I Cannot Dance Upon My Toes
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Of late I have been thinking about legs here
.Through my efforts on the net I found again Peggy Nilsson, one of the finest dancers I have ever met. And so thanks to her and going to my files and Emily Dickinson I have justification for these shots you see here.
I cannot dance upon my toes - Emily Dickinson
I cannot dance upon my Toes—
No Man instructed me—
But oftentimes, among my mind,
A Glee possesseth me,
That had I Ballet knowledge—
Would put itself abroad
In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe—
Or lay a Prima, mad,
And though I had no Gown of Gauze—
No Ringlet, to my Hair,
Nor hopped to Audiences—like Birds,
One Claw upon the Air,
Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,
Nor rolled on wheels of snow
Till I was out of sight, in sound,
The House encore me so—
Nor any know I know the Art
Nor any Placard boast me—
It's full as Opera—
Viktoria Langton & The Resurrection Of The Swedish Egg Chair
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
|Viktoria Langton - Mamiya RB-67 Pro S|
When things were simpler my Rosemary and my two daughters
Ale and Hilary lived on Springer Avenue in Burnaby.
The strata title home had a very large
basement. One room was my darkroom that had a separate bathroom. This was a
change from my previous Mexico City darkroom which was a bathroom. The other
room in our Burnaby basement was my low ceiling garage turned into my studio.
In the living room I had hanging from a corner a lovely
Mexican made wicker Swedish egg. The egg came with us from Mexico in 1975. For some shoots I would move the egg to the
basement and I had a hook in the ceiling to hang it from.
I wrote about my mother’s and my Rosemary’s exquisite
legs. But there was one more woman with privileged legs that I photograph many
times at the CBC in the late 70s. She was, Viktoria Langton, a jazz dancer,
part of the troupe that was featured in the many CBC variety shows of the time.
Her legs were astounding. They were muscular, but not too much to hide how shapely
they were. To top it all she was an amazing dancer.
Somehow we connected so that I could photograph her in her
home and then in my studio. As you can see she also posed in the Swedish egg.
The egg is in my mind as we are soon moving to a smaller
duplex. The Swedish egg was in my current shop room since we moved in 1986. I
have vowed to see it in the light of day in our new home hanging from a corner
of the living room.
I have been unable to convince the crop of photographers who
specialize in only using a digital camera at the merits of using more than one
camera at the time of a session. The act of putting down one camera and picking
up another can sometimes (and that is the case for me) inject something that I
cannot pin down but which I like. The idea that one RAW digital exposure can be made into b+w,
colour, low contrast, high contrast does not convince me as that multi-varied
exposure is still only one.
Consider that here you have two pictures. In one I used my
medium format Mamiya RB-67 Pro-S with Ilford Pan F film. The other I shot with
a Pentax Spotmatic-F loaded with Kodak Technical Pan Film. They are similar but
different, too. At the time (circa 1978) I had yet to buy my first softbox. For these pictures I used a medium sized white umbrella.
Even Dogs in the Wild & IPA
Monday, November 02, 2015
|Ian Rankin - Vancouver 1997|
Malcolm Fox: You know in my shoes you’d be considering the
John Rebus: “I wouldn’t be in your shoes, though.”
Malcolm Fox: Fox’s eyes narrowed. “Why not?”
John Rebus: Rebus glanced down at Fox’s footwear of
choice. “They’re brown,” he stated “One thing I learned from Uncle Frank…”
Malcolm Fox: “No brown shoes?”
John Rebus: “No brown shoes,” Rebus agreed.
Malcolm Fox: “And Uncle Frank is…?”
John Rebus: “Frank Zappa.”
Rebus saw the blank look on
Fox’s face. “The musician.”
Malcolm Fox: “I hardly ever listen to music.”
John Rebus: "That’s one more strike against you, then,”
Rebus stated with a slow shake of the head.
Saints of the Shadow Bible, 2013
For those reading here who may be expecting a short and
sweet review of Ian Rankin’s latest John Rebus novel here it is:
Even Dogs in the Wild is a page turner that will give you
But this is not a conventional review of Rankin’s book. You
see I am lucky enough to have him facing my camera on November 16 when he
appears at Alma Lee’s latest baby, Cuffed, Vancouver International Crime Festival.
Rankin is the official launch in preparation for the festival in
2016. Rankin will be at St. Andrew’s Wesley at 7:30.
Rankin in front of my camera is special as he did this for
me in 1997. After our session in my Robson and Granville studio he asked me to
take him to record stores in search of recording (in vinyl) of black American
jazz saxophonists. When you meet an author in person outside of a book reading
and signing you get glimpses that invariably lead you into wondering how much
of any writer’s novels are autobiographical.
But let me digress, something that I will do here in much the
same way as my Rosa ‘Albertine’ rambler.
My introduction to crime fiction was Dashiell Hammett’s Red
t. My subsequent forays into crime came from the advice of others during
the wonderful bygone era of Vancouver bookstores that were not big boxes. And
singly responsible for most of these came from bookseller Celia Duthie? “Have
you read any Michael Dibdin?”
“Alex have you tried Arthur W. Upfield’s
All with most of P.D,James,
Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter. “Alex have you tried Robert Wilson’s The
Blind Man of Seville?”
And lastly, of course courtesy of Duthie, “Ian Rankin!”
On my own looking for a P.D. James I discovered Canadian J.
Robert Janes and in search of a Raymond Chandler found Jerome Charyn
a passion for the Newyorican writer with my friend George Bowering
From former Mystery Merchant
bookseller Robert Blackwood I was pressured
into reading Donna Leon but I give credit to myself for Andrea Camilleri’s CommissarioMontalbanos.
And Elmore Leonard
thanks to my many years of being with
My interest in crime fiction faltered as began to read in my
native Spanish which did point towards Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Paco Taibo II
and Arturo Perez-Reverte.
But of late I have consumed three Ian Rankins. Besides the aforementioned
latest I read Saints of the Shadow Bible, 2013, and Standing in Another Man’s
Grave, 2012. And yes insomnia has set in as I have found myself immersed in the
life of a 55-year-old man (who to me feels my age) who is experiencing a
changing world of social media, twitter and a dwindling supply of real time,
real life, informers. Informers like real time, real life policemen have all
become disappearing dinosaurs and John Rebus represents that token survivor.
My writer friend John Lekich
years ago gave me a piece of
advice that I have rarely followed to my detriment, “Never ask an actor about a
former spouse.” To this I can add another, “Never ask a novelist how much of a
book’s content is autobiographical.” In a trip to Lima in the ealy 90s I faced
writer Mario Vargas Llosa and told him that many if not most of the cafes and
even an ice cream parlour in his novels based in Lima were actually exactly
where he said they were. I showed him a picture of the ice cream shop. The
nasty look on Llosa’s face warned me not to ever go there.
Since I have not seen any of the Rebus TV Detective Drama
series I have no image of Rebus in my mind except the one manufactured in my
imagination. So Rebus to me is Rankin. Both are about the same age. Both, I
know glory into listening to vinyl. I wonder if the latter can be lulled into
sleep at the repetitive noise of the tone arm (a purist’s one that does not
pick up at the end of the side) and I wonder if the former really eschews the
latter’s fondness for jazz. As Rankin so nicely says in Saints of the Shadow
Bible, “So What?”
For me it is enough that Rankin plunks his old-guard
protagonist into a modern world that is confusing to both the protagonist and
this reader. In all of the three of the latest Rebus novels, our IPA drinker,
Saab driver and smoker, results are found through both internet searches (and
social media postings) with old-fashioned shoes-on-the ground detecting.
But finally, and most special to me is how Rebus experiences
a table turning. From a Detective Inspector he becomes a consultant, has to
empty his desk a couple of times and finds himself under the orders of his
former understudy Siobahn Clarke. As an aside here you will have to search elsewhere
to find how to pronounce Clarke’s name in the same way as Reginald Hill only
once (in the first Dalziel/Pascoe novels) reveals the pronunciation of the fat
man’s Christian name.
There is another bright spot in the Ian Rankin horizon. This
is the appearance of another protagonist (two stand alone novels The Complaints
and The Impossible Dead) Malcolm Fox who is 20 years younger that Rebus (and unlike Rebus a former alcholic with a penchant for tomato juice and lemonade). From
almost enemies in Saints of the Shadow Bible, they become friends and colleagues
in Rankin’s latest. I can almost feel Rebus (Rankin?) letting go and letting
Fox enter the picture in first person narrative chapters while Rebus slowly becomes
paternal as Fox shows interest in Clarke beyond just the office.
I look forward to further happenings in Rankin’s Scotland
with his “family”.
For me the common thread in Rankin is that of a lasting
friendship. From 1625, when The Three
Musketeers begins to 1673 when d’Artagnan is shot dead in The Man of the Iron
Mask in the battle of Maesticht, the saga follows the friendship of four men.
They grow old; individually change loyalties and political sides but they
always follow the dictum, “All for one and one for all.” In much the same way
Rankin’s characters follow that pattern and even some of the villains like Ger Cafferty
have their own and most important voice, as friends? It was all best said by
Robert Louis Stevenson who read Dumas’Vicomte de Bragellone at least five
times. Of his second reading he wrote:
“I would sit down with the Vicomte for a long, silent,
solitary lamp-light evening by the fire. And yet I know not why I call it
silent, when it was enlivened with such clatter of horse-shoes, and such a
rattle of musketry, and such a stir of talk; or why I call these evenings
silent in which I gained so many friends. I would rise from my book and pull
the blind aside, and see the snow and the glittering hollies checker a Scotch
garden, and the winter moonlight brighten the white hills. Thence I would turn
again to the crowded and sunny field of life in which it was so easy to forget
myself, my cares and my surroundings: a place as busy as a city, bright as a
theatre, thronged with memorable faces, and sounding with delightful speech. I
carried the thread of that epic into my slumbers, I woke with it unbroken, I
rejoiced to lunge into the book again at breakfast, it was with a pang that I
must lay it down and turn to my own labours; for no part of the world has ever
seemed to me so charming as these pages, and not even my friends are quite as
real, perhaps quite so dear, as d’Artagnan.”
And I shall have to find out what IPA is all about. I have gotten rid of my solitary pair of brown shoes.
In Even Dogs in the Wild Ian Rankin introduces a character that reminds me of Asta.
And for John Rebus there are these smokers
Halloween - Nobody Knocked
Sunday, November 01, 2015
|Buenos Aires - 1951|
Halloween is something quite complex for me. When people
ask me about it I act like a grinch and gripe how I hate it and the awful
knocking at the door by children wanting sweet loot.
I sometimes add that as an Argentine who lived quite a
few years in Mexico the concept of the holiday is alien to me.
And yet the picture here illustrates yours truly dressed
as Hopalong Cassidy but holding what I remember to be a Gene Autrey cap gun.
The woman on the extreme right was Susan Stone. We were
all celebrating American Halloween while attending the American Grammar School
on Calle Freyre in Belgrano, Buenos Aires. The school was for the well-off children
of American Company Executives peppered with a few from the US Information
Service, a cover title for the American spooks.
My family was not well off but my mother happened to
teach physics and chemistry at the American Grammar and High School- Colegio
Ward on the same street. I received free tuition.
Susan Stone was the girl in my life even though she did
not know this overtly. Her father was the General Manager of General Motors
Argentina. She lived in a huge mansion that had something called a television
set. This was 1951 and I was nine going on ten. Every once in a while Susan
would send her father’s Cadillac to pick me up so I could spend the day with
her. All I remember is the TV and nothing more. Even then I was an unmanly
Halloween came into the picture again in 1955 in Nueva
Rosita, Coahuila. My mother taught at the two-room school house for the children
of the American mining engineers of The American Smelting and Refining Company.
I remember that I made a costume out of silver painted cardboard panels held
together by string. I was a robot from outer space modeled after the robots I
had made with my Erector Set. I called myself Gilbert.
It was in 1975 and onwards that Halloween became a cold
rainy night in Burnaby when my two daughters wet and shivering would come with
bags full of candy. I felt so sorry for them but they still found the
A few years later while working for a gay publication
called Bi-Line I came to understand the special significance of Halloween to
the Gay Community. In my capacity as the photographer I went to many dress-up
functions at Faces, the Gandy Dancer and
the Luv-a-Fair Affair. A parallel happening of sorts happens every year at carnival
in Veracruz, Mexico where closeted gays dress up and throw all caution to the
For the last few years I make my dislike of the door
knocking and the screams of “trick or treat” known to my Rosemary. She knows I
will have a long hot bath in the tub and
force her to open the door. This year I prepared myself with Ian Rankin’s
But the door downstairs was silent all night. Fireworks
in the neighbourhood were loud and persistent. But no bells rang. No children’s
voices clamoured for booty. Nobody came.
In 1986 when we moved to Athlone Street the two block
long stretch of West Side real estate was a Canadian version of the Saturday
Evening Post. Children played with red flyer wagons, there were cocker spaniels
and Dalmatians. In the summer we had block parties. The Vancouver Police came
with their dogs and the nearby firefighters drove up in their fire engines.
I remember two little girls (their father was a dentist)
planting a tiny Monkey Puzzle Tree in their front lawn. I saw this as silly
hope. It would take forever for that tree to be of any size.
Then houses were sold and demolished. People died or
moved away. The two blocks changed. Mrs. Alm’s house was demolished after she
was put in a home. The house that replaced it had, we were told, nine
The cars that did not fit into the new four car garages
were large Bentleys or BMWs and Mercedes. These soon were traded in for SUVs.
Car and home alarms went off at all hours of the night.
The Monkey Puzzle Tree is now 17 feet tall and there are
no children living that I know of on the two blocks of Athlone. The two little girls that planted the tree come every once in a while with their children to visit their parents.
Nobody came for Halloween. And I finally must admit that
in my depression over that fact, I do love this holiday and I plan to celebrate
it next year in a neighbourhood where I hope to spot a Dalmatian and even a
And children will bang on my door and I won't mind.