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Crystal Palace transmitter light show for two nights only*

19 Apr

As we were returning home from Marina Rebeka’s recital we happened upon the light show while waiting for the traffic lights to change 😉 As they say no better time than the present and here’s my little video.


*Despite most of the publicity mentioning the light show on the 18th, it is actually on tonight as well, so if you live in South London look out of that window 😉

Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock*

11 Apr

Ah the glamour that is the public booking days on the Royal Opera House’s website. A bunch of laughs with an equivalent sense of fun all over Twitter.

Last year I aired my annoyance and things have not really improved. We still get wet blog entries by the ROH staff and we are still looking forward to some of those promises to be fulfilled. Mind you they tried to do a bit of damage limitation by posting a blog the day before and managing to sound as non-committal as possible. Since that was written quite a few comments give an insight to concerns about the future of online bookings with the ROH.

I tweeted screen shots as I was progressing up the virtual queue and amazingly just after over 3 and a half hours I was through and free to choose my tickets. The ticketing system surely is transparent enough and actually easy to use, when it works. The waiting room is maybe not too annoying, but having a capacity of near 2000 customers is a tad too long. Wouldn’t they be better to shorten that to half and that way make the start to finish wait much shorter? Waiting for anything over 2 hours is truly woeful and for a lot of people it is impossible to stay online continuously for such a long while .

The ROH charge pretty serious prices for their shows and we have to expect a much better experience. I do sympathise with the box office staff who are faced with the perfect ticketing storm three times a year, but their bosses have to understand that immediate investment in infrastructure is demanded. I am hoping that will not be writing such a blog post in the near future and all problems are dully sorted. I’ve now grumped about it…looking forward to Troyens like an excited child goes mad over Christmas 😉

*And no, dear reader I am not quoting Ke$ha’s song

My top 11 discoveries / realisations of 2011

19 Dec

This was a pretty intense year and thought it would be good to make a list of inspirational mainly operatic highs of 2011

1 Twitter

It was the first full year that I’ve used the network as a great resource for news and also as direct communication on matters operatic and not. Met some great people through it and started some very interesting conversations.

2 Beverly Sills

This year I immersed myself in the recorded output of the diva from Brooklyn. A great artist with an intriguing personality to boot. Surely one of the finest coloratura sopranos of the 20th century and worth going back to her for renewal and inspiration.

3 Veronique Gens

The year (almost) started with her magisterial Niobe at Covent Garden and finished with her fantastic  recital at Wigmore Hall. A diva cut off the old cloth of greatness.

4 Allan Clayton

First noticed him this year in a small part in Britten’s Dream, then I saw him triumph in Castor and Pollux and L’Enfance du Christ. A loud voice for the future, hope ENO and RO will give him more substantial roles to sink his teeth into.

5 Iestyn Davis

Never one for countertenors, but his performance in Britten’s Dream was magnetic and his Niobe contribution very substantial. A young British voice to shake up the world of opera and early music.


Have always loved the London Symphony Orchestra but this year they have been stunning. Also one of the most adept to Twitter orchestras on the planet. A band all Londoners should be proud of and should patronise with frequency.

7 Anne Sophie von Otter

Like a well aged Claret, ASvO is a European treasure. Her captivating Wigmore Hall recital was intoxicating to the max. Greatness without the hollow diva attitude. Looking forward to her LSO collaboration early in  February 2012.

8 Alice Coote

Listened to her sing Les nuits d’été years ago at the Proms and was terribly impressed, her triumphantly sulky Prince Charmant in Cendrillon was breathtaking. Her upcoming Winterreise  at Wigmore Hall will be an early highlight of 2012 (there are still a few tickets left, grab them quickly!)

9 Joyce DiDonato

The Yankeediva is a charismatic performer that elevated Cendrillon to stratospheric heights, her Ariodante was to die for, despite the awful orchestra and still a fun Twitter person to have disagreements and banter with.

10 Mark-Anthony Turnage

He gave us Anna Nicole, which was plethoric in its gay abandon and a great showcase for the considerable gifts of Eva Maria Westbroek, the darkness of Twice Through the Heart with the excellent Sarah Connolly and his remarkable music for Undance.

11 Sylvie Guillem

Managed to see her new mixed bill evening at Sadler’s Wells in its two outings back in early July and late September. She was absolutely wonderful both times. A rare dance treat. She continues to be the measure of all dancers, a standard for excellence.

If you had an epiphany of an artistic nature in 2011, feel free to add your top whatever in the comment section and Merry Xmas 😉

When tech terminology is subverted by marketing noise

18 Nov

The most prominent example is the usual silly mistake of separating the personal computing worlds into Mac and PC. A result of a series of disarmingly uncomplicated and rather unsophisticated adverts that Apple Inc brought out over a period of  three years.

Of course because they did not want to specifically mention Windows and possibly attracting legal action they just used the word PC as the byword. Thus they gave a whole generation the impression that a PC runs necessarily Windows, while their beloved Mac is something different. A totally facile and silly suggestion since the 2007 complete shift to Intel chips all of Apple’s Personal Computers (see PC) are just Wintel clones.

So please, non technologically minded people get it into your heads, that a Personal Computer is not determined by its operating system, but by its utility as a personal computing device. So a PC can run Linux, OS X, Windows. It surely may seem pedantic to keep on making this distinction, but it is the very basis of personal computing and it would be nice in 2011 people to show that they know what they’re talking about and not repeat what. Show some technological sophistication, please!

Of course Microsoft realising it was being beaten into a corner…had to respond and came up with the I’m a PC tagline…how bloody unfortunate. Looking forward to a campaign for Linux Red Hat 😉 Now go and look at this James Turrell project in Australia, will calm the situation down

Wikipedia’s entry on the subject

Here’s the rundown of all the US Mac vs PC Apple adverts

Wikipedia’s entry on the Apple adverts

And the rather much more brief entry for the Microsoft campaign

9/11 NYC Memorial

9 Sep

I’m sure we are all inundated with information and memories from the awful events in New York in 2001. This morning the website for the memorial in New York has gone live and is moving beyond description. It puts this tragedy in a new light for me, focusing on the personal drama of the individuals that lost their lives on that day.

Well done to Michael Arad who designed the memorial and Local Projects that created the extremely well designed website/database. It allows us to unfold all those underlying relationships and stories. It is eloquent and timely. After all when we memorialise monumental events what we leave behind is the individual. Not this time.

The memorial website 

Story behind the making of the memorial and the structure of the names inscribed  

2006 interview with Michael Arad in NY Mag

An interesting article on the process and the complex set of requirements the memorial and rebuilt towers had to fulfill

All the phones I have ever owned

18 May

Yesterday. a short exchange on Twitter got me thinking of all the mobiles I’ve had in the last decade and how technology has moved on.

So I cast my mind back to 1997 when I got my first mobile and was really interesting, in a totally geeky way, having a part of my tech life under scrutiny. From the gloriously cheap and nasty original Motorola to two beautifully made Siemens models to the first full touchscreen operated phone in the world, to my beloved Nokia E71 which is impossible to replace, despite it’s old age. I do wonder what do those phones say about me and about priorities at the time.

The first one (Motorola d520) could barely text and make the odd phonecall the last one is always online checking for emails and updating my Twitpics and Twitter status. My first UK mobile, the awful Philips was only turned on maybe for a couple of hours a day and still have the fondest recollection of the bugle that announced every text message, my only immediate connection to my sister back in Athens. The very idea of texting across national borders was simply thrilling, bordering on the magical. As my circumstances changed and became more technologically aware the phone became much more useful and all the more necessary for day to day activities.

The buldging mass of the second Motorola phone (cd930) was a true work horse and a way to assert my identity with its lurid blue metallic colour! The Siemens SL45 was the first phone to have a fully fledged mp3 player and it also featured a beautiful aluminium case and a rather peculiar yellow backlight that made it rather appealing to me. Remember all too clearly saving money to buy it as it was at the time a very expensive handset, being part of Siemens’ business offering.

Clearly I must have been a very happy customer as I moved on to my first colour screen mobile which was the Siemens S65, a totally beautiful device with a glossy black plastic and metal construction. This was also my first camera phone with an amazing for the time 1.3MP sensor ;-). I fondly remember the joystic that made navigating around its stiffly Germanic menu system a doddle.

The Samsung was a hand me down from my housemate at the time and the start of my brief love of the clamshell form factor. Which culminated with a Motorola Razr V3 in black, which was at the time one of the most stunning and technically advanced devices. So much so that Motorola was producing it for over five years. That handset was the first one that I really modified. I flashed out the firmware (making me feel like a proper geek in the process) and the moment I gave it to a friend, it was a UK device that was running Sprint software (as that actually allowed you to make videos, unlike the UK version).

Then came the LG Prada, the first fully touchscreen operated phone in the world (a full 6 months before the first iPhone, a fact not that often acknowledged). Interestingly it was very stylish and despite its lovely colour screen, the default theme was black and white, an interesting win of design wilfulness over logic and technological possibility.

That gave way to Nokia’s flagship E71, which is still my current phone (it was first released in the spring of 2008) it’s beautifully responsive full qwerty keyboard is the stuff of legends and its Finnish construction is all metal and near indestructible.

Looking back I can see how I was swayed by passing technological fads and how sometimes I was open minded to be an early adopter. Two of the companies have even stopped making phones (Siemens and Philips). In just over a decade the mobile became from an optional extra to the device we wouldn’t leave the house without. I do wonder if I remade this list in 2020, what it may possibly look like.

Dear reader, hope this has not bored you stiff and of course feel free to add any phone/tech related reminiscences in the comments section below. Mobile devices have had such a catalytic role in our everyday life that I think the above inventory of mine seems at the same time obsessive and a form of autobiography. Cathartic and yet frivolous.

The web, my own dependency and a new birthright

31 Mar

A week ago my web connection went dead for two and a half days and being used to always having information on tap it was like entering a different world. And as with any crisis (even as miniscule as this) I
couldn’t stop thinking how we take things for granted till we lose them. But then was losing access to the web such a horrible thing?

Well YES!
It totally throws the Web 2.0 world we live in out of the window, my media server can not fetch video and audio from the web, my Playstation 3 can not go online to download demos and other content, my computer can not access any online data…it is like being totally excluded from a society we think we have a place in. Ten years ago I barely used to check my email three times a week. Nowadays I am always wired to my Gmail account through Wi-Fi. It is crazy!

But then the other day we had a conversation about simnel cake (a great banal subject) and its origins and it really helped getting instantly to Wikipedia and finding the answer on my handheld device. Sure it is possibly diminishing the need to remember any intricate details about most not day to day items but it is immensely fun having so much information on our fingertips. The novelty never really wears off. A recent Guardian article put it in more old fashioned terms…Wi-Fi is the nearest we can get in our everyday life to magic.

And I will have to second. Being able to stream video and data over the air to any room we choose is a freedom I never imagined of. But it just feels both luxurious and mystical. Maybe that is the reason that it makes it feel like a birthright it’s the fact that data access is no more something that a dull black cable brings to you, but part of the air we breathe.

Long live IEEE 802.11n

What’s wrong with Mac users?

8 Nov

Oh I do wonder sometimes, whenever there is a silly IT issue in the office and the only person around is a habitual Mac user, all they do is scratch their head and call for help.

In a way Apple’s computers with no need for configuration has created a breed of computer users that have no knowledge of the working parts of their machines. Pretty much in the same way that modern cars being more reliable have removed the need for the driver to have any mechanical knowledge. But it surely must be different with computers! We use them all the time and quite a few of us run parts of our lives through them.

Some people will say that Apple’s operating system is marvelous and an exemplary piece of engineering but my criticism is that mac users are technologically unintelligent as they cannot think what happens beneath the pretty interface that Apple provides them with. And that essential reality is what creates those blind followers of the cult of the Mac. As they are far too insecure to look around they will just follow like sheep Apple’s latest OS update (Leopard where are you?) or run to buy the next available Apple gadget with an i prefix! Not considering what they are really buying, which most of the times is a pretty box that has limited expandability. In the real world some of Apple’s gadgets would not have a commercial future, but then the consumer is seduced by great design and sleek surfaces!

A quick rundown:

The iPod, iTunes music store downloads are of a very average quality and they have a very limited amount of times they can be transfered to devices…oh and guess what they only play on the iPod! They never had the now standard FM radio or recording functionality (well not without spending another £30 for the add on module)

The iMac, no possibility for upgrading components and if something goes wrong with the computer innards the whole thing is scrapped.

The iPhone, locked down to a network with a really expensive airtime contract on top of the dear purchase price in the first place! No decent camera (2 MP? Oh come on Apple this is supposed to be a powerhouse of a phone) and Bluetooth that is only functional with Apple’s own headset!

Any company that would have produced such second rate devices would have been attacked numerous times by its very customers, but somehow the cult that Apple lovers are following is depriving them of critical thoughts of their beloved brand. And queuing in the Apple Store the other week really put me in the centre of the cyclone that he cult is. All those ‘creative’ tossers buying the latest shiny Apple box to replace their 12 month old previous purchase where there buying their way to an Apple utopia, a world where computers look good and under perform and where music devices come with shoddy screens and second rate music playing capability. Still though I appreciate Apple’s design ethos I really do not like the stupid generation of technophobes it has created. At least the staff in the Regent Street Store were uber efficient and extremely pleasant.

Facebook? More like Idlebook/ Crapbook/ Dullbook/ Crackbook

25 Oct
Well well! Another invite to join the ranks of fools that have a Facebook profile.
Oh how much I hate those "I’ve added you as a friend on Facebook" automated messages!
I thought friendship was all about personal interaction and exchange of ideas. The very process that Facebook’s set-up negates.
Being in someone’s list of "friends" is almost like looking in the party but not actually being there.
How can an inane comment of the "I’m eating crisps" kind of league constitute of communication? Isn’t the very nature of meaningful communication that the broadcasted message is worthy of its broadcast? Who the hell cares if I am currently having a big bag of cracked pepper Kettle Chips?
When I asked a friend if he had moved to the new flat he was trying to buy in the last few months, all I got was an automated invite to join Facebook.
It’s exactly the kind of degradation of individuality in interpersonal communication that makes me so angry.
If he bothered to let me know with a persona email I may have been more understanding…but answering to my email with a standard invite to Facebook? That is the equivalent of taking the piss!
Oh when will people see that its is just a pointless exercise for arrogant self publicising morons

iPhone hysteria here we go!

12 Oct


The general hysteria that accompanies a major, and rather delayed, Apple Corp launch has started.

O2 is the "lucky" network to pick it up in the UK. The iPhone will be launching on 9 November, rather handy for the critical Christmas sales.There’s a rather buzzy photographic coverage on Engadget of the press launch:
Launch event report on Engadget.It pretty much illustrates the kind of excitement an Apple launch can create even though it is essentially an already launched product in the US (and widely reported in the media and blogosphere)  

Especially when the iPhone is a rather crippled device that is locked down (impossible to run non apple approved applications) and non expandable (no memory card reader). Hopefully the European mobile users will be more savvy and realise that it is a device firmly rooted to past of mobile telecommunications…pretty much the area occupied by the US.

The US users are used to paying for their mobiles as they are used to paying for receiving text messages. Both are totally inconceivable in Europe, where the phones are heavily subsidised and the texts are free to receive.

Also there has been an advertising campaign by NOKIA around the US pointing out that their Symbian based mobiles are open to new applications and customisations by the usersreminding all those iPhone users that are locked down to an 18month contract and paid for a device that they cannot customise without putting more money in Apple’s pockets (e.g. ringtones through iTunes)

(picture from

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