Archive for November, 2007

Brentano Quartet

November 22, 2007

Tonight to Angel Place to hear the Brentano Quartet play for Musica Viva.

I was given this evenings tickets by Mary Jo Capps, the general manager of MV, after I complained (reasonably politely) about the intrusive video promo for next year’s season at the Stephen Hough recital which I wrote about previously.

You’ve got to say this about Ms Capps, she is good at her job.  I was also given tickets for interval drinks in the hospitality suite, and gave one of these to an acquaintance whom I ran into before the concert.  He was slow to arrive and I went downstairs, thinking he would be outside having a smoke.  When I returned, I found she had come up to him, asked if he was waiting for someone, and on being told it was [my given name] she said “Oh! [my full name].”  When I returned, she came up to us and we had a further brief chat.  But she had already checked me out from afar because she knew which seat I was sitting in.

The program was:

4 Monteverdi Madrigals, selected and transcribed by Mark Steinberg 

Joseph HAYDN
String Quartet in G major, op 64 no 4

Ross EDWARDS
String Quartet (2006) (premiere: commissioned by Julian Burnside for Musica Viva)

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
String Quartet in E flat major, op 127

The program note said of the Haydn that “the G major String Quartet is perhaps less well known than its stable-mate, the ‘Lark,'” but funnily enough it didn’t feel so to me, because I heard it not 2 weeks earlier when I had been given (they were an unwanted prize(!)) tickets to the Australian String Quartet, which played the very same quartet in the very same hall. The Brentano’s account was more free and virtuosic, but in some ways the more classical approach by the ASQ was, I suspect, more “authentic” as well as more sunnily good-humoured in the manner we are accustomed to hear Haydn.

I enjoyed the Ross Edwards, and it was nice to see Ann Boyd and Peter Sculthorpe (Edwards’ one time colleagues from the University of Sydney former music department where I have studied from time to time) turning up in support.  It finished with one of his signature Maninyas.

Unfortunately, I was rather distracted by my neighbour, who is one of those people who think that the time to read the program is when the music is being played. I just cannot understand this. Would you bring a book and read it, or a newspaper? (I know some people do, but it is pretty rude.)  The time the music is being played is the time to listen to the music, and if you are flicking through the program you are selling yourself short, so far as I am concerned, and also distracting me! I really wanted to slap him as he reached for the program from his partner for the nth time during the encore.

Across the aisle from me, a blonde girl of the worst sort chose the slow movement of the Ross Edwards to make herself noisily comfortable on her boyfriend’s shoulder for a snooze, and decided during the encore that it was time to get her hair-tie out of her purse, tie up her hair and put on her shoes. I have to learn to be more tolerant, I know.

The Beethoven took up the whole of the second half and was very much the major work. When you are young, you learn about the Beethoven late quartets as part of the scheme of Beethoven’s three periods so you can answer the general knowledge questions in exams if you are playing a Beethoven sonata, much as you learn about Bach’s St Matthew Passion and his cantatas in association with the Prelude and Fugue which you are playing. It’s all a bit of a formula: you don’t necessarily listen to these works. I have since got to know the Bach works reasonably well, but I am still something of a neophyte when it comes to the Beethoven late quartets. I don’t think I had heard this one through before, and almost certainly not live. Like other late Beethoven works (eg, the ninth symphony or the late piano sonatas) it was an enormous and extraordinary work which seemed to encompass a musical universe. On this occasion, it was the third movement (the Scherzo) which made the deepest impact: I was still hearing it in my mind as they were playing the last movement.

I was a bit surprised that the attendance wasn’t better: tickets were only sold for the stalls and the first gallery, and these were by no means full.  So I suppose I have to be a bit more forgiving of MV for their promotional antics – quite apart from having taken the free tickets in propitiation for my earlier complaint.

The concert season is winding down for the year.  Outside in Martin Place, the Christmas tree went up tonight.  I have only one more SSO concert to go to and one more concert at Angel Place.  Apart from that, I also have another pair of free tickets, because a few weeks ago, when I went to hear the Sydney Omega Ensemble, I was misled by of all things a poster outside Angel Place as to the correct starting time, and consequently missed the first half.  So I am going again to hear them on Sunday 9 December at Paddington Town Hall.  It seems that I am learning that it pays to complain.

Mob justice

November 20, 2007

I read on the 2GB website that:

A campaign by Ray Hadley and his listeners to rid Carlingford Court of a tenant, convicted of indecently assaulting an employee, has been successful.

This week EMRAN AHMED, the owner of Seafood Lovers at Carlingford Court was placed on a good behavior bond after he fondled a teenage staff member’s breasts and bottom while at work.

GPT Property Management Pty Ltd, as manager of Carlingford Court, has issued a letter to the tenants of Seafood Lovers at Carlingford Court, advising them of their intention to terminate their lease and retake possession of the premises.

I found this because yesterday I came across a report of the case which Mr Ahmed and his wife have brought in the Supreme Court to try to stop their lease being terminated.

Here is a little more background from the judgment of Justice Barrett:

5 On 25 July 2007, the male plaintiff was convicted of an offence against s.61N(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 described as “aggravated indecent assault” against a seventeen year old girl who was employed at the shop and who was under his authority. On 7 November 2007, he was sentenced to imprisonment for twelve months, which sentence was suspended upon his entering into a bond to be of good behaviour for twelve months. The offence took place between 6.30pm and 7pm on 27 January 2007 at the shop premises. The male plaintiff has initiated an appeal against both conviction and sentence.
6 On 28 September 2007, the plaintiffs received a letter purporting to invoke certain provisions of the lease. The letter was as follows:

“Dear Mr Emran Ahmed and Mrs Kim Ahmed
Re: Notice of Breach of Covenant
Notice to Lessee to Remedy Breach

Lease: from GPT Funds Management Limited (‘the Lessor’) to Emran Ahmed and Kim Ahmed (‘the Lessee’)
Trading As: Seafood Lovers
Premises: Shop 126 Level 1, Carlingford Court
We refer to the Lease of the Premises and to the following covenant by the Lessee contained in the Lease:
Clause 21.1 (Your behaviour)
The conduct the subject of Mr Ahmed’s recent conviction constitutes a breach of clause 21.1 as Mr Ahmed engaged in conduct which was dangerous, annoying, offensive or illegal or which interfered with other people in the centre.
The Lessor hereby gives the Lessee notice pursuant to clause 50 of the Lease.
The Lessor requires the Lessee to remedy the breach within a reasonable time and to respond to this notice within fourteen (14) days to advise the Lessor of how the Lessee proposes to remedy the breach.
If the breach is not remedied within a reasonable period, the Lessor will take such action as may be legally available to it. If this is necessary, the legal costs associated with any action taken may be borne by the Lessee. The Lessor reserves its rights in relation to other breaches of the Lease.
Please contact Lucinda Cowdroy on 8239 3618 for any enquiries.
Yours faithfully
(sgd)
Nita Malhotra
Legal Counsel”

Clause 21.1 of the lease provided that ““You must not do anything that is, or may be, dangerous, annoying, offensive or illegal or that may interfere with other tenants or people in the centre or adjacent buildings.” Such terms are reasonably commonplace in leases – they can be relied upon to evict tenants who are running a brothel, or a speed-manufacturing plant. As the letter suggests, other terms in the lease empower the landlord to serve a notice on a tenant to “remedy the breach” failing which the landlord can bring the lease to an end. But, if the breach consists of an act of indecent assault which happened 6 months ago, how can you remedy it?

 Mr Ahmed and his wife have quite a good argument that, where the breach is a one-off act such as this which cannot be remedied, this notice procedure is not applicable, and a landlord can only terminate the lease if the breach by Mr Ahmed was what is called a “repudiatory” breach, that is, a breach of a very important condition or one which by its nature indicated that he and his wife did not intend to observe the conditions of the lease in the future. 

The general policy of the law in relation to leases is to protect tenants from losing their leases on the basis of technical breaches of the lease.  This is called “relief against forfeiture.”  This is because a tenant’s lease is a kind of property in which a tenant may have made a substantial investment, which the landlord should not be able to take away (which will often confer an undeserved benefit on the landlord) on technical grounds.  For example, in the case of Mr and Mrs Ahmed’s case, termination of their lease would lead to the loss to them of the entire value of their business, which they may have built up over a number of years and also paid a substantial amount of money for.

As Justice Barrett pointed out, clause 21.1:

“is not, in terms, confined to activities on the premises, so that a tenant who engaged in parachute jumping or some other dangerous pastime in his or her spare time might, on a strict reading, breach the provision. Even if it the provision is to be construed as confined to conduct on the premises, it would cover, for example, a tenant who, while sitting alone in the premises, defaced a $10 note or made an intimidating telephone call or engaged in a game of Russian roulette with a partially loaded revolver. The first two acts would be illegal and the third would be, at the least, dangerous.”

The problem for the landlord and for other tenants in the shopping centre, however, was that Ray Hadley’s campaign was apparently having an effect on the shopping centre as a whole and in particular on the neighbouring shops.  As Justice Barrett recounted in his judgment:

the defendant [that is, the landlord] has received a large number of complaints from members of the public about the male plaintiff’s continued presence at the shopping centre. There have also been complaints from people working in other shops within the centre. People have expressed deep concern that a person they describe as a “child molester” or “sexual predator” is at the centre, apparently with the sanction of the defendant.  

18 Some people have said that they will not shop at the centre while the male plaintiff remains there. Others have said they will boycott the centre. There was a warning that protesters would visit the site. Employees of the plaintiffs’ seafood business have received offensive phone calls. The police have had to go to the centre on several occasions. Nearby shop proprietors have said that their trade is being affected. They have asked who will compensate them. It appears that many people have become aware of the male plaintiff and his conviction and sentence from comments made on radio station 2GB. 

There were also claims that numbers attending the centre had fallen. A causal link for such claims is almost impossible to prove.  The path of least resistance was an easier one for the landlord to take.  This involved entirely sacrificing the interests of its tenants, the Ahmeds, but shopping centre landlords are not particularly known for their solicitude for individual tenants at the best of times.

The Ahmeds got an injunction preventing the landlord from terminating their lease, but only on giving an undertaking that they would endeavour to sell their business and that Mr Ahmed would not set foot in the shopping centre at all.  Whilst it was said that this would enable the Ahmeds to realise their asset in an orderly way, it is obvious that a forced sale in such circumstances is likely to be under pretty disadvantageous terms.

As Justice Barrett said, Mr Ahmed’s conduct was “serious and repugnant,” but you can draw your own conclusion from the sentence which Mr Ahmed received as to how serious it was in the scale of such offences or in comparision to other offences.  The push by Mr Hadley to drive Mr Ahmed and his wife out of the shopping centre and deprive them of both their livelihood and their investment in the business seems a disproportionate response to what occurred.  It unfairly punishes Mr Ahmed’s wife and family.

Mr Hadley doubtless wins ratings and makes money by whipping up the cries of “child molester” and “sexual predator.”   Leading such mob “justice” strikes me as a pretty miserable way to make a living. 

Six months – Review

November 17, 2007

My blogging pace has slowed a little recently – I have been trying to do some other things.

WordPress tells me just now the following:

Total Views: 8,764

Best Day Ever: 135

The curious can compare this to the two- and four-month figures here.

I think I might have 4 or 5 regular readers.  I suspect one former regular reader has scratched me off his list.

At present, Never fall in love with a prostitute is narrowly edging out Pussy porn as my most read post. A good way further back, Discipline and Punish has a determined following. In the middle, my controversial post Pedophile “monster” knee-jerk reaction beats an early but now fading hit, History Boys and Miranda. I suspect that this is because the person whose case forms the subject of P”m”k-jr likes to monitor his on-line fame or infamy on a regular basis.

Couldn’t help this – politics follow up

November 10, 2007

As a follow up to my last post about Lucy Turnbull’s testimonial to her husband, Malcolm Turnbull, I couldn’t resist drawing your attention to this response, where someone purporting to be the mother of the Labor candidate for Wentworth, George Newhouse, tells you why you should vote for her son.

It’s possibly in breach of the Electoral Act, because although satirical, it also makes more than a few political points on the way, and the “written and spoken by” section at the end doesn’t really tell you who did it.  It certainly isn’t Mr Newhouse’s mother – he has told the Australian Jewish News:

“This is lady isn’t my mum. She would be horrified if people thought she was like that because she was born in Brisbane and doesn’t speak or look like that.”

Rare political post

November 5, 2007

I read in today’s Herald:

“I will resign as a minister in the Howard government if there are any substantial changes or any of the changes that Julia Gillard has just flagged,” Mr Hockey told the Seven network.

Given the current prospects that the electorate is about to sack him as a minister anyway, this reminds me of that scene in Blazing Saddles where the black sheriff wards off a lynch mob by pointing a gun at his own head and threatening “Next man makes a move, the nigger gets it!”

Still, there’s plenty of wriggle-room: Mr Hockey said nothing about resigning as a minister in a Costello government, and he can always hide behind substantial changes.

On another front, I was amazed by the full-page advertisement ostensibly taken out by Lucy Turnbull in the Sydney Star Observer in support of her husband’s re-election.  This was real air-violin stuff: about a third of it was devoted to his childhood, when, after his mother, Coral Lansbury, left his father, they moved from the family home (which was a mere flat in Vaucluse) to “a small rented flat in Double Bay.”  Money was tight.”  Malcolm’s father “made a lot of sacrifices to sent Malcolm to an independent school”  [Malcolm went as a boarder to Sydney Grammar from year 3 or 4.]  Malcolm’s father was tragically killed in a light aeroplane crash in 1982 and Malcolm “ensured that a means tested scholarship was established”at Sydney Grammar, named after his father.  (The relatively early death of his mother in 1991 doesn’t rate a mention, perhaps understandably.)

And there is more: Malcolm’s success “came from hard work, making sacrifices and being supported by people who saw his potential.” [especially Kerry Packer].  Malcolm has always supported Lucy in her career choices (as if the voters should be particularly grateful for that) starting from when she was “studying for a MBA when our family was very young.”  At the other end though, Malcolm’s quest for re-election is “not about getting or keeping a job.  Malcolm has achieved everything one could hope for in these terms.”  [cue: switch from violin to trumpet.]  Obviously, no expense is being spared in his electoral campaign.

Funnily enough, I quite like Turnbull – from a distance – though I hear that this view is not shared by many who have had closer deaings with him.

On yet another front, it seems a pity that in the Senate it is likely that the voters will have to choose between Kerry Nettle and Marise Payne.  I knew them both, many years ago.  Marise has been the least-worst kind of Liberal, but I shall doing my bit all the same to vote her out.

Work 11 – hard work, worst jobs.

November 4, 2007

During the break in my time as a solicitor when I went back to university for other studies and supported myself as a music teacher and law teacher, there would always come a time over the Christmas/summer vacation when money got really tight.  It was at this time that I took, for one day only in each case, the two hardest jobs I have done in my life.

Building site cleaner

I got this job from Xk, who at the time was running a contract cleaning business.  D had already worked for him a few times.  On each time, D would come home complaining about how lazy his fellow workers were.  They were mostly Filipinos.  There was an element of Chinese disdain for the lesser (and, in this mindset, laid back and lazy) South-East Asian peoples mixed up in D’s complaints.  Having given vent to these feelings, D would take to his bed and only very rarely would he make it out of bed the next day or back for the next day’s work.  So I should have been warned.

Our mission was to convert Harry M Miller’s “sub-penthouse” on level 41 of the then not-quite-complete Horizon Apartments in Darlinghurst from a building site to a state where he could hold, that very evening, a New Year’s Eve Party.  Various other building tradesmen were there putting finishing touches to plumbing and kitchen installations – not to a point of absolute completeness, but to a level of functionality which would permit the party to go ahead.  We just had to clean the place up.  The biggest part of this was to remove the building mess and polish up the still-rough concrete floor.  As we were doing this, other caterers and party-contractors were arriving to get things ready.  It was an impressive (and, given my economic fortunes at the time, depressing) display of what a rich man can have and what he can get done for him. The apartment was enormous – it occupied the whole floor, or at least the whole floor on the side with the city-ward view. Even Deborah Hutton turned up later in the day, and very glamorous she was too, close up.

I soon found myself joining in D’s scorn for my laid-back fellow workers.  They for their part good-naturedly joked about how D almost never came back for a second day.  For most of the day I worked the grinder – that is, something a bit like an electric floor polisher, but I also mopped and squeegeed the floor.  By about 4pm, our part was finished.

I was exhausted.  By the next day, I was a physical wreck.  I simply did not have the physical condition to work so hard for so long.  I now have a much more sympathetic view for manual labourers – you know, the ones who are proverbially said to be always leaning on their pickaxe or shovel.  The truth is, you have to pace yourself to that kind of work.  Sure, you can work hard in bursts, but it is not really possible to keep that sort of thing up for a whole day. I doubt if you could even if you were in condition for it.

Gay sauna attendant

I saw the ad for this job on one of my rare (honestly! well, you can believe me or not) visits to a well-known gay sauna in Sydney.  So the adjective in this case modifies “sauna” rather than “attendant.”  They were advertising for casual staff on New Year’s Eve.  I got the job.

I didn’t fit the usual mould of employees at this sauna.  Mostly, they were a local variant of gay bar staff.  They wore T-shirts and skimpy shorts.  In their own minds, and perhaps even truly, they were public figures on the gay “scene.”  They had a lot of attitude.  It was because they had to be seen at the big NYE dance party that the need for my engagement arose.

On my arrival, I was left in no doubt that I was not to presume that I was truly one of the elect.  This was obvious anyway, because none of their skimpy shorts would fit me: they eventually managed to find something larger though not in the standard style.  Together with my fellow casual employee, who was on an invalid pension and equally fell well short of the requisite standards of cuteness for the permanent staff, I was given my instructions: we were to collect, wash, dry and fold the towels.

We wore rubber gloves, for the obvious reason.  After about an hour and a half and much complaining, my fellow worker threw in the towel (sorry, this just came to me).  His financial need was evidently less than mine and the job was harder and far less glamorous than perhaps he had imagined.  I completed the 12-hour shift (with some breaks, to be sure) by myself – diligently gathering towels (handling them gingerly), piling them into the pair of washing machines and then putting them through the banks of clothes dryers before folding them ready for further use. 

It was hard work, even though not in quite the same way as the cleaning job.  It was pretty hot and steamy in there.  Mostly I just tired from being on my feet for so long.   Even so, there was a certain interest in seeing things from the other side of the counter.

As I cycled home in the early morning of the new year, I consoled myself that things could only improve in the year to come.  This was probably my worst job ever so far.

Marriage – take the toy away from the (girls and) boys

November 2, 2007

In a comment on my previous post on Gay Marriage, The Rabbit has said:

“My own idea is not that gay marriage should be allowed, but rather there should be no legal (as opposed to religious) recognition of marriage whatsoever. — A buyer beware approach.”

In my previous post I said that I support gay marriage because this was necessary to give gay etc people equality, or to put it another way, because the state has no business preferring heterosexual unions over other unions.  Obviously, my view assumed the existence of de jure marriage: if there were no de jure marriage for anyone, then there would be no need to extend de jure marriage to others.

I’m intrigued however by The Rabbit’s statement that this would correspond with a “buyer beware” approach.  This suggests to me that The Rabbit is focussing on marriage as a kind of contract between the parties to the marriage, and hence the rights that it confers on each party against the other.

The first point to make is that, so far as marriage is thought of as conferring any obligations of continued love and faithfulness (or at least allegiance to the marriage) ’til death us do part,’ that is not really part of the modern Australian law of marriage.  That is because marriages can now be brought to an end on a “no fault” basis.  In this regard, de facto and de jure marriages are all “buyer beware” relationships.  Another way of putting this is that they are necessarily relationships of trust. This has an inbuilt irony in it – the quality of trust arises precisely because, in many circumstances, trust is all you have, but it is also fair to say that people in relationships, even if from time to time they are jealous or suspicious, frequently do trust each other.  One aspect of this is that they exchange services and property and contribute to property other than on what Richard Posner calls the “spot market.”

So, if a relationship comes to an end, how can an account be taken of all of this?  Should (as The Rabbit seems to be suggesting) the losses just lie where they fall?  Whoever owns what could just take that with them, and any jointly owned assets could be divided according to the financial contributions made towards their acquisition, even assisted, if necessary, by presumptions based on financial contributions made during the relationship generally.  It was in response to what was seen to be the inadequacy of this approach, particularly in relation to women who had contributed non-financially as homemakers and in raising children that the de facto relationship legislation was first introduced. That legislation has since been extended to apply to a wider range of relationships, including gay and lesbian de facto relationships (in NSW it was then renamed the “Property (Relationships) Act”).

There remains a distinction between de facto relationships and marriages.  Although the courts can sometimes take a pretty liberal view of the value of non-financial contributions in de facto and other “domestic” relationships, the division of assets which the courts undertake is still based on the respective contributions of the parties.  Marriage, however, confers on each spouse a right to maintenance by the other, now contained in section 72 of the Family Law Act, which states (in part):

A party to a marriage is liable to maintain the other party, to the extent that the first‑mentioned party is reasonably able to do so, if, and only if, that other party is unable to support herself or himself adequately

That is the real “till death do us part” part of the story, even though it is hedged by the conditions of reasonable ability of one party and the inability of the other party to support himself or herself adequately (though “adequately” does not mean “barely” – it means, so far as is possible, at the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage). The court can make maintenance orders, and it can also take into account the same factors which it could take into account in making maintenance orders when it determines a property settlement.

So the position at present is that heterosexual couples can choose to sign up for this extra aspect of a relationship by marrying, or they can confine themselves to property remedies on breakdown of the relationship on an extended but at least notionally contributory basis.

This aspect of marriage principally confers a benefit on a partner who, at the end of the relationship, would otherwise have an ongoing capacity to support his or herself which is less than if they were still in the relationship. It is not surprising then, that many people who are in de facto relationships decide to marry at the point where they decide to or start to have children. This generally protects the wife, because having children has a negative impact on the future employment prospects of the principal carer, who is usually the mother. It also protects the poorer party or the one whose career prospects are given up for the sake of the other’s.

People could probably just sign a contract to the same effect as section 72 of the Family Law Act, but that presupposes that this step is taken in a calculated and conscious way. Marriage offers the package wrapped about with the romance, which actually serves a protective function – at least to the one who is likely to benefit from spousal support.

(It is telling that marriage rates amongst the poor are significantly lower than amongst the prosperous. In such cases, the woman will often be better off relying on the state if necessary or by concealing the relationship if possible whilst she is raising any children, and the man is unlikely to be able to support her any better than she can support herself if the relationship comes to an end.)

The other distinctive feature which marriage offers as between the parties to the marriage is its instant conclusiveness (subject to the risk of undisclosed prior marriages), whereas the existence of a de facto relationship or its duration (in most cases there is a threshold requirement of duration) will need to be established and might well be contested by the other party when a disputed property settlement arises. This is really the same advantage which arises in dealings with the state where marriage or a relationship need to be established.

I’ve gone down a very deep rabbit hole here (unintentional pun but I’ll leave it). I haven’t even got round to the vexed question of polygamous relationships or anything that Jim Belshaw has said in reply to my previous post, for which my apologies. (I don’t really think our disagreements are so great – it’s more a matter of means than ends.)

Tentatively, though, my view is that, even if the state got out of the marriage game, there are still reasons for it to be involved in a system for enabling people to establish civil unions which would amount to practically the same thing. If marriages were abolished at law, we would probably end up just calling such unions marriages anyway, just as now, whatever their theological reservations, Roman Catholics don’t generally go round disparaging the marital status of those married outside the church.

There is also the question of what status should be accorded to those who are already married, as well as the unresolved injustice to those who, if they could have been, would have been already married, but who could now “only” enter into civil unions. Quite frankly, I think we might as well just bite the bullet and introduce gay and lesbian (etc) marriage. I also suspect that, if faced with the prospect of only having, so far as law is concerned, civil unions in the future for the sake of the integrity of hitherto heterosexual “marriage,” a lot of would-be brides-to-be would agree with me.