Rejiquar Works 2018-04-23T13:25:03-05:00 copyright 2018 Sylvus Tarn Sylvus Tarn 2018-04-20T00:00:00-05:00 Review of Richard Prum's _The Evolution of Beauty_. 20apr2018

cropI read a recce for this book on some blog or other, so I ordered it from ILL; and I have to say I was so engaged with it that it read nearly like a thriller for me, especially the first half, even though the author just basically writes about birds and how their plumage and mating behaviours evolved. He's evidently part of the team that discovered dinosaur feather colours, and I don't think I'm spoiling the book too much to say that one current theory is not only were dinosaurs quite a bit more feathered than they were assumed to be in my youth, but that, though while feathers initially evolved for warmth and/or protection, their evolution was quickly co-opted & driven by mate choice before eventually becoming complex enough to support flight. Mate choice as an intermediate step! Pretty darn cool.

But Prum doesn't actually discuss dinos much: his focus is on birdwatching, his early, nearly life-long passion, basically discovered as soon as his vision was corrected with glasses. (Sadly his hearing is going, which is limiting his love, as bird ‘watching’ is as much about bird listening. —Currently living in a house with 4 birds, and they all make a lot of noise.)


Evolutionary sexual conflict is well documented in animals (and plants—even hermaphroditic plants) but Plum's thesis is that species aesthetics—as determined by female mate choice(or whomever is donating a greater level of resources to rearing young, which is generally female)—not only drive evolution of beauty (as defined by the entities selecting) but also has profound (& beneficial) effects on behaviour. Instead of, say, wastefully risking injury or death fighting other males, or killing off other males’ offspring, males instead put on elaborate displays to attract mates. I found the section on bowerbirds particularly fascinating because not only did the male birds put on a show, the females had set up the courtship display to avoid ‘forced copulation’.

The second half of the book veers into primate sexuality, specifically human, and I felt, at times that the author was going off the rails a bit—not so much because I didn't find the arguments convincing, but because he didn't have the depth of background for human studies that he's got for birds. Which leads me to a sort of meta-observation reading this book, which is that writing pop-sci books is really, aggravatingly difficult: too complex, and you lose your readers—I just stall out, reading 99% of scientific papers, because the language defeats me, and I don't get the implications of the narrow focus. Too simple and readers start noting edge cases: as for example when the author noted that we had evolved out of the infanticide still practiced by primate relatives—what about the fact that stepparents are far more likely to kill children?

I really needed to read the footnotes endnotes, where the author addresses this and other issues. Normally I make the effort to flip back and forth, but I was so engrossed in the topic that I failed to do so. In this day and age there's really no excuse not to typeset this stuff as footnotes, which Prum brilliantly used to address two groups within his audience. That said, even reading the footnotes I found some of his assertions a little too tidy, at least contrasted with feminist reading—though I have to say, I found the argument that patriarchy as a recent, cultural ‘backlash’ to female freedom of mate choice an absolutely fascinating one.

As I said, I found this book riveting. I suspect that some of the ideas will get refined (what doesn't, in science?) but found the arguments very compelling.

And speaking of aesthetic extremes in conflict with adaptive goals, here's today's absurdly long tailed dead mouse.

2018-04-18T00:00:00-05:00 John Scalzi's _Head On_ tour; Randy Rainbow's `you can't stop (trump's) tweets 18apr2018

cropToday's page is one of those blasts from the past and is unfinished to boot, but I need it to post this other page I reference in the next page in the series about the green dead mice we are. Besides, our guild is passing out Double Helix for challenges, so a sample page about this high-silver-bearing glass is kinda relevant anyhoo. As a bonus, a hand-edited crop for the icon! Haven't done those in a very long time. Whohoo!

So I went to an author talk last night by John Scalzi for his new book Head On, which he didn't read, because, he said, we were all buying the book & could read (or listen to either of the narrators, who would do a much better job than he could) but instead wanted to treat us to stuff not available to anyone else. So now I have to wait until the library gets it in, but on the other hand that gives me a chance to reread the first book, which I would kind of like to do to see whether he cleans up (what I perceived, anyway) to be some dangling loose ends—Scalzi takes the craft of writing pretty seriously, so I'm guessing he will; it's one of the reasons I think LockIn is a good candidate for a sequel.

(Not all books are; the author cited two of his own that really just don't lend themselves, including one that for which he was actually commissioned for a sequel, and, after several false starts had to say, nope, sorry, ain't happening.)

He did do a reading from a new work (which I can't recall whether I'm even allowed to say what genre it's in, and I certainly wouldn't want to spoil the author readings for everyone else) and I thought he did just fine. Also, I could see how, even in two chapters, he transmuted his relationships with his own family in a way I frankly found a little eerie. But I've been in kind of a weird state of mind—and so has he: both of us find the current political situation more than a little dismaying. I mean, I like bitter satire just fine, but not when it's masquerading as our country's administration.

He had a couple of other readings, one sort of a opinion piece with an sfnal slant, the other straight sf humour, both very much in the Scalzian mode; and a ukulele song at the end (evidently if someone brings a ukulele he plays an 80s song. The audience, he notes, brings this upon themselves. —The wizard even ran into an old coworker—from heh, about the time today's post was originally written, and, come to think, I would have been recovering from broken collarbone [thus explaining why the page topic wasn't followed up on]—so that part was nice too:)

All in all, a successful, standing-room only presentation, and I do hope Mr. Scalzi wasn't offended by my asking him where his talk was, and, upon learning the answer, scuttling off to get a seat without staying to chitchat (which I actually would've liked to do): however, he was browsing, and I figured it wasn't fair to make him interact with his adoring public before the talk actually began—he'd have to deal with us soon enough, after all. This was a bookstore reading, not an sf con where authors more-or-less expect to get buttonholed by fans in awkward corners at hours of the day and night. (I was very proud of myself for recognizing him immediately, though:)

So now, having attended a symphony concert (‘Spring’ —so apropos, given that everything got sheathed with ice that night...) and an author reading, I feel all cultured'n’stuff. Add a very slightly sciency page to the mix, and I feel good to go.

2018-04-17T00:00:00-05:00 Review and/or musings on _The Prince and the Dressmaker_. 17apr2018

cropI'm pretty sure it was Cory Doctorow that recce'd this charming pre-teen graphic novel by Jen Wang. The Prince and the Dressmaker is about, well, a prince and a dressmaker, whom he hires to make him clothes that people don't have to like nor understand, but can't fail to notice. As a prince, Sebastian feels very constricted in his role, trying to live up to his father's military prowess (which interests him not at all) and fulfil what his parents feel is his most important duty: carrying on the line.

Frances, the dressmaker, wants to make it big; their lives intersect in a very funny (and completely ahistorical) way that immediately set the tone of the book. Besides the not-client who brings Frances to Sebastian's attention, there's also an array of sympathetically drawn and lively secondary characters—mostly older, but there's at least one Sebastian and Frances’ age who helps to keep the story from heading in entirely predictable directions.

I really enjoyed this book. It's charming and gentle—there's no physical violence of any kind and though one teenaged character gets drunk, they're not technically underaged because the drinking age in Europe is lower. Though the story turns on gender roles, abilities are not so divided; even when skillsets are (e.g. military prowess) the author gently subverts such expectations.

The art—which as a bonus the author explains how she made in a short afterword at the back the book—is clean and expressive, based on the creator's clear love of line, with enough detail to set the scene. I found the recolouring of some of the (obviously) originally b&w linework a bit disconcerting, though it certainly worked splendidly to emphasize elements (such as the special key Sebastian uses to lock his wardrobe) and had some minor nits with details(1) but otherwise enjoyed art very much.

It's a delightful modern fairytale, highly recommended. Oh yes, a spotted dead mouse.

(1)A carriage and pair is shown with three shafts: One horse might have shafts on either side of its body, but a pair will share a single shaft between them, with the long skinny things going from breast strap (or horse collar) being traces —but those are leather, not poles. Why no, I haven't spent hours obsessively studying this stuff for some comic I might draw someday, why do you ask? Kudos for getting how horse legs work, though, something a lot of modern comics artists just don't get.

2018-04-16T00:00:00-05:00 Using old tech to solve a modern dilemma. 16apr2018

cropVia boingboing, a charming tweet about a clever student work-around to a teacher's prohibition against phones (to avoid cheating) so they could listen to music during the test. —I personally would go batty trying to do anything as mentally demanding as an exam with music playing, but evidently it's a thing. Props to the teacher, too, who good-naturedly tweeted about their student's solution. —F2tE then told me about all the ways ze hid headphones with side-burns, high-collared shirts etc while in high school. ‘Kids’, ze informed me, ‘are smart. And sneaky.’ —Well, of course.

The same kid was kind of horrified by my fascination by LoveJoyFeminism's (& by extension Samantha Field's) deconstruction of christian romantic tropes in Francine Rivers. But like Lindsay Ellis’ reconsideration of Twilight I find these ongoing analyses of women's romantic fiction fascinating.

It doesn't particularly surprise me that Francine Rivers and Kathleen Woodiwiss got their start at approximately the same time, the late 70s. After becoming born again she switched to inspirational (Christian) romance in the early 90s; and what's so fascinating to me is that the horrifying lack of consent that dominated 70s mainstream romance is still very much a part of the inspirational stuff 20 years later. —This is not to say that no modern mainstream romance isn't problematic (I've given up on it, mostly, once again) but because of the extremely tight parameters for christian romance (e.g. no sex before marriage) it's not surprising the authors tie their plots into knots trying to satisfy this unrealistic requirements.

But what really intrigues me is the shifting opinion of various pop culture phenomona: disco was nearly universally despised when it was big, by everyone I knew. Only later would I read defenses of it that wryly noted the dominance of women performers and gay themes. Ha! These things seem to follow a fairly common pattern:

  1. Breakout from some relatively marginalized group
  2. Everybody's on it
  3. Then come the naysayers, all the problematic issues dissected & dissed
  4. Time passes, the fad totally dies
  5. Then folks re-evaluate the formerly despised thing—wasn't so bad after all, in fact it incorporated/reflected some subversive/progressive elements
  6. Finally integration: realization that while problematic in some ways, forward moving in others.

Those high school romances we read were rapey and problematic, but they also centered female pleasure—and romances are still the biggest selling item in publishing. I just wish there were more to my taste!

Ah, well. Here's another mouse in that orange series.

2018-04-13T00:00:00-05:00 a comics explanation of that delightful spring rain smell. 13apr2018

cropWell, gee, Friday the 13th...actually, I found out yesterday that my torch didn't have to be shipped back to the manufacturer to be cleaned, despite idjit yours truly doing zir best to drop molten glass down the ports, so I'm feeling lucky. Also, we finally seem to be having some spring weather, and not only do I have clumps of snowdrops everywhere, my crocus are starting to come up—they didn't all get eaten. Yay.

I'm not the only person celebrating the arrival of spring, as frex someone or other I read (probably freethoughtblogs, given the focus) posted this comic about spring rain smell; I read this awhile back (in 2015! so much for ‘a few months ago—the same memory problem my dad had at my age...) in a Science News mag (unfortunately you need a subscription to access the article, but it basically says the same thing as the cartoon, plus there are tons of other articles about the phenomenon).

A little birdie seems entirely appropriate, as they're starting to arrive in force.

2018-04-12T00:00:00-05:00 An amateur astronomer introduces people to the wonder of the moon; set to Claire de Lune. 12apr2018

cropI'm not always cranky and fulla gloom'n’doom —I resisted this video of people seeing the moon through a telescope, set to (of course) Debussy's Claire de Lune till finally about the 3rd or 4th time around I clicked, and yeah, it really is delightful & heartwarming. —Actually had a somehwat similar experience when my sister-in-law borrowed her club's telescope & we did indeed look at the moon—I even sort of managed to mash my phone camera to it to take a sort-of decent picture.

It was one of those only-a-few-times kind of experiences, one that proved durable; rather like my spotting an oriole last spring, on the bike path along a river that connects my town to the next one over; I've seen these bright orange and black birds only a very few times, and it's kind of special.

So I thought it would be fun to try making one in glass.

2018-04-11T00:00:00-05:00 Goldman's _Princess Bride_ 11apr2018

cropI don't just hate on semi-famous screenwriters; I'm perfectly willing to diss beloved classics, too. My sister-in-law rather unwillingly felt, after having our copy of The Princess Bride on her shelves for twenty (or more) years, that she really ought to give it back. I had recently stumbled across a website discussing the film version of this classic, noting that the book was much better than the movie in terms of (number of, and agency of) female characters. While I'm perfectly willing to concede that the film has some very memorable lines—even I can recite: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father...” I never really liked it, because its protagonists were such a pair of asses.

The book, according to this now-lost post, was better; it was Buttercup's story, written, we're informed, because Goldman had two daughters and one wanted a story about a princess, and the other about a bride.

O rly? Cuz the film pretty much centers, at least in most people's imagination (mine included) as the men's stories, with Buttercup being the prize they fought over. Okay, sez I, I shall reread this book and see if it improves. I liked the intro, especially the bit about Goldman and his 3rd to 5th grade teacher—I had teachers like that too. Didn't like the part (fictionalized, I most sincerely hope) where the author is dissing his wife. However, once the story proper starts, Buttercup quickly shows herself to be pretty damned obnoxious; just as in the film she spends most of her time haughtily ordering Wesley (Farm Boy) around, & she never does anything —except improve her appearance, solely for Wesley's sake. Oh, and she rides her horse, but that doesn't really enter the story much.

As a would-be writer myself, I liked the fourth-wall breaking bits; even the back stories of some of the secondary (albeit, all male...) characters were interesting and engaging; but as soon as Wesley and/or Buttercup reappear, things go downhill. I mean, they promise to marry, and then Wesley takes off (to make his fortune or some damn dumb thing—at any rate, he's presumed killed). So broken-hearted Buttercup agrees to marry a prince who wants the most beautiful woman in the land, cuz he's unwilling to marry a bald princess, no matter how suitable she may be.

Buttercup, to her credit, tells the prince flatly that she's disappointed in love and can't love him, to which he replies he's not in the slightest interested, and as the alternative is death, she'd better marry him. To the author's credit, he puts off their putative wedding until Buttercup is 21. But then the derring-do starts up again, with Buttercup being kidnapped so as to foment a war between two rival countries, and a mysterious man in black pursues her and the kidnappers. This would-be rescuer manages to defeat the strongest man—the greatest sword-fighter—the most brilliant criminal mastermind—only to be pushed off a cliff by Buttercup after stupidly accusing her of planning to marry the prince for fame or love or something. To which she replies that she broke her heart once & isn't ever doing that again. Hello?

Instead of ripping off his mask and begging, ‘Dear Buttercup, why are you marrying the prince after promising to marry me?’ I mean, this is the guy who always responds to Buttercup with ‘As you wish’. He somehow has become super-strong, sword-fighty and smart, but not bright enough to realize that his beloved might think he perished on a pirate ship with the rep of killing every victim it's encountered? (Let alone sending a message along: ‘hi, taken aboard Dread Pirate Robert's ship, but disposed of him & now busy building my fortune upon the seas—home soon, love, Wesley’—though to be fair, I suppose it's not unlikely they're both illiterate.)

Then she plunges after him.

At this point I was so pissed with them both I felt they should've smashed into the rocks and croaked. Romance readers call this trope ‘the Big Misunderstanding’ because of course a deeply-in-love couple are too stupid to actually talk to each other, amiright? Besides the fact that all the male characters do things, whereas Buttercup just learns to be a beautiful Princess (oh, and keep riding her horse, albeit only off-stage.) Grrr.

So, having re-read enough of the book to confirm my vague memory that Buttercup—no matter what the author's intentions may be, still comes off as a princess prize, I can now return it to my sister-in-law with my thanks, because otherwise I'm certain I would've discarded this sexist (if engagingly written) claptrap years ago, for failing that most obvious of romance-writer crutches. Bleh.

Oh, and I have a tigerhead dead mousefor you if you'd like.

2018-04-10T00:00:00-05:00 Karl Kerschl's The Abomindable Charles Christopher. 10apr2018

cropWell, geez, yesterday's rant went on a bit, didn't it?

I'm happy to say some things have got better, as this rejection from Dizzy's bad ole days shows. By the early 80s I had discovered ElfQuest which the Pinis started shortly after I'd discovered sf&f, which of course was drawn by Wendy, of course, there are tons of comics drawn and written by women:)

There's also tons of stuff on the internet, and my latest find came via a recce on the Mary Sue which features two female protagonists, one of them a non-verbal turquoise striped tiger(!) —I don't think that one's out yet, but the artist, Karl Kerschl, has a webcomic featuring a sasquatch called the abominable Charles Christopher. It's mostly drawn in a rich, pen-and-ink style somewhat reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes, though the creator occasionally plays with other styles for fun.

Interestingly enough, the protagonist of this series doesn't speak either, though most of the other characters, denizens, the author explains, of the Canadian wilderness, do. The comic it most reminded me was Bone, and like Fone Bone, Charles is a kind and gentle individual. Also like Bone, the series follows a variety of characters, usually (but not always) to comedic effect, of which perhaps the alcoholic bird dad is perhaps the most memorable. I'm not certain this story really ‘ends’ but I've plowed through it over a couple of evenings and am enjoying it, if finding the gilgamesh references a tad baffling. Recommended, with the caveat that nearly all the characters are male; the ones who are female tend to be a) nagging wives or b) abused girlfriends. (The exception are the one page species drawings, which seem to be somewhat more evenly divided. Really guys, it's not that hard: for your supporting cast, just flip a coin—well, except for bees. I saw what you did there, trying to make a recover from making a bee male. I mean, I choose to believe the raccoon couple are female, but don't really have that option for the lion; the Persian [who becomes king, not ruler/queen, though mebbe his shorthair friend is female?]; the owls; the drunken songbird (whose exasperated wife is one of the few recurring female characters); the bears—pretty sure; the long-ago soldier...)

Or you can check out this pink bracelet post from four years ago...

2018-04-09T00:00:00-05:00 A review of graphic adaptation of _Jane Eyre_, with brief notes on a sf version. 09apr2018

cropToday's post features some purpose-made earrings for a college graduate who departed across the sea to her first job last Saturday. One of the ways in which I wasted time last week was reading various comics, so I thought I'd do a bit of roundup post on those...

First up, Jane, a graphic adaptation of Jane Eyre. I just love variations on both this story—as, for example Sharon Shinn's sfnal Jenna Starborn as well Jane Austen's novels: I loved Clueless, Bride & Prejudice, even this graphic edition, which clearly showed the creator's love of the classic. So I was prepared to love this new adaptation of the Charlotte Bronte classic.

Alas, I feel adaptations of this sort have to follow similar rules as updated versions of fairy tales: you can reverse, subvert, or simply revise the major tropes of the story; but they have to be there (I love the way, frex, Gurinder Chadha adapts the story, big and small—frex, the way the sisters’ names are transposed to the Indian version of Mr Collins to larger issues—in this case, instead of (just) class, there's also the cultural clash between the western (US?) Mr Darcy and the Indian Lalita.)

I could forgive McKenna for basically cutting the first half the novel—modern adaptations tend to glide over Jane's bleak childhood in favour the mysterious Mr Rochester and the romance—and I didn't mind the addition of parents lost at sea (especially as my own were recreational sailors, so I have a fondness for sailing motifs). But Jane is small, starveling, plain and dark—not a tall, nearly inhumanely well-adjusted blonde, and some of that childhood interaction with either the kindly servant Bessie, or the saintly & inspirational Helen Burns would have helped explained a personal growth you wouldn't expect from a neglected child in an alcoholic and borderline? abusive household.

While updates of some of the obvious scenes—such as Mr Rochester nearly running Jane down on his horse—are to be found in the graphic novel, as well as the famous line about a string tying their hearts (a very common trope in Asian stories, I've discovered)—much of the rest is elided. (Spoilers abound...)

Wishing to be an artist, Jane gets a scholarship to a prestigious NYC art school, but they require her to get a job immediately to retain her scholarship. just so happens I know someone who did in fact get a scholarship to a prestigious NYC art school, and while the author is absolutely correct about the fashion students being intimidating (& fashionable) it's not the school that requires their students to get random jobs with mysterious companies to retain their scholarships, but possibly to earn part of the scholarship with work-study; it's paying for apartments, food, and whatever tuition not covered that demands a job, stat (which my friend got in one of NYC's many, many many restaurants....)

Jane's only experience is working of fishing boats (gutting fish by hand? Really?) so a job with a high-end restaurant is out of her reach. That is just a bit of attention and this part of the narrative would've worked better (Jane desperately needing enough $$$ that she would accept a job with so many alarm bells). Next: Mr Rochester, is, shall we say, kind of a problematic love interest: he's got an illegitimate child; he's extremely bossy and secretive; and, oh yeah, he's got a mad wife in the attic, so he's also an attempted bigamist, as his wife's brother points out on their wedding day.

Shinn, in her sf version of the story, actually does something kind of interesting with Bertha's madness, but this book sidesteps it completely (as indeed it does Adele's bastardy) —even Jane's small stature and dark hair. Mason's role is predictably changed, though why he's become a murdering bastard is never clear—even if Rochester's fortune primarily comes from his wife as in the original, her brother could hardly inherit if he were implicated in her murder! In this version, Rochester is presumably tortured by his guilt over his failure to protect his wife and his absences explained by his attempts to discover her attackers, but it's not nearly as convincing as the original's angst and loathing of his wife's condition, which drives him away. And, of course, a ritzy NYC place is not very convincingly creepy and gothic as a manor on moors in the middle of nowhere.

Blanche does make an appearance, but...there just isn't enough there to justify the developing relationship between Jane & Rochester, nor yet Jane's jealousy of Blanche. —I did kind of like the addition of the bodyguard character, as well as Jane's roomie, but it would've been nice if their character arcs had reflected the original in some way.

Naturally, just as the beginning is mostly cut, so too the last part of the book, in which Jane discovers a loving family. This is kind of necessary, because she instead makes her place in the world with her entry into the student art show: she has already acquired friends—her cross-dressing room-mate and wealthy purple-haired classmate—but as her image is the sea where her family is lost, finding a place in her cousins’ bosoms would have ruined the triumph of this art work. (It's this author's bad luck that I can nit on the whole art school thing—frex, wouldn't a poor scholarship student be more likely to bond with other poor scholarship students...?)

Which brings me to my final complaint with the book, which has to do with (sigh) art. (I don't mind that Jane is primarily looking to become an artist rather than just a governess: the lure of art school is what moves her to NYC, and thus, Rochester's orbit.) Look, I get that the pretentious art scene—which last I heard is still based in NYC—is tedious in the extreme. I detested concept art when I first encountered it in school (because let's face it, if all we had to do was lay out a concept of our ideas, we'd all be da Vincis & Picassos) and I'm all about the representational: my teachers were forever bemoaning my tendencies toward ‘illustration’ and ‘narrative’.


For one thing, I think the author is about three decades behind the times: concept art and the like was peaking when I was a student. Nowadays the same schools that looked askance at my desire to combine text and art (e.g. comics) offer exhibits and programs on sequential art; anatomy has made a comeback, cuz people need it to do believable CGI fantasy beasts; if my friend's instagram feed is to believed, representational art is doing just fine in academic settings even fancy NYC ones. I suspect, judging from some contemporary work I've seen the real debate centers not so much on that tired old fight between representational and abstract art nor even fine versus commercial; but rather between what sources are available for artists to mine for their work at all, as corporate behemoths wall off ever more of our culture.

Which, of course, is why people are doing adaptations of Jane Eyre in the first place, because it's out of copyright, unlike anything less than about a century old. Well. That was quite the rant. Have a pic of some earrings.

2018-04-06T00:00:00-05:00 french beaded flowers exploding, as documented on pintrest; dark patterns 06apr2018

cropI love travel but it sure does take a lot out of me. A week ago tomorrow I went off to visit my glass apprentice daughter, who is currently studying at Parson School of Design in NYC, and this was about the most stress free trip you could imagine—I didn't have to drive there, as the f2s did that for me; the weather was good; since we slept on Frances’ couch (or floor) the trip was pretty inexpensive (especially for New York!); f2tE helped me put together an absolutely awesome handmade journal to draw, sketch & fill with memorabilia; etc etc etc.

I'm still recovering.

However, the snowdrops and rock iris are blooming, and various arty compulsions have been poking their heads up in equally low-key ways: I'm slowly working my way through my guild's 3 colour dot challenge, I've been playing a bit with henna and oh yes, messing about with french beaded flowers, since I might be teaching a class this summer.

After trawling through pintrest (& having seen the way model horse painting took off in the decade between the times I obsessed over that) I wasn't terribly surprised to discover that this craft has exploded in leaps and bounds as well. It's taken off in Japan. It's all over Russia (or at least, countries that use the cyrillic alphabet) —not terribly surprising, there has been an amazing amount of craft coming out of Eastern Europe. And the the man I consider the current top practitioner, Mario Rivoli, has posted a bunch of his stuff on pintrest. What makes his work spectacular—to my eye, at any rate—besides his magpie sensibility—even more obvious in his surface embellished clothing—is his superb, pointillist understanding of colour: it's very tempting to make a given petal or leaf all one colour (that's easiest, obviously) or perhaps to outline in a contrasting colour, or, if going really all-out, smoothly gradate from one colour to another.

What Rivoli does is the same thing the post-Impressionists, most notably Seurat, did, which is to put in carefully yet organically spaced dots or splotches of contrasting colour, which (heh) really brings his creations to life, because real flowers are full of weird contrasting dots and stripes of be sure, another reason his stuff works is that he's a master at assembling the individual flowers into a larger whole: so his pieces work at multiple scales—the center of a flower, say, the flower itself, and then the bouquet. Be still my beating heart.

Because of this sophistication, I naturally wanted large images, which I wasn't finding on pintrest (till I discovered Mr Rivonli's own board—thank you) which sort of leads into the next topic—pintrest, though enormously helpful as an idea board, is problematic in a couple of ways: one is that the images are often so small I can't see what's going on, which sometimes forces me to improvise, but usually just frustrates me: the faster I can figure out exactly what a given artist is doing, the sooner I can start diverging away.

The other is a failure of provenance: without trackback to the original artist they can be very difficult to identify—unless they splat their name and url all over their images, which I notice a lot of henna artists do. This means it can be very frustrating to track down the actual creator (I've seen Rivoli's work in a bead magazine some years ago, so I recognized it immediately, but I'm not usually so lucky); also I expect copyrights are being violated right and left, which mostly flies under the radar because most creators doesn't have the financial wherewithal of a Dizzy to sue. For my own part, I license my stuff under a creative commons because I want to share, and that's my rationalization for using this app but I would much prefer a) a more robust tracking system and of course, a generally more sharing culture.

As much as I find pintrest's artist sourcing less than ideal, it's nothing to other problems on the internet, such dark patterns (aka roach motels) which is yet another entry in the ongoing wars between user desensitization and corporate sneakiness.

Well, since I started the week with giftwrapping (& did actually do some, if not the one shown) I guess I'll finish out with a giftwrap—one that uses a bit of that visual colour mixing discussed above, even. Enjoy.

2018-04-02T00:00:00-05:00 Like a zombie, Murray (author of _The Bell Curve_) & his racist assertions will not die. 02apr2018

cropYesterday was April Fool's and Easter both, which seems appropriate to me: Be a good person, and live forever—April Fool! But, actually, today's rant has to with the bad behaviour of atheists, not christians.

I read the definitive takedown of The Bell Curve something like 20 or 30 years ago in Stephen J. Gould's Mismeasure of Man, and aside from a brief mention some fairly extensive quotes in one post of the many, many I've read reacting to Sam Harris’ invite of Murray on his podcast, no-one has mentioned it. Indeed, the science popularizer and essayist who was my hero seems mostly forgotten now.

Alas, Murray's pernicious book isn't. It's not like it wasn't thoroughly swatted, back in the day; I recall the controversy, and being pleased that one of profs critiquing it was affiliated with the college next town over, which irrationally pleased me. Interestingly enough, again, not a lot of people referring to the fact that there has always been agreement in the academic community that Murray's racist wish-fulfillment is a load of bull-puckey.

I could of course give you a load of links to defend this bald assertion (or you could google for yourself—it's not like there isn't plenty of pushback) but they can pretty easily be summarized by the racist argument is easy and comforting, whereas the truth is difficult, painful and contradicts highly cherished cultural myths, such as the idea that we're a post-racial meritocracy.

See, ‘people are genetically variable, and some are brighter than others, and since folks categorized as black test worse, they must be dumber, amiright’ is easy to understand, whereas admitting that blacks (& let's be clear here, if we're talking Murray, that's his focus, not that other PoC don't come in for racist treatment) have had a raw deal in this country from its inception, still have a raw deal, and surprise! this has an impact on their scores is emotionally hard.

Plus, when you get into the weeds about the statistics and data, it takes 10 paras, easily, to debunk Murray's oh-so-rational charts, and screens and screens of explanation slide off the understanding a whole lot faster than does the pretty little picture. I mean, I've been following this stuff for over two decades—probably closer to three—and have had more exposure to science generally and statistics in particular than the average lay-person, and I still stall out.

That doesn't make Murray any less wrong, nor any less evil for promulgating these heinous views. I wish he would just stop. —But since he won't, this is my little pushback, for all the good it's gonna do. And if you made it this far, you certainly deserve a link to today's offering, a truly sweet little gift.

2018-03-29T00:00:00-05:00 As promised stringing *without* hearts:) And I see I not only failed to post this Feb 15 (as originally planned, but also completely missed the boat on posting my St Patrick's day bracelet. Oh well. Next year:) Or mebbe next month, come to think my *entire guild* forgot to bring their march bea...

cropAs promised stringing without hearts:)

And I see I not only failed to post this Feb 15 (as originally planned, but also completely missed the boat on posting my St Patrick's day bracelet. Oh well. Next year:) Or mebbe next month, come to think my entire guild forgot to bring their march bead exchange last month, so we have to do it in April...Which is not to say I haven't done any art since February; I have a few gift-wrapping things, the occasional henna practice and even some rather sorry beads. Also I tried bujo—bullet journaling, especially while in NYC, visiting the fabulous Fran. What I mostly discovered is that I like pasting ephemera into a journal handmade with scrap paper as I go along, not least because I don't have enough time to angst over it. Also that sort of journaling is much more practical when staying with someone who's got a closet full of art supplies available to borrow.

I have this link to an essay, You can call yourself fat; it's kind of a privilege-reversed variation on the Scalzi nerd, whoops, geek essay. (By privilege-reversed, I'm suggesting the social dynamics between a possibly overweight and morbidly obese person are not going to be the same as those between male and female nerds. Which is not to say that mildly overweight or even just people who feel they're fat don't have issues—only that they're not gonna suffer the same level of abuse. Which is more or less the author's point.)

Also, under the aegis of comparing experiences, I stumbled across this Ted talk by a transgender woman comparing male and female privilege which I thought quite good.

Or you can check out this lamp pull I failed to post last month.

2018-02-17T00:00:00-05:00 Cool sounding Irish band. 17feb2018

cropVia BB, a band I quite liked.

Or you can check out this decently photographed but semi fugly lamp pull:)

2018-02-16T00:00:00-05:00 Colouring books from old museum books/illos/ink drawings... 16feb2018

cropVia BB, a bunch of museums are releasing line art as high res colouring book pages. Be still my beating heart... I have mixed media to do & a new laser printer...oh, the possibilities!

Speaking of old-timey iconography, today's lamp pull features a pewter dragon.

2018-02-14T00:00:00-05:00 sequin embroidered heart, a valentine's fugly:) 14feb2018

cropFor those of you who genuinely enjoy it, Happy Valentine's Day! I've dusted off a decade(?!) old photo & dug out a page I've been saving for 3 years for Valentine's (which I'd then miss) —which pretty much is my attitude overall: I'm happy to make Valentine's Day themed beads or jewelry, delight in the idea of getting roses or chocolates, (but not the actual thing, because they're too expensive/problematic/unhealthy) but otherwise am too lazy to actually materially participate.

And for those who hate on the holiday, well, I diss the featured project pretty roundly, so you can join in with the hissing:) For those indifferent, I have heart-free lamp pulls scheduled for the rest of the week:)

IOW, something for everyone.