1. At the annual reading and eating meeting, I introduced my first reading contribution by saying, "The best comment I've heard on the Syrian refugee situation is, 'If only there were a seasonally appropriate story about Middle Eastern people seeking refuge being turned away by the heartless.' Well, I've found one.* It was written by the Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko in 1967, and it's called 'Mary and Joe, Chicago style.'"
*Need I add that I know perfectly well what the allusion is actually to? Probably.
1a. And I introduced my second by saying, "I've tried reading this aloud several times already and have been unable to get through it without cracking up. Let's see if I can manage it this time." I did.
2. Hanukkah ran right at the height of Christmas warm-up season this year, so only my visiting brother could make it. In addition to the usual run of gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, and latkes, I added something else substantial in the form of a garlic-butter casserole of rice, chicken, and vegetables. Since my brother and I go on road trips, and he likes sports while I don't, I gave him this gonzo baseball road-trip book.
3. While he was here, we visited a couple local museums. The New Museum in Los Gatos, located in the old (not so old, actually) city library building, is currently running a display on old-time local amusement parks, circa 1960s-70s and long gone. Most of the attention was on Frontier Village, which I remember with some fondness, particularly for its fish pond, which was so well-stocked that the fish had to weave around each other while swimming. To fish there, you stuck in the baited hook, counted to two, and pulled out a fish. I did this when I was around nine years old, and later had dinner of the results. One of the two occasions in my life when I've actually gone fishing, if you can call this that.
3a. And, because it's there, the San Francisco 49ers museum at the new stadium. While we were there, watching videos testifying to the quality and spirit of the grrreat 49ers team, that team was getting shellacked in Cleveland. So you have to be a bit starry-eyed to enjoy this museum, and blimey do you ever have to be a football fan to appreciate it. As someone who'd only heard of about half the players eerily preserved in life-sized bronze-statue action poses in the Hall of Fame gallery, I found it a bit over my head. The long line of memorabilia, from the typewriter of the front office's first secretary to the file copy of Joe Montana's contract ("Player represents that he is skilled at the game of football"), was also more than we needed, and, as for the interactive videos, where you could stand on a pad and watch yourself catching a virtual football or dancing with virtual cheerleaders, we didn't try them.
4. Intrigued by the review from sturgeonslawyer, I ventured up to the City on Thursday for the musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, adapted from the old Alec Guinness black-comedy movie Kind Hearts and Coronets (though for legal reasons they had to pretend it wasn't, and change all the names; the plot has also been tinkered with, with the ending sequence considerably less nasty). I found it consistently amusing, and performed with ease and charm, particularly by the Nathan Lane-ish type playing all the Alec Guinness victim characters. The songs were lively and agreeable, with many clever triple rhymes, but without memorable tunes. The victims are an Earl and his family, and almost every single use of the nomenclature of British nobility was completely wrong. Sort of a world's record in that department. This would have bothered me a lot more if the show weren't such a ridiculous farce to begin with. The theatre was broad and low, probably with horrible acoustics, but it didn't matter as the whole thing, orchestra and all, was amplified out the wazoo, with the treble way up high.
I wouldn't give it my highest rating, which would be "Drag B. up to the City to see it," but it was good enough that, when at the curtain call one of the actors thanked the audience for being there on the day of the Star Wars premiere, I called back, "You're much better than Star Wars!"
5. Speaking of which. I am on record as opposing spoilers on the grounds that you can only see a movie for the first time once. After you know what happens, it's a different experience, and the other cannot be relived. But by the same token, if you don't want to see a movie, spoilers are a lifesaver. I read the Wikipedia plot summary of The Force Awakens and now I don't have to see the thing at all! I'm free, I'm free!
6. And then I turned on the radio this morning to the classical station and heard some unfamiliar music that sounded like synthetic imitation Stravinsky, rapidly turning into imitation Prokofiev and then imitation Ravel. Then, finally, a familiar tune, and I realized it was from Star Wars. They're celebrating.
7. Over her protests, and two bitten fingers on me, Maia went to the vet this morning for a checkup and shots. Now she can sing an adaptation of the old "Down Under" song: I met a strange lady / She made me nervous / She took me in and felt my kidneys. Pippin, the timid giant, reacted to Maia's being snatched by huddling in his safe spot, not even coming out to eat his breakfast the whole time we were gone.