Archive for July, 2005

International Opera Program in Tel-Aviv, my last master-class for this year

July 31st, 2005

On Thursday was the last International Opera Program in Tel-Aviv’s master-class that I went to. The last actual one was on Friday, but since I couldn’t get to it (a pity, since Paul Sperry would have been very interesting to see, I think), I don’t count it.

Before I go on, though, there’s one comment I want to make. Something that came up because I did not really expect the amount of ego surfing (“Ego-surfing” is the term for when someone runs an Internet search for their own name, or possibly other close people, to see what people write about them) that I’ve been seeing from singers in the program. I got plenty of such hits.

Now, the general rule when posting is be aware that anyone may read it, and I generally follow it, but if people are going to fall on these on purpose, there is something that I think may not be entirely obvious to someone who goes looking for stuff about herself (or himself, but so far the statistics of hits I got here say otherwise). I’m not a music reviewer. More importantly, while I am actually capable of providing much more accurate review of their singing and performance, I don’t. I can go on for each one about how they sang specific notes, how well they did their staccatos, how bright or dark were the notes, and plenty of other musical and singing parameters. But it isn’t interesting. At least, not for the purpose of me posting here.

I don’t expect anyone considering hiring the singers to take my words for anything. And this is why I only say some very few words about how they actually were, and go on with what was done with them. The result is that I may seem to be rather harsh and very critical. That’s not the point. I just want to write about the interesting bits from the class that I remember, and for a class those would invariably be what got mostly mentioned on the stage. Which would be exactly the things that the singers did wrong.

So if I start by listing a singer’s faults, and go on about how much work they got during the master-class, it doesn’t necessarily imply they were bad. It doesn’t necessarily imply they were good either, but they could have been. Most of them are good, or very good. But if someone read these posts thinking (mistakenly) that the point is to review the singers, they could get the impression that I think most of them are really bad. So if you’re one of the a singers who came here ego-surfing, don’t assume I wrote anything about you beyond what’s explicitly there. OK?

Now that’s that out of the way, back to the business at hand. The maser-class was supposed to be another one of Joan Dornemann’s, but she came on stage and informed us all, in a hoarse voice, that she has a sore throat and can’t really speak. She sounded convincing. Although, of course, if she just wanted to bail out, I’m sure given the circumstances she wouldn’t have had a problem faking a very convincing sore throat, or getting vocal coaching to help her do it if she can’t on herself. Not that I’m saying she did that, but it’s an amusing thought. I hope she got better, and after all this is indeed one of the risks of speaking a lot.

So instead of Joan we got Lucy Arner. Something which surprised me a bit, because while on some of the past years she did have a few master-classes, she didn’t officialy get one on this year’s program. So I originally assumed she just didn’t come. But since obviously she did arrive, she was right there after all, I’m not sure why exactly was it that they didn’t schedule her originally.

I did see two previous master-classes with her in the past, once of which was alright, and one which was bad since in it she was very technical with the singer and didn’t pay much attention to the audience. So when Joan announced the switch, I was somewhat apprehensive. As it turned out, though, she was excellent and interesting, so my worries were entirely unfounded. Still, I must not have been the only one, since there were a few people who up and left when Joan got off the stage. Their loss.

The first singer was an Israeli mezzo-soprano called Maya Lahyani. She sang Must the winter come so soon?, from Vanessa, by Samuel Barber. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I was a bit concerned for purely prejudicial reasons, when I saw the name Lahyani in connection with opera. I am however glad to say that those concerns were unfounded, and she was a really good singer. She had a very lovely and clear voice, and while her diction was a little flaky it was still possible to understand everything. Of course, with the way many people around here speak English, it’s not such a surprise that it’s easy to understand English regardless of how it’s pronounced, but that’s not her fault.

And in case anyone cares, according to Lucy this is a very good audition aria, short and beautiful. It’s also one of Lucy’s favourites, apparently, but that means it’s a bad piece if she’s giving the audition, since she’s bound to notice every little thing.

In this case they just worked on diction. Lucy said that English is a hard language in this regard, all full of not only diphthongs, but triphthongs and quadriphthongs as well. Well, I’m not entirely sure about those last, but that’s what she said, even if in half-jest. She also said some of them are ridiculous, which is really no way to speak about a language, is it? Even one having ridiculous sounds.

Lucy also corrected some cases where Maya drew the sounds beyond where the word ended, telling her that there are no vowels there, so she shouldn’t sing them. And in an amusing twist gave an example of a famous singer, but one who does it wrong, instead of one who does it right “You may have heard Pavarotti sing like that. Pavarotti has all these extra vowels”.

We also received two comments related to other languages. One was that “French is a very good language for singing in English”, since it has vowels which correspond well to the sounds required when singing in English. The other was about parts of the song where the singer blows air which isn’t used directly for the note being sung “Air that doesn’t support the tone is a big no-no in Italian. But a yes-yes in English”.

There was another part where Lucy wanted Maya to sing more slurred R consonants. She asked her “How do you make a slurred R?”, and when she couldn’t give her a good answer responded with “People don’t think about that. I think about that… I have too much free time on my hands”. And went on to explain that you can make a slurred R by pulling the tongue out a bit, and the lower sides of the cheeks (She used a better terminology, but since the proper words elude me at the moment, that will have to do) inside. Now you know.

The second singer was Karina Lucas, a mezzo-soprano from England. She sang Il padre adorato, from Idomeneo, by Mozart. She had a nice voice, but a little flat. Mostly Lucy worked with her on staying closer to the score, stating that in this case, especially given the recitative parts, Mozart does not give the singer a lot of leeway, “go with the orchestra”. At one point she did say that in some cases, had it been another composer, then the change Karina made might have been a good idea, but in this case “Mozart, him I trust”, even if he was just 24 at the time.

Lucy also told her that in cases of recitatives she must pay a lot more attention to the consonants. Something which singers don’t do a lot when singing Italian, since “Italian is a vowel’s language”. Which I think is somewhat amusing considering Italian only has five of them, but it’s true that they are still what you mostly hear, and often the consonants get smoothed over.

The original third singer did not arrive, with Lucy saying something I didn’t quite hear, but which resulted in her stating the singer was just too tired. Instead we got a duet, The Cherry Duet, from L’Amico Fritz, by Mascagni. The singers were Talia Or, who as usual had a great voice but was somewhat lacking diction and acting, and a tenor whose name I didn’t manage to catch. When he said it the name sounded a little like Pierre, but he didn’t look like a Pierre, so I really don’t know. He was nice, but gave me the impression he was more speaking, than singing, his aria.

When they announced what they are going to sing, Lucy said “Oh, too bad!”, going on to say that it’s one of her favourite arias (yes, again. She must have had a good day. Or she really likes a lot of arias). As another side note, this was one of the very rare times when the pianist received a mini-lecture as well, about something which he (Rolando Garza) apparently didn’t do right. Lucy is a known pianist herself, so it makes sense she pays attention.

In the aria Suzel and Fritz are meeting when she is picking cherrys, and he offers to help. Or as Lucy put it “They are talking about picking cherrys… Yeah, right!”. And tried to get the two singers to look a little more like there’s something going on beneath the surface. She went on in great length about the movie Continental Divide in which there is a scene where supposedly the two main characters have a discussion about ornithology which just barely mask that “they are actually making love with words”. Nobody in the hall seemed to have seen the movie, though. Including the singers. Still, the idea should have been easy enough to get. But neither of them seemed to be able to hold it for more than a few seconds.

There was another one of those pick a hot actor parts, and Lucy got Tom Cruise’s name back as an example. She wasn’t too happy with it, though, saying that “Everybody says Tom Cruise. Can you please be more original?”. Eventually I think they settled for Harrison Ford.

At another part she said that they needed to be a little less focused on the exact singing, and go with their instincts. That it’s a problem for them because the teachers “nag them all the time about their a vowel, and double consonants”, during which Talia Or started to very dramatically nod up and down with her head to show that they are indeed getting nagged a lot about their a vowels. Goes to prove that she does have the dramatic acting ability, she just needs proper motivation.

We then went on a break. The cue for the audience was the usual one: half the singers were gone, and nobody else rushed immediately on-stage when the duo left. Lucy took a little longer to get it, I think because she didn’t have a master-class in a while, and this was indeed a last minute thing. So kept yelling backstage for them to send the next singer. But soon enough people from the audience shouted at her that there’s an intermission, and she was kind enough to allow us (well, the half that didn’t reach the doors of the hall yet) to take a 10 minute break.

During which I saw the last duo and a couple of other singers leave. Usually the singers stay to watch the other master-classes and students, so I noticed that they leisurely went away. Not sure why, but it doesn’t matter much, I suppose.

The first singer after the intermission was Amit Friedman, an Israeli baritone. He sang Herr Gott Abrahams, from Elijah, by Mendelssohn. He had a good voice. But I feel sorry for the guy, because even if he was a totally amazing singer, which he wasn’t, he’s still going to have a hard time finding someone who will want him on stage. He’s very very tall, and thin. In addition to that he also stands very hunched and tucks in his chin, possibly due to years of talking to people who are shorter than him. The overall effect is that he looks extremely awkward and out of place. There may be a few roles he could fit into, but in most places he will look very inappropriate when on stage.

A large part of the lesson was therefore spent trying to get him to stand straight, and not look all hunched and tucked in. Which didn’t really help. At best he’s extremely used to standing like that, and at worst it’s now physical. This may be alright when talking to people, but is a great problem for his stage presence. Lucy did get him to force himself to straighten up a few times, but it never held.

Elijah is also an oratorio rather than an opera. So this aria is “an oratorio aria, not an opera aria. The singing is the same, but the details are different”. Meaning that they worked on several points done a little differently. It also has sequences which start in the high notes, and culminate in the low notes, with the climax at the lowest. This is the opposite of what usually happens in Italian, and most arias, so takes some practice to do right. Which he did after it was pointed out to him and he tried it a couple of times.

The last singer was Shlomi Wagner (not related AFAIK, but definitely raised the musical expectations), also a baritone from Israel. He sang Bella siccome un angelo, from Don Pasquale, by Donizetti. He’s still young, and lacking both his very high notes and very low notes, but he has a beautiful voice, strong vibrato, and will probably become an excellent singer once he’ll grow up some more and keep practising.

In this aria Dr. Malatesta tries to describe to Don Pasquale a women he wants him to marry. The women is… not impressive, to say the least, so the aria is in essence a sales pitch, full of empty compliments and outright lies. Much of what they did in the lesson was trying to get Shlomi to put it more in this perspective, mostly from the acting angle. As she told him, he’s trying to sell damaged goods, and should present the aria like the stereotypical slick used-cars salesmen.

They went on with him singing, while all the time she was throwing various metaphors at him related to what is going on in the aria. At one point the aria goes on about how the women is as fresh as the lilies, so Lucy pointed to one of the large flower pots at the side of the stage saying “as fresh as the lilies over there…”. Except those are plastic flowers, so she went straight on with “Fresh NOT like the lilies over there. Looking a bit fake”.

At another point the aria goes on about her enchanting smile, and Lucy added “The most beautiful smile… hiding the worst dental works in history”.

As for singing, there was a time when he held a note for a too short duration. After telling him to lengthen it, for a few times, she jokingly exclaimed that “You’re twenty. You’re into instant gratification”.

Also, when he needed to sing a note he couldn’t quite reach, she told him how to sing so it will be less noticeable “want you to do that soft, since your voice don’t have these low notes yet, and we don’t want them to know that”. And later “We’re going to take out the g-flat. For now. Next year, you get the g-flat.”

There was one more incident, going on during the time Shlomi was singing. I heard a cell-phone ringtone from behind me. I looked around, and saw some lady starting to rummage inside her bag. It seemed like she started to press some buttons, since the phone beeped in a manner fitting a cellphone keypad, but it didn’t quite stop the ringtone played. The lady got a lot of attention, and eventually managed quiet the phone down.

A few seconds later, that’s right, her phone rang again, but this time she quieted it rather quickly. About a minute after that… Anyone cares to guess? That’s right, her phone rang, and she once again started to fiddle with it inside her bag. Apparently the concept of shutting a phone down, or disconnecting the battery if they can’t locate the off button, is beyond the intellect level of some people.

Oh, and the best part? When she did that on this last time she quietly (But I was close enough to hear) and angrily uttered to herself “Nimaas li!”, which can be roughly translated as “I had enough of this!” or “I’m tired of this!”. She, you notice. Because she‘s the one being bothered. Not the rest of the audience, and the singer and coach on stage. She had enough… These people still manage to amaze me every time, though I should really get used to it by now.

A very enjoyable evening, overall, and a good master-class. As far as the program goes, I’m scheduled to go to one of their aria concerts, and one of the operas, but I’m not sure there will be anything warranting a post. Until next year, then.

In this series (International Opera Program 2005):

  1. International Opera Program in Tel-Aviv
  2. International Opera Program, part 2
  3. International Opera Program, part 3
  4. International Opera Program, Part 4
  5. International Opera Program in Tel-Aviv, my last master-class for this year

A wrong way to analyse a person’s life, on several different levels

July 30th, 2005

Years ago I went with my parents to several trips arranged by the Society for Medicine and Law in Israel, of which my father (a medical doctor) was a member. At the time they had occasionally arranged nice long-weekend trips, including some guided sight seeing, and several lectures. The content was sometimes relevant to the issues the society dealt with, but often not so but just provided as entertainment, cultural enrichment, or whatever.

One such lecture/performance was done by a musician (whose name I don’t recall by now), who talked about the life of a certain mildly known Jazz singer (whose name I also don’t recall by now. Yes, I’m a fountain of information relevant to the post, ain’t I?).

The idea was to explore the life and character of this singer, but focusing on lyrics of the songs that he often performed. Not songs he wrote, mind you, he was just a performer, but rather songs he chose to sing. According to the lecturer there were close ties between those and his life. In my opinion this is nonsense, since often singers do not identify with the lyrics of songs they perform, especially not a hard working Jazz singer needing to perform a lot of the Jazz standards instead of getting songs written especially for him.

Given that people’s lives are complex, and that songs can be looked at from many angles, it is indeed possible to draw connections and similarities, I don’t deny that. It’s just that by the same way it is possible to draw connections which are just as compelling between a person and the words of a song a total stranger choose to sing. Which would be a far worse selling point, though, unless you want to go explore some tenuous supernatural angle.

Which is to say, while the lecture was interesting, and the musician performed some of the songs himself rather well, I was not too impressed by the claim that the two are connected.

And to help emphasise the point, one of the stronger connections he draw was based on a… mistranslation of a word in one of the song. Based on which the lecturer evolved an entire part about the, apparently bad, relationship the singer had with his wife.

The song in question was Gershwin’s A Woman is a Sometime Thing from Porgy and Bess. Which the lecturer, disregarding both basic English grammar and the rest of the context of this little “lullaby” song, decided to translate to Hebrew as meaning “A women is sometimes merely a thing”. And spent quite some time going on about how the fact that the singer performed this song a lot ties in to how he may have also treated his wife badly, like she’s not really a person.

Which is of course total nonsense. This sentence doesn’t say that, there is no grammatical way to read it which would say that. Even the rest of the words of the song don’t support that in the context they provide:

Listen to yo' daddy warn you
'Fore you start a-traveling
Woman may born you, love you and mourn you
But a woman is a sometime thing
Yes a woman is a sometime thing

Yo' mammy is the first to name you
Then she'll tie you to her apron string
Then she'll shame you and she'll blame you
Till yo' woman comes to claim you
'Cause a woman is a sometime thing
Yes a woman is a sometime thing

Don't you never let a woman grieve you
Jus' 'cause she got yo' weddin' ring
She'll love you and deceive you
Then she'll take yo' clothes and leave you
'cause a woman is a sometime thing
Yes a woman is a sometime thing

And yet all that didn’t prevent the guy from being very clear on this point. So based on this mistranslation he redefined his understanding of the song, and based on the resulting faulty understanding of the song he based a part of his understanding of a singer who sang it often.

The evening itself was very entertaining, but as you can tell I wasn’t very impressed with the exactness and methodology of the biographical details analysed and presented. Still, what do I know? I was just a small kid, and none of the highly educated doctors and lawyers around seemed too perturbed…

International Opera Program, Part 4

July 28th, 2005

On Tuesday I’ve been to another master-class in the International Opera Program in Tel-Aviv. The second, and last, one by John Norris for this year.

There were only five singers on the program this time. Not only that, but John started off by mentioning that two of them wouldn’t show up and will be replaced by others.

And of course, right after I used the previous post to say how there is an oddly high ratio of female sopranos compared to the other singers, on this class there was only one female singer. Though a soprano.

The first singer was Andrew Sritheran, a tenor from New Zealand. He sang E lucevan le stelle, from Tosca, by Puccini. He had an excellent voice, clear and deep. He might have had a slight problem on the high notes, but overall sang very well. His main problem was being too tense and rigid, which mainly affected his pose, but also, a little, his singing.

John worked with him to have him relax, and to get into the rhythm of the piece. The singer was also acting like he was singing to the back wall, while the aria should have been directed more inside, as if singing to himself. This probably came from basic singing lessons where singers are often told to sing out to the audience. By the time they reached the end of the aria together, there was a very noticeable improvement.

The seconds singer (not listed in the program page, so may be misspelled) was David Baumine. He sang Avant de quitter ces lieux, from Faust, by Gounod. His singing was good, but he was acting too indifferent, without clearly expressing what was going over the character.

John said he needs to “bring the aria to life”. He worked on developing a spatial relation to the piece, choosing specific direction on stage where Marguerite would be, and where the other fellow soldiers would be. They then worked on the proper pose and expressions suitable for when speaking to each of these and when praying to god, and later on the transitions and places where more complex things needed to be expressed. Since this is a class, John had him go a little overboard, including putting his hand to his chest when turning to Marguerite, something he said he’d never let him actually do on stage in a performance.

The third singer was Andrew Heggie (Yep, we had two Andrews on stage), a Baritone from England. At least, on the program he’s listed as coming from England, but he deemed it important enough to inform us that while he does live in England for several years, he’s originally from Australia. He sang Deh vieni alla finestra, from Don Giovanni, by Mozart. He was alright, but not impressive at all. He sang too weakly, didn’t hold some notes for the correct length, and had a slightly brittle voice. He also seemed much too bored for someone singing a serenade to a women in an attempt to seduce her.

As it turned out, he was also not entirely aware what was happening in the aria, thinking Don Giovanni was going after Donna Elvira. John reminded him that he’s not serenading to her, he already has her and she just left for some time, but instead was trying to seduce her maid. He told him he should act more like a scene of seduction “One girl out of the way, another in the way”.

Trying to get Andrew to look like he’s lusting after a women didn’t work, so John introduced the theatre concept of substitution. Finding something else which can act as a substitute to what is needed. And decided to go with food. Probably because the two things do tie together, and the reactions are somewhat similar, and not just because Andrew looked like he really likes food.

So John said to Andrew “Tell me some things you really like to eat, which are really bad for you”, and then proceeded to indicate three separate area on the stage which Andrew was supposed to pretend contained one a pile of pizzas, the second a pile of spring rolls, and the third a pile of lemon-meringue pies. Some older lady sitting a couple of rows behind me said to someone in a low voice that they have very similar tastes.

And then John had Andrew sing the aria again, while constantly drawing his attention to the imaginary piles of food. Which did wonders, since the guy really did manage to put on an expression full of desire, as he was directing his gaze from one food to the next on John’s cues, “Feel the oil, the oil!”. As John commented “Sometimes substitution is better than the real thing”.

The fourth singer will have to remain a mystery. The guy didn’t bother presenting himself when he came on stage. Actually, he didn’t even presented the piece, which is a big huge no-no. With most other teachers, for example I explicitly remembering it happening with Joan a couple of times, he would have been stopped and instructed to do it properly. Now, normally I’d assume he is who the printed program said he is, Nimrod Grinboim, a tenor from Israel, except that we were told there would be two changes, and the following singer was exactly the one on the list. The guy was an Israeli, though, so it’s possible it was indeed him. In any case, what he sang was Una furtiva lagrima, from L’Elisir d’Amore (Love Potion), by Donizetti. He sang reasonably, but looked too happy and smug for the aria.

John tried working with him, as usual, on getting into the mood of the aria, and connecting to it emotionally. And failed miserably. Whatever John tried to do, the guy just wouldn’t get it. I seriously got the impression he came on stage wanting to sing to the audience, but wasn’t interested at all in learning anything.

The first thing John did was the tried-and-true method of getting him to say the words in his own language. The intention is not to provide a translation, but to “say it in your own words”, to get something with the same semantic meaning, but which it will be easier to relate to. Anyone who saw practically any of these master-class would have gotten the concept, anyone studying a little singing should have, and even the friend who came with me to this evening (and who was seeing something opera related for the first time ever) got the concept. Yet this singer didn’t. He used a translation which resulted in sentences so archaic that nobody would have been able to relate to them emotionally. Later on, when he had to do the same for some other words, he had very hard time of coming up with anything that he would say to a women who he loves and knows loves him back in turn.

It went like that for the entire lesson. Horribly bad translations, and total failure to connect emotionally on any level. Nothing, Nada, zilch. He just didn’t bother trying, and only kept going through the motions until he’ll be released. Either that, or he just finds the entire concept of love so foreign that there is nothing for him to relate to. Laziness and lack of care seem more likely, I think and hope.

The last singer was Rinat Moriah, a soprano from Israel. She sang Glitter and be gay, from Candide, by Bernstein. She has a good voice, and good vocal control, but she sang a little too quietly and weakly. At one spot during the aria she stopped for a second as she forgot the words, and John came to her rescue and provided it for her. Apart from that it was a good performance, and she did make an effort to show some emotions and match her mood to the aria. Very good potentional here, I think, once she’ll learn how to get more breath.

One thing she didn’t do quite right, but rather easily corrected once it was mentioned, is that she sang to the audience (as Joan Dornemann said on a past master-class, they should sing for the audience, but not to the audience), while in the aria Cunegonde was talking to herself. Other than that they worked on making the acting even more connected, and more appropriate to the nuances and changes in the aria. When the aria went about her looks and clothes, John told her to imagine a large mirror between herself and the audience, and observe herself in the mirror. Later on a similar part he had her examine her supposed jewellery, since even though the master-class was done without costumes, the character has them, and will have them during a performance.

Some of the ways to elicit the proper behaviour and emotional mood were somewhat amusing. Like the part she had to go from the self-reassuring happy thought about her clothing and looks, to a more sad and introspective mood, and he said “And then we see the first wrinkle…”.

A very good evening overall. Though we did come out confused over that mysterious singer who came for some unclear goal…

Why can’t PayPal handle basic credit card number format?

July 27th, 2005

Just a minor rant.

A short while ago I updated the credit card number I have on my PayPal account. There was a standard text box to enter the credit card number into, and since it didn’t specify any limitation I did it with the separating dashes.

It’s pretty standard, after all. Most listings of the number group each five digits separately by placing a space or a dash between them. It’s much more readable, and so much easier to verify you didn’t enter any wrong number.

Yet the PayPal page refused to accept the number, complaining that it’s invalid. Entering the same number as a long consecutive string, not broken up, worked fine.

This is very pathetic. This format of writing credit card numbers is common, and done a lot. Stripping the dashes from the number on the server side, after the user posts it, is extremely easy. So why haven’t they done so?

And it must have been going on for a long time. After all, PayPal are dealing with credit cards from pretty much day one, years ago. Forcing me to enter the number like that myself, doing their own very basic data entry formatting, is not impressive at all.

International Opera Program, part 3

July 27th, 2005

Monday evening I went to yet another master-class in the International Opera Program in Tel-Aviv.

The well established fact – that it’s impossible for my father to go anywhere without meeting someone who knows him, was demonstrated once more, as we came across no less than three different people who said hello to him. At least this solved the problem of how to pass the time until the show started.

Another change was that they started selling those T-Shirts of the opera program. White shirts with blue prints. The money supposedly goes to support the musical studies, so a price of 50 ILS per shirt is understandable in that regard. Yet they did raise the actual ticket prices a lot over the years, so we weren’t too inclined to donate more.

The master-class was again by Joan Dornemann. On the latest years, when it becomes harder to bring extra talent to teach, Joan shoulders more of the burden herself. She does bring John Norris, but if I recall correctly he does exactly two master-classes on each years.

On this particular evening all the student singers were Israelis.

The printed program only listed five singers for the evening. The first one on stage was not on the list (ergo I may have misspelled the name), a girl called Lauren Yelinkovitz. She started by singing Oh Mio Bambino Caro, from Gianni Schicchi, by Puccini. She had an overall nice voice, good pronunciation, but sang too weakly and without any expressions of emotions. The hand-clapping of the audience were a bit mild, and Joan told her that she needed to show more personality, and act a little more. Joan then asked her if she had also prepared a different piece.

It does happen sometimes when for some reason the teacher doesn’t want to go over the aria which was just sung, but in this case it appeared to be out of the blue. Lauren said that she had, and shortly started to sing Popular from the musical (yes, that’s right, musical) Wicked. Not only that, but she sang it like a musical piece rather than an aria piece. And she acted it as well, instead of just singing. She certainly did show a whole lot more personality. It was quite obvious something a little fishy was going on. And indeed after she finished, and got plenty of cheers (she sang well, and it was fun, though her voice did tend to be a bit squeaky when she went to the higher notes), Joan said that it’s a preview for the Broadway evening. After that the singer went off the stage. She wasn’t really there for a master-class.

As one of the aria concerts in the series, there will be one where their singers will sing songs from musicals, instead of arias. Since they haven’t yet sold all the tickets, they decided to give us this song as a sort of a self publicity effort. It’s sadly understandable why it wasn’t sold out. The opera crowd they usually attract isn’t exactly interested in musicals, many of them are very old, and old fashioned in what they want to hear. And people interested in musicals may be reluctant to hear those songs performed by opera singers. Which is also why I’m not going to be there myself, since my one friend who realy likes musicals does not like opera, and so preferred to stay clear of this. It’s even sadder, considering that as hard as it is to see operas in Israel, it’s much much harder to catch a musical in English around here.

The first actual master-class singer was Shira Raz, a mezzo-soprano. She sang Svegliatevi nel core, from Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar), by Handel. I’ve heard her in the past, and she’s a very good singer. I really liked her voice, and her singing. Her only problem was with the pronunciation and diction. Joan thought so too. She started off by saying that this is a very difficult aria, and that it’s usually sung by a contra-tenor. That the piece is bouncy, and very personal, and listeners usually either really like it, or really don’t like it. She went on to say that as far as this aria is concerned, singers are divided clearly into two groups, “Those who can sing it, and of those who can’t sing it. Those who can, there is nothing to say to them about it, and those who can’t, well, there is nothing much to say to them either”. And that Shira certainly can sing it.

And then of course came the heavily emphasized “However”, followed by a lot of criticism on her pronunciation and diction. She said that what Shira sang wasn’t Italian, it was an amalgamation of all sorts of languages, including bits of ancient Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and so on. She turned to the crowd, and asked how many people speak Italian. There were something like 3-5 people who raised their hands, including my father. She then asked if they understood the words Shira sang, to which the replies ranged from occasionally to sometimes. Certainly no yeses.

Joan went on to say that there are basically two reasons for lousy diction, that the singer is “either lazy, or dumb”. She then went on about how industrious and hard working she knows Shira to be. But before the crowd got too full of mirth, Joan also said she doesn’t think Shira is dumb either, “which leaves one thing, you didn’t think about it”. Joan went on to explain to her that paying attention to diction is important, and that she should take it seriously and work on it.

Joan then went over the aria with her, in the typical master-class fashion, correcting various diction errors as she went along. The thing is, Italian only has five vowels. A lot less than many other languages. So very often you hear singers who aren’t native Italians singing Italian arias with all sorts of sounds which just don’t exist in the language. On a master-class some years ago Joan called it “singing Italian in French”. And she said, with some hyperbole, now “Italian has 5 vowels. French has 27 vowels. And German has 528 vowels”. By the end of the lesson, my father said Shira’s words became a lot more understandable.

Then came Assif Am-David, a male (The only one this evening. Actually, most classes feel skewed towards females, and sopranos. I’m not entirely sure why) baritone. He sang Tutto è disposto, Figaro’s third aria, from Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), by Mozart. He had good voice, and good clear diction. Basically a very impressive performance, except that he seemed to get too harp at times. More so than I noticed at other times I heard this Aria performed. Joan described it better, by saying he sang it as if Figaro was angry. She started off by asking him a little about how much he worked on the aria and if he practice it a lot (yes). She said that it looks very structured and formed, like it was already very fine-tuned by him and his teacher, to reach a very specific and well crafted performance. She said she doesn’t really want to work with him on any specific part, since doing so may shake something of the structure of the aria he has established for himself, and make it all tumbling down forcing him to learn it from the start.

Yet she did tell him that he should try to do it less angry. That “Mozart did not write angry people”. The style at the time in Italy, and the way Mozart wrote, was more witty. Figaro does rant against women in the aria, but it’s all slightly veiled and hinted. Figaro doesn’t go around screaming in anger, but more circumspectly tries to warn his friends about the dangers of women. They went over parts of the aria where he tried to sing and act a little less angry, and it was an improvement.

The next singer was Gal James, singing Mi chiamano Mimì, the first Mimi’s aria, from La Bohème, by Puccini. She has a good deep voice, dark high tones, and barely passable diction. Mostly Joan worked with her on fitting her acting and tone to what is going on in the opera. Joan had Gal sitting on a chair, and brought a guy to sit in front of her on a second chair to pose and Rodolfo. This was slightly more complex than the similar things from the previous master-classes I listed here, since he also had to move a little according to the aria’s progression.

They elaborated on the situation on the aria. Such as that Mimì isn’t originally as shy as Gal portrayed her, since she did come to Rodolfo of her own accord on a made-up pretext. Or that in two points during the aria Puccini inserted the same note he used by the end of the opera when Mimì died, and this can be used to show a little hint that not all is entirely well.

There was also a little joke from Joan, coming up as part of the discussion, going something like “Of course it’s possible to fall in love in half an hour! You don’t believe me, go to Italy, you’ll see… Of course, you may also not stay in love for more than half an hour.”

Dana Marbach, another Soprano, sang Saper vorreste, from Un Ballo in Maschera (Dance in Mask? I don’t think I encountered an official translation in English), by Verdi. A very short aria, with plenty of “Tra la la la la” bits. She was very nice, but the “la” words sounded half swallowed sometimes. The character played, Oscar, is a guy. Joan told Dana that she crossed her hands like a women does, and to go get some sessions with John Norris to work with her on walking like a boy.

Joan also tries to make her stop pulling her shoulders up whenever she was drawing a breath, stating that her lunges are more down, and that it doesn’t help the singing a single bit. She did say that dancers sometimes breath higher than singers, but then asked Dana if she thinks she’s a singer, the answer to which was of course a No. Joan put hands on her shoulders to remind her to keep them down. Later on she had her singing while standing on one foot, to help her concentrate on her body’s position and balance.

Joan also mentioned the “La” words, saying that in Italian she needs to make a sharper “L” sound with the top of her tongue, not a think one with the back of it.

The last singer was Anastasia Klevan, also a soprano. She sang Donde lieta uscì, the second Mimi’s aria, from La Bohème, by Puccini. She sounded alright, with decent diction, but nothing too exciting or inspiring. She also occasionally went on notes that weren’t according to the text. Another big problem with her was that she was being very much out of character, since (as we found out once Joan asked her about the story) she was wrong about what is going on in the aria.

This aria occurs after Mimì discovers that her love Rodolfo broke up with her. Joan asked Anastasia why is that, and she said that she thinks Rodolfo is jealous. At which point Joan went on about how some singers just read their own text, and the pages of the opera they need to sing, without reading the rest. Mimì is very sick at this stage of the story, and Rodolfo earlier in the story said to a friend he cannot stand being with her, watching her dying, knowing that he cannot help, and does not have the money to get help for her. But since Anastasia didn’t read this part, she was only aware of the official excuse, that Rodolfo was jealous. And so the whole aria was sung differently. The aria should have been more tragic, with internal desperation, not with annoyance.

Anastasia also sang a few notes longer than specified. And some notes differently from what was written. Joan said something like “You don’t get to do that. There are rules. You park here. You sing this note that long. You don’t do that, they take away your car, they take away you job”. Later on, on a more general note to all the singers there “You guys don’t read the music”, or “You poor composers. You make up these things, thinking I won’t notice”.

When going over the aria, someplace near the end Anastasia smiled, eliciting from Joan a comment of “That’s a very big smile for a very sick girl”. There was also a point where she tried the method of getting Anastasia to say some of the words in her own language, in this case Russian. She told her to say in Russian “Listen to me!”, to which Anastasia replied that there aren’t words for that in Russian. Joan dismissed that with “I was in Russia. And they said Listen to me! They had no problem with that.”

Reading this post of mine again, there is just one thing I think I need to explicitly clarify, about Joan Dornemann. I quoted (From memory and hastily half-scribbled notes, so all quotes are approximate) plenty of stinging and sarcastic comments. She isn’t really like that. She does use barbed words sometime to drive a point home, but she’s extremely nice, warm, and friendly. A lot of it is a matter of tone, but I can’t say anything that would be clearer than read those quotes with a Joan Dornemann voice. Since most of the people reading it doesn’t know it, assume it sounded totally without malice, and with underlying humour. Plus, of course it’s mostly those type of sentences which stick to my mind well enough to quote, so the sample you get is already biased. All the totally nice and happy things may matter more for a singer, but lack any… journalistic appeal from me side. You’d be bored senseless from this post if I quoted those.

Overall it was still a nice and enjoyable evening, but not the best master-class I’ve been to.

Oh, and as we were leaving we saw the fire hydrant outside leaking a lot water. Despite telling someone from the staff about it last week…

International Opera Program, part 2

July 25th, 2005

On Thursday I have been to another master-class in the International Opera program.

As before, due to reasons of traffic, I had to arrive some time before the actual show started. It being a warm day (outside. The AC inside worked fine, but I did have to cross from the car to the hall), and me being a little thirsty, I decided to take a risk and sample the food stand they opened up in there.

So I went for the iced-vanilla drink. On the good side, it didn’t taste just like chicken. On the bad side, it wasn’t all that iced, and worse – it wasn’t all that vanilla. It did have an odd sweet and sticky taste reminiscent of cheap artificial-vanilla-flavour powders that I didn’t get to try for years and years. Next time, I’ll drink before going out.

There was a fire hydrant outside which was spilling a lot of water all over the place, making a huge pond in the park’s grass (The conservatorium is located inside a small public park). We went to look for someone in charge of the facilities, and failing to find anyone we went to the musical admin instead, and informed a guy who said he’ll pass it on. [update:Been there again today for another master-class. As we went out, we saw the same fire hydrant happily leaking water]

[update: Forgot to mention the bit in this paragraph on the original post] When we entered the hall we found two women sitting in our seats. And the seats are numbered, and issued on the ticket. We double checked the row and seat numbers, which matched what we recalled. One of the women pulled her own tickets, and showed us they listed the same row and seats. What she didn’t notice was that her tickets had the wrong date. Once we pointed out this minor detailed they found their actual tickets and moved. They didn’t show any inclination to go do something about the already torn tickets, but I hope they did or they won’t be able to use them on the actual date.

The master-class was taught by John Norris. He does not work with the singers about their singing, but rather on acting, and pose. While some of the older members of the audience seem to be stuck in the opinion that nothing besides singing matters, thing beside singing do matter. The singers have to appear as if they’re convincingly singing what they’re actually singing. Seeing a passionate love song sung in a completely indifferent face is bad, and quite jarring.

Not only that, but by making the singers concentrate on what the aria is about, they also sing it better, in a way which is more fitting of the mood and atmosphere. So while he doesn’t directly work with them on the singing, it is still affected.

This time all the singers, except one, were not Israelis. The all came from the area of the Americas. There was also one less singer, since one did not arrive due to reasons which were not specified to us.

On a further technical issue, the lighting were arranged wrong, and it was hard to see the singers, so after the first one we took an early recess while it was being taken care of.

Lea Friedman, from Hawaii, was the first singer, singing Juliet’s Waltz from Romeo and Juliet by Gounod. She had a very clear voice, but sang a little bit too quietly. She was also too wound up and tight, and this is what John worked with her on, trying to get her to loosen up, so she could express more of the joy that the aria should have.

The first trick included letting her fall backward a bit, let him catch her, and push her back up. The sensation of falling is liberating, and it’s enough of a shake to make it hard keeping too tight. He told her to just drop back whenever she felt the need, and that he’ll catch her. This worked very nicely, except this one time when he a little farther than usual, and gave her a start when he only caught her up a bit after she expected…

Also, to get from her the proper posture and behaviour she should have when thinking of a handsome guy she may meet at the ball she’s invited to, he told her to imagine that someone she believes attractive is standing there, and they settled for Brad Pitt. It was amusing, and she did perk up properly.

Another thing the did near the end was to get her spinning several times, and at a point he had her throw off her shoes before spinning. Not something she should do on an actual performance, of course, but a good way on practice to get into the feeling of the proper mood.

Pascale Beudin from Canada came next, singing Pamina’s aria from The Magic Flute. She had a bit of an overly squeaky voice. Mostly John worked with her on getting a more emotional response, fitting the different stages in the aria.

He used a common technique, getting someone else to sit on the stage, to serve the role of Tamino. Since the point in the aria is for Pamina to get Tamino’s attention, Tamino sat with his back to her, and she had to act like she’s trying to get him to notice her and turn around.

They went over the aria, going through the several different emotional states, pausing occasionally for her to say and act in her own words what Pamina says in the aria. This is also a very common technique, and helps the singer see how their body language relates to the words. It’s easier to connect to emotional phrases in your native tongue. Since she’s a Canadian he gave her the option of going with English or French, and she decided to go with English.

He went with her over several different kinds of moods/attitudes that could fit. One was an attempt to show Tamino what will be denied him. Which rolled the crowd in laughter with her modern version, “No nookie for you!”.

Another amusing part was near the end, at the death threat. After saying “I’ll kill myself!” in the spirit of the aria, there was a comment (I don’t remember if from Pascale or someone else) “I’d actually rather kill him”. After the laughter subsided John replied that it may be so in “modern times, but in the olden days” it was different.

Rachel Mondenaro, from the US, sang Violetta’s first aria from La Traviata. She had a strong and deep voice, but somewhat too breathy, and she mostly looked like she was singing to the floor. John worked with her on trying to appear more dazed, more shocked, as she contemplates Alfredo and the discovery that he so deeply loves her. During the aria he had her act like she’s almost fainting and falling on a chair (which she did far too carefully and daintily, but it’s a start). Later on they went through sobering up, and at the end of the aria, when Alfredo arrives, he said that she should show some strong reaction. It can be either a good one, or a bad one, to be suddenly confronted by Alfredo and the reality, but there should be a reaction.

Angel Ruz, from Mexico, sang Quanto è bella, quanto è cara from L’Elisir d’Amore (Love Potion). He was the only male singer this evening, and a sole Tenor against all the other Sopranos. Even the singer who didn’t arrive was a soprano. His singing originally wasn’t entirely smooth, like there was some noise in the background of the sound (A poor description, I know, but the proper terms seem to elude me for the moment). He also seemed totally unconvincing as he sang the self deprecating love song from Nemorino to Adina.

Here John also used another person to sit on the stage as Adina, and give him focus. For most of the, very short, aria they worked on getting Angel to say the words in his own language, so he could put himself on the proper posture and expression.

One amusing part was when john, trying to help him understand what he wants him to say, told him to say in his own words something like “I’m pathetic, I suck”. To which Angel, the Mexican, replied with “What does it mean suck?”.

Most of the times his Spanish versions of “you are so beautiful” etc, were very much inane instead of passionate, but on some cases he did loosen up with his Spanish ending up with much more… er… powerful descriptions, which amused the crowd to no end.

Most importantly, the guy did improve noticeably afterwards. Not only did he looked to be far more into it, but his voice became more appropriate and more clean.

As a side note, someone looking very much like him (Well, it was him, but since I’m not 100% sure I don’t want to say it) was wandering around before the performance started, holding tightly and kissing some good looking girl. So supposedly he should be capable of expressing his love.

Next on the printed plan for the evening is Gal James. [update: fixed an uncertainty about her name I had in the original post]She sang Adriana’s Aria – Io son l’umile ancella, from Adriana Lecouvreur by Cilèa. She had a good deep voice, but sounded like she tried to avoid going to the high notes.

She did well, and John mostly worked with her on properly portraying the Diva part. There were improvements, but nothing too exciting happened during that part of the performance.

Overall, again, a good and enjoyable show.

Contacting TV advertisers

July 21st, 2005

There is a new planned feature for TiVo devices that will allow a viewer to notify the TV advertiser of the commercial being viewed that they are interested in more info about the advertised product.

Under the new system, consumers can select an option to tell TiVo to release their contact information to an advertiser. For example, after watching an ad for an automobile or family vacation, users can use the remote control to request that a brochure be sent to their home.

From the advertiser’s side some of the benefits are obvious:

  • Most people using the new feature are interested in the products, so any sort of brochure that will be sent will have a good chance of generating a sale.
  • Normally a viewer interested in an ad will need to invest some effort. Such as memorizing a phone number, and calling it. Probably some sales are currently lost because people often don’t bother, or decide to wait until later and then don’t follow through. But pressing a button on the remote is easy.
  • Sales pitch are often most effective when they’re fresh. The ability to decide to ask for more info while watching the ad, means that many people may decide to do it. Including people who wouldn’t have asked for more info even a few minutes later, not to mention much later when a different opportunity rises.
  • Many people will consider the procedure a simple button press, rather than an interaction involving providing a business with personal details. This is information which is valuable to business, and anyone asking for more info will provide the entire set of details which are guaranteed to be correct and to belong to an actual person.

From the consumer side there are some advantages as well. Mainly the ability to actually ask for details on product which seem interesting. But there will also be some big disadvantages:

  • The details sent to the advertiser will probably be a fixed set, including at the bare minimum anything needed to mail a valid information packet, and possibly more. In most other cases of responding to ads people can give a lot less info. When making a phone call it is possible to get details during the conversation, without giving up anything. On a web ad, it is possible to go to a page listing the details, without needing to provide any personal information, or at most having to provide an email address. And email addresses can be disposable. Real names and home addresses aren’t.
  • It’s easy. So if someone is interested, they may indeed press the button instead of finding out other ways. This isn’t a problem per-se, it’s actually an advantage, but it does make the other problems worse. it can be so easy that people won’t bother thinking about the costs.
  • Ads are going to change to attract more and more attention. Just as with web ads, this is a method to get an equivalent of an accurate click-through rate. As the direct number of requests for brochures is easy to measure, unlike actual effectiveness in promoting sales, this will become a major decision in designing and choosing ads. And just like enough people are clueless enough to click on the more annoying flashing and pop-up web ads to keep them a viable concept, so it will happen with the TV ads.

In large part the details will depend on the actual implementation, both by TiVo, and by all the rest of the PVR devices which will probably rush to copy the concept.

They should set standards that will allow to transfer the minimal amount of personal information actually required. But the minimum is still a lot, and has to be. It is very unlikely that PVR companies will branch to provide the brochure mailing services themselves, and it’s not a good idea even if it was.

As for the effect not the actual ad content and design, I doubt there is much that can be done. It is not the job of TiVo, or any of its competitors, to decide which ads are appropriate for the service and which aren’t. They may do so at first, but it will be due to the technical reason of it being a new service and the need to individually handle each supported ad. But as a long-term solution, ad censoring isn’t something they’ll want to do, not something they should do.

There is another issue here, though I cannot predict what the effects will be. Currently ad pricing, and positioning, depend on things like the awfully crude viewer ratings, and on general estimates about the viewer demographics of each show. But if this thing catches on, there immediate follow-up on ads has a big chance of becoming the (or a large part of) new method of determining ad pricing and placing. The rates of people asking for more info on the ad will probably be perceived as directly related to the ads effectiveness. And if the same ad works differently on different shows, it may be considered to be related to the popularity of the show. There are plenty of possible ramifications, both on ads, and on network choices about the shows they broadcast.

It’s a good concept overall, but given the world we live in I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a mess.

Cinema ads

July 21st, 2005

I came across this article complaining about the duration of ads before movies start in cinemas. And let me tell you, those Americans sure have it good relative to what we have here. The complaint raised there is valid and correct, but it’s so much worse here that it feels the norm.

Of course this became an article not because of the problem, but because the people hitting the problem were big names from within the entertainment industry: (emphasis in quoted text is mine)

As head of production at New Line Cinema, Toby Emmerich is not your typical moviegoer. So when he wanted to see “War of the Worlds” the other night, his choice was between seeing the film in a theater with a tub of popcorn or watching it in a screening room at Jim Carrey’s house, with a private chef handling the culinary options. Despite this seemingly loaded deck, Emmerich opted for a real theater.

“I love seeing a movie with a big crowd,” he says. “But I had no idea how many obnoxious ads I’d have to endure — it really drove me crazy. After sitting through about 15 minutes of ads, I turned to my wife and said, ‘Maybe we should’ve gone to Jim Carrey’s house after all.’ “

When DreamWorks marketing chief Terry Press took her young twins to see “Robots” this year, she said, “My own children turned to me and said, ‘Mommy, there are too many commercials!’ Now, when the lights go halfway down, I’m filled with dread. The whole uniqueness of the moviegoing experience is being eroded by all the endless ads.”

That all it takes? 15 minutes of ads? Would that be with, or without, the extra time spent on movie trailers? Around here in Israel, 15 minutes of ads is quite standard, and on the short side of the standard. I recently went to a movie before which we saw about 17 minutes of ads, plus 6 minutes of trailers, and both me and my friend felt that this was relatively very nice and short. Seriously.

There was an “amusing”, and sadly very rare, incident around two weeks ago which reached the headlines (article is in Hebrew, sorry): In this case, after watching about 20 minutes of commercials, two of the viewers went outside to complain. They were told by the cinema management that if they have a problem they can take their money back and leave. They returned to the hall, told the other viewers about that, and most decided to take the cinema up on that offer.

I think that this is not likely to have much of an effect, however, because I’ve been to quite a few movies preceded by that duration of ads, and nobody did anything similar. Still, one can hope.

Sometimes including the ads, the trailers, and the various notifications, it can take 40-50 minutes from the official start hour until the movie starts. So the Americans should know that their 10-20 minutes can easily expand.

The article also had a telling quote from Globus United (One of the major entertainment companys here, which owns a large percentage of cinemas, and is the importer of films from Universal, WB, Paramount, and such). They said that (my own rough translation):

The state, as you know, does not subsidize the movie industry, as it subsidizes the theatres for example, and in the price of the ticket (which includes VAT, of course) alone it is hard to cover a multitude of costs (such as electricity, rent, security, etc.), and this is why the ads are required.

My heart bleeds for them.

Expect similar replies from the US cinemas if this issue actually makes waves there.

They also mentioned that in their own cinemas they show the actual start time of the movie. Even if it’s true (and I do not recall seeing anything like this in a prominent location), that is something you can see only after you already arrived to the cinema, not before. The newspaper listing, and website listings, only show the official start hour.

And then they wonder why less and less people go to see movies in the cinema, and more and more they show movies to a half-empty room…

Via Interesting People, via a post on The Big Picture about the reasons for decline in movie theatre revenue. This post here is a slightly edited version of a reply I sent on the IP list, which (so far?) did not get forwarded to the list.

Harry Potter and the Half-Witted Court Order

July 20th, 2005

I was originally going to go with “Half-Witted Judge” for the title, but then realized it could be interpreted as libel. After all it’s possible that Justice Kristi Gill is normally very intelligent and was just on drugs at the time, or that someone bribed her with enough money to make this a rational decision on her part. Since I don’t know, I shouldn’t go around making those half-assed assessments.

What got me so riled up is this story, about a store in Canada accidentally selling some of the new Harry Potter books a few days before the official release time. What happened was that a Supreme Court judge has ordered the people who bought the book to return it. And in addition to returning it to the publisher until the release date, they were forbidden from talking about it or even reading it.

From what I understand, someone in the store made a mistake and put the books on the shelves, a few people who saw them decided to buy them, and the mistake wasn’t caught by the clerk when they made the purchase.

The store must have had a contract on the release date with the publisher, or their supplier, and so is probably guilty of a breach of contract. Had the publisher sued the store over it, I could have easily understood a ruling in favour of the publisher.

But the buyers? They bought a book, a book which was presented on the shelves of a store, like they buy any other book. They didn’t bribe the clerk, they didn’t try to trick anyone, they just made a simple, and legal, purchase.

Had the store’s mistake been criminal, I still may have understood. If someone legally buys stolen goods, there may be justification in returning it. But it was a contractual/business issue, not a criminal issue. The store sold the books. The buyers bought the books. The books are theirs, and are their property. I may be mistaken, could be that the Canadian law sees this differently, but I don’t think that’s very likely… Can anyone correct me on this? Please?

So what right did the judge had to order the books returned? In essence the court temporarily impounded private property. And why? Because the publisher, a commercial entity, decided they only want to sell the books later, and thought this may cost them money. That sounds like very poor justification to me. Courts should intervene on legal grounds, not just because a corporation doesn’t like something.

Personally, though that’s beside the point, I’m also against the whole official release date concept. Sell the book when you have printed copies. The standard excuse, as they also wrote in this article, is that “its debut has been highly orchestrated to enable everyone — readers, reviewers, even publishers — to crack it open all at once.” The key word, the incorrect word, being “enable”. It doesn’t enable people to do anything. It limits them to. It’s a perfectly legitimate business decision, but don’t tell me it’s for the benefit of the public. It’s not, it’s for the benefit of the publisher. Still, as I said, that’s entirely beside the point here.

Now, back on track, if the publisher really thinks having those people read the book will hurt, then the publisher should sue the store for the estimated losses. Not try and get the already sold books impounded.

The ruling, with agreement from the publisher I assume, did set some compensation. When they will take the books back, they will receive autographs by the author, Mrs. Rowling. Now, this may be very exciting for a die-hard Harry Potter fan, but it isn’t necessarily ample compensation. If it were, then why involve the court? I’m sure that the publisher could have made the same offer as a private deal. They didn’t, so maybe people didn’t consider an autograph by the writer to compensate having their property impounded, for being put under secrecy, or for being forced to wait reading a book they had bought. It’s also an indication that the judge knew they didn’t do anything really wrong, or else why give compensations in any case?

Personally, I’m a very avid reader. I have over 1,500 books in my library, and read plenty of loaned books from friends, and public library books. And yet I care about the books, not the writers. Even with writers and series I really like, the books interest me a lot more. A signed book by the author may some day has financial value, and it’s really nice to get a book personally dedicated, but it doesn’t matter all that much. It may very well be it’s the same for some of those people.

Again, they didn’t even have to be great Harry Potter fans. Just interested enough to buy the book when they saw it on display in a store.

Claims they should have known it was earlier than the release date are also so much hogwash. Yes, there were plenty of publications with the date. But unless you are one of the people who bother to pre-order, who pays attention? I check what books are available when I go to the book shops. If there are specific titles I want, or parts of series to complete, I especially look for them, and if I don’t find them I may collect a bunch and order on-line. But even for the ones I really want, I hardly ever bother to check exact release dates. Most people don’t. It’s enough to know the general season, or month, that a book will be out, and knowing that it would be possible to find it later. So a few days before the release date, most people would really not pay attention. And even if they do, the clerk on the store is the authority figure here. If the store sells it, then it is obviously being sold. It’s a no-brainer tautology. Besides maybe asking the clerk a single time if it’s really for sale, there’s nothing a person should be expected to do.

The gag order is also a very troubling aspects. Telling people they’re forbidden to talk about state secrets is something understandable. Telling people not to talk about a book, isn’t. Sure, they may make some money out of it. So what? Heck, the publisher may even lose a little money out of it, but again, so what? Obviously the publisher cares. But it’s not a legal issue, and nothing that the court can use to order people to remain silent. The only reason for not talking about the book is that the publisher is worried over losses. By that same logic people should be forbidden from talking about any sort of bad experience they had with any product. All consumer protection groups and organizations should also be permanently shut down. After all, they may hurt some corporation’s bottom line.

Unless, of course, the judge thought that the content of the books is real, and some Canadian wizards need a little more time to sort out their affairs so that the rest of the people will not follow hints in the book and find out about them. This could make sense. Except, of course, that the book is urban fantasy, and doesn’t contain any actual state secrets. If it did, the person ordered to be silent would have been the author, not the people buying it a few days early.

It might have also been different had these people been actual reviewers for the publisher. Someone who receives an early copy from the publisher under an agreement that they will not blab about it in public can indeed be legitimately, and legally, expected to keep silent. But these people didn’t have any sort of such agreement with the publisher whatsoever. No signed contract, and not even a mutual understanding, a handshake, or even a half-hearted wink. The people had no interaction with the publisher at all. They just bought a book. This does not give the publisher any rights to tell them what to do with what they bought, and it’s a shame that a Supreme Court judge thinks it does.

I had a conversation about this with a Canadian friend. I was surprised that instead of being outraged the friend was amused. The amusement was from basically the same source that troubled me, that a Supreme Court judge had made a stupid ruling, which is probably illegal, over something as trivial and petty as a reading book. When I inquired if it doesn’t raise big concerns about the court system, I got a reply that in any case their whole court system is absurd, does nonsense like that all the time, and not taken too seriously, so it doesn’t really matter…

International Opera Program in Tel-Aviv

July 20th, 2005

On Monday started the annual International Opera Summer Program, aka International Opera Program in Tel-Aviv, aka (as they call it in Hebrew) International Opera Workshop in Tel-Aviv. Yes, they’re having a hard time deciding on a name, and keeping the same name in all the publications, in both English and Hebrew.

This program has been going on for 19 years now. The moving force behind the program is the amazing Joan Dornemann from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. For all these years she manages to arrange and bring a great team of singers, musicians and choreographers, who give a series of public master-classes, and raise several arias concerts and operas. The student singers who perform, and take the master-classes, come both from Israel, and from many other countries, and are usually very good, and right before (or during) embarking on actual performance careers.

The city of Tel-Aviv is partially funding the program, and ticket prices are lower than the excessive amounts one need to pay to see an actual opera production. Despite that over the years the prices have climbed pretty high. Originally (Not when the program started, but when I started going, about 12 or so years ago, give or take a few years) they took prices which were about a third of the current ones. Still, 45 ILS for a master-class, and 90 ILS for an opera production (even if the music is usually adapted for a single piano), are relatively not expensive these days.

Over the last several years, as in this year, the first two weeks are master-classes, and the last two are arias concerts and operas.

Sadly as time goes by less and less people seem willing to come here to give master-classes, and Joan herself carries more of the burden. This isn’t that bad, because Joan is quite amazing. She’s interesting, entertaining, and very nice. While she does wonders with the student singers, and seem to be able to give ideas for improvement for each one, she is well aware that she is appearing in front of an audience, and fills the master-class with explanations, stories, background information, and even opera gossip.

And yet, less artists who give master-classes directly translates to less master-classes. Overall I enjoy these, and certainly learn from these, a lot more than the actual operatic productions they make. Plus, this becomes less and less of a way to get exposed to artists I would normally not get to ever see and hear, even if they’re not singing themselves on the master-class. Like for example this one year she managed to bring here the incredible Federico Devia, on the year before he died.

I’m booked for several master-classes this year, as well as one opera and one concert. I’d have gone to more, but finding people to go with to the opera is difficult. As it is, there are very rarely any people in the crowd in my own age group, not including other student singers on the program who come to see the others perform. The crowd is mostly comprised of people around their 80s, and some people around their late 50s. So I can go to a few master-classes with my father, but his work hours overlap most shows (19:30 on the evening of workdays. That’s way too early). Occasionally I manage to drag a friend for one of the evenings, but most years that’s a problem, and even when I do it’s not many.

One of the master-classes I did book was the first one, on the opening night.

That 19:30 hours is also a problem, since it’s high traffic time in the Tel-Aviv area. I had to leave work early to make sure I have enough time. Happily the roads were not very crowded on this specific day, though I still have some more to go, which statistically would be. But as things were, I didn’t need all the spare time I allocated for the drive, and I arrived about half an hour early, as did my father

Before entering into the hall we saw in the crowd a local well-known actor, Moni Moshonov. The guy looked… horrible. Baggy pants, T-Shirt with a large print, in desperate need of a haircut, and bloodshot eyes. I myself don’t ever go as far out as to wear a proper suit and tie, but I’d still never would have gone to a cultural event like that looking even half as bedraggled as he did. It took me a while, and several repeated looks, to make sure it’s really him. But I suppose actors and artists make their own rules, eh?

His presence may have been explained by the fact that one of the student singers on the master-class was named Alma Moshonov. True, there are more Moshonovs in the country than him, but the name isn’t very common. So I assume a relative. But I may be mistaken, maybe he just likes opera. Or maybe he was there for a different reason, the hall was one belonging to a conservatorium, after all. [update: She's his daughter. Plus, her mother's brother is an opera singer himself, Gabby Sade]

The hall itself was jam-packed. It looked like there were only two unfilled seats on the entire place (and that hall can contain about 500 people, by my own rough estimate), just on our two sides. Yes, really. Hardly an empty chairs, except nobody sat near us. One has to love these little ironies. In any case the extra elbow space was welcome, since the chairs are slightly too small, and this provided us with some more room.

As the master-class started, and Joan started to speak, the sounds of shutting-down cellphones started. For some obscure reason many of the cellphones refuse to shut down quietly, and must chime to let everyone know. Mine does so as well, but if I want to shut it down quietly I just pull out the battery. Some people didn’t think of that, though. Heck, those same people didn’t think to maybe turn the phone off before the show started, instead of waiting until it’s too late. So Joan stopped, and repeatedly asked everyone to turn their cellphones off. In her way she did it very nicely, making a joke of the thing, but it was obvious the phones should be turned off. This, though, did not stop a phone from starting to ring later on while one of the singers were singing their aria. Sadly, we do not have anything like the death penalty in this country, not even to idiots who keep their phones open during a performance.

The format of these master-classes is fairly standard. A singer comes on the stage, introduce themselves and the aria they will sing, sings the aria, and then the teacher running the master-class goes with them over it. This can include, depending on the person and the aria, and on how the actual singing went, tips, pointers, explanations, and corrections. Normally the singer will practically sing the aria a second time, but in small pieces, some with repetitions, going over specific aspects and points with the teacher.

This one went like that as well, except that Joan opened up with something slightly different. She had all the six singers appearing that evening in a line, letting them sing a scale, the same scale, one by one. She then turned them around, and had one sing the same scale (She also asked the audience to close their eyes, but you can guess how well that went). She did that a couple of times, asking the audience after each time which of the singers sang the scale, based on how they did it the first time. With some it was fairly easy, since some aspects of their voice and singing were very unique, and with some it was a bit harder. Harder not necessarily because the singer was like another one, none of them exactly were, but because it’s hard to remember six different voices after one hearing, and the similarities are more than the differences. Still, overall the audience did well.

This was of course also a way to show the students that their voices are indeed different enough to separate, to help illustrate the point that they should sing in a way that fits their own voice. You’d be surprised how many singers don’t do that, but tend to assume there is just one way to sing an aria and they have to totally standardise themselves.

For musical accompaniment in the program they usually use a single piano, and all the scores are adapted for piano. The adaptations are usually very good, though. The piano player this time was John Lidal, and I’m afraid I can’t say much more beyond that he sounded quite well, since I was listening to the singers and not the music.

Noa Danon sang an Aria from the opera L’Amico Fritz by Mascagni. She has an amazing voice, and I think could be a great singer once she’ll smooth out her technical problems. Smooth being the key word here, since while her voice is incredibly smooth and flowing, she goes on to smooth everything too much. When the aria needs to flow, this is excellent. But when she needed to make stops and sudden changes, she went smooth instead. And when she needed to exactly pronounce words, she smoothed syllables over. It was very pleasant to hear her sing, but it wasn’t always the way the aria was supposed to sound, and was hard to understand many of the words. She also kept herself a little bit too quiet, on the few times she needed to go louder.

Another problem she had, actually a problem that all the singers that day had to some extent, was on the acting bit. Many people think, entirely wrongly, that singing opera is only about the sound. That it doesn’t matter how you look like, how you act, what you do, and how you move. But acting is a big part of it. A person cannot sing about the love of their life, and look slightly bored. A person shouldn’t lament on their great suffering, and look bland. And those few standard hand gestures that singers like to endlessly repeat while singing about anything, they don’t look even mildly convincing. When you understand the words, seeing improper acting hurts the performance, since things don’t feel natural. When you don’t understand the words, seeing improper acting makes it much harder to understand what is going on. The difference acting can make is huge. But I’ll talk more about this on a future report, on one of the master-classes of John Norris, who is a choreographer for the Met and works with the singers on their acting. Joan herself overall works on about everything, including sometimes acting, but this time focused almost exclusively on the singing (except for one of the singers, on one of those repetitive movements. She went over with her on what is going on in the aria, moving her hand with her saying something like “and you give him the bowl of cherries, and you give him the bowl of cherries, and give him the bowl of cherries. How many times can you give him the same bowl of cherries?”. It was much funnier when she did it, honest).

Moran Abouloff sang the worst version I ever heard of Una voce poco fa, one of the loveliest, and well know, arias from Rossini’s opera Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). I know, it sounds harsh, but I heard this aria quite a few time, I really like this aria, and yet this performance didn’t to anything to me. Bland voice, screechy high notes, badly mispronounced words, and inappropriate acting. I know it’s not nice to say that, but I really think she needs a lot more work before she’s ready to go on stage. Either that, or she was having a really bad day.

Limor Ilan sang an aria from the opera Roberto Devereux by Donizetti. Nice singing overall. She seemed to had some problem holding her breath. Her main problem, and what Joan mostly worked with her on, was the she sang too slow and static (probably not the right term here, but the best description I have). She held her voice on the same notes and tone instead of letting it flow and revibrate. Joan made her sing the aria again, only while she sings she also had to fastly rotate her hands in circles over each other quickly. It’s a simple movement, but doing it makes you keep going. And again and again Joan stopped her and had her repeat the part, since whenever the went to higher notes, or had to hold a note, she very noticeably slowed down the hand movement. This is actually a very neat trick. When she slowed down her singing, the hands naturally slowed. When she really tried to keep the hands going, her singing went on as well.

Rinnat Moriah sang the first Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). It was very nice singing, enjoyable, but somewhat week. Joan started off by asking her “How old are you, 44?”. All the singers were on the 20-24 range (mostly around 23), so this was a rhetorical question. Rinnat answered that she’s 20. So Joan said something like “come back when you’re 30″. She complimented her on having a low and sweet voice, but said that this aria requires a much more strong, high, and metallic voice to do right. “This is not the dress for you”. For a practical advice she told her that this is a nice aria to do at a party, or a fund raiser, but if she’ll do it now on an audition she doesn’t have a chance. Some of the singers work on several arias, and arrive when they have some sort of either fallback, or some other aria they’re less practised on but can try. When Joan asked her is she has the score of anything else with her, she said she didn’t. So they went over this aria again. Basically Joan tried to make her sing it much louder, even if, as she told her, it would feel to her too loud and coarse. It did sound better like that, and when she was done she looked like she really worked hard.

Alma Moshonov sang Monica’s Waltz from Menotti’s opera The Medium. This one was in English, so the words were much easier to understand. At least for me, that is. I do manage somewhat with Italian operas, since many of the words are similar to English and Latin counterparts, but it’s not nearly as clear as hearing English. And I usually don’t get many words from the German ones, though there are exceptions as well. Still, English is easier to understand, though the amount of good operas in English is much smaller. Family relations notwithstanding, Alma has a good and strong voice. She has some serious potential. On the first run the aria sounded a lot like something from a musical, though, instead of from an Opera. I liked it, since I like musicals, but some of the parts were not like they were supposed to sound. As Joan put it to her, she has a very big voice, and felt like it won’t fit into the aria, so she tried to make it sound more nice and elegant by limiting her voice, causing her to extend her breath too much and making it sound like a Broadway musical. Joan encouraged her to sing it as it’s supposed to be, and stay within her own voice. It did sound much better, which I suppose is the whole point.

Talia Or sang another aria from The Magic Flute. She was simply excellent, good voice and excellent control. The words were well pronounced, and she reacted very well to all the dissonances and jumps in the piece. Her only problematical side was the acting, when during the entire aria she had an expression and pose like my mum would have had if as a small boy I’d have left dirty laundry on the floor. Not appropriate for what she was singing. Still, if I remember correctly, I saw her on master-classes in the opera program two years ago, when she had problems with her acting as well. Her singing is, like I said, excellent. In fact, as she, with Joan’s encouragement, let us know, she was performing for real during the last year. Actual paid jobs, as well as participating in a couple of large contests and getting into very good places there.

This time all the singers were Israelis. I expect there will be variation over time, since they do have other singers.

Overall a good show, and I certainly enjoyed the evening.

Expressing personal views using company property

July 14th, 2005

Those who strongly oppose the latest disengagement plan have embraced the orange colour as a sign, and it is quite common to see cars carrying small orange ribbons tied to their antennas or mirrors.

And, while much more rare, some people who strongly support the disengagement, or who are just tired of seeing all those orange ribbons, have started tying blue ribbons to their cars.

In any case, if a person wants to express a political view, that’s fine. If they want to tie small ribbons to their cars, that’s perfectly fine as well.

When the cars aren’t theirs, however, I must take exception. Usually this is not a problem, and people driving company cars (at least in as so far as they are identifiable by having printed/painted company logos on them) avoid putting those ribbons on them. But not all, and not always.

A few days ago I saw one case which was very obvious, when two cars belonging to the same company were driving sompleace, and one of them carried an orange ribbon. Very obviously in this particular case, the orange ribbon was there to represent the opinion of the driver, not the company. But when there is just one visible car, this is less obvious.

The driver really should not have put the ribbon there. A car painted with company colours, and having a company logo, is not only an advertisement of the company, but also to an extent a representation of the company. If the car is involved in an accident, or just drives carelessly, for example, people watching it will associate the behaviour with the company.

A person tying something like that orange ribbon expresses an opinion. By doing it on a company car, this creates an association between the opinion and the company. This is not like in a written text, where a disclaimer can be added stating that the opinions are of the writer and not the company. When people see an orange ribbon on a car with company logo, they could regard the company, not the individual driver, as strongly opposing the disengagement. Or in a general case with other ideas which are expressed by anything attached to the car

That can hurt the company. In this particular case, the entire company is not in support, or both cars would have had the ribbons. So the driver, due to his own personal opinion, risks the company’s reputation, and hinder it with the appearance of political alignments. Very bad form, and extremely rude and inconsiderate. Even if the driver is certain it’s a good cause, he has no right to drag the company into it.

Regardless, one company is obviously greatly enjoying this whole thing. Orange Israel, one of the three large cellular network operators here. The company spent a lot of time and money trying to associate the colour orange with their brand, and their logo is not much more than a simple orange rectangle. While as a company they probably don’t have a political view about the disengagement, they’re probably overjoyed by the tons of free publicity. Their cars are also the only ones on which I suppose there won’t be much of a problem if someone will decide to hang an orange ribbon…

Outdated spam

July 14th, 2005

I got a very amusing spam message a few days ago.

The message was from a clinic dealing in various sorts of cosmetic surgery. It talked about a special offer they were having, in which when you order one of their treatments you get all sorts of extra gifts and benefits. Pretty standard marketing stuff actually.

But the special offer was time limited, only valid until a certain date. A date which was three days before the one on which the message was sent.

They didn’t say anything about their regular services. Just about the special offer. Which was irrelevant by the time the message arrived.

And it’s not as if the message delivery was held in the post office, as may sometime happen to a physical envelope. This was an email, which arrives almost immediately.

The message was sent through one of the larger email advertising spam brokers in the country, and wasn’t something they did by themselves. Meaning they probably paid good money for it. If it wasn’t that it was by definition sent by a spammer, I’d have said they need to check the ethics of the people they work with…

It also doesn’t quite make sense that this was a sleazy way to attract attention while not actually putting up the special offer. After all, it’s very easy to knowingly sent a message about a non existing offer, and pretend that it was sent by mistake. The problem I have with that is that while some stupid and misguided people think spam is a legitimate thing, something like that is too obviously not. And that was sent by a known clinic, and not some shady person selling all original Rolex watches that fell off the back of a truck.

Of course, this may also be some sort of phishing/identity-theft attempt, since the link on the message goes to a page asking you to leave details about the requested treatment and contact information. At which point you’re supposed to trust them to only use these in order to contact you, despite the lack of any privacy policy… A page which isn’t on the main site of the clinic, but on the site of the spam company, directed through a third domain…

Right where it always is

July 12th, 2005

I sent a small package abroad this morning.

On the envelope there are two marked areas, one for the sender address, and one for the destination address. Each of these has a few lines, for the different parts of the address. Very standard, has been like that for years and years.

The clerk I worked with in the post office this morning isn’t a new one, she has also been there for several months, if not a few years. She knows the drill, knows her way around, and have done it all plenty of times.

I wrote the addresses, both mine and the recipient’s, on the envelope. I then closed the envelope and handed it to the clerk. She then started with her part, which includes weighing the package, telling me how much it will cost, collecting the money, stamping the envelope, and sending it. Except that this time there was a slight problem.

She looked at the envelope, and seemed to be searching for something. It took her quite some time. Then she turned to me and asked what country is the package for.

The country name was written, in big letters, on the bottom line of the recipient’s address field. This is the usual, customary, and mandated place for it. This is the exact same place that the country name is always written on when using those standard envelopes. It should have been the first, and the only, place for her to look for the country name. And she did look. But she didn’t find.

Which leaves me no option but to conclude that the girl either needs a pair of reading glasses, or needs to stop taking hallucinogens before going to work…That was just extremely odd.

Referrer log roundup, the fourth

July 11th, 2005

Yes, it’s time for yet another post of some quality phrases people typed into search engines, which by some odd search-engine logic decided to turn them in the direction of this blog. Remember, folks, any of these underlined lines was actually typed into a search engine by a real person. Then followed by my own incredibly helpful and witty commentary. Heck, it’s always amazing to see what people are searching for on the Internet.

sex fully clothed
I suppose it’s technically possible (depending on how strict you are with “fully”), but, er… why?

free porn the cost nothing
There’s plenty of free porn on the Internet, but to expect it to also cost nothing is too much.

simple explanation why computers do not translate better from language to language
Computers do not understand context. Actually, computer translation programs do not understand, period. The programs can check words, and common phrases against a dictionary. They can do all sorts of wonderful calculations to try and estimate what is the meaning of the sentence, and which of many possible translations of each word is correct. But they can’t do it right. Language is too complex for anyone nowadays to be able to fully describe by a set of algorithms. Not to mention two languages.

let my daughter drive
Ha! Like I’m going to trust your daughter with a ton and a half of metal at high speed… I don’t think so.

bad things about north korea
You should be ashamed of yourself. If you go to the Internet to look up stuff about North Korea, at least start impartial and give them a chance. Yes, you’ll find plenty of bad things, don’t worry about that for a second. But why start with a negative attitude?

email addressbook of all google users
Those things are actually not published. A shame, I know, but there is a good reason for it. If there was a page with the email addresses of all Google users, then bad and evil spammers (not that there is any other kind of spammers) will use those address and send them spam.

how to send spam to yahoo inbox not bulk
For example, like this person here, who probably found email addresses of some Yahoo users instead. Listen, creep, your spam should go to the bulk folder. Actually, your spam shouldn’t go anywhere. You should stop sending spam. Seriously. If it’s hard for you to live without sending spam, well, that can be solved as well.

oversexed civilization
I wonder how Star Trek would have looked like if someone had made this slight change to the the opening text: “to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new oversexed civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

alcohol and its effect on mexicans
At first it makes them slightly happy, and slightly reduces inhibitions. Then it make them lose coordination, inhibitions, and several levels of intelligent. Add even more alcohol, and they may puke, and lose consciousness, not necessarily in that order. Proceed for a long duration of time, and liver disease may get into the fray as well. One thing, though, that works pretty much the same even for non Mexicans. Seriously.

scientific soap operas damage brain
That may very well be true. Certainly the thought of anyone making a scientific soap opera boggles the mind. Still, you may remain calm, there are no scientific soap operas airing these days. Nor will there be in the future, trust me on that.

round flat shoelaces conspiracy
Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by simple corporate stupidity. They are not out to get you. They are just out to get a quick buck, and are doing it badly.

idiotic research
It sure is.

us visa till 2010 but in cancelled passport
If you mean expired passport, that’s no problem. You just need to take with you both the new passport, and the passport with the visa. The official attitude is that “If you have a valid visa, simply carry the old passport with the valid visa on it with the new passport and present both passports at the port of entry to the US. Your length of stay will be limited by a validity of your passport.” If the passport was really cancelled, because your country doesn’t want to let you out, well, that’s a whole different ballgame, and I can’t help you there. Though, for a certain reasonable fee, I’m sure something could be arranged…

afraid to hang out with friends
Get new friends. Better yet, go check the dictionary definition of friend, it may enlighten you a bit.

cars made out of ordinary things
Maybe this guy could help, I certainly can’t.

No bulk folder appears on yahoo mail
That’s a bad interface design on their part. When you open a new mailbox, the Bulk folder doesn’t show up until there is an actual message caught that should be delivered to the Bulk folder. Then the folder is created, and stays put. It’s confusing, inconsistent, annoying, and took me some time to figure out myself at firs. But have no fear, many kind spammers are doing their best to make sure that the Bulk folder will be created for you as soon as possible.

siht of the witches
I’m afraid all the witches I asked have adamantly refused to tell me anything about their siht. Must be a trade secret or something.

shania twain’s hard nipples
Sorry, I like her for her voice, not her body. And, please, the women is married, let it go man, let it go.

Is it legal to keep strippers boyfriend from entering club
Depends. Some places give clubs full discretion as to which clients to admit. But business is business, so I don’t think that being a boyfriend of one of the exhibits is a good reason. After all, if the guy is willing to pay to see what he can see for free at home, that’s his problem, and the club’s benefit. On the other hand, there’s nothing illegal about making bad business decisions. On the other hand, other places forbid clubs from barring entry to anyone, and that would include the boyfriend. Check the relevant laws and regulation where the club is.

politically correct language of air crash
That’s a very touch one. I’ll try Avionically Challenged. Or, if you want a longer version, maybe something like consummate failure to maintain separation between airplane chasis and geographical terrain.

today is my birthday on 24th june i want what will happen this year in my life i want the details by astrologers
Thank you for providing all the details. I’m sure the search engine really appreciated it. One detail of your life I can already provide you with is that you didn’t find any relevant topic, because the poor search engine had to match too many irrelevant words. But that’s beside the point. Happy birthday! Now, since you’re a grown up, it’s about time to teach you something about life and the universe you live in. Consider this educational tidbit to be my birthday present to you. Here goes: Nobody, not even astrologers, not even vedic astrologers, not even vedic astrologer with a Ph.D. in vedic astrology from a science dept. in an Indian university, can predict the future. Especially not in details. Sorry.

Street names

July 7th, 2005

I read a discussion recently about several streets with names which happen to be identical to those of some famous people, and it reminded me of a little family-related issue.

Many years ago, during the building of the city of Tel-Aviv, one of the streets was named after a family member of mine, several generations back. Doesn’t really matter in the great scheme of things, but the family members at the time were pretty happy about it.

Years went by, and at some point the street signs were ruined. When the city came to repair the signs, they discovered they’re not sure as to the exact name of the street, just about the last name of the person it was named after. So someone tried to dig up some information, and get the name. And they made a mistake, deciding that the street was after some other mildly-famous artist, or architect, with a similar name.

The new name got put on the sign, the family of that person was notified that the sign of the street named after him got repaired (I think there was a larger renovation work, and the street was officially re-opened, so it was an event), and that was that. Naturally nobody bothered to notify my family.

A long time later some family member was in the area, and decided to take the opportunity to take a look at the street. And discovered that the name is wrong. After some discussions the family members who cared about this filed a complaint with the city, asking that it would be corrected.

The city claimed that they’re not sure about who it should be named after. They agreed that the claim has merit, and that it’s possible they made a mistake, but were not willing to go as far as to actually set it back. Besides, they will then need to notify the people who cared about that other person that they’re losing the street named after him, and they didn’t want to do that. They city didn’t want the headache of getting in an argument between two families, and decided that the simplest course will be retaining the status quo.

And so the street retains the new name to this very day…

Disclaimer: This is based on the stories and arguments that I heard during several family meetings years ago. Considering the time passed, and that I didn’t find the topic all that exciting to begin with, my memory of the exact details is a bit hazy, and they may differ a bit. What’s unmodified is that the street was named after a family member, there were some repairs, the street got renamed after someone else with a similar name, and when it was discovered the city refused to change it back.