9.15.2020

pandemic diaries: weeks 25 & 26

Yes, I realize we're almost halfway into week 27. The bad air quality that was just starting to improve when I wrote my last update got a lot worse with more wildfires up and down the entire west coast. 

This picture does not do justice to the ORANGE skies we experienced last week, my iPhone trying awfully hard to auto-balance the apocalypse.

On September 6th, virtually all of California was under an excessive heat warning or heat advisory. We've had a solid month of Spare the Air days here in the Bay Area. It's a sobering realization that even if we weren't in the middle of a global pandemic, the kids would most likely still be out of school due to the smoke and lingering air quality issues. How depressing is that thought? I wonder how California artists, famously inspired by the muse that is the California light, will depict this moment for future generations. How long will this "moment" last?


Color of the year? Some other art world comparisons in this thread.

Today, however, we've experienced some relief, the first day in almost a week that the Air Quality Index (AQI) has dipped back down into the yellow/moderate range. With the AQI being so unhealthy we've been trying to stay mostly indoors and it's been tough. Still very grateful for our health, jobs we can do from home, and the ability to facilitate distance learning, but this has easily been the most challenging stretch of the six-month pandemic so far. 

Last night we found a hummingbird's nest in one of our backyard trees. Hope, via nature.

But things are looking up. For now at least. So how did the past couple of weeks go otherwise? Let's start with a distance learning update. The middle schooler's mini-mester is going well, with Friday this week already the end of the first marking period. His grades are good and he seems to be fairly engaged with his classes, only two of which give consistent "homework" which is, frankly, pretty nice. By about 2-3 p.m. I really don't want to have to deal with schoolwork of any kind. The 2nd grader, meanwhile, is in week 2 of her revised schedule and loving the extra time with her teacher and the return of the weekly "specials" (art, music, garden, PE). The workload is very manageable, she's making progress in the basics (reading, writing, math), and there hasn't been too much complaining about it all. I still look forward to the day when they can return to their school buildings, but it feels like we've settled into a sustainable routine and I'll roll with this rhythm as long as it lasts.

I wrote a little bit in my last update about parent artists. Along some of those same lines, Vulture/NY Magazine reporter Alex Jung wrote a profile of Miranda July in advance of the release of her latest film Kajillionaire. July is an artist I really, truly, unapologetically admire, ever since Learning to Love You More, a collaborative project with her ex, Harrell Fletcher. Jung and July are clearly fond of one another so perhaps that helps explain why all the Miranda July haters were out in full force after the profile was published. I won't go into details because frankly it's not worth your time, but there is some really odd criticism floating around out there that says a lot more about the critics than it does about her or her work. As we like to say in art crits, I think they might be projecting. But perhaps that can be said of all haters? All that negativity aside, my favorite part of the profile was learning that July has kept her 2-bedroom rental even though she and spouse Mike Mills have a different home together with their child. She escapes to that rental one day/night a week and that's when she gets most of her creative work done. Can you imagine? A room house of one's own! Even if for just one day a week!! And before you poo-poo the extravagant expense of renting a second home, most artists spend a decent chunk of change each month on a studio. With rent control figured in, I can't imagine her rent is much more than a large, well-appointed art studio.

Speaking of haters, see also some of the online response to the new Dune trailer. I haven't read the book - yet - but I, for one, am looking forward to this film adaptation.

Speaking of studios, what have I been up to in mine (other than work, that is)? I continue to make good progress on the "100 Days in the Dollhouse" project, and little progress on the screenplay. 

Speaking of "projecting."

It's just so hard to write right now. So much easier to just make shit. 

I'm also giving away - for FREE - the craft kits I put together around the holiday season of 2018 to sell in my now-defunct Etsy shop. 

So far I've sent out about half of what I had left. If you'd like a kit, or two, or six (if you want more than 6, reach out directly), fill out this form. I promise not to use your info for absolutely anything else, unless you want to receive a possible, future newsletter, in which case you can provide an email address. Totally optional.

Oh yes I did.

Hair salons reopened, but playgrounds are still closed. Also reopening later this month is the de Young museum in San Francisco! I can't wait to go.

Killer BLAT from The Buther's Son in Berkeley. ZOMG.

Vegan bacon. What more do you need to make the transition? Personally, although I'm still eating eggs, I'm trying to be more consistent about avoiding dairy. It's hard. Cheese is so damn delicious.

In movie night news, I finally finished reading The Secret Garden to the 7yo (mostly; the 12yo would also occasionally listen in). The plan was to watch the most recent film adaptation but after reading reviews and watching the trailer again, we went with the 1993 version instead. I want to see the 2020 version (and maybe the 1987 version again, too, which also features Colin Firth, the father in the newest movie, in a very small role at the end....but wait, there's more! You can watch the 1949 version for $3 on Amazon Prime but the 1919 silent film adaptation is sadly "lost"). We're reading Alice in Wonderland now.

Finally, another post that ends with the yet another cultural loss. RIP David Graeber. Not sure I ever wrote about it here, but his ideas about "bullshit jobs" really resonated when I heard him on the Hidden Brain podcast, about a year after I quit my last job. 2020 is simply relentless.

9.01.2020

pandemic diaries: week 24

Air quality last week improved here and there (although there were still a couple of days we were stuck inside) so that was nice. 

Palos Colorados Trail hike on a moderate AQI kind of day.

As I mentioned in my last update, I realized with the bad air quality that the thing getting me through many (most?) days over the past six months is the ability to go outside for a walk, hike, or run. Whether solely because of that or not, the last couple of weeks have been incredibly challenging on many levels. 

7yo is suddenly obsessed with basketball. Unfortunately, we've noticed a ghost town like trend of first the nets and then the entire baskets being removed, to dissuade groups I assume. Sigh.

In distance learning news, the 7th grader finally got his mini-mester schedule so every weekday he now has three classes, plus advisory and Jazz Lab two days a week. So far, so good. It's nice (for me) for him to have more to do. It was a tough week for the 2nd grader, who had to do an online reading assessment that took her four sessions to complete. Not fun. I'm hoping the customized program it generates will be worth the frustration. Her schedule will receive a little shake-up next week when elementary schools (or, at least, her's) transition from the district-wide "strong start" plan to more curriculum coming specifically from her teacher, the school "specials" (e.g. PE, art, music), etc. Distance learning is good in that it gives them something to do and I don't have to homeschool from scratch, but it makes for a rather choppy morning full of interruptions for me. Not exactly the best work from home environment but for now it'll have to do. For a minute there in the spring I thought I might be able to parlay my part-time contract position into regular, full-time employment but it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon and honestly it's probably for the best. (For some comic relief, this is a hilarious take on academic pods.)

I discovered pokeweed growing (or being grown) in our neighbor's back yard, poking through and over the fence into our yard. Every part of the pokeweed plant is poisonous, so this discovery is very on-brand for 2020.

As soon as I went public with my intention to focus exclusively on finishing my screenplay during any free/studio time I might have moving forward (typically a couple of hours on the weekend, at best), I suddenly feel even less capable than usual of writing words (as evidenced by this long, awkward sentence), and somehow more motivated to just, y'know, make stuff. So that's what I did over the weekend. 

The project I've been working on for over a year now, collectively titled 100 Days in the Dollhouse, has started to incorporate remnants of an earlier, mostly failed project called 'Heavenly', and has also, of course, taken on new meaning during this pandemic, 100 days turning into many more.

Speaking of kids and art, this tweet about (female) artists successfully juggling their art careers with family life sent me into a bit of a spiral. In a nutshell, it feels like an oversimplified art world equivalent of the stock photo of a working mom with toddler in tow (you've no doubt seen some variation of this) and I resent it so much, especially seeing that kind of "you can have it all" mythology applied to the pursuit of a creative livelihood, which is very different (though not necessarily harder) than a more linear career path. I'm cheating a bit and skipping ahead to this week, but Buffy Wicks driving from Oakland to Sacramento with her newborn so she could vote is a perfect example of how this country penalizes working parents, in particular mothers of newborns and toddlers.

Finally, RIP Chadwick Boseman. I've seen and enjoyed immensely most of his work, most recently his role in Da 5 Bloods. This is a really lovely art tribute by Senegalese artist Bou Bou Design and this is the moving written tribute from 'Black Panther' director (and Oakland native) Ryan Coogler.  

Fuck cancer. Fuck 2020.