Picture of a young man grinding a weld.

A rediscovered photograph of Aaron grinding welds on the old Jaguar. He may be in his early teenage years. Or maybe twelve or so..

Wet and dark this morning, but not freezing. The clouds relented and it turned into a nice day.

The chair saga has turned from painting to the final stretch of upholstery. Yesterday, I ordered cushion foam yesterday, and the jute webbing is coming. Arlene finished touching up some of the paint, so the color is set and ready. It’s going to be a nice chair, come back from near the junk pile. I’ve actually been thinking about chair design a little, and I might try some ideas out. We need to replace some tired and broken Adirondack chairs that we used to have in the back and down by the firepit. They’ve gradually become firewood or have made their way to the landfill. Maybe some adventuresome design might be fun to put together.

In the morning we do our quiet news reading and catch up on whatever is happening in some of the world. I realized today that this morning had good reading. I send myself web addresses of articles of particular interest or ones that seem to align with projects that I’m either in the midst of doing or that I’m thinking about, loosely and tentatively. Today I sent myself three emails for three articles:

Former des « scientifiques éclairés » au regard critique : à Marseille, une licence pionnière mélange sciences et humanités” by Feriel Alouti in Le Monde. I check Le Monde daily and hope I can find something interesting in the “cheap seats” (not paywalled), and this article explored something that I’ve been concerned about and that touches on a motivation I have in teaching in Duke’s Science & Society FOCUS cluster. How does one integrate scientific training and humanistic training? How does one mix what has become an “oil-and-water” mix in higher learning? How does one keep knowledge from becoming a mere “commodity,” as one of the faculty quoted in the article puts it?

The article looks at a program in Marseille that attempts to bring disciplines together meaningfully. One student put the rationale in quite down-to-earth terms: Comprendre le monde en mélangeant les visions, c’est très humain (“To understand the world by mixing visions is very human”). I tend to think that the “mix of visions” might be essential to happiness and creativity, too. An interesting tidbit: the students spend a semester studying the color blue, a nice way to reduce a topic enough to make it manageable in an intensive cross-disciplinary study.

My French isn’t great. I go through these articles with some sputters and starts, but it works. I’m mainly just trying to get my French a little better, while also keeping up with a non-US newspaper. Le Monde has been a good source. I just wish that there was more free reading, but I get that the newspapers need to keep some amount of revenue. Maybe I should fire up Duolingo again just to see if that would help my French, too.

The second email I sent myself was from The Guardian: “American girl behind the camera: the pioneering work of Ruth Orkin – in pictures.” The Guardian has these nice collections of images every week, and this one was from a twentieth-century photographer who is featured in an exhibition at Bonhams (New York, January 22-February 2, 2021). The image on the Guardian’s home page was arresting – a woman going through a gauntlet of leering men in Florence in the 1950s. This collection had fifteen pictures, all black-and-white, that were selected from Orkin’s work.

The third came from The New Yorker – another excellent article from, Jill Lepore. The article online is called “What’s Wrong With the Way We Work,” and it’s supposed to appear in the January 18, 2021 print edition. (The New Yorker often changes article titles in the print editions, and I wonder which actually is the “authoritative” version.) The piece relates to a chapter in the book I’m toiling on. The chapter focuses on work and, in particular how the matter of “craft” figures into meanings we are able to find in activity, in the objects we own and that we create, and in our personal, familial, and cultural histories. She’s touched many of the bases that have come up in my notes on the topic, and so I feel a bit of reassurance that I’m not barking up the wrong tree, though I also have to admit feeling a little “scooped.” That’s silly, of course, because the matters of meaning and work and the constellation of thoughts like Lepore’s (and mine) have been around a while. We rehash things, and Lepore’s article draws from some of the literature on the topic. I didn’t study the article, but I did send it to myself to have the web address handy for later. By the time my magazine arrives in the mail, I’ll be ready for another even closer look.

So, it was a productive and useful morning before 9:00 am.

Much of midday was a matter of catching up on the project – preparing photographs and pulling together the journal entries (which I sometimes elaborate after the specific journal day had passed). I did a little mowing or, perhaps more exactly, mulching and blowing of fallen leaves out by the Old Roxboro Road gully. And I wrote a recommendation for a student. That is it’s own pleasure, I have discovered over these years. A recommendation is a way to revisit and savor a relationship and to encourage and delight in accomplishment. Being asked to write one – by a deserving student, of course – is its own kind of gift.

I fixed the high-intensity work lights, too, with the new plastic welder and some ingenuity. It’ll go a little longer before I have to do something more drastic with the mounting tripod. That light throws off lots of heat. It’s a pre-LED product so it sucks up a lot of power.

I’m wondering how many photographs today will end up harvesting. It might be a lean day again. Sorry, Bernadette.