Thursday, December 31, 2020

the annual year-end post

Usually on the last day of the year I publish a list of the cities I stayed in away from home. But this was the year of not going anywhere, so my list is accordingly short:

Seattle, WA
Mountain View, CA

Seattle was the one actual trip I took, in January. For a final vacation, possibly ever, it was sweet, even though the occasion for it was a memorial gathering for a dead friend. I saw many live friends - and not only at the gathering; I did my usual Seattle rounds including bookstores and Pike Place, attended a Seattle Symphony concert, and one special thing: a day trip to San Juan Island, which I hadn't visited since childhood. Out of tourist season, cold and dripping wet and nearly deserted of non-residents, it provided my idea of a perfect vacation day.

Mountain View is the town next to ours, which I hadn't had need to stay in since I actually lived there more than 30 years ago. But it was the location of the hotel I retreated to for a couple of nights when the summer heat became too much and I needed something with air conditioning. This was in early September, by the way. I wouldn't be able to do that now, if it were needed, because now the pandemic is so severe even the hotels are closed. I hadn't done this before, but I'm sure I'll need it again next summer.

That I've attended online concerts and plays held as far off as places like Syracuse and Baltimore, and participated in an online conference that would have been in Oxford had it been real, and which I wouldn't have gotten to if it had, doesn't seem worth the enumeration. I'm finding myself less likely to do this stuff. If I want to listen to recorded music, there's studio recordings with my choice of repertoire at my bidding; if I want a dramatic performance, there are movies; and attending an online conference also has an artificial air compared to just reading the papers, and I find I'm just not putting the mental and full-time commitment to it that I would if I were there. Thank goodness I'm not still in school and having to do this full-time; I'd probably have given up and gone away. (I'm also thinking back to my professional work as a library cataloger, and if I could have done that remotely: I'm not sure. I did my work on computer, but I was in constant need of consulting a vast and miscellaneous array of rule and reference books that didn't exist online. But I retired over a decade ago, and maybe now they do.)

This year I wrote 8 professionally-published concert reviews, one of them of online pandemic-era performances and the others predating it, plus 3 feature articles on music performance, two of them summarizing pandemic-era events. With my other hat I co-edited an annual volume of Tolkien Studies, contributing personally to the Year's Work and the bibliography; and I had one paper published in another journal, a previously-written conference paper I decided as late as July to submit. It was edited fiercely into shape and the online edition of the journal issue was released just this week.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas dinner

Just as I spent the better part of two days constructing Thanksgiving dinner, I've now spent two days on Christmas dinner. The mashed potato mix, the gravy, and the brownies for dessert were the same; instead of the elaborate veggie dish with tahini that I made for Thanksgiving I reverted to my standard plain sauteed veggies, because instead of stuffing from a mix I made Kamala Harris's homemade cornbread stuffing, the recipe for which had appeared in the paper on Thanksgiving day, which was a little late for it.

The recipe had suggested making the cornbread itself the day before, so I did that, along with the brownies, and the evening and the morning were the first day. Doing this in advance had the further advantage that I could use the same pan for the cornbread and the resulting stuffing. This included sausage (I used chicken sausage instead of the specified pork), onion and celery and apple, the last of which I'd never diced up for a dinner recipe before, and this was also the first recipe I've made to include all of parsley and sage and rosemary and thyme. (Footnote: When I first heard Simon & Garfunkel's recording of Scarborough Fair, I thought it was about two herbs and two people, the latter of whom were Rosemary and Tom.)

Then there came the turkey. For Thanksgiving I'd bought a 3-pound boneless turkey roast made of formed white and dark meat, which was suitable because B. likes the white meat and I prefer the dark. But I couldn't find another one of those and wound up with what said it was a breast. I'd imagined a fillet, but it turned out to be a small whole oven-ready turkey with the dark meat and the outer two joints of the wings removed. That meant it had the bones and all. It was also 7 pounds rather than 3. So this was another new cooking experience for me.

For Thanksgiving I'd monitored the meat with a pair of cheap plastic one-use-only devices which pop up when it's done; one popped up considerably before the other so I'm glad I used both. I couldn't get back to the store where I'd bought those so this time I invested in a pair of full-scale metal meat thermometers. Again I stuck them in disparate parts of the turkey and hoped for the best. Reading the thermometers was a bit of a challenge because the instructions said to consult the pointed end of the needle; unfortunately for this, both ends of the needle were pointed.

Oracles had suggested it would take close to 3 hours to cook, and as the time reached 2.5, I found that one thermometer recorded the inside temperature as either rather high or extremely low, depending on which pointed end of the needle you chose to believe. However, as the other thermometer's needle was definitely pointing to almost done, I chose to believe that one.

And yes, we got a turkey that was cooked through but still fairly moist, so I count this a success. Despite a knife that turned out to be ill-suited to on-the-bone turkey, I carved about half of it (something else I'd never done before, carve a turkey) and we ate most of that. After dinner I went to work on the rest, and filled our largest Tupperware container full of turkey, which should make, along with all the other leftovers, enough for a rerun dinner tomorrow plus a couple days'-worth substitute for the chicken breast meat I usually put in skillet sauce dinners. And the bony carcass went straight in the garbage so I don't have to worry about fitting it back in the fridge.

And that's the news on the kitchen front from Minnipin Cottage.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

the day before the day before

We usually pick up our weekly shopping on Friday, but this week it'll have to be Saturday for obvious reasons. That renders more urgent the intermediate small shopping I usually do mid-week, also done by pre-order since the pandemic went into overdrive. I had to force myself not to include staples that we weren't at immediate risk of running out of, just mostly produce that we'd actually need, because I wanted to make as small a burden on the store as possible in the mad pre-holiday rush.

But it seems, from what I found today, that the pre-holiday rush is already over. Unlike last week's big order, which wasn't ready until 3 hours after our requested pickup time, this one was ready 1.5 hours before the pickup time. That never happens. And as I drove to the store, there was no traffic and all the lights were green. That never happens either.

B. had complained that we hadn't been able to order Christmas cookies. So her sister, the family's great baker, made some for us and dropped them off today. She also dropped off some lemons from her backyard tree. Somebody got the color balance off and they're orange, but they're lemons. So I need to find something to do with them. Hmm, we have chicken and now we have lemons, therefore = lemon chicken.

Would it were always that easy. (Last time she brought tomatoes, so I invented homemade marinara sauce, a recipe that had always previously begun: 1. Buy jar of sauce.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


B. and I went out again last night to look at light displays, by car. This time we went to Willow Glen, the semi-isolated community in San Jose where she grew up, with the primary intention of taking a look at the old family house, which her brother owned until moving away a year ago, to see if the new owners had put up lights. They had. And so had a lot of their neighbors; much of Willow Glen was well-festooned. Some local community organization must have donated the lighted giant candy cane shapes that were outside a series of houses; elsewhere there was a similar series of red and green hoops. For an enlightening and illuminating experience, there was enough hoopla and other festivity to make it worth the bother.

Monday, December 21, 2020

loonies of the wazoo

Do you remember Edgar Maddison Welch? He was the guy who was such a devout believer in the Pizzagate conspiracy theory - the one that said that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex-trafficing ring from the basement of a DC pizza parlor - that one day about four years ago he single-handedly invaded the pizza parlor with a semi-automatic rifle and fired off a few shots, only to discover that they didn't even have a basement. He was hauled off by police and apologized for his foolishness at his sentencing.

What gets me is what must have been going through this guy's mind. Not only did he entirely accept the batsht theory that John Podesta's e-mails ordering pizzas were code words for pedophilia, but that the conspiracy was so open and easily findable that one guy with an assault rifle could blow the whole thing wide open. One is stunned at how complicit he must have imagined the DC police, the FBI, and the entire government apparatus supporting them to be in order not to have easily uncovered and exposed this.

So now meet Mark Aguirre, a Houston PI and ex-cop who's been similarly convinced by the equally imaginary stories of mass Democratic ballot stuffing. Hired by a group of similar nuts, he focused on one guy with a small cargo truck whom he was convinced was carrying around 750,000 fraudulent ballots. (And it would have taken nearly that many to turn Texas blue, by the way.) A team of PIs apparently tracked this guy for weeks - how long would it take for him to deliver a load of ballots? - and eventually Aguirre forced his truck off the side of the road and pulled a gun on him.

Only to find that he was an air-conditioner installer and that his truck was full of air-conditioner parts.

Did that abash the conspiracy theorists? No, they figure their harassment stopped the fraud. They remind me of the legendary guy who banged a tablespoon against a frying pan to get the elephant out from under the chair. But, you say, there is no elephant under the chair. "See?" he says. "It's working!"

Oh, and why is Aguirre an ex-cop? Because his way of dealing with reports of street racing in a Kmart parking lot was by leading a police raid there one evening and trying to arrest everybody in the lot, about 300 people, including all those just doing their shopping, and the ones going to the restaurants next door too. That's what turned him from a cop into an ex-cop.

"I just hope you're a patriot," Aguirre said to the cop who arrested him. I hope so too, but that word does not mean what Aguirre thinks it means.

a year in first lines

I haven't previously done the meme of the first sentence of your first post of each month this calendar year, but when I looked this year's up, I saw that they conveyed what a distressful year it's been:

So here we are in a year that's long been a favorite destination of science-fiction writers seeking a near-future setting, probably because its name sounds like the results of an eye test.

Well, good, the other team won.

I'd never even heard of this group, despite its having been around for a dozen years and having as music director Dawn Harms, well-known to me as associate concertmaster of New Century and for various chamber music performances.

I say - even if nobody else does - that it's time for my second monthly list of concerts I'm not going to be able to attend because they're canceled.

Oh, it's about time for another monthly list of concerts I'm not attending because they're canceled.

In the alternative world, the classical concert season is winding down for the summer, but its month of June is still full of things that, in this lower-powered world, I won't be doing.

It's summer festival season in the alternative world, and there were only two big things on my calendar for this month.

In the alternative universe, we'd be in Albuquerque right now, joyfully attending Mythcon, and I'd be just off two weeks of attending concerts and writing reviews at the Menlo Festival, with a little more of it awaiting when we got home.

The alternative universe is beginning to diverge enough from the bleak one we're living in that it's starting to get harder to say what I'd be doing in it.

What I'm watching the Glass Fire in Napa/Sonoma for is whether it's going to overtake the old Kroeber homestead, where Ursula Le Guin grew up in the summers and which forms the center of the setting of Always Coming Home.

Not a very cheerful post, as it turns out.

Sad news, that my friend and the distinguished Tolkien scholar Richard West died on Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

hell is a place made of computers

My afternoon was rudely jerked out of the noiseless tenor of its way when B. informed me that our tv, on which she was planning on watching something, was nonfunctional. It gave only an error message, and the power light on the DVR, which should be on, was off. Remembering previous occasions, I tried the solution of unplugging various cables from the back of the box and plugging them back in again. No luck.

An unbelievably long wait on hold later (but not nearly so unbelievably long as the subsequent session with the cable co. technician, so I guess it evens out), the tech decided to try remotely resetting our router, which provides all our electronic service except, fortunately, the phones. It hasn't usually been necessary to get into this with previous tv problems, which is fortunate because the tv is downstairs and the router box is upstairs with our computers, to which it's more intimately connected. This turned our end of the phone call into a two-person job.

Anyway, all the resetting succeeded in doing was in disconnecting our ethernet-wired computers from the internet. The wi-fi still worked, however. Eventually we got an in-person technician appointment for two days later and gave up.

After dinner, however, I tried again. I figured out how to manually reset the router (which I hadn't done since the previous box, which worked differently, was replaced) and, after not much more than the usual amount of grumbling from the system, the ethernet connections came back. Then I explored further behind the tv set and discovered that the real cause of the original problem was a plug elsewhere in the system that had been loosened by the intervention of a cat.

So after much expenditure of time and effort we are back where we were. You know, we have cats because life would be so much more boring without them.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

when he was President

Barack Obama, A Promised Land (Crown)

This 700-page memoir was my Hanukkah present from B., and I read it in a week by just keeping it at the kitchen table and reading over meals and whenever else I was there. It's an oddly-shaped narrative, including not much more than the first two years of his presidency, concluding with the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in May 2011. It's intended as a quietly triumphal ending, though I find it hard to feel joyful at an execution, no matter whose. However, Obama also covers the entire personal history of his political aspirations from childhood on, and his presidential inauguration - which passes almost unnoticed; Obama is not very interested in the ceremonial part of his office - only occurs a third of the way through the book.

Throughout his political rise, Obama finds himself tormented with the question of whether, rather than honestly pursuing avenues for political change, he's instead just feeding his ego. But the fact that he keeps asking this question suggests that the answer is "no". He's also always concerned with the effect of his career on his wife and children. Unlike the early astronauts, whose memoirs I've also been reading, who were all career-first at the time and rueful about it afterwards, Obama is at least rueful at the time, even if the disruption to his family life never slows his career. At least there are compensations in the form of helpful staff and fun family trips, and the presidency does have the advantage over earlier offices that he can always run upstairs and be home for dinner. He doesn't mention his daughters in the acknowledgments, but I hope he ran the relevant parts past them, though by now they've probably matured past the stage where descriptions of your earlier childhood antics are exquisitely embarrassing.

Especially once he becomes President, Obama is concerned about not just what he did in office, but in how he felt about it and how he behaved. The accoutrements of the presidency were sometimes disconcerting and sometimes a nuisance, but he's never fazed by the responsibility of the job, and he remarks at how others were surprised by how much he takes things in stride. (An informality of approach is suggested by his quoting his aides calling him "boss" as often as "sir" or "Mr. President.") He does worry about taking bad decisions and making gaffes, and about his tendency to be professorial and bore people. The professor shows up untamed in this book, with extensive background lessons on every major issue that comes up, domestic or foreign. But these are lucidly presented, and whether the reader's eyes will glaze over will depend on your level of interest in the particular subject.

In keeping with Obama's laid-back attitude, he finds Republican obstructionism to be more quizzical than actively aggravating, which perhaps accounts for his policy of not doing very much about it. He doesn't seem entirely aware of how dismaying this was to his supporters. For folding over the ACA in a completely unsuccessful attempt to get some Republican votes he blames Max Baucus, the chair of the Senate Finance committee, who kept on being sure he could do it. But it collapses in this meeting with Chuck Grassley, who kept on coming up with objections to each new version of the bill:
"Let me ask you a question, Chuck," I said finally. "If Max took every one of your latest suggestions, could you support the bill?"
"Well ..."
"Are there any changes - any at all - that would get us your vote?"
There was an awkward silence before Grassley looked up and met my gaze.
"I guess not, Mr. President."
And that, I think, is the obituary of the Obama administration right there.

But you don't read a lengthy memoir like this for the downers and the clashes. You read it for the one truly delicious anecdote that's required to be buried in there somewhere. Here it is:
Around six in the morning on October 9, 2009, the White House operator jolted me from sleep to say that Robert Gibbs was on the line. Calls that early from my staff were rare, and my heart froze. Was it a terrorist attack? A natural disaster?
"You were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize," Gibbs said.
"What do you mean?"
"They just announced it a few minutes ago."
"For what?"
Gibbs tactfully ignored the question. Favs would be waiting outside the Oval to work with me on whatever statement I wanted to make, he said. After I hung up, Michelle asked what the call was about.
"I'm getting the Nobel Peace Prize."
"That's wonderful, honey," she said, then rolled over to get a little more shut-eye.

Friday, December 18, 2020

contemplating food

Today we did the big weekly grocery shopping to include Christmas dinner next Friday. In practice that meant submitting the online order to the grocery store yesterday morning and hoping that most of what we ordered would be there.

Fortunately, I was able to get all the ingredients to make Kamala Harris's special recipe for cornbread stuffing, but things were a little trickier with the turkey. The 3-pound mixed white-and-dark turkey roast, which served us fine for Thanksgiving, has not been on the online menu this or any other recent week (which doesn't mean they don't have it). I tried, therefore, to order a 4-pound whole young turkey, but I guess they were out of that, for what I got was a 7-pound breast. That will keep us in turkey meat for quite a while, but I'm not keen on an all-white meat diet. (Fortunately I got enough gravy.) And it wasn't even frozen, which surprised me. I'm reluctant to freeze it, since it might have been previously frozen and a lot of things are not good frozen more than once. However, the wrapper did say use or freeze by the 28th, so I guess it'll be OK. So it went into the refrigerator instead of the freezer, where perhaps there is slightly more room.

Also on the food front, our town's mayor - who'd already shown his civic duty by convening a healing "unity gathering" sponsored by a variety of religious groups after a madman drove into a family he thought was Muslim - has undertaken a civic "restaurant project" by getting his takeout lunch sequentially from every locally-owned restaurant in the city that's open for it and then posting an entry for each on Facebook. As restaurant reviews these are no great shakes, but as an informative list for locals' use it's great. Right now I'm not getting food from anywhere where I have to get out of the car at all, but I'm keeping it handy for when the pandemic eases up a little. The fact is that I only know my half of the city, and am more likely to shop in neighboring towns than in the other half. And I hadn't realized, for instance, that there are several more take-out Chinese cafeterias over there than the three nearby ones I normally frequent. Will have to look into this.

Not food-related, but I care even if nobody else does: links to videos of 34 states' electoral college proceedings.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

last night of Hanukkah

It's the last night of Hanukkah tonight, and I've cleaned out all the leftover wax from the previous night and loaded the candles. This is, I think, the first year that B. and I have been together that I've been home and thus lighting candles for all 8 nights, instead of being out at a concert or somewhere, and thus used up an entire box of 44 candles (1+2...+8, +8 shamas=44).

With the infection rate continuing to rise, we're still holed up as much as possible. B. is coping by having as much holiday celebration as possible: she's decorated the (artificial) tree and has ordered and watched as many seasonal tv specials as possible, including the latest broadcast of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and we're planning a big Christmas dinner, for just the two of us, on the lines of our Thanksgiving dinner, to be preceded by the family Zoom call. And last night we went out by car to look at the displays of yard lights around the city.

Me, I've got work to do, and plenty of reading, and cooking that dinner to plan, and the task of doing the driving on the light-watching expedition. Figuring out where to go, and remembering how to get there, is my idea of fun. My main source is this catalog of light displays. Its listings are a little thin on the ground this year, but I figure where there's one spectacular enough to be listed, there will be others interesting to see, and that was generally the case. Often the less spectacular ones are the more tasteful and give more aesthetic pleasure to observe.

With the high-infection season of winter coming, it looks as if we'll be in this tight quarantine, no food except what we can pick up from drive-ups and drive-throughs, for another two or three months, or however long it takes until the vaccine is distributed. But then I read that we'll have to continue wearing masks and social-distancing even after getting the vaccine, so I must ask, in a puzzled tone, what then is the vaccine protecting us from? At what point - I'm not asking for a date, but a stage of progress - does this stop?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Beethovens Geburtstag

Today we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven. (And so I'm listening to our local classical station, which is going all-Beethoven for the day later this morning.) He's often considered the greatest composer in the Western classical tradition - J.S. Bach and W.A. Mozart are the only other likely candidates - and he's certainly one of my favorites. And he was also my gateway into the serious classical repertoire, which has been the heart and bulk of my music listening since, oh, around Beethoven's 200th birthday (which I celebrated by picking up a CBS promotional LP called Happy Birthday Ludwig with a photo on the cover of an impersonator in a Beethoven workroom gazing happily at a large birthday cake).

I'd previously been listening to light classics - Rossini overtures, Strauss waltzes, 19C tone poems - which satisfied me more than any "popular" music I'd heard, but at first I shied away from symphonies and other heavy classics, which intimidated me. But eventually I worked up the gumption to face my parents' box set of Beethoven symphonies (René Leibowitz conducting the Royal Philharmonic). At this time I knew three things about the Beethoven symphonies: 1. There were nine of them. 2. They were supposed to be the greatest orchestral music in the repertoire. 3. Number five went "da-da-da-dum." That's it. I had never actually heard any of them. I was twelve.

I took out the Fifth and put it on the turntable, curious to hear what else it did. It couldn't just go "da-da-da-dum" for half an hour. Actually, in a sense it could. I had never encountered symphonic architecture before, and the experience of hearing what a towering structure Beethoven could construct out of that simple four-note phrase in the first movement, with echoes in the rest, overwhelmed me. This was the kind of music I was born to hear.

I was immediately converted. I quickly listened to all the Beethoven symphonies and got to know them all, and went on to the rest of the concert ensemble repertoire, at first other composers' orchestral works and later chamber music including Beethoven's.

So what's my favorite Beethoven? Don't ask me to choose among his symphonies. I guess that, picking up a set of recordings, I'm most likely to listen to the Seventh - one of the most high-energy symphonies of all time - and the Eighth - a fierce little monster - and, believe it or not, the First: it's Haydnesque with all the brusque qualities, that Haydn had edited out of his increasingly galant music by that time, put back in.

I'm not generally much of a concerto listener, but I like Beethoven's. (Except for the Triple Concerto and the Choral Fantasy.) Of all of them, the Emperor Concerto, for piano and orchestra, is the greatest. The first movement is so charming (I especially like the "music box" second theme) and the second movement so profoundly beautiful. (Remember that Beethoven wrote this while Napoleon was besieging Vienna, with the composer spending most of his time hiding in the basement with pillows over his ears to protect the remains of his hearing from the sound of cannon. Puts the lie to all latter-day claims that ugly times require ugly music, doesn't it?) And the way the slow movement melts into the finale is one of my favorite transition moments in all music.

Beethoven's chamber ensemble music includes a lot of things - piano-and-strings trios were a specialty of his - but it's totally dominated by his string quartets. I finally learned my way around these, to the extent of being comfortable with them, while reviewing performances of them for SFCV, and wasn't that a task, especially because the late quartets are the most challenging concert works in the pre-20C repertoire, a few works by Bach being their only competition. I'd vote for Op. 130 and Op. 132 as the greatest, especially for their moments of charm and beauty among the vast tracts of serious and somber esoterica. Of the earlier quartets, I'd choose as favorites Op. 18 No. 4 and Op. 74.

Beethoven is one of the few composers whose solo piano music I really look forward to hearing. (Schumann and Prokofiev are the others.) I confess I don't really know my way around his 32 sonatas, except for the really famous ones and a couple early-period favorites, but I recently listened my way through the entirety of András Schiff's lecture-recitals on the whole set, which with the scores in front of me was highly illuminating, especially for the early and middle period works.

There's a few other odd corners of Beethoven's instrumental music worth exploring. One work I came across at a Beethoven miscellanea concert was this early sonatina for mandolin and keyboard, to which my reaction was, "Beethoven invented bluegrass!"

B. says Beethoven couldn't write adequately for voices, perhaps because he went deaf, but even before that. I do find the Ode to Joy the least compelling part of the otherwise epically enthralling Ninth Symphony, and why anyone ever performs the extremely early Cantata on the Death of the Emperor Joseph II beats me. Maybe they like the title. Beethoven wrote only one opera, which he spent years tinkering with (including changing the title), but it's not particularly highly ranked by lovers of opera. But there's one other obscure corner of Beethoven vocal music worth exploring. He spent years earning occasional spending money by arranging piano-and-strings accompaniments for English-language folk songs, for a Scottish publisher who paid well. (Beethoven didn't read English, so he had to have the lyrics translated to have any idea of what they were saying.) Here's one you should know.

And on that, I'll wish you a music-filled Beethoven's birthday, a cheerful Hanukkah, a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

more electoral collegiality

I'd never watched an electoral college proceedings before, but I wound up watching at least part of several on various video platforms, most of them recordings after they'd happened. (All Democratic states: I have no interest in watching anyone vote for DT.) The larger ones were the more formal. Michigan, the one I'd first come across as it was happening, was held in what looked like a chamber of the state legislature, with the electors spread at desks across the room. Introduced by the governor, the meeting was chaired by the lieutenant governor (not himself an elector), a tall Black man with an imposing voice. They went through formal procedures of nominating and electing, not just the chair and sergeant-at-arms (who collected the signed vote certificates), but honorary chairs, and they even had formal nominations of the candidates.

California was somewhat similar. You knew that both Bill and Hillary Clinton were among the New York electors; I learned from a list posted on an official site that one of California's electors was Pete McCloskey. Up until some 40 years ago a Republican congressman, McCloskey is now 93, and some years ago he announced that after a lifetime he'd given up on the Republican party and re-registered as a Democrat, so I'm not surprised to see him here now.

I also watched parts of New Mexico, because a glitch on the news tally (since corrected) left me uncertain whether it had succeeded in voting for Biden or not, and Arizona, because I wanted to hear the secretary of state's opening speech denouncing the threats of violence against those who are counting the votes.

Both were much less formal and were held in hearing rooms. In New Mexico they sat on the dais, and elected one of their own as chair, with the secretary of state and state elections director coaching them from the audience speaker's podium. In Arizona, which has considerably more votes these days, they sat in the audience section and were addressed from a head podium facing them. Arizona has a law directing the electors to follow the popular vote, and did not pretend to be a deliberative body: they were there to vote for Biden and Harris, and nothing else. In New Mexico, though, when the ballots were handed out, they were actually told to fill it out however they wanted. Both states were small enough that the electors were individually introduced; they were mostly chairs of various state and local party organizations. Both states had tribal electors; in Arizona, if I followed this, all 3 of the state's major tribes were represented.

Anyway, the news said it all came out as intended, no "faithless" shenanigans like last time.

Monday, December 14, 2020

electoral college

I'm watching the formal proceedings of the Electoral College of Michigan, because that's the state that happened to be up when I went looking. They've just cast 16 votes unanimously for Biden, and are now canvassing for Harris. That's satisfying to see.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

hanukkah dinner

OK, we had the Hanukkah menorah and an appropriate holiday tablecloth; what to eat? B. wanted latkes; OK, I can make that. And matzo ball soup, well within my repertoire. Basic steamed veggies this time, and for an entree, breaded chicken fillets seemed to go well, perhaps because, like the latkes and soup, it's also made with egg. (Coat the chicken with egg before dipping in the breading.) And, apparently unlike a lot of people, I can cook chicken breasts so that they're still tender and moist, not dried out.

B. also said we should have challah bread. I'm not going to make that myself; I am not much of a baker. (And it would require more eggs; the above dishes cleaned us out.) Where to buy some, then? There are a lot of Jews around here, but it's not a Jewish ethnic neighborhood. I did remember, though, once buying a challah loaf at about the fourth-closest Whole Foods, but never having seen it at any of the others. An online check confirmed: they still carry it, none of the others do.

But with the covid in the state it currently is, I wished not, as I would have a month ago, to duck in to the store to grab a loaf. A pickup order seemed best, but this was hard to get. Unlike the regular market we use, available time slots at Whole Foods are scarce. I also had to fill up the order with other stuff to make a reasonable price minimum, and Whole Foods doesn't carry much that I want.

But it was done, and I drove there on Friday, which I could get a slot for, and they loaded, although they seemed puzzled that I hadn't checked in with their app (I don't do apps). The challah came from Wise Sons, which is a deli in San Francisco. The challah was still tolerably fresh when we had a few slices for dinner, but we're not big bread eaters; what to do with the rest?

French toast! B. likes breakfast food even for dinner, and day-old bread, especially challah, is perfect for French toast, so the next day's dinner is planned. But that does mean placing another order with the regular market for MORE EGGS.

Saturday, December 12, 2020


The first night of Hanukkah was actually Thursday (I know some non-Jews tend to get confused about our holiday dates), but owing to evening online engagements and the consequent hurried dinners, we've postponed our celebratory meal until tonight, Saturday.

One of those engagements was the annual Brocelïande wintertide concert, usually a toasty warm event in the back room of a metaphysical/spiritual bookshop in Mountain View. The bookshop still sold the tickets, but this year it was virtual and we watched it on an ipad in our living room. We couldn't see our fellow audience members until the feed was switched at the end, but the band could see (though not hear) us so we applauded as usual. Unfortunately the video dropped out occasionally and the sound stuttered (which could have been our wifi), and watching them on a small screen felt more like listening to a recording than attending a concert, and we already have all the songs they played on their recordings.

I had more fun this morning with another Tolkien Society pub quiz, because they've got an online platform perfectly suited to having a hundred people take a multiple-choice question at once without interfering with each other. But the presence of some movie questions salted in, without being set off in an "adaptations" category, made me wonder if this was the Tolkien Society or the Jackson Society. This was followed, since it was Yulemoot and not just the quiz, with some members singing folk songs, which was OK but the online sound was tinny.

It rained last night, first measurable rain of the season. Meanwhile, according to today's paper, the presence of one county in the region that hasn't shut down its outdoor dining, hair salons, etc., has had people flocking to it from around the region. Are they suicidal? To me that's all the more reason to stay away and avoid bringing my breathing apparatus into that county. And to increase vigilance even in my own. How I'm doing shopping ... tell you after Hanukkah dinner, since that's part of that story.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Tybalt is become a stereotypical cat

And cats play with yarn, yes? Tybalt got a ball of yarn out of the workbasket in B's office late last night and took it all the way downstairs. There he unrolled the entire ball into an unclassifiable tangle of string that went around chairs, tables, the Christmas tree ... all over the dining room and living room floors for B. to find when she came down this morning.

He has a habit of discovering more and more things, so now that he's learned about yarn, we may not have an end to it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

cats, cars, water and disease

Monday: Day to take the cats in to the vet for checkups, nail clips, and shots. Only it didn't quite happen that way. We'd hid the cat carriers in the shower stall and tried to lure the cats into the bathroom (where they regularly eat) with offers of a second breakfast. Maia didn't get quite in, and then Tybalt got out. So we had to chase him down, while Maia disappeared into some tiny cubbyhole somewhere.
Last year, Tybalt's reaction to being cooped up was to try to generate a small earthquake to knock the carrier down. This year, he instead issued loud and mournful cries. All the way home, too. But he didn't fool us: the vet said he'd been friendly and cooperative while they worked on him.
The vet, of course, was distanced. I parked, phoned them, they came out and took the carrier from the back seat. Reversed when they were done.

Tuesday: Day for B. to take her car in for servicing. Instead of taking the shuttle home (or waiting, unfeasible anyway as they expected a long wait), she had me pick her up, then drive her back when they were done.
After dropping her off, I drove to a couple local libraries to deposit borrowed books I was done with. Despite the "stay-at-home" order, which is actually less severe than the one back in March (the libraries are now open for pick-up and drop-off, for one thing), it didn't look much less busy on the roads or downtowns than last week. Although outdoor restaurant dining has been prohibited, the main street in downtown Mountain View is still closed off to be used as restaurant patios; I guess they're anticipating being able to use them again soon.

Wednesday: Day for us to wake up and discover our water had been turned off. And not by some joker playing with the master valve on our house, either. Nor had we received any message that this would happen, as we have a couple of previous times. After leaving messages with both the condo complex management and the city's water department, I wandered outside and found a man digging in the verge down the street. I asked him (from a safe distance) if he knew anything about the water; yes, landscapers had accidentally broken a pipe and he was fixing it. Letting residents know was apparently not on the agenda. How long would it take? About twenty minutes, he said. Four hours later, the water came on, about the same time as we got an e-mail from condo management.

This part of the world is not the home of buffoon anti-maskers like in South Dakota or Idaho, but it's bad enough with massive in-person church services (you know, God gave us remote-video technology for a reason) and big holiday parties, and worse yet, politicians violating their own strictures and going out to large fancy group dinners. Do they think they're somehow immune? In the words of Kevin S., I don't mind them risking suicide, but I don't want them to take me with them. So we're hunkering down even more than before and cutting out in-person shopping even in the slow hours: mail-order and (preferably distanced) store pickup only.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Walter Hooper

Walter Hooper died yesterday at the age of 89, of covid. He had been C.S. Lewis's literary executor for decades, and quite prolific in that role. Instead of embarking on a new evaluation and summation of his work, I'm going to reprint a previous post of mine from over a decade ago, on a curious Lewis anecdote Hooper used to tell. nb also the footnote.

Walter Hooper, literary executor of C.S. Lewis, has been going around for years telling a Lewis anecdote that strikes me as disturbingly uncharacteristic of the Lewis I've otherwise read and read about. (Actually, there are a lot of questions about Hooper's personal acquaintance with Lewis, but I'm not going to get into that now.) It's sometimes said of anecdotes that if they're not true, they ought to be, that they're ben trovato. This one is the opposite: if it is true, it ought not to be.

Hooper tells it in print in the preface to the 1980 reprint of Lewis's collection The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, giving it as an example of Lewis's talent for merriment; but if so, it's merriment at the expense of being intentionally rude to a guest in your home.
It took some time for an American, such as myself, to adapt to English "conveniences." I see, for instance, from my diary of 7 June 1963* that during a longish visit with Lewis we drank what seemed gallons of tea. After a while I asked to be shown the "bathroom," forgetting that in most homes the bathroom and the toilet are separate rooms. With a kind of mock formality, Lewis showed me to the bathroom, pointed to the tub, flung down a pile of towels, and closed the door behind me. I returned to his sitting-room to say that it was not a bath I wanted but .... "Well, sir, 'choose you this day,'" said Lewis, bursting with laughter as he quoted the prophet Joshua, "that will break you of these silly American euphemisms. And now, where is it you wanted to go?" (p. 8-9)
OK, maybe Lewis didn't know that in America the toilet usually is actually in the bathroom, whereas in England the bath and toilet are usually in separate rooms. But break him of euphemisms? Surely Lewis - author of a prodigiously erudite historical survey of word usage called Studies in Words (Cambridge University Press, 1960) - would have known that all the common English polite words for the item in question - toilet, lavatory, loo, W.C., restroom, men's room, even latrine or privy - are also euphemisms. Did Lewis expect his visitors to turn to French and ask for the pissoir?

"Bathroom" is a normal American word for the thing, as Lewis surely also knew, else he wouldn't have said "American euphemisms," and not a word adopted out of conscious delicacy. It would have been pretty silly for Lewis to have assumed that Americans were known for their dainty language, particularly about this subject. Lewis had been married to an American woman (by this time deceased), who was described by Lewis's brother Warren as "quite extraordinarily uninhibited. Our first meeting was at a lunch in Magdalen [College], where she turned to me in the presence of three or four men, and asked in the most natural tone in the world, 'Is there anywhere in this monastic establishment where a lady can relieve herself?'" (W.H. Lewis, Brothers and Friends, p. 244)

"Quite extraordinarily uninhibited," he says, over her use of "relieve oneself" - another euphemism.

Searching for records of this material online, I came across a very strange essay arguing that Lewis was obsessed with the urinary. Well, pick over a prolific author's oeuvre closely enough, you can find enough references to prove about anything. Rilstone contrasts Lewis with Tolkien, whom he claims never brings up the subject, but I once published a short article ("Natural Functions in Arda," by Donald O'Brien, Mythprint Feb. 1991, p. 8-9) identifying a couple of "earthy" (there's another euphemism for you) references hidden in the text of The Lord of the Rings. Actually, I think what's on display here is less Lewis's urinary obsession than Rilstone's anti-urinary one. Rilstone scoffs at Lewis's famous remark about how strong need can produce pleasure in contemplating otherwise neutral or obnoxious things, "have there not for most of us been moments (in a strange town) when the sight of the word GENTLEMEN over a door has roused a joy almost worthy of celebration in verse?"** (The Four Loves (Harcourt, 1960), p. 29) Rilstone replies, ", actually. Speaking for myself, there have not been."

Rilstone attributes all this to Lewis having a weak bladder, but I have a very strong bladder (Me Thog ... me have strong bladder), yet I can recall a couple searingly memorable instances where I felt exactly as Lewis describes - mostly because I had relied on my strong bladder a little longer than I should have. I should have remembered the Queen of England's rule, which is always to use the toilet when you have a chance, because you never know when you'll get another chance - or when the restroom you're relying on will be closed.

But for goodness' sake (euphemism), if you are in England, don't make your inquiries by asking for the bathroom.

*This was, though they'd corresponded before, the first time Hooper met Lewis, as revealed in Hooper's C.S. Lewis: A Companion & Guide (Harper, 1996), p. 116. This was less than 6 months before Lewis died, and prior to 1996 Hooper fudged the date of their first meeting, preferring to give the impression, as recorded in the blurb about the editor on the back cover of the posthumous collection God in the Dock (Eerdmans, 1970), that he was "a long-time friend and for some years personal secretary of C.S. Lewis." Well, I said I wasn't going to get into this.

**Rilstone also notes, more fairly, that this leaves out 50% of Lewis's potential audience - including the lady in the monastic establishment.

Monday, December 7, 2020

reading without meeting

Our mythopoeic book discussion group's schedule features an annual December festive gathering for potluck dinner and reading of favorite bits aloud. That's out this year, so we gathered on Sunday via Zoom. Maybe eight of us showed up, including our member in exile in Wisconsin, whom we hear from occasionally but hadn't seen in a long time. So that's one advantage of the current regime: geography has been erased.

No food, except what we had at home, but the business part of the meeting (choosing the discussion topics for next year) went well, without the usual hassle of choosing meeting places, and we had a bit of reading as well.

I chose an excerpt from the prologue of The White House Mess by Christopher Buckley. This comic novel, Buckley's first, was published in 1987 and dealt with the fictional administration of a then-future immediate successor to Reagan, a President Tucker. The prologue recounted inauguration day. The narrator is Tucker's personal assistant. They're about to leave for the ceremony, but there's a mysterious delay.
"Herb," said the President-elect barely above a whisper, "we seem to have a situation here." He drew a deep breath. "The President won't leave."
I did not at first understand.
"I beg your pardon, sir?"
"His doctor's in with him now. They're talking about maybe giving him a shot of adrenaline." ...
"Have you spoken to him?" I asked.
"Yes, I have," said the President-elect. "He told me his back was bothering him, that he was feeling tired, that it's cold outside, and that he just didn't feel like moving out today."
"Oh," I said, for I could think of nothing else to say.
"He was very nice about it. Hoped it wouldn't inconvenience me."
"I see. Did he say when he might feel like moving?"
"Yes. Spring."
I had spent weeks drawing up contingency plans for everything, including the disposal of 1,800 pounds of horse manure that would be 'processed' during the parade. I had not anticipated this.
Eventually they get Reagan up by telling him we're under attack by the Soviet Union and he needs to assume direct command of World War III from an emergency airborne command post. "Apparently the President was quite animated by this last prospect, and began immediately to change out of his pajamas."

Oh, I suppose you can guess why I chose to read that little bit today.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

two action movies in which the only reason the hero doesn't die is that heroes don't die

The new month's output of films newly available for streaming where I could see them included two blockbuster action movies of some vintage (23 and 12 years old) and considerable fame, but which I had never seen. They're otherwise very different.

Air Force One, in which the US president's plane is hijacked by terrorists, is a fantasy of heroic adventure, with a veneer of realism about the good guys' interactions but complete self-indulgent wanking over the way the president personally and nearly single-handedly defeats the terrorists. This movie single-handedly created the trope of Action Movie President which George W. Bush felt obliged to pretend to live up to during 9/11, with incredibly awkward results.

The Hurt Locker, on the other hand, offers itself as an ultra-realistic look at the US Army teams who seek and disarm or destroy IEDs during the Iraq War (though it did get some criticism on that point from the people who actually do it, as always happens). While Air Force One was popular, this one was acclaimed: it won six Academy Awards including Best Picture, and wound up on many critics' lists of the best movies of the decade, including Ebert's.

My reaction was different. I did rather enjoy watching Air Force One, but I found it irritating. The Hurt Locker, on the other hand, was just irritating.

The reason for my irritation is this: various actions are established as dangerous by depicting good guys getting killed by doing them. But then the hero - Harrison Ford in the one, Jeremy Renner in the other - does the same thing and doesn't get killed. The implication is that it's just his superior dazzle and sparkle that lets him do it, but vulnerability in these situations is not purely, or even mostly, a function of the person's abilities, but of factors over which he has no control. It's really for the reason spelled out in my post title. As a self-confident Donald Westlake character once put it, "I'm the hero ... The hero doesn't get killed."

Air Force One is actually better than some such movies in one respect: good guys hiding out from bad guys who manage to avoid being seen while themselves not being able to see where the bad guys are at the moment. Harrison Ford at least has to look. But in terms of not being shot, and especially in terms of hanging on while dangling outside the airplane in buffeting winds where anybody else was just swept overboard, it's just too obvious that he succeeds because: he's the hero.

The Hurt Locker opens by establishing what a dangerous job this is. Renner's predecessor (Guy Pearce) usually uses a trundling remote-control robot to safely explode bombs. But, forced by a malfunction to approach a bomb personally, Pearce is killed when the bomb goes off, even though he's some distance away and wearing his protective bomb suit. So what does Renner do? He dismisses the robot and saunters in with a pair of wire clippers to defuse the bombs, not even wearing the bomb suit (figuring he'd get killed anyway, so he might as well be flexible and comfortable).

That's chutzpah enough, but here's the thing: Pearce had been killed not through any mistake of his own, but because the bomber was lurking nearby and set off the bomb remotely by cell phone. So why, especially considering the number of locals hanging around while he does this, does this not happen to Renner? The lurking is not under his control, and there'd be plenty of time for the bomber to send the signal.

Worse yet, the soldier whose job it is to cover Renner while he works (Anthony Mackie) is constantly irritated by Renner's unorthodox, unsoldierly, and risky behavior. This doesn't defuse the issue, it only magnifies it. I was just as irritated as Mackie was. I give The Hurt Locker a bad grade as a movie.

Also, what is the point of these stories? Harrison Ford begins Air Force One with a stirring speech about how America will never negotiate with terrorists. But when the terrorists hijack the plane, what does he do? He negotiates with them. While also trying to take them out, yes, but only his success at that prevents at literally the last second the terrorists getting what they want (the release of their imprisoned leader). The point of The Hurt Locker seems to be that you can do all this stuff, but it's ultimately futile. Like other movies depicting futility, it goes on way, way too long.

You know, I didn't have this problem watching Mission Impossible: Fallout a couple months ago, even though Tom Cruise's heroics are of an absurdity that makes Harrison Ford look like a wimp. The reason is, besides the improvement over a couple of decades in filming techniques (the matting in Air Force One is sometimes a little too obvious), Mission Impossible didn't go out of its way to tell you how dangerous the heroics are, and thus insult the viewer's intelligence.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

busy day

My determination to avoid as much physical human interaction as possible, in these covid-tough times, didn't prevent going out yesterday for more than the usual number of errands. In ordinary times, this would be an ordinary number of errands, but these are not normal times.

First to the post office with the payments for several bills, to drop them off at the drive-by outside collection boxes.
Third to the supermarket to pick up our weekly order. I've written before about our problems with this, but on fourth try we found a store in this chain which doesn't regularly make a mess of the pickup process. This week they even sent out a notification at our requested delivery time that they were running late. We'd never gotten such a notice before, and the stores have been later than they proved this time (about an hour).
When it works right - and so far it's worked right at this outlet - you park in one of a few designated spaces in front of the store, phone their designated line, give them your name and space number, and pop your trunk. Five to ten minutes later, they come out and deposit your groceries in the trunk. Everything was already paid for online, so off you go.
Second item was trying the same thing at a pharmacy, for some items the grocer didn't carry. First I'd tried CVS, only to learn after I'd already placed the order that they only do mail order and it won't arrive for a week. Never mind, we can always use more of this. Walgreens, however, does have pickup, and they claim it'll be ready in half an hour. But somehow I managed not to receive the confirmatory e-mail. A query phone call, however, took care of that.

B. had her last socially-distanced string quartet meeting of the season today (it's getting cold outside, cold by our standards that is).

I received a reviewer's link to the files from a new album, Occurrence by the Iceland Symphony conducted by Daníel Bjarnason, consisting of new music by Icelandic composers. I'm not under any compulsion to give this a full review, so I'll just say that the contents seemed to me to be mostly spectralism. Dark and ominous spectralism from Veronique Vaka (she's an immigrant from Canada, thus the unIcelandic name), bright and glittering spectralism from Þuríður Jónsdóttir (now there's an Icelandic name) and Haukur Tómasson, and just dark and ominous, in more of a Shostakovich/Weinberg mode, from the late and apparently great Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Christmas cheer from TACO

It's here. For weeks or months now (I've lost track), the Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra - the confessedly amateur group with which B. has been playing violin - has been planning a series of socially distanced videos of arrangements of carols and Christmas songs. Each player made their own videos at home to the beat of videos of the conductor, submitted them online (and didn't that turn out to be technically difficult), and what turned out to be some pretty talented editors put them together.

Here's the results. It's not really bad for an amateur group. It's a heck of a lot better than TACO sounds live, I can assure you of that; I was actually pretty impressed. Those who know her, spot B. among the violins!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

the names

I started to write about what trans people call their deadnames, in the wake of the announcement by Elliot Page, but it got longer than I have any right to impose. I speak here purely as a cis person who wants to be supportive of trans people, and who is also concerned with clarity and informativeness.

Summarizing then: I think that most trans people, and anybody else whose name was changed before (if ever) they became famous, should have the right to suppress their deadnames if they choose.

But cases like Page who already had public careers under that name are in a different status. We can learn to use the new name exclusively; we've done that before. Yet the old name is still out there; it can be changed retroactively online and in new releases, but it can't be erased universally and new people coming across Page's old work will need to be informed who's who and what's what, to avoid inadvertent errors. So in these cases, the deadname should be included in the person's entry in reference sources like Wikipedia, but it doesn't need to be in boldface in the first paragraph.

Incidentally, this shoe fits on the other foot as well. John Oliver may think it funny to call Donald Trump "Donald Drumpf", but that's a deadname that was abandoned by his grandfather if not two centuries earlier, and we shouldn't use it any more than we should deny that Elliot Page is male.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Richard C. West, 1944-2020

Sad news, that my friend and the distinguished Tolkien scholar Richard West died on Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin. He was 76 and retired from the University of Wisconsin, where he'd been an engineering librarian. He had been in hospital with another chronic illness and contracted the covid. His wife, Perri, is also in the same hospital with the same thing, and it's part of the cruelness of the virus that they were unable to see each other.

I can't remember how long I've known Richard personally: at least thirty years, possibly as many as forty. But I've known his work longer than that. When I first explored Tolkien scholarship, and that was getting on to fifty years ago, I quickly learned that much of the best work was being done in fanzines, and one of the top fanzines in the field was Orcrist, the journal of the University of Wisconsin Tolkien society, which was edited by Richard C. West. In its pages he was the first scholar to begin to poke around in Tolkien's draft manuscripts of The Lord of the Rings, which were - and still are - kept at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and to report in print on what he found there. His judgment, "If we pick [various discarded ideas] out of the scrap heap it is only to show how wise the author was to throw them there," has long been my lodestone in dealing with this material, and I've quoted that sage advice in at least two papers of my own.

In the same early period, Richard wrote one of the pioneering studies in Tolkien's use of medieval literary techniques, "The Interlace Structure of The Lord of the Rings," but in the years since then he's never stopped. In recent years, he's concentrated on bringing insights to the stories of Lúthien Tinúviel and Túrin Turambar, penning essays showing how Lúthien's actions demonstrate how deeply truthfulness and honor are embedded in Tolkien's morality, and comparing Túrin's impetuousness to the ofermod that Tolkien famously discussed regarding Beorhtnoth in The Battle of Maldon. His studies were always both clear and detailed. In the hospital, he was still planning his next trip to Marquette to look over the manuscripts there again.

He was Guest of Honor at Mythcon in 2014, where he gave a remarkable speech on the theme of "Where Fantasy Fits," where - unusually for his scholarship - he drew on his knowledge of science fiction and its fandom (he was a member of the group that founded Wiscon, the pioneering feminist SF con) to discuss their perception of the category of fantasy in the years when Tolkien was writing, before fantasy became a publishing genre of its own. One of his points was that, while few fantasy novels for adults were published in this period, "those that did manage to find a publisher were usually very, very good."

You may read that speech online at the Mythlore archives, but it was another thing to be there in the auditorium to hear it. The formal honor led to Richard's greatest triumph in public speaking. Ordinarily he was not a prepossessing speaker. He spoke quickly and softly, and seemed to address a lot of asides to himself. But if you could hear what he was saying, it was always worthwhile, as the printed versions show. This time, though, his voice rang out with gratifying clarity.

There was, also, the remarkable occasion at the 2000 World SF Con in Chicago, when the organizers put Richard, myself, Doug Anderson, and Tom Shippey on a panel investigating the reasons for Tolkien's popular success. I don't remember much of what we said, except that Richard had a lot of statistics to buttress his points, but I do remember that the evening before the early-morning panel, the four of us went out to discuss it over dinner at one of Chicago's notable steakhouses, one of those glorious outings of four people truly dedicated to Tolkien's works.

Richard was a private person, reticent about his personal life, a devout Catholic and a support to B. in her searches for a good church to attend Mass at when the two of them were at a conference together. His observations in discussions of others' presentations were as worthwhile as his own, and despite his retiring social quality he could be a good companion for one-on-one conversation, as I found a couple times when we went out for meals together.

Somehow apart from Richard's other work is his magnum opus and only book(s), his application of his librarian profession to Tolkien studies in the two editions of the bibliography Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist (1970 and 1981). They're still useful for evaluating and checking up on early Tolkien scholarship; little-known is that Richard also published a supplement, a selective annotated evaluative list of the best Tolkien criticism of the next 20+ years, published in Modern Fiction Studies in 2004.

There may be another book, though. At a gathering of Tolkien scholars a couple years ago, Richard mentioned plans to collect some of his articles into book form, which we thought a splendid idea and immediately embarked on coming up with appropriate Tolkien-inspired book titles derived from the evocative surname of West. May this book come to be.

(I had wanted to post this on the Tolkien Society blog first, but I haven't been able to get access to the posting function)

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Georgia in limbo

Not the presidential election, which has been decided. The senatorial. And not just because the runoffs have yet to be held. There's a tiny legal glitch in this election which I haven't seen discussed, and I wonder how it's to be dealt with. I'm a Senate-terms nerd, and this concerns me.

This doesn't apply to Loeffler's seat. She's an interim appointee, and will hold the seat until her elected successor for the two remaining years in the term, whether it be herself or her opponent, is elected.

It's Perdue's. His seat is up in the normal course, and that means his term expires at noon on January 3. But the runoff isn't until January 5. What happens in the interim?

January 3 is a Sunday, so the new Congress will meet presumably on January 4, at which point, as it works normally, the senators sworn in will have their service dates backdated to the 3rd. But they're all uncontested and their elections will be already certified. Perdue will be without a seat until and unless he's re-elected on the 5th, and if the election is close it may take several days to confirm that.

So what happens? Does this count as a vacancy that the governor can fill? That would be subject to Georgia law. If so, he could appoint Perdue and hope he gets re-elected. In which case his service would be continuous.

Or, without the interim appointment, could Perdue's service date - or Ossoff's, should he win - be backdated to the 3rd? I don't think that would fit Senate rules, since backdating traditionally requires uncontested right to the seat.

Or, if Perdue wins, would there be a tiny gap in his service, and would that affect his seniority?

I haven't seen any of this discussed or explained.

Friday, November 27, 2020

post-Thanksgiving dinner

When I bought the three-pound turkey roast, I knew that'd be enough meat for us for at least two dinners. And with three sides, where we normally have one, there were definitely going to be leftovers of everything. So tonight, with the assistance of regular oven and microwave, I heated everything up and we had reruns. That took care of everything but the potato, which I don't eat, and the stuffing, which will still be going on for a while. Plus the brownies, which will also make dessert nibbles for a while.

Today was the annual task of fetching the artificial tree from storage and setting it up for the Christmas season. Also the boxes of ornaments which B will unpack and decorate with. Doing this revealed just what a toll eight months of hiding out at home has taken on my physical stamina.

And there's more to come. Watching the rising tide, and noting also Kevin S's observation that holiday gatherings are only going to increase the number of infected but nonsymptomatic people around, I'm intensifying my isolation. I'm cutting out in-store shopping, including takeout meals, entirely. No commerce or other interaction other than drive-through for at least the next six weeks - basically the rest of DT's term, heh - unless unavoidable.

That meant an extra-large order from grocery pick-up this morning, since I'd been making supplementary runs early in the morning. I did get a due blood test at the clinic this morning, at 6.30 when they open - but not, as it turns out, open the doors to the building, so it was quite a job getting in.

Chilling times. And listening to the Boston Symphony play the Largo of Shostakovich's Sixth as I write this is only underlining it. At least I have my music, and my reading, to occupy me. And come later in the season, we will go out for a drive to look at holiday lights. I'm looking forward to that more than usual.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

thanksgiving dinner, steps three-n

First a couple hours' Zoom chat with family, during which both our cats, plus a few other participants', were featured on nationwide tv - from California and Washington to Virginia and North Carolina, plus one screen in London too. B. and I were seated at our dining room table, and the chat was interrupted for me by several visits to the kitchen to start the meal.

After that it became rather busier, especially in the last half hour, the only victim being a few too many seconds distracted from the roasting pine nuts for the vegetable garnish. And my, did a heaping meal of turkey, cornbread stuffing, mashed potato, gravy, and roasted veggies look appetizing on the plate as I served it to B.

The veggie was rather complicated but I'd made it before. The rest of the items were fairly simple except for the turkey roast, which was a new cooking experience for me. Fortunately it worked just as the instructions said it would. My only dilemma was the direction to cook it on a roasting pan. We don't have a roasting pan. What we have is a baking pan with a removable cooling grid. It wouldn't be large enough for a whole turkey, but a 3-pound roast fit fine. So what I did was take out that grid, wrap it in aluminum foil, poke holes in the foil, and presto, a workable roasting pan.

Then this morning what should appear in the Washington Post - the same source where I found the roasted veggie recipe a couple weeks ago, with its recommendation for Thanksgiving - but a recipe for Kamala Harris's personal favorite cornbread dressing and a recommendation to use that for Thanksgiving. Well, it's a little late for that now, isn't it? But if I make the same menu for Christmas, I'll have to try it then.

So we had a very nice meal, with wine, and there's enough leftovers for a rerun tomorrow night. This cozy do-it-yourself job was forced on us by the pandemic, but it turned out quite well. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

thanksgiving dinner, step two

Step 2. Wednesday, make brownies for dessert.

Holiday decorations, step 1: B's home-made seasonal wreath, on our front door:

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

thanksgiving dinner, step one

Step 1. Tuesday: start to defrost turkey.

Monday, November 23, 2020

thanksgiving menu

I've acquired the last ingredients, so we're all prepared for Thanksgiving dinner. As long as B and I have been together this meal has been with her family; before then it was usually with my grandmother, the only really good cook my family has ever produced. This will be my first attempt at cooking such a meal myself. It'll be just the two of us, though it'll be preceded by a family Zoom phone call. There was a rehearsal for that over the weekend, mostly to ensure that B's non-tech-enabled eldest sister was able to get the connection to work, and she was there, while her husband, like me, was off cooking dinner. (Good on ya, Norm.)

So here's the Thanksgiving menu at our house:

Boneless turkey roast, white and dark meat
with savory herb turkey rub and gravy

Corn bread stuffing (B's request: she likes corn bread)

Roasted zucchini and red onion with tahini and za'atar

Roasted garlic and parmesan red and russet mashed potatoes
(yeah, it's a mix)

Sugar-free chocolate fudge brownies
with mint chip (his) and peanut butter (hers) ice creams, and brandy

Egg nog

Gewürztraminer wine

Sunday, November 22, 2020


Starting this last week, there's been a change in our daily routine. For the first time since ... forever, actually ... nobody's going outside to fetch the morning newspaper. We've canceled our hard-copy subscription. The price kept going up and up, and it was the cost of the physical paper and printing that was doing it. But we're keeping the online subscription, which costs a lot less.

For years now, when we've been on trips it's been B's habit to read the facsimile edition of our local paper from the web on her tablet over breakfast, and now she just does that at home too. My own tablet is too small in size and too slow to make the facsimile edition very useful, but I can always read the articles through the webpage. And I read a lot of news articles while sitting at my desktop. Besides our local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, I keep subscriptions to the Washington Post, which I find continually interesting, and the San Mateo Daily Journal, the paper I write concert reviews for. I also read articles on the Guardian, which is free (and which asks for donations which I might give them if they ever stop being transphobic), and as long as I remember to delete cookies in advance every time, I can read an occasional article from the New York Times. Otherwise I stick mostly to commentary magazines like Slate.

I've had some amazing difficulties with newspaper delivery in the distant past, but our delivery here was pretty good, except for the occasional undelivered Sunday paper and the couple times a month they'd forget and give us the Chinese-language paper instead. But that's gone now.

Meanwhile, my brother and I had a Zoom chat with the latest winner of the copy-editor's award we established in our mother's memory at the paper where she worked as an undergraduate, the University of Michigan Daily. That we like to know where our donation is going is our motive; curiosity on the recipient's part as to where it came from was hers. Among other things we learned that the Daily is almost entirely online these days, there being virtually nobody on campus to pick up a physical copy. So the inexorable trend continues ...

Saturday, November 21, 2020

online concert reviews

And here we have it: my return to formal concert reviewing for the first time since March. Kohl Mansion, one of my regular venues, started this month to sponsor online concerts, as so many other chamber music providers have done, and I thought they deserved coverage in the Daily Journal. My editor sounded pleased to have me back (though I'd already done a roundup last month of what local vendors are doing online).

The timing was ideal, with two concerts within two weeks of each other, and the third in the series not for another two months, so I could conclude by promoting it far in advance. I was a little hesitant to approach these for full-length reviews, partly because they're only half-length concerts and partly because I find it more challenging to concentrate on an online concert than an in-person one, but mostly because, with all the recording and computer equipment intervening, I am less sure I'm getting an unmediated listening experience. So I chose to write more briefly on both concerts together, so I could be more succinct.

The result was one of those cases where all my judgment of the works and the performance gets packed into two or three well-chosen (I hope) words for each item, and I spent as much attention on the acoustics as anything else. That I mislaid my notes on the first concert before writing the review two weeks later also contributed; fortunately I remembered the main points. Frankly I was less eager to hear these concerts than the third one, which will be Beethoven's Op. 130 quartet, but the sheer quality of the performances overwhelmed any lesser degree of interest in the music played. I'm content with the result.

Menlo is also doing online concerts, so I'll wait a decent interval and then take up one of theirs.

Friday, November 20, 2020

two nations

To get a crude sense of the geographic spread of the US presidential vote, I look at the results by winners of counties. The close similarity of the counties won by the D and R candidates in the recent election and that of four years ago, and the further similarity with that of other recent elections, prompted a quick update of a database I've kept of the county winners since the election of 2000, which is pretty much when the current dispensation of party affiliation settled into place.

I then counted them up.* And here's the result: 78% of US counties have voted the same way in every presidential election since 2000: 67% Republican, 11% Democratic. (The larger Republican number is due to smaller and more rural counties tending Republican, while more populous urban ones tend Democratic. Biden won Minnesota while carrying only 13 of the state's 87 counties, for instance.) Of the remainder, 16% voted for DT in both the last two elections and 4% voted against him, leaving only 2% of the whole - 76 counties altogether - that switched allegiance one way or the other between 2016 and 2020.

That sounds like a high degree of consistency, but has it changed over time? I made a comparison with the previous 6 elections, 1976-1996. Like the latest 6, it had 3 D and 3 R wins, but the latter were closer to blow-outs, which we've had none of since.** The results in the partial set of states I have calculations for is 54% of counties voted the same way in all 6 elections (48% R, 6% D), and 46% split their vote over the 1976-96 period, as opposed to only 22% in 2000-20.

Yes, it looks like we are settling into two nations.

*49 states. Alaska has no counties, and does not count votes by the boroughs and census divisions which are the (roughly) continuing divisions of the state for most statistical purposes. To calculate by those would require painstakingly adding up individual precincts, and nobody has done that for 2020 yet.
In Louisiana the counties are called parishes, for historical reasons dating back to the early 19th century.
A few other states have occasional large independent cities, but Virginia is unique in considering every incorporated city to be independent of its counties, and most Virginia geographic statistics are kept that way. But I dislike this because it makes Virginia statistics geographically incompatible with other states'. So I combine independent cities with their geographical counties, leaving the Hampton Roads ones that have swallowed the entire county. I figure it this way: in some New England states, counties no longer exist as units of government, but they're still considered useful as geographic aggregates for statistical purposes. I'm just doing the same thing with Virginia.

**I haven't calculated the 1976-96 figures for all the states, just about half which I found more interesting to work with, mostly western, Great Plains, and New England states. But they're roughly representative of the whole, with 80% of their counties voting the same throughout 2000-20, as opposed to 78% in the whole US.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

a few more events

The CS Lewis Society offered an online screening of a live performance of a one-man play on CSL's life. The actor, David Payne, has been doing Lewis for a long time and made a pretty fair impersonation. The notion that Lewis would sit there for 90 minutes and tell some strangers all about his life seemed implausible, but many of the specific contents fit the bill, including some light bawdy humor, something the real Lewis enjoyed, and I've no doubt that the one about the pastor who sees a girls' school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and exclaims that at last he's seen a female Bottom would make the list.

Next morning, or evening Glasgow time, an academic presentation from the university there on the centenary of A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay. Three excellent speakers, one of whom I know. By the time it was over I knew three times as much about Lindsay and the book as I'd ever known before, and that included the dismaying fact that the only copy I've ever read was a corrupted text (it was derived from an earlier edition which had been copy-edited by some busybody who rewrote the text, despite the fact that it was a previously published book). Much discussion of gnosticism, Olaf Stapledon (to whom Lindsay was much compared), even Charles Williams. CSL liked the book for being spiritually-aware fiction, but was appalled by its philosophy, which may be why, unlike for many other contemporary novels he admired, he never wrote the author a fan letter.

New issue of Mythlore arrived, and no sooner do I browse through it than I find an error on Inklings history. Not even an ordinary one. The article author thinks he's found an error in his source material, but he hasn't: the source material is correct. The article author is the one in error. What's more, elsewhere in the same footnote he cites a reference source that, on the same page, could have set him straight. I've written a letter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

on the recipe

Let's see if I'm awake enough today not to write Iliad when I mean Aeneid.

This year for the first time we're making our own Thanksgiving feast, just the two of us. B. has bought table decorations, and we've planned out the menu. I bought a frozen 3-pound turkey roast, which should be not too much.

The blank spot on the menu was the vegetable. Often I just steam or saute broccoli and/or brussel sprouts with a little herb seasoning, but let's have something imaginative and festive. I wasn't sure what it'd be until I came across a recipe for roasted squash with tahini dressing, in the Washington Post whose food editor considers it a Thanksgiving staple.

But since I planned to make it with zucchini (I don't like butternut, which is specified), I'd better try it out ahead of time, so I made it last night. Even with big hunks of zucchini it required less cooking, but we have a fast oven anyway. The challenge came elsewhere in the recipe.

I have a new metaphor for difficulty, akin to "herding cats," and that's blending tahini. Nasty, viscous stuff. Now I can bend spoons, like Uri Geller. Tastes good, though.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

post-fire report

My article on how Ursula Le Guin fictionalized the Napa Valley for Always Coming Home was already in submission when the Glass Fire devastated the upper valley a month and more ago. "Now what?" I wondered. "Is everything I wrote about gone?" From the reports I read I doubted it, but there's nothing like seeing for yourself. So once things were safe - and after some rains hit the valley last weekend I judged they were - I decided to make a quick reconnaissance and write a footnote for my article.

So yesterday I took my first day trip since the start of the pandemic, going further away from home than the 30 miles or so that had been my previous furthest travels. I was gone for nearly 8 hours, and in the Valley for 3. (Heavy afternoon traffic - rush-hour jams have been gone from home, but they're alive and well in Vallejo and Oakland - delayed my return.) I was very strict about my contacts: except for a visit to an otherwise-empty fast-food counter to buy a bag lunch to go (which I ate in the car with fresh rubber gloves on), and a couple quick pit stops, I never left my car. (Which meant I felt awfully creaky when I did.)

During my visit, for which I brought along all the maps I'd annotated back when I first analyzed ACH's geography when it was new, I systematically visited all the Kesh village sites from the book, and was relieved to find little changed. Around a few of them, some but not all of the woods were scorched. Especially along the Silverado Trail on the east side of the valley, road lanes in various places were blocked as crews cut down the trees sufficiently damaged that they might fall on the road. But most of the trees will survive, as is typical after forest fires. Nothing else that I visited was hit. Kishamish stands, as does all the country around it, though it was close to the perimeter. Damage from the fire was severe, but localized.

Just in case I had some extra time - which I didn't - I brought along Lavinia, Le Guin's last novel and the only one I've never read. (I've read Malafrena, but don't ask me to remember anything about it.) My problem with Lavinia is that it's based on the Aeneid, a book I've never cottoned to. I tried to read that (in translation, of course) in college, but quickly reached the conclusion that if Homer is Tolkien, Vergil is Terry Brooks. I expect Le Guin would disagree, but I also expect she'd say you have to read it in Latin.

I did read the first page of Lavinia. The narrator is camping on the banks of the Tiber. She says, "I woke at the first beginning of light. The others were sound asleep. The birds were just beginning their dawn chorus. I got up and went down to the mouth of the river." There she says a prayer and drinks the river water. I can think of something else she might do by the river after rising first thing in the morning, something that might make her think twice about drinking the water, but enough of that.

Monday, November 16, 2020

age limits

Another thing about the Laura Benanti concert: she commented that she'd turned 40 while playing Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, and seemed to feel as if she'd gotten in just under the wire, that 40 was considered the age limit for the part.

That's interesting, I thought, because Mrs Patrick Campbell (as she was billed), the actress for whom Shaw wrote the original role in Pygmalion, was 49 when she created it on stage. How long she kept on playing it I don't know, but I did find a reference to her still doing it six years later, so when she was 55.

As Benanti would say, there's a lot to unpack here.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

online concerts

An interim report, because I have one or two more coming up today.

Jupiter Quartet
This concert was from the performing arts series of Middlebury College, which is in Vermont, but the performers were located at the University of Illinois. We'll have to get used to this negation of geography. I'm not in communication with Middlebury College; I heard of this from a publicist, but I hastened to sign up, because this is such a fine group with a good program.
They played Mendelssohn's Op. 12, which is the less heard of his early quartets; George Walker's "Lyric," which is perhaps the standard chamber work by an African-American composer; and a new piece by Michi Wiancko, new to me, yet another new musical work addressing global climate change. Wiancko is a master of making clicks, taps, snaps, and wails sound musical, and her employment of these in a movement depicting the soil microbiome underneath Central Park was particularly outstanding.
There was a locally-produced opener, the first choral music I've heard in the pandemic. The Middlebury College choir stood, masked and spaced out at least ten feet part, in the pews of a church to sing Bantu hymns and one by William Billings. The stark wooden interior surely helped with the acoustics, but I was still startled that so few people, and with masks on, could make such a resonant sound.

Pacifica Quartet
A favorite group of mine from Menlo appearances, they've exchanged for two new members since I last heard them nearly four years ago, but they've only gotten better. Startlingly effective performances of two Beethoven quartets, finding an unexpected fierceness in Op. 18 No. 1 (wow, does their new violist have bite, the way he digs into his instrument) and employing a supreme gentle tenderness in Op. 132. This quartet has some of the most curvaceous passages of beauty in all Beethoven, if they're played right, and these were played right. And in between came Voices by the ubiquitous Jennifer Higdon, a work that begins in chaos and moves slowly - very slowly, if you ask me - towards healing resolution.
This concert was sponsored by the Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music (and the performers were at home at Indiana University). I'd listened to a previous Syracuse concert (featuring the Jupiter Qt, connectedly enough) two months ago, and saw this one was upcoming, so I signed up and paid for a ticket. But it turned out to be difficult to hear, because there was some technical problem with the Vimeo feed, so all you got if you followed the link was a 30-second placeholder with a voice assuring you the concert was coming. And no matter what you did, you just got the same blurb all over again. Eventually the concert got up, after an apologetic e-mail, but in the meantime I'd actually phoned them in uncertainly over whether the problem was at their end or mine.

Laura Benanti
Part of a "Women of Broadway" series, co-sponsored by a host of non-profit US theaters, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which doesn't normally go in for this stuff, but from whom we heard about it. The series also features Patti LuPone and Vanessa Williams, but B. and I prefer Laura Benanti. I'd attended a performance of her Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center last year, and she began this program with a run-through of abridged versions of all her songs from that show. Also featured songs from She Loves Me, Into the Woods, and various other sources. Accompanied by clearly her favorite pianist, plus a guitarist who managed to make his instrument sound like a synthesizer, I'm not sure why. Very nice performances regardless. Unlike the quartets (the Jupiters took a bow after each piece to deep silence), this concert had a gratifying smattering of applause, from the crew members filming it.
Between-songs patter included an account of her small daughter who doesn't like to hear Mommy sing, which must feel dampening. But while Benanti nattered too much, I was impressed with her answer to one audience question (they were on cards), "Do you think entertainers should use their platform to push political views?" Well, no, Benanti replied, but "there's a lot to unpack here." She altered the question to "Do you think humans should use their platform to express their beliefs?" Yes, she said. "I think the word 'push' implies that there's no consent involved ... but I live in the world we all live in," and while normally she keeps her counsel, there are things she feels, as a human, she should speak out about, and specified two she objects to: family separation policies and the threat to equal marriage. Good going.

Friday, November 13, 2020

the last dangerous visions?

When Harlan Ellison died two years ago, my first question was, "So now what happens to The Last Dangerous Visions?" And when his wife and executor Susan Ellison died three months ago, I asked the same question.

The Last Dangerous Visions, for anybody who doesn't know, was the cutting-edge state-of-the-art anthology of original science-fiction stories that Harlan Ellison originally promised to publish in 1973. But never did. Over the next decade or so, he would regularly announce that a new publisher was about to issue the book and it really truly was going to come out this time. But it never did. Eventually this subsided and Ellison got reluctant to talk about it.

Meanwhile, several dozen stories by the brightest, mostly then young, names in the field sat in Ellison's basement, unseen by anybody. Over the years, several authors got sufficiently fed up to withdraw their stories, to Ellison's fury, and publish them elsewhere. One of these authors, Christopher Priest, wrote a short treatise, The Book on the Edge of Forever, pointing out that the sheer size of the volume was rendering it effectively unpublishable.

Now the Ellison estate's executor is J. Michael Straczynski, best known as the creator of the SF tv series Babylon 5. And today he has announced that LDV will be completed and "ready to submit to publishers" next April.

Well. If that's true, that's a remarkable thing. But reading over the details of JMS's announcement, my heart slowly began to sink. Because he's bitten off a huge mouthful and he's only cramming more in. His announcement with all the bells and whistles attached to it reminds me too much of the impending-publication announcements that Harlan used to make. And they sounded awfully credible, on the surface more than this one does, because they usually actually did have publishers, major trade publishers who'd guaranteed to undertake the book. Even today, reading these things, you feel sure it was about to appear. But it didn't.

The only difference is, now it isn't Harlan making the announcement. It's JMS. JMS has done a lot of productive work over the years, I guess. But so did Harlan. Harlan did have a lifelong habit of announcing all sorts of projects as finished when they sometimes hadn't even been begun. JMS, perhaps not so much, though I note that there's a whole section of his Wikipedia bio labeled "Unrealized projects." And this is a big one.

Here's some of what concerns me:

1. How many stories will it have?

JMS says "over a hundred stories" were commissioned for LDV. This is true. A list published in 1979 had 113 stories. That didn't include an additional 8 which had already been withdrawn or otherwise disappeared from earlier lists by that point. JMS says he won't include anything that's been withdrawn. (How generous of him. He doesn't have the rights.) According to LDV's Wikipedia page, that's 32 of the 121 listed stories, leaving 89. (Others add 5, leaving 84. Whatever.) Then there are "some" or a "few" - he doesn't say how many - that are now obsolete and whose rusted carcasses will be returned to the authors. Or their estates.

But that still leaves, what, 80? 70? 60? stories. That's a huge anthology. And then to that, he's going to update it. He's going to add stories by "today's heavy hitters" and "new voices" into the mix, "interweaving" them all "into a narrative flow." Even more stuff, none of it having anything to do with the book Harlan was editing.

And if JMS is going to get this done by April, even if he started as soon as Susan died - unlikely since as executor he'd have had a ton of other work to do - that's only ten months to commission these stories, wait for the authors to write them, edit them, and then figure out how to interweave them. That's a big job. The more so if the result is going to be "organized by topic," which I guess means all the near-future disaster stories in a row, all the alternate-history stories in a row, etc. I can't wait.

Then there's some mysterious project by Harlan, so big that JMS claims it's largely responsible for keeping Harlan from finishing up LDV, that's also going to be in the book. Yikes.

2. What about the introductions?

What I always thought prevented Harlan from finishing up LDV was the story introductions. When Harlan would announce the imminent publication of the book, he'd usually say something like, "Now I just have to go home and finish off the introductions ..." but Christopher Priest points out that, if they were to be anything like the introductions in his previous anthologies, with the number of stories in LDV the introductions would be the size of a monumental volume by themselves.

Did he ever get them done? What kind of shape are they in? Will they have to be updated? Will JMS write intros on that scale for the ones Harlan didn't do, and for the new additions?

3. How will it get published, and in what form?

At least Harlan always had a publisher lined up. JMS is waiting to do that until he's finished, but "several major publishers have already expressed significant interest in picking up the book upon completion." He's a veteran of Hollywood; he knows how much that kind of statement is worth. Even if they do, it could take another year or more for the book to appear.

And ... book? More likely several volumes, considering its size. Or we have other options these days: online? a download?

And who will have both the time and energy to read it all? Even the previous DV anthologies had less of an impact than they could have because they were so big, they were hard to absorb. And LDV, especially with the new additions, will be much, much bigger. And that which isn't new will be half a century old. The field has changed a lot since then. Even a story that's not obsolete will have a big hurdle to overcome with today's readers. If publication happens - and I still call that a big if - it's as if a huge boulder is hurtling through the air at a lake. It will make a huge splash ... and then it will sink to the bottom of the pond and never be thought of again. That I fear is what will happen.

If it appears at all, that is. I'm definitely curious, but I'm not joining the Patreon. We've been burned too often, even if not by JMS. He sounds too much like Harlan in his announcement. LDV was already a joke when I entered the field 45 years ago, and if it's actually going to appear I can wait a little longer. I'll believe it when I see it, and I always have.