Archive for December, 2015


December 31, 2015

More for my own records (because I find it convenient to search here for things I have been to) than to inform the world at large, I just mention two musical performances which I went to in December which have so far escaped notice here.  At this distance I cannot presume to say anything detailed.

SSO – Edwards, Mozart, Elgar; de Waart, Brautigam

This was de Waart’s second program, and strangely passed with less attention than the first, even though it had at least one of his party-pieces (the Elgar).  I enjoyed this. Last night I heard an (unannounced) performance of the Elgar starting on ABC FM just on midnight and thought: “de Waart’s wasn’t as slow as that.” Actually, for all I know, in absolute terms it may have been, but I do not remember the performance as from the pompous Empire end of the Elgarian spectrum.

The Ross Edwards was another almost shameless rehashing of an earlier work – nothing wrong with that, but I would have preferred if instead the SSO paid Nigel Butterley a better tribute this year than they did (Arkcon put them to shame). We could have waited until mañana to hear another Maninya. At this distance of time the strongest recollection I have of Brautigam is his tremendous head of hair – probably on account of my own folically challenged state.

This is a concert I would like to hear again but I expect I have missed the broadcast.

Pinchgut Opera: Gretry, L’Amant Jaloux

This was sung in French with English spoken dialogue – which wasn’t as bad as I at first feared it might be.  Entr’actes were provided by concertante pieces for mandolin (by Hummel) and flute (by Gretry himself) – the former more memorable (and apt) and the latter probably more helpful in padding out the length of an otherwise rather short work.

It is possible to make too much of the parallels between this opera and Mozart and da Ponte’s Marriage of Figaro.  Many of the common ingredients were stock of the period and the dramatic ones can be traced through the Beaumarchais play which was M and da P’s starting point.

I wonder if I wasn’t in quite the right mood for this piece on the night as others have reviewed it more enthusiastically than I felt.  I expect I have come to take for granted much of what Pinchgut is able to do which viewed from another perspective ought still to be counted a wonder.  It certainly wasn’t disappointing – just a bit slight – which is the work really.  I particularly remember bits of rather lovely Gallic fluteyness in the orchestral playing.

There’s a bird in there

December 30, 2015


Two evenings in a row, heading out along the road towards Canberra’s water treatment plant, I spotted a raptor hanging out on this sunny hillside. The first night I saw it carrying what I guessed to be a rabbit from the rocky hillside below. The second night, no such drama, though I’m pretty sure it is in this photo, albeit rather indistinct.

It’s in this terrific tree, here captured from another angle:



December 28, 2015

Sir Kenneth Jacobs, former justice of the High Court of Australia, died, aged 97, this year.

I expect Jacobs’ death will have come as a surprise to many, as it did to me for the simple reason that I assumed he was already dead.  The authors of this obituary of his elder sister, Marjorie Jacobs, who died in 2013, appear to have overlooked that he survived her.

Jacobs was born in 1917 but because of the war had a career that ran on similar lines but mostly in advance of the career of Anthony Mason, born in 1925.  Jacobs was Mason’s predecessor as Challis Lecturer in Equity at the University of Sydney (during which time he wrote the text that still bears his name: Jacobs on Trusts) and preceded Mason to the NSW Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.  Mason was appointed to the High Court from the NSW Court of Appeal by the McMahon Government in 1972.  Jacobs was appointed to the High Court by the Whitlam Government in 1974.

At his swearing-in, Jacobs’ reputation as a judge of liberal views and wide cultural interests beyond the law, particularly in art and music, was acknowledged. When he was subsequently welcomed in Melbourne by the Chairman of the Victorian Bar, Richard McGarvie QC, he was described as a judge of independent and forward-looking mind who placed great importance on civil liberties.

In April 1979 Jacobs resigned from the High Court.  He had been ill and had not sat on any cases in that year. Jacobs was diagnosed with stomach cancer and told he had only a few months to live.  Reportedly, the then chief justice, Garfield Barwick, did not want him to retire and urged him to take a period of leave to see what happened, but Jacobs (who had previously been a judge of the NSW Supreme Court and Court of Appeal which he left as President) took the view that it would impose an unfair burden on other justices to leave the court a judge down.

Cancer turned out to be a misdiagnosis.  Jacobs saw another specialist and was told he had diverticulitis (a very “in” ailment at the time).  He recovered.  It must have been a bit embarrassing and his eventual survival for a further 36 years even seems mildly comical.  It happens.

Since then, a number of other judges have had lengthy absences from the bench owing to illness.  Perhaps his example has deterred any premature resignations.

Jacobs moved to England in the early 1980s (according to the The Australian).  His wife, Eleanor, whom he had married shortly after the War (she was widow – I infer a war widow – a divorcee (see comment below and here; he became stepfather to her son and they had a daughter), died in 2002.

Jacobs must have been a sprightly octogenarian as in 2007 he graduated with an MA in Classics from the University of London (that’s a bit non-specific – London has many parts – but it’s the best my source provides).

It seems that over the years various Australians popped in to visit him in England, including James Allsop and that inveterate judicial socialite, Michael Kirby.  The National Library has an oral history interview with him conducted by Peter Coleman in 1996.

Jacobs died in May; news filtered back to Australia in early June; the High Court held a ceremonial sitting in October.  The address was given by Chief Justice French which has since been expanded and published as an article in the NSW Bar News, from which I have filched the bit above about Jacobs’ swearing-in and the remarks by McGarvie. The expanded version also held, to me at least, one last surprise:

The court extends its sympathy upon the death of Sir Kenneth to his daughter, Rosemary Henderson, his stepson, Peter Stewart,and his partner since 2008, Christopher Horodyski.

Happy Christmas

December 24, 2015

Pussy at Christmas

This picture of our cat, The Monster, was sent to me for Christmas 2 years ago by D.  It is a bit blurry because it was taken with his mobile phone.

It was The Monster’s 17th and last Christmas.  Judging from his expression, that could well have been a relief if future Christmases were to involve any similar dressing-up.

This Christmas marks 16 months since his last and fatal trip to the vet.

We still miss him.  Sometimes I dream about him.

Ibis rampant

December 22, 2015


At the site of the former Burwood Brickworks, behind Burwood Girls’ High School, Burwood Council has been (very slowly) labouring to create a “wetlands” precinct in what is now named “Wangal Park.”

The general inspiration for this sort of thing seems to be Sydney Park, built in much larger former brick pits at St Peters.

When D and I went there on Sunday night just after the official closing time, we were the only visitors. There was not even a dog-walker, despite this (rather confusing) sign:


The park itself suffers at this stage from a dearth of trees or undergrowth.  The (mostly) good councillors have kept the example of Sydney Park’s urban forest in mind in limiting opening hours to 7am to 7pm.  In that case it should be possible to allow for some shrubbery without scandal.

Aside from some corellas on the adjacent playing fields (attached in some way to the High School) the only bird we spotted which was not an ibis was a solitary heron – in the foreground shade in the pictures below.



There is still a way to go before the artist’s impression will be realised:


A man’s motor-trike

December 20, 2015


Is his kingdom. (Beijing 2014)


Good cause in Beijing

December 20, 2015


Rather blurry shots from 2014 retrieved from my soon to be obsolete mobile phone.

Animal welfare is still a bit of a new thing in China, as is the keeping of cats as pets – you see rather harried feral creatures, for some reason more often white than is commonly seen in Australia.

This was a stall in the yuppy (and by night, night-life) area of Sanlitun.


Man against beast

December 15, 2015


To be precise, against birds and bats.  Do birds count as beasts?  Whichever, there is no room for a compromise: both will take the figs as they ripen before we want to pick them, and there’s no reasoning with them (or between them, I suppose) for any division of the crop.

I couldn’t have done this: it required D’s ingenuity and perseverance. I held the ladder perilous and pegged out a few guy-ropes with tent pegs from a tent my aunt gave me 15 years ago (which we have never used).  OK, I offered some gratuitous opinions from the foot of the ladder, mostly about the need to keep the net taut and well clear of the foliage.  That’s a work in progress for the portion of the net in the top right quadrant of the picture above.

Another view from the other side with fine prospect of overlooking block of flats:


Compare 27 November 2013:


There were more dramas with interlopers last season.  In response D pruned the trees considerably to make netting more manageable and effective.

This is not the first time I have mentioned that D is from China.  A closer view of the ladder he has extended:


Vanity project?

December 9, 2015

I have [now] watched [update] the first two three episodes  all of the much-touted “TV Opera” The Divorce.

General impression: cross between Marriage of Figaro, Kiss Me Kate, London Road and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries; required some patience to sit through, motivated on my part by an interest to see how the public money and resources devoted to it by Opera Australia were acquitted and by the advance claims made for the project on behalf of the company.

I am still trying to work out how this got to air.

Apparently the score and book were originally commissioned by The Opera Conference from Joanna Murray Smith and Elena Kats-Chernin.

It’s not clear whether it was to be a TV-opera at that stage, though all reason suggests not, since what interest would Opera Conference have in mounting a TV opera?  The Opera Conference is a venture for sharing costs of mounting actual operas, surely?

As “Big Dog” commented on the Daily Review:

Without a single opera singer in the cast, and admitting it is “driven by pop/musical theatre rhythms” and “closer to the pop-influenced scores you hear in contemporary musical theatre”, why persist in calling it an opera? It’s clearly a musical theatre piece for tv. Not to put it down – I applaud the initiative – but why keep pretending it’s something it’s not?

That’s not quite true.  The Opera Australia chorus are a vocal presence – in the studio rather than on screen. Judging from the credits Sam Dundas and John Longmuir, actual opera singers, may be amongst the party guests though not, as far as I could make out, in singing roles.

The first two episodes seemed oddly reminiscent of  Miss Fisher’s murder mysteries – I thought at first this was just the posh Melbourne mansion and retro feel though now I wonder if it isn’t the camera work as well.  And so far as retro-feel is concerned, there are even two gangsters, just like in Kiss Me, Kate.

The opening credits state:

 Original Concept: Lyndon Terracini AM.

Variations on a theme

December 6, 2015


The Wollogorang Road runs between the Hume Highway and the Federal Highway.  This picture is taken from the crest at the Hume Highway end, looking back the way I’d come from the Federal Highway.  Afterwards I headed back the way I’d come.

Maps show a blue patch for water to the left of this road but it is really just a depression which might sometimes fill with water – a very mini Lake George.

I stopped here to take a break from the ribbon of death between Sydney and Canberra. If possible, I like to get away from the noise of the highway.

Just before I turned off, the announcer on ABC “Classic” FM mentioned that Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust opened that night in Paris.

My friend, Ub, is in Paris just now.  When I reached Canberra I sent Ub an email suggesting that, if possible, she should go to the Berlioz.  I also sent Ub some of the pictures in this post.

Ub told me the cheapest seats for DofF are 150 Euros; she’s not sure if she will be able to get to it.

Ub also said she thought the pictures were sad.  I hadn’t thought of them that way.  Maybe from bustling Paris they seem so.