July was a pretty quiet month. After a few somewhat chaotic months, it was a welcome break. We’re resigned to the fact that we’ll be self-isolating for the foreseeable future and have settled into some nice simple routines. It’s also been hot out so we’ve been self-isolating even more than we had been.
Although we’ve been at peace with our self-isolation, we had been thinking about a vacation in July which, needless to say, did not happen. After 2 utterly enjoyable and incredible pleasant trips to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, we hoped to go back again this year. All I could do was find some comfort in remembering those past trips:
Even after there is a vaccine, it will probably be quite some time before we’re really comfortable with traveling again, but getting back to California will be high on our list when we are.
Coronavirus news has been mostly bad with the occasional hint of optimism about that potential vaccine. Some reports suggest that we may have one by the end of this year.
The numbers for the country are still awful and our local numbers have been slowly ticking up. Baseball started toward the end of July and lasted only 4 days before there was an outbreak.
Our library is opening in the beginning of August. Luckily, neither Holly nor I need to go in, but I worry about our colleagues who do. Classes start on August 24th so there is a lot of concern about how that is going to go. I anticipate that the university will need to shut down again before the end of the semester. Several colleges that had planned on in-person classes have switched to a more online model. Our university has a hybrid plan which means only about 1/3 of the students who would usually be on campus will be there, but that will still mean that about 9,000 student will physically be on campus not to mention the how many hundreds of employees.
One fun thing from July was I “attended” a short, virtual film festival sponsored by the Philadelphia Film Society. It was a bit unusual in that the movies on the schedule were already available streaming from different sources. Since they were streaming, I didn’t have to watch them at the suggested times, but a few of the films had Q&As with the directors afterwards which was incentive to watch them according to the schedule.
As with any film festival, I watched a few things that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise:
- We Are Freestyle Love Supreme
- The Old Guard (more on that down below under Reading)
- Disappearance at Clifton Hill
- Bad Education
I enjoyed all of them but Disappearance at Clifton Hill was entertainingly bizarre and perhaps my favorite.
I had recently seen and loved Never Rarely Sometimes Always which was on the schedule. Since I had just seen it a week or so prior, I didn’t watch it again, but I did watch the Q&A with the director, Eliza Hittman.
I’m hoping this brief “Summerfest” is an indication that the film society will do something in October when they usual have their major film festival. It seems unlikely that it can be in-person but a week-long streaming festival appeals.
I have been slowly catching up on the film photos I’ve taken this spring and summer. I’m purposely taking my time because I haven’t been out much not only because of the pandemic but also because of the heat so I wanted to pace out the photos I do have. I still have 4 rolls I haven’t yet blogged about and don’t have any other rolls close to being done so those 4 rolls might be it for a while.
I find myself in a bit of a medium format dilemma.
My Flexaret Automat, which I thought I had fixed, is not working again. I tried what I had done to fix it last time but to no avail. It won’t advance at all. I also never figured out how to fix my Pentacon Six TL which advances but not always enough resulting in overlapping pictures. My Diana F+ takes fun and interesting photos, but it doesn’t usually take actual “good” photos. And twice I had issues with the film not winding tightly enough on the take up reel so it got exposes when I took it out. The first time this happened, the pictures were mostly salvageable. However, a recent roll was pretty much ruined. Only 4 of the 12 have recognizable images.
I’m not sure I’m content having the Diana as my only working medium format camera. I entertained the idea of getting some additional lenses for it, which are all relatively inexpensive, and trying to take better pictures with it, but it is a really limited camera.
I can continue trying to fix my broken cameras but have little confidence I can do so. Sending them off to be repaired would certainly be cost prohibitive. Last time I looked into that, it was much more expensive to get these repaired than it would be to just buy new cameras.
I could just forget about medium format for now and stick to shooting 35mm. All my old 35mm cameras work fine.
Or, I could buy another medium format camera. I’m a little hesitant to do so based on my experience with the two used ones I have.
In the meantime, I’m just hoping for some cooler weather so I can get more often with whatever cameras.
Drawing and Graphic Design
I’m still working on The Lettering Seminar and have been enjoying it. I haven’t gotten to it as often as I would like but maybe now that I’m running out of photos to edit and post, I’ll have more time to devote to that.
I looked back at my sketchbooks for this year to remind myself of what I worked on. I think I’ve mentioned some of this in my past updates but haven’t shared any of my work.
Prior to starting The Lettering Seminar, I resumed working with Drawing for the Absolute Beginner. I had done some of those exercises quite a while ago and thought revisiting that would be a way to get back into drawing after my unintended layoff.
I also worked on some urban sketching exercises, both from The Urban Sketcher, which Holly had gotten for me for Christmas in 2018, and from Sketching People, Places, and Landscapes available from The Great Courses.
I didn’t do much from either of these and hope to get back to them after getting through The Lettering Seminar.
As I wrote in my 2019 Update and 2020 Goals post, I simplified my goals for this year and, basically, decided on two:
- More posts here on This Creative Midlife
- A refreshed and thoughtful approach to my short stories.
After a slow June when I posted only 3 times, I bounced back with a busier July and posted 6 times. So far this year, I have posted 37 times, exceeding last year’s 20 posts.
Probably not coincidentally, my blog traffic is up from last year. Last July, I had 67 visits. This May, I hit 299.
I continued working on revising a longer story. Making slow but steady progress. In general, I haven’t really addressed my second goal of having “a refreshed and thoughtful approach to my short stories.” For most of the year, I’ve mainly been revising existing stories with only minimal work on anything new. Now that we’re past the halfway point of the year, I need to think about what to make of this goal for the rest of 2020 or to think about replacing it.
The closest I’ve come to a thoughtful approach to short stories is making a concerted effort to read more and to track the ones I’ve liked. I’ve continued to enjoy that effort and read five stories of note in July.
Two were from recent issues of the New Yorker: Marilynne Robinson’s Jack and Della, and Bryon Washington’s Heirlooms. I have been curious about Robinson for a while now and have had some of her novels, like those in the Gilead series, so it felt good to finally read something by her. Jack and Della is from the forthcoming fourth book in that series.
The New Yorker also republished Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery in a recent issue. I had read that ages ago and remembered thinking it was an interesting concept but not all that great a story. This re-read didn’t change my opinion.
I also dug into the New Yorker’s archives to read a couple Haruki Murakami stories: Hunting Knife and U.F.O. in Kushiro. I liked them both but not as much as some of his more recent stories. Since I have been enjoying a lot of his short stories, I decided I should try one of his novels and bought Norwegian Wood.
Short Stories Read in 2020
So far in 2020, I’ve read 30 stories that I have enjoyed.
- The Swimmer, John Cheever (The New Yorker)
- Birdie, Lauren Groff (The Atlantic)
- The Aurelian, Vladimir Nabokov (The Atlantic)
- Things We Worried about When I was Ten, David Rabe (The New Yorker)
- Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts, Anthony Veasna So (The New Yorker)
- With the Beatles, Haruki Murakami (The New Yorker)
- A Simple Case, E.C. Osondu (The Atlantic)
- Kid Positive, Adam Levin (The New Yorker)
- Go Team, Samantha Hunt (The Atlantic)
- Night Swim, Anne Enright (The New Yorker)
- Out There, Kate Folk (The New Yorker)
- Edge of the World, Souvankham Thammavongsa (The Atlantic)
- The Other One, Tess Hadley (The New Yorker)
- Bedtime Story, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (The New Yorker)
- Likes, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (The New Yorker)
- The Burglar, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (The New Yorker)
- Demolition, Fiona McFarlane (The New Yorker)
- Pursuit as Happiness, Ernest Hemingway (New Yorker)
- Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey, Haruki Murakami (New Yorker)
- White Noise, Emma Cline (New Yorker)
- A Shinagawa Monkey, Haruki Murakami (New Yorker)
- Grief, Scholastique Mukasonga (New Yorker)
- Eating Fish Alone, Lydia Davis (Can’t and Won’t)
- The Dreadful Mucamas, Lydia Davis (Can’t and Won’t)
- Reversible Story, Lydia Davis (Can’t and Won’t)
- Jack and Della, Marilynne Robinson (New Yorker)
- Heirlooms, Bryan Washington (New Yorker)
- The Lottery, Shirley Jackson (New Yorker)
- Hunting Knife, Haruki Murakami (New Yorker)
- U.F.O. in Kushiro, Haruki Murakami (New Yorker)
I had a busy reading month and finished 5 books in July.
In mid-2018, when I read V. I had no intention of starting a full-on Thomas Pynchon re-read, but I have subsequently read The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity’s Rainbow which compelled me to return to Vineland in July so I guess I’m into a full-on Pynchon re-read. I had read Vineland at least twice before and probably enjoyed it the most this time. Not exactly sure why. Perhaps partly because I have spent some time in California (where the novel is set) since the last time I read it. Maybe partly because I knew to expect a different kind of book than Gravity’s Rainbow which preceded it. I was surprised how much of it I remembered since it’s probably been a dozen years or more since the last time.
I also re-read Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast. I think I originally read that while in college or shortly thereafter so it’s been about 30 years since I read it. I remember really liking it and recommending it to people back in the day so I decided to buy it when I saw that the Kindle version was on sale. It held up well for me. I found it intriguing and quite the page-turner.
I also read some books for the first time as well.
I got Megha Majumdar’s A Burning from the Free Library of Philadelphia via Overdrive. As often is the case with books I put on hold through Overdrive, so much time passed between when I placed the hold and I got A Burning, I forgot what it was about and why I placed the hold in the first place so it’s like a little surprise gift from past-me. Focusing on the aftermath of train attack in India, the story follows 3 characters one of whom is falsely accused of being one of the terrorists. Another page turner! I particularly liked that the happy ending I thought was going to happen did not, and the book ended on a rather dark note which felt more authentic.
As I mentioned above, one of the movies I saw as part of the “Summerfest” was The Old Guard which, much to my surprise, I really enjoyed. I don’t usually like superhero movies, although this was quite different than most. Watching the movie made me curious about the graphic novel it is based on so I read that. I may have enjoyed the movie more since it had more time for character development and to flesh out the plot.
Finally, I finished reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I’ve read quite a lot of books and articles about writing over the years so there wasn’t much new here for me. But it’s always helpful to get a refresher.
Books Read in 2020
So far in 2020, I have read 23 books:
- Fear of Flying, Erica Jong (Kindle book)
- Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement, Rich Karlgaard
- L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home, David Lebovitz (Kindle book)
- The Complete Untitled Film Stills, Cindy Sherman (library book)
- The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
- Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff (Kindle book)
- Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, Apéritifs, and Café Traditions of France, with 160 Recipes, David Lebovitz
- The Mars Room, Rachel Kushner (Kindle book)
- Trust Exercise, Susan Choi (Kindle book)
- The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better after 50, Jonathan Rauch
- Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
- A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon’s Novel, Steven Weisenburger
- Weather, Jenny Offill (Kindle book)
- The Altering Eye: Photographs from the National Gallery of Art, Sarah Greenough, ed
- Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe, Brian Greene
- The Cactus League, Emily Nemens (Kindle book)
- The Glass Hotel, Emily St. John Mandel
- White Teeth, Zadie Smith
- Vineland, Thomas Pynchon
- The Mosquito Coast, Paul Theroux (Kindle book)
- A Burning, Megha Majumdar (Kindle book)
- The Old Guard, Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernández (Kindle graphic novel)
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne, Dave King
This Creative Midlife Posts in 2020
- 2019 Camera Inventory
- December 2019 Update
- 2019 Update and 2020 Goals
- Tracing Exercise in Procreate
- Midlife: A Philosophical Guide Review
- Some Lingering 2019 Photos
- January 2020 Update
- Half-Frame Fun
- Old Age as Defined in The Atlantic
- Black and White Photos with the Canon AE-1
- February 2020 Update
- Late Bloomers Review
- Self-Isolation Week One
- New and Old Lenses for the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
- Self-Isolation Week Two
- March 2020 Update
- Self-Isolation Week Three
- Spring Photos with the Olympus TG-5
- Self-Isolation Week Four
- Macro Watches
- Self-Isolation Week Five
- More Self-Isolation Macro Photos
- Self-Isolation Week Six
- April 2020 Update
- Looking Out Our Window
- Self-Isolation Week Eight
- Spring Photos with the Canon EOS Rebel 2000
- Last Normal Photos with the Olympus OM-1
- May 2020 Update
- Spring Flexaret Photos
- Two First Rolls
- June 2020 Update
- Some Favorite Photos from 2020 So Far
- Canon Rebel 2000 with Ferrania P30
- Finished the Procreate Project I Didn’t Think I Would Finish
- Minolta Hi-Matic 11 with Ilford XPS Super
- Minolta X-700 with Kodak Portra 400