Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Copyright Problem

Copyright is one of today's biggest problems for any producer, director or performing artist. A long time ago I decided that I would always use well out of copyright material or pay the copyright if the material was still in copyright. I still have all the letters and contracts and this has stood me well. I always try to obtain all permissions if possible and if I overlook by accident I take anything down if anyone objects. I try never to do this but anyone can complain that is what Errors & Omissions insurance is for.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to receive the above copyright infringement notice from YouTube on my latest offering my own rendition of Wagner's Lohengrin which I am hoping to enter for the Guggenheim YouPlay project. Wagner is in the Public Domain but I suppose the orchestration which I wrote myself on Garageband might have raised an eyebrow.

I hadn't even put it up publicly as I wanted to test the colour mix which as it happens is awful so I shall have to redo the whole thing!

YouTube is incredibly hard to actually contact. There is no friendly voice at the end of a phone.
Nowhere on the electric form you have to fill in if you do not want to have your channel removed or even worse advertisements put on your videos do they give you a chance to explain.

Copyright laws need reforming to fit into today's conditions. In some ways the laws are so tough as to stifle creativity. Shakespeare who borrowed from his peers would not have been allowed to write Romeo & Juliet today.

Google which is trying to save the world's books from turning to dust has met with a hail of abuse from the publishers who in fact just control one tenth of the known works. Google wants authors to opt  out and is scanning first and arguing after as the books won't wait. Many authors would be lost to the dust of time.

Today a performing artist needs an online presence if they are to be remembered. Many of yesterday's famous names will be forgotten if they have not made it to YouTube. It is such a pity. If no one today makes the effort to put up some of their work they will be forgotten.

I was fortunately able to prove to YouTube beyond all shadow of doubt that my Lohengrin video is all me other than Wagner's magnificent composition. I am afraid even the orchestration was mine  but it did give me a shock!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Firefox Themes

I spend a lot of my time on the web and for years I have had to put up with the very dreary grey style of Internet explorer and the not so but almost as dreary grey of Safari and my favourite web browser Firefox. I like Firefox because it has  a Web Developers tool bar that allows me to see the structure of web pages which is just like looking under the bonnet of a car to see how it works.

So imagine my delight to find yesterday on my update that Firefox is now offering themes or as they call it Persona.They must have been doing it for some time as there are 33,000 to chose from but I am usually late to the party.

It was such fun to try out the various ones on offer. After a bit of experimentation I settled on the one above. You have to be careful as some are so colourful that you can't read the tabs. Llght pink with Gerbras was suitably cheery enough to make me feel happy on a chilly winter's morning. Next week I'll choose another one. You can make your own but the ones on offer are so good and I have better things to do. Time is precious when you are of a mature age!

I also explored how to remove it which is much harder than you think unless you know how - Tools/add ons/themes and choose default. Sounds simple enough but try working that one out by  yourself.

So my web page looks far more inviting. I still like Firefox as a browser so if you have it installed give it a go.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Death of the Real Book

Sadly it seems that the day of the real book that you can hold, turn the pages and put in your pocket is over.  The 'Brittle Book' syndrome and electronic downloads have hastened its doom.

It seems according to the Telegraph that Amazon, the online retailer and owner of the Kindle e-reader, has announced that digital book have been consistently outselling hardback books for the last three months in the US. The company has revealed that it has been selling 143 e-books for every 100 hardcover books over the course of the second quarter of 2010. The outpacing of digital books versus hardbacks is also accelerating, as during the last month alone, has sold 180 Kindle e-books for every 100 hardcovers.

I have always had a passion for real books hence my interest in the craft of bookbinding. It was obvious to me in 1990 that unless I did something all my books would fall to pieces so I took a bookbinding course at Auckland Tech. I did not know about the Brittle Book Syndrome then or indeed until 2006 when to my horror the local Librarian told me she could not stock my bookbinding DVD's because no  old books were restored and were just kept in boxes in their original condition. She felt like antiques they should be kept in original condition and not restored.

Research revealed that the old books were kept in boxes simply because there were now no bookbinders capable of restoring them available. None were being trained because every book printed after 1830 had a built in destruct mechanism known in the trade as Brittle Book syndrome from the acid wood pulp paper. Old books in libraries today are just scanned and the original thrown away.

Google Books project is scanning all the books in English from major universities and libraries to preserve them for posterity. There is no time to waste as within years many will have turned to dust. This causes friction with the publishers because of copyright which in USA is in place on all books until 2019 but less than 10% of today's books have known copy right owners. Google will scan first and arque later or publishers can choose not to have their books scanned.

So now if you want a  lot of leather bound books to grace your bookshelves the only thing to do is to do it yourself unless of course you are a billionaire and can afford $1000 per book.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gardening Alone

I have many passions in life and one of these is gardening! I am not very good at it but I love it.

I have a tiny garden at the moment and can only afford an hour a week on it, just enough to cut the tiny lawn and pull out a few weeds. Why is it that the grass grows so well in my flower borders and not in my lawn?

I have lots of friends but they are not into gardening so I am the sole beneficiary of my garden and to me it is beautiful. It has taken me 34 years to discover what grows and to get a continuity of flowering so I always have something to look at.

I spent a year noting everything that flowered well in my neighborhood and planted accordingly. I am not wealthy so it was usually from one cutting or bought plant that I could multiply  over the years. Starting with magnolias, clivias, primulas, freesias, climbing roses, fuchsias, hydrangeas, daises,  hibiscus red hot pokers and back to magnolias.

I have a few pot plants that I look after for the house, three orchids and two Xmas Cactus and I buy a yearly cyclamen which goes into the garden and sometimes thrive.

I use no insecticides and I fill up all spaces with flowers. If there is space for a weed there is space for a flower.

It really doesn't bother me if no one else enjoys it, I do, I just love it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sir Charles Mackerras RIP

It is with much sadness that I learned today of the death of  Sir Charles Mackerras or 'Charlie Boy' as we the children in the first production of 'Noyes Fludde' called him in Aldeburgh in 1958. He was such fun and the hours we spent howling with laughter as Charlie Boy tried to get a young and hilarious Michael Crawford to bang his hammer on the right beat is something I shall never forget.

Charles became my favorite opera conductor.  I was chosen at 15 to sing 'Flora' for the iconic first television production of Britten's 'Turn of the Screw' and Charles helped me and guided this tiny inexperienced ballet dancer through the whole daunting experience. He was a conductor that never forgot the singers. During the six weeks of rehearsal opera conductors have nothing to do except concentrate on the singers. They give you every entry and exit and get quite cross if you make your own. You get to rely on them.

Then four days before performance the orchestra arrives and all hell lets loose as the conductor fights to get the orchestra into some sort of order if it is a difficult score. Singers are forgotten and after six weeks have to look after themselves. Charles never ever forgot me! I was so grateful. In my case the opera was live and the orchestra in a different studio so we watched for him on monitors.

To my disappointment Charles did not dress up. He was good at this and arrived for the 'Fludde'
performance in full morning dress. He had rung the Archbishop find out. For this 'Screw' he looked awful and conducted with a broken baton and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. After he threw the baton away and I picked it up. I still have it.

I have been working on 'Elsa's Dream' from Lohengrin. It has taken many years for me to be able to sing this and I was saving it for my friends for Christmas but maybe this is a suitable occasion. Charles Mackerras was my 'Knight in Shining Armour' during my Aldeburgh Days when as a girl I was very much alone.

He took me out for lunch  at an expensive restaurant once after a particularly fraught session when I could not get the time right for 'I'm here oh I'm here'. When the bill came he discovered he had run out of money and I had to pay. My mother had given me £5 which was a fortune at the time and it all went on that lunch. Outside as he walked me to the Tube he discovered 2/6 in his pocket and hopped into a taxi leaving me to tube it alone.He never paid me back!

So for you Charles here is 'Elsa's Dream' without you I should never have been able to sing this!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vive la France! Bastille Day

Vive la France
Today is Bastille Day,  Liberty, Fraternity and Equality and The French have celebrated their secular society by banning the burka, and any face covering  in public of any kind.

I am not usually a fan of the French, I have been short changed in Paris on a few too many occasions. I find the French numeric system far too complicated  and I have never worked it out after 50.  99 is quite beyond me.  I think it is four twenties plus nineteen?   I think the French do this to confuse their old enemy the English.

French MPs today overwhelmingly voted to ban the burka after a senior minister described it as a ‘walking coffin’ and a ‘muzzle’.
The niqab and burka are seen by some as a symbol of extremism and an attack on women's rights in the secular French Republic.

However on banning the burka I am in complete agreement. It is a disgrace to any intelligent person that a woman should have to hide under a tent to enable men to go to heaven because a man it seems is incapable of controlling himself!

It is a brave country that will stick up for the rights of women and a secular society and I congratulate the French for doing so.

The double standard that is practiced in the world today on this subject needs to be addressed. No Christian woman could walk down the streets of Iran without a veil and live to tell the tale.
If it were left to me I should remove every woman from Afghanistan  along with the troops and let the muslim men fight it out. Twenty five years and the problem would be solved. For the women of Afghanistan the Russians were Knights in Shining Amour and it is a pity the were not left in peace as the USA has no probably realized.

The Sin of Eve has a lot to answer for! Naughty lady, it is all her fault that women have to accept that they are wicked and stupid and deserve everything they get,including pain and suffering of childbirth and should definitely not be seen or heard!

Pity Eve never existed! Not a lot of people realize this and it is about time they did!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Coping with Grief Barbara Want

Why Not Me? by Barbara Want

Grief today is the last taboo, never discussed or mentioned.

In a frank and revealing interview journalist Barbara Want describes the torment she went through after the death of her husband from cancer. It left her as the sole carer for their two young sons, and after three years she still feels the raw pain of the loss. She talks to Owen Benett-Jones about grief and why she thinks many people aren't very good at dealing with it. She has also written a book about the subject.

This  BBC  Interview Podcast should be essential listening to any married woman young or old because death of a partner is never discussed. The nearest I got to this subject is my GP  husband when he proposed telling me that the age difference between us might mean I was left a widow for a considerable length of time so I can hardly claim now that I was not warned.

I did not expect him to die so soon, in such a horrendous fashion and leave me alone to find out just how cruel the world can be to a newly bereaved widow.

Barbara Want describes in detail almost exactly what happened to me. To begin I was left completely alone. The support system that was so wonderful during my husband's illness was cut off abruptly. The hospice angels never returned, my pension was cut off from UK and I was told to pay the unused portion back in a cold unemotional way that is beyond belief.  It was a year before my UK pension came through.

My biggest disappointment and one I still find unfathomable is my neighbours, friends and my husband's family found it impossible to visit me. And except for one neighbour who did bring a casserole for me a card and some flowers were all that was offered as support. I was allowed a month to get over it! Now I am never allowed to talk about my husband in public. It is not done!

My daughter who was 24 could not be expected to help as she was dealing with her own grief and could hardly be expected to cope with mine too. She had a difficult partner who was unsympathetic to me and her Masters Degree plus losing a beloved father at the age of 24. She did her best, better than I should have done at her age.

It was so sad that I wrote this poem which says it all. A cup of tea is all it takes. surely that is not to hard! I do not blame my friends, they were not to know. I only hope one day they do not experience a similar event. Married women be warned this could happen to you.

To My Friends

Why did you not come?
    I called because I needed you to come.
You were kind, sympathetic and I realized you cared
    But still you did not come.

I longed for you to come.
    I had hoped to see you standing by the door as I returned                               
To comfort me, to wipe away my tears, to make me tea,
    But you did not come.

Your absence only added to my grief
    Alone I entered the home of twenty years, without my love
Now I know how alone, alone feels
    For you were not to come.

I waited day after week, surely you would come
    You rang, you asked what you could do
You sent flowers to my beloved. You went to see him
    But for me you did not come.
No flowers, no tea, no nothing.

Oh my dear friends, now I do not care if you do not come
    Alone I survived and I am proud of my achievement
I do not need you now, I can survive without you.
    Do not be afraid I shall not ask you “to come” again
For I know what your answer will be!

In spite of your weakness I crave for your friendship.
    Only those who are truly alone grasp at indifference
It is better than nothing. But do not ask me to come
    For I shall remember that you did not come.

If another friend in times of need asks you to come
    Go! Go at once. Tomorrow is too late!
    Go if uninvited, make some tea.
    Your friend will be grateful and remember that you came.

Have no fear. Your friend will not impose upon your time.
    Grief is transitory. It will pass.
A few spare minutes of concern will glean
    Years of friendship and the knowledge that
        Your friend will come.

                    Janette Heffernan

Sunday, July 11, 2010

International Stop Stoning Day 11 July

Stop Stoning Women

Sunday 11 July 2010 is the first International  Day against Stoning. It seems almost unbelievable that in the 21st century women and the occasional man are still  executed by this barbaric method and the world should need such a protest day to get the practice  stopped but it dies

The case of Sakine Mohamadi Ashtiani  of Iran who until a few days ago faced imminent death by stoning for adultery was bought to the world's attention by the efforts of her children.

Appealing on her behalf, her two children have said: 'Today we reach out to the people of the world. It is now five years that we have lived in fear and in horror, deprived of motherly love. Is the world so cruel that it can watch this catastrophe and do nothing?'
Don’t stand by and watch. Let’s end this once and for all.

To show your condemnation against stoning and support for Sakine, during the week of 5-11 July, take stones to your city centres, universities, media outlets, workplaces… and put them in a public place, with a message in support of Sakine and against stoning and executions

With daily reports of such brutality, some will still not stop asserting that Sharia law is misunderstood and wrongly associated with medieval punishments - yet this is what Sharia’s penal code demands. The image of Sharia law is draconian because the reality is such.

Fortunately because of the hue and cry the authorities in Iran have thought better of it and commuted her punishment but she is still in danger of execution.

Above is my small effort in front of our local cinema.

'Adam and Eve' have a lot to answer for especially as they never existed but we women are still suffering from the 'Sin of Eve' and until the world comes to its senses we still shall.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Shakespeare's First Folio the Most Precious Book in the World

This week Raymond Scott an antiques dealer has been found guilty of handling a stolen First Folio of Shakespeare and will probably go to jail for the offense.The folio is described as part of England's cultural legacy and on the open market is worth roughly £1 million pounds so it is very 'special' in more ways than one.

One of my passions is books, especially leather bound books and I am so fortunate to live in Auckland, City of Sails. Auckland may not have a lot going for it when it comes to owning rare works of art but it does have five objects that are priceless and well worth a visit if you are in this glorious city.

The first four are the Four Folios of Shakespeare, Auckland City Libraries has the lot and if you ask nicely they will get them out for you. The thrill of actually handling the original folio of these masterpieces of English nee world literature is beyond description.

The introduction for my DVD The Leather Bound Book starring Peter Goodwin who used to be the bindery manager in the days when libraries had bookbinders was filmed using all four copies. There on the table were the first four folios laid out in order. What a privilege. I even had my photo taken to remind myself it was not a dream!

Years ago I had the same privilege in the Royal Society where the young librarian had given me a similar opportunity with Newton's Principia Mathmatica. He took me into the meeting room of the Royal Society, unlocked the gold meshed libary doors and placed the priceless volume on the table for me to see and touch. 
It was a tremendous honor of which I was totally unaware as having no science education at all I hardly knew who Newton or his theory of gravity was let alone the importance of this book. I do now and I am so grateful to that librarian.

Thanks to the Brittle Book Syndrome Bookbinders are no longer needed. Every book printed on acid wood pulp will turn to dust before long but fortunately The Folios and Principia were printed on linen paper and will last forever if kept dry. They will need rebinding if a binder can be found!

Oh the last Auckland treasure in in the Art Gallery which is lucky enough to possess a little Gaudia Breska. Benjamin Britten had a Breska in his L shaped drawing room but Auckland has a little statuette which is so beautiful.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Benjamin Britten and Flora

Yesterday I was interviewed by Hannah Nepal of Gramophone about my childhood experiences with Benjamin Britten. I was in two of his operas. First 'Noyes Fludde' and then 'The Turn of the Screw'. 

During our conversation she told me of new play by Alan Bennett of which I had not heard so I went and googled 'The Habit of Art'. I found it all so sad.

The 'Britten' depicted in that play was not the Britten I knew on a daily basis.  Since Britten's death it seems to have been open slather on his reputation and I was not surprised to read that Bennett had never actually met Britten.

I had never thought seriously about Britten for years other than it was a magical time but today after reading the 'Habit' reviews I felt saddened. There seems little that can be done now to salvage Britten's reputation which Britten guarded when he was alive. No one would have been allowed to accuse him of pedophilia during his lifetime as Charles Mackerras found out.

I was in a strange position as I was a girl of 15 when I met him. I was 19 when I got to know him although I looked 12 and never once did I see anything untoward during the four years. During 'Noyes Fludde' he only spoke to Michael  and I never spoke to Britten until the Wagner Concert on the final night.

David Hemmings who was at school with me only said that I was so lucky to be going to Aldeburgh, that David wished he were me. I was a very lucky, lucky girl and that it would prove to be the most wonderful time of my life and I should make the most of it. He envied me. He said I would 'love it'. He never once said anything bad or warn me to 'look out' and surely he would have done so if I would be in any danger. Although David was a 'ghost' he still loved and admired Britten enormously.

Michael Crawford too has nothing but praise for Britten. Britten was always very fond of Michael. We all were. Michael, like Britten has a magic charisma about him and even though Michael was awful to me as he could see I I was becoming a Britten favourite and he was naturally jealous I still admire him. Never has Michael said anything against Britten.

Britten treated us like adults and colleagues. The British Public school system seems to have had unfortunate effects on many of its pupils. Many never recover. Perhaps if had Britten met or been allowed to meet a young girl at the age of 19 things would have been different. I think I was possibly the only 19 year old girl Britten had ever met that he could talk to as a friend on the same social and intellectual level and he did enjoy my company and I his. I knew he was gay and that was why I found it so surprising that he should even bother with me. I was flattered but he was 44, the same age as my father! Sadly Britten was always a perfect gentleman except for long lingering hand holding for which he is renowned (ref Katherine Duncan, Britten Official Biography, Humphery Carpenter) and the occasional kiss  but as the Earl of Harewood said at least I did not get hurt! I survived Aldeburgh.

I can only say that Britten  has given David, Michael and I our careers. He saw something in us that he felt worthy of his time and I for one am so grateful and I know David and Michael are too. I did not realise it at the time but Britten was the most important mentor I ever had. He opened a world of art  and life that other wise I should never have entered. Britten gave me the confidence to 'have a go' and I have and I still am. Hence this blog!

Rita Thompson got him in the end. Britten loved his nurse and left her a considerable fortune. That must say something!

Now on to life and 'Lohengrin'. It seems Britten could do with a 'Knight in Shining Armor' at the moment!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Paris Winter Collections John Galliano at Dior

I am a sucker for Paris Fashions! I just love the brilliance and inventiveness and sheer technical skill that goes into Paris Haute Couture.

I have always loved looking at clothes. My beloved Auntie Jo who I lived with as a child always bought Vogue! This was an indulgence in the days after the War but I loved to look at the glossy pages and view the elegant fashions that were so tastefully illustrated.  Clothing coupons meant that none of the styles shown could be attained.

Today I await with eager anticipation the Paris seasons and thanks to the miracle of IT I can attend the collections care of the on line Telegraph videos.  They are amazing! This seasons Christian Dior collection by John Galliano is a glorious hymn to material and the seamstresses art. Gorgeous to look at but I suspect not so gorgeous to wear. Can you imagine going to the loo in that!

I have worn Chanel twice in my life, once as a hand me down dress from the next door neighbour of my aunt who lived in a mews in Eaton Square and once in my intimate revue when I wore a little black Dior number cut on the cross with no bra required.

I who lived in M&S and C&A could not believe the feel as I pulled on the sheer real silk jersey sheath. It sort of clung to ones skin and made even me look like a Goddess. The cut was so exquisite you just knew it was French.

I dress and always have dressed extremely badly I really don't care for  clothes but I love looking at them. The French dress so well, they have class. Love it!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Bird of Paradise

I adore the bird of paradise, not the feathered sort but the green growing variety.

I find The Bird of Paradise or Strilitza, to give it its horticultural name, magnificent. Gardening is another  passion of mine . My secret passion as I rarely if ever talk about it. My friends are in to opera, ballet, croquet, religion, most are very passionate about religion, but none of my friends is into gardening other than to pay for someone to do the weeding and cut the lawns.

For the last 34 years I  have lived in sub tropical New Zealand. The first thing I did when I bought our villa was to plant a Bird of Paradise of my own. It was hellishly expensive at $8 NZ, in 1976 and as I was paid just $68 and that had to pay for all household expenses, so at the time it was a luxury.

Although it flourished it failed to flower. Year after year went by and nothing, not a single bloom. After six years I decided to move it to another spot in the hope that it might flower and again for the next five years not a sausage as they say. Zilch!

My garden is small, too small for anything unproductive. If a plant fails to flower after a decent trial it is out. Only plants that pay their way are allowed so I spoke to my Bird of Paradise quite firmly and told it if it didn't flower in the next year I would dig it up.

To my surprise it worked. My lazy Bird flowered and has been flowering ever since. It is the most magnificent clump and now after 34 years I am going to plant two more.

Fingers crossed!