In which we emerge, blinking

Went outside and did a thing today— the Leeper Park Art Fair, held in scenic downtown South Bend, in a park that until a year or two ago was home to an inbred, angry, violent group of ducks– so angry, inbred and violent that the city had to step in to figure out how to deal with them. There was a massive kerfuffle, of the type that can only be found in small- and mid-sized towns, and some of the ducks were eventually euthanized, some taken elsewhere, and their pond was filled in, producing a much nicer public park that people can actually bike and walk through without fear of being attacked.

The fair was really nice, honestly– the temperature suddenly shot up by a good ten degrees on the (short) walk back to the car, but for the whole time we were walking around it was pleasant and breezy outside, and it’s always fun to look at art, even if in general everything was far outside of my price range. I’m not disputing the prices these folks were charging, mind you; this isn’t you shouldn’t be charging $250 for this hand-turned wooden vase, it’s I don’t have $250 I can spend on this hand-turned wooden vase, and honestly for most of the things I looked at, $250 was inexpensive. There was some amazing stuff there, but even if I had the money, I don’t know what the hell I’d do with a $250 wooden vase if I bought one, because we really don’t have that kind of house. At any rate, if you’re local, it’s open for a couple more hours today and all day tomorrow, although tomorrow there’s a risk of rain.

Instructions from the fair organizers were to mask up and socially distance, especially when you were actually in an artist’s booth, and you can probably get a good idea from the picture there how well that went over. The vaccination rate in St. Joseph County is less than 50%, so it’s an awfully interesting coincidence that no one who was unvaccinated showed up at this thing.

(That said, my self-righteousness only goes so far; I brought a mask with me but didn’t put it on. The crowds weren’t so tight that staying away from people was much of a challenge, and the event was outdoors. I did get into a conversation with one of the woodworkers that had me thinking about putting my mask on, since we were standing fairly close to each other and talking, but I didn’t end up doing it. That said, I’ve had my fucking shots.)

At any rate, this is the first time we’ve done something like this since February of 2020, so it was really nice to be outdoors and around people for a while. That said, I stepped in a hole as we were going back to the car and it went straight up my back and through my ribcage, so I expect to be unable to walk by the end of the day. This is probably my punishment for getting judgy about masks.


I can actually pinpoint fairly precisely when I learned Juneteenth was a thing– it was my senior year of college, in a class about Black American religion. So probably 1997, 1998 or so. I just reread Ralph Ellison’s novel of the same name, since I needed an author from Oklahoma and figured it was appropriate. And I’ll be honest: while my opinion matters not at all, I don’t love the idea of it being a national holiday– or, at least, I don’t love the idea of it being a national holiday in America.

Why? Because capitalism, and because this country can’t take a Goddamned thing seriously. Because this is exactly what’s going to happen:

@rynnstar

I realized after recording that the Silverado is Chevy not Toyota but who cares #juneteenth

♬ original sound – Rynn

And this:

If you’re on TikTok, btw, you should be following both of these creators. They’re great.

Like, capitalism has destroyed Christmas. It’s fucking Thanksgiving all up. It’s eaten Memorial Day and Veterans Day. I don’t need it chewing up Juneteenth too. Especially galling, beyond the capitalism angle, is the fact that low-paying jobs are not going to be getting a holiday for Juneteenth precisely because capitalism is going to eat Juneteenth, and that means a whole lot of Black people working service jobs are going to have to work on that day.

Yell at me if you want, although I don’t think I’m going to have any takers among my current readership: I think only black people should get Juneteenth off. As a teacher I’m off every June 19 anyway, since school never goes that late, but it’s ridiculous that my lily-white ass might get a day off to celebrate the ending of slavery when the actual descendants of those slaves have to go to work so that I can buy a mattress or whatever fucked-up knickknacks Target vomits up for the day.

Another doodle

The world is awful so I played with Procreate again.

See if you can figure out the things I didn’t know how to do from the video.

This is kinda cool

I’ve been fucking around in Procreate, using a tutorial. Came up with this:

Kinda neat, I think.

In which I lack skills

I’ve been in this weird place for a couple of weeks– months? Hell, who knows, time has no meaning– where I want to get into woodworking. You may have seen the turning videos I’ve posted. That’s what people in the know call it, you see.

I’m not going to get into woodworking. I have nowhere to work wood, no tools for woodworking, and no one to instruct me in woodworkery, and I suspect this is not really something that one teaches oneself from videos on the internet. I have also considered getting into spin painting recently. You may recall a Teach Myself to Draw project a couple of years (?) ago if you’ve been around a while; that fizzled when I realized that while I did want to be good at drawing things, there wasn’t any particular thing I wanted to draw, and that’s … kind of important?

That ukulele is still around, too. Never gonna learn to play it. (I am, and I swear this is a coincidence, listening to Eddie Vedder’s ukulele album right now.)

What creative thing would you be good at if you actually wanted to put in the effort to get there?

#REVIEW: Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson

2020 thus far has been an interesting year for reading. 2019 had so many stellar books in it that I had to expand my traditional end-of-the-year Best Of list from ten to fifteen. In general, the quality of what I’ve been reading this year has been reasonably high, but there haven’t been all that many books that I was doing backflips over so far. There have definitely been standouts, of course, but nothing where I was rattling cages and shouting you must read this while running pantsless through the streets.

So it’s pretty cool to have identified my first major WHY DON’T YOU OWN THIS BOOK ALREADY of the year, finally, and even more interesting that it’s turned out to be nonfiction. There are usually a couple of nonfiction books in my top 10, but never one that I thought might be the best book of the year, and Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci is absolutely a book that I could see being my favorite of 2020 once the end of the year rolls around. Assuming we’re all still alive, that is.

I have read one other book of Isaacson’s: I was a big fan of his biography of Benjamin Franklin, and having now read this one I’ve got my sights on his book about Albert Einstein. You may notice a theme here; Isaacson very much enjoys writing about geniuses, and one of the best things about this book is the way his sheer enthusiasm for Leonardo shines through every page. This is a book about, with no real fear of contradiction, one of human history’s most interesting people, written by someone who is utterly fascinated by his subject, and it just cannot help but being a tremendously compelling and educational read.

(Two things I learned about da Vinci: I was aware that he was able to write backwards and mirror-imaged, but I was not aware that he always wrote backwards and mirror-imaged. He was left-handed and just taught himself to write that way to save time and keep from smearing ink. Similarly, one of the ways his work is validated when its source is unclear is to look for signs that it was produced by a left-handed person. Second, and I’m not sure how common knowledge this is and it’s possible y’all are going to be surprised I didn’t know this, but he was gay. Not, like, “for the times” gay, or “if he was alive now he’d be” gay, but out and fabulous gay. There apparently exists one of his notebooks where he’s put a to-do list on one of the pages, and one of the items on the list is “go to the bathhouse to look at naked men.”)

(Also, and I’ve Tweeted at him and I’ll update if he responds, but I’d love to know how much work in language Isaacson had to do specifically to write this. I suspect the differences between Renaissance-era Italian and modern Italian are not minor, even before you get to everything da Vinci wrote requiring a mirror to read, and given his other books Isaacson may not even have known Italian before writing the book– every other book he’s written was about someone who, at least, worked primarily in English.)

I can’t pass up talking about the book as a physical object, either. I got the book in paperback, and the paper used both for the cover and for the pages is thick and textured in a way that makes the book an absolute joy to hold. In addition, it’s full of pictures, as one would imagine it would have to be, but they’re scattered throughout rather than as a tip-in in the middle of the book, and every single one of them is in full color. I don’t recall how much I spent for this book, but I’m genuinely surprised it wasn’t $40. Amazon currently has it for twelve bucks. That’s madness for a book of this high quality; this could not have been cheap to print.

I am also in love with the way Isaacson talks about art. I had to take an art history class as a random requirement to get my teaching MA, and while I honestly didn’t do terribly well in the class, reading people who really know a lot about art talking about paintings is something that I will never get tired of even if to a large extent I don’t really know what the hell they’re talking about. Isaacson can drop a paragraph about the emotional resonance of a detail in someone’s eyebrows that I can’t even see, and a good proportion of this book is dedicated to analyzing da Vinci’s artwork, both finished and unfinished. His chapter about the Mona Lisa is a masterwork. I couldn’t have written something like this to save my life; I just don’t have the eye for detail or the vocabulary for it, but it was an immense pleasure to read.

Ten stars, six thumbs up, one finger oddly pointed toward the heavens, go find this and read it right away.


1:07 PM, Wednesday June 17: 2,143,193 confirmed cases and 117,129 Americans dead.