World AIDS Day 2016

Eleven years ago on this day in 2005 Christopher at EVERYTHING IS NOT REAL, a long dormant blog, posted a thoughtful and sobering piece that struck a cord with me. The following year I reposted it and have done so every year since.

I have lottery fantasies…
Needless to say, twice a week, I am disappointed…
When I think about it I kinda did win the lottery…
About 33 years ago.

Those first few years I’d would post it in memory of the friends I had lost in those first years of the epidemic; always with the hope that I would have no further names to add to that memory list that year.  Well I have reached that point  but sadly that is not the case in much of the world.  Certainly advances have been made in the world I inhabit though I sometimes worry that those advances and the way they are marketed means that less precautions are being taken.  When I see ads in gay publications lauding the “healthy lifestyle” that can be led with the new “wonder drugs” I fear for the young people who fall for the pharmaceutical  companies pretty pictures.  I would not want us to go back to those days of living in fear and uncertainty but as those times recede in memory I worry that we will become complaisant both sexually and in our quest for an answer to a way to eradicate this horrible disease.

December 1, 2005

I have lottery fantasies.

I dream about being able to buy fast cars and designer clothes until they come out of my ears. I want houses in London, New York, East Hampton and Rio. I want to be able to travel first class and work out at The Third Space and get reservations at Annabel’s just because of who I am. I want to be able to take hot dates on tours of the National Gallery. When it’s closed. Because I’m one of it’s biggest benefactors.

Needless to say, twice a week, I am disappointed.

hiv-aidsThis morning, on the way to work on the tube, I was reading a Times article, written by Annie Lennox, about the millions and millions of people in Africa who are suffering with HIV and AIDS, and dying, and how the governments of the richer nations, such as the one I live in, have pledged support over an eight year period. And how they absolutely must stay committed to this goal.

One of the kids she spoke to on a recent trip to Africa was dying of AIDS. But before he got sick he lost his mother, father, brothers, sisters and pretty much everyone else he cared about to the same disease. He was totally alone in the world. With no hope. And certainly no dreams of fast cars or a nice comfortable house, anywhere. And that shit isn’t even near the important stuff.

There are approximately 6,450,000,000 humans on Earth.

Most of them are not 33 year olds who have careers which afford them access to guest lists to the best clubs and bars the city has to offer. They don’t have friends who will stick with them no matter what (and slip them Jil Sander dress shirts every now and then). They don’t have housemates who have Thai cuisine prepared and ready to eat when they arrive home. They don’t have comfortable beds to sleep in at night.


When I think about it I kinda did win the lottery.

About 33 years ago


It is estimated that 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since 1981 the year that such deaths began to be recorded; that includes over 1.1 million in 2015.  But despite these figure there are still countries were authorities tell us that it “doesn’t exist”, that if it does it’s a “foreign disease”; countries where people are ostracized, and where there is no care of any sort. The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low-and middle-income countries with Sub-Saharan Africa being the area most affect.  In 2015 it was estimated that 25.6 million people living with HIV  and that 66% of new infections occurred in the region. Despite all the advances made in the knowledge of HIV, its prevention and treatment and efforts by the global health community most people living with the virus or at risk do not have access to information, prevention, care and treatment.

As I live in a society were information, prevention, care, and treatment is available I am no longer adding names of friends “in memoriam”.   Like Christopher, I and so many people I know have also “won the lottery”.

In Memoriam:  Pierre, Lawrence, Bill, Jim, Don, Andrew, Brian, Doug, Donald, Billy and the many others that we’ve lost but still love and hold in our hearts. And for my friends who may have lost the lottery but won the battle.

On this day in 1988:  The first World AIDS Day is observed.

Mercoledi Musicale

Unfortunately it appears that the video extract I posted cannot be viewed in certain areas.  I’ve been searching for other extracts from the operetta and do apologize.  I have yet to decide whither it would be best to just take it down as the point was to introduce some lovely music.

Just in time for Christmas last year Opéra National de Lyon staged a wondrous revival of Jacques Offenbach’s satirical opéra-bouffe-féerie Le Roi Carotte (King Carrot).  It became the surprise hit of the opera season in France and was awarded the prize as “Best Rediscovered Work” at the International Opera Awards 2016.  It was televised over the holiday season in Europe and scored high with an even wider audience.

A poster by Henri Meyer from an 1891 production of Sardou and Offenbach’s opéra-bouffée-feerie.

The work premiered at Théâtre de la Gaîté in Paris in January of 1872 (it had been delayed by the Franco-Prussian War) and proved a popular success.  It had an initial run of 192 performances and pulled in 3,000 francs in daily profits.  However with four acts, twenty-two scenes, fifteen hundred costumes and a cast of several hundred it was an expensive show to run and had little chance of entering the standard repertoire.  However Offenbach and Victorien Sardou (Sarah Bernhardt’s playwright of choice) did publish a three-act version which was seen  in London and Vienna within a year or two of its Paris premiere.  The second version was revived several times in Paris but then seems to have disappeared.  According to a report in the New York Times in November of 1873 when it was produced for the first time at the new Grand Opera House in Manhattan ‘the music is to be given with additions and alterations made for this country by Offenbach himself.  Sardou has likewise composed a special “apotheosis” to end the spectacle …’  If a later report in the same newspaper is credible the scenery and costumes were much appreciated, Offenbach and Sardou’s efforts to please their New York audiences less so.

For the Lyon production conductor Victor Aviat and director Laurent Pelly went with the revised version with a successful (and funny) updating by Agathe Mélinand – though it appears that little updating was really required as much of Sardou’s satire seemed very, very current.

In the tradition of opéra-bouffe-féerie magic and magicians are involved in this story of a kingdom who’s monarch,  Fridolin XXIV, has bankrupt his country and is planning to wed a foreign princess for money.  As the courtship progresses a strange figure and his entourage appear:  King Carotte.  Carrot plans to subjugate the Kingdom to his greedy will.  Coloquinte, an evil fairy  has aroused him from his underground home and places an enchantment on the court and people of the kingdom.  No matter what stupid or rude thing Carotte does they blame Fridolin.  Carotte drinks and Fridolin appears drunk, Carrot sneezes and the King goes into spasms.  He picks his nose and the court turns on the Fridolin in disgust.  The interloper is boorish and makes outlandish statements and the King shoulders the blame.  Soon the court and populace have turned their back on Fridolin and proclaim Carotte as their new ruler.  They are blind to his ignorance and lies and no one can see the dangers that they soon will be facing in their Kingdom as they willingly succumb to the rule of a tyrant.

Costume for Le Roi Carotte – Draner – 1872

In the remaining acts Fridolin, his good sorcerer, and a few faithful friends attempt to find a way to oust the usurper and regain the kingdom.  At one point they are transported to Pompeii with instructions to find a magic ring.

They arrive at the the ruins of the once grand metropolis and they are struck by the sombreness of the “dead city” and in a glorious quartet express their fear, wonderment and even sadness of what has happened there.  If ever there was proof needed that Offenbach composed something more than a barcarole or a can-can this lovely piece should serve the purpose.  Here it is performed by Chloé Briot, Julie Boulianne, Yann Beuron and Jean-Sébastien Bou conducted by Victor Aviat.

The city is reanimated for them by magic and they escape with the ring just as Vesuvius begins to rock and roll.  Several attempts to overthrow Carotte fail until finally the populace tires of rising prices and the injustices of King Carotte and his band of thugs.  Realizing that they have been tricked and lied to the citizens start an uprising and restore Fridolin to his throne.  As I said Mélinand had to do very little updating to hit the satirical mark.

Every delightful moment of the Lyon production is available (in French only I’m afraid) on YouTube by left clicking:  Le Roi Carotte d’Offenbach à l’Opéra de Lyon.

On this day in 1836:  the Crystal Palace in London is destroyed by fire.

Imaged in Wax

The mediums of photography and encaustic meld.

Before I came to the Island a year ago I was largely unaware of the variety in and the vitality of the arts scene here. It is possible to come across artists and artisans working in almost every medium and in many cases in very unusual mixed-media. At the season close of The Dunes out at Brackley Beach I came across a piece by a local artist that captured my attention both in the use of mixed forms and because, well because I liked it immediately.

mary-carr-chaissonMary Carr-Chaisson is based in Charlottetown and works out of her Pinhole Photography Gallery .  Pinhole photography is the art of taking pictures at its most basic and Carr-Chaisson has been creating images using this technique since the early ’90s.  She first learned the skills involved as a fine arts student at Mount Alison University.

She says she enjoys the uniqueness of pinhole photography which allows her to play with abstraction, distortion, and magnification.  Her photographs have a vintage air of times past and she admits that she “likes the nostalgic feeling they evoke in the viewer.”

I understand what she means by a “nostalgic feeling” – looking at her photos reminds me of many of the family photos I have stored in that box I mean to go through one of these days.  And looking at her equipment I realize that it isn’t all that much different from the old Brownie box camera my mother used to capture those events, moments and people.

So what exactly is a pinhole camera:

pinhole-cameraThis is a very basic camera that can be constructed out of found materials such as cans or boxes, provided it is made light-tight.  This can be done by lining the interior with black construction paper, and taping the sides with black electric tape.  A small piece of pie plate or thin brass can be used to make the camera lens.  The aperture is made by drilling a tiny hole into the brass or pie plate.  This is then attached to the body of the camera.  A material such as a piece of cardboard or cork can serve as the camera shutter.  When taking the picture, a piece of film or photo paper is placed inside the camera opposite the lens.  The shutter is then removed from the camera, and the light enters though the tiny pin hole to expose the film or paper behind.  A watch can be used to count the time required to take the picture.  This type of camera has no light meter, viewfinder, multi-aperture lens, or other features of standard cameras.  A lot of patience and practise is required when using a pinhole camera.

In the past few years Carr-Chaisson has been taking her photography one step further by combining it with an ancient art that is not that widely practised today:  encaustic or hot wax painting.  The use of Punic Wax in painting was described in early Greek writing and the earliest existing examples are the Fayum Mummy Portraits from Egypt of 100-300 A.D.   In 77 A.D. Pliny the Elder describes the art of wax painting in Book 35 of his encyclopedic  Natural History. It was also a known on the island of Samar during the 1500-1800s but is now considered a lost art in the Philippines.  In the 20th century there was a minor revival in the use of encaustic by early members of the Bauhaus and by the Mexican muralist movement.  It has seen a further revival in the past few years and new tools and materials have made it a more popular art form.

In this case Carr-Chaisson took one of her photographs and mounted it on a wood base that had been covered in white paper.  She applied layers of encaustic wax to the photograph, building up some areas, leaving others barely touched by the medium.  She also created abstract areas to the right and below the photograph that are heavily built up like faded bars of some mysterious minerals.


Below is the photograph that Mary Carr-Chaisson used as the foundation for the little piece that now graces a wall in our living room.  The image of the Warehouse at the Experimental Farm here in Charlottetown was taken with a wooden pinhole camera then created in her darkroom using film and traditionally printed using various darkroom chemicals and washed.  Rolling the mouse over the picture will show how she transformed the black and white photograph with the use of pigmented, obaque and clear wax in applied layers.

There is still, for me at least, the evocation of that feeling of nostalgia perhaps now heightened by the hints of faded colour and softness that the wax gives to the image.

P.S.  I began thinking the other day, always a dangerous sign, about how heat/cold would affect the piece and was please to find that should it start to melt the best advise was to get out of the building:  encaustic wax typically withstands temperatures of up to 120ºF.  Also the wax will continue hardening for up to three years and could turn dull.   The Eloise hint to restore its gloss:  rub gently in one direction with a nylon stoking.

On this day in 1864: American Indian Wars: Sand Creek massacre: Colorado volunteers led by Colonel John Chivington massacre at least 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho noncombatants inside Colorado Territory.

Lunedi Lunacy

Well thank you very much Willym! I’ve become addicted to Psychobitches and am really not happy that the whole series isn’t available.

Last week JP of My Husband and I mentioned the versatility of Kathy Burke and to that I might add much of the rest of the cast too.

And again the warning goes out to those of gentle disposition and precarious occupations: Not Safe For Work!

Here’s last weeks Queen Mom as that most enigmatic of women; and I love Rebecca Front in this one – just what you always knew was behind every psychiatrist’s call to their vocation!

And another versatile member of the bitches is Samantha Spiro – one minute she’s Queen Victoria, the next a just too bubbly legend of the silver screen.

And turn around and she’s another Hollywood legend losing track of spouses.

And for anyone who has ever wondered where a few Freudian phobias came from, Sigmund’s mother Amalia (Selina Griffiths) may give us some answers.

On this day in 1905: Irish nationalist Arthur Griffith founds Sinn Féin as a political party with the main aim of establishing a dual monarchy in Ireland.