Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Be “informed”

April 22, 2019

This is not the first time I have seen this.

On the Guardian/Australia website, an ad for News Limited, specifically, for subscriptions to The Australian:

“Be informed this election.  $5 a week for 8 weeks.”

I expect News Limited is wasting its money, but I’m a bit shocked that The Guardian is taking it all the same.


April 18, 2019

A nun once caused quite a commotion
When she played, weeping tears of emotion,
The “Moonlight” Sonata
Whilst suffering stigmata
At the Good Friday three hours’ devotion.



March 30, 2019

A bare record:

16 3 Australia Ensemble

I missed the beginning of this concert as I had to attend a surprise 70th birthday party.  I got there half way through the Dvořák violin Sonatina – a piece which I realised I must have played in my past life as a school pianist.  I was let in between movements upstairs at the back.  I normally sit right up close in the front row, but sitting way back does have its charms.  There’s something peaceful about sitting all on your own without neighbours and acoustically distance, though it reduces the volume, clarifies the perspective.

Inexplicably, almost all of the core members of the ensemble weren’t playing in this concert: only clarinetist David Griffiths and pianist Ian Munro were there.  The next concert will also be without the same members, and the flautist Geoffrey Collins doesn’t appear before September. What’s going on? Is this a question of long-service leave? I think an upfront explanation should have been proffered rather than leaving things to the fine print of guest artists for each concert. We have the unedifying example of the Australian String Quartet before us when management presume to think that the identity of an “ensemble” is their own brand rather than the players which make it up.

The other items I heard were:

Steampunk by David Bruce and Saint-Saens’ piano quartet No 2 (No 1 is a posthumously published juvenile effort).  As ever with S-S, the piano part had lots of notes.  I thought I would be familiar with it, but found that I wasn’t.  It’s a strangely Bachian number – in that respect a bit like the first movement of the second piano concerto – with Mendelssohnian aspects.

25 3 Alessio Bax recital

I was too late to the party to get to AB’s Mozart concerto performance the previous week which had the added attraction of Beethoven 8 at Angel Place.  I went to the recital after a torrid day in court but managed to stave off drowsiness.   The program  was mostly in d or D. I was disappointed with the second section of the Dante Sonata (roughly speaking, pages 3 and 4) which didn’t feel despairing/dolorous  enough, but AB was saving more for later.

After the concert, the mother of one of those long-ago youthful violinists (he is now a violist in a UK orchestra) by pre-arrangement gave me some discs of video recordings of some performances from that era which she has recently transferred from videotape.  I haven’t been able to find a means of playing the discs yet.

26 3  Salome

My fourth time.  I swapped a row D seat for a marked-down front row one.  Lisa Rindstrom terrific still in the title role.  My neighbour, who had engaged in a little discreet lap-conducting throughout, was astounded to hear it was my fourth time – he said he was exhausted after just once.

29 3 SSO Barry Douglas, Laurence Renes, SSO – Sibelius 7, Brahms piano concerto No 2 

Also an opening number  by Richard Mills, who was present.  A babe in arms and/or a toddler also made their presence known.  Why are infants admitted?

On Saturday afternoon I caught most of the live broadcast of a repeat of this program.  The Brahms is much more splendid when the engineers can give the piano a hand; ditto for the assistance offered to the woodwind (always hard to hear in the SOH stalls)  in the Sibelius.

Decision restricted

March 21, 2019

The unsatisfactory thing about the internet is that nothing is permanent.

If you really want to keep something you should copy or download it while it is up.

History is constantly being rewritten.  (Let’s not get started on links, which on many of my own older posts on this blog no longer work, even for things such as judgments which you might think should keep a permanent place.)

Yesterday I noticed that a decision of Magistrate David Heilpern from September 2017, [2017] NSWLC 19, had been amended.  Specifically, the text of the decision, including the name of the parties, is “restricted.”

What could possibly be so explosive or sensitive about an almost year-and-a-half old Local Court judgment that we should not be permitted to read it?

Wonderment increased when I discovered that the original decision, Commonwealth DPP v Adam James Easton, had been overturned on appeal by the DPP before Justice N Adams in Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions v Easton [2018] NSWSC 1516 .  Actually you can read quite a lot of the original judgment there.

Magistrate Heilpern’s (overturned) decision had dismissed charges against Mr Easton for failing to vote at the July 2016 Federal election.  Mr Easton had claimed he did not vote for conscientious grounds which would have excused him.  On appeal Justice Adams held that Mr Easton’s claims did not cut the mustard, or, rather, that Magistrate Heilpern’s consideration of them did not.  The matter was sent back to the Local Court for rehearing.

According to quite a good summary here at Buzzfeed, it was probably the publication by Magistrate Heilpern which provoked the appeal.  The Commonwealth couldn’t stand the publicity.

So why has the judgment been suppressed now?



March 9, 2019

This is a belated post.

Opera Australia has just mounted Alban Berg’s c 1920 opera, Wozzeck.  The big selling point has been the direction and characteristic projected animated visuals by superstar artist William Kentridge.  (Actually there is a whole design team involved  but their names can’t really squeeze into the headline.)

I went three times.


First night.  I sat upstairs on the left.  I could see the surtitles and all but the back left and left top corner of the stage.

I was distracted throughout by the noise from the projector mounted not so far from me on the front of the circle which was the source of most of the projections.  From where I sat it was almost as loud as quieter orchestral details which were consequently lost to me.

I struggled to take in action, words, the orchestral commentary in the music and Kentridge’s constantly changing visual commentary.

Kentridge’s visuals are based on an apocalyptic vision of the Western Front in WWI, with dirigibles, aircraft, maps of Bullecourt and frequent invocations of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s up-pointed moustache.

Various reviewers who ought to know better nod seriously and draw a link to Alban Berg’s experience of war horrors in the trenches.

As far as I can tell, Berg’s only military service was training in Hungary in 1915 before he was invalided out.  He was then consigned to a desk job in Vienna.  It was the humiliations of military life in the ranks rather than the horrors of war that he complained about and found a resonance of in Wozzeck.

And what’s all this about the Western Front and the Kaiser?  That’s a bit like reaching for the Hitler toothbrush or the swastika for WWII.  What about Franz Joseph?


On the second night I sat upstairs at the right front corner.  This gave relief from the projector fan and a good sound from the pit at the price of missing out on the surtitles and an overall view of the stage.

Leaving the second performance I overheard a North-American –accented woman saying:

“The one thing I remember about the production I saw which was realistic is the boy at the end.”

In this production, there is no actual child on stage.  Instead, a gas-masked puppet.  Kentridge has justified this with  something not unlike the usual complaints about appearing on stage with animals and children.  But surely Berg put the kiddie in for a reason?  Kentridge doesn’t trust this and wants to run his own concept.  OK, that’s his prerogative but something has been thrown away with the bathwater.


I wanted to give the whole thing another chance where I could be exposed roughly equally to all the elements of the production.  A seat in the middle of the front row for the third night was marked down from B to C reserve.  D has gone to China which meant I could snap it up by exchanging his ticket for Werther.

I couldn’t see the surtitles but I knew the libretto reasonably well, falling back on the gist for some of the more wordy parts such as the Doctor’s lists of medical symptoms or the drunken speechifying/sermons in the tavern scene.  After listening to a recording numerous times and following bits of it in the score, I can’t say I had unravelled all of the mysteries of the various musical forms employed or worked out all the things the commentators find exquisite, but I’d assimilated enough of the musical language and material to be able to respond to more of the threads than when I started.

Ironically, sitting up the front meant that I could focus much more on the singers.  The relative impact of the projections was much less and no longer overweening.  For me they worked much better that way.

The whole thing was utterly compelling.

My favourite scene is the Tavern/Inn/Wirtshaus scene.  Berg writes for the main orchestra, a chamber orchestra (within the main orchestra) and an onstage band  (banda) of  clarinet, fiddles, accordion, guitar and bombardon –which is basically a marching-band version of the tuba. Berg says a tuba may be used provided it can be muted. Part-way through the scene the player is directed to insert the mute.

We had a tuba.  I loved the moment when, instead of an ordinary mute, a pillow was tossed into the bell of the tuba by a fellow inngoer from his would-be-sleeping spot just above.  Turn that music down!

Internet resources:

There is a great little selfie-video of the tuba part here.  (If a mute went in it must be out of shot.)

At the Berlin 1925 premiere, the part of Marie’s son was performed by Ruth-Iris Witting.  Her father, Gerhard Witting, was Andres, Wozzeck’s fellow soldier.  You can hear Ruth-Iris, I’d guess about 8-10  years older and in quite different repertoire, here .


Werther 2019

March 5, 2019

Last night for the third time to Opera Australia’s revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s production of Massenet’s Werther.

There was a time when French opera was more prevalent – I guess because of the cultural prestige of Belle Epoque Paris at the height of opera’s boom years.  My grandfather’s generation went off to WWI singing funny words to the soldier’s chorus from Faust,  then the most-performed opera at the Met.

Tastes have changed, in the Anglosphere at least.  Apart from Carmen and Australia’s idiosyncratic obsession with The Pearl Fishers, Opra Straya has difficulty enticing audiences to the French repertoire.  So it was that I was able to secure at D reserve prices a spot in the middle of the front row for my third performance.

I’ve seen this production in at least two previous stagings – in 1999 and 2009.  I have a memory of feeling in 1999 that it was familiar, which would mean I also saw it in 1989 or 1990.

At the beginning there is one of the longest-fuse setups ever as for no other apparent reason there is a kind of Christmas-in-July as Charlotte’s father teaches her younger siblings a Christmas carol.  We will hear this again offstage for ironic pathos at the end when Werther returns at Christmas and kills himself.  Act I also sets up the domestic idyll which on the one hand so attracts Werther to Charlotte and the conformity to which by Act II he is a doomed outsider.

At the second interval on the first night I found myself between 2 older (than I) women. Each fumed – B, to my left, at the choice of work and the other worthier works therefore overlooked, but also at the production (“wasting my time”); the other at the “stilted acting.”

I tried not to let it dampen my own enjoyment.  Massenet’s music is so agreeable.  I think of him as being a later equivalent of Schubert or Rossini (and lesser lights of that period) composers who have at their disposal a kind of settled musical language which is immediately accessible.  It’s kind of middle-brow but it is very fluent narrative music.

Act III opens with Charlotte rereading letters from Werther.   She reads three, and each has its own orchestral sound world – my favourite is the wintry first – set off against her impassioned outbursts after reading each.  Even B was mollified by this, proclaiming of Elena Maximovaat the end “she’s the star.”

That’s a bit rough on Michael Fabiano.  The problem is that in the opera (as opposed to the novel where you get to know him through his letters) Werther is a hard character to warm to because he comes across as a bit of a gloomy creepy stalker. He has such a lot of big singing to do (which MF was absolutely well up to) that his vulnerability is overshadowed by his desperation.

My a golden rule about revivals is things always get a bit coarser.  Luke Gabbedy’s Albert was a bit in this territory.  I don’t recall Albert being quite so boorish in earlier iterations and I don’t see why he should be.

Charlotte’s younger sister, Sophie, has to carry the most of the burden for light relief with some fairly cliched coloratura-soubrettish stuff..  That, and their father’s drinking chums, are the low point (for me) of Massenet’s musical invention.

There are some other oddities in this production.  Why does Charlotte’s father, Le Bailli, so fall out with those chums between Act I (when he goes off to join them at the Golden Grape) and Act II, when with a disapproving look he hurries his children past them on the way to the service to celebrate the pastor’s 50th wedding anniversary?  Could it possibly be because they are Catholics?  One of them makes a mock sign of the cross, which seems odd for a little village near Frankfurt where the pastor is married.

Then there’s the newspapers:  in Act I Le Bailli was reading Pravda.  In Act II one of the drinkers took La Stampa, from which he looked up, seemingly surprised but also informed, to announce “C’est Dimanche.” – I suppose the director thought that was the best that could be done with some pretty clunkily expository libretto.

It’s a great night for a big orchestra.  There were lots of exchanged smiles: they obviously enjoy playing this stuff.  Principal cello Teije Hylkema had many eloquent moments. A quartet of French horns did more than invoke lusty drinkingness.  At the third performance I realised Robert Johnson was in the pit.

Between first night and second night,  Michael Fabiano’s acting improved (I’d say he just relaxed a bit into it) and Stacey Alleaume toned down the perkiness, which was a relief.

I enjoyed the second night the most.  I’m glad I went for a third time but I’ll probably stop at that.


Bloody old Barry O’Sullivan

February 19, 2019

In Senate Estimates today, Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan was inveighing against the proposed/impending levy on stevedores, which has been justified as helping to fund Australia’s biosecurity efforts.

His claim is that biosecurity is more threatened by people entering Australia than by imported goods, and that if a levy is to be raised it should be raised from them.

That’s an arguable point. I’ve no idea of the respective risks.  Let’s leave to one side for a moment the legerdemain of “levies” as taxes dressed up as some kind of user-pays impost.

But I  was taken aback at how the senator chose to make his point.  The transcript isn’t up yet, but according to AAP, and reproduced without comment in the regional and national press:

“There’s a bigger chance of us having a biosecurity breach from some bloody old Chinaman that brings in his favourite sausage down the front of his undies,” Senator O’Sullivan said at Tuesday’s hearing.

And later:

“I’m not opposed to a tax to raise money for biosecurity, but from those that pose a risk. So start with the Chinaman,” he said.

Why pick on the “Chinaman”?

It is a word which which all  Chinese-background people I know find offensive because of its historically derogatory usage.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Senator O’B apparently doesn’t know this.

Update here.

And here.

I have been surprised at the slow reaction to this (only SBS and Junkee took up the story at first), because the Chinese-background (and not only Chinese – Japanese Americans have also complained about this) reaction to the term is pretty unequivocal.  The slow media  reaction goes to show how deeply ingrained casual racism is.

Meanwhile, I like to think “Bang goes Bennelong.” John Alexander will have to hit the streets at Eastwood to dissociate himself pdq.


Belatedly (in my opinion) Bill Shorten seized the day to denounce O’Sullivan on Wechat (= the overseas version of the Chinese quasi-Facebook, Weixin – I had an account linked to my Chinese mobile number but have failed to maintain it since that number lapsed).  The leader of the Nationals distanced himself from O’Sullivan (who lost preselection for the Qld No 1 senate spot and will be “retiring” when his term expires this June/July), describing him as “off the reservation.”  It turns out that this too is a phrase with unwelcome associations to Native Americans, as Labor MP Brendan O’Connor was quick to point out.  That may have been a bit of an own goal given that Andrew Leigh, Penny Wong and another Labor parliamentarian have all used the phrase relatively recently, though the (Labor) Northern Territory chief minister has recently disclaimed future use of the term after its connotations were pointed out to him.



Shitting in their own front yard

February 17, 2019


This is the approach to the Sydney Opera House last night.

The temporary structures on the right are for the “stage” which takes over the forecourt for much of the summer.  If an event is actually on the obstruction will be even greater, assisted by black-screened “no peeping” barriers erected to preserve the commercial advantage of those running whatever event it is.

Tonight, nothing was on, but the entire forecourt was still fenced off.  A sign announced that this was for safety because of the construction involved.


The approach continued.  People had to negotiate a kind of fencing maze to get to the front steps.


Note the area in the middle distance of this shot, to the right of the gent with the white t-shirt and jeans fiddling with his phone.  We’ll get back to that.

Meanwhile, here are the men keeping it safe and the scattered objects about the stage from which we need to be protected:



As you negotiate the maze, look more closely at the fenced off area, previously spotted in the middle distance:



That’s right, a fenced off area devoted entirely to fencing off….





February 12, 2019

IMG_20190212_130807A surprisingly large lizard killed on the road directly outside our house.  My shadow for scale.

It must have been headed either from or to our yard.

I would never have imagined such creatures were running around in our relatively built-up area.

I guess this explains why sightings are rare.

Property vs lives

February 5, 2019

There have been floods in Townsville.

On Monday, Qld police issued the following bulletin:

Missing men, Aitkenvale
myPolice on Feb 4, 2019 @ 7:22pm
Townsville police are appealing for public assistance to help locate two men possibly missing in the Aitkenvale area.

The men were last seen in Ross River Road, Aitkenvale early this morning (February 4) near flood waters.

Extensive enquiries today with family and friends have failed to locate the men.

A water and land search has commenced of flood waters and the general area as a precaution.

One is described as an Aboriginal man, approximately 165cms tall with a slim build and short black hair.

The other is described as an Aboriginal man, approximately 165cms tall with a proportionate build and short black hair (image: blue shirt).

It is unknown what the men were wearing with police appealing for anyone who may have seen them or has any information in relation to their current whereabouts to contact police (details below).

Late on Tuesday afternoon, there was an update:

Update: Missing men, Aitkenvale
myPolice on Feb 5, 2019 @ 4:50pm
Townsville police conducting a search operation in flood waters at Aitkenvale have located the bodies of two men this afternoon.

The bodies were found near Aitkenvale Park around midday and have been identified. Next of kin of the men have been advised.

The discovery follows a search operation which commenced after two men, aged 21 and 23, were seen near flood waters on Ross River Road early yesterday morning.

Police will prepare a report for the Coroner.

The Ethical Standards Command will investigate the matter for the State Coroner with oversight by the Crime and Corruption Commission.