The Enhancement of Usefullness With the Help of Technology
Saturday, October 22, 2016
As a serious reader of my daily delivered NY Times (hard
copy) I was instantly affected by this sentence in Opinion Pages columnist
Roger Cohen back in September 19. The column was called The Age of Distrust
the sentence in question was:
Technology is a wonderful thing if you are putting it to
use, less so if it is putting an end to your usefulness.
My tech friend Paul Leisz who helped to drag me into the
internet and digital age often makes fun of my obvious backwardness. I laugh it
off but one night recently it occurred to me that it is not entirely the case
that I am slow to incorporate the latest into my life.
Photographically even thought it was my wife in August of
2013 who pushed me into buying my first digital camera (the Fuji X-E1, still
current and the only digital camera in my arsenal) I have come to the
conclusion that if my photographic career prospered (and it did) it was because
I was always ahead of the pack.
It all began in the late 50s when photo magazines where
arguing as to the merits of the then ubiquitous rangefinder cameras as compared
to the new kid on the block, the single lens reflex. I purchased the latter, an
East German Pentacon F from Olden Cameras in New York while boarding at St.
Edward’s High School in Austin Texas.
I bought a second camera in 1961, a used Pentax S-3 in
Mexico City and until I was bopped over the head in Buenos Aires (and all my
equipment was stolen) the Pentax (by then I had graduated to the MX with its
bayonet mount) was my editorial magazine weapon of choice.
But what really helped my photographic career was the
purchase of a 6x7cm format Mamiya R-B67 in 1977. Its revolving back (vertical
to horizontal) meant that my photographs for magazines were never cropped and
art directors liked the larger format with its sharpness to detail.
In early March of 1985 Vancouver Magazine writer Les Wiseman
wanted to write a story on glamour wrestling. The event was coming to our Coliseum.
I had never ever attended such an event and I felt that this was a situation
where I could not control. I would miss my stationary Mamiya on a tripod and my
big lights. I would have to shoot from the hip under low light at a sport I had
not experience in at all. Vancouver Magazine editor Malcolm Parry had a friend
who was the head guy at Minolta Canada. He suggested I call him. The man told
me that just out (and he had an advance unit) was the Maxxum 7000.
The Minolta MAXXUM 7000 (7000 AF in Europe and α-7000 in Japan) 35mm
SLR camera was introduced in February 1985. It was the first camera to feature
both integrated autofocus (AF) and motorised film advance, the standard
configuration for later amateur and professional single lens reflex cameras.
I picked up the camera the morning of the wrestling event
and loaded it with some very fast Kodak colour slide film.
I was able to shoot the wrestlers in a little makeshift
studio before the event but the photographs I took with the Minolta on
auto-focus and auto-exposure were not all that bad!
And now to keep beating on my own drum. I took the pictures in this blog
last Thursday with my Fuji X-E1. I thought about taking my photographs (I was sitting front row centre) in the sly (even though I would have been given permission). So I placed the camera on my lap and zoomed the lens to wide angle (18mm or about equivalent to 35mm in film cameras). I then chose a shutter speed of 1/30 of a second knowing I could dial down without looking to 1/15 or 1/8th second to get movement. I turned off the display on the back of the camera so that the only light that might be visible would come from the eyepiece which I covered with my left hand. I set the camera to automatic. In this way I amed the camera centre or to the sides while pressing the very quiet shutter.
The technology of my Fuji has not only not ended my usefullness but also added to it!
Music of the Spheres - This Crazy Show - Noam Gagnon's Autobiography
Friday, October 21, 2016
|Noam Gagnon - This Crazy Show - Scotiabank Dance Centre - October 20 2016|
Music of the Spheres
Musica universalis (literally universal music), also
called Music of the spheres or Harmony of the Spheres, is an ancient
philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial
bodies—the Sun, Moon, and planets—as a form of musica (the Medieval Latin term
for music). This "music" is not usually thought to be literally
audible, but a harmonic, mathematical or religious concept. The idea continued
to appeal to thinkers about music until the end of the Renaissance, influencing
scholars of many kinds, including humanists. Further scientific exploration has
determined specific proportions in some orbital motion, described as Orbital
At last night’s performance of at the Scotiabank Dance
Centre of Noam Gagnon’s Vision Impure – This Crazy Show
I had the luck to be
sitting right next to retired (not quite) arts critic Max Wyman
and his wife.
With me, hovering in my head was the memory and ghost of the designer of the
Dance Centre, Arthur Erickson.
All three of us, (Wyman and Erickson and yours truly)
would have agreed that every once in a while you have someone who has a talent
that cannot be explained except by a quirk of spirit that the Spaniards call “a
. They used to use the term for virtuoso Jai-Alai
Belmonte the bullfighter was one. Wyman would
add Evelyn Hart
(so would I). To a short list I would include former Ballet BC
dancer Lori Stallings.
And of course Arthur Erickson
himself was a fenómeno
There are some that equate the fenómeno as someone with
inspiration by the devil himself such as Nicolò Paganini. Others cite divine
inspiration. Whatever it is Noam Gagnon is one.
Some years past you might have had a heated discussion on
19th century classical ballet versus modern dance. When John Alleyne
took the helm of Ballet BC he brought us the works of then Frankfurt Ballet
fenómeno director William Forsythe. Vancouver audiences wondered about
performances that included dancers talking. Then Crystal Pite choreographed
theatrical production of The Electric Theatre Company’s Studies in Motion – The Hauntings of Eadward Muybridge. It was
perhaps then that theatre and dance became one in our city.
Any Greek scholar would affirm that the ancient Greeks
did not separate art into modern parts like visual arts, music, theatre,
Noam Gagnon’s This Crazy Show is such an example of a
performance that was all that and more. Bryan Kenny (the Set Designer) and
Stéphane Ménigot (Lighting Designer) gave us a set that was spectacular and reminded me of the
Music of the Spheres. Darryl Milot (Creature Designer) made it scary when it had to be.
But it was Gagnon’s performance that struck a nerve in me
as it was a tender, very intimate autiobiography on how he came to be a dancer.
This included a treatise on how our interior organs help us dance and how the
lungs (his father’s failing ones) and the heart (his mother’s failing heart)
created a pathos (the Greeks knew of that) that led to his catharsis to become
the dancer that he is today.
As a dancer (this amateur dance critic) can cite that
Gagnon is one of the few dancers in Vancouver that can dance on one spot. He
did not quite do this on Friday night. But this style of his makes him as
unique as Lori Stallings was from the ankles down.
The show began in a light-hearted way but it all led and
ended almost scary. The whole show (about one hour and ten minutes of it with
sweat and almost constant movement) finished with a five seconds of a big metallic
sphere swooshing by Gagnon’s slim but washboard chest in what will be for me
one of the most memorable events of Vancouver Dance.
Gagnon’s gentle low key voice, reminded me of Arthur
Erkickson who had exquisite taste. Parts of Gagnon’s show may have not
projected that because of their rawness but I can only hope that Gagnon will
again entertain us, shock us in the House that Erickson built.
I cannot end this with comments on James Coomer
(Composer, Sound Designer and Accordionist). I absolutely hate the accordion
yet…Listening to his playing and using the bellows to suggest
that last whispers of breath of Gagnon’s dying father was extraordinary.
Addendum: As I was watching Gagnon dance I was thinking
about Nanaimo Bars. How can that be? The spring floor of the dance centre was
designed with the help of dancer Cornelius Fischer-credo
designer/dancer Jay Gower Taylor. The floor is made of a sandwich of white and
black rubber that resembles a …
Mirrors - Speculum - Mirages & Espejismo
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Since I was a child of perhaps 6 when I went into my mother’s
armoire to help myself to as many candy corns I could want (not the two or
three she would hand me out) I found the bag of candy in a little drawer but I
was struck by my image on the inside mirror. I stared and I believe for the
first time I thought, “That is me, I am that image. I am an individual.”
Perhaps my thoughts were not that philosophical but the fact is that I remember
that day to this day.
Since then and perhaps because I am a dyslexic I have been interested if not obsessed by
mirrors and their images.
The Spanish word for mirror is espejo
which comes from the Latin speculum.
There is more (or is that less?) that meets the eye in espejo as a mirage in Spanish is espejismo.
Borges was more so and wrote many poems about mirrors and
how they were an abomination (his word) as unlike the sexual act mirrors could
reproduce and reproduce at will.
It was not until the
late 70s when I noticed an ad on TV that I remember telling my Rosemary, “According
to this ad I have a syndrome called dyslexia.”
The leftness being the right and vice versa of mirrors has
always fascinated me and troubled me. I have taken countless of mirror
photographs. Here are a couple.
My father’s friend, Argentine writer Jorge Cortázar wrote
this poem about love lost called Bolero. I will place it in both languages. The
sentence that has always been in my mind is:
You were always my mirror,
What I mean is, I had to look at you to see me.
Bolero by Julio Cortázar
How vain is it to imagine
I could give you all, love and joy,
itineraries, music, toys.
It is like that, certainly:
everything I have, I give it to you, true,
but everything I have is not enough for you
as everything you have
is not enough for me.
So we will never be
the perfect match, the postcard,
if we are unable to accept
solely in arithmetic
two comes from one plus one.
Laying around, a piece of paper
that only says:
You were always my mirror,
What I mean is, I had to look at you to see me.
And this fragment:
The slow machine of heartbreak
the gears of reflux
bodies leaving the pillows,
the sheets, the kisses
and standing before the mirror questioning
each to himself
no longer facing each other
no longer naked for the other
I no longer love you,
puedo darte todo, el amor y la dicha,
cierto que es así:
mío te lo doy, es cierto,
todo lo mío no te basta
mí no me basta que me des
no seremos nunca
pareja perfecta, la tarjeta postal,
somos capaces de aceptar
en la aritmética
nace del uno más el uno.
fuiste mi espejo,
decir que para verme tenía que mirarte.
máquina del desamor
engranajes del reflujo
cuerpos que abandonan las almohadas
sábanas los besos
y de pie
ante el espejo interrogándose
a sí mismo
mirándose entre ellos
desnudos para el otro
ya no te amo,
When Editorially You Could Dream
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
|Photo Illustration - Juan Manuel Sánchez - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
This is the repurposing of this blog
My friend Argentine artist Juan Manuel Sánchez
thought of a way of having an editorial illustration in the Georgia Straight that would feature both of us. I placed one of 3 8x10s (just in case! in front of Sánchez who in short order did what you see here. Best of all not only did we have a compound illustration credit but we also were both paid. This sort of dream would not wash in this 21st century and particularly in Vancouver where publications play it boringly safe. I can only feel lucky that I worked in better and more exciting times.
|Photo Illustration - Juan Manuel Sánchez - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
Imagine that Jack Shadbolt were alive and living in Argentina. Imagine
calling him up and telling him you were assigned to photograph an
American director involved in an opera production of Gounod's Faust.
Imagine the thrill of having him collaborate in a photo illustration. I
have had that thrill because Juan Manuel Sánchez, 74, is an Argentine
painter living in Vancouver of Shadbolt's equivalent caliber. He speaks
no English, so he feels a bit isolated. He sometimes tells me, "I am a
penguin in Canada. That is about as lonely as a polar bear in
Argentina." When the Straight
asked me, with very short notice,
to photograph Nick Muni, who is directing the Vancouver Opera's
production of Faust, I knew that only a colaboración
what Juan and I call our joint works)would save me. I gave Juan three
8x10 prints of Nick Muni in case he made a mistake. Overnight Juan
worked on one of them and proudly returned the other two, unused. If you
look closely, you will notice that Mephistopheles has military epaulets
much like an Argentine general. I had one hell of a time convincing
Juan to keep clothes on Marguerite. "If you don't," I told Juan, "our
collaborative career at the Straight will be shortlived."
Juan Manuel Sánchez
La Cucaracha - Aji-No-Moto & My History With Drugs
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
La Cucaracha (meaning "The Cockroach") is a
traditional Spanish language folk song. It is unknown when the song came about.
It is very popular in Mexico, and was especially so during the Mexican
Revolution. Many alternative stanzas exist. The basic song describes a
cockroach that cannot walk. It has an uneven 5/4 time signature. The song has
been performed widely. It is about the fact that the bug has lost one of its
six legs and is struggling to walk with its remaining five.The cockroach's
uneven, five-legged gait is imitated by the song's original 5/4 meter, formed
by removing one upbeat (corresponding to the missing sixth leg) from the second
half of a 6/4 measure:
But the most often sung version in Mexico has nothing to
do with its missing hind leg:
cucaracha, la cucaracha,
no tiene, porque le falta
llevan a enterrar
entre cuatro zopilotes
ratón de sacristán.
The cockroach, the cockroach,
can't walk anymore
because it doesn't have, because it's lacking
marijuana to smoke.
The cockroach just died
now they take her to be buried
and a mouse as the sexton.
My first impression when I came to Canada and witnessed
my first hockey game is that I could not understand why an organist would play the
Mexican Hat Dance and La Cucaracha! I am not a lover of the Hammond organ or
the accordion so that may be the reason why I have never warmed up to the
Canadian National Game.
But of late I have been thinking about that buzzed
cockroach a lot and I have decided to look back at my past for a possible drug
In the 50s we all thought (so my mother told me) that
actor Robert Mitchum had semi-closed eyes because he smoked marihuana. The
proof of it was a picture of his sweeping in jail.
In Mexico in the early 70s we called anybody who smoked
the stuff marijuanos. In an article about the weed in a Sunday newspaper I
noticed that the image that they had of the plant was the wrong one. In many an
empty lot in Mexico City the plant grows wild so I knew what it looked like.
Around 1972 two of my friends bought peyote at a local
herb market and decided to experiment with yours truly. I was given a potion of
the stuff that was so vile that I threw it up without any effects to my thought
By the time my wife and two daughters and I moved to
Canada in 1975 I suffered terrible migraines that disappeared one day when I
was 64 or thereabouts. Until that moment I depended on a prescribed drug called
Gravegol. The pills were very strong downers that made me float. With two in my
system I could have taken the shouting of my mother-in-law (who never did shout
at me) in stride. I was so afraid at becoming addicted that I would suffer
migraines for days and not take the pills.
In the late 70s a friend of mine who was the leader of a
pop band that composed a great song called Goodbye Mr. Bond offered (insisted)
I try some of his very good hash in my very good Irish Peterson pipe. We were
sunning ourselves in our birthday suits on Wreck Beach. After a while he asked
me how I was feeling. I was barely able to tell him that I could not move and I
was almost unable to talk. Further forays into tokes that were passed my way in
some editorial kitchen party (there were many of those parties and very few of
my forays) always made me stutter which was something I hated to do. That was
the end of any attempts on my part to smoke the weed.
I can be very firm in saying that I would never ever try
any drug that has to be injected. In the late 40s in Buenos Aires I lived in
the fear every year of the diphtheria vaccine that we had to get at school. For
reasons that have never been explained to me the vaccine was injected in the
spinal column. Ever since then I have had a fear (even more than when I see a
snake) of any injection. Every two weeks I have to inject myself with Humira
for treating my Psoriatic Arthritis. I hate this and I postpone it until the
last possible moment.
Only once about 20 years ago I was asked by a pleasantly
chubby woman at Gary Taylor’s Rock Room to open my hand. She placed a white
powder on it and said, “Enjoy.” I sniffed; I was too embarrassed not to. She
came back and asked how it had been. My answer was one she did not understand or
like, “I felt like I was going up the stairs of the New York City subway on a
very hot summer day and felt a rush of cold air.”
That was the last time I had any kind of illicit drugs.
While teaching in a high school for rich American kids in
Mexico City around 1970 my students asked me on my stand on marihuana. I wanted
to sound cool but at the same time I had to stick to the fact that I was a
teacher in a school run by a female principal who was a member of the John
This is what I told them:
“There are two ways to enjoy a tomato. One is to pluck
one from a vine and sprinkle it with some salt. Another is to buy a supermarket
tomato and sprinkle it with MSG. I like the first way.”
They knew what MSG was because in Mexico they had been
selling a Japanese product called Aji-No-Moto which was pure MSG.
At age 74 I do not need to escape my present reality in
any way with the addition of any additives such as alcohol and drugs. Life is
just fine the way it is.
It may interest some that the 5/4 time signature of La Cucaracha is the same as Paul Desmond's Take Five.
My American baroque stand-up bassist friend from Portland, Curtis Daily
, always alert and never buzzed except for his morning addiction to coffee has weighed in on the La Cucaracha:
I just read your post about La Cucaracha. I was about to
write that while the rhythmic divisions cross bar lines, the tune is solidly in
4/4, I then looked it up in Wikipedia, where I found the information about it
being in 5/4 originally.
After looking at all the sheet music online for it that
is all in 4/4, it made me think about your recent post with all the different
biblical translations of one passage.
I can easily see that it would have originally been in
5/4 where the “la” is the downbeat rather than the first of three eighth note
pickups: la cu ca RA(3 eighths) cha followed by another eighth rest to make it
Then I though how nice it would be to hear it played,
perhaps in 5/4, by a son jarocho
group[a musical ensemble from the State of Veracruz], as it seemed to be the kind
of song that could come from the jarochos.
while in 4/4 is still pleasantly off kilter.