Ohio - Neil Young
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Ohio - Neil Young
Ohio- Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall 1971
My grandmother often said to me, “La ignorancia es
atrevida,” or “ignorance is daring.” Another of her favourites (related to a 19th
century Spanish rejection of Darwin), “Asomó el rabo.” This translates to
something like, “That person is so ignorant that his tail (a monkey’s) is
I can remember very well two of my personal showing of my
In the early 60s a friend of mine who knew a lot about music
(he liked Ella Fitzgerald a lot and had all her records) asked me, “Have you
heard Carmina Burana?” I answered, “No, who is she?”
In the early 70s while teaching high school in Mexico City
my students asked me if I had ever heard Alice Cooper. My answer was identical
to the one above.
My students were mature for their age and did not laugh at
me. I was told that we would trade. I would introduce them to my music and they
to theirs. I was invited to a party. The put on record and told me it was one
of their favourite bands. The band was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. While
I thought they were good I forgot all about them. I had no idea who any of them
were much less that Young, was Neil Young and that he was Canadian.
Two months ago I decided to end all these years of my Neil
Young ignorance. Perhaps I was stirred into action by a CBC Radio This is That
segment on an American producing a Neil Young film biography.
This is That segment on Neil Young
I went to London Drugs and in their very good CD rack I went
to the Ys and found Neil Young’s Greatest Hits. I immediately played it when I
got home and fell in love with Ohio.
I have never met Neil Young and I have never heard him
perform live but there is something about his singing, his songs, his guitar
playing, his harmonica that I find unique.
Since I am not a musician I took Les Wiseman’s double
advice, “Write about that which you know and if you don’t consult experts.” But
the fact is that I asked four people, one at a time, if they would write
something for my blog in which they would explain the special significance in
the scheme of things Canadian of Neil Young. They prevaricated and they they
turned me down.
Neil Young is three years younger than I am. But perhaps he
might die and when he does I am sure that everybody will be contributing their
brief moments of contact with greatness in social media. These are the same
people getting ready their social media, ambulance chasing little obituaries
for the any day, now, demise of Keith Richards.
But until Young dies and if I am still around will it only
be then that I will find out what makes this man unique?
This is why I will attempt in this little essay to see if I
can find my own answers.
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that I discovered (what should
have been obvious) that to feel nostalgia for a place you have to be somewhere
else. It was in that year that the two Argentine painters Juan Manuel Sánchez,
his wife Nora Patrich and I explored our personal nostalgia for Argentina and
in particular Buenos Aires.
If you have served your country (and I did as a conscript),
fell in love with two women while there in Argentina, swore allegiance to a
flag and constitution you would have thought that I feel deeply as an
Argentine. But that was not the case. For years I have felt Mexican because I
lived there for many years and American because I spent the formative teen
years of my life in Austin. My sense of nationality is a tad confused. My
former mentor and friend, Raul Guerrero Montemayor considered himself “híbrido”
because of his mixed origins, education and the fact he spoke more than 10
So I can safely state that I feel Argentine, Mexican and
American because I am in Canada.
I married my Canadian wife Rosemary in Mexico City in 1968
and it was only then when she taught me about Canada. I knew nothing until
When we moved with our two daughters to Vancouver in 1975 my first hint
of belonging to this country happened because of the CBC. The CBC was the first
entity to employ me as a photographer. It was while listening to the CBC that I
found out that Newfoundland was pronounced New- found- land. It felt good to
pronounce it the way they did.
My further venture into feeling Canadian was learning to
dance the Argentine tango in Vancouver and having people observe me and ask me
about my native Buenos Aires. Somehow there was an inkling of being Canadian
But here is where I go out on a limb. Argentine tango is
music of a city, Buenos Aires. Few foreigners will know that outside of Buenos
Aires the music heard is called folklore. It has no connection with the tango.
And yet many say that the tango was imported from Uruguay.
Listening to any tango transports me to Buenos Aires, to my
youth and to my two girlfriends. Listening to Piazzolla is even more direct to
my brain. Is there any other music in any other part of the world that is of
Reading Jorge Luís Borges (all of it) and Julio Cortázar
(most of it) is to be in Buenos Aires, to recognize the street names and the
places in the stories. Are there any other writers anywhere else that wrote
about only one city? Argentines call that "costumbrismo."
This brings me to the fact that while I met and photographed
Leonard Cohen (but none of the famous female Canadian singers) I find him less
Canadian and much more part of the world. We Canadians (and I am one
sometimes!) should understand that Cohen is not only ours.
But what is it about the sound of Young, his harmonica, his
voice can be derivative of his friend Dylan and yet?
There is something about his sound (and Ohio is a good
example of that) that can only be understood deep in the heart and mind by someone
from here – someone who is Canadian.
And yes, because of Neil Young I can truly say that I am
Canadian and I can easily make believe I am somewhere else and that I
experience nostalgia for my country.
Two Architects Who Stayed
Friday, December 15, 2017
|Norman Hotson & Joost Bakker|
When I read Gordon McIntyre’s article
on architects Norman
Hotson and Joost Bakker in today’s hard copy Vancouver Sun
I was pleased. I was
pleased too to understand why since my arrival to Vancouver in 1975 we have
always been subscribed to the Sun. It is our city newspaper.
It was only a couple of days ago that ex art director,
design director, editor, publisher and magazine owner and now a musician, Bob
Mercer had a Spanish tortilla (an omelette) in my Kitsilano home. We discussed the
soon-to-be gone Westender.
Soon there will be no competition for the Vancouver Sun and
the Georgia Straight. We wondered why those two publications, and in particular
the Straight don’t go for really large
photographs (well taken and with style) as much of the advertisers of the
Westender will be looking for another place to spend their money. I will quote
Mercer here, “A publication about the arts [the Straight?] should look good.”
We talked about the death of Sean Rossiter has left our
city with no real voice in writing about
architecture and city politics.
Sometime in the late 70s I photographed Norman Hotson
outside his office on the yet to be developed Yaletown.
The picture here of Norman Hotson and Joost Bakker is one of
many photographs that I took for Western Living (this one) and Vancouver
Magazine. In most cases the writers were either Sean Rossiter or Kerry
McPhedran. Most of the other architects I photographed either died or moved to
better hunting grounds.
Mercer and I wondered how endangered is the profession of
the publicist. Sooner or later these few remaining publicists will figure out
that an intelligent use of social media is about all that is left in town.
Émile Zola, Bob Mercer & the Day Glo Abortions
Thursday, December 14, 2017
|Left Émile Zola - Right Bob Mercer - December 14 - 2017|
While I have known many photographers in my career as a
magazine photographer in Vancouver I cannot generalize about “our” habits. I
can only assert about myself and those reading this can take it from there and
decide if other photographers have the same habits.
As a photographer I believe I have mostly been set in my
ways for periods of time. I have been through the print in high contrast, print
in split contrast, shoot only with Kodak b+w Infrared Film, use one light, use
many lights, use available light and so on.
I think that as a photographer I am a paradox of being
conservative while also taking chances.
Laziness or an inability to go further in my methods of
shooting made me early one to say I did not want to shoot with a 4x5 camera (I
did once) as I did not want to see the world upside down. Laziness made me
loose total interest in a pre-digital technique (very complicated it was)
I was never interested in true techniques of the 19th
century. I did not want to lose my hair (lots of mercury vapour) with
Daguerreotypes nor was I interested in glass plates or Talbot Types (paper
negatives sandwiched further to make paper positives).
I was curious enough to use primitive box cameras (never the
lousy modern Holga) or swivel-lens panoramics. I have all three that were the
most popular, the Widelux, the Horizont and the huge Noblex.
If anything, any diversity I ever showed was in lighting. I
even shot the strangely named Day-Glo Abortions
with black lighting.
|Day Glo Abortions|
Because I am aware of those ancient 10th century
photographic methods I have a memory to what they looked like. I can imitate
some of them and purists can scoff all they want.
The reason that I don’t care is that all the time that I
have been taking photographs with whatever lights and equipment I had at my
disposal I was also attempting to achieve the better portrait. I am not
interested in a still life or in landscapes.
This past two weeks showed me a couple of items that told me
I have been on the right track. In a brand new book Avedon-Something Personal
by Norma Stevens [Avedon’s studio manager] and Steven M.L. Aronson I read this:
…until the end Avedon
was pavonine and recessive, autocratic and inhibited, everyone’s best friend
and utterly inscrutable. It doesn’t add up. It can’t. It’s a portrait, and as
Avedon’s most famous saying goes, “All photographs are accurate. None of them
is the truth.”
When I pursue a portrait I am looking for what I consider
(most subjective this is) the essence of the person my camera is pointed at. I
am aware that the person posing is only showing what I am allowed to see and
only in rare occasions will my subject remove all veils and walls. I attempt to
portray in a portrait (a single one) the essence in Platonic terms.
This portrait of Bob Mercer that I took today (with my iPhone3G is my take on what makes him be Bob
Mercer. He would probably laugh at this.
The second interesting revelation was finding this article
in the Guardian where I found out that Émile Zola was a prolific photographer.
One of the portraits, a self-portrait that caught my eye was one called a
cyanotype. This method of printing photographs extended well into the 20th
century and there may be still some artistes who do it.
Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that produces a
cyan-blue print. Engineers used the process well into the 20th century as a
simple and low-cost process to produce copies of drawings, referred to as
blueprints. The process uses two chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and
I wrote about the process here.
Now with a little bit of useful Photoshop knowledge and the
use of my $50 Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 photo program I can make and prints
(inkjets) that are close copies.
And why not? After although I am a conservative on this
stuff I am not a purist.
Bellingham, A Repaired Sony Turntable & the Vivaldi Gloria
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
|The Bellingham Fotomat|
Rosemary and I today drove to Bellingham very early in the
morning (to avoid that Richmond tunnel problem that begins around 3pm). The
purpose of our trip was to buy very sweet, junk breakfast cereals for our
son-in-law and younger granddaughter (they should know better).
But we also take advantage that Bellingham has La Gloria
that stocks, not only daily made tortillas but all kinds of Mexican groceries
not available in Vancouver. And of course my frugal wife insists I fill-up with
gasoline at the Costco gas station.
I must plainly write here that in previous years it was fun
to drive to the United States. The fact that the Canadian Dollar is low in
comparison to the American Dollar is not the reason. I simply do not want to
buy anything be it electronic, photographic or clothes at Macy’s. I buy now
very few books and check out the books I really want to read from our Vancouver
I wrote about the thrill of the first time I went to the UShere
. At one time Rosemary and I loved going to Seattle and spending the night
and driving back. We always managed to listen to Marion McPartland’s Piano Bar
on the radio. All those pleasures have faded.
Driving home Rosemary reminded that my Sony linear tracking turntable
had been repaired. We picked it up. The pleasant gentleman at the repair shop
asked me if I wanted to buy a new Stanton stylus as the one in my present
cartridge while good might not be so good in a few years. Since I bought the
turntable (used) at a Sony Store around 1990 I figured that when I go to where
my ears will no longer be functioning, one of my daughters might want to play
records. I bought the stylus.
We arrived home where we were greeted by Casi-Casi. I
connected my turntable and immediately plaid my circa 1970 Turnabout TVS-34029 Vivaldi
Gloria in D major, RV 589
It felt good to be back in Canada and to listen to a preview
of the glorious Gloria we are going to listen to live at the Chan with an
all-female cast of singers and musicians on the 23d.