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After Trump's astounding (but not surprising) "press availability time," I tweeted: "If 131 year old G Washington had been around when Virginia seceded, which way would he have gone?" Nobody has unfollowed me yet, but I wonder whether it could be seen as endorsing what the president said. I hope not. It's more of an indication of how my mind flits about. I don't know the answer. Arthur said he thought Thomas Jefferson would have kept on sticking by the Union (that's me plagiarizing a phrase from another context). I said he was a big supporter of slavery. Arthur queried it, and I replied that he hadn't even freed the mother of his children. Arthur granted my correctness, but pointed out that GW and TJ had anticipated the trouble slavery would cause in the future. I said "they kicked the can down the road," and then of course I had to check to see whether they could have done so. Not in 1789, but TJ lived long enough to see the commercialization of canned goods.
http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/what-it-says-on-the-tin-a-brief-history-of-canned-food

May I remark how much I dislike the expression "presser?" I understand the desire to cut out keystrokes/characters, but it's really unpleasant.
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The Qatar situation has dropped from mainstream US news, but Al Jazeera is keeping track. I was shocked to see this:
>>
Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, Qatar's minister of transport and communications, met on Tuesday with Bishar Hussein, the director general of the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

The meeting comes in response to the complaint submitted by Qatar to the UPU, concerning the violations of the constitution and conventions of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) by the blockading countries, which is the first of its kind in the world and a dangerous precedent for the UPU charters.<<
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/qatar-diplomatic-crisis-latest-updates-170605105550769.html

I cannot express how furious this makes me. Of the things in the world that we as human manage to get right, international cooperation about delivering the mail is in some ways the most endearing. Anybody who has access to paper and postage (which I admit doesn't include everybody) can send a letter to anybody in the world. Except not between Qatar and the Gulf jerks.

edit Not meaning to imply that this is the worst thing people are doing to each other.
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Nobody in the household remembers acquiring them, but during some recent attic clearance (hundreds of hours of sorting yet to go), we found two toy stuffed cats dressed up to be seasonal for Christmas. A friend of Flo's suggested that they came from a years-ago yard sale when friends got rid of their rambling house after a divorce. I moved the Christmas cats to the dining room, the staging area for donations about to leave the house, and there they stayed for a week or so. Two days ago, I started hearing a tinny sound. I wandered around, and discovered that one of the cats was playing Christmas melodies. After specific attention, I realized that the songs were coming out of its paw. We tried squeezing it, but couldn't get it to stop. I put it down. It stopped. Then it started again. This has now happened several times. Arthur's theory is that the battery is almost out and suddenly had a burst of trying to work at the end of its life. Beats me. We have a clock (also from a rummage sale) that has stopped abruptly three times, unrelated to its battery's life span. The first two times, I left it sitting around and then it suddenly would begin working again. This time (even with a new battery), it remains un-ticking. I haven't decided how long to wait.

In a non-battery device, our nearly forty year old toaster oven, the way to make toast (as opposed to baking or roasting) is to push down a lever and come back in a while. Several years ago, the lever started popping up right away, and it became necessary to hold it down while the toast was toasting. When Flo was here last week, she pushed down the lever and walked away. It stayed down. Toast resulted. It worked for Arthur, too, so it isn't her magic touch. This has happened several times over the years. We have no idea what makes the difference.
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No, not that one. August 6th is always very sad, as the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The destruction of Nagasaki was worse, in a way, because we'd already proved that we had the worst weapon ever, and could have waited a little longer for the reality to sink in. Maybe the reality still hasn't entirely sunk in. There was an emergency preparedness person on NPR yesterday explaining what to do in the event of a nuclear attack (my recollection from the Viet Nam era was "kiss your ass goodbye" but he didn't mention that). Basically stay inside, and listen to a reputable radio station. My mother and I had just been discussing the lack of formal bomb shelters last week, after the tests from North Korea and the US. She suggested that I head for a subway station, as in WWII London, but I pointed out the massive death toll when Bank Station (London) suffered a direct hit, and besides, in the time it would take me to get to Alewife (my closest station, which is only sort of underground), I'd be dead (or at least exposed) anyway.
Here I am, making it all about me again, instead of a memorial to the dead of 1945. I will think of them throughout the day.
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I was reading about the Hundred Years War just this morning, and of course we are involved in a never-ending war in Afghanistan and Iraq and all of their neighbors, so it's not as though wars are far from mind in general, but the centennial observances of WWI just keep making me angrier every time. 100 years ago today was the beginning of the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third battle of Ypres. The Wikipedia gives a straightforward account with more detail than I care to know
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Passchendaele
My take is that the underlying things to remember are that since Britain came into the war on the side of Belgium to begin with, they felt they couldn't abandon them, and that one should never make a plan based on the hope for favorable weather.
Commemoration fashion opinion - I think Kate should be wearing black
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40767601

This is just the latest. I think the whole war was a mistake to start with, and the resolution of it helped lead to Hitler's rise (not an original thought on my part). I am reminded every month about death, death, death, because the weekly newspaper for change ringers (printed in Britain) https://www.ringingworld.co.uk/
has a monthly tribute section about the ringers who died that month a hundred years earlier, with some biographical info, the names of the places they rang, and photos when available. Due to this battle (named that in the same sense as the battle of the Somme - months of a campaign), there had to be two issues with the tributes because the numbers were so high.

Dunkirk

Jul. 20th, 2017 09:11 pm
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We saw the 70mm film version at the Somerville Theatre. It was worth it. Amazing, in an old fashioned kind of way. Those were real Spitfires, and some of the original little boats appeared as themselves, though the whole cast and specific plot points were fictional. At 1:42, Arthur thought it was longer than necessary. Acting very good. We both felt that the music was meant to be manipulative, and we resented it. I think it might have been better to have no music at all, just ambient sound. Filming took place in Dunkirk, Britain, the Netherlands, and a bit mysteriously, the US, probably California. Arthur has acquaintances among the stunt people. We were surprised that in a crowd of people to whom actual film matters, only a very few of us stayed for all the credits.
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I knew it would need to be today or not at all, as I have other stuff happening all weekend. If I had been able to get my act together yesterday to do all the chores I need to get done today (not done, but neither is the day), I could have managed it, especially if the venue were still only about six miles from home, rather than near Quincy Adams, but nope. So a few sighs, some keeping track on twitter, and that's it. I have mixed feelings about that kind of event, anyway. I would learn a lot and make notes and have strong opinions, but also mostly keep to myself, beyond hello how are you remarks to people of my acquaintance. Clearly many people use it as a time to see old friends, but I'm usually not good at that. The exception was the first time I went, when Elizabeth Wein (eegatland) was there to read and sign and so forth. On the Friday, a friend of hers, friend's baby, and I all showed up and did nothing but hang out with Elizabeth, so that wasn't typical either. I've already started planning costumes for Arisia, reminding myself that they must be danceable (and suitable for riding the T), but I know that even though I'll be *touching* people while dancing, I won't be talking much at the event, either.
It's not that I'm shy, or that I don't like conversation. I just often can't figure out how to do it.
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There have been posters up in the Cary (Lexington) library for quite a while advertising a concert last night by Cambridge Musiki Cemiyeti, performing classical Turkish music. It started at 7 PM, and when I got there a little after that, the door was open and the hallway had lots of people straining to listen, because the room was full and they are pretty strict about fire limits. It's called the Large Meeting room, but that's only to distinguish it from the smaller meeting rooms. It is almost never large enough for everyone who turns up to a concert. I listened for a while, which was not entirely easy because some of the listening loiterers were chatting among themselves, including the people near me, who were not native speakers of English and were working out Turkey/Turk/Turkish, and which was appropriate when. I think that all languages should use the local words for countries and nationalities, but nobody asked me at the time languages were invented. What I realized was that while the music seemed familiar to me, I had the mental image of people dancing to it, not sitting quietly listening. I suppose I must have heard that (or a similar) group at NEFFA or the Lowell Folk Festival.
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I admit that "Big computers, big hair" is a good summary of the photographs, but it's the clothes that snap me back to the time period the most
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/gallery/2016/feb/13/future-women-the-bell-lab-computer-operators-of-the-1960s-in-pictures-women-in-computing
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There were lots of rumors on social media yesterday, to the effect that Paul Ryan had made a rule preventing women from wearing sleeveless dresses to the Capitol. What is actually the case is that the rule is old, but being enforced. Men have to wear jackets, and nobody is allowed open toed shoes (so no sandals, even in DC in the summer). It's just for the Speaker's Lobby. I didn't know there *was* a speaker's lobby, but apparently reporters hang out there, and from interns on up, they are told about the dress code. I think it would be better to have a positive statement (jackets will be worn) across the board, rather than a negative for women. I have long wished for a similar rule for TV news and weather people. And talk shows, as well. The men without exception have suits on. The women almost all have tight-fitting dresses. A couple of years ago when discussing what we were planning to wear to a family wedding, I said that I was thinking of being out of character and wearing a meteorologist dress. This was confusing to some people, but immediately clear to others. In the end, I wore a rayon flowery shift and blue jacket. I look at female meteorologists on TV squished into tight dresses and high heels, thinking to myself "all those years of physics, and it's come to this." When I'm flipping through the cable news channels, I have noticed that all the women on Fox News (sic) who are on sofas rather than behind desks are wearing knee-length dresses with the right leg crossed over the left. Really. Rachel Maddow apparently has one suit jacket that she wears all the time, but at least it's a jacket.

July 11th
saw a couch-full of women on Fox news with left leg over right. Maybe it's the uniformity that matters.
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Starting with the eve of. Every year, the Lexington fireworks are advertised as beginning "at dusk," rather than just stating outright that the scheduled time is 9:30 PM, unless something or other comes up. If Arthur is around again next year (he is often out of town), I will try to not insist that we go down the street (a good viewing spot is about a two minute walk away) far too early. Nice local scene, a good mix of ancestral nationalities, lots of children, too many cars, pleasant lights in the sky.

Morning of - I started a project that made us leave fifteen minutes later than the scheduled 10:45 (so that we could be at Old North before noon), but due to an amazing combination of getting a parking space right outside of Davis station (no buses to/from Lexington on Sundays or holidays) a Red Line train that came in three minutes, connecting to a Green line train that pulled up as we hit the platform at Park Street, we were actually almost fifteen minutes early. Precisely what google maps claims for driving the whole way, and that doesn't include finding a space in the North End. I sent the T a thank-you email.
Noon ringing was good, lots of ringers and friends in attendance. The snacks we provided (three kinds of berries, store-bought cake, chips) were mostly consumed. Out of the tower in time to avoid inconveniencing the tour people. Some confusion about lunch, but Arthur and I and three others had take-out food under a tree on the Greenway.
Arthur and I walked over to the Church of the Advent to put the dinner picnic food in the fridge, and then considered what to do in the four+ hours before said picnic. We decided to go see Wonder Woman at the Boston Common Loews. It was pretty good, but we think we have had enough superhero movies. We liked the temperature, sound level, and seats at the theater. The Burlington Ten, our closest (geographically) blockbuster theater, is always too loud and they have recliner chairs that we find uncomfortable.
After that, we wandered over to the Frog Pond and surrounded ourselves with America. Many colors, languages, ages, financial levels, all enjoying the late afternoon together, either wading or playing at the playground, eating, getting faces painted, sitting quietly on a bench watching people, taking selfies with the statues on the Common.
After that came the only rant-inducing time of day. We were going to walk in the Public Garden, but it was locked. Gates chained shut. I asked a nearby police officer, who said it was because of the bad things happening in the world. I called the BPD non-emergency number (Arthur: you have that in your phone? me: yes) and complained. The dispatcher switched me over to City Hall, and after a few rings I got a customer service person of some sort. He said it was the State Police's idea, not the city's. I don't actually have *their* number, so we kept walking. After realizing how far one has to walk to be inspected just to stroll to the esplanade, we gave up. I noticed Bill Evans, the BPD commissioner, standing on a median, in casual clothes, chatting with passersby. (Arthur: How do you know who that is? Me: he's famous. I've seem him at the Mother's Day march in Dorchester, and in the New Year's Eve procession, and on TV many times. He's famous). I waited my turn, then started my rant. He said it wasn't a security decision at all, and that the park police had shut it down at the request of the Friends of the Public Garden, who feel that the garden can't cope with the 4th of July crowds. Harrumph. Tell that to the sad family we saw, who couldn't ride Swan boats and then got to the carousel too late as well. Maybe he used his influence, because when we walked by at 11:15 PM, the gates were open again.
Lovely potluck picnic with ringers in the church garden, good ringing for the concert (although we wish we were more audible above the sound of the chimes on stage), good fireworks in ideal weather (not rainy or windy or so hot that one would be miserable) , and a mostly efficient trip home. It was better ages ago when the concert started (and therefore ended) an hour earlier, but if one has to be up that late, it's a pleasant way to occupy the time.
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The revised Muslim ban (why call it anything else?) allows some family members but not grandparents or engaged partners. I can imagine that the exclusion of fiance(e)s is based on the stereotype of marriages of convenience being arranged just for immigration or citizenship purposes. I cannot figure out the grandparent thing at all. Lexington is almost 30% Asian (all categories of Asian), and a fair number of those people are pretty clearly here to be with their children and grandchildren, including a neighbor two doors down from us, who came from India. The Saturday morning bus I ride has a bunch of grandparent-aged people heading toward Chinatown (which I can tell because of the shopping bags I sometimes see on the way home in the afternoon). Many people in the US (not just Lexington) depend on grandparents for childcare. What were the Supremes thinking?
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Poet Gwendolyn Brooks would have been 100 this month, and the Poetry Foundation is making a big deal of it, including sponsoring an animated version of her talking about, then reading, "We Real Cool."
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/features/video/detail/142394
(not trying to embed it)
To make this all about me, as usual, I discovered Brooks in about 1972, when I did a couple of short segments a week on the Duke University radio station WDBS as part of the Durham Women's Radio Collective. One of my regular things was famous female poet of the week (I don't think I called it that). I don't remember how I decided to do that - I'm not very poetry-literate, but it seemed like a good thing at the time. I remember rummaging through the poetry section at the Durham Public library (then in a wooden Victorian building) to find stuff. The building may have been old and musty, but many of the books weren't. Some of the Anne Sexton books, for example, would have been fresh. She was still writing at the time. Having just looked her up on Wikipedia, I see that was basically my mother's age, and that she is buried in JP. Maybe I should make a pilgrimage, although I barely remember her poetry now.

A friend and I also read news at the station on Friday nights.

We were both in the band in high school, and more than once we carpooled from marching at half-time at a football game to the station to read the 11 o'clock news.
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Watch this. I'll be here when you get back
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_35a7sn6ds
"immigrants - we get the job done" was originally a pointed, jokey line from "Yorktown (the world turned upside down)" from Hamilton. Some of the same people, including Lin Manuel Miranda, are responsible for the video above.
(tangentially related - I saw a pro-vaccine video this morning made by some high school students based on the idea of "I'm not throwing away my shot")

I mentioned last week my new interest in "Still Star-crossed." I set up the DVR to tape this week's scheduled episode, but it didn't air - ABC showed "Celebrity Family Feud" instead. I was miffed, but I remarked to Arthur that at least the title would work for either. The Montagues and Capulets were celebrities in their own area.

I tend to go to visit my parents for my mother's monthly bridge club meetings, although it would only be *necessary* for me to be there on the months in which she is hosting, as I do all the prep. Someone else could usually give her a ride otherwise. She often complains about losing her memory, and not knowing where she is going, but if I print out google directions, she immediately contradicts their choices. The combination of her route and google's yesterday got us briefly lost, but she was more accurate than they were, and we got there. I don't play bridge - I usually read during bridge time, and help out with serving and cleaning up, but I have tried to learn at least some of what is going on. Yesterday one of the regulars backed out at the last minute, so seven players plus me showed up. They decided that I would be an improvement over an empty chair, although apparently there is some way of shifting people around so that the missing person is the dummy every time. I couldn't get all the nuances of bidding (which is where my brain has shut down every time I've tried to read a book about learning to play) but I tried to fake it, and can follow suit, at least. What I expect I will never get is the scoring. There seem to be points for defensive play, offensive play, sheer luck (getting a hand with "honors"), and other things. Numbers above the line. Numbers below the line. On and on. My supposition is that the card game part is all a ruse so that people can make up arithmetic games with the scoring, but I may be wrong about that. I started thinking about "Cosmic Wimpout," in terms of silly games, and wondered what it would be like in a tightly packed room of elderly women, two with walkers, if someone yelled "Clear the tracks." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_Wimpout
Maybe it's more like "Mornington Crescent" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mornington_Crescent_(game)
I don't know anything about whist or piquet. Maybe it's actually like those.

Based on choco-frosh's mention of "A Closed and Common Orbit," I sought out Becky Chambers's
"The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet." As the person sitting next to me on the Red line this morning remarked, it's very good. I like the characters, but I almost immediately was struck with the idea that Kizzy is an homage to Kaylee Frye, of "Firefly" fame. Even as I have become fond of Kizzy in her own right, I can't get it out of my head, and when I finish the book, I'll probably drag out the DVDs and watch some of "Shindig," at a minimum.
It dawned on me later that he had made a conversational opening remark, and I probably should have followed up on it, rather than just smiling and going back to the book. I'm not good at this stuff.

Also on the Red line (three stops later) - there was a woman with blonde and brown hair extensions added to her corn rows, with a face that was lovely in repose, wearing a shiny floral jacket. It was hard for me not to stare. I thought of telling her that she looked amazing (almost magical, really), but remembered all the fuss about the president making a remark to a female reporter about her appearance, and the ensuing argument about whether a compliment can just be a compliment, so I said nothing. Really, not good an interactions with strangers. It's hard enough with people who are used to me.

House guest arriving in four days. Am I cleaning? Not that one would notice...

really fun

Jun. 24th, 2017 07:31 pm
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I have been going to Tai Chi classes at Davis Square Martial Arts for at least a dozen years. I tracked them down after the instructor at the Lexington Rec department flipped out because most of us clearly didn't practice at home, and after being shouted at, everybody quit. At first I went two or three times a week, but that became too tiring after a while, so I long since settled in to just the Saturday morning class, the timing of which matches up pretty well with the ringing practice later on. I usually just say Tai Chi, without distinguishing between the Yang 24 or competition 42 step form, or the bagua spear that we do at Seven Hills park in the summer, or Tai Chi sword, or whatever. One of the sweet things about the classes is that the adult classes are on a one-room schoolhouse model. Everybody does the warm-up together, and then the class splits up into as many sections as necessary - on any given day, there could be someone whose was first class it was, and people who had been working on ever more complex routines for years would be there as well. If the instructor is working with one group, the people in another group could be helping each other out. This morning we warmed up outside and then moved indoors when the rain got harder. It turned out that all of us were working on Leung Yi Bagua. For an example see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdAAUoOVMYA I was the least experienced of the bunch, but there were no newbies of any sort. I'm not sure I remember a class in which *everybody* was doing the same thing, although I am probably exaggerating. I also don't remember ever seeing the instructor barefooted before. No street shoes are allowed in the studio, but quite a few people have designated shoes (including the instructors). Often by the end of the class, whatever we're doing, I am physically tired and brain-fried, but for some reason, today I was engaged the whole time, way longer than my usual attention span. Smiling.
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There was a "die-in" outside of Mitch McConnell's office yesterday, organized by the disability rights group ADAPT.
http://adapt.org/
I don't know the rules about being in hallways outside of Senators' offices, but the building belongs to all of us, so it seems to me that people should be welcome to protest. Not,apparently, or at least not to the extent of taking up all the space in the hall, which may be the relevant aspect of it. Forty were arrested, and many people were dragged away by police, as is traditional in protest arrests. What seemed nonsensical to me is that many of the protesters were lifted out of their wheelchairs and awkwardly carried away. There are videos available online. In addition to being dangerous, how is it practical? What are they going to do when they get to the police officer station - have officers keep carrying them around? There was some video footage of people with electric scooters being pushed in the scooter, but many were taken from their various chairs. Why didn't the police just, I don't know, take the wheelchair with the person in it? Some of those chairs cost thousands of dollars and are custom made - separating the user from the chair makes no sense to me.
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There is a summer (only seven episodes filmed) series on ABC called "Still Star-Crossed." From the commercials beforehand, I got that it is a sequel to Romeo and Juliet, starting almost immediately after their deaths, with the scene still laid in Verona. Then I mostly forgot about it. I came across the third episode on Monday night, half-way in, and liked it very much. I sometimes shy away from costume dramas because unauthentic costumes draw all of my focus. We only watched bits of "Wolf Hall," which many people liked and which had many well-done costumes, because whenever Anne Boleyn appeared onscreen, I started yelling "wrinkles!" (see # 4 http://www.frockflicks.com/top-5-costume-inaccuracies-in-wolf-hall/) The clothes in "S S-C" don't really pass for Renaissance Italy, but they didn't bother me, not least because it turns out that Rosaline can run flat out without being deterred by her gown, even though the lines (and presumably therefore undergarments) are correct. The street scenes are fantastic. When I learned that the show is based on a book by the same name by Melinda Taub, I vaguely assumed YA, but one of the reviewers on Goodreads called it fanfic, and I think that's about right. Not that there is anything wrong with YA. Upon reflection this morning, I realized that for those of us of a certain age (ie the same age as Juliet when the 1968 Zeffirelli version hit the big screen), Romeo and Juliet *was* YA. People in their early teens doing dangerous things for love, with the background possibility of dying for the greater good (not their main motivation, but it was there). I saw it several times in the theater (the only choice, then), with friends. By the third time, some of my friends had gotten over their sadness at the untimely deaths, but I was still fully engaged. At the scene of Juliet speaking over Romeo's body (I am clearly not worrying about spoilers here), I sobbed out loud. The viewer behind me also sobbed loudly at the same time, and my friends buried their faces in their coats, to muffle their shrieks of laughter.
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I mentioned at the time of each van-on-bridge terrorist murder event in London that I had walked on those bridges, so I will mention that we walked by the Finsbury Park mosque in February. Different targets, same MO.
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My total was only three concerts, all of them Fringe, but I was very happy with all of them. On Friday, I went to hear the USC Collegium's focus on the songbook of Anna of Cologne, interspersed with some shawm + sackbut pieces. Early 1500s, an outcome of the Modern Devotion movement. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devotio_Moderna
The music was great. One of the singers wasn't as good as the others, but they are students (the two faculty members played shawms), so she may not be as experienced. It was at 1st Church in Boston, the same location as the 2015 USC performance. That one was packed. This time there were only about fifty people in the audience. That sounds like a fair number, but since the venue can hold many more, it seemed sparse. I wonder whether it was time of day. Since there are 11 PM concerts, some people might not be able to drag themselves out in time for a 10 AM performance the next day. One person showed up at about 10:40, and was shocked that he only heard one piece - their whole program only took a little more than 45 minutes. An hour is not uncommon for a fringe program, but maybe he didn't know that. As we were leaving, he asked for his donation back. I presume he got it.
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