Thursday, November 2, 2017


1. Since we get so few trick-or-treaters even in a good year, and since the light by the carpath in front of our house has been out for over a month (our landlord keeps pinging the management agency for the complex, but nothing happens, and our porch light doesn't extend that far), we decided just to eschew Halloween this year. No pumpkin, no candy.

2. The big news is, Michael Tilson Thomas is announcing his retirement from the San Francisco Symphony. Like a good music director, he's giving three years' notice, but it's still a big change. Reading his statement, he feels that at 75, which he'll be then, it's time to give up the administrative work and go back to just conducting. So he's not going away entirely. Still, he's been so monumental and so much a fixture - 25 years in the post, longest in SFS' history - that contemplating his replacement is an awesome challenge, bigger than it's seemed before. SFS' last 3 MDs have all been good at their job, albeit with differing styles, but the shoes to fill have gotten even bigger, and the wrench into a different style will be greater.

3. Latest quick grab from the library shelf, A Charlie Brown Religion by Stephen J. Lind, on the spiritual life of Charles Schulz both in and out of the comic strip. The big Schulz biography by David Michaelis says he gradually lost his faith and became an unbeliever. That must be one of the ways the Schulz children felt Michaelis misrepresented their father, because this book, accompanied by their enthusiastic blurbs on the back, says not. Schulz's Midwestern Protestant distaste for organized, authoritative religion, which is part of what caused him eventually to stop attending church and to dub himself a secular humanist (by which, Lind insists, he did not mean atheist or unbeliever), did not cancel out his Christian devotion or his interest in Bible study - as indeed can be guessed from the strip, which remained Biblically conversant through the end, without the heavy-handedness of certain other Christian cartoonists. Typical of Schulz is his opposition to official school prayer when that was a hot issue. He wrote to a church publication at the time, "If our spiritual lives need the support of governmental laws, then we are already doomed." Naturally his comic in which Sally whispers to Charlie Brown as a great secret, "We prayed in school today," was widely misread.

Some of what's in here is interesting - did you know that the Great Pumpkin began as a sarcastic joke about seeing Christmas decorations in October? in 1959? - and some disturbing, like the Peanuts nativity set featuring Lucy as Mary, Charlie Brown as Joseph, and Woodstock as Jesus: supposedly the gang are putting on a pageant, but still ... Lind is not a minister, but he sounds like one, keeping a minister's positive upbeat tone about everything, even Schulz's divorce and his failure to discuss morals and ethics with his children (he didn't want to come across as an Authority, see).

4. Speaking of fathers, it's my father's birthday today, the first one he's not around to celebrate, alas. It's also the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, whose exact date I hadn't known before, an interesting coincidence. Balfour gets in bad repute these days, but nobody has a plausible answer for where the Jews were supposed to go instead (my ancestors were already here, and the US soon after stopped letting dusky foreigners in) or notices that the Declaration explicitly calls for territorial justice for the Arabs as well.

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