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New arrival

#1 daughter delivered a 7lb 6oz baby daughter Charlotte at 16:15 this afternoon. No further news yet. Will post again tomorrow smiley - run

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Latest reply: Sep 12, 2008


For the benefit of those readers of these words who have not, or are not able to see it, the BBC at present broadcasting a TV programme called “Maestro”. The basic idea is to take 8 reasonably well-known talented people (note I did not say celebrities), and pit them against each other in a competition to see who can make the best job of conducting the BBC’s Concert Orchestra; none of them has attempted to do so before. As the series progresses, one of the 8 is eliminated at each round. There is a jury panel of music professionals who, by one means or another, select two of the contestants for elimination, but the final decision is made by the orchestra themselves, who vote to keep one or other of the two drop-zone candidates. The ultimate winner of the competition will take part, as a conductor in front of 30,000 people, at the ‘Proms in the Park’ event in London on 14 September. One-time lawyer and some-time humorist Clive Anderson is the show’s host.

The Candidates

Jane Asher: actress, writer and cake-maker
Katie Derham: newsreader and radio presenter
Goldie: electronic music artist and DJ
Alex James: bass player with the band Blur, journalist and radio presenter
Sue Perkins: comedienne, comedy writer and presenter
Peter Snow: veteran TV political journalist
David Soul: singer and actor (Starsky and Hutch)
Bradley Walsh: comedian and TV soap actor

The Experts

Zoë Martlew: cellist and composer
Roger Norrington: chief conductor of the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart; will be the conductor at this year’s Last Night of the Proms
Dominic Seldis: principal double-bass of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Simone Young: conductor and music director of the Hamburg State Opera

Episode 1

As might be expected, we, the viewers, were introduced to the contestants and to the jury. We learned that the contestants had each been assigned a 'mentor', whose role is to assist them technically, musically, psychologically and generally in any other way that they can. During the course of this episode, we also learned a few perhaps relevant facts about the contestants: Goldie cannot read a note of music, Sue Perkins learned the piano to Grade 8 standard and Katie Derham also plays the piano. It was clear right from the outset that poor Peter Snow was not blessed with so much as a gram of a natural sense of rhythm. An exercise that caused a lot of difficulty for a number of people was attempted to draw simultaneously, over and over again (on a whiteboard), a square with one hand and a triangle with the other hand. Goldie may not be able to read a score, but he is a consummate musician and finds ways to circumvent that fact, making it far less of a problem. Having found ways, he then works hard. The problem they all found was that when the orchestra followed (or rather tried to follow) their beat, the music was v-e-r-y s-l-o-w. One contestant asked "How do I make you go faster?" A wise voice from the orchestra was heard to say, "Try moving your hands quicker". Peter Snow and Alex James came bottom of the table; Peter did not make the cut.

Episode 2

In marked contrast to the previous episode, this one was broadcast live, and the format changed (in my opinion for the worse) to one of "Tonight Clive, I'm going to be…". The pieces performed sounded better, but sadly this was due to what all orchestras do when faced with a conductor who is not competent, they moved into auto-pilot mode. As a result, the conductors were at best following the orchestra, instead of directing it. The one hour time slot meant that Clive Anderson was constantly pushing the jury for quick answers. The contestants were marked as they went, rather than at the end, as in the Eurovision Song Contest. Perhaps in future episodes, with less contestants, the one hour format will work better. Certainly in this one, we saw almost nothing of the work done in preparing their pieces prior to the broadcast. The jury voted resulted in David Soul and Bradley Walsh facing the vote-off, with David Soul departing. Why Bradley scored as low as he did relative to the others is a mystery to me; his 3 in a bar beat was crystal clear, but he lives to fight another round. Jane Asher danced her piece rather than conducted it and looks to me to be in danger next time. Katie Derham cannot go much further (at least in this programme) on the basis of a sweet smile and a wiggling bottom. Both Bradley and Sue seem self-conscious and try to cover it with comedy, a natural fallback position for them. They are both able but need to focus.

More after next week's episode smiley - run

Discuss this Journal entry [62]

Latest reply: Aug 21, 2008

Gripe again

Time for my twice-yearly moan.

This weekend we in the UK play very unmusical clocks. We go forward into what is jokingly called British Summer Time - bearing in mind that last weekend we had snow on the ground over 3 days.

I have campaigned for years to have BST abolished in preference for year-long GMT, but it seems that CABST - Campaign for the Abolition of British Summer Time - will have to fight on.

Discuss this Journal entry [3]

Latest reply: Mar 28, 2008

I've been away

As you may have noticed, my presence on h2g2 has been very much reduced recently, but now I'm back. Dear Diary:

Dec 27 pm Internet connection drops, as it does occasionlly, so I reset my broadband router, but still no joy. Leave it a while, but still nothing. This has happened before - the last time for over 12 hours - so I leave it. Techie stuff: Router says PPP server down.

Dec 28 am Still no internet connection. I try a different router, telephone lead, microfilter etc. (i.e. changed all the hardware) but no joy. The telephone line is working ok, just not the internet. So I dig out the telephone number of the the ISP's help line (charged at 7p/min). After a series of press 1 for ***, 2 for %%%... 8 for something else, I get connected to a gentleman in India who insists on leading me through the process of resetting the router to factory defaults and configuring the whole thing from scratch - still at 7p/min. Still not working, so he logs the call and asks me to call back in 24 hours.

Dec 29 am No Internet so I call India again (press 1 for *** etc. 7p/min). India - "We cannot find a problem, so I'll escalate this to Tech. Support." Me - "How soon?" India - "It takes 5 working days." Me - "WHAT**%[email protected]"

Dec 30 - I go away for New Year (drink, eat, drink, be merry etc.)

Jan 3 p.m. Back from New Year - no Internet. smiley - wah Phone India (press 1 for *** etc. 7p/min). Me - "I still have no Internet." India - "It's not yet 5 working days. Call again tomorrow."

Jan 4 Phone India (press 1 for *** etc. 7p/min). India: "We will have our engineer do a line test. How do you want the result reported to you - voice message or text?" Me - "Telephone please. How long will it take?" India - (wait for it) "48 hours." Me - (stunned silence, followed by, "*^[email protected]#****. You must be joking!!!!!!!!!!" India - "I'm sorry, but we have many thousands of customers with the same problem as yours"

At this point I was smiley - steam and escalated my way though the chain of command (7p/min) talking to Line Manager after Line Manager, demanding, in Churchill's words, Action This Day, and pointing out, in words of 1 syllable, that in 48 hours there wouldn't be an account to fix.

Jan 6 pm I phoned the ISP's accounts dept. Me - "I want to cancel my account". ISP - "I see you've been with us a long time and are having problems. I can offer you 6 months free of charge if you stick with us" Me - "6 months of no service is no offer at all is it? Can you guarantee to fix it by 6pm today?" ISP - "No, I cannot make you a definite promise" Me - "OK, cancel the account and give me my MAC code"

[The MAC - Migration Authorisation Code - is the bit you must have to change ISP.]

Jan 7 pm MAC code arrives by email. I immediately sign up with a new ISP. Connection will be active in 5 working days, bringing me to Jan 14.

Jan 14 am New hardware arrives from new ISP. Connect it up, all looks ok after a couple of minor hiccups in reconfiguring the family's many PCs (all of them). Line works but a bit slow in the afternoon. By evening it is DREADFUL. I checked the data on the router and found my download speed to be only 160 kbps (it should be 7500 kbps).

Jan 15 evening. My son suggests we should reset the new router. Seems a reasonable thing to try, so I press the reset button. After the restart, the router goes into Update mode (according to the manual this can take up to 30 mins). After that's done I have a full-speed Internet line again. Horray smiley - cheerssmiley - cheerssmiley - bubbly

Jan 16 evening. Line speed down to 1100 kbps smiley - sadface but working. Apparently this is not abnormal during the first few days of a new connection, as the system finds the fastest speed it can work at reliably - I live in hope.

So if you get a "PPP server down" message that lasts more than an hour from an ISP that should have been called 'Lemon', don't delay. Phone immediately and demand your MAC code, cancel your subscription and smiley - run to another ISP. smiley - erm

Discuss this Journal entry [7]

Latest reply: Jan 16, 2008

Losing basic skills

A thought prompted indirectly by Skankyrich's Micronavigation entry.

We already have a whole generation of youngsters incapable of performing simple arithmetic without the aid of an electronic calculator. They don't even understand why you would want to do so. smiley - sadface The same generation are also incapable of writing either a business or a personal letter, even if it is going to be sent electronically.

I now wonder whether the next generation will be incapable of reading a map or even finding their way anywhere without total dependence on a GPS receiver?

Progress? Paah smiley - wah

Discuss this Journal entry [7]

Latest reply: Dec 2, 2007

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