Sean Rossiter - A Constant Ache in my Heart
Saturday, November 12, 2016
As a boy I saw Strategic
Air Command with James Stewart and June Allyson. I have always been an
airplane nut. It was wonderful to see James Stewart at the controls of the then
(1955) cutting edge jet medium bomber the Boeing B-47 Strato Jet. But I had
never seen Gordon Douglas’ B-52 with
Natalie Wood, Marsha Hunt, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Karl Malden.
I saw it on TCM last night, Saturday November 11, 2016. I
ached inside because there was nobody I knew with whom I could share my
After a few years of having attended concerts at the
Orpheum Annex and at Pyatt Hall (both on Seymour between Nelson and Robson) I
have realized that the future of arts performances in Vancouver is to be in
smaller venues. Some Vancouver churches have known this, too and they have been
offering a lovely array of concerts lately.
I ached again because there was nobody I could share my
story idea. At one time I would have called Sean Rossiter
to tell him about
B-52. We would have discussed the features of the gigantic bomber and perhaps
delved into our favourite Natalie Wood Films.
I had seen, very close one of those B-52s just about the time the film came out at Bergsrom Air Force Base in Austin.
The story idea I wanted to share was about the smaller
arts venues and their architects. Rossiter was the best writer about
architecture this city ever had. The reason is that he had several platforms –
Malcolm Parry’s Vancouver Magazine
(and Western Living
during his tenure as
Editor there), the Georgia Straight
(when Charles Campbell was the editor) and
the Vancouver Sun Saturday Magazine
either under Max Wyman or David Beers. That
is gone. My story idea is as good as dead.
The Orpheum Annex and Pyatt Hall besides having superb acoustics, can be configured (either stadium type of seating or with nightclub tables) to adapt to different sized musical groups and have all the latest so that new music groups can plug in all their electronics.
It is my feeling that places like the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (what do they host besides Ballet BC and the now reduced Vancouver Opera?) and the Playhouse (with the demise of the Playhouse Theatre Company) will lie fallow most of the year.
It took some effort before a chap from Vancouver CivicTheatres
told me who designed and built the Orpheum Annex. And I then found
out, as I
suspected that Pyatt Hall was
also designed by the firm in question: bingham + hill architects
. One of their principals,
Mike Hill sent me the following fascinating information (Sean wouldn’t you lap
this up with enthusiasm?):
Yes, we are very proud of this facility.
Project Architect was Doug Nelson. I was Partner in Charge, but it was primarily
BHA were Architects for entire project, including Orpheum
Annex, Pyatt Hall and VSO School of Music, as well as the shell space/void
constructed on the west side to permit future expansion of the Orpheum Stage.
Design team included Robert Hamilton with DWD for theatre
design and Aerocoustics for acoustics.
Vancouver Civic Theatres were a major player in the design as well.
Mike Hill, Architect AIBC, LEED®AP, Partner
bingham + hill architects
201 1444 Alberni St.
Vancouver, BC, V6G 2Z4
Leonard Cohen - 21 September 1934 – 10 November 2016
Thursday, November 10, 2016
My memory of having Leonard Cohen pose for my camera is that my image of him was of a man who never smiled, who seemed to be depressed most of the time. It was all based on a first impression. My good Yorkshire-born friend Andrew Taylor showed me, it was in Mexico City, around 1970 a record (the 1967 Songs of Leonard Cohen). I noticed a glum sap on the cover.
Since my Rosemary is Canadian he told me, “Here’s
a chap you should listen to. He’s a Canadian.” We plunked the record on my
turntable and listened to Suzanne. All I could tell my friend, “That is
So there was Cohen in front of me, in 1988 in Vancouver BC. At the time I had the
crazy (awful?) technique of lifting my camera high on my tripod and shooting
down on my subjects to make them seem smaller.
He looked at me and said, “I am an English speaking Jew in a
French speaking Montreal. That makes me a bad apple minority and that’s what I
I snapped 17 pictures (my use of 220 roll film gave me 20
exposures) and he looked dramatically sombre for all of them.
It was then that
I came up with the idea. I told him, “For
this next picture there must be no hint of even a smile.” I waited with my left
hand on the cable release and he did the remarkable thing of laughing! And then
right after that he brought up his reading glasses and hammed it up. I was so
wonderfully shaken that I quit right there and did not fire that final 20th
A Shameless Brave New World
Wednesday, November 09, 2016
I distinctly remember my entrance to an awareness of politicians and political life. It was on the playground of the American Grammar School in Buenos Aires. It was October 1952 and I was 10. Most of the students of the school were American. We (including this Argentine) were arguing and shouting epithets at each other. I had no idea who either of the men in question were. But I remember shouting over and over, "Einsenhower in the shower." It seems that my mother's liberal views were already steering me towards the Democrats.
Pobre de México tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos
La frase, se le acredita al general Porfirio Díaz, quien gobernó a
México durante más de 30 años, pero realmente fue escrita por Nemesio
Garcia Naranjo, intelectual regiomontano, periodista, diputado federal,
director del periódico La Tribuna y colaborador del semanario Siempre.
Falleció en la década de los sesentas.
Poor Mexico, so far from God and so near the United States.
The phrase is accredited to General Porfirio Díaz, who governed Mexico for more than 30 years. It was really written by Nemesio García Naranjo, an intelectual from Monterey who was a newspaperman, a federal deputy, Editor of the newspaper La Tribuna and a collaborator of the weekly Siempre. He died in the 60s.
But November 9, 2016 had, for me, its beginning here:
"Joe" Wilson, Sr. (born July 31, 1947) is U.S. Representative for
South Carolina's 2nd congressional district, serving since 2001. The district
stretches from the state capital, Columbia, to the Georgia-South Carolina
border. He is a member of the Republican Party. He previously served in the
South Carolina Senate from 1985 to 2001.
He is a member of
the House Republican Policy Committee and is an Assistant Republican Whip.
In September 2009,
Wilson received international attention when he interrupted a speech by U.S.
President Barack Obama to the joint session of Congress by shouting "You
lie!" The incident resulted in a formal rebuke by the House of
re-elected in 2010 by a comfortable 9 percent over his nearest challenger and
when he ran unopposed in the 2012 general election he was re-elected with 96%
of the vote. Wilson won re-election in 2014 with over 62% of the vote in a
That day signaled a point of apparent no return to a more polite times.
In the ancient Greek democracy, a yet to be called poll
tax, enabled only citizens of city states to vote in elections. When Rome was a
democracy (before Caesar) political life was based on the likes of patrician
families (patricians) making most of the governing decisions for the common
folk the plebs.
American founding fathers knew about this reality which
was based in their eyes by the idea that only those with an education would be
allowed to vote.
In our 21st century as societies become slowly
but surely classless, but with men (mostly men) in charge of making the
decisions at the top, we have the results that on November 9th
shocked the United States and the rest of the world.
In Spanish a person with educación is not necessarily a person with an education. It refers
more to the idea of a person having grace and manners. Perhaps we who speak
Spanish associate manners as something one learns in good family and in a good
school. My mother would often say in my presence, “Hay poca gente fina como
nosotros.” This would translate as, “There are few people with grace and
manners like us.”
It is dangerous to agree with such a statement in this 21st
century. It is dangerous to use the disparaging epithet of “farmer” to describe
those who may have voted for Trump in the Midwest. It is dangerous, even, to
describe the workers in the rust belt as blue-collar workers.
I remember how in the late 60s and early 70s the word ejecutivo was a classy adjective to
describe airplanes, offices, hotels and even secretaries. In the society in my
then Mexico City the great unwashed were patronized by the mostly white
executives. Then business men (mostly men) were caught in dishonest schemes and
followed the Latin American decline in not having respect for politicians.
Executives were part of all that.
It is almost impossible for me to explain to my Buenos
Aires family that my son-in-law is a Vancouver Trans-Link bus driver. They
cannot conceive of this because they are still mired in a society with
established classes. Argentine football players have risen up from the class
called "cabecitas negras" (little black haired and black skinned men). Maradona
was such a person and few in the higher strata of Argentine society ever liked
him until he began to win by hook or by God’s crook.
So we in Canada almost live in a classless society. There
are the people with homes in the city, farms in the interior and bus drivers,
carpenters and plumbers are almost part of it. Outside of those classes we have
the homeless and the Native Canadians in their reservations. We in Canada are
not perfect. We are not so bad when compared with our neighbour to the South with
their horrific black ghettos, crime and guns.
And yet going back to my mother’s idea of “gente fina” I like to think of
presidents like Kennedy, and even both of the Bushes.They had style, a bit of
class and the latter Bush as bad as he might have been he still had a sense of
I am tortured by the idea of the concept of the Ivy
League, of Brooks Brothers, of women in New York City attending openings at the
Metropolitan Opera or of people going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Are they educated and also educada? Does this apply to folks who live in big cities (almost like Greek City States) only?
I think of actors like Cary Grant, Katherine or Audrey Hepburn, Candice Bergen and compare them to what we have now. Do their replacements have that graciousness and class? Can we look up to them or do we just enjoy they marital breakups?
President Barack Obama
and his wife oozed with grace,
elegance and coolness. Perhaps Hillary Clinton might have grown in office to
achieve some of that.
My only hope, from my vantage point of Vancouver BC, is that President Donald Trump might just
grow in the White House and get some of that “educación” late in his life at
It is my only hope as the wives of world politicians and
female politicians of the world at large will make sure their hands are ready
to fight off any groping. He is after all “a pussy grabber.”
If my politically savvy mother were alive today she would tell me:
"Sursum corda." Lift up your heart.
Failure? - The Dog - The Woman & the Divan
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
When I taught photography and that seems now a long time
ago, I used to tell my students that bringing a beautiful woman into a studio (or a man) and placing her
close to a gray wall (with a high ceiling) was the beginning of almost sure
failure. To then use a large easy to use softbox (a rare item these days), to
have your camera on a big heavy tripod (with you in back of it and your subject
in front of it) would almost always result in complete failure.
was to find a common ground, a common interest with your subject and to have a
good plan of action. This plan of action did not need to be written in stone.
Many times a smarter subject of mine would suggest something that was a lot
better than my plan. I had to be ready to not sit on my pride.
Now in my
new little and very intimate studio in my Kitsilano duplex my ability to do the
stuff that might have come easy in my Robson and Granville studio (Alas! It is
gone.) is no extremely limited. Even a head to toe shot is barely possible. And
I have no boom light which was such a useful device when mimicking Hollywood
What I do
now is to get very close and get my light very close and I work in revealing
what I see in my subject (while knowing that my subject is the person who has
to allow me to open that door).
photography we used to have these two terms (if you were a professional). There
were the studio shots and sessions and the ones that were on location. That
location could be a beach, a forest, a home, railroad tracks (God forbid that
cliché!) or if the photograph was to be more intimate a person’s home. My fave,
of course was my subject’s bed and preferably with my subject in it.
love seat or divan could be useful as it was for this photograph.