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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Education

Monday September 17 2018

imageRecently I bought a CD set of Show Boat, and yesterday I listened to it.  Show Boat is not really my kind of thing.  When it comes to singing, I tend to prefer either Schubert or the Rolling Stones.  I bought this Show Boat to learn more about a lady called Janis Kelly.  As you can see to the right there, she is one of the star singers in this recording.

Janis Kelly is something of a legend in the classical singing world.  She is a fine singer in operas and music dramas of all kinds, and she sang the part of “Magnolia” in this performance of Show Boat.  She is also a much admired singing teacher, of the sort that singers she has taught spend the rest of their careers boasting that they were taught by, in their CVs and programme notes.  And, Janis Kelly just happens to be GodDaughter2’s singing teacher at the Royal College of Music.  (GD2’s graduation recital being further evidence, to my ears, and eyes, of Ms. Kelly’s teaching prowess.)

Janis Kelly sounded great on this recording, but what surprised me was how much I enjoyed the recording as a whole.  I am used to hearing shows like Show Boat performed in a style that is aimed at audiences who basically prefer pop music to classical or orchestral music, and which typically uses pop brashness and pop exuberance to cover for the small number of musicians being deployed.  This version of Show Boat, however, was “orchestrated”, by Robert Russell Bennett.  The sleeve notes claim that this orchestration is based on the “original 1946 score”, and (I’m guessing) might well be closer to what its composer, Jerome Kern, would have wanted than was any performance that Kern himself ever heard.  This is a performance which makes clear the direct line from opera to operetta, to the music of Kern.  Under the baton of John Owen Edwards, the orchestra makes a far lovelier sound than the din I was expecting.

Mercifully, what has not been opera-ed, so to speak, is the singing style.  Where an operatically-inclined manner is appropriate, that is what happens, as when Janis Kelly sings, for example.  But when it comes to a character like Ellie, sung by Caroline O’Connor, we get the full Broadway closely-microphoned belting style, a style that someone like Franz Lehar, or for that matter Franz Schubert, could never have imagined.

Further proof of the excellence of the singing in this performance is that, in the best Broadway style, and even when the singing is rather operatic, you can hear every word they sing.  Had this show been sung in the full-on operatic style throughout, to emphasise that this is directly descended from Verdi and Wagner and Puccini, that would never have happened.  (I’m still grumbling to myself about a performance of Madam Butterfly at the English National Opera (where everything is sung in English), where most of the solo singers might as well have been singing in Japanese for all the sense I could make of what they were singing.)

My feeling about opera is that I tend not to like how it is sung (too wobbly and verbally incomprehensible (see above)), but I love the sound that it makes, in between the singing.  When it comes to singing, I tend to prefer the Abba style to the noise made by the average opera singer.  (Above average opera singers are a different matter entirely.  (Today I listened to Act 1 of this, also on CD, and it sounded stupendous.)) But as for what accompanies that singing, give me the sound of an opera orchestra every time, over the brash, jazz-band-based instrumental belting, banging and twanging that you mostly get when listening to “music theatre”, provided only that the music is the kind that works orchestrally, which in Show Boat it is.

This Show Boat, then, is for me the ideal compromise, between Broadway and the opera house, being the best of both and the worst of neither.  Not bad for a fiver, which is all Amazon charged me for it.

Saturday July 07 2018

In an earlier posting this week I said I was about to have a – by my indolent standards - busy few days.  It certainly didn’t help that I picked about the hottest week London has experienced in a long time for all this gadding about.

Earlier in the week I did some socialising with GodDaughter 2, and on Friday, it was her official graduation ceremony.  In my eyes (and to my ears) she had graduated already, with her graduation recital, but on Friday the Royal College of Music made it official.

I took a ton of photos, of which this was just one:

image

That’s the Official Photoer, photoing all the soon-to-be-graduates, and presumably quite a lot of us friends and family behind as well, just before the stage filled up with RCM grandees, and the speechifying and graduating got under way.

And here is just one of the (us) unofficial photoers, together with a couple more that you can make out above and beyond this lady:

image

I’ve taken many, many more photos in the last few days, over five hundred at that graduation ceremony alone and many more besides, but those two will have to do for now.

I’m knackered.

Tuesday June 19 2018

On Saturday June 9th, I journeyed to Blackheath’s All Saints’ Church to hear GodDaughter 2 and three of her Royal College of Music comrades in song take it in turns each to sing a few of the songs they had already done or were about to do in their graduation recitals.  It was a fine event for all present, but for me it was particularly special, because, simply, I thought that GD2 sang so very well.  There was a security, strength and beauty to her voice that I’d never heard before, and she sold her songs, every nuance of which she clearly understood perfectly, with just the right amount of facial and bodily gesture, enough to really help, but never to distract from her now amazing voice.

GD2’s graduation recital was still to come, and in the next few days I asked myself if she really had been as good as I thought she had, and whether, if she had been, she’d reproduce this recently achieved level of excellence when there was so much more at stake.

It was this graduation recital that got me, last Thursday afternoon, photoing the statue of Prince Albert outside the Albert Hall (sadly it is easier to scroll down than follow that link).  In that posting, I mentioned, in passing, that I thought GD2’s recital had been very good.  Perhaps you thought that this was mere routine politeness on my part.  No.  It really was very good, indeed.

The recital happened in a rather large hall, way too large for the number of friends and family present.  In the middle, at the back, right in GD2’s eyeline, four RCM judges sat at desks in a silent row, giving her marks out of a hundred and writing comments that would decide her future.  At first, GD2 seemed understandably rather nervous.  But once she got into it, it was like Blackheath all over again, and if anything even better.  This was a far bigger venue to fill than that church, but she did this in a way that suggested she’d do the same in a place three or four times bigger.

Most of GD2’s recent performances that I’ve seen and heard have been in opera scenes, where she was mostly just singing along with others.  Which was fine, but it was hard to judge what personal progress she had been making.

It’s no good asking any of GD2’s fellow students what they think of her singing.  They’re great kids, but all part of what is so great about them is that they never share any doubts they may have about each other’s performing progress or prowess with a mere civilian such as I.  Which means that if they now think that GD2 is as good as I do, they have no way of telling me so that is fully convincing.  My only way of knowing if GD2 is as good as she has suddenly started sounding and looking to me is simply to listen very carefully, e.g. while shutting my eyes, and then to go with what I think I heard.  And what I think I heard, and saw, especially last Thursday, was the sort of singing that would have sounded absolutely fine if I and a five hundred and fifty others had paid to listen to it in a packed Wigmore Hall.

I have always liked and admired GD2.  And ever since she got into the RCM I have admired her even more.  Clearly there were classical singing experts who thought highly of her prospects, and that was hugely impressive.  But it was only at that Blackheath church, and then again last Thursday, that I was able to hear it and see it, fully, for myself.

Here are a couple of photos I took of GD2 last Thursday, in the RCM foyer, after her recital:

imageimageimage

As you can see, I wasn’t the only one photoing her.

There’s still a long way to go before GD2’s name is in lights and on the covers of CDs, and any number of knowns or unknowns could still stop all that.  What she is doing is like running in a marathon.  It’s still quite early in the race and the leading bunch in this marathon is still pretty big.  But, the point is: GD2 is still in that leading bunch.  She’s still a contender.

It helps that her voice, mezzo-soprano, is quite rare.  Regular sopranos, along with bass-baritones, are fairly common.  Mezzos and tenors, not so much, not good ones.

Thursday June 14 2018

Yes, here is the Royal Albert Hall, photoed by me this afternoon:

image

That photo was taken early this afternoon.  I was there to hear GodDaughter2’s graduation recital in the Royal College of Music, which is just down the steps and across Prince Consort Road, south of the Albert Hall.  After I had heard GD2 do her singing, superbly, and after I and all her many other friends and family present had celebrated afterwards with her, I started to make my way home. 

Before leaving the vicinity of the College and the Albert Hall, I took more photos of the statue of Prince Albert that stands at the top of the steps, the other side of the Hall from the Albert Memorial.  In the photo above, you can hardly see the Prince Albert statue.  But later in the afternoon, the direction of the sunlight having altered, Albert was looking a lot better:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

The Royal Albert Hall is looking particular fine just now, because scaffolding.

Wednesday May 30 2018

Says my friend (also my Facebook “friend") Antoine Clarke:

“Elites" in the USA, the UK and the EU claim that the masses who favour President Trump, Brexit, or oppose EU control of Italy’s government are “illiterates” , “uneducated” etc. So who’s been in charge of education?

Good point.

But, it’s on Facebook, and I don’t understand Facebook.  I don’t believe I am betraying anything especially private here, but maybe I am.  I am taking that chance.

With blogging, it’s very simple.  What you see is public.  You can copy anything on a blog, and paste it into your blog, for all the world to read in the unlikely event that it wants to.  All that etiquette demands is that you mention the source of what you copied.  But when I read something on Facebook, what can I use?  I don’t know.

A friend (also FB “friend") of mine is just now at the cinema, with his wife, according to a posting by him on Facebook.  There was a picture of the two of them, with a movie star in another poster behind them.  And there, you see, I may already be spilling beans.  What if they told their last-minute – please please can you help us out, this once?!?! - babysitter that they had an “urgent appointment”, medical or some such thing?  But really, they were just going to the cinema?  If the babysitter also reads this blog, and reads this, it could take them weeks to unscramble the mess.  That’s all pretty unlikely, of course.  But something like that could happen, or so I fear.

Twitter, like blogging, is fairly straightforward.  Anybody can read someone Twittering away, on Twitter, and everything there is accordingly public.  If I can see it on Twitter, I can quote it here.  Right?  I could be wrong, but that’s what I now assume.  But with Facebook, I don’t know where I am.

I have a friend (also FB “friend") who sometimes tells me things in the strictest confidence, in a way which suggests to me that, really, what he wants is for me to say this to everyone I subsequently meet, but keeping his name out of it.  Or something.  I never really know.

I will be a blogger until I die, because with blogging, all this is straightforward and out in the open.  Which means I have to get myself a new blog which goes at a proper speed, unlike this one.  People do still read this blog.  But the time it takes to load up introduces another version of not-very-publicness.  That needs to be done away with, asap.  Another friend (also “friend") is, or so I hope, helping out with that.

Monday April 16 2018

Twitter is causing ever more interesting things to pile up on my computer screen, and slow everything down.  (I know, “bookmarks”.  Hate them.) So, here is a blog posting consisting of such links.  Which I can come back to and follow through on but probably never will, but possibly just might.

Eyebrows - we all have them, but what are they actually for?

The Kremlin has a Reckless Self-Image Problem.

Via 6k, how to take bizarre photos by stuffing wire wool into a egg whisk, setting the wire wool on fire, and swinging all that around on a rope.  Do not try this at home, unless you want to burn down your home.

Next, a Twitter posting about cactus patterns:

So frustrating! My cactus patterns are going viral on FB, but the person who posted the photo of them a) didn’t credit me and b) deletes any comments I write responding to people asking for the patterns.

But what if she made that up? As a ruse to get the world to pay attention to her cactus patterns?  Or, what if she hired, in good faith, some sleazy “internet marketer” who deliberately posted her photos on some faked-up Facebook site, minus any credit, told her about it, and then blocked her complaints?  The sleazy internet marketer then advised her to complain about this to all and sundry, knowing that all and sundry would sympathise.  She seems like an honest person, doing honest business, which is why I pass this on.  But a decade of internetting has made me cynical.

Next, a Spectator piece about someone called Scaramucci, who is writing a book about Trump.  The piece says more about Scaramucci than it does about Trump, but his book sounds like it will be quite good.  Scaramucci sounds like he has his head screwed on right, unlike a lot of the people who write Trump books.

Also in the Spectator, Toby Young realises that his wife is smarter than he is.  And she chose to stay at home and raise their kids because that’s what she wanted to do.  You can feel the tectonic plates of Western Civilisation shifting back towards stay-at-home mumhood, even as mere policy continues to discourage it.  Jordan Peterson, take a bow.  That man is already raising the birth rate in rich countries, by encouraging both fatherhood and motherhood.  The only question is: By how much?  Trivially, or significantly?  My bet, with the passing of a bit of time: significantly.

George Bernard Shaw tells it like it was and is about Islam.  I lost track of how I chanced upon that, but there it is.  These days, GBS would probably get a talking-to from the Thought Police, a talking-to which might well include the words: “We’re not the Thought Police”.  If the Thought Police were to have a go at her, they just might get an earful themselves.

Mike Fagan liked this photo of Mont Saint Michel with sheep in the foreground.  I can’t any longer find when he liked it, but he did.  Reminds me of this Millau Viaduct photo, also with sheep in the foreground.

Boaty McBoatface got turned into David bloody Attenborough, but Trainy McTrainface proudly rides the railway lines of Sweden.  As usual, You Had One Job supplied no link (so no link to them), but here’s the story.

Thank you Paul Marks for telling me about someone telling me about Napoleon’s greatest foe.  His name?  Smith.

The sun is now spotless, or it was on April 11th.

David Baddiel has doubts about the bloke who said “gas the Jews” rather a lot, to a dog.  As do I.  It should be legal, but don’t expect me to laugh.

Tim Worstall:

All of which leads to the correct Brexit stance to be taking. No deal. We’ll go to unilateral free trade and the rest of you can go boil your heads. We’ll give it a couple of decades and we’ll see who is richer, OK?

Quillette: The China Model Is Failing

The three temporarily separate Elizabeth lines.

Wisdom.

Anton Howes on Sustained Economic Growth.

John Arnold made a fortune at Enron.  He is now spending some of it on criticising bad science.

Human genes reveal history.  This book is number (about) twenty on my to-read list.

Philip Vander Elst on How Communism Survived Thanks to Capitalist Technology.

And finally, Bryan Caplan still thinks this is pretty good.

I now feel much better.  And more to the point, my computer seems a lot sprightlier than it was.  This has been the computerised equivalent of cleaning my room.  The job is not done, but I have taken a chunk bite out of it.

Thursday March 22 2018

I’m reading Deidre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Equality, the final volume of her Bourgeois trilogy.  I hope that in this volume, at last, I will read evidence concerning McCloskey’s thesis about how the Great Enrichment came about, which is that it was ideological.  She keeps repeating this, but keeps flying off at other tangents.  Wish me luck.

Interesting tangents, mind you.  Like this one, which is a most interesting prediction, concerning the future of Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 70-72):

Know also a remarkable likelihood in our future. Begin with the sober scientific fact that sub-Saharan Africa has great genetic diversity, at any rate by the standard of the narrow genetic endowment of the ancestors of the rest of us, the small part of the race of Homo sapiens that left Mother Africa in dribs and drabs after about 70,000 BCE.  The lower diversity outside Africa comes from what geneticists call the founder effect, that is, the dying out of genetic lines in an isolated small group, such as those that ventured into west Asia and then beyond. The founder effect is merely a consequence, of the small samples dribbling out, as against the big sample of the Homo sapiens folk that stayed put in Africa. Any gene-influenced ability is therefore going to have more African extremes. The naturally tallest people and the naturally shortest people, for example, are in sub-Saharan Africa. The naturally quickest long-distance runners are in East Africa. The best basketball players descend from West Africans. In other words, below the Sahara the top end of the distribution of human abilities - physical and intellectual and artistic - is unusually thick. (Yet even in Africa the genetic variability in the Homo sapiens race appears to have been thinned repeatedly before the time of the modest emigrations, by population crashes, such as when the super volcano Toba in Sumatra went off, suggestively also around 70,000 BCE. It reduced our Homo sapiens ancestors to a few thousand-a close call.)

The thickness of sub-Saharan abilities at the high end of the distribution is a mere consequence of the mathematics. Greater diversity, which is to say in technical terms, higher variance, means that unusual abilities at both ends of the distribution, high and low, are more common. Exactly how much more depends on technical measures of genetic difference and their expression. The effect could be small or large depending on such measures and on the social relevance of the particular gene expression.

The high end is what matters for high culture. Sub-Saharan Africa, now at last leaning toward liberal democracy, has entered on the blade of the hockey stick, growing since 2001 in per-person real income by over 4 percent per year-doubling that is, every eighteen years. A prominent Nigerian investment manager working in London, Ayo Salami, expects an ideological shift among African leaders in favor of private trading as the generation, of the deeply socialist anticolonialists born in the 1940s dies out.” The 6- to 10-percent growth rate available to poor economies that wholeheartedly adopt liberalism will then do its work and yield educational opportunities for Africans now denied them.

The upshot? Genetic diversity in a rich Africa will yield a crop of geniuses unprecedented in world history. In a century or so the leading scientists and artists in the world will be black-at any rate if the diversity is as large in gene expression and social relevance as it is in, say, height or running ability. Today a Mozart in Nigeria follows the plow; a Basho in Mozambique was recruited as a boy soldier; a Tagore in East Africa tends his father’s cattle; a Jane Austen in Congo spends her illiterate days carrying water and washing clothes.  “Full many a gem of purest ray serene / The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear.”

Wednesday February 28 2018

Twitter is good at telling you about news, and today, the news has been: snow.  I know.  Who saw that coming???  Apart from the short-term weather forecasters, I mean.

Here are some snow pictures:

image

That would be a photo of the Shard.  Would be because it is mostly a photo of snow, and the Shard is only just make-out-able behind the snow.

Here are two more conventional snow photos, where you can see buildings but very boring ones, the ones outside my kitchen window:

imageimageimage

On the left, the snow descends.  On the right, my neighbours make a bendy triangle of footmarks.  I didn’t find those photos on Twitter, for I took them myself.

Without doubt my favourite snow-photo today was this:

image

Says @MisanthropeGirl: Satisfying.  I agree.

But if we are talking about snow and cold, nothing since then has touched 1963.  According to that story, in 1963 the sea froze.

Ah, 1963.  Marlborough lost its entire hockey season that term, early in 1963.  The frustrated school hockey captain was a famed future hockey international.  I still regret that I never got to see him play.

It gets worse.  That Christmas, the “house”, Littlefield, where I was a boarder at Marlborough College Marlborough Wilts, got burnt down, just before the “spring” term began.  We lived in huts, like prisoners of war.  The dormitory was another hut.  I had a hot water bottle.  When other Littlefieldsmen first saw this hot water bottle they sneered, but they were soon wanting to hire it from me, but I wasn’t having that.  I needed it in my bed.  And I distinctly remember, one morning, that this hot water bottle, in my bed, in the morning, had … frozen.  I swear.  There were icicles in it.

So, February 2018, I spit on your cold.  Your cold could not even freeze my spit.

Friday February 23 2018

I’m watching the France v Italy rugby game, which happened earlier this evening.  It kicked off at 8pm.  But I had a meeting at my home, which also kicked off at 8pm, so I had to ignore the rugby until now, late in the evening.  But I set my telly-recorder, and all was well with that, so now I am watching it.  As of now: France 5 Italy 7.  Two imperfect teams, both desperate to “play rugby”, which means run like mad and score tries, which makes for a great spectacle for the neutral.  The game, so far, has been what is technically known as “frantic”.

I am now on Twitter, observing but so far not contributing, and normally, following my meeting, I’d be catching up with that.  But one of the Twitter things I follow is rugby, and I don’t want anyone to tell me the score.  The only way to be sure of that not happening is for me to ignore Twitter, until the game is over.  As in: over for me.

As for my meeting, it was addressed by Jordan Lee.  Superb.

One of the good things about these meetings is that because there is no camera running, and because the aim is basically only to make sure that we don’t have the same damn conversation month after month, I can take a chance with speakers.  I knew Jordan Lee would be okay, by that standard.  But I had no idea he’d be as good as he actually was.

He talked about his work as a teacher of troubled children, the kind that have got spat out by regular schools, at a place with the wonderfully made-up-sounding but actually real name of Wishmore Cross Academy.  Cross is right, judging by some of the dramas that Jordan described.

The gist of what Jordan Lee said was: there’s no easy answer to what the rights of children ought to be.  They can’t be completely free, like adults.  Nor can their parents own them and be allowed to tyrannise over them.

France are now winning, after fluffing a lot of earlier chances.  Commentator Jonathan Davies said that they needed to be more clinical, and finally, they are starting to do that.  France 24 Italy 10.  I was hoping for an upset, but it ain’t happening.  Later: 34-17, which looks like being it.  France have only three tries and need another for a bonus point.  France pressing, but no, France couldn’t manage that fourth try.  France 34 Italy 17.

Bed.

Tuesday February 06 2018

After a hard afternoon yesterday, exploring Churchill and his wartime government’s subterranean lair, I was, in the evening, in no mood to do much else.  But Christian Michel had one of his 6/20 evenings (yes I know, on the 5th (there was a reason but I have forgotten it)), and I forced myself to attend, knowing that I would not regret this.  And I didn’t.

The highlight of my evening was undoubtedly getting to talk with an artist and art teacher by the name of Elina Cerla.  We spoke about how we were both fascinated by the difference between how two eyed people see things, and how one eyed cameras, or camera-like gadgets used by artists, see things.  Summary: very differently.  Also about how she is more concerned to help people solve the artistic problems they consider important, rather than to shape them all into her preferred sort of artist.

She gave me her card before we went our separate ways, so I’m guessing she will have no problem with me linking you to that website.

You could become one of Elina Cerla’s pupils by doing what this says:

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Having already wandered about in the website, I was particularly struck by that naked figure when I came across it elsewhere on the website, so I was intrigued later to find that she chose it to illustrate her teaching advert.  I think you will agree that this image inspires confidence that the time of pupils will not be wasted.  This is someone with definite skills to impart.

I am presently listening to this YouTube interview.  Refreshing absence of art-speak bullshit and political infantilism, of the sort commonly emitted by those who practice (or who are attempting) shock-art.

Saturday January 13 2018

Yesterday afternoon GodDaughter2 arranged for me to be in the audience (which was mostly singing students like her) of a master class presided over by American operatic tenor Michael Fabiano, a totally new name to me.  He should have been.  My bad, as he would say.  Very impressive.  Very impressive.

This event was the most recent one of these.  But they scrub all mention from there of the past, however immediate, so no mention there of Fabiano, which there had been until yesterday.

Here are a few recollections I banged into my computer last night before going to bed.  Not tidied up much.  I just didn’t want to forget it.

Sing, every note, all the time – switch off singing and then when you need to switch on again, you won’t be able to do it.

Singing is not just done with two little things in your throat.  Sing with your whole body, from head to toe.  Including your balls.  (The student singers he was teaching were all guys, two baritones, two tenors.) I hope you don’t mind me saying such things.  (Nobody did.)

You must sing to the people way up in the roof.  They must hear every note you sing.  Not just the people in the first five rows.

Don’t be afraid to take a breath - I’m a great fan of breathing when you need to breath – no seriously

First note is critical.  Final note is critical.  You can screw up in between.  But first note bad can mean they’ll hear nothing further.  Final note good, and that’s what they’ll remember.

Stay firmly planted on the floor.  Stand how you stand in the tube, when you have nothing to hold on to.  Don’t rise off the floor on your toes when it gets difficult.

Stay relaxed by going to your “happy place” in your mind.

In auditions, don’t be bound by rules that box you in.  Break those rules, do whatever you have to do to do what you do.  Applies to all artists.

Piano accompanists: play louder, like an orchestra.  Louder.  Twice as loud as that.  (He spent a lot of time conducting the pianists.)

Go for it.  (Said that a lot.) Be free.  Fly like a bird.  Never relax your wings (keep singing) or you fall to the ground.

In my opinion … this is my opinion ...

Make progress as a young singer by finding one or two people whose judgement you trust.  Follow their advice and work hour after hour, day after day, with them.  A hundred people advising is confusion.  One or two is what a young person needs.

How to make the transition from student to real singer?  With difficulty.  I began by doing 22 auditions all over Europe.  First 21, I followed the rules, stood in the spot marked X: nothing, failure.  22nd audition: disaster.  Fell over at the start, literally.  But laughed at myself.  Good middle notes, they knew I had a cold, but also a good personality.  Got work.  They trusted me to do better.

Mentor?  Renee Fleming was one.  Sang next to her on stage.  Her voice ridiculously small, on stage.  But, my agent way up at the back heard everything, and wept.  I then sat way up there myself and listened to Fleming sing equally quietly, heard everything and was equally moved

Sing oh well and sing ee well, and you’ll sing ah well.  (Think that was it.) …

And probably lots more that I missed.  But, I now find, you can watch the whole thing on YouTube.  However, the length-to-content ratio of watching something like this on YouTube is such that you, if you have got this far in this posting, are much more likely to make do with reading what I just put.  So let’s hope I didn’t get anything too wrong.  Plus: more mentions of this event, with video bits, at the RCM Twitter feed.  Fabiano also tweets, of course.  More reaction to yesterday there.

There were four student singers on show, first two being baritones, and in the second half, two tenors.  The most extraordinary moments of this event came in the second half, when the two tenors took it in turns to sing things that Fabiano has presumably sung for real, as it were.  And occasionally, to illustrate a point he was making, Fabiano would sing a snatch of the thing himself.

At which point, as the young people say these day: OMG.  His sound was about four times bigger than what the students were doing.  (The first of these moments got Fabiano a loud round of applause.) Fabiano’s talk, about filling the entire 2,500 people place, was a hell of a lot more than talk.  He does this, every time he sings in such a place.  The message was loud and the message was clear.  That’s what you guys must aim for.  That’s what it sounds like.

The good news is that the first tenor in particular (Thomas Erlank), was taking audible steps towards being an opera star, after only a few minutes of badgering from Fabiano.  I think you’re great, said Fabiano, which is why I’m being so hard on you.  Fabiano didn’t say those exact words to any of the others, so that will definitely have counted for something, in Erlank’s mind.  You could see him getting bigger, as Fabiano both talked him up and hacked away at his mistakes.

Of the others, the one who particularly impressed me was the second baritone (Kieran Rayner), who looked and behaved like a trainee accountant, but who sang like a trainee god.  By the time Fabiano had been at him for a bit, he started to get a bit more like an actual god.  The sheer sound of Rayner’s voice was beautiful from the start, I thought.  As did Fabiano.

Fabiano made a big deal of vibrato, which he seemed almost to equate with singing.  But vibrato is, for me, a huge barrier.  Rayner did do enough of it to satisfy Fabiano, but not nearly enough to put me off.  I mention this because I believe that I am not the only one who feels this way.  Too much wobble, and it just sounds like wobble and nothing else.  Singers who overdo the wobble never break past that oh-god-it’s-bloody-opera barrier.  But not enough vibrato, and they don’t get to fill those 2,500 seat opera houses.  And even if they do, no OMG, Fabiano style.

Final point, by way of summary.  When each singer did his performance, Fabiano made a point of going to the back of the hall, to hear how it sounded there.  Fabiano made no bones about it that what concerned him was not how you or he felt about it while doing it, or how Renee Fleming sounded to him when he was standing on the stage right next to her.  What matters is the effect it has on the audience, all of the audience, including and especially the audience in the cheaper seats.  Are they getting what they came for and they paid for?

Deepest thanks to GD2 for enabling me to witness all this.

Saturday December 16 2017

My camera is pretty good, but it isn’t ideal for me.  I only use a bit of it at all regularly, the automatic bit.  So if, on a rainy day, I push, by mistake, some stupid knob on it that tells it to stop being automatic, it stops being automatic.  And, the automatic focussing refuses to work the way it should.  That’s what happened when I thought it had conked out.  It’s fine.  It was simply obeying orders.

I tried photoing the relevant knobs, first with mirrors and then with my mobile, but the results of all that were a blurry mess.  Have you ever tried getting a camera to photo its own arse?  And photoing with my mobile is something I need daylight to do half decently.

I got a much better picture of the back of my camera by going to this.

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In particular, I draw your attention to this bit:

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The knob with AF/AE LOCK on it needs to be pointing at AFS/AFF, and absolutely not at MF.  MF means, I presume, Manual Focus.  AF means automatic focus.  S and the other F mean whatever they mean.

The problem arose when, in the rain and needing to possess three hands, one to hold my bag and two to operate my camera properly, I try to look at the photo I just took.  That involves pressing the button with the green arrow on it.  To get back to photoing, press DISP.  But, what with all the rain and the confusion and only having one hand to both hold the camera and press the knobs on it, I accidentally pushed the AF/AE LOCK knob, and got it pointing at MF.  By mistake.  I’m guessing this would be why the AF/AE LOCK button includes the word “LOCK”.  And this works a treat.  I know this now.

Anyway, the upshot (metaphorically speaking) of all this is that my camera went from photos like this, just before I met up with GD2 the day before yesterday ...:

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… to this, not long after that, after the knob disaster had occurred …:

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… and then back to this:

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… when I met up with a friend yesterday, in: Hither Green.

So, panic over.

It’s an odd feeling, partially the feeling of massive relief that I won’t have to spend Christmas trying to turn whatever guarantee came with my camera into another camera, and partially the feeling that I am an idiot and that I should pay more attention to the knobs on my camera.  Delight and embarrassment all mixed up together.

This is what Americans would call a “learning experience”, and although often all that this means is “total cock-up”, in this particular case they would be right.

Friday October 20 2017

Today, I was thinking, what with it being Friday: What can I put here about cats or other creatures that would be of interest?  But instead of looking for something along those lines, I was listening to a video conversation between Jordan Peterson and Camille Paglia, about the sorry state of the humanities departments of American universities.  I can’t remember why or how, but I was.  And twenty four and a half minutes into this, I listened in astonishment as Peterson suddenly started talking, fascinatingly, about zebras.

Why do zebras look the way they do, so very black and and so very white, and so very stripey?

This has long puzzled me.  The arch enemy of the zebra is the lion, and the lions are impeccably camouflaged.  Their coats are the same colour as the veldt, or whatever it is that the zebras roam about on and that the lions hunt the zebras on, and so the zebras don’t see the lions coming.  But the zebras, with their garish black and white plumage, are nothing at all like the colour of the land they live on.  What gives?  Why the lurid and fantastically visible stripes?

Today I learned the answer to this question.

The answer is: When lions hunt zebras, they do this by deciding on just the one zebra that they are going to hunt, and they concentrate entirely on that one zebra.  Eventually, the chosen zebra is exhausted, and the lions catch it and kill it.

And how do zebras respond, evolutionarily speaking?  Answer: By becoming extremely hard to distinguish from each other.  Their very stripey stripes do exactly this.  The result of that is that although the lions try to hunt just the one zebra, thereby exhausting it and killing it, they instead keep getting confused about exactly which zebra is the one they are trying to hunt.  And the result of that is that instead of hunting one zebra to its death, they hunt half a dozen zebras, not to any of their deaths, and go home without their dinner.

Some scientists who were studying zebra plumage did what turned out to be a rather cruel experiment which proved this.  They squirted some colour onto one of the zebras in a zebra herd.  The lions, confident now that they would not be confused about which zebra they were hunting, proceeded to hunt that one marked zebra to its inevitable death.  Without such marking out, they couldn’t tell which zebra was which.  With such marking, hunting success followed, every time.  Every time, they chose the marked and hence easily distinguishable zebra.

I did not know this.

Peterson’s point was that American humanities professors are like this.  They all have totally crazy, yet totally similar, opinions.  That way, their enemies can’t fixate on one of them and destroy him.  Or something.  In this version of the zebra stripes story, Peterson is saying that people in general are like zebras.  But I really didn’t care about that.  It was the zebras and their stripes that interested me.

I love the internet.

Wednesday September 06 2017

Professor Amy Wax, quoted in this:

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These are the kind of virtues that, in Charles Murray’s words, the upper classes of the USA have been practising, but have been neglecting to preach to those below them in the social pecking order.  Result says Professor Wax: disaster.

That phrase about preaching what they practise is a good one and I am glad it is getting around.  (I mentioned it in this Samizdata piece.) I don’t always practise these virtues myself, particularly the ones concerning working hard and avoiding idleness.  (I would also want to distinguish between serving my country and serving its mere state apparatus.) But I preach these virtues nevertheless.  Do what she says, not what I do.

A little hypocrisy is far preferable to a lot of silence in these matters.

Tuesday August 22 2017

About a week ago or less, I found myself in the vicinity of The Wheel.  The light was very good, with lots of sunshine and lots of lurid looking clouds.  So, I took photos.

Below are a clutch of The Wheel related photos.  My opinion of how to photo The Wheel is that you should combine The Wheel with other things.  Like graphic designs featuring The Wheel which are in the vicinity of The Wheel.  It’s the old modified cliché routine.

In this photo clutch, however, I do include one very old school photo of The Wheel.  It’s the photo I took of a postcard (1.2), which features The Wheel.  And look what the postcard calls The Wheel.  It calls it The Wheel: “The Wheel”.  None of this “London Eye” nonsense.  Do large numbers of people in other parts of the world call The Wheel The Wheel?  I do hope so.  And I hope that this habit conquers London.

The next four photos, after the postcard (1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3) are all of The Wheel reflected in a tourist crap shop.  And then 3.1 is of The Wheel reflected in a place, next door, that sells sandwiches.

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I like how I totally lined up the circular blue logo with The Wheel reflection, in 2.3.  Could I also have done something similar with the circular things in 2.1 and 2.2, in the latter case an actual picture of The Wheel.  I rather think that I tried, but couldn’t do that.  But, memo to self, return to this enticing spot, on a nice day, and see what I can do.

This is what I like about taking photos in London, rather than in some foreign spot that I am only going to be in once.  If, upon reflection back home, I suspect that I might have been able to do some of the photos better, I can, in London, go back to try to do this.