Saturday, January 11, 2014
The cloth’s texture which rubs my flesh,
chafes my thighs, catches on a moist lip, a drowsy eyelash is yours. The weave
of affection, once so ordered and flat, so fit for purpose, is time-unraveled:
a Turin shroud
diligently laundered once too often. This once covered you took your form,
trapped your sighs, sipped sleep-shed…
The Impossible Eroticism of Time
Friday, January 10, 2014
The Impossible Eroticism of Time
Guest Blog: Remittance Girl
|The Remittance Girl|
I’ve always been obsessed with history. I wank against old walls, moisten
while reading about the Spanish Civil war, the Crusades, the Inquisition in
South America, the Russian Revolution, the Long March. It has taken me a long
time to unravel why it is that history does this to me and why, when I visit
places that have a narrative past, my skin is on fire the whole time.
Climbing the stairs of an ancient Buddhist temple in Siem Reap or Bagan,
wandering through the narrow lanes of the Temple Bar, spotting the
indecipherable insignias above the doors to the chambers.The faded oxblood
tiles on the floors of Tuol Sleng, and the black of the monochromatic
photographs turned to powdery charcoal behind the misted glass in the room
where they hang the pictures of the soon-to-be dead. The pernicious, clinging
sand of Jordan.
The brutal insistence of the creeping vines that weave their way through
ancestral tombs in Java. Nature unmakes us with every tick of the atomic clock.
Touching it too. The brittle, crumbly sandstone in Oxford abrades my fingertips. Cheek pressed
to mottled, rain-stained walls. Decay and dust. Time erodes the world into
airborne fragments of a past-bearing virus. It gets into my lungs, lodges there
and infects me. And for days I am sick with love for the place. Not for the
place now, but for what it has been. Even the greedy, green scent of the giant
carnivorous trees of Highgate, breaking the bones of the dead to make their
meat. The iron-red water, sleeping in ancient cisterns. Fish nibbling away at
the feet of stone columns. The grit on the wind tastes of a thousand, thousand
years of saying goodbye.
History is my pornography. The past doesn’t require my compassion or my pity
or my measured response. “Look on my works
, ye Mighty
despair” said Shelley, but that’s not what I do. Not despair, but a throb
between my legs. Perhaps despair and a throb? Yes. That, then. Both is better.
The past, however much we fool ourselves, is not real. The real is lost in
time and we weave narratives out of what remains. We write histories. The
monks, the starving children, the burning witches, the gutted soldiers and the
drowned Jews. All dead, now. And what do I care for for their dead cares? I
take their corpses as I please. Drink up the lingering stink of their stale
miseries. A perverse voyeur of what is beyond my reach to change, or fix or
even to remember.
It is the impossibility of putting any of it to rights, the sadistic
discipline of time’s obscene rule. The longer, more savage great march forward.
There is no going back ever. It’s forbidden. That’s why it turns me on to
Draper, Draping & Rags
Thursday, January 09, 2014
One of the advantages of being your own
publisher, editor, art director, writer and photographer is that you can do
what you want. But I know of a qualified art director who most of the time I
ever knew him he was a contrarian. If you told him, “Start the story with the
sexy picture,” He would do the opposite, which is exactly what I am doing now. Rick
Staehling would smile and agree.
But you must keep in consideration that the
highfalutin terms publisher, editor, art director, writer, photographer that I
use should be taken with a very small grain of salt. For me to publish is to
see something in print and an art director better be a graphic designer. That
must instantly reveal anybody here that I remember what dialing a phone was all
about. Thus my publishing is suspect. In the mid 60s, when I was in the
Argentine Navy, my friend Felipe Occhiuzzi and I would inwardly laugh at all
those officers above us who took their jobs as military men. They were amateurs in a third world country. We often used to
say, “Les gusta jugar a los soldaditos, or "They like to play with toy
soldiers." Little did we know that these rank amateurs would bring down
governments, disappear people and start a war with Great Britain.
This particular blog, in spite of soldiers and art
directors is all about drapers and draping. As far as I can tell the first experts in draping were Greek sculptors. From there Michelangelo took notice and created his Pietà in which Christ's robe is beautifully draped.
I have had contact with skilled drapers for
many of my best photographs but I had never met a real draper until sometime
around 1992. I am not sure if it was in a hot tub in Washington
DC or one in Atlanta. The man was Glen Draper. He was a
friendly, chubby man from Ogden,
Utah who had a constant smile and
a passion for growing beautiful hostas in his backyard. The hot tub was in one
of the many American Hosta Society National Conventions I attended in the 90s.
A few years later (soon after Draper was
killed in an automobile accident) his hosta “Northwest Textures” was given to
all of us who attended the National Convention in Spokane in 2002. This was a “thick skinned”
(in hosta parlance you would accurately say the leaves had substance) hosta
that was light green but turned yellow/gold as the summer progressed.
Most snobbish hosta people usually looked
down upon these freebies. I took two plants (smuggled into Canada when it used
to be safe) back home and every spring when I see Northwest Textures emerge I
think of the smiling man, Glen Draper whom I first met in a hot tub. From the picture here you can see that the
combination of Draper’s hosta and Kirengeshoma palmata is a great combination
which somehow reveals beautiful and elegant draping.
So now with that lead we can insert here
the sexy picture and write about draping. The elegant English word draper comes
from the Latin drappus, from there it becomes drap and drapier in old French to
draper in late Middle English.
In Spanish there is no equivalent to that
beautiful verb to drape. We satisfy ourselves with cubrir or cover. And yet
consider that from the French, that drap which meant cloth became that most
ordinary Spanish word trapo for rag. Since you use to use some sort of rag to
mop we have the relatively nice sounding trapear for mopping a floor.
For most of my magazine life when I had the
opportunity to photograph women for an article I always chose the avenue of the
least amount of clothing. My secret weapon was Inga Vollmer who did not only the
makeup but also the careful covering of stuff that should not be seen by the use
of silk, satin, velvet that was gracefully and artfully arranged (one word suffices
here drape). I believe she did the makeup for Madeleine Morris’s lips but also the
draping with the satin. Vollmer could also drape herself quite well. She was good with cats.
I will not place here another image, one taken
by a now dead Mexican photographer called El Trapo Negro. It has bits that
might offend a few. This is the link. He
took the picture when he was in his mid 80s (there is still hope for me). The trapo
in question is really a black rebozo or shawl. Notice the grace and elegance.
Next on my list are some pictures I took of
a beautiful and most well-endowed Lusitanian in which I used my mother’s red
Mexican rebozo to cover, just a bit. The rest I mostly cropped out so what you
see here is meant to not offend. And I was the draper.
And lastly there is my photograph of my
youngest granddaughter, Lauren, 11, with makeup by her older sister Rebecca,
16, who also seems to have the talent of draping in her blood.
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
|Fuji X-E1 on 800 ISO b+w mode|
My grandmother often spoke of “la purga de San Benito,” or Saint
Benedict’s purge. This was a magical potion that instantly cured all and any
Today I listened to two elderly local photographers
with sophisticated digital cameras swinging around their necks talking about
cameras with numbers and letters that once would have made me think they were
talking of the latest Jaguar from England, a sort of Mark 3.8. One of
the photographers mentioned how one of their colleagues had sent an almost one
year old Canon for servicing to the Canon works. They (the Canon works) called
the photographer to complain of the fact that the camera being serviced had
taken over 900,000 exposures. It seems, I later found out, that an application
can be downloaded from the net that will inform the curious photographer of
such relevant facts as how many shutter pressings have happened. A soon to be announced
app-mark 2 will inform you if the camera was in horizontal or vertical mode and
even indicate how many times the camera’s shutter has been set to bulb or
self-timer. I can almost imagine that app-mark 3 will know what you had for
|Leica IIIF Kodak T-Max pushed to 800 IS0|
I was positively struck by the chatter and
banter between the two photographers and a third man, the camera
expert/associate. One of the photographers then showed us how his camera could
take on the spot moving panoramas. Since his camera was a Mark2 improvement
over my Mark1 I knew that somehow I could also perform this hitherto impossible
operation. But then another of the photographer asked if this operation could
be performed in a vertical sweep. We quickly found out that it was the case.
And not only that but the sweep could be from left to right, right to left, up
to down and down to up.
Driving home I attempted to figure how any
human could have taken over 900,000 pictures in less than a year.
I felt over-the-top obsolete -an old man who
should hang his cameras behind the door permanently. Trying to feel a bit in an
“I-can-show-you-something-that-will-amaze-you-mode” I produced a picture in
which my reflection in the mirror might surprise these two of their ignorance. This
was not to be, “That’s a Leica IIIF” one said with complete assurance.
Driving home I felt humbled by two old men
much younger than this one who had gone from one system to another without a
murmur of complaint. In fact when I got home I went up to the bedroom and shot
a panorama with Rosemary in bed and told her, “Look what this camera can do.” She
But I am still trying to get and idea of
what, symbolically I might describe as figuring how the bicycle will do what
the tricycle cannot.
I am not sure that in my time there was as
much emphasis on the equipment and its variations and capabilities as now
without going beyond the description of the sharpness of the image or the
veracity of colour.
|Fuji X-E1 on 800 ISO colour negative mode|
I have yet to listen to someone tell me
that the image that they are showing me is an image free of equipment background
It seems that these new cameras, superseded
in mere months, are an eternal chain of purgas de San Benito.
Last night as Rosemary was watching Downton
Abbey with Plata the cat nestled in her lap and I was removing the decorations
from the Christmas tree I spotted my opportunity. It is one that heretofore I
would have kept in the realm of my mental sensor (I am not sure of its
measurement in megapixels). I might at one time come out with my Nikon, or the
Pentax and looked for an exposure meter. By the time I was ready the cat would
have been long gone.
I picked up my Fuji X-E1 and took three
exposures on automatic while bracketing to make sure I had shadow detail.
So the Fuji X-E1 is convenient and there
when you need it. The biggest fish is the one that got away, but the best
picture is the one that didn’t. And yet I have yet to find out what it is that
the camera can do that the other many cameras I own cannot.
I am not talking of mechanical capabilities
but of compositional capabilities. As an example a Hasselblad (and I have never
owned one for that reason) forces the photographer to think in a square. A
camera with single focal length lenses force the photographer to adapt to 35mm
or 28 mm or 50 or 85. The moment you have a zoom lens you might find excellence
at 31.7. That to me feels odd. Which is why I never owned a zoom lens?
|Nikon FM-2 Fuji Superia 800|
One of the photographers shoots sports with
extremely heavy Nikons and huge lenses. He told me that he recently had gone to
with his wife and he did not want to go with all that equipment. He gave me a
long list of it and I am sure he would have driven to San Francisco with that load. So he went to San Francisco with his
Fuji X-E2 and a couple of lenses including the very same zoom I, too own.
But no mention was made of any picture
taken. It’s four on the floor with hydramatic and an overhead camshaft all the
It seems to me that this is a personal
journey of mine to find out how my Fuji X-E1 will point me in a direction not
taken before. It could be exciting.
The pictures here of Bronwen are examples on how a digital camera and a film camera cope with in a situation with mixed hot lights and window lighting. I believe I could have set the Fuji X-E1 to a tungsten white balance and colour fidelity would have improved. I am a work in progress.
|Fuji X-E1 800 ISO|
|Above image cropped|
No Melancholy Taking Down The Christmas Tree
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
Thanks to Downton Abbey I may have found a
cure for tatking-down-the-Chrismas Tree-melancholy. This Sunday, and I am
writing this minutes after Rosemary and my cat Plata watched the first episode
of this season’s Downton Abbey (I cannot stand the voice the voice of the
principal butler, Charles Carson) I decided to take down our Christmas tree, By
Latin-American tradition we have always done it a day after the Epiphany
(January 6). I did not know what to do while Rosemary watched her program. I
eyed the tree in the living room and I had the idea.
As I took off the individual ornaments, I
remembered where some had come from or who had given a particular one to us. But
for most I had no memory. I lay them all on our red Christmas tablecloth in our
dining room and suddenly came up with the idea of what you see and read here.
The origami swan on the left is one of a
set of six assembled one Christmas Eve (perhaps five years ago) by our friend Abraham Rogatnic. He assembled them while my two granddaughters, Rebecca and
Lauren watched. Sliding in on the right is a tin death I bought in Mexico. Every
year my friend, poet and writer Homero Aridjis sends me a colourful tin
ornament. In December of 2012 I purchased this one at the Mexican Museum
of Popular Art. With me and buying and identical one was the poet himself. The brass
duck, the wooden horse and the wooden tree all came in different years from
Book-of-the-Month Club when I was a member. On the bottom left is a pewter
Santa. I have four from a set I purchased when Seagull Frames (Pugwash, Nova
Scotia) existed as a Canadian Company. They are now
American and do not make little ornaments or themed and ornate frames of which
I have a nice collection with pictures of our family. In bottom centre, from a
set of two is an ornament given to us by our friend, the graphic designer
Graham Walker. You might note that there is a black cat sitting inside the
sofa. At the time we had Mosca, a black cat.
The lovely ballerina slipper leaves me with
Removing the ornaments as I walked by concentrating
Rosemary on her program was pleasant and it made me forget that I had to feel melancholic.
I cannot wait for Season V of Downton Abbey.
Monday, January 06, 2014
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the
gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing
pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough
touch with a tender kiss.
|Kodak b+w Infrared|
Good pilgrim, you do
wrong your hand too much,
devotion shows in this,
For saints have hands
that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is
holy palmers' kiss.
Act 1, Scene 5, Page 5
Romeo & Juliet
Crackers With Holes In Them & René Clair's I Married A Witch
Sunday, January 05, 2014
When you are retired, the week, as in a seven
day week, slowly but surely leaks into irrelevance.
I can recognize the order of the week
sometimes because of some patterns that are left. There is no Vancouver Sun outside the door. I know it’s
Sunday or one of many (as in many) days when the paper does not publish. I know
it is Saturday night when around 9pm I hear a very loud bang outside my door. I
know that is Sunday’s NY Times being delivered.
But the most important day of the week,
Saturday is always a day that Rosemary savour in anticipation. Not too long ago
it marked the afternoon and evening of a visit and dinner by the Stewart
family. Of late that Saturday has been diminished by the fact that one of the Stewarts,
our older granddaughter Rebecca, 16, is holding a job that day. This means that
we get her sister Lauren early afternoon (when her father Bruce goes to work)
and by 7 in the evening, mother and daughter, Rosemary and I sit for dinner and
usually a film after.
This Saturday, yesterday, was a funny and
memorable Saturday. When Lauren arrived at 2 she had a peculiar question for
me, “Papi, do you remember those crackers with holes in them?” Indeed I did but
I could not fathom the reason for the question. I answered with a curt, “Yes,”
and that was the end of it.
I then told Lauren that I had found the
2002 The Very Muppet Christmas Movie for $2.50 at a bin at the Canadian
Superstore. I put it into the DVD player and we watched it. I can report here
that the film is excellent particularly in its connection with It’s a Wonderful
Life. I told Lauren that she could take the film home and we can perhaps make
it a Christmas tradition every year alongside our favourite Christmas album,
John Denver – The Muppets – A Christmas Together. The music album began as a
tradition when my two daughters were teenagers.
For dinner I prepared a variation of Len
Deighton’s Cookbook recipe of his French onion soup, this time by using red
onions. A recent NY Times recipe for the soup suggested that a shot of brandy
would help. I emptied what was left of my Calvados when the onions were frying
in butter. Lauren who refuses to eat raw onions considers my onion soup to be
the best soup she has ever had.
For dessert I tried my mother’s The Joy of
Cooking recipe for baked apples. With whipped cream they were a success.
Our film was a beautifully restored (The Criterion
Collection) I Married a Witch, directed by Frenchman René Clair in 1942. It
stars Frederick March, Veronica Lake
and as a very bitchy second fiddle, Susan Hayward. For reasons that escape me
all of the 14 copies at the Vancouver Public Library were out so thankfully I
had Limelight Video on Alma and Broadway as an excellent Plan B.
We had a surprise for Hilary Stewart, our
daughter and Lauren’s mother. In the picture you see here both mother and
daughter are about the same age. Perhaps Hilary was a year older. You can
clearly see that Hilary is eating those crackers with holes in them. Of course
they are Swiss Cheese Crackers.
I took the two girls and drove back home
with a smile on my face.