Today in March, 2023

Even the New York Times has given up on reporting on the coronavirus pandemic.

Of course, they get their data from the CDC and the WHO, and if these public health organizations are publishing data once a week, that’s all anyone can report.

As for me, I have some other stuff going on, so it’s mighty tempting to quit doing this right now.

Mid-month I stopped posting them on Mastodon. No one said anything.

I’m not mad. The thing is, I wish I wouldn’t look at social media. Except TikTok. I spend most of my wasted internet time looking at TikTok these days. It’s great. I hope the U.S. congress isn’t planning some kind of stupid-ass legislation to outlaw it or something.

Shout out to March 15, which was a big, big day at my house, and I managed to make that.

I don’t really want to be buried when I die, but if I were packing for the afterlife, I’d definitely take scissors.

With these paintings and collages, I now pass 883 total days of working on this project.

Today in February, 2023

825 days later, it was February again.

I’ve got some shit going on and I probably will get around to writing about it.

I started the month with a sore throat and was running daily Covid tests on myself for about four or five days. All were negative. I guess it was just another respiratory virus, but my immune system overreacted and I had a cough for a couple of weeks. And then I got better.

For Valentine’s Day, I painted another Fresh Direct bag.

I’ve got this one master list on the kitchen counter and I’m working my way through it in no particular order, but there are things on it that take five minutes and other things that won’t be finished in five months. As I work my way through it I remember all the things I’ve left off it, so it isn’t getting any shorter.

People are still getting Covid. People are still dealing with symptoms long afterwards. People are still dying of Covid. No one talks about it anymore. When they cannot avoid talking about the pandemic, they call it the panorama, or the pandemonium, like it mustn’t be invoked by name. But also, it is spoken of only as something in the past. A couple of years ago now.

Today in January, 2023

Our 80s museum is above a wooded corner. It’s a good spot for election signs, and I am regularly contacted by a neighbor who is well-connected with local politicos about putting signs there. She bought me a bag of groceries during my first week of Covid lockdown, so I always say yes. Last winter after the political signs went up and came down, a local roofing contractor (but not the one that everyone uses) put up his sign on the corner, like that’s what the corner is for: ads.

I thought about calling the number and telling them to take it down (which is what you do when the creepy guy running for a judgeship thinks he can slip his sign in with the others), but it snowed and a plow knocked it down and when the snow melted, I found the sign, took it home, cut it into a square, covered it with gesso, and painted it black. On one side, it is December 24, 2022. On the other side, January 1, 2023.

The January, 2023 box has the smaller boxes from December, 2022 inside it.

This January, we had an abundance of Tuesdays, and a shortage of appropriately winterish weather.

If you look closely at the first three January collages, you will see that I wrote “2022” and not “2023.” I am sure somehow that if I would have posted them on Twitter someone would have corrected me. I posted them on Mastodon, though, so either no one looked carefully enough, everyone was too polite, they felt it was an artistic choice, or they were respecting my tender feelings.

I picked up the embroidery again for the first time in a year and each time I do it I have the same feelings: I am not good at this; this takes an infuriating amount of time; I must remember never to do this again.

You spend most of your time threading needles, dropping needles, looking for the tiny scissors, cursing about threading needles, marveling at how bad it looks, wondering where the good reading glasses are, and hoping there is enough of this shade of purple.

The Fresh Direct bag I cut open and gessoed for the 22nd’s data painting is now sewn back together and full of other collages.

It is now the beginning of the end of the third year of our pandemic. In the past month in the U.S., we had 1,559,533 new Covid cases, and 15,419 new Covid deaths.

Vizsla dog with repainted Fresh Direct bag that is now full of artwork held by straps in his mouth

Today in December, 2022

While December was 31 Tuesdays long, it was punctuated mid-month with the sort of boring personal crisis of conscience that almost no one who knows me in real life cares about, and so I went over to a Mastodon instance that was open to newcomers, made an account there, and within a few days started posting these paintings there instead of on Twitter.

A few pocket friends found me on the new site, and no, it isn’t the same, but right now it feels like it could just be better. Anyway, one friend pointed out that I was already on Mastodon, and lo, and behold, I had an account for my cat dating back to 2017, because he was into alternative social media before it was cool.

Do take a moment to marvel at my thinking that both Sunday and Monday were the 12th in December, when obviously both were Tuesday.

There is a video for the 17th, with edits and music chosen by what we call the clock app, and willing participants Eggi and Fellow.

Towards the end of the month, when there was holiday stuff going on, I started adding a lot of data about individual states, a few states at a time, until I worked haphazardly through the whole U.S. and somewhat regretted the attention it took.

Xmas snuck up on me, arriving with a warm front, a lot of rain, a power outage, and followed by an arctic blast. Our generator ran for 2 1/2 days.

Today in November, 2022

Did I think that one big painting would be easier than 30 smaller ones?

More satisfying? More informative? More challenging? More efficient?

One thing that’s great about the one, big November painting is that for the people who thrive on ignoring me and all my grim paying-attention-to-the-coronavirus-data-crapola, they can just not look at the one big painting about it this month. Concisely and conveniently kept in one location.

I was exposed to coronavirus this past weekend at a dog show where I was competing. I have no symptoms, and I’ll start testing as soon as I can unravel the semi-official unretracted non-advice now vaguely suggested by the CDC.

Someday, after I find out why no one in charge suggested fresh air and masks to prevent the spread of this plague in the first place, I’d like to know why the total U.S. covid deaths reported by the New York Times went from 1,072,285 on November 18, 2022 to 1,085,139 on November 19, 2022 with no explanation, as if a difference of 12,854 dead people in the U.S. is not worth mentioning. Couldn’t we get a footnote?

The finished painting is 4′ by 5′.

Today in October, 2022

And then, suddenly, two years had passed.

732 days.

It’s clear from the persistently high numbers of people hospitalized and dying in the U.S. that Covid is doing great. It’s also clear from the drop in number of cases that people with symptoms aren’t being tested, or they’re doing their testing at home.

As we arrived, our wet brakes locked and ineffectually screeching at the end of a blind turn in a downhill, damp, humid October, out from the shadows of the Twitter timeline lurched the hulking, monstrous news that thanks to the threat of the U.S. legal system actually somehow applying to some of the people some of the time, the weirdo bajillionaire who’d troll-threatened to acquire Twitter and was taken seriously and is now apparently its owner. I’m pretty confident that the stated goal of making profits off the hell-site is impossible to achieve, and they’re starting with lots of firings, humiliating code reviews, and half-assed tweets about making people pay to keep their verified checkmarks. Fun stuff (as long as you don’t work there)!

I have something a bit different in mind for November. I dare everyone to stop getting Covid so I can stop making these.

Today in September, 2022

September had several Thursdays, and I meant to write about them, on them, near them, and for them, and may have even written something and squirreled it away somewhere, but it isn’t finished. Meanwhile, I got up every day and did one of these.

Every day, when I write the year, I always carefully say “2020” in my head before I write “2022.” 

I have been trying to live more like we used to, planning short trips, accepting a dinner invitation, squeezing in the new, bivalent Covid booster late one afternoon like it’s no big deal. It feels some kind of way. I can’t quite name it.

Early in the month, I painted too many skulls over too many faces, and I had to stop.

We went out of town for a weekend, and saw some people it was very good to see, and, in retrospect, everyone seemed just as subdued as you might think they would be after a few years of a pandemic.

People seem weary, yet happy to have made it thus far. One friend was telling me that she had to stop drinking. I told her that my new migraine meds meant I hadn’t had any desire for alcohol in about 10 months. She said she only missed it when she had pasta. I agreed that pasta without a nice glass of wine is just noodles.

On the 29th of the month, I passed day 700 of this project.

Why did I start? Why have I gone on so long? When will I stop? What will I do with them?

Today in August, 2022

I found another mangled cereal box in the recycling bin the other day, flattened and then bent in half. Of course, I’ve asked the one other person in the house who eats cereal to save me empty cereal boxes, but I guess they forgot. Really, I should stop using cereal boxes. They have creases. The ink sometimes peels off in a layer. It takes many coats of gesso and paint to cover the printing, and sometimes it still shows through. But something about re-using the cereal boxes–and then turning them over and using the other side–feels like we are trapped in this 80s museum in Bedhead Hills, waiting for the end of the plague, making due with whatever we have on hand.

Because we are. We don’t know which small decision, which quick errand, which trip to town leads to getting Covid. I don’t know many people who haven’t had it yet, but I do know some. I think it’s still worth trying not to get it. I am not ready to give up.

Sometimes I save newspaper photos of famous people that I like so that I can make them into skulls. Sometimes I save newspaper photos of famous people I don’t like so that I can make them into skulls. Most of the skulls are people I don’t feel one way or another about, and not all of them are dead yet. But everyone dies.

But not everyone has to get Covid, and so, not everyone has to die from Covid.

On the 26th through the 29th, I wrote down the number of total Covid deaths in each of the 50 U.S. States (and also the places like Guam and Puerto Rico that were listed along with the states), copying them from a list where they were in order of deaths per capita. I imagine it would be interesting to study the differences between Mississippi’s coronavirus response, where the deaths have been 430 per 100,000 so far, versus Vermont’s, where the deaths number 113 per 110,000. Maybe it’s their vaccination rates (Mississippi 53% vs. Vermont 83%), or maybe those rates reflect the efficacy of the states’ respective health departments. Mississippi’s many public health challenges predate the pandemic, though, and correlation does not imply causation.

It is so scary and frustrating to know that an American’s chances of getting through the pandemic unscathed is going to come down to being lucky enough to live in the right state in the first place.

Today in July, 2022

Oh, hey, remember the other pandemic? The one that used to be called Covid-19? The one that two American presidents claim they’ve beaten, but is still killing hundreds of Americans every single day?

Yeah, me neither.

I went to a dog show with my dogs and made some new friends in July, and it was really fun, and I did that pathetic thing where I showed my new friend one of these and he said, “Oh, you’re an artist,” and I didn’t say, “Yes.”

I thought about that on the 19th, when I was painting.

Which is funny.

After they found a guy with polio in Rockland County last month, the New York State Department of Health started doing wastewater surveillance, and other other detection efforts, to check for signs of the polio virus.

“Polio is a dangerous disease with potentially devastating consequences,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. “In the United States, we are so fortunate to have available the crucial protection offered through polio vaccination, which has safeguarded our country and New Yorkers for over 60 years. Given how quickly polio can spread, now is the time for every adult, parent, and guardian to get themselves and their children vaccinated as soon as possible.”

My grandfather had polio as a child and died of its long-term effects his early 70s, suffering serious, debilitating medical problems during most of the years that I knew him.

Covid is still killing over 400 Americans a day, and has already killed almost 1,000 American children under the age of 11.

Today in June, 2022

June started out nice enough, with a bunch of Americans being jollied by the gate agents to form disorderly lines, shuffling with two personal items onto overbooked airplanes, occasionally being met by just enough staff to actually fly them, and jetting off to attend the improbable graduation events of their amazing relations capable of finishing degrees during Plague Years. Sure, a bunch of people got Covid, some of them for the second or third time, but by the end of the month no one would be talking about it. Not a word.