Book: Blue Territory: a Meditation on the Life and art of Joan Mitchell by Robin Lippincott

Image from the SFMoMA shop

Blue Territory: a Meditation on the Life and art of Joan Mitchell
by Robin Lippincott
published by Tidal Press

This is an artist’s biography, but not a traditional one. It does a great job of describing the life of Joan Mitchell, the abstract expressionist painter who spent many of her later years working in Paris while showing in the U.S.

Rather than a list of facts and documents, this biography reads like an oral history, told by a friend who was a big fan of Mitchell’s, who is sharing quotes and interpretations of pivotal phases of Mitchell’s life. It’s fluid, like fiction, as if Lippincott was walking down Paris streets with her and is remembering the mood and the color of the light in between snippets of paraphrased conversation and quotes from interviews.

It isn’t the biography I expected: it was more fun, like having a biography interpreted by a poetic friend.

Book: Nome by Jessi Zabarsky

It’s so small and CUTE

by Jessi Zabarsky
published by Perfectly Acceptable Press
undated (but recent)

This is a small (five inch square) and extremely adorable, wordless graphic novel about the life, death, and renewal of tiny nature spirits.

Photo from Silver Sprocket Books, where I purchased this

It manages to be cute and feel philosophical about life’s end and natural cycles at the same time.

I got it at Silver Sprocket, which I recommend highly as a place to find great graphic novels.

Book: Boy Meets Maria by Peyo

The inside illustrations are just as lovely as this cover!

Boy Meets Maria
by Peyo
published by Penguin Random House

Ambitious and outgoing Taiga is eager to be a famous actor and play heroes. At his school drama club, he immediately develops a crush on one of the girls on stage… but while Maria was raised as a girl by her determined mother, off the stage, he is a brave and traumatized boy named Arima.

This is a beautiful story about love, bravery, and being true to yourself. I was deeply moved, and impressed by both the quality of the illustrations and the sensitivity and strength of this story.

(I was crushed to learn that the extraordinarily talented young author, Peyo, recently passed away.)

Life: Humpback Whale Sighting (Thursday)

My commute across the (beloved to me) San Francisco Bay has been full of photographic inspiration, but I didn’t expect it also to be full of impressive marine mammals!

Sure, I’ve seen a seal near the Ferry Building, and was charmed. But… a whale? IN THE BAY? I know they swim there, but I wasn’t expecting to SEE one.

But I had a sharp-eyed colleague with me, and he spotted a spout, so I DID see a whale. A humpback, from the fin.

My sharp-eyed colleague also insisted that I report the sighting to the Marine Mammal Center’s page for whale and dolphin sightings, (, so I did that, and got a very nice reply from a scientist later on.

Any day that starts with a whale turning up alive and well during your morning commute is going to be a good day!

Book: Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

Audiobook cover at

by Nnedi Okorafor
published by Penguin Random House
audiobook read by Délé Ogundiran
audiobook published by Tantor Media, Inc.

This amazing African Futurist novel engrossed me completely this weekend!

AO has a many cybernetic enhancements, having been born with life-threatening birth defects, and having further been maimed in an unexplained autonomous vehicle accident. She’s followed her fiancé to a new city, made a life for herself, improved her body, and found a meaningful profession. After a rough day coping with the abrupt end of her engagement, she just wants to have a nice dinner. At her local market, however, locals who have been radicalized by a passing imam against the evils of cybernetics have other plans for her…

In a time of environmental devastation, oppressive corporate monopolies, and wireless energy transmission, AO finds herself on the run with a nomadic herdsman, a bloody nose, and an increasing awareness of the surveillance technologies that have infused every element of Nigerian society.

The tech is great; the inserted documentary about how some of the tech was invented is engaging and wonderful; the the environments, both urban and desert, are well described; the cosmopolitan people, the languages, the different traditions, the meals – all are vividly and richly laid out in world building of great depth for such a brief and satisfying novel.

I recommend Noor highly to everyone who likes a great, earth-bound, science-fiction story in a vivid near-future that never lets up the pace.

Pandemic Life: early May, 2022

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Hello! *wave* gosh, working full time in another county really does take my writing time/urgency off, doesn’t it?

It is spring, the double-cherry trees are blossoming with their pom-pom like blossom clusters, and I have still managed not to get COVID!

It hasn’t been easy.

I was exposed at work semi-recently to someone whose COVID test confirmed their case DAYS after we’d met together, and after countless other meetings. I’ve probably been exposed to lots of people with COVID, considering the case spikes (and the slow upward creep of the case count at the office), but this time I was unmasked and in a room for an hour with someone, so I fell into the CDC “close contact” definition. Because I’m required to work in our corporate office, responsibility for case tracking and contact tracing falls to a team my employer set up, and I was advised of key details, told to get PCR tested after 5 days (the exposure day was day zero), and wear a mask for 10 days as a precaution.

I was delighted to test negative.

I was less delighted to wear a mask again, not for the usual whiny reasons you hear, but because: wearing a mask keeps me from eating snacks and drinking coffee CONSTANTLY, and I have coffee in one hand every moment I’m not typing or presenting. (Well, or fizzy water, but you get the idea.). So, I had a quite silly reason to feel put-out, which provided me material for self-deprecating jokes.

Despite the snack limitations, I didn’t lose weight, so I feel vaguely ripped off.

I also was unable to spend time up close with someone near and dear to me who is high risk and was about to travel to see someone who was even higher risk, and so the work exposure came with some personal/social cost to me, even though I didn’t personally feel danger. It was still disruptive.

Anyway, we’re creeping toward the lab-verified 1 millionth US COVID death, and that is beyond horrible. It is known to be an undercount. It is known not to include people who are suffering from long-COVID, who may or may not have debilitating symptoms.

It is also a reminder that many of the complaints in the news about having a hard time finding people to do [anything] pretends that this pandemic context isn’t present, and I’m getting tired of that.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2022-05-01-at-8.29.15-AM.png is the source, as always

I always seem to know someone with COVID, and am happy to report that the last friend who told me she and her spouse have it (in Germany) are now feeling better. While at least one of my friends has had COVID more than once (!), I don’t think anyone in my social circle is infected at the moment, and that is a LOVELY thing.

I’ve ordered some more masks, because I apparently will still need them for a while.

Reading and drinking coffee, but offline

I’m here! I really am! I’m just… adjusting to a new schedule, commute, job, and all that stuff.

I read a stack of books before work started, but haven’t yet stayed awake long enough to write about them.

I did keep up my Duolingo practice, at least!

Today, March 20th, is day 1000 for me! Yippee!

I’m quiet, but things are good. I’ll write more… soonish.

Film: Kingdom, Seasons 1 & 2

by Kim Eun-hee
available in the US on Netflix
2019 – present

A nice distraction from a devastating real life plague is… A story about a much gorier and even more devastating FAST ZOMBIE plague with gorgeous sets and costumes, political drama, and a dreamy lead actor!

Set in a mythical, historical version of South Korea, Kingdom follows attempts to take the (alternate history) Joseon throne through political intrigue during a concurrent zombie plague crisis. While medical professionals are initially ignored (so relatable and familiar), and class concerns override action for the public’s well-being (same), all the key characters are soon navigating a dangerous political situation while struggling with a fast-spreading zombie plague that sounds too outrageous to be believed… which means people have to learn about it the hard way.

Fast spreading in this case means the infection spreads within minutes, resulting in fast zombies – the worst kind. Especially if you are trying to flee from large groups of them in a very elaborate period costume!

I enjoy the fast pace of the story, especially Season 2. I also appreciate the handsomeness of the put-upon crown prince character, played by model-turned-actor Ju Ji-Hoon. (There are some great photos of him in lovely clothes on the Internet… *sigh*)

My father got Netflix and asked what to watch, and was immediately addicted to this story, so I’ve been quite pleased with myself for recommending it.

Highlights: Hostile royal families, rivalries, murders, pretty gowns, hilarious hats (historically accurate), sharp swords, horses, spikes, blood, battles, bureaucrats, executions, self-absorbed rich people, GORGEOUS palaces (including the historic palaces that I had a chance to visit in Seoul!), sensible anti-zombie precautions, teamwork, bravery, good intentions, strategic planning, bad odds… It’s all so well done!

This series is highly recommended if you like fast zombies, political scheming, Korean historical buildings and costumes, and a fast narrative pace.

Film: The Matrix Resurrections

Oh! So, I mentioned how excited I was about this 4th Matrix film back in September, and I’m happy to report that I adored it for unexpected reasons.

Yes, it’s funny, and self-aware, and makes jokes about being forced to make a 4th film in a franchise by Warner Bros – yes, all that.

Yes, I saw it in theaters, and it looked great. (And then I watched it again online, and it STILL looked great.) It is action packed! The effects are pretty! The story lines about re-evaluating life’s meaning and struggling with middle age are relevant!

The pleasant surprise, something I hadn’t realized during filming here in San Francisco, was how wild it is to see the setting of your real life used in a film. Sure, I often enjoy seeing scenes from San Francisco in films, but this was different. This was very specific. SO specific. A building where I worked for 10 years is a settling for key scenes in the film. The coffee shop meetings and fights were set there. The top of the building serves as a backdrop in other scenes. And nearly all of the chase scenes and outdoor night scenes were filmed on the surrounding blocks, where I have walked (and shopped, and dined, and caffeinated) countless times.

Even some of the later scenes, where the protagonists flee into other buildings, felt eerily familiar, because I have been in those buildings, too! My second viewing required sending time stamps and photos of filming locales that I’d walked past just days before to a friend, so he could see what the doors in the lobby scene looked like from the other side… Plus time stamps of when our current mayor has her cameo.

I know it wasn’t as big a blockbuster as the first one, but the film is still a treat for hardcore fans (yes, I own the prior 3 films; yes, I’ve seen the first film more times than is reasonable) who were interested in how people managed to recover after events in this world after the ending of the prior trilogy, and anyone who has worked in the area north of Montgomery Street BART!