Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Xmas 2012, for ABC Wednesday - "X"

It was nice of the letter "X" to arrive in time for Xmas and I am taking advantage of that as most of the "X" connections in this post have some relationship to the Christmas season.

On Xmas Eve, Bill, Black Jack and I walked downtown amid the hustle and bustle of last minute shoppers, happy that our mission wasn't gift related.  When we returned to my building, we set the camera up for a group shot in the lobby.
A late but heartfelt "Merry Xmas" to my much appreciated blog readers!        

It was a relaxed walk with time to look around..
and enjoy the sights.  Below, you can see one of my favourite places, the central branch of Vancouver Public Library.  A tiny bit of the BC Place stadium roof appears between the buildings.  I think that light at the top is a traffic light, but it looked rather like the moon.

Although we saw many places with beautiful decorations, there were also large buildings like this with lights in only a few of the windows, and Bill remarked that overall, condo and home owners in Vancouver are decorating less than in years past.

After supper, Bill and I settled for some quiet time. Black Jack is always confident that "her" Bill would never turn down the opportunity to offer the place of honour on his stomach.

On Xmas morning, I thought it was time that Black Jack got into the spirit of the season.  I am being kind in showing her "intelligent" look first.
I'm not sure she would approve of making either of these next two shots public, 
 but they made me laugh, and she did get the treat in the end, so all was well in her world.
Black Jack says "Merry Christmas" too!
We're moving back in time now to Sunday, the day before Xmas Eve.  We took Black Jack for a walk before going to a wonderful concert, and I kept an eye out for "X" shapes.  These masts were perfect..
as were the leaves of this plant by False Creek.  There are quite a few "X's" to be found if one looks closely, but perhaps, there's also an opportunity to use a new "x' word for me.  According to my Webster dictionary,  "xylem" is the tissue in plants that carries water and nutrients upward from the root and also helps to form the woody part of the stem.  I wonder if it is xylem that causes the tips of the leaves to die.  A smaller, but similar, plant at home appears to have the same problem and I've been wondering how to correct that. 

Bill lay down for a five-minute nap after our walk and Black Jack yawned..

as if to say, "Great idea, Bill.  I was feeling a bit tired myself."

Then we were off to The Chan Centre at UBC for the annual Festive Cantata Concert.  I enjoyed looking through the windows at the forest, and at the "X" reflections in the window.   

The branches outside the window criss-crossed rather nicely as well.
As you can see, I became quite carried away with window reflections.

Below, you can see the skylight with the "X" bars that reflected so nicely.
Bill experimented with his serious look for this photo, but check out the "X" on his right side.
Bill was taking a picture of me when his niece, Glenys (violist, scientist, and mother to two beautiful boys) and her husband, Paul (violinist, violist, and father extraordinaire), happened to go by.  In spite of the fact that they were performing in the concert, Paul took time to take a shot of Glenys with us, and then we moved to another spot where I tried my best to get one of Glenys and Paul.  I didn't adjust for the change of light, so that shot is really out of focus, but they are one of my favourite couples so I am posting a small picture to record the moment.  As you can see in Paul's shot of the three of us, Bill was still experimenting with his serious look.  He was having a good time..  no really, he was! 

From our seats, and before the musicians arrived on stage, I took a picture of the Oboe da caccia, a period instrument that looks very different from the typical oboe played today.  In fact, I had never seen one like it, and later, I looked on line for some information about it.  The picture on the right was taken from this site.  The oboe da caccia was played by renowned Baroque oboist, Washington McClain. I found this fascinating description of a master class given by Mr. McClean at Wilfrid Laurier University.  Written by Esther Wheaton, a composer and oboist, it is a fascinating read if you are interested in oboes or in early music.

Bach wrote approximately 300 cantatas in his life-time.  Although about two fifths of those have been lost, Early Music Vancouver will still have to give many more concerts (this was the 13th year with four on each program) in order to come close to performing all of the others.  During the years that Bach was writing one cantata a week, he was living in Leipzig, employed as cantor at St. Thomas school.  He lived at the school with his wife and four children.  He had had a total of 20 children, 7 with his first wife, and when she died suddenly, 13 more with his second wife.  Out of all those children, only four survived to adulthood.   I will put a small quote here from this excellent site
"The Cantor's duties were to organize the music in the four principal churches of Leipzig, and to form choirs for these churches from the pupils of the Thomasschule. He was also to instruct the more musically talented scholars in instrument playing so that they might be available for the church orchestra, and to teach the pupils Latin (which Bach quickly delegated to a junior colleague). Out of the 54 boys at Bach's disposal for use in the different choirs, he stated, '17 are competent, 20 not yet fully, and 17 incapable'. The best singers were selected to form the choir which sang the Sunday cantata; one week at the Thomaskirche, the other week at the Nikolaikirche. A 'second' choir, of the same size but less ability, would sing at the church without the cantata. The 'third' choir of even less ability at the Petrikirche, the 'fourth' at the Neuekirche."
Looking to the upper balconies at the back of The Chan Centre

What I think about as I read about Bach's life is his genius, for sure, but also, his fortitude.  His first wife died while he was away on a music-related journey, though he had left her in perfect health.  He returned home, shocked to find that she had already been buried, and four children (three others had died in infancy) were now motherless.  In all, he buried 16 children, while composing, performing (he was declared the top organist in the land), and training choirs for weekly performances. I have been playing and listening to Bach's music since a small child, and have known many facts about his life, but he has come alive in my mind more vividly than ever before as I write this post.  A time so different, it is hard to fathom.
One final picture to show the Chan at intermission
The next 14 pictures were taken on Xmas morning during a short walk along False Creek with Black Jack.  The House Finches were singing up a storm, and some of the males appeared to be in breeding plumage, but, with a mist falling, I struggled to get clear photos.
Ooh..  I spotted an "X" in front of this finch.

The cormorants were gathered for a town meeting..

led by this important member of the council, obviously announcing important news.

Poor focus, but had to show this.  This one flew right by my camera, so close I felt I could have reached out and touched his/her wing.

This Hooded Merganser was working very hard for his breakfast.  Is it just me, or do you also see a horrified expression on his victim's face?

I am only showing a few of many pictures, but when I say he worked hard, I really mean it.  Over and over again, I thought the fish (?) had given up, only to watch it try again to escape.

This was the end of the struggle.  As much as I hate to see anything killed..

I had to admit the merganser had fully earned the right to his meal.

He did seem to me to look a bit guilty, though, for not sharing with Mrs. Merganser, who, in my eyes, seemed to have a slightly accusing expression.

Black Jack and I spent a few minutes working on recalls before we returned home.

She was doing really well with her "sit" and "stay" commands, and I even managed to leash..

her before she went into full "chase" mode on sighting this cat.  Phew!

As you can see, she was sorely tempted.  Good dog, Black Jack!

Kosovar-Albanian contemporary artist, Sislej Xhafa, now based in New York, is a new-to-me artist for the letter "X" and, as this site states, "is known for his controversial and provocative artistic works and interventions that he himself likes to label as 'actions'." 

You can see many more of his works by checking out this page.  For now, I will just post..

these two works that caught my attention.  The one above deals with "a religious theme and therefore a very delicate matter.  The fulcrum of the controversy lies in the similarity that the gigantic face of Padre Pio would have with an extra-terrestrial.."  (That quote and more information can be found at this site.)  As for the burning bicycle, it is called Beh-rang, and as the same site explains, "the violent act of burning and the purifying symbolism of fire overlap in the image of the burning bicycle."

For a musical connection, I come back to the Xmas season with "O Holy Night."  It is sung with emotion and enormous power by Luke Edgemon.  I'm not sure that he will still have a voice in ten years, but hope I'm mistaken about that.  I chose this song because my dad loved it, and because my sister sang it so beautifully. 

The final "X" new-to-me music is by the Xavante Indians.  The music recorded was a rare opportunity for an anthropologist to witness a traditional dance.  This link will take you to some interesting comments about that encounter.

That's it for this week's ABC - "X" post.  Try out that link to find lots of other interpretations of "X".  Thanks so much, everyone, for stopping by.


  1. I love that photo of Black Jack with just the tip of her tongue sticking out! It's priceless! And the female merganser looks rather disgusted by her male partner! lol Hope you had a marvelous Xmas!

    abcw team

  2. That was a lovely visit here, lots of news and activity going on. The Merganser pics are really close up and good!!! Happy New Year.

  3. You nailed the Nature-based Xs. The rest of the photos were fantastic frosting on the cake.

  4. Your ABC posts provide lots of interesting info and an insight into your local area. The merganser and cormerant photos were really good especially accompanied by your witty comments.

  5. Now that's a Xcellent set of XMAS pics.

  6. So many windows with so few people seemingly at home on the top floors of the tall buildings in your photo. Thinking of the letter X and the neat places where you found it, consider my fingers crossed for a healthy and happy New Year for us all. Black Jack certainly looks cute gift-wrapped. Our pets and their unconditional love are gifts throughout life that bring comfort and joy. :)

  7. love that black jack parks herself on bills stomach. :) the merganser couple made me laugh. her face!

    the corner of that building was very festive. so sweet.

  8. I love black jack...what a cutie!!
    Laurie @ Pride in Photos

  9. What an informative post Carol! I will never listen to Bach the same again and I better understand his passion and genius.
    Now BlackJack knows how to relax! lol
    That Cormorant photo is fabulous!! The 'poor focus' just adds to the movement! Well done indeed!
    Mr.and Mrs. Merganser could have their own comic strip with those eXpressions!!
    O Holy Night is a favourite of mine as well since elementary school Christmas concert days. This fellow can really sing....hope his voice lasts too!
    thanks for this and Happy New Year to you, Bill and BlackJack!

  10. You always have so many interesting photos and subjects. I promised myself I would get to commenting on ABC WED this evening, but had to visit you when I saw Black Jack's photo. He is surely the most photogenic pet -- as is Bill... ;)

  11. I always learn so much from your posts! I am glad you were able to see Glenys and Paul. Thanks for the pictures of my family! Phyllis

  12. Hey Black Jack...I have to do that 'sit stay' stuff too...what is it with humans anyway!? Treats always make it more bearable.
    The Chan looks amazing...we love to go to recitals and symphonies...maybe someday we'll go there....I love the reflection never know what you'l create. I did a reflection photo of a Xmas ball hanging in a window recently. I then played with it in a photo editing system..what can see it on my FB page. Hope you have a peaceful and joyous New Year...again...thanks so much for sharing Vancouver with us all!