Archive for December, 2011

Christmas is coming

December 21, 2011

So work is slowing down, and I have had to go early (before the big Xmas/NY shutdown) to the doctor to get a repeat on the latest bout of Champix. (I lack the strength of character that some have to desist unassisted).

During the long wait (time still crying out to be killed by a cigarette or two) there was a bit of excitement. In a momentary flash of red and blue lights and a wail of siren, an unmarked police car made a sudden 3-point turn to the bus stop just outside the Klinik. Next thing, as I wandered out to do some shopping to fill up the wait, I saw two plain-clothed officers. They had a bearded bloke sitting on the curb at the back of the car. He had his shoes off and was taking off his socks. The contents of his pockets (I supposed) – phone, cigarettes, lighter etc – were spread out on top of the back of the car. One of the policemen asked him “So where have you been staying?” The other (detective, I suppose) was talking into his radio or phone.

I didn’t stop to hear if the bloke on the ground answered the question.

I went into a takeaway food bar. It’s never a pleasant sight when someone is arrested and I think there is an instinctive reaction against the inevitable bullying it entails. Sympathy was running high for the man sitting on the curb, though of course no-one had any idea who he was or what he was being taken in for. “What did they get him for?” someone asked. Another answered “For walking the wrong way.” Someone else said: “They should take him somewhere. The [nearby] hotel would have a room somewhere. They shouldn’t just expose him to public humiliation like that.”

FWIW, my view is that, if an arrest is to be made, the police need to secure the arrested person and identify him. Before they put him in a car or take him anywhere they need to check that he has nothing dangerous on his person. If they are going to arrest him, they can then keep his effects and, for example, his phone. All of that has to be done straight away. Questioning other than to determine his identity is probably inappropriate and if you are arrested or for that matter having any interaction with police it is not in your interests to engage in small talk at all. Police often rely on this to get informal admissions which may not later be forthcoming (or to make a few up of their own). Once it is decided to take someone into custody such public exposure should come to an end.

By the time I got back from the supermarket it was all over, at least so far as any street drama was concerned.

Meanwhile, I was struck by the following headline in today’s SMH: Bungle leads to massive drug haul. The story reported that police had seized more than 300kg of pseudoephedrine “from a syndicate that lost track of the shipping containers they were hidden in.”

The drugs, which were seized by the NSW Drug Squad this morning at 12 locations across NSW, were packed into metal tubes and hidden in the containers’ frames, police said.

But investigators believe the syndicate importing the drugs lost track of some of the containers.

The containers were emptied and their contents – including the drugs [my note after reading the press release: this is a little misleading – the containers were empty and the concealed drugs were the only relevant contents] – were sold to legal businesses across the state, police said.

I’m assuming (since it is said to have been seized from the syndicate) that the pseudoephedrine the police have seized is the pseudoephedrine which was not lost track of. I may be wrong about that, given that the story does not refer to any arrests. (Update: press release here.)

If so, it sounds as though somebody has been unbelievably careless. I can only begin to imagine the extent of unbelief in certain quarters and how it might have been expressed.

I suppose the upside is that if you’ve recently taken delivery of a container which includes some metal tubes and get a severe head cold over Christmas, you may not need to find your driver’s licence and an open pharmacy to obtain quality symptomatic relief.

[An alternative hypothesis is that the “syndicate” had reason to believe that the game was up and so declined to pick up the drugs. Police do say that they acted on “information received” but it seems that this was after the containers had been emptied and dispersed.]

Further update, January: Police now say there were 54 containers in all. 26 were found at Padstow on December 22 and a 27th is still at large, as, apparently, are the offenders. Police say they expect to make arrests when the last container is found. It is hard to see why arrests depend on that. It now appears that the tip-off to police was only because someone who bought three of the containers reported to police that they appear to have been tampered with. The seized drugs also included ice and heroin. The claimed total street value is around $200 million.

Griselda 2

December 7, 2011

Pinchgut’s season of Griselda has finished.

I went to the last night. The house was almost full and the audience enthusiastic.

I’m glad I went again. The stagecraft had improved – understandable given the extremely short rehearsal period (I read somewhere 9 days) and the relative inexperience of some of the singers. One tell-tale sign of this is often what they do with their hands. By the last night, that had settled – favourably.

On a second sitting I also found myself more prepared to take the interpretation offered on its own terms.

I make it a rule if I plan to go a second time to have a better seat second time around. Even in Angel Place, that probably also helped.

In between I listened to the broadcast on ABC “Classic” FM.

For the next few weeks you can listen to that broadcast by internet streaming.

I rather liked it in the early days of Pinchgut when next year’s production would be revealed on the final night of the season. It was part of the sport. In the meantime, the hackneyed “eager anticipation” is the only phrase I can summon to mind. {See comment below.]

Next year’s production is Les Indes galantes. I think that is a good choice, musically. I’m not sure how Pinchgut’s budget will run to the -ballet elements. Antony Walker will conduct.

Update April 2012

Next year’s (actually by now this year’s) production will now be Castor et Pollux.  That is an even better choice, since we’ve all heard Les I g before, even if (in my case) only in concert performance and recordings.

Professor Kim Walker goes out on a high note

December 2, 2011

In recent weeks I’ve dropped in to the Conservatorium of Music (aka the Con) a few times to go to the library.

I could hardly fail to notice the various functions bidding farewell to the outgoing dean, Kim Walker. It all seemed a bit OTT, but what the hell – if she had a cult of personality going, she was the Dean and she could cultivate it as much as she liked right up to the end of her tenure. [Her appointment as professor ostensibly at least continues. At her farewell she said that she was taking research leave next year.] After all, it was for a good cause. Some of the brouhaha was to raise funds for the Con, as best I can recall.

The Con is not a separate legal personality. Even if funds are raised for the charitable purposes of the Con, it won’t mean much if in the meantime the funds which the University could otherwise devote to the Con are being depleted.

And it looks like that will be the case, at least so far as the University has to meet the claims now being made by Professor Walker in her statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court, as reported by the SMH here.

In the light of the statement of claim, OTT understates the matter. The word, in its proper sense, is “fulsome” – though maybe not by all involved. (Professor Walker had her supporters and I am sure they were sincere. In the circumstances, you can understand their desire to make a show of their support.) It seems that the university only backed off from removing Professor Walker in late 2008 because she threatened legal action.

Farewells fondly bidden, Professor Walker is now suing the university for rendering her unemployable at an appropriate senior level because of the way it handled what she says (to paraphrase: these are my own words) were intrigues and baseless complaints against her. I don’t doubt she believes that. You can see her quaver a little in her farewell speech on Youtube (from about 7:30 to 13:00 including tumultous applause). She doesn’t spoil it by mentioning the proposed statement of claim, though instructions to draft it must surely have been given by then.

[Incidentally, what is it about Guy Reynolds Noble [Reynolds SC is someone else!] that he has become the compulsory MC for all seasons. Is there nobody else?]

The statement of claim includes the claim (as reported by the SMH) that:

In early 2007, after Walker had been offered a 10 year contract as Dean of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York State, she was persuaded to stay in Sydney by the then Chancellor, the late Justice Kim Santow, who told her ‘‘that she was unique and able to lead the institution over the next years to the (Con’s) centenary in 2015.’’

So far as lost opportunities are concerned, that looks like a fairly crucial element of Professor Walker’s claim. Obviously, she now regrets she didn’t take the Eastman job. That is because the rumblings of discontent came to public notice and the various allegations against her were made shortly afterwards and that’s when everything went pear-shaped. From Professor Walker’s point of view, as far as I can gather, she declined an offer of a very prestigious job which would have lasted until 2017 because she was told she would have one until at least 2015. Now (it turns out) she’s been shown the door or at least bumped out of the top office as dean and principal (albeit, with a big farewell) and the bad publicity from all that’s gone on means that she won’t get such a job again. It’s too late for her to go back to playing the bassoon.

The awkward (or convenient – depending on your perspective) thing is that, if any of this hinges on private conversations between Professor Walker and Justice Santow, Justice Santow died in April 2008.

Griselda

December 1, 2011

Last night to the opening of Pinchgut’s Griselda.

For some reason, their publicity has been less forthcoming than in earlier years – little of the old internet chattiness and, as far as I can make out, not replaced by twitter or whatever else is newer.

It’s based on an adaptation of the final story of Bocaccio’s Decameron. This involves Griselda’s husband putting her through all sorts of trials before finally accepting her back as his wife. In the operatic version, he is the duke of Thessaly and is driven to this by the popular rejection of the low-borne Griselda as his queen (should that be duchess?). The popular discontent was depicted in part by placard-waving citizens in the aisles. One placard [plot spoiler of a sort] read “Ditch the Bitch.” This got laughs.

That was one odd thing about the production. I don’t think of this as a funny story at all, but it was certainly played for laughs at times. I suppose they had to do something because quite frankly, apart from the possibilities of various twists and turns which provide the occasion for the various arias, for most of the time things got simply worse and worse for Griselda. It’s not a story of any particular attraction and it all seems too contrived to be really moving. Despite that, within the premise of the rather ridiculous plot, there is one scene which moved me, when Griselda, disturbed in her sleep, possibly by the arrival of Costanza, calls out and reaches up as if to her long-dead daughter. Unknown to her, Costanza really is her (not dead after all) daughter. It was a tender and uncanny moment (well prepared by a short piece of “sleep” music), but its effect was lost soon afterwards with a reversion to the comic.

The rearrangement from 3 acts to 2 acts also robbed the trio at the end of the second act (not long after the scene I have mentioned) of some of its effect and detracted from what little dramatic shape the opera has. I think I can see why they did it: it gave them a transformation and a moment with a bit of splendour on a little budget (who would have believed that so much effect could be got from an electric roll-a-door?) and it got everyone home earlier – especially when the evening managed to buck the 7pm-start Angel Place trend.

David Hansen scored something of a triumph in the startlingly high role of Ottone (normally still sung by a woman), a ‘tached baddie who seizes the opportunity of Griselda’s banishment to pay his own entirely unwelcome suit – pressed with threats to murder her son if she will not yield to him.

I think there were some cuts, at least compared to the version I had borrowed on CD from the Con Library. I’ll listen on Sunday night when it is being broadcast on ABC “Classic” FM.

I’m going again on Monday to the last night.