Saturday, July 27, 2013
I have kept most of the jazz records I have
ever purchased. Many are in impeccable shape and I am able to listen to them in
the comfort of my living room.
Today I listened to the first jazz album I
ever purchased in the late 50s. I bought it used from a fellow student at St. Edward’s
High School. I was a ninth grader and I have no memory of what record player I
might have listened it to in the dorm where I lived. The record is a Verve
recording called The Magic Flute of Herbie Mann.
I have always had a kind heart and
predilection for tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims. In my collection (it certainly
must be rare) is a terribly named Zoot Sims record called New Beat – Bossa Nova-
means the Samba Swings/Zoot Sims and his orchestra. It is a beautiful record
that is unusual as it has two guitar players, Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell.
But one of my most favourite of all is Zoot
Sims/Choice in which his stellar cast of sidemen includes both Gerry Mulligan
(baritone saxophone) and Bobby Brookmeyer (valve trombone).
Most jazz aficionados might know that
Mulligan pioneered the concept of the piano-less quartet in which his solo
partner, usually on trumpet or trombone had a really tough job as there was no
piano around. But perhaps fewer might know that both Mulligan and Brookmeyer
played a tough piano and they liked to be in groups where they would alternate
on playing it. This is the delightful case in Zoot Sims/Choice.
Not too far from Zoot Sims/Choice in my
appreciation is Jazz Immortal/Clifford Brown. The sidemen with Clifford Brown
are Zoot Sims on tenor sax, Bob Gordon, baritone saxophone, Stu Williamson on
valve trombone, Russ Freeman on piano, Carson Smith and Joe Mondragon on bass
and Shelly Manne on drums.
I challenge those who might read this blog
and spot the link in facebook to post jazz record covers that might just be
better than this one of Clifford Brown taken by photographer William
Claxton. The one of Zoot Sims is pretty
Chasing the Paper Hound Through Time
Friday, July 26, 2013
Chasing the Paper Hound Through Time
Guest Blog by John Lekich
|Hound design & cutouts - Kim Koch|
In Time After Time, Malcolm McDowell plays
a young H.G Welles. Through the use of a
time machine, the Victorian writer is propelled to modern day San Francisco in search of Jack the Ripper.
Being an adaptable sort, he adjusts reasonably well to all manner of jarring
changes. But even a reasonable man has his limits.
There’s a prophetic scene where Welles ends
up in the contemporary apartment of an attractive young lady. You can sense him
giddily thinking that, if he can just figure out the futuristic workings of
this libertine’s mind, he might get lucky in a very post-Victorian way. His
hopes are momentarily dashed when he looks around with a befuddled expression
and asks: “Where are your books?”
The movie was made in 1979, long before
people regularly began predicting the demise of books due to the rise of
technology. Still, I find myself thinking about that scene a lot lately. Much like McDowell’s Welles, I’m at an age
where I feel like a man out of time. I
come from a generation that takes genuine comfort in being surrounded by books.
So when Alex – one of the most devoted book lovers I know - suggested that we
visit The Paper Hound, I was all for it.
Vancouver’s newest used bookstore, The Paper Hound is located in a heritage
building at 344 West Pender. If you’re used to dodging displays of scented
candles in corporate-inspired book barns, The Paper Hound will be a revelation.
Co-owner and veteran bookseller Rod Clarke
refers to The Paper Hound as a boutique bookstore. The welcoming space – lots
of natural light, exposed brick and books that have been handpicked to satisfy
the most eccentric title-chaser – suggests nothing less than labour of love.
It’s not hard to imagine McDowell’s Welles
wandering into the Paper Hound and finding unexpected solace in their
Philosophy section. Browse the various shelves and you’ll find works by
everyone from novelist Stanley Elkin to film critic James Agee. (Alex lifted his ban on purchasing any more
books when he couldn’t resist buying a biography on the man who invented the
brassiere.) I picked up a hardcover
anthology of Damon Runyon stories and a Chester Himes paperback for less than
the price a designer sandwich.
Talking to Clarke, I make an attempt to
stump him with some of my favourite obscure writers. I go as old school as I
can but it’s still no dice. He has A.J. Liebling in stock and – when I bring up
New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell – he nods his head knowingly. Mention George
V. Higgins and he exclaims: “The Friends of Eddie Coyle!” Ludwig Bemelmans?
Like Paper Hound co-owner Kim Koch, Clarke
is convinced there’s a viable niche market for book hounds craving tactile
reminders of their favourite writers. They don’t see that niche disappearing
anytime soon, “I think we’re beginning to see more of a
localist movement where people are beginning to appreciate books as singular
objects,” says Koch. “And then, there’s that whole generation who’ve never
really been exposed to the experience of a used bookstore.”
How did they come up with the name? “There’s the idea of the chase,” says Koch.
“That obsessive pursuit that drives book collectors.”
Clarke and Koch also wanted to tie in the
hound’s keen sense of smell. “A lot of people love the smell of old books,”
explains Koch. “That sweet smell of decay and vanilla. They’ll walk in the door
and the first thing they’ll do is take a deep breath.”
Samantha Parton - Found
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Our city has a short memory for its past. I sometime avail myself with this blog to remind whoever might read it about this blurry part of our city life.
I often mention the Connaught Bridge and people look at me curiously. This was the bridge that spanned False Creek before it was replaced by the present Cambie Street Bridge. Was it that long ago that I had to transverse the middle span with the wooden slat floor?
The end of the 20th century brought us the term “our computers are down” which explained in a nutshell a bureaucracy’s (or a bank, much the same thing) inability to satisfy your demand on the spot.
The 21st century has brought with it a new expression issues or issue as in “She has issues,” or “We have an issue here.”
For once I can use that 21st century coinage to explain my SNAFU (look it up).
Occasionally I run into former Vancouver Sun columnist Nicole Parton. At one time what she wrote was read by all. She had a husband who was one of the funniest ever film reviewers for the Province. Like the Connaught Bridge our span of memory for them is gone.
Parton invariably tells me, “I really love that cover picture you took of me for Vancouver Magazine.” I invariably reply, “That was not me. I have never photographed you.”
Now Nicole Parton has a daughter, Samantha Parton who is a singer/composer for the local female threesome, Be Good Tanyas. It seems that she has some terrible health problems and the good Nick Patch in an article for today’s Vancouver Sun makes this known to us in an article Campaign Aims to Help Ailing Tanya. For more info on this and how you can help click here.
After reading the article I remembered that I had photographed Samantha Parton, or at least I thought I had. I went to my basement files and alas there was nothing under my alphabetical order files – no Parton.
I must reveal here that not only do I suffer dyslexia and I am unable to memorize any poem but I also have issues (great word!) with placing stuff in alphabetical order or looking for names in phone books.
Feeling most frustrated I searched again. Sandwiched between gossip columnist Mac Parry and actor Parnelli Parnes I found Parton, Samantha, singer/composer, March 2004.
I wish Samantha Parton my best for a speedy recovery.
Clearing The Deck Part II
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Recently I wrote here about the concept of clearing
the deck or tying loose ends. I am going to Buenos Aires at the end of September for a
two and a half week visit. I have no idea if I will return or if my first
cousin/godmother who is going to be 90 and my friend painter Juan Manuel Sánchez
|Kashmir Doll, Buenos Aires, self portrait|
would be alive on a later visit. Since
my heart (four cylinders) sometimes decides to run on five I may be the one who
will not be around. Thus this trip to my home country is definitive for me.
But that does not mean
that it will be sad. I am going to have some fun.
The first problem I
had to surmount was to find a way of convincing Juan Manuel Sánchez, who lives
in a studio apartment in downtown Buenos
Aires to want to work with his wife Nora Patrich for
my sake and for old times.
Nora Patrich lives in
the suburbs (four blocks from a train station) with her new husband a
neo-Peronist who works at the National Library. Juan Manuel Sánchez has a
younger artist girl friend and their relationship is sort of a Woody Allen kind
of relationship. She show ups when she wants to spend the night.
At first Sánchez was
adamant that he would not tolerate his ex-wife in the apartment but he finally
relented. I would not expect Sánchez would want to take the train to work in
Patrich’s house so I have planned a session in his apartment of which I will
Both Sánchez and Patrich share a friend (my friend, too). Rubén Derlis is a retired copyrighter
from the Buenos Aires
daily El Clarín. He now is a published poet who is extremely prolific. He has
sent me some of his erotic poems to which I have answered with photographs that
fit his verse. He has been so happy with this that he has proposed that
Patrich, Sánchez and I take erotic photographs and sketch and paint equivalents
with him present at these sessions to take notes.
We will be working at
Patrich’s house in the suburbs which is large, has a garden and a swimming
pool. Patrich has already found one model and I have found another, an over
forty American married to an Argentine film maker.
|Rubén Derlis in Coghlan train Station|
But I have also found
another model who calls herself Kashmir Doll who lives not far from Patrich. But
I have told Kashmir Doll that she is going to go to Sánchez’s apartment and
ring the bell. Patrich, Derlis and I will be in a corner, flies on the wall. Kashmir
Doll will enter the apartment and Sánchez will deal with her as his model for
the day. I propose that the project be called (it is a wonderful cliché!) The
Artist and His Model.
Kashmir Doll will also
(with skilful use of blonde wigs) make herself look like Eva Perón. Patrich who
has the ear of the President of Argentina has access to a house where Eva Perón
lived. We will shoot there. Kashmir Doll also suggested a Swiss-born Argentine
poet called Alfonsina Storni who was a most influential modernist poet in Latin America.
My Wikipedia has this interesting
paragraph about her death:
A year and a half
after her friend Quiroga committed suicide in 1937, and haunted by solitude and
breast cancer, Storni sent her last poem, Voy a dormir ("I'm going to
sleep") to La Nación newspaper in October 1938. Around 1:00 AM on Tuesday
the 25th, Alfonsina left her room and headed towards the sea at La Perla beach
in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Later that morning two
workers found her body washed up on the beach. Although her biographers hold
that she jumped into the water from a breakwater, popular legend is that she
slowly walked out to sea until she drowned.
Kashmir Doll has
suggested we do something with this wonderful woman. I immediately thought of
the connection of Storni with Hamlet’s Ophelia. Swimming pools? Flowers? Who
knows where we will go with this?
If money were of no
consequence I would bite the bullet and purchase the only digital camera that
interests me. This is the Fuji XE-1. Just the body would cost me under $1000
and a $70 adapter would enable me to use all my Nikon manual lenses of 80s
vintage. But money is the problem and logic also tells me that I should not
travel somewhere with the possibility of it being the last time with a piece of
equipment I am not entirely familiar with. And should it fail what then?
|Ophelia, Vancouver BC|
So I will take two Nikon
FM-2 with a 24, 35, 50 and an 85 mm lens. I will also bring along two Pentax MX
with a wonderful 20mm lens and a 50. The reason for two of each is that I will load
one with Kodak T-Max 400 (with the option of pushing it to 800IS0) and the other
camera will have Fuji Superia 800 colour negative film.
I will probably pack the
cameras in my hard luggage as I am taking my Mamiya 6x7 in my carry on. Why the
Mamiya? Simply because I want to shoot both colour and b+w Fuji instant films.
My only regret is that
I cannot travel with lights. But shooting fast and from the hip has its
All That Jazz, Lurid & Wonderful
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
|Rosa 'All that Jazz' |
My mother was snooty. This was a word she
used to use a lot and yet she would criticize people as being that when she was
In Spanish the word educación is not equivalent to its translation. In
Spanish educación is about manners, bearing and a taste for the better things
in life. My mother would often look at me and say, “Hay poca gente fina como nosotros.” This is
sort of, “There are few people who have taste and manners like we do.”
When I was about to
marry my Rosemary in Mexico City
I remember that Rosemary’s mother dispatched Rosemary’s sister, Ruth to check
me out. I have never been quite sure how serious Rosemary was when she told me
that her sister had come to make sure I ate with a fork and knife.
As a further example
of what I am writing about here I must mention the most gracious, well mannered
woman I know in Vancouver.
When her husband Art Phillips died, I received and email from Carole Taylor
requesting the use of a photograph I had taken of Phillips when he was 70. Taylor wanted a high res
digital version of the picture. I sent it. A few days later the door bell rang.
I opened to find a young man holding two beautifully cellophane-wrapped rose
bushes from Southlands. Inside one of the roses there was a card from Taylor that simply said, “Thank
That is what I call class
and that is something very much wanting these days. My mother would have said
that Carole Taylor was “gente fina” and that she had “educación”.
All that, is to
introduce to you the story of how we came to have an orange red rose in our
My wife Rosemary is a
great gardener. Her taste for plants is less monocultural than mine (hostas and
roses). She also has the talent of picking plants this year that will be
popular the next. She tends to eschew plants that do not have flowers that are
either white or blue. She cannot understand why I have so many pink roses. For
years orange was verboten in our garden. She tolerated a few red roses like English
Rose Rosa ‘L.D. Braithwaite’ but that was it.
In the late 80s and
early 90s our neighbourhood experienced a rash of demolitions precipitated by
the uncertainty of Honk Kong after its mainland China takeover. Many of these
Chinese came to our neighbourhood with the idea of starting from scratch in a
new country with a new house. So houses were demolished. One of the few
benefits of this is that Rosemary and I would “liberate” plants before these
houses would be torn down. She would inform me, “Alex, they have cut the hydro
wires.” This meant that we would get our wheelbarrow, spades and a flashlight.
On Cartier Street I found a rose bush. It
was not in bloom. I unearthed it and brought it home. I called it Rosa ‘Cartier Street’.
Rosa “Cartier Street’ finally bloomed with extremely fluorescent red/orange blooms
that where strangely ethereal in how they appeared as if a mere whisk of a wind
would remove their petals (never the case). Rosemary was upset at the lurid colour. After
a few years we came to appreciate our red/orange rose as it bloomed late in
July when most of the other roses are in hiatus.
Some 10 years ago rose
grower Brad Jalbert came to our garden. He looked at the orange/red rose and
said to me, “Alex, what a surprise to find All That Jazz in your garden.” And
that is how we came to know the real name of our very favourite red/orange
rose. There is another that Rosemary loves, called Westerland. She is orange
and she has the sweet scent of synthetic apricot jam!
As snooty as my mother
was I think she would approve.
All That Jazz
Rose of the Month For
by Gary Scales
All That Jazz is a
happy and fun rose. Often we ascribe human characteristics to inanimate
objects. And I freely admit to using this anthropomorphic license when
describing certain roses. But you can picture All That Jazz slipping on a glass
of champagne, joining the Gatsby Girls in the Charleston. While her Hybrid Tea neighbors in
the garden are preening to look prime and proper with high centers and perfect
ruffles, All That Jazz pulls her windblown hair back into a pony tail and says:
“Where’s the party?”
But don’t let this
seemingly unpretentious behavior fool you. You’d easily get the impression All
That Jazz wouldn’t take this All American Rose Selection business all too
seriously. But guess who walked away with AARS honors in 1991?”
with vibrant colors, a strong and sweet scent and an excellent repeat bloomer -
all necessary ingredients of a winner. And you don’t miss seeing her in the
garden. A dazzling combination of red, yellow and pink, essentially coral, with
hints of salmon. All That Jazz has another distinctive characteristic. Her
twelve petals are semi double at best, but at the height of bloom appear as
elegant waves of color. In fact there are few sights as striking as the
afternoon sun shining through the translucent petals of All That Jazz. Almost
The American Rose
Society 2004 Handbook ranks All That Jazz with a 7.8 rating: “a very solid
rose, with its good features easily outweighing any problems.” All That Jazz is
a seedling of Gitte, a Hybrid Tea with brilliant colors. And yet All That Jazz
again distinguished herself as being characterized as a shrub rose, and one of
a few to garner AARS honors.
This is a rose of many
attributes and many virtues. And fun to be with in the garden.
Shade Fanfare Revisited With A Dash Of Subtlety
Monday, July 22, 2013
It was a hot drought on the last days of
August, in 1991 when I received a call from my friend Brian Lynch who was the
curator of an upstart photograph gallery on Beatty Street. He told me, “Alex I just
received a cancellation for an opening that was to happen in September. Can you
put something together and give me a show?”
I looked at some of my hostas in my garden.
The drought had kept the slugs at bay and I knew I could also get some hosta
leaves from my friend Ken Knechtel who ran a hosta nursery. I also knew one of
the most beautiful women I had ever met. I obtained a box full of leaves and
met up with Lisa Montonen one afternoon. I shot her with different hosta leaves
with the idea that the name of the particular hosta would suggest the pose. I
used one softbox and opted for a pitch black background.
And so the Exposure Gallery had its show
and looking back I know it is one of the best shows I ever had. Incredibly it
all happened with a perfect model in one afternoon. To top it all Chris Dahl,
then art director for Vancouver Magazine designed a beautiful poster for which
all I have as evidence of it is a real Xerox copy.
Because it was 1991 and I was a youthful 49
year-old, my modus operandi was to find any excuse; citing art was the best
one, to persuade a woman to take it all off for my camera. It was also
important for that youthful idiot that I was to show as much of that which you
were not supposed to see. In spite of that the resulting photographs did have a
generous amount of tasteful subtlety!
Now at age 70 I have looked at my negatives
and found gems, the more subtle ones that I never used for the show with the
exception of the one chosen by Dahl for his poster.
I think that they may be as fresh today as
I thought they were when I helped Lynch hang the show on September 7, 1991.
Nature - Dead
Sunday, July 21, 2013
The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant’s existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. The ceaseless activity of their own inherent nature makes these stages moments of an organic unity, where they not merely do not contradict one another, but where one is as necessary as the other; and constitutes thereby the life of the whole.
Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
In 1965 I read a book of which I understood only a very small part. Normally had I been reading it in bed I would have put it aside, turned off the light and gone to sleep. But my circumstances were different. I was spending a week in an Argentine Navy brig for insubordination.
A Naval Captain had ordered me to show up two hours early every day from my comfy pension in the suburbs of Buenos Aires to where he was at the Argentine Naval Ministry. I told him that this was impossible as there was no train that left where I lived that would get me to the ministry at his chosen hour. Remembering the very words of the definition of insubordination I told him something that went like this, “Sir I categorically refuse to obey your order.” The chubby Captain, most of us despised him for being a lackey of the Senior US Naval Advisor, somehow sucked in his stomach and told me in a very calm voice, “In war time I could have you instantly shot. I could send you to the Argentine Antarctic Zone for a long time and the only females you will ever meet there will be penguins. But I will put you under arrest for a week here in the Ministry and you with have no problem doing the work that I need you to do.”
That afternoon I went to Pigmalion (no y in that spelling) on Corrientes, very near the Ministry and purchased Friederich’s book The Philosophy of Hegel
. Like other times that I went to that bookstore which specialized in books in English I did not see the blind Argentine writer who liked to frequent the bookstore.
Since I was the single captive audience of Friederich’s book I read it from cover to cover. I did understand enough to sort of figure out that in Hegel’s dialectics you started with a thesis to which you thought of a completely opposite antithesis. Combining them both you came out with a synthesis that combined the ideas inherent to the first two.
To this day I have put a particular attention on language and the meaning of words in the two languages I speak. Sometimes we do not give much thought to the meaning behind a word. As an example the word converse
is rarely used in English. In Mexico they like the odd-sounding verb platicar
which comes from plática
which is a discourse or speech. In Argentina we like to use conversar. If you think of the meaning it literally is to speak in verse. That makes conversar a very beautiful word.
In the same way I give as an example the expression still life. My friend the young photographer Nicole Langdon Davies asked me today, “Do you take photos that aren't people?”
Here is a still life of plants from my garden that I placed on my scanner. It is a still life. But consider how you say this in Spanish, naturaleza muerta
or nature deceased, nature dead.
Combining both the term in English and in Spanish gives me the ability to reflect. My time in that navy brig was not wasted.