A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Infinity (∞), An Insipid Equivalent Of The Unfinished
Saturday, October 11, 2014

Nikkor 35mm 1: 2

On Wednesday night it suddenly occurred to me that a particular book in my Borges collection had gone missing. It was 2:30. I went to the den where I keep my books in Spanish and found Jorge Luís Borges  
El Hacedor (an Alianza Emecé) missfiled.  It was easy to find as the cover has an illustration that incorporates the title within a Möbius strip. Those who might not know should know that the strip is an instance of one-sided surface. And if you further look you note that a Möbius strip is of the same shape as the mathematical symbol for infinity, ∞.

When I put the book in its place I noticed a little one I had not read for some years. El Lenguaje de Buenos Aires (also published by Emecé) which contains essays about the language spoken in Buenos Aires, written by Jorge Luís Borges and José E. Clemente. In the first essay by Borges, El Idioma de los Argentinos, a printed version of a lecture he gave in 1927 in Buenos Aires I found this:

Sospecho que la palabra infinito fue alguna vez una insípida equivalencia de inacabado; ahora es una de las perfecciones de Dios en la teología y un discutidero en la metafísica y un énfasis popularizado en las letras y una finísima concepción renovada en las matemáticas –Russell explica la adición y multiplicación y potenciación de números cardinales infinitos y el porqué de sus dinastías casi terribles- y una verdadera intuición al mirar al cielo.

My translation into English is:

I suspect that the word infinity was at one time an insipid equivalent of the unfinished. It is now one of the perfect attributions of the God of theology and a centre for discussion in philosophy and popularized with emphasis in arts and letters. It is a fine concept, renewed often in mathematics – Russell [Bertrand] the addition, multiplication, and the powering of infinite cardinal numbers and whence the terrible place they came from – and of a true intuition that comes upon looking up into the sky.

I thought about that marvelous paragraph (the one in Spanish and not my poor translation) and combined that with the image of the Möbius strip and came up with this: 

Before the proliferation of GPS devices for cars and phones most of us resorted to using maps to find places and or used our memories and some logic to get to our destination. This ability to find a place on one’s own will be surely lost as we come to depend more and more on location technology.

Before cameras had auto focus lenses, photographers had to focus manually. Before the invention of single lens reflex cameras, during the era of the uncoupled rangefinder cameras, photographers like Cartier-Bresson would focus using a little dark window that matched two images (let’s say Uncle Billy’s face). When the two faces were one the camera was focused. Then Cartier-Bresson would look into another window to frame his shot.

In all those situations and the more primitive one of guessing a distance and manually setting a lens to that distance the photographer made a choice. It could be a stupid choice or an intelligent one based on experience.

All that is now almost history. The auto-focusing cameras have just about taken the decision making choice on where to focus out of a photographer’s hand/eyes.

That does not mean that the curious photographer should not attempt to find out exactly what all those focusing points in the camera’s viewing screen are doing.

Consider the problem of attempting to photograph your Uncle Billy with the Grand Canyon behind him. Where do you focus?

Optics and the laws of optics since Isaac Newton discovered them are up to this point set in stone. Whenever we look at anything with our eyes, with a camera (a still one or a movie one), with binoculars or any other device there will always be one plane of sharp focus.

This plane of focus, be it near or far will have a distance behind it and a distance in front of it that will be in acceptable focus. These two planes behind and in front are called depth of field. That plane will be approximately parsed at 1/3 in front and 2/3 in back. That depth of field zone will be narrow if you are up close and wider as you move away.

When you look at that north rim of the Grand Canyon, that 2/3 depth of field beyond is of no consequence. The Grand Canyon is at infinity (∞). That can be pretty far! But beyond infinity (∞) there is more of it.

So going back let’s say you are shooting a tight portrait of Uncle Billy. He has a big nose. Your problem is that you want the tip of his nose sharp and also his ears. So knowing about that 1/3 in front and 2/3 in back you might focus on the eyes (the eyelashes). All things considered if you are using the right f-stop in your camera the ears and the nose will be sharp. This is because you are moving that depth of field zone so that the plane of sharp focus is by the eyes.

Now Uncle Billy is at the Grand Canyon. You want him in focus and the Canyon behind in focus. Where do you focus your camera?

That place has the complicated name of hyper focal distance.

Note in the scan of my manual focus Nikon 35mm lens. On the left you will note:

1. Where the ∞ is lies, to the left of it is a small vertical red line. That vertical red line (faded because this lens is very used and very old) matches the colour of the number 22 which happens to be the smallest aperture of that lens. Just like when you squint your eyes to read the sign on the bus, when you close a lens (you squint it) you increase the zone of depth of field. On the opposite side (to the right) of that vertical red line you might note that it lies a little to the left of the number 1 representing 1 metre. That scale is telling you that if you have your lens set as is (Uncle Billy is now about 2 metres away (a big black dot on the lens), Uncle Billy will be in focus and so will the Grand Canyon. Or everything from 1 metre away (Uncle Billy) to the Grand Canyon (a photographic lens infinity away (∞) will be in focus. This is the hyper focal distance of a 35mm lens (whatever brand you want it will be the same) at f-22.

What is interesting is that your lens is focusing on a spot of no particular importance, a metre behind Uncle Billy. Putting it in another way, to focus on what you want in focus you have to focus elsewhere

How would your $6000 Canon DSL handle that problem?

Thus at 2:30 in the morning a couple of Borges books, a Nikon lens, a couple of sketches have all come together around the theme and or concept of infinity. Which brings me to the idea that by its very definition of infinity, infinity has to be eternal. Both difficult terms are linked in that Zeno paradox of Achilles and the tortoise. Achilles can never reach the destination as he has to achieve half of it, and half again.  And that can’t be and yet we know that Achilles will sprint and win the race in spite of our philosophical musings to the contrary.

It is interesting for me to know that thanks to Leibniz and Newton (who independently discovered the calculus) we know about incremental changes in slopes (in differential calculus) and how that led in the 20th century to hyperbolic paraboloid roofs in modern buildings and that the source is a straight line from a point of swivel that has an ever changing slope so that the individual lines, when taken together form a graceful sweep of a roof. That differential calculus and Newton’s discovery of the laws of gravitation gave us accurate ballistics is a tragedy that we cannot avoid or find a remedy for.

Integral calculus with the elegant sweeping of a right angle triangle from its base (at the right angle) for 360 degrees will give us the volume of a cone of that triangle’s height is one of those moments of my life that I will never forget. As I find all these many (and there are many) citations of the infinite, of the eternal in Borges I feel so lucky to be alive.

And luckier still to be able to read the man in the language of Buenos Aires.

Emma Zunz
Friday, October 10, 2014

Emma Zunz

In the last couple of years I have delighted myself in finding photographs in my files or taking new ones to illustrate favourite poems by the likes of Emily Dickinson, Homero Aridjis, Jorge Luís Borges or William Carlos Williams. Then I have found myself making some of my subjects, characters in the novels of Manhattan writer Jerome Charyn or Raymond Chandler. Since both have written about enigmatic women I know I have plenty of those in my files.

Today marks a new direction. In the last few weeks I have been a tad obsessive reading stories by Jorge Luís Borges as my insomnia creeps into my night. I have read most of them several times but increasing old age and perhaps an awareness that comes with that has helped me find more in Borges than was lodged in my faulty memory.

Today I decided to print negatives that I took of Caitlin Metisse Legault a month ago. These are pictures that are my modern version of the skylight lighting of Mathew Brady’s portraits of the 1860s. The scanned negatives are very nice and I have written several blogs about them. Here is one of them.

I decided to print the negatives in my darkroom. I had been trying to return to it for weeks but garden work could not be postponed. Today I found the time.

In this blog I cannot show you what it is like to hold these 8x10 prints and what happens when you shift them in your hands and light washes them.The experience exceeds anything you might have on your monitor screen.

I found a box of Agfa-Gevaert Brovira paper that I purchased at Lens & Shutter about 20 years ago. The paper has lost its sensitivity and it will not produce blacks or clean whites. It fogs. There is never a reason to throw photographic stuff away as surprises are always in store. I was pleasantly surprised.

I made some good prints from newer paper and then decided to try the Brovira. I like the results. I increased the warm tone of the print (I used Ilford Warm-tone paper developer) by immersing the print in Kodak Selenium. When I dried the print a name was instantly conjured in my head. Emma Zunz.

Emma Zunz is the protagonist of a Jorge Luís Borges story of the same name that he wrote in 1948. The story is quite famous and note below that it has been made into a film six times.

Emma Zunz (1993) (Spain) directed for television by Jacquot Benoit.
Emma Zunz (1985) (Mexico) directed by Giangiacomo Tabet.
Emma Zunz (1984) (Holland) directed by Peter Delpeut.
Emma Zunz (1979) (Canada) directed by Isabel Beveridge.
Emma Zunz (1966) (Spain) directed by Jesús Martínez León.
Días de odio (1954) (Argentina) directed by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson.

I will place here the story in its original Spanish with an accompanying link to an English version.

Emma Zunz                 Emma Zunz in English           
Jorge Luis Borges

El catorce de enero de 1922, Emma Zunz, al volver de la fábrica de tejidos Tarbuch y Loewenthal, halló en el fondo del zaguán una carta, fechada en el Brasil, por la que supo que su padre había muerto. La engañaron, a primera vista, el sello y el sobre; luego, la inquietó la letra desconocida. Nueve diez líneas borroneadas querían colmar la hoja; Emma leyó que el señor Maier había ingerido por error una fuerte dosis de veronal y había fallecido el tres del corriente en el hospital de Bagé. Un compañero de pensión de su padre firmaba la noticia, un tal Feino Fain, de Río Grande, que no podía saber que se dirigía a la hija del muerto.

Emma dejó caer el papel. Su primera impresión fue de malestar en el vientre y en las rodillas; luego de ciega culpa, de irrealidad, de frío, de temor; luego, quiso ya estar en el día siguiente. Acto contínuo comprendió que esa voluntad era inútil porque la muerte de su padre era lo único que había sucedido en el mundo, y seguiría sucediendo sin fin. Recogió el papel y se fue asucuarto. Furtivamente lo guardó en un cajón, como si de algún modo ya conociera los hechos ulteriores. Ya había empezado a vislumbrarlos, tal vez; ya era la que sería.

En la creciente oscuridad, Emma lloró hasta el fin de aquel día del suicidio de Manuel Maier, que en los antiguos días felices fue Emanuel Zunz. Recordó veraneos en una chacra, cerca de Gualeguay, recordó (trató de recordar) a su madre, recordó la casita de Lanús que les remataron, recordó los amarillos losanges de una ventana, recordó el auto de prisión, el oprobio, recordó los anónimos con el suelto sobre «el desfalco del cajero», recordó (pero eso jamás lo olvidaba) que su padre, la última noche, le había jurado que el ladrón era Loewenthal. Loewenthal, Aarón Loewenthal, antes gerente de la fábrica y ahora uno de los dueños. Emma, desde 1916, guardaba el secreto. A nadie se lo había revelado, ni siquiera a su mejor amiga, Elsa Urstein. Quizá rehuía la profana incredulidad; quizá creía que el secreto era un vínculo entre ella y el ausente. Loewenthal no sabía que ella sabía; Emma Zunz derivaba de ese hecho ínfimo un sentimiento de poder.

No durmió aquella noche, y cuando la primera luz definió el rectángulo de la ventana, ya estaba perfecto su plan. Procuró que ese día, que le pareció interminable, fuera como los otros. Había en la fábrica rumores de huelga; Emma se declaró, como siempre, contra toda violencia. A las seis, concluido el trabajo, fue con Elsa a un club de mujeres, que tiene gimnasio y pileta. Se inscribieron; tuvo que repetir y deletrear su nombre y su apellido, tuvo que festejar las bromas vulgares que comentan la revisación. Con Elsa y con la menor de las Kronfuss discutió a qué cinematógrafo irían el domingo a la tarde. Luego, se habló de novios y nadie esperó que Emma hablara. En abril cumpliría diecinueve años, pero los hombres le inspiraban, aún, un temor casi patológico... De vuelta, preparó una sopa de tapioca y unas legumbres, comió temprano, se acostó y se obligó a dormir. Así, laborioso y trivial, pasó el viernes quince, la víspera.

El sábado, la impaciencia la despertó. La impaciencia, no la inquietud, y el singular alivio de estar en aquel día, por fin. Ya no tenía que tramar y que imaginar; dentro de algunas horas alcanzaría la simplicidad de los hechos. Leyó en La Prensa que el Nordstjärnan, de Malmö, zarparía esa noche del dique 3; llamó por teléfono a Loewenthal, insinuó que deseaba comunicar, sin que lo supieran las otras, algo sobre la huelga y prometió pasar por el escritorio, al oscurecer. Le temblaba la voz; el temblor convenía a una delatora. Ningún otro hecho memorable ocurrió esa mañana. Emma trabajó hasta las doce y fijó con Elsa y con Perla Kronfuss los pormenores del paseo del domingo. Se acostó después de almorzar y recapituló, cerrados los ojos, el plan que había tramado. Pensó que la etapa final sería menos horrible que la primera y que le depararía, sin duda, el sabor de la victoria y de la justicia. De pronto, alarmada, se levantó y corrió al cajón de la cómoda. Lo abrió; debajo del retrato de Milton Sills, donde la había dejado la antenoche, estaba la carta de Fain. Nadie podía haberla visto; la empezó a leer y la rompió.

Referir con alguna realidad los hechos de esa tarde sería difícil y quizá improcedente. Un atributo de lo infernal es la irrealidad, un atributo que parece mitigar sus terrores y que los agrava tal vez. ¿Cómo hacer verosímil una acción en la que casi no creyó quien la ejecutaba, cómo recuperar ese breve caos que hoy la memoria de Emma Zunz repudia y confunde? Emma vivía por Almagro, en la calle Liniers; nos consta que esa tarde fue al puerto. Acaso en el infame Paseo de Julio se vio multiplicada en espejos, publicada por luces y desnudada por los ojos hambrientos, pero más razonable es conjeturar que al principio erró, inadvertida, por la indiferente recova... Entró en dos o tres bares, vio la rutina o los manejos de otras mujeres. Dio al fin con hombres del Nordstjärnan. De uno, muy joven, temió que le inspirara alguna ternura y optó por otro, quizá más bajo que ella y grosero, para que la pureza del horror no fuera mitigada. El hombre la condujo a una puerta y después a un turbio zaguán y después a una escalera tortuosa y después a un vestíbulo (en el que había una vidriera con losanges idénticos a los de la casa en Lanús) y después a un pasillo y después a una puerta que se cerró. Los hechos graves están fuera del tiempo, ya porque en ellos el pasado inmediato queda como tronchado del porvenir, ya porque no parecen consecutivas las partes que los forman.

¿En aquel tiempo fuera del tiempo, en aquel desorden perplejo de sensaciones inconexas y atroces, pensó Emma Zunz una sola vez en el muerto que motivaba el sacrificio? Yo tengo para mí que pensó una vez y que en ese momento peligró su desesperado propósito. Pensó (no pudo no pensar) que su padre le había hecho a su madre la cosa horrible que a ella ahora le hacían. Lo pensó con débil asombro y se refugió, en seguida, en el vértigo. El hombre, sueco o finlandés, no hablaba español; fue una herramienta para Emma como ésta lo fue para él, pero ella sirvió para el goce y él para la justicia. Cuando se quedó sola, Emma no abrió en seguida los ojos. En la mesa de luz estaba el dinero que había dejado el hombre: Emma se incorporó y lo rompió como antes había roto la carta. Romper dinero es una impiedad, como tirar el pan; Emma se arrepintió, apenas lo hizo. Un acto de soberbia y en aquel día... El temor se perdió en la tristeza de su cuerpo, en el asco. El asco y la tristeza la encadenaban, pero Emma lentamente se levantó y procedió a vestirse. En el cuarto no quedaban colores vivos; el último crepúsculo se agravaba. Emma pudo salir sin que lo advirtieran; en la esquina subió a un Lacroze, que iba al oeste. Eligió, conforme a su plan, el asiento más delantero, para que no le vieran la cara. Quizá le confortó verificar, en el insípido trajín de las calles, que lo acaecido no había contaminado las cosas. Viajó por barrios decrecientes y opacos, viéndolos y olvidándolos en el acto, y se apeó en una de las bocacalles de Warnes. Pardójicamente su fatiga venía a ser una fuerza, pues la obligaba a concentrarse en los pormenores de la aventura y le ocultaba el fondo y el fin.

Aarón Loewenthal era, para todos, un hombre serio; para sus pocos íntimos, un avaro. Vivía en los altos de la fábrica, solo. Establecido en el desmantelado arrabal, temía a los ladrones; en el patio de la fábrica había un gran perro y en el cajón de su escritorio, nadie lo ignoraba, un revólver. Había llorado con decoro, el año anterior, la inesperada muerte de su mujer - ¡una Gauss, que le trajo una buena dote! -, pero el dinero era su verdadera pasión. Con íntimo bochorno se sabía menos apto para ganarlo que para conservarlo. Era muy religioso; creía tener con el Señor un pacto secreto, que lo eximía de obrar bien, a trueque de oraciones y devociones. Calvo, corpulento, enlutado, de quevedos ahumados y barba rubia, esperaba de pie, junto a la ventana, el informe confidencial de la obrera Zunz.

La vio empujar la verja (que él había entornado a propósito) y cruzar el patio sombrío. La vio hacer un pequeño rodeo cuando el perro atado ladró. Los labios de Emma se atareaban como los de quien reza en voz baja; cansados, repetían la sentencia que el señor Loewenthal oiría antes de morir.
Las cosas no ocurrieron como había previsto Emma Zunz. Desde la madrugada anterior, ella se había soñado muchas veces, dirigiendo el firme revólver, forzando al miserable a confesar la miserable culpa y exponiendo la intrépida estratagema que permitiría a la Justicia de Dios triunfar de la justicia humana. (No por temor, sino por ser un instrumento de la Justicia, ella no quería ser castigada.) Luego, un solo balazo en mitad del pecho rubricaría la suerte de Loewenthal. Pero las cosas no ocurrieron así.

Ante Aarón Loeiventhal, más que la urgencia de vengar a su padre, Emma sintió la de castigar el ultraje padecido por ello. No podía no matarlo, después de esa minuciosa deshonra. Tampoco tenía tiempo que perder en teatralerías. Sentada, tímida, pidió excusas a Loewenthal, invocó (a fuer de delatora) las obligaciones de la lealtad, pronunció algunos nombres, dio a entender otros y se cortó como si la venciera el temor. Logró que Loewenthal saliera a buscar una copa de agua. Cuando éste, incrédulo de tales aspavientos, pero indulgente, volvió del comedor, Emma ya había sacado del cajón el pesado revólver. Apretó el gatillo dos veces. El considerable cuerpo se desplomó como si los estampi-dos y el humo lo hubieran roto, el vaso de agua se rompió, la cara la miró con asombro y cólera, la boca de la cara la injurió en español y en ídisch. Las malas palabras no cejaban; Emma tuvo que hacer fuego otra vez. En el patio, el perro encadenado rompió a ladrar, y una efusión de brusca sangre manó de los labios obscenos y manchó la barba y la ropa. Emma inició la acusación que había preparado («He vengado a mi padre y no me podrán castigar...»), pero no la acabó, porque el señor Loewenthal ya había muerto. No supo nunca si alcanzó a comprender.

Los ladridos tirantes le recordaron que no podía, aún, descansar. Desordenó el diván, desabrochó el saco del cadáver, le quitó los quevedos salpicados y los dejó sobre el fichero. Luego tomó el teléfono y repitió lo que tantas veces repetiría, con esas y con otras palabras: Ha ocurrido una cosa que es increíble... El señor Loewenthal me hizo venir con el pretexto de la huelga... Abusó de mí, lo maté...

La historia era increíble, en efecto, pero se impuso a todos, porque sustancialmente era cierta. Verdadero era el tono de Emma Zunz, verdadero el pudor, verdadero el odio. Verdadero también era el ultraje que había padecido; sólo eran falsas las circunstancias, la hora y uno o dos nombres propios.

Emma Zunz in English

Romance Apps & The Piropo
Thursday, October 09, 2014

“All our souls are written in our eyes.”
Cyrano de Bergerac

Claire Love, Feb 1991

These days I have been thinking a lot about the words I use and their meaning when you think about them. To share, a verb in a state of possible extinction thanks to facebook, in Spanish  translates to compartir. This literally means to break with, alluding to what Christ did with a loaf of bread at that final supper. While we chat and talk we rarely use converse. In Spanish it is more usual to conversar which means to [to speak] in verse. By now you may be getting the idea.

There is this lovely verb much in use in Argentina (even though it is a Spanish word) to lisonjear. It involves saying something nice to someone usually for ulterior motives.

lisonja1. (Del prov. lauzenja).
1. f. Alabanza afectada, para ganar la voluntad de alguien.

A similar word, not so nice sounding is exact in its meaning. It is a piropo which comes from the Latin and it can mean red bronze or a purple garnet.

piropo. (Del lat. pyrōpus, y este del gr. πυρωπς).

1. m. Variedad del granate, de color rojo de fuego, muy apreciada como piedra fina.

2. m. Rubí, carbúnculo.

3. m. coloq. Lisonja, requiebro.

Note the third meaning lisonja or requiebro defined as a flirtatious remark.

A piropo, then is the exact term in Spanish that defines those nice things you might say to someone who is pretty or good looking, whom you might not yet know, or will never know and you say it in passing on the street for example. The English compliments, flirtatious remark or amorous compliment simply do not cut it.

Spaniards of the 17th century and in earlier centuries were experts at the flowery piropo. Cyrano de Bergerac was accomplished at that sort of thing in France.

In the late 60s when my wife was visibly pregnant she had to navigate albañiles (brick or construction workers) who would utter all kinds of flowery and not so flowery remarks perched on their scaffolding in Mexico City. I remember one in particular as the albañil was next door to where we lived. I asked her what the man had said. Blushing, and indignant, she told me, “Gringüita (blonde American) hagamos un taquito de carne y tu serías la tortilla.” This translates to “Let’s make a little taco. I will be the meat and you the tortilla.”

Much tamer was an Argentine piropo of my youth that you might tell a beautiful young woman coming your way. It drew on the three names of Columbus's caravelles, !Santa María, que Pinta está la Niña! It translates to, "Holy Mother of God how pretty the girl is!"

In my younger days I could lay it thick and say nice things. I feel that now it has become impossible to tell a beautiful woman, a handsome man, a man with nice hands, a woman with interesting hair that you have noticed. In those younger days when I  wore a uniform of the Argentine Navy women would come to me in the street (a very pleasant Argentine superstition, in my opinion.) and touch (demurely) some part of my uniform and say, "¡Marinero, suerte para mí! or "Sailor bring me good luck!"

It was a month ago that Rosemary and I were leaving Oakridge Mall. We passed the very oriental Peninsula Restaurant. At the door was a woman dressed in what I call a Susy Wong, blue Chinese silk dress with a slit on the side. I found myself stopping and telling her, “You look wonderful in that beautiful dress.” She took it as a compliment. She smiled and thanked me.

That sort of thing does not happen too much now. If the woman is young and you are an old man (as I am) you are risking alleged sexual harassment or portraying yourself as a dirty old man.

There are small not quite insignificant decisions that a man must make on the street when he spies a beautiful woman coming one's way. Do you avert your eyes? Do you make eye contact? Do you stare at her cleavage while avoiding her eyes? And most difficult of all do you look back at her obverse side as she walks past you?

A week ago I told the Artistic Director of Early Music Vancouver (before a concert) that lutenist Sylvain Bergeron was a matinee idol. I was corrected and told Bergeron was too old to be such a person. On the other hand that Artistic Director was aware that the term matinee idol was a term reserved to describe good looking men. It never applied to women. You might say that it is a gender specific compliment.

For too many centuries and perhaps one of the high points was  the Arthurian times of literature when spotlessly clean nights (who did not even sin in thought) sought out the Holy Grail while wearing a token from their lady love back home perched on a high pedestal.

The equality of the sexes, or the near one in this 21st century has taken away from men and women the heretofore sparring that preceded any kind of amorous involvement.

Just a week ago while watching Emily Gibbs (played by Lauren Jackson) and George Webb (Chris Cope) in some old-fashioned mating dance in the second act of  Osimous's Our Town, “Lauren can I carry your books?” I came to understand how lucky I am to be 72 and over all that. Could I cope with on line dating and sexting with my smart phone? No! Romance has been replaced by the concept of a partner with privileges. The other side of the coin, when Dawn Petten playing Mrs. Gibbs says,”When I married I went into it blind as a bat,” now has as the reality knowledge of everything you ever wanted to or did not want to know about  your partner. Discovery has been replaced by a “romance app” that automatically chills the Champagne, and reminds you to break open a box of Trojans.

The simple idea that as humans we are attracted to beauty or of a beauty of our choosing, be it a landscape, a house, a painting, a vacation spot, a man, a woman, both, a suit, a dress, a symmetrical tabby, and that all that does not include our right to utter such a preference when spotting a human of our visual predilection (where it all begins unless your predilection comes with a voice like Grace Kelly or Debora Kerr) is a shame. If you hold open a door for a woman you might get slapped or sneered at.

Which brings me to this photograph of Claire Love which I took in February 1991. I went up to her and said, “I would like to photograph you because you are stunning.” She looked at me, up and down, and said, “When and where?” I photographed her two more times. In these I went the route of George Hurrell glamour. I believe I used a hair light, a light to project an out of focus gobo of stars, a boom light shooting down and a filler or kicker central to her face. Note that while Love and my camera were hugging the floor, in my mind and in that photograph she is up on a pedestal.

I wanted to make the beautiful, more beautiful and ethereal. Can there be anything wrong with that?

Claire Love lives in France and I am sure that when she takes a stroll in her town, there are willing Cyranos everywhere uttering delights her way. 

Love at the Arch
More Claire Love

Of Memory - Jorge Luís Borges & Thorton Wilder
Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Jorge Luís Borges - Photograph Giselle Freund

Salomon saith. There is no new thing upon the earth. So that as Plato had an imagination, that all knowledge was but remembrance; so Salomon giveth his sentence, that all novelty is but oblivion.
Francis Bacon: Essays LVIII.

Does a neuron, or small set of neurons, fire only when responding to the visual image of Jennifer Aniston? An Argentine neuroscientist, Rodrigo Quian Quiroga provides an answer in his recent book that explores the relationship between the work of Jorge Luis Borges and modern forays into the workings of memory. Searching for the Jennifer Aniston neuron

Mediante su memoria el poeta puede descifrar lo invisible.
Jorge Luís Borges - El inmortal

Through memory the poet deciphers the invisible. 

I may have crossed paths with the soon to be blind man in 1964, 65 when I frequented the English bookstore Pigmalion on Avenida Corrientes in Buenos Aires. Jorge Luís Borges bought hundreds of books there. In 1964 my literary tastes were humble and while I knew of the existence of the man my curiousity stopped right there.

Judging by the date on my first Borges book, Ficciones, 1969 I made up for some lost time. In 1969 I had been married to my Rosemary for one year and both of us were giving English lessons at several American companies. One of then was Colgate Palmolive. I remember distinctly in using Ficciones in one of my classes that featured intelligent marketing executives. Once a week we would do simultaneous translation from Spanish into English of one of the stories in Ficciones. Since equality of the sexes was not something I thought about in those days I used a different technique in a class, also at Palmolive that involved executive secretaries (not yet called by the improved epithet of assistants). In that class for several months I taught them to use their nasal passages in such a way that without them knowing I was teaching them to speak with a Texan accent.

These days, in fact today, when my Rosemary noticed that I was in a pretty low fit of depression she told me, “The problem with you, Alex, is that you spend too much time thinking about the past, of your childhood, of your mother and father, of your Buenos Aires garden, of your grandmother, of all your dogs and cats and parrots, of your Melián friends, of Mexico, of the Argentine navy, of the Pampa and prickly pear cactus in the state of Mexico and palm trees in Veracruz. She didn’t go on with the litany of my memories. I thought about it. 

If I am to understand correctly the ending of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (an Osimous Theatre production we saw on Saturday night) the tragedy of the living is that they take everyday occurrences lightly and only remember their importance (particularly the ones that are not when happening) when they are dead. And the dead, in preparation for whatever follows death do their best to forget.

I feel that in spite of Rosemary’s criticism I am doing well in remembering and savouring all that past while at the same time attempting to reconcile it all with my present and a shortened future to come.

In the last few years I read a poem or a short story by Borges once a week.  We know that for a time, beginning in 1955 Borges was the Director of the Argentine National Library. 

Roberto Baschetti, El Viejo Faro, Sept 2013

In September of 2013 I met Roberto Baschetti, who works at the Argentine National Library. Since then, knowing of my interest in Borges, he sends me packages including books, pamphlets and magazines on all things Borgesian. Baschetti’s interest lies in the period when Juan Domingo Perón and wife Evita where in charge in Argentina. But that does not prevent him from scouring the National Library for stuff that might (and it does) interest me.

I live in a city of the Northern Hemisphere. Of late I feel, as my friend Argentine painter Juan Manuel Sánchez used to say, like a penguin in the arctic. But if I slip a CD of Argentine Tango (my fave is Mi Buenos Aires Querido with Daniel Barenboim and Rodolfo Maderos and yes it has a six tangos by Piazzolla) in my Malibu I am far away into a past but paradoxically a present, too, not here, but over there. I seem to live in several worlds at the same time, all interconnected by memory. A labyrinthian memory of which Borges would approve.

The sound of Spanish, like the sound of those other Romance languages, Italian, French and Portuguese has a music to my ears. Even shouted obscenities, in Spanish can sound like poetry.

Consider to remember and its not too close variant (with a different meaning) to memorize. A person with a good memory could be memorious but that word is seldom used. And yet it is used as translation to one of Borges’s most famous stories (from Ficciones) Funes el Memorioso, translated as Funes the Memorious.

Spanish is kinder to memory. We do have memorizar to memorize and recordar to remember. In fact recordar is used most of the time because it sound prosaic and it is. Marcel Proust’s famous En busca de tiempos perdidos (translates as in search of lost time). In Spanish there is another word for memory and to remember. That word is memorar (to remember) and to do it over and over there is the beautiful rememorar.

The story Funes el memorioso has a wonderful sound and meaning in Spanish that will not translate.
Funes el memorioso is about a young man in Uruguay, 19 who has fallen off a horse and has become paralyzed. In exchange for that Ireneo Funes has instant and all inclusive memory for everything. He is able to see the minute difference in clouds seconds before and after. He suffers constant insomnia as he cannot stop from noticing the details of the wall by his bed. 
Funes, we are told, by the protagonist who stands in for a young Borges, is incapable of Platonic ideas, of generalities, of abstraction; his world is one of intolerably uncountable details. He finds it very difficult to sleep, since he recalls "every crevice and every moulding of the various houses which surround him".

Funes quotes a passage from Pliny the Elder to Borges:

ut nihil non iisdem verbis redderetur auditum.

This is from Pliny's Naturalis Historia, Book VII, Chapter 24, on memory. The full passage is: 

 ars postremo eius rei facta et inventa est a Simonide melico, consummata a Metrodoro Scepsio, ut nihil non iisdem verbis redderetur auditum,

which means that an art of memory was devised by the poet Simonides and perfected by Metrodorus of Scepsis, so that nothing heard is not repeated in the same words.

In Spanish Borges writes:

Pensar es olvidar diferencias, es generalizar, abstraer. En el abarrotado mundo de Funes no había sino detalles, casi inmediatos.

To think is to forget differences, to generalize to abstract. The overflowing world of Funes could not contain but details immediate one.(my translation)

Borges also tells us of a project of Funes to remember the moments of his youth. They pile up. He gives up.

In a recent email, the library man Roberto Baschetti has told me that the corner café in Bellavista where we would have our morning coffee with medias lunas (by the train station to town) has closed its doors. I can remember a lot about it and our good times chatting about politics, Boca Juniors (a football club) and yes, Borges.  

Baschetti's packages, like the memories of Funes are piling up. Some of the magazines have photographs of  Borges as a very young man and many more rare ones I had not seen before. It seems now as I get into bed to read Ficciones that the man I never crossed paths on Avenida Corrientes is so much part of my life now that my memory of him is so real. I have many recordings. I can hear his voice as I read.  And best of all I now know that Marcel Proust's In Search of a Lost Time with its plural in its Spanish translation to Tiempos Perdidos is an apt reminder that being a memorioso isn't all that bad.

Funes El Memorioso in Spanish

Funes the Memorious PDF file in English.

Homero Aridjis - Poeta
Tuesday, October 07, 2014

My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Homero Aridjis - Poeta

La Matanza en el Templo Mayor

El capitán buscaba oro en el templo de dios
Soldados ávidos cerraron las salidas
El que tañía el atabal fue decapitado
Y el dios fue despojado de su ropa de papel
Las espadas tumbaron ídolos y derribaron hombres
Los indios para escapar subían por las paredes
o a punto de morir se hacían los muertos
Sombras recién nacidas en el más allá
partieron degollados hacia el Sol
El capitán buscaba oro en el templo de dios

The Slaughter in the Main Temple

The captain sought gold in the temple of god
Greed soldiers sealed the exits
The drummer was decapitated
The god stripped of his paper clothes
Swords tumbled idols   cut down men
The Indians tried to climb the walls
Or at the point of death played dead
Shades newly born in the far land
Setting out    the throats   slit  toward the sun
The captain sought gold in the temple of god

Homero Aridjis – Eyes to See Otherwise – Ojos de Otro Mirar – Selected poems –Translation George Mc Whirter

In December of 2012 I visited Homero Aridjis in Mexico City. I brought along my mother's red shawl. It struck me that after 1975 that red shawl was home for a visit. Aridjis took me to an old house with a long zaguán (entrance) by the zócalo. The house had been one Aridjis had frequented with his father when he was in a boy visiting the city from their hometown in Contepec in the state of Michoacán. The old structure was just a few yards from the modern excavation of the Templo Mayor of which he writes above. The poem was translated by another red shawl subject George McWhirter

Zippy Pinhead Musician
Caitlin Legault Art Model
Holly McRea Model - Poet - Creation Conduit.
Lisa Ha Model - Volunteer - Friend
Carmen Alatorre Diseñadora de vestuario
Roberto Baschetti Sociólogo, Investigador Histórico - Amigo
Jennifer Froese Youth Worker
Rachel Cairns Actor
Jennifer Landels Espadachina
Judith Currelly Pilot- Artist
Jim Erickson Set Decorator
Alexandra Hill Soprano
Georgina Elizabeth Isles Figure Model
Emma Middleton Actor
Mark Pryor Author/Lawyer/Assistant DA Travis County TX
Brother Edwin Charles Reggio, CSC Mentor & Teacher
Veronica Vex Burlesque Dancer
George McWhirter Poet
Raúl Guerrero Montemayor Padre-Compadre
Alexandra Waterhouse-Hayward Maestra
Shirley Gnome Singer/Provocateur
Yeva & Thoenn Glover Dancers/Choreographers
JJ Lee Writer
Jacqueline Model
Cathy Marsden Psychiatrist
André De Mondo Wanderer
Colin MacDonald Saxophonist/Composer
Nina Gouveia Yoga Instructor
Stacey Hutton Excercise Physiologist
Colleen Wheeler Actor
Sarah Rodgers Actor, Director,Mother
Tim Turner - Real Estate Agent
Kiera Hill Dancer
Johnna Wright & Sascha Director/Mother - Son/Dreamer
Decker & Nick Hunt Cat & 19th century amateur
George Bowering Poet
Celia Duthie Gallerist
Linda Lorenzo Mother
Katheryn Petersen Accordionist
Stefanie Denz Artist
Ivette Hernández Actress
Byron Chief-Moon Actor/Dancer
Colin Horricks Doctor
Ian Mulgrew Vancouver Sun Columnist
Jocelyn Morlock Composer
Corinne McConchie Librarian
Rachel Ditor Dramaturg
Patrick Reid Statesman, Flag Designer
Michael Varga CBC Cameraman
Bronwen Marsden Playwright/Actress/Director
David Baines Vancouver Sun Columnist
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward Photographer
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart Student
Sandrine Cassini Dancer/Choreographer
Meredith Kalaman Dancer/Choreographer
Juliya Kate Dominatrix

Zippy Pinhead - Musician
Monday, October 06, 2014

My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Zippy Pinhead - Musician

When Alex approached me to do this photo shoot I was celebrating my 53rd birthday with my close friends Art Bergmann and his wife Sherry, Randy Rampage and Susanne Tabata, Long John Tanner and my wife. I'd had photo shoots with Alex in the past so I knew he had a certain taste for the dramatic effect in his pics. Dressing up like turn of the century bandidos with full regalia to sensitive portraits in a heartbeat, I was honored!  When he told me the story of the red shawl and how long it had been in his family I immediately thought of how many parties this shawl has seen and how much comfort it gave it's owner when the party was over, so I went into the bathroom and sort of threw it up in the air and it landed on my head kinda like the headdress worn by Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia! A cupla twists and I was there. Charging through the sand dunes on my trusty camel, shooting into the air and yelling at the top of my lungs.....Get out of the way you bastards; here I come with thousands of my close friends right behind me. That’s the way I felt when I put on the shawl.

Caitlin Legault Art Model
Holly McRea Model - Poet - Creation Conduit.
Lisa Ha Model - Volunteer - Friend
Carmen Alatorre Diseñadora de vestuario
Roberto Baschetti Sociólogo, Investigador Histórico - Amigo
Jennifer Froese Youth Worker
Rachel Cairns Actor
Jennifer Landels Espadachina
Judith Currelly Pilot- Artist
Jim Erickson Set Decorator
Alexandra Hill Soprano
Georgina Elizabeth Isles Figure Model
Emma Middleton Actor
Mark Pryor Author/Lawyer/Assistant DA Travis County TX
Brother Edwin Charles Reggio, CSC Mentor & Teacher
Veronica Vex Burlesque Dancer
George McWhirter Poet
Raúl Guerrero Montemayor Padre-Compadre
Alexandra Waterhouse-Hayward Maestra
Shirley Gnome Singer/Provocateur
Yeva & Thoenn Glover Dancers/Choreographers
JJ Lee Writer
Jacqueline Model
Cathy Marsden Psychiatrist
André De Mondo Wanderer
Colin MacDonald Saxophonist/Composer
Nina Gouveia Yoga Instructor
Stacey Hutton Excercise Physiologist
Colleen Wheeler Actor
Sarah Rodgers Actor, Director,Mother
Tim Turner - Real Estate Agent
Kiera Hill Dancer
Johnna Wright & Sascha Director/Mother - Son/Dreamer
Decker & Nick Hunt Cat & 19th century amateur
George Bowering Poet
Celia Duthie Gallerist
Linda Lorenzo Mother
Katheryn Petersen Accordionist
Stefanie Denz Artist
Ivette Hernández Actress
Byron Chief-Moon Actor/Dancer
Colin Horricks Doctor
Ian Mulgrew Vancouver Sun Columnist
Jocelyn Morlock Composer
Corinne McConchie Librarian
Rachel Ditor Dramaturg
Patrick Reid Statesman, Flag Designer
Michael Varga CBC Cameraman
Bronwen Marsden Playwright/Actress/Director
David Baines Vancouver Sun Columnist
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward Photographer
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart Student
Sandrine Cassini Dancer/Choreographer
Meredith Kalaman Dancer/Choreographer
Juliya Kate Dominatrix


Previous Posts
Las Cuartetas - Las Violetas & La Posada

The Littlest Heathen Grows Up

Those Underappreciated Spring Rhododendrons

Cassini's Swan Dive & Cassini the Swan

La Modestine Stands Up & Sits Down

Equisetum - Clarinets & Logarithms

Vertical Influences - Patín del Diablo

Pontius Pilate's Wife & Brigid Bazlen

Pascua 2017

To know if any Human eyes were near - Emily Dickin...

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1/22/12 - 1/29/12

1/29/12 - 2/5/12

2/5/12 - 2/12/12

2/12/12 - 2/19/12

2/19/12 - 2/26/12

2/26/12 - 3/4/12

3/4/12 - 3/11/12

3/11/12 - 3/18/12

3/18/12 - 3/25/12

3/25/12 - 4/1/12

4/1/12 - 4/8/12

4/8/12 - 4/15/12

4/15/12 - 4/22/12

4/22/12 - 4/29/12

4/29/12 - 5/6/12

5/6/12 - 5/13/12

5/13/12 - 5/20/12

5/20/12 - 5/27/12

5/27/12 - 6/3/12

6/3/12 - 6/10/12

6/10/12 - 6/17/12

6/17/12 - 6/24/12

6/24/12 - 7/1/12

7/1/12 - 7/8/12

7/8/12 - 7/15/12

7/15/12 - 7/22/12

7/22/12 - 7/29/12

7/29/12 - 8/5/12

8/5/12 - 8/12/12

8/12/12 - 8/19/12

8/19/12 - 8/26/12

8/26/12 - 9/2/12

9/2/12 - 9/9/12

9/9/12 - 9/16/12

9/16/12 - 9/23/12

9/23/12 - 9/30/12

9/30/12 - 10/7/12

10/7/12 - 10/14/12

10/14/12 - 10/21/12

10/21/12 - 10/28/12

10/28/12 - 11/4/12

11/4/12 - 11/11/12

11/11/12 - 11/18/12

11/18/12 - 11/25/12

11/25/12 - 12/2/12

12/2/12 - 12/9/12

12/9/12 - 12/16/12

12/16/12 - 12/23/12

12/23/12 - 12/30/12

12/30/12 - 1/6/13

1/6/13 - 1/13/13

1/13/13 - 1/20/13

1/20/13 - 1/27/13

1/27/13 - 2/3/13

2/3/13 - 2/10/13

2/10/13 - 2/17/13

2/17/13 - 2/24/13

2/24/13 - 3/3/13

3/3/13 - 3/10/13

3/10/13 - 3/17/13

3/17/13 - 3/24/13

3/24/13 - 3/31/13

3/31/13 - 4/7/13

4/7/13 - 4/14/13

4/14/13 - 4/21/13

4/21/13 - 4/28/13

4/28/13 - 5/5/13

5/5/13 - 5/12/13

5/12/13 - 5/19/13

5/19/13 - 5/26/13

5/26/13 - 6/2/13

6/2/13 - 6/9/13

6/9/13 - 6/16/13

6/16/13 - 6/23/13

6/23/13 - 6/30/13

6/30/13 - 7/7/13

7/7/13 - 7/14/13

7/14/13 - 7/21/13

7/21/13 - 7/28/13

7/28/13 - 8/4/13

8/4/13 - 8/11/13

8/11/13 - 8/18/13

8/18/13 - 8/25/13

8/25/13 - 9/1/13

9/1/13 - 9/8/13

9/8/13 - 9/15/13

9/15/13 - 9/22/13

9/22/13 - 9/29/13

9/29/13 - 10/6/13

10/6/13 - 10/13/13

10/13/13 - 10/20/13

10/20/13 - 10/27/13

10/27/13 - 11/3/13

11/3/13 - 11/10/13

11/10/13 - 11/17/13

11/17/13 - 11/24/13

11/24/13 - 12/1/13

12/1/13 - 12/8/13

12/8/13 - 12/15/13

12/15/13 - 12/22/13

12/22/13 - 12/29/13

12/29/13 - 1/5/14

1/5/14 - 1/12/14

1/12/14 - 1/19/14

1/19/14 - 1/26/14

1/26/14 - 2/2/14

2/2/14 - 2/9/14

2/9/14 - 2/16/14

2/16/14 - 2/23/14

2/23/14 - 3/2/14

3/2/14 - 3/9/14

3/9/14 - 3/16/14

3/16/14 - 3/23/14

3/23/14 - 3/30/14

3/30/14 - 4/6/14

4/6/14 - 4/13/14

4/13/14 - 4/20/14

4/20/14 - 4/27/14

4/27/14 - 5/4/14

5/4/14 - 5/11/14

5/11/14 - 5/18/14

5/18/14 - 5/25/14

5/25/14 - 6/1/14

6/1/14 - 6/8/14

6/8/14 - 6/15/14

6/15/14 - 6/22/14

6/22/14 - 6/29/14

6/29/14 - 7/6/14

7/6/14 - 7/13/14

7/13/14 - 7/20/14

7/20/14 - 7/27/14

7/27/14 - 8/3/14

8/3/14 - 8/10/14

8/10/14 - 8/17/14

8/17/14 - 8/24/14

8/24/14 - 8/31/14

8/31/14 - 9/7/14

9/7/14 - 9/14/14

9/14/14 - 9/21/14

9/21/14 - 9/28/14

9/28/14 - 10/5/14

10/5/14 - 10/12/14

10/12/14 - 10/19/14

10/19/14 - 10/26/14

10/26/14 - 11/2/14

11/2/14 - 11/9/14

11/9/14 - 11/16/14

11/16/14 - 11/23/14

11/23/14 - 11/30/14

11/30/14 - 12/7/14

12/7/14 - 12/14/14

12/14/14 - 12/21/14

12/21/14 - 12/28/14

12/28/14 - 1/4/15

1/4/15 - 1/11/15

1/11/15 - 1/18/15

1/18/15 - 1/25/15

1/25/15 - 2/1/15

2/1/15 - 2/8/15

2/8/15 - 2/15/15

2/15/15 - 2/22/15

2/22/15 - 3/1/15

3/1/15 - 3/8/15

3/8/15 - 3/15/15

3/15/15 - 3/22/15

3/22/15 - 3/29/15

3/29/15 - 4/5/15

4/5/15 - 4/12/15

4/12/15 - 4/19/15

4/19/15 - 4/26/15

4/26/15 - 5/3/15

5/3/15 - 5/10/15

5/10/15 - 5/17/15

5/17/15 - 5/24/15

5/24/15 - 5/31/15

5/31/15 - 6/7/15

6/7/15 - 6/14/15

6/14/15 - 6/21/15

6/21/15 - 6/28/15

6/28/15 - 7/5/15

7/5/15 - 7/12/15

7/12/15 - 7/19/15

7/19/15 - 7/26/15

7/26/15 - 8/2/15

8/2/15 - 8/9/15

8/9/15 - 8/16/15

8/16/15 - 8/23/15

8/23/15 - 8/30/15

8/30/15 - 9/6/15

9/6/15 - 9/13/15

9/13/15 - 9/20/15

9/20/15 - 9/27/15

9/27/15 - 10/4/15

10/4/15 - 10/11/15

10/18/15 - 10/25/15

10/25/15 - 11/1/15

11/1/15 - 11/8/15

11/8/15 - 11/15/15

11/15/15 - 11/22/15

11/22/15 - 11/29/15

11/29/15 - 12/6/15

12/6/15 - 12/13/15

12/13/15 - 12/20/15

12/20/15 - 12/27/15

12/27/15 - 1/3/16

1/3/16 - 1/10/16

1/10/16 - 1/17/16

1/31/16 - 2/7/16

2/7/16 - 2/14/16

2/14/16 - 2/21/16

2/21/16 - 2/28/16

2/28/16 - 3/6/16

3/6/16 - 3/13/16

3/13/16 - 3/20/16

3/20/16 - 3/27/16

3/27/16 - 4/3/16

4/3/16 - 4/10/16

4/10/16 - 4/17/16

4/17/16 - 4/24/16

4/24/16 - 5/1/16

5/1/16 - 5/8/16

5/8/16 - 5/15/16

5/15/16 - 5/22/16

5/22/16 - 5/29/16

5/29/16 - 6/5/16

6/5/16 - 6/12/16

6/12/16 - 6/19/16

6/19/16 - 6/26/16

6/26/16 - 7/3/16

7/3/16 - 7/10/16

7/10/16 - 7/17/16

7/17/16 - 7/24/16

7/24/16 - 7/31/16

7/31/16 - 8/7/16

8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17

1/29/17 - 2/5/17

2/5/17 - 2/12/17

2/12/17 - 2/19/17

2/19/17 - 2/26/17

2/26/17 - 3/5/17

3/5/17 - 3/12/17

3/12/17 - 3/19/17

3/19/17 - 3/26/17

3/26/17 - 4/2/17

4/2/17 - 4/9/17

4/9/17 - 4/16/17

4/16/17 - 4/23/17

4/23/17 - 4/30/17