Rejiquar Works 2017-07-27T18:52:30-05:00 copyright 2017 Sylvus Tarn Sylvus Tarn 2017-06-30T00:00:00-05:00 Here's a link to a short film from the early 1900s that provides a fascinating window to life in NYC a hundred years ago. (I wish I'd saved another link I stumbled across of the same city, a decade prior, when horse-drawn transportation was completely dominated: the photo showed a street ankle...

Here's a link to a short film from the early 1900s that provides a fascinating window to life in NYC a hundred years ago. (I wish I'd saved another link I stumbled across of the same city, a decade prior, when horse-drawn transportation was completely dominated: the photo showed a street ankle deep (or more!) in horse manure, because there were so many horses that their waste totally overwhelmed the efforts of city planners to cope; the problem really only went away when the reliance on horses did.

Today's review of the YA fantasy novel Arabella of Mars, focuses on its culture, which has alas more serious problems than horse manure.

2017-06-28T00:00:00-05:00 =Last evening=, i.e. 2 evenings ago when I wrote this, sigh, a storm system (and even a little rain) rolled in, & the sky turned these gorgeous shades of orange and pink, even lavender: sunset reflected high enough up amongst the clouds that we could actually see colours, which tend to be blocked ...

cropLast evening, i.e. 2 evenings ago when I wrote this, sigh, a storm system (and even a little rain) rolled in, & the sky turned these gorgeous shades of orange and pink, even lavender: sunset reflected high enough up amongst the clouds that we could actually see colours, which tend to be blocked by trees, houses and the like.

I love the closed in feeling the trees give, but there's no question that big-sky country is the place to see spectacular sunsets: today's link features art and science, specifically a new cloud formation—in very cool pink & gold colours—exactly the same as today's dead mouse.

2017-06-27T00:00:00-05:00 fabulous photography with fluidic acrylic paint... 27jun2017

cropContinuing on with bright, happy colour schemes with a nod to intense pink, I just loved this gorgeous photography of fluid paint; and I noticed that turquoise and fuchsia mixed particularly well (as they do with fabric dyes as well); with turquoise and yellow being a close second (also true).

Or you can check out this pink lentil pendant, made on the last day of spring.

2017-06-26T00:00:00-05:00 Gee, let's make a webpage about the latest beadcurtain strand. ---I love travelling, but it does seem to take *forever* get back on track. Evidently, June is Pride month, so here's a link about a LGBTIA+ ``alphabet'', delightfully interpreted in modern dance ; and the very first rainbow fl...

cropGee, let's make a webpage about the latest beadcurtain strand. —I love travelling, but it does seem to take forever get back on track.

Evidently, June is Pride month, so here's a link about a LGBTIA+ “alphabet”, delightfully interpreted in modern dance; and the very first rainbow flag, which ties in nicely with today's page, given the colour scheme of the original beadcurtain.

2017-04-21T00:00:00-05:00 Anoushka Shankar plays one of my favourite instruments. 21apr2017

cropvia a ftblogger's self care channel here's a gorgeous sitar vid by Anoushka Shankar.

If you're feeling a bit stronger on the activist side, Earth Day (& marches for science) are tomorrow. I've never really understood the divide between science and art, as the former is a huge enabler of the latter. But as an artist always wanting better & cooler art supplies & tools (never mind the whole clean water/cures for infectious diseases/communication tech...) I am all about funding science. For those not into crowds, the nice thing about resistbot is you don't even have to talk to people. I gather you have to give it both your full name & title (the latter is a bit problematic for me, as there isn't really one in English I'm happy with....)

I'm going out of town shortly, and so blogging is gonna be light to non-existent for the next month or so. But we've got all those pretty spring colours to look at in the meantime:)

2017-04-20T00:00:00-05:00 Gear driven machine for producing textiles... 20apr2017

cropSo I thought I'd take a break from all that old stuff, and talk a bit about some of my more recent researches: today's textile is not a braid (technically, braids are an oblique interlacing, i.e. a sort of weaving) but instead merely a 4 strand twisted fiber, like rope or multi-ply yarns. Though handspun yarn can be single ply, it's not as durable as multiple, which is also why rope is traditionally at least 3 plies.

Plying allows for some fun visual effects, such combining strands with long and short colour repeats, a technique handspinners call fractal spinning; knit up, it uses optical blending to make more softly transitioned stripes. I, of course, have been fascinated by ombre yarns for a long time—somewhat for embroidery, but especially for kumihimo. As it turns out, though one can purchase reproductions of circular sock knitting machines, no-one, unfortunately, has gotten around to reproducing the equivalent 19ca braid making machines, which to be sure, have a lot more gearing; even the sock machines were, according to the 4th generation machinist who makes these things, no picnic. So if I want to, say, prototype hand-dyed string to see how it might look in braids, I'll just have to settle for using my bradshaw winder:) —which actually would be a pretty decent mockup, at least for spiralling striped braids such as kongoh.

So today's post features a bradshaw wound cord, as opposed to a braid.

2017-04-19T00:00:00-05:00 Getting back into harness. 19apr2017

cropIt's taken several run-ups to get going again, and the post below, written in Dec15, kinda shows why. Wish I could say it was now totally outdated, but if anything, the situations referenced have gotten worse. Le sigh.

Well, my goodness, in the last week or so we've had yet another Planned Parenthood clinic shot up (and this essay is all I have to say about that); more mass shootings; plus of course the ongoing syrian refugee crisis, the US reaction to same in contrast to the season (not to mention our country's—and, particularly on the patriarchal side of the family—own founding) being so appalling hypocritical that I just had to take a break.

I've also been struggling with the resurgence of a persistent cold, which, while not particularly serious, has certainly been sapping my energy. I read somewhere that depression may possibly be a screwed up immune response, a shutting down to redirect energy to getting well. SAD would seem to support that hypothesis, since a lot of animals do ‘power down’ during the winter.

Regardless, when low on resources, one of my little strategies is to step back: I can't do this big thing (that I ought to be doing) but is there some little task I could do? And I suspect, entries for this week, if they appear at all, will be smaller criticisms. Or, hey, mebbe just kitten cuteness on the interwebs, or equivalent.

2017-04-18T00:00:00-05:00 The Hague becomes a giant Mondrian. Also, our government sucks. Bits about Dizzy's new live-action B&B. 18apr2017

cropJust for a change, today's intro is recent (actually written the day before!) but the page for the braid was written a couple years back.

I have been trying to write a review of the new live action Beauty and the Beast (which I consider Dizzy's very own St Patty's Day prezzie to me:) but it keeps getting reaaaallly looooong, cuz I love this story this much, and there's a lot to unpack I could go on forever I'll put y'all three (3) of my readers to sleep.

Briefly, however, I don't know that the new version is any more feminist than the old (which mostly suffered from the 3:1 male to female ratio, and the assumption that men have careers, while women merely need romance & marriage) excepting perhaps that it's less homophobic (fear of the queer being mostly a subset of sexism). Certainly its more obvious efforts to be ‘feminist’ fall flat, particularly making Gaston an overt abuser, as opposed to a quite believable entitled & oblivious asshat he was in the original.

In a lot of ways, I think the film is more easily examined under a marxist (or, in my case, a pseudo-marxist lens, cuz I don't have the same grounding in that theory as I do feminism), and in that it definitely fails (to be sure, most versions of B&B simply sidestep the class issues, the Beast's wealth being infinitely & magically produced. And seeing as our current prince president is, ahem, dropping giant ass bombs on people (this is the sort of thing that causes me to take months-long hiatuses, btw) I think that's a worthwhile task.

(I was never happy with Obama's drone strikes either, and couldn't for the life of me why a seemingly sensible guy would do such a heinous thing, until I stumbled across an of-course unsaved post from somebody or other basically explaining this as his compromise with the juggernaut that is our military-industrial complex that is bound and determined to prosecute wars, presumably until China does something to put the fear of god into us, which I could understand but would rather they didn't, as dying in/living through WWIII was never on my bucket list.

The strikes are still wrong, though.)

Aaaand on a more cheerful note, this art project brings back happy memories of Amsterdam even though we skipped the Hague to go to Bruges/Brussels instead. Despite not really caring for either De stijl or Mondrian. It's just so much more what I wanna see as a government initiative, yanno, celebrating one's own culture—instead of tearing others’ down. Let alone killing them.

Make not take, pls.

2017-04-17T00:00:00-05:00 Review of _Your Name_ the 2016 anime featuring kumihimo. 17apr2017

Continuing with the kumi theme, today I've a got a post on some kumi books, as well as a review on the new anime Your Name, in which kumi plays a fairly significant role.

In one of those synergies that make the intertubes so wonderful, I happened to casually email someone whose much-greater understanding (than mine) of what I think loosely as the ‘mechanical world’ —which, given our current society, would be most of it—because he mentioned making kumihimo braiding machines.(0) Alas, they're quite a bit more complicated than they appear (there are a lot of gears involved, and even to make the simplest of braids have to switch directions constantly—kind of like single needle right angle weave, for you beadweavers out there) but he did put up a post summarizing what's out there, from a very cute lego device all the way to the beautiful machine Makiko Tada helped to design.

One of the commentariat chimed in with the differences between hand-braiding horse-hair (something I'd love to learn...) and using braiding stands, to which I responded, and yet a different commenter added a follow-up (possibly because I mentioned the various sorts of braiding stands) that kumihimo played a plot point in the new Japanese anime, Your Name.

Oh? My Japanese Son for the Year had mentioned this movie(1) to me months ago, when he joined us in December; I had been keeping an eye out for it, and now, finally it was evidently playing in the US. In fact, it opened last Friday (as I write this) and kumihimo being mentioned was a cherry (or sakura) on top. Since it's a limited engagement, I was very grateful for the heads’ up, as I might possibly probably have missed it otherwise.

It's gotten splendid reviews, and one can see why: it's an absolutely beautiful film, with a seamless blend between hand-drawn and CGI animation (the latter used to excellent effect with the screens of digital phones the characters use to guide each other. The story is classic, basically a retelling of the red thread of destiny myth: two teenagers in very different circumstances, are connected by longing and dreams (& a red thread, in this case, represented by kumihimo.) I've loved this story since childhood (though I'd forgotten the red thread part)(2); I encountered the concept again several years ago at ArtPrize: one of my favourite pieces incorporated the ‘red thread of destiny’ as a theme. I mean, as a braider and all-around lover of coloured string (not to mention being a sucker for this sort of story) how could I not (or knot, for the punsters...)?

The kumi & background knowledge lent extra meaning, but the film is a pleasure for anyone to watch; besides the sheer gorgeousness, braiding together the storylines, which cut back and forth between the protagonists while also moving about in time makes for a more participatory experience while watching the film. I also couldn't help speculating, just as whether part of the reason audiences are finding Baby Boss more appealing than the critics is because its themes (if not the one-joke storyline) are plucking at societal anxieties about our current administration, that at least on a subconscious level Your Name resonated with Japanese audiences not only for its celebration of modernity, as represented by Taki, and its deep love of tradition, embodied in the grandmother, Miyamizu Hitoha, an expert braider(3), and who, presumably, also instructed her granddaughters in the town's festival ritual of making kuchikamizake, but also because of Fukushima disaster, transmuted here into a comet that becomes a small meteor.

Certainly, it's interesting to note that this misalignment of the stars, embodied (as Bujold notes) literally in the word: dis-aster, took place 3 years before the beginning of Taki's main timeline; bearing in mind that the film took two years to make, and was originally released in 2016...that puts us back in 2011. In any event, I'm surely not the only one entranced by the mountains, traditional shrines (not to mention houses, not only with tatami mats, but real shoji screens), and forests & rivers shown in and around the country town of Itomori, most beautifully represented by red maple leaves floating on water, one of the most lyrical scenes in the movie: a way of life there, as here the barns and small farms in the midwestern state where I reside, that is slowly retreating.

This faint sense of melancholy, along with the dreamlike perception of each other by the protagonists, is what keeps the film from being hopelessly sappy, just as the braid-like plotlines keep one's expectations engaged. Plus, of course, kumihimo, though it embaresses me to admit that while I think the grandmother was using a takadai, I can't be positive. (Having looked up some youtube vids, and finally gotten it through my thick skull that an ayetakadai is basically a takadai with the feathers (hane) added to the front, all you need to do is look for them:) Certainly she was doing mostly takadai movements; and though both she and Mitsuha were making flat braids, I couldn't identify either one (though at a guess, I would say Mitsuha was using 24 tama—and if you'd like to get a sense of how marudai kumi works, this beautiful video of sakura/cherry blossom braid shows both rotational and across-the-mirror movements.

(0)The blogger's request to link back to this site got me posting again, yay, though I apologize for the glitches that kept posts from migrating over from the sandbox version for a couple of days.

(1)The word ‘kumihimo’ is so much of my internal vocabulary that hearing the word, while seeing the translation ‘braided cords’ was actually disorienting. I can only imagine JSftY's reaction to hearing his primary language, suppressed for months, while reading English subtitles, of a film he'd not seen & been anticipating: it opened after he left Japan. (Kind of the opposite for one JDftY who got to see one of the Iron Man films here before it opened in Japan, so she was one-up on all her friends:)

(2)I actually liked better the version I encountered earlier: as a sixth grader, because I remember the classroom I read that Fairy Tales of the World collection... In that version, the man falls in love with his prospective bride, but she feels she can't accept his suit because of the scar in her eyebrow (he evidently only seen one side of her face, peeping over or through a wall in a way modern feminism rightly derides but which nevertheless seems more honest on her part, leaving aside the whole beauty as a stand-in for virtue or kindness). When he learns her story, he tells her since it is his fault she has the scar, he can't reject her; and each day, draws her eyebrow on with ink as his way of making up—a variation, if you like on that Beauty and Beast story I like so much, though even then I thought it silly that an eyebrow scar could really damage one's “perfection”. I suppose this little footnote is also the place to point out that the film is mostly free of those annoying fanservice tics to which anime is sadly prone—Taka grabbing the breasts of his newly female body gets old after the first time, but at least there's only one panty shot. Le sigh.

(3)None of my ‘Japanese Daughters’ really knew what kumi was, or recognized the equipment to make it, except in the vaguest way. Pointing this out, JSftY assured me, ‘Well, Your Name will change all that!’

Just to make it obvious: link to kumi book review:)

2017-04-14T00:00:00-05:00 In 2015 Mary Sue reviews the classic comic, _Watchmen_. I weigh in with my own thoughts on Moore & Gibbons' seminal creation. 14apr2017

cropContinuing to mine all that 2015 stuff...

So at the MarySue they have a series going over comics/graphic novel classics and whether they're relevant to the modern reader. This time they picked Watchmen, and since I mostly didn't like it the first time I read it, I read the review (and comments) with a good deal of interest.

I definitely belong to the older generation of readers who remember the cold war, and the fears it fostered throughout society, so that resonated; at the time, there were fewer women created or centred sf&f (the story is technically an alternate history) so I grit my teeth over the sexism as a matter of course. What I remember not liking was the draftsmanship, the coloring, and, to a lesser extent, the grittiness, because by the time I read it (probably early 90s but certainly no earlier than ’88, because I read the collected version, and it wasn't finished till then) I was living in a rundown Detroit neighborhood in which breakins, gunshots and staying indoors after dark were facts of life. Had I lived my entire life in pretty, protected suburbia, that sort of angst might have appealed.

As it was, I wanted a little more joy with my escapism.

In the Watchmen universe, ‘superheroes’ are common. My favourite character, or at least the one I identified with (or remembered with slight fondness, at any rate) was Night Owl, who as I recall relied upon his inventions to aid him. He and his cohort were the ‘ordinary’ superheroes of the time (as opposed Dr Manhattan, who had what we think of as the more typically American-style Superman comics ‘superpowers’). I appreciated that these people had problems and interactions.

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's fantastic Black Orchid was still on my horizon, but I had already encountered ElfQuest and likely even Colleen Doran's A Distant Soil (in its earliest, pencilled incarnation), two women-created and very feminist comics. Dave Gibbon's classic ‘American style’ (as I thought of it) couldn't compete with Pini's manga-inspired line, let alone Doran's gorgeous, shojo-influenced pencils; and since I'd given up on the mainstream superhero comics years ago (again, as much for what I saw as crude art as for the stories) the sophistication of Moore and Gibbon's multiple cuts and involved plotting went right over my head as something special, since of course novelists have been doing this sort of thing forever.

After all, the New Wave had hit sf&f books years ago, and I didn't really appreciate it, either. Nor, since I had just given up ever becoming a sf&f cover artist and was focusing on beadwork, did I have reason to really dissect Gibbon's famously structured layouts (which have never been my strong suit.) His drawing, on the other hand, came straight out of the american style, which I didn't like; and for similar reasons, I didn't appreciate the colours, which again came out of the historic limits of early comics. (There are some prints with the old-style and new, modern computerized colour; I like the old version better now, because, as the Mary Sue commentariat pointed out, the comic is interesting as a classic; that is, for its history. So of course, the old-style colours are a part of that: I have enough familiarity with stuff from that era to appreciate the constraints, both time and technology, imposed on this book.

Also somewhat unusual, many of the older readers had forgotten the Pirate subplot, whereas that really struck with me, because I thought it was a very inventive and subtle way to insert some meta-commentary on the superhero tropes: in a universe where superheroes are common, there are no fantasies about them; instead, pirates fill that role, and the plotlines are just as overblown (though the part with the bloated corpses rising and carrying the raft of a survivor remains one of the most vivid images I have of the book—Night Owl looking out some large airship being the other). I was really impressed with this bit of alternate worldbuilding, even though the pirate thread itself didn't particularly appeal. (IOW, it was as a potential comics creator that the concept hit a nerve— not so much as a reader.)

Some people speculated that once the story ages a bit more (say, for the next generation) it will come back into fashion as this cool, historic influential thing; and I suspect they're right. —In much the same way, I'm reading Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash for a proposed book club. I haven't finished it yet (the appalling sexism would have—and may very well have—caused me to put the book down in the first five pages, but for the desire to trash it at the book club:) and it's newer, but it's not at all aged gracefully; yet it was considered an important part of the cyberpunk movement, which has been hugely influential. This podcast is worth checking out if you'd like a thorough critical analysis.

But, yanno, Stephenson, though as of Anathema was still rather sexist, he's gotten hugely better. And just as Pini and Doran were creating feminist comics alongside Watchmen Joan Vinge, Vonda McIntyre and Lois McMaster Bujold were writing feminist sf&f alongside the New Wavers—so I'm disinclined to be as generous as I could be.

So things were better than in the 70s (let alone the classic stuff from the 50s I was still reading in the 70s); and they're continuing to improve (with, it must be admitted a good deal of pushing, and sturm und drang from folks still wanting their fiction white, male and het.)


And, um, here's a not-as-fugly-as-it-could-be braid.

2017-04-13T00:00:00-05:00 Jeff Van Der Meer's _Anniliation_, 1st book in the Southern Reach trilogy. 13apr2017

cropContinuing on my delving into 2 year old archives hugo/nebula slate splurge, Annihilation the first of the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff vanderMeer showed up, and having no energy to make art, I read this book instead. I should start out by saying stories featuring not-terrifically-likeable people with understated character development are not my favorite. Though the book is sometimes categorized as atmospheric horror, it's not the sort of story to ratchet up tension till you're to the edge of your seat. Haunting, or melancholy would be the words I'd use to describe the overall mood. The cover, by the way, is striking, because though it's fairly plain—white with a vaguely menacing plant-like drawing—on the outside, the inside is acid yellow with horror-vacui organic drawings. I've not seen anything like that, particularly for mass-market paperback design in years if not decades, and found it striking and apropos.

Told in the form of a first person, real-time journal, Anniliation documents the experiences of a member of a four person team sent into a mysterious ‘Area X’, the eleventh such team, all of which have failed, one way or another, to ultimately survive their expedition. Nameless throughout the story, the viewpoint character, who calls herself merely ‘the biologist’, details the slow unwinding of the team as it interacts with a mysterious, belowground artifact she calls a tower and everyone insists is a tunnel, set amid a beautiful and ecologically varied region featuring pine forests, salt marshes and the seashore: their main landmark is an old lighthouse.

The biologist, who gradually reveals her broken upbringing and failed past relationships, both professional and personal, is fascinated by tide pools, those intersections—edges—between land and water. Misanthropic and deeply reserved, she's endlessly fascinated by the little lives she studies, to the point of naming and recognizing individual creatures within. More alert readers than I will have the pleasure of linking her descriptions of these, a la James Tiptree Jr., to the various landscape weirdnesses, such as alien fungal messages continually being (re)written in fungi upon the interior tunnel/tower walls.

Ultimately, however, the story is about the narrator; her transformations, and our transforming perceptions of her. I thought the book well done (and the author's love of a nature preserve, which obviously sat as the model for the setting, was very clear); but I couldn't help thinking of Frederick Pohl's hugo award winning Gateway (and its sequel) Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, or, particularly, Algis Budrys’ Rogue Moon and Octavia Butler's Imago (i.e. Lilith's Brood) trilgoy. All were, for me, deeply memorable books, and, of course, some of the very best in the field. —All were also character studies, of misfits drawn to the alien, perhaps in part from having failed their human beloveds. How much of my preference simply stems from my reading the older books during more impressionable years is hard to say, but worse case scenario of being not quite as good as that is a strong recce.

I certainly plan on reading the next Southern Reach book!

Update, 8Apr17: Actually, I read the entire trilogy; just as I read the entire Ancillary trilogy; both, I think, are very good, but as Abigail Nussbaum (whose comments on this stuff are unsurprisingly very sophisticated, as she's been doing this long & well enough to garner multiple hugo award noms) notes, sticking the landing with trilogies is really hard —even if you're as gifted as Leckie or Vandermeer.

Braids are much easier.

2017-04-12T00:00:00-05:00 Ana Mardol's deconstructions, especially of _Narnia_. 12apr2017

cropSince I've been digging up art from the archives, so too intros. Here's a perfectly serviceable one from 2015; and in fact Ana Mardoll is still busily working on this series, in a much more consistent manner than I could said to be!

Mardoll writes interesting deconstructions, a la Fred Clark (who if he's not the founder of this little internet cottage industry, is at leasts its primary midwife and longest running exemplar—I think he's all the way up to book three of Left Behind (a 12 book series) and he's been at it for well over a decade.)

Mardoll tends to focus on fantasies, though I also found her series on the Little House of the Prairie illuminating. Some of her targets, such as the appalling xanth books (which I too read back in my teen years) are simply a matter of shooting fish in a barrel, deserving only of scorn for their disgusting misogyny. (Anyone wondering why so many sf&f fans of the female persuasion of my generation went for the honorary boy syndrome has only to peruse these books: if women were so awful, then obviously, it was better to be someone else. Thus, what are now called chill girls, I guess.)

But perhaps my favorite decon is of Narnia. Like Mardoll herself, as well as many of her commentariat, I loved and reread these books avidly as a child. (An a-religiously reared friend of the f2’s generation felt her education was lacking, as she'd barely heard of these books; but despite the fact that once I discovered the christian symbolism I automatically took it to be Catholic, I stumbled across these books not via my parents or their faith, but was introduced to them at a Reading is FUNdamental event—one of those public service thingies where children were given (or allowed to purchased for a nominal sum) books, and, being a fan of fairy tales, I picked up The Dawn Treader which remains my favorite. The 70s had its problems, and now of course the internet provides those children with access to it a fountain of material, but I think it meant something that adults felt kids—and reading—were important enough to give them new free books.)

Mardoll has a number of sharp observations to make about the series I hadn't, till that point, really thought much about, excepting the generally accepted modern wisdom that Susan got a raw deal. In much the way certain corners of Potter fancrit made Dumbledore into a villain (and sometimes Snape into the ‘hero’) Mardoll tried to suggest that the ‘good guys’ in general of these books often were not so much, with Aslan in particular being singled out for excoriation, with the putative villains, such as Jadis, being not that bad.

Because the combination of daylight savings time and suddenly warmer temperatures are playing hob with my circadian rhythms, I've been in that low-energy fog, and so recently returned to the Narnian decons: Mardoll is up to book 4, The Silver Chair. She's already covered some of the giant assumptions of the series, the first being,

Why are tween kids being made rulers of competent (albeit non-human) adults? Even if the animals are incompetent owing to lack of tech (which I admit is a colonialist attitude) and the fauns and nymphs and what not are “too flighty” there's still centaurs, which are generally considered wise, with suitable gravitas for running things. Shouldn't the (adult) Narnians be running their own land?

Well of course. Mardoll also comes with an intriguing explanation for the 100 years of winter the White Witch Jadis has inflicted upon Narnia at the start of the first book: Jadis is trying to make the best of a bad situation, by rendering the country unattractive and inaccessible to southern, more technologically advanced (read: human) aggressors. This sort of ‘flipping’ of intepretation was what made reading Harry Potter crit so much fun, and I was happy to play along.

However, I found that I play by somewhat different rules than Mardoll, in that I'm perfectly happy to switch from Watsonian to Doylanian perspectives to settle my cognitive dissonances: that is, I step out of the universe to an outside (authorial) viewpoint. Lucy and her sibs become the kings and queens of Narnia because C.S. Lewis, the author, originally conceived the story as a fairytale for his god-daughter (or niece) and so of course she was the heroine in it. The animals and Greek mythological creatures that populate Narnia became their subjects mostly because of the demands of fairy-tales/children's stories, in which the kids get to have mondo agency.

I don't think Mardoll would disagree with me here: she starts her deconstruction by noting how the series follows classic children's literature (e.g. four protags, and their leadership/nuturing/bratty/innocent roles, respectively); and anyone who's read this stuff will have noted that parents/teachers/guardians/adults-in-general are either absent or awful—otherwise, they'd be in charge.

In fact Narnia's problems, it seems to me, comes out of understandable, but conflicting authorial desires: on the one hand, Lewis desires to write a classic children's story (which is successful enough that he writes 6 more of them) in fairy tale format, with religious—allegorical—overtones. In classic children's stories, they, not adults, are in charge, and given that this is a fantasy aimed at a rather powerless segment of society, it's even more delish that said protags get to be in charge not only of their destiny, but of other [adults]. But of course, this isn't going to work, even on a fantasy level, unless those adults have a good reason to slot the kids in, and so, looking around for an acceptable demographic, Lewis picks a) talking animals and b) mythological Greek creatures, who at the time he was writing, could be by virtue of their race ahem, species, of lower, that is, non-ruling, caste.

Now, of course, as Ana Mardoll points out, we consider that sort of thing racism. (She and her commentariat note the breathtaking racism of earlier authors such as Burroughs; Lewis is a considerable improvement.) As a child being told always what to do—and Lewis was of an era when people still promulagated the children should be seen and not heard thing, doing the topsy turvy had to be enormously appealing. Children like playing the boss. So I don't think the animals are meant to be thinly disguised people of color; I think they're instead supposed to be a socially acceptable alternative. Of course, now that we seem to be slowly moving to a model of ‘positive parenting’, in which even very young children have significantly more agency in their lives, this fantasy may not appeal as much.

In much the same way, if an author presents me with a world in which there's been a 100 years of winter and never any Christmas, and yet people are eating sausages and marmalade, it's pretty obvious that a) I'm in a fairy tale, for which ordinary laws of physics do not apply (after a 100 years of winter, even the hardiest trees would have exhausted their winter stores, and all the animals save perhaps the tiniest of worms would have long since starved.) Therefore, the denizens of this world are living harsh, but not unendurable lives—I rather pictured this as the Narnian equivalent of living in a harshly authoritarian regime (like the way some people have described North Korea, or the USSR.)

Where Lewis gets into trouble is attempting to reconcile the absent-adult children's story with the christian symbolism: many people have pointed out the difficulty of an omniscient, benevolent, all-powerful god— especially in a story like this, when such a character is putatively a wise, gentle and powerful leader. (This is why Dumbledore as a powerful force for good was so problematic: if he were truly that powerful, he never should have exposed Harry to such danger; if he were even a competent headmaster, he certainly should've never allowed such dangers as ‘Third Corridor’ or ‘Forbidden Forest’ on campus, let alone the abuse he allowed some teachers to heap on their students [Snape, Moody] or permitted the incompetence of others to continue for years on end [e.g. Binns, Trelawney])

Aslan, as a god-substitute, is even harder to shoehorn into this role than Dumbledore, who at least could be a fallible human. Yet, just about all of Lewis’ fiction had these strong christian overtones, so asking him to dump that aspect of the narrative seems uncharitable at best, and demanding the author be untrue to himself at worst.

But it does mean that Lewis has set himself up a nigh-impossible task, both theologically, as well as narratively.

Take, for example, Mardoll's suggestion that Aslan, instead of terrifying Jill Pole at the beginning of The Silver Chair, and having her learn these vague 4 “signs” that he comfort and reassure her, instead of threatening her:

That might be just the thing a kind and benevolent god ought to do, instead of castigating her for pride (showing off); but fairy tales, the other half of this story's structure, are not about well-behaved children who never show off or fail to show remorse at their peers’ failings. The sort of powerful character who usually hands out such vague hints does so for the same reason the better sort of computer solitaire games do: because you want to do it yourself, but need a little help, not the answer in toto.

As a child, I could more readily identify with the sometimes bullied, and sometimes thoughtless (verging into heartless) Jill, who wants to one-up Eustace, who has a rep as a bully, and has, since the beginning of the story, been the one in charge. Yes, it's all very well, to be helped to escape bullies and possibly be shown something very cool, but it's also maddening to always be the supplicant.

So what about Aslan, who seems to be giving a Jill a not-entirely deserved lecture, finishing off with a bunch of annoying hints, instead of plain instructions? As a child, he worked relatively well as a powerful sorcerer with more or less goodwill for you (so long as you made a strong, good-faith effort)—because that's the underlying theme of most fairytales: in some sense, the protagonist has screwed up (occasionally just been dealt a really bad hand). Those ‘screwups’ weren't always just—wishing, for example, to live as a human rather than a mermaid (i.e. leave your culture for someone else's)—but they are, in the context of fairytales, a price that must be paid, redeemed by the protag's collection of plot coupons.

An all-benevolent god makes no sense to me, anyways: there's way too much cruelty in the world to justify such a being. So I did what I usually do when confronted with these un-reconcilable conflicts: accept that the worldbuilding, as set up, is imperfect (pretty much a guarantee with any worldbuilding, if you dig long enough, frankly) and move on. One of the pleasures of being an adult is holding two or three (conflicting) interpretations of a given work in your head at the same time—which is why I enjoy reading deconstructions/litcrit/analysis so much.

And here we have two braids for the price of one.

2017-04-11T00:00:00-05:00 3D printing is cool. 11apr2017

cropToday's non-political bonus is brought courtesy of a correspondent who sent me a link to this very cool 3D printed honeycomb object. I should note, the image is not a photograph, but rather CGI. This isn't the first time I've featured run across cool stuff like this; I especially like this outfit because a) it uses Open Source and b) it relates back to some really beautiful prosthetics.

I myself am not terribly gifted with 3D patterns, unless you count braids...

2017-04-10T00:00:00-05:00 2015 16 strand pink & purple kongoh 10apr2017

cropHi all. Happy Spring, for those of you enjoying snowdrops, crocus, squill, rock iris, chionodoxa and the like:) For various and assorted tedious reasons, I haven't got a lot of new material, but I do have a backlog of old stuff. Up this week, disk kumi, more or less (as far as I can determine) in chronological order.

2016-10-20T00:00:00-05:00 Via boingboing (right now pretty much all my links are coming from them...) a vid by a guy investigating a math whiz's method for visualizing numbers. The prodigy sees numbers as geometric shapes that represent their prime composition. Math was never my strong suit, but every time I see math mad...

cropVia boingboing (right now pretty much all my links are coming from them...) a vid by a guy investigating a math whiz's method for visualizing numbers. The prodigy sees numbers as geometric shapes that represent their prime composition. Math was never my strong suit, but every time I see math made into a visual pattern game, I get lots more excited about it. I wish I could've learned some variation of this approach for doing arithmatic!

One of the points that the narrator (Numberphile) makes is that kid is playing with math. This quality seems to be nearly universal to people who de interesting things with numbers, and I figured, given the role of triangles, I ought to link to that vihart Sierpinski vid again—except I found this halloween themed one instead, which seems completely appropriate, not only given the season, but also the extreme playfullness...

Or have a seasonally & only (very) slightly playful dead mouse.