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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn


cropJeez, the news is so discouraging. Now we have some racist barely-adult asshole terrorist making a special effort to slaughter people 200 miles away because of Fox News spewing brain-dead crap to increase ratings by whipping up racial hatred? Not to mention a bunch of men spouting nonsense to moms desperately searching for baby formula?

On the Buffalo shootings, I've got nothing—besides the plainly obvious need to ban firearms, not to mention getting rid of this nonsense about corps being persons, cuz I want the cynical CEOs and their ilk to go to jail, instead of rich corps paying fines and shrugging off the consequences of their inducements to stochastic terror—but as someone who breastfed two babies exclusively until they weaned onto solid food (at 14–18 months) I can speak to these ijits that just think women should just breastfeed.

Firstly as a lot of other people have noted, if you don't breastfeed, and breastfeed exclusively, there isn't gonna be enough milk, and milk production is nothing like turning a tap on and off. Once you stop, you're basically done, till you have another baby. (Yes, there are ways to sort re-grow production, but it's not practical.)

Secondly, not all women produce adequate milk—babies used to starve you know. Some parents are taking medication or undergoing chemo, making their milk unsuitable. Some babies can't latch properly. Or you can have the opposite problem, a super-sucker. Fortunately for me, that was baby #2, so I knew it wasn't my fault the skin of my nipples was hanging in strips. Painful? Yeah, nipples aren't an erogenous zone, that pleasurable zing (some) women feel was to make nursing more pleasant, so that's really painful: if it had been my first kid, I don't think I could've endured it.

Then there's the joy of dealing with mastitis (plugged, infected milk ducts) or thrush (fungal infections). Assuming you navigate all those hurdles and have a relatively normal nursing experience, you're still gonna be spending 20–30 minutes feeding the baby (then burping it, then diapering it) —every two hours (breastfed babies need to nurse more often, and take longer doing it) night and day. Exhausting. I can't imagine doing this with one job, let alone the multiple positions that poor and/or WoC, who are getting hammered the worst with these shortages, are struggling with.

Personally, I think breastfeeding is great. Its health benefits for baby—mom's immunity, better nutrition (provided Mom can afford to eat well, of course...) even better jaw development, just to name the ones that immediately come to mind—are well documented. Mom and baby get to bond in a very intimate way, and there's no bottles to sterilize, and it's available all the time, theoretically. That said, if we want people to breastfeed, instead of berating parents, we need to set up society to facilitate that. I could breastfeed because I was a self-employed SAHM. For everyone (who wants it and is able!) society ought to support parents by providing

  • universal health care, including prenatal and flexible birth options (such as midwives trained in homebirth);
  • universal day care;
  • a paid parental leave, ideally for at least a year;
  • allowing—expecting! —nursing parents to feed their babies in public
  • lactation support, including breaks for working moms who need to pump
  • and not judging parents who decide bottle feeding is best for them and their babies!!!

Expensive? You bet. ‘Free’ milk production of this type rides on a lot of hidden costs! Kids are expensive, once you add all the time and trouble their parents, especially the person who grows and then continues to feed from her own body the child. (So glad we do have supplements now, so I didn't have to sacrifice my teeth for the f2’s bones...)

But, although childbirth is no longer as deadly, we still don't have basic supports that would make life so much better for parents and babies. Instead we have a lot of asshole men telling women what to do with their bodies: have babies you can't afford, then watch them starve! I'm pretty pissed, if you couldn't tell. Well, I think I should be. I ought to be making beautiful beadwork, instead of fighting this crap...

So I guess it's gonna be flowers and more flowers, cuz photographing them seems to be about all I can do right now.


cropThis page was s'posed to go up Wednesday, or barring that Friday (& the sentiments to which the linked authors are responding are surely fridayfugly—well beyond fridayfug and blasting into just plain ole mean) but I felt so strongly about them I made the page today.

Strictly speaking I'm trans: nonbinary, I guess. So I have a sense from the inside out what trans people feel, except that I pass, nearly effortlessly, as a boring, middle-aged white lady, so I don't get the blowback. I've always been fascinated by genderswapping, intersex and the like—themes that were rife in the 70s sf I read as a teen and young adult—and would've been thrilled with the options trans kids have now. With even the vocabulary and mental frameworks they have to understand themselves now.

All of which are serving as a convenient political football for people (who know better) to whip up fear and loathing, and to heartlessly increase their political power, as Governor Abbott did, cynically signing and then directing the power of an anti-trans-kid law against a family, the Biggles, whom he'd dined with, observed and knew perfectly well were doing right by their child.

Perhaps this southern (or Southron, as my south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line friends used to say) cop's story about his trans daughter will resonate better.

I have no beef, impossible or otherwise, with folks who want to be girly-girls or manly men. For a long time I didn't understand that people actually wanted that kind of gender presentation for themselves, but I accept that they do. Why can't they accept that I want mine to be ambiguous? Those of us who don't fit that mold are just asking for the same acceptance, and tools to adapt their lives as they see fit as the mainstream receives as a matter of course. It saddens me deeply so many want to take rights, care, love away, instead of expanding it. It's such a waste.

Oh, and I took some pix early this morning, one of which was easier to write up than the glass samples, basically to have something a bit prettier than ugly anti-trans sentiment on which to hang today's rant.


cropMary Robinette Kowal takes apart Project Hail Mary, introducing me in the process to a descriptive term for the plot equivalent of TSTL (characters, often heroines, “too stupid to live” because without their dumb decisions the author can't otherwise drive the plot where it's wanted to go): refrigerator logic. (Kowal describes it as that ‘hey, wait a moment!’ realization as you stand in front of the fridge, but I couldn't help thinking it also had a bit as well of linguistic drift from “being fridged”, a comic book trope in which usually-female characters are killed—and in the eponymous version, shoved into a refrigerator—to provide a male character [typically a love interest, less often a parent] an anguished backstory/reason-for-revenge. The linkage, as we'll see, is lazy writing in both cases—cheap, sloppy motivations.)

Refrigerator logic is what happens in movies (where it's marginally more acceptable because the effects sweep you along relentlessly) but also in books in which you want your protagonists to look good, but you have to stack the deck in their favor to play up their extra-good-level of kindness/brilliance/otherwise extraordinary qualities. Kowal's example latches onto the lack of checklists, which any space program would as a matter of course have, but is eliminated from the story to heighten dramatic tension; and, since the author is a knowledgeable engineer, he knows better, thus allowing us to characterize the sloppy plotting as laziness, not ignorance.

The flip side is getting so wound up in these sorts of details that your narrative comes to a screeching halt, which is why I detest world-building, and found writing Harry Potter fanfic so liberating. But one of the reasons (though, of course, not the only nor even the main reason) there is so much fanfic is that there are so many structural problems in the Potterverse. Thus, I enjoyed Shaun's takedown of the supposed “liberalism” in Harry Potter very much but some of the critic's solutions to what he saw as plotting decisions that made the protag (Harry) look like an asshole (once you stopped & thought about it) would have caused a bunch more problems.

Take for example Ron's use of a broken (& rather dangerous) wand because his family can't afford to buy him better. So, why, Shaun wonders, doesn't rich Harry replace it for him? Well, because the whole point of the half-broken wand is to show the problems of using crappy, half-broken supplies, a problem students, especially poor ones, have experienced the world over. Rowling, of course, plays Ron's plight for laughs, but it's so painful the books would be a dreadful downer done any other way—not to mention it's the saving of Harry and Ron against Lockhart at the end, who is hoist on his own petard by demanding Ron's wand (which backfires).

Shaun suggests Harry could've waited until Ron's birthday or xmas; and Ron could've just had both wands and given Lockhart the broken one to the same effect. But that causes a couple of new problems: Ron, like many poor people, is rather ashamed of his financial circs, and would likely dump the broken wand, as a reminder of family poverty, at the first opportunity; secondly, even if he had it to hand his giving it to a teacher (admittedly under duress) changes the texture of the story—now, instead of Lockhart's own vanity being the ultimate cause of his downfall, it could (at least partially) be ascribed to Ron's cunning, which casts quite a different complexion on the character.

Ditto for Harry buying top level brooms for his quidditch teammates to match Lucius Malfoy's outfitting the Slytherin team with nimbus 2000s—unless, of course, Harry purchased such for all of the other teams, and even then it kind of ruins the point of Malfoy's gesture, which from the author's POV is to make us sorry for the underdog Griffindors. Except, Harry gets an even better and shinier broom, what's up with that? Well, that does illustrate Shaun's thesis, that it is people rather than actions that are good or bad in Harry Potter.

Draco and teammates are bad people, thus the wealthy Lucius purchasing fancy new brooms is bad; Harry is good person, rewarded by his we-assume-not-especially-rich head of house (and, please note, in recognition of his natural gifts as a quidditch player which, just to extend the metaphor of innate goodness, reprise those of his father) with an even better broom. Rowling is hardly the first to, on the one hand, illustrate her favourite's virtues in a concrete way, but at the same time, by giving all of the opposing team's (almost) superior equipment, cast him as underdog.

In short, this is why people write fanfic: Harry can't replace Ron's wand because a purchase (from a reputable dealer, at least) possibly requires the consent of the young magician's legal guardian (think about other quasi-adult transactions that require parental permission, so this to me makes sense, even though I'm not certain Rowling considered the issue consciously, and no shame to her, a lot of authors do this kind of subconscious world-building), so in my head-canon Ron's parents would reject such a gift from Harry under any circumstances since it implies (correctly) that they cannot provide adequately for their children. —Rowling attempts to sugarcoat this by making Ron's family warm and welcoming in contrast to the cold Malfoys, which is a lovely sentiment, but in a truly liberal society, the Weasleys would have its financial support as well.

But this is actually the point of Shaun's video, which is that the wizarding world is far more conservative—and crueller—than our own. This makes for great storytelling, but the problem is that Rowling seems rather to approve of that conservatism, which is why her efforts to “fix” things—such as the house elves’ slavery—are so ham-handed. To put it kindly. Don't get me wrong, you can of course incorporate slavery into your imaginary society, but it needs to be clear that slavery is bad: for a brilliant example of this done well, see Murderbot Diaries.

And because good things come in threes (why yes, I enjoyed all of these essays tremendously;) I'd like to finish up with Vanessa Willoughby so-much-better-than-my-own critique of Audrey Niffenegger’s 2003 novel. The title of her article, Why do we keep pretending The Time Traveler's Wife is a Love Story? tells you all you need to know, but it was such a pleasure to read my own feelings so well articulated. Yes. This. That's why I waited so long to read the book, and wasn't really happy with it once I did.

Oh, and I have another mouse;) Enjoy.


cropHere's a blast from the past: a rather boring web page I made exactly a decade ago. Well. Time and distance make the heart grow fonder, or at least less discriminating. Just for kicks I went through my email and other photos from roughly this period, and yeah, those really were happier times.

Last Sunday was the second Mother's Day without mine, the first where I really noticed (cuz we were still reeling from the aftermaths of her death last year) and honestly I'm grateful she didn't live to see this one, much as I miss her—mostly because it means instead of a peaceful, kind death, she'd be undergoing the hell of chemo, and for little gain except the suffering of being in a hospital, likely with memory issues, pain, and very little quality of life; but had she managed to retain her faculties through the haze of treatments, the current political situation would have distressed her very much.

This is a woman born during the Great Depression, who grew up listening to stories of The Lone Ranger and the like on the radio; who lived to see television, (and the moon landing broadcast on it!) microwaves, CDs, the internet and personal laptops being developed, superceding long-playing 33-1/3 records my parents played at home when I was a child, and reel-to-reel magnetic tape the huge computers mounted at my dad's job. She lived to see women acquire the right to buy a car, get a loan, own a home; to have safe, effective hormonal birth control, to get a job that wasn't necessarily divided into catetgories of ‘men wanted’ and ‘women wanted’: I remember those distinctions, in the newspapers I delivered as a child. To mostly see the end of ‘women driver’ jokes (also rife when I was a child). To take unfair labor practises at the dental lab where she worked to court and win.

Her first career was as a speech teacher; after half a dozen or so kids, she'd lost the patience for that, but by then it wasn't a big deal for her to go to the local community college, get some training and get a job making porcelain teeth, cuz by the time we were all in school she needed to get out of the house and make her own money—even though my parents’ accounts were always joint and always shared, she wanted the sense of independence that earning a living gave her. She certainly counseled her daughters to have careers, so that we would never be trapped in marriage, despite her own being a first, long and successful one for both my parents.

And now people want to take those gains away. It sucks.

So here's to a better time, and the dream to keep struggling for everyone to have a good life. Not mention cheap glass.


cropI managed to get through most of my week off while visiting friends in NYC without hearing the news. Really, I could've gone through the entire thing without hearing any news of the outside world, but alas, towards the end of the week I checked my phone for other than reference pix of pretty flowers, which turned out to be a bad mistake, cuz oh boy oh joy, women really aren't people, I guess. Certainly not according to certain US Supreme Court Justices.

I do not have Frederick Douglass’ stone-dissolving gift of acid sarcasm, so I'll offer Ms. Plum's Abbatoir, with a side of Pervert Justice's defense of women democrats instead.

On a slightly more positive note, I've also got a mouse on offer.


cropI was flipping through old pages (basically because I'm too exhausted to do anything else) and stumbled across this page of one of my favourite necklaces that never got posted.

Well! It's actually sitting on the stringing table right now, mostly restrung except for a couple of dangles (& now I can look at the pix to see how those go...) at which point I will of course re-photograph it.

So! Better get this posted, then, as this version of the page is already very long. Also, the links have been piling up, so time to clear them out:

  • Princess Weekes weighs in on Black representation in Soul and The Frog Princess. It ain't pretty.
  • Xiran Jay Zhao hosted a roundtable (some four hours’ worth) of various South East Asians (SEA) and their feelings about Raya and the Last Dragon. Wow, that's really not pretty.
  • Somehow I missed Lindsay Ellis being down on early feminist criticism of The Little Mermaid when it came out nearly a year ago. Oh, the moral panic over ‘lipstick feminism’! (Remember that ...?) But hey, we got better. And it does mean a Lindsay Ellis essay about one of my fave Dizzy animations. I don't find ironic metacriticism in their later films nearly as annoying as she does, but it was a nice review, and something to be celebrated, since a relatively innocuous tweet about Raya, above, resulted in her quitting her youtube channel. Whilest SEA people's objections are nearly completely ignored. Not pretty.)
  • Sideways explains why my highly flawed blue kittycats (aka Avatar) has a very ironic (not iconic!) soundtrack. Spoiler: it ain't pretty.
  • There's this thing called ejective consonants (that's actually part of the blue kittycats’ conlang.) As it happens, while I cannot roll R's or do a lot of other non-native-to-midwestern-English sounds (oh, that aggravating, impossible Japanese R/D/L sound) I can actually do ejective consonants. They're pretty easy, so you probably can too. And they're fun:)
  • Oh boy (or girl:) Abigail Thorn has a new vid out, this time about transhumanism, that bugbear of the rational altruists. Should be interesting!
  • Why did Turning Red get so many ‘weird’ reviews? Actually, the film has been mostly favourably reviewed (as well it should)—it's just the loudest, most out-there types who are having way too much influence on our discourse are getting a disproportionate share of the news. That said, I enjoyed Xiran Jay Zhao's take on the film. (Also, their decision to honour their promise to a friend and wear a cow costume in all their author pix has allowed me to track their presence across a variety of media—not just the yt things linked here, but also the novel, Iron Widow, that I'm reading. That is iconic.)
  • “The Brontes all died young because they were drinking grave water” is unabashedly a clickbait title, cuz it's not as if they were doing it deliberately. So, to make up for my falling for this, I will happily repeat that PSA, aka clean water is important!
  • When I was researching the Beats for my (failed) kittycat novel, it rather appalled me that William Burroughs got away with killing his wife, Joan Vollmer Burroughs, even though the book I was reading glossed over her death as an accident. Despite my credulity, I couldn't help wondering why the investigation was so brief he only spent a couple of weeks in jail. (Or some ridiculously brief time.) Like so many women, Joan Vollmer's story (& possible? likely? murder) was basically ...excused away in favour of the more important man. Kudos to Katie Bennett for uncovering this nearly forgotten narrative.
  • Jessi Klein makes the case that motherhood is A Campbellian Hero's Journey that this mom found compelling, anyway.
  • I keep stumbling over various Japanese (in) English yt channels, and the latest is Shogo-san's. I watched several (the one where he and his wife talk about how they met is absolutely heartwarming and adorable) but Why you must be ‘normal’ caught my attention for a couple of reasons—one was that I'd actually heard the story about the girl with naturally brown hair forced to dye it black (which I thought bad, because black hair dye is toxic) but I hadn't heard the sad aftermath; another is that probably the most brilliant manga I ever read, Nijigara Holograph is explicitly about bullying, a crappy consequence of not fitting in. The animation about job fairs Shogo recces is well worth your time, and though modern (it was made by a university student in 2012), has to my eyes a 70s or 80s vibe, more in line with underground animation (e.g. Bakshi) than traditional Japanese animation.

Whew. I will likely be taking at least the next week off, as I have a lot to do, but there's lots o’ links. Oh, and what I consider to be one of my more successful pieces. Enjoy.