Archive for December, 2018

90 years ago today

December 15, 2018

This week I spoke to two people who were about to turn 90.

One is the youngest of my father’s 4 paternal  cousins. She is still in her own home.  Her elder brother died aged 92 about a month ago.

The other is the father of a very old and good friend.  I saw him in hospital and it was a grim occasion.  It is hard to see him ever returning home or even leaving the hospital.

I don’t know many 90-year-olds – in fact these are the only two I can think of – and they both turn 90 today.

What are the odds?

Wrapping up

December 13, 2018

Christmas is coming.  I don’t think I am going to any more live performances this year, so this is a post to wrap things up for the year.

26 10 SSO, de Waart – Beethoven 9

This was a hot ticket:  the orchestra sent out an email requesting any who weren’t going  to return their tickets and receive a credit in exchange.

I expect it was the Beethoven 9 that brought them in.  Once it would have been the return of “Edo” but maybe that aspect is weakening as memory of his tenure as chief conductor fades.

For me, the Haydn Symphony No 104 (also his last; one of the “London” symphonies) was more intriguing.

In the Beethoven, the Chinese bass (or bass-baritone), Shenyang, was phenomenal.  And everyone sang from memory!

De Waart is now 77.  He doesn’t look much older to me than when I first saw him though that is in part a trick because my perception of others’ age has been moving forward (or back) with my own.  The one giveaway is that he has developed a little mannerism of steadying himself on the handrail when he steps down from the podium.

17 11 SSO – Robertson, Capucon, Dvorak, Korngold & Mahler (5)

This was billed (and priced) as a gala concert on the eve of the SSO’s European tour.  We got to hear a kind of fantasy orchestra, with a few choice guests, soon-to-be principal flute Joshua Batty, and I’m guessing soon to go principal trumpet, David Elton, who was appointed principal trumpet at the London Symphony Orchestra this time last year and has been a purely paper presence until this recent return.

4 12 Pinchgut Ataserse

An extreme rarity, performance of the 1740 version of this work by Hasse for the first time since it was performed in Dresden.

At first wasn’t sure whether I would go to this. I was persuaded by the second half caught on the radio on Sunday night (it’s fun these days to follow the score, courtesy of IMSLP) and the availability of reasonably-priced restricted-view seats.

Pinchgut fans seem always to be saying to each other “I think it’s their best yet!” I expect there is a bit of confirmation bias in this or maybe a trick of perspective, but this was probably the most consistently well-sung Pinchgut performance across the 6 principals in recent memory.  Vivica Genaux, though very much promoted as the star of the show, did not stand out incongrously above the rest of the cast.

Orchestrally, the first half was all a bit the same, with long sweeping lush string lines, flutes introduced for moments of pathos, horns for martiality.  There was more variety in the second half.  I most enjoyed Artabano’s aria Pallido il sole (here at 2:39:20 while the link lasts; cf Carlo Vistoli singing a bit slower in 2014 here), not least because the strings managed a sound a bit like muted strings.  In the gloom I couldn’t make out any actual mutes and didn’t see the players removing them.   I remain, as ever, a sucker for muted strings – even if simulated.

7 12 Ensemble Apex

This is a group of young musicians either at or recently from the Sydney Conservatorium.  It’s been going since 2016.  I’m guessing it owes its existence to the conducting ambitions of its director, Sam Weller and the willingness of his fellow-students to assist those (and have some playing opportunities themselves).

Earlier this year, the ensemble gave a  rare performance with dancers of Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin.  I missed that, but in the aftermath  there was an opportunity to sign up for their last concert of the year, to include a performance of Rhapsody in Blue.

I signed up to go, then forgot about it.  So it’s just as well that a reminder email popped into my inbox on Wednesday.

Simon Tedeschi was the the piano soloist.  As well as the Gershwin, he played the Brubeck Blue Rondo as an encore.

The concert was held in the “Music Workshop” at the Con.  This is probably a bit small for an orchestra in full cry.  When they play loud you got that kind of sonic constriction of too much music in a confined space that to me says “Band Practice.”  T.hey could do with a set of risers

The other works were:

Adams- Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Koehne- Powerhouse
Marquez- Danzon No.2

Maybe the Adams and the Koehne one after another were a bit too much of the same sort of thing – even though they are really quite different.

Oliver Schermacher played a truly wild clarinet solo at the start of the Gershwin.

I hope the Ensemble comes back next year.

 

8 12 Sydney Youth Orchestra, Briger, Barker et al, Strauss

I got a tip-off on Friday from someone who goes to many more concerts than I do.  The attraction was that Cheryl Barker would be singing the Four Last Songs and the Marschallin’s part in excerpts from the end of Rosenkavalier. Strauss’s Don Juan rounded out the program, and for completeness I should add that Peter Coleman-Wright had a walk-on moment as the police officer to whom the M replies with the famous “ja ja.”  Alexander Briger conducted.

Cheryl was definitely the highlight of the concert.  She had no difficulty being heard above the orchestra.  Her vibrato is a bit more pronounced than when I last heard her.  In September I felt the orchestra perpetually lagged in a way which must surely have tested her nerve.  Otherwise they made a good fist of things.  The horns were in particularly fine form.  Everyone else could have quietened down a bit more for the woodwind twitters near the end of Im Abendrot.

The gleaners

December 7, 2018

Jean-François_Millet_-_Gleaners_-_Google_Art_Project_2

That is the classic image.

So what about this?

IMG_20181206_190139

That’s meant to be a picture of the woman by the bin. She had a male companion whom I saw first but he spotted me taking this picture and I was shy to take another. He probably thought I was photographing him as a prelude to dobbing him in.

They were both collecting containers from the “yellow” bins left by people outside their houses for council to collect, evidently with the intention of themselves collecting the statutory 10 cents for each one.

I had read about this  (see also here) but this was the first time I’d spotted it.

Councils are not happy about it. The standard council line is:

“The contents of someone’s bin is the legal possession of the property owner when on private land and of council when on the kerbside for collection.”

That’s very cutely expressed. It’s probably correct so far as it goes but there is a bit of a fudge there between possession and property. For example, whatever possession the council has (because the containers are in a bin which is its property and on the street which is also probably its property) is at least subject to the householder changing their mind.

Presumably  councils want to suggest that removing items from bins is stealing because under the container-recycling  scheme, councils themselves (or their contracted recyclers) collect the “deposit” (inverted commas because the 10 cents paid is only about two-thirds of the upfront charge) for containers which they collect.  They probably also are not keen about the contents of bins being scattered on the street by scavengers.

To be fair to the two scavengers I saw, they were perfectly tidy.

D spoke up for them.  “It’s a hard job.”  God knows, the effective hourly rate for collecting containers at 10 cents each cannot be high.

I don’t want to  dob them in.  But I do resent what they are doing.  It is an abuse of the scheme because these containers were already headed for recycling.

Where the abuse hits is if you bother go to a recycling depot.  These  are too few and too widely scattered.  There you will face a lengthy wait behind professional recyclers with enormous sacks containing hundreds of plastic bottles, which they feed into the machine one by one.  It’s like the supermarket transaction cost of being stuck behind people doing enormous weekly shops, but much, much worse.

The only silver lining is that the professionals generally only bother with the lighter plastic cans and bottles, so that the queue for glass bottles – not in truth worth the trouble but most of what I have to dispose of, is relatively short.

 

 

 

EF

December 3, 2018

In breaking news, the Victorian state government has announced a royal commission into the affair of “Informer 3838.”

This follows the publication, after a short delay, of the High Court’s decision on 5 November in AB (a pseudonym) v CD (a pseudonym) EF (a pseudonym) v CD (a pseudonym) [2018] HCA 58.

The background is succinctly summarised in the first paragraph:

Early in February 2015, the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission provided to the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police (“AB”), and AB in turn provided to the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions (“CD”), a copy of a report (“the IBAC Report”) concerning the way in which Victoria Police had deployed EF, a police informer, in obtaining criminal convictions against Antonios (“Tony”) Mokbel and six of his criminal associates (“the Convicted Persons”). The Report concluded among other things that EF, while purporting to act as counsel for the Convicted Persons, provided information to Victoria Police that had the potential to undermine the Convicted Persons’ defences to criminal charges of which they were later convicted and that EF also provided information to Victoria Police about other persons for whom EF had acted as counsel and who later made statements against Mokbel and various of the other Convicted Persons. Following a review of the prosecutions of the Convicted Persons, CD concluded that he was under a duty as Director of Public Prosecutions to disclose some of the information from the IBAC Report (“the information”) to the Convicted Persons.

That’s all very hush-hush, isn’t it? Surely the identity of the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police and the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions can’t be that much of a secret?

EF, of course, is another story.

CD’s intention set the cat among the pigeons, though it took a while for the wheels of justice to grind into action. To cut a long story short, in mid to late 2016, EF and AB appied to the Victorian Supreme Court for injunctions restraining CD from passing on the relevant information to the criminals in question. Ginnane J knocked them back in June 2017 (1) (2). On appeal, the Victorian Court of Appeal knocked them back in November 2017. The police and EF obtained special leave to appeal to the High Court in June 2018, which has now also knocked them back, unanimously revoking the grant of special leave.

The basis of the revocation was an acceptance by the High Court (on the police’s say-so rather than EF’s) that EF could be adequately protected by the Victorian Police. In that case, the need to uphold the integrity of the criminal law system (to which EF’s conduct and the police’s conduct in encouraging and exploiting her in it is a scandalous and outrageous affront) trumped any other bases on which EF’s identity as a police informant was entitled to be kept a secret.

All of these proceedings were conducted in camera.

Obviously, Mokbel and the various convicted persons will know straight away who EF is.

I know nothing about Victorian criminal lawyers, but it took me about 5 minutes to make a pretty good guess. And if I’m right, then there’s enough information out there already about EF for Mokbel et al to at least suspect that EF was working with the police. I suppose they might have thought she was working with the police for them. (See comments here: in truth the cat must well have been not only among the pigeons but out of the bag a good 4 years ago.) It’s not as if such characters are above acting on a mere suspicion.

Nevertheless, the court has made orders prohibiting the disclosure other than in specified exceptions of “the real name or image of EF in connection with these proceedings” and the proceedings below until 5 February 2019. Presumably that is to give EF a head start should she decide to go into witness protection and (I surmise) the state an opportunity to act if she declines to do so and her children need to be taken away from her so that they can go into protection.

It’s a murky world out there. I hope that EF and her children escape reprisal. Meanwhile, she and the police have surely made life more dangerous for other lawyers and their families in the future.

You better watch out

December 2, 2018

According to the traditional Australian reckoning, yesterday was the first day of summer.

I honoured this with my first trip to Wylie’s Baths for the season.  This was later than usual on account of some earlier over-convident over-exertion of my shoulder in the municipal pool. At Wylies the water is already a refreshing 20 point something degrees.

Other seasonal signs: the squawk of the channel-billed cuckoo and the insistent cries of the koels through the night.  Jasmine in the air.  School-leavers festively crowding the city and be-uniformed private school children with their parents on night trains home from city speech days. Boys about ten years older than the target age whooping it up at night on the play equipment in a nearby park.

And Christmas is coming.

For the second time, D and I find ourselves living next to a child with rage issues.

The first was in Dulwich Hill,our last home but one.  The tenant in the other half of our semi was a woman with a son and a daughter.  D complained that when we met (as you do) going in and out of our houses, there was a total absence of the usual neighbourly friendliness.  Even the time when I took delivery of (lavish)Christmas presents in their absence scarcely brought a detectable thaw.  Maybe the mother was embarrassed by the terrible tantrums that the boy, aged about 10 or 11, frequently turned on for half an hour to an hour at a time,screaming, wailing, stamping up and down the corridor adjoining the party wall, slamming doors and banging objects.  Only exhaustion seemed to bring these episodes to a close.

Sometimes I would hear the mother remonstrate with him, but mostly not.

I remember that, aged about six, I developed a “cross dance” for tantrums.  I suspect my parents tolerated or even encouraged it as a way of letting me work out whatever rage it was in a ritualized and essentially playful fashion.  I soon grew out of it.

This boy’s rages sounded like  something much more than momentary anger.  There was unhappiness and surely he was psychologically disturbed.  I’d like to think he was receiving treatment for whatever it was.  Meanwhile his mother and his sister took the brunt of it.  It is a worry to think what might happen if he grew up to exhibit such unchecked behaviour as an adult.

When we moved to Canterbury two years ago we thought CB,  the younger of the two children next door,  to be a girl.  Peering figuratively through (our) Venetians, D determined otherwise.  CB is  a bit of a squealer when he cries or yells.  D complains that CB  cries “like a girl.”  Ironically,  D’s elder sisters back in China have (in D’s absence) have told me that, as a child, D was “always crying.”

It is hard to tell CB’s age.  I suspect that CB is small for his, and his elder brother, BB, big for his.  CB might be 10 or 11; BB 14 or 15.  Their back yard is mostly paved and has a basketball hoop.  It seems almost a law of physics that the bang of the ball will lead to tears.

At first I thought CB’s crying and squealing  was the traditional younger sibling response to older-sibling bullying, but when I listened more carefully it became clear to me that BB is very patient with CB.  Maybe things were different when BB was younger and CB’s behaviour is a carry-over from that.  Quite frankly, an outburst from CB is so predictable that, if I were BB, I would never start playing with him, but I suppose it is one of those things which has developed over time so that the family are used to it.

It’s also become clear to me that CB’s rages are more than a sibling thing, because from time to time there are mammoth tantrums which have nothing to do with BB.  As with the boy next door at Dulwich Hill, objects are thrown and there is much stamping and banging. Mercifully, CB  doesn’t sound as unhappy as the boy next door at Dulwich Hill used to sound, and the displays never go on as long as those did.

D’s diagnosis is that CB has been spoilt. Who knows? It is easy to be a critic.

I find it hard to believe that CB behaves in this way outside the home, such as at school.  As for home, once such a pattern of behaviour becomes entrenched one wonders how it might be broken.

Yesterday, CB had a major outburst.  I overheard his father issue a warning about “Christmas.”

Good luck with that one.