Where do I go when it’s safe?

food and film

a-group-of-opened-cans-of-food-containing-fruits-vegetables-and-legumesKevin, who is from my home county, though I don’t think we met until college, asks what should be a simple question:

Where is the first place you are going when it’s safe to go out?

Of course, not everything will open up at the same time. The thing I miss the most, singing in the choir, is going to take a while longer than other activities. So, it’s a toss-up between going to the movies and going indoors to a sit-down restaurant.

Now there have been some cinemas open around here with a limited capacity. I’m not feeling at all comfortable with attending. Maybe by the time I take my second COVID shot, I’ll feel differently. Yet, watching movies from home is a lesser experience.

I have some HBO channels, though not MAX; Amazon Prime, and Apple TV. So I have the capacity to see films at home. I just don’t have the discipline to treat films at home as I treat movies in a place I have to sit in a dark room with strangers. And it’s been true for over 40 years.

As for restaurants, I’m not doing that indoors either. Or for that matter, outdoors. When the weather was decent, there was a row of outdoor dining options at the end of Madison Avenue, only a couple blocks from here. Not only did I never patronize them, when I needed to go to the local CVS, but I also made a point of walking on the other side of the restaurants.

Now, I did do takeout occasionally, and sometimes I’ve been anxious about buying THAT, depending on the size of the unmasked crowd I had to wade through. Besides, takeout is not sitting in a restaurant, with its ambiance. There’s a huge difference between being served by a waitperson and taking food home in metal containers.

Hometown

Right before the lockdown, I was planning a trip to my hometown of Binghamton, NY in late March. I wanted to see the court transcripts of the trial involving my grandmother Agatha Walker (later, Green), who levied charges against my biological paternal grandfather, Raymond Cone. These records are only available in paper form, not electronically.

Review: David Byrne’s American Utopia

Directed by Spike Lee

American Utopia

Flicking through the channels in late December, which I seldom do, I came across something amazing. It was David Byrne and a troupe of like-dressed men and women. This must be the film of his American Utopia show on Broadway. They are performing Janelle Monae’s astonishing “Hell You Talmbout”, complete with images of murdered Black men and women.

Then some other songs, including Road to Nowhere, the Talking Heads tune. This involved the cast literally marching around the theater. My, I need to see this in its entirety, which I did on HBO about a week later.

Like the Stop Making Sense tour, where I saw Talking Heads at SPAC in the early 1980s, this show adds layers. First Byrne, then the two folks, a black woman and a white man, I describe as “interpreters.” They sing, but they also enact choreographed movements. The ensemble builds with keyboards, guitar, and percussion – a lot of percussion.

Peppered between the 20 Talking Heads and solo songs are Byrne’s musings, about the nature of things – how the brain develops. The show is political. Not capital P political, except for the Monae song. But he notes that most of the cast are immigrants, including himself, born in Scotland. He asks people to vote, though he does not say for whom.

One of the facets that made this show work so well is the technology. Everyone moves around the stage, in different arrangements. The instruments are all hand-held and wireless. It is a very freeing experience.

The right thing

The movie’s director is Spike Lee. Per NPR, he “works right alongside Byrne, bringing viewers into the show…, putting us right on stage with these talented artists, and transcending a mere recording of a live event.” He must have placed cameras all over. My favorite shot might be from above the stage, the musicians in the configuration of a pinwheel marching band.

I LOVED this movie. As RogerEbert.com  notes, “David Byrne’s American Utopia is a joyous expression of art, empathy, and compassion.” The end credits feature Everybody’s Coming To My House by the Detroit School of Arts. It’s a better version than his version, Byrne opines.

So much for Joe Biden to do on Day 1

climate change

joebidenI’ve been reading lots of people’s advice about what Joe Biden should do “on Day 1.” Most of it I tend to agree with philosophically. The trick is that his “first day” would have to be 2500 hours long.

Obviously, his initial focus will be the coronavirus pandemic, which is getting worse in the US every week. And the desire to get vaccines in people’s arms is of utmost importance. (My wife is getting her first injection in mid-February, me at the end of March.)

The related economic downturn also needs to be addressed. Bernie Sanders says $2,000 checks should be the “first order of business” for the new President and Congress.

Clearly, we cannot assume that the seditious violence we saw on January 6 has passed. Not only do federal authorities have to continue to find more folks to charge but to stem future attacks.

What on earth 

Beyond that, there will be a lot of Biden undoing what his predecessor did. He’s repeatedly promised on his first day in office to have the US rejoin the Paris climate accord. Fighting climate change has been a key priority on the campaign trail. The previous environmental policy has been a disaster.

djt “declined to tighten standards on industrial soot emissions, despite the evidence linking dirty air to respiratory illnesses.” For instance, the EPA reviewed standards. “The agency’s scientists warned of the links between the pollutants and deadly outcomes in respiratory illnesses (like COVID-19).

“It recommended tightening the current emissions rule set by the Obama admin in 2012. But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said there wasn’t enough scientific evidence to merit a change. The policy decision came as the admin has worked to roll back over 100 environmental regulations.”

I’ve wondered if Biden had a shadow Cabinet this past autumn. Undo, undo, reinstate, undo, reinstate. He will have the country rejoin the World Health Organization, part of the effort to protect our nation’s health.

I believe he should commute all federal death sentences. His predecessor was cranking up the gallows in his latter months.

Of the people, et al.

I’m all for reforming the government, “including expanding on and codifying into law an ethics pledge.” The policy had been instituted in the Obama administration. It “addresses lobbying issues and also any improper or inappropriate influence from personal, financial, and other interests.” Wow. I thought we had that already but certain people were just ignoring it.

He favors expanding early voting, allowing more time to register and request ballots, and letting voters track their ballots. New York State was very slow to get to the first two and hasn’t achieved the third yet.

Biden listed a number of other priorities on the campaign trail that, while worthy, may be more difficult to achieve in even 100 days. Advancing racial equity by addressing systemic racism. Expanding protections for union employees

The ACLU has its Civil Liberties and Civil Rights To-Do List, fortunately not all on the first day or even first 100 days.

All of this is to say, I’m planning to cut Joe some slack, just a little. Frankly, the outgoing guy is sucking up a lot of oxygen in the room, as he always does.

Correcting grammar strikes a chord

more cheesier

correcting grammarMy recent post on correcting grammar has struck a chord.

My friend and former editor Alan got me thinking:

How do you feel about Positive Anymore, Roger?

I had not heard the term before, to be honest. But I have heard this construction. From the Wikipedia article, it “is the use of the adverb anymore in an affirmative context. While any more (also spelled anymore) is typically a negative/interrogative polarity item used in negative, interrogative, or hypothetical contexts, speakers of some dialects of English use it in positive or affirmative contexts, with a meaning similar to nowadays or from now on.”

I’d better show some of their examples.

1 “A servant being instructed how to act, will answer ‘I will do it any more‘.” (Northern Ireland, c. 1898)
2 “Any more, the difference between a white-collar worker and a blue-collar worker is simply a matter of shirt preference.” (Madison, Wisconsin, 1973)
3 “Everything we do anymore seems to have been done in a big hurry.” (Kingston, Ontario, 1979)
4 “I’ll be getting six or seven days’ holiday anymore.” (Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1981)
5 “Anymore we watch videos rather than go to the movies.” (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, c. 1991)

Its use as from now on in the first and fourth sentence sounds wrong, as though the word not was left out in error. The usage in sentence three, as nowadays (or these days), sounds oddly familiar and colloquially acceptable to me. Yet the same word in the beginning (sentences 2 and 5) bugs me. Maybe it suggests that the sentence is going in another direction, such as “Any more, do you have bread?”

More Adverbs

Then Alan requested:

Can the other part [of my post] be people who say “whenever” when they mean when?

This one I had not heard at all. Its usage suggests an indefinite time, but they’re talking about a specific timeframe. A regional variation, apparently, but I don’t much like it. It’s two extra syllables that do not convey any more or different information. But it’s all I have to say about that.

Tim, who I remember from back in the days (March 2020) we used to sing in the choir together, quips:

I prefer the brand of macaroni and cheese that is more cheesier. Then there is the -ly being chopped off most adverbs these days.

As I noted way back here: There are rules for forming comparative and superlative adjectives. One-syllable adjectives generally add -er or -est. “For adjectives with three syllables or more, you form the comparative with more and the superlative with most.”

The adjectives with two syllables are… complicated.” The ones ending with -y, -er, -le, or -ow generally use -er and -est, though one changes the -y to -i.

But cutting off the -ly sounds more informal than wrong. “I’m gonna come back real quick.” “She steered that boat real smooth.” The meaning is clear. Incidentally, I came across an article Errors in the use of adverbs. For at least two of the examples, I shrugged, “Whatever.”
Incorrect: She angrily spoke.
Correct: She spoke angrily.
Adverbs of manner usually go in the end-position.
Not really something to concern me.

Descriptive versus prescriptive

My ferocious hearts competitor friend Janna indicates:

I tend to think corrections on my grammar pet peeves rather than pointing them out (except to my kids LOL). In this age of e-communication, I think many are the result of bad autocorrect.

Well, yes, some software corrections are overly zealous. I’ve used Grammarly for years, but I have vigorously disagreed with supposed errors of mine. I’m very forgiving of mistakes in contemporaneous speaking, particularly with noun/verb agreement. On the other hand, I’m much fussier over a formal address.

Alison, who I was once related to – or to whom I was…, if you insist – correctly notes:

Well, there’s descriptive grammar and prescriptive grammar and some of the latter was imposed on the language by a dude who thought English should follow Latin grammar. It’s class-related also so my opinion is that prescriptive grammar is only necessary for formal or academic settings- except for “normalcy.” That’s an abomination.

Agreed. I noted here that the creative use of y’all, et al. for the second person plural you “is not the failure of the speakers, it’s the failure of the language.

Things we learned from djt

Our democracy is fragile

On Facebook last week, I made a request. What are things we learned from djt and his last four or five years in public life?

One couple has downloaded the Constitution, referring to it often for the past 4 years. Another has learned more about the document, “in particular the 12th amendment. But also the 13th and the 25th.”

Of course, I knew about the Electoral College, but prior to the 2020 presidential election, I’d thought of the post-Election Day aspects of it as often as I’ve considered gravity. The recent machinations on December 14 and January 6 are like the wedding guests storming the officiant’s office demanding to see the couple’s license.

A friend chimed in: “The legal meanings of the word treason and what distinguishes it from sedition; and the federal statutes regarding both. How martial law works.

Also, “the structure of the United States District Courts; how and the meaning of SALT (in addition to Strategic Arms Limitation Talks).” Are you referring to that Angelina Jolie movie?

My buddy Steve noted: “The difference between simple corruption and an actual impeachable offense.” I thought when he was impeached they should have gone after him over the emoluments clause.

A friend suggests “There are innumerable norms that have provided guidelines for presidential behavior.” That’s irrefutably true. Will the other members accept djt into the former prez club? Doubtful. It got me thinking of the fact that I can’t remember half the people in his Cabinet.

Who knew the Hatch Act was so ineffectual on the highest-ranking folks? Who has violated it? Ivanka Trump, repeatedly. Kellyanne Conway, ditto.  And others.

You folks have done well

A parent noted “The names of dictators around the world, as well as names of responsible world leaders.” Yow, me too, and I hadn’t thought about it. Their child wants to know whether “there is any better leadership anywhere in the world, especially related to COVID and climate change.”

“Inherently good people can become mean and vindictive when pushed to their limits. Let’s hope that’s just a temporary condition and they can heal.” Unfortunately, the “good” and “temporary” nature I’m just not feeling.

The January 6 insurrection one can trace to a time before djt. In the last four years, it runs from Charlottesville (2017) to the planned kidnapping of the Michigan governor (2020) and beyond.

Some other responses:
Our democracy is fragile
The danger executive orders pose for human/civil rights. Methods a political party uses to suppress the vote of American citizens.
The “loving thy neighbor” commandment is frustrating and confusing. I knew that already but nothing brought it home as these four years have.

What “deplorables” can accomplish when they work together and by extension what any group can accomplish when they work together.
Some people are happily embracing their prejudices, and that empathy is a quality to be embraced.
Misogyny is our biggest problem. The majority of folks would rather have a racist president than a woman President.
There are more bigots and haters than I could ever imagine. And it makes me sick

Our culture is suicidal.
There are no checks and balances in our government.
The process of the transition of the president on inauguration day.
How is it that nearly one-half of the country could support after living through 4 years of narcissism, bigotry, and daily lying?

[“I learned…”] Not everyone who lives in America loves America and respects the Constitution. The symptoms of malignant narcissism. How easily we could go from a democracy to an autocracy. That I could really hate someone with every fiber of my being.

His accomplishments

Someone I do not know says, “Anyone saying Trump didn’t do a good job as President is full of Fake News BS…Pelosi is promoting sedition and Treason…this Congress is a Malcontent Group of vindictive people…Hillary Lost…period…now listening to PBS. I’m beginning to think the Durham Durham investigations have found out WASHINGTON is Corruption…and the best way to avoid exposure is for the Corruption to Cheat and Lie. Shame on Congress…”

If you’ve read my blog over the past quadrennial, you’ll note that I have a different POV. I will give him credit for two things, though. The First Steps Act. “The act was… an effort to improve criminal justice outcomes, as well as to reduce the size of the federal prison population…”

The other is to pour money into getting a COVID vaccine. Unfortunately, he totally undercut that effort by denying the pandemic’s seriousness, contradicting CDC guidelines on mask-wearing, failing to provide any federal coordination for PPE acquisition, and holding superspreader events, among other failures.

The big lie

Unfortunately, lies can trump the truth.

There was a bit of dialogue:
“I have learned is how effective ‘The Big Lie’ technique can be.”
“A man said the bigger the lie, the more people believe it because a big lie has the quality of being unbelievable, therefore people don’t believe that someone would make it up. So they believe it’s true.”
“If everyone believes it then it must be true. I have been debating the election fraud story with believers of it. I have shown and proved how everything they believe is not factual but even then, they won’t admit to the lie or acknowledge even a part of the truth.”

And in fact, part of that quote is attributed to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. It probably wasn’t him, though he is cited on millions of webpages.

Conversely, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” That’s a quote by Maya Angelou

Back in August of 2020, he said, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”‘ He was announcing his strategy for undermining the election, attacking the postal service, et al. That was the birth of the series of baseless post-vote challenges.

In the midst of a 2020 election debated, he made a statement to the Proud Boys. “Stand back and stand by.” That dog whistle was blown just a few months later. Afterward, he tells the insurrectionists, “We love you. You’re very special. Go home.” How sweet.