Lydster: Zoom school sucks!

The ever-educational They Might Be Giants

zoom schoolAs I must have mentioned, my daughter was all primed to go to school in person as late as August 24, 2020. Instead, she got Zoom school this fall, after suffering through it from mid-March 2020 and on. It’s not actually on Zoom, but whatever. And that’s not what they label it.

They call it “remote learning.” Remote: “having very little connection with or relationship to”; that’s about right. On the last Sunday of January, I had five Zoom meetings. Well, almost. The church was on Facebook and one of the meetings was on a Zoom-like platform called Wonder.

Except for church, though, it was people looking at other people located in little rectangles on my computer. Worse, some people STILL haven’t mastered the mute button.

So I feel my daughter’s pain. She has four or five of those every weekday. Some folks, in trying to encourage her… well, didn’t. I’ve occasionally sat in on some of those courses. Despite the best effort of some of her teachers – some of them are preternaturally cheerful! – it was still stultifying after a couple of classes.

Since my wife has also taught remotely off and on, including two weeks in January 2021, I know it is harder emotionally, technologically, and organizationally, especially when she switched back and forth. The one thing she liked about remote learning was the extra 30 minutes of sleep.

The homework helper

It was less true at the beginning of the school year but more true now. I am the homework helper. My assistance with statistics, which I took twice, in college and grad school, is spotty at best. Whereas I’m better with American history because I actually remember the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the 1857 Dred Scott case. (No, I’m NOT that old.)

Still, I occasionally learn things I either forgot or never knew. For instance, everything you need to know about the 11th President appears in James K. Polk by They Might Be Giants. Possibly the most successful one-term chief executive.

Sometimes, I just sit with her to help her keep on task, such as when she works on her Environmental Science. She almost never even asks for my help in her art classes since she knows that it’s not in my wheelhouse.

Too political

For one course, she was supposed to find and describe a poster that addresses social justice. The caveat is that the work is not to be political. If by political, they mean “vote for Bernie” or “X sucks”, then OK.

But it seems that social justice, by its very nature, is at least small-p political. Labor rights, hunger, fighting racism/sexism/homophobia, et al. These all often require political action, allocation of resources. Sure you can buy a meal for someone, but addressing systemic food deserts require a broader action. Or  José Andrés,, at least.

The year 2020: Hugh Downs, because

The Zen of alphabetization

The nail in the coffin of my 2020 recollection after I stick a silver dagger in its chest.

What was the best book you read?

Hugh Downs
Hugh Downs

This Brilliant Darkness by Jeff Sharlet. Probably because I’m briefly mentioned therein.

What did you want and get?

Some semblance of connectivity. Zoom is good for Bible studies, the Dads group at church. Actually, it’s been great for communicating with my sisters. It’s fine for keeping in touch with the choir, but not nearly as good as singing together.

What did you want and not get?

The sense of the creative. I didn’t sing or see a lot of performances or read a lot of books.

What were your favorite films of this year?

This will be different because I didn’t see a lot of films at the cinema. Note these are not the BEST films, necessarily, which is probably Parasite or 1917, but the ones I most enjoyed.

Knives Out 
Just Mercy 

On video:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 
Coco 
Thor: Ragnarok 

What did you do on your birthday?

Our church did a performance of Once On This Island the following day, just before the lockdown. So I spent much of the time at the dress rehearsal.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

Comfortable footwear. These long-sleeved shirts my wife bought from L.L. Bean that help prevent me from getting sunburned.

What kept you sane?

To the degree that is true – and one could argue that – I play music constantly. Compact discs, because I like the tangible. Then every three months, I put the ones I played away because it involves the mental exercise of alphabetization.

Yeah, most of it is already online, but listening to that doesn’t bring me… JOY. I love reading the liner notes – Ricky Fataar is on a 2016 Bonnie Raitt album; Emmylou Harris is everywhere.

And sometimes, I would alternate between listening to a CD and riding the stationary bike for 15 minutes. The CD might be 29 minutes, or 45, or 74. I like the asymmetrical nature of the process.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Chadwick Boseman (RIP), Kobe Bryant (RIP), Lebron James.
Ji-Man Choi – pronounced like Eliot Ness – the pudgy but amazingly athletic first baseman of the Tampa Bay Rays.

There are probably others. But it’s been a long year.

In fact, this is so true that I actually forgot Hugh Downs died in 2020. Of course, he did.  And I mentioned it 

What political issue stirred you the most?

My general belief that we may have already irrevocably destroyed the planet. Democracy in the USA may be unfixable. Oh, and that – surprise! – racism still exists in America.

Who was the best new person you met?

Who meets new people? Actually, one of the best things, in my telephoning exercise, is to reconnect with people I had not talked with in years, such as Janet, Diana, Jeff, Al, Judith, Kim, Maureen…

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020

Sometimes, the workarounds are successful, and sometimes, not so much.

Small Zoom gatherings work. Or they don’t for reasons some of us can recite in our sleep. I’m betting Jeffrey Tobin’s  ZOOM meeting was really boring. Someone failed to mute, so he forgot to turn off the camera.

“Parties” on Zoom I’m most uncomfortable with. If you’re at a real party, you talk for a while, observe for a while, haul empty cups to the kitchen. But online, you’re expected to be “on.”

At one gathering this year with three dozen people, someone asked ME specifically why I hadn’t said anything. It’s mostly because 1) it’s difficult to know when to speak and not talk over people and 2) I didn’t really have anything to say.

Takeout food. Some are great. Pizza, Indian food. I haven’t had Chinese this year, but I imagine it’d be pretty good. But some, from restaurants I love, are lackluster. Italian food is hit or miss, e.g.

Telemedicine, as noted – meh.

Performances – better than nothing, but an ersatz experience. It’s interesting that, because of the pandemic plus the technology, there are MORE opportunities to hear music online than I could possibly take in.

Tell you what, 2021. If you don’t suck as much as 2020 did, my summary about you will be half as long. Deal?

December 36, 2020

Hey, 2021, you’re not starting off very well. Sluggish COVID vaccine distribution.

And such a blatant attempt to steal the election by the Republican party that all living former defense secretaries have condemned  GOP attempts to overturn the election and involve the military.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who I do not like, nevertheless is partly correct in opposing challenging the Electoral College tally. “Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress.”

Newsmax, having sold its soul, said that it has “reviewed the full tape and transcript of [his] call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

It claims “The transcript shows [Trump] pressed the Secretary on serious vote fraud issues in Georgia and Trump never acted improperly.”

Naturally, Newsmax blames the mainstream media for “duplicity” in spreading “false” information. The man said on tape, “I just want to find 11,780 votes” and alternately berated, flattered, begged, and threatened with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims. He is soliciting election fraud, in his increasingly desperate attack on democracy, dammit.

Movie on ZOOM review: Radium Girls

poisoning from painting watch dials

Radium GirlsIn early December, I got to see the 2018 movie  Radium Girls. It had screened at the Tribeca Film Festival back when it was first made. An April 2020 cinema release date had been scheduled, then postponed because of COVID.

In the fall of 2020, the movie was offered in a few theaters. I managed to see it in a showing co-sponsored by the Coalition of Labor Union Women. And following the film was a question and answers with directors Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler.

Watching a movie on Zoom has its problems. Among other things, this one began with the sound that was off for several minutes before the film was restarted.

It is an intriguing storyline. “In the 1920s, a group of female factory workers advocates for safer work conditions after some of their colleagues become ill from radium exposure.”

From Wikipedia: They contracted “radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with self-luminous paint. The painting was done by women at three different United States Radium factories.” The one in Orange, New Jersey was highlighted in the film.

“The women in each facility had been told the paint was harmless.” They “subsequently ingested deadly amounts of radium after being instructed to ‘point’ their brushes on their lips in order to give them a fine tip.” Given the lengthy number of reports about the case, I was surprised that I had never heard about this story until the film.

The verdict

As for the film: it was…pretty good. I wanted to love it, I suppose. I must agree with much of the criticism that was leveled at the small-budget project. “The anger inspired by what happened to these women is invigorating, but that fury is rarely felt from what Radium Girls offers as a cinematic experience.” That’s what Roxana Hadadi from RogerEbert.com wrote.

And yet, I will still recommend it. The actors, and especially Joey King, are quite good. Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter writes: “The film fulfills a vital function with its dramatization of an important chapter in America’s history of labor reform.”

So if the plot leading to the trial is a bit threadbare and contrived, I’m still glad I watched Radium Girls. The narrative is, unfortunately, still relevant when some industries are “rolling back protections for workers” a century after the events portrayed in the movie.

People in the Capital District will recognize recently-retired news anchor Jim Kambrich in the small but pivotal role of a judge.

You can watch Radium Girls for $12 here.

Dec. rambling: Overture of Overtures

Beethoven (b. December 1770)

the-wrong-side-of-history
From https://wronghands1.com/2020/11/27/the-wrong-side-of-history/ Wrong Hands.

They Fought for the Country that Detained Their Families:  Japanese American Soldiers in WWII.

The biology of dads.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome.

In The Age Of  Zoom Dysmorphia, Experts Offer Tips To Improve Self-Image.

Interview with Swamp Thing Comic Artist Stephen Bissette.

David Lander, R.I.P. (Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley, and much more).

A New Study About Color Tries to Decode The Brain’s Pantone.

The first Golden Age Panel at Comic-Con in 1993.

Greg Hatcher: Grail Quests – Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, and especially Airplane!

The King Features Syndicate animated cartoon shows of the 1960s.

Now I Know: When Kids Didn’t Trust Santa and Return Doo Sender and The First Female Senator (For a Day) and The Ultimate Toys R Us Kid?

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Pringles update.

Drink away  2020.

IMPOTUS

He Rewards Kellyanne Conway, 2 Dozen Others With Prestigious Government Appointments.

Weekly Sift: Pardons and Their Limits.

Lincoln Project: Whispers III.

Comedians Bought DonaldJTrump2024.com Just so They Could Mock Him.

COVID

One traveler’s experience. For Andrew Evans, who had traveled to South Korea for a job, entering the country involved a  mandatory, 14-day quarantine locked alone in a room at a government isolation facility.

“Checking in at New York’s nearly empty JFK included signing legal documents acknowledging that he was voluntarily placing himself in government custody and that he would have to pay for it — a fixed cost of 1.68 million KRW (equivalent to $1,459.99).”

COVID vaccines: calling the shots.

“What better lesson can we learn from the COVID vaccine experience than that the multi-national pharma companies should be publicly owned so that research and development can be directed to meet the health and medical needs of people not the profits of these companies.

“And moreover, then the necessary vaccines can get to the billions in the poorest countries and circumstances rather than to just those countries and people who can afford to pay the prices set by these companies.”

Margaret Keenan, soon to be 91, became the first person to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Rudy Giuliani potentially exposed hundreds to the virus.

A Nice Holiday Story About A  Killer Virus.

How Your Brain Tricks You Into Taking Risks During the Pandemic.

Having Chemotherapy During COVID-19 Has Given Me So Many Things to Be Grateful For.

MUSIC

Jaquandor’s Daily Dose of Christmas.

Santa Baby – Marzia Plichta and Christoph Drösser.

Bohemian Chanukah – Six13.

Musicians from London’s West End performing Overture of Overtures.

The Revelation – Roosevelt Wardell Trio (album) within a discussion on stuck at home and depression.

Pop Psalms: Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5.

Paul McCartney: Who Cares and We All Stand Together and Come On To Me.

What the World Needs Now -Tom Clay, which I wrote about way back in  2006.

Coverville 1336: The Christina Aguilera Cover Story.

Mean Green Mother from Outer Space – Cavin Cornwall.

Concerto in One Movement by Florence Price.

Don’t Fool Around with My Heart – William Roberts, a/k/a Michigan J Frog, from the 1942 movie, The Yanks Are Coming. Plus It Hopped One Night: A Look at One Froggy Evening.

John Lennon: The Last Interview

Roll Over, Beethoven (b. December 1770)

Fidelio, his only opera.

Symphony No. 4  in B-flat major.

Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, more familiarly called Für Elise.

Symphony No. 6  in F Major, the Pastoral.

Unbridled joy at church, as it were

readings, prayers, and conversation

First Presbyterian Church. windowMy church had been working toward resuming in-person worship beginning Sunday, November 29. However, based on the upswing of COVID 19 virus cases in the area, the Session (correctly, IMO) doesn’t feel it is safe to restart.

Since we’re talking about Presbyterians, naturally there is an ad hoc group known as the Reopening Coordinating Committee. The group voted to put in-person worship on hold at least until mid-January. I suspect it’ll be later than that.

Now, we have had worship live-streamed on Facebook every Sunday at 10 a.m. since way back on March 22, after the services were canceled on March 15. It is actually a quite decent production, thanks to the technological prowess of a number of folks. But of course, it’s not the same.

There is a team in the church to check-in and connect with every member via phone or email. I’m one of those team members. But it ain’t the same either.

We did a new thing

On November 22, we had an all-church meeting to discuss the nominations for the new Session members. So it was on the church’s ZOOM account. I had seen most of the people present, from meetings of the choir and adult Sunday school and the Bible guys.

But it occurred to me that some of the members had viewed few or none of the rest of us. What I saw were, in some cases, experiences of unbridled joy. It was very exciting.

Then on Thanksgiving at 11 am, we had a Zoom gathering time of readings, prayers, and conversation. ESPECIALLY conversation.

Now, our church is working on trying to do a carol sing close to Christmas. Of course, we’d all be muted save for the performers. It’d be cacophony otherwise. Still, we could at least SEE each other making a joyful noise.

As our pastors like to say, “We may not gather at the church, but we still gather as the church.”