Monday, June 28, 2004

Half a lost weekend

Saturday I spent inside all day and didn't speak to anyone except the cat. Marvellous for catching up with lack of sleep -- I had a lovely snooze in the middle of the afternoon and ended up going to bed around 10.30. The downside of that was that I woke up at 4am.

Sunday, on the other hand, was full. Tat picked me up early for the Mass in North Caulfield (true) which went off quite well, even if it did drag on a little. Then we went to Mum's for lunch; my sister and bro-in-law were there as well so it was a full table. After lunch Tat very kindly drove me into work where I helped LJ with Sunday and Monday's papers. There's still quite a bit of refining to be done on FDC, but we'll get there.


I'm feeling like an ungrateful son: my mother presented me with a pair of gloves yesterday which I politely (I hope) refused. I never wear gloves, finding them a hindrance, and explained this to her, but I felt as if I'd hurt her feelings. I trained her years ago not to buy me clothes and I know I probably should have accepted the gloves graciously, but I don't want to be a complete hypocrite (why stop now, I hear you calling). Oh well, I suppose we'll both get over it soon.


When I got home last night The Shining was on SBS as part of the Kubrick season. It's an extraordinary film -- a rather silly plot (as much of it as Kubrick used, I don't know the book) is saved by his uncanny choice of music. At times it seems as if the film has been edited to match the music (Bártok, Ligeti and Penderecki), all of which provides a very unsettling background to the film. Equally unsettling is the way the camera glides in, out and around the action.

I've always thought that Kubrick is uniquein the intelligent way he uses existing scores: The Blue Danube in 2001; the insightful use of the Schubert in the card-playing scene in Barry Lyndon where modulations in the music mirror the changing emotional climate; Beethoven, live and synthesized, in A Clockwork Orange. His ability to match the music to a scene is often breathtaking.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The end is in sight

My friends must think I have dropped off the edge of the world, but I've just been spending an obscene amount of time at work. It's been worth it; the new system, FDC, is running well and most feedback has been very positive. Even some unexpected people like it, so we must have got something right in the request for features. That said, I'm just about over it at the moment, and will be glad to return to normal working hours. I may sleep all weekend -- except for Sunday when I have to sing (Byrd four-part mass) then visit my mother.

The good part of it is that I now have almost a week up my sleeve in time to take when I need to.

Listening to: Schubert's Die Winterreise sung by Brigitte Fassbaender. This is not a work usually associated with female singers, but Fassbaender's recording is one I return to again and again. Magnificent.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Once again I'm working the long hours -- in at nine this morning, a couple of hours off in the middle of the day, then back, probably until 11pm. But it's worth it to make sure everything works for FDC, the new system. And everything does seem to be working, apart from a few little glitches that turn ordinary bullets (•) into ¿. It looks a bit strange to see a string of bullet-points marked with ¿s.

On my break I wandered into Discurio -- they've got some interesting stuff there at the moment including some boxed sets from Opera Rara. These are great, if a trifle expensive; but they do have fabulous booklets. I resisted but spoilt everything by buying the latest Opera and Opera Now. They should make planning for the trip quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


This morning's launch of FDC was less than overwhelming as the Sydney database collapsed overnight and had to be re-indexed. This didn't affect Melbourne searchers but for us in the Library wanting to edit records it was awkward -- usable, but slow and unwieldy.

It's all better now -- onward and upward.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Yesterday's Gloriana concert (Josquin, de Rore, Poulenc, Duruflé, Messaien) went wonderfully! It all went amazingly well; the Poulenc Mass came together beautifully and, while the Messaien took about a page to settle, it was a beautiful, quiet finish to the concert.

The audience was as appreciative as it was numerous; very encouraging to sing to such a group. We do a mass (in church) next week then it's on to the Handel.

Last night I went for dinner at LE's. Her friends Gary and William were there and through the course of the evening's conversation it turns out that Gary knows KM (currently in London) well. I was able to fill him in with the news of her move to South Africa. He'll be in London in late July, but I fear K&B will have already gone by the time he gets there.

Dinner, as expected, was delicious: lamb tagine with saffron rice followed by this year's favourite, poached quinces with panna cotta. A wonderful night.

In fact, a wonderful day.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


Work is still frantic -- I worked from 2.00 yesterday afternoon as I had to train the librarians on how we will be processing the edition changes in FDC. Unfortunately I don't think what I said will bear much resemblance to what will happen -- it's very hard to guess exactly how things will be.

Reading: A hat full of sky by Terry Pratchett. The follow-up to The wee free men. I find Pratchett's books irresistible; to describe what they're about would leave out all the best parts. His imagination is incomparable -- he is forever making us look at things from a completely different viewpoint. The result is usually amusing and thought-provoking.

Listening to: Bounce by Stephen Sondheim. Even the second time through it is failing to really grab me. The story seems very conventional, with none of the twists or surprise elements we've come to expect. The music sounds like many of his earlier works, such as Assassins, Sunday in the park with George and Into the woods. I think it's that I find that the element of surprise is lacking. Enjoyable, but a bit ho-hum.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Young love

I forgot to mention the encouraging scene I witnessed on Sunday. While waiting on the platform for the train to my mother's I noticed a couple of youths (how to determine their ages? I'd guess 15, but could be a year out either way) sitting on a bench with their arms entwined around each other.

They were deep in conversation, laughing and enjoying themselves, and when the train pulled in they got into the same carriage as I did. More precisely, I got into the same carriage as they did. They quite unselfconsciously continued to drape themselves over each other; one would rest his head on the other's shoulder, the other would wrap his arms around his friend. I didn't hear any of their animated conversation, but they were wrapped up in themselves.

The really nice thing was that no-one seemed to take a blind bit of notice of them. It was truly heart-warming.

Work stuff

Last night I stayed back to train MA and SL in the arcane mysteries of FDC (the new retrieval system which goes live next Tuesday). It all seems fairly straightforward, but I can't help feeling a sort of dread about the whole exercise. So much so that I woke in the middle of the night last night with my mind turning over all sorts of possibilities (and im-).

More training for JdL, LJ and JW this afternoon, including the wonderful new InDesign plug-in which allows us to export the text of Quark documents in XML -- straight into an FDC record. Everyone seems impressed; let's hope it stays all week.


This morning I visited the vampire at the Health Centre to leave a blood sample for my half-yearly tests: cholesterol, blood sugar, PSA and whatever else. Also booked in to see Chris in a fortnight, the earliest I could get. They are so busy there.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Happy Birthday to me

It's the Queen's birthday holiday so I decided I would take the day off to celebrate my birthday as well -- at least it's on the correct day. I also had last Thursday and Friday off which explains why I haven't posted for a while.

Last week's highlights were:
Angels in America on TV, which really impressed -- the performances were outstanding, and while it was a little long, I found it engrossing.
Dinner at the Carringbush with P&B, LE, DG and DR -- we had the best table in a very cosy room, right next to the open fire. Food was hearty, tasty and good and a fun time was had (I think) by all.

Saturday morning was the Farmers' Market at the farm -- I didn't buy much there, nor did I buy much later at the supermarket, as have appointments for meals all over the place: lunch at B&P's on Saturday was leftover chicken with preserved lemons (yum); then yesterday lunch at Mum's and dinner at Sue and Geoff McD's with DG. I feel as if all I've done over the last few days is eat and drink, and I'm ready to burst.

The weather has been cold and wet, but the heating is working away and it's quite comfortable inside; though it could be cold in the church for rehearsal.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Byalistock and Bloom

I got a pleasant surprise last Friday when the Lotus Master rang offering me a ticket to Saturday afternoon's performance of The Producers. I met him and Dr D outside and we climbed all the way up to what is now rather extravagantly referred to as Grand (thirty years when I started going to the Princess on a regular basis it was just known as the Upper Circle or just "the Gods").

Squeezed into seats that seem smaller than they were back then we sat back and enjoyed the show. It's great fun and all involved gave their best -- in particular I enjoyed Tony Sheldon and Grant Piro and the Director and his "common-law assistant". Lots of camping and mincing, but I must admit I did find the dancing swastika just a trifle disturbing, even after knowing the film for so long.

The songs are nothing to rave about but probably my main carp would be about the amplification... even the orchestra is amplified. I said to B later that evening: "I'd really like to see a show where no-one was amplified", to which he replied, "go to the opera".

Because of ghastly network problems I ended up working for a few hours on Sunday night, but left early on Monday to make up for it. Now I'm on leave until next Tuesday during which time I hope to take in the latest "Harry Potter" film with Tat.

At last the cough is nearly gone.

Friday, June 04, 2004


Listening to the Dvorak Bagatelles this morning (for the unusual combination of string trio and harmonium) I was reminded of my old friend Theo who introduced me to this work, amongst many others. I met him when singing with the Melbourne Chorale in the late 1960s and maintained the friendship for thirty years until his death in the late 90s; though in the last years I did not see much of him.

A pleasant, light tenor he joined the Australian Opera chorus around 1970 and sang with them until his health proved too unreliable, when he retired to the country.

He kindly let me stay with him in Sydney on my various visits there in the 1970s, getting me in to dress rehearsals at the AO and taking me round backstage at the Opera House. He also introduced me to a wide range of music, in particular Janacek (Sinfonietta and the Glagolitic Mass). He was an enthusiastic collector of recordings, constantly buying and selling various performances of works and always keen to extol the virtues of this conductor's Mozart over that one's. Perhaps surprisingly he was more interested in listening to orchestral and instrumental music over opera or choral, but he did have quite a collection of Verdi, Strauss and (I think) some Wagner.

During the 1980s he branched out into photography taking many beautiful photographs of equally beautiful young men, many of which were published in the gay press of the time (under a pseudonym). Whenever I saw him he would always produce an album of his latest pictures to entertain me with.

After leaving the Opera he bought a property in the country and died, I think, in 1999. There are many other works than the Dvorak Bagatelles that remind me of him, but these beautiful miniatures are the most evocative. Thank you Theo.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Roll up, roll up! As you will see I've added the possibility for my reader(s) to add comments. That's if they haven't fallen asleep.
Trivia question

I'm now half-way through Act III of Die Walküre -- the opening, the famous Ride of the Valkyries is breathtaking. I remember first hearing it with the voices; up until then I'd heard it orchestrally in numerous films and cartoons. It's one of the most (ab)used pieces of classical music in this respect. When I first heard that thrilling opening and then the women came in with their cries the hair stood up on the back of my neck.

Mind you it does have one of the silliest translations (Frederik Jameson?): "Helwige, hey, hie here with thy horse." (I can't listen to this without a quiet smirk; thank goodness for Andrew Porter, though I have never checked what he did with this line.)

The question for today is -- name all the Valkyries. This is on a par with naming the Seven Dwarves (Dwarfs!), you can usually all but one. Good luck!

The cold persists -- in the mornings I feel fine, but when I try to sleep the cough kicks in with a vengeance. But I think I'm slowly improving.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I'm ready for my close-up...

Managed to get out of the office at lunchtime today as we were having some picutres taken of the choir for publicity in the Herald-Sun. Tat picked me up which made life a bit less hectic and we made our way to St Mark's Fitzroy where we had some jolly snaps taken. Let's hope they get a run.

The cough continues but I think it might have started to wane -- famous last words.

Listening to: Die Walküre (Solti) Yes, still. As my listening is usually limited to 20 minutes or so travelling to and from work it can take a while to get through large works like this. I've made it through Act II this last couple of days and remain impressed by this recording. Nilsson's laser beam voice is extraordinary, but it's not just about accuracy and clear tone, her performance has a dramatic urgency not often experienced. Hotter is also amazing; while the voice is perhaps not as steady as it had been, he sings with great humanity -- the soft singing in particular is most affecting. On to Act III and The Ride.