“It is tempting to write the history of technology through products: the wheel; the microscope; the airplane; the Internet. But it is more illuminating to write the history of technology through transitions: linear motion to circular motion; visual space to subvisual space; motion on land to motion on air; physical connectivity to virtual connectivity.” ~ siddhartha mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History
what happens when everything stops, or at least seems to… stop. where part of your life seems normal in that you can get into your car and drive to a supermarket to buy food, walk your dog around the neighborhood, charge your phone, check your email, watch movies… but then there are the subtle changes ~ going through a drive through to get your dirty chai latte (first time, yesterday), deciding to stay on this side of the tunnel (haven’t ventured out of Lamorinda in a week), that it’s best not to take the BART, that shopping at Target needs to be considered deeply, and no more cocktails at bars, coffee meetings at La Strada, or the simplicity of greeting someone with a handshake or, hug.
dropping off Royal for her 7am saturday + sunday weekend shifts at Starbucks where I would then stay for another 2 hours to catch up on work, seems a lifetime ago ~ and yet it was March 15th, the Ides of March ~ the last time I sat from afar, still planning a trip to Hawaii, imagining that things weren’t going to change that rapidly. how could they?
now, two weeks later, as in 14 days, with global cases at 824,255, deaths 40,659, recovered 174, 359… active 609,237, mild 578,369 (as of the morning of March 31st, and changing every minute)…~ I really can’t imagine being able to do that again with such ease, ordering coffee and sitting at my computer working, taking in the surroundings. and, after this all goes by and we are able to look back ~ say in 3 month, 6 months, a year ~ what will our relationship to the ritual act of getting a flat white in Starbucks be ~ the closeness we stand in line, the ability to add cream and sugar yourself, the complete disregard of what might be lingering in the air, on a surface, in a handshake. We are in the state of transition from way one of being BEFORE the CORONAVIRUS and at some point there will be an AFTER. what are we, each one of us, doing now?
today marks our 15th day at home, sheltering in place in a sort of quarantine, self-isolation, flattening the curve objective that has in many ways been terrifying, overwhelming and beautiful. I won’t go into the first days of confusion and sadness and overall ambivalence. it takes time before patterns can be established, rituals defined. without doubt, every morning is the same ~ wake up before 7am to think is this really happening, a quick peek at my phone which turns into 45 minutes going through email, facebook, instagram, sfgate, and finally twitter which directs me to what’s trending, what’s important, what matters ~ or at least think matters…. and then the google searches ~ worldometer, new york city coronavirus, italy coronavirus, paris coronavirus, new orleans, bay area, contra costa ~ it creeps closer.
this media compulsion wears off and shortens each day, a bell curve that flattens for a bit at a steady 45 minutes, to the point where it starts to go down. I control myself, become more efficient in finding the statistics ~ body count and recovery, searching for little predictors ~ gloves, or no? masks, which ones ~ no one can agree how airborne this virus really is; i look to patterns that began in china, and washed over italy, through paris and spain, has landed in new york city (via a quick jump to seattle) and is slowly making its way to california. there’s still time. but how do you want to spend it? obsessing over what will be, or appreciating what is?
so i hold this time. sacred. stand still. it’s my time, before the tsunami takes us over. like the one that was supposed to maybe come to the bay area how many years ago, and us in our west oakland west end commons refuge, awake at sunrise to load into our car and make our way through the tunnel to “be safe.” in lafayette, a respite from the chaos and possibility of natural disaster and destruction. this is different. it’s viral and contagious and a democratizing dis-ease that i want to run from and stay away from and pretend it just doesn’t exist. sitting idly in our orinda treehouse beneath the oaks ~ where at the beginning of march I was finishing up a third consulting project at Apple, ready to start on a half dozen new projects, salon dinner for She-Can in NYC, exhibit a Creative Growth collaborative collection at Beyond Trend runway show in Oakland in April, speak about being an anthropologist at St. Mary’s, develop a syllabus to start teaching again, and continue my conversations with the next places I wanted to maybe work. and then life ~ that life or work and meaning, stopped. so we have this moment ~ this little bubble of transition, liminality. let’s call it that ~ a threshold, a transitional period, a state between states, a “betwixt and between,”… i know this word, i studied it, and now it’s here, and we’re in it. what to do with it?
so we consume ourselves in stuff ~ of the educational sort, the digestible, the ephemeral ~ on-line and in person with those we’ve had to hunker down with ~ our family members that we’re not used to seeing that much of during the weekdays. we listen and watch and feel.. music and film and food and wine, and giving and buying and learning and… here are the top 100+ things these past 14 days that have beautifully distracted me from reality and then again reminded me of who i am… that’s the beauty of slowing down. it helps you remember why you’re ~ why we’re ~ here… ~ what and who and why we love, and live and do and become, constantly re-inventing ourselves, once we have the chance to change our pace, reflect, and just be.
“Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something molded.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Learning / Reading / Watching / Eating / Doing / Listening / Obsessing / Supporting
~~~ LEARNING on-line + off ~~~
1. Yale’s The Science of Well-Being (I’m on Week 5… Love this just for the sense of giving me structure every morning, but also, I think it’s a great course to re-think for high school students… I’m editing a version for my daughter Royal’s high school Orinda Academy)
2. Masterclass / love these classes, and I’ve done a handful over the past couple of years including Judy Blume, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Waters, Malcolm Gladwell
* Looking forward to these : Jane Goodall, Werner Herzog, Shonda Rhimes, Ken Burns, David Lynch, Hans Zimmer, Margaret Atwood, Anna Wintour, Frank Gehry, Annie Leibovitz
* March 23rd / Susan David / Psychologist studying emotional agility
* March 24th / Bill Gates / How we must respond to the coronavirus pandemic
* March 25th / Gary Liu / What the world can learn from China’s response to the coronavirus
* March 26th / Seth Berkley / The quest for the coronavirus vaccine
* March 27th / Priya Parker / How to create meaningful connections while apart
* March 30th / Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks / We cannot let this divide us
Upcoming : Sonia Shah, Matt Walker, Elizabeth Gilbert
1. Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, 2014 (looking forward also to Weather)
2. Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women, 2019
3. Claire Dederer’s Love & Trouble, 2017
4. Katie Kitamura’s A Separation, 2017
5. Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, 2016 (reading with my daughter this book and the following one, for her Junior year high school English Lit class)
6. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, 1990
7. Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work, 2001
8. Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder, 1965
9. Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa, 2020
and ~ 10. Stephen King’s On Writing, 2000… which i absolutely LOVED….
11. Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, 2018
12. (after just reading Heidi Julavits piece on the Coronavirus + Italy, in NYT (see below), I recalled this book (which i think i leant out) based on a questionnaire to over 600 women of “why we wear what we wear” ~ Women in Clothes (2014) by Heidi Julavits, Leann Shapton and Sheila Heti (would be interesting to do an updated version of what we’ve been wearing whilst SIP)
13. and WRITING / for writers out there, National Novel Writing Month created an initiative called #StayHomeWriMo “to help your physical, mental, social, and creative well-being.” To participate, just sign up HERE.
1. Scandal / yes, i’m late to the party but LOVE this wonderful story of power + desire, just as much as I adore the brain of its creator Shonda Rhimes. If you haven’t watched her Dartmouth commencement speech she gave in 2014, click HERE.
2. 24 (aired 2001-2014) / another one, late to the game… this one, though, I watch with my husband every night, in awe of the ever + still engaging technique of split screens and different points of view. There’s now even a movie, which i’m sure to watch after we finish…
3. Harry Potter / yes, my teenager son and daughter love just re-watching ALL of them, as a family unit. their “comfort film series” over the years, especially when Royal isn’t watching The Blacklist, which I have yet to indulge in. If you haven’t seen JK Rowling’s 2008 commencement speech at Harvard, here it is. Click HERE.
4. House / I go back to these time and again… when they originally came out in 2004, I had already adored Hugh Laurie in P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster (1990) with Stephen Fry. It’s the wannabe doctor diagnostician in me.
* Documentaries/ my top 25, most of which i’ve seen, many I am excited to see over the next month (i’ll be doing another piece with my top 100) / 1. Cameraperson by Kirsten Johnson (2016), 2. CripCamp by Jim Lebrecht + Nicole Newnham (2020), 3. PINA by Wim Wenders (2011), 4. Sans Soleil by Chris Marker (1983), 5. The Biggest Little Farm by John Chester (2018), 6. Ai WeiWei: Yours Truly by Cheryl Haines (2019), 7. I’m Your Man by Lian Lunson (2005), 8. McQueen by Ian Bonhote (2018), 9. The September Issue by RJ Cutler (2009)…on economics/entrepreneurship/giving 10. Inside Bill’s Brain by Davis Guggenheim (2019), 11. Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine by Alex Gibney (2015), 12. Something Ventured / 2011 by Dayna Goldfine + Dan Geller, 13. Diana Vreeland: The Eye has To Travel by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (2011), 14. The Fog of War by Errol Morris (2003), 15. Inside Job by Charles Ferguson (2010), 16. Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog (2005), 17. Time to Choose by Charles Ferguson (2016), 18. Man On Wire by James Marsh (2008), 19. Jiro Dreams of Sushi by David Gelb (2011), 20. Tim’s Vermeer by Teller (2013), 21. I Am Not Your Negro by Raoul Peck (2016), 22. SOMM by Jason Wise (2012), 23. IRIS by Albert Maysles (2014), 24. Best of Enemies by Morgan Neville + Robert Gordon, 25. Cave of Forgotten Dreams by Werner Herzog (2010)
~~~EATING +DRINKING (+ supporting)~~~
whether you’re cooking, or ordering take-out/pick-up and/or delivery ~ restaurants need our support, balanced with the fact that we now have a lot more time on our hands to actually be able to cook… below are a handful of my go-to cookbooks that many of my salon dinners were inspired by, and then a selection of local restaurants who have shape-shifted their menus to accommodate what makes sense in this time… A full least of East Bay restaurants serving no contact pick-up or delivery, with a few highlighted below.
SUPPORT / First, in the Bay Area please check out : Ayelet Waldman + Michael Chabon’s “EAST BAY FeedER” … that supports BOTH restauranteurs and their staff, as well as feeding frontline staff in hospital emergency rooms at Highland, Summit + Children’s Hospital in Oakland. Please click HERE to donate on their GoFundMe page.
In the Sacramento area a group of chefs, including Clay Nutting of Canon, put together FAMILY MEAL, based off the model of Chef Jose Andres of World Central Kitchen… of how to create “economic benefits for industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic while feeding those in need.” Click HERE to donate…
LaMorinda / Orinda + Lafayette:
- Note: these are just a handful of places I’ve either been to/enjoyed over the years, or wanted to go to/try (like Mina Family Kitchen, which is a completely new concept). As of a week ago these places were changing over to delivery, curbside-pick-up and should still all be open for ordering through the coming weeks.
Go-to cookbooks + recipes / I have literally 150+ cookbooks, but these are the ones I actually cook from and look to on a weekly basis for basic foundations like salads, dressings, salsas, risottos, and bolognese sauces, to just basic techniques and mixing of flavors, and addition of spices + herbs, and seasonality.
DRINKING / and… for WINE ~ a few friends/wine distributors who usually work with restaurants (many that have closed), have extra supply of their favorite wines that can be shipped out or picked up locally…below are a dozen of my faves…
~~~above, Emily Schindler of Winemonger, and I, at one my my salon dinners~~~
~~~DOING (aka making + building + re-conceiving gathering)~~~
i’ll add on to this list in the next post but these are some things we’ve been doing in the past two weeks whilst my husband has been building tables and shelves in the garage (when he’s not working on Pixar’s next film SOUL) … just got canvases in from Blick and shadow boxes from Michaels…
1. Baby Royal cashmere baby hats. a dozen of them as a collection. Kind of like days of the week underwear a la When Harry Met Sally ~ these months of the year head warmers give me a little bit of sewing meditation every morning, and also use up the stashed away cashmere sweaters that i have been waiting to use.
* Creative Growth x cari borja collaboration collection… still producing one of a kind pieces for the Beyond Trend runway show that’s been postponed. My friday mornings as a visiting artist in the Oakland studio was one of the weekly things (and structure) I miss.
* Joseph Cornell sculpture thingies… this is a series of light boxes slash textile jewelry sculptures that i have been wanting to do for years, and supplies arrived from Blick + Michaels. Create your own studio with the amazing deals they have on canvas packages, colored wire and pain sets. Setting royal up with her tools, and then focusing in on my own mini collection “still life in memory + remembering.”
* THIS awesome home in Sonoma County built by Apple architect BJ Siegel / from customizable prefab design weeHouse / founded by Geoffrey Warner of Alchemy Architects … a couple months ago i started collecting books and reading about both urban/public and residential design and thinking about ways an anthropologist can consult on such projects around space + place.
* Shibumi Gallery + their process videos with jewelers / these are great. and April Higashi started releasing the videos last week. Based on the current show “PROCESS – TEN MAKERS” : wax carving, Kirsten Muenster / synclastic forming, Kai Wolter / crocheted chain, Arielle de Pinto
* Art of Gathering by Priya Parker / I love this! and, of course… as I have done over 100 salon dinners through the years ~ this book and Priya’s most recent talk on TED Connects is inspiring and also SO relevant during these times when we should be re-thinking and innovating around how and why we gather… (both in terms of taking all school classes + learning on-line, but also our work meetings).
* Also, in a similar-ish vein of theory into action ~ check out Anne Deveroux’s book The Parlay Effect, website, and her gatherings Parlay House, which I have been to in NYC and SF. After reading the SF Chronicle above about the face to face salons, you can then tune in to Priya Parker’s TED Connect talk and listen to all the different ways she has been noticing that people are gathering ~ like DJ D-Nice party with a purpose / club quarantine / tune in (on instagram live, @dnice) this saturday April 4th, 4pm pacific time.
1. play lists / that’s right. Every time we have a party or a salon dinner at our home, I am always clicking on the same 25 playlists of randomly assorted songs that really have no narrative arc. In an installation I did a few years back at the De Young Museum, I made an atelier playlist of what we listened to in my 4th street studio ~ that was intentional and meaningful and had some sense of, well, stuff I wanted to hear in an order that made sense. Putting together a set of 5 new play lists each with a different theme.
2. full-album-listening. I pulled this ARTICLE ~ LA Times “The Lost art of deep listening: Choose an Album. Lose the phone. Close your eyes” from someone on FB and shared it a couple weeks ago. My favorite full albums are below. what are yours… to listen to start to finish / 1. Jane’s Addiction, Nothing Shocking / 2. U2, Joshua Tree / 3. Fugazi, 13 Songs / 4. Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls / 5. Romeo + Juliet soundtrack / 6. Boogie Nights soundtrack / 7. Tom Waits Closing Time / 8. Bob Marley and The Wailers, Exodus / 9. Norah Jones, Greatest Hits / 10. Trainspotting soundtrack / 11. Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral / 12. Madeleine Peyroux, Careless Love / 13. Waterboys, The Fishermans Blues / 14. Neil Young, Harvest Moon / 15. Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks / 16. The Doors, The Doors / 17. Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain / 18. Pink Floyd, The Wall / 19. Madonna, Like a Virgin / 20. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water / 21. Pixies, Doolittle / 22. Michael Jackson, Thriller / 23. The Beatles, Abbey Road / 24. Tracy Chapman, Crossroads / 25. The Cure, Disintegration
3. loved seeing THIS by Rotterdam Philharmonic, which has now been done in a variety of ways by other orchestras around the world~ but this use of what has now become commonplace with our kids on Zoom, is such a wonderful way of feeling together alone.
4. Shelter in Place Concerts + Masterclasses / Alex Conde, Badi Assad, Ian Maksin, Larry Vuckovich / based on concerts that a dear friend was having in Inverness, are now on-line, including masterclasses by each of the upcoming performers.
5. and, like I listed above ~ DJ D-Nice “club quarantine” listening party… a way of virtually gathering people… I know I have been clicking on the LIVE instagram links to tune in to performances by different musicians who are using different platforms with their virtual tours in cool new ways; my dear friend Christopher Willits just announced a listening party Sunday April 5th. Click HERE to join.
and… because as an anthropologist, my secret obsession and way of understanding the world and this moment we are living in and through… some of the media coverage that i have been passing around and sharing ~ informative, inspiring, devastating, optimistic… a little bit of everything.
1 + 2. Bill Gates 2015 TED talk “The next outbreak? We’re not ready” ~ and most recent talk March 24th 2020 on TED Connects ~ Bill Gates in conversation with Chris Anderson “How we must respond to the coronavirus pandemic” ~ a positive (as can be) outlook on the coming months. And then you can take a peek at this juxtaposition, which came out in the NATION ~ Bill Gates’s Charity Paradox from March 17, 2020.
3. February 24, 2020 / ABC News, Four Corners “Coronavirus: How the deadly epidemic sparked a global emergency” ~ this is a bit harrowing, but i thought it was very informative in understand the visuals of what was happening in China in January/February…
4. March 14, 2020 / Eric Klinenberg’s “We Need Social Solidarity, Not Just Social Distancing” in NYT
5. March 17, 2020 / Vernon Silver’s Life in “Italian Lockdown After a Tragic Coronavirus Denial” in Bloomberg Business
6. March 23, 2020 / Scott Berinato’s “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief” in Harvard Business Review
7. March 24, 2020 / Jessica Lustig’s “What I Learned When My Husband Got Sick With Coronavirus” in NYT
8. March 25, 2020 / Ed Yong’s “How the Pandemic Will End” in The Atlantic
9. March 25, 2020 / Micah Zenko’s “The Coronavirus is the Worst Intelligence failure in U.S. History” in Foreign Policy
10. Jack Ma Foundation + Alibaba Foundation / Global MediXchange for Combating COVID-19 / “Handbook of COVID-19 Prevention + Treatment”
11. Ongoing daily from January 26, 2020 / MedCram’s #1 “Coronavirus Outbreak: Transmission & Updates Explained” (when 1300 people were infected and 41 people had died) to most recent Roger Seheult’s March 27th 2020 #47 “Sharing Ventilators, More on Sleep, Immunity & COVID-19 Prevention”
12. March 29, 2020 (in Sunday NYT print, originally published March 24, 2020) / Heidi Julavits “I’m a Calamity Obsessive. After My Trip to Italy, I Was the Calamity.” in NYT
13. Ephemeral New York / “What New York did in 1947 to evade an epidemic”
14. March 30, 2020 / Stefan Thomke’s “Why is the US Behind on Coronavirus Testing?” in Harvard Business Review
15. March 30, 2020 / “CRISPR pioneer Doudna opens lab to run COVID-19 tests” (at UC Berkeley) in STAT News
15. In the April 6, 2020 issue of The New Yorker, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “How does the Coronavirus Behave Inside a Patient?”
whether we’re supporting our nuclear families through parenting whilst one parent works from home (like now, as my most recent Apple project ended the first week of March), hanging out with and making sure our kids are okay ~ their spirits kept up, being active and creative ~ or our families and friends who are not in our household but out-of-state ~ call them, send them handwritten notes, FaceTime them, text them, share a little piece of yourself with them, especially if they are home, alone. over the past few years I have been working with non-profits as creative director (She-Can Global), as a board member (NaNoWriMo), as a consultant, or just as a visiting artist (Creative Growth). these are the times when we can reflect on our own “why” and figure out the best way to contribute. one of my favorite videos from a few years ago is Simon Sinek’s TED talk “How Great Leaders inspire Action” ~ on finding our why … that can be translated in many ways. If you’re starting a business, or a new way of thinking about your existing business or maybe, after all of this, what you might want to do in the coming months and years, how you may want to make a difference in a different way… some of us (whether in between jobs or laid off, or just with more reflective time to think about our world and community) can put our missions and visions collectively together to think about how, when we come out of our sheltering in place, we want to interact with the very new world that will have been transformed through the coronavirus. what matters and why, and how we might reconsider our choices, rethink the ways we interact, re-conceive what we want to do by re-imagining who we are. above, are just a bunch of things that i’ve been inspired by and that have been shared with me over the years, and i’ve actually had the time to sit and listen and read and do… here’s to getting lost, and re-discovering a sense of purpose and wonder.
“The question then is how to get lost. Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction,
and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery.” ~ rebecca solnit, a field guide to getting lost
above, royal wandering somewhere in Milan…2017