A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.
A Yuletide Camellia
Saturday, December 07, 2019
Camellia sansaqua 'Yuletide' - 7 December 2019
This camellia which seems to have a few different names :
Camellia x vernalis “Yuletide’
is probably a man-made (person) cultivar. Plant species
will have mutations in the wild. Or plant species can be observed in a nursery
for unusual qualities. These are usually called selections. Another method
involves the use of pollinators to cross one plant with another.
Whichever way you look at it this camellia blooms in
December. On today’s date of 7 December it had two flowers (seen here) and many
buds. By Christmas it will have more.
What we have here is a plant that it going to give the
poinsettia and the holly a run for their money. My Rosemary had me going to
different nurseries until we found this one. It is outside our front door and
she has attached some miniature lights to it.
Mac Bethad Macfindlaich - Thane of Maple Ridge & Jasper
Friday, December 06, 2019
Brent Hirose - 5 December 2019
I was attracted to the The Tragic Comedy of Macbeth by Mac
Bethad Macfindlaich (and William Shakespeare) at the Jericho Arts Centre last night for two
reasons – the dual directors. One is Bernard Cuffling the other is Gary C. Jones.
The former is my favourite angel, whose lovely booming voice
and accent reflect his Shakespearean background. The latter, Gary C. Jones, has
been a writer for CBC’s most intelligent (my opinion) radio program – The Debaters. The Debaters can get away
with doing stuff that other radio programs cannot touch as the intelligent
content is hidden by humour.
No matter how the Thane of Glamis and then Of Cawder somehow
last night became (this will vary as the play depends on the audience to define
as to his origins) the Thane of Maple Ridge (via the Dewdney Trunk Road) and
the Thane of Jasper, with acquaintances in Vesuvius Harbour, nothing is really
different from Shakespeare’s play. Cuffling has done his homework. Jones brings
the idea of improvisation in his talent as a stand-up comedy actor.
Brent Hirose with Bernard Cuffling
The most able Brent Hirose, as Macbeth, attempts to escape
the losing of his head that he tells us has occurred in a huge number of
performances of the play throughout the world in many languages. We the
audience throw variations to force him to improvise on the spot on his destiny.
But in the end destiny destroys whatever idea we as humans may have about free
In my many ventures into performances of Shakespeare’s plays
I never go to any of them without consulting my Shakespeare- the Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom. A copy
much like mine, but more ragged is always on Christopher Gaze’s bed table. Last
night’s play turned that all around. It was the first book I turned to when I
Of Macbeth’s inability to change his fate Bloom writes:
Of all of Shakespeare’s
tragic protagonists, Macbeth is the least free…Whether or not Nietzsche (and
Freud after him) were right in believing that we are lived, thought, and willed
by forces not ourselves, Shakespeare anticipated Nietzsche in this conviction.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (in last night’s play) kiss under a
street lamp after attending a drum circle. Perhaps in other days they will do
this under mistletoe after drinking eggnog. Surely this was all invention! Not
so (the kiss is real) as it is usually up to individual directors of Macbeth to
keep or eliminate the scene of the kiss. Again Cuffling is strongly backing the
This play can be enjoyed in three ways. The purist
Shakespeare enthusiast will see through Jones’s variations and distractions.
Those keen on finding something to laugh about in our city’s inclement weather
and Christmas shopping rush will indeed be entertained and will float at the
end of the performance with help from the excellent Malbec to be had at the
Or you can enjoy, combining both substance and laughter, the
conflict of a protagonist who no matter how he tries to change his fate, fate
does him in.
Such was the obvious inability of Macbeth to escape fate in
a language I could understand, that I was in deep thought as I drove home. This modified play is not just for
laughs. There is plenty of substance in Shakespeare’s Macbeth that
reminds me of Greek tragedies where we know the eventual ending but still find
catharsis through the proceedings that lead to that inevitability.
CS Fergusson –Vaux did splendid costume design in particular
with All Froggatt’s (Lady Macbeth – others) lovely satin dress. Tracy Bartley,
the wig wrangler was kept busy all night placing varied stuff on David C. Jones’s
head. The two Aidans (one Parker, the other Wright, both playing Mcduff) were
ably placed into character by the backstage fast dresser. The witches (Brigitte
May being Hecate and others who might have been he/hims) toiled without trouble
and never fell in the unnamed stage designer’s set. Chengyan Boon lit the play
to my satisfaction.
After consulting my Harold Bloom I re-read some of my favourite
Argentine (I am Argentine) Jorge Luís Borges’s essays on his favourite
Shakespeare play – Macbeth:
Suele olvidarse que Macbeth, ahora un sueño del
arte, fue alguna vez un hombre en el tiempo.
It is often forgotten
that Macbeth, now a dream of the arts, was at one time a man of time.
And I also consulted with that other Argentine, Julio
Cortázar with whom BrentHirose’s
Macbeth would have certainly had some partial disagreements:
Creo que las cosas imposibles se pueden
conseguir, que los besos con los ojos cerrados son los únicos que cuentan, que
las heridas no siempre cierran, y que todo el mundo se enamora alguna vez.
Creo en el destino, y creo que nosotros mismos
I believe that impossible
things can be obtained, that closed eye kisses are the only ones that count,
that wounds do not always close, and that the whole world falls in love at
I believe in destiny,
and that we ourselves choose it.
My companion Curtis Daily, a baroque bassist from Portland
who is here to play for Early Music Vancouver Christmas concerts, was blown
away by Hirose’s ability to quickly improvise as we the audience threw stuff at
him. Perhaps David C .Jones and company might travel to Portland and give Portlanders
a taste for our Vancouver stellar improvised comedy routines.
We were saddened to observe that Jones (King Duncan) is now
addicted to Facebook.
The play is on, at the Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery
St. Wednesday through Saturday to December 15 at 7:30 and at 2: PM on Sundays.
Today is a rainy and cold Vancouver Day. It is the kind of day that can plummet one into deep melancholy. You go out into the deck as I have today and there is Rosa 'Brother Cadfael' doing its best to bloom in December. It had one bud that was half open and five more that were closed. My melancholy disappeared as I stared at the carmine red buds of this lovely English Rose, struggling to survive and show off in spite of unfavorable conditions. It seemed to me that the least I could do was to lighten up and smile. I then reverently cut the bloom off and its two ancillary buds and scanned them.
I could be proven wrong but I do believe that unlike the French who left Spain without saying goodbye when the Iron Duke was within distance, that Brother Cadfael is far more polite. I mentally thought, "I will see you next year."
Last year at about this time it was another polite English Rose making its farewell.
There is so much lore about George Frideric Handel’s Messiah
that It is difficult to find stuff that may be unknown or original.
In this past Saturday’s Messiah’s (November 30 , 2019) celebrating not only the
arrival of the Christmas season but also Early Music Vancouver’s 50th
anniversary with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the Vancouver Cantata Singers and
with Ivars Taurins as guest conductor, I ruminated on it. I enjoyed in
particular the soloists, Joanne Lunn, soprano, Krisztina Szabó, mezzo-soprano,
Thomas Hobbs, tenor and Peter Harvey, baritone.
I asked and Englishman sitting next to me why it was that
everybody stood up (my arthritis made that painful so I didn’t) for the
Hallelujah Chorus. He told me it was a tradition started by Charles the 5th.I doubted the veracity of his answer.
In a Madrid newspaper article (El Mesías de Händel, Mucho
Más Que El “Aleluya”) I read that on March 23d, 1743 the first performance of
the Messiah in London’s Covent Garden, at the beginning of the Hallelujah
Chorus, George II stood up. Protocol dictated that everybody else had to stand
up to the king.
In 1940 noted Cuban-born music critic and novelist Alejo
Carpentier (he coined the expression “magic realism” in his book La Música en Cuba wrote: …As an example
let’s look at the island of Barbados. There we find a completely original
civilization with extraordinary culture. We have many notable prose writers
there and it was there that I found one of the best essays of the English
revolution of Oliver Cromwell. Newspapers are beautifully edited and they
include articles about great music in daily collective culture also in radio
stations. I believe it is the island where more Handel music is listened to and
in particular to the famous Hallelujah Chorus which serves as the theme to one
of the local radio stations.
For me what I like about the Messiah is the comfort of
experiencing something like my Argentine “milanesas con puré de papas”. It is
And yet it is not all comfort. There is lots of melancholy.
As I sit in wait for the best part of the Messiah in the second part particularly
since it is sung by absolutely fabulous Mezzo-Soprano Kristina Szabó:
He was despised (I love that word in three syllables!) and
rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He gave his back
to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His
face from shame and spitting. Isaiah 53.3/50.6
I daydream and think of people I often either went to the Messiah
with or saw there. These three died. There was particle physicist Eric Vogt,
Chan architect Bing Thom and my very good friend Abraham Rogatnick.
going to a concert at the Orpheum with my granddaughter Rebecca when she was 8.
She was falling asleep. I told her, “You should never feel guilty about falling
asleep to good music. It is a guilty pleasure few know of.”
I look at the many musicians that I know playing in these
There is bassist Curtis Daily who wrote this about the Messiah. And just because it makes me smile when I see him, there is violinist Paul Luchkow who many years
ago I saw on a bicycle on Broadway and Hemlock. He was at a light. I had never
introduced myself to him. I went up to him and told him, “You look like someone who plays a baroque violin.” He was astounded
and could not figure out how I knew. I had gone to a concert of the Pacific
Baroque Orchestra in the early 90s.
Every once in a while I will make milanesas con puré de
papa. And at least once a year I will be drawn to a performance of the Messiah.
And I must not forget that another good reason to see the Pacific Baroque Orchestra is to spot Marina Hasselberg on cello and see what new hair style she has or if she is wearing fishnets. I was dissapointed that this time around she wasn't. I was not able to notice if Principal Cellist, Nathan Whittaker was munching on eucalyptus leaves. There are persistent rumours that he has a fondness for them.
This year’s Messiah cemented my love for He was despised
(with all three syllables!) sung by Kristina Szabó. I almost equally enjoyed O
death, where is thy sting? (in the third part) sung by Szabó and tenor Thomas
Many who might read this blog know that my friend Portland baroque bassist Curtis Daily comes often to Vancouver to play with Early Music Vancouver. We host him and it has been many years now since he stopped being someone we host and he is simply a dear friend. His bass is parked on our living room. No musician would ever leave a musical instrument in a car (in his case a Prius) no matter how large.
Today he carried (he told me that he has lifted his bass at least 25,000 times) his instrument up the stairs to our piano room where our model/photographer friend Jessica Timmins Venturi posed for us with the bass. This was not easy as the room is not large. And that bass is heavy. Daily is a quick learner in photography and the lesson today was the use of the grid spot in its role as a hair light. We had several problems avoiding a few reflections on the bass (some look attractive and natural).
IF you have always wanted to see a man make love to a double
bass, you can now satisfy the craving in Brooklyn. The scene is a funny high
point of ''Double Bass,'' the German writer Peter Suskind's play for one voice
and one instrument, the opening production at the New Theater of Brooklyn's new
theater at 465 Dean Street. Since the work, fluidly translated by Eric Overmyer
and Harry Newman, proceeds generally along a level line without many highs,
much of the credit for an entertaining evening must go to the soloist, Boyd
Speaking directly to the audience between swigs from beer
bottles, the bearded and bespectacled double bassist begins by extolling his
instrument, with which he shares his small, thoroughly soundproofed apartment.
He hails it as the most important in the orchestra: ''No double bass, no
Before long, however, his mood changes, and he is reviling
himself for being bound to so awkward an object, when really he is a trombonist
at heart. ''It's a catastrophe,'' he mutters, firing up his indignation, ''more
of an obstacle than an instrument.'' He calls it ''a fat old woman'' and
anguishes over his ''incessant incestuous intercourse'' with it, which he
analyzes as a symbolic violation of his mother.
Mr. Gaines draws considerable humor from his monologue, particularly
when he is mocking a double bass passage from a recorded piece by Dittersdorf,
throwing darts at a portrait of Wagner and banging his shins on his ''pachyderm
of an instrument.'' If there is a weakness in his appealing performance, it is
a failure to get very deeply into the looniness of the nameless double bassist.
The play, though an intriguing literary conception, is not highly dramatic, and
the cool direction of Kent Paul tends to mute the dissonance of the character,
who thinks of himself as ''a conservative man,'' praising ''order, discipline,
leadership,'' even as he rails at the hierarchy that keeps him in the back row
of the state orchestra. ''I'm alone a lot,'' he says, in a desperate
The intimations of craziness are plainly there, in the
monologuist's frenetic veering from self-admiration to self-abasement, in his
fears of a world whose cacophony assaults us when he opens a window. Yet the
character is a bit too much on the surface; the underlying turmoil does not
reach the stage. Despite outbursts of rage and exasperation, the deeper
reverberations of a distraught mind - the kind of sound that one associates
with the double bass - are rarely felt in these notes from the underground.
Mr. Gaines and the play are at their strongest when the
double bassist regales us with his love for a soprano named Sarah, who has
never even glanced his way. Fiddle as beautifully as he may, no one pays
attention. The orchestra is no better than his apartment - ''I can scream as
much as I want to in here. No one can hear me.'' He laments that his instrument
is not capable of playing a single note that his beloved can sing, and he works
up his imagination to a moment, as the orchestra is getting ready to perform to
a packed house, when he will cry out her name, ''Sarah!'' An instant later, he
is condemning her for going out to a fish restaurant with a tenor. Even in his
fantasies, he is left to share his life with the double bass. It is at once his
security blanket, his cross and, thanks to its voluptuous shape, his sexual
Mr. Gaines moves as smoothly from obsession to obsession as he does from
underwear to formal attire for the orchestra's evening performance, a
night out together for him and his inseparable companion. Although the
work provides few virtuoso cadenzas, his resonant voice and agile body
make a versatile instrument and he delivers a pleasing solo. Sex and
Violins THE DOUBLE BASS, by Patrick Suskind; translated by Eric Overmyer
and Harry Newman; directed by Kent Paul; sets by William Barclay;
costumes by Jared Aswegan; lighting by Philip Monat; sound by Tom Gould;
production stage manager, Louis D. Pietig. Presented by the New Theater
of Brooklyn, Deborah J. Pope, artistic director. At 465 Dean Street,
Brooklyn. The Double BassistBoyd Gaines
Nikon FM-2 50mm lens, Kodak Portra 800 pushed to 1600 ISO
When Portland baroque bassist Curtis Daily comes to
Vancouver to play for Early Music Vancouver and stays with us I arrange for a
model to pose for us.The formerly blue-haired Olena faced our cameras. I
attempt to gently give Daily a few pointers on lighting while I also shoot on
When I went to pick up the film he shot (and one roll of 800
colour film of mine pushed to 1600) there was a young man at The Lab picking up
his film. I asked him why he shot film, His answer was, “I shoot film because
of its honesty.”
I thought about that as I was driving home and remembered in
my first attempts at photography when I was 16 or 17 how I refused to use any
kind of filter with my b+w film. I deemed the use of filters as dishonest. I
long after discovered that b+w panchromatic film, while rendering all colours
in shades of grey, did so with its own sensitivity towards the blue and ultra
violet spectrum. Thus, skies where always lighter and reds darker. A simple
yellow filter shifted everything to our human perception of values.
I have always maintained with no dissent that colour film
and especially colour slide could never render human skin accurately. Paul
Outerbridge in the late 30s managed that with his complex color carbro system.
In that last century I could never photograph red-haired people accurately. My
film made them look like inhabitants of Jupiter.
All that frustration disappeared with the advent of digital
cameras and particularly if the photographer using them understood the
mechanics of achieving a colour corrected skin tone using a reputable photo
tool like Photoshop.
To illustrate this idea of honesty I took pictures of Olena
using my Fuji X-E3 with a softbox flash while also using Kodak Portra 800
colour negative film pushed t 1600. This film was exposed to a mixture of
existing light and the quartz modeling light of the flash softbox. The colours
were predictably inaccurate. I call it “badly restored Technicolor”.
The chap at The Lab saying that film was honest was not
quite right in his assertion. But I could have told him, that nonetheless the
results with film can be interesting and more so because of the
unpredictability and waiting for the film to be processed.
My memory of past exciting times came back when I got into
my Cruz outside The Lab and unrolled my uncut roll of film.