# Sunday, September 8, 2019

WhiteNoiseJack and Babette have an idyllic, if unconventional life. Jack is a professor at a small midwestern college, whose Hitler Studies program has proved enormously popular. The major is so popular that a colleague is building a similar curriculum around Elvis Presley in addition to a course about car crashes in movies. Babette has a successful career reading tabloid stories to blind people.

They live in a nice house near campus with four children from their numerous previous marriages. They are a little too obsessed with death, but what of that?

Things start to disrupt when Jack is exposed to toxic fumes that descend on their town - an incident that brings him closer to the death he fears.

Babette learns of a pill that claims to cure death anxiety, but the only source of this pill will only trade it for sex. She concedes and Jack takes the affair in stride when he first learns of it; but later plots violent revenge.

White Noise by Don DeLillo is a surreal book. From absurd pop-culture college majors to the unexplained "toxic cloud" to unlikely medicines to the children who seem more mature than their parents to the ex-wives with even quirkier personalities than Jack and Babette's family.

DeLillo makes it work, thanks to his gift of humor. His dialogue is often inane, but funny. And he throws the reader off by including unrelated details in many scenes, such as describing the shoes a character wears or relaying what is heard on the TV in the background.

White Noise is an enjoyable satire and a good read.

Sunday, September 8, 2019 5:44:33 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 7, 2019

TheirEyesWereWatchingGodUntil this week, I was unfamiliar with Zora Neale Hurston or her 1937 novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God".

But I read it and I'm glad I did.

This is the story of Janie Crawford - a black woman growing up in Florida in the early 20th century. Janie is the product of a white man raping her mother and her mother is the result of the rape of Janie's grandmother by her plantation master.

It is a full generation following the emancipation of slaves in America, but the poor, uneducated blacks of the region are still far from equal. This book reminds us that they had stories to tell and people to love and lives to lead.

As a young girl, Janie hoped for love. As a teenager, Janie's grandmother arranged her marriage to an older man, hoping to avoid the tragedies of the last two generations. This marriage fails and her second husband dies, and she marries a charming gambler, who is much younger than her. Their life seems good until a flood and a rabid dog attack disrupts it.

But these plot devices are just Hurston's ways of allowing us to see inside Janie and her neighbors. She struggles to love her husbands, even though they sometimes behave irrationally and occasionally violently. She struggles with other blacks, even though some of them have ideas that are strange to her. And she struggles to survive in a world designed by white men.

Her first two husbands treat her as a piece of property. Only her third husband gives her the love she desires. He is far from perfect, but he accepts Janie as a person.

We cannot escape the racial overtones in this novel because most of the characters are black and are living in a white-controlled society. But the book is more about gender roles and the relationship between men and women than about race. Janie searches for love but ends up being controlled by the men in her life. The black men of this story are controlled by the white men; and they take out their frustration by controlling their black women.

Hurston strives to make the dialogue authentic, including poor grammar and phonetic (mis)pronunciations, which can make this book a challenge to read. But this adds to the color of the story. And I happened to choose the audiobook, read by Ruby Dee, who did a masterful job.

"Their Eyes Were Watching God" is a story of strength and endurance by a woman seeking love and affirmation and survival. Janie is human but heroic. She asserts and defends herself while surviving in a world she does not control. Ultimately, she succeeds in living her life by her own rules.

Saturday, September 7, 2019 9:09:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, September 3, 2019

IMG_5744Glenn Tilbrook celebrated his birthday with us in Chicago.

Tilford - along with Chris Difford - are the driving force behind the band Squeeze. Squeeze began as a New Wave band in the late 1970s, but progressed to become one of the most creative bands of the early 1980s - producing some very inventive melodies, rhythms, and arrangements. Difford and Tilbrook were the founders, songwriters, and leaders of the band and they are the only two original members to remain with the group today.

Saturday night at the Chicago Theatre, they were joined by a very good backing ensemble, especially a drummer, filled with kinetic energy and a masterful keyboard player.

From the moment they walked on stage, they were focused on the music. The band played four songs before they paused to greet the audience.

Mixed in with some lesser-known album cuts, the band played many of their hits, including "Annie Get Your Gun", "Cool for Cats" (a rare Difford vocal), "Goodbye Girl", and "Up the Junction". Highlights of the evening included an acoustic version of "Tempted" and a rousing version of "Black Coffee in Bed" to close the night.

The seats at the Chicago Theatre were a little too close to allow any pogo dancing; but the audience got on their feet when they recognized a song.

IMG_5748During their heyday, Squeeze was moderately popular on American radio stations, while they enjoyed much greater success in their native UK and on my college dorm room stereo.

At the end of the show, Difford wished his friend a Happy Birthday, showed a video from back home, and led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday".

We all celebrated.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019 9:34:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, September 2, 2019

Episode 577

Lorena Mesa on the Python Software Foundation

Lorena Mesa is a GitHub data engineer and a Director of the Python Software Foundation.

She describes the mission of the Foundation and how they assist Python developers and the Python community.



Monday, September 2, 2019 9:33:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 1, 2019

Today I am grateful to attend the Squeeze concert last night with John.

Today I am grateful for a visit yesterday to the September 11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan.

Today I am grateful for:
-My first visit to Birdland Jazz Club
-Seeing "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway

Today, I am grateful for my first visit to Purchase, NY.

Today I am grateful for my first visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday.

Today I am grateful that I've had a few weeks without work travel.

Today I am grateful to attend Mass at Assumption Church for the first time.

Today I am grateful for a bike ride along the lakefront in Milwaukee yesterday.

‪Today I am grateful to see Max Weinberg’s Jukebox in concert last night. ‬

Today I am grateful for dinner with John last night.

Today I am grateful for a tour of the Glessner House Museum yesterday.

Today I am grateful for a hot bath last night.

Today I am grateful for a weekend in Flagstaff with Dan.

Today I am grateful for a visit to Walnut Canyon National Monument, Grand Falls, and Winslow yesterday.

Today, I am grateful for a drive through the deserts, canyons, mountains, and plateaus of central Arizona.

Today I am grateful to attend an extra-innings Giants-Diamondbacks baseball game last night at Chase Field.

Today I am grateful for:
-the Dell technician who fixed my motherboard yesterday;
-a chance to speak at the Chicago .NET User Group last night

Today I am grateful for my longest bike ride of the year (so far)

Today I am grateful that so many electronics can be fixed by turning them off and on.

Today I am grateful that downtown Chicago becomes more bike-friendly every year.

Today I am grateful to visit the United States Pizza Museum yesterday.

Today I am grateful to see Sam Shepard's "True West" last night on my first visit to the Steppenwolf Theatre.

Today I am grateful for my new dresser.

Today I am grateful for a few days in southwest Michigan.

Today I am grateful for a walk around Saugatuck yesterday.

‪Today I am grateful to watch the sun set over Lake Michigan last night. ‬

Today I am grateful for dinner last night with Emilija and Larissa.

Today I am grateful to see Santana and the Doobie Brothers in concert last night.

Sunday, September 1, 2019 4:47:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)