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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn

2apr2014

So my April Fool's joke is that, of course I'll have my post up and ready to go on April Fool's....ha!

Ta-Nehisi Coates has three, count'em three new posts up, all with comments. For awhile there, I thought he'd perhaps had enough, and was going to closed comments only: he was (and is) pretty discouraged by the death of Jordan Davis.

Mr. Coates reminds us (again) that the shadow we see on the wall—his writing—is not him: his mandate is twofold: to see the world clearly; and to write it cleanly. But to see the world as it is, is profoundly depressing. In his case, it is the fact that this country is built upon the stolen lives and labor of black folk (it pays to remember that after the land itself, slaves were the single biggest asset in the Union by the Civil War). That is as it should be: as a black man, TNC is qualified by nature, experience and interest to use that lens.

But his frustration and fury (and sadness) is not unique to him: f2tY finds zer philosophy class fascinating—but also highly depressing. Atheism isn't something I joyfully embraced—I wanted heaven, the opportunity to live (and make art) forever. Giving up that immortality was probably the single most painful experience in my life; mostly for selfish reasons but also, as I eventually realized (being neither so generous as my child or Coates) that it meant everyone else also only got the one life, which meant there was a very great deal of injustice and cruelty...that could never be balanced out.

THC notes that he's still learning: about the terrible history of Poland, ravaged alternatively by the Germans and Soviets; about the native peoples whose land we stole...

I am of a more hopeful mien, perhaps. In between mourning the fact that someday I was gonna croak with little to show for it (or that the world would end in nuclear holocaust, which meant everybody else would croak with nothing to show for it either, and our past would be lost as well) I used to wonder why there were no (famous) women artists until recently. Why no female Michaelangelo, or Da Vinci?

I know the answer to that now. At least in some places and some times, men as black as ebony have had power and prestige. At least in some places and times, golden men, red men, brown men have had power and prestige.

So far as I know, women have never dominated any land, any culture, anywhere, anywhen. We're still waiting. I look at the backwards progress we're having for birth control and child support (the latter of particular interest to WoC, who have the difficulty of getting to birth babies they want, as well avoid ones they don't) since I became an adult. Are black folk in the US making little to no progress? Indubitably: the marginalized always suffer the most, and wages have been flat for the bottom 4 quintiles for three decades. They are paying the heaviest price. Are women still at 70 cents on dollar, still the sex class, still disproportionately suffering from poverty, sexual and domestic violence? So far as I know, they are. Pretty much.

Yet, in other ways there is progress. Gay rights (which I've seen convincingly argued as a subset of women's rights) have made incredible strides. Life expectancy and wages have increased worldwide, while infant mortality has gone down.

There is no way to live a pure life: cruelty and injustice are everywhere, woven into the very fabric of our existence. I acknowledge it, and do the best I can. Because there is also art, and beauty, and the sweetness of being alive.

Sad or happy, sometimes, all one can do, is put one foot in front of the other.

31mar2014

So I had a customer commission me for a 3hole bead similar to one I was showing made up as a focal in a necklace. (Then she had to prod me about 3x to make the bead, which makes her pretty darn determined. Most customers would give up cursing on an artist so flaky.) I did finally ramp up all the skills I needed to make the bead (I have to keep beads in my repertoire, so to speak, particularly difficult ones like this one) and she bought it, as well another one I'd made in the series.

But then she wanted instructions as how to string it.

Sure, sez I, be happy to.

But the necklace is part of a series, and I thought it made more sense to show the progression chronologically. And it turns out, it's a loooooooooong progression, going back at least 1999; and there were several completely undocumented pieces I wanted write up. Fortunately, my gimp image processing skills have improved to the point where I can rescue some of the worst of the pictures (and others are so bad I'm leaving as is...today's frex). Most of the earliest ones have been on the site for years (if not terribly well indexed); the immediate predecessor, at least in basic silhouette, would perhaps be the CatFish.

So, having finished up with the tasselled plant hangers, now we have tasseled multistrand necklaces (which are basically a smaller—and 2D—version of the same thing.) Today's sample is from 2002, and demonstrates some of the problems the 3hole bead my customer purchased is designed to address.

Enjoy.

28mar2014

Hey, it's only taken me 3 tries, but I have a fridayfugly for you!

As an extra bonus, you get two for the price of one, as both Frances and I managed pretty awesomely awful beads. Two steps forward, three back, that's about the way this site rolls.

And next week, with any luck, we're back to tassel necklaces, including some more discussion on construction details.

Enjoy.

27mar2014

So if pop culture is so much fun, then why do all those high'n’might in-too-lek-shual types diss it so much? Snobbery surely must take some blame; but sometimes it's frustration. Frex:

I have the same needs for no-thought purely popcorn entertainment as everyone else, but unfortunately it's a pleasure I seldom get to indulge; I've pretty much give up on romances because they make me so aggravated. But hey, my kid found this cute lil Japanese tv drama called the Divorce Chaser; its byline is ‘I can change your tears into money’. Sounds awful, but actually it's remarkably sweet and comedic—the lawyer in question, who doesn't appear to be particularly successful, spends his free time baking horrible buns that taste awful, which he then attempts to foist anyone unfortunate enough to be in the office at the time.

Besides him (and the guests) all of the regulars are women: his two office assistants (one of whom is a mangaka he helps in the pilot), his perpetually in-arrears landlady, the heavyset and brightly lipsticked woman who acts as a detective (think Paul Drake's detective to Perry Mason's lawyer; the mangaka is basically Della Street;) That's quite a switch from the typical american tv show, which is mostly men.

Other regulars include the mangaka's boss, who serves to point out underlying assumptions (such as the lawyer's motivations) assumed by everyone else; and the waitress at the cafe where they meet who is even more of a comedic character than the would-be detective, as she wears a rosary and is continually predicting the future via her crystal ball.

It's pleasant popcorn because the bad guys (usually cheating husbands) are punished and their wronged wives are rewarded. But the series kinda went off the rails in the 4th episode, in which the writers attempted to deal with domestic violence. Hurrah, I thought, this should make an interesting change. In order to keep the story line a little lighter, they switched the typical roles of the sexes: this time the wife was the antagonist—good, it can't be the man all the time.

It started out realistically enough, with a beleaguered victim haranged by his wife, who ordered him around mercilessly, cut at his self-esteem, and resorted to physical violence. Definitely a case for divorce! But the lawyer (who, like Perry Mason, is shown to have a good understanding of human nature) instead of advising the guy to pack a bag (and whatever cash he can lay his hands on) and get out, tells the client to imagine a response to his wife's abuse—and then deliver it.

Predictably, the guy shows up with a bandaged face and hand. ‘Ah good’ sez the lawyer, ‘now we have proof of abuse.’ Um, this is how victims get killed.

But it gets worse. The wife is depicted as a ‘monster wife’. I appreciated that they attempted to give her motivations for her behavior, but abusers do not behave badly to their victims because their work-all-the-time spouses have moved them into a neighborhood with no friends, and they find a sudden need to keep up with rich Joneses because no-one else is available. While I did appreciate, very much, the fact that the ‘monster’ was depicted as an average sort of person, because abusers, are in fact, ordinary janes and joes, I still felt that, in the end, the show's creators simply couldn't bring themselves to depict a woman with ultimately aggressive and controlling motivations, even though she was a good representation of aggressive and controlling behavior.

And most of all, you do not throw two people in an abusive relationship back together with no counseling! That just seemed really dangerous, and likely to counsel abuse victims watching the show to keep giving their abusers a pass. I mean, I like the idea of dealing with domestic violence—it's a real issue! And I think the idea of a divorce lawyer getting a couple with some communication issues back together is very sweet. But not-not-not in the same story! —So, bummer, my light-hearted entertainment worked for two-three episodes, but now I'm kvetching, ’cause pop-culture follows mainstream expectations, instead depicting individuals in all their glorious, contradictory messiness.

Pretty much, this is what I have to do: either find really good stuff, with sometimes difficult characters and stories (as, for example, the fabulous anime, ‘Attack of the Titans’) or grit my teeth when reality and pop tropes collide as they inevitably do.

So, speaking of crappy interpretations, we have today's post...

26mar2014

So I need to do another long and involved page for the tassel series, (in fact it's specifically the reason for the whole series...); so, since it's nowhere close to being done, a little side trip down a different branch of Memory Lane, starting with this giftwrap. Tomorrow I should have the contents, which sat on my to-do list for years, then cluttered up my unfinished list despite being done. Can't have that!

Possibly also by tomorrow, more ranting. But today it's just color and pattern.

Enjoy.

25mar2014

I had a bunch of really good links saved up for these little intros, but ever since the wizard kindly installed kwallet, firefox periodically blows up, and I lose my tabs. If I didn't waste so much time on the computer, I could go trawling through my history to find them, but I pile it up so fast...

So we're back to more about Frozen, to which I've briefly or otherwise alluded to several times before. Perhaps my favorite cartooning (& social justice) blog has a post about this film, specifically about the sexist shape of the faces in the sisters of Frozen. While I certainly agree that Anna and Else had the delicate popsicle stick figures not uncommon in fine boned 4 year olds, rather than adult women, I actually thought, within the very tight confines of this style of manga (‘pretty’) that Anna was easy to distinguish, having a slightly less pretty face than her sister (not to mention freckles and messy hair). I had no difficulty telling them apart.

I don't think Amp is much into manga, particularly this style, so he could be forgiven for the complaint; and while I certainly think that Merida (just for example) is a more playful and ‘realistic’ sort of character despite the unbelievably, outrageously glorious red curls, because Anna doesn't have the porcelain doll prettiness of her elder, I have to say I remember being impressed that they made her, the younger sister (to my eyes) markedly less pretty. Amp and others felt the faces, by not being allowed to distort as is typical in animation, were not expressive; yet in the lovejoyfeminism discussion, posters cited the raw terror fear on Elsa's face. Thus, not only did I not have any trouble with that, obviously neither did other the people (who were having a lively discussion about what the sisters were feeling, but that they had strong feelings was always assumed—moreover at least one person also noted how one sister was ‘more conventionally pretty’ than the other) though admittedly none of us are animation experts. (In fact, the super-distorted expressions common in campy or humorous parts of anime bug the hell out of me. So there.)

Now, of course, all this is by those ridiculous movie-star standards, which apply both to animated and live film and not to the ordinary everyday person. But Amp had a couple of interesting links as well, one of which argued that the film was highly feminist because it was the first time a bona-fide Disney ‘princess’ (Queen, actually) had superpowers. This is, as several people noted, no doubt a legacy of her Evil Queen history, which got switched out for the sisters story. But so what? We got the awesome Sigourney Weaver character in Alien, Ripley, who was originally written as male and retained the cool competency and emotional control as a result of that heritage. In much the same way, Elsa gets powerful magic (and a sensuality normally denied to Disney heroines) as a result of her rather checkered rewritten past. But hey, the fact that she was allowed even this much mebbe means we will be getting more female protags with these sorts of traits?

So, much as I loathe the typically sexualized female characters, I was glad Else got a little chance to express that side of herself—entirely for herself. Her stomp of defiance, which another critiquer derided (they felt the crescendo should've been focused on the upward rising/building of the ice castle) was a part of Elsa's declaration: one of the pleasures of wearing heels is that by-god you get to make noise on floors—a tiny claim of space and power. (I don't wear heels, but bike cleats give much the same sensation;) We know (and so does she) Else can build amazing things; but the stomp means she claims them. The stomp is her artist's signature.

Now to be sure, someone not an artist would likely feel that a masterpiece should be the crescendo of the sequence; but my take was that Elsa was making the first of many such, and that her claiming of this skill was the important part (something artists more-or-less secure in their technique, which always impresses the outsiders, would find more valuable: not that they're ‘good’, but that their art is recognizable, unique to them—signed, as it were.) Which brings me to my second point of this ramble, which is that our differing backgrounds lead us to bring different interpretations to the table— and that's what makes the film interesting: its many available interpretations.

Frex: Languagelog has another Frozen entry, this time about rendering the lead song (Elsa's declaration of her powers) Let It Go in Chinese. It's a bit tricky, because as it happens, Let It Be (by the Beatles) and Let It Go (Elsa's anthem) are both rendered the same. The original post discusses three translations, one of which is a hilarious ‘kuso’ (kitsch would be my translation of this term, often rendered as ‘shitty-crappy-corny’ which I'd say is pretty much the definition of kitsch as I learnt in art history classes) version requiring both an understanding of the original English, as well as Taiwanese to get the jokes.

Besides the mainland Mandarin, Taiwanese Mandarin, and Taiwanese, the comments has another version with Mandarin subtitles (the current writing system and received dialect/language in China) but sung in 26 different languages extent in China. Obviously, the song appeals on a broad basis for these various parody versions (cited in both the Lovejoyfeminism and the languagelog posts) as well as the effort to translate the song into many other, less favored languages.

And all this discussion, I suppose, is one of the reasons pop culture is so compelling. Back in the day, everyone read this or that bestselling poem or novel; now it's mostly films, but the same discussions of how various folks interpret—find spaces, even if only the smallest of interstices—is why people find stuff like Frozen so compelling. Much of my initial enjoyment of the film came out of my hashing it out with the f2s; even more, these larger conversations about how differing groups react to the same film.

Sooooo, circling waaaaaay back to my original post about Joan Vinge's Snow Queen, I'd have to say, if there was any influence, it would be the link between the Snow Queen character and Gerda—they're clones in the Vinge, and sisters in this. Not certain this motif really shows anywhere else.

And, speaking of links, I continue with tassel constructions, specifically my latest plant hanger, which I completed earlier this year. Next up will be necklaces, also with tassels.