Renaissance Festival III

Reading this week:

  • The Golden Rhinoceros by François-Xavier Fauvelle
  • American Eden by Victoria Johnson (fantastic)

Excellent news everyone we managed to go to the Renaissance Festival two years in a row! The lack of new pandemics helped. I am sure you all remember my last entry about the Ren Fest, but back then my super amazing girlfriend was but a flower crown newbie. Our visit this year was stunningly similar in many ways, especially because it was opening day again and my dad had visited once more to peruse the festival.

We had an absolute hoot. It wasn’t quite as hot as last year which helped a lot. We wandered around and played games and saw plays. I didn’t win her a super cool necklace she’ll cherish for the rest of her life by tossing a rat in a bucket this year, but I paid for her to launch some balls from a crossbow (as you can see from the picture at the top) because I thought it would be extremely cute and (again as you can see from the picture at the top) it was. She’s amazing.

Also in big Ren Fest gaming news they brought back the old ball maze. The ball maze was always my favorite game at the Ren Fest because I could reliably win it. I mean it’s not very hard but one time I literally did it with my eyes closed and a drunk guy bowed down to me due to my prowess. Used to be back in the day too you won an actual prize, like a $5 (now like $9) turkey leg which for $1 a play was an excellent deal. But last year they switched up the maze and had something real fancy with like a castle on it or something, but they have reverted to the old maze for reasons I didn’t inquire about so my nostalgic self had a blast. Also like last year we saw some Shakespeare, but this year there was a big epic swordfight:

The single biggest thing I thought about all day though was a pot. As I think I have mentioned elsewhere, my super amazing girlfriend has recently taken up the fine and ancient art of ceramics, so we made sure to spend a lot of time checking out all the ceramics at the Renaissance Festival. There were a good chunk! One in particular caught my eye. It was a brownish color in the base, with a special glaze that, if done just right, created beautiful crystals that were all unique and different. This is that pot:

What also attracted me to this pot was that it was useless. Like it was not in a useful shape. Like maybe you could put a spring sprig in there or something and it would make for a perfect piece of art to contemplate in a traditional Japanese tea house, for example, but you wouldn’t store things in it. There were other pots that maybe would work as a vase but this wasn’t it. Historically I am attracted to useless crystals, my independent study for my Chemistry degree was all about designing a useless experiment around crystals, so this pot was up my alley. But because it was useless it was very explicitly art.

I feel like I have bought a good chunk of art in my day. But usually it has some meaning. Like look I suppose all art has meaning, but specifically here I am thinking of art that is a souvenir of a place I visited where there are memories, or maybe a picture that my super amazing girlfriend liked so I got it because she liked it and I like her, or maybe a picture of our cat which isn’t useful but also is extremely cute. I visit a lot of art museums as documented on this blog and there are these people out there who do everything they can to buy art, more than they could ever display, just because it is art and art contrary to what I have just said isn’t useless it is an expression and brings beauty to the world and maybe supports an artist (though I met an artist in grad school who very explicitly made unsellable art (it wasn’t lewd or anything just like physically immobile, she did frescoes, but not the kind you are thinking of)) but I don’t think I am that kind of person??? Or at least I wasn’t sure if I was??? This had me thinking all day while we were otherwise looking at a dude with a bird:

He was nice but frankly his show wasn’t as good as the last bird show I saw at the Renaissance Festival! Anyways! All day I was grappling with whether or not I was a dude who bought a useless thing purely for its aesthetic beauty, as opposed to some other property of the thing, intrinsic or extrinsic. And more importantly would I do that for $40. After hashing it out with my super amazing girlfriend over some mead, I decided to bite the bullet and we went over there and did it. Except it turned out they always took cash, like it was 1540 or something. So I had to go find an ATM and that cost more money but I eventually bought it and proudly took home what I believed to be my very first piece of ceramic art that I owned.

But then I got home and remembered the two pieces of ceramics I got in Rwanda:

Turns out I am a ceramics collector! So there was no need to go through all that existential crisis, collecting ceramics is just something I do. At the Ren Fest we also got lost in that same maze again and took a very similar picture to last time. It was a great day! Highly recommend.

A Comment on Africa Logos

A DALL·E render for “Pixel art of a graphic designer creating an Africa logo.” DALL·E knows what’s up with Africa logos.

This post is just a comment on the wide wide world of logo design for Africa-focused organizations. Although I am nonetheless going to publish this call-out post, I do have to offer a pre-emptive apology to the world of logo designers for Africa-based organizations. You see, I used to think that there was only one Africa logo in the world, and that logo was “put the name of your organization in the Gulf of Guinea.” And like look, I get it. It’s just so enticing. It is yearning for your organization to fill the gap left by South America all those 140 million years ago. And, you know, maybe you’ll spice it up a little, you can draw a stylized version of Africa that really conveys the nature of your organization. That’ll be fun. Maybe if you’re Google and therefore have access to all the resources in the world to really come up with an original logo, you’ll think to yourself, “What is really the most significant thing about Africa?” and drop an elephant in there:

But back to the apology bit. You see I look at the logos of a lot of different Africa-focused organizations. So I notice these things. And I eventually realized there wasn’t just the one Africa logo, there was at least two. Besides sticking your logo in the Gulf of Guinea, you could also stick your organization name in the Indian Ocean:

So sorry for my assumption, to all the logo designers for Africa-focused organizations. But come on guys. Start looking at these logos and it is quickly obvious that the only type of logo anyone likes to do for an Africa-focused organization is draw a stylized version of Africa and stick the organization’s name somewhere around it. There has to be a more creative approach than that out there somewhere and I encourage anyone taking a stab at it to try to think outside the box. And no, putting the name of your organization across your stylized picture of Africa doesn’t count:

That’s all I got on this one. Maybe I will continue to update this page with more logos. One final thing to think about: when designing your logo, how many of the African islands do you include? Poor Madagascar getting left out all the time. And if Madagascar can’t always make it in, what chance does Mauritius have?

Colorado! Part IV: Breckenridge

Reading this week:

  • The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
  • Engineering in Plain Sight by Grady Hillhouse

Sunday, our final full day in Colorado, we headed to Breckenridge. Finally used to the new time zone we woke up a bit late and rushed over to A&A’s house, where we picked up just the one A (my super amazing girlfriend’s sister) and head out to the mountains so as to double our altitude. Our goal for the day was to go on a hike. A&A are both avid hikers and outdoor adventurists, and while my super amazing girlfriend and I have spent time outdoors we were not prepared mentally and physically for an arduous hike and were shooting for something more in the goldilocks zone.

Unfortunately, we were thwarted. We drove to the trailhead, admiring the jawdropping views that are just workaday in that part of the country only to find that no parking was allowed at that spot. There was another parking spot we could have used, but besides the fact it was apparently in the middle of a passive-aggressive (though on the aggressive side) feud between some Trump-loving locals and what they appeared to think was the personal malice of the Biden administration, it was several miles away and A found the thought of hiking up several miles of dusty road just to then begin the actual hike unappealing. Fair!

Lookin’ cute!

So we drove to another place where parking was allowed and found something that resembled a trail. It quickly morphed into a steep rock scramble, and of all the choices in the goldilocks story none of them involved rock scrambles. We instead were left to do the only sensible thing: take numerous extremely cute photos on the edge of the parking lot so it didn’t look like we were in a parking lot but had hiked to the panoramic valley we found ourselves at. No one needs to know! We did look cute too.

Unmarred by sweat, we went into Breckenridge proper, first saying hello to the troll. There is a troll just outside Breckenridge named Isak who is quite popular. He is located 400 feet down a lovely trail from a convenient parking lot, with the last 40 feet or so of the trail consisting of the line of people patiently waiting to take a photo with him. One of the guys ahead of us took a picture just of the DVD of Morbius with the troll, saying he had driven 10 hours just to do so. I admired his dedication. We too took our picture, though A was worried about the optics of hanging out in a troll’s crotch, a solution to which we never came up with. We looked cute in front of that valley though, and our cuteness was certainly not dimmed here:

From there we walked into Breckenridge proper where we enjoyed lunch and looking at various shops including, you guessed it, a used bookstore. I bought two books and might have bought more if I had dug deeper into the stacks; it is a chaotic bookstore where the treasure is buried. Seeking slightly more oxygen, however, we went back to Denver where we went straight to the Denver Cat Company, because if there is anything we can’t resist (besides yarn shops and used bookstores), it is a Cat Café! This was a lovely little chill cat café with plenty of friendly cats and we had a lovely hour hanging out with the cats. Of course the experience made all three of us yearn to be back with our own cats, and while A had only to wait for us to drive back to her place my super amazing girlfriend and I had to wait a whole day to be reunited with our sweet baby angel Tink.

And that wrapped our time in Colorado, just about. We had dinner at an Israeli place that night which was delicious (I should make hummus at home) and then next morning had a perfectly smooth time at the airport and traveling home. Colorado was a lot of fun and perhaps I should make more time to explore the American West more. I’ve been to many chunks of it, like I mentioned in the first post, but this is a big country we got and there is tons to see. It was also fantastic to hang out with A&A and spend time together. There is lots more to see in Denver and hopefully one of these days we get to go back.

Colorado! Part III: Boulder

Reading this week:

  • In Small Things Forgotten by James Deetz

Day 3 of our Colorado adventure was when we finally broke free of Denver. But not before breakfast! Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and we had already had a fantastic breakfast the previous day, we really needed to go all out if we were going to improve on the breakfast experience once again. So we went to Good Bread. Good Bread is the dream of every Instagram baker realized: the woman opened up a bakery. You gotta get there early because they sell out, and we managed to arrive a few minutes before they opened. There was a line and we waited patiently for it to move but we eventually got in and got our baked goods. Since both A&A and my super amazing girlfriend were talking about following this woman who opened her own bakery, and about seeing all her stuff, I had imagined that I would find one harried woman running around selling baked goods but she had a whole operation with several dudes running around baking and selling those baked goods. A whole bakery empire! It was fantastic.

Inside the teahouse.

Fueled up, we headed to Boulder. Boulder is a lovely town but the main draw for us was the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. It has a fantastic backstory but as far as my super amazing girlfriend is concerned, you had her at “teahouse.” She had visited a few years ago, last time she was in Colorado, and I think would have been perfectly satisfied if we had gone to Colorado only to visit this place. It is indeed gorgeous and they had pretty excellent tea and brunch to boot. The day we visited it was surrounded by a farmer’s market, where we bought a variety of items which all went into an absolutely delicious dinner that very night. After the tea house we poked around Boulder more. We checked out every place which you should at this point expected us to have checked out, including a bookstore and a yarn store. Then we did a photoshoot in the various combinations of our crowd against the stunning backdrop of the Boulder mountains in order to prove we were there and show off our smiles:

And with that we packed up and headed back to Denver, tuckered out by the sun and shopping. The ladies cooked a fantastic dinner for us and we relaxed in A&A’s lovely back garden. Tell you what though man. A&A’s friend came over to hang with us. He was fantastic. But I complained in the first of this Colorado! series that I have become an east coast liberal elite. I don’t know if anyone gatekeeps that, but I have for sure become a DC type. I didn’t know what to talk about in Colorado. I am used to a DC conversation, where everyone says hello and then you start talking politics. We solve all the world’s problems in between trivia rounds, or at least complain about them. Easy! But Colorado man. I didn’t manage to nail down what they talk about on this trip. Hiking trails maybe? How beautiful the stars are? How those poor DC saps must suffer in that humidity while all they have to do in Denver is drink massive amounts of water and continually apply lotion so they don’t shrivel up like a sun-dried tomato? Maybe I do need to get out of my bubble.

A&A’s fantastic garden, a wonderful bubble outside one’s own. The bees agree.