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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Kalimac's LiveJournal:

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    Friday, October 31st, 2014
    8:13 am
    quasigrecian thoughts
    1. Given the current zeitgeist, the all-around scariest Halloween costume ought to be the Ebola virus. Something with a pipecleaner twisted into the virus's shape? I wonder if we'll see any tonight.

    2. Carved fat squat pumpkin into what turned out a face of highly sinister mien. Should maybe have carved in the shape of the Ebola virus. Bought both candy and little bags of pretzels to give out. Should maybe have bought gummy worms and twisted them into the shape of the Ebola virus.

    3. Originally had series ticket for Wednesday SFS concert. Turned it in because it was Mahler. Now glad that I also managed to skip out on the post-World Series victory riots.

    4. Never heard of Madison Bumgarner before, but apparently he's been around for a while, so perhaps someone has already pointed out that he's the second famous person with that surname. If the first doesn't come to mind, it's because he dropped the Bum- from his stage name and appeared as James Garner.

    4a. This also means I can now name one current member of the Giants team offhand. Since the last previous one I could name was Brian Wilson, this means I am now up to date.

    5. Had such a good time at PCA this year in Chicago, I submitted a paper proposal for next year in New Orleans in the form of an article I'd already vaguely agreed to write for publication. It's been accepted, so I'm going to go. Third visit to that city, both of the earlier ones before Katrina.

    6. My rule stating that "it is impossible for an American author to write a novel involving British nobility without totally screwing up the terminology" now needs a caveat: "...except Diana Gabaldon." I'm not going to read all 8 of her 800-page monsters about 18th-century Scots and time travel, but I did dip into the latest one far enough to confirm that she knows that a character named Lord John Grey cannot be "Lord Grey" (and that if someone calls him that, he'll correct them) and various other technical nomenclatural bits are also right.

    6a. I am, however, somewhat skeptical that an 18th-century duke would casually let new acquaintances call him by his first name, even if they are relatives. But then, I once read a recent Pride & Prejudice spinoff in which the first thing Mr. Bennet does is reveal his first name, which he never does in Austen; and the Emma Thompson Sense & Sensibility movie also took care to provide Col. Brandon with a first name, which Austen doesn't reveal either. It's just a 20/21C thing.

    6b. Found book on public library hold shelf under my name, as requested, but also with corner of back cover chewed off by previous patron's dog. Took to desk, said I didn't want to be blamed for this when I returned the book. Clerk agreed, taped note to front cover to that effect. After I returned the book, got phone call from library about it. They hadn't read the note.

    6c. Found another book on the hold shelf that I'd completely forgotten I'd placed a hold on and had already checked out from another library. This one is John Dean's new The Nixon Defense and now I know how much is too much Watergate detail even for me.
    Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
    9:17 am
    not the only critic
    Lisa Irontongue has alerted us to the existence of a whole institute for (classical) music criticism - you know it's classical because they don't specify what kind of music; we classicists are that arrogant - um, next week.

    Wow, I should go. This is the profession I've fallen into, and have practiced for ten years now, though I'm conscious of my status as a lowly practitioner of it. I might learn something from all the renowned names in the field who will be speaking.

    This is not the sets of all-day series of presentations that the Stanford "Reactions to the Record" symposia are - and, by the way, I should mention that there's another one of those coming up in April. I suspect the famous guests will be spending much of their time closeted with the student fellows, and the rest of us will have to be content with a few public events.

    There's a keynote speech by Anthony Tommasini - not the name on the participant list I most respect, but oh well - on Wednesday, and panels on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. I hope to go to all of those.

    Then four of the critics are giving the pre-concert lectures to concerts by different ensembles on Thursday-Sunday. Plus, they're holding an "Everyone's a Critic" audience participation, whereby audience members are invited to submit reviews of those concerts, with a prize to be given for the best on at a ceremony on Monday morning.

    I'm going to skip out on all of that, though. I wasn't planning on attending any of those concerts, and none of the programs particularly excite me. I'd have to study up on most of the repertoire to be able to write competent reviews, which I'm not going to do without surety of being paid. Plus I'm not sure whether, as technically a professional in the field, I should be eligible for an audience prize. And most of all because the deadlines are too tight. I'm not a journalist by training, and a 9 AM deadline after an evening concert is way too soon for me. I might dash off a brief comment on LJ when I come home at night, but never when I've come from so far away as SF or Berkeley, and 9 the next morning is about when I'm ready to think about starting my review.

    I have, however, started thinking about some of the issues in my own concerns about the work I do that I hope this institute will address, and I may write about those later.
    Monday, October 27th, 2014
    8:26 pm
    concert review: Symphony Silicon Valley
    Ah, I went down to San Jose for a concert on Saturday. Dined at Louisiana Bistro, which was brand new the last time I was there, in January. As before, the appetizer (1, crab cakes; 2, catfish nuggets) was far superior to the main (1, "jambalaya" - so called, but it wasn't; 2, gumbo). There are better places right across the street; I may not be coming back.

    SSV now has at least two items on my list of Best Performance of This Work I Have Ever Heard: a Sibelius Second from a dozen years ago, and now Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto. This work never had much of a profile for me, but now it's etched in all its finery. Just fabulous. Here's my review.

    There was just one thing that annoyed me. The pre-concert lecturer thanked her audience profusely for the sacrifice we were making by skipping the game to be there. For me, it was no sacrifice, and probably not for most of the others. This wasn't even the concert, after all, but the optional lecture for no added cost. Sports fans, this is why us non-fans seem so irritated by sports: this general cultural assumption that the World Series (or, worse, because it goes on so long, the Olympics) is The Most Important Thing In The World to everybody. I don't mind giving a cheer for the local team in your comments section, just to be polite and join the festivities, because it's your own enthusiasm you're sharing, you're not trying to enforce it. It's when people assume that everyone has it that it puts my bridle up.
    Saturday, October 25th, 2014
    9:07 am
    into the trailers
    I was going to just forward this to B, but others might be interested.

    New trailer for the Into the Woods movie, this one actually containing a little singing. But mostly it's the cast burbling about how great it's going to be. I discount that. I'm sure there are clips of Beatty and Hoffman in Morocco saying the same thing.

    This looks as if it's going to be rather dark and sfx-laden. I fear the crew will make the same mistake that Tim Burton did in adapting Sweeney Todd and forget that it's also supposed to be light and witty, even in its darkness.

    I'll check the reviews when it appears. And if it avoids that flaw, I'd like to take B. to see it in the theatre, since a big movie needs the big screen effect. Otherwise not. I started to watch the Sweeney Todd movie on DVD, and turned it off around the shaving contest; it was that bad. And this one also has Johnny Depp! Oh dear, oh dear.
    Friday, October 24th, 2014
    9:58 am
    concert review: Master Sinfonia
    Daniel Glover is a local pianist who plays concertos with many of the smaller orchestras hereabouts. In previous encounters, I've found him fluent but rather dull and characterless. So I'm pleased to be able to say that I liked his rendition of Dohnányi's Variations on a Nursery Song. Good thing, as I was reviewing it and could therefore show genuine enthusiasm.

    I got to talk with him in a group at the post-concert reception, where he mentioned deliberately plonking out the main theme with two forefingers to make it look and sound as childlike as possible - after which, in the first variation, the piano part becomes highly challenging and exposed. He said he'd never heard the piece in concert except when playing it himself, and jokingly asked if any of us listening wanted to take on the following day's matinee for him. I said, "Well, I'll do the main theme."

    (No kidding: that's about the extent of my piano skills. I play a few themes with my left hand - though I'm right-handed, my right hand isn't dextrous enough to play the piano - except for a couple (Joplin's "The Entertainer" and Tom Lehrer's "The Irish Ballad") which I play with two forefingers.)

    Also got to compliment composer Jeremy Cavaterra on his Monterey Suite. Good tonal tone poem work with enough structure that it doesn't devolve into hack film music. We need more music like that.
    Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
    11:50 pm
    how to reach someone
    1. Write to the e-mail address you used when you last contacted him several years ago, and which is still listed on the web page you then got it from.

    2. Get a bounce message.

    3. Since it says, "mailbox temporarily disabled," figure it may be one of those storms that periodically hits every e-mail provider.

    4. Wait a few days.

    5. Repeat step 1.

    6. Repeat step 2.

    7. Search him on Google. Fortunately he has an unusual name. After some searching, find a likely address. Be no more than momentarily confused by the same street address appearing in various sources with the names of two roughly adjacent (from your own dim knowledge of the area) cities.

    8. Do a supplementary search with his name and various forms of the place name and find a profile from the online bulletin board you know he's active in, confirming that he does indeed live in that part of the world.

    9. Do an online phone directory search for his name and address. Find a phone number.

    10. Call the number.

    11. Get a disconnect intercept with no forward.

    12. Search Google with the address. Discover from a real estate website that he recently sold the house.

    13. Find no clue online as to his new address. Briefly consider looking up the phone number of the old house's new owner, to ask if they know.

    14. Do, however, find another e-mail address for him. Write to that.

    15. Repeat step 4.

    16. Google the e-mail address and find it associated with another web page that hasn't been updated in far longer than the web page from step 1.

    17 (should probably have been step 3). Write to the one person you know who is in communication with him on the bulletin board from step 8 and ask for help.

    18. After a decent interval, receive an e-mail with a) yet another e-mail address, and b) an offer to ping him on the bulletin board.

    19. Take option 18a.

    20. Repeat step 4.

    21. Take option 18b.

    22. After a decent interval, receive reply to e-mail. Hallelujah!
    Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    11:27 pm
    concert review: San Francisco Symphony
    Guest Christian Zacharias conducted and played solo piano in a rather eclectic concert:

    Two high classics, Mozart's D-minor piano concerto, K. 466, the darkest of the set and one with a particularly exquisite slow movement, making it essence of Mozart; and Haydn's Symphony No. 93, one of the most genial and witty of his London symphonies, making it essence of Haydn.

    Two 20C American works, Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite, from the third and greatest of his Americana ballets, making it essence of Copland; and Morton Feldman's Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety, an unusual Feldman piece insofar as it lasts only about five minutes instead of more like two hours, making it an introduction to Feldman for the impatient or short on time, which is not the way to get to know Feldman, and for that reason this piece will probably drive anybody not already grooved into Feldman's idiom crazy, consisting as it does of ninety repeated "cuckoo" sounds.

    For various possible reasons more likely to be me than the music, I found the performances adequate rather than inspiring, despite the enticing repertoire.
    Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
    9:54 am
    concert review: St. Lawrence Quartet
    My review tempered the expression of my feelings. This was a sandwich of a concert. The outer parts were great masterpieces, magnificently put across. The inner slice ... was not.

    Performers keep having this idea that they can uplift some worthless new piece by pairing it with the great monuments of the past. I've noted this before. It doesn't work that way - not unless, perhaps, the new work really is as great as its company, and the average new work isn't going to meet that standard. (Pairing it with secondary old works might come out better.) Instead, it only magnifies the gap.

    Even the composer knew better. Speaking before the music, he expressed unease at being sandwiched between Haydn and Schubert, and he was right to be uneasy. It did him no favors, and I left feeling even more uncertain whether he deserved any.
    Sunday, October 19th, 2014
    10:44 am
    alas
    I hardly knew Velma Bowen - she seemed to exist on a far higher social plane than anything I could aspire to, so I mostly just stayed out of the way - but perforce we were part of the same community, so her death leaves a huge gap. Someone vibrant and unique was there, and is gone.

    We were at the same event in June, which was during the intermezzo between her cancerous attacks, and she was thin but seemed healthy enough. But then word came that it was only an intermezzo. Hers was one of the names I held in mind during the mi shebeiriach, the prayer for healing, at High Holy Days.

    randy_byers has more to say.
    Saturday, October 18th, 2014
    7:52 am
    Tolkien trivia
    A Tolkien reference that it took me enough effort to track down that I wanted to write about it, but which turned out to be so mindbogglingly trivial that I couldn't bear to do so here. It went straight to the Tolkien Society blog, where they might appreciate it.
    Friday, October 17th, 2014
    10:03 am
    women named "Junior"
    Cecil Adams tackles the question, Why are girls and women not given the title “Junior,” “II,” etc.?

    First he says it rarely happens, and then he gives a few examples of when it does. But his examples are mostly not very good ones. Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr. - yes, that was the name she was known by. Not some of the others.

    FDR's wife and daughter, both legally Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, are only distinguished as "Sr." and "2nd" in legal documents. The mother was known as Eleanor, as everyone jolly well knows (and possibly because her mother's name was Anna), and the daughter was known as Anna, so in general usage, even before Anna's marriage, there was no possibility of confusion.

    Dorothy Fuldheim's daughter the professor, I don't know how she was referred to before her marriage, but she bylined her Ph.D. thesis Dorothy Fuldheim Urman. Unfortunately, she died a couple years later, so that's her only publication I could find.

    Nancy Sinatra is sometimes called "Jr." in news stories, but I don't believe she's ever used the addition on her albums.

    Here's a datum to add to the list. I have a friend who is known to her family as June, not because her name is June - it isn't - but because she has the same first name as her mother and is hence a Junior. In bylines and to her friends she uses her legal name, which is Edith, but without a "Jr." appended, not that there'd be any likelihood of confusion anyway.
    Thursday, October 16th, 2014
    7:53 am
    five concerts in five days
    Yes, the fall concert season must really be rolling if one can do that. And so I did. From the ridiculous to the sublime, in roughly that order ...

    Saturday, South Valley Symphony. Bargain-basement community orchestra that plays at a 2-year college on the far side of Gilroy. I went all the way down there for the opportunity to hear Tchaikovsky's First, which doesn't come one's way very often. Parts of it were tolerable, especially the slow movement which had more melodic effect than some professional performances. Good job by 16-year-old pianist Henry Smolen on the Saint-Saëns Second Concerto. He couldn't do light and fleeting, which this concerto really needs, but he didn't drag or sludge for an instant.

    Sunday, Saratoga Symphony. But this is the amateur group that sits at the true bottom of the local barrel. I've heard them before, but I still might go if it's something enticing, though I'll barely recognize it. This time they cheerfully and genially massacred Nielsen's Second, though they did quite decently with some dances by Grieg (including the one that Allan Sherman lifted "I Can't Dance" from), and a gaseous clarinet concerto by the sub-Mozartean Bernhard Crussell, with, again, a competent soloist, Adam Pease. Apparently kicked out of their Saratoga ecclesiastical venue, they're now playing in a tiny church in Cupertino.

    Monday, London Philharmonic Orchestra. On to the professionals. Visiting orchestra at Davies in the City, which I couldn't resist for the program of Rachmaninoff's Paganini Rhapsody and Shostakovich's Eighth. Led by Vladimir Jurowski, they took a crisp, jaunty way through the Rhapsody, with soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet contributing punchy thumps. The Shostakovich was less chipper: the long adagios meandered listlessly, while the climaxes exploded. I've heard this symphony played more interestingly, but never louder. Clear, cool platforms of sound from the orchestra, though. A buzzing piece of soundscape by Magnus Lindberg completed the program.

    Tuesday, Harmony for Humanity. Stanford's annual Daniel Pearl memorial concert, in honor of the journalist murdered in Pakistan in 2002 - he was a Stanford grad and music-lover. A student ensemble with the members of the St. Lawrence Quartet as section leaders played a Telemann oboe concerto and a Bach cantata. Memorial Church's echoing acoustics were fine for the strings and oboeist James Austin Smith, not so good for baritone Kenneth Goodson. In between, St. Lawrence cellist Chris Costanza played a Bach suite from down on the main floor, where most of the audience couldn't see him or, as it turned out, hear him.

    Wednesday, San Francisco Symphony. Thin audience for a program of good stuff from the 1930s. It wasn't until I got there that I remembered that I'd heard guest conductor Stéphane Denève lead the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances before, with the LA Phil six years ago. I didn't like his technique of abrupt and erratic tempo changes much better this time, though the orchestra sounded great. Britten's Violin Concerto I hadn't known, so I can't say what Denève did to it, though the weird orchestration was again fascinating, and soloist Isabelle Faust kept on top of everything. Denève led the Barber Adagio as if to show that the music had been proceeding inaudibly for quite some time before the piece started, and continued after its conclusion also.
    Monday, October 13th, 2014
    12:31 pm
    Columbus Day
    Yes, Columbus discovered America. It was his coming here that directly led to the awareness of the continents by the rest of the world. The Vikings, if they were here at all, didn't do that, and the previous inhabitants kept the place to themselves. In science, you can find whatever you like in the laboratory, but if you don't publish first, you're not the discoverer, and you don't get the Nobel Prize.

    As for the deplorable things that Columbus and his successors did, all of us who live here except those solely descended from those previous inhabitants are the beneficiaries of that, so while we can deplore it, as we should, denouncing its practitioners root and branch doesn't look too good on us. Considering the state of the world, our descendants won't look too kindly on us, either.

    So let us celebrate, by the relentlessly logical procedure of closing the post offices, preventing me from mailing packages to B's sister and niece until tomorrow. I will give my thankfulness that the auto repair shop is not closed, and was able to repair and reinstall the flat tire I got yesterday on the freeway: exciting times.

    Hobbling on my spare tire over there, I saw a nice indication of the ethnic dominance of this area in the form of front yard signs for school board and city council candidates named Chang, Zhang, and Huang.
    Saturday, October 11th, 2014
    6:38 am
    The Great Divorce
    A few years ago I attended a stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters that was touring the country and came locally. Now the same people have adapted his The Great Divorce.

    The Great Divorce is a much less well-known book, but I think a more powerful one. Its critiques of human self-delusion get under my skin more than Screwtape's do. It's in the form of a narrative in which Lewis dreams that he accompanies ghosts from Hell - which he depicts as a drab, ugly town stuck in an eternal twilight - on a bus trip to Heaven, where the spirits there (often past earthly friends of the visitors) try to persuade them to cast off their delusions and transform themselves into heavenly residents - and occasionally succeed.

    The point is that whether you return on the bus or not, and even whether you take the trip at all, is entirely voluntary, and as this trip is an allegory for accepting spiritual humility, it's a struggle in the minds of those who have to decide whether tis better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven (a line quoted in the book). Lewis's Big Idea here is that Hell is only Hell if you stay there; if you leave, it was Purgatory all along. God doesn't sentence people there; they commit themselves there of their own self-righteousness. God is just waiting for them to repent, which means giving that up.

    I don't know how theologically orthodox this idea is, but if it is, it offers a complete rebuttal to the "God is evil because he sends people to Hell" theory, one of the few times Lewis really strikes home. (There is, here, no torture in Hell, just a complete drabness and people totally wrapped up in themselves, assuming you don't call that torture.)

    I don't know if I've conveyed this. If it seems nonsensical, read the book. It's very short.

    So, the play. It was about 75 minutes long, no intermission. Most of the book was there; the Dwarf and Tragedian were the most conspicuous omission. Three actors, two men and one woman, played all the incidental roles of spirits and traded off the part of Lewis (as character and narrator). Quick costume changes helped convey this, and I guess it was to make clear to the audience that they'd all be Lewis that the frame narration began with all three speaking, and moving, in unison while identically costumed (as dons in tie and sweater). This was risibly reminiscent of the scene with the three burglars in Noises Off.

    One of the male actors, though good, was flop-sweaty in that "Hey, I'm acting here!" way. The other man was smoother but didn't differentiate his characters. The woman, Christa Scott-Reed, was by far the best: she played three supercilious women in the course of the play (Lewis had a bug on about that kind of woman: they show up throughout his fiction) and made them all different.

    The scenery was portrayed through elaborate back projections (and a lot of REALLY LOUD background noises, a feature of the Screwtape as well), and this reliance on technology gave rise to the weirdest moment. There's a scene in the book where one of the ghosts is trying to pick up one of the heavenly apples to take back (the ghosts are insubstantial, and Heaven is so intensely real that the grass cuts their feet - something the actors, who performed barefoot, constantly remind you of). The voice of an angel admonishes this ghost.

    In the play, the angel's voice comes amplified from above. The weird moment occurred in the previous scene, where the same voice, with the same amplification, interrupted the play, addressed the one actor then on stage by name, and told him to leave the stage momentarily. The house lights came up. Was it a medical emergency in the audience? No! The computer that directs the backdrops had frozen, and they had to reboot it. As Lewis could have told them, put not your faith in technology.
    Friday, October 10th, 2014
    4:00 pm
    notes
    1. Ayn Rand can't read. My attention has been drawn to a book called Ayn Rand's Marginalia, including the comments she made on a work she can't have been expected to like, C.S. Lewis's moral philosophic treatise The Abolition of Man. What appears to be the complete comments are here, but I was most struck by the one also discussed here (it's from p. 71 of Abolition, 5 pages into chapter 3), at a pro-Rand site, proudly declaring that she "actively judges a writing’s truth and clarity at every stage."

    No she doesn't. Truly, she did not read this book, she just glanced through looking for things to ignorantly complain about. In mocking Lewis's claim of "each advance leaves [humans] weaker" she ignores the rest of the sentence ("as well as stronger") even though she underlined it. Nor did she bother to read the previous pages which explained weaker at what. Page 69: "what we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument," and thus while the powerful are stronger, the victims are weaker. In power over their lives, not in physical health. Is this a tendentious argument? It sure is, but it requires a closer reader and a more incisive mind than Rand's to rebut it.

    Lastly, by using medical advances like the curing of tuberculosis as the evidence for her mockery, Rand shows she's failed to read the very first paragraph of the chapter, in which Lewis endeavors "to make it clear that I do not wish to disparage all that is really beneficial in the process described as 'Man's conquest.'" And what is his specific example of this beneficence? The curing of TB.

    They're all like this, actually, a massive continuing display of not getting it, even when the "it" ought to be easily argued against. Rather than publishing this marginalia, the Rand society ought to have suppressed it in shame.

    2. Woodstein's sources. The Watergate investigative reporters have always said that Deep Throat was only one of their confidential sources and not necessarily the most important; he was just the most colorful of those who remained hidden after the publication of All the President's Men. Here's an article on some we didn't know about until now. But even that's misleading, because it's the new revelations that make this surprising. When writing All the President's Men, the reporters contacted many of their confidential sources, asking if they'd now be willing to identify themselves. And some said yes. Thus it's no longer news that Hugh Sloan and Judy Hoback (the CRP bookkeeper) were sources; they were even depicted openly in the movie. But they were equally as vital as anyone whose name didn't come out until decades later.

    3. Netflix hacks. I may have to try some of these. You might also find them useful.
    Thursday, October 9th, 2014
    8:16 pm
    musical commentary
    Lisa Irontongue is passing along a meme of asking for pieces you never want to hear again and pieces you want to hear more often.

    The concert music I most devoutly wish never to hear again consists almost entirely of bloated, self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing sludge from the gasbag Giganticist period of the turn of the 20th century, and a Top Ten might look like this.
    1. Mahler, Symphony No. 5
    2. Mahler, Symphony No. 6
    3. Mahler, Symphony No. 7
    4. Mahler, Symphony No. 8
    5. Mahler, Symphony No. 9
    6. Mahler, Symphony No. 10
    7. Strauss, Death and Transfiguration
    8. Strauss, Ein Heldenleben
    9. Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra
    10. Brian, Gothic Symphony
    It only remains to be noted that the openings of the last two works are absolutely gripping, and it's a pity that they soon both devolve into acres of worthless crap.

    Everybody's lists of "want to hear more often" seems to focus on early and recent music. I can still find some 18th and 19th century composers I'd like to hear more often. To name one I have heard in concert a couple times, how about Arriaga? One striking piece of his I have heard played is this.

    The orchestral supposed warhorse that's the most underplayed these days compared to its deserts is the Franck Symphony. It has three movements, and here they are in the best recording I've ever heard, by Pierre Monteux and the Chicago Symphony: first, second, third.

    Over at my workplace, it appears that reviews of the Kronos Quartet attract angry responses even when I don't write them. One of our newest reviewers got slammed in comments for a "hit job" when, it seemed to me, his only crime was daring to give a negative review for a piece the commenter liked. I've been there, so I stepped in for the defense - even though I'd heard the work at another venue and liked it more, though possibly the venue accounts for the difference. I also know and like another piece on the program better than he does, but he justifies his opinion well, so I have no complaints.
    Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
    8:39 pm
    world according to cat
    "The most relaxing way of hunting is to lie on my back with all four paws waggling in the air. Of course, it helps if the object of my hunt is a cooperative peacock feather."
    Sunday, October 5th, 2014
    8:53 am
    Orphan Black, season 2
    (vague semi-spoilers)

    Oh, Orphan Black, you are a harsh mistress. You make me care about these characters, and then you screw me over with the plot.

    The end of season two featured a striking example of what I call the old Arlington Road Trick, which features prominently in that Jeff Bridges conspiracy thriller movie. The Arlington Road Trick occurs when a bad guy leaves a piece of false information around for a good guy to find and be misled by, while leading the good guy to believe that she'd only discovered it by happenstance.

    It requires a very specific level of concealment to hide something well enough that the good guy won't suspect it's a plant, while simultaneously having it conspicuous enough that there's no chance the good guy will overlook it. Note again that the only reason for concealment is to establish the false information's bona fides - making the good guy believe the info could only have come by happenstance, that it couldn't have been planted.

    But that's not all. The bad guy's plot also depends on knowing exactly how the good guy will react to the discovery. Will she call the person who needs to know? No. Will she go and tell it in person? No. She will drive to the building the person is in, send in a message, and have them come out to the car. Otherwise the bad guy's plot won't work.

    For extra added bonus, the bad guy has to get to the same building before the good guy does, execute a meticulous change of costume, and know someone she's barely met better than two people who've known her all her life.

    The common thread in all of this is that the reason the various good guys - four of them in this instance - and the audience never suspect a trick is that the trick would, in fact, be impossible to pull off. Or, at least, to be sure you could pull it off - and, if it failed, it would be disastrous to the plotter.

    I was less disturbed by the gratuitous introduction of a new clone character who makes no discernable contribution to the plot, for the sole purpose of throwing an even tougher acting curveball than ever before at Tatiana Maslany, because her acting skills are just awesome and deserve this showcase. And an Emmy, which in her case she has not got.
    Saturday, October 4th, 2014
    10:13 pm
    return to profane time
    I spent much of the day at Yom Kippur services. I've never connected well with the Kol Nidre service, the opening-evening service, and I didn't go, but the afternoon and closing service of Yom Kippur, at least as we do it here, is for me the most - I was about to say magical, but the word I want is holy - event on the congregational liturgical calendar. Especially meaningful this year because it includes Yitzkor, the memorial service, at which my mother's name was again read and at which we recite prayers with lines like So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

    Other things happened. Chief rabbi had a cold so bad she could hardly talk. Assistant rabbis were asked to speak on what they'd be willing to die for. Most of them said their children. And I thought, isn't this an artificial question? Under what circumstances would you have to die for your children? I can imagine dire circumstances in which you might risk your life to save them from danger, but that's a different thing. And one should still be careful. I'm strangely bothered by kevin_standlee's story of the man who dove onto the tracks to save his dog from an oncoming train; in the event, the train killed both of them, the dog as well as the man. I know that there's no time to weigh options in such a situation, but what haunts me is that the man's sacrifice didn't do the dog any good, and did harm anyone who loved that man.

    A couple members of the congregation were called up to speak on what they believe. One said he believes that his role as a father requires him to be there for his children as much as possible, whether they want him around or not. One time, he says, he'd taken his kids to the amusement park, and after hours in line his then 15-year-old daughter said to him, "Are you here just for us?" When he replied yes, she said, "Thanks - I guess." He said, "You can thank me by someday marrying a guy who'll take your children to the amusement park."

    The other speaker told of how his family moved from heavily-Jewish Brooklyn to deepest South Carolina in the 1950s when he was 9 (dad's job transfer), and how they gave an extra ticket and a ride to the ball game to their maid's husband. (Yes, they had a black maid and no, she wasn't paid very well - the speaker wasn't out to sugarcoat the relationship.) But despite the man's warning to leave him off several blocks away - of course they wouldn't be sitting together, not in segregated days - someone must have seen them, and delivered a message that such socialization wasn't approved of. The message was delivered by BB gun at their dog. (The dog survived.) And that, the speaker said, is why he became a warrior for social justice. That's a very Jewish response, as I understand Judaism.
    Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
    7:29 pm
    calendrical rod
    Why is it that so many 12-month wall calendars for the succeeding year have a page with the last three months of the current year? What do I need that for? I already have a calendar for this year. What might be useful would be one with the first three months of the following year, so that one has a place to write upcoming appointments as they start to creep up, before one puts up, or even acquires, the next year's calendar.

    B. and I use the wall calendar for shared appointments, e.g. things we'll do together or those we do individually that impact each other, e.g. if I'll be out for dinner because of a concert. We usually get one with pictures of cats or something equally appealing. I know where the best selection is to be found, and I've just come home with one.

    We also keep a page-a-day cartoon calendar, and I've got one of those too. Requirement for these: blank back sides, because we use them for scrap note paper.

    I keep my own personal appointments in a bare functional month-at-a-glance calendar. This does have a spread for the next year, in fact spaces for all 12 months, which is very convenient. Along about September, though, it starts getting jammed up, so it's time to buy the next year's. I've done that and transferred all my appointments and commitments, so now I can see when there'll be room to take a couple of trips.
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