Saturday, August 31, 2019

BISQC, day 5, completed

Before I go on, I might as well quickly finish up Friday. That evening the special guest performers were the Kronos Quartet. (David Harrington, their founder and leader, is one of the competition judges, and his colleagues came in for this.)

They played assorted excerpts on stage in conjunction with a movie about themselves projected overhead, sometimes collaborating with guest musicians who were seen (and heard) only onscreen. Meanwhile the filmmaker sat at a desk and nattered into a microphone a lot.

The music was nice, and the material on Kronos history interesting, but the big philosophical statements were pretentious asshattery.

This being done fairly quickly, this was the first evening I had a chance to go down to the conference bar after the evening programming rather than just writing my blog entry and then retiring for the night. I was hoping to catch some of the informal musicmaking, and indeed I did, hearing an assorted crew (rotating in and out between movements) including such noted names as Philip Setzer of the Emerson Quartet and Hank Dutt of Kronos in a fine scratch run through the Brahms G major Sextet. Then I went to bed.

Friday, August 30, 2019

BISQC, day 5 in part

It's a quiet afternoon off at BISQC, and I'm sitting at a computer easier to use than the one I've been posting at before, one that won't be available in the evening, and I've finished the work I came here to do, so why not describe the remarkable events of this morning?

For every BISQC, a Canadian composer is commissioned to write an "imposed piece," that is one that all the contestants are required to play, so that they may be judged on their ability to perform new music that neither they nor anybody else has ever heard before. They have, at least in this case, about 2 months to learn the work, and the composer to consult on questions, and then they all play the work, all ten of them, in one marathon concert.

The only requirements on the composer are that the work be for string quartet with no embellishments (no requiring the players to move around on stage, no electronics or other additions) and that it be about 9 minutes long. Style is entirely up to them.

The imposed piece at BISQC three years ago was a piece of fearsome modernism full of the most complex playing and busy notation. For this year, however, they commissioned Matthew Whittall, who is a minimalist, and curiosity as to what he'd write was a large factor driving me to attend this year. Though Whittall intended his piece to be something of a surprise for the audience, I found out what he wrote when the score was made available to the audience yesterday. I'd hardly have dared to review ten disparate performances without it to follow along and take notes on.

The piece, "Bright Ferment (String Quartet No. 2)," begins with a long sequence of fast repeating minimalist chugging chords, shifting harmonies and back again at regular intervals, and jumping their rhythmic tracks at irregular intervals. This continues just long enough, as the composer says, to fool the listener as to what kind of piece it's going to be. It's succeeded by a wild sequence of contrasting styles, including fragmented atonalism, chromatic Romanticism, and even a bit of tango. The idea is to give the performers a chance to try out differing styles and show their individuality, and Whittall hopes that the sequence forms some kind of coherent whole. (It did, but despite the fact that I enjoyed the idiom more than I did the piece 3 years ago doesn't mean I was really eager to hear it ten times. Though the hall begin fairly full, a good number left halfway through at intermission.)

Most of the performing groups had no trouble assimilating the opening minimalist chord sequence. The most imaginative performance was by the Viano, who were not only flexible, but they were the only group to develop differences in dynamics for the different sets of harmonies. The Agate played it well enough, but they clearly didn't sound comfortable or familiar with the idiom. On the other hand, not everybody could play it perfectly. The Omer, which had the misfortune to begin the concert, was the only group which really couldn't hack it. The Vera slipped up just a little, and the cellist of the Ulysses actually dropped out for about a bar in the middle.

That's unfortunate, but she also gave one of the better performances of a lengthy cello pizzicato/arco solo later on. However, my first prize for that sequence goes to Tate Zawadiuk of the Viano, who was the only cellist to figure out that the pizzicato section was actually a jazz solo and to play it in the appropriate heavily-vibratoed style.

This was immediately preceded by a chromatic violin solo, and this time it was Maryana Osipova of the Eliot who was the only one to give it a blues flavor.

These solos were preceded by a sequence of cascading pizzicato notes in all four instruments. The Elmire did the best job of giving this a cascading style, and the Viano gave it a good push. The Ruisi played it slower and more gently than others, while the Vera were a little stiff here.

A bit further on is the tango, a slow one of a kind Whittall learned while living in Argentina. (He's now in Finland, though we're assured he is by origin Canadian.) This features another violin solo, and this one has slides marked on the notes. Now, genuine broad glissandos elsewhere in the piece are something the players had no trouble with. As Christina Bouey and Colin Brookes of the Ulysses pointed out when I talked with them afterwards, they all learned that from Bartok. But the slides in the tango are not real glissandos, but portamento, and that's a style that's often anathema to modern players. Some ignored the instruction altogether. Others, including Bouey, followed it but a bit hesitantly. Only Alessandro Ruisi of his namesake quartet really gave those slides their full Piazzolla-like value.

A passage of weird atonal fragments sounded totally different from everyone who played it (notes like "weird", "intense", "cries", and "squeals" in my notes aren't much help). A following passage of "intense, obsessive" (I'm quoting the score's instructions now) heavy chords sounded pretty much the same from everyone who played it, except the Marmen who somehow managed to sound rougher than anybody else.

Listeners knew they were getting near the end when they came to the passage where the viola is required to play the note D over and over again in a "rhythmic, driving" (the score's instructions again), and stuttering fashion (mostly sixteenth notes, but with accents and interspersed with eighth notes). A few of the violists sounded awkward at doing this; whenever they did, their second violinist, to whom they passed on the responsibility after a dozen bars of this, had less trouble. First prize in doing it well goes to the bounding viola of Eva Kennedy of the Callisto.

As the second violin takes the repeated D (the one note now played double-stopped on two strings) quietly on for an unbelievable seven pages, the other three instruments play, interspersed by pauses, quiet sequences of chords over it. These again sounded amazingly different, depending on the group. Ruisi's were dissonant. Callisto's were very consonant. Ulysses and Viano had them consonant but tangy; Vera's were consonant but fuzzy. Elmire's were so consonant they were even sweet. Eliot's were soft and sighing.

The piece ends with soft harmonics from all four instruments, briefly sounding like a quote from the introduction to Simon Jeffes' "Music for a Found Harmonium," though I don't know if it is.

And that's it, ten times over.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

BISQC, day 4

This morning saw the final concert in the competition's Romantic round. The hall was close to full. Although most of us with the full week package are older folk, many of the day trippers this morning were much younger, in their 20s or early 30s by the look of them. So much for younger people having no interest in classical music.

Unfortunately there were also some considerably younger than that, and I found myself seated immediately in front of the Squirming Little Kids section, with extra Kicking Of The Back Of My Seat added. I don't blame the kids: it's inhuman to expect preschoolers to sit still for this kind of music, and the same thing happened as always happens with small children at a serious classical concert: by halfway through the first long work, the squirming and talking were enough that the parents took the kids out and did not return, thus having wasted the price of their tickets as well as annoying everyone else in the auditorium. Since that always happens, perhaps the parents are merely clueless. I blame the presenters and the venue for not stopping them at the door and saying, "This is not an appropriate occasion for small children," and I had some strong words with the BISQC administrators afterwards. They kept assuring me they agreed with me, and I kept thinking, "Then why don't you do it?"

Otherwise the audience has mostly been good. Recorded pre-concert announcements have, so far at least, put an end to the plague of cell phones going off during concerts, and the worst that's happened was a couple days ago when a loud cough arrived at the beginning of one piece just as the bows were about to hit the strings.

The work that got squirmed through this morning was Mendelssohn's Op. 80, heard in this round for the third time, this time from the Eliot Quartet. They played with the same dramatic spirit as the Marmen yesterday. If it was not quite as dazzling, there was more of a variety of moods, with added roughage and some of the Elmire's alarming way with dissonances. The squirms didn't prevent me from giving this a good rating.

Then a good run-through of the Ravel from the Ulysses Quartet, far more encouraging than the Vera's. It started fairly plainly, but enough tangy accents and crisp phrasing built up to keep it interesting. The finale was best, full of pizzazz.

Lastly a composer we hadn't yet heard here. The Callisto Quartet brought their characteristic light and clear style to Dvorak's heavy-duty Op. 105. This clarified a lot of inner lines, such as bird calls for the second violin I'd never noticed before. But during the more energetic passages, the Callisto unleashed a heavy grinding sound, more often than strictly necessary but never inappropriately. This put the real heft in the music. Characteristic visual image: Callisto's violist, flush-faced, hunched over her instrument to get the maximum grind out of it.

The afternoon was off, and I rested up and accomplished some mundane tasks like laundry. There's a laundry room in the basement of our residence building. Strangely, the elevator does not go down to the basement.

The evening, halfway through the festival, saw the alumni concert. At each BISQC I've attended, they've invited back the previous session's winner for a special concert with other musicians. So please welcome the Rolston Quartet, or rather 3/4 of it because they've had a change of personnel in the interim, to perform with a recent winner of the Calgary piano competition in a tense, but not tensed-up, performance of the Franck Piano Quintet. Followed by a collaboration with two of this year's competition judges (who are all, of course, string players themselves) in Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence, which is a string sextet. (Tchaikovsky loved Italy, because of the lack of snow.) This was absolutely sizzling, Tchaikovsky with all of the fat baked out. The Rolston has been doing very well for itself since wining BISQC three years ago, and one can hear why.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

BISQC, day 3

At the previous BISQC, Wednesday was another marathon day, with each of the ten competing quartets playing one work each from the Romantic (basically 19C) repertoire. Then Thursday was an entire day off to recover.

This time they're doing it slightly differently, spreading both the Romantic round and the day off over two days. Today had the morning off, and it was also the day when we weren't provided lunch by the cafeteria, so I walked down the hill into the town of Banff for lunch, and also visited the farmer's market which was today, where I got a basket of blackberries and some unusual local varietal apples. Now I have to figure out when to eat them, for - that one excision aside - they're feeding us well here.

Afternoon and evening were two concerts of the Romantic round, totaling 7 of the 10 quartets; the other 3 will be tomorrow morning. This evening's concert was the first time the hall was close to full; I expect the increase in day trippers to continue.

The highlight of the day was undoubtably the Marmen Quartet in Mendelssohn's Op. 80, his last and darkest-toned quartet. It totally overshadowed the Quatuor Elmire in the same work earlier the same day, unfortunately (for Elmire at least). Where Marmen gave a dramatic performance, Elmire was tragic, and it didn't come off as well. Marmen was brilliantly driving, and intense with great clarity. Next to that, Elmire sounded soggy. They did have one interesting trick, setting some dissonant trills in the finale off like metallic bells. Marmen didn't do anything like that. They didn't have to.

Further fine Mendelssohn came from the Ruisi Quartet in Op. 13. This was full of a variety of moods. By the time, at the end of this long quartet, it returns to its beginning, you felt like you'd been on a real journey. My only small creebs have to do with some details of relative strength of voicing, and questions of formality. The intermezzo could perhaps have been less staid and more insouciant, and the finale more galumphing. But it was good.

The other best performance was by the Viano Quartet in the Debussy quartet. It was vivid and strong, also impassioned, with rich harmonies but not a trace of impressionist wetness. It didn't entirely overshadow the Quatuor Agate in the same work. Being French, they went for the riper harmonic style, but they didn't overindulge. Their first movement and scherzo were also energetic and incisive, while the Andantino and finale were far slower and more introverted.

The Omer Quartet played a Brahms Op. 67 that was bright, cheerful, lively, and energetic, none of them words usually associated with Brahms, and indeed this performance did not sound like Brahms in the slightest. I would never have guessed it was him. Since this is the same ensemble that, at the previous BISQC 3 years ago, played a Debussy quartet that did not sound remotely like Debussy, I sense a pattern.

That leaves the Vera Quartet in Ravel's quartet, and for a group whose Bartok I loved, they fell down on the job here. It was adequately played, but rather bland, and considering the opportunities for exotic spicing in this most potentially protean of all the standard repertoire quartets, to neglect all of those opportunities is a damned shame.

After the afternoon concert, many of us rushed over to a nearby recital hall for a master class given by renowned cellist Joel Krosnick, tutoring 3 student ensembles of varying experience in pieces by Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Brahms. At one point, helping a second violinist with a tough passage, he joked, "You know what second violinists do for a living: they repeat first violinists, but in a difficult register."

Normally the audience doesn't interact directly much with the contestants or staff, who are awfully busy, but chance allowed me to sit at dinner tonight with one of the judges, violinist Martin Beaver. We didn't discuss the contestants, of course, but we did speak more generally on judging; compared concert halls we both knew, him as a performer and me in the audience, and the differences in those perspectives; the plague of noise on the ears; and much else. I told my restaurant background music story to the amusement of the entire table. (What? I haven't told it to you? Later, then.)

Tomorrow, the rest of the Romantic round, and - a BISQC alumni concert.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

BISQC, day 2

Today was a real marathon day at the Banff string quartet competition. To fit two works (a Haydn and a 20C) by each of the six remaining competing ensembles into one day required three concerts of two hours each. We were in the concert hall a total of 6 hours between 10:30 AM (yes, the first concert was in the morning) and 9:30 PM, with time in between to trudge over to the dining hall for meals, but not much more than that. Possibly due to not having had enough sleep last night, I was fatigued by the end of this to an extent I haven't felt at BISQC before. Or maybe it was just too much Bartok.

Let's just run down the six groups:

The Vera Quartet (Spain/US) played Haydn's Op. 76/1 with a crisp and lively rhythm and rich four-part harmonies almost 19C in flavor. That the first violin was a little squeaky was a minor flaw. Their Bartok Third, I'm pleased to say, was the most revelatory Bartok of the whole two-day set, the kind of performance I came here to hear. Without stinting in the slightest on the raw toughness of the work, they made Bartok's legendarily hardest quartet into jolly fun to listen to. Blazing speed too.

The Viano Quartet (Canada/US) gave a fuller and more down-to-earth version of Haydn's Op. 77/1 than the Callisto did yesterday, so despite having less flair it was, I think, a more solid performance. It was notable also for perfectly matching sonorities in the upper strings, with only the cello standing out. Their Bartok Fourth was no less raw and tough than the Vera's Third, but the outer movements were just slashing, harsh and unpleasant. At least the two scherzi (one muted, one pizzicato) were exotic and colorful.

The Eliot Quartet (Germany, with Canadian and Russian members) did Haydn's Op. 20/2. It turns out that a lot of the Baroque flavor I detected in the Omer's performance yesterday is inherent in the music. Still, this was a more modern performance, with the fullness of the Viano, the even sonority of the Vera, and also the squeaky first violin of the Vera. For a modern work, the Eliot offered the Second Quartet of Karol Szymanowski, a work I didn't know. It opens in S's best "Debussy in Poland" style, interrupted by Janacek shivers and later Bartok slides and slashes. I could live without this piece, but it was unquestionably a fine performance.

The Ruisi Quartet (UK) played both Haydn's Op. 20/5 and Bartok's Second in the most dark, mysterious, and melancholic emotional manner possible. It was never frantic, not even in Bartok's scherzo, and if you know that scherzo, you'd claim that restraint to be impossible. But they did it. It was a remarkable tour-de-force, though I'm not sure to what end. Of all the quartets competing, this is the one I'm most curious as to what they'll do next. Actually, what they're doing next is Mendelssohn's Op. 13, and if they pour a sea of melancholy all over that, it'll be a surfeit for the ages.

The Marmen Quartet (UK) gave a lively and energetic run through Haydn's Op. 50/1. The sound was stringy, in the sense of giving an awareness of the instruments as physical objects. Then we had Ligeti's First. Again. The Callisto had done this yesterday, and did a wonderfully effective presentation of this piece of Eurotrash. The Marmen, though, were more harsh, even coarse and brutal, with startlingly precise coordination, but to what artistic end? A lot of sound and fury, signifying, well, you know.

Lastly, the Quatuor Agate played the same Haydn, Op. 76/5, that the other four-man French group, the Elmire, did yesterday. Way to differentiate yourself, guys. It was slightly different in preferring to express character and atmosphere rather than beauty. The Largo was rather spooky, but the main difference was that the cellist's string broke during the middle of the Largo, leading to a long pause while they all went offstage to fix it and retune. And their Bartok Third seemed weirdly hesitant, as if the players were afraid of all the slashing noises they were making. Maybe they expected another string to break.

Romantic/19C repertoire tomorrow.

Monday, August 26, 2019

BISQC, day 1

Here I am back at the Banff International String Quartet Competition, at the Banff Arts Centre up in the Canadian Rockies. I was here at the last session three years ago, and had a wonderfully string quartetty of a time. So since I couldn't attend Tolkien in Birmingham, or several other things, I was determined to get back to this.

And everything is pretty much as I remembered it. The long bus ride up from the Calgary airport, the facilities including the fantastically good food, the program. Even two of the ten participating quartets are the same. There have been some small alterations to the program schedule, which won't turn up until later. And, as promised last time, our housing has been entirely refurbished. It used to be 1960s college dormitory, now it's postmodern business hotel. Mostly an improvement, though it takes some ingenuity to figure out where some of the light switches are.

Today, the first of the competition, featured two concerts with a total of four of the competing quartets (the other six are tomorrow) playing two works each: a Haydn quartet and a 20th century quartet, each of the performers' choice (with some restrictions). The modern quartets were three Bartoks and a Ligeti. Wouldn't you know: last time we had ten Bartok quartets, this time, all told, seven. It's like a plague, slowly receding.

What struck me about these performances was how much, in three of the four cases, each performing group's individual style was evident across both works, despite the vast difference between Haydn and the modern Hungarians. The Callisto Quartet (US), for instance, played a Haydn Op. 77/1 that was crisp and clear, each voice highly differentiated, with witty phrasing in a true Haydn style. Despite this, it was substantive, not light-weight, with some real vehemence in the trio and finale. So imagine my surprise when they applied the same crisp clarity of phrasing and voicing to Ligeti's First, even managing to be witty on occasion. It made this load of modernist hackwork actually sound almost interesting. A first-rate job.

The Quatuor Elmire (France), by contrast, played in a blended style more traditional in string quartet work, with a tangy effect owing to the difference in sonorities of the participating instruments. The emphasis in their Haydn Op. 76/5 was on the beauty of the music. Their Bartok Second tried for the same effect by being primarily slow and quiet, giving off an inchoate sense of deep profundity, and without any of the grittiness typical of the work. The scherzo, which is anything but slow and quiet, was dry and rigid, but plenty of push kept it from being dull.

The Omer Quartet (US), one of the returning ensembles (and one which I've heard a couple times in the interim), applied a light, quaint Baroque style to their Haydn Op. 20/2, giving it a cool and affectless air, though with occasional startling (in context) displays of emotion. Their Bartok Third was also cool and unaffected, with strong emphasis on Bartok's weird sounds: glissandi, metallic on-the-bridge playing, and so forth. The coda featured a sudden outburst of intensity, as if they really cared.

But the Ulysses Quartet (US, with one Canadian member), the other returning ensemble (and the most striking in appearance: three women in dazzling matching electric red long dresses, plus one man in a plain suit who looked like their chauffeur), did something different. Their Haydn Op. 33/1 was light and blended, sweeter in tone than the Elmire's, affecting in the Andante, and with a zippingly fast finale. But did they let this affect their Bartok Fifth? Not a chance. The entire thing sounded like Elmire's dry and rigid scherzo, but by gum the combination of jerking Eastern European folk dance rhythms and an even more vivid emphasis on bizarre sounds than the Omer led to the most authentically Bartokian sound I've heard here yet. The hurdy-gurdy episode in the finale was outstandingly peculiar. I have to call this one the winner in the day's Bartok competition.

More tomorrow ...

Friday, August 23, 2019

a failure to communicate

Can you guess what this button is meant to convey? I couldn't. Told that it's a campaign button for a presidential candidate, I flailed around trying to think of one whose initials were J.O. No luck. Then told (orally) that it says "Jo" I tried to think of a current candidate named Jo, as in Jo March or Jo Grimond. No luck there, either. At "It's Joe Biden, you idiot!" I protested: But Joe Biden spells it with an E at the end. "There is an E!" No there isn't. What, that? That's not an E. (It's also inconspicuous against the blue when set next to the bright white letters.)

And that remains my settled view. At reminding this viewer of Joe Biden, that button is completely incompetent.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

diary of a householder

Ants. Our cat sitter from the trip three weeks ago warned us that ants had started to appear, and sure enough, they appeared in the kitchen sink overnight any time something of interest to an ant might have been left in there. Vigilance kept them away, but then they discovered the trash can. During one such visit, the trail was heavy enough that I was able to track it back to its origin point, which was an unfinished slat between the floor and wall behind the refrigerator. Several visits to Home Depot later (because the local real hardware chain went out of business), I finally got a sealant cement of workable viscosity and sealed up the slat. Then a day later, I sealed up the hole in that, then the hole in that. In the process I got lots of practice moving the refrigerator. That put paid to the ants for a few days, until they discovered a way in on the other side of the garage wall. Now wait until I can track that exact point down.

Laundry. Usually I can fix whatever is causing difficulty for B. in the washer or dryer, but not this time. Visit from a repairman confirmed the dryer's electronics were shot, and it wasn't just a switch problem. Back to the store where I bought out new washer a few years ago. Didn't like the dryer they showed me: confusing labeling, and a control wheel so stiff I thought it didn't work if the machine wasn't on. No, it was supposed to be like that. I picked a different one, but it had to be ordered, and it comes tomorrow. Meantime I took my own laundry to a local laundromat, first time I'd needed to use one here. I liked it, especially for the countdown timers on both washer and dryer, something you rarely see in a laundromat; except that it lost one of my socks. I know, that's proverbial, but it had never happened to me before. And this was one of my expensive support knee socks, so unhappy.

Scores. Two years ago I was dismayed to find that the local college library, to which I have access, had declared all its music scores noncirculating. This put quite a damper in my concert-review research, but I was relieved to see that they've rescinded this, so I was able to check out the Bartók collection for my upcoming Banff festival trip, since it's going to be another Bartók immersion program. I mentioned at work that I was going to be hearing a lot of Bartók there, and someone thought I'd said "bar talk." Well, a lot of that too, actually.

Monday, August 19, 2019

ecce homines, pars IX

Continuing my three-volumes-at-a-time survey of the American Presidents series, edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. This installment covers the presidencies of 1901-1921.

These three presidents go together. They were, as discussed in detail in the books, the three presidents of the Progressive Era. They were all born within a span of 22 months, the closest cluster of so many presidents until quite recently. And they mark an interesting generational shift: the last presidents born before the Civil War, and the first too young to have fought in it.

Louis Auchincloss on Theodore Roosevelt is a curiously disconnected book, consisting more of a series of vignettes than a connected biography. TR's accession as president sneaks in behind your back in this book (the book on McKinley doesn't discuss his assassination either), and his break with his successor Taft is told in the most disjointed form of anything in this series to date. (First we're told it will have something to do with Gifford Pinchot, then we get a whole chapter on the background of TR's association with Pinchot which stops when TR leaves office, then there's a whole interjected chapter of quotes from TR's letters in office, which serve only to prove that he was anything but pithy and that he concerned himself with a lot of trivial matters, then we go into his post-presidential activities before eventually getting back to the topic which Auchincloss deliberately brought to the forefront.) There's no sense of the verve or energy or delight of TR in this book, but the frequent quotes manage to depict him as a chauvinistic blowhard. Was that the intent? Auchincloss was a lawyer, novelist, and popular historian; I haven't read his other books but I wonder if this was his style.

Jeffrey Rosen on William Howard Taft is a dense but coherently argued book focused on explaining Taft's governmental philosophy in a biographical context. Although Rosen (a law professor and public intellectual) doesn't make this comparison, Taft reminds me of John Quincy Adams, in that he comes into office with an idealized view of how to be the perfect president, and runs up against the political practicalities of office, a topic he has neither interest in nor patience for. Taft in fact made a principle out of not addressing politics or explaining himself to the larger populace, so he could hardly have been surprised at failing to win re-election. His principle was to be an active administrator within the strict bounds of his conservative view of the Constitution's limitations on presidential power. This led to the real reason for his break with TR: though they shared views on reining in trusts, TR was willing to cut legal corners to do it and Taft wasn't. But it also led to Taft's success as Chief Justice: he approached this office the same way he approached being president, and this approach being more suited to the non-political office, it worked well. Rosen even skillfully incorporates discussion of Taft's famous weight problem into the context of his political fortunes. The only goof I saw is when he describes the free-trade deal with Canada as "reject[ed by] the Canadian people in a Brexit-style referendum" (p. 90); it was nothing of the sort, but a parliamentary general election in which the treaty was the main issue.

H.W. Brands on Woodrow Wilson is again a portrait of the subject's philosophy in biographical format, less densely argued than Rosen though Brands is an academic historian. Where TR and Taft, as Rosen and even Auchincloss make clear, wished to police trust misbehavior, they had no objection to big business if it behaved itself, whereas Wilson had the traditional Democratic mistrust of all such large combinations, and Brands skillfully traces Wilson's rise from academia into politics and his early creation of institutions like the Federal Reserve to help control the economy. Another continuing theme is Wilson's faith in the power of words, which led him to resume giving the State of the Union to Congress in person (discontinued by Jefferson, who hated nothing more than giving speeches) and later to his disastrous attempt to sell the League of Nations to the American people. How the US got sucked into WW1 and what Wilson was aiming at to end it are presented with great clarity. Brands acknowledges Wilson's flaws but is largely sympathetic; his account of the Mexican intervention doesn't convey how truly disastrous that was, for instance. Though he begins by noting that Wilson grew up in the Confederacy during the Civil War, he says the war largely passed Wilson by, and not until the very end (p. 133) does he mention Wilson's segregationist policies as president. The administration's draconian authoritarianism is blamed on Attorneys General Gregory and Palmer (but who appointed them and approved their actions?), and the toxic James McReynolds isn't mentioned at all. So the book is a bit of an apologia.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

when you read about

Brian Jay Jones, Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination (Dutton, 2019)

I already have the authorized Morgan & Morgan biography of Dr. Seuss, but this one attracted my eye and offered a good excuse to drop a little money into the coffers of a small independent bookstore in the City on our recent expedition up there.

Although with fewer quotations from Dr. Seuss's incidental writings, and not as many photographs, than the Morgan bio, it's more compellingly written and makes more of a coherent thread of story of his life, utilizes journalistic and other secondary sources with skill, and is able to be more honest about certain personal matters relating to his marriage and his health.

It also shows considerable insight, as in one paragraph I found particularly delightfully written. Although Geisel was pleased with the results (or he wouldn't have published them), he found writing Beginner Books frustrating because the limited vocabulary cramped his natural ebullience with language. (But this shows the benefits of an artificial limitation on creative artists, as some of them are his masterpieces.) Having already proven his virtuosity with a limited vocabulary in writing The Cat in the Hat, despite the sweat and grumbles it took to do it, Geisel accepted a nagging challenge from his publisher for the even more impossible-seeming task to write a book using only fifty different words. Jones then writes:
Ted would rise to meet Cerf's challenge - and it was probably not entirely a coincidence that the central plot point of the resulting book was all about convincing someone to do something he didn't really want to do.
And if you can't guess from that what that something was,* I don't need to talk to you.

The oddest and most uncharacteristic episode in Geisel's life, covered in detail in both biographies, was the year (1925-6) he spent in Oxford trying to earn a Ph.D. in English, a goal for which he was spectacularly unsuited. The interesting connection that Jones draws is a presumption that, given Geisel's later reminiscence that he'd gotten "bogged down with old High German and Gothic and stuff of that sort," he'd been attending Prof. Tolkien's lectures in Germanic philology. Point one.

Some 45 years and 300 not-overlong pages later, we learn - I learn; maybe you already knew this - that Chuck Jones's Grinch was only the first of about a dozen animated Seuss cartoons produced for tv during Geisel's lifetime. One of them was The Cat in the Hat, whose voice was provided by, of all people, Allan Sherman. Who said in an interview quoted here that he and Geisel got along well, because of their shared delight in wordplay.

Point two. And how many other people, I wondered, intersected in person with both Tolkien and Allan Sherman during their lifespans? Thus the question I posed yesterday.

*To eat green eggs and ham, of course

Saturday, August 17, 2019

extremely little

Distracting from other events, here's an article, striking off the trailer release for the upcoming Little Women, on casting for this and past adaptations. The writer is mostly fixated on the fact that William Shatner once played Prof. Bhaer, but there are lots of other little-known interesting castings we can find in television adaptations. Two years ago the BBC did a version - only the latest of several from them - with Angela Lansbury as Aunt Marsh and Michael Gambon as Mr. Laurence; an earlier BBC version in 1970 had Patrick Troughton as Mr. Marsh. But the oddest one was a 1958 tv version which was evidently a musical. Margaret O'Brien, then 21, reprised her film role as Beth from nine years earlier, but the really striking castings for the later-day viewer (if there are any: I haven't yet been able to find this online) are, as Meg, Florence Henderson; and, as Laurie, Joel Grey. Well, well.

And speaking of unexpected juxtapositions, here's a historical trivia question for you: Who had, let's call it, personal encounters with both Tolkien and Allan Sherman? You might be surprised at the answer.

Friday, August 16, 2019

the day that came off

For her birthday, B.'s present was tickets for the two of us to attend yesterday's performance in the San Francisco run of The Play That Goes Wrong. As an old fan of Noises Off, I'm always in the market for another play on the same premise (comedy about an incompetent performance of some other play), as long as it's good. And The Play That Goes Wrong is fresh enough and with a different enough flavor from Noises Off that it worked well. We enjoyed it all the way through and laughed a lot.

Of course no cold review could convey the flavor, but I was particularly tickled by:
The actor who writes down on his palm all the hard words in his part, and mispronounces every one of them.
The gay actor struggling to get out of a scene in which his character makes out with a woman.
The obligatory extremely bad acting by crew members drafted in as emergency replacements.
The director/star's introductory speech, in which he prides himself on finding a play with a cast small enough that his company can fill it, in contrast with their earlier productions of Chekhov's Two Sisters, The Lion and the Wardrobe, and Cat.
The point at which he breaks character and yells at the audience for laughing. ("This isn't television, you know. I can see you!")

Mind, I've read grumpy reviews which criticized these same features for being tiresome, so it takes all kinds, or, rather, it doesn't. Everyone in this audience (reportedly Thursdays are particularly good nights for comedy in a stage run) enjoyed it, and the acting (the real acting, this time) was energetic and wonderfully deadpan. My only complaint is that the play-within was a country-house murder mystery, and, as with most bad mysteries (including some which fans of the genre insist are good), the plot eventually reached a point where it was no longer possible to follow nor interesting enough to try. But by that point the slapstick had reached the purely absurd, so it wouldn't have much mattered if only it had wrapped up a little faster.

This required going up to the City, and considering B's walking problems I decided to drive: though public transit would have been possible, it would still have meant a lot of trudging around. First a stop at Borderlands (most challenging parking of the trip), then a mile's drive for a long-awaited visit to the KitTea Cat Cafe, where you can purchase an hour in the cat lounge, surrounded by lounging cats which are rather used to all this attention, plus unlimited access to several pots of varietal Japanese green teas. Sipping tea while surrounded by cats is a pleasant interlude. Then dinner at a gratifyingly good Indian restaurant across the street, then a mile's drive to the show.

This was at the Golden Gate Theatre, which is superior to the more prestigious Union Square theaters in being wide and broadly built, so there's a sufficiency of seats on the ground level, instead of the only affordable choices involving peering from a high balcony down onto the tops of the actors' heads, but inferior in being located in the Tenderloin. I don't begrudge the homeless a place to hang out, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy walking through large crowds of them who are energetically doing whatever it is they do all over the sidewalk. The two block walk from the garage to the theater was more exciting than the play, and that was coming in at 7; leaving at 10 was even more interesting.

This isn't a kind of expedition we make often, but we enjoyed all of what we came for.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Mythcon additional

One thing I didn't mention in my Mythcon report was some of the new people I met. Mythcon has a lot of regulars, but every year new people come, and some of them come back again later. Two in particular this year I hope to see again.

One was Sarah O'Dell, who gave the paper on Dr. Ha-VARD, as I'm still trying to learn to re-pronounce the name. We'd corresponded before, and I gave her the benefit of what research I'd done on the minor Inklings, though on this particular topic she's done a lot more than I have. But this was our first chance to meet. I don't know how old she is, but she looks very young, and is rather amazingly simultaneously pursuing an M.D. and a Ph.D. But she's brisk and natty and intensive enough that I believe she can do it. She'd expressed hope that we could use Mythcon to have a long talk on Inklings work, especially as I have a long-standing dream of editing a collection of essays on the minor Inklings, but I've had a heck of a time convincing anybody to write the essays. But, ha ha, there's no TIME at Mythcon to schedule a long talk. I hope to be in L.A. this fall and maybe we can meet then.

Then there was this man I first spotted sitting on a bench outside the cafeteria. His clothes were very casual, he had a broad-brimmed hat, with long sandy hair and a beard. In short, he looked like a refugee from the 1970s, in particular like the sort of guys who attended Mythcon then. And he was doing something I hadn't seen anybody do since the 1970s, reading a copy of The Well of the Unicorn by George U. Fletcher. Yes, the original edition. (Later editions have acknowledged that it's actually by Fletcher Pratt.)

He turned out to be Jamie Williamson, lecturer at the University of Vermont and author of The Evolution of Modern Fantasy, which won our scholarship award two years ago. When I learned his identity, I hastened to introduce myself as the person who'd given his book an enthusiastic review in Mythlore (and, I didn't need to add, done all I could to promote it for the award). We chatted ad hoc on fantasy both old and new, and fantasy criticism both old and new, and he gave a paper comparing and contrasting William Morris's The Well at the World's End - which I finally got all the way through by bringing it as my sole extra reading on a cruise to Alaska - with The Lord of the Rings. They're quite alike in some ways, disconcertingly different in others. Fascinating discussion, and I hope he comes back for some more.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

concert review: Cabrillo Festival

So I say pretty much enough about the concert in my review. Aside from assuring you that the last paragraph is true, and that I felt totally shattered and almost ill after the concerto, the only thing I feel like adding that didn't fit in is that Cabrillo is the only orchestra I know where both conductor and concertmaster play with untucked shirts.

The drafts contained a lot of apologetic material about my unfamiliarity with jazz, but I kept hacking that out. As I attributed to Marsalis, I see the various genres of music as having distinct aesthetic and artistic principles, which explains the common phenomenon of people who love one sort of music and loathe another. It turned out, on watching the hour's documentary on the concerto which Cabrillo embedded in its website, that the approach of classical and jazz musicians towards a score is profoundly different too and that this caused some conflict between Marsalis and his soloist. His reaction towards a query about how to play a passage was to rewrite it, because to him the score is just the reflection of his thoughts, but this was disastrous to a classical performer, whose attitude is that the score is basic. Learn it, decide exactly what you want your bow and left fingers (if you're a string player) to do, memorize and internalize this, and only then are you ready to start building your personal interpretation and expression on top of it.

Even though I'm not a performer, that may explain my affinity to classical. I hate being told to improvise or be creative at anything unless I am already completely confident in doing it in the straight and default manner. Then I have the confidence to cut loose and play around, and that applies to almost any learned skill from dancing to cooking to driving.

In any case, it's easy for me to see classical and jazz as distinct, as my reactions to them are so different. I have loved the idiom and language of classical since the first time I heard a Beethoven symphony, while jazz, though I don't loathe it as I do some pop idioms, mostly washes off me leaving no trace in my head or heart. And this remained true no matter how many hours I spent in my youth browsing in dusty used book stores where inevitably there was jazz on the stereo system. Nor is this because I wasn't listening carefully, because I've certainly often had the experience of having my mind totally commanded by some music I wasn't paying conscious attention to at all, if it's music I have a strong affinity to.

Monday, August 12, 2019

box office from another planet

I had a particularly surreal experience at the box office of the concert I reviewed last night. I arrived at the window and said, as I usually do, "There should be a ticket for me" and gave my last name. The fellow behind the window went off to look for it.

Usually, in these circumstances, when the person comes back, they say my first name in a tone of query, just to confirm it's the right ticket. Only this guy didn't say my name, he said "Bruce?" I said, "No, David," and he said, "It is [last name], though?" I said "Yes" and he went off again, leaving me to wonder who this Bruce with my rare surname who also attends classical music concerts might be.

He came back and said, "All we have is this," showing me tickets with a blank on which was handwritten my full name and "SFCV." I said, "That's me." He asked how I'd ordered the tickets, and I said, "I'm the reviewer for San Francisco Classical Voice. My editor would have phoned the request in." He said, "Just let me confirm this with the director."

While he was off this time, a woman came to the window and asked, "You're a reviewer with a paper?" I said, "With San Francisco Classical Voice. It said 'SFCV' on the receipt the man showed me." She nodded and seemed to understand.

Then the fellow returned, said it was OK and handed me the tickets, but asked, "Just one question: what's your relationship with this David?" I said, "I'm David." He said, "Oh, I thought you said your name was Bruce." "No," I said, "you said Bruce. I said, 'No, David.'"

So I don't know what planet my tickets came from, possibly the planet of the Bruces (Norstrilia?), but at least I got the tickets.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

tea leaf

The tea leaf is for the impending Amazon Lord of the Rings-inspired series, and it takes the form of this video, which is essentially a credits reel for the writers, producers, etc. of the series. But it also begins with a map of Middle-earth, and among the credits is one for Tom Shippey with the job title of "Tolkien Scholar."

Now it's interesting in itself that Shippey should have signed on, given that he's pretty much retired from the role of Tolkien Scholar, feeling that he's said what he has to say on the subject and being disinclined to repeat himself. But here he is, and here, ta da, is an interview with him on the video and what he's willing and able to say about the project. Which isn't much. He does observe that the map depicts the Second Age, because Númenor is present. He also notes that some of the names are different, though he doesn't go into specifics. "Calenardhon" was the pre-Rohirric name of Rohan, so that's an understandable placement, but the utter blanks where Gondor and Mordor will be seem problematic. Mordor was first occupied by Sauron relatively early in the Second Age, so that name could be there. But Gondor was probably so named by its Númenórean settlers at the end of the Second Age (see Letters 409), and we don't know what it was called before that, though it probably had the same meaning ("Stone land"). But if the Sindarin name Gondor was only applied then, the same could be true of the other Sindarin names in the area, including Calenardhon, which was then a region of Gondor. Oh, the tangled webs ...

What Shippey does say takes a different angle. He speaks of Amazon having a free hand with the Second Age; that is, so long as they do not contradict any of Tolkien's written material about the period (sketchy as regards Middle-earth, much less so for Númenor), they can make up any additional material they want. But the First Age, which is covered by the Quenta Silmarillion, and the Third Age, the age of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, are "off-limits."

I wonder if that's how it's expressed in the contract. Shippey is concerned with the fact that the Second Age has two parts, before and after the Fall of Númenor, but the question of permitted zones is actually much more complicated than that. First off, The Hobbit takes place in 2941 T.A., leaving nearly 3000 years of very interesting earlier Third Age history potentially available if just staying out of the way of the main plots of those stories is the issue. But perhaps the intent is to leave out any periods covered by the historical material in the Peter Jackson films? The chronologies estimate Gollum to have been about 500 years old at the time of The Hobbit, so that roughly dates Jackson's flashback about his origins. But the battle depicted at the start of the Fellowship movie is at the very end of the Second Age. So is that forbidden to Amazon or not?

We'll find out later on; my only interest here is in pointing out the fuzziness of what we're talking about.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

oh yes, Mythcon

After my last report, written in the middle of the night last Friday when I couldn't sleep, on subsequent nights I got more sleep, and was so busy in the day there was no opportunity to write. After a long day-and-a-half drive home afterwards through the high desert, to avoid the LA traffic, I collapsed in bed and was only perhaps fully awake again two days later. Which was B's birthday, so I had other occupations, like taking her out for a pancake breakfast and then fixing our special meatloaf for dinner.

Despite various pre-con planning calamities, the event itself went well with no major disruptions, and people adapted to the odd workarounds we'd had to install, like moving the dorms to a different building, and then two different buildings, from the one where the cafeteria was. Having cafeteria meals limited to a 45-minute time window seemed alarming, because at most buffets you can wait almost that long in line to get your food, but it worked, partly because the site strictly limited the number of on-campus groups eating in any one window, and partly to other techniques like setting out lots of plates with the day's entrees (two of them) and sides on counters, so diners could take one immediately with no back-ups. It did mean you were stuck with whatever they served, but if you only liked part of what was on the plate you could come back and get another.

What most concerned me as con programmer was space in the programming rooms. With three rooms each seating about 45, and total attendance of over 130, it was likely that the more popular items would overflow. I tried to prevent that by scheduling items of similar popularity against each other, and it seems to have worked. There were a few items with a number of extra people standing in the back, but so far as I know nothing spilled out into the hall. My decision back in the planning stage to stick with these rooms was justified, to my great relief.

Two presenters cancelled at the last minute, both due to family medical emergencies (there's going to be more of this as we and our loved ones all grow older, alas); in both cases they had finished papers which we gave to other readers and carried on.

Our late substitute author GoH (due to more medical stuff) Tim Powers had a couple topics he said he wanted to explore, so I gave him panels to do this on. The keynote panel, in which he interviewed three scholars (all women) representing the Inklings, went very well. He raised questions from a professional author's POV for these largely amateur authors, beginning with asking their attitude towards and concern with the money they made from their work. It's a good question, which the scholars responded to coherently, but one which rarely gets raised. The other panel, on Catholicism in fantasy, never really got organized, and expended itself largely in telling anecdotes and jokes about priests. Which I guess is what happens if you put a group of Catholics together without an agenda, just as I've discovered at sf cons that if you put a group of authors together without an agenda, they'll talk about agents.

I was on one panel myself, on the early days of Tolkien fandom and scholarship. As we were each asked to give our background, the first speaker had read Tolkien in high school in 1967, and described having very much a "Summer of Love" context to his experience. I was next, and said I encountered Tolkien when my fifth-grade teacher read The Hobbit to our class in 1968. But it wasn't the Summer of Love or even the summer after, as these were deeply socially conservative suburbs and I had no way of contacting the rest of the Tolkien-reading universe. I didn't connect with fandom or find anybody at school interested in him for another seven years, and they were long years. Where others were captivated by the languages, what captured my interest was the history and timelines. So, when eventually The Silmarillion was published, I was the first person to publish a "Tale of Years" for the First Age, having noticed in the text enough bits like "Fifteen years after that battle, this happened" to piece one together. This data of course all came from the Annals, but we didn't have the Annals, and worked with what we had. That was my first contribution to Tolkien scholarship; later, as editor of Mythprint, I reviewed all the History of Middle-earth books as they were published; and during that period also wrote for Beyond Bree a potted summary of every book about Tolkien that had ever been published, because I'd read them all. At that time they'd all fit on one shelf. Today I have two bookcases full, and I no longer have everything. This work got me invitations to contribute to anthologies, and the gig writing "The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies" after Tolkien Studies began in 2004. When I was asked to do that, I went through the previous year's bibliography I'd be working from, found I had all the books to be covered, and realized I could do this. And it's been on from there.

Evening stuff went well. Saturday in the student union's raked theater, with a brief costume presentation (4 entries, including B with a humorous "what really happened to the Entwives") and a pleasant concert by a folk duo our chair discovered; Sunday banquet in an appropriate hall, with the usual food sculptures to drive the GoHs mad, the Not Ready for Mythcon Players to drive the audience mad (I narrated as usual, with better luck than usual at being able to keep an eye on the shenanigans I was describing), a recorded video talk on allegory by our withdrawn GoH John Crowley (having seen this already, I'd been most concerned about the clarity of the audio, which came out fine), and the Mythopoeic Awards. Scholar GoH Verlyn Flieger was stunned to receive an award for her latest essay collection, but she shouldn't have been: it's a great book. I'm now at home reading the strange and charming children's literature winner, Bob by Mass and Stead.

Had another day and a half to drive home, so spent it avoiding LA. Out to Riverside on Monday afternoon, staying over there in Moreno Valley (formerly Sunnymead, which at least I know where it is), and the next day cutting through the high desert by way of the Cajon and Tehachapi passes before heading down to Bakersfield and then onto I-5 for home in time to feed the kitties.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Shakespeare meme

I've been attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 45 years. Not every year, certainly, but often enough. And I've sought out other productions. I saw Cymbeline and The Two Noble Kinsmen on a recent trip to England, for instance. There may be a couple minor ones I've missed (Troilus and Cressida? I can't recall offhand whether I've seen that), but aside from that I've seen staged productions of every play Shakespeare wrote. The lesser-known plays that most impressed me with the dynamite of a good performance were Coriolanus and the Henry VI trilogy, all at OSF. But then I've seen good productions of almost everything, even Pericles. Also at OSF.

Aside from my period in a Shakespeare reading group at the public library, however, I've almost never sat down and read one of his plays from end to end. Drama is for seeing on stage, not reading in the armchair. Tolkien held it to be a distinctive art form from literature (fiction and poetry), not as an insult but as a principle of classification, and even though it's often written by the same people, I agree. I feel the same way about opera vs. concert music.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

phixing phirephox

So I come home from the Mythcon trip (more on the rest of that later) and turn on my computer to discover that Firefox has created a new updated version which is a complete tabula rasa. It doesn't include any of your logins, bookmarks, cookies, add-ons, display preferences, anything.

Panic. How do I get these things back? The new version welcome page indicates you can do this, but I follow the links and it takes me to a page where you sync your display with your smartphone. OK, but that's not what I was looking for.

After considerable searching, I find a help article which purports to explain how to do this. I find it confusing and hard to understand.

Eventually, having worked through this instruction and that, and comparing what I get here with what I get there, I come up with a much simpler answer.

1. Type "about:profiles" into your search box.

2. There will be two profiles. (Use the "root directory" versions only, not the "local directory.") For both, click on "open folder."

3. This will open up Windows file manager boxes for each. It should be obvious which one is the new directory (its file dates will all be today; the other one will have older dates, particularly if you last used Firefox a week ago before you left for Mythcon.)

4. Now that you have these open, close Firefox itself, because you are about to rock its world.

5. Make a copy of the new directory, just in case.

6. Copy all the files from the old directory to the new one. All of them. The help article doesn't want you to do this, because it doesn't want you to be able to preserve your add-ons or display preferences. Ignore this. Do it anyway.

7. Re-open Firefox. Presto, the new Firefox now has everything the old Firefox had.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

on to Mythcon

We live in the same state as San Diego, but it would be a long and hard trip as a one-day drive. So we reproduced a previous experience by heading off in the afternoon, dining on seafood at Morro Bay (eponymous rock hidden by fog), staying over in the area, and breakfasting the next morning on Danish pancakes in Solvang.

There is no longer a congestion-free route through LA, even at mid-day, so it was nearly dinner time before we arrived in SD, checked in to our room at the Worst Western motel (gads, you don't want to know, but how often have you been trapped in the bathroom by a malfunctioning door? Just as for instance?) and slipped down to Old Town for a hearty Mexican meal.

Next couple of days were occupied with calling on J's sweetie, tourist stops at the Mission (quite worthwhile) and Point Loma (spectacular view), and above all the zoo's Safari Park out near Escondido. B. rented an electric scooter and zipped about contentedly for the whole of a six-hour visit (including lunch), while I puffed along behind. Tigers prowling, lions lyin', flamingos flaming, meercats meering, and lots of other animals doing what they do.

That brought us to Thursday and the beginning of transition to Mythcon. Noon meeting on campus with conference services for final checkup and handover of keys et al, eventually followed by jolly dinner of early arrivals at convenient Mediterranean restaurant, but the real action proceeded that evening as more members arrived. One disabled member, an old friend, parked in a strip mall lot with no idea where to go or what to do next, turned to Facebook to express her plight. Fortunately B. had some notification turned on and caught this. I deduced which lot she must be in and rushed off on foot to help. With much assistance from the junior committee member, our chair's grandson, we got her car repositioned at the dorm, person and belongings extracted from the car and into the building, to which I had a key, as far as the check-in desk, but by that time it was late enough that I needed to take B. back to the hotel for the night.

After all that rushing about on Thursday, on Friday, the actual first day of the con, I could hardly walk at all and hobbled about, but things like registration were well-organized, and the first program items started of themselves.

Vast sweeping paper on Tolkien's framing by intrepid scholar, invites niggles. New research on Dr Robert Havard of the Inklings revealed not only that, despite claiming no literary accomplishments he left a large sheaf of poems, some published, in an archive, but that, according to his sons, the name is pronounced ha-VARD, rhymes with hard, something apparently nobody in Inklings scholarship had known or revealed.

Panel involving discussion of academic research on Tolkien produced first-time audience member incredulous that his work has been looked down on by the academic literary establishment. Wasn't he one of them, an English professor himself? Afterwards I took this fellow aside and and explained a few things. He mused on wondering where Tolkien got his validation from. "Well, the Inklings, for one," I said. Blank look. Not familiar with the Inklings? Nope. Well, more to say.

Now, much later, I am finding that the dorm's plastic mattresses do not facilitate sleep, so I'm up reporting this.