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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn


cropBecause I'm a doofus I can't find the kumihimo I so carefully documented and for which I've made almost complete webpages, & which I presume is floating around this place somewhere, though darned if I know where...and given that it took me days to find a bookbag of my favourite art supplies despite its being parked in the living room right by the front door, dog only knows how long it will take me to find this stuff.

So in the meantime, a couple of rather random pix taken during my trip to Japan. Like Pride, this sort of thing just makes me happy.



cropHappy pride month, everyone!

I knew there were a bunch of different pride flags (my favourite is the pink and purple lesbian one, which is locally popular but not actually on that link:) and that there were some variations on the old male/female symbols (circle with cross, circle with arrow, circle with both) but until I saw one of my neighbor wearing some truly awesome earrings I didn't know any of the others, such as the plain circle, or a circle with just a stick. The coolest one was definitely the circle with the asterisk—

—Which, lucky for me just happens to be for nonbinary. Awesome:)

As with the flags, there tends to be more than one version, along with the assumption that you can just pick what you like. I like this newer version better because instead of being ‘made up’ of the traditional male arrow and female cross, or variations of them, it's own thing, and has the streamlined simplicity of the more common gender sumbols: 1 circle with one doodad.

I probably should just bought the fun plastic version of these earrings, but I wanted smaller, more delicate ones in sterling. And where, with all the other projects I have queued up, am I gonna have time to make those?

Anyway. Our town's pride was awesome, because just about everyone dressed up in fun outfits, often rainbow coloured, though there were plenty of other delightful clothes and shoes; but besides the colour, was the sheer joy and vibe. Food stalls! Flags! Roller skates! Bubble blowing! Music and dancing! I can't think of many festival type activities in the USA equivalent to matsuri but this is one where I think wearing yukata would actually be appropriate (especially if one had a rainbow coloured obi;) because while Pride—any summer USian celebration, really—is gonna be a bit looser in some ways (even in summer, Japanese typically don't expose their knees, elbows or collarbones, let alone midriffs) it just had the same happy community/outdoor food stall/wandering around & running-into-your-neighborhood-friends feeling.

But as I don't generally like to post pictures of people, have some lovely pink dogwood flowers instead.


cropHi everybody, hope your spring (or fall) is going well. —Shortly after the last post I got tickets for, and started planning a trip to, Japan, where I spent a month, mostly in my favourite city, Kyoto. After that, I had a couple of weeks to get over jet lag, and then did my first kayaking retreat of the season, for which I again needed some recovery time.

So I've been a bit busy, though admittedly a fair portion of my time has been the usual messing about. Speaking of which, after basically being MIA for nearly two months, I really need to do something about the garden...

But while I procrastinate on those weeds, I thought I'd post something, in this case a graduation giftwrap.




いまは ウェブページ の四千。

Hey, everyone! Today's page is the 4000th one:)

Yes, I know it's arbitrary and kinda stupid, (especially since not all the pages are even live—I have no idea how many finished/accessible pages are on the site, but enough to make navigating it a pain—ごめん・sorry!)

また、日本へ行きて、日本語で 勉強 (べんきょう)します。

Web-logs were a new and exciting thing back in ’96 when I hand-coded the very earliest pages to this site (in HTML); and now they're outdated, a dying form a generation later; but I still enjoy this little online diary, and would like to take this opportunity to give thanks (感謝・かんしゃ) for all the inspiration, collaboration and help I've received over the years—to my friends, to the f2s, and especially the wizard (魔法使い:まほうつか/mahoutsikai is a word you learn pretty quickly if you watch a lot of fantasy anime [ たくさんの ファンタジー のアニメ見ている];) without whom this site wouldn't be possible (nor, in fact, my glass bead studio...)

It's been hard at times, but I'm deeply grateful.

And here's a page featuring some awesome socks by one of those dear friends・友達 ともだち。 Take care, everyone/みなさんは、行ってらっしゃい。。。


cropO hai, I'm sure I did something this week besides cat-sit (which mebbe accounts for 20 minutes a day) but darned if I can think what it was...

Oh! I know! I read Connie Willis’ latest, The Road to Roswell, which is one of her sfnal ‘screwball comedies’, of which Bellwether is probably still my fave, but this love letter to genre film and the quirky, eponymous UFO town is a delightful outing, just about a perfect comfort read.

Especially if you're familiar with the films cited—I'd say I've seen above 3/4 of the sf ones cited, and rather less than half of the westerns, but you'd actually be better off with that ratio reversed. While I was tremendously enjoying this lighthearted novel, I couldn't help comparing the tone to the Leckie which I'd just read: man, if you're looking for traditional 1950s flavoured sf, this is gonna be your jam—everyone's very white, very hetero-normative, the FBI is still on the ‘good guys’ side of the ledger, and humans can not only save themselves but the aliens too!

Plus, it's pretty funny:)

(Alas, the people complaining the loudest for that old-time SF seem to be sexist guys, and the hero of the day is very definitely a woman, whose very feminine behaviour is what saves the day.)

But it's a little odd to realize that—in some ways at least—my viewpoints have moved left of two of the best women SF authors of (roughly) my generation, Willis and Bujold, because I'm so slow to change and conservative by nature. I don't know that I could write the really ‘modern’ stuff, and I don't always appreciate it—the other book I read this week was Aliette de Bodard's novella The Tea Master and the Detective, a re-imagining of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic duo in which Watson was a wounded Ship-who-sang style starship whose medical skills were transmuted into a herbalist who created custom blends to help people cope with the unreality of ‘deep space’ and Holmes was a mysterious woman, both of whom lived in an Asian inspired backwater, and, much as I wanted to adore this take, I just couldn't.

One is that self-same conservatism: though I have more sympathy for people who self-medicate with various (often illicit) drugs than I did as a young person, I'm still uncomfortable with addiction (really, illness of any kind) and Bodard really leans into Holmes’ drug use (which a lot of modern authors have tended to downplay, and even Doyle backed away from over time) but the other was that the Holmes character seemed to have very little sensitivity to Watson's feelings, which are continuously hurt throughout this story in a way they just aren't in the best Watson-Holmes narratives. Holmes may be an autistic, vain-glorious prick of the first order, but he also really cares about Watson, who is clearly his closest friend. Granted, one gets the sense that this version will get to that point, but part of the canon is that Holmes can be very sensitive to other people's feelings when it suits him, and while he's often impatient with Watson, he never goes out of his way to ignore Watson's feelings.

I did like the Asian setting and the Vietnamese inspired names, which added a fresh perspective: (And wondered if my inability to parse that culture is why Watson gets upset so much—perhaps I was reading too much into the character's distress?) —Anyway, I'm hoping that if de Bodard returns to these characters, perhaps I'll like the later entries better, and even if not, this is certainly a worthwhile addition to the Holmes-Watson canon.

Oh, and since Hoopla was featuring Tezuka's (rather humourous) retelling of Faust, One Hundred Tales I read that. Evidently written as a one shot in 1971 what really struck me was a) the exaggerated humour and b) the absolutely gorgeous backgrounds. (Also the ending is a bit different from the original Faust, and honestly, I liked this version better;) In my opinion it still stands up, but is also a fascinating snapshot of what manga looked like half a century ago.

Oh, and here's a necklace I made 15 or 20 years ago.


cropSo for a couple of days my computer didn't have the little login box, which meant I couldn't access the email I should be addressing, or the finances I should be entering, or much else, since the wizard was slaving (are we allowed to use that word for people who are not, in fact, enslaved, but just working hard?[1]) Working much harder than would be optimal, anyway, but, yanno, time pressures, which meant, not being instantly available to address my little tech hiccups.

So I decided to read the new Ann Leckie instead.

Leckie is best known for her stunning Ancillary trilogy; I also enjoyed Provenance, set in the same universe (though it is a stand-alone, with a different culture and characters); her latest, Translation State, again features new cultures outside the Radch (though some of the minor characters are from this Empire) and differs, a bit, from the prior two in that the story is told from three roughly equal viewpoints: that of a dependent sent out on a nothing-burger quest to get hir out of the way so that hir grandmaman's new heir can consolidate power; of a neurodivergent loner (adopted and reared by a trio of mom, if not female, identified parents) looking for a community; and a human-Presgar hybrid who very much wants to avoid being subsumed by an older, powerful progenitor and in fact finds the whole idea of transforming (heh) in an adult terrifying and repulsive.

It is a tribute to Leckie's skill that two of the characters, while entirely sympathetic, nevertheless have absolutely horrifying personal desires, and I really wondered, for the first quarter or so of the book, how the author was gonna pull all this together. While recapturing the uniqueness of Breq's viewpoint in the Ancillary trilogy is likely impossible, the alien-human hybrid characters certainly made a memorable impression. (Also, for Murderbot fans, there is a delightful homage;)

All of Leckie's stories in the Radch universe play with gender; this one, I would say so more even than most, as there are at least 5, (two of which I failed to distinguish very well—possibly because there was no particular need to do so, just as is often the case in the real world) and it is—or at least was for me—a scathing commentary on the rigid close-mindedness of gender binary folks in its very assumptions, that ultimately resolve the initially troubling desires that were horrifying me earlier in the book.

(I should note, the character who feels gender the most strongly is the male character, who doesn't at all appreciate the Radch default to feminine pronouns;)

Mild spoilers.

What this book did most for me was to introduce characters who made me, as a mostly passing not “very” trans nor “very” neurodivergent person feel seen, and I can only imagine how validating it must be for those who don't pass to encounter such viewpoints; it's not the first book to include such characters, but it is one in which all these traits, like the alien, inscrutable Presgar, simply are. —Rather than exceptions for whom special accommodations must be made in the ‘mainstream’. That's where we are now, and it's certainly better than being utterly rejected; but so much better to accept, the same we accept that some folks have brown eyes, and others, blue.

And some, a mix.

In a similar way I appreciated the matter-of-fact way in which one character's horribly dysfunctional family dynamic (that nevertheless includes some measure of love and care) is acknowledged. That the Radch ambassador couldn't care less about the genocidal, internecine squabbles between Hipiki and Phen peoples because she's entirely focused on keeping the god-powerful Presgar from (literally) tearing humanity apart says something about our own geopolitics and history of colonialism, without at all being overt: you can certainly read this novel as a rip-roaring space opera in which three people are trying to find their place, to find friends and family who love and appreciate them, and treat the varying genders as interesting markers of their assorted (alien) cultures, icing, if you will, like the differing kinds of beverages each society offers as a matter of course.

Or, as I did, as both a harsh indictment on our own society's flaws, and hope for a future that, while still deeply imperfect, nonetheless is better.


Oh, and I have a page of pitcher plant pix I made a decade plus ago. Enjoy.

(1)See, I'm guessing most folks wouldn't care too much about this metaphor, but mebbe some would, and it's really not that big a deal to get a sense of whether this usage is on its way out. I'm way more invested in the guilt-by-homophonic-association ‘niggardly’, which sucks, but there you go, it has an unfortunate similarity to a slur, despite having a completely different etymology, but the fact is, human brains do associate physiologically similar sounding words; no matter how much you try to explain, that link forms naturally cuzza of the way our brains are wired. C'est la vie.