May 14, 2003
Patronize Me, Please!

Tomorrow morning, I plan to overhaul this site, moving the ugly yellow buttons to the right column. Until I'm done, things may look look a little weird from time to time, though not for long -- I always keep backups.

In the mean time, anyone who thinks this site worth supporting should know that now would be a really good time to throw some money in the tipjar. If you're wondering why, here's the story. (If not, skip down to the fourth paragraph.) I have a standing order for a multivolume encyclopedia of classics published in Germany. The publisher is supposed to bill my debit card $180 or so (it varies with the exchange rate) every June and December as the new volumes are shipped. So far I have received 15 of the planned 18. Of course, being unemployed, I'm on a tight budget, but I made sure to keep an extra $200 in the bank, since I knew another volume was imminent. (I wouldn't start the subscription today, but now that I have most of the volumes it would be stupid to cancel it.) I just discovered that the publisher charged my debit card $534.37 last Thursday, which is either a horrible mistake or means they've shipped the last three volumes all at once, without bothering to warn me. I only had $503 in the bank, so that debit and eight others made since are all overdrafts, for which my bank is charging $28 each. They told me they covered the first one 'as a courtesy'. Thanks a lot. If they hadn't, I'd have one annoyed creditor and a $28 charge. As it is, I now owe the bank not only $350 more than I was expecting for books, but an extra $252 (9 x $28) in fees, plus another fee of $27.50 every 5 days as long as I'm overdrawn, which could easily be another week or more. I had always assumed that when the damned Mastercard debit card was 'swiped' with an electronic card-reader, the charge would be rejected if I was overdrawn. What the Hell is the machine doing if it's not checking for sufficient funds? I wouldn't have made any of the charges after the big one if I had known I was already overdrawn. Key Bank has my e-mail address, and couldn't be bothered to contact me that way, which should be doable by a program without any human intervention. So, can I sue them for greedy incompetence?

I was already pissed at them for what they did a few weeks ago. The whole reason for opening a Key Bank account in Rochester, even though there were lots of other banks closer to my new apartment, is that I was happy with their service at my last address in Maine, unlike a lot of other banks I've known. I was a lot less happy when Key Bank-Maine started charging $12 per month for an account that had not had a transaction in six months: it seemed a bit steep. Of course, that was my fault for not closing it. But after the first charge, I wrote to them to close the account. I mailed my letter on the 23rd of March, and, even after subtracting the time in the mail, eight days is long enough for them to have closed my account before the end of the month. They didn't answer until April 5th, which conveniently allowed them to charge me another $12. I think they left my letter lying around just so they could do that. It's things like that that give capitalism a bad name -- not that I mean to suggest that I would prefer any other system.

So, if you want me to stop whining and move all the yellow buttons to a less obtrusive position, send me money! What's in it for you? I'm devising a reward system based on the Metropolitan Opera's 'Council for Artistic Excellence', which lists donors of one million, half a million, and a quarter million dollars. All they get for their generosity is their names in tiny print at the back of the program. My system should be ready for unveiling some time tomorrow. The idea is to have a separate page listing donors to this site by categories. These would be named after various Romans, something like this:

For only $2 you can be a Virro (an amusingly stingy patron in Juvenal), and have your name listed in tiny print as a member of the Council for Blogging Excellence -- just like the Met, only much much cheaper.

For $5 you can be a Domitian, with your name in somewhat larger type and a link to your e-mail or website. Historical background: The poet Statius wrote numerous poems for the vicious and bald emperor Domitian, including one (Silvae 4.2) which devotes 67 lines to praising the emperor for inviting him to dinner (just once!) at the imperial palace. According to Statius, the dinner was quite lavish, but he also mentions "a thousand tables" of guests, which makes the abundance of his gratitude look a little sad -- perhaps he had overdue bills -- and Domitian rather cheap: Statius wrote a 12-book epic for him, not as good as the Aeneid, but just as long and better than most Latin verse. (This is the same Statius who much later guided Dante through Purgatory.)

For $10, you can be a Pliny, with your name in larger type, your e-mail and website (if desired), and a nickname or brief motto -- 'Roll Tide', 'Nixon's the One', 'Death to Infidels', whatever. (I reserve the right to refuse contributions if the motto is too offensive.)

For $25, you can be a Messalla, for $50 a Pollio, and for $100 a Maecenas. Historical details are still to be added for all three: suffice it to say that they were patrons of Vergil, Horace, Ovid, and other great Roman poets. These categories will come with further privileges, not yet perfectly defined: perhaps a 50 x 100 button or a picture of yourself, your kids, your dog, your cat, your favorite cartoon character, or anything you like within the bounds of decency (as broadly defined by me).

For $250, you can be a mighty Augustus, and I'll give you a whole page to express yourself or advertise your own site.

Of course, if anyone sends even larger amounts, I'll have to add a new category at the top, perhaps a Iuppiter Optimus Maximus whom I will bow down and worship as a beneficent god.

Details are still to be worked out, but the page will include pictures of Augustus and Maecenas, brief descriptions of what makes the various Romans fair to middling, good, very good, or truly superb patrons, and much more. Stay tuned. I've already got a Messalla and a Maecenas since I installed the PayPal button a few weeks back. Who's next?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at May 14, 2003 11:56 PM

Hey Doc,

Is there a category for Wimpy?--"I will gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today."

Posted by: Terry Oglesby on May 15, 2003 11:38 AM

Call me Domitian. Though i'd rather be Diocletian, if I have to be a badass.

Posted by: Sigivald on May 15, 2003 01:36 PM

Ah, heck, ya talked me into it.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on May 15, 2003 10:05 PM