The Dark Lady From Belorusse
Saturday, July 05, 2014
We would walk the streets, a prodigy in
short pants and his mother, so defiantly beautiful that all transactions
stopped, and we’d enter a slow-motion world where women, men, children, dogs,
cats, and firemen in their trucks would look at her with such longing in their
eyes, that I felt like some usurper who was carrying her off to another hill...
It was a darkly romantic time. The Bronx
sat near the Atlantic Ocean without a proper
seawall, and there was talk of attack squads arriving in little rubber boats
off some tricky submarine, getting into the sewer system, and gobbling my
native ground. But I never saw a Nazi on our walks. And what power would any of
them have had against the shimmering outline of my mother in her silver fox
coat? She was born in 1911, like Ginger Rogers and Jean Harlow, but she didn’t
have their platinum look: she was the
dark lady of Belorusse.
The Dark Lady From Belorusse – Jerome Charyn -
Taking Out The Garbage Before Wallander
Friday, July 04, 2014
|Kenneth Branagh broods - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
Today I took out the garbage. Few husbands
can ever boast thus. My Rosemary does it most of the time but today she said, “Alex,
tomorrow they come to pick up the blue box. Can you take it out before the
light goes? My knee is buckling today. I
don’t think I can handle it.” And so I took out the garbage.
After 47 years of being together even this
idiot would understand that there has to be a lot of give and take.
These days I feel isolated in Vancouver. I go to baroque
concerts on my own. Rosemary is not keen nor is she keen on sopranos or modern
And yet wives, my wife in particular, can
surprise. She read as many Andrea Camilleri novels that I could find and we
have seen 20 of the series (based on those Camilleri novels) Montalbano, the
Sicilian police inspector who likes to dine alone and has a fondness for sea
I would have never thought that my Rosemary
would get hooked on Camilleri. Is Michael Dibdin the next possibility?
Rosemary and I are crazy about Rachel
Maddow and we watch her show almost every day. We sit with our late lunch/early
dinner at 6 to watch our favourite lesbian.
Consider that when I met Rosemary in 1968 I
did not know I was going to eventually marry a proto-feminist. Only Mark’s Work
Warehouse has saved me from hemming my jeans. They sell exactly my length.
There is no way Rosemary will sow a button or hem jeans or cook. After fighting
with her for years I finally realized that the only way I could eat well was to
cook. So I do the cooking. She hates using the vacuum. I vacuum. She scrubs the
impossibly white kitchen floor I sometimes wash the car.
Gardening was a bone of contention in 1986.
“That’s your flower bed, Rosemary. You water it.” Or she might have asked, “When
are you going to mow? Some of the plants were hers and some were mine. We have
long ago given up on owning parts of the garden and we do the work together. But
I suspect our neighbour must think we (especially me) are an abusive couple as
we still do a lot of arguing. “Rosemary, your hardy geraniums and your Anthriscus
are weeds. They are taking over my hostas.” “Alex, don’t shake your spent roses
on the lawn. I have to pick up the petals.” I am especially infuriated (still) when she
asks, “Have you watered the window boxes?” I am tired of telling her, “That’s
not my domain.” And so on and sometimes (rarely) we sit together on the metal
bench with her cat Casi-Casi who is the great soother.
Where it is important it seems we have it
made. We agree on the few TV series that we watch (we rent or take out the DVDs
from the library). She does not, to my chagrin want to watch the World Cup. We
both agree on not having a remote interest on any American series. We did rent
a few of the original British House of Cards but we have avoided the American. We
know nothing about the Game of Thrones (too much violence for Rosemary). In
short we agree on the few series we do watch and she trusts me completely on my
film choices (again Limelight Video or the Vancouver Public Library).
Today I was thinking why it is we love the
Italian series Montalbano and the British one, Foyle’s War.
Since we see them on DVD it means that we
have a complete episode that runs around an hour and thirty Luca Zingaretti
(Montalbano) and Michael Kitchen (Inspector Foyle) talk little, brood a lot and
just an “Ah!” will reveal more of what they are thinking than many words. We
like these series because the car chases and the violence are understated. Both
men are elegant, full of humanity and ethics that are impervious to just about
Alas, there is no more Foyle’s War for a
while and if we want to see more Montalbano (Limelight gave me credit for the
three Montalbanos I purchased on line) I will have to order them. So what’s next?
We have seen six Wallander episodes with
Kenneth Branagh. This British series set in Sweden (lots of Volvos and Ikea
furniture) is based on the novels of Henning Mankell. My friend who works at
Limelight (I will have to ask for his name) told me, “There is a Swedish series
but would you believe that the British version is bleaker?” My friend Robert
Friedman (very British) and his wife Patricia Hutter, who live down the street
refuse to watch Wallander. Hutter told me, “We get depressed especially with
the bleak Swedish landscape.”
But Rosemary and I both love Wallander. I
especially like the fact that Wallander’s father (who has Alzheimer’s) is
played by my fave David Warner. We are trying to figure out how they make
Branagh’s skin look so white (almost cyan) while his eyes are invariably
bloodshot. Do they keep him awake for days before they shoot?
Branagh’s Wallander, cries, broods, shouts
and rarely smiles. We love him. We have three more to watch. I will make sure
the menu on our TV trays is a good one.
What’s next? We will have to tackle the
Henning Mankel novels.
Catalina Legault By Gaspard-Félix Tournachon
Thursday, July 03, 2014
Last September I was in Buenos Aires for two weeks. On one of my days
there I went to the old Buenos Aires
quarter called San Telmo where they have a fine market. If you are looking for
SS paraphernalia there is a good chance you might find some there. I was
intrigued by this old albumen print from around the late1850s that according to
the seller was a genuine print by French photographer Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon 1820-1910). There was in the image a resemblance to the famous Paris Opera Ballet dancer Catalina Legault who some say had a long and scandalous affair with writer
Alexandre Dumas. I paid $50 for it and even if it is not a genuine Nadar print I feel
it is still a bargain
The Age Of The Mouse & The Pressure Washer
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
|Ale, Arboledas, Mexico 1971|
As a young boy in Buenos
Aires and then in Mexico
City I took shop in school. They taught me to turn
wood to make salad bowls and even how to French polish. I became a not so bad
carpenter. I improved on this in the early 70s when from a departing American I
purchased a very nice bench saw, an electric orbital sander and a craftsman electric
drill. Since I had no jig saw I had no way of making curvy furniture so I
settled in modern stuff which I then lacquered with automobile paint using an
Once in Vancouver my carpentry declined and I
resorted to re-finishing some of our tables with varathane.
Our brief cycle of buying stuff from either
Ikea or New Look Interiors stopped when one night a bookcase holding my
collection of National Geographics collapsed. From then on we scoured Maple Ridge, Fort Langley
and New Westminster
for good antique lawyer’s book cases and other furniture.
This concept of the well-made crept into my
purchase of good but expensive photographic equipment and studio lights. Rosemary
insisted in having Audis. Our home stereo is quality and the linear tracking
turntable a gem.
I hold on to old technology for the same
reason. I want to have stuff that lasts, that has value and if it can be
repaired I will spend the money to do so.
Our Sony Trinitron TV had to be repaired
three years ago. We still have it and only recently with the World Cup did my
visiting Lillooet daughter Ale say, “Papi you need a new TV. Your image is
blurred and I cannot tell what the score is.”
This computer on which I am writing this
faces a very good (in its time) Dell (Sony) CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor. It
serves me well in dealing with my plant scans and my film scans. I do not spend
a fortune calibrating it as many photographers of my generation do. I know my
web page and blog is backed by a gray colour which I, every two months, check
for any shifts into other colours. That’s how I calibrate my monitor! I have
noticed that my scans of my portraits in which I use a phenomenal Epson
Perfection V700 Photo scanner and with an 8 or 9 year old Photoshop look exactly
the same on my monitor as in Grant Simmons’s (DISC) Mac monitor. Simmons prints
my digital files into beautiful giclées. But when I place those scans in my
Blogger blog they go yellow/red. The colour of these pictures in facebook and
in Twitter is also different. There is obviously no standard for colour in the
The proof of accurate colour will always be
(and can only be) in a print. And even then, those of us who are perfectionists
(I sort of exclude myself from that category) will argue that the print will
have to be seen in a particular type of chosen light. Colour prints will vary
under incandescents, fluorescents, daylight on sunny days, daylight on cloudy
days and with the latitude of the city where you view them.
But we now live in an era of easy opening
packaging (not so if you suffer from arthritis as I do) and almost anything is
a mouse click away. We no longer get lost as our car (not my 2007 Malibu) tells us exactly
where we are and where we are going. Digital cameras become ever more perfect
and up-to-date with firmware you are supposed to download.
I would call this the era of the pressure
washer. Most museum conservationists know that a powerful vacuum cleaner can
damage or destroy antique carpets, etc. So we would also suspect that an
industrial pressure washer can do the same to old framing and trimming in an
For reasons that escape me, my wife has
decided to have our house painted in sections. The young College Pros in the
era of the mouse thought they could use their pressure washer to strip old
paint and clean it all up. Having no knowledge of gardens they place their
ladders with no thought of botanical damage.
So in this age of the mouse and the quickie
(in every meaning that word has) I am inside my house and I will not look
outside. If I don’t the problem does not exist. Like the overdue library book
kept inside my desk, if I cannot see it, it is not overdue. But I should know
better. Long ago I learned that noises in cars did not miraculously go away. They
A Shropshire Lad - Revisited
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
|Rosa 'A Shropshire Lad' July 1, 2014|
In the late 80s I went to Shropshire
on a literary tour courtesy of British Airways. For reading material I had with
me A.E. Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad, a tome of Mary Webb’s poetry and D.H.
Lawrence’s travel stories. I loved Houseman not knowing at the time that nearby
David Austin had hybridized a lovely English Rose called A Shropshire Lad. I
have had this rose now for some years. It is in deep shade so it has a
reluctant and brief period when it blooms. But the flowers are lovely if
sparse. It grieves me a bit to snip one as I did today, Canada Day so I could
scan. There was another stalk with a bud and a flower not quite open. I did not
have the heart to snip them, too. One bloom will suffice.The leaves are big and course but they will do.
A. E. Housman
(1859–1936). A Shropshire
XLVI. Bring, in this
timeless grave to throw
Bring, in this
timeless grave to throw
No cypress, sombre on
Snap not from the
His leaves that live
Break no rosemary,
bright with rime
And sparkling to the
Nor plod the winter
land to look
For willows in the icy
To cast them leafless
round him: bring
To spray that ever
buds in spring.
But if the Christmas
field has kept
Awns the last gleaner
Or shrivelled flax,
whose flower is blue
A single season, never
Or if one haulm whose
year is o’er
Shivers on the upland
—Oh, bring from hill
and stream and plain
Whatever will not
To give him comfort:
he and those
Shall bide eternal
Where low upon the
couch he lies
Monday, June 30, 2014
She had purple eyes. Her nose was perfect. Her
mouth was slightly crooked. Her neck was shaped like a bishop’s stick. It still
excited him to stand near Dee, sniff her
perfume in the midst of all her concentration on the pudding. But she could
feel Caroll behind her, and she dismissed the sous chefs. “Darling,” she said. “We
have guests. I have to be down in a minute. I can’t leave Cardinal Jim alone.
He’ll take out his poker deck and make paupers of everybody. So give me one
Maria's Girls - Jerome Charyn - 1993
Are Melted Into Air, Into Thin Air
Sunday, June 29, 2014
|Sarah Rogers & Allan Morgan|
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
In the above Act 4, scene 1, 148-158 of The
Tempest, Prospero in preparation for Miranda’s wedding to the Prince of Naples stages
an entertainment with spirits taking the parts of Roman gods. He abruptly stops
the fun. He tries to calm Miranda and Ferdinand explaining that what he has
stopped was simply an illusion that will disappear into the thin air.
are such stuff as dreams are made on is one of
Shakespeare’s most often misquoted quotes. Made on is usually changed to made from.
In a bout of insomnia I thought about it most
of Saturday night.I kept re-living Morgan's Prospero in Friday night's The Tempest at Bard On the Beach. A few weeks before in Midsummer's Night Dream I was sitting a few seats away from actor/director Sarah Rogers. She smiled and made faces at me.
I remember that when I was 8 and 9 my
friend Mario from across the street would come to visit me to play. On sunny
days we played in the garden with swords or Gene Autry cap pistols. When it
rained or it was cold and cloudy we would move into the house where in a long
hall we would play with toy soldiers that, more often than not we converted to
simple civilians. These people worked and had love lives. We put couples to bed
and they did whatever we at age 8 thought couples did in bed.
There was an issue of the National
Geographic that my mother had brought from the American School
where she taught Physics and Chemistry. On of the articles featured the Statue
of Liberty and Ellis Island. Another had these
American football players in player’s uniforms. I was amazed by their almost
super-human shoulders. For reasons that escape me Mario and I played a game
This was a small but powerful island nation peopled by broad shouldered giants
who worshiped a goddess (the Statue of Liberty). It was only a few years later
that I caught on that the shoulders were padding and that there was no island
nation called Columbia.
When 8 or perhaps 7, I went into our back
garden galpón (shed) where there
was a large wooden box. In it I propped four bricks so as to have a gas pedal
and a brake pedal. With a broom and a wheel on its end I had the steering
wheel. I placed a board across the box and presto I was sitting in a racing car
and I was Fangio. Somehow the car was real and I was driving a racer. But one
day I could not conjure any of it and I gave up. The racing car had
disappeared. Soon Mario and I stopped playing our games and we began to collect
round estampitas (cards) of the football players in Buenos Aires. Our make-believe games ceased
and we through our cards to as close as we could to the edge of the sidewalk
where it met the walls. This was our first taste of gambling as we might
sacrifice a valuable card from Boca Juniors to get an even more valuable player
card from River Plate.
Last night I thought
about the difference between made on and made from. I concluded that our
wakeful life depends on, leans on, and emerges from, derivates from our
Since the world of make-believe
is most active in childhood I suspect that it prepares children to cope with
the reality of adulthood.
This brings me into
two ideas of which one is not a very pleasant one. I am 71 and my dreams now
seem to be more intense. Because I get up several times during the night I
remember more of them. Their logic escapes me and I wonder if this may not
simply be a manifestation of my returning to that childhood. Could it be a
forewarning of dementia?
The other idea is far
more pleasant. In my years of taking pictures of actors and actresses (I cling
to that world because I am an old-fashioned remnant of the last century) I have
never tired at their ability to fall into parts and in many cases to cry on
demand. At the same time become saddened at witnessing modern dance or a 17th
century baroque sonata that I know I may never see or hear again. The same
happens to every evening’s performance of a play. It fades into “thin air”.Do we remember that Allan Morgan appeared as Prospero in Bard production (also directed my Meg Roe) in 2008?
I still remember the
remarkable performance of Angels In America in 2006 at the Waterfront Theatre
on Granville Island. The actors were Sarah Rogers,
Allan Morgan, Dennis Simpson and Marco Soriano. The performance has been with
me since because Sarah Rogers and Allan Morgan came to my studio to pose for a
picture that appeared in the Georgia Straight.
It seems that actors
make-believe professionally while dancers and musicians perform ephemera.
A painter will paint
and will have a painting. The same applies to a sculptor. A traditional film
photographer will have prints, negatives and slides. The digital photographer’s
images approach that fading into thin air with a corrupted file, or the infinitesimal
thickness of a computer monitor.
For the average
non-actor (that’s me) I have a fascination with the idea that many of the actors
in Bard on the Beach play multiple parts on different days. These multiple
parts are not only within one play but also in different plays. Would this not
be confusing? Consider Jennifer Lines who in 2010 played Cleopatra in Anthony
and Cleopatra and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. This is how she explained
her non confusion:
Every morning I wake up and take time to focus on which show I will be
performing that evening so that throughout the day I'm "tuned up"
with the character and the dialogue.
The real preparation begins when I arrive
at the tent, about 2 hours before the show which gives me plenty of time to run
lines, go over fight and dance choreography, get make-up and hair sorted. By
the time I'm being laced into Beatrice's corset, or putting on all Cleopatra's
gold jewelry I am more than ready to step onto the stage as one or the other.
It is either the corset or the gold jewelry that settles Lines to her part with
My conclusion after hours of twisting and
turning in bed is that actors in good plays allow us to play make-believe
games. Some of us may laugh and enjoy the special staging effects. Some of us
might like the music and the songs. But some of us (me in particular) can never
forget how these actors in their talent and style force us (ever so gently) to
imagine, to dream and to reflect with the words of the playwright and the
intended bearing of the director into keeping us young, almost children so that
we can become more human (as Harold Bloom so insists).
I have often wondered why playwrights who
write plays are not playwrites. My personal conclusion is that the playwright,
the good ones of which Shakespeare is one of the paragons of the craft, simply
knows how to play the game. Playwrights know how to play the game of the
imagination and of the dream. They play right, as do our Vancouver actors we are so lucky to have and enjoy.
And only today as I looked for the image of Allan Morgan and Sarah Rogers did it occur to me that it also makes a perfect portrait of Prospero with Ariel.
Midsummer's Night Dream