Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"But I don't like spam..."

Okay, I've had it. I just spent close to 20 minutes deleting comments from this blog that were really advertisements. For some reason or other, the spam killer didn't stop them. My blog gets between 10 and 20 pieces of spam on a slow day. Sometimes as many as five in an hour. I get email notifications of everything. And the Blogger spam filters take out most of it, this is just what is left.

Years ago, I was one of the people running radio free brattleboro, an unlicensed radio station. One day, the agency in charge of regulating the airwaves, the FCC, came knocking on our door. As I handled most of the station's email, and was one of the three people who could speak for the station, my personal email was given out as a press contact. This was done without consultation with me - I would have created another email account for such a purpose. Within the space of a couple of months, my personal email account was a constant spam target.

The sound file which notifies me that a new email has arrived just did it's thing. I have just gotten the third piece of spam as a comment to this blog since I started this message.

I just told the Democrats to take me off their mailing lists - even though the election is over, I am still getting about 10 emails a day asking me to support the President. I just sent "remove" emails to a number of other activist organizations; I did not sign up for most of them. I can't take the constant need, the constant trumpeting of despair. I have problems too, and I can not solve all the world's by spending a couple of hours a day reading, becoming informed, and signing petitions.

The WVEW radio station's email is forwarded to me. I get their spam, too.
I also have emails flying back and forth between myself and other Board members over running the station. I also get emails from station participants and people who want to get involved or get their own show. And public service announcements. And people from as far away as Texas who want to either submit shows or have us interview them about their self published books.

The upshot is that since 8:30am this morning, over 150 pieces of email made it past the spam filters and into my inbox. This is not an unusual amount.

And it's not as bad as it used to be! At one point, I had my ISP put my personal email address on hold and all the spammers (300 pieces a day at that point) got their mail bounced. It actually helped, for awhile.

But for now, I've had enough. I'm unsubscribing from as many things as I can.
It's time to get control of my inbox again.

Therefore, because of the spam problem with this blog, although I really do not wish to do it, I am installing comment moderation and one of those horrible match the word things until the mess comes under control.

My apologies.

p.s. I belong to a mail list which is a local "free cycle" program in which people post things they wish to get rid of which still have life left in them. I decided to unsubscribe. After clicking on the "unsubscribe" button, I got an email form to use. I clicked "unsubscribe" again. Then I got an email which sought to make sure that I had sent the request, and another button to click to unsubscribe. I clicked. A few minutes later, I got an email confirming that I had unsubscribed. Really now. I am not making this up.

Monday, December 3, 2012

From December to December

This morning, as is my wont when I have a little free time, I checked the almanac to see who was born, and what had happened, on this date in history. I love this kind of thing - several years ago, I created a partially illustrated daily almanac on a web site, but that's another story. At any rate, this morning I checked the almanac on Wikipedia. And there it was - on this day in 1960, the musical Camelot opened at the Majestic theatre on Broadway.

Camelot- a name which, to folks of my age at least, evokes an entire era, as well as a presidency. And the Wiki on it is wrong. The First National Tour (which uses the original Broadway production's staging, sets, and costumes) originally starred Anne Jeffreys as Guinevere. I know, because I saw it in Philadelphia. Twice. It was the first live show I ever saw. I was either 11 or 12 at the time. One of my classes at school went on a field trip to see it. Some of my family went off to see it as well, and I was delighted to go a second time. I remember my aunt Mary being upset with the curtain calls because Guinevere was in the gray auto-de-fe gonna-be-burned-at-the-stake outfit in which we'd just seen her instead of any of the "prettier" outfits she'd worn in the show. I remember Ms. Jeffreys participation as I was fan of the Topper tv show in which she and her husband starred as the ghosts of Marion and George Kirby. I no longer recall who filled the other lead roles, except that I'm certain that Arthur Treacher was Pellinore.

Ms. Jeffireys performed the role for 6 months as a personal favor to Alan Lerner, and she was delightful in it. The second time I saw the show, there was an slightly unplanned incident. It occurred during Guinevere's song, "The Lusty Month of May". Among the company onstage were King Pellinore and his sheepdog. The dog sort of ad-libbed; he suddenly squatted and did his business. Ms. Jeffreys didn't miss a beat - she sang her next lines, "Whence this fragrance wafting through the air? What sweet feelings does its scent transmute? Whence this perfume floating ev'rywhere?", while looking askance at the dog and "Pelly", and holding her nose. The audience loved it.

Sadly, the three numbers from the original Broadway run which were performed on the Ed Sullivan show are not available on You Tube or any of the other streaming video sites. I'd love to have posted one or two here. I did find this short "making of" video which has a quick clip or two, though.

Camelot furthered my interest in musical theater, in show tunes, in collecting and listening to the then recent development of long playing record albums (the show's album was the top selling LP in the US for 60 weeks! - it was one of the first LP's I bought), and so on and so forth. I never realized what a huge influence it was on my life before. The fact that I can recall parts of the production I saw 50 years ago says a lot. Seeing live theater, professionally done (no disrespect to local theater companies intended, but it's not quite the same, you know) particularly the big splashy musicals, is one of the few things I miss from my years in New York and Boston. I was lucky to see as many shows (and operas) as I did. And who knows, now that I'm retired, maybe some day I'll be able to go and indulge myself again.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


inundated : past participle, past tense of in·un·date (Verb)
Verb: Flood.
          Overwhelm (someone) with things or people to be dealt with:

Many years ago, I'm no longer quite sure if it was in the late 1970's or early 1980's (I'd have to think about it and I don't want to take that much time to figure it out as I'd never get this written) Jerry Campbell, my best friend at the time (miss you, Jerry), and I used treat our everyday lives as though they were revue format musical comedies. We'd even cast them with performers we thought appropriate for the roles. We'd spend some of our free time on odd mental exercises, like the time we decided to have a contest to see who could create the worst musical comedy title. I suggested "Willy!" with an exclamation point - at the time, such punctuation in a show's title was considered an invitation to doom and disaster. "Willy!", of course, was going to be the musical version of "Death of a Salesman". Jerry won the contest with "Okey Dokey", the musical version of "Grapes of Wrath".

At one point, Jerry, who was a stage manager and occasional director, was between shows. I needed an extra hand in the film booking office I was managing, and hired him as a temp for a few days. By the end of his first day, he'd turned the job into a show. His concept was that the actor Paul Sand would play my part, by standing in the middle of the office while clerks brought slip after slip of paper to me to read and initial. Duplicates of the slips would fall at my feet, and by the end of the first number I would be completely buried in slips of paper.

Sometimes in life, we can plan for the times when we know we are going to be inundated by forces beyond our control. When I was running that large bookstore in Times Square, for instance, it was an easy call to put large pieces of plywood over the windows and get out by 1pm on New Year's Eve.

I guess my point here is that in structured situations, one can often plan coping strategies for times when one finds oneself inundated by something or other. (Over the years, I've grown to appreciate the New Year's Eve strategy of putting up protective barriers and getting the hell out.)

My first computer was a Commodore 64c. I had rebelled against the standard Christmas gifts in which my family indulged - always something useful - socks, underwear, etc. I started giving things that were "fun". And so, after a couple of years of this, my father and stepmother asked me what I wanted for Christmas that was fun. I immediately blurted out that the gift I would choose was unaffordable . They asked what it was, and I told them it would be one of those new computer gadgets as I thought learning to use one was was going to be important to my future. This was around 1985, and the most economical computer, the Commodore 64c, could be found at the discount houses for about a hundred and fifty dollars. A few days later, the folks made an offer - if I really, really wanted it, they would split the cost with me, but there would be no other gifts. It was difficult, but I managed it.. The 64c came with a graphical user interface called GEOS (which was quite superior to anything Windows developed into this millennium), a 5.25" floppy disc drive, and a 300 baud modem. With the modem one could connect to bulletin board services like C-Net and Q-Link. The boards were organised by subjects. You would go online, and using a special "reader" program upload a message to, say the 'cooking' board and ask for a recipe for lemon butter. You'd log off, and log on again later in the day. You'd download your packet of messages into the reader, check the cooking board and you might find that someone had uploaded the recipe - from Australia! What an incredible device, what a wonderful world. One could spend an entire half hour reading and writing to one's groups.

Along came the world wide web. With pictures. Email began to use the same kind of programming and was capable of using graphics. Times have changed.

As the last month of 2012 begins, I wake my computer from sleep mode in the morning. My email has acquired about 50 messages overnight - that is, once my anti spam program removes the 200 or so bulk mail advertising messages which came in after I went to bed.  I start deleting the useless crap.

During this past year's election campaigns, I made the mistake of following a link to the Obama campaign and got on the Democrats' email list. My inbox was deluged with pleas for money. Some days I'd get about 10 messages from the campaign, and separate emails from the President, his wife, Nancy Pelosi, the Vice-President, a few other top name Democrats, a couple of move stars and/or rock and rollers. I wouldn't have been surprised to get emails asking for money from John F. Kennedy or his brothers.

Over on Facebook, there are so many messages from "friends" and people or organizations I've "followed" that it can take a couple of hours to wade through one afternoon's activity. As it turns out, people who post can also post directly onto my "page". Wait - someone else can post on my page? Yup. It's not mine anymore. It's no longer the picture of me that I want to present to my friends or the world at large.

Things have gotten to the point that I seem to be somewhere over the horizon of "overwhelmed" whenever I sit down at the computer now. If I make even the slightest attempt to glance at the things my friends want me to see, I won't get the chance to visit my favorite sites or investigate subjects about which I'd like to learn.

And if I do get to a site, even a portal news site? There are ads my pop-up blocker can't seem to conquer. They superimpose over the text, and must be clicked off. Then another pops up from the bottom of the page. It can't be clicked off unless you click on it long enough for a promo video to start, click that off and then the  popup reveals the "x" by which you might close the damned thing.. Until you open another news article and it starts all over again. Then, as you start to read, something floats across the page asking if you want to take a survey.

I wonder what the price of a digital camera is like, and so go check a few ads. Suddenly, for the next month or two, I get emails from Amazon, EBay, Staples, 27 discount houses,and three auction sites for cameras. I wonder what would happen if I sought out porn, but I don't really want to find out.

An email arrives, asking me to sign a petition for what seems like a very worthy cause. I "sign". I'm suddenly asked to sign three more. And share on Facebook. Because I signed, I get an automatic email from the petition's creator, asking me to share the petition on Facebook.

I go back to the news, and as I'm reading an article a little window moves in from the right hand side of the monitor. Click here if you want to share on Facebook.

I've never felt the need to tell everyone I know what petitions I sign, what causes I support, what news articles i read, when i fart, whether or not it was a smelly fart or a wet one, and etc. ad infinitum. It's as if there is no acknowledgement that i might like a little privacy now and again. i stop using the capital "i".

i feel overwhelmed. It's December and the Christmas ads are multiplying with some weird exponential formula that seems intent on reducing me to a bowl of jelly.

All these years later since the day I turned on my Commodore 64c, i am beginning to be afraid of the places my computer wants to take me. The unwanted, unsolicited emails and posts have piled up around me. It would help if there was a song cue.