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:
IMG-1332

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

Gew├╝rztraminer wine

Sunday, November 22, 2020

paperless

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.

pause for events

1. Virus cases keep going up, and have reached one million in this state. The highest per capita rates are in the outlying rural counties which long assumed they were immune. But it's serious everywhere. It only increases my determination not to go anywhere or see anybody. I did keep a dental appointment on Tuesday - when I said this was the most adventurous thing I'd done in weeks, the dentist chuckled and said many patients had told him the same thing, which I found an encouraging remark - and I'm picking up our weekly take-out grocery order later today (Friday), but, well-equipped with food, I haven't been out of the house between. I do have a lengthy auto trip planned, possibly as early as this next week, but it's purely expeditionary and I may not even have to get out of the car.

2. Cats are kind of frantic, though. Tybalt keeps coming into my office, climbing behind the venetian blinds into the window, and then coming back out again. This is not good for the blinds, which I have to keep closed to keep back-glare off the computer screen. (I may have to replace the blinds eventually; I was able to mail-order replacement slats for the heavy vertical blinds in the dining room window, a couple of which had lost their grip and crashed to the ground, no thanks to cats.) But it was Maia, the quiet, peaceful cat, who jumped up onto the kitchen counter and knocked the menorah to the floor with a mighty crash. Exit cat, top speed.

3. It's not the petulance of the giant baby hiding out in the White House that worries me, it's the people enabling it. Aren't there any adults in the room? Even the few daring to peep their heads out seem frightened.

4. Latest New Yorker, whose cover shows a line of people waiting to vote, one of whom is a woman holding a book - that would be B. - ironically includes a brief article on a book-summation service, currently wrestling with Ghislaine Maxwell's deposition in the Jeffrey Epstein case. "Context is so important," says the firm's "content producer" (no context is provided to explain what that title means). He adds, "I don't get cultural references sometimes. I'm from Sweden."
And I hear in my mind's ear the ghostly echo of an old Flying Karamazov Brothers line: "I am Norwegian: I do not understand."

Thursday, November 12, 2020

a few events

1. A few more online concerts have come my way. Two more from the so-far splendid Baltimore Symphony chamber concert series: one for strings, featuring Nielsen's Little Suite and Vaughan Williams' Tallis Fantasia, the former of which doesn't get played much and the latter of which is always an enriching treat to hear; and one for brass and winds - yes, they claim they've found a safe way to gather groups of these air-spitting players, and they're the ones who have to live through it, not me - which included a piano-and-winds sextet by Louise Farrenc, the leading 19C female French composer, as well as Stravinsky and Beethoven.

It was interesting to see, elsewhere online, a video of BSO music director (albeit not identified as such) Marin Alsop critiquing movies and tv shows with conductors in them. She gave points mostly for enthusiasm, which she considers a vital element (thus ranking highly Jack Black in School of Rock - see, classical people are not snobs), but she did criticize conductors who wave both hands in unison. You don't do that if you're a professional conductor, she said. So that made it very interesting to see one of the assistant conductors in the BSO videos doing exactly that.

Also heard, because this was one of the items on the list of a publicist who likes to send me e-mails, was the Neave Piano Trio, which I think lives in NYC, but which was either broadcasting from or at least sponsored by the chamber music series at the University of Idaho, a place I haven't been since 1982. I signed up for this one because of the staggering array of composers: Clara Schumann, Amy Beach, Rebecca Clarke, and Jennifer Higdon. You don't get to hear a lineup like that - four very notable female composers spanning nearly two centuries - very often. True, I've never taken much to Beach, whose work seems to me to be comprised mostly of froth and treacle, and Clarke is rather modernistically astringent for my tastes. Both of these works met expectations, but it was good to hear all four together.

I have more online concerts - much more - scheduled for over the weekend. To hear music and then to write about it is my delight.

2. Another event that hit our calendars was the ordaining of a friend of ours as an Episcopal priest. The announcement she'd sent out a month ago didn't contain a link to the promised online event, but B. found it afterwards on M.'s FB page. We watched the better part of it. The ordaining bishop was also a woman, and it was a nice little ceremony, albeit much of it hidden behind various people's backs.

3. I've been reading a number of books on the moonshot program (the one that went to the Moon, silly, not something metaphorical), for reasons I'll explain later, not least because I have to call a halt to it soon for something more urgent. But that explains why, napping this afternoon, I was vaguely dreaming about training as an astronaut. For some reason this responsibility involved having my hair licked. I awoke to find that I was having my hair licked; thank you, Tybalt. Which I guess means that I am an astronaut, right?

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

feel like practicing your Spanish?

Mark Evanier found an absolutely splendid Panamanian production of Fiddler on the Roof.


Monday, November 9, 2020

in memo Alex Trebek

the long-suffering (it seemed to me, from the shenanigans the contestants and the category listings put him through) host of Jeopardy!

Has anybody ever explained why they insist that answers be put in the form of questions? It's irritatingly artificial.

I am going to commit an open copyright violation here, because this is too good to leave out. The great Christine Lavin wrote words to the Jeopardy theme song:

Back in high school you were a square
Carried books and slide rules everywhere
You got straight A's year after year
They called you geek, they called you queer

For every one who laughed in your face
Now's your chance to put them in their place
Because you're on a TV show
Where your big brain
Earns
Big
Dough

Friday, November 6, 2020

more great actors gone recently

John Sessions ("I'm here to play the Queen")

Geoffrey Palmer ("I'm a doctor and I want my sausages")

invincible ignorance

Occasionally one comes across someone who is simply unable to grasp the concept that you're explaining to them. It isn't often that this is a trained computer repairperson.

The people fixing B's computer had said they would move her hard drive to a new box. But it turned out that they cloned the hard drive instead. A problem had turned up with the new drive, and I wondered whether this was also true of the old drive.

Another worker in the shop, overhearing this conversation, undertook to interject himself into the conversation. He explained at some length that if there's a problem with the old drive, it will automatically reproduce itself in the clone. If true, that raises the question of why bother to clone the thing at all, but I didn't raise that. I merely said that that was very interesting but it didn't address my question.

So what is your question, he said. I said, could there be a problem with the new drive that didn't come from the old drive.

He said that was merely the same question in different words. I said no, it's the inverse of the first question. I tried several ways to explain it, and finally he said I was just using circular logic.

That's when I lost my temper, and, having goaded me into this, he then shrugged and went back to work. It occurred to me to draw a Venn diagram of problems with the old drive, problems with the new drive, and problems with both, but when I showed it to him, he crumpled it up and threw it away without looking at it. Invincible in his ignorance.

It occurred to me later that there was a simpler way of explaining the difference. If problems with the old drive are A, and problems with the new drive are B, then he was telling me that
If A, Then B.
And I was asking if it was also true that
If B, Then A.
Those are fundamentally different statements, a basic concept in elementary logic, so it's really disturbing to find someone who thinks there's no difference between them, and accuses you of circular logic when you try to explain it. Invincible ignorance.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

social distancing

Today I stopped in at a shop I don't often visit, to pick up an item I'd ordered. (Reasons why it couldn't have been delivered.) Found the front foyer of the shop roped off, with posted instructions to wait for an employee to let you in.

In the foyer was waiting a man whom I took for some store greeter, from the official-looking way he pointed at the bottle of hand sanitizer on a small table and mimed pumping the bottle and washing one's hands. It later turned out he was a customer who resorted to mime because his English was poor. He kept miming pumping and washing with more and more vigor and enthusiasm as I waited for him to move aside and give me room to do it.

Eventually we solved that one, and later still a clerk came by, asked what I needed, and then opened the rope and invited me in, while failing to provide room for me to move there. I waited, he gestured, eventually we got past that one also.

I've been in other shops which are a little more conscientious here.

Meanwhile, B.'s computer has crashed, for the third time in two months. In the repair place again.