Friday, June 20, 2014

Skypath vs Residents, How to bring the residents and cyclists together - a Suggestion

Sleepy heritage area Northcote Point is in for a shock. The Cycle Skypath is coming whether the residents want it or not. The Auckland Harbour Bridge has no lane for pedestrians or cyclists. The Point is the only way the cyclists and pedestrians will be able to access Skypath. The powerful and vocal Cycle lobby wants to build a Skypath over the Harbour Bridge to allow them to cycle to work and who can blame them. The Mayor is in favour and $100 thousands of dollars have already been allocated. This project has been done virtually in secret. As yet the residents have not been notified The official line is that this is not a council project although the council is paying for it. It was voted for in council. Three  councillors voted against it. As it stands it is not practically feasible.

Never mind that Northcote Point is classified as a residential area the Town Planning laws are to be overlooked  because of the precedent that the 1930's bus station was turned into a cinema when cars were a novelty, no off street parking required then and so began a Town Planning nightmare for the residents. What has happened to Northcote Point over the years would never be allowed to happen anywhere else in NZ today. Businesses here require no off street parking whatever the size if they are on the site of a Victorian business. Skypath is not on the site of a Victorian shop.

It appears Northcote Point is to be swamped with Skypath's patrons cars as there is no off street parking allocated for this major transport hub. In these already over parked streets space for at least an extra 1850 cars a day is required if the patronage figures are correct. A glance at the map above shows that this cannot be done even if every household parks off road. Many of them cannot do this and what if a household has a second car? This has to be accommodated too. The few residents of the Point who knew of the scheme complained but the Skypath's public answer is that the residents have no right to the street parking and they have a point.  What is sauce for the goose etc. means the residents have as much right to park as the Skypath patrons, sort of first come first served  and residents are on the spot. If they choose to leave a second or third car out all day who is to stop them.

The problem started in the 1980s when the cinema, much improved was allowed to continue, 350 seats with no off street parking, then came a 30 seat restaurant which turned into a 50 seat restaurant, an antique shop, a  busy popular cafe, no off street parking required, added to a row of shops, a tavern, the Memorial Hall and the overflowing Tongan Church, Senior Citizens Meeting rooms, there is also a conference centre on the wharf that shares parking with the ferry and on occasions 100 cars can be expected for weddings etc. when all were are in use even if not together the parking spaces on Northcote Point become as rare as hen's teeth. Customers of the businesses who have never been obliged to provide suitable off street parking, complain about the long walks. The residents on the whole put up with it because Northcote Point it the sort of place where anybody would like to live. It is pleasant, friendly and beautiful.

Tragically the Point's only exit and entrance is at one of the 15 worst bottle necks in New Zealand. Queen St is a straight road with few turnings that runs down the Point which leads to the dreaded Onewa Road which is the only entrance onto the motorway into Auckland over the Harbour Bridge for a good section of the North Shore. In the morning the residents of the Point are locked in. From 7 am to 9.15 am only 11 cars every seven minutes are allowed to turn right to join the traffic headed for the Harbour Bridge. It is a very long wait not helped by cars from nearby areas who queue jump instead of joining the long procession from their own district. At the moment there are no cyclists to make matters worse but over 1000  cyclists will be expected to use this entrance if no other path can be found. It will be chaos of massive proportions.

Whoever owns the cars, parked cars on both sides of street will mean the main road will be down to two lanes  congested with cars and the 1000+ cyclists that are expected every day. A dangerous mix. In the side streets, that will have to be used too, the roads will be down to one lane. No room for a cycle lane. In any case the pedestrian crossers are in for a long walk. 

It has been calculated because of the huge increase in use that the exit to the Onewa Rd will take up to an hour and in the future when 34,000  (!!!) are expected to use this facility the exit could take up to 5 hours. There is no way the Onewa Rd exit can be rebuilt without a major upgrade removing most of the residential district and Onepoto basin and covering it with concrete. Skypath can be scathing about the Northcote residents who are being accused of being NIMBYs but in fact they are only protesting about becoming prisoners because of the parking and traffic. They already live with a bridge that carries 400,000 cars a day and puts up with all the businesses in residential streets.

So what is to be done? The cyclists want access to their Skypath and the residents do not want the parking or traffic. So why not be creative and come up with a solution. An answer that suits residents and cyclists. Simple.

The Point, its roads and residents can easily be isolated. Only cyclists and residents cars are allowed. All other cars with the exception of the disabled are to be excluded. This can be easily policed by cctv cameras as it is in London. Already this is working in Auckland, cross into a bus lane or forbidden bridge and one gets a $150 fine. The local Transport Police are just down the road too so parking infringements will not go unnoticed. The Transport police are literally on the spot.

That means the residents and police can  more easily access the Onewa Road in the morning rush hour and the cyclists get a clear run to the Skypath and back in the evening. No fear of being knocked down by congested traffic or an opening car door. The pedestrians who want to walk anyway will have just a kilometre more of exercise to get to their cars or they can take the bus.

As the Skypath spokesman pointed out the residents have no right to parking and therefore neither do the businesses on the Point who have been hogging the parking for years and making use of a Town Planning anomaly to their benefit. They knew when they bought their businesses  that they had no parking to offer so if it is removed it is their problem. Their patrons can still access the shops on foot or by bus as a better bus service will be necessary to ferry pedestrians down to the Point.  The cinema can provide a parking permits rather like the toll system at Warkworth. Where the Skypath's other customers park is up to them perhaps in the nearby Northcote shopping centre or a specially built Parking building in an appropriate zoning. 

I feel sure this solution would appeal to the residents of Northcote Point and to the Skypath enthusiasts as well. Initially I was  being ironic but you know this is a good idea. A happy outcome for all.

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to produce Berg's Nightingale for YouTube by yourself

How to Produce The Nightingale by Alban Berg for YouTube

This shouldn't be difficult. The song, Die Nactigall by a young Alban Berg is just 1 minute 45 seconds long and is one of those songs one just has to sing. I know Art Songs are out of fashion and almost off the menu but they are magnificent and in life there is only time for the best as my late husband and accompanist would say. Benjamin Britten also loved Berg and encouraged me to get to know the composer's work so regardless of the fact that I knew at the start that I should not have a vast public, to obtain maximum view Bookbinding, Butchering and Darwin are required but I live in hope of a few.

The general public and my friends have no idea of just how long a little task like this takes or the skills that are required so after a disappointing early response I thought the world should know just how time consuming and clever one has to be to achieve the above just in case anyone should wish to try the same. I love YouTube as it is a place where one can be creative and try things one could never usually afford to do. It is a place where one can make mistakes but just occasionally one gets it right and it is so gratifying. Of course you have to learn how to do this and I was lucky because I got in at the beginning in about 2007 when iMovie was at its easiest and best. I leaned how to video edit on iMovie 2 and eventually reluctantly upgraded as it was gradually withdrawn. It was too good to be free.

I even started a Channel to teach others how to do this but what with YouTube losing my legacy channel and the fact that I seem to be in a minority when it comes to video editing and the fact that today it is just not possible to start from scratch on an easy application. Today one has to begin with the hard stuff and Premier Pro and Final Cut X are daunting and take forever to do what iMovie 2 did in minutes.

So how did I do it? Today because of the copyright situation one has to own every frame of your video that means no songs after 1923. Alban Berg's was written in 1906. It was a song I did not know so first I had to find and download the sheet music which I did from Petrucci Music Library.

I do not play the piano and I no longer have a tame pianist. To learn a song to  professional performance means practising it every day for at least a couple of weeks and this is where brilliance of Garageband comes in. This is a free Midi app. After Miles died I had no accompanist. I lost husband and accompanist and as we had sung every morning for 30 years this was a blow. Then came Computers and Garageband . For years I just used it using the loops and the one night I need to change a few notes and I thought if I could do this perhaps I could write out the piano accompaniments to my Schubert Songs. I did and this is the first song I did. Note the wonderful uncompressed sound and warmth of the recording on tape which is no longer available today.

Writing out the piano version took about 3 hours, then I had to translate it from the German, I have to own the translations. Orchestrating it and this took considerable longer because one has to get it to sound good on digital. It was two weeks before I was satisfied with the key and orchestration and tempo and it took about a week to record as I have had whooping cough and this did not help. Some days I could sing it and some I couldn't.  This song was very difficult to make sound good on small speakers. Mixing can take hours too and sound mixing is an art in itself. It sounds terrific on high quality speakers and through earphones but even on my best computer with excellent small speakers it does not sound great. The range of the song is not favoured microphones. This is annoying because I know the vast majority of the audience will only hear my song on small speakers. Ah me!

Next the visuals. Here again one has to own or have permission for every frame. I do not have or have access to footage of nightingales so at first I tried the image effects answer. For this I use Motion. This is a very complicated application that allows one to manipulate video. I played about for about a week but the results did not  do justice to the song so I looked for some nightingale footage on YouTube as none was available for free use. There was only one channel. Bram Siertsema had taken some glorious HD footage of nightingales that one could die for. I had no way of getting in touch other than a video comment but I just asked him if I could use it to sing too. To my delight he said yes.

Usually I have to go out and take live footage my self which has meant learning how to use a HD SLR video camera.

The only way to get the footage was to download it  legally from YouTube as a full Quicktime Movie. This I did using YouTube Video Converter. Then I had to load it into Premier Pro for editing. The footage was in daylight so I had to send it to Speedgrade to change day into night. Video editing can be intensive and take hours and hours but the problem comes when one has to render. Rendering takes hours and hours and sometime hours more. A short  heavily edited 1 minute 45 sec can take up to 45 minutes or longer if not tackled in the right way and I have a super fast set up. If you get it wrong and I was unsatisfied with the sound mix and still am the rendering time is horrendous.

Then off to Photoshop for the graphics.

 Back to Motion to have the titles and Motion effects put on and more rendering. Then one has a final check, render and off to the Flash encoder to get it ready for YouTube. Another 2 hours can be spent doing this. Off to DropBox which plays .flv's to see what it looks like and then fingers crossed the YouTube upload. If I don't like it I have to do all this again till I do.

Then it is a lottery to see if I get a matched content notice. Being in public domain and well out of copyright doesn't mean you don't get one of these. A dispute can mean three weeks of wait or a demand to take the video down. This happens first and you argue later.

And then at last it is time to publish to your friends who are blissfully unaware  of the work involved. Proust once sent copies of his famous novel to all his friends who it seemed had great difficulty opening the envelope. I know just how he feels. If lucky I shall get about 50 views for this but Berg is worth it. One day I tell myself my work will be appreciated. I know of no one else who could do all of this, except one who could if he had the time. Maestro Wenarto is the only other person who I know who could do this if he chose as he too has the creative vision  however if it required 32 fouettes he might be stumped.

Why do I bother to go to all this trouble? Th skills needed to produce this short video are considerable and out of the question if one had to pay the going rate. I reckon about $50,000.  Because these songs need to be sung. Unless they are sung they will be lost in time and that is a pity because they are wonderful when the songs of the Beatles have vanished as they will  this song will still hold it's place in the musical hierarchy. Thanks to the computer and the magic applications I can sing and interpret these songs in my way.

Why don't other singers do this? I have found it is no good waiting for someone to do this for you and yet singers do.  They sit and wait when the tools for them to reach a huge audience are there to be used. Sometimes I do it for others and that gives me pleasure too because in a way I give them their posterity like John Prichett below. He wrote many West End revues and musicals and yet the song he wrote for me is the only one on YouTube. A moving picture is worth a thousand Wiki references. I am so lucky being able to do this.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Reality of a Faith School Education - Guardian Comment

The lesson of Birmingham? State education is in chaos
Some schools' conduct was an offence to liberal principles, and we cannot ignore that. Guardian  The lesson of Birmingham? State education is in chaos.

For about a year I have replaced blogging with Guardian commenting as on the whole my blogs get little attention.  I just state my position as frankly as I can. Anonymity allows me to be franker than I can in real life. I try to be objective and realistic. I never review my comments or reply until at least  a few days later when the comments are closed. Sometimes I do not review for months but when I do I sometimes am surprised at the level of Likes I receive. With this in view I am going to post some of my more memorable comments for posterity and here is one. 

Having been on the receiving end of a Faith School Education and having kept quiet about it for most of my life I feel it is about time I warned the younger generations, especially women, that a fundamentalist indoctrination in a belief system can never replace a sound, unbiased secular education. 

This comment on fundamentalist faith school education in a reply to the above article. It received 125 Likes and here it is:

I am a mature adult reaching the end of my life. I can say honestly that my education at the hands of fundamentalist Roman Catholic nuns in the late 1940's and 50s nearly ruined my life. It ruined my formal education of which I had virtually none but I did receive a thorough fundamentalist religious education. We had 5 hours of the curriculum a week dedicated to serious study of the catechism and bible and in addition prayers before every class, the Angelus for which everything even GCE exams halted for 5 minutes and grace before and after meals. Fish was obligatory on Fridays. We would be asked each Monday morning if we had attended Mass and woe betide anyone who hadn't as it was straight off to confession. I received no sex or science education. Fortunately the little boy of 7 next door filled me in.

We were taught that in certain circumstances one was allowed to disobey one's parents and state if a conflict of interests arose. God came first. We were also discouraged from playing with any of our Jewish neighbours as we were taught that this race had killed Jesus. I know it is unpleasant today to mention this but this is what I was taught for 8 years. Fortunately for me this had no effect.

Later I attended 2 Jewish owned schools where I was the outsider. This did me a lot of good but it showed me at the age of 12 just how divisive belief systems can be and later prevented me from marrying someone I loved of this faith as he would have been ostracised by his family. In the Jewish faith it is the woman who counts when it comes handing on the race. All Belief Systems guard their brethren from outsiders

If left without supervision Belief Systems would still be teaching this type of curriculum. This is how they indoctrinate children. It is foolish to think otherwise. It is no good saying it is different today. It isn't. My birth belief system has not changed an iota. A 7 year old boy will still trump a female PhD when it comes to serving at mass. The PhD only gets the chance if no other male is available. I know I will be told this is wrong but it isn't. Only if a bishop allows it and in many countries the bishops don't. After 8 years I know my belief system better than most 
Most children survive their parents and education but many do not. Every child deserves a secular education free from indoctrination, myth and superstition. I speak from experience.

I received two replies, both favourable

Congratulations at putting some flesh on the argument for secular education.

I must admit I was surprised that 42 people had added their thanks. I omitted the abuse I received at the hands of one beautiful young nun who insisted I admit to seeing a dwarf called Red Cap as that is another story of which I still feel ashamed and strangely guilty.  My school friends still remember this incident with horror. The nuns did a good job on guilt. Maybe I shall be strong enough to tell it publicly one day but not yet.

I have had one comment that garnered 725 likes on the plight of women in Afghanistan and what the west should do to help. This was ironic but hit a nerve. I like the Guardian because one can be ironic.

So in future any good comments will find there way here.