Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Don't Answer That Phone!

Have you placed your phone number on the “Do Not Call” list more than once? How’s that working out for you?  We have and it’s continual nuisance calls.  Not content with calls from the USA, we get them from other countries too.  Is this more of a problem with land lines or are cell phones bombarded too?  I have gotten a few on my cell, but the land line teems with them.

When I began my career as a reference librarian I had a request for books on cold calls.  “What in the world were they?” I wondered.  I didn’t realize there were whole books on telemarketing—titles like Maximizing Your Annoyance Score or Invite Yourself to Dinner.  If these books had fallen into my selection area I would have gladly weeded the whole section!  Now I think I just might don my ninja disguise, sneak into the library overnight, and nuke them into oblivion. Fortunately for the annoying person now dialing my phone number I am a law abiding person who would never dream of doing such a thing…

So what’s a pussycat like me to do?  You can let the calls go into voice mail, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying nor does it discourage the callers. My husband and I utilize a number of methods to discourage the bloodsucking, meal interrupting, take-advantage-of-a-senior-today telemarketer.  Actually few of these have worked, but it makes us feel good to try.  Most techniques will have little effect on robotic calling machines, but I do like to press non-approved numbers, like “7” or “8” on the keypad when directed to press “1” (or “2”) now.  Have a little fun with them!

There is the possibility of gratification when a real person is on the other end of line though.  We have begun to answer the phone in foreign tongues, even—no especially—in ones we do not speak. Hubby favors German; I like French which I have a passing acquaintance with; sometimes I get wild and crazy, using a made up language.  Chances are the telemarketer won’t have a clue what you’re saying and will hang up.  I learned this from my literacy students who said that their calls were often cut short when the caller learned that they did not speak English.  Rude yes, but we are talking about telemarketers.  One caveat however, once hubby kept saying “nein” and the caller thought that he wanted nine of whatever they were selling so be careful with the German.

A friend’s husband tried to reason with a caller. Reason?  He engaged the telemarketer in a prolonged conversation, about twenty minutes.  At the end of the friendly chat, he explained that calling him only wasted their marketing time and, since it would not profit the caller, why didn’t they take his phone number off their call list.  It worked, but he is a very patient, rational, religious person.  I am not.  This past Sunday someone called at dinner time.  We were having a special dinner for my brother-in-law.  I really tore into him, asking how he dared call a family on a Sunday at the dinner hour. I do believe that gentleman might be reading the want ads afresh.

I can also be whimsical.  One caller was both highly amused and got the message after I acted like a not-quite-right-in-the-head childlike respondent.  I asked her name and when she answered I said, “Oh, I’m so happy for you (whatever it was)” in an idiotic happy way. I just kept giving her gee-whiz feedback every time she said anything.  She got the hint. 

Whenever we get opinion poll calls, I immediately ask what they will pay me.  I explain that I am a librarian and know just how costly those polls are to purchase, so I give no free answers.  “What’s my cut of the action?” I ask.  This is guaranteed to flummox the caller, guaranteed.

For the past several months we have been beleaguered by calls purporting to be from WINDOWS, wanting to fix a non-existent problem.  The male callers are from India and don’t give up.  However, I can have my fun too.  In the beginning I tried reason, “Why would Microsoft be calling?  Oh, you’re not from there?”  The last time he called I said that I had just had lunch with Bill Gates and I asked him to check out my computer.  He said everything was fine.

Should they call again, I plan to launch my latest response.  In an official voice, I will read from a pre-printed card:  This call is being monitored and recorded in accordance with a Federal Communications "Committee" investigation.  Please state your full name, social security number, exact location and telephone number now…

I can hardly wait for their next call. Go ahead, make my day.  “Scumbags get off my telephone!  I pay for it.  It is for my safety and convenience.  It is NOT a marketing opportunity for you or any other organization.”   

Monday, March 09, 2015

In an Elegiac State of Mind

Is sorrow best expressed through poetry?  Not for me; I seek comfort in music when in a plaintive state of mind. While some seek solace in words, I look to sound. 

Today is the first of two difficult days.  It was condoling to hear Barber’s Adagio for Strings when I turned on the local classical music station this morning.  Today and tomorrow are days of mourning, tainting March with melancholy.  Today my daughter would celebrate her forty-ninth birthday; that life stolen eighteen years ago tomorrow by her sudden, inexplicable death.

In Melancholy March winter wearies the spirit with memories of what might have been, forcing acquiescence to what shall never be.  In Melancholy March only music can touch my loneliness.  A life cut cruelly short; so much promise extinguished—forever. It is the unhealable wound. 

How can I ameliorate the ever-present ache, especially today?  I turn to favorites like Mahler’s Adagietto  in his Fifth Symphony, the Der Abschied (IV) from his Das Lied von der Erde. or the final movement (V) from the great Resurrection, Symphony Number Two.  Dark music for a darker soul.  Tobias Picker offers solace in his Old and Lost Rivers from The Five Sacred Trees CD, as does Antonin Dvorak’s Largo (second movement) of the Symphony for the New World. However, I think the best is Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending performed by many with the finest performance by Iona Brown in Ralph Vaughn Williams:  Orchestral Works.

I find some comfort in Yo-Yo Ma’s rendition of Tan Dun: the Eternal Vow from the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in his Classical Yo-Yo album.  Mychael Danna has often settled my harried mind with his Skys album, especially Sky 9 and Sky 10, with plaintive sounds of far off thunder and lonely train whistles in the empty night.  With his brother, Jeff, the Dannas reveal the beauty of loss in Two Trees, the concluding piece in A Celtic Tale:  the Legend of Deirdre.  In the apparitional She Moved Through the Fair (arranged by James Galway and Paddy Moloney) from James Galway: the Celtic Minstrel she comes so very near.  Just one moment more!

There are others that go unmentioned. Each has their place in my longing.  Each helps numb my overwhelming sense of loss for a little while.  At least I still have that.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Presents To Sooth Your Soul

Christmas is only two days away.  The shopping and wrapping is finished, baking done, and house decorated and cleaned.  It is time to nourish your weary body and enjoy a good Christmas story, inspiring DVD, and/or listen to some holiday stories and music.  I’m sure that you have your favorite, the ones you listen to each holiday.  Well, I have mine too and I’d like to share some of my favorites with you.  A few of these are old and in cassette format.  If you don’t know what an audio cassette is, you’ve missed out on some lovely entertainment.  You won’t find some of these on ITunes or GOOGLE Play, but they are so worth seeking out.

        In 1937 Glanville and Elizabeth Heisch wrote a Christmas story that remained immensely popular with children for about 25 years, The Cinnamon Bear.  Judy and Jimmy Barton’s adventures begin when they go up to the attic to get the family’s silver star tree topper.  The Crazy Quilt Dragon has stolen the star and the siblings must search through Maybeland with friend Paddy O’Cinnamon to recover the star.  The series, consisting of 26 episodes was later made into a 1950s TV serial.  It was made available in the 80’s in a 6 audio cassette package.  The Cinnamon Bear has always been a favorite story, one that fills me with memories of my childhood Christmases.

Another radio based treasure comes from a 1990s airing of “The Midnight Special” which was a weekly show broadcast on WFMT in Chicago.  One special Christmas piece has stayed with me all these years.  I call it “The Wonderfulest Christmas in the United States.”  If memory serves the story was told to Studs Turkel who passed it on, but it is originally a John Henry Faulks Christmas story of a young, poor Texas boy who tells a stranger of the Christmas he and his family had with their neighbors the Jacksons joining in.  There wasn’t much “Christmas” to go around in their town, but an organization was distributing some special food and treats to poor families.  The boy’s dad heard about it and went to see if it was true.  Sure enough he was able to get wonderful holiday treats for his family.  He asked his neighbor, Sam Jackson, whether or not he, too, had gotten some of the treats, but Sam said that he didn’t think that the bounty was meant for black folks, so he didn’t go into town with expectations.  The rest of the story reveals the joy the boy and the two families had making the ‘wonderfulest’ Christmas together, young boys laughing, mothers cooking and dads making a long table, covered with white sheets, that looked like it “belonged in a cathedral or somethin’”.  It is a simple story simply told about unbounded joy—something mostly lost today in our over-commercialized culture.  I don’t know if this is available anywhere, but seeking it out would be well worth the time.
Of course there are easier programs and music you can find.  I recommend Rick Steve’s European Christmas TV special.  This enjoyable program seeks out current, past, and pre-Christian holiday traditions in places like Norway, England, and other European venues.  Perry Como’s DVD Christmas Around the World is a delight, showing excerpts from Como’s Christmas specials in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Visit with the Boys’ Choir in Vienna, Colonial Williamsburg’s Town Crier, schoolchildren in Mexico, and other places.  The DVD concludes with a visit to Bethlehem.  Perry’s soothing voice and calm, pleasant manner make the compilation a special treat for my family’s holiday viewing.

Although audio cassettes are long gone from store shelves—for that matter store shelves are in short supply too—I have squirreled away a few favorites, having the equipment at hand on which to play the cassettes.  The Christmas titles include Carols from Many Lands by The Choir of Ely Cathedral, directed by Paul Trepte with organist David Price. It was purchased from Past Times an English Company that may have gone the way of store shelves.  The company used to publish a fabulous catalog and many hours were wistfully spent going through its pages.  My favorite seasonal cassette is not necessarily for the Holiday Season, but it is certainly inspirational.  In a 1986 Angel Records (Seraphim, Capitol Records, Inc.) Daniel Barenboim conducts The New Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus in the finest performance of Bach’s Magnificat that I have ever heard. The reverse side isn’t bad either:  Bruckner’s Te Deum. 

            Some of my CD favorites include the more popular titles like The Glenn Miller Orchestra, In the Christmas Mood, Michael BublĂ©’s Christmas, a 2011 Reprise title, and a 1999 recording by The Irish Tenors, Home for Christmas.  In addition, we often listen to hubby’s favorite, The Very Best of Bing Crosby Christmas, 1999 MCA Records. Hubby is a sucker for Der Bingle.  We watch the White Christmas DVD so much that I have two copies.

Some less well known groups round out my favorite CD Christmas list.  Altramar Medieval Music Ensemble is an Indiana University group are a delight to listen to.  The ensemble specializes in “sharing historical repertory in the context of human experience…evoking the vibrant tapestry of medieval culture.”  Each piece is carefully researched, and beautifully performed on period instruments.  I have several Altramar CDs and they are wonderful.  Their two volumes of Iberian Gardens is outstanding, but for Christmas I love Nova Stella: A Medieval Italian Christmas, 1996 Dorian Discovery, Dorian Group, Ltd. 

Ensemble Galilei with or without Maggie Sansone is a favorite of mine.  Two of their Christmas titles are Ancient Noels with Maggie Sansone.  The CD features “traditional carols, medieval cantigas, and Renaissance dances (that) bring to life images of desert landscapes and stone monasteries where the Christmas spirit was born”  1993, Maggie’s Music.  A Winter’s Night: Christmas in the Great Hall features classic medieval and Renaissance carols from Galicia, Spain, Scotland, and Ireland as well as “original compositions to mark the winter solstice.”  It was produced by Maggie’s Music, 2001 and 2002. The first title features recorders, viola da gamba, Celtic harp, and hammered dulcimer.  The second adds pipes, oboe, tin whistle, flute, and Uilleann Pipes.  Kick back and enjoy!

What will I be listening to this Christmas Eve?  Right now I have Bach’s Magnificat playing on the stereo.  In a while, when hubby is asleep, I will re-enact my customary Christmas Eve activity which is to watch the 1951, black and white, version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol starring Alistar Sim.  Although I have access to the colorized version, it’s got to the the black and white tonight.

Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year to all.