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.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Back in the day

When my kids were little.  Clockwise, from upper  left:  Rose Sanzone, Kenny Sanzone, Susan Sanzone, Miriam Sawyer, Rachel Sawyer, Louisa Sawyer

Sunday, May 17, 2015

20th century memories:what ladies wore

I've looked in vain for a photo of my mother wearing one of her hats,  but due to her policy of never having her picture taken until she had lost at least 20 lbs,--which never happened--I don't have one.

Nevertheless, she never left the house without one.  These hats were purely ceremonial, having no justification, either decorative or functional.  They neither enhanced her appearance or kept her head warm.  They were stiff little parabolas of some kind of cloth with a snatch of veiling attached.  The image above is an approximation.  Hers were uglier.

She had a bunch of them, which lived on the top of the sideboard in the dining room, and she would pick one at random when she had to leave the house.  If she were going somewhere related to her profession. she was in full lawyer array, including girdle and stockings.  As she entered the house, off came the girdle and hosiery.

Her normal indoor garb was something called a housedress.   I couldn't find a picture on the Internet of anything as dismal as those housedresses my mother--and Bubbe--wore. Department stores had whole departments of "Moderate Housedresses" as well as "Better Housedresses."  Although I never saw one that was better than any other; they were all pretty frightful.  They usually were made of tacky material in ugly but loud patterns which either buttoned or zipped up the front.  They often had two generous patch pockets on the front.  Bubbe used to keep her false teeth in one of the pockets, but I digress.

In this one respect America is a better place today: terrorists, riots, train derailments, yes, but a total lack of housedresses.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A few words in praise of violence

We've seen lots of quotes on Facebook about the effectiveness of non-violence, most popularly those of Martin Luther King, Jr. These sentiments look very fine, especially on a poster decorated tastefully with flowers or adorable small animals. There are, however, those who dissent from the beloved civil rights leader:

We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.  Winston Churchill

Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.  Attributed to George Orwell.

  [M]akin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;

Rudyard Kipling, "Tommy"

I could quote more, but you get the idea.

I am not advocating violence on the part of citizens in democratic countries like ours, where we have free speech, a Constitution that protects us, and the power to vote the rascals out (and elect new rascals). But in nations run by kleptocrats and religious fanatics, violence is the  alternative chosen by those who do not choose to be slaves.

The government of the United States tried asking the Southern states nicely not to secede, but somehow it didn't work, though tried over and over. The only thing that put the idea permanently out of their heads was the bloody work of Grant and Sherman.  Nearly a third of the young men who fought for the Confederacy were killed or wounded--a terrible price to pay for a terrible idea.

Hitler also did not respond to reason, and giving him a few countries to gobble up did not work either. 

The Jewish prisoners in the death camps would have been grateful to see Allied bombers raining death on these institutions but the powers that be didn't want to make the Germans mad at them.

There is such a thing as just war.  Violence works.  Violence settles things.  Slavery was ended.  Europe and the Far East were liberated.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The "I'm not in jail" club

Bloggers too numerous to mention have claimed that Hillary Clinton should be imprisoned for her tortious e-mail activities during her tenure as Secretary of State.  Not gonna happen.  She is merely joining the large and illustrious group of innocent until proven guilty non-felons who enjoy immunity from the laws that afflict the rest of us.  She can even park in the handicapped-designated parking spot with impunity.

Here are some  further examples:  her husband, of course.  Al Sharpton,  whose official job description should be, if it isn't, rabble rouser, who blithely declines to pay his back income tax.  Al is not in hiding, like Whitey Bulger.  He's right out there, leading flash mobs and sharing wisdom with his dear old buddy, the President of the United States, at the latter's taxpayer-funded residence.

And then there's Jon Corzine, former governor of New Jersey, incompetent and corrupt even by the lenient standards of the Garden State.  He  lost millions of other people's money and hasn't the slightest idea what happened to it.  It has slipped his mind, apparently permanently.  Bernie Madoff must be gnashing his teeth.

I don't understand where several former governors of Illinois went wrong, but at least three of them were actually sent to jail.  Pure carelessness?  Or did they make mistakes like Robert Menendez, Senator from New Jersey, who was doing just fine until he crossed the Democratic leadership by thinking for himself.