Sunday, December 11, 2016


1. In memoriam, Vaughn Howland. Tolkien scholars knew him as the domestic partner (that's the term they preferred) of Verlyn Flieger, and thus one of the small band of meta-scholars, including the redoubtable Janice Coulter and my own B., who keep their scholar-partners going. Vaughn was always relaxed and cool about it. He was a tall, rangy fellow with a quiet, slightly raspy voice. Go have some barbecue in his honor, because that was his favorite avocation.

2. Also gone from us, John Glenn, last of the original astronauts. Some day I may try to tell you the story of why his house moved. He lived a good, long life. Godspeed.

3. Also gone, 36 people in the Ghost Ship fire. This has gotten a lot of space in my paper because it's local, but aside from sorrow, my reaction to that angle is to be struck by how little I knew about it. I was vaguely aware that artists were working in warehouses in Oakland - even Jerry Brown lived in a converted loft when he was mayor there - but I'd never heard of the Ghost Ship or the music scene it was part of or any of the people involved. There are worlds beyond worlds in the naked city. What a shame it took this to bring it out.

4a. Britain is advanced: Everywhere I went, the credit card readers took chips. My own credit cards have only gone chipped within the past year or so. If you pay with a card for a restaurant meal, the server brings a portable machine which will even calculate your tip for you, instead of taking your card off god knows where.

4b. Britain is retarded: It has something I hadn't seen in the States for over 30 years, at least. Pay toilets.

4c. Britain is middling: Turns out New York is not the only city with overhead signs using arrows pointing up, meaning "proceed forward," right next to escalators that literally go up. So does London. Taking an escalator up to exit from the Hammersmith tube station, or so I thought, I found at the top another sign indicating that the exit was back down the escalator again. Did Lewis Carroll design this station?, I thought.

5. Half the time I start to read an article about Trump appointing somebody, it turns out that he hasn't actually appointed anybody: this is just speculation about whom he might appoint. The headlines don't make this clear a lot more often than they do. I don't want to read speculations, so I'm just ignoring the whole thing.

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