Friday, September 30, 2011
The above is the result of my first trip to the snow in nine years. In fact nine years ago I should never have believed that this trip was possible for like Michael Jackson I was a victim of Lorazepam and my doctors. The only difference is that I was lucky and lived to tell the tale.
Today as the doctor who gave Michael Jackson that drug is on trial for involuntary manslaughter I can count myself fortunate that I survived the experience. Lorazepam was the worst thing that ever happened to me and I feel sorry for Jackson because I can understand exactly how desparate he must have felt.
Heroin is a pussycat when compared to Lorazepam. The feeling is completely unnatural and hell. It is hell when you take it and hell when you come off it. It can only be administered by a doctor. A few pills, about four for me, and you are hooked. Getting off is horrendous and has taken me nine years. The first three were quite unimaginable.
Benzodiazipines have over 80 side effects and those who are allergic to it can experience any selection of them. I had over thirty at any one time and they can change over time so one gets rid of one horror and then acquires another.
The drug tells you that if you don't take it you will die but you know if you do take it you will die. Not a good choice. I knew that whatever it did to me I was worse on it than off so I put up with the seizures, I believe I sounded like Michael Jackson as well although I cannot remember that! Like Michael I could not sleep. I catnapped nights away and now I have no fear of insomnia because lack of sleep doesn't kill you. I virtually stayed awake for 18 months. Now I can sleep through anything.
One particularly bad day I sat by the side of the bath with cold water running on my wrists to ease the seizures. I just wanted to die but I knew if I could live through it I should get better. I never thought it would take nine years and counting. It also plays havoc with one's digestive system.
Unlike Jackson I could stay away from doctors. Being alone in this situation is a good thing as if anybody had seen me I should have been hospitalized and given more drugs because I behaved like a rabid dog. Drugs in this situation make things worse.
I thought my life was over but one good thing happened. Being absolutely alone I learned how to use a computer and now I can do the above. I started at the right moment when it was possible as now it is not so easy as it was to learn to make TV programmes. The simple applications have been removed and now you would need to learn in a more conventional and expensive way.
To escape to the Chateau, one of my favorite places in the world, was my dream. To be able to go and feel fairly normal is one of my major achievements in life. It doesn't look much but to do this and go there is a major victory.
Michael Jackson was not so fortunate. He and I know what hell is like but I survived to visit my Chateau.
People look at my life today and envy me, I have a beautiful house and garden and an enjoyable hobby but believe me nobody would want my life. If I had known what was in store for me I think I should have preferred death. I am never doing this again. I would rather die than take one more Lorazepam tablet and I am not joking. It should be banned.
Wikipedia Lorazepam Withdrawal Effects
Withdrawal symptoms can occur after taking therapeutic doses of Ativan for as little as one week. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, anxiety, tension, depression, insomnia, restlessness, confusion, irritability, sweating,dysphoria, dizziness, derealization, depersonalization, numbness/tingling of extremities, hypersensitivity to light, sound, and smell, perceptual distortions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, hallucinations, delirium, seizures, tremor, stomach cramps, myalgia, agitation, palpitations, tachycardia, panic attacks, short-term memory loss, and hyperthermia. It takes approximately 18–36 hours for the benzodiazepine to remove itself from the body. The ease of addiction to Lorazepam, (the Ativan brand was particularly cited), and its withdrawal were brought to the attention of the British public during the early 1980s in Esther Rantzen's BBC TV series "That's Life!", in a feature on the drug over a number of episodes.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
I made it! I went to a full Symphony concert. The first in 12 years. It is hard to believe 12 years ago I should consider this an achievement but I do. When I was really, really ill it was an effort to go into a dairy and buy a bottle of milk and get through the days as days at that time seemed to last a year and to attenda Symphony Concert seemed like an impossibility.
So 12 years later I am up to it, bit of an effort as it is dangerous for me to be in such a large crowd with my non existent immune system. Too many bugs but Beethoven's Choral is special. One more before I go! The afternoon was like rejoining the human race.
It is a privilege to be able to hear a full first class symphony orchestra and the NZ Symphony Orchestra is just that, first class but in the years I had forgotten just how loud a real life symphony orchestra is. I am very careful with my hearing as I need it and always keep my forte levels at a reasonable strength and when the side drum started up in the first piece my ears got a shock. Bang, bang, bang. The the orchestra joined in and I got a shock.
Also the balance of the instruments seemed strange as I am now used to mixing my own brew and I can bring out and favor individual sections as I chose. The choir sounded and indeed was a long way away as I bought my ticket at the last moment. I am now terribly unreliable and can cancel at last minute. The soloists were hard to hear at this distance as they were seated with the choir and had now amplification. I would bring them forward and perhaps for this symphony as the orchestra is vast they should be in front for this section.
I couldn't make out one word. Not one. For the Beethoven it doesn't matter as I do not speak German and I know it starts with Freude but for the English I just couldn't hear a word. In my experience this is always the way with choral works. The conductor's spend hours of precise pronunciation but I ask you is it worth it. Far better to get entries right.
Of the first piece Kaitiaki by Garath Farr a former percussionist who unlike me who did take care of my ears, has damaged aural receptors. I have no comments as it was a first hearing. I need to hear things at least twice. Would my late husband Miles have liked it? I ask myself. He, like Benjamin Britten, had perfect musical taste. No Brahms or Puccini Sadly I do not think Miles would.
What a task! To have to front Beethoven's 9th is one of those commissions one takes but dreads. The audience is just longing to get to the last Choral section and is really only there for that. I thought under the circumstances it was acceptable. I cannot think of any other piece with which to start. Perhaps Stravinsky's Firebird which is equally uplifting but then the choir has nothing to do and for me the curtain has to go up! That's my problem at concerts I am always waiting to the curtain to go up!
I love Beethoven's Symphonies. No other composer write Symphonies as Beethoven does. He is a master of grabbing an audience in the first few bars and rousing them to ovation level by the end. I find it perplexing that such a horrible man, and believe me if you think Wagner was bad Beethoven was worse, could write such wonderful uplifting music for however you are feeling when it starts you are ready to take on the world when it ends.
This is my one criticism and one because I am a director of opera. For me the choir and soloists were too well drilled. They had to sit on uncomfortable backless orchestra benches for a good three quarters of an hour without moving. This must have been uncomfortable. They looked inhuman.No one was allowed to show how they were enjoying the uplifting music. The quick shift of bottoms in the breaks confirmed their discomfort. Choirs should look relaxed.
So when they eventually stood to join in an ecstasy and suddenly come to life they didn't. For a few moments they sang like drilled automatans. Fortunately as the piece progressed they got into the swing but it wasn't there at first when it should have been. I once saw Jephetta performed in this style at Glyndebourne. The chorus did not move in three hours and I thought then well at least in an oratorio the choir turns over the pages.
I think the management think that choirs on the move are distracting but from the audience point of view static drilled choirs are just as much of a distraction as they are inhuman. They need me there!
I loved my afternoon. It was worth the effort. Now I have the wait to see if I have picked up an infection but at my time of life who cares.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
It looks as if we are witnessing the death of Capitalism. How do I know? Well the BBC World is running a series on this topic as I write, that's one ref and then the next ref is provided by my late mother. She forecast the death of this monetary system over 30 years ago. My mother was never wrong!
For once I agree with both her and the BBC. Capitalism has promised much but delivered little. Not surprising really when the system relies on continual growth and by that I do not mean the overwhelming growth of the world's population which is a major part of this system's demise but the resources of the planet that cannot sustain this type of exploitation.
A system that relies on the winner taking all and the loser getting nothing is no longer sustainable as the winners get fewer and richer as the great global corporations take over everything and the dispossessed majority have nothing. Even States now are losers as the great corporations can move locations at will avoiding income and company tax which states rely upon to service their citizens.
Health is left to the individual so are the facilities that allow these corporations to exist, roads, railways, education. Capitalism reaps the benefits for free and contributes nothing.
The business model of 'do what it takes to win regardless and go for a weaker competitor' frame of mind that is taught to my horror in business schools. I actually went to one for a couple of months and was shocked at the lack of morals which possibly explains why I am not a millionaire, is at the heart of this decline in Capitalism.
The bully boy tactics no longer work. Capitalism is on its last legs. It needs a thorough overhaul and a reincarnation which it might get in the next six weeks.
Hopefully the politicians will get it into their heads that change is necessary. Real revolutions are usually bloody affairs.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Every once in a lifetime comes that moment we have all dreamed about but never, never expect to happen and then it does. Today I had one of those moments. I showed an Applecare technician how to do it!
It started a couple of days ago when I discovered that my Apple Garageband Loops were missing. AWOL in a big way. I am passionate about Garageband and now could not live without it. It is my free accompanist, always in time, plays in any key and never a wrong note. What more could a singer ask for?
Then it allows me to arrange and orchestrate my music and allows me to sing anything, like The Songs of the Auvergne which no ordinary pianist will touch as they are sooooo difficult. I digress.
How to get the Loops back now that was the question? Apple have a wonderful system called Applecare. For three years if you pay a bit over the odds there is a friendly voice over the phone almost all day who will guide you through the foibles of one's computer but this call fills one with dread as one knows one could be at it all day. I was! 8 hours of click this, trash this, do this do that and then at the end of a huge re install and still the Garageband Loops would not appear.
I was on to my fifth guru by this time and these gurus are called geniuses! They have a wonderful calming manner as most of us are just about to tear out our hair when we phone them. But my last who was charm itself gave up on me as the reinstall download took two hours and it didn't work. It was getting late. Not a Loop insight. It was take a deep breath and start again tomorrow. A sleepless night.
The snag was I knew they were sitting on my computer. There they were all perky in a folder on my Hard Drive and no way of getting them to show up. I must admit I am good with computers. I am not afraid of the things and I have to know where they store things because of Final Cut Pro. You have to know where to look if your hour long programme suddenly takes flight so I started to play around and then I found it!
It was so simple, almost as simple as turning the computer off and then on when it plays up. I just happened to look by chance in the Garageband Preferences and there it was, an invitation to share loops with all users on my Macbook Pro. One click and the 36 hours of hell were solved.
I had great pleasure in explaining to my genius just how easy it was to fix! I had also worked out why I wasn't seeing the loops. I like 3/4 time and minor keys and Garageband doesn't. It doesn't do waltz loops only common time ones so no loops show up. So I explained how to do it!
If I hadn't found that click I still would not have my loops. Still he was charming and being of a mature age I did enjoy the experience. It will never happen again!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Walt Disney and Cliff Richard have triumphed again. The EU has extended artists rights, and by artists I mean the huge corporations who now own the works of artists long dead, for another 25 years.
No other section of the community can get away with this. Drugs, inventions all have very limited copyrights and patents as if not, innovation and creativity are stifled as most original creative work builds on the innovations of the past.
It sounds so reasonable and if you are one of the lucky few, like Cliff Richard, who still owns their work it could be of a minor benefit becuase most artists want to be remembered after they are dead and restricting copyright is not the way to do this.
Already the Beatles and Hard Rock have fallen off the best selling list simply because no one sings or plays it these days and of course it is old hat. Yes, the Beatles are now old hat and will soon be forgotten. They are not Mozart! Gilbert & Sullivan operas whose copyright was guarded have suffered from the lack of innovation when held under the hands of the D'Oyle Carte from which they will never recover. The works are still witty, satiric and brilliant but have been stiffed by years of dust, amateur performances with enforced mise en scene in the name of copyright.
Peter Rabbit is headed for a similar fate as he gets lost in the land of Telli Tubbies which are now out of date themselves yet still in copyright.
Whereas the plays of Shakespeare and operas by Wagner and Mozart will continue their forward march simply because they are free to perform and are reborn for each generation, since they were created always have been. We have to thank the illegal hacks for the first editions.
Ditto James Joyce. His works would be unthinkable today as they draw on the works of past authors.
I now only do my little 'drafts' based on work before 1923 unless I get specific permission and I do ask for permission from everyone featured unless I own the material. I can virtually do everything myself. My career has had many changes of direction so I have had to learn many crafts, not as well as I should have liked, but they are useful now.
I know of none one else that can do this at present. I shouldn't have to do so! I should be able to use songs of the 1930's. My 'September' by Strauss has to wait until 2019 when I shall not be here! This is silly. Strauss died in 1949!
So now it is Lieder for me for the rest of my life. Safely out of copyright and due for a renewal but that is a separate blog!
Congratulations to Cliff Richard and the Mighty Mouse for putting creative art back to the Dark Ages!
Monday, September 12, 2011
Occasionally in all our lives the moment arrives when we have to go to court. It is a horrible moment that most of us fear. I was taught at a business seminar never to go into business unless you are prepared to go to court and that for me has been good advice. The NZ courts are slow but fair and on the three occasions I have had to resort to them justice was done and in my favour.
A friend of mine has lately been hounded by a large company for a bill that she has paid threatening to take her to court unless she pays up again immediately. Pointing out that she has paid hasn't worked and this has reminded me of my Auntie Jo who faced a similar problem with The Brixham Town Council. Brixham is or was in the 1950's a sleepy traditional, picturesque fishing village in South Devon.
She ended up running a very chic boutique shop in Brixham called Variety Fayre. Brixham was the place to holiday in the fifties. Auntie Jo was very correct, all bills promptly paid so it came as somewhat of a surprise to find that The Brixham Town Council claimed that Auntie Jo had not paid her rates.
To make matters worse Auntie Jo's name was displayed on the Town Notice Board where everyone could see her name as a Ratepayer who had not paid her rates.
The town is small and everyone knew Miss Thorpe had not paid her rates. If the rates were not paid immediately Auntie Jo would be taken to court. It was humiliating. Auntie Jo, aged 60 and a bit doddery and a dead ringer at this stage for Agatha Christie's Miss Marple accepted the challenge.
The day arrived, Miss Thorpe was in the dock, The Town Clerk duly declared that the rates were unpaid. The judge looked seriously at my aunt and said patronizingly 'Now Miss Thorpe what is your answer to that?'
After a bit of a fumble my aunt produced her spectacles and her cheque book out of her handbag and then her bank statement. This took a few minutes then after a lengthy search through the cheque stubbs she looked at the Judge and said innocently 'Your Honour I seem to have paid the cheque on this date a month ago and here is the cheque cleared on my bank statement!'.
My aunt could be so naughty! I now know where I get my annoying streak from.
The whole court erupted in laughter! I can believe that my aunt gave a brilliant performance. However the judge was not amused and gave my aunt the telling off of her life for wasting court time!
But it wasn't Auntie Jo's not guilty verdict was duly reported in the local papers and everyone then knew Miss Thorpe had paid her rates.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
I have always had a passion for television ever since I saw Muffin the Mule when I was four in 1947. I dreamed and in fact tried to become a TV director only to be turned down by the BBC and in NZ by NZTV but thanks to the NZ Arts Council I was eventually allowed to make "Dance Tales Story Ballets" TV series that was bought by the BBC and one episode went on to finish as a finalist in the LA Monitor Awards for technical editing excellence.
So I had my wish. Admittedly I was forced to have a male directer who was exceptionally good by the way because the TVNZ boys would not take orders from me! They really wouldn't and it was humiliating to have to ask the director to take a shot for which I was paying the bill. I was eventually put on the credits as joint directer the one and only time this has ever happened.
So now with the advent of computers iMovie and Garageband I can learn to do at home what then cost $1,000 an hour in a studio. I am retired and not in the best of health so I amuse myself making little 'drafts'. Like lollipops. I used to make TV programmes that sold on DVDs but now that has dried up as the general public likes to get its entertainment for free and DVDs are soon to be a thing of the past.
I can only do about three or four of these little YouTubes a year as they take so long to make as now the powers that run things have made it almost impossible to make anything. The copyright laws and the YouTube logarithms are so strong that one photo or tune or even lyric that might be in copyright and one is bombarded with fearful warnings of litigation and expulsion.
To make sure I own the complete copyright has meant I virtually have to do everything myself and beg everyone else for permission to use their work. This is easier with actors and dancers that I know but is now impossible with music photos lyrics and virtually anything else. Besides the fact that it takes months for a publisher to answer an email they want vast amounts of money which in today's climate is impossible to recover. Music, CDs and DVDs do not sell.
Coupled with that the very easy editing programs like iMovie 6 and now Final Cut Pro 7 have been removed in favour of far more difficult to use versions that mean life is a whole new ball game. To actually export a a full quality programme one now really requires a PhD. To get a high quality HD YouTube is not that easy.
This means the DIYTV has become exactly that. Unless I can Do It Myself it doesn't get made. I have become very self indulgent through circumstances.
The above YouTube The Rhein Legend is a project using Motion. This has the reputation of being on of the most challenging software applications. I have to have some sort of project to I chose this one danced by my daughter a long time ago. I asked her permission and she was gracious enough to give it.
So to make even this tiny project I have to do everything and I mean everything from writing out the music and arranging it in Garageband, to singing and mixing it, making a creative storyboard, editing and adding the illustrations myself. If I need photos and art work I have to do these as well. This time I had to translate and write original English lyrics too as I was not sure of the copyright.
Technically the video includes virtually every effect that Motion has to offer. It is a Sampler of effects. From Chroma Keys, Alpha transmissions, generators, particle emitters, colour correction, time alterations and 3D titles which are very difficult to work as one loses one's equilibrium very easily plus a host of others like text on a path, transmissions as well as abstract iTunes visualizer footage.
OK I may not be a master of all but I think what I have achieved is quite is quite remarkable. Had I been younger I could have done the dance too but not as well as my daughter but I know enough about dance to do the choreographic edit.
So it was somewhat disappointing when I eventually put my effort up on Facebook for my friends to see that only one of them actually left a comment and a like! There was a deathly silence! Nothing!
I seems David Hockney is allowed to practice on his Facebook friends with his iPod art and allowed to be less than perfect but I am not!
Was I too much? Probably. I have a way of being infuriating on occasions. Can't help it. It is my major flaw. I know how to make people jealous.
I dared to ask one friend if she enjoyed it? I got a reply back saying that the singing was not up to standard but the visuals were quite attractive! I have never felt to deflated and small in my life. She then went on to say that she felt it was not her place to point out faults in what I enjoyed doing. It was highly patronizing but I suppose I asked for it. When you say 'please don't kick me!' the temptation to land a good swipe is so irresistible but I was not amused.
I mean I know this is not a masterpiece but come on I have done everything but the dance! Anyway Benjamin Britten liked my voice - but then he liked Peter Pears's too!
I tried out a piece on tulips to gauge reaction and received lots of likes and comments! I think I get the picture! Facebook is not the place to present one's serious work. It ought to be but it isn't. Anyway I have learned my lesson and I shall not repeat the exercise.
Ah me! One shouldn't let criticism stop one. 30 years ago I used slides and video tape in my theatre productions to howls of derision from Auckland and even the BBC - now it is commonplace.
Today with technology pushing forward one has to be in touch. This means continual upgrading of skills. The world is now for those who can use the technology and those who can't are left behind. The power it affords those who are able to express themselves one line is not to be ignored.
I have to upgrade IT skills all the time. This year new camera with DOF, changed from tape to HD, upgraded all editing programmes and music applications and next year it will be web applications.
Perhaps one day my friends will appreciate just how much work I put into the two minutes videos and feel sorry that they could not bring themselves to push the Like button.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
I love tulips full stop. All my life I have just adored this magnificent flower which has bewitched nations. The Dutch had a Black Tulip bubble in the 16th century and I can see why. Growing tulips is addictive.
Tulips need a good ground frost to get going and Auckland is sub tropical with I hasten to add the accent on the sub, it can be chilly but no frost. All bulbs of this sort need a good frost. The more ice and snow the better.
The only thing to do is to fool the tulips and that means putting the bulbs in the fridge for at least five weeks. The fridge not the deep freeze. My fridge has only room for so many. I mean I have to have my veggies so I can manage just two dozen. No massed displays of tulips for me.
Once planted they turn up to flower about now. That's September for us and equates to sort of late February in UK terms but would be June in reality.
Then to prolong the flowering season more than a few days as once the tulips fully open they fade rapidly they have to be kept out of the sun so I have to move the two tubs of tulips to strategic spots throughout the day. This way if I am lucky I get ten days of beauty.
Is the effort worth it? I live alone and my friends are not into gardening and have to be pressed into looking so their beauty is only for me. Well yes it is. I love them. They are even more beautiful than the silk ones I have inside. I use silk flowers like peonies when I cannot actually grow the plant in the heat but I miss their company.
So enjoy my tulips. I love them. Worth the effort.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Yesterday, a rather dreary cold Sunday, I spent five of the most productive hours watching Katrina Wagner's innovative production of her great grandfather's comical masterpiece, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
Much has already been written about this production which I shall not repeat as you can read it here but here are my own thoughts. I must say immediately that only a woman could have had the guts to present this interpretation in Bayreuth the home of Wagner. It must have taken an enormous amount of courage to show the traditional Wagner audience the underlying message that proved so dangerous to humanity in the past. Only a Wagner family member could have got away with this controversial version in the temple of Wagner
To begin I knew nothing of the nature of this take on the old comic masterpiece so beloved of Hitler and his Third Reich which was played continuously as propaganda piece throughout the Second World War. One glance of the totalitarian elderly apprentices, drilled to an inch of their life and clothed like 1950 school children immediately told me I was in for a surprise. Walter von Stolzing, who looked like a Jamie Oliver graffiti artist reinforced this impression.
This is the only production, and I have seen many, where the villain Beckmesser, sees the light and turns out in the end to be the hero. Where Walter gives up his revolutionary principles to gain his prize and then regrets it. Where Hans Sachs conforms and reiterates to the stayed tyrannical social traditions and where the audience booed so loudly at the end that it must have rivaled the famous the Rite of Spring debacle in 1913. I was amazed at that this hostile reception from what was supposed to be an educated audience.
The ending was extremely powerful. Hans Sachs last triumphant oration already backed by enormous figures of Schiller and Goethe, became a parody of a Hitler rally or today a Papal Rally, and only needed a Third Reich symbol to renforce this. This alone brought Wagner's unfortunate message into sharp focus and must have given the audience one of Peter Brook's moments of discomfort.
Well done Katrina Wagner. Your famous relation would have been proud of you....... perhaps. I wish I could have done that.
They are burning the director!
Friday, September 2, 2011
He was very patient and obliging and waited for me to go and get my camera and to get it in focus. I had forgotten how to do it in my haste. Nice DOF quite by accident!
I love kingfishers every since I did ISpy as a child. We had little ISpy books and you got 50 points for seeing a kingfisher. They are rare in UK and I despaired of ever seeing one.
My husband asked me what I should like as a treat and I asked to see a kingfisher! He was lucky as one turned up by a watermill in Devon. I had my 50 points but joy of joy in Auckland you see lots of kingfishers admittedly not as many a you did as the great concreting and tree felling is still in progress but today there he was.
They are just so beautiful with that magnificent electric blue and their long pointy beaks.
Then in the afternoon I had an embarrassment of riches as two native pigeons came and made love in the plum tree just as I had my camera handy. These pigeons are HUGE! They are protected but they still end up on dinner plates up north. They can see off a cat. They like the seeds of my Wellingtonia palm.
So a good start to Spring. Garden photos tomorrow.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Far way places with strange sounding names and one cannot get more far away than Monemvasia!
Monemvasia? Where's that?
Greece! It is the Gibraltar of Greece. I only went for one afternoon but I fell in love with it and I would love to live there. Completely impossible and out of the question but nevertheless if money was no object this is where I should choose.
It is just a big rock that is approached by a causeway, at least it was in 1972 when I visited and the only way in was by a medieval door which still had its original looking hinges. Once through this tiny doorway one entered a world way back in time. It was charming, a word that is overworked but there is no other way to describe it. Whether it is still the same today I know not and I am not going back to find out.
The sea was as blue as it is in my old photo. That is me! The old ruined houses had pots of the reddest geraniums. The sun was hot! I could quite happily have stayed forever. I enjoy isolation, not always, but I need space. I enjoy my own company which is just as well when one has a compromised immune system.
I loved the isolation Monemvasia offered. In 1972 to live there would have been impossible but today with Greece part of the EU and with modern technology well one could.