by the earth and planetary sciences

Earth and Planetary Sciences Building, UC Davis

This is the Earth and Planetary Sciences Building at UC Davis, with the big water tower in the background. there are actually a couple of big UC Davis water towers on campus, plus at least one more like this in north Davis, but this is the good looking one, the leader, the big brother. The ‘Barry’ of the Water Tower Bee Gees, standing tall over the others with a huge mane of lustrous hair. Ok maybe not the hair, maybe it’s more Clive Anderson. You remember that interview, the one where they walked out? The one where Barry Gibb got up, said “You’re the tosser, pal” and left? Classic TV moment. I’d always liked Clive Anderson, funny man, and when that first happened I didn’t really warm to Barry Gibb much, but watching it back again Clive Anderson was pretty out of order, and the Bee Gees were well right to say, yeah we don’t need this smug little guy taking the mickey out of us for a few aren’t-I-clever-and-hilarious giggles on late night TV on channel 4 or whatever it was on. Ok, this is obviously a very specific early-90s-British-TV tangent, let’s get back to the drawing. I drew this while on campus during a late lunch (I think I had Zoom meetings during lunch), this is very close to my office. Earth and Planetary Sciences is right across the street from us, and I drew this at the edge of the Arboretum, by the newly reopened LaRue bridge. The water tower is a big presence, and likes to appear in official photos, like a sentinel of education. That metaphor doesn’t, hehehe, hold water. I like the STOP sign in the foreground, with the unusual orange and white striped signs around it, I don’t know what they are for.  They add a nice bit of colour into the scene. The Earth and Planetary Sciences building is very interesting. I remember when they had the groundbreaking for it, I went over with my old supervisor to watch the special ceremonial laying of the first brick, and then they went full steam ahead to build it. There used to be a small wooden building on this site not dissimilar to the ones I draw so often at the Silo area, and I remember saying “I should draw that some time” but never did, and then it was knocked down. I did draw a tree with the empty space of the future building behind it. I was really into drawing ALL of the branches.

you tree davis

That was in March 2008, which seems like a very long time ago, but it was actually only a week or so after Spurs last won a trophy. The same trophy that we will be (probably not) winning in a cup final at Wembley in a week or so.

One thing I really like about the Earth and Planetary Sciences Building (apart from the name which is really future-thinking, considering we have been to zero other planets yet) (apart from with robots of course) (we have visited them virtually via Zoom, I suppose) (actually they have some amazing space rocks in there, I lifted one up on Picnic Day a few years ago and it was super heavy) (or maybe it was kryptonite and it just made me weaker? We’ll never know for sure), anyway the thing I like the most is that there are these huge rocks all around the outside of the building, all with labels, some are volcanic and all are interesting. My son is really into geology (or he was, before he discovered looking at his phone all day) (admittedly he does play a lot of Minecraft which is technically still about geology) so when he’d come to my office during the summers we would sometimes go down and look at the rocks. It’s brilliant working at a university where lots of very clever scientists work. In the building next door is the Entomology museum, where they have loads of interesting and frankly frightening creepy crawlies. On the other side is an actual nuclear lab with big nuclear machines in them, yeah I don’t visit that one. These aren’t very good descriptions, they sound like a 9 year old has written them; it’s late, it’s been a long day, and I’ve forgotten how to write, if I ever knew. I can’t wait for campus to all be open again. Soon, soon!

Variety Hatters

Varsity Theatre...without its sign

This is the Va… wait what? This is the [insert name here] Theatre on 2nd Street in Davis, which as you can see is currently going by The Theatre Known Formerly as Varsity. (Sorry, “Theater”). Regular listeners will recognize this building from the 500 or so times that I’ve drawn it before, but there was one big difference. Can you tell what it is yet? (Um, that sounded a bit like Rolf Harris, you might be a bit more careful with your catchphrases) That’s right, the ice cream shop is closed. No I’m kidding, it’s the historic “Varsity” sign which ahs been taken down temporarily to be cleaned, or fixed or something. The movie theatre itself has been closed during this pandemic you might have heard about, though coming soon, folks, coming soon we will have cinemas open again. I miss going to the pictures. Nobody says that now, “going to the pictures”, it sounds like something people said in the 1930s. “Oh you’re going to the pictures, eh grandad? Don’t forget your penny farthing and your flat cap!” Oh right because “movies” doesn’t sound old-fashioned at all, like you have to make a distinction between watching a film that moves and one that doesn’t? “The movies eh grandad, well see ya later gramps, I’m off to the talkies“. In Britain we generally say “film” rather than “movie” (though my nan, who was from Dublin, used to pronounce it “fill-um”) and “cinema” rather than “movie theater”, and “theatre” rather than “theater”, and that is the end of today’s unwanted transatlantic vocabulary lesson. But I miss going to the pictures, it was something I used to do a lot. I’d go and see a film / movie here in Davis at one of the three cinemas / movie theaters in town, and then go for a pint / not quite a pint* at a local bar / pub. (*They like a 16oz “pint” in America, as opposed to a 20oz pint in British pubs). And of course I would then sketch the bar/draw the pub. As for the Varsity, I wonder if they will “accidentally” rearrange the letters when they reinstall the sign, Fawlty Towers/Watery Fowls style? It could say “Travisy” maybe, or “Sir Vyta”, or “Sty Vira”, , or “Rayvist” (which sounds like a magazine for techno -clubgoers), or “Stray IV” (people might think it’s a sequel movie about a cat, from the streets, who makes it big against the odds, and in this one he has a catfight against a Russian cat – wait, I might have to sit on this idea, it is Hollywood gold), or “Artsy VI” (about six artists stuck in a room with only one brush, one pot of paint, and a lollypop) or “Try Visa” if they want credit card sponsorship, or “Try Avis” if they want sponsorship from car rental companies. Or maybe sponsorship from the Swedish crispbread sector and call it “Ryvitas”. Do it, Varsity people! This is our chance for some Flowery Twats style silliness.   

sorority now

Delta Gamma, Davis

A late afternoon/early evening “need to get out of the house” sketch, sat at the desk in the kitchen all day I escaped on the bike despite the threat of sneezes, and cycled toward the UC Davis campus where we’re currently working away from. I stopped at Russell, and drew one of the many fraternity/sorority houses that line that long avenue. Sorry, boulevard. Street, boulevard, avenue, road, I don’t mean to be rue’d. Sorry I’m juts avenue on. Right, now the obligatory weak puns are out of the way, this is Delta Gamma. It’s a sorority and as I have mentioned before, the whole fraternity/sorority thing is highly alien to me, for two reasons: one, I’m from Britain and we don’t have those there at our universities like they do in the US (not to say that certain old universities don’t have their posh-person clubs, but that’s also very alien to the likes of me), and two, well I have never been one of those “member of a social club” types. Some people just are, some people just aren’t. So I’ve always found the whole thing fascinating, but not so fascinating that I want to know anything about them. I work for the university, but I have never interacted with them, and I’ve mostly worked with international graduate students who are probably as nonplussed about these organizations as I am. The Greek lettering they use for the names means you can come up with funny pretend ones; Terry Pratchett once joked about the rowing club “Rho Rho Rho”. I always liked Theta Xi, where future cab drivers go to learn The Knowledge. (For non-Americans, The Knowledge is something that London black-taxi drivers have to learn in order to be eligible to drive one of the famous black cabs. It’s not something you learn overnight or by taking an online course. You learn The Knowledge over the course of a couple of years or more, by studying the A-to-Z every day. My brother did it, but gave up. My former brother-in-law did it too, but also gave up. He had a huge map of London on his wall while trying to learn it. They both drive all over the country for a living and could tell you the quickest route from Penzance to Penrith, but the Knowledge requires you to learn every single street in London and the shortest route between them. I know quite a few black cab drivers back home who’ve driven for years. You would see trainee cabbies riding around London on their mopeds, easy to spot because there would be a huge map board on their handlebars. There was a little test book you had to study. I never wanted to be a cab driver myself, but I was fascinated by The Knowledge and loved the idea of being able to store all of that information in your bonce. This is why cabbies have such great general knowledge, they are used to soaking all that in. Now as I write all of this, I’m writing from memories about this stuff when my brother was doing it, so it might be completely different now. Even since I have moved to the US, the world has changed. With smart phones and more accurate GPS, with all these Uber and Lyft apps, black cabs and their Knowledge might seem a bit old fashioned but I still admire them. Not that I’d hail black cabs very often, a bit expensive. I like to walk about central London. How did I end up talking about London taxis? I should draw one sometime. In the meantime, here’s another fraternity/sorority house. To get into one of these, you don’t need to do The Knowledge, you just need to do whatever they do in their ‘Rush’ periods, I don’t know, wear a different dress every day is one I was told about, or hazing, which I think involves beer. I remember the first time I ever met “Frat Boys” at an American party in Provence, and my American friend explaining to me “these lads are typical Frat Boys” and the idea of them stuck. Very drunk, huge muscular frames, nasal voice, glazed expression. Long time since I was a student, and this would have all been alien to me. Except the beer, of course. (And the glazed expression, and the nasal voice; it was the muscular frame my skinny-boned stick figure body didn’t have). Many British universities are actually built around the campus pub. I suppose the closest thing I can think of to these institutions in British universities are the rugby teams. I remember at Queen Mary, being in the pub at the same time as the university rugby team was not fun. I remember one rowdy night when the rugby team were all partying around one table and one shirtless bloke was stood on a chair drinking massive amounts of cheep beer (the student union pubs always had the cheapest beer, like a quid-twenty a pint), vomiting into a bucket, then drinking more beer all while stood up, with his fellow rugbyers singing something one of their public school rugby field songs (by the way, a “public school” in England is a private school, not a public school, which is a state or comprehensive school, and both rugby and cricket are very popular at those) (the one I worked at for a while had strong rugby and cricket teams, but didn’t even have a football team, that’s more a sport for the oiks, like at my school). Anyway I seem to recall he was then encouraged to drink the vomit from the bucket as well, which he gladly did, to much public schoolboy merriment. The antics of the British public boarding schools and university rugby teams are more worlds of mystery to me. But I studied drama, and I’m sure they thought we were all bonkers as well, and they were probably right. I took part in a multilingual performance show once where I had to play a drunken old man doing a solo piece on stage drinking a bottle of wine and ranting about, I have no idea what, it was by Raymond Queneau. Anyway I was given a bottle of real wine and I got through about three quarters of it during this one very silly speech, which only wet on for less than ten minutes. Needless to say there was plenty of ad-libbing by the end of it. the vice-chancellor of the university was in the audience and he actually came up to me and said how much he enjoyed the show, but because I had so much wine in me by this point I immediately asked if there could be more funding for the university theatre company, as if I had any idea about that at all, I’d just heard they were well short of dough These days I am part of university bureaucracy so I navigate such things differently, but when I was a kid I thought “the multilingual absurd performance piece is the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the vice-chancellor!”. Ah, student life was fun.

stop right now, thank you very much

5th St Davis

I drew this one Saturday afternoon early March, one of those times I just needed to go out and draw something, stopped on Fifth Street because it’s usually pretty sketchagenic. I like the way shadows hit shapes. I’m also constantly amused by the ‘cross traffic does not stop’ signs, because I’m a dad and it’s a typical dad joke remark. “Annoyed traffic speeds up” and “furious traffic runs red lights” and so on. “Polite traffic says, no after you, please, after you.” Stop signs are fun. They literally say “stop” which is not really open to interpretation, though people sometimes read “unless you just slow down and roll through”, or in the case of half the cyclists in Davis, “unless it’s you because you’re special.” The other half of the cyclists do stop at stop signs and red lights; I’m one of them. The thing here though is that cars just assume you won’t, which I suppose is fair enough, college town with a lot of new cyclists, but it’s when I do stop at the stop sign, after the car has stopped, and I wait for them to go, and they don’t, they just sit there at the stop sign waiting for me, even though they got there first. I’ve already stopped and they decide not to go and wave me through, by the time I realize what they are doing, another car on the other side starts going and it’s all very, huff huff , grumble grumble, at least in my British head. I don’t like the roads. Sometimes at red light crossings on t-junctions, if I’m about to cross the road (by foot or by wheel), it’s green man (well, ‘white’ man) or cycle crossing light, you go out and suddenly a car or a bike has jumped the red light and is hurtling right at you. I suppose they figure, well I may as well go since I’m not turning, what’s the difference. As I say, it’s been as many cars doing this as cyclists on the junction near my house. There aren’t as many cameras here as in London, where if you stray into the bus lane for a couple of seconds you get a huge fine in the mail days later. One thing about Davis though, we are considered the cycling capital of the US (the US Bicycling Hall of Fame is right here on the corner of B and 3rd, so we must be) and this was the first town in America to get bike lanes, and our bike lane system is extensive and well maintained and signposted. In general cyclists and vehicles get along and share the road. It’s a cause of great smugness from me and other Davis people who agree (not the ones who don’t). That said, the start of the academic year is always a bit of a free-for-all – campus between classes is like the Tour de France on steroids (ie, it’s like the Tour de France) when you really just avoid all roads and roundabouts lest you want to be mangled in a pile of metal, oily chains, textbooks and limbs. Downtown though in October, it’s like an episode of “Cops” on steroids (ie, it’s like…). Well, that’s an exaggeration, but the local police do conduct little stings where they’ll have an officer waiting at certain busy cross-junctions to flag down and cite (or at least educate) cyclists who go right through the Stop signs. It can be pretty dangerous so it’s good to nip it in the bud, and word gets around. I remember when the campus police force would also stop cyclists who cycled at night without a light, and rather than cite them they would hand out bike lights. Education is always good. Things always calm down a bit more in the cycle lanes by the time November comes around.

This building on Fifth, I think I’ve sketched before but this is the one involved in the tragic shooting of a young police officer Natalie Corona in 2019 a block away, I think this was where the murderer came from, and went back to, and was eventually found by the police before taking his own life. It was a terrible event, and I always think of that now when I’m down this part of the street.

I needed a milkshake after sketching this. I had a delicious chocolate milkshake from Baskin Robbins downtown, and trundled home. I don’t get those milkshakes much any more so it was a treat.

chevy on oak

chevrolet truck oak ave davis

I like these types of truck. There’s something very ‘Pa Kent’ about them. I’m not a fan of modern American trucks which are more along the line of macho monster truck take up as much room as possible macho nonsense, the ones that stick out too far at parking lots and have their headlights up higher so they can blare directly into the windscreens of more normal-sized vehicles. Everything’s bigger in America, and if it isn’t, then GM have a way to help you overcompensate. I love this one though, especially as it’s all nice and shiny, and the shade of cerulean blue, slightly teal, is lovely. It was parked out on Oak St a few times and I cycled past thinking, I must sketch that some time. So in mid-February I did. Those are the sports fields of Davis High School in the background. It was another of those windy days we had a lot of in February.

Vaccine’s feeling a lot better today, two days after second shot. Yesterday the body was feeling very fatigued, but the seasonal allergies were kicking up as well. Hopefully the rubbish-joke side-effect has cleared up now. I thought I’d post this sketch since things are starting to pick-up…

the longest march

4th and F St, Davis

And so March 2020 finally ended and March 2021 began. It’s what it felt like, right? That’s what we all say. That super long March, remember back in May 2020 when we’d say “oh, today’s date is March the 70th” or stuff like that. That’s what people say, in their Tweets and their Witty Remarks. I am writing this in late March 2021, the day after receiving my second Covid vaccine, over a year after the pandemic officially began. I’ve learned of a word (from Rick Steves), “vaccication”, the first vacation you might have after being vaccinated. We had a road trip to Utah last week to go hiking in Arches national park (I’ll post the sketches soon, what a place), but flying international might still be a way off for us, with how things are, though I hope it’s not too long before I can get back to see the family in London. In the meantime, more Davis. This is Cooper House on the corner of 4th and F, I have drawn it before, but I really liked how the shadows were falling on the white wood as the sun was setting. What was I listening to when I drew this? Probably something about football, or history. There is so much football these days. I remember this time last year when the football stopped, the floodlights went out, and football podcasts were suddenly free to be more creative, and not just go on about the latest VAR incident in Newcastle vs Crystal Palace or whatever. they would talk about old seasons, great teams from history, they would have fun football quizzes, and maybe talk a bit about the Belarus league which was still going on. When the German Bundesliga restarted, earlier than other leagues, we all became Bundesliga fans and far more interesting in the goings on at Schalke or the tactics of Julian Nagelsmann than ever before. Now it’s game after game after game after game. As for history, well I suppose there is just as much history as ever, but last year we would get more episodes about the Black Death, or the Plague of Justinian, or the 1918-19 Flu Pandemic (given the misnomer at the time ‘Spanish Flu’, as they were the only ones reporting on it since other European countries suppressed their news during World War I; in fact the flu outbreak apparently began in Kansas). Just what you want to hear. Speaking of which, who is looking forward to all of the films or TV dramas set during the pandemic? No, me neither. In fact I suspect there won’t be that many. Looking back to Shakespeare, there were disease outbreaks in his time, when people were quarantined, theatres closed – the plague outbreak of 1592-1594 for example, and another one between 1603-1604. Some of his plays like King Lear may have been written while on lockdown, though they didn’t have Zoom in those days so thankfully he never got his company of actors to sing “Imagine” line by line, or whatever was the equivalent back then, “Greensleeves” or something. Shakespeare may have made plague references that his audience would well have understood, but he didn’t come right out and make a Plague Play. Though if he did, perhaps it would have involved social distancing or self-isolation: The One Gentleman of Verona, for example. Richard ill. Julius Sneezer. Coriolonavirus. “The Comedy of Errors” speaks for itself with how certain governments handled things last year. Thinking about it, Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene was pretty well socially distanced. Shakespeare was also a fan of masques of course. I did watch a number of the Globe Theatre’s productions on YouTube during the early months of the pandemic, they offered them up free (I did send donations). Back then, FIFA were also posting a lot of full-length classic football matches on YouTube as well, which I watched gleefully (that Argentina-England 86 game, well not as much of a close classic as I remember, England were dreadful and deserved to lose, even if Maradona scored with his hand). I also watched a lot of old Formula 1 races, while the motor races were also stopped. Sport is back, but theater not so much yet. Cinemas are starting to return, slowly, tentatively, and I can’t wait to get out to the movies again, as much as I love being sat on my couch. I also sketched a lot at home, drawing every room in the house, but now at least I’m back drawing outside and glad for it.  

duel of the freights

030121 train tracks sm

We get long freight trains rolling through Davis. Those really long ones like you see in movies set in America, that roll across the country, miles long, maybe with a hobo in one of the cars warming his socks on a fire and ripping yarns and tall tales. In fact you might say Davis exists because of the railroad; the Union Pacific railroad build a railway triangle here after getting hold of the land from the farmers Jerome C. and Mary Davis. They are who Davis is named after actually; originally it was ‘Davisville’, but the town’s first postmaster, William Dresbach, decided ‘Davisville’ was too long for the very small envelopes they had back then, and shortened it to ‘Davis’. That was over a hundred years ago; presumably it will be shortened again someday to just ‘Dave’. It’s ironic then that old Billy Dresbach’s house, which is still standing downtown, now has the ridiculously long name of ‘Hunt-Boyer-Dresbach House’, which was ok because they developed the technology to make larger envelopes by then. This particular stretch of railroad is near my house in north Davis, where the big metal rail cars are parked for a while so that graffiti artists can finish what they were doing last time. I sometimes run along this way in the mornings. The trains aren’t always here; I came back a couple of days later to draw another section but it had gone. It’s been a while since I drew the trains, but I was just so into all the colourful graffiti I couldn’t decide which cars to draw, so I did a panorama. Workmen clanged about by a rail car further to my right, welding this and that, while I listened to an Adam Buxton podcast, an interview with Torvill and Dean. If I had interviewed Torvill and dean I would not have been able to stop myself from doing the music, pa-paa-pa-paa-pa-paa-papapa, the one they did for the cinemas. And then there would have been an awkward silence, and Torvill and Dean would have said, um, yeah, this is awkward, um, that wasn’t us. And then I would realize that I was thinking of Pearl and Dean. Which would be embarrassing, but at the same time would make a funny story to tell people later. Especially if it was true. I would have asked Dean if he still heard from Pearl, and for balance I would have asked Torvill if she still saw Keith Harris. Look I was a kid when they were famous, yeah. There were lots of double acts when I was a kid, it was hard to tell them all apart. I was always drawing, I was too busy to lift my head up to actually pay attention to anything, unless it was Tottenham, or Formula 1. Oh how times have changed. But there were a lot of double acts, you had Rod Hull and Emu, you had Rod Jane and Freddy, you had Little and Large, you had Cannon and Ball, you had Hoddle and Waddle, you had Dempsey and Makepeace, basically everyone was a double act. At this point in my pretend interview with Torvill and Dean they are getting ready to walk out, but I convince them to stay, that I would take it seriously. And as soon as they do I’d say, I’m skating on thin ice now eh. I have personally only ice-skated once in my life, when I was 15 years old, in Austria while I was on a school exchange trip. I couldn’t do it. It was cold, I fell over a lot, I had absolutely no idea how people actually moved. People would get on the ice and suddenly off they went. I actually took my skates back and said the batteries need changing. I also had Gluhwein for the first and last time then too, I think it was more glue than wine. 

The graffiti looks good on the side of these trains though, adds a lot of colour and turns them into a moving art gallery. I don’t live so close to the railroads that I hear them at night any more, but when I lived in south Davis I was a little closer to the main line that runs east-west and at 1am when the big long mile-long cargo train would roll through it would make my apartment rumble slightly. Even here though we do feel the vibrations of the earth moving slightly, it’s not earthquakes, it’s those long trains. Or maybe it’s bears or something. I liked drawing this panorama though. Click on the image for a closer view. 

over the creek

LaRue Bridge UC Davis

While I’m only going to campus once a week it’s still good to track the changes going on. This bridge near my office, where LaRue crosses Putah Creek, reopened recently after a long and necessary update. So on one of those very windy days we had recently I walked over and drew it. The Robert Mondavi Institute (RMI) of Food and Wine Sciences is in the background; they have a whole beer lab, and their own research vineyard. The wind was blowing so I drew as quickly as I could and painted it in later. It was so windy I didn’t even listen to a podcast. In my last post I mentioned about all the things about podcasts that make me turn off, but didn’t mentioned what I am listening to most these days. So here goes, my current podcast list, good for listening to while sketching. I like it when a podcast is roughly 50 minutes – 1 hour long as that’s a good time for a full sketch, unless it’s a bigger more complicated one or a double-page panorama. So in no order:

(1) Adam Buxton Podcast (very funny, he did a really fun one with Paul McCartney recently but I love his specials with old comedy mate Joe Cornish); (2) You’re Dead To Me (presented by Greg Jenner, historian from Horrible Histories, another one where I really love his enthusiasm and voice and his guests again always provide a good balance for the listener, he always has a historian and a comedian and they illuminate any subject colourfully, it’s definitely a highlight when this podcast comes out) (3) Guardian Football Weekly (I really like Max Rushden as a presenter, and he makes a good-natured balance to the dour but hilarious Barry Glendenning, the grumpy wit Barney Ronay and the scholarly Sunderlander Jonathan Wilson), the only thing is I think I actually enjoyed football podcasts more last year when there was no football, and they found more interesting ways to talk about the game in general rather than analyzing the endless mill of games we have now, and I can tell they want a break from this season; (4) Totally Football Show (with James Richardson, formerly of Football Weekly but best known for Football Italia on Channel 4 in the 90s, which us 90s lads all have fond memories of, and I really love the special Golazzo podcasts he does about the great characters and teams of Italian football); (5) Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men (I’ve been listening to this for several years now, as they walk us through X-Men comics history,  over 300 episodes in and they have reached the late 90s and even if I am completely unfamiliar with the stories or characters they are talking about, I can’t help but be drawn in by their enthusiasm and knowledge, and audibly they make a perfect conversational balance with each other, I could listen to them both talk all day); (6) The Infinite Monkey Cage (with Brian Cox and Robin Ince, science based and with a mix of science people and comedians saying funny things (or trying to) after the science people have said the science stuff; (7) History of the English Language (Followed since episode 1, this one is right up my alley as a fellow history-of-English enthusiast); (8) Travel with Rick Steves (I like Rick and his friendly nature, and there are always a lot of interesting stories from the guests about the various places or themes they focus on, but he did lose a bit of travel-cred when he kept referring to Windsor Castle as “Windsor Palace” in one episode); (9) Join Us In France (this is presented by a French woman who lived in the US for a long time and talks about all different areas of France and French culture, and I’ve discovered a lot of places I would like to explore by listening to this); (10) Checkered Flag Podcast (This one runs during the Formula 1 season and is really just a review of what happened that race weekend, but it’s always quite fun even if the hosts tend to sometimes wind each other up a bit much). I also listen to “History Extra Podcast”, “History of the 20th Century”, “Revolutions”, “Formula 1 Beyond the Grid”, “Nessun Dorma” (about 80s/90s football), “Zonal Marking”, “Talking Comics”, “Full of Sith” (Star Wars related but the voice of one of the hosts annoys me a bit so I don’t listen often, but I love that they love the prequels), “Dan Snow’s History Hit”, “Shakespeare Unlimited”, “Grounded with Louis Theroux”, “In Our Time” (with Melvyn Bragg), “Listen Up A-Holes” (Marvel Cinematic Universe reviews, though I tend to skip past some of the long-winded stuff), “Star Talk Radio” (though Neil DeGrasse Tyson isn’t as funny as he thinks he is, nor is his comic sidekick, he does know his physics), “The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry” (science), and quite a lot more that I listen to occasionally. But I also just listen to music, and we’re not getting into that here. I’m thinking of starting to listen to audiobooks more as well, I do like a good story. 

But then again, when out sketching, usually I prefer to listen to the sounds of the environment around me, particularly if I am in a big city or somewhere new. The sounds make their way into the sketch. In this one though, it was the sound of the wind telling me to leave it for now and finish it up later.

listen up

Davis house 7th and B

First page of a new Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, and this was an afternoon get-out-of-the-house bike ride down into Old North Davis, the edge of it anyway. I like the old historic houses in this part of the world, so many stories. At least I assume they have so many stories, to be honest none of them are any of our business. I do really like John Lofland’s book about Old North Davis, in which he goes street by street, building by building, and tells us when they were built, original owners, whether the house was located somewhere else before (around here, moving house sometimes means just that). This one is just outside the Old North Davis zone covered in his book but it’s still lovely. I’ve been running more in this area, south of my house. I like to run earlier in the morning, and listen to podcasts as I go. I’ve realized a few things about podcasts. I am very picky, like with a lot of things in life. I will almost never listen to a podcast recommended to me by anyone. If the voices of the people presenting it are too similar, I can’t listen. Similarly, if they are too different in terms of their pace or volume (particularly true in the current world where podcast guests are all over the place, zooming in on different microphone set-ups) I struggle to listen. If there is too much production – too much incidental music, I can’t listen. If there are ads, well if they’re about 30 seconds long I can skip them easily on my iPod, but if it’s one where the host actually stops mid-interview and starts reading out the ad themselves (and not in an obviously pre-recorded, different sound kind of way), which is far far more common on American radio than on British radio I note (as someone who can’t bare to listen to the radio), I can’t listen. If one of the hosts or guests has a tendency to pause before responding often, making it seem to the podcast listener that maybe their iPod has gone on the blink, and those pauses aren’t edited out, I can’t listen. If one of the hosts has a very whiny voice, I can’t listen. If a guest changes subject mid-sentence in a kind of – and I know I do this all the time, like right now for example – just like that fashion, I can’t listen. If the hosts swear, well if they are British I can get it, there’s a rhythm and context to it, but if it’s an American swearing it sounds all wrong, like they’re trying to be hard, and I can’t listen. If one of the speakers has the sort of voice that when you are in bed and listening to fall asleep to is totally fine, but when you are running and there is traffic but you can’t turn it up because the next speaker has a booming or whiny voice, well I can’t listen. If the guests on the show talk for too long before the next question by the presenter, I can’t listen. If the guest is speaking down an obviously tinny phone line like some Eurosport commentator in the CupWinners Cup in the early 90s, I can’t listen. If the speaker just spends ages listing things they don’t like, pet peeves, in a repetitive and predictable and self-aware way, even if they are being ironic, which let’s face it is worse, I can’t listen. If the speaker goes on about Arsenal too much, I can’t listen. If they always mispronounce French place names, I can’t listen. If they think Snickers is a better name than Marathon, I can’t listen. Etc and so on. I’m very picky. However I have discovered that if you listen to any podcast, any podcast at all , in 0.5x speed, it sounds infinitely better because suddenly you are listening to a bunch of people drunk in the pub slurring about medieval history or decreasing rates of XG in the Bundesliga, and who wouldn’t enjoy that? Alternatively listen at 1.5x speed, and you get them talking really fast, which then makes me run fast and I’m zippingaboutallovertheplacelikeMr.Rush, which helps my pace-per-mile. But never listen to anything on 2x speed, because that will hurt your head.   

the corner of 3rd and e

3rd and E Davis Feb 2021 sm

Been a little while since I wrote a post, though I have been drawing. It’s March again now, so we’ve come a year since last March. I suppose we always do, except last March hasn’t ended yet. That’s what we all say. So on this one day last month, the day before my birthday, I was downtown with the family getting new football boots for my son, and I decided to stay down there and draw a panorama. This is the corner of 3rd and E Streets, and I stood off to the side out of the way, six feet from any passer-by, and drew as much as I could. I finished it off later. I’m quite pleased with it. Click on it to see it in close-up. I last drew the house on that corner about a decade ago, when I had that show at the Pence. There it is below. It’s one of the cutest houses in downtown Davis. I draw 3rd Street quite a bit. 

nice house on 3rd and E eee