What I learned this week, March 19, 2021

Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

Why we procrastinate on the tiniest of tasks

When we put off small jobs, they balloon from tiny checklist items into major irritants. Why do we keep doing this?

Mark Rothko, Orange, Red and Red, Dallas Museum of Art

Mark Rothko on How to Be an Artist

Seven years ago I saw the play Red at the Dallas Theater Center. It was a fantastic play about the artist Mark Rothko as he painted the famous group of large murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. Really good – one highlight is that during the play the actor playing Rothko and the one playing his assistant actually paint a giant canvas right there, in front of you. You could smell the linseed oil.

Something In front of Braindead Brewing Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

How to Quiet Your Mind Chatter

To break the tape loop in your head, talk to yourself as another person.

A reminder of what one of these looked like at the unveiling

Tips from neuroscience to keep you focused on hard tasks

Understanding cognitive control can help your working life.

Mexican Vampire Kiss Mural, Cozumel, Mexico

The Vampire Problem: A Brilliant Thought Experiment Illustrating the Paradox of Transformative Experience

“Many of [life’s] big decisions involve choices to have experiences that teach us things we cannot know about from any other source but the experience itself.”

Running up that hill at the end.

What a brief jog can do for your brain

If you have 15 minutes to spare, do not sit and chill. Instead, a new study says, you should go out for a quick, light jog. It will leave you feeling more energetic than resting, which will lift your spirits and in turn make your thinking more effective.

My Aeropress at a campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

I Tried 5 Methods to Make Italian-Style Coffee at Home. The Winner Was Clear (and Surprising!)

It’s not surprising to me. After a lifetime of trying different ways of making coffee – the Aeropress is the best. I miss going to coffee shops – but I can’t imagine getting a better cup than what I can make with fresh-ground beans and my ‘press.

The Smell That Separates Night From Day

Black As Night Sweet As Sin

Coffee in the… Well, Sorta Wilderness

A Lot More Than Just A Drink

I can’t believe that this is a half-century old. I mean, it does have the 1960’s esthetic, but it is still really, really cool. The movie was a disappointment at the time (I looked it up) but this Bob Fosse dance number is fascinating. I’m a little obsessed.

Free Rothko

I am very happy now that the Dallas Museum of Art has instituted free general admission to its public galleries. There is a qualitative difference when paying ten bucks to get into a museum as there is when it is gratis. It you shell out the bucks, you feel you have an obligation to get your money’s worth – to see and do and cram as much as possible into the experience. You are under pressure to enjoy yourself. With free admission you can wander in and out and have a relaxed and interested time.

When the museum first opened in downtown (moving from Fair Park) in 1983 I was working in the old (now long blown up to make room for the First Baptist Church’s Parking Garage) Cotton Exchange building, only a couple blocks from the museum. What I loved to do was to carve out an hour or so, maybe over lunch, maybe before I went home, and simply go to the museum and look at one single work of art. I’d plan it out ahead of time, choose a painting or sculpture, and then go stare at the crazy thing, and nothing else, for an hour. It was an amazing way to get to know a work – a lot different than a casual stroll through a gallery.

That’s not something you can do with a ten buck admission price.

So we were down there and I was interested in looking at the Rothko piece, Orange, Red and Red. I really enjoyed the play Red at the Wyly in February and wanted to see one of his paintings in the flesh, so to speak. During the play, the actors playing Rothko and his assistant actually splashed paint, the undercolor, covering a huge canvas. The people producing the play worked hard on getting the details right and partnered with the DMA – which made me thirst to lay my eyes on the real deal.

The problem was, I didn’t know where the Rothko was. It might have been up on the third level with the American paintings, but I didn’t see it there – it was too modern and abstract for that gallery anyway.

Later, we walked into a modern gallery off the Ross Avenue side of the museum and I thought for sure it would be in there – it fit in. But I couldn’t spot the thing so I walked up to a guard.

“Excuse me,” I asked, “Do you know where the Rothko is?”

“The Ronco?” he said.

“No, the Rothko… It’s a painting by Mark Rothko, they did a play… it’s an important… He was a painter in New York in like the fifties and sixties.”

The guard looked at me with a blank, confused look. “Maybe it’s in the American section.”

“I looked there and didn’t see it, but maybe I missed it.”

“Oh, and these paintings down here, in this gallery, they are all by female artists.”

He gave me a big, proud smile… he had found something he knew that I didn’t. I thanked him for his help and as I turned I looked over his shoulder and there, right there, behind and past him and out the entrance to the gallery, hanging on the wall of the big main spine corridor, was the Rothko. I couldn’t miss it.

So I took some time and stood there, not an hour… but at least a few minutes and looked at it. I could imagine the artist throwing down those rectangular fields of color and then staring at the work as it progressed… just like the guy in the play did.

It was pretty cool. And it was free.

Mark Rothko, Orange, Red and Red, Dallas Museum of Art

Mark Rothko, Orange, Red and Red, Dallas Museum of Art