Thursday, February 27, 2014

It worked! (So far)

Since yesterday morning, I haven't had a single spam message here on the blog. I didn't want to put any restrictions on anyone's ability to post a response to my ramblings, thinking such restrictions to be a tad unfair, forcing one to be a member of the club so to speak. In a better world.... but I might as well believe in the realm of Prester John where growth hormone free milk and honey from flowers whose plants have never seen a pesticide or genetic modification flow with equanimity to all.

Without looking back through the comments, I do believe that both Delores and Geo recommended this move. I should have taken their advice years ago. What can I say; aging, stubborn male at work.

There have been so many odd little things capturing my attention lately. Many of them have been of archeological origin. The mounds of Ireland became a huge fascination last month. I'd often wondered about them, having first become aware of the concept as a teenager reading Tolkien. In January, my online perambulations let to a website about the 'passage' mound at Newgrange. It's older than Stonehenge. Older than the pyramids at Giza. At the entrance to the mound, and at various points inside, spiral carvings are present. Their meaning is unknown. To me, they look like a map of the area's mounds, waiting for a present day Schliemann to follow their clues to some ancient secret.

Spirals at the entrance to the Newgrange mound, photographed around 1905.

The inner chamber at Newgrange is filled with sunlight on the winter solstice. There is a lottery every year to see this effect. I'd love to go, adding it to my list of places to be experienced should I ever acquire funds to travel. Stonehenge is on the list, as are the pyramids and so on and so forth. Over the last couple of years, I've realized that I have long been fascinated by monumental architecture. Giant tombs of antiquity and ancient ruins don't limit this interest. For instance, I would love to see the Colosso dell'Appennino, a sculpture by Giambologna erected in 1580. It was part of a large estate in Tuscany which was abandoned and mostly demolished in 1820. The estate changed hands a few times, became an English style garden, etc. It is currently owned by the province of Florence and is open for visitors from May to September.

The Colosso dell'Appennino

What is it about such structures that fascinates me? The idea of sailing on a body of water and suddenly stumbling upon something like this immediately comes to mind. Perhaps it is one of the few areas of life left in which one might find a little bit of mystery or romance. Imagine trekking through a jungle and chancing upon the remnants of an earlier civilization, overgrown and forgotten: 

It's not that I have a secret wish to be a latter day Indiana Jones. Perhaps it's a desire for wonder, a curiosity about whomever left something like this behind, how and why it came to be built. Perhaps I just have a need to see things like this for myself because I no longer trust the internet - there are too many people with Photoshop skills and time on their hands to create images that fascinate. I have no idea if the following Easter Island picture is real, but I have found variations of it with other people in the picture, so I suspect that it is.
Sometimes it is the part we can't see that holds the real fascination. In early photographs of the Sphinx, the arms are not visible. They had to dig out around it to expose them. I wonder if they've dug out around the pyramids?

A couple of years ago, I started a specifically uncategorized file of pictures which I find interesting. It's main purpose is to provide a slideshow screensaver which kicks in after the computer is idle for 5 or 10 minutes. There are many pictures similar to the above in the folder. Others are of movie theatres, or the long vanished Pennsylvania Station, advertising from years gone by, my own attempts at photography, movie posters, classic automobiles, all the sundry items which have caught my interest. I have often found myself sitting here staring at the images, lost in wandering thoughts, unable to interrupt the show to return to whatever project it was on which I was working. Quite often, reality would intrude with the jarring sound that plays when I get email. I used to have a nice, quiet sound that I liked selected for this purpose, but a problem with Norton led me to let a woman in India resolve it by giving her control of my computer for 20 minutes. I watched and was able to stop what she was doing if I felt it was needed. Somehow, the process changed a few settings and I've never been able to get things completely back to the way I had them. Perhaps change is good, I reasoned, and gave up the fight. (For awhile, anyway. ) In the meantime, the sound which wakes me from such reveries is not tolling for me at present, the blog is not reporting a stream of spam. But I have too much to do to let myself wander around monuments, or wonder why they fascinate me so. (sigh)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


So. As mentioned in yesterday's post, I reinstituted the "prove you're not a spam bot" thing where you have to figure out what certain distorted letters shown are and then type them to be able to post messages. It stopped most of spam - but not all of it. I'm still getting spammed. So, I'm going to go and remove the prove you're not a spam bot thing and make it so one has to register to leave a message. I hate this. Nobody really cares anyway. I just get tired of all the spam and having to remove it from both the blog and the copies the blog sends to my email. Maybe I should just delete the blog. I don't want to, but this situation is just unacceptable - I tried living with it but that doesn't work. If this move doesn't do the trick....

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Sometimes, a sigh seems to be the best response to one's environment, one's circumstances, one's personal situation, one's business, one's friends, one's life. A well timed and well expressed sigh can hold a world of meaning to those who are attuned to such nuances. Since I seem to be a somewhat curious sort (take that how you will), I looked up the definition of the word. So far, my favorite has been meaning #2 as ascribed by the online 'Urban Dictionary': "A Silent Scream from deep within."

In order to post that meaning, I tried to simply cut and paste the definition into this blog. I had to give permission to a program to do so. Then there was an error message of some sort, which wanted to know if I approved of the choice automatically made for me. It went by too fast for me to read and respond. I had to authorize the pasting of the line too. When did everything become so complicated and difficult? This cut and paste transaction used to be simple, easy, and quick. That sound you just heard was one of my very long sighs.

By the by, there were two definitions of "sigh" in the Urban Dictionary which denoted rather specific sexual meanings the word seems to have acquired. I'm not sure if I should applaud the creativity involved or inveigh with extreme approbation against the devaluation of our language.

With this post, I'm going to return to the "catch-ya" or whatever that bit of eye strain which prevents autoposted spam is called. The spammers were never really defeated in their postings - as soon as I removed the damn thing they returned. The frequency of the messages did slow down for awhile, but recently there has been a huge upswing in their number. As I write this it is not yet 9am. Since midnight, this blog has received spam messages at the rate of one per hour. I've no idea what they think they are accomplishing. I suspect they get paid on the basis of how many of their miserable little advertisements they manage to "land". Most of them get deleted, but occasionally I find a few which got through and escaped my attention. (Did you know that electronic spam was started by lawyers? I remember that first message in usenet newsgroups in the 1990s. It advertised divorce lawyers in Texas.) It took awhile for me to get around to starting a blog, but it was still fun when I did. Between the spammers, the nonsense from Google, the phony copyright claims, changes to web browsers which require using different browsers for different sites, and one to authorize running such things as the program that allows the little spinning globe I like which shows the origin points of visitors, etc. it's not that much fun anymore. (Sigh.)

While I'm at it, I should note that my email would be useless without spam blockers. I've managed to greatly reduce the amount of email spam I get - yesterday it was under 300 messages for the day. Two days ago I happened to look at my email program's spam folder and discovered a message from a friend who had vanished into a world of self oblivion from which he is now trying to recover. The idea that he might have thought I no longer wished to hear from him weighs rather heavily upon me, especially since I'd encouraged him in the past to return to his sobriety program.

It's been a long February, but a good old fashioned snowy one. Brattleboro looks pretty darn good with snow piled up everywhere. I like it. I like the quiet that it brings. I like the early morning and twilight blue that settles in all too briefly. I like walks in the snow, although I must sadly admit that activity gets a little more difficult each year.

The early morning view from my studio apartment's front balcony.

A few minutes walk up Putney Road, looking out over the meadows of the West River where it joins the Connecticut.
When I first moved here in 1995, the buildings in the distance were part of the last local dairy farm.
The dairy farm is gone now, the cows sold off,  the main barn houses a Grafton Cheese shop. (sigh)

The local library's film series I mentioned in a recent post continued with a picture I'd never encountered; "Born to Kill". It's one of those nifty noirs with nary a redeeming virtue to be found anywhere within it. Everyone has an angle. Bosley Crowther, the film critic of the New York Times, wrote that it was "not only morally disgusting but is an offense to a normal intellect... it is precisely because it is designed to pander to the lower levels of taste that it is reprehensible". I enjoyed it immensely and would gladly recommend it to anyone needing a visit to the seamier sides of life. It's the kind of movie that makes me sigh in what I think is a good, satisfied manner.

Our local movie palace, the Latchis, had a matinee on Sunday of "Broadway Melody of 1940", an old favorite I hadn't seen in quite awhile. I had been excited to go, and managed to talk a friend who had never seen it into going with me. My friend's father was a conservative minister who did not approve of movies. Although he overcame that upbringing years ago, I must admit to a slight degree of satisfaction that I was taking my friend into the devil's lair of musical comedy hell. Speaking of which, exhibitors today have lost all sense of showmanship. The Latchis has never dimmed the houselights - they are simply switched off or on. The curtain was removed a long time ago. Now that digital projection has arrived, we were presented with an onscreen DVD player menu, subtitles for the hearing impaired which were displayed until someone shut them off, and the complete indignity of having the movie projected in the wrong ratio. Movies of that period were meant to be shown at a ratio of 1.33 to 1, close to a square. Movies for the last 50 years have used a variety of oblong formats. The movie was shown in the standard widescreen ratio of 1.85 to 1.

This resulted in a stretched and distorted picture, which kind of looked like this (although not quite this bad):
when it should have looked like this:

Needless to say, this proved upsetting - at least to me. Everything from the carefully planned design elements to the choreography was adversely affected. Naturally, I told the people in charge about the problem, and what needed to be done to fix it. Of course, they did nothing. Even with the distortion, however, people still enjoyed the movie. And why not? The score was composed by Cole Porter. It stars Fred Astaire and George Murphy as vaudeville partners, both of whom fall for Eleanor Powell.
Ms. Powell's dancing had a slightly gangly athletic girl next door quality where Ginger Rogers had a more graceful sophisticated style of movement. To my mind, Ms. Powell was the (slightly) better dancer - she could keep up with Astaire. She didn't really deserve getting chubby legs due to the projection problem. Although, for those who might notice such things, the distortion also fortuitously affected the draped look of the high waisted fashion of men's pants at the time, giving Mr. Murphy a posterior he didn't normally possess. (Although I am sure there were many who used a more colloquial term to describe him after he became a Republican US Senator. Tom Lehrer composed a song in which he stated, "now that he's a Senator he's really got the chance to give the public a song and dance").
The big grand finale production number was "Begin the Beguine", which was divided into several performance sections. The song itself was from a Broadway show, 'Jubilee', a flop. The song might have been forgotten had Artie Show not discovered it and turned it into a swing anthem. The production number's final segment, a jazz tap routine, is one of the best ever put on film. My friend enthusiastically applauded. As did the audience. And so did I. And, as I sat back in my seat, I heaved a sigh.