Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Handling charges

I've noticed for a long time that when you order tickets for a concert or play over the Internet you don't pay just the ticket price.  Something else is added:  a "handling charge," presumably for the insult of ordering tickets or the inconvenience of the organization having to maintain a website for dolts like you, or possibly to cover the cost of the oxygen you are likely to consume at the venue.

So I ordered two $20 tickets for Tanglewood, and received a $17 handling charge.  Why not just charge $57 in the first place?  There are no good tickets for sitting in the shed, since there is no way you could actually watch the orchestra play because of the configuration of the shed.  You actually watch the live performance on enormous television monitors, which is much better.  The camera or cameras zoom in on the performers, shifting the focus from time to time: first the violinists sawing away, then the horns perhaps, then the soloist.  It's a wonderful experience:  the coolness of a breeze,  the clarity of the music heard in the night air, and of course the excellence of the performers and the beauty of the music.  I've never heard a bad performance, although the weather is not always clement. Sometimes umbrellas, raincoats, or even blankets come in handy.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The curse of electronics

When e-mail started to be accepted by everyone, I was thrilled.  I could keep up with my friends without writing letters or even calling them on the phone.  When someone died, I just had to post regrets on the funeral home's website instead of struggling to write a letter which is really hard to write and takes you half a morning to compose and then you have to look for a stamp and an envelope and put it in the mailbox, not forgetting to write your return address in the upper left hand corner.

So I was happy to have e-mail.  Until I started to get hundreds of e-mail messages every day from every retailer I had ever bought anything from and many I had never bought anything from, not to mention begging letters from Nigeria.

When I got stuck in California for 8 weeks I came home to find 7,000 e-mail messages on my server.  It took me quite a while just to erase them and I've been grumpy about it ever since.

But e-mail is not nearly as intrusive as the ads on my iPhone that keep popping up with gross pictures of women with black stuff on their upper lip or big fat stomachs or ads for first, second, and third mortgages.  I'm getting to hate my phone as it takes me half an hour to read a paragraph or two.

Facebook was a nice alternative for a while, until cute cat videos started popping up.  I don't want anyone to send me pictures of their cats, dogs, or even horses.  I'm also tired of elephants.  If you are a Facebook friend of mine, please no Fauna of any description.  Flora yes, fauna no.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Correction, and explanation

In a previous post, I stated that I had been doing this for 11 years.  Wrong!  It's more like 12 years.  I started in 2004, when I purchased my first computer with my first royalty check.  Of course I had been using computers at work, but this one was mine, and I wanted to take it around the block and see how it worked.  So I started blogging.

I was a lot more cheerful then, and so were the few readers I accumulated.  I have become more moribund, and the readers more reticent.  Hardly anyone comments any more.

I have an excuse.  I was very sick in 2015, of an unspecified disease.  So dire was my condition, that I actually believed that the angel of death had come for me.  This was an unusual event, since I am dubious about things spiritual.  I must have inherited a superstitious gene from Bubbe, my maternal grandmother.

When you are sick, you get very weak.  I could barely get out of bed and really thought I would die in California.  So I got out of CA, and have been spending time with doctors and physical therapists.  I decided to go back to the gym and see if I could recover my strength.  I'm still not up to standard, but getting better.

I've had a bit of good luck.  I won a place in a juried art show, and was just informed by Amazon that I had recieved royalties on my book for the first time in five years.  So I plan to resume my more than occasional posts here and be a little more regular about it.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Good God!

I have been doing this for over 11 years.  Is that depressing, or what?  You be the judge.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


My impulse toward self-improvement, never very strong, has been waning at present.  I got myself a copy of the Federalist Papers and sat down to read it, but I realized that what I really wanted was not to read it, but to have read it.  In short, I wished to have ti transferred to my brain without having spent any time with it.

Instead, I did what I always do when I don't want to edify myself:  I re-read Anna Karenina, one of my favorite books.  Every time I read it, I find more in it.  I see it differently.  In my youth, Anna seemed like a tragic heroine, but now  I am more inclined to side with the cuckolded husband.  I direct your attention to the part where Anna has just given birth to a baby girl fathered by Vronsky.  Everyone is weeping and lamenting at the top of their voices.--Are all Russians opera fans?--at the tragedy of it all, but everyone behaves in a surprisingly modern manner.  She is allowed to choose her own fate, and both Vronsky and Karenin are  supportive.

Imagine what Dickens would do with a scene like that!  Anna and the child would have been thrown out in the snow in a New York minute, and there is plenty of snow in Tsarist Russia.  Or at the very least, exiled to Australia.

Instead, Anna and Vronsky set up housekeeping together.  Everyone in their world snubs her, but not him.  He even offers to marry her, but she refuses to get a divorce--oh these Russian women!  More tragic weeping and wailing from all hands, eventually resulting in her suicide, under the wheels of the same train she arrived on.

Meanwhile, she takes little interest in baby Anna, nor does Vronsky.  She laments losing her son by Karenin, whom she is not allowed to see.  What is up with Anna? She's a tragic heroine, that's what.

I won't even get into the subsidiary characters, like Pierre and Kitty.  And Darya, Anna's brother's wife, very sympathetic and real.  Stiva, the philandering husband and lazy bureacrat.

Luckily, I don't mind reading long books, and Tolstoy apparently enjoyed writing them.

Anyway, I love this stuff.  All the characters are so real.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A poem I've always liked

Spring and Fall, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

To a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Rejected by TurboTax

I'm just a mediocre person, incomewise, so I couldn't suppose the government has much interest in my taxes, as opposed to those of Al Sharpton, the presidential advisor, tax-evader and murderer.

But I digress.  My income consists of a pension, Social Security, and not much more.  It's generally pretty cut and dried.  So I've usually done it myself.  But this time I had a royalty check for a book I and some others wrote in 2002.  

When I entered the figure--about 50 dollars--TurboTax got all high and mighty, refusing to do my taxes for the regular sum of about $40.  I had turned out to be a very special taxpayer, one which would strain the algorithm and probably crash the entire system.  So complex was  my income that TurboTax stopped in its tracks.  It shied like a horse who was asked to jump a deep ditch.  I was informed that my royalty check made me an unusual taxpayer and I needed an extra $50 for them to continue my return.

I would now be paying a hundred dollars in fees for earning an extra $50.  For a couple of hundred I could hire a live accountant.

I pondered the problem for a couple of days and then decided to file for a six month  extension, thus evading the problem until the leaves turned color and started to fall from the trees.

I have so many diseases and they are so complex that I have enough doctors to make a basketball team, although some of them are too short.  I figured that the chances were good that one of them would kill me before October, if I was lucky.


Thursday, April 07, 2016

Another poem

Another poem for poetry month:

Robert Burns. 1759–1796
John Anderson, my Jo
JOHN ANDERSON, my jo, John,
  When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
  Your bonnie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,         5
  Your locks are like the snow;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
  John Anderson, my jo!
John Anderson, my jo, John,
  We clamb the hill thegither;  10
And monie a canty day, John,
  We've had wi' ane anither:
Now we maun totter down, John,
  But hand in hand we'll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,  15
  John Anderson, my jo.
Anyone who has been married for a long time will get this one:

Psychologizing Trump

Since everyone else in the country is psycho-analyzing Donald Trump, I figure now it's my turn.  Fair is fair, no?  I know as little or as much as  anyone who has not been locked up in an abandoned coal mine for the last six months, so I'm going to have at it.

(That rumbling noise you hear is The Donald shaking in his shoes.)

He reminds me of my Uncle Doc, who would say anything that came into his head without pausing for thought.  He yelled at everybody who ever upset him.  You should have heard him opine on my father after he divorced my mother.  Or his son-in-law.  Or the government, Republican or Democrat; he had no use for any of them.  And he could change his mind at the tip of a hat.  Many times, he didn't know what he was opining about, but that didn't stop him for a minute.

It was all a sham.  Deep down inside, he was a generous and loving man, but no-one was allowed to know  this, it would ruin his reputation as a hard man.  But his parents knew, and so did his brother and sister.  He never let any of them down, although his siblings got plenty of verbal abuse.

I'm not saying Trump is a good man; but his statements about everything strike me as so much bluster. I'm sure he never gave abortion a moment's thought, for instance.  But on the basics he's got a few things right, and isn't afraid to say so.  That's what makes him attractive to voters, who are tired of the mealymouthed politicians of both parties, and their thinly veiled contempt for average Americans.