Monday, August 24, 2015

Disenchanted Wizard takes another step forward

My latest children's book, The Disenchanted Wizard, has now been revised again, and is about to go before my editor/structural advisor/picker-upper of errors and inconsistencies...

It was nearly ready the other day, I thought, and then just as I was about to send it off, I realised that I could improve the ending considerably. This took some rewriting of a couple of chapters and reshuffling of more. However, the result was worth doing, and I think the thing is better altogether for it.

This story has a brief reference to Grimhilda!, so it can justifiably be considered as part of the Grimhilderness series. I'm even thinking of a sequel to it (already) which will tie up its links to Grimhilderness still more. But that's not quite ready to get up and running yet.

The story concerns a 12-year-old girl, Della, whose cousin, Harold, has just received a new map - it's his hobby to study maps. This map is a bit unusual in that it has some badly drawn pictures around the sides. Which would be all right, except that one of the pictures moves...

It turns out that Della's father was involved in a very strange event about fifteen years before, and is now in danger. And of course, he's not the only one.

Anyway, that's just a taster of what's in it. I'm hoping to have it e-published before the end of the year. It's taken a lot longer to write than I'd expected, so I'm not promising that it will actually appear in 2015, but let's hope so!

Video splurge

Had a bit of a video splurge yesterday. Didn't start out that way, but circumstances just brought it about. I decided to see what Hitchcock films were available on You Tube, and found Notorious, with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. It's one of Hitchcock's less action-packed films, relying on the subtle interplay of character, and has only one really big scene: a party hosted by Claude Rains, a Nazi-sympathizer living in Brazil after the war. The characters are vividly drawn, and the dialogue full of sub-text: the love story that underpins the suspense is the main focus of the movie in many ways. I've seen it a couple of times before, but had forgotten some of the story. It stands up well after fifty-plus years.

After tea my wife and I carried on watching the Australian legal series, Janet King, which is apparently a spin-off from some other earlier series about a legal firm. We're up to about episode five or six, and I think I haven't seen a series that's so full of improbable legal stuff in a long time. Because the Attorney General seems to be able to command that people do what they're told, for her own political reasons, the Department of Public Prosecutions (where most of the story is focused) jump and go through ridiculous hoops trying to prove cases that are unprovable. Added to that is the detective and his boss who seem to think that building a murder case on the most flimsy of circumstantial evidence is good police work, and you have a series that while it's full of solid characters requires them to do absurd things. The police seem not too fazed about producing witnesses who tell lies; the legal team seem careless about ethics, and so on. If it wasn't actually interesting, it would have been dumped by now. The main character is a lesbian, living with another woman and their twin children, who are toddlers. The lesbian angle seems to be just that: another hook to throw odd bits of storyline onto.

In spite of all this we actually watched two episodes last night, which goes to show how something that's well done can get away with plot-hole murder.

Finally, after having written in one of my other blogs about a production of Puccini's opera, Gianni Schicchi, that I was involved in when I was at the Opera Centre in London in 1969, I decided to see if that was on You Tube too. It is, in at least three versions, and thankfully I picked the best-directed one to watch. The other two were okay (I checked out a minute or two of each) but the 2004 Paris version directed by Laurent Pelly, containing a very mixed European cast, was the one that I stuck with.

The opera, which runs for just on an hour, is a total ensemble piece, with a cast of fifteen or sixteen, nine of whom are on stage the entire time. There's no chorus, just larger and smaller roles (one lasting about two minutes). It's a piece of nonsense about a man, Buoso, who's died and left a very unsatisfactory will - that is, he hasn't left anything of substance to his relatives. They plot to bring in the cunning neighbour, Schicchi, and he, being even more cunning than they've thought, winds up replacing the original will with his own version, in which the bulk of the proceeds go to him.

The cast played the thing in a style verging on the comic grotesque, and there were even some surreal moments (a kind of ballet involving the moving around of the bed which features prominently). It's a lot of fun, and requires the main singers to do a huge amount of work. Those who are on stage all the time have to keep up particular characters constantly: there's no let up. Very enjoyable, even if it was sung in the original Italian with French subtitles....some of which I understood and some of which I probably misunderstood.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Milner and Bacchus

Some time ago we watched a number of episodes from both Inspector George Gently and Foyle's War. We've been watching them again on Netflix recently, and catching up with ones we missed.

They're two similar series in many respects: both set in the past (the first in the early sixties, and the second during and after the Second World War); both featuring an older and wiser senior detective with a sidekick. The older detective is always on the button, even when things flummox him, and in both cases he has a liberal point of view: not racist, not fazed by people's foibles, and - more in Foyle's case even than Gently's - he is inherently just, which sometimes means letting certain people off the hook. However episodes in both series often end with a hanging.

The biggest difference is between the two sidekicks. Foyle's man, Paul Milner, who was injured in the war and retired from duty, is an earnest, quietly-spoken, almost invisible character who, like a straight man in a comedy duo, asks all the pertinent questions, so that Foyle can pontificate. He's as dull as ditchwater (no fault of the actor, who's given an almost colourless character to deal with). There's another offsider, a young girl who starts off as Foyle's driver, and in the later series is the wife of an aspiring MP. She's a bit more interesting, though she often gets Foyle into difficulties by being too willing to take risks. Milner was eventually retired from the series: he moved to a different station, but even then Foyle came along inopportunely, and solved his cases for him (!)

Gently's sidekick is a Detective Sergeant called John Bacchus. He's presumptuous, arrogant, cocky, racist, chauvinistic and frequently wrong-headed. Even though he seldom solves much on his own, unlike Milner, he has personality in spades (it perhaps helps that he's played by Lee Ingleby, one of TV's top notch actors) and however much he trips up you can't help liking him.

Martin Shaw plays Gently, very quietly, only occasionally raising his voice, and even less often getting angry with someone who's blatantly trying to con the police. Shaw was 62 when he began the series in 2007; he's now 70, and doesn't move any faster than necessary.

The superb Michael Kitchen (who's three years younger) is Foyle. He can take a basic line and give it such emphasis, or surround it with pauses, that you think he's delivering Shakespeare. One of the delights of Foyle's War is Kitchen's acting. And his wry humour. I don't enjoy Shaw so much, though he has the measure of his character, and provides plenty of subtlety within a relatively quiet frame. Sometimes he seems to be given just a bit too much of the older, wiser stuff (though Bacchus can be such a dolt it's not hard), but he seldom overplays it.

The stories vary in intensity and interest. In general the supporting casts in the Gently series seem better than those in Foyle. But it's probably a moot point. There are plenty of good actors in both series, including some now famous faces in the earlier episodes, including David Tennant (Dr Who) and Emily Blunt.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Popular post

I have a bit of a thing about stats. I'm not trained as a statistician, but I've done quite a bit of reading in the subject, and also worked in a job late in my working life that involved some stats. But apart from the work angle I've always enjoyed finding out what the stats are about all manner of subjects - and checking the original stats have been correctly interpreted.

That's the wider view: just now I was having a look at the stats on this blog, and in particular which post has had the most visits since it first appeared. It turns out to be one that was written on 13th February, 2011, called Commonplace Post. It's fairly random, taking as its topic insurance and riffing on about the topic by using a few paragraphs I'd found in my Evernote file.

The interesting thing is that this post has had more than three times as many visits as the next most popular post. At this point that's 9923 to 3295. Nearly ten thousand visits to that post alone. That seems extraordinary for something as random as this. Check it out, you'll see what I mean.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Fictional people

Being at the point of having completed the first full draft of my latest piece of fiction*, and of having a sense that most of the characters seem to have had a life of their own even before they discovered themselves in the pages of my book, I was pleased to re-read this paragraph by Marilynne Robinson, from her essay, Imagination and Community (from the book of essays, When I was a child I read books). 

"I would say, for the moment, that community, at least community larger than the immediate family, consists very largely of imaginative love for people we do not know or whom we know very slightly. This thesis may be influenced by the fact that I have spent literal years of my life lovingly absorbed in the thoughts and perceptions of—who knows it better than I?—people who do not exist. And, just as writers are engrossed in the making of them, readers are profoundly moved and also influenced by the nonexistent, that great clan whose numbers increase prodigiously with every publishing season. I think fiction may be, whatever else, an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification."

I found this paragraph in an article on Robinson, by Mark O'Connell, which is well worth reading for its other insights too. 

* The Disenchanted Wizard, the third book of fantasy for children, all under the general umbrella of Grimhilderness. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A few random thoughts of Mahler's music

I finished reading Norman Lebrecht's 2010 book, Why Mahler: how one man and ten symphonies changed the world yesterday, and have done a rather hastily-written review here, so I'm not going to repeat what I said.

I just wanted to make a few notes about my experience of Mahler over a long period of time, which admittedly has been entirely through recordings. I've never actually had the opportunity, as far as I recall, of seeing his work performed live.

The first time I heard anything by Mahler was when I bought a record of his Fourth Symphony through a record club I belonged to, back in the late fifties/early sixties. They'd post out their record of the month, and you could either keep it (and pay for it) or send it back and get something else, or just get nothing. Anyway, the symphony started with sleighbells. Odd. And then in the fourth movement a woman began singing, sweeping along with the orchestra at a great pace - Leonard Bernstein was the conductor.

Singing in a symphony? Well of course I was young and naive, and didn't know that having singers in a symphony was hardly new - Beethoven had done it way back in the Ninth, though I probably wasn't aware of that then, being only a callow teenager. (I was ignorant enough to have been astounded to hear from another piano player that Shostakovich was not only still alive but still writing symphonies.)

But Beethoven's Ode to Joy in the Ninth (a jolly little folk song he commandeered which drives me mad wherever I hear it) was nothing compared to the joyous and delightful singing in the Mahler. Mahler's own songs often made their way into his symphonies in some form or other, and if you know the songs you'll recognise them in the symphonies; or vice versa. He's a very self-referential composer, which makes you think, when you hear one of his symphonies for the first time, that you've heard bits of it before. You probably have. He seems to use ideas from one symphony to the next, and certainly his style is so peculiar to him that on hearing a piece of music you can often identify it as being his: there are phrases, mannerisms, ways of orchestrating things that appear again and again.

This is hardly unusual: many composers' "voices" are surprisingly unique, in spite of the fact that they're working with the same bunch of notes. Mozart is recognisable almost invariably, so too Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and dozens of others.

But Mahler is a little different. I remember Chesterton (I think it was) saying that the books of Charles Dickens were like chunks cut from one long cloth. They were full of Dickensian stuff; and even where he plans out his books more carefully, it's unfailingly Dickens. Mahler, to me, seems the same. It's as if he had one enormous symphony inside him and just chopped off an hour or so at a time for the next one.

That's a simplification, of course. As is the comment about Dickens. And yet both have an element of truth in them.

I was a bit surprised the other day to find that I had five of Mahler's symphonies on CD. Which means that I've listened to a lot more of his music than I'd thought (apart from what I've heard on the radio over many years). I don't have the Symphony of a Thousand (it's number 8), so watched this on You Tube yesterday. The wonderfully enthusiastic Gustavo Dudamel conducts a combined - and enormous - orchestra made up of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. Four different choirs are involved, massed up and up beyond the orchestra on stands. (The youngest choir sings without music, and occasionally you see one of them turn to another and maybe tell them they've sung something wrong, or else one spies the camera and gives a grin.)  Apparently there are 1400 people involved. Crikey. There are seven soloists as well.

Mahler seems to have delighted in going for the extreme. In at least one other of his symphonies (no 2, the Resurrection) he lists out the instrumentation required, then adds, as the score progresses, twice as many of this and six more of those, as though musicians would suddenly appear out of the woodwork during the course of the performance. I'd love to see it happen, but it's probably not going to.

I don't know whether Mahler's Symphonies changed the world. Certainly hearing the 4th for the first time was a delightful surprise, but did it change my world? Possibly, but not in a way that made me turn direction. I still get a lump in my throat at hearing the singing beginning her song in it, but then music of all sorts does that. Listening to Mahler's 2nd Symphony the other day, which also has a large choir and soloists, I got all emotional when the choir came in, super-super softly, and just sang about the life after death, about being raised from the dead. Does it change my world? Well, I don't know, but it certainly adds to it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Draft completed

This has nothing to do with writing or
wizards. It just happens to be one of
my favourite photos from when my son
was small. He and I are sharing the legs
of the overalls. Don't ask me how.
I’m happy to report that as of today a complete draft of The Disenchanted Wizard has been finished. Of course there’s a good deal of work to come, but at least now there’s a framework for things to hang more securely on. 

This has certainly been a tough book to get off the ground, as my previous emails have noted. Hopefully the book will be all the better for it. 

Now I can get on with a part I enjoy almost as much as writing the story in the first place: making the words come even more alive and adding in all those touches that help the characters leap off the page...!  That’s the theory, anyway. 

This is a short note, since it’s late on Friday night, and I’m doing this between two music practices. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Jack Reacher the movie

Having read several of Lee Child's Reacher books over the last couple of years - they're the kind of book you pick up when your brain doesn't want to have to think too seriously but still wants to be engaged - I was interested to see how the movie Jack Reacher came off, because there was a furore from many Reacher fans when Tom Cruise was cast in the title role. 

The furore arose because Cruise is short, and Reacher is continually described in the books as around six and a half foot (around 198 centimetres for those who understand such things). Not only that, Reacher is solid and tends to knock people over if they get in his way. 

Interestingly enough, Child was okay with Cruise in the role, as he commented: "Reacher's size in the books is a metaphor for an unstoppable force, which Cruise portrays in his own way." Of Cruise's relatively small stature, Child said, "With another actor you might get 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher. With Tom, you'll get 100% of Reacher with 90% of the height." [Quotes from the Wikipedia page on the film.] 

So was the movie, now three years old, worth watching? Yes, because it retained the intricacy of the original plot sufficiently to produce some surprises. It had the typical one man (Reacher) versus a bunch of baddies set pieces that occur in many of the books: Reacher confidently asserts that he can take on five or six hulks and put them in their place (which is often hospital), is scoffed at by the aforesaid hulks, and then calmly does what he says he'll do. In the books of course, Child tends to describe in some detail why he achieves what he achieves, in grisly detail. In the movie this element got a bit lost. 

It retained Reacher's confidence about himself and his ability to live with minimal resources, and even without relationships. It retained his almost autistic ability to remember details, and to see what needs to be seen but is missed by others. And more. All in all a pretty good story. 

The car chase scene - in which Cruise does the actual stunts apparently - was okay, but has been bettered in a number of other movies. Still its climax, with the empty car casually moving down the street and bumping into yet another police car was nice. And the end of the movie, though it brought all the elements together, just seemed to be a bit underpar. There was tension, but not quite the tension that the books create. 

Still it filled up its two hours plus well (some reviewers thought it was too long, but I didn't), and it had solid actors in the supporting roles, including Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo and Robert Duvall. Rosamund Pike played the female lead, a good role until the end, where's she stuck like the female lead of old: waiting for the hero. Werner Herzog, the famed German film director, turned up in a small role as the Big Baddie, but basically it was his face that was effective; the role was a bit thin otherwise. 

Labouring the point

Somewhere along the line I've managed to hook into the Labour Party's email system, which means that at least once a week I get an email from one or other Labour MP telling me that the naughty National Party isn't doing things properly, and that I should write to the National MP in question and tell him so. And hundreds of others are doing this as well. And we'll make them change their approach/thinking/habits/behaviour...or whatever.

Well, yes, there are some things that the National Government is doing that are definitely not to my taste. All Governments all the time do some things that don't impress their constituents, and it's the right of the people to complain.

However, what concerns me about the Labour Party's emails is the fact that their main approach is to knock the Government. I know that those in Opposition always seem to see this as their main objective in life: "whatever the Government does we'll tell them they're wrong for doing it." It gets tedious and is counterproductive in the end.

Having Andrew Little, the current Leader of the Labour Party, popping up on TV every time there's some sort of political issue, and invariably saying nothing more than that the National Government is doing it wrong, is like having a neighbour poking his head over the fence every time you do something in your backyard and telling you what you should be doing. It's wearying.

The trouble is they almost never say how they would do it right. If the Opposition only opposes, and never proposes, then after a while you switch off and don't want to hear from them anymore.

So here's the Labour Party writing to me by email week after week, and in none of these emails is there anything that suggests how they would do it better. I have to assume that they have some plan up their sleeve, or that they know the proper way to do something, but they don't talk about it.

It's like two gangs in the street: there's the gang that's currently cock of the walk. They pretty much do what they want. The rival gang happens at the moment to be number two and not number one and they resent it. So they spend their time carping at everything gang number one does. It's self-defeating: no one wants to hear a whiner day after day. (I know this from experience because my wife has frequently told me so!)

So, Labour Party emailers, here's a suggestion. Instead of focusing on what the National Government is doing wrong all the time, how about showing me what you will do right when you're next in Government? Because at the moment I wouldn't vote for you as a Party if you paid me. (I have voted for my local Labour MP because I think he's got some nous, but for the Party as a whole? No way.)

Monday, July 13, 2015


The name of the site always reminds me of another similar name: the old throat lozenge, Fisherman's Friend, which has apparently been around since 1865. 

I've never personally seen it used by fishermen, although that was who it was first sold to, but my connection with it is in its use by singers, who, at one time swore by it as a cure for throats that weren't quite doing their job when it came to singing. Like a lot of things it seems to have had its day as far as singers are concerned - they've no doubt found something more soothing - but the actual Fisherman's Friend lozenge is still going strong, the company producing five billion of the things a year. That's enough to soothe the throats of around two-thirds of the world's population at any one time. Good grief. 

The curious thing is that the Musician's Friend, as a name, would have been more appropriate for singers. When they soothed themselves with a Fisherman's Friend, you had to wonder at the compability. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Something's screwy somewhere....

"Stadium Profit Forecast" proclaims a headline in today's ODT.  I thought initially - it isn't April the first is it? - sadly, it's not. When you read the whole article you discover that the 'profit' comes, yet again, at the expense of the ratepayers of Dunedin. In fact, in real terms there's absolutely no profit at all.

'We're all about delivering economic benefits', says Terry Davies. Well yes, 'economic benefits' to shareholders, maybe, when they get dividends, but the economic benefits for Dunedin citizens are as always nil. 

It's all playing around with accounts: in order to turn Stadium losses into profits, the
1. Rent was halved by $2 million.
2. $30 million of Stadium debt was transferred to the Council's books.

The result is that the Ratepayers' Stadium bill will increase by $1.81 a year, to a total of $11.65 per year.

The supposed profits might reach $600,000, Davies enthuses. Well, they might, if the ratepayers of Dunedin don't get sick to death of the whole farce and demand their money back. 

Someone who understands accounting better might be able to explain how there are actual profits. In my amateur bookkeeping understanding (I did get 100% in a bookkeeping exam, many years ago) all I can see if this: if you remove debts from a company and you cut their rent in half then of course that will allow to make money more easily. Meanwhile, the company that's taken on the debts will have to pay them at some point, presumably with interest. I couldn't see a Bank ever offering to do this.

Something's screwy somewhere...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Magic Flute

I went with some friends to see The Magic Flute at the Mayfair Theatre last night. Let me say firstly that I was greatly impressed for reasons I'll detail in due course. There were also some quibbles, which I'll discuss as I come to them. However the being impressed far outweighed the quibbles.

John Drummond produced the piece in a 'renovated' version. This meant that some of the lyrics were altered to a more 21st century language, and were aligned to the idea of cellphones and iPads. The only problem with that is when you try and include a 21st century birdcatcher you immediately run into problems. Papageno came in on a bike, which was fun, but...birdcatchers don't really figure greatly in the 21st century corporate world.

Still, there was lots of busyness from the three ladies (now corporate-besuited PAs) and the Queen of the Night (or CEO) to distract from such difficulties. There was some fiddling around with the structure of the plot: the Queen appeared at the very beginning rather than later, as did Monostatos (a security officer, again besuited, though with hair that stood on end as though he'd been electrocuted -and no darkened face. Too PC for that these days.) Some of the dialogue was strongly 21st century which suited the overall tone - though was it really necessary for the Queen of the Night to use a four-letter word?

If you didn't know the story, or couldn't remember what happens, you wouldn't know that normally Tamino is chased on by a Serpent. No Serpent here, though the three ladies did some rather odd swordplay as a substitute. And equally, in the second half, if you weren't familiar with things, you'd wonder what on earth Tamino and Pamina were up to when they were going through their trials, which, quite honestly, wouldn't have caused much of a flutter to any 21st century person of self-esteem.

So much for the minor quibbles.

Only one major quibble, and this was a matter of casting. The 19-year-old who played Sarastro, Robert Lindsay, will have a good bass voice in time, but it was an awfully big ask to cast him in a part that requires an utterly rich bass sound, one that shocks us with its authority. I heard that he'd been subbed in when someone else couldn't play the part. Be that as it may, surely in the whole of Dunedin there is a bass singer with some gravitas who could have done this role. Why are Opera Otago's productions now being cast almost entirely with University students?  Dunedin has plenty of good singers and actors. Don't they get a chance to audition for these productions?

Okay, I think that's the quibbles. Better to get them out of my hair.

Here are the things that impressed: (non-University student) James Adams as Tamino. What a great voice this man has, and he can act as well. He was in Anthony Ritchie's This Other Eden back in 2014, and gave a great performance there. Here he did Mozart justice at every point. I was keen to see James perform, because he was in Opera Alive for two or three years; it was a group I was musical director for, for around seven years.

Tyler Neumann (whom I saw at a Jonathan Lemalu masterclass last year, and who didn't then seem to have the strength for an opera) gave a delightful performance as Papageno: good singing, good comedy and sheer enjoyment in everything he did.

Ingrid Fomison-Nurse played the Queen of the Night. This role doesn't usually require a lot of acting: it's the singing we're focused on. This young lady didn't disappoint. Those wonderful notes that sit high above the stave were all there, and in general she did an admirable job, even if a few notes were missing from the runs.

Her three Ladies had a good deal more to do in this version than I remember from previous productions; that was fine: Julia Moss-Pearson, Beth Goulstone and Claire Barton (another former Opera Alive participant) were all in fine voice and sang Mozart's wonderful harmonies superbly. Mentioning Opera Alive reminds me that Claire, who is short, sang a song in one of the OA shows alongside the tallest Opera Alive member we'd ever had. He was a singer from one of the Pacific Island countries, and I can't remember his name any more, but the lovely contrast of tall and short went over very well with the audience.

The other two soprano roles, Pamina and Papagena (here called Poppy Gainer, for some reason - there was a bit of inconsistency in renaming the characters) both did great jobs with their singing. From the point of view of the quality of singing this cast certainly shows that singing training at the University Music School is up with the best. Both the ladies gave good lively performances too.

There was no chorus, so three young men had to deal with all the work usually done by a larger number. That was a pity, because the male chorus music in this opera is beautiful. Why couldn't a chorus be found for the production? Choruses are an essential part of opera.

The three 'boys' were played by three girls, which was fine, as the blend of voices works just as well. The ensemble writing in The Magic Flute is consistently interesting musically, and it was a delight to hear it performed so well from all the cast.

The set design. Well, this was a bit of a curiosity. A kind of lattice hung down from the flies in the centre of the stage. It was well lit, but it meant that anyone standing behind it, or just underneath it, wasn't nearly so well lit. The remainder of the scenery consisted of a platform with steps leading off down the front, and a ramp leading off on either side. Extra work for the singers getting up and down these, as they did continually during the night. Yes, it gives variety of ways to place your singers, but it also means that audience really wonders, in their heart of hearts, why the singers so often go racing up the steps and then down a ramp, when it was far easier to just walk around the construction. Yes, I know, far too fussy.

There was also a large screen at the back on which black and white and somewhat fuzzy photographs were projected. These seemed to bear no relation to the story or the settings. I guess whoever designed this aspect knew what they were on about. However it wasn't clear to the audience - or at least this part of the audience, or the people I was with.

Costuming had its points: both Papageno and Tamino were intriguingly dressed, one in overalls and the other in hiking gear. But as the evening wore on the colour in the costumes became increasingly dull: Pamina wound up in something that was reminiscent of an army green, and Papagena/Poppy wasn't very bright for a character who's origin is birdlike. The members of Sarastro's community were dressed in long robes, but there was little decoration.

Well, you can't have everything, I suppose. The singing (and orchestra playing - from a smaller number of musicians than Mozart wrote for) was excellent. Mozart's music continues to shine - you even come out of the theatre humming the tunes. Those things in themselves are of great value.