Greetings from afar. At least six feet afar, but probably a lot more than that.
As expected, school is over. I will share the details below, but there is nothing left to do with regard to any of my classes except read email to be sure no surprises come up and wait for my final grades to appear sometime next month. As a result, this post will have a different format from the usual course list. As I’ve mentioned before, I intend to continue to write these once a week if possible, even in the absence of classes as an organizing principle, and that starts now.
I suspect the content and organization of future posts will vary a fair bit. Variety is the spice of life, and perhaps those future posts will surprise you in interesting ways. But this week, I will start off with the thing that is clearly on everyone’s mind, which is clearly not my school situation.
I know, I know. We’re all sick of it, but we need to be honest about this. It’s probably going to be a significant factor in our lives for a long time. A few weeks — even in isolation — is not going to make the disease go away. Until there is a vaccine that has been widely administered, which is probably at least 18 months out, there will be dramatic impacts on us all. Our lifestyles may well be changed forever, or at least until we forget how bad this disease was and go back to doing all the stupid things that seven billion Petri dishes should really avoid.
I give it three years before lots of people are saying “Covid-19? That wasn’t a problem.” I think of it a bit like Y2K. Remember that, back at the end of 1999? Remember how everyone predicted doom and gloom, and in the end nothing happened? And why did nothing happen? It’s because thousands of programmers worked millions of hours to fix software so it would not break when the year rolled over. I was one of those people. I updated some software so it didn’t fail when the year changed from “99” to “00”. Had we not done the work, Y2K would have been a disaster, but these days a fair number of people look back and say it wasn’t a real thing. That it was all made up. It wasn’t. In the same way we can assume some will look back and say Covid-19 was not a big deal — or worse, a fraud — in the not too distant future.
There is real work going on. Scientists are researching the virus, and working on possible vaccines and treatments for those who are ill. Epidemiologists are trying to understand the specifics of how this disease spreads and how to best reduce it — to flatten the curve, in the vernacular — so more of us get through this without getting sick, or worse, dying. And yet, I figure we don’t have that long before that is being denied, and some people start saying it wasn’t really a big deal. Let me go on record now: this is a big deal, and those future (or current, if they are ahead of the curve) naysayers are dangerously wrong.
We dare not ignore this. It’s going to be a long, hard slog to get through, but the personal, social, and economic damage of ignoring it — of going on as if there is no disease — will be much, much worse. I read about large church congregations continuing to meet. That’s knowingly enabling the disease to spread. There are also plenty of US politicians denying the severity of the problem, and whose actions and orders are only making things worse. And then there’s that lovely term — Covidiots — for people who do not follow the social distancing rules while out in public. They’re out there. I’ve seen some of them myself.
I hope you are not one of those people. I hope you recognize the seriousness of the situation, and are taking the appropriate steps to avoid getting — and transmitting — this disease. Stay home, wash your hands regularly, stay at least six feet (two metres for my non-American readers) away from others while out, and so on. We’ve all heard it a thousand times by now.
Such things can be difficult, particularly for those — like me — who are extroverts and need to be around people. My wife is an introvert, and for her staying home is just fine. Even better, she’s got deep, technical challenges at work. I am jealous. Without externally imposed goals, deadlines, and projects, I can be at a loss. She, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer that problem.
As you can guess, I have good days and bad days. Sometimes the news is so depressing I cannot stand reading or watching it. Sometimes I am so bored I don’t know what to do with myself. To help with those issues just a bit, I offer this list of mental health tips on surviving social isolation. I got them from the author John Green, who got them from Partners in Health, a charity he works tirelessly to support. Many of these will seem obvious, but on a bad day it helps to have them printed out and hanging on the wall. Perhaps they will help you too. If anyone wants more information, the link to the original PIH article is in the document I’ve linked to, and I can share a link to John Green’s video if desired. Ask if you are interested.
Enough about that for now. I am supposed to provide a distraction, not a lecture. To that end, I’ll go on to…
First, several people got in touch after last week’s post to commiserate. They noted I was sad at the way the term ended, and there was some concern for me as a result. It’s true, I am a bit sad. It would have been nicer to finish classes in the usual way, wind up a few final projects, and be part of the annual graduate show. But that’s no longer possible. There won’t even be a convocation this year.
For some, this is a real blow. If this is your first post-secondary education, getting that diploma handed to you may feel really important. And the formalities of winding things up in a cap & gown might be sorely missed. I can’t speak for others, but for me that is less of a concern. Even in the absence of a “cleaner” ending, I achieved my goals in my time at Langara College. I am very happy to have spent the time here, and even with the current upset, I can move on. Yes, I’d really rather have finished the normal way, but I will get by. (Though, to be honest, I never planned on wearing the cap & gown. I’m well past being being bothered by that.) I feel for my fellow students much more than for myself on this front. Should we get the chance to have some sort of celebration to end the term in the future, I definitely plan to be there, for them.
Up top I promised the status of this past week as regards school, and here that is:
- Advanced Ceramics: We had a couple of video conferences to discuss readings, as planned. As far as I know, this course is now done.
- Wheel Throwing: This class was done a week ago.
- Public Art: All that remained here was to turn in an evaluation form. The instructor says she will keep us updated with public art call information and other tidbits, but there are no further assignments to do. In a side note, I have not heard from the library about my piece there and whether they want to keep it permanently. I am sure they are insanely busy supporting the end of the term for classes that moved online, so I will let them deal with that question at their own speed.
- Foundry: We were given a set of short, written assignments about our projects and plans, due in April. I did them immediately and have already turned them in. I think that’s everything for this class as well.
Oh. Here’s a photo of my situation as I read the last reading selected for Advanced Ceramics:
Homemade black eyed pea soup, fruit, crackers, cheese, and homework. Quite possibly the last time I will be in that situation ever, at least with regard to the homework.
Anyway, other than monitoring email to be certain no surprises come up, I am done with classes. At this point, my artistic endeavours are my own. I’ve emptied out my locker and taken home everything I can.
Perhaps there will be reasons to visit the campus in the future, to finish firing certain ceramics pieces, to pick up my diploma, to celebrate the end of the term, or even just to say hello to friends. But for now I’m done, and I need to think about other things.
Before I end this section, though, I was reminded last week that I had forgotten something. Previously, I mentioned something about my pitchers and a code (of sorts) that I had put on them. I never followed up on that, and one of my more diligent readers asked for an update.
As happened so often to me in ceramics, my plan was a total failure. The pitchers were reduction fired and — as usual — the glazes did not behave as I wanted. Here’s a photo of the pitchers in question:
What was supposed to happen was not this. The pitcher on the right was supposed to have a recognizable pattern like this:
which, when read as columns, might have been pronounced “dot dot dot, dash dash dash, dot dot dot”. And that should have been recognizable as the Morse Code for “SOS”. The pitcher on the left has the Morse code for “CRAZY” on it in the same way. It was just for fun, so I picked silly things to see how they would look.
But the glazes ran in some places and went nearly invisible in others. The result is so bad I just wound up ignoring it, and completely forgot to mention it, even to the instructor. Now I have told you, at least, and the failure can be left to disappear into history.
While I am thinking about this, it occurs to me that despite my sharing the results of my crit with you a week or two ago, I never shared photos of the pitchers or the mugs.
So, in addition to the pitchers above, here are the chicken pitchers, glazed and finished up:
And here are two of the mugs:
On the chicken pitchers, they were fun, different, and I think they are what she really liked of my work on the pitcher project. The glazing is not quite what I wanted. (Surprised? I don’t think so.) I was hoping for something more feather-like, but again, this was a reduction firing in a gas kiln. No control over anything, and no predictability. (That’s harsh. I may feel that way about reduction firings, but clearly others understand and control them. More power to those who do.)
As for the mugs, I have all ten, but selected just two for the photos. Lessons learned here: they are too shallow, the base is too narrow, the instructor didn’t like the handles or the way they attached near the rims, they warped in strange ways, and the glazes didn’t do what I wanted here either. Note, in particular, the difference between the interiors of the two mugs. These were on the same shelf in the kiln, but clearly the glazes ran differently on the inside for some reason.
Another thing I learned is that my friend Terry, a wonderful potter in Arizona, has no fear that I will ever compete with her for customers.
With that, I think I am fully caught up on all the various school projects, and I’ve given you all the status I have to share. I’m sure there will be niggling things, like the status of my art piece in the school library, and maybe someday a grad show of some sort, but for now, that’s it. Time for me to move on to new things.
And I can already hear you asking what those new things might be. I am asking that myself, almost every day. The two big ones currently are:
- Research places to live
- Make art
The former is a bit of a challenge. I can dig around online all I want, but some things require personal investigation. Do we like the looks of a neighbourhood? It’s hard to tell from an online map. And even if we found an area we like, are we willing to start trying to look at housing during a pandemic? I doubt it.
So while there is some of that to keep me busy, I am more interested in art, at least in theory. I have some supplies around the house, but some (like a few hunks of soapstone in the garage) need somewhat warmer weather and a lack of rain before I get to work on them. Other things are possible — wood carving, painting, sculpture of various kinds — but so far nothing has materialized. I will get there, though.
And I suppose I need to keep exercising. Walking a bit, at least, to keep the body moving. That’d be good.
I am building a list of completely inappropriate movies to watch during the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are a few that have come up so far:
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Early on, the earth is destroyed by the Vogons to make way for a hyperspace bypass.
- Shawn of the Dead — A very funny take on the zombie apocalypse.
- The Martian — Social isolation at its most extreme.
- 12 Monkeys — Another take on a disease nearly wiping out humanity.
- The World’s End — A pub crawl results in the collapse of civilization.
If you have other suggestions for wildly inappropriate media (particularly movies I order from somewhere online) please share them. Somehow these make me feel less stressed than the news, so more is better. That said, we’re not really into horror, so while those probably should be all over this list, they’re probably not things we’ll actually watch.
And In Conclusion…
Anne saw a crow out in the yard picking up grass and moss for nest building. She decided to help, so she took Tinkerbelle out into the yard and combed her. If the crow comes back, it will have some very warm chicks with a dog fur lined nest.
However, a few minutes later I let the dogs out back and…
That’s Tinkerbelle telling the crows to go away. Loudly.
Still, they will probably be back, and at least some of that hair will keep baby birds warm this spring.
And here’s why the crows are looking for nest insulation:
That’s taken just up the street. We still have snow on the local mountains, and they are close enough that in less than an hour I can walk to the base of the tram that would normally run to the top, in the absence of a viral pandemic. While spring may officially have started, winter hasn’t really let go yet.
Everyone stay safe and well!