Thursday, February 25, 2016

Evanston: cross-training: Saul Leiter; Glenn Gould; Eduardo Galeano

        Athletes don’t just practice one set of skills.  They improve by cross-training.  
        Perhaps understandably, I don’t read much about sailing any more.  My interests have always been more varied, and one can learn much from those in other fields about self-discipline, practice, and the pursuit of excellence and beauty that is applicable to sailing oceans.  Recently I have experienced three exceptional artists:  an American photographer and painter, a Canadian pianist, and a Uruguayan writer.
        Two of you, Larry and Steve, wrote to me about Saul Leiter, a fashion and pioneering street photographer, who died in 2013 at age 89.  I thank you.
        We rented a documentary about him, IN NO GREAT HURRY:  13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter  from iTunes.  The documentary consists mostly of interviews with Leiter in his New York City apartment/studio.  IN NO GREAT HURRY is not a great film, but Leiter was an original artist, which from me is the highest possible praise, and he had some interesting things to say.
        He lived in New York for fifty years.  
        I wonder about him and Andrew Wyeth, who actually lived in two places, and others who remain in one location and study it in depth.  This is obviously not my way, unless you consider being at sea one place.  I have studied that in depth, figuratively though fortunately not yet literally.
        I find cities ugly, and have written that what beauty can be found there is an oasis.  As you will see if you google his images, Saul Leiter created oases.

        The format of breaking IN NO GREAT HURRY into brief segments reminded me of an excellent film that used the same technique, THIRTY-TWO SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD, which I saw when it was first released in 1993.  Gould died in 1982 at age fifty, a few days after suffering a stroke, and is portrayed by an actor, Colm Feore, in the film.  Francois Girard, the director said that Gould was so complex a character that he did not want to fit him in a single box or reduce him to one dimension, so he very effectively offers thirty-two impressions of him. 
        I rented the film from Amazon and watched it again two nights ago with great pleasure.

        I came to Eduardo Galeano through an Amazon daily deal discount on the Kindle edition of his SOCCER IN SUN AND SHADOW, which as it happens also breaks its subject into small takes, more than one hundred and fifty in this case.
        I was so taken by the writing that I googled Eduardo Galeano and learned that he was famous, having written many novels and non-fiction works over a fifty year career.  Even before I finished SOCCER, I bought Kindle editions of three of them.
        Toward the end of his life he partially repudiated his most famous work, OPEN VEINS IN LATIN AMERICA, which was published in 1971 and has sold more than a million copies.
        Eduardo Galeano died last year at age 74 of lung cancer.
        I was remembering Uruguay not long ago when  I cut the following from the Kindle edition of A SINGLE WAVE.
        We walked along the promenade in Montevideo.
        In a park in front of an apartment building in the old part of town, we saw a goat kneeling to eat grass.  A boy turned the corner from one narrow alleyway, riding a fine gray horse.  Fishermen perched on the seawall, dangling hopeful lines in the choppy water.
        We passed two couples, sitting on benches partially sheltered by the seawall.  The couples were only a few steps apart but oblivious to one another.  The first couple were young lovers.  The second, dressed all in black, were a middle-aged man and an old woman.  The woman, whom we assumed to be his mother, was quietly crying.  They seemed to have just come from a funeral.  Both couples were the same:  a man with his arms around a woman, whose face was buried against his chest:  the embraces of love and death identical.

        Three excepts from SOCCER IN SUN AND SHADOW:

        In 1930 Albert Camus (the future winner of the Noble Prize for Literature) was Saint Peter guarding the gate for the University of Algiers soccer team.  He had been playing goalkeeper since childhood, because in that position your shoes don’t wear out as fast.  Son of a poor home, Camus could not afford the luxury of running the fields; every night, his grandmother examined the soles of his shoes and gave him a beating if she found them worn.

        For the Nazis, too, soccer was a matter of state.  A monument in The Ukraine commemorates the players of the 1942 Dynamo Kiev team.  During the German occupation they committed the insane act of defeating Hitler’s squad in the local stadium.  Having been warned, “If you win, you die.” they started out resigned to losing, trembling with fear and hunger, but in the end they could not contain their yearning for dignity.  When the match was over all eleven were shot with their club shirts on at the edge of a cliff.

        From an interview with Domingos da Guia, a famous Brazilian fullback in the 1930’s and 40’s.
        This here ball helped me a lot.  She or her sisters, right?  It’s a family to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.  In my time on earth, she was the key.  Because without her nobody plays at all.  I started out in Bangu club’s factory.  Working, working, until I met my friend here.  And I was very happy with her.
        I’ve seen the world, traveled a lot, had many women.  Women are a pleasure too, right?