Richard A. Mosby & That Very Cool Barack Obama
Saturday, June 06, 2015
My experience with African/Americans is limited. In 1956 our
Catholic boarding school, St. Edward’s in Austin, Texas had no black boarders. But we had one black day student called Richard Mosby. We never seemed to be aware that he
was black nor did we ever have any issues with him. But he did have a tendency to
mouth off. One day (a day I have not forgotten) he just did not shut up in our
religion class. Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C who was not an inch taller than
five foot picked him up with his left hand ( Brother Edwin was right handed)
and took him to the far wall of the classroom and told him, “You be quiet.”
then dropped him on the spot. Mosby was a good basketball player and a good student when he was not mouthing off. In our ignorance we called his overly graceful walk, that of someone with a chicken butt.
Sometime in the early 60s, I was by then long gone from St. Ed's, the very
fashionable Driskill Hotel on 6th Street (not yet fashionable) had a
problem with the boys of St. Ed’s having their prom there. They knew that there
were a few black boys. The principal of St. Ed’s Brother Peter Celestine called
the Austin Bishop and the problem was quickly resolved. That St. Ed’s prom at
the Driskill was the first integrated prom in the area.
In my one year at St. Edward’s University one of my friends
was Gabriel Burning Spear. He was from what then was called Kenya in Africa.
For our amusement we would go with Gabriel to restaurants and we were always
blocked from entering. Gabriel would have been wearing his ceremonial garb. We
explained to the manager that Gabriel was the son of a United Nations adviser.
Invariably we were allowed in.
Around 1964 I was introduced to a girl whom my friend Robert
said was perfect for me. At the time we were attending Mexico City College. The
curriculum was in English so many of the students were men on G.I Bill. There
were many other Americans including Benjamin (call me Benji) who was from
Chicago. She was very black and when I was introduced she told me, “I recently
converted to Judaism.”
You can imagine what it was like to walk hand in hand with a
black woman in the Mexico City of the time. My mother who was teaching at the
American AlCOA school in Veracruz told me that I could not bring Benji as the
powers-that-be would not approve.
One day Benji at a beatnik café called La Rana Sabia (the
Wise Frog) told me that she never dated a man that in her opinion would not
make good marriage possibilities. I was saved from that likely fate by being drafted into the
Argentine Navy. For a couple of years I received a subscription to Downbeat in
Buenos Aires. I knew who paid for it. I never heard from Benji again.
Having watched American presidents for many years (I am 72)
and considering that I was shooting pool in the Junior/Senior rec room at St. Ed's on September 20, 1960 while watching Nixon
and Kennedy debate on the TV I believe I know a bit about the matter. Earlier
in the late 50 my class went to Washington DC and we went to Senator Lyndon
Johnson’s office. He gave us all a card (signed my him) certifying we had
attended a session of the senate. I looked at the card (to my detriment as I
look back) and promptly threw it away.
Since Obama became president my wife and I have been
watching MSNBC and we are fans of the man. For us there is nothing that he can
do wrong. I would even go as far that the criticism that he is standoffish is
what makes him (and here it is!) the first cool American President.
By simply recommending the novels of Ian Fleming President
John Kennedy was close to being cool.
The fact that President Bill Clinton played the saxophone did not make
him cool. It is hard to be cool and be from the state of Arkansas.
Obama is cool in every possible way that Governor Chris
Christy can never be. Nor can Jeb Bush, think that he shocked the US Nation by
declaring his candidacy in shirt sleeves (no jacket and yes in spite of it all
it was a button-down shirt and that did not help).
Obama looks good in his clothes and has a sophisticated
sense of humour.
Why has nobody noticed how he oozes coolness? William Gibson would say, “He is hip.”
Friday, June 05, 2015
In Vancouver the crocosmia (once romantically called a
montbretia) has become a vile weed. It was introduced to our city during the
height of the gardening boom in the early 90s. I have two kinds Crocosmia ‘Lucifer” and ‘Jenny Bloom’.
No matter what you call them they are red or orange in colour. Rosemary pulls
them by the bushel but they keep coming back. If you read the second paragraph
below from Wikipedia you will find out why it is a weed.
I love the plant because before it is about to bloom or when
it is in semi bloom the inflorescence reminds me of one of those crested
Once a crocosmia is kept in its place it is a cheerful addition
to the garden in the month of June/July.
J. E. Planchon, 1851) (montbretia) is a small genus of flowering plants in the
iris family, Iridaceae. It is native to the grasslands of southern and eastern
Africa, ranging from South Africa to Sudan. One species is endemic to
They can be evergreen
or deciduous perennials that grow from basal underground corms. The alternate
leaves are cauline and ensiform (sword shaped). The blades are parallel-veined.
The margin is entire. The corms are unusual in forming vertical chains with the
youngest at the top and oldest and largest buried most deeply in the soil.
The roots of the lowermost corm in a chain are contractile roots and drag the
corm deeper into the ground where conditions allow. The chains of corms are fragile
and easily separated, a quality that has enabled some species to become
invasive and difficult to control in the garden.
Son coeur est un luth suspendu
Thursday, June 04, 2015
that the scariest film I ever saw in 1960 at the Varsity on Congress Avenue in
Austin was Roger Corman’s The House of Usher with Vincent Price. Blood oozed
from the walls and the screams of Myrna Fahey when she is buried alive unnerved
me. For a long time I remembered that the scariest part was when Price was
playing on a harpsichord. For years I disliked the instrument for that reason.
But I was wrong. Price played a lute. Poe’s novel began with an epigraph by
Pierre-Jean de Béranger:
est un luth suspendu;
le touche il resonne.
heart is a poised lute;
as soon as
it is touched, it resounds".
are a quote from Le Refus, a song by French songwriter Pierre-Jean de Béranger,
a (roughly speaking) contemporary of Poe’s. Beranger’s lyrics actually read
"Mon cœur" (my heart), but Poe changed them to read "Son
cœur" (his/her heart).
|Vincent Price - Photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
Konstantin Bozhinov who plays the lute in Vancouver and hails from Bulgaria a
couple of years ago sported long hair. It did not take too much of my
imagination to make his homeland Transylvania! He plays it gently so my
imagination hast to be on forced drive when I listen to him.
my photographic files I was going through Julian Soltis’s pictures. She is a
baroque cellist who lives in Seattle. I spotted this picture which I took with
the now discontinued Kodak Technical Pan. It is very slow and its extended red
sensitivity makes skin glow. For effect I turnedthe photograph which is in b+w into a lurid red.
imagination Vincent Price on lute and Juliana Soltis on cello would have made a
great pair!A very scary pair!
Taking It Off With No Compunction
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
I have a friend who is struggling to write an essay on the
paradoxes that a man faces in the 21st century in talking about,
writing about and addressing women.
At one time this old man, when he was young would not have
dared to peruse a Playboy in a Mexico City bus. For one the magazine was
banned. I remember getting very excited about the few Mexican magazines that
showed Brigitte Bardot’s cleavage.
The closest one would have gotten to pornography were the
sex scenes in Frank G. Slaughter’s medical novels. The 1958 film, The Vikings
with Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh did not get close to being as
steamy as the novel version, The Viking (1951) by Edison Marshall. I know because I read the novel in 1955. This was
hot stuff. If any of the Catholic brothers at St. Ed’s in Austin had caught me
with it I would have been sent to immediate confession!
In those days of the mid and late 50s it was impossible to
have a girlfriend unless you could dance. I was in a boarding school and we had
as “sisters” the girls from St. Mary’s the Catholic school on the other side of
Austin (by the University of Texas). The place to connect with them was in our
basketball gym sock hops or when St. Mary’s had the equivalent. I never went
because I could not dance. I was too shy. But I did manage to find one, Judy
Reyes who was a cheerleader. I was in the school band so we were both present
in school games.
Judy was the most beautiful apparition in the world and I
treated her as such. I have an idea (now) that I might have been far too
All that changed as I got older and soon we had free-love. I
remember going to San Francisco around 1967 and meeting up with a female school
chum from Mexico City. She invited me to her house in the outskirts for a
weekend. I had to take a train. I remember little of it all except I know there
were at least two women with whom I shared a bed on that weekend.
That is not the case in my own Buenos Aires, right now. This
is particularly the case with the moneyed elite (my family). There young men
woo women for a year and there is never any hanky-panky. It is old-fashioned
but I am sure that beneath it all those women are like other women who consider
themselves liberated. Of course no Latin man would ever go Dutch or allow the
woman to pay for the meal.
One of the restrictions for married couples until recently
in Argentina was the inability to find an apartment at a fair price. More often
than not the couple would live the girl’s parents. Imagine that!
So now this 72 year-old man connects with a woman model. She
comes to my living room and in a few seconds all clothes have been shed as she
faces my camera. I am in shock at the lack of (I don’t know what to call it)
Has the world changed that much? I know what’s next. Soon we will not be able to utter or
write, “Gay, lesbian & transgender.” We will have to add hermaphrodite.And to the statement, "No means no," we now have, "Yes means yes."
That Glamarous Kim
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
These days I am going through my very large photo files
attempting to reduce 13 four-drawer cabinets to perhaps 10. I will be getting
rid of many business shots but will be keeping Robert Friedland as you never
know when he will be in the news again.
Years ago I had photographs of a young boy around 14 and
every time I picked them up I wondered if I should keep them or file them. I
filed them and the result was very good money in the bank as the young boy was
from the CBC drama series called Leo & Me. The young boy was Michael J.Fox
Today I went through some other files which included this
one of Kim. I first met her at Wreck Beach and then I watched her perform in
what were then euphemistically called show lounges. I last saw her when she was
an assistant at Fanny Kiefer’s
(then) radio show. I was a guest. She looked at
me and with her expression instructed me to keep my mouth shut on her past
Kim was best friends of a beautiful and glamorous woman
called Tarren. Kim competed in the only way she thought she could (I now
realize how wrong she was). Her acts were off the wall and humorous. Wonky
would be a good description.
One day she came to my Burnaby Studio and I photographer her
with Kodak B+w Infrared film. The film showed something of Kim that I should
have seen before. She, too was glamorous. Kim brought her younger sister and I
photographed them both wit that magical film.
These photographs make me smile as I remember Kim’s almost
deadpan voice and her jokes.
Pamela Martin's Clam
Who Is This?
Monday, June 01, 2015
Her father was Henry. Her twin sister was Sugar and he was
married to Penelope. She boldly suggested to be unsexed. Has a fondness for cowboy boots and a trout. Likes dumps.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
I was inspired in 2000 to do photographic derivatives of Balthus. I wrote about it here
, and here
. Had I not noticed that Balthus image and article in the February 2001 New York Times I would have never known. That is the price (ignorance) one must pay in not having had an arts education.
Luckily for me my "inquietudes
", (a word in Spanish that does not exactly translate as uneasiness but is about the restlesness someone with artistic, even if slight sensibilities might experience) could be shared with my friend Helen who eagerly volunteered for my derivations.
|Balthus, Le Salon 1942|
More recently a North Vancouver librarian and I worked on some Edward Hopper
. With my perennial subject/model Bronwen I found this
that had a hint of Hopper.
In today's Sunday NY Times Book Review I read of an unknown American artist (unknown to this unwashed one) Thomas Hart Benton who did have some issues in portraying the Japanese during WWII and similar ones with African/Americans. But his oil painting on canvas Hollywood
charmed me. Perhaps a project inspired by it might be beyond my capacity now. And yet. The problem these days is that the increased isolation of someone over 70 from the scheme of city life has left me bereft of willing subjects with which I can explore my inquietudes
|Thomas Hart Benton, American (1889-1975). Hollywood, 1937-1938.
Tempera with oil on canvas (mounted on plywood panel), 56 x 84 inches
(142.2 x 213.4 cm). The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City,
Missouri. Bequest of the artist., |