Sunday, May 3, 2020


It's official: Mythcon this summer, the one at which I'm to be scholar guest of honor, has been postponed to next year. The Mythopoeic Society's board of directors met yesterday (online, I presume; in my day as a director, the meetings were usually conference phone calls) and did the deed; the con chair had alerted me this was going to happen. I'd already expressed my preference for a postponement over an online event (though we could have an online event too; it just wouldn't be Mythcon).

With the big local summer music festival, Music@Menlo, having also last week postponed itself to next year, that wipes out the last public events on my calendar until the end of September. We'll see what happens then, but I'm not hopeful. What frightens me is not the postponements, but the protests demanding the re-opening of society. I can understand the frustration: the initial closings were just for a few weeks, but nothing was then said about what conditions would constitute an "all-clear." It seemed to me that this would take months, not weeks, but nobody was saying either so or not; I wrote a post back on March 16, just as the shutdowns were starting, expressing my own bafflement over that.

But slowly those questions have been answered, and some people are determined to defy them, some of them bearing guns. Oh, that kind of person. Well, they frighten me a lot more than quarantine does, and indeed I may have to quarantine myself all the more firmly now that they're around. Because during the hushed period of April, if I did have to go out, I could at least count on not running into anybody. But if people resume gathering in crowds, how am I to maintain my distance? Because so far, at least, the virus is still around. It might withdraw over the summer, but that has to happen first. Remember that you wear a cloth mask, not to protect yourself, but to protect other people from you. If others aren't wearing them, what price one's own safety? Even if that's enough: airlines are requiring that everyone wear masks, but that doesn't reassure me, not to mention that wearing a mask for the hours on end required by this isn't appealing. But that's OK; both my flying trips this summer, Mythcon and another conference which already postponed itself two months ago, are out, and I have nowhere to go for a while.


I do, however, have social media in my future. My library committee plans to meet on Zoom next week, and my scholars' group has opted for WebEx the week after that. There's no camera on my desk computer (or B's), but my tablet has one, so I loaded the apps onto it, and my brother - who's been teaching law school classes on Zoom for half a term now - and I tested it out yesterday. It appears to have bandwidth problems on such a low-powered device, let's just say that. Going into another room in search of a stronger WiFi signal, I found Maia lounging on the floor, so the cat made a cameo appearance on Zoom. I'm less pleased with my own appearance: I tend to hold the tablet close and below, so my face fills the screen and, even though I keep my beard short, it makes me look like Fidel Castro. I started calling my brother Raúl.

I attempted to watch a play whose production had been moved to Zoom. I didn't watch it on Zoom: the recording had been put on Vimeo. But I didn't last long: the tinny and stuttering sound quality and the awkwardness of the group video display might be tolerable for a meeting, but a play is for entertainment, and this got in the way of my appreciation.

I had more luck with a more standard stage recording, the National Theatre's Twelfth Night last week. (This week they're doing the Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, but I have no taste for Frankenstein right now.) For this production, they figured that since Olivia has abjured men, her servants should all be women, so the play had characters named Fabia and Malvolia. Malvolia? Still, the performer (Tamsin Greig) did a great depiction, and I count this a good production of my favorite Shakespeare comedy.

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