Spooks and books
Saturday, February 04, 2006
The idea of a public library that you can enter and then exit with book in hand is a relatively modern phenomenon that came late to my country of birth, Argentina, and to Mexico where I lived for many years in the 50s and 60s. In both countries public libraries were places where you read books inside but you could not leave with them. My first experience of taking a book home happened around 1952, when I walked out of the Lincoln Library
in Buenos Aires with a book of American civil war photographs. When this US Information Service Library (there were spooks who worked out of these libraries) was not being bombed or stoned by angry Argentine students it was a great place to discover the Hardy Boys and Tom Corbett- Space Cadet. At the Benjamin Franklin Library
in Mexico City not only could I borrow books, but on Mondays I could listen to American jazz played with something called high fidelity that involved a device called a turntable. Gerry Hulse was our host and from him I found out about Gerry Mulligan's pianoless quartets. Gerry Hulse moved on to writing travel stories for the LA Times (a good cover for a spook!). Thanks to the Americans I came to love libraries. I borrowed somewhere around 37 novels by Phillip K Dick from the North Burnaby Branch of public library in the 70s. I love Moshe Safdie's main branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
The Luminous Building
Friday, February 03, 2006
This building was once known as the BC Electric. It then became the BC Hydro Building and now it is called the Electra. The architect was Ron Thom, on the right and the man who okayed everything was his boss Ned Pratt, on the left. I photographed Ron Thom only once, weeks before he died. When he posed for me I faced someone who seemed to be in despair. Many say he drank himself to death. Pratt, I photographed many times and he was a cheerful man who was all I thought architects should be. He was urbane and could talk about anything. He was interested in everything. Few in Vancouver have made the connection between his Dal Grauer Substation (on one side of the Electra) and Mondrian. The Dal Grauer Substation could be the only three dimensional Mondrian in existence.architects
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Mildred Seaver is 92. She is from Needham Heights, Massachusets. She is a serious hosta hybridizer when she isn't spreading her infectious smile around. Most of her hosta cultivars begin with Sea. So we have Hosta 'Sea Octopus', Sea Monster, Sea Dream and many more. Every once in a while she goes against her naming grain and gives us such wonderful oddities like Hosta 'Spilt Milk'. As Mildred told me, "You find a plain hosta, you splatter it with cream and there you have Spilt Milk." Electric blue is her favourite colour. If I were younger I would marry Mildred.
Rosa damascena bifera
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
At this time of the year I begin to think about my garden and spring. But most of all I think about my roses and I can remember their scent. This one has been around for some time. Pliny mentioned it as the rose that bloomed twice. After Rome fell, the rose was forgoten but brought back from the Holy Land by the crusaders. That may explain the damascena
part of its name. The French may have invented advertising and false advertising, in particular. They named this rose Quatre Saisons. In fact she blooms once in the spring and then again in late fall. Even during the Middle Ages this rose was a sensation as most roses only flower once. Those that repeat (remontant is the word used) usually have been crossed with roses from China. Vancouver Rose Society
Dances for a Small Stage
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Today I attended the 12th installment of Dances for the Small Stage at the Crush Champagne Lounge. Even though I was one hour early the queue was so long I almost did not get in. It may be no coincidence that my three favourite acts were performed by three of the dancers seen here. On the top right, Susan Elliott made it more difficult for herself by dancing on an even smaller stage that was no wider than she is long. Margie Gillis, on the bottom right, not only choreographs for her body but for also for her long red hair. Dana Gingras, on the bottom left, danced without her Holy Body Tatoo partner Noam Gagnon. Dancing in her black teddy, Gingras would have made Rita Cansino jealous. But missing this evening and in other Dances for the Small Stage was the presence of a good dancing man. My favourite ever was Ballet BC's Miroslav Zydowicz seen here stroking artist Tiko Kerr.Dances for a Small Stage
Abraham Jedidiah Rogatnick
Abraham, 84 years old, is my friend. He is a retired architect (Harvard) and an active actor and set designer. In the US Army he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Abraham and I go to many concerts of baroque music or of his favourite composer, Mozart. He is a philanthropist and art lover and just about anybody who studied architecture at UBC (including former BC Premier Glen Clark) had him as a professor. Abe is a man of impulse. I can call him up an tell him I am going to a concert in 30 minutes. More often than not he will say, " Sure, I'll go, I'll be outside on the street waiting for you." He is one of the few who can call Arthur, Arthur. He once said on the subject of Arthur, "After all I am a year older than he
More on Mozart
A photographic misconception - twice
Monday, January 30, 2006
There are some that think that with the digital revolution in photography it is very difficult to believe what we see. Photography has lied since its inception when Daguerre paid a man in 1839 to lie still for close to 30 minutes (we were led to believe this was a candid "grab" shot) while he had his boots polished on a Paris street. German photographer August Sander photographed the young German soldier on the left. In my mind I have always seen this photograph in colour. I know he has bleached blond hair and very blue eyes. He is a perfect example of Hitler's master race. He seems to have equanimity in spades and fears no one. Yet if one is to believe the date underneath, 1945, one would guess that the Russians may have been a few miles away if not a few blocks away. Does this photograph lie?
Several photographers have died at their prime and their prime has been at an age when in most other professions one would be checking one's gold watch to see when to take the prescribed pills. George Hurrell died in his 80s as did Richard Avedon. One of my favourites was Mexican Manuel Alvarez Bravo who died in 2002 at age 100. At 84 he took the picture on the right, El Trapo Negro, or the Black Cloth. It is one of the most erotic photographs I have ever seen.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Around 1957 I was walking from the cafeteria to my room. I was a boarder at St Edward's High School in Austin Texas. On the way I was stopped by the short and compact but very strong Brother Edwin Reggio CSC. The brothers, priests and nuns, of the Congregation of the Holy Cross are the ones that run Notre Dame University in Indiana. Brother Edwin indicated to me that he needed an alto saxophone player for the school band and that I was going to be the one. I was never a very good one but somehow not only did I play for the school band but for the more sophisticated little swing band. I was also in charge of keeping the band room clean and solving the mice problem. I bought a circular mouse trap, built much like a train roundhouse. The trap had 6 openings, with room for cheese in the middle. Each opening ended in a decapitating trap. Brother Edwin taught me about Artistotle, St Agustine and St Thomas Aquinas and that cornets blend better than trumpets with B-flat clarinets. Here you can see him as he was in my 1960 yearbook and as he is today.St Ed's High SchoolSt Ed's