Misbehaving opera stars

Two interesting recent postings by Norman Lebrecht.

First, Anna Nebtrenko has been bunking off from Bayreuth in order to go to a family wedding. Both she and her also-bunking-off husband were simultaneously “ill”, but then put themselves all over social media, being not at all ill, in Azerbaijan.

Lebrecht is not impressed:

Today’s breed of opera managers does not contain many heroes but at some point – and it will not take long – one manager will stand up and say to Netrebko, as Rudolf Bing did to Maria Callas: get out of my house.

For Callas, it was all downhill from that point on.

For Netrebko and Eyvazov, it’s just a matter of time.

I did not know that about Callas and Bing. Blog and learn.

Second, another operatic superstar, Placido Domingo, has been accused of sexual harassment. No force involved, but definitely harassment. Persistent sexual pressure and not taking no for an answer: bad. If the suggestion is that saying yes may result in career advancement, that’s bad too. If the further suggestion is that saying no may result in career retardation, that’s very bad. Domingo is definitely being accused of the first two.

Accused. The comments at Lebrecht alternate between wanting justice for the harassed, and those wanting justice for those accused of harassment, perhaps wrongly.

I favour both. As does Jeannie Suk Gersen.

Police horses outside my front window

Quite a few times, during the last few days, I’ve been hearing the clip-clop of what I already knew to be police horses, outside my home. I knew they were police horses, because those are the only horses I ever see in my vicinity. After a couple of such soundings, I tried to photo them, but by the time I got my camera going, they’d gone.

Yesterday, however, they were back, and I got luckier:

Nice of them to turn right like that, so I could get a less unflattering view of them, wasn’t it?

I tried googling to find where such horses might be based, but am none the wiser. There’s a Facebook page, which keeps saying that there are stables to be found in the middle of Victoria Station, which can’t be right. I’m guessing the stables are just “somewhere in Victoria”, and that’s how they like to keep it. But, what do I know? Not even that, actually.

In this Guardian piece about the work of such horses and their riders, it says this:

The Metropolitan Police has 150 officers and 120 horses at eight stables across London who perform a variety of roles, from high visibility patrolling to appearing at ceremonial functions and carrying out public order duties such as …

Such as the football match the article describes, a friendly, between England and Sweden. And it would seem that what I observed must have been “high visibility patrolling”.

Concerning the football match, we later read this:

It is incredibly moving to watch a line of just six horses effortlessly holding back 35,000 fans. The relationship between the police and the British public may be troubled, but judging by this night at least, it seems the force’s equine members still draw a healthy respect.

Healthy respect? My guess is it’s more a case of everyone knowing that hurting human cops is okay, because all’s fair in love and rioting. But hurt a horse, and the whole world considers you scum. I remember the IRA hurting a horse, and the reaction from everyone was: right, that does it. I do not like the IRA any more. Bombing humans to death in places like Manchester and Ireland. That’s okay. But, a horse? Now they’ve crossed a line.

Surrey v Middlesex T20: Signs and notices

Last night, good friend of mine and of this blog Darren arranged for me to go with him to a cricket match. Thanks a century by Middlesex captain Dawid Malan, Surrey were on the back foot throughout, and were beaten well before the official end.

Which is perhaps why I found myself enjoying all of the many incidentals of the game at least as much as I enjoyed the game itself. Even before I got inside the ground, I was taking photos of signs, many of them involving the names of Surrey greats of the past, familiar from the many hours of my childhood spent listening to cricket on the radio. Although, while I clearly recall Surridge, Lock, Laker, May and Stewart from those far off times, and while I know who Nat Sciver is and who Jack Hobbs (the gate) was, Tom Richardson (the plaque – never noticed that before) was way before my time:

All but the last three of those were photoed before the game had even begun. Darren says he likes to be there to “soak up the atmosphere”, and so we got there at 4.30 pm, for a 6.30 pm start. I had a great time photoing lots of things that you never normally see in regular cricket photos.

That “Welcome to the Kia Oval” sign I include to ram home that if you are anything officially connected to Surrey and you ever refer to the Kia Oval merely as “The Oval”, you will be savagely punished.

As you can see, the World Cup is still being remembered fondly, and smoking is forbidden throughout the ground, as are a bunch of other things, so you don’t feel tempted to throw them at the players. Or the umpires. Also no musical instruments.

The sign which says “4” on it means that someone has hit a 6, almost certainly Malan. That’s because spectators get given cards with 4 on one side and 6 on the other, to flaunt when someone hits a 4 or a 6, and my photoing was from the wrong side of the sign, so to speak. When someone hit a 4, that sign would say, to me, 6. At first I was puzzled at all the signs saying 6 when it was only 4. As you can maybe tell, this is the first T20 game I’ve ever actually been to.

The sign on a pole is to advertise the game at the Oval against Glamorgan tomorrow evening. Having now lost their first two games, Surrey need to start winning.

LATER: I missed this one!:

Next time I go the Oval, I’ll maybe do a complete photo-inventory of all the signs there that I can find. There have to be many more than I encountered yesterday.

A tax infographic about and a meeting at my home about Hong Kong

Dominic Frisby:

Frisby says that Dan Neidle will like this. I don’t know anything about Dan Neidle, other than this. But I like it. As much for the colours and its hand-done nature as for its content.

Concerning Hong Kong, last night I semi- (as in: still to be solidified and date still to be settled) signed up a Hong Kong lady to speak at one of my Last-Friday-of-the-Month meetings, about how Hong Honk is demonstrating back, so to speak, against the Chinese Government’s plans to subjugate it.

I warned her that my meetings are not large, and not as a rule attended by The World’s Movers and Shakers (although such personages do sometimes show up). But that didn’t bother her, or didn’t seem to. She seems to understand instinctively that big things can come out of small gatherings, if only in the form of one suggested contact or one item of information.

Alas, Hong Kong’s era of low and simple taxes is now under severe threat, along with many other more important things.

A musical metaphor is developed

In this blog posting, someone called Judge Ellis is quoted saying, somewhere in America, some time recently or not so recently, in connection with something Trump-related, this:

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud – what you really care about is what information Mr Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment.

“This vernacular to ‘sing’ is what prosecutors use. What you’ve got to be careful of is that they may not only sing, they may compose.”

Good expression. Never heard it before, although it must have been around for decades.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Wet riser inlet

While I’m on the subject of One Blackfriars, as I was last night, here is a rather charming piece of urban sculpture to be seen outside its front door, photoed earlier on the day I photoed the photo in the previous posting:

I’ve heard this expression but never understood what it was about. Having read this, I now understand it a bit better:

Wet risers are used to supply water within buildings for firefighting purposes. The provision of a built-in water distribution system means that firefighters do not need to create their own distribution system in order to fight a fire and avoids the breaching of fire compartments by running hose lines between them.

Wet risers are permanently charged with water. This is as opposed to dry risers which do not contain water when they are not being used, but are charged with water by fire service pumping appliances when necessary.

Part B of the building regulations (Fire Safety) requires that fire mains are provided in all buildings that are more than 18 m tall. In buildings less than 50 m tall, either a wet riser or dry riser fire main can be provided. However, where a building extends to more than 50 m above the rescue service vehicle accesslevel, wet risers are necessary as the pumping pressure required to charge the riser is higher than can be provided by a fire service appliance, and to ensure an immediate supply of water is available at high level.

Blog and learn.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

New Big Thin Things in New York

A friend has put this photo that he photoed on Facebook:

If he objects to me using it, I’ll take it down, but I doubt he will.

It illustrates two things.

(1) The arrival of a new kind of skyscraper, the Very Thin Big Thing.

(2) How much less of a nuisance trees are, photographically speaking, when not smothered in stupid leaves. As it is, that photo is a fine addition to the Winter Tree With Big Thing Behind It photo-genre, which is a photo-genre I like a lot. With leaves, it would be significantly duller.

Here is a Guardian piece which explains why these Big Thin Things are now happening in New York. I now intend, although I promise nothing, to do a Samizdata piece in which I expand upon this circumstance. Clue: the provisional title of this piece is “Law and liberty in New York”. The point being that clear law says exactly what you may not do, but by so doing, it also says exactly – exactly – what you may do. Unlike in Britain with its insane “planning permission” system, where you just have to hope that some random assemblage of local tyrants doesn’t take against the plan you’ve been working on for months, and where there’s now no way beforehand of guessing what these tyrants will decide. In New York, if you follow the rules, you know you are allowed to build it. Result: well, New York.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A classic episode

Well, I sat down to do a blog posting for here after a hard day doing this and that, but, while I was doing that blog posting, I was also half telly-watching, and I chanced, on my television, upon the classic episode of Porridge in which Fletcher keeps on being disturbed and ends up pushing the padre off the balcony (into a safety net). Fletcher gets punished with three days in solitary, and the final line is him asking the governor if he couldn’t make it a fortnight.

Instead of a regular blog posting, let this be a recommendation.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Neo Bankside residents lose battle to stop Tate Modern visitors looking into their flats

Here. The verdict is: They knew what they were moving into. They should install blinds or net curtains.

Or, turn the viewable-from-the-Tate-Extension living rooms into art installations. The judge didn’t say that; I’m saying that now.

I’m rather surprised by this verdict, but also pleased. Because this is now one of my favourite London photo-spots, and there is lots to be seen looking south, besides into other people’s living rooms.

From this spot I have photoed many, many photos, of which these are just four, taken in July and August of 2016:

Those photos all illustrate the problem that the flat-owners now have.

But, this next little clutch of photos, taken at the same time, illustrate what could be another answer:

In these photos, what dominates is the way that light, rather than coming through the window from those living rooms, is instead coming from outdoors London and bouncing off the windows. At the time I took these photos, I was thinking about that (to me) rather appealing crinkly brick surface that this Tate Modern Extension is covered in.

But now, it seems to me that I was photoing another sort of answer to the problem that these flat-dwellers now have. Could the glass windows be replaced by glass that is more reflective of light, while still letting the outside view in? Or, could the existing windows have some sort of plastic film or sheet stuck on them, preferably on the inside but maybe on the outside, that would contrive the same effect?

A problem stated is often well on the way to being a problem solved. The judge said: It’s up to you to stop the light bouncing off the interior of your home from zooming up to the onlookers at the top of the Tate. You knew this was going to happen. Sort the problem yourselves.

It will be interesting to see how things change with these windows, and inside these living rooms, in the months and years to come.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Total Surveillance photos

Following yesterday’s very generic, touristy photos of the Albert Memorial (although some of them did involve a breast implant), here is a much more temporary photo, of the sort most tourists wouldn’t bother with:

You obviously see what I did there, lining up what looks like a big, all-seeing eye with a clutch of security cameras, cameras made all the scarier by having anti-pigeon spikes on them.

And what, I wondered when I encountered this in my archive, and you are wondering now, is the provenance of that big eye?

Turns out, it was this:

So, not actually a photo about and advert for the Total Surveillance Society. It merely looked like that.

However, just two minutes later, from the same spot of the same electronic billboard, I took this photo:

So as you can see, the Total Surveillance Society was definitely on my mind. Terrorism, the blanket excuse for everyone to be spying on everyone else. The two minute gap tells me that I saw this message, realised it was relevant, but it then vanished and I had to wait for it to come around again. Well done me.

According to the title of the directory, and some of the other photos, I was with a very close friend. A very close and very patient friend, it would seem. Hanging about waiting for a photo to recur is the sort of reason I usually photo-walk alone.

I took these photos in Charing Cross railway station on April Fool’s Day 2009. I would have posted them at the time, but in their original full-sized form, they unleashed a hurricane of messy interference patterns. But just now, when I reduced one of them to the sort of sizes I use for here, those interference patterns went away. I thought that these patterns had been on the screen I was photoing. But they were merely on my screen, when I looked at my photos. And then, when I resized all the photos, it all, like I said, went away. Better late than never.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog