Tuesday, October 31, 2017

New biography of Ulysses Grant

I actually ponied up $24--a record for me-- for this new book by Ron Chernow and temporarily sidelined John Quincy Adams.  Grant is even heavier than JQ was, but he's always been a favorite of mine.  The book leaves a lot to be desired, physically.  The typeface is small and fiddly, and has a grey texture, not quite black but off-black.  The margins are too small, and so is the type.

  Whatever happened to books being published in two volumes?

 Let me give a shout out for the Library of America editions.   They are printed on thin but very good paper, with legible type, and are a pleasure to read.  I read Grant's autobiography in a Llbrary of America edition and did not get a hernia from lifting it.

  About that $24:  every once in a while I buy something at the local Barnes and Noble, in the desperate hope that they will not go out of business.  Perhaps if they tried publishing books in two or three volumes?  On nice preservation paper, with legible type?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

I feel slighted

I've never been sexually harassed.  Oh, I've been harassed plenty on the job,  not because I am a woman, but because most local politicians are scum of the earth. I only know about New Jersey, but my husband informed me the New York variety  were the same, or even worse.  It really makes you wonder about democracy.  Could these pinheads be what the founders envisioned?  Did John Quincy Adams stay up nights to set our nation on the right course so these guys could play grab-ass-- or worse?

  When one woman complained about her butt being felt up by an ancient George H W Bush, I started to feel that I'm lacking on the sexual harassment front.  Even the choir director of a local church, who was known far and wide as a sexual harasser, left me alone.

  Am I missing something?  or have I just lived too long to be part of this nationwide trend?

  I dragged John Quincy Adams into this conversation because I am reading a biography of him, page by agonizing page.  It's interesting, all right, but the book is so heavy I have to read it sitting up or it falls out of my hands.  I'm thinking of bequeathing it to my heirs.  (Note to heirs:  you can start on page 307, if you want to skip his formative years.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Met opera broadcasts

I'm very grateful to the Metropolitan Opera for these live broadcasts, since I could never afford a ticket to actual performances at Lincoln Center.

  I have seen two of these broadcasts over the last two weeks of two very different operas.  Let me mention at the start that the singing is superb in both.  No complaints there.  The orchestra, which was conducted on both occasions by James Levine, is one of the best there is.

  The two productions I saw could not be more different otherwise.  Norma, by Bellini, was unrelieved gloom.  Much care was taken to build authentic sets depicting the lifestyle of the Druids.  A great deal of money was spent building a realistic set, with the result that the entire opera looked like a black and white television show from the fifties.  Ralph Kramden would not have appeared out of place on this set, nor would I Love Lucy.  The only thing different was the lack of jokes.  Ayatollah Khomeini stated that there is no fun in Islam, and apparently there was not much fun in Druidic Gael.  

  The Druids worshipped Nature.   Apparently, if this depiction is accurate, they dressed in burlap.  Both men and women wore droopy burlap robes tied carelessly around the waist with something or other that might have been a vine.  Norma,the high priestess, however, had other problems.  Her lover, and father of her two children, was no longer interested in her, having transferred his affections to her second in command.  Then on top of that, the Romans were threatening the tribe.
 
  After much gloom and doom, the lovers were defeated by those pesky Romans but reunited in their love.  They agreed to be burned alive on a pyre together, which is as close to  a happy ending as it ever gets in Druidland.

  On the other hand, the Magic Flute sparkled.  Stars twinkled, fireworks went off, dancers danced.  The costumes were lavish and colorful.  The players had a wonderful time, and so did the audience.  All were excellent. Markus Werba as Papageno was a delightful clown, and the rest of the cast were uniformly excellent.  Especially notable was Golda Schultz--not the Golda who payed mah jong with your grandma, but a young, vivacious black woman from South Africa who played Pamina.




Thursday, October 05, 2017

Does the mayor of San Juan speak Spanish?

I watched her interview and read the comments, which found it incredible that she could have found a shop which would print a T-shirt for her on an island that has no electricity.  That didn;t bother me.  I remember having to print silk screen items on a huge hand-cranked machine.

  What seemed out of kilter to me did not enter my consciousness until later.  (I've never claimed to be a fast thinker.)  Why in the world did she have her anguish printed on a T-shirt in the English language?  If I were crying for immediate help I would do it in my native tongue, which is English.  In my desperation I probably would not even remember the word ayuda, or aidez moi or even aiuto, or if I could I would not remember how to pronounce it.  No, help is the mot juste in this case.

  When I visited Puerto Rico seven or eight years ago, the people spoke Spanish.  Have they all gone to Berlitz since then?  Unlikely.