The Demographics Have Changed
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Today is December 8,
2014 and I find myself noting that I am missing blogs for November 22 and then
December 1m 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7. I don’t think I have ever fallen behind on my
daily ritual, one that I obeyed since January 2006. I will post this for November 21. It is nice to go back in time without the proper machine!
|Elizabeth Taylor - Raintree County 1957 - Queen of the Silver Screen by Ian Lloyd|
There could be several
reasons. One could be the decaying November to December weather and the dark
days, that become so earlier in the day.
Another could be the
presence of my 17 year-old granddaughter who has been living with us now for
seven weeks. That has been tough. As a younger man in his 40s I could handle
(almost) my teenage daughters but at my age now this is a different game of
While I do not accept
comments in my blog I do feel these days like my blog is a message inserted in
a bottle as I live in a barren island far away from civilization.
I get weekly reports
from Twitter advising me of my more popular tweets (links to my blogs but
including a photograph). Consider that a blog may have been seen by 900 people.
That may sound just fine until you check on the second statistic that informs me
that four or five people then clicked on to the link to the blog.
My Christmas gift
budget is zero. It has to be on the money I get from my Canada Pension. I went
to the Burnaby Public Library today. They had a withdrawn book sale. I
purchased (all large and pristine picture books) on Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine
Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe (the Niagara photos) and two huge picture books of
wonderfully photographed diverse creatures in a studio and the other of snakes
in jet black backgrounds. The books were three for $0.35 or one for $0.15. I
had just enough money, change in my pocket and an empty wallet, to buy those
books and I had to let go of the Monet
Garden one for lack of
more coin. I talked to the two librarians sitting behind a semi-circular desk
in what is a most imposingly modern and large Metrotown branch. They told me
(in obviously politically correct euphemism) that the demographic had changed.
That the books I had found for a song had been originally purchased for “special”
reasons (whatever that is) and that since they had not been regularly checked
out they had to go.
I have long trashed an
email communication from the present head of the Vancouver Public Library who
wrote that the VPL is not an archive repository of books. The books there are
active and alive and have to be read. If not they end up in book bins. One of
the staffers in my Oakridge Public Library has told me that many books have
been thrown in garbage dumpers. She has actually done part of that work.
With books purchased
for a song, with dark rainy days, and with a brooding teenager at home, my
melancholy prevents me (at least it is a good excuse) from contributing with
regularity to this blog. As the days get brighter with the Christmas season
perhaps I will change my attitude.
There Looks Very Much Like Here
Friday, November 21, 2014
|A panoramic view of the surface of Mars from the Curiosity rover. Mt. sharp can be seen in the distance.|
Few now are old enough
to remember what it what it was like before globalization. Or perhaps they do
remember but do not want to dwell on it. Dwelling on it can be uncomfortable.
I remember the first
time I had American lime Jell-O in Buenos
Aires when I was 8. It was ambrosia (not that I knew
of that word then). It did not taste at all like the local stuff which I think
may have been Royal.
Just a bit older I was
mandated by my mother to put on Argentine-made blue jeans and go with them to
the American Grammar School where I was the impoverished student who did not
pay the high tuition because my mother taught at the American High School. My
fellow classmates wore Levis
or Lees. When you folded up the cuffs of my ratty Argentine jeans they did not
have that elegant seem found in the American brands.
The rich American kids
all somehow chewed Bazooka or Double Bubble. Argentines had yet to imitate
American bubble gum.
When somehow my mother
gave me (I have no idea where she purchased them) a pair of Texan-made cowboy
boots with brass spurs (fake but the jangled beautifully) I was almost proud. I
could hide the ugly seems of my jeans inside the boots.
My father, who besides
being a journalist for the Buenos Aires Herald worked as the translator to the
new Indian Embassy invited his embassy friends for curry (!!) at home the
gentlemen, very black they were and some wore exotic turbans, showed up in a
Hillman Minx. Nobody in my neighbourhood has ever seen such a car. It became
more wonderfully strange when one of my mother’s friends (she worked at the
American Embassy) visited us in a brand-new powder-blue Ford I was in jealousy
heaven (my street friends, I mean). But this was topped twice after.
|Michael Collins - Earthrise Over Smyth's Sea|
My “girlfriend” Susan
Stone whose father was the General Manager for GM in Argentina would send a chauffeured
Cadillac to pick me up so I could play at her house. It was there where I saw
my first in-the-flesh television set. The Filipino Minister to the Filipino
Ministry (not yet and embassy but bigger than a consulate), Narciso Ramos had a
liking for me. He showed up one day with his son Fidel (in West Point Cadet
uniform and one day became President of the Philippines)
in his dark blue 1950 Lincoln and the three of us went to a Harlem Globe
Trotters game at Luna
When my mother told me
that we were going to move to Mexico
(even in Spanish I pronounced that with the English sounding X) it was as if we
were going to a place that was most exotic (and it was). She spoke of volcanoes
and tortillas (until then Spanish omelets).
Even when we arrived
everything had its place in maps. Some of the illustrated world maps
(particularly the American ones) showed a sleeping Mexican with a sombrero
resting (how could Americans not know about the thorns) on a cactus. Filipino
women under conical hats planted rice, gauchos rode the plains of Argentina, cowboys, and sometimes Indians, in
the USA and the most
endearing man in short leather pants with suspenders, a feather in his cap,
smiled over Germany.
In my world German
cameras were the best and the Japanese made poor copies. In my world Chryslers
had powerful engines with innovative push-button transmissions while I could not
figure out how to pronounce Peugeot.
But soon enough I
found myself, with my wife and two daughters in Vancouver and I was hit by the
strangeness of Mexican looking Canadian Indians (that’s what they were in 1975)
who did not understand Spanish. They also did not seem to have red skin.
An Argentine nephew of
mine in the late 80s asked me how I could tell the difference between the
Chinese and the Japanese. In our times the only Japanese person residing in Buenos Aires was a man
called Matsumoto. The Chinese were nowhere to be seen. Alberto Fujimori, the Japanese
President of Peru,
in the 90s was called El Chinito (the little Chinese Man).
I told my nephew that
it was easy to tell the difference between the Japanese and the Chinese. And
when there was doubt, usually the person in question was Korean.
It was in the mid 70s
that I first saw a Russian car. I stopped to look at it as if had recently
landed from Jupiter. The metal seemed different in my eyes. I was proud of my
first real camera which I purchased for $100 in 1958. It was and is a
Pentacon-F made in Dresden.
Embossed in the leather bottom is: Made in Russian Occupied Germany.
evened the playing field with the exception that the rich are still there (but
richer) and the poor are still there (but poorer). Coffee at a Mexican
MacDonald’s will taste as terribly as one in Vancouver
or in Peking (sorry, Beijing).
My first moment of feeling
I belonged to this strange changing world happened, strangely not when Neil
Armstrong walked on the moon on July 21st, 1969, but years later
when I first saw that photograph of earthrise over the moon taken by astronaut
Michael Collins. For the first time and many times after that first time, I
looked at the image and said to myself, “We, are all, from there as seen by
three of us from here.” That was the moment for me when we became really
Now can look at a most recent photograph of Mars
taken by the Curiosity rover and it looks just like here and it is difficult for me
to conjure that feeling of not feeling I am not from there but from here. You
see there looks very much like here.
28 months on Mars
Shall We Have A Drink First Or Shall We Go Right To Bed?
Thursday, November 20, 2014
"I am a camera with its shutter open,
quite passive, recording, not thinking.”
Goodbye to Berlin - Christopher Isherwood
"Shall we have a drink first or shall we go right to bed?"
Sally Bowles (Julie Harris) to Christopher Isherwood (Laurence Harvey) in I Am A Camera
My grandmother used to
often say this of people who put foot in mouth.
ignorancia es atrevida. Ignorance is daring.
Asomó el rabo. He
showed his tail.
The latter remark had
to do with the fact that my Roman Catholic grandmother had been born in
Catholic Spain in the 19th century and people then made comments
related to Darwin
and that mankind had apes as ancestors.
The above is but a
gentle reminder to me that at age 72 I still live and learn. The learning bit
seems to be quickening as the more I read and the more I see, the more I know
how little I know.I had never heard of the film I Am a Camera and for reasons that escape me, little of what I read about author Christopher Isherwood in my NY Times stuck in my memory. I Am a Camera came into my consciousness (sort of randomly) while reading Pauline Kael - 5001 Nights at the Movies while sitting where "el rey va solo."
I Am a
Camera is a 1955 film directed by Henry Cornelius starring Laurence
Harvey, Julie Harris, Shelley Winters and Anton Diffring. No film with Julie
Harris can ever not be good. It is a change to see the aristocratic Diffring
play a repressed Jewish man when he later appeared mostly as scary Nazi
officers in American war films.
There is only one copy
of I Am a Camera in Vancouver
that I know of. It is currently at home rented to me by Limelight Video on
Broadway and Blanca. It is a VHS tape so I have my now most useful RCA cables
connecting my recently brought-back-from-basement- retirement VHS machine to my
Sony Trinitron TV.
Of the film my friend
John Lekich (who has never seen it) told me that when the Broadway play (also
with Julie Harris) premiered in 1951 noted American theatre critic Walter Kerr said
of the production directed by John Van Druten. “Me no Leica.”
The film was
entertaining, funny (and best of all it did not have Joel Gray in it. If you wonder why; just look it up.) It
managed to only hint of Christopher Isherwood’s (played by big -haired Laurence
Harvey) sexuality when Harvey
says, “I am not the marrying kind.” British censors in 1955 must have been
There is a tiny twisty
connection for me that came to mind when I finished seeing I Am a Camera. In
the late 80s Les Wiseman and I would sometimes skip warm-up acts at the
Commodore concerts when the bands were bad or not sophisticated enough for
sophisticated rock music critic Wiseman. We would walk around the corner to our
favourite cheap beer hangout, the Dufferin at the Dufferin Hotel. It had second-tier exotic dancers
who in our opinion were surprisingly inventive to compensate for perceived
lacked charms. One of the waiters looked exactly like Laurence Harvey. He must
have known this as he cultivated that big hair protruding over his forehead.
One such day, the warm-up
band was terrible. We left the Commodore and we ran into our favourite exotic, Miss
Mew who was the only dancer in town who included the music of Lou Reed in her act. She asked
us where we were going. We answered. She said, “It’s changed.”
We sat down and
ordered our beer. The Harvey
waiter was not in evidence. I then told Wiseman, “There are quite a few men
here who are holding hands.” Wiseman noted, finished his beer and said, “Let’s
go.” We never returned and I believe neither did the dancers. The Dufferin,
indeed had changed.
I never did see a
waiter at the Dufferin with Nordic good-looks who might have played a Nazi
officer in an American war film.
St. Joan of Arc, Big Macs & Meg Roe
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
St. Joan of Arc: Shall
I arise from the dead and come back to you, a living woman?
made you a saint, we had no hand in the business. Let Rome decide.
Cauchon: Stay where
you are, woman. A dead saint is always safer for the Church than a living one...
There are some people
who go to Macdonald’s and yet cannot abide the Big Macs. They might tell you
that they go for the fries. And I cannot fault them.
In the same way you
may not want to spend the money to go to the theatre. You might be persuaded to
do so only if the play is an experimental one or at the opposite extreme one
that is tried and true. You might then want to go to see It’s a Wonderful Life
this season. As far as I know if that is your decision you will be out of luck.
On the other hand you
might want to go to see a play that is rarely performed. Such a play is George
Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan. and Arts Club Theatre Company presentation at the Stanley. Should you want to see the 1957 film version
directed by Otto Preminger, starring Jean Seberg your only game in town is a
VHS recording at Limelight Video on Broadway and Alma. Not even the Vancouver
Public Library has it.
St. Joan, starring Meg
Roe and a long cast of who’s who Vancouver
thespians is having a few more performances until this Sunday, November 23. There
is a matinee this Saturday at 2 plus an evening performance and a matinee on
Why am I telling you
For many years writer
Les Wiseman and I would go to rock concerts at the Commodore (Wiseman had a
Vancouver Magazine column called In One Ear to which I contributed as a
photographer). Because we were snobs we would sometimes go to see the excellent
warm-up act and then skip (over a beer) the headliners.
You might not be
religious and not interested in plays with a religious content. You might have
all kinds of other excuses not to see St. Joan but as Wiseman always told me,
paraphrasing Hunter S. Thompson, “As your attorney I strongly suggest you see
this.” Wiseman was always right.
My reason for suggesting
St. Joan is simply that you want to watch a
virtuoso acting performance which will be remembered for many years.
PBO, Curtis Daily, Patricia Hutter & Two Basses On A Date
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The Pacific Baroque
Orchestra is presenting this program on Friday November 28 and on Sunday
|Curtis Daily in my garden|
A curious fact is that
perhaps because the program includes two composers (besides that of 17th
century Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Bibern) of the late 18th century,
Luigi Boccherini and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a rare instrument and its owner
are traveling from Portland to play in it. Curtis Daily and his baroque bass
are both participants and members of the Portland Baroque Orchestra. Those who
know will tell you that since the orchestra is headed by violinist Monica
Huggett, the standards of the orchestra are as high as they come. If anything
that also tells you that the demands of Pacific Baroque Orchestra Musical
Director and virtuoso harpshichordist, Alexander Weimann are as high. Daily is also a member of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra
|Patricia Hutter & Nicolo|
Interesting too is
that Daily and his bass have a date on Athlone Street, Saturday November 29 at
12:30 PM with my near neighbour Patricia Hutter (formerly a bass player for the
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra) and her Italian bass called Nicolo.
Of his bass Daily
wrote me this:
Just a thought for
Alex, I would really like to take some photos of both of the old Italian basses
when we visit Patricia.
My bass was made in Venice, Italy,
circa 1770, so it's pretty old now, but probably not as old as Patricia's. My
bass was most likely commissioned from the shop whose name is associated with
it, Ignacio Ongaro (one of the big violin shops in Venice at the time), by a school or church.
Its dimensions were probably roughed out by a boy, then finished up by somebody
that knew what they were doing. I can show you the tool marks where the
apprentice went too far.
The bass was still in Venice in 1906, which I
know because of a repair label inside it from a well known Venetian maker,
dated 1906 for repairs that he had made to it. At some point after that it made
it's way to Oakland California in the Italian 20th century Italian migration;
likely in pieces because that would be simpler given the horrible conditions
that many of them travelled to the US in. The person I bought it from found it
in a violin shop in Oakland
in the early 60s in pieces. He bought it and eventually had it restored. He was
the principal bassist in the San Francisco Symphony for many years, and has
just in the last decade retired.
I am looking forward to perhaps finding ou, when Daily, Hutter and the two basses meet, if Daily has a name for his Venetian instrument. And perhaps, too, he might explain to me the difference (if there is one) between a baroque bass and a violone.
Hilary & A Gray Card At The Manhattan
Monday, November 17, 2014
|Hilary Waterhouse-Hayward, 6, UBC - Marine Drive 1977|
One of the toughest
jobs, one that I can do only on my own is to file my photographs and negatives.
Some of them defy filing unless I had an easy to install computer cross-referencing
As an example I found
an envelope that said ferry from Saltspring, Noblex, May 2013. I took these
pictures using my swivel lens panoramic camera which produces very wide images 2¾
x 7 inches in size. I finally decided to file them under an existing folder labelled
BC Ferries. I asked Rosemary, “When I am dead will you know where to look? BC,
or British or ferry?”
All this comes to mind
in the heels of the death of Pat Quinn who had an accelerated heart rhythm like
yours truly and was one year younger that I was.
On a more positive
approach I found a negative sleeve with colour negatives that I took in 1977.
At the time I was attempting to learn how to print colour negatives. In order
to print them, one of the better methods was to have Kodak gray card in one of
the exposures as a reference. The idea was to print that negative and make the
gray in the card gray. Then colours such as flesh tones (always tricky) would
fall into place. The problem with these particular negatives is that the film
stock (colour negative) similar to motion picture film stock is highly unstable
with time. Since these negatives are 37 years old there are shifts in the
different layers of the negative. You might note that in the shadows my 6
year-old daughter Hilary’s limbs are purple. To make them less so I must add
yellow. But if I add yellow… Compounding the problem, the light in the shade of
the Manhattan Apartments on Thurlow and Robson was blue (shade is almost always
blue) or that the light in Stanley
park in the fall was a mixture of green and yellow.
In spite of it all I
like these pictures and here they are for anybody to enjoy.
The Manhattan had yet to be “restored” or “fixed
up”. Inside most of the apartments were in perfect disrepair. And yet I believe
that when the building was indeed renovated some of the additions destroyed its
look. The photographs of Hilary there suffer a bit from the fact that I was, at
the time, fiddling with a new 28mm wide angle.
|Hilary in Stanley Park|
|Alexandra, Gaticuchi & Hilary|
Microcosmos Quartet, Béla Bartók & Tom Cone's Laughing Ghost
Sunday, November 16, 2014
|Tom Cone - 1947 - 2012|
Béla Bartók wrote six
string quartets. His fifth he composed in 1934. Eighty years later I heard it
for the first time with a laughing ghost over my shoulder.
Thanks to (because might
be a better choice of word) the Microcosmos String Quartet headed by Marc
Destrubé on violin, Andrea Siradze, violin, Rebecca Windham, cello and Tawnya
Popoff on viola, I found this work uncommonly lyrical. How is this possible?
Perhaps it has to do
with the fact that for the last year I have heard Bartók’s first four quartets,
more than once in concerts held in pleasant surroundings, homes of music lovers,
all performed by the Microcosmos Quartet. With those Bartok compositions I have
also listened to all (three) of Benjamin Britten’s string quartets.
With the 20th
century over ever so most definitely it was about time I was exposed to this
kind of music. It is the purpose and goal of Microcosmos (info on the reason
for this name here) to promote this kind of music that is so underplayed which
has been at the same time so influential. I sometimes think that Bartók is in
the same camp of notoriety/fame as Noam Chomsky. People know who he is but you
can never pin them down in being able to explain them.
Destrubé has helped us
the frequent concert goers to his quartet Bartók concerts to humanize and
soften the man. One story is that Bartók’s son Peter watched his father go into
his study, where he worked on his compositions, and close the door. Minutes later
he heard his father repeatedly laughing.
Sitting barely five
feet away from the quartet in this last nicely sunny afternoon I knew that the
surroundings of the house were familiar. Indeed I was in the house of Karen
Matthews, who was the partner of Vancouver
playwright and librettist Tom Cone. Everything in the house nicely smacked of
an interest in good books, design and art. In fact we were informed that many concerts
of new music have been played there.
Behind me there was a
nice young man with a smile on his face. The nice young man, Thomas Weideman,
born in 1992, was there to listen with us to the premiere (East
Vancouver premiere, that is) of his 2014 work changing at the same
Between R. Murray Schafer’s
1970 String Quartet No. 1 and Bartók’s lyrical (at times!) String Quartet No. 5
we heard the quartet play, purely on their instrument’s harmonics, Weideman’s
soft and pleasing (a palate cleanser, Destrubé called it) piece.
Interesting to us,
since Destrubé always explains the facts and the story behind the works his
quartet plays, was learning that while most composers’ quartets put an effort to
bring together those two violins, viola and cello, Schafer had done the
opposite! The musicians all tried to escape one of a time from the constraints
of the composition.
If you add to the warm
surroundings with pleasant people the idea that a laughing ghost was present it
all added to a fine musical Sunday in which I can now attest that should I hear
any of those first five Bartók quartets in a recording or on the radio I just
might be able to identify that so serious Hungarian.