Friday, April 29, 2011

The Wedding of the Century

Tonight is the night before the Wedding of the decade Wills Windsor will make an honest woman of his mistress Kate Middleton after eight years of  will he won't he. It is going to be an expensive affair and already the crowds of sightseers are camping in the Mall. The flags are out and UK is set for a party and why not!

I am a died in the wool republican. I cannot see the use of an inherited monarchy but even I shall watch tonight from New Zealand if I can stay awake that long as the wedding is in the middle of the night in my country. It will possibly be the last royal wedding I live to see and you never know it might be the last royal wedding in UK.

The hype and spin has been over the top so different from the wedding of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II in November 1947 to Prince Philip of Greece. It was just after the war and London and England was recovering from the bombs and deprivations of a World War. Rationing was normal and incredibly tough. Clothes and furniture both needed coupons. I never had a new coat or a dressing gown till I was fifteen. In 1947 I was four.

My father and mother took me to walk down the Mall on the night before the wedding. I was four nearly five. I remember being taken on the tube and I remember walking around the Queen Victoria  Monument in front of Buckingham Palace.  There were lots of people but no crowds, no decorations and certainly nobody camping in the mall. It was all very low key.

There was no television broadcast either, that did not come until the Coronation in 1953 so the general public was not really involved. It was dark and cold and I was very tiny.

My main memory and it is a remarkable one is that my father gave his four year old daughter a lesson in percentages. He remarked  that of all the people in the Mall that night possibly only 4% would be in the Abbey the next day. I think he over estimated. Daddy then went on to explain to me in great detail how percentages worked. My mother told him I was a bit young for this but I grasped the concept and I didn't meet this concept again until I was 13.

I even remember where I was when Daddy told me right at the bottom of the Mall on the left looking back from Buckingham Palace.

But I do know someone whose grandson will be in the Abbey tomorrow. Glory by association! This person's grandson is a best friend of Jamie and Kate and is going to all three events!  I wonder what that percentage would be?

So good luck Wills and Kate. I wish you well but I wouldn't be you for all the coat of arms in the world. Impossible job. Now for that dress........

Saturday, April 23, 2011

God for Shakespeare England and St George

Happy St George's Day! The Irish have St Patrick, The Scot's St Andrew and Burn's Night and the Welsh St David and everybody forgets poor old England and St George.

When I was a teenager I always bought a red rose to sport on the 23 April and I felt special. I love being English although now I am really more of a New Zealander. I haven't been back for over 16 years and I expect it has changed a bit.

This year 23 April has outdone itself. Not only is 23 April St George's Day but also Shakespeare's birthday as well and this year it is Easter Saturday to boot. It is also my beloved Grandfather's birthday. Pop Thorpe who was born the son of a railway wagoner, that means he built railway wagons that held coal in the slums of Manchester, rose by hard work and industry to become the first graduate of the London School of Economics, became Governor of the Ceylon Railways nearly bought Wembley Stadium  and in 1948 was chief account for the 1948 Olympics.

23 April was also my only introduction to Jonathan  Miller. In about 1963 ITV were looking for a young woman to join Miller on a chat show and teenagers of my age were encouraged to write a short article on any subject on the front of any paper on the 23 April. I wrote about the date! I wrote well even at 17 and was shortlisted. Of course when I turned up Mr Miller must have had  a fit. I was not the OxBridge student that was expected. In fact I think they thought that I hadn't actually written my article but I had.

I should have got Miller on to Britten and 'The Turn of the Screw' and he might have been impressed.

So to all true English persons everywhere a Happy St George's Day!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When Good Macs Freeze

I love Apple Mac! I am their greatest fan but things can go wrong. My first iMac Flower Power was a big disappointment at first. The experience was awful. Six weeks of sheer torture So I rang the Managing Director at Renaissance the distributing house in Auckland and to my surprise I was put straight through.

I do have that sort of accent that commands respect! I am afraid I gave the poor man 'what for' but he was so nice and kind and took the offending Mac to his experts and bingo the thing worked its magic and I have had  Macs ever since.

Not without teething troubles though. Mac 2 a big Mac with 80 gig which today would not even grace the smallest laptop was bought to run iMove 4, a simply wonderful application, but every time I used it it froze solid. I received two new Macs but each one still froze solid which was not on because I was making my DIYTV in 44 minutes DVD.  Nobody at Apple would believe me until I went into their store and proceeded to crash every Apple in sight just by clicking on the sub title button on iMovie.

New Zealand has the toughest consumer laws in the world. The Fair Trading Act and the Consumer Protection Laws mean that if an item you buy is not 'fit for service' it goes back, no arguments. Repair, Replace, Refund.  Apple got the subtitle button to work.

My present 15 Mac Book Pro has been a delight. Gets a bit hot but has done the job with only one glitch in  four years but its replacement the stunning 17 inch MacBook Pro specially configured for Final Cut Pro with 'Thunderbolt' has been a problem.

I bought it in good faith on the 30 March this year. It is a handsome creature but froze the first time I opened it up. A real Arctic freeze! One could not even do an escape. One just had to push the power button and re boot.

Since then I have spent hours and hours on the phone with the charming representatives form Applecare who usually manage to get a naughty Apple going but not this time. Freeze after freeze after freeze.

I asked if anyone else had this problem? I even said I could never report it as the little box that so obligingly appears when this happens never got a chance to appear.  The nice man Artish assured me that this was not a known problem and it was probably in the external applications although I had crashed the MacBook using Calender and Address book of iLife.

After a week of various remedies it had to go back to the distributor's technicians  who announced that the machine was perfect so obviously it was in the software.

My poor distributors have had to spend a week replacing the software. It was supposed to be ready for Maundy Thursday today so I could play with it over the weekend. I don't know what possessed me but I decided to run a Google check on  MacBook Pro 2011 owners experiencing “hard freeze” problem only to find that many hundreds of people all over the world had been experiencing this since 21 March 2011! Nine days before I bought mine! I was sold a computer that Apple knew had issues!
82 pages on Apple Discussion could not have gone unnoticed.

To say I am not a happy camper is something of an understatement. If I lived anywhere else in the world I should be stuck with it as Apple has a way of not accepting returned goods after 14 days. However I live in New Zealand where if  an item sold and it is not up to scratch it goes back and that is the end of it. I cannot even begin to think what a Magistrate in our Small Claims Court where this sort of thing ends up for about $50 would say if she/he knew that Apple were aware of the problem but sold it to me anyway!

No doubt there will be a fix soon but this is now 21 April 2011 and when I rang Applecare today to ask if it had been 'fixed' the Genius (that's what Applecare consultants are called) acted a s if this was the first time he had heard of the problem. I was not impressed. On insisting on an answer to the question 'Is there a fix?' he could only answer that he did not know. Which means 'NO'!

'Never be the first to use or the last to use' my GP husband used to say. Evidently in medicine this is a well known adage but this time I had to do so and of course I got caught with the first not too perfect run.

So its back to Apple and wait until the bugs have been sorted out. They will be hopefully sooner than later. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yuri Gargarin in London 1961

Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968, centre), Soviet cosmonaut and first man in space, at the USSR exhibition at Earls Court, London, UK. Gagarin made the first manned space flight on 12 April 1961. He orbited the Earth once in the Vostok 1 spacecraft, a flight that lasted 1 hour and 48 minutes. Gagarin became a hero in the Soviet Union and famous worldwide. He later returned to active service as a test pilot, dying in a crash during a training flight in 1968. His ashes were interred with full military honours in the Kremlin Wall. Photographed in July 1961.

In 1961 Yuri Gargarin, the first human in space, visited London with great pomp and circumstance which is due to the man who undertook and survived one of homo sapiens greatest achievements to conquer the universe.

I was fascinated by this man. Being in the business of having to do the impossible under trying circumstances as I had discovered performing professionally was stressful to say the least I thought it would be interesting to if not meet him just to see him. At the time I was at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as a Music/Drama student and as we had a spare afternoon I persuaded two of my friends Hilary and Sarah to accompany me to the Earls Court Exhibition Halls where the Soviets had a huge trade show.

It was a salutary lesson of many kinds and my first into the myth of press coverage. The first surprise was there was no one there. The place was empty! Apart from the staff and the Soviet Staff there were no spectators at all. Just us. The three of us were astonished. We had expected throngs of admirers.

The three of us waited in splendid isolation and in due course unheralded Gargarin arrived. We had a close up view. The first impression was that he was tiny. He was dwarfed by the huge Russians that flanked him on either side. When I thought about it later obviously a tiny man   is required for the cramped space module but it did come as a surprise.

The next thing that struck me was that he looked 'thick' as if the whole thing was over his head and I expect it was. All the Russians needed was a body to put into space who may not come back. Garagin 
looked as if he fitted the bill perfectly, tiny and thick and of the right class.  The empty hall made him look even smaller.

He was greeted by I suppose the manager. There were no speeches and no pictures. The one above looks as if it were taken as he got out of a lift. Please note it is the lift attendant who is greeting Gargarin. Nobody of 'note' was available! However the three of us were very pretty.

All this was surreal and then a huge Russian arrived with the most enormous bouquet of light pink roses which looked like an 'enormous' funeral wreath which would have graced Stalin's coffin. It was taller than he and a strange choice of colour I thought at the time It was virtually a wreath and this was held in front of him as they entered the exhibition. The atmosphere was quiet and slightly spooky! Strangely he died a few years later and it was as if I had seen his funeral. There is no doubt that this man was out of his depth and doing exactly what he was told. 

At this moment I made the biggest mistake of my life. We were the only audience. Had I been brave enough I should have stepped forward and shook his hand as it was we got a tiny wave of recognition from the great man who must have been as disappointed at the turn out as I was ashamed of my countrymen who on this occasion had sent. possibly the most famous man since Adam. to Coventry.

But I didn't. I am too English and too shy. I just stood there and smiled.

Later the three of us looked around the exhibition which was mainly farm machinery and we went home but we were astonished at the lack of interest.

Reading about him and this visit today 50 years later it sounds as if the whole of London came out to welcome him. They didn't! Just three students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Death of The Video Tape - WARNING

When I made the video above on 'The Brittle Book' in problem 2007 I had no idea that the same problem would occur with video tape for overnight it seems VHS and min DV video tapes have been consigned to the waste paper basket.

This may not seem important but most of us have personal memories stored on these tapes and if we do not take immediate steps to archive these in some way next year they will be lost forever.

I only realized the importance of recorded memories the first time I had one of my productions filmed. Usually on the last performance I would concentrate hard so that I could remember it in my mind because I knew that this was the last time I should see it but when I had a video tape as a constant reminder this horrible feeling was gone. I no longer dreaded the last night.

Now I could always show people why the performance was memorable and not just a figment of my imagination. I know my  Schoenberg's Erwartung of 1978 was exceptional and you don't have to take my word for it as I can show you the video.

Four years ago my 1959 performance of Peter Morley's brilliant UK TV production of Britten's 'Turn of the Screw' which was supposed to have been destroyed in an act of artistic vandalism, suddenly came to light in the archives of the National Film Institute, and I was able to watch the performance I gave as 'Flora' when I was just 16. It was just as a I remembered it and the production is still one of the best if not 'the best' of this opera and I have the DVD to prove it! Sometimes one word is not good enough one needs the evidence of your eyes.

Again to see myself as I was in 1961when I was just becoming a woman was so wonderful. There is a moment when a young woman is at her most enchanting, the 'Gigi' moment and I have mine on tape and exquisitely lit  into the bargain and because of the importance of the production there for all time. Peter Morley and Benjamin Britten gave me my passport to posterity and I am so grateful in retrospect.

This is OK for today but if I don't take action now and transfer my videos onto something that is useable tomorrow they will be just memories again. Ordinary memories are important. They show the way life was lived. The Anzac Day Parades, the wedding parties, the children' shows recorded on tape will be lost too. Social History is in for a blow.

I am lucky. My video editing skills and the fact I recognized this problem means that my videos will last for a few more years but for the general public this is just not going to happen. I know the importance of family videos. I am a widow and yet I can look at the few videos I have of my husband and it is as if he is still alive. The same for my parents and my daughter. I can look back and remember her as an infant. Yesterday I found the first video I took of her when she was four, It is only interesting for me and my family but it is there and my daughter's child can enjoy seeing her mother at the age of four.

Archiving Video is a huge problem. Google has taken care of the published books but nobody is doing video. Tape is a wonderful storage medium. Mini DV tape will last many years, unlike VHS that easily gets moldy but you have to have something to play it on and tape decks have disappeared off the shelves. Only a few video production houses have decks that are capable of playing these tapes back and as decks fail to be manufactured replacement will be impossible.

Transferring to DVD is a short term answer but DVD decks are going out of fashion. The only way is to digitize and store on a hard drive if you can but hard drives have only a four year life! Also to get your footage on to a DVD it has to be heavily compressed which takes hours and the resulting DVD although viewable is not suitable for re editing as too much quality is lost.

Why haven't the manufactures thought about this? Short term profit perhaps? There are going to be a lot of disgruntled disappointed angry customers when the world wakes up to the fact that they can no longer see their precious memories.

Don't ask me what to do or what the answer is in general. I am going to digitize my major memories and store on Full Quicktime DVD on hard drive as well as tape. I have bought a professional tape deck which should see me out but for the ordinary punter I have no idea.

One way would be to put everything you want to keep digitized and put onto a iDVD using iMovie or Compressor to a Full Quality DVD. This is only makeshift as iDVD's do not play on all DVD players but it would be a start. No one knows how long a DVD is going to last. Hopefully ten years?

Or take a few very special tapes and have them professionally digitized to a hard drive using Full Quality Quicktime Movie (.dv)  as this is the industry default. All video's are Quicktime compatible. Do this while your camera is still working.

For short clips archive clips you can upload to YouTube as I did with my Royal Ballet 'Bluebird'. Only short clips as you could break a copyright but short clips for archives are allowable. It is in the interests of the artists too otherwise their work will be forgotten. The 'Love of my Life' by John Pritchett is the only thing left of this well know West End composer of Intimate Reviews in the 1950's.

Tell your friends and family if visual memories are important to you for it is nearly 'too late'.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jesus Loves You on this Special Day

Now I have reached the 'September' of my life perhaps it is the time to look back and take stock. Over the past few days I have had the time and the confidence to do this. There is no doubt about it this is a wonderful world and I am lucky and privileged to be part of it.

Thanks to my mother I went to the most beautiful school. The education was not up to much but the environment of a fairy castle, for Rosary Priory was housed in an enchanted rich man's fantasy, was the main pivot of my life and to so major extent still is. We are our education.

The nun's, strict as they were taught me about life and guilt for which I am ever grateful. They taught me that life is not fair, that we are not all born equal and some of us are more 'equal' than others. I was one of the 'lucky' ones. I was one of the 'few that were chosen by God to do his work on earth'.

I loved my religious instruction lessons and became very good at it. I even was first in RE and had the honor of being introduced to the Cardinal and kissing his enormous amethyst ring. I was commend for not being disappointed at not actually receiving the beautiful missal for the best in RE as I was a non catholic, the tiny matter of my mother's mixed marriage meant that although I was brought up a Catholic it was not policy to actually give a non catholic the Catholic prize but I was to offer this sacrifice up to God and I would receive my prize in heaven! At the time I should rather have had the missal but a few years later I consoled myself that it was now out of date as the Latin Mass hit the dust so God was on my side.

My father was not amused and took me away as the nuns had also manipulated my place in class from first to almost last by losing my exam papers. But this did not lessen my faith and I religiously fulfilled all the rituals for the next 18 years. At 16 I was received into the Catholic Church and immediately the next day felt I had 'made a big mistake'! I lost my faith overnight but a very nice priest said.. we all do and I just carried on.

But by the age of 28 I did in fact lose it again for good. I was in St Peter's Rome at the time, a very good place to lose one's faith and I just lost it! Like that! I saw what an extremely hollow and corrupt this institution was and that was it!

I never gave it a thought until today. This is a very special day for me as I am beginning to think I might have been wrong. It matters not that the whole thing is based on two people, our first parents, Adam and Eve who it seems never actually existed but in whom I have to believe 'did actually ,really live'. ( I know , I know, but Catholics have to believe the impossible).  This Adam & Eve  really lived and committed 'Original Sin' on behalf of us all  for which we must all pay the price of eternal damnation.

It matters not that the priests abuse their altar boys and terrify their children with crucifixes and blood and tales of torture. It matters not that women are relegated to slave status. It matters not that children are taught to believe impossible things really happened at school to the detriment of their education for the real world. The important thing is that Jesus loves us all even though there is no evidence that he ever lived.

The Pope is the most wonderful, sacred being. God's link to us on earth. How could I ever doubt all this for one moment. The Pope tells me what to believe - like the Virgin Mary was bodily taken up to heaven after she died! Not possible I know but if I want to be a Catholic again I have to believe it from my heart. It matters not that by preventing the use of condoms millions may die in Africa from HIV AIDS. What the Pope demands is what Jesus wants who am I to question this? It is so obviously true!

The new Me is born again!

I know all my school friends will be delighted that I have again returned  to the fold like the prodigal daughter and shall now avoid the fires of hell. I can now send 'Jesus loves you' emails to all my friends!

As I said this is a very SPECIAL DAY!