was the one used by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’ Donnell in his TV spot ads. He wears a crisp dress shirt with that black T underneath.
I wonder if I will be back needing another passport picture at Leo’s. You never know as I am not a spring chicken. But if I do I am hoping that both Leo’s and Jeff Gin will be there for my excellent snap.
|Photo by Jeff Gin taken with Canon Powershot G2|
|Self Portrait, Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD, 90mm lens, Fuji Instant FP-3000B|
The Arriflex from Leo's
A Personal & Intimate Invitation To Nowhere
Monday, June 17, 2013
As I am about to finish my Vancouver Public Library Fast Read (you can get it only for one week and you pay a one dollar a day penalty) Delicate Truth
by John le Carré I thought it might be a good idea to re read one of my favourite books. My eyes drifted to Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama.
I have written about this book here
Then it hit me that the idea of a huge spaceship parking by our sun and when the spaceship is then explored by humans without ever being able to communicate with any of the inhabitants of the space craft (if there are any) had a particularly timely parallel with the much maligned (for very good reasons) facebook (note the correct lower case ). Humans by the end of the novel figure out that the ancient and extremely advanced civilization that built the spaceship is going (a few members of the civilization, perhaps) from point A to point B. The sun happens to be a nicely positioned gas station where the spaceship can fill up its tank with hydrogen or helium.
The humans, upon finding out that this advanced civilization does not give a damn about gnats that might be living on a planet, two away (Mercury and Venus) from the gas station, feel supremely and depressed and alienated. The sense of importance of a human supremacy on a planet fades to nothing.
To me this novel more than any other reinforces that we are nothing, came from nothing and are going to nothing. The idea is to take advantage of the interlude between those nothingnesses.
Now if I invite you to come to my house and send you an invite by the once normal stamped envelope, or resorted to a phone call, an email or a phone text you would not be expected to pay your way. An invitation is a chance to share with someone a meal and good company. I would reinforce here my opinion that an invitation and the act of inviting are personal and intimate.
The folks of the Rama came, parked and left without a hallo or a goodbye. In Spain they still have the saying of people who might come to your party and then leave right after eating without saying goodbye as, “Despedida a la francesa.” This translates to say goodbye French style. The origin of the expression came from Wellington’s Peninsular Campaign in Portugal and Spain. As the Wellington’s armies got closer to Madrid and the French lost a few disastrous battles, they left town “without saying goodbye.”
I happen to have 209 ‘facebook friends’. When I had a show at the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island in the beginning of May I could have sent an “invitation” (a blanket invitation it certainly is) to attend my show. I did not. I still believe in the personal and individual invitation.
This concept that an invitation from a facebook friend is one of those personal and intimate invites is as far from that truth as the idea that an on line visit is equally intimate and personal. That all happened with the advent of the web page.
Vancouver Sanitation Department – Visit us at Vancouversanitationdepartemt.com. We will give you a personally intimate guide through our dump where you can enjoy those wonderful smells and watch rats scurry around.
How could a visit to a web page ever be a real visit? You don’t ring a doorbell. You don’t bring a pot luck dish; you don’t bring a bottle of wine. You don’t even do that perennial Canadian thing on the phone, “Am I getting you on an awkward time?”
“Yes you are. I’m having sex with my wife.”
So these social media invites to attend events, art shows, concerts, protest rallies, on-line petition signings, etc are all a sham. Those who manage arts organizations should realize pretty quickly that a facebook invite is an invitation to nowhere.
Next time try a phone call, or a personal email if you want to save on postage.
One Man's Folly?
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Some years ago, when the CBC had more money and Youtube had yet to encroach into our earbuds I went to the lovely wood-paneled studio, Studio One (where years before I had taken portraits of John Eliot Gardiner
by a grand piano) to listen to Mozart. They played Mozart for 24 hours non-stop. I chose to listen to the Borealis Quartet and it was then that I noticed the wonderful acoustics
. I wrote about the sound of that studio again here
There are some days when I like to sit in my living room with two pounds of cherries and listen to every Gerry Mulligan
version have of My Funny Valentine
. The experience is usually wonderful in spite of the effects of the cherries on my now sensitive vintage bowels.
Even though logic says that everything must be had in moderation (I believe it specially applies to sex and garlic) deep inside of us the idea the more is better still holds.
The folks at Early Music Vancouver brought in 2009 the Academy of Ancient Music which played all 6 of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos in one sitting. I loved that particularly as I did not bring cherries.
The idea of, let’s say going to an all day concert in which musical groups would play Richard Berry’s 1955 Louie Louie ad infinitum (alas Johnny Thunders
would not be available as he is dead to play my most favourite version ever) appeals to my senses and I would bring a cushion to sit on.
What is truly amazing is that I have developed an almost obsession with listening to as many versions of what could be (the annals of history are fuzzy on it) the Renaissance and the Baroque version of
Louie Louie. It is called The Folia or Folia and you can read about it here
. The most famous version is part of Arcangelo Corelli’s Violin Sonatas Opus 5 (Sonate a violino e violone o cimbalo op.5). I have a killer version by Trio Sonnerie with Nigel North, Mitzi Meyerson, Sarah Cunningham and the fantastic Monica Hugget on baroque violin.
If you should happen to point out that this trio features four players and wonder what it’s all about here is a simple explanation. Just like in rock and roll the bassist has no image of sorts in baroque music the person who plays the background or continuo sound (in this case Nigel North plays an archlute, a theorbo and a baroque guitar, ) might be the odd man out! Or it could be Mitzi Meyerson who plays the organ and the harpsichord or Sarah Cunningham on the cello. Vivaldi composed his set of variations and a popular one is by his contemporary Francesco Geminiani. For more see .
Now I must report a very happy occasion. A couple of months ago my friend designer Graham Walker and I attended a concert at Douglas College in New Westminster. Saxophonist, composer and musical teacher Colin MacDonald had paired with cellist, Stefan Hintersteininger and harpsichordist Christina Hutten to play his own variations of La Folia, Folie à Deux. This version was absolutely wonderful. For me it was full of humour. The concert did not end there. The group also played Vivaldi’s Concerto in E minor RV 484, his Concerto in F Major 445 and the Largo of a possible Handel Sonata. This music was played as written in which MacDonald modified the music to contemporary pitch. What he did which I found endearing was that he somehow made the sound of his soprano saxophone seem like he was playing an alto flute and his baritone saxophone
was dead on as a bassoon.
You might want to know where you can listen to this music. You can but you will have to settle for doing it with your computer’s tinny speakers here. But it’s still wonderful. Thanks to Colin MacDonald life can indeed be a bowl of cherries.
Colin MacDonald's Variations on La Folia - Folie à Deux
There is another version of La Folia that I have a liking for. It is here
Johnny Thunders sing Louie Loui