Wednesday, December 29, 2010
My collaborator and I sat down earlier this week and re-considered the date for putting on the musical. She's keen to do it this year, say in September, while there's still some impetus behind it from a few others who have so far been involved. Plus, waiting around another year for me to finish the music isn't perhaps very exciting for her.
That night I didn't sleep very well, between thinking about the fact that I'll be out of a job officially by the end of February 2011, that my wife and I will then be on a considerably leaner income, and that if I'm to get this music written in the next few months that's quite an ask.
At least that's how I viewed it then. The collaborator has since realised that the Rugby World Cup is due here in Sept/Oct, and that puts Sept pretty much out of the picture in terms of presenting anything theatre-wise. Too many people may have their brains elsewhere. So she's wondering about late August as a production date. Crikey, that gives me even less time.
On the other hand, I have about 25% of the music written - and a good deal of that scored for a pit orchestra - and there will be repetitions and repeats of themes, and borrowing of bits of music from the original version of the musical (the 30-year-old version), so perhaps it's not such a big ask. Especially if I concentrate on the piano score version rather than trying also to orchestrate as I go.
It may be a good thing that I won't be working after February! Sounds like I'll have more than enough on my plate...but also less income. Hmmmmm.
Neither my wife or I are keen to work regularly anymore, in some ways. I've been working for 50 years (apart from two stints when I was out of work previously, one of six months, and one of about three), and she's been working since she was 15. Admittedly she's had more time out than I have, with being at home looking after very young children (three under five at one point). That has to be counted as good solid work (although it was less restricted than having to go to an actual job), so in a sense she's been working for 46 years as well.
Neither of us are averse to work, but I think we're at the stage where working on our own terms may be more preferable than being under a boss and having to do so many hours a week. Time will tell, as will the state of the income. She wondered about the possibility of running a small business from home; that's fine if we can find something that doesn't lose money, and that doesn't require us to be on deck 24/7. Perhaps we could look at small business phone systems to see if it's possible to work from wherever we are....on the beach, out in the middle of nowhere, walking the dog in the open air...? Vodafone gives the impression that it's possible to work from anywhere, but when my wife and I went for a walk with the dog this morning, 2 degrees wasn't working on the mobile, and they run through Vodafone, I believe.
Anyway, this is all a bit of a wander; what I need to get on and do, whatever happens with the musical, is draw up a bit more of a plan of attack in regard to the music than I have done so far. Up till now it's been a matter of writing some of the songs I knew would fit in at various points, and then going back to the beginning and writing from there. It's a workable approach, and has been successful for the most part, but I'm at the point now where things need to cohere even further.
Off I go to cohere!
Photo by Jorge Franganillo
Murray McCully, I've only just discovered, is Minster [sic] of Foreign Affairs, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister for the Rugby World Cup. We need a Minister for the Rugby World Cup? Crikey!
Unfortunately, I missed what he was saying about what New Zealanders should be doing in relation to the Cup, because it was on the radio, and the bath was running in the background and the kettle was boiling. But it sounded as though he was doing an Aunty Government thing about telling us to behave ourselves and give a good impression to overseas visitors. But I could be totally wrong...
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Books aren't one of the top sellers on any of these auction sites - but they do sell. Which brings me back to retail in general. Nowadays around Christmas we have the pre-Christmas sales, which start about November, then the December sales, and then the just-before-Christmas sales, which smacks of desperation. And if that wasn't enough we have the Boxing Day sales starting the day after Christmas - and reducing the Christmas sales still further.
When these Boxing Day sales first began, they were a way for the retailers to get rid of some of that unsold Christmas stuff. Now they're just part of the whole ridiculous sales-surrounding-Christmas period, which goes on for virtually a couple of months. There are so many sales that no one's buying anything at full price. In spite of the accountant at work who says that the retailers will have bought stuff at really low prices, and can afford to sell them off, I suspect that this isn't entirely the case. There may be big retailers, like Farmers, or the Warehouse or Briscoes, with their endless special weekend sales, that can do this - it's part of their ongoing modus operandi. But the small retailers, who don't have the benefit of mass buying, just have to discount their goods and cut their losses, and from my experience, the more you discount the more you have to sell - and sell fast, in order to keep ahead of the cash flow difficulties that then arise.
I don't think this whole business of sales all round Christmas are helping retail in the slightest. All they're doing, for the most part, is helping retailers cover their costs. It's likely they're not even covering their costs any more. They can't be making any real profits. Discounts, when they aren't your normal way of selling are just a killer. You can't keep giving away your stock. The more you encourage people to look for sales and bargains, the more money you are going to lose. It's a fact of life. I've been there.
I'm happy to stick to Trade Me, selling books that I bought at nonsense low prices in the first place, or which have been donated, or which I no longer need on my own shelves. These don't cost me anything, effectively, so any profit I get is a gain. And I don't have overheads...
Thursday, December 23, 2010
I think it was someone like John Mellencamp who said in a Rolling Stone interview years ago that all musicians only had three or four songs. What he meant was, if you listen to most of your favourite artists, their musical palette is probably quite narrow in terms of things like chord sequences, particular rhythms and characteristic sounds. It's why songs have a familiar feel to them even though they are new. It even goes a bit wider than that, maybe you've been to a U2 concert where they have woven someone else's song into their own and it fits melodically etc. Pop music is quite simple really, two or three chords, built around a beat add lyrics---the artfulness is not simply in the structure but what is done within that structure.
When he's talking about musicians, of course, he's talking about the popular scene; more serious composers might consider that they had a couple more than three or four songs in them, or even three or four themes. We'd hope so.
Nevertheless, when you listen to any Mahler symphony, or any other of his works, the Mahler trademarks turn up all the time. That's perhaps slightly different to the personality of the composer being inherent in their music: Mozart always sounds like Mozart, as does Beethoven, but they don't tend to use Mozart or Beethoven ''trademarks' in the way Mahler does. He might be an extreme example, and I might be waffling here (it has been known to happen). Thinking about my own music, I don't in general find there are recognizable connections between one piece and another - but perhaps it takes an outsider's ear to hear them?
Totally unrelated to this, it's interesting that when I was younger I generally wrote words like 'recognisable' with a 'z' instead of an 's': recognizable. For some reason I seem to have slipped quite unconsciously into the 's' approach as the years have gone on. There now, wasn't that interesting?
Jurgen Wolff reports:
One of the reasons that David Hockney has kept the attention of the art world is that he's open to trying new things.
For a while, he experimented with Polaroid pictures taking advantage of the fact that for a short time after the picture came out of the camera you could squish and squash it to distort the image.
Now the 73-year-old has been using his iPhone and an app called Brushes to create original artwork.
The New York Review of Books reported in 2009, "Over the past six months, Hockney has fashioned literally hundreds, probably over a thousand, such images, often sending out four or five a day to a group of about a dozen friends, and not really caring what happens to them after that."
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Spyderco are a company that specialises in knives, in a big way. Every possible kind of knife you can imagine needing is available through them. Their 'salt' range relates to knives used in the fishing industry, as far as I can tell, (you can see an example on the right).
But what I found interesting on their site was their knowledge page, where they not only have a glossary of terms, a list of the types of handles, the blade coatings, the clips and much more, they have a section called 'blade shapes.' Like the jargon of any specialised group the words in this section are fascinating in themselves: a drop point blade, a hawkbill, the Wharncliffe blade and the swedge. Here's the definition of the last on that list: Also called a false edge, it is a ground edge on the back of the blade's spine, that is chamfered, or non-sharpened. It removes weight from the blade and can change the blade's balance and penetration performance and appearance.
When you work in a particular field, the jargon becomes second nature - as a musician of many moons, I speak a lingo that's extremely familiar to me, and to a number of other people I'm associated with. However, to those outside the circle, much of this language has no meaning, because the words just don't have a connection with their lives. (Consequently, whenever a musical question comes up on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, I always find it easy - not so the contestant necessarily.)
One of my friends at church this morning came out with an entirely unfamiliar word in passing conversation - he delighted in it, but I can't remember it at the moment at all (!) However, during the week I came across two other unfamiliar words which I have remembered: 'eclogue' and 'intinction.' I'm not sure how I'll drag them into everyday conversation (although they did make an appearance on Facebook) but I'm doing my best to remind myself of their existence by dropping them into places such as this blog.
English is a fascinating language, and continues to grow by leaps and bounds as we create more and more of our words based on older ones or by finding new ways of expressing something, or by pinching words from other languages and making them our own (as we're doing increasingly with Maori words).
Robert McCrum, writing in the Guardian recently, reminded us that about 350 million people worldwide speak English as a mother tongue. According to the British Council, the number learning English will hit 2 billion in the next 10-15 years. That's a third of mankind. But what is perhaps more interesting still is that the Oxford English Dictionary lists about 500,000 words. A further half million technical and scientific terms remain uncatalogued. By contrast, German scores a vocabulary of 185,000 words, and French fewer than 100,000, including such Franglais as le snacque barre and le hit parade.
500,000 words, without counting all the technical and scientific jargon. I'd have needed to have learnt more than twenty words a day for every day of my life to catch up with all those, let alone all the words that aren't included in the dictionary. Eclogue, swedge and intinction will have to do for the present.
Friday, December 17, 2010
You're on the hunt for sneezers, for fans, for people willing to cross the street to work with you. Everyone else can pound sand, that's okay. Being remarkable also means being ignored or actively disliked.
From Seth Godin: Lady Gaga and me
Incidentally, I had no idea what a 'sneezer' was in the context, so it was helpful to find this definition: Sneezer: An online marketing slang term coined by Charles Nicholls, founder of SeeWhy, to describe any customer that spreads your offers and promotions through social networks. Social networking sites make it incredibly easy for your "sneezer" customer to share promotions and positive word-of-mouth marketing about your business in a single click with his or her network of friends.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I'd divvied up the parts between the eight of us, and some of the actors had a ball getting 'into character' - and gave the rest of us a laugh as well at this unexpected dimension to the reading. I was really chuffed at the way they all took it to heart and came out with unexpected nuances - and occasional misreadings that added to the humour. It's quite an achievement swapping from character to character (there are getting on for thirty speaking parts in the script, some big, some tiny - and of course many of them will be doubled up in the production, that is, two or three parts will be played by the same actor) but the cast did wonderfully, and seldom missed a beat.
I keep calling them the 'cast' -
more than one of them enthused about getting on and rehearsing in the near future. Unfortunately, that's not quite going to happen: the music has to be completed yet, along with the instrumental scoring (worse, in a way: I've decided to change the instrumentation, which will mean further revising of the score - but it's necessary). We're looking at a possible production date in the first half of 2012.
Which seems a long way away. But one more step has been taken on the trip, and what's more, we now have several other enthusiasts involved, which is what the show will need if it's to really get off the ground.
One of these days it'll get a name, too!
Whoever Gen I is, he has a superb gift for editing: the cutting of shots in this video and their melding together with the music is top quality. Okay, it doesn’t ‘mean’ anything, but it’s an enormous celebration of the visual aspects of movie-making, of the timing of ‘moments’, of colour and light and the way a phrase is spoken. I love it!
I've never had to organise a retreat - apart from the ones I've done on my own without any other bodies involved - but if I did, I'd certainly be thinking about at least some of the ideas Seth Godin proposes in his latest blog post.
He doesn't actually want to call them retreats, but advances - something I concur with entirely, and which I've said also they should be called, for years.
Basically he reviews the 'advance' as a place to do some real forward thinking, innovative network building, and a heap more. He comes up with some twenty points, any one of which would be a good addition to most retreats as they're presently conducted.
You may already do some of these (all of these? nah!) but even if you do, his post is worth a read and some reflection.
Here are a couple of my favourites:
- Never (never) have people go around a circle and say their name and what they do and their favorite kind of vegetable or whatever. The problem? People spend the whole time trying to think of what to say, not listening to those in front of them (I once had to witness 600 people do this!!)
- Instead, a week ahead of time, give each person an assignment for a presentation at the event. It might be the answer to a question like, "what are you working on," or "what's bothering you," or "what can you teach us." Each person gets 300 seconds, that's it.
- Use placecards at each meal, rotating where people sit. Crowd the tables really tightly (12 at a table for 10) and serve buffet style to avoid lots of staffers in the room. Make it easy for people to leave boring tables and organically sit together at empty ones.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Paying cheap today will cost dearly tomorrow. I know that's not quite a proverb (well at least it wasn't until a minute ago) but it applies to the way Kiwirail is dealing in regard to building 300 new flat-deck wagons. They're going to get the Chinese to build them, (in China, of course) because they claim that the price the Chinese offer is 70% below the NZ tenders. When you read more carefully you find that the 70% may apply to the highest tenderer, but it doesn't appear to apply to Hillside Workshop's tender.
"Hillside's was third-best of nine tenders but it was still 25% more expensive than the tender prepared" by China CNR Corporation.
So what did I mean by my opening proverb? What will cost dearly tomorrow? Well, for starters, if you insist on employing overseas workers (and the Americans have found this to their cost already in their insistence on outsourcing) you eventually find you have a heap of unemployed people on your hands. And how do you keep them from death's door? Oh, yes, you pay them welfare. Um, doesn't that cost you in the long run?
Okay, Kiwirail, let's make it really simple. Say that in my family I have a plumber - an excellent plumber too. I have a plumbing job. He could do it, but so could someone from Christchurch, who just happens to be staying in Dunedin at the moment. The big bonus, I seem to think, is that the guy from Christchurch is going to cost me half the price of my family member. So I go for him. The job gets done. I notice that it's not entirely satisfactory, but the plumber has already returned to Christchurch, and I can't seem to contact him - and anyway, he told me before he left that if there were any problems he'd have to charge me to come back from Christchurch to fix the problems up.
Whoops. Now I have an unsatisfactory job and no cheap way of getting the plumber back to fix it. Shamefacedly, I go to the plumber in my family. He'll fix up the other plumber's less than satisfactory work, but it will not only cost me more, it also leaves me with egg on my face.
Maybe this analogy is too obscure for Kiwirail. Let me make it simpler still: if you don't look after the workers in your own country, eventually you'll have no workers - they'll either be on the dole, or will have gone to Australia. It's a bit like the way we treat fruit consumers in New Zealand: we send all our best stuff overseas and leave the shoddy goods for those at home.
What does it say about how Government and Big Business think about the local people?
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I fear, whenever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revivial of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger and love of the world in all its branches.
Quoted in Philip Yancey's 'What Good is God?' - pg 177
Seems to me that most diet plans only work well for the time you're on them. Once you come off them, you're on your own, and unless you've made progress in training yourself not to eat the way you did before, you'll go back to where you started.
The old issue of willpower is the problem; very few of us have enough willpower to completely change our lifestyles, even though that lifestyle may be threatening our life. I remember our pastor quoting some stats in church that the majority of people who had heart attacks went back to the kind of lifestyle they'd had before even though that could cause them to have problems again.
Human beings are notoriously difficult to change, and it's even more difficult for us to change ourselves. (Which is, of course, why we need God to work on us - but that's another story.)
Anyway, for something a bit more cheerful than diets...try this joke that @Liturgy tweeted on Twitter...
They canned the Twitter movie. Test audiences found it too hard to keep track of all 140 characters.
Monday, December 13, 2010
‘Radical changes are occurring in what democratic societies teach the young, and these changes have not been well thought through..…The humanities and the arts are being cut away…in virtually every nation of the world. Seen by policy makers as useless frills, at a time when nations must cut away all useless things in order to stay competitive in the global market, they are rapidly losing their place in curricular, and also in the minds and hearts of parents and children. Indeed, what we might call the humanistic aspects of science and social science – the imaginative, creative aspect, and the aspects of rigorous critical thought – are also losing ground as nations prefer to pursue short term profits by the cultivation of the useful and highly applied skills suited to profit making.’
From Martha C. Nussbaum's book,Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities
Enthusiastically endorsed on Matthew Taylor's blog.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Talking of plays, next Wednesday several of us are going to do a read-through of the musical script the collaborator and I have been working on for much of this year. I printed it out today (not using laserjet 5500 toner since my printer is a Dell and only takes specific Dell products, nothing generic, and only available from Dell overseas - just thought I'd throw that in) and made several copies on the photocopier at work. It'll be interesting to see how the script reads when a group of people unfamiliar with how it's been put together get a hold of it.
In my last post I mentioned that I had a pile of books to read, and, fatally, I went to the library today and brought home yet another. However, I'm already 100 pages through it (reading in the bath is a great place to focus), so it shouldn't put the other books off for long.
It's Keith Osborn's Something Written in the State of Denmark and is his diary of the time he spent acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2009 (?), doing three different plays: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, and Love's Labours Lost. I like his easygoing style, and the way he records the details of rehearsals and production, the gradual movement from not knowing the play to knowing it so well you can do it night after night with ease - mostly.
Coming back to my opening theme of learning lines, I found that Osborn has an interesting section on learning lines, which I might just quote in full...he's talking at this point about being an understudy for Patrick Stewart, who played both the Ghost and Claudius, in Hamlet.
"Learning lines when you're actually playing the part is much easier than understudying it for several reasons. Obviously you have hours of rehearsal to get to grips with it, as opposed to whatever time the assistant director can filch from the main schedule. But also when rehearsing you get to associate physical actions and moves with the lines which help them to fuse with the cerebral cortex. As an understudy, lines are learnt in isolation, the actor alone with his script, at home or on the way to work, in shops or the Post Office, or wandering the streets. To that end it's a question of repetition, repetition, repetition of small chunks of speeches, then on to whole speeches, then whole scenes one by one until the whole play is built up incrementally in one's head. Then back to the beginning again, then again, then again....
"Although the language is difficult, Shakespeare's verse helps in several ways. The rhythm of the iambic pentameter is itself (de-DUM de-DUM de-DUM de-DUM de-DUM) can act as a hook to catch those elusive words and meanings. Also whatever internal rhymes, alliterations or antitheses can be found help too.
"Basically, magpie-like, you steal whatever tool you can to burn the lines into the synapses. At some point, you think 'phew, it's all in there, HURRAH!' BUT in rehearsals on your feet more often than not even this relatively mild performance pressure means that what's been rock solid in your bonce whilst on your own in the comfort of your armchair, with a beverage of choice, turns to complete slush in front of your fellow understudies. With inexorable cruelty the lines melt like snowballs in the sun - or the hell of your own paranoia - as you conclude that THEY'LL NEVER SINK IN! Of course eventually they do but boy oh boy oh boy sometimes it feels like they just won't." [pg 100]
Osborn appears in the photo to the right rear - this is A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was done in modern(ish) day dress.
Having been released from reading almost solely for the Varsity course I was doing, I now seem to be soaking up books left, right and centre on all manner of topics - though strangely enough, few of them are fiction. At the moment I just can't seem to find the right novel to read, and though I've started a couple they haven't enthused me in the slightest. This is nothing against fiction; it's just my state of mind at the moment, I guess.
A friend of mine - the collaborator on the play we're doing, as it happens - was enthusing last night about a trilogy called The Salterton Trilogy. These three books were written by William Robertson Davies (he tended to drop the William when writing), a man who is credited with being one of Canada's most distinguished men of letters (a title he hated, apparently).
The three books in the trilogy are Tempest-Tost (1951), Leaven of Malice (1954) (which won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour), and A Mixture of Frailties (1958). They apparently have a background of amateur theatricals, (as you might gauge from this cover) which could certainly make them interesting to me.
They have very little to do with shower faucets, which is hardly surprising - though not having read the books yet, I could be wrong on this. And why did I mention that? Just to see if you were on your toes. Your comments will enlighten me as to whether this was the case or not. I'd hate to think you were skimming through this blog post just picking out the interesting bits and ignoring the rest. Though one of the books I got from the library recently - and it was an interloan too, meaning it cost me real money - was so thin in content (heaps of quotes from famous people but not much else) that I skimmed a good three-quarters of it before I came to anything that really aroused my interest. Terrible state of affairs, but such is the nature of books. And anyway, if I'm going to read at all I need to keep reading as fast as I can...being as old as I am, I may not have much reading time left....!
Friday, December 03, 2010
However, on a site discussing treatments for rosacea, instead of showing us a person whose face has obviously been affected by the skin irritation, we have the usual smiling model [such as the example on the right] whose face has never known acne, let alone rosacea.
Some famous people who've had rosacea include Bill Clinton (did you ever notice?), J P Morgan, W C Fields (you thought it was because he'd been drinking, didn't you?) and Mariah Carey.
Well, there you go. You learn some things every day. If you're curious enough.
Photo courtesy of Chepe Nicoli.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
New hotel Dubai
Dubai is known for its extravagent architecture, and the planned Apeiron Hotel will be no exception, as you can see from this photo. This is to be a 7-star hotel - I didn't know there were 7-star hotels (but then I don't exactly live in these circles). The hotel will be accessible only by plane or boat.
It's planned to be built on a small island less than half a kilometre off the Dubai coast and will cost a mere US$500 million.
I'd never heard this expression before, but it seems that 'revenue sharing' is what happens, at least as far as the Internet is concerned, when people who have affiliate programs running on their blogs or other websites, share the income that comes as a result of people clicking on the ads and (preferably) buying something as a result. I used to have an affiliate with Amazon, but it was pretty much a non-starter for me. However, on another site where I 'deposit' articles that stay readable pretty much forever (at least in Internet terms) I gain revenue from both the article itself and also from Google's Adsense system. The latter came in a couple of years ago on this site, and has proved to be the more valuable of the two systems.
One of these days I'll actually make my first $US100 off Adsense. It'll only have taken me three or four years...
Monkey Defense games (I have a feeling we'd normally spell that as 'defence' in New Zealand) are also called Monkey Tower Defense Games, because they involve Monkeys, Towers, Balloons and....Defense. Actually now that I read things properly, it's not 'balloons' but 'bloons' - bloons seemingly are merely balloons that people like to pop in games on the Internet. Okay....
That's how the Monkey Defense game started, with an increasing number of balloons/bloons needing to be popped. Sounds ridiculously infantile, but it took off like a storm, and now there are innumerable games involving the same principle...although principle might be too high-falutin a word for what the game involves.