Saturday, December 31, 2011
Last day of 2011. I loved it! Best year I have had since 2002 so it is a time to reflect and think how lucky I am to have managed to get this far.
Back in 2002 when I became so ill that I nearly died I would have given my eye teeth for just one day of 2011. Clostridium Difficile plus Giardia plus the horrific death of my husband and the subsequent effects of Benzodiazepine, tricyclics and Vancomycin had left me a physical mess but alive.
Fortunately not a mental mess although the drugs had wrecked my nervous system and my internal organs. I was like a canackered apple perfect on the outside and rotten to the core. I did not know how to live through one day let alone survive 10 years! If anyone had told me that I would see 2012 I would not have believed them.
But I have! Although I shall never be back to my old healthy self my life is now more or less normal. My head no longer spins continually, my balance is back and I can wait in queues in the supermarket. I have gone from misery to comfortable. I was lucky most in my situation do not live. 30 sufferers that I knew died. One man in the USA was so nice. I spoke to him on the phone. He was so desperate he hung himself in the garage.
Now I can sleep all night and if I am careful I can eat what I want but still I regret nothing beginning with C like citrus, curry and coffee.
Some things will never be normal for me again. My lack of an immune system really means I have to live alone to avoid bugs. I do not enjoy it but it gives me the time to do the things I love. Wagner said the greatest threat to creativity was the pram in the hall! I am fortunate to have plenty of time to myself to learn how to use the technology that is necessary to be part of the world today. I can and do take part. I learned to sing again without an accompanist.
I have lost one or two dear friends to death this year and my daughter had a lousy time with death and earthquakes too. Because we live so far apart I was very little help but even so this year has been memorable as you can see from the above.
I should love to share my life with more people in real life but I do my best with YouTube and Facebook and of course this blog. Here I can be franker than I am in real life. I have it printed out each year for my grand daughter who I hardly see, again mostly because I cannot travel, so that she can know something of her 'strange' granny.
But even with all my problems I am lucky. To an outsider my life looks pretty good and it is but let me assure you all not one of you would want to go through my last ten years to achieve what I have today.
Lastly my greatest friend is my garden. It has never given up on me or I on it. I have loved it and it has repaid my efforts of 37 years. I think it is my greatest achievement.
So onto to 2012. From now on I live through dangerous territory but at least I have lived.
Happy New Year to all.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
In 1947 when I was four I watched the opening of Belsen on BBC Television. It put me off God for life. I knew at that moment that any God who allowed those horrors was no God of mine.
Last night I had the same revulsion to ballet after watching The Agony and the Ecstasy: The English National Ballet I found the content of whole series appalling and disgraceful. According to this series the way the company was managed appeared to be amateur and cruel and I am surprised that Wayne Eagling remains the artistic director and that government funding continues for the company and it seems I am not alone.
I ran a small professional opera ballet company for 14 years with no funding and under continual financial difficulty. I am a woman and this was the only way for me. I was forced to do it myself so it was with great educational interest that I watched the programme to see how my peers ran their companies. Here was my chance to learn how to do it properly. I have no wish to do it again but I was naturally intrigued.
What I saw shocked me. I had no idea that a ballet company could be run like that! If I had managed my company small though it was like that I should expect to fail and receive no funding. What shocked me most was the disrespectful manner in which the dancers were treated by the management, the artistic director and the male choreographers. These wonderful talented artists who give their lives for their art were treated like dirt. If I had ever treated a dancer or singer as the dancers of The English National Ballet appear to put up with daily my dancers would, rightly, have walked out and I deserved to be prosecuted for abuse .
Their undervalued and loyal ballerina Daria Klimentova was embarrassingly and distressingly treated. The company does not deserve her. Derek Deane the choreographer of Swan Lake at the Albert Hall was a tyrant. His remarks on camera showed he had nothing but distain for the woman and dancers who were to save his career on the night.
It was not Klimentova's fault that the company had failed to get a Visa for the Russian ballerina. The Management should have arranged one the moment the Russian ballerina had been hired possibly a year before. To leave it until a day before the ballerina was needed and be refused was their fault and bad bad management. The management had also failed to see that the conductor had attended rehearsals. He only turned up for the dress rehearsal and of course it was chaos. The conductor who may have been excellent at other times had no idea of what he was doing and damn near wrecked the whole thing. This should not have been allowed to happen.
Klimentova was expected to step in at the last moment not only with the orchestra in chaos but with a talented but inexperienced 20 year old Vadim Muntigirov making his debut in a star role at the Albert Hall. Deane's treatment of her was a disgrace. He refused to speak to her after the dress rehearsal as obviously he felt her performance was inadequate. This is not the way to get a performance out of anyone. At this moment Kilmentova should have left.
The saddest shots were of Kilmentova and Muntigirov waiting to go on for the hellishly difficult Act III Black Swan pas de deux. They were in a corridor looking like frightened, naughty children facing a firing squad. Yet these two were supposed to go out and pull this management and choreographer out of the shit.
Wayne Eagling's behavior was simply grotesque during the rehearsal period of The Nutcracker. Because of his lack of preparation and his strange way of working he had not finished the ballet. His answer was not to let the dancers have a run through. Eagling is a dancer himself! It was only because of the professionalism and loyalty of the dancers that this company scrapped through the opening night. Again it was Kilmentova who got them out of a disaster.
I think if this is the way ballet is achieved these days it is about time all grants were withdrawn. Ballet in my day was never run like this. If I were a mother today my children would not be encouraged to become professional ballet dancers.
But why I ask myself is Wayne Eagling still the artistic director? Even if this ballet management method gets results it is surely unethical? Ballet is not a gulag or a concentration camp where inmates starve and worked to death for art.
I was revolted and I want no part of ballet if it is run like this today.
I was revolted and I want no part of ballet if it is run like this today.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
YouTube, Twitter and dancing Schools are in danger of ten years prison under new copyright rules that are in the process of being passed by the USA Congress.
This is not a joke. If this law passes it will mean that any infringement of copyright by a single YouTube user could mean the whole website can be legally taken down. The USA authorities do not have to give any reason they can just remove the website and there is nothing anyone can do. The wrong doer will face up to ten years in prison.
Up until now YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have been protected from its users' copyright infringements but the Obama administration is against this. Many think this legislation is the greatest threat to free speech in present times.
Even the Library of USA is against this Bill. As it stands Audio Archiving is at a stand still as it is virtually impossible not to break some sort of copyright law. Ditto with scanning books which are in danger of disintegration because of the Brittle Book Syndrome although some progress is being made in that direction.
All to protect the Big Content Users who are persuasive lobbyists and the only group to benefit from this legislation which will stifle progress and hamper archiving for future generations. Already our computers are being monitored for shared files. You probably do not notice this but any person who uploads videos to YouTube as I do will be aware of the copyright notice infringement that arrives with threats even if the composer is Mozart.
Copyright legislation is a mess. Some copyrights on work created 177 years ago will still remain in copyright until 2067. Also it means if you sing a song or your child dances to a copyright song on YouTube you could spent the next ten years in prison.
I have been a victim of artistic vandalism when Boosey & Hawkes had the tapes of the 1959 production of Britten's Turn of the Screw destroyed. I should like to upload September by Richard Strauss but cannot arrange a license even for ready money. This sort of negative activity only serves the publishers and not the artist. Fortunately R Strauss is out of copyright on 8 September 2019. I can wait.
This is a sad day for the creative artist and amateur performer. Today Shakespeare could not function under these restrictions. If today's conditions were in force Britten would not have been able to write any of his operas as they are based on previous creations. For many artists their work will be lost through lack of archiving.
I decided last year that from now on I should only sing and work on composers that are definitely out of copyright as it is the only safe way. I am in the happy position of being to do everything myself but this is limiting and I suspect I am one of the few if not the only one who can do it all myself. I am now limited to works written before 1923 which is sad because I sing 1930's music well.
YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are now under threat. Anything that the Big Content Users and the USA government do not like and they will go. Please oppose this Bill.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Have you heard of Hypothecation? I hadn't until I watched Russian TV The Keiser Report. I thought he was joking but when I looked up Hypothecation in Wikipedia there is was just as Keiser had defined. In fact it was the definition Keiser used.
The first is the common definition but scroll down a bit to the Rehypothecation section and this is where it begins to get scary.
RehypothecationRe-hypothecation occurs when banks or broker-dealers re-use the collateral posted by clients such as hedge funds to back the broker's own trades and borrowings.
That means the world's banks, if they use the City of London, can have their cake and eat it and go on eating it for as long as they like. They use our savings over and over again and eventually you and I will pay.
Like a second mortgage the UK banks can take out a second loan, and a third loan and a fourth loan ad infinitum all on the original deposit which you and I gave them for safe keeping. They just eat our cake and go on eating.
No wonder David Cameron wanted the City of London exempt from new European bank regulations and no wonder Europe would not comply. It looks as if the City of London is running a giant Ponzy scheme and like all Ponzy schemes it will be found out. I cannot believe that my country men could do this!
If I can see this is a mess why can't our leaders?
I never thought it would be Russia TV that would point this out. Russia is not part of this great scheme of things and can take a more objective view as Russia can sit back and watch the West crash safe in the knowledge that it is rich in natural resources and can survive.
Be warned. Innocence and ignorance are unwise traits.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Elizabeth Taylor had the most fabulous jewels but the one I covet is not any of the diamonds, pearls and goose egg emeralds but the necklace above.
It is just a bit of gold and a few bits of ivory but the associations make it for me priceless. The necklace was commissioned by Edith Head the famous Hollywood dress designer who designed Grace Kelly's wedding dress which influenced the dress worm by Kate Middleton at this year's wedding of the year.
The necklace is simply a collection of Opera Tokens that were used by the London theaters in the second half of the 19 century to denote the occupiers of the box named on the night of the month. You bought a box on a certain night for a season. That is what I find so fascinating. I love opera, I love Covent Garden, I love dress design and I love jewelry.
This was Head's signature necklace which she wore daily and eventually left it to Elizabeth Taylor and that is why it came up among the sale of her major jewels at Christie's New York last night.
Tantalizingly Christies suggested price range was well within reach just US$1,500/2000 and I did dream. I reckon that if it did not have the associations that it was worth more than that in gold alone. I actually went as far as to contact Christies about making a bid.
I would have gone to US $15,000 including buyer's premium. My DVD sales are good and I have a few spare US dollars which will only lose value. In truth my bid was well over the top for what the necklace is actually worth with no associations and I doubt if it will hold its price. Famous personalities soon disappear into oblivion in the sands of time and although the great personalities may be remembered Edith Head is not one of them, even Elizabeth Taylor is suspect.
I thought better of it! Other than leave the necklace to Auckland Museum I have little use for it as I seldom go out these days but I was interested to see what it fetched - a staggering US $314,500! It was on at Number 3 of the evening's sale . Christies placed it well to get maximum price. If it had been tucked into one of the lesser sales four days later I could have been in with a chance.
But at least I have my dream although I lost out to a higher bidder I tried and lost but at least I tried. If I were young I should collect the opera tokens and 'do it myself' as it seems I always have to do. I am a great collector. Like Taylor I have charm bracelets galore but I am older and wiser now so I won't but I may have something similar made if I can think of a substitute for the tokens.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Last week I wrote of my love of ballet. Ballet in the fifties and sixties was a magical art. But today although the ballet technique has improved beyond the impossible ballet for women and increasingly for men too has become a Dark Art where starving to dance has become the norm and socially acceptable.
Obviously I have been aware of the Eating Disorders for some time and I have been surprised that steps have not been taken to prevent this condition but this week I became aware of just how emotive this topic is when I commented on the excellent Facebook site Ballet News who invited members to comment on this emotive subject.
As I have had much experience and have witnessed these Eating Disorders at a professional level I broke a rule I made to myself and commented on the subject. The Ballet News editor who is nameless wanted dietitians to recommend a Safe diet for young dancers when I pointed out perhaps too forcefully that there is NO SAFE DIET all my posts were removed and a deathly silence has ensued.
What has ballet come to that we are prepared to let out girl and boy children starve themselves for their art? In my day Eating Disorders were unheard of. Even GP's and I was married to one had never come across the affliction. Ballet Companies employed normal women. Margot Fonteyn's figure at the time would not make it today. She would be considered obese! Not so today. Everybody has heard of Eating Disorders and one in eight sufferers die of it and yet in ballet it is still regarded as Taboo! It is unseen!
I was born in an age where food was short, ordinary life was beginning again and perfection was not required. At my ballet school we looked and behaved like ordinary school children. Diet was never mentioned. At AES we were well fed and made to eat lunch every day. Chocolate semolina had to been eaten! At Covent Garden I saw steak on the menu for the first time on a regular basis. Dancers were fed when the rest of then population was still rationed or steak priced like gold.
I was a size 10/12 all through my musical career and was considered normal. All of us were this size. At Covent Garden it was the odd thin ballerina, Annette Page was the first ultra thin dancer and she stood out because it was painful to watch. Belsen was never far from our thoughts at that time. It was unfashionable to be ultra thin. The pictures of starving adults were in our minds and alive.
Even in the 70's when I ran a professional ballet company my dancers were of slight build but in now way skeletal and they look perfectly acceptable. You can see this in my Children's Ballet Series Dance Tales for the BBC or my pilot Bluebirds danced by The Royal Ballet Sadlers Wells. What is unacceptable about them?
Today technique and styles have changed. The huge, spectacular lifts which were unknown in Petipa's time require female dancers that are liftable. The current style in everyday street fashion is for models to look like an inmates of Belsen. Male Fashion designers appear to hate the women they dress as they make us look so unattractive and this has spilt over into the world of ballet.
I gave up teaching ballet and rhythmic gymnastics when I became aware of the danger to young girls of eating disorders. After a lifetime I felt I had to give it up as my conscience would not allow me to continue just as I could not cast a young boy as Miles in The Turn of the Screw as I know what the plot is about. It was a personal decision and one I have not regretted it as I can live with myself but I think it is time for the world of ballet to put an end to starving dancers to give pleasure to a few. Dancing Skeletons even dressed in white tulle are not attractive and dangerous to health.
Change has to come from the top. It is up to the Companies and Schools to put the house in order. They could do it if public opinion and dancer's parent force them to do so. Dancers today are not appreciated. A recent ballet programme of a well known company gave notes on bio notes on everyone except the dancers. Dancers who are the companies' bread and butter were overlooked. Their years of training, starving and self discipline were not worth a mention but the set designer was.
Dancers are worth more than that.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Seeing the video of depicted in the picture above reminded me of just how beautiful the human body can be. It made me appreciate just how lucky I was to be taken to the ballet because ballet is the one art where the living human body is shown to its most magnificent advantage. My eye was trained to enjoy both the male and female form. I realize now that this is extremely rare.
Most people I know do not like ballet. They may enjoy the odd Swan Lake but they do not know anything of the art. Ballet is one of the few moments where one can enjoy the unadorned human form both male and female. The only other moments one gets is the Olympic Games where one can appreciate the superb athletes in swimming, diving and gymnastics although in gymnastics the male is clothed in the most unattractive trousers and lack of turn out ruins the line.
Most normal people have no idea what the human body can do or express as they never see it. Classical ballet shows the human form off to perfection that is why it has lasted for centuries. Today the ballet dancer's technique has reached a level that I thought unobtainable when I was a child. Ballet dancers are doing things with their bodies that seem impossible. The strength and beauty and the line they obtain is nothing short of heavenly. There is nothing so sexy as ballet dancers in full flight.
As a child I was trained as a classical ballet dancer at Arts Educational Schools in London. I spent my youth at Covent Garden watching and appearing in The Royal Ballet. If I had my time again I should devote all of it to ballet. Dancing ballet is so satisfying. It never disappoints and watching ballet is the same. I hear music in terms of dance. Even today I can feel the dancers dancing. I know the sensation and it is fulfilling.
Nothing I say can express what I mean as well as the video below.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
I read this article in the Guardian today and it inspired me to write this short story.
Nina was just eight days old, the longed for daughter had at last arrived and the time had come for Nina's rite de passage into the race to which she had the good fortune to be born. This old belief system, as old as the world was very fussy about who exactly belonged and so this ceremony was performed to ensure that Nina would be recognized and accepted as part of the old Yucari race, a special race, the race of the Gods.
That the opertaion controlled her sexual pleasure and could be life threatening was overlooked and anyway this made her clean and acceptable to her husband as he would know that his wife was a Yucari.
The practice was it is true barbaric and not for the squeamish. Although it involved cutting Nina's Labia and clitoris in a special recognizable way being but eight days old meant that although it would hurt as say pulling out one's fingernails she would not remember and she would never know of the pleasures of sex that would be denied her. What you don't know you don't miss and her mother and her mother had all gone through this ceremony and so now it was Nina's turn.
All the family gathered for a huge party to watch as Nina was inducted into the Yucari race. Placed on a white pillow the tiny sleeping child had no idea what was in store as she cooed at the lady doctor who was to perform this operation.
The lady doctor was calm and matter of fact as if this was the most natural thing in the world to do, cut tiny little girls private parts away in public with no anesthetic. Her father had a swab with wine for the tiny child to suck on. This would help to ease her pain.
"Oh isn't she a sweetie" cooed the doctor as she removed the child's under clothes and parted and strapped the child's legs which were held in place by vel cro. Joking to the audience who had come for the fun.'There's a good little girl" and the tiny eigtht day old sucked her thumb in pleasure.
'This will only take a minute' reassured the doctor as she pulled on some sterile gloves in the not very sterile room in the local hostelry. The parent's house was too small to accommodate the large crowd of well wishers who were there colds and flu and all to welcome this girl child. Girls were special to the Yucari religion as they alone could ensure the continuation of the Yucari race.
The doctor started by separating the skin that was to be cut from that which was to be left. This is like putting a needle or small knife between the skin and a nail. Naturally Nina screamed in agony . Her mother closed her eyes.
The doctor continued while Nina screamed on. "There there' She cooed " Nearly over, stick the swob of wine in her mouth so she can suck it." Child continued to scream as a clamp was inserted over the skin to be removed but instead of cutting immediately the doctor very unhurried intoned the prayers that were necessary to ensure the job was done.
As she raised the sacred knife for the cut the whole room erupted in glee and rejoicing. Shouts of Yucari for ever filled the room as the child screamed on. Men and women danced and clasped each other and the doctor smiled at a job well done.
There was not a lot of blood to see as a bandage was quickly placed over the offending parts and the baby now in shock stopped screaming. The party and champagne erupted and feasting and rejoicing abounded. Nina was now a Yucari.
Her mother was in shock too and was crying as she held her tortured little girl whose face was contorted in pain but she was forced to join in the celebration. In the past many little girls bled to death or died of infection but not today, today there would be feasting and rejoicing that another girl child had be accepted into the group. It was as natural as birth. Nothing to make a song and dance about. Quite normal. Men and women who would not torture a cat in this manner felt it perfectly within the rights to cut a defenseless little girl without seeking her permission first. The power of the belief system and the purity of the race demanded they overlook the abuse of an innocent child.
However the landlord of the hostelry was not so powerless. He was horrified at what he had witnessed and phoned the police who soon put a stop to these ancient revels. The parents were convicted of child abuse and genital mutilation and the revelers fined as accomplices. Society was appalled at the cruelty to the little girl and saw that the perpetrators were duly punished.
Genital mutilation is a crime but only if you are a girl.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Loved ones not always told their relative is on controversial 'death pathway'
NHS doctors are failing to inform up to half of families that their loved ones have been put on a scheme to help end their lives, the Royal College of Physicians has found. Telegraph.I watched my husband die in a hospice which used the Liverpool Care Pathway. It was revolting experience and I was truly horrified and shocked. My husband had chosen to die but I am not sure he realized just how horrible his death would be for him and me.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
I have just been reading an excellent article on Corporate Psychopaths.
I never thought I should meet a psychopath in my life but I did. It was a deadly encounter for me and one from which I have never recovered. My psychopath has had, I have been told, a stay in prison for unsocial behavior and now this person is still proudly preaching to the community in a series of lectures as if nothing had happened.
Psychopaths are very difficult to spot. They are only 1% of the population but they have no empathy. They are greedy are out to destroy anything in their path. In fact they will do anything to achieve their goals and feel no remorse after. This is why they are so dangerous.
My psychopath stole my opera and my reputation. I have no heistation in saying she made mince meat of me. In three weeks my career was destroyed. The bullying, the intrique and the organized conspiracy was masterful and successful. The company got what they wanted my work, my production and my kudos. The production made a huge profit which set them up for everything going, grants the lot. As they said at the time the production was a triumph.
Justice delayed is justice denied and it took me five years to achieve it by which time my day was past. Even the judge who told me I should settle was misled. It was like a novel. The conspirators case had relied on a so called meeting where they lied separately on oath that at that meeting I had been read the riot act and if I did not do exactly as I was told I would be removed. There was no such meeting but after five years how could I prove it?
When confronted with this information just before a meeting with them that the judge had instructed me to attend I could not remember where I had been that day five years ago but the company settled that morning. That night I remembered that that day I had no time for meetings. I was in sight all day rehearsing in front of about 150 people and left at 10.30 pm being driven home by a judge's sister.
Only years later did I find out that lying on oath is a criminal offense. The justice system takes a very dim view of this. I still have all the affidavits in my possession and so does the court to prove my case. I never found out why I was dismissed. I had done nothing to deserve such a punishment. They wanted my work and they stole it. I lost everything at the time. I felt devastated.
The psychopath won everything, a well paid job, a recognized successful opera company to run, a fortune to get it started and I was socially shunned. My name did not even appear on the programme. It was replaced with the name of the director who took over and who trumpeted for years that his production was the first in the new civic theatre until I stopped him. I was airbrushed out of history! I am not the first but today that is no longer possible thanks to blogs.
Like all psychopaths the run came to an end and the person I believe ended up in prison. I suppose I should feel triumph but I do not. The damage done to me and Auckland's artists who I fostered over 14 years cannot be repaired. The company is still there under another name but it has not been the innovative venture fostering native talent that I had seen in my vision but at least the painted scenery has gone.
I have a new career by the accident of timing. A better and lasting one that I can enjoy. Producing live opera for another ten years would have killed me so maybe I can say thank you to my psychopath.