Monday, October 31, 2011

How to read a book you don't want to!

Besides being very informative this is one of the few YouTubes I have seen which I consider an excellent example of a well made YouTube. It is professional to the core with original images, a blend of live and still. Beautiful sharp editing, crisp and clean with a smattering of simple effects.

The message is clear. The presenter's voice is attractive and the whole is convincing which is why it has 65,000 views.

It is easy to make.True it would have taken a considerable amount of time and thought, but this video will stand the test of time. It does not require exceptional video editing skills. Anyone with iMove 6.3 could make this.

My point is that it is a pity people do not spend a little more time on editing.

Sadly nowadays video editing is not as easy as it was.The old version of iMovie was brilliant, easy to use and excellent quality. The new version is not. It is a version for beginners and it is so difficult to use that most would give up. I did after just one trial. Getting the soundtrack to sync was a horrible experience.

Lastly my mother always taught me to split up any job I disliked and just do a little every day. You then wake up one day and find it is done. I am painting my shed this way. I read Proust this way and I am doing Wintereisse this way. I only hope the result is as good as above.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Lord Mayor's Show- Glitter and be Gay!

This week it all seems to be happening. At last the 99% of us who have been ripped off by the Establishment for really all of our lives is being confronted. It must have come as a bit of a shock as The City has been a way of life for the rich and grasping ever since Dick Whittington and his cat!

The final straw this week was when I read of the CEO's of the 100 largest British Companies have given themselves a 49% pay rise while the rest of us pay for their mistakes! No wonder St. Pauls has been invaded. Being paid £17 million a year  today is grotesque but some of them are and complain about 50% tax.

I never realized how rich and privileged the City Establishment was until 1997 on my last trip back to UK. Being in the London theatre I thought I knew wealth. You expect the Royal Family to glitter and they do. Even in a darkened theatre the Royal family glitter but I have never experienced anything like my visit to the Barbican to see Hamlet.

The tickets were bought at the last minute. My husband's Oxford educated cousin kindly took me. To my delight he bought seats in the stalls, almost in the middle of an empty row about three from the front. I was so appreciative of my companions choice as my usual seating arrangement for most of my life has been the gallery or standing at the back of the stalls at Covent Garden. When I married my Oriel Educated GP I suppose I joined the elite by default and graduated to the stalls.

I was not dressed up for the occasion. When I looked around I noticed that there were a fair amount of formally dressed men an women but who cares I was there to see Shakespeare's greatest play. Being underdressed never bothers the English Upper Classes, it sort of runs in the territory.

Suddenly I felt the warmth of a spotlight hitting where we sat. The whole house hushed and I thought how did they know I was coming? I stifled my inclination to stand up and take a bow but before I could I was accosted by a party of brilliantly dressed people who looked like something out a 'Iolanthe' G&S's spoof on the House of Peers who were entering our row to major applause from the rest of the house.

I had to stand up to let them pass. Before me paraded in full evening dress the Lord Mayor of London and his party who were gracing the performance. I had never seen the male City Establishment in full array before. I was astonished.

The rich black velvet, the ruffles of lace, the black silk stockings, the formal decorations and the diamonds and gold glittered and shone in the limelight and these were the men. I have never seen men wearing such a show of jewels before in my life other than pantomime and those were false. These were real. The men glittered. Their wives paled into insignifiance by comparison. Just a tasteful pearl necklace and an understated frock. Nothing ostentatious or showy.

It was the first time I had seen the black velvet knickerbockers with diamond garter and black patent leather ballet pumps. A get up I always admired from Iolanthe as I find it sexy. Gilbert knew that everyone loves the House of Peers, they appear such buffons but they are not. Far from it, these Eton/OxBridge educated creatures know how to use the power life has given them to the hilt.

It was these rich city men who were the dominant features. They looked like cockerels as they edged their was past me to their seats. Hamlet which starred Susanna York as Gertrude was nothing so grand as this display I witnessed before me. These men were the stars of the evening.

As we walked to the foyer we witnessed the Establishment having a party with the champagne flowing. If I had been better dressed I could have gate crashed. My companion probably knew half of them anyway as Oxford is a free masonry of its own.

I left having a new respect for the  power of the City. I have never been one for displays of wealth. I find it distasteful especially when half the world is unemployed or starving. The British Establishment better change its ways before it is too late and the tumbrels start running. I for one will not be sorry to see them go but not to the guillotine.

Am I bitter? Yes in a way I am. These men took all the education and jobs for themselves. Merit did not count in my day just an Ox/Bridge Education and the Old Boy network. Women were kept in their place and that night they still were. Now I can hold my own with any of them thanks to my husband who gave me the confidence  and education to do so and now I know they look silly but they are no joke

Lastly I looked for an image that represented this fabulous show of wealth but could not find one. These men are careful not to advertise their wealth and power in the press as it might annoy the hoi polloi but when it comes to an evening out with the boys it is the full regalia. Scary.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Golden Girls hit the town

Last night I and two of my golden girls friends hit the town. We went to fine dine at the Orbit Revolving Restaurant at the top of the biggest dental drill in the world known better as the Auckland Sky Tower.

I make no apologies for saying I think this is one of the restaurants of the world. Wonderful food for which New Zealand is so famous. Nothing better than New Zealand lamb and I love the fish but into the bargain the Orbit Restaurant which lives up to its name as it goes round and round once an hour, delivers the view to die for.

Auckland is the most ravishing city set as it is between two oceans. If you arrive at twilight you can watch a magical sunset and then see the city lights begin to twinkle and eat a delicious dinner at the same time. Life can be so good.

We had fun as you can see from above. New Zealand is hosting the Rugby World Cup and Rugby is like a religion here. NZ has made the final which is on Saturday and only the French stand between NZ and Victory. As you can see we had to have our pictures taken with the cheer leaders! We used to look like that once but we still feel like the cheer leaders today.

Looking down on Auckland is always a delight. Tonight we saw the Occupy Wall Street protesters camp by the Town Hall where I ran my opera company many years ago. It made me proud to be an Aucklander. 

To top off the night a huge party of French supporters arrived much to everyone's delight and I made a funny. I can rarely do this! The French are a canny nation and have deprived NZ of the precious cup once before. NZ can be a little premature in celebrations sometimes so I casually said 

 It would perhaps be safer before counting one's chickens to kill the cockerel first!

Three very happy ladies returned home determined to repeat the event ASAP

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Delights of Offal

Offal? Yum, yum yum?

In the olden days some of the best parts, like kidney were only the for the rich. Only two kidneys per sheep meant deviled kidneys for breakfast each day were not on the menu of the poor.

Queen Alexandria's favorite sandwiches were tongue and scrambled egg!

Being a child of the war I lived on offal and I still do. Liver and onions, steak and kidney pie, kidneys as now the are easy to buy so I have those cooked in port wine. My grandmother made tripe and onions and it was delicious. Sheep's brains too are scrumptious, rather like herring row.

The problem is some faith systems do not allow the eating of offal and label the meat as unclean which it isn't. This has got offal a bad name. These same faith systems inflict horrendous pain and suffering it the name of their beliefs on the unfortunate animal as they kill it and throw all the offal away!

As food gets scarcer as it did in the war offal will become more attractive. If you are starving I think one might be forgiven for eating anything dead.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fidelio and the reluctant tenor.

Seeing the above posted by one of my friend's on Facebook reminds me of one of my worst moments in my career as an opera director. I had planned for every disaster I could think of but not this.

Many years ago I ran an opera company in the Concert Chamber of the Auckland Town Hall. It was to give work to the very talented singers which Sister Mary Leo and other brilliant singing teachers were turning out. Kiri Te Kanawa was just one of many.

Naturally I choose Fidelio Beethoven's one and only opera and possibly the greatest ever written. It is a plea for freedom and I set it in a concentration camp of an indeterminate state. It looked like a  hospital to begin but gradually one came to realise it was a bit more than that. I got rung up by the KGB who told me that in USSR they had no such camps but I digress.

All went well. We had the most fabulous dress rehearsal. I was just so happy. The singers sang beautifully. The mise en scene which was montage of the works of NZ's finest artist Tony Formison who had painted two oils for me looked wonderful. Tony had told me of his experiences in  Paris prison and I based my prisoners on his description. Although I had commissioned and paid for these oils I never recieved tham. One is lost and one hangs in the boardroom of the NZ Bank. It is now worth $80,000 and they are not giving it back but I digress.

I got home thinking I had the most wonderful production to show to the world and what could be achieved with little money but superb artists and then I got the call. My Florestan whose name I now forget fortunately rang. He had been exemplary in rehearsal and was doing an excellent job so what came next was somewhat of a surprise.

He said he was about to make a phone call that I should never forget and it would teach me the lesson of my life. He was right there!

He calmly informed me that he was withdrawing from the production as the local reviewer had left his name out of the publicity. He knew I did not have an understudy and I should lose all my money if this failed and it would serve me right. These were the words he used.

I could not believe my ears. In London I could have found a replacement but in Auckland? Impossible. New Zealand in those days was isolated. He knew I was stuck.

Yes, I crawled and begged but it was to no avail. Florestan thought I had done it to spite him. I said I could show him the press release sent to every paper with his name underlined. It was no good.

As I director I decided never to submit to an artist's blackmail ever. Once you do, word gets around and it would happen all the time. Fortunately I had a brilliant young tenor who sang the juvenile role and he said he would learn it. He did and he did it. Aucklander's realized what had happened and forgave the dual role on this occasion. I don't think that this has ever been done before or since and was not my choice but needs must sometimes.

Under the circumstances it was OK but my production was not the stunner it should have been. The tenor arrived on the morning of the performance and told me he would go on but it was too late. I did not accept his offer. It had been a cruel, vicious thing to do and could have cost a lot of singers their opportunity. I should have had to shut up shop! No performance, no pay and no company.

Later I learned about insurance but I had to learn on the job.


Friday, October 14, 2011

DSK gets away with it! Am I surprised?

So Dominque Strauss-Strauss Kann will not be prosecuted for attempted rape! He walks free! Am I surprised? Of course not. Women know that trying to get a man convicted of sexual discrimination of any kind is just not possible.

In my day we just put up with it without complaining. I have all my life. This blog would go on forever if I detailed all the times I was nearly raped. My visits to Paris and Rome were curtailed by the men of these two countries who felt it was their right to have a 'go' at a blonde Englishwoman travelling alone.

I should have known all the tales I had heard were true when I saw the hotel porter peeping through the keyhole the day I arrived. My bottom was black and blue after two days in Rome and I left. The sailor on the Bateau Mouche forced his way into the loo as I was coming out and only a well placed knee in his groin really stopped a rape and then in the Gardens of Versailles I was trailed by a man who had ideas beyond his station. Thank god my French ran to 'Cet homme me suite partout'. These essential words should be taught to every schoolgirl about to embark for France.

Oh the list goes on. My scariest escape was in a Durban Hotel near my theatre. The South African Afrikaner policeman who had shouted obscenities at me as I arrived at the hotel, White Afrikaners hate the English  decided to break down the door of my bedroom at about 2 am. I rang for the hotel night porter but this policeman soon got rid of him and I was trapped.

I could see the door giving way and I knew exactly what my fate would be so with great aplomb I got out of the window which was on the first floor. It had a ledge so I was able to carefully sidled along to the next window. From the first I got no response but the second I did. The occupant couldn't believe his eyes to see the leading lady from the musical  at his bedroom window. He let me in and went and dealt with the policeman and I went back to bed.

The times I have been 'handled' in the theatre are too numerous to mention. This sort of went with the job and even when married at universities I got chased around photocopiers by over enthusiastic professors.

All this I just took for granted. I never complained. What is the use? If you do it is the woman who gets the blame. The man gets off! Look at Mr. Strauss-Kann. His reputation in the eyes of the law is unblemished. What can one say!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Lieder? They are Songs.

In Cappriccio by Richard Strass the heroine wonders  In opera which is the most important the words or the music?  The whole affair goes on for about three tidious hours and the question is left the air...... The simple answer is you can't have opera without words and music.

With the songs of Schubert the question is even easier. They are a blend of poetry and music but simple though this is to understand the mystique that surrounds German Lieder is in danger of killing one of the loveliest musical art forms namely that of the superbly crafted song.

Beethoven wrote the best symphonies, Wagner wrote the best operas, Tchaikovsky the best ballet music and Schubert wrote the best songs! (Mozart wrote the best everything) so said my history of music book from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and it should know!

Schubert was a penniless composer. Like Jane Austin  and me he was constrained in what he could accomplish due to lack of money and patronage but he did have access to the newly invented piano forte and he used it to the best of its ability. Song after beautiful song. Even on his death bed he churned out of the the most beautiful songs ever. The Shepherd on the Rock is a pean to life and love. Admittedly he had no idea he was dying.

These songs which are a sublime  blend of music and poetry have been hijacked by the Germans and elderly male tenors and baritones who refuse to let go. Performing Lieder is like a religious tradition that has to be slavishly followed and it must be sung in German which means that those singers who are not blessed with German as a first language can immediately be dismissed as inadequate. A woman hardly gets a look in.

This tradition of formal clad tenor with formally clad pianist in a concert situation with it all sung in German has been going on all my life and the problem is Schubert and his glorious songs are dying on his and their feet. It looks so old fashioned and silly.

The other exponent is Fisher-Dieskau who is generally considered the greatest Lieder singer. In his youth he probably was and he did know when to stop but below is his farewell concert was not a good choice of Swan Song but this is where Lieder has stopped. It looks and sounds awful and unless the art form is given a breath of life it will die and it  doesn't deserve to.

You only have to glance at Peter Pears and Britten, two of the pasts greatest exponents of Lieder to know that that was 1964 and times have changed. They look like parodies of themselves. Britten hated these BBC performances and looking at them now I can see why. They were performed under pressure and both look and indeed were uncomfortable in a TV studio situation.

What the heck do I know about Lieder? Well I was taught by Elenor Gerhart's brother and Britten and I discussed Schubert on many occasions. He even played the cycle Die Schone Mullerin  once for me alone! Britten and Pears were not stuffy when it came to Schubert.

Like Peter Pears I think Schubert Songs are Songs and they need to be sung by everyone in lots of different ways in their own language. One should stop being so prissy and sing the things. They are not limited to just one sex either. Why should men have all the good songs?

Fortunately Schubert is well out of copyright and right for a revival unlike Richard Strauss who wrote some nice second rate songs but nothing compared to the songs of Schubert.  You have to pay to perform  Strauss even on YouTube. Schubert's are free to air and readily available.

Other composer's songs are due for a renewal too. Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Hugo Wolf and Mahler wrote some crackers and there is the whole folk idiom as well. Don't bother with anything written after 1923 as the songs are in copyright unless you want to pay through the nose and keep on paying. These songs will die too unless kept in the public view but that will have to be undertaken by someone else or perhaps after 25 years of the death of a composer the publishers could pay us singers as publicity! Now there's a thought!

If you don't have a pianist and want to sing along Classical Karoke has free midis of all the best. I use this site all the time since I lost my accompanist husband to the Grim Reaper and I don't feel like writing the midi out myself although I do when I record as the midis are not too accurate and to sound good accuracy is everything I have found.

So some on Lieder/Song Lovers everywhere. Keep Schubert alive! He is worth the effort.

So here to start the ball rolling is On the Waters in Mt Mangonui. Now its your turn!

Monday, October 10, 2011

YouTube's Fabulous offer to monetize my channel

A couple of days ago I received an enticing offer from YouTube/Google to monetize my YouTube Channels. I have quite a few some of which my anonymous one's have huge followings so I looked carefully at the offer.

Well it seems after everything is taken into consideration with copyright the only YouTube's that fit the category are pictures of my cat as above and as this is not a picture of my cat I am not sure that even that would qualify. He was out in the street and I did ask his permission but his owner may not see it that way!

The web is not about monetizing! It is about sharing but slowly the web is being taken over by corporations that see money in everything.  The corporations own the past copyrights and intend to use them. I have no problem with this but they are using these long held and extended copyrights to stifle innovation.

Steve Jobs and Apple are a good example. All the wonderful Apple machines are based on technical information that was if not in the public domain was owned by someone else. Jobs just made a better job of it! Sorry about the pun

Crick Watson and Wilkens would not have discovered DNA as soon as they did if they had had to rely on their own research work as they borrowed and this is putting it politely, from the real discoverer Rosalind Franklin. It was not even in the public domain. Was it wrong to do this? Perhaps but DNA got discovered earlier because of this breach of copyright and regretfully I think DNA was to important to be let go.

However the copyright laws, drawn up to safeguard Walt Disney are now on the face of it very strong. The big corporations can sue and they have the money to do so and one day they will haul a little fish like me to court and ruin me.

I now make sure that I own every item in my YouTubes as I can do all of it myself but I do not think there are many others who could do this. In fact I cannot think of anyone. Over the years I have had to amass a load of seemingly useless skills like ballet and singing and how to light a theatre production and now I can call on all of them but how many can do this?

Actually my offer was withdrawn as it seems someone has decided that my totally original videos do not comply.... they do but I do not wish to have horrible advertisements beside them so I shall not be wasting my time by contesting.

Monetizing one's videos at the moment is a myth. It makes the corporations feel good but it is a myth. I am too old now to do anything about this and perhaps the web can take a breather and work out how to pay artists but stifling innovation and creation is not one of them.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Angel Tree

My delightful neighbour from over the road called Elizabeth left a book in my letterbox. All my best friends are called Elizabeth, I have five of them. I have never met a nasty Elizabeth to date. I love and appreciate them all but it can be confusing as to which Elizabeth I am talking about.

Elizabeth thought I should enjoy this book. It was called The Angel Tree by Alex Dingwall and I did. Both Elizabeth and I love gardens and both of us have beautiful but very different gardens. Her's is a formal garden full of clipped box hedges, camellias and immaculate grass and mine is a mess but manages to look magnificent most of the year. Mine is the Petite Trianon to her formal Versailles.

It was only after I had read the book I realized the significance of her gift. The story tells of a quest for the oldest olive tree that can be bought to grace the courtyard of a charming wealthy man in France. To the end the book  did not give a hint of the denouement that was so relevant to my own situation and I am not going to spoil it because if you like gardens this is a good read and I thoroughly recommend it.

All gardens are special and very different. Mine is very, very small and yetI love it and it loves me. Everyday it is a pleasure and a surprise. It is my dearest friend. I look after it and it looks after me.

My YouTube made only three years ago looks a little tired today as it was made in standard def and the quality is now very ho hum but it still stands. I must remake it someday!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs RIP Thank you for everything

Guardian UK
It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Steve Jobs and it would be churlish of me not to say thank you to him on this blog. I did not know him but he changed my life when I thought it was over and in fact he has given me now at 68 the dreams of my youth.

I only wish I could have thanked him personally and it seems I am not alone. Billions of people's lives have been changed because of his foresight, brilliance and determination. His products are a delight to use and look at and for me like most of Apple users your Apple computer becomes your world and your best friend.

I was first introduced to a PC in about 2000. I did not want one and I had no interest in having one but my daughter was leaving for Italy and told me that I had to look after her email. Her computer was duly dumped on my doorstep. I was given a few directions and left to get on with it. The first six weeks were hell as I struggled with the anti virus application which didn't work. It was a horrific introduction to PC's but  I fell in love with it and what it could do and the world that was suddenly opened up to me.

I cried my eyes out when my daughter returned and took it back. I actually cried real tears and I had to have a computer of my  own immediately.

I realised I could achieve my dream of making TV programmes at home. By good luck I called into a small Apple showroom in Takapuna where I looked at an Apple Mac. It was called  the Flower Power and it was so pretty. Having been used to Windows the Mac operating system look very different, all pretty colours and glossy.

I asked the young salesman why I should buy a Mac as it was more expensive that a PC and her gave me the best advise I have ever received. He just said well if you want it to work buy a Mac!  and I did and my love affair with Apple began.

My Mac gave me a reason for living when I was near to dying. It saved my life by giving me access to forums where people in a like situation could help me through a horrendous Benzodiazepine  withdrawal. I whiled away the hours of pain a seizures by making me concentrate.

I gave me the opportunity to make small DVD discs on Bookbinding that became a top seller on Amazon and still are today and introduced me to Video editing. Apple even allowed me to make a DVD showing how to use iMovie 2 up to 6.3 Lastly the Garageband has enabled me to sing again as after I lost my accompanist and husband at the same stroke I thought my singing days had gone forever.

I love my iPod Touch and I shall happily say goodbye to the world with it plugged into my ears. Like Steve Jobs I intend to go with dignity. Steve Jobs lived his life to the full. He is an inspiration to us all. I am sure he was no angel on occasion but his vision had been worth it for so many.

Thank you Mr Jobs and now RIP

PS The Flower Power Mac is now a collector's item! I must dig mine out of the Garage!