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Hitting your creative stride in your 70s

Both Hokusai and Jack Butler Yeats hit their artistic strides in their 70s, their output just exploded at that point in their lives. How many other artists did the same? I can’t think of others, but surely many. Let me know.

Came across Yeats via this RHLSTP episode with Dara Ó Briain. Already knew about Hokusai but had no idea about the period of his life where he was most prolific, learned about that via this Great Art Explained episode.


Yes, almost immediately after posting this, Brian shared the book “On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain” by Edward W. Said. Another one for the reading list!

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Against cynicism

I’ve had a post languishing for years in my drafts folder, return to it every once in a while but never feel like it’s quite right. For one thing it feels way too long. It’s about cynicism, about how I feel like it’s one of the most toxic, pervasive things both on a very personal level and also when you look at society as a whole. When I re-read it, it feels too preachy, or starry-eyed, or whatever.

Anyway, Nick Cave replied to a fan back in April this year about this very topic. He said it all way, way better than I ever could.

Read Issue #190 of The Red Hand Files

A quote from his letter:

Unlike cynicism, hopefulness is hard-earned, makes demands upon us, and can often feel like the most indefensible and lonely place on Earth. Hopefulness is not a neutral position either. It is adversarial. It is the warrior emotion that can lay waste to cynicism.

Accompanying his letter is a photo of an artwork by Philip Guston. Guston was a self-taught Canadian American representational painter. He often explored dark themes in his work, including himself and his own mental health issues, using primarily a limited monochrome and pinky-red palette in his later work. A lot of his paintings are almost cartoon-like except for the very rough linework. Klansmen feature heavily in some of his most famous paintings. He deemed these self-portraits. They aren’t explicitly violent per se, but they are menacing. They depict the banality of evil, how it lurks inside.

The figure in the piece that Nick Cave chose has a hood, but it has no pointed peak. They have a slightly pained expression (hard to figure out how Guston achieved that with such minimal brushwork) and are criss-crossed with dotted lines through their head and torso as if they have been sewn back together over and over. There is vivid red smeared on the hood, a head wound.

It’s a good image choice.

I can’t figure out where it is from, reverse image search turns up nothing. Maybe it’s a detail. I’ll keep searching.

Published

First trip to Michigan

A large, iridescent bubble with a faint reflection of a house floating in front of a leafy green tree

We took B to the cottage for the first time. The weather was a bit grey and cool, but it turns out we were lucky. A huge storm ripped through right after we left which took down a tree and made it impossible to reach, also knocked out the power for two days. Followed by temps in the 90s, and B hates heat like that. So it worked out!

Lots of sitting on Great-Grandpa’s bench swing, massive bubbles, sunsets, good food, playing with balls bigger than he is. And we got two afternoons at the beach on the lake. Turns out he absolutely loves cold water. He would crawl up to it, be shocked by a small wave, and then hastily crawl away laughing his head off. And repeat, for 30 minutes. The only things that would distract him was trying to eat pebbles, and shoveling sand into his mouth.

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Success does not mean forever

Success does not mean forever

***

Just because a thing doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean that it failed. It can mean that, but in sometimes things just come to a logical conclusion. Relationships, businesses, projects, hobbies. It’s easy to think that something ending = it has failed. But what a narrow worldview. Is it fear of change?

(This notion isn’t original, I wish I could remember where I came across it. It was definitely on Twitter.)

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NOW v6: End of an era, in Brooklyn, Covid *still* a thing

Updated my Now page, contents below for posterity. View past presents.


Since the last update:

We moved to Brooklyn. B 🌱 is a little over 9 months old. I’m wrapping up my independent dev practice 👩🏻‍💻 and about to start a full time position as a front-end engineer (!). Autumn rushed by 🎃, winter lingered 🥶, spring has sprung 🌷. Covid 🦠 is still a thing.

Putin’s Russian army invaded Ukraine.

If I’m honest, writing this feels a bit… extra, right now. Extra as in work I don’t need, extra as in a bit self-indulgent. There has been so much going on, it’s hard to sift through and figure out what is important. And hard to pause for a breath. But I’ll be angry at myself in the future for not doing it, I’m already frustrated it has taken so long, so here it is.

These are a few things that I’ve wanted to do and have either done, am doing, or am still pondering.

Move to Brooklyn. We had always intended to move to NYC, but we ended up taking a more circuitous route for a handful of reasons. At any rate, we’re here, for almost 6 months now, and it feels like a really good fit. It’s a lovely feeling after being somewhat in limbo for so long. B started daycare soon after we got here, and he seems to love it. He’s now crawling and cruising. He really seems to like computers, phones, and wires, which are an ever-present hazard. This is the first place we’ve lived that we’ve been able to furnish, would you believe. Most rental places in the UK are fully furnished, and the family apartment we rented in SF was fully furnished as well. It’s been wonderful really making a place our own, also a bit expensive. Thank goodness for secondhand stuff.

Wrap up my independent practice, find a full time position. I’m going to be a front-end engineer at SuperHi as of this coming Monday! There’s a lot more to be said about why I’ve wanted to do this and why SuperHi feels like a good fit, but that’s for a separate post. Right now, I’m racing to tie up some loose ends with existing clients. It should mostly be done by the time I start, thank goodness. I’m really going to miss a lot of the people I collaborate with, and the opportunities I no longer get to take. One came in this morning that I was gutted to turn down. But who knows, these things might come around again.

Establish a better day-to-day routine. We’ve fallen in to a decent rhythm, I think. Right now, Sam and I alternate wearing earplugs at night so that at least one of us can get a full night’s sleep regardless of whether or not B wakes up. We both get up at 6:30am, Sam to get B up and me to get ready (shower, get dressed, breakfast, etc.). Then we trade around 7:10am so Sam can get ready, and I entertain B for a bit. At about 7:55am, we both get B ready to go to daycare (bottles + food in a cooler bag, get a clean sleep sack, bibs, pants, etc. ready in case he needs them during the day), and they’re out the door for daycare dropoff by about 8:05am. I then “reset” the apartment so it’s tidy for the day. Empty the dishwasher and dish rack, pick up loose toys or B’s clothes, make the bed, etc. I’m usually ready to work by 8:30am, which is good timing for my day since I’ve got to stop work around 4:35pm, out the door by 4:45pm at the latest, in order to pick B up. We get back at about 5:20pm. At that point, for him, it’s basically dinner, bath, bottle, books, bed. We try to all eat together, but that can sometimes be tough if we haven’t planned enough in advance. He’s lights-out by 7:30pm. After he goes to bed, I usually do a little bit of life admin and then try to chill a bit. I try to be in bed by 9:30pm, asleep by 10pm, but it’s usually more like in bed at 10 and asleep by 11. Recently I’ve been reading before bed, which has helped a bit. Of course, all the above is out the window if daycare has to close due to Covid. I’m not sure when the NY DOH will lift that rule, maybe once vaccines for under-5s are available?

Read more. I was spending way too much of my limited down time watching things on YouTube, doing too much research on something B-related, or doomscrolling the news for updates on the war in Ukraine. I started re-reading the Discworld novels after Lucy Bellwood mentioned Small Gods, and it’s like being reunited with an old friend. I’d like to read Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi next. I haven’t stopped watching stuff though. Recently Old Enough has been delivering when I need a purely wholesome fix.

Meet up with people more often, and meet new people. I’ve been getting somewhere with this, but it’s tough. I hate to be that person that has to schedule way in advance, or has to cancel last minute, but it often feels like there’s no way around it with B. Everyone seems pretty understanding. I met up with an internet friend for drinks IRL a week or two ago which was wonderful. I’d love to meet her again, but I’m not sure she necessarily wants another mom friend. But who knows, maybe that’s just me projecting! Besides day-to-day stuff, we’ve made some travel plans. And it feels like this time we might actually be able to stick to them. We’re supposed to see my family in Michigan in June, Sam’s family and our UK friends in July. I guess there’s still a chance that could get cancelled but… surely not this time?

Improve my fitness, posture, and strength. I was this close to signing up for South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club, but then was offered the position at SuperHi and realized that their schedule just doesn’t mesh with mine. Maybe at some point in the future. For now, I’m going to start running to pick up B if my knee will take it. I just still don’t feel right in my body over nine months after childbirth, and I feel this would help.

Find somewhere to sing. I’d like to sing with others, but not sure if it’s time yet for me to find a choir. Hopefully soon. My main audience right now is B, he seems to appreciate it. Need to learn “Duérmete mi niño” next.

Published

How to fix our chairs

We have old dining chairs with a teak base and a bent plywood backrest and seat, originally from the UK supposedly but bought at McCarney’s in SF. They’re old and well-used, so the screw holes in the plywood seat are getting loose. When the holes blow out and the seat comes off, these are the steps to fix them:

  1. Pull away any badly blown out chips of the seat base plywood so that you can get it properly level later with filler.
  2. Drill out the stripped hole with a 15/64″ bit. Use masking tape to mark how deep you should go without blowing through the top.
  3. Put a drop of wood glue in the hole and use a toothpick or similar to spread it around.
  4. Hammer a 1/4″ fluted dowel in to the hole and let the glue dry as long as it needs.
  5. Saw the end of the dowel off as flush as you can, then sand down the dowel and any rough bits.
  6. Use wood filler to fill any dings or gaps, and allow it to set up before sanding.
  7. Align the base on the seat to the indentations that are already there, then lightly hammer the screws in to create divots for your pilot holes.
  8. Drill pilot holes in your dowels where the divots are. They should be pretty centered on the dowels, and about the same depth as when you drilled out the stripped hole in step #2.
  9. Screw the base on to the seat.

Quick tip: Buy wood filler in the little can, not a tube. The tube dries out very quickly and is impossible to un-jam. Also, if the stripped hole is a real mess and seems like it needs to be larger than about 1/4″, get the next size up fluted dowel. The bit you use should be 1/64″ smaller than the dowel ideally, or the same size if that’s not possible. If you can’t find dowels the size you want, you can go down the toothpick / matchstick route.

Two down, two to go.