My May update is a little delayed since there were much more important things going on at the end of May and beginning of June.
Saturday, May 30 marked the first nights of protests in Philadelphia. The first few nights also saw rioting and looting in different parts of the city, including just a few blocks from where we live. But after the initial turmoil, the protests have been mainly peaceful (at least from the protesters side) and effective. The mayor recently announced he will eliminate a proposed $19 million dollar increase to the police department and created an police oversight commission. An officer videoed roughing up more than one protester has been suspended with “an intent to dismiss” and is facing aggravated assault charges.
One of the first actions the city took after the start of the protests was to remove the Frank Rizzo statue. Actually, one of the first things they did was to clean the statue after it had been defaced by protesters. Rizzo was a racist police commissioner and mayor in Philadelphia during the late 1960s through 1980. The statue has long been controversial because of his blatantly racist stances and his encouragement of police brutality. That the city’s first response was to clean the statue before dealing with any other damage from the protests was not well-received. Luckily, the city changed course and removed the statue. A mural of Rizzo in South Philadelphia has since been removed as well.
I have never directly taken any pictures of either the Rizzo statue or the mural, but, back in September of 2017, I did take a picture of Hank Willis Thomas’s All Power to All the People with the Rizzo statue purposely overshadowed in the background. Thomas’s statue has since been purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Unfortunately, PAFA is currently closed do to the pandemic, but I know at one time, All Power to All the People was on display there.
Hopefully, the city’s responses to the protests are in earnest and will continue to grow. The protesters should be proud of the change they set into motion.
I am concerned what these large gathering might mean in terms of the spread of the pandemic. The fight needed to be fought, but it could have detrimental consequences especially in combination of the state and city easing up on many of the restrictions that were in place to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Pennsylvania has moved from the “red” stage to the “yellow” meaning that more businesses will be allowed to be opened although people are still supposed to wear masks and social distance.
For the foreseeable future, we’re going to maintain our self-isolation since this move to yellow isn’t really based on science or any significant reduction in the number of new cases.
I had been posting weekly updates but stopped with my week eight post.
The main reason for ending the posts is that things for us really weren’t that different from week-to-week. I started to posts not knowing what the future would be like. Things turned out to be less dramatic or interesting that I initially suspected.
We haven’t been as isolated as I once thought possible and, fortunately, haven’t faced any significant challenges.
The biggest change has been working form home which, actually, has been great. I’ve been surprisingly busy and productive this entire time and have been able to remotely do everything I’ve needed to, which I’ve found somewhat surprising. The fear of furloughs came and went without any staff reductions.
We’ve had some preliminary discussions about re-opening the library, and it looks like will open with limited capacity and services on August 3rd so almost 2 more months of working from home.
Going back will be a huge adjustment, and I’m glad I won’t have to deal with that for a while. The plan is to have as few people in the building as possible when we do reopen so I may be working from home for even longer or, if I do have to go in, it could be for limited duration.
The only downside to not going to work every day and trying to stay in as much as possible is that we’re walking a lot less than we used to. All that walking was our main source of exercise, and I haven’t developed any good habits to replace that. We do get out once in a while to do our grocery shopping and take the occasional walk. Other than this reduction in activity, being at home feels like it’s been good from my health. I’m eating better and getting up from my computer to stretch more often which seems to have a positive effect on my back which used to bother me from time-to-time.
Luckily, the weather in May was nice enough that we were able to get out for a few walks.
Early in the month, I went out with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
I also got out with some of my film cameras. I already posted about a couple of those:
In addition to those, I went out with my Minolta Hi-Matic 11, my Minolta XE, my new-to-me Minolta X-700, and my Olympus Pen-EE. A couple of those rolls are done and waiting to be developed and a couple are unfinished and still in their cameras. I still have a few recently developed rolls that I hope to post about.
Drawing and Graphic Design
I did a little more practice with Drawing for the Absolute Beginner and worked a little more on a tracing project in Procreate. I had given up on tracing a photo I had taken of my Flexaret Automat because I wasn’t happy with how it was turning out, but when I returned to it after a break, I decided it wasn’t so bad and to see it through. It’s not quite done but I’ll share it when it is.
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.
I’m still more attentive to this blog than I was last year. I posted here 5 times this month as compared to once last May. I have exceeded the number of total posts for last year when I wrote only 20. So far this year, I have posted 28 times.
Probably not coincidentally, my blog traffic is up from last year. Last May, I had 64 visits. This May, I hit 257.
I also put in some time revising and expanding one of my longer story ideas, but it still needs a lot of work. For the most part, the concentration I lost during the early weeks of the pandemic has returned although the events of the end of May and beginning of June were a distraction.
I mentioned I was thinking about revising Kindred Spirits and putting out a 2nd edition, but I’ve backed off that idea. It is what it is, and I’m probably best off forging ahead. I have another collection of stories that I somewhat recently had professionally edited. My time and energy would be better spent figuring out how I want to move forward with that.
I read 1 short story of note in May:
Short Stories Read in 2020
So far in 2020, I’ve read and enjoyed 17 short stories:
- 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)
Through most of the period of self-isolation, I dealt with some concentration issues. Despite having more time at home, I hadn’t really read all that much. That changed in May when I finished reading 6 books.
A lifetime ago, back in October, I decided to start reading Gravity’s Rainbow along with A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion during our Staycation. Of course, Gravity’s Rainbow is a big book, and I was reading it for probably the 5th or 6th time so I was content to slowly chip away at it. I finally finished it in May. Despite having read it before and consider it one of my favorite books, I may have enjoyed it more this time than ever before. I attribute that to taking my time with it and referring to the companion guide. I had read it before with an earlier edition of the companion but got more out of it this time. I feel like with some of my re-reads, I sped through parts to get to the scenes I know I like. This re-read certainly benefited from the more leisurely pace.
I also read two shorter books that I had gotten from the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Overdrive selection: Jenny Offill’s Weather and Emily Nemens’s The Cactus League. I had read Offill’s Dept. of Speculation and enjoyed it and was looking forward to Weather, which I also enjoyed. It seemed to capture the anxiety surrounding climate change and the election of 45.
The Cactus League is more a collection of related short stories than a novel. All the stories revolve around a baseball phenom struggling with a gambling addiction. Some of the individual stories were really good but, on the whole, I’m not sure it really felt like a substantial work. It was an entertaining read, nonetheless, and I welcomed the opportunity to read a baseball story considering there’s no actually baseball being played so far this summer.
To help keep myself entertained during our self-isolation, I bought a couple of photography books from the National Gallery of Art. I finished one during may: The Altering Eye which is an overview of photos that are in the NGA’s collection. Although it is limited to their collection, they have enough important works that the book provides a great overview of the history of photography. All of the essays were engaging and informative and this large book includes plenty of excellent examples from the late 19th Century to more contemporary works.
Finally, I read Brian Greene’s truly fascinating Until the End of Time. I don’t read many science titles and am not even sure how this book got on my to read list, but I’m glad it did. Greene begins with some basic principles of physics before telling the story of existence beginning with the big bang and then goes on to explore some theoretical ideas about what may happen far into the future. Along the way, he delves into language, creativity, and religion, among other things. Some of the science was a bit over my head, but Greene explains things well so even when I didn’t quite understand the details, I got the main points.
Books Read in 2020
So far in 2020, I have read 16 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)
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