The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Catch-up weekend

The audience loved last night's performance of Everest and Aleko. Everest composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer attended, and I had the opportunity to meet them backstage at intermission. They both reported being overjoyed by our performance. Nice.

I discovered in researching this post that the BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform Everest at the Barbican on 20 June 2020. Hell yes, I'm going.

If you don't want to wait until June, you can hear us this afternoon at Harris Theater.

Opening night

In about four hours, I'll be warming up for tonight's double bill of Everest and Aleko with the Chicago Opera Theater. Chicago's last remaining classical radio station, WFMT, went to our rehearsal on Monday (when I was in London, unfortunately for me):

n this staging, both works employ a large chorus made up of over 100 members, including members of Apollo Chorus of Chicago. Their function, Yankovskaya explains, is akin to a Greek Chorus: "In Everest, the chorus serves as the voice of the mountain often or the voice of the people of the past who have climbed the mountain. In Aleko, likewise, the chorus is often commenting on the surroundings and creating an atmosphere."

In the piece "The lights have gone out" from Aleko, the chorus "creates a sense of time and place," Yankovskaya shares. "The lights have all gone out in the Roma tents. The travelers are going to sleep, and the two lovers, Zemfira and the Young Gypsy, are about to come out and have their duet. But before that happens, we hear this setting created by the chorus."

WFMT posted video from the rehearsal.

You want tickets? We got tickets. PM me for a discount code.

This shit again

So far in this election cycle, I've given money to only one candidate: Elizabeth Warren. I believe she's best qualified of everyone running to become president in January 2021, and I also agree with most of her policy proposals. And I like that she's not afraid to show her anger.

That said, the adjective "angry" applied to a woman can signal something else. Joe Biden disappointed me greatly when he employed it to introduce a whiff of sexism, which I expect to become an absolute miasma before the Iowa Caucuses. And I'm bloody sick of it.

The Atlantic is too:

The profound irony of Biden’s “angry, unyielding” accusation is that Warren herself is the first to admit to her own anger. A foundation of her campaign is that there is nothing wrong with being angry—and that, to the contrary, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. In an email to supporters late last week, Warren rejected the premise of Biden’s accusation, writing, as she has before: “I’m angry and I own it.”

But what Biden and his advisers seem to know all too well is that once an idea builds—once it becomes the stuff of sound bites and headlines and Overton-sanctioned debate—it becomes extremely difficult to counter. To tell someone “Don’t think of an elephant,” the linguist and philosopher George Lakoff has suggested, is meaningfully identical to telling that person to think of an elephant. Biases are powerful things. So, in politics as in other fields, are emotions.

Anger may be an ethic of the moment. But anger, flung as an accusation at Warren, is not about economic disparity or racial injustice or environmental catastrophe. It is about the familiar standbys: “likability.” “Electability.” “Charisma.” Anger, rendered as a criticism, summons those ideas—without explicitly invoking them. It summons history, too. It is a targeted missile, seeking the spaces in the American mind that still assume there is something unseemly about an angry woman. It is attempting to tap into the dark and ugly history in which the anger displayed by a woman is assumed to compromise her—to render her unattractive precisely because the anger makes her uncontrollable.

Exactly. Maybe, as a Gen-X, cis-gendered, straight, educated, 40-something, white American man of some privilege, I have a piece missing that I actually couldn't care less about the sex of a politician when evaluating her policies or ambition. Or maybe other people in my demographic—specifically other people more than about 10 years older than I am—need to either get over themselves or just stop voting.

So yeah, apparently we have to deal with all this crap again, because people would rather get bent out of shape that a woman has the audacity to run for president than to get rid of the senile man-child currently holding that office.

You don't have to be a super-spy to know this

I found myself actually shocked at one piece of testimony in yesterday's impeachment hearing:

A U.S. ambassador’s cellphone call to President Trump from a restaurant in the capital of Ukraine this summer was a stunning breach of security, exposing the conversation to surveillance by foreign intelligence services, including Russia’s, former U.S. officials said.

The call — in which Trump’s remarks were overheard by a U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv — was disclosed Wednesday by the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr.

“The security ramifications are insane — using an open cellphone to communicate with the president of the United States,” said Larry Pfeiffer, a former senior director of the White House Situation Room and a former chief of staff to the CIA director. “In a country that is so wired with Russian intelligence, you can almost take it to the bank that the Russians were listening in on the call.”

Republicans, who used to bang the drum on security issues so loudly you could barely make out the words they were actually saying, do not seem to have noticed this event. Which shocks me even more.

Just a couple of things to note

And it's not even lunchtime yet:

  • A storm has left Venice flooded under 187 cm of water, the second highest flood since records began in 1923. Four of the five largest floods in Venice history have occurred in the last 20 years; the record flood (193 cm) occurred in 1966.
  • As our third impeachment inquiry in 50 years begins public hearings, Josh Marshall explains what the Democrats have to prove.
  • Yoni Appelbaum wonders if the country can hold together. He's not optimistic.
  • Via Bruce Schneier, the NTSB has released a report on the autonomous car accident in 2018 that killed Elaine Herzberg. A notable detail: "Police investigators later established that the driver had likely been streaming a television show on her personal smartphone."
  • Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel lists his 50 favorite restaurants in the area. I have a mission.

And you should see Sir Rod Stewart's model railroad. Jaw-dropping.

Back home, stuff can wait

I didn't get nearly as much sleep as usual on this trip, compared with other weekends in London, so I'll have to figure out why before next time. But Parker and I are home now, and if I can stay up until 10pm (at least), I should get things back on track.

Of course, between now and Sunday I have two rehearsals and two performances of Aleko and Everest. I think sleep planning might be in order.

Oh, and Chicago had record cold last night: -14°C. Glad I missed it.

Pricing in externalities

Uber, the ride-sharing company that pretends it isn't a ride-sharing company, has started a massive PR campaign against the city of Chicago because Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants them to pay for the damage they're causing to the commons.

Let's unpack all of that.

Lightfoot has proposed a $3 tax on ride-sharing trips into the Loop, Near North, Lincoln Park, and other affluent areas, and a smaller tax on trips out of the center city, because trips in and out of those areas cause several kinds of damage to the city's infrastructure. This is the definition of "negative externalities." In fact, Uber's and Lyft's pricing model has caused the following problems:

  • A glut of cars on the road during rush hour, with all the emissions and traffic they cause;
  • Reduced public-transit ridership and revenue, which disproportionately harms less-affluent users;
  • The destruction of the regulated taxi industry in Chicago, including thousands of bankruptcies due to taxi medallions losing more than two-thirds their value since 2014; and
  • The enrichment of Uber's officers and shareholders on the backs of underpaid Uber drivers.

Lightfoot's tax will increase the cost of a trip from Lincoln Park to Chicago by $3. If that pushes people to use public transit instead, we win. If people pay the tax, we win. If Uber's board take home less money, that's a neutral result we can all cheer anyway.

Compared with the way London, for example, has dealt with the environmental damage of cars in the central city, Uber's getting off easy in Chicago.

But of course, having gotten very rich through exploitation of other people, they don't see i that way. (Why are billionaires so whiny these days? Even Carnegie built libraries.)

Because we don't have Satanic mills employing thousands of 9-year-old orphans any more, it's hard to see the direct similarities between companies like Uber and companies like those portrayed in Dickens novels. But guess what? They're fundamentally the same. And Lightfoot's tax is only the first, modest step in Chicago government making life better for everyone in the city in the aggregate. The people complaining the most about the Uber tax are the people to whom $3 hardly matters. You can tell because $3 is more than the price of a CTA ride, and less than the current cost of an Uber ride.

If some Uber shareholders have to suffer a little so that people on the South and West Sides can get to work more reliably, I'm OK with that.

Another anniversary

Twenty years ago today, I launched wx-now.com. It's now on version 4.5 with version 5 in the works (when I get the time).

The earliest view on the Wayback Machine comes from late 2000, but the design looks similar enough to the first beta version on 11 November 1999.

Hard to believe I've had two websites in continuous operation for over 20 years.

So sorry I'm missing this

It's rush hour in Chicago right now, where commuters are slogging through snow and -5°C temperatures as the second significant winter storm pushes through the area.

And I feel for them. But here in London, it's 9°C and sunny, so one doesn't even need a coat to go out for lunch.

I also had the presence of mind to park in the $17-a-day garage instead of the $19-a-day outside parking lot at O'Hare, which will add 5 minutes to my trip from Terminal 5 to my car and save 15 minutes shoveling it out.

Sometimes I can plan ahead effectively.