En Casilla Tumatae & Pauline Kael
Saturday, August 15, 2015
My mother was born in Manila so I have some smattering of Tagalog.
En casilla tumatae
(variant in casillas tumatae
) is how some Filipinos say in Tagalog, “donde el rey va solo
”(where the king goes alone). In short tagalog borrows a Spanish word for little house, casilla
, and tumatae
means to poop.
In our guest bathroom, one of the few bathrooms in our house where the toilet works I have five books.
1. Recollections of Great Gardeners – Graham Stuart Thomas
2. The World’s Worst Aircraft – From Pioneering Failures to Multimillion Dollar Disasters by Jim Winchester.
3. Dogfight – Air Combat Adversaries – Head to Head – Robert Jackson & Jim Winchester.
4. A Guide for the Curious Film Lover – The New York Times – The Best DVDs You’ve Never Seen, Just Missed or Almost Forgotten. Edited by Peter M. Nichols with Introduction by A.O. Scott
5. Pauline Kael 5001 Nights at the Movies – A Guide from A to Z
When I sit I like to leaf through the above. Last night I randomly opened by dog-eared Pauline Kael. It opened on page 506.
This is what I found:
Ruggles of Red Gap
US (1935): Comedy
92 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc
Charles Laughton starred in this justly honored version of the venerable comedy by Harry Leon Wilson. (There were two earlier versions--one in 1918, and one in 1923 with Edward Everett Horton--and a later version in 1950, called FANCY PANTS, with Bob Hope.) The Laughton film, directed in a calm, restrained style by Leo McCarey, is just about irresistible, even with its big scene--Laughton, an English valet in the Old West, reciting the Gettysburg Address in a saloon, as the camera pans across the awed faces of the cowhands. It's a bit much, but it works like magic. The cast could hardly be better: Roland Young is the Englishman who loses the valet in a poker game, Mary Boland and Charlie Ruggles are the rich American couple who win him, and ZaSu Pitts is the widow the valet courts. With Maude Eburne, Lucien Littlefield, Willie Fung, Libby Taylor, and Leila Hyams. Paramount.
As soon as I was finished I went to my computer and looked the film up in Limelight Video
. They had a copy in VHS (my machine has been operational and installed for some time now).
Today Saturday I fetched Ruggles of Red Gap and my Rosemary, daughter Lauren and my granddaughter Lauren, 13, laughed through all of it.
I explained all the above to Lauren including the reference to Tagalog. I also added that as a little boy my mother often talked about Zasu Pitts. When she did I always laughed.
My friend Mark Budgen
(a very serious man) a few years ago gave me the statistics on how many books one can read in a lifetime. He mentioned that with the fewer years we had left we had to be very choosy about the books we read as time was running out. I understand today, more than ever, how true that is. This also applies to films not seen. Making a list is much too complicated.
I think that using randomness is the best way.
Charles Laughton delivered in spades.
Sukie - Hair of Plangent Color
Friday, August 14, 2015
Sukie sprinkled powdered nutmeg on the circular glass of her hand mirror until there was nothing left of the image but the gold-freckled green eyes or, when she finally moved her head, her monkeyish and overlipsticked lips. With these lips she recited in a solemn whisper seven times the obscene and sacred prayer to Cernunnos.
Sukie undressed, first slipping off her low-heeled square
toed shoes, and then removing the hunting jacket, and then pushing the untied
suede skirt down over her hips, and then unbuttoning the silk blouse of palest beige,
the tint of an engraved invitation, and pushing down her half-slip, the pink
brown of a tea rose, and her white panties with it, and lastly uncoupling her
bra and leaning forward with extended arms so the two emptied cups fell down her
arms and into her hands, lightly; her exposed breasts swayed outward with this
motion. Sukie’s breasts were small enough to keep firm in air, rounded cones
whose tips had been dipped in a deeper pink without there being any aggressive jut
of buttonlike nipple. Her body seemed a flame, a flame of soft white fire to
Alexandra, who watched as Sukie calmly stooped to pick up her underthings up
from the floor and drop them into the chair that was like a shadow materialized
and them matter-of- factly rummaged in her big loose flapped pocketbook for
some pins to put up her hair of that pale yet plangent color called red but
that lies between apricot and the heart of yew wood. Her hair was this color
wherever it was, and her pinning gesture bared the two tufts, double in shape
like two moths alighted sideways, in her armpits. This was progressive of her,
Alexandra and Jane had not yet broken with the patriarchal command to shave
laid upon them when they were young and learning to be women. In the Biblical
desert women had been made to scrape their armpits with flint; female hair
challenged men, and Sukie as the youngest of the witches felt least obliged to
trim and temper her natural flourishing.
John Updike, The Witches of Eastwick
Thursday, August 13, 2015
In the early 70s a dearest friend and mentor, my Spanish
grandmother, María de los Dolores (Lolita) Reyes de Irureta Goyena traveled
back from Cairo to my mother’s home in Veracruz. I looked into her once lively,
happy and intelligent eyes and saw that nobody was home. It was my first
perception of dementia.
Until then my abuelita,
who was a coloratura soprano and a fine pastel artist had been my stalwart defender.
In my childhood she prevented me from getting chinelazos (spankings with
Filipino slippers) from my mother. She defended my quirks and misbehaviour by
declaring that like her I, too was an artist.
In fact until the mid 90s I never acknowledged to myself
that I was an artist, in spite of my abue’s affirmation.
Since my entry into Vancouver, via Mexico City in 1975 with my wife and two daughters I
have been a fairly successful commercial and magazine
photographer. Some 20 years ago I began to write, too. Perhaps I had inherited
the journalistic talents of my father George who worked for the Buenos Aires
Herald in the 40s and 50s.
But it wasn't until the mid 90s that I branched into photographic
art (but preventing criticism by stating that I was no artist but an efficient
technician). The bulk of this so-called art was my frequent (I started around
1977) interest in the undraped female human form. Since 1977 I have taken
hundreds if not many thousands of them.
In this age of pornography I define it as an attempt at art that is done
in bad taste. I must confess that I tried shooting pornography a few times but I was
always thwarted by good taste (not political correctness) and a built-in filter
in my head prevented me from pressing the shutter.
In the early 90s on a trip to Buenos Aires I was involved in
heated arguments with my very Argentine cousins and nephews. I asked them how a
toothpaste company could justify an ad featuring a female in a skimpy bikini. I
told them that no such ad could ever be seen in my now home of Canada. They
attacked my manhood telling me that I was “afeminado” (they used a much
stronger word that I will not place here).
When I see pictures of women (buxom or not so) posing by
Mustangs, Ferraris or by Harley Davidsons I see these as pornographic in that
they objectify women as accessories no different from side mirrors.
In my winter of life with my body not reacting to the calls
of the wild I find that my thoughts on beauty, women, the human form, not to
mention such bits as cleavage, thighs, etc are more cerebral. I think that this
cerebral (literally in my head with fond memories of below-the-belt rumblings
of a distant past) point of view is helping me take some of the most erotic
photographs of my life.
I will acknowledge that I appreciate my wife Rosemary’s
long suffering tolerance on the matter but I have to report here that another member of my
family without ever having said it out loud considers me to be a pornographer.
would often state “Nadie es profeta en su tierra.”
Years later I figured
out it came from Saint Luke, 4, 24 “Nobody is a prophet in his own land.”
Norman Baldwin, A Manhole Cover & Sean Rossiter
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
|Norman Baldwin - Water Street, circa 1984-85|
Today has been a day of coincidence. My Rosemary asked me to
explain to her what is an algorithm. She read this
in the NY Times. Coincidentally there
was in the editorial section of the NY Times this
I started with face recognition squares that appear in her
IPhone 4 and told her that soon we will be able to place a picture (any of her)
on the web, press search and all the pictures of her on the net will be
retrieved. I also told her that any day now her fridge, when she walks into the
kitchen will remind her, “Dear you are running out of skim milk. It’s time to
get some more at Shopper’s Drug Mart." Which is where Rosemary gets her milk!
And coincidentally Rosemary had no more of her skim milk so
she asked me to drive her to the Kerrisdale Shopper’s. I told her that I would
park on a loading zone (I have municipal plates) and that I would walk around
while she bought her milk.
I looked through the window of Kerrisdale Cameras. It was
empty of patrons. I moved over to Hager Books and noticed a book that at one
time I would have purchased: Sargent – Portraits of Artists and Friends. I then
sat down on a very uncomfortable bench donated in memory of a Mr. Runciman by
Hill’s of Kerrisdale.
A tall slim, man wearing semi-transparent sunglasses, arm
and arm with an elderly woman in white hair, walked by.
I got up and tapped the man on the shoulder. I asked him, “Did
you ever work for the city?” He answered, “Yes.” I then told him, I photographed you sometime
in 1984 or 1985 with your head coming out of a street man-hole cover.” He
smiled and said, “You are Alex Waterhouse-Hayward.” I now live in Curitiba,
Brazil so I am usually not in town. I am here to visit my mother.”
Norman Baldwin was my subject for a Sean Rossiter, Twelfth & Cambie column in Vancouver Magazine.
It took a while to get the city to authorize us to open the
manhole cover on what was the Woodward’s parking lot on Water Street. Because the street was one-way and most cars
turned to park I positioned my camera past the parking lot so I was (and so was
Baldwin) safe from run ins with a car bumper.
Since I noticed that Baldwin's mother was tiring I was not able to have him remind me what he did in the city and why Sean Rossiter had written about him. Why I photographed him popping out of a manhole cover will remain a mystery to me. But I do remember using my large medium format Mamiya RB-67 and that it was connected to a not that portable Norman 200-B mated to a softbox. Baldwin's 6x7 cm transparencies were filed under Baldwin, Norman.
It seems that Baldwin is the president
of the cricket club in Curitiba, Paraná State.
A Corpse On Arvind Gupta's Former Doorsteps
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Stephen Michael Drance OC FRSC (born 22 May 1925) is
Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology, University of British Columbia. He was the
head of glaucoma service at the Eye Care centre of Vancouver General Hospital,
Vancouver, BC, Canada.
|Arthur Erickson in UBC Library|
Not mentioned in that Wikipedia citation is that Doctor
Drance is a lover of culture and in particular that of music played with period
instruments. He has been instrumental (through funding and other methods of
support) in helping Early Music Vancouver be the successful organization that
it is today.
Doctor Drance is a low key and quiet spoken man whom I
regularly chat with at Early Music Vancouver concerts. He always has a smile of
delight on his face.
Recently he told me that the University of British Columbia
is planning in transforming the area around the UBC School of Music into an
arts hub. I think this is a tremendously good idea and it cannot happen too
soon. It is obvious to me that Doctor Drance is proud of being part of UBC and there is no doubt in my mind that he has contributed to its scholastic excellence.
For many years I have cited the difference between the campuses of
Simon Fraser University and that of UBC. Of the former you can actually get to
it, drive under a little overhang and then leave the campus. It is that easy.
UBC is more difficult. You might sort of drive around it but through it is
pretty well impossible.
There is one strong connection between the UBC and Simon
Fraser University. UBC has a splendid library
designed by Arthur Erickson. Simon Fraser was designed by Arthur Erickson and
But there is another link that is not so obvious which
to me is a tragedy.
At one time Robson Square was a vibrant centre of our city.
The Erickson designed complex with landscaping by Cornelia Oberlander
was a marvelous
piece of architecture. I remember fondly going to urban lectures at the
beautiful Judge White Auditorium. Erickson himself would sit with the audience (some
of us reclining comfortably on the carpeted risers on the sides) and ask
pointed questions at Urbanarium Society
lectures. I remember fondly all the
arts presentations, films and dance at the Robson Square Media Centre. Even the Vancouver Film Festival had functions at the complex. I photographed Vincent Price
in a press conference there.
There was a restaurant on the plaza. Its name escapes me but
they had tables on the plaza and people enjoyed being in the centre of things.
The skating arena did not have a sponsor’s name and I went to several ballroom
dance exhibitions on it during the ice-free summers.
UBC took over the place. Judge White Auditorium lectures
ceased. At one time UBC opened a bookstore. Is it still there? If the average
person on the street is asked about a university presence within the city they
will surely know about the Simon Fraser campus on what used to be Woodward’s. I
attend concerts of the Turning Point Ensemble at Woodward's. There are many more
cultural activities there. The university is surrounded by restaurant and
watering holes. It is full of people.
Robson Square is virtually dead. I remember taking
photographs of Premier Bill Bennett in his office located there. The Premier’s office
There would be an obvious link between the Erickson modified
Vancouver Art Gallery
and the rest of Robson Square. There is none.
At one time Early Music Vancouver held concerts at the UBC
Chapel (past the UBC Golf Course). I know for a fact that Early Music Vancouver
could not get Vancouver City funding because the chapel was not within the
It would seem to me (a purely personal opinion in what is
materializing as my UBC rant) that when convenient UBC is not in the city and
is part of the Endowment Lands (Spirit, etc in that name!). And when convenient
they are part of the city in what really is another cemetery within our city’s
Thanks to Early Music Vancouver’s Summer Program (concerts
and classes at the UBC School of Music, at Barnett Recital Hall) which just
closed last week there is a hub of activity around there. You might have
noticed people with large cases with theorbos inside or violin and cello cases.
The place hummed.
While attending concerts I made it a point to ask people
when had been the last time they had attended a play or function at the nearby
Frederic Wood Theatre. The answers were in years.
My query if any of them had gone for an exhibition at the
Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery recently was met by quizzical silence.
Across from the School of Music is the Old Auditorium. This
lovely place was refurbished but Doctor Drance told me that the sound is now
not very good. But the place is the seat of UBC Opera.
Because the city is now in charge of VanDusen Botanical
Garden there is even more of disconnect among our cities excellent gardens like
Queen Elizabeth and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. There is no
interaction between them and the UBC Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant
Research (and its ancillary Nitobe Memorial Garden. Few in our city know that
the UBC Botanical Garden has a Shop In The Garden which houses an excellent
But anybody who might venture to UBC and explore Westwood
Village they will find a modern and rather lovely (if made of concrete) urban
development with a Save-On-Foods and even a yoga establishment. The people
walking the streets (some with small dogs) are young. It’s a great little
But it would seem that UBC is stressing urban development
(or is that suburban?) that is slowly eating away at the trees and vegetation of
the Endowment Lands. Condo towers are rising more and more.
Finally with all the uproar of the recent and sudden (an
unexplained) resignation of UBC President Arvind Gupta nothing has been
mentioned by what I would call our lazy press on an event that I noticed last
year while walking to a concert of Early Music Vancouver at the Chan.
By the President’s residence I noticed several big and black
SUVs and big men in black suits with ear bud and wires. I attempted to inquire
what was going on but they told me to vamoose. Further up I asked a student who
told me a body was found on the doorsteps of Gupta’s residence.
Our press only added the information that the only person at
home was one of Gupta’s daughters. Nothing was ever written on how the corpse
(was it a man?) ended up on the doorsteps. Was it homicide? Was it a drug
overdose? There has been nothing since.
And our press has yet to connect the dots (if there are indeed any) on this
event and Arvind Gupta’s resignation.
Addendum: The name of the corpse is Roderick Bruce Cortner.
To the above I would add that I also know the name of the corpses to be found on Robson Square. They are UBC.
Bard's Shakespeare's Rebel - All's Well That Ends Well
Monday, August 10, 2015
Hamnet Shakespeare (baptized 2 February 1585 – buried 11
August 1596) was the only son of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, and the
fraternal twin of Judith Shakespeare. He died at age 11.
|Colleen Wheeler, Elizabeth Rex, August 9 2015|
Collen Wheeler who plays Elizabeth in Timothy Findley's Elizabeth Rex, grounds the production as soon as she enters. In
her deep voice, she makes sense of everything she says. And with her
commanding stillness and monumental depth of feeling, she makes the
queen’s anguish agonizingly concrete. Wheeler’s Elizabeth is a huge
Colin Thomas, The Georgia Straight, July 2013
Then actor/swordsman C.C. Humphreys played Jack Absolute
in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s
(1781-1816) The Rivals
and Shakespeare's Hamlet
, both on the
London Stage. The swashbuckling character Jack Absolute was so appealing to
Humphreys that he traveled in 2002 to Vancouver (he had relatives), crashed at then
Vancouver Writer’s Festival Director, Alma Lee’s basement and wrote his first Jack
Absolute novel, That first book, Jack Absolute
led to two more and seven independent novels plus three under a different
name Chris Humphreys. Humphreys's prequel, 2004, The Blooding of Jack Absolute
contains what I think is the best recounting of the battle on the Plains of Abraham.
In a magical moment in the novel Jack Absolute, Absolute
goes to the opening of Sheridan’s play The Rivals and buttonholes him in a
corner and challenges the man for writing him into the play.
You don’t have to be Argentine (I am) or a Borgesian fan (I am) to note the
labyrinthine connections of an actor playing a character who then as a novelist
writes about the character. And if you do a bit of research you might find out
that Humphreys’s obsession with Hamlet (one common to any Shakespearean actor
young enough to play Hamlet but not old enough to play Lear) is understandable.
Humphreys who has been a stage and film fight director (giving advice on
how to swashbuckle) has combined his interest in Hamlet and sword fighting for
his novel, 2013, Shakespeare’s Rebel. The leading protagonist is both an actor
and a sword-fighter. It is from this novel that Humphreys adapted into a play, Shakespeare's Rebel
for this year’s Bard on the Beach.
There is one key scene in this play in which Robert
Devereux, Earl of Essex (John Murphy) surprises Queen Elizabeth (Colleen
Wheeler) in her bedchamber (after leaving a war in Ireland, with the express
prohibition to do so by the queen) that leads to the events in the end of the
play all documented in history.
For those who might know a bit about Shakespeare, his
times and that of Elizabeth most of the events of Shakespeare’s Rebel have been
historically documented within the haze that anything about William Shakespeare’s
life has always been surrounded by.
Thus the actor/swordfighter/boozer John Lawley (played
nicely by Benedict Campbell) is a made up character (C.C. Humphreys mixed with
Jack Absolute) who looks into the events of the time from the outside/inside.
There is a reference in the play (a suspicion with many
Shakespeare scholars) that Shakespeare himself played Hamlet’s father, the
king. And many of these scholars including Harold Bloom have speculated on why
Shakespeare’s son was called Hamnet.
With all that I can truthfully say that
Rosemary and I enjoyed Sunday’s performance of Shakespeare’s Rebel. The fight
scenes were as accurately depicted as safety can allow. Ancillary to this is
Humphreys’s account that the English way of fighting, the back sword and the
small buckler (a shield) was superior to the Spanish method of sword and
rapier. In fact there is such a fight in the play.
If there is one measure of possible confusion for those
who have never been to a Bard play before, this is the Shakespearean tradition
of using actors to play several parts. Bard is in the black because they know
how to be frugal. Thus the actors in King Lear
, play on a different days
Shakespeare’s Lear and Hmphreys's Shakespeare's Rebel. Campbell is King Lear as well as Lawley. Years ago (about 28 of
them) I saw in an early version of Bard on the Beach a Richard III
(with Gaze as Richard
) in which the people who were killed appeared over and over in other
parts. I was confused but no more.
The problem (a small one) in Shakespeare’s Rebel lies with only one
man, and that is David Marr (Sir Samuel D’Esparr). Marr has perhaps the most recognizable voice (could never get a job in CBC Radio as he has perfect diction and no speach impediment) in Vancouver theatre. When he plays other parts
it is very difficult to see a difference. As it is Marr as D’Esparr
(with a huge belly) is one very funny man
In my years as an editorial photographer and infrequent
journalist I have met critics of all kinds. Some of them like the Vancouver Sun’s Lloyd Dykk
(deceased) and Peter Birnie, Christopher Dafoe (the Globe
critic son of the notable theatre critic Christopher Dafoe) and the Straight’s
There is a defining quality in all critics that is a
borderline between being critical and being vicious. The above critics have
been borderline vicious in their time but their pieces have been done with a
modicum of class and good taste.
I remember fondly Stanley Kramer who in the late 70s
introduced films for the Bellingham TV channel KVOS. His explanations and
pointers on what in some cases were bad films were interesting and never cruel.
The Vancouver Courier’s Jo Ledingham always has enthusiasm on her face. She
might not like a play but (most important) she likes theatre.
Last year I ran into both Christophers Dafoe at an Arts
Club Theatre opening. Elder Dafoe had that glint in his eye. That glint of
excitement. He was there to see a play. That action was exciting even though he
may have reviewed hundreds of plays in his past.
When I read columnists and critics who get vicious I think
of Mao Zedong. As an invited managing editor (as an example) of the Vancouver
Sun, Zedong would periodically ship his reporters, columnists and critics to a pig
farm in Surrey for a few weeks. They would shovel it. They would then return to
the Vancouver Sun newsroom refreshed and delighted to be back.
Except for a few columnists my Vancouver Sun is a waste
of time. The decline of the Sun (can we blame the free internet?) began when columnists,
reporters and writers who had good health plans and benefits were given
packages to leave. Many, who saw what was coming, did just that. Then the Vancouver
Sun hired freelancers and gave then no benefits and meager payment. The
broadsheet, recenlty became less broad.
That is when it (the Vancouver Sun) all became a waste of time for me.
Colleen Wheeler, who is a natural mezzo-soprano/alto has
an uncommonly low voice. With that voice and stage presence (red hair helps!)
she gave us a memorable Ulysses in Margaret Atwood’s play The Penelopiad
costume that transforms her into Elizabeth Rex (she played Elizabeth in Timothy Findley's Elizabeth Rex
was designed by Christine Reimer and is
Taking Wheeler’s photograph, by one of the tents, a few
minutes before Shakespeare’s Rebel began transported me to a time when I felt I
must be careful or I would lose my head. I also thought, if Wheeler were a high
school principal; there would be no discipline problems.
One small inaccuracy in Shakespeare’s Rebel. The Earl of
Essex’s head was severed only after three blows (not one) by the axe!
Anita Roberts Twice
Sunday, August 09, 2015
|Anita Roberts - 1978|
One of the singular pleasures of my profession as a photographer
is the portrait encore. I first photographed Anita Roberts
in 1978. By then I
had purchased a new-fangled (for the time) 6x7 cm medium format Mamiya RB-67. I
used a flash with an umbrella. I had yet to discover the revolutionary Chimera
softboxes. This particular portrait has attitude. This is a word that became
overused by the fashion industry of the time. In a few attempts to become a
fashion photographer I was repeatedly told I lacked attitude. Thanks to
I became a magazine photographer
specializing in portraiture.
All those years later, just a few days ago, Anita Roberts
again faced my camera. This time around (although I did take some b+w shots
with the venerable Mamiya) she faced my digital Fuji-X-E1.
My Argentine artist friend Nora Patrich
is in town and will be here until the end of the month. Anita, Nora and I are working on a colaboración
. As Rachel Maddow often says, "Watch this space."
|Anita Roberts - August 2015|