Quite Good Poetry
Thanks for publishing the review of the Joni Mitchell concert documentary by Richard von Busack ("Lifesaver," Jan. 30). Now informed, I will attempt to attend the not-sold-out screening.
But one statement by Mr. von Busack is wrong on two different counts—that Joni "was one of two female performers" in 1978's Last Waltz, by which it appears he meant the movie, not the original concert, which was filmed in 1976 at Winterland. First, there were two post-concert inserts featured in the movie filmed on sound stages. One featured Emmylou Harris, as noted in the review, but the other featured Mavis Staples, albeit not solo, but as the primary lead singer in this joint vocal and instrumental effort between the Staples Singers and the Band. I found Mavis' rendition of "The Weight" in the movie unforgettable.
As for the concert itself, Joni was the only lead female performer, period, an omission of fact that, if mentioned, would have strengthened the author's point about her status as the most important female popular-music artist of her generation.
Finally, I would guess the author didn't personally attend the Woodstock gathering. Because, as an attendee, I'd say Joni nailed the spirit of the gathering in her song, and thus did not, per the author's claim, write something "airy-fairy"—at least not in the context of what actually happened there. That not enough folks subsequently lived up to the vision of a better world which was directly espoused at Woodstock does not seem relevant to the merits of the song. I'd say it still captured the moment very well, and thus was quite good poetry.
A Modest Proposal
In light of PG&E's proposal for bankruptcy, I would suggest the state of California buy it out. The state is proposing a requirement of all new housing to have solar panels. What would make more sense is if the state would also require installed batteries which would allow it to maintain electricity in case of failure of the electrical grid. This would allow the grid to be shut down in times of severe winds and low humidity, without having to warn people of the immediate danger of fire.
Further, the grid could be enhanced by the conversion to trunk lines to high voltage direct current. This could give the network the ability to be resilient, as all of its points of distribution would be converted into alternating current. At distributive centers it would be possible to place giant batteries such as vanadium flow. These could store electricity for relief in heavily populated areas and facilities that need to remain in operation, such as hospitals, fire stations and police stations.
A smart grid could collect electricity from wherever it is obtained, and can be saved and used where it is needed. The additional advantage of this system is that if one sub-area fails, it would not take down the whole system.
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