I didn’t mention what’s happening in Israel and Gaza last week because I don’t know what to say. But how can you not address something so atrocious? At the short work offsite I attended in London the second half of last week, we were nearly halfway through the first day when someone pointed out that we’d not mentioned it and how odd that was.
How surreal it is to be sitting in a WeWork space with a view of the Shard while the world is on fire. Again. But also, again, nobody knew what to say. Here’s one perspective from Rob Delaney that is, as is everything he does, both heartbreaking and humorous, and above all, deeply human. Also, if you have kids, I found this NPR Life Kit episode helpful.
While in London, I did manage to sneak in a little art, accidentally (drawings by Curtis Holder, the first artist in residence at the National Theatre, during a team dinner at Forza)…
…and intentionally (RE/SISTERS at the Barbican, which is a labyrinthine beast to navigate on top of a 4 mile round trip walk in the wind and rain).
On the food front, the vegan airplane meals to London were awful (roasted veggies, a rice cake [??], plain tofu scramble, etc.), the return flight a bit better (curry with tofu and rice), the hotel breakfast not great (had to ask for all the plant-based alternatives as nothing was already out).
On the plane rides to and from the UK, I finished Deep Oakland: How Geology Shaped a City, by Andrew Alden. One of my favorite passages is when he describes residential development in America as “landslaughter: a living, inhabited landscape killed like a steer and its life blood drained; it’s hide and tallow rendered into money; its flesh surveyed and cut into parcels, marketed in tranches and laid out for sale on the courthouse steps.” He goes on to describe how this happened locally, where “the result was to remake Indian Gulch, the Ohlones’ favorite neighborhood, into Trestle Glen, one of Oakland’s favorite neighborhoods, while covering its tracks.” If you live in Oakland it’s a must-read.
I also read, in its entirety, the relatively short book about The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. I can’t remember how I learned about this book, but I’m fascinated with this sort of thing, even though I’m several decades shy of “between 80 and 100,” as Magnusson repeatedly describes her age, and I don’t really anticipate having to do this for my own parents, my mom long dead and both my bio- and step-dads remarried with younger children who will likely shoulder this burden for them. But it seemed like a logical next step after finalizing our estate plan/wills a couple of weeks ago. Accumulation of stuff is also likely on my mind as we approach the end of home renovations when we’ll soon be able to move back into what is now a bigger house with a whole new floor and stairs (in other words, in another 15-20 years we’ll probably want to downsize and get rid of a bunch of stuff so our kids don’t have to deal with it). Anyway, in addition to writing, Magnusson is also an artist and she writes, “I have spent my life painting pictures. Luckily, a big part of being an artist is being able to part with the stuff you paint.” You have no idea how badly most artists want to part - ideally in exchange for money or some other goods and services - with the art they create! And what did she do with the paintings that accumulated? “I threw them on the fire.” Badass. But seriously, this: “Maybe the fact that I have gotten rid of my artwork all my life makes me unsentimental about getting rid of other things, too.”
Throwing things on fire, if you’ve seen it, is a nice segue to my next item: I watched the movie Paint on the flight home and, unlike most critics, I LOVED it. It checked so many boxes for me (all the obvious ones, but also—semi spoiler alert—the scene where Carl Nargle, played by Owen Wilson, has fondue with vegan character Jenna, played by Lucy Freyer…”I want to taste the cheese!”). Wilson’s appearance is clearly inspired by the beloved Bob Ross, but the story is completely fictional (and Carl Nargle is not always a likeable character so I can’t help but wonder if that was a big turnoff for some diehard Bob Ross fans).
Caught up on all the podcasts since I’ve been back, including Are You Suffering From Burnout, via No Stupid Questions. I find it so insane that only 23% of the global workforce is, according to this report, “thriving.” Have you taken the burnout self-test? Surprisingly, I’m only moderately burned out across all three sections—burnout, depersonalization, and personal achievement—so I guess that’s a slight relief. It could always be worse!
On our walk home from school one afternoon earlier this week, the 10 year old and I perused a box of dishes left out on the sidewalk in front of someone’s house, as is typical in Oakland neighborhoods. Included amongst the various incomplete sets was one medium sized plate from Corelle’s Spring Blossom pattern, also known as Crazy Daisy. Is there any family in America that didn’t have these dishes at some point over the past 50 years? My grandparents on my step-dad’s side had the entire set (even the juice glasses!), so when a college friend was getting rid of an incomplete set his aunt had given him, I claimed them. That said, I have very few left after two cross-country moves, two kids (they do break), etc. Introduced in 1970, Spring Blossom/Crazy Daisy was one of the original Livingware patterns designed by artist Sara Balbach (or Sara Balbach-Lane). I’m so annoyed that I can’t find any information about someone who designed something found in so many American homes (short of a couple of prototype drawings on RISD’s website…how gorgeous is this one?).
Y’all know how much I love felt and you probably also know by now that my day job sits in the world of game dev, even though I myself am not much of a gamer. Well, these worlds collide from time to time (see here) and along these lines, I learned yesterday about Feltopia, a felted stop motion animated video game created by Andrea Love, aka Andrea Animates. You can support the game’s kickstarter here.
Finally, much needed for weeks like these last few, artist Wendy MacNaughton has an “op-art” in the New York Times about “The Importance of Looking at What (and Who) You Don’t See,” rooted in the tradition of blind contour drawing. I did so much blind contour drawing in college…Perused all my old sketchbooks and can’t seem to find a single example. Would you consider setting up something like this in your town or neighborhood?