Saturday, February 25, 2017

concert review: Oakland Symphony

Michael Morgan's imaginative programming often takes the form of theme concerts with social relevance. Friday's turned out to be two of them.

The theme that was previously announced was Native America. This intrigued me. My past encounters with actual Native folk music I have not found, shall we say, enlightening. But I remain desirous of coming to a cultural understanding of the original inhabitants of my country; and this, I understood, would be actual Amerinds composing, not 19C white musical Longfellows like Dvorak and MacDowell writing tourist music.

Well, there was one of them. He is a Chickasaw named Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate* whose long choral suite Lowak Shoppala' (Fire and Light) got two movements performed which, it says, include "numerous traditional Chickasaw melodies and rhythms." One depicted a series of clan totem animals in jagged and dramatic but attractive and well-constructed music. The other was based on a series of Chickasaw and Choctaw church hymns, even more attractive and definitely in a Native-sounding harmonic style, sung monophonically by the chorus and then picked up by the orchestra in a dark, heavy scoring (e.g. strings and trombones). I like this guy's style.

The other piece on this half was by John Wineglass, who isn't Native American at all, but African American. His Big Sur: The Night Sun does not, he says, utilize Amerind music but was inspired by a spiritual retreat he took at Big Sur. So I guess it's tourist music. Wineglass is best known as a film and TV composer, and he writes in the florid Americana style common there: themes in strings and soft trumpet, backed by piano chords, with swooping harp coming in at the climax; that sort of thing. He did have some of what I gathered were improvised sections for "world percussion" (including the biggest drum ever, 6 feet tall and about 4 wide), some sort of ethnic flute, and an Ohlone-Chumash vocalist named Kanyon Sayers-Roods whose eerie keening was so striking that it suggests my lack of response to other Native American ethnic singers may simply be explained as she's talented and they're not.

The other half of the concert was Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony, a fine, straightforward performance. So tell us: what's that doing on this program, Maestro Morgan? Well, he explained, this short, light, cheerful and cheeky work defied Stalin's expectations for a huge, pompous peroration to celebrate victory in WW2, the more so as it was a Ninth, with all the epic burden that number has carried in symphonies since Beethoven. "Sometimes," Morgan said, "when you have a strongman leader, who thinks he can tell everyone what to do, artists have to punch back." And when the audience erupted into huge applause at this, he said with a grin, "I don't know what you people think I'm referring to." And he concluded, "Think of the Shostakovich Ninth as a work of resistance ... our own little poke in the eye to strongman dictators." So, social relevance here too.

*Since you asked, it's a tribal name meaning "high corncrib", as everything written about him explains.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

Not a very large crowd showed up at Davies to hear Scheherazade.2: Dramatic Symphony for Violin and Orchestra by John Adams. The ".2" as in a software version 2.0 release (a reference the composer made in his pre-concert talk) is the only acknowledgment the piece makes to Rimsky-Korsakov, though the works have a strong structural resemblance, being long rambling works in four movements with Scheherazade represented by a solo violin, which, however, gets a lot more work here than in Rimsky; it's a violin concerto in all but name. It was played by Leila Josefowicz, for whom the piece was written. Adams says he was inspired de novo by the original story and wanted to give Scheherazade her feminist voice back in response to the Sultan's marital abuse.

However, I'd rather hear the Rimsky. In the role of villains trying to oppress Scheherazade, Adams' orchestral parts were rather anemic. And, purely as music, his work sounded more like a garrulous piece from the Richard Strauss school of Giganticism than like anything that might have distantly descended from Minimalism.

Second half was a reprise of an old MTT success, a big wad selected from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. This was pieces from the original ballet score, not the composer's reworked suites. I prefer the suites.

That morning I got a call from the box office alerting me, a couple weeks in advance of the next season subscription mailing, that they're eliminating the Wednesday concert series altogether. I'm not too surprised. Years ago, the main concert programs were on Wednesday and Friday, with some Saturdays and an occasional Thursday matinee. But in recent years they've been cutting back on Wednesdays and piling up the Fridays and Saturdays.

However, in the last couple years they've introduced some Thursday evening concerts for weeks without a matinee, and the box officer told me they'll be beefing the number of those up next year. So since I'm often attending other events down here on weekends and it gets uncomfortably crowded in the City on weekends, Thursday it'll become for me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

on the Electoral College

I was asked to comment on this article about the Electoral College.

First I should add that most of my understanding of the Constitution’s intent probably comes from the Federalist Papers. Prof. Finkelman’s quotes all appear to be from Madison’s reports of the debates, which I’ve never read end to end, though I’ve certainly read a lot of works citing them.

Here is what I wrote directly in comment about the article:

That’s a very interesting article, but I’m not sure about accepting all of the arguments. It is, of course, dangerous for an amateur like myself to dispute with an expert when I haven’t even done any research directly in response to this, but I don’t have time to do anything other than lay out my thoughts based on my past education in the creation of the Constitution. I’ve tried to put the phrase “as I understand it” or “my understanding is” around everything I’m thus dredging up from memory.

I’d like to believe the argument that the construction of the Electoral College had nothing to do with protecting the interests of small states, because that would do away with the irritating Trumpista claim that the College’s purpose was to ensure that the presidency went to a winner of a wider variety of states. But I’m not sure I do believe it.

Certainly the Convention’s rejection of having governors choose the president is no proof that the interests of small states weren’t being protected. The governor system would mean one vote per state, which would give the small states too much power. My understanding has always been the makeup of Congress was intended as a compromise: the Senate was apportioned purely by state, while the House more closely approximated apportionment by population. Therefore, the Electoral College, whose numbers were tied to the number of members of Congress in both houses together, gave the small states more power in the Electoral College than they had in the House, but much less than they had in the Senate.

Also, because the number of electors per state was a second-order effect, derived from the numbers in Congress, I’m not surprised if there was not, as Prof. Finkelman states there was not, much discussion of using the Electoral College to protect the interests of small states. But I would be very surprised indeed if there wasn’t discussion of this point in the Convention’s consideration of the creation of the Senate.

Similarly, the 3/5ths clause was, as I understand it, intended to protect the slave power in the House. The Electoral College would again be a second-order effect, despite the quotes from Charles Pinckney and Hugh Williamson (which, as given here, don’t even directly address that point). In any case, because the Electoral College numbers were based on House + Senate together, the 3/5ths clause would be less powerful in the Electoral College than in the House. Although my understanding is that it is certainly true, as Prof. Finkelman states, that it was the 3/5ths clause that enabled Jefferson to defeat Adams in 1800.

(Incidentally, the description of Adams as one “who never owned a slave” reminds me that visits to historical sites have revealed to me that two presidents we don’t think of as slave-owners actually were slave-owners for brief periods, these being Van Buren and Grant.)

I’m also a bit bothered by an unspoken implication that the Electoral College is illegitimate because of the slave-based taint on its origin, even though the 3/5ths clause has been, by definition, a dead letter since 1865. Really it’s accusing the Electoral College of original sin, and as a Jew I find such an argument does not make much of an impression on me. In any case, I’ve seen people denounce the entire Constitution on grounds of one taint on the Founders or another, an argument that must go all the way back to the first Marxist who ever read Charles Beard’s Economic Interpretation.

Prof. Finkelman reports that James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris supported direct election of the president on the grounds that the people would be sure to elect a famous or distinguished candidate. I’m sure they said this. But I’ve always understood that the argument that prevailed against popular vote for president was that the general voters, being ill-informed of nation-wide affairs in days of poor education and when most voters thought of themselves as citizens of their state, not of the U.S. as a whole, would not know much about potential presidential candidates outside their state. But they would know who would know that, and the original intention was to have the electors of the Electoral College be the sophisticates of their states, men who knew the most eligible candidates from other states. But just in case the electors weren’t so sophisticated, there was the insurance clause preventing them from casting both their votes for candidates from their own state.

This argument contradicts the ones given by Wilson and Morris, but I would have thought that there were disputes over this point and that Wilson and Morris lost the argument. If that’s so, then to quote Wilson and Morris alone would be to misread the Convention’s state of mind.

I could be factually mistaken here, but only if I entirely misremember my own education on this matter. But these are my thoughts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

concert review: Santa Cruz Symphony

It's been raining fairly hard the last couple of days. Yesterday, the main road to Santa Cruz was blocked by a tree falling over, and just as drivers who happened to be packing chainsaws cleared away half of that problem, the same direction of the highway was blocked several miles further back by a rockslide.

On Saturday, however, no rain fell, and because of that I thought it safe to venture to Santa Cruz on that road, since it was already by then the only one open without going 50 miles out of my way and then probably still being blocked. I left very very early and got there in plenty of time, having brought with me a pile of scanning work I needed to do at FedEx, and used my extra time to do that.

I was there on assignment to review the Santa Cruz Symphony, as it was being guest-pianisted by Yuja the Unavoidable, and my editor was curious as to what would happen when she descended in all her sequin-clad glory on a small waterlogged central coast town.

Turned out that she and the locals meshed well together, and I could describe it quite succinctly. (I disclaim responsibility for the Trumpesque headline.) My reviews used to push 1000 words, but ever since I was told to keep them under 650, I'm finding my whole thought processes changing. I thought I had a lot to say about the music, but it turned out brief. Anything else I might have added seemed superfluous. Yuja's dresses (she changed at intermission)? No. The bizarre venue, strangest one I attend regularly, with the ambiance of a basketball arena? No.

Monday, February 20, 2017


B. and I went to Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience yesterday from the Lamplighters, probably still the best G&S troupe anywhere. The singing was excellent, particularly strong from deep-voiced Cary Ann Rosko as Lady Angela and newcomer Jacob Botha as Grosvenor.

But what was better still was the sumptuously impressive sets (scenic design, Peter Crompton) and the brilliant costumes (design, Melissa Wortman; construction, Miriam Lewis). That was critical, and here's why.

Patience is one of the finest of the G&S operettas - though Sullivan had composed great songs before, this is the first full show where he was consistently on top form from start to finish. But it has a problem, which is that the satire of the aesthetic movement more quickly dated than anything else Gilbert wrote for the Savoy. Even as early as the first revival twenty years later, reviewers were incredulous in recalling that characters resembling Bunthorne had once actually existed. Remember that the trial and fall of Oscar Wilde (who was modeled on Bunthorne rather than the other way around) had occurred in the interim, and the world had changed.

Accordingly, some modern productions update the costuming. The Sixties, which provided later days with their most striking contrast between their aesthetic fad and their conventional style, is a favorite. But Lamplighters artistic director Rick Williams, in an essay in the program, said that these haven't caught on. He thinks we should stick to the original setting because Gilbert's satirical point is universal.

Well, it is. Certainly artistic fashions always lend themselves to popular frenzies and to being exploited by poseurs, a more universal point than, say, Pinafore's now quaintly obsolete class rigidity. But for that reason it seems to me that it's more, not less, appropriate to re-set Patience in the days of some more contemporary artistic fashion. If it's universal, it should be applicable to any time.

The big question is, what do you do about the clothes for the ending, where the hero and the maidens abandon aestheticism and become conventional? There is no contrast available in Victorian days that would equal the impact of a Sixties production I once saw, in which what had been hippie chicks for the entire show were transformed into Jackie Kennedy clones, pillbox hats and all. Suddenly I understood the story in a way I never had before.

But this show did pretty well. The gowns that the maidens wore for the bulk of the show were so vividly pre-Raphaelite that they outdid any actual pre-Raphaelite paintings I could find online. Then for the final scene the maidens came out in what I think can best be described as 1910s middle-class summer hoop dresses, with these stiff medium-brim hats with a sprig of lace hanging off the back. I've seen these hats in period drawings before, but nothing I Google can produce a picture of one. (Nothing appropriate on the Lamplighters site either, for either set of costumes.)

Anyway, I think this production did as good a job as possible with this problem, given that restriction. But I think it odd that a company that entirely re-set their most recent Mikado, and stating while doing so that this was permissible because Gilbert's point was universal (it's "not actually about Japan"), should be so rigidly insistent on preserving his original setting for Patience, when, in the words of the same artistic director, Patience "focuses on the ubiquitous phenomenon of fads, cults and crazes in style, taste and lifestyle in general."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

comfort food by state

Today's Parade magazine has a list of favorite comfort foods, by state. It looks like a good list to go through and check off: whether I've eaten it, whether I've eaten it in the state it's associated with, whether I'd want to eat it. Your reactions are welcome.

Alabama: Barbecue Chicken With White Sauce. White sauce, made with mayo? On barbecue? Ewww, I'm glad I'd never heard of this before.

Alaska: Smoked Salmon Chowder. Sure, I've had this.

Arizona: Chimichangas. Them too, but they're not a particular favorite.

Arkansas: Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy. Gravy, yes; chocolate gravy, no.

California: Ramen. I should warn you that the ramen you'll be served at a restaurant in California is not the cheap bowl of noodles eaten by impecunious students. It's a big bowl of extremely serious Japanese soup, with weird Japanese things in it. I've had this, but it's not something I'd go looking for. The article also mentions Vietnamese pho, though, and that I have extremely frequently.

Colorado: Chile Verde. Sure. If I'm at a Mexican restaurant that has neither tamales nor mole, I'm likely to order this.

Connecticut: Steamed Cheeseburgers. What? No. I've had a plain hamburger from the tiny place in New Haven that claims to have invented them, but to me the great Connecticut food is their thin-crust pizza.

Delaware: Scrapple. I associate this with Philadelphia, and I guess listing it here is proof that Delaware is really not much more than a suburb of Philadelphia. Strangely, the only time I've had scrapple in the Philly area was in the Jersey suburbs. I've not seen it on restaurants elsewhere: I've bought it from the market, but it's not the same.

Florida: Cuban Sandwich. I've had one of these, though in San Jose, not Florida, and my reaction was, "That was interesting. Not likely to have it again, though."

Georgia: Peach Cobbler. I limit my fruit desserts to ones with apple.

Hawaii: Saimin. I had all kinds of unique-to-Hawaii foods in Hawaii, including poi, which is never to be forgotten (and never to be eaten again), but I never even heard of this.

Idaho: Finger Steaks. Interesting idea; never heard of it before. But I haven't been in Idaho in 35 years.

Illinois: Deep-Dish Pizza. Yes, I usually wind up having some of this when I'm in Chicago, because the natives always take me there. I won't tell them this, but it's not really my idea of pizza, so I've almost never had it anywhere else.

Indiana: Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. Nothing I recall ever having seen on the menu in Indiana, and I've had more great food in Indiana than any other Northern state.

Iowa: Maid-Rite Sandwich. Don't recall ever seeing this either.

Kansas: Chicken-Fried Steak and Mashed Potatoes. I've had chicken-fried steak, I've even had it in Kansas, though I associate it more with Texas. Leave out the mashed potatoes, though: I won't eat those.

Kentucky: Hot Brown. Never heard of, and doesn't appeal to me.

Louisiana: Gumbo. Of all the classic Louisiana dishes, this is the one I found most disappointing in New Orleans restaurants, rather bitter. Way out in Cajun country they told me, in a shocked tone of voice, that Orleans cooks burn the roux, which would explain it. I liked the Cajun gumbo better. But I'd rather have jambalaya, rice dressing, sauteed catfish, fried shrimp, fried chicken ...

Maine: Lobster Roll. I've had this, but I prefer my lobster in bisque, which I've had in Maine.

Maryland: Crab Cakes. Trader Joe's used to sell a really good frozen version of this. The best I've had in a restaurant outside of Maryland was in San Diego; but I did once have them in an ultra-Maryland place right on the shore of Chesapeake Bay, in a sampler plate along with soft-shell crab (which I did not like), and amazingly delicious corn on the cob.

Massachusetts: Clam Chowder. Yep. I was all over central Boston trying clam chowders. I would not rate the fabled Legal Sea Foods anywhere near the best.

Michigan: Pasties. These usually have potato, so I've avoided them. And I've never been to the U.P., which is the part of Michigan these are popular in.

Minnesota: Hotdish. I had something sort of like this at a restaurant in St. Paul once, but not the complete mishmosh.

Mississippi: Tamales. I've heard of the distinctive Mississippi tamales, but I didn't have any when I were there. I eat Sonoran tamales, which are the default kind in California.

Missouri: Toasted Ravioli. I had this in St. Louis, and liked it so much I made it at home.

Montana: Huckleberry Pie. See previous comment on peach cobbler.

Nebraska: Runzas. Now this actually sounds good, but I don't recall coming across it even in rural Nebraska.

Nevada: Thai Food. Kind of a wimpy response. What dish, exactly? We have Thai restaurants all over the place here, too, for the same reason, and I eat at them frequently. I make a few Thai dishes at home, too: pad thai (when I can find the sauce, which stores are strangely reluctant to carry), broccoli with peanut sauce, and occasional red curry.

New Hampshire: Apple Cider Doughnuts. I'd have eaten this, back when I was still having rich desserts, but I don't recall ever being offered any.

New Jersey: Trenton Tomato Pie. Never had this.

New Mexico: Breakfast Burritos. I've seen them on the menu, but won't order them. The idea makes me a little ill.

New York: Buffalo Wings. I'm even more authentic than with Chicago pizza here, and I like these a whole lot more. I've had these, I've had them in Buffalo (as well as many other places), I've had them in the joint that claims to have invented them, which is where I learned that the other half of the wing, the halves that aren't called "drumettes", are called "flats".

North Carolina: Pulled-Pork Barbecue. I've had what claimed to be North Carolina barbecue, but not in North Carolina (another state I haven't visited for 35 years), and I wasn't much impressed. I trust the real thing is better.

North Dakota: Knoephla. Never heard of it; it has potato, so I don't want it.

Ohio: Cincinnati Chili. I've frequently had it in Cincinnati, and unlike some of the other local dishes I've actually had in their home towns, it's completely unknown anywhere else. Don't tell the locals, but it's completely unlike anything else called "chili". It's actually a cinnamon-flavored spaghetti sauce.

Oklahoma: Onion Burgers. Not something I recall seeing in Oklahoma.

Oregon: Mac and Cheese. I know Tillamook cheese, all right (good quality, but milder than my preference), but I don't associate this standard dish with Oregon.

Pennsylvania: Philly Cheesesteak. I've made a point, on some visits to Philadelphia, of heading down to South Philly to have one of these in its canonical home. Like the Mission Burrito in San Francisco, it's better there than anywhere else. I have it with provolone, not Cheez Whiz.

Rhode Island: Doughboys. Another tasty-sounding dessert I've never heard of.

South Carolina: Shrimp and Grits. Ah, the best edition of this I've ever had was in Savannah, right across the Georgia border.

Tennessee: Hot Chicken. I've never seen this in Tennessee, but I did try the truly vile mockup of it that KFC has been promoting. I promise not to judge the real thing by that.

Texas: Smoked Brisket. I've had brisket barbecue in Texas, but I don't know if it qualified as smoked or not.

Utah: Funeral Potatoes. Won't eat any such thing.

Vermont: Blueberry Pancakes With Maple Syrup. I've had pancakes with maple syrup in Vermont (where it's real maple syrup, and they don't charge extra for it as they do in New Hampshire, at least in the places I've been), but I don't care for blueberries.

Virginia: Brunswick Stew. Vaguely heard of this, but I didn't know exactly what it is, and I've never had any. Possibly lima beans would be tolerable in small quantity in a thick enough stew.

Washington: Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon. Yep, had that.

West Virginia: Pepperoni Roll. Never heard of this, but I like pepperoni.

Wisconsin: Deep-Fried Cheese Curds. Heard of this, even seen it offered, but never had the nerve to try it.

Wyoming: Bison Meatloaf. I've had bison burgers (usually much drier than beef; otherwise I can't tell the difference), but not meatloaf.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


1. Three concerts, all at Stanford:

1a. Concert no. 1: Bruckner Orchestra of Linz. I've spent the week since this one listening obsessively to Philip Glass symphonies. Why? Because this concert was on the premiere tour of the new one, No. 11, and the sound is in my head. My first thought afterwards was that I'd write in this blog, "The new Glass symphony sounds just like the previous three Glass symphonies." But I couldn't write that in my review, could I? Well, why not? So I did.

1b. Rebecca Young viola masterclass. Instead of being in Campbell, the usual venue for events that might attract 20-30 people, it was in the 700-seat Dinky, so we were all invited to sit on stage. First time I'd actually set foot up there. Alas, the chairs were uncomfortable. So was the music the students played, which was the Bartok concerto. Afterwards, though, and the reason I came, Young (assoc. principal with the NY Phil) and other worthies played the Brahms G-minor Piano Quartet, yum.

1c. Stanford Wind Queertet [sic], 5 students + 2 student pianists, most not majoring in music. Played a perky, attractive Nielsen Wind Quintet together, and each a piece separately. Most amazing of these was the one unaccompanied one, a Bach Cello Suite arranged for French horn. For horn? He struggled, but he got through it.

2. After much running around to various libraries, I think I've finished acquiring everything that everybody - including me - needs to finish up the Year's Work in Tolkien Studies. I'm busily working on my own contribution, drawing lines down the margin of my bibliography printout as I finish each one, and watching the lines get longer and longer. Weirdest statement of the year: a newspaper editorial column stating that Frodo claiming the Ring was abandoning his moral qualms. Did this guy read the book? Then: on to the next year's bibliography, which will require even more running around to even more libraries.

3. Fifty things Millennials have never heard of. Most of them are after my time, too. And 50 things Millennials know that Gen-Xers don't. Being even older than that, I've never heard of most of them either. The only one I can claim familiarity with is Alison Pill, as I noted her in a couple of movies I've seen. I've heard the names "Snapchat" and "Tinder", and I can guess they're things online, but I have no idea what they are. I could look them up, but 1) I don't care, and 2) partly because of that, I'd just promptly forget.

4. On the other hand, there are things I really want to look up, but can never remember to do so when I'm at a computer. Finally, an online video (from this news roundup) reminds me:
Donald Trump: Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars.
Seth Meyers: I think I know what happened here. [shows picture of 100 Grand candy bar] Donald, that's not the price; that's the name.
And that reminded me: why was the name changed from $100,000 Bar? Was it because some store clerk once claimed that really was the price? This site suggests that names beginning with "$" make computers hiccup. But Wikipedia reports that people are still screwing around with the newer name, e.g. radio hosts announcing that they're giving away 100 Grand, and then surprise, the winner gets a candy bar.

Friday, February 17, 2017

itemization: three books

These are just the ones I'm using to take breaks with in between massive bouts of library research, writing for TS, and concert-going:

Book no. 1: Twenty-six Seconds by Alexandra Zapruder (Twelve, 2016). A history of the film - the film - by Abe Zapruder's granddaughter. To the family, he was just Dad or Grandpa who happened to have been responsible for this thing that hung over them for decades. The author is convincing on her grandfather's and father's sense of moral responsibility to make the film available without letting it be tackily exploited; less so on their desire to make money off it. They wanted it to go eventually to public ownership, but her father told her, "We can't afford to make an $18 million gift to the federal government." But since they never intended to auction it for any such price, how would they lose money by a gift? The most unusual part of the book is a detailed description of the Seinfeld scene parodying the use of the film in Oliver Stone's JFK, included because it was the only occasion in decades of association with the film that the Zapruders found anything concerning it worth laughing about.

Book no 2: Midcentury Journey by William L. Shirer (Farrar Straus & Young, 1952). The foreign correspondent (and future author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) travels to postwar Europe, ostensibly to take the pulse of the political landscape. Sounded interesting, so I read it. Unfortunately, there's none of the in-depth interviews or even the local color you'd expect from such a book today. Instead, it's punditry that Shirer could just as easily have written from his armchair at home. The bulk is a rehearsal, in the same incredulous tones one recognizes from Shirer's other books, of what he considers the fecklessness of 1920s and 30s politicians. And what of today, 1952? Shirer is convinced that the neo-Nazis are about to take over West Germany (didn't happen), and that Charles de Gaulle will come to power in France (he did that, five years later), throw out the constitution (he did that too), and become the latest fascist dictator (he didn't do that). Yeah, de Gaulle was the hero of 1940, but Petain had been the hero of 1916 and look what happened to him. The only thing that makes Shirer happy is Britain's NHS. He recognizes that the country is nearly bankrupt, but that doesn't seem to worry him.

Book no. 3: John Lennon vs. the USA by Leon Wildes (ABA, 2016). The infamous deportation case, told in full by Lennon's lawyer. He's writing it up now because it suddenly seems relevant again. Full of concrete but lucid detail on lawsuits (including one delightfully named Lennon v. Marks), but doesn't neglect the personal angle. Unsurprisingly, Wildes was as square as they come and had barely heard of Lennon before taking the case, but he boasts of quickly becoming, and staying, a confidant of Yoko (whom he depicts as a highly intelligent layperson who asked her lawyers really sharp questions) as well as John, largely because, unlike many of their minions, he was really competent at his job. What did Wildes think of John and Yoko hijacking his press conference by declaring the state of Nutopia? He thought it was delightfully witty. Not so square after all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


It's the 30th Valentine's Day that B. and I have had together. Can you believe it?

On the 7th Valentine's, I proposed.

Somewhere around the 10th Valentine's is when we figured out that dining out in a restaurant on Valentine's Day is a really bad idea. We would pick a nearby weekend to celebrate in that manner, and eat comfort food at home on the day instead.

Today I cooked her up a bowlful of pan roasted Brussels sprouts, her favorites. Chopping them up into small pieces and roasting them to oblivion seemed the best way of dealing with the tennis ball-sized sprouts that have been in the stores lately. (For other purposes, B. much prefers the tiny ones.)

During the day, more mundane activities prevailed. She was at work, and so was I: I finished up and submitted a review (to be seen here later), and then drove over the mountains to Santa Cruz for more library research. So many roads are down due to the storms that I figured I'd better go now, before the rains come back in a day or two. It wasn't too hard getting there: I got without much delay through the one-lane section past the landslide that closed the northbound lanes. It's not very large, though the hillside it came from is towering, but it's large enough. However, the northbound traffic was backup for miles, and it was still backed up that far when I came back after finishing research and lunch. So I tried the back roads. I knew Soquel was closed, but I hadn't known that Glenwood was closed until I went there. Summit is closed, part of Skyline is closed, Congress Springs is still closed. I had to take the long way around to Page Mill again, eating up half the afternoon.

Still, that's nothing to the total evacuation of the better part of three counties in the Feather River valley yesterday, news which I've been following with horrid fascination. Though not quite as horrid as the way I try to remember how HRC was pilloried for keeping some not particularly secret e-mails on a server that just might have been susceptible to hacking. You recall how she was accused of treason for that? If that was treason, the world lacks a word to describe the restaurant table conference on North Korea of our current supposed leaders.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


I went to another political rally today. No marching. What used to be called the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society decided to make today the National Day of Jewish Action for Refugees. I went to a local gathering in the Mountain View civic plaza, where a couple hundred people - not all Jewish - gathered for an hour of exhortatory speeches, personal testimonies, prayers, group chants, and songs in English and Hebrew, a little like an extremely populist guitar service. A little more variety than some such occasions, and hence a little more interesting.

There were signs reading things like "My People Were Refugees Too." There were apposite quotes from the Book of Exodus. There was a moving expression of solidarity from a local Muslim community leader. The director of the local Jewish Family Services group said, "Thanks to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for making America great again." And one of several participating rabbis said, "If we do not protest, we are complicit." And so we protested.

The organizers had suggested that we bring along photos of our immigrant relatives. I dug up a large studio portrait of my maternal grandfather, my one ancestor of that generation who immigrated and my only immigrant ancestor whom I knew. He was maybe 6 when he came here from what was then the Russian Empire, now Lithuania. Need I say I'm glad that the US let him in?