Saturday, January 30, 2021

unnaming Kroeber

Having removed the names of a couple genuine racists and Confederate sympathizers of their time from buildings, UC Berkeley has now added the removal of its former professor Alfred Kroeber's name from the anthropology building. One of these removals does not belong with the others. Perhaps, as we're being told, Kroeber's actions don't measure up to today's standards and thus he doesn't deserve a memorial, but to classify him with the racists is to do an injustice to a man who did his best to support the native cultures of California that he studied with care, and who befriended and was friended by his informants from those peoples, on a personal as well as professional level. (See his daughter Ursula's essay "Indian Uncles" for her relationships with some of these.)

Most grievous to see, the statements proposing the unnaming perpetrate grotesquely misleading and easily correctable misstatements about Kroeber. If he's genuinely culpable in some things, it shouldn't be necessary to perpetrate libel on him regarding others.

First we have this.
Kroeber collected or authorized the collection of the remains of Native American ancestors from grave sites and curated a repository of these human remains for research study. This practice, labeled “Salvage Anthropology” by some scholars, is now illegal.
He may have authorized this; I know of no evidence that he personally practiced it, because he was a social anthropologist and not a field archaeologist. Yes, it's distasteful. What I'm objecting to is defining it as "Salvage Anthropology." Though salvage anthropology may include such activities, salvage anthropology as Kroeber practiced it - and what is meant by the term in books about him (he didn't use the term himself) - is the recording of cultural information from informants, preserving - with their full cooperation - information about cultures that will disappear when they die. Language, customs, traditions, spiritual beliefs. And also physical artifacts: their tools and other objects, not their bones. If Kroeber is culpable in this area, it's in believing that some cultures were dying out that still had life to them. But what concerns me here is that this statement will lead people to see the phrase "salvage anthropology" applied to Kroeber and think it means only and exclusively grave-robbing. It does not.

More disturbing because more comprehensively misleading is this:
In 1911, Kroeber also took custody of a Native American man, a genocide survivor he named Ishi, and allowed him to live at the UC’s anthropology museum, where the proposal states that he ‘”performed’ as a living exhibit for museum visitors,” making Native crafts, such a stone tools. After dying of tuberculosis in 1916, his body was autopsied, against the wishes he’d expressed to Kroeber for cremation and burial without autopsy.
This is a studied case in giving the maximum possible negative spin on what is actually a positive and sympathetic story. The man called Ishi -

Well, first off, Kroeber proposed calling him "Ishi", which was his culture's word for "man", because in his culture names are kept private, and there was nothing else to address him as. It was intended as a polite way to avoid forcing him to reveal his private name. The name wasn't arbitrarily chosen or imposed against his will, as the phrasing implies.

Same with "took custody." Makes it sound as if Kroeber arrested him and took him away against his will. The man called Ishi had been living alone in the wilderness after the rest of his people were killed, lost, or died (the genocide referred to had been massacres in the 1860s, when this man was a boy), and it was no longer practical. Eventually he gave up, and came down out of the hills to the white folk's town of Oroville. The sheriff put him in the jail as a place to keep him - he was not arrested - and when the UC anthropologists heard about it, Kroeber sent his linguistic specialist colleague up by the next train, who was able to work out communication with the man. Since he was putting himself in the white man's hands, Kroeber and his colleagues offered him a place to live and a job to do. "Custody" was not arresting him, it was taking him under Kroeber's wing. The man needed the help: ours was an alien culture to him.

The statement says he lived in the museum, and "performed" as a "living exhibit." That makes it sound as if he were placed inside a diorama, in his native clothing, forced to act out his behavior from his earlier life. That is not what happened, not at all. He lived in a custodian's apartment in the museum building. He did custodial work, and I believe he was paid for it. He normally wore white men's clothes, and he traveled about freely. He did make stone tools while visitors watched, but it was not as a stage performance or in an exhibit. It was more like what we would now call a docent lecture.

Lastly, his autopsy. Kroeber was away when Ishi died. He protested against the autopsy but was unable to prevent it. He did not ignore Ishi's wishes as the phrasing suggests. When he returned, he and the other anthropologists arranged for Ishi's burial in the best approximation of his people's customs that they could come up with. (Except for his brain, which Kroeber sent off to a museum, and we can give him a big minus for that one.)

Kroeber was in many ways an honorable and admirable person, and most of his treatment of Ishi exemplifies this. If his flaws outweigh his virtues, let us balance them honestly, and not smear him in a mischievous and dishonest fashion.

Friday, January 29, 2021

musical and theatrical news

1. I've attended a couple more online concerts for reviewing purposes. Kohl Mansion is a local venue which has announced the rest of its online season, so I wrote an article which combined that news with a review of their final previously-announced concert, Beethoven's Op. 130 quartet which I was desirous of hearing anyway, and with an announcement of the release of the CD of their Violins of Hope concert which I had reviewed live. I was told I'd get a download of the album for review, but it turned out to consist only of one minute of each track. I'm not reviewing an album that way, and neither should you. So an announcement based on the copious press releases, and not a review, it was.

2. And Menlo's Gershwin-and-Ravel violin-&-piano recital, which was kind of goofy and which I'm saving up for review so that I can combine it with their next online event in a couple weeks.

3. The SF Conservatory of Music has given up on pre-registration for their inhouse concerts and are just streaming them. So I'm sampling a lot. Most interesting was one of those events where the resident professional string quartet plays student compositions. When the first piece started, I couldn't at first tell if it was the music or the players tuning up, which is the kind of problem you get with events like this. But some of the pieces were better than that. A French student channeled Debussy, but of course.

4. Some recommendations for online listening by people not me.

5. Bought a ticket to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's production called Shaw! Shaw! Shaw!, three one-act plays by GBS, on the basis of a rave review. Didn't deserve it. Shaw didn't think his own (very obscure) plays were very good, and he was an astute critic. The actors could be seen trying desperately to enact these bizarre and wooden characters. Nor, though these were all reportedly actual pre-pandemic stage productions, were they before live audiences, so no reaction to anything that might have been a laugh line.

6. Latest attempts at soothing late hours with aging thriller movies: Skyfall, only the second James Bond movie I've ever seen, was pretty good if hackneyed (Javier Bardem, then recently out of No Country for Old Men, plays the absurdly-haired villain, but of course) and mostly consisting of Bond (Daniel Craig) suffering through spectacular stunts and muttering "I'm getting too old for this crap." Breach, real-life story about the capture of Russian-spy-mole-in-the-FBI Robert Hanssen, despite good reviews did not work. Hanssen is written as a cranky old geezer and is consequently played by Chris Cooper, but of course. The movie's problem is that the feds already have the goods on Hanssen, they just need more evidence that will hold up in court. So they assign Ryan Philippe as Hanssen's bonehead assistant, his job being to make boneheaded mistakes (some deliberate and some not) to waste Hanssen's time so the feds can swoop in while he's out of the office and rifle through his stuff. So Hanssen goes to have his official photo taken, or across town to a meeting that gets cancelled. As a premise for a thriller, this is desperately dull.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

gaming in academe

The U of Glasgow's new Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic had an online lecture today, a short one (the Q&A afterwards was longer), on fantasy literature and Dungeons and Dragons: how each influenced the other. It was given by John D. Rateliff, a good choice as he's both a noted fantasy scholar and a (retired) editor of fantasy role-playing games.

John said yes, D&D clearly drew a lot from fantasy authors like Tolkien, Leiber, Howard, and Vance. From Tolkien in particular came the idea of a company of disparate heroes traveling together and working in mutual support, and a large number of the species of monsters and critters populating the invented-world template. Gary Gygax, developer of D&D, later denied that Tolkien had anything to do with it, but the evidence is clearly there in the first edition, and John speculated that Gygax changed his tune after getting some trademark cease-and-desist orders from the company that owned the marketing rights to Tolkien's characters, after which a lot of species names were changed ("hobbits" to "halflings").

John's talk was preceded by a brief introduction to the game from Grace Worm, a Glasgow grad student. This was admirably concrete, unlike many descriptions of D&D which are frustratingly vague about what players actually do during the game. I was relieved to see that, other than a vast increase in the complexity of character sheets, and the possibility of electronic substitutes for dice-rolling, little has changed since my own brief period of D&D playing about 1978.

D&D is immensely popular and addicting, and I seem to be one of the few, or at least one of the few recorded, who tried it and soon dropped out. A group of my college friends had decided to start a campaign, as a series of game sessions is called, in the then fairly new game, and I was asked to join in. Why not; we were all fantasy readers with overlapping tastes, and it might be fun.

It wasn't. I was thunderously bored, and soon quit. D&D players to whom I've told this have declared there must have been something deficient about how our campaign was built. I doubt it. The rest of the players went on; one of them told me over a decade later that they were still playing the same campaign with the same characters.

No, it was me, and what I use literature for. The appeal of D&D is often said to be that it's do-it-yourself storytelling, in which the players collectively invent the story, instead of passively absorbing it. I'm not interested in that. My primary needs from a story are an absorbing plot and captivating language, and I'm going to get a lot better story from a talented writer in control of his or her own material than from making one up myself on the fly. I'm not an inventive fiction-writer. Nor is D&D a recipe for the prose of Dunsany or Le Guin.

In D&D, I rolled up a character who, though he was but first-level, needed to know a lot more about how to operate in a world of swords and sorcery than I did, so I didn't know what to do with him. Our party set off in a random direction on the invented world's map in search of adventure. That's not the kind of premise that makes for my idea of an exciting story. And nothing much exciting happened. Oh, we were attacked by six balrogs and a witch. We had stopped in a village to which our DM had added a witch flying around on a broomstick. That was supposed to be a portent. Then he rolled to see if we were attacked while we were there. We were. Attacked by what? Roll again. A balrog. How many balrogs? Roll again. Six. That just seemed kind of silly to me.

After several sessions I started taking a book to the game to read to pass the time more agreeably, and then I found the other players were making my rolls rather than disturb me. So why was I there at all? But I'm glad I had the experience, because it means that, when I see references to this ubiquitous game, I know what's being talked about.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

English suites and others no. 34

Have another Malipiero retelling, this one his Vivaldiana. Although it doesn't always sound much more like Vivaldi than Fritz Kreisler's pseudo-Vivaldi violin concerto - in fact the opening bars sound rather like Henry Cowell - it's fun, especially the lively last movement (10.59).

I'm setting an informal limit in this series of two items per composer, but I wouldn't leave you without a link to Malipiero's third and grandest resetting of old music, Gabrieliana.

Monday, January 25, 2021

transgressive books

Maria Dahvana Headley, Beowulf: A New Translation (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
B. has been trying to get this from the library for months, but they keep denying it exists and giving her The Mere Wife instead. I simply went online and ordered a copy.
This is supposed to be the feminist translation of Beowulf, but there isn't room for much feminism in Beowulf. What this one does is clearly reveal, scrubbed of all the formal and archaic language that traditionally surrounds the poem, how intensely masculine a story it is. Told in blunt modern language that retains the terseness of the original ("The Geat was ready to rumble, pissed now.") and festooned with exclamations of "Bro" and "Dude", it's a story of warrior jocks, with no room for the pale sorts you'd imagine studying Anglo-Saxon in a classroom.
One major feminist point by omission: Headley makes clear that descriptions of Grendel's mother as a monster are artifacts of past translations, not of the original poem. So she omits them. Though the remaining descriptions of Grendel's mother are alarming enough.
Tolkien is mentioned once, in the introduction, for Headley to disagree with his statement that "if you wish to translate, not re-write, Beowulf, your language must be literary and traditional." I'm sure that Tolkien would have responded that Headley's translation is a re-writing, but then Tolkien thought the only need for a Modern English translation was as a crib: he didn't think Anglo-Saxon was a difficult language for a Modern English speaker to learn.

Derf Backderf, Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio (Abrams Comicarts)
I'd seen praise of this graphic-novel retelling of the 1970 tragedy, so I ordered it too. As a recounting it turned out to be excellent, covering the complex events of four days of protest with clarity which the visual format makes an essential contribution to. It's meticulously researched, as well, with 26 pages of source notes. This is, obviously, a backloaded story, mostly intended to explain how it got to the point where the shootings, which begin on p. 218 of a 280-page book, happened. There's a lot on the background and personal lives of the four victims, something which the story-telling format is well-equipped to fill in, but it also gives perspectives of other students, the National Guard soldiers, and the authorities; and for this, a lot of expository text on the outside agitators that the authorities feared is given: necessary for context, though mostly irrelevant to the Kent State protests.
The re-creation of the physical setting is meticulous, but the art style is extremely ugly and the drawings of faces grotesque and clotted. A guardsman, for instance, is stated to be a 22-year-old student, but with glasses and in his helmet, he looks like Phil Silvers. And most of the people have what looks like a drop of snot dripping down from their nostrils. I'm sure that's not what it's intended to be, but I can't figure out what it is intended to be, and that's what it looks like.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

English suites and others no. 33

Respighi wasn't the only Italian composer of his generation to retell older music. So did Gian Francesco Malipiero, who compiled several suites out of the music of earlier Italian composers. His first, and the liveliest and goofiest of the bunch, was La Cimarosiana, based on keyboard pieces of the 18C Domenico Cimarosa, better-known for his operas.

Friday, January 22, 2021


It was dry when I went out to pick up our weekly grocery order, but otherwise today it rained a lot, first heavy rain of the season. This followed a couple days of blustery winds, which knocked another slat out of the fence around our front porch. I tucked it back into place, where it will probably stay until the next high wind.

Still working on a large bag of lemons we were given as a casual gift. (And what's the next post on the neighborhood association list? Someone giving away free lemons!) Having had success with a lemon-butter sauce on chicken, this time I tried a lemon-cream sauce on the same chicken. I very much like the way of cooking chicken, by the way: slice a breast fillet into two thin pieces, season and coat lightly with flour, and pan fry on medium in an even mixture of butter and olive oil for 4 minutes a side. Take the chicken out, leave the drippings in, and cook the sauce in the same pan. It also works with winglets.

I am vastly amused by the distress of the QAnon people who were utterly convinced that DT was going to stage a military coup at 12 noon on Wednesday, that being the last possible moment he could have done it. Why do they think he would have waited so long? I guess only because he never did it earlier, when it would have made more sense if any of the conspiracies had been true. When asked about it, DT would indicate that he was aware that QAnon considered him their savior, but he seemed vague about what they expected him to do about it. Possibly they thought he was mounting the ultimate stealth operation, or maybe they just ignored what he said, which anybody considering him either sane or competent would have to do.

A few orders of books have come in:

Dan Ackerman, The Tetris Effect: The Game That Hypnotized the World
Not a gaming book, but a business book, because the process of marketing this thing and sorting out the rights was far more complicated than anything about inventing it, let alone playing it. Though I did like the story about showing the game to one software marketing CEO and having to pry him away from the computer six hours later.

Roger Angell, This Old Man
I like Roger Angell's writing, even when too much of it is about baseball. He is a worthy successor to his stepfather, E.B. White.

Christopher Fifield, The German Symphony between Beethoven and Brahms
Will tell you all about composers you've never heard of, like Woldemar Bargiel (Clara Schumann's brother, bet you didn't know that) and Felix Draeseke, and even some composers I'd never heard of, like Franz Xaver Schnyder von Wartensee (what a moniker) or Julius Otto Grimm.

Gary Krist, The Mirage Factory
The making of Los Angeles, 1900-1930, by which date it was well on its way to being a great metropolis, and also by which date the careers of all three of the book's protagonists - William Mulholland, D.W. Griffith, and Aimee Semple McPherson - had crashed and burned.

J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters from Father Christmas
A new "deluxe edition," more physically readable than the 1999 edition with the text overprinted on the illustrations, but they still haven't managed to accurately transcribe the letters, even the ones actually shown in the illustrations. This is vexing.

Anthony Tommasini, The Indispensable Composers: A Personal Guide
Never mind that I consider half of the 17 composers covered in this book to be eminently dispensable, though I am distressed by Tommasini's extremely traditional modernist limitation of what constitutes 20th century greatness. "Personal" means a lot of reminiscences of what particular compositions meant to him, especially piano works from his early career as a budding pianist. The book was redeemed by its Epilogue, which stoutly says yes, the serialist hegemony was a real thing, and more of a blight for its awful rhetoric than its music, which modernist Tommasini finds valuable.

and two movies:

Even though I don't care for jazz, certainly not this guy's jazz, I was beginning to get caught up in this story of a man who's trying to make it as a musician and escape from the drudgery of teaching high school band, when all of a sudden the plot made a left turn and became a remake of Defending Your Life, a movie I disliked and not just because it starred Albert Brooks.

The Vast of Night
Demonstration that you can't make an effective movie out of people talking nonstop, or at least these people can't. Hushed accounts of mysterious happenings and conspiracies don't cut the mustard. I'd just say "uh-huh" and back slowly away.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Senate: it's done

The Senate was called to order, VP Harris announced the submission of two electoral certificates from Georgia and an appointment to replace for her own resignation from California (which she added was a weird thing to say) and swore in the incumbents. Then they formally elected the most senior Democratic senator (Patrick Leahy) as president pro tem to replace the most senior Republican senator, and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took the floor as majority leader, and began by welcoming his three new colleagues: Senators Warnock, Ossoff, and Padilla.

"Well, that's it," I said. "Our long national nightmare is over."

Of course I was watching the inauguration. Klobuchar as MC was enthused. Amanda Gorman, the national poet, gave her own version of an inaugural address. It felt securing to have such determination and aspiration from a young person. Biden's speech was also aspirational, but it specifically brought up all the major problems we face, including racial issues: so it felt clear-eyed and also determined. Justice Sotomayor, didn't anyone tell you how to pronounce "Kamala"?

Three ex-presidents and their wives were there, huddled together. Everyone wanted to talk to Barack Obama. Were I to greet him today, I'd say, "We miss you. I liked your book." The Carters had to decline attendance due to age, I guess, but Biden mentioned them. He didn't mention the one who was missing.

Mike Pence, thank you for being there, sir, to represent the transition, as also for having carried out your duty in presiding over the electoral vote count. Now you can go home to Indiana and may we never have to think about you again. And take the fly with you.

Of course I was interested in the music. Lady Gaga was a little creative with the tune to "The Star-Spangled Banner," and dressed as if to remind everyone that the Duchess of Windsor was American. Jennifer Lopez was extremely creative with her tunes. I don't think I'd heard her sing before; is she always like that? Garth Brooks had to refrain from being creative with "Amazing Grace" if he wanted everyone to sing along, which we did; and he walked as if he were trying simultaneously to ride a horse.

Aerial shot of the scene. Look, Donald, a smaller crowd than yours!

Now the next exciting news is the Senate. When does it turn to Democratic control? Maybe this afternoon - they meet at 4:30 EST - but not yet. As of this writing the new senators have still not taken office, as the list of senators on the official website doesn't include them and still has Loeffler (who as an appointee stays in office until her successor formally takes over). She gave a farewell speech yesterday, in which she went so far as to denounce "cancel culture," pretty ironic since she supported the biggest cancel-culture warrior of them all. It's not until both of VP Harris taking the chair and all three new senators, including Harris's successor, take office that the Democrats can take control. You need all those things, not just some of them.

Anyway, we got through that OK, though I nearly froze in terror at a momentary break in the tv feed during President Biden's speech. "President Biden": that feels good, and especially "Vice President Harris" - wow, that's amazing. Well, on to the next step.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

English suites and others no. 32

Ottorino Respighi produced another suite of ancient airs and dances besides the three that bear that name. My favorite of his works is the suite Gli uccelli "The Birds", which orchestrates five avian depictions from early keyboard or lute pieces.

The five are, with time stamps for this recording, 0.00 Prelude (Bernardo Pasquini), 3.07 The Dove (Jacques de Gallot), 7.30 The Hen (Jean-Philippe Rameau), 10.26 The Nightingale (Jacob van Eyck), 14.08 The Cuckoo (Pasquini again).

But you have to be careful in selecting a recording of this suite. Too often it's played mechanically, and becomes tick-tock and dull. It needs life and breath, and, for that, no conductor is more reliable than good old Eugene Ormandy.

Monday, January 18, 2021

o to be a blogger

1. Today Kamala Harris officially resigns her Senate seat prior to taking office as VP on Wednesday. I'm anticipatory too.

2. Ben Sasse actually called Marjorie Taylor Greene "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." I thought I was the only person who still said that. Sasse is 15 years younger than I; I'm surprised he remembers those ads. Will he warn us of "Danger Will Robinson" next? I have never seen that line quoted without a common reaction of "huh?"

3. Oh, come on. I know Joe is better than the last President, but ... a halo?

4. If the last guy pardons the rioters, that will really bite. But perhaps not, since they only rioted for him, they didn't give him thousands of dollars.

5. His most notable and characteristic lies. When it's said you cannot trust a word that man says, it's meant literally.

6. But he is not the only politician to suffer mouth-diarrhea. Lip-synch parody of Andrew Cuomo.

7. Le Guin is on a stamp! And for a single representative scene from her work: Estraven and Genly on the ice. I guess that'll do. Too bad it's a 3-ounce stamp: how often does one need one of those?

8. Recovery of lost music from WW2 by a Polish composer.

9. I know it's not charitable, but I'm kind of relieved that this guy is gone.

10. Dept. of Isolating Even More: It's time to stop even masked errands. OK, I've been worried about this since last month. Oh, and cloth masks were only intended as an interim solution until they could distribute something better: that I didn't know.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

English suites and others no. 31

This is the continuation of a series I was keeping for several months a couple years ago, starting with 20 favorite suites by English composers and then going on to a few that were Celtic and then French. Now it's time to move on to other countries, and the outstanding Italian suites have to be Ottorino Respighi's three sets of Ancient Airs and Dances, ideal examples of the neoclassical penchant for retelling older music in modern instrumentation. Here you will hear pieces originally by Fabritio Caroso and Jean-Baptiste Besard and such historical names.

The Ancient Airs and Dances get played a lot, particularly on radio, but if there's one of the sets that gets overlooked it's No. 2, so that's the one you'll get here, from the LA Chamber Orchestra under Neville Marriner.

The movements are Laura soave (0:00), Danza rustica (3:51), Campanae parisienses & Aria (7:32), Bergamasca (12:41).

Friday, January 15, 2021

Janáček's Capriccio

Excuse the interruption, but I've just found a recording I've been looking for for nearly 50 years.

It's a particular performance of Leoš Janáček's Capriccio for piano (left hand) and wind/brass ensemble. This is the performance I first encountered the work in, way back then, and despite its spiky modernism I was captivated, much as I was by other Janáček works like his famous Sinfonietta.

But being unable to find a copy of this recording of the Capriccio for my own, I turned to other recordings of the work, and found they didn't have the particular blend and balance of instruments, and the ensemble and flow of this performance. Eventually I gave up.

Suddenly it occurred to me to check YouTube and I found it had recently gone up. It's single-channel mono (I'm pretty sure it was stereo when I heard it before) and scratchy, but it's the right performance at last. I don't expect anyone else to like this as I do, but here it is: Leonid Hambro, piano, with the Boston Brass Ensemble conducted by Eric Simon, in the Capriccio by Leoš Janáček:

Thursday, January 14, 2021

impeachment notes

So I was reading the Congressional Record for impeachment day (PDF), and, besides the comment from Rules Committee chairman Jim McGovern about how he started out on Capitol Hill as an intern working for Senator George McGovern - "No relation. Great last name." - I was most interested in the speeches for and against the impeachment measure and the report that enabled it. So many representatives wanted to speak that the floor manager lined them up in alphabetical order and gave them 30 seconds each, which was not usually enough time to get past denunciations of the riot.

Most of the Democrats said the same thing - they denounced the riots and said therefore we must impeach - but the Republicans had a few points. One frequently deployed argument was that yeah, the riots were terrible, but what we need now is unity and healing, not recrimination. This was effectively responded to by Mike Quigley (D-IL), who said, "Never, as a criminal defense attorney, did I say: Judge, yeah, my guy completed the armed robbery, but let's heal now. No. There was accountability. There was accountability then, there should be accountability now, and there should be impeachment now."

Brian Mast (R-FL) asked what he intended as a rhetorical question, was there any evidence that rioters had come to Washington because Trump encouraged them to do so? An article in the Washington Post answered that: Yes.

But the strangest Republican argument was an attempt to somehow delegitimize the impeachment by claiming that Democrats have something against Trump and have been trying to impeach him since he took office. The usual response to this one was to point out that Democrats, as a group, voted those early attempts at impeachment down. They said that because at heart they're timorous beasties, just like Republicans. They should have said, "Yes indeed, we have something against Trump," and then said what it was with something like this:
The millions of Americans who understood this Presidency from its first day as a national emergency, a threat to domestic and global security, can be excused for finding it curious that so many are now taking the exit ramp for the road to Damascus three years and fifty weeks later. How surprising can Trump's recent provocation be when for years he has served as an inspiration to bigots everywhere, to damaged souls plotting to mail pipe bombs to journalists and to kidnap the governor of Michigan?
This dawning of conscience is as bewitching as it is belated. The grandees of the G.O.P. always knew who Trump was - they were among the earliest to confront his most salient qualities. During the 2016 campaign, Ted Cruz called Trump "a pathological liar" and "a snivelling coward." Chris Christie described him as a "carnival barker." Mitch McConnell remarked, with poetic understatement, that Trump "doesn't know a lot about the issues." And Lindsey Graham warned, "If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed." He added, "And we will deserve it." (David Remnick, New Yorker, 1/18)

it's giving me nightmares

What a strange dream. I dreamed I was attending the electoral vote count of 1825 - how I got there I don't know. All the presidential and vice-presidential candidates were there (there were a lot of them that year) and all the then-living ex-presidents. But I didn't like the way some of them were smirking at me, so I got angry and stole some of the electoral vote certificates when nobody was looking. I stuffed them down my trousers and then hid them under the turf representing California (which wasn't part of the US then, so I don't know what that was doing there) at the other end of the hall. Then I went away and waited for the next day's newspapers to come out to find out if they noticed anything was missing, while worrying how I was going to explain this to B. and how I was going to write about it on my blog.

Dreams are incomprehensible, but sometimes reality is incomprehensible also.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

from the original tape

A couple months ago, B. was cleaning out some of her stuff and handed me a couple of thin square boxes. They contained the recording of her senior recital when she was a voice student in college. It had been preserved on a pair of reel-to-reel tapes, but who has a reel-to-reel tape recorder? In over 40 years, B. had never heard herself do this. Could I see about getting these transferred?

I thought I could. I found a small local firm that does audio transfers and has a good rating, and filled out my order online for a CD transfer. It said at that point it would probably take about 4 weeks, which would make it just in time for a Christmas present. It was pretty expensive, but I knew it'd be worth it.

Then I had to label the tapes and take them to the firm's office, which was tucked away close to the morticians' office that handled my mother's funeral, about 15 miles from here, and handed them over in a proper socially distanced manner that had been outlined on the web site.

It was when I got the invoice by e-mail that I found the formal ETA was seven weeks - I guess they were busy - so without saying what it was I told B. at Christmas that the arrival of her present had been delayed.

So I got the notification a couple days early that it was ready, went and picked it up, and played it in my car's CD player on the way home and then out later, taking notes of the time stamps when the pieces started. There had been copies of the program with the tapes, but the audio people of course didn't know what would be on the tapes; they just made one CD track for each tape. Then I typed up an insert with all the program info and the time stamps, and put it in the case, wrapped up the result, and gave it to B. after dinner.

She was thrilled and listened to the whole thing. The transfer was excellent and the sound quality turned out to be good. (I had suspected noise reduction wouldn't be necessary, and am now glad I opted to omit it.) B. sang a large chunk of a Bach cantata,* song sequences by Mussorgsky (in English) and Poulenc (in French), and as a final treat a French opera aria which you may have heard: it's this one. The program was interesting to hear: I thought she did very well for a student, though this was about a decade before we met, and her voice had matured in tone quality a lot before I heard her sing. Anyway, now B. has heard herself, and we have it in a nice little accessible form.

*Well, not quite. B.'s teacher chose this piece because it's one of the two times Bach set lyrics in Italian, only it turns out he didn't. It's misattributed and is actually by G.P. Telemann. (The other one is also misattributed.) By the way, nobody has told Wikipedia about the authorship problem, but I'm sure not going to.

Monday, January 11, 2021

anniversary of the day

Ahem: "Fifty years ago — on Jan. 11, 1971 — journalist Don Hoefler started a three-part series in Electronic News about the Bay Area semiconductor industry titled 'Silicon Valley U.S.A.'" Hoefler hadn't invented the name, but this was the first time it was used in print.

It took a while to propagate. I'd already been living in Silicon Valley for a decade at the time, but it took yet another decade before I heard the name, though by then I was already well aware of its manifestations. I knew people who were early employees at Apple, for instance, because they were also science-fiction fans as I was. But though I'm electronically enhanced in a way - I'm the librarian who took away your card catalog and replaced it with a computer database, literally so in the case of a couple local colleges - I've never worked for a tech firm, though I had a narrow escape or two.

The linked article says that Silicon Valley is now so famous that people know where it is who couldn't find San Jose, the largest city in the area, on a map. I'm not so sure about that, or at least that it's always been this way. Silicon Valley was already as famous, and not nearly so tattered in reputation, in the mid 1990s as it is today, and that's when I was visiting a Brit who, on my mentioning an association with the place, hauled out an atlas and asked me to point out exactly where Silicon Valley was, anyway.

I defined it, at least then, as a concept rather than a place, but it did have a geographical location, and I identified that as the contiguous area where electronics seemed to be the principal industry: centered on the area just west/northwest of San Jose (Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Cupertino) and radiating as far NW as Redwood City, to the north to Fremont, and to the east and south through San Jose to its far-side fringes. Living as I do now in Sunnyvale directly on the Cupertino border, half a mile from both the old Apple hq and its new spaceship, I'm still right in the middle, but that doesn't mean I can get a good cellphone signal at home.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

another 48-hour Shakespeare play festival

Silicon Valley Shakespeare does this annually: giving teams each with 4 actors, a writer, and a director 48 hours to write and rehearse a 10-minute skit based on a given Shakespeare play and employing a given premise, each different for each skit, and then perform them before an audience when the 48 hours are up. I've seen these before, and they can be pretty funny.

This year, of course, they had to be done over Zoom, and all eight were performed live as we watched them, so the premises were also all pandemic-based. Rather brilliantly, most took the characters and concept of the play and translated them to a contemporary setting, so the Zoom was integral to the plot and not just to the performance; a couple even threw in references to Wednesday's coup. Strangely, two of them were about cooking competitions, and a third also mentioned food: Macbeth as a corporate virtual happy hour meeting, with Mackers trying to hide what he'd been doing over at Duncan's place, pretending that the red stuff on his hands was cranberries he'd been crushing for juice by hand. "I like it tart," he says. "You know, in Scotland we don't sweeten things, we tartan them."

That was the most groanworthy line of the evening, and Max Tachis, the writer, also earns points for creative use of the chat function, having M. and Lady M. exchanging messages about the murder plot that they don't realize aren't private and the other characters can see them.

Better still was Ross Arden Harkness's "Blow Zoom and Crack Your Cheeks," in which a modern Lear convenes his daughters (all excellently characterized) online to tell them the terms of his will, but his Zoom feed keeps freezing at critical moments, so they can't figure out what he's telling them. (Rather than actually attempting to freeze the feed, the actor playing Lear just stopped talking or moving and then cut his feed. It worked well enough.)

But the best of all was "The Scourge of Verona" by Anne Yumi Kobori, initially a comedy but which turns into a tragedy when Juliet's father murders Romeo for possession of the last roll of toilet paper in the city. The Nurse, played by a man in falsetto, was especially good, but what made this play particularly outstanding in the bunch was the author's ability to write much of her contemporary dialogue in Shakespearean verse form.

I voted for those two in the audience poll, and I guess others agreed because they won the poll. But everything was at least interesting. A good evening "out" and the most refreshing I've had in a while.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

quasigrecian thoughts

1. I rarely listen to podcasts, so the link text on a Slate advice column one, "My co-worker changed their name to something that sounds like a private part," will have to remain a mystery. What could the name be? Dick?

2. Speaking of which, the prompt identifications and arrests of Lectern Man, Viking Helmet Man, and Dick-Pointing Man are minor but gratifying follow-ups to Wednesday's disaster. May they have long spells in small locked rooms to contemplate their brief moments of glory.

3. B's reaction to the whole thing has been to dig out our recording of Sondheim's Assassins and play that as her choice of music while washing dishes.

4. I was planning on making a post out of judicious quotes from the Congressional Record by the senators in the election debate - I was most struck by Mitt Romney's "No congressional audit is ever going to convince these voters, particularly when the President will continue to say that the election was stolen. The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth" - but collecting an assemblage seemed beside the point now.

4a. But what I do want to draw attention to is a House speech by Chip Roy (R-TX). In opposing the challenge to the results, he said that he was taking this stand despite his profound disagreements with those who, he said, "wish to remake America into a socialist welfare state." And he embarked on a short list of his policy disagreements, which all reminded me of right-wing caricatures rather than what progressives really stand for. I suspect I know where he's getting this guff from. I lack the dedication to go after them all, but there's one I particularly want to draw attention to. Roy said, "We can't even agree that there is man and woman." And by gum, there it is, British-style TERFmania, projected from the mouth of a conservative Republican congressman in the U.S. It's the notion that the existence of trans people erases the difference between the sexes, when in fact it reinforces it - if there were no sexes, what would be the point of transitioning? - that really gives the flavor.

5. Our local paper has a transportation q-and-a column called "Mr. Roadshow," very useful for its info on road closing and repairs, driving tips, and so on, but sometimes it goes off-topic. The latest was a fierce argument over whether it's insulting to address women of age as "young lady." The defenses rather sounded like the infamous John Wilson, H.R. Haldeman's lawyer, who muttered that Senator Inouye was "a little Jap," and claimed that there was nothing wrong with saying that because he himself wouldn't mind being called "a little American."

5a. Anyway, a more agreeable digression in the Mr. Roadshow column was Mrs. Roadshow's recipe for shrimp with pasta. It looked about my speed, and we had all the staple ingredients already in stock, so I bought shrimp and made it tonight. Delicious, another addition to my repertoire.

6. Speaking of buying, the great tension-maker of our weekly grocery pickup order is the bag of kale. B. uses this to make salads for lunch, so we buy a 10-ounce bag every week. The problem is the expiration date. Kale goes bad (the technical term B. uses is "stinky") a day or two before the date marked on the bag (something it has in common with seafood, which was responsible for my bout of food poisoning a couple months ago, and nothing else), so if we get a bag that's got a week or less to go, it'll go bad before the next shopping. There's room for special comments on the order form, but these are not always seen by the pickers. What I've taken to doing is submitting a second weekly order to another store in the chain, one we ceased using regularly because their customer service is spotty, and ordering the kale again if we need it (along with anything else the first store was out of, and various items this store carries but the other doesn't). So far we've been lucky with this method.

Friday, January 8, 2021

DT agony-stes

I must say it's kind of awesome watching what seems like the entire known universe rising in revulsion against the Giant Orange Slug. For nearly five years now we've wondered what it would take to break the spell of this monster, as he committed one tone-deaf atrocity after another. But as with Nixon and the "smoking gun" tape, there turned out to be something beyond the pale, and directly inciting a seditious terrorist coup to attack the Congress for the formal proceedings of certifying the electoral vote, plus gloating afterwards as if he'd done something really nifty, turned out to be it.

Shall we have impeachment, resignation, the 25th? All kinds of previously unlikely officials, including some Republicans, are signing up for one or another pathway, falling over themselves in their eagerness to get him out before another two weeks can pass. He's been permanently banned from Twitter. A university that awarded him an honorary degree decades ago has rescinded it. The Joint Chiefs have been asked not to let him blow up the world (a similar request was made about Nixon). His enablers have been caught up in it as well: Hawley lost his book deal; Democrats have demanded that he and Cruz resign. The rioters are facing felony murder charges for the death of the cop they clocked over the head with a fire extinguisher. (That's the least of what they deserve.) And so on.

It goes on and on, and I've seen nothing like it since the final act of Watergate. Like then, we've narrowly avoided something truly awful, so the reaction is hardly disproportionate. As with Meghan McCain suddenly realizing that parental leave is a good idea after all, it took people long enough to realize the magnitude of the problem, but it's welcome once it's come.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

electoral unvote

Right now an actual attempted coup is going on, as a mob storms the Capitol (not "protesters": protesters are not so violent). Clearly they are not interested in accepting Ted Cruz's proposal for an electoral commission to calmly and impartially judge the claims of irregularity.

In the meantime, though, I watched the Senate proceedings in the Arizona case as far as they went, before they were shut down (ironically, as a pro-objection senator was speaking). In an attempt to make some observations before either a) every other commenter in the world has had their say, or b) before our system of government breaks down completely, I'd like to focus on Cruz's speech. Cruz says that he doesn't want to overturn the vote certificates per se, just to appoint a commission to examine the "evidence." I put that in quotes because, of course, there is no evidence. The state executives, the legislatures, the courts have all had an opportunity to have their say, and they've all either rejected the case or declined the opportunity to try. So what could a commission do?

It was Pat Toomey, the senator speaking next, who in the course of what was otherwise an airy objection to making Congress the arbiter of state votes, made the substantive objection. What criteria would the commission use to determine fairness of election? And how on earth would they get this done in two weeks?

(Cruz got his inspiration from the electoral commission of 1877, whose replication was obviated by the electoral act of 1887, but let that pass. Let us also let pass that it was created because of some states submitting two competing certificates, something that hasn't happened today. That commission, by the way, had not two weeks but a whole month to do its work, and even that wasn't enough. Instead of coming to a conclusion on the merits, after weeks of partisan deadlock they fashioned a hasty dirty compromise by which the party of the North got the presidency and the party of the South got Reconstruction ended so that they could impose Jim Crow. (I'm not calling them "Republicans" and "Democrats" because they have nothing in common with the parties of those names today.))

Cruz says that if you believe the charges are false, you have nothing to fear from a commission. Yeah, right: that's like saying that if you're innocent you have nothing to fear from the police. But even if that's so: Cruz keeps harping on the 39% of people he says think there was fraud (which includes, he pointed out, a few Democrats: what he didn't point out is that they think the fraud came from Trump and the Russians), but does he really think a hastily-assembled commission could quell an opinion that the combined executives, legislatures, and courts of the states in question could not? Needless to add, the only reason these 39% are objecting anyway is because Cruz's allies goaded them into it by raising these specious charges in the first place. They make this stuff up, they prod people into believing it, then they use that belief as evidence that there's something really there.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

social distancing

Despite my pledge not to go anywhere or do anything, I went out on two major errands today, intended to ensure that two things important to me remain in good running shape, my car and my cat.

First was taking Maia back to the vet for a teeth cleaning. This was relatively easy from a virus-safety point of view. You phone the vet when you arrive and the tech comes out to the car, takes (and brings back) the cat carrier from the passenger-side door, and conducts the paperwork from that location also. Everyone's masked except for the cat.

For the cat, however, this is not so easy. Maia is hard to pin down when a carrier is in the offing, and this time I resorted to trickery, due to the requirement that she not have any food in the morning. Both cats rushed into the bathroom, where the food is kept, ahead of me, which made it easy to shut the door behind them. Then when I opened the shower stall, revealing the cat carrier that had been secreted there the previous night, she gave a wail of dismay and huddled on the floor, but offered no resistance when I picked her up. Then I went back to the bedroom to report to a still-drowsing B. "We have capture," I said, which is what you say when the CSM docks with the LM.

Maia came through the procedure fine, and so did my car through its regular servicing. I'd last been there in July, when I could see that the pandemic restrictions were well-enforced there, and I waited over in the sales area away from the other customers. I did that again this time, hoping to avoid too much contact, even though the incidence of infection has much increased since then. But I need my car to stay in good working condition.

I'm particularly concerned about the new more contagious strand of virus. That's already in California, and has been detected as far north as San Bernardino. Since that's in the same state it may not seem very far, but California is big: that's 400 miles from here, as far as Baltimore is from Boston (6 to 8 states, depending on what route you take). So I thought it best to go now, before things get worse.

Another thing they have in places like San Bernardino that we don't have here is anti-mask protesters. What is with these people? What is so horrible about a basic and non-intrusive safety precaution? B., as a former retail clerk, is particularly incensed about the attacks on clerks for trying to enforce the house rules. If you don't like the rules, go shop somewhere else. Good luck at finding one, though.

Tomorrow I think I'll watch, or at least begin to watch, the Congressional proceedings with the electoral vote. They meet at 10 AM PST/1 PM EST, and I wonder what they will do.

Monday, January 4, 2021

notes of the days

1. One on my reading list has provided, not just cities visited in 2020, but cities not visited, i.e. those for which trips were cancelled. That hadn't occurred to me to do, even though for a while I was posting a monthly list of concerts not attended on the same basis. I think it hadn't occurred to me because I don't always know exactly where I would be staying. But I can say that known trips for the year that didn't take place would have taken me to:

Upland, IN
Albuquerque, NM
Montgomery County, MD
Ashland, OR, and Seattle, WA (by car)

2. I didn't participate in the "round-the-world" sf-fannish New Year's Eve party, but I did log in for the (British) Tolkien Society's Tolkien's Birthday toast (he's 129) on Sunday. I had a glass of the Chaucer's Mead that B. had bought for the holidays, appropriate both because this was a mead-ing and because Chaucer was an author that Tolkien actually liked, a rare find indeed. We had the traditional toasts, to the Queen (told you they were British), to Absent Friends, and to The Professor; TS chair Shaun Gunner read aloud the scene of Bilbo's Birthday speech (ending with Bilbo's last words, "I am going. I am leaving NOW. GOOD-BYE!" and not recounting what happens next), and then we split up into randomly-assigned breakout rooms to chat with our fellow members. Mine included two people I already knew, plus several cats in different households. I regretted that my cats were usually asleep at this hour, but the others told me that no, when I was out of the room for a bit a cat made an appearance on my video feed. "Was it the dilute orange one?" I asked. Yes, they confirmed. "I thought so. His name is Tybalt," I said.

3. Those awkward night hours when I can't go back to sleep but am too tired to work are a good time for watching movies, though they leave me easily impatient. Going over what's new on Amazon this month that I hadn't seen had me turning off both Face/Off and Donnie Brasco after a few minutes each because even the good guys were totally repulsive characters, and why is a guy called "Lefty" when he's conspicuously right-handed? On the other hand, Escape from Alcatraz, even though I knew already it would be more a prison-life movie than an exciting-escape movie, was so excellently directed and paced that I found it totally engrossing. Even better watching than Clint Eastwood being strong and silent as the chief escapee, was the sadistic prison warden who was played by - of all people - Patrick McGoohan. Uttering the same kind of authoritarian blither that so enraged his character in The Prisoner when it came from various Number Twos, he was cold and smug, McGoohan's acting specialty. Consequently the sound of thunder, exactly like that which begins The Prisoner's opening credits, and a shot of a helicopter landing on a beach, struck me as Prisoner references likewise. And it's a movie about prisoners, right? Right.

4. There's been an enormous amount of coverage of the tape of DT's phone call to the Georgia election officials (the state Secretary of State and his lawyer). Setting new records for horrifying, even from this source, it is best characterized by Dan Rather's tweet, "It's like telling the Nixon tapes to 'hold my beer.'" Numerous articles on the legal implications, of which the best I've read is this one, point out that DT's only possible defense against prosecution for attempted election fraud is that he really believes the guff he's spewing out. (Fraud has to be conscious.) Which he must believe, otherwise there's be no force in his threatening Raffensperger and Germany with their own prosecutions for fraud for having suppressed the alternative universe in which DT won. But there's a huge flaw in his taking this approach, and it was Jonathan Chait who best pointed it out: he "does not sound like a man who believes he has uncovered a serious crime. He sounds, instead, like a man who is engaged in a negotiation, offering his counterpart a cover story he can use to deliver the goods. ... He doesn’t care what process or rationale Raffensperger employs to arrive at that bottom line, any more than he cared what section of the Ukrainian criminal code Zelensky would charge Biden with supposedly violating." So as we already knew, at heart he's a mobster. He should be a character in Donnie Brasco. Then I could turn him off after 15 minutes and not have to think about it further.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

books of 2020

Several people on my reading list have submitted lists of the books they read last year, a meme I don't recall having been used very commonly in previous years. I feel moved sort of to follow suit.

These are not by any means all the books I read last year, but they are the ones I either reviewed or otherwise substantially alluded to in blog posts. They include finishing up a year-and-a-half reading project of the "American Presidents" series, but they don't include the next concerted reading project I undertook, since I saved up reviews of those and, as I'm just now finishing it, will publish them shortly.

Much of my leisure reading, especially in the pandemic season, has been directed through a list I've been keeping of books that attracted my attention through others' reviews, news articles, etc. I look up a sequence of these in a library catalog and check out as a batch the next three or four that the library has.

Also note that, of the 45 books listed here, only 3 are fiction, and two of those were read more through obligation than spontaneous curiosity. That's a typical ratio for my reading.

On Division by Goldie Goldbloom (Farrar Straus Giroux)
The Canons of Fantasy: Lands of High Adventure by Patrick Moran (Cambridge UP)
The Shape of Fantasy: Investigating the Structure of American Heroic Epic Fantasy by C. Palmer-Patel (Routledge)
A Modernist Fantasy: Modernism, Anarchism, and the Radical Fantastic by James Gifford (ELS Editions)
The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (New York University Press)
Re-Enchanted: The Rise of Children’s Fantasy Literature in the Twentieth Century by Maria Sachiko Cecire (University of Minnesota Press)
The Dandelion Insurrection by Rivera Sun (Rising Sun Press)
Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Desirina Boskovich (Abrams Image)
MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)
What's Your Pronoun?: Beyond He & She by Dennis Baron (Liveright)
Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia (Basic Books)
Superheavy: Making and Breaking the Periodic Table by Kit Chapman (Bloomsbury Sigma)
Dominion by Peter Ackroyd (St Martins)
Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff (Harper)
A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government by Garry Wills (Simon & Schuster)
Cold Fire: Kennedy's Northern Frontier by John Boyko (Knopf)
The Collapse of the Third Republic by William L. Shirer (Simon & Schuster)
John F. Kennedy by Alan Brinkley (Times Books)
Lyndon B. Johnson by Charles Peters (Times Books)
Richard M. Nixon by Elizabeth Drew (Times Books)
Gerald R. Ford by Douglas Brinkley (Times Books)
Jimmy Carter by Julian E. Zelizer (Times Books)
Ronald Reagan by Jacob Weisberg (Times Books)
George H.W. Bush by Timothy Naftali (Times Books)
Bill Clinton by Michael Tomasky (Times Books)
George W. Bush by James Mann (Times Books)
The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln by Sidney Blumenthal (Simon & Schuster)
The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton (Simon & Schuster)
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum (Doubleday)
The Bible Doesn't Say That by Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (St Martin's)
Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages by Gaston Dorren (Atlantic Monthly)
At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson (Doubleday)
Enough's Enough by Calvin Trillin (Ticknor & Fields)
You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf from Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia by Jack Lynch (Bloomsbury Press)
In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs edited by Andrew Blauner (Blue Rider Press)
Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music (and Why We Should, Like, Care) by John McWhorter (Gotham Books)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (HarperCollins)
Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities by Martha C. Nussbaum (Princeton UP)
First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama by Joshua Kendall (Grand Central)
The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government by Fergus M. Bordewich (Simon & Schuster)
Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna (Random House)
Countdown: An Autobiography by Frank Borman with Robert J. Serling (Silver Arrow Books)
Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris (Penguin)
The White House Mess by Christopher Buckley (Knopf)
A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Crown)

Saturday, January 2, 2021

bureaucratic mysteryscape

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA) made me eligible for California state unemployment insurance, even though I had been working only irregularly. Back in March I filled out an application. Every two weeks I fill out a form to certify that I'm available for work: they add another $300 or so to my account and send an e-mail telling me how much more I'm still entitled to on my claim, which is still about $1000.

But the PUA originally expired at the end of the year, and this week's email says, "YOUR CLAIM HAS ENDED. IF YOU HAVE ALREADY FILED YOUR NEXT CLAIM, YOU DO NOT NEED TO CONTACT THE DEPARTMENT. IF YOU NEED TO FILE YOUR NEXT CLAIM, VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT WWW.EDD.CA.GOV," which is where I already am.

But when I go to file a new claim, it says, "If you filed an Unemployment Insurance claim less than 12 months ago and stopped certifying for benefits, you must reopen your existing claim. To reopen your claim, select Previous to return to UI Online and select Register or Manage."

So I go back to "Register or Manage," which is where I usually go to certify myself, and on the Benefits online page it says, "Federal legislation was signed to extend the PUA program. We are working to complete the necessary programming to make these new benefits available. If you already have a PUA claim on file: You do not need to submit a new application."

So it would be accurate to say that I do not know what to do. I do know that it will be basically impossible to contact the state's unemployment department and ask. Anybody have any ideas?

Friday, January 1, 2021

first video

Brushing your teeth to Edward Elgar. (And lots more.)

A good New Year's resolution.