A song about sunscreen from Baz Luhrmann and some thoughts on Leo DiCaprio

This “song” came on the radio when I was driving home from work the other day.

Official music video for Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” (1997)

Baz Luhrmann, of course, is the incredibly talented director of films like William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), Moulin Rouge! (2001), The Great Gatsby (2013), and most recently the Oscar-nominated Elvis (2022).

Luhrmann produced this song; he doesn’t voice the commencement speech himself. Ironically, the speech itself never was delivered at an actual commencement. Instead it was a newspaper column by Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich, setting forth the commencement speech she would deliver should she ever to have an opportunity to do so. (The speech went viral via email, the “social media” of the nineties, erroneously attributed to Kurt Vonnegut in a supposed commencement address delivered at MIT; Vonnegut said he’d be proud if the words would have been his.)

The music playing in the background is “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good),” by Rozalla, which appeared in Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Which, by the way in case you haven’t seen it is an interesting film, filled with surprises of all sorts (strikingly beautiful images, hip re-imaginings of the original Shakespeare, an outstanding cast) around every corner.

Leo DiCaprio has always been so good, even in his early films. I thought he was wonderful as Romeo. Check out this introduction to his character, the first time we meet him in the film.

The shot itself is beautiful, of course. The setting, the golden late afternoon sunlight, the slow tilt up to reveal the pensive young man. There’s something about the body language here that creates character for me without any words necessary. Although elegantly dressed, he is also disheveled, his shirt open at the neck, one collar rolled under. A cigarette held casually between two fingers. He turns his head and takes a drag, profile silhouetted against the intensely saturated orange sunlight beyond. The expression on his face when he sees his parents, gets to his feet, and turns away. How much of this was DiCaprio’s acting versus Luhrmann’s direction, framing, and editing, I don’t know.

But here is one of DiCaprio’s many death scenes from over the years, this one in The Quick and the Dead (1995). It is one of my favorites. Still breaks my heart. And he was just a kid, like 20 or 21 years old. Some actors have “it” (that natural spark, charisma, star quality, “look,” or whatever you want to call it) and some actors don’t. DiCaprio does.

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Creativity and good mental health go hand in hand

Here’s an interview with Hilde Østby, author of a forthcoming book (April) titled The Key to Creativity. What really resonates for me and jibes with my own feelings and intuitive understanding of creativity is the reciprocal positive relationship between creativity and strong mental health. Almost like a feedback loop or flywheel effect: the more you engage in creative activity, the stronger your mental and physical health, and the stronger your mental and physical health, the more able you are to engage in creative activity.

The key, I suppose, is understanding and believing in this relationship to begin a creative practice even when you feel exhausted and depressed—and to keep going even when “real life” intrudes. Which, why should the activity of non-creative-practices (jobs, civic duty, household chores) be considered “real” while the very creative practices essential to sustain us are relegated to less than “real” status anyway? Is what other people want/need from us more “real” and deserving of respect than what we want/need for ourselves?

You can link to the interview here:


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Snowy branches outside my office window

Just a momentary distraction while pausing during my workday to make a cup of coffee. The snowy contrasts, including the slushy street, were striking enough to prompt a photo. Now back to my slideshow on elections and the Electoral College, which I’m trying to summarize as succinctly as possible. With good visuals. This has taken me a couple hours this afternoon. In case you ever wondered what professors do when they’re not in the classroom😀

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The Snowy Day

Is it just me, or does this Lands’ End catalog cover remind you of that beautiful childhood picture book classic by Ezra Jack Keats? Something about the bright red coat and stark, crisp, clean blocks of color contrast, I don’t know. But from the minute I saw this in my mailbox, it made me feel happy. Took me till this morning to realize why.

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I tossed my phone charger aside on the couch after I unplugged it the other day, and this is what I saw😄

Kind of striking, that curl of white against the two jumbled, dark red blankets. So I used the phone I’d just unplugged to grab the shot!

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500 tabs and counting down (#499 “The Tim Ferriss Show” transcripts)

Author and podcaster Tim Ferriss has amazing guests, and he is always so super prepared as an interviewer that the conversations he has with guests are really substantial.

However, I don’t usually like listening to podcasts because doing so is such a time-consuming activity. Plus, I think reading is probably my most preferred way of consuming information. Viewing documentary film/video is second, and listening to audio recordings is a distant third. Unfortunately, I often find myself without headphones or earbuds, which then makes it difficult to listen to anything in the presence of other people.

Luckily, Ferriss has an archive of transcripts available for all his podcast interviews. At some point in the last few years I opened one of those transcripts and, while I was at it, saved the page that serves as the “home page” for transcripts. That is, I kept the tab open so I could easily find it again😂

But now that I’m trying to do better in the open tab department (i.e., eventually not having any old ones open at all), I’m bookmarking it and hitting the “X” to close it out for good.

Only 498 more to go!

Here’s that (just closed😀) link to “The Tim Ferriss Show” transcripts: https://tim.blog/category/the-tim-ferriss-show-transcripts/

And here’s a link to one of my favorite interviews. It’s from two years ago, with actor Matthew McConaughey when his book came out: https://tim.blog/2020/10/19/matthew-mcconaughey/

(UPDATE, a day later—I just found another open tab with a different Tim Ferriss episode, this one a Q+A session from August where Ferriss answered questions from fans who had won a contest in connection with the 15th anniversary of The 4-Hour Workweek. Here’s the link: https://tim.blog/2022/08/16/the-tim-ferriss-show-transcripts-qa-with-tim-on-wealth-and-money-book-recommendations-advice-on-taking-advice-c-s-lewis-relationships-behavior-change-and-self-awareness-why-we-are-all-mostly/

So now I guess I’m down to 497!😀)

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Nature vs. Human — Two very different types of lines

No judgment here as far as one type of line being better than the other. They’re just very different.

And each beautiful in its own way😀

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Schoonmaker Reef

This is what a Silurian coral reef looks like, 425 million years later.

I parked in the back/side lot at my local grocery store this morning while shopping for Thanksgiving. (The main lot gets very crowded on the day before holidays.) In warmer seasons, tree leaves and other vegetation block the view of the actual rock that marks the remains of an ancient ocean floor, and in colder months it’s usually dark when I shop. But with this morning’s sunlight hitting the leafless hillside, there it was, and I could see it as I pushed my cart out to the back forty (which hadn’t gotten parked up with the overflow yet).

So I paused a moment to get a picture to share 😀

Here are a couple links with more info on the reef.

First, the Wikipedia article on the reef: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schoonmaker_Reef

Then also some old (circa 1997 and vaguely GeoCities-looking) web pages from the Milwaukee Public Museum: https://www.mpm.edu/content/collections/learn/reef/wauwatosa-front.html

And finally a nice, detailed article on the reef’s history from WUWM (the NPR-affiliated radio station of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee): https://www.wuwm.com/environment/2016-05-27/did-you-know-theres-an-ancient-coral-reef-in-wauwatosa

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The Birds?

There’s a big flock of birds—of starlings, actually. And I guess they’re not called a “flock” of starlings but a “murmuration” of starlings, which I learned from my Twitter friend Keith Freeburn, a photographer in Wales, last time I wrote a post about starlings.

Anyway, this murmuration of starlings has assembled itself in our neighborhood over the past week or so. The birds fly as a single, shape-shifting group from block to block, gathering en masse in tall trees here, there, and everywhere. I was walking back up to the house just now from taking out garbage when I noticed the group starting to muster in our tall silver maple.

Whenever I see stuff like this, my mind immediately defaults to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. As a young teen watching that movie on the late, late show while babysitting, I was left permanently scarred by what Jessica Tandy saw when she went to check on her neighbor after the initial incidents of troubling changes in bird behavior occurred.

Fortunately the worst these guys will do (I hope!) is create their traveling cacophony among the treetops and leave a mess of droppings in their wake below.

Posted in Milwaukee, Movies and film, Nature | Tagged | 2 Comments

When a picture IS a thousand words

I subscribe to a lot of newsletters. Lots of topics, lots of industries, lots of different treatments. I’m just interested in lots of things 😄

One thing I subscribe to is “e news” from the Newberry Library in Chicago. The Newberry is one of the finest libraries in the world, IMO. I first learned of it when I was in graduate school and taking courses on Shakespeare and Renaissance literature. To me, as a book lover and PhD student in English, the Newberry was like this magical, near-mythical place. When I had the opportunity to present a paper there at a grad student conference, I felt I was hitting the big time.

The Newberry’s “E-news” that hits my inbox is always full of interesting articles on unusual topics. Exactly my cup of tea! And this morning’s newsletter had one article on such a creative topic that I wanted to share it with you.

Sadly, it appears that WordPress is not going to let me do the cool “embed” thing, where you can see the beginning of an article right here, which you can then click on to go to that site and read the whole thing. The best I can do is supply the link. Sigh. Don’t you hate it when technology refuses to let you do the cool things?

Anyway, here is the link in case you would like to click over and read the article. Basically it’s about a very old art form in which pictures are made up of words.


If you live anywhere near Chicago and are up to visiting the Newberry library, you can go see the exhibit of calligraphy that inspired the article and includes examples of this “microcalligtaphy” art. Here’s the link to that exhibit, which closes at the end of December.


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