Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Beggars on the streets of Philadelphia

When I was a small child I saw grown men begging on the streets of Columbus, OH, during the Depression.  It was a sad sight, even to a little girl like me.  I felt sorry for them and sorry that our country had let them down.  No-one should have to beg to stay alive. Not here.  Not in this country.

Today, as I exited the Ben Franklin Parkway, there were little boys approaching cars stopped at a traffic light with blue buckets in their hands.  They were begging from the motorists.   I have seen children begging on the streets of Dublin, but never thought I would see such a thing here.

Where were all the social workers, the interfering busybodies who punish parents who allow their children to walk alone to a public park? None were in attendance.  I guess the lives of little black children don't matter quite as much.  It's okay to let them run around on busy streets, dodging cars and putting themselves in danger.  Their lives don't matter until the Rev Al Sharpton shows up with his followers and makes an issue of it.  I guess the Rev has weighed his options and decided there was no profit for him in exploiting these kids.

I certainly don't dismiss the possibility that these kids are little hustlers, like the squegee men who used to infest New York City.  But they are kids.  They shouldn't have the freedom to put themselves in dangerous situations.  Grown-ups should be in charge of kids.  Grown-ups such as parents, teachers, cops.

But there seems to be a serious shortage of grown-ups in Obama's America. 

Monday, July 06, 2015

Art in the basement, or on display?

Something to think about.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Home decor update

I recently needed to replace one if my toilet seats, so I went on the Internet to review my options.  Wow!  The world of toilet seats has really expanded since I last bought one.  In the old days, back in the  twentieth century, you could choose either round or oblong toilet seats, depending on the shape of the One-eyed Riley.

That having been settled by necessity, there were wood, plastic, and soft.  In various colors.  Nothing else had changed since my father's outdoor privy.

What boring lives we led!  Now you have a choice of round or oblong, of course.  There are toilet seats that close  noiselessly.  Toilet seats that remove from their hinges for cleaning; others that contain a potty option in case you are toilet training a toddler.  Seats that light up at night (Batteries not included.).  All sorts of plastic, with designs or flowers or seahorses embedded.  Wooden seats with veneers to match your dining room table.  And of course, customized seats such as the one pictured above and others that cannot be described in polite company.

For less than $600 you can buy a heated toilet seat which washes the relevant body parts and even blow dries them.  Of course, you need the services of a plumber and electrician if you want them to work..

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Pope takes a stand

The Pope has come out against materialism.  I so agree!  All these rich people have big houses, private planes, world travel.  And they don't have to make their beds in the morning or wash dishes.  Someone else does their laundry! I truly resent them.  The only thing that could mollify me is for me to have all these things  myself. And I'd still probably resent them anyway.  Such is envy.

There is much to be said for materialism.  I remember the cartoon Blondie from my childhood.  Back in the day when women wore hats. Whenever Blondie got blue she went out and bought a new hat!  And she immediately felt better.  A new bathmat does it for me.  Retail therapy usually is safe and effective. And if you find out later you don't like the hat, or bathmat, chances are you can return it or exchange it for something else.

My family has done well with materialism.  My father grew up in a house with dirt floors and an outhouse in the back yard.  He was bowlegged due to rickets.  By the time he died, in 2011, he had two bathrooms, central heating, and a brand new car. And plenty to eat.

Contrast that with spirituality.  Let's talk about Muslims here, leaving aside Christians and Jews, who I am sure have their faults.  But they are usually quietists and want to be left alone to worship, or not, in their own way.Deeply devout Muslims, on the other hand,  cure their blue feelings by going out and beheading a few Christians and raping defenseless women and children.  No doubt they feel better after committing these atrocities in honor of Allah.  But the rest of the world feels measurably worse.

The only saving grace about these deeply religious people is that they can be bought.  If you offer them enough money they will probably betray their fellows.  The Muslim world is full or traitors and spies.  How do you think the Israelis get the better of them?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Kreutzer Sonata

This afternoon I heard the "Kreutzer Sonata," by Janacek, based on the "Kreutzer Sonata" by Tolstoy, which in turn was based on"the Kreutzer Sonata" by Beethoven.  According to Wikipedia,

The sonata was originally dedicated to the violinist George Bridgetower (1778–1860), who performed it with Beethoven at the premiere on 24 May 1803 at the Augarten Theatre at a concert that started at the unusually early hour of 8:00 am. Bridgetower sight-read the sonata; he had never seen the work before, and there had been no time for any rehearsal. However, research indicates that after the performance, while the two were drinking, Bridgetower insulted the morals of a woman whom Beethoven cherished. Enraged, Beethoven removed the dedication of the piece, dedicating it instead to Rodolphe Kreutzer, who was considered the finest violinist of the day.[1] However, Kreutzer never performed it, considering it "outrageously unintelligible". He did not particularly care for any of Beethoven's music, and they only ever met once, briefly.[2]

Could this be true?  Anyway, the story is too good to check, and I'm only a humble blogger so no-one cares much what I say.

To get back to Tolstoy, his story is the account of a man finding his wife, a pianist, conversing intimately with her accompanist and friend, a violinist. The two have been practicing the Kreutzer Sonata.  It requires a lot of practice because it is a quite difficult piece of music.   He then kills his wife out of jealousy, but the violinist gets away.   I have not read the story, because I no longer am attempting to improve my mind through literature and would rather curl up with Daniel Silva's latest.  If my mind accidentally gets improved, okay, but I'm no longer working on it.

I was interested enough in the story  to go to YouTube and play a couple of versions of the Beethoven original.  It is quite beautiful but appears to be very demanding technically; however, to me all violin music seems demanding because I could no more play the violin than I could invent electricity. 

This Tolstoy story has apparently been made into a play, then adapted into a play for the Yiddish theater, then made into a movie of the Yiddish theater version, and for all I know is being made into a Pixar or Claymation version as we speak. 

The moral of the story might be, "Don't try to play music which is too technically difficult or emotionally arousing,"  Or maybe not.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Everybody hates everybody else and always has

I've been reading "The Mask of Command," by John Keegan.  Keegan discusses four commanders, Alexander, Wellington, Grant, and Hitler.  I was particularly keen to learn something about Alexander, about whom I knew nothing, except that he was the son of Philip of Macedon.

Now I have a smattering of information about Alexander, which is sufficient, because my interest is actually in American history.  But I did learn something I had long suspected, that the Greek city-states were constantly either at war with each other, just getting over a war with each other, or preparing for such a war.  This was their normal state, excepted when threatened by the Persians, whom they hated more than they hated one another.

Similarly, the peacable, nature loving Native Americans of whom Ellizabeth Warren is such a notable example, were  constantly fighting with each other.  They also had a habit of attacking villages full of settlers who were minding their own business.  I know we treated them unfairly, but there is a reason they were featured as bad guys in so many movies.

Anyway, we weren't nearly as mean to them as the British were to the Irish.

But my thesis is not to prove that we are the best country in the world.  Although we are.  My point is that armed struggle between groups has always existed and always will.  There can be no such thing as a War to End All Wars because wars will not end.   James Madison, in a different context, wrote:  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  Neither would wars, because we would all be too busy with harp lessons and choir practice.

Obama seemed to believe that our disagreements with Russia were all one big misunderstanding which could be settled with a nice comfortable talk with his friend Vlad.  Clearly the lovefest did not work, and Putin is re-conquering the former Soviet satellites even though it might upset his friend Barack.  

Once we had removed American troops from Iraq, no doubt our government believed that Sunnis and Shi'ites would be having interfaith picnics to explore their common heritage and Kumbaya would be the new official government anthem.  Again, this did not happen.


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Worst customer service?

I heard on the radio somewhere that U S Cable had been chosen as the worst customer service provider in the country for 2014.  This made me angry, and I think the folks at United Airlines ought to demand a recount.  They certainly are a strong contender for the title.  It's hard to see how their customer service could be any worse.  Even with Wells Fargo Bank and Comcast in strong competition, I think United should be considered for next year's award.

I recently took a trip to San Francisco from Philadelphia which delayed leaving the ground for 4 hours.  Of course there was a grisly kind of domino effect, causing travelers to miss their connections from Africa to Zanzibar.  My plane to San Luis Obispo was long gone.  Customer service then re-routed me to Santa Barbara   by way of Los Angeles. 

My Los Angeles flight departure was then delayed so that the Santa Barbara flight would leave the ground before its arrival.  No-one informed me of this delay.  I just happened to glance at the departures board and did the math. 

Back to customer service.  They kept suggesting places I might like to fly besides Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo.  Orange County, anyone?  I told them I was very weak on California geography but did not think Orange County would do.  I got my daughter on the phone when they suggested Bakerfield, which got a strong nolle prosequi from my daughter. We finally settled on a midnight flight to Santa Maria, which was only a half hour late in leaving. 

In recompense for their poor performance, they gave me two $7 vouchers for food at any of the airport vendors.

The return flight was much less annoying, arriving in Philadelphia only and hour and a half late, which passes for promptness at United.

By the way, on the return flight, one of the $7 vouchers was refused at the food court.