capriccio

Dan Liu, “Capriccio of Cardiff Coal Exchange”

I had seen this some time ago, and truly envied the skills of artist who did it. I was not sure how I had come across it, but began to look for it on the web, and found it in several places. At the One Drawing Challenge 2021 [link], I learned that it was not the interior of a ruined church, as I had supposed, but of the abandoned Cardiff Coal Exchange in Wales. (A capriccio is an architectural fantasy.) As I followed the thread, I found that this capriccio was part of Dan Liu’s 2014 Master Thesis Project (which better explained why I had seen it before). A 26-page presentation on the project is available at issuu [link] where Liu posted it in 2014. His BSc portfolio is also available on issuu [link].

AJ

You should visit Alan Jacob’s blog regularly or have Snakes and Ladders (blog.ayjay.org) on your newsfeed. You know this, because I write it all the time. Of course you will not find everything he writes (or reads) interesting, but many things are quite striking. Four recent examples:

  • In “hubris” (Aug. 26, 2021) [link], Jacobs revisits the question of whether it might just be better to opt out of social media.
  • On August 25 [link], Jacobs points us to his January 6, 2021 piece “School for Scale” in The Hedgehog Review [link] and reminds us why it is really, really important to understand decimals.
  • Jacobs refers us to something Oliver Burkeman wrote long ago in the Guardian: “Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time” (May 21, 2014) [link]. Eerily reminiscent of observed reality!
  • “Tolkien and Auden” (Aug. 16, 2021) [link] concerns the two famous writers who were good, though unlikely, friends. Jacobs wrote a delightful short play (“Sandfield Road”) about the two men. You can read it in 15 minutes, here [link].

Jacobs has twenty eight posts since August 15, so you have some catching up to do.

Separable skills

I once took some education classes, and heard the unpleasant aphorism, “There are those who do, and those who teach, and those who teach teachers to teach.” The implication was that each successive group was less valuable than the prior one. Perhaps no one who has had an excellent teacher would think this.

I was talking with a friend over the weekend about teaching, and agreed that teaching seems to be something that some people can do, and that that the skill seems to be more or less separable from the subject matter. (My friend is a skilled raconteur, and has taught on such disparate things as running a restaurant, singing in parts, mold removal and the Bible). If you can teach, you can teach anything you yourself are willing to learn.

It seems to me that writing is another “separable skill,” and a good writer can write about almost anything — think of John McPhee writing about oranges, canoes, geology and fish; or Michael Lewis writing about football, baseball, the technology of markets and disease; or Tracy Kidder writing about Haiti, contracting, computers and Burundi. This is strongly true of writers of nonfiction, though I concede that not all nonfiction writers can make the leap into fiction, and poetry is another thing entirely.

We hear of people who are “book smart” and the ability to learn from books may be its own separable skill, but not all separable skills are intellectual — we all know people who are sufficiently athletic that they would be picked for any team even in a sport they have never played before. Some people have mechanical ability as a separable skill. Musical aptitude may be a separable skill.

Are there others?

18 for ’21

Old and new friends.

Worth your time

The Trinity Forum, The Rabbit Room, and the WindRider Institute sponsored a conversation with Makoto Fujimura yesterday, and it was a delight to “get to know” this painter. Here’s the [link].

Makoto Fujimura, “Walking on Water: Azurite II” (2016) (Taipei City).

He spoke generally about “Art + Faith: A Theology of Making” but these nuggets especially caught my attention:

  • how “forced binaries” (conservative-progressive, left-right, etc.) satisfy our “lust for certainty”;
  • how the Japanese art of Kintsugi (which “repairs” broken pottery and calls attention to the repair, where the Western goal is to make it appear that there was never any break) may inform how we are to receive other broken people; and
  • how there are still “burning bushes” though we have stopped taking our shoes off.

Well worth an hour of your time. Watch, don’t just listen, for Fujimura’s delightfully expressive and joyful face.


I hope you have been following the ever reliable Sarah Willard (Blind Mule Blog) and Alan Jacobs (Snakes and Ladders), as both have been amazingly prolific over the last few months. Don’t wait for me to point you to specific posts!

Dystopia 2021

“Dignity? How can there be dignity if we care so little for the dignity of others?”

—Julian


In December 1983, it was a common thing to speculate about how similar (and different) the world was from that anticipated (proposed?) by George Orwell’s classic dystopia, 1984.

A few days ago I picked up P.D. James’ 1992 novel for the first time in 15 or 20 years and was surprised to rediscover that the first entry in Theo’s diary was for this coming Friday:

Friday 1 January 2021  Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years, two months and twelve days. . . .

I had forgotten that in The Children of Men (1992) the events all occur in 2021. The premise (no spoilers if you haven’t read it) is that human fertility declines so that no one is born after 1995. The implications are frightening, as the aging population comes to trade freedom for security (in the normal way) as it faces the coming disintegration of the social order.

Boris Johnson is not the Warden of England, and the disaster James speculated about is not upon us, but the cautions James weaves into this “hopeful dystopia” are ones we may benefit from in this, the age of the latest pandemic.

Recommended (again).*

*I have no opinion about the 2006 movie, which (in any case) is set in 2027, not 2021.