Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I have a special drawer where I keep advance tickets for the four musical groups and one theatrical company to which we subscribe. Recently, I searched feverishly for tickets for an upcoming concert by one of the Bay Area's outstanding early-music group Voices of Music. It was a productive search, because it turned up several out-of-date brochures, etc, which I was glad to recycle. But the tickets? Nah...

Fortunately, when I called the organizers, it was explained to me that I had to go online to download the tickets. Where online? She didn't have time then to explain, but she kindly promised to tell the ticket takers to let us in. That worked! We greatly enjoyed the program, including the work of the tenor, Thomas Cooley, in a program of Purcell's vocal and instrumental compositions.(Voices of Music offers a free High Definition online example of its work: go to, and check it out.)

This is the second time that I have had so-called "tickets", that are actually simply printouts. I am accustomed to obtaining boarding passes for airline flights this way, but I don't like that system of obtaining "tickets" for artistic events. I am sure it saves printing costs for the organization, but I unrealistically wish that there were an option to receive real tickets.

This year, another organization has begun to require us to print out tickets, and for that concert series I have already printed out the paper tickets. When we attended a recent performance, I handed those clumsy sheets of paper to the ticket collector. I had hardly walked forward more than six paces before she came running towards me, saying "Here are your tickets!". We have reserved seats, and I really didn't want those printouts again: no one was going to attempt to occupy our seats, but obediently, I stuffed those sheets of paper into a pants pocket, anxious to recycle them as soon as we returned home.

There is a special feel about a pasteboard ticket, which I really like: it's a foretaste of future pleasure. Also, they don't take up much space. I can put them in a small envelope, and find them on the day of the performance. I do not look forward to the day when every artistic organization decides to save a few bucks by having subscribers print out "tickets" on those wretched pieces of computer paper.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wiki leaks

It's old news now, but do you remember the spirited defense put up by the Wikileaks founder, Julian Asange, when he was criticized for publishing supposedly secret diplomatic cables? I didn't agree with him at the time, although he had a point: that too much was being kept from the public. I was especially distressed when a further batch was released, in which the names of informants were not "redacted" (edited out), thus endangering informants and lessening the likelihood that we would obtain further good intelligence in the future.

I thought of these happenings recently. It seems that a well-known person had written a memoir, presumably for future publication after some possible revision. It seems that someone had obtained the draft material, and was selling it to an eager public. The memoirist is reported to have taken major umbrage at this, complaining bitterly at the leak. Such complaints will probably help the "thief" to sell more copies of the purloined material.

Who was the angry author? Ironically, it was Julian Asange.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Toothpaste, Eggs, and Fruit

I recently needed to use some toothpaste from a tube that belongs to my wife. It had been squeezed from the middle.

Instinctively, I squeezed from the bottom up. It just seemed tidier that way! When I stop to think about it, I know it makes no real difference, but this pathetic example of my rigidity made me think of similar idiosyncrasies.

Any sane person taking an egg or two from a box of a dozen just takes one out without worrying about symmetry. Not Nigel! Half the time, when there is an odd number of eggs, absolute symmetry is impossible. But I always move eggs from one side to as close to the center as possible. With ten eggs, I leave one "top right" and one "bottom left", and so forth. I kid myself that centering the eggs reduces the likelihood of one or more eggs spilling. Come on! When has an egg been broken just because the eggs in the box are arranged haphazardly?

If I'm (say) arranging fruit in a bowl, it has to be evenly set out. That could mean all the apples together and likewise the oranges and the plums. Or maybe apple, orange. plum--then apple, orange plum again. It has to be a regular pattern!

You could say I am obsessively compulsive--or just anally retentive. Maybe. I simply like things arranged in an orderly fashion.

Would I behave this way if every move were monitored? I don't know. Maybe it stems from the time I trained as a Naval Officer, when we formed up for "Divisions" (a parade). the tallest took their place at the ends of the line; the shortest (usually me) in the center. Again, when putting books in a bookshelf, I typically "size" them, with the shortest in the middle--unless there are several books from a set, in which case they belong together.

Sometimes I remind myself of the character "Felix Ungar" (as spelled in the play and the movie: he became "Unger" in the TV series). as acted by Jack Lemmon in The Odd Couple. He is described as neurotic, neat, and uptight. I don't claim to be neat, however.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Standing Ovations, by Richard Reynolds

I normally write every word of my blogs, but this is an exception. I totally agree with the writer's viewpoint, so I am naming him and forwarding his comments. Barbara and I attended the Berkeley Symphony concert which inspired his words.

Richard Reynolds is a French horn player and longtime member of the Berkeley Symphony and other orchestras. His report first appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet online.

We’ve all been there.

The concert ends, the applause begins. A well-dressed woman up front (the chair of the board?) stands up. The other board members see her standing, and they stand up too.

Other audience members see people in front standing up, and they begin to stand as well. The conductor or soloist bows to the audience and exits stage right. By the time she returns, most of the audience is standing.

This is all wrong.

It misses the point.

A standing-ovation performance is one in which you are so excited at the end that the only possible action is to leap to your feet. If you have to think about it, forget it. The performance doesn’t deserve a standing ovation.

Bay Area audiences are way too ready to rise to their feet at the end of a performance. I have, on occasion, given in to the crowd and joined in when everyone around me has risen to his or her feet, but I do so grudgingly, and if I saw nothing exceptional about the performance, I will remain seated.

Last Thursday, when Johannes Moser performed the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Berkeley Symphony, I didn’t have to think about it. Like most of the audience, I jumped to my feet before the last hair on his bow had snapped. Moser grabbed that concerto by the throat at the very beginning and never let go until he was finished.

It was a tour de force. I suppose one could take issue with the way he nearly threw his bow into the air when completing a particularly energetic phrase, but it never felt like theatrics. He was immersed in the concerto throughout.