Jann of the Ardent Heart
Saturday, December 23, 2017
She got her first guitar when she was 15 and wrote her first song not long after. By
the time she was 22, she’d abandoned plans to go to university and become a
teacher. Instead, she left home to pursue a musical career, leaving her mother
crying in the driveway.
– The Globe and Mail – Saturday November 19 1994
Perhaps this blog has no particular Christmas theme if one at all. And yet this woman's (Jann Arden), badly spotted and streaked 8x10 glossy (one that went from Vancouver to the Globe and Mail's photo desk in Toronto and back has languished (beautifully) in my files until tonight December 22, 2017.
It looks the way it does because in those years Ilford made a paper that was on a plastic base. It was easy to print and it produced beautiful jet blacks. But the paper (Ilfospeed) was unstable and even if not displayed to light but stored inside my metal files, sometimes it would develop these nice (to my eyes) colours.
It was tonight that I read in Facebook (I landed in Jann Arden's page by accident) her account of looking at herself in the mirror. It is honest, beautiful and wonderful. It has over 1000 comments.
When I read it I felt uplifted. If anything this makes this a most adequate Christmas blog!
This Was His Finest Hour
Friday, December 22, 2017
Yesterday afternoon Rosemary and I went to the Fifth Avenue Cinemas to see The Darkest Hour
featuring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, Kristen Scott Thomas as Clemmie (Scott
Thomas resembles Daniel Day-Lewis more every time I see her) and Ronald Pickup
as Neville Chamberlain (and Pickup is the spitting image of my father).
Of special note for me was the performance of Ben Mendelsohn
as King George VI. Both Rosemary and I thought he was superb. His so-called speech impediment was understated. At the end he had us all fooled and almost out of character for a king utters the word "bugger".
The film has three elements of directorial innovation that I
enjoyed. There are two London street scenes in which the camera pans to the
right with the people moving in slow motion. Another has the camera looking
down (first in House of Commons in Parliament and then in a war zone in Calais,
and another on London itself until the persons or person seen in big becomes a
dot on the screen.
The other involves Hannah Steele playing Churchill’s stenographer
and later his virtual assistant. Churchill dictates his speeches in bed, from
the bathroom, etc and when he does make the speeches sometimes the scenes cut
from the typewriter to the location of the speech. In other situations Steele
can be seen silently mouthing the speech as she listens.
And of course the film ends with Churchill’s rousing speech
This was their finest hour:
"This was their finest hour" is the title commonly
attributed to a speech delivered by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons
of the Parliament of the United Kingdom on 18 June 1940.
For me this speech has a particular place in my mind and
heart. It was in the late 80s that I had the good fortune to photograph actor
Rod Steiger in his hotel room here in Vancouver.
I knocked on the door and a man, unshaven and wearing a
black hat let me in and asked me if I wanted to have lunch with him in the
room. This involved large amounts of white wine.
I was in my glory as I truly admired the man and particular
for the Sydney Lumet 1964 film The Pawnbroker and the 1970 film Waterloo where he played Napoleon. And who can ever
forget the Dentyne Chewing Gum (cinnamon flavour so Steiger told me) chewing sheriff
in the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night?
Steiger told me that to prepare for his Napoleon he even
read French and English newspapers of the day. He also, with a heavy regret,
told me that the one part that eluded him was that of playing Churchill.
And then without missing a beat he recited the whole This
was their finest hour speech.
And there I was incredulous but feeling blessed with my glass
of white wine.
Stripes For Christmas
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Christmas, once you have purchased all the gifts and put up
the Christmas tree (and we have done it) is when time stops. It is an interval
For me 2017 was the year when I finally cut off myself (or
was cut off) from all my possible photographic jobs. It is the year when it
finally sunk in that I am (there is a bit of dark humour in this) obsolete –
redundant & retired.
It was the year when I stopped making lists of all the stuff
that once existed that is now long gone, including that early list of
Studebakers, Edixas, Packards, Minoltas, Borgwards, Ricohs, Oldsmobile
Achievas, Ektachrome, black dial telephones, travel agencies, journalists,
editors, Pontiacs, Saturday Night, more than one big box bookstore, Sony
Stores, Kodachrome,Duthies, cathode ray tube monitors to replace the one I have
when it finally calls it quits, my darkroom, our Athlone garden, our 2007 Malibu, my
granddaughters as children, etc.
One bright spot is the fact that I am invited to the Georgia
Straight Christmas party even though I no longer do any work for them. I went
to the party this year and ran into about 10 people I knew of which only four
were people I had worked with. Astoundingly what now seems to be a pleasant occasion
is that I sit down to chat with Straight owner Dan McLeod who is particularly nice
to me and even manages to converse in various monosyllables! Who would have
In this contemplative time I reconsider what I can do with
the time I have left in collaboration with my many cameras and my now
refurbished and dedicated (only a camera) iPhone3G.
Will I go out and shoot sunsets, cityscapes, fireworks,
street photography, document fire plugs and telephone posts, take more than two
pictures of my cat Casi-Casi per year, and photograph (and not scan) my roses?
Will I pursue my interest in exploring my now more subtle (because I am an old man)
look into what I think is erotic?
I will have to be careful as in trying to recruit possible
candidates for this onerous task in this 2017 might be seen as harassment if I
am too pushy.
As an example, and I rest my case, the accompanying
photograph of this blog is one of Lisa Prentiss with that cliché that is the
venetian blind reflection on the human body. I hope that in this coming 2018 I
am able to snap many more like this one.
For anybody who might have a question about the photograph herein, it is exactly how I saw it through my viewfinder (Nikon FM-2) and I did not crop it.
Christmas & El Llanero Solitario
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
For me Christmas was always about children. In the beginning
the child was me. Then our daughters made the festivity relevant. Our two
granddaughters Lauren, 15, and Rebecca, 20 are no longer children.
We cannot buy them cute dresses and nice shoes. Now they
want makeup. Imagine this idiot going to Shopper’s to find stuff for them! We
are now in that unimaginative and sterile gift certificate period.
surprises can be in store for us after Christmas dinner on Nochebuena?
Personally I want nothing. I have my new Fuji X-E3 and a
refurbished and dedicated (only a camera) iPhone3G.
Food has lost a lot for me as my taste buds (not my sense of
smell!) are not sensitive unless I load whatever I am eating with Yucatecan
habanero (very green! )sauce.
Rosemary has every article of clothing and shoes she needs.
If anything we are donating to Big Brothers almost every week. We are divesting
ourselves of stuff.
My yearly (and very exciting) trips to 25% off hardcover
days at Indigo on Granville and West Broadway are over. I am reading the latest
Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri courtesy of the VPL
What is left?
For sure I have my memories of Christmas past and all the
ghosts are pleasant ones.
As a young boy in Buenos Aires I was no different from
others. We all loved American stuff even though we liked to paint on walls “¡Fuera
yanquis! In fact there was a huge ad in the central train station of Retiro
that had this, “Cemento Portland USA”.
My memories of those Christmases involved going to see
American “conboy” films. My fave ever was the 1950 film Colt .45 with Randolph
Every time I had an excuse to go to the Coghlan train
station on our way to town with my mother I would scan the newsstands for
Llanero Solitario (The Lone Ranger) comic books. I did not like Roy Rodgers too
much I preferred Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autrey. In fact I had a Gene Autrey
cap pistol I was very proud of.
These memories of my past (pleasant they are) are more so
when I look at this strip (ha! Ha!) of Lisa Prentiss wearing a Llanero
Our Pyracantha coccinea
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
|Our second Kitsilano Christmas|
Ever since we moved to Vancouver from Mexico City in 1975 we have
handled snow with an ignorant precaution. In most cases we have opted to leave
the car at home and take transit.
For some years we had Audi A-4s with all-wheel drive and we
felt safe driving them during snow storms. The cars had all-weather tires. But
there were slipping problems here and there.
This year with the idea that our 2017 Chevrolet Cruze is the
last car I will ever buy and drive, I thought it was a good time to buy real
snow tires. This I did at Dueck’s. They are charging me $80 to store the summer
Today I have to pick up our granddaughter Lauren, 15, at her
Arts Umbrella Dance class on Granville Island. If today’s snow stays I am kind
of excited at the prospect of seeing how our Cruze navigates the snow.
What we are never told is that snow tires are extra good for
wet roads. I have noticed how precise the Cruze is at stopping in rainy
We woke up to today’s early snow fall and I looked out of
the window. One of the few plants we kept from this house we purchased a bit
more than a year ago is the Pyracantha coccinea. Notice the beautiful red
berries outside my oficina and studio. To the right of the door I placed a bird
feeder. I also put seeds in the pot hanging from the left of the door. Our
garden is full of birds that take turns at munching the seeds.
My Rosemary smiles and that presages, perhaps a merry
For hold them, blue to blue
Monday, December 18, 2017
THE BRAIN is wider than the sky,
For, put them
side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and
The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them,
blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them,
pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from