Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks 'Whoopsy' The USA Regrets

Good on yeh Wikileaks for exposing the double standards in the USA today. For many years the USA Establishment has acted as if it alone has the right to do anything it wants and the hypocrisy of their position has been exposed for all to see and enjoy

There is nothing that the world's population enjoys so much as the great being humbled. Their discomfort at least makes life bearable for the rest of us

It really comes as no surprise to anyone that diplomatic utterances have two meanings and always have. Noel Coward in the 1930's put it so well in his revue pastiche 'His Excellency Regrets' where Coward contrasts what is said by what is meant.

'His Excellency regrets that owing to an attack of gout
He really cannot venture out on Saturday to dine'

Goes the first verse where plausible excuses are offered to all and sundry.

In the second verse Coward tells us what the underlying meaning is when he gives 'the world a whiff of plain unguarded truth'!

'His Excellency regrets that lacking a better alibi
He must admit he'd rather die that open your bizarre.' 

The song is hilarious and very apt for today. The USA, that bastion of freedom good manners and propriety has been caught with it trousers down to the hilarity of the rest of us.

Didn't anyone inform them that anything one writes on a computer is there forever and can be accessible to all. Monica Lewinsky found that out. All the letters she wrote but never sent were displayed in public for all to read and snigger at! 

Never write anything on a computer that you don't want the whole world to see is the maxim I go by.

Our betters are just big babies who indulge in power over the rest of us and now they have been found out.  We all know most of this anyway. No surprises at all. The surprise is that anyone should be offended.

It seems that the USA State Department has no sense of humour. It is all our fault it appears. Twill all blow over by tomorrow. I'll now be on the FBI's list!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Biblical Resurrection of Harry Potter in The Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter  film time again and the first part of the final book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Next year, in the final part  JK Rowling's subjects her hero Harry Potter to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. It takes shear courage to do that!

I must admit I enjoyed early Potter. The books and films were such fun. Hogwarts was the sort of school I should have loved to attend. True the school I went to was housed in the most beautiful old fantasy mansionCaldcote Towers in Bushey but there the comparison ended. However I did get an absolutely first class religious education so I can recognize an ironic, biblical parody  when I see one. What I find surprising is that so few readers have done so. It is so obvious even I can see it.

Harry Potter has a powerful effect on its readers. JK Rowling is extremely skilled and I realized as I read  the novels  that Rowling based some of her plot lines on famous authors work for example  the torture incident where Harry is subjected to have 'I am a liar' slowly etched into his hand by a soft feather is pure Kafka. In  Kafka's The Penal Colony he describes the last use of an elaborate torture and execution device that carves the sentence of the condemned prisoner on his skin in a script before letting him die. all in the course of twelve hours.

On first reading I found the final chapters of the Deathly Hallows confusing. Harry sacrfices himself dies and ends up in a waiting room at Kings Cross Station before coming back to life again. Kings Cross Station was a bit of a puzzle at first and then bingo  Purgatory. A quick peruse again over the last chapters and it was as clear as crystal.

 The Passion and Resurrection of Christ.  Rowling does little to disguise her plot using words like 'Resurrection Stone' and 'crucio' and in fact when you think about it the Bible is perhaps the most powerful book in the world. God knew a good story line that would sell and it still does and so does JK  Rowling.

So for all Potter lovers here is how it works. Dumbledore is God the Father who sets up his sort of son Harry/Jesus to be sacrificed to save mankind. Harry/Jesus allows himself to be killed by Voldemort, then like the dead Christ descends into to Purgatory/Limbo/hell disguised as the Waiting Room at Kings Cross Station where the damned cannot be helped hence the creature in the background writhing on the floor. Harry meets with the dead Dumbledore and allows himself to be resurrected to save the world and enter into paradise. In the last confrontation between Harry/Jesus , Vodlemort/Satan can only be saved if he shows 'remorse' and seeks redemption. Voldemort like all fallen angels choses death and damnation. Harry Potter goes on to lead a normal life and is nothing special just an ordinary wizard. Perhaps a way of indicating that Jesus was just an ordinary human being nothing special.

These last  chapters have biblical references on every page. Rowling must have known exactly what she was writing. I wonder how long she thought it would take to be discovered?  It takes a lot of spunk to plagiarize the bible but hey Shakespeare did it all the time with his contemporaries nothing was safe and the Bible is well out of copyright.

I admire her courage and I enjoy her literary braiding and use of literary references in her work.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Real Royal 'Student Princes' William and Charles

One of my first theatre leading roles was 'Kathie' in the Romberg musical. 'The Student Prince' is sad tale of a royal prince going to university, falling in love with a bar maid but for reasons of state having to marry a Princess. It all ends unhappily.

One would think it could never happen today but it has twice, once with tragic end followed by a happy end, Charles, Diana, Camilla and once hopefully with a happy ending from the start for Kate and William for I think all  of us who have experienced a happy marriage, and a lot of us have,  wish them 'all the luck in the world' and secretly wish we could 'do it' all over again for it is said every happy marriage ends in a tragedy when the first beloved dies. For the one left it is ghastly.

For once I do not envy Kate and William for although the future looks brilliant  today with royal weddings, luxury palaces, no money worries the future may not be so rosy. Like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette they could be the Royal Couple who oversee the 'Fall of the House of Windsor' and that may be pretty uncomfortable. I am glad it is not going to happen to me, palaces or no palaces. At least they should be allowed to retire gracefully and not get their heads chopped off.

The legacy of 'The Student Prince' unhappy version that became happy after unwanted princess died and bar maid became Queen may be too much to stomach for some citizens. The Dominions  may favor  republics in the near future. Power based on heredity is not a  'good thing' in fact it is a very 'bad thing'.

It is said that William has indicated he has no desire to be a King. I think it was a wise idea  for him to wait as long as possible before inflicting marriage to the 'Firm' on his beloved.  At least after eight years they will be friends and Kate will have had a toe in the water to feel the temperature. The may need all the luck they can get.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beethoven Man or Monster?

Beethoven man or monster?

I think, like many now and in the past, I have revered the brilliance of Beethoven's music. I knew little of the man but that mattered not. Beethoven's music is heroic. Just listening to it transports me to another better world so it was with great anticipation and pleasure that I started to  read a book  that my husband, an Oxford educated GP, suggested I should find illuminating. I did. I found it uncomfortable and 'un-putable downable' as the  romantic musical icon disintegrated before my eyes. The man and the music did not match. ( see my blog on Icons)

The portrait of the romantic hero on the left is very different from the tight lipped nondescript portrait above. They hardly look like the same man. The man above is the true Beethoven much to the regret of many biographers who would have preferred the one on the left.

The book was 'Beethoven and his Nephew' by Richard and Editha Sterba and from which I shall quote as they explain the 'difficulty ' rather better than I. Although Beethoven's music is of the Gods Beethoven in real life was not an attractive character to put it mildy. Wagner, another musical genius,  was another composer whose personal life left a lot to be desired and is  angelic when compared to Beethoven. I am not saying that anything in Wagner's personal life is to be excused and the same goes for Beethoven. The world knows about Wagner but it seems turns a 'blind eye' to Beethoven.
'For most people is is surprising - for many, indeed, it is painful - to learn that the ideal image of Beethoven which they have gained from literature and formed in themselves from their experience of his works is in such contradiction to his real personality. For the partly conscious, but in greater measure unconscious, need in mankind to believe in ethically higher figures, paramount and superhuman affects not only biographers; it is common to all men. They stubbornly defend the illusion of the ideal figure against reality. In our our culture this need for an ideal figure finds one of its typical forms of expression in overevaluation of the artist.'
In the case of no other genius, certainly, did idealizing biography find it more of a problem to distort the facts than in dealing with Beethoven.
Heroization seeks to bridge over the contradiction between work and man which in Beethoven's case was felt to be particulary strong and painful. But the contradiction itself can only be a mattter of appearance. Basically there must be unity between man and work.'

Ref Beethoven and his Nephew A Psychoanalytic Study of their relationship by Edutha Sterba and Richard Sterba MD. London Dennis Dobson GB 1957 Original edition published in USA by Pantheon books.

The BBC's latest documentary Beethoven by Charles Hazlewood  below is an excellent example of a carefully edited romanticized biography that is not exactly 'wrong' but not exactly the truth.  It presents beethoven in the best possible light that distorts the facts. The last journey to Vienna that Beethoven took in an open cart in the worst of weather where he caught pneumonia that eventually killed him was his own fault. Beethoven hated his brother Johann's wife Theresa so much that he refused to travel in the same closed private coach with her and preferred an open cart even in a blizzard.  All of this episode has been carefully 'spinned' not to offend. There is nothing 'wrong' it is just not what actually happened and makes Beethoven look heroic. Beethoven wasn't.

Personally I find the difference between the music and the man fascinating. It is important not to confuse the two. Just because one is romantic heroic composer does not mean one to be admired and lauded as an example to copy in real life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Royal Opera House Create 'Depouillment' Results 2010

 'Create' The Royal Opera Houses's composing competition has turned out to be somewhat of a damp squib. The idea was that the ROH provided some silent ballet footage to encourage composers all over the world to try their hand at composing for the ballet.

Entrants were encouraged to be 'bold' and play with images that could be shared between contestants.

There were two selections to choose from.The good news is the winner Alastare Broadly composed two beautiful original pieces and deserved to win both categories. The sad fact appears it seems there were only three entrants. Alastar and two others one of which was me! I was so enthusiastic I had three goes.

What a missed opportunity for young composers to get discovered by the Establishment.
Sometimes it is not the winning that is important but the taking part. For me to be able to enter this competition would have been considered in my youth a miracle.  I am not a theoretical musician. Like Anne Widdicombe on 'Strictly Dancing', the rescued Chilean miner in the New York Marathon and Eddie the Eagle ski jumper extraordinaire it is the participation against all odds that matters. For me composing anything is the final frontier. My music teachers including Ben Britten would be amazed.

What is disappointing by the lack of entries is that one learns so much from entering this type of competition for it gives the opportunity to 'play' and experiment in areas where one usually does not bother to go and all arts need experimentation if they are to survive. The ROH has to 'play safe' but this means that its productions become mummified, the ROH has to present the established view of the art of ballet and opera so it is essential that sometimes it encourages new blood of whatever age.

I suggested that my professional music teacher friends involved the arts should encourage their composition students to have 'a go' but it seems that perhaps the technical side  of actually getting the composition into a computer and up onto YouTube defeated them. Maybe finance was the barrier because one does need expensive equipment and a bit of know how.

Today it seems it is the oldies that are showing the way. Anne Widdicombe shows that anyone can dance at any age, David Hockney is doing electronic finger painting on iPod Touch, his 'Fresh Flowers' exhibition in Paris shows to me what a true artist he is and I on YouTube using Garageband and iMovie and indeed I am proud of my efforts of composing and image manipulation. I now really can use iMovie and Garageband.

A thorough search of YouTube only came up with the three entrants. I think under the circumstances the ROH could have given me an honorable mention. If I had been David Hockney they would.

The ROH House's website winner's announcement was a little misleading. It sounded as if they had had thousands of entries. The link that allowed visitors to see other entrants other than the winners only led to the ROH Channel where only the two winners were displayed. Where was mine?  Have I got this wrong? Where are the 'other entries'? It also has its 'comments turned off which is a YouTube 'No No'! Only Creationists do that these days! Come on ROH listen to your audience, the lack of entrants tells you that your communication skills need an overhaul if ballet and opera are to survive.

At least I can console myself that I came in second, third and fourth. Oh well, Berlioz did not win the Prix de Rome on his first try! The ROH has found a delightful new composer in Alastar Broadly.

Here is the winning entry and the second place.

Alistar Broadly's winning entry

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Climbing Roses Albertine

I have always loved Albertine, both varieties, the Proustian species and the climbing rose. It has always featured it in all my gardens starting with both grandfathers in Taplow and Edgware where it cascaded over the air raid shelter.

It also tried to blossom on the horrendous brown creosoted fence in the semi detached in Stanmore where it did its best. I did not help as I was learning to garden and I pruned it when I didn't 'oughter'. Climbing roses like to ramble and be left alone. This is easy because they have horrendous thorns and prickles.

All my neighbours dislike them and look out the rose that strays outside my garden. I can understand why because these roses can kill and I am forever resorting to the Fucidine when I forget to put on my gloves. I am old enough to know better by now.

My roses serve as a natural barbed wire barrier to the outside world. I can see why it took the prince one hundred years to find the Sleeping Beauty.

So here is a selection of my beloved climbers. Alberic Barbier is the first to flower in early November followed by Balmain, which fall over the pergola and Albertine which I am encouraging to flow over my studio. ( used to be the shed but has had an upgrade).

Wedding Day a fantastic rose as long as it does not rain, and Rambling Rector, which has few thorns but  trues to its name does get away if not tamed and lastly the old fashioned Dorothy Perkins around Christmas which not only gives the most amazing display down my drive on my side but carpets the car port like a persian rug.

All were grown from cuttings set in March.

A quich hack with the electric hedge clippers and that's it. Next year they will be even better. I love climbing roses.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Anne Widdicombe unlikely Super Star of Strictly Dancing

In the words of Joyce Grenfell 'Stately as a galleon Anne Widdicombe glides across the floor ' and has become the super star of this season of Strictly Dancing.

I am not a fan of Ms Widdicombe, I do not like her politics, I do not care for her religion but I do like her dancing. It doesn't matter that Anne can't do the steps and looks as if her partner   'was creating a crop circle' as the Daily Mail  puts it. Anne does what the other contestants fail to do she actually dances, relishes the fact she can't and doesn't pretend she can and leaves the rest of the other celebrity couples who can't dance for toffee either but are acting like mad that they can, looking silly.

Dancing of any kind is not easy. It takes years of dedication and practise. It cannot be turned on in a few hours of rehearsal even if you are a celebrity with the whole parapahnailia of a professional production team behind you. Shows like this are charades, they are a mirage, they give out the message to the 'plebes' that it doesn't matter if you haven't put in the hours necessary to become proficient anyone can do it. They can't.

Anne Widdicombe knows that this is not possible and is a breath of fresh air as she sends the whole thing up sky high. Anne has that deliciously working class English sense of humour that cuts the charlatans down to size and the audience love her for it.

She is so 'awful' that it is sheer genius.

I hope she wins.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

To buy a Honda Hatch Back or not to buy?

How do you like my new car?

Only joking but when I was young this is the type of car I wanted and I had to wait until I was 55 before I bought my first real sports car a Mazda MX5 which I adored and still adore and only had to give it up when my husbnad died because a single woman cannot really run two cars in this day and age. De trop!

So I settled for the then new Honda Civic Hybred and indeed it has been my favourite car with the expception of the MX5, which is really makes me feel 'me' inside. Young, beautiful and naughty! Well that's the impression I like to give. I look as though butter wouldn't melt in my mouth but I am rather' naughty' in the nicest possible way. I was always 'outside the door' for being cheeky at school.

At the time the Honda Hybred did not come as a hatch back and I like hatch backs as I like to be able to move smal things from place to place, like furniture to and from auction houses and theatrical costumes and paint and plants. Honda at that time did not have a Hybred hatch back so I had to settle for the saloon and although I love it I am now of an age where any car might be my last, I do not intend to drive forever as elderly drivers can be dangerous so is it time to upgrade?

I had a drive in the new Hybred Hatch Back and I must say I am sorely tempted. It has everything I want but is it too soon? You always lose money on cars whatever you do. I have been told you either change quickly or run the car into the ground but either way you lose.

I'll sleep on it. Would it make me any happier? No not really, Poorer? Yes but with the threat on inflation I have nothing much to lose. At least I get something I need.

Oh I am tempted.

Salad Days 1999 with my 'sort of sister 'Pam

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Mashenka Waltz Peter Greenwell & Gordon Langford

For fun I am orchestrating the music from a musical 'The House of Cards' I was in, in London. At the time it was a box office disaster and critical failure but it seems now to be coming rather famous as an example of professional nastiness. In the past it was possible to exclude anyone that the Establishment didn't like. In the 1960's the Establishment did not 'like gay men' and sent them to prison. The librettist Peter Wildeblood a remarkable, brilliant man had already suffered this fate along with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.

The Players Theatre was a 'gay haven' and virtually every male involved with the production was gay at a time when being 'gay' was very dangerous. It was a very nasty time indeed. The musical was delightful, witty and sharp. It did require a certain amount of intelligence to get the full meaning which was out and out greedy capitalism is not a 'good thing'. The critics had a field day with the exception of Bernard Levin, the arch destroyer of the West End theatre,  who liked it.'Go to see this' headed his review in the Daily Mail, the only good one we got.

I loved it and so it appears does Andrew Lloyd Weber!!! who says it is one of his favorite musicals. Everyone who saw it loved it and I adored being in it but not a photo or a record remains except for some sheet music and now in hindsight it appears that the critics got it wrong. They did!

I still have the script and now I can use Garageband  I can bring the music of 'The House of Cards' to life again. I have the time and enthusiasm and at least there will be a record for posterity. I am not sure if I am allowed to do this but it is for educational reasons and nobody else is going to do it for there is absolutely not a penny in it at the moment. If I don't do it it will be forgotten. That really is one of the messages of the 'House of Cards' greed triumphs over art.

There are now only five people alive who were connected with the musical. One is the brilliant orchestral arranger Gordon Langford who has orchestrated 'Waltzing Mathilda' for Australia! I have tried to contact him but in three months I have failed to find him. In a sane world I could write it out digitally and he could arrange it far better than I. Langford gave an interview where he discussed his arrangement. He included trombones but no strings. Langford said the' Mashenka Waltz' by Peter Greenwell was worth saving and needed a full orchestral arrangement. He's absolutley right about this. Very 'Blue Danube' and 'Waltz of Flowers' genre.

 Yesterday with nothing to do I heard again 'The Mashenka Wal'tz with full orchestra and Hollywood strings for the first time since 1963. We never heard it like this at the Phoenix! In fact today 'raw' sound sounds awful. It is so Tchaikovsky! I, who could never play a note on the piano and struggled with 1st year Harmony at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and who could never see the point as I would never arrange anything, experienced the delight and power a conductor has over a symphony orchestra. A little more trombone and less timpani. Oh magic!

I could never really read traditional music. Scores that my husband poured over were a mystery to me. and yet with Garageband and a change of notation all is different. Now I can see what musicians can see and it is just so wonderful. Garageband and Midi is like the thrill I encountered with getting a Spellcheck. It allowed me to become 'normal' and enjoy musical notation.

Yesterday I added the Hollywood Stings to the trombone section and the influence of Tchaikovsky on the score became apparent to me for the very first time. That is how Tchaikovsky got his effect of majesty and power and I had achieved it on my computer with a free programme 45 years later!

I shall arrange and perform all the songs for which I have music and at least they will be there for the world to enjoy when it wakes up. It will take time. Oh why is life so short and why did I not have Garageband when I was 18!